The water was ice cold.
He was out of breath.

Curt counted to ten again, then took his face out.
He left his hands in the cold water for another twenty seconds, then lifted them up. They were red, raw and hurt a lot more than the previous three times he’d done this.
He stumbled straight back, already knowing how many steps it took to get to the end of his bed, and sat, making himself feel the pain for another few moments, even as the ambient heat of the room suffused back into his skin.
Curt slowly wiped his face with a soft towel – it was far more than he deserved, but he had to keep up appearances, at least for now, at least until one of them came to their senses and put him out of their misery.
The fact that Ryan hadn’t come for him during the day surprised him more than anything else. They’d arrived back in the morning – the time difference between Moscow and Brisbane catapulting them to the next morning. There would have been time to determine what happened, time to comfort Stef, and then likely some paperwork. That would have eaten up two, three or four hours.
It was four in the afternoon, and he was still breathing. He hadn’t expected this. He didn’t deserve this. It was an extension to his life that he hadn’t earned. It had given him time to update his will, to tidy his room…and when no agent had come for him, for him to start to make things right himself.
Ryan was going to shift in – there was no need to announce his actions to anyone else. No need to take the long path when there was the chance of getting distracted on his way to perform a righteous action.
Ryan would shift in. Curt would get on his knees, apologise and-
There would be the urge to close his eyes, as he’d done all the times Petersen said he was going to kill him. Darkness was safer than whatever Petersen had had in mind for him. He hadn’t deserved what Petersen had been doing.
Here, he had no defence. Here, Ryan was well within his rights to execute him. Anyone who had tortured an agent forfeited their life.
The Agency could be bastards, and didn’t care about recruits; but when it came to the Agents, they looked after their own.
He held the towel in sore hands.
Hands that had tortured Stef.
Hands had that had choked her, beaten her, cut her. Broken her. Hurt her.
He couldn’t even feel the tears anymore.
His phone buzzed – fifteen minutes until his shift started. A shift he hadn’t expected to make.
The day  had been crying, screaming, and waiting to die. Reliving her torture over and over. Trying to see it from her perspective. Trying to think of any way to possibly make it up to her.
Wondering if he should do them a favour and kill himself, saving them the trouble of taking out the trash.
There was now confusion on top of the despair.
He hadn’t expected to live.
Life couldn’t go back to normal. Not after something like this. He couldn’t get dressed, have a coffee, and say “good afternoon” to everyone as if he hadn’t been covered in Stef’s blood the day before.
As if he hadn’t-
He dropped the towel, hung his head in hands and tried to breathe.
He would only see her in passing. He’d find out her schedule and work to be out of sight as much as possible. Or…this might be the one thing that could convince Ryan to transfer him to one of the Outpost Agencies.
Caboolture could always use more help. Kelly in Wynnum was an inefficient excuse for an agent who could use someone who knew as much as an Aide. Sale had doubled his number of recruits in eighteen months.
He could be useful, and out of sight, it was the best solution, if they had decided to forgo execution.
His Agency phone chirped with a message.
For a moment, the sound was too surreal to comprehend.
His alarm was one thing, that alarm went off every day of the week, no matter the circumstances.
A message from the Agency meant someone had consciously made contact with him. Had decided to acknowledge him.
There was no way life was going back to normal. No way they expected him to show up for his shift.
He dropped the towel on the floor, stood, flexed his hands and walked to his bedside table. He lifted the standard-requirement phone and swirled his finger on the lock-screen’s message icon.
{Report to Agent Ryan’s office. Ten minutes.}
A laugh came out as a scream.
He sat heavily on his bed, breath locked in his chest.
Require: g-
He caught the thought before he could finish the requirement. No. It was still their prerogative to kill him if they wanted. They should at least have another chance. There was a proper form to these things, and he had no right to take away their opportunity for vengeance.
Normal. For now, until he was given a sign, he had to act normal.
He slapped his face to try and get the colour back to normal, and stood again. Thoughts removed the casual clothes he’d spent the day in, and the smell of dried puke finally disappeared.
Curt took a deep breath as he required his uniform. The text could have been a ruse. A prompt for him to try and require the suit of the standard dress uniform and instead find himself wearing BDUs. Find himself in grey colour that denoted someone wasn’t Agency personnel, was someone to take into custody.
Was someone to lock into a small, dark room and torture over and over.
The fabric that slid over his body was familiar, and he knew it was his uniform suit without looking at it, but he looked anyway, needing the confirmation to free the breath from his chest.
Agency blue had never been so comforting.
He was safe for the moment, even if he didn’t deserve it.
Routine took over – everyday actions won out over the screaming mess that his mind had become. He slipped his Agency phone into one pocket, checked his holster, spare ammunition, wallet and ID.
He lifted his Fairyland phone and briefly flicked through pictures of his daughter before pocketing it.
Curt required a mirror, and was surprised at the reflection – he looked normal. He gave himself a small nod, then dismissed the mirror.
He took another breath, wondered if it was going to be one of his last, then left his room.