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by: Matthew Cox
June 5

Matt twisted as he ran, putting his already abused shoulder to the third story glass window and felt it explode out from under him. Behind him, he left Cole with a half-assed apology and the muffle sounds of explosions roaring through the building. As he fell, a rushing heat behind him told him that the explosions weren't confined; rather, the gouts of flame and smoke seemed to be consuming the third floor of the headquarters building. Matt fell, sensing below him that his luck was holding in the form of a taxi cab.

Please don't pull away!

He hit hard, bruising ribs as he dented the taxi's roof and rolled off. Matt hit the pavement running and sprinted for the Thames. It would be his only escape. No doubt that once things were settled up top, there would be teams hunting for him. A short fence kept passersby from crossing into the river. Matt vaulted it easily and arced into a clean swan dive. Once under the murky water, he was radar blind. Sound traveled faster in the dense water, so his radar was coming back muddled and compressed. It didn't matter. he was a veteran swimmer canoeist and could navigate by sound in the river if he had to. Theoretically.

He struck out with strong strokes deep under the surface of the water, headed down river. He could swim concealed like this for five minutes before he needed a breath. The trick was to cover as much ground during that time as possible. Once he surfaced, the smoke rising from Homeland Defense's headquarters was a smudge a half mile away. Matt couldn't see the smoke, but the wail of emergency vehicles was distant and tinny. At a more relaxed pace, Matt continued swimming until he found a series of drainage pipes. They smelled like sewage, but they'd suit his purposes. He approached cautiously and carefully pulled back the corner of the mesh that guarded the mouth of the pipe, then clambered inside and replaced the grating. From the outside, there was no visible evidence of his passing.

Mission of escape accomplished, Matt brought his knees to his chest and leaned against the wall of the pipe and fell asleep. Exhaustion dropped him quickly into somnolence, but adrenaline kept it a light sleep. If anyone approached, he'd hear them.
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by: Tristan Viridian
The explosions caused enough of a stir to distract the people with it, so they wouldn't notice when Tristan was on ground level, stalking after the Devil. Fire, police and emergency services had already been dispatched as more and more sirens were inbound.

He had watched him make his escape from the third story window, and rainfall of broken glass preceded his fall. At the distance he watched and eventually followed, Tristan could only confirm that the dark hair matched the same color of his old squad mate, and nothing more. He'd taken on a bigger frame than the man he remembered--though Matthew Cox still had a lean cut to his build before. Across the Thames and down into the dingy, disgusting depths of the sewers, they did go...

He'd been through worse. Tristan did serve some tours in some pretty terrible locales. He held his nose, though, which had been spoiled to things like fine dining and upscale hotels or perfumed lobbies like the one that lead to his penthouse. He hadn't been prepared to the smell of rot and despair, but he pushed through until he found a little nook, an inlet, where the Devil had stopped to rest. Tristan approached slowly. It was dark down here, but he refrained from pulling out a flashlight in case it disturbed him any. He could still see the silhouette of the man sitting with his knees pulled up to his chest, resting against the wall.

His boots might have given him away as he trudged through the pipe and was about five feet away when he finally stopped. He put his hands in his pockets, and rest his blue-green eyes on the man. It sure as hell looked to be a ghost from his past, come back to haunt him.
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by: Matthew Cox
What the hell? Viridian? Matt stared at the approaching apparition and tensed. His Tristan didn't wear a thick beard or designer clothes. He couldn't scent the man who looked so much like his squad mate thanks to the muck and rot of the sewer, but...damn, who else could look like Dorito?

There was a way to find out. Their ship challenge when standing watch would be information that only Tristan would know. Matt licked his lips and croaked the challenge. Dehydration turned his voice into a rasp, but the words were clear:

"Pennant L10..."

Matt sat, tense at the wizard's response. Yes, wizard. Matt's senses caught the shape of the wand in the man's pocket. Was Tristan a wizard?that barely made sense. Implausible. Was it? Matt hadn't been able to find him for decades. If he was a wizard, that made more sense.

It all came down to how the man responded to the challenge. Either they'd reunite, or Matt would have to kill the man.
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by: Tristan Viridian
Holy shit.

This was him. It had to be. No one else knew about their call and response since it was created specifically for their squad, and as far as he knew, the other guys were out in Boston, spread out in Europe, or on tour somewhere else to finish out their service. There was one that resembled Matthew Cox, except of course his brother Thomas, and even then he wouldn't have known to say that. Not to Tristan. He narrowed his eyes and brought himself to a crouch to level his eyes with his old brother-in arms and wondered why he wouldn't look at him. After a moment he just shook his head because he couldn't believe he was actually seeing the ghost of someone before him. In the flesh, even.

"Name says it all..." Even though he said the words, Tristan wasn't fully relaxed. He had a pocket knife on him and his wand in case there was some sort of scuffle to be had if he had this all pegged wrong. Merlin, what if this was some sort of mask? A spell to lure him out using the face of his dead brother? What sick and morbid trick and he was disgusted at the thought.

There had to be another test. Another verbal confirmation or something that would convince him, like a second way to verify this man's identity. "Jesus, brother. Haven't seen you in ages, and it's been what...years since my brother Chris' graduation?" If this was Matthew Cox, he'd know that Tristan was an only child. Growing up at least. No one was privy to the knowledge of his step-sister except a select few, but either way, he didn't have a brother named Chris. He picked it because Christophe was his uncle's name, but even that wasn't common knowledge.

Tristan linked his fingers and stayed crouched, and patiently waited for his friend's response.
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by: Matthew Cox
Who the fuck was Chris? Was this some sort of test to confirm he was himself? Had to be. Matt didn't lift his head, instead just sighing in relief that Tristan was Tristan.

"Dorito, the day you have a brother named Chris is the day blue pixies fly outta my ass."

Matt finally looked up, setting his chin on his knees. He waited for the sharp draw of breath in sympathy or pity. God don't let it be pity, Matt thought. Tris should know better than offer him that.

"What are you doing down here, Tristan? And why do you have a wand in your pocket?"

The best way to address the elephant in the room was to just shoot it, Matt believed. He didn't shift his curled up position, gave no indication of threat, and had no heat in his question. He just wanted the query out in the open and, in turn, open the door for the question Tristan was probably asking himself: What happened to you since we last saw each other?
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by: Tristan Viridian
Tristan chuckled and shook his head with a sigh of relief. "Well I'll be damned..." Of course, it was a long-shot, a question that had the possibility of even a stranger playing it cool, but the way he answered was enough for Tristan to verify this. It was Matthew Cox, alright. Not to mention he used his old nickname. Dorito. Shit, he wished he shed that the day he walked out of the service, but much like the memories of fallen soldiers and dark ops, that nickname haunted him. "Last person I expected to see here is you, Choir Boy." Not London, per se. Tristan didn't expect to see Matt alive, let alone in the shit-pit of the sewer system, running from a government agency.

But then, he caught him. His wand. Matt wasn't quite looking at him but he noticed that he could see quite well in the dim light of the sewers. Tristan tilted his head again and tried to get a better look and even waved a bit. He shrugged, "No use hiding it, but...surprise, honey. I'm a wizard. Since you recognize it I take it you've run into us before." He wouldn't address his accomplice, just yet. He'd wait, unless Matt decided to offer that information on his own. Instead, Tristan pressed back. "When'd you lose your eyes?" He huffed and shook his head, "No...How the hell can you see without seeing?"

He had run into a couple of blind folks in his day. One was back in Boston, an old war vet that came to the support meetings with him and his buddy Carter. Old man fought for America during WWII, but even without his sight could still see everything Tristan and Carter were doing--since he was not shy in calling them out on their shit. The other was an informant. Girl in her twenties... She went by Nyx, from what he remembered, but it was just an old nickname he preferred to use instead of proper names. Everyone was like that. Except James. Miserable old sod. If Matt was curious as to how he picked that up? He'd answer honestly. He saw no reason to lie to his friend thus far.
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by: Matthew Cox
I take it you've run into us before.

The feeling that came with that innocent observation was not unlike that of a trap door opening underneath him. A yawning pit of black, fluid rage took the place of Matt's current emotional state. Gone was the tiredness. Gone was the caution. Gone, indeed, was the hopeful curiosity about Tristan's presence. There was only rage left. The mutant clutched at himself, shivering violently as he tried to keep the aggressive wave from swamping him. Matt ducked his head down again and rocked slightly to pace his panting. There was a keening sound in the sewers that Matt couldn't identify at first, then belatedly realized was himself.

Oh my God, my God...what is going on with me?

He was breaking down. The stress of it all was too much. For all he really knew, Tristan was just a hallucination (an extremely vivid one) conjured by his mind to try and cope with the trauma. As the panic attack swamped him, Matt found himself verbally vomiting his whole tale into Tristan without any regard to the original question of why the man was down here.

"February...I-I made the stupidest damn mistake and l-l-let the government...they-th-...fuck it...oh fuck, Tris...they fucked with my genetics. I'm a fucking mutant monstrosity and I'm fucking ruined."

The explitive laden word salad was probably not helpful at all and extremely out of character for the normally straight laced and proper Choir Boy. So far had he fallen, though, that it was all he had to offer as an initial explanation. Matt sniffled and tried to get a grip on himself. He tried again.

"Super soldier program. I didn't know that it would take my eyes, didn't anticipate the changes...I can hear...there's three taxis, two bicycles, a truck, and a moped at the red light three blocks away. Easy to say that I'm making that up, I know, but I can hear it. Smell...ugh. Everything. And the best part...the worst part...this radar sense. Even with my eyes closed it's a three sixty view of fucking everything."

He was still shivering. Misery was overwhelming the panic and the rage. As it took its place in line in the parade of emotional torture, Matt continued his story in a hoarse whisper.

"I caught the wrong attention. The Imperius curse is...is..."

He keened again, then stood to flee deeper into the sewers to dry heave. He'd not eaten in over sixteen hours and had nothing to void, but his body was going to try anyway. Matt picked his way back to his hiding spot and leaned against the slimy brick tunnel, ignoring the squelch of God knew what under his bare feet, and asked Tris once more the important question.

"What are you doing down here, Tristan? You didn't come down here on a lark."
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by: Tristan Viridian
"Government...what..." Tristan uttered, as Matt revealed the nature of his disability. Genetics...Experimentation...Super Soldier... These were all keywords he'd have to store for later, when he researched whatever the hell Matt was talking about. It didn't seem too far-fetched, especially since he'd suspected both realms dabbling in screwing with bloodlines and human alterations as it was, but he was still stunned. "Christ, Matty. Honestly mate, we get out of being the pawns of the government and you run back into some government shit?" He reached up and ran his hand over his face, then up into his well-groomed hair. He sighed. It wasn't disappointment or pity now, it was just confusion. Even before he'd thought he was dead, Tristan thought Matt had a lot of shit going for him, and becoming a guinea pig for something like that wasn't one of those things.

At the explanation of sound and sights--enhanced senses-- Tristan craned his neck to see if he could hear anything topside. Most of it was muffled at best, but he could imagine that Matt was listening to it in full stereo surround sound. Getting to see everything with his eyes closed? That was a marvel in itself, and there was part of him that envied that.

His behavior, however. Imperius... That's where the concern struck his expression, and as his face hardened with that, he was sure Matt could see it. "Imp...Wait, who in the hell hit you with that?" It would be redundant to ask him how he came upon that word, and even hearing it from a muggle's mouth gave him a chill. Tristan folded his arms and watched for his response, both physical and verbal. This was important. Tristan never thought he'd need to use it, and even if this was a figment of his imagination he would hurt the son of a bitch that cursed his brother. He ignored the question of why he'd come down here for now.
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by: Matthew Cox
That was twice now that Tristan dodged the question of what he was doing down in the sewers. An uneasy chill sank into Matt's bones as he tried to rationalize away why his brother wouldn't tell him what he was doing in this hell-hole. Matt led off with answering the other questions.

"Did my full twenty, Tris. Got out and found office work a tad too boring. I should have been suspicious when this golden opportunity to get back into being a cog in the war machine. I mean, mid thirties, feeling my age and the wear and tear of a bootneck life, and here comes a promise to potentially get rid of that? Like I said, I was stupid."

To the second question, Matt just shook his head. He wasn't going to implicate Cora.

"They're just as much a victim as I was. I'm not going to give you a name to hunt down."

Matt decided to ask one final time about Tristan's presence in the sewers. If he dodged again, Matt was gone. His trust had been depleted already in this twenty four hour period. The mutant took a square stance against his brother, the Devil peeking out of the Marine's stance. The inhuman chill in his stomach spread to his limbs.

"Why are you down here? Why did you follow me?"

It wasn't because Tristan knew it was his brother. They'd done their confirmation ritual just to prove that they were legitimate. Tristan had some question that had needed answered and he hadn't expected the answer to be Matthew Cox. What had he been expecting?
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by: Tristan Viridian
"You never really struck me as the desk jockey, Cox." Tristan chuckled at the mere thought of him 'suiting up' and tying himself to the droll of a keyboard and mouse guy, staring at the bright screens with text and reports and junk when he saw his real potential, his real power in the field. It was a change, that was for damn sure, and the super-soldier whatever the hell sort of experimentation that they did on him was rather stupid... but he was alive. So there was that.

Tristan bristled at the thought of Matt protecting the person who'd cursed him. His brow pulled together slightly in great disdain for that move. That was some dark stuff, he knew. But judging by the current state of his old friend, there was no way he was going to get the name or whereabouts of the perpetrator now. Verified or not, they still had a matter of trust to build.

"Work." He revealed with a shrug. For a moment, Tristan thought to withhold, but with the way things were going tonight, he figured--Oh, what the hell?

"Private sector. Heard news about a Matthew Cox getting into some trouble with Five and came downtown to see if it really was you, Choir Boy. Watched you emerge from the building and take off when metro showed up and all eyes were on them. Followed you along the river until you wound up here and traced your steps. So...here I am. Guess that training from the old days came in handy, but I didn't realize that one day I'd use it to be tracking ghosts." It was as straightforward as he could get without the full details. He omitted the part about the Devil and the whole vigilante bit because he looked like he'd been to hell and back as it was, probably interrogated until his ears bled about the whole gig. He also left out the information about Cora...

With what was offered? He could take that and run, he could take that and fight, or he could just stand down and have a real heart-to-heart or reunion with his old brother if he wanted. Either way, Tristan was prepared for it. Physically, at least. Mentally? His brain was almost at full capacity with surprises and twists with all the turns and reveals tonight. His outside might have been steely and calm, but on the inside he was screaming that this could be a trap, a bad idea to fall in with a former soldier turned mutant... Then again, it was also a nice business opportunity.

That's why he'd come to see him, after all.
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by: Matthew Cox
Not cut out for desk work was right...He was supposed to have been a field agent of sorts, evaluating the magical world and formulating defenses against potential threats. He was supposed to go and evaluate sites, train assets, and be out in the field. Out, doing things. With his blindness, he was stuck behind a computer screen. Matt tried to relax by leaning against the wall, but the fire of his rage still burned in him. He couldn't get it to turn off. It wasn't at a dangerous level yet, but he felt irritable.

Tris looked irritable too. He didn't like the news about Matt not sharing about Cora. Matt wanted to know how he felt before he spoke about Cora. He'd been interrogated already today about her...part of his rage was directed towards her for putting him in that position, but he still loved her, too. She was his torment and his angel. Matt huffed, frustrated. He wanted Tristan's perspective on this...well, he wanted to talk about the situation, but he didn't want judgement for either himself or for Cora. He wanted sympathy and understanding. He wanted guidance on how to move forward.

After all, Cole had treated him like he was crazy. And it was crazy, caring for the woman who had kidnapped him, broken his mind, and put him through a Stockholm hell. Oh, but it wasn't all terrible. There was the movie date two nights ago, the times in the greenhouse, reading together...so much shared. But the imperius and cruciatus curses, the sectumsempra...He shivered and rubbed his chest absently where the Dark Lady had cut him with a curse.

He turned his attention back to Tristan as the man finally explained what he was doing. Words went past him...Private sector, saw the escape, tracked him...ghost. Matt paced back to his previous post and sat heavily, ignoring the squelching muck.

"Saw the escape, then? Then you know that it's not the senses alone that changed. I'm...I'm the Devil. In the news reports...that's me."

He laid his head down on his crossed arm again, looking beaten.
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by: Tristan Viridian
He nodded. Oh, he saw the escape alright, with his own two eyes. "Still crazy as ever, jumping out of a third story window, innit." Tristan mused with a smirk. He shook his head as he went back to leaning against the opposite wall, facing Matt. "What's even crazier is this bollocks about a vigilante. The Devil, huh? A bit of irony if I've ever seen some, Choir boy." Tristan laughed. The Matt Cox he remembered was a god-fearing man, and to take up the moniker of heaven's most notorious foe was a bit of dark humor there.

It was still odd that he hadn't mentioned his companion. The woman, Coraline Larson. The woman he knew before was probably different that the one he knew now, but two ghosts showing up out of the blue was still a strange coincidence. Still, he didn't press. If Matt wanted to reveal that very important bit, he would, given the right avenue of questioning, the right wording and enough coaxing. Right now, Tristan focused on getting his brother the hell out of here. To safety. "I have a place across town, if you would have it, my help that is. By the looks of things it doesn't look like you have much of a choice, but still, I'm offering because you leave me no choice. We can get you some clothes. Food. A shower. Maybe a chat too if you wanna tell me what the hell my ghost of Royal's past has been doing for the last ten years. My place might be a little better than our current digs. Brighter. Warmer. Comfortable."

He tugged at the wristcuffs of his hoodie and pulled it off, exposing his brawnier, chiseled form underneath, as he was only wearing his fitted, white undershirt after the warehouse incident and didn't think to change before this outing. Tristan offered it to him first, and if he didn't take it, he'd put it over his brother's shoulder anyway. "Come on, bruv. Let's get moving." He extended his hand to Matt, and waited patiently until he took it.
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by: Matthew Cox
He wasn't but fantasizing, was he? An opportunity to get into safety and shelter that could actually be safe? Matt went still at Tristan's offer. Truth. He was speaking the truth about wanting to take care of him.

Relief hit Matt so hard that he shuddered. It took everything he had to not break down and cry right there. Lord, he WAS stressed if he was this close to an emotional breakdown...he gave a timorous nod; the gesture built in confidence until Matt spoke.

"Brighter doesn't mean anything for me, but so long as it doesn't smell, I'm gone."

He chuckled, knowing Tristan would never put up with a place that was this rank. When the hoodie was offered, Matt took it with a grateful smile. The sodden and bloody mess of a grey sweatshirt that Mi5 had put him in was shed quickly. The nest of scarring on his torso would be hard to see in the dim light, but it was quickly covered by the dry, warm hoodie. Oh, that felt better than it had any right to feel...simple pleasures, and all that. He stood, careful not to get sewer slime in Tristan's hoodie.

"Thanks, brother. I suppose I can start the long, twisting tale now...last time we physically saw each other was off of Madagascar, right? Then, you probably heard what happened with Gravestone and me in the Philippines. He bit it..." Matt grimaced, face filled with the shadows of grief. He traced a hand across his stomach. "I nearly got gutted. Heard you went home to care for your mum...sorry to hear what happened. I tried looking you up, but couldn't find you."
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by: Tristan Viridian
"Right," Tristan laughed, already forgetting that his brother was impaired. That sure as hell was going to take some getting used to. "Brighter for me then, how's that? Yeah, I'd like to think I keep a pretty nice place. Door's open to you, bruv--I mean I can't force you, but I'm not about to let the opportunity to save my brother slip away again." Those words were out before he could stop them; The flashback took him to the time he heard of the loss of his Sarge, and it brought a surge of heartache that filled him with sorrow. Then another quick flash brought him to the day he thought Matthew Cox was dead. Tris felt not only the sadness but the listlessness and loneliness that came with it. He'd lost his best mates, his brothers, just after he took his leave when he found out his mother was sick.

He watched as Matt accepted the hoodie and narrowed his eyes, a simple flicker of concern at his movement. What had they done to him? More importantly, what had he done to himself?

Matt was as real as could be, a tangible person, no ghost, apparition or figment of his wild, and exhausted, imagination. Tristan found relief in that, though his relief was fleeting as he listened to the tale that unfolded. Mention of the Philippines and Graves made him huff, a short puff of a laugh as he'd just got through mulling that over. "Yeah." He replied, mournfully. There was a long story there, too. How his mother passed. Then he'd enlisted with the Death Eaters to find his dad... Then he disappeared to Boston... then? Well...he'd be careful not to mention the name of his employer. Brother or not, there were fine lines to cross in this industry.

Though he would rather walk and talk, he wondered just how bad Matt's shape was, but he knew he had the strength in him to carry his brother out of there if he needed the crutch. "Come on..." He gestured, reaching out to take his arm if he would have it, if not Tristan would simply guide Matt by placing his hand on his back, taking the route he used to get down here, to get to the surface where his car was already waiting.
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by: Matthew Cox
"Yeah," Matt echoed. There were a lot of stories to share later. But there was going to be a later, he reflected. That thought alone was enough to buoy his hopes and give him just a little more strength to carry on. That was all he needed: just a little more.

When Tristan reached out to guide him, Matt gracefully dodged and stepped away towards the entrance to the tunnel.

"No offense, Dorito, but I can see down here better than you can. Unless you're trying to grab ahold for me to lead you, thanks but, no thanks."

The cocky grin Matt used to wear back in uniform made a brief reappearance before fading back into the grim expression that the Hounds had carved into his features. Matt picked his way carefully and quickly through the tunnel, avoiding cracks in the flooring and pointing out potential hazards when necessary.

"Don't step in the rat," he pointed to a maggoty carcass as he stepped around it. Going barefoot through that mess would have been terrible, wouldn't it? He didn't remember going this far down the tunnel system...then again, he'd been in an adrenaline high when he did it, so time was flexible in how it had been interpreted. Finally, they came to the grated exit. Matt bent the wiring back and held it for Tris before replacing it.

Now exposed to sunlight, his disability would be even more noticible. He could hear more of the traffic up on the road as well; there was an idling car that wasn't too far off. Sirens were still at the mess of a government building. Traffic towards that direction was at a standstill and no less than three helicopters were over the scene. Tension started to infuse the mutant again as he went back into threat detection mode. He flipped the hood of the hoodie up and hunched his shoulders to hide his face from anyone in the cars above.

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