Title : Order for Myself
Author : Gunbunny
E-Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Fandom : Angel / The Sentinel
Pairing : Gunn/Wes, Jim/Blair
Rating : swearing and sex implied.
Summary : Remember the panther in the white room at the end of Home? Well, er... I decided the Senior Partners had sent a sign, dammit! A sign!
Disclaimer : Joss and Pet Fly own 'em.
Feedback : I accept burnt offerings and alcohol.
Dedication : Dol and Sheila.
Archive : http://kabukivice.com/underskin , anywhere else feel free.
Gunn straightens his tie as he rides the elevator to the science labs at Wolfram and Hart. Looking at his reflection confirms what he's always known - designer suits and Charles Gunn were a match made in heaven. As the elevator draws closer, he winces at the metal-upon-metal screeching sound he can hear from the labs below. They've really got to get more sound proofing for the science geek heaven Fred inhabits if you can hear it two floors up.
The bell dings and the doors open to the science department. Through the reinforced can-withstand-a-rhino glass doors, he can see Fred and her team gathered around a complex piece of machinery, the asian chick with blue hair staring down what looks like a microscope. But not your common microscope, more like something from mad scientists 'r' us. He flicks a quick look at the readout panel next to the door, the one that tells you whether it's safe to open the doors or not. Green light. That's okay. At least it's not the blue one from last week which means 'distract us and the world explodes'. He walks in, lounges against the wall. After another few minutes, the asian chick squeaks excitedly, and all the others go 'ooooo' and take turns to have a look. They break off into excitedly babbling groups. Takes a bit longer before anyone notices he's there.
Fred grins, still on her high from whatever it was coming out. "Charles! What brings you down here?"
"Well, I was going to ask if Jerry's got that rotator thing going yet."
"He's finished it, and improved on the specs and application levels. It'll work better than it ever did."
"Great. You thought of getting more soundproofing for this place? I could hear stuff from two floors up."
Fred blinks. "We've been really quiet for the last week. No explosions or loud bangs."
"This was more like metal on metal grinding."
She shrugs. "I'll look into it."
A really awful smell takes that moment to hit Gunn's sinuses. He waves a hand to try and disperse it, looking at the Asian chick. "Damn, girl, what did that thing do just now? It reeks."
Asian chick raises her eyebrow. "I don't smell anything."
"I'm serious." Gunn says, wincing. "Smells like a bad combo of rotting flowers and ammonia." He takes a few steps forward, confirming that the smell is coming from the machine, and puts his hand to his nose. "Yep, definitely that doohickey."
She gives him a sceptical look, leans in and sniffs it. "Really can't smell anything, sir."
Fred and Doug, the guy who Gunn argues with about whether the Ultimate take on the classic Marvel superheroes is better than the classic (Ultimate is winning on the grit and cooler costumes factor), sniff the substance under the microscope. "Can't smell anything. Fred, you get anything? We know Lin's got the remainders of a cold."
"Nope. You haven't come down with something from your end, have you, Charles?"
The humming's getting really distracting. The fact that the hummer is known by half of LA to be tone deaf doesn't help either. Gunn groans, getting up and making his way to Angel's office. When he gets there, Wes is about to push the door open to the outer office. He takes in Gunn's irritated demeanour. "What appears to be the problem?"
"Won't be no problem if Mr. Tone-deaf stops humming Manilow. He's been doing it for the last half hour. It's killing my ear drums."
"Really? I can't hear anything."
"You deaf? Right now he's not just murdering 'Mandy', he's gone serial killer on that song's ass." Gunn replies. Wes shakes his head, and they go through to the inner office, nodding to Angel's PA as they pass him. "Afternoon, Jeff. The boss okay?"
"Pretty quiet. Wasn't brooding last I checked."
They open the door to Angel's office. Angel is humming 'Mandy' fairly softly. Wes turns to Gunn and says in amazement "You heard this? Gunn, your hearing must be working overtime."
Angel looks up. "What?"
"Gunn claims he's being driven insane by your incessant humming. Which he apparently heard from the other end of this floor."
Angel looks at Gunn. "Gunn, you shouldn't have been able to hear that."
Gunn holds his hands up. "Just quit with the Manilow, man, that's all I ask."
When Gunn's gone, Angel picks up a pen and starts fiddling with it. "Gunn's getting really weird. You think he's coming down with something?"
"Mmm. Possibly. It could be a fever, or something mystical. Either could account for the symptoms. I'll look into it. It sounds a little like some of the traits associated with Slayers, really." Wes rubs his stubble. "It might possibly have some connection to... no, that only occurs when the victim has been in close proximity to the hallucinatory effects of Krakkagar, and they've been extinct since 1952. I'm certain I've heard of something similar."
"Okay, so get with the research when we're done with this." Angel says. "What did you come to see me about, anyway?"
A week later, Gunn's sitting on the really plush sofa in Wes' office, head in his hands. Wes is standing over him, looking thoughtful. "It's driving me insane, Wes. I'm sitting here, hearing stuff I shouldn't be able to, my sense of smell's gone off the radar - you have no idea what walking anywhere near a trash bin, my eyes are fucked, and taste.. shit, it's like I'm being poisoned. I can't even wear my favourite football shirts, it's like wearing sandpaper."
"Yet you appear to be able to wear your favourite designer suits." Wes replies dryly.
"Silk and wool. Not so bad. Cotton's okay, too, but I touched that linen shirt Fred was wearing last week and it's like hundreds of tiny pieces of straw were sticking into me."
"Linen can be rather itchy anyway. And this has been going on how long?"
"Creeping up on me gradually. I can't go to the doctor, he thinks I'm nuts, and I'm sure as hell not letting any of the Wolfram and Hart docs near me. They may say we're the bosses, but I still remember the whole people kept in tanks for their limbs thing."
"Not a quieting thought, no."
"You got the supernatural research and resources thing going on. Any ideas? I'm thinking it's a spell or something, but I'm getting desperate."
"I've been looking into it and your condition sounds remarkably like Sentinels." Wes says, pulling out one of the encyclopaedia books and commanding. "Burton, treatise on tribal guardians. They had heightened senses designed to help them guard the tribe."
"Okay, cool. what's that got to do with me?"
"From what I can tell, Gunn, you are one." He puts the book down. "However, as I am no expert, I believe we need to find someone who can help you with your abilities. The only expert I know on living Sentinels that speaks English doesn't live in LA, so we'll have to go see them."
"What do they do? Academic, right?"
"No, police officer in point of fact."
"A cop? You're taking me to see a cop?" Gunn says in disbelief. "No way, no how. I do not deal with cops unless I got no alternative."
Wes sighs, exasperated. "Gunn, he is the only person I know of that has practical experience in dealing with Sentinels in the civilised world. Would you prefer I spent months scouring the tribes of ... oh, I don't know, the Congo ... to find a shaman that has practical experience of Sentinels? While you continued to have these zone-outs and have your senses cause you immense pain on a regular basis?"
"If the alternative's a cop, hell yeah." Gunn mutters. Wes glares at him. "Okay, okay, let's go cop-hunting."
"I'll attempt to make it as painless as possible for all those involved. Especially me."
"How'd you know about him?"
"The subject interested me, relating as it did to Slayers and their tribal guardian aspect, though they tend to be focussed on the supernatural rather than scouting and keeping the community as a whole safe, as such. Slayers are more interested in the monsters themselves and tended to be fairly isolationist and unconcerned with the tribe." He flicks through a couple of pages of the book he's holding. "A few years ago, articles appeared on their historical nature by a Blair Sandburg. Then inquiries, possibilities into their active nature on the web and other forums, including a lot of requests for some of the more obscure materials on the subject. Reports started to flow in from a city in the North-West from contacts of mine about a figure with better-than-average observation powers, his partner, and the rocketing of the crime clean-up rate on his patch. Then came a rather interesting press conference by Mr. Sandburg denouncing all possibility of a living Sentinel, publically stating fraudulence on his part. If that isn't going native, I really don't know what is." Wes clears his throat. "The Sentinel, by Blair Sandburg, please." He passes it over to Gunn. "The thesis he so publically denied."
Gunn starts skimming. "Okay, this sounds like total deja-vu, this shit. Check, check, check..." He pauses, looking up at Wes, who's taken to lounging against the arm of the sofa. "Hold it. You said he said this was all shit."
"On tv, no less."
"So why you even looking at this?"
"Gunn, you know perfectly well people lie." Wes says, giving him a quelling look. "He went native - it's a term meaning giving up ties to previous loyalties by getting so immersed in what you're studying -"
"Wes, I watch cop shows, okay?"
"Okay." Wes grins slightly. "He'd been immersed so long in the Sentinel world that when the possibility of endangering the Sentinel came up, he denounced all his work in order to protect him."
Gunn nods. "Cool. I can respect that. Crew first."
"Good. Start packing for Washington weather, will you?"
Simon sticks his head out of his office and bellows "Sandburg? You and your partner made any progress on those murders yet?"
Blair looks up. "Still looking, Simon. It's like an animal did it, what with the claw marks, but it's too deliberate. Not to mention no reports of escapees from the zoo. The M.O.'s completely out of our experience. Nothing like it."
"I know that, Sandburg. Has Ellison come up with anything yet?"
"Nope. He's as clueless as I am on this."
"Can I help?" Connor asks when Wes and Gunn walk into Major Crimes.
"We're looking for Blair Sandburg." Wes says.
"Over there." She gestures at his and Jim's desks. "He'll be back soon." They hover near the desk, getting occasional looks from the other detectives, assessing them for potential trouble. Gunn's got his hackles up, and is thus getting a few more once-overs than Wes is. Wes, on the other hand, is observing the goings-on of the bullpen idly.
Sandburg and Ellison turn up 20 minutes later, arguing good naturedly about the Jags, pizza toppings, and dinner tonight. Jim sees them first, something about their presence rankling him. "You waiting for someone?"
"Yes, in fact." Wes says. "Detectives Sandburg and Ellison, I presume?"
"He's Sandburg. I'm Ellison. Yeah?"
"We have something to speak to you about."
"Nope." Gunn says. "Definitely not cop-related."
"Okay, so what is it?" Blair asks.
"We are given to understand that you're the foremost authority on Sentinels in the civilised world." Wes says.
Blair glances round, the rest of Major Crimes take notice of the trigger word 'Sentinel' and heads start turning. Jim looms. Gunn looms back. "Sorry?"
"We require some advice."
Blair runs his hand through his hair, a bit nervously. "I lied, or didn't you see the press conference?"
"I saw it." Wes says calmly.
"He lied." Jim states. "You look like an educated man, I'm sure you know the pressure for results in academia. Now get out of here. Sorry for your wasted journey."
"Can't do that, man." Gunn says.
"You can. I can also have you arrested for harassment of a police officer."
Wes reaches into his jacket and pulls out a folder, placing it on the desk in front of Blair. One thesis, titled 'The Sentinel, by Blair Sandburg'. "You are Blair Sandburg, are you not? It's a well-researched document, I have to say. Perhaps you are also aware of Baldur in Norse mythology? The writings of Sekur al-Dinseh on the Bedouin tribes north of Akkabar? The bear-women of the Steppes and the wolfkin spoken of by Roman generals, on both their side and the side of whichever tribe they were pacifying at the time in Northern Europe are perhaps a little obscure to the average student of anthropology. But I'm positive a man who researched his subject as long as you are said to have will have definitely heard of them." Blair's frozen, Jim's frozen in mid-bristle in defence of his Guide, and Wes, seeing that he's got their attention, continues. "However, I'm fairly sure you might not be aware of the portrayals of tribal guardians on the stones and in the tales of the Border Counties of Britain, before and after Roman occupation, lasting well into the Industrial Revolution. They're fairly well hidden and disguised. It's been posited that several of the exploring officers of the British and French armies during the Empire period became such, not to mention certain Canadian Mounties on duty in the more remote parts of the Northern Territories have almost certainly achieved the status of Sentinel." He pauses again. "You weren't lying, Detective Sandburg. You know it and I know it. We're here because you are the foremost expert on living Sentinels in the northern hemisphere."
"How did you get this info?" Blair asks. "I studied it for years, and that stuff about the Steppes was hidden pretty damn deep. It hadn't seen daylight for decades."
"I have my sources. I'm well-read on the theory of Sentinels, but to put it quite simply, we need your practical expertise."
The big cop is sneaking glances at his partner, obviously concerned with his reaction to Wes' impression of an encyclopaedia. Not to mention the partner's heart's going a mile a minute. Ellison then does the oh-so subtle shift into pissed off and protective mode, which includes the message of 'Fuck off and die' in his body language and gaze. Unfortunately, facing down demons, evil's most pre-eminent law firm, and Cordelia Chase tends to render you immune to its effects. Wes is barely noticing it, though Gunn's still a bit twitchy. Most of that's due to his surroundings rather than Ellison, as he's never had a single good experience with a cop in his life. He's normally on the receiving end, and being hunted by the zombie cops that shot Wes doesn't help his instinctive reaction to get done and get gone. Getting creeps up his spine from Ellison's proximity isn't helping none. He keeps getting the feeling he should be getting ready to attack or something, or at least start circling the guy like he was cruising for a bruising. That and place himself between this cop and Wes. He shifts a bit so he's in an easier position to throw a punch or something if he needs to.
Blair looks away from Wes' challenging gaze and down at the copy of his paper, which he locked away a while back. He's still actively Guiding, but the research element and the paper had too many distasteful memories attached to it to keep it in view. He doesn't know how this guy with the cut-glass tones managed to get himself a copy, but considering the sources he mentioned, which Blair knows he never mentioned in his paper, not to mention the ones he cited that Blair's never even heard of and would love to get his hands on, he's pretty sure he's for real. Not some media hound out for a story. Cop instincts are agreeing with that. They don't bother researching into something that obscure. Part of his memory's flashing up warning signals, mostly in the shape of CIA agent Lee Brackett, and what that could mean for Jim. He swallows, aware that Jim's taking note of his unusually long silence and the nervous signals he's giving off. Always tuned into his Guide, no matter what. Nothing like drowning to hammer that in the hard way, to say nothing of the trouble magnet factor.
Blair passes his fingers over the title of his thesis. "Okay. What is it you guys want?"
"My associate here has recently started exhibiting the traits of a Sentinel." Wes says. "Up to and including the fugue states known as zone-outs."
"Every sense?" Blair asks, the excitement starting to kick in. Even though the spectre of Alex is still floating in his hindbrain.
Gunn folds his arms defensively and stares stonily at the wall. "The guys on the floor below are listening to Bob Marley in the break room, the lights are so bright I'm forced to wear shades the whole time, beautiful as they do look on me, I've had to change my shower gel to sensitive skin, I can't eat fast food no more because I can taste the damn chemicals, and the black dude in the Hawaiian shirt overdid the garlic at lunch. It's fucking painful, man."
Jim winces. "I hear you on the garlic. But no burgers?"
"It's like a chemical spill happened in my mouth every time I even set foot near the things."
Blair grins. "Yet another reason to start eating healthy and organic, man." Then he leans back, towards Brown. "You're going to have to lay off the garlic, H. We can smell it from here."
Brown snorts. "Tell Ellison to dial it down. I seen you eat worse shit."
Wes raises an eyebrow. "Now do you understand our predicament?"
"Okay, okay, I'll give you some pointers." Blair scribbles down an address. "Meet us at this restaurant at six thirty, okay?"
"The vegetarian place, Chief?" Jim groans on seeing the name.
"I've seen you eat there, you can hack it."
Simon takes that moment to stick his head out of his office. "Sandburg, unless that's a lead on your current case, I'm not seeing any work being done!"
"Slavedriver." Blair sighs. "As you can see, we're kind of snowed under with a case here. See you later."
"Of course." Wes nods. "We'll leave you to it."
"Hold it." Jim says. "What did you say your names were?"
"Wesley Wyndham-Price and Charles Gunn. Thankyou."
Once they've left, Jim waves a hand in front of Blair's face. He's still skimming his fingers over the title of his thesis, staring out the door after them. "Chief." Squeezes his shoulder. "Chief. No zoning on me here."
Blair blinks. "Sorry. It's just all that shit that went down with the media scrum, and I thought I was done with any academic stuff, or anything related to it. The English guy, Price? He so knows more than I did about them when I started."
"He said he just knew theory, Chief. It's why he sought you out."
"You think the other one's really a Sentinel?"
"I know so, Chief. Hackles aren't up the same way they were with Alex, so maybe he's not planning nerve gas, but I'm still not comfortable."
"It might just be a territory thing. How do you tell? Is it a sensory thing? And have you had any visions lately? You did when Alex was around."
Jim waves a hand vaguely. "It's just an automatic thing. Like a bell's gone off when they step in. But the only dream I had recently was of that car advert with the panther in it from a few years back."
Blair looks up, startled. "Panther? Jim, you should've told me."
"No jungle. It was LA, Sandburg. It was one step away from having the music and titles for it. How was I supposed to know?"
Connor comes over, thumping a stack of papers down. "So what did those blokes want? Seemed to knock you for six, Sandy."
"They wanted Sandburg's help with some problems they think he can solve." Jim says, picking the first one up to flick through. "Connor, do me a favour - run these names through the system and pick up what you can. Appearances, too."
"Not sure about them, huh?"
"Clear as mud."
She comes back a couple of hours later. "You know those two you asked me to look up? Interesting stuff."
"What've you got for me?"
"Charles Gunn has a record of minor stuff from teens to a few years ago - mostly average street kid - shoplifting, loitering, some gang-related. All stopped a few years back. They've both got registered PI licences, and they're listed as helping on a couple of cases, plus some run-ins with the law. Occasionally found in some really incriminating circumstances, including one girl's death, but it's been proven that they either had a really airtight alibi or were wrong place, wrong time. Then come a couple of months ago and they're suddenly head honchos at the LA branch of an international big-time law firm, along with most of the members of their PI firm. That kind of career progression needs serious amounts of checking up on."
"Which law firm?"
"Wolfram and Hart."
Blair whistles. "Those guys? Aren't they like evil incorporated?"
"From the people they defend, that's what I'd think." Jim says.
"That's not all." Connor says, pulling out the mugshots of Price and Gunn. "Take a look at the one of the Pomm."
Jim takes it while Blair looks over his shoulder. The mug shot's a couple of years old, and shows a clean-cut man in glasses, maybe a little stiff. The one that walked out of here a few hours ago was rough-hewn, covered in stubble and didn't look like someone you'd survive a fight with, let alone be scared of meeting in a dark alley. Jim traces the photo with his finger, lingering on the neck. "When do you suppose he got his throat cut?"
"His what?" Blair starts at that. "And he survived?"
"You survived getting drowned, Sandy." Connor replies. "If they don't do it right, you can survive it."
Jim gestures across his throat. "Scar across here. Faded and covered with stubble, but still there. Any info on when it was?"
"Regular hospital visitor - non-specific major wounding a few years back, gut-shot wound, the neck early last year, and that's just the major stuff. The other's all stab wounds and bruising. Some internal bleeding. Private Dick is not a nice job to this guy, I'm telling you. Otherwise not much. Came here to be an assistant librarian in a school in California that's..." She blinks, studies her notes. "Now at the bottom of a really big hole left by the earthquake earlier this year with the rest of the town. I don't remember that making the news. A town does not disappear into a hole in the ground without it making national news at the very least."
"National World Weekly probably noticed, if it helps."
"Moves to LA, becomes a Private Dick. Nothing else."
"PI to law firm's definitely something to investigate, though."
Veggie cafe. Gunn pokes the menu while they wait for the other two. "Veggie? What's wrong with meat?"
"They're presumably relying on the fact that it's advertised as organic, considering your current reaction to chemicals in most foodstuffs." Wes says. He's been making interested noises in the direction of the falafel.
"Great. The sooner I get control over these things, the better."
Jim and Blair arrive a few minutes later. They sit down, making noises about traffic problems and signal the waitress.
"The falafel, please." Wes says.
"Chowder." Gunn says. "I would kill for a hot dog, though."
"Even I can taste the chemicals in those, man." Blair says. "Feta salad and the spicy bean burrito for him."
"Plus four beers." Jim adds. Waitress goes. "You ever going to let me order for myself at this place, Chief?"
Blair looks innocent. "Just trying to expand your palate."
Eating. "So when did you start to manifest your abilities?"
" 'Bout a month back. Garbage smelled worse, that kind of thing."
"Coming to a head when one of our associates drove him crazy by humming Barry Manilow songs. From three floors away." Wes adds, then murmurs. "It doesn't help that Angel's tone deaf."
Blair winces. "Definite sympathies. How come you know so much about Sentinels?"
"My speciality is esoteric and occult knowledge. It helps with my livelihood."
"In a law firm?" Jim asks, sceptical expression plastered across his face.
"You'd be surprised. It's mostly my investigative and translation skills I use there, though."
"And the strong-arm tactics." Gunn adds, deadpan, taking another mouthful of chowder.
"Sentinels are kind of obscure, though."
"Not as obscure as some of the shit we've dealt with." Gunn replies. "Lawyers are seriously weird."
They get through the meal, and move on to the loft for more beer and a more private place to talk. Blair pulls out his notepad and goes into academic study mode while Jim hovers in the background and Wes sits off to one side, lounging. Jim's presence could be more accurately described as 'looming' and Wes' 'wary and alert'.
"Did you exhibit heightened senses as a child?"
"Nope. Would've been useful, but nothing like that."
"Any periods of prolonged isolation?"
"Half an hour waiting for this dude in a movie theatre count?" Gunn asks, gesturing at Wes.
"I was not late. You were early." Wes retorts.
"You said the movie started at 8:30, I believed you. You lied."
"You're just too lazy to read the listings."
"May be something in that, okay."
"A camping trip?"
"You don't know Gunn." Wes says drily. "He gets allergies if he goes more than two miles from tarmac."
"What about Pylea? Don't that count?"
"I was with you the entire time."
"So, no isolation." Blair concludes. "Is there anything that could possibly have triggered it? A recent event, I'm thinking. A big shock? An explosion? Sickness? A really bad case? Any of those ring a bell?"
"By shock, we talking getting covered in demon slime on a regular basis? Nah, that's been the story of my life, that one." Blair and Jim exchange glances on that one, a definite 'we'll get back to that later' vibe. Gunn straightens his cuffs. "Odd shit that's out of place..." He pauses, going over his memories. "Fuck, I know. Our first day at Wolfram and Hart. I got taken up to the White Room by my lonesome. Where we saw that spooky-ass little girl."
"White Room?" Blair asks, perking up slightly with curiosity.
"Top of the building. Seriously spooky shit."
"And was the little girl there that you mentioned?"
"Nah, she'd been killed a while back by a big bad."
"Not so much little girl as ancient evil..." Wes murmurs.
"Big black panther was there, though." Gunn continues. "Pretty cool, a cat that big and powerful."
"I'm familiar with them." Jim says dryly.
"A panther?" Blair asks, scribbling frantically. "What happened?"
"It prowled for a bit, looking at me, then got out of there. Didn't attack me or nothing." Gunn shrugs. "Still, cool."
Blair grins, stopping scribbling. "That's it. You just saw your spirit animal. And you said the White Room was spooky, right? Was there anything in it? Symbols?"
Gunn makes a face. "Spirit animals. I did not sign on for spirit animals. White Room's just bright white. Echoing, no walls white. Clean as a whistle."
"You were taken up there." Wes says quietly, concerned. "Did they say anything?"
"They had big plans."
"Don't they always." Wes says, pained. "Still, it's a comfort to know when they act autonomously, at least it's consistently and with a certain style."
Blair stares. "Are you telling me that the law firm had the ability to trigger Sentinel abilities in you?"
"The Senior Partners, most probably." Wes sighs. "Trust me, you're really not better off knowing."
Jim comes in with coffee. "Shift the paperwork, Sandburg."
"Yes, your holiness." It's mostly stuff from the case, interspersed with a few books and the tv guide. Blair picks up the case file. By the wrong end. Photos fall out. Wes catches them. "Thanks. Uh. I really don't recommend looking at them on a full stomach." He trails off as Wes is studying them with what's obviously a professional eye. "What is it?"
Wes passes the photos to Gunn. "Gunn, do these remind you of anything?"
"Dog Soldiers?" Gunn suggests, flicking through them with an equally practiced eye. They're obviously used to this sort of thing. Must've been some interesting cases they were involved in. Very interesting, if they can look at full-on evisceration and calmly look for clues. Not even a change in heartbeat.
Wes rolls his eyes. The smart-aleck thing of Gunn's must be a personality trait. "I was thinking more of the case in December 2001."
"The Silverlake one?" Gunn asks, turning it upside down. "Could be."
"That type of evisceration is characteristic of Choelin demons." He frowns. "Although I didn't think they liked this type of climate. The chill and near-constant damp plays havoc with their sinuses."
"Like that cousin of Cordy's from Boston who has the reverse problem, right?" Gunn asks, concurring. "Guess they've got a good incentive. What do you think it is?"
"Money, food, standard of living, perks... Similar to a human, really." Wes says. "The problem would be finding exactly where they have lodgings and stopping them..."
"I think I left my axe back in LA."
"It's all right, I brought it as insurance."
Blair and Jim's eyes are getting a tad wide. "Timeout." Jim says. "You telling me you recognise this pattern of evisceration?"
"We're familiar with it."
"Cholera demons? That a gang?"
"Ah, no. And it's Choelin, not Cholera. Quite different, I assure you." Wes pauses, running his fingers along the edge of the sofa arm. "I presume the background check you did on us didn't reveal certain aspects of our previous business. The day-to-day realities, as it were."
"Why're you so sure we did one?" Blair asks defensively.
"I'd do the same in your place. It's only sensible. Does my rap sheet include getting shot by the LAPD?"
"Uh... no. Can definitely say it didn't."
"Well, they were zombies. Our agency dealt with the occult and was reckoned one of the best that handled such matters. Admittedly, we were the only one that was known for it."
"Exorcisms, pest control, killing things with horns... you name it, we did it in the demon community." Gunn chimes in. "Up to and including making sure a restraining order stuck between a vampire and this goth stalker chick who bore a really disturbing resemblance to Christina Aguilera. Though this was before Christina dyed her hair."
"We're still not entirely sure if the goth aspect was just camouflage for her stalker tendencies or the goth was present before that." Wes says. "It's the vampire aspect that has to be considered."
"Don't care, we got paid. Plus the guy gave us tickets to the game. What's not to like?"
"Occult and demons. We're supposed to believe this?" Jim says, giving the flat stare he does so well.
"Most communites have a non-human population. LA merely has a particularly large and public one. Admittedly, with all the plastic surgery and dieting, they fit right in. Like all communities, they find uses for an agency such as ours."
"Especially when they're paying you to spy on their husband because they think he's having an affair." Gunn adds.
"I was prepared to get ghosts, visions, and spirit animals. I am not believing in demons."
"Well, if you follow and eventually catch the perpetrator, you won't have to bother believing in them. They just exist. It would be like believing in the postman."
"Or worshipping the table." Blair adds. "Pratchett reader, right?"
"Yes. Did you like Wee Free Men?"
"Preferred Amazing Maurice."
Jim pinches the bridge of his nose, trying not to notice Blair's sudden shift into discussing literature. "Horns? Tail? Give me a break."
"Try greyish skin, lots of wrinkles, built like an eight-foot Arnie and claws the length of your hand. That's how they manage to do the evisceration so well." Gunn supplies.
"Come on, Jim, Sentinels exist, we should at least give credence to the possibility -"
"I'll start believing in the existence of the Easter Bunny next, Chief."
Wes pulls out his phone and hits the speed-dial, muttering. "Answer the phone, Lilah..."
"Lilah?" Gunn asks as he puts the phone down. "What's that bitch got to -" Wes gives him a look. "Duh. Evil lawyer."
Blair looks interested. "Who's Lilah?"
"Evil and lawyer not enough information for you?" Gunn asks. "One of the top lawyers at Wolfram and Hart."
Lilah finally answers her phone. "Hey, Wes, Cascade rain getting to you?"
"May I ask why you felt the need to turn Gunn into a Sentinel?"
Her tone sounds entirely too gleeful and laid back. "Senior Partners' decision. They thought you guys might appreciate an edge."
"Without consulting us?"
"Move in mysterious ways, Wes."
"That's not an exact answer."
"Well, it's all the answer you're getting, loverboy. It's not like you were doing anything with him." She says, putting the phone down on him.
Wes glares at it, then sighs. "Typical and just as I thought."
"What'd she say for those of us without Sentinel hearing?" Blair asks.
"Apparently they felt we needed an edge. It's all the information I'm getting from her, apparently."
"Okay, think of your senses as controlled by dials." Blair says as Gunn sits there, slightly sceptical look on his face.
"Dials." He states flatly.
"Like on your stereo. Turn them to zero, complete silence, blackness, can't taste anything. Turn it all the way up to eleven and supernova, you can hear and see things miles away."
"All the way up to eleven?" Wes asks. "Do we dare ask if you're planning a miniature stonehenge next?"
"That movie is just scary, English. The rest of us were better off not knowing."
"And some of us just have the hair for it." Jim says, reaching out and tweaking Blair's.
"Jim..." Blair grumbles. "Okay, start with smell first. Can you smell the herbs in the kitchen?"
"Right. That's about six or so, I'd say. You're on six. Now turn the smell dial lower, and as you turn it, the smell of the herbs gets fainter. Take it right down until you can't smell anything. Got there yet?"
After a minute or so of concentration, Gunn nods. "This is seriously weird."
"Yep. Isn't it cool? Of course, not being a Sentinel, I've never experienced it, but the concept is really cool. Now turn the dial back until the scent's at a level you can handle."
Another minute goes by. "Got there."
"Okay, now that's about four or five. Normal level. Turn it up gradually until you can differentiate between the herbs."
Gunn wrinkles his nose, then starts sneezing. "You should've warned me about the damn chilli!"
"You knew the chilli was there, Chief." Jim remonstrates.
"Just checking..." He says innocently, making his eyes as big as possible.
"Don't you ever do that to me."
Five minutes later, Gunn's suddenly unresponsive. "Gunn? Oh bugger, he's zoned." Wes says. "Get him out of it, will you?"
"Talk him out of it. Get him to follow your voice back. Touching him for grounding's pretty good."
"Gunn? Listen to me. Snap out if it." Wes turns his head. "I thought you were the expert."
"Jim gets territorial." Blair says, as if that's explanation enough. "Just keep it up, keep your voice reassuring and soothing."
Gunn blinks awake after a minute or so of soft voice from Wes. "Shit." He groans, diverting his eyes from Wes' concerned and slightly irritated gaze. "I zoned, right?"
"What were you concentrating on?" Blair asks.
"I could hear music from across the street." Gunn says. "Was trying to hear it better."
"Okay, man, that's one problem right there. When you focus on something, you've gotta have it balanced - keep track of another sense. Jim normally manages with my hand on his arm or back, as touch is an easy one to latch onto."
"Okay, makes sense, don't throw your whole self into it. So I keep something else in mind, stop me from zoning."
"It's not that simple. You'll still get the zones, it's just if you keep working at them, they'll stay in better control. Just zone not as often, less sensory spikes."
"This shit is never going to stop?" Gunn asks in disbelief.
"Take the bad with the good. Good outweighs the bad."
Station. "It's not going to hurt to let them look at the evidence, Jim. You know a fresh perspective's always good, and it doesn't suck that one of them's a Sentinel."
"A Sentinel with practically no control, and who we don't know jack-shit about."
Wes looks over the photos and reports "Definitely a Choelian. Two or three to each attack, I'd say, from the sheer amount of injury. Could we take a look at the crime scene?"
Jim sighs. "What the hell."
Standing at the docks. "Okay, this was where the first murder happened." Blair says.
"I already looked." Jim grumbles.
"I know, but you don't know what you should've been looking for, Jim."
"We'll try." Wes says, looking over the scene. "Now, those scratches are definitely their work, but -"
Gunn crouches down to get a better look at something on the wall, close to the ground, pointing at what looks like oily moss. "Got some blood and spit here."
Blair and Jim crouch down. "That's blood?"
"Uh-huh. The mossy thing is because shit loves to grow in it. It's like the ultimate fertiliser. You can tell it's a few days old because of the growth. Didn't find out until I did the laundry at the end of the week."
"It's not toxic, is it?" Jim asks, fishing out a pair of gloves and a baggie.
"Nah. Well, not unless you're fool enough to eat it, and then we're only talking upset stomach."
"We did check Dan's eating habits, didn't we?" Blair asks, mock-worried. "I've never actually checked what happens to all the DNA samples that get done with after he's worked on them."
"Funny, Chief, funny."
Wes is frowning and trying to push a very heavy crate aside. "Can someone give me a hand with this?"
"What?" Jim asks, coming to help
"There's something I wanted to check -" The crate shifts that valuable extra three inches. "Ah. Good. Gunn, could you check this for traces?" It's some scratches, but they don't look like random stuff. Besides, it's behind a crate. A heavy one. They didn't get there on their own.
"What is it?"
"Writing. Well, more like graffiti or a note of completion. Partially a sigil or signet ring-like mark, partially bragging. Gunn, if you could see if there's any traces of fluids or otherwise in there - smell, maybe..." He pauses. "Gunn? Gunn? Oh, wonderful." Wes says, pushing Gunn's shoulder as he gazes glassily at the scratches.
"Remember, calm tone, get him to follow your voice." Blair says as Wes reaches out again to take hold of Gunn's shoulder, holding on this time, stroking soothingly with one thumb.
"I remember. Are you sure shaking him won't work just as well?"
"Physical assault tends to get you reported." Blair grins. "This is less noticeable."
"Very well." Wes sighs, and turns his attention to Gunn, making his voice soft. "Gunn, listen. Snap out of it and listen. Follow my voice out of whatever you're focussed on. Listen and come back to me. I'm waiting for you, because we have that bloody case to solve, remember?" His hand shifts a bit, closer to Gunn's neck, so one finger's stroking above Gunn's collar and the thumb's on the collarbone. "This is me. Feel me. Follow that touch, focus on that touch and snap out of it."
Gunn gradually blinks awake after another few sentences worth. He holds Wes's gaze while he comes back to reality, then reaches up to take the hand Wes has on his shoulder, bringing it round to look at it. Wes flushes and tries to pull it away from Gunn's grasp, but Gunn frowns and jerks back, holding onto it. "Leave it, English." Wes nods, slowly, and they hold the gaze for another time-unspecified while.
That is, until the outside world intrudes. Jim coughs. "You guys done? Crime scene here."
They break apart, slightly guiltily. Wes says tartly, though it's coloured with an underlying fond tone "Finally. I was beginning to think you'd taken a permanent vacation."
"What, with all this to come back to?" Gunn replies, gesturing round the dripping dock and machinery off to one side. "You wound me, Wes, you really do."
Blair rubs his hands together. "So what did you see that was so fascinating?"
"Grain in the brick." Gunn replies. "All the little chips. Oh, and Wes, what's it mean when there's traces of blue in the stuff left behind?"
Wes frowns. "Newly grown and into adulthood, so one of the Choelian we're looking for will be smaller than usual, which should stick out. Anything else?"
"Just dock smells. Plus some sulphur."
"Eating a high carbohydrate diet, or at least one with a lot of fast food. That should give us some idea where to start."
"Sulphur makes you think fast food?" Blair demands incredulously.
"It's how they process it." Wes answers distractedly, his mind on other things, the information just falling from his lips by reflex. Blair recognises the reaction far too well. "Humans process food using certain chemical processes, and thus their waste smells a certain way. Each species processes it slightly differently. There just happens to be sulphur in some of the chemicals used to break down high levels of carbohydrate and grease in a Choelian's body." He taps his fingers against the wall. "Hmm. If they're eating fast food, that means they're probably based near an outlet, probably one in a darker area... they tend to eat what's available. Not particularly picky, so that presumably rules out the rather posher districts for a home base."
Saturday morning. Wes and Gunn step out of the lift. "You sure we're not too early?"
Wes shrugs. "Listen. Are they moving around? Breathing slow?"
"Good point. Okay... Someone just rolled out of bed. Feet just landed on the floor and the bed creaked. Coffee's on the drip - someone's moving round the kitchen. Clinking of mugs."
"They're awake, then." Wes leans forward to knock on the door, Gunn holds up his hand in a 'stop' gesture.
"Waitaminute..." Then grins. "Thought so."
"Thought what?" Wes asks, narrowing his eyes.
"Tell you in a bit."
That's the point when the door's jerked open by Jim, who's wearing just a pair of boxers. Blair's hovering in the background in t-shirt and boxers. "What're you doing here so early?"
"We come bearing breakfast?" Wes suggests, holding up the bag from the bakery. "Thought we might get some more questions in that aren't work related as such."
Jim groans and scratches his chest, sniffing the air to see what's in the bag. "At least let us get dressed. I'm getting a shower."
Blair waves them in. "I'll make sense after coffee."
"What was it you were alluding to?" Wes asks Gunn as Blair turns to the coffee pot. "Outside the door."
"You see Jim's chest?" Gunn asks quietly.
"Hmm? Impressive, yes, but..." Wes replies just as quietly, just below Blair's hearing. Gunn taps his finger pointedly just below the collarbone. "Ah. Lovebite. What was it you heard?"
"Didn't. Could smell sex. Recent sex, considering the strength of it."
Wes grins. "Well, I did have my suspicions..." Blair inhales the coffee and passes them a mug each. Wes takes his, then says "I was pondering a comment you made earlier."
"Hmm?" Blair asks, nose still buried in his mug.
"What did you mean about Jim being possessive?" Gunn's drifted off towards the stereo to inspect the music collection.
Blair shrugs. "It's a Sentinel thing. They get a bit possessive if the Guide starts getting involved with another Sentinel. Territory thing. So you had to do it. Considering the last Sentinel I met killed me, he's justified."
"You're sure it's all sentinels?"
"Okay, so maybe it's just Jim, but I'm still betting on possessive when it comes to Guides. The man can track me across the city and keeps a monitor on my heartbeat. It's this whole territory thing, y'know?"
"I'm not his Guide." Wes objects.
"Hello? You act like one. You're close to him. You've been learning it. There's a lot you have to learn for yourself through experience, but you are *so* a Guide."
"I have my own division to run, he has his. It's not exactly practical."
"So? I used to work at the university and only be Jim's partner part-time."
"This would be pre-thesis fiasco?"
"Yep." Blair nods. "Look, your friend obviously trusts you to watch his back, so you've got half the Guide thing solved right there. He trusts you, man. There anyone else he trusts that much? You were made for it, I'm serious."
"The Watcher gig sounds like it's suited to this." Gunn says from across the room.
Wes glares at Gunn, who's moved on from flicking through CDs to studying the art on the walls. "Ex-Watcher. You never saw me as one. I was a terrible Watcher. Ask Angel. Better yet, phone up Rupert Giles and ask him. Besides, a Watcher's duties tend to involve sending people to their death on a regular basis. I somehow feel that would defeat the whole purpose of a Guide."
"So you stick by me like buddies instead. No problem." Gunn shrugs.
"What's a Watcher?" Blair asks. "Sounds interesting. Is it like a shamanic position?"
"Self-important gits with no idea of the real world." Wes replies distractedly. "Mostly dead now."
"Okayyyy... Why'd you quit?"
"I didn't quit, I was fired for incompetency. At the time I was somewhat naive. I wouldn't be one if you paid me now."
Jim comes out of the bathroom in his bathrobe, ruffles Blair's hair. "Shower's free." Blair nods, leaning into Jim's touch, but giving Wes a thoughtful look as he goes towards the bathroom. No prizes for guessing he'll be looking into the concept of 'Watchers'.
"Ellison, who are these two and what are they doing in this station?" Banks asks, glaring in the direction of the newcomers, who're going through some of the evidence on Jim and Blair's desks.
"Helping consult on this case, sir. They came to see Sandburg and we discovered they had insight on the case we could use."
"Oh yes? And what is it you two jokers do?" Simon asks them.
"Former Private Investigators, currently running a law firm." Gunn says. "Charles Gunn and Wesley Wyndham-Price. You the captain?"
"Yes I am. What's your business with Sandburg?"
"He's a sentinel. sir." Jim says quietly.
"Both of them?" Simon asks, gaze flicking between the two new arrivals.
"And you say they've got insight?"
"Apparently they've seen similar stuff in LA."
"Serial killer?" Simon asks Gunn.
"Ah, no. Something entirely different." Wes says, going back to the notes he has in one hand. "If we go by the last time we saw such an occurence, I'd say we need to keep an eye on the sewers and warehouse district, not to mention the more... underground areas of the city. What are the sewers like here?"
Blair stares. "Um... like sewers?"
Gunn chuckles at Simon and Jim's looks of revulsion. "You've never done proper investigation 'til you've done the sewers of a city. Lot of stuff in them."
"I can imagine." Simon grimaces.
"For the most part, they're not bad." Wes says. "And he meant more along their use as a refuge for all kinds of people seeking refuge. Some of our most useful snitches came from their inhabitants."
Jim grimaces as well, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Been in once, never doing it again." Jim says. "My nose can't take it. I don't care if Deep Throat himself is down there, if you want sewer work done, Sandburg can do it. His nose isn't as sensitive."
Out on the case, Gunn and Wes riding along in their car ahead. Last seen packing major weaponry. Only not guns. Big, fuck-off swords and crossbows. And one axe that really, really doesn't look like it should belong in a museum. It's too sharp-looking for that.
"This is...wow." Blair says as they take a trip to the warehouse Wes pointed out as most likely, including a trip through a side of Cascade Blair didn't know existed, let alone Jim. Even in his Vice days. Little bodegas that smelt wrong. Magic shops with a severe lack of new-age literature. Seedy bars with patrons that you couldn't describe as hit with the ugly stick, as they probably class as decent-looking for their species. Antique shops. Blair even knew one of the Chinese medicine places, but he didn't know about the *under* the under-the-counter stuff. That's the stuff that's even more under the counter than the bits of tiger spleen and whale penis. Whole new world. Wes and Gunn navigate it like it was home town territory. "Guess they really do know their subject matter. And how much strength do you think Wes has in his upper body to heft a sword that size without even thinking about it? The fencers I knew had to have serious upper body strength and control, and that was just sabers and rapiers, not scarily big broadswords. Total Highlander, man."
"Price has been armed the whole time." Jim states.
"You knew and didn't tell me? He's carrying a gun?" Blair asks, whipping his head round to stare at Jim, hurt and shocked that he didn't tell.
"Not a gun. Knife. Really big one. Well-concealed, easy access. And something on his wrist. Gunn's just got a knife."
"You tell me these things, Jim. I am not your damn sidekick, I am your partner. Next time you feel the need to protect me, squash it and run that thought over with the truck. Got it?"
"Got it, Sandburg. They're stopping."
Wes and Gunn get out, scanning the area around them, tarmac slick with the drizzle still falling. Then they pull a sword and the axe out from the trunk. Jim pulls up next to them. Wes leans down to speak into the window. "I'd recommend you stay a little way behind. If it comes to a fight, do *not* attempt to get involved."
Jim bristles with a just a touch of macho pride. Just a touch. Honest. "I can defend myself easily."
"With guns and fists, perhaps, but you have no experience with this kind of fight. It's not a place for amateurs, especially improperly armed amateurs."
Gunn nods, grinning. "Translation : Don't come to the party 'less you're packing. Gun's no good for close-quarters."
"We'll see." Jim says, narrowing his eyes as they walk towards the warehouse entrance, Gunn and Jim's senses wide open for any newcomers.
It's relatively dim inside the warehouse, which shows signs of habitation. It might not necessarily be living space, but it's possibly working space. There's a chewed sofa in one corner. Blair's finding it hard to tell, what with the whole 'different species' thing. Plus he's been in academia way too long, where office and living space gets a bit... blurred. Especially since masses of paper are a prominent feature of both.
They stand there for about half a minute, scanning the area, when Gunn's head whips round to the corner. Jim's gaze follows, and the sound of movement from that direction gets to his ears. Something's moving this way, and it's big. The quality of the sound is a little odd, the strange disparity of something big moving quietly. The resonance through the floor is entirely different from something small moving naturally quietly. This is followed by the approach of four big fuckers, looming out of the darkened doorway. Wes was right. They're big, grey, wrinkly and could win any Mr. Universe contest without batting an eyelid. With - he flicks his gaze down to their hands - really, really big claws. He's pretty glad they don't smell bad. A lot better than most old people, really. Just different.
Wes steps forward, hand raised in a greeting of some sort, sword still sheathed on his back so he's not presenting a completely hostile front and starts talking. It's some language with a lot of clicks in it. But then they've heard him use about ten languages on their traverse through the backstreets that sounded completely alien. The Choelians respond, but the general impression is that they're really not impressed and might even be sneering. Not good. Especially when the smallest one, a mere seven feet, who must be the young one Gunn detected at the murder scene, gestures at Blair in what looks like a really insulting way. In response to that, Jim automatically stiffens and goes into Blessed Protector mode, ready to deal out bloody vengeance if they even touch his Guide. Wasn't a gesture he recognised, but the manner in which it was made was pretty clear. Wes responds, his tone going a bit deeper and firmer. Unfortunately, Big Demon #2 with the whiter eyebrows snarls and leaps for Gunn. That's when the big weaponry gets pulled out.
Gunn dodges their first strike, ducking as Wes comes in on the right. Another attacks, and Gunn comes up from below with a knife, sticking that in his gut and shoving him off long enough for Wes to get it a glancing blow on the backswing. Gunn brings his axe round, and then it's what seems like a never-ending merry-go-round of hack, slice, stab, kick, duck, jump and spin. There isn't really a good way to describe it, unless you're one of those movie fight choreographers. Suffice it to say that Wes and Gunn look like they know what they're doing with big weapons, Wes is intensely skilled with a sword, and Gunn and Wes move as a team, one automatically covering the other's back as they fight.
Jim's conceded that he really couldn't do anything in this fight without getting in the way, because guns wouldn't work at this close a range. First rule of the army : leave it to the experts and stay the hell out from underfoot. Blair ducks just in time as a spray of slime - looks like blood, since Gunn just chopped that one's arm off, though blood shouldn't come in that colour - comes his way. That one goes down after it gets hit in the ear by the flat side of Gunn's axe. It's hit in the chest by another one's head. The body that head belonged to goes down two seconds later, all in accordance with the laws of gravity and Gladiator-style action movies.
Another few minutes fighting the last two, Wes stabs his in the gut - well, slices in from the side might be more accurate - but unfortunately Gunn's not quick enough to stop the claws that follow after and slash across Wes' torso and left arm. Wes screams in agony, pulling out the sword, hacking again at something, anything, but gets thrown across the room for his trouble before he can get a decent hit in. Gunn, on hearing Wes' scream, brings his axe down at the junction of Wes' attacker's neck, slicing right down the Choelian's torso. He jerks the axe out and goes after the one he was fighting. The Choelian brings its arm up to touch its torso up in puzzlement, but doesn't get there before its eyes roll up and it pitches forward, fortunately hitting the shoulder of the last one that Gunn's fighting as it goes down. That puts that one off-balance enough to stumble straight into a faceful of the point of Gunn's axe. Which splits its head apart with a sickening ripping sound.
Gunn's already up before it hits the ground and sprinting towards Wes, chucking the axe at Blair. "If one moves, chop its head off!"
Jim gets there before him, turning Wes over and pulling his shirt open to look at the wounds. "Fuck. Deep and nasty, just telling you now."
"Shit. Wes, hear me, you're just going to end up with some scars again, okay? Just scars." Gunn says as Jim gets on with ripping the clean parts of the shirt up for bandages. "Which car we going in?"
"Yours. It's got a back seat." Jim states. "Chief, pick up the sword and let's go."
"Got it." Blair says, tearing his eyes away from the dismembered bodies.
Gunn and Blair are sitting in the waiting room while Wes gets seen to and stitched up. Jim went to get coffee. Gunn's sporting a few cuts and bruises of his own, just mostly inconsequential ones that may have looked fairly impressive at the time and now only have butterfly plasters across them. He finds it fairly funny that Blair's on first name terms with most of the staff of the ER and reception area. Holdover from observer status days. The actual personal injury factor's gone down a fraction since becoming a cop, apparently.
"The one thing I had to get over when I went to the Academy? Guns. I went my whole life without touching guns. Then I throw my lot in with Jim, and he's handing guns to me to hold on people to make sure they didn't move while he chased someone. Four years of that and then I go on to carrying. Weird. Seriously weird. You ever use them?"
"Carried for a while, stopped carrying so much when bullets didn't do the trick."
"Jim's been carrying most of his adult life, what with the army and all. He has a habit of losing it, but I once saw him shoot a bullet down a perp's gun barrel."
Gunn makes a 'not impressed' noise. "That's nothing. My man Wes can shoot something pea-sized. And this is after he's been tossed around the room. This is without senses, too. Jim used his senses. Wes is just a perfect shot. We're talking Bullseye quality here. 'Cept without the Irish accent."
"Seriously pencil through the olive like in the movie?"
"Yep. Never, ever challenge the boy to darts. Can throw 180s without looking."
Blair grins. "Haven't people in LA learned yet?"
Gunn grins back. "Always new meat."
Blair leans back. "Okay, that's interesting. The chances of sharp shooters having higher senses - maybe not in the level of a sentinel, but there could be scope for a study on co-ordination of senses. Hand-eye co-ordination alone..."
"It help that Wes used to wear glasses? He ain't worn them since getting his throat cut, but he hasn't shaved since either."
"You think the two are related?"
"Could be. Gillette's obviously in cahoots with the opticians. Less hair on the face, more glasses needed."
"Then add the designer frames." Blair adds. "That's a whole new level."
Jim turns up with the coffee. "One thing to add to the Sentinel experience : Hospital coffee was bad enough before my senses exploded."
Gunn takes his, sips it and grimaces. "Thanks for the warning, man."
Blair and Jim walk into the ward, showing their badges to the nurse to curtail any protests. "Wesley Wyndham Price? Knife wounds?"
"Third door." He replies. "His friend's already in there."
They open the door, Gunn looks up. "How is he?"
"Coming off the dope." Gunn says. "Keeps drifting in and out." He's holding Wes' hand, thumb stroking the back restlessly. "Hasn't made any comments on the morphine this time."
"He did that?" Jim asks. "When?"
"Gunshot a couple back."
Wes blinks a bit, surfacing. "More visitors, I presume?"
"Yep. You're a popular man, English."
"Wonderful." Wes looks at the bandage across his arm, and the one on his abdomen. "Another to add to the collection."
"Was getting worried." Gunn comments. "You went near 18 months without getting any impressive scars. Not like you, man."
Wes says haughtily "One day, the rest of you will get something equally attractive."
"Nah. I'll skip it." Gunn replies easily. Wes re-focusses his gaze on the bandage on his stomach, then pokes the older wounds. "It's a shame. This one wasn't so deliberate. I prefer them with malice of forethought." His voice sounds like he's drifted slightly into morphine territory.
"You're definitely crazed." Jim says.
"What're the knife and burn scars?" Blair asks, curious. They look a bit too precise for battle scars, which he and Jim have plenty of. Little raised white lines.
"Hmm? Oh, that would be Faith."
"Old girlfriend or psycho?"
"Well, psychotic at the time. Quite well-adjusted now. Then, she was more focussed on torturing me and having a nervous breakdown. She got through - what was it? Oh yes. Sharp, blunt, and loud. Three of the main torture groups."
Jim leans forward, cop-mode on. "Police get her?"
"Oh, yes. She turned herself in. Prison for a couple of years until we decided to break her out."
"You decided, English." Gunn corrects. "All your idea."
"Well, it worked admirably well, you must admit."
Jim shakes his head in despair. "I don't want to know. Random psycho?"
"Old pupil." That one causes Blair to be taken aback. Considering the amount of old pupils he's had, that could cause nightmares. One flips out and he too could get blamed for all kinds of imaginary stuff their psychosis throws up. However, that soon gets drowned by the statistics - it's much more likely that someone he and Jim threw in jail would come after him than a Rainier graduate or drop-out.
Jim doesn't notice Blair's introspection, and continues the questioning. Breaking out a criminal is definitely in his area of interest. "Why'd you break her out?"
Wes gives him a disbelieving look that on most people that weren't Wes would've been followed by the words 'Well, duh.' Instead, he says slowly "We. Needed. Her. Help."
"Chick's good for a rumble." Gunn supplies.
"There wasn't someone else you could go to for help aside from the girl who tortured you?"
"It was an abilities thing. She was the only one with the abilities we needed and experience with the case in the area. The only other person we knew about was all the way upstate and busy with shit of her own." Gunn provides. He strokes a hand down Wes' face. Turns out Wes is starting to list again from the pain medication.
"Mmm. Fighting the First Evil tends to keep you busy. We just had ancient demons, soulless vampires and gods from another dimension possessing a friend." Wes murmurs, loud enough for even the non-Sentinels in the room to hear. Jim and Blair's eyebrows hit their hairlines. Unfortunately, he takes that moment as an opportunity to drift off.
"You're not serious." Jim says.
"You did see the guys we were dealing with earlier, right?" Gunn asks, smirking. Another brush of his fingers over Wes' cheek and he settles back to holding Wes' hand.
At the station, looking over the reports, Wes reaches across the table for some reports, and winces. "Gunn, I think I may need to go to the hospital again."
"What did you do?"
"I believe I've torn my stitches."
"I've done it before, if you may recall. I'm familiar with the sensation."
Jim holds his hands up. "Go."
"Thanks, man." Gunn replies, shepherding Wes out of the bullpen to the garage.
Hospital. The nurse has been and gone, rolling her eyes over people who take up her time with sabotaging perfectly good attempts to keep their flesh in one piece.
Gunn's grinning. "Damn, English, you gotta stop doing this to me."
"I've only done it twice." Wes sniffs.
"Twice that you were there." He pauses. "The large injuries, that is."
"Still too many." Gunn says softly, brushing his hand against Wes' cheek, mood abruptly changed. Long pause, then he leans forward, brushing his lips against Wes'. "Just get the message and stop running up your insurance premiums, got it?" Wes is giving him the 'level gaze' stare. "What? Gunn asks defensively.
"In case you hadn't noticed, you kissed me."
Gunn glares. "So? You want to make something of it?"
Wes is still looking serious. "Almost certainly."
"Cool." Gunn nods. Nothing more that needs to be said.
Connor puts the coffee tray on the table, and cocks her head toward the Sentinel Zone. "Is there some rule about Sentinel-Guide pairs that they have to be gay? I mean, these two are a bit less touchy-feely, but so doing it."
The others look. Gunn says something, Wes glares at him. Then they grin the grin of the connected. "You are so full of shit, man." Gunn says.
"I think not." Wes sniffs. "I'm right all the time."
Henri rolls his eyes. "Looks like Banks hasn't got anywhere near the pot."
"We've only seen a sample of two pairings." Joel objects. "It's not a very good sample."
"It's still 100%. All Sentinel-Guide pairings are gay." Rafe adds.
"Gotta be the male bonding." Henri grins. "But you never know, there could be a male-female one one day."
"I'll be waiting." Rafe says, leaning back in his chair.
"This is you guys gone, huh?" Blair asks as Wes and Gunn sling their bags in the back of the car. Gunn's doing more of the slinging than Wes due to his injuries. Expensive car. Note the expensive car and expensive hotel. Earlier, Jim said softly "Perks there are to being heads of a rich law firm, Obi-Wan, huh?" Blair does admit that the perks do seem terribly nice.
"Yep. Back to LA." Gunn says.
"Feel free to call if you have any problems with your senses." Blair says. "Been there, know how difficult it is, especially when you're the one trying to solve it." He directs his attention towards Wes. "And one thing : don't let him near cold medicine."
"Dare I ask why?" Comes out the same time as :
"How bad we talking?" from Gunn.
"Hallucinations, tunnel vision, senses out of whack..." Jim winces at the memory. "Acid trips without the bats and spiders."
"Just from cold medicine?" Wes asks, eyebrow raised.
"Just cold medicine." Blair confirms. "Go for natural remedies if you can, a lot of drugs affect Jim either too strongly or have weirdo side-effects."
"Thankyou for the information." Wes says. "Don't hesitate to call if you have any supernatural problems you're not sure how to deal with. If necessary, we'll send someone up."
Gunn grins. "And if the someone's a big white dude with a brooding problem, don't make any comments about the hair. He doesn't know, and we want to keep it that way."
Gunn and Wes pile into the car and drive off. Once they're deemed outside of Sentinel hearing, Jim breathes a sigh of relief.
"Glad they're out of your territory, huh?" Blair asks.
"Yeah. Not bad guys, but way too whacked out for me. And leave off the territorial comments."
"Me?" Blair asks innocently. Jim just rolls his eyes and pulls him towards the car.