In Sheep's Clothing
Summary: When a Cirronian serial killer targets Mel, Cole and Vic race against the clock to save her while Vic tries to deflect questions from his partner about what's REALLY going on with Cole.
Disclaimer: I don't own them but, hey, just as soon as that deal with Zin goes through…
Timeline: Post-"Remember When". About three weeks after my fic "Training Day"
Spoilers: "What Lies Beneath"
Content Warning:This fic bears an R rating for consensual sex (Mel/Cole and Vic/Maria), physical violence, torture, and attempted rape. If any of these offend or upset you unduly, you should consider not reading it.
Detectives Victor Bruno and Maria Cruz sat in Vic's car, watching the house of William Brandon, suspected of kidnapping and possibly murder. Two weeks ago, a harassment complaint had been filed against him by a young woman named Susan Blake. Now Susan Blake was missing and several neighbors claimed to have seen Brandon loitering near her home on the night of her disappearance. The police had been watching him without luck for four days, hoping that he would lead them to his victim.
Maria Cruz yawned, covering her mouth with one hand. "Ah, sorry, Vicky."
"Police work can be so exciting, can't it?"
"Oh, thrilling," she replied blandly. "Just tell me it's almost shift-change."
"Yeah. Andrews and Craig are due to relieve us in another half hour."
"Good. Want to go out for drinks after?"
"Would rather stay in, actually."
"Curl up on the couch with a pizza?" she guessed. "You're getting predictable, partner."
"Hey, it works. I happen to like curling up with you, Mar."
"First guy to be happy leaving it at that," she muttered.
"Never mind." Maria grinned at him, shaking her head. "Staying in it is," she told him.
Vic inhaled deeply. "Something is going to have to give soon, Mar," he whispered.
Her smile faded and she picked up her binoculars, returning her attention to the house they were watching. "Are you talking about the pace of this relationship or about the regs?"
"That last one…"
"Yeah, I know." Maria nodded. "As long as we keep our clothes on and it's the couch not the bed, we're good. Past that…"
Vic sighed deeply. He had been thinking about it a lot lately. Losing Maria Cruz as a partner was not something he liked to think about, but if they were to have a relationship, he was going to have to. Chicago PD had a very clear policy on the issue of fraternization between partners.
"Best case, we both get to stay in Robbery/Homicide and in the same precinct…"
Maria sighed and nodded. "The Bureau's been scouting me out again," she whispered.
"Maybe… maybe you should go for it," Vic suggested quietly.
"Two years ago you suggested that joining the FBI was about equivalent to selling my s--" She stopped mid-sentence, dropping the binoculars and grabbing the radio. "He's in his car. We're in pursuit."
Vic started the car and pulled into traffic a few cars behind their suspect. "We'll discuss this tonight?"
"Yeah," she agreed, nodding. "Eastbound on State," she added into the radio.
Their conversation forgotten, they followed Brandon in almost complete silence until he pulled his truck up next to a warehouse on the waterfront. Maria radioed in their location and they quickly slipped from the car as he moved inside.
"Cover this entrance," Vic murmured, unsnapping the catch on his holster. "I'll check around back for other exits."
"No." Maria shook her head. "You cover this entrance. I can move faster and more quietly; I'll check the back…"
"Okay. Stay safe, Mar," he whispered, kissing her cheek.
Maria nodded faintly, before stepping around the building. Vic was so preoccupied watching her go that he completely failed to notice the man moving up behind him until he felt a hand on his shoulder. He spun, drawing his gun as he went. It was promptly plucked from his hand.
"You should be more careful who you aim this at," Cole informed him in a low voice, handing it back to him. "Someone could get hurt."
"Cute… Do not do that again, man!" Vic hissed, shaking his head. "What the hell are you doing here, anyway?"
"Tracking a fugitive who has been responsible for the murders of several young women since coming to this planet and many more before."
"Brandon's not human? Shit," Vic whispered, glancing in the direction Maria had gone.
"Go to her," Cole murmured. "Quickly. I'll take the front."
"Thanks, man. Cops will be here soon," Vic added over his shoulder, reholstering his gun and jogging after Maria.
He broke into a run when he heard a gun go off behind the warehouse, coming around the back in time to see a service door slide shut. Cursing, he followed, silently opening the door and slipping inside. 'William Brandon' was bending over Maria, too preoccupied to notice Vic's presence. She looked unharmed but dazed as far as he could tell, so Vic slid into the shadows, ready to take the now gun-wielding fugitive unawares at the first opportunity.
"You thought I wouldn't notice your clumsy attempts to follow me?" he scoffed, grabbing Maria by the ponytail and jerking her head up.
"Where is she, Brandon?" Maria demanded, refusing to let her anxiety make itself heard. "Where is Susan Blake?"
Maria's eyes darted around the warehouse as she assessed her situation. Brandon was too strong and had snuck up on her too quickly, perhaps drugged. She was reminded of the way Gregory James had been able to subdue Vic and filed that away. Vic would certainly have heard her gun go off and backup had already been sent for. All she needed to do was buy a little time and everything would be just fine. She had no intention of getting herself killed trying to escape from a potentially drugged and certainly dangerous man who had appropriated her service-weapon.
"Dear Susan is… no longer suffering," he told Maria gently, kneeling in front of her. He cradled her face in his hands, his fingers stroking along her cheeks. Maria tried to jerk her head away, but he tightened his grip painfully. "No, you don't," he murmured, shaking his head. "Your timing couldn't be better. I've been watching you and your partner… You'll do nicely."
Maria cursed quietly in Spanish, glaring at her assailant. A glint of metal from a nearby shadow told her that Vic was taking aim.
He spun abruptly, jerking Maria around and placing her body between his own and Vic. "Did I mention that I've been watching you?" he asked Vic casually.
"Let her go," Vic ordered, emerging from the shadows. He held his gun away from his body but remained ready to fire at a moment's notice.
"No." He smiled faintly and shook his head. "I like this one. She sleeps in silk."
Maria's eyes widened and Vic frowned. He had been watching them, closely enough to know what she slept in at night.
"Yeah, well isn't that nice?" Vic asked.
"In my experience, creatures who sleep in silk enjoy the sensation of touch. It's a very important and, I have learned, much underrated sensation," he added, keeping a vice-like grip on Maria's face with one hand and using the other to free her hair from its ponytail. "Not everyone fully appreciates it," he told Vic, running one hand thoughtfully through Maria's hair. "Oh, you have soft hair, beautiful," he whispered to her. "Smells nice, too. I can see now why you spend extra for the Herbal conditioner."
"Bite me," she hissed.
"Perhaps in time," he breathed in her ear, slipping an arm around her waist. His hand came to rest over her heart as he pulled her towards the back door. "You're more of a fighter than Miss Blake; you'll last longer. I think I'm looking forward to this."
"Let her go!" Vic shouted, raising his gun again. Maria was a tall woman and her body was effectively shielding his. There was no way of shooting him without also hitting her and, from the look on her face, she knew it. "Backup is on its way!"
He tilted his head at Vic. "I have visited Susan seven times since you people started watching me. I've watched you two petting and necking on your living room couches for three nights. I've watched her take hour long cold showers every night after you left, usually crying…"
Vic's eyes widened marginally at this intelligence but he did not otherwise allow himself to react. This man was playing mind-games and he refused to let it get to him. "Let her go," he ordered again.
"Is her throat sensitive?" he asked, ignoring Vic's order. "I have a soft spot for women with sensitive throats…"
"There are cops moving into position right now," Vic said firmly. "You'll never get her out of here."
"They can't stop me any more than you could keep track of my movements. I move too fast for any cop on the planet."
"Almost any cop on the planet, Kaehto," a new voice added gently.
"You?" Kaehto spun to face Cole, his expression going from serene to amused. "You're just in time!"
Red light spilled out from under the hand that Kaehto still had resting over Maria's heart and she let out an agonized howl, struggling frantically but with less and less effectiveness as her strength and her grip on consciousness slipped away. Vic fired twice into his back as Maria continued to scream. Kaehto released his hold on her, raising an eyebrow at Vic and bowing his head before starting for the door. Cole closed on him, pulling out his Collector as Maria slumped to the ground.
"Me or her, Daggon. Me or her," Kaehto said in a sing-song voice, backing away and not seeming to notice that he was bleeding heavily onto the warehouse floor.
"Mar!" Vic shouted as Cole went after Kaehto. He ran to her side, feeling for a pulse. "Shit, Mar… No, baby," he whispered, rolling her onto her back and covering her mouth with his, forcing air into her lungs. "Don't you dare do this to me," he snapped, compressing her chest.
He lashed out when he felt hands trying to push him away, his fist connecting blindly with the side of Cole's face. The Cirronian shoved hard, sending him sliding across the warehouse floor, and bent over the unresponsive woman, his hands running over her throat and chest and his expression concerned.
"No," Cole whispered, shaking his head.
"We need to do CPR," Vic told him frantically, coming back to himself. "She's not breathing and there's no heartbeat."
"CPR won't help," Cole told him quietly, unbuttoning the top several buttons of her blouse and resting his hands over her heart.
"Can you?" Vic whispered. "Cole, please…"
"I'll try," Cole promised. "Touch her, Vic. Talk to her. Tell her to come back," he ordered.
"Mar, babe… come on, sweetie," Vic whispered frantically, cradling her face in his hands. He looked up as intensely brilliant light spilled out from under Cole's hands, far stronger than the light Vic associated with a Cirronian healing. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to bring her back. Talk to her," Cole ordered more firmly, releasing more energy. "Tell her she's not allowed to go."
"You heard the man, Mar," Vic whispered, lowering his face to hers and nuzzling her cheek. "Come on, partner. I kind of need you here," he whispered in her ear.
Cole moaned softly, releasing another burst of energy. She was trying to embrace the dark, the calm. There was peace in that darkness, the reason it was so often so hard to bring people back. Maria Cruz was enjoying that peace, clinging to it like a woman who had lived too hard a life and was ready to rest.
"Do better, Vic!" he ordered. He could feel what the human felt for his partner and friend and he was not about to let him lose that. "Give her a reason to come back to you!" he demanded, releasing more energy.
"I love you, Mar. I need you," Vic breathed, his tears wetting her face.
"Ah," Cole moaned as Maria's body tensed and then relaxed again. "Yes…" He nodded and released another burst, this one far more gentle than the previous ones. He looked up at Vic, nodding faintly and ignoring his spinning head. "You should call a human doctor for her, but she'll recover."
"Oh, God, man. Thank you," Vic whispered, reaching across Maria's unconscious form and grabbing the Cirronian's hands. With a stifled sob, he let go of Cole and gathered Maria into his arms.
Cole looked up at the sound of sirens. "I must leave now," he told Vic, rising. "Bring her to a hospital, make sure she is well-guarded. I will find you again later. We have much to discuss."
"What was he?" Vic asked. "Vardian? Mel says that Vardians can--"
"Cirronian, Vic," Cole whispered before vanishing into thin air. "He was Cirronian."
"Cole!" Mel exclaimed, circling out from behind the bar. "God, are you okay? Vic called," she added in a whisper. "He was frantic. Something about a fugitive attacking Maria…"
"Detective Cruz will be fine," Cole assured her quietly, smiling down at her and resting his hands on her shoulders. Moaning softly, he pulled her into a tight hug, remembering how he had nearly lost her to Zin. "He almost lost her, but she will be fine," he whispered, burying his face in her hair and inhaling deeply.
Mel was more than a little startled by such an open display in the bar with almost two dozen patrons about. It was not normal. "Cole?" she whispered, looking up at him in concern. "Are you okay?" she whispered, reaching up and touching his cheek. "Oh, God. Your skin is so cold…"
"I'm fine, Mel," he whispered, pulling away and starting towards the apartment stairwell.
"No, Cole, you are not," Mel told him, following. His face was a sickly gray color and he was weaving on his feet. "What happened?"
"A fugitive attacked Detective Cruz. She would have died. It took a lot to bring her back," he answered quietly. "I need to lie down," he added before swaying once and collapsing into a pile on the floor.
"Cole!" Mel gasped, dropping to her knees next to him.
Jonas was at her side in a heartbeat, feeling for Cole's pulse. "Isabel, call an ambulance," he ordered.
"No!" Mel half-shouted.
Jonas recoiled slightly. "Mel," he began gently.
"No. Jonas, please…" Mel gave him a pleading look. "Just help me get him upstairs?" she whispered.
Jonas regarded her searchingly for a long moment and then nodded. "Never mind, Isabel," he called, rising and helping Mel pull Cole into a standing position.
"Are you sure?" she asked, watching them support the barely-conscious Cirronian with wide eyes.
"Yes, Isabel." Jonas gave her a reassuring smile. "Everything is just fine," he promised. "I hope," he added for Mel's ears alone as they hauled Cole up the stairs.
"Jonas, you need to trust me," Mel murmured.
"Mel is to be trusted, Jonas," Cole added weakly, not opening his eyes. "I'm just tired. I need to lie down."
"What's going on, guys?" Jonas asked firmly, helping Mel maneuver Cole down the hall and into the bedroom. "This is not exhaustion."
"It is," Cole said, dropping gratefully onto the bed. "Mel, may I have a glass of water please?"
"Sure, Cole." Mel nodded.
"With lots of sugar in it, please," he added as she hurried from the bedroom.
"Cole," Jonas said softly once they were alone. "What's wrong, son?"
"I'm very weak, very tired. I overdid badly, but it's okay…"
Jonas shook his head. "Cole, I was in the Army for a lot of years. I have seen exhaustion and this is not it."
Cole opened his eyes and smiled weakly at Jonas. "I will be fine," he assured him gently. "I just overdid a little. I will be fine. You don't have to worry."
"Here, Cole," Mel murmured, helping him to sit up again and holding a glass to his lips.
He gave her a weak smile and took a long drink, smiling at the sweet taste of the sugar-water. "Thank you, Mel."
"Cole," Jonas began again.
"I am fine, Jonas. Everything will be fine," he assured him. "Mel, reassure Jonas," he suggested gently.
Mel's eyes narrowed and she nodded, resting one hand on the back of Jonas' neck. "Jonas, everything is just fine," she said firmly, releasing soothing energy.
Jonas jumped slightly, staring up at her with wide eyes.
"What's wrong, Jonas?" she asked, trying to sound innocent.
"Oh, you just gave me a shock when you touched me," he said, smiling at her. "Get some rest, Cole," he suggested, ushering Mel from the bedroom. "You call a doctor if he's not better in a few hours," he ordered Mel firmly. "I mean it. He could be seriously ill in there."
"He's not. He's just exhausted. He… hasn't been sleeping."
Jonas frowned but nodded. "Okay, Mel. If you say so…" His voice indicated his obvious disapproval but when they returned to the bar, Jonas was the first to reassure Isabel that everything was just fine.
Mel remained downstairs for almost an hour, putting on her 'game face' and brushing off the incident when asked about it. As soon as Bridgit arrived for her shift, though, she vanished back up the stairs.
"Cole?" she whispered, entering the dark bedroom. When there was no answer from the prone Cirronian, she reached out and gently touched his cheek. "Tausha?"
Cole snapped into a sitting position with a startled gasp, looking around anxiously for a moment before his eyes settled on Mel. He smiled warmly at her, catching her hand and pulling her to sit next to him.
"You woke me," he explained in response to her questioning look.
"You were sleeping? Actually… sleeping?" Mel frowned. "Are you okay?"
He smiled and nodded. "Just very drained, Mel," he whispered, cradling her face in his hands. "I may need sleep for a few days, but I will recover with rest."
"What happened with Vic and Maria, Cole?"
"He almost lost her, Mel. I was Tracking Kaehto. So were they… She was dead before I could get to them."
"But you brought her back? She's going to be okay?"
Cole nodded faintly.
"Cole, what Vic described happening to her… hand on the chest, red energy… it sounds like what Zin did to me. So why was bringing Maria back so much harder on you?"
"It was… Zin is Vardian. Kaehto is not. It's… easier to bring someone back when such an attack is committed by a Vardian."
"I didn't know that the other species were capable of a drain like that," Mel said, frowning. "You never mentioned it before."
"It never came up." He shrugged at her glare. "I mean it, Mel. We were never in a position where it was… important."
"If the other fugitives can do it, it's important for me to know," she pointed out, frowning. "Cole… what's going on? You've been evasive on this Kaehto guy since you realized that he was planet-side. Talk to me, baby."
"Only one other species can effect an energy drain, Mel," he whispered, bowing his head. "And it's far worse than the Vardian energy drain is. It's a terrible crime to take a life in that way. I knew it was possible, but I never thought I would live to see a Cirronian doing it again."
"Kaehto is… Cirronian?" she whispered, covering her mouth with one hand. He had not said so, only that he was a very violent man who had to be apprehended immediately. "Oh, Cole…"
"He was sentenced to six consecutive life terms on Sar Top for killing… nine young women. His last intended victim survived, Mel, but she… her mind was gone by the time we found her."
"What did he do to her?" she whispered, absently smoothing away the tears rolling down his cheeks.
"He kept her alive for three weeks, Mel. Every day, some new pain for her." He shook his head, not bothering to share with her that the girl had been just into adolescence at the time.
He also saw no reason to share the other atrocity that Kaehto had perpetrated on the poor child.
"Why? Why would he do that?"
"Because… he could. It was a matter of curiosity for him. He likes to… experiment on his victims." Cole shook his head. "None of us had ever seen a violent Cirronian before. Everyone thought that it had to be someone from off-world killing those girls. There was no way a Cirronian was capable of cold-blooded murder, let alone murder by torture. Except that Kaehto was, Mel. He is… an aberration, an abomination against everything that it means to be Cirronian…"
"That must have been so hard for you."
"There were five of us who found the girl and took Kaehto," he told her quietly. "A month later, only Kallissa and I were still Trackers. The others just couldn't handle it any more."
"Wow," Mel murmured.
"He was not a part of the first escape," Cole added, rising. "You must start carrying the atomizer I got for you. Your Collector alone is not protection enough. I must contact Sar Top, Kallissa… she has a complete psychological profile on him."
"Are you… up to this?"
Cole nodded faintly. "I am, Mel. I have to be."