Title: Visionary

By: Kara

Sorry I haven't updated in a bit! I have spent the last two weeks packing up and heading back to school. Now that the first week is over I'm starting to settle back in a bit!

Begun: November 22, 2004

Finished: Almost finished!

Rating: PG-13

Summary: After a businessman dies suddenly and unexpectedly, supposedly from committing suicide, not long after contacting Gabriel about taking an artifact, the case is handed to Sara. While Sara probes the victim's death, Jake and Danny suspect Gabriel's involvement in the crime. When Gabriel begins to exhibit some of the same symptoms the victim experienced before his death, Sara investigates, hoping to save her young friend's life before he meets the same end as his predecessor, but Nottingham's unsuspected offered aid causes her to wonder whether Irons is involved in the situation.

Chapter Eight – Acceleration

Sara resumed her pace from before she received the call from Danny, back on track to her original intended destination. She made it to Paul Reynolds' apartment in record time, weaving in and out of heavy rush hour traffic on her bike.

If Sara had been angry before, she was triply so now, upon learning of Gabriel's accident. It didn't matter if whoever had wanted Torpe dead had no idea of the ripple effect Raleigh's Box would have on those who later beheld it. None of it mattered. All that mattered was that the person responsible for starting the whole, painful mess was stopped immediately, before the situation escalated into anything worse than it already was…

With fire in her veins, Sara pressed down harder on the gas pedal, speeding up to avoid a yellow light.

Paul Reynolds had hardly opened the door when Sara shoved it open the rest of the way, knocking it into Paul's forehead roughly and knocking the man back several feet.

"What the hell—" Paul exclaimed, clutching his bruised temple as he stumbled and lost his balance. Sara pushed him back and he tripped over his rug and fell to the ground.

"I think you've been lying to me about a few things Mr. Reynolds," Sara said firmly, looking down on him.

"What! No—I haven't lied to you about anything!" Reynolds shouted desperately. "What is this about? Are you even allowed to be here!"

"I'm not under anyone's authority, if that's what you're asking," Sara told him. "I'm here for the sake of my friend—a kid who you've put in danger because you wanted your coworker dead!" Reynolds stood up from the carpet only to meet Sara's fist in the upswing.

"I—I don't know what the hell you're talking about," Reynolds glared at her, wiping at his bloody lip with his fingers. "I already told you I had nothing to do with that asshole's death." Reynolds' voice carried an indignant tone, but by the expression in his eyes as he slowly backed away from her, Sara could tell he was deeply frightened of her.

"You know what I'm talking about—Raleigh's Box. A little artifact about yea-big," Sara gestured. "Big, red, fiery eye on the front." It didn't matter to Sara nor did it register to her in the heat of the moment that Reynolds still looked bewildered. She was too far enraged to stop herself now. "You sent it to Torpe to convince him to kill himself. You knew he was depressed and you exploited that!" Sara grabbed the collar of his shirt and shoved Reynolds against his own wall roughly.

"You can't do this to me, Detective. I'm going to contact your supervisor and tell him what you've done. You're going to get fired for this! You have no right to be here!" Reynolds stammered.

"You're not gonna have that chance, Mr. Reynolds." Sara felt the gauntlet transform and she extended the Witchblade at her side, in clear view of Reynolds' gaze.

He looked down at her side fearfully, then at the other arm, which was still pinning him against the wall. "Who are you?" He asked her with a shaky voice. "Who are you?"

"I'm the person whose going to avenge Robert Torpe, and save my friend's life." Sara said menacingly.

"OK—OK! I'll admit it. Dear God, I admit it!" Reynolds faltered, breaking down before Sara's eyes. Shocked at the ease of his confession, Sara released him and he fell, shriveling at her feet. That was easier than I expected… Sara thought.

"I'm so sorry," Reynolds said brokenly. "I did it—I told our boss that Torpe was clinically depressed. I told him that Robert was taking drugs to counteract the depression, and that I didn't think he could handle the stress of the position… I didn't know Torpe knew I told him, I swear… I didn't think he'd ever find out… I just really wanted the promotion."

Sara backed up, her jaw dropping. The Witchblade retracted and she rubbed an idle hand over the stone of the bracelet. A vision flashed before her eyes of Paul Reynolds taking his boss aside and whispering to him, all the while gesturing at an oblivious Robert Torpe, quietly working at his desk. The boss nodded and patted Reynolds on the back supportively. Torpe was entirely unaware.

When she came back to reality, Sara found Reynolds still quivering on the floor still stammering apologies. Sara couldn't hear any of them. "You really don't know anything about it, do you?" She asked, not waiting for an answer. "You had nothing to do with his death."

Reynolds stopped weeping and looked up hopefully. "I didn't?"

Sara was already turning to leave the room, floored by this new revelation. The Witchblade had not lied to her. Paul Reynolds was not responsible for Robert Torpe's death. She should have just listened to Torpe the first time around…

Sara left Reynolds' apartment without further conversation. Reynolds just knelt on his carpet, bleeding and bewildered. Sara, meanwhile, got back on her bike, her face emotionless, blank. Where to now? her mind implored, but she could not answer. She was back at square one, no destination in mind…

o-o-o-o

Following Sara's hasty exit, Danny had left the room under the premise of getting coffee. He came back with one for himself, as well as a cup of water for Gabriel, who pushed himself up in his bed to receive it.

Gabriel slighted a glance at Danny's coffee. "This is it? Where's my coffee?" He joked.

Danny sat his cup down and picked up a magazine next to it, flipping through it without reading anything. "I don't think the nurses would look kindly on it if I gave you caffeine."

"They don't have to know…"

"Besides, man, you really look like you could use the sleep," Danny informed.

Gabriel snorted. "I don't need any sleep."

Danny rolled his eyes. "All right, Maverick. Suit yourself." He skimmed through an article on metal detectors and airports, then realized how little interest he'd invested in the material and set the magazine aside with a sigh. "All right, I told myself I could wait until Sara got back from whatever solo mission she's on now, but I can't do it. Why were you coming to see me earlier today? Not even Sara seemed to know when I asked her."

"I wanted to ask you if you'd seen Sara," Gabriel lied. "I hadn't seen her since last night and I was worried. I thought you might have an idea."

"Yeah right. If you really wanted her, why didn't you just call her cell?"

"I did try to call it. No one was answering. That's why I was worried." Gabriel squeezed his eyes shut again, grimacing, then opened them a moment later.

"I'm not going to get anything out of you, am I?" Danny queried. Gabriel shrugged, taking a long sip of his water. Danny leaned back in his chair resignedly. "What I wouldn't give for an interrogation room and a stronger cup of coffee right now."

"Oh yeah, that's the ticket. Interrogate the invalid. Good job, Detective." Gabriel said sardonically, tipping an imaginary hat. "You wanna handcuff me to the bed too? 'Cause I might try to escape."

Danny shook his head. "How old are you, anyway?" he asked.

"Twenty."

"Twenty years old—what's a kid like you doing hanging around a dusty old precinct all day anyway?"

"I like dusty, old things. Remember what I do for a living?"

"I'm being serious here—why are spending all this time there instead of going out and drinking or partying or doing stuff with other people your age?" Danny asked, genuinely curious.

Gabriel considered this a moment. "Because Sara's my friend, and I like to help her out with cases, I guess. I don't know, really. I guess Sara makes me feel like I should be helping people more. She inspires a sort of confidence and bravery in people," he answered thoughtfully.

"I can't argue with that. Sara's an amazing person. That right there is probably the reason I'm still considering being partners with her, even past all these secrets she's been carrying lately." Danny looked past Gabriel pensively.

"You probably think I'm the cause of a lot of the changes in Sara," Gabriel said. "That I'm part of the reason she hasn't really… been around lately."

"Well I'm not gonna lie to you… I have considered the possibility," Danny said. "It's just that she and I weren't just partners. We were best friends. I could rely on her for anything, but she's just been so distant lately… Still, I can't help but trust her with my life."

"She wouldn't steer you wrong, Danny. She's always considering the lives of everyone around her. Sara may not talk to me about her feelings, but I think it's easy to see that she tries to protect those she's close to… She probably thinks that that's what she's doing for you—protecting you. She can't see that it's hurting you, because she thinks she's doing the right thing."

"I'm not gonna like what she's going to tell me later today, am I?" Danny asked.

Gabriel shrugged. "If you really care about Sara like she cares about you… I think everything'll be alright."

"I hope you're right…" Danny met with Gabriel's pained eyes again. "If it means anything to you, Gabriel, I think I trust you too… I have no idea why I trust you but I do." Danny chuckled half-heartedly. "I guess it's all a part of the Sara-Effect—wanting to believe in those around her. I trust her judgment in people—"

"And you respect her decisions, whatever may be motivating them, right?" Gabriel finished, thinking back to his own accusation to Sara yesterday afternoon and feeling guilty.

"Right," Danny agreed. "I just wish she wouldn't think that she has to handle all her problems by herself. It pains me to see her struggle alone like this, but that's the way Sara always does things."

Gabriel nodded, knowing full well the truth in the detective's words. Sara may be fiercely protective of her friends, but she was hardly open with them. Gabriel took another sip of his water and set it down on the table with his uninjured arm.

He started to shift his position uncomfortably when a dreadfully familiar sensation came over him—

Two men struggled near a bay, fighting viciously. It was dark out, well into the night. One of the men fell in the water in the fight and the other jumped in after him, still throwing punches.

The man who'd fallen in was caught unawares and thrust under the surface by the larger man's rough grip. He struggled for release, to free himself from the viselike grasp but it was to no avail. He pushed as hard as he could toward the surface, hoping to get just one mouthful of air but the strong hands held him down. He felt the air enter his lungs, still struggling, now suffocating him…

When Gabriel came to, still in his safe, dry hospital room, he was just happy that the vision was over. It took him a little longer to realize that he was still coughing violently, as if choking on the water that the victim in his premonition was killed by. Danny was up from his chair in a flash, patting Gabriel on the back to get him through the coughing fit.

Finally, Gabriel stopped choking and leaned back against the white pillows, closing his eyes for relief. Danny took a step back from the bed, concern etched into his features. "Maybe I really should go get a doctor or something. This doesn't seem normal—"

"No." Gabriel said adamantly, meeting Danny's gaze. "It's not going to help me. There's nothing the nurses can do that the morphine isn't doing already, trust me." Gabriel sensed Danny was about to delve back into inquisitive detective-mode again and he prepared to change the subject to whatever came to mind, but he was saved by the ringing of his cell phone.

Gabriel asked Danny to retrieve the phone for him from his collected belongings on the table across the room. Danny pulled out his cell phone and glanced at the screen. "You have a call from… Hannah." Danny wagged the phone back and forth with a grin, holding it up for Gabriel to see.

"Don't answer it." Gabriel said quickly.

"Why not?"

"I just… I don't have the energy to keep up with her right now, honestly. I can't explain to her what happened."

"You don't have to explain to her. I can tell her—"

"I don't want to talk to her," Gabriel said quickly, sitting up so abruptly that he jarred his leg and grit his teeth in pain. "Sorry," he apologized to Danny. "I just can't deal with that right now."

"All right." Danny shrugged and threw the phone back in the bin. "This is gonna come back later to haunt you though, you know? Girls always need to know everything that's going on."

Gabriel fished for something else to talk about. "Listen, so this Torpe guy in the murder case, he lived all by himself didn't he?"

Danny cautiously took his seat again. "Yeah," he consented. "He did."

"And you couldn't find any of his family or anything? People who might know what happened to him or… care about going to his funeral?"

Danny shrugged. "No. Torpe had a few coworkers, but he wasn't married, no girlfriend to speak of. No family we could find—pretty unfortunate thing to be so alone, if you ask me," Danny said sympathetically.

"Yeah…" Gabriel juggled the words around. Pursuing the Torpe murder probably wasn't the safest course of action, considering what Gabriel was trying to avoid, but he couldn't help it—he'd been extremely curious to learn the details of Torpe's life the more he learned the details of the man's death…

Unfortunately the more he learned, the more parallels he was able to draw with his own life… and not in a good way. If Gabriel lived through the week, he mused bitterly, then it was very likely he would end up like Robert Torpe—another commitment-phobe living all by himself with his objects

Where was it he'd gone wrong, exactly? Gabriel had always figured he'd get married one day but here he was almost 21 years old and not a single serious relationship to his name.

"You're married, right Woo?"

Danny regarded him strangely, piqued by the sudden change in the conversation's direction. "Yeah, to the love of my life."

"Well…" Gabriel didn't know how to continue this thread, exactly. "How did you know she was the one? How did you know you'd found the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?"

Danny considered this briefly. "I'm not sure exactly. I always assumed that when you found the person, you just knew. It takes time, of course. You have to make sure they're the one, stick in there just long enough, but when you find the one, I think you'll know."

Gabriel sighed. "People are always saying cliché shit like that."

Danny chuckled. "Unfortunately for originality's sake, it remains true nonetheless."

"I'm in for a long road ahead, aren't I?" Gabriel said.

"Looks that way, I'm afraid."

Gabriel paused then spoke up. "Hey, Danny?"

"Yeah?" Danny met his imploring gaze.

"I know you did it for Sara, but… well, thanks for sticking with me today. I really appreciate it." Gabriel quickly averted his gaze, studying the blue and white brace secured to his right leg.

"No problem, kid." Danny smiled sincerely. "Hey I'll be right back. I gotta make a call." He stood up and was about to call into the precinct to tell the Lieutenant that he wouldn't be back for the day when Gabriel suddenly started coughing again. Danny turned to look at him and found the younger man breathing heavily, like he was having an asthma attack of some sort. Danny wrinkled his brow in worry, even more so when Gabriel's eyes rolled back in his head and his body started convulsing violently. The steady rhythm of the heart monitor became jagged and uneven.

Without wasting another second, Danny yanked the door open and called down the hall, "I need a doctor in here! Somebody, please!"

A few personnel came running, pushing past Danny into the room. Dr. Wolford, Gabriel's doctor, followed on their heels moments later, taking a pen light out of his front pocket. While several orderlies held Gabriel's shuddering body down securely, Wolford shone the light in each of the young man's eyes. "He's having a seizure," he spoke to the nearest doctor. "Get me 10 mL of—" Before Dr. Wolford could go any further, Gabriel's body stopped its convulsing and the erratic rhythm of the monitor took precedence when it transformed into a steady, unbroken line…

Danny pushed aside so he was closer to the bed. "What's happening to him!" he demanded, catching only a glimpse of Gabriel's ashen face before he was roughly shoved aside.

"We lost heart rhythm. Start compressions." Wolford ordered. "Get him out of here!" He gestured toward Danny.

"Wait—hold on a minute!" A nurse grabbed Danny's arm and started to escort him to the door despite his protests.

She led him outside, explaining, "We'll let you know as soon as we know your friend's condition. But I'm afraid you have to stay out here for now." She threw a glance behind her desperately before saying, "I'm sorry," and shutting the door in Danny's face.

Heaving a stressful sigh, Danny massaged his aching temple and leaned against the wall heavily. What was he going to tell Sara?...

o-o-o-o

Having no other destination in mind, Sara decided to return to the hospital. She felt like she was giving up too easily, but she needed to clear her mind of its predispositions and she sure as hell couldn't do that at the precinct with Jake breathing down her neck about finding Torpe's killer.

"I never should have taken this case," Sara muttered as she pulled into the hospital parking lot. She found a parking spot in the garage and pulled off her helmet. As she entered the hospital's main entrance, she pulled out her cell phone and saw that she had one missed call—same number as before. Danny must have called her when she was in Reynolds' apartment.

Instead of calling back, Sara ran up to the second floor to meet them, but when she got to the area, she found his room vacant. The first thing she felt was a deep pang of fear that she'd missed a very important phone call when she'd been pursuing her false lead… but no, the Witchblade hadn't told her anything. It would warn her if something terrible had happened to Gabriel, wouldn't it?

Convincing herself of this, Sara steeled herself and walked over to the front counter, where a receptionist was filing papers.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for my friend. He was in Room 229. I was just wondering if they might've moved him or—"

"Sara!" Before the receptionist could reply, Danny's voice interrupted. Sara turned to see him hurrying towards her.

"Danny, where is he?" Sara asked, not gratified by the sinking look on Danny's face. "Danny, don't you tell me he's—" Sara couldn't bring herself to finish the sentence.

"He's not dead." Danny supplied. "Although the doctors did lose him once when I was in the room… There was a complication of some sort. Gabriel was moved up to the ICU just now… Sara," Danny almost didn't continue, intimidated by the intense look on his partner's face, but he didn't want her to hear it from anyone else. "Gabriel slipped into a coma about half an hour ago."

o-o-o-o

Sara stood on the other side of the glass, watching Gabriel from the outside of his room on the fourth floor ICU. The doctors wouldn't let her in anymore. They were afraid that whatever was wrong with Gabriel might be complicated by infection from outsiders, and so quarantined him in his solitary room.

Sara wanted to tell them that they were all wrong—that what he needed more than anything right now was human contact, but how could she explain it to them?

As a further safeguard, in case he had another seizure like the one he'd experienced an hour before, Gabriel had been placed in restraints, deemed a possible danger to himself… Both his arms, even the already injured limb, were now laid straight at his sides, encased in leather cuffs to prevent him from moving around too much.

It was painful for Sara to watch her friend like this… even more painful to know she could do nothing to stop it. A call to McCarty had informed her only that there still were no leads in their case. Sara was starting to believe that the whole thing—Torpe getting the Box—had all just been a fluke, that he wasn't meant to have it, but then why would the Witchblade warn her?

Danny had been reserved since Sara's arrival, knowing that he should allow his partner to grieve in her own way, and Sara was thankful for that, but she was equally thankful when Danny clasped a hand on her shoulder and said, "He'll pull through Sar'. I may not know him as well as you do, but Gabriel's a fighter. He's not gonna give in this easily."

"Thanks, Danny."

"You know, that woman Gabriel saved—her name's Maggie Johnson. She stopped by while you were gone and dropped off some flowers. She said she wished she could stay longer, but the doctor told her she should go home and rest."

"Oh?" Sara replied.

"Yeah, she told me that she's grateful for people like Gabriel and for law enforcers like us—grateful for people that actually try and stop bad things from happening. She said not enough people try to help their fellow man anymore."

"She's not wrong, you know." Sara said remorsefully. "It's a damn shame, but too many people just walk away—" Sara cut short as she uttered the last few words, a distant memory triggered in her mind. Scrutiny showing in her face, Sara pulled away from Danny, her arms still crossed.

"What is it?" Danny asked her.

"I think everyone should take full advantage of their potential to help other human beings… too many people just walk away"…

"Son of a bitch…"

"Sara?"

"Danny, I've got to go." Sara ignored Danny's protests as she walked back to the chair her coat was laying on. "Does the nurse downstairs still have Gabriel's things? I need his apartment key."

"Yeah, I—Sara, where are you going now?" Danny was impatient.

"Stay with him, please Danny. Don't let him give in."

"Let him give in to what?" Once again Danny found himself calling after Sara.

"With luck I'll be back in an hour," and once again Danny was left clueless as he watched the elevator doors slide shut with his partner behind them.