Everything That Sparkles
by Valerie Vancollie
valeriev84 at hotmail dot com
Characters: Don, Robin Brooks, Nikki, Colby, David, Liz, Charlie
Pairings: Don/OFC, Don/Robin
Warning: This fic deals with rape on a non explicit level.
Summary: In order to catch a female serial rapist and killer, the team sets a trap with Colby as bait. Only things don't go quite as planned...
Spoilers: Man Hunt, Hot Shot, One Hour, High Exposure, The Decoy Effect
Note: This fic was written for the 2009 Summer Challenge at the Numb3rs Het LJ community. I choose the prompts 33. Criminal, 05. New York and 02. Lipstick.
Don took a sip of his drink as he surreptitiously scanned the darkened club. The music was loud, hard and fast, the dance floor packed and every now and then the fake smoke hissed out from hidden nozzles throughout the club, adding a hazy and colorful edge to the atmosphere as the flashing lights reflected off of it. At the far end of the room, a live group performed to the roaring approval of most of the crowd, though both the beat and lyrics would have made Don wince if he wasn't trying to blend in with the crowd near the bar at the edge of the dance floor.
When he'd finished his scan of the room, Don's eyes automatically sought out Colby. The younger agent was on the dance floor, a drink in hand, dancing with yet another new girl.
"Is she wearing the right lipstick?" David's voice came over the earpiece Don wore, hardly audible.
As Don watched, Colby raised his glass higher, a negative response.
"There's no guarantee we'll get a bite tonight," Don said into the mic taped to his wrist under the sleeve.
He disguised the motion by raising his own glass to his lips.
"Statistically she'll strike again tonight and here," Charlie stated. "Plus with the way Colby's been dressed and is acting, she should go for him."
"Doesn't make it a sure thing," Don replied.
"No, but 93% means it's the most likely course of events."
Don let it go in favor of watching Colby as he danced his way to the edge of the dance floor before making his way to the bar. Nikki and Liz had dressed Colby according to what the previous victims had worn and then one of the Bureau's forgery artists had painted a fake Special Forces tattoo on his bicep. Combined with his dog tags and the right attitude, Colby seemed to be an arrogant military bastard, the chosen victims of what the New York media had dubbed the Kiss & Tell Killer. An apt name given her penchant of sending letters and photos to all of the major media outlets. Instead of a signature, she signed them with a kiss made visible by the lipstick she wore, the decadent plum Vibrant Couture Color by Dior. With the DNA collected from the Lipstick Letters and hair found at the scenes, they'd be able to lock her up forever once they caught her, something which had proven more difficult than originally expected.
The case had first come to the Bureau's attention in New York when the NYPD had asked for help with what they suspected was a serial rapist and killer. They'd had three bodies already and the first of the Lipstick Letters had just been submitted to the media. The psychologists assumed their killer had started sending them when her work hadn't generated enough media attention on its own. Well, if that was true, then the letters had definitely achieved what she'd wanted. Almost overnight it had become a national headline, making the news all the way in LA. Something about the combination of a serial killer who was female and who managed to lure, drug and rape highly trained military personnel, captured the attention of the public. But obviously not enough to make people stay clear of the night clubs at which she hunted and drugged her prey.
As Agent Jenna Sumner mixed Colby's drink, carefully making it look alcoholic when it was anything but, Don locked eyes with Liz, who was also behind the bar. It was their job to provide all of the undercover agents with drinks so they wouldn't draw any undue attention to themselves by abstaining. They were also to keep an eye on the drinks Colby had on the bar, to see if they could catch anyone trying to slip a little extra into it. All of the previous victims had been heavily drugged with Rohypnol to make them pliant and controllable. From the lack of defensive wounds, it would seem that none of them had realized what was going on until it was far too late. It fit the victim profile, though. They saw themselves as damn near invincible and God's gift to men, so why wouldn't a, presumably, gorgeous woman be attracted to them? They'd also be exactly the type of men who'd be completely unable to imagine someone could possibly rape them.
Already Colby was chatting up a new woman and Don saw Jenna give her a quick glance as she handed Colby his drink and accepted the cash he handed her. As the lead agent in charge of the case in New York, Jenna had flown out to LA when they'd confirmed the M.O. and Lipstick Letters that had turned up here were genuine and not the work of a copycat. Already their killer had managed to claim two victims in California before Charlie had discovered a hidden pattern in her seemingly random choice of clubs and nights. With any luck, they'd be able to prevent her from claiming any additional victims.
"You look like you could use some company."
It took Don a moment to realize the comment had been directed at him, but when he did, he turned around and found a good looking woman standing with him at the small table he'd claimed as his. Automatically, he noted that she had black hair and wore the decadent plum lipstick, but so had one of the other women he'd flirted with earlier.
"How could I refuse the company of such a beautiful woman?" Don gave her one of his best smiles.
He shifted slightly as she placed an impossible small bag on the table and rested her arms next to it. From this position, he could easily keep track of Colby as he returned to the dance floor while appearing to pay attention only to her.
"Are you here alone?" she inquired, toying with her hair.
"Alas, yes. How about you? Surely you must have a boyfriend."
"I did until two weeks ago when the jerk dumped me for one of my friends."
"The bastard obviously didn't know a good thing when he had it."
"All positions, check in," Nikki ordered via the earpiece.
Don ignored her and kept flirting, finding it strangely difficult to focus on her, Colby and the responses from the various agents scattered about the club, ready to come to Colby's aid the moment their killer rapist made her move on him.
"Don, you there?" Nikki questioned. "Anyone got eyes on him?"
"Yeah, he's fine," Liz announced. "He's busy with yet another girl."
"Don, you dog," Nikki teased.
The words, especially expressed over an open mic to all the agents on the op, caused a flare of indignation within him, but Don suppressed it and forced himself to follow what the woman was saying.
"He's got a good view of Colby," Liz defended. "Besides, they've been approaching Don, not the other way around. I told you those leather pants would be trouble."
It was all Don could do to suppress his smirk. It hadn't been lost on him how Liz had checked him out before she'd left to take her shift at the club and he'd been hyperaware of all the appreciative glances he'd received since entering. It had been a while since he'd last worn leather and he'd forgotten how nice it could be. He'd have to see if he could conveniently 'forget' to change before going home once they managed to catch their killer, see if Robin appreciated it too.
"Are you even listening to me?" the woman demanded indignantly.
"Huh? Sure, of course I am."
"Then what's the last thing I said? Yeah, that's what I thought. Asshole."
"Hey!" Don protested.
What had just happened? Watching her storm off, Don realized he'd somehow gotten lost in his thoughts, losing track of not only the conversation, but of Colby and the op as well. A quick glance at the dance floor caused a minor bout of panic when he didn't immediately spot his agent, but Colby was simply dancing a little closer to the stage with not one, but two women who appeared a bit too young to be in the club.
The relief was short-lived, though, as he frantically tried to figure out what had happened. Even as he did so, he was briefly thankful that the music was loud enough to wash away any of the actual conversation he had unless he spoke directly into the mic. He'd never have heard the end of it if his team had overheard the parting words of the woman. He was sure even Liz would hav-
Damnit, there he went again! What was going on? He normally never drifted like this while on the job, especially not in the middle of an undercover operation where people were counting on him.
In an effort to hide his rising panic, Don finished his drink and stepped back from the table. He intended to do a quick circuit of the main room and perhaps check in personally with the other agents as he'd done before. Instead, he staggered backwards and knocked into a guy carrying three shots.
"Hey! Watch it!"
"Sorry," Don replied, stunned to hear the slur in his own voice.
The man sent him a dirty look before walking over to his friends. The choice words that drifted his way were ignored as Don tried desperately to figure out what was going on, though it was difficult as his mind seemed sluggish and lazy. He'd not had anything alcoholic to drink, none of the agents had even to maintain their cover as he'd wanted everyone sharp for when their killer made her move. She'd already proven she was dangerous when she'd knocked out the buddy of one of her victims, a trained marine. Unfortunately for them, the man hadn't gotten a good look at her in the darkened conditions of the club, nor was his memory fantastic given the amount of alcohol he'd consumed. So why was he feeling like he'd seriously overindulged?
The pieces slowly started to click together as he noticed Colby walking back towards the bar again. The younger man had been careful not to get too many drinks so he'd still believably be able to stay on his feet, which meant Don had spaced out for far longer than he'd realized.
"Hey, Handsome, are you okay?"
Again it took a moment for Don to realize the question was directed at him and when he turned to look at her, he staggered sideways drunkenly.
"Whoa! Careful," she said, reaching out and slipping her arms around his waist to steady him before turning to the woman he'd nearly bumped into. "Sorry, my boyfriend's had a bit too much to drink."
"Not... your boyfriend," Don slurred crossly.
There was panic blossoming within him now, but is seemed strangely dull and removed, as if it belonged to someone else. In fact, everything was starting to take on a hazy, unreal quality. The slurred speech, the balance impairment, the inability to focus clearly and the dulling of emotions all fit the symptoms of someone drugged with Rohypnol, their killer's drug of choice.
"What? You're saying you don't like me? You seemed interested enough earlier."
As one of her hands left his waist and moved up to his chest, Don realized she was one of the women he'd flirted with before. She was the one who'd excused herself to use the ladies room and hadn't returned. The first one with black hair and the Dior decadent plum Vibrant Couture Color lipstick, the one who'd had no bag, just skintight black jeans and a revealing silver top.
"How about we go somewhere quiet, huh? I know just the place," she stated, grabbing his right wrist and flinging his arm over her shoulder, her other arm still clasped firmly around his waist.
The realization that she was their woman, the Kiss & Tell Killer, and not just someone who happened to match their vague description of her when it seemed like he happened to be under the influence of the killer rapist's drug of choice, suddenly dawned. Despite that, Don still felt like the panic in his gut belonged to someone else as he staggered alongside her. She smelled a little like Robin did that night they'd attended some fundraiser ball she'd been forced to go to. Perfume, that's what it was, she was wearing the same perfume Robin had been wearing then. It was the one Robin always got from her youngest sister for her birthday, the one she hated but couldn't bring herself to tell her sister the truth of. He could always tell when she thought her day would be bad as Robin would always wear that perfume then.
The implications of his situation finally penetrated the fog clouding his mind and this time the jolt of fear seemed real to Don. It was slowly followed by the realization that she was leading him to one of the club's side entrances. She resisted his weak attempts to pull away from her with pathetic ease and it was as she tightened her hold on his wrist that it hit him that she'd effectively cut off his ability to alert his team to what was going on.
"Let me go," Don tried to say, but it came out all but unintelligibly.
"Come on, Gorgeous, you really saying you don't want me? I'll make it good for you, I promise."
Gorgeous? No, that was wrong, just wrong. He was wrong. Wrong for her. She liked them military, arrogant. Old. She liked them young. Old. He was too old. Too old. Not military, not arrogant. Wrong. He was wrong, didn't fit profile. Anomaly. Charlie'd like that. He was an anomaly. Anomaly with one o, not two.
A sudden blast of cold air hit his face and roused him enough to look up. Somehow they were already at one of the club's side entrances, or exits really, as they only allowed people in at the front. Each of the unalarmed exits were closely monitored by club staff so they knew how many people were in the club at any one time and to ensure that no one let their friends in this way. Who of his team was monitoring this exit again? It wasn't Nikki and Charlie, they had the main one. He tried to picture the map he'd used to assign everyone their places. Oh, right, Special Agents Nichols and Adams from the NCIS team that had tried to wrestle control of the case away from the Bureau after a marine had become a victim. Would they recognize him and figure out what was going on?
Just as they reached the man watching the exit, Don realized he didn't need to rely on the two agents, he could act himself. With all of his strength, he pulled away, thinking if he could get free, she'd cut her losses and run as there were still a lot of people about, too many to do anything dangerous. It turned out he was weak as a kitten as the best he could do was cause them to stumble sideways. With another burst of adrenaline, he tried to ask the man for help, but it came out a helpless slur.
"Sorry," she smiled apologetically.
So this was how she managed it, Don thought dully as the man gave him a disgusted look. As soon as they stepped out into the cool night air, his mind cleared some more and he glanced frantically in the direction of Nichols and Adams' car as the panic and fear coiled in his gut. There was no reaction from the agents as she turned them in the opposite direction and took them towards the parking garage just a block away.
"Is she wearing the right lipstick?" Jenna's voice questioned in his ear.
It was with a start that Don remembered the mic at his wrist. Yes, it was currently trapped in the rapist's hand, but she'd have to release it sooner or later. He'd be able to call for help then, well if Charlie or Nikki didn't realize his mic was no longer projecting the cacophony that had so deafened them earlier in the evening when they'd had all the mics turned up to full sensitivity.
"Does she have the right hair color? I can't tell from here," Jenna continued.
"No, she's got brown hair," David answered.
"Careful," the killer cautioned when he stumbled while crossing the street.
"Who," Don began slowly, pronouncing each sound. "You?"
"I thought you seemed more like a gentleman," she said with a smile. "I'm not just another body to you, unlike with those arrogant bastards."
It took Don a few seconds to realize that she hadn't actually answered his question, but by then they were stumbling into the parking garage. He was starting to feel even weaker and his coordination was rapidly deteriorating. If they didn't reach her car soon, she'd have to drag him to it. The image almost made him laugh and he looked at her. Under the fluorescent lights of the garage, he found that she looked older than Jenna had thought, closer to his age than that of her victims. As she shifted her grip to grab hold of a belt loop, he felt another spike of fear as he recalled exactly what she did to her victims before killing them.
His mind was clearly still dulled as the knowledge that it was going to happen to him if he didn't get away seemed far off and unreal, like some half remembered nightmare. Or would it? She'd yet to discover his mic or earpiece, but that would only last until she ripped his shirt off. No effort had been made to cover up the wires, even on Colby, as they'd never planned to let things get that far. God, what time was it? How long before Nikki did the next check on everyone? Even if Jenna, Liz or David had noticed he'd vanished from his table, they'd merely assume he was making another round or was checking on something.
Too soon, they reached a car and she shifted him around so he was leaning against it while she fished her keys out of her pocket. This close together, Don should have been able to get a good look at her face, but his vision was fading in and out and all he got was a glimpse of brown eyes accented by purples and black. He also thought he caught a slightly unstable vibe from her, but that was a given seeing what she was doing. It suddenly occurred to him that his right wrist was now free, but calling for help now would only alert her to what he was. He didn't think that was a good thing, though he wasn't quite sure.
With a beep, the car unlocked itself and she pulled open the passenger side door. When she turned back to him, Don expected her to try and maneuver him into the car, so he gathered what little strength he had left to push off of the car. Instead, she stepped close to him and his momentum carried him straight into her, bringing them flush together for an instant before he bounced back against the car. Another distant surge of fear rushed through him as he realized he was trapped, but it quickly morphed to disgust as she stepped closer and put a hand on his face.
"You really are different from the others, not at all thinking you deserve it, me, just because of who you are," she said, leaning in close. "But don't worry, you'll like this."
Her lips covered his before he could protest and Don found he didn't even possess the strength necessary to turn his face away.
'I'm sorry, Robin!' he thought.
Then his legs were giving way and she had to pull back to prevent him from falling to the ground.
"Oops, I've got you, don't worry," she soothed. "Probably best to wait till we're really alone before starting anything. Don't want to be interrupted, now do we?"
Yes! Yes, we do. Or me. Yes, I do, Don thought frantically as she dropped him awkwardly into the passenger seat before leaning in to rearrange him to her liking. He got another waft of her perfume as her hair swung down around his face and the familiarity of it made him sick to his stomach. The clash of images and emotions- love, fear, joy, horror, contentment, violation, Robin, her- swamped him and his head spun dizzyingly as he clamored frantically and in vain for control that was hopelessly beyond his drugged ability to grasp.
He had to get out of here.
The one thought finally managed to reach him through the miasma churning inside of him. Out, now, before... before it happened. Don shuddered at the thought and then put all of his strength into moving his right arm. She seemed to have vanished and he knew he wouldn't get another shot at this. There was no way he'd get the seatbelt undone, the door open and away without her noticing, so he'd have to rely on his team.
So, mic, mouth, talk.
Easier said then done, apparently. Or no, not said, thought. Finally his arm responded to his frantic attempts to move it, flopping uncontrollably towards the window and hitting it painfully. The pain helped, clearing the haze a little, and he tilted his head towards his wrist.
Now, what to say? What was his safe word again?
He'd come up with a new one for him and Nikki to use. Yes. So, what was it? Don furrowed his brow, trying to remember. Mexico? No, Colby and David. And Nikki, but Nikki with Colby and David. Not Nikki and him. So what was one for Nikki and him? He couldn't remember. Rio? Thor?
"Mexico," Don slurred.
Wait, he hadn't decided to speak yet.
"What was that?" Nikki demanded. "Who spoke?"
Damn, they hadn't understood. Again, better, no slurring.
There, that had been better, at least semi understandable this time.
"Don? Is that you?" Charlie questioned.
Uh, oh. He'd forgotten about Charlie. Forgotten how his little brother had cajoled and pleaded until he'd relented and allowed him to sit in the van with Nikki. Chuck did know how to get the best out of the computers they used.
"Don, what's wrong?" Nikki demanded.
"Killer? Where? You spotted her?" Jenna butted in.
"Shit, no! That's not what he means," David exclaimed. "Mexico. That's what he said first, Mexico. It's one of our distress words. Don, are you alright, man? Anyone got eyes on him?"
The sound of his agent taking charge filled Don with some relief despite the fearful chorus of negative replies that answered David's inquiry. Charlie was also talking again, frantically trying to talk to him, but his time was limited.
"Don, have you been drugged?" David asked.
"Yeah," Don replied just as the driver's door opened. "Car."
"What? What was that last?" David demanded.
"Damnit!" Nikki swore. "He's out of the club. I'm not detecting any music from his mic."
Then their killer rapist was back, dropping into the driver's seat and pulling the door shut behind her. She held a small rectangular piece of paper in her left hand and, before Don could even think of doing anything, she already had the key in the ignition and the started the engine.
"Let's get out of here," she said.
"C... car," Don managed again, getting it out at least partially intelligibly.
"Did you just say car?" Nikki demanded, sharply. "Are you in a vehicle?"
"Yes, we're in a car," she said with a smile. "But don't worry, it's not far. We'll be there soon."
She reached over and briefly squeezed his thigh before putting the car in reverse and backing out of the parking spot.
"Nikki? What's the situation?" David demanded.
"Charlie's enhanced the audio from Don's mic and we're definitely picking up a woman's voice and the sound of an engine," Nikki replied.
Relief and fear washed over the revulsion her touch had induced. His team was now aware of the situation, which was good seeing as his arm had been knocked clear when the car had turned and he'd no longer be able to speak into the mic without alerting her to the fact that he was wired. The fear, however, stemmed from the fact that his team was only just starting to look for him and she'd said it wasn't far. Would they find him in time?
"Don, are you still there?" David asked.
"His mic's still open," Nikki replied after a moment of silence. "I don't think it's been discovered."
"Okay, well, Don, if you can hear me, we're coming, you hear?" David promised. "Just you hold on. Everyone else, Tac 2."
To what? Don wanted to ask. It wasn't like there was anything for him to cling to even if he'd had any strength left. Besides, things were getting worse and he felt nauseous as vertigo kicked in and everything blurred before his eyes. Even if he still had access to his mic, he didn't think it would do him much good as he couldn't distinguish a single landmark from the blur of lights and shadow. His tongue also felt thick and heavy in his mouth, like a dried up lump of flesh.
In a way, it reminded him of that time in Lindsey Fuller's house right after Chandler had stuck him with the needle. Back then too, things had slowed and spun like some carnival ride gone bad. The darkness was closing in on him, threatening to sweep him under into a nothingness from which he wasn't sure he'd ever surface from. But he had to, had to, had to make sure the girl was okay, that Chandler hadn't hurt her in any way. Had to make sure he hadn't raped her, the bastard. No meant no, and she most definitely wasn't there voluntarily. Where was Megan? Colby? David? Oh, right, they were busy, in pursuit, but they were wrong. They thought Chandler would be there, in the park, but he wasn't, he was here, in the house. He'd stuck him with a needle. With a needle fill of morphine. Stuck him with a needle and hit him with a vase. No, hit him with a vase and then stuck him with a needle. Or was it the other way around? He wasn't quite sure anymore, the drugs were muddling his mind.
Don felt a frisson of fear at the thought. He was being incapacitated! Where was Chandler? Had he shot Chandler? He seemed to remember doing so, but then how the man dragged him out of the house and into a car if he'd shot him? Perhaps he hadn't shot him dead? But why would Chandler drag him to a car? Hadn't Chandler drugged him so he could escape or kill Don? He was all confused. Then he was afraid. Chandler had given others the drugs too, women, the women he'd raped. Was he going to rape him too? Was that why Chandler had taken him out to the car? No! He didn't want that!
The moment he felt a hand touch him, Don started to fight weakly, desperately wanting to get away. Then he was falling, falling, falling, falling. Just before he hit the ground, slender arms closed around him and slowed his descent. He clung to them, his heart going so fast he was afraid if would burst from his chest. Something soft and silky caressed his face and a sickly sweet scent filled his senses, further agitating his stomach. Perfume? Why was Chandler wearing perfume? Did Chandler wear perfume?
"Chandler?" Don slurred.
"Huh? What was that, Gorgeous?"
That wasn't Chandler. Chandler was male. This voice was female. So, not Chandler.
"What's a chandler?"
The voice was closer now, in his ear as he was lifted and stumbled forwards. Don tried to make his legs work and managed it just before he felt a wall against his back. A wall was good. He could lean on a wall. A wall was sturdy. Sturdy like the wall Robin had leaned against at the ball. The fundraiser ball she had to go to. The one he had to go to. Dressed as a penguin. That had been a good wall. It was sturdy as Robin leaned against it. And he'd leaned against Robin, kissing her.
She'd smelled funny, though, not nice like normal, but sickly sweet. Like now. Now he smelled the sickly sweet smell too.
"Robin?" Don asked, hopefully.
"If you want, Gorgeous."
That didn't sound like Robin. Did it? Suddenly Don wasn't sure, maybe it was Robin and he was wrong. After all, everything else was funny, sight and sound and smell and him. He felt funny, strange. Not right. He was dizzy and his head hurt, his stomach hurt and everything was not right, not at all. So he was probably wrong and not Robin. Robin must be right and he didn't want to hurt her feelings by saying she wasn't right like he'd hurt Charlie's feelings once saying that. But then Charlie hadn't been right. He'd been weird and freaking and-
There were lips kissing him now and hands touching him. Robin's lips and hands, so Don allowed it even if he didn't feel well. Maybe Robin could make it better like he'd helped her get better. He should probably kiss her back. He did, but stopped, pulling away.
"No Robin," Don accused, trying to focus on the lips and hands.
"Sure, I'm Robin," a voice, a non-Robin voice, replied. "Here, let me show you, Gorgeous."
Don felt the hands on his face and tried to push them away but found he couldn't. Couldn't lift his arms. He also couldn't move his head away from the hands.
"No!" Don protested again.
"Okay, no more kisses just now," the voice said. "We can do something else you'll enjoy. I promise, Handsome."
"Don? Is that your name?" a weak nod. "Okay, then, Don."
There was more, more to his name, but Don couldn't remember it just now. He couldn't care either. Speaking was tiring and hard, he didn't want to speak anymore, he just wanted to sleep. But maybe she didn't know that. Maybe he had to tell her that. Maybe- her hands were back on his chest again, near his neck. Then, before he could wonder why, they grabbed his shirt and ripped it open.
"Hey," Don protested feebly.
"Hush, Don, it'll feel real good soon, just you wa- What the hell is this?" she demanded sharply.
The soft, calm voice followed by the harsh question confused Don. What was going on? Why was she mad now? She'd been mean earlier and then nice and now mad. She was confusing. He didn't like her and wanted her to go away and let him sleep.
"Let me see this!" she demanded, ripping the shirt off his right arm.
It was followed by a ripping, burning sensation all along his arm with a sticky flesh sound.
"No! Is this a mic? Who is listening to this? Who do you work for?"
Her questions washed over him as so much noise, almost all meaning lost. Don really wanted to lie down now as he felt sick and he didn't like her. He wanted to get away from here. Where was Robin? Had she abandoned him? Was she angry at him? Angry about the kiss? The kiss he'd given the woman? But he'd thought it was her! He'd thought he was kissing her!
Don's head snapped to the right and the left side of his face hurt. Had she hit him? He thought she'd hit him. Why? She was really mean.
"Hey! I asked you a question. Who do you work for?"
Didn't she know? How could she not know? Would she leave him alone if he told her? Don wasn't sure but he didn't want to as speaking was hard and he was tired. Oh, so tired. His stomach also hurt more. He just wanted it to stop and to sleep. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Sleep for a very long time.
Her hands were back on his face, turning it towards her. Don peered at her, getting a blurry image before all hell broke loose. There were cracking noises all around and loud voices shouted strange words that seemed to startle her. She whirled around, releasing him as she did so. Then he was falling again. Falling, falling, falling. Falling along the wall. It was like the last time, only now no one was there to catch him and he crashed into the ground painfully. His stomach rebelled and he vomited, the shouting and yelling blending into a horrible roar as he fell to the floor next to the vomit.
"Don? Don!" this time the voice was male and strangely familiar.
He just couldn't be bothered to answer it. Why wouldn't anyone just let him sleep? Was it really such a bad thing? Then there were hands on him again, turning him over and he made a faint protesting sound.
"Don, man, are you okay?" the man demanded. "What did she do?"
Reluctantly, Don opened eyes he couldn't remember closing to slits to see who was bothering him now. It was a blond man who looked familiar, someone who didn't make him fear, so he closed his eyes again even as the man's continued to touch him. Chest, arm and face. It was as if he knew where she'd touched him, except then the man briefly touched his pants.
"Thank goodness," the man said.
"Colby? Is he alright?" another new voice demanded.
Since it was female, like her voice, Don's eyes snapped open as he sought her out, tensing.
"Yeah, he's fine. We got here in time. She got his shirt off and found the mic, but that seems to be all."
When he was sure she wasn't her, Don let his eyes slip shut again, determined to sleep now.
"Don? Don, man, are you still with us?"
Go away, Don thought as he surrendered himself to the darkness.
Falling, falling, falling...
Don woke with a start, clutching the bed and breathing like he'd run a marathon. The adrenaline was flooding his system and he didn't instantly recognize his surroundings. Antiseptic smell, beeping, small bed, gown, Robin asleep in an uncomfortable looking chair... hospital. He was in a hospital. Instead of calming him, the realization only served to increase his panic. Why was he in a hospital? What had happened?
The beeping increased sharply, but Don ignored it as he tried frantically to remember what had happened to him. The last thing he could remember clearly was giving the okay for the op to attempt to capture the Kiss & Tell Killer to start. Beyond that, everything was a big blur of emotions, colors and sounds jumbled into a horrible mash of contorting flashes. What had happened? Had something gone wrong? Was everyone okay? Why were things blurred and spotty?
Why? How? Why couldn't he remember?
Even worse than being unable to recollect what had happened to him and how he'd come to be here, was the pure fear and helplessness that flooded him when he tried to force the memories. But not new emotions, old ones that he'd felt, during the blur.
A sudden slap across the face jarred Don from his thoughts and he'd already reached up and grabbed the wrist of the person who'd hit him before he realized it was Robin.
"What?" Don asked, confused.
"Oh, good, you're with me now," Robin replied, relieved. "Sorry, but you were a million miles away and starting to hyperventilate."
Don blinked a few times as he processed that along with his previous thoughts. This time, when the beeping increased, he was with it enough to realize it was the heart rate monitor. Looking up, he met Robin's worried eyes to assure her he was still with it and noticed how tired and stressed she appeared. Hadn't she had a big disposition today about some pedophile? Or was that yesterday now?
Before he could say anything, the door to the room opened and a nurse rushed in.
"What's going on in here?" the nurse demanded.
"He just woke and had a bit of an anxiety attack," Robin explained.
The nurse seemed to calm somewhat at that, but clearly didn't like his still elevated heart rate as she looked over the machines attached to Don.
"You shouldn't be awake yet," she clucked.
"He's stubborn that way," Robin stated with a fond smile.
"What happened?" Don asked, unable to wait any longer.
The anxiety of not knowing nearly bordered on outright panic. Don really hated being unable to remember, especially when the confused, fragmented fragments he did have clearly indicated that something important had transpired. He was also starting to get an inclining of a very dark suspicion. Given their killer's penchant for drugging and raping her male victims and his current inability to remember how or why he'd ended up in the hospital...
The beeping increased sharply as Don fought for breath and to stave off the rising panic.
"I don't think that's such a good idea," the nurse stated. "You need your rest right now, not additional stress."
"No, what he needs is the truth," Robin argued. "Otherwise this scene will repeat itself the next time he wakes."
"I don't like it. I think a sedative would be the best thing for him right now."
"You don't know him," Robin persisted. "He does better with more information, not less. Besides, you said he shouldn't be awake yet anyway, should you really be giving him another sedative with whatever you gave him before still in his system?"
"Robin!" Don interrupted. "What happened? something went wrong, didn't it? With the undercover op."
"Yes," Robin confirmed, suddenly reluctant.
"Is everyone else okay? Colby?"
"Everyone else is fine, including Colby. Your killer didn't go for him."
"She came for me," Don inferred.
His tone was emotionless as snatches of memory flashed before his eyes. He had the vaguest recollection of a woman's touch and voice. Had he been stumbling? It could be she'd held true to her usual M.O. and used Rohypnol on him. It was how she'd gotten her previous victims out of the clubs they'd been in, by pretending they were hopelessly drunk and she was merely the concerned girlfriend lugging them home.
Oh God, victim.
"Rohypnol. She spiked my drink, didn't she?"
"Yes, she did," Robin stated, continuing on quickly. "But you kept it together long enough to alert the others as to what was going on. Using the signal from your mic and the sounds they picked up from it, Charlie was able to pinpoint your location. Your team got to you in time, before she could do anything."
The relief that flooded him was indescribable and Don sank back against the pillows, smiling weakly at Robin as she leaned forwards to look at him, clearly alarmed. The nurse seemed happy, though, as his heart rate slowed further, back towards normal even if it remained elevated.
"I'll go let the doctor know you're awake," she told Don before turning towards Robin. "Try and keep him calm."
Robin scowled at the nurse's back as Don tried desperately to remember exactly what had happened. Even if she hadn't managed to rape him, he needed to know the details of what had happened. How had she managed to spike his drink? Why hadn't he noticed? Had he tried to resist her? Robin said he'd contacted the others, so obviously he'd realized what was going on, which explained the fear he recollected. As it was, he could only imagine what had been going through his mind at the time. He'd have been both powerless to prevent her from doing whatever she wanted to him.
"Hey, hey, Don," Robin soothed as his heart rate rose once more. "It's okay, you're safe, nothing happened."
Robin. Why did he seem to have a trace of her in his jumbled thoughts?
"Were you there?" Don questioned. "At the scene?"
"No, I was at home. Liz called me on the way to the hospital. Why?"
"I just have this feeling... well, more like impression, of you. Damnit! I can't remember! I just can't seem to get it all straight in my head, even the bits I do have!"
"That's the drug," Robin explained, calmly, turning his head to look at her. "Rohypnol causes anterograde amnesia, you know that. You could still get it back, later on."
"I know, it's just so frustrating!" Don replied, a bit embarrassed with how his emotions seemed to be all over the place.
"I know," Robin hesitated. "I've called Bradford, asked him to come by and see you. I hope that was okay?"
Don could only look at her in surprise for a few seconds, touched again by how well she knew him and how deeply she cared. Unable to voice it, he merely nodded his head, squeezing her hand gently. Unexpectedly, he had another flash of memory. Only instead of a visual, it was tactile. He could feel hands ghosting over his face and chest. A chill swept through him as he realized not all of the touches to his chest were through fabric, some of them were skin to skin. His grip on Robin tightened as he fought off the rising panic. She'd said his team had gotten to him in time, that nothing had happened and he knew she wouldn't lie to him about that. Still...
"Robin, when... when they found me..."
Robin hesitated for a second but replied before Don could react to it. "She had ripped off your shirt, but that was probably a good thing."
"In doing so, she discovered that you were wired, which served to distract her for the final few minutes David and the others needed to get to you."
Shit. She'd removed his shirt and... touched him. Don swallowed and suppressed a shudder at the thought as he tried to rationalize away his feelings. If Robin was right, then he really couldn't complain, could he? After all, he was always bare-chested when he went to the beach and even enjoyed the appreciative looks he got when doing so. But the touch... it made his skin crawl to think of their killer touching him and even the half remembered touches caused a wave of disgust to rise within him along with something else he didn't really want to examine too closely just now. No doubt Bradford would make him do exactly that, but he could deal with that later.
Robin must have sensed his inner turmoil as she leaned forwards to hug him and he reached forwards almost desperately. The images and emotions slammed into him unexpectedly and he shoved her away unthinkingly, gasping as he scrambled for control. Fear, disgust and helplessness welled up inside of him along with flashes of light, traces of a sickly sweet smell and, of all things, an image of himself and Robin at the fundraiser ball when they'd managed to sneak away for a bit.
This time, Robin's voice did manage to break through the rising panic and Don used it to help himself focus on the present. As he did so, the incessant beeping decreased to a more manageable level as he got his breathing under control as well. Focusing on Robin, he got himself to calm down some more, silently telling himself, over and over, that it was done, finished. His team had rescued him and... wait, Robin had never said anything about the killer herself.
"Did they get her?" Don asked.
"Yes, we did," Nikki declared.
Don's head whipped to the right to look at the newest member of his team. When had she arrived? He wasn't sure he wanted to know, given that he'd just had another panic attack.
"David and Colby are having another go at her now."
Okay, that was good. She wouldn't harm anyone ever again, including himself.
"What just happened?" Robin inquired uncertainly.
He nearly flinched as he thought about how he'd shoved her aside, but Don was relieved that she instantly took his hand when he reached for her.
"Your perfume, I think," Don explained, a little uncertain himself.
"Let me," Nikki said, stepping closer to Robin and taking a sniff. "Yes, that's the same perfume Kade was wearing."
"You mean-" Robin began, horrified.
"They do say smell is the most powerful memory trigger."
"Oh God, I'm sorry."
"Hey, it wasn't your fault," Don soothed, tugging at her hand. "C'mere."
Instead of complying, Robin resisted, shaking her head. "No, it'll just trigger another flashback and that nurse will kick me out."
"No, it won't. I know what it is now."
When she still hesitated, Don tugged a bit harder until she caved, leaning forwards once more. When she got closer, he turned his head away so his face rested on her shoulder, facing away from her neck. It felt surprisingly good just to hold her and be held by her, and he allowed himself a few moments to simply enjoy it despite their audience. Given the circumstances, he figured Nikki would understand and, if not, he could always blame it on the drugs.
"Well, now I have an excuse to tell my sister never to get me this horrible perfume again."
The statement startled a laugh out of Don and he loved Robin for trying to lighten the mood somewhat.
"What happened?" Don demanded once Robin pulled away, though she maintained her grip on his hand.
"Well, it's all still in the early stages yet, but it would appear that Kade's husband was in the armed forced and was brutally attacked and killed by fellow soldiers," Nikki explained. "Apparently they believed he was gay for some reason and sodomized him."
"A hate crime?" Robin questioned in disbelief. "All of this traces back to a hate crime?"
"So, what, she decided to take her revenge on other members of the armed forces?" Don inquired.
"She said something to the effect that all of those arrogant bastards are the same and deserved what was coming to them. That she merely gave them a dose of their own medicine and prevented them from harming other honest and hardworking soldiers."
"Okay, I can see how she might have twisted things around to that point of view, but that still doesn't explain what happened last night. Why did she target me? I wasn't acting anything like her previous victims, nor was I wearing anything to suggest that I could be military."
"It seems our setup was originally going to work," Nikki began. "She admits to having had her eye on Colby."
"What changed?" Robin asked.
"She caught sight of Don when Colby made his way to the bar. Apparently, Don, you remind her quite a bit of her husband."
"She wanted to rape her husband?" Robin demanded, incredulous.
"No, not rape," Don corrected. "Recreate. That's it, isn't it?"
"Yes," Nikki replied, startled. "Jenna seems to think her mind twisted reality so much that it wouldn't have been rape with you. You were her husband substitute and thus would be willing."
"She's gonna get off on an insanity plea," Robin stated, anger leaking into her voice.
"It sounds like she is. So how exactly did I remind her of her husband?"
"She seemed to fixate on your eyes," Nikki said. "From the photo we have of him, your eyes are kind of similar, but beyond that there's not much you have in common except for both being in good physical condition."
"So, then what was it?"
"Your, eh, aura of authority and, eh, power. Apparently. She kept going on about that, that you were strong and a leader. Jenna calls it an alpha male thing, says that Colonel Kade was one too based on his record."
Alpha male? Okay, Don could see that, could also see how, if her husband had been one, much worse that made what had happened to him. The fact that several young men had overpowered, sodomized and killed him, a strong and able man, would have enraged her if she'd always been so fixated on his alpha male status. It might even have been enough to make her mind snap if she'd already had a more fragile grip on sanity than normal.
"And," Nikki began hesitantly, glancing uncertainly at Robin.
"And what?" Don demanded.
"And she said she liked how you looked almost exclusively at the faces of the... uh... women you... flirted with, instead of looking at their breasts."
Don repeated the words numbly, unable to recall doing so. He felt Robin stiffen slightly beside him, but she remained quiet. He wasn't sure though if that was out of anger or deference to his current situation. Then there was a flash of memory and he looked up at his agent sharply.
"Did you call me a dog?"
"Ah, yeah," Nikki admitted, reluctantly, shifting uncomfortably. "Don't worry, Liz already told me they'd all approached you and you were merely maintaining your cover. Said we probably shouldn't have gotten you those leather pants."
"Leather pants?" Robin questioned. "Wait, you and Liz dressed Don for the op?"
"They were in charge of ensuring everyone was dressed appropriately to blend in," Don explained quickly. "Including me. So, Kade liked that I didn't treat those women objectively."
"Yes. Combined with the rest, it was enough to make her decide to change her plans despite having the perfect victim laid out before her."
"Great," Don sank back against the pillows wearily. "Treat women poorly and you're considered a pig, but treat them properly and you attract a sexual predator's attention. You just can't win these days, can you?"
"That's what happens when you let men run things. Put us in charge and you might get some better options," Nikki said.
"Or how about I just avoid nightclubs?"
"You didn't like the music, did you?" Robin inquired with a small smile.
"I don't recall any music, just noise blasted out at deafening levels," Don replied just as the door to the room opened and a doctor walked in.
"And that's my cue to leave," Nikki said. "I'll let David know you're awake."
First off, I'd like to apologize for not getting this fic done and posted on time. It was supposed to go up by yesterday and, while it was finished, I hadn't yet edited it and thus elected to wait a day. As it is, this fic is unbetad, so sorry if there are still silly mistakes in it.
Not sure what people will think of this fic, but I'm quite pleased with it. Parts of it turned out very different from expected (the whole Chandler thing was so not planned), but in a good way. At least IMHO.
And, yes, I'm quite aware of the fact that I've been drugging poor Donny a lot lately. What can I say? It's fun and will happen again in future fics.
The title of this piece comes from the expression Everything that sparkles isn't gold, in reference to the fact that things aren't quite what they seem. Both to Kade's victims who saw a harmless woman and to the team who thought they had a handle on her. It came to me last minute, but I quite like it now.
For those of you wondering who the female agent was at the end of the first bit, I pictured Liz, but Don was too far gone by that point to remember her name. As for where Alan and Charlie are at the end, well, everyone needs to eat and I figure Alan probably dragged Charlie off to the cafeteria. After all, Don wasn't supposed to wake for a little while yet.
Finally, I'd like to thank Loozy for her help in selecting an appropriate lipstick color, name and brand. Since I don't really use the stuff, I'm completely hopeless with it.