Many thanks to my wonderful betas, moonflower333 and Kitera :)
Fandom: The Gates
Title: Deep in the Wilds of Suburbia
Rating: Call it PG-13
Summery: What if the paranormals had no more clue about each other's presence in the Gates than the Monahans do? Devon gets into some bad Juju and Nick and Dylan team up to track down a rogue vampire.
Disclaimer: I don't own it. I'm just borrowing it, and when I'm done with it I'll put it back where I found it.
A/N: I started writing this around the time "Repercussions" aired, so I fully expect to be Jossed before the end of it. I'll do my best to jive with the show as much as possible, given that none of knows everything the real writers are going to throw at us.
Chapter One: It Was a Bright and Sunny Day
It was peaceful out here. The sun was high, but it was cool under the trees and the susurrus noise the leaves made was enough to mask the highway a mile back. The leaves moved in a breeze Nick Monahan could not feel on the ground here. He had followed Dylan's instructions, left his wife's car in the grassy lot behind the closed gas station, hidden from the street. A deer trail, hardly noticeable, started just past the thick shrubbery at the edge of the trees and led a mile north to a small clearing. Here a blackened fire pit was surrounded on three sides by rotting logs and the whole clearing was littered with old food containers, glass bottles and cigarette butts. It did not take long for Nick to find the large white stone that marked Teresa's grave.
That was, of course, assuming Dylan had told him the truth. Nick supposed he would just have to trust the man… or whatever. Nick still had not said the V-word out loud. He felt foolish for even thinking it.
Then Nick thought of something else. Since he had moved to the Gates not very long ago, there had been two bodies and one missing person. Nick looked at the white stone again. Make that three bodies. He was going to have to talk to Dylan again.
It was a Saturday, and well into the afternoon by the time Nick returned to the Gates. He came in the side door and was startled to find Dylan sitting at the bar in the kitchen, a cup of tea at his elbow. Sarah stood by the sink. Both were laughing at something.
"Hey, Nick," Sarah greeted him. Dylan gave him a sober nod and eyed him cautiously, as if Nick would be the one to bite. "Dylan came by to drop Emily off."
"Haven't they had enough of each other lately?" Nick said, walking past the bar.
Sarah glared at him from behind Dylan. She mouthed, Be nice.
A stampede of footfalls ran past invisibly above their heads, accompanied by squealing laughter.
"Didn't see your car out front," Nick said.
"Kinda hot out there, isn't it? Sunny."
"I think it's a beautiful day," Dylan said, smirking. "Where have you been on this fine, sunny afternoon?"
"Changing the oil in Sarah's car." He looked at Sarah and smiled apologetically. "Sorry it took so long. There were five people ahead of me. Next time I'll take it on a weekday."
A muffled buzzer sounded from somewhere in the house. Sarah put her cup down.
"The dryer calls," she announced. She pointed at Nick as she walked backward out of the kitchen and gave him a warning look. In response Nick raised his hands in mock innocent confusion.
As soon as she was gone, Nick turned to Dylan, who was sipping his tea and gazing dreamily out the window in the door, perfectly at his ease.
"We need to talk," Nick said.
"I've told you everything I can."
"Oh, so suddenly everything's about you?"
"Are you saying it's not?"
"Not this time. Honey?" Nick called. "I'm driving Dylan back."
A distant "Okay…" came from deep in the house.
"You're not going to run off and stick me with the check again, are you?"
"I don't know. You gonna break any more of my windows? That was real mature, by the way."
"Fair enough." Dylan nodded and had the good grace to look embarrassed.
"Come on." Nick was already halfway out the door, leaving Dylan to rush after him.
"Just go to my house," he suggested once they were in the car. "Claire went shopping. She'll be gone for hours." Nick started up the engine.
"Can you at least say why you can't tell me anything else about you?"
"You don't waste time," Dylan muttered to the window as he watched the houses and lawns pass by.
"The answer's no, I can't. I thought this wasn't about me."
"Okay. What do you know about the other residents of the Gates?"
"Are any of them…er… vampires?" Nick almost whispered the word and looked around as if the people on the sidewalk might have read his lips.
"Ehm…" Dylan winced, sighed, and finally answered, "Okay. No, not that I know of."
"Okay." Nick nodded. "So is there anything else living here that can rip a grown man's throat out?"
"What are you talking about? Oh, is this about the last chief of police?"
"No, he was shot in the head." Nick slowed the car as they pulled into the Radcliffs' driveway. "And we've already made an arrest. This is about a hunter we found in Franklin Park." He climbed out and looked back down the driveway toward the street. Perfect green lawns marched steadily down the road in either direction. The Radcliffs' mailbox was a tidier mess of broken brick than it had been the first time Nick had visited. He looked up, shading his eyes. There it was. A white camera attached to the top of a street light, recording him even now. Dylan came up behind him.
"I've been noticing those a lot lately," Dylan said.
"Know what I've been noticing? I've been here barely a month and already I've got three bodies, one missing person, last seen at your house, by the way, and a truly impressive mass robbery. And come to think of it, that suspect's dead, too. For what was supposed to be a safe, boring little suburb, this place is pretty dangerous."
"Look, I believe you love your family and you want to keep them safe. I'm here to do exactly that. You can keep blowing me off or you can help me. Which will it be?"
"I'm not blowing you off. I'm telling you the truth."
"What other kinds of ghosts and goblins are living here, huh?"
"Honestly, I don't know. I don't socialize much, if you haven't noticed. I tag along to Claire's functions, that's all."
"You been living here six years and you don't know anybody?"
"You've never lived in a suburb before, have you? Let's go inside." Dylan fished for keys in his pockets and walked up the drive. "It's not that I don't know them," he said in the foyer. "I'm just not privy to their deepest darkest secrets any more than they are mine." As he talked, he passed into the large main room and paced the walls, closing blinds and curtains. The room gradually became dim, cool and cavernous. Nick watched him curiously.
"What are you doing?" Nick asked.
"I've got a headache."
"From being in the sun all day?"
"Rr…" Dylan made an annoyed sort of growl and looked at the ceiling as if asking for patience. "Yes," he said tightly. "I have a headache because I've been in the sun too much today."
Nick grinned to himself.
"So, if you can't tell me anything about the people here, what about out there?" Nick waved a hand at the walls. "What's out there?"
"Oh, I get it." Done with the windows, Dylan went to the kitchen and brought a wine bottle out. "Now that you know a little about me, I'm your one-stop-shop for all your paranormal needs. Hm?" He picked one wine glass from a row hanging under a cabinet and held it up to Nick questioningly.
"Yeah, pretty much. No thanks."
Dylan put the glass back and leaned against the counter.
"Well, sorry to disappoint, but I don't know. Claire said she saw a ghost once." He shrugged.
"Alright. How's this." Dylan clapped his hands together and brought his fingertips to his mouth. "Before I moved here, every once in a while I might encounter something that sort of set warning bells off. This is dangerous, stay away. Before I moved here, it happened two… maybe three times. Once was when I walked into a shop and there was man that smelled… wrong." Dylan crossed his arms and looked up, remembering. "No, that's not it. He didn't smell at all, that was the trouble. But of course everything has a smell. It was wrong enough for me to walk right back out into the street."
"You can smell someone as soon as you walk in a shop?"
Dylan smiled smugly.
"Okay, go on," Nick said. He sat down at the bar on the kitchen island.
"Right. So, things like that happened a few times. Years would go by before I'd see someone with, oh, I don't know, rows of sharp teeth that put mine to shame. I saw that in a gas station in Georgia. Funny thing is, no one else in the place seemed to care."
"Maybe they didn't notice."
"Maybe they couldn't see. Maybe one hunter can spot another better than prey can."
"Is that all you are? A hunter?"
"As opposed to what?"
"I don't know, a demon?"
"There's no such thing as demons," Dylan laughed. "That's all just myth and propaganda."
"Fine. So what about here in the Gates? You ever see anything like that here?"
"Here?" He chuckled and shook his head. "Here it happens every week."
Finally, Claire thought. She had spotted Barbara at a café table by herself. It was nearly impossible to catch the woman alone, but Claire's persistence had paid off. She took a deep breath to steel herself and then walked boldly over and sat in the wrought iron chair across from Barbara, who looked at her in surprise.
"Claire!" Barbara gave her a too-bright smile. "Good to see you. How have you been?" The smile turned sly. "No more late nights, I hope."
"That's enough," Claire said in a low voice. "You have no idea what was going on the other night."
"Looked pretty obvious to me." Barbara pointed a manicured finger at Claire, still smiling. "You're fooling around behind Dylan's back. While he's spending quality time with your daughter, no less."
"You have no right to judge me."
Barbara gave Claire a long, steady look. The smile faded.
"Okay," she said. "Maybe it is unfair of me, but I can't helping thinking that…" She shook her head and leaned forward, hands clasped on the table. "From one divorcee to a potential one, stop doing whatever you were doing the other night. Besides it not being fair to Dylan –"
"You hardly know Dylan."
"True, but I know what it's going to feel like if he finds out. Anyway, it's not just that. That guy? The one you were out with? He was this close to walking out with me." She held her fingers an inch apart. "The guy's an asshole."
Claire laughed out loud, and tried to smother it with a hand over her mouth.
"Oh, Barbara, you have no idea…"
Barbara sat back, startled and affronted.
"Claire, I'm being serious."
"Barbara," Claire took a deep breath and calmed down. "Hoo… I'm not going behind Dylan's back. Not the way you think. He's an ex, alright? Dylan can't stand him, and he'd be furious if he knew I was having drinks with him, but it's just drinks. That's it."
"Sure," Barbara looked at her the way Claire sometimes looked at Emily when she misbehaved. "It starts that way, and if that's what's going on, then stop it now before it turns into something else. I haven't told anyone, if that's what you're wondering. I'm not the homewrecker." The motherly look was gone, replaced by Barbara's habitual catty smile.
Claire left, disgusted but reassured about Barbara. She had not even had to threaten the woman. Devon stepped out from around a corner to block Claire's path to the parking lot. Claire stepped up to the shorter woman so close that her nose almost touched Devon's. Her perfume smelled strongly of lilies and Claire breathed shallowly.
"Out of my way, Devon," Claire said. Devon stood her ground, and even smiled lazily.
"She's lying," the witch said.
"What are you talking about?"
"Barbara. She's telling everyone who will listen about how perfect Mrs. Radcliff is out having drinks without Mr. Radcliff."
"I am completely not surprised that you would eavesdrop."
"She told me."
"It's not working this time," Claire said. She looked around. It was lunchtime, and the crowd in the shopping square had thinned out, but there were enough suburban housewives around to look twice at the two women having a confrontation and whisper to their friends about it. Devon's perfume was sickly sweet and starting to stick at the back of Claire's throat. She stepped around Devon. "Good try, though," she said. "Better luck next time."
"What was the guy's name? Christian?" Devon put a finger to her mouth and smiled. "She told me. What's stopping her from telling anyone else?"
"Stay out of it."
"Okay, Claire?" Devon stepped up to her again and put her hands up between them, spreading her fingers out. "Look at it this way. I make problems go away. It's why people come into my shop in the first place." She waved a hand upwards. Sure enough, the sign for Devon's Day Spa hung over Claire's head. Claire had not realized how close she had come to the shop. Had she parked this close to Devon's spa? "Now, I can make your problem go away. Again."
"For a price. What will it be this time? My first born?" Claire shook her head. The perfume was making her dizzy.
"Hey, you can't get something for nothing. Why don't you come inside?"
"Why don't I not?"
"Time's wasting, Claire, and gossip travels fast. It's an easy fix."
"Then why don't you just do it?"
"Because if you're good at something, you should never do it for free." Devon tipped her head toward the door. "So, what'll it be?"
"I'm closed for lunch," Devon assured her. "We'll have privacy."
Finally, Claire moved toward the door, feeling like she was asleep and dreaming. The perfume quickly coated the inside of her mouth and throat, and crept into her sinuses, thick and sweet. It was cold and dim inside, but Claire could see perfectly. The smell was stronger here, like rotting flowers. Herbs, crystals, and sachets of teas were arranged prettily on counters and shelves. Devon walked behind the counter and pulled aside a curtain to reveal a back room. She waved a hand, inviting Claire in. Claire wove unsteadily through the open display floor to the room and entered, using the empty doorframe for support. She felt sick and breathless.
The room seemed to be used mostly for storage, with plain metal shelves lined with cardboard boxes on each wall. More paper and boxes were leaned and stacked against the walls. The center of the room was cleared to make space for a small decorative table draped with a red cloth. There was just enough room on the table for a shallow ceramic bowl and a straight razor.
"You already have…" Claire began, but forgot what she was saying.
"Your blood? That's right, Claire. It's not what I'm after this time." There was hardly enough room for the two of them to stand and not knock the table over. Devon picked up the razor. "Hold your arm out, please."
Claire did. Her head drooped and she jerked it back up, like she was back in school and trying hard to stay awake. With a quick motion, Devon swiped the razor down Claire's forearm. She held the blade up and inspected it, then smiled.
"Thank you, Claire."
Devon scraped the blade against the edge of the bowl, leaving a small dollop of clear gel behind. She laid the razor across the top of the bowl and came up to Claire. The perfume wafted into her face again.
"I'll give you a coat to wear home," Devon said sweetly. "Wouldn't want to ruin that wonderful skin of yours. But Claire?"
"Let's keep this between you and me. And if you ever need help again, I want you to come straight to me. Think you can do that?"
Claire could not remember finding her car or falling asleep in it. When she woke, hers was the only car in the lot and the sun had long since set. She drove home to find the house empty. This frightened her, and she ran around the house, calling for Dylan and Emily until she found Dylan's note on the kitchen counter.
"Went to pick Emily up from Nick's – D."
Oh, "Nick" is it? She thought. She dropped a box of tea that she carried in from the car onto the counter and pulled her coat off, only then realizing that it was not hers at all. She stuffed the thing in the back of the hall closet where it lay crumpled on the floor. What had happened to her? She had talked to Barbara, who was insufferably superior, but at least she would not gossip about Christian, which was good. And then…? For some reason she thought of lilies.