Many thanks to my wonderful beta, moonflower333 :)
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.
A/N: Thanks for your patience, everyone. We're heading into the final chapters here, and since I still haven't quite got the hang of ending a story... well, this might take a while. Chapters will be coming erratically instead of the usual once a week, but I swear to you, this will not be a dead fic. Just keep checking back for updates; they'll show up eventually.
The first part of this chapter will look familiar to those who read the chapters being replaced here, but don't go skipping anything because significant plot points have changed.
Chapter Thirty-Three: A Dose of Reality
Devon sat at her vanity and stared at her reflection in the hand mirror. The reflection stared back. It was recognizably her face, but undeniably different. The changes were subtle, almost mocking, as if she had become a caricature of herself. She turned from the little silver thing to her makeup mirror and the distorted image there.
There was cruelty in her mouth that she had never noticed before, something in the way her lips seemed to naturally sneer. Had that always been there? Her eyes were calculating and greedy, unsatisfied with everything they observed. How could she have missed that? She read narcissism in her face and the set of her shoulders, self-centered and stupid. There was more. Every time she looked, something was different and subtly wrong and she shuddered at the thought of standing naked before the full-length mirror in the bathroom.
The images conveyed a hard-edged truth that Devon could not deny. She was petty in every sense of the word. The Radcliffs could have killed her at any time, but they held back because she was not worth it. That stung.
She stood and paced the room, breathing hard and gulping back sudden tears. Clothes, hangers, and hair care products littered the floor and she kicked them out of her way. Unimportant. She was unimportant. That was the worst part.
The witch stood in the middle of the room and closed her eyes. She grabbed her hair in both fists and forced herself to take deep breaths while willing a little clarity into her mind. How had things gotten so bad? She used to be someone in the Gates. The wife of the developer, the center of the social scene. Now her place had been usurped by Vanessa – no. She took one last deep breath and lowered her arms to her side. If she had ever been as important as she thought she was, the divorce could not have taken it from her.
Devon made a frustrated noise and started tossing objects into a suitcase that was already nearly full. There was no hope it could contain everything she intended it to. She laughed a little. Maybe there was a spell for that.
Dylan woke with a gasp of pain. The bed trembled and the sheets felt like sandpaper against his burned skin. He turned his head and opened one eye to see Emily clambering across the comforter. From somewhere nearby Nick's voice said, "Emily, sweetie, hop off the bed. You're shaking it."
"It's alright," Dylan croaked. He raised his less injured arm, inviting the girl to curl up next to him, which she promptly did. He held still and composed his face while she settled herself comfortably. Though it hurt, now that he knew he was in no immediate danger, the vampire could accept the pain and mentally set it aside.
"You back with us or are you going to start talking about Michael again?"
Dylan stiffened and stared at Nick. The chief of police stood by one of the heavily curtained windows, one finger holding the fabric back just far enough for him to peek through the glass. The vampire's head felt like it was stuffed with cotton and the only response he could muster was a confused, "What?" Nick let the curtain drop and walked into the bathroom. Dylan noticed for the first time that he was not in uniform. When he returned, he held a bag of blood at arm's length.
"Here," Nick said, trying not to let the disgust show on his face as he handed the bag over. "Can you drink it on your own?"
Emily uncurled enough to lean close to Dylan's ear and whisper, "He's a wuss."
"I heard that," Nick said without ire. Dylan chuckled and regretted it. When the pain subsided to a level he was prepared to cope with, Emily helped her father cut the bag open and drink while the police chief returned to his vigil at the window.
"What was that about Michael?" Dylan asked when he had finished off the bag.
Nick shrugged. "You woke up about fifteen minutes ago, drank some… some of that." He gestured at the empty bag on the night stand. "Then you said something about a guy named Michael. I'm guessing you two aren't friends."
"No, I suppose we're not. Chalk it up to lack of blood to the brain. How long have I been here?"
"'Bout half an hour. Zach helped carry you up before he and Charlotte went after the wolves that attacked you. Claire called just after I got here. She knew you were hurt. Now, I'd really like to know how she knew that but first, if you're feeling up to it, I think we should go to my place. I don't think it's safe here."
"And your house is?"
"Got a better idea?"
"Actually, no, but I don't think it's an option. See these burns?"
"They're hard to miss."
"Well, I put the sunscreen on this morning. I always do."
Nick frowned at him. "So what are you saying, it doesn't work anymore?"
"I don't know. I don't want to think that far ahead. I know it's not working today."
Nick swore. "Well, that explains it. Claire said she couldn't be here until tonight. I just thought she was still pissed at you." He shrugged. "Guess that solves one problem for me. Here I was, trying to think of a way to break it to you easy that your wife couldn't be bothered to show up to your mauling."
"You needn't have bothered." Dylan smirked. "She dispensed the last one."
"Domestic disturbance, huh?"
"In her defense she did help set my leg afterwards."
"Nice of her."
"I thought so."
The blood was doing its job and Dylan felt as if the cobwebs in his head were being swept away. He sat up a little and Emily scooted to the side as he began to take stock of his injuries. Bites pocked his arms, shoulders, and one leg, but most of those were already scabbed over and itching. Burns on his shoulder and back had begun to reverse the process of tightening and cracking. Blackened bits of skin had flaked off and dusted the sheets.
When he leaned forward, the pillow case stuck to his back and his head filled with white noise as he slowly separated the cloth from skin that had healed around the fibers. Emily took over when he found he could not reach far enough toward the left side of his shoulder without opening wounds again. If she or Nick said anything, Dylan could not hear it over the white buzzing in his ears. He must have blacked out again because he was suddenly aware of Nick supporting his back and head while Emily helped pour a glass of cold blood down his throat.
"Sorry," Nick said a few minutes later. "Claire said not to wrap up your arm, but I didn't think about..." He raked a hand through his hair, tension that had begun to relax snapping taught again. "Shit."
"It'll heal," the vampire assured him. He glanced at his left arm and quickly away again. The mess of burned and torn meat did not bear thinking about just yet. He leaned forward, preventing his back from touching the pillow again, and, drawing up a knee, rested the unburned side of his face against it. "I've had worse."
Nick shook his head and managed a small smile. "I think you're lying to me again."
"Not a bit of it. Did you know we can regenerate whole limbs?" Dylan rolled his eyes at Nick's stricken expression. "That was meant to reassure you."
"You suck at reassurance."
The vampire turned to his daughter and sighed. "You're right. He is a wuss." Emily smiled but the humor dissipated quickly. Dylan cleared his throat. "Is there any more blood?"
The police chief barely hesitated before retrieving two more bags from the bathroom.
"This is it," he said as he handed them over. "There's nothing else in the house and don't expect any donations."
Dylan downed the remainder of the blood in short order.
Nick picked up Claire's vanity chair and sat it down next to the bed. He pulled his cell from his back pocket and sat. "If we can't move you, then I'm going to ask Sarah to pick up Emily."
Dylan's arm tightened around the girl and he almost protested, horrified at the thought of separating the family more than it already was. Vampire families congregated in times of crisis, seeking strength in numbers, unless the crisis was a spat between family members, which was often. He took a deep breath and nodded. Emily could no more protect him than he could her in his current state of injury. She did not argue, only gave him a grim smile.
"For what its worth," Nick said after snapping his phone shut, "I trust Zach."
"Well that just fills me with confidence, you being such a good judge of character and all." Exhaustion leached much of the sarcasm from his voice but Nick seemed to understand the spirit in which the comment was intended.
"I think I'm a pretty good judge of character."
"And yet here you are keeping watch over me. You're like my own personal Renfield."
"There you go, thinking everything's about you again. Are all vampires this egotistical or is it just you?"
Dylan's mouth twitched in the ghost of a smile. He wanted nothing more than to go to sleep for a solid twenty-four hours but could not risk the vulnerability. Talking kept him awake and the banter was amusing enough.
"Far as I'm concerned," Nick continued, "This is purely professional. There's been a break in and an assault and since I can't exactly bring in backup without more explanation than its worth, here I am." Nick sighed. "But seriously, Dylan, what am I supposed to do about this?"
"I hear silver bullets are effective."
Nick laughed quietly and shook his head. "I don't want to play vigilante again. I trust Zach enough that if he says he's going to head off another attack, I believe him."
"Don't be stupid. The wisest thing for them to do is to regroup and come at me again with more force, and maybe even to kill you too. I won't be able to fight them off again, and they must know that revenge is fairly likely."
Nick shook his head. "That's not the vibe I get from them. I don't think they'll be back." The police chief leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and his face the picture of reasonability. "And anyway, look, you'll make a full recovery and there won't even be any medical bills, so there's no need to get back at them."
"It's not just about getting back at them." Dylan turned his head to meet the police chief's eyes. "Even if they don't attack again today, they may change their minds at any time. The closer I get to a full recovery, the more I start looking like a threat. If they don't attack today, it only means I heavily injured their most capable fighters. It's a race to recovery, that's all. I'll be safest if I strike first."
"They thought you were like Justin, some out of control killer in the Gates. They did what they thought was right."
Dylan moved his right shoulder in a miniscule shrug. "Maybe, but that's out the window now. If I wasn't really a threat before, then I most certainly am now. And here you are in the middle of it. No telling what they'll do with you. For your own good, I suggest you stay out of it."
"'Fraid I cant do that." Nick shrugged and leaned back in the chair. He gave the vampire a crooked smile. "Comes with being the chief of police."
"Then they will probably kill you too."
"Do all vampires think this way?"
"All the ones who survive to my age, yes. Kill or be killed, you know. It's the only sensible thing to do."
"Uh-huh," Nick said skeptically. "So what are you going to do? Sneak attack them with your crutch?"
Dylan regarded the police chief for a long quiet moment then said, "I have several options but the most attractive is to run. Tonight, when Claire arrives, we'll pack and go to Franklin. I'm in no state to pick a fight with anyone and Claire got into a scrap in Franklin so she's not at a hundred percent, either."
"More vampires. Someone's turning people again."
"For the love of... Hang on. You mean to tell me that you'd rather go to Franklin, where the vampires that somehow injured your wife live than try to work it out with the werewolves here? How is that a better plan?"
"The vampires don't know where I live."
"Okay, look. Will you do me a favor?"
"Shut up. Just don't do anything crazy, huh? Give me a chance to figure this out my way. Zach's a reasonable guy."
"Why does it matter to you? Aren't you going to Miami?"
"What?" Nick frowned in confusion for a moment, as if the thought of leaving the Gates had not crossed his mind since his first mention of it to Dylan several days ago. Then he blinked and his face cleared. "Oh, I don't know. Maybe. I'm thinking about it." He pulled his phone out and started pushing buttons, avoiding Dylan's eyes.
"One liar knows another, Nick," the vampire said gently. "Who are you calling?"
"You're getting more people involved? You do realize that he's the one who let them in and then neglected to mention it."
Nick put the phone to his ear and smiled the first real smile Dylan had seen from the man all day. "Exactly," he said. "And when this is over, I'm going to ask for a raise."