Just Like A Tattoo: Up and Out
Ian Archer slept a total of three hours and seventeen minutes, his eyes snapping open to stare at the time reading 2: 43 AM on the school administered iPod sitting on the edge of his nightstand. He groaned, pulling the blankets up over his face and simply lying there for a long moment before he gave in to his mind and sat up. His hands shook slightly as he stood, folding the blanket on his bed into the smallest square possible before shoving it into his already overstuffed shoulder bag. For awhile he paced, his eyes straining through the shadows covering the room between The Great Unknown and Gabe's snoring form. He was nervous and jittery, and after staring at his trembling hands for a bit he decided a nice, relaxing shower was in order.
The hot spray was comforting for a brief amount of time, undoing some of the knots he'd worked up in his shoulders. Ian groaned, leaning his head against the cool tile of the wall, watching tiny droplets drip into the drain from his bangs and swirl away into nothingness. In the back of his head he thought about the possibility that this would be his last decent shower for awhile. Or ever. He swallowed, turning the water off and grabbing a towel.
It didn't take him long to get ready, it never did here. He needn't spend time picking out what to wear that day, or rifling through his closet or drawers. White polo, red tie that he didn't bother to mess with, a red sweater over everything, and kaki pants. Perfect, pristine, the very image of a good little probe.
Opening the door as quietly as possible he made his way back to his bed, eyeing the shoulder bag apprehensively before digging through it, touching each and every item to reassure himself he had everything he needed, checking things off of his mental list for the hundredth time in the last twenty-four hours. Sighing with semi-relief to find everything still in it's proper place he glanced at the time again.
He padded past tightly drawn curtains to the bed closest to the window, staring down at its sleeping occupant for a moment before he sat down on the edge of the mattress, prepared to wait and watch the minutes go by.
Gabe Forrest was a restless sleeper, rolling over every seven or more minutes, sock monkey tucked tight against his chest. He was also a sleep talker, though Ian had long given up trying to decipher his random mumblings and noises in the night. Tonight's topic, from what he could tell, was tomatoes, and Ian couldn't help but smile as Gabe ground out something about how they were just so red and triangular.
Lost in thought he didn't notice the insistent beeping of the alarm until Gabe rolled over beside him, knocking his own Whisper monitored iPod from the nightstand with a huff. Turning onto his back again, the shorter teen stared up at him with a glassy but amused look in his eyes, "You like watching me sleep?" he mocked lightly, words muffled slightly by a large yawn at the end.
Ian rolled his eyes, "In your dreams."
Gabe's gaze fell to his friend's lap, taking in the shaking hands caught in mid wring, knuckles deathly white. "Nervous?" he whispered, sitting up so that he could look Ian in the eye. The other nodded, swallowing but avoiding Gabe's eyes. "We've been planning this for months, Ian. Relax. What's the worst that could happen?" The taller stood, pacing to the window to eye the smudge of light beginning to streak across the horizon. "We could die," he answered. "Or get captured and sent to West Campus. Get turned into gnomes possibly." He turned his gaze back to Gabe, letting his eyes linger for a moment before he looked away again, "Or you could all die and I would be left alone."
"Every member of Odysseus's crew ends up dead," Ian quoted, keeping his eyes on the lightening world outside.
Gabe let the words sink in, soaking up the feeling of dread he'd felt the first time he'd heard them before squashing the fear down, burying it somewhere deep inside himself where he couldn't feel it anymore. "We're not your crew," he murmured finally, standing and walking over to Ian so that he too could peer out over the darkened school grounds, "We're your friends."
Ian smiled, the expression just barely tugging up the corners of his mouth, "I'm glad you're here with me, Gabe."
"Back at ya buddy," Gabe smirked, grabbing Senior Guapo from his pillow and stuffing it into his own shoulder bag. "Now come on, time's a' wasting and we have to meet the girls in a half hour."
"You're the one who took forever to wake up," Ian pointed out.
Gabe snorted, "Why are you surprised? If you didn't wake me for classes I'd never get out of bed." He shrugged, pointing to an unplugged coffee pot on his desk, "Coffee, now. Or I'll be even less of a morning person by the time I get out of the shower."
"Yes oh great one," Ian teased, moving to go fill the thing in the bathroom quick.
"And I didn't even have to Hyper-suade you this time," Gabe replied gleefully.
Ian raised an eyebrow, plugging the appliance in and dumping a cup of grounds into it, "Do you usually?"
"Of course not," Gabe sing-songed, dancing off to the shower, "I promised to never use my powers against you, remember?"
Ian sat on the edge of Gabe's bed, his right leg jiggling restlessly as he waited, literally twiddling his thumbs as he listened to the sound of running water echoing from the bathroom. Calm down, he thought to himself, evening out his breathing every time it sped up. You need to keep calm. It makes everyone else feel calm. Gabe had told him that once, explaining that when the leader was of a collected mind, so too would be his comrades.
He'd never really wanted to be the leader.
Breath in. Breath out. He became lost in himself again, going over the exact game plan for the hour ahead, over and over until he'd smoothed out the numerous flaws in it, as though there was no way it could go wrong. He knew better.
A knock on his door nearly made Ian jump out of his skin, and the hairs on the back of his neck raised as he stalked towards the sound, cracking the door open so he could see who was calling at this time of morning.
Ian allowed the door to open further, watching with a flash of relief as Ray slid inside, flopping down on Ian's bed with a sigh. "Who else would be at your door on this crucial day at this time?" he asked, staring up his crooked nose at the other.
Ian pursed his lips, "Gnomes, nosey faculty perhaps?" he suggested, annoyed.
Ray chuckled softly, "Well, please do inform me of the day Gnomes are allowed to wander freely through the halls."
The blonde raised an eyebrow but let the joke wash over him enough to make him smile a bit, "I don't plan to be here long enough to see that day," he remarked, and Ray nodded.
At that moment Gabe emerged from the bathroom, a billow of steam following him into the room as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, ignoring the wet drip of his hair onto his red uniform sweater, "Just let me dry off for a second and we can haul ass out of here," he yawned, crouching down beside his bed to check for any necessities he could have forgotten.
Ray eyed him with a bored expression, Ian reaching for the iPod beside his bed absentmindedly. He took it from it's charging stand and palmed it, rolling it over in his hand contemplatively. Whisper had said she was scared too, surely he could take this small piece of her with him, if only to prove the existence of this sick school. He pocketed it, making sure neither Gabe nor Ray saw him do it, it would only cause an argument.
"Ready-setty?" Gabe asked, jumping up with his back over his shoulder.
"Is 'setty' even a word?" Ray asked sarcastically, earning a shove from Ian and a glare from Gabe. They may be partners in crime now, working towards the same goal, but that didn't mean they got along often. Or at all. "Just trying to diffuse the tension," he scowled, nodding towards Ian's clenched hands.
Ian breathed out, uncurling his fingers from his palms as they filed out the door, Gabe waving at The Great Unknown before they closed it behind them and stepped into the hall. A wash of nostalgia crept over Ian then, and he glanced at the door, hoping that it would be the last time he saw it, and at the same time already missing the almost carefree shenanigans that went on within it's confines. He and Gabe stuffing their faces with candy snitched from the dining hall, watching old black and white movies Whisper pulled up for them on the computer, piling their dirty laundry on The Great Unknown while he was sleeping, and mourning the loss of said clothes when they had vanished the next morning.
"This is it," Gabe whispered, nudging Ian away from the door, "Come on, let's go get the girls."
Ian's knuckles rapped against the door three times. He waited a heartbeat, and knocked twice more, shortly followed by a single rap against the wood. It was a code they'd set up specifically for this morning, knowing that if they'd been found out the first of their group to be apprehended would be the girls, as their powers didn't help in any way should they need to defend themselves.
The door cracked open and Ray's shoulders slumped in relief on Ian's right as Suki stared out at them before coming out into the hall. "All set?" Ian smiled, putting on his best fearless leader face for her.
"Yeah," Suki whispered, motioning for CJ to come out of the room.
CJ sidled out into the hall as well, carrying a rather heavy looking length of rope in one hand. She passed it to Ray, watching as he slung it over his shoulder easily without question, a determined look crossing his face. "I don't want to psych you out or anything," she said evenly to him, "But there can't be any mistakes today."
"I haven't made any in the trial runs we've done," he countered easily, glancing around their little group, gaze unwavering, "You can count on me."
"We know," Suki nodded, tugging at CJ's arm, "Now let's get moving before Whisper reports us or something."
Ian glanced up at the bubble-like cameras in the corners of the hall, "I don't think we'll have to worry about that today," he murmured, turning and leading the way around the corner.
It took only a few steps for CJ to catch up to him, looking at him in that masked, but scrutinizing way she always did when she was trying to read people. "You've gotten pretty good at putting on a fake smile," she whispered, the words for his ears alone."
"Seems to work on anyone but you," he hissed, annoyed that once again he'd failed to hide anything from her.
"Gabe can see right through you," she pointed out mildly, causing him to glance back at the shorter teen apprehensively. "That's why he's but up his brave façade as well. He knows you're trying to be fearless for us so that we won't be scared, so he's trying his best not to be."
Ian groaned softly, wondering if everyone could see right through him. "Ray and Suki have complete faith in you, they haven't noticed a thing," CJ cut into his thoughts, making him blink. The question must have quite literally been all over his face. "Not that we all don't have faith in you," she amended, smiling. "We believe in you, Ian."
"I wish you didn't," he admitted softly, glancing over his shoulder towards Gabe, Suki, and Ray again. The weight of their lives being in his hands was almost too much to bear sometimes, now being one of them. If he failed, if something went wrong, it would be his fault. The thought alone made him feel sick with fear.
For a moment, Gabe looked up, catching Ian's eyes as the fear flashed through them and he nodded, smiling reassuringly. Ian grinned in return, doing his best to quench that flash of dread. Everything was going to work out just fine.
The wall that surrounded the school grounds glinted in the dawn sunlight, bright and metallic stretching up towards the sky just over twenty feet tall. Ian measured the steps it took to reach it, counting them out until he stood at it's base, staring up it's length with grim determination. They'd been planning, they'd been practicing, and nothing could go wrong. At least that's what he kept telling himself, if only to maintain his fearless façade. He turned, facing the forest and watching as Ray situated his bag and the rope over his shoulders fifty feet away, gritting his teeth before he nodded shortly towards Ian.
Ian latched his fingers together, leaning down to level his hands with his knees, waiting. One, two, three. Ray surged forward, using the enhanced strength in his leg muscles to propel him forward as fast as any Olympic runner. He jumped, right foot landing in Ian's cupped hands, and Ian heaved, throwing him as high as he could, the movement doubled because of the running start. Ray's fingers barely caught the curved edge of the wall's top, slipping along it's surface as the rest of them held their breath down below. Gasping, Ray struggled to get a grip, dragging himself over onto the other side.
They waited, counting the seconds after Ray disappeared behind the wall. Ten, then fifteen, and finally a full forty before a rock came sailing into view, one end of the rope tied around it. Ian sidestepped, letting it fall to the ground with a muffled whump, a laugh escaping him. This was it, they were finally getting out of this hell hole. Untying the rock, he handed the rope to Suki, motioning towards the wall. Suki nodded, grabbing hold of it and tugging twice.
Slowly, from the other side the rope began to move, pulling her up and out of the school grounds. Two down, three to go. Gabe was fiddling with something in his bag as Ian gestured for CJ to go next, and he looked up at Ian with sudden alarm in his eyes. "Uhh . . ."
Ian shifted his attention to him instantly, catching the edge in the other's tone. Gabe was holding the Gnome communicator to his ear, blinking as words came in through the static buzz.
"Sector . . . Five on the run . . . Appre . . . Force . . ."
"Shit," Ian mouthed, glaring up at the wall, "Ray, speed it up will ya!" he called, "We've got Gnomes approaching!"
CJ's gaze immediately dropped to them from where she was halfway towards the top, eyes wide. Ian knew what she was thinking, feeling. The fear of getting caught when they were so close, and the futile hope that Cal would show up. No matter how many times he'd told her what had happened, he knew she didn't truly accept it. Cal was a Gnome now, mindless and simply following orders, no matter who he hurt. "Go!" he snapped, shaking his head at her. This was no time to see if they could return Cal to who he was. Not now, and probably not ever.
She scrambled over the top and Ian grabbed Gabe, tying the rope around his friend's waist against his protests, tugging on it and watching as Gabe struggled to undo the knot, even as Ray pulled him to safety. The smaller teen was just above Ian's reach when the first eerie green lights appeared through the trees, moving fast towards them. The communicator was still switched on, now halfway up the wall in Gabe's bag.
"Capture . . . Delinquents . . . Restrain . . ."
"Ian!" Gabe screamed, flailing against the knot holding him in place, reaching down as far as he could, "Come on Ian, jump!"
Ian ignored him, raising his fists as the first Gnomes came at him, forcing them back with a practiced series of blows. He'd trained, he was ready, he'd had little doubt he wouldn't make it out. Maybe he was never meant to.
He kicked out, watching with mild satisfaction as the Gnome tumbled backwards, creating a small domino effect among it's fellows. A laugh bubbled up in his throat, and he swallowed. He was going insane, and he was going to die here.
"Ian!" Gabe wouldn't stop calling is name, frightened, anguished as he continued to rise towards the top of the wall, reaching down as far as he could though there was now way Ian could catch his hands now. "God, Ian, stop trying to be the hero!" he shrieked, clawing at the rope around his waist again desperately, "Come on! Please!"
For an instant, Ian could only hear Gabe's voice, surrounding him, enveloping him, pleading with him to move. And so he did, reaching for the nearest Gnome and bowling it over, leaping up onto it's shoulders as it fell, extending his hand as high as he could.
And miraculously, Gabe grabbed it, sweaty fingers latching firmly around Ian's with a triumphant "Whoo!" Ian couldn't believe Gabe's strength as he hauled him up, grasping both of his hands in his own as they scrabbled over the edge of the wall. With nothing to hold the rope up on the other side any longer, they tumbled over the wall, dropping a mere twelve feet compared to the opposite twenty, landing in surprisingly soft undergrowth.
Ian groaned, listening to the howls of the Gnomes who'd lost their pray on the other side, rubbing the lump forming on his head. His breath came in short, nervous gasps, ending in a big whoosh of air as Gabe's arms snaked around his chest, squeezing him tight. "G-Gabe-" he wheezed.
"You're such an idiot," Gabe snarled against Ian's shirt, behind them, Ray and the girls laughed.
Ian struggled to sit up, Gabe still tangled around him stubbornly, "You . . . You Hyper-suaded me!" he said suddenly, realizing why he'd felt that sudden tug of urgency a few moments before to escape the fray.
"So?" Gabe said, raising an eyebrow.
"So," Ian all but snarled, "You promised to never use your powers on me!"
"No," Gabe corrected evenly, pulling back to glare at him, "You threatened Senior Guapo on pain of death in West Campus if I used my powers! I promised nothing." He frowned, "And in case you didn't notice I saved your life you nincompoop!"
Ian did his best to hold up his annoyed look, but faltered at Gabe's last exclamation, lapsing into a fit of laughter. Gabe looked taken aback, mouth dropping open in surprise, "Wha-"
"You called me a 'nincompoop,'" Ian chuckled, clutching at his sides. Gabe raised an eyebrow, but giggled in response, shrieking as Ian reached over and dug his knuckles into the smaller teen's sides. "We're out!" he exclaimed gleefully, receiving an accompanying whoop from Gabe.
Ray blinked, stunned at their carefree actions before he too started to laugh, letting the joy of escape consume him. The girls watched for a moment before joining in, until the whole forest rang with their ecstatic laughter that echoed with freedom.
RANDOM AUTHOR RAMBLE
I should REALLY be working on my Gabriel Big Bang fic right now, as it's due in like, three weeks. And I have yet to write a word out of 100,000 of it. Boo. BUT I am obsessed with writing THIS fic that's been nagging at the back of my brain since episode one. In case you can't tell, or didn't read the fic summary, this WILL be an Ian/Gabe fic. I am proud to say I am one of the people who caught these two at episode one and vidded and doodled about it right away. O 3o so I'm very excited to see this come to fruition. And I was super empowered to work on it after ep 8. Cause I love Ray. And Cal. And Ray/Suki and Cal/CJ. So incase you're fic pairing oblivious . . . There's a big clue to the future of this fic.