Summary: Wes has a secret. Turns out, so does Travis. Also, there are superpowers. Oneshot.
Warnings: Bromance. Bonding. Superpowers.
Disclaimer: I don't own Common Law in any way. I just love the series.
Apparently stress is a great motivator for me to write. I write a fanfic in two days last spring when I was stressing about finals, and now I've written a fic in an afternoon because I'm stressing out about my upcoming test. Wish I had a better motivator for fics than that, but hey, if it works, I'm not gonna knock it.
Hope you enjoy!
Mind And Body
Sometimes people aren't who they seem to be, and sometimes people are so much more than you originally thought.
Travis is tied up and concussed when he hears Wes, like Wes is standing right next to him, except Wes isn't even in the damn shipping container he's been locked in. He passes it off as wishful thinking and brain trauma, but then it comes again, sounding exactly like his partner except instead of hearing Wes's voice with his ears, he's hearing it somewhere right behind his eyes.
Wes? he answers with his mind, and then immediately feels stupid because this is not possible. It's just all his in his head, a byproduct of the concussion, and he shouldn't be talking to byproducts of concussions.
But Wes is there, instantly replying with, Travis? How are you? Tell me where you are, and it sounds like Wes, and it feels like Wes, sharp and stinging, cut grass and lemons, which is exactly what Travis would have thought Wes would feel like, if he'd ever thought about that sort of thing.
And maybe it's just a hallucination, or maybe it's the concussion, or maybe it's the fact that he's been tied to this chair for four hours and abandoned in a shipping container and left for dead, but he's willing to believe anything by now, and if Wes wants to start talking in his head and trying to find him, that's okay with Travis.
So he closes his eyes and thinks as loudly as he can and sends it all to Wes. I don't know where I am. My head hurts. Please find me.
Okay, okay, stop yelling, Wes grouses, and it's so familiar that Travis can't help but chuckle weakly. Keep your mind open and I'll find you. Okay Travis? I will find you.
Travis doesn't really know what that means, but he thinks, Okay, and tries his best. He focuses on Wes, on cut grass and lemons, on his epic rescue and getting out of here and getting a pizza or ten (because if there's one thing Travis deserves right now, it's as many pizzas as he can stomach, dammit). He doesn't think about the darkness or the pain in his wrists and skull or the fact that if this is all in his head, he's going to die here alone in the dark and no one will find him for days or weeks or months. He thinks about Wes and pizza and being safe and nothing else matters.
After forever and a day, the door to the shipping container creaks open. The light, blinding after so long in the dark, makes his eyes water, but through the tears he can see Wes, with a phone in one hand and his gun in the other. He finishes up his conversation on the phone even as he darts inside and starts sawing at the zip-ties around Travis's wrists.
"You found me," Travis mumbles, letting his head sag forward.
"I did," Wes says, and that's reassuring.
But even more reassuring is the feel of his partner inside his head, cut grass and lemons, bolstering him up and telling him, You're safe, Travis, I've got you, you're safe now.
He passes out knowing his partner's got his back.
He wakes briefly in the ambulance, in time to hear the paramedic ask with awe in his voice, "There were a thousand shipping containers in that warehouse. How did you know which was the right one?"
There's a long moment of silence, and then Wes says softly, "Just lucky, I guess."
Travis knows it's more than that, but he can also kind of understand why Wes wouldn't want to say anything, and he slips away again without saying a word.
When he wakes up in the hospital, Wes is sitting by his bedside, but he's gone from Travis's head, which inexplicably makes Travis a little sad. He groans and shifts, and without a word Wes is there, helping him sit up and bringing a glass of tepid water to his lips.
"Wes?" Travis croaks out when the water is gone. "It was real, right?"
Wes is casual, but Travis knows the difference between regular-casual and forced-casual; this seems more the latter. "What was real?"
"You. There. In my head." Travis takes a breath and rubs his temple, because the concussion apparently doesn't approve of the lights or talking or being awake. "It was real. Wasn't it?"
Wes is quiet for a long time, too long, before finally saying, "You were concussed and mildly delirious when I found you, Travis, Whatever you thought you saw or heard, it was all in your head."
"No!" Travis grabs Wes's hand before Wes can pull away. He ignores the way Wes flinches and holds on, glaring at his partner. "No, it was real! You crawled inside my head and you found me. How else did you stumble on just the right shipping container, huh?"
Gently, Wes extricates his hand from Travis's and says in his most soothing voice, "I was just lucky, Travis. I found you. You're safe. That's all there is to it." He stands, pulls away, manages to walk a million miles in one step. "Rest, partner. You need to rest."
And then he's gone, out the door and down the hall before Travis can come up with anything else to say. He collapses back against his pillow and closes his eyes.
He refuses to believe it. It wasn't all in his head. And when he gets out of here, they're going to have a long talk.
Except they don't.
Wes has this uncanny knack for shutting Travis down whenever he wants to bring up the warehouse, either by deflecting or by changing the subject completely. Which is just further proof that it wasn't all in Travis's head, because if it was a hallucination, then why would Wes want to avoid talking about it? But Wes does avoid, he avoids it damn well, and Travis doesn't know how to get Wes to sit down and listen long enough to talk about this.
Worse than that, though, is the way Wes is pulling away. Travis can see it happening and he doesn't know how to stop it. Wes is a little quicker to cut conversations short now, he hurries a little more to finish his paperwork so he can get out of the office as quickly as possible, he's a little faster in his cutting barbs and comebacks, he banters less and sits in brooding silence more. Travis can feel Wes getting further and further away, even though Wes isn't actually going anywhere. It's like when his marriage was first falling apart, when Wes pulled in on himself and shut Travis out. Back then, though, Travis didn't know what the problem was, and by the time he found out they'd already lost whatever they had. Now he knows the problem, but he doesn't know how to fix it.
He watches Wes, trying to find a time when he can pull his partner aside and they can talk. He watches, and now he notices things he didn't before. Or rather, they're things he noticed before, but that he never paid attention to. Like the way Wes always, always goes for his hand sanitizer after he touches someone, or someone touches him. How sometimes when he's made contact with a person, emotions will flash across his eyes that aren't his. How occasionally he'll mention something he can't possibly know, and then lie and say he heard it somewhere else. How once in a while in interrogation, he'll go at the suspect so hard with accusations he pulls out of thin air that turn out to be true.
Common happenstances that make Wes a little weird, things Travis noticed but brushed off as Wes just being Wes.
But he remembers when Wes was inside his head, and he remembers cut grass and lemon reassuring him and cocooning him and he remembers sending his own feelings through that connection, and some things make a lot more sense.
And Travis knows that he doesn't want Wes pulling away like this. Oh, maybe he doesn't want Wes crawling inside his head again, not unless he's in terrible danger and needs help immediately, but he doesn't want Wes to shut him out this completely either. They've made progress in therapy, they're doing better. They're becoming okay with each other again.
Travis refuses to lose that just because Wes is scared (or whatever) and pulling away.
Except the days pass, and Wes is so good at avoiding what he doesn't want to deal with. (Dr. Ryan would use words like 'repression' and 'denial' that Wes would reject but would be totally true.) And Travis can feel them settling down into a rhythm, a balance where Wes is holding him at arms' length and one wrong move will send Wes spiraling away for good, and that's not okay. Because if Wes keeps drawing away, they'll never be alright again, and Travis will not let that happen.
He was willing to sit through therapy to make things better between them again, wasn't he? So he's not going to let this ruin them.
He waits until Wes goes home, and he sits down and he plans.
He is not giving up without a fight.
When Wes uses the gun range, he has a tendency to use one of the sections at the end. Makes it very easy for Travis to sneak up and ambush him while Wes is shooting. Travis waits for three days until Wes is shooting alone and everyone else is doing their own thing, and then he shuffles forward. He keeps his head below counter level and darts around partitions and does everything possible to keep his thoughts quiet, because if Wes is telepathic or whatever, Travis doesn't want to give his position away too soon.
Wes doesn't seem to notice, and Travis lurks like a lurker, watching for the perfect moment. Once Wes sets down his gun, peels the noise-muffling headphones off, and starts reeling in his target, Travis springs out.
Wes jumps, turning, target forgotten. "Jesus Christ, Travis, what are you doing? Put that away before you hurt yourself."
How typically Wes. Travis jumps out of the shadows holding an open pocketknife, no one else is around, and Wes just gets snarky.
It's almost a relief. Wes hasn't been snarky since the hospital.
"I need to show you something," Travis says, and before Wes can respond, Travis slices the blade across his palm.
"What the hell?! You idiot!" It's almost gratifying how quickly Wes rushes forward (see? he cares!) tugging the knife out of Travis's hand and grabbing Travis's palm. "What are you thinking?!" He starts to pat down his pockets, looking for a hanky to stop the bleeding.
Travis would pull his hand free, but Wes is freakishly strong when he wants to be, so instead, Travis grabs Wes's flailing hand and tugs on it to get Wes's attention.
"Wes. Look at it."
"I am looking at it, you idi…ot…" Wes's eyes go wide, and Travis helpfully spreads his fingers so his entire palm is in clear view. After a moment more of silent staring, Wes releases Travis's hand and staggers back, reaching blindly behind him for the counter. He collapses against it, staring at Travis's palm. "What…how…"
"Pretty neat, huh?" Travis takes out a few crumpled napkins (absconded from lunch for this very purpose) and wipes the blood off his hand. The cut still bleeds in some places, but it's already scabbing over. A few more minutes, it'll be healed right up. He holds his mostly-clean hand up to Wes's scrutiny. "I'm like a superhero."
Wes's knees go wobbly, and he slides down to the floor. Travis follows, sitting cross-legged, palms up on his knees like a yogi.
"How is this possible?" Wes whispers once he finds his voice.
"How did you crawl inside my head?" Travis asks, just as softly. Wes's head shoots up, already withdrawing without moving an inch, and Travis keeps his face -and thoughts- non-judgemental, non-panicky. He doesn't want to scare his partner away. He just wants to understand.
Wes's shoulders are tense and his eyes are going cold and Travis is losing him, so he starts talking. "I can heal fast, faster than anyone I've ever met. Been like this for as long as I can remember. Longest I've ever been hurt was when I broke my leg in high school and limped for a week." He shrugs, nonchalant, like it's totally easy to tell his deepest secret to his partner, even though he feels like he's disemboweling himself. "It's actually pretty handy for this job."
He keeps his palms up, face open, voice light. All techniques he's learned (both over the years and from Dr. Ryan) to try and draw Wes out. Because if Wes trusts him (and Travis knows he does) then he'll understand what Travis is doing and open up himself.
It's worked a little in group. It might work even better when there's no one else around.
Wes doesn't move for a long minute, long enough that Travis wonders how badly he miscalculated. But then Wes leans forward, and Travis goes still, because that's what you do with skittish dogs, right? You stay still and let them come to you.
Wes shuffles forward a few inches and, after a quick glance for permission, slowly picks up Travis's hand, running his fingers across the gash. The ends are already knitting together. There won't even be a scar.
"So this is how you've always managed to get out of scrapes unscathed?" Wes asks, and Travis is encouraged by the awed wonder in Wes's voice. (Encouraged enough to not bother saying that most times he's not completely unscathed.) "Why hasn't anyone noticed before?"
Travis shrugs. "I just…you know. Tell them I got lucky."
It's an excuse Travis has used a thousand times, an excuse he's heard Wes use more than once, and all of a sudden it has a deeper meaning. Wes lets out a startled laugh and drops Travis's hand, scooting back to lean against the counter. But he crosses his legs like Travis and doesn't seem to be preparing to bolt, so Travis takes that as a good sign.
Travis waits. He's been waiting (mostly) patiently for weeks now, he can wait a few more minutes. So he waits. And waits. And waits some more. And then he realizes that Wes isn't going to talk without prompting, because that's just how Wes is. Closed-off and repressed and not the sharing type.
"Wes?" he prods gently. "What happened?" He doesn't need to elaborate; they both know what he's referring to.
Wes closes his eyes and lets out a long breath, drawing out the words like they're being peeled out of his soul. "I can read people's minds. Not all the time. But when I touch them, I can…hear people's thoughts, feel their emotions. Just the surface stuff, whatever they're thinking and feeling right at that moment, but the longer I hold on, or the more I touch them, the more…access I have, I guess."
Travis frowns. "But you weren't there at the warehouse, so how…?"
Wes opens his eyes and gives him a baleful look, the look that wonders how Travis can be so stupid. "Travis, we've been together for seven years. Do you know how many times we've touched each other? You've pretty much blown your entire mind wide open to me. I've just gotten very good at tuning you out."
Okay, that was unexpected and a little unsettling, but if there's one person Travis can trust in his head, he supposes it's Wes. He tries not to be disturbed by it. "Well, that's…" Nope, it's weird. Very weird. Travis doesn't even have the words.
Wes closes his eyes again and sighs, sounding very old and very tired. "Travis, you're one of the few people constantly inside my head. I don't want you there any more than you want to be there, and on a normal day I just tune you out and you're nothing more than an annoying chattering buzz in the background."
Travis is starting to put the pieces together again. "So the warehouse…"
"You were missing, and I didn't know how to find you. The only reason I knew you weren't dead was because I could still feel you. So instead of tuning you out, I tried to find you. And it worked. The moment you started talking back, I knew exactly where you were. But on the other hand…" His fingers clench in his lap, and his lips draw into tight, thin lines.
"I knew your big secret," Travis finishes the sentence. Wes may have saved him, but it meant revealing his secret ability. Travis doesn't like Wes not thinking he can trust Travis that much, but he understands.
"I do trust you," Wes says, and Travis starts when he realizes he didn't say that out loud. Wes looks at him again, his eyes sad and tired. "I do. But people don't like it when someone else knows what they're thinking. Better to have you think it was all a hallucination than lose you too."
And Travis gets it, he does, because Wes doesn't have many people in his life, so he can't imagine how Wes would feel if Wes were to lose one of them over something like this.
It's weird, yes, and strange and maybe a little unsettling, but this is Wes, who Travis would and does trust with his life. So he smiles, wide and bright and not hiding anything, and says, "Wes, it's okay. I trust you." And he does. Wes has had this connection to Travis's mind for however many years, and the first time he did anything with it was when Travis was in danger. If Travis can trust Wes with his life, why can't he trust Wes with his mind?
Because no matter how bad things between them get, they're partners, and they'll always have each other's back.
Wes still looks skeptical. Travis lets his smile turn gentle. "Really, Wes, it's okay. You can look if you don't believe me."
And slowly, carefully, after a long look at Travis's face for permission, Wes reaches out.
The touch is light and unsure, tendrils of thought combing across his brain like fingers combing through hair. But it's Wes, cut grass and lemon, and he knows Wes won't hurt him like this, knows Wes will only take what he's given and no more, so he keeps his thoughts open and calm and lets Wes know it's all okay. Weird, yes, that will just take some getting used to, but okay.
Wes pulls out, hands fisting in the cloth of his pants, and says, "Really?" and Travis just says, "Really."
Wes relaxes for the first time since this conversation started, slowly unclenching his hands. Then he relaxes some more, looking like a burden on his shoulders has just been lifted, and Travis can't even imagine how hard that must be, knowing someone so completely and never able to tell them. If Travis being okay with this helps Wes any, then it's all good.
This is progress, isn't it? Breaking boundaries or some such? Dr. Ryan would be so proud, if they were ever going to tell her. Which they're not. Because some things should not be told. Ever.
Wes's lips quirk a little, and he hands Travis's knife over before Travis starts looking for it. Something else he'll have to get used to. But Travis is nothing if not adaptable, and it's already less weird than it was a few minutes ago, so he'll be fine. They'll be fine. Everything will be just fine.
"Alright," Travis says, bouncing to his feet. He shoves his knife in his pocket, flexes his hands (the cut one, by now, healed to perfection) and makes shooing motions with his fingers. "Out, out, out of my head. Time to get back to work, can't have you lazing about in my mind while we're trying to catch bad guys."
Wes climbs to his feet more slowly and starts cleaning up from his shooting session. "Trust me, Travis, if there's one word to describe a journey through your mind, 'lazing' would not be it." He shoves his gun in his holster, tucks the used target under his arm, and falls in step beside Travis.
"Whatever." Travis still has questions, of course. Like, is all that hand sanitizer a mind-reading thing or just a Wes-being-anal-and-OCD thing? Or, does the reverse work and Travis can use the weird mind-link to find Wes if the occasion ever calls for it? Or, how many people has Wes really connected to like he has with Travis, and who? But Travis has enough answers for now, and he doesn't want to push Wes too hard too fast, so he just puts those questions aside for another time and says instead, "You know, we could join the JLA. How cool would that be? We could be superheroes! Mental Man and Captain Awesome."
"Captain Awesome? That's the best name you can come up with?"
"Heck yeah!" Travis half-turns and gestures to himself. "Because look at this. This, right here, is awesome."
"Right. You keep thinking that. What's the JLA?"
Travis shoots Wes an incredulous look. "The Justice League of America? Come on, you seriously don't know? Batman, Superman, Green Lantern…"
Wes pulls a face. "Oh. Comic books." He says it like they rate right there with trashy romance novels or cheesy 50-cent Westerns. "Thanks, but I prefer to read more classic literature."
"You want an example of classic storytelling, let me get you some of my nephew's comics. Original, entertaining, and most of all, classic. You'll love 'em."
"Thanks. But no. I have no interest in the slightest."
"You're just missing out," Travis pouts, secretly conspiring to sneak his nephew's comics into Wes's desk tomorrow anyway. (And even knowing that Wes probably knows his secret plans now doesn't stop his resolve.) Halfway up the stairs, he grins and says, "Hey, Wes, guess what I'm thinking."
"Travis, I am not buying you a pizza for coming to your rescue," his partner says dryly, which could be Wes reading his mind, or it could be Wes just knowing him that well. Does it really matter? Wes is back, he's not pulling away anymore, and they've made progress, of all things. They're going to be just fine.
"Turning it into a game of 'Guess what toppings I want on my pizza' does not make me inclined to pay for you any more than before, Travis."
Travis laughs all the way up the stairs.
Wes doesn't seem like he had a lot of comic books growing up. I don't own the JLA either.
Ever since watching Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (it's amazing, I don't own it, you should watch it if you haven't seen it) I've wanted to write a superhero fanfic for one of my fandoms, and, thanks to the mind-numbing, soul-sucking stress mentioned above, I came up with this idea.
Title is lame. I apologize.
I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope my muse kicks me again soon without stressing me to pieces, because I love this fandom and I love these characters.
Let me know what you thought, reviews are always appreciated, and I love hearing what you guys think.
Until next time!~