Training Day

Summary: Vic discovers (and this time believes) the truth about Cole and soon finds himself drawn into a the middle of a case that could spell the difference between life and death for hundreds of thousands of humans.

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I don't own them, but, hey, just as soon as that deal with Zin goes through…

Timeline: After "Remember When", after my fic "As I Already Know Your Heart"

Spoilers: "Cloud Nine", "Breach", "To Catch a Dessarian", "What Lies Beneath", "Remember When"

Feedback: Better than Fek-Maln. Always welcomed and much appreciated, so please, please feed me!!!

Chapter 1 -- Revelation

Detective Vic Bruno slipped into the last empty seat in the small briefing-room with a sigh. It was shaping up to be one of those days. His alarm-clock had failed to go off, meaning that he had overslept and nearly been late for work. He had dressed in a hurry, not even noticing his two mismatched socks until he was already halfway to work and too late to go back. He had been so pressed for time that he had skipped breakfast and shaved at various stoplights on his way over. The result was that his face was an intermittent patchwork of five-o'clock shadow and razor-burns. He had not even known that it was possible to give oneself razor-burns with an electric razor, but somehow he had managed.

Detective Maria Cruz, seated next to him glanced over, a curious look. "Shave in the dark?" she asked with a faint smile.

"Don't ask," he told her, shaking his head and rubbing his eyes. On top of everything else, he was developing a nasty headache.

"Sleep late?" she asked, handing him a bottle of Excedrin. Noting his pained expression and knowing her friend, she was willing to bet that he was working up to a nasty tension headache on top of everything else. "Tough night, Vicky?" she asked sympathetically, her mothering instinct kicking in.

"Thanks, Mar." He shook his head at the use of the nickname, not one that he would have admitted having but one that had stuck nonetheless, but accepted the bottle and helped himself to several. The name itself did not bother him as much as it would have bothered most. He was just glad that she had stopped calling him 'kid'. Maria had a habit of mothering men and women twice her age, but she always did it in a way that managed to avoid ruffling feathers or injuring professional pride. "Alarm clock didn't go off. Why hasn't the briefing started yet?"

She shrugged. "Eh, new case. Don't complain, though. Means you haven't missed anything." She smiled reassuringly.

Vic nodded and handed the bottle back. "Mar, you ever wake up and just know that you're going to have one of those days?"

She frowned, concerned. "You feeling okay? Not coming down with something."

"No, mom." Vic shook his head, amused. "Thanks for the Excedrin." He tossed the bottle back, and she deftly caught it in one hand without really looking.

"Welcome." She tucked the bottle away again and patted his shoulder. "Look on the bright side. Day couldn't possibly get any worse."

"Here's hoping…" Vic smiled wryly. He opened his mouth to speak again when Captain Hansen walked in.

"Gregory James," Hansen said, handing out file folders. "Wanted for questioning in the murder of his lover, Robert Marin. ME places the time of death between two and four this morning."

Vic leafed through the file as Hansen spoke, talking about recent Domestic calls to the residence of Gregory James and Robert Marin. James had been a hairdresser until a few weeks ago. Marin, his lover, was a CPA. Now Marin was dead, probable cause of death blunt-force trauma with a baseball bat. His death had not been quick, and it had definitely not been pretty. According to the ME, James had taken his time with it, first disabling Marin with a few well-placed blows, keeping him from fleeing or defending himself. Throat and wrists had been slashed, post-mortem, either in a frenzy or in an attempt at depersonalization. More sharp-force trauma was evident on the body as well. The face had been basically obliterated. The scene had also been destroyed after the attack. James, in some kind of blind rage, had taken the bat to the TV, lamps, computer, walls

Vic looked over the report, shaking his head. The guy seemed to have just snapped. Until a few months ago, he had been a model citizen in every important respect. He looked at the photo of James, shaking his head again. The man even looked like a stereotypical gay hairdresser. Short and slender, the man smiling up from the photo looked like he would have passed out at the sight of blood if he cut himself shaving. Men like that did not beat their boyfriends to death. Except that this one apparently had. To look at him, one would have been hard-pressed to believe him capable of this kind of violence. Except that a neighbor had seen him fleeing the scene, still covered in the victim's blood.

As Hansen left and the Detectives and Officers started filing out, Vic grabbed Maria's arm. "You processed this scene?" he asked, noting that she had been the one to sign off on the report.

Sitting back down, she nodded. "Yeah, I did. Vic this was… I don't know. This guy had some kind of psychotic break or something," she told him in a low voice. "I've never seen a scene that looked quite like this. He swung that bat into the wall and left dents a couple of inches deep. We know he did this after he killed Marin because there's blood embedded in the dry-wall." She paused. "Vicky, I consider this part of a trend," she admitted in a low voice.

Vic nodded. "Law abiding citizens have been snapping and turning into criminals overnight, or just plain dropping off the face of the earth. What's it been now? A year?"

The trend was disturbing to those few who had noticed it. A few dozen extra homicides, a few dozen more missing men and women, did not really make much of a difference in the grander scheme of things. It was not even really enough to register as more than a blip in crime-statistics, but what disturbed that handful of men and women who had noticed it was how unsuited any of these new killers were for killing, how unlikely many of those who had just disappeared were to just up and vanish. Nothing was said officially, the new numbers barely registers on the FBI's yearly Uniform Crime Report, but a handful of seasoned cops knew that they were seeing something abnormal in this trend and were quietly keeping an eye on matters.

What troubled Vic more than the new murders and disappearances was how many of these suspected killers and missing people were suddenly turning up dead of unknown causes. Once the suspect was dead, no further investigation was deemed necessary. The result was that none of the handful of officers who had taken note of this disturbing new trend had the slightest clue as to what was behind it. There were not many who had even noticed, Vic, Maria, a handful of other robbery/homicide cops, and they were staying tightlipped, half-sure that they were imaging this new trend and completely sure that no one else would believe them. In fact, it was the first time either Vic or Maria had mentioned their private suspicions out loud, even to each other.

"Longer now." She sighed deeply. "What do you reckon? New drug?"

Vic nodded slowly. "It's a possibility. Might explain why so many of them are suddenly showing up dead, but…" He shook his head. It was not just that all of the toxicology screens were coming back negative and that no one could figure out what was killing these people. The theory just did not ring true for the Detective.

Maria sighed and nodded in agreement. "I know. Something's just not right here."

"You can say that again." Vic nodded and rose. "Come on, Mar. Let's go catch a bad guy."


"I mean, how does a guy that size do that kind of damage?" Vic said, shaking his head as he and Maria walked down the street.

Detectives were canvassing the area in pairs, searching James' favorite haunts, old and new. Neighborhood bars, the community-center where he had volunteered and spent most of his free time, the strip-club where he had started working. Vic and Maria had been assigned to downtown Chicago, in an area known for its bars and strip-clubs, one of James' new haunts.

"Drugs, I guess." She shrugged and shook her head. "Do you…" She trailed off as they rounded a corner and came face to face with Gregory James.

Vic stared at James, startled by his outward appearance. His eyes were wide, his expression feral, nothing like the smiling visage from the photo. He had not even bothered to clean the blood off his clothes. James regarded them for a moment, a smile slowly spreading across his blood-smeared face. Vic had seen the expression before. It was wild and predatory, a look that seemed more natural on the face of a rabid animal than a human.

As Maria reached slowly for a pair of handcuffs, Vic quickly drew his gun, covering her, hoping it would not come down to having to use it. "Gregory James," he began. "You're under arrest for the murder of Robert Marin."

Before either Detective could react, James grabbed Maria and shoved her roughly, face-first into a wall before turning on his heel and running. Bending over the dazed woman, feeling her pulse and visually assessing her condition, Vic hesitated for a split-second before he saw Craig Morris, another Detective who had been canvassing the area, running to their aid. As Morris knelt to help Maria, Vic took off after James.

"Call for backup!" Vic shouted over his shoulder to Morris. He holstered his weapon as he ran, not wanting to risk an accidental firing if he tripped, but he kept the holster unsnapped and one hand close to the weapon, ready to draw it again as soon as he stopped.

James was surprisingly quick, and Vic nearly lost him more than once, but the Detective had always made a point of keeping himself in top physical shape. Drawing on reserves he had hardly known he had, he put on an extra burst of speed as James rounded yet another corner. Growing winded, Vic was relieved to round the corner and realize that James had managed to corner himself in a blind alley.

"Okay, Mister James," Vic said in a gentle tone that did not at all echo his current sentiments towards James. "Just relax. We just want to bring you down to the station and ask you a few questions, that's all…" He drew his gun again, but did not level it at James yet. Hoping to resolve things without any further bloodshed, he kept it ready but not pointed at James.

"Bring me down to the station?" he scoffed, turning to face Vic. "And how are you going to manage that, hmm? A bit of judicious police brutality, perhaps?"

Vic sighed and mentally counted to ten. "This'll be a lot easier if you just cooperate," he said in his most soothing tone of voice.

"Yeah, but it'll be a lot more fun if I don't."

Vic blinked, a little thrown by that comeback. If he had been facing a man twice the size of Gregory James, he would have been very worried. As it was, he was only slightly worried, if more than a little confused. He regarded James warily, aware that he would have to holster his gun if he planned on cuffing him. At the moment, he was not entirely comfortable with that. Knowing that his backup would arrive shortly, he wondered if waiting would not be better. The problem with holding the man at gunpoint, though, was that he did not seem in the least intimidated by the weapon.

"Mister James, you have the right to remain silent," he began.

"What's your name, human?" James asked abruptly, cutting Vic off.

Vic frowned and shook his head. Human? Freak… "Detective Victor Bruno," he answered, emphasizing the word 'Detective'.

James nodded and smiled widely. "Good. I always like to know the names of my victims. Makes killing them so much more… personal."

With the last word, the little man lunged at Vic, tearing the gun from his hand before the Detective could even think about firing it. Wearing a gleeful smile, he casually dislocated Vic's shoulder, his smile widening as Vic howled in pain and dropped to his knees.

"Have we established who's in charge yet?" he asked cheerfully. He loved this part, seeing the fear in his victim's eyes as they realized that they were outclassed and at his mercy. There was something so gratifying about it, and soothing as well, in some indescribable way.

Grabbing Vic by his injured arm, he jerked him to his feet, drawing another pained cry from the Detective. With a swift motion, he tossed Vic across the alley and into a wall, casually and with as little effort as if he had been flicking a cigarette-butt onto the street. Walking over, he bent down, smiling widely at Vic. Another quick move snapped a bone in his leg, tearing yet another shriek from him. He picked Vic up again and shoved him against a wall, holding the Detective with a single hand around his throat, and allowed his feet to dangle several inches off the ground.

Vic had been too stunned to react to the initial attack. The speed that the little man had displayed had been almost super-human. The ease with which he had broken Vic's leg, dislocated his shoulder, and tossed him across the alley suggested that the man was on some very serious drugs. The smile which Gregory James wore throughout suggested to Vic that Maria had been right. The man was abso-frigging-lutely psychotic.

Dizzy from pain and loss of blood, Vic was fleetingly aware that his only real hope was that his backup would arrive soon. Looking around, the alley, though, he realized that he had run farther than he thought. The chances of the backup finding them before Gregory James managed to kill him were small.

Gagging and choking, he clawed desperately at the hand that was slowly tightening around his throat. His right leg dangled useless, blood soaking his torn pant-leg and dripping onto the ground. He could tell from the tear in the fabric of his pant-leg that the fracture was compound, could feel the bone poking through muscle and skin. The pain was almost unbearable, but he suspected that it was also the only thing keeping him conscious at present. His air-supply was being slowly choked away, and the life was slowly draining out of him through the wound in his leg. The thought of dying on the job had never really scared him before, and he had come close more than once, but this time was different. Gregory James was not some man shooting at him because he was scared or out of options. Looking into his attacker's eyes, Vic knew that the man was deriving very real satisfaction from the act of choking the life out of him, from watching him suffer and bleed, and that was frightening indeed.

Closing his eyes, fighting against the increasing fog that was clouding his awareness, he mentally recited a Hail Mary, praying for the strength to survive this ordeal, to somehow break away, reach his gun. Clawing at James' hand, he struggled frantically, his efforts only increasing as he felt himself moving closer and closer to the void. Fighting harder, he redoubled his prayers as well. Holy mother of God, please. Not here, not like this. Anything, please, just not like this…


Cole had been Tracking Kellen since last night, immediately after returning from the capture of another fugitive. Kellen had remained quiet for some time, but now that he had killed again, there would be more murders quite soon, he was sure. That was how the Vardian worked. Better than ninety percent of the time, he led a quiet, law-abiding life. He would go years without committing a single crime, then something would set him off and he would kill in a fit of anger. Having done that, recalling how much he liked the rush it gave him, Kellen would go on a spree for weeks or months, killing more or less at random until he got bored by it, at which point he would quietly return to his old life. On Earth or Varda, the pattern was always the same. Time was of the essence, and Cole knew it. He had been one of the Trackers who had brought Kellen to Sar-Top the first time. Except for human host, Kellen had killed only once so far, but Cole knew from experience that he would kill again. Soon.

Cole had read about the murder in the paper last night, had been struck by the almost random nature of the attack. It was a pattern that had grown familiar to him in the past year or more. Hacking into the Chicago PD's database had told him all that he needed to know to recognize the work as Kellen's. The unexpected and seemingly unprecipitated nature of the crime, the disabling of the victim to allow more time for the kill, the overkill and mutilation of the already-dead victim, almost as if trying to erase him from existence, the seemingly mindless destruction of the crime-scene by a mind driven to the edge by the pleasure of the kill and the desire for more… All pointed to Kellen.

The Chicago PD's data-base had given him a face to go with the name mentioned in the news story, as well as information far more telling than the specifics of the crime itself.

Gregory James, 25. His friends described him as happy, carefree, and gentle. He loved his family, adored his mate and the other man's children, volunteered his time with a literacy program and a local animal shelter. He was the kind of man that anyone would be happy to have as a friend or neighbor. Or, he had been. A few months ago, things had changed. He had stopped volunteering, had quit his job as a hair-stylist in favor of a job tending bar at a local strip-club, had become withdrawn, sullen, short-tempered. His partner had sent the children to live with his ex-wife, had threatened to leave himself. Then he had been murdered. Even if the crime itself had not told Cole that Kellen was probably behind it, the now-familiar lifestyle changes preceding it would have made him sure that it was one of the fugitives.

On hearing via his specially 'modified' police-band scanner that the Chicago PD had issued a warrant, actually had officers walking the streets to find Gregory James, Cole had known that his time was short. Kellen would not have hesitated to kill any police officer who confronted him. So Cole had gone looking, hoping to find him first.

He glanced down at the monitor in his hand, a refurbished Game Boy, modified to detect the unique pheromone that Vardians produced when excited. It was beeping slowly, indicating that Kellen was somewhere nearby. Cole heard a pained cry as the monitor began beeping faster. Hyperspeed, unfortunately, was not an option then because he had used it less than a day ago in capturing another fugitive. If it had not been so pressing to capture Kellen quickly, he would have waited to recover that ability before starting out. He broke into a run, aware that he would have to move quickly to prevent another murder. More shouting made him run faster. The monitor led him directly to the alley, which was as well, because the screaming had stopped.

What he saw as he came to a stop stunned him.

Kellen was there, holding Vic Bruno several inches off the ground, one hand wrapped firmly around the Detective's throat. Vic's leg was clearly injured quite badly. His pants were torn and already soaked with blood. Although he still seemed conscious, his eyes were closed and his lips were rapidly turning blue, even as the rest of his face turned a sickly gray. Knowing that the Detective was close to death, Cole acted quickly and without thinking.

"Kellen!" he called loudly. "Put him down."

Startled, Kellen complied, dropping Vic into a heap on the ground and turning to face Cole. Vic's eyes snapped open and he stared at Cole, startled by his sudden appearance and disoriented by the combined blood-loss and oxygen deprivation. At first, his vision was so foggy that he was not even sure it was Cole's voice he had heard. Even as oxygen began making its way back to his brain and his vision cleared, he remained confused by Cole's presence.

"Cole, get out of here!" he ordered, shaking his head as Cole slowly closed on Gregory James. His mind was not entirely capable of coherent though, but he did know that Cole was no match for Gregory James. He would get himself killed trying to play the hero. "Cole, go!" he ordered as firmly as he could manage, hoping that the man would have the sense to flee and call for help.

"I can't do that, Vic," Cole told him gently, shaking his head, refusing to leave the injured man to the Vardian's mercies. "Kellen, it's time."

Vic stared. Kellen? Cole thought James was someone else. He was going to get himself killed.

"You think I'm going to let you take me alive, Tracker?" he sneered.

Vic shook his head weakly, trying to make sense of the scene. Kellen? Tracker? What did they mean? Nothing about the situation made any sense to a mind clouded by pain and plagued by dizziness.

"I don't think you have a choice, Kellen," Cole replied gently. He spared a quick glance at Vic. The man was clearly hurt quite badly, bleeding heavily. Cole was not entirely sure how much blood a human could afford to lose, but he would need attention eventually. "Well, one choice. Will it be quick and painless, or slow and difficult?" he asked, hoping that Kellen might opt to cooperate, allowing Cole to finish with him quickly and turn his attention to the human Detective. It was unlikely, Cole knew, but for Vic's sake he hoped.

Kellen scoffed. "For you? Slow and difficult."

Cole sighed and nodded, regarding Kellen cautiously. Like all Vardians of the warrior caste, he was a dangerous foe under the best of circumstances. Cornered and consumed by blood-lust, he would be worse. The fight promised to be long and punishing for both. He spared Vic a final glance, assessing his injuries and making a few guesses about his condition. As bad as his injuries were, Cole did not think that the human was in immediate danger. As long as he could prevail over Kellen, Vic had a good chance of walking away from this. Nodding to himself, Cole sprung at the Vardian.

Kellen reacted quickly, as Cole had known he would, stepping away only to discover that the initial attack was no more than a feint. Cole spun in the opposite direction from that in which he had been going, catching Kellen in the chin with a sharp uppercut that sent the Vardian flying twenty feet or better, directly into a brick wall. Cole pressed his advantage, rushing to Kellen. The Vardian jumped to his feet, raining blows on Cole, forcing the Cirronian to raise his hands to protect himself. A brutal punch sent Cole flying easily thirty feet backwards. Kellen closed that distance quickly, ready to press his own advantage.

Vic watched, stunned and horrified by what he was witnessing. As sure as he had been that James was strung out on something, it was clear to him that Cole must have taken the same drug before coming to face him. But why? That question was one of many. Why was Cole interested in this man at all? Why was he fighting him? What were the two men to each other? What were they involved in?

Cole jumped over Kellen's head, landing behind him. Kellen ducked under another punch from Cole, using his telekinesis to send a trashcan flying at the Cirronian, buying himself time to fall back as Cole dove out of the way.

Vic stared, amazed and not entirely believing the evidence of his own senses. The jump he was almost willing to accept as being a result of some drug that increased adrenaline output and gave people almost super-human strength. After all, there were several drugs like that, more every year. But there was no way in hell that he had seen a trashcan flying through the air of its own volition. He was… hallucinating or something, had to be. Blood-loss can make a guy see and feel some pretty strange things, after all. Right, Vic?

Another trashcan flew at Cole as he was dodging the first, hitting him squarely and leaving him dazed. Unwilling to lose this fight, and with it any chance of saving Vic, Cole scaled a wall, clinging to it about thirty feet up, giving himself time to recover and regroup. This was not going well at all. They had reached a stale-mate. They could go on pummeling each other like this for hours without either gaining a clear upper hand. And while Cole was sure that Vic was not in any immediate danger, he doubted that the Detective had hours. Besides, fighting for hours would leave him weak and potentially draw a lot of unwanted attention.

He was determined to end this now.

Changing tactics, Cole dove directly onto Kellen. Cole's change in tactics took the Vardian completely by surprise, and he was able to use his own weight and the additional force generated by the fall to bear the smaller man to the ground. Flipping the Vardian on to his back, he produced the Collector and raised it high into the air. The Vardian's face wore that look that Cole had come to recognize from hundreds of fugitives before him. Less fear than anger, but a more than healthy amount of both. Kellen struggled beneath the Cirronian, trying desperately to break away, but Cole was in no mood to spend any more time fighting this man. He slammed the Collector into his chest and quickly withdrew his life-force, ignoring the almost pitiable combination of pain and horror that the fugitives always expressed during their Collection. Once Kellen's life-force was secure, he moved quickly to Vic's side to assess the man's injuries.

The Detective had seen everything and was staring at Cole with wide, horrified eyes. First the fight and then this strange weapon that Cole had used on the other man. Now Cole was staring thoughtfully at him… the only witness to this bizarre attack. Vic felt an uncomfortable certainty that he was not yet out of danger. When Cole reached towards his leg, he jerked away, huddling against the wall and shaking, too weak and too stunned to do anything else.

"Vic," Cole told him in a gentle, reassuring voice. As a teacher, he had used the tone a dozen times a day to soothe upset students. Since coming to earth, he had discovered that it worked equally well on distressed humans, even adult ones. "I need to look at your leg now. It looks like you've lost a lot of blood. I can help you. Will you let me?" He could easily have healed the human without his consent, even by force if necessary, but such an act seemed wholly unCirronian, and only likely to further distress the already-frightened man.

Having just seen what Cole had done to Gregory James, aware that he was the only witness to this strange assault, Vic was less than eager to let the man touch him, but he was in no condition to keep him from doing so either. A voice in the back of his head nagged, demanding to know why Cole wanted to help him if he planned on eliminating the only witness later, but he was too scared and too disoriented to be able to reasonably address that consideration. He closed his eyes when Cole gently began probing the break with his fingers. Frowning, he opened them again. It hurt, but not nearly as badly as it probably should have.

Cole continued probing the injuries, doing what he could to ease Vic's pain, for several moments. The bone had broken through muscle and punctured the skin, tearing the fabric of his pants where it had come through, but the break itself was cleaner than many such injuries that Cole had encountered in his life. It would be easy enough to repair. He looked up at the Detective.

"This is going to hurt, Vic," he said apologetically. "I'm sorry."

Vic howled as Cole grabbed his leg with both hands and, with a single swift motion, forced the bones back into place. He stared at Cole, wide-eyed, wondering vaguely how he could have done that so easily. The pain brought with it a strange feeling of clarity, and the voice in the back of his head, the one that had early demanded to know why Cole wanted to help him, insisted that it should have taken several men and much effort to accomplish what Cole had just done single-handedly and without much effort. He was in for another shock, though, as Cole gently wrapped both hands around his leg at the site of the break and closed his eyes. As Vic watched, awed and more than a little frightened, a golden glow appeared under Cole's hands. The pain in his leg quickly receded, replaced by soothing heat.

"Get up," Cole directed gently, extending his hands.

Vic stared at him uncertainly. In spite of the sudden lack of pain in his leg, he seriously doubted that it was up to the task of supporting him. Putting pressure on it before it was in a cast would have been stupid.

"It's okay, Vic. Get up," Cole repeated gently, offering his hands again and nodded encouragingly.

Light-headed from blood-loss, and not sure if he was in any position to protest, Vic rose shakily. Dizzy, he grabbed at Cole for support, wincing and groaning as Cole tightly caught hold of the arm that had been dislocated.

"Is your arm hurt as well?" Cole asked, concerned. It took him only a few moments to ascertain that this injury was minor. He quickly forced the joint back into place, then covered Vic's shoulder with his hands, once more healing injured tissue and easing the pain that the human was obviously suffering.

"There. Do you have any other injuries?" Cole asked gently.

Vic cautiously shook his head, not sure how else to respond. He considered bolting, but, in spite of the fact that his leg was, seemingly, as good as new, he was still very light-headed. Looking down at his blood-soaked pants, he knew why. How much blood did I lose? he wondered.

"I'm parked nearby," Cole offered, sliding one arm under Vic's shoulder, knowing that he would still be light-headed. "I'll take you to the Watchfire. You look like you could use a cup of coffee. Okay?"

Vic nodded slowly, cautiously, wondering what Cole had planned for him, if his fate was to be the same as that of Gregory James. Coffee, Cole had said. Vic wanted something a lot stronger. Cole wordlessly helped him to the car and into the front passenger seat before climbing behind the wheel. They drove in silence for some time, Vic occasionally glancing at Cole out of the corner of his eye. Cole seemed content to drive in silence, although he did occasionally give Vic a thoughtful glance.

Cole glanced over at Mel's friend more than once, worried by everything that the human had been forced to endure today. Coming close to death was always a traumatic experience, with long-reaching effects. Cole understood that from experience. The fact that he never let it show did not make it any less true. Vic, like all law-enforcement officials, regardless of planet of origin, might not let it show, but he would be no less effected by the experience. The fact that he had been attacked not by a human but by a Vardian, without any understanding of what that meant, or even of what a Vardian really was, would only add to the impact of the awful experience. And then there had been the look of horror on his face when he had witnessed the Collection process. Cole had grown used to it, but he knew from Mel that watching a Collection, especially if you did not know what it was or what to expect from it, could be horrifying beyond words.

It had not been a good day for the human, Cole knew, and it would take a lot of work to erase the damage that had been inflicted and that went far beyond the physical injuries that Cole had healed. The other injuries, the psychological ones… those would be harder to deal with. Cole could not heal that damage. Only time could do that, and the process was a slow one. Mel still occasionally woke up screaming from memories of Tev or Zin or one of the other fugitives, and Cole, who held her in his arms until she could sleep again, wondered sadly what Vic would do when the dreams came to him. For all of their differences, Cole liked and admired Vic greatly, and it made the Cirronian's heart ache to think of him suffering from the kind of dreams and doubts that afflicted Mel.

Vic glanced sideways at Cole from time to time as he drove in silence. More than once, he caught Cole examining him with a thoughtful, troubled expression. Vic could hardly blame Cole for seeming troubled. After all, he had just watched Cole kill a man. Or something… To the Detective's way of thinking, no one in his right mind would feel comfortable leaving a witness to an attack like that. Every glance in his direction, every frown, every stifled sigh, only confirmed Vic's suspicions that Cole's intentions were sinister, that he was in the midst of crafting some plan to deal with Vic.

Still not entirely certain what he had witnessed, Vic was sure that Cole was planning something similar for him. Which begged the question of why Cole had bothered to heal him at all. Of course, that begged the question of how Cole had healed him. He spent the drive replaying what he had seen in the alley, trying to force it to fit into a context that he could understand only to find that there was no context that made sense. When Cole pulled the car into Mel's parking spot behind the Watchfire, Vic felt a little relieved. Surely Cole would not do anything to him here. Would he?

"Come on, Vic," Cole said gently, helping him out of the car and letting them in through the back door. "Are you hungry?" he asked as they entered. "I can get you something to eat. Or a drink if you're thirsty," he offered, sensing that Vic was uncomfortable for some reason. No doubt still upset over that attack. A drink would help. Humans were not the only species who drank to forget their problems. Even Cole had been guilty of that particular form of escapism from time to time, though not since his arrival on Earth.

"I wouldn't say no to a large scotch."

"I don't think that's wise, Vic. You've lost a lot of blood," Cole pointed out gently.

"Small scotch, then?" Vic asked, very badly needing a drink. As much blood as he had lost, a small scotch would probably have about the same effect as a large one anyway.

Cole shrugged and circled behind the bar. "Okay, Vic." He poured a small scotch and handed it to Vic before pouring a cup of coffee for himself.

Vic regarded Cole warily for a few more minutes before realizing that there was nothing to be uneasy about. Cole was not acting any different than normal as he leaned against the bar and casually drank his coffee. That alone was odd to Vic, but not entirely worrisome. If Cole had been agitated or acting abnormally in any other way, Vic would have been more concerned for his own safety. Cole did not seem to mind in the least that Vic had seen… whatever he had seen.

Vic looked down at his bloody, rapidly stiffening pants. An assertion that Cole had once made sprung to mind for no good reason, one that had seemed ridiculous at the time, had left Vic sure that Cole was mocking him. Somehow, though, it no longer seemed so ridiculous to the Detective. In fact, it suddenly, strangely, seemed very… reasonable.

"Cole," he said softly. "I think we need to talk."

Cole tilted his head thoughtfully at Vic, then nodded. "Yes, Vic." He smiled reassuringly, sensing that Vic was troubled by something. He could hardly blame him after how close he had come to death at Kellen's hands.

Vic emptied his glass and closed his eyes. "That… story you told me that time… That you aren't human… That's…" He opened his eyes and looked up at Cole, who was smiling gently down at him. "That's…"

"The truth, Vic." Cole nodded gently. "Yes."