The first day of a new job was always about nerves when it came right down to it. It was about how people would see him, once they looked at the gloves on his hands, how they would cut their eyes to the side as if that would keep him from noticing it.
Greg Sanders knew that was the way the world worked. People like him got that reaction. He had become accustomed to people giving hex hand signs at him before he was out of diapers, even if his parents had never reached any degree of acceptance with it. Poppa Olaf had said it was a sign of ignorance, like the marks Isoäiti had on the back of each of her hands. It was a sign that people were basically herd creatures, and that sometimes fear got away from them whenever something different or unusual came within the line of sight.
All of that was true, and then some, but Greg liked to think that things were better. That they'd keep getting better, because he didn't want to think about the unspoken fear at the back of his mind that said they could always get worse.
It was hard to push back when he was new at a job, and not just any job. The top ranked lab in the country, which Vegas had always wanted and failed to be, processing DNA and anything else they asked him to process, rather than gathering things out in the field. The money was fantastic, which was good because the rent was wow out here.
He'd never been all about the money. That's what he'd told Grissom in Vegas when he started working in the field, but sometimes money had to come into the equation. He was starting over, a whole new life in a new place. He'd kept up his certifications, dabbled in the DNA lab to make sure he could do what needed doing, and that had paid off when the job had come up with the Feds.
The timing had been impeccable. He'd should have known Gil would trot off to South America after Sara, leaving him with their place and the dog. He'd known then that Vegas wasn't going to be the place for him anymore. It had been like a gutpunch by a guy wearing brass knuckles.
So when the offer had come, he'd known he was going to say, "Yes, please," and "You want to pay me how much?" Catherine had looked sad about him going, and Nick, but....
There were some things that a psychometrist couldn't keep living around. He'd have to touch things they'd touched, use things they'd used, live in the place they'd all lived, and going back to wearing gloves everywhere would catch attention. People would ask questions, want to know why, and explaining the fact that he'd been fucked over by people he'd loved would probably make him more of an outcast than his talents generally did.
It was kind of funny, because Grissom had always wanted hard science backing up the lab's results. Greg had thought it was cool at first, but looking back at things.... Well. Maybe he was just being bitter. Hell, probably he was just being bitter, and he hoped he could shake that.
Now he just wanted to sort of get in through the whole in-processing. He had a feeling he was going to lose the better part of his first day to it, to answering questions, getting his ID and his computer login, his access codes, and he did. He also expected to be shown the way to his lab, and he wasn't.
Instead, he'd been shown into an office and asked to wait, and so that was what he'd been doing.
And waiting some more.
He kept on waiting, until finally, he stripped off his gloves out of boredom and reached for an object on the desk. It wasn't anything special -- a desk toy, one of those liquid ooze ones that tipped upside down and poured slowly down a hole to the middle. Nothing special, just three colors side by side, but it was one of those things people handled. Everybody touched them, because they were irresistible, and Greg closed his eyes.
There were flashes -- different people, a man with sherry-red eyes, a blonde woman, a child. A man with a mustache, dark, and another man with salt-and-pepper curls. Mostly the latter, tilting it, watching it, eyes concentrating on the ooze. A bracelet, left wrist, one of the old ID markers that had replaced the brands they'd used in the twenties and thirties.
It made Greg wonder what he was doing in the guy's office, why he was waiting and had been waiting for so long. He'd been hired to work in the DNA lab, but there was something strange about things, something not entirely right, and so he opened his eyes and put down the desk toy to pick up the next one.
Curiosity killed the cat; satisfaction brought him back.
The next toy was a magnetic globe, black and gold, and Greg knew before he touched it that this was a gift, not something the man with the sharp eyes and the ID bracelet had bought for himself. He touched the base with a finger, and then grimaced and pulled away.
Red eyes and bad intent, and more hard emotions than he wanted to consider. The man with the ID bracelet had kept it, but seldom touched it, so any mark he'd made on it had probably stopped the last time he'd had to move it. There had to be other things to pick up pieces of the puzzle, something more recent.
Pens were good, and so Greg stood up, moved around to the other side of the computer screen and started raiding the penholder, one by one.
The first one was a plastic Bic, a series of useless faces. Second was a pen probably swiped from a doctor's office, medication name on the side with a logo. Man in a suit, in a lab coat, the guy with the ID bracelet. Nothing firm there, but difficulties. He was having a hard time, a lot of older psychics did. They'd been shuffled off into special schools, substandard, hadn't learned any of the protection techniques the kids Greg's age had gotten. He was seeing someone, trying to learn the things he should have been taught as a child.
Third was better -- a Pilot gel pen, blue ink, and oh. Oh. There he was, straightening his desk, and he was planning something. He had something on his mind, the most recent image yet, candy wrappers dropped in a drawer, folders being filed away, and then....
"Hey, kiddo." He half-heard the door open, but the loud voice startled him out of the mental static of the images, the beautiful, familiar mental static.
Greg fumbled the pens, hands shaking a little as he looked up. It wasn't the man he kept seeing when he touched things, so obviously he wasn't invading this guy's office. "Hi. Sorry. I was, ah...."
"Doing just what we wanted you to." The guy had a wide grin. "Sit down, let me talk to you for a few minutes, Sanders."
There was something that made him suspicious as hell about that grin. "Funny. I thought you wanted me to work in your DNA lab. That's the reason I moved to Virginia, anyway." Still, he did sit down. He wanted to know more, wanted to know who the guy with no name on his desk was, and why this guy was talking to him.
"It's sort of funny. You're... definitely in our DNA lab, but then I started doing reading on you, and realized we could have put you in number of jobs, particularly given your, ah, talent."
If he hadn't been suspicious before, he damn sure was now. The problem was that he'd already resigned in Vegas, and he didn't want to go back. "Really now."
"Completely up to you," the guy was telling him. "If you want to take up any of these opportunities. If you just want to plug away in the lab all day, that's fine. But you've been through Will's stuff, and you're curious now, right?"
Curious and curiouser, if there was such a thing. "What do you want?" It was better to get to the point of things than it was to linger over it. Greg had found that people who wanted something, especially when it came to his gifts, were generally deserving of suspicion.
"To be willing to use your talents sometimes, in cases. When it's needed. There's a pay bump for it, and a different grade, but you can do all the DNA work you want. It's just, sometimes, cases come up, and behavioral sciences needs guys like you."
"Guys like me." Yeah. Guys like him. He'd just bet they had a lot of guys like him. Still. Better money, a chance to get back in the field instead of spending a few years in DNA first. It felt off, but it was also fast-tracking to where he wanted to be. "What other psychics do you have on board? I know this isn't your desk, and I know that the man it belongs to is psychic."
"He's the only other psychic I have on board. He's Will Graham, and he teaches the cadets forensics techniques when he's not helping me on cases. He's had a tough go of it -- you probably picked up on some of it." There was no 'If you can do what you say you can do', which meant that the guy he was talking with wasn't skeptical. It also implied that, lack of control or no lack of control, Will Graham must be damn good.
So why would they need Greg?
"Some of it. He doesn't like the man who gave him the levitating globe." That was possibly the weakest thing he could say about the feelings Graham had for that man.
"He still keeps it," the guy pointed out, and there was a name on Greg's tongue from the things he'd touched. Jack? Or maybe jackoff. A or B. "Will... I'd like to get him a partner. I used to go out in the field with him, but I'm desk ridden now -- screwed my back up about a year ago, and then I got promoted."
The hazards of being good at the job, even if he was a jackass. Greg shifted, reached out, touched the man's sleeve for just a second. It was an invasion, and it might get him kicked in the ass, but he had to know. Had to fall back into that static, those images, and it was there. The answer. "Because you want someone who's going to be better at protecting the core of him than you were."
He watched Jack inhale a stutter-breath. "You're good."
"I've had a lot of practice." It had made him good at his job, good at a lot of things over the years. "We're here because he's gone missing. You want me to find him."
"Man. And you got that from what? The sweat in my shirt?" Jack rubbed at his face. "Yeah. I mean, I was planning to snag you, but this is... pressing."
Pressing. That was one way to describe a missing psychic. Even now, there was a black market in some countries for certain kinds of psychics. "All right. I'll go along with it. But if I think there's something hinky going on...."
"There isn't. I just... I need an idea of who it might be. I'm sure it's one of our cases. Will doesn't, he isn't a disappear in the night guy." Jack cleared his throat.
Greg reached into his pockets, pulled out his gloves. He put them on, one by one, and stretched his fingers out until they were comfortable. Things weren't working out to specs, and that might be the understatement of the week. "All right. I'll help you. Consider it a trial basis, then." Not for him, but for Jack.
"If you help us get Will back..." Jack shrugged. "We'll owe you one. Do you... I know we're still processing you in. But do you want to prod around in here more, or...?"
He thought about it. "I'll need the files for the cases he was working on, and any items he touched in the days before he went missing."
"Any handling notes to keep it from being contaminated, or...?" The guy started to stand up. "Poke around, open drawers, and I'll get the files."
"Thanks." What else was he going to say? Get out, stop getting in the way?
It was a hell of a start to his first day at Quantico. Greg wondered if they would all be this entertaining.
Pajama pants, toast, peanut butter. Bare-chested, Sunday paper. Worried expression, and a dog that was currently barking at Crawford like he planned to eat him. Greg wasn't much worried about the dog. He seemed to be okay with Greg, but then, he'd seen him when he picked up the candy wrappers in the drawer, Will having to pull the package out of his mouth and smack him on the head.
Greg had brought treats, because he wasn't stupid. Crawford, on the other hand...
"Get offa me, you mutt!"
He moved on, fingers trailing over the counter. This spot, lasagna, hip leaning against the counter, alone. That one, watering the plants, alone. The next one, washing the dishes.
There was a lot of being alone in Will Graham's life. It didn't seem to bother him much, but then, it probably wouldn't. Greg had already figured out that controlling his telepathy was something Will didn't do well. Being alone probably made life easier, made it okay to get through day by day. The fact that it was there, subject to Greg's touch, said something else, though. It told him that the loneliness was overwhelming, that even in those common everyday household events, Graham couldn't stop thinking about how alone he really was.
It was almost searing, because there was a sense that he hadn't always been alone. People who were like that and had always been like that didn't have that same pain in the concept. There were people who wallowed in being alone. This... hurt to feel when he touched things.
"He likes mutts," Crawford said when he finally got the dog to calm down. He had thick brown fur, and Greg had gotten the impression from touching the dog's head that Will spent a lot of time sitting beside him, scruffing his fur in his hands. "This one, Mal, was in a car accident. Hip's all screwed up, and I think his brain is, too, but Will likes them that way. Rudy, the last one, had three legs, and was a pitbull golden retriever something. Freakishly low to the ground for a dog that big. The, uh..."
Uh. Jack kept talking, on and off, to fill in the silences while Greg felt and wondered what pieces of information he might find. "This place was locked up tight, no signs of a struggle. I'd show you his car, but it's missing. We figure that was where they got him. Whoever it was. No one's even considered he'd run away, I mean, just ditch this place and take off, because he loves teaching. It's just not in him, taking off."
"No. He didn't take off." Greg already knew that, though, knew from the files that there was something more to all of this, something that was just beyond what he could see, no matter what he touched. There were glimpses, but nothing whole, nothing that made any sense. Mostly, there was just loneliness, liquor-red eyes, blood on blonde curls. Nothing that made sense for the now, or glimpses that would lead to the future -- just the past. "The case he was working on, with the real estate magnate...."
"Yeah. What about it?" Jack tilted his head up and his mouth down, and walked a little closer to Greg.
"Did you bring me everything that you have? There wasn't anything else?" There had to be something, anything. He had a feeling about it, suspicion, but nothing concrete. He needed more.
"Everything I had. We might want to scour the place," Jack told him thoughtfully. "Will brings his notes home, the ones he makes for his own use."
That meant maybe there would be something in them that hadn't been in the ones at the office. "And nobody's come in here looking for anything?" Graham had been missing for two weeks. Two weeks, and nobody had come in, searched his townhouse, looked for any connection to the fact that he'd gone missing.
What the hell kind of job had he stepped into?
"Not really. I mean, we looked, but it's not the same as you all looking. I got bupkis, and just keep coming back to feed and walk the dog. Will is the guy I'd have doing the digging on a missing person. We know someone took him, probably the same guy who I couldn't find on the case."
Just listening to Crawford made Greg's head hurt. "So you just waited until you got another psychic to hunt him down." He reached out, picked up the phone to see what he could get off of it.
"No, we didn't wait. We've been looking. I've just got jack shit because Will never writes his suspects down, even his half-thought ones."
Especially his half-thought ones, Greg suspected, because telepaths were halfway paranoid most of the time anyway. It was hard not to be, when people were human, and telepaths bore the brunt of a hell of a lot of passing small evil just in daily thought patterns.
He got nothing off of the phone, so he moved on, through the small dining area, touching random things as he went. The fact that Will lived alone made things easier -- the most commonly touched items brought him nothing, no little glimpses, and so he kept going. His headache was starting to pound behind his eyes, and if he kept it up much longer, he'd be puking sick.
He wanted something. Sheets of paper, Jack said he kept notes, so Greg headed for the bedroom, a study, maybe? Looking for something and trying not to touch anything until he found the important thing he was looking for.
"What, you giving up already? Didn't figure you were a slacker, Sanders. Your records all say otherwise."
Yeah, and his records probably went back to the time he was old enough to toddle. They'd be right, too, so he didn't bother answering. Just kept going, pulling his gloves out of his pocket to slide them on.
He needed to dig before he felt things again. He needed to get some new gloves, too. Some nice badass ones, maybe, because these, when he looked at them, looked kind of like golfer gloves. And he started to walk away, and Crawford followed him. "Look, I'm sorry. I just don't want to put Will on a cold case pile."
Greg wasn't ready to do that, either. Crawford made him grit his teeth, though. The last time he'd worked with anybody who annoyed him this much, it was the first three months Hodges had been in the lab. "I can't keep touching things. It's not getting me anything but a headache. We need to find something that actually means something. Not just random stuff, something serious."
He'd gotten used to Hodges, though, and he guessed he could get used to Jack-as-Hodges, too. "His papers, then. He does a lot of thinking on them." Jack moved to get in his way, or maybe lead it, because he opened the bedroom door for Greg. "In here. This and the living room are probably it for him."
Probably it. The bedroom looked comfortable -- wide, king-size bed, dark spot on the comforter where the dog obviously laid. Two nightstands, looked like something from the eighties, a mismatched chest of drawers. There were notebooks, novels, stacked on both sides of the bed, pens scattered everywhere, a basket that still had change and a couple of lighters in it.
Sitting down, he reached for the first notebook, the one closest to the side of the bed that seemed to him to be the one most slept on. The mattress cover was dented in, the padding smushed flat in a way that told Greg that yeah, he was doing it right; he'd picked the right side. He started to take a glove off, and hoped it was the right book, because he was going to need to sleep off the headache that it was going to give him.
The first few pages weren't recent, so he flipped further back, and further again, and when he got to the last page, he laid his palm down flat on it.
The explosion of images in his mind made his eyes slam shut, his head rock back with the force of it. Will, Will, a guy with a collar and a chain, wide scared eyes, another, pockmarked face, shark smile. Eyes of black and a vicious quirk of mouth.
Burg, Jesus, every fucking place in Virginia was something burg, and Greg took a deep, shuddering breath, reached up and rubbed his hand across the back of his nose. Great. Bleeding.
"Jesus fuck, kid. Hey, here..." Jack was pulling tissues out of his pocket, and that was weird that he had them, but also good because he hated snotting on his hands. "Okay, I didn't bring you into this for it to kill you."
"Yeah, well." He sounded bleary. "Don't usually do this so much in a day." This much or anywhere near, and he took the tissues, fumbling for a second before he managed to get them to his nose. The postnasal drip was a bitch.
"I didn't figure. Will used to sit under his desk at work when he got like this. I used to joke about getting him a tinfoil hat." Jack's smile was a little crooked, and mostly miserable and sad while he handed Greg more tissues. "You got anything?"
"Not with me." He hadn't needed it in years. The last prescription he'd had filled, he'd given to Gil so he didn't have to fill his. "Something. Harrisburg. Guy. Shitty complexion."
"Harrisburg." Jack was nodding to himself. "Okay. I'm going to drive you home, and we'll run this down, okay?"
Thank God. There was no way he'd manage to drive himself anywhere. Given half an option, he'd crawl under the covers here, cover his eyes and pass out. He didn't even have a doctor yet, so it wasn't like calling and begging for meds would help. "Yeah."
"Okay. I'm not dragging you into scenes and stuff like I do with Will, so. I might show up if we hit another dead end. I'll keep you up to date, but..." He wanted to do better for him than he'd done for Will, and Greg knew that even before he took Crawford's hand to help himself up.
"I appreciate the thought." And the drive home. Greg slipped his glove back on, stood up unsteadily. "I'd appreciate a doctor who can call in something for the migraine more."
"I'll get Alan to stop by your house. He's Will's guy. Good guy. Puts up with our shit." Which was intense, Greg was guessing. It almost made him long to be home in Vegas, where at least he'd just be dealing with living alone, just him, the dog and lingering, uncomfortable misery because he couldn't bear to leave it all behind without getting out of the state.
Then again, this was going to be a hell of a lot more interesting. And maybe he could put up with Crawford being a jackass for the time being. "Great." Greg thought about it a minute. "I'm taking the dog."
Jack's face crunched up for a minute. "Mal. You're volunteering to take the mutt? Okay, uh. His leash is by the door, and I'll get his food." It was like nothing really startled Jack, like he was used to non-sequiturs. He probably was, considering what Greg had seen of Will. What he knew of him. Non-sequiturs were probably a way of life with him, he figured, stumbling his way towards the kitchen and the back door.
Maybe the dog would help things seem more like home.
He was tired of the thin padded thing under him that was passing as a mattress, tired of the thick driving disassociation that made the whisper of knowledge surge up in his mind when they pumped him full of drugs. He was tired, and tired and tired, and it didn't matter because he was biding his time, waiting for his coordination to get better. He wondered if they knew why they were keeping him drugged and slow, why they wanted him pliant, and he wondered if they cared about whatever their mission was because they were failing.
If he could lie there waiting and still hate them all, they were failing.
He'd known what the guy was the second he saw him, thoughts invading the space at the back of his brain. Problem was, knowing it and proving it were different things, and he'd been looking for proof. It had been stupid, making an appointment with the guy to look at that commercial property.
Will wished he'd told Jack what he was going to do instead of going in just to verify what he already knew by letting the sick fuck into his mind again.
Of course, now he had proof, but it wasn't going to do him any good. Neither would pulling at the heavy, crude metal collar. Still, he had to give credit for the crudeness. It was effective. He hadn't been able to pull it apart, hadn't been able to get the lock to come open, and he didn't have a wide range of freedom on the chain. He needed to stop focusing backwards and just focus forward.
Needed to be able to focus at all, which was beyond him right now.
They kept bringing a man in, bloody face, mostly limp, and they wanted Will to read him. Wanted to know what he'd done with the money, and Will couldn't tell them. The guy hadn't done anything with the money, he'd made some kind of arrangements, knew someone who knew someone, and all Will was getting was a face. No names.
Since they weren't going to show up with a sketch artist, Will shrugged and told them the truth -- he had nothing. Someone else had done it, which was true. It didn't get any of them far, but he guessed the guy wasn't going to live long. He didn't figure he'd live that long, either, if he didn't come up with some way to make himself useful.
Will figured that there were worse things in the world than dying. He could live with that, and just thinking it that way made him laugh.
"What the fuck's he laughin' at?"
"Existential quandary." He hadn't thought they were back, and he still chuckled a little while he tried to push himself up to sitting.
One of the guys snorted. "Boss's little bitch used to talk like that. Back before he got his tongue cut out."
That was supposed to be intimidating. It wasn't nearly as disturbing as the images he was getting, spewing unendingly in his brain.
"And you liked it, didn't you?" Will knelt up, trying to steady himself with a hand on the wall. "Only, you didn't. You laughed and encouraged him, and then you went home and threw up until your toilet clogged, and drank yourself into a stupor until the memory faded. Now you hold it up and go, 'It wasn't that bad', except. It was."
"Son of a...!"
"Hey! Hey, let go of the guy's chain, Jer. He's too fucked up to even fight back, an' if you kill him, Boss is gonna kill you."
It choked him, just for a second, and Will grinned as he stumbled backwards. "You think you're so big and bad, but you're not. You're two bit thugs who wish you were investment bankers."
"Jesus, I hate comin' down here." Hated it, but there was a needle again, and Will hated that. Hated the feel of it in his veins, the way that it spread like fire until it pooled in him and made him open, open, open so that all he could think or hear were other people's echoing thoughts.
It did make conversation hard.
Will leaned his head back against the wall, sliding back down to a sitting position on his crappy mattress. "Feeling's mutual."
He wondered if Jack was looking for him. Wondered if Hannibal knew, or cared, worried that he did. Worried that he'd wake up, and be missing something vital, covered in bloody body parts. He supposed he'd find out, but for the moment he was going to fight to stay conscious, even when his eyes started to flutter shut. He needed to stay awake. If nothing else, to disturb those two a little more.
There was no reason for him to be the only one with terrible, ugly thoughts in his head. Until he passed out, he'd share the wealth.
He walked funny, all crooked jerking motions of his hindquarters, but he didn't seem like he was in pain. He didn't bark a lot, even when Greg's neighbors started yelling and they had to move to the other side of the apartment and turn on the television to drown it out.
Not that other side of the apartment meant much, but he hoped they started to yell about his TV volume next. It would've at least been good for a laugh.
But Mal was a good dog. He was sociable, liked petting, not too messy with the food, and had a preference for the dry stuff over the wet stuff even though Greg was pretty sure he had like. Eight teeth in his whole head.
He'd had two days of normal work for the FBI, an understanding with his boss that yes, when Crawford walked off with someone, well. It was okay, and everyone understood. He was an asset, and there was nothing to feel bad about because there were enough techs there to handle things if he went missing for a day or two.
The whole thing still felt off, wrong. He might have taken the job if he'd known about this, hell. He probably would have taken it, but having it happen this way made his teeth clench.
Crawford had made sure that his talents didn't see the kind of overuse he'd gone through on the first day. It wasn't as if they'd had a lot of new information come in, nothing that would cause that kind of migraine-induced nosebleed. Dr. Bloom had given him some stuff for that; brought it over the night Crawford had dropped him off at the house with the dog. He'd only needed it the once, but he was starting to think he needed to ask more questions, go back to Will's house.
Will. He didn't think of him as Graham. He was too close to him now, had too much information at his literal fingertips.
The guy felt like he was a wreck, but he was still trying. A lot of older psychics had problems, and Greg had to admit that the suicide rate was kind of high, but Will definitely felt like the kind of guy that if there was a way in hell, he'd still be alive.
Mal was just starting to fall asleep when his phone rang. He barked, loud, and Greg fumbled to answer it so that he'd stop barking. "Hello?"
~"Sanders. Hi. It's Crawford. Are you at -- well, I guess you're at home if you're answering. You mind if I drive over with a box of stuff we have?"~
Huh. "Yeah. Sure. Bring it over." He'd get up, put on something besides pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. Feed Mal a couple of treats so that maybe he wouldn't try and eat Crawford the minute he walked through the door.
Mal was a good dog, once a guy sort of worked his way into his good will. He threw himself bodily off of Greg's sofa, and meandered towards his water bowl in the kitchen. Yeah, someone was going to need crooked walkies by the time Crawford was done there.
He had the television as background noise while he wandered into the bedroom to throw on a quick change of clothes. Greg bet Harrisburg had been a bust. He knew what he'd seen though -- pock faced man, Harrisburg, chain, collar, leash. The problem was that there were probably a hundred different little towns called Harrisburg, and there wasn't enough time to check them all.
Two days here, two days there, and Will was dead, and Greg sort of hoped he'd get to meet the guy. He taught forensics, according to Crawford, and there were some taped lectures in the library that he was thinking about checking out. Gil had sort of taken the wind out of his love of learning sails by making what was between them something special and then taking off.
Maybe Will would be able to give that back to him. If he lived long enough.
By the time Crawford knocked, he'd pulled on jeans and given Mal a treat, so obviously he'd been on his way when he called. Mal was growling at the door, and Greg pulled him back, reached out with a hand and ignored the image of the nice older man panicking that flashed through his mind. Another few weeks of living there, and things like that would be gone for him. It would be his place, and his place alone.
Thank god there hadn't been much in there yet, just the one occupant, not layers and layers to sift through. It paid to look for new places, no matter how much it cost.
"Sanders, you are a sight for sore eyes. We've got a lead. It's definitely the real estate guy. I mean, my skin crawls around the guy, and he had a look when we showed up -- and he's in every damn Harrisburg on the east coast."
Crawford's hair was standing on end, his mustache even twitching, and he pushed inside despite Mal's growling, a whole box of crap in his hands. "Where'd you get all of this stuff?"
"Harrisburg, Virginia. Will had an appointment there, about commercial property. He was just trying to get a better feel for the guy, I know. This is shit from the front office."
Greg reached up, shoved a hand through his hair. The front office wouldn't be the place something would go down. It never was, except when it was, which was a sign that he was damn tired. Too much yelling from next door lately. "Put it down on the coffee table."
"Will touches everything," Jack told him even while he set the box down. "He's hands on. He says it helps ground him."
It probably would if he was having control issues. Greg sat on the edge of the couch and reached for the first object, a pad of paper with an address scrawled on it. He saw the secretary, a nervous woman who kept thinking that she wished she'd never taken the job. Her hands shook, so mostly she typed things instead of writing them for fear that someone would notice the way her handwriting looked.
It wasn't what he was looking for. There was another sheet, property specs, and there he got a surge of suspicion, of Will smiling and nodding and faking it and knowing immediately what was going on now and oh shit.
That was the guy, right there; smiling in a way that said nothing but bad things, and Greg wanted to jerk his fingers back. He wanted to stop touching the paper and do something, anything, except see what came next.
He couldn't, and he held onto the sheet and watched the guy come right at Will and cold cock him. There was nothing after that, but Greg was willing to bet if the secretary wasn't dead, she was heading for the border.
"The guy with the bad complexion knocked him out. That's the last I've got." The last he could tell for sure, but he reached out, touched the pad again, and yeah. Yeah. "The secretary. Her name's Doris McElroy. I figure she's probably taken off, from the way she feels about her job, but maybe if you track her down...."
"We found her car abandoned and burning. She might've been in it. They're still sort of taking it apart." And that wasn't Jack's job, but someone else would fill it in for him, Greg guessed as he leaned back from the sheets. There were other things in there -- pens, papers, hell. Even a box of gem clips for all the good that would do.
Leaning back, he licked his lips. "Might have been?" As in unidentifiable remains, probably. That sounded very, very bad.
"Yeah." Jack looked miserable, but he also invited himself to sit on Greg's beat to hell old lazy boy. "I'm trying not to drag you into it."
"Because you feel guilty about Will." Well, duh. Great big duh, but Greg was a big boy, and he had better control over himself than Will did. Not that he'd say it out loud, but truth was truth.
"I start dragging you all out to scenes, and look what happens. Will's managed to dodge it this long because I think he scares the shit out of most people. Just not this time." Jack shrugged his shoulders tightly. "Anything else you can find. I know they've moved him."
Moved him, and God alone knew to where. Greg wouldn't be able to follow, not unless the guy had touched something here. "What's his name? The man with the bad complexion. I need something he's touched, something with intent."
"Acastus Kolya." Jack eyed the box. "How about... uh, down there, there's some discs and shit we salvaged from the back room. I guess we're lucky he didn't set the place on fire. It's all a legit business, but..."
"But it's hiding something that isn't. And I'm gonna need to go to that office. I need to touch something he's touched, I need to be able to see what happened there." He needed to be able to touch everything to find out.
Jack exhaled hard, and glanced at his floor, like it was fascinating. It sort of was, for fake wood. "Okay. You up for the drive, then? It's something like four damn hours, which makes me think the bastard hopped onto 81 and maybe rode it down."
"I'll pull on some tennis shoes. Give me fifteen minutes. Mal!" The dog shuffled towards him. "Come on. Let's go for a walk."
"Yeah. That's fine. I'll just wait here." And maybe Jack hadn't expected him to say yes, to just taking off for a four-hour drive and then back just to feel a few things.
He had to figure Will didn't mean anything to Greg. The funny thing of it was that he probably shouldn't. It wasn't like they'd so much as met, but there were things he knew just from what he'd seen, what he'd touched. It was enough that he wanted to go. That he had to, because he had to know. And maybe, yeah, he couldn't leave a fellow psychic just hanging out there, when it was obvious that Jack had jack shit. He stomped into his sneakers, and went for Mal's leash. Jack could hang out on the sofa.
It took Mal a while to decide where he wanted to go -- sniffing this bush and that pile of dirt, before finally deciding on a tree with some kind of purple-pink flowers all over it. When he was done, they headed back to his apartment, and Jack was still there waiting. "Okay." He released the leash. "I'm ready if you are."
"Yeah, I'm ready. We'll stop at a Mickey D's on the way down and get some coffee." Jack stood up, and tossed his car keys in his hand. "Let's go."
McDonald's coffee was not something that had ever been on Greg's menu, but it was late, and he'd take whatever he could get. "Yeah."
Caffeine was a necessity. And maybe he'd talk Jack into stopping someplace for junk food, too.
The psychic was doped to his eyeballs, as they said, lying on a thin pallet on the floor. He'd been taunting Smith and Wesson relentlessly since he'd been there. It wasn't as if it took a psychic to get into either of those minds. Still, the fact that he wasn't already falling to heel was irritating. "Good evening, Will. How have you been enjoying our hospitality?"
"Fantastic. Coffee's shit, though, and I didn't book a non-smoking room." He was annoyingly immediately responsive -- with his mouth, with his words. His body wasn't there, and he moved a hand against the mattress like he might be able to push himself upright. Acastus doubted it.
He let a smile curl slowly at the edges of his mouth despite the fact that he didn't feel it. "We could make better arrangements if you would agree to use your talents more... prudently in our favor." Psychics of any degree were not so rare, but useful ones were uncommon enough. Graham's talents were well known, and Acastus wanted them for his own.
"You can't always get what you want." Graham was just there, just, turned on all the time and it was glorious. "Anyway, your punching bag doesn't know the guy's name. Not that you care." Will shifted, laid down on his side with his shoulder dug in against the mattress.
That was true enough. Torturing Adams was simply part of the fun; he'd already figured out that someone higher in the food chain had somehow convinced the idiot to do a little dirty work and promised he wouldn't get caught. His boys had convinced Adams to give what information he had yesterday.
His body would probably be found sometime next week.
"That's true. I don't. I'm more interested in you."
"That's great. You're not the first, and you're not the worst, so... I'm at a loss as to why I should care." Graham even closed his eyes, and Acastus wanted to make the man care. He wanted to make him hurt and break him down. It was just a matter of finding the chink in his armor, and prying it up.
Tearing it open.
He'd gotten good at that, over the years, from blackmailing his pet's father for a chunk of DiNozzo International, to buying politicians to ease his way through the murky waters he sometimes navigated when he most needed to appear pristine. He would manage to do the same here. "Because unlike Dr. Lecter, I won't allow you to outlive your usefulness. And because I can easily have Josh finished off."
He heard the sharp intake of breath, and watched the man try to push past the drugs to get upright. "You leave him alone."
It hadn't been easy, finding out about Graham's stepson. Most men didn't continue paying for the medical care of a child that didn't belong to them, much less for one so damaged. The guilt must be overwhelming. "That is entirely up to you. All I ask is that you work for me. Assist me in my pursuits. I've already offered you quite a bit of money. Consider this to be.... extra incentive."
"I already have a job." But it was less of a firm, angry refusal than the earlier ones had been. He'd knocked a little wind out of the man's sails. "If I agreed, then what?"
Then he'd be under Acastus's thumb, where he wanted him. "Then you would be free to go about your life. There would be a house nearby, of course, so that your talents would be available to me when I want them."
"You know I'd run the moment I could. So why are you even offering?" He started to sink back down to lying there, still keeping half an eye on Kolya.
"Because I would prefer to keep you spirited, and capable of doing what I want. And if you run, if you move your stepson, I will find him and I will kill him. I will kill Molly Reynolds. I will kill her husband John, and I will kill both of their children. I will kill everyone who has ever had any importance in your life, Will. And I won't flinch."
"Mmm. The problem with these negotiations are that you're insane. If I displease you, you'll start to pick them off, whether that displeasure has any connection to reality or not. There's no incentive to say yes, because the outcome is going to be the same." No fear reaction, just the motion of lying his head back down on the thin mattress.
Killing him hadn't been on the to-do list, but it certainly might end up on it. "Perhaps I should kill Josh, just to prove that I mean what I say. I could do that. Of course, it may be a better idea to torture him first. Just to prove that I mean what I say."
"I'm not going to beg you not to go it. You hurt him, you'll never get a lick of help from me," Will murmured into the mattress.
There was nothing for it. They would need to do this the hard way, and he had to admit that it was much more enjoyable for him. "You leave me with few choices, Will. You'll work for me. It could have been the easy way. I'd like you to remember that." Acastus paused. "Wesson. Bring in my instruments."
"Oh, good times. Torture, like I've never been tortured before. You're an amateur." Will shifted, squirming and trying to sit up again. Acastus had to give him credit for stubbornness, but he could grind that down.
It would take time. He was something of an expert by now, though. He knew how to take his time. "I am many things, Will." Wesson rolled in the heavy-duty rubber cart on which his instruments were laid. "Unfortunately for you, amateur is not one of them."
"There's no anticipatory fear, though. I know what's coming," Will pointed out, looking up at him calmly.
"Why don't you enlighten me?" He lingered over his choices -- pliers, cutting instruments, even a ball-peen hammer. The simpler tools were the best for beginning, however, so he reached first for a box cutter and the accompanying box of new blades. "Bring in the electric skillet, and put away my pet. You can leave him in the office. I may be a while."
"Just the thought of all of the bloodletting you're going to do is getting you hard. You're going to go sodomize your 'pet' afterwards." Will shifted onto his back a little more, stretching out. "I don't care anymore. If I die here, fine. I don't care."
Acastus smiled as the blade slotted into place. "Perhaps not. Perhaps I can change your mind, or perhaps I won't. The only sure thing is my enjoyment. Wesson, his arm." The psychic turned his head enough to give Wesson an oddly dirty look, but he didn't have the coordination to fight back very hard when Wesson took his arm. "And now, we begin." With a long, steady cut, from mid-palm to just above the wrist. It wasn't deep enough to cause damage, only pain. All of his initial cuts would be, until he filleted skin later and set it to sizzle.
Perhaps he should send Smith out for some pork.
"Amateur," Will hissed, clenching his teeth hard enough to make Acastus smile. Yes. Perhaps he seemed so, just now, but he knew as he made the next cut that Graham would change his mind before all was said and done.
"Then, I will enjoy practicing with you."
Jack had made him sit down in the place, and fed him, and gotten a milkshake to go because he was a skinny bugger. He had some pills on him from Will's office stash if the kid had a nosebleed after he did his thing. The care and feeding of psychics were not all the same, Jack guessed.
Will had always been on the edge of something, maybe between sane and crazy. He threw himself into everything whole-heartedly; even when it was obvious he didn't need to. Clarice had been that way too, despite not having Will's skill-set. She'd been sensitive, maybe, but not psychic. Nothing like Will, and sure as hell nothing like the kid. He didn't let it overwhelm him like Will did, didn't wander into dangerous situations on his own like Starling. Of course, he was fresh out of working with a pretty good team, and that changed things.
He still had boundaries, and Jack wondered why Clarice and Will hadn't. Was it his taste in the way things worked, or something he was personally responsible for, in training and working with them? Jack guessed he'd never really be sure, which came first, the taste for danger or the walking headlong into it. Not unless the kid showed him something new.
Greg was picking at his burger, a wry twist of amusement stretching his mouth. "So. How much farther, Poppa Smurf?" He picked up his shake and sucked some of it down noisily.
"Should be another ten, fifteen minutes," Jack announced, trying not to look over at Greg while he drove. He was distracting, like a four year old who'd been on a trip for longer than about twenty minutes. He'd squirmed for the first hour -- turned on the air, changed the temperature, fucked with the radio. By the time Jack was grinding his teeth together, though, he'd slumped in his seat and dozed off.
Yeah. Just like a kid.
Now, though, he pulled himself up, tucked away the burger, and seemed to be doing something. Centering himself maybe, because he did seem more together. More calm, and Jack wondered if he could teach that trick to Will. "Tell me more about this Kolya guy."
"He's a well known jackass in the commercial real estate world. Office buildings and shit, you know? Leasing stuff. Shopping centers. Never would've seen it coming unless you sit and listen to him for a while."
The kid gave him a crooked smile. "There's a lot of things I haven't seen coming. Hopefully, I'll see what we need."
"Yeah, I still think you have a one up on most of us." Jack focused, shifted lanes. He was pretty good with roads -- saw them once and he had them down aces, but he was tired. It was late, and they had another four hours drive back the other way to do.
"My grandmother has the gift." It was out of the blue, probably because Sanders was tired more than anything else. "They marked her hands at Ellis Island."
"Shit. Yeah, I'm sorry. I know it's not all sunshine and roses. I know." But Sanders could see what had happened, better than the CCTVs that weren't going to be in the place.
He was pulling on gloves, slow, steady. "How long did you play on the fact that nobody ever taught Graham any control?" It seemed more like curiosity than anything else. "Did you even know you were doing it?"
"I, what?" He glanced over for a quick second, and then snapped his eyes back to the road because, what the hell. Play on it?
"Yeah. You know what I mean. Much older psychics either learned control or committed suicide. Guys Will's age, though, they went to segregated schools. Had teachers who told them their whole reason for being, their point in life, was to be part of the system and do right." The kid paused. "Not that they taught them much else. No control or centering techniques. Nothing to prevent somebody from taking advantage of the fact that they learned to respect every life except their own."
"Will's... an asset for the FBI. And he tried training, whatever it is you call it. That kind of went bad on him, and I never could get him to try again. Only thing I could do was help him sort of get his shit back together after that." And it hadn't been enough, and now Will had put himself into a situation where he got himself kidnapped.
"You ever ask him to do something you knew was a bad idea?" Greg looked at him, tilted his head to the side as if he knew. Hell, he probably did.
"Yeah." There was no point in lying to the kid. "Yeah, I did. A lot, because no one else did and Will was damn good at it."
He could see the way Greg licked his lips, the way he settled the closures of his gloves so that they were firmly in place. "I'll keep that in mind about you then." That and who knew what else. It was obvious to Jack that he'd already known the answer, but he'd wanted to hear it from Jack's own mouth for some reason.
"I've worked with Will since before we got a handle on it. And if, when, we find him again, maybe you'd be willing to help him out with it." Which was optimistic, but. "He won't see a professional, and I know I'm bad for him. I never watch out for him enough." And Will never said 'no' to a damn thing. Jack could feel his jaw tighten and clench while he pulled up to park. "All right?"
That seemed to suit Greg. It just made Jack want to go home, see if Phyllis had finished off the pound cake she usually made for the grandkids before they came over. Psychics who weren't Will made his head ache. "Yeah. All right."
He nodded, and popped the door open, waiting for Greg to just follow his lead. The sooner he got Greg in there, and then back home, the sooner maybe they could get Will back. He fished for the key to the place. "You do your thing, and let me know if you need me to do anything but stand around and look stupid."
"So does Kolya know? That we're here, that you've got a key to the place?" The nerves were pretty well hidden but Jack could tell he was keyed up now, nerves riding high.
"Yeah. We've got it shut down as a crime scene, and there's actually a stakeout team here, across the road in case he comes back. His little empire is falling apart, at least with what we can do to it, but I want Will back." Which meant that someone else was working that part, the taking it apart bit, collapsing it out from under the guy while he wasn't looking. He picked the wrong fucking psychic to steal.
Nobody was going to get a second chance at any other psychics. They were going to get Will back, and he was going to protect the kid, one way or another. Will would expect it, considering how he'd fucked up taking care of him.
He found the right key and got the door open, hand fidgeting along the wall until he located the switch. Greg glanced around, looking for something. Hell if Jack could tell.
"Okay. That's his office. Is it open?"
"Yeah. Everything is open. And it's already been fingerprinted, so don't worry about any of that." And photographed to the hilt.
He could see the way the kid's hands shook when he started to strip off a glove. It seemed kind of stupid, putting them on for ten minutes and then stripping one off again, but Jack had never been psychic. Not even close, and maybe he'd get it more if he were. Maybe he'd understand the way Will got other people stuck in his head, the way Greg's hands shook as he reached out to touch the doorframe into Kolya's office.
All he could do was watch and wait and hope the kid's nose didn't spout a gusher because he didn't have too many tissues stuck in his pocket just then. He'd have to go fish more out of the glove compartment.
Watching Sanders was different than watching over Will. He didn't go all off-kilter and manic, just stood there with his eyes closed, movement sliding behind the lids something like REM. He shook every now and then, hand clenching on the object, and sometimes he talked, remnants of some flash of conversation in his head, whatever he was seeing. It was creepier in its way than Will's crazy personality switches, especially with the nosebleed thing.
When he opened his eyes, they were bloodshot, dazed. "There's a guy. He's not willing, but he's with Kolya anyway. Like a puppy somebody's kicked too many times. Blackmail, but not him. Somebody else. A relative. The guy does what he's told. They left him to watch Will while they got rid of the secretary. She wouldn't stop screaming."
Okay, someone else to rescue, then. Jack filed that away, trying to be logical and calm. "Okay. That helps to know. Do you know where they went?" Or did he have to touch other things, get deep into other probably horrifying moments. If the kid hadn't been a CSI, Jack wouldn't have been as comfortable asking him to see these things.
Sanders was already shaking his head. "Harrisburg again. They keep saying it, but nobody's been more specific." He let go of the doorway and moved further into the office without turning on the lights. There was never a moment where he tripped or stumbled, where he doubted himself, and then he was in Kolya's desk chair, hands on the arms, and Jack watched him go violently stiff and gasp hard.
"There's other Harrisburgs," Jack noted quietly, and yeah, that couldn't have been pleasant. The kid likely didn't even hear him because it was probably like putting Will in the room with a raving madman. Just, not the best call he'd made.
Definitely not, because the kid was up and puking in the wastebasket in a minute, and Jesus. What could be that bad? The hair on the back of his neck stood up, and Jack headed for the bathroom a couple of feet away to wet some paper towels.
By the time he got back, Sanders had some control over himself again, even if he was still choking a little, spitting into the can. "He cut that kid's tongue out. Here. Tied him to the chair and...." He dry heaved for a second. "We really need to find your guy."
"Nothing more specific?" Harrisburg was a big place, the Pennsylvania one. It was the fucking capital, and the guy had no office there, but he did have property his company ran and leased around the area. "I'm going to call the home office, see what we can run property wise for the guy up there."
Greg took the paper towels and wiped his mouth, then doubled them over and wiped his nose. "Might as well. Who the hell goes to Pennsylvania willingly anyway?" He sniffed again. "Nothing yet. Gimme a few minutes."
"Okay. I'll stand just outside the door and make the calls." There were no windows, so the kid wasn't going anywhere and no one was getting in. Jack pulled his cell phone out, keeping half an eye on the kid. He kept touching things, shuffling papers and objects, bent over the desk now and studiously avoiding the chair. Every now and then, he would pause as if one of those weird snow globe moments had made its way into his head, and then he'd move on.
Jack was getting too old for this shit.
He missed Will. He missed Will and there wasn't any way he could think about that kid getting his tongue cut out. So he wasn't, and he focused on his call, on getting guys on the research. He stayed on the line long enough to get a list of Kolya's properties up that way, and to get the nearest office to start working on warrants while he worked out a plane. It didn't matter if someone else got there before he did, as long as someone got Will out of there.
Preferably before he lost body parts.
Mostly, he wanted to be home, and he wanted for everything to end. It was all right if he died here, because at least it would be over. At least he'd have a respite. Will didn't particularly want Jack to find him like that, taken to pieces, reduced down to who knew what, but it wasn't like he had control over it. The collar around his neck wasn't going anywhere as long as his head was still attached, and the chain was freakishly strong.
He'd figured that out when the sick bastard had taken a nutcracker to his fingers. Something about that kind of pain made it difficult not to thrash around, try to get loose. He'd only managed to try and strangle himself in short order.
It hadn't done him any good, but he'd still tried and it had kind of gotten him distracted from the pain. He was trying not to move, trying not to catalog what was broken, what was busted, and what was just inconveniently nonfunctional just then. The knowing wasn't going to matter, because if an opportunity to escape presented itself... he was going to run for it, broken bones or no.
Kolya took breaks periodically -- sleep, eat, fuck, who knew why. There was no reason or rhyme to things, and so Will slept between his visits, between the nauseating smell of his own skin frying after Kolya filleted it off his left thigh and the time he came back with salt to rub into his wounds.
It mostly meant the Kolya knew who he was, and wanted to rub it in. Knew his history with cooked human flesh, wanted to get under Will's skin, but he failed. It was a poor imitation of the hard fear Hannibal had put in Will, the understanding of how close he was to the other side of the coin.
He wondered, vaguely, if Hannibal knew he was missing. It wouldn't surprise him; Hannibal knew a great many things, often sensed the future in ways that defied interpretation. Will wondered if that was the reason he'd never died at his hands, if his possible futures held too much amusement for the man. He wondered if this was going to be the way that he finally met his end.
It would have amused Hannibal, if this might be one of the possibilities.
Will moved his left hand, wiped at his mouth, his nose, and inhaled shakily. Everything was starting to hurt all over again, which meant that Kolya would be down soon. He seemed to come back when the agony moved from numb to searing, as if he had some inner sense that told him when the time to strike was perfect.
The fact that he still seemed to believe that Will would give in and be his little mind-reading puppet was insane. Unfortunately for Will, the long practice of dealing with madmen made this harder. He didn't want to give in, so in order to make his way through without doing that, he had to feed off of Kolya's state of pleasure. That wasn't the sick part of things.
The sick part was that Kolya was terribly, horribly sane.
He was just completely amoral. There was no sense of humanity in the man, no twinge of regret. He liked what he liked, wanted what he wanted. Will just needed to ride it through until Kolya tired of him and finished him off. It was coming, though it might take a while.
A long while, if the poor kid missing his tongue was anything to go by.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs made him twitch, a full-body motion that made Will want to scream. Instead, he bit it back, trying to pull himself under control.
The guy was good, but he wasn't going to give him credit for it. "Hello. Bored, huh?" And since he was already tapping into Kolya's mind, it was easier to just open up and flow with it, riding off of the feedback that helped him feel the pain less. Kolya was excited, amused, still sure that this time, Will would crack, with no idea at all that Will was in his head. That he knew what was coming.
It was wrong, that someone sane would ever think this would lead to being given what he wanted. "I thought you might appreciate some company."
Will knew what he meant then, even before he heard the shuffling steps at the head of the stairs. After that, each step was solid, steady on the wood, and he caught himself flinching with every one.
"He's not as pretty as your pet upstairs. Of course, all of the blood might be a part of that."
Kolya wanted to keep his hands clean, and Will was probably too old for his personal tastes, but it didn't shock him that there was a friend there who was willing. As open as his mind was, there was no way he could stop from overlapping into this guy, a little, so he felt more than he saw the man reach down to adjust his dick through his pants.
"Can I pass on company?"
That self-satisfied smile said it all. "Of course. All you need do is agree to what I've asked of you. It really isn't that much."
Just to agree to be his pet psychic. "No." And every time his brain suggested that he could say yes, say yes and get a note out, a call out to Jack, but he wasn't going to have a much different life from what he was having if he agreed. They'd move him, move on, and whatever trail Jack might be on would get lost. Will knew that would happen. "I'm not interested."
"Then I'm afraid that you will have to entertain my friend here. I'll come back to check on you. Eventually." After the guy had done what he came to do, Will knew, and he watched warily as the man stepped closer. "Call me if he changes his mind, Pranos."
"Of course." Will knew he wouldn't, and Kolya knew it, too. It didn't matter, though. Knowledge wasn't going to change anything.
Kolya was enjoying himself, even if he was leaving. Will shifted his eyes to this friend of Kolya's, trying to settle comfortably in his mind, because as torn up as he already was, there was no way it wasn't going to hurt, even if he were careful.
Careful didn't seem to be on the menu. If Kolya was chillingly sane, the same couldn't be said of Pranos. He was close to some unknowable line, capable of functioning as if he led a normal life when he wasn't in the headspace he occupied now. He was a man who took great delight in the pain of others, particularly those who came to him unwilling.
"It's a shame you won't enjoy this as much as I will."
"It's a shame that I'm in your head." Will inhaled slowly, closing his eyes and trying to hold still because he might as well just brace himself for it. "You like all this blood. You like that I have no choice. You wouldn't get Kolya if I changed my mind right now."
"Of course not." Of course, and he stepped closer to Will, reaching for a knife on the cart to slice away the few remnants of clothing left to him.
Like it mattered. And it didn't, except Will still shook when he inhaled because on some level, he was exhausted and scared and done, he was done, he wanted to take that knife and stab himself in the throat because the hope he was being offered wasn't hope at all. "No. When I get out of here, you're all going to regret this."
Pranos laughed freely, entertained by his threat. "If you fail to agree to Acastus's wishes, you'll never get out of here." Not ever, and his threats only amused the man.
"And if I agree, it's not getting much better for me." He licked his bottom lip, trying to shift his mind a little more until he could feel the other man's body. Aroused, and pain free, oh, god that felt good. Nothing important throbbed, nothing except the flesh between his legs, and maybe that would help. Maybe he'd be able to focus the other man's arousal into his own, make this bearable and forgettable, like nothing more than very bad sex.
That notion lasted all of thirty short seconds, right up until Pranos squeezed his dick in a painful, twisting clench, making him moan despite himself. "I prefer that it doesn't."
His leg twitched, pulled at scabbed skin, and Will gritted his teeth. "Wouldn't have guessed. Trying to, hnh, make me scream?"
"No. I just wouldn't want you to think that your pleasure is in any way a part of our evening together."
No. No, he wasn't under that mistaken impression, not in the least. Especially when his balls were held so tightly, making him moan and fight against that touch.
He didn't have much energy to fight, either, which made it impressive, Will supposed. He was kept on just enough food to survive, just enough water. Just enough to leave him with a headache which was actually detrimental to Kolya's goals, and too weak to fight hard. "Never picked that ungh, impression up."
Not in the least, and when the man stopped crushing his testicles and slid fingers back to pry at Will's asshole, he couldn't say that he was entirely surprised. Not by the fingers, or the lack of lube, or the fact that Pranos was getting off on it. He'd lube his dick before he stuck it in, but that would be the only kindness he would offer. That was more for his own pleasure than anything else.
Right now, just then, he liked the feeling of Will's asshole clutching dry, resisting, skin that wasn't supposed to be penetrated that way fighting hard not to be, even while Will tried to get himself to relax while Pranos worked that finger in harder. There was nothing he could do to mitigate the circumstances, because Pranos pressed his other hand down on Will's hip, pinning him still.
He was already raw from too much time spent in this hellhole. Poor diet, being forced to piss and shit himself after being purposely left alone too long, all of that combined for a damn uncomfortable experience, even without the sheer raw discomfort the man was causing him. He hissed, and tried harder not to clamp down.
"Oh, yes." Pranos was practically humming to himself, pleased with what he was getting from Will. More than pleased, truth be known, and Will always knew the truth. It was a curse as much as it was a gift.
Will felt the fingers hook, pulling, stroking his insides, maybe trying to tear or rip him. He exhaled hard, trying to keep it quiet, down to hisses and groans, when he felt that Pranos wanted wild screaming.
He should probably just give the man what he wanted, better to make it easier on himself. There was that obstinate core at the root of him, though, a complete inability to take the easy way out. He couldn't do it, even when Pranos let out a growling yell and shoved in two more fingers.
That, that got Pranos a strangled noise, and Will tried to fight, tried to push Pranos away, tried to buck him off, and it was laughable to Will because he could sense himself through Pranos and it was weak, it was useless, even if it left his own muscles aching while he struggled fitfully.
"That's more like it." Much more, and they were getting to the point now, because that little bit of fight, of sound, had turned him on, made the guy that little bit harder.
Will tilted his head back, panting, trying not to howl because there were three dry fingers up his ass and if he lived through it, he was going to be a wreck, all of it. He was probably going to lose fingers and be shitting in a bag for the rest of his fucking life, and there was probably more to come because Pranos was twisting his fingers, trying to curl them together and that got the howl.
Got him what he wanted, really, Will could tell that, because he pulled out his fingers and reached into his pocket.
At least if he was going to be shitting in a bag, he wouldn't be carrying gonorrhea on top of it all.
The condom, too, was for Pranos's sake, and the lube he was slicking on over it, and Will inhaled, ragged, trying to pull himself together. Part of him wanted to stay imbedded in Pranos, to shift over to him entirely, and another part of him didn't want to be there, didn't want to see and sense himself that way when he was being raped. Because then, wouldn't it be like raping himself? Will wasn't sure, and it was one of those things psychics that he'd run into didn't talk about among themselves. When did someone start to create their own traumas, to make them worse?
He'd been entirely into Hannibal's head and the other way around too many times for him to want to experience what was going on from the other side again, so he forced himself to draw back, to try and get himself out of Pranos's head. It made things worse, made the pain more intense, and he couldn't stop the sounds then. Couldn't keep them behind his teeth anymore, and even trying to entrench himself in his own thoughts, he could feel the pleasure it gave the man roiling from him in waves.
"Fuck, yes." Grunted, crude, and Pranos was shoving his dick in, making Will scream despite himself.
It only stopped when he inhaled, and then it caught in his chest, half a sob, a strangled noise while he tried to get his hands up around Pranos's throat, tried to reach for him to make it stop and couldn't, couldn't get hold of him, couldn't get shaking fucked up fingers to work any better than if they were handcuffed behind his back. And Pranos kept moving, shoving in hard, getting his grip and position, pulling out, jostling Will because he knew it hurt, dull undercurrents to the sharper pain that was overwhelming.
Halfway through, he lost track, whited out, though he wasn't surprised when he came to with a hand fisted in his hair, tight and vicious. "Don't go away on me now, Mr. Graham. Not when I'm enjoying your company so very much."
He was struggling to breathe, to focus, to think, and every inhalation was a whine because it all hurt, and he wanted to go away. He wanted to stop shaking and just rip that collar off, take his head off with it, and be not there. Be anywhere except where he was, which was in hell, dead and in hell, and somehow, somewhere in there, he started to laugh, a cracked, hysterical sound. It wasn't a shock when Pranos backhanded him.
It didn't stop him, couldn't, and Pranos hit him, hit him again, hit him until he knew he was going to lose consciousness again, or die, and that was okay. As long as Pranos stopped enjoying his company.
It was the most that he could hope for.
It felt like there was a tiny gremlin with a hammer behind his left eye, and another one somewhere closer to his sinuses. At least Crawford had stopped at a convenience store and picked up one of those fake plastic toothbrush things he could use to get the taste of puke out of his mouth.
Greg had gone through every piece of paper in Kolya's office, until he'd been holding paper towels to his nose with one hand and fumbling through the past with his other.
The more he knew, the more he wished he didn't know a damn thing, the more he had to know everything, and that was why he hadn't really used it much as a CSI. Every grim, twisted detail came up, and Grissom gave him that 'are you shitting me?' look and demanded proof while Jack just nodded and made phone calls to different places with every scrap of information, every shred that Greg gave him.
The difference between evidence gathering and detective work, Jack Crawford style. Jack had called, made arrangements for the dog, booked them a flight, and they hopped on board at Richmond to fly down to Atlanta, and then up to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Jack said he'd sent everything on to the agents in Philly, who were on it, but he wanted to get up there fast.
At that point, Greg couldn't imagine just going back to his apartment and waiting out for the results. He was too close to it, too much a part of it, and he had to be there to follow the trail. He had to see how things fell out, and he had to know that Will Graham was still alive at the end of this road.
He'd never been all that fond of flying, but Jack's way got them on a plane within three hours. The connecting flight in Atlanta had been a bitch to make, and they'd ended up running down Concourse A, practically knocking people out of the way to get on the flight. Then the damn thing had been delayed for half an hour, and Greg had downed Advil like it was candy while Crawford bitched under his breath the whole time.
Then Crawford had bought him coffee -- more coffee, but it was Starbucks coffee which was more like food than not-food -- and a weird fresh pretzel that was kind of okay to eat in a bland and salty way that was good for his roiling stomach. He'd polished it off by the time they boarded.
Harrisburg was mostly about them finding a rental and making their way towards the nearest police station. The agents in Philly were faxing over lists of properties for sale and by the time they got to the station, Greg never wanted to see another airplane anytime soon. He also didn't want to travel with Crawford again -- his driving skills were as terrifying as Brass's, except more like Brass stone drunk.
That was possibly demeaning to Brass, but he wasn't sure. It didn't help that the city seemed to be made of on ramps and off ramps and nothing in between except locations and more on and off ramps. Of course, Jack took every ramp at top speed, so when they arrived Greg just wanted to sit down and listen to the people who were doing their jobs rant at each other, while his brain told him that it was oh fuck o clock at night.
There was something off about the property lists that he couldn't figure out. He was too close to it, and too disconnected at the same time. There were people talking, Jack arguing, and a disconnect between himself and everything else. Pulling off his gloves wouldn't help, but he wanted to, badly. As if it would help.
All he'd get was the nerves from the guy who'd printed it out, but maybe that was all he needed to get. He wanted, wanted and wanted, to get Will Graham back, and he felt like the list was missing something. What?
"Excuse me." They probably wouldn't appreciate the interruption. Hell, they didn't want to acknowledge him at all it seemed. "Hey! Does this include all of the properties he's sold in the last couple of years?"
"No?" The nearest detective gave Greg a look, and Crawford snapped his fingers.
"Get it," Crawford said. "Hell, I'll get it."
"There's something missing here. I need to see the names, there's something...." Something niggling at the back of his mind that needed to see those names.
"Okay. We'll get that run." Jack spared a round of dirty looks. "You went through the place time to bottom, I know something's gotta twig your memory."
A name or something specific, something.... "It's Italian or Spanish or...." He couldn't remember. It wasn't pegging, and Greg knew he wasn't firing on all cylinders. He was too tired, his head hurt too much. He couldn't afford to sleep and try to make it any better, though.
The guilt would kill him. As soon as he got back, as soon as it was done, he was never saying yes to Jack Crawford ever again. Not for anything, not for any cases, because Greg liked his sanity.
"To someone Italian or Spanish?"
"I think." No, he knew, but he couldn't say how or why. He didn't want to, either, what with the looks a couple of the cops were shooting him. People still had issues with psychics in some places. This, apparently, was one of those less than awesome places.
"Okay. We're looking for associates of his, then. Operating under one of their names?"
Greg didn't know. Couldn't make any connections, and waiting on somebody to send over property lists that should have been there when they arrived left him with clenched teeth. Instead, he shook his head and took a deep breath to try and clear his mind. "Yeah. Maybe. I think."
"You know." Jack clapped his shoulder. "Look, take a nap and I'll shake you out of it when it's ready."
He didn't want to sleep, not even shortly. He didn't have any choice, though. Not really. "Yeah."
"Oh, hey, we pulled together a known associates list," one of the detectives offered, reaching back to scour his desk for it. Okay, Greg could hang on long enough to do that. "Which is hard to do this late at night."
"Yeah, yeah. We've got a missing agent, detective, and that doesn't hang its hat up just because it's too early in the AM."
Some people were assholes for the hell of it, and some people were just born that way. Greg had long since come to that decision. This guy had all the earmarks of somebody who'd chosen to be the asshole he was today. Well. Late, late tonight, early this morning, whatever, and he took the list after Jack snatched it from the guy's hands.
"Any of these ring a bell?" Jack was hoping, he was hoping so hard that Greg was glad he still had his gloves on while he took the sheet from Jack. It was a three-columned list; both sides of the sheet, and Greg ran an eye over it slowly, taking in the names to see if one of them seemed familiar. Nothing did at first, so he flipped the page, and it slapped him in the face, hard.
"This one." He looked up at Crawford. "It's this one, here."
The kid with his tongue cut out. He wasn't an associate any more than Will was, but he'd probably been with the guy so long that they didn't know how to account for him. Crawford took the sheet from him, staring at it. "He's just a kid, but... yeah, okay, run everything you've got on this guy. He'll be there."
Kolya would never think somebody would think to look for him someplace supposedly owned by a kid he'd held as a slave for at least five years or so. "I'm gonna catch a little sleep. Swear you'll wake me as soon as there's something."
"I'm not taking you to the scene if we find the place, okay?" Jack turned away, and maybe he'd rustle up a blanket for Greg to use while he slouched down in the chair.
"I'm going," he insisted. "I have to go."
He watched Jack's face pull down, and then saw his eyes go sad and tight. "Kid. This is going to be bad, and there could still be a live scene."
Yeah. It could be. It was also possible a meteor would crash into the building and kill him in five minutes. Could be wasn't worth worrying about. "I've been shot at, beat nearly to death, blown up. I'm pretty sure I can handle going with you." Greg licked his lips. "I'll stay out of the way just... you might need me."
"Okay. Get some rest, though." Like he wasn't planning on it, and like he wasn't a little surprised when the guy who'd pulled faces at him offered out a fleece blanket from behind his desk.
"I'll be ready." He would, and he took the blanket, grateful for it. He balled one corner up and shoved it under his head before burrowing in. He'd have to doze to be sure Crawford didn't leave him. He had a feeling Crawford wanted to leave him to protect him. He had no idea how to tell Crawford that he didn't have to, it was a little late, but the thought was appreciated. Crawford gave him one last look, and then moved the conversation over away from Greg.
He'd just close his eyes for a minute. Just a minute, and then....
It wasn't that he woke up so much as he surfaced through the pain because there was a shift in what was going on. Something had changed, and it was too, too distant still. He needed it closer to latch on to, but he could feel it, offering him an opportunity to break above the pain of being dry fucked for the he'd lost count time, above the pain of falling apart and only having sick minds to reach out into, Pranos and Kolya when he'd checked in an hour or two ago and wished them a 'good night'.
"S, stop, stop, hnh, stop..."
Pranos didn't flinch, didn't stop. He'd been hearing that word a lot, Will thought, and he hadn't paid attention to it. Not once, not even when he'd started puking up bile and the little bit of water he'd been given. Pranos had just talked about how delightfully the rippling cramps of motion created by his vomiting squeezed his dick.
Something was different now, though, tickling at the edges of his mind in a way that felt like needing to sneeze. Something....
"I haven't enjoyed myself so much in years." It was practically a purr of pleasure, and he reached down, pulled at Will's hip to get him back into the precise position that he wanted him.
He had to have taken Viagra, stimulants, cocaine, something, to keep going like that, fucking him and repositioning him, over and over, because Will had met his limit. Met it and passed it way back and all he could focus on past the pain was the feeling of Pranos's fingers digging into his hips and that itching sensation of something. Something there. Something frantic out there, frantic and familiar?
Then he was distantly aware that somewhere above him, the door was being kicked in.
"Freeze, asshole! FBI!"
Jack. Oh, thank God, Jack, he'd held out long enough and now he could fall to pieces, except Pranos wasn't stopping. He just kept slamming into him, and a shot rang out, loud and clear, and Will felt the spray of blood as Pranos slumped over him.
Oh, oh, fuck, fuck. It all stopped, but the pain didn't stop, and he was sure that was a headshot, he was sure of it, because Jack did that, Jack had taught him to do that, and he couldn't, didn't want to move because he could already feel blood running onto his neck. Will held stock still, not wanting to move and wanting to move at the same time, wanting to get up and run to the other side of the room.
"Hey! Get back here, kid, the room's not clear!"
Oh, god, oh, god, oh, GOD, but that itch was stronger, and Will groaned in pain because whoever it was, the kid, Greg, that was his name, bright and clear now, his hand was on Will, and the other one was pushing off Pranos. Jack was yelling, coming closer, and Will could hear him, frantic in his head, angry outside of it. There was a maelstrom of thought, Will, Starling, Sanders (the kid), joined by all of the agents and detectives coming in, and the kid had a bare hand on his shoulder now, on Will, and he was close, murmuring things in his ear that didn't make sense but did, all at the same time.
He just couldn't focus, couldn't snap down after having spent so long stretched wide open, and stretched wide open, hah, reaching for anything that wasn't pain and insanity, and now the room was full of people, too many, and Sanders right there, overwhelming.
Will pulled a little focus together, and he was on his side now, and they were trying to get the thing off of his neck, and someone was trying to get a stretcher down the stairs.
"Hey. No. No. Ignore all of them. I want you to focus on me right now. Just on me, not on anybody else. They're here to help you. You're safe, and I need you to concentrate on me."
How the hell was he supposed to do that? Jack's anger and anxiousness was palpable, he wanted to stop Greg, but maybe what Greg was doing was good, even if he was interfering in an uncleaned scene, but a headshot, that was pretty clear. That was clear, through and through, and Greg's fingers on the back of his neck, prying space between the collar and scraped raw skin while someone else popped the lock.
Will closed his eyes, and tried to focus on that touch, on reality, on this kid, and oh, god, Jack had gotten another one.
He wanted to say something, wanted to cry, maybe. The fact that it was over something other than what had happened in this hellhole struck him as ridiculously funny, and he let out a rusty laugh that made the kid shake his head. Blood was on him -- his, not Will's, not the dead guy's, and that was interesting, too. The hand on his neck stayed, though, even when Sanders pulled up the neck of his t-shirt to wipe at it. "Come on, Will. Come on. I know you can."
He inhaled through his nose, sympathetically, and focused, trying not to think, trying just to center, shut out the busy noise of the place, but it was hard and his brain just kept circling around to the fact that Jack had gotten another one. Another one, and this kid, this poor kid... And he'd, he hadn't been gone that long, had he?
"I can't read your mind, but I know you're circling the wagons in there." Jack was talking somewhere, and the kid was ignoring the fuck out of him. That was good, right? Better than he'd ever managed, and he choked out a laugh again, mixed with tears. Medical personnel kept talking, but Sanders didn't let him go -- he just stepped back enough that they could get him on the stretcher. "Come on. Come on!"
What did it matter to the kid what his mind did? Will inhaled, tried, tried to snap it together, but it wasn't so easy. He'd been nothing but living in other people's heads for too long and if he went back to himself then he was going to feel all of that pain and he didn't want to completely, didn't want to. Couldn't. But the kid looked miserable and determined, and Will inhaled again, mimicking the sniffling Greg was doing with his nose, and then he was there. Just shut down to one.
Bad choice. Jesus, his head was pounding in sympathy, and the taste of blood ran down the back of his throat even though his nose was one of the few places that wasn't bleeding. Greg was grinning at him, though, wild and happy, a sharp, bright triangle of a grin. "Hey, there."
"Hey." His voice sounded odd, cracked, but it was all right, even if he sounded like he wanted to cry again. The stretcher was being moved, though, and Greg had to tag along.
"Seriously. I'm never leaving my lab again after this, because you and me? We're done with this crazy ambulance chasing thing Crawford's got going on, right?" There were flashing lights, and people, and a needle full of drugs that weren't going to be good enough, Will was sure. "My name's Greg. Greg Sanders, but you know that already. I'm in DNA, except I was a CSI for a few years."
"Yeah." He swallowed, stayed focused on Greg because they were moving and he could still feel at the edges of other people with his mind. "Don't do what Crawford tells you to."
"Are you kidding?" The kid slid his hand down, finally reaching Will's and clasping it. One of the EMTs reached out to do something about his bleeding nose and Greg twitched irritably. "I'm never going anywhere with that guy again! He's like every after school special my Isoäiti ever made me watch except he collects psychics instead of stealing kids with a puppy in his van."
"Excuse me, sir, but I need you to let go of Mr. Graham for a minute."
Yeah. Yeah, he kind of did. "Mal okay?" He didn't want to just pull the information out of Greg, didn't have the focus for it, but puppies. He liked his puppies, and at least Crawford didn't drive a van.
"Yeah." Yeah, and the kid wasn't letting go of him, so the guys were working around him, even once they were in the ambulance. "He's at my place. I thought he looked lonely."
"Okay." He closed his eyes, but he could still feel the kid. "I need more... drugs." He needed to sleep, and he needed stop thinking, he needed to go away again and just. It needed to stop, and if it took drugs, that was great.
Greg just kept holding his hand, and that was good. That was the best. "They'll give them to you, just as soon as they've checked you over a little more."
"I want to sleep." He could still taste blood in his mouth, and he didn't know if it really was his, or just Greg's. The paramedic in the back with them was nervous -- why was he nervous?
"Then close your eyes. I'll stay here. I won't leave." It was a promise, one Sanders meant. He fully planned to stay right where he was, holding Will's fucked up, mangled hand as long as he needed to.
It made it a little easier to drift off, and maybe he wasn't in his own head, but Greg's was quiet and safer than anywhere he'd been in a while.
Of course, he had excellent lawyers, and quite a few judges under his thumb. Still, it was unlikely that would be enough to get him off clean, especially now that they had found Graham, and his sweet pet as well. Sweet being relative, of course.
He hadn't expected them to be determined enough to track him down just to get the psychic back. He hadn't actually expected to be caught, and there was a sense that they hadn't expected to catch him before they'd just put him in handcuffs and bundled him into the back of an unmarked car.
Obviously he'd chosen the wrong psychic. Acastus had gotten a glimpse of the young man who'd come in with them, both hands gloved. A psychometrist, and pretty, too, enough that Acastus wished he'd known about him before he'd decided to go ahead and take Graham. The FBI had been close, of course, but if he'd only been patient, perhaps he'd have gotten the token-object reader, instead. He was fairly certain now that Graham had been too broken to find anyone, even before he'd gone to work on him.
He needed to focus on keeping his mind set on getting himself free. It wouldn't do to get out of the handcuffs and throw himself from the vehicle, though it was tempting. He needed to play it out, legally, keep himself afloat long enough to get bail, and escape to a country without an extradition agreement. He had connections in Mexico, and that would be a start -- getting out of sight before leaving for a country with better chances of officials who would stay bribed once they'd been paid.
Decision made, he leaned back and closed his eyes, prepared to at least feign relaxation for the time being. It was his long-held belief that allowing nerves to show was poor planning.
He knew the steps of intake; he knew that the police would be torn between wanting to commit acts of brutality and handling him with kid gloves. That was fine, he knew it was coming, and it was easier. He'd restart his empire elsewhere.
With new pets.
The agents driving were suspiciously quiet. He supposed that should make him paranoid, but the silence was good for resting his eyes and thinking, so he didn't worry about it. Aside from moments when the car came to a stop and then began to move again, there was little to differentiate where they were or how long they'd traveled.
Finally, the agent in the passenger seat spoke up. "I have to piss. Call Crawford and let him know we're stopping."
"Is there a good idea?" The driver was reaching for his phone, though, flipping his blinkers on and slowing the car.
"Better than me pissing in a water bottle. You want anything?"
His captors were certainly entertaining, at least.
He kept his eyes closed, waited for the vehicle to come to a stop. "You to be fast."
Only one agent was remaining behind, and that was quite the temptation. Still, it was better to chance a bought-and-paid-for judge than men who were prone to use their guns, and so Kolya simply remained quiet and calm in the back seat once the car came to a stop and the second agent slipped into the small convenience store.
He heard another car coast up to the store, heard a door open and close, and then someone rapping on the driver's side window. The sound of the motor running down the window made him open his eyes.
"Can I help you?"
"I'm lost, and I wondered if you knew where the exit for Talleyville is? I've been on 95, and then it goes to 495, and I never see it, so I doubled back." That... was an interesting accent, and it made Kolya peer at the man who was talking to the driver.
The agent frowned. "I'm sorry, I'm not really from around here, and... hey!!" Hey, but it was muffled, a sickly sweet scent washing Acastus's way as the agent struggled fitfully, fruitlessly.
Oh, interesting had just gotten bad, and Kolya started to squirm to pop his seatbelt to move, to get out of there, to get free, but the man reached into car, and unlocked the rear driver's side door for himself.
"Mr. Kolya. I cannot imagine that you might be persuaded to come with me willingly, but on the off-chance, perhaps I should make you an offer all the same."
"What kind of offer?" He had to think fast because the man clearly wasn't an agent, unless they had started to fight among themselves to make this the smoothest botched transfer of a prisoner in modern history.
His teeth when he smiled were perfect, small and startlingly white behind his lips, the gleam in his sherry-dark eyes reflecting red light from somewhere, sending a shudder through Acastus. Every nerve ending screamed at him, saying wrong, wrong, wrong. "Why, only to leave this vehicle, and these gentlemen, who I can assure you are taking you to a place which I do not lightly label Hell."
Still, if he stood up and got out, that was more space between him and the man than outright refusing would get him. Acastus shifted, trying to twist his legs so he could get out. "If you mean that offer honestly..."
"It is, indeed, an honest proposal, Mr. Kolya. These gentlemen, or me. The devil you know versus the demon you do not. I believe it would be in your best interest to make a decision, before his fellow returns from the facilities."
No, no, the demon he didn't know was a choice he wasn't going to make, but he was going to stand up and knock the bastard out and then wait for the other agent to come out. Kolya nodded, and started to get out of the car.
He meant to run; he honestly did, and he even turned to do so once he was out, standing, free. The car door shut behind him, and he took a step, only to be firmly collared by the man. He hadn't seemed big enough to do that -- small, wiry, obviously deviant, but not large enough to stop him so thoroughly, slamming him down against the trunk of the car Kolya had so recently vacated.
"There is a small bird who is likely to be extremely disappointed in me; however, I expect that I will find approval once she understands why I have made this very special trip, despite my promises to her."
He inhaled, and twisted to try to kick the man over, because with his hands so conveniently cuffed behind him, it was hard to take a swing at him. It only seemed to add momentum to whatever the man was doing so he opened his mouth to yell for help, and quickly found it covered by the same cloth with its sickly-sweet smell.
"Do sleep well, Mr. Kolya. I cannot imagine you will find any enjoyment in the rest of your short life."
Son of a bitch! He twisted, struggling, trying to push back with his handcuffed hands, but he had no traction, no way to get away from that cloth. He just needed to.
Jack was, creepily conveniently, on all of Graham's medical paperwork. All of it. There hadn't even been a peep about him not being blood relation, so he had to be the most documented non-relation Greg had ever heard of. Better than Grissom for Brass. Definitely better than Grissom for himself. So Jack saying it was okay for Greg to be there had been smooth, too.
Somewhere between getting cleaned up and Will coming back from post-surgical observation, Greg had dozed off in the bloody uncomfortable recliner that occupied one corner of the room. One minute, he was awake and watching some show about a writer and a detective and the next he was blinking groggily because there were agents in the room.
"Just go back to sleep. There's nothing to worry about." Except, they looked like they were scanning the room, expressions set firmly. Bullshit, there was nothing to worry about.
He was stripping off his gloves before he thought about it too hard, and he reached out just enough to snag a sleeve before drawing back sharply, breath stuttering for just a moment. "Oh."
The agent looked freaked out, just for a second. "Yeah, uh. We're just going to make sure everything in here is secure, and then we'll get outside the door. Graham is going to be transferred to Bethesda as soon as he's stable."
And Jack was coming to get Greg, but the answer was going to be no.
It was always going to be no. He'd touched Will now, understood why Crawford had the weirdly frantic protective thing going on. Greg wasn't a coward, but he wasn't stupid, either. He was younger, more centered than Will, psychic in a way that Starling hadn't been, and the answer was obvious. He had the balls to back it up, too. "I'm going back to Virginia." With Will or apart from him, but preferably with.
Mostly, preferably with him. "Once Graham's stable," the agent assured. "When Lecter's involved it's... a crapshoot. Just get some rest."
Like that was humanly possible, knowing that the man was out there. Greg didn't think he would come for Will because Will didn't think he'd come for Will, and just thinking about it stirred the monster lurking behind his left eye. "What happened?" All he'd gotten from touching the man's sleeve had been an image, grainy video footage of a man waving politely at a camera, and the overwhelming presence of the man's name, bold, all caps at the forefront of the agent's brain: HANNIBAL.
"The two agents transporting the offender Kolya pulled over to use the bathroom. One agent came out, and the driver had been chloroformed, and Acastus Kolya was gone. After reviewing the security tapes..."
"Hannibal Lecter took him." He'd ask what the guy thought would happen, but that was pretty obvious.
The thought made him a little queasy. Hell, who wouldn't be? Will had lost fingers, though. They'd sutured rips in his ass, and somehow, Greg couldn't find any sympathy in him for Kolya.
There was a kid they were trying to get through to who'd had his tongue cut out, another victim. And the dead secretary, and the more Greg thought about it, the less he wanted to try to find sympathy for the bastard. "Yes. We believe he came into contact with someone on this case along the way, learned the point where... he would be able to rendezvous with the agents and take Kolya."
Believed someone had leaked information, but Greg had a feeling that there was something else to it. He just didn't know for sure. He wouldn't until Jack showed up with something for him to touch.
Greg wasn't sure that he was going to.
Curiosity would make him do it, but Greg was betting there was more to the story, so to speak. No one in the FBI would make casual contact with a serial killer, and walk away from it okay. At least, not like that.
While the one agent talked, the other checked the window, checked the bathroom, checked the vents, and then nodded. "It's good."
Yeah. He'd just bet, but in all honesty, Greg wasn't worried. Lecter wasn't coming. It was only a feeling, but Greg had long since learned to listen to them. This one told him to go back to sleep in the uncomfortable chair, so he did, leaning back and dozing until they brought Will into the room.
He heard that, heard the motion, the rustling, odd metal sounds as they hooked him up to monitors and got him settled. He was probably heavily sedated, maybe still under anesthesia. Greg wasn't sure, and those were the things that went through his head while he came to slowly.
He'd lost fingers on both hands -- gangrene due to crushed bones that hadn't been tended in days -- so Greg laid a hand on his arm and waited.
There was a lot of emotion in Will when he touched him, a lot of memory when he did it without gloves. He had no control at all, and he took in everything, and it was weird. Greg could wait, though, for Will to wake up. He could suppress enough to just sit there and doze a little.
The agents thought it was weird that he could sleep with Lecter on the loose. They couldn't see what was in Will's head, though -- meals cooked while he watched, too much wine, tangled sheets. Letters on exquisite paper, with finely honed pens, drawings, and always, always the moonlight.
No. Lecter wasn't coming. Not for Will, and not for any of them. Lecter had what he'd come for, and so Greg napped quietly, and let Will forage through him in dreams.
He could tell that Will wasn't one of the ones who could influence, so it was a lot more like channel surfing TV, Greg figured, than anything dangerous. When he woke up again, he was dimly aware that Will was looking at him through his eyelashes.
"Hi." He didn't expect anything coherent in return. The nurses kept coming in with morphine. "You're doing pretty good, in case you were wondering."
Will swallowed, and gave a faint nod to Greg. "Hi. You still here?"
"I said I wasn't going anywhere, and I meant it." He'd always been that way, even though he'd been burned by it. "I figured you might like to see a friendly face. These guys here are sort of scary."
"Yeah." It was hard to guess what Will was picking up from him, still sort of digging around in there. It left Greg curious if he ever shut it down except when he was home alone, or if it was just because he was all screwed up. "Kid okay?"
Greg nodded. "Yeah. He's in custody, and he's getting treatment." Apparently his old man was a big name businessman who'd been paying blackmail to Kolya. That seemed to somehow include his son, so Greg hoped like hell somebody would charge the guy with something. "It's good."
"Good. Got Kolya?" Huh. He wondered if the easier way would be to just think it and let Will sift through it. At least he wasn't asking about the other guy. That one was probably kind of stuck in his head.
They'd managed to wash his blood off, at least.
"Uh. Kind of. I mean, they did, but...." But Lecter had him now, and even drugged, Will obviously knew it the second it crossed Greg's mind,
His reaction was... sort of weird, Greg supposed, a flood of sense memories before it shut down tighter than anything he thought Will was capable of. "Oh."
"Yeah. These guys...." Were watching them like proverbial hawks, "....think he might swing by this way, but I've got this feeling that says he's already got what he wants." One that mostly came from the hand he had on Will.
"Yeah. Where're we?" He tilted his head back, peering around the room, eyes drifting slowly.
"Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, not that you'll remember any of this." Greg knew as much from long experience. "Once you're fully stabilized, we'll be going to Bethesda."
"Land of perms," Will declared groggily, nodding to himself. "'s good." Well, whatever was good. He was going out, and Greg just waited, waited and didn't hear anything else from Will. He'd have to retell him pretty much all of it again when he came to again, but he could do that.
There were worse things
Greg knew he needed to tell Jack Crawford no, but he kind of felt sorry for the guy. He looked like he'd been ridden hard and put away wet, and it wasn't like touching would really hurt. Much.
"All I have to do is tell you what I see. I'm not going anywhere. Not again."
Will was sleeping again, which was okay. Greg figured he'd sleep a lot, too, if he were Will. Or else he was pretending to be asleep, and was just sort of mind-surfing.
"No, just... look, touch, tell me what you've got and I leave you be. I didn't want you going to the scene in the first place." Yeah, but Will had needed someone there with half an idea of what they were doing, and that was Greg. With a name like Behavioral Science, he'd have thought there'd be an expert on staff for things like that. Not so much, as it turned out.
It was probably a bad idea, but it wouldn't be the first time Greg had done something stupid. He was sure it wouldn't be the last, either. He reached for the scissors and paused. "Are you sure you want to know?"
"I want to know." He needed to know, and that was easy to tell from just verbal tilt, the look on his face. It was enough that Greg stripped off his glove, used the scissors, anyway, and opened the bag.
The smell of the cloth was strong, and he didn't want to touch it, but he did, anyway. Guy, obviously FBI. Terrified face, sense of satisfaction, and Acastus Kolya. He was in the back seat, plotting, but Lecter hadn't been worried about that. He'd known he'd get him anyway.
"Lecter planned it. Knew they'd come that way with him. He wanted him."
The lingering after taste of touching that cloth was the anger that Kolya had done ill to something he had no right to. It was revenge for Will, and a little ownership, maybe, solid and intense.
"Yeah. He's psychic. He's, that's no huge surprise for me that he knew they were going that way."
"He knew it long before they got there, but he was coming from a long way away. I can't get a bead on where -- Uruguay? Paraguay? Something like that. He thought he'd get here sooner." Get to Will sooner, except... no. No, he'd been counting on someone else to get there first. Vague, fuzzy flash of his own face, and Greg sniffed. "That's all I'm getting here." The other.... well. It could be his imagination.
He'd been known to get creative, and he'd have to ask Will when he shook himself awake again. "Okay. Okay, try the next one. That helps."
Helped what, he couldn't imagine, but he scissored open the next bag anyway, delving inside for the metal cuffs. He couldn't keep from jerking when he touched them, the stench of fear thick and cloying in his nose. "It's dark. He's in a, a closet, a... a car trunk. Trying to work these off. He can't get loose, and he keeps rolling wrong. Getting breathless. Can't get comfortable." Fucking headache. He hadn't used his gift like this in so long that this was a real pain. Literally. "He's afraid, and then the trunk opens, and he's even more scared, Lecter... he takes the cuffs off then. Kolya's thinking about running."
He could tell Jack wanted to interrupt him, throw wild questions at him, but he shifted nervously and just kept looking at Greg. "Did he? Do you have any idea where they were headed?
"There are mountains." He sniffed again, rubbed his gloved hand under his nose. "Nothing else."
"Okay." That was most of the state, and West Virginia, and New York, and they weren't going to get him, even if Jack wanted to. Jack was shaking his head.
"There's mist. Fog. That's about it." Nothing exciting, and he reached for the last bag.
He didn't want to. There was a fine coating of something on it; something Greg was willing to bet was blood. And he was willing to bet that he'd doubled back towards the convenience store, dumped off the handcuffs and jacket where he knew the FBI would find it, and Kolya was somewhere back behind a tree line. But he still opened the bag for a tentative touch, and that was a terrible, terrible mistake.
He'd seen bad things. Horrible things, the kinds of things that lingered in the back of his mind and danced their way through his subconscious as he slept. What he'd seen in Vegas had been bad, but with Grissom, he always saw the result. Saw what was there, not what he would have seen without his gloves. Not more than a few times, anyway, so it shouldn't shame him that Crawford grabbed the trash can and thrust it at him just before he puked.
It did anyway.
"Hmn?" Will woke up to the sound of him puking, or came to, or whatever. Greg felt the hand on his back, and oh, oh, god, back. He was going to be seeing that for days, in his nightmares, Kolya struggling laid out flat on the ground while Lecter stuck a freakish knife in his back, sawing along his spine. And the screaming.
He managed to stop puking finally. It felt like his shoes had come up from the depths, but he managed it. Holy crow. That had been a bad one. His voice was thick, rusty when he spoke. "Kolya's dead."
"Oh. Not, uh, good? Did you see whereabouts?" Nice, like he'd just seen nothing at all, like it was nothing.
"I saw blood and ribs and internal organs, so fuck no!"
"Jack." That was a pretty good 'what the hell' tone from Will, and he still had a hand on Greg's back. "Go on. Take it with you."
"He's here, Will. He's in the goddamned states, and that means we've got a chance to find her. He found you, so just let him get his breath and...."
Greg shuddered. "No." No, because there wasn't any point. What he had led in a loop, and they weren't going to get anything new out of it. No matter how much Jack wanted something else to be there, it just wasn't. There wouldn't be, no matter how much he wanted it.
"He's going back to South America," Will murmured, voice sounding rough and dry. "And Greg doesn't know. It's not there. To touch."
"It has to be. It's gotta be there, or...."
Or he'd failed. Greg got that, he really did. Nobody liked to fail, and Greg knew how it felt to be obsessed about finding somebody. They'd been that way about finding Sara not so long ago, and he'd been plenty obsessed about finding Will. There just wasn't anything to be found about Starling, not in what they had. "Maybe there'll be something else later. There's nothing now."
He sniffed and leaned back in the chair. Will's bandaged hand was still touching him, and it felt stupidly good.
"Jack, she left. Pretty willingly." Will sounded sad when he said that, but sad and sincere in a way that Greg got. Will hadn't left, but from what Greg could guess, the offer had been there. Will just couldn't, and Starling, on some level, wanted what the crazy guy -- who'd just pulled Kolya's lungs out through his back -- could offer to her.
"You can't know that. Not for certain."
Except Will could. Greg was sure of that, even if he didn't have anything to touch to verify it. He didn't bother saying it; just leaned back and closed his eyes to try and fight back the headache. Crawford was killing him.
Crawford was killing them all, him, Will, hell, Starling. "Yeah, I do. I had the same offer, when he first escaped after he met Starling." And maybe Jack had never heard that before, but Will was telling him now.
Hearing the man's breath stutter was almost painful. "Why didn't you go with him? What made you stop that didn't...."
Will shifted, moved in the bed, pulling his hand back. "I've never been willing to gloss over what he is. Once I knew, it wasn't... a matter of what he could convince me of. Promises wouldn't change what he is, what I am. Pretty facades, culture, none of it changes it."
"Then why did she think it would?" Funny. Anybody listening would probably think it a conversation about a lover. It seemed more like a daughter, to Greg. He opened his eyes to look at them both. "What's so different between you and her?"
It was maybe a cruel thing to ask of a guy who'd just shaken his drugs enough to converse. Will stared at Jack for a second, and then answered, "I didn't have father issues."
That seemed to make him crumple, and it made Greg feel sorry for him. "Jesus, Will." Yeah. He could have cushioned the blow a little, if he wasn't still drugged up. He was, though, and he was doing the best he could.
"Maybe you should go home and get some rest," Greg offered.
"When can we go home?" Will was staring at his hands, like he wasn't quite sure what had happened to them. He was missing half of one finger on the right hand, and parts of two others on the left. The surgeons wouldn't promise that he wouldn't lose more, but they'd been conservative in Harrisburg, so Bethesda surgeons were taking a wait-and-see position.
Jack just shook his head, so Greg answered. It was funny that he said 'we'. "Couple more days."
"Okay. You know, you know how in Indiana Jones, the kids never got taught shit? That's my Quantico lectures." Greg's head was hurting, but he definitely heard a lighter note in Will's voice. "Whoops, Graham's in the hospital again."
He was going to have to sleep off the headache. There was probably another nosebleed in the future, too, unless he was mistaken. "I should probably go home, check on Mal." Get a shower and a change of clothes. Funnily enough, he didn't want to leave. Not really.
"Say hi to Mal for me." Will slouched, seemed to be settling in to sleep again. Shutting down again, because the company was going to be less than optimal. Jack still looked like he'd been gutted.
"C'mon, Jack." The least he could do was take the guy with him. He probably needed a drink anyway. "I'll be back tomorrow." Jack had been nice enough to make sure he wouldn't get fired for his crazy time off so soon into his stint with the FBI.
Jack had dragged his ass into it in the first place, and everyone seemed oddly sympathetic to what was going on. Any anger he'd picked up had been directed at Jack.
"Sure." Jack shrugged his shoulders. "See you tomorrow, Will."
Greg didn't ask why. Jack had his own warped reasons for things, and as long as he remembered that, it would be okay. "And in another couple days, I'll think about letting you have your dog back."
"I miss Mal." Will nodded, though, and closed his eyes hard. Greg turned away, and wandered towards the doors. He needed time for himself. Sleep and a bath and something for the drum-beating gremlin in his head.
Being separated from a guy he barely knew shouldn't feel so personal, shouldn't make him feel so strung out and reluctant. Tomorrow would be soon enough to come back.
Like the lady said.
Tomorrow's another day.
The best thing at Bethesda was that they knew they didn't know what to do with him. So he was put in his own room -- like that helped -- and mostly left alone. No one tried to talk to him; no one tried to lecture him about what he needed to do when he got out. He freaked them out, and he got a few sheets of paper and some pamphlets shoved at him. One of the nurses had included a rape hotline, and a suicide hotline card, which was touching, except not at all. They'd had to do one more surgery for that half a finger that was now a nice stub on his left hand, as compared to the better amputations, and he was supposed to pay that a lot of attention. Except messed up hands meant that all of his injuries were just going to... suck.
He'd been around Sanders too much.
The kid was a bright spot in his days, though. He could admit that to himself anyway, and be grateful for the fact that he came. It was almost as if Greg was a pre-cog instead of a reader, because he always seemed to know when Will would want company, or when Jack was going to show up.
Maybe he just paid attention.
Maybe it was that easy. Will wasn't going to ask why, because Greg had said he'd be swinging by after work to pick Will up and drop him home. He wasn't sure why, and he'd been about to get himself a taxi, but hey. Greg was new, DNA, and he had a drifting cloud of fresh mental baggage that he was at least self aware of. That made him interesting, and something else. Something Will couldn't put his finger on, but he'd like to. That would require time, and time was something he had for now.
The door pushed open, and the kid was there, all bright grin and skinny wiggling walk. "Hey. You wanna blow this popsicle stand? Rumor has it Nurse Jenkins is bringing a wheelchair as we speak."
"I owe you." Will sort of blurted it, sitting on the edge of the bed, mostly dressed even if it was in too-comfortable crap that he slouched around the house in. He couldn't constrict the skin grafts he had, so it was pajamas and exercise clothes for a while. "I, uh... for finding me, for everything."
The way the kid's shoulders hunched made him curious enough to reach out, touch lightly on his thoughts. He didn't think he'd done enough fast enough. "You don't owe me anything. But you're welcome."
It was strange, that he'd done what he had and he still had guilt over it. Will tapped his own knee with the wad of useless paperwork for a moment. "Maybe owe is the wrong word. I'm grateful that you stuck with it for a complete stranger."
Greg's mouth stretched upwards again, making Will want to smile back. "Yeah, well. There was just something about you."
"I'm sorry you haven't had a smoother time of settling in out here." He did echo that smile, a little, felt it from somewhere deep in his chest. "Now that I'm back, I'll try to keep Jack away from you."
The kid moved into the room, sat down next to Will's bed. "Don't worry about it. I'm pretty sure I can keep him from dragging me around too much. You were... it was different."
He was something, the texture of something familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, but Will wasn't going to ask. He really needed to just start thinking of him as Greg, because he didn't think he was going to disappear out of sight now. "I'm glad it was different. I was probably maybe a week out from being dead." He was still pretty hungry, and keyed up, but that wasn't going away for a while.
He could tell that Greg thought it would be sooner. "You should probably take a couple of classes on centering, sometime. Just saying."
"Last time I tried to take a class on it, I took the instructor apart." It hadn't helped that Will was the oldest person in the class, or that the instructor was bored and fantasizing about doing physically impossible things to a lovely red-haired young lady in the class.
Some guys never understood that knees only bent one way for a reason, somehow.
"Then maybe I should introduce you to my Isoäiti," Greg offered. "She taught me stuff they didn't seem to know in school. She's not from here, though, so maybe that's part of it."
"Do you wear the gloves all the time?" Maybe he would get Greg to introduce him to his grandmother somehow. Or maybe he'd see if there was a class he could take where he wouldn't be bored out of his mind.
Or Greg could teach him.
"Only in highly public places. A lot of people have touched things here. A lot of people have died. It would make for a pretty bad day, walking around without gloves here. In the places where I'm comfortable, no. I don't. Hospitals aren't good places, though." The kid shrugged. "I won't be wearing them back at the lab or at my apartment."
"I've never come across someone with psychometry, so I'm curious." And he was trying not to just dive into Greg's head, because that made for no conversation at all. He only picked up on the little things, the drifting high thoughts. Glimpses of the past, of Vegas, of people he didn't recognize.
"I'm good with curiosity. I can't imagine why you haven't met anybody else yet. It tends to run in my family. My folks were a little upset when it turned out I had the gift, but my grandparents were kind of awesome about it. So." Greg shrugged. "It wasn't so bad. Isoäiti led me through the world by my hand when I was a kid. How about you?"
"First one in my family with it, but I grew up in New Orleans, so the weird was acceptable. Dad might've had it -- one night stands, you know." He lifted his eyebrows at Greg. His mother had been great, a strong woman with a big family to help with him, but what did someone do when their too smart kid read minds?
The door opened, and Nurse Jenkins came in, wheelchair just outside the door. "Well, Special Agent Graham, it's time to go. I just need a look at your paperwork."
"The words I've been waiting to hear." It was a little weird that the nurse was using his title, but she'd probably heard enough of it. He started to stand up, a little slowly, because everything was tight and strange. He'd have to get used to it, move back into his body again.
"Hey, if it's okay, I can wheel him down." Greg got up, volunteering himself for chair duties while the nurse took Will's papers. "Promise I won't even race anybody down the corridor."
"Hospital policy is..."
"Pleeaase? I'll be good, Mom." He was grinning at her, and obviously he must have been wheedling his way into her good graces while Will was at Bethesda. The shame of it was that Will hardly remembered the transfer between the two hospitals.
"Slowly," she admonished. "Where did you park?"
"Down by the cafeteria. I'll even bring back the wheelchair." Greg reached up and crossed his heart like a kid.
It was endearing that he could still manage that kind of self animation when Will knew what he'd seen, when he knew what had happened to Kolya and knew Greg's relative lack of sympathy for what had happened to him. "Mmm. And remember, Agent Graham, no stretching, no exercise for at least three or four more weeks. You'll rip the grafts."
"Yeah, I don't think I'm going to want to do anything heavy for a while."
Which led to the question of Mal. His dog loved him, and considered him to be the best cushion in the house.
It was probably written on his face, because the kid wasn't a telepath. "I figured I'd stick around some. Give Mal a healthy human to boss around, that kind of thing. I mean..." He peeked at Will, a shy glimpse that made him want to smile. "If that's okay with you."
"No, that'd be great. As long as it's not an imposition to you..." Because Mal was sort of a rough and tumble dog and Will had encouraged that, yeah. Because no one ever really expected to be out of commission from playing with the dog because of skin grafts.
"It'd save me from having to spend a lot of time by myself in a new apartment." Yeah, and probably from touching a bunch of stuff that had belonged to someone else for a long time. Maybe that was cynical, though. "Plus, I've kinda gotten used to the dog."
Nurse Jenkins tapped his papers and handed them back to him. "Here you go. Officially signed out, and... no wheelchair races, young man. You hear me?"
Greg gave an earnest nod. "Yes, ma'am. Absolutely none."
"We'd need another chair for a good race," Will noted, taking his papers carefully in hand. Company. He was going to have company, and that was all right.
A man could get used to things like that.