Under My Skin Part 31
If soft vore or m/m is not your thing, leave now. These characters are my own creation. Do not steal or copy.
Watch One sent for Martin Zachs, Agent Ian, and Palmer late Sunday evening. Their departure was quiet, but it was a relief for all those that involved. The memory of Zachs was like an infection, leaving them to wonder if anyone else in the Watch could be turned as easily as he had. What bribes could turn them to such a man.
Early Monday morning Reese came into work with his own bribe, a four-pack of Monster, and set it on Beni's desk.
"That's one weak-ass apology," said Louis, standing behind him.
"You're one to talk." Reese then noticed the blond was wearing a black suit and tie. "What's with the Men in Black?"
"Got a meeting with the higher ups to prove that they're dicks and we were right not to tell them about me."
"Pft. Good luck with that." Reese took off his jacket and collapsed in his chair. "Have you seen Will yet today?"
"He's still sleeping. Why?"
"I wanted to see if he had any ideas of what I should do for Beni."
Louis fetched the empty mug off his desk. "Why don't you ask Massaru instead?"
"Massaru?" Reese would have asked more but Louis had walked off for a refill. What could the Indian doctor possibly know about a temperamental Asian woman who could out-drive cops and held grudges for months on end?
Ten minutes later Beni stalked in and Reese fiddled with the bottom drawer of his desk, picking out his safecracking kit for cleaning, which it didn't need but he wanted to look busy without actually doing work. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Beni notice the energy drinks. She slowly took one out of the box and popped the tab. When she saw him glancing at her she frowned, her eyes going to laser slits and she pushed the rest of his offering to the side of her desk.
"Morning," he said tentatively.
Beni replied by putting out her arm and showing him the back of her open hand.
This was an improvement. A variation of "talk to the hand" but an improvement. "No giving me the bird today?"
"No, I'm giving you the whole damn flock."
Talking with Massaru sounded like a very good idea.
Louis tapped on Cetz's office door and let himself in when welcomed. Four hours before the meeting was to begin and Cetz and Rachel were already suited up and going over their reports. Louis stood by the door, his hands in his pockets and head down. Despite the professional suit he looked tired.
"Cetz," said Louis. "Can I have a moment? Alone."
Rachel got the hint and grabbed her thermos. "I'll get some more coffee."
The door clicked behind her, but Louis didn't move, keeping his back to the wall. He lifted his head to Cetz who sat hunched over his desk but had all his attention to the agent.
"How much say do I have whether I stay here or go to Watch One?" asked Louis.
"Not much, less than half," said Cetz, even and low, like he was reciting times tables. "If you decide to go there's not much we can do to stop you. But if you want to stay that will take some fighting." His voice went bitter. "They're not likely to leave such an important thing in my hands at the moment."
"What are the chances of them curing me?"
"I don't know. They're more advanced when it comes to funding; already working on a BT-12." At this Louis sneered, but Cetz continued. "And they have more people to dispose towards research. But we are on an even playing field when it comes to what we know; unless they somehow find file 391."
"You think they want to cure me?"
"I don't know."
Louis tilted his head and pursed his lips. "Really?"
Cetz sighed and sat back in his seat. "No, I don't think they'll actively look for a cure. They want to know how it works and all the limitations to it. They won't dissect you, but they will study you. But Louis, we aren't looking for a cure either. Rachel is trying to figure this out just as they would. They're not an evil corporation or government project that wants to stick you in a lab for the rest of your days; they're just like Watch Two except different people and a bigger budget."
"If it's different people then it's not like Watch Two," muttered Louis. "What are the chances they'll transfer Will with me?"
"Small, unless you requested it. Rachel thinks there's a difference between the connections you make with Will verses the ones you made while inside Reese, but there isn't anything definitive in her research yet. They might sign you up with another partner"
"Cetz," interrupted Louis. "Do you want me transferred to Watch One?"
Cetz blinked. He didn't think his thoughts would matter to Louis. "No."
"And if I stayed what would my job be?"
"Your job wouldn't change; you'd still be Agent Louis Patriarch."
Louis nodded slowly, almost to himself. Then he pulled his hands out of his pockets and stood straight from the wall, smoothing his suit jacket. "Then let's fight these bastards."
Cetz smiled, proud. "I can't be the only reason you want to stay."
"No. But you do get hard-ass points for shooting Zachs in the neck."
A snort escaped Cetz and then he called out to Rachel that she could come back in.
Will's eyes shot open and he held his breath. He was in his hospital bed, the lights dimmed and he could hear Reese softly talking on the other side of the curtain drawn between him and Massaru. Awake, no villains, no straps pinning him down to the bed, no surgical instruments opening him up like a frog in middle school biology. Will shook his head, trying to dislodge the images from the dream that were already fading. The residual fear from being paralyzed by the Devil's Neckbrace blending with the recent mission made for some nasty nightmares. Hopefully time would lessen the intensity of them.
He exhaled and slowly uncurled from the ball he had made of himself, suppressing a hiss as he straightened out his torso. No wonder his middle hurt, he had crossed his arms over it so tightly there were probably more bruises.
Weary, and hungry for the real food Rachel had promised him, he lay still and listened in on Reese's conversation with Massaru.
"Then why isn't she angry at Cetz?" asked Reese, his hands fiddling with the end of his tie. "He was the one who told me not to tell her?"
"Because you're the one closest to her," pointed out Massaru, filling out a Sudoku puzzle as he listened. "And the one she trusts the most. And if I've heard you right, you teased her with an important piece of information that could have been privy to her long before this."
"Okay, I screwed up." Reese combed back his hair from his pouting face. "But what should I do now?"
"Tell her something you've never told anyone else."
"I've already told her everything about me. She'd blackmail me if I didn't have so much material to blackmail her as well."
"Hm," pondered Massaru, tapping the eraser of his pencil on his puzzle. "Obviously you two already share a close relationship. In my professional experience, and I am talking from over thirty years of marriage, if you want a woman to forgive you, embarrass yourself in front of her."
"Already seen me puke, how much more embarrassing can you get?"
"You'll figure out something."
A nurse with a covered tray knocked on the door.
"Food," crooned Will on the other side of the curtain.
Reese brightened and pulled the curtain back. "Will, good to see you up. I have a question"
"Embarrass yourself in front of Beni," Will said before digging into his mash potatoes. "I agree with Massaru."
Reese slumped in his seat. "Maybe I can find some old baby pictures."
"As opposed to new baby pictures?" quipped Massaru.
Will swallowed his mouthful. "Do either of you know where Louis is? I haven't seen him today."
Reese checked his watch. "I think he's in a meeting right now."
"With Watch One?"
Will shook his head. "That's not going to be pretty."
"I'd rather not," said Louis.
Cetz hid a smirk behind his hand, but he couldn't hide the smile in his eyes.
Doctor Harrison, a puffy looking man with more hair on his chin than the rest of his head, and the head of the hastily assembled scientific committee, huffed in indignation. Four scientists and the Head of Watch One sat on the other side of the communication screen, trying to regain control of the conversation. After the committee and Head had reviewed over all the information they received, and how Cetz had blundered about his misinformation, they had immediately gone into when they would transfer Louis to Base One. They did not expect a flat refusal.
"Agent Patriarch," Harrison pleaded. "Watch One has better equipment and scientists able to handle this matter and figure it out."
"I already have to submit to one mad scientist." Louis jerked his thumb to Rachel. "I'm not going to play lab rat to a dozen of your guys. The fewer people that know about this the better."
"We have a secure facility designed for discretion considering your condition"
"Secure? Your Head of Security was a mole for a level five terrorist that tried to kill my partner. What makes Base One any more secure than this place? And stop calling this thing I have a "condition". I'm not pregnant. No offence, ma'am."
"None taken," said the only woman on the committee with an amused smirk. She was dark haired, heavily pregnant, and had been quiet throughout the meeting, which led Cetz to think she might be leaning towards Louis' side. Doctor Kilo, head microbiologist, if he remembered correctly from the introductions.
Harrison looked past Louis. "Cetz, would you handle your agent."
"No thanks," said Cetz, leaning back in his chair next to Rachel. Louis was saying what he wanted to anyway, albeit in a slightly less civilized tone. "I think he's doing fine on his own."
"Look." Louis took a breath. "I'm not refusing testing. I can understand the experiments. I want to know how this works too so I can control it, if possible get rid of it. But you want to take me off the field as an agent."
"Get rid of it?" said Harrison aghast.
Head of Watch One spoke up. "You would still make a contribution to the Watch organization"
"But not at what I'm best at. My qualifications and experience make me a good agent, not a good lab rat."
"You would weigh your field work against the scientific advancement that could be made working with us?" asked one of the other scientists.
"Yes," snapped Louis.
Harrison looked ready to pop a vein, and Cetz moved in. "Louis, I think that's enough for now. Please wait outside."
The majority of the scientific committee seemed relieved to see the agent gone. Watch One had his arms crossed, expectant.
Cetz pointed to the closed door. "Ask yourselves; do you really want to work with Louis on a daily basis?"
Doctor Kilo and Rachel laughed while the other scientists glowered. The Head of Watch One held up his hand for quiet.
"Alright. We'll take Agent Louis' request into consideration and reconvene at three this afternoon." The screen blinked off and Cetz loosened his tie with a grimace.
"That could have gone worse."
"At least you kept your sense of humor," said Rachel, scooping up her papers. "Doctor Kilo might be a break for us."
"Do you know her?"
"I worked with her for a bit when I first started in the Watch. She's a good scientist, follows the facts and doesn't leave out details. But she knows flexibility is important when it comes to biology."
"Let's hope she can convince the rest of the committee to be flexible with us."
Will, after much huffing, wincing, and inching on his bare feet, made it out of bed by the early afternoon. Draped in his robe and sitting in the plush chair in the corner of the hospital room, he read a thick sci-fi paperback borrowed from Franklin for the price of one chocolate pudding from Massaru's lunch. Massaru had been in agreement with Will that the treat had done his weight damage while abed the last time. Forgoing it would do him good. Meanwhile, the Indian doctor took an afternoon nap with the curtain drawn.
He would have to see if Franklin had other books in the series; he could loose himself in the story, it was so vivid.
A sharp rap on the door brought his attention up from the book.
He forgot the book entirely and let it fall into his lap.
It was Louis. In a suit, tie sticking out of a pocket, and the first three buttons undone showing the juncture of neck and collarbone. His shoulders were wide and sharp as a plow blade, and it all tapered down into a pair of long legs.
Oh God, tell me I'm dreaming, a good dream for once, and that he'll pick me up, throw me on the bed, and grind me into the mattress.
"Geeze, Fanboy, you look fine. Tell Rachel to discharge you already. I'm still doing half your paperwork downstairs."
Nope, not a dream. But he was a sight for sore eyes. If only Will could see him with the shades off. But at least they were the shades he had given him. The corners of Will's mouth broke gravity and lifted.
"Hello to you too," said Will. "I wanted to get out of the bed. It seems I'm always stuck in a hospital bed one way or another."
"Hm." Louis tilted his head, looking at the book laid in Will's lap. "Shutting the Paradise Trap?"
"It a good read; gets my mind off stuff. How did the meeting with Watch One go?"
"As well as it could when you're talking to a bunch of ass-hole scientists that want to use you as a guinea pig." Louis plopped himself on the edge of the hospital bed, undoing the buttons to his jacket. "One of them nearly fainted when I told them I didn't want to transfer to Watch One. And that's still up in the air."
Transfer? Will had no idea Louis could be shipped off to Watch One. And Louis said "I", not "we", so he obviously wasn't going with him. What would he do if Louis left? Get another partner? The idea made his stomach queasier than it already was.
"I didn't know that."
"No one does. Well, you do now. Cetz didn't want rumors going around."
"When will we find out if you're staying or going?"
"A week, maybe less," said Louis, tapping his fingers impatiently on the bed railing. "Rachel and Cetz are going to talk to the guys again later today, but the higher ups are going to drag their asses no matter what they say. Anyway, how are you healing up? I'm serious about the paperwork."
"You could just send the papers up here," pointed out Will. "But Rachel is hoping to send me home in a few days. And
Meg and Teeg visited earlier today."
"I asked them about the Devil's Neckbrace."
Louis went quiet. "Oh."
When they were asked, Meg in turn had asked Will what he thought the Neckbrace was for. He had guessed right. The Devil's Neckbrace, officially called Grovic's Collar, had been used in an underground sex ring. The only reason Teegan and Megan had worked the case was that the device used on the victims fell under Watch jurisdiction. Louis had worked with them to record the victim's statement. Many of the victims couldn't move for hours, sometimes days afterward, dumped in fields or landfills, still alive but not able to move or defend themselves.
Survivors said it had felt like hands clamping around their necks, freezing their spines. Will couldn't help but feel a sickening sympathy.
The worst part, according to the reports, there were still two Neckbraces unaccounted for, which was why Meg and Teeg still held connections with the police.
Will put his hands in his lap and pulled at his fingers; it was less obvious than cradling his aching stomach. His throat felt thick. "They told me how Grovic was a control freak, how he kept his victims captive. It got me thinking about what Zachs said. What it feels like when
you're inside. I"
"Forget what he said," cut in Louis. "He was trying to get you mad, that's all. Pretend it never happened."
Will nodded. That was a discussion he could deal with running from. For now. "Okay."
"Good," replied Louis, still tapping his fingers.
"You look nice, by the way," Will said lightly.
"Suits do that."
"What about Reese then? He always wears a black suit."
"Nothing can help that pancake ass of his."
Will smiled, and then looked thoughtful. "You know, I've been thinking about what's going on with him and Beni, how she's not talking to him."
"I have an idea."
"I'm outta here."
"It's not what you think!"
--Concluded in Part 32