Summary: Chloe and the team are trying to solve a very strange case indeed, so it would be great if Homeland Security weren't dogging them all of a sudden. It also doesn't help that, given recent developments, the unravelling is starting to show, especially in her relationship with Peter. The team's about to gain a new member... and lose another.
Title: The Stain
Series: Adept Series
Pairing: Chloe/Peter Bishop
Disclaimer: Don't own
"So, are you pushing him away knowingly or unknowingly?" Lincoln wanted to know as he caught up with her.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Chloe muttered as she hit the button to call the elevator.
He took a moment to eye her as he sipped his coffee. "So it's on purpose."
She ignored him and stepped into the elevator when the doors slid open.
"I don't get why." He joined her inside. "Peter's your Bonder, right? I still don't really understand the whole situation, but he's important, you need him." He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "So why are you pushing him away?"
She silently pushed the button that would take them to the Medical Examiner's Office.
"And why are we going to see Ducky?" He asked, finally taking a hint. "I thought you'd already gone over the newest body and was sending it to the freezer."
"I need you to be as stuck up and difficult as can be with some unwanted visitors. I'll explain in detail later."
He raised an eyebrow. "This will be interesting."
They fell into silence as the numbers descended.
Chloe suddenly groaned and pulled the emergency brakes, leaving them suspended in the air, everything shut off.
Lincoln turned towards her in shocked confusion. "What are you doing? We'll get in trouble!"
"You'd be surprised how many people get away with doing this." She turned to face him. There was clear hesitation, her expression conflicted, before she took in a deep breath, and forced out rapidly: "Peter is trying to find a replacement Bonder to take his place. And he's doing it behind my back." She gulped, her gaze lowered to her hands. "I'm just making things easier for him."
Lincoln stared at her as shock took over. "You're helping him leave? But you need him!"
"I won't force him to stay with me!" Chloe glanced up at him, fire and determination in her eyes. "It was always supposed to be only temporary. It's my fault for not looking harder, sooner."
Lincoln usually minded his own business, but for some reason he found himself once more uncharacteristically meddlesome. "So the fact that you love him doesn't matter?"
She was visibly stricken as her gaze rose to meet his. "No, it doesn't."
Eyebrows meeting in his frown, Lincoln let out a heavy sound as his lips parted. "It should."
"Well, it doesn't," she replied numbly. "My romantic inclinations have nothing to do with this."
Shaking his head, Lincoln bit back the words on the tip of his tongue.
"All that matters is that I find a replacement for Peter, and soon." She swallowed. "He received this phone call yesterday morning. He thought I was sleeping so he got up and talked softly in the bathroom, but I could still hear his side of the conversation." She hesitated a moment, clearly remembering the event. "It was one of his old contacts who had a business proposition for him. I could hear he was intrigued by whatever it was, but he had to turn it down because he was 'tied down at the moment'." She leaned hard against the wall. "I can't expect him to keep his life on hold to help me survive mine."
A couple of seconds passed in silence as Lincoln digested what she'd just let slip. Survive? Was a Bonder that important? Would she really die without one? He'd known that Peter was incredibly vital to this whole Adept thing, but he hadn't realized the magnitude of Peter's worth. Lincoln's own ignorance frustrated him to no small degree. There was just so much he needed to catch up on!
"Can you, uh, recommend study material regarding the whole Adept thing?" He then realized she might see this as an invasion of her privacy, so he quickly explained himself. "I can't be much help if everyone is constantly having to stop what they're doing to catch me up."
Chloe studied him silently before she asked: "You really want to read about this? It's tedious and the info I've compiled is abundant and confusing. A lot of it is very analytical. You'd be bored."
His eyes widened in excitement. She had info? Great! He couldn't wait to get his hands on it! No matter how hard he'd tried he'd been unable to find credible information anyway! "I don't really go out much, it will give me something to do in the evenings."
A strange expression crossed Chloe's face before a small, amused smile curled the corners of her lips. In seconds her phone was in her hand, and after a moment or two his phone buzzed with an incoming email.
Putting her phone away, Chloe smiled more openly at him. "Don't say I didn't warn you." She took a long sip of her coffee, a teasing glint in her emerald greens.
Lincoln's lips were curling in a smile, but in seconds the corners straightened and turned downwards. He gulped down the last gulps of his coffee, put down the cup, and in seconds had reached into his jacket and pulled out a travel-sized packet of kleenex. He always kept some on hand, it'd been a habit he'd come into while helping take care of his mother, and then helping his father.
Chloe stared at the pack in confusion before the thick trail of blood draining from her right nostril finally made its way to her lips. In seconds she'd snatched a tissue away and brought it to her nose to try and staunch the bleeding.
"Having frequent nosebleeds can't be healthy," Lincoln muttered. "I know they can be brought on by stress, but you've had three this week alone, and—."
Her eyes widened in utter horror. "You noticed that?"
His eyes narrowed as his frown deepened. "Wait. Are you trying to hide them?"
"Yes," she said immediately. "So please don't tell anyone."
A suspicion lodged itself in his chest. "Not even Peter?"
Her green gaze burned into his. "Especially not Peter. He's suspicious enough as is."
He exhaled in sudden understanding. "This is Bonder-related, isn't it? Something's wrong."
"It doesn't matter." She used two more tissues to wipe her face, which she tilted up towards him when she was done. "How do I look?"
Given the emergency lights didn't provide the best lighting, Lincoln used his phone to examine her face, and then used another kleenex to wipe a smudge she'd missed. "Good as new."
"Thanks." There was a slight pause. "You're so nice." She looked amused. "I don't know if you can be as much of an asshole as I need you to be."
That intrigue from before returned tenfold. "Who exactly am I supposed to piss off?"
She made a face. "Two Homeland Security agents I can't get rid of."
Right! Jared had recounted Chloe'd clash with the two agents! He'd pulled Lincoln aside and had told him all about it with a tone which was part scandalized, part impressed, but mostly giddy. His friend had seemed very much like a kid who'd witnessed the class' goodie two shoes do something bad, and was high on his excitement at this strange turn of events.
"How wise is it to piss off Homeland Security?"
A strange expression took residence on her face. "I promise this won't come back to bite you."
If this had been a normal Federal case there was no way he'd have chanced this for a superior, but during the little time he'd been a part of the Fringe Division he'd come to realize things Chloe did were highly eccentric yet effective.
No matter how odd, she usually had a very good reason for everything she did. She was just, unfortunately, usually unable to properly explain the method to her madness.
That meant that they had to do a lot of things on blind faith, but she hadn't let them down yet.
It was this and this alone why Lincoln turned off the emergency brake. As the elevator began to descend once more, he sent Chloe a furtive look. He fought his curiosity as he yanked off his glasses, leaving his world slightly hazy as he ran his fingers through his hair so that it was now brushed back.
Intrigue was plain as could be on Chloe's face, it was easily detectable, even in this hazy world.
"I'm getting into character," he informed her with a raised eyebrow.
A large smile spread across her face. "I see."
He cracked his neck and loosened his posture as he quickly bent and grabbed his empty coffee cup, straightening up and assuming an incredibly arrogant pose his old boss used to assume whenever he was being more of an asshole than usual.
As soon as the doors slid open, Lincoln sauntered out, making an effort not to leave Chloe completely behind, which was something he always had to make sure given his strides were longer than hers. He could feel her intrigue as she walked besides him, she really wasn't sure he could pull this off, and while a part of him knew it was because she thought him so nice (which was a good thing) another part was somewhat insulted.
Pushing the doors open, Lincoln sauntered into the room to find the two Homeland Security Agents in a discussion with Ducky, who was very visibly being stubborn and giving them the run-around, which was making the agents highly frustrated.
"Since when does Homeland Security make a house call in regards to a death like this one?" Lincoln wanted to know, a sneer in his voice. "They also usually take a hint."
Ducky looked up in shock at Lincoln's change of attitude.
So did Chloe, who was staring up at Lincoln in wide-eyed shock.
He smirked as he moved towards the two agents, who'd turned towards him. "A little out of your jurisdiction, aren't you, agents?"
"Singer and Wanek," the taller one announced as they showed their badges. He, like his fellow agent, was clearly trying not to let his annoyance win. "Homeland Security has jurisdiction over every matter that might be a threat to National Security." He raised an eyebrow. "It's kind of in the name."
While this was true, Lincoln sneered as he flung his empty cup into a nearby garbage while not ever taking his gaze off of the taller agent, Singer. "Is that so?" He raised an eyebrow. "What's your clearance level?"
The men shared a look before Agent Wanek answered. "That is confidential information."
Lincoln's smile went sharp immediately. There was something fishy going on here. "Yes well, we'll see how highly vetted you are when you're being dragged away to be incarcerated."
The shock on the agents' faces was amazing.
Agent Wanek moved forwards, intimidation in his every move. "I don't know who you think you are, Agent. But we're Homeland Security. We trump NCIS."
Agent Singer had his phone out and was dialing a number. "I think you should speak to our supervisor. That will clear everything up." He waited as his phone rang, and then spoke. "With Agent Burlington please. We have some NCIS agents who are refusing to allow us access to the body."
Lincoln shot Chloe a sideways glance. This could get very serious. Was she really planning on continuing this?
Chloe didn't seem to notice what the others were doing, she looked like she was trying her best not to laugh. She cleared her throat, cracked her neck, and took the phone.
"Our superior is going to make things clear," Agent Singer announced with utter confidence. "So let's just make this easy on everyone and start the process of looking at the body."
He and Agent Wanek turned to go towards where the bodies were kept.
"Take one more step, and the only bodies you're going to have to worry about, are your own," Lincoln promised with steel which belied the smile on his face.
Wanek and Singer shared yet another shocked look.
"Listen here, buddy—," Wanek began, but he was quickly cut in by the sound of laughter.
"Oh, you're too precious," Chloe announced into the phone as she raised an eyebrow at Lincoln, as if saying: can you believe this? She glanced over at the two Homeland Security Agents and looked highly unimpressed as she listened to whatever he was saying. "Agent Burlington, I'm going to be very clear with you. If you do not call your agents back this instance I will be forced to remand them into federal custody Under the Fictus Eunuchum Law of 1623. I'm sure you don't want that." She listened to whatever Agent Burlington was saying, before she smiled and handed the phone over to Agent Singer once more.
The man shared a look with his fellow agent as he listened to what was being said in the phone. A strange looks crossed his face. "But—." Whatever Agent Burlington said cut into him, and he let out a frustrated sigh. "I understand." He ended the call and eyed Wanek. "Let's go."
Agent's Wanek's eyes widened. "Are you serious?"
Agent Singer turned to them, his smile just as sharp as Lincoln's had been as he walked away, Wanek right behind them. They went to the elevator, and while they were obviously leaving in defeat there was something in Agent Singer's expression that Lincoln did not like.
Ducky was the first to break the silence as he raised an eyebrow. "Well, that was incredibly dramatic." He eyed Chloe. "What exactly happened here? Why did you block Homeland Security?"
"Believe me, what I just did was for their best." Chloe continued to eye the elevator before she turned to Lincoln. "You were great!"
He smiled sheepishly as he shucked his hands into his pockets. "I don't know about great."
"No, you were definitely great," she informed him.
"You were highly convincing in your role, Mr Lee," Ducky announced with a chuckle.
Lincoln grinned brightly, knowing he shouldn't feel this proud of himself for having been an asshole, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't stop his grin from growing.
Alt!Chloe, or Anne as she was going by in this universe, didn't last long in her resolve to let Peter and Chloe handle their business without her interference. She'd tried to stay out of it, but being a nosy chick who meddled in things that were not her business was coded in her DNA. There was no way that she could stop it. That was why she took advantage of Jared's distraction to sidle up next to Peter as they surveyed the next body.
"So, you want to talk about it or do you plan on brooding the whole evening?"
"Excuse me?" Peter glanced up at her, eyebrow raised.
"Oh come on, Jared's right, you're usually always with Chloe on her missions. This has got to be the first time she sidelines you. You had no reason to be on Team B and yet here you are." She anchored her hands on her hips. "So what is going on between you two?"
"Nothing," Peter sighed before he turned to fully face her. "Why? Do you think something's going on? And if you do, what do you think is going on?"
Oh yeah, he was definitely much more bothered by this than he'd wanted to let on in front of Jared. "Honestly?"
"Yeah." He nodded.
She made a face. "I think she's on to you."
For a moment he didn't seem to get what she was implying, and then his eyes widened as he paled. "You think she realizes I'm trying to find a replacement?"
"She's the smartest person in this universe, and you haven't exactly been subtle with your candidates," Anne assured him, an evil little part of her enjoying his flinch. "She was bound to figure it out eventually."
Peter took in a deep breath. "Why hasn't she confronted me about it then?"
It was as she tried to find the right way to explain the psyche of her alternate reality counterpart that Anne realized just how weird her life really was. "Peter, Chloe and I might be different in many ways, but we're really similar in some. Like, take for instance our mom." She hated talking about this but she needed to, for Chloe, and maybe even for herself. "She left us when we were kids, didn't just leave either. It was—it was messy. We've talked about it, it happened the same to the both of us." She licked her lips and stared him straight in the eyes. "Peter, we were abandoned as kids. by the person we loved the most. When that happens you don't let yourself be vulnerable enough to be hurt like that again."
Pain and understanding mixed in his face, as well as shame. He ran his hand down his face. "She's putting distance between us in preparation of my leaving. She's trying to protect herself."
"Exactly." Anne made a face. "And can you really blame her? I know you guys always said this would be temporary, but you'd have to be blind to not see the fact that you two care about each other. It's going to hurt Chloe when you leave, and it's going to hurt you too." When Peter didn't immediately deny this, Anne realized just how open he was to her right now, and she felt honored. "I think she's doing this to protect you and your feelings just as much as she is to protect hers."
Silence fell between them before Peter finally spoke. "I can't be her permanent Bonder, Anne. I have very close family who—who disqualify me from being a candidate." He smiled an ugly smile as he ran his fingers through his hair. "To be honest I'm shocked that I was even considered as a candidate for temporary Bonder given everything."
She wanted to point out just how perfect he was for the role, but she had a feeling nothing she could say would make him feel better. Maybe all he really needed from her was to listen.
"And it's better for her if she finally gets a permanent Bonder." Peter let out a deep sigh. "She's not been doing well."
The dyed brunette narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean?"
He ran his finger over the design around his finger. "I think her merely having a temporary bond is starting to affect her. We—her good times don't last as long, and she's been getting sick."
"Sick how?" And how had Anne missed that? They lived together - were basically the same person!
"She's getting nosebleeds all the time now, and the other day she coughed up blood." Peter let out a deep, unhappy breath. "Haven't you noticed how pale she's getting? Or how, sometimes, she grips a surface of any kind tightly because she's shaking like crazy and trying to keep it from being too noticeable?"
No, she hadn't noticed any of that.
"She needs her permanent Bonder, Anne," Peter said softly. "I can't be him. I can just do my best to make sure that whoever he is, he'll take care of her like she deserves to be." He let out a deep, depressed sigh as he glanced away. "Although, all my candidates so far have failed horribly."
"Don't lose faith," Anne reassured as she rested her hand on his shoulder. "You've still got one left." She tried for a smile. "For all you know Chloe might adore him."
"Yeah," Peter agreed. "She might."
Anne stared up at his unhappy face and squeezed his arm. Peter was really introspective, and she hadn't realized a lot about him until this moment. Sure, he was arrogant and snarky and sometimes annoyed her, but he really cared about Chloe, even if he'd never actually say the words out loud.
I wish you could've been her permanent Bonder, she thought as she kept looking at him. Who could possibly take your place?