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
"You're blowing things out of proportion," Abby Sciuto announced as she stared at her monitor. The computer forensic specialist did not look at all concerned as she should be.
"No, I'm not," Jared informed her from where he sat on the edge of her desk and peered down at the pictures on his digital camera. "I am just the right amount of giddy, impressed, and terrified. They were Homeland Security for crying out loud, Abs!"
"If she did that, it was for a reason," Abby informed him.
"I know that," Jared informed her right back. "But I just can't figure out what that reason could be! I mean, don't we basically have Carte Blanche? What the hell is Homeland Security doing sniffing around here? You know? And they were seriously persistent!"
Abby seemed to be mulling something over before she swiveled in her seat to face him. "Before you - or anyone - joined the team, there was some issue with the children of the Heads of the country being kidnapped and replaced, as well as other incidents with shape shifters. We've known there's something brewing, something important, but we haven't been able to figure out what or how all the instances link up." She tilted her head. "Maybe these Homeland Security people have something to do with it."
Jared frowned. There was a lot that he didn't know, and he didn't think he'd ever fully know everything to do with this job, the supernatural, or even his boss. And talking about his boss: "Chloe kicked Peter onto Team B today."
Abby's eyes widened. "Oh my god. She's realized he's trying to find a replacement!" She brought her hands to her face. "She must be so hurt!"
"You don't know that she—," Jared paused as he realized she might very well have realized. That would explain some things. "I think she's using Linc as a shield, a buffer between them." He made a face. "He'd better not get on Peter's bad side. Peter acts all uncaring and crap, but you should've seen him with me when he thought I was a potential replacement." He shivered at the mere memory. "I thought he just couldn't stand me, but the second he realized I was merely applying for a job…"
Abby grinned softly to herself before she slowly frowned. "I wish he could be her permanent Bonder."
"I bet Chloe does, too." Jared glanced down at his camera. "I don't think there's anyone out there who could replace him. I mean, how would anyone else be able to understand what she says and does like he does? He's like the freaking Encyclopedia Britannica of Chloe-Speech."
Abby merely spun back to face her computer.
Jared stared down at his camera screen with a sigh.
It was early morning by the time Chloe finally left the morgue and made her way back upstairs. Peter knew this because he'd fallen asleep on the cough waiting for her to get back, and by the time her entrance awakened him a quick glance to his phone proved it was 4:40 in the morning.
Groaning, Peter sat up in the cough and ran a hand down his face. "You were gone a long time."
"The third vic fits the pattern," Chloe responded softly, tiredly, as she collapsed onto the couch next to him. "This one was based after the Charity tarot card, and like what has happened with Mr Ramirez, the victim was the polar opposite of what was depicted. The woman was barren, unlike the one in the cards - who had a suckling child, was very poor instead of being as rich as her finery would've made it seem." She rested her head against Peter's shoulder. "I've also noticed something while re-examining the bodies side by side."
Peter waited for her to tell him what had been so interesting, but Chloe trailed off into silence. He continued to wait, not sure what she was doing, until the sound of soft snores filled the air. His frown grew as he noticed how warm her cheek was, and when he reached over and placed his hand against her forehead he found it hot to the touch.
You're pushing yourself too hard. You're making yourself sick.
He eased himself up and pulled her into his arms. It proved how exhausted she wasn't that she didn't react a bit to that as he kicked the door closed behind him on his way out. She was light in his arms, her body fevered. There were dark bags under her eyes and a pinched expression on her face.
McGee saw them and concern immediately clouded his face. "She doesn't look good."
"Does nobody at NCIS go home to sleep?" Peter wanted to know, his voice thick with tiredness.
McGee gave him a sheepish smile. "I'm doing some over time, our current case is a tizzy. Gibbs, Tony and Ziva are flying back from Texas and I need to have everything ready for them when they get in later."
"Sounds like you're having as much fun as we are," Peter admitted as they walked towards the elevators and nodded his thanks to the other guy when he pressed the button to call it towards them, only for the elevator door to open immediately. "See you later, McGee."
"You too, Peter."
Peter rode the elevator down, rearranging Chloe's weight in his arms. While usually he'd drop her off at Gibbs', he was tired and just really wanted to get home. Plus, given her condition, they'd have to renew the Bond sometime tonight, so it just made more sense to have her home with him. Gibbs wouldn't like it, Gibbs never liked it when his daughter slept away from his home, but Peter honestly grew less and less worried with Jethro's disapproval or approval when it came to him and Chloe. And anyway, he wasn't 'home' yet anyway, so there.
It was probably these thoughts which distracted him as he emerged from the elevator into the underground parking lot and made a beeline to his car. He'd been planning on the best course of action to lower her fever, when someone emerged from the shadows. He turned towards the figure only to get sideswiped by someone in the opposite direction. There were two of them and they were masked and armed - and with Chloe in his arms he was literally defenseless.
Before Peter could try and figure out a way to do this, Chloe was yanked out of his arms, her confused cry as she awoke in the struggle lighting up something within him. But before he could take even one step after the man who was dragging her towards a car, Peter was hit hard in the back of the head and everything went black.
The last things he heard before darkness claimed him was Chloe screaming his name, followed by the sound of slamming cars doors and spinning tires.
While the Adept is powerful and important in his or her own right, it cannot be stressed enough how vital the Anchor is. He or she is what keeps the Adept anchored in the present, in reality, in sanity, in time and life. Without the Anchor, the Adept is a Book of immense power written in a long forgotten dialect.
Without the Anchor there is no Adept.
One might call the Anchor the Adept's twin flame, as they are mutually necessary. The Anchor provides stability the Adept so desperately needs, while the Adept provides the Anchor with a purpose he or she will have felt has been missing from life up until that moment.
The stronger the Adept, the stronger the Anchor must be.
The Anchor cannot be frail of body, for they are the Adept's Shield and Sword.
The Anchor cannot be frail of mind, for they must have the clarity the Adept strives for with every breath - one which becomes more and more elusive the more knowledge is gained.
The Anchor cannot be frail of spirit, because spirit, while invisible, is the strongest magic of all. Should their spirit waiver, should it flicker, should it fail, then the unravelling will commence.
Once the unravelling has truly begun, once the black remains a stain, the devastation cannot be undone, and the selection must start again.
There was more, but Lincoln looked away. He pulled off his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. A glance at the clock read: 5:00. He was supposed to be in the office in two hours, reading the whole night through hadn't been a smart idea, but Chloe had been right. The file she'd emailed him had been huge and it'd been filled with all sorts of stuff. None of it was categorized, clearly right now she was still in the "collection" stage, where she merely dumped every piece of information in regards to the Adept and Bonder (or Anchor, as some texts referred to the title). The sorting stage would come later.
Not that any of that matters right now.
He leaned back on his seat and gazed up at the ceiling blearily.
The more he read, the more blanks were filled in, and the more horrified and sickened he found himself. He tried searching for files on how an Adept was made, and whether there'd been another Bonder before Peter. He'd asked Jared and Anne, and neither of them would answer him. Jared announced that he didn't know and didn't want to. He'd also mentioned that Chloe never spoke of "the one before Peter", and that there had to be a reason for that. Anne had merely grunted that Chloe had been very young when she'd been 'initiated' and advised him not to ask her about it.
And when Lincoln had finally found a text which spoke about the creation of the Adept, he finally understood why. It hadn't listed anything in detail, but it hadn't had to. Anyone with some intelligence could glean exactly how the Adept was "initiated". Chloe never spoke about "the one before Peter", she'd been "very young"… and Lincoln had found not only a website noting a young Chloe as "missing", but he'd also printed out an old article describing how she'd been found weeks later, having escaped "some unknown captor"… It'd also detailed that she'd been the victim of repeated and brutal sexual assault throughout her capture.
Her father was noted as Gabe Sullivan. This was why Lincoln hadn't found the articles and such himself. He'd had to call in a favor from one of his friends in the FBI cyber division and they'd come back with info on "Chloe Sullivan", and not Gibbs as she was now going by. He was curious about Gabe Sullivan, who was noted as still alive, but it was really just an afterthought.
The queasiness in Lincoln's stomach grew as he shifted in his seat.
No wonder she wasn't 'all here' all the time! Not only did she have to deal with all the insanity that being the Adept brought - but she had to do so while being plagued by memories of the brutality of her creation.
Jesus H Christ.
He'd thought her strong before for not being locked up in an insane asylum somewhere. Now though?
His phone rang and he reached for it. A groan escaped his lips when he saw the caller ID. Only Jared would call him at this early in the morning. "What do you want?"
"Peter got attacked,"Jared informed him immediately. "He was ambushed in the parking lot but multiple assailants. They knocked him unconscious and he wasn't found until someone nearly ran him over on their way to work." He took in a deep breath. "Chloe was with him. She's been taken."
"You should really get that looked at," Abby nagged for the hundredth time.
"I'm fine," Peter muttered as he ignored the throbbing in his head. "How have you not been able to track that vehicle's plates yet?"
"They're fake," Abby responded immediately. "McGee's looking into something else that might help. He'll let us know if he finds anything."
"There's got to be something else we can do," Peter announced, his frustration growing harder and harder to contain. "They have her. We have to get her back!"
"We're doing all we can right now," Abby assured him. "McGee is following up the lead on the car, I'm going through the footage trying to clear it up and find some sort of clue - and Anne is working her own angle as well. We'll find something, you've just got to be patient."
"Patient?" He turned to her, voice a growl. "They could be doing anything to her right now and you want me to be patient?"
Abby's lips parted.
Peter turned and kicked the trashcan so hard it flew across the room and hit the wall violently.
Abby merely pointed at the door.
Growling, Peter stormed out and grabbed his phone, dialing a number rapidly as he did so. "Chico, it's me, Peter Bishop. I need to call in that favor from you. Now."
"I think she's sick," one voice muttered as a cold hand pressed against her forehead. "She's burning up."
"Only we would be lucky enough to kidnap her on her way to the hospital," another grumbled in frustration as the sound of pacing back and forth echoed throughout the room.
Concentrating on the voices, Chloe forced her eyes open to stare up at her captors. Her body was heavy, extremely hot, and growing sorer. Ever since that night on the balcony she'd been getting this way quicker and quicker, and if she pushed herself physically - like by overworking herself and not getting enough sleep - it came on even quicker, and worse.
The world around her was a foggy haze. She focused on the one standing over her, Agent Singer, until his face finally came into view.
Agent Wanek paced the floor before he noticed her awake and turned towards her. "You have some explaining to do."
"I have some explaining to do?" Her voice was hoarse as she pushed herself to lay with her back against the bedhead. She was in a motel room bed. "You just kidnapped an officer of the U.S. government. How monumentally stupid are you two?"
"You don't understand," Agent Singer reasoned. "We're trying to help you. You're way over your head."
"I'm way over my head?" She glared at Agent Singer. "You. Attacked. Me." Her eyes widened. She remembered Peter. He was there. But he wasn't here now. "Have you—?"
"Your boyfriend's fine," Agent Wanek interrupted immediately. "I just gave him a love tap. He was out cold, that's all."
"Look, Agent, uh—we never got your name." Agent Singer was obviously the more level-headed and pacifist of the two. "You won't believe this but we're here to help. We—."
"Call your father." Chloe glared at him.
Agent Singer's eyes widened. "Excuse me?"
"Call your father, Sam," Chloe growled as she sat up straighter. "And stop pacing, Dean, you're making me nauseas."
Agent Wanek - Dean - skidded to a stop. His eyes were just as wide as his brother's. "You know our father?"
Her mere answer was to growl. She was slowly starting to see double. "Call him."
Agent Singer - Sam - sat up. "He hasn't been answering our calls for weeks now. We're worried that—."
"Call him from my phone." She focused on his face. "It's under B.A.M.F."
Dean blinked at that. "What the hell is a Bamf?"
Sam didn't pay him any attention, merely picked up Chloe's phone and, after waiting for her to tell him the password, began to look through her contacts list.
"It's those Homeland Security Agents," Lincoln said the second he parked his car and hurried to intersect Peter on the way to his.
"What?" Peter looked up immediately at that, eyes narrowed. "The ones that were bothering Chloe yesterday?"
"Agents Wanek and Singer." Lincoln reached him in seconds. "Thing is, there are no Agents Wanek and Singer working for Homeland Security." His expression was grim. "I had this feeling when I met them in the morgue, so I had one of my contacts at Quantico look into them - and nothing. I don't know who they work for, but it's not the government."
Peter's phone buzzed, and he looked down at it. "NCIS sure could use a Chico working for them." He headed towards his car once more.
"Where are you going?" Lincoln wanted to know as he headed after him.
"I have someone working the case," Peter informed him as he reached his door. "He's hacked into different surveillance around town and is working on a route in which the Impala took. I'm going to follow that car and get her back my way."
Lincoln hurried around the side of the car and slid into the front seat. At Peter's look he merely shrugged. "You need a navigator."
Peter slid into his eyes and raised an eyebrow at him. "I'm doing this by highly unsanctioned means. If it gets out that you not only knew but help…"
Lincoln held his hand out for the phone.
Peter's eyebrow raised. "Maybe there's some hope for you yet." And with that he slapped his phone into Lincoln's awaiting palm.
John Winchester was chewing his sons out so badly Chloe almost felt bad for them.
Dean took the abuse with a lowered head, like a recruit might take the verbal abuse of a drill sergeant, while Sam on the other hand, dished things right back out at his father and generally made the situation that much worse for them.
She remained where she was on the bed, knees hugged to her chest, and she watched the boys get told off via speakerphone.
"Did these two idiots hurt you?" That questions was clearly aimed at her.
"They knocked Peter unconscious, and used chloroform on me," she informed him.
"Goddamn it, and at NCIS's parking lot no less!" John sounded murderous. "Do you two numbskulls want to end up in Federal Prison for the rest of your lives?"
"I tried to get them away from the case," Chloe informed him with a groan. "I have very paranoid people around me, and ones who are very good at their job. This isn't like when you arrived, you weren't impersonating Homeland Security - and even if, you only made yourself known to us when shit was already hitting the fan with Azazel. These two flashed their badges all over the place, tried to intimidate our personnel… it was only a matter of time before they were discovered and someone higher up called."
"Look, lady, we've done this a thousand times and no one—," Dean began.
"You don't get it you idiot so shut up! That's the Adept! She has all sorts of added protection around her!" John was livid. "This isn't even about NCIS! There's the BAU and CIA wrapped very tightly into this! Any one of them is keeping constant eye and will report anything remotely suspicious around her to the higher authorities."
Chloe nodded. "Also, no one's told me this explicitly, but I've heard some insinuations that there's an agent undercover who's tasked with my protection. It's either the work of the President, or the Secretary of Defense - neither of them take no for answer. They'd insisted I get a bodyguard but I said no… and I think they took measures into their own hands and got someone to do so without me knowing."
"…which would be why you were trying to get rid of us so badly." Sam's eyes widened. "If there's someone tasked with protecting you, they'd run checks on every person around you, especially newcomers."
"And then you two would have a red flag on you." She nodded. "I was trying to protect you guys, I mean, come on! I basically warned Bobby about it over the phone! Fictus Eunuchum Law of 1623 doesn't even exist! It means Fake Officer in latin for crying out loud!"
"You know about Bobby?" Sam squeaked. "You knew he was Agent Burlington?"
"John and I are friends, I know things," she replied cheekily.
"Sam, you're basically glossing over one monumental fact here." Dean stared at her with wide eyes. "Dad just said she's the Adept."
Sam shrugged. "So she's good at what she does. I don't see—."
"I thought you were supposed to be the smart one!" Dean groaned as he turned to his brother. "She's not an adept at her craft, she's the Adept! As in the Compendium of all Supernatural knowledge!"
"Not exactly true," Chloe interrupted quickly. "I mean, sure, my main drive is filled with all sorts of catalogs of Occult nature, but I also collect knowledge of the Fringe Science and even normal know-how variety. Doesn't mean I can access my different databases at whim. And sometimes I'm looking for means to incapacitate a Rugaru and instead pull up a files on the mating habits of the Wombat Eel. It's frustrating."
"Wombat eel?" Sam made a horrified face.
"It's as ugly as it sounds," Chloe assured him.
"Everyone is still somehow missing the point here!" Dean flung his hands in the air and took a step towards them before tripping and nearly falling to his knees.
It was at that second that the glass shattered behind him, and a bullet sped by exactly where his head would've been had he not tripped, and embedded itself in the wall.
"Everybody get down!" Dean yelled as he hit the floor.
Sam yanked Chloe off of the bed to the floor, and seconds later bullets assaulted the place. "Get to the bathroom! We'll escape through the back!"
"Guys?" John's voice could be heard. "What's happening?"
They'd had to leave the phone behind though, as they crawled towards the bathroom.
Chloe had nearly made it before a pang of pain raced throughout her body, leaving her breathless and shivering on the floor. Her fever spiked, leaving large drops of sweat to quickly drench her clothes and have them stick to her. Her finger burned. She was too scared to look down at the design and see what was happening to it.
Peter… She curled into a fetal position, unable to speak, much less move. Peter I need you!
There were hands on her, hands which dragged her into the bathroom, and the door closed shut.
"Who makes a bathroom without a window? Goddamn it!"
"What's happening to her?" Sam asked. "Was she hit?"
"Jesus, look at her her hand!"
The front door was kicked in.
"Dean, our guns are still out there."
"We're not going out without a fight, Sammy."
Chloe tried to ignore the agonizing pain climbing up her hand, tried to ground herself.
Suddenly the bathroom door was kicked in, and Chloe knew that if she didn't act fast, something horrible was going to happen. She was acting on a hunch, and if she was wrong she'd die, most probably painfully, but if not—! Chloe forced herself up, standing in front of Sam and Dean with her hands held out. "Good job."
Sam and Dean, who'd been about to fight, turned to look at her in surprise.
"Agent," Chloe cleared her throat. "You found us quicker than I thought you would."
"It's okay, ma'am," the redhead declared, a gun in each hand trained on both Sam and Dean. "I'm getting you out."
Relief filled her as she forced herself to smile through the pain. "I'd appreciate it if you put the gun down."
The redhead frowned. "But ma'am, these two—."
"Are working for me," she replied. "I had a feeling a had eyes on me, and figured this would be the best way to get you out in the open for a proper introduction."
"I've read the files on Fringe Division personnel, ma'am, these two aren't on it." The guns were still trained on their targets. "They're not even classified as allies, like the Jeffersonian and BAU."
"That's because I haven't actually introduced them, officially." She cleared her throat and bit back the sob of pain right at the tip of her tongue. "Meet Sam and Dean Winchester, part of my proposed Nomad Initiative."
Doubt began to cloud her expression. "Nomad Initiative. So… the crimes associated with them - grave robbing, impersonation of government authorities, robbery—."
"All conducted under my authority while investigating for the Fringe Division," Chloe responded, her voice hoarse. "I wanted to prove their effectiveness before bringing the Nomad Initiative to the President. I'm sure as is he'll have doubts, but I wanted to show how useful they will be in our continued efforts to protect our Country."
The redhead looked clearly disturbed, she was almost convinced, before her gaze lowered to Chloe's hand. "Explain, then, your hand. If they aren't doing that to you, who is?"
Finally finding herself forced to look at the source of her agony, Chloe nearly sobbed when she saw her hand. It was black, like skin which had suffered from frost bite, but the small fissures breaking the surface of her skin proved that there was something burning deep inside.
The pain in her stomach intensified, it was as if something had struck its claws deep inside of her and was playing with her insides. She stumbled forwards and seconds after the sound of something heavy hitting the floor, arms wrapped around her as her protection detail caught her.
"Ma'am?" The redhead stuttered, voice tinged with panic.
"She's burning up!" Sam opened the faucet. "Bring her here, quickly!"
The redhead hurriedly brought Chloe over and ducked her hand under the burning water. It fizzled upon contact as steam rose like water hitting lava might. "What's happening to her?"
"I don't know," Dean hissed as he hurried into the room and grabbed his phone. "But dad might." He brought the phone to his ear and began filling his father in what was happening.
"It's spreading!" The redhead yelled and yanked up Chloe's sleeve to reveal the black and burn was slowly creeping up her arm.
Sam cursed and turned to the shower. The second he'd turned the cold water on at full-blast, the redhead had pulled herself and Chloe under the spray.
The world around Chloe began to darkened.
"WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE TO HER?"
She forced her eyes open, it was hard to concentrate, everything was distorting all around her, but when it finally focused she found Peter and Lincoln in the doorway, guns trained.
Lincoln's eyes were wide and on her, looking horrified.
Peter, on the other hand, looked deadly. He turned to Dean and appeared very ready to pull the trigger.
"They're trying to help, Peter," Chloe forced out, only to cry when the pain and burning rose to her elbow.
Peter's grip on his gun trembled before he put it away. "You two, get out."
"I don't think—," Sam began.
"LISTEN TO HIM AND GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!" John ordered from the phone.
Sam and Dean shared looks before marching out.
Peter put down his gun and kicked off his shoes as he yanked his jacket off. His gaze was on Chloe as he headed towards the shower, raising his hand to prove that the markings around his finger were almost completely faded. "Help me get her clothes off."
The redhead nodded. "What's happening to her?"
"This Bonder related, isn't it?" Lincoln wanted to know, right there with them.
Chloe was shocked at how they managed to fit inside that small space.
Lincoln eased Chloe out of the redhead's arms, and shifted her so that she was rested with her back to his chest. "Who are you, anyway?"
"Special Agent Tess Mercer, I'm with Secret Service," the redhead explained as, now that she was free, she had the mobility to remove Chloe's shoes and begin to work on her pants. "I was assigned by the President to shadow Miss Gibbs and act as protection detail if and when needed."
Tess Mercer? Why did that name sound so familiar?
"So the bullets were your doing." Peter continued to undress as rapidly as he could.
"I thought they were trying to harm her," Tess explained. "I took the appropriate measures after ascertaining that I could shoot them without getting her in the crossfire. One of them was just lucky he tripped when he did."
"Not complaining, good job," Peter praised.
Chloe couldn't speak anymore, she could barely hold her arm up so that it didn't brush against Lincoln and burn him.
"What's happening to her?" Tess wanted to know. "Is this some sort of curse?"
Peter didn't answer. Merely dressed in boxers, he stepped into the shower, under the freezing jet stream. His arms curled around Chloe, stealing her away from Lincoln as he cupped the back of her head and brought their lips together.
It was around then that she blacked out.