Rating: PG-13 for language, PDA, tense action
Warnings: Umm… bugs? AU. UST (mostly).
Word Count: 4,591
Spoilers: Do you know who Luke and Sylar are? Okiday, you’re set.
Disclaimer Heroes belongs to Tim Kring, NBC et al.
Author’s Notes: Written for Fic Challenge #5 on lukexsylar, the Mix and Match Challenge. I used all fifteen prompts because I like word association games. This is an AU fic where Gabriel and Luke are undercover FBI agents.
Summary: Agents Gray and Campbell are on the trail of a superpowered killer. He shouldn’t be too hard to find, if only Agent Campbell could keep his mind on the job…
“Christ, are those cufflinks? What kind of gig is this?”
“One where you don’t go,” Gabriel said, straightening his cuffs, then his tie with fanatical precision. “Fancy dress party. I have to go schmooze with the local nobility and see if we can’t get a lead on this ‘stranger.’”
“Yeah, yeah. I know. And you’re more James Bond than me,” Luke muttered, scowling a bit as he looked at the floor. It was the surveillance van for him. Again.
“If I’m James Bond, that makes you Moneypenny,” Gabriel said, lowering his hand to Luke’s shoulder. He was grinning, but Luke couldn’t return the smile.
“So I’m supposed to pine after you for years? I think I’d be better off being the current Bond girl.”
“But Bond always came back to Moneypenny. Maybe you’ll get lucky,” Gabriel said, one eyebrow arched suggestively. Luke’s stomach turned over a few times as Gabriel laughed, and he struggled to say somethimg intelligent. This was an important assignment for both of them, but the FBI would separate them in a New York minute if they suspected Agents Gray and Campbell had anything more than a professional relationship. If, of course, Gabriel would ever realize that Luke meant what he said in these subtle exchanges of “banter.”
Subtle. Yeah, I’m about as subtle as an earthquake, Luke thought dejectedly to himself. And despite the fact that Gabriel was very skilled at reading people, partially due to his powers, partially due to experience, he seemed completely oblivious to Luke’s advances. Probably because Luke looked nearly ten years younger than he actually was… Useful for getting information from younger suspects, useless for convincing his ridiculously attractive partner that he was serious.
“Yeah, I hope so someday,” Luke said softly. Gabriel only laughed again and finished straightening his suit.
Surveillance van, outside the Wellington Estate, later that evening…
“Sound check is go.” Luke was businesslike as he listened through his headphones, carefully throttling down anything else. This was an assignment, and he couldn’t let his personal feelings distract Gabriel from doing his job.
“Video check is go. Feed is clear, just remember to hold the drinks in your right hand this time,” Luke warned. Last time had been a fiasco; he’d hidden the camera in Gabriel’s boutonnière on the left side of his chest, forgetting Gabriel was left-handed. Luke had gotten a fabulous close-up view of Gabriel’s champagne glass, but much less of a view of the partygoers he’d been supposed to survey.
“You just remember to nuke your dinner away from the computer this time,” Gabriel shot back. Luke could see Gabriel approaching the estate house though his video feed, and automatically began scanning the arriving guests.
“I’m never going to live that down, am I?” he asked absently.
“Uh… no. Tell you what, I’ll make sure to bring you a drink from the party when this is over, ok?” Gabriel said lightly, the video feed bobbing as he nodded at some of the other guests.
Luke closed his eyes and told his stubborn heart to slow down. That was probably the closest the two of them would ever get to sharing drinks.
“Make sure it’s cold. Why did we manage to get assigned to New Orleans in July? Seriously. I’m sweating my ass off in here!” Luke complained.
“Just don’t be naked when I come back. Don’t need to see that at the end of the night. Ok, here I go.” The feed bumped slightly as Gabriel entered the glittering party, and was immediately surrounded by a swirl of beautiful people.
Luke let his stomach slowly uncramp at that comment and doggedly fixed his eyes on the video feed.
“On your left, Nadine Amalda, youngest daughter of CEO Preston Amalda of AV-Shipping, on your right Wendy Keppler of Janson, Keppler, and Stowe…” Luke started quickly feeding Gabriel the information he needed to pass amongst the reigning social stars left in the Big Easy. Not a fun job, but an important one. And, most importantly for his insides, one that required all his attention on the intellectual, rather than the emotional. He couldn’t feel and analyze at the same time.
A fancy dress party wasn’t the usual sort of place where one went looking for information about murders, but then again, these were neither usual murders, nor usual information. The FBI didn’t sent powered undercover agents out after normal killers; only against those that normal agents couldn’t handle. Three states, fourteen deaths, including two of the normal agents that had been tracking the killings meant the game had escalated.
Where a team of experts had once been publicly in charge of the situation, now it was up to Agents Gray and Campbell to solve the case more discretely. Each death had been caused by dehydration and blood loss, which probably meant it was someone with an ability. Each person killed had connections, however slim, to someone with power in the region, a lawyer, a sheriff, a mayor, a CEO. And when the original team had gotten close to finding a suspect, the killer had struck at them.
It had been three months since the killer had started, and three days since Luke and Gabriel had been assigned the case. They’d been told it was top priority, which translated into “don’t come home until you put this sonuvabitch in the ground.” The government was less than forgiving with rogue specials. One might have even called them ruthless.
Luke called it practical. That’s how Gabriel and him had ended up in government service in the first place. Join up or shut up, that was the policy. And when the advantages of joining were so attractive… In more ways than one. Luke shook his head. Focus, Campbell…
“Oh, you know how things are!” a woman, Wendy, trilled to Gabriel. “You’re just trying to fix things from Katrina and some people can be so stubborn. How in the world can you make a living when people are just going to stand in the way of progress?”
“All those legal issues?” Gabriel prompted, and Wendy laughed again.
“Such a bother, really. But one has to do what one has to do to survive. You get help wherever you can.”
“Even from strangers,” Gabriel said, laughing to keep it light. Luke would have loved to tune out all of the schmoozing, but he couldn’t. Gabriel had to keep talking, Luke was the one that had to record everything and analyze it.
“Oh yes. People can be so helpful. After Katrina, things were so horrible, but sometimes you’d find the kindest strangers willing to help out. It’s just adorable…” Wendy gushed, shamelessly petting Gabriel’s arm.
“Why do I always get the short end of the stick in this partnership? Seriously? Next time you’re in the van, Gabriel,” Luke muttered, glaring at Wendy. Keep your hands to yourself, bitch, he thought angrily.
On the video feed, the picture shook, like Gabriel was holding in laughter, and he abruptly excused himself to go find a fresh drink. And quiet corner where he could talk with Luke without looking like he was talking to himself.
“So, any of these lovely ladies pinging on your radar?”
“A few… Yeah, Nina is connected in a six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon way with the carpenter’s union president that croaked last week, and Wendy was butting heads with that housing advocate they found right before we came in. Looks like they’re removing roadblocks to profits, you know?” Luke answered, keeping his voice clear of any resentment about the “lovely ladies.” This was business.
“I know. It’s like swimming in sleaze in here. But lawyers and corporate execs use hit men-.”
“But what if one of their hit men got an ability? Come on, this started three months ago. During the eclipse?” Luke asked hopefully. He wanted to contribute more to this investigation than just technical support.
Gabriel snorted and Luke could practically hear his eyes roll. “That’s an urban legend.”
“No, seriously! That people gain or lose their abilities during the eclipse? Come on, I know a guy who knows a guy-.”
“Luke, I know damn well you discovered your powers between eclipses. I had mine way before they started. And everyone I took from… No, anyone who got or lost their powers when the sun decided to play hide-and-seek just was the victim of coincidence. We’re not going to waste time following that lead!”
In the van, Luke scowled.
“Besides, the original team said everyone who claimed to know about this guy says he’s a ‘stranger,’ even thought he’s killing in a three-state area. This guy’s a professional, and if he’s being hired by a lot of different people-.”
“He’s been doing this for a while. Ok, I’ll check further back for the pattern. The original team didn’t have time to get that far.”
“Carry on Moneypenny, Paula’s waving at me, gotta go,” Gabriel murmured, and turned to rejoin the party.
“I am not-!” Luke started, and shut up again. Ok, so he wasn’t going to impress Gabriel with his theories. Screw it, the best thing he could do was try to impress Gabriel with his diligence.
Several hours later…
“Damn, it is hot in here,” Gabriel muttered, sliding back into the van.
“And hey, I’m not naked. Didja bring me a drink?” Luke muttered. Having to watch Gabriel flirt with approximately three hundred women (give or take fifty) over the last three hours had been harder than he thought.
“Yeah, here you go. What did you find on our possible ‘stranger?’”
“What the hell?” Luke looked at the tall glass Gabriel had given him with trepidation. “There’s leaves in my drink!”
“It’s a mojito, Campbell.”
“Are they supposed to be in here? Or did you sneak out through the garden in the back?” Luke asked, eyeing the vegetation warily. Gabriel glanced upward and sighed.
“Not everything you eat has to be processed to death.”
“I’m a human microwave, seems like I should be eating frozen burritos, you know? Like God intended,” Luke said, sniffing the glass. It smelled like sugar, limes, and rum, so he shrugged and drank it down. It was cold, it was alcoholic, and that was all that mattered right now. If he dared, he would have tried to get drunk. Then maybe he could get the mental picture of that over-tanned fiftyish broad practically rubbing herself all over Gabriel for half the night out of his head. It had been damn hard to get work done with that all over the monitor.
“You’re going to have a heart attack,” Gabriel warned, pushing the plastic wrappers from a half-dozen microwave burritos into the trash.
“Whatever man. Ok, the ‘stranger…’ If this is our guy, he’s a real weird one. I kept looking for the deaths of small-time people getting in the way of big-time money-.”
“And got back a few thousand hits,” Gabriel finished, undoing his cufflinks and untying his tie.
“Yeah, then I checked to see which ones had weird causes of death. They only really show up in the summer months. Or, you know, what passes for an extended summer down here,” Luke said, taking another drink and wiping his sweating forehead on his sleeve.
“The human microwave can’t take the heat?” Gabriel asked, grinning. Luke kept talking loudly to keep himself from tongue-tied, saying the first things that came to mind.
“And the immortal can’t die of heat stroke, so shut up! So, the deaths are mostly in summer, mostly during the rainy season, particularly after storms.”
“Any word from the coroners on the reasons behind the dehydration deaths?”
“A lot of BS,” Luke said, and tapped at the files on his computer screen. “Anything they could write down to try to explain it. Poison, heat stroke, anaphylactic shock, anemia, the works. I just got the autopsy reports for agents Vasquez and Dominic though, and they’re a little more specific. Insect bites. Lots and lots of insect bites. Like thousands.”
“A special that controls insects?” Gabriel speculated. “Damn, it’s going to be a bitch to find him.”
“Hey, the only thing the original team was able to find on him was that picture of a guy in the shadows they pulled from the security cameras when Vasquez and Dominic were killed. So, you know, we’re a little ahead…”
“Not really. We have potential employers, but not leads. No new potential victims. Still no real description. And nothing in the way of hard evidence,” Gabriel pointed out.
“We have the insects… And the possible employers, like you said. And…” Luke’s mind raced any kind of information they could use. “The… locations! The locations where people were killed. Never in their homes, always in the open, usually someplace quiet. Vasquez and Dominic were on a stakeout in a warehouse district.”
“Good point, but I’m not going to leap into the same trap unless we have no choice. Employers first, Campbell. I don’t want these sleazeballs to think they can hire specials as assassins and get away with it. Let’s see if I can’t stop by Wendy’s office to bring her a little lunch tomorrow…”
“I’m going to need more than one drink if you’re going to do that,” Luke groaned, closing his eyes as his too-active imagination supplied the image of Gabriel and Wendy flirting over a salad.
“Sorry, we’re working man.”
The next day…
“How can you stand to listen to the TV on the radio?” Gabriel asked, watching Wendy’s building for signs that the lawyer had finally deigned to arrive.
“Because I like listening to the news. Because, you know, I work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and kinda thought I might need to, you know, know something about current events?” Luke explained.
“News is boring.”
“Well, not everyone can touch-read objects, so I’m sort of stuck doing it the hard way,” Luke said firmly, trying not to let his stomach sink.
“AM radio is especially boring. Can’t we switch to a little music? Anything?”
Luke was tempted, just to give Gabriel what he wanted. But then they’d probably be arguing over what station to pick for the next twenty minutes, and that was the last thing Luke needed to do. It was going to be hard enough listening Gabriel trying to sweet-talk Wendy the lawyer into giving up her secrets.
“Moneypenny picks the station, James Bond shuts his piehole. Besides, you already have your own theme song.” Luke was proud that he’d managed to get all of that out without tripping over his own tongue. He practiced clever retorts probably more than was healthy… Gabriel actually laughed with him, and Luke felt his heart skip a few beats.
“Got me there-. Ah, there’s Wendy. Let’s go see how friendly the ‘strangers’ around here really are…”
Luke would have rather punctured his own eardrums out with rusty nails than listen to the ensuing conversation over the audio feed, but faithfully recorded it anyway. All Gabriel really needed to do was get a hand on Wendy’s phone, or anything she had used to contact her “problem solver,” and they'd probably have a new lead to follow. Getting a hand on Wendy herself would work too, but only if Gabriel hung on a lot longer than was socially acceptable. Thankfully, there hadn’t been a job yet that had required them to go to those lengths. If there had been, Luke would have requested a transfer, even if it meant never seeing Gabriel again. A man could only take so much…
Surprisingly, Gabriel got out in under an hour, and Luke was shocked to see the expression of barely-repressed anger on his face when Gabriel slid back into the car.
“What happened? I didn’t hear you say anything-.”
“Drive. Warehouse district. Now,” Gabriel spat out.
Luke had the car in gear and was driving before he’d gotten a chance to think.
“Wendy…?” Luke asked tentatively.
“The bodies we’ve been finding? Tip of the iceberg. And Vasquez and Dominic? Collateral damage when she didn’t pay the ‘stranger’ fast enough. She’s had him take out a lot more people…” Gabriel trailed off, so angry that he couldn’t even speak. Neither Luke nor Gabriel were exactly against killing, but of all things, Gabriel hated a wasted life. People that killed others for no good reason pissed him off. It was what made him a valued agent. He was a hunter’s hunter.
“We’re taking out the ‘stranger’ first?”
“Have to. She’s been having him take out people all along the district her clients want to rezone, and she’s not finished yet. She made a fucking coded call while I was sitting right there. More people are going to die unless we get there, now.” The anger in Gabriel’s voice sent a chill down Luke’s back.
“Did you take her out?”
“I called Parkman and left her pinned to a wall with office supplies. Her staff won’t care if she’s quiet for a few hours. Left on Canal Street!” he barked. Luke spun the wheel in the right direction, and briefly wondered, when Parkman was done with that woman’s mind, if she wouldn’t rather be dead. Honestly, he decided he didn’t care.
“That’s it. ‘Stranger’s’ home sweet home. Wendy really shouldn’t keep this kind of shit in her Rolodex,” Gabriel muttered darkly, sliding out of the car. “Luke, come on!”
“Uh… I usually stay in the car?” Luke asked tentatively. “Junior agent and all?” Not that he didn’t want to be at Gabriel’s side, but he also didn’t want to be in his way. The last agent that had gotten in Gabriel’s way… well, that was when Luke had been assigned to be his new partner.
“We’re going after someone who’s killed over twenty people. I want back up. Now move.”
Luke moved, amazed at how fast the obstacle course tactics came back to him. Check behind, to each side, don’t move until everything was clear. They pressed themselves up against the gritty walls of the warehouse, the hot sun making deep shadow along the walls, the scent of wood rot thick in their nostrils, as they slowly moved around the building, checking the doors and windows to find any that were open.
“Nothing,” Luke whispered at length. The place was locked up tighter than a drum. That matched Luke’s nerves to a T. He hadn’t been out in the field like this, on the front lines, since before he’d joined the FBI. He had sort of missed the thrill, but not the danger. And he didn’t want to look like a coward in front of Gabriel…
“Then we make our own way in.” Gabriel and Luke slowly snuck around to the closest door, and Gabriel put his hand over the lock. Slowly the steel turned into gleaming yellow gold, soft and pliable. Slow, inexorable pressure from Gabriel’s telekinesis forced the now-weakened lock apart.
“Awesome,” Luke whispered, catching Gabriel’s eyes momentarily. He loved watching Gabriel use his powers.
Gabriel gave him a small smile of encouragement before jerking his head inward. Luke ducked around the side of the door, hands out, trying not to miss anything. The FBI didn’t like to issue guns to agents like Luke and Gabriel, for fear of property damage. Well, property damage to the guns more than to actual property. Gabriel had told him he’d accidentally transmuted his first gun into gold, which had apparently annoyed the arms instructor. And with Luke’s ability, having a gun was counterproductive. Metal and microwaves in close proximity didn’t mix well.
Gabriel stepped in to the other side, and both began to slowly move through the rows of crates and pallets, side by side, one by one, watching each other’s backs. Luke tried to keep from hyperventilating as he kept his ears pricked up for any sound-.
“Did you hear that?” Luke whispered suddenly. There had been a low hum from somewhere up ahead, where the rows terminated into the main part of the warehouse. Gabriel froze instantly, and they both dropped into a crouch to hide. But when Gabriel’s hand came in contact with the floor, he pulled it back with a strangled cry of horror.
Luke whipped around to stare at him as Gabriel began to rip up the flooring around him with his mind with little regard for the noise. Staring into the cavity revealed by the floorboards, Luke repressed the urge to vomit as desiccated corpses, packed together like sardines, were revealed under the whole of the aisle.
“Holy-!” Luke started, and then suddenly looked ahead.
His mind immediately flashed back to the camera footage he’d gotten a few days ago, the one that showed a shadowy figure in the security camera footage where Vasquez and Dominic had been killed. In the dim shadows of the warehouse, a dark outline stood at the end of the aisle, and seemed to stare straight at both of them. He flung out a hand, and a dark wave, humming furiously, seemed to rise up from under the floor.
It took Luke a second to recognize it as mosquitoes. Millions and billions of mosquitoes.
“Shit- GO, GO, GO!” Gabriel yelled, flinging out his own hand to try to hold them at bay. Some of the wave stopped, but the others flew around Gabriel’s telekinetic hold and descended upon him like locusts.
“No!” Luke screamed, and let go with both hands. Hundreds of mosquitoes fried and died, but they still kept coming, swarming over Gabriel until he was unrecognizable under their bodies.
“Spark them-!” Gabriel choked out, gasping for air around a mouth full of the horrible, blood-sucking little insects.
Luke was so pumped with adrenaline that he didn’t stop to think, even though he knew this was going to hurt like hell in a second. He reached into his pocket for a handful of change, nickels and dimes, and flung them into the thickest part of the swarm. At nearly the same time he let loose another full blast with his other hand. When the microwaves hit the spinning disks of metal, the feedback sparked through the swarm and arced up to the metal girders above, raining miniature lightning bolts everywhere.
The swarm partially dispersed, but there were far too many still on Gabriel, and more every second starting to converge on Luke. Swatting them away frantically as they tried to fly down his throat, Luke mentally apologized to Gabriel as he played his power close to his partner’s body, trying to fry as many as he could. Gabriel coughed and starting shoving them away again with his mind as the little horrors died enough for him to be able to breathe again.
Looking around frantically, Luke could see the stranger had begun to retreat, and shouted to Gabriel. “He’s getting away!”
“Point me, I can’t see!” Gabriel yelled. Luke unhesitatingly dove into the thick swarm still around Gabriel and grabbed his arm. Frantically swatting away the cloud of insects, he aimed Gabriel’s hand at the retreating back of the rogue special.
A bolt of blue lightning leapt the length of the warehouse to spear into the shadowy stranger. He crumpled without a sound… and the cloud of insects around them abruptly stopped, as if confused, and began to fly away. Luke pulled Gabriel out of that hellish place, until they were both back out in the steaming Louisiana sunlight again. Flipping open his phone, he quickly called the Bureau for a clean-up team, and turned his attention back to Gabriel.
Oblivious to the hundreds of bites on himself, Luke kept swatting the remaining insects away from his partner until he could see again.
Christ, they were everywhere… Luke realized with nausea. Gabriel’s regeneration helped, but he still had to extract the disgusting insect bodies from everywhere, even his eyes.
“Luke, did we-?”
“Yeah, we got him. You dropped him with one shot. Pretty awesome, James Bond,” Luke said, trying to make a joke out of it. But he still kept squeezing one of Gabriel’s hands, afraid something else was going to happen to him.
“Hey, you spotted him first. Credit where credit is due, Moneypenny,” Gabriel groaned, slowly sitting upright. “Good job.”
This time Luke didn’t even protest the nickname.
The next afternoon…
“What the hell is that?” Gabriel asked warily.
“It’s a banana split,” Luke explained patiently, setting it down between them and handing him a spoon. Luke was covered from head to foot with calamine lotion to keep from ripping his own skin off from the mosquito bites, and he felt, and Gabriel had agreed, that that entitled him to any damn thing he wanted. Luke had wanted ice cream… to share with Gabriel.
“It’s a sherbet split, get over it.”
“There’s no such thing as a sherbet split. Banana splits have chocolate, and vanilla, and strawberry-.”
Luke desperately tried to shut Gabriel up by shoving a spoonful of orange sherbet and banana into his mouth, heedless of the consequences. He didn’t want to hear about his odd taste in ice cream. Or how the aftermath of capturing the insect manipulator had gone once they’d called for a clean-up crew. Or how many sleazeballs were going to be serving hefty sentences by taking advantage of one rogue special’s obsession with “cleaning up the scum of the earth.” He only wanted to talk about things that had nothing to do with the job.
Gabriel closed his lips around the spoon and ate the ice cream and fruit thoughtfully. Slowly. Luke thought his brain might begin to melt.
“Not a bad combination. Ok, so why, instead of going out and getting completely hammered, which might actually let you forget about the fact that you’re going to be itching for days, are we at an ice cream parlor again now?” Gabriel asked.
Luke looked down and shoved another spoonful of ice cream in his mouth. He let it melt before he could answer coherently. And truthfully.
“Because the bars are full of other people and I only wanted to talk to you,” he said in a rush.
Gabriel reached over and grabbed Luke’s hand; his fingers flaking away some of the dried pink calamine lotion.
“You held my hand yesterday until the back up arrived,” Gabriel said softly. Luke swallowed and nodded. He hadn’t been ignorant of what he was doing; he knew exactly how long it took Gabriel to touch-read a person. It was just after seeing what could have happened to Gabriel if he had gone in alone… And Luke couldn’t seem to get anything out in words but banter, quips, and wistful wishes that seemed to go completely over Gabriel’s head.
“Yeah… I’m sorry, I just-. I didn’t want things to get weird, but-. Sorry, man,” Luke said quickly, and tried to pull his hand away. Gabriel didn’t let him. Instead he picked up another spoonful of sherbet and slowly fed it to Luke.
“You know how Moneypenny’s always after James Bond to get her a ring?” Gabriel asked casually. Luke nodded slowly, wondering if he was being mocked. “We don’t need those.”
Gabriel’s hand tightened over Luke’s and pulled him close enough that their orange-and-banana-scented breath filled the space between them. “I don’t want any other smart-ass, cocky, dedicated, hot-shot agent watching my back other than you. Got it?” he growled.
Luke was fairly certain his brain had been reduced to a quivering pile of surprised and happy mush at Gabriel’s statement.
Smiling stupidly, he closed the last inch of space between them, cold, sweet lips melding together in a kiss that became rapidly hot enough to melt the sherbet between them to sticky soup. When they finally pulled apart, both of them were laughing.
“Got it, James Bond,” Luke said, genuinely grinning ear-to-ear.