“I had really hoped Scott would bond with Stiles someday.”
“It certainly would have been easier on us,” John Stilinski agrees as Melissa prods him into an empty break room. “Easier on Stiles, too. You know they want him to lead the local Pride?”
“After everything that’s happened? The Fire? So many dead? He’d have to rebuild the damn Pride. He’s only 17!”
“From what I’ve heard, he’s the only viable candidate.”
“Heard?” Melissa questions.
John nods, “Heard. Parrish is a member of the Pride, of course, and he clued me in but I apparently don’t count as a member until Stiles bonds.” John sighs as he pushes a surprisingly unresisting Ms. McCall against a wall. “I’m surprised you let Scott leave without you. You trust that guy?”
“Who? Sun? No, I don’t know him enough to trust him. But I trust Scott. I know he won’t let anyone keep him away from me. He won’t let anyone put us in danger. He doesn’t have it in him. Never has.”
John presses against her, running the tip of his nose up along her neck. “I’ve been speaking with Dr. Sandburg.”
“Yeah?” Melissa’s voice shakes a little, comes out breathy.
“Interesting guy. Babbles.” Melissa gives that throaty, sexy laugh of hers. “According to Dr. Sandburg, in the wake such disasters, bondings increase. Strong relationships form as the Earth tries to fix itself, searches for balance. Even mundanes can be affected.”
“A mundane is definitely going to be affected if you don’t kiss me. Soon.”
John does his best to hide his smirk as he goes in for the kill. Melissa’s eyes tell him he’s not successful. Their lips barely make contact when the break room door snaps open and they spring apart.
Standing in the doorway is a sweating, red faced Special Agent Rafe McCall. The father of Scott and ex-husband of Melissa looks pissed but he doesn’t say a word. Melissa meets the man glare for glare as the Sheriff explains his need to get going and makes his escape.
Typically, Rafe McCall breaks the silence. “Were you sleeping with him back then? Is that why you called him first?”
Shock and pain so strong they leave her breathless shoot through Melissa. “I called him first because you were a violent drunk and even then he was the sheriff! We weren’t sleeping together then. We aren’t sleeping together now, not that that’s any business of yours! It was just a kiss! And what the hell are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be in Sacramento?”
“I came because this town is in shambles! Fires have been raging all over town all night. There are as many roads blocked by accidents as there are drivable ones. There are people still passed out on the sidewalks, drooling and in shock,” Rafe’s face gets progressively redder as his voice gets louder. His forehead is doing the vein-y thing Melissa hates. “And I wanted to make sure my wife and my son are in one piece in the epicenter of a major catastrophic event. Did you know the Red Cross is here? FEMA is on its way! The president has ordered the national guard to mobilize to keep the peace!”
What? No way! “This is the last town that could ever need-”
“Normally, I would agree with you but the sentinels here took it on the chin yesterday. They are scattered. Disorganized. The Pride was attacked by the Tribe, at least that’s what they are all saying out there. Honestly, Stilinski giving the Hale House scene over to the Pride for protection was brilliant. Smartest thing he could have done. They get to mourn and lick their wounds in private but now his tiny department has to do everything else.”
Silence stretched between them until it made them both uncomfortable.
“I’m here now,” Rafe says quietly as he deflates. “What can I do?”
Melissa lets him stew for another few moments while she makes her opinion of him clear with one arched eyebrow and her jaw jutting to one side. “I need everything you can get me about Sun Yukimura.”
John Stilinski should probably feel bad about abandoning Melissa in the face of her ex-husband’s fury but he really, really doesn’t. No one can shut someone down as totally as Melissa McCall and Rafe? Rafe just being in Beacon Hills makes John start to think about violence and hiding bodies.
John listens as Liam Gibbs assures his father that no one has gotten within the Hale property’s generous fence line since the fire crews left the scene. The younger sentinel provides his father the used t-shirts each fire fighter and paramedic had shoved and sealed into evidence bags for the sentinels’ use and starts to herd the FBI’s on-scene Crime Scene Investigators like a teacher with a bunch of kindergarteners.
“We’re here today to evaluate and collect any evidence we can regarding the incident that took place yesterday on these grounds.” Special Agent Don Eppes tells the current guard shift. “Once my team has completed our assessment of the site, it will be returned to your guardianship. We ask you to not discuss anything you learn either through us or you own abilities with anyone. I want to remind you that preliminary findings can be misleading. Please allow the case to follow its natural course. Thank you.”
John can see sentinels nodding and probably voicing their agreement from their places around the edge of the property.
“It isn’t safe for us to enter the structure.” Don informs the group that follows him through the gate, onto the property and up to a folding table that his sentinel has set up. “So we’re going to use all four pairs for the evaluation. Charlie, Colby, you guys get the grounds. Document everything.”
“Sandburg-Ellison, I want you to start with the top floor. Sheppard-Gibbs, I want you to take the first floor. Ian and I will take the second floor.” Don passes each the appropriate blueprint roll-up and they spread out.
John gestures for each of the three deputies that he’s armed with camcorders to follow their assigned pair. Parrish and the younger Gibbs sentinel tag along with Eppes-Granger to the corner they decide to start their search. Haigh goes to Sandburg-Ellison and moves with them as they settle in the grass. Eppes-Edgerton with the help of Graeme settle their blueprint on a bench so Don can kneel on the ground with Ian standing behind him. The Sheriff readies his own video camera and trains it on the blueprint that Sheppard-Gibbs roll out on the table, holding the microphone close to make sure none of their words are lost.
The three pairings with blueprints each make some sort of skin-to-skin contact. Ian slides his hands down Don’s neck to settle on his guide’s shoulders under the other man’s t-shirt. Ellison rests his hands on the biceps that he has rolled Blair’s sleeves up to expose. Gibbs untucks the tails of Sheppard’s shirt and rests his hands on his guide’s flanks.
They are using a form of psychometry that is really rare because of how strong the pairing and their bond has to be to do it. The pairing has to be able to combine their abilities to make it work. It’s supposed to be extremely exhausting work and it’s limited by physical proximity to whatever they are trying to find or examine.
The guide will start by slowly running their hands over a symbolic representation of whatever they are trying to find, or in this case, the location they are searching. Almost like playing a Ouija board with Hale House blueprints. The sentinel then uses his link with his guide to send his senses to the guide’s empathic presence within the scried location. Once they are both firmly, psychically on the scene both halves of the pair catalogue the location with their senses.
The process has to be repeated by at least one other bonded pair. The recorded testimony and performers’ after action reports are then compared and certified by an outside source. Once that process is complete everything the pairs discover is considered completely admissible, legal evidence.
As each pair finishes their assignments, they exchange blueprints so that each team examines each floor. The three pairs finish their discoveries and have their statements written, recorded and signed before Granger-Eppes finish walking the back yard. Not much of the house is left standing enough to explore, even psychically.
“It started on the first floor.” This has to be the first time John had heard Leroy Jethro Gibbs speak. “In the center of the house. Not far from the main staircase.”
“Near that emotional black hole.” Blair shudders. The guides are all pale and drained, leaning against their sentinels for comfort but Blair looks by far the worst. Whether Blair’s reaction is because of his nominally civilian life or an increased level of empathy over the other two guides, John can’t be sure.
“Where they found Kate,” Don puts in.
“There was no,” Sheppard hesitates. “It didn’t seem like there was a lot of shock. Or fear. From the other victims.”
“They died fast.”
“Or Kate’s pain covers any impressions they left.”
The three guides lapse into silence as they all wait for Eppes-Granger to finish with their gaggle of crime scene investigators and leave them to snap pictures and bag and tag.
Colby is grinning when he joins them. “This whole place is buzzing about you tearing Special Agent In Charge Thomas a new one.”
Don doesn’t exactly explode but John gets the impression he comes as close to it as the Team Leader will allow himself. “You should have seen the guy. It was like he didn’t know the first thing about sentinels. And didn’t care! Trying to take an established crime scene from the sentinels in charge? Like trying to push a doctor away in the middle of surgery. How? I mean, what?”
“I have an idea about-”
“Do you know how many S-n-G pairs work for the Bureau in California?” Blair casually interrupts his sentinel.
Don frowns. “We had 5 pairs between all the departments in Albuquerque so-” He passes the question to his baby brother with a flick of his eyes. Don can almost see the numbers whirling behind Charlie’s eyes and he wonders idly if Colby can hear them, ticking away like numbers on a turn-style counter.
“Based on comparative populations for the city of Albuquerque to the state of California?” Charlie hedges. “345 pairs.”
“Three.” Jim supplies, disgust evident in his voice. “The FBI employs three pairs within the state of California. Arizona, Nevada and Colorado are not much better.”
Horror sinks into Don’s gut. “Two of those pairs are on my team, Ellison.”
Jim opens his mouth to retort when his cell phone rings. He cuts himself off and answers with a curt “Ellison.”
Liam Gibbs wanders over from where he just finished letting the CSIs out of the boundary gate and John watches all three of the sentinels not on the phone call tilt their heads to one side and grow increasingly tense until Ellison tersely ends his conversation and then the call with a vicious jab.
“You’re in Cheyenne Mountain.”
John isn’t really sure who Jim is talking to until Liam nods.
“Why did I get that call from an unbonded sentinel?”
The young Marine shrugs a little too casually. “No bonded pairs in the mountain. Cam is the highest ranking sentinel we got.”
No bondeds? How the-? John didn’t think there was a single United States military installation on the planet without even a single bonded pair.
“And he’s reliable?”
“Yes, sir. New to the program but he has educated himself thoroughly on the mission and he’s good in the field. People like him. He works hard and puts himself on the line more often than not. Trustworthy. Shockingly bad at pool. Terrible taste in beer.”
Surprisingly, Colby bursts out laughing. “He still drinks Heineken?”
Liam Gibbs nods and rolls his eyes. “Fucking skunk spray, I swear.”
Ellison frowns significantly in Granger’s general direction.
“I was in the mountain for three years. Then I came online and bonded and Landry kicked me out.”
“Base CO for about a year now. He has a real hate on for bonded pairs. Wouldn’t even let Charlie in the Mountain, no matter how excited his geeks got about it.”
The younger Eppes guide puts a soothing hand on his sentinel. “I’ve still worked with them for the program. I have done a lot of consults since my clearance went through.”
If looks could kill, the glare Patrick Sheppard levels on the group as Gibbs pulls back from whispering in his ear would get the alpha guide arrested on at least four counts of voluntary manslaughter.
“What the fuck have you done with my son?”