Pairing: John&Dorian (epic-bromance)
Feedback: Makes me happy, just play nice
Disclaimer(s) can be found here
Summary: Four years after making it through a deadly special forces mission on Mars, John was the only survivor of a police raid gone wrong. The raid took his leg and put him in a coma he should never have awoken from and taking almost two years of his life. Now back on the force, begrudgingly partnered with an android, Dorian, DRN-167, who’s too close to human for his own good, John’s being asked to go face the very things that changed his life, to follow the man who created and betrayed his partner, and face the crime group, InSyndicate, responsible for the ambush that cost him his team and his leg- all wrapped up in one nice little package over the Wall, which segregates the livable portion of the city and the area overrun by the C24s.
AN1a-c: First off, I want to get down on my knees and grovel my eternal thanks to mialoco and lanalucy for their patience and support. And an extra HUGE thank you to Lana for taking on the beta’ing of this beast even with such a close deadline.
Secondly, to stormbrite thank you, not just for the wonderful art, but for your patience and feedback and encouragement and for restoring my faith in big bang artists. If I haven’t said it enough I love the art, thank you.
And lastly, a huge thank you and hug to our mistress of ceremonies, spikedluv, for running this challenge and for being so amazingly understanding of my medical and r/l problems.
AN2: Obviously I had to play with the dates a bit, but Almost Human is the base fandom here, so the fic’s dates are consistent with the AH timeline as much as possible.
NB: This was really hard for me, and kinda off my beaten path… I’m a slasher- I slash, therefore I am. So, when I started this and realized OMGs this is headed for epic bromance and not slash it kinda freaked me out, but in the end I just follow where the muses lead. But, yeah, out of my comfort zone in a big way. Just, you know, fair warning.
Captain Sandra Maldonado didn’t like what she was about to do, but it needed to be done and there was only one person she knew of- probably the only person on the planet- who could survive being cut-off over the Wall. Broken and cynical as he was, John Kennex was the first person to survive the things the Wall was built to keep at bay and the only person qualified to face them- he was one.
With a fortifying breath she called to Kennex from her office doorway. “John,” she said simply, cocking her head to indicate her office.
“What did you do this time, Kennex? Destroy more MXs?” Detective Richard Paul sneered.
John rolled his eyes as he stood. “Only yours, Richard. Closest I can get to the real thing. Back in a minute, D,” he added to his partner.
“Close the door, John,” Maldonado said mildly, when he entered.
Doing as she asked, John gave his captain a wary look as he sat. “I know that tone.”
Maldonado gave him a small smile and turned on the privacy settings for her office, clouding out the windows and effectively soundproofing the room. She pursed her lips, preparing to cross a line she’d hoped she’d never have to cross.
“Sandra,” John urged gently. He’d known Sandra for years, even before he’d joined the P.D. She’d been a friend of his uncle’s, and one of the two people alive who knew his secret and why he’d taken his adoptive father’s name when he joined the force. He had no doubt she’d been instrumental in his quick rise to detective.
“I need you to go after Vaughn.”
John looked at her curiously. Going after Vaughn wasn’t worth Maldonado’s hesitance. The answer hit him a nano-second later. “Over the wall,” he filled in the piece of the puzzle she’d left out.
Her mouth tightened into a thin line. “Intel’s solid.”
John huffed out a breath, all his snark and cynical energy seemed to drain from him. Over the Wall was someplace he’d never wanted to be again.
“John, I won’t order you.”
“Yeah,” he sighed, “but there’s not exactly a long list of people qualified to be over there.” He rubbed his thigh subconsciously. He should’ve bled out when he lost his leg. He should never have survived the brain injury from the explosion. He should never have come out of the resulting coma. But he had survived it all and was now being asked to go face the very thing that had made those miracles possible. C24s. Over the Wall they were the personification of the worst in humanity. On this side of the Wall it was the embodiment of one cynical cop with anger management issues.
“Yeah,” Maldonado agreed quietly.
“When do I leave?” John asked. Going after InSyndicate was one thing, going after Vaughn’s XRNs fell into the same category, but going after Vaughn- that was personal. The man had swept in with his ‘fatherly’ attentions and then betrayed them, turning Dorian’s world on end. One thing John did not take lightly was hurting his friends, especially if that friend was Dorian. The DRN had wormed his way under John’s defenses and while John fought letting Dorian know, he was man enough to admit he cared about the android.
Sandra gave John a small heartfelt smile. “You and Dorian need to go see Rudy. He’s been working on some power source modifications for the two of you.”
“No, way, Sandra. Dorian isn’t coming.”
“I’m not sending you out there alone. It’s Dorian or an MX,” she stated firmly.
John knew the tone well enough to know she wouldn’t budge. “Fine, but you have to ask him, not order him.”
“All right. Send him in; you get down to Rudy.”
John gave her an accepting nod and went to get his partner.
“Rudy,” John greeted the tech cheerfully as he entered Rudy’s lab- it was the kind of lab that any mad scientist would be proud of, all tubes and wires and transistors and miscellaneous bits of robotics strewn in an order only Rudy would understand. “What do you have for me?”
“You’re going then?”
“That’s why I’m here.”
“Will Dorian be joining us?”
“He’s talking to Maldonado.”
“But he is coming with you?” Rudy flinched minutely at his choice of words. “Not ‘coming’ coming. But coming- going-”
“Rudy,” John interrupted. “The modifications?” he asked, attempting to get the conversation back on track.
“Oh, yes.” He rounded the workbench he’d been tinkering on, ducking down and disappearing behind another. “I’ve been working on this since the blackouts,” came Rudy’s disembodied voice. “It should hold a substantial enough charge to top off Dorian’s power supply once I finish his solar upgrades,” he explained, popping back up with a small device “and your leg.” He nodded at the appendage in question. “About that. I’ve got some modifications I’d like to make.”
“What kind of modifications?” John asked hesitantly.
“The calibration alert,” Rudy explained, “I doubt you want it going off over there. I should be able to tune it into Dorian’s sensors- you won’t get the audio, but you already know when it happens,” he said rather apologetically, knowing the trouble John had with his prosthetic.
John shifted his weight subconsciously.
Doing his best to ignore John’s discomfort, Rudy gestured to John’s leg. “I can do the adjustments now.”
Sighing, John rubbed his eyes. He didn’t like thinking about his leg. He didn’t like thinking about people seeing him without it either.
“Or later. Later’s fine,” Rudy amended nervously. He knew John would never lash out at him, but Rudy also knew the frustration and anger John felt. John might not know it, but Rudy had been there all through his coma. Hell, he was the one who’d doctored John’s blood samples, extracting any traces of the C24 chromosome. John had done his stint as a guinea pig before the C24s escaped; Rudy wasn’t going to let it happen again.
John closed his eyes and let out a tired huff before opening them and telling his friend, “No, it’s all right. Let’s get this over with.”
Rudy’s smile bordered on manic as he quickly grabbed one of his scattered rolling chairs for John to sit in while he worked on John’s leg.
Once Rudy had the prosthetic all his attention and nervous energy was powered into his modifications and John’s presence faded into the background.
John turned his attention to the small box Rudy had produced moments earlier, it was about the same size as a two-slice toaster- the irony was not lost on John. He scooted the chair over to Rudy’s desk and began idly, and futilely, trying to make sense of Rudy’s notes laying haphazardly over the desktop.
A moment later Dorian showed up, the circuits in his face flashing at an alarming rate and in an equally alarming array of colours. “John.” He marched over to his partner in a way that might have been disturbing if John didn’t know Dorian so well. “You are not doing this,” he stated calmly, dangerously.
“Does that mean you’re not coming with me?” John asked, ignoring Dorian’s tone.
“Yes, John, because you’re not going either.”
“D, I’m going.”
“Of all the pigheaded, ridiculous…”
Dorian paced in front of John, agitated in a way John had never seen him, even on that memorable low-charge day.
“Do you have any idea what you’re agreeing to?” Dorian asked once his pacing stopped.
John merely gave Dorian a sardonic look.
Deflating, Dorian spoke softly, “Why? Why you?”
That was the ten-million dollar question, wasn’t it? And one that John wouldn’t- couldn’t answer here. While the myriad cameras and drones throughout the city made it safer, it didn’t lend to secrets, especially in a place like this. Rudy’s lab, while doubling as his home, was still subject to monitoring at least during work hours and when members of the department were there. “Not here, Dorian,” John said emphatically. Taking Dorian’s arm he pulled him closer, until Dorian was almost in his lap and whispered, “You gotta trust me, D. I promise, I’ll tell you everything once we’re on the other side.”
Dorian wanted to scream, ‘No,’ and force the answers out of his infuriating human. But John was his friend and he did have Dorian’s complete, unwavering trust, so he grudgingly nodded. “I’m gonna hold you to that, man,” he said dropping the subject and focusing on the adjustments Rudy was making to John’s leg.
“Okay, that’s it. Now we just need to wait for Dorian,” Rudy said a few minutes later, finally looking up from his work. “…who’s already here,” he added in surprise. “When did you get here?”
Dorian chuckled, while John rolled his eyes. “About twenty minutes ago,” Dorian answered.
“Oh.” Rudy’s brow quickly moved from curious to confused to surprised. “Well, have a seat,” He nodded toward the gurney-like table near his desk. “I will be right,” Rudy’s words slowed as he tinkered with something on the workbench, “with you.” He took a couple steps away from the bench and whatever had grabbed his attention. “Oh.” His whole body seemed to bounce; he held up a finger, and went back to where he’d been working, to grab John’s leg. Coming up to John and Dorian, Rudy cast his eyes around his cluttered workspace then offered John his leg, instructing, “Hold that. I just need…” He paused at a table. “Yes, this. And ah,” he tried to reach around John to his main computer terminal. “Can I just…” he gestured at his computer.
John rolled his eyes to cover his amusement and pushed off from the desk to make room for Rudy.
“Thank you,” Rudy said absently, already focused on his work on Dorian. He moved over to the android. “Sorry about this,” he told him sincerely. Rudy loved his machines and his tech, but Dorian was more than that- Dorian felt and thought independently, he was more than circuits and programming. Part of Rudy hated having to treat Dorian as a piece of tech; the other part of him loved being privy to what made Dorian Dorian, what gave him life. “All right,” Rudy said, fingers flying as he set up Dorian’s programs. “Don’t freak out, I’m taking you off the network… now.”
The tell-tale blue lights that flashed through Dorian’s face when he accessed the police database faded to nothing, replaced by the red-orange and yellow lights that usually accompanied searching his personal and public databases.
“Uploading new subroutines,” Rudy explained with a few strokes of his monitor. “That will take a while.” He walked around to Dorian’s other side. “I need to remove your chest plate to complete the solar upgrade,” he told Dorian, wanting to give him a chance to ask John to leave. Rudy felt that baring Dorian’s inner workings was rather like walking in on someone in the shower, only Dorian didn’t have the option to pull a towel over himself. And Dorian may be an android, but he still had a right to his privacy.
“Get on with it, Rudy,” John prodded.
“It’s okay, Rudy. Under all that surly snark there’s more surly snark, but he really loves us,” Dorian told him as he stripped to the waist.
Rudy gave a nervous chuckle and set about removing Dorian’s chest plate.
“What is that?” John asked, using his artificial leg to hook onto the table and pull himself closer to see what Rudy was doing to his friend.
“This? This is a nano-strand. It may feel a little odd,” he told Dorian. “It acts like the old malware tech. But it’s not, it’s not dangerous. Once the strand gets into your system it will latch onto your tactile sensors and spread throughout your skin, effectively turning the entire surface of your body into a solar collector. Obviously, the more skin is exposed, the better the charge. Not that I’m saying you should go around naked. Not that you can’t if you want. It’s a free country after all. Just it’s not necessary.”
It didn’t take nearly as long as John had expected for Dorian’s upgrades to complete.
“All right, solar capabilities will go on-line next time you’re in the sun,” Rudy informed them. He turned to John, “May I,” he said, reaching out for John’s leg. “Just need to check the interface calibration.” He toyed with a couple circuits then asked Dorian, “You feel that?”
Dorian’s face lit up soft yellow and pale red for a moment. “Yes,” he said and looked at John. “You didn’t finish charging it this morning; its self-calibration is off, too.” Dorian’s face did its red light show again. “Try that, John.”
John grumbled about androids and talking to his bed, but he took the leg and carefully set about the simple sequence of movements that would secure it to his thigh. He had to admit, whatever Dorian did instantly made him more comfortable.
“Good?” Rudy asked, hopefully.
John gave his leg a couple experimental bends and turns. “Not bad, Rudy, not bad at all. Dorian?”
Dorian nodded. “The calibration interface seems to be working perfectly.”
Rudy practically beamed. “Good, good.” He whipped around to his desk for another tool. “Now, gentlemen, I have to remove your locator chips. Once that’s done you’ll be ready for your adventures, as ready as I can make you.”
“Sounds like I have good timing,” a female voice came from the entrance to Rudy’s lab.
“Captain,” Dorian greeted instantly, a slight edge of harshness underlying his normally kind, warm tone.
“Dorian. John.” Captain Maldonado smiled sweetly at their resident mad scientist. “Rudy.” Sandra leaned gingerly against one of the cluttered workbenches. “How’s it going? You two going to be ready for this?”
John turned to Maldonado, spreading his arms as if offering himself up for inspection. “When have I not been ready?”
Maldonado sighed in indulgent exasperation. “John…”
She couldn’t help it; she chuckled and shook her head. “I’m assuming you want to get some things from your place before you go.”
“Thought I’d do that as soon as Dr. Jekyll here was finished with me.”
“Hmm?” Rudy said distractedly.
“Can I get out of here?” John clarified.
“I was going to go over the remote charger with you,” Rudy began before looking at John standing in the too casual way he did so often when Rudy started talking tech. Swallowing quickly, Rudy amended his statement, “Which you’d probably ignore anyway, so why don’t I just take it with Dorian.”
John smiled and slapped Rudy on the back. “And that, my friend, is why you’re a genius.”
When John got back to Rudy’s a couple of hours later, it was to see Rudy animatedly expounding on a table of miscellanea and tech.
“What’s this, Rudy, teaching the old fashioned way?”
“Rudy was merely reacquainting me with some of our supplies,” Dorian explained.
“Yes. Regardless of what the higher ups would have you believe, newer tech isn’t necessarily better tech.” Rudy smiled at Dorian. “Case in point.”
“How about you wrap up the history lesson? D and I have a date with a wall.”
Rudy gave a small grunt of displeasure. Even knowing John’s history, he wasn’t happy about John and Dorian being cut off on the other side of the Wall.
John squeezed Rudy’s shoulder reassuringly. “I promise I’ll bring Dorian back in one piece.”
Rudy stopped what he was doing and looked shrewdly at John. “He’s not the only one I’m worried about.”
Giving Rudy a wry smile, John added, “I’ll bring myself back, too.”
“Yes,” Rudy agreed as he began loading up the items from the table into a pack. “Some of us spent too much time making sure you were safe this long.”
Dorian watched the exchange between the two men curiously, the hidden undertones not escaping him. He wanted to question them about it, but he had a feeling whatever it was related to why it was John going over the Wall, and he’d promised John he’d let him explain once they were no longer in the city.
“All right,” Rudy exhaled in a way that on anyone else would’ve seemed overdramatic, but on Rudy was just Rudy, then offered the pack to Dorian. “That’s everything I could think of that might possibly help.”
“Oh!” Rudy held up a halting finger. “Can’t forget that,” he said scrambling over to get the solar unit.
John rolled his eyes.
Bringing the unit to Dorian, “Remember, three hours for it to fully charge,” Rudy told both of them. Stepping back he sighed. “That’s as ready as I can make you.”
“You ready, D?”
“Are you ready, John?”
“As I’ll ever be,” he replied, showing the first hint of hesitation he’d had all day.
“I’m not,” Rudy offered.
“Don’t worry; we’ll be back before you know it.”
Rudy snorted, he’d known John too long to accept his flippancy at face value.
“Come on, Dorian, Captain’s waiting for us. Rudy, thanks for everything,” John spoke the last part softly, hoping the tech would understand its full meaning. He owed Rudy as much if not more than he owed Sandra and he wanted Rudy to know how much it meant to him.
Rudy gave a small smile and a nod. As Dorian passed him, Rudy grabbed his arm. “Take care of him.”
“I will,” Dorian promised solemnly.
“Good luck,” Rudy called after them as they left the sanctity of his lab.
Crossing over the Wall turned out to be surprisingly easy. Captain Maldonado arranged for the patrols around a relatively abandoned section of the Wall to be misscheduled, leaving it unguarded for several minutes at a time, allowing the pair to traverse the towering structure. All in all it took less than twenty minutes for John and Dorian to leave the relative safety of the city for the more aggressive and intense dangers on the other side of the Wall.
This part of the city barely resembled the city of six years ago. Where once gleaming buildings teeming with people had stood, now were only dark and desolate ruins. The streets- what was left of them- were covered in dirt, leaves, and the garbage left in the wake of the death of a thriving metropolis. The steadiest buildings were dilapidated and decaying. Others were burnt out shells, barely standing- the ones that were still standing.
“John, we’re over the Wall,” Dorian stated after they’d put a few blocks between them and their entry point.
“Yeah, that’s generally what happens when you go from one side to the other,” John quipped, avoiding the real subject.
“John,” Dorian stopped in his tracks, “you promised,” he said quietly.
John huffed, but he stopped. He didn’t look at Dorian as he spoke. “Let’s find a place to hole up for the night and I’ll tell you.”
Dorian seemed to be mollified as he began to scan the surrounding area for any structure suitable for the night.
“About one hundred yards due east there’s a small building; its structure should be sound enough to fit our needs tonight.”
Nodding, John spread out an entreating arm. “Lead on, MacDuff.”
“You do know it’s ‘Lay on, MacDuff’?” Dorian snarked as he set out along the dilapidated street.
“Yeah, yeah. Everyone’s a critic.”
The building was almost more of a skeleton, but four walls and a roof was nothing to sneeze at over here. It was perfect for their needs. Once they were settled- Dorian topping off his charge and casting deliberate looks at John’s leg, while John ignored the meaning-laden glances, tucking in to an MRE claiming to be roast beef and potatoes- Dorian decided John had stalled long enough.
“John,” he said simply.
He sighed and set down his meal. “Right. What do your databases tell you about what’s out here?”
Dorian’s face danced yellow for a moment as he searched his internal databases. “Six years ago the creatures known as C24s first appeared in Nevada. By the time the government realized what was going on they’d spread through most of the South West. The first Wall was built, cutting off over half of California, Nevada at Carson City, a quarter of Utah, and over seventy-five percent of Arizona. Exemplars of the infected were sent to the CDC in Atlanta, geneticists in Philadelphia, and to labs here. Atlanta was the only lab to keep it contained. Philadelphia was completely destroyed; the entire city cordoned off by its own Wall. We fared only slightly better losing just over half the city.”
John nodded as Dorian spoke, knowing what the history books told people about the incursion.
Pale green and purple lights flickered across Dorian’s face. “It seems some of the details have been sealed. There are unsubstantiated reports that the C24s came from a UAC research lab on Olduvai, but as the ‘Ark’ was presumably destroyed there’s no way to confirm it.”
“The ‘Ark’ was destroyed, along with the facilities surrounding it. They came out of nowhere. Somehow they escaped. I still don’t know how; they’re not more than beasts once they turn.”
“Dorian, what I’m about to tell you is something only Sandra and Rudy know. It can’t ever find its way into any records, any databases. You got me?”
“Of course, John,” Dorian readily agreed. He’d seen John in all manner of moods from his default cynical and angry to happy and relaxed. He thought he’d seen John scared, but he’d never seen John this shaken.
“Six years ago, I was a member of a Marine RRTS special ops team. There was a situation on Olduvai; the place was in lockdown.” John leaned against the wall, food forgotten. “Eighty-seven employees and their families… We were sent in for a rescue mission and to secure the labs. Only two of us made it out. Me and my sister. Sam didn’t survive the attack on the holding facility when they escaped.”
“But you did,” Dorian stated plainly.
“Yeah.” John let his eyes fall shut and his head fall back hard against the fragmented stone wall.
John was quiet for so long Dorian began to worry and scooted closer to his friend. “John?”
“You want to know why I’m here, over the Wall? I’m one of them.”
Dorian’s brow furrowed. “I don’t understand.”
“The twenty-fourth chromosome, I have it. I almost died down there, but Sam… she was so sure. It saved my life- more than once.”
“John, there’s no record-”
“Rudy erased most of it- everything that had our names after we got out. As far as the world is concerned Sam and I died at Olduvai. Sandra helped get me on the force under my uncle’s name. He adopted me and Sam after our parents were killed.” John laughed bitterly. “Olduvai took them, too.”
Dorian looked at him curiously. This was more than John had ever shared about himself before, and while it helped Dorian understand John more, it left him with even more questions. “Your parents died at Olduvai?” he prompted.
“They were archaeologists. Part of the dig site collapsed. Sam and I were seven when Uncle Edward took us in; he adopted us a year later. He was amazing. He never once treated us as anything but his own; as far as he was concerned we were his, but he never tried to make us forget- we kept our parents’ name and even though we called him ‘Dad’ he never forced the issue. He was a great father, a great man. He understood when I joined the Marines instead of going with Sam to university. I was on a mission when he died.” John shook his head. “Sometimes, D, I think my family is cursed.”
“Come on, man. Look at you. You’re not cursed, you’re blessed.”
“Hmph,” John snorted. “Whatever. Does that answer your question?”
Dorian nodded, processing everything he’d just learnt. It explained a lot about John to Dorian’s mind.
Hoping the conversation was over, John tucked his hands into his jacket sleeves and wrapped them around himself, settling back against the wall to at least feign sleep, though he knew Dorian would know the difference.
“You’re not like them,” Dorian said suddenly. “You remember when I asked Vaughn what he did differently when he made Danica? He said ‘nothing’ and do you remember what you told me?”
“Dorian,” John began to slowly shake his head.
“No, John,” Dorian interrupted before John could argue. “You told me I was nothing like her and never could be. That just because we shared circuitry it didn’t mean I was like her.” Dorian scooted over until he could knock John’s leg with his own. “Just because you share some part of their DNA doesn’t mean you’re like them.”
John made a small depreciating grunt and closed his eyes. After a few minutes of shared silence, John cracked an eye open to look at his partner. “Dorian, thanks.”
The soft smile on Dorian’s face was serene and honest. “Anytime, John.”
“John,” Dorian whispered urgently.
John’s eyes shot open. “Where?” he asked instantly, wincing at a twinge in his leg.
“Sorry,” Dorian apologized. “It needed to be charged. I didn’t think you’d want me to take it off,” he explained as he finished removing the charging electrodes from John’s leg.
John grunted. He wanted to get angry or at the very least indignant, but he knew Dorian was right and out here in this desolate place there was no way he’d willingly impair himself like that. He supposed he could manage some indignance over Dorian molesting his leg while John slept, but Dorian was just caring for him and for some reason- it being Dorian- he didn’t mind so much.
“Other end of the block,” Dorian answered John’s earlier question.
“All right,” John said, shaking out of his introspective thoughts, getting to his feet and checking his side arm and the assault weapon he slung over his back. “Let’s go.”
“John, not to be presumptuous, but shouldn’t we be heading away from them?” Dorian asked when John left in the direction of the disturbance.
“We’re going to have to engage them at some point,” John spoke softly. “If it’s C24s it will be good to get rid of them; if it’s InSyndicate we can probably gather intel, maybe get a line on their base and Vaughn.”
“Fine, but shouldn’t we at least get an accurate bearing on our surroundings? Nobody has officially been on this side of the Wall in years. There’s no guarantee my maps are accurate.”
Crouching behind a large transformer box, John gave Dorian a look that was part snark and part friendly exasperation. “Anyone ever tell you, you sound like a nagging wife?” He made a yapping motion with his hand to emphasize the point.
Dorian rolled his eyes. “Maybe that’s what you need.”
John snorted. “I’ve got you, don’t I.”
A scraping sound interrupted their banter. Dorian dropping to a crouch beside John. “C24s,” they said at the same time.
“You sure you want to take them on?” Dorian asked John, a hint of sarcasm edging into his voice.
“No,” John answered honestly. “But I’d rather face them on our terms than theirs.”
“Dorian,” John whisper-called to his partner as Dorian peeled off to the left. “What the… Where are you going?” John hissed.
Stopping at one of the taller buildings close by, Dorian pointed up. “To get a better view,” he explained simply and began to scale his selected building with no more difficulty than a spider crawls its web.
“Damn-it,” John spat at himself for not thinking of that, his vehemence directed at the reminder of the years he’d lost and the six spent pretending to be ‘normal.’ Shaking his head, he looked up at the building closest to where he was crouched. It’d do. He readjusted his gun and quickly scaled the building with admittedly less elegance than his partner.
Once John was high enough, Dorian silently directed his gaze to the two C24s trudging their way. He was momentarily surprised when he saw John’s attention already focused on the group. It only took a second for him to realize John’s enhanced attributes went further than simply the physical.
Raising his weapon, John set himself as comfortably as he could, bracing on a ledge between two gargoyles and took aim.
“John!” Dorian rasped.
Instantly, John’s finger let go of the trigger and he looked at Dorian who inclined his head and pointed to the right of the approaching C24s.
A group of five people in black military gear were splitting up to surround the beasts. InSyndicate, it had to be. No one else would be crazy enough to be out here or be so organized.
John took aim again in case the group succumbed to the creatures- doubtful, but John knew from experience not to put too much faith in probabilities. “What the Hell?” John muttered as he watched the scene through the gun’s scope.
A few yards away from the C24s, the men opened fire- with tranquilizers. The creatures fell to the ground as the tranqs worked their magic. One of the men approached, looking over the creatures. Apparently satisfied, he signaled his men closer. As they neared, two of the men took heavy chains from their packs.
John watched in something akin to horror as they wrapped the C24s in chains and prepared them to be moved, alive. A lead weight plummeted in John’s stomach and bile rose in his throat. InSyndicate couldn’t be doing what it looked like.
“John,” Dorian whispered, suddenly right next to him.
John’s head snapped to Dorian. “You can track them,” was his only outward reaction to his partner’s sudden and stealthy appearance.
“We need to secure a base camp first,” Dorian said by way of answer.
Exhaling, John let his head fall to his gun. “You’re right. Neither of us will be any good without Rudy’s charger; need to make sure it’s safe if nothing else.”
Adjusting his footing on the ledge, Dorian gripped John’s shoulder. “We’ll get them, John.”
The faith in Dorian’s voice made John smile. “Have you always been this glass half full kinda person?”
“Yes, John, and you’ve always been a cynical bastard.”
“Toaster,” John snarked back.
Dorian smiled at the feigned insult, taking it for the endearment it actually was. “Let’s get back.”
“Yeah,” John said and slung the gun across his back.
They found their makeshift camp as they left it, but John watched Dorian’s face glitter with red and orange as he ran a quick scan of their equipment to ensure no unwelcome guests had stumbled upon their equipment and decided to hide any trackers or other, nastier, surprises. Once Dorian was sure everything was clear, they packed up what little needed packing and headed out.
They walked in relative silence for several blocks, exploring and dismissing buildings as they went. It was dusk by the time they had located an old office building, not anything as towering as its neighbours, but still tall in its own right. More importantly it was stable and easily defensible with multiple avenues of escape, if it came to that. They settled in on the fifteenth floor, where cubicles and offices intermingled, giving a semi-natural obstacle course that, at the least, would alert them to any unwanted guests.
“You should get some sleep. I can finish setting us up,” Dorian told John. He had been surreptitiously monitoring John’s vitals, and even without that knew his friend was still drained from the last couple of days; so much buried history so suddenly brought to the surface would try anyone, even a man as remarkable as John.
“I’m fine, D,” John assured.
“You may be ‘fine’ by some loose definition of the term, but your vitals indicate you need rest, and there’s no reason for you not to sleep while you have the chance.”
John rolled his eyes and made an angry sound in his throat. “How many times do I have to tell you not to do that?”
Dorian wasn’t going to be cowed. “To be fair, you’ve only ever forbidden me from scanning your testicles.”
The smartass remark earned Dorian a wad of paper to the face.
“Glad that’s settled,” Dorian quipped, turning his attention to their belongings.
Grudgingly, John had to admit Dorian had a point. Tomorrow and however many days it took them to find Vaughn were going to be tiring in their own right and the Marine in him knew the value of sleeping when and where you got the chance. With that in mind he rolled up his jacket, set his guns within reach, and settled down to sleep.
That night as John slept fitfully, pants leg rucked up to the knee so the electrodes could be attached allowing his leg to charge, Dorian watched over him and ran through every file and hint of information about Olduvai, from the original dig to the Ark’s destruction, that he could access. Dorian wanted to understand John. John was his closest friend, his partner, the one he’d die for unconditionally. And as the last two days had shown there was so much more to John than the bitter man he let the world see. Thankfully, Captain Maldonado had seen to it that Dorian had all the files regarding Olduvai downloaded into his internal database before they left. Dorian had of course reviewed the files when they had reached his system, but now he was looking for different information- he was looking for John.
An hour later, Dorian had gone through every file in all his databases about Olduvai or John and he’d come to the conclusion that John was nothing short of a miracle. The cave in that killed his parents almost claimed John and his twin sister Samantha as well. John’s military record was impressive, only a handful of his missions with the RRTS were declassified even to Dorian, but what there was told of a talented, brave, intelligent man. Even before being exposed to chromosome-24, John had survived more than any one person- even a Marine- should’ve. It was no wonder John was so cynical and abrasive, that the walls he had built up around himself were so thick, that he had such glaring anger management issues. Life had put John up for blow after blow since he was a child. Dorian took a moment to marvel at the person who was John Kennex.
Next to him, John began to toss and turn restlessly in his sleep, making a pained noise- soft, but unmistakable. Carefully Dorian moved his hand on John’s shoulder, ready to shake him awake, but before he could, John’s hand shot up and covered his. If Dorian had been human John’s grip would have been painful, but he wasn’t, so Dorian simply rested their joined hands over John’s chest. The man’s turbulent sleep calmed quickly after that. Something Dorian filed away for later. Right now he was simply grateful that John no longer seemed in distress.