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Salvatore Robinson

Taxi driver.

0 · 123 views · located in Present Day

a character in “The Other Kind of Roommate”, as played by Ten

Description

Name: Salvatore Robinson
Age: 37
Gender: Male
Bio: A taxi cab driver with a sunny disposition and he's pretty complacent when there's the promise of him getting paid.

So begins...

Salvatore Robinson's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Salvatore Robinson

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
Despite their escape from threat, fear gripped Gwen's heart in a vice as Xander responded to her questions, with a little prodding from Alex on the inside. It was so strange to hear Alex speaking internally and she worried that she might not see him again with the way their discussion was going. One consolation was that she could still feel his emotions even though he'd essentially switched seats with Xander. But other than emotions, she could not detect any of Xander's thoughts and she supposed it had something to do with them sharing a head, although she wasn't sure why that would be.

Fatigue came off of Xander in waves and it only made Gwen feel more on edge knowing that it meant they had a time limit, her eyes searching for a taxi as soon as they left the building. Looking around however, she noticed the empty street and a shiver ran through her. Distantly, she was aware of the commotion still going on further down in front of the coffee shop and knew that several people had gathered on the edge of a police barricade to gawk at the dead bodies. A news crew had arrived as well as several police cars and Roasters had been shut down temporarily as the police dealt with the crises right on it's doorstep. They did not know yet what had happened, despite eyewitnesses and she let out a breath of relief.

Turning back to Xander, she caught up quickly on their conversation and continued to follow them silently as they approached the taxi together. Escape was almost assured now, if only she understood what was going to happen. Would it be like before when Xander would take over whenever he felt like? Could Alex do that? Now that Xander was the main one, and he got tired so easily, what did that mean for Alex? Would she be left alone while he was asleep or whatever? Thinking of that only brought up more fears if in the future at some point she encountered Agents while Xander was recharging or whatever the hell he did. If they were anything like Ms. Black Hole, Gwen would get them all killed trying to protect him.

Xander's discussion of going into a coma did not inspire any confidence in her, but she felt a small burst of warmth at the protective tone of his voice as he promised to watch over her. As the taxi stopped and their conversation continued, Gwen was made aware of not only how her relationship to them had changed but how internally they'd changed as well. The dynamic had been fully switched it seemed, and whereas Gwen felt doubt and then acceptance flowing through Alex as he reasoned things out, Xander said nothing about it. A second later he made it clear why he hadn't, although at first, Gwen had thought that it was the exhaustion making him not care enough to comment on everything like he had before.

When they were at the cab, Xander opened the door for her and pressed a bunch of bills into her hand, giving her instructions on what to do with the money. Looking into his eyes, that fear she felt gripped her again at the prospect of having to leave him behind if Agents came upon them again. She didn't know if she'd be able to do that, but nodded her head in stalwart agreement. At his last comments, she regained a bit of her good spirits and said, "Watching you humiliate a coffee shop employee repeatedly until there's nothing even resembling human dignity left, then having you perform lobotomies in the middle of an intersection while I'm suddenly transported inside everybody's heads and almost getting killed by a walking black hole; I'm having the time of my life. You definitely know how to show a girl a good time. Can't wait for the second date."

Entering the cab she immediately encountered the thoughts of Salvatore Robinson, who was a stocky man of Italian ethnicity, with a head of curly black hair, wiry ringlets sticking out from under his cap, and grizzly mutton chops on his round cheeks. He was having a pretty decent day compared to most, encountering only a little traffic so far this morning and afternoon, and the fares he'd been transporting had gone far distances and paid him lots of money. He'd watched as the bills had passed between their hands through the car's windows and he was already crossing his fingers that he'd be able to make a large percentage of that wad his.

Gwen smiled a little bit until a new thought entered her mind, the expression frozen on her face and her whole body growing tense. Even from outside the building, she could feel that emptiness inside Stephanie stir, and when it started to move, her eyes went wide and a gasp was ripped from her throat. She was still sitting in the first seat of the cab when she turned to Xander standing in the doorway, waiting for her to move over, and she grabbed a fistful of his shirt tugging on him frantically. "Get in! Get in!" she urged in a panicked tone, her bottom scooting over to occupy the other seat in the back of the taxi as Xander followed her in and closed the door.

Turning to the cab driver, she reached through the little window between the front and back seats, her hand grabbing onto Salvatore's shoulder and jerking him forward and backward, practically hopping in her seat. "Drive, Sal! Drive!" Shock and confusion filled the man but he did as he was told with minimal sputtered protest, peeling away from the curb with a small screech of tires.

*************


Blinking several times and breathing in deeply, Stephanie became aware of her surroundings again, the mask she wore instantly moved back into place as she regarded the empty hallway. A little ways away she noticed Jason still lying upon the ground passed out and anger filled her to realize Gwen had gotten away again. Running over to the window at the end of the hallway, she peered out onto the street just in time to see the taxi disappear around the corner and out of sight.

That stupid Frenchman! Of course he failed to capture his target again and not only that, he'd failed to occupy Alexander's attention long enough for her and Jason to capture their own target. Red filled her vision, the immovable blank features of her face remaining stoic as she stared down at Jason's body. This had been exactly what she'd predicted would happen! But no! The son of a bitch had insisted they take the opportunity to try and capture Gwen now! The idiot!

Placidly, she walked over to where Gwen had knocked her electric pen by the wall of the hallway and bent to pick it up. An electric buzzing started up as she turned it on and the tip danced with blue bolts of energy, like wiry strands of hair, branching out and disappearing in a constant ripple. Walking over to Jason's body, she turned him over onto his back and brought the pen near. She would hurt him with it! She would hurt him so bad, whatever Alexander did to him would seem like fucking Christmas morning! Her chest rose and fell and internally she grit her teeth before the rage exploded inside of her and she clicked another button on the pen, switching out the taser for a knife. It would be much more merciful if she just made sure the imbecile did not EVER wake up again.

She had the blade against his throat and was about to apply pressure when she stopped herself. No. This was as much her failure as it was his. She'd taken the opportunity because she'd wanted to and although it had been his idea - it would feel so good right now to plunge this into his flesh and watch the blood gush out - she could not blame him solely. SHE was the one in charge and in the end, she'd been the one to make the decision. And she'd been wrong.

Clicking the buttons on the pen, the knife retracted and it was a regular pen again. Tucking it away into her pocket, she slapped him full force across the face. "Get up," she said without anger or inflection. "We need to go have a talk with Benoit and I'm not going to wait for your lazy ass to wake up."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Salvatore Robinson

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
The tension did not leave her as they sped away from that hollow woman and Gwen stayed perched on the edge of her seat until they'd gone for a mile and she could no longer sense their apartment building. With a small sigh, she slowly sat back in her seat, the cushion underneath her and behind her back feeling odd after running and being so tense for the last hour or so. Being stationary had become an alien feeling. At Xander's words, she turned to smile at him, resting her head back against the headrest and said, "Beaches anywhere will do. I know you just want to see me in my bikini." She looked away when the thought of him without a shirt on flashed in her mind.

With the urgency he'd been made to leave the street he'd picked them up on, Sal felt a little like he was in an action movie or something. It was an exhilarating feeling. If black cars started chasing them and people started shooting at them however, he would not hesitate to stop the taxi and run as fast as he could away from these fares. Sal was about to ask where he was suppose to be taking them, but listening to their conversation, he blanched a little when Xander said "10 cities away". He could do that, but it would take him way out of the way. He was heading south right now and so far, neither the man nor the woman had said anything, so he kept heading in this direction, letting the meter run.

"Just keep heading south," Gwen said, sitting forward in her seat to speak through the window. "I'll tell you when we wish to stop."

She knew she'd startled him by suddenly addressing him with what he'd been thinking, but he smiled and nodded his head. "Will do, Miss." As long as they were willing to pay the full amount once they arrived, it was not a problem.

By the time Gwen had sat back in her seat and turned to Xander again, he had his eyes closed and she could feel him sleeping. In slumber, his face relaxed and his eye shut, giving him such a peaceful and almost vulnerable appearance. It stirred a bit of sympathy within her to realize, today had been one of the scariest, most exciting day of her life. Both he and Alex dealt with this stuff on a regular basis and rolled with the punches as they came and she knew it was hard on them. But now they had her and she wasn't sure if it was a good thing to share the burden with someone or if she'd become a burden for them herself.

Looking him over, her hand drifted out to lightly caress the side of his face, feeling his warm skin beneath her fingertips and then the stubble of his cheek and chin as her hand moved lower to his jawline. When Alex's voice sounded in her head, she lowered her arm and blinked at him before turning back to the front of the cab and closing the little window between the seats.

Turning back to him, she softly said, "I can hear you. You're not alone." Trying to comfort him in some way she took the sleeping Xander's hand in her own and interlaced their fingers. She wasn't sure if he could feel it, but just in case he couldn't, she'd keep her touches to a minimum, lest she wake Xander up.

Still, she couldn't help drawing closer to him as the taxi rumbled around them, eating stretches of road in gulps until they'd made it out of town and onto the highway. "You know, it's funny when I think of how all of this started," she said with a small, amused quirk of her lips. "I was fine before I met you. Just a normal person, like everybody else. Nothing special about me." Biting her lip around an ironic smile and blush she said, "I was planning on writing a book about you. You and Xander. I thought you had a split personality or something - it's strange. Even then I could somewhat sense when he was talking to you. In just a few hours, my attempt to study you has not only been made to seem foolish but completely irrelevant when faced with reality."

For a moment she paused as she felt Sal cock an eyebrow at her in the rearview mirror. Who was she talking to? The guy was asleep wasn't he? But she ignored him, not embarrassed in the least that he thought she was talking to herself. "That's all over now, isn't it?" she asked finally. "My writing. I can't go back to that now. I mean, I'm like you, right? I won't be able to ever stop running will I?" She looked at him then, giving him a sad smile even though he probably couldn't see it right now.

***************


Of course, the first thing on her colleague's mind was his precious suit. Not that their target was missing. No, it would be too much to ask for him to consider that worthy of worrying about. His tone of voice made her reconsider stabbing him in the throat. He redeemed himself quickly, however, when he mentioned the goggles would be traceable. They hadn't lost her this time. As long as she stayed with Alexander - and she would; she depended too much upon him for survival - they would be able to find her again.

At the sound of Benoit's voice, she turned to regard him blankly. At first, she felt the urge to explode on him for ruining her plan, but stopped herself when she realized that was her fault too. Not only had she not gone the smarter way and waited to track the pair when they'd make their escape from Benoit, but she'd changed the plan without telling him. There hadn't been enough time, but what she'd done had been completely reckless and uncoordinated. Like a child eager for a treat, she'd been too excited about the prospect of getting what she wanted without properly thinking everything through. And her incompetence in the face of this other lead Agent stung harshly. Especially with his mocking words.

"I take full responsibility for this failure to capture my target," she said resolutely, her back straight as a rod of iron. "I admit, I became too eager to get my hands on her when I learned that she'd entered the building." She paused, casting a glance at Jason before addressing the French Agents. "I will not make the same mistake again."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Salvatore Robinson

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
Alex's internal words echoing in her head made her relax even more, soothing the worry she'd felt. "Maybe I could help you with that," she said with a smile. "I think I'll be able to recognize the female Agent's signature if she comes after us. Maybe even the one in your apartment, although I didn't hear too much from him at the time. I was distracted. I may still be able to sense them coming before they reach us and it could help us get away without even encountering them again."

Sal strained to hear the conversation in the back of the cab as he continued to propel them further away from those who sought them, but Gwen did not worry too much about it. The plastic pane of the window between them muffled everything to such a degree, he wasn't able to make sense of any of it. For now, she allowed him to be curious as long as it did not affect them.

At Alex's question, Gwen sat up a little, her blue eyes looking Xander's body - Alex's actually - up and down. With the car continuously moving, the thoughts of those outside its metal frame came in short bursts, one immediately after the other, like someone taking a piece from a dozen different puzzles and tossing them at her. Needless to say, she did not feel overwhelmed at the moment.

Gingerly, she concentrated on him with all of her will, slowing her breathing and shoving the thoughts of the nosy cab driver out of her mind. She could feel her hand touching his from his own senses, her fingers cool and soft in his stronger hold. His arms, limp for now, were filled with threatening energy, and lightly muscled, blood flowing through his veins warmly. She could feel the small slivers of glass still embedded in the side of his hand - what happened? - and the broken toe and she wondered how he'd gotten them. The wounds themselves did not tell her anything about what had occurred but she could sense, even though he was asleep, that it was painful - although, admittedly, it was more like an annoyance to Xander. His chest rose and fell slowly, lungs expanding with new air, her chest rising and falling with his, as if they were her lungs. His heart was the same, it's beat slow and steady now, pulsating through her body like a large bell ringing. Even though she confirmed he was breathing and well, she took the moment to explore further, her senses moving deeper into his mind.

His thoughts were hidden from her but she could feel his emotions rising up to meet her like waves against a beach. There was the exhaustion of course, eased by the sleep that was light - even in repose unwilling or unable to let his guard down. There was a slight concern for her and a bit of worry about his current condition, but they were not strong emotions. She couldn't tell if it was because he was asleep right now or if he really did not consider these things all that important. Or maybe she was missing pieces? Pushing even further, a smile touched her lips as she felt Alex's presence deep inside the recesses of his mind. He was definitely worried about her and his new position placed on the inside looking out and he was waiting for her answer still.

With a sigh, she sat back and said, "He's breathing fine and he's still there, rarin' to go at a moments notice. I still can't hear his thoughts though. I can feel some of his emotions since the change, but I can't make out anything like I do with other people." She got a mischievous look on her face as she smirked at him. "You on the other hand, are transparent as ever. I saw what came to mind when I made that bikini comment. Slow-motion running? Really?" She giggled happily and shook her head in an amused fashion causing Sal to look into the mirror again at the sound. When the hilarity passed, she said, "But I think we need to do something about your toe. Maybe we could stop by a hospital before we settle for the night. Or maybe I could just play nurse for you."

*************


The professional understanding in Benoit's voice helped her relax a bit more, although outwardly there was no change. He also seemed to extend a bit of that same businesslike sympathy towards Jason, and she did not look at him again when his trouble with the suit was mentioned. She admitted that she was only partially aware of what his equipment was capable of, and she'd been completely unaware of it's effects on her colleague. Now she understood his first concern being the goggles, but it didn't make her feel anything but slightly less annoyed.

What Benoit said next really shocked her and she schooled her features viciously to not let any of her surprise show or the sudden paranoia that came with it. He was definitely extending the olive branch farther than she would have expected, and although she'd been going to ask him again if they could join forces, the fact that he brought it up first made her narrow her gaze at him. Stephanie had expected to need to fight him about it but here he was, willing to team up. His offering up information made her even more suspicious and it only grew when he asked about Gwen's profile again, even after he assured her he was not trying to double cross her.

This failure only reinforced her original desire to join forces with him, knowing that if they did not at least coordinate their efforts, it would allow Gwen and Alexander to slip through their fingers again and again. But she wasn't sure she altogether trusted him yet, not after the way he'd treated them before. This sharing and offering of help and even the sympathy seemed out of character and she feared it was an act and he'd take what he wanted and dump her and Jason to fend for themselves again. As it stood, she and Jason would get nowhere if they continued to walk blindly into Alexander over and over, so she needed to trust him just enough to get what she wanted and assure that he kept his bargain.

'Alright," she finally said in her usual monotone. "I accept your offer, only on the basis that we have a better chance of success by coordinating our efforts. I hope you're not offended if I ask for information on Alexander before I give you a clearer idea on my target's abilities. It's purely personal. I hope you understand. In return, I will give you most, if not everything I have on her. And the equipment necessary to guard against his powers is a must and brings me to my first question: What is it he can do? Whatever he did to both my Agent and I, it was temporary. I'm assuming it was not full power, yes? I would also like to know more about the stolen property he possesses or rather IS. He was an Agency project?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Salvatore Robinson

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
The empty expression on her face did not shift or change as he spoke and she took the information in. It was always interesting to hear about the abilities of different cases when they offered that information at all. Two cases that she'd worked on before being assigned to Gwen had been with a boy who could teleport and a young woman who could control fire. So, Alexander "fried people's minds"? It was intriguing to say the least but her interest only went far enough to realize that protective eyewear would be absolutely necessary if they were going to encounter him again.

At the mention of the rest of her team, she realized immediately to whom he was referring. All of them had been working undercover and were her main source of information on Gwen, and they'd been ordered to await Jason's command to move in and assist him in bringing the target in. When he'd been disabled the night before, they must have known something was wrong and taken action. She already knew most of them were dead now and that Alexander was the cause.

Listening to the story he told, it illuminated things even further for her about the nature of the man Gwen was keeping company with. The split mind thing she kind of already knew about from reading Gwen's story and talking with Jason, but Benoit's history lesson offered her more background on how it had happened and the degree of what they were dealing with. Jason's input was also interesting and she looked at him for a second to hear the slight worried tone in his voice - he hid it well, but she caught it anyway and she wondered if she'd need to kill him if he screwed up again. The torture of waiting for something inevitable to happen and watching the ticking clock might be better punishment. Ignoring the juvenile squabbling between the two men, she looked Benoit over with new eyes.

Again, she had fully expected to meet resistance to her inquiries, as he'd reacted towards them before, but he was being surprisingly cooperative. He still might not be sincere about this whole teamwork thing, but he was making a good show of it at least. Her dull green eyes traveled over his features, searching for those telltale weaknesses that would confirm her suspicions. His long angular face was lightly aged and he had a large nose, but it fit his face well as did his ears, which were a bit big on each side of his head. The cigarette he held dipped between his full and smoothly curved lips that always held a haughty smirk under the surface and now blew out a thin cloud of cancer with a small pucker of the plush flesh. The eyes were the most telling feature of the face and his were no different, small but expressive, topped by slender eyebrows that curved and moved with sophisticated emotion. But the expression he held was not telling her anything, that he was lying or genuine, so she took the ambiguity of his features for what it was and did not let her guard down. Even so, having finished her inspection in the span of 2-3 seconds, she decided he was a man she could possibly grow to like if they ended up benefiting from this together. Maybe.

"Thank you, Benoit" she said with a hinted nod of her head. "This information will help us be more prepared when we encounter them again. I do not have any other questions about him at this time other than about the necessary equipment, of course. But other than that, I think we're brought up to speed. As for Gwen, there's not much to tell about her. She can hear and sense everything you think and feel as if they were her own thoughts and emotions. She may eventually be able to manipulate people's thoughts and even their memories, but as of right now, I do not think it's something we'll need to worry about. Everything is still pretty new and from my encounter with her, it is clear that she has very little control over the flow."

She paused then, her eyes growing a bit distant as she thought back over their fight and felt an electric thrill course through her internal layers. It had been such a rush to perform for her target, to see her in the flesh and talk with her face to face. Many nights she'd stayed up late imagining what it would be like to meet her and the reality had been everything she'd dreamed of and more. She was so innocent, so raw and unpolished. Stephanie's blocking ability should have been an even match for Gwen with her abilities at full power, but as it was, she'd been shoved around like a rag-doll and manipulated by the Agent. Still, there were several times she'd broken through Stephanie's defenses and it filled her with a sense of pride and euphoria to see the young woman get the upper hand occasionally. If Alexander had not interfered, she would have had her and it would not have felt that it had been too easy. That in itself was satisfying, but she could not wait for the rematch. Next time, Gwen would not be so lucky.

Her eyes refocused on Benoit and she picked up where she left off in her profile, barely missing a beat. "After many tried methods, the most successful way I've found to counter her abilities is the Emotion Desensitization Training that the Agents on her case go through. It deals with separating the emotions and dividing consciousness by building layers within the mind and putting up internal walls to block her sight." She sighed boredly before asking, "Anything else you'd like to know, or are we done trading information now?" There was a barely detectable energy about her, an eagerness for the Round two she so dearly deserved.
**************


Laughter bubbled up inside of Gwen at the nervous denials Alex put forth, the image of herself, body lightly tanned and stomach exposed to the sun, running across sand, a tiny, tropical floral print triangle of cloth tied over each slowly bouncing breast. She squirmed in her seat beside him as the laughter grew so deep she was gasping silently, when the image turned into a sexy nurse outfit set in the same scene. A lot of her joy came from how flattering his thoughts of her were - even though they were a bit pervy, she didn't mind - but also from how flustered he got when she mentioned she knew about it. Even locked inside as he was, he was the same as he'd been before, and it delighted her to tease him this way.

"Um, Ma'am?" Sal asked a bit nervously, his voice barely coming through the window. "Are you alright?" This whole thing seemed interesting and exciting at first, but as soon as the guy had gone to sleep, things just kept getting weirder. He was starting to doubt the woman was right in the head.

"Yes, I'm fine," Gwen said, still slightly gasping and giggling, but catching her breath. "Just ignore me. I'm okay." Letting out a loud sigh finally regaining her composure, she turned back to Xander as Alex brought up going to a hospital. No, she supposed it wouldn't be a safe time to go to somewhere so public. Reaching out mentally, she touched his foot again and realized it wasn't too bad, but any more running on it would probably not be a good idea. At his mention of the bag, she reached over and set it on the other side of her before lifting up Xander's leg onto her lap. They would have at least an hour before they got far enough away to feel safe, so she thought she might as well check it out now.

When he inquired about her condition, she smiled warmly in his direction, faced with Xander's closed eyes still. Due to her defense classes, Gwen had been able to counter at least some of Stephanie's attacks, but a few blows had hit their mark. Her stomach and sides were littered with bruises and her arms were sore from where the female Agent had been blocked, but she didn't think anything was broken. Touching the top of her head gingerly, she hissed a little as her scalp throbbed with the contact. Her hand came away without any blood, but it felt like the woman had torn a piece of her skull off.

"I'll live," she said with a shrug, starting to maneuver his shoe off the offending foot. "A few scrapes and bruises, but nothing to cry about. The bitch really did a number on my hair follicles though. And there is the slight headache from having my head filled with several hundred people today." She had his shoe off and had removed his sock before the guilt filling him even registered to her, but by that time, she was too distracted by the sight that met her to concern herself with that right now.

"Holy shit!" she said in shock, her eyes wide with concern as she gazed down at the darkly purple and blue toe on his left foot. The toe itself was swollen and crookedly arched and she hissed a little under her breath as she began to search the bag for the gauze he'd spoken of. In her search, she found the picture of his parents and paused to look at it for a moment, a warm feeling filling her to see such a sentimental item in his possession. Tucking it back into the bag, she finally pulled out the roll of loosely woven fabric and set about wrapping his foot as best she could, while Sal continued to watch with nosy interest from his rearview mirror.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Salvatore Robinson

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
Well, things were going well. He might be sincere about this afterall, but really only time would tell. Her facial expression stayed frozen as she accepted the eyewear Benoit's Agent gave her and she opened them to look them over with almost perceptible interest. She only looked up again when Benoit began explaining how they worked against his target, her eyes meeting his again with a dull stare. The continued animosity shared between the larger man and Jason was purposefully ignored by her but it did not go unnoticed and she was starting to lose patience with her colleague.

His offering for her to do research on whatever screw-up Alexander did to test out the specialized equipment against himself did not interest her in the least. "I do not find things funny," she said in a monotone voice that left no doubt that what she said was true. She folded up the sunglasses and tucked them away inside her golden yellow suit jacket, revealing a modest and plain white, silk shirt underneath it. At his suggestion for getting lunch before pursuing the pair, irritation filled her but did not show. Now she was beginning to understand why Alexander had slipped from his grasp so many times all these years. She did admit she was hungry, the afternoon growing long and her energy bar having been eaten. But with the way Benoit spoke, she doubted they'd be stopping somewhere quick on the road while chasing after the targets.

The internal clock ticked at her urgently and she could feel Gwen getting further and further away with every passing second. Not that she doubted the other Agent's word on how the lenses worked, she was just incredibly impatient. Upon realizing this, she stopped and took in a deep breath letting it out slowly through her nose. This eagerness had been what had let Gwen get away in the first place. She needed to calm down and take a lesson from the more experienced Agent. Of course, the man did not like losing his target over and over again. He would have learned by now the most efficient way to pursue Alexander and would not willfully attempt to sabotage himself, because if he was anything like her, he was a perfectionist and obsessed with his case and he would seek to improve himself at every opportunity.

Going slower like this and taking the time to plan was no doubt a better solution than rashly barreling ahead and coming up with a plan on the spot. She needed to be patient. After seeing Gwen and being able to touch her, it was difficult to accept that answer. She'd been right within reach and if they moved now she would be within Stephanie's grasp again. Her training kicked in to stifle the urge to leave Benoit and his Agent and pursue Gwen by herself, but still it rumbled deep within her in a cloud of malcontent. "That sounds wonderful," she finally responded with as much excitement as the average person would have about the prospect of watching paint dry to pass the time. Glancing at Jason for probably only the third or fourth time since this conversation began, she noticed the pallor of his cheeks and the weary look on his face. Stephanie assumed it had something to do with the goggles he'd lost - if what Benoit said about the suit was true - but she felt little to no sympathy. He was her partner on this case but her feelings were divided about his performance and she still felt the urge to blame him for nearly everything that had happened so far.

************


"Welllll..." Gwen said with a sigh as she started to straighten the toe out and tape it with the small roll of medical tape that came with the gauze. "There's no bones protruding from the skin or anything. And I can probably set it with something when we get to the hotel - this tape and gauze wrapping isn't gonna do the trick. But if I do that, I'm not sure if your shoe will fit again afterward. And it looks really ugly too." She shook her head with a small breathy laugh at that, and tapped the top of his foot lightly after she'd finished taping it up, satisfied with the result. As a temporary solution, it would do.

Her hands unrolling the gauze around his foot slowed and stopped when he mentioned her old job and sending in her two weeks notice. For the past few months, she'd been living off of her savings compiled from the money she'd made with the success of her book series. Since she hardly went anywhere and ate cheaply made home cooked meals, the modest mass of money had barely chipped away. She hadn't really thought too much about money yet, not having the time to worry about it and being constantly distracted, but it was a shame that she wouldn't be able to access the amount she still had saved up.

With a sigh of resignation, she finished taping up Xander's foot, the gauze wrapped tightly around his toes and the arch of his foot and held in place with tape, turning to him with a snort at the man's hotel preference. "Oh, please," she said in an amused tone. "What a spoiled brat. He's on the run from people who want to kill him and he stops to demand luxury?" She paused and thought for a moment, gently setting his foot back down on the floor of the cab. "Well...there is the Starbucks fixation." She should have expected it.

After about an hour and thirty minutes of driving, Gwen was starting to get tired of sitting in the only position offered her in the small seat in the back of the taxi. Looking at the meter she saw that they'd traveled over 60 miles and she thought that should be good enough distance for now, especially since they were entering a city. Opening the small window between the seats she said to the driver, "I think I'd like to stop soon." His thoughts had flittered through her mind during the drive and she knew that the place they were at now was a city called Vestal. From the look of things outside the windows, it was a pretty big city with lots of large businesses and shops and a sprawling residential area. "Could you find us a nice hotel to stay in?"

"Sure thing, Ma'am," Sal said with a nod. Internally, he had a sketchy map of the city in his head since he'd been here before a few times and knew the basic layout of where everything was. Gwen was pleased by the way the details of his mental map grew clearer as they drove down the streets, even before they reached the next ones in the direction he was taking them. She leaned over Xander's sleeping form to peer out the window as the taxi came to a stop in front of a tall and grandly built hotel. A gold and royal blue engraved stone slab sat out front in a flower bed, proclaiming in flowing letters that this was the Vestal Suites.

"Sal, I'm gonna need your help," she said, looking at the shining glass doors of the hotel. When she felt him grow expectant and confused - and a bit trepidatious; What did the psycho lady want now? - she continued on in a reassuring tone. "I need you to help me carry him inside. I'll pay you extra!" The last was added when she felt him start to decline and the effect was instant.

"Well...what's wrong with him?" he asked, turning his large girth in his seat to look over at the sleeping man. "Does he need like... a hospital or something? I saw you patchin' up his leg..."

"No, he's fine," she said nodding her head. "He got drunk and sprained his foot by acting retarded. He just needs to sleep it off." Still, Sal hesitated, turning over her excuse in his head. It didn't feel right; when he picked them up the guy hadn't seemed drunk... "Please, Sal," she begged. "I can't do it without you."

There were a few moments more that he continued to flip-flop on the decision, but finally he agreed. "Yeah, alright," and he started to open his door before her voice stopped him.

"No, not yet," she said, putting the money Xander had given her into her purse and adjusting the strap on her shoulder. "I need to get a room first." Taking a hair tie out of her bag, she tied her hair back into a neat bun and started to adjust and straighten her clothes. She was about to turn to Alex and ask for his opinion - she didn't want to look like she'd just been in a catfight or running for her life when she went into this wealthy place - but she remembered that Xander's eyes were closed. So, instead, she turned to Sal.

"How do I look?" she asked and waited for him to turn around again to look her over. His eyes instantly went to her cleavage and stayed there for the longest time, but eventually his gaze wandered over the rest of her and what he could see through the plastic barrier.

"Hot," he said with a small approving nod. Rolling her eyes, she began to button up her shirt. "No, don't. Leave it. You look fine." She could tell from the waves coming off of him that his response was genuine and that despite her distracting bust, he thought she looked like a lady. She looks like she belongs in a place like this, he thought. A smile and a blush appeared on her face and for a moment she wanted to kiss him on the cheek, even though he was once again busy admiring her bosom.

Turning to Xander's sleeping form lounging in the right hand corner of the cab, she said softly into his ear, hoping to not be heard by the driver but by Alex alone, "I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere."

Leaving the cab through the door on her side, she walked up onto the sidewalk before stopping to look back. Through the cab window she could see Xander leaning against the door, totally lost to the world and defenseless. It did not sit well with her leaving him like this, but she really didn't have a choice. I'll only be gone a few minutes, she thought to herself before turning and entering the large swinging doors.

Getting a room was pretty easy once she was inside, although she did struggle a bit to separate the things people thought and what was actually said with how many people occupied the lobby, but she managed it. The only problem she faced was getting two rooms or at least a room with two beds. Before she'd put the money away in her purse, she'd counted it out and subtracted how much she'd have to pay Salvatore and set it aside. The rest was enough to pay for one room with a king sized bed, but there wasn't enough left over after that to pay for the extra bed. So, she took what she could get and briskly walked out with the pair of room keycards.

Her breath came out in a relieved rush when she exited the doors and still saw Xander in the backseat, unmoved and unchanged. Sal stood outside the car, leaning with an arm over the roof on the driver's side and was smoking a cigarette. As he thought to wonder What room? as he saw her approach, she said, "We're over on that side," and pointed in the direction he'd have to drive them before getting back in on her side of the car. She did not duck her head inside without casting a wary glance around at the darkening lot first. The front entry way and paved roadway around the sides of the hotel were surrounded by luxurious lamps that illuminated most of the spaces where anyone would be hiding, and helped her see clearly that no one was approaching them. Reaching out mentally, she felt the vibrations of people passing by on the street beside the hotel, but the emptiness that signaled Agents nearby, was not there.

Tossing the smoke away to land with a few small sparks on the pavement, Sal got back into the car and drove around the building to the right wing entrance. Driving in this direction took them to the parking garage underneath the building and after they parked, they both got out, Gwen carrying her purse and Alex's bag and Sal carrying Xander tossed over his shoulder. She checked the area as they headed to the elevators, but the place was empty right now, eerily quiet, the cars of other guests watching them pass with silent menace. And then she checked on Sal to make sure he was doing alright with his burden. Despite his initial reluctance, his wide frame did not have too much trouble toting the passed out man like a sack of potatoes, but he was feeling even more cautious than she was. He really didn't know what was going on and he still wasn't sure if he believed her story about Xander being drunk, and he really didn't want to get in trouble. She felt a small burst of sympathy for him, realizing that her behavior did seem rather odd this whole time, but she eased the guilt knowing that his involvement would be over soon.

The elevators took them up to the fourth floor and she led him down a lushly decorated hallway to the room she'd ordered. The little light on the lock blinked green and beeped in approval as she pushed in the keycard and the double doors opened up into a small entryway. Her eyes widened almost as big as Sal's did as she went through the rooms looking for the bedroom, turning on the lights as she went, Sal trailing behind with an unconscious Xander. "Whoa..." was his only comment as his eyes traveled over the furnishings of first the living room and then the bedroom feeling slightly out of place in this overly comfortable hotel room.

Gwen indicated the bed and set her things down in a chair in the corner. "Just lay him on the bed," she said, rubbing her forehead lightly, feeling exhaustion start to set into her bones and limbs. Sal obediently set Xander down with his head on the pillow on the right side of the bed and stood back with a sigh, his eyes once again wandering over the room. Stepping forward, Gwen reached for his hand, startling him a little bit before he felt the familiar touch of money placed within his palm. It was the full amount and a little extra, just like she'd promised.

"Thanks," he said with a nod. "I almost wish I had enough to stay in this place with you guys." He laughed a little and she smiled.

"Yeah, it is pretty ritzy," she cast a glance around at the space herself, noticing down a little hallway there were two doors opening into darkness but from the looks of it, both bathrooms. "Thank you for your help. I would have never gotten him up here by myself and I would have hated to try and explain his condition to the hotel employees."

"Hey, no problem," he said with a relaxed shrug. "You coulda just told 'em he's drunk and that he banged his toe up from being retarded. I'm sure they woulda bought it." She laughed and for a moment he relaxed, thinking that maybe she wasn't crazy afterall. And he took a moment to admire her cleavage one last time. "Well, I'll see myself out. You take care and good luck with...whatever." She nodded gratefully and watched him go, waiting to hear the door close and going to see that it was before she turned back to the sleeping man.

"We're here, finally," she said, with a sigh, speaking loud enough for Alex to hear her.

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