The cold November air brushed past Raz's arms, causing him to shiver and shake. He has never gotten used to the cold- not even when he was forced to spend a winter in Alaska, making sure the caribou made their migration undisturbed. He is, and always will be, a summer boy.
But at the moment his mind was not on his own comfort. His mind was solely on the body before him. Jose' Vazquez was twisted in what looked to be a very torturous position. His eyes wide, his mouth slacked open. The Psychonaut had died screaming as his mind was slowly torn apart.
Raz tapped his gold badge in frustration as he circled the body. "What connects them?"
Agent Sheppard said nothing as she collected dirt from underneath Vasquez's cold fingers. "Hopefully there'll be some DNA from the attacker, but I seriously doubt that," She said instead. "From the way the body's positioned, it looks as if Vasquez was attacked from the side."
Raz shook his head. "Whoever this guy is… he's strong, he's fast, and his stealth is so great, it catches most of his victims off guard. He's after something, we just don't know what."
Noticing something, Sheppard quickly hides her dirt sample into her lab coat. "Don't look now, but Agent Nein is here."
Raz could have cursed. He wanted to spend a little more time conveying the crime scene before handing it over. After all, the murder happened on his jurisdiction. He should be the one to handle it. "Agent Nein," Raz greeted, forgoing his usual friendship with the older man.
Sasha made no indication that this bothered him. "Were you the first one here?"
"I am," Raz crossed his arms. "After all, my school is only a few miles away."
Sasha chose to ignore that last statement and turned towards Sheppard. "Did you determine the cause of death?"
"Yes sir, it's the same with Robert Reynolds. Cerebral conglomeration."
"Hmm…alright. Razputin, please have your team gather their things. I am taking over."
"Now wait a minute," Raz stepped forward. "You can't expect-"
"Must I pull rank?" Sasha warned.
Raz gritted his teeth, swallowing the insult in his throat. In the end, when all of this was said and done, he knew he and Sasha would still be friends, but at the moment, he did not like the older man. "No sir. We're going. I hope your investigation goes smoothly."
It was like a kick to the crotch. Raz hasn't been dismissed by a higher ranking Agent since he was fifteen. From the corner of his eye he could see Sheppard smugly enjoying his dismissal but he chose not to call her out on it. She was, after all, on his side.
She pulled the little vial of dirt from her coat pocket. "I'll run some tests on this sample. Hopefully something will come up."
"I'll discreetly look through Jose' Vasquez's files, try to see if he worked on any large cases recently."
Raz nodded. "Good."
"If I may say so sir," Copper intoned. "You don't seem to be on your game today."
Raz mentally berated himself. He was in such a funk, even his fellow Psychonauts noticed his lack of enthusiasm. "I apologize if it seems I'm not pulling my own weight… I'm stressed about school."
"I understand," Cooper nodded. "I remember my days as a student and all the late night study sessions."
Raz was once again reminded just how young he was compared to his fellow agents. Unlike Sheppard who hated that fact her superior was fifteen years younger than her, Copper seemed to ignore it.
"It's a girl."
Both Raz's and Copper's heads snapped to Sheppard, who was looking at her vial of dirt in very nonchalant way. "Excuse me?"
The agent sighed dramatically, twisting her eyes at him as if the movement deserved such effort. "I have a nephew that attends Paths University. He tells me you're involved with Zanatto's daughter."
Gods! Did everyone think he only liked Lili because of her last name? He should have seen this coming. Out of all the thousands of students attending the school, he and Lili were probably the most well known.
"Zanatto?" Copper's eyes went wide. "You mean- President Zanatto? You're dating his daughter?"
Raz could feel his face burning. "We're not dating!"
"That's not what I heard," Sheppard muttered.
"Okay, that's enough!" Raz turned to them. "Look, Lili and I were childhood friends. It's nothing more than that. And I don't want you spreading rumors around, is that clear?"
"Thank you," Raz sighed. "Report to me of any odd ongoings. I'm going back to school."
Lili was used to being called to the Principal's office. She didn't take any perverse pleasure out of it- every fight she had ever got into, she had been defending herself or others. So why, for god's sake, were her palms sweating as she stood in front of her teacher?
Reed sighed unhappily. Lili, She began. I'm very disappointed with the progress between you and Raz. You're not developing as fast as I'd like you to. Your connection is shaky at best and I want to know why.
Lili felt her cheeks burn. Ever since the funeral, there was an unsaid agreement between the two former campers to only speak of superficial things. Raz would ask her, "How are you?" to which she would answer, "Fine" and that would mark the end of their conversation. In self-defense they keep their distance and in telepathy, they kept their minds separate. So far, this was the only class where their grades suffered.
Lili started slowly. "We're…not as close as we thought we would be. We're not good partners."
Reed frowned at her. I don't believe that. There is something between you, something deep. And whether you like it or not, it's binding you two together.
Lili nearly groaned. What the HELL did that mean? When she used to visit the Psychonaut headquarters, there were plenty of agents who talked in riddles and in Yoda-like accents. She thought she got away from that when she came to college.
You're not switching partners, Reed told her. It's too late to switch. Either you and Raz get over whatever insecurity you have with each other or fail the course.
At the word 'fail,' Lili felt as if someone kicked her in the stomach. She had never failed in school. She had never so much gotten an A minus.
She stomped through campus grounds, her mind reeling. Her floating notebook behind her reflected her thoughts as it twisted and dipped erratically.
She needed to talk to Raz.
Crap! she thought, ramming her fist into a tree. To establish such a link with Raz meant she had to get on better terms with him. She had to actually trust him, like him, allow him into her mind. Even if her grade was on the line here, she wasn't sure she could do that. For god's sake, she had a better relationship with Dennis, the Starbucks employee!
Lili sighed and rubbed her sore hand. This was something she was going have to suck up and deal with. She couldn't afford to fail this class.
First she had to find him. Opening the telepathic link between them, Lili searched for Raz's psychic signature. The signal was weak, only giving her a general direction of where he was. North-east.
Lili shuffled through the grass fields, dreading the upcoming conversation with each step. By renewing their link with each other, did this mean she had to admit to him she loved him?
She rather die first.
Lili spotted him easily. His entourage of fans could be seen from far distances. She wondered why he never bothered to tell the silly geese to gaggle off. Standing not too far away, Lili sent a small telepathic message.
We need to talk.
At those distances, such simple words were the best she could do, reminding her strongly of how far behind they were. It took a few seconds for the message to get through Raz's mental shields and when it did, he looked up at her direction.
Lili nodded towards him and ducked around a corner. She didn't have to wait long.
Raz came into view, now separate from his fans. He leaned against the brick building, crossing his arms. "Okay. So what do we have to talk about?"
Lili faced him and said very seriously. "We're failing telepathy."
Raz didn't bat an eye. "Okay."
"Okay?" Lili fumed. "Did that even get through your thick skull? We're failing!"
"You said we needed to talk. I didn't come here to be screamed at."
Lili placed her face in her hands, resisting the urge to scream very loudly. Lili had never obsessed about her grades; of course, she had also never failed once. And her partner, the one who was helping her fail, didn't seem to care. "Are you even listening to me? We are failing class, a class we cannot take again!"
"What do you want me to do about it?" Raz shot back. "Two months ago, you didn't seem to care we were on this path."
"Forget two months ago. I'm talking about now, what are we going to do about now."
"I think it's pretty obvious. Drop the class."
Lili jerked as if she was slapped. "Drop the class?" She said slowly, anger coming into her voice. "That's your answer, drop the class. Are you even aware of the fact that the drop date passed-"
"It's a psychic school, Lili," Raz nearly rolled his eyes. "You're allowed to drop any class if certain circumstances come up. Mental breakdowns, strokes-"
"Right," Lili sneered. "I think I'll give myself a stroke to drop class-"
"OR…" Raz continued, his tone obvious he is not amused with her sarcasm. "If your psychic partner is unavailable."
"Unavailable? What do you mean? Are you leaving?"
"Not for good," Raz muttered, turning his head away. "I'm too busy to keep up with school work. I'm just dropping a few classes."
Slowly, Lili's anger dribbled away. She wasn't overly concerned for the Psychonaut- he can take care of himself- though the idea Raz was too busy for school was baffling. "Are you sick?" Came out of her mouth before she could stop herself. Didn't she agree not to show any affection or otherwise for him? "Is there anything I can do to help?"
Raz flashed a cocky sneer. "I was under the impression you weren't willing to give me any of your help," he said.
Blush quickly spread over Lili's cheeks and her anger returned. The thoughts of her grades, her classes, suddenly went out the window. "And I was under the impression that you weren't a little prick!"
They started arguing. Their voices got louder, their insults more obscene by the minute. At first students simply walked by, ignoring the arguing pair. But now a small crowd had formed and watched on with eager faces.
"You know what?" Raz said, throwing his hands up in the air. "I've had enough. I'm dropping the bloody class. Professor Reed will understand, does that satisfy you or do you wish to argue pointlessly a little longer?"
"Fine. Go," Lili waved him off. "Just leave me alone."
Raz jumped slightly as he finally noticed the crowd surrounding him. Used to the stares of strangers, Raz ignored them and levitated away.
With her arms crossed across her chest, Lili watched the Psychonaut fly away. When she saw people were still staring at her, she made herself invisible to eye and snuck away.
A/N: I love this fic. I really do. I wish I had more time to write it. I wish my muse hadn't run off with her ski instructor to Mexico. R/R please.