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Lost & Found

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He was chasing after Sebastian.

Somehow, Joseph felt he was always chasing after Sebastian. He was just out of reach.

In work Sgt. Detective Castellanos felt untouchable. Even when he bent the rules, he was squarely above the law. When Joseph met him he was personable, warm despite his gruff exterior, surrounded by coworkers and friends alike. His time was full with work and family, accolades and school plays, until tragedy struck. Then he built that impenetrable wall of anger and sadness around him. Joseph thought that maybe that he would catch up to him then; finally he could hold those broken parts Sebastian had become. Still, Sebastian was too far away. Only professional admonishment reached him, and that rift between them grew steadily wider.

Maybe Joseph had put him on a pedestal, only seeing the things in Sebastian that were lacking in himself, and created that distance. Joseph had always felt awkward, content to wait for the shared moments of companionship when they worked on the job as easy partners. After the Internal Affairs investigation, even that was ruined. Throughout Joseph was desperate but unsure how to repair things. It had been a forefront concern until the fateful day of that Beacon call.

Thrown into this madman’s hellscape, even now he was still chasing Sebastian.

Corridors twisted and banked unnaturally, their walls covered in rust, grime and viscous fluids. At times they seemed more like the innards of a creature, breathing and twitching, capable of shifting when the eye wasn’t vigilantly tracking. Joseph’s dress shoes sloshed with every swift footfall, barely keeping his balance as he bolted towards the figure that was evading him through every turn.

“Sebastian, wait—!” Joseph choked out, breathless. He knew it was him, it had to be. The silhouette was broad-shouldered, haloed by lantern light and trailed by the jingling of metal tack. How long had Joseph wandered these halls in search of such familiarity? The only thing that didn’t make sense was that Joseph was already winded, gasping at the pace, and still he couldn’t catch up.

Joseph palmed a corner to turn sharply, propelling himself down the next hall. There he found not the man he was pursuing, but a sudden dead end. He skidded to a stop before he crashed into the mass of stacked broken furniture blocking the way. He huffed out noises of disbelief as his sore body screamed at him, heartbeat pounding in his ears. He hadn’t been outrun, he had followed perfectly step for step, but where had Sebastian gone?

Will unshaken, Joseph set himself upon rotting boards and chair legs, pulling them out of the heap and tossing them over his shoulder to make room forward. Surely there was some way past Sebastian had used: a trap door? Joseph’s eyes scanned the ceiling for a vent, a ladder, anything— but the walls were bare save for dripping blood. It didn’t make sense. Panic was starting to overwhelm his throat, choking those breaths he sorely needed. He pushed aside metal scraps, mannequin limbs, curls of barbed wire. Josephs’s gloves protected his hands but his forearms snagged on jagged edges and rusty nails. How long had he been wandering alone, and thought he had finally caught up? The pile of junk seemed to grow higher as Joseph wedged himself in the space he made, shifting old dresser drawers, broken fragments of crates and metal mesh. Objects pushed him on all sides but he kicked and shoved and forced his way through. He couldn’t accept defeat or give up. Metal beams cascaded down from the vibrations, cracking boards and causing the entire mess to shift and creak perilously.

Joseph paused to hold his breath, sweat beading on his forehead. Loosed from above, a large framed mirror fell to the ground with a tremendous shatter, glass shards exploding off its surface. Joseph raised his arms to shield his face from the ricochet and had to squint as a bright light enveloped his vision.

When he slowly opened his eyes Joseph startled to find a wall inches from his nose. He pushed at it fiercely, a wave of claustrophobia overtaking him. As he righted himself he realized he was on his hands and knees at the end of a row of doors. His stomach twisted with disorientation. This hallway was brightly lit, floored with white tile instead of gore. Joseph licked his lips as he rocked back, sitting on his heels. The barest tang of antiseptic hung in the air. A soft melody emanated from somewhere. It was almost comforting, until Joseph realized the doors before him had bars on slit windows, locks above the handles. The long end of the hall opened up to another room shrouded in darkness. He slowly stood, heart pumping adrenaline, limbs throbbing from exertion, arms itching from scratches and cuts. His hand instinctively went to his holster, but it was, as it had been for a while, empty.

Joseph thought he saw movement from the corner of his eye and quickly turned around, only to find his own reflection staring back at him. A round ornate mirror, the same as the one that had broken, rested atop an end table placidly. Joseph’s face in the mirror was haggard and tired, hair falling into his forehead, blood and dirt marring his white dress shirt. He wagered he finally understood how Sebastian felt after a weekend bender.

Joseph leaned in to inspect his tired, bloodshot eyes, and as he bent saw through the mirror a figure at the other end of the hall that hadn’t been there a moment before, watching him. He about-faced as his heart leapt into his throat.

The attack Joseph anticipated didn’t come. Heels clicking on tile, a woman stepped into the light. “Are you lost?” she asked, voice calm and even. Joseph barely managed to find his own, choked with gratefulness to find another coherent human.

“I’m looking for someone,” Joseph started. He was still shaky as his eyes swept over the woman: an old-fashioned nurse, just like those they’d found murdered at the front desk of Beacon when he and Sebastian first arrived. Her pullover was just as red as the blood he recalled. “I’m with the KCPD. Detective Oda.” Joseph tapped his badge, then wiped it free of grime, silver stars reflecting the fluorescent lights overhead.

“Oh?” The nurse didn’t move another inch, holding a clipboard to her chest defensively. Joseph cautiously closed the gap.

“I’m looking for my partner, Sebastian Castellanos. Have you seen him? Have you seen anyone else?”

“There is no one else here, right now,” she said in a sing-song tone. It caused the hair on Joseph’s neck to stand up. “You look tired. Perhaps I can assist you?”

Joseph was about to protest when the nurse revealed a syringe from behind her clipboard. The liquid it contained was green, glowing and made Joseph’s mouth water. He’d seen Sebastian use similar on himself to heal wounds and regain energy in this place. His gaze followed its wicked needle to the end, and the light glinting off the sharp point set off a pain behind his eyes. He cringed and pressed fingertips to one temple as his vision throbbed and darkened at the edges.

As if seeing through murky water, the same woman appeared, but gone was her nurse’s cap— instead she was clad in a bloodstained lab coat, long brown hair loose over her shoulders, wielding not the syringe but a scalpel. She bit her lip in frustration, interrupted by muffled frantic voices, but shook her head and continued, slicing towards Joseph’s field of vision. Joseph’s limbs felt heavy yet he caught the woman’s forearm as it dipped towards him to strike, and as he made contact his sight cleared, snapping back to the hallway and the nurse’s raised eyebrows as Joseph gripped her arm.

“No?” The nurse’s voice betrayed nothing, not even shock. Her gaze shifted from Joseph’s grimace to his shaking hand that squeezed her forearm. “You’ll need to keep that strength if you want to continue on.”

“That’s not what—” Joseph tried, his wits scattered. His eyes searched back and forth as he struggled to gather his thoughts. “I don’t even know what… I just need to find—” His sight landed on the nurse’s clipboard, and the paperwork she had been hugging to herself. It was a Beacon intake form, the top page bearing the name and photo of none other than Sebastian Castellanos. Not relinquishing the nurse’s arm, Joseph grabbed the clipboard to turn it toward him and scanned the information. “What is this?!”

“Confidential,” she said, straining to pry both her arm and clipboard back.

His birthday, address, physical information, all accurate. What was going on? Joseph’s vision swam and he couldn’t read any more.

“This isn’t real. This never happened!” Sebastian had always been stubborn. He didn’t seek out help, steered the conversation away every time Joseph tried to bring it up. There was no way he’d do it on his own. Joseph would have helped him… “Did you make this?! I would have known if he…”

“Perhaps it is I who knows him better than you, detective,” the nurse said simply, light reflecting on her glasses obscuring her eyes.

A hot bubble of tension rose in Joseph’s chest. All that time spent at Sebastian’s side, looking out for him, helping him, protecting him. In the end even his own wife had left, but not him. No one knew Sebastian better than he did. No one.

The nurse twisted her arm free and planted the needle in Joseph’s shoulder. He gasped, shoulders hitting the wall as he tried to back away, but she followed, looming close.

“Don’t worry. There is room for you here, too.” Before she could push the plunger on the syringe, there was a sound of shattering glass that drew both their attention.

Sebastian stood at the end of the hall, revolver outstretched. He was dirty and bearded, clothes and hair unkempt, but he was still every inch Joseph’s partner. To finally lay eyes on him again took Joseph’s breath away.

“Let him go,” Sebastian said, gravely voice just as Joseph remembered it. The nurse pulled back mechanically, removing the needle, her expression cold and angry.

Joseph ran straight to Sebastian and finally reached him. He curled his fingers into Sebastian’s long-sleeved polo, pressed close against his strong chest, shook with a multitude of competing emotions. Sebastian smelled like whiskey and ash.

“Where have you been?” Joseph spoke sharply, just hiding the waver of his overwhelming relief. He watched Sebastian’s face, eyes still trained intensely down the barrel of his gun; from this perspective he was all sharp angles and stubble, lined with age but still as handsome as the day Joseph met him. There was a fierocity in his expression that Joseph hadn’t seen in years— he had grown used to a cold distance in his eyes that alcohol always dulled further. Some spark had reignited the man that had all but given up. Happiness and confusion that tasted like jealousy warred in Joseph’s already constricted chest. “What happened to you?”

That earned a quick glance in his direction. “I’ve been looking for you. I need your help, Joseph.” The knit of Joseph’s brows unfurled, and happiness won out after all. He stood up straight, bolstered by such rare and welcome words. “I’ll explain later.” Sebastian grunted and readjusted with the effort of hefting the gun at arm’s length for so long. The nurse was only watching them silently, but apparently Sebastian didn’t trust her enough to relax.

“You should stay here where it’s safe, detectives,” the nurse said. She didn’t seem in the least perturbed being held at gunpoint. “Even with his assistance, there’s no way you’ll save her.”

“I’ve had quite enough of your ‘help’,” Sebastian said through his teeth. “I know who you are now. I’m taking Joseph and we’ll find Lily. We’ll save all of them.” A chill crept down Joseph’s spine at the mention, but he didn’t have time to consider the implications before Sebastian grabbed him. He brought down the butt of his gun into the mirror behind them, shattering the glass. That same white light that had brought Joseph to the corridor enveloped them until he couldn’t see or feel anything.

Joseph awoke with a gasp, sputtering and wet, a warm hand tugging him to his feet. Every attempt to open his eyes was painful and blinding white. Every inch of his body ached. Eventually he blinked through the haze and the scene at hand slowly revealed itself. Sebastian was again at his side, holding him up, gun still trained ahead. A half-full bathtub attached to medical equipment separated them from a woman with brown hair loose around her shoulders, cat-eye glasses and a lab coat, the same as Joseph had seen in his momentary vision; the same face as the nurse in the nightmare. Joseph tried to speak but only coughed around his dry throat.

“You think you’ve got it all figured out,” the woman said, more spite in her tone than in her nurse form.

“No. Just one step closer, but now we can do this together.” Sebastian’s hand moved to Joseph’s shoulder to steady him, gripping tightly. “Right?” Sebastian asked, turning to Joseph, the bend of his eyebrows vulnerable and pleading. Joseph’s heart skipped a beat. He was tired and cold and weak, but with Sebastian at his side Joseph felt he could take on anything. He nodded sharply and was pleased at the smirk Sebastian gave him in return.

Whatever they needed to do, whoever they needed to find, Joseph would be right behind him.