A break-in at the Agency leaves Darien with no Counteragent...and no time for any to be made.
Spoilers: First season episodes through "Reunion".
Disclaimer: All of the characters contained herein are the property of USA networks, Stu Segall Studios, Sci-Fi Channel, or someone else who isn’t me.
Author's Notes: This story takes place approximately three weeks after the events of "Reunion"
As the 19th Century philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, once said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." I’d been living my life looking backwards for months since my brother died; but to face down my demons, I had to learn to look forward again.
Darien Fawkes tried not to wince as the needle pierced his skin. He hated needles, but not nearly as much as he despised the quicksilver gland that currently rested inside his cerebral cortex The needle was a small price to pay to keep that gland under control.
“So, Claire,” he said as she injected the pale blue liquid into his arm, “Got big plans for tonight?”
Claire looked sideways at her charge, always a little suspicious of his attempts at small talk. “I will probably be working quite late. I have several experiments running that require monitoring.”
“Claire, Claire, Claire…” Darien chided, sounding disappointed. “It’s Friday…you can’t stay cooped up in the lab all night.” He rubbed his hand over the spot where Claire had injected him, and watched as the red warning bands on his monitoring tattoo faded back to a healthy green. He imagined he could feel the counteragent coursing through his brain already, drowning out the murmur of the quicksilver madness and locking it away for another six days.
“It’s not something I can help, Darien,” the Keeper explained. She replaced the rest of the counteragent back in the refrigerator between the yogurt and the leftover Chinese food. “Science never sleeps.”
“Science also never parties,” Darien teased. “Kevin had the exact same problem, you know…all the time we were growing up, I don’t think he ever left the house on a Friday night. Just stayed down in the basement with Uncle Peter, playing junior researcher. Never had any fun at all.”
Claire gave him a dirty look from across the lab, but said nothing. Darien gave her a mocking little wave and left for home.
Saturday morning arrived, and Darien was taking it easy. For most of his life, Darien had worked nights. Being a thief, after all, is usually a job best performed in darkness. In the past few months, however, the demands of a daytime occupation, however unwilling, had shifted his perceptions and his internal clock. Morning, he was discovering, could be a pleasant time of day when one had the chance to be awake for it. Especially weekend mornings.
At nine o’clock, Darien was just getting out of the shower. Towel around his waist, he wandered into the kitchen and said good morning to his pet rat. As Darien stood pondering the day ahead, the telephone rang. Holding the towel with one hand, he picked up the receiver with the other and said hello.
“Fawkes?” the caller asked tentatively, “You sound sane enough. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt this time, though I was tempted to come bust down your door again. Get your butt down here, pronto.”
“Hobbes,” Darien groaned. “It’s my day off. Come to think of it, it’s your day off, too. What’s the deal, the Agency paying you overtime, now?”
“Someone broke into the Keeper’s lab last night,” Hobbes replied tersely. “She’s in the hospital. The place is trashed, the computers are fried, and every file we had on the gland is missing.”
As Darien stood frozen, shocked and speechless, the towel slipped through his numbed fingers and fell to the floor.
There were cops swarming all over Claire’s basement lab when Darien arrived half an hour later, but even without that bit of chaos, it was obvious that all was not as it should be. Every drawer and cabinet was open and empty. Glass and equipment from every desk was scattered across the lab floor. Someone had taken a large fire axe to the computers, then left it embedded in one of the larger machines.
“What the…?” Darien fumbled for words.
“Looks like someone broke in, stole all the files, and smashed the place up. There isn’t a scrap of paper or a byte of accessible data left in the whole lab.”
Hobbes looked away, unable to meet Darien’s eyes. “Not good. Looks like the perp tied her up and tried to kidnap her along with the files, but I guess she tried to fight back and either fell or was pushed down a flight of stairs. Security guard found her there early this morning. The doctors think she might have a skull fracture.”
“But she’s going to be ok, right?”
“They wouldn’t say. I got the feeling they really didn’t know one way or the other.”
Turning slowly, Darien’s eyes were drawn to the back of the lab where he’d sat the night before for his injection. Everything in the refrigerators had been dumped out onto the floor. Among the splattered yogurt and noodles were half a dozen shattered vials. Kneeling down, Darien dipped a finger in a bit of bluish liquid puddled in the mess and rubbed it between his fingers.
Heavy, familiar footsteps approached from behind him and stopped. Without moving, Darien whispered, “Please tell me someone else has the recipe for this stuff…”
Silence. When Darien finally looked up, the stricken expression in the Official’s eyes was all the response he needed. He felt a prickle of cold terror, like a thousand quicksilvered spiders crawling up his spine.
Several hours later, Fawkes and Hobbes were sitting in the Official’s office. “Well, boys,” the Official announced, “The cops have finished reconstructing everything that was left in the lab. I’ve got good news and bad news.”
“What’s the good news?” demanded Agent Bobby Hobbes.
“Well, we now have a suspect. A couple of security guards saw the guy when he came in, pretending to be one of the janitors. The cops put together a composite sketch.” The Official made a gesture; Eberts walked around and handed each of the men a sheet of paper.
Darien took one look at the picture and felt the blood drain from his face. “Arnaud…” he breathed.
“Has to be,” Hobbes agreed.
“Damn it, I should’ve known he wouldn’t give up so easily,” Darien fumed. “He got my uncle’s notes, didn’t he? The ones he was after last month. That’s what he stole.”
“It appears so,” the Official nodded.
“Along with pretty much everything else,” Eberts added, helpfully.
“So eventually he’ll be able to make another gland, and we’ll be back at square one. Beautiful. Wait a sec…if that’s the good news, what’s the bad news?”
“It looks like he’s already fled the country. A person using one of his known aliases boarded the midnight flight for Mexico City last night. The FBI is on the case now, since Arnaud is wanted for the murders of the quicksilver research team, among other things. They’re working with the Mexican government to track him down there.”
“What about the Keeper?” Hobbes piped in. “She gonna be ok?”
The Official shook his head. “The doctors say they won’t know what her chances are for a while yet. She took a severe blow to the head and hasn’t regained consciousness.”
“And since some idiot forgot to make a backup copy of the counteragent recipe, I guess I’m screwed,” Darien pointed out, bitterly. “Unless someone can salvage enough of the stuff from the floor to duplicate it.”
“I’m afraid not, Fawkes. It was out of the refrigeration unit, exposed to the air, and contaminated by all the other spills by the time we got to it. There wasn’t a viable sample left to work with.”
Darien leaped up out of his chair and stalked across the room, planting both hands firmly on the Official's desk. “So whose bright idea was it to have exactly one person in the whole world who knew how to make the stuff? Seems a little risky, don’t you think?”
“It was decided that it was best to keep all the information on the gland classified and limit its distribution.”
“Oh, yeah, I’ve had that conversation with Claire before. So what the hell do I do now? I got my last shot yesterday. Now, thanks to your bureaucratic ‘top secret’ crap, I’m going to take up permanent residence in a rubber room in about five days.”
“Not permanent. The lab boys think they can re-create the counteragent from scratch in a month or two, at most.”
“A month??? You fat bastard, I oughtta…”
“Fawkes!” Darien’s partner grabbed him from behind, keeping him from lunging over the desk and grabbing their boss by the throat. For several seconds Darien strained against Hobbes grip, then suddenly seemed to deflate. Giving the Official one last murderous look, he shook off his partner’s hands and stomped out of the office. Bobby Hobbes stood for a moment, not sure whether to stay or follow.
There was a loud crash from the hallway. Hobbes rushed to the door and looked out.
“Fawkes,” he said wearily, shaking his head, “Trust me, that wall is innocent.”
Silence. Hobbes left the office door open as he walked out. Eberts and the Official could hear the conversation continue as they walked away.
“Ok, Fawkes,” they heard Hobbes mutter. “Let’s go over to the hospital; I can visit the Keeper while you’re getting your hand wrapped up. Fat man’s gonna make you pay to fix that wall, you know…”
Monday morning, Darien was back in the Official’s office, this time with a request.
“No,” the Official replied.
“No? What do you mean ‘no’? For months you’ve been on my tail to get more gung ho about my job. Now, when I actually want an assignment, you’re telling me I can’t go?”
“Sorry, Fawkes. If it were up to me, I’d book you on the next flight to Mexico, but the Agency is now under investigation due to the loss of classified information. We’re barred from any participation in the case. Besides, if you went down there, there’s a chance that you’d have to use the gland. Without the counteragent, I’d think you’d want to avoid that necessity.”
“Damn it, I can’t just sit around waiting to go insane!” Darien pounded his bandaged fist on the desk, flinching at the pain.
The Official showed no reaction to Darien’s outburst. “I’m sorry Darien,” he said. “I wish there was something I could do. All I can suggest is to keep yourself busy. Do your Christmas shopping, take in a movie. Try not to think about it. I promise I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything.”
The conversation went around a few more times, but ended up in the same place each time. Finally, Darien gave up and left the building. He put his key in the car door, then paused. In this mood, he decided, it was probably not advisable to be operating a vehicle. Looking up at the clear blue sky, Darien decided what he really needed was a long walk.
Strolling along the city streets, Darien noticed all the people around him bustling along on their own business, completely oblivious to him and his problems. Placing one foot in front of the other, with no destination in mind, Darien thought back over the past few crazy months of his life.
“I’m afraid we have a…a side effect,” Kevin had told him, gently.
“Seems the quicksilver started acting like a cerebral disinhibitor,”
Arnaud had explained, almost gleefully, “and as near as we can tell
you were like a heroin addict in need of a fix.”
It was all Arnaud’s fault, he now knew. Kevin’s first volunteer hadn’t suffered the quicksilver madness. Simon Cole’s later mental imbalance had had an external cause rather than an internal one: permanent, irreversible invisibility. That alone would drive anyone over the edge with no need for any drug. Darien was the first to admit that Cole’s situation had been a fate even worse than what he himself endured.
After Cole’s death, the Agency had brought in a team of scientists to assist Kevin Fawkes with debugging the gland. One of those scientists had been a Swiss whiz kid named Arnaud de Thiel. Arnaud had later been revealed as a clever terrorist infiltrator; he had admitted to Darien that the gland’s side effects and his dependence on the counteragent were due to his deliberate modifications. He’d tried to coerce the younger Fawkes into helping with his plans, but Darien had chosen to side with the Agency, the lesser of the two evils he faced. The necessity of that choice hadn’t been a comfortable one.
“I want you to trust me,” he had heard Claire say, through the confusion
and pain of oncoming madness. “You’ve got a gift, mate, one that could
do so much good, or, without guidance, destroy you. Call me crazy, but I
kind of like you alive.”
“Why should I trust you?” Darien had wondered aloud.
“Because I came in here knowing you could go insane and kill me. Trust
works both ways.”
Claire had kept her word. In the past several months, Darien had indeed learned to trust her, even depend on her, and she had never let him down. And now, because of him, she was fighting for her own life. Sometimes it seemed that no matter how much good he managed to do with this gift his brother had given him, it could never outweigh the harm he had done, or might yet do.
“That wasn’t me out there, trying to kill Hobbes,” he’d said to Claire,
after one such incident. “It took over. If that happens again, I don’t
want the counteragent; I want a bullet.”
He’d meant that, at the time. Coming so close to murdering someone who was, if not precisely a friend, at least a close associate, had been both terrifying and depressing.
Three more days, he mused, until it could happen again. And this time it looked like Claire wasn’t going to be there to save him.
Two days later, Darien was sitting at home, flipping through old photos of himself and Kevin as children. Crouched hopefully at his feet was Claire’s dog, Pavlov, with a ball clutched in his mouth. Darien didn’t feel like playing. He had brought Pavlov home with him the same day Claire had been taken to the hospital, since, as far as he knew, he might be the only person at the Agency who even knew she had a dog.
When the phone rang, Darien reached for it over the pile of photographs and dragged it to his ear.
“What?” he barked.
“Good news, Fawkes,” the Official responded, gruffly. “The Feds finally tracked Arnaud down in Mexico City. I got a call just a few minutes ago saying they had him in custody. You might want to come down to the office in a few hours; by then, we’ll know more.”
Darien agreed, then hung up. With a lighter heart, he wrestled the ball away from the dog and tossed it so that it ricocheted off of three walls. He smiled as Pavlov followed, bouncing off of each wall himself in hot pursuit, barking merrily.
The good mood didn’t last long, however, once he arrived at the Agency offices.
“It looks like the man the Feds caught wasn’t Arnaud, after all,” the Official explained. “He had ID’s in the name Arnaud de Thiel, but it wasn’t him.”
“Is it the same guy who flew down there the night of the attack?” Hobbes asked.
“Yes, they’ve gotten him to admit that much, though he won’t say why.”
A flash of comprehension hit Darien. “Arnaud paid him to go…to make us think he’d left the country. Just like he paid that guy to impersonate Kevin, to make me think Kevin wasn’t dead.”
“Which means,” Hobbes continued, catching on, “that the real Arnaud is still in the area.”
“Which means,” Darien corrected morosely, “that we’ve spent the last five days on a wild goose chase. Arnaud could be a block away, or a thousand miles, but we’re no closer to finding him now than we were when we started.”
Later that evening, Darien walked up to a house in the suburbs and rang the doorbell. The door opened to reveal the now-young face of Gloria Howard. Seeing that face was still a shock, since when he first met her she’d looked like an 80-year-old woman. “Darien!” she exclaimed. “What a surprise!”
“Hello, Gloria. How are things with the family?”
“Oh, it has it’s ups and downs. Ten years is a long time to be away; there’ve been a few adjustments. We’re coping. How about you? And who’s this?” Gloria asked, looking down the furry shape cradled in Darien’s arms.
“This is Pavlov. He’s Claire’s dog. I was hoping you could take care of him for a while.”
“Claire’s dog? Why? What’s happened to her? Is she hurt?” Gloria was shooting questions at him faster than Darien could respond. As soon as he could get a word in, he told her what he knew about Claire’s condition. After all, the woman had known Claire for over ten years and owed her her life; she deserved to know.
Finally, he asked about the dog again. “Of course we can take him, Darien,” she assured him. “The kids will enjoy having him. But you’ve been doing just fine with him so far…why bring him to us now?”
Darien sighed and looked away, not meeting her gaze. “I won’t be able to take care of him any longer. It’s complicated. I can’t really talk about it.”
Gloria nodded, knowing better than almost anyone in the world the full implications of the word ‘classified’. Pushing aside her fears about Claire, she looked at this man on her doorstep with concern. The look in those eyes was far too familiar. She’d looked at it in the mirror for too long not to know despair when she saw it. She tried inviting him in for dinner, hoping she could somehow help, but he just shook his head, handed the dog over, and walked away.
By the next morning, Gloria was worried enough that she called the Agency and talked to Darien’s partner, Robert Hobbes. He assured her that he’d look into it.
At midmorning, Hobbes got out of his car and hurried out into a grassland park overlooking the Pacific. The ocean breeze blew stiffly in his face. Overhead, a falcon rode the air currents, hovering nearly motionless over a single patch of ground. The sun was high in the sky, occasionally obscured by a passing cloud sweeping in off the ocean. In the distance, Hobbes spotted a familiar figure standing quietly, slouching with his hands in his pockets. Breathing a small sigh of relief, Hobbes picked his way across the field until he was standing just a few feet away. The man remained motionless, oblivious. Hobbes could hear the sound of the waves crashing against rocks a hundred feet below.
“Whatcha doin’, Fawkes?” Hobbes inquired, trying to sound casual.
Darien jumped at his voice, but didn’t turn around. “How did you find me?” he asked.
“Tricks of the trade, my boy. I called your old girlfriend and asked her where you might go to sulk. She gave me several ideas; this just happened to be first on the list.”
“Casey and I loved this place. She went to med school just across the road at the university, and she used to come here every weekend to study when the weather was nice. After we met, she and I would come here for picnics. The day before I got…well…the last time we were together, we came here and watched the sunset.”
“Fawkes, answer the question. What are you doing here?”
“I’m just enjoying the view, Hobbes. Which I’d prefer to do alone, if you don’t mind.”
“Oh, cut the crap, Fawkes! You think I’m stupid? You think I can’t count to six? You need to get back to the Agency so they can restrain you before you go wacko.”
“I’ve still got a few hours. I just thought I’d get one last look at sunshine and the ocean.”
“Oh, right, I forgot, you’re a big nature lover. That’s bull! I know what you’re thinking about, don’t you be thinking I don’t. I’ve seen you like this before. Last time, you got ahold of my gun and tried to shoot yourself. Jeez, this is so like you, always taking the easy way out. Story of your life.”
Darien was silent.
Hobbes took a deep breath and dropped his voice to a soothing tone. “Look, Fawkes, I know you’re scared. I’d be scared, too. You think some of the things that run through this messed up head of mine don’t frighten me, sometimes?”
“It’s not the same, Hobbes. Everything in your head, even your worst paranoid delusions…they’re all you. This crazy gland, though, is something completely different. When the madness takes over, it’s not me anymore. I get shoved aside, beaten down, and after a while all I can do is watch. The longer it goes on, the less of me there is left.”
Darien looked down at the waves breaking over the rocks. He continued talking, almost as if to himself. “The first time it happened, you know, there wasn’t any counteragent. Arnaud had to pretend he didn’t know about this little ‘side effect’ he’d created. Kevin had to strap me down for almost sixteen hours before Arnaud finally ‘discovered’ the formula. Only sixteen hours, but it took me almost another full day to recover. The Official is talking about months.”
“So we’ll keep you knocked out…”
“I already asked the doctors about that, Hobbes. It might work for a week, maybe a bit longer, but they can’t keep me out forever without doing brain damage or getting me hooked on the tranquilizers. They won’t risk that, so in a little while I’d be up and around, a walking, talking homicidal maniac. What if I manage to escape? Or rather, what if it does? My buddy Arnaud just proved that Agency security sucks. I don’t think it would be hard.”
The pain in Darien’s eyes was not physical. “People would get hurt, maybe even killed. Maybe someone I know, maybe just some stranger passing by on the street. The first time, I almost raped a woman and could have killed Kevin. Last time, I nearly killed you. I can’t let it happen again, I won’t….”
“Fawkes, I found him.”
Darien looked up, wild-eyed. “You what?”
“That’s what I came here to tell you. I think I found Arnaud. I traced several purchases of lab equipment during the last three weeks to a warehouse here in the city. It’s the kind of stuff he’d need to recreate the gland. A bit of cash, a few empty threats, and I got a guy at the warehouse to tell me where it was delivered from there.”
Whole new possibilities coalesced inside Darien’s mind. The expression on he face changed, from despair into something darker and more dangerous. “Well, why didn’t you just say so in the first place?” Fawkes hissed. “Let’s go bag that Swiss douche.”
“Fawkes, I can handle this. I really think you ought to go back to the Agency and…”
“Hobbes, take a look.” Darien held up his right wrist and showed his partner the snake tattoo. There were still two rings in the green. “I’ve probably got twelve hours before Mr. Id shows up. I’m coming with you.”
“Look, I’ll make you a deal. Let me come with you and grab Arnaud, then I’ll let them lock me up for as long as necessary. You just have to promise me you’ll stop me from hurting anyone if I get out, even if you have to kill me to do it.”
Hobbes thought about this for a moment, then nodded. “Scouts’ honor,” he promised.
An hour later, Hobbes steered the van onto a small dirt road in the scrubby hills east of the city. He looked askance at his partner in the passenger seat. Darien hadn’t said a word during the entire trip. He had this intense look on his face that made Hobbes a bit nervous.
Hobbes finally broke the long silence. “Almost there,” he said, casually.
Darien responded with a vague, “Mm-hmm.”
Eventually, Hobbes spotted a building ahead through the trees. He pulled the van off into the brush, hoping to sneak up on foot and surprise their quarry. He turned the key and was reaching for the door handle when Darien spoke his name.
Hobbes turned around, just in time to see Darien shimmer and vanish from sight. “Fawkes?” he exclaimed, “What the hell are you doing? You can’t use quicksilver! You’ll go over the edge in five minutes!”
The unseen blow from Darien’s fist caught Bobby Hobbes off guard and knocked him cold. “Sorry, Bobby,” said the unheard voice from the unseen mouth. “But that’s what I’m counting on.”
Still invisible, Darien opened his door and stepped out of the van. Circling the vehicle, he carefully locked every door and closed it, leaving Hobbes and the keys safely out of his reach inside. When he did eventually lose control, he didn’t want his friend to become his target.
That done, he jogged down the road towards the makeshift lab and der Foehn.
Bobby Hobbes woke suddenly, and for a moment could not remember where he was or why he was sleeping in the Agency van. Then the memory struck, just as Darien’s fist had, and Bobby swore. Grabbing his gun (which he was surprised to find he still had) and a few other things from his bag, he slammed out of the van and raced full speed up the hill after his partner.
When he arrived at the building, Hobbes could hear shouting from inside; one voice panicked, the other enraged. Glass shattered and he heard a body hit the floor hard. Climbing quietly onto the front porch of the small cabin, Hobbes noted that the door had been battered in, splintering the frame. Stepping inside, he heard a sound he’d hoped never to hear again. Darien was obviously well advanced into quicksilver madness now, talking to his victim in that hoarse, eerie voice that went with the reddened eyes.
The room he entered was reminiscent of the Keeper’s lab of several days before; glassware, chemicals, and small equipment had been pushed and hurled and scattered onto the floor in all directions. In the far corner, a dark haired figure was sprawled, struggling, clawing at unseen hands around his throat. From the floor nearby, a hypodermic needle floated into the air and hovered over the man’s face.
“Little prick!” Darien taunted, and the needle plunged down violently into de Fohn’s left arm. With what little air he could muster through the choking, freezing hold, Arnaud screamed.
“Last time we met,” Hobbes heard Darien whisper, “I hesitated. Let you live. Mistake. You came back, hurt someone I care about. Mistake. Neither of us will be repeating our mistakes. And you know the funny part? Hmm?” Bobby saw Arnaud’s body quiver as Darien shook it. “You’ve no one to blame but yourself, you realize that? You’re the one who designed the madness into the gland. Without that, I might let you live. I might actually be unable to kill you. But as you once said, I’ve been ‘released from my darker inhibitions.’ Ironic, dontcha think? Hmm? Hmmmm???” Arnaud’s body was shaken harder with each exclamation.
“Fawkes,” Hobbes finally interrupted. “Fawkes, let him go! I can’t let you kill him. You made me promise, remember?”
A pair of scarlet eyes seemed to magically appear and hover in the air over Arnaud. Bobby Hobbes felt his stomach drop into his shoes. He’d seen Darien coat just his eyes with quicksilver before, and that was creepy enough. Now, only Darien’s eyes were visible; two disembodied, red orbs floating in space over Arnaud’s body. Hobbes could see the calculating insanity behind those eyes, trying to choose between the bird in the hand and the one in the doorway.
Hobbes opted not to wait for the decision. Raising his hand and aiming for a spot about one foot below the eyes, Bobby fired the Keeper’s tranquilizer gun and shot his friend in the side of the neck.
About two seconds later, flakes of quicksilver fell away, leaving Fawkes visible, crouching over the cowering figure on the floor. A moment after that, the red eyes rolled up and Darien collapsed, unconscious.
Throwing aside the empty dart gun and pulling out his regular weapon, Hobbes approached the two men sprawled on the floor. Pointing his gun at Arnaud, he growled, “Ok, de Fohn, hands on your head.”
Arnaud continued to cower in the corner and didn’t move. Bobby came closer and said it again, louder.
One more step, and suddenly Arnaud's foot lashed out at an improbable angle, knocking Bobby’s gun out of his hand. Quicker than a cat, Arnaud leapt to his feet, shoved Hobbes aside, and bolted for the door.
By the time Hobbes retrieved his weapon and made it to the door, Arnaud’s footsteps were fading quickly into the woods. “Bastard,” Bobby muttered. “I should’ve let him kill you.”
Five days later, Claire finally woke up. Hobbes was there at the hospital with her, and told her what had happened. The data had been recovered from Arnaud’s hideaway but had been confiscated as evidence by the FBI, and no amount of arguing, cajoling, or threatening had gotten the Agency access to the recipe in those files yet.
Within three hours, and over the hospital’s screaming objections, Claire was in her lab, in a wheelchair, talking one of her assistants through the procedure while Hobbes took notes.
When the batch was finally complete, Claire took the syringe herself and wheeled into the padded room where she’d faced Darien’s insanity once before, in the earliest days of their relationship.
Darien lay on the floor in a straightjacket, still drugged and physically passive. His eyes, however, were open and watching her, and she could see the rage and mania and terror boiling beneath their surface. She quickly gave him his dose of counteragent. As it always did when administered after the madness took hold, the injection quickly knocked him unconscious. Claire instructed the nurses to immediately take him out of the straightjacket and move him into the bed in Lab 3.
It was three full days before Darien awoke. The snake tattoo was still partially red after the initial dose of counteragent, so Claire gave him another, smaller dose on the second day. When Darien finally woke up, he was groggy, confused, and not very coherent.
By the next day, however, he was on his feet and pacing back and forth across the lab floor. At lunchtime, his partner walked in the door carrying a tray of food.
“Hobbes,” Darien greeted him tentatively, taking the tray and setting it on a table.
“Morning, Fawkes,” Bobby replied. “Feeling better?”
“Yes, actually, a bit.”
“How much do you remember?”
Darien looked away, embarrassed. “Not much after hitting you, actually. I remember bits with Arnaud, and you shooting me. Though that couldn’t have really happened….”
“Actually, I did…I’d brought the Keeper’s tranq gun with me when I came looking for you.”
“And Arnaud? You got him, right?”
Now it was Hobbes turn to look abashed. “’Fraid not…bastard played possum and caught me by surprise, then knocked me down and disappeared into the woods. Guess I should have let you finish what you started.”
Darien sat down on the bed and remained silent for several moments, then shook his head sadly. “While we were driving up there, I went over every possible scenario I could think of in my head. You were right, you know, about what I was thinking out there on the cliffs. When you told me about Arnaud, I changed my mind. I figured if I was going to go insane and kill someone anyway, it might as well be someone who really deserved it. Once I got there, I could only see two possibilities; either he’d kill me or I’d kill him. Didn’t seem to matter much which. But either way, I wasn’t thinking about anything past that moment. Like what might happen after I killed him. Maybe the quicksilver was already starting to affect me.”
Darien looked up and met Bobby’s gaze. “I really, truly wanted to kill him, you know, for what he’d done to me, to Kevin, and to Claire. Maybe part of me still does. But I’m not sure I could have lived with myself if I’d managed to kill him that way, in cold blood, even in quicksilver madness. So, I suppose I should thank you. For stopping me. For keeping your promise.”
“Well…um…you…you’re welcome,” Hobbes stammered.
“And I’m sorry I hit you.”
“Ah,” Hobbes dismissed the apology with a wave. “Barely touched me. Takes more than a little tap like that to take out Bobby Hobbes.”
Darien smiled, but didn’t argue the point.