Categories > TV > Invisible Man > Busman's Holiday

Part 5

by OneEye 0 reviews

For the Invisible Man, even a simple vacation can go horribly wrong.

Category: Invisible Man - Rating: PG - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Bobby Hobbes, Claire Keeply, Darien Fawkes - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2006-07-20 - Updated: 2006-07-21 - 4539 words

Part 5

For the fourth time in as many minutes, Darien stumbled over a stone or a root in his path. He was exhausted. The hole in his shoulder was on fire, throbbing in pain with every step and every heartbeat. He'd looped his belt around his neck to use as a makeshift sling, to take pressure off of the arm. The wound wasn't bleeding anymore, but the right sides of both his shirt and jacket were stiff and dark with dried blood.

The temperature was dropping again as he moved into his second night in these woods. Already weakened by shock and blood loss, Darien could feel the cold seeping into his bones. Even the exertion of constant walking could not completely overcome the growing chill.

He hadn't eaten since yesterday morning, except for some early sprouts of miner's lettuce he'd happened upon earlier in the afternoon. That was just about the only thing out here he knew was okay to eat. Stuff probably had fewer calories than it took to chew it up, but at least it quieted his stomach for a time. Even so, he could tell that his increasing hunger was starting to affect him, making his mind sluggish and his body weak.

I wonder if Rose made it out.

Gods, he hoped so, or this whole hellish effort was for nothing. The hope wasn't just for her sake, though; if she made it, there was a chance they'd send searchers to find him. In the past few hours, as evening approached, Darien had realized he was hopelessly lost. He'd thought he was heading back for the road, but he should have reached it long since if he'd been on the right track. Somewhere along the way he'd lost his bearings. Rose was the only one who knew he was out here at all. He'd tried to call for help on his cell phone several times, but just like yesterday at the camp, the thing just couldn't find a signal. /Cheap piece of Agency crap/.

He'd hated leaving Rose to fend for herself, but it had been the only real option he could see. He couldn't protect her from their pursuers directly without using a lot of quicksilver, and then she'd be at just as much risk from him as she was from them.

Checking his monitor, he grimaced. Two segments left. Even on his own, he'd used too much. Rose was far better off alone in these woods than she would be with a rescuer who was now mere hours away from insanity.

At least he'd gotten the dogs off her trail. And then off of his. Darien smiled as he remembered the expression on that guy's face when an unseen, cold hand had stopped him from hitting the dogs. They probably weren't the first people to think him a ghost, but he'd never had the opportunity to use that misconception to his advantage before.

Poor kid...what'd they call him? Davey? Hated scaring him like that. Sad to see a kid manipulated so badly by his own brother. He's as much a victim of that gang as Rose was, even if he doesn't realize it.

Darien found himself thinking about his own brother. Not that that was anything unusual; he thought about Kevin a lot, especially when his life took a turn for the worse. Kevin had saved him from a bad situation once, though it had turned out to be a case of 'out of the frying pan, into the fire.' His intentions had been good, but the results were not exactly what either of them had hoped for.

In the early days after Kevin's death, Darien had felt deep resentment against what he saw as his brother's exploitation of him. But after being forced to face his death again and bury him a second time, Darien found that the anger had faded. Or at least been redirected. Kevin had been trying to help, he'd realized, the only way he could. That it had turned out so badly was not exactly Kevin's fault. Darien now reserved his anger and hatred for Arnaud, the true author of all of his miseries.

Now Darien found himself wishing his brother could ride to the rescue again. It was odd, considering all the years they had spent not even speaking to each other, to miss him so badly now.

He and Kevin hadn't always been so distant. In the bleak and terrifying days after their parents were killed, they had clung to each other, simply because they had no one else.

They had spent a week in the hospital together, recovering from the injuries they suffered in the car accident that stole their parents from them, waiting for Social Services to figure out their future. They were lost and confused, and there had been no one to comfort them, to tell them things would be all right. They had only had each other.


Careful not to jostle the sling cradling his right arm, the small boy squirmed out of the hospital bed and crept silently around the privacy curtain towards the other side of the room. They'd told him to stay put, told him not to disturb his brother, but he didn't care if they punished him. He needed to talk to Kev.

Standing on tiptoe, he could just reach his good arm over the rail on the side of the bed.. Good thing he was tall for a eight-year-old.

"Kev? You awake?"

The small figure in the bed stirred slightly, but didn't respond. Kev was still pretty hurt, more than Darien had been. His face was bruised and still a bit swollen. A small, clear tube ran from a plastic bag hanging overhead to a needle in the back of his hand.

Darien reached up and touched his brother on the arm. "Kevin?"

Kevin's eyes opened at last. He turned he head slightly to look down at his baby brother. "What d'ya want, squirt?" he asked groggily, affecting his typical older-brother tone. 'Squirt' was a bit of a misnomer; Kevin might be three years older, but he was small for his age. Standing side-by-side, the two brothers had occasionally been mistaken for fraternal twins.

"Y'know that lady who came to talk to us yesterday?" Darien whispered.


"Well, after she left, I snuck out and followed her. I heard her talking to someone on the phone. They're planning to split us up."

That woke Kevin up completely. "Split us up? Why?"

"There's no relatives for them to send us to. The lady was upset about it, but she was saying they couldn't find any foster homes willing to take both of us at the same time. Kev, I don't want to lose you, too."

Kevin reached over and grasped Darien's hand. He spoke with all the authority his greater age and wisdom could muster. "You won't. We'll stick together, no matter what. If they take you away, I'll find you. Nothing can keep us apart for long, little brother. Nobody's ever going to come between us."


Yes, even as a child Kevin was hopelessly naïve, Darien recalled with a sad smile. At the time, though, it was exactly what Darien had needed to hear. He had cherished that promise, clung to it with a child's single-mindedness for years thereafter. And had felt childishly betrayed when it was not fulfilled.

Fortunately, the government had finally found a relative to send them to. Their mother had had a half-sister, though she hadn't known it and the two had never even met. Darien and Kevin's grandfather had apparently already been married once before he met their grandmother, and had a daughter named Celia from his first marriage. She had been raised by her mother after a bitter divorce and had never had any contact with her father or his second family.

Celia was much older than Darien and Kevin's mother had been, already in her late forties and married to a renowned research doctor named Peter Donovan. The couple was childless, and genuinely content to be so; Peter's life's work consumed him almost completely, and Celia had her own career as a high school English teacher to fulfill herself and satisfy her maternal instincts. When these two young boys got dropped on their doorstep, their lives were turned upside-down.

Aunt Celia had been totally unprepared for this sudden responsibility, but she'd done her best, Darien had to give her that. Uncle Peter, on the other hand, had seemed unable to relate to children at all, or to just about anyone except his wife on any level except science and medicine.

A mutual interest in those subjects had eventually formed the foundation for a strong bond with young Kevin, but Darien had never managed to do anything but annoy the man, even on his good days.

In the rapidly fading twilight and deepening shadows of the forest Darien stumbled again, breaking himself out of his nostalgic reverie as pain shot through his shoulder and arm. His knees were shaking in exhaustion and his fingers were slowly going numb with cold. His entire body was wracked with almost uncontrollable shivering. The cold and hunger were taking their toll.

More ominous still was the faint but growing ache at the base of his skull.

/Gotta/ find a way outta here before I freeze my ass off.

Breaking through another layer of underbrush, Darien looked up to find himself in a small clearing. He looked up, hoping to spot a familiar constellation or the North Star to get a sense of direction, only to be disappointed at the heavy cloud cover. A stiff, damp breeze rustled the dry leaves all around him. Then a drop of water struck his cheek. A chill ran up Darien's spine, this time having nothing to do with the temperature.

Crap, that's just what I need.

He knew the bare basics of survival in the wilderness. Rule number one was always to stay dry, no matter what. A person could get hypothermia on a sunny summer day if their clothes were wet. Here, on the cusp of winter, it could be fatal, and swiftly. He needed to find shelter before the rain started in earnest.

Striding quickly into the clearing, Darien scanned his surroundings for something, anything, to hide under. A second, and then a third raindrop fell on his head. He could hear the gentle patter all around him as water droplets struck the dry leaves and thirsty soil, the rhythm growing faster by the second.

Turning towards the far end of the clearing, Darien's eyes were drawn to a large tree lying at an angle against one of its neighbors. The roots of the tree had been pulled out of the ground, leaving a shallow depression in the soil sheltered by the overhanging roots. He hurried forward.

Within moments, Darien was lying half buried in a layer of dead leaves beneath the shelter of the tree roots. Curling into a fetal position to conserve what body heat he could, and with his chilled fingers tucked under his arms, he listened to the rain pound on the ground just inches away and tried to think warm thoughts. If anything, his shivering increased in intensity as the minutes passed, now that he no longer had exertion to keep him warm.

No longer forced to concentrate on walking and ducking vegetation, Darien drifted into semi-consciousness and waking dreams triggered by the sounds and smells around him.


He crouched lower, barely breathing, watching his pursuer through the dense layers of foliage and spider webs. It had taken considerable effort to get into this position; the bushes were spiny and the spider webs he'd broken through had been especially strong and sticky. But it was worth it. Nobody would ever find him in here. The hunter walked past, oblivious to his quarry hiding mere inches away.

Suddenly, a man's voice sounded faintly through the woods. "John! Darien! Enough with the hide-and-seek, boys, dinner's ready!"

John Pizzetti paused in his search at the sound of his father's voice. He turned and shouted, "Coming!"

Turning back and scanning the woods, John called out, "Hey, Darien, did you hear that? C'mon, I give up, let's go eat."

"Okay, Pizza, hold your horses," said a disappointed voice, practically in his ear, causing him to jump. The bushes he was standing next to started rustling, faintly at first, then more violently. Looking down, John could see Darien's legs slowly inching their way backwards out of the thicket. When he finally worked free and stood up, John couldn't help but laugh.

"What?" his friend asked, annoyed.

"You should see yourself, Fawkes. You've got more cobwebs on you than we've got in our whole attic."

The two boys headed back towards the campfire, both of them brushing dirt off their clothes and trying to clean the webs out of Darien's hair as they went.

Harry Pizzetti looked up from the grill as Johnny and his friend stumbled into camp, both of them looking like the 'before' pictures in a laundry detergent ad. He smirked. Someday, some scientist was going to figure out how to harness the magnetic attraction between ten-year-old boys and dirt, and the world's power problems would be solved forever.

The boys dug into the meal with gusto, consuming nearly their own body weight in freshly grilled hamburgers al fresco and the world-famous Pizzetti potato salad. For a time, the meal was silent.

Finally, the older man spoke up. "Why didn't you invite your brother to come along on this trip, Darien? You boys used to be all but inseparable."

Darien shrugged. "I did, but Uncle Peter had offered to take him to this big science convention, and for some reason Kev picked that over this." Darien's tone suggested an utter incomprehension of that choice.

"Your uncle didn't offer to take you along, too?"

"Nah. Guess he didn't think I'd be interested."

"Would you have gone if he'd asked?"

Darien shrugged again, stuffing the last bite of his third hamburger into his mouth. He privately thought it would have been nice if they'd at least invited him to come. Between their attendance of different schools and Kevin's recent obsession with their uncle's basement lab, Darien hardly got to talk to his brother at all anymore. It might have been worth a few days of boredom just to spend some time together.

Leaning back, Darien started to wipe his greasy hands on the front of his shirt. Suddenly, he froze in place, his eyes widening in shock and pain.

"Aaaah! Get it off! Get it off me!" he screamed, pulling at his shirt frantically, scrambling backwards as if in attempt to escape his own clothing.

Unable to reason with or calm the panicked child, Harry Pizzetti finally had to pin Darien down and strip off his shirt. Underneath, clinging to the boy's stomach, was a large, shiny black spider. Darien screamed even louder at the sight and thrashed about wildly. With an exclamation of disgust, Harry swiped the creature away, knocking it into the campfire.

"Shit!" he cried, forgetting for the moment to watch his language. "Where'd that come from?"

"He was hiding in the bushes, Dad," John said, trying to hide his shock at his father's profanity. "He came out all covered in spider webs. It must have crawled on him in there."

"Darien?" Harry said. The boy on the ground had stopped screaming but now just lay there, staring fixedly at nothing, nearly catatonic in shock and terror. "Darien, did it bite you?" Still no response. Harry looked over his chest and abdomen and was horrified to find what looked like a bite mark over his ribs, the area around it already turning red.

"John," he said, his voice deepening into the commanding tone he'd learned as a sergeant in 'Nam, "go grab your sleeping bag and bring it to me. Then throw some water on that fire."

John was confused, but the intensity of his father's order forestalled any questions. Within five minutes, Darien was wrapped snugly in the sleeping bag, lying in the back seat of the Pizzetti's station wagon. Harry ordered his son into the passenger seat and drove them away, abandoning all of their other gear and the steaming remains of a campfire in his haste to get the boy to a hospital.


Darien could smile a bit at that memory, now. Thanks to the overuse of his spider phobia in Kevin's quicksilver experiments, that once-paralyzing fear had faded considerably. Kevin had eventually had to resort to teaching him biofeedback techniques when he could no longer provoke the quicksilver through fear stimulus.

The ten-year-old Darien had spent a couple of days in the hospital with that black widow bite. He'd been sick and miserable, but never in any real danger. At least, not enough to bring Uncle Peter and Kevin home from the conference, he recalled a bit bitterly.

As the darkness deepened and the hours passed, the rain continued to fall. Darien's thoughts gradually grew more disjointed as his body temperature dropped. The shivering slowly faded away as his body ran out of energy and gave up the struggle to keep him warm.

The first severe quicksilver headache struck just after midnight. The increase in adrenaline and body temperature brought on the first stages of madness cleared his mind somewhat, for a short time. At first he was confused, not remembering where he was or why he was so cold.

Opening his eyes to look around, Darien could see nothing in the pitch blackness of the rainy night. Neither moon nor stars shone through the clouds to provide illumination, no matter how he strained his eyes. The small part of his mind that was still capable of rational thought recognized the growing hopelessness of the situation and despaired.

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

His will to survive had been beaten down. So many months, and instead of being closer to freedom, closer to avenging his brother's death, he was lying here in the wilderness debating with himself whether it would be worth the effort it would take to save himself.

Then, suddenly, a figure appeared before him, bright as day against the blackness. The figure smiled down at him and chuckled to itself, then spoke in that lilting, annoying accent that Darien had learned to despise.

"Ah, the great Darien Fawkes, brought down at last by his own arrogance."

Arnaud/, Darien thought silently, /How could he have found me out here? Part of Darien's mind knew this was a dream, a hallucination, but it was a distant knowledge, obscured by confusion and pain.

"You're going to die out here, you know," taunted the specter of his nemesis.

/Yes/. Darien realized it was true. He was going to die out here, and he couldn't find it in himself to care anymore. It wasn't like there was anyone who would miss him. Well, maybe the Official, but only because he'd be losing his investment.

"How does it feel to know that you failed? Your brother is unavenged. You'll die here, and I'll live another fifty years, free and unrepentant."

/At least I'll take your precious gland with me when I go. You'll never get your hands on it. And neither will the Agency. It will die here with me, and no one else will ever have to be enslaved by it. I'll be free of it, of you, of all of them. Free. /This life had never been what he wanted, never been part of his plan of a life a leisure after making the big score. This had been forced upon him and he could find few regrets in letting it go.

"Why don't you use the gland? Quicksilver is a wonderful insulator, you would keep you warm, keep you alive for a few more hours." The image of Arnaud faded out before Darien could think of a reply.

Suddenly another stabbing pain ripped through his skull, throwing his body briefly into convulsions. /Stage two, /his mind diagnosed, remembering the Keeper's new system. His eyes would be badly bloodshot by now. As the pain faded, he tried to look at his tattoo, but found he couldn't move. He was surprised he hadn't gone over already, but perhaps the cold was slowing the process. He'd have to ask the Keeper about that...she could run some tests...

Quicksilver. It was an idea he hadn't really considered, though he now remembered a discussion with Claire on that very subject, just two weeks before..


"So what are we learning here, Claire? Is it really necessary to inflict all this torture on me?" he'd asked petulantly, peering across the room at the fuzzy figure he thought was her. He'd been blind for two weeks already, and only now was he regaining some ability to distinguish light and dark, shapes and shadows.

"Darien," she said soothingly, "I explained this to you. The more I can learn about quicksilver and the gland, the better my chances are of figuring out how to remove it. Since you can't go out on assignment at the moment, this is something equally useful you can do."

"So, as I said, what are we learning?"

"Today, we are refining our understanding of quicksilver's physical properties. Specific gravity, surface tension, chemical reactivity, electrical conductance..."

"Ouch, yes, I remember that one. So, what I've learned is not to play with live wires while quicksilvered."

"Yes, it is a strong electrical conductor, but strangely, it's also an excellent thermal insulator."

"Eh? Translation?"

"The outside layer of the quicksilver gets very cold when you're invisible, but you don't feel that cold on the inside, do you? That's because the quicksilver has one of the lowest thermal conductivities I've ever seen. You could stand in the middle of a fire and you wouldn't get burned."

"Been there, done that. It would work the other way too, wouldn't it? If I got myself locked in a freezer or something, I could just stay invisible and not freeze. For hours."


Darien could hear the consternation in Claire's voice, could almost see the worried look on her face in his mind's eye. "What's wrong?"

"That could be a problem. You'd hit stage four madness in thirty minutes--"

"Wait, wait...stage four? What's that?"

"I've broken the quicksilver madness into stages, based on the symptoms you exhibit." She gave him a brief explanation of each. "You've only hit stage four, with the full red eyes and the complete loss of inhibitions, a couple of times, and never for very long. The longest was your first episode, and that was atypical since your body was still adjusting to the gland. There are...indications...that there may be a fifth stage."

"And that's bad?"

"Since I've never seen it, I can't be sure, but it could be very bad."


Using quicksilver to keep warm at this point would bring the madness in seconds. Survival, yes, but at what cost? Did he want to survive if it meant giving in to his demons? Privately, Darien thought this "stage five" madness might just be a scare tactic, something to tie him even more firmly to the agency and the counteragent. It was hard to imagine something worse than stage four. Still, if it was real, it sure seemed to scare the Keeper.

No, if I'm going to die, I'd rather do it in my right mind.

He glanced back up, but Arnaud had vanished. Perhaps he had realized that arguing with Darien futile in his current condition. Arnaud was the one person who could make him feel as if the madness had already taken over. The man brought out every ounce of his hate and anger. He wished he'd had just one more chance to remove that smug, confident smile from de Fohn's face.

That brought a hint of a smile to Darien's cold lips. As his darker emotions began to emerge, released by the quicksilver, his imagination pondered a hundred myriad ways he could kill the Swiss bastard. Exacting his revenge, even just inside his own mind, brought little warmth to his chilled body.

Gradually Darien allowed his eyed to drift shut again as shivers once again wracked his body. He may have been at least somewhat resigned to the inevitable, but his body had its own set of rules and plans as it did its lonely best to keep him alive.

"Fawkes, you idiot, get up," Hobbes shouted at him from somewhere nearby.

Darien opened his eyes again and saw his partner, dressed to the nines as always, striding toward him.

/Go 'way Hobbes. I'm fine/, he mentally muttered.

"No can do, partner. The Fat Man would have my hide if I just let you give up that easily." He crouched down beside Darien. "You wouldn't want me to lose my job, now would you?" The attempt at a joke was half-hearted at best.

Give up? Too late partner. Giving up was always the easy part. What would be the use in fighting? What did he have that was worth fighting for? Hobbes just wanted him to keep the Official happy, serve his country, do his duty. Claire only wanted him as a lab rat, an interesting problem to study. The Official just wanted a tool, a receptacle.

How long had it been since anyone had wanted him just for himself? Casey might have, but the man she'd loved had been a lie. Liz had only wanted him for his skills as a thief. His aunt and uncle, if truth be told, probably hadn't wanted him at all. Kevin had wanted a test subject. Even Jessica, bless her innocent heart, had wanted Ralph, not Darien.

And now? Arnaud, the Chinese, the CIA, bad guys of every stripe--they all wanted the gland, but most couldn't care less if Darien Fawkes was still attached to it.

Would he ever get what he wanted? He could see his chances of a normal life fading with every shot of counteragent, with every day that went by with no solution in sight. Endless years of torment and loneliness stretched before him, in a virtual prison as confining as any built of concrete and steel. Death, from that perspective, could seem a welcome release.

Hobbes got to his feet. "Fawkes, I know you feel that way now. Like there is nothing left for you, but you're wrong."

Darien shook his head, or thought he did. He wasn't actually capable of movement anymore. /Doesn't matter Bobby. Everyone may 'want' me, but no one cares/.

Hobbes began to fade to his sight. "You're wrong there, my friend. Dead wrong." The words were ghostly, as if spoken from the bottom of a well.

Dead. Interesting choice of words.

The rain had faded into a light drizzle and the sky to the east was starting to brighten as dawn approached. He had stopped shivering again. The pain was gone for the moment. Closing his eyes, Darien drifted back into unconsciousness.

An hour later, when the last segment of the tattoo flashed red, the still form curled under the leaves twitched once, but no more.

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