Categories > TV > Invisible Man > Busman's Holiday

Part 6

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 - 3788 words

Part 6

"What do you mean, you 'found him'?" Bobby asked Claire warily.

Claire tried to catch her breath. "I've got a signal from the tracker. We need..."

"Whoa, whoa, slow down a second there, Keepy...what tracker? Fawkes doesn't carry a tracker. They tried placing them on him for weeks when he first started, but he kept finding them and flushing them. I think they gave up because it was costing too much."

"Um...not exactly. There is a device, one Darien doesn't know about and can't remove. It's part of his quicksilver monitor, in his arm." Claire looked a bit sheepish at this admission. "It was the Official's call. In the beginning, he was worried that Darien would run off, so when I proposed the idea of the monitor, he asked me to add a homing beacon to it. This device," she indicated the gizmo she'd been fiddling with earlier, "is set to receive the specific frequency and analyze it. It gives both direction and approximate distance."

"And how come I didn't know about this? You know how many times I could'a used that thing? Especially back when he ran off with his old pal Liz. It would'a saved us all a lot of grief."

Claire shook her head. "It doesn't work like that. There were some serious power limitations to placing the tracker internally. The monitor itself is mostly passive and needs almost no electricity; what little it does need it gets from Darien's own body. But a transmitter, in order to have any useful range, needs quite a bit of power. With the external trackers, we simply replace them when they run down, but I couldn't be cutting Darien's arm open every few days to change the batteries. To conserve power, the tracker is only triggered when his quicksilver monitor is completely full. The Official wasn't too happy with that, but it was better than nothing."

"So, you've got a signal now. That means he's still alive, but..."

"He just reached quicksilver madness, yes."

"Crap." Bobby scrubbed a hand across his face and then up over his bare scalp. After a moment, though, he shook it off and got back to business. "We gotta go find him."

Claire nodded. "Sheriff Pizzetti radioed the search-and-rescue teams we had standing by; they're going to meet us on the road where Darien and Rose's escape vehicle got wrecked. We'll have to go in on horseback, but we've also got a helicopter evac crew standing by; when we find Darien, we'll probably need to get him to a hospital fast. I just hope there's somewhere to land it nearby when we get there."

"Uh, Keepy, about that hospital...." Hobbes began.

"Bobby, I know the rules. I'm just planning to pretend I've forgotten. I'll deal with the consequences later."

"Gotcha." Under other circumstances, Bobby Hobbes might have been shocked at the idea of breaking the rules like this, but his partner's life was at stake here. And Bobby Hobbes wouldn't bail on his partner.

As the clock wound towards noon, Hobbes, Claire, Pizzetti, and several members of the local volunteer search-and-rescue team were finally approaching the area where Claire's instrument told them Darien should be. Bobby was trying desperately not to complain about how badly his butt hurt; he hadn't ridden a horse since he was twelve and then never for this long at a stretch. Fortunately, the mount he'd been provided with was fairly placid, and was tolerant of his inexpert handling.

Claire, on the other hand, looked perfectly at home, poised in the saddle like a dressage rider at a show. Bobby was amazed, as usual. They tended to think of Claire only in terms of her scientific expertise, but she always managed to have hidden talents ready to fit any situation.

The group paused for a moment at a small creek, to allow the horses to drink and to let Claire take another reading on the tracking device. At first, the readings were clear; they were getting close. Then, quite suddenly, the signal vanished. Claire smacked the receiver, cursing under her breath, fear clenching her gut.

Bobby pulled up next to her. "What's the problem?" he asked.

"I've lost the signal," she whispered.

"Dead battery, huh? How far away was the last location you got?"

"About four hundred meters...that direction," Claire pointed straight ahead.

Hobbes turned to the rest of the party. "OK, ladies and gentlemen, we're gonna have to search the old-fashioned way, now. We're within a quarter of a mile, give or take a bit. Do what you do best. Let's go find him." Everyone nodded in understanding and agreement. With a minimum of discussion, the party fanned out to cover more ground and started away in full search mode.

Claire hung back a bit, letting them do their jobs, though she feared it might be too late. She hadn't had the heart to tell Bobby her fear. He'd just assumed the battery in Darien's tracker had finally run out. It was a possible explanation, but Claire knew it was unlikely. The loss of signal had been too abrupt.

She swallowed back tears, hoping like hell she was wrong.

He was floating in darkness, relishing the freedom from pain, fear, misery. He knew he ought to be worried, ought to be doing something, but couldn't find the will. Floating was easy.

Gradually, so slowly he failed to notice at first, the darkness dissipated into daylight. Still floating, weightless and enervated, he looked around at the forest, the sky, the earth. He could see his own body lying curled up under the leaves nearby, as still as death. Part of his mind wondered curiously about the dislocation. He tried to look at himself, half-expecting to see a ghostly image floating in midair, but there was nothing to see. There was no sense of physical form here, no hands or feet, no up or down.

Mind...spirit...ghost...he wasn't sure what he was now, but he suspected, with some amusement, that it was something he hadn't believed in while he was alive.

It was strange how little emotion he felt at the thought of being dead. Death was supposed to be Man's second-greatest fear, after all, exceeded only by the abject terror of public speaking. Yet he felt nothing. Curious....

"Darien..." said a soft voice. Looking around, he saw no one, but he knew that tone. The exasperation and mild disappointment were unmistakable.

"Hey, Kev," he greeted his brother cheerfully. "I was wondering when you'd get around to joining my little parade of hallucinations."

"Darien, you're not dead. Not yet."

Darien looked back down at the half-hidden figure on the ground. "Really? Hard to tell from this angle."

"You're dying, it's true, but they'll be here soon. They'll try to save you, and it might just work, but only with your help."

"My help? What the hell can I do? I'm not even in there anymore."

"That's because you've given up. If you're willing to fight, and if your friends come through for you, you might have a chance."

Looking down at the pathetic figure below him, Darien thought about that. Despite what his brother was saying, he could still see no signs of life. "I dunno, Kevin. I'm not exactly eager to die, but what's the use in fighting it? No one's going to miss me. There are lots of worse ways to go..."

"But lots of better /times/. You know what I would have given for this chance you've got? For another day, another week, another year?"

If he'd still had eyes and a throat, Darien would have closed them and swallowed in grief and shame. "And I'd give anything if I could trade places with you. You had so much more to give to the world than I..."

"Maybe that was true, once upon a time, but not anymore. You can still do a lot of good with your life. Why don't you want to go back?"

"Kev, what have I got worth going back /for/?" Now the exasperation was his. "All I ever wanted out of life was money, fun, and freedom. What I've got is a paltry government paycheck, a job that's nine parts boredom and one part terror, and a tight leash called 'counteragent' holding me hostage to the whims of a penny-pinching bastard and his precious Agency. It's half a step above outright slavery, and I haven't seen any signs of emancipation in my future."

"Darien, I know the gland hasn't made things easy, and I'm sorry. I never intended..."

"It's okay, Kev, I don't blame you. Your dream was a good one. I blame Arnaud; he's the one who corrupted your dream and destroyed my life."

Kevin continued, all but ignoring the interruption. "But aside from that, I think you're fooling yourself, Darien. You're not really as selfish and self-centered as you pretend to be. If you were, you wouldn't be in this mess. If money and fun were all you wanted, then why would you risk your life to help a total stranger?"

Darien was silent, unable to formulate a response. He heard what sounded like a horse whinnying in the distance, but dismissed it. What would a horse be doing out here, after all?

Kevin went on. "There was a reason I trusted you with my dream, Darien. Underneath your rebellious nature and your casual attitude towards the law, you have always had a solid core of integrity and compassion. Invisibility, in the hands of some, would be used to kill and destroy. You know this; you saw it clearly when you faced down that bastard Lawson.

"Invisibility is power, Darien, and power corrupts. I never expected you to be immune to the temptations it offered. I'm not sure anyone would be. I knew you'd occasionally give in to it, as you did when your friend Liz showed up. But I also knew your weaknesses, and they were ones I could live with. Your temptations are money and adventure, not power or pain. A little petty larceny is a small risk, compared to what others might be tempted to do. The gland has the potential for great good or great evil; on the whole, I trusted that you would usually do the right thing. Used correctly, the gland could be a wonderful gift."

"Gift? Kevin, do you have any idea what this 'gift' of yours has cost me? Everything! Everything I ever loved, I've lost because of this freaking gland. First I lost you. Then I lost Casey. I had to give up Liz. It's cost me my sanity and my self-respect more times than I care to count, thanks to Arnaud's little add-ons. I'm sick of it. I'm tired of losing."

Bobby Hobbes leaned down close to the horse's neck to avoid some low-hanging branches as they broke through a wall of brush and out into an open field. Keeping half an eye on his compass heading, he scanned the clearing for any sign of his wayward partner. Thanks to a night of rain, there were no tracks to follow, no clues to spot.

"Fawkes!" he called out, and in the distance, he could hear the other searchers shouting as well. He didn't really expect an answer, though. He'd seen Claire's face when the signal from the tracker faded out, knew what it probably meant, but part of him wouldn't accept it. After coming so far, surviving so much, Darien Fawkes could not go out like this.

Rain...there was a thought there, dancing on the edge of his mind. It was raining last night...Fawkes would have looked for shelter, somewhere to stay dry. They needed to be looking under things.

Hobbes was about to lift his radio and pass on the suggestion to the others when he spotted a fallen tree and its ripped-out root structure. Suddenly, illogically, he knew. With a click of his tongue and a squeeze of his sore legs, he urged his mount across the field

The moment he saw the muddy, huddled form under the overhanging roots, Hobbes called for Claire and the others over the radio, urging them to hurry. He quickly dismounted, and just as quickly collapsed to the ground as his weary legs refused to support him. Half stumbling, half crawling, Bobby rushed to Darien's side, shouting his name, and felt for a pulse.

The skin was cold, tinged with blue. He could see no movement, no sign of respiration. Nothing stirred beneath his fingers.

For a long moment, Bobby sat there, stunned. Too late. Too freaking late because the freaking FBI wanted their "element of surprise." Why did he agree to delay? They should have been out here at dawn, he should have insisted, it was all his fault...

Darien heard Hobbes call his name from across the clearing and watched as he approached. Hell of a tracking job, Bobby, /he thought. /Considering I told hardly anyone in San Diego where I was going, and only one person up here could have told you where to look. He presumed this was a good sign, that Rose had made it home alive and well. At least one of them had. That was enough.

He watched, almost bemused, as Bobby staggered over to his body and felt for a pulse. He wasn't really surprised that Hobbes seemed unable to find one -- in spite of what his hallucination was telling him, that guy down there sure looked dead.

What did shock him was Bobby's reaction. He didn't know what he'd expected; maybe some loud cussing, some expression of disappointment. He hadn't anticipated tears.

Hobbes was sprawled awkwardly on the ground, one hand lying gently on Darien's shoulder, staring at his still face with streams of tears running down his own. He started speaking with quiet intensity, and Darien had to draw closer to hear his words.

"Dammit, Fawkes," Hobbes muttered, "it shouldn't have ended like this. Lots of stuff I wish I'd gotten to tell you. Like, you're the best friend I've ever had. The only real friend I've had in a very long time. Everyone else I've ever known has had a hidden agenda, ulterior motives."

Hobbes shook his head and wiped tears from his face, but more quickly fell to replace them. "Not you, kid. Everything was out in the open with you. You wanted out, and you didn't care if we knew it.

"I didn't like you much in the beginning, you know. Punk kid, no training, attitude the size of an aircraft carrier. Dismissed everything I valued as unimportant. I didn't want you any more than you wanted me when they threw us together.

"After a while, though, I found out something about you. Much as you might bitch and moan about the unfairness of life and looking out for number one, I discovered I could actually count on you. When the chips were down, you came through, every time. I have never, in all my years, had a partner I actually learned to trust, until you."

Bobby fell silent then, having run out of words, but remained sitting by Darien's body. Darien's disembodied mind was stunned.

He looked at his partner, and it was as if he were seeing the man for the first time. Those words had struck a resonant chord somewhere inside him. Darien realized he'd spent these last months focussing completely on his own problems, his own messed-up life, and had failed to see Bobby Hobbes in any context but as part of the Agency. Sure, he liked Bobby, hung out with him, joked with him, but he'd never really managed to see him as anything more than Darien Fawkes' trainer, just as Claire was his keeper. Just another link in the chain that held him prisoner.

Darien realized, with a start, that every one of Bobby Hobbes' emotional words could just as honestly have come from his own lips in return. Bobby was a friend, now; Darien's best and probably only real friend in the world.

Thieves, as a rule, don't have friends. Acquaintances, yes, perhaps even partners, but always with an undercurrent of distrust and a potential for betrayal. He'd learned that lesson the hard way, first from Liz Morgan and then from Manny Merrick. Bobby Hobbes was, truly, the first person in his life that Darien felt he could really trust.

Lost in thought, Hobbes didn't hear Claire approaching until she was almost on top of him. He hastily wiped his face, then looked up as she dismounted gracefully. "We're too late," he said gently. "He's gone."

Claire pulled a stethoscope and thermometer from a saddlebag and rushed over to Darien's side, ignoring Hobbes' amateur diagnosis. "Don't give up just yet, Bobby. Hypothermia can fool you." Pulling aside as little of Darien's shirt as possible, she placed the diaphragm of the stethoscope against his chest and listened, eyes closed, for a full minute.

When she looked up again, Hobbes could see both worry and hope warring in her face. "He's alive, just barely. Pulse is extremely slow and very weak; you'd never feel it with your fingers. He's barely breathing, and his temperature is..." She placed the sensor of the thermometer in Darien's ear and waited for the beep. "Damn, he's down to 85. Not good."

She got up quickly and moved back to her saddlebags. "Bobby," she called over her shoulder, "please call the helicopter we've got on standby. They can land in this clearing, I think it's large enough. We need to get Darien out of here and to a hospital as fast as possible."

While Hobbes called for help, Claire set up the device she had requested from the hospital the night before. Knowing about the weather conditions and Darien's injuries, she had anticipated this situation. The device was a small, portable, battery-powered ventilator, designed to provide warmed and humidified air to a hypothermic patient. Even better than mouth-to-mouth, which would have been the next best option in the absence of this gadget, it would stabilize and perhaps even slightly improve Darien's core temperature while they waited, without throwing his system into shock.

Once the ventilator was set up and functioning, she pulled off her coat and gently wrapped it around Darien's head. When Hobbes was done calling for help, he provided his own coat for a blanket. Having done as much as she could for the hypothermia, Claire took at brief look at Darien's injured shoulder. He'd obviously lost a lot of blood, but for the moment the gunshot wound was the least of their worries. It would need to be dealt with at some point, but it was no longer bleeding and therefore wasn't immediately life-threatening.

As the two agents finally sat back to wait for the helicopter, having done all they could, Bobby's cell phone rang. Instinctively, he reached for it, but Claire stopped him. "Bobby, don't answer that," she pleaded. "He'll want to know what's going on, and if you tell him, he might give me an order that I couldn't follow in good conscience. If I never hear it, then I won't be disobeying."

Bobby looked pained for a moment, caught between loyalties, but then he looked down at his unconscious partner and nodded, dropping his hand. The phone rang persistently for nearly a minute, then stopped. "You really think the Fat Man would try and keep us from getting Fawkes to a hospital?" he asked her.

"Going to a hospital is a security risk, and you know how the Official feels about security around the I-Man Project. Tests will have to be run, samples taken...someone might notice the anomalies in Darien's bloodstream. The Official could forbid us to take the risk, even if it cost Darien his life. I don't know if he would, but I don't want to risk finding out the answer right now."

"Hmm. Hey, what about the counteragent? Shouldn't you give him his shot? He's technically been QSM for hours now."

"Bobby, I wish I could," she whispered worriedly, looking over at her patient. "I don't know how long it will take before he hits stage 5, especially in this condition." Bobby looked momentarily confused at the 'stage 5', but decided to let it pass. He'd ask for a translation of that some other time.

Claire continued talking, almost to herself. "Every minute I delay is a risk, but the quicksilver madness is probably the only thing keeping him alive right now. The madness spikes his adrenaline, raises his temperature, stimulates every system in his body. If I gave him the counteragent now, all that would collapse and he'd probably die. He's on the ragged edge as it is. I have to wait until we get him in the hospital and get him stabilized. I only hope it won't be too late."

In the distance, they heard the sound of a helicopter approaching. Rescue was at hand.

Darien had been just as shocked as Bobby when Claire announced that he wasn't dead. He watched and listened as they worked to save him, feeling emotions he'd never expected. If he'd been surprised at the depth of Hobbes' loyalty and feeling, the revelations about Claire just floored him. He'd always assumed she didn't really care about him as a person, only as a scientific subject. Even when she'd cried so passionately at Bobby's fake funeral, he hadn't really allowed himself to think that she might also have feelings about him. Yet there they sat, both of them, willfully violating any number of rules and Agency policies, risking censure or worse, just to see to it that he had a chance at survival.

"You see, Darien?" said Kevin's voice, reappearing just as suddenly as it had vanished. "It may not make up for all that you lost, but it looks like there might just be something in this new life of yours worth fighting for. Knowing what they're risking for your sake, can you do any less for them? Can you risk living, risk hoping that someday things will work out for the best?"

Darien gazed long and hard at the faces of his...friends. Yes, friends, both of them.

Gently at first, then with greater force, Darien felt himself being dragged down, back towards the body lying wrapped up and ready for transport. His decision had been made without him being consciously aware of it, and now his life was reclaiming him even as he reclaimed it.

His vision fading, he saw the helicopter land in the clearing and a number of people rush towards him. With open arms, he embraced the darkness, vowing to fight with all his strength for a return to the light.

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