Author: A. X. Zanier
Title: Freeze Frame
Rating: Varies - PG-13 to R Watch individual chapters for specific rating.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or basic story ideas to "The Invisible Man." Any additional characters or ideas are mine.
Timeline: Companion piece to Snapshots
Comments: Some scenes from Michele's POV attacked and wouldn't let go, others fill in info that is needed from the story, but that cannot be learned from Darien's POV.
Music: It Is You (I have Loved) by Dana Glover
Snippets and outtakes from the story Snapshots
"Come on, you have got to be kidding me." Christian shook his head in utter disbelief.
"Cross my heart," 'Chele stated solemnly, her fingers moving to make an X above her left breast. "The guys built the still from whatever bits of glass tubing they could find, spent six months brewing the stuff, and blew it all on one hell of a post-grad party. Best damn rot-gut I've ever tasted."
"Hey, you ain't 21?" Tristan observed. "Are you?"
She set her hands on her hips. "You tell me."
Tristan looked over at his brother Christian and they spoke as one. "Nope, ain't going there."
Christian scratched his chin absently. "We can't even figure out how you can tell us apart."
"Yeah, care to fill us in?" Tristan added, just as curious as his twin.
'Chele shrugged not certain she could explain it, they just felt different to her. "Maybe it's 'cause I'm a twin?"
"You have a twin?" Christian asked sounding very surprised. "Identical or fraternal?"
"Fraternal, male, in fact," 'Chele answered, trying not to smile at the sudden enthusiasm that rolled off both of them.
"You two do the whole private language thing?" Tristan took his turn with a question.
"Hell, yeah. Parents had to convince us we weren't the same person we were so close." The look of complete understanding on their faces was something she rarely saw. It quite literally took twins to understand the way twins thought.
"'Bout age five," Christian said, making it plain it was a statement and not a question and Michele nodded. "Us too. Weird adjustment ain't it?"
"You know it," she agreed. She was going to say something else when this sudden shock of pure terror hit her, nearly knocking her over with the force of it. There was only one person who could impinge upon her senses so powerfully. "Darien?" she mumbled, and she turned her head as if in slow motion to see Darien frozen in place by the picnic table, open gift in hand. It took her a moment to realize that bugs; spiders were crawling swiftly from the box and up his arms. No wonder he was screaming in her mind, he had an incredibly strong case of arachnophobia.
When his presence, the fear vanished in her mind she knew it wasn't good and, without a word to the twins she'd been talking to seconds before, she took off at a dead run for Darien. He was faster, his mind reacting to the trigger of his phobia, had done the only thing it could and run away from reality, a first class fugue state. His body reacted similarly and he spun about and ran full tilt for the far end of the beach.
"Shit," she swore loudly as she altered her course in the hopes of intercepting him. Her studies had included detailing what the mind was capable of, what it could do when pushed beyond what was considered normal in any sense of the word. "Darien, damn it," she shouted hoping like hell it would have some impact on him, but she still registered nothing but that frightful need of his to get away.
He was quickly running out of beach, and given his mind was not exactly processing things the way it should, he was going to have to either climb the cliff face or head into the water. Both of which were likely to kill him in his current state of mind. Forcing herself to run through the thick sand faster, she got within a few feet of him, but no closer as he was much taller and running on pure adrenaline. Unless he suddenly snapped back to himself nothing was going to stop him until his mind was convinced it was free of the danger it had perceived and reacted to.
Luck went her way and he stumbled, causing him to slow ever so slightly and she took her chance and launched herself at him. She connected with the back of his legs, knocking both of them to the ground, tumbling through the sand until they ran out of forward momentum. Darien tried to scramble away from her, very nearly kicking her in the face in the process as she lay there on her back seeing stars from the tumble they'd taken. Instinctively she reached out and grasped an ankle before he could do more than get to his hands and knees.
"Darien," she cried out as she rolled over, refusing to release him even as he whimpered like a wounded animal in fear. With his free leg he kicked out again and connected with her shoulder, which made her grunt in pain. "Darien, please, you're safe. I swear it."
But he still didn't hear her and when he lashed out again she reacted without thought, released the foot she was holding to grab the one swinging at her head and ducked while encouraging its momentum to increase. The end result was his foot flying over her head and forcing him onto his back. Once he was down she shifted to sit on him, to use her weight to try to hold him in place until he came back. She was only partially successful, landing on his thighs instead of his stomach, his hands coming up to shove her off.
Needing to break him out of the cycle, she did the only thing she could, something that she, over long years, had learned only she could do with such power. "Sorry, D," she whispered as she set one hand near the side of his head and shocked him. The snap of the static discharge was painfully loud to her ears, but the results were more than she could have hoped for. He yelped in pain and a thousand confused and tangled emotions rushed back into his mind, causing 'Chele to shudder in relief.
Her attention no longer focused solely on Darien she realized the entire beach was in an uproar and that quite a large group of people was approaching them. Taking his wrist by her fingers she found his pulse running at three times the norm. "Get me some ice wrapped in a towel now!" she shouted at those nearest to them and watched as her order was followed instantly. "Dare, talk to me. You're safe. The spiders are gone."
Someone, she didn't bother focusing enough to see who, handed her the jury-rigged icepack and she set it gently on the back of Darien's neck. He swung further into focus, though he still teetered on that edge. A high pitched keening still came from him as he vocally vented the terror that still lay heavy upon him.
'Chele recognized the voice as Janice's father who was one of the adults not supervising the party. She didn't even turn as she snarled, "He went fugue thanks to someone triggering his phobia." She damn near grinned in malevolent glee when just about every other person blamed John for the incident, because it now gave her a target to vent her surprisingly strong rage on. She was trying to remain calm while putting Darien back together, but was finding it difficult at best. She'd been damn shocked at how strong her connection to him was, at how he'd snuck in under her radar and curled up in the back of her mind. She was always aware of him, even during those moments he would much rather she not be.
Francine's mom appeared as if by magic with her version of a first aid kit, being a nurse it was stocked with many atypical items including a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. She immediately set about to get Darien's vitals, frowning the entire time.
"It was a joke. A joke," John protested when the police officer made it plain by his tone of voice he was not happy with the situation as it currently stood. He met 'Chele's eyes for an instant, before looking away. "So spiders give him the heebie-jeebies, how was I supposed to know he'd go totally freakazoid?"
'Chele's sight turned red for an instant and her hand squeezed convulsively about Darien's wrist before she regained control. "You idiot," she hissed her voice low and full of tightly controlled anger. "He's phobic, if you can possibly comprehend what that means."
"Obviously I'm nowhere near as smart as you. Why don't you explain it to me?"
Michele was sorely tempted to slap the sneer that took over his features into next week. "You could have killed him. You know, as in scared to death." In complete disgust at his total incomprehension she turned back to see Darien actually focusing on her. As relief washed across her, as she let the anger at John ease up so she could feel Darien again. His fright being replaced with concern for her.
"Is that true?" John asked, convincing her that he hadn't been malicious in his act, but had simply failed to gauge how severe Darien's phobia was.
"Yes," Mrs. Grady stated in agreement with Michele's assessment of the situation.
"Shit. Is...is he gonna be okay?" John asked.
"He should be," 'Chele answered, not bothering to even look at him. "Dare?"
"Yeah, Truth?" For one instant he was back and then his mind chose to query why he was not where he had been, which was the wrong thing to do as she felt him begin to slip under again. Wanting to hide from that which frightened him the most. "Crap."
"Don't you dare," she snapped, hoping to shock him back with words this time. "Stay with me." She squeezed his hand to give him a connection outside the monsters that hid in his mind.
He nodded, his eyes still more than a little wild. "I'm okay, I think." He turned away from 'Chele and spoke to Mrs. Grady, "Sorry about this."
"Darien, don't worry about it. I want you to sit and relax for a few more minutes," Mrs. Grady stated as she brought out a penlight, grasped his chin firmly and flashed it in his eyes. "Hmm, still not back to normal. Wait here." She patted him gently on the shoulder and then got to her feet and walked away.
Behind her John cleared his throat and Darien leaned his head about Michele to focus on his so-called friend.
"Look man, I'm sorry. It was just a joke, I didn't think you..." John mumbled, not entirely repentant.
"Forget it, man. We're cool," Darien responded quickly, surprising 'Chele with how easily he deferred his anger for later. However, he was apparently quite aware of how pissed she still was over the incident. "And no I don't want you to hurt him," he said softly to her.
She laughed, the sound bitter and harsh even to her ears. "If you say so."
"I do." When he lifted his hand to caress her cheek her heart rate doubled. His delicate touch doing wonderful things for her. If he only knew how long she'd wanted this, wanted him to touch her like this, to see her as something more than a girl who happened to be his friend. To see her. "Sorry if I scared you."
"Scared me? Darien..." she shook her head, not about to go into a bout of hysteria on how far beyond scared she had been for those frighteningly long minutes when he'd been gone. To cover she fell back onto that professional bedside manner she'd learned over the years, her mother having been a major influence in that facet of her personality. "You want to head home? You are gonna feel like crap in about 20 minutes."
"And miss the bonfire? No way." Darien shifted his hand to play with that one curl that insisted on falling in her face and she batted his hand away. "I'll take it easy. Much rather sit here with you anyhow."
The heat that suddenly stained her cheeks was only partially embarrassment; the rest was good old hormones sitting up and taking notice, much to her dismay. "You did scare me, Dare," she whispered hoarsely, needing to let those troubling images go, to give voice to her feelings instead of bottling them in like she normally would around him. There were some lines that, until today, she just wouldn't cross.
"I'm fine. Just keep the spiders away and there'll be no more problems. Okay?" He reached out to her, his arms curving about her shoulders and pulled her close, her head resting on his chest. Releasing a ragged sigh, she just absorbed his presence; his scent and filed the sensations away in her mind to savor later.
Pushing gently on her shoulders, Michele sat back up, noting his sudden concern as Mrs. Grady returned. There was an undercurrent of discomfort with having the parents of the group realizing they were at the beginning of a new level in their relationship. It wasn't that he didn't want to be holding her, among other things, but that he was afraid if his family found out it would be discouraged.
"Hey Mrs. G. Sorry for the excitement."
"Darien, at least for a change it wasn't your fault." she crouched down next to them and handed Darien a bottle of electrolyte drink, which she encouraged him to sip at while she took his vitals again.
It was nearly 30 minutes later before both Michele and Mrs. Grady relented and allowed Darien to stagger back towards the picnic area where the fire had been lit and was slowly building into the massive blaze that had been planned.
"Stay," 'Chele admonished with a small smile. "I'll grab the blanket and some drinks, okay?"
Darien nodded, sinking down on the grassy verge to wait for her. "I am fine, y'know."
"I know," she agreed then hurried off towards the parking lot to retrieve the blanket from the trunk of her car. On the return trip she paused at the picnic table that still held the remainder of Darien's gifts awaiting his pleasure, grabbed a couple of sodas and, after a second's hesitation, her gift for him. She squatted down behind him and placed one of the cold cans on the back of his neck making him flinch away for an instant. "Where to, bub?"
"Bub? You been reading those X-Men comics again?" he laughed as he got to his feet and draped an arm about her shoulders.
"You know it. I have this thing for Logan," she said as he led the way to where he wanted to sit and watch the festivities. 'Chele spread out the blanket and settled upon it and was pleasantly surprised when he sat directly behind her, his knees coming up and arms wrapping about her neck in a show of quiet possessiveness.
"Ah 'Chele," he murmured into her hair, his fingers tracing lightly across her shoulders and pulling her gently back to lean against him.
She toyed with the box for a moment, then screwed up her courage and held it up for him to see. "Happy birthday, Darien."
Taking it from her he shook it and pressed it to his ear to listen to the contents. "Not spiders, I hope," he asked playfully.
"No," 'Chele stated emphatically. "Though John should thank you that he still has the potential to breed."
Darien sputtered in laughter for a couple minutes and Michele found herself joining in. She was very serious about how badly she wanted to hurt John, but found herself dragged along with Darien's humorous view of her comment. "My hero," he whispered once the laughter has died away.
Michele closed her eyes while he tore the paper off and opened the box. She knew what lay within, she just hoped it wouldn't be too girly for him.
"A ma vie de coer entier. French, obviously, which you know I didn't take." The confusion was slight, far more curiosity and she opened her eyes to see the ring dangling from the chain she'd purchased to go with it, figuring he wouldn't want to wear it on his finger.
"It's...it's like a claddagh ring. " Changing her mind instantly from what she had originally planned to use as an explanation. "You give it to your best friend, as a token." Her throat tightened, her voice suddenly faint. "You don't have to wear it."
The ring vanished from her sight and though tempted to turn about and see what he was doing, remained still as he moved. She felt the ring on her shoulder and knew he'd put it on, their proximity keeping the chain from hanging as it should. "Thank you, Michele," he said softly, his lips suddenly right next to her ear, his hand coming up to her chin and turning her head to find him looking so sweet in the fire light.
He kissed her lightly, his lips brushing across hers and making her moan softly. When he pulled back he had a wicked gleam in his eye. "Much better, more fun when we don't have to worry about air."
'Chele did the only thing she could at the time. "Are you certain? Perhaps we should test that theorem a few more times to be sure."
His grin was priceless and his next kiss, one far more thorough, swept her away.