This story may be familiar to some of you.  I wrote it about two years ago, but it remains one of my personal favorites.  As my IMAN stories are currently not posted to any site, I'll be posting them to over the next couple weeks.  Enjoy!



By Beth Green

Part 1 of 2

Bobby Hobbes sat silently behind the wheel of his van.  All of his attention was currently focused on the front door of a nondescript office building.  His partner, Darien Fawkes, sat beside him exhibiting a little less concentration on the job at hand than Bobby would have liked.  Bobby's intense scrutiny was abruptly interrupted when he was hit by an unknown projectile.  He ducked low to make himself a smaller target while simultaneously grabbing for his gun.  After a moment of intense inspection of his surroundings, Bobby quickly became aware of the source of the attack when he turned to his grinning partner.  He leveled his weapon threateningly.

Unfazed, Darien flicked another ice cube from the melting pile at the bottom of his drink cup at his partner.  "C'mon, Bobby, lighten up."

Showing no signs of letting down his guard, Bobby warned, "Your action is in direct violation of Section 111, Title 18 of the United States Code which states that 'anyone who forcibly assaults, opposes, impedes, intimidates, or interferes with a federal agent engaged in the performance of his official duties shall be subject to a fine or imprisonment'."

Darien was singularly unimpressed.  He ignored Bobby's aggressive stance, choosing to dry off his hand by flicking the few drops of water on his fingertips in his partner's general direction.  "Yeah, right."  He took a sip from the slushy dregs of his drink before deciding to verbalize his dissatisfaction.  "This is such a bullshit assignment.  You and I both know that Rinzi is not going to be stupid enough to head out the front door to try to get away." 

Darien and Bobby had been instrumental in putting together enough evidence to finger Roland Rinzi as the man behind a multilevel blackmail scheme targeting high-ranking government officials.  With all of the work that they had put into the case, they were allowed to be present for its denouement.  However, once the evidence had been collected the Official declared that he did not want to further risk their most valuable asset, otherwise known as Darien Fawkes.  That's how Darien and Bobby had ended up with their current assignment, one that all but guaranteed that they would be doing nothing other than sitting and watching while the arrest took place.

Bobby's frown deepened at Darien's words.  He holstered his weapon, then returned to his previous task of surveillance.  Without considering the implication of his next words, he commented, "You never can tell how stupid someone will get when they're suddenly facing life in prison."

It was Darien's turn to frown at what he suspected might have been a personal attack on his own character.  He was preparing to find out when the front door of the building was flung open by none other than Roland Rinzi.  Hobbes immediately turned the key in the van's ignition, cursing when Golda coughed and sputtered.  There was no way that Darien or Bobby would be able to reach Rinzi on foot before the criminal entered his own vehicle.  Sure enough, Darien watched helplessly as Rinzi jumped into a Cadillac sedan, burning rubber as he squealed away from the curb.  A minute later the van's engine roared to life.  Bobby wasted no time in taking off in pursuit.

Bobby quickly gained on the fleeing man.  Darien did his best to anchor himself for the tilt-a-whirl ride he suddenly found himself on.  He silently wished for the hundredth time that they had a real vehicle to do this in, instead of a rusting dinosaur.  Each time Bobby screeched around a corner, Darien tensed in preparation for the van rollover he was sure was about to happen.  He tried to distract himself by looking in the rearview mirror where he could see the distant vehicles of the other agents trailing in their frantic race. 

A nearby construction project forced Rinzi to head toward the local mall.  When he reached the mall, he attempted a make a 180 degree turn.  Darien was in the process of admiring the man's driving skill when, at the last minute, Rinzi lost control of the Cadillac.  The out of control sedan skidded across four lanes of traffic before jumping the curb and making a spectacular crash through the front display area of a toy store.  Darien quietly breathed a prayer of thanks that the lateness of the hour meant that there were no pedestrians around to suffer the consequences of the potentially deadly driving.

Although the vehicle was totaled, Rinzi appeared to be uninjured.  At least he appeared to be moving pretty agilely when he jumped out of the vehicle.  Rather than head away from the demolished storefront and into the arms of the waiting agents, Rinzi decided to run into the store through the newly created opening.

Bobby quickly called in an update to their fellow agents before he gestured for Darien to join him in foot pursuit of Rinzi.  They stepped carefully through the broken glass and concrete of the storefront, unable to see their suspect in the dark interior.  Bobby used hand gestures to indicate that he wanted Darien to search right while he himself searched left.  He did not want to risk using his voice, afraid that doing so would enable Rinzi to pinpoint the location of his pursuers.  Darien nodded in understanding, and the two men began their search.

Darien took the extra safety precaution of making himself invisible.  For all he knew, Rinzi might have a gun.  There was no sense in making himself a target.  His plan was a good one, as far as it went.  Although he could not be seen, he could still be heard.  His downfall was a simple child's ball that had managed to escape from a display area.

Darien had his eyes focused forward, trying to look for any sign of Rinzi.  Therefore, he did not notice the ball until it was far too late.  After lifting his left foot to take a step forward, he stepped down directly onto the ball.  He flung his arms out from his body as he twisted in a futile attempt to regain his balance.  Darien felt a blinding moment of tremendous pain across his head, and then he ceased to think at all.  He never heard the echoing report of a gunshot.  He was no longer aware of anything as his body dropped to the floor.  His crashing descent was eased by a display of stuffed animals toppled to the floor by his falling body.

Bobby saw the flash from the muzzle of Rinzi's gun and returned fire without hesitation.  His satisfaction at hearing the man's moan followed by the clatter of a falling weapon was quickly replaced by concern for his partner.  The other agents arrived in time to help with the cleanup.  The headlights from their vehicles provided enough light for Bobby to see by.  Bobby directed them over to Rinzi, while he himself headed for his fallen partner.

Darien's eyes fluttered once, twice, then closed tightly to shut out the bright light which stabbed painfully through his brain.  He gingerly felt his head, to make sure that it was all there.  His hand came away wet.  He decided that, for the time being, he didn't want to see why.  He could feel his head throbbing with every beat of his heart.  The yelling and shouting that surrounded him wasn't helping any, and was certainly no encouragement to try opening his eyes to try to figure out what the hell was going on.  The only thing he knew for certain at the moment was that his name was Darien Fawkes.

He seemed to be laying in the middle of a bunch of soft, lumpy . . . somethings.  His curiosity at the peculiar bedding prompted him to turn his head to the side to investigate.  By shading his eyes with one hand, he was able to cut down the light enough that he could see through the harsh glare.  The world faded around him as his gaze focused on two brown eyes staring back at him.  His voice tinged with awe and reverence, he whispered, "Henry!"  He reached out a trembling hand to the brown bear.  After a touch convinced him that it was real, he quickly snatched the furry toy, hugging it tightly to his chest.

Hobbes held his breath as he approached his injured partner.  Fawkes was lying on his side.  Bobby could not see his face, could not see how badly he was injured, could not see if he was even still breathing.  He silently prayed, "Please be okay, please be okay," as he knelt by Darien's side, shoving stuffed animals out of the way.  He was relieved to see that Darien was breathing regularly, easily, almost as if he were asleep.  Bobby's throat constricted and he must've gotten something in his eyes because they suddenly blurred when he saw that Darien was holding on tightly to one of the stuffed toys.

Bobby began to check his partner for injuries.  He noted the bloody furrow along the side of Darien's scalp where a bullet had struck him a glancing blow.  Bobby removed a handkerchief from his pocket, using the folded linen square to slow the bleeding.  Darien's eyes developed pain creases as he closed them tighter in response.  Bobby's tension eased a little with his partner's encouraging sign of a return to consciousness.  Hoping to speed things along, he shook his shoulder, calling, "Fawkes!  Hey, Fawkes!  Wake up!"

A slurred, barely understandable voice answered, "Don' wanna."

Bobby persisted.  "C'mon, buddy, no sleeping on the job."

Darien pleaded, "Jus' a'nuther min'."

"Darien, please, look at me."

"Go 'way."

"Not until you wake up.  I need to make sure you're okay.  Please, can you open your eyes for me?"  There was no response to Bobby's last plea.  He was beginning to get seriously worried.  "Fawkes?"  He pulled out his cell phone when Darien did not react, hitting the speed dial for assistance.

"Hey, Keepie, we got us a situation here."  Bobby proceeded to give Claire a quick rundown of Darien's condition.  She in turn asked about the status of Darien's tattoo.  They didn't need the added complication of quicksilver madness affecting Darien's health.

Bobby could not immediately see the snake.  It was hidden in the soft fur of the bear Darien clutched tightly to his torso.  Bobby's attempt to remove the bear was enough incentive to return Darien to full consciousness.  Darien tightened his grip with one hand while pushing Bobby away with the other.  Darien's eyes opened wide and defiant as he stared at Bobby, yelling, "No!"

Although relieved to see that Darien's eyes showed no sign of quicksilver madness, Bobby was very worried about the childlike behavior he was seeing.  He asked, "Do you know who I am?"

A fear-tinged, high-pitched voice answered, "No."

Feeling fearful himself, Bobby asked, "Do you know who you are?"

Darien gazed anxiously up at the face staring down into his.  Something told him that he could trust this man.  His voice refusing to hold steady, he answered, "Y-yes.  I'm Darien."  He had the feeling that something was terribly, dreadfully wrong.  His head hurt badly enough to bring tears to his eyes.  Tears that he refused to shed, not wanting this man to see his weakness.  His questions reflected his increasing panic as he asked, "Who are you?  Where am I?  What's going on?"

Bobby recognized the fear in his partner's eyes.  He tried to keep his voice calm and soothing as he answered, "I'm Bobby.  You got a bit of a knock on the head, and it's making it kind of hard for you to think right now.  You just relax, take it easy, let me take care of things.  Okay?"

Not quite convinced, but not seeing any other choice, Darien answered shakily, "O-okay."

Bobby returned to his examination.  "Now I need to see your tattoo."

"My tattoo?"

"Yeah, the one on your arm, there."  Bobby pointed to the arm he wanted.  Darien tucked the bear into the crook of his other arm, then turned his forearm so that they could both see the snake.  Bobby was relieved to see that four segments remained green.

Darien stared, fascinated.  "I got a tattoo?  Cool!"  Then, his eyes rolled up and his body fell limply back as he lost consciousness.