Author: A. X. Zanier
Title: Perchance to Dream.
Rating: PG-13 (Language, adult situations)
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or basic story ideas from The Invisible Man. Any additional characters or story ideas are mine to do with as I please.
Comments: A bit of musing on what could have been.
Perchance To Dream
Not again. Please, dear lord, not again.
:: "When you leave, what will you do?" she asked seemingly out of the blue. ...
..."I haven't really thought about it."
"Maybe you should," she stated. ::
I jerked awake in the early morning darkness and I could still hear the crashing of the waves, the calling of the gulls, the throaty purr of her voice. The scent of seawater, sand, sunshine, and her lingered in my nostrils. I could still feel the cool water lapping at my feet, the damp sand between my toes, the spray on my face, her warmth at my side.
Three nights in a row now. The same damn dream.
I rubbed my face with my hands and looked at the mess I had made of my bed, again. The sheets were twisted and falling off. Several of the pillows had relocated themselves to new zip codes. The air conditioning kicked on, sounding loud in the darkness. I could feel it drying the sweat on my body, causing me to shiver slightly. Frustrated, I attempted to straighten out the bed. I untangled the sheet and light blanket and hunted about for the pillows. One had gone into hiding under the bed and, as I dragged it out, it caught on something that scraped along the wooden floorboards. Tossing the pillow carelessly on the bed I picked up... the whatever it was.
I held it in my hand, not comprehending at first what I was looking at. A slim piece of curved metal made of silver with black onyx and moonstone cabochons across the surface. A bracelet I knew had a tracking device imbedded in it. Hers.
I had no idea how it could have gotten here. She had never even seen this place. Hell, I'd only bought it two years ago. It had to have been in with the last few storage items from my old apartment, from the days I still worked for the Agency, when I still had the Quicksilver gland tucked away in my head.
I got up and walked over to my bureau and set the bracelet down upon it. I counted back the days, the months and the years. Had it really been five years? Five years. I hadn't talked to Claire in 18 months, as she'd been busy working on a project with her new husband. I vaguely remembered receiving the birth announcement, a girl I think, and wondered if I had sent anything. Then I remembered: a book of classic fairy tales and a Pooh Bear. No child should grow up without a Pooh Bear. I should call her, see how things were going. Maybe talk about old times. Nuts. Who was I trying to kid? I knew I wouldn't. Those old times weren't nearly old enough yet. They might never be.
I looked at my clock and groaned, 5:30 in the frickin' morning. There was no way I was going to be able to get back to sleep now. I headed to the shower, trying not to think about the past, but today failing.
"What did you say?" I was sure I had heard her wrong. I could have sworn Claire had just said she could remove the gland.
"She said you're free, ya lunkhead." That came from Alyx, who was leaning against a stanchion in the Lab with a small smile on her lips.
"When can you do it?" I asked. I still couldn't believe it. After all this time I was finally going to get this gland out of my head and my life back.
Claire laughed, not at all put off by my eagerness. "A few weeks of prep work... How about Friday the 15th? You'll have to spend a month or so recovering..."
I didn't let her finish; I rushed over and hugged her, spun her around, and kissed her soundly on the mouth. I set her down and turned to do the same to Alyx, quite sure she had something to do with this sudden success, and found that she had vanished. The sound of the Lab door sliding shut was the only sign of where she had gone.
I stood there, toying with the bracelet, and staring at myself in the mirror. I didn't think I had changed that much. I was a little older, a little wiser and a lot wealthier. I guess I had her to thank for most of it. She had set up the initial stake that let me run wild for a couple of years. So much money that I never thought twice about it. I traveled, saw things I had always wanted to see. London, Paris, Athens, St. Petersburg... you name the exotic locale, and I probably went there. At first it was thrilling, the freedom. No strings, no ties, no commitments, no... shots. I would send postcards to Claire and Bobby just because I could. Okay, it was to thumb my nose at them. Look at me. I got away.'
Claire had left six months after I did, only taking the time to get her replacement up to speed and who, hopefully, would continue the I-Man project for the Agency. She seemed almost as relieved to leave as I had been. We'd kept in touch, meeting on occasion. Do dinner, go to a museum and catch up on our lives. Then she met Philip and our visits became more and more rare. Letters and the occasional phone call. I made it to her wedding and she was a lovely bride. No surprise there.
Bobby had been there as well and we had talked over the course of several hours and bottles of champagne, trading fish stories. Each one more outrageous than the last. The one person I had been hoping to see there hadn't been able to make it. She was out of the country working to keep the free world safe for people like me. That's what Bobby said anyway, he wasn't very sure. Although he saw her around the office on occasion they rarely worked together any more. The Agency was now under the auspices of the ATF and the Official, Charlie Borden, had retired a few years after I left. Eberts had taken over. That still struck me as funny. Eberts as the Official. Bobby said it made life interesting. I bet.
Apparently she worked alone most of the time, lots of undercover and infiltration work. Bobby couldn't be very specific, understandably, but he did say she was doing okay.
:: "Us? Get us out? Think again. I'm in this for life, bud."
"Why wouldn't you leave if the operation worked?" he asked very quietly.
"It can't work for me, remember. The only simple way I can lose my abilities would be a bullet to the head, which, even if I survived, probably wouldn't leave much of me behind," she stated sadly. "I'd get you out in a heartbeat if I could, Darien, but don't fool yourself into thinking I'd go with you. I'm not going anywhere."
"You're right, I forgot," he replied sheepishly. "I'm sorry. There are just some days I hate this life, even after all this time."::
I tried to shake her presence from my mind as I unlocked the door to my office. Yes, my office. After two years of traveling the world I had gotten bored. I guess I should have thought about what I would do after, like she had suggested. Because when I found myself with no place I wanted to go and nothing that interested me, I discovered I was alone and with not much of a resume. Thief, ex-con, and secret agent just didn't cut it. I spent a week calling old friends in hopes of hooking up with something, anything to interest me.
It was a visit to my Aunt Celia that started the ball rolling. While I was there I stopped in at the local police station to visit my childhood friend John. Over a couple of beers he mentioned a string of robberies that had been happening in town. Seemed the guy was real good and able to bust through just about any security system using a variety of methods. Given that my skills as a thief were not in question, just a bad case of conscience, I decided to take a whack at designing systems and safes that were less likely to be cracked. I went back to school for a couple of years, read a few books and then tried my hand at building some lock systems. Using a combination of the skills I had and calling in some friends to try to bust them open, I discovered success. My security systems and safes are very popular, and three of those friends' now work for me full time. Weird huh? Some days I still didn't believe it myself.
I had a business, a house... and not much else. Most of the friends I had made in the last few years were short term. I had colleagues rather than friends. Guys I talked to about work, or the game last night, but nothing else. I'd tried dating, but it never lasted more than a few weeks. There was always something missing in the women I would meet.
I had known she'd be staying behind with the Agency when I left, but I had hoped she would still be willing to see me, to be with me, to continue our relationship. I had been rather hurt at first. I'd even tried to call her a few times. All right, a lot of times. She had never responded and eventually changed her phone numbers.
I may have been free, but I was also alone.
"Tomorrow's the big day, huh?" Alyx queried needlessly, as she walked into my apartment. "Excited?"
"Try petrified. Claire chose today to go over everything in detail and, when I wasn't completely lost, I was nauseated," I explained from my kitchen, where I was searching through my fridge for my last meal.
"She just wanted to be sure you understood what's going to happen. She's forgotten that you don't really care about the how, just the results." She had climbed up on one of the barstools and was sitting cross-legged on it. "Everything will be fine."
"I'm glad one of us has confidence," I commented ruefully. I walked over to her, deciding I wasn't very hungry after all. At least not for food.
"I was wondering, does the condemned get a last request?" I leaned against the counter and watched her out of the corner of my eye. She visibly flinched at my choice of words.
"Condemned? I thought this was your pardon." She looked so very serious when I was trying to lighten the mood. I wasn't kidding when I said I was scared.
Then it hit me that she might be just as frightened as I was about tomorrow. If things went well I wouldn't be seeing her for at least a month. "Lets not talk about it." I moved closer my hand moving up to caress her face. She was tense, but closed her eyes in response to my touch. I wondered if I could ever get enough of her.
"Darien, there's something I want to tell you." I was busy nibbling on her earlobe when she said this.
"Can it wait?" I requested, wanting to devour her like she was my last meal. Moving my hand I caressed her breast, feeling the nipple harden under my palm. She moaned and unfolded her legs to wrap them about my waist.
I guess it could.
I tossed my keys on my desk and pressed the play button on the answering machine. The first two were vendors calling me back about parts. The third a client who was having problems with his safe - again - and kept insisting it was defective. There was a problem all right. The guy was an idiot, but he paid me to come out every time he became convinced the safe was malfunctioning. A fool and his money and all that. The final call surprised me; it was Bobby Hobbes. We hadn't talked in months, hell, the last time had been a 10 minute phone call. We'd both been busy.
"Damn it, Fawkes, couldn't you have worked late tonight? I won't try you at home. When you get this give me a call. The cell number's the same. It's... important."
I looked at my watch, noting it was just after seven. I turned my wrist over and looked at the scar from the monitor that had been there. It was faint, barely visible, but I still saw it, could still feel it under my skin, could still taste my fear as I watched the now dull emerald snake slowly turn red. Damn, I could still feel the relief when, once again, the counteragent worked and pulled me back from the brink of madness. I picked up the phone and dialed Bobby's cell number.
:: "For standing by me through all of this. I've put you through so much lately and now this. I'd understand it if you want to leave," she said. ...
"... I'm not going anywhere." ::
I gripped the steering wheel tightly as I drove to the ATF building where the Agency offices were now located, trying not to think. Bobby had answered on the second ring and, after confirming it was me, told me to get down to there as fast as I could. He refused to tell me why, but I suspected it was about her. Something must have happened, gone wrong. I pulled the bracelet out of my pocket and fingered it while I drove. I was starting to regret leaving. At the time all I could think about was getting the gland out of my head and getting the hell out of there.
I had just assumed that she and I would pick up where we left off. If it had ever occurred to me that she would never speak to me again I might, might have reconsidered. But it was far too late now. She had moved on, I was sure, probably found someone else. Hell, maybe even gotten married again. I had no way of knowing, and suddenly not knowing scared me. I realized that even after five years I still wanted her, still missed her and still owed her so much. I found myself feeling like a fool, yet again.
"Darien, it's time to wake up." The voice echoed in from some far distant corner of my mind.
I cracked open one eye half expecting to find my Aunt Celia standing over me about to proclaim I was going to be late for school, again. Instead it was a young blonde, who took a moment for me to place. "Keep?"
"Yes, Darien," she answered with a brilliant smile. She turned to talk to someone I couldn't see. "He's fine."
I managed to move in time to catch a glimpse of someone leaving the room, but not who exactly it was.
"How's your head feel?" she asked me.
That's when I remembered. They were going to remove the gland. "Did it work? Is it out?" I practically begged.
"Yes, it worked, Darien. A few tests and we'll have you out of here. Two days at most." She helped me to sit up and I surveyed the room.
I tried to trigger the Quicksilver... and nothing happened. I gingerly felt the back of my head and found the new scar. It was true, real, not some fantastic dream my sleeping, gland fried mind had induced. I was free.
"I hope you thanked her," Claire commented softly as she checked my vitals.
I looked at her in confusion. "Thanked who? For what?"
"Alyx, of course. She sank millions into the research project that got that gland out of your head." She must have seen the blank expression on my face, my look of utter disbelief. "You didn't know?"
I shook my head. "I thought you had solved it."
"No, as a matter of fact I was off in the wrong direction. Alyx funded a private facility and contributed many of the ideas. I was years away from a solution." She handed me a glass of water, which I drank. "She told no one until the solution had been tested. You were success number 10. Keep in mind the other nine were rats, but they all survived."
I handed the glass back to her. "Where is she?"
"Sorry, Darien, she's working and it's classified, as you should well know," Claire reminded me.
So they were booting me out of the loop already. "Two days?"
"Yes, Darien. Two days and you're free."
To me that was going to seem like forever, but I had waited this long. What was another 48 hours? Alyx and Bobby were sure to stop by and congratulate me. Especially Alyx.
I entered the building lobby. This place was a lot more impressive than the Fish and
Game building I had worked at. The big boys now fought over who got to play front man for the Agency. They had really come up in the world since I had been there. I headed over to the information desk, intending to ask for Bobby, when I was intercepted.
"Mr. Fawkes? Darien Fawkes?" The voice was eerily familiar and I turned around expecting to see her, and instead faced a stranger. One who looked... like her, but wasn't.
"Yes," I said, trying not to show my confusion.
"Mr. Fawkes, it's good to finally meet you." She held out her hand and I took it, albeit gingerly, into my own.. Good lord, she looked like Alyx, same eyes, same smile, different hair though, and taller by a good eight inches, but still oddly the same. "I'm Danielle MacTierney - Dani. My mother spoke about you often."
Her mother? This must be her eldest. She, Dani, must be in her twenties now. More than old enough to be working for the Agency, given she probably had some of her mother's talents. "How is she?" I managed to get out past my surprise.
"I'd rather let the Official speak to you about that," she stated, placing a hand on my back and steering towards the elevators. "This way, please."
It was mere minutes later that I was in the presence of the Official. I had to swallow a snicker. Eberts as the Official still didn't sit right in my mind.
"Mr. Fawkes, good of you to come down," he greeted from behind his desk. "Dani, where is your partner?"
She smiled, head tipping slightly to the side in a way I instantly recognized. "Just down the hall, boss."
"You're a telepath?" I almost squeaked the words.
"Among other things," she replied with a chuckle. "You don't seem all that surprised."
Before I could respond Bobby came into the room with a knock on the door. "Hey, partner."
"Hey, Bobby," both Dani and I responded.
"Cute, Fawkes, real cute," Bobby snarked at me with an ironic grin, then he came over and shook my hand.
I wanted to bang my head against a wall I felt so stupid, but I settled for rolling my eyes and returning the grin. It had been a while since me and Bobby had been able to get together and I found I had missed it far more than I had been willing to admit to myself.
"Now that we're all here... Mr. Fawkes... Darien, we need your help, if you're willing," Eberts told me.
"That depends. What do you need?" I asked, feeling suspicious.
Eberts looked at Bobby. "Take him downstairs."
All of us went to the elevator and down, way down, at least five stories below ground, to a subbasement. It opened on a short hallway that dead-ended at an impressive pair of gunmetal gray doors. I was beginning to wonder what was going on when Bobby opened the doors with a mag key and waved me in. At first I didn't know what the hell was going on, and I freaked a little. The room was obviously a lab, and it reminded me of the one where I had gotten the gland in the first place. Two men came around a wall at our entrance, one of whom I recognized.
"Michael, what are you doing here?" I asked him, completely shocked to see her brother, her twin standing here before me.
"In a moment, first I want you to meet Chris MacTierney." He introduced the young man with him. "He's taken over your brother's research and done some really incredible work with it."
"Mike, you promised." The young man stepped forward and shook my hand. "It's nice to finally meet you, Mr. Fawkes. Between all the reports I have on you and stories from mom and Mike... it kind of feels like I know you."
"Must be boring. All those lab and field reports," I responded in what was sure to be a monotone, feeling stunned. Was I ever that young and eager? Then the name registered on my already overloaded brain, that and the phrase mom and Mike'. This was her son. Crap, had the Agency recruited her whole family?
"Mr. Fawkes, I can honestly say your reports were anything but boring'," he assured me.
"As to why I'm here, Darien... follow me." Mike led me into another room. Everyone else came along as well. The room held a lab bench that lined one entire wall and was covered with various monitoring devices. I was suddenly uncomfortable, nervous... hell, downright scared of what was about to happen.
"It's all right, Darien." That was from Dani. "You've no reason to be afraid. We just need your help."
"With what?" I queried, relaxing only slightly.
"Show him," Eberts ordered from somewhere behind me.
'Show me what?' was all I had time to think. The wall to my right went from opaque to clear. The other side was a hospital room and there was a small figure on the bed. Whoever it was had bandages covering most of their head and was hooked to so many tubes and wires that they could barely be seen. I stuffed my hands in my pockets and found the bracelet. Pulling it out I looked at it for a moment and then back to the person in the other room. I felt the blood drain from my face when I realized exactly who it was lying in the bed.
:: "Darien, I made a choice, a conscious choice. I choose your life over mine. It's that simple." ::
"What happened?" I asked, surprised that my voice could be heard at all.
"She took a bullet saving some kids," Bobby muttered.
"Hobbes," Dani growled, sounding just like her mother.
"The sniper was shooting at me," he admitted, giving his current partner a glare.
"He doesn't like to admit that she saved his ass yet again," Eberts commented with a sad smile.
Just like her. Always thinking of others first. Never hesitating when it came to protecting other's lives, including her partners'. On more than one occasion she had taken an injury to protect the two of us, and apparently that hadn't changed in the last five years. Not that I would have expected it to. "What can I do?"
"Save her, we hope," Mike explained, coming up next to me.
"Mr. Fawkes you no longer work for this Agency and I cannot give out information about our agents," the Official blustered at me.
It had been two months since I'd gotten out and in that time I'd had dinner with Claire three times, lunch with Bobby once a week and seen Alyx not at all. She refused to answer my calls, had changed the locks on her door to ones I couldn't pick, and whatever she was doing I was unable to find out where she was doing it. I couldn't even catch her showing up at the office or at her apartment.
"I just want to know where she is."
"Need to know, Mr. Fawkes, and you do not need to know." That came from Eberts.
"Look, she's my partner..." I began.
"Was your partner. Now she is our top agent, and she cannot afford distractions," The Official snapped. "Is that clear? Mister Fawkes."
"Yeah, it's clear," I agreed. "Thanks for all your understanding." I left the room, the building, hell, the country that night. I didn't come back for more than a couple days at a time for the next two years.
"Answer a question first, Eberts," I requested softly, turning to him.
"Anything within reason," he offered with surprising equanimity.
"Why wouldn't she see me?" I had wanted to know the answer to this question for five long years. Maybe now I could find out.
"It was her decision, but Charlie and I agreed with her." Eberts sat down in one of the chairs. "Do you remember what had happened, oh... three months before you got the gland out?"
I thought back for a moment, remembering my last few months with the Agency. "Her husband showed up and raised hell here."
"Exactly. It took us three years before we found out who he worked for and were able to eliminate the problem," Eberts detailed.
"What does - did - that have to do with me?" I asked.
"Fawkes, you were a civilian, and she had some super secret organization hunting her down. She did the only thing she could do," Bobby answered, coming over to me.
I stared through the glass at the tiny figure lying so still, so quiet on that bed. "She stayed away to protect me."
"And by the time the threat was over you had moved on, to all appearances. She didn't want to interfere," Dani commented from somewhere off to my left.
"What can I do?" I asked again.
"Talk to her," Mike pleaded.
"Just sit with her," Eberts requested.
"Tell her how you feel about her, finally," Bobby stated flatly.
"Give her a reason to live," Dani explained.
"A reason to live?" I turned to the young woman who was so like the one in the next room, and yet so very different.
"Those tubes and wires are the only things keeping her alive. That and a big dose of inhibitor. She turned off the machines three times before we got any synthesized," Mike told him.
"And what makes you think I can do anything?"
"What makes you think you can't?" Eberts countered, almost as a challenge.
:: "You want me to say that you've been half of my heart, my soul, my life since the first time we met..." She bowed her head down and whispered, "Just please stay."...
...Breathing in her scent I said, "Damn it, woman. I'd thought I lost you."
She pulled back slightly. "Ha, not a chance. You're stuck with me." ::
I sat down in the chair next to her. They had disconnected all but the most necessary monitors and she was still covered in wires and tubes. The heart monitor gave a slow, but steady rhythm; the sound of the machine breathing for her was driving me crazy. If it weren't for the reassurances of both Mike and Dani that she was indeed still in there, just hiding from the world, I would swear she was being kept alive out of some perverse need to torture her. They had told me the inhibitor would wear off by tomorrow and if she turned off the machines again they were not going to try and save her, she would have made her choice. They wanted, hoped I could change her mind.
I fished the bracelet out of my pocket and turned it over in my hands a couple of times. Gently, oh so gently, I lifted her hand nearest to me and slid it on her wrist. "I found this today, didn't even know I had it."
I didn't know what else to say. In all the months we had been together not once did either of us ever say that we loved one another, and I'm not entirely sure why. I think perhaps she never felt she needed to and I... I think I was afraid to admit I did. Some days our lives had been so intertwined that it became hard to separate the work from the living. Some days our work was about nothing more than living, surviving until the next moment. But when we had our time alone, words never seemed to be necessary. We could go from a near death situation to loving in a matter of hours. Words seemed so clumsy, so cumbersome, when we could simply show.
But now all I had was words and I, who at one time spouted off quotes just to irritate my friends, could think of nothing to say.
Not again. Please, dear lord, not again.
I jerked awake in the darkness, my heart pounding, the sweat soaking the sheets, the astringent smell that just screamed hospital in my nostrils, the sound of monitors beeping in my ears, the sight of her on that bed still hanging in my mind. The same damn dream.
"Nightmares again?" she asked sleepily from beside me.
"Yeah." She curled herself against me, her chin coming to rest on my chest and opening her eyes to look at me.
"Want to talk about it?" She had come awake amazingly fast. I hated disturbing her sleep, she got so little as it was. The air conditioner kicked on and I shivered. Shifting slightly she pulled the covers up closer about us.
"Nah, it's not important. Go back to sleep." I brushed a stray curl of hair away from her face.
"Bullshit." She moved, raising herself up on her arms. Then stopped and squirmed awkwardly for a moment. "Sorry, bracelet got caught." Leaning down she kissed me.
I lost myself to her for a time. Enjoying this living, breathing person who was willing to give herself to me. Who laughed at my jokes, challenged my mind, added fire to my soul and who cared enough about me to face down both her fears and mine.
"You should get some sleep," she whispered into my ear. "You want to go to work tomorrow."
"Oh, really. And why is that?" I tried not to groan at what she was doing, but couldn't stop myself.
"It's a surprise," she murmured against my throat.
"Alyx," I warned. I've never been big on surprises. The last one ended with me being able to turn invisible.
Lifting herself up slightly she laid a finger on my lips. "Shhh. It'll be worth the wait. I promise."
And she never breaks a promise.
:: "When you leave, what will you do?" she asked seemingly out of the blue. ...
... "I haven't really thought about it."
"Maybe you should," she stated. ::
To sleep, perchance to dream.