SPOILERS: Minor for pretty much all episodes I've seen for the season. And I've only seen about six or seven episodes.
SUMMARY: A former lover of Claire's comes back into her life--making Darien realize there is more to Claire than meets the eye.
PAIRING: Hints to D/C
TIME FRAME: AU
DISCLAIMER: I don't own IM, all rights belong to Scifi and respective companies.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is my first Invisible Man fanfic. It's written without having seen "Impetus", so I've filled in with what I think Claire would have, or do. So please keep that in mind while you read. Also, since Claire doesn't have a last name on the show, I've made on up for her. I'd like to thank Sharon for her help with this…I bow down to your greatness. To Melissa, a fellow D/C shipper, here it finally is! g.
FEEDBACK: I would love it!!
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die…A time to weep, and a time to laugh."
I really love this quote from Ecclesiastes. It reminds me that everything that happens to us does so because there is a reason for it. Whether that's helping a friend or allowing yourself to accept help. For instance, Claire had some problems recently that I helped her through, and I wondered how it was that I ended up helping her out. Then I soon realized that I had no objections to assisting her, in fact it turned out better than I hoped for.
Darien walked down a hallway in Basement 5 on his way to Lab 101--a place he knew all too well. Hobbes and he had just finished a case, and the counteragent needed to keep Darien sane was running low.
Swiping his access card, the door slid open to an empty lab.
"Claire?" He called out to see if the doctor was there.
"In the back," she replied.
Walking in the general direction of her voice, he found her feeding her 'pets'.
"Hey doc, what's new?" Darien leaned against the metal support column watching her.
"Not much. Do you need another shot?" Claire asked, putting away the food.
"You read my mind," he smiled.
Claire took his hand, and checked his tattoo. "All right, have a seat."
She was getting a vial out of the refrigerator when the phone rang. She paused and frowned slightly. It was unusual to get a phone call in the lab since the number wasn't public knowledge. Normally, she was left alone to be there for Darien, and to work on some other projects she had going.
"Excuse me a moment," she said, as she walked over and picked up the phone.
Darien, who had been idly watching her, was surprised to see her freeze momentarily and then turn her back to him as she dropped her voice to a whisper.
"How did you get this number?" She demanded softly.
Darien grew intrigued listening to her side of the conversation. Getting up from the chair, he casually walked closer.
"It's not that at all. I'm happy to hear your voice. I just didn't expect to…"
"No, I don't think that would be a good idea," she sighed, resting her head in her hand.
"Okay…okay. Yes, I remember the place. I'll see you there."
She hung up the phone and continued to stand there. Finally, Darien broke the silence.
"Claire, you okay?"
She jumped at the sound of his voice--forgetting that he was in the room.
"I'm fine," she turned and smiled at him. "Let's get you that shot."
Darien watched her intently as she administered the counteragent. He noticed the slight flush that covered her normally pale features. He had never seen Claire flustered before--she was the one person he knew that never showed emotion in public. Once she was finished he continued to sit.
"What?" She asked.
"Are you sure that nothing is bothering you? It's just that you seem a bit…surprised by the phone call."
"Darien, I appreciate the concern…really. But I am fine."
"You would tell me if something were wrong, right?"
"I didn't know that you cared," she said wryly
"Well…why wouldn't I?" He shrugged, a bit uncomfortable by the turn this conversation was taking. "You're my Keeper and…"
"Oh, just your Keeper, huh?"
"And my friend," he hastily added.
Claire smiled. "That's good to know."
"So," Darien stood up. "being that you are my friend--I watch out for my friends."
"I'll keep that in mind," Claire stated.
So, it was the understatement of the decade to say that Claire's mysterious phone call had me intrigued.
I mean, I'd always assumed my Keeper to be a controlled and stoic woman who didn't show emotions. Not that she didn't experience them, she just wasn't as expressive as most women I've known.
Naturally, I had to investigate--whoever it was had certainly made an impact on Claire.
It was after midnight when Darien and Hobbes walked out of the Official's office. There were still some discrepancies in the case that they had finished, and of course the Official wanted to know every little detail that happened and why.
Now that it was finished they walked tiredly down the hallway. "That man can't leave well enough alone," Hobbes yawned.
"It's his job, would you if you were in his position?" Darien replied.
"Man, I can't believe that you're taking his side."
"It must be sleep depravation…ignore it."
They walked outside and to the parking lot. As Darien was walking to the van he noticed that Claire's SUV was still in the lot. Knowing how late it was, he thought it curious that she was still here, so he made an excuse to head back in the building.
"Listen, since Claire is still here, I'm going to ask her a quick question. I'll see you tomorrow." Darien patted Hobbes on the back and headed back into the building.
"Sure, you are," Hobbes smiled.
"Hey, get your mind out of the gutter," Darien stopped and turned back to Hobbes. "It's where mine usually lives."
As he walked down to the basement, he wondered why Claire was still here after midnight. Sure, she was known to work late, but never this late.
Swiping his card, he walked in to see Claire in her white lab coat, bent over some microscope samples.
"What are you still doing here?" He asked.
"I could ask you the same question," she replied, not looking up from her task.
"I asked first," he smiled.
She straightened and turned to look at him, resting her hand on the lab bench. Her lab coat fell open and Darien could see a red dress--which clung to her in all the right places.
He whistled, "Have a hot date tonight?"
Claire looked down at herself, then flushed and pulled the lab coat closed. "What are you doing here?"
"Nope, not until you answer my question?"
"Both," he smiled, turning the chair around, so that he straddled it, and rested his arms on the back.
Claire sighed, "All right," she put the cap back on a dropper bottle. "I came to finish some tests before I went home."
"Okay," Darien nodded--satisfied with her answer. "Now give me all the juicy details about the date."
"It wasn't a date, I was just meeting an old friend I hadn't seen in a while."
"You don't meet old 'friends' in a number like that." Darien motioned to the dress she was wearing.
"Thank you for your observation," she said shortly, and then went back to looking at her samples.
Darien continued to sit in the chair, resting his chin on his crossed arms--watching her. Finally, after a few minutes she turned and glared at him. "Are you just going to sit there?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "I have nothing better to do."
Darien hung around the lab--going over to the animals she kept in the lab. He fed and watched them until Claire was finished. Then he walked her to her car, in the hopes that she had changed her mind and would tell him about tonight.
But she calmly thanked him for walking her out and after saying goodnight to him, she got in her car and headed home.
Darien walked into the Building of Fish and Game, whistling. It was a beautiful morning and he was hoping for a good day. Stopping at the security desk to sign in he noticed a deliveryman.
"I have a delivery for Dr. Claire Lewis. Sign here please." The delivery boy shoved a clipboard at the security guard.
At the mention of Claire's name, Darien looked up and gave a long whistle as he noticed the large bouquet of red roses.
"Looks like Dr. Lewis has an admirer," the security guard remarked.
"Un-huh," Darien responded offhandedly. "Listen, I'm on my way to see Cla…ah...Dr. Lewis. I'll take them to her and save you a trip." Before the security guard could respond, he grabbed the roses and headed down the hall.
On his way to the lab, Darien found himself wondering who Claire's admirer could be. His mind suddenly flashed to the hushed phone conversation he'd heard the day before and he scowled in…what?
Hold on a minute there, Fawkes! He told himself. Don't even go there.
Swiping his security card, he entered the lab.
"Got a special delivery for you," he called to the doctor.
At the sound of Darien's voice, Claire looked up from her task of filling the refrigerator with some test samples she was looking at earlier. Putting the last vial in, she walked over to him.
"What are you talking about?"
He held the flowers up. "These were being delivered for you when I arrived, I volunteered to bring them down to you," he smiled.
"I bet you did," she pursed her lips.
While Darien held the flowers, Claire reached in and took the card out. He watched as a look of anger flashed across her face. She tore the card and envelope in half, then grabbed the flowers from him and threw them all in the trash. Turning on her heel, she went back to work.
"Whoa. Guess this guy pulled a Two Bouquet Screw Up."
Claire didn't even look up from the report she was now reading to acknowledge the comment.
Okay, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that she was hiding something. Now, normally in cases like this I wouldn't interfere…I mean who am I to meddle in someone else's life? I have enough problems of my own. I'm not sure what was so different about this time…
Darien hopped up on the lab bench and waited for her to acknowledge him. Finally, Claire sighed, put down her pen and stared evenly at him.
She tilted her head and continued to look calmly at him.
"Want to talk about it?"
"See that's a problem, because I want to listen."
She turned and walked away.
Darien hopped off the lab bench and followed her across the room. "I don't understand why you won't talk to me?"
"Fine," she sighed. "If it will make you happy. What do you want to know?"
"Is it about your date last night?"
"Yes," she replied shortly.
"Something go wrong?" He asked curiously.
She quirked an eyebrow. "He just…" Claire bowed her head in sadness.
He felt a twinge of anger at the man that made her sad. It was obvious to him that Claire had gone into the date with different expectations than this guy did.
"So, you want me to go kick the guy's butt…would that make you feel better?" He smiled.
Claire laughed, caught off guard by his remark. "That's a tempting offer," she replied, "but I think I'll pass."
Later that night, Claire swiped her security card and walked into the lab reading a printout of the latest tests done on Darien. At the sound of glass breaking on the floor, she paused and raised her head--looking warily around the lab.
"Hello? Is someone here?" She walked slowly over to her desk looking around for some weapon to use. She silently cursed as she realized that she had left her gun in her car.
Noticing a slight movement from the corner of her eye, Claire turned her head to see someone walk out from the shadows.
"Hello, darling," he said smoothly.
"What are you doing here?" She demanded.
"Looking for some information that you have," he smirked, walking over to her.
"How did you find your way down here?"
"Well, it was fairly easy--after all I still have my contacts as the Department of Defense. I just used them and the blue prints of the building."
"What do you want?" Claire asked, slowly maneuvering her way to the phone so that she could call security. It was after midnight so the likelihood that anyone would walk in the lab at that moment was very slim.
"Oh, just the information on the project that you are working on."
"What project would that be? I am working on quite a few at the moment," she replied, trying to stall him.
"Stop moving, Claire," he told her. "I didn't come here to hurt you, but I will if I have to. You know what I am talking about--I want the information on the Quicksilver."
"I don't have it."
"You know it was never like you to play dumb. You are the head scientist here and the only one that would have it. Stop playing games and give me the information."
"No," she clenched her hands by her side and stood her ground.
"Do you really want me to tear this lab apart looking for it?" He asked. "I will if I have to."
Claire didn't answer him, just quirked an eyebrow.
"Damn it!" He slapped her across the face, drawing some blood at the corner of her mouth. "I am getting tired of this, now tell me where the information is!"
Claire brought her hand up to cradle her bruised cheek. "Go to Hell."
He laughed. "I always did love that about you. Just as feisty now as you were in the sack." He stepped closer and ran his hand along her neck and down the front of her blouse.
She shoved his hand away. "Keep your hands off me!"
He laughed coldly. "I remember a time when you didn't want me to stop touching you." His eyes hardened as he his hand wrapped around her throat and squeezed. "Now, tell me where the discs are!"
Suddenly he found himself jerked back and thrown against the wall.
"What the hell?" He asked, shaking his head slightly to clear the daze.
"I do believe that she asked you to remove your hands," Darien replied, as he materialized in front of him.
"Where did you come from?" He asked, slowly standing.
Darien ignored the question--wanting to get whoever the hell this guy was out of the lab as quickly as possible. "Get out of here before I call security."
The man glared at Darien for a moment, then slowly walked over to Claire. He didn't get too close because he saw Darien step closer to her. "This isn't over, Claire." He stared at her a moment longer then backed out of the lab.
Darien watched the door close, then turned to Claire. "You okay?" He asked. She hadn't moved since he shed the Quicksilver.
Claire blinked a few times, then focused on Darien. "Yes, I'm fine."
He slowly walked over to her and gently grasping her chin tilted her face, so that he could look at her bruised cheek. "We should probably get some ice for that, it'll keep the swelling down." He stated while taking a handkerchief out of his pocket to wipe the small trickle of blood from the corner of her mouth.
She pulled her head back. "It'll be fine."
She stepped away from him and surveyed the lab--taking in the broken beakers and test tubes that now littered the floor. Walking to the corner cabinet, she grabbed a broom and dustpan.
"What are you doing?" Darien asked, watching her curiously.
"I'm going to clean up the mess."
"The hell you are," he walked over to her and put the cleaning items back in the cabinet.
"Claire, some man just broke into the lab, hurt you, and threatened you. You aren't cleaning anything--it'll keep for later. I am going to take you home so that you can rest, and then we are going to have a long talk."
"He didn't hurt me--I'm fine."
Darien gently ran the back of his hand across her bruise, causing her to grimace and turn her head away.
"Point taken," Claire sighed, finally giving in.
"Grab your coat and I'll take you home."
"I am perfectly capable of driving myself home," she pointed out.
"Humor me," he smiled.
Claire stared at him for a moment, then picked up her coat. She looked around the lab, then walked to the door.
"Well?" She asked, arching an eyebrow at him as she paused in the doorway. "You coming?"
"You don't have to ask me twice," Darien smiled, and followed Claire out of the lab.
As they sat at the stoplight waiting for it to change, Darien glanced over at Claire. She was resting her head back against the headrest--staring out the window. He thought about asking her if she was okay, but decided against it. He could tell that she was dealing with a lot right now, and hoped she would tell him in due time what had happened back in the lab.
"Where to now?" He asked once the SUV turned onto Harrington Drive.
"It's the third house on the right."
As he slowed down and turned into a tree-lined driveway, the sight of a tidy little cottage pleasantly surprised him. Coming around to the passenger side, he helped Claire out, then followed her up the short flagstone walk to the front door. As he waited for her to unlock the door, he glanced around the porch, noting two big wicker chairs sitting cozily together, surround by hanging baskets and potted ferns.
Following her inside, he found her taste to be equally pleasing. They walked down a short entryway dotted with family pictures, and into a warmly lit and comfortably furnished living room. Through the archway in the back, Darien could see a small dining area with a cheerful kitchen attached.
"Make yourself comfortable," Claire commented, setting her purse and keys on an antique end table. "I'll make us some coffee."
Darien sat on the worn velvet couch and looked curiously around the living room. Decorating the mantle piece and the bookshelves were more pictures of her family and friends. Both fiction and non-fiction books filled the bookshelves, as well as an eclectic collection of vintage glass and Japanese porcelains.
Hearing a soft mew, Darien looked down at his feet to find a small, gray kitten contemplating him seriously.
"Hey there, little guy," he reached down and scooped the kitten up. "You want to come up here with me?" The kitten crawled into his lap and promptly closed his eyes and started purring and kneading Darien's leg as he stroked his head.
"I see you found Sammie," Claire smiled, as she walked into the room.
"More like he found me," Darien commented, taking a cup from her and smiling in thanks.
She sat on the other end of the couch, kicking off her shoes and tucking her feet under her. Sammie opened his eyes slightly and gave her a small meow in greeting, then went back to the business of enjoying Darien's attentions.
"Did you get some ice?" Darien asked, taking a sip of his coffee.
She nodded and held up a hand towel with ice wrapped in it. Carefully, she brought it up to her cheek, wincing at the cold contact--all the while Darien watched her with a close eye.
"So, talk to me, Claire," he said softly, determined to get to the bottom of what had happened.
"First, I want to know what you were doing in the lab? Were you spying on me?"
"Not, no spying. I was a concerned because you wouldn't talk to me, so I wanted to make sure that you were okay."
"You were being nosey," she smiled.
"It looks like my nosiness paid off."
Claire nodded her head slightly.
"So what's the story with that guy?"
Claire sighed in resignation. "His name is Grant Fraiser, I, uh, knew him from my days at the DoD."
Darien made a noncommittal grunt, biting back an unexpected twinge of jealousy. "So how does he know about the Quicksilver?"
"I don't know," Claire shook her head, taking the ice from her cheek. "He still has some contacts at the DoD, my only guess is that he found out from one of them."
"Must have been some pretty good contacts," Darien commented, taking another sip of the coffee. "So what do you suppose he wants with it?"
"Not sure. Grant is a very complex person, I tried on many occasions to figure out how his mind works. But whenever I thought I understood him --he would do exactly the opposite," she explained, toying with the end of the hand towel.
Darien watched as a pained expression flickered across her face and silently cursed. "Don't defend him -- not after what he did tonight."
Her hand went to her cheek. "He's really not like that. He's never hit me before…"
"That's no excuse," Darien said tightly. "I'd never…." He stopped abruptly and looked away.
Claire stared at him, surprised at his protective attitude. "No, you're nothing like Grant, that's for sure."
Darien chuckled and shook his head. "Coming from you, I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not."
She didn't answer him, but merely tilted her head and smiled. "Grant is a very self-focused person. We didn't know that we were both being considered for the position as Keeper, but needless to say, when he found out afterward, he wasn't too happy that I was chosen over him."
"So? You were more qualified for the job," Darien commented. "How can he fault you for that?"
"It wasn't so much that. I could tell from the first moment that I met Grant that he was in this field more for the recognition and money than anything else. Getting the position of Keeper would have meant greater recognition among his peers. That's all that mattered to him, and he did everything he possibly could to make sure that he would get the position."
"So he's pissed that he didn't get the job…get over it!" Darien snorted softly.
"There's more to it than that. Recently, I heard he was having trouble getting funding for some of the projects he wants to start."
"And with you working for the Official you wouldn't have any trouble getting funding for your projects."
"That, and I'm involved in some of the more confidential and newer projects that the Agency starts. As long as I work for them on their projects, they allow me to conduct my own, so long as they don't interfere with the Agency's."
"Sounds like a dream come true for a scientist."
"It is. Unfortunately, knowing Grant, he is resentful about it. "
"Well, that still doesn't explain what he wants with the information on the Quicksilver," Darien sighed, running his hand through his hair.
Before Claire could answer, the doorbell rang.
"Excuse me. I'll be right back."
Walking to the door, she opened it and gasped to find Grant on the other side. She quickly tried to close the door, but his hand shot through and prevented her.
"Wait, Claire. We need to talk."
"I don't have anything to say to you. Now leave!" She demanded, pushing against the door again.
"Please, Claire," he pleaded earnestly, holding the door open. "I want to apologize for what happened back in the lab. I know that I was a little out of line."
"Yeah, I can see how hitting her and threatening her could be considered 'a little out of line', " Darien commented tersely, walking up behind Claire. "Everything okay?" He asked, resting a hand on her shoulder.
Grant's eyes narrowed at the contact. "What the hell is he doing here?"
"That's really none of your concern," Claire replied evenly, relaxing at the feel of Darien standing solidly behind her.
"We need to talk, Claire…alone." He focused his attention back on her, urging her with his eyes to agree.
"No, Grant. There is nothing more to talk about -- alone or otherwise. Now, please leave!"
"Claire!" Grant called, as she shut and locked the door. "Claire!" He shouted and banged on the door.
She stood there for a moment, her hand resting indecisively on the knob.
Darien squeezed her shoulder. "Come on, let's go sit down." He slid his hand to the small of her back and guided her to the couch. "I think it's time to talk."
"You know, you're going to have to tell the Official what you told me," Darien stated a while later. They were still sitting in their same corners of the couch, but Sammie had changed spots and now was resting on Claire's lap.
"He's not going to be happy."
"He'll deal. I mean, who knew that your former lover would go psycho on you and…" He paused and looked at Claire. "Uh, sorry, I didn't mean…"
She held up a hand. "Not clinically accurate, but I agree. As for the Official, I'm sure he'll handle it and we'll move on," she sighed.
"You don't sound very positive about this," he glanced at her.
"I just wish that I could figure out how Grant's mind works, so this thing can be over with."
"Claire you're a scientist, not a Head Doc. Be grateful -- you don't always need to turn over every rock just to see what crawls out from under it."
"You're insight is refreshing," she deadpanned, then smiled.
"Part of the Darien Fawkes charm," he returned the smile; happy to see for the moment he was able to get her out of the doldrums.
She shifted and rested her head on her arm, which was stretched out along the back of the sofa, as her other hand absently stroked Sammie's head.
Darien watched her for a moment, seeing that she had gone off into her own little world. "Earth to Claire," he waved a hand in front of her face.
"Sorry," she said, frowning slightly as she came out of her daze. "I was just thinking about something."
"Grant has been trying to get the information on the Quicksilver gland--without much success. Knowing that he can't get it from me, he might and go after the person that actually has the gland."
Claire nodded her head. "It makes sense -- if I were in his shoes that's what I would do."
"Well, I wouldn't mind you coming after me," he smiled at her. As she shot him an exasperated look he became serious, and reached his hand out and ran his fingers along the top of her hand, absently playing with her fingers. "Listen, Claire I'll be fine. I really don't think that he would try and go after me, it's much easier to get the information on the gland. I mean, what could I tell him about it? I am still figuring out how it works. You don't have it in your head, but you know more about it than I ever will."
"He still could go after you, and run his own tests."
"Thanks for lifting my confidence level here."
Claire smiled. "Just promise me that you'll be careful." Without thinking she pulled her hand from his and placed it on tops of his, squeezing it.
"I will," he looked her steadily in the eye.
They sat for a moment, then Claire cleared her throat self-consciously and looked down, slipping her hand reluctantly from his. "It's getting late, and knowing the Official, it's going to be a long day tomorrow."
"Yeah, he's the kind of guy who makes me look forward to a root canal." Darien got up from the couch and stretched.
Claire walked him to the door and as he shrugged on his jacket, she said, "Remember your promise -- who knows what Grant will do if he gets you. He might try to take the gland out…"
"I'll be fine," Darien said reassuringly as he opened the door.
"I know, I'm just over reacting," Claire sighed, looking down at her feet.
"I kinda like it. It's been a while since anyone has been worried about me."
"Thank you, for listening."
Darien smiled, and reached over and gently stroked her un-bruised cheek. "My pleasure."
She closed her eyes and unconsciously rubbed her cheek against the warmth of his hand. Stepping back, she looked up at him. "Have a good night, Darien."
"You too," he smiled at her one last time, and then turned and walked out.
"Wait!" She called, stopping Darien halfway down the walkway.
"What?" He turned to look at her. She raised her hand, indicating him to hold on a moment.
She disappeared for a moment, then reappeared. "Catch!" She tossed a set of keys his way.
"What's this?" He looked at her questioningly.
"You don't have a way to get home. Take mine, just don't forget to swing by and pick me up on the way in tomorrow," Claire smiled.
"Don't argue. I trust you, now get going!" She watched him for a moment, making sure that he did take her up on the offer, then quietly closed the door.
Hunched down in the car across the street, Grant Fraiser watched the scene with a scowl on his face.
Seeing the lights go out in the cottage, he started his car and followed the SUV back to Darien's apartment.
Carlos Castaneda wrote that, "Things don't change. You change your way of looking, that's all." Now, this may not entirely be true, people and things do change, but more often than not it's your view of things that changes most. Throughout this whole mess with Grant I realized that it wasn't Claire that had changed, she's been the same since the first day we met. It's just my view of her that's chanced. Suffice it to say she is turning out to be a very, well…interesting woman.
Hobbes walked down the main hallway, and stopped when he saw Darien and Claire talking quietly. He watched in surprise as Claire smiled, Darien touched her arm affectionately, and then she left.
Darien watched Claire leave, then seeing Hobbes staring at him, he smiled at his partner, and walked toward him.
"What was that all about?" Hobbes asked, falling into step with him.
"We were just talking."
"That was a lot more than 'just talking'."
"What do you mean?" Darien looked at him like he was crazy.
"Standing close together, smiling at each other, and the touching," he counted off on his finger.
"The touching?" Darien stopped and turned to look at Hobbes.
"The casual brush against her arm as she was leaving."
"You're parents didn't hug you enough when you were little, did they?" He crossed his arms across his chest.
"How did…that's got nothing to do with it."
"Listen, Hobbes it was nothing…we're friends, that's it."
He cocked an eyebrow and contemplated Darien for a moment. Before he could say another word Eberts poked his head out of the Official's office. "Ah, Agent Hobbes and Fawkes, He would like to see you."
"Don't even say another word," Darien walked by Hobbes, and into the office.
They stood before the Official's desk and waited for him to begin. There was a soft knock at the door and Claire came in. Her face remained calm and expressionless as she came to stand next to Darien.
"I understand there was a break-in in the lab last night," the Official stopped his calculations and looked up at the trio.
"Ah, yes sir," Claire answered.
"What a minute! How come I didn't know about this?" Hobbes demanded.
"Because you weren't there when it happened," Darien responded.
"And you were?" He shot back with a snort.
Darien raised his eyebrows and turned back around.
"You were here, weren't you? That's why you know about it."
"Take it easy, Hobbes. I walked in on it just like Claire."
"Was anything taken?" The Official interrupted.
"No," Claire replied.
"That's some good news. Do you know what he was after?"
"The Quicksilver information."
The Official looked up sharply. "Are you positive that he didn't get the information?"
"Well, do we at least know who the bastard is?" Hobbes asked.
Claire took a deep breath, and glanced at Darien. "Grant Fraiser."
"From the DoD?" The Official asked in surprise.
"Unfortunately," Darien muttered.
"Well, this is quite a surprise."
Claire stepped forward. "Sir, if I may? I have reason to believe that Grant may go after Darien."
"Claire…" Darien began.
"Let her continue, Fawkes," the Official ordered.
"It would be the most logical thing to do. Since he wasn't able to take the information from the lab, he would go after the person that has the thing he wants."
"That does make sense," Eberts commented.
"I don't think he will," Darien stated. "I couldn't tell him a thing about the gland, all I do is carry it around with me. It would be pointless for him to take me. I think that he'll make another run at the information."
"Another good point," Eberts said.
"Shut up, Eberts," the Official barked, causing him to quickly take a step back and stand erect.
"We can put a guard on both of you, since we are not sure who he will go after."
"I can take of myself," they both countered.
"That may be the case, but I can't afford to have this information fall into the wrong hands."
"Well, you can always put them together, and just have one surveillance team. Save you some money and manpower," Hobbes offered.
Eberts leaned down and whispered something into the Official's ear. "Excellent idea, Mr. Hobbes," he smiled.
"What?" Darien asked.
"You, Darien will move into Claire's house, and we will place a surveillance team outside her house," the Official explained.
"Wait…" she tried to interrupt.
"It works out quite well," Eberts explained. "Doctor, your residence is much easier to protect than Mr. Fawkes'. It's the most logical thing to do."
"Now, hold on a minute," Claire stepped forward. "I do not need protection, I already explained that Grant will not come after me. He's going after Darien."
"It's settled, doctor," the Official barked.
She sighed, and turned to look at Darien with a defeated look. What surprised her was that he didn't look all that unhappy about the whole situation.
Hobbes stood off to the side, snickering. "I wouldn't be laughing if I were you, Mr. Hobbes. Since it was your idea, you'll be the surveillance."
That took the smile off his face. "But…"
They sighed and walked out of the office. Claire turned and started walking towards the lab.
"Hey, Claire, wait up!" Darien called. "I was wondering if you, ah, wanted to go have lunch later. You know, to talk about everything."
"That would be nice," she smiled after considering the offer.
"Great," Darien smiled in return. "I'll come down to the lab to get you later then."
She nodded, then continued on to her lab.
Darien walked back over to Hobbes, whistling. "You didn't invite me to lunch," Hobbes pointed out.
"That's because you opened your big mouth and put us in this situation."
"I was just playing, I didn't think that the Big Guy would take it seriously."
"Yeah, well he did."
"Well, I didn't see you making any objections in there."
Darien didn't comment.
"See, I knew it…"
"You don't know anything, come on and let's go. We still have to finish checking leads on Jermaine Walters," he walked out to the van leaving Hobbes to follow.
Grant watched from across the street as Claire and Darien walked out of the Fish and Game Building. They crossed the street and started walking towards the deli on the corner. Grant followed behind them, watching as they walked close together, laughing about something, and the way that Darien's hand came up to the small of her back to guide her through a cluster of people.
He crossed the street when he saw them enter the deli, and from his position he had the perfect view of them as they had lunch.
"So, what are you having, my treat," Darien sat across from Claire in the booth.
"You don't have to buy me lunch," Claire lowered the menu and peered at him over the edge.
"Consider it an advance on the thank you for letting me hang out at your place."
"You don't need…"
He held up his hand. "Yes, I do."
The waitress came over and took their orders, and a few minutes later brought them their drinks.
"I know that it's going to be an inconvenience having me around, I'm sure that you get enough of me at work. So, I was thinking that I could leave after dark, you know, turn invisible and head back to my place to crash. Then, come back before work the next day, and Hobbes won't know that I left."
Claire thought about it for a minute. "It's too dangerous."
"Grant could be watching your place, waiting for you to come back."
He sighed; she did have a point.
"Listen Darien, you won't be underfoot, I promise," she reached over and gave his hand a squeeze. "There's plenty of room."
Claire nodded her head, and pulled her hand from his as their lunches came. For the rest of the lunch they talked about non-work related things for a change.
From across the street, Grant scowled when he saw Claire take Darien's hand. They seemed to have leaned closer to each other. He gripped the corner of the phone booth until his knuckles turned white. He knew then that it was time to get this guy out of the picture in order for his plan to work.
Claire opened the door to her cottage and walked in, with a tentative Darien following behind her. Setting her keys on the end table, she turned and watched in amusement as he shifted uneasily from foot to foot. "It's okay Darien, I promise not to bite."
Darien smiled, relieved at her teasing tone. "I don't know if I want you to make that promise. Might regret it later," he winked at her.
She shook her head and smiled. "Come on, I'll show you where you can put your things," she said as she walked down the short hallway. "I hope a sofa bed will be okay? This was the spare room, but somehow it's turned into my study."
"It'll be fine," he assured her, setting his bag down.
"I'll get you some sheets and towels," she walked across the hall to the closet. While she was gone he looked around the study. On the wall across from him was a desk with a laptop, and various books filling the shelves. There were family pictures sitting on the top of the desk, and an impressive array of awards decorating the walls.
He turned as Claire came back, her arms filled with sheets, blankets, towels, and pillows. "Let me do that, Claire" he said, walking over as she started to make the bed.
"Okay. Well, I'll start on dinner while you get settled," she suggested. "The closet is empty, and the bathroom is across the hall." She left him to unpack.
Claire hit the play button on her answering machine and listened to her messages as she changed into a pair of faded jeans and a long sleeve, fitted beige top. The first one was from her sister telling her she'd arrived in New Delhi safely, and the other from the vet letting her know that Sammie was due for his next series of shots.
As she padded barefoot to the kitchen, Sammie darted out, mewing loudly.
"Ah, you heard someone mention your name, did you?" She laughed, picking up the kitten.
"Did you have a good day, sweetheart?" His reply was loud purring. Setting him back down, she filled his food dish, washed her hands, and then got the ingredients out for dinner.
Darien walked into the kitchen, freshly showered, to find Claire cutting up a chicken--humming a tune he didn't recognize. Her back was to him and he stood there admiring her for a moment. Her hair was pulled back into a high ponytail giving him a good view of her shoulders and trim back, and the faded jeans hugged her in all the right places.
Whoa, Fawkes, down boy. This is Claire!
He cleared his throat, and Claire turned and smiled at him; taking in his still damp hair, jeans, and undershirt with a short sleeve button down thrown over it. She gave a little laugh when she noticed his bare feet as well.
"So, what's cookin'?" Darien asked, walking over to lean against the counter.
"Chicken pasta, a salad, and some white wine."
"Trying to get me to eat healthy the first night here, huh?" He nudged her, and smiled.
"Well, there's some Double Fudge Brownie Ice Cream in the freezer if you'd like that for dessert," she smiled as she finished up the chicken.
"Sounds like a plan to me." He looked around. "Need some help?"
"Sure. How about if you grab a pot from under the counter and start boiling water for the pasta."
"I noticed a lot of family pictures around," Darien began, as he placed the pot on the stove and turned the heat on. "I didn't know you had a sister. "
"Uh-huh," she put the chicken in a skillet to cook. "Kathryn is my older sister. She stops in to visit whenever she's in country."
"In the country? She travel a lot?"
"She's a site archeologist. I'm lucky if I get to see her once a year."
Claire handed Darien a box of pasta as the water started to boil. He dumped the pasta in with a touch of oil, and stirred.
"Your whole family doctors?"
"No, my mother wasn't." As the chicken cooked, she washed the vegetables for the salad.
"It must have been hard on her having you and your sister in school all the time," Darien commented, testing a noodle of the pasta.
"She was very proud of us both. I think that she was a little disappointed when Kat chose archeology instead of medicine," she stopped her work and smiled. "But as long as we were both happy, she was happy."
"What about your father?" Darien asked, straining the pasta over the sink.
"He was a scientist--the smartest man I've ever known. He had so many dreams, but he never got the chance to see them through."
"I'm sorry," he replied quietly. He watched as she ducked her head for a moment and then took a deep breath. But before he could say anything, she straightened her shoulders and went to the stove to check the chicken.
"So, how is the pasta?" Claire asked as she threw in some diced red pepper, sliced mushrooms, and a handful of fresh peas.
"All set," he shook it and gave it to her. Pouring it in the skillet, she tossed it lightly with the chicken and vegetables, then added a little lemon and pepper.
Darien leaned against the counter and watched her. She put a lid on the pasta and took it off the burner, then quickly finished chopping the salad vegetables.
"I might have to take cooking classes from you," he observed as she expertly sliced a cucumber.
Claire smiled. "You can't cook?"
"Well, I suppose I can, but that's what TV dinners and Burger King are for," he reached over and snatched a slice of cucumber.
"Hands off," she lightly slapped his hand.
"Can't help it, I'm starving," Darien popped the slice into his mouth.
"I'm almost finished here, why don't you go pick out a wine to go with dinner," she motioned with her head to the wine rack in the corner.
As Darien perused the various wines, Claire tossed the salad, adding some croutons and bacon bits, and then divided it into two bowls.
"Got a corkscrew?" Darien called to her, as she took the bowls out to the table.
"In the drawer to the right of the sink," she replied. Coming back into the kitchen, she dished out the pasta and grabbed some silverware.
Claire was setting the table when Darien came in with the glasses and wine.
"Pinot Grigio, okay?" He asked, setting the glasses down and filling them.
"Perfect," she smiled, sitting down across from him.
"This looks great," he commented staring at the meal before him. He picked up his wineglass and held it up. "A toast."
"Okay," Claire smiled, picking up her glass. "What shall we toast to?"
"To new friends?"
She looked at him for a moment; then smiled and without word clinked her glass with him, causing Darien to smile over the rim of the glass at her as he took a sip of wine.
A short while later, they sat outside on the front porch enjoying the warm evening. Sammie sat on Darien's lap, his tale swinging back and forth as he watched a ladybug trundle lazily across the railing.
"Seems you've made a new friend," Claire commented, smiling down at Sammie.
"Yeah, it's just my animal magnetism," he smiled.
She rolled her eyes in mock exasperation.
Before Darien could respond, the walkie-talkie squawked and Hobbes' voice came over.
"Fawkes? You still there?"
Darien sighed at the interruption and picked up the handset. "Yes Hobbes, where else would I be?"
"Ha ha. Quit the sarcastic remarks."
"What do you want, Hobbes?"
"How are things going?"
Darien looked over to Claire. "How are things going?"
"Fine," she shrugged her shoulders.
"Claire says things are fine," he smiled as she laughed at the comment.
"Well, at least Claire can answer the question without smart remarks."
"That's because she is the sensible one."
"Obviously, over and out."
"Later," Darien replied. He looked at Claire and shook his head. "He's way too uptight."
"He's just doing his job," she pointed out.
"Well, it still wouldn't hurt him to lighten up a little."
Claire nodded. She leaned back in her chair and stretched. "I better get to bed. I have a meeting tomorrow morning."
"Meeting with other Dr. Jeckel's to exchange ideas, huh?" Darien teased.
"Well, you know how it is. We have to come up with new ways to torture our Mr. Hyde's," she winked at him. "Have a good night, and you can just leave Sammie on the couch."
"Good night, Claire. Sleep well." He smiled at her as she walked into the house.
Darien sighed and looked around. He enjoyed it here. It was like a little separate country; sitting here you would never imagine that there was a city not more than 10 minutes away. Sitting there alone he realized that someday he would like to have a place like this.
He picked up the now sleeping Sammie and walked into the house to place him on the couch. As he was about to go to bed, he realized that he should contact Hobbes.
There was static on the other end.
Not getting an answer, he pulled back the curtain and see if he could see anything. Throwing the walkie-talkie down he opened the door and walked outside. Sticking close to the cottage, he turned invisible and started across the lawn.
Darien was almost to the van, when he felt a sudden pain on the back of his head. He fell to the ground as the pain intensified. As he lost his concentration, the quicksilver was shed from his body and the blackness overcame him before he could figure out what happened.
Darien awoke with a sharp pain radiating throughout the base of his skull. Lifting his head, he looked around the dark room and rubbed the back of his neck. As he pushed himself up, he paused as he felt a weight around his ankle. Looking down, he found a chain cuffed around his leg and silently cursed.
He glanced around the room. There was nothing unusual about it. A single cot sat next to the wall and a barred, covered window across the room from him. A single bare light bulb hung from the ceiling, but the string was out of reach for him to turn it on.
Walking over to the bed, Darien sat down heavily and hung his head, rubbing the bump as he tried to remember what had happened.
I remember leaving Claire's to go check on Hobbes. Someone must have come up behind me, because there was a sharp pain, then I blacked out.
Hearing the bolt slide on the door, Darien stood up quickly. The bright light from the hallway blinded him, and he shaded his eyes as a figure came to stand in the door.
"Are you enjoying your accommodations?" He asked.
Darien recognized the voice instantly. "Grant Fraiser," he growled. "How did you find me?"
"Night vision goggles--a great invention."
"What about Hobbes?"
"Oh, I am sure he has quite a headache, but he's no worse for the wear."
Grant smirked and finally walked into the room. He pulled the string and illuminated the small area--causing Darien to squint.
"Why am I here?" Darien asked.
"What kind of leverage?"
"The kind to use against Claire," Grant looked amusedly at Darien.
"You bastard," Darien growled.
"Somehow I knew you would react like that, but it was the only way. Claire is just so damn obstinate that I had to resort to drastic measures. And, well, that just happened to be you."
"What makes you think that I hold any kind of leverage with her?"
Grant laughed. "Oh, I know you do. I've been watching you two the last week or so. It reminds me so much of my time with the lovely doctor. Tell me, have you fucked her yet?"
Darien lunged at him. "You son of a bitch!" But Grant was just out of his reach.
"Temper, temper, Darien," he shook his finger at him, then turned on his heel and left the room.
"Damn it!" Darien cursed, hitting the wall in frustration.
Well, I certainly got myself into a sticky situation, huh? I was a little surprised to see that Claire was right on this one, she must be getting into this guy's head after all. I'll have to remind her not to do it again.
So, the question remains how do I get out of this? I don't…well I do, just not by my own hands. See if I know Claire, she will do whatever she can to get me out of here. I just hope that she has a good plan, because I sure as hell don't.
Claire was dressed and ready to go but still hadn't heard any indication from Darien's room that he was awake. She hated to leave him without a ride to work, but she couldn't miss her meeting this morning.
Looking at her watch again, she thought about knocking on his door, but hesitated. Finally, she gave in and walked to her study, and tapped lightly on the door.
"Darien?" She called, when no one answered.
Opening the door slowly, Claire was surprised to find an empty room. The bed looked like it hadn't been slept in at all, and she was positive that she hadn't heard him leave during the night.
She walked into her bedroom to call Hobbes; maybe he took Darien out to breakfast. As she was reaching for the phone it rang--startling her.
"Hello?" She answered, after taking a deep breath to calm herself.
"Darien," she sighed. "Where have you been? I've been worried sick. I was just getting ready to call Hobbes."
"Well, you still might want to."
"What are you talking about?" She asked, sitting on her bed. "Darien?"
"Hello, darling," Grant's smooth voice came over the receiver.
"Grant," she spat him name.
"You don't sound happy to hear my voice. Maybe I should put your lover back on? Would that make you happy?"
"Leave him out of this."
"I can't. You didn't leave me any other choice in the matter. I told you that you should have given me the information then none of this would have had to happen."
"Don't play these games with me, Claire. I have something you want, remember? And I assure you, I would have no trouble cutting him open to get my information."
"If you try to remove the gland it will kill him."
"The price you pay for science, Claire. You know that. Now, do we have a deal?"
She hesitated for a moment. She knew they had the information to make another gland, and would see this one as expendable. But Darien wasn't expendable…at least for her.
"Yes, you have a deal."
She could feel Grant smiling through the phone. "Good girl. I knew you would give me what I wanted."
"Just promise that you won't hurt Darien."
"Now, I can't promise that."
"If you hurt him, then the deal is off," she told him.
"Fine, I'll meet you at the old coal plant in one hour."
She hung up the phone and sighed. One hour.
"I hope that is enough time to make this work," she ran out of her house to the lab.
Grant hung up the phone and laughed. "Claire never fails to disappoint me. She is doing exactly what I had planned her to."
Darien sat on the cot and quirked an eyebrow at him. He knew Claire better than Grant did, and he knew that she wouldn't accept the offer unless she had something planned. Now all he had to do was sit back and wait to see what it was.
"I can't believe the Official agreed to this," Hobbes muttered.
He was watching Claire as she finished up. "I can't believe that Darien would so stupid as to get caught. I thought he knew better."
"And what about yourself?" she asked, looking at him pointedly as he rubbed the bump on the back of his head.
"Grant caught me off guard," he mumbled.
"I am sure that it was just an accident," she was watching Hobbes with an amused expression on her face.
He huffed in embarrassment, then glanced at his watch. "Come on, we better get moving if we want to be there in time."
Grabbing her jacket and the disc, she followed Hobbes out the door.
Hobbes and Claire sat in the van just outside the coal plant. "Now, remember the plan…"
"Yes," Claire sighed. "I get Darien over to you, unharmed, and then give Grant the encoded disc."
"Right, and make sure that you can give at least one of the snipers a clear shot."
"I really don't think that they are really necessary."
"Hey, it wasn't my idea. The Big Guy wanted them, remember. With something this valuable, can you really blame him?"
"No, but it just seems a bit extreme."
"Deal with it. Now, let's get moving."
Claire got out of the van, and slipped into her leather jacket, depositing the disk in her pocket. She watched as Hobbes ran to his hiding spot, and once he was secure she walked into the plant.
It was an open area, surrounded by tall stacks and silos for coal storage. She walked through the main gate and instantly saw Darien and Grant standing next to a table with a laptop on it. Taking a deep breath, she walked towards them.
Darien saw her the instant she walked through the main gates. She was dressed to the nines in a dark pants suit, and leather pumps. She met his gaze and held it as she slowly made her way across the space. Darien saw how cool her exterior was, but her eyes revealed something entirely different. He saw fear, and … anger? But what could she be angry about?
When Claire stopped in front of the men, Grant shoved his gun into Darien's side.
"Hey, take it easy, man," Darien griped as he pulled away to avoid the pain.
"Shut up," Grant grabbed his collar and jerked him closer.
"That's enough, Grant. I have the disc." She reached into her pocket and pulled it out.
"Bring up the information on the computer," he motioned with his head to the laptop.
"First, let Darien go."
"I won't show you anything until I know that he is safe."
Grant grunted and then shoved him roughly towards Claire. She smiled as he came towards her.
"Hobbes is behind the silos on the right," she whispered in his ear, as she gave him a hug. "Go over and wait with him."
Darien walked towards the gate, but once outside he turned invisible and walked back to join Hobbes.
"So, you're her backup, huh?" Darien asked. "Should have known."
"Me, and three snipers," Hobbes replied turning to look at the scene.
"Snipers? Let me guess, the Official's idea?"
"Great, just great. Watch them shoot Claire as they are taking out Grant," Darien mumbled.
"They're snipers. They won't miss their target."
"I've heard that before."
Claire watched Darien walk out of the gate, and then turned back to Grant.
"Now, if you will," he motioned with his gun to the computer.
"There really is no need for the gun, Grant." Claire slipped the CD into the laptop and brought up the fake program.
"Yes, there is." He watched her closely.
"What are you going to do with the information?"
"Why, sell it of course. The Chinese would pay a pretty penny for a working gland. And then of course there's your job," he smiled evilly at her.
"Well, now that I have the information on the gland, there is really no reason for you to be the Keeper. I can easily take the job that was originally intended to be mine."
"And they won't have to worry about me getting emotionally involved with the test subject." He looked at her in disgust. "You know Claire, I thought better of you. Sleeping with him…doesn't that compromise your ability to make decisions?"
Claire took a deep breath to calm herself. She could tell that he was becoming extremely agitated the longer he continued to talk and her getting angry at him would do nothing but complicate the matter even more.
"No, it doesn't because we aren't sleeping together. In fact, his friendship is helping me to make better decisions."
"Well, well, aren't we full of moral integrity?"
She quirked an eyebrow at him.
"It makes me sick! But luckily I won't have to put up with it for much longer."
"What are you talking about?" Claire asked, confused by his constant change of thoughts.
"You think I'm heartless? Well, at least I let you say good-bye to your 'friend'," he pointed the gun at her.
"No, Grant," she held up her hands, and backed away from him.
"What's he doing?" Darien asked, walking out from behind the silos.
"Does anyone have a shot?" Hobbes radioed the snipers. "If anyone has a clear shot take it now!"
"No!" Darien shouted as Grant's gun went off and Claire fell to the ground. A moment later three shots rung out as Grant fell to the ground in a bloody pool.
"Claire!" Darien ran over to her, and fell to his knees. He gently turned her head and brushed her hair back from her face so he could get a good look at her.
"Claire, can you hear me?"
"Try not to move her too much," Hobbes said, coming over to them.
"Will you shut up, I know what I am doing," he snapped.
"There's no need to get snappy, I was just trying to give you some advice."
"I don't need your advice, okay."
Claire groaned, and grimaced. "Do you two ever stop bickering? Do I have to die for real to have a break from it?"
Hobbes laughed at the comment; relieved to see that she was okay.
"How are you feeling?" Darien asked.
"Like I've been shot." She attempted to sit up.
"No," he held her down. "Don't move too much, the ambulance should be here soon."
"I don't need an ambulance. I'm fine." Claire unzipped her leather jacket, and showed him there was no blood.
"Wait a minute…what's going on? You were shot."
"I was, but I had my jacket sewn up with a Kevlar four lining before I came. Now, will you please let me up, I want to see Grant."
"I don't think that would be such a good idea," Hobbes said.
Darien helped her sit up, but blocked her view of Grant's body. "He's dead, Claire."
Her face fell, as her eyes became watery. "What?"
"The snipers took him out after he shot you…I'm sorry," he ran his hand along her face.
She wiped the tears from her eyes. "I'll be fine."
"You always are," Darien gave her a small smile.
Claire was sitting on her front porch with Sammie on her lap, watching the sunset. She smiled when she saw the rusty old van pull into her driveway and Darien hop out.
"Hey," he greeted walking up to her.
"Would you like some company?"
"Always," she motioned to the empty wicker chair next to hers.
"So, how are you feeling?"
"Does that mean you'll be coming back to work soon?" He asked hopefully as he eased himself into the chair.
"Why? Don't you like Eugene?"
Darien laughed. "Not really. I walked into the lab today expecting you there, and I see this big, bald guy. And not only doesn't he appreciate my sense of humor, he has terrible chair side manner, and doesn't nearly look as good as you in a lab coat."
"After I go through all that, the Official finally tells me that you've taken a 'few days' off. Which translates that he won't tell me when you are coming back."
"And you've come to find out how long you have to put up with Eugene?"
"Yeah, but mostly I wanted to see how you are doing. You took Grant's death pretty hard."
"I suppose I did," she looked down at her lap.
"Did you love him?"
"At one time I did. But I realized that this Grant was nothing like what I remembered him to be."
Darien released the breath that he had been holding. For some reason he needed to know what her feelings for Grant were, but unconsciously he didn't want to hear them.
"Would you really have given up the Quicksilver files for me?" He asked a few minutes later.
Claire smiled. "The files that I gave Grant were encoded, he would have never been able to crack them."
"What about the files you showed him?"
"Dummy files that I made up before I left."
"Very clever," he smiled.
"But that doesn't answer my question."
"Yes, I would have given him the files for you," Claire sighed. She turned to look at him to see how he took the answer.
Darien reached over and entwined his fingers with hers. "Thank you."
Claire smiled and gave his hand a squeeze.
Henrik Ibsen once said that, "A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed." In my case, that one deed was the fact that Claire was willing to give Grant the info on the Quicksilver gland to get me back. In that one moment I realized that I had found a true friend in her, one that I thought I would never find with this gland in my head.
If you are wondering what happened to Claire and me. Well…that's for your imagination.
Or a sequel.