Title: Drowning Sorrow

Author: A. X. Zanier

Fandom: Invisible Man

Pairing: None

Rating: PG

Summary: Booze, a bar and a serious discussion.

Spoilers: None

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or basic story ideas to The Invisible Man. Any additional characters or story ideas are mine.

Notes: Well, Suz, begged, which made the muses wake up and glare, so here's sequel #1 to Eavesdropping.

Drowning Sorrow

Darien strolled lazily past Herb's Bar and Grille as he headed towards the deli half a block down. Herb's did an awesome burger, but today he was craving a hoagie of monstrous proportions made from the delectable kosher meats only Schmaltzy's could provide. He glanced in the window of Herb's and froze.

It couldn't be. Not this time of day. Yet, the body shape and the decidedly shiny pate, which picked up the minimal light and reflected it back, could only belong to one person.

Hobbes.

Backtracking to the door, Darien stepped into the darkened interior, took a moment to let his eyes adjust, and then made a beeline for the bar. It was Hobbesy, all right, and it was looking like he was working on a classic three martini lunch. Okay, so it was really whiskey with a beer chaser, but Hobbes had already made short work of shot number three, and was currently sipping the pint that went with it.

Darien couldn't help but notice his partner was all but folded in upon himself, plainly drowning his sorrows - whatever they might be - with alcohol. He hadn't seen Hobbes this down in the dumps since the wedding announcement of his ex-wife ran in the paper. That had been one drunken weekend Darien never wanted to see repeated.

Darien signaled the bartender for a coke and slid into the seat next to Hobbes.

Without even glancing to the side Hobbes growled, "Go 'way."

"What? I'm not allowed to sit and have a drink in a moodily lit bar?" Darien questioned, then nodded his thanks, as the well-iced soda was set before him.

"No," Hobbes stated. "Now go 'way."

"Sorry, partner, not gonna happen. Since when are you big on the businessman's lunch? 'Specially at," Darien paused to check his watch, "eleven am?"

"I'm not, Fawkes. Now will you just buzz off?" Hobbes hadn't done more than continue to twirl his mug o'beer in the ring of condensation that had developed on the bar beneath it.

"Won't talk, huh? Then I'll just have to guess," Darien informed his friend, before lifting his drink for a cool swallow. "Lessee, not too many things'll get you this depressed so quick." He mulled the few options that ran through his head, but ultimately they fell within two categories. "Hmmm, doubt it was work-related, as any mission gone so fubar to have you in your cups this early would have involved me, so..." The dramatic pause worked as planned as he watched Hobbes tense noticeably. "It must have something to do with a woman."

"Fawkes," Hobbes growled warningly, but Darien blithely ignored it since it was obvious he was on the right track.

Running through the female options that he knew about, Darien settled on the most obvious one to potentially cause distress to his partner. "You ran into Viv, didn't you?"

"No, damn it. Would you just leave me the hell alone?" Hobbes practically shouted this, earning black glares from the other patrons who were still trying to banish the hangover from the night before with today's alcoholic input.

Darien leaned closer to Hobbes, though he knew he risked physical damage, and whispered, "Would you leave me alone?"

That earned a muttered groan from the grouch in question. "Always picking the wrong time to learn a lesson, there, my friend."

Darien shrugged. "Least I learned it, right?"

Hobbes sighed. "Fawkes, you wouldn't be bailing on me, 'cause I'm tell... asking you to go. Capish?"

"Capish. But I still ain't moving 'til you spill," Darien stated emphatically. "This ain't like you, Bobby. Someone musta done a number on ya. Just tell me who, so I can dish out an extra large can of ass-whooping on 'em."

That got a chuckle, and Hobbes finally turned to look at Darien. "More likely to be ass-whooped, given your track record."

Darien grinned. "True 'nuff. Now, you gonna tell me what's going on, or do you want to have to explain to the Keep why I've had the crap beaten out of me?" At the mention of the Keeper, Bobby blushed a deep crimson, much to Darien's surprise. "Ah ha! I take it the female trouble involves Claire and not your ex?"

"Oh, god, Fawkes do I hafta do this?" Hobbes whimpered, then attempted to hide by downing half of the remaining beer.

"I'm thinkin' we better," Darien said, seriously curious now. "What? She catch you... uh, you know."

"No, Fawkes, I don't know. Why don't you explain it to me?" Hobbes deadpanned, though his eyes held more than a hint of threat in them.

"Jacking off, you twit." Darien lowered his voice somewhat, but they still got looks from those nearest to them.

"You little..." Hobbes glared, his fist clenching about the glass. "No. Though that might have been better than what did happen," he muttered. Without any prompting on Darien's part, Hobbes relayed what had occurred earlier that morning outside Monroe's office. By the end, Darien was roaring with laughter and Hobbes was wearing the most longsuffering expression ever seen. "You're a big help."

Darien reined in the chortles and managed to get back under some sort of control. "C'mon, man, if roles were reversed you'd be laughing your ass off too," he pointed out.

Hobbes sighed, finished off the beer and waved to the barkeep for another. "You got a point there, but... you ain't been... thinking 'bout Claire... that way. Have you?"

The last came out in a pitiful tone, and included a complete set of whipped puppy eyes aimed full power at Darien. Even knowing it would probably sting, if only for a moment, he went with the truth. "Yeah." He shrugged. "What can I say? I see her every day and it's not like getting laid is something I get to do regular-like lately."

Hobbes seemed to take that better than expected, but he refrained from commentary until after he drank the whiskey. "You in love with her?" he asked once the liquid courage had vanished.

Darien shook his head. "No. No more than I am with Alex... or you."

Hobbes shot Darien the strangest look he'd seen within recent memory. "You and... me?" Hobbes squeaked.

Darien tipped his head slightly to the side. "What can I say? You are one hot stud," he leered, but backpedaled quickly when it looked liked Hobbes was going to deck him. "Seriously, Bobby, considerin' some of my experiences in prison, having you appearing in a guest starring role in one'a my dreams is a relief. You are not my preferred choice when I'm awake," he assured his testosterone-laden partner as he reached for his moisture slick glass.

"Darn," Hobbes responded; shocking the hell out of Darien and nearly making him choke on the soda he'd just swallowed. The inscrutable look on Hobbes' face prevented Darien from figuring out if his friend was joking. "You know how I feel about Claire."

"Yeah, I know," Darien acknowledged. "Maybe it's time you tell her." He personally thought it was way past time, but didn't bother pointing it out as he was still trying to wrap his head around the whole 'darn' comment.

"After today? No freakin' way, Fawkes. No. Freakin'. Way."

"Does that mean, 'no freakin' way' by any chance?" Darien asked sarcastically. "Jeeze, Hobbes, and you say I need to get laid. When was the last time you got some?"

Hobbes suddenly found the beer in front of him far more interesting and mumbled, "Helene Loew."

"What?" Darien asked in disbelief. "Thought you said you didn't score with the she-spy?"

"Crap," Hobbes grumbled. "So I didn't score with her. But I could have if I wanted to," he protested.

"Of course," Darien agreed. "Question is... why didn't you?"

"Claire," Hobbes admitted after a couple minutes of strained silence. "Felt like I was betraying Claire."

"Bobby... You gotta talk to her," Darien insisted. "If only to clear the air."

"Fawkes, I can't..."

"She's gonna want an explanation about this morning, dontcha think?" Darien pointed out, hoping to convince Bobby that it had obviously gotten to the point where something had to be said, and to the woman who was the object of the obsession.

"You think?"

"I know. And let me tell you she'll get it outta ya one way or another. Remember, all those surgical instruments she keeps in the lab can double as torture devices," Darien told Hobbes, who grimaced.

"I don't know about this, Fawkes. What if... What if..." Hobbes trailed off as if unable to complete the thought, never mind the sentence.

"That's the point, Hobbes. Until you talk to her it's gonna stay a 'what if'." Those words seemed to do what nothing else had been able to do ever since it became apparent that Hobbes was hot for Keeper.

Bobby nodded slowly and signaled for another round. "Drowning my sorrows was easier."

"Maybe, but the only thing you get out of it is a hangover. "