A/N: My apologies for the oddball periods thrown in. FF.net keeps stripping my special characters and extra returns for some reason.
Title: Forever Fallen
Author: A. X. Zanier
Fandom: Invisible Man
Pairing: Darien Fawkes/OFC (Alyx Silver)
Rating: PG-13 (Language)
Summary: Is Darien willing to let go of the past and take a chance for the future?
Spoilers: Probably. Does it really matter after two years?
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or basic story ideas to The Invisible Man. Any additional characters or story ideas are mine.
Notes: I foolishly reread Perchance to Dream, whereupon a bunny sat up and viciously did the trembly lip at me and proceeded to birth a blinkin' sequel.
A huge thanks to my brave beta, Krys.
"Awake, arise, or be forever fall'n."
John Milton (1608 - 1674), Paradise Lost
She had a seizure.
It was a new development, and they'd hustled him out of the room before huddling about her to do... whatever it was they planned to do in order to get the situation back under control. He'd left with a great amount of reluctance, but a minimum of fuss. It wasn't as if there was anything he could do besides being an obstacle they'd need to work around.
He ducked down the hall to where he knew coffee was, which he guessed had originally been brewed in 1950 based on the ancient-looking urn it lived in, and poured some into the mug that had gradually become his over time. He ran a hand across his face, noting there was several days worth of stubble on his cheeks and chin and tried to remember the last time he'd shaved... hell, the last time he'd been home for more than the time it took to shower and change.
In truth, he wasn't even sure why he was here at all. After the first 24 hours had passed, making everyone else breathe an uncertain sigh of relief, Mike had come into the room to check her over and then reveal all the gruesome details of the injuries adorning the woman who lay so still and silent on the sole bed in the room. He'd had the good sense to keep it simple, but also pulled no punches. The bullet, fired from three stories over its intended target, had entered just above the hairline over her right eye and, by some miracle, sliding at an angle between bone and brain to lodge over her right ear. They had successfully removed the slug, but damage had been done to her prefrontal lobe and temporal lobe, though exactly how much was anyone's guess. It could be anything from some simple and expected memory loss, to the far more severe: loss of spatial function in the visual and auditory range, inability to concentrate, inattentiveness, difficulty learning new information and even possible loss of motor function.
It was obvious that she had some awareness, some control, based on the fact that she'd attempted to shut down the machines keeping her alive several times before they had been able to produce enough inhibitor to reduce her abilities to a minimally functional level. This also implied that she understood what had happened to her and that, perhaps, she believed the damage was worse that it appeared on the CT scans and X-rays that had been taken. The fact that she had chosen to be hit by the bullet instead of deflecting it in some other manner seemed to suggest that being hit was intentional on her part.
He found that very hard to believe.
He carried the cup back to the observation room and flipped the magic switch that turned the glass from opaque to clear. The docs and nurses were still buzzing about her, but without the urgency of a hive under siege. He glanced over at the monitors on the table behind him, noting that the numbers, with the exception of the EEG, were all back to what they had been before her brain had decided to misfire. Whether the seizures were a good sign or not, he had no way of knowing and was reluctant to ask for fear of the answer. Shit, he wasn't even sure if his presence at her bedside was helping or hurting matters.
With a heavy sigh, he sipped at the bitter coffee, wishing, once again, things had gone differently over the last half decade.
"Fawkes, are you still here?"
Darien did little more than raise the swiftly cooling coffee to his lips and drank as he continued to watch the events unfolding in the next room.
The sound of footsteps coming closer meant that Hobbes had entered the room instead of passing by as many others had in the last... however long it had been. "Well, the clothes look clean, so I'll take that as a good sign."
Darien snorted and turned to meet the eyes of his friend. "She's having seizures."
"So I've heard," Bobby commented, one hand coming up to rub the top of his pate, which held far, far, less hair that it had when Darien had been his partner. "Don't explain why you're still here, though."
Darien turned back to gaze through the glass. "How can I leave? Everyone seems to think I'm the reason she didn't shut off the breathing machine and fry all the other electronics," he said quietly, as if afraid to say the words aloud. "I sit in there, holding her hand, not able to say a damn thing to her and terrified that if I leave for more than a minute or two she'll change her mind and sparks'll fly anyway."
Hobbes grunted something unintelligible. "You still care about her?"
Darien managed a heartbreakingly sad smile. "I never stopped caring, Bobby, but she wouldn't talk to me, and you wouldn't say more than she was fine... What was I s'posed to do?" He drank the rest of the coffee down, almost defiantly, and slammed the mug on the nearest table. "Did she ever even bother to ask about me?"
Hobbes frowned and said, "C'mon, I got something to show you."
"Hobbes, I can't..."
"Yes, you can. They're gonna be with her awhile yet, I'm betting, and if she's decided to stick around this long, I imagine she'll wait a few more to see if you come back," Hobbes stated as he grasped Darien's forearm and maneuvered him from the room.
"Bobby..." Darien allowed himself to be pulled along, but dragged his feet to show his reluctance.
"We ain't going far, my friend, just up a few stories," Bobby revealed, which ended the majority of the resistance. "When was the last time you slept?" Hobbes asked as he pushed the call button for the elevator.
"Last night... or whenever it was. Don't see too much sun down here. The monitor alarms woke me up," Darien told him as the arrival of the car was announced with a musical chime.
Hobbes pressed the seven, which lit up with a golden light; the floor Darien knew was reserved exclusively for Agency personnel. Many of the others were shared between the Agency and their sponsor du jour - the ATF - including the research level where she was currently residing. They didn't speak much during the ride and walk down the long hallways. Darien was thankful he'd been able to delegate most of the work amongst his employees and deal with the rest by phone. He'd actually forgotten he was an upstanding citizen and had a business to run, until Mitchell had called, sounding worried as all get out that he'd gone MIA on a scheduled installation.
Bobby unlocked a door marked Private, and waved for Darien to enter. "What is this place?" he asked, in awe of the view of the Pacific outside the huge widow.
"An office, you mook," Hobbes chuckled, as he headed for the desk and switched on the computer sitting atop it. He then headed to a file cabinet and began to rifle through it, looking for something.
Darien strode over to the tinted glass and leaned his forehead against it; with mild surprise, he realized that he could just make out the residential neighborhood where his current home was located. A tree blocked the view, but he knew the red tiled roof lay behind it, as the flora in question was the monster bay laurel that was in the park just two lots over from his place. It was the tallest tree on the entire block and very distinctive. "Not yours, that's for sure," he chided.
"A'course not. Mine... well me and Dani's, is down the hall. We got a window, too, just not as nice a view." Hobbes found what he was looking for on some built-in shelves and carried an armful of leather bound books over to the desk and set them down. "This one's the kid's."
"Oh," Darien muttered. He should have figured out that one for himself. He rotated about and looked over the room, seeing all the little touches that just screamed who the resident of this little corner of high rise splendor was. "Why are we here?"
"So you can see these," Bobby stated, and gestured for Darien to park his carcass behind the marble and chrome desk.
Darien froze halfway to sitting in the chair as the picture on the computer screen made him momentarily forget what he was doing. It was a collage of... himself. Dozens of pictures layered atop one another and all of which were of him after he had left the Agency. He reached out and traced one in particular, his breath catching in his throat. "I was in Athens. The Parthenon," he murmured, and his legs, tired of his indecision, chose to not hold him up any longer, thus forcing his ass to experience the feel of expensive cushioned leather.
"Yeah, you were." Hobbes opened one of the books he'd gathered and set it before Darien. "Read," he was ordered.
Darien did so, and discovered that she not only still cared, but also cared enough to stay away when he had seemingly found some happiness in his life without her. But she'd been unable to keep herself from watching over him, protecting him in some cases, as it actually took over a year to convince many of those with an interest in the Quicksilver gland that he was no longer the possessor of one. Once that threat was past, and later the danger of Changeling using him against her, she had continued her lonely vigil, watching his back, if only from afar. Satisfying her need to be close to him with clandestinely snapped photographs and notes written to him in a dozen journals that she never expected him to see.
"Crap," he mumbled, wondering if there was any way to make up for all the lost time.
"Fawkes?" Bobby had waited patiently, seated in another opulent chair nearby, reading a battered copy of Paradise Lost that surely belonged to the room's usual occupant and not him.
"I... I wish I'd known," he said in frustration. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
Hobbes shut the book and set it down. "Fawkes, after Claire's wedding you never asked about the kid much." He shrugged. "I figured, you didn't want to know."
Darien rubbed the back of his neck and grumbled, "So did I."
"You love her?"
Darien sucked in a breath, suddenly terrified. If he said yes, he knew he risked losing her, but... but did the words really matter if that's how he felt? Was it actually necessary for him to say the words for the entire universe to know what was in his heart? 'All the women in my life have left me,' he thought, and not for the first time. 'Except her. No, her, I walked away from.'
"What the hell am I supposed to do now?" he questioned of the very air about him.
"Okay, forget love," Hobbes interrupted. "Do you care enough to stick by her through this? If she wakes up and can't string two words together for the rest of her life, will you still want to be with her?" He got to his feet and strode across the room to lean on the desk and hit Darien with a steely-eyed gaze. "If they take off those bandages and the face beneath isn't the one you remember, will you stand beside her?"
"Her hair'll grow back, Hobbes," Darien sniped, trying to deflect the true meaning of Hobbes' string of challenges.
Hobbes huffed and shook his head. "High speed sniper bullet does a ton a damage no matter how sweetly it slides in. Punches a mighty nice hole in the skull, shatters the bone about it, can leave things lookin' very different after; even with all the modern reconstructive techniques these days."
"Bobby, don't do this," Darien hissed, suddenly angry.
"Gotta, Fawkes. I gotta know if you're gonna stick around or bail this time. This," Hobbes slammed a fist into the desktop, "is your out."
"You think I didn't want to see her? Two months I tried to contact her. Two frickin' months. And not you... not anyone would tell me why she wouldn't see me. You think she didn't haunt me every night since I left?" Darien got to his feet, practically shouting in indignation. "I only wanted the gland gone, not her. Not any of you. God damn it, you're my best friend in the world and we ain't seen each other more than twice in the last year. I didn't want to walk out of your lives, but you sure as hell slammed the door behind my ass as soon as I was through it."
"Had to, Fawkes. You were - are - a civilian. My job is to protect you, not console you," Hobbes stated coolly.
"You could've warned me. Told me it meant the end of us if I went through with it," he snapped.
"Maybe we thought you were a big enough boy to figure it out on your own." Hobbes stood up straight, arms folded across his chest. "Maybe if you'd been thinking something beyond 'I'm getting the hell out of this chicken-shit outfit' you would have realized there was gonna be some consequences to the decision."
"I never wanted to be in this chicken-shit outfit. I got suckered into it," Darien shouted, beyond angry at Hobbes accusations. "Playing receptacle to the gland was not what I had planned for my life."
"No, you had plans to retire at 30 after making the 'big score.' How'd that work out for you anyway... oh, wait, that's right, you ended up being a lifer. One more social misfit spending his days living off the bounty of the California taxpayers," Hobbes snarked, the reminder stinging more than Darien thought possible.
"Not fair, Hobbes. You damn well know I didn't touch that old man," Darien snarled, grinding his teeth and chafing that he was being forced to relive a past he'd tried his best to forget. "Do you know how many times I wished I'd told Kevin 'no'?"
Hobbes shrugged. "But then you never woulda met me or Claire... or the kid."
Darien slumped, the anger dissipating with Bobby's words. "Shit."
"Fawkes, you may have thought we turned our backs on you, but as you can see," he waved at the computer and journals on the desk, "we didn't. We might not have been right there in your face every day, but we was there as much as we could be."
"I... I get that, now," Darien agreed, feeling battered and abused at the moment.
"We, on the other hand, watched you walk away with a smile on your face and a bounce in your step," Hobbes stated, sounding far more like her than he had any right to.
Darien flinched, since the words were true enough even though that hadn't been his intent. "But that wasn't..."
"Maybe not, but that's how it looked and... how it felt. You just assumed everything outside of the Agency would be the same. Bowling night every Thursday, lunch two days a week, maybe a movie now and then," Hobbes said as he paced over to the window. "Sleeping with the kid whenever her schedule permitted."
"Have my cake and eat it too," Darien whispered hoarsely, knowing that's exactly what he had planned once the gland was out and he was free.
"And now? If you had to make the same choice now, what would you do?" Hobbes questioned; his tone intense.
"I don't know," Darien responded. "I'd have to think about it, I guess." He moved to stand behind Bobby, looking out the window and at city bathed in the late afternoon light. "How do I fix this?"
"You're doing that, Fawkes. Right here, right now. It might be too late for..."
Darien interrupted with a raw, "No. Damn it, no. I won't lose her again."
Hobbes turned; a look of satisfaction on his face. "Maybe you should be telling her that, y'think?"
She was breathing on her own.
He stood there, once again in the observation room, with Hobbes' words still burning his ears, feeling such joy just because she was breathing on her own. The machine was off in the corner, its continued presence a warning that its services might very well be needed again, but still... There also seemed to be fewer beeping, blinking boxes about the bed now. It looked like there was just the heart monitor and the EEG machine, some of the wires poking out from under the new bandages swathing her head. He could see her eyes now, closed though they still were. They'd been covered as a precaution; studies done on premature babies showed that covering their eyes helped reduce the incidents of blindness and since she already had a tendency towards photosensitivity, they felt caution was in order. Her complexion was tingeing towards pink instead of the pallor that had been there, though that color could be no more than wishful thinking on his part.
A nurse was adjusting the drip of the IV bag that hung from the pole near the head of the bed and Dr. Dennison was talking to Mike, who was looking exhausted. Justifiably. He'd pretty much walked out on his job at the CIA in order to be here for his sister. He nodded at whatever was being said, and then ran a hand through his hair as the doc left the room. As if knowing someone was standing on the far side of the glass, Mike turned and stared right at him.
All of this was noted peripherally, as his eyes never left her.
He'd made his decision; it was only a matter of getting the chance to act upon it.
"Darien, she's stable. You can... leave if you want to," Mike said as he entered the room.
"So that's it? You bring me in to convince her to live and then push me away again?" Darien questioned bitterly, not really all that surprised.
Mike grunted, as if kicked in the stomach. "No, but you have a life outside, a job, friends, hell, a wife to go back to for all I know. Yes, I wanted your help, but not at the expense of... of everything else."
Darien chuckled softly, turning about to watch Mike. "A wife? Hobbes didn't tell you much about my life, did he?"
"Only that if anyone could get through to her it was you. That's all I needed to know." Mike found the only chair and collapsed onto it. "She never regretted helping with the gland removal. Never. She'd want you to know that."
Darien nodded and spoke softly, "She once told me that she'd get me out if she could... and that she'd be staying. Guess maybe I shoulda listened to her." He leaned back against the glass and swallowed hard. "I'm here 'til she tells me to leave."
Mike only nodded, and then seemed to realize that Darien might want the details of what had happened. "She's improving, finally."
"Why'd she go into seizures?" Darien asked, stuffing his hands into his pockets.
"I wish I knew," Mike muttered. "Best guess is it's her way of repairing what damage she can."
"Huh? I thought brain cells couldn't regenerate." Darien may not have made it through college, but he'd picked up plenty over the years thanks to cable television.
"They can't, but... Her ability to adapt is extraordinary. Her brain is far more like a child's than an adult's," Mike responded. "This simply means that she can, in theory, route around the damage, relearn everything that's lost. She might, and I stress might, be perfectly fine when all is said and done." He sighed, a hand rising so he could knuckle one eye. "Only time will tell."
Darien felt hope for the first time since he'd seen her lying there. "That's good, right?"
"Very good. She may continue to have seizures for a while, but she's responding. That's what's important," Mike said through a yawn. "Are you going to sit with her?"
"I'd like to," Darien answered, if shyly.
"If you talk to her, use Michele. She's been giving a very negative response to Alyx," Mike told Darien, who looked dumbfounded.
"Oh, no. The response is all on a subconscious level. But it's more than we've had so far, so we're being careful to not chase her away," Mike explained, though it didn't make a whole lot of sense to Darien. "She's aware, just not conscious. However, she only seems to recognize people she knew prior to the Agency. Me, the kids, but no one else... except you, for some reason."
Darien shivered, feeling cold all of a sudden. "How can I help?"
"Read any good books lately?"
Her eyes were still silver.
Not that he'd forgotten their color, as he spent many a night chasing them during his sleeping hours, but he'd never thought he'd get the chance to gaze into them again.
It had been three days since he'd sat down on the edge of the bed; the fingers of one hand curled about hers, and began reading from Paradise Lost. Three days of seizures and silence and worry. His voice going hoarse, and forcing him to stop time and again to recover. He'd slept in his own bed twice, appeared at a meeting with a client that he dared not miss, and hated every second away from her.
And now, just moments before as he read a passage of Book IV that had been highlighted at some point in time, her hand had moved about his. He had paused mid-word, staring at the fingers that gripped his, squeezing and releasing, followed the arm, blue veins standing out clearly in the tissue thin skin, and up to the face that had turned to look at him. Her eyes open and aware, with tears slipping from them.
He dropped the book, forgotten before it hit the floor with a soft thud, and said, "Easy, baby, it's okay. There's nothing to be afraid of." The fear coming off of her was a palpable thing.
She opened her mouth to speak, struggling to find words that she might very well have forgotten, and he shook his head, using his free hand to cup her face. "It's all right. You're safe." He wasn't sure how much she was able to comprehend, so he asked. "Do you understand me?"
She swallowed hard, the fear easing back somewhat, and nodded slowly. Then there was a sudden wash of imagery through his mind, people, places, concerns that he didn't recognize, save for one. "Your kids are fine." Relief was the response to that. He didn't have the heart to tell her that said children were far older than those she was remembering. "Do you know who I am?"
There was a long moment of confusion and her eyes showed no recognition of him whatsoever, yet the response, tentative as it was, was positive. A non-verbal 'I think so?' He leaned down and kissed her gently on the forehead.
"I need to let them know you're awake, 'kay?" The fear was back, fear of being left alone in this strange place with someone she knew and yet didn't, and he was quick to reassure her.
"I'm not leaving. Never again."
Som natural tears they drop'd, but wip'd them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through EDEN took thir solitarie way.
John Milton (1608 - 1674), Paradise Lost