Title: Items of Lesser Concern

Author: A. X. Zanier

Rating: R (Language, sexual situations, sexual discussions)

Fandom: The Invisible Man

Pairing: Bobby/Claire

Sequel: Three months post-Last Chances

Summary: Darien's friends are concerned about his well-being.

Spoilers: Probably, does it really matter after two years?

Disclaimer: The characters or basic story ideas of The Invisible Man are the property of others including, but not limited to Matt Greenberg, Studios USA, Stu Segall Productions and NBC Universal. Any additional characters or story ideas are mine. I make no money from this intellectual exercise.

Notes: Peja Archive Challenge. "I'd like to see a story with the words "sweet submission" somewhere in the body."

As always, thanks go to my Beta, Krys, for keeping my Ts dotted and my Is crossed.

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Items of Lesser Concern

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"In what concerns you much, do not think that you have companions: know that you are alone in the world." -- Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

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He was worrying again, she could feel it in the way his body lay not quite relaxed against her own, even after their exertions. His head lay between her shoulder blades, his breath warm upon the her cooling skin, the sweat not yet dry. Normally she'd suspect it had just simply been a bad day, that things had gone horribly wrong on the job, but, other than Darien complaining of nearly dying of boredom during their shift on stakeout duty, nothing untoward had occurred. Yet, Bobby was tense and unable to sleep.

Not that that was anything new at this point. They had been so very circumspect in their relationship that it was weeks before he'd felt secure enough to spend an entire night at her place, never mind her at his, even though that's where they had ended up the first time they'd slept together. Perhaps he was wanting to discontinue this portion of their relationship, perhaps the benefits didn't outweigh the risk, for she knew he often worried about what the Official might say or do were it to become publicly - if only as public as the Agency at large - that they were... lovers.

If so, if he wanted to end this... she wasn't entirely sure she could accommodate him. She'd found herself falling even more deeply in love with him than before.

"Keepy, you awake?"

"Yes, Bobby. Is there something bothering you?" she asked, figuring she might as well face the situation head on.

"I'm worried about Fawkes," he stated, the concern obvious and, of course, explaining his continued tension.

Claire let out a sigh of relief, as thankful it was about Darien as she was worried.

"Hey, what's with the sigh? What? You thinking all this was a goodbye fuck or something?" Bobby kissed the center of her back and wrapped his arm more firmly about her, his hand sneaking up to tweak her nipple and making her squirm.

"Bobby," she squealed, trying to slip away, but he had her firmly in his grip, thus making her struggles useless. He changed tactics from teasing to caressing, so she relaxed under him, allowing him to do as he would with her body.

"Fess up, Keep, you was thinking the worst, weren't ya?" He'd shifted just enough to bury his face into her hair, the words a whisper of breath against the nape of her neck.

Claire didn't want to speak, she simply wanted to enjoy the moment - a moment she hadn't expected considering how long the day had been and how early the one following would begin. Yet she was curious as to why he was worried about his partner, so she ignored the heat, the fingers trailing down her belly, the lips fluttering along her skin and answered, "Yes, I was. Foolishly, I admit. I'm afraid you're not yet that easy to read when it comes to... us. This new us, anyway."

Bobby snorted in obvious amusement. "Considerin' how close to the vest we've both been playin' it, I'm surprised we've gotten this far." He rubbed the side of his face, the bristles of his unshaven cheek scratchy, along her skin. "We'll get there, Keep, so long as you still want to, that is."

Damn it, now she had him upset. Yet... yet he wasn't tensing up the way she'd expect, and she caught on that the question was strictly rhetorical and designed to get a rise out of her. So, she went along with it. "Want to? Bobby, what I want is to lie here in this state of sweet submission for the rest of my life."

He went perfectly still, holding his breath from the feel of it, and she wondered if perhaps she had gone to far, by simply stating what she felt in her heart and soul. At his urging, she rolled over to meet his emotion-filled eyes.

"Submission? I don't... that's not what..." She raised a hand to lie against his lips, cutting off the flow of broken sentences.

"Bobby, I simply meant that we... that I gave into what I was feeling, knowing it was right and that rules and regulations shouldn't get in the way," she explained, watching his eyes darken as her meaning sank in.

"We, Keep. We took that jump off the pier together." He leaned down and kissed her soundly on the lips, taking his time and seemingly attempting to memorize the very contours of her mouth with his own. When he stopped she groaned in dismay, but his mind, if not his body, were firmly entrenched in a particular rut, side trip notwithstanding. "Fawkes needs his own 'sweet submission'," he stated, confusing Claire for a moment and making her wonder if he was suggesting that she have sex with Darien.

"What do you mean?" she asked, not wanting to jump to conclusions.

"He's... he's lonely, Claire. Yeah, nothin' new, but it's worse since you and I hooked up," Bobby said, his look serious. "Ain't you noticed?"

Sheepishly she admitted, "Actually no, I hadn't. But now that you mention it... he has been a bit quieter than usual." She sighed softly, realizing that her relationship with Bobby was taking time out of their friendship as he spent more and more of his off-duty hours with her instead of Darien. "Bloody hell," she hissed. "He must hate me for chirping about how bloody happy I am while all this time he's finding himself even more alone than before."

"Now, now, Keep. I have it on good authority that he's thrilled and smug as all get out about getting the two a'us together," Bobby told her, a hint of a grin upon his face. "So don't go getting your knickers in a twist over it. Got me?"

Claire giggled at his turn of phrase. "Got you," she assured him. "But what can we do? I'm not cut out for playing Madame and arranging clandestine rendezvous for lonely men."

"I was thinking we might talk to Alex. See if she was willing to..."

"Have sex with Darien," Claire stated bluntly, which caused Bobby to blush slightly. "I don't think it'd work even if both were willing. Darien needs more than just sex and Alex... Alex has other commitments that preclude a long-term relationship," she finished, not about to reveal anything spoken to her in confidence. "I still haven't told her about us."

Bobby chuckled. "You don't need to, Keep, she knows. In fact, I think she was in on Fawkes' idea from the start."

"Oh god," Claire whimpered, blushing furiously. "Dare I ask what she said?"

Bobby smiled. "Her exact words were, 'About frickin' time.' And then she swore to keep it to herself." He shrugged, as if not convinced of Alex's honesty. "Would it hurt to talk to her about Fawkes? I mean, while they might not get horizontal, he still considers her a friend and they could... I don't know, hang out. Go to some parties or something. At least get him out of the house now and then."

Claire considered the idea and found it not that bad, overall. Alex had complained about attending various functions where she schmoozed and made contacts, alone, and, while perhaps not groomed towards the finer things in life, Darien would be a companion who could also watch her back should it become necessary. "Hmmm... I'll suggest it to her next time we have lunch. All right?"

"Better you than me, Keep. She'd probably wonder why I was trying to whore her out," he said with a snicker, and Claire elbowed him, gently, for it. "But what do we do about Fawkes?"

"I wish I knew," she muttered. "Sex is only part of the solution. If that were all he needed it wouldn't be too difficult to accommodate him. I can easily think of a half dozen women at the office who would be more than happy to spend some time with Darien off the clock."

"More like most a'em, Keep. There are quite a few deep sighs and fanning eyelashes when he goes wandering by, oblivious to every single one a'em." Bobby shook his head. "I swear, he's completely dense where women are concerned."

"Or perhaps he's just cautious. He's fully aware that anyone he becomes involved with is at risk. Moreso than you and I. Not only would she have to deal with just the general security issues, but all the extra ones that go along with the gland. Darien would be forced to lead a double life again and, based on our conversations, it's something he's very reluctant to do." She rolled, propping herself up on one elbow to gaze down at Bobby who lay atop her pillows with a look of quiet contemplation upon his face. "Did he ever talk to you about Casey O'Claire?"

"Yeah," Bobby answered. "And you're right. He might be pretty good at spinning a con for the job, but he ain't interested in doing it just to get a love life. Damn it all. For a thief he can be too honest for his own good."

"He wants... needs an equal. Someone who can challenge him intellectually. A piece of fluff would bore him within weeks and we'd be right back where we started," Claire said, thinking out loud.

"Claire, it's not like we can go online and just order him a date." He paused, plainly reconsidering that statement. "Okay, so maybe we could, but that doesn't solve the real problem."

"And that would be?" Claire took the bait, even though she knew it for what it was.

"The Official. There ain't no way he'd allow Fawkes to date a civilian," he stated, frowning.

"Oh, I don't know about that," Claire countered with a lilt in her voice.

"Do I hear a plan in that tone?"

"Perhaps," Claire said smugly. "Darien has leverage that he didn't before the cure."

"What? Threatening to leave? He'd just come back again." It was a statement, a rather emphatic statement if she were any judge.

"Would he? I mean, would he need to?" she asked, trying to get Bobby to think beyond today, beyond the Agency.

He shifted, sitting up, that tension back in every line of his body. "Who'd protect him, huh? That's part of why he came back, y'know. There's too many others wanting to keep up with the Joneses that'd love to get their hands on him. Here he's safe."

Claire huffed, "Feh. It's not like he'd be alone."

That plainly threw Bobby, and Claire was unable to hide a grin. "Huh? You saying you'd go with him or somethin'?"

"Not 'or something'." She crawled up his torso so that her face was directly in front of his. "I'm his doctor - and no Keeper remarks this time - so, of course I'd go with him," she told him, watching the confusion and disbelief chase their way across his features. "I'd need to get a job, but other than that I'd do my best to see to it that he's happy and healthy."

"Why?" was all Bobby could manage to ask.

"Because he's my friend and because I won't allow him to face what could be an uncertain future alone." A shudder ran through Bobby at her words, and she knew she had frightened him, but on this occasion, it was necessary.

"Uncertain? Keep, is something wrong with Fawkes?"

"Nothing a glandectomy, to borrow one of his more colorful phrases, wouldn't fix." She reached out and set a hand on Bobby's cheek. "Bobby, it's entirely possible that the gland cannot ever be removed. That it has become too entwined with his cerebral cortex. Or that his body has become dependant on the Quicksilver hormone, the same way it is on insulin or any other naturally occurring hormone. Removing the gland in that case could do far more harm than good."

"Shit," Hobbes swore. "He ain't had half a chance at a real life and now the frickin' gland is gonna kill 'im afore he ever gets to."

"Bobby, don't be such a Pollyanna. Darien might very well live to be 100 years old. We have no way of knowing. But I must ask, if he were to leave the Agency, would you as well?" Claire didn't want to talk him into anything, but if her idea were to work, then the three of them would need to present a united front when dealing with the Official. However, she knew that Bobby thought that the Agency was his last chance to do the only thing he felt he knew how to do - be a spy.

"I don't know, Keep. What would I do on the outside? This is the only thing I know," he said, echoing her own thoughts.

"What about that private eye, idea?" she suggested, knowing Darien had considered it for himself were he to ever leave the 'spook biz.'

"I thought you guys were just kidding." Claire shook her head. He rubbed his face with a hand while he took a couple of minutes to think about it. "It could work, I s'pose. Why all this talk of leaving, Claire? Is there something going on I should know about?" That good old Bobby Hobbes paranoia kicked in, making her smile.

"Yes, a bit of extortion. Darien hasn't really used the madness cure to his advantage. Other than sleeping in a mite and turning down assignments he considers 'stupid,' and I think it's high time he did so." Claire grinned evilly. "If the Official is cognizant of the fact that if Darien leaves we will all leave, I believe he will be more amenable to my suggestion."

"You're gonna try to blackmail the boss into letting Fawkes find a girl?" Claire nodded. "Keepy's being sneaky." He gave her a huge grin and tapped her on the nose. "But will it work?"

"If I make it clear that a Happy Darien is one that will continue to work for the Agency... I hope so." Claire didn't want to admit that she thought this only had a 50 percent chance of working, but at least it was a chance.

"All right, I'm in. Fawkes deserves some happiness in his life. Though convincing him it's okay might be trickier than blackmailing the chief," he pointed out, relaxing back down onto the mattress and dragging Claire along with him.

"I'm hoping, given the opportunity that nature will take its course," Claire summed up astutely. She trailed her fingers down the centerline of Bobby's chest, under the covers to where nature was most certainly behaving normally.

"Claire," Bobby squawked as she held him in a firm grip.

"Yes?" she questioned, her voice low and sultry. "Would you prefer I stop?"

"Crap, no. My turn for some a'that sweet submission, Keep."

Claire chuckled, her lips following the path her fingers had so recently left behind.

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Finis