Title: Corinthians Thirteen -- Chapter 1 -- Part 3 of the Connections trilogy

Author: BuffyAngel68

Rating : Mostly PG to PG-13, but Bobby and Darien will at last be consummating their marriage somewhere within this last set of chapters. (Yeah, yeah, amen, yippe-kai-yay and whoomp! there it is. Calm down, will you please? lol.) That will be NC-17 and you'll know well in advance when it's on the horizon.

Summary: Our intrepid little family has a few more obstacles to get past before they can be totally free and happy. Adventure and more than one jaw-dropping surprise coming your way, constant reader. Hang on to your hats and scarves and everything else....

Notes: The muse for this epic is finally out of his coma! Thanks for the encouragement while I sat by his bed and begged him to wake up and give me a hint as to what should happen next. BTW? I think I'm going to be as sorry as you guys when this is over and done, but life beyond the final chapter is not outside the realm of possibility. Any of you who feel the need to continue the story line may jump right in and do so with my blessing. Thanks again.... Now let's get moving shall we?

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"Don't give me that innocent little lamb look, Darien. I can tell."

"No you can't."

"Every time you think I'm not looking you start grinning like a lion who just stumbled on a herd of sedated zebra. What have you done?"

"Not what you're thinking. Bobby and me... took another big step."

"Big as in..."

"We... are you actually gonna make me say it?"

All he got in response was a stern expression and raised eyebrows. "Holy... Okay, okay. He was half asleep an' he... touched me. I was about to give him a humungous hell yeah when he woke up all the way and freaked out. Once he calmed down, we talked an' it turned out we were both ready to... move on, but neither one of us had said anything. I got him to lay back down in bed, we got rid of our boxers an' we.... took the next step."

"Masturbation only or was there oral contact?"

"Claire! For God's sake..." Darien exclaimed, staring around him to be sure they really were still alone.

"I'm your doctor, Darien. I need to know these things. I'm only asking from a medical standpoint..."

"Yeah, well could you lower the volume of your standpoint a little, huh? And don't be so casual about it. Every new level we step up to means the damn world to me an' Bobby."

"I know it does, sweetheart. I'm sorry. Now, I don't have to say it do I?"

"We're not stupid, Claire. When it comes that time we'll be... safe, I promise."

"I trust you will, but I still need the reassurance of test results."

"You check me every other week. You know more about my body than my mom did."

"It's not you I'm concerned about."

Darien glared at the beautiful blond and pushed away the stethoscope she was pressing against his chest.

"Don't go there. Don't you dare go there. I trust Bobby."

"Full denial. I was afraid of this. Trust isn't the issue at all. Bobby had several very short-term relationships between his divorce and your ceremony, Darien. There could be something going on that even he doesn't know about yet..."

"No! No way!"

"Damn it, will you please just listen..."

"Forget it!"

A moment later, Bobby stalked into the Keep and into the middle of the argument.

"Check-up's gonna have to wait, partner. We got a problem."

"What?"

"It's Danny. Newbies... we gotta clear his thinkin' before he gets himself in any more trouble than he already is. A couple good slaps upside the head, maybe..."

"What'd he do, for God's sake. There's steam comin' out your nose... Oh damn. He wasn't stupid enough... He wouldn't do that. Not after you told him flat out what the score was."

"He could, would an' did. You comin? Obviously I didn't get through to him on my own."

"Yeah. We'll finish this later, Claire."

"Yes we will."

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"No. I don't wanna hear any more excuses or reasons or anything else. You're gonna sit there, you're gonna keep your lip buttoned and you're gonna pay attention, got it, Masters?"

Neither of his occasional partners had addressed him by his last name in two months. That wasn't his only clue that Bobby was truly furious with him, just the latest. The yelling, accusations and recriminations had come first, most of it not long after Hobbes had caught Danny at Alex's window and dragged him back upstairs.

"You're both too close to the situation. You can't see it or her from an objective viewpoint..."

Darien approached now, looking much less incensed than his husband, and much more worried for Danny's safety.

"I'll admit maybe that's true, but I don't have the luxury of gettin' perspective on Alex. She tried to kill my child and her Godmother and came about five minutes from succeeding. There is no way for me to back off and look at that objectively."

"She was frightened and grieving. You can't hate her for an act she wasn't mentally responsible for. If she'd gone to court she'd have been sent to counseling, not summarily locked up..."

"I don't hate her, not anymore. I'm sorry for what she went through, and I know she's still in pain, but having compassion doesn't make me stupid. I don't want her back out on the street where she can try an' destroy my life again. She's dangerous, Danny."

"I'm trying to tell you, she isn't. When we talk... I just can't find any trace of the woman you describe..."

"She's not that hard to find, Masters. Try lookin' at the TV." Bobby gritted out as he started the security tape from the Keep the day of the abduction. As Danny watched Alex shoot Claire and threaten Bobbi with the same gun, his face grew pale, but his reaction at the end of the tape was not what either of the other two wanted or expected.

"God... poor Alex..."

"Poor Alex?! What tape were you watchin'..."

Danny stood and briefly confronted Bobby face to face before storming out.

" I was watching a grieving mother temporarily losing her mind. If Roberta Claire had been kept away from you for years, genetically altered and then shot to death, would you have sat back and calmly accepted it or lashed out at the people you felt were responsible? I may not know you as well as everyone else in this place, Agent Hobbes, but I just don't believe you could learn what Alex learned then drop on the couch to catch the last quarter of the football game!"

Unfortunately, the phone interrupted the younger man's dramatic exit. Despite his anger and disappointment, he paused just outside the office door and waited to see what the call was about. If the Official wanted to see them, he knew he'd have to temper his roiling emotions quickly in order to maintain his personal standard of professionalism in front of superiors. If not, he planned on jumping into his classic Mustang convertible, taking a drive down the Coast Highway and doing a bit of primal scream therapy.

"Yeah. Okay. Be right there, sir. I understand. Okay. Okay. Five minutes, sir. I know, that means five, not twenty-five. Bye." Hobbes finished, replacing the receiver. "We gotta go. Boss says it's a 91."

"A 91?' Danny asked skeptically.

"Yeah," Darien replied. "That's somewhere between the minor hassle of dialing for an outside line before you make a call, an' needin' SWAT, the fire department or the rescue squad. 9, 91, 911."

Danny's face lit up.

"I like that. Pretty efficient. Bizarre, but efficient."

"You just described our basic secret-agent technique." Bobby retorted as he passed Danny and headed for the elevator. "You guys comin' or what?"

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"They want what?" Bobby asked quietly, his face twisted into an expression that was half disgusted grimace, half fury engendered by a father's instincts.

"I think I made myself perfectly clear. If you don't mind, I'd rather not repeat myself. My breakfast is already threatening an encore appearance."

"My God... how could they even dare to call here, never mind ask for... that?" Danny asked, fighting off sickness himself.

"They're Chrysalis, that's how. They play by their own rules and follow their own code of conduct, neither of which have anything to do with morals, conscience or humanity."

"And what... exactly, did they say they'll give us in return for this... repulsive demand?" Darien said, finally able to speak up.

"Every resource they can spare will be turned to the search for Jared Stark. If and when they do find him, he'll be dropped on our doorstep, boxed and tied with a pretty red ribbon. Whatever happens to him afterwards... they happily leave to our discretion."

"What they want in return isn't worth it." Danny asserted.

"The boy is dead, Agent Masters. We've learned all we can about the growth modification compound they treated him with. Whatever he might once have been... now he's a shell. It can't hurt anyone or anything to give our enemies his husk."

"It... she'll be devastated if she finds out. And what about the others?"

"The stated condition was that they be returned only if they die. We'll be doing everything in our power to see that doesn't happen."

"But... sir, it just isn't right. He deserves a decent burial."

"I agree, but you need to understand what Jared Stark could mean to this Agency... to the world at large. The information he could bring us could destroy the organization that did this to James and all the other children we worked to de-program."

"If they're the ones to deliver him, what makes you think there'll be anything left in his head but his own name?"

Bobby and Darien both turned their eyes to Danny, warm, proud smiles blossoming on their faces before they looked back to the Official.

"He's right, boss. If they get their hands on him first he'll end up stripped cleaner than a Thanksgivin' turkey at the Hobbes family table."

"Which is why we'll be stepping up the pace of our own search process." Borden replied with a faintly smug grin, which quickly faded. "But it can't hurt to have as many eyes and ears out there as possible. I'm agreeing to the deal."

Darien and Bobby both sat silent, knowing nothing they could say would change his mind, Danny started to argue, but Fawkes reached over and touch his arm.

"Danny... forget it. It hurts, yeah, and it makes us all sick, but... he's right. You haven't been through what we have with Chrysalis. If makin' a deal with the devil has the potential to make a permanent ice palace outta Hell... you shake hands. C'mon. Let's go, okay?" he suggested, standing and waiting for the younger man to follow suit. Eventually, he did.

"That surveillance on the warehouse still on for lunchtime, boss?" Bobby asked, hanging back as the other two left.

"It's still on. You'll be relieving Barnes and Mitchell."

"Right. Thanks."

"Bobby."

"Yeah?"

"I wanted to... commend you on how well Agent Masters has integrated into the Agency. He tells me you and Darien have both gone above and beyond to make him feel accepted."

Bobby responded, once his shock wore off.

"Yeah, well... Danny, he's a good kid. Smart, quick on his feet, good with his weapon.... He's got a few... sideways ideas we gotta tug straight, but give him another six, eight months, he's gonna be top notch, I guarantee."

"That's good to hear. I realize there could have been... envy issues, here, Bobby. It didn't happen. Thank you."

Hobbes took a bit longer to recover this time.

"Uh... yeah. You're uh... you're welcome, boss. I... I gotta go... get ready for the.... Um, stakeout. Yeah... okay. See ya in the mornin' with our report."

Borden smiled as he dug into a stack of paperwork. Bobby turned and fled.

What do you know? The way to break Hobbes' shell of perfect confidence is to be kind to him. I'll have to try that more often. Not every day, though. Can't let him learn to expect it. Watching him stumble like that is too much fun...

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TBC......