Hobbes turned at the sound of the familiar female voice calling out to him, and smiled warmly, if a little wearily, as he stopped and waited for Claire to hurriedly catch up with him, her heels clicking loudly down the expanse of white tiled hospital corridor.

It had been a long and eventful couple of days and he was just looking forward to spending some quality time with his partner, before going home for a long soak in a hot tub, maybe a cold beer and then an early night.

Frankie Casati had been allowed a few hours with Darien after he'd been admitted here at Fort Leavitt, then Hobbes had reluctantly had to part the couple in order to keep his side of the bargain, and he and Alex Monroe had personally delivered the young woman back into the protective custody of the FBI.

Most of his time since then and in the wake of the 'Casati Incident', as it was now being officially referred to, had been taken up with a seemingly endless round of reports and long drawn out debriefings with both the Bureau and The Agency - though that one had consisted mainly of a heated grilling from the Fat Man on Darien's actions during the whole event, and whether or not he'd had cause to misuse the Quicksilver Hobbes's vehement denials and assurances had gone some way to appeasing Borden - he hoped.

Borden had calmed significantly when Eberts had stepped in to suggest that maybe they could 'overlook Darien's reckless behavior on this occasion' after all, his actions had netted them the disk, and the names and information contained on it could prove very 'useful'.

Yeah, for 'useful' read 'profitable' Hobbes thought with grim amusement.

His smile brightened as soon as the lovely doctor was standing right there in front of him, and he leaned forward slightly to breath in her musky perfume, sighing inwardly. What he wouldn't give for an early night with….her fingers gently squeezing his arm and her words bringing him right back to the here and now.

"You're looking tired, Bobby," she was saying gently, cutting into his reverie.

"Yeah, well there ain't been much time for the ole R&R lately," he responded with a wry grin, unconsciously rubbing a hand across tired eyes. "Time enough for that when Fawksey's on the mend, eh Keep?"

Claire nodded her head and forced a tight smile of her own, though her eyes were telling a whole different story, one which he wasn't sure he was ready to hear just yet.

"How's my boy?"

"Impossible…as always," she answered with a snort of laughter. "Fretting over Frankie though. She'll be alright won't she Bobby?"

"Yeah. She's already confirmed that she aims to testify against her bastard of a brother this time. Not even his fancy lawyers can get him out of this one - murder in the first, two counts, not to mention the kidnapping and attempted murder of Federal Agents etcetera - Dominic Casati is going down for ever."

"What then?" Claire pressed.

Bobby shrugged. "Who knows. Witness Protection, I guess. Her brother might be out of the loop, but he has some very powerful friends…and then there's the family, they could try to get to her before the case even comes to court."

Claire sighed. "Poor Darien., he hasn't stopped asking about her. I don't think I've ever seen him quite like this…." her words trailed away as she cast another wistful glance at the door to her Kept's room, vaguely acknowledging the security guard posted right outside.

"Well, if the kid wants to be with her, then I'm just gonna have to find some way to make it happen. He deserves that much,." Bobby stated adamantly, before reaching into his back pocket and withdrawing something.

"What's that?" Claire asked curiously.

"It's a baseball cap," he advised with an amused shake of his head, holding the item in question aloft so that Claire could see the 'Rubber Ducky' logo on the front. "Frankie asked me to make sure Darien got it, said he'd know what it meant."

An uneasy silence suddenly fell between them, which ended with Bobby shuffling his feet and clearing his throat nervously. "Ya know Claire, you never really answered my question…when I asked how he was."

This time he caught the look on her face just before she turned away, her shoulders sagging. Bobby reached out to grab Claire's arm and pulled her around to face him. The tear tracks on her face more than enough to make his heart skip a beat, in their own way telling him what he already suspected. The news was going to be bad.

"Claire, speak to me," he urged softly, fighting the overwhelming urge to violently shake the information out of her.

"The…the results are mostly inconclusive," she sniffed, doing her best to square her shoulders and adopt a semi-professional manner, but failing miserably when she saw the anguish in Bobby's eyes. "But we think that the Gland is beginning to malfunction…to die…and it's taking Darien with it."

Bobby released his grip on her and stumbled back a few steps until he hit the wall and he could go no further, grateful for the hard surface as without it he didn't think his legs would actually support him at that moment. A long time passed before he could find his voice. The solution was obvious to Hobbes, so why couldn't Claire see it.

"Then you've gotta find a way to get it out of him," he stated tersely.

Claire approached and touched his face. "Don't you think I would have done that already, if there was even the slightest chance it could save him." She waited until his gaze met hers before continuing. "Darien's my friend too, Bobby."

He pushed himself away from the wall and stared absently off into the distance, scrubbing his face with his hands. .

"Does he know?"

Claire shook her head. "I…I was hoping you might help me tell him," she responded nervously, not relishing the thought of having to handle the dreaded task alone.

Bobby nodded without hesitation. "Yeah…of course. I wouldn't want it any other way."

He took a couple of hesitant steps towards the door to Darien's room, but Claire's hand covered his as it folded around the handle.

"It's not over until it's over, Bobby," she assured, for both of their benefits. "I'm not going to lose him without a bloody great fight."

God he loved this woman. And at that moment he realized just how much the dysfunctional group had all come to mean to each other, the depth of that commitment and sentiment evident in her eyes.

"I know, and I trust you," he said softly.

Then he quickly composed himself and pushed on the door to enter. Darien's weak voice cheerfully drifting over to greet them both.

"Hey, Hobbesy, Keepie. Wazzup?"


Story arc to be completed in 'Obsession' …coming soon.