Fawkes sat slumped in the driver's seat of the Agency owned piece-of-shit-LTD, cell phone to his ear and free hand raking through his hair. Bobby could only wonder who his partner was chit-chatting with. Fawkes shoulda been talking with Bobby Hobbes, bitching and moaning about the unfairness of it all. But Bobby's phone remained stubbornly silent, while Fawkes chattered away at whoever was at the other end of the microwave relay signal he was abusing.

Watching moodily from the shadows of the van, Bobby had considered pulling out the parabolic mike, but had stopped short. Today he couldn't bring himself to regress to those early days when Fawkes needed a babysitter along with a Keeper. He had changed dramatically over the years and could make his own decision -- for good or ill -- without the interference of Bobby Hobbes.

He understood why Claire wanted him to... watch Fawkes -- her very real concern had come through loud and clear -- but that was all he'd do. Unless Fawkes looked to be doing something permanently stupid, that is.

Fawkes snapped the phone shut and dropped it on the passenger seat from the look of things, then just... sat there, an inconsolable look upon his face. The kid clearly believing the worst was yet to come. The hell of it was that Bobby couldn't disagree. Nothing good could come out of this regression back to Quicksilver Madness. After five minutes, Fawkes straightened and started the car, pulling out of the tiny parking lot and onto G Avenue. Bobby followed a few moments later. He stayed several cars behind, but still felt exposed and vulnerable; the van sticking out like a sore thumb in the midst of the mid-town traffic.

Fawkes either didn't notice or didn't care, though Bobby figured on the former given the kid's current state of mind. Bobby trailed along, weaving in and out of the early evening traffic. When Fawkes missed the turn that would take him to his apartment, Bobby got a sinking feeling in his gut. A few minutes later, his fears were confirmed -- they were heading towards Old Town and it was a fair bet Fawkes had no plans to hang out with the tourists.

A series of rights and lefts that at any other time would have convinced Bobby he'd been spotted, ended at a small, gated parking lot that Fawkes apparently had the magic key to, since the gate slid aside as soon as he turned into the short drive. Bobby drove by, made a loop, and by some miracle managed to snag a parking space almost directly across from the lot. He sat there in confusion for a couple of minutes, staring at the place -- the gate was unmarked as to ownership -- until the building behind it swung into focus. Then his stomach dropped to his feet.

Fawkes had indeed gone to the fourth monkey and apparently had a key.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Bobby rubbed the top of his head with a hand. What the hell did he think he was doin'?

"Oh, Fawkes..." The total dismay in his voice did not come close to conveying how he really felt about this boneheaded move by his friend. Running to a woman, Bobby could understand, but to her? To O'Neill, who would surely take advantage Darien in his current tenuous emotional state.

Seeing movement in a second floor window, Bobby leaned over, popped open the glove box and pulled out his back-up binoculars. Quick as he could he focused on the window in question. Two people swung into view: Fawkes and O'Neill. They were talking, but the angle was crappy and Bobby couldn't make out what they were saying.

Fawkes didn't crack a smile and the gentle hand she placed on his arm spoke volumes to Bobby, making it clear that a relationship of some kind existed between the two of them.

And... and Bobby knew it was none of his business.

He lowered the glasses, but continued to moodily watch the couple. Fawkes was a big boy and could take care of himself. And while Bobby didn't personally didn't trust O'Neill , Fawkes did, and that had to count for something. His partner needed to talk to someone, someone outside the Agency, and for whatever reason, had chosen O'Neill for that purpose. Bobby could only hope Fawkes wouldn't end up regretting that choice.

Bobby sighed and started the van. There was little point in hanging about here all night. If his partner needed him, he'd call. And if he hurried, he could probably catch the end of Claire's report, or get a recap in person. It'd be good to know what he would be dealing with, this time.

Fallon came out of her office as Darien entered her apartment. Barefoot and dressed in only jeans and a t-shirt, he breathed a tiny sigh of relief. Her 'not busy' response hadn't been solely for his benefit. Box had said she'd been fiddling with the code for the new scrambler, which Darien had been reluctant to interrupt, assurances by all aside.

She came out with a smile that faded swiftly when he utterly failed to return it.

"Oi, 'unting went badly, I take it?"

Darien shrugged. "No more so that usual." He wandered towards the window, the mobile hanging there shifting, and chiming softly in the breeze drifting through. "You gonna keep an eye on him?"

Fallon nodded. "Just let me know if ye want anything in particular."

He nodded in acknowledgement of her words, not really caring at the moment. Arnaud had gotten the last laugh this time, and it made him despair of ever getting what he really wanted.

Her hand on his arm made an impact on his awareness. Her touch; a simple gesture that cost her little or nothing, caused tightly locked in emotions to boil to the surface. He didn't gasp, didn't whimper, didn't piteously moan, though he felt like an animal wounded, in pain beyond endurance.

"I... we need to talk," he finally managed to get past the apparently permanent lump that had developed in his throat, very nearly choking off his words before they could form.

"All right. 'Ave a seat." She urged him towards the couch and he moved, slowly, but eventually sank into the cushions, leaving her standing before him. "Want a drink? 'Ate to say it, but ye look like ye could use a more'n a few shorts in ye."

He chuckled half-heartedly. "Maybe later." He grabbed her hand and tugged her down. "Sit, please."

She lowered herself onto the glass-topped coffee table. The piece looked too delicate to support its own weight, much less hers, but it did so with nary a creak or groan.

"Sounds serious."

"It is," he told her in all honesty. "Something's happened. It... It has to do with the Quicksilver and..."

She raised a hand, cutting him off. " 'Old up. I've the feeling that whatever ye be about to say falls outside my deal with the Official."

Shit. He'd forgotten all about that damn deal. "What, exactly, did you agree to?" he asked, wondering how far across that particular line in the sand he was about to step.

"Not to tell what I know." She cocked her head, eyeing him speculatively with those wicked green eyes of hers. "All I know is that you can go invisible, thanks to a substance called Quicksilver, which you secrete from your pores."

He felt almost disappointed. "That's it?"

"That's all I know." I've plenty of speculation on the how, but..." She shrugged, not wanting to spill her guesses at the moment.

Damn it. What he needed to tell her went far, far beyond that, and because it fell outside her deal with the Official, which she would stick to, to the letter, she could -- and would, lets not kid ourselves here -- sell it to the highest bidder. Without batting an eye.

Crap. He needed desperately for her sake as much as his own to talk to her, to warn her that the rules had changed and he had once again become a serious threat to himself and all those around him. He had to give her an out, a lifeline, a chance to get away from him and the Agency now while the opportunity to escape relatively unscathed remained.

Shit. He thought he'd moved past all of this, had finished living with his life hanging by a thin and quickly fraying thread; waiting for the string to finally fail and let him drop to be crushed at the end of the long fall.

If anyone deserved this, it was Arnaud, but Darien got to suffer the folly of those who tried to play god. And Arnaud still waited, expecting Darien to come to him in order to achieve some measure of salvation. Only he, the rat bastard, had the means to defuse this time-bomb ticking away in his body, and for the first time Darien seriously considered it. Claire, brilliant as she was, could promise nothing, leaving Darien with nowhere to turn.

Not even Fallon would help. Oh no, she would just use him until wrung of all value and then sell what she had learned. Making money from every possible angle. He'd been a fool to forget that. Forgotten that the proprietor of the fourth monkey always took precedence over the woman. Those drops of kindness, of human emotion he stumbled upon were surely false, a fa├žade to lure in the unwary and trap them. Like a pitcher plant, attracting their victims with slippery slopes and a sweet scent, then drowning them to leisurely feast upon their carcasses.

Why? Why had he bothered coming here? She cared nothing for Darien Fawkes the man. He was nothing to her.

He balled his hands into fists. "Forget it," he growled in a low voice; hurt, and pain, and anger all mixed together in the three syllables.

"Nay," she said softly. "I won't 'forget it'." She reached out and brushed that wayward lock of hair off his forehead.

"I can't, Fallon, what I need to say..."

She set a finger on his lips, silencing his words. "Will never leave this room. I swear it."

He looked her squarely in the eyes, searching for any hint of deceit and found none. Instead, there was concern, which surprised him, for it felt so... personal. There were too many layers to the woman, and she continued to surprise him at every turn. So often she came across as cold or distant, but then there were moments like this one when she focused all of her attention, all of her being on one thing, and the effect was utterly devastating. For this moment, this second, Darien Fawkes had become the whole of her world.

Sad that he knew he was about to destroy it.

He took her hands into his own, needing -- no, craving, the contact. How simple a thing touch; how so very mundane, and yet so very lacking in his life. This was what he'd lost, more than anything else, since becoming the seventeen million dollar man. To be able to touch, to feel, to just be with another person without fear or lies or risks of certain doom. He'd lost the ability to live, had it ripped away from him when surrounded by dank cell walls and he'd said 'yes' to his seeming savior. His Judas, more like; betraying and abandoning him in swift succession.

He looked Fallon in the eyes and part of him feared she would do the same. Save him now only to betray him later. It was the nature of the beast.


" 'Ere now, 'ow'd ye manage this?" She had his right hand, palm turned up, a finger resting atop the snake's red tail. "I've seen tat's recolored afore, ne'er so well."

"It's not recolored," Darien stated. "It's part of what I need to talk to you about."

She nodded, still running her fingertips over the monitor.

"C'mere." He tugged her and got her settled beside him, wanting to feel her warmth while he still could.

All that had happened flashed through his mind: Kevin dead. Arnaud smugly holding a syringe full of counteragent that smelled oh, so very sweet. Darien's fingers wrapped snugly about Bobby's throat. Claire telling him he'd become immune. All those, plus a million other memories, all jumbled together and wanting to be spoken of first.

Fallon poked him in the chest. "Ye be all right?"

"I don't know." He slouched into the seat. "I've no idea where to start."

She gave him a wry grin. "Try the beginning. Works best for most stories."

He chuckled. Leave it to her to point out the obvious. "Yeah, s'pose it does." Darien sucked in a breath and blew it out slowly. This was going to be a while in the telling.

"There once was a tale about a man who could turn invisible..."