Author: A. X. Zanier
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or basic story premises from 'The Invisible Man'. Any
other characters or story premises are mine to do with as I please.
Timeline: This is the third story and is new (mostly) About a week after 'Even When You Want To
Spoilers: Beholder, Money for Nothing 1&2, TVOS/Frozen In Time(all vague references)
Comments: As I've mentioned I'm revising my earlier stories to correct errors and timeline
problems. This one incorporates parts of 'Interlude' (the original #3) with new parts in order to
correct some of these problems as well as give a better understanding of a few things. Thanks to
the guys at TIM for giving us a timeline on the show it really helped with this one and the one
that follows. Origianal Post 4/4/2001 @ The Invisible Man Library/
Music: Fear, Sarah McLachlan (For the full depressing effect)

Thanks to Rebecca my brave Beta reader!!!!

Into the Darkness

It is always darkest just before the dawn.

In other words, sometimes you have to deal with the worst things in your life before you can see
the possibilities before you. For me it took being blind for a month to see that maybe my life
wasn't as bad as I had thought. Even then I still had a ways to go before I saw my own dawn. It
took me about a year.

For Alyx...well, she hadn't yet found her darkest point. That was still to come.

Watching her fall was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Alyx stood stiffly in front of the Official's desk, her arms crossed over her chest and a look of
indifference on her face. So far he had only glanced up at her and looked back at the papers before
him. She was mildly surprised that he had made no comment about her state of dress.

Black boots slid over deep forest green pants that sat low on her hips and hugged every visible
curve. A bare expanse of abdomen met up with a matching short sleeved top that covered her from
ribs to throat, hiding the lingering remains of the bruises she'd earned just over a week ago. Her
auburn hair was pulled back into a loose braid. Stray pieces had curled around her face, softening
the harsh look she currently wore. A white bandage stood out starkly against her skin just above
her right hip.

"Cute trick with the e-mail," the Official said in a bland voice, looking up at her. "Quite
effective." He handed some of the papers to Eberts who hovered at his side. "The info you got for
us has shut down over a dozen illegal biotech operations. It's good to know at least one of my
employees can see the value of checking the information before sending it. People are beginning to
take the appropriate notice of our Agency."

Alyx didn't react.

She felt Darien and Hobbes' presence before they walked into the office, arguing good-naturedly
with each other. It was apparent that this was a common occurrence. Bobby was actually relaxed and
smiling. The Official frowned at the two men.

"Nice of you to join us," he said, silencing them. "As I was saying: good work. The three of you
seem to be able to work together and back each other up when needed."

Fawkes and Hobbes smiled at each other, enjoying the praise. Alyx knew better.

"However," the Official continued, "Fawkes, you need to improve your control. Miss Silver handled
both her problems and yours for longer than anyone could have expected. Considering she has been
here for only a short time, I did not expect her to have to cover both of your asses."

Hobbes began to protest. The Official silenced him with a look. "Both of you go and pretend you
have something to do. Now!"

Alyx did not move so much as an inch, even after the door behind her shut with a deadening thud.

"Miss Silver, once again, good work." the Official said and turned back to his papers.

Eberts caught her attention. "The Keeper would like to see you as soon as possible."

Alyx nodded and began to turn to leave

"Also, we've taken steps so that you cannot access your former e-mail addresses ever again." He
sounded almost apologetic. "It was matter of security."

"I expected it," she said tightly. Turning away, she left the office and walked down the hall until
she found an empty corridor. Putting her back against the wall, she allowed herself to slide down
and sit on the floor. Drawing her knees up to her chest, she closed her eyes and tipped her head
back against the wall. The Keeper had warned her to take it easy. To stay in bed by preference, but
the Official had asked, asked, that she come in and give her report. So she had. Now she just wanted
to go home.

The trouble was she felt like she didn't have one.

After being chastised by the Official, Darien and Bobby headed down to the Keep to check in with
Claire. She was reading over some computer printouts as they walked in and waved at them vaguely to
acknowledge their presence.

"What you got there, Claire?" Darien asked, moving over to her and trying to read the printouts
over her shoulder. To him, the symbols on the paper were pure gibberish.

"It's the results of Alyx's most recent tests," Claire said, setting the papers down. "Where is
she, anyway?"

"She's probably still basking in the Official's praise," Hobbes snarled.

"You didn't see the look on her face, Hobbes. She was not pleased to be there." Darien turned
slightly to look at his friend.

"My point exactly. Do you know how many times I've gotten a 'good work' from the boss?" Hobbes
asked them.

They shook their heads.

"Not many. And she just stands there like it means nothing." Hobbes had paced forward to stand
beside them.

Darien leaned against the desk. "Hobbes, did you ever think that's exactly what it means to her,

"She's still unhappy isn't she?" Claire asked Darien.

"Very," he sighed. "I've tried, but she won't let me anywhere near her outside of work."

"She's isolating herself. That's at least partially understandable given her abilities, but it's
not healthy." Claire got to her feet. "Darien, would you go find her please?"

"Sure. Try to, anyway." He pushed himself upright and headed for the door.

"She's probably just pouting in a back room," Hobbes commented.

"Bobby, it's that attitude of yours that's causing part of the problem," Claire snapped. She was
thoroughly tired of his treatment of Alyx. "It's no wonder she doesn't feel welcome. You constantly
put her down and show your immaturity by insulting her every chance you get."

Hobbes looked unrepentant. "Things were fine the way they were. We didn't need another

"The Official obviously thought otherwise. Do you know she was the Agency's 'guest' for six months
before being sent out here? That she hadn't eaten anything voluntarily for over a month when she
arrived? That she is utterly terrified of hurting someone with her powers?" Claire's voice rose
with every additional statement.

Hobbes just stared at her. "She said something about being kidnapped. Thought she was just being

"No, Bobby. I'm ashamed to say it's true. She was kidnapped and her death faked. With the side
effects of the treatment and whatever it is the Official is holding over her, she can't go home and
she doesn't want any part of being here. I could go on." Claire sounded tired. "She won't talk to
me. Just sees me as another one of 'them'."

Darien had stuffed his hands into his pockets leaning against the door frame while he listened to
Claire. He had some small idea of what Alyx was going through. His first year here had not been the
most enjoyable of his life. At times he had been convinced solitary in prison would be an
improvement. Bobby and Claire had helped him through that, along with a few really big doses of
reality. "I'll go find her." He looked at Claire. "Bring her here?"

"Please. I need to check her," Claire said quietly. "But use your judgment. I trust you on this,

He nodded and walked out the door, hoping Alyx was still in the building, because if she wasn't he
would have no inkling of how to find her. Turned out to be pretty easy. He was passing an
intersection and saw a flash of green. Backtracking, he spotted her sitting in the corner of the
darkened dead-end hallway with her eyes closed. He just kind of froze, unsure whether or not he
should disturb her.

Alyx sighed. Like she wouldn't know he was standing there. He was so focused on finding her she'd
known where he was long before he drew near. "You just gonna stand there, or are you going to say
hello like a normal human?"

Darien smiled, even though she wasn't watching, and walked toward her. "Normal, huh? You must have
a very broad definition of the term then."

She opened her eyes and once again he was completely taken aback by their color. According to
Claire, before the experiment she'd had eyes on the gray side of blue, but the quicksilver in her
system had altered the color for some reason. Similar to what happened to him when he went a bit to
long without a shot, only in her case it was permanent. He sat down cross-legged in front of her,
his arms lying loosely across his legs.

"Well, normal compared to me, anyway," she said once he had settled. He'd made sure to sit just out
of reach. She had to give him credit for learning that. "The Keeper send you after me?" She sounded

"Nah. Just wandering the halls. Boss is still irritated with me and Hobbes," Darien said smoothly.

Alyx actually smiled. "Liar."

Darien smiled back. "Guess it's tough to lie to you."

She nodded. "With my shields as flaky as they are, you bet it is." She got to her feet. "Lead on,
MacDuff. I might as well get this over with."

Classical references? Darien looked up at her. "No hurry. Really. Sit."

Alyx just shook her head. "Why are you even bothering? You're no happier about me being here than
Hobbes is. You're just more confused than angry." She did her best to keep her tone light and
non-accusatory. She didn't blame him. He had no idea what his superiors were doing. He was simply
stuck with the results. Her.

She watched as he unfolded and climbed back to his feet. "Alyx, that's not really fair."

"Fair? Do you really want to complain to me about fair?" She snapped at him. Her eyes narrowed as
she picked up what was going on in his mind. "Don't even try to placate me. I don't want to be
placated. I just want to be left alone." She didn't give a chance to reply, just turned and walked
away from him, heading down to the Keep before Claire sent someone else after her. Like Hobbes,
maybe. That would just make her day perfect.

Darien stood there for a moment, rather stunned by her attitude. Was she going to push him and
everyone else away forever? Then it dawned on him that that was exactly what she intended to do. To
have no connection with anyone here. To keep herself isolated and alone. That couldn't really be the
way she wanted to live, could it? Making a decision, he followed behind her, arriving in the Keep in
time to see Claire examining Alyx's bullet wound while Hobbes looked on with a frown.

"Couldn't find her, huh?" Hobbes said to Darien as he walked over.

"I found her. She just decided to come down on her own." Darien said sounding distracted. He was
rather impressed by the amount of damage that had been done to her. He'd been shot a couple of
times himself and knew what a fun experience it wasn't, yet she just stood there with a bland
expression on her face while Claire poked and prodded her. Not even blinking when he wanted to
flinch in sympathy. It was like she had closed herself off from the rest of the world. Refusing to
let anyone in, to see her like she really was. She came across as cold, hard and uncaring, but he
knew that wasn't true. It was just a mask she hid behind.

Getting her to remove the mask was going to be a challenge. But he always did like a challenge.

Alyx ignored the pain and the two men in the room, while Claire made sure she hadn't done anything
seriously bad to the wound.

"Have you always healed this fast?" Claire asked her as she stood up straight.

"I wouldn't know. Never had anything like this before. Just a bout of migraines when I was a kid,"
Alyx answered in a flat tone.

"You never had any serious injuries, not even a broken arm?" Claire reiterated.

Alyx shook her head. "Nope. Nothing like that."

"Are you sure?" She asked again asked she went to get a new bandage.

"Claire, if you don't believe me just request my records from my doctors back then." Alyx wasn't
in the mood to play lab rat for her.

Claire argued with herself and her orders from the Official for only a moment. "I've tried. They're
missing. I can only find records from age sixteen on and those are fragmented."

"Huh. I was living on my own then," Alyx commented.

"What? Did you run away from home?" Hobbes said in a rather nasty tone of voice.

Alyx turned to him. "Actually, I was at college."

That was effective at shutting him up. In fact it looked like he almost swallowed his tongue in

"Sixteen?" Darien asked, although he didn't sound all that surprised.

Alyx had had enough for today. She held still while Claire applied the new bandage, waiting
impatiently for her to finish. She was not here to divulge the details of her life or be a target
for Hobbes' insults. "Can I leave yet?"

Claire looked up at her as she finished. "You're still off the active duty list, but I'd like to
run some tests...." She trailed off when it became obvious that Alyx was not going to agree.
"Never mind. Go home and get some real rest for a change."

Alyx headed for the door of the Lab. When she made not a single comment to anyone, Darien looked at
Claire, who shrugged at him. Making up his mind, he went after her.

She must have really wanted to get out of there because he didn't catch up with her until she was
nearly to the front doors of the building. "Hey, Alyx. Wait up."

She stopped, her head hanging. "Why? You want to offer me a ride? I have one. You want to offer
company? Don't want any. Anything else?"

Okay maybe this wasn't the right approach to take with her, but he didn't know what else to do.
"You could at least give me a chance."

"I say again, why?" She was looking up at him, her face a complete blank. "Think the two lab rats
should trade stories and commiserate with one another?" She took a step towards him, her look
mellowing a bit. "Darien, I can't. Please."

It was the 'please' that threw him. She usually was a lot more forceful in her requests and he
wondered why she was softening for him. "Uh, sure. Sorry to bother you. Can I say one thing?"

She nodded.

"I've been in the position you are in now and if you ever want to talk...." He stopped as she
backed up a step.

"You don't know what you're saying." She sounded so hurt, so tired, that he could think of nothing
to say. He was unable to stop her when she walked out the door.


Alyx did go home, for a while. She found it too small, too confining, too close. Too quiet. After
changing into far more ordinary jeans and a T-shirt, she got back on her bike and headed towards
the ocean. Even with the people there it tended to be calming on her senses, especially when the
still-frequent bouts of hypersensitivity hit.

Instead of the beach itself she headed for the rocks and climbed out until she could sit and watch
the water crash below her. It was a shame cliffs were so few in this area, but this would do. She
closed her eyes and let her mind drift, trying to let those things that disturbed her to slide away
for a time. And as had happened every time lately, she could find no peace. Couldn't let her pain,
fear and unhappiness fall away.

She gave up, opened her eyes and, maybe a little foolishly, began to watch the people about her.
How they could interact, how they talked, laughed, argued, lived. She wondered why they even
bothered. It wasn't worth it. Not when things always ended up causing so much pain. 'Damn' she
thought. 'This isn't helping today.' With a sigh she got to her feet and walked back to her bike,
but when she got there she realized she had no place she wanted to go. She didn't know the city
well enough yet. Didn't have anyone to call. Any place to go.

Walking over to the nearest bench she sat down and leaned back, staring at the cloudless sky
overhead. What else was there to do?

Darien ended up back down in the Keep and was sitting in that chair trying to talk to Claire. He
wasn't quite sure how successful he was being, since his mind was not on what he was saying. He was
thinking about Alyx.

"Darien if there's something on your mind..." Claire said, when he answered her question with an
unintelligible grunt for the third time.

He didn't really react at first, even though he had heard her.

"You like her don't you?" she said seemingly out of the blue.

"What?" Darien was paying complete attention now.

"You heard me," she said with a laugh.

Darien did that little head dip and smiled slightly. "Yeah, I guess I do. Not that she would ever
notice." He shifted to lean forward a bit. "Was I that unhappy in the beginning?"

She got up and walked over to him. "Some days, but you always had hope. She doesn't."

Darien thought about it. Alyx had only used her powers the first time they met because she was
forced into it. On their first mission together, she'd nearly gotten herself killed keeping him
from going into full-blown quicksilver madness. He was the only person here she was even vaguely
kind to. To everyone else she was either openly hostile or completely indifferent. "She doesn't
think she has anything to live for."

Claire nodded. "She has such potential with her gifts, but she hates them. If you weren't here, I
don't think she would have lasted this long."

"Me?" Darien scoffed. "She tolerates me at best."

"No Darien. If she hadn't thought you were worth saving, she wouldn't have the first time. She
would have let you kill her and made you live with the consequences." Claire's tone was serious.
"She only suspects what happened at the other facility, but that's enough to convince her she
doesn't deserve to live and use the powers. She considers them, and therefore herself, too

"That's silly. If she were any more self-controlled you'd think she had no emotions whatsoever,"
Darien said earnestly. "She's hiding."

"You're right, and you are the only one she'll even look at with a modicum of normality." She got
this small smile. "And I have to wonder why."

He spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on paperwork and trading insults with Hobbes, who
managed to avoid mentioning their partner while complaining about getting stuck finishing the
paperwork from the mission. There had been quite a bit of follow-up work and some arrests that Alyx
hadn't participated in, given that she was still recovering. When they were done, Hobbes looked up
at him.

"Want to go grab some dinner?" he asked Darien.

"No thanks. I've got something I want to check on," Darien answered, getting to his feet

"You're going to her place, aren't you?" Hobbes rolled his eyes. "Even I've gotten the hint,
Fawkes. She wants to be here about as much as I want her here. Can't you leave it like that?"

"Did you leave it like that when I first got here? Or just a few months ago?" Darien tossed back
at him.

"That was different Fawkes, completely different." Hobbes argued, trying to figure out exactly how.

Darien raised his eyebrows and just looked at his friend. "When you figure out how it's different,
let me know." He walked out of the office and started down the hall.

Bobby stuck his head out the office door and shouted, "She a girl, Fawkes. That's one big fricking

Darien just shook his head, knowing his partner was reaching on that one.

He decided to stop by her place on the way home. Maybe she'd be willing to let him pay off one of
those dinners he owed her. Yeah, right, but he'd try anyway. After parking, he walked into the
building and up to the top floor where her place was. He tried the buzzer with no success and then
tried knocking several times, but still there was no answer. For a moment he debated picking the
locks on the basis of making sure she was okay, but decided that, this time anyway, it was a bit
uncalled for.

Once back in his car he didn't really feel like heading straight home, so he went for a drive and
ended up down by the beaches. In a rather nasty twist of serendipity, he saw Alyx sitting on a
bench watching the water a few hundred yards away. Taking the first parking spot he could find, he
got out of the car and walked over to her.

"What do you want Dare?" Alyx asked, without even turning to look at him. He still hadn't gotten
used to the way she could do that.

Dare? That was a first. He couldn't remember anyone having called him Dare before. "Want? Nothing.
I was just out for a drive and happened to see you." Of course he didn't mention he had started
out looking for her. If she knew it, she didn't mention it either. He sat down next to her and
looked out in the same direction she was, but didn't quite know what she was looking at. It was
just people going about their ordinary lives.

"Thought you were supposed to be at home, resting," he said to her quietly.

"Yup. I am," she replied.

"Hmmm. Nice to see someone following orders the same way I do." Darien made the comment rather
offhandedly. Not really intending it for her ears, at least not consciously.

She turned slowly to look at him. "You? Not follow orders? Never crossed my mind."

Her tone was so dry that at first he thought she was serious, but something in her eyes made him
realize she was actually joking with him. He leaned a bit closer and lowered his voice. "So you do
pay attention." Amazingly she didn't move away from him like she often did when he tried to get
close. Closer than a foot or so and she would typically back away.

"To everything," she said softly. Gods, she felt like a fool, but right now his presence was a balm
on her soul. He was going to very quickly drive her nuts if she let him. "Want to take a walk?"

That had to be about the last thing he was expecting from her. Telling him to get the hell away was
more like what he was used to. "With me?" Came tumbling out before he had a chance to stop himself.

"Not quite the reaction I was expecting. Guess I deserved it though." She got to her feet and
looked at him. "I have my reasons for being the way I am. I'm sorry if it bothers you."

Yeah, it bothered him, but it wasn't really his place to do anything about it. "Only if you let me
take you to dinner after."

She actually shuddered. "I can't. I tried eating out a couple of times." She closed her eyes for a
moment. "It was not an enjoyable experience." She opened her eyes again. "Being alone is easier."

He got to his feet and they started walking along the sidewalk. "I thought that for a long time
myself," he said after a few minutes. "Though I'll admit my situation was, is, a little different."

"I would hope so." Alyx said wryly. "Why did you isolate yourself? I mean except for your 'talent'
everything was pretty much the same, right?" Alyx left the walkway and headed across the sand, back
towards the rocks that she had climbed earlier. It was late enough in the day that very few people
still remained. Many were heading home for the night.

Darien couldn't help but have a few memories of Leila Bach run through his mind. She had also liked
sitting out on the rocks listening to the sea. In the short time he'd known her they'd spent quite a
few hours out here, or at other beaches nearby.

"The same? Anything but," Darien began. "I couldn't hang out with my old 'friends' because I now
worked for the government and most of them were on the other side of the law."

"Thieves, you mean." Alyx said with a smirk.

"Um, yeah. You know about that?" He wondered why he was surprised.

She laughed lightly. "Yeah, I know about that. Go on, tell me the rest." She led him out to the
edge of the rocks and stood there looking out over the water.

"Blame the gland. I do. I have to keep my heart rate controlled, which leaves out a lot of those
activities I used to enjoy." He sighed. "I got to catch up on my reading."

She gave him this really odd look. "What are you talking about?"

"One of us is missing something, obviously. To use the gland, I have to raise my heart rate and
increase the adrenaline in my system. Don't you?" Darien saw the completely blank look on her face.

"No, I just do it I guess. It's not like I think about it. I don't think about how to walk or
breathe either," Alyx replied with a shrug. Then his meaning hit her, and she had to keep from
laughing. "Oh, gods. I can see some interesting problems with that."

"Go ahead and laugh. Everyone else does." Darien sounded resigned. Like it wasn't difficult enough
on its own; now she had to find it funny as well.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't laugh, considering I can't even touch other people most of the time," she
said getting a hold of herself very quickly. "Maybe I should learn to wear gloves?" She mused

"You mentioned that before. What's the problem?" He was truly curious. On more than one occasion
she had flinched away from him when he had, in an innocent gesture, tried to touch her.

"It's like closing a circuit. Thoughts and emotions are ultimately electrically based, so when I
touch someone I sometimes get a quick flash of everything before I can shut it off. I pick some
stuff up even without touching, but it's usually vague and I can ignore it. When I touch, I'm
focused on that one person." She shrugged. "I know it's weird. If I ever master my control, it'll
be easier to deal with."

"What is the problem? If you don't mind telling, that is?" Darien knew from Claire there were some
things Alyx just refused to talk about, at least to her. Not that he intended to pass any of this
along to her. Whether or not Alyx believed it, he did feel a bit of kinship simply because they
were both lab rats.

"According to my teacher, I'll never gain full control until I'm at peace with myself and what has
happened." She laughed ruefully. "Like that's ever going to happen."

"Why not?" He asked quietly.

"Because I don't want to be at peace with what's happened." Her voice was barely audible.

That sounded very familiar.

They ended up back at her place with him cooking a late dinner for the two of them. When they first
arrived, Darien surveyed the apartment and was suitably impressed. It was a least three times the
size of his own. The entire left wall was floor to ceiling windows. Upright steel beams made a
straight line down the room slightly right of center. A sofa and a couple of overstuffed chairs,
all in a soft gray, were arranged in front of an impressive entertainment center. Her workout
equipment was on the far side of the sitting area, and her kitchen paralleled the exercise area.
Further down were several Japanese wall panels. A token effort to separate her bedroom from the
rest of the room. A doorway on the wall past the kitchen he assumed led to the bathroom. "Nice,"
was his comment.

"It'll do," she said to him as she put her bike on the rack next to the door. They'd stuffed her
bike in the trunk of his car after he finally persuaded her to let him cook her dinner. It had
taken quite a bit of persuasion. She really, really valued her privacy.

Currently, she was sitting on her counter watching him cut up some vegetables for the stir fry he'd
decided to make, based on what she had in her fridge.

"So do you have a lot of neighbors?" He asked as he sliced the mushrooms.

"Three. A couple and a single, all on the first floor. They don't bother me too much. This place is
too far out of the way to be very popular with the up-and-comers." She was watching his hands, not
quite willing to look him in the eye. Her shields were holding, thankfully, but she was still
afraid to get too close to him, afraid to touch him. Not matter how badly she wanted to.

He leaned closer to her. "I don't bite you know."

She lifted her head to look at him. "I know." He was close, so very close and so very tempting,
but she swallowed hard and leaned away from him. "Dinner, Darien."

"Right." He turned his attention back to the knife in his hands, glad he hadn't managed to slice
off a finger. He laughed to himself. This wasn't the first time he'd been in this situation and it
seemed he wasn't going to get the girl on this occasion either. Well, she wasn't going to be
leaving any time in the near future, not if the Official had his way. "Have anything to drink?"

She slid off the counter and opened the fridge. "Water, some diet soda." He made a face.

"Margaritas?" He sounded surprised.

"I am an adult and I happen to like them." Irritation had sneaked into her voice.

"Down, girl." He said with a smile. "I just meant you didn't seem the type to drink tequila."

She closed her eyes and forced herself to calm down. She knew he hadn't meant anything by it. She'd
simply snapped at him out of habit. "Preference?"

"Alcohol sounds good to me." He answered as he slid the piles of vegetables into the heated wok.

Alyx pulled the container of homemade 'ritas out, grabbed a couple of oversized glasses and poured
a generous amount into each. "Hope you like them strong and sour." She handed him one which he
sipped, making a face at the taste.

"You weren't kidding, were you," he said when he could breathe again.

"Good painkiller for my bad nights," she said, moving over to him and tapping the side of her head.
"Dulls the reception." She lifted her glass and drank it down without stopping. She wanted to be
good and numb tonight.

"You are going to have a hangover," he said as he watched her pour a second glass.

"Never had one before, why would I get one now?" She said slyly as she moved sit back on the

"Why am I not surprised. No quicksilver madness, no hangovers..."

"No life." She added.

"That goes for both of us," Darien agreed. "But we already talked about that."

"Not much else to talk about." She drew her knees up to her chest. "I really don't want to talk
about work."

"We don't have to talk at all." He shifted over in front of her.

Alyx managed to meet his gaze without flinching. Damn, those eyes of his were just too sweet.
Before she could do something truly stupid she said, "What's burning?"

"Aw, crap," Darien swore as he moved to rescue the stir fry he had chosen to forget in favor of
staring at her.

She started laughing. He turned off the heat and moved the wok, the vegetables were definitely
done. "I think they're salvageable." He said with a frown.

"Darien it's not important." She had slid back off the counter and had retrieved a couple of

He almost jumped out of his skin when she spoke right next to him. "You really need to learn to
make some noise when you move, Alyx."

"For a thief you don't pay a whole lot of attention to what's going on around you," she tossed back
at him.

"Ex-thief." He took one of the plates and put some of the vegetables on it.

"Darien you wouldn't be fibbing now would you?" You could hear the smile in her voice.

"You been poking in my head again?" He filled the second plate and followed Alyx out to her table.
There were already chopsticks and place mats on the table along with various sauces.

"Nope. Didn't need to poke in your head for that one." She was holding a mushroom with the
chopsticks and eyeing it critically. He watched her dunk it in the wasabi sauce and put it in her
mouth without flinching.

"How can you do that?" He couldn't decide whether to feel disgusted or not.

"I don't really feel the heat anymore. Some of my senses have altered." She shrugged. "I can't
seem to win most days." Her mood had shifted again; her short-lived happiness was fading, and her
appetite with it. She ate a bit more, then just pushed the food around the plate for a bit.

"Hey, where'd you go?" Darien said a few minutes later. Alyx got to her feet and carried her plate
to the kitchen where she rinsed it off and put it in the dishwasher.

"The same place I always am." She moved to the stove and picked up the wok, carried it to the sink
and began running the water to wash it. She didn't even twitch when Darien came over and set a hand
gently on her shoulder.

"Well, come back would you." He reached over and turned off the water. "I like it when you're

"Don't." She slid out from under his hand and moved away. His presence was overwhelming. She
somehow kept herself from going more than a few steps, but she stood there shaking, holding herself
in place by sheer will alone.

"Alyx, I had no intention of causing a problem." He turned to face her, leaning against the

"I know, but you still do," she said quietly.

That surprised him. Like he told the Keep earlier, he didn't think she even noticed his existence.
He wanted to lighten the mood again, wanted to see her smile. "What would you normally be doing

"Nothing much. Exercising. Listening to some music maybe." She let herself be pulled away from the
edge she was drawing near again. "What about you?"

"Reading or watching TV. I don't go out much, like I said." He waited for her reaction.

"Sounds familiar," she muttered. "How are you doing on quicksilver?" Her head came up a bit.

"Why?" he was a little suspicious.

"Curiosity." She answered. Feeling suddenly brave she walked over to him and took his hand and
after a tug to get him moving they went to her living room and sat on the sofa. As she sat she
winced a bit. She'd moved a bit too fast. "I'm fine," she got out before he could ask. She took his
hand and placed it at her neck so that he could feel her pulse.

He wasn't sure of her point, but he could feel the slow steady beating under his hand. Then, as he
watched, she quicksilvered and faded from sight. His hand was still in place and he could feel that
her heart rate hadn't changed at all. His hand was quickly getting cold, however. She released his
hand and a second later she shed the quicksilver. "Interesting. I suppose you'd like me to return
the favor."

"If you can," she said.

He laughed. "The only reason I don't use it more is because they threaten to withhold the

"Why would they do that?" To her it didn't make any sense.

He leaned in close to her. "I don't think they trust me yet." Taking her hand he set it over his
heart. With her this close it wasn't going to take much effort on his part to quicksilver.

Alyx sucked in a breath. "I can't imagine why." Under her hand his heart beat began to increase.
"Darien I..."

"Hush. Just watch." He'd been doing this for so long it almost took no thought, no effort. He
hit the target heart rate and let the quicksilver flow. Within seconds he was gone from sight. He
could still feel Alyx's hand against him, could feel her fingers curling and her nails digging in
gently through his shirt.

"How long did it take you to learn the control?" She asked, looking him over.

"A while. Basic control took a few weeks and I've improved since then." He was finding it
difficult to slow his heart rate back down. "How is it you can see me?"

"See you? I can't see you. Or my very cold hand for that matter." She was smiling, knowing he'd
sort of gotten himself stuck. "Relax. You still have to wash the dishes."

That worked. Threw him off just enough that he was able to stop the flow and after a moment shake
himself free of the quicksilver. "Dishes?" She hadn't moved her hand and he placed his over it
again. "Is that what you really want me to do? The dishes?"

Alyx shook her head. "What do you mean?" For a change, between her shields and the alcohol, he was
pretty much a complete blank to her. So when he kissed her she was completely surprised.

He wasn't quite sure why he went ahead and kissed her. Maybe it was because he'd waited too long
with Kate. But when Alyx just about melted into him he figured it wasn't a bad thing. She was
stunned for an instant, but then she was a full participant and he found himself fighting to keep
from quicksilvering again.

Then Alyx's brain caught up with the rest of her and she jerked away from him, getting to her feet
and backing away. "No, damn it. I won't do this."

Now it was Darien's turn to be stunned. One minute she'd been the sweetest thing he'd been near in
ages, and then she was gone. Replaced by the angry, frightened woman he'd seen a lot of lately. "It
wasn't that bad, was it?" He was desperately trying to lighten the mood. To get it back to the way
it had been just moments before.

"Don't. Don't do this to me. I can't go through this." She continued to back away, eventually
ending up standing on one of the oversized window ledges. She leaned her forehead against the cool
glass of the window hoping he would just leave. He wasn't supposed to do this. Wasn't supposed to
give damn about her. Hadn't she been pushing him away from day one? This was why she didn't see him
outside of office hours. Why she didn't speak to him more than necessary. Why she stayed as far away
as she could.

"Alyx," he said from right behind her, "what did I do?" She had him worried. Part of him wasn't
surprised by her reaction. This was par for the course with her. Maybe he had pushed too hard, but
he didn't think so. She was holding back. From him, from life. He didn't think he could help her.

She turned around to face him and was actually looking down at him, which was an interesting
change. "Does it matter?"

"Of course it does." She was shaking again and he reached up to brush a stray curl off her face.
He expected her to flinch away, but instead she gently touched his hand, intending to push it away,
and froze. Her shields collapsed. The connection was unexpected and instantaneous; she jerked
upright, unable to pull her hand away from his. Emotions, both his and hers, rolled over and
through her.

Anger/fear/distrust/sorrow. Sadness/pain/confusion/loss.
Kindness/sympathy/happiness/love. Love? They passed through her leaving her feeling like she was
trapped, caught, falling with no hope of ever saving herself. With a lurch, she pulled away from
him, slamming the back of her head into the brick window frame. Quicksilver dust fell to the floor
around both of them. Breathing heavily, sparkles of light dancing before her eyes from hitting her
head, she whispered, "Damn. What the..."

"...Hell was that." Darien finished. All he knew was one moment she had touched his hand and the
next she was smashing herself into the wall with a look of complete shock on her face.

She drew in a ragged breath and just stared at him. Releasing it slowly, she said in a flat tone,
"Go home, Darien."


Wincing, she stepped down from the window ledge and moved past him. She walked over to her front
door and opened it. "Go. Home."

Darien's jaw tightened in anger. Moving quickly, he stopped before her. She stared defiantly up at

"Alyx..." he said tightly, looking her in the eyes.

For a moment she held his gaze, back stiff. Then her shoulders slumped and her head dropped.
"Please." she said quietly.

His anger evaporated. "Yeah, probably a good idea. I've done my damage for the night."

Alyx raised her head, but couldn't meet his eyes. One hand came up almost as if in supplication, or
apology. "I can't Darien. I won't do this." Her hand balled into a fist. "I hurt too much as it is."

He nodded. "All right, I'll go." He stepped through the doorway. "I just..." She wasn't
listening. "Good night, Alyx." He walked down the hall and somehow didn't flinch when her door
slid shut behind him, the locks engaging. Guess it was time to head back to his empty apartment and
wonder what the hell just happened.

Abandoning the control she'd forced herself to maintain, Alyx leaned against the door and slid down
to the floor, shaking. With a careless thought, all the lights in the apartment went out and she let
herself, her mind, her heart, sink into the darkness. Her long fall had just begun.

It took me a year to start clawing my way back up from the pit I had fallen into, and for me it
had taken quite a while just to fall. When I hit bottom, even I have to admit it was rather
spectacular. The abyss she was standing over seemed so much deeper, at least to her. It made me
wonder what would happen when she hit bottom.