Author: A. X. Zanier

Rating: R (Language, violence, adult situations, mild sexual situation)

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or basic story ideas of 'The Invisible Man.' Any additional characters and ideas are mine to do with as I please.

The Grosvenor is an actual hotel in the Orlando area. I have no knowledge about its interior and, aside from borrowing the name, have little knowledge of the building.

The Disney Marketplace and the Rainforest Cafe are owned by people other than myself, please don't sue me for mentioning them in a simple fanfic. It is free advertising after all.

OIA= Orlando International Airport

Weather You Will

"Weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society -- things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds and all is changed."

This coming from a guy who wrote about animals that could talk and write and play the trumpet. The last few weeks had been sheer hell on all of us, what with fire, destruction, and death. The death may have seemed to only directly affect one of us, but in reality it affected us all.

What is it they say? If you don't like the weather, wait a minute? I'd been waiting longer than that. Guess I shouldn't have been surprised when things changed.

Walking out of the terminal at OIA into the summer heat was like hitting a wall of air. Thick, hot humid air. Worse than a sauna. At least you could escape a sauna.

"Jeeze, kid, you weren't kidding were you?" Hobbes complained, peeling out of his sport coat.

"Bobby, it's only seven-thirty in the morning. Wait until it really gets hot," Alyx said with a smile.

"This would explain your outfit," Darien commented. Not that he was complaining about what she was wearing, which was currently very little. A pair of jean shorts that barely came to the tops of her thighs and a loose fitting t-shirt that came just to the top of the shorts.

"I lived here for 10 years. If the air ain't thick enough to cut, then you're dodging lightning," she informed them, looking for their ride.

"Thunderstorms, huh?" Bobby asked.

"Try just about every afternoon and evening. Why do you think I booked a red-eye flight? The turbulence in the storms is awful. Welcome to the lightning capital of the Western Hemisphere, gentleman," Alyx said, shifting the bags on her shoulder.

"Is that it?" Darien asked, pointing to an obvious government-issue car. A man in a dark suit stood next to it, holding a sign that read, 'Hobbes, Silverfox.'

They walked towards him. "Can you say 'mixup'?" Bobby muttered, shaking his head. "I'm Agent Hobbes. This is Agent Fawkes..."

Before he got a chance to finish, the suit interrupted. "Do you really think it's appropriate to bring your child?"

Both Darien and Bobby mumbled, "Uh-oh" under their breath.

"Child?" Alyx stepped right into the suit's face. "Explains why you're playing chauffeur." She looked the guy up and down, a grimace of disgust on her face. "I'm Agent Silver, and I seem to recall being specifically requested for this."

The suit swallowed hard and tried to back away, but found he was unable to go very far with the car behind him. He looked over her head at her partners, practically pleading for help with his eyes. Neither of the men seemed inclined to come to his rescue. Alyx reached out and opened the rear door of the car. With a final glare, she climbed in, leaving the suit standing there, looking at her two partners. He relaxed slightly and adjusted his jacket and tie. "Is she always like that?"

"Nah. You should see her in a bad mood," Darien stated climbing in back with Alyx.

"Last one who called her a kid can't have any of his own now," Bobby added, tossing the bags into the trunk of the car and going along with the gag.

The suit turned dead pale and swallowed hard. "Please tell me you're joking."

Hobbes slammed the trunk shut. "Does it look like I'm joking?" He walked past the guy and climbed into the passenger seat of the car, trying not to laugh. As the suit slowly walked around the car to the driver's side, Bobby turned around to look at Alyx. "You just had to, didn't you?"

"You two helped," Alyx pointed out with no remorse. "It ain't my fault I look like an adolescent, Dad."

"Cute, kid. Can we just get to our hotel without scaring the guy to death?" Bobby turned back to the front as the suit got behind the wheel.

The atmosphere was a bit strained for the first few minutes of the ride. It was Darien who broke the silence first. "So where are we staying?" he asked, praying for something better than the Motel 6.

"The Grosvenor," the suit replied.

Alyx reacted to that. "You're kidding?"

"You know it?" the suit asked.

"Know it by rep only. Nice hotel out by the mouse house." She thought for a moment. "Who's footing the bill for this?"

"CIA, Agent Silver." He drove smoothly through the early morning traffic.

"CIA? Thought this was a drug smuggling case?" Darien sounded a little confused.

"It is. Agent Morris will fill you in this evening."

Alyx and Darien exchanged a look. They had each had run-ins with the CIA before. Nothing good was going to come of this.

***

Alyx flopped back on the queen-sized bed she had taken over in the suite. The other bedroom had two double beds that the guys could fight over. She was so tired it wasn't funny. She hadn't even been getting her usual four hours of sleep a night; two had been the average for the last couple of weeks. Heck, who was she kidding? She hadn't slept well since Max died, for a variety of reasons. She lay there staring at the ceiling until someone knocked at the door. Darien poked his head in at her grunt.

"We got the day to kill. Want to go out? Get some lunch maybe?" he offered with a cheerful grin.

"I am going to try to get some sleep," she grumbled, sitting up on her elbows.

He came further into the room. "Still having trouble sleeping?"

"Always, as you well know." She flopped back down and rubbed her eyes with one hand. The Keep had been having an interesting time studying the effects of quicksilver on the two of them. Both Alyx and Darien were affected by the Quicksilver in their system, and one of the things they had in common was disrupted sleep cycles, though for vastly different reasons. "Go on. I'm sure there are any number of pretty young things down by the pool in need of your attention."

"Looks like there's one right here." Darien came over to sit on the edge of the bed. "I could order room service."

Alyx screwed up her face at the mere thought of food. She had gotten to the point where she was so tired she couldn't even eat.

"That bad, huh?" She had been a bit more relaxed around him in the last few weeks, a little more open to persuasion. He was tempted to try a bit of that persuasion now, what with the entire day to kill until their contact showed up, but he could tell she really was tired. He leaned over and kissed her lightly. "Get some sleep."

"Yes, sir," she mumbled at him. "Thanks, Dare."

He stood up and walked back to the door. "No problem."

Bobby watched as Darien shut the door behind him and ran a hand through his hair. He wasn't a fool. He knew something was going on between his two partners and he was pretty sure he knew what it was. He just wasn't sure that they knew it yet. "She not joining us?"

Darien shook his head. "Gonna try and sleep."

"Good. The kid's been running on empty for a month now," Bobby observed. "Hotel recommended some places over in the Marketplace. Walking distance, they said."

"Sure, whatever." Darien sounded distracted.

"It takes time. Give her a chance," Bobby said, walking towards the door of the suite.

"What are you talking about, Hobbes?" Darien focused on his partner finally.

"The funeral, what else? The kid fell hard. She just needs some time is all," Bobby stated, watching Darien for his reaction.

Darien went from distracted to irritated in record time. "I know. Believe me, I know." It was not his favorite subject to think about, much less talk about. Part of him hated the fact that she had managed to find some sort of happiness, however short-lived, with Maxwell Garrett. At the same time, part of him wanted to thank the man. Since the funeral, Alyx had really started to come out from behind that mask she hid behind and he really liked the person he saw underneath. Too bad she still wouldn't let him anywhere near her.

***

They ate an early lunch inside an erupting volcano - a place called The Rainforest Cafe. The food was remarkably good considering it was tourist trap hell. Every 30 minutes or so the volcano would erupt, with rumbles, crashes, and the momentary darkening of the room. After that they spent about an hour or so wandering around the stores, managing not to buy too much tourist stuff.

Hobbes was watching the masses ooh and ah at the patently phony displays put on for the gullible. They were watching a magician who ran a good patter, but did very simple tricks. "Considering who runs this place, you think they could find someone with talent," he grouched.

"He's not that bad, Hobbes. The kids think it's great," Darien argued, waving a hand at the enraptured children before them.

Hobbes snorted. "You've got better special effects than that guy. And his boss can afford to pay for better."

That pretty much ended the day.

Back at the hotel, Hobbes decided to check out those 'pretty young things' that Alyx had commented on earlier, while Darien headed up to drop their stuff off in the room. After tossing the bags on the sofa, he started to head out again, back down to the pool to watch Hobbes charm the girls. He paused, his hand on the door of the suite, thinking he might check on Alyx. If she was awake she might want to join them. Or so he tried to convince himself.

He knocked on her door gently and opened it, sticking his head in to look at her. She was curled up on her side facing away from him in the middle of the bed. She had kicked off her shoes and socks and they lay in pile nearby. She had somehow managed to drag down one of the pillows and crush it into a small lump that now lay on the floor. He debated between joining her and the far more intelligent leaving. The decision was taken out of his hands when the first crack of thunder rumbled through the air, which he found amazing, since he could still see sunlight out the window.

Alyx opened her eyes, startled by the thunder, but not surprised that she failed to sleep through the sound. She stared at the far wall where the doors to the balcony were, waiting for the next flash of lightning that she knew was just moments away. She was also waiting for Darien to decide what he was going to do. She rolled over to look at him through half closed eyes. She watched him for a few minutes, wondering what he was doing here this time.

"What do you want, Darien?" Alyx asked, her voice almost a purr.

"Nothing. I was just checking on you," Darien answered, walking towards the glass doors.

She rolled on the bed, following his movements across the room. "Now why do I have a hard time believing that?"

Darien opened the French doors to the balcony and stepped outside. "I know I heard thunder, but it's still clear out here."

Alyx followed him outside, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. "Storm's coming from the southwest; we're facing north. Give it a few, the clouds'll be overhead soon."

"And you know this how?" Darien wondered, turning to face her.

"I can feel it. Lots of nice energy buildup. It'll be a short, fast one. Bigger storms will go through later." She still had her eyes closed. "I could always tell when storms were coming before, but now...it's incredible. I can feel the power building up in the clouds."

"Alyx," Darien said, sounding odd to her.

She opened her eyes and looked at him. The thoughts running through her mind were ones she had done her best to avoid thinking for months now. She sidled up to him and placed a hand on his arm, sliding it up to run lightly over his biceps. She leaned in and kissed his arm tasting the warm flesh...

Thunder cracked overhead and Alyx snapped awake, sat up, and started swearing. "God damn it, can't I get any peace?"

Darien flinched at her sudden shout. She had gone from what appeared to be sound asleep to wide awake in an instant, and whether or not she realized it, every loose item in the room jumped at her shout. He was momentarily tempted to quicksilver, but he had a feeling that she already knew he was here.

Without turning to look at him, she growled, "Get out, Darien, please."

"Sure. Sorry, didn't mean to disturb you." He shut the door behind him as he left.

Alyx sighed and flopped back down. "I know, Darien. But you do anyway."

***

When Alyx finally left the bedroom an hour or so later, after showering and dressing for the meeting, she sought Darien out. He was thumbing through a magazine and ignoring the television, which Bobby was watching. She stood in front of him, waiting for him to acknowledge her presence.

He had noticed her, all right, and he looked over her choice of clothes with a smirk. She was dressed in a suit, for all practical purposes. Of course, it failed to have the standard cut to it. Black high-heeled shoes, close-fitting black pants, and a snug iridescent gray shirt, over which was a black jacket cut to accentuate every curve. She'd even done her hair in one of those fancy braids she sometimes did. He'd rather she left it down.

When she knew she had his attention, she said, "Sorry about earlier. That is not my normal mode for regaining consciousness."

Darien set down the magazine on the nearby table and climbed to his feet. Alyx backed away a step concerned he was angry with her and trying not to read him to find out.

"I should have just left well enough alone," he said, walking past her towards the room he was sharing with Bobby. "I'll know better next time." He shut the door behind him.

"Ignore him," Bobby announced, turning to her. "He's been grousing about all day. Probably just the heat."

"Yeah, I guess," Alyx agreed. "I'm going down to get something to eat. I'll meet Agent Morris when he arrives. Maybe Fawkes will cool off if I'm not around."

"Sure. Give us a ring when the guy shows." Bobby turned back to the TV.

"Of course." Alyx opened the door and left the suite.

She ended up in the bar off the Lobby with a margarita and a sandwich as she watched for the arrival of Agent Morris. He arrived about an hour later with two other suits. As they checked in at the desk, she approached. She waited until they were finished before getting their attention.

"Agent Morris?" she asked, her hands clasped behind her back. She was a little surprised to discover he was a redhead as well. Hair as bright as a newly minted copper penny, with a dusting of freckles across his cheeks. Cute. And at least a decade younger than she was.

He looked her over, seemingly surprised by her appearance. "Yes?"

"Agent Alyx Silver. Thought I'd meet you down here instead of making you find us," she told him.

"Really? Why?" He turned to the gentlemen with him. "Go ahead, I'll catch up."

When he turned back to her after watching his companions walk off she answered. "One of my partners is pissed off at me. Thought I'd give him time to cool down. Care for a drink?" She nodded towards the bar.

He thought for a moment. "Only if it won't get me arrested."

Alyx smiled. "I'm more than old enough, I assure you." Leading the way, she returned to the table she had staked out in the bar area and signaled for the waiter. When he came over Alyx said, "Another and put more tequila in it this time. Agent Morris?" She turned to him.

"Draft, whatever's on tap." Alyx made a face at him. "Okay, what would you suggest?" He was curious to see what she would do.

"Got any micro brews?" she asked the waiter.

"Yes, ma'am," he answered.

She looked at the gentleman sitting across from her. "Something dark, I think."

"Yes, ma'am," he said as he turned away.

Alyx watched Morris as he watched her. She was waiting for the usual comment and could tell he was trying not to say it. "You might as well. Everyone says it."

"You're not what I expected," they said in unison. He continued, "The Official sent a fax of you, but we were sure it was doctored. We were wrong. You do look sixteen."

"Which is why the bartender spent forever checking my driver's license. My shiny badge seemed to convince him, though," Alyx said with a small smile. "It actually has a use besides being a lump in my pocket."

The waiter arrived with the drinks and Alyx lifted her glass and downed a sizable portion of hers, pleased that there was more than enough tequila in it this time. Morris tried his beer, with a bit of suspicion at first and then with pleasure. It was fantastic. He wondered how she knew he preferred dark brews.

"Wonderful. I'm impressed," he praised, raising the glass in a toast. "Call me Stephen, by the way."

"All right, Stephen. One decent thing about this tourist trap of a town is good micro brews. Gotta keep the masses happy, and for most Budweiser just won't do it." Alyx raised her own glass and drank, after licking a portion of salt off the rim. She watched him carefully, trying to get an idea of what he was thinking without having to use her abilities.

"Rumors have been flying all over Washington the last few months about your little Agency. The last year or so there seems to have been a major turnaround. I wonder how much you have to do with that," Stephen mused aloud, watching her just as carefully.

"Not likely. I've only been working for them a few months," Alyx answered. "I haven't done anything too interesting, except for having to be rescued from a forest fire."

"Yes. I heard about that. I seem to recall you got caught in the fire because you were trying to disarm the incendiary devices. And that was after you had captured the men who set them," he commented, leaning back in the chair a bit.

"A failure all the way around," Alyx replied before finishing off her drink. She signaled the waiter for another.

"No one in my Agency thinks so," Stephen told her. "Considering what could have happened, they were quite pleased with the outcome." It was true. Several agencies had been after the group that started the fires, for a variety of reasons. The group had been taken down completely, with what they considered minimal damage to civilians. Somehow he knew she wouldn't agree with that, so he chose, rightly, not to mention it.

Alyx just shook her head. She was not in the mood to get into an argument about what she considered a complete fiasco of a mission. More things had gone wrong in those two days than she had ever thought possible, and just when she'd thought things were improving, they had gotten worse. Things still hadn't settled out completely in her mind. She nodded to the waiter as he arrived with her drink.

"So here's where you're hiding," said a voice from behind her. Alyx turned to see Darien standing over them, a frown on his face.

"Hey, Darien." Alyx ignored the frown. "Agent Stephen Morris, this is one of my partners. Agent Darien Fawkes."

"Good to meet you, Agent Fawkes. I've heard quite a bit about you." Stephen stood and offered his hand to be shaken. Darien ignored it.

"There are two gentlemen in our suite, waiting to start the meeting and wondering why you two aren't there yet." Darien was obviously still in a bad mood.

"Go ahead. I'll settle up the bill," Alyx offered, getting up from the seat. She picked up her jacket, which had been thrown over the back of the chair, and walked to the bar.

Darien shook his head. He should have known that under that conservative suit the real Alyx was lurking. The back of the shirt was nothing but a crisscross of beaded strings. Both men waited for her to return each sizing the other up.

Alyx took longer than she planned, simply because something on the TV caught her eye and she asked the bartender to turn it up. It wasn't anything much, just information on Tropical Storm Amanda which was still several days away from Florida and expected to neither develop nor make landfall on the US coast. "Wanna bet?" she muttered at the weatherman, then thanked the bartender and turned to rejoin the men at the table. She mentally groaned at the way they were eyeing each other. Picking up her drink, she downed it quickly. "Shall we? Destiny, once again, awaits."

As they stood in the elevator going up to their floor Alyx said to Darien in his mind, *Don't you dare start this again..*

He twitched slightly but didn't acknowledge her in any way. She sighed. It was going to be a long night.

Back at the suite, Stephen handled the introductions between Alyx and the two men he had come with. Agent Thompson from the DEA and Lieutenant Farrell from the Coast Guard. They gave Alyx a quick review of what they had planned while Bobby took Darien aside.

"Kid ain't going to like this one. I don't like it one bit," Bobby informed his partner and shaking his head. "Where'd you find her?"

"Found them in the bar. Getting along just peachy," Darien nearly snarled.

"Down, boy. She was probably just making nice with the suit," he suggested, then moved to rejoin the group.

Alyx was wishing she'd ordered something stronger at the bar. "You have got to be kidding me. This plan of yours, while quite creative, is nuts."

"It's the plan that has been approved. We want you because we have been unable to find another agent who is experienced enough and also looks the right age. And you definitely look young enough," Thompson stated. He looked up at her two partners. "She is old enough, right?"

"Quite old enough," Darien confirmed as he sat down in one of the chairs. "So what exactly is this 'plan'?"

Agent Morris said, "We want to arrange it so she gets picked up by the smugglers and stays with them to learn their route. We had an agent on the inside, but we haven't had contact with him in several months and are concerned he may be dead."

"What does this have to do with drug smuggling?" Darien asked.

"Darien, drugs aren't the only things these guys smuggle." Alyx turned to face him and she wasn't looking very happy.

"What else? What would require four different Agencies cooperating to catch these guys?" Darien asked feeling irritated.

Alyx glared at him. "Kids, Darien. These guys are slavers." She turned back to Stephen. "I take it they're working the Orlando area right now."

"Yes they work most of the gulf coast, hitting a new area every month or so. We caught a bit of a break this time. We need you to get picked up, which I don't see as a problem. These guys like unusual and unique in their merchandise," Thompson stated in a bland voice.

"Merchandise? These are kids you're talking about, not some bootlegged Disney videos," Hobbes said with a frown.

"We know," Stephen agreed. "We need you to stay for the entire route so that we can learn their delivery points. We want to break up this organization completely, so we need to know who is handling the sales at the other end. Once you have that information, you can escape and make contact." He stood up and handed her a file, which she opened. "These are some of the kids we've been able to verify they have taken. We've only recovered two kids, and then only by sheer luck."

Alyx thumbed over the photos. "I still don't like it. If I get picked up, if they take me on their little cruise, how do you track me?"

"We can wire you, but it would be dangerous," Thompson announced.

Alyx looked at Bobby. "You did remember the gear right?"

"Yeah kid. Had a feeling we might need it," he replied.

"Good. We'll handle the tracking device. Ours are probably far less conspicuous than yours," Alyx told them. "How long do we have?"

"Based on the past, they'll be leaving in less than three days. We want to insert you tomorrow afternoon. We have a good idea of the area they're working and we know which ship they're using this time." He nodded to the Lieutenant Farrell.

"We'll follow the ship as closely as we dare, for as long as we dare, but after that you'll be on your own until you make contact at the other end," Farrell said to her.

"So you're hoping that sometime within the next two days they'll decide she's valuable," Darien said the next word as if it tasted bad, "merchandise and take her along for the ride."

"Exactly," Thompson agreed.

"You realize this could get her very dead if they figure out what she is?" Bobby mentioned offhandedly.

"Ain't that part of the job, Bobby?" Alyx reminded him. "I'll need to do some shopping in the morning." All the men looked at her blankly. "I need to downgrade the quality of my clothes. Not too many runaways have custom fit, black leather pants."

"I didn't think of that," Stephen muttered. "Anything else we didn't think of?"

"I have some ideas." Her voice changed and she suddenly sounded younger, slightly frightened, and from the deep South. With a near perfect drawl she went into her spiel. "Howdy y'all. Ah'm from a small town near Baton Rouge." She smiled at the stunned expressions on the faces of three of the men. "Will that do?"

"Kid, you've done it again. You broke them." Bobby grinned.

"I'm supposed to be a runaway, right? Why would I be from around here?" Alyx pointed out, tossing the file on the table and sitting down. "Lets get the details worked out, gentlemen. I'm not going into this without backup somewhere nearby."

Darien watched in dismay as they got involved in the details of the job. Bobby was right; this plan was stupid. It was too likely to get her killed or sold to some slimeball who liked them young and fresh-faced. After about an hour, they ordered room service for dinner.

"What can you do, Agent Fawkes?" Stephen asked him, since Darien had been fairly quiet through the entire discussion.

"Apparently very little," he grumbled. He used to be the one other agencies were begging for. Now Alyx was getting all the attention. He couldn't decide whether to be annoyed or feel sorry for her.

Alyx just glanced over at him, then turned back to the discussion. Let him deal with his problems himself, she had to figure out how to keep her ass in one piece on this one.

By the time the food had arrived Darien had lost his appetite. He didn't have much to contribute to the planning, and between how cozy Alyx seemed to be getting with Agent Morris and the mere thought of her being taken by slavers....

Slavery, in this day and age. He was convinced more than ever that the world was falling to pieces. This whole situation left his mouth dry and made him wonder what the heck he was doing here. It's not like he was going to be of any use. He just hoped everything would go well for all of them for a change.

When their discussion began to repeat itself, Alyx booted everyone out, telling them to meet her back at the suite for lunch. She planned on being ready by then. Once the three men were gone she began picking up the remains from dinner. Bobby helped her while Darien watched from the chair he hadn't moved from the entire night. Darien could hear them talking as they worked but didn't really listen to what they were saying.

Bobby finally said good night and headed to the bedroom he and Darien shared. Alyx went over to Darien and stood looking down at him slouching in the chair and staring at the TV.

"Do you want to tell me, or shall I just make some assumptions?" she asked him. She wasn't quite sure why he was upset this time and didn't want to guess.

He stood up, switching off the TV as he did so. "Nothing to say."

She turned, following his movements. "Darien, please."

He stopped, his back to her.

"I don't understand your attitude," she said quietly. "I had a drink with the guy and talked to him. He is at least 10 years younger than me and he's not who I'm interested in." She walked past him towards her bedroom. "I was being polite, I thought."

Darien still hadn't moved and didn't until she had shut the door behind her. Once again he'd screwed things up.