Author: A. X. Zanier
Rating: PG-13 (Language)
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or basic story ideas to 'The Invisible Man'. Any additional
characters come from my very own fevered and warped imagination and are mine to do with as I please.
So there. The character Dara Jarnell is from another story of mine, that has no relation to I-Man,
where she appears in a slightly different form.
Timeline: Shortly before 'Beholder'
Spoilers: Pilot, L&L, C&M
Comments: This was my first fic without my Alyx Silver character and I wrote it to meet a challenge
that had been thrown down. Not bad for my first effort I must say.
Orignal Post: 2/28/2001 @ IMFanfic

Thanks to Rebecca(Workercaste) My brave Beta and overworked Beta reader.

Mother's Day

There was this 'wild' man with the name of Oscar who said, "The only way to get rid of temptation
is to yield to it...I can resist everything but temptation."

I've been tempted a lot in my life, and I'll admit it usually led me straight into trouble. Since
coming to work for the Agency, I've resisted temptation more often than not.

Good for me, I guess.

But every once in a while something comes along that is too tempting to resist. Double fudge ice
cream. The scantily-clad blonde on the beach. The one item that can take you home again.

When it's put right in front of you, how can you not be tempted?

You know, days like this always start out so normal. I was doing nothing more exciting than
grabbing some breakfast on the way in to work when an ad in an almost-abandoned newspaper caught my
eye. I picked it up off the table where it lay and walked away with it, after giving the former
owner a wave of thanks. Have to admit I didn't really care if he protested; I was already reading
the article and still walking down the street.

Why couldn't this have happened a year ago? You know, before all this crap with the Agency? I'd had
my chance at a similar piece once before, but at the time it had been a bit beyond my skills, and I
hadn't wanted to get Liz involved with it. She would never have understood why I wanted it in the
first place.

And now...well, now I was more than a bit overqualified to take this item, but...

Yeah, but.

I folded the newspaper and stuffed it in my back pocket. I still had to get to work. Still had to
deal with whatever crap the Official decided to dish out today.

My mind wasn't really on work when I got there. I was thinking about other things, about my past,
both recent and distant. Things that I hadn't allowed myself to think about for years. Things that
had happened still way too recently. So recently that the painful reminders were still with me. But
it had me contemplating a lot of things. Life, death -- a lot more about death than I usually
prefer, but that was the way my life was running lately. So when I wandered into the Keep I didn't
notice who was there at first. "Morning," I said as I sat down in one of the chairs.

"Can I help you with something, Darien?" Claire sounded distracted, like I had walked in on
something I maybe should not have.

I looked up and focused on her. "Ummm. No? I just stopped in to say hi."

"Well then, could you stop in some other time? I'm in the middle of something right now." Her tone
was more than a little sharp.

"Sure. No problem," I said, getting to my feet. "I'll just make sure to call first next time."

Well, wasn't this just a fun day so far.

Heading upstairs, I opened the door to the Official's office -- without knocking, as usual -- and I
knew it was a mistake the moment I entered. They didn't even have to tell me to get out, and I was
pretty damn sure I wanted no part of whatever was going on in there. I backed out the door without
making a comment and made it around the corner of the hallway without being chased down by a
yowling Eberts.

You know, maybe I should have just stayed in bed today. I pulled the newspaper out of my back
pocket as I walked to Hobbes' office and poked my head in the open door. "Hey, Hobbes. 'Sup?"

"Oh, Fawkes. It's you." Not the most enthusiastic greeting I'd ever received, but the best one so
far this morning. "I'm on my way out." Hobbes was putting on his jacket and then checked his gun.

"Where we going?" I asked, leaning against the wall.

"'We' are going nowhere. I have to go kiss some ass at the FBI offices." He made a face that
showed just how pleased he was to be doing this. "Didn't you get the message?" Hobbes slid past me
out the doorway and I followed him down the hall.

"Machine's broken," I said.

Hobbes gave me this look.

I shrugged. "So I threw it across the room. I'll buy a new one later."

"Well, you have the day off today. Don't waste it." Hobbes stepped out into the sunlight with me
behind him.

Tapping the paper into the palm of my hand I said, "Oh, I think I can find something to do."

I stood across the street from the small auction house, arguing with myself. There was no harm in
just looking, right? I wasn't committing myself to anything by just looking, was I? I crossed the
street and climbed the steps to the entrance, casually noting the single camera focused on the
front entrance and the security panel five feet down the hallway from the front door. Going in, I
was greeted almost immediately. Just holding up the newspaper was enough for the gentleman to know
why I was there; he escorted me to the room where the items to be auctioned were on display. He
handed me a copy of the catalogue for the items and, after I assured him I needed no assistance,
left me with several others who were also perusing the items on display.

The item I was after was in a lot of a half dozen books, all to be auctioned as one set. Nothing
most people would find spectacular, but it had meaning for me. Other items were worth more. Some of
the jewelry was quite impressive and even real. Some of the silver would even be worth my time if I
so chose.

The security on the cases was pretty simple. Key locks and then internal motion sensors. Nothing I
couldn't deal with. The room was wired with cameras and motion sensors, all tied into what I
assumed was a silent alarm. I spent a few more minutes looking over the items in the room and
pretending to make notes in the catalogue. As I was leaving, I casually looked about the interior
of the building, noting where the wiring was inexpertly hidden or downright obvious, before heading
outside to examine the exterior.

I found the back door and discovered that the security was no more impressive back here. Motion
light, camera, nice lock. It would take me thirty seconds, tops. Tricky part would be disabling the
security alarm without the code, but there were ways around it. Walking back down the alley, I shook
my head.

Was I really going to do this?

I still didn't know, but I knew I'd stop by later this evening to see what the security guard
situation was like. Based on the number in there during the day, at night they probably only had
one man who spent more time sitting on his ass trying to stay awake than he did walking around the
building. It wasn't like this place was holding millions in collectibles. These were private estate
collections being auctioned off, most likely by the children of the former owners because they
either needed the money or didn't realize the value of the items.

Value isn't always monetary.

As I had told Liz not all that long ago, I missed this. Damn, I missed this. Sitting around in that
heap of a van just did not compare to really casing a place. Okay, so certain of my new friends
would probably not be very thrilled to discover what I was thinking of doing, but today I didn't
care. My life was not about pleasing them. Hell, my life lately had been about playing good little
solider for the Agency.

When not doing a job, I showed up for my shots every Monday morning and listened to the Keeper tell
me yet again that she still had made no headway in safely removing the gland. Not that the boss
really wanted her to. Without me, without the gland stuffed in my head, the Official had nothing.
He'd be right back where he'd been before he blackmailed me into working for him -- the nothing
boss of a nothing agency. It would be in his best interest if the gland never came out.

Bobby had become my friend, but he couldn't really understand. To him, having the gland would mean
he could do his job better, serve his country, serve his boss, bow down and kiss some more
government ass. He lived for that sort of crap. Not me. I had to learn to deal with it my own way.
Bobby had his other life, as Mr. Textile himself. Me? Those nights I used to spend out now had me
indoors -- reading, watching TV, improving my cooking. Shit. If I had as many friends as I
currently had enemies...but I didn't.

This was the one thing I'd always had for myself. I wanted it back.

I had made my decision.

After making a couple of calls and doing a little research online, I spent most of the afternoon
asleep. I figured if the Fat Man really needed me for any reason, he could find me. I certainly had
no need to find him. Would much prefer never to see him again.

I wish.

Actually I did, often -- wished this whole damn thing was some weird dream that I would soon wake
up from. Somehow it never came true. I never woke up. Some days I was afraid that I'd never get
away, that I'd always be the Fat Man's personal slave to fame. While he gained a rise in power and
budget, I would acquire a resistance to the counteragent and regular visits to the padded room. Not
my idea of a fun life.

So maybe being a thief was not the best choice as an option, but at least it was my choice.

I'll admit I began hanging out with Liz because it was nice to have someone paying attention to me
for a change, instead of fawning over Kevin. The fact that she caught me breaking into her place
had nothing to do with it. Well, not much anyway. If she hadn't caught me, things would have gone a
lot differently. She had found it quite amusing. I was what, twelve, maybe thirteen at the time? I
had already been breaking into places for a few months by then. School wasn't enough to keep my
attention, and I had no interest in any of that after-school crap. Can you see me in band or on the
football team? I was never really big on teamwork anyway.

Until Liz.

Like I was saying, she caught me red-handed going through her bureau, looking for something,
anything of value besides the electronics which were a pain in the ass to carry around.

She walked into the room, swinging her keys on her finger, and said, "Not bad kid. You beat my
security to get in here."

I might have been scared out of my mind at being caught, but I did my best to bluster my way out of
it. She didn't buy a word of it.

"Cool it, kid. If I was gonna turn you in I'd have done it already." She tossed the keys onto the
bureau and walked past me into the room, taking a seat on the bed. She looked at me as if she were
checking out an expensive item she was considering purchasing. "Kid, if you're really interested in
learning the business, I might be persuaded to teach you."

For a second I just looked at her in astonishment, but being the snotty little beast I was I copped
an attitude. "Don't need no help. I'm doing just fine on my own."

"Really?" She arched her eyebrows. "Then why were you pawing through my junk jewelry when you could
have been breaking into the safe and been gone in half the time?"

I got angry. As far as I was concerned I was doing pretty well all by myself. My anger found its
way into my voice. "I don't need any more lectures. I get enough of those at home."

"You're right, kid. A lecture ain't gonna do you a bit of good. So why don't you run home to
Mama." She waved her hands at me, then got to her feet to escort me out. I balked. I wasn't ready
to leave yet, and I certainly had no interest in going home.

"Why? Why would you teach me?" I was still angry, but she had also made me a bit curious.

"Like I said, you impressed me, kid." She led me out of the room, but not to the door. We ended up
in the kitchen, where she got a can of soda for me. "What's your name anyway?"

"Darien," I answered her.

"Well, Darien. I think this is going to be the start of a profitable relationship." She raised the
drink she had gotten for herself in toast.

I hadn't thought about that night in years. Wondered if there was a reason I was thinking about it

I'd been watching the auction house for about three hours, and I was pretty sure I had the guard's
routine down. I'd been right in that there was only one. At the top of every hour, he left the
small security room to check each of the display rooms and the main auction hall. He checked all
three of the doors to the building, then returned to the security room to spend the rest of the
hour dozing in front of a television. His rounds took about twenty minutes. I figured if I entered
the back door just after he'd checked it, thus avoiding the rather noticeable opening of the door
on the monitors, I'd have all the time I needed to get what I was after and get out. Which left me
with a half hour to kill until he started his next set of rounds.

I wandered down the street to a coffee shop and settled myself down to relax for a little while. It
was difficult, though; I was looking forward to this. There is this sense of anticipation that
happens before any job. There's that knowledge that you are doing the forbidden, that threat of
getting caught, that thrill of success. Working for the Agency just wasn't the same.

Okay, so the last time I tried to pull a job was less than successful. That'll teach me to be
persuaded by an old friend, and I think I'll avoid doing work for mobsters in the future. This one
was simple. There was no way there'd be a problem. No reason for anyone to get hurt.

Checking my watch, I realized that I had killed enough time with my mental musings and needed to
get myself into position for my grand entrance. I made my way to the back of the auction house and,
after making sure the area was clear, I quicksilvered and headed to the back door. The guard was
right on schedule. As I watched, he checked the door and then moved on.

This I had practiced. Taking out my lock picks, I went to work on the door's lock. It had taken
quite a bit of practice to master picking locks without being able to see either the lock picks or
my hands. Or being able to feel the picks very well. It required an excellent sense of touch, but
the quicksilver distorted it. Just one more thing I did on those long nights that I spent at home.
In seconds, I had the door open and had slipped inside.

Now I had to give the security system a code within thirty seconds or it would signal an intruder
alarm. This was what one of my phone calls had been about. Security companies always had an
override code for the systems they install, in case of a problem. I just called the company and
made like an overworked employee who was having a really bad day and got the bottom feeder who
answered the phone to give me the code. It's amazing what sounding cranky and irritated can get you
if you do it right.

I keyed in the code and watched as the system returned to normal status. Time was a-wasting. I
didn't dare take too long or I'd have a tough time explaining all the quicksilver I had used. I
made my way to the display room and was about to open the case containing my prize when I
heard...something. I paused. It had sounded like a muffled shout.

Liz may have been right in that I have more conscience than larceny sense, and there are indeed
times I want to beat myself upside the head for it, but this was not one of those times. I was
turning back to the lock, picks at the ready, when I heard the gunshot. Quickly followed by two

This was not part of the plan.

I don't know what I was thinking then. I should have just smashed the glass, grabbed the prize, and
run, but no. I had to go see what the hell was going on. It was just my luck to find the security
guard, quite dead, just outside the security room. He'd been shot at least twice.

It was time for a strategic retreat. I took just enough time to notice that a couple of the other
display rooms had been trashed, but I didn't pause any longer than necessary.

'Aw crap' did not adequately describe the way the night was going.

I got out the back door, up the alley, and back onto the street just as the first police cars
arrived. Whoever else had been in there must have set off the alarm, because I sure as hell hadn't.
I stepped into a nearby doorway and had to take several minutes calming myself before I could
convince the flow of quicksilver to stop. That turned out to be too long. The police were
everywhere by then. I apparently looked a bit too suspicious and was still a bit to close to the
auction house to not be a generic suspect. Maybe it was the all-black ensemble. Or the fact that I
was trying to casually hide in the doorway. In the end it didn't really matter.

And this had started as such a normal day.

You guys all know the routine right? Okay, so maybe not. Read my rights, handcuffed -- always fun
for an evening -- and stuffed into a police car. They were not thrilled to find the lock picks.
Even less thrilled when they discovered the dead security guard inside the auction house. They of
course didn't believe me when I said I had nothing to do with it.

You know, maybe I should give up this life of crime.

Three jobs in a row now that were total screw-ups.

Maybe someone is trying to tell me something.

I spent some time dozing in the back of the cruiser while they decided what they were going to do
with me. What else was I going to do? Until they either took me back to the station or let me go, I
was stuck where I was. I wasn't all that surprised when I got that free ride to the police station
and was left sitting in a small room with not much more than a table and two chairs. Oh, and one
big-ass mirror. Like anyone doesn't know what they are for these days. Given my last experience
with the police, I was expecting pretty much anything but a warm welcome. Most of these guys had at
least a passing acquaintance with me, so the detective that finally came in to question me was quite
a surprise.

She -- yeah, I said she -- was about five-foot-ten with hair so dark it was nearly black, cut about
chin length and tucked unceremoniously behind her ear on the right side. Waif thin, but obviously
all muscle. She gave me the once over, and I discovered she had the most penetrating blue eyes I
had ever seen. She glared down at me for a moment and then tossed a stack of papers on the table
between us. "Well, Mr. Fawkes, seems you've decided to move up in the world yet again. Apparently
molesting the elderly wasn't enough; murdering security guards is more your style now." She
sounded rather exasperated with me.

I opened my mouth to protest that I hadn't done anything, but she silenced me with a look. "Mr.
Fawkes, I'm not a stupid person. I can read between the lines. You've never been caught with
anything more dangerous than burglar tools. The 'molesting the elderly' rap was obviously a set-up
of some sort, and you haven't even been seen jay-walking for the last year or so. Which shouldn't
be surprising, given you were sentenced to life on a third strike violation. Yet here we are." She
sat on the edge of the table and ran a hand wearily through her hair. "Just give me your partners'
names and tell me where I can find them and this will move a lot faster."

For a moment I just sat there stunned. At this point I'd be more than happy to turn over my
accomplices. However, since I didn't have any, I was in a bit of a dilemma. I didn't think telling
the truth would go over very well either, so I went with something in the middle. "Are you
arresting me? 'Cause if you are, I'd like to make that phone call now." Not that I had any idea
who to call. Although the chance that calling the Official might cause him a heart attack made me
consider him for an instant.

She looked at me for a long moment. "Why do I have the feeling that, although you know more than
you are saying, you were not involved in this? At least, not directly?"

"My honest face?" I quipped, then groaned at myself. There are days that I need a muzzle for my

"Cute." She tapped the papers on the table. "I think it's more that it doesn't fit your style.
Crude as that style may be."

Crude? I think I was mortally wounded by that comment. "Just let me make that call, would you?"

There was a tap on the glass. "I'll be back in a minute." She moved towards the door of the room.
"Just out of curiosity, what do you do now?" She was standing in the open doorway.

I debated for an instant and ended up going with the truth, figuring they'd never believe me
anyway. "Federal Agent. Department of Fish and Game."

She blinked at me and began to laugh. "Really? So what were you doing middle of downtown at one in
the morning then?"

I swear I didn't think, that the words just came from nowhere. I've definitely been hanging around
Hobbes way to much. "Research on the habits of bats in the area." I shrugged. "There have been
some complaints."

She froze. With a completely calm look on her face, she nodded to me and left the room, shutting
the door behind her. Then the laughter erupted.

I was screwed. Shifting slightly, I leaned forward and whacked my head, none too gently, into the
table top. No matter how many times I went through this, it never got any easier. I was so hoping
we could get this settled without me having to see the inside of a cell. This room was bad enough.
Add a bit of padding and it would be a twin of that happy place just down the hall from the Keep.
Oh, jeez. I had the sudden fear that, even if I got out of here, the Official would be shoving me
in that padded room just to teach me a lesson. I had forgotten how much I hated this part of being
a thief.

Getting caught sucks.

"Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" Uncle Peter's voice had taken on that tone that I
had learned to hate. I knew what was coming, and I knew that no matter what I said the lecture
would still come. By now I could repeat it word for word. Had even done exactly that the last time.
Not a good move as it turned out.

So I shrugged and just hunched further down upon myself.

He sucked in a deep breath in preparation, but nothing came out except a long, drawn-out sigh.
"Darien, I'm not sure what's going on in that head of yours, but this is the last time I will
protect you. The next time you get yourself into some sort of trouble, you and only you will have
to deal with the consequences."

I lifted my head in surprise to look at him. No lecture? No commentary about my relative value in
comparison to Kevin? With me on the losing end, of course.

"You're sixteen, Darien. You're smart and you obviously have skills." His tone was a bit wry at
this point. "I've done what I could. But no more. The next time, I'll watch them shut the cell
door. Maybe that's the only way for you to learn." I didn't know what to say. It was what I wanted
-- to be left alone -- but at the same time I had been taking advantage of the fact that he'd kept
sweeping it under the rug. Maybe he did care. Maybe it wasn't that Kevin was better, just different
from me. Maybe...

"Why can't you just be more like your brother?" Uncle Peter said, shaking his head.

Maybe because I wasn't Kevin, and Uncle Peter could never seem to realize that.

I heard Hobbes before I saw him. Muttering to himself as he paced the floor.

"Hey, Hobbes," I said, trying to keep the mood light. It didn't work.

"Fat Man's gonna love this. Why are we late? Well I had to..." His voice went to a shout at this
point. "...bail my partner out of jail!" He smacked me on the back of the head. "What were you
thinking? 'Oh, just steal a little piece. No one will even notice.' I thought you said you had
'above average' intelligence."

I turned to Detective Jarnell with a pitiful look on my face. "Can I just stay?"

She tried unsuccessfully not to smile, but instead of answering me she spoke to Hobbes. "Should I
leave the cuffs on, or do you have your own?"

Thankfully she was unlocking them as she said this or I would have thought she was serious.

"Don't tempt me," Hobbes said to her. He handed her a card. "If you need to contact me, or get a
hold of wonder boy here."

"I can assure you we will want to talk to him again," she said, handing him one of her cards in
return. "And you," she said to me, "I think you know the routine."

I nodded.

"Good luck with him," she said to Hobbes, before turning to walk back towards her desk.

I looked at my partner, who was glaring up at me. I opened my mouth to explain.

He held up a hand. "Don't. Not now. Not one word. Or I'll personally see to it you are locked in
the padded room and forgotten for a month."

I said nothing. I'm guessing he was rather upset at me. The ride to the Agency was interesting
anyway. Angry glares combined with dead silence. He walked me into the building and then down into
the Keep without a word. Claire didn't look angry so much as disappointed.

Boy, word had spread fast.

She pointed at the chair and I went and sat in it without a word. I held out my arm, palm up,
before she said anything.

"A quarter full." She looked over at Bobby who was shaking his head.

"So, what were you doing last night? And don't try the bat research bit with me." He paused
tipping his head. "Pretty good one, that."

"Bobby, don't encourage him." Claire sounded disgusted at this point. "Take him up. The Official
is expecting you."

I looked at her. "Do I hafta?"

"My friend, don't even bother. The Fat Man isn't half as angry as she is." Hobbes had grabbed my
arm and pulled me from the room.

When the door shut behind us in the Official's office, I had the distinct impression of a knell of
doom. And I had never heard one of those before, not even when they shut the cell door on my life
sentence. Hobbes shoved me down into a chair and stood behind me, as if he was worried I was going
to run. Eberts looked at me, shaking his head. Like he is so high and mighty. The Fat Man's little

The Official glared at me. For a moment, I was expecting the lecture my Uncle Peter used to give
me, but instead he cleared his throat. "I would have thought your last experience would have taught
you something, but obviously not. Now, without getting dramatic, could please tell us just what the
hell happened?" He folded his hands on the desk. "We have no doubts you were there."

What was I going to do? Yeah, lying did cross my mind, but considering I was a potential murder
suspect it was probably a good idea to have the people who wanted me out of jail on my side. "I was
there, but I didn't shoot that guard."

"Tell us something we don't know," Hobbes said, coming around to stand by the desk. "Like who did."

"I have no idea. I was about to grab what I was after when I heard the shots. I went to
investigate, found the dead guard, saw the trashed rooms, and got the hell out of there." I
slouched down in the seat a bit more. "The cops showed up and saw me just down the street. Hell, I
would have picked me up just on principle."

"So you have no idea what they were after?" the Official asked.

I shook my head. "Like I said, I didn't see a thing."

"The police are going to need something more than that," Eberts commented.

"I think we'll be able to come to an arrangement with Detective Jarnell. She seemed willing to
believe that Fawkes had nothing to do with the robbery and murder," the Official said. "Hobbes,
take him home and get him cleaned up. Have him back by three o'clock." The Official glared at me.
"Something will have been arranged by then."