Once again thanks to Rebecca(WorkerCaste) for being my Beta reader.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Epilogue ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Three weeks later


Another day, another cemetery. Another grave.

This was the first real chance he'd had to come out here. He had made it to the funeral, but made
sure to stay well in the background. He'd felt more than a little out of place among all her real
friends and her parents, so he had watched the ceremony from afar and paid his respects long after
everyone had left.

He had been very busy, just trying to understand everything that happened, to get it straight in
his head. Casey had come back into his life for such a short time, and unwillingly at that, but
instead of blaming him for the turns her life had taken, she had tried to help in any way she
could. Even when she was dying in his arms, she didn't blame him. Instead, she'd made him promise
to live. To endure the pain and learn to find happiness again. He still hadn't figured out why.
What could she have possibly seen, possibly known, that would have made her ask him to go on even
as her own life drained away? He had the terrible feeling he would always wonder.

He had been so convinced that he was doing the right thing. He'd even tried to go about it in a way
that would do some good for the others. In the end -- as usual, his subconscious muttered -- he had
caused more pain than it could be worth. Stark had gotten away, dragged off by those brainwashed
children and the adults who had been posing as their parents. Without the QS files, though -- that
was about the only good point. Several of the kids had been injured in the fire-fight and left
behind by Stark. They were expendable, apparently. They were currently being treated and
deprogrammed, along with the kids the Agency had previously rescued from Camp Teanaustaye.

He, Hobbes, and Monroe had finally gotten up to that camp where Stark claimed her son was four days
ago. It had taken longer than they thought, because the information and her computer had been
damaged in the shoot-out. Eberts had finally pieced enough of it together, along with what Alex had
remembered, to track the place down. It was just outside Portland, Oregon and the Official gave them
permission to go, though they were only there to verify its existence. Not to take any action.

They were too late. Oh, the place was still there and intact, but it was empty. Abandoned.
Chrysalis had obviously cleared out once Stark had woken up and been told they still had the
information. He really wasn't kidding when he said he didn't want to expose another 'training
facility.'

They had checked out the entire place, but all they found was a note, addressed to Darien, and a
photograph of that same child pictured in the info Chrysalis had provided. Though there was still
no way to really know if the child was Alex's son, it was entirely possible he was. Teasing her
with a picture of her son was something more than perverse enough for Stark to do.

At least Alex now knew her son was alive and in reasonable health. Whether that was comforting to
her or not, Darien couldn't say. She had closed herself off almost immediately, being very careful
not to let them see anything but the hard-eyed agent that drove them to distraction with her
callous attitude. Both men knew differently, and understood.

The note was quite plain in its threat. 'Do not interfere again.'

Darien had tried to apologize to Alex for screwing up again, but she'd just shaken her head. "You
tried, Fawkes. You kept your word, and you tried. That's more than I ever expected from you."

He was beginning to wonder what was expected from him. Did they really think he was nothing more
than an ex-con and barely reformed thief, who would be as likely to sell them out as to help? Did
they think him no more than a lazy and self-centered whiner who did nothing but complain about his
current unhappy existence? He had to admit it was true, to a point. Yes, he bitched about his lack
of a life outside of work -- work he had never asked to be a part of -- but Bobby complained almost
as much. He whined about the gland, the lack of success on the removal front, and about how everyone
was taking him and the side effects -- the madness -- for granted these days.

Kevin's high-handed decision to keep him trapped in a life he didn't want to live had been the
final straw. Kevin hadn't even bothered to really find out what it was like for him, or how
horrible he felt about the things he'd done and the people he had hurt and killed. Kevin had never
really bothered to get to know him at all, not for himself anyway.

Being a thief was nothing more than the physical manifestation of the free spirit he had always
possessed. That same free spirit that he had allowed Casey to come to know. Yeah, he'd lied to her,
but in the end he had actually decided to give it up for her. One more job, and he would go
straight, find a real job. Maybe even go back to school. Not med school, but there were others
things he liked: Philosophy, literature, something, anything so that he actually felt as worthy of
her as she thought he was. But, no, he'd had to do that one last job. Just some quick cash that the
half-dead farts at the high-priced retirement community wouldn't miss, and then he'd be done.

Nothing had gone as he had planned, and now he was here, standing at Casey's grave and wondering
why she had traded her life for his.

"Fawkes, you really have a thing for cemeteries don't you?" he heard Bobby call out from behind him
as he approached.

"Well, I seem to have more than a few people I know in them." Darien commented a bit dryly.

"True enough. Just don't be in such a hurry to join them, my friend. Some of us like you in the
land of the living. We'd miss all your unique commentary and view of the world." Bobby had begun
the sentence intending it to be flippant, but it came out far more subdued.

Darien turned to him. "Why did all of you go through so much effort to keep me here, when it was
obvious that I didn't want to be?" Since he could ask neither Kevin nor Casey, he was hoping Bobby
might be willing to answer.

Bobby was quiet for a long time, trying to put into words something that wasn't easily expressed.
"There's just something about you, Fawkes, something special that we see and wish we had for
ourselves." He shook his head, knowing he was not explaining this well. Fawkes was the one with all
the words, not him. "Look, I realize you don't see much hope in your situation right now, but it is
there. Come on, if all of us think you're worth something, don't you think there is the slightest
chance you might be?" He moved around so that Darien was forced to look at him and not just stare
off into the distance. "We can't all be wrong, now can we?"

Darien looked at the smaller man before him, his partner, his friend, and gave him a small smile.
"I guess not, but you could all be delusional."

"Fawkes," Bobby said warningly, but with a lighter heart. Maybe things would get better from here.
"You hungry?"

Darien thought about it and realized he was. For the first time in ages. "Yeah, where to tonight?"

"Oh, trust me, I know just the place," Bobby said, leading his friend away from the tombstones and
back into the world of the living.


"Where there is life, there is hope." Perhaps that's the lesson Casey was trying to teach me,
there at the end. So many people -- too many, really -- had given up their lives for me. Me.
Someday, maybe, I'll understand why. I hope.

Finis