Author: A. X. Zanier
Rating: PG-13 (Language, violence, adult situations)
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or basic story ideas to "The Invisible Man." Any
additional characters or ideas are mine. The lodge/resort within is loosely based on the Mammoth
Lodge, but I have changed it to suit my purposes and no infringement is intended.
Timeline: Takes place after "Interlude" but before "A Hot Summer's Night"
Spoilers: vague references to season 1 eps.
Comments: I was in a mood and decided to revisit the early days of Alyx Silver at the Agency. At
this point she has full control, but is still not very comfortable with her abilities and her new
life. She and Bobby have reached an uneasy truce and are trying to accept each other and the new
situation. She and Darien are becoming friends, but she still is keeping her distance from
everyone. This should be fun. Oh, and yes I do have a plot.

Okay, I kinda got the idea for this one from and old issue of Sandman that involved a 'cereal'
convention that wasn't what it seemed.

Thanks to Rebecca(WorkerCaste) my Beta reader.
--------------


Out in the Cold



"To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the
cold and danger, but jump in, and scramble through as well as we can." --Sydney Smith (1771 - 1845)

It's kind of like being thrown into the lake to teach you how to swim, or one of those lovely
initiation rituals you find at your typical college -- or prison. Those can be dangerous, but there
is usually someone nearby to pull your ass out of the fire if you run into serious trouble. Usually.




Darien poked his head around the corner of the post he was hiding behind to watch the four men who
were talking quietly a good twenty feet away. One carried a briefcase, and it was obvious even to
Darien that they were all armed. "I don't like sending her in alone, Hobbes. She doesn't have
nearly enough experience."

"Fawkes, we've been over this. You have a time limit on sanity and she doesn't. She's already been
see-thru for an hour, following Menkin all over this damn park." Hobbes sighed. "Let her do her
job."

"How do we know she's even there? Maybe she got caught." Darien didn't like this entire set-up.
Menkin worked for a government lab and had been under suspicion of selling secrets for months. The
Agency had gotten a tip that he was making another sale. They'd spent two days following Menkin,
listening in on his calls, waiting for him to schedule the meet, and when he finally did, Hobbes
had decided Alyx would tail them instead of Darien. He would follow her, sort of, act as her
back-up. Back-up it was looking like she didn't need.

*I'm still here, Dare. Now hush, before they hear you.* She sounded more than a little irritated.

"Sorry," he muttered aloud.

"The boss don't like eavesdroppers," a voice said quietly behind him. Darien spun around and found
himself face-to-face with a short guy built like a brick wall.

"Ah, crap." He jumped and twisted backwards as the guy swung with a wicked looking knife. The
quicksilver flowed even as the knife sliced flesh, leaving a burning trail of pain across his back
and down his left side.

"Fawkes!" Hobbes shouted in his ear. "Talk to me, Fawkes."

The guy with the knife was looking around, more than a bit confused by the sudden disappearance of
his target. His eyes narrowed in suspicion. Swinging seemingly at random, he nearly succeeded in
connecting with Darien again. Darien dodged and then swung, connecting with the guy's jaw and
knocking him to the ground. Darien stomped onto the hand holding the knife, making the guy scream
and release it. "I'm a little busy here, Hobbes. Some help might be nice."

"Damn it, Fawkes. I'm on my way."

The scream had attracted the attention of the other bodyguards that had been keeping in the
background, and they all moved towards Darien's location.

Inside, the exchange was hurriedly concluded so that everyone could make their escape. Alyx
appeared then, shaking her head. Guns were quickly drawn, only to be yanked from their owners and
held suspended in the air, out of reach. "Federal agent. You're under arrest."

"I don't think so," Menkin snarled before coming after her.

Not in the mood to deal with this, she simply grabbed all of them with her mind and knocked them to
the ground, holding them there. Turning on the microphone for her headset, she moved to secure the
disks and the briefcase. Opening the briefcase, she noted that there was a hell of a lot of money
in it. "Hobbes, I have the package and the perps are secure."

"Good, kid, now help Fawkes." Hobbes sounded out of breath, like he was running.

Alyx did a quick mental search and found Darien, as well as three other guys who were intent on
causing him some severe damage. He was hurt, which explained the subtle ache that ran across her
side. She pocketed the disks, dropped the briefcase and guns, gave those stuck to the ground an
admonishment to behave, and ran for where she knew Darien was. By the time she arrived,
quicksilvered blood was beginning to appear and she knew he was hurt pretty bad. She waded in,
throwing punches and karate kicks at the bodyguards who were rather shocked at the sheer violence
she was dishing out. Bobby arrived less than a minute later and, with a single shot in one
bodyguard's leg, convinced them to surrender.

"Fawkes!" Hobbes shouted. "Where are you, partner?"

There was a thud and an audible groan as Darien appeared sitting on the ground. His entire right
side was covered in blood. "Ow," was his stellar comment.

"Ah, hell Dare." Alyx moved over to him. "Hold still and let me see." She carefully peeled up the
shirt, ignoring the blood that still flowed from the nearly eight-inch-long gash.

"Ah, crap. That hurts." He tried to shove her away. "I'm fine. Claire'll patch me up."

"At least let me get the bleeding stopped," Alyx said to him.

"Fawkes, stop being a baby and let her do it. I don't need you bleeding all over the van." He
stood from securing the last of the bodyguards. "The Fat Man won't cover the cleaning bill."

Darien sighed as if he was being put-upon once again. "Hobbes..." He drew out his partner's name.

"Fawkes..." Hobbes mimicked. "Kid, can you keep an eye on these guys while I tie up the rest?"

"No prob. Let me know when you want them let up," Alyx said as she glared at the men lined up
against the wall and the pile of weaponry Hobbes set near her.

Hobbes chuckled. "I wondered why they weren't moving." He watched as Alyx picked up one of the
guns and, after checking the action, handed it to Darien. Hobbes tried not to grin at the look of
total dismay on Fawkes' face. Not quite ten minutes ago, he'd been complaining she wasn't nearly
experienced enough, and now she was handling his injury, weaponry, and the bad guys like she'd been
doing it as long as Hobbes.

Alyx wasn't nearly as calm as she appeared. Once Hobbes walked off she turned back to Darien. "I
have done this before. Let me help."

Darien ground his teeth and glanced at her, catching something he didn't quite expect -- fear.
"Sure, go ahead. I'll watch them."

Alyx shifted around behind him to get a better look at the wound. It wasn't all that deep, though
it might need stitches. It was just bleeding like crazy. The knife had been damn sharp and created
a smooth cut, not tearing the edges of the flesh at all. "This is gonna hurt a bit." She
quicksilvered the fingers on one hand and, after carefully holding the edges of the wound together,
drew her fingers along it. Sealing it shut with the cold. It would do as a temporary patch job, much
better than just holding a cloth over the slice.

Darien yelped and paled. She hadn't been kidding about it hurting. This was the first time he'd
really been on the receiving end of quicksilver chill, but he knew the method was effective. He'd
used it himself in the past on others.

"Okay, kid, turn 'em loose," Hobbes called out. Alyx released the four that included Menkin and his
buyer from her mental grip.

Menkin went crazy, even though he was secured hand and foot with those plastic ties that doubled as
emergency cuffs. He snapped the ones holding his feet, went after one of the guns that Alyx had
taken from them earlier, and attacked Hobbes, who shouted in surprise. With less than a thought,
the knife that had been used to cut Darien appeared in her hand and she tossed it at Menkin. With a
little mental help to increase the force, it buried itself into Menkin's shoulder, knocking him off
his feet and ending any more resistance he might have been considering.

Hobbes looked over at her with one eyebrow raised. He was careful not to show his surprise. "Nice
one, kid."

Alyx didn't respond, going a little pale as the reality of what she had just done -- hell, had been
doing that entire afternoon -- sunk in. She'd aimed that knife for the man's head, and only at the
last second had she decided to go for the disabling hit instead. She'd wanted the man dead, and
that scared her.

Darien had gotten carefully to his feet, once the threat of flying knives was over, and looked at
her. "You okay?"

She sat in place, shaking. "No."



Later Darien lay on his side, shirtless and sore, down in the Keep. Claire was carefully cleaning
the wound with warm antiseptic water and ignoring every little flinch and whimper Darien made. Not
that she wasn't sympathetic, but he was a big boy and didn't need to be babied. She was impressed
with Alyx's foresight; by sealing the wound with quicksilver, she'd not only reduced the amount of
blood lost, but had also probably killed any potential germs and lowered the chance for infection.
Once she had the wound open again and bleeding lightly, Claire carefully cleaned it -- with hisses
and moans from Darien -- and, after debating for a moment, chose not to stitch it shut. A nice
tight bandage, aided with a few butterfly bandages, should suffice and would reduce scarring to
near nothing.

"There, now that wasn't so bad, was it?" Claire peeled off her gloves, disposed of them, and then
helped him slowly sit up.

"Care to trade places and see how the experience feels for yourself, Keepy?" Darien gingerly felt
along the bandage, noting it was tender and burned almost like a paper cut.

Claire ignored his snide remark and returned to his side to check the monitor. There were four
segments red. "Think you can wait a day or two?"

"Yeah, unless the boss needs me for something else," Darien answered honestly. He really wanted no
part of building up a tolerance any sooner than necessary.

"Well, I wouldn't worry about that. You need to take it easy for a few days. Ripping that open
would not be a good thing. You are officially on light duty as soon as I inform the Official."
She patted him on the arm. "Take some Tylenol for the pain. Any redness or swelling, you call me.
An infection would not be amusing."

"Gotcha, Claire. Thanks." He slid off the table, then realized he didn't exactly have anything to
wear. His shirt was a torn and bloody mess that Claire had thrown away after one look. Glancing
down, he realized his khakis weren't much better off. Rather uncomfortable, too, since the blood
had dried.

The door to the Keep slid open then and Hobbes walked in carrying a duffle that Darien recognized.
Behind him trailed Alyx, who was pocketing her mag card. "Thought you might like to change before
going out in public. Don't want to frighten the neighbors." He tossed the duffle to Darien, who
caught it with a grunt of pain as he pulled at the bandages holding him together. "So Keepy, will
he live?"

"A couple of days to heal and he'll be fine," she answered, smiling at Bobby, then she turned to
look at Alyx who stood quietly over by the tank of piranha. "Alyx, can I help you with anything?"

There was a smear of blood along one cheek and her shirt had a few as well. None of it hers. "Nah,
just letting Hobbes in. You really need to get him a key." She glanced over at Darien, who pulled
the shirt out of the bag, put it on, and began to button it. "See you guys first thing tomorrow."
She didn't wait for any of them to speak and simply turned and left the room.

"Huh. Guess she's had enough of us today." Hobbes commented, not really surprised at that she
chose to just leave. Once the work was done, she usually took off, rarely spending time with them
off duty. Things were better, but she still stood a bit on the outside and Bobby knew it. "Fawkes,
hurry up and change. The boss wants to talk to us before we leave."

"What about Alyx?" Darien asked as he shifted out of view. Claire moved to the other half of the
lab, so as not to embarrass him more than necessary.

Hobbes shrugged. "Eberts said you and me, partner. She must have given her preliminary report and
turned over the package already. I was off getting you clothes."

Darien came around the screen holding his bloodied pants with a look of dismay. "There is no hope
for them."

"At least they went out in service to your country." Hobbes knew that comment would go over real
well, and the look Darien shot him confirmed this.

Claire came over and took the pants from Darien. "I'll dispose of these." She went through the
pockets efficiently to make sure they were empty. The pants were headed for the incinerator, and
she didn't want to be responsible for toasting his keys or something similar.

"I got everything, Claire, thanks." Darien picked up the duffle and headed towards the door.

"Remember what I said, Darien." Claire was feeling a bit awkward standing there with Darien's
pants in her hand.

Hobbes took advantage of the situation. "Don't worry Keepy I'm not jealous. I know you got them in
the line of duty."

Darien walked out the door, trying not to laugh, while Claire attempted to bluster a comeback and
failed miserably. Hobbes scooted out of the room a moment later, grinning. "Sorry Fawkes, I
couldn't resist."

"One of these days she's going to figure out you're not joking, and then what are you gonna do?"
Darien was careful about teasing his partner about his feelings for the Keeper.

"Do? Same thing I do now. Nothing. Company pier, my friend. That's one rule you need to learn."
Hobbes kept his reminder gentle, knowing how defensive Darien could get where it concerned the kid.

"Like there's anyone out there. What, should I try and date Sally in accounting?" Darien managed
to keep his voice neutral. His lack of a life, love or otherwise, was a sore spot.

"Nah, she's not your type. Now, Maria in data retrieval, she might be willing to put up with you
for an evening or two." Hobbes was enjoying this. "She'd take one look at you and decide she
needed to 'feed you up right'."

Darien rolled his eyes. He wanted no part of one of those 'motherly' types.

"I could give her your number." Hobbes offered keeping his tone serious.

"Don't you dare."

"And how would you stop me, o tall and gawky one?" Hobbes had paused to look up at the taller man.

"I could send Claire a dozen red roses and a book of poetry in your name," Darien countered.

Hobbes' face fell. "You wouldn't. Fawkes, don't joke about things like that."

"Don't worry, Hobbes, your secret is safe with me," Darien reassured him, and was pleased to see
the worry leave Hobbes' face. That had obviously been across that unseen line in the Claire teasing
and Darien would be more careful not to cross it in the future.

Opening the door, the two stepped into the Official's office. Eberts stood at his usual spot behind
and to the right. It was obviously a staged pose; they had probably heard the voices in the hall and
moved into position to be ready for their entrance.

"Have a seat." The Official gestured at the chairs before his desk and waited for the two of them
to sit. "I'll want your full reports in the morning; right now I just have a few questions."

"Shoot," Darien said, wanting nothing more than to go home and take a dozen Tylenol to ease the
ache in his side.

"How did Miss Silver do, in your opinions?" The Official as leaning forward on his desk, his face
blank.

"Perfect. She tailed them all over the park, waited for the exchange, and then took them down as
planned. Except for Fawkes here getting caught, everything went smoothly." Hobbes answered
swiftly. As far as he was concerned, it was true. The kid had done a great job.

"Did she use any of her other abilities?" Eberts asked, a pad of paper and pen having suddenly
appeared in his hands.

"Yeah, she trailed them while invisible -- held it for over an hour -- and then did that tele...
teleki..."

"Telekinesis," Darien supplied.

"Yeah, that. Held Menkin and friends in place till I could restrain them." Hobbes paused,
thinking. "That's it, as far as I know. She didn't really need it other than that. She waded in and
helped Fawkes here fight off the bodyguards who found him, but that was just her fighting skills."
Hobbes leaned back into the chair, satisfied he'd answered the question.

"Fawkes?" The Official's attention swung to Darien.

"She spoke to me mind-to-mind once, and I think she helped that knife she threw with her mind a
bit." He was a bit reluctant to answer, wondering why they wanted to know. "She seemed a bit upset
after everything was over."

Hobbes nodded in agreement. "Just adrenaline let-down, most likely. All new recruits go through
it," he assured his partner.

"Good enough." The Official leaned back in his chair, causing it to creak loudly. "Nine AM
meeting. Don't be late."

Darien and Hobbes got to their feet as one. "Another job?" Hobbes asked.

"Just be here. You will be filled in then," Eberts answered.

Darien shrugged and opened the door, allowing Hobbes to go through first. "Want to get some
dinner?" Hobbes asked him.

"No thanks. I'm going to go home and pretend I don't have an eight inch gash in my side," Darien
answered sounding tired.

"Fawkes, the stories I could tell. That's just a scratch compared to some of the wounds I've
seen." Hobbes got that swagger in his walk as he led the way to the lobby.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Machete, jungle, gangrene. I've heard that one." Darien was smiling, though.
Hobbes was a fount of useful, if sometimes nauseating, information.

"Go home Fawkes. Want me to stop by your place in the morning, make sure you didn't bleed to death
overnight from your 'scratch'?" Hobbes was going to get a lot of miles out of this one.

"Yeah. I have the feeling I'm not going to sleep very well tonight." Darien stopped next to his car
and opened the door to toss in the duffle. "Thanks, Bobby."

"It's what partners are for, partner." Hobbes looked up at him for a moment before walking off to
his van.

Darien shook his head and dug out his keys, wanting nothing more than to go home and collapse.



Alyx had gone straight home after leaving the Keep and changed immediately into her workout
clothes. She needed to straighten out a few things in her mind. As she began hitting the heavy bag,
she let the events of the day run through her mind. Following Menkin from his house had been easy.
Even following him through the park while invisible had been simple. Listening in on the meeting
had been boring, but necessary. She had no need of the patently fake small talk they used to cover
the deal they were making. Even she could hear the code phrases and words they had mixed into the
conversation to verify who they were, but the exchange had to be made before she could legally
arrest them.

All that she had handled fine, even using her powers to hold them and the guns didn't bother her
too much. It was her reaction to Darien being hurt that bothered her. Not that she had wanted to
see him hurt or been unwilling to help. He had really needed the help; three on one just wasn't
fair, even when the one was invisible. Darien had been pretty much backed into a corner with
nowhere to go and had been bleeding like crazy. Yeah, he could have backed down towards her
location under the covered walkway, but he was leaving an obvious trail. Someone really needed to
teach him to defend himself, and it still bothered that that no one really had.

What really bothered Alyx, though, was her violent reaction. She'd waded into the fray, wanting to
blast every single one of them into oblivion, and had only just managed to restrain herself. She'd
only beaten on them a little before Hobbes had arrived to tie them up.

Alyx paused, panting. The bag was vibrating in place while she glared at it. Darien had so reminded
her of one of her kids after a good scrape -- wanting someone to make it all better, but not wanting
anyone to actually touch it, to help. She shook her head, not wanting to laugh. He had been badly
hurt. Any deeper and she would have rushed him back to the Keep right away, and to hell with Menkin
and his buddies.

She started in with the kicks, alternating high and low, right and left. Her reaction when Menkin
attacked Bobby bothered her most. She was starting to like Hobbes, to understand him and how she
needed to work with him, but her vicious reaction had surprised even her. Menkin had come within
inches, literally, of being quite dead. If she hadn't shifted the knife, it would have been
sticking out of the back of Menkin's head instead of his shoulder.

Bobby probably thought her case of the shakes and near-vomiting had been from adrenaline let-down
-- the natural crash that occurred after something so dramatic -- but it wasn't. It was her
near-successful urge to kill that sickened her. That wasn't her. She might have studied karate for
years, but she had never used it against anyone until the Agency had stolen her. Had never used it
to even defend herself when... when.... She pushed the thought away, along with the memories. That
was not her anymore, but she wasn't sure she liked this new self either. This newfound penchant for
destruction was not something she had ever thought herself capable of.

She slowed to a halt, her breath rasping in her lungs and her heart racing. Her legs ached with the
force she'd been using to kick the bag. She stood doubled over, allowing the sweat to run off of her
and drip onto the floor. She gave in then and let the tears fall. She might have found enough peace
to gain control, but she had yet to find herself. Alyx was still feeling a bit lost.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Darien was trying to not be a major wimp, but he would gladly admit he hurt like hell. Even after
downing the recommended dosage of painkillers, he'd still had trouble sleeping, and now he was
stiff as well. Showering had been an exercise in discomfort as he tried not to get the bandages wet
and yet still get clean. He thought he'd done pretty well, but Claire had still tsked at him when
he'd stopped in to let her check him over. She'd redone the whole thing and proclaimed it good
enough, but told him to be more careful in the future.

He'd just grunted something generic in reply and gotten out of there. Between lack of sleep and
Hobbes' running commentary, he was not in the best of moods. He needed coffee, some serious
painkillers, and six hours of sleep, undisturbed sleep.

Walking into the Official's office, early for the meeting, he was greeted by Alyx who smiled at
him. Okay, so maybe his day wasn't going to be all that bad. "What's up?" he asked, expecting
another week of stake-outs or something equally as interesting.

"A vacation," Eberts answered.

All three burst out in laughter. Hobbes got control back first. "What's really going on?
Terrorists? Gun runners? Maybe more chimp smugglers?"

"No. A vacation. The three of you will be spending the next five days at the Snow Valley Lodge and
Resort near Mammoth Mountain," the Official said, straight-faced.

The three partners looked at each other. "Care to handle this one, kid?"

Alyx shrugged. "Sure. So, what's the real reason? You sure as hell ain't doing this out of the
kindness of your non-existent heart." Yeah, she and the Official were still pretty much at odds.

"Look, you three have been going non-stop for well over a month and ended up working right through
the holidays. Do you really want to argue about a vacation that the Agency is paying for?" The
Official sounded a bit exasperated.

"Argue? No, but we're a bit cynical these days," Darien answered for all of them.

"Fine. Eberts, cancel the reservations. I'm sure there is something dull and boring we can find for
them. Maybe a stake-out at the docks. Near a fish-processing plant." The Official's tactic worked.

Hobbes jumped forward and yanked the file out of Eberts' hand. "Never mind, chief. We'll go play in
the snow for a few days." He thumbed through the file and found airline info. "Flight is at one.
We'll meet back here, share a ride." He looked over at Alyx and Darien who both nodded.

"The Keeper will be joining you tomorrow evening." When Eberts saw the looks of total suspicion on
their faces he added, "She has earned some time off as well."

"You had better get moving. You don't want to miss your flight." the Official said in obvious
dismissal.

Out in the hallway, the trio looked at one another. "Are we buying this 'vacation' spiel?" Alyx
asked.

"Not for a moment. He put us on a private jet. Pack for work and vacation, just in case," Bobby
answered, taking the lead as always.

Darien tried to peek over his shoulder and into the file. "What else, Hobbes?"

"Later, we need to get ready. We'll meet back here and share a cab to the airport." He glanced at
them and Darien nodded. "Kid?"

"I'll be here." She turned away.

"Kid, you okay?" Maybe he'd been wrong about yesterday. Maybe it was more than the usual newbie
jitters.

"I'm fine, Bobby," she tried to reassure him. "Too bad it probably won't be a real vacation. I
could use one."

"Tell me about it," Hobbes agreed. "Come on, Fawkes let's see if the Keep will give you a booster."

"Later, Alyx," Darien said as they went their separate ways.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~