Author: A. X. Zanier
Rating: R (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.
Timeline: During season two, after "Exposed."
Spoilers: Let's see: BK, Exposed, MFN 1&2, TC, TCh, FtB, JA, 3PoC
Comments: This is a 'What If" like you wouldn't believe and was inspired by a comment in another fic of mine.
Thanks to Rebecca(WorkerCaste) for Beta-ing this bit of weirdness.
"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough." Mario Andretti coined that little bit of reality. My problem? What happens when you hit that brick wall?
It was amazing how quickly a rather boring and normal day could turn dark and dangerous, though unexpected turns had pretty much become the norm in his life in the last year or so. Ever since the little incident involving Arnaud and the bout of Stage Five madness, things had been... different. That had begun the change, the slow downward spiral into ever-deeper depression and despair, and then Kevin -- his thrice-be-damned, self-righteous, I-know-better-than-you brother, and his last real chance to get this gland out of his head -- had abandoned him to this fate, this life of torture and hell.
He just wandered day to day, trying not to think about whether or not he'd ever get free of this place, of the gland. He forced himself into a routine of sorts and stuck to it, never thinking beyond that day, that hour, that moment. Because to think beyond was scary, hopeless, and depressing. If he concentrated on the now, he was fine, but to even contemplate the future would cause him to spiral into another bout of depression. And though part of him wanted -- almost craved -- the dark emotions that would lead him to, he resisted. That one tiny bit of hope still flickered and burned in the depths of his soul.
His sudden attack of deep thoughts was ended by the sound of screeching tires and, of all things, gunfire. He and Hobbes stood in the parking lot of the local sports bar they had chosen to unwind in for a couple of hours and watched in amazement as a car -- an older model Toyota from the looks of it -- came barreling around the corner, followed closely by a couple of late model sedans, both black with dark tinted windows. A hand sticking out of the window of the first sedan was waving a gun and, with what had to have been a lucky shot, blew out the right front tire of the Toyota. The little car veered sharply and hit the curb hard enough to roll it. The tumbling vehicle came right at the two of them.
"Ah, shit, Fawkes." Hobbes grabbed Darien by the arm and dove out of the way. The two of them ended up on the ground, bruised but mostly unhurt. Getting to their feet, they saw the mystery car had come to a rest on its roof just a dozen feet away, rocking slowly up and down. The two sedans had stopped with squealing tires. Dark-suited men were boiling out of the vehicles, headed for the overturned car with guns drawn. Some of those weapons were obviously tranquilizer guns, and it made both men really curious as to who they were after.
That's when they saw the figure crawling out of the smashed rear window of the Toyota. The person crawled a few feet away from the car and then struggled to get upright. When they realized that it was girl, a young girl, neither man hesitated and both ran to her side.
"Help me," she begged as she all but collapsed onto Darien, who did his best to support the tiny figure.
"Hobbes?" Darien looked at his partner, who nodded and drew his weapon.
"Federal Agent!" Hobbes shouted at the men who were approaching. They didn't look at all happy that he and Fawkes had gotten involved.
"Back off. You have no idea what you're dealing with. Just turn it over to us." The guy talking was wearing dark sunglasses and spoke in a dangerous voice.
"It?" Darien didn't really care for the guy calling this child an 'it.' He noticed the way the guy's buddies tried to flank them and shifted the girl so the she was more behind him. "Somehow I don't think these are the good guys, Hobbes."
"Me either, partner." Hobbes glanced back at the kid, who looked terrified of the men before them. She was also hurt pretty bad by the looks of it, with blood running down the side of her face and bruises blossoming on her arms. Turning back to the MIB look-a-likes, Hobbes shook his head. "I don't think so."
The man gave a harsh bark of laughter. "Think again. We won't hesitate to shoot you." The sound of weapons cocking was loud in the parking lot that had gone eerily quiet for a Wednesday evening.
"Now give it to me."
"No!" the girl screamed. She wrenched herself away from Darien and moved to stand in front of Hobbes. She was shaking like a leaf and barely able to stand up, yet she stood there facing down the men who had chased her here. "Don't make me do it, Corvan."
"You wouldn't dare, not with so many 'innocents' about," the man she called Corvan sneered. "Come with me, or I'll start by shooting them." He waved at Fawkes and Hobbes and it was plain to both men he meant it.
The girl shook harder and looked about them. A crowd had gathered, the patrons of the sports bar having come outside to see what was going on. Sirens could now be heard in the distance. Coming to some sort of decision, she got herself under control and straightened. "Leave, Corvan. Tell your master I'm free."
Darien glanced over at Hobbes, wanting to know what to do, but Hobbes was as unsure as he from the looks of it. They had stumbled into something that was obviously very big and very dangerous. "Fawkes, grab her and get out of here. I'll cover you." Hobbes said in a low voice.
"Hobbes?" Darien wanted to be sure. Shooming two people was hard enough, but in front of a crowd like this was usually a major no-no.
"You got another plan?" Hobbes countered. They ran out of time then, as the first of the wailing sirens -- a SDPD cruiser -- pulled into the lot. The officers went into the standard routine and found themselves being shot at by the black-suited men.
Darien took advantage of the distraction to grab the girl and pull her behind a car, where he quicksilvered the two of them like Hobbes had suggested. Holding her firmly, he headed towards the van and got her inside. Hobbes joined them moments later, having used the shoot-out as cover to make his escape. From the front seat, he watched the MIB's grab their wounded and take off in their cars as more police arrived, along with fire trucks and an ambulance.
"Fawkes, you in here?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah." Darien had been freaked, just enough that he'd forgotten to drop the quicksilver from the two of them. As it flaked away, he looked down to see the girl who lay in his arms staring up at him in total surprise. He was kind of shocked himself. The girl has the most startling eyes he had ever seen -- the pupils were silver, quicksilver to be exact, though there were striations and variances much like a normal eye. He was immediately taken with them. "You okay?" he finally managed, once he'd found his voice.
Bobby glanced back at the two of them as he started the van and began driving away. Somehow he knew that the police shouldn't know about the kid. Not yet anyway. "Fawkes, she's been hit."
Darien pulled his eyes away from hers and looked lower to find a tranq dart sticking out of her shoulder. Removing it he tried to get her talking. "Crap. Try and stay awake, okay."
The girl nodded at him even as her eyes became glassy. "Thanks for trying," she mumbled.
Her breathing became a bit erratic, which scared Darien. He'd hate to think there might have been something other than a knockout drug in the dart. They wouldn't kill her, would they? It had looked like they were trying to capture, not kill. "Hobbes, hurry."
"Fast as I can. Called the Keep to let her know we're on the way." He dodged about some slower moving traffic, heading back to the Agency. It was the only place he could think of to take her.
"Try to keep her talking."
Darien nodded and turned back to the girl, who was fighting to keep her eyes open. "What's your name?"
She blinked up at him and then began to shake. For a second, he thought it was over, that this young child they had tried to rescue was going to die in his arms. Then he realized she was laughing. "My name? You want to know my name?"
He couldn't understand why she found this amusing. "Yeah. I'm Darien. That's Bobby." He pointed at Hobbes who had pulled up in front of the Agency at last.
"It's been so long," she mumbled, her eyes sliding shut as she lost the fight against the sedative. Bobby slid open the side door and helped Fawkes lift the girl so they could get her inside.
Alex met them in the lobby. "What happened?"
"Later, Monroe. Keep first." Hobbes pushed past her and led the way downstairs to the Keeper's lab.
"Why is it the two of you just seem to attract trouble?" Alex asked, shaking her head.
"Luck?" Darien suggested.
"Timing," Hobbes offered.
Alex shook her head again and followed along. "At least you keep things interesting."
"A compliment?" Darien added only a touch of sarcasm to his words.
"Fawkes, it's the truth," Alex answered. Any further conversation was cut off by their arrival at the Keep.
The door was open and Claire was waiting for them. "Put her on the exam chair." It had been reconfigured flat; Darien laid the girl gently upon it before stepping back.
"Fawkes, you stay here. I'm gonna tell the boss what happened." Hobbes waited for Darien's nod of acknowledgment before leaving the Lab, the door sliding shut behind him.
Darien stood near the glass panel and watched as Claire went through the routine of checking over and then patching up the various injuries she encountered. She hooked the girl up to some monitors and then took a blood sample to test. "Claire?"
Claire looked at him as she passed, carrying the blood sample to the centrifuge. "Not sure yet, Darien. Some things are a bit odd." She noticed Alex, then. "Alex, hello. What are you doing here?"
"Curiosity," Alex answered. "Well, Fawkes, care to explain?"
Darien shrugged. "Not much to tell. Her car came out of nowhere, being chased by a couple of others. After she crashed and crawled out, she asked us for help. Should we have said 'no' and walked away?" Alex didn't really need the details, not now, and what he said seemed to satisfy her.
"Do you know who was chasing her?" Alex was looking over at the girl with an odd expression on her face.
"Dark suits, nice cars. Not cops, that's for sure." Darien was also staring at the girl. There was just something about her. She was tiny all the way around, with flaming red hair and pale skin. Like she hadn't seen sunlight in a while. She was barefoot and wearing what looked like an institutional jumpsuit. Similar to jail garb, but in a plain blue instead of the orange the jails used around here. It even had a number stamped on it, but he couldn't make it out from this angle. She was bruised and battered and looking rather pitiful at the moment. He found himself oddly drawn to her and he wasn't sure why.
Claire, who was leaning over a microscope, gasped. "This can't be."
"Claire? What's wrong?" Darien turned to look at he. She shook her head and rubbed her eyes before leaning back over the microscope.
"Her blood is saturated with quicksilver, at levels even higher than you maintain, Darien." Claire sounded confused more than anything.
"That's not possible. There's only one other gland out there." Alex spun about and moved closer to the lab bench.
"That we know of," Darien reminded her. "We didn't know Arnaud had one till he told us."
"I need to take some X-rays," Claire muttered. "This makes no sense."
"Like that's anything new." Darien shook his head and looked back over at the sleeping child. As usual, things were getting weird.
Darien was dozing in the chair he was sprawled in, waiting for news from the Keep. Good thing the poor kid was out cold -- Claire had run her through the ringer, doing every test she could think of, before putting her in the padded room with a pillow and blanket to sleep the rest of the tranquilizer off. The Official was not looking very happy, arguing with Eberts about some error in the budget or some such trivial item. Darien had lost track of the conversation.
Hobbes was pacing with a cell phone to his ear, trying to track down who was in those sedans, it wasn't easy. The cars had been unmarked right down to the lack of license plates. They could belong to almost any government, or even private, agency. All they really had to go on was the name Corvan and the girl. Alex had offered to help as well and had made a few calls of her own. She, however, was working in her office. Darien was debating asking if he could crash on her couch, since it didn't look like he was going to be heading home anytime soon, when Claire walked into the office wearing a frown.
Hobbes' phone snapped shut. "Claire, what's the good word?"
Darien didn't move, but was no longer vaguely sleepy.
"Yes, Doctor, how is our unexpected guest?" The Official had made it plain that he was not happy with the situation at all, but had admitted that, given the way the incident had played out, there was nothing else they could have done.
"Sir, that's a good question. She's alive, but near as I can tell she shouldn't be." Claire lowered herself into one of the seats around the conference table, looking exhausted.
"Umm, huh?" Darien asked, opening his eyes and locking them on hers. Admittedly not the most brilliant of questions, but it would suffice.
"Her system is flooded with quicksilver, yet she has no artificial gland like Darien. At least, not that I could find. Her pineal gland is enlarged, however, though I've no idea as to why. Her brain wave and neurotransmitter function is off the scale in comparison to a normal human. Based on preliminary tests, her entire lymphatic and glandular system has been altered somehow." She paused and took in a deep breath.
"Okay, I'll bite. How?" Hobbes pushed away from the wall and moved to lean on the table.
Claire shrugged. "As near as I can tell, she has been genetically altered, though how, I have no idea."
"Could she be a Chrysalis kid?" Darien wondered aloud just as Alex came into the room.
"Not likely," Alex answered as she set a file down on the table.
"And why is that, Miss Monroe?" the Official asked.
"Because I ran her DNA and fingerprints through a few databases and found a match." She opened the file and turned it so they could see the info and picture inside.
"Michele MacTierney, born in..." Hobbes trailed off. "That can't be right. She's just a kid." But the photo, though a crappy student ID shot, was unmistakably her. "Why does this not make her a Chrysalii kid?"
"Hobbes, she's wasn't in one of their camps if she went to college. They tend to keep a tight rein on their experiments." Darien caught the look in Monroe's eyes, that slightly haunted shadow over her features. "Sorry, Alex."
She waved her hand. "I know what you meant. And while I agree with you, I just have the odd feeling she's not one of theirs."
"Doctor..." the Official began only to be interrupted when the door was swung open.
"We have a problem with the prisoner," a generic agent said.
"Prisoner? Idiot! She wasn't supposed to be locked in there." Claire got to her feet and rushed to the door with everyone following her.
The suit ran after them. "She's gone. Fawkes must have snuck in and quicksilvered her."
"Hello? I'm right here," Darien pointed out and was amused to see the look of utter confusion on the man's face.
"I watched her quicksilver. I figured you had to have done it," he said without apology. It wasn't like Fawkes hadn't broken people out of the padded room, or pulled invisible pranks, before.
"De Fohn?" Eberts asked, slightly out of breath from the hurried pace.
"Nah, he can't do other objects," Darien answered absentmindedly. When he realized they were taking that like the bombshell it wasn't supposed to be, he added, "When I lost my memory. He pretended to be Kevin..." When that still rang no visible bells he continued. "We... we talked. He told me some things. You know I could have sworn I put all that in my report. Does this mean you don't actually read them?"
The Official cleared his throat. "So it's not de Fohn. Then how?"
They all stopped in the hall outside the padded room. Two agents were leaning on the door which was being beaten on hard enough to shift it. "We think we trapped them inside. I'm gonna kill Fawkes for this." Then he noticed Darien standing there and snapped his mouth shut on whatever commentary was coming next.
"Come on," Claire said, going into the viewing room. "She may be doing it herself."
"You mean she can go see-thru like the gland man here?" Hobbes was more than a little disbelieving.
"At a guess, yes," Alex said in the driest tone she could manage. "Where is she hiding?"
Darien wondered as well. There wasn't much to see in the room. Somehow she had ripped open the heavy canvas material of the padded walls and there was fluff and stuffing everywhere. "There." Darien pointed. You could just make out where she was as the stuffing would settle on and then slide off her moving figure. As he watched, she mounted another charge at the door, hitting it with a solid thunk that rattled the glass in the window before them.
Claire switched on the microphone. "If you will calm down, we'll let you out."
The Official shook his head to disagree, but she shot a look at him that kept him quiet.
"Let me out!" she screamed, from inside the room. It quickly became a plea. "You said you'd help me, Darien. Not imprison me."
Darien winced, feeling guilty. He leaned over the mic. "It's a misunderstanding. I'll be right in." He turned to the others and saw that they wanted to tell him no, but they probably also knew he wouldn't listen. "You gonna stop me?"
Claire shook her head. "Not this time. Just be careful; I'm not entirely sure what she is." On those cryptic words, Darien left the viewing room and went to the door of the padded room. The guys there were still leaning against it in case she decided to make another attempt at playing battering ram. "Move it," Darien said with little patience. The guys just turned to glare at him.
The Official stepped into the hall and barked "Do it." With that, the agents backed away, if a bit reluctantly, and allowed Darien pass.
Once inside with the door shut behind him, but not locked -- that he would have heard -- he looked through the still-flying fluff and didn't see her. Hoping that she'd 'glow' the way Arnaud had while they both were invisible, he quicksilvered his eyes and searched again. He found her standing in the far corner, out of sight of those it the viewing room. Her outline glowed with a pale blue aura, unlike Arnaud's darker purple. He moved, but only to sit on the padded bed in the middle of the room. Once seated, he wondered what to say. They'd rescued her from a nasty situation -- where, at a guess, she'd been kept against her will -- patched her up, and then locked her up again. It was little wonder she was reacting poorly.
"Look, this would go a bit easier if I could see you."
She snorted. "You already can, sort of." She shifted her weight back and forth on the balls of her feet, as if debating making a break for it. Instead, the quicksilver coating her flaked away and she looked at him with more than a little fear in her eyes.
Darien let his sight return to normal and looked her over carefully. Except for being conscious, she didn't really look any better. "I'm sorry. Claire just put you in here 'cause it's quiet. You weren't supposed to be locked in."
"And how do I know you aren't just some other group of wackos after me? It was awfully convenient you were there to provide a rescue." She began to pace along the wall, moving slowly, almost languorously, one hand trailing through the loose stuffing, causing more to drift gracefully towards the floor.
Darien sighed, nearly mesmerized by her slow movement. "You don't, I guess. Maybe we can help."
She laughed then, quietly. "Thanks for the offer, but I doubt it. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to leave."
She was nearly to the door and Darien wondered how she'd gotten there. He didn't remember turning to follow her movement, but he had. He was turned nearly completely around from his original position. "Hey, hold up a minute." He got to his feet and moved to stand between her and the door. "Give us a chance." At close range, he could see she was not nearly as well as she was pretending to be. She was shaking slightly and had dark circles under her eyes. "At the very least you need a couple days to recover. And you know it."
She just looked up at him for a long moment with those startling eyes of hers, then she relaxed and sighed. "All right, but one hint of anything hinky and I'm out of here."
Darien backed a step and opened the door, motioning for her to go first. In the hall, they were met by everyone and she immediately froze, the distrust obvious. "It's okay. They're the good guys."
She shook her head. "Or so you hope."
It took a couple hours to even begin to sort things out. Claire had checked her over again, asking a bunch of questions and getting a few answers. A lot of the time the girl simply said, "I don't know," in a tone that made it clear she really had no idea exactly what had been done to her or why.
Eventually, at some ungodly hour of the morning, they ended up in the Official's office trying to piece together anything that might explain where she had come from and who had been chasing her.
Alex had loaned the girl some sweats she kept around her office -- she sometimes went running in the afternoon -- and the kid had been so thankful to get out of that jumpsuit that Darien knew she'd been wearing it, or ones just like it, for a long time. She alternated between pacing nervously and standing in the corner of the room, watching everyone with a wariness that was eerily penetrating.
Darien couldn't help himself; he felt a connection to her. Hell, maybe it was only to be expected, she was as much a lab rat as he had been. He'd felt a similar connection to Thomas Walker until he'd found out the guy was really Gaither, and even then he was sympathetic to the man. He'd liked Thomas and feared Gaither, even as he needed him to, hopefully, remove the gland, and had been oddly moved at Gaither's attempt to help once his memories had returned, but with Thomas' conscience. It was too bad that Gaither felt the only way to redeem himself was to blow himself and the SWRB sky-high.
"Look, I don't know who they were, or where I was. I hadn't been outside in..." She stopped and turned to Darien. "What year is it?"
"Year? Uh, 2001. Why?" Darien did not like the way she went even paler than before and got to his feet. He got to her just in time, as her legs apparently decided not to hold her any more. He, with some help from Hobbes got her in a chair and he crouched beside her. "What?" When she just stared blankly forward he set a hand on her arm. "Talk to me. I said I'll help."
She blinked and met his gaze. "Three years? I lost three years?" That was it for her -- she closed her eyes and slumped in her seat, no longer interested in those about her.
Darien knew that look, had seen it on his own face, knew exactly what it felt like. That sudden, shocking realization that you're whole life, everything you knew and understood as normal, was gone. Ripped away, turned ass-over-teakettle, wiped off the face of the planet, just completely fricking gone. Oh yeah, he knew.
"What is the last thing you remember Miss..." Eberts began.
"Shut up, Eberts." The Official didn't yell, but the words were still effective in closing the lackey's mouth with a snap.
Claire spoke up. "I'll arrange a place for you to sleep in one of the labs."
The girl stiffened and opened her eyes, looking about a bit wildly. It was good bet she'd run in another minute, and if she quicksilvered there would be no one to stop her.
Darien patted her arm in what he hoped was a soothing manner. "It's all right, just relax for a minute. Okay?" She nodded tightly and he got to his feet. With a little head motion, he got everyone to move closer to the Official's desk for a semi-private conversation.
"What, Fawkes?" Hobbes supplied, to get this started.
"I don't think keeping her here is such a good idea." Darien knew exactly how that statement would go over and wasn't wrong. They all began to hand out reasons why she needed to remain here, all of which were valid, but still wrong. It was, surprisingly enough, Alex who came to his defense.
He watched as she glanced over at the girl, who had a death grip on the arms of the chair, and then turned back to their pow-wow. "Fawkes is right. She's just going to feel trapped here. She can stay at my place, if she'd like."
There was a long moment of silence. The fact that Alex had agreed with Darien stunned everyone and making them unsure what to say.
"Or my place. No offense, Alex, but she probably trusts you less than me, and I know she doesn't trust me at all." Alex gave him a slight nod to acknowledge both the truth of his statement and his heavily disguised thanks for backing him up.
"Doctor?" The Official wanted her input.
"She's stable and, even though I have no idea what she is, she appears to be healthy. I have no medical concerns about her leaving." Claire made it plain by her tone that she was uneasy about letting the girl out of her sight, but since she could not justify the feeling with facts, she had taken the middle road with her answer.
"If it's security you're worried about, you can put some agents watching my place. Anyhow, it's not like those guys knew who we were. We didn't exactly have time for deep meaningful conversation with them." Darien hated being watched, but if it helped the kid, he'd do it. It wouldn't be the first time he'd dealt with a little discomfort to get through a bad situation. It was the fact that it happened so often that didn't thrill him all that much.
"All, right." The Official agreed. He rubbed his eyes, just as tired as the rest of them. "All of you get some sleep. I want to see you all back here by one o'clock this afternoon." The Official was being generous, actually giving them enough time to get a solid four hours of sleep, if they were lucky.
Darien was about to go back to the girl and tell her what was going on when Alex stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Yeah?"
"Are you going straight to your place?" she asked, her eyes flicking to the girl and back to him.
"As far as I know, why?" Darien had no idea what she wanted.
"Fawkes, somehow I don't think you have anything she might need." When he stared at her blankly, she sighed. "Clothes, Fawkes, toiletries...hell, underwear. You gonna share your boxers with her?" The attitude was back, but for a change, Darien knew he deserved it. He hadn't exactly thought things out.
Alex actually chuckled softly. "Go get her something to eat. I'm sure there's a fast food place open somewhere between here and your place. I'll stop by in an hour with some clothes and stuff. She's close enough to my size that it'll do till we can get her to a mall."
Darien nodded. "Thanks, Alex. I guess I wasn't thinking."
She shook her head. "Sure you were, but with your heart and not your head, as usual." She moved towards the door. "One hour. Don't be late; I want to get some sleep tonight."
Hobbes was standing next to the girl and talking to her softly. She seemed only slightly uncomfortable about the situation. When Darien joined them, Hobbes looked up at him. "Problem?" Darien asked.
"Nah, just small talk," Hobbes answered. "Right, kid?"
"Bobby, kid. Call me Bobby." Given how gruff Hobbes usually was, he was sure toning it down with her.
She nodded, but didn't say anything.
Hobbes drew Darien aside. "Be careful, Fawkes. She may look like a kid, but if that info is right, she ain't."
"Hobbes, until I know otherwise, I'm taking her at face value." He glanced over at her. "And right now she's a scared kid who isn't sure of her own name."
Hobbes nodded slowly. "No reason not to be careful as well." He stepped away. "I'll talk to you later, Fawkes. Trust him, kid. He's one of the good guys." Hobbes left then, presumably headed for home and his own bed. Claire had already left, and Eberts and the 'Fish had stepped out of the office, leaving the two of them alone.
"Have I fallen into some old western? Good guys. Bad guys. Will the cavalry be arriving soon?" She tried to laugh, but it came out with more than a touch of hysteria.
"Some days I wonder that myself." Darien moved over to her side and held out his hand. "Let's get you something to eat, and then I'll show you my place. Okay?"
With only a second's hesitation, she placed a hand in his, causing a small shock. "Sorry," she muttered. "Still can't control that sometimes."
Darien had hissed in surprise at the mini-jolt, but didn't ask. He wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer right now. He was already betting that, tired as he was, he was still going to have a hard time sleeping tonight.