Part 4

Darien's return to consciousness was less than pleasant. His head felt wrong, like it was stuffed with cotton. Big, white, puffy pieces of cotton that, like clouds, began to take on interesting shapes that at first he couldn't seem to recognize. After a moment, though, they resolved into the image of Michele. It was a bit distorted, but he could tell it was her. The eyes, the shape of her cheekbones -- when had he memorized the shape of her cheekbones? -- the hair flowing in the breeze that was blowing the clouds by. Then she called his name, in a sweet and seductive tone that made him want to melt, to follow her, as she began to drift away.

"'Chele," he called after her, as she moved too fast for him to keep up. The wind was blowing her away, yet somehow worked against him, keeping him in place. Yet she still called him. Though why she was shouting "Fawkes!" at him instead of calling him "Dare" he had no idea.

"Fawkes, damn it, open your eyes." That voice was not Michele's, his cloud-filled brain realized. With a groan of pure misery, he opened one eye to find Hobbes leaning over him with concern on his face and his gun in his hand.

It took Darien a moment to understand what was going on, and to recognize the fact he lying on the floor, one large ache from head to toe. "H...Hobbes?" His throat screamed at him, forcing him to swallow convulsively, which then set his stomach to roiling in a way he knew was anything but good.

"Yeah, Fawkes. Musta been one hell of a party." Hobbes holstered his gun and helped Darien roll onto his back, then slowly sit up. "Shit, Fawkes." Hobbes plucked the red feathered tranq dart from just over Darien's heart and set it aside. "Alex and the Keep are on the way. Do you know where Michele is?"

Darien shook his head, but stopped quickly as his stomach rebelled. He drew up his knees and hung his head between them, trying to keep the contents of his stomach where they belonged. After a couple minutes of arguing, he won, but only this battle. He had the bad feeling the truce wouldn't last for long. "Umm, she stopped by last night. We...." He had to pause to think. Not all cylinders were firing yet. "Oh yeah, we watched a movie."

He groaned, as the truce was broken. Getting to his feet, far faster than he would have thought possible in his current condition, he made a mad dash for his bathroom and fell to his knees before the toilet just in time. He was in there for so damn long, heaving and dry retching until he was convinced everything he'd eaten for the last month had come back up.

When he staggered to his feet to wash his face and clean his mouth -- by gargling a half gallon of mouthwash -- his head felt clearer, but his memory of the evening before was a still fuzzy. Coming out of the bathroom, he stopped and stared in horror at the mess his place was. The pool table had be shoved up against the closet door, the felt shredded. The glass door to his fridge had been shattered by some unseen item, most of the contents splattered all over the interior and floor, with what looked like blood mixed in. Ketchup didn't dry to that distinctive brown color.

The bookcase by the front door was tipped over, blocking the doorway, books spilled everywhere. The door had been ripped off its hinges and was hanging by the security chain atop the remains of the bookcase. His sofa was tipped over and lying under the window, stuffing oozing out from long tears in the fabric. Curtains pulled down from over the window to lie on the remains of the sofa. His entertainment center had survived, but there was what appeared to be another tranq dart sticking out of it, it had gotten caught between the CD player and the shelf.

He met Hobbes' gaze. "What happened here?"

"I was hoping you could tell me," Hobbes answered unhappily. "They trashed Michele's place as well."

Darien slumped against the wall and slid down to the floor, still not feeling all that well. He had one hell of a headache building and, checking his wrist, was relieved to see it wasn't from that. He still had five left green, nowhere near the danger zone. This was just a reaction to whatever he'd been shot with. "They got her, didn't they." It wasn't a question. The place wouldn't be this trashed otherwise. There wouldn't be a half-dozen tranq darts sticking out of various places if they hadn't. He wouldn't be sitting here alone, feeling nauseous and miserable, if the good guys had won the day. He just wished he could remember what had happened.

Hobbes had been searching the place and bent over to pick something up. Turning to show the item to Darien, who looked at it blankly, he said, "Care to explain?"

Darien groaned. Hobbes was gingerly holding a pair of black silk panties and now, looking about, he could see the rest of her clothes scattered throughout the room. "Oh, crap."

"Let me guess, you don't remember?" Hobbes somehow managed to sound both angry and exasperated.

Darien tried to convince his brain to function correctly, but he still came up blank. What the hell did he -- they -- do last night? "Not a thing after watching the movie. You'd think I'd remember if we did *that* Hobbes."

"All right. We know she was here. Let's assume it was for company and not hanky-panky, seeing as you're... dressed." Hobbes picked up the rest of Michele's clothes and piled them at the foot of the bed.

Darien looked down at himself and was surprised to find that Hobbes was correct. He was wearing one of his usual sets of mismatched pajama bottoms and a T-shirt. He shifted to hold his head in his hands and realized he had one hell of a bruise forming on the side of his face, where it must have connected with the floor. Oh, he'd forgotten the joys of being tranqed. Whatever they had used must have been rather strong, since it had stolen several hours of his memory and made him feel worse than a combined bout of binge drinking and Stage Three madness.

"Hobbes, we have to find her."

"On it, my friend, but I think we need to get you turned a less appetizing shade of green first." Hobbes crouched down by Darien and set a hand on his forehead. "You're burning up."

"Goody," Darien muttered, as his stomach made its discomfort known again. "Ah, hell." He crawled back to the bathroom and spent the next few minutes trying to force his stomach up through his esophagus. By the time it was over, he was weak as a newborn kitten.

"Keep's here, Fawkes," Hobbes called from the other room, and seconds later she was at his side.

"My hero," he mumbled, suddenly wanting nothing more than to sleep. If Claire said anything, he didn't hear it. There was a sudden buzzing in his ears that drowned out everything else and, with only a hint of regret, he slipped back into the welcoming darkness.

When Darien next returned to consciousness, it wasn't much more enjoyable than the last. He still felt incredibly sick, his head still pounding, his tongue swollen, and his stomach just simply hurt. Like he'd pulled every muscle in his abdomen, and their cousins. When he cracked open his eyes, it felt like hot needles were being shoved directly into his pupils. "Keep?" he whimpered hopefully.

"She's on her way, Fawkes, just take it easy." He knew that voice, and it was just about the last one he'd expected to hear.

"Alex?" He blinked his eyes and forced himself to focus.

"Yeah, it's me." She came over to him and set a hand on his arm. "Take it easy. Claire said you had a reaction to the sedative, but you'll be fine in a day or so."

"Oh. Is that what happened?" He tried to sit up, only to have her -- quite easily -- hold him in place. He couldn't just lie here when Michele was missing. He had to help somehow.

"Fawkes, Darien, don't even bother. You wouldn't be able to walk." There was more than a hint of sympathy in her voice. That was enough to make him realize that everything that could be done was being done, and one half dead invisible man would make no difference whatsoever.

"How long have I been out?" he asked as he relaxed back onto the bed. His surroundings making an impression, he deduced he was not in the Keep.

"A few hours. Claire's running some tests. She should be back any minute." Alex dragged the chair over and sat down with a sigh. "And before you ask, no we haven't found her. She and whoever grabbed her have vanished into thin air."

"Shit," Darien snarled and regretted it as his head pounded in time to his heartbeat. "Thought you and Hobbes said they had cleared out."

"We thought they had. Look, Fawkes, I liked her too, but it wasn't like she really wanted to be here any more than she wanted to be there. We were convenient, nothing more. Don't delude yourself into thinking otherwise." She leaned back in the chair and stared off into the distance, tapping one finger absentmindedly on the arm of the chair.

Claire came into the room then reading some printouts, when she lifted her head and saw Darien squinting at her she smiled. "Good, you're awake. How are you feeling?" She moved over and took his wrist into her hand to take his pulse. Her touch, gentle as it was, hurt.

"Last time I felt this bad, Arnaud was on a gland hunt," Darien admitted wearily.

"Sounds about right. You had a rather nasty reaction to that sedative, but you're past the worst of it," Claire informed him, telling him exactly what Alex had just minutes ago.

"Where's Hobbes?" Darien was hoping his partner might have some news that Alex didn't. He wasn't ready to give up hope, no matter how bleak the situation looked.

Alex answered. "Upstairs, talking to the Official and Eberts. It seems someone raided the computer system. Made copies of just about everything. They were damn good and left almost no trail." Alex didn't make any accusations, but it was plain that she thought Michele might have done it, or if not her, then those she had run from.

"Alex, I told her I'd help her." Darien tried to get her to understand that they had to do something, anything, to get her back, even if she chose to move on and not stay with the Agency afterwards.

"So did I, Fawkes. And we're doing everything we can, but there isn't much to go on." Alex got to her feet and came back to his side. "I better get back to it. Get well, Darien."

He watched her leave the room, amazed that she seemed sincere about wanting to get 'Chele back. He focused on the Keep, who was doing something to the IV line that was stuck in his arm.

"She made an impression on all of us, Darien." Claire gave him a wan smile and made some notes in the file on the table.

Darien turned his head away to stare at the far wall. Apparently his luck with women was consistent. About the time he got close to them, the worst would happen. Flashes of memory intruded on that thought, memories that explained why her clothes had been strewn all over his place. With a groan, he closed his eyes.

"Darien, are you all right?" Claire was back at his side, once again checking his pulse.

"Fine, Keep. Just fine."

What is it they say? Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? I can safely say it's a load of crap. In my life, loving someone is like a death sentence for them. I won't go through that again.

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 Epilogue

He watched dispassionately as the girl was dragged kicking and screaming from the black van by three men. Even under the effects of the drugs, she fought like a hell-cat. One of the men suddenly let go, his hands going to his head and blood running from his nose. The other two grabbed on even tighter, one wrapping his arms about her waist, the other her legs, and together they lifted her off the ground.

She screamed behind the gag and her eyes were wild. Her hands, which had been tightly tied together, were suddenly free and flailing about at the men holding her. She pulled down the gag and screamed at the top of her lungs. The guy down by her feet was flung aside and landed on the ground hard enough to be knocked unconscious. Once her feet were down she went after the one holding her waist. She flung her head back right into his nose, making him scream and back away, his hands trying to staunch the blood flowing down his face.

Without her even looking back, the van she'd arrived in flung itself into the air to flip over three times before crashing to the ground. Then she snarled, "I warned you, Corvan." and charged him. She was fast, angry, scared. He was faster. Grabbing her arms, he spun her about and slammed her into the side of the limousine he'd been leaning against as he watched her performance. "'Chele, my dear, time to wake up." She struggled in his hold, forgetting that she could fling him away with a blast of her mind. One of his hands came up to caress her face, and he felt a surge of pleasure as she froze, at the panic in her eyes, at the hurried rise and fall of her chest as she tried to catch her breath.

*'Chele, come back to me.*

She blinked in confusion for several seconds, then slumped in his hold. "Mikey?"

*'Chele...* he admonished.

*Is it over?* She sounded tired, like this mission had taken a lot out of her.

*For now.* Shifting her, he opened the door and helped her inside. Handing her a duffle, she began to change out of the dark blue jumpsuit she'd been wearing. As she pulled the black leather pants on she sighed. *Did you get what we were after?* he asked.

She was pulling the shirt over her head, but that was no barrier to their discussion. *All we needed and more.* She then pulled on her boots, comfortable, broken in till they fit just right. Damn, she'd missed her boots.

Michael leaned forward to tap on the glass and the limo began to move. *All the files? The samples?* She adjusted the shirt and decided, after a moment's contemplation, to leave the jacket off for now. Shifting, she snuggled up against him, reacquainting herself with him by scent, taste, and touch. *I memorized the formulas. The Fawkes samples were not accessible to me.*

*Damn, we needed that mRNA and sperm sample.* Michael drew her in closer, helping her reconnect with the present, now that the imposed personality had been purged as planned. *Memory?*

*Intact.* She kissed him lightly, as a reminder of exactly what she was. *I did get another sample that may work just as well.*

Michael sensed something in her tone that he didn't like. *Show me.*

For the first time ever, she resisted and refused to open up to him. "No, 'Corvan'. Not this time."

"Michele, what did you do?" He grabbed her chin painfully hard with one hand and forced her to meet his eyes. Hers were silver, while he had one silver and one half blue, half green. For him, the Phase II process hadn't worked. Out of all those they tried it on, only she had successfully adapted. He had barely survived. She had thrived.

"What did I do?" She smiled slyly, letting him figure it out.

"Fawkes. You went and fell for Fawkes, didn't you? The brother." He was extremely angry at first -- she was his and no one else's. He'd trained her, brought her in, groomed her for this work, and knew best how to use her in all things. Pushing her down on the seat, he loomed over her, wanting to teach her a lesson, but realizing quickly it would do no good. She looked up at him with a calm expression that told him more than any mind-to-mind communication ever could.

"Well, it's about time you found it for yourself." He gave her one last kiss, a farewell to the closeness they'd shared over the years. She knew it for what is was and participated fully. They would always be close -- it was unavoidable given that they were twins. When he pulled away, it was for good. She had moved on; it was evident in her look, her carriage, her feel. "Was it worth it?"

She grinned at him as she sat up. "Give it a couple of weeks and we'll know for sure." She rested a hand on her abdomen so that he would be sure to get the point. "You may be an uncle yet, dear brother."

Michael tipped his head back and laughed.

Finis.