Author: A. X. Zanier
Rating: PG-13 (Language, violence)
Disclaimer: I do not own "The Invisible Man" or the basic story premises. Don't sue me all you'd get is the
stories you're suing me over.
Timeline: After "Exposed" /"Mere Mortals"
Spoilers: Any and all eps to date may get a mention. That's yer warning.
Comments: This plot bunny has been stirring about in the edges of my mind for a while now and this seemed
like a good time to toss it out into the open and see whether it sinks or swims.

A/N: I originally began this story before the events of September,11th and its been on again off again since
then due to the Save I-Man Campaign and attacks by other plot bunnies. I've altered the original ending
slightly to tie up show story lines that'll be left hanging.

Thanks to Rebecca(WorkerCaste) for saving this one from the obscurity it nearly fell into.

Crash and Burn

// "Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves,
and realize the infinite extent of our relations." Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) //

The first thing to impinge on the newly awakened consciousness was pain. Not that awaking to the sensation of
pain was unusual these days. The pain of overindulgence, that drink or two -- or three or four, let's get real
here -- before bed, so that maybe sleep will come swiftly and stay for more than a few short hours. The pain
of loss, of true, torturous heartache. The pain of not knowing and always wondering. The pain of unrequited
hope. The pain of loneliness, which in some ways was the worst of all. To watch those around you go about
their days, their interactions, with real smiles and real pleasure -- however fleeting. With others in their
lives. Oh, no, pain was anything but a stranger; it had become an unwelcome guest that refused to leave.

This pain was none of those. This pain was a red roaring that made the head ache and the stomach roil and
heave like a small boat on a storm-tossed sea. This pain made one gulp for air and moan through clenched
teeth, swallowing convulsively to keep down the meal eaten not so long ago. A pain that scrambled the
thoughts, making one forget who they were and how they got into this predicament.

"Monroe," a harsh voice barked, doing nothing more than increase that dreaded, hated pain and make one wish
for the darkness to return, to sweep one up in its cool, enfolding arms and find a release so desperately

A weight then, a pressure. A reconnection to reality that found its way through, past the pain, past the
blinding fog that threatened to entrap the mind, past the subtle longing to just let it all end here.

"Monroe, Alex. Wake up girl. We got trouble." The voice was insistent.

"Ho... Hobbes?" Alex pulled herself upright with a hastily swallowed groan. She had to bite her lip to
accomplish it, but that was a small sacrifice to make so that what she was really feeling didn't show.

"Yeah, Bobby Hobbes." He moved in front of her and unbuckled the seat belt that had prevented her from
flying head first into the rear of the seat before her. Though she probably hurt like hell, much as he did.
Hips and lower abdomen nothing but burning pain and burgeoning bruises. They were alive, though. That was the
important thing, the only thing. He checked her over in the dim light. She had a bloody nose as well as a cut
over one eye. She was pale under the tan and, from the looks of it, she was having a hard time focusing.
"Stay with me, Monroe."

Alex shook her head to try and clear away the fog that was threatening to close back in upon her. "Hobbes,
what the hell is going on?" She was more than a little confused as to where she was and why she was here
with, of all people, Bobby Hobbes. Her head hurt way too much to even bother trying to force memories to
surface and examine them for useful content.

"We went down, Monroe." He grasped her arm firmly, tried to get her to move, to stand, anything but sit
there staring almost sightlessly about her with a look of stunned confusion on her countenance. He really
didn't need her going into shock on him, not now.

"Down?" She wanted to ask what the hell they'd been up on, when memory flashed behind her eyes. "The plane.
We... we we're flying into Sea-Tac. Meeting some ATF agents. I think? Shit, my head hurts."

"Mine too, Monroe. Up with you. No time for you get all girlie on us and do something like faint." He
figured if nothing else the comment would piss her off and get her moving. Anger could do a lot to override

"Hobbes, I am a girl. If I want to faint, I will." But she got to her feet cautiously even as she spoke.
"Da... Fawkes. Where's Fawkes?" The recent past was slowly making itself known, but it was jumbled. The
images tangled together, leaving her uncertain as to the exact circumstances that had brought them here.

"Keep's, fine. Back home. Fawkes.... Well, Fawkes is another story." Hobbes wasn't kidding. He helped Alex,
who would freely admit she was none to steady on her feet at the moment, towards the back of the plane where
Fawkes had been sitting. Pouting was more accurate. He'd been bitching since the moment this assignment had
been handed down. Something about not liking being sold to other agencies just so the fat bastard could
scrape enough money together to fix the copier. The ranting had gone downhill from there, as the number of
expletives from Fawkes' mouth had gone up.

It took the threat of withholding counteragent to get him to shut up. That was the one ploy that still
worked, though from the look in Fawkes' eyes, it wouldn't work too many more times. Hobbes' partner was
quickly losing faith with the promises that had been and continued to be handed down from both the Official
and the Keeper. Ever since Gaither had tried and failed to remove the gland, had blown himself, No-Name, and
one SWRB facility sky-high, Fawkes had changed. Not necessarily for the better.

"Ah hell, Bobby," Alex let out when she saw the problem. It was a damn good thing Fawkes was still out cold.
He'd probably be screaming in pain if he was awake. Something had hit the side of the plane, in the row right
in front of where Fawkes was sitting, causing the side of the plane to bow and warp and crushing the seats
back into the unconscious man's legs and trapping him there. Moving closer, she gently set her fingers to the
artery on his neck and was relieved to find his pulse strong and steady. The sigh of relief was a bit ragged
and audible to Hobbes, but he chose not to comment. It was a good bet he was even more worried about Fawkes
than she was.

"There's more," Bobby said and lifted the right hand of his partner to display the tattoo coiled there
beneath the watchband. It was half red already, which shouldn't have been possible when he'd had a shot just
this morning, but with the crash and all it wasn't all that surprising. Fawkes' natural fight-or-flight
response must have taken over at some point during the plane's harrowing fall to earth, and the quicksilver
had flowed. Who knew how long he'd remained invisible, even after the plane had finally stopped doing its
imitation of a rock dropping out of the sky. Even unconscious, his heart might have kept galloping along for
a time, sending all the wrong signals to the gland.

"Ah, crap," Alex muttered. "We need to get him loose. Has the pilot called for help?" She began examining
Fawkes carefully, searching for any obvious injuries, broken bones, cuts, and the like. She was unable to
check his left leg -- it was wedged firmly into the seat and wall of the plane -- but his near one seemed to
be intact.

"Monroe, the pilot is dead and the radio is out. The emergency beacon seems to be working, but that may not
be so good for us." Hobbes moved around to the seats trapping Fawkes and looked them over carefully, hoping
they'd be able to shift them enough to free him.

After determining that Fawkes had most likely passed out from combined pain of his head colliding with the
bowed-in wall and the seats trapping his legs, she searched from that side for the best way to shift the
seats. Once Fawkes was free they could hunker down and wait for rescue to arrive. Civilization wasn't that
far away -- the Cascades weren't that big a mountain range. Trying to gauge exactly how stuck the seat was,
she gave it an experimental shove. "Hobbes, why would the beacon be a bad thing?"

Hobbes noticed she was actually having some success shifting the seat added his strength to it. Her position
was more than a bit awkward, having to lean over Fawkes and all. He was able to get a better grip, from a
better angle on the seat. With their combined efforts they were able to move it a noticeable amount before it
wedged firmly into the inwardly bowed wall of the plane. Releasing it, he looked over the situation.

"Monroe, you musta really smacked your head a good one. We were shot down, remember?" At the confused look
she gave him, he knew she was getting a great big blank on the blackboard of her mind. He couldn't blame her,
really, based on the bruise that was swiftly forming under the cut on her forehead. Heck, he'd been out cold
for a while himself and was feeling pretty damn lucky to have remembered what happened at all. "It's looking
like we need to shift the seat in towards him and to my left to get it free. It's pretty much torn out of the
floor, just stuck 'cause of the wall."

Alex nodded in agreement, though she couldn't imagine it doing Fawkes' leg a whole lot of good. "Yeah, looks
that way. We need to be quick, though." She shifted position, trying to get a better grip on the seat which
meant she was practically in Fawkes' face. "Now, explain being shot down. I only vaguely remember getting on
this flying tin can."

Hobbes actually chuckled. She looked so flustered, and it wasn't something he'd seen too often. She was so
careful to keep things very professional, and emotions had nothing to do with being professional. Where
Fawkes tended to wear his heart on his sleeve, most days they couldn't be sure Monroe even had one. Then,
occasionally, a job would come along and they would be reminded that there was a human being under that
super-agent facade. The time they found her son was a good example. Another was spending a couple hours
cooling their heels in the SWRB cell together. That had been an interesting conversation and included a few
revelations on both their parts. It's amazing what learning a few unexpected secrets can do for a working

"You do remember why we were flying up here, right?"

Alex nodded. They were going to assist the ATF and several other agencies, including the FBI, in breaking up
one of those home-grown militias that had taken their boasting and bragging that one step too far. They'd
gone Waco for all intents and purposes and, since the government wanted to avoid another Ruby Ridge, Fawkes
was requested to assist. Being Fawkes' partner meant Hobbes would be along and Alex was volunteered because
she had some experience with this type of situation. Or so the party line from the Official had read. While
it was true enough that she'd dealt with similar situations, she suspected the Official had an ulterior
motive in sending her along. She had yet to divine what it was, though.

"I remember that, Hobbes. Just not much after getting on the plane itself."

"All right. We wanted to check out the encampment from the air -- it was on the route. So we headed down to
do a fly-over. We'd been told that they had nothing fancier than some high-powered automatic weapons: AK-47s,
maybe P-90s." He grunted as he began shifting the seat, trying to loosen it up from its base a bit more
before attempting its removal. "Our wing got taken out by small surface-to-air missile."

"A bit better equipped than they thought, huh?" Alex wasn't surprised. These mountain retreats could hide a
lot, and intel tended to be iffy at best. It was only the fact that they had children being held up here that
had forced the ATF's hand in the matter. Some of the kids were being held against the will of one of the
parents. Essentially kidnapped, by daddy dearest. In fact, it was the mother of a four-year-old boy who had
started the whole thing. She'd hiked her way down the mountain, walked into the first police station she
found, and gone into a hysterical tale about what was going on up there. The small-town cop immediately knew
that if even half of what the woman was babbling was true, it was way more than he could handle, so he called
the state police. From there it had snowballed.

"Just a bit. I'm betting they'll come after us, seeing as we didn't make a pretty fireball in the sky."
Hobbes had the chair as loose as he thought he could get it without tools and without risking too much more
damage to Fawkes. "Ready?"

"Yes." She braced herself on the seat to help control the motion as Hobbes shoved it back by leaning his
weight against it. They were trying to avoid jerking it back, but it was stubborn and moved only slightly.
She glanced at Hobbes, who was frowning. "Do it."

He did, giving the seat a sharp push that finally loosened it. Then a jerk to the side freed it completely.

That's when Fawkes decided to return to consciousness.

Alex froze at the sudden scream of pain, as well as the hand that had snapped out and grabbed her by the
throat, cutting off her air. "Fawkes," she croaked out, "Leggo." One of her hands had come up to wrap about
his, trying to convince his grip to loosen. She didn't want to have to hurt him, seeing as he was already in
a lot of pain, but she wasn't going to let him suffocate her either.

"Monroe?" His voice was strained, pain seeping into the two short syllables that were her name. Releasing
his hold as the blinding pain eased sligthly and allowed him to focus, he felt instantly guilty and more than
a touch confused. What the hell was Monroe doing practically pushed up against him and why the hell did his
leg feel like it had been run through a wood chipper? "Alex? Wha's hap'nen?" Oh shit, he hurt. If his head
was a pain-filled throbbing, something he'd become oddly used to over the last year or so, his left leg
didn't bear thinking about.

"Easy, my friend. Let her go and we'll explain." Hobbes hadn't stopped with just freeing Fawkes from the
chair. Once no longer entrapped by the wall the seat was easily ripped free of the floor and manhandled aside
allowing him to actually get a good look at Fawkes' leg. He was pretty sure Fawkes didn't even realize he'd
grabbed ahold of Monroe's hand and was doing his best to crush it.

"What?" Darien realized he was holding Alex's hand -- the hand that had only recently healed from a battle to
a draw with a glass wall -- and released it with a touch of embarrassment flickering across his features.
"Sorry," he mumbled.

"No problem, Fawkes. Not a bad grip for someone who looks half-dead." She blew off both his apology and his
embarrassment, like always. She had to cover her reactions somehow, and callousness worked quite well, she'd
learned over the years. No point in letting him know that she, for some reason she had yet to fathom, 'liked'
the fact he'd grabbed her hand for comfort, that he had called her by her name, her first name, instead of
just Monroe. The fact that she 'liked' anything about Fawkes bothered the hell out of her, and she did her
damnedest to never let it show. The man was a thief, an inveterate troublemaker, a smart-ass supreme, and yet
over the months she'd found herself...not attracted so much as simply liking the man. He had a style that drew
you in and a heart that was big enough for three people. In a man who was both a proven con man and ex-con, it
was an odd thing to discover and not something she had expected when she had first come to the Agency. It
hadn't been all that long ago that she had realized he might just be worth trusting.

Darien could feel Hobbes doing something with his left leg, the one that really hurt. From the knee down it
was strangely numb, but the knee itself was where the pain was centered. His pant leg was being slid up, he
could just feel it, and then Hobbes started muttering to himself. "Monroe...."

Alex looked at Darien and patted him on the shoulder before shifting to get a look at what Hobbes wanted her
to see, but not mention aloud. Clambering around so that she was looking over his shoulder, she made sure not
to react visibly. All she could think was that it could be worse. The entire knee joint was canted at an angle
that was entirely wrong. She couldn't tell if anything was broken but at the very least the patella was
knocked out of alignment, which meant all the ligaments were stretched if not torn completely. There was also
a chance the joint itself was a mess, maybe crushed, maybe dislocated as well. "Hobbes, you gotta do it," she
whispered it in his ear, not wanting Fawkes to hear this yet.

"I know," Hobbes said in the same tone. Then louder. "Fawkes, what do you feel down here?"

"Not much below whatever is left of my knee." Darien didn't bother to even consider lying. It was bad and he
knew it. He was just afraid to find out exactly how bad. He'd caught the lack of expression on both their
faces, which just screamed 'bad news' to him. He wondered if they even realized how alike they were. The same
looks, the same attitudes about most things, the same reactions to a lot of situations. Part of him knew it
was simply because both had been doing this for a while, both has similar training and, through that
training, similar mindsets, but he still found it eerie the way they almost didn't need to speak to each
other and still knew what to do. Like when getting out of that SWRB lab. The two of them had cleaned clocks
with a coordinated attack that almost looked planned, while he'd simply started whaling on the remaining guy
until he'd gone down and stayed down. Then the stupid mag card had stopped working and the two of them had
simply kicked open the door as one. They hadn't even said a word and still just knew.

He and Hobbes could do the same thing at times, but it had taken almost a year to get that easy and
comfortable with each other, and not the few months it had taken them. Darien started to wonder if he was
feeling a bit jealous, but just then Hobbes did something to his leg and thoughts of any kind were lost in
the sudden surge of pain that threatened to knock him back into the darkness. He knew he was screaming, but
couldn't stop himself. It was a soft voice and gentle hand that finally made their way through the red haze
of pain.

"Easy, Fawkes. The worst is over." She and Hobbes had debated for all of thirty seconds about whether or not
to tell Fawkes they were going to do what they could to reset his leg. They both knew it was going to hurt
like hell and agreed it was better to just do it without telling him so that he wouldn't tense up and make it
that much harder.

Catching his breath he shouted, "Some warning would have...."

Hobbes cut him off. "Made you tense up and hurt three times as much. I got it reset. We just need to rig a
splint or something. Then we can get out of here." Hobbes surveyed his handiwork carefully. "You feeling
anything more now?" He was hoping that by straightening the knee, the blood flow would return. It had
better, or Fawkes was going to be in a lot more trouble and need more than just a little knee surgery when
they got out of here.

Darien nodded wordlessly. He was biting his lip to hold back the few extra screams of pain that wanted to
make themselves heard. His knee had returned to a dull throbbing, a heated burning sensation like that of a
banked fire. Ready to flare into new life at any moment. He'd made the mistake of trying to move his foot and
pain had shot down his entire calf as the nerves woke up and vocalized their unhappiness with the current

"Monroe, I'm going head out and see what I can find. There should be a first aid kit or something on this
plane. Try and find it." Hobbes got to his feet and headed for the exit near the front of the plane.

"Hobbes see if you can get into the cargo area and get our bags. We may need the counteragent... and our
weapons." Alex's lips were a tight line. If Hobbes was right and the ones who shot them down were coming to
make sure the job was completed, they would need every advantage they could get, and all their weapons had
been packed in their luggage, unloaded.

Hobbes nodded. "No promises; for all we know, our stuff is spread across a half mile, but I'll check." He
unsealed the door, he had to put his shoulder to it to get it open and even then it only swung just enough to
allow him to squeeze out.

Alex swung her attention back to Fawkes. "Can you hold it together for a minute?" He was a total mess, the
hair on the left side of his head matted with drying blood, his eye swiftly blackening from some unknown
blow, and that was before you noticed the way his knee was quickly swelling to the size of a softball.

"Me? I'm not the one with blood running down my face, Wonder Woman." He was hurting and felt the odd impulse
to spread the discomfort around to others. She just happened to be the only conveniently near target.

"Gee, Fawkes, nice to know you care. Given your current injuries, I could start calling you and Hobbes Ren
and Gimpy," Alex snapped, not needing to be reminded that she currently both looked and felt like crap. She
moved away from him and towards the front of the plane, hoping the first aid kit might be somewhere up near
the controls as was typical. "Your partner and I were both injured, if you hadn't noticed. Take the time to
remember whose injuries we were handling first." Oh, yeah, that was a real smart way to show she cared. Just
yell at him and make him feel guilty for the being the self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish idiot that he
usually was.

'Smart Fawkes. Real smart,' Darien mentally berated himself as he tipped his head back with a groan. 'Just
how the hell do you think she ended up with blood all over her face? Hmmm?' "Taking pieces out of jerks like
me, most likely."

"Did you say something, Fawkes?" she called from up near the pilot.

"Nah, just bitching about the situation. Like always." Darien wasn't about to admit he'd screwed up again.
That he hadn't intended to presume she wasn't hurt, or that she was under any obligation to help him, or...
he wasn't sure what the hell he meant any more. The last couple of months had been... weird, even for his

His dad, whom some part of him had thought of as dead for a long time, turned out to be not only alive, but a
top-notch assassin. He did get to reunite with his grandmother, that was something anyway. Though it made him
wonder what his life might have been like if he and Kev had gone to live with her instead of his mom's
family, Celia and Peter Donovan. His mental picture of Mason Fawkes had gone from small time thief who didn't
give a damn to an even more mysterious figure who was better suited to being related to Hobbes or Monroe than
himself. A loyal government agent who would give his life for his country. One of the fricking good guys.
Like he'd said that day, "My dad's John Wayne." He still hadn't really come to terms with it, or with what
it meant about himself.

Weirdness number two was a dead tie and both had involved a woman.

One of those women was currently ducking into the cockpit in search of the first aid kit. Even wearing a
bleached-out pair of jeans, T-shirt -- designer and expensive, but still a T-shirt -- and one of her
innumerable blazer-style jackets -- this one in deep blue -- she was beautiful. It had been inevitable that
he'd be attracted to her. Hobbesy was too, and made no bones about it, but aside from some occasional
flirting and sly innuendo, his partner had done nothing to pursue it. Darien, himself, had done no more than
try and be her friend after his first and only fumbling attempt at making nice. He'd since done his best to
be a co-worker, maybe a friend, and nothing more, and she was finally learning to accept him in that capacity.

Since she had both rescued and given up her son, he had gotten a glimpse of the woman behind the five-star-A
agent, and she had him intrigued. He continued to be very careful around her, making sure not to offer or be
anything more than she was ready for. Unlike Claire.

He tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling. Slowly he shifted his leg, trying to ease the pain by
finding what he hoped would be a more comfortable position. The pain flared higher at first, then did indeed
ease a bit with his leg slightly straighter than before. Still refusing to look at it, he thought about
Claire instead, wishing she and her doctor skills were here to make him all better. Both Bobby and Alex had
first aid and some basic triage knowledge, but until they got down off this mountain, there wasn't a whole
hell of a lot they could do for him.

Glancing at his wrist, he frowned at the sight of far more red than there should be. Maybe it wasn't so bad
Claire wasn't along. Who knew what the hell he'd do the next time he went red-eye in front of her. Would he
attack her in anger like he did when dying of Arnaud's flu? Once again sick of her little games and
manipulations? Would he go after the counteragent, like before they brought Kevin back from the grave? Or
would he seek her out for a little lustful satiation, like the last time? Of course, she'd been more than a
little mad herself at the time, what with the Phase III of the Beta-C putting her in a state very similar to
that of quicksilver madness. The combination had driven the both of them into a foolish and compromising

Bobby said he'd forgiven him, that it was no big deal seeing as neither of them had been all that sane, but
it was a big deal. A very big deal. Darien liked Claire, depended on Claire, trusted Claire, but there was no
way in hell he'd fall into the trap that Charlie Fogerty had. Plus, as he had begun to realize, all those who
got truly close to him, to the quicksilver gland, tended to get very dead. So even if he were willing to
consider some kind of relationship with Claire, he didn't dare. Given a choice, he'd much rather have her
alive and helping him. Perhaps that was selfish of him, but she had been hired as his Keeper, and this was
not his choice of a lifetime career. It was an odd interlude in his life that would end the day the gland was
removed. If staying a bit distant from Claire aided in that, he'd do it with few, if any, regrets.

Deciding he'd done enough thinking for now, he called out to the Alex, who was out of sight. "Monroe, any

"I'll be out in a sec, Fawkes," Alex called back from the tiny storage closet next to the cockpit. She'd
lucked out and not only found the first aid kit, which by some miracle included ice packs, tylenol and an Ace
Bandage, but also the small fridge the pilot had shoved in there, which was stocked with bottles of water and
soda. She grabbed a couple of bottles of water and headed back to where Darien sat, staring at his knee with
a look of fear and pain on his face.

Sitting in the seat next to him, she handed him one of the bottles and set the rest of the stuff on her lap.
"How are you doing, Fawkes?" she asked as she began to go through the first aid kit. First thing she did was
pull out the ice pack and crack it to get it cold. Reaching over, she set it on his knee, causing him to hiss
in pain.

"Ahhh, just great Monroe. Awfully glad I gave up my career as a thief for this." So he was more than a bit
cranky at the moment. He had every reason to be. Holding the ice pack in place, he tried to keep himself
together until the cold had seeped in and numbed it.

Alex ripped open the tylenol package, noting the few they had. "Take these. They should help reduce the
swelling." She was actually surprised when he didn't argue and swallowed them down with a drink of water.

"Thanks," he said quietly, not sure what else to say, and somehow knowing that whatever happened next wasn't
going to be all that much fun.

"Sure, Fawkes. Let me check that head of yours." She stood and set the kit on the seat, trying to get a look
at the far side of Darien's head, but he wasn't cooperating.

"It's fine, Monroe. You look like you need more help than I do. Sit." He wasn't kidding. Now that his knee
wasn't screaming at him, he got a real good look at her. The cut on her forehead a was still bleeding
sluggishly, and the lump was slowly taking over a large portion of her face, even causing one eye to begin to
close. "Got another ice pack in there? You could use it."

She shook her head, trying to ignore the throbbing that was getting no better, and the continuing nausea.
Nevertheless, she sat back down. "Fawkes, you're gonna need it. I'll manage." She looked about the cabin,
not sure what to do next. Until Hobbes got back, with hopefully good news, they were stuck.

Hobbes hadn't wanted to wander off too far from the plane, but after a look-see at the condition of the
underbelly of the beast they'd ridden down on, he realized he would have to. At a guess, whatever had bowed
in the side of the plane had also torn out a good portion of the bottom. Everything that had been in the
cargo area was strewn across the length of the crash path. That wouldn't have been so bad, except that the
fuel tank had apparently been ruptured at the same time and covered everything in the highly flammable jet
fuel. It was fricking miracle they hadn't gone up in that big ball of flames.

He gave up searching for anything salvageable after only a few minutes, abandoning any real hope of
retrieving their weapons, or of finding the counteragent undamaged and usable. Oh, he would keep his eyes
open and hope for some luck, but it was looking to be highly unlikely he'd find anything of use. Unless they
needed a torch or two. He turned his focus from salvage to finding something to splint Darien's leg with. He
had as bad feeling their time was swiftly running out. Moving briskly, but alertly, he walked along the crash
path and found a variety of branches broken off from their impact with the trees that, once stripped of excess
material, would do for a start.

Leaning back against a tree, he pulled out the knife he kept in his boot -- new government regulations or
not, friends or not, he refused to travel without some kind of weapon -- and proceeded to remove anything
from the branches that would cause irritation.

He could have done this back at the plane, but he wanted to get a feel for the area. An idea of what was
normal for the local animals and what was not. It was heavily forested, with thick underbrush. The exception
was the missing swath; courtesy of their less-than-stellar landing. Any landing you can walk away from,
though, right? They'd been down long enough for the animals to have gotten over their surprise and fear and
return to their normal habits. Their familiar calls and cries echoed off the multitude of trees. The air was
cool and slightly damp, typical for this northwestern rain forest.

Finished with the branches, and now having a pretty good idea of the 'normal' sounds for the area, he headed
back to the plane. He kept hoping he'd spot one of their bags -- his or Monroe's by preference -- maybe
hanging from a high branch or the like, but there was no such luck. Well, he'd make do, just like he had many
times before.

Before entering the plane, he shoved at the door some more. They were going to need the opening as wide as
possible to get Fawkes out. Skinny as he was, he would be needing help to even hobble about, and they didn't
dare risk banging his leg about any more than absolutely necessary.

Entering at last, he found himself facing Monroe, who was prepared to cold cock him with a fire extinguisher
she'd discovered somewhere on the plane.

"Damn it, Hobbes," she muttered as she lowered the makeshift weapon. Then she eyed the little he was
carrying. "No luck I take it?"

"Unless you want to wear clothes covered in jet fuel. No. No luck." He looked over at Fawkes, who was sitting
quietly with his eyes closed. "You didn't let him fall asleep did you?"

Darien's eyes came open and he watched his worried partner approach. "No, Hobbes, just seeing if that
biofeedback crap is any good for pain control."

Hobbes moved to crouch before Darien and, after setting the branches down, removed the ice back and examined
the knee. "And?"

Darien shrugged. "Dunno. You showed before I had a chance to really get started."

"That's right, blame it all on me." He gave Darien a wry grin, which he attempted to return, before looking
at the damage again. "Well, Fawkes, you did a job on this leg of yours. Think you can handle some more pain?"

Darien cringed but nodded, knowing it had to be done.

"Umm, Hobbes..." Alex said from near the front of the plane. She was feeling even worse at this point, her
head a never-ending ache that was affecting her sight and making her come damn near to that fainting he'd
mentioned earlier, but she had seen something moving outside, and it for damn sure was no deer. "I think we
might have company."

Hobbes joined her back at the door of the plane and looked out into the woods beyond. Monroe was right, there
was something moving out there. Still just at the far edges of sight at this point, but there. Moving quickly,
he headed back to Fawkes. "Up and at 'em. We have places to be, and they are not here."

Darien unbuckled and, with some help from the wall, got upright on his good leg. He remembered to duck and
not smash the top of his head into the low ceiling, and with Hobbes' assistance got into the aisle. "What
about the splint?"

"Later, Fawkes. We need to get some distance between us and this big beeping target." He focused on Monroe,
who was still watching out the door. "Grab the kit and whatever supplies you can carry. Especially the water."

Alex nodded and peeled out of her jacket, intending to load it up with the bottled water. She had stripped
the fridge and repacked the first aid kit in under five minutes. She went out the door first, her nerves
afire, just waiting for the worst to happen, but the figures seemed to have moved further away for the time
being. "All clear."

With one of his hands resting on her shoulder, Darien slipped sideways through door with a groan as his leg
connected with the frame.

"Keep it together, Fawkes. We'll take a break in a few and get you squared away." Hobbes motioned the way he
wanted them to head with a wave of his hand; Alex came around to Fawkes' other side to offer what support she
could while also carrying their few supplies.

"'Keep it together,' he says. I told you this was a stupid idea. I said this trip would not be worth it. Are
you going to listen to me now?" Darien complained as every movement sent another round of agony through his

"Well, its good to know you're feeling better," Alex commented tartly. She began to wonder how long she was
going to make it before the pain and nausea overwhelmed her. For the time being she could push it aside, had
to push it aside; getting to safety, getting Fawkes to safety, had to come first, no matter how uncomfortable
it was.

Hobbes just shook his head at both of them. Things were perfectly normal.