A/N: So, this is the story I worked on and won NaNo with this year. No, it (or it's sequel, which was also used for NaNo as I didn't think this one would be long enough. Silly me.) is not complete. However, I'm hoping posting will be the impetus to do so. The story and its sequel have been in my poor brain for years and deserve to be let out to play. Hope you like it.
Author: A. X. Zanier
Title: The Hurricane and the Butterfly
Fandom: The Invisible Man
Pairing: Darien/Alyx Silver, Bobby/Claire
Timeline: Post Always Arc
Spoilers: Probably, does it really matter after all these years?
Disclaimer: a) The characters and basic story ideas of The Invisible Man are the property of others including, but not limited to Matt Greenberg, Studios USA, Stu Segall Productions and NBC Universal. Any additional characters or story ideas are mine. I make no money from this intellectual exercise. b) This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any opinions or views found herein do not necessarily reflect those of the author and are used for story-telling purposes only.
The Hurricane and the Butterfly
The National Geographic, famed for its ability to attract hormonal teenaged boys to its pictorials of aboriginal tribeswomen, also wrote something of a bit more value, "It is said that a butterfly can, with a flap of its wings, change the world... that the ripple it sends out can spawn a hurricane."
This is what happens when the hurricane takes notice of the butterfly that created it.
Bobby handed the jump drive to the Official, who looked exhausted at this late hour. Obviously, whatever was in those encrypted files had to be of the utmost importance for the bossman to still be at the office at eleven p.m. The Official usually didn't hang around for the schlep work.
Darien yawned and scratched the back of his head, catching sight of the tattoo on his wrist. Luckily, it had only taken three segments of Quicksilver and the newest version of Alyx's Destiny program to get in. It'd been hairy in a couple of spots, but overall everything had gone like clockwork.
"Where's Drake?" Hobbes questioned, before Darien got a chance to.
"With Miss Silver," he answered, sounding as tired as he looked. "There was an incident earlier today."
That got Darien's attention the way few other things could.
"The kid? Is she okay?" Hobbes blurted out, instant concern in his voice.
"Mostly," the Official answered. "The Keeper will fill you in on what she knows."
As if she'd been waiting for her cue, Claire opened the solid wooden door and entered the room, reading the file in her hand. "Sir, I need--"
"Doctor," the Official interrupted, causing Claire to lift her head and see that there were others in the room.
"Oh, you're back. Good. Sir, I'll--"
"Yes, fill in Fawkes, then come back," he told her, plainly not wanting whatever they had been about to discuss to be discussed in front of the two agents.
She nodded, closed the file, and set it on his desk. "Darien, come with me, please."
"Claire?" Bobby practically whined, as if afraid of being left out.
"You too, Bobby."
The men trailed after her, ending up downstairs in the Keep. She paced about for a minute before turning to face the two men who looked at each other in confusion.
"Alyx was attacked today."
"Oh crap," Darien mumbled, feeling his legs go weak in reaction. "How... how bad?" he finally managed to ask.
"Relax, Darien, she'll be fine. A concussion, assorted bruises, broken wrist, sprained ankle, and possible ligament damage to her knee. We'll know more once the swelling goes down." She listed off the various injuries in a straightforward tone, keeping her emotions out of it, for which Darien was thankful as the list of injuries did little to reassure him that Alyx would be fine.
"Shit, how did this happen?" Bobby questioned, when Darien failed utterly to find his voice.
Claire shook her head. "I've no idea at this point. Alyx has no memory of it right now, mostly due to the blow to her head, and we've yet to receive copies of the initial police reports. All we know is that roughly a dozen men attacked her and that some arrests were made. The details are beyond sketchy at this point, I'm afraid."
Bobby swore, while Darien staggered, fear and anguish settling into his gut like lead weights. How could this have happened? his useless thought echoing Bobby's vocalized question of mere moments before. And why Alyx? Yeah, she'd made enemies over the years, but there hadn't been a hint of anything worrisome for months now. Even Changeling had gone to ground for the time being, hiding from their every effort at finding them. If this had been them, had been Changeling, they wouldn't have attacked, they'd have grabbed and ran.
"I need to get home," he mumbled, the sudden need to be there, be with Alyx, fix her, fix this suddenly stronger than anything else, even breathing, as he gasped, his lungs starved of air and demanding their needs be seen to right now, leaving him momentarily light-headed.
"In a moment, Darien. First, I need to go over some things with you. She'll need some special care for a few days," Claire explained with a gentle hand on his arm.
"Special care?" Bobby squeaked. "Thought you said she was okay?"
Claire sighed heavily. "The ER doctor cleared her to go home on my say so. That said, some of her injuries are... serious and would have a kept a normal patient in the hospital overnight at the very least, but with the way she heals..." Claire shrugged. "Not like we could allow her to stay at Cabrillo no matter how injured; too risky."
Bobby nodded in reluctant agreement. "Understood, but there's always Leavitt."
"Unnecessary, at this point, though I do have some concerns." She turned to Darien. "Can you do this?"
Darien swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. "What does she need?"
Darien wasn't all that surprised at the bookend agents outside her apartment door, or the very visible weaponry. No matter how Claire had tried to downplay Alyx's injuries, the Official clearly took this attack very seriously. Both men nodded to him, and even slid the door open so he could enter. Drake paced the apartment with his cell phone to his ear. "... no, assigned to her. The Official is taking no chances."
Darien tossed his keys, badge, and wallet on the small table right beside the door, stripped off his jacket, hanging it next to Alyx's red suede one. "Babysitters?" he asked once Drake had snapped the phone shut.
"A precaution only," Drake answered sounding as exhausted as he looked. He tipped his head towards the bed. "You've been briefed?"
"Yeah," Darien answered, finally glancing over at the bed. Drake had moved the screens, so Darien could see Alyx, surrounded by pillows on the bed. A deep purple bruise on her left cheek had been bisected by a thin cut, as if the sharp point of a knife had been dragged across her skin. She was pale under the tan, but he'd seen worse. Walking over to the bed, he gently brushed a stray curl off her forehead. She shifted and sighed softly, aware of his presence even though surely in the throes of drug-induced unconsciousness.
Darien turned to Drake. "Can you stay a few? I want to grab a shower."
Instead of moving off to the nearby bathroom, Darien just stood there, staring forlornly at Alyx, wishing he'd been able to prevent this from happening. These days they spent more time apart than together, between her being co-opted by other agencies and her ability to work with practically anyone with ease, she rarely partnered with he and Hobbes anymore. And Darien found he missed that. But with the similarity in their talents, having two invisible agents on a single mission, unless hellishly complicated, had become decidedly unnecessary. Besides, her other talents allowed for a far wider range of missions than Darien's own, admittedly, limited skills.
While he knew she disliked him going all Alpha male on her, there were times like these when that's exactly what he wanted... even needed to do. That was his role, to protect her, to keep her from harm no matter how equal a partner she was in this relationship. Hell, there were days he felt like the less equal one, but that didn't stop his natural instincts from kicking in. She lay there battered and broken, the damage far more than skin deep based on what little info Claire had passed on to him. The ER doc had patched Alyx up and then released her into her doctor's care, though given the number of visible injuries Darien couldn't help but wonder if that had been a wise decision. He resisted the sudden need to scoop her up in his arms and hold her close, as it would probably just piss her off, and cause her additional pain she did not need.
But given he was torn between the need to hold her and beating the living crap out of those who had hurt her, the holding on seemed to be the lesser of the two evils. Once he'd calmed down anyway. She had no interest in dealing with his violent urges, not after the day she'd had. So instead, he just stood there, unable to follow any specific impulse.
Drake broke him out of his contemplative reverie. "Darien, she'll be okay."
Darien turned to look at the former CIA hacker who had replaced Eberts as the Official's right hand man months ago. "You don't know that anymore than I do," he stated softly, as if afraid she'd overhear.
Drake nodded solemnly. "True, but we'll do everything we can to protect her."
Darien snorted, the amusement bitter. "Like we've done so well in the past." His statement for all the sarcasm still held the truth. They'd failed any number of times at keeping Alyx safe in the past and he knew damn well that if whoever this current enemy was, for he was certain this was no random happenstance, would attempt to finish what had been begun that afternoon. This... this attack was merely the first move in some more elaborate game, though whether damage or true destruction was the ultimate goal remained unknown. Once the orchestrator had been identified, they'd know better. The motives of Changeling were far different than those of, say Chrysalis, though both would like to get their grubby paws on her. Chrysalis was at least off licking their wounds after their last try at Alyx. She, at this point anyway, remained a bit more than they could handle.
"What else can we do?"
Darien sighed. "I wish I knew." He turned away from Alyx to meet Drake's concerned countenance. "Give me fifteen and you can get out of here."
Drake smiled wanly. "Out of here and back to the office. The Official is seriously worried."
"And wants you to decrypt those files, I'm sure," Darien reminded with a wry grin.
"Oh crap," Drake muttered, "I completely forgot about that assignment. Everything went okay?"
Darien suddenly realized that Drake had really and truly been worried about Alyx. Had dropped everything he'd been doing to make certain she was as secure as possible given the situation, going above and beyond his usual range of duties. Babysitting injured agents was not part of his normal job description. "Thanks, Drake."
"You're welcome. Now hurry up, you've reminded me that I have several hours of work to do before I can grab a few hours of sleep."
Darien didn't wait to be shooed off and headed straight for the shower. Less than twenty minutes later he was back, hair damp, wearing a stylish pair of pajama pants and wifebeater that he commonly slept in, or at least walked about in when company was present.
Drake was sipping coffee from one of Alyx's many anyone-was-free-to-use travel mugs, clearly having taken the time to abuse her impressive coffee-maker at some point in the evening.
"The Keeper has requested that I remind you about the hourly wake-up checks..."
Darien nodded. "Got my marching orders memorized."
"And to be in no later than--"
"Nine a.m.," Darien finished. "We'll be there."
"Good. Next shift is at oh-six-hundred, Langley and Carson. If you have any problems-"
Darien cut him off. "This isn't our first bung-up, you know."
Drake managed a chuckle. "Very true. I'll see you at the office tomorrow. The Official has graciously ordered me to go home and get some sleep. The files will apparently wait until I'm more conscious."
"Smart man, our boss."
"Sometimes more than others," Drake muttered just loud enough for Darien to hear and, though tempted to rise to the bait, let it slide this time. He had the feeling that the bossman was allowing that oh-so-important job he and Hobbes had just completed to slide because of what had happened to Alyx. That did not bode well for it being just random chance.
Darien saw Drake out the door, one of the agents escorting him to his car as a precaution. Once the apartment door had shut -- he didn't bother to lock it as anything that would take out their guards would surely wake the two of them up, besides if he needed help for some reason he wanted them to be able to get in without have to break down Alyx's door -- Darien's focus swung back to the injured woman on the bed, though in truth said attention had never wandered very far away. It took a hell of a lot to catch her off-guard, so to see her so badly damaged made him realize just how vulnerable they all were. A solid whack to the head, like the one she had apparently received, had been still more than enough to put her down, proving that although she sometimes didn't appear to be, she was indeed mortal. Just like the rest of them.
Alyx lay curled on her right side, right arm with the lovely half cast flung up on the pillow next to her head, and a body pillow stuffed to either side of her body. The one along her front supported her left leg, keeping pressure off her knee and ankle. The other stuffed behind her back to prevent her from rolling onto her left side. Normally she was a sprawling side sleeper, sometimes twisting about so much she'd lie partially on her stomach. Great for spooning and cuddling, but not for side injuries, like the one along her left ribs. In her drugged slumber, she'd want to flip over, putting far too much pressure on the bruised ribs. Luckily, the ER nurse -- the doc had moved on to a new patients thanks to a multi-car wreck in the middle of rush hour -- had said the damage appeared to be minimal even though the bruising looked horrible already. Claire had concurred after a quick visual inspection of the X-rays and Alyx.
He gently slipped in behind her, flipping on the light mounted in the headboard. Carefully, following Claire's instructions to the letter, he visually inspected all the injuries within reach. Alyx woke up as he brushed fingers over the impressive goose-egg he discovered on the back of her skull. Little wonder she'd gone down without a fight given the size of it. Darien could only imagine what she'd been hit with. Maybe a baseball bat, or two-by-four. Something good and solid that's for sure.
She sucked in a long breath and blew it out slowly with a grumbled, "Ow."
"Sorry, baby, just following orders," Darien whispered near her ear, figuring much like with a good hangover, loud sounds, including his lovely voice, would not go over well.
She proved herself to be far more awake and in good spirits than he expected.
"Why, Quentin, going for the personal touch are you?"
Darien snorted in amusement. "Quentin's still afraid of you, girl." Probably true, at the very least the man had a healthy respect for her skills... all of them.
A faint smile crossed her lips and she shifted slightly to look up at him, her eyes dull with pain and medication. "I'm sorry, D. I screwed up and..."
"Hush," he ordered placing a gentle finger on the swollen and split lip. "Getting ambushed generally isn't one's fault," he told her in no uncertain terms, making every effort to project his feelings on the matter so that she'd hopefully believe him without a long, drawn out argument that she could ill afford the energy expenditure in her current state.
"I know," she mumbled even as tears threatened to spill down her cheeks. "Do you need me to go through the routine?'
"Even I can tell you didn't get whacked that hard, but we'll do the every hour thing just in case."
She sighed heavily. "Dope me up with enough drugs to put down a Clydesdale then 'spect me to wake up regular-like. Buncha oxymorons."
By the way she slurred her words, he could tell she wasn't kidding on the level of pain meds Claire had her on. At least Alyx was permitted painkillers even with a head injury, Darien never was, and only partially due to the gland. Meds, even something as simple as Tylenol or ibuprofen could mask a more serious underlying problem and take a simple bump on the head and morph it into something far more dangerous... like a coma. Alyx though, with her weird-ass metabolism could do things that would kill others, so she got pain meds for her injuries to go with the hourly head checks. Body checks in this case. "Need to give you my unprofessional once-over," he informed her as he ran his fingers across the prominent bruise on her cheek.
"If you must," she grouched, knowing as well as he that it would hurt no matter how gently he checked her over.
He had her wiggle her fingers and toes as appropriate, left her knee strictly alone as Claire had told him, then followed the Keeper's very specific instructions when it came to Alyx's side. Lifting her shirt, he made note of how large the bruise was, the color (deep purple in the center and red about the edges) and shape. Then he palpitated the area, ignoring her sucked in breaths and poorly hidden groans of pain. He knew this had to hurt, but Claire had insisted, warning him to look for hardness or heat in the area. Other warning signs she given him were cold and clammy skin, none of which he found at the moment. He contained the sigh of relief he felt and tugged her shirt back into place.
"So, did I pass?" she asked completely failing to hide the pain in her voice.
"Yes, sweet thing, you did just fine, and you'd better stay that way," he insisted, turning her head so he could tenderly kiss her on the lips. "Now go back to sleep. I'll wake you in an hour just to do this all over again."
"Oh goody," she groused as he shifted to set the alarm clock they specifically used in situations like this. He double checked to make certain he'd set it correctly, then switched off the light and snuggled down next to her, the pillow still stuffed between them, with his body acting as a secondary support system. After getting a good look at her side he could imagine how painful it would be for her to unintentionally roll over. The act itself might be enough to wake her, should she unconsciously try it, but better to make certain it wouldn't happen. He curved his arms about her, and in some small way fulfilled that overweening need to protect her.
She grumbled and hissed in discomfort until they had both settled then drifted off without a bit of fuss, the painkillers allowing her the sleep she needed to really heal. Darien, tired as he felt, couldn't relax, not yet anyway. Trying to hold her tighter without actually holding her tighter, he buried his face in her hair and shook. Thankful that she had survived and yet fearful that he still might lose her. Life, even hers, was just so fragile and things could change in an instant. One moment he'd had a brother, whom he had been finally getting to know and the next a bullet-riddled swiftly-cooling body in his arms. He didn't want to lose another important person in his life and he'd come close enough so many times already. He understood the realities of their lives, that either one of them could buy a trip to those Pearly Gates at any moment of any day, but couldn't dwell on it, had to assume (no matter how big an ass it potentially made him) that they would be together for a long time to come. Then something like the events of today would kick him upside the head as a reminder: life is short.
Considering he could never get enough time with her, the reminder had an even bigger impact.
One thing at a time, he reminded himself. Get through today then deal with tomorrow and whatever it might bring. Good advice, he mentally muttered as he finally managed to settle enough to drift off into slumber.