Anyone who thought that a good night's sleep to be the cure-all for every ill hadn't had that sleep on a thin mattress in a hospital room. Normally Darien could sleep pretty much anywhere without a problem, but the assorted beeps and bleeps of the various monitors, coupled with a nurse stopping in every thirty minutes to make sure Alyx hadn't decided to drop dead without the assorted monitors wailing their sirens signaling something wrong, prevented him from doing more than dozing restlessly. Alyx slept the sleep of the heavily drugged, but her night also failed to be restful as she spent her slumber plagued with dreams that bled over to Darien, even with the carefully crafted wall in place in his mind. Sadly, though pretty good, his skills were still not as refined as he would like and his efforts at blocking her would fade when unconscious, allowing that bleed over that had so affected his emotional state during the day.
Alyx had warned him time and time again that maintaining shields involved actual work, and took constant effort, especially when sleeping. All this meant that his six hours weren't exactly as restorative as he had hoped. No wonder it sometimes took her a while to actually wake up in the morning, given she often slept no more than five hours a night, usually less in fact. She averaged four, but on the flip side, he'd seen her go four days straight with no sleep at all and with only minimal loss of ability. Granted once done she crashed and crashed hard, but her battery recharged quickly thanks to her ability to draw off the energy around her.
In other words, she cheated.
Now to be fair she would and had on occasion shared that ability with him, giving him a temporary power boost when the situation had become dire, but it could be risky what with the potential of frying his synapses as she performed the stunt. And the crash afterwards... Chugging Red Bulls had nothing on this metabolic crash. The last time he'd slept twelve hours straight to make up for the abuse of putting his body through the wringer. Oh, he'd felt great while on the power high, but since his body had not been genetically adapted for it, when it ended he felt like he'd been run over by a train, with the cow-catcher on. And it could be addictive if used too often, his body slowly adjusting to and ultimately needing the extra energy, going into withdrawal when it hadn't been received. Not that that particular scenario had happened, at least not with the power boosts. With the mental connection between him and Alyx... oh yeah. And though both Alyx and Claire were aware of the problem, they'd yet to discover a resolution, not one beyond him blocking Alyx completely and continuously, something he had become unwilling to do. He liked having her presence in the back of his mind, liked knowing she would always be there and aware of him on some level.
Which is why her traveling sucked so much. About three days away he'd hit what Hobbes now called his PKS (post kid syndrome), as it took that long for the connection to fade at Darien's end. He would then proceed to turn into a bear woken mid-hibernation and be absolutely miserable until he adjusted to the lack of the link, which took about a day. It had been Claire who realized what had been going on, keeping meticulous records for several months until she could see the pattern. Sadly, there had been nothing Alyx could do, as her link to him was entirely unconscious and beyond her direct control. She had tried and failed to sever the connection long before they'd become involved and, now that they were, the connection had only become stronger. The only real option to sever it, and at his end only, would be to go their separate ways permanently.
Not an option as far as Darien was concerned.
Rolling over he glanced at his watch, noting the time of a way too early seven fifteen in the morning. He debated the merits of pulling the pillow over his head and making a valiant effort at returning to sleep when the door swung open, admitting a completely conscious Bobby Hobbes and Claire Keeply along with the mouthwatering aroma of coffee. Good coffee. Yawning, he forced himself upright just in time to have a venti of his favorite dark roast placed in his hand. He breathed the scent in deeply before taking a sip of the brew. "Thanks," he mumbled, still not even close to being awake.
"Hope there's one for me," a hoarse voice stated from nearby.
"Of course, kid. With your Doc's permission no less," Hobbes answered as he handed over the tall to Alyx. "Though she did insist it be a small."
"So long as it's not decaf." Alyx took the cup with both hands, her right not able to grasp the cup on it's own with the cast. She took a sip and sighed. "Thanks, Bobby."
"Welcome, kid." Bobby turned about and gave his partner the early morning version of the evil eye. "You look like crap, Fawkes, did you get any sleep?"
"Yep," Darien assured him, "in little thirty minute bits."
Claire shook her head, quite plainly trying not to laugh. "I did warn you."
"And I seem to vaguely recall telling you to go home," Alyx added. "But thank you for staying." She shakily set the coffee down on the table next to the bed. "Keep, I feel... weird."
Claire moved to her side. "Weird how?"
Darien stayed in place, trying to ignore the sudden flare of worry in his gut. Alyx appeared to be fine, better than yesterday in some ways, though the bruising had hit its peak and looked horrible, but that could only be a good sign, meaning her abilities were aiding the healing process like always. He sipped his coffee, watching the proceedings carefully, looking for any sign that something was amiss.
"If I knew that I wouldn't have used the word 'weird'," she pointed out, rubbing the side of her face with her left hand. She winced as she encountered the bruise. "Ow. I take it I have a black eye?"
Claire glanced over at Darien, who had gone still at the comment. This didn't mean anything, really. She already had some known memory loss thanks to the blow to her head, this may be nothing more than an extension of that. Yet, he knew it had nothing to do with that; somehow knew with a certainty that frightened him that this was different and that it would be anything but good.
"Yeah, sweets, among other things," he told her, doing his damnedest to keep his voice steady and not let any of the frightening emotions leak into his voice.
"Other things?" she questioned, appearing to be honestly confused. "This is Leavitt, right?"
"Yeah, kid. Brought you here late yesterday," Bobby answered. "You don't remember?"
She shook her head. "I... maybe?" She closed her eyes tipping her head slightly as she searched for the memories. Eventually her eyes opened, fright buried deep within them. "Should I remember?"
Claire set a hand on Alyx's shoulder, her tone soothing. "Not necessarily. You have a concussion and are on the new pain medication we designed. It may be having side-effects we didn't foresee."
Alyx pinched the bridge of her nose carefully, as if expecting to discover it broken as well. "New pain med... What? Oh, the metabolic based one? I thought we were going to hold off on that until I'd adapted to the current one?"
The looks that everyone exchanged apparently told her all she needed to know. "I take it that already happened?"
Claire nodded. "Yesterday, after surgery."
Alyx just stared at her as if the Keeper had gone insane. "Why can't I remember any of this?"
"I don't know," Claire stated truthfully. "I already have the MRI scheduled, we'll know more after that."
"I hate MRI's," Alyx grumbled, reaching out with unsteady hands to retrieve the coffee.
"Kid, I'm thinking this time it's necessary." Bobby hid the worry in his voice well, but Darien could spot it at ten paces. His partner liked this turn of events no more than he did. Overnight something had taken a turn for the worse and it had happened while he lay here supposedly protecting her.
"Claire, you get any of those test results back?" Darien asked, trying to make the question seem to be of little importance.
Claire turned slightly to look at him. "Not yet, but I should probably see what's holding up the lab when I'm done here."
"Tests? On what?" Alyx asked in pure curiosity.
"Oh, nothing you need to concern yourself with right now," Claire prevaricated like an expert, grabbing up the file and beginning to diligently make notes, or at least pretending to. "Now, where does it hurt?"
Alyx muttered something unfit for polite company, which thankfully this was not. "Where don't I? And why in heaven's name am I wearing a pressure bandage..." Her question trailed off, her focus suddenly turning inward. "Ribs? Cracked ribs?"
"Yeah," Darien answered. He glanced over at Claire who had pulled out a light pen and flashed it in Alyx's eyes. "Well, Keep?"
"Pupil response is slow, which is not normal for you even with a concussion," she informed the room.
"Like she ever even visits normal these days," Bobby snarked, shooting for humor and missing only by a hair's breath.
"Love you too, Bobby," Alyx returned with as much saccharine sweetness as she could manage to pour into her voice, the smile obviously and hopefully intentionally forced. The bruises pretty much ruined the effect.
Claire shot a look at Bobby that resembled a glare, but lacking that hint of irritation that would normally be there. Darien found the look worrisome more than anything. Claire really didn't care for Alyx's sudden loss of memory. Not that he liked it any better, but he kept his concern under tight control, no need to upset Alyx any more than necessary. Besides, it might very well turn out to be nothing, side effects of the new medication just as Claire had suggested. He continued to drink his coffee, watching as Claire ran through the usual routine and, though Alyx still said she felt "off," Claire could find nothing truly amiss.
"Hungry?" Claire asked when the exam had been completed.
"Starved," Alyx answered. "Any chance I could get a bagel?"
Claire smiled. "I'm sure we could arrange something along those lines."
"Oh, think I could get some of my clothes. I ain't walking around this place in this gown." Alyx didn't bother to plead, though Darien could tell she really wanted to, and he could sympathize. Even for routine crap in the Keep Claire would make him wear those ghastly gowns. Given what Alyx had been through a little normalcy would come as a welcome relief.
Claire thought about it for a few moments then nodded. "Agreed, but your... what is it you call it? Schlep wear?"
Bobby snorted in amusement. "Kid, you and your Yiddishisms. Schlep is correct, Keepy. Sweats and loose tees and such, yes?"
"Exactly." She turned to Darien. "Can I assume you will assist?"
"Yep." He met Alyx's eyes. "Bring a bag by around lunch?"
She sighed overdramatically. "I suppose I can suffer until then."
"Might as well, you'd just have to change for the MRI anyway," Claire pointed out, receiving another sigh for her trouble. "I'll have breakfast sent in straight away."
Darien's stomach rumbled in response and everyone looked at him. He ducked his head. "Hey, I'm hungry too."
Alyx chuckled softly then followed it up with a grimace of pain. "Oy, that hurts." She sucked in a breath and blew it out slowly until the pain had passed. "How did your meeting with Lenny go?"
Bobby answered, face, posture, and tone carefully controlled. "Just fine, kid. He gave us plenty of info." He turned to Darien. "Speaking of which, Drake said he found something interesting on that recording."
Darien's ears perked up at that. "Oh really? So guess we're heading to the office first."
"The sooner the better, my friend," Bobby responded, gesturing at the door with his coffee cup.
Darien took his turn with a sigh. He really wanted to stay here, with Alyx, but he'd told Bobby he'd work the case, which meant trusting her safety to others. Never an easy thing to do and harder this time with her injured so badly. He stood, half empty cup in one hand, and walked over to the bed. He cupped her cheek with his left hand, getting a surge of emotion from her. She didn't want him to leave, didn't feel safe without him nearby, felt confused and scared by the memory lapses and her weakness. Her ability to protect herself at the moment all but nonexistent.
He leaned down and kissed her tenderly. "You'll be fine, promise." A word he used very rarely since he knew exactly how seriously she took it. For Alyx breaking a promise could never be an option.
She shivered, a surge of dismay washing over him instead of the confidence he'd expected. "Don't make promises you can't keep," she whispered, and he could only wonder what knowledge she possessed this time.
"Too late, sweets. Guess I have no choice now," he told her, keeping his voice just as soft as she had. Then louder as he pulled away, "I'll be back for lunch. With clothes."
She gave him a weak smile, worry and fear buried in her eyes. "I'll be here. Bored to tears."
Claire shooed Darien away. "I doubt that. I'm sure I can find something for you to do." She tucked the covers in about Alyx. "I need to talk to the boys for a few minutes and order you breakfast. You may get up, just be careful to not tangle the lines."
"Yes, Keep." Alyx didn't quite pout, but it was a near thing. She wanted to be up and moving, not practically tied to a hospital bed with tubes and wires. A good sign, in Darien's opinion; if Alyx wanted up and about she couldn't be hurt all that bad.
"You take it easy, kid, you hear me?" Bobby ordered gruffly, showing he cared the only way he knew how: by giving orders.
She snapped a salute with her left hand and gave a brisk, "Aye, aye, Captain," that made Hobbes chuckle.
Claire escorted them from the room and down the hall a ways.
"What's up, Keep?" Darien asked, having the sinking feeling that whatever Claire would tell them would be far from good news.
"Some of the tests have come back..."
"You lied, Keep? I'm shocked," Bobby stated in mock horror, complete with hand clutching at his chest in fake fear.
"You," she batted at him with a grin, which turned serious after a moment. "I didn't lie. Not all the results are back, just the ones I told them to rush." She added in a tiny flounce to emphasize her point, making Darien's lip twitch as he made every effort not to laugh. Though thinking about it, maybe he should laugh now, he had the sinking feeling he wouldn't want to after she made her pronouncement.
"You just didn't tell the whole truth," Darien pointed out then turned to Hobbes, "How come she gets to do that and I don't?"
Bobby shook his head in amusement. "It's not that you don't get to Fawkes, we just assume you're lying all the time."
Claire grinned and Darien decided that instead of being offended, which he really wasn't, to join in on the valiant effort to lighten the building tension. "All right, enough picking on the receptacle; what do you know?"
"Not much, sadly. The chemical cocktail from that... dart is impressive to say the least. The only item I've positively identified is drug similar to one we've designed to disrupt Alyx's abilities. The dose would have been fairly small and worn off quickly even with the sliver imbedded in her side," she told them quickly, hands clasped tightly before her.
"Which confirms our suspicions that whoever set her up knew what she could do," Hobbes said, rubbing the top of his head.
"So it would appear," Claire agreed. "I'm going to continue working on the chemical breakdown, but it may be some time before I have a definitive answer. It would appear several different drugs were piggybacked together. God knows what results the drug interactions could have caused." She did not look happy about that fact, not at all.
"What about her memory loss?" Darien asked. The concern he felt refused to remain hidden, at least not when out of sight of Alyx. He wanted to know as much as he could about this particular problem, anyway, since it would not greatly impact Alyx - she already knew she had memory loss.
Claire shook her pretty blonde head. "That I am unsure about. The MRI will hopefully tell me something. As I said, it may be nothing more than an unexpected side-effect of the new painkiller since it only appears to be affecting her short term memory."
"But it could be something else," Bobby pointed out, his tone bleak.
Claire turned to face him. "Yes, it could, but until I am able to run some tests I have no way of knowing and I won't even hazard a guess. Let me complete my diagnostics and as soon as I know anything, you will. All right?"
Darien couldn't exactly argue the point and he certainly did her little good other than support for Alyx, which she really didn't require. Yes, for personal reasons she might want him at her side as much as he wanted to be there, but in truth she would heal or not without him. He would be of far more use out in the field, tracking out the bad guy du jour, or du semaine as the case may be. Damn it, he needed to focus, to stop treading over the same mental pathways again and again. This running in circles thing just wouldn't cut it. Hobbes had been right, he had to make a choice, a conscious choice and it needed to be the job. Who knew it would be so damn hard when the job involved someone you loved.
"Works," Darien said with a nod. The words true enough. Hell, Claire didn't have to share anything with them, and probably only offered to prevent the thousand other questions they would be certain to ask. He turned to Hobbes. "Drake expecting us?"
Hobbes nodded. "The 'Fish too. Wants an update on the sitch."
"Wants us to tell him we have nothing?" Darien grumbled, knowing the truth of that statement.
"More than you think, Fawkes," Hobbes admonished. "We may have needed to crash, but others have been working their tails off. Boss man don't like it when one of his agents is targeted."
"Well I should hope not," Claire stated, almost sounding affronted.
"Keepy, you know what I mean." Hobbes sidled closer to Claire, clearly invading her personal space, until her look softened.
"Yes, I do know what you mean. This time he cares, next time he may not." She reined in her temper, but even Darien could tell the effort it took to not allow it to boil over. Claire took her job very seriously and had knocked heads with the Official more than once over his concern or lack thereof for his agents. She shook her head. "Go," she directed with a toss of her blonde head, "find who did this and keep them from doing it ever again."
Her odd phrasing seemed to hint at her knowing more than she'd told them so far, and though insanely curious, Darien held his tongue. Right now he didn't want to know, because he felt certain that it would be anything but good and the last thing he needed so early in the morning was yet more bad news concerning Alyx.
"We'll do our best, Keepy," Bobby told her, diving in for a quick kiss on her cheek, which caused her to smile.
"I'm holding you that. I'll see you both later." With that she turned and strode down the hall presumably to order breakfast for Alyx.
"You want to say goodbye to the kid?" Hobbes asked, and honestly not seeming worried about the extra time it would take.
Darien shook his head. "Nah, she'll be fine and the sooner we get started the sooner I get back with clothes for her. The last thing we need is for her to be cranky and in pain. She'll make our lives miserable."
Bobby laughed in amusement. "You ain't kidding there, my friend." Turning he led the way through the maze of halls and outside where the van was parked; the short distance taking up with little more than the usual morning trivialities. Neither man wanting to delve too deep into the current events before they absolutely needed to.
They were trapped in downtown traffic, Darien's cup of coffee drained dry without quite giving him the level of consciousness he really needed, when Hobbes finally spoke up. "Green picked up the data from Cabrillo and it's being gone through by him and Alice. Two mooks have been assigned to the kid and the Keep at all times, just in case, and Drake arranged a meet with the first responders this afternoon. We're still waiting to hear on the status of the two survivors, but it's looking to be a couple of days before we'll be able to speak to them."
The update was given swiftly and efficiently, as if he expected Darien to react poorly. Yesterday he might have, today, he was okay. He could still feel that burning anger that wasn't his, but it had been dulled to little more than an echo. His own level of anger and need for vengeance was more than challenging enough for him to deal with; some of the dreams overnight had been his own and involved seriously damaging those who had hurt his girl. Given the comparatively cushy life he'd been granted through his aunt and uncle, he'd managed to grow up hard. Somehow finding the dark side of that sleepy little mountain town and allowing the pain and anger and unhappiness of losing his parents, coupled the disparate treatment of himself and his brother by his uncle to turn him down a darker path.
He was his father's son, that's for sure.
"You okay, Fawkes?"
Darien grunted and sat up a bit straighter. "Yeah, in need of another caffeine infusion is all... and some food."
Hobbes chuckled. "All right, we'll swing by Starbucks on the way in. You can get a Danish or something."
Darien tried to smother the yawn, but gave it up as a bad job quickly. He knew it would be a long day, with no chance of a nap, so he'd better just deal with it and keep going. Best way to do that involved fuel for his high performance engine. He glanced down at his wrist, noting the number of red segments - still at three - and then back out the window at the slow-moving morning traffic. Claire was busy enough without having to deal with him. At this point, the Quicksilver shouldn't be needed. Later... yeah. But until then he'd keep an eye on the monitor, keep Hobbesy in the loop and hope there'd be no need to spend a lot of time invisible, 'cause he had no idea if Claire even had a batch of counteragent brewing. There'd been no mission of any sort on the books for the next several days, so Claire wouldn't have even been thinking about it, given the time he could now go between shots. Maybe he should mention it to Kat, just in case? Who knew which way this job would turn next. Better to be a good boy scout like Hobbes and be prepared.
"Thanks, Bobby," Darien said softly, knowing he was kinda sucking at the whole conversation thing this morning.
"No prob, my friend." Bobby bobbed and weaved his way through the commuter crush with surprising ease. "Claire'll figure this thing out and the kid'll be fine."
Darien shook his head, the nagging worry that things were only going to go downhill from here surging to the forefront. "I hope so," he muttered softly. Not a commentary on the good Keeper's skills, but some instinctive knowing that the situation was something other than what it appeared. If asked he wouldn't be able to explain it, but he knew it was true. And that terrified him.
"Coffee, Hobbes, then we need to see what Drake found for us."
Bobby looked like he was going to argue, but instead nodded. "And then catch this son of a bitch."
Darien chuckled, though it had more than a touch of darkness to it. "You know it."
The green sign for the Starbucks appeared in the distance and Darien let the worry slide away in favor of a craving for a caramel macchiato.