Authors' note: This fic is told in the first person, but from 2 different characters' POVs. So watch for names or you might get confused! Darien's parts were written by izhilzha, Phoebe's parts by the TechnoKeeper. This may turn into a series of stories if we get a good response; also, this is our first I-Man fic posted online anywhere. PLEASE R&R! Thanks.

PG for mild violence and swearing

Spoilers: if there are any actual ones, they've made themselves invisible....

Timeline: well, obviously either pre-"Possessed" or an alternate universe

Disclamer: Sadly The Invisible Man belongs to the Sci-fi channel--may it be resurrected by some more deserving network!

CONGRATULATIONS, HOBBES

By

Izhilzha and The TechnoKeeper

Darien

An intelligent man, Sir William Steele, once talked about "the insupportable labor of doing nothing." Now, I've never found doing nothing particularly tough work, but the universe sure must think so, at least where I'm concerned. Either that, or it's just plain out to get me, which is something I've suspected for a long time....

We were in a lull between cases. That's supposed to happen on a semi-regular basis, but like so many theoretical propositions, this one doesn't tend to work out in practice. So the fact that I had actually slept in for something like 3 days in a row, had just completed a series of tests with new hair products (hey, the Keep isn't the only one who can experiment), and was in the middle of the third book of a series of--well, let's be kind and just call it "mind candy"--was little short of miraculous. It was nice not to have to go invisible, and for the first time in a long while I had gone almost a whole day without worrying about my quicksilver levels. Sure, I checked my tattoo about every hour, but it's a habit by now. Like checking your watch even though you know what time it is.

Life was pretty decent for once. I should've known it couldn't possibly last.

I was actually waiting for my dinner to arrive. I could almost smell the teriyaki sauce already, and was passing the time trying to decide which movie I should watch that night. Both were recommendations, so it was a toss-up. Conspiracy Theory--which Claire, of all people, wanted me to see--and Apocalypse Now. Three guesses who suggested that one.

Anyway, I was staring at the covers, thinking about which kind of violence I wanted to fill my already-screwed-up brain with in the next 2 hours, when the phone rang.

I let it ring. I felt like being wickedly irresponsible. If it was Claire, then damn it, she could wait on me for a change. It'd been a while since I'd scared the Keep, and she was due for it. So I went back to contemplating Mel Gibson and Marlon Brando.

After 6 rings--wow, a persistent caller, maybe Hobbes this time--my answering machine picked up. "You've reached Darien Fawkes, master of on-the-job insanity. I'm not in, so you'll have to leave a message. If it's urgent.... that way lies madness! I'll get back to you when I can. C'est la vie." I listened to it and grinned. It was new, so if this was one of my Agency pals, he'd get a kick out of it. Not as much as I did, but still.....

And then my comfy evening came crashing down with the Keeper's voice. "Darien, are you there? Please pick up. I've got to talk to you, and it is urgent...sorry. Please, Darien, pick up the phone."

I sighed and leaned over to scoop up the receiver. "Yeah, Keep, what is it?"

I heard her relieved sigh, and then she switched into scolding mode. Just exactly what I needed right then.

"Darien, are you all right? Why didn't you pick up?"

I grimaced, rubbing a hand across eyes suddenly and prematurely tired. "'Cause I wanted to see if I could get you to call out the troops after me?" I knew exactly what was coming next, so I spoke up fast. "My quicksilver levels are fine. I still have six segments left. So what's this 'urgent' business?"

I let my gaze wander around my own apartment while she hunted for words. Hmm. Neat as a pin, even after a couple days of being seriously lived in.

"Darien...." She actually sounded hesitant. "I know it's your vacation time, and I wouldn't call you in if it wasn't necessary, but something's come up."

"Crap," I said, very quietly. After those pleasant days, I really didn't want to go out into the field, risking my skin and sanity for someone I didn't even know. Not that I hadn't expected this, somewhere in the cynical center of my being. "What is it?"

"I can't tell you over the phone," she said, equally quiet. "Come down to work. You'll get briefed here."

There was something in her voice that bothered me, the tight control I'm used to from the Keep, but also something else. As if she couldn't believe what she wanted to tell me, or was having a hard time keeping it to herself.

Either possibility scared me. The Keep may be closemouthed, but it takes a lot to make her nervous. "Now? It's 8 p.m.."

"Now." The single word was even quieter. I could hear the crickets outside chirping, and mentally said goodbye to my relaxing evening of good food and fantasy.

"I'll be there."

*******

The delivery car showed up just as I was about to pull out, so I paid the guy and took my dinner with me. One very small compensation for this whole situation.

Have you ever tried to eat Chinese take-out while driving a car through downtown San Diego at 8pm on a Friday night? At least four times I almost rear-ended other cars. The noise was incredible after a couple of days lounging in my apartment. People were honking at me, all the lights seemed longer than usual, and the sun was already down behind some clouds. By the time I parked outside the Agency, it was actually sprinkling, which just added to the surrealist feel of the evening.

Not to mention that sticky rice all over the front seat of a car really does look like a maggot infestation.

I almost beat Monroe to the office--she ducked out of the ladies' room as I went by, absolutely dressed to kill. I let out my best wolf whistle. "Wow, Alex, what kind of hot date did the Fat Man call you off this time?"

She didn't even deign to glance my way. "Good evening to you too, Fawkes," and she disappeared up the stairs twice as fast as I could go with my arms full of little white boxes.

Well, screw that, I thought. She's got a right to be bitchy this time. I might as well keep up my tradition of late entrances anyway. The halls were dim, as if the Agency itself was of my mind, thinking it was supposed to be closed.

The door to the office was faintly ajar, so I nudged it open with my butt and slouched in to find everyone staring at me. Claire looked every bit as antsy as she'd sounded on the phone. Alex was wearing (besides that very hot black dress) her patent-pending look-of-death, so I gave her a huge smile and kicked the door closed behind me. Claire winced. I shrugged, indicating my armful.

"Need some help there, my friend?" Hobbes' lustful gaze made me suspect he hadn't gotten dinner either. I clutched my boxes a little tighter and slumped cautiously into the only empty chair--which just happened to be the closest to the Official's desk, and the most uncomfortable.

"No thanks, I'm sure I can handle it." Something damp leaked onto my shirt as I pried open one of the mouth-watering little containers. I dug in, pretending not to notice, but--as he might say--Bobby Hobbes is an observant man. And he was grinning now.

"It don't look like it to me, partner," he said.

I glared at him over a forkful of sweet'n'sour pork, but the Official distracted us by clearing his throat in that very announcitory fashion all bosses know. They must practice before the mirror all the time.... Eberts quickly joined the rest of us from the back of the room, hands full of briefing files.

"Fawkes." The Official made it sound like a threat. I'd heard that tone before.

I slowly swallowed my mouthful. "Yes?"

"I expect promptness in my agents, Fawkes; not tardiness due to overindulgence." His buggy eyes shifted from my food to my perfectly groomed hair.

"Oh really?" I shoveled in another mouthful and spoke around it. "So next time you give an 'urgent' call, shall I show up as is? In my socks and boxers?"

There was a distinctly feminine snort from behind me and I grinned to myself, but Eberts broke in disapprovingly. "Prompt and decent, Darien." He and the Official were like mirror images, exactly the same foully paternal expression. "Besides, it's impolite to eat during a briefing."

Then I did laugh. "You call me on vacation, you take what you can get." There was another burst of stifled giggling from behind me--I think it was Claire.

My little comment set Hobbes off. "Speaking of vacation, sir...."

"No!" The Official brought a fist down on his desk. "You are not getting overtime pay for this case. Eberts, hand out the dossier."

Hobbes sat back, grumbling under his breath, as Eberts passed out neatly organized files. The Fat Man got into his 'serious briefing' posture, hands clasped before him on the desk. "Agents, this is an urgent case, and you will probably be working through the night. We're looking for a missing person--you have her information in front of you."

I looked up from the first page, as startled as Alex sounded as she said, "We don't do missing-persons."

The Official sighed. "We do when Chrysalis is involved."

My hands tightened involuntarily on the file. "Aw crap."

"You said it, Fawkes," Hobbes muttered.

I went back to looking at the dossier as the Official continued his briefing.

"We've received intelligence that Chrysalis has been working with virtual reality technology, developing a potentially marketable version ostensibly for gaming, training, and therapy. The suspicion is that they are also using it in experiments with mind control. The woman we're looking for, a local high school teacher, disappeared two days ago and we believe she was taken by Chrysalis agents, possibly as a part of these experiments."

I barely heard him. The face of the woman in the file was amazing, like a painting, some gifted artist's conception of real female beauty. The hair was dark and straight, the eyes bright, the mouth curved as if she was always on the edge of a smile. For a moment I was trapped, startled by an inexplicable desire to see her moving, living form in front of me.... It took effort for me to pull my eyes away from the photo to read the rest of the information, but then her name alone momentarily broke the spell.

"Hey, Hobbes! This chick a relative of yours?" I chuckled, reading the name aloud. "'Phoebe R. Hobbes.' What's the 'R' stand for? Roberta?"

My gaze drifted back to the photo, and I didn't even realize he had failed to respond to my jibe till I heard him make a soft, hesitant sound, like nothing I'd ever heard come from my partner before. I looked up, and what I saw surprised me even more.

I've watched Hobbes in all kinds of situations, seen him afraid, shocked, angry; but this was more than any of that. This gray-faced, lost look, the still, braced posture, the eyes wide and not moving from the dossier on his lap as he spoke to Eberts. The voice too: quiet, rough, trying to hide the tremor in itself. Even Monroe quit reading and looked up when she heard that.

"Eberts, do you--do you have a copy of her birth certificate?"

Eberts gave a subdued sort of "hmph," and slid a paper out of the fat file he was still cradling. "I thought you might ask for that, Robert," he said, passing it somberly to the older agent.

For a few long seconds Hobbes just sat there. His eyes scanned the certificate again and again, mouthing one name and then another. Then he sat back in his chair and slowly looked up at the Official, who suddenly got a strange half-smile on his face.

"Congratulations, Hobbes," he said. "It's a girl."

**********

There once was a story about a man who could turn invisible. I thought it was only a story.... until it happened to me. Ok, so here's how it works. There's this stuff called quicksilver that can bend light. My brother and some scientists made it into a synthetic gland and that's where I came in.... See, I was facing life in prison and they were looking for a human experiment. So, we made a deal, they put the gland in my brain, I walk free. The operation was a success, but that's when everything started to go wrong..."

starring:

Vincent Ventresca as Darien Fawkes

Paul Ben-Victor as Bobby Hobbes

Shannon Kenny as Claire The Keeper

Brandy Ledford as Alex Monroe

Michael McCafferty as Albert Eberts

Eddie Jones as The Official (Charlie)

And

Daniele Fishel as Pheobe Hobbes