I don't own them. I just love and miss them. :'-(

Story picks up a few days after EOME and ends at the start of TNS

Thanks to Dawnwind and Carol M for helping me get this one cleaned up! :-D


Never Bails

It had been days since Darien had gotten the news. He was going to go permanently insane, permanently quicksilver mad. Arnaud had escaped before Claire managed to get the cure from him. Nothing mattered anymore. Dressed in only his pajama pants, he sat on his couch in his San Diego studio apartment. He was alone in the darkness with his death sentence.

The clock ticked away the two AM hour. He didn't hear the dripping on his kitchen faucet or the noise from the street that filtered through his windows. He didn't see the moonlight creeping across the room. All he saw was the silver in his hands.

He fondled the pistol, almost caressing it as a lover would caress the object of their affection. Thoughts of finally taking back control of his life – and death – played through his mind.

'I could do it', he thought. 'I could use this and end it. After all, what good was fighting anymore?' He flipped the safety off and on, off and on. 'I could do it…' A single tear ran down his cheek.

There was a knock at his door. "Fawkes! Open up, my friend!"

'Hobbes. Of course he'd show up in the middle of the night to check on me. He's been doing that a lot lately.' Darien thought as he hid his gun under the couch cushion and dried his eyes. He had no intention of opening the door but he knew Bobby would let himself in after a while of being ignored.

Darien quietly walked to his bed and crawled in. He would pretend to be asleep – something he hadn't done since he got the news - and hope Hobbes would make this a short visit and leave him alone again.

He listened as Hobbes' picked the lock and let himself in.

'Typical.' Darien thought and quickly closed his eyes.

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

Hobbes slipped quietly through the door and into the dark apartment. He stood for a moment allowing his eyes to adjust. He looked over the kitchen and saw the trash of various types piled around. Dirty dishes sat in the sink with the leaking faucet drinking on them. 'He still hasn't fixed that…' Hobbes thought in passing.

He crept further in, past the junk covered bar and cluttered pool table, and saw his partner curled up on his right side in the middle his queen sized bed with the covers pull up almost completely covering his head. Only the fringes of Darien's wild hair peaked out from under the sheets. He knew Darien wasn't asleep, hadn't slept for days. One look at his face would give that away.

He also hadn't been eating. Bobby was worried. Claire's news hadn't done anything but make Darien's depression a hundred times worse. He couldn't really blame the kid but he'd be damned if he watched his partner give up all hope. Claire was a smart lady. She'd figure something out soon. 'If I can just convince Darien to hold on a little longer…"

He recognized the signs. Been there himself more then once. He knew Fawkes was getting way to close to breaking and that he'd be a danger to himself if he wasn't brought back from the edge. 'Well, I ain't gonna site back and watch that happen!' he thought. 'No sir! I'm gonna keep a watch on you, my friend. You ain't gonna get the chance to do anything stupid like take your own life! Not while Bobby Hobbes is on your case!'

He quietly walked by the couch and glanced at the coffee table. More empty liquor bottles. 'He's at it again…Not good…'

He silently slithered over to the bed and peered down at his partner. From what he could see, Darien's eyes were closed and he had the steady even breathing of a sleeper. But Bobby knew better.

"Come on, Fawkesy," he said softly. "I know you're faking. You should know better then to try and fool Bobby Hobbes."

Darien groaned and without opening his eyes said "What the hell do you want, Hobbes?"

"I wanna make sure you're ok," he said, continuing to peer down at his partner.

"I am anything but ok and now, on top of that, I'm also awake in the middle of the night. Go away," Darien replied shortly.

"You weren't asleep anyway. Don't even think for a second you could play me. I know you too well, my friend."

Darien sighed, flipped back the covers and rolled over onto his back to look up at Hobbes. "What. Do. You. Want." he snapped, angry at Hobbes' presence.

Bobby just looked down at him and shook he head. Fawkes looked terrible. The paleness of his skin could even be seen in the darkness, His dark eyes had sunk into his skull with heavy dark rings around them giving him a skeletal appearance. Lines of anguish creased his forehead, eyes, and around his mouth. He looked like a man who had truly lost all hope. Bobby had never seen him look so bad. If the gland didn't kill him, the depression would.

Bobby sighed and sat on the edge of Darien's mattress with his head bowed. "You can't do this, Fawkes."

"Do what?" Darien replied trying to play ignorant and innocent.

Bobby met his eyes with sincerity. "You can't just give up. You can't just lose all hope. Claire is working day and night. She'll figure this out. You have to keep hope. Otherwise you've already lost. You gotta keep fighting, kid. Don't let this beat you."

Darien just stared at Bobby. Tears formed in his eyes but he refused to let them fall. "Why should I?" He asked in a cold, soft voice. "What hope is there? Arnaud designed the madness to be so complex it'll take forever for Claire to figure it out. I don't have forever, Hobbes. I have days, weeks at most. That's it." He sighed. "By the end of the month, I'll be a permanent raving psychopath. Silver eyes and all."

He turned his gaze to the window "Then the Official will have her yank that damn gland from my head and I'll be buried next to my brother," he shook his head with a mirthless laugh, "if he even bothers burying me instead of just tossing my body out with the medical waste." He looked back at Bobby. "Why the hell should I have hope? What's left to hope for? I don't believe in miracles, Hobbes. Never have." He swallowed a hard lump in his throat but kept his voice even and cold. "Getting that cure was my last hope. It's gone and so is the hope. I'm tired of fighting a loosing battle. I'm tired of living in fear. I'm tired of going wacko and trying to kill the people I care about the most in this lousy world. I'm tired of it all. I just want it to end already." He choked back a sob. He would not cry another tear, especially in front of Bobby.

"Darien" Bobby said softly "We won't let you end up that way. Me and Claire are gonna keep fighting for you. But you gotta meet us half way."

"Why bother?" Darien replied with a shrug.

Hobbes was starting to get angry now. He hated seeing his partner so depressed but the gentle way wasn't snapping him out of it and the defeatist attitude was really starting to get under his skin. He stood up with a growl and glared down at Fawkes with his fists on his hips to prevent himself from smacking his partner upside his head.

"Cause we care about you, you idiot! We ain't giving up on you that easy so don't you dare do it!" He started to pace beside the length of the bed gesturing wildly with his arms. "Arnaud thinks he's smarter then he is! Claire will figure this out." He paused to look at Darien. "Have some faith in her! Don't be such a whiney ass! Get up and fight!"

Darien looked at Bobby with a blank expression. 'Good' he thought 'He's getting ticked. If I piss him off enough, He'll leave.'

"It's the middle of the night, Hobbes," Darien sighed tiredly. "People aren't supposed to get up and fight in the middle of the night. They're supposed to sleep," he replied being purposely obtuse. He watched as Bobby's face turned three shades of red. He could almost see the steam coming from the little tiger's ears.

Bobby fought to calm himself down. He knew Darien was doing this on purpose. Trying to get him so pissed off he'd leave. 'Well, two can play at that game.' "Fine. Then sleep. I'll be here in the morning and we'll continue this discussion then." Bobby turned and walked away.

Darien congratulated himself on getting rid of Hobbes until he saw him walk over to the couch and lie down. "Hobbes? What the hell are you doing?"

"Going to sleep," Bobby said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "After all, you said the middle of the night is for sleeping. And didn't I just say that I'd be here to continue this conversation in the morning?" He tried his best to hide a smile when he saw Darien's look of shock. "What? You wanna talk now? If not, close you mouth before the flies get in it." He settled down into the couch.

"Fine. Whatever." Darien replied and rolled over onto his side with his back to the couch so he could pretend to sleep again.

Hobbes shifted again and again. 'Dammit, Fawkes! You've got the lumpiest, worst couch in the world!' He thought. He could feel something hard under the cushion. Sitting up, Bobby lifted the cushion and gasped. There it was, shining silver in the moonlight that seeped through the window. A gun. He picked up the cold steel and checked the chamber. One bullet. 'Aw Crap.'

He removed the bullet, put it in his pocket, walked back to the bed, and tossed it in front of Darien's face.

"What the hell is that?"

Darien opened his eyes and sighed. "Looks like a gun. Thought you'd recognize one when you saw it." he replied sarcastically. This was exactly what he hadn't wanted to happen.

"I know what it is!" Bobby ground out through clenched teeth.

"Then why'd you ask?" Darien asked, being intentionally dense again.

"Fawkes! Since when do you have a gun?"

"Since I bought it." Maybe there was still a chance to get rid of him.

"Darien!" Bobby shouted.

That made him look up at his partner. Hobbes never called him by his first name unless he was very serious. And the way he said it, the pain in Bobby's voice stunned Darien for a moment.

Hobbes was breathing heavily with repressed rage and grief staring at Darien with eyes that shone with unshed tears. His fists were balled up and his arms ridged with muscles tight from strain. Darien knew that the time for games was over. He sighed and sat up and leaned against the head board, looking at his own hands in his lap.

"Why do you have that gun?" Bobby asked softly.

Without looking at him Darien replied "It should be obvious, Hobbes. I told you I want it all to end."

Bobby sank onto the mattress again, body heavy with grief. "So that's it? Just like that?" he asked, his voice shaking in his effort to control himself. "You'd blow your head off and leave us all behind? Just have us come looking for you and find you with a hole in your head? We mean that little to you?" His chest tightened in anguish.

The pain in those words stung Darien to his core. "It's not like that, Hobbes." He looked up to meet Bobby's eyes. "Ever since this thing was put in my head, my life hasn't been my own. My life has been controlled by someone else. I've been a puppet." His gaze dropped back to his hands. "And now it seems I can't even control my death! This God-damn thing in my head is even taking that away from me! Unless I take it back. I could have some control again. It'd be so simple to take my control back." He looked back at the gun and then to Hobbes again.

The way that Darien spoke sent a cold chill down to Bobby's bones. It terrified him. A voice so calm, so convinced, so… reasonable…

Darien's eyes stared into Bobby's. Those eyes, once so full of life, where now filled with emptiness, sorrow, and pain. He wasn't just at the edge, He'd gone over it. Bobby's heart broke. He was too late.

"Fine. You wanna go? You wanna take your control back?" Bobby shouted. "You go ahead! But you do it knowing you're going out like a coward! Only cowards run and give up instead of standing and fighting! Only cowards take the easy way out like this!" He reached over, grabbed the gun, and dropped it in Darien's lap. "Go ahead! Do it!" he snapped.

Darien stared at him in disbelief. "You're gonna leave?"

"No! I'm gonna sit here and watch." He jutted out his chin stubbornly. "If you're gonna do this, you're gonna do it in front of me! I won't try and stop you. So go ahead and do it! Take back your control back! Be the coward!" He sat back with his arms crossed against his chest and stared hard at Darien, mouth firmly shut and tensed.

Darien picked up the gun and flipped the safety off. "Hobbes, I wanted to be alone for this" he said with that eerie calm.

"Tough," was Bobby's only reply.

"Fine," Darien sighed. Meeting Bobby's eyes, he said "I'm sorry, Hobbes. I wish there was another way. But I just can't do this anymore. And I won't let them do it to anyone else."

Bobby didn't move, didn't talk, and didn't break eye contact. He just stared at Darien, jaw set and arms crossed.

Darien sighed again and looked down at the gun. "I'm sorry for everything, bro." he whispered and put the barrel in his mouth. With a tear sliding down his cheek, he took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.

The only sound that came from the cool steel was a soft 'click'. Darien, barrel still in his mouth, pulled the trigger again.

'Click'

Bobby reached into his pocket, pulled out the bullet, and held it up between his thumb and forefinger.

Darien saw it and fell apart. Sobs racked his body and the gun fell to the floor. All the pain, anguish, fear, rage, resentment, grief, everything poured out of him. He couldn't hold back any longer.

Bobby allowed his own tears to fall. His heart ached for Darien. He knew the pain his friend was feeling, he'd felt it often enough himself. He tucked the bullet back in his pocket – no way he was leaving that lying around – and slid over next to Darien and put his arm across his shoulders trying to sooth the agony his partner was feeling. With one arm wrapped Darien's shoulders, holding him tightly, the other hand pulled out his cell phone and dialed Claire. He was going to need some help.

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

On the third ring Claire's groggy voice answered " 'Ello?" answered the call.

"Claire, it's Bobby. Get over to Darien's Asap. Bring your kit. "

Claire could hear the sobbing in the background. "I'll be there in ten" she replied, now full awake.

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

Bobby continued trying to ease Darien's pain. He tightened his arms around his partner and kept telling him softly "It's gonna be all right, Darien. It'll be ok. We're gonna help you through this. Just trust us. It'll be ok." It almost became a chant for Bobby. But, Darien's sobs didn't stop, they didn't even slow down.

'God, I hope Claire gets here soon," thought Bobby.

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

Ten minutes later, she walked in and found Darien still sobbing, with his knees tucked to his chest. his arms wrapped around them and his face hidden in the circle of his arms. Bobby was sitting next to him with one hand on Darien's shoulder and the other rubbing his back in a circular motion and continuing his chant trying to comfort him. Bobby looked up at her with dark eyes, pleading with her to help.

She rushed to them, opened her kit and drew up a sedative.

"Darien?" She said "Darien, sweetheart, I'm going to give you something to help you calm down, all right?"

Darien gave no reply, just more sobs. Bobby just kept trying to speak soothingly to him but gave Claire a look of extreme worry.

She gently took hold of Darien's left wrist and extended out his arm until the crook of his elbow was exposed. After finding a vein, she gave him the liquid peace. After setting the needle aside she sat in front of him and rubbed his arms, joining Bobby's chant, until the sedative took effect.

After a couple minutes, Darien's tears slowed to hiccups and the occasional sob, the tension in his body released. 'She must've given me a double dose,' he briefly thought before the drug induced sleep overtook him.

Claire and Bobby helped ease him back onto his pillows and they worked together to settle him into a more comfortable position. Once satisfied, they covered him with a blanket and left him to get some much needed sleep.

Bobby picked up the gun and slowly walked back to the couch with Claire right behind him.

"What the bloody hell happened?" she asked already knowing the answer.

"He snapped," Bobby replied simply.

Claire sighed. "Tell me everything."

So he did, starting with his first midnight check in up to the point of his break down that night."That's when I called you and… well, you know the rest," he sighed.

He drew his hand across his forehead and started to pace. "I should've seen the signs before this," he said sadly. "I don't know how I let it get this far." He put the gun in Claire's kit. "Take that outta here when you go. He shouldn't be anywhere near one right now."

Claire sank to the couch with a sigh and put her head in her hands. Bobby watched as her shoulders shook as she cried.

"Damn him" she whispered through her tears.

Bobby's sharp ears caught it but he assumed she meant Darien and let it slide. He sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulders pulling her into him.

"Claire, we can't tell the Official about this. He'll lock Darien in the padded room and do god knows what before He takes the gland back." Fear of the Official's reaction to Darien's suicide attempt made it difficult for Bobby to swallow. He had to clear his throat a few times to accomplish the simple act.

She fought back her tears, sat up straighter and wiped her eyes. "I know, Bobby" she sniffled "I won't say anything. Believe me." She looked back at Darien's sleeping form for a moment. "I'm going to stay here tonight." She stated. "I want to make sure He sleeps through the night."

"I'll stay too" Bobby said. "Let me get a couple blankets. You take the couch, I'll take the floor." With that, He got up and went to the closet for the blankets. He brought one over to her and draped over her as she lay on the couch. He also grabbed one of Darien's extra pillows and gave that to her. Then he settle himself on the floor near the bed and, using his arm as a pillow, stared up at the ceiling and ticked away the hours.

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

Bobby's mind drifted off to a time where he had been in a similar state as Darien was now. Viv had just left him. The divorce papers were signed and it was officially over. He got very drunk that night and had his colt .45 sitting on the table next to the bottle of Jack. 'It had looked like a mighty fine idea…' He shook himself. 'NO! Darien is not gonna go out like that!' he thought firmly. He set his mind to trying to figure a way to help his friend. 'What was it the doctors always use to tell me or get me to do? Ah! That's right!' He spent the rest of the night – or very early morning – thinking of just how to put his plan into effect.

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

Five thirty am rolled around and Hobbes was still awake. He sat up and took in the scene around him. Darien's soft breathing was evidence that he was still in his drug induced sleep. Claire seemed to have dosed off on the couch, snuggled tightly in her blanket. He was the only one that hadn't slept a wink.

'Oh well,' he thought. 'Time to get up anyway.'

He silently slid out from under his blanket and headed to the kitchen. He proceeded to clean 3 mugs as quietly as he could and made coffee for them.

A few minutes later Claire was roused from her half sleep by the smell of coffee.

"Oh, bless you, Bobby," she mumbled.

Bobby smiled as he poured two cups of coffee and brought one to her.

"How long will he sleep?" he asked, holding out a cup to Claire and sipping from his own.

Claire sat up, accepted the cup, and sighed. "He shouldn't be under the effect of the drug anymore. He hasn't been sleeping, so my bet is that His exhaustion just caught up with him. You probably could wake him but I don't think you should." She brushed a strand of hair from her eyes and sipped her coffee. "I will tell the Official I gave him a medical leave day. Darien needs a break. And that I left you with him since the quicksilver madness comes on so quickly these days."

"Thanks, Claire," he said sincerely.

"No thanks necessary." She sipped her coffee again and looked up at him. "Look, I'm going to leave a shot of counteragent in his fridge just in case. But make sure you take it with you if you go. We still want to slow down this immunity as much as possible and I don't think he's in the state of mind to co-operate with that effort."

Bobby nodded and sipped his coffee. "I agree. Anything else?"

Claire thought for a moment. "Yes. Disconnect his phone and set your cell to vibrate," she instructed. "I don't want him waking up before he's ready. He's to sleep himself out as much as he can. Also, see if you can get him to eat something," she glanced at the mess in the kitchen and wrinkled her nose. "If there is anything edible in that mess. He's not been eating well at all and he's needs to keep up his strength."

"You got it, Keep. Bobby Hobbes is on the case," he raised his mug to her.

She smiled, "You're a good man, Bobby. A very good man. He's lucky to have you as a friend."

He returned her smile and said softly "Thanks, Claire." He cleared his throat and sipped his coffee again, "I'll keep you posted on what happens."

"Good" she replied. "If either of you have any issues, don't hesitate to call. I'll have my cell on me at all times."

"Will do." He hesitated, "You sure the Fat Man won't give you too much trouble about this?"

Her eyes turned ice cold and she held her mug so tightly her knuckles turned white, "Just let him try" she said with such venom he was taken slightly aback. Bobby cleared his throat and she sighed "Take care of him, Bobby."

"Always, Keepie," he said with a gentle smile.

Claire finished her coffee, got her kit – gun still inside – and went home to prepare herself for the day ahead, leaving Hobbes to look after her Kept.

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

Hobbes spent the day quietly cleaning up Darien's apartment. At three pm and he was just returning from throwing away the last bag of trash when he heard a moan coming from the bed. So Bobby went into the kitchen and poured a mug of coffee to take over to his slowly waking partner.

"Hey, Fawkesy. How you feelin?" Hobbes asked as he sat on the edge of the bed with mug in hand.

Darien rolled over with a groan and smelled the coffee. "Fantastic" was his sarcastic reply.

"Glad to hear it" Bobby's said ignoring the sarcasm and held the coffee under Darien's nose. "Just what the doctor ordered. If you sit up, you can have it." He looked his partner over for a moment. "All that sleep seems to have done you some good. You don't look as transparent anymore," he said with a grin.

Darien glared up at Hobbes, sat up, and grabbed the mug. "Funny. You're a regular comedian," he snarled.

Bobby ignored the attitude. "What do ya want for breakfast?" Bobby asked cheerfully.

"Not hungry" Darien grumbled, holding the mug in both hands like he was drawing warmth from it.

"Tough. You're gonna eat. And then you're gonna shower cause you smell, my friend." Bobby teased with a grin, waving his hand in front of his nose.

Darien was in no mood to banter. He just sat quietly and watched the steam rise from his mug.

Bobby sighed. "Come on, Fawkes. You gotta eat something. You're skinny enough. No need to watch your figure." He tried again to lighten his partner's mood. It didn't work.

"What are you doing here, Hobbes?" Darien demanded. "Doesn't the Fat Man have an assignment for you?"

"Nope! Got me the day off," Bobby said with forced cheerfulness. "So I'm making sure my partner eats something and gets cleaned up some." He went to flip the covers off Darien but Darien snatched them back and glared at Hobbes.

"How'd you manage a day off?" he snipped.

"Claire" Bobby answered simply with a shrug, crossing his arms against his chest.

"Ah, so you sweet talked the Keep into covering for you." Darien replied snidely and took a swallow of his coffee, grimacing as it burned his mouth and throat.

"Nope. Keepie said you were supposed to sleep yourself out and I was to make sure you ate and took care of yourself when you woke up. She was gonna tell the boss you needed the day off and I was with ya to make sure you didn't go red eyed." He walked over to where Darien's clothes were strewn around and found a pair of tan pants and that god awful orange shirt that looked and smelled clean. He picked them up and set them on the foot of the bed. "You need to do some laundry there, Gumby. Better yet, trash this stuff and get some decent clothes," he smiled mischievously at his partner desperate to get at least a grin from him.

"So you're playing babysitter. Surely you have better things to do," he replied with a glare.

"Nah, you're more important then the other things." He shrugged, refusing to fight with his partner. "After all, Bobby Hobbes doesn't bail on his partner." He said with meaning.

"Hobbes…" Darien started but was interrupted.

"Look Darien." Bobby sighed, walked over and sat on the bed face to face with Darien. "I know you're going through hell right now. But I meant it when I said that Claire and I are right there with ya. You ain't doing this alone, Kid," he put his hand on Darien's shoulder. "We are gonna get you through this. You just can't quit on us. You gotta meet us half way. What happened last night, that can't happen again. You gotta keep fightin'. But you also gotta know you ain't fightin' alone. I've been there, man," he shuttered. "I know what it's like. You think I pop all those pills cause they taste good?" he scoffed. "No way! I know where you are, Darien. I understand. I truly do. Please, Partner. Please keep fighting. I won't bail on you. Don't you bail on me. Ok?" Bobby was almost pleading with him.

Darien sighed. "I can't keep doing this, Bobby. I can't keep fighting this battle knowing I'm gonna lose."

"What, that gland make you psychic now? You can see the future of something? Because unless you can, you don't KNOW you're gonna lose. You just THINK you are. And that's the wrong kind of thinkin', my friend," he said forcefully.

Darien shook his head and quietly replied "All the signs point to this being a loosing battle."

"Yeah, well, all the signs pointed to me never getting another government job or getting a partner that I could actually work with and get along with. Guess what. Signs can be wrong, my friend. And a lot of times they are. So don't believe in those signs. Believe in your friends. Ok?" Bobby gripped Darien's shoulder tighter, giving him a little shake. "Believe in me, Darien. I will be there every step of the way until you beat this thing. Even after you do, I'll be there. That's what partners do for each other. But you gotta trust me. Don't pull that crap like you did last night. No more guns. No more bullets. No more hurting yourself. If you feel those feelings building up inside you, I'm here. Talk to me. I'll help you best that I can. I always got your back no matter what. Ok, Partner?"

Darien's tears flowed freely as he looks up at Bobby. "Ok," he whispered.

Then Bobby played the card he learned from his shrinks. "Promise me, Darien. I want your word that there won't be a repeat of last night. I want you to promise me that you won't try to off yourself again. Give me you're word," he held out his hand to Darien.

Darien looked at him for a minute and then took his hand and shook it. "I promise. I won't do it again."

Bobby searched his face for deception and found none. "Good. Now drink your coffee and I'll fix you something to eat. You look like hell, my friend," He said with a smile.

Darien snorted in humor but started sipping at his coffee again.

After much ribbing, teasing, and insisting, Bobby got Darien up out of bed and shoved him into his bathroom, closing the door behind him. "I don't hear that water running yet!" he called through the door.

"All right, mom!" Darien replied, laughing. A second later the shower was running.

While Darien went through his routine, Bobby continued to straighten out the apartment.

Darien stepped out of the bathroom dressed and hair done, looking far more like himself then an hour ago. He looked around and saw three more large bags of trash, his laundry gathered and separated, and his bed made.

"Damn, man. You're better then a house keeper!" He smiled at Hobbes who was sitting on the couch with a bottle of water.

"Yeah, and I expect to be paid for this too!" he threw back.

"Ha! Not on my salary!" Darien chuckled.

"Well, the least you can do is help me haul your trash out and take your nasty, smelly, laundry and get it cleaned." He replied, standing with his fists on his hips.

Darien grimaced. "I take back my previous statement. You aren't better then a house keeper. You're worse then a MOM!" and he had to duck when Hobbes threw a pillow at him.

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

A couple hours later they were back in Darien's apartment after visiting the laundry mat.

"So what movie do you wanna watch?" Bobby asked for the tenth time.

"Haven't we discussed that already?" Darien ribbed back.

"Yeah but I never got a straight answer out of you, Gilligan. All I want to know is what movie you were interested in viewing this evening. But you can't even give me a straight answer!" Bobby said with mock-frustration. It was good to be bantering again.

Just as Darien and was about to make a reply, white hot pain shot through the back of his head and sent him to the floor with a howl, clutching his neck.

Bobby jumped over him and ran to the refrigerator. "Hang on, Partner! I got it!"

He took the needle out and dashed back to Darien who was curled in the fetal position on the floor shaking in agony as the madness tried to take over.

"Hurry, Hobbes," he said in a strained voice as he desperately tried to contain his demon long enough for Bobby to return with the shot.

Bobby dropped down on his knees next to him and palpated the artery in his neck. Finding a good place, he injected the counteragent into Darien's bloodstream.

With a sound that was something between a sigh and a grunt, Darien blacked out as the counteragent went to work clearing the quicksilver from his veins.

Bobby lifted Darien's wrist to check his tattoo. Only half full. "Dammit. It's getting worse…" He whispered out loud to no one. He pulled out his cell and called Claire.

As soon as she picked up, he blurted out "Only half full, Keep. The shot only made the tattoo half green."

"Oh God" she whispered.

"It's getting worse, isn't it" - it wasn't a question.

"Is he all right, Bobby?" she asked, rubbing her hand across her forehead.

He checked Darien's pulse. "Yeah. Still out but he'll be ok."

"Just stay with him." She instructed, trying to stop her hands from shaking.

"Planned on it." He assured her.

"All right. Call me if anything else happens." She hung up and looked around the keep rubbing her hands together.

She had been arguing with herself all day about the choice. But now her mind was made up. She got to work on synthesizing the cure.

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

Bobby was knelt on the floor next to Darien as He woke up. "You all right, partner?" He asked while helping Darien sit up.

Darien shook his head to clear out the cobwebs and laughed without humor. "Well that was fun." His voice dripped with sarcasm. He turned his wrist so the ouroborus tattoo was visible. "Aw crap" he whispers and ran a hand through his hair making it stand up even wilder then before. The sight of the half red snake caused a large, hard lump to form in the pit of his stomach. The feelings of despair started to come rushing back.

Bobby saw him start to slip, put his hand on Darien's shoulder and squeezed. "I gotcha, partner. It'll be ok." He said to reassure.

Darien looked up at him and sighed. "I gave you my word, Hobbes. Doesn't mean I'm gonna enjoy it."

"I know." Bobby replied, helped Darien to his feet. They walked over to the couch and settled into it with a sigh. "So?" He turned to look at Darien, "What movie did you wanna watch?" He asked with a smile.

Darien looked at him slightly stunned for a moment and then shook his head smiling. "You pick."

Bobby groaned. "Fine! I got a good one in mind." He got up and went to Darien's collection and tossed the DVD to Darien who caught it. Then Bobby went over to the bar and picked up a stack of take out menus. "How about Pizza for dinner?"

Darien laughed again. "Works for me, Partner," he replied as he put the movie in and hit play.

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

Around midnight Bobby started yawning.

Darien looked over at him and shook his head. "Hobbes, why don't you head on home. You babysat me all last night, all today, and well into tonight. I'll be fine. Go on."

Hobbes looked carefully at Darien. "You sure?"

"Yeah, man. I promise I'll just go to sleep. I'll see you at the office tomorrow with no new injuries." He held up three fingers. "Scouts honor. Go on."

After a moment's hesitation, He agreed. "Ok, kid. Then I'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning. Want me to pick you up?"

"Nah," Darien shook his head. "I'll just meet ya there."

"You're sure?" Bobby watched him cautiously.

"Sure I'm sure. After all, you need to sleep too, right?" Darien replied with a smile.

Bobby nodded and sighed. "Ok. Then I'll see you tomorrow." He stood, stretched, and headed for the door.

"Night, Hobbes." Darien said. "And thanks…. for everything…"

Bobby turned back with a smile. "Night, Fawkes. And no problem. If I told you once, I've told you a hundred times, Bobby Hobbes doesn't bail on his partner."

{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}

The next morning, Bobby, Claire, and the Official all sat in the Official's office. It was a beautiful California day and the sun shone through the blinds casting shadowy stripes across the room. No one spook a word.

The Official sat behind his big desk, drumming his fingers against it, and glaring around the room.

Claire sat behind Bobby, at the table with an icy stare in her eyes directed toward the Official's direction.

Bobby sat quietly in his regular chair in front of the Official's desk but was nervous. He kept glancing at his watch every few minutes. Darien was fifteen minutes late… The more time that passed, the more on edge Bobby got. 'What if he did do something to himself? I didn't collect all the knives… Dammit, Fawkes! Where are you?' He started to bounce his foot in nervousness.

At last, like nothing ever happened, Darien strolled in wearing a pink Cheyenne Gunfight Survivor tee shirt and tan pants quoting Vinnie Barbarino "Sorry I'm late Mr. Kotter" ...