A/N: Would you like to see an I-Man movie that would reunite the original cast? Amanda Rogers has entered the Dockers Wear The Pants contest on Facebook to help fund her project, but she urgently needs votes. Please go to Facebook and enter Shoom Zone Productions into the search facility to find out more information from there.
Alternatively, if you click on 'homepage' at my profile on this site it will take you to Shoom Zone directly where you can click on the link to vote. The deadline is fast approaching, so any support would be wonderful! Thanks :D
Now on with the story. This was my first attempt at fan fiction and was originally posted in 2003. Episode 2 tomorrow :)
Title: Things Lost
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: When all seems lost, how will Darien cope?
Timeline: Five months after The New Stuff.
A witty guy called Oscar Wilde had one of his characters observe, " To lose one parent…may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."* Yeah well, over the years I'd lost both of my parents and plenty of other people I'd cared about, in one way or another. I can tell you one thing for sure, it wasn't funny and I wasn't ready to lose anyone else…
*(Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest)
A tall, slim figure sauntered slowly down the dimly lit basement corridor, paused before an ugly metal door, and with a flourish, swiped a magnetic key card through a lock on the wall.
"Morning there Keepie," Darien called as soon as the door swooshed open.
"Good morning Darien," replied the blond haired woman he was addressing. She was busy supervising the stacking of a delivery of new equipment behind the glass screens that divided the lab, but turned towards him and observed, "You're late this morning aren't you?"
"Yeah, well I stopped off for supplies," he answered with a smile, as he placed three Starbucks coffee cups and a box of Danish pastries on her desk. He perched on a chair next to the desk, picked up one of the pastries and started to eat.
Claire smiled as she watched Darien devour his breakfast. Over the five months since they'd returned to work for the Agency this had become part of their morning routine. She thought she'd be seeing less of Darien now that he no longer needed injections of counteragent. Thankfully that had not proven to be the case.
As a complete contrast to his quicksilver-madness days Darien always arrived early, usually bearing breakfast and hung out with her and Bobby in the Keep until it was time for work. However that still didn't mean he turned up to meetings on time. Claire's smile broadened. If there was a briefing scheduled he would wait in the Keep just long enough to get the Official steaming, then saunter in as if he didn't have a care in the world.
"Thanks Joe," Claire said addressing the deliveryman, as she signed the sheet he presented to her. "See you in a couple of weeks," she added as he waved and left.
"Got any yoghurts?" Darien asked as he made his way over to the refrigerator in the corner.
"Yes, top shelf," Claire laughed. You know, with the amount you eat, you should be the size of a blimp."
"Yeah, well I've got a fast metabolism. Need to keep up my strength!" Darien replied flashing his trademark grin. He removed a pot from the shelf, grabbed a spoon from above the refrigerator door and headed back to his chair.
Oh, it was lovely to see him like this Claire thought happily. She still marvelled at how he had changed. He was still essentially, well, Darien, but he seemed more relaxed these days, more content with his lot in life.
When they'd originally met he'd seemed to be the selfish, irresponsible larcenist, she'd been told to expect. Even Kevin's description of his younger brother had been along the same lines, except for his assertion that somewhere beneath his wise-cracking, rebellious exterior lurked a much better person.
It had taken only a short time before the evidence of this 'better person' had started to come to light. He'd immediately shown himself to be insightful and intelligent, with a natural aptitude for his new job. However, the thing that made it impossible for her to remain the remote, detached Keeper she was supposed to be, was his caring and sensitive nature. Darien may have felt used and trapped, but he'd put himself in harms way time and time again to protect and help others.
Claire's thoughts strayed to the memories of those terrible weeks when the counteragent had begun to lose its effectiveness. She shivered as she remembered how Darien had tried to stay optimistic and bravely did his best to hide his rising fear and panic. The image of his face when she'd been forced to lie to him about receiving the cure from Arnaud still haunted her dreams. He'd looked so lost and vulnerable as she'd watched the hope die in his eyes.
Shaking herself, Claire brought her focus back to the present. They'd managed to get through that terrible time, thank God. Here was Darien, healthy, and by his own admission, happier than he could ever remember. He had a job he'd now chosen, friends he loved and trusted, and freedom from quicksilver madness.
Darien was not a violent person and it had eaten him up inside that he could so easily lose control and hurt others, even those he cared about the most. Typically he'd always blamed himself for his actions whilst under the influence of the madness, however much they'd tried to convince him of the truth. Even the realisation that the pre-QSM headaches still afflicted him with overuse of the quicksilver gland couldn't dampen his enthusiasm for his new life.
"Um, Claire?" Darien's worried voice cut through her thoughts. "Are you okay?"
She looked up to see Darien leaning towards her with concern on his face. She smiled brightly at him, "Yes, I'm fine. Just thinking…."
Claire was interrupted by the swoosh of the Keep's door as Bobby Hobbes strutted in, pointing at his watch and tutting at Darien.
"The 'Fish is just about ready to explode up there my friend," Hobbes reported. "Time to go." Turning to Claire he flashed her a smile and said, "See ya later Keepie."
Darien rolled his eyes, picked up two cups of coffee and, with a cheery wave at his Keeper, followed Bobby through the door.
"Don't forget our date tonight Darien," Claire called after him. She heard Darien's answering groan and smiled again. It was becoming a habit she was indulging in a lot these days.
Darien slouched low in a chair in the Official's office, staring at the sign above his boss's head. They'd been back under the auspices of the Department of Fish and Game since saving the potential cancer-curing crop from Chrysalis' invisible locusts months ago. He kind of missed entering the room to discover which new and ever more obscure agency they were paying rent to that month.
"Fawkes," barked the Official loudly. "Pay attention!"
Sitting up slightly, Darien saluted his boss sloppily, "Yes Sir." The Fat Man must have noticed he'd zoned out there for a while.
"You're really pushing it today Fawkes," Bobby murmured angrily as he leaned towards his partner.
"You think?" asked Darien with a smile.
With a glare aimed at Fawkes and a nod to Eberts, the Official signalled the beginning of the briefing.
"We have received some very disturbing information from a number of sources that would seem to suggest Chrysalis has finally completed its reorganisation," Eberts began as he handed out neatly typed information sheets. "It has been confirmed that Jared Stark has been replaced and effectively demoted within the organisation. The new head of the North American sector is thought to be a woman named Tabitha, but further details on her are rather sketchy at the moment. However, we believe that a major move on their part will occur within the next couple of months."
The Official looked over to where Darien and Hobbes were thumbing through the pages they had been given. He smiled internally as he saw the subtle differences in Fawkes' demeanour now that something had piqued his interest. It was part of the game they played. Fawkes feigned disinterest and he played the heartless, uncaring boss. Not that it was all an act exactly. He'd been criticised in the past by colleagues for caring too much for those under his command, but if the security of the Nation were at stake, personal attachments would always take second place.
"One of our contacts has hinted that a member of Chrysalis might be willing to sell documentation detailing their plans," Eberts continued. "As a consequence we would like you to make contact with this individual and obtain the information so we can verify its authenticity. The meeting is arranged for 11am. You will find the location in your handout.
The Official retrieved a briefcase from underneath his desk and handed it to Bobby. "You'll need this," he informed the agent.
"Wait, you're telling me that someone from Chrysalis is willing to sell out to us?" Darien asked sceptically. "From what we've seen he'd have to be certifiable. Chrysalis tends to have one answer to betrayal, and I'm not sure a swift death is the payday this guy'll be looking for!"
"His reasons aren't important. We need that information and I want it on my desk by this afternoon," the Official growled. "Now, get out there and make that deal." The look on his face brooked no argument.
Bobby stood immediately and turned to offer his partner a hand up. Darien accepted it and hauled himself lazily out of his chair. As they left the office and headed for the front doors Hobbes knew he was in for a difficult morning. Fawkes had a look on his face that said he was less than happy about the situation.
"So, where are we supposed to meet this guy anyway?" Darien asked as Hobbes pulled up opposite a large department store.
Bobby nodded his head to the building and said, "Lingerie department, third floor".
"You're kidding, right?" Darien looked surprised and slightly uncomfortable.
"Nope, it was their call. Lets go." Hobbes grabbed the briefcase he'd stowed behind the driver's seat and set off across the road.
"How are we gonna blend in, I mean we can't really keep a low profile can we?" moaned Darien as he trailed behind.
Hobbes chose to ignore him and led the way into the store. As they entered the lingerie department Bobby started browsing through the racks with purpose. Darien looked decidedly uncomfortable and was silently regretting not quicksilvering in the elevator on the way up.
"May I be of assistance?" came a female voice from behind Darien. Startled, he turned to see an assistant standing there.
"Um…I…um," he began.
The assistant tried to hide a smile and said, "Don't worry, we find a lot of gentlemen need a little help when making purchases for the lady in their lives. Shall we start with which items you're looking for, then what size?" she asked expectantly, gesturing to the lacy thongs on the rack next to him.
"Um…size?" Darien muttered, looking like a startled rabbit.
As if in answer to a prayer, Bobby moved smoothly into view, taking the assistant by the hand and introducing himself.
"Hello there. My name is Robert Hobbes and this is my associate Darien Fawkes. We're marketing a new line of lingerie called Butterflies and your head buyer suggested we call by today to show him some of our samples." Bobby looked every inch the marketing executive as he turned on the charm.
"Oh, I see," replied the assistant in disappointment as she saw her chances of a sale disappear. I'll go and inform Mr Brubaker you're here." With that she turned and headed towards the phone on the sales desk.
A few minutes later they were being ushered into Mr Brubaker's spacious office. As soon as the assistant left, closing the door behind her, Mr Brubaker spoke, "Let's get down to business. I have the information. Did your boss agreed to my fee?"
"The money's right here," confirmed Bobby patting the briefcase.
"But first, we'd like to clear up a few things" Darien interrupted, ignoring Bobby's obvious irritation. "What's a member of Chrysalis doing working in a department store anyway and why are you helping us?"
"I act as a courier for Chrysalis. What better cover than as a buyer for a reputable department store? I transport 'samples' with me as well as more legitimate items. Who's going to notice a few extra boxes here or there?" Mr Brubaker paused to look directly at Fawkes.
"As to why I wish to terminate my involvement with the organisation, lets just say that Tabitha has been questioning my loyalty based on my erstwhile friendship with Jared Stark. I think a strategic withdrawal from circulation for a while is the prudent course of action, before Tabitha decides to make it a more permanent arrangement," he concluded nervously.
"Yeah, right," was Darien's only comment.
Hobbes and Brubaker exchanged briefcases and after a cursory check of the contents both men appeared satisfied.
"Nice doing business with you," were Mr Brubaker's parting words.
They were on their way back to the agency within ten minutes.
"This information will prove invaluable in our fight against Chrysalis," the Official announced happily that evening. They had spent the afternoon sifting through the documents Brubaker had provided. There were details of a proposed meeting between senior members of the organisation, including the location and date. Eberts had disappeared earlier to locate schematics for the suspect building and plans of the surrounding area.
The Official was in serious gloat mode. This case was going to put the Agency well and truly back amongst the big players and strike a significant blow against those genetically modified whackos.
Eberts came bustling back into the office carrying a precarious pile of files and what looked like rolled up blueprints. He was walking at an angle in an attempt to keep everything balanced. Just when it looked like he would lose the battle Hobbes stepped up to help him.
"Why thank you Robert," Ebert said with a slight hint of surprise in his voice.
"No problema," Hobbes replied genially.
Hobbes had originally been downright hostile towards Eberts, considering him to be the epitome of every single penny-pinching, pencil pusher who'd ever screwed him out of sizeable chunks of his salary. However, over the past year he'd begun to soften his attitude. A little bonding over 'injuries received in the line of duty' in the filing room and occasions when Eberts' had been willing to come out from the boss's shadow had shown a different side to his character. Especially when it had come down to protecting Adam Reece. They owed him big time for that one.
"I have managed to procure the necessary plans Sir," Eberts confirmed to the Official.
"Good, good." Borden looked over at Hobbes. "I want you to take them home Bobby. Consider all surveillance and containment possibilities and be ready to report your conclusions first thing Monday morning."
"Yes Sir!" came Hobbes enthusiastic reply.
Darien smiled over at his partner. Bobby loved this kind of stuff.
The meeting broke up with the Official growling at Darien, "First thing Fawkes!"
Darien just grinned mischievously and sauntered after Hobbes.
Once in the corridor the two agents headed for the front door in silence until Bobby spoke up. "Aren't you forgetting something my friend?"
"Huh?" asked Fawkes in confusion.
"It's the first Friday in the month," Bobby informed him with an evil smile. "Wouldn't want you missing your 'date' with the Keeper there.
"Oh crap!" was Darien's only response as he checked his watch and broke into a run as he headed back down the corridor to the elevator.
"See ya later Fawkes," Bobby called after him still smiling.
"Sorry I'm late Keep!" Darien panted as he arrived breathless at the lab. It was one thing to yank the Official's chain, but he was making a real effort to be punctual with his friends these days.
"Not to worry Darien," she replied pleasantly. "Albert was telling me you were in a meeting with the Official all afternoon."
"Yeah, we got some info today that means we should be able to bag us some seriously important bad guys," Darien drawled as he threw himself onto the demented dentist's chair.
"Mmmm," Claire replied distractedly as she collected some instruments together, placed them on a rolling tray and moved towards Darien.
"Blood?" Darien asked with a resigned sigh.
"I think we'll start there," Claire agreed. She quickly took a blood sample with practised ease. Darien sighed again as he held a small cotton ball over the puncture wound. He could hear his Keeper moving around behind one of the glass screens.
Claire had suggested these little 'dates' of theirs after the first reoccurrence of the pre QSM headaches. He'd been on an assignment with Hobbes and Monroe, following a Senatorial aide who was suspected of leaking classified information to the media. Believing there was no longer a time limit to staying quicksilvered Darien had been using the gland extensively for four days. The pain had started gradually, just a vague discomfort at first, then becoming an annoying ache a day or so later. On the fifth day he had obtained some pretty damning evidence after a little invisible B&E at the aide's apartment. He was just heading back to the van when the pain hit.
It had felt like the back of his skull was going to explode and before he knew it his head was pounding into the sidewalk, scattering flakes of quicksilver in all directions. Hobbes had been at his side in seconds offering soothing words and comfort until the pain subsided. The ride back to the Agency had been hell. Alex had driven like a woman possessed, whilst Hobbes cradled Darien's head in his lap in the back of the van. He was convinced the 'cure' Arnaud had provided was only temporary and with the monitor on his wrist still showing all green he was afraid he would attack and kill his best friend at any moment.
Back at the keep Claire had given the barely conscious Darien a dose of counteragent, from a batch she had produced to help her with her experiments. It had had no effect and the painkillers she'd tried were not very successful. Darien had drifted in and out of consciousness for most of the night. In his pain free, lucid moments he'd begged to die. He couldn't face going back to the days of QSM.
Luckily the extensive test the Keeper ran revealed the pain was being caused by a reflexive spasming of the gland due to overuse and was not a precursor to quicksilver madness. By the next day the pain was beginning to lessen naturally.
With a flash of her usual genius Claire had eventually come up with a relaxant to use in future attacks. When injected directly into the gland it eased the spasms within minutes, though it left Darien aching and exhausted for hours.
The bottom line was Bobby and Claire had come through for him again. He really didn't know how he was ever going to repay them. If it took the rest of his life he'd vowed he would do his best to show them how much they meant to him.
"Darien…Darien?" Claire's voice cut through his reverie.
"Huh? Oh sorry," Darien apologised. "What's wrong?"
"Where were you?" Claire asked.
"You know, like you said this morning – just thinking…" Darien answered with a faint smile.
"Well, your blood and quicksilver levels are stable, no problems there," Claire reported with a reassuring smile of her own.
"Good, what next?" Darien muttered, not really sure he wanted to know the answer.
"Well, there are a few new tests I want to do on your eyes to see if we can finally track down what's giving you those occasional problems with your sight, but…." She hesitated, "I've been working on a new formula for the relaxant. If it works, we'll be able to inject it into a vein instead of the gland and it will hopefully cut down on your recovery time.
Darien sat up quickly. "Well that sounds like a good thing, right?" Claire had started accompanying them on missions where Darien was expected to use a lot of quicksilver. Injecting into the gland was a delicate procedure and she wouldn't allow Bobby or Alex to take on the task. It was just too risky. However, they both had experience administering the counteragent and the new injection would require the same technique.
"Yes," Claire agreed. "Animal testing has been very successful, but I need to test it under controlled circumstances before I can authorise it for use in the field." She looked meaningfully at him.
"What?" Darien asked in confusion. Suddenly it struck him what she meant. "Oh," he managed to whisper as realisation dawned. "No, no, no, no!" He stood up quickly and shook his head vigorously as he walked across the lab. "No way Claire, okay? It's bad enough when it happens by accident, but you want me to push the limit on purpose?"
Claire walked over to Darien and took his hands in her own.
"I know it's not a pleasant experience," she said in a soothing tone, "but this new formula has the potential to significantly improve your condition. I'm pretty sure it will work perfectly, I just want to be certain."
Before he could answer a muffled boom could be heard above them.
"What was that?" Darien asked with a start, as two more muffled booms shook the building. Claire had no time to answer as an explosion on the far side of the lab stopped any further comment. It shattered the glass screens and the last thing Darien remembered was flying through the air, before crashing to the floor in a crumpled heap.