Title: The Ghost in the Crowd
Author: A. X. Zanier
Rating: R (Language, violence, sexual situations, the usual)
Fandom: The Invisible Man (SciFi, 2000)
Disclaimer: a) The characters and basic story ideas of The Invisible Man are the property of others including, but not limited to Matt Greenberg, Studios USA, Stu Segall Productions and NBC Universal. Any additional characters or story ideas are mine. I make no money from this intellectual exercise. b) This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any opinions or views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the author and are used for story-telling purposes only.
Sequel/Series: part of the AS altiverse
Timeline: Post Reconciliation, but prior to Legacy
Spoilers: Definitely. Does it really matter after all these years?
Music: Ghost in the Crowd by Sister Hazel
Notes: The original idea for this story was inspired by the I-Man music vid The Return by InvisibleDanielle back in the day. To make this work with both show canon and the existing Alyx Silver timeline one small change needs to be made to season 1. That scene where a pissed off and invisible Arnaud shows up at Rendell's flat at the end of MFN part 2 didn't happen. However, Legends (season 2 episode 1) did. Please apply suspension of disbelief as needed, but I made every effort to reconcile the two timelines so as to make this story work.
The Ghost in the Crowd
"Big Brother is watching you." The year1984 came and went seemingly without the realization of ol' Georgie's book becoming a reality. Of course, that was quite a few years ago, but now? Now that phrase had taken on meaning that not even he could have envisioned.
The data was a mess. It had been cobbled together from a half a dozen sources and filled with best-guesses and hypotheses. Little wonder it had taken him days just to get it sorted out. Still given the original source had been damaged almost beyond recovery there remained more than enough for a start, but it would be slow going. And, sadly, time was a definite factor, thus him still being awake at this ungodly hour and staring at the laptop screen before him. He had so very much work to do to find a solution with a deadline looming over his... all of their heads. Leaning back in the chair for a moment he glanced about the apartment, lit only by the thoroughly garish Zippy Cola fridge in the kitchen and the lamp on the desk before him. Which reminded him that he'd forgotten to eat dinner. He'd planned to, even picked it out and set it in plain sight in said fridge and then gotten caught up in sorting out the data into a semi-usable form.
With a sigh, he decided it was far too late now and that he'd deal with it in the morning or whenever. Right now, he had to try to reconcile three different data sets and have them make some sort of actual sense when compared to the fourth set he held in his mind.
Arms suddenly wrapped about him, making him freeze for an instant and seriously regret his insistence on not having bodyguards, then the rush of adrenaline kicked in as a soft voice said right in his ear, "What are you up to now?"
He simply reacted, no thought, just some insane survival instinct kicking in. Much to his dismay said reaction involved shoving himself and the chair over backwards onto his attacker. An instant later he was up and on his feet and grabbing for the nearest weapon-like object and wishing he hadn't refused the handgun he'd been offered as a precaution. He ended up grabbing a heavy-looking Lucite cube off the nearby bureau and brandishing it in his raised hand. His heart pounded in his chest and seconds later felt the Quicksilver ooze across his skin. In no time at all his vision had gone grayscale, and the realization that his attacker could no longer see him registered and he shifted away from the desk, making his way across the room until he found himself backed against the high counter; the knives in their stand on the far side just out of reach. Only then did he take the time to look for his assailant.
What he saw surprised him. A girl, a mere child still lay there on the floor with the chair trapping her underneath. Well, had been trapping her, as she shoved it off her with a snarl of irritation.
"What the hell was that for?" she grouched as she got to her feet with a groan, one hand going to the back of her head suggesting it had connected with the hard surface of the floor when she'd fallen... when he'd pushed her down. "And you can come back now. I'm not planning on hurting you... too badly."
Uh... That wasn't exactly the reaction he'd been expecting from a potential kidnapper, or whatever she was. "Who are you?" he asked cautiously, knowing his voice would give away his general location at the very least. Moving as quietly as he could he tried to maneuver his way around the end of the counter and failed utterly as he whacked his hip into the butcher block table hiding there in plain sight, making the tools hanging from it swing into each other with a blatant clatter. So he once again froze hoping like hell she wouldn't pull a gun and fire shots in his direction. There was a damn good chance she'd succeed in hitting him, as he seemed to be failing utterly to hide even while invisible. Clearly, this was trickier in reality than theory. Then again he seriously doubted he had the necessary skills, in fact, he was quite certain he didn't.
"Cute, real funny. Could we not play games tonight, I'm too damn tired."
He watched as she ran a hand through her hair, moved over to the bed, and practically collapsed upon it. The situation suddenly seemed a lot less threatening. If this were a hit or a kidnapping, or whatever, he'd be dead already. She had succeeded in getting into the apartment without him even being vaguely aware of it. Whatever she may want quite obviously didn't involve hurting him. Which meant... he had no clue what that meant. He hadn't been expecting anyone, and the Official had allowed him to come here alone with only minimal qualms, which suggested that he felt the apartment was more than secure enough for the time being. It was only then, when looking about that he noticed the travel bag that had been left upon the pool table next to what appeared to be a laptop bag, the sneakers tucked underneath seemed to suggest this was not an attack, but someone who was familiar with the owner of this apartment. And if that were indeed the case... Her next words interrupted his stumbling train of thought.
"If you want me to go home I will, but you could at least tell me to my face, Dare."
"Dare? Who is..." he trailed off, that train of thought smacking solidly into a wall of reality as he finally put the pieces together. "Oh crap. You weren't supposed to be back for at least another week."
She sighed heavily and rubbed her eyes. "I know you're tech-challenged, but did you really forget how to read your texts while I was gone?"
She somehow met his eyes, as if knowing exactly where he stood in the room, which shouldn't have been possible. He'd been given only the barest bones of information on her, and only then because he'd asked about the decidedly female clothes he'd discovered at the apartment. It had all but required the pulling out of fingernails for Charlie to admit her existence, Hobbes, however, had been more forthcoming, though it had been quite clear his answers had been hamstrung by whatever decree the Official had made when it came to the female agent now seated before him.
Shit. The Official was going to blow a serious gasket when he found out about this, but there wasn't much he could do about it... unless. "Sorry... Agent Silver, I... uh... got caught up in my work and forgot to check my messages."
"Agent Silver? What the hell is going on, Darien?"
He realized his mistake instantly and gave up on his efforts to try and pretend to be Darien. He had been assuming that her clothes had been left here out of convenience only, that her partnership with Darien was no more than that, but apparently not. How much more it actually was remained unknown. "I... Uh..." He felt something wash across him. It wasn't intrusive and didn't hurt, but he definitely felt it and her body language changed instantly.
"Drop the Quicksilver, now," she ordered, slowly getting to her feet, the defensive posture one even he could recognize.
He forced his body to calm, his heart rate finally dropping low enough to allow the Quicksilver to flake away. The instant his sight returned to full color she appeared in front of him, no weapons visible, but the threat in her posture was unmistakable.
"Who are you?"
"I... I should have the Official explain all this."
Her eyes narrowed. Eyes that were an amazingly vibrant and unexpected shade of silver; a startling contrast to the red hair that tumbled about her in an explosion of curls. "Yeah, I don't think so. You, whoever you are, have apparently taken over the body of one of my partners and I would suggest you explain why before I cuff you and drag you down to the Agency by brute force."
He didn't doubt for an instant that the threat was real and that she'd act upon it without hesitation, but he also didn't want to answer her. He had some concerns her reaction would not be one he would enjoy. "You tell me," is what finally tumbled out of his mouth, though it would probably turn out to be the worst response ever. Then again, he had every right to be here and doubted she did. Yes, he understood she was Darien's partner and friend, but he doubted she had any right to be so... so possessive of him.
He felt that wash of energy across him again and realized it must be from her, somehow.
She frowned, brows knitting together. "I don't know," she hissed, taking one step closer, body tensing. "You aren't there, Darien is... asleep near as I can tell, yet here you are walking and talking." She shifted slightly and even to his very untrained eye knew she would not be patient for much longer. He could answer, tell her the truth, some of it anyway, and hope to god she'd back down enough to allow him to finish his work.
"I'm Kevin," he explained.
She shook her head. "Kevin? Kevin Fawkes?" But you're dead."
He chuckled ruefully. "Tell me something I don't know."
Her body relaxed marginally, but only marginally. "Prove it."
Kevin blinked. How the hell was he supposed to do that? Hell why should he? He had every right to be here, not her. "I don't think so."
One eyebrow rose on her forehead and he got that might not have been the best tack to take with her. He had the odd feeling she could break him very easily if she so chose, even if Darien's body was in much better shape than his had ever been. "You will, or I will put you down until I can get a team here to securely transport you to the Agency." She tipped her head to the side, her look turning dangerous. "You have thirty seconds."
The threat was far from an idle one. "And how exactly would you like me to do that? Anything Darien and I alone would know, you probably would not. Privileged information involving any of my projects would mean nothing to you." He set the Lucite cube down on the counter; he'd completely forgotten he'd been holding it, and in truth unless he threw it at her and ran, it wasn't much of weapon.
"What did Darien do with all the pictures of his mom when she died?" she asked.
The question startled him. "Uh, he was so mad he threw most of them away. Why?" He shifted and settled upon one of the bar stools, wondering why the answer would mean anything to her.
She nodded. " 'Cause it's not something many people know about, but Kevin would." She moved back a few steps and leaned against the pool table, still not truly at ease.
Clearly, she was very much not happy with the situation, which he could understand, he supposed. She'd shown up expecting to find Darien, and instead got a total stranger. "So you believe me now?"
She shook her head. "Let's just say I'm open to the possibility given the Simon Cole incident."
Kevin nodded slowly. Not really wanting to think about that incident in detail, especially given that from his perspective it had happened mere weeks ago and the guilt still lingered. He glanced at the cube and noticed for the first time that it contained photographs. He picked it back up and looked at them. One was a candid shot of the two of them: of Darien and Alyx. She leaned forward on her forearms against the railing of some pier staring out over the water, her face in profile, while Darien slouched back against the same rail, hands stuffed into his jacket pockets, looking at her. The look on Darien's face spoke volumes about how he felt about the woman now standing before him.
And it was pretty much the last thing Kevin had expected. Little wonder she felt some possessiveness of the... body he now inhabited. "I am under the impression that Charlie did not want the two of us to meet. Though I'm not entirely certain why. He has not exactly been very forthcoming with information about you. In fact, I did not realize that you and Darien were anything more than partners."
"And Bobby didn't fill you in? I doubt that," she sneered. Plainly, she still had her doubts about who he was.
Kevin sighed. "He must think I'm an idiot," he muttered mostly to himself. The comments Hobbes had been dropping over the last several days now making sense. "I have the feeling that the Official told him not to."
"Ah. So, why are you here?" she asked. The one question he would not answer.
"That will have to wait until you speak to the Official... in the morning, by preference," he added quickly, in an effort to forestall any immediate phone calls to his... their boss. "In fact I still have work to do, so if you'll excuse me..." He hoped she would get the hint and leave graciously, but she simply laughed, though the sound was more than a touch bitter to his ears.
"Right, like I'm going to leave Darien's body alone with some stranger in it."
"I told you I'm-"
"Kevin. I heard you. Don't mean I believe you for an instant. I plan on staying right here until I can talk to Darien for myself." She crossed her arms over her chest. "When might that be, anyway?"
Kevin set the cube down, slid off the stool, and walked past her to his computer. "Tomorrow... later today, if I can get this work done. When I go to sleep, he'll wake up," he explained, hoping it would be enough for her as it was far more than he was supposed to say. Though she didn't seem as surprised as maybe she should have been, which told him something, he just had no real clue as to what.
He sat down, making a valiant attempt to ignore her and focus on the work, but her presence remained, like an echo in the back of his mind, an irritated, unhappy echo at that. And it was damned distracting as well as weird. "You really don't have to stay," he finally said, giving in after almost ten minutes of silence and absolutely no success at making sense of the data on the screen before him. "Darien wasn't forced into doing this, he volunteered." He could only hope it would ease the tension and worry he could feel coming from her. She really and truly felt concerned about Darien and his continued well-being and that was hard to argue with. If positions had been reversed, he'd probably feel the same way.
"Manipulated into volunteering, you mean," she sneered, and as she had the more recent experience with the Official Kevin had to admit that she just might have a better grasp of the situation than he did. The Official had made every effort to keep her away from San Diego for the duration based on comments from Hobbes and snippets he had overheard the last few days. Kevin hadn't really paid all that much attention figuring that another spy wouldn't really matter to the job he had to do. "Why are you futzing with the Quicksilver data anyway? Darien is reasonably stable and in no immediate danger... or wasn't when I left." The concern in her tone was blatant and Kevin turned about to watch her. "And if there were a problem with the gland the Keep wouldn't be likely to pull a stunt like this." She waved a hand in his direction. "It'd be too risky for both the gland and the host."
The worry remained, but her change in phrasing clued Kevin into the fact that she might be something more than just another agent. That there might be some real intelligence behind the electric glare and youthful appearance. In fact, he was beginning to suspect she was far older than her looks decried and therefore far more dangerous. Least he knew Darien hadn't been bedding jailbait, which came as a bit of a relief and proving how very little he really knew about his brother. He hadn't seen Darien in several years until he'd woken up to find his reflection that of a brother who had aged dramatically in a seeming blink of the eye. He wanted to ease her concerns but did not feel it was his place to do so and certainly was not going to take on the responsibility of explaining the whole reason for his return from beyond the grave. Right now the best thing he could do was continue to work and hopefully have some good news for the Official come morning, or whenever he actually saw the man again. This working every other day or so could make things confusing to say the least and seeing as he'd been awake for almost twenty hours at this point with several more to go before he dared close his eyes and allow the body he wore to rest he really wanted to get on with it.
"Because there's data missing and I have to reconcile what I know with what is actually going on within the gland," he finally told her, half expecting her to roll her eyes and wave her hands much like when he'd made similar comments to Hobbes.
She huffed. "The only data missing is from Kevin's... your original notes. Though we were able to reconstruct a fair portion from the lab books that were salvaged from Perseus."
Kevin blinked. "You've read my notes?"
She snorted. "I reconstructed them. Why aren't you coordinating with Claire? She's probably already done ninety percent of this. Your efforts are redundant and, really, a waste of time."
Kevin leaned back in the chair more astonished than he'd been in a long, long time. Shit. He really needed to get Alyx on his side now. Clearly, she'd been more involved in the project side of the Agency than Charlie had led him to believe. And she was quite right, coordinating with Claire would be the optimal use of his time, however there was no chance of that happening at this time. "I can't," he stated. "She's... not available."
"And that means what? Charlie fired her? Not a chance in hell." Alyx's mood and patience were swiftly deteriorating based on the dark look on her face. That she'd called the Official Charlie was one of the more interesting tidbits that she'd revealed.
"No. She's just not available and no one has been able to access her personal files due to the password encryption."
Alyx's lips quirked upwards at that.
"Your work, I take it. Computer tech?" Kevin really wanted to understand, the vibes she threw off completely confusing him.
"Not exactly," she responded pushing away from the pool table to stalk the breadth of the room in lieu of actual pacing. She was too... angry, irritated, worried for it to be considered true pacing. "Claire's unavailable, you've been resurrected. Who's overseeing the..." she waved at him.
"A Doctor Jennings." Kevin shrugged. "I'm afraid I probably don't know as much as you think. And I'd much rather the Official give you the details as I would probably just screw things up and make you want to hit me even more than you already do." He gave her a lopsided smile and a shrug of his shoulders, which was effective in getting her to stop her prowling and sigh heavily.
"What are you trying to do?" Her tone was calmer than he expected and decided to throw caution and orders to the four winds to be scattered about them like so much detritus and make an effort to gain her trust. Having her on his side looked to be a wise move at this juncture. He had his doubts that she would understand, but figured what the hell, maybe she'd stop glaring daggers at him a begin to believe he was who he said he was and had borrowed his brother's body with a legitimate purpose.
"Trying to reconcile the version of the gland that produces the madness with the original model in order to create a safe removal technique."
He glared at her, one hand coming up to rub his eyes, the oddness of not having to remove glasses first once again striking him. "That's it, 'ah'?"
She shrugged. "Yeah, that's it." She blinked a couple times, the anger he could still seem to feel draining away as exhaustion took its place.
"You should go home and get some sleep," he suggested and not just because he wanted to get back to work without her hovering over him and suspecting an ulterior motive in his every action.
"Yeah, I should. Instead I'm going to stay right here until I speak to Darien and get his side of this little adventure into split personality disorder."
Kevin couldn't help himself and chuckled. "You are not what I expected."
She cocked her head to side. "Ditto."
He snorted. "No, I most certainly wasn't. Look, at least grab something to eat and sit down. I promise to do nothing untoward with my brother's body tonight."
One delicate eyebrow rose on her forehead. "Tonight?"
"Can't make any promises beyond that, now can I?"
She managed a quiet laugh. "No, I guess you can't." She shoved away from the back of the sofa, tracked down that ugly brown swivel chair, dragged it over and wedged it in between the end of the desk and the sofa. She settled into it with a soft groan.
"When did you last sleep?"
"Uh, two days ago or thereabouts," she told him. "Been one hell of a week."
"Tell me about it," he muttered, earning a tiny smile for his reward. "Since you are going to be stubborn until I head to bed myself, can I pick your brain and maybe get this finished sooner?"
She pondered that question with a look of deadly seriousness on her face for several long, silent minutes before finally nodding. "Sure. Might as well use this over-priced cranium of mine for something useful."
Huh. Not the most welcoming response, but he'd take it over the harsh distrust of earlier. Not that she trusted him now, and he couldn't blame her. The Official had screwed up along the way for this unwanted and unexpected situation to develop. Kevin just wished he could fill in all the gaps for her, but really didn't have all the information she would most certainly want. "All right, how well do you understand the construct for Quicksilver?"
Alyx laughed. "Very well. Ask away. I let you know when I'm out of my range of expertise."
Darien woke up and for a moment, he thought he'd gone blind. His hand going to his face proved that the lack of vision to be caused by a note taped to his forehead. "Gee, thanks bro." he muttered as he peeled the thing off, trying not to yelp as hairs went with it. Holding it for a moment he noticed the nifty new desk and that it had not one, but two computers sitting on it, and he couldn't help but wonder what Kevin had been up to this time. Opening the note, he read it twice before the words made any sense at all thanks to his brother's horrid handwriting and then he wasn't sure what it meant. 'Don't freak out. She refused to leave until she spoke to you.' What the hell did that mean?
He slid back against the headboard, smooshing the pillows behind him as he attempted to gain a seated position and some vague form of consciousness. A glance at the clock revealed it to be after one in the afternoon, which meant Kev had pulled yet another all-nighter before finally crashing. And after apparently rearranging the room. The ugly tan chair that he loved had been shoved over by the end of the desk... a desk that hadn't been here the last time he'd been conscious, though he supposed it made sense. Alyx had commented a couple times that one would be useful when they were doing research here. They'd been faking it with her laptop and either cozying up on the bed or sitting on the couch. If they needed to do real work, they went to her place to use the mammoth tower system she had, or stayed at the office and abused the system there. It all depended on exactly what they were doing at the time, and whether or not they wanted the Official to be aware of it.
He scratched the back of his head and yawned hugely, wondering if there was coffee to be had or if he'd have to head down the street to Cup o'Joes for his initial input of liquid consciousness. Sagging in place he debated the merits of going back to sleep until he remembered that if he did he wouldn't be awake for another day or so. Grumbling imprecations under his breath, he tossed off the covers and tried to ignore the get up Kevin had gone to bed in. If there were actually a she anywhere in the apartment the last thing Darien would have worn to bed were a matching set of pajamas with long sleeves of all things. He looked like a complete and total dork at the moment thanks to his dear brother. He stumbled into the tiny kitchen, noting the picture cube sitting out of place on the high counter and the butcher block table that had been knocked out of it's usual spot. He traded the note for the cube, smiling at the photos inside. Damn he missed Alyx, and wished she were here right now. If anyone could help solve this problem, it would be her.
Setting down the pictures, he scrounged about and came up with his stash of really good beans with a sense of relief. He measured the beans into the grinder, set it to doing its thing, and damn near jumped out of his skin when someone sat up on his sofa. The Quicksilver covered him quickly at the jolt of adrenaline that shot through his system. He grabbed one of the larger knives when the unknown turned to gaze at the kitchen one hand coming up to knuckle her eye.
"Alyx?" he questioned, the Quicksilver cascading from his body as he realized who the she was from his brother's note. Forgetting the coffee and allowing the knife to clatter onto the counter, he bounded across the room and swept her up into a hug. "Hot shit, girl, you're home."
She hugged back for a moment then pushed him away, her eyes meeting his with a seriousness that startled him. He felt her power wash across him and shivered in pleasure, the contact withdrawal had been awful this time around and he was more than happy to have that spot in the back of his head wake up in response to her metal touch. "What's wrong?" he asked, wondering exactly what had happened last night when she'd apparently arrived home... To his home. "Oh crap."
She cracked a smile, though it didn't last for very long. "Indeed," she agreed. Then she punched him in the arm, hard enough to hurt, but hopefully not hard enough to leave a bruise. "What the hell is going on?"
"Ow," Darien complained as he rubbed the spot. "Well, I was hoping to get a little welcome home nookie, but instead my girl decides to beat me up."
She sighed heavily and leaned her forehead against his chest. "And right now I have no idea if you are Darien, Kevin, or someone else who's taken up residence in your cranium."
Tough to argue with that and it meant Kev had still been up and walking about in his body when she'd arrived. "Far as I know, it's just me and Kev sharing space in here."
She pushed away and slid off the sofa and away from him. "Like you have any way of knowing it's actually Kevin," she sneered, clearly having had more than enough time to ponder all the ramifications of the situation in the few hours she'd been home. Little wonder the Official wanted no part of her being here while this was going on. Yeah, Darien had figured out that the Official had talked the FBI into stretching her job with them out more than a bit. Trying to make certain she'd be kept occupied and far away while Kevin was playing Ghost in the Shell. That shell being Darien, of course.
"Okay, yeah, I am kinda working on assumptions here, but the notes he's been leaving are in his handwriting and not mine and sure sound like him." He didn't like having to placate her, but could tell she was seriously upset about this. "I did volunteer, just in case you were wondering."
She shook her head, the disbelief evident in her stance. "I can't even be certain this," she waved a frustrated hand at him, "is you. Kevin pretended to be you... badly. For all I know he...you, are just pulling it off better this time."
Darien could think of only one way to prove he was who he was. Striding over to her, ignoring her attempts to maneuver away he cupped her face in his hands and kissed her. She tried to escape, hands coming up to press against his chest, but he wouldn't allow it. He did his damnedest to broadcast his feelings to her until she went soft and pliable in his arms. He broke away to rest his forehead on hers. "C'mon, baby, let me in," he requested, voice soft and plaintive. She was blocking him completely, which he could understand he supposed, given the unexpected visitor she'd discovered in his body when she'd come home. He curled one hand about her neck to find that insanely sensitive spot at the base of her skull, something only a select few knew about given it tended to turn her into a puddle of goo.
She shivered and the wall came down, the wave of emotions striking him solidly; a tangled mass of fear, worry, confusion and anger. Desire was buried in there as well, but then again it always could be found if he looked hard enough, which continually amazed him. No matter how bad things got she always seemed to want him.
Her hands settled on his hips drawing him in instead of pushing him away. "Damn it, D, this is nuts. What could possibly have happened to justify... this?"
He continued his slow caressing of her, sensing that it wouldn't take much for her to stalk away no matter how truthful his answers. Sadly, he would be answering very few of those questions. "Trouble in River City, and I am gonna leave it to the 'Fish to fill you in as I will most certainly fuck it up."
She sagged against him. "Kevin gave me the same bullshit. I am not an idiot, in case you've forgotten."
He tipped her head up so he could look her in the eye. "No, I haven't forgotten. It's just... I want to tell you, I just can't."
She growled inarticulately. "Why is Claire 'unavailable' to assist?"
Darien groaned, wishing Kev hadn't spilled that can of beans. " 'Cause she's gone missing, that's why." He waited for the explosion, but, after a few seconds, realized none would be forthcoming. "Alyx?"
She nodded tightly. "This is crazy, you do realize that, right?"
Oh, how he did, but he hadn't been able to come up with a valid argument for not trying this stunt if it got them the answers they needed to resolve the situation. "Yep, and I did it anyway."
As he had hoped, she produced a smile from within her unfathomable depths. "Silly, silly, man." She went up on her toes and bit him gently on the chin, making him growl softly in response.
"It's still me, baby." He wrapped his arms about her, hoping to any god that would listen that Alyx wanted to do more than just talk about this. She'd been gone for over two weeks and he had been feeling it, especially with the whole only in control every other day if he was lucky thing. His dreams had been way weirder than usual and she'd been making plenty of guest appearances.
"For now," she grumbled. "Sorry, just wasn't expecting to come home to find you playing party line."
Darien snorted. "I know, but you're home now and that's all that matters." He ducked his head down. "I missed you. A lot."
She sighed softly, leaning in she took a deep breath as if wanting to verify he still smelled like he should. *Same here. Care to spend some time getting to know one another again?*
*I think I could deal with that,* he answered even as he dove in to kiss her.