It was obscenely hot for San Diego. It went without saying that the air conditioning in the Harding Building wasn't working.
"Or maybe the Fat Man's just too cheap to turn it on," Fawkes speculated as he sprawled in one of the chairs in front of said figurehead's desk, fanning himself with some paperwork.
"Boys," the Official intoned as he entered the room, "you'll be glad to hear ... Hobbes, what on earth do you think you're wearing?"
"It's a hat, Chief." It was nice, too; it had a little battery-operated fan in it to keep him cool.
"It's hardly appropriate attire for special agents," Eberts added.
"You're just jealous 'cause we're comfortable..."
Bobby continued needling Eberts as if he hadn't heard Fawkes, "...and you have to wear a suit."
"I am," Eberts admitted.
The Official cleared his throat loudly. It was kind of gross, actually. They all turned warily to look at him.
"May I get you a lozenge, sir?"
"Shut up, Eberts."
"As I was saying, you'll be pleased to hear that we've wrapped up the investigation into the butterfly smugglers."
"We ... excuse me, sir?"
"Last I heard, the boat was coming in tonight," Fawkes added.
"Well, the bad news is, you were wrong. It came in at dawn." Bobby exchanged an 'oops' look with Fawkes. "The good news is that the smugglers were drunk at the time and crashed their boat. I'm told it was a striking sight - all those butterflies, flying free into the sunrise." He gestured skyward.
"That is good news, sir."
"The other good news is that at least one of us is excellent at his job. I was able to convince the Coast Guard that our work was instrumental in forcing the smugglers to alter their plans, thus facilitating the incident which led to their arrest."
"You mean our work, sir." Bobby pointed to himself and then Fawkes.
"That's what I said." The Official smiled. "Our work. The important thing is, they agreed, and we are getting paid."
"Hey, that's great. So I guess we can take the day off, huh?" Fawkes started to get up from his chair.
"Not so fast, Fawkes." Fawkes hovered half off his seat. "I thought I would take this opportunity to get you caught up on some administrative tasks you've been neglecting. Eberts?"
Eberts stepped forward, carrying an armload of manila folders. Fawkes dropped back into his seat. "Case reports." He dropped a folder onto Bobby's lap with a thud. "Expense reports." Thud. "Correction forms to update the last set of expense reports. Itemization of calls made using your Agency-supplied phone cards." Thud-thud-thud. "And of course, copies for you, Darien." Five folders landed in Fawkes' lap.
"Thank you, Eberts. Now if you boys will excuse me, I have an air-conditioned home to return to." And with that, the Fat Man strode to the door, giving a cheerful wave as he exited.
He looked at Fawkes. Fawkes looked at him. They both tossed their folders up in the air, stood up, and headed for the door.
"Gentlemen." Eberts called after them. "Excuse me ..."
They ignored him. "You know," Fawkes mused, "it's way too hot."
"It is that, my friend."
"We should do something cool."
"Cool like water?"
"You read my mind."
Fawkes got a little squirrely when they made it to the water park, and insisted that they actually pay instead of sneaking in like last time.
"I think the counteragent was cheaper," Fawkes said, flicking a glance at his wrist.
"Shoulda kept that GS-9 a little longer."
Fawkes grinned. "At least I got to keep my swanky sunglasses."
"Well, that was worth it."
The first thing they did after stashing their street clothes in a locker was head for the "Wet & Wild" ride. Unfortunately, about half the city had had the same idea.
"You wanna think about, maybe..." Bobby inclined his head toward the front of the line.
"Hobbes. I am not using Quicksilver to cut in front of a bunch of kids in line."
Bobby shrugged. "Doesn't cost anything now."
"They're kids, Hobbes."
"Which means they have more time to stand in line than we do."
"There's hardly any line for that," Fawkes said, nodding toward a log flume.
"That little thing?" Bobby scoffed. "That's a wuss ride."
"Come on, it looks like fun. And we didn't get to try it last time."
He couldn't help noticing that Fawkes relaxed a little when he agreed to go. OK, fine, if it made him happy, they'd go on the stupid wuss ride.
And it wasn't that bad, really. At least the line wasn't very long.
After the log ride, they walked around trying to figure out what to do next. There was a lagoon with what looked like an inflatable iceberg with footholds. Kids were climbing all over it, jumping off, pushing each other, the usual.
Bobby noticed Fawkes looking the same direction. "Wanna try that?"
"Hobbes. I was a second-story man. That's just insulting."
"OK, just checking." Bobby shrugged. "So you don't want to race, then."
"Oh, you are on."
Twenty minutes or so later they wandered into the food court. Fawkes was gloating, damn him. Bobby grumbled, "Not fair, you have an unnatural advantage with those ... " he gestured up and down, "... legs of yours."
"That's actually a completely natural advantage," Fawkes pointed out. "What do you want to eat?"
"Let's go over there." Bobby pointed to the burgers-and-dogs stand. "I'm in the mood for a Bobby Hobbes Special."
"I don't want to know," Fawkes said, but he lined up with him anyway and looked at the menu. "'If you're counting carbs, try ordering your sandwich bunless.' Hey, I used to date somebody like that."
"What, on a low-carb diet?"
"Yeah? One a' them real skinny chicks?"
"Nah, it was a dude."
"Ah, a dude." Bobby nodded knowingly. "I used to be on a low-carb diet."
"Hey, yeah, I remember that. The kind of low-carb diet where you get to eat donuts and bagels, and have sugar in your fancy coffee."
"Well, I had to modify it. I couldn't do the full," Bobby made a sort of sliding gesture with his hand, "you know, the full low-carb, no-carb, Atkins induction thing. On account of my health."
"Yeah, your mental health."
After lunch, Bobby tried to persuade Fawkes to go on the Tsunami, but Fawkes insisted that they needed a nice relaxing float on the "Snail River" to digest their food. The river was a wide, slow-moving stream of water on which older patrons and families with small children floated on inner tubes. Fawkes sprawled in his tube, arms and legs sticking out in all directions and looking like half a lazy octopus.
Bobby steered his tube over to Fawkes's and poked him in the chest.
"Excuse me," Fawkes said, not bothering to move.
"You're turning red, there."
Fawkes shot a look at his wrist, then relaxed again. "No, I'm good."
"I mean you're getting sunburned, Mr. Look at My Abs."
"That's Agent Look at My Abs to you, pal," Fawkes grumbled.
"Hey, you want to get all peely, that's up to you." Bobby leaned back in his tube. "So are we doing something fun next, or what?"
"Next" turned out to be the Shamu show, then the H2OK Corral. So it was the Family Fun Area. They were family, right? Unfortunately, that argument didn't work very well on the attendant who came to kick them out after Bobby saw a water gun out of the corner of his eye and instinctively yelled "Get down!", shoving the two kids nearest him to the ground.
"I was just being alert to my surroundings," he grumbled to Fawkes after they were back on the sidewalk and out of the earshot of the attendant. He was about to say more when he spotted Fawkes turning his right wrist over again. "It's green," he said softly. Fawkes froze, then shifted his eyes as though he'd been looking anywhere but at his tattoo.
Bobby reached across Fawkes and grabbed his wrist. "You keep looking at that thing. It's green. And it's gonna stay that way."
"Yeah, well, you don't know that."
"Gotta have faith, my friend," Bobby replied in a low voice. He relaxed his grip on Fawkes's arm, but didn't let go.
"I'm trying. It's not something I'm good at."
"Well, that's what you've got me for. Now come on. I won the water gun fight, so I get to pick what we do next. And I say we go on one of the good rides."
Fawkes looked like he might protest the "winning" part, but finally nodded. "What did you have in mind?"
"Remember that one we went on last time, that's like 100 feet straight down?"
Fawkes grinned. "Gotta admit, that was pretty awesome."
"I know it was, you went see-through so hard I could look all the way to the next county. So let's go."
The line for the Torrent of Terror was ridiculous, but Bobby was determined to go on it. He and Fawkes amused each other during the half-hour wait by thumb wrestling, arguing about thumb wrestling, and finally giving up and playing rock-paper-scissors.
When it was finally their turn, Bobby went down first. The fall was as heart-stopping as he'd remembered; he knew it was just a ride, but for a few seconds he forgot that it was ever going to end. After emerging, he looked up to find Fawkes, but couldn't see him. Suddenly there was a splash at the end of the chute. A few seconds later, Fawkes popped up, whooping and laughing, Quicksilver and ice crystals shimmering off of him. It was a beautiful sight.
"So, I gotta ask you something," Darien started as they walked along. They'd decided not to wait another half-hour to go again, so they were looking for something else to do, and sort of aimlessly heading in the direction of the wave pool.
"What's that?" Bobby asked.
"Is there a reason you've been … you know what, never mind."
"What? What have I been doing?" Bobby didn't think he'd been doing anything unusual, but he'd learned that he wasn't always the best judge.
"Well, it's just … OK, like just now when we got off the ride, you were staring at me. And before that you were talking about my abs, and oh my God I sound ridiculous. Nothing. Forget I said anything."
"Oh, that? What, you got a problem with a little honest admiration of the male form?"
"The male form."
"So it's, like, art appreciation."
"Like looking at a statue," Bobby affirmed.
"But you're not interested in guys."
"Well." Bobby stalled. "I didn't say that."
Fawkes stopped walking and looked at him incredulously. "I'm listening," he prompted.
"Well, I mean, I never had no bunless boyfriends or anything..."
"Not your type, huh?"
"I wouldn't say I had a type, exactly."
"Am I your type?"
Fawkes was teasing him. He was pretty sure Fawkes was teasing him. "What, you're fishing for compliments now?"
"Come on, man, admit it. It's just you and me." He paused, and looked up over Bobby's head at the crowd. "OK, and them, but they don't care."
Bobby's eyes darted back and forth, and he pursed his lips, trying to come up with some kind of smooth answer. He realized too late that in his effort to avoid Fawkes's eyes, he was letting eyes roam all over the rest of his body. He looked up at Fawkes, who raised his eyebrows expectantly. Bobby just kept looking at him, steadily, until finally he shrugged one shoulder as if to say, "Yeah, so?"
Fawkes threw back his head, warm laughter burbling out of him. "I knew it. You're such a perv!"
"What? 'Cause you're a guy, because that makes you at least as pervariffic as I am..."
"No, 'cause you're my best friend. It'd be like... kissing my brother, or something." Even as he said it, Fawkes was making a face. "Except no, it wouldn't be like that at all. Forget I said that."
"I kiss better than your brother, pal."
"Well, you do now, sure."
"All right, come here." Bobby grabbed Fawkes by his wrist and dragged him into a cabana next to the pool. This one was empty for right now, though the furniture was strewn with towels and cover-ups.
"Uh, Hobbesy? What are we doing?"
"You're the one who brought up kissing," Bobby pointed out.
Fawkes rocked back on his heels, grinning. "You're kidding me."
"What, you're too chicken for this too?"
"What am I, Marty McFly? I'm not chicken..."
"Fine." Fawkes stepped forward until he sort of loomed over Bobby. Like that was going to intimidate him. He reached for Fawkes's shoulders. Fawkes didn't seem to know what to do with his hands, and settled for resting them lightly on Bobby's elbows. They moved toward each other.
His eyes were closed, so he didn't expect the sound he heard next.
"You're giggling?" Bobby roared.
"Sorry, man," Fawkes choked out. "I'm sorry." He stepped back and raised his hands, still sputtering. "I just - it's a little awkward, you know?"
Bobby tried to stay offended, but the sight of his partner, eyes bright with laughter and affection, trying to control himself and simultaneously force a semi-contrite expression onto his face was too much. "Yeah, well," he groused, "you haven't been kissed by Bobby Hobbes yet. I guarantee, laughing ain't gonna be how you react."
Fawkes bounced up and down on the balls of his feet, smirking. "Promises, promises," he teased.
Bobby took a step forward; one was all it took. He slid his left hand around to the back of Fawkes's head and pulled him in for - well, he'd thought it was just going to be a playful kiss, but touching Fawkes like this snapped the control that he'd been just barely holding onto since the day they'd learned the counteragent was failing. Fawkes was safe, he was here, and it felt like all the fear and hurt of the last few weeks was flowing out of him, leaving him breathless and needing. Without breaking the kiss, he leaned in further, basically plastering himself against his partner. He ran his free hand up under Fawkes' shirt, feeling the warmth of his bare skin, and Fawkes groaned and gripped Bobby's hips and suddenly the skin wasn't so warm and Bobby realized with a start that Fawkes was Quicksilvering.
He heard voices. He and Fawkes sprang apart, but Fawkes grabbed his arm, and suddenly they were both invisible as a bunch of kids walked into the cabana.
They crept out and looked around for a place to discreetly re-visify. Fawkes headed for the pool and Bobby followed, his hand still on his partner's back, keeping the Quicksilver flowing between them. They slipped into the water and separated. Bobby swam below the surface to the other side of the pool, got out, and started looking around for Fawkes. He finally spotted him, standing in the middle of the pool, looking a little embarrassed.
"I'm, uh, just gonna stay in here another minute."
Bobby snickered. "Think about the Fat Man. Or Arnaud," he called out.
"You're not helping."
"Looks like I am." His now-fully-visible partner made his way over to Bobby's side of the pool and pulled himself out. Bobby didn't mind helping himself to the show, because at this point, why the hell not?
Fawkes plopped down next to him. "So," he said brightly. "That was intense."
Bobby scrubbed at his face with his hand. "Yeah. It's been a rough couple of months. It just kind of hit me."
"Yeah," Fawkes murmured. "You really think it's over, huh?"
Fawkes was quiet for a moment, then looked over at Bobby. "Hobbes?"
"What, for almost going permanently bugnuts? It wasn't your idea."
"No, I just – I know it hasn't been easy on you either, I mean, you're my partner. I know how I would feel if it had been you. And I've been kind of wrapped up in my own stuff, and I ran off to the Bureau, and ... I'm just sorry."
"Forget it. It's over. Done. You're back, you're not crazy, we're good." He got up and held out his hand to help Fawkes up. "Come on, let's get out of here."
They started off in the direction of the main gate. "So, hey, how come you never ..." Fawkes gestured between the two of them with his free hand.
"You know." Fawkes gestured again.
"No, I don't know. What are you doing with your hand?"
"How come you never said anything? About ... art appreciation."
"Oh, that? Hey, I said you had nice legs that time, what do you want from me? How come you never?"
"Honestly? It never occurred to me. I caught your act in that bar in Chinatown. Plus you've been mooning over Claire for like a year and a half, so I just assumed."
"Yeah, well, you know what they say about assuming, my friend."
"That it makes you a pain in my ass?"
Fawkes craned his head to look at his own ass. "Thanks."
Bobby rolled his eyes and made a jerking-off gesture. Fawkes snickered and slung his arm over Bobby's shoulder. Their shirts were damp and cool, but Bobby could still feel the warmth of Fawkes's sunburned skin. He might need some lotion later. They could go to Bobby's place, maybe watch some Emeril, and not have to be back at the lab first thing in the morning for a shot.
If he wasn't careful, he could get used to this.
With the arm that wasn't over Bobby's shoulder, Fawkes pointed. "Hey, the line for the Torrent of Terror is short now."
"You want to hit it again?"
"Sure, why not?" Fawkes said. "We can stay as long as we want this time, right?"
"Damn straight," Bobby agreed.
Yeah, he could get used to this.