Author: A. X. Zanier

Title: Divided Loyalties

Email: AXZanier@mac.com

Rating: PG-13/R (Language, violence, adult situations, yadda-yadda)

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or basic story ideas to The Invisible Man. Any additional characters or story ideas are mine, mine, mine.

Timeline: Six months after Aftermath: Twist of Fate

Spoilers: I blatantly steal from any and every episode that might be of use.

Comments: It took a while, but I finally came up with a plot that would do justice to this AU of my altiverse.

Divided Loyalties

This Greek philosopher, Euripedes, once proclaimed. "Let no one think of me that I am humble or weak or passive; let them understand I am of a different kind: dangerous to my enemies, loyal to my friends. To such a life glory belongs."

Glory was not something I had ever really sought out. Its the one thing a thief avoids, since it usually means you got caught in a spectacular fashion -- as I well knew. That big score that would let me retire had been my one-time goal. Lately, I was still far more involved with keeping my ass in one piece and getting that bit of bio-synthetic wet-ware out of my head once and for all. Though, I was more than willing to just cruise along for the time being. Life was pretty damn good overall.

Dangerous? Well, I guess my enemies thought so, seeing the great effort they put into trying to get rid of me on a regular basis. But I had never considered myself dangerous. Even with the old side effects of the gland. I wasn't dangerous, it was.

Loyalty... Loyalty was something I had to be forced into, kicking and screaming. It took one very paranoid and schizo partner to teach me about loyalty, trust, and friendship. When I was a thief it was simple. You trust yourself, your skills, and hope your partner/fence/drinking bud won't rat you out when your back is turned or his is against the wall. Loyalty? There was none.

There are times when loyalties become divided, torn, pulled in so many myriad directions you can't know which way to turn or how to react. Claire must have felt that way when she learned the cure to the madness about a year ago. Lucky for me her loyalties lay more with me, with what was right, than with the 'Fish or I might very well be sharing ground space with my brother. The counteragent having failed and the gland removed from a permanently Quicksilver mad Fawkes.

Maybe that choice was easy for her. Too bad they aren't all that way.

The National Guard Corporal walked past the crappy dark blue Ford LTD with the government plates, missing fuel tank door, and glared at it again. It wasn't that it was the only car parked before this terminal off in a back corner of Lindbergh Field, in fact, there were three other government vehicles. Two classy black Cadillacs and one limousine, as well as a van from the Department of Corrections parked way down the end of the row to deal with an inmate transfer, but the Ford... It looked like a reject from a cheesy early eighties movie; scratched paint, bad repair job from some accident, the interior about as stripped down as you can get, though, he had to admit it was spotless, not even a stray fast food wrapper or old coffee cup. Almost... too clean.

He paced slowly by the vehicle deciding he'd give the owner five more minutes to show before calling troops to go over the thing and to hell with the plates. In the current atmosphere it was better to be overly cautious than to screw up and let a bomb go off under your nose.

Inside the terminal Darien shook his head and sighed. He could just imagine the guard's reaction if he had brought Golda like Hobbes had offered; he'd probably be in cuffs by now and the van being torn apart to look for the explosives that weren't there. Paranoia was still running high, especially with bimonthly warnings from the Feds. The public seemed to have fallen into a 'cry wolf' state of mind, but he knew better. Though, there were days he wished he was just another member of the public and could shrug off such warnings like water off the back of a duck.

Turning away, he did his best to ignore the guy in cammies with the huge gun as he gave the car the evil eye yet again. Was it Darien's fault the 'Fish was still a cheap bastard and that he was still driving one of the company pool cars? That Eberts had made sure to assign him the one he'd all but totaled way back when with that Chinese scientist... What was her name? Oh, yeah, Mai-Lin Chong. Actually, it probably was, he'd admit to pushing things a bit the last few months, had insisted on getting the weekend off without explaining why, but... Yeah, that but.

Who knew things would turn out the way they had. Certainly not him. Like the roller coaster ride Kevin got him started on wasn't enough. She had to go and add to it. Not that he blamed her, but some days it seemed to be too much. He wasn't yet ready to throw in the proverbial towel even if there were those who had begun to suggest just that. Not that he was ignoring their advice, their words of genuine concern -- okay, so he was ignoring the bellowed orders of the Official -- but he was not even close to giving up. It would take hell of a lot more than a little distance to encourage him to let her go.

His thoughts were interrupted by a group of a dozen or so people coming though one of the doors that ultimately led out onto the landing field. It didn't take him more than a second to spot the person he was waiting for even though she stood far shorter than even the two other women who were also on the flight. That hair was unmistakable and when she caught sight of him she smiled and made her way past the others towards him. She was carrying her duffel, a solid metal briefcase, and her padded backpack that he knew her laptop was in.

She must have gone straight from her meeting to the airport, as she was still dressed in the heels, black slacks, and deep red dress shirt that he knew she preferred not wearing. Only her leather jacket made her stand out among all the other government suits she had shared the flight with. While the others were hustled out to their fancy cars with bodyguards and drivers she came over to stand in front of him. He could just make out the chain of the necklace he'd given her the last time they'd been together from where it peeked out underneath the collar of her shirt.

"Hey stranger," Darien said as she stopped directly before him. "Good flight?" One hand moved to caress her cheek even though he had told himself firmly that he would not do anything like that here, that he both could and would wait until they were alone.

Alyx shuddered. "Short flight, thank god. I am so tired of flying. I so need this weekend off." She gave him a lopsided smile. "Are you going to kiss me hello or not?"

It was obvious she knew nothing of Darien's resolve to not allow his knees to turn to jelly in the middle of this airport terminal. She stood there looking so sweet and so damn happy to see him that he told his resolve to take a flying leap off the nearest tall building and leaned in to do as she asked. For long minutes time seemed to stop as he, once again, discovered that he was more than a little crazy about the woman who was suddenly pressed up against him and enfolded in his arms. When he pulled himself away with a sigh the duffel she'd been holding in one hand had fallen, unheard by him, to the floor and her, now free hand had curled about his neck.

"Ummm, missed me Mr. Monochromatic?" Alyx's voice was husky even though she was doing her best to hide how much that kiss had affected her.

Her commentary earned a smile from Darien who released her and leaned down to pick up her duffel. "Ugh, What do you have in here? A body?"

"Nah, left that back in L. A.," she riposted with little effort. He lead the way out of the building and she followed a couple steps behind in order to admire his form encased in nearly head to toe black. Black slacks that fit perfectly, then the black dress shirt she remembered buying for him a while ago for some formal function he'd been forced into for the Agency. No tie, but that didn't matter, he looked damned good, and the addition of what appeared to be a new leather jacket in deep rich brown made her swallow hard due to the combined scent of him and the leather. "Dare..."

She would have continued, but they had stepped through the glass doors, into the brilliant late afternoon sunshine that included the view of a blue sky that lacked the yellow tint that always seemed to hang about L. A. She took in a deep breath, glad to finally take in air that did not have its own distinctive odor and taste to it. The one time she'd been stuck outside for more than 20 minutes in downtown L. A. she'd ended up nauseous because of the air. 'Never again,' she swore to herself. 'Next time they can come to me.'

Darien had gone over to his car where there were now three of the National Guardsmen looking it over. "Problem?"

"This your car, sir?" The guy was trying to be polite, but it was obvious after looking over Darien that his dress and hairstyle did nothing to inspire confidence.

"Yes, and I'd like to be able to get into it about now," Darien commented with some irritation, but one of them made it plain with a shift of his gun that he was not going to be allowed to quite yet.

"I. D., please," one, a Corporal Green, ordered.

Darien reached into his back pocket and pulled out his Fish and Game I. D. Not very impressive, but better than Bureau of Weights and Measures and, hopefully, the government badge would get things moving. Green, however, seemed less than impressed.

"Corporal, is there some reason for the hold up?" Alyx asked as she moved up beside Darien.

"Ma'am this vehicle," the word came out as if it tasted bad, "has been here a bit longer than we like and we...."

"This vehicle is a government issue car and my ride." She pulled out her badge and handed it to Green who opened it, took one look, and paled.

"Sorry, ma'am." He handed back both badges and stepped away, all but saluting her in the process.

Darien raised his eyebrows at her and she just rolled her eyes. Pulling open the rear door she tossed her bags in, taking the duffel from Darien as well, shut the door, and then waited for him to move so she could climb in the passenger seat. "Darien, I really don't want to spend my weekend here."

Darien looked sheepish and opened the door for her so she could slip in past him. Once he had the car started he asked, "What did you do to Army wannabe boy back there? Pics of the bodies on the badge?"

Alyx chuckled. "No. New unit assignment came through. There are more than a few rumors floating around about it. About half of which I started myself. They appear to be effective."

"Ah, the misinformation machine is up and running I take it?" Darien wasn't surprised, she kept him informed as much as she could, just as he did for her about Agency matters.

"Dare, not to be a bitch, but the last thing I want to talk about for the next several days is work. I want to be in a good mood when I head back to the kids on Monday." She set a hand on his thigh and spoke softly. She wasn't mad, she just wanted to enjoy her time, short as it was, with him and discussing work was not going to accomplish that.

"Hmm, I don't know. Shop talk just seems to get me in the mood these days, ya know." The hand on his thigh tightened for an instant then relaxed and began to slide upwards which caused his concentration on his driving to suddenly become erratic.

"Really? Then let me review, in long and boring detail, how the chain of command in my unit works." She had scooted over and was leaning in close to whisper this in his ear. The slight breeze caused by her words, tickling the nearby hairs of his temple, her presence, and her hand caused a roaring in his ears that prevented him from understanding a word she said even though he had heard her voice. "Shall I continue?"

Darien cleared his throat. "Uh, I have no idea what you just said." The car began to stray into the next lane over and he straightened it with a silent prayer of thanks that he was pretty much the only one driving on this particular stretch of road at the moment. "Alyx, you're gonna get us killed."

Alyx snickered. "All right, no more teasing for now." She looked about at the passing scenery. "Where we headed?"

"That would be a surprise," Darien informed her as he glanced over at her. She had shifted back over to the passenger seat and reached up to free her hair from the fancy clip it had been secured in. She hadn't really let it grow out, keeping it about shoulder length for convenience. She then undid the first few buttons of the dress shirt she was wearing, allowing him a glimpse of the flesh beneath. Once again the car wobbled as he drove, but he forced his eyes back onto the road and managed to not damage any of the cars about them. "How are things?"

It was Alyx's turn to sigh. "Hopefully, now that the unit is officially up and running, things will settle out a bit more." She turned in the seat, drawing one leg up to sit half cross-legged. "If I had known this was going to happen..."

"Alyx, what were you supposed to do? The fricking President called you." Darien hadn't been thrilled with the way things had turned out either -- the Official had been livid -- but in the end there wasn't much they could do. Several agencies had fought over her with the CIA winning out in the end. Made sense given what she was capable of and what the goals of the CIA were. Hell, she was practically designed to be a spy and, thanks to her year with the Agency, had been taught just about everything she needed to take up the duties of a CIA agent. She had ended up doing little things for both the DOD and the NSA recently by sheer coincidence. Sometimes the information she came across was shared with other agencies that 'needed-to-know.'

The meetings in L. A. had been with some NSA mooks. Geeks actually, who were drooling over her natural ability to break computer generated codes and encryption's. In a phone call to Darien a week ago she'd grumbled to him about it. She'd been unable to get into specifics, but had bemoaned the fact there was no way she was going to be able to explain it to them. Not only was she under orders to help the NSA, but she was also under orders to not tell them how she'd broken the code. It had given her a major headache.

"I could have said no," Alyx stated quietly. "Stayed at my house in Newport with the kids and not gotten mixed up in this crap again. Working for the Agency was one thing, but this... This was not part of the plan." She needed a break. A real break. Juggling family, work, friends, and just plain life was turning out to be a lot harder than she thought possible. "I could have gone back into designing high tech security systems. Patrick has plenty of industry contacts, and I am damn good."

"'Chele, would it have been enough?" He kept his voice soft as a precaution. Not that is was very likely someone was listening in on them while the car was moving -- she would know if it had been bugged -- but better to be safe than have certain people find out who she really was. Now he really understood why his father had changed his name and left them -- he still didn't like it, but he did understand. Michele's kids were at high risk if anyone ever figured out that Alyx Silver and Michele MacTierney were the same person. And if it became known her kids were talented as well... So when working she was Alyx Silver, whose past was shrouded in mystery and was 90 percent fake. Whereas Michele was a busy mom who had to travel for her business -- research or something like that, he seemed to recall -- and had lots of security and live-in caretakers for her kids. Including her brother Michael, who was now officially on the books, via a roundabout route, as an employee of the Agency as well as still maintaining his current position with the CIA, and lived with the kids to both protect and train them. Things had changed for the family, but thanks to the kids being far wiser than their years, they were holding up just fine. Their routines hadn't changed all that much, just slightly more, subtle, protection as they went about being the kids they still were.

"It was enough for over a year, Darien." That came out a bit harsher than she intended it to and she leaned forward to rest her forehead on his shoulder. "See, this is why I didn't want to discuss work. I swear the headaches I get now are worse than when I was on that damn inhibitor."

Darien removed his right hand from the steering wheel and, with a bit of shifting on her part, got his arm wrapped about her and snuggled up close to his side. "Sorry, sweets, but you seem to need to blow off some steam, and who better to bitch with than me?"

"I'd much rather do far more carnal things with you, Dare." That earned her a growl from deep in his chest and she chuckled softly. "This was not how things were supposed to go. Like it wasn't going to be bad enough playing bi-coastal super agent, but this... Maybe you should think about..."

"Alyx, don't you say it too." Darien was getting a bit exasperated with this running theme. "Do you want to stop seeing me?"

"No, damn it. But this sure as hell isn't very fair to you." She closed her eyes and forced herself to calm down before she started broadcasting to the entire metro area exactly how unhappy with the situation she was. "I... You have enough crap in your life, I just don't want to add more, or for you to feel obligated to me."

"Obligated? All right, enough of this. You are not to think anything like that all weekend. Got me?" His tone brooked no argument from her. "In fact, I don't want you to think at all. I am going to do my best to spoil you rotten for the next couple of days and you are going to enjoy it. Or else." He pulled the car into the exit lane, still heading north from San Diego proper, and to the restaurant he'd made reservations at for the two of them. He wanted to do this up right since it had been a while since they'd been able to get together and may be some time before they could meet again.

"Aww, can I think a little? I did have some plans for this weekend you know," she added a pout with a lip quiver and Darien burst out laughing when he caught sight of it. "Jerk," she muttered, and changed tactics by biting him gently on the side of his neck, causing him to suck in a breath in surprise. "I missed you."

"Same here." His hand slid under her jacket and rubbed along her stomach making her moan softly. "We'll work this out."

"Mmmm, I hope so." She relaxed against him, allowing her worries to slip away for the moment and to just feel. Not all that difficult considering where his hand was wandering and the effects it was having on her. "Hey you, if you're gonna do that you might want to pull over." Her voice was tight with need.

Darien chuckled, his hand not stopping what it was doing, but not pulling over either. "Shhh, just enjoy it." He figured the best way to get her mind from running in the tight circles it had been was to distract her completely and, based on her gasp of reaction followed by the soul deep moan, it was working quite well.

***

They made it back to his apartment just before midnight. Dinner had gone quite well and been amazingly relaxing for both of them, even as the anticipation of being alone built. They'd actually managed to never speak about work directly, she asked about Bobby and Claire and he gladly brought her up to speed on the various trouble the three of them were able to cause both in and out of the office. Their lives were so intertwined with the Agency that some references were unavoidable -- like the exam he'd been forced to endure a few weeks ago -- but he kept away from the darker aspects and had her smiling and laughing more often than not.

Alyx discussed her kids, her new apartment near Langley. She couldn't commute easily so she had finally broken down and rented a place, so that when work forced her to be in or near D.C. she had a reliable place to stay instead of hotel rooms, or bunking with her partner. Alyx had yet to say much about her partner, or the other members of her special unit, and was not about to discuss them tonight. She was quite touched with his interest in her kids, most guys would have been bored within the first five sentences, but he was genuinely curious and actually got involved to a degree. Rose especially, had kept in contact with both Darien and Bobby after being reunited half a year ago. Both men had decided on their own that the kids were part of the Agency family, part of their responsibilities, and made sure things were copacetic on a very regular basis. Even Claire got involved, though Alyx suspected it was more due to her fascination with the inherited QSX traits than for the kids themselves, but that was all right. They needed all the friends they could get -- enemies would make themselves known soon enough.

By the time dessert and coffee had rolled around the two were sitting quietly, just enjoying each other's presence in the darkened corner booth of the very expensive restaurant Darien had brought them to. He'd done a favor for the owner a few months back and the man had been more than willing to repay the debt with a last minute reservation for the two of them.

Darien locked the door and turned about to see Alyx leaning over the pool table looking at his computer; the one she'd talked him into buying so that they could keep in contact no matter where she was. Her duffel was on the floor and being slid underneath the table with one foot while the others had taken up residence atop the dark green felt. He slipped off his jacket and tossed it carelessly on the table as well. "Anything interesting?"

"You've got mail." Alyx grinned as she looked over her shoulder. "Looks like Rose wishing us a good time and to not do anything too illegal." She shook her head.

"Another smarty-pants," Darien commented as he leaned over and deliberately shut off the offending bit of technology. "You can tell her all about it on Monday." His hands settled on her shoulders as she straightened up and leaned back against him.

"Everything?" Alyx asked, chuckling. "She is only nine, remember?" His lips had found the side of her neck and she tipped her head to the side to allow him better access. He slid the jacket off her shoulders, down her arms, and set it aside on the table, his mind already on other things by the time he'd released it.

"And too damn smart for her own good. The grin on your face will give it all away anyhow," he mumbled against her skin. "Now be quiet, I'm trying to take advantage of you here."

"Oh, is that what you're doing? I wondered." Alyx laughed low and throaty as he growled at her. He tried to slide the shirt off her shoulder to gain better access only to be prevented by the fact that, in his sudden eagerness to taste her, to feel the pounding of her blood in the artery of her neck, to making her moan at his lightest most delicate touch, he had yet to unbutton it.

"Here, try this." She took his hands and moved them from her shoulders and set them upon the line of tiny buttons that divided her torso in half.

His fingers casually ran along the row of buttons; first down, to pull the edges of the blouse out of her slacks, and then back up to cup her breasts. "Yes, this is much better." he stated into the hair behind her ear at a near whisper, making her moan softly in reaction. The teasing of earlier had become very serious now and the patience he'd forced himself to show all evening was swiftly falling apart. He wanted her. Now. And her clothes -- their clothes -- we're a distinct impediment to what he had planned. "Alyx..." His fingers tried to undo the tiny buttons, but his normal deftness was gone, his need making him fumble.

"Just get it off me," she growled, wanting him nearly as badly. One of her hands was behind her back, trying to undo and remove that belt he'd worn, while the other lay gently atop his, the contact communicating her wants and needs to him even as she picked up on his. Some things hadn't changed and this control issue was one of them.

He groaned and bit her on the curve of muscle where neck met shoulder and gave a sharp yank at the material. The sound of buttons popping off and then hitting the floor to bounce away to unseen corners of the room was a relief. His hands were swift to find the flesh beneath, his fingers teasing her nipples to an even greater awareness than before. "Ah damn, I've missed you."

"I can tell," she got out between shallow pants. She had succeeded on her quest, the belt gone and the slacks no longer buttoned; her fingers ran teasingly over the evidence of his arousal, his need. His lips had found that outrageously sensitive spot at the base of her neck and was teasing it with his tongue and small sharp bites, making her gasp and moan in reaction. "Dare, hurry." Yeah, she was impatient. A month was too long between visits.

Turning her about without making her loosen her grip on him he looked her in the eyes, seeing the desire there, the blatant need written in every line of her body. He loved it when she was this desperate, when she wanted so bad she couldn't wait, when she begged for him to touch her. He removed her hand, wanting to make this last, even though he had to bite back a groan at the loss of her touch. He tapped her on the nose with one finger. "You forgot to say please."

"Dare, you wouldn't." She actually sounded surprised.

He leaned in and brushed his lips across hers, his tongue darting out for an instant, and making her shiver. "Of course I would, but you'll thank me for it later." He slipped one hand across her flat stomach, circling her navel before dipping a finger inside in imitation of what would be coming later. He watched as her eyes fluttered shut and she bit her lip in an attempt to not react. "Uh, uh. Let me hear you." He gently bit her chin and this time the groan that escaped was long and low and nearly made him break his resolve to not simply take her on the conveniently near pool table.

"Please, Dare." Her hands shaking, she slowly unbuttoned his shirt to gain access the warm flesh beneath. She would never get tired of looking at him, feeling him under her hands, breathing in his scent, or rediscovering how he tasted. For no matter how well she knew him or his body, there always seemed to be something new to discover.

"Not yet," he murmured as he allowed her to slip the shirt off him. It fell to the floor, forgotten long before it reached the smooth surface that it landed in a puddle of black silk upon. He allowed her to trail her hands across him for a few minutes while their tongues renewed their acquaintance, then he moved lower, going to his knees as his tongue left a trail of heat upon the silky flesh, that he took the time to taste and savor and arouse. His hands were searching for the zipper of her pants, which they eventually found on her left side, when her cell phone rang.

With a snarl of frustration she shifted enough to grab her jacket from where it lay on the pool table and dig the annoying thing out of the pocket. It was doing that obnoxious triple tone she had learned to hate because she knew it meant that not only was it work, but that it was urgent. Considering it was three am on the east coast it must be damn important.

He looked up at her and set one hand over hers. "Don't answer it." He leaned in to gently bite her abdomen just above the low slung slacks making her shudder in response.

"Have to," she said with real regret. Flipping the thing open she took a deep breath to calm herself, pressed the button to accept the call, and snapped "Silver." into it.

Her reaction was immediately obvious and even though her free hand ran lovingly through his hair he knew it was over for the night. Once again she would answer the call, answer the demands work placed upon her and he would be set aside. This sucked.

"Yes, sir. As soon as I can. Me too, sir." She closed the phone and tossed it away from them not caring where it landed. She looked down at him. "The airport is going to experience some delays."

It took him a moment for her words to register and his heart surged with joy. "Some unexpected fog perhaps?" He'd succeeded in getting the slacks undone and slipped them down past her hips. Violet silk, though in a tastefully small amount, lay beneath. Slipping his hand between her thighs he found her completely soaked and he began teasing her through the slick material.

"Oh yes," she gasped out at his touch. "Far too damp for flying right now."

"Hmmm, seems that way." He slipped a finger about the silky cloth and slid it inside her. "Something you want?" he asked as he began an achingly slow movement within her.

"N...n...no," she ground out through her erratic breathing. "I have you."

That was enough for him, withdrawing from her, ignoring her groan of complaint, he picked her up about the waist. Her laughter at his actions filling his heart with joy as he carried her to the bed where he proceeded to make sure she'd want it no other way.

The images flickering through Darien's mind were shattered by the ringing of his phone. With an annoyed grumble he snuggled closer to what he thought was the warm body he'd fallen asleep next to only to feel the smooth cotton of the pillowcase that he had apparently been caressing in his sleep. As his still mostly unconscious brain tried to absorb that fact, the phone shrilled again forcing him further towards that dreaded state of wakefulness he was not yet ready to face. He pulled a pillow over his head and tried to fall back to sleep, hoping that Alyx would be back soon, maybe with breakfast from Carlyle's, when he really awoke.

When it rang for the third time he gave up, threw the pillow away with a snarl, and picked up the cell phone with the realization he really hated the thing. With a gravely voice he growled, "It's my day off, this better be damn good."

"Agent Fawkes, we have a situation and need you in the office ASAP. When can we expect you?" Eberts was amazingly cool, like he'd anticipated Darien's reaction.

Pushing himself up he glanced at the lighted numbers on the clock and was less than pleased to see what they revealed. "Seven oh six? Come on, Eberts, it's Saturday for Christ's sake. I have plans."

"My apologizes, but it is urgent." Eberts actually sounded sincere.

"Uh, 30 minutes?" Darien didn't think he could push it to an hour, though he wanted to tell the man to screw off. Alyx was not going to be happy about this. Thinking about her, with his still less than fully conscious mind, brought the vague memory of something important, but since he'd had only a few hours of sleep, and no coffee yet, he couldn't seem to find any reason to put in the effort to figure it out.

"We'll be expecting you." Eberts disconnected, leaving dead air buzzing in his ear.

As Darien set down the phone he found her note. It was short, but done in her usual precise and neat handwriting. It wasn't much more than her apologizing and explaining that the phone call last night had been very urgent. With a sigh Darien crumpled the note and threw it across the room. "Damn, guess that means no breakfast in bed."

Throwing off the covers he took a moment to make the bed before heading to the bathroom. While the water warmed he began to curse the fates. Now he remembered; her being less than happy about being called back to work, and gave her credit for blowing them off as long as she had. At some point between attacks of ardor she told him she was going to have to fly back to D.C. and probably wouldn't even be getting to see her kids come Monday from the sound of it. He had felt bad for her and had proceeded to do his best to distract her for a while, until her sense of duty inevitably drove her from his bed and to the airport.

Standing under the water he tried not to think about when he might see her again; the few hours last night had not been nearly enough, but anything was better than nothing. In fact, the distance between visits probably added to the passion they felt when together. Not that they had planned to spend the entire weekend in bed. Today they were supposed to head out to the zoo and spend the day walking amongst the exhibits and enjoying the beautiful animals they had. What they had wasn't solely based on lust, no matter how much it may look that way to an outsider. They could just as easily spend an afternoon reading together as in bed play. Sex, as fun as it was, would not be enough to keep the attention of either of them for long. They each had minds that needed to be stretched and challenged and, by some miracle, they did that for each other.

Darien sighed and leaned back against the tile wall. Tipping his head up he swallowed hard. If only there was some way around this, some way he could be with her, to have her crawling into his bed at the end of the day, if only things were different. Bringing his hands up to rub his face he noticed once again the bright green snake curled on his wrist. Claire had made him keep the monitor just in case something happened. Not that he minded too much; even after nearly a year the sight of the tattoo with no red on it was a surprise. He wasn't sure he would ever get used to it. He wasn't sure he should. One thing the last few years had taught him was there were no guarantees and to always be prepared for the worst.

A sudden, crazy idea struck then. One that, while it might not solve all the problems, would satisfactorily deal with one of them. "Damn it to hell. I'm a frickin' fool." He rushed through the rest of his routine, choosing the first thing that he came across -- black jeans and a white v-neck T-shirt -- grabbed a jacket, and got the hell out of there.

Bobby was the first person he encountered when he arrived at the Agency and Darien almost turned around and went back home. He knew what was coming and was not in the mood for it.

"Fawkesy, my friend. So how pissed was the kid?" Hobbes fell into step beside Darien and as one they walked to the Official's office.

"She wasn't, Hobbes. She was gone long before I got up," Darien told his partner, as he opened the door to the Official's office. "She got called back early."

"I'm not surprised," the Official said to them as they walked towards the desk and sat in their usual places. "She's probably going to be put on the same job I assigning you."

"Sir?" Hobbes questioned, as he eyed both the boss and the little weasel Eberts, who held a folder in his hands.

"Assistance from a variety of agencies has been requested on a matter of some urgency. You," he nodded at the partners, "were specifically requested."

"By who?" Darien asked, with more than a touch of suspicion.

"That is need-to-know," Eberts told them, and handed the folder to Hobbes.

"You can rest easy that it was someone who knows your reputation and isn't put off by it," the Official commented with a satisfied expression. "I expect you to cooperate fully."

"D. C.? We're flying to D. C.?" Hobbes sounded a touch surprised, as he looked over the small amount of information that had been provided. They had airplane tickets, hotel reservations, and the place and time for a meeting first thing tomorrow morning. "This don't give us much time."

"Then you had better get moving, hadn't you?" The Official just looked at the two of them and waited for the needless questions he knew would be coming.

"What about the Keep? Or Monroe?" Darien asked, trying to get more information out of the Fat Man sitting smugly before them.

"Last I checked you no longer needed counteragent and Agent Monroe is already on an assignment and was not requested. For some reason they want you." It was looking like the Official had been ordered to send them on this assignment and it made Darien very curious as to what was going on.

Getting to their feet the partners made their way to the door when the Official spoke again. "Boys, do me proud."

"Don't we always?" Hobbes responded with a grin, as Darien snorted. Once in the hallway Hobbes' grin faded and suspicion crossed his features. "I don't like this Fawkes, who in D. C. knows about us?"

"Too many by this point, Hobbes, but I doubt its a power grab for me; that was part of the deal the 'Fish cut when Alyx left. I stay here," Darien explained as he swiped the file from Hobbes' hands and looked it over.

"And how the hell do you know this, my friend?" Hobbes sounded more worried than anything else.

"Alyx told me, of course." Darien stopped in the middle of the hallway as Bobby began to shake his head. "What?"

"The kid has got to get her priorities straight. Spilling the beans on stuff like that is gonna get her in trouble. At The Company the job has to be first," Hobbes explained.

"Not for her. Oh, when she's working she's working, just like when she was here, but it's not her priority and you know it." Darien began walking again, already going over in his mind what he'd need to pack. "Her family is always first. The work is a means to an end."

Hobbes sighed knowing it was true. "There's gonna come a time she's gonna have to choose and I'm betting ya it'll be sooner than later. I hope she chooses right."

"Me too, Hobbes. Me too."