Author: A. X. Zanier

Title: Always

Rating: PG-13/R (Language, adult themes)

Disclaimer: I do not own The Invisible Man or the premise behind the show. Any additional characters or premises are mine.

Timeline: Post Guinea Pig Incident, pre-Life's a Beach

Comment: Umm, this is what happens when I'm lazing about in the pool and procrastinating on three other projects.

Always

Sir Isaac Newton with his Laws of Motion gave us, "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

I'll admit to never having been really big on the law, in any form, but this is one we all should have remembered.

I'm standing here with my heart in my throat just watching. Afraid to speak, afraid to breathe, hell, afraid to think too damn loud out of fear. Make that terror heavily laced with despair. I'm pretty sure the terror belongs to me, the sight laid before my eyes would cause the same reaction in far braver souls than mine, but the despair ... the despair belongs to another.

I've been here myself, once upon a time, only it was the sharp edge of a broken glass hovering mere millimeters above my flesh just waiting its chance to break through and release the tide of life that surged within. This time its a blade of metal that I know is damn near sharp enough to cut and mortally wound the air itself.

When had this happened, when had everything bottomed out, when had this insane decision come to be? Just a few days ago we'd been celebrating. Celebrating a successful a night's take of jewels. Yeah, the circumstances surrounding it is still with us, but the success had been something both of us had been relishing. Hell, reveling in. Taking every opportunity in the last week to remember the deed and gloat over the prize, if only with each other. This was most definitely not a story to share with others.

When the blade shifts, the light of several candles glinting off its finely honed edge, it spurs me into forward motion. But I find myself stopped, just two short feet away, an invisible wall keeping me from my goal. "Don't do this." Escapes past the tight constriction in my throat, my fear causing me to choke on my own words.

"You know how simple it is? One stroke from here to here and it'll be over in minutes." Her voice is cold, bored as the sharp metal traces a six-inch line to visually demonstrate exactly where, leaving a thin trail of blood behind. The point of the blade is just as dangerous as the rest of it. "Minimal pain, thanks to how sharp this little toy is." It flips about, closing and reopening with practiced precision, to return to its original spot. Only this time the point is now buried into the flesh, blood welling up about it to flow about the curve of forearm, to drip off and begin to pool on the light gray tiles of the floor.

I never realized until right this moment how the colors surrounding me reflect so much of our lives. All cool grays and quiet blues. Even her kitchen is done in varying shades of gray, from the fridge, to the sinks, to the counters. No blacks, no whites. Only the wood floor of the main room breaks up the color at all, and even that has darkened over the years, the warm brown washing out as time leaves its mark.

"Why? Can you tell me that much?" I have no idea if this tactic will work better than any other. One thing I've learned over the years is that once a decision of this sort has been made, a life-changing one, the only person who can revoke it is the one who made it. You can only hope that the change can come about before it's too late, before the results are irreversible.

The blade slips forward an inch then, such a small distance, but more than enough to turn the trickle of thick glistening red into a flood. The laughter that escapes is harsh and laden with unhappiness.

"Why? You were there." is hissed at me. "You saw it all. You got to experience it for yourself, and you can ask me why?"

The wall holding me back weakens, allowing me another step closer before becoming solid again, keeping me just out of reach. I wish something had been said, that I had done something, had noticed this was coming, but no one did. Somewhere between the sleepy smile of this morning and now, the world has reversed its course and crashed down upon the shoulders of the tiny figure sitting on the cold tile floor of this bathroom. Has crashed down hard enough to drive the point of a wickedly sharp dagger into the tanned flesh of a forearm and release the red river that now flows across the floor.

I know what is being referred to and, I guess, thinking back on it, I should have expected this. In a way I had, but not now. I figured that if this were to happen it would have been right away and not over a week later. And yet, here I am watching what I fear the most and find myself unable to do a thing to stop it.

"It's not your fault." I whisper. Eyes suddenly meet mine, eyes that had been staring in seeming fascination at the damage that had been wrought. "If you need me to forgive you, I do. If you want me to beg for forgiveness for bringing you back, I will. But, please, don't do this."

There is despair in my voice now, and it's all mine. I can't let this happen, can't let it end like this, can't lose one of the most precious things in my life. Can't lose her over this.

"I ... I can't deal with it. Can't look at myself in the mirror without seeing the things I did, the person I became."

At least there's emotion in her voice now, not the cool, bored tone that had been there before, but its not good, it sounds like she's given up, like there's nothing left for her. "I did. Are you suggesting that you're not as strong as me?" I'm hoping this will goose her into a defensive reaction, but instead her shoulders slump and the blade slips forward just a bit more.

"You've always been stronger than me. Haven't you figured that out yet?"

"Then let me help." I cry out, hoping to keep that sliver of metal from moving again. The amount of blood is terrifying and it doesn't seem to be slowing, still pouring from her in a crimson stream that is now soaking into her clothes, her jeans sucking it up almost as if trying to return it to her. To put it back where it belongs, before too much is leeched away.

"What on earth for?" She matches my tone, crying out her fear, pain and confusion to the four walls of this room and me. Her voice echoing slightly off the ceramic tiles.

"Because I won't lose another person I care about. Someone I ... I love." When she doesn't react I turn to the only weapon I may have in this delicate situation. The one thing that might break through her despair and allow me in. I sink down to the floor, going to my knees to look her in the eye. The wall she created to separate us still firmly in place. "You promised me. You promised you'd never leave me." I pour every bit of hurt and anger into those words that I can muster and hope she's so lost she can't see that its a con, a fake to cover the fear. One last desperate chance to keep her from performing this potentially irreversible act.

"Partners in all things." she whispers, then pales.

I just about fall on my face as her resistance crumbles and I'm suddenly free to go to her. With hands I force to remain steady I remove the point of the knife from her arm and free it from her surprisingly tight grip. "Crap. What have you done?" I know my voice is unsteady, but I can't prevent it. The flow tripled once the offending piece of metal had been removed, taking away the slight damming effect that it had created.

"S...s...sorry." she mumbles, then does about the last thing I expect and faints dead away. I apply pressure, but the blood just leaks past my fingers, the wound is nearly two inches long and placed perfectly; right along the vein that lies easily visible just under the surface of her skin. She has tipped forward to lean against me, her head resting on my shoulder, and I hold her close, as if hoping just my presence will be enough to help her fight off death, to slow the blood leaking out in an ever increasing amount.

My heart finds its way back to my throat and lodges there as I try to sort out the best way to help her, to save her. My fear hits that point where the fight or flight instinct tries to kick in, that cold trickle of quicksilver running down my spine, and I nearly pass out myself as relief washes through me, the solution right at my fingertips -- literally. Grabbing at the hem of my shirt, I wipe away as much of the blood as I can, so I can get a good look at the damage. Then, using the hastily cleaned off fingers of one hand I hold the edges of the wound closed while I quicksilver the fingers of the other. I press them to the cut for long seconds, sealing it shut.

She doesn't even flinch at the cold and once I'm sure it'll remain sealed until I have a chance to bandage it, I shift her, cradling her to me, trying to ignore the fact that she feels cold and clammy to the touch. A sure sign she's going into shock, a small part of my mind realizes, but for the moment I can do nothing more than hold her and rock her.

When she moans softly without waking up I know its time to move elsewhere. We're sitting in a swiftly cooling pool of her blood, so much blood I'm terrified to contemplate exactly how much, she's begun to shiver in reaction and I need to get her clean and dry and warm, or I may yet still lose her.

Lifting her I carry her a few steps to the bathtub and set her down on the floor so I can strip her and hurriedly clean her up a bit with warm water. I wrap her in as many of the fluffy towels as I can reach and carry her out to her bed. I toss her comforter atop her as well then rush back to the bathroom for medical supplies; bandages and tape and gauze and a dozen other items I think I might need.

When I return she's shivering even harder and I suck in a breath and force myself to stay calm and take care of the necessary things first. I talk to her the entire time, telling her I'm sorry and that it's not her fault. Words that I hope will help heal her heart, eventually.

For a moment I consider calling Claire, or maybe Kat for help, but in the end I don't. Much like she kept my attempt at this between us, I'll do the same for her. When the shivers wracking her body finally ease I get up and go to clean up the mess. I know how hard it was for me to face the subtle reminders of my foolishness and I will spare her that if I can.

By the time the work is complete and I leave the room, in fresh clothes that are not soaked in blood, but instead smelling of nothing more than bleach, she's awake and crying softly.

I go to her, lie down and pull her into my arms. Give her the time she needs to vent the emotions she's been burying inside an allowing to eat at her heart and soul without a word, without a reprimand or single comment. When the tears stop, when her sobs of frustration and despair finally cease, I think she's fallen asleep and try to shift her into a more comfortable position, but she's grabs on and refuses to let go.

"Sweets, you need to rest." I say into her hair.

She shifts a bit and then frees a hand from all the covers I have wrapped about her. Held up in my line of sight is the ring I gave her. It had been intended as an engagement ring at one time, but her unwillingness to even consider marriage had turned it into something else, with no less meaning, though. It had become a representation of our commitment to one another, a commitment that had withstood many bumps and rough spots over the years.

"I can't keep this." Her voice is rough, her throat probably raw from all the tears she's shed.

"Why?" I try to keep it light, try not to let my sudden fear and confusion influence her, no matter how unlikely that is to be.

"'Cause I'm not worthy of it. Not good enough for it. For you. You deserve so much better than me."

I can tell she's serious, that she will argue and fight until her remaining strength is gone, as will I, but I know that she can't handle the stress it will cause her. That she will fold in on herself to get away from the demons that are haunting her, hurting her.

"And I can't take it back." I hear myself say. Once again my brain failing to communicate with my mouth prior to speech actually occurring.

"Darien..."

"No. Keep it. Don't put it on again until you're ready." I close her hand about the ring and feel her stiffen in my hold, preparing to argue about it. "I understand what you're feeling. I've been there. Just give it some time." I grasp her chin and tip her head so I can see her, so I can fall into those glorious yet desperately sad eyes of hers. "Do what you need to get yourself back together. I'll still be here."

She closes her eyes as I release her and she curls up against me. "Will you help?" Her voice is a tiny thing, barely audible, but the emotions, the fear and the need and a hundred others, some lacking true names, leak through to me and I answer her the only way I can.

"Always."

The poet Ausonius once said, "Forgive many things in others; nothing in yourself."

I don't quite get his point. I mean, if you never forgive yourself then how to you learn and grow? How do you get beyond the error to greet another day with a free conscience? How do you face yourself in the mirror if all you see are the mistakes you've made?

Maybe you don't. And if that's true its a sad thing to behold, because, no matter how many others may forgive and forget, until you can do it, until you can look yourself in the eye and forgive yourself, you have nothing.

Finis