Author: A. X. Zanier
Rating: PG-13 (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: Companion piece to "Always"
Comments: Stupid frelling bunnies.
"In all the work we do, our most valuable asset can be the attitude of self-examination. It is forgivable to make mistakes, but to stand fast behind a wall of self-righteousness and make the same mistake twice is not forgivable."Dale Turner gave us that commentary on life.
Like to see him try to accomplish it with a gland in his head that makes him go insane if he doesn't get a shot on a regular basis.
Some mistakes are not always under our control.
I'm alone. That's the first thing I become aware of. I'm completely alone and lying in my bed in the darkness of my apartment. I know he hasn't left, can feel him on the edge of my shaky awareness, can smell him on me, on the bed clothes, on the pillowcase my head is lying upon, but still I'm alone.
Its early, I think, not quite dawn; the only real light that which filters in from outside, enough to turn the room a deep gray for a normal person, but to me, with a slight adjustment to my focus its clear as day. The colors washed out, but sharp, everything easily defined. He's moved the decorative panels that give my bed some privacy, so I can see across the room to where the door is standing partially open, his voice wafting in from the hallway. I close my eyes, try to convince my hearing to turn off, to not hear his words. To hear him tell whomever is on the other end of the cell phone line that I've gone over that edge, fallen into that abyss of darkness and despair that I've fought so hard to stay out of. Clinging to that slippery ledge even as it crumbles beneath me, my fingernails peeling away to leave bloody marks on the rough surface.
But of course my very own senses betray me. Forcing me to hear every word of his side of the hushed conversation. I hear him mention Bobby by name and wait for him to tell our partner, our friend what happened, but instead I overhear about the last thing I expect. He lies, telling Bobby that I've come down with something and that we're not coming in today, maybe not tomorrow either. That he's planning to stay here to make sure I'm okay.
I release a choking laugh at that thought. Okay? I'm so far from okay that it's not even in the same reality as me. And though I had planned on going into work, to treating this day just like any other, I realize he's right. I'm in no shape to go anywhere. Even if I could stand, about which I am as yet unsure, my appearance would be sure to give it away. A dead give away, that is. Perverse humor aside, I know that I am wan, my lips probably bloodless, that my strength is gone and that I ache inside and out.
I unbury my arm from the multiple layers of blankets he's encased me in to try to keep my body temperature up and look at the mess I've made of myself. My arm shakes, I'm so very weak and I quickly lower it to lie atop the covers. The stark white bandages bright in the darkness, my skin only a shade or two darker, the tan I so carefully cultivate leeched away with the loss of blood.
I roll onto my side and curl into a ball, thinking about how things had played out the night before. He wasn't supposed to be there. He wasn't supposed to stop me, to find me in the middle of my planned demise. He wasn't supposed to be there to use my own words, my promises to him against me.
He wasn't supposed to save me.
I begin to shake, feeling cold again, feeling confused about so many things. I can't understand why he would want any part of me after what has happened. It may have taken time for the reality to set in, but when it did I knew I couldn't let it happen again. Wouldn't risk allowing that person to ever be turned loose again.
I feel warmth against my cheek then and my eyes fly open to see him looming over me, a look of concern on his face, the knuckles of his left hand rubbing lightly across my skin. "Hey," he says softly and settles beside me on the bed. I try to resist sliding towards him as his weight dips the mattress ever so slightly, but fail and find myself curled against him. My cheek rubbing along the soft cotton of his pajamas, inhaling his familiar and comforting scent, allowing his warmth to slowly seep into me.
I don't say anything, just watch him and shiver.
"I asked Hobbes to cover for a couple of days. Said you were feeling ill." He sighs deeply when I don't react, when all I do is stare blankly ahead, no longer really seeing him. "He accused us of playing hooky and running off for a vacation."
"N... n... not bloody likely." I stutter out, shocked at how much it hurts to speak, how faint my voice sounds even to my ears.
"So you are in there. I was beginning to wonder." His voice is soft, tinged with humor. Humor I can tell is forced, a false layer of emotion to try to relax me, to knock me off guard, to get me to react the way he wants.
"Maybe." Is the only response I can think of and its accurate enough for how I feel. I'm actually amazed when a deep-seated anger slowly burns its way to the surface; an anger I know won't last as I just don't have the strength to support it for very long. "Why?" I manage, not feeling able to complete the entire ranting paragraph that flows through my mind. And, anyway, that one word sums it up perfectly.
"Why'd I stop you?" There's surprise in his voice, real surprise, like I should know the answer to that question. However, it's not the one I'm asking.
I shift, rolling away from him. To his perspective he had to at least try to stop me and I can't fault him for that, even though when the situation had been reversed I had made a point to not intervene and let the drama play out before my quicksilvered eyes.
"No. Why did you come over?" That one thing has been driving me buggy. He was supposed to have been working late with Bobby, late enough that he should have simply gone home to crash, late enough that by the time anyone had noticed I was AWOL that it would have been over and my decision irreversible. Instead he shows up just as I'm about to plunge the point of the butterfly knife Bobby gave me into the long vein running up my left forearm.
Darien isn't the only one to know the best ways to slit one's wrists. I certainly do, and, apparently, so did Trinity.
I shudder in the covers, I've gone far past cold, I feel like ice is crawling through my veins. Sometimes I feel like my entire life belongs to someone else and I'm doing nothing more that watching it play out on some big screen, unable to influence what happens to those actors as they prance across the stage.
I'd just wanted to make amends to her; even knowing she wouldn't recognize me. My little mind games assured that, and what do I discover? She and her boyfriend are dead, via some foolish mutual suicide pact that they carefully planned and acted upon just the night before. I have no way of knowing if our — my — acts of that night at Lethe had anything to do with it, but part of me is convinced it is the sole cause. While yet another darker, harsher part silently cheers, praising the fact that a potential witness has done us the favor of eliminating itself.
I whimper on the bed and hear Darien say something without processing the words. Testing the toxin may have released those darker parts of my psyche, but the counteragent that was supposed to cage them, hadn't. Probably couldn't in my case. The disinhibitor may have been banished, wiped from my system, but the memories could never be, and so the whispers continue. The suggestions and ideas that I both revel in and revile that led me to, once again, believe I am too dangerous to live. Just the contemplation of the damage I could do, have considered doing in the last week makes my gorge rise.
I return to some sort of awareness to find myself held to him. His heart beating, pounding away beneath my cheek. So strong I can feel as well as hear it. "Why?" I ask again, this time my tone confused and pitiable, but I don't care. I just want an answer that makes sense. That'll explain this whole mess or, at least, give me a place to look.
"Ah, hell. I was just stopping by to see you. We wrapped up early." He runs a hand through my hair, holding on as if afraid to let go. "Dumb luck I walked in when I did. Five minutes later and..." His voice catches on the words, unable to continue, to complete his thought. He is truly frightened, worried that I might step back over that edge and take that final plunge into oblivion.
He's right. I might very well still do a swan dive if given half the chance, if those whispers in the back of my head keep egging me on, if my conscience won't stop aching over the things I might do, things I can do, things I want to do.
ThingsI never thought myself capable of just a week ago.
"Crappy timing." Leaps from me unbidden and he goes perfectly still, in shock I suppose.
"You can't mean that." he hisses in hastily suppressed anger.
"Of course I do, you fool." I pour what little energy I have remaining into those words and it has the desired effect. He pushes me away, leaving me sitting up shakily, glaring at him as he does the same at me. His brown eyes narrowing, in the, now lightening, room.
"What is going on in your head?" he asks bitterly, completely at a loss for what to do, how to help. When all I want is for him to leave and allow me the chance to finish what I started last night.
I find myself saying what I planned on never telling him, planned on bearing on my soul alone for all eternity, as short as I planned that on being. "Trinity committed suicide, slit her wrists with the help of her boyfriend." I make the words cruel, harsh, to inflict the most damage possible, and that small dangerous part of my mind dances in glee as I do so.
I watch as Darien slumps back against the headboard, one astonishingly shaky hand lifting to run through his hair. "And you think it had to do with..." he trails off, not wanting to say it aloud, to make it real.
I laugh, bitter amusement that does nothing but increase the ache within me. "You have no idea how I played with her mind, Dare my dear."
His eyes lock on mine at those words and for the first time he sees what's been hiding within me. My shade, that alter ego lying in wait for just the right moment to spring out and make its presence known. I regain some sort of control at the look of horror in his eyes. Coming back from the failed Phase III was a simple matter compared to this. This result of a chemical influence that I can duplicate, that I can mimic at any time with what were sure to be horrific consequences for any and all in my way. This is going to be the hardest fight of my life, but only if I decide to fight. And I know I haven't yet made that decision. I'm still staring into the abyss and watching it beckon to me, urging me to just fall and let go.
"You hear them, don't you?"
I'm not sure who is more surprised at this sudden revelation, him or me, and for a several minutes I simply blink at him in confusion, trying to process what he said and failing.
"Darien?" I'm hoping his name will act as a prompt, to gain some more information, to see if this potential glimmer of understanding can become something brighter.
"The voices, the whispers." He shifts to sit more cross-legged and leans towards me. "After Stage Five and sometimes after a good bout of Stage Four, I keep hearing them for a while. Like the cartoon devil has a megaphone and is trying to drown out the voice of the angel." He grimaces a bit at the poor metaphor, but I get his meaning.
The sudden sense of relief is tempered by those very voices screaming at me and I close my eyes in a vain attempt to make them go away. "Really?" There's unexpected hope in my voice.
"Yes, really. I thought it was just me." He chuckles then, realizing that until very recently it has been just him. "You know what I mean."
And I do. "You never said anything. Not even to Claire."
"Right. I might go crazy on a regular basis, but I'm not nuts." He sobers again when I don't smile as he probably thinks I should. "Alyx, they fade after a few days." He taps me on the forehead lightly, but even that is nearly enough to knock me over. "You and you're screwy memory are probably prolonging it."
He's right, but I'm still afraid. "What if they don't go away? What if they drown out everything else?" I see him frown at both my words and the fearful tone in which they are spoken.
"I don't know ... yet." He reaches out and takes my icy cold left hand into both of his warm ones. "However, I do know if you try this again we'll never find out." Fingers trace lightly up my arm, along the thin scratch, to settle over the bandage that lies near the crook of my elbow, which, by some miracle, has yet to become stained with blood. At a guess I've been too weak to do any more damage. "You scared me, baby. I thought I lost you."
"You did." I tell him truthfully. "And you haven't saved me yet." I know what those words will do, what reaction they will cause and I'm right. I watch his head drop and his body shake for a moment, but his hands remain upon me and he shifts closer, leaning forward a to rest his head on my shoulder.
"I know." he says in a barely audible voice that is laced with fear. "I know its corny, but just take it one day at a time. I'll be here. The Agency can survive a few days without us."
I shudder and reach up to wrap my arms about him. Somehow finding hidden reserves within myself to comfort him. There's no strength in my grip and he can feel it, but he covers it by holding me just as gently, his body warming mine. When he pulls away, my hands slipping down to his chest his kisses me on the tip of my nose. "You need to eat something."
I make a face of pure disgust, my stomach not appreciating the idea of food at all. "Uh, no thanks."
He looks me over, taking the time to note every little sign of how bad off I am. "Juice then, and some vitamins. And then rest. Lots of rest."
I want to protest, but he silences me by scooping me up in his arms, pile of blankets and all, and carries me to the sofa. He sets me down and proceeds to make a nest for me, rearranges the throw pillows to support me, makes sure the covers are snug about me. Hands me the remote even though he knows I don't need it. He doesn't say a word, just looks down at me before dashing off to my kitchen to return moments later with a huge glass of orange juice sporting a straw and a pair of pills that I recognize. Harmless as they usually are they now represent a turning point and I realize I have to make a decision. Have to choose to fight or to fall.
He squats down before me, places the pills on the nearby cushion and drags out one of my hands to place the glass in. I don't think I can hold the thing with both hands right now, and he senses this, somehow senses my indecision.
"Start with one day." he requests, all serious and full of concern. "Please."
I nod in acquiescence and, with his help, manage a small sip of the cold golden liquid. The smile he gives me is almost enough to chase away the pain, almost enough to make me want to put more than a grudging effort into my recovery. Almost enough to make me forget the urge to end it all and save the world from the threat I can potentially be.
Once I've drank about half the glass he sets it aside, to give me chance to rest, rest which is sadly needed as I find myself feeling exhausted already.
"Better?" Such hope, such need to be certain I'm going to fight, to get through this one way or another. I answer the only way I can.
So this guy, Dag Hammarskjold, once said, "Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible -- not to have run away."
In other words don't take the easy way out cause chances are it ain't nearly as easy as you think.