Author: A. X. Zanier
Disclaimer: I do not own The Invisible Man or the premise behind the show. Any additional characters or premises are mine.
Timeline: Companion #2 to Always
Comments: I am learning to hate bunnies.
The philosopher Hippocrates, in his Precepts gave us, "Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity." Yep, but you have to be willing, sometimes you can't get past the pain to see what lies beyond it.
Kinda like not being able to see the forest for all the trees.
When I knock on the kid's door, instead of pressing the obnoxious buzzer, I'm not all that surprised when it's yanked open to reveal the pissed off countenance of my partner. I don't give him a chance to say a thing to me and push my way right on into the apartment. "Well, at least you didn't lie about staying here."
Not that I really thought he was going to be out playing hooky, not after receiving a call from him at five thirty in the morning. A call that early from Fawkes is never a good thing, so I figure the kid really is sick, but after giving him the once over I'm reevaluating the situation. He's still in his pajamas even though its half past three in the afternoon, his hair looks like its been run through a blender and, in all the time I've known him, I don't think I've ever seen him looking this upset.
"Hobbes," he hisses at me. "What are you doing here?"
He tries to steer me to the kitchen and away from the pile of blankets I can see on the big old sofa of the kid's, the pile I'm betting she's curled up in like a contented kitten, all warm and sleepy with Fawkes waiting on her hand and foot. I shove the paper sack from Ronnie's Deli into his hands. It contains a couple quarts of their cure-all chicken soup and head straight for the living room, fully intent on admonishing her for taking a sick day when I know its damn near impossible for her to get really ill.
"The boss was not thrilled with you two going AWOL, even with me coming up with a creative reason as to why." I watch him as he frowns and shakes his head while walking to the kitchen. "If you had just answered one of the phones it would've made things easier."
"Damn it, Hobbes, she needs to rest." Fawkes doesn't hesitate to let me know with his tone of voice that I'm not exactly welcome at the moment.
"Jeeze, Fawkes, all this fuss over the kid catching the sniffles." I just about swallow my tongue on that last word as I make my way around the end of her huge sofa and get a look at her. It's a damn good thing she's out cold, cause she'd probably be freaking at my reaction. "What the hell happened?" I ask in a hushed voice.
"Doesn't matter." he grumbles from the kitchen where he's pulling the containers out of the sack and shoving them in the fridge and making it plain as day he ain't gonna tell me.
I walk on past and sit down kitty-corner from her on the sectional, so I end up near her head, which is all you can see amongst the covers and pillows stuffed around and atop of her. All I can see is hair and her face, which is looking dreadfully pale in the warmly sunlit room. Now, I've see the kid hurt pretty damn bad, even near death cause of a rather nasty virus she got nailed with way back when, but this ... This was bad. She has deep blue circles under her eyes; in fact even her eyelids are blue, her lips are almost as pale as the white pillowcase beneath her. But, maybe worst of all, she's just lying there as if completely unaware of my presence and that is so not like her that it scares me.
"Tell me you called the Keep?" My voice is soft out of reflex, not wanting to disturb her, though I doubt the kid would notice if I bellowed in her ear.
"No." Fawkes replies from right behind the sofa; I'd been so focused on the kid that I hadn't even heard him move. He runs one had along her face, she doesn't even twitch and for a second I gotta wonder if she's even alive. "And neither are you."
"Fawkes..." He cuts me off.
"No, Bobby, we'll deal with this by ourselves."
He meets my eyes and I know he's serious, that he wanted to keep this -- whatever this is -- solely between the two of them. I've gone and intruded on something private, but I can't back out now and pretend I know nothing. It's far too late for that.
"How can I help?" I think I surprise him with that one. Guess he was expecting me to run to the Fish or the Keep with the news the kid was down for the count.
He sighs. "I don't know that you can." His fingers are still tracing along her cheekbone as if hoping for a reaction of any sort from her, but she continues to just lie there, oblivious to the rest of the universe. "Would you watch her for a couple? I wanna grab a shower. Been a long day."
He's more than a bit reluctant to ask and I'm betting it's been more than a long day, long night as well if I were to guess. His not wanting to leave her alone long enough to catch a shower makes me even more curious as to what is going on. "Sure, Fawkes, whatever you need." I know I'm treading on thin ice right now, but I'm still skating the fine edge and that's all that counts.
"Thanks." He gives her one last caress and wanders off to her bathroom. Minutes later I hear the water running and, after debating only a second, I move to kneel on the floor next to the kid. I figure I only have a couple minutes before Fawkes returns, I somehow doubt he's concerned about his appearance right now, and I suddenly have a damn good idea what has put the kid down this bad.
I part the covers wrapped about her, hoping like hell she's got some sort of clothing on, and relax when I find her in nothing more revealing than a T-shirt and sweats. Her right arm is curled up with the hand under her chin and, except for the veins standing out starkly beneath the seemingly tissue-thin skin, appears to be unharmed. Shifting the covers a bit more I get a good look at her left arm and find what I feared I might, though the bandage is up near her elbow and not at her wrist as is most common. Gently, I turn her arm over and examine her. She knew what she was doing, I realize in dismay, as the thin line running along the vein shows. I'm guessing that under the bloodied bandage is a much deeper wound, one that drained enough of her life's blood to leave her this weak and unconscious.
I understand now why Fawkes didn't go to the Keep, or even to me. Why he doesn't want her left alone for very long. She shivers then and I replace the covers, tucking them in about her and move back to where I was sitting, and just in time too, as she opens her eyes and stares about blindly for a second.
"Bobby?" Her voice is thick, rough and barely understandable.
I try a trick I've seen Fawkes pull a couple of times and rest the knuckles of one hand on her cheek. "Go back to sleep, kid, yer safe." She mutters something I don't quite catch and drifts back under without a bit of fuss. I don't move my hand, though; in fact I stretch out the fingers and cup her face, noting that she's deceptively cool to the touch. "Damn, kid, why ya wanna go do something so stupid? Thought you, of all of us, was smarter than that." I barely voice the words aloud, not wanting to risk waking her, or having her actually hear them, but I feel the need to say them, not just have them beating angrily on the walls of my mind.
I'm stunned when she shifts, snuggling in a bit more and sighs deeply, almost as if I've actually done some good. Like maybe I've offered some small amount of comfort that she needed.
I settle back into the cushions and rub my hands over my face. Have to admit this was about the last thing I was expecting to have to deal with today, but I can sympathize, having been there myself on a couple of occasions. I do wonder what it is that drove her to this. The kid, Alyx, often seems to be the toughest of us, even though we know she isn't. She has yet to really build up that necessary detachment that is needed to survive long-term in the spy business. She manages, she deals, and she keeps going; often fooling all of us into believing she's far stronger than she is.
Fawkes is much the same way, but ever since he made the decision to stay he's been far more involved, almost enjoying the work some days. He hit bottom a few months back, though, and nearly took me with him. It was Alyx that held us together then. I guess its time to return the favor.
When Fawkes comes out dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, minimal effort put into his hair -- its not drooping, but its also not doing its pristine and perfect hedge imitation -- I'm sitting with the kid's feet in my lap, coffee, that I took the time to brew, nearby and channel surfing. I'm running the ball of one thumb firmly along the arch of her foot and she seems to be loving it, a lot of unconscious tension draining out of her body with the simple act.
"She's fine." I say as he comes over to check on her. He adjusts the covers, even trying to cover her feet, but I wave him off. "Don't bother, she just sneaks them back out. I've been trying to get her circulation going a bit." I nod at her. "She's bad off, Fawkes."
"I know." He's far too agreeable and a look up at him. "Hobbes ... I'm not sure how to help her."
"This have to do with the little quicksilver spree you two went on?" I ask. It's the only thing that's happened recently that might come back to haunt her.
"Yeah." He walks away and I turn to follow his movements. He ends up in the kitchen, fetching himself a cup of the coffee.
Going slow I slip out from under the kid's cold toes and cover them back up. She makes this tiny moue of discontent, but doesn't wake up. Taking my cup with me I join Fawkes for a little coffee klatch. "You gonna tell me?"
He shakes his head.
"All right. She's gotta want to fight back, Fawkes. You can't do that for her. As you well know." He looks at me in confusion and I set the cup down on the counter. Two steps forward and I'm grabbing his left wrist, flipping it over to show the underside and tapping the nearly faded scar that's there. "You know."
He yanks his hand free and I let him. "You knew?" he asks in what sounds like defeat.
"Suspected. Guessed. Assumed. Whatever. But you made the choice to not go through with it. Am I right?" I keep my tone matter of fact, like this is just some conversation about our favorite pizza toppings, or any of a hundred other things we might discuss on any given day. This is not something you wanna probe too deeply at. Not this late in the game.
"Yeah. At about the last possible second I changed my mind and she put me back together." he explains, sounding wistful.
"Not true. You put yourself back together, she just stood beside you through it." I see the understanding dawn in his eyes and bows his head down, suddenly finding the cup of java in his hand far more interesting than my ugly mug. "You had to stop her. Didn't you?"
He shudders and runs a hand through his hair, showing me why it had its odder than normal look earlier. He had to have been doing that a lot. "Five minutes later and ... and..."
He can't finish and I don't try to encourage him too. I know what he's saying. What I don't expect are his next words.
"Right in front of me, Bobby. Keeping me just out of reach." He slumps a bit. "I didn't stop her, and she still won't stop herself."
So he had noticed that she's not fighting very hard to live. That she's just coasting along, willing to take some comfort, but not putting any effort into recovering. "Take the week off." He looks stunned, completely disbelieving. "I'll cover, but there's one condition."
He shakes himself out of his surprise and eyes me with suspicion, waiting to hear what the catch is to buy my help. "What?"
"You call the Keep if she isn't doing any better in a couple of days, or if she gets worse." I can see the cogs whirring in that fur covered brain of his, but after a moment he nods.
"Why didn't I see this coming, Bobby?" His voice is soft, plaintive, confused.
"You? Given I'm the resident expert in nutso you'd figure I'd have seen it coming." I go to him and set a hand on his shoulder. "Sometimes you can't, my friend. Sometimes you can only try and pick up the pieces after."
"Any time. Now I'm gonna get out of your hair, but I will be checking in regular-like." Its time to leave, to give them some peace, to give him a chance to try to convince her there's still a reason to live. "It wasn't her fault, Fawkes, and no one blames her. You keep telling her that." I walk to the door and he trails along, thinking over what I've been saying I'm guessing. I slide the door open and step into the hallway, pausing to turn back and look at him.
"You're too damn good to us, Bobby." He's got that look on his face, in his eyes that's says he means every word and that they're just the tip of a very huge iceberg where our friendship is concerned.
I give him a grin. "Only sometimes."
So this dude, Tony D'Angelo, said, "The most important things in life aren't things." Man, ain't that the truth.