This is a fragment with no plans to continue; you stand warned. It's set after the end of first season, and exists outside of the timeline that's marched on since. Spoilers: MFN, Tiresias, Small World, and mentions of villains from many of the first season eps. (Mystery-type stories aren’t my usual style, so any feedback on whether this succeeds or goes splat would be greatly appreciated.)

I don't own the characters, nor am I making money off this, etc.

Panic by C. Abelard

Darien lay immobile, fighting with every ounce of his will to move, even a twitch, but his body remained perfectly still. Whatever drug had been used on him its effect was absolute. He could still feel his body – a breeze flowing across his back, the uneven surface under his chest, what felt like linen against his cheek… His eyes were open, but unfocussed, the world beyond perceived in blurs of gray and white. His heart was pounding, faster than he could bear to hear. He tried to speak, but no sound escaped except for his breathing, which was shallow and desperate. He could hear voices, muttering and mumbling about him. New, someone said…powerful muscle relaxants. Suddenly, the pain rose. He tried to grab at the base of his skull as the electric fire ripped through him, but his traitorous arms lay slack at his sides. The voices carried on, unchanging. Didn’t they know they were leaving him helpless? He tried to talk, to give any sign, but was mute. They were leaving him at the mercy of the madness. The pain burned and blossomed, savage beyond any attacks he’d known, as if the insanity’s fury was augmented by its inability to act. He felt his mind collapsing under the black whirlwind. Breathing was becoming more difficult as the drugs worked too well, softening his throat until he felt like he was drowning. A ringing began in his ears and he felt his extremities starting to tingle as his oxygen ran out. Beyond breath, beyond sense, beyond thought, he heard a voice say: I’m going to have to run some tests…

With a violent shudder, Darien was at last able to move. It took several seconds for the paralysis to completely release him. He sat up, gasping and coughing, his hands flying to the back of his neck. The pain…was gone, though its memory was enough to bring tears to his slowly focussing eyes. He checked the tattoo – only half full. He looked around, lost. His eyes played over the familiar landmarks of his apartment, but he felt like he was in a stranger’s house. The memory, the sensation, would not leave him. What had happened? He found himself backing up against the headboard of the bed, as if to fend off attack. In the dark, quiet room, a low whine frightened him more. He looked around rapidly to find the source only to discover it had been him. There was no one else there. He covered his mouth as another frightened sound worked out of his throat. His voice…he could speak. He pulled his hands away, still trying to catch his breath. He felt like his chest was caught in a vise. He kept checking the tattoo – it didn’t make sense. He’d felt the pain, the hole tearing open in his mind which threatened to swallow him.

As if in someone else’s body, he watched his shaking hands grab the phone and dial a number. Two rings later, a sleepy but coherent voice answered, "Yeah?"

* * *

"Hobbes?" The voice in the receiver was barely a whisper.

"Fawkes?" Hobbes was on his feet with the light on in one fluid move. The kid sounded like hell. Bobby checked the clock: 2:23. "Fawkes, what’s going on?"

"I…I can’t…"

"Kid, where are you? You home?" Hobbes grabbed yesterday’s clothes from the chair where he’d tossed them, stopped abruptly in the middle of the room when there was no answer but ragged breathing. "Fawkes…" Hobbes tried to project some of the calm he didn’t feel. "Talk to me, partner. What’s going on? Where are you?"


Hobbes swore under his breath and started moving again as the connection was cut. He got dressed as he dialed. The accented voice that answered was thick with sleep. "Mm..hullo…"

"Keep, somethin’s wrong with Fawkes."

"Bobby? What—"

Hobbes continued over her question. "He’s at his place, I’m on my way over there now. I think you’d better meet me there. I don’t know what’s going on, he wouldn’t…", he took a deep breath, "…or couldn’t, talk."

"Yes, yes, okay." The rustling behind her voice traced her exit from bed and preparation to travel. "Bobby, did it sound like--?"

"No. I don’t think so. But be prepared anyway." Hobbes hung up, grabbed his gun and badge, and headed for the door. It couldn’t be the madness. When they’d left work the previous evening, Darien’s monitor had only had 3 segments red. Hobbes never let on that he watched, but he knew every time that radar blipped. The kid had plenty of time left, unless he was using QS off the clock, or…unless something had changed. "Aw crap," he whispered, and ran for the van.

* * *

Darien looked at the phone in his hands. Who had he called? He was losing his mind, and he didn’t even know to what. He hit the redial and brought the phone warily to his ear. Busy. They were organizing… They had traced his first call, and now whoever it had been was calling the others… He wanted to run, to hide, but he couldn’t coordinate his trembling limbs, and couldn’t get past the gray fog in his thoughts to know where to go.

* * *

Hobbes checked the gun as he floored the accelerator and prayed there were no cops in the way. At least he knew where to go. Fawkes lived under the east-west approach to the airport, and every time a plane went over, it set off the alarm on the tight-assed Honda that belonged to his next-door neighbor. Hobbes had been pretty sure he’d heard a plane in the background, but the horn sounding just before the call was terminated had clinched it.

He ran scenarios in his head, one after another, trying to prepare for whatever he’d find. Quicksilver madness. Possible, but unlikely. Fawkes was rational up until the pain hit, then the pain was bad enough to preclude subtleties like dialing a phone. After the pain, well… Hobbes knew what his partner sounded like when in the full grip of the madness, and it wasn’t the scared voice he’d heard just now.

Last time he’d heard Fawkes sound like that had been when Scarborough had done his little mentalist routine. The guy had been a colossal fraud, but for whatever reason his generalities and "predictions" had spooked Fawkes something awful. Hobbes didn’t know what might have brought any of that back up, but he knew it wasn’t the old man. Scarborough, and his daughter, were still in jail and they had no way to get to Fawkes. The Official had seen to that.

Hobbes reviewed other enemies, and grunted appreciatively as he tallied them up. The kid had made quite a name for himself in a year. Fogerty, Anders, Grimmond, Lawson, Castagnacci, the Chinese, the Chameleon, Dorban and Jefferies. Fogarty and the Chameleon were dead, the others in jail or in diplomatic limbo. Lawson had slunk away into bureaucratic oblivion, but this middle of the night crap wasn’t his style. Chrysalis. Hobbes winced. Could be them, who knows what they were up to, but…if they were going to grab Fawkes, they’d have grabbed him. If they’d managed to get into his place – which wasn’t exactly Fort Knox, Hobbes thought wearily – and grabbing him hadn’t been their intent, then what? Scaring him? Like they could do better than killing Allianora in his arms? He didn’t know much about this organization – which still cost him some sleep now and then – but he couldn’t see the rhyme or reason in this. And that left…

Arnaud. God, Hobbes hated the guy. Last time he’d seen Arnaud, or not seen him to be more precise, Arnaud had been stabbed in three places. Hobbes tightened his hands around the steering wheel. They should be so lucky that the little bastard would get gangrene or something and finally kick. If it was him… Hobbes shook his head. If it was Arnaud there was no telling what could happen.

* * *

Darien looked at the phone he still held. He shouldn’t risk it, but… With trembling fingers he fumbled dialing twice, but finally on the third try he punched the numbers in correctly. He waited and waited as it rang…once…twice…three times…more. There was no answer. He looked at the clock again. Hobbes liked to socialize, but he wouldn’t be out this late, not when they were working the next day. He should be home. Why didn’t he…? Darien shut his eyes tight, as if it could undo the chain of events in motion. They’d been there. Hobbes didn’t answer because he’d been caught. Now Darien was on his own; he’d have to protect himself. He struggled to his feet.

* * *

Hobbes cut his speed two blocks from Fawkes’s apartment and came in quietly. He pulled the van into the alley that ran next to the building and checked his watch. 2:35. He’d been blessed with clear roads and made preternaturally good time, awful lot could happen in twelve minutes. He opened the door, hesitated, then reached back for the thermal goggles. He hoped like hell he wouldn’t need them, but Bobby Hobbes didn’t walk into danger unprepared. He slipped out of the van, closing the door slowly and pushing it just until it clicked shut. Fawkes’s car was halfway down the block, as it had been when Hobbes had dropped him off after they’d wrapped the previous evening. The neighborhood was quiet. He looked to the window. A light was on, but there was no movement visible. Another plane was approaching – cargo jet, international, by the sound of it. As it passed over, like clockwork the little white Honda’s alarm went off. Using the sound as cover, his gun at the ready, Hobbes entered the building.

The other apartments were silent, the occupants long-used to the periodic neighborhood noises. Hobbes crossed a full-scale fight, as well as any gunplay, off his list of possibilities. That would have brought people out. He approached Darien’s door cautiously and listened. Nothing. He gingerly tried the knob – locked. He stood to the side of the door and took a deep breath. He hated this part. He pitched his voice low, "Fawkes. Fawkes, you in there?" When there was no reply, Hobbes pulled a lockpick from his pocket. He crouched down, staying clear of the door, and worked the lock. In the second it took him to do it, he thought again how ironic it was that a former thief had such crappy equipment on his own place. He slowly turned the knob and pushed the door open.

He thought he detected a sound as the door swung wide, but couldn’t be sure it wasn’t the door itself he’d heard. After a beat, he glanced around the corner into the room, ready to come out shooting…but saw no one. He walked slowly into the studio, a furrow crossing his brow as he tried to put zero and zero together. "Fawkes?" He heard the quicksilver flaking and falling away and turned to the figure he saw appearing in the corner of his eye.

Fawkes was crouched between the bed and the kitchen counter, his back against the wall. The kid was white as a summer cloud, glassy-eyed, and panting like he’d been running sprints. He was also holding a very sharp knife in one badly shaking hand. Hobbes felt cold settle in the pit of his stomach. Not good. "Fawkes… What’s going on?"

Darien blinked at him. "Hobbes? What…how did…?"

‘You called me."

"No. I-I mean I did, but…" His eyes darted left and right.

Bobby tightened his grip on the gun. "Fawkes, is there somebody in here? There someone here?"

Darien shook his head rapidly, awkwardly. His throat worked, it took a couple tries for him to get words out. "Shut-shut the door!"

"Alright." Hobbes pushed the door closed, keenly aware of an escape route closing. He scanned the apartment again quickly, still didn’t see anything out of place. Setting the thermal goggles down on the counter, he looked back at Darien, who looked like a ghost. He glanced at the knife, then his partner’s face. "If there’s no one here, then what’s that for?"

"In…in…in case they…they come back. I don’t…I don’t know…" Darien’s eyes squeezed shut and he let his head fall back against the wall.

Hobbes lowered the gun and stepped toward his ailing partner, but once he’d come within two paces, Darien’s eyes flew open and the point of the knife came up. Hobbes stopped in his tracks. He made a show of his hands and holstered the gun, then slowly dropped to one knee to get them on eye-level. "What happened?"

"I-I don’t know…I couldn’t move. They-they drugged me."

"Who? Who are you talking about?"

Darien kept looking around frantically. "I heard, couldn’t see…" His left hand went to the back of his neck. "It hurt…"

Hobbes’s mind reeled, trying to piece together the information. They’d only split up about six hours before, and everything had checked out from the street. There may have been someone waiting inside, or someone who came later, but why? It didn’t ring right. He was keeping a close watch on the knife, but also on Darien’s right wrist – he couldn’t see the tattoo. "You wounded, Fawkes? You got any holes in you?"

Darien shook his head. "N-no. It was th’madness, but…but I’m not…" He looked at his wrist, baffled. "It hurt so much." His face contorted with effort. "God, Hobbes…I can’t breathe!"

Hobbes didn’t know what had happened, but he figured he recognized the panic attack for what it was. He’d first seen it in the Gulf, which hadn’t been nearly so clean as what folks saw on TV. He’d seen guys that he’d been sure could stop tanks see or hear or think just the wrong thing, and end up trying to take temporary leave of their senses. The symptoms were non-fatal, but they sure didn’t feel that way. He’d found that part out later, when Viv left. Answers would have to wait. Right now they needed some control.

"Fawkes…Fawkes, look at me – look." He waited until Darien met his eyes. "There’s nobody here now but us good guys, right? So put down the knife." Darien’s knuckles grew impossibly whiter as his fingers clenched around the weapon’s handle. Hobbes held up his hands in a conciliatory manner, but continued. "You’re my partner, Fawkes: I will watch your back. You know that, right?" It sounded like a rhetorical question, but he waited for an answer. Darien finally nodded. "Okay, then give me the knife, " Hobbes requested. Darien haltingly, unsteadily, extended his arm, and Hobbes took hold of the blade. "That’s good, just let go. I got it." He gently turned the knife out of his partner’s hand, getting a good look at the tattoo in doing so: seven segments red. He put the weapon on the floor behind him and nonchalantly slid one foot back until the blade was firmly under his heel.

"You di-didn’t answer. I thought they got you, too." Darien’s voice was full of confusion and fear.

"Nobody got me, partner. See, I’m right here. We’re gonna get to the bottom of this." Hobbes moved slowly. Sometimes, when people’s minds started spinning like this, if you could get ahold of them it would ground them. He put his hand cautiously on Darien’s shoulder. "Okay? You’re okay. Whatever’s going on, we’ll get this figured out."

The younger man’s dilated eyes were mirrors of hell as he looked up. "No… No, I’m not okay. I’m not going to be okay." His voice was a terrified whisper. "They’re going to come back…" He began to quicksilver, but it was involuntary and random. As some of it crept over Hobbes’s hand, he suppressed a shudder. The fear was contagious, and the touch of the quicksilver only made it worse.

"That’s enough of that, pal," he said sternly, pulling his hand away and shaking the quicksilver off. "You stay where I can see you. I don’t need more mysteries around here." In the back of his head he could hear the voice of their commander, browbeating Stevenson when he’d gone off the edge after the incident with the civilians. It had seemed cruel at the time, but it had worked: Stevenson had gotten himself under enough control to hold together until they got out of danger and back to the base. Hobbes had been astonished to learn later that the officer had been scared to death by the situation – not the potential ambush, but Stevenson’s coming unglued. Now he understood. Of course, Fawkes wasn’t a Marine and this wasn’t Kuwait. A little tempering was in order.

Darien looked at the quicksilver rivulets running down his arms. "I’m not doing this…"

"Yes you are, Fawkes. You’re the one with the gland, remember? You’ve got the on/off switch. Turn it off." Hobbes waited and watched hopefully…but Darien was still too far gone. "I’m one of the taxpayers footin’ the bill for that, Mr. GS-6. C’mon…cut it out." He started to get a handle on it…but didn’t have it completely, and another segment shimmered over from green to red. Just going after the kid’s mind wasn’t going to work – not when his body was presenting so many hurdles. Time for a different approach.

"Okay, up – get up." Hobbes reached for Darien’s elbow, steeling himself for a struggle, but Fawkes only flinched then let Hobbes pull him to his feet. "The reason your breathing’s messed up is because you’re all scrunched over. This’ll be better." He tightened his hold as his partner swayed unsteadily. He had to get him into a neutral position. He risked giving him a choice. "Where do you want to sit: the bed or the chair?" He was afraid it would be too much yet, but was pleasantly surprised when Darien pointed listlessly at the chair. Gravity had more influence than grace in getting him seated, but once he was off his feet and unfolded, the smallest bit of color came back to his face. The quicksilver stopped.

"There you go," Hobbes encouraged. "Just breathe a little deeper, you’ll get yourself straightened out." He watched awareness slowly return to the other man’s eyes. "That’s it." He hesitated to broach the subject just when things were calming down, but if there was a mysterious "Them" wreaking havoc, he needed to know more.

Darien beat him to it. "Hobbes, what the hell is happening?" His voice wavered like a seismograph, but it had sense behind it.

"That’s supposed to be my question, my friend. I went home, watched TV and went to bed. That’s what I know. What about you? What do you remember?"

Darien shook his head mutely, fingers clenching, clawing at the arms of the chair. "I-I couldn’t move. I couldn’t see anything…an-and I couldn’t move…" His breathing tightened up again, and he looked around as if seeking an escape.

"Easy, there, partner." Hobbes crouched in front of the chair, casually blocking Darien’s path. "I got that part already. Let’s take it from the top, alright? You remember getting home last night?" He watched the younger man’s blank expression for a moment, prompted, "You drive home?"

"Uh-huh." Darien nodded weakly, then frowned. "No…no, you drove."

"That’s right. You remember what we did before that?"

"We were…I don’t… We-we were waiting to see what time Bowlsen left his office, then we tailed him home… then we stopped to get dinner – at that taco place."

"Good. Four for four. Now…how ‘bout when I dropped you off? I saw you walk in the main door, okay… What did you do when you got inside?"

He shook his head miserably and closed his eyes. "I don’t know. I don’t remember." His face was beaded with perspiration, but he was still bone-white. "I feel sick."

"You want some water? I’ll get you some water," Hobbes said, straightening up. Darien made a gesture that was half-nod, half-shrug. "Just sit tight, relax." Hobbes moved toward the kitchen, quickly and casually stooping to pick up the discarded knife on the way. Once behind the counter, he quietly tucked the knife into a drawer.

He gave fleeting consideration to the idea that Fawkes might’ve gotten some bad food at dinner. They’d gone to a new place, and Hobbes had bought with his lottery winnings. It was only a few dollars, but since the only numbers on the ticket that matched up were the ones Fawkes had picked, he figured a decent meal after a long day was called for. Hobbes had been buying tickets for years, a "what-if" game that took his mind off the pay and the hours for a while. Darien had noticed a couple weeks ago, and they’d started collaborating, each choosing three numbers. The first week, Hobbes got nothing, Darien got one. Hobbes had stayed at zero but Darien had matched one more each week since. This week he’d gotten all three. At this rate, Hobbes had quipped, he’d start letting Darien pick all the numbers and they’d have the jackpot in under a month.

Hobbes finally found the cabinet with the glasses in it and grumbled. The beanpole would have to keep them on the top shelf. He practically had to climb up on the counter to get one down. So, this might be as simple as a bad batch of salsa… but they’d eaten the same stuff, and Hobbes felt fine. Besides, this fear didn’t fit with any description of food poisoning Hobbes’d ever heard of. If the kid was going to be so badly off that his mind was affected, he’d have been flat on his back long before, not up and walking around. He mulled the concept of Darien being drugged, but…it still didn’t make sense. If someone had gotten ahold of Fawkes, someone who knew about him, why would they have dumped him back in his apartment? Why not hang onto him and do…whatever it was they intended? And if it wasn’t about the quicksilver, then who and why – ? Hobbes glanced over at Darien curiously. He hadn’t seen anything out of place, but…"Hey, you missing anything around here? Maybe someone knocked you out to go through your stuff?"

Darien frowned at him, processing the question. "You…you think I got rolled?"

Hobbes shrugged. "You tell me."

Darien looked around. "Everything valuable’s still here – TV, stereo, books. My wallet’s – " His words were cut off in a gasp as there was a faint rap on the door.

Hobbes spun to face the door, drawing his gun. He peripherally saw Darien spring to his feet and go invisible. "Fawkes," he said quietly, "get back out here where I can see you." He could almost see Darien shaking his head. It didn’t matter much – his panicked breathing was like a homing beacon – but Hobbes wished he could remove even one variable from this ever-complicating equation. "Alright, you just stay where you are, pal," he instructed the air. "I don’t need to be worrying about whether I’ve got a clean shot or not." He approached the apartment entrance cautiously, but without the same level of fear. Bad guys didn’t usually knock. His hopes were confirmed as he heard Claire’s faint voice.


He holstered the gun and spoke over his shoulder. "It’s okay. It’s the Keep. I’m gonna let her in, alright?" He hesitated a moment, waiting for acknowledgement or protest. When neither came, he opened the door slowly.

Claire’s face was a picture of worry. "Bobby, what’s going on?"

He held up a hand to forestall questions and ushered her in, shutting the door behind her. "C’mon out, Fawkes. It’s okay." His partner didn’t reappear. "Fawkes? Fawkes, c’mon, it’s Claire. You know her. Give us a break and drop the disappearing act, okay?"

Claire tried to gauge Darien’s location by Hobbes’s gaze. "Darien?" She had no more success. She turned her question back to Hobbes. "What is going on?"

Hobbes spoke quietly and quickly, half of his attention still on what he could hear of his partner. "He says he got drugged by someone so he couldn’t move, doesn’t know who. He called me but doesn’t remember talking to me, doesn’t remember what happened after he got home. He had a knife when I got here, he’s scared half to death."

Claire’s eyes widened as she heard him out. "Drugged?" She kept her voice low as well. "Are you sure?"

"That’s what he said, but it doesn’t make sense, y’know? I think now he’s just freaked out, whatever went on. But we’ve got a bigger problem, he’s down to two green – and that was before he vanished when you got here…"

She shook her head incredulously. "That can’t be right. He’s not due for a shot for three days…"

* * *

Darien stood shaking with his back to the wall and watched them talk. He couldn’t hear their words only their voices muttering and mumbling, low and indistinct, like the voices beginning to whisper in the back of his mind. The pain was starting…the memory was getting closer. He looked around in vain for a weapon, then the pain brought him to his knees.

* * *

Hobbes and Claire both started as Darien cried out and the quicksilver fell from him in a crystalline shower. He was doubled over on his knees, clenching the back of his neck with both hands. Claire stepped forward, but Hobbes laid a warning hand on her arm. She paused. "Darien?" she asked. After several seconds, Darien stopped rocking and his hands fell to his sides. When he looked up, his eyes were severely tracked with red. "Oh dear," she said under her breath.

"That’s what I’m sayin’," Hobbes replied in kind, letting her go.

Claire stepped forward, but cautiously. "Darien? Darien, it’s going to be all right."

He scuttled backwards, trying to get his feet under him. "Stay away from me."

She stopped where she was. "Darien, you need to slow down your breathing. You’re hyperventilating, which causes a host of unpleasant physical symptoms…"

Hobbes nodded. "He’s been doing that since I got here."

Darien turned a baleful look on his partner. "Shut up. Why are you telling her this? She’s going to use it against me…"

"And then there’s the quicksilver," Claire ventured. "You’re at stage 3 now, Darien, which manifests paranoid delusions and feelings of persecution. You need counteragent. Let me help you, we’ll –"

Darien backed into the corner by the window. "No. You don’t know that – you don’t even know what’s going on."

"I have some idea." She glanced over at his rumpled bed. "Do you remember going to sleep, Darien?"

"What? No… No, it wasn’t sleep – I was drugged."

"I don’t believe you were."

"I’m-I’m not making this up!"

"I don’t think you’re making it up," she soothed. "I believe you think that’s what happened. But from what Hobbes told me, and from what we know, I don’t believe that it is what happened."

Darien turned a stung look to his partner. "I trusted you."


"You told her I’m lying?"

Bobby bristled at the accusation. "I told her what you told me." He glanced at Claire. "What do you mean, ‘what we know’? What do we know?"

Claire laced her fingers together and wrung her hands slightly as she spoke. "We know that the quicksilver gland can influence the pineal gland…"

Now it was time for Hobbes’s eyes to widen. "You mean this is Simon Cole?"


"I am not Simon Cole!" The fear in Darien’s voice took on an icy edge as he stared at her. "You said he was gone. You said."

"No, no, he is gone. Simon’s RNA was completely eliminated. But…" She looked back and forth between the two men as she spoke, trying to explain to them both. "…the connection that formed between the quicksilver and pineal glands was not. You remember, Darien, I told you this then."

"I know what I remember. It’s real."

"I know it seems real, but this may be an extension of a dream state, an altered state of consciousness."

Hobbes frowned. "What are you saying? That he’s hallucinating?"

"It’s possible he’s not entirely awake."

"Asleep? But we’re talking, he asked questions, remembered what we did…"

"I’m awake."

Claire turned to Hobbes. "Not asleep, but in a sort of hypnagogic state, similar to sleepwalking. Someone who’s sleepwalking can perform surprisingly complicated tasks, and can sound lucid when asked questions."

"Don’t talk about me like I’m not here! I heard you!"

Claire looked back at him. "Darien…"

"No." He shook his head, glaring at her, as his fingers curled around the spine of the large book lying on top of the bookcase. "No… I’m not crazy. You… I didn’t call you, you just showed up. Why are you here? Why are you telling me I’m crazy?"

Hobbes moved forward, putting himself between his partner and Claire. "Easy there, big guy. I called her. We’re both worried about you, we want to make sure you’re okay."

"Worried about me? If you’re so worried about me, why won’t you listen to me? You’re acting like I’m making this up, but I’m telling you, it’s happening! It…it happened and…they’re…they’re coming ba-" Darien’s voice disappeared in a gasp as another wave of pain hit him. He sagged against the bookcase, eyes closed tight against the torment.

Hobbes had been hoping they’d be able to reason with him, to talk him down, but the quicksilver wasn’t going to give them the time. He rushed forward, hoping to get hold of Darien’s arms while the pain had him distracted. He’d only gotten his hand around one wrist when his partner opened his eyes again and recoiled. As he saw Fawkes sweep the book off the shelf in a backhanded strike, Bobby sighed inwardly: it was never easy. He ducked and blocked with his forearm, knocking the book from Darien’s hand. It fell corner-first against the window, which broke with a sharp crack, teetered on the sill then fell inward as the glass fell to the ground outside.

Darien’s momentum as he turned gave him enough leverage to twist his arm out of Hobbes’s grip and, once free, he quicksilvered and bolted. Hobbes spun and dove after him, arms reaching wide. His shoulder connected with the back of Darien’s legs, and he flailed for a hold as they both fell. A blow to the side of his head set up a ringing in his ears but he managed to grab hold of the offending elbow and hang on as he got to his feet, still between his partner and the rest of the apartment. The shift of weight told him Darien had also regained his feet, a second before unseen hands clasped around his neck. Bobby brought his fists up, forearms together, between Darien’s arms, then brought his elbows down hard in twin arcs. The icy fingers slipped from his throat. He pivoted as he reached forward, moving into the space Darien had just occupied. A high, dangerous buzzing tore past his ear and a dart embedded itself in the shelf. Startled, he glanced over his shoulder to see Claire at the counter, the thermal goggles over her eyes and a tranquilizer gun in her hands. Invisible hands took hold of his throat again, and he made a quick decision.

He grabbed wrists he couldn’t see and wrestled with the air to get his own back to the wall. His hands and neck ached from the cold, and his peripheral vision was streaked with gray lightning, but he persisted. If Darien realized what he was doing, he’d rabbit – game over; Hobbes had to keep his attention. "C’mon, Fawkes," he wheezed, "my sister could do better than this…" The only answer was an increased pressure against his windpipe.

Hobbes knew his partner was in front of him, he had the proof in his hands, but that didn’t stop the cold rush of adrenaline as he looked straight ahead and saw Claire steady the gun and fire again. The dart whirred toward his face, covering the distance in one missed heartbeat. Less than an arm’s length away it stopped dead in the air with a muffled thunk and a splash of silver. Darien gasped at the impact and the quicksilver fell away. His red-streaked eyes met Bobby’s, filled with a mix of fear and fury. He opened his mouth to protest, but the words never reached his lips. His knees buckled like sun-softened copper and he fell. Hobbes caught him as he sank toward the floor, redirected his momentum so that he came to rest face-down on the bed. Claire hurried forward, handed the gun and goggles to Hobbes. She smoothed out the lumps in the blanket to keep Darien’s nose and mouth clear and checked his pulse. It was rapid from the struggle he’d put up, but strong. With a relieved sigh she straightened up.

"That was very brave what you did, Bobby."

"Part of the job," he shrugged, his fall from the adrenaline rush tempered by the thrill of her compliment. He gestured at his partner. "He okay?"

"Yes, but I need to get him back to the lab to give him counteragent."

"You don’t have it with? Why didn’t you get it when you got the darts?"

"The counteragent stays at the Agency. I can’t just take some home and keep it in my fridge."

Hobbes looked at her shrewdly. "But you just happened to have these tranq darts at home?"

Claire knew he was upset – they both were – so she forgave the reproach in his voice, but she didn’t let it pass. "How many guns do you keep at home, Bobby?" She watched as the question stopped him in his tracks and he dropped his gaze.

"Sorry," he said under his breath. "You’re right." He examined the tranquilizer gun in his hands. "This’s something new," he said, his tone falling between statement and question. He looked over at Darien uneasily. His eyes were half-open and unblinking in the breeze that swirled over him from the broken window; it made him look dead. Hobbes shuddered. "Never seen anyone drop that fast."

"Since the stage five incident, I’ve been trying to improve our tranquilizers. The combination we’ve been using has been effective enough so far, but the military’s been doing research on a new class of drugs, powerful muscle relaxants, which work almost instantly. The quicker we can knock Darien out if he reaches madness, the less damage he can do to himself or others, and the faster we can slow down the distribution of quicksilver through his body. These approach the effectiveness of paralytics. I also hope to lower the amount of sedation; hopefully that will allow the counteragent to metabolize faster."

Hobbes rubbed his eyes with one hand. "That’s great for that, Keep, but what happened here, huh? He says he got drugged but no one’s here, you say he’s asleep but not asleep, it’s this pineal thing but not Cole…" He yanked the errant dart out of the bookcase, frustrated.

"I think that something happened while he slept, something which caused the pineal gland to malfunction, leaving him vulnerable to hallucination. The pineal used to be called the third eye for a reason; the hallucinations should be primarily visual, as they were when Simon Cole was a factor. It’s possible, however, since the pineal gland may have influence over the connection between consciousness and the rest of the body, that it caused Darien to perceive tactile hallucinations as well."

"You mean this whole thing was a dream? C’mon, Keep, this ain’t ‘Dallas’," he scoffed. As Claire gave him a wry smile, Hobbes suddenly looked at his partner with new concern. "He doesn’t sound good." Claire frowned at him, then bent over Darien. Once she was closer she could hear what Hobbes already had: Darien’s breathing sounded slightly labored, almost like snoring, and was still faster than she’d have expected. "Could someone really have slipped him something?" Hobbes asked.

"I don’t think so," she answered. "Like you said, it doesn’t make sense. It has to be the quicksilver gland in conjunction with the pineal – it’s too similar to what we’ve seen before."

"Maybe it’s the other way ‘round? I mean he was fine last night, and six hours later he’s stage 3? Could that other thing be messing with the quicksilver gland?"

"I don’t know," Claire admitted. "Let’s get him back to the Agency and get some counteragent in him. After that, I’m going to have to run some tests…"

Darien moaned, a short, low sound of terror. A sluggish tremor passed through him, like ripples through quicksand, and thin streams of quicksilver rolled across his back, his arms, down his face like tears.

Hobbes turned worried eyes to Claire. "That’s not supposed to happen…is it?"

"No." Her consternation matched his own as she checked Darien’s pulse and found it still racing. "None of these compounds reacted to the quicksilver in the models. Nothing like this happened in testing." She went to the counter. "Let me take a blood sample before we move him. I can find out more once I can run a workup in the lab."

Claire opened the bag and her eyes widened. "Bloody hell…"

"What’s wrong?"

She pulled out four vials, read the tops and held them up next to each other, comparing the amounts in each. "These levels are wrong. I…" She looked at Darien worriedly. "I may have under-sedated him." She pulled out a syringe and quickly prepared the hypodermic with liquid from two of the containers.


Claire hurried back and deftly injected the solution into Darien’s arm. "There." Within seconds, the flow of quicksilver ceased.

Hobbes looked aghast. "You mean he wasn’t out?"

She scrubbed the hair back from her face with one hand. "He probably was. When you called me, I threw everything into my bag and ran out. I assembled the darts in the car once I’d gotten here and…I apparently transposed the doses of two of the compounds. The amount of tranquilizer I put in the dart is borderline for Darien’s weight. I just gave him enough now to make sure it tipped the scale. If he wasn’t under completely before, he is now. I also included Versed in this injection. It’s a calming agent, but it also has the fortunate side-effect of short-term amnesia." She went back to the bag and started putting her equipment away. When she looked up, Hobbes was still staring at Darien with an expression of distress.

"It’s okay, Bobby," she tried to comfort him. "He won’t remember any of this."

Hobbes wouldn’t say anything to Claire, wouldn’t know how to suggest such an outlandish idea, but… The snowball in his stomach started rolling downhill, getting heavier with each second, as he wondered if, somehow, his friend already had.