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Invisible Man/X-Files Fanfic: Three The Hard Way (Part 2)




"He told me," Scully said. She was sitting -- at Darien's insistence -- on the bed, away from the windows. Ramrod straight. She wasn't casual, she didn't relax in the presence of strangers. He adjusted himself to a more comfortable sprawl and made sure the microphone was off, the earpiece on, so he could hear Hobbes, just in case.

"Who told you what?"

"Mulder," she said. "He told me it was getting more dangerous, for both of us, but I thought he was exaggerating. I didn't take him seriously. I should have gone to Skinner -- Assistant Director Skinner, our supervisor -- and asked for help, but I didn't, and Mulder wouldn't. I thought we could get through it. We always had before."

Darien felt the direction this was going. He knew the road, he'd slogged down it about a hundred times, and the scenery never got better. "Listen, Scully, it wasn't your fault. Maybe you didn't take it seriously enough, but, well, neither did he. It may be a mistake, but that doesn't make you guilty."

"He called me the night he -- the night he disappeared," she said. Her hands were nervously working together, kneading, as if she could press the grief away. "I should have gone over there -- "

"Did he ask you to?"

She hesitated. Too long. "He -- it wasn't easy anymore, between the two of us. There were -- "

"Feelings?" Not a tough guess. She nodded. "Just on his side?"

She glanced at him, then away. Not just on his side, he could read that in her eyes. Nine years together, and they'd never gotten past feelings? He couldn't imagine being thrown into daily contact with Dana Scully and not acting on some feelings. Maybe stupidly, maybe inappropriately, but ...

"I was afraid," she said. "He died because I was afraid of ... feeling more for him."

If she was crying, she was doing it very quietly; he couldn't tell from her shoulders, but her head was down, hiding her face. He wondered what the hell he could say to make that better. He'd loved and lost, and maybe not too wisely at that, but he knew what kind of gut-ripping experience it was.

In his earpiece, Hobbes said, "Hey, buddy? It's awful quiet up there. You better not be getting busy with the redhead, we talked about redheads. Rule One, my friend."

Darien keyed the microphone on, turned partly away from Scully, and said, "Hey, man, you know I love you, but stuff it, okay?"

"Ooooh, touchy."

Darien switched the mike off. Scully lifted her head, and her eyes were clear and hard, no tears. "Hobbes?" she asked.

"He can be a little -- "

She smiled, breathtaking and fragile and strong as steel. "Like a partner?"

"Like a partner," Darien confirmed. "Half mom, half two-year-old."

Both smiling now, and the wattage on Scully's smile had gone up. Darien had a moment, one of those flash-of-daydreams that involved skin and candlelight, and had to derail it. Quickly.

"The two of you are -- " She trailed off.

He sat up straight. "No! Not -- no way. I'm completely not -- man, everybody just assumes, two guys working together -- we are definitely not -- "

She kept smiling. "I was going to say, the two of you are unusual. But feel free to keep going, that was much more entertaining."

"Oh." He slumped back down. "Unusual, right. We're certainly unusual. Not every day you meet the frickin' Invisible Man. Hey, you know that Kevin Bacon movie? Really not like that. Just thought I'd let you know."

"Thanks." Scully looked away, off into the distance. "I can see why you're so valuable to your agency. What I can't understand is why they let you run around loose. Unsupervised."

"If they had more guys with nets and tasers, they wouldn't," Darien said. He meant it as a joke, but he had the sudden feeling that if the budget ever went up at the Agency it wouldn't be all that ha-ha funny. "Anyway, it's not like we're officially here. In Washington."

"Or with me."

"Definitely not officially with you."

She sighed. "I'm used to that."

He let a couple of beats go by, and then asked, "So, feeling better?"

"Not really, but I'll cope." She seemed to realize how cold it sounded, and flashed him a quick look. "Sorry. I did need to -- just talk. I've been alone a lot. Waiting."

"How long?"

"Four months since he disappeared," she said. "It feels like a lifetime. We followed every lead, every one. Last month the Gunmen -- "

"The guys shooting at us?"

"No, the Lone Gunmen, the three men I met in the cemetery -- they came to me with what they thought was a positive identification. A man in a mental institution, severely impaired."

"But it wasn't him."

"No." She shook her head, as if she was trying to shake away a memory.

It wasn't the kind of question he was supposed to ask, but he had to. "So ... are you still in love with him?"

Strangely, it made her smile again. "Kind of an 'are you still beating your wife' question, isn't it? No matter which way I answer, you're still trapping me into an admission."

"I'm not trying to trap you into anything. I mean, it's pretty obvious that -- you know."

"I know." She kept her gaze focused on the empty TV screen across the room. "God help me, I wish I could stop."

Under that light, cool voice there was a whole ocean of torment. Darien couldn't think of anything to say to make it better.

"Fawkes," Hobbes snapped in his ear. "Listen up. I've got two guys down here, they don't have the normal sleaze look."

Darien sat up and keyed the mike. "Yeah? What kind of sleaze look do they have?"

"I'd say nine millimeter and forty-five caliber. Making for the elevator."

"So you want me to get her out?"

"Yeah, I got some spider-sense tingling here."

"Good enough for me." Darien keyed off and looked at Scully; she was already reaching for her shoulder holster and coat. "Fire escape," he said. "Hang on while I scope it out."

He moved the drapes, just enough to get a look at the rusty metal skeleton running past the window. It looked clear. It always looks clear right before they kill you. That sounded like Bobby Hobbes in his head, bad sign. But his spider-sense was tingling, too.

"Give me your hand," he said, and reached back. When he felt her fingers wrap around his, he squeezed that invisible muscle, and felt Quicksilver bleed over his body, down onto her hand, up her body. When he looked back, he saw her glowing in the invisible spectrum. "Okay, stand back."

He opened the curtains and hoped she hadn't stood in front of the window; invisible didn't matter to bullets. But nobody fired, and he wrenched up the window and stepped out into the warm afternoon air.

Metal shrieked as his weight settled on the scaffolding -- not the most comforting sound in the world. He felt Scully clambering out next to him and gestured her toward the steps.

They were halfway down, the whole stair shaking with strain, when somebody opened up with an automatic weapon. It sounded like the fiery wrath of God. Fawkes yelped and vaulted down steps, grabbing Scully on the way, as pockmarks blew out of the side of the building just a few feet over their heads, stitching down.

They jumped the last few feet, landed running. Fawkes looked back to be sure the gun was still firing at the staircase; it was, methodically raking the metal with a hail of bullets. Jesus. They were serious, all right.

"Stay out of the puddles, they'll see the footsteps," he warned her, and led her at a walk down the alley, tiptoeing past another man in a bulky jacket that must have been hiding artillery. They made the street. Darien keyed the mike again.

"Hobbes?"

"On my way!" Hobbes was running, he could hear the other agent puffing as he took stairs. "Keep your head down, buddy!"

"No, we're out, we're on the street. Don't take any chances."

He heard Hobbes stop climbing with an explosive sigh of relief. "Scared me, partner. Hell of a gunbattle going on up there."

"Yeah, they're really chewing up a defenseless fire escape," Darien said. "We're walking east, you want to catch up?"

"Be there in five."

As Darien shut off the connection he felt a tremor go through him, a phantom convulsion. Centered around the back of his neck. Oh, crap. He couldn't see the tattoo in Quicksilver mode, but he knew what it would tell him, he was burning his safety margin way too fast.

"In here," he said, and tugged Scully into the shadows of a storefront. He let the Quicksilver tingle away and heard Scully take in a deep, steadying breath. "Yeah, pretty weird, huh?"

"Interesting," she admitted. She didn't sound like a woman who'd been nearly killed, and turned invisible, and run for her life. She sounded -- clinical. "Why not stay invisible?"

"I can only use so much before I need a refill." Well, that was sort of right, and he didn't want to get into the whole consequences thing just now. Explaining that she'd committed her safety to a guy likely to go insane on her didn't seem particularly timely.

Hobbes strolled up, the picture of cool in sunglasses, and kept walking as they fell in beside him. "Nobody hurt?"

"Well, the wall needs work and we probably won't get our deposit back, but we're okay. How'd they find us?"

"Followed us," Scully said. Hobbes stuck out his chin aggressively.

"Nobody follows Bobby Hobbes."

"Somebody did."

Hobbes was about to bicker. Darien got in between them and said, "However it happened, it happened. We need to get off the street."

"I'm going back for the car," Hobbes said. "You two do some shopping."

Darien looked at the stores. X-Rated Magazines. Sex Toys. Live Sex Shows.

"For what?" he asked. "Edible underwear?"

"Whatever. Just get out of sight until I signal."

Darien was seriously thinking of the merits of invisibility again. Hobbes strolled back toward where they'd left the car – not, as it happened, in the hotel parking lot. Hobbes was careful like that. Darien looked at Scully, saw she had her eyebrows raised in a quirky, half-amused way, waiting to see what he would do.

"Crap," he muttered. "Just come on."

###

Scully attracted attention. She didn't seem to notice as she browsed through magazines that would have made Larry Flynt blush. The store was the least of the current evils, so far as Darien could tell -- reasonably clean, nobody doing the deed in the corners, not exactly the kind of place to bring your kids, but –

A touch on his shoulder made him jump. "Relax," Scully said, low-voiced and calm. "I've been in a maximum security prison full of sexual predators. I can handle a little porn."

"Why are you looking at those?"

"Research?" she asked archly. "Because it beats staring off into space, which is what you're doing, Agent Fawkes. Try not to look so obviously uncomfortable."

He picked up a videotape at random and turned it over to review what there was of a plot. The problem was that normally he wouldn't have been all that uncomfortable, and that didn't make it any easier to casually look over the selection with Agent Scully watching. She was bringing up confusing, conflicted feelings in him that were better left, well, somewhere back in another zip code.

"Fawkes." Hobbes' voice in his ear. "Outside."

"Yep," he said, and shelved the Hot Eighteen video. He jerked his chin at Scully on the way out; she seemed deep in concentration on Puritan magazine, but finally trailed him outside. He took a deep breath of air that convinced him how bad the smell had been inside. Sweat and furtive behavior made its own toxic perfume.

As he got in the car and Hobbes pulled away from the curb, Darien said, "Not a word, man, not a freakin' word."

Hobbes didn't take the bait. He looked grim. He held up something electronic that looked like a voltmeter.

"What?" Darien asked.

Scully glanced at the handheld. "Tracking device."

"You're kidding. Why? Oh, the hell with that ... When?"

"When we were in the restaurant waiting for the tow truck, they must've figured we'd give Scully a ride," Hobbes said. "Anyway, we're wired. And I've got a Lumina back there on my tail with four guys in it."

"I assume we have a plan," Darien said.

"Yeah, you throw yourself out of the car and get run over, we get away while the cops show up," Hobbes said. "Which actually, now that I think about it, is not such a bad idea ... "

"Let's go with Plan B. Which is?"

"Search me, partner."

"Well, can you lose them?"

"For now, sure, but not with that tracker in here -- "

"No, I mean just for a couple of minutes."

"Sure," Hobbes said, and veered wildly across three lanes of traffic, took an illegal left on red, screeched into a wrong-way street, and alley, and then out onto a smaller side street. "No problem."

Darien extended his wrist over the seat. Hobbes looked, looked again.

"Oh man," he breathed. "I stand corrected. Problem."

"I need the Keep," he said. "You go get her, I'll stick with Scully -- I don't think I ought to be driving, I could give road rage a whole new meaning. Keep the bug until you get well on the way, maybe that'll draw them off. What's the range on this surveillance gear?"

"Couple of blocks," Hobbes said. He was watching the rear view, and braked to a sudden hard stop. "Coast is clear. If you're bailing, buddy, you'd better hit the bricks."

"There's an abandoned building over there," Scully said. "It'll do for now."

"Back in two hours," Hobbes said as Darien and Scully got out. "Stay green, my friend."

Darien bolted for a dark alley with Scully as a car turned the corner, squealing tires; in the decaying gloom he shot another look at his tattoo.

Fading fast. Not good. He couldn't afford to use it again, not until he was sure the Keep was on her way with the counteragent.

Scully had put on professional mode, hunkering down next to him in a puddle of God-knew-what. She had her gun out, pointed at the ground the way FBI agents did, and she looked tough and capable. She nodded at him as the car sped by, and they ventured out, staying close to shadows, until the street was clear. She trailed him -- not by much -- across the street and into the building they'd spotted.

As abandoned deathtraps went, this one was okay if you liked the smell of human waste and decaying cats. But it beat a bullet, and Darien found a dark corner that didn't smell like a wino had used it for a toilet in the last day or so. Scully settled against him, gun still drawn and ready.

"So. Where's the Keep?" she asked.

"Not where, who. The Keeper. Lady with the magic juice."

"So she'll give you a recharge on the invisibility."

It was time to come clean. Well, rinse a little, anyway. Darien shifted uncomfortably. "Not -- exactly. It's more like the invisibility stuff keeps piling up in my bloodstream -- the more I use, the more I produce. So every once in a while she has to give me a shot to balance it out."

Scully looked at him for a few seconds, then asked, "And if she doesn't?" Darien didn't answer. "It's bad, isn't it?"

"I get cranky. Listen, can we drop the subject? Because it isn't like we've got the big wide world of options." He heard the stress in his voice and stopped. Pressure at the back of his head, like a forming migraine. Tremors in his muscles. Anxiety levels shot to hell. No impulse control. "Look. I say things -- do things -- anyway. You should keep an eye on me. And keep your gun kinda close."

She moved toward him, alarmed. Checked his pulse with warm, competent fingers. "Why doesn't Hobbes have the medication? Why don't you, if it's that critical?"

"Nobody but the Keep controls it or gives it. Look, don't ask, it's all part of the fun of being me." He shivered; it was cool in the building. "Why do these guys want you dead so bad?"

"Mulder gave me something," she said. "They want it back. You're running a fever."

"That's normal," he said. "What is it?"

"The thing they want back? A videotape."

"They think you've got it with you?"

"They think I know where it is, anyway. Which I do." Scully leaned forward and put her head on his chest; for a startled second he didn't know what to think, and then realized she was listening to his heartbeat. She straightened up with a frown. "I don't like that. Your heart is really pumping. There are some incredible stresses inside your body."

"Yeah, tell me about it." No impulse control. Between the porn store and the warmth of her body next to him, he was lucky he was keeping it together as well as he was. "Look, I need to -- walk around."

"Sure."

He didn't feel any better for the exercise. He kept moving because it was better than sitting still, waiting for Hobbes, waiting for his mind to start scrambling. This is your brain. This is your brain on Quicksilver. Jesus, she's really composed, like a goddamn ice queen. Even the Keep puts out more warmth than that ...

Give me a while, bet I could warm her up. Oh, Jesus, danger Will Robinson, danger, big flashing Quicksilver madness signs, bridge out up ahead ...

He froze at the sound of footsteps in the dark. Scully started to move; he put a hand out and stopped her. It didn't sound like somebody rummaging through trash or looking for a place to doss down; it sounded like a good-sized man walking with a purpose. Steathily.

Darien stepped back into ink-black shadows and saw Scully withdrawing across from him; they were both effectively invisible without, thank God, Quicksilver intervention. She was just a faint shape in the darkness, but he could feel her, somehow, taste the electric-shock tingle of her anxiety like ozone on his tongue.

... and that's crazy, Silver Surfer, so just back off the subject.

Crunch of glass somewhere to the left. A man's labored breathing, a bit of a wheeze underneath, the sharp, dirty smell of cigarette smoke clinging to him. Their assassin had stopped off for a coffin nail on the way. Darien closed his eyes and concentrated on the smell, separated it into the smoke and the rancid taint of the man's breath. Just steps away. Getting closer.

"Hey!" A blurry, drunken voice from farther away made Darien jump, and he fought to keep still. Their stalker didn't notice. He turned toward the voice, toward the shuffling, hesitant steps of an old man coming closer. "Hey, bro, I need some juice, man. Got any juice?"

"Get lost," the cigarette smoker said flatly. His voice came from a few inches below Darien's eye level, so at least he had height on the bastard, if nothing else.

"No need to get like that, I jus' wanted some juice," the old wino said, and shuffled away again. "Fuckin' asshole."

Cigarette Smoker started to turn back toward Darien, then hesitated. Something had caught his eye. He took a step toward the shadows where Scully was hidden.

Stay still, Darien told her silently. Be a ghost.

She kicked so high it was like watching a militant version of the Rockettes; she hit the man's gun hand solidly, and the piece flew out into the darkness and skittered on concrete. She was already moving on, slamming into him hard, always moving, never letting the superior strength get a hand on her. Strategy in action.

Darien heard the crunch of bone and a high thin shriek of pain. A man's body hit the ground. One last blunt smack of flesh on flesh, and silence.

Scully stood there staring down, chest heaving, glaring like a blood-crazed Valkyrie. Tiny little Scully, who'd just torn up a man twice her size and looked ready to chew him into little bite-sized pieces for dessert. With whipped cream.

Darien stepped out of the shadows and held his hands up as her eyes targeted him. Blank, wide, eyes full of some emotion he couldn't quite get.

"Easy," he said in his most gentle, careful tone. "I'm on your side."

She didn't move. He checked the pulse of the man at her feet and didn't find one. "For which I'm grateful," Darien finished.

###

It was a long couple of hours, sitting there in the dark with an unresponsive Scully and his blood Quicksilver carbonating like Canada Dry. No need to look at his tattoo to know how close he was; Darien could feel it in every fast, hard heartbeat.

If he'd had any impulse to vent any aggression at Scully, the dead body on the floor between them kept him honest.

He finally heard Hobbes' voice in his ear, distant and fuzzy with static, but blessedly there.

"... Fawkes? Come in, Fawkes ... hear me?"

"Yeah," he said aloud, and sat up straight. "Yeah, I hear you. Where are you?"

Scully came upright, too, but he was mindful of the gun in her hand and the wary, intense look on her face. She thinks I'm hearing voices.

"Hobbes," he said to her, by way of explanation. "He's close."

"Around the corner," Hobbes' voice verified. "Turning now -- " And just like that, he sounded clear as if he was in the room. "Curb service. Need some help?"

"Naw, we're good," Darien lied, and gestured Scully toward the exit. "On the way."

Somebody shot at them, out of the darkness, a loud explosion that echoed and screamed off of brick and concrete. Darien went down, reaching for Scully; she hit the concrete next to him, and he managed to pull her closer and tried to cover her with his body. She shoved him off, spun over on her back, half-rose and squeezed off about six shots in rapid succession. Shooting at muzzle flashes. Darien stayed face down.

Silence. The sharp acrid reek of gunpowder. Sweat pattering off his face onto the concrete. A sudden, urgent need to move.

A door boomed -- Hobbes coming in, the perp going out, no way to tell. Darien felt Scully's hand on his back, holding him face down. Protecting him.

"Let me up," he mumbled. She didn't. Rage exploded in his head like a white-hot sheet of fire, and he heard it in his voice as he snarled, "Let me up!"

She must have sensed the change, because she pulled back; he was faster. He grabbed her by the wrist, squeezed hard enough to drag a gasp out of her, pulled her down onto him. He knew what color his eyes were, even if she couldn't see them. And it didn't matter. God, she smelled so -- so hot. She stank of sweat and fear and something else, something better.

He felt the cold metal of her gun barrel jam in under his chin and push painfully upward. The click of metal on metal as she got ready to fire.

"I'll kill you, Fawkes," she said. "You know I will."

He laughed and it felt good, warm in the throat like blood, crazy and alive. "Go ahead," he purred. "Because if you don't I'm going to start pulling on this wrist until the it comes off, how's that?"

Footsteps. Scully knelt on his chest, her kneecap digging in painfully on his sternum, and kept the gun where it was.

"Hobbes?" she yelled. "You've got about five seconds before I blow his head off!"

"Jesus, Fawkes." It was Hobbes all right, and someone else, someone who smelled light and cold and frigidly female. The Keep, his Lady of Liquid Sanity. "It's okay, Scully, I've got him."

Blinding light in Darien's eyes. He winced and blinked, and in the instant he was off guard he felt Scully roll off his chest, her gun pull away from his throat. He didn't let go of her, even though he knew he was hurting her. Because he knew he was hurting her. Redheads bruised well. Sexy thing about redheads.

Some part of him, buried deep inside now, was screaming for help. He yelled abuse at the top of his lungs as Hobbes pinned him down and the Keep rolled up his sleeve and jammed the cold silver needle home. Cold fire along his arm, up into his shoulder, freezing him solid.

His grip on Scully's wrist weakened. She broke free.

Cold, washing over him in frigid, freezing waves. Chemical waves. Drowning waves.

"It's all right," the Keeper said in her cool, gentle British voice. "You'll be all right, Darien. Just relax. Let it help you."

"Fuck you," he gasped, and tried to fight it, tried to swim the tide.

Hobbes and the Keep dragged him down. He could still feel Scully, like an electric heat on his skin, long after the waves had frozen solid and the darkness descended.

Heat on his skin.

Then even that disappeared.

###

When he thawed out again, his first feeling was tactile. He was lying with his head in somebody's lap. Jesus, please, not Hobbes, he thought incoherently, and decided the thighs were too lush for Hobbes, and too round.

He cracked open an eyelid and saw nothing but blinding light. The serum made him light-sensitive for a while, and it was never less than agonizing, but somehow the cool hand that touched his forehead made it better.

"He's awake," said Scully's voice. He realized that the vibration he was feeling wasn't completely from the effects of the serum; he was in the back seat of a car. Driving fast. From his squinty vantage point he saw Hobbes turn to look, then turn back. The Keeper loomed over the passenger seat to stare at him in a clinical way, as if she wasn't pleased with what she saw.

"Darien?" Her voice, as always, was gentle and friendly, a please-trust-me voice that he wanted to trust, and didn't quite dare. "You had us worried."

He tried for a smile, gave it up as being too hard. Scully's hand on his forehead was nice, though. And she made a nice pillow.

And she almost blew my head off. The memory came crawling back over his skin, raising orange-peel bumps. Of course, I was threatening to rip her hand off at the time.

It was an effort, but he held Claire's eyes. "So. How am I looking?"

"Better," she said. "The redness in your sclera is almost gone. How do you feel?"

"Super," he rasped. "As usual."

"Headache?"

"I think I said as usual."

"Don't sit up," Claire warned; he tried anyway, groaned and let himself fall back down.

"Are they following?" Darien asked. He shut his eyes and concentrated on shoving the pain and anxiety all the way back, into a nice deep pit, and paving it over.

"Agent Scully's little friends?" Hobbes asked. "Nah. We lost 'em."

"They found us in the warehouse."

"So I noticed from the body count and bullets, my friend. But, voila, Agent Scully was wearing a microtransmitter. We got it out of her coat and now they ain't finding us at all."

Scully hadn't said anything since informing them he was back among the living. Darien looked up at her, but couldn't tell what she was thinking or feeling. She looked -- reserved. Contained. Quiet.

There was a brutal-looking bruise forming around her wrist.

"I'm sorry," he murmured.

"Well, you did warn me," she replied. Still the ice queen, distant as an iceberg on the horizon. "I'm glad I didn't have to shoot."

"Gee, me too." Darien tried again, carefully, and managed to sit up this time without falling down. He leaned against the opposite side of the car and wished -- for the thousandth time -- that roofs in cars could be built just about four inches higher. The next bump was going to piledrive his skill into his backbone. "So. What's the plan?"

"Again with the plan," Hobbes sighed. "Look, no offense to the lovely Agent Scully, but I think the plan's gotta be we drive her to the Hoover Building and see her safely inside, 'cause this is really not our thing, you know? Not without orders, anyway. And I already had a call from the Fat Man yelling in my ear about it."

Scully fixed her attention on him for a full five silent seconds before she said, "Yes. I understand. But don't take me to the office. Take me home."

Hobbes made a wrong-answer noise in the back of his throat. "They'll be looking for you at home. Right?"

"Let them," she said flatly. She settled back against the upholstery, and her hard, distant eyes drifted away from Hobbes back to the middle distance. "There's something I need there. If they want to take me there, let them try."

She was just getting it, Darien sensed. The loss of her partner. The determination of her enemies. And it was getting her, too.

Hobbes was protesting, but Darien knew it wasn't going to do a damn thing to change her mind.

After Hobbes' protest machine wound down, Darien asked Scully for the address. She gave it. The Keep had something to say, but was wise enough to keep quiet about it; she watched Darien, though, with eyes that were half speculation, half calculation, as if she already knew the score.

Which, being the Keep, she probably did.

"Drop me at my hotel, Bobby," she said, deliberately casual. She passed a piece of paper over the seat to Darien. "Here's where you can reach me, if you need rescuing, which I strongly suggest you try not to."

"Hot date, Keep?" Hobbes asked, and wagged his eyebrows salaciously. She smiled and kept her secrets.

She always did.

###

Scully's apartment building was in a quiet, deceptively suburban part of the city, with well-manicured grounds and friendly neighbors. Nobody said hi to the three of them as Scully, Darien and Hobbes walked up the steps and down the hall to the elevator. Maybe they had an aura or something, Darien thought; Scully looked blank as a piece of stone, Hobbes looked slightly paranoid, he probably just looked uncomfortable.

Hell, he was uncomfortable. This was a crazy idea. Crazier even than his own ideas, generally.

"Hang back," Hobbes said -- not to Scully but to Darien, which hurt. As if he caught it, Hobbes pointed to himself, Scully, then Darien. "Gun, gun, no gun. Guess which one of us hangs back. Besides, you can always, you know, if something goes wrong. Maybe save our butts."

"As usual," Darien grumbled. He hung back. Scully and Hobbes took the door in classic cop fashion, from the side, Scully manipulating her keys one-handed and at an awkward angle. Nobody shot through the door. She swung it open, counted to three, and gestured for Hobbes to go high. The two of them moved together, one smooth turn-and-point, and swept the apartment for threats.

"Clear," Scully said flatly. She and Hobbes moved off into the room. Darien cooled his heels in the hall and waited for shots.

Hobbes finally stuck his head out and said, "What're you doing?"

"Hanging back, man, you told me to hang back."

"Well, hang back in here, will ya? Jeez."

Darien came in. Scully had a nice place, kind of reserved for his taste; Martha Stewart all the way. He liked a little flavor in his decorating, but still, it was okay. Maybe she needed a little normality in her home. Sounded like she had little enough of it at work.

Scully came out of another room, gun held loosely at her side. She shot the two of them an unreadable glance.

"I think it's all right," she said. "Thanks. You can go now."

Hobbes looked at Darien. Darien looked back.

"Sure," Darien said. "Okay. Well. Thanks for the fun."

She nodded, not looking at either one of them now. Facing away, toward the open window, where a nice day was just ending in a blaze of glory.

"So we'll go, then," Hobbes said.

Still no response.

"Bye," Hobbes said, with the door half closed. She turned her head just a fraction toward him.

"Thank you," she said. It was soft, and husky, and from the heart. "I'll be fine."

Hobbes was wise enough not to respond. He just closed the door.

###

The silent conversation between Hobbes and Fawkes had gone something like this:

Fawkes: So I'm staying, you know that, right?

Hobbes: Remember Rule One, my friend.

So while Hobbes had been having his one-sided conversation to Scully's back, Darien had quietly Quicksilvered and walked into Scully's bedroom, found a likely closet, and shook off the invisibility while Hobbes left.

He didn't hear Scully moving around. Maybe she was watching out the window to see if Hobbes really left, which meant she'd notice the lack of a certain gangly guy next to him. But no, he heard her now, walking into the bedroom, the rustle of fabric, the dull thump of a gun landing on the bed.

He risked a quick look out between the closet's wooden slats.

Scully was sitting on the bed, staring into space. Not, as he'd kind of hoped, undressing. It looked like she was waiting for something.

Waiting, he realized, for somebody to come kicking in the door and try to shoot her. It was going to be a long night for Scully.

She said, without looking anywhere in particular, "You might as well come out, Fawkes, I know you're in here."

So much for the stealth. Darien held his breath and didn't move.

"I'll give you thirty seconds before I get the fire extinguisher and start spraying the room."

Well, if he stayed in the closet, he was probably fine. Probably.

And then she turned and looked right at the closet.

"Out," she said. "Now. I have a gun."

He swung it open and stepped out. Feeling red-faced, even if he wasn't. Scully looked at him with no particular expression, as unreadable as a beautiful woman could be.

"I don't need another martyr," she said. "I don't want anybody else in this."

"Too bad," he said. "I'm in it. Hobbes is in it. We're not just going back home and pouring you a memorial drink at the bar."

She stood up, collected her gun, and walked over to him. She stopped about a foot away, minimum safe distance, and even though she didn't raise the gun he felt it pulling his attention like a magnet.

"I don't even know you," she said. "You struck up an acquaintance with me in the gym. You deliberately rammed my car. You insinuated yourself into my -- "

"Hey, I did not deliberately ram your car!"

"You insinuated yourself into my life. And I don't believe for a minute that somebody who can turn invisible works for the Department of Health and Human Services."

Now the gun was up, and the mask was gone. Scully looked human, and scared, and mortally angry. Words boiled out of her like steam under pressure.

"Who are you working for? The shapeshifters? Cancerman? Krycek? Are you with Alex Krycek? Is he the one who killed Mulder? Answer me!"

Darien held up his hands. I surrender. "Please don't shoot me," he said. "I don't know what you're talking about. And yeah, it's deeply embarrassing to be working for Health and Human Services, but there are worse things, there's this group named Chrysalis who want to take over the world, and -- "

"Shut up." She punctuated it with a sharp poke to his chest with the gun. "You want the tape? Here! Take the goddamn tape!"

She reached out to a video rack standing against the wall and pulled out a videotape. Nothing special, plain Sony box, with a handwritten label that read Melissa's 18th birthday. She threw it at him. Darien fumbled it from hand to hand and finally got hold of it. "Look, I don't want -- "

"I don't care what you want!" she said. "Jesus, why can't you leave me along, what the hell does it matter anymore, he's dead, Mulder's dead, the bastard, he didn't even say -- "

Scully was crying. Crying soundlessly, huge tears rolling down her cheeks, glittering hard in her eyes. Her gun hand was shaking.

"Scully -- "

"Don't call me that!" She screamed it at him, face gone white, and for a wild second he thought she was going to shoot but she threw the gun on the bed and stepped up against him, heat along his body like a movable fever.

She kissed him. She had to stand on her toes to do it, and it caught him by surprise. The videotape felt heavy as lead and he dropped it to fill his hands with her. Her lips were full and wet and incredibly erotic, and her mouth had a dark undertone like raspberries, something full-fleshed and ripe and tartly sweet. There was no possibility of not responding to that. He leaned back against the closet door and kissed her back, as hungry as she was and maybe, come to think of it, hungrier, and the body under his hands turned taut and feverish with heat. Her jacket slid off practically of its own accord. He could feel skin through the thin fabric of her shirt, more than that, he could feel the hard swell of her nipples against his chest.

This is not good, some part of his mind warned. Somebody's trying to kill her. This is not the right time. Hell, Hobbes is right, with this woman, there is no right time.

He agreed, and it didn't matter a bit because his body was on its own secret mission. She slid her hands up under his loose shirt, found skin, and it was like an electric shock zipping down his spine directly to his groin, and if he hadn't been fully aroused before, he was more than hard now. She lifted up his shirt and her lips and tongue explored, lingered on his tight nipples and lapped warm wet circles around them until he thought his legs were going to collapse.

And he still hadn't touched her skin. He unbuttoned her shirt, skimmed it off her shoulders and down her arms, reached behind her for the bra clasp. Couldn't find it. Scully laughed strangely into his skin and pulled back, flushed, tear-tracks still damp on her cheeks.

It was a front-hook bra. He held her eyes as he undid the catch, and in the instant his hands covered the hot satin heat of her breasts he saw her pupils expand to drink him in, and he knew they weren't going to stop now. Oh no. Not for hours, not until every inch of skin had been tasted and touched and tormented.

He carried her to the bed and laid her down. In thirty seconds he had her naked. It lasted a long, dreamlike time, hot velvet and cream and the sound of her breath catching on a moan. His senses were overloaded with riches. When he couldn't control the Quicksilver anymore, the cold poured out of him and over them both. Somehow, that increased the feeling of being with her, in her, the two of them lost in a silver acid-dream world so far from the pain of reality.

The moment of hot, sweat-sealed release came as a storm, a silver storm, and Jesus it felt better than anything he'd ever felt in his life.

And it went on a long, long time.

He collapsed panting on the bed, her gun a cold uncomfortable lump under his hip, and watched the Quicksilver melt off of their bodies. She was flushed and damp and still caught in the throes of her own orgasm, and he watched her with something like adoration.

She rolled slowly toward him, red hair dragging over the wrinkled bedspread, and into his embrace. Crying again, desolately. Somewhere deep in the pit of his stomach he knew what she would never say. You're just a replacement. One tall, dark man for another. One Fawkes for a Fox.

He knew that, and in this one silent moment where the pain was pushed far away, it didn't matter.

###

He showered fast and alone while she made coffee in her neat, sterile kitchen. No trace of the wild animal Scully in this mannered Martha Stewart facade, and he missed that. He knew he'd never see it again. Do I feel used? Yes. Am I sorry? No.

He was, he reflected, a guy. Being used had some real advantages for him.

He draped a towel around his neck, looked over Scully's gel and mousse and decided he'd have to let his hair go its own way. Still warm from the shower, he padded on bare feet back to the bed and retrieved his jeans from the floor.

As he stepped into them, he heard voices from the other room. Scully's voice, low and controlled. He looked at the bed and saw the gun was missing. She was armed, at least, but maybe not in control. Dammit, I never should have let down my guard. The idea that she was in danger because of him made him almost sick with rage.

As he went invisible, he could almost hear the Keep scolding him. What a waste of Quicksilver, she'd say. You know, the gland is not invulnerable. Overusing it isn't wise.

She'd said it before, she'd say it again, but he wanted a look at who Scully was entertaining in the living room.

It was Hobbes. Hobbes stood very stiffly near the couch, holding a cup of coffee and looking distinctly uncomfortable. Darien breathed a sigh of relief and flipped the Visibility switch. He'd just shaken off the last of the silver when he walked out into the living room, still naked from the waist up, and behind him heard the unmistakable click of a gun coming off safety. He froze and put his hands up. Jesus, what an amateur, no wonder Hobbes looks so spooked.

Scully's face was white. Not pale, white. Her eyes looked black with distress.

Hobbes hadn't moved. He looked at Fawkes, shifted his eyes behind him to where the gunman apparently stood, and said, "Uh, Fawkes, I think you can put your arms down now."

Behind Darien, a light -- but not happy -- male voice said, "You made a lot of friends while I was gone, Scully."

Darien put his arms back at his sides and turned. There was a man sitting in the leather armchair next to the cherry bookcase, and he looked like shit. Exhausted, bruised, deep blue stains of weariness under the hazel eyes. As he folded up out of the chair Darien realized he was tall, as tall as he was. The suit had seen better days. He smelled of stale sweat and a lack of laundry facilities.

"Fox Mulder," Darien said. It wasn't a guess. Mulder lowered the gun, but there was a brilliant, piercing look in the hazel eyes that didn't look friendly. "Uh -- Darien Fawkes."

Hobbes cleared his throat. "I already explained. About, you know, the chemicals that got on you and how you had to wash them off. From the warehouse."

Scully was fully dressed. She looked, except for the pallor, completely FBI-issue. It was impossible to see in her the savagely needy woman he'd spent the better part of an hour entwined with on her bed, and that hurt. Badly.

"Yeah, the chemicals," Darien said. He hoped he was keeping all of the memories out of his expression. "Thanks for the loan of your shower, Agent Scully."

"No problem," she murmured. She stepped forward and handed him a cup of coffee. Her fingers brushed his, and her eyes tried desperately to tell him something. Something he already knew. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.

"Thanks," he said, and stepped back to sip his coffee. It was good, a little strong, but full-flavored. Like Agent Scully. He blew on the hot surface and held the stare with her. "I thought he was dead."

"Rumors of my death were partly right," Mulder said. "They were looking for me, I think they found one of my clones. One of the ones Cancerman was cooking up. Anyway, it bought me some time. Sorry it looked bad."

"Well, we're glad you're okay," Hobbes offered. Darien wasn't, but there was no point in saying so. Mulder was back, Scully was his partner, and this was the end of it.

"I need the tape, Scully," Mulder said. Scully's eyes snapped to him, and a spark of temper flared in those beautiful eyes.

"That's it? You show up after four months and tell me you want the tape, like I'm your safety deposit box?" She went around Fawkes and right up to Mulder, right in his face -- or at her height, chest -- and faced him down. "You vanished, Mulder. You disappeared, what was I supposed to think, what was I supposed to do -- "

Mulder holstered his gun and gently put his hands on Scully's shoulders. Bent forward and touched his head to hers in a gesture more intimate than anything Darien had done with her. She trembled. Threaded her hands in the lapel of his coat and held it convulsively. It was not an embrace, really. But the sparks that jumped could have set the room on fire.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I was on the run, it was too dangerous to contact you. It was only after they caught me that they realized I didn't have the tape, and you did. I tried to stop them. I got back as fast as I could. I'm sorry I put you in danger, Scully, I'm so sorry."

They swayed together, then apart. Never quite touching. She pulled in a deep breath and moved back.

"What now?" she asked. Mulder was looking at her in a way that Darien recognized. Hungry. Desperate. Not wanting to admit to it. Maybe Mulder knew, or sensed, that fire in her that had burned out of control just a little while ago. Or burned still.

Mulder cleared his throat. "We turn over the tape to Skinner," he said. "Let him mop up the problem. And then we go back to business as usual."

That was, Darien thought, maybe the cruelest thing he'd ever heard anybody say. Talk about denial, these two had written the instruction book. Scully was already armoring over, becoming the ultra-professional. Mulder's passion had subsided to a glow far back in his eyes. Playing the roles.

"Oh good." Scully's sarcasm was withering. "Back to normal. Alien invaders and man-eating bugs."

"Give me a break, Scully, there haven't been any man-eating bugs. Well, not many. Right?"

"Define many, Mulder."

They kept it up, and it was like watching two people bleed to death slowly, unconscious of their wounds. Jesus, stop it, say something real. Hobbes nudged his arm, and jerked his head toward the bedroom door. Hobbes talked out of the side of his mouth. "Get dressed. Hurry up." Always practical, Hobbes.

He did, and smoothed the bedspread as best he could. When he came back, Mulder and Scully were at the kitchen counter, going through a file folder marked CONFIDENTIAL and stamped with some kind of red letter.

Scully looked up at him. He looked back. It seemed to last a long time. Mulder picked up his coffee cup and walked casually in Darien's direction.

"See you, Fawkes," Scully said.

He smiled. "Maybe."

"Maybe not," Mulder said, just for Darien's ears. They locked eyes, and there was nothing friendly in Mulder's look. Cold, dark dislike. Mulder knew, all right. "Right?"

"You screw it up again, maybe she will," Darien said. Quietly. Just two guys talking, with murder just out of sight.

"I won't. And she won't," Mulder replied. He smiled, and it entirely for Scully's benefit. Just two guys talking, having a friendly conversation.

Darien offered his hand. Mulder took it. Both smiling now, but the crushing pressure of the handshake was more honest.

"Don't hurt her again," Darien said, and walked away. He didn't look back. It didn't matter. He knew he'd see her every time he closed his eyes, and he knew that was all he'd ever see of her, ever again. Sometimes you just had to let people bleed.

Hobbes could be very wise sometimes, because he had nothing to say.

Nothing at all.

###

I've been thinking about quotes that might apply to Scully, but only one seems really appropriate, somehow: "Love is the only game that is not called on account of darkness." I'm pretty sure the anonymous guy who said it meant something else, but I can't stop thinking about the darkness in Scully's eyes, in Mulder's, maybe even the darkness in me when I think about her. It was that darkness that pulled us together.

I hope Scully – yes, and Mulder, the bastard – get out of the dark sometime and lay down together in sunlight. After that much time spent in the shadows, they deserve it.

But lucky me, I've got darkness to spare.




Crossovers generally aren't my thing, but heck, it seemed like such a fun idea that I had to give it a shot. Outcast agents unite!