His older brother had taken one of his favorite toys and was methodically stripping it down, laying its innards bare on his work desk.
He screamed and shouted and tried to grab the toy away before any more damage could be done; Kevin was successful in fending him off with one hand while continuing to decimate the toy with the other. From somewhere down the hall, he heard his Aunt Celia’s voice calling out for them to stop fighting.
Kevin turned to stick out his tongue, he tackled his brother and they fell to the floor in a tangled heap. He landed on top of Kevin, his hands going around his brother’s throat.
Kevin suddenly transformed into his partner, they were not lying in their room anymore, but inside a smashed phone booth in a gravel driveway. He was choking Hobbes, he wanted to kill him. He felt his hand tightening around his partner’s throat, felt the insane thrill that filled his mind, heard the demon laugh.
Darien was jolted harshly from his bed to land heavily on his wooden floor, for a heart-stopping moment he had no idea where he was. It felt as if his entire world were being torn apart at the seams and he was half conscious of the familiar tickle of quicksilver coating his sweat-slickened body. His head hurt and something moist and sticky was running into his eyes, blurring his monotone vision. Next to his windows, Darien’s CD stand toppled heavily to the floor, sending his collection of songs skittering across the floor. The full-length mirror next to the bathroom door fell next, crashing to the floor in an explosion of glass and wood. In his kitchen, dishes and glasses were knocked from their shelves to shatter like small bombs on the hard floor.
The noise was tremendous.
Darien allowed the quicksilver to flake off his body, surveying the carnage taking place around him. A single thought broke through the haze clouding his mind.
“Aw crap,” he muttered as he got unsteadily to his feet. His small apartment continued to buck and heave under him and Darien wondered if it would be completely torn apart. He stumbled over to a nearby table, bits of glass and splinters of wood biting into the bare soles of his feet, causing him to hiss and swear under his breath. Darien reached out and grabbed a cage from off the table, he had always heard that you should stand under a door-jamb in the event of an earthquake. As he cradled his pet’s cage close to him he had the sudden, incredulous image of the city lying in ruin with just door- jamb’s left standing.
As he propped himself in the entrance to his bathroom, the tumultuous shaking suddenly stopped. The intense silence that followed was enough to make Darien’s ears ring. He stayed where he was for a few more moments, not trusting the sudden peace. After a few silent moments, he gently rested the cage on the ground at his feet, then stood with his hands on his hips and surveyed the damage.
Various items had been knocked from their rightful places and lay strewn around his apartment, glass mixed with wood and plaster on the floor, the windows by his bed had been blown in and there were several large cracks on the wall and ceiling over his bed. Darien sighed and glanced down at his small pet, “Well buddy,” he whispered into the quiet, “hell of a way to start the day.”
A small squeak was the only reply.
Somewhere in the distance, sirens began to wail. The city was beginning to recover from the jolt and get its bearings. Rescue crews were being dispatched to tend to the wounded and try to make sense of the chaos.
An arc of pain ripped through his skull, causing Darien to hiss. He put a hand to the side of his head and quickly pulled it away when he felt the sticky wetness. By sheer force of habit, he reached for the light switch on his bathroom wall and when nothing happened he swore under his breath. The only illumination was the pale moonlight streaming in through the broken windows. Darien put his hand to his head again, feeling the warmth of blood oozing between his fingers. The pain in his head was becoming constant now, like a separate heartbeat. The world swam for a moment and Darien leaned heavily against the door-jamb, he had no idea how badly he was hurt or how much blood he had lost. He realized that he needed medical attention, needed to get to—
He suddenly wondered if she had somehow been injured in the ‘quake. Where was she? Her home? The lab? Had she been caught while in her car? What about Hobbes? He knew his partner had been at home because they had both grabbed burgers before calling it a night. Darien was suddenly very worried about them, he needed to know that they were all right, but how was he going to drive around when he could barely stand?
The sudden banging at his front door startled him and he jumped, causing his head to scream in protest.
Darien almost laughed at the sound of his partner’s voice. How the hell had he managed to get here already?
Hobbes began banging on his front door again and Darien moved to answer when vertigo grabbed him and seemingly yanked the world out from under his feet. He gasped and felt himself sliding down the door-jamb. As if from a distance, he heard the sound of his front door being kicked in and saw the bright beam of a flashlight slicing the semi-darkness. Hobbes found him almost instantly, coming to kneel beside his partner as glass crunched beneath his feet. He shone the flashlight at Darien, causing sharp barbs of pain to slice behind the other man’s eyes. Darien groaned and turned his head away from the intrusive light.
“What took you so long, Hobbes?” he joked.
His partner ignored the comment, “Jesus, Fawkes, you look like Hell.” Without waiting for a reply, Hobbes ducked into the bathroom and grabbed a towel, re-emerging to quickly apply it to his partner’s head wound. “We need to get you to the lab, have the Keep take a look at you.”
Darien glanced up at Hobbes from beneath the towel, his partner still had on his green shirt and khaki pants from the day before, plus a few wrinkles. “Claire’s okay?”
The smaller agent nodded as he swept his flashlight around the destroyed apartment, “Yeah, I used my cell to call her cell. She’s shaken up, but not hurt. She’s heading over to the lab to take stock, see what was damaged.” Hobbes brought the light back to Darien’s bloody form, “Which brings me back to my original statement, we need to get you over there so she can take a look at you.”
Darien nodded as he held the towel to his head, he raised one hand to point toward the other room. “My jacket and shoes are by the kitchen table”
Hobbes went to retrieve the requested items then waited patiently as Darien got dressed, moving slowly so as not to aggravate his already pounding head.
As Darien emerged from his apartment complex, Hobbes beside him with a steady hand on his elbow, he had to admit to the feeling of shock and surprise at seeing the destruction around him. The stores across the street from him were missing their roofs and their front windows had been shattered, several light poles were bent and lying haphazardly along the street, electrical wires that had been torn down lay like snakes, spitting and hissing on the ground. The sidewalk had large cracks in it and in some places had even separated, causing huge holes to form. Steam rose with a quiet hiss from equally large cracks in the main road and there were large chunks of concrete scattered like boulders everywhere. Sirens continued to wail in the distance.
Darien spared a glance back at his building, save for some large chunks of brick that were missing and the occasional missing window, there didn’t appear to be too much damage to it on the outside.
“Jesus,” Darien mumbled as his partner guided him over to the company van.
“San Andreas fault, actually,” Hobbes replied as he slammed the passenger door and hurried to clamber in beside his partner. “Not a big ‘quake, relatively small”
Darien continued to stare at the battlefield before him, “A small earthquake did all this?”
Hobbes started the van and began to make his way cautiously down the street, in the direction of the Agency. “You’ve lived in California nearly your whole life and never experienced a ‘quake before this?”
Darien glanced out the window and shook his head, “Just lucky, I guess.” He took the time to study his reflection in the glass of the passenger window. He had a rather large gash on the side of his head extending from above his left eye down to his temple, his hair was matted with blood and was sticking up worse than usual and his white tank top was stained crimson. He looked more like a casualty of war, which was appropriate, he decided, given the destruction outside.
He placed the towel back on his head and leaned back in his chair, groaning slightly as the little man in his head jabbed knives into the backs of his eyes.
“You okay over there?” Hobbes asked, expertly dodging some debris in the road.
“Oh sure,” Darien replied dryly, “never better”
He opened his eyes slightly and turned his head so he could gaze out the window. He was simultaneously amazed and horrified at image after image of destruction that slipped by him, almost as if in a dream. He felt Hobbes battling with the van as his partner fought to get them safely to the Agency and to the lab.
Funny how the thought of it being destroyed sent tiny shivers of fear through Darien. He wanted nothing more in the world than to see that room blown to kingdom come, and now that it appeared he had gotten his wish fright had gripped his heart in its icy hand. That lab, though he hated to admit it, was his sanctuary, his only real link to his sanity. He snorted under his breath, drawing a curious glance from Hobbes. If someone had told him several months ago that he would be the subject of a government experiment and lose control over his own life, he would’ve laughed in their face and told them to quit reading so many conspiracy theories. Funny how life had a way of throwing little ironies at you.
His head twinged at him, but the pain was different. A knock. A warning. Darien sucked in a breath as he casually turned his right hand over in his lap and glanced down at the monitor.
Four segments remained green.
He was due for his weekly shot of counteragent. As Darien glanced out the window and focused on his own reflection in the glass, he suddenly hoped that his genie had stayed in its damn bottle and not granted him his wish. He prayed that the lab he loathed to the depths of his soul had been spared the destruction he saw around him.
Both he and Hobbes muttered under their breath as the lab door slid aside and granted them an unobstructed view of the inside. Claire was standing in the middle of the room, hands on her hips and a scowl on her face.
“I’m afraid that my statement was a bit more .. colorful,” she stated simply, shaking her head.
Darien took several tentative steps inside, his eyes searching the floor of the lab where several items lay shattered and broken. Across the room the refrigeration unit had come loose from its housing and lay at an odd angle, all of its contents reduced to a ruined pile on the floor. He immediately noticed the familiar blue liquid of his counteragent spreading in a slow circle on the ground. He glanced up at Claire, one hand still holding the towel to his head, “Please tell me that you have more,” he whispered.
The Keeper sighed and made her way across the lab, glass crunching under her feet. “All the counteragent I had was being stored in the refrigeration unit,” she told him, raising her hands to take the towel away and wincing when she saw his wound.
“Yeah, but you can make more, right?” Hobbes interjected as Claire led Darien toward the familiar brown chair. “I mean, you got the means to formulate more of the stuff, right?”
As the Keeper sat Darien down and made her way over to a nearby sink, she glanced over her shoulder at Hobbes. “You see all the glass on the floor?” she asked him, at his nod she continued, “Those were my instruments for making more counteragent.” She turned away to gather up some items and then made her way back over to Darien, who was staring at her with a mixture of horror and disbelief.
Hobbes came to stand beside his partner, his brown eyes wide. “So,” he began, “what are you trying to tell us.”
Claire sighed heavily as she began to methodically clean Darien’s head wound, eliciting a hiss from him. “What I’m trying to say, Mr. Hobbes, is that our current situation is very grim indeed. The counteragent I had ready has been destroyed and most of my means of formulating more is lying in shards beneath your feet.”
Darien hissed again and jerked involuntarily under her administrations, “So this is it, then?” he asked quietly, “This is the end of the line for me? This is where the ride stops?”
“Shut up, Fawkes,” Hobbes practically spat, “Nothing’s over, right Keep?”
Claire was quiet for a moment as she applied a sterile gauze bandage to Darien’s head, “It won’t be easy,” she began, “but I’m sure I could rig up something temporarily to help me formulate enough counteragent to help Darien through the next couple of days.”
Hobbes actually grinned over at Darien, “There, ya see? The Keep’s gonna put something together and take care of you.”
Darien didn’t take his eyes off his Keeper, “Can you do that?” he asked her, his brown eyes urgent, pleading.
She sighed at him as she cleaned up the used items, “I think so,” she told him, “it won’t be easy, but …”
“But I’ll go crazy if you don’t,” Darien finished for her. As if on cue, his head twinged at him and he squinted his eyes shut, ducking his head reflexively to the side as if to ward the pain away.
“What should we do?” Hobbes asked, his eyes darting from Darien to Claire and back to Darien.
The Keeper sighed as she tossed some things away, she then turned and leaned against the sink, folding her arms in front of her. “I’m not going to be able to keep you in here, Darien. My lab has been destroyed and I simply don’t have the means to .. restrain you in here.”
A slow feeling of dread slowly settled on Darien as he sat in the lab chair and gazed at Claire, standing so casually across the room from him, as if they were talking about the weather or the latest news headline instead of his impending battle of wills. He knew what she was talking about, the room. The padded room. The one she had first stuck him in all those months ago. He hated that room, he hated the very thought of it almost as much as he hated the lab. Just the idea of being stuck back in there made the bile rise in his throat. The very images it conjured up, the feelings of helplessness and the realization that came with knowing you were losing your grip on reality terrified Darien. He didn’t want to go back in there. God, he’d rather die.
“Claire,” he whispered to her.
She shook her head, tucking a piece of blond hair behind her ear, “I’m sorry Darien, but it’s my only recourse. You are going to reach quicksilver madness and I have no way of ---“
“Whoa, whoa,” Hobbes interrupted, holding his hands in the air and moving to stand at the base of the chair Darien was sitting in, “If you’re going to make up some more counteragent how can you be sure that Fawkes definitely will go psycho?”
Claire turned her gaze from her patient to the smaller agent, “It takes me 48 hours to formulate a new batch of serum,” she told him, speaking slowly, “and that’s when I have all of my equipment at my disposal.” She unfolded her hands to take in the entire lab, “Now that most of it is now decorating my floor, it will take me even longer to put something together. I will not have a batch of counteragent ready before Darien reaches madness.” She paused to make eye contact with Darien, “I’m sorry.”
The lab grew deathly quiet, no one saying a word. Darien could feel two pairs of eyes on him, studying him, pitying him. He hated them for it. He glanced up and focused on Claire who was still leaning against the sink, “You do what you have to do to get that counteragent ready,” he said to her, his voice soft, “And I’ll do what I have to do.”
The Keeper pushed away from her position, her eyes never leaving Darien’s face. “You can stay here for as long as you can control your actions,” she said, her tone hard. “However, once the quicksilver madness progresses to where you no longer have control, I will have no choice but to restrain you.”
Darien stared at her for a few heartbeats before he shook his head, defeated, resigned. He knew that she was right, of course, once the madness took hold of him he would have no control over what he said or did. His dark side would take the reins and he would have a front row seat as he spiraled into insanity, courtesy of his friend the gland.
He felt eyes on him and he looked up and over into the sympathetic gaze of his partner. “I’m fine, Hobbes,” he said, reaching back to massage the back of his neck.
“Says you,” his friend replied, “but our pal the monitor says otherwise.”
Darien glanced down at the tattoo and saw that only two green segments remained; he vaguely wondered just when he had become used to living his life in segments. All segments green, life is good. One green segment left, life was not so good. He suddenly hated himself and everything he had become, hated the fact that he now lived within the very confines he had once rejected with such abandon, worked for the very government he had once snubbed his nose at. Irony certainly had a wicked sense of humor.
Razor sharp pain exploded near the base of his skull, causing him to gasp in surprise. No matter how many times he experienced it, lived through it, he would never get used to the horrific agony the excess quicksilver in his system caused. It felt as if every nerve ending in his brain suddenly exploded.
He felt a pair of strong arms grab his shoulders, heard the gentle voice of his partner talking to him. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, beating the demon back until it was nothing more than a dull ache.
“Good job, partner,” Hobbes said as Darien slowly sat up, breathing hard.
The sudden sound of a ringing phone seemed almost surreal at that moment, but Claire made her way over to her desk and opened her cell phone. She spoke into it for a few moments, glancing over at Darien and Hobbes every so often.
“That was the Official,” she told them as she made her way back into the main lab, “he wanted a damage report.”
“What did you tell him?” Hobbes queried, resting a hand on the back of the lab chair.
“The truth,” Claire replied, once again returning to her task at hand, “that our latest batch of counteragent has been destroyed and that I was trying to synthesize a new batch, but that most of my equipment no longer functioned.”
“Bet the fat man loved that,” Hobbes snorted, “It’s gonna cost a fortune to replace this stuff”
“There goes your raise, eh Hobbes?” Darien quipped, forcing himself to smile.
His partner threw a glare up at him, “Smartass,” he whispered.
“So is the boss coming in?” Darien asked, ignoring Hobbes’ statement.
Claire shook her head as she studied a cracked test-tube, “No, seems that the roads are closed where he is, he’s effectively trapped. He’ll maintain phone contact with us, though.”
Darien went to say more when the demon lashed out at him again, raging against him like a hurricane. He could not hold back the cry of pain as white-hot claws raked through his mind, he could hear the evil laughing at the back of his brain. Licking its lips hungrily at its impending victory. Taunting him, teasing him. Darien could see the tide of hate and fear he kept in check rising quickly and with terrifying ferocity. With all his strength, Darien fought back, forced the wall of his sanity to hold, to not crumble against the onslaught.
The pain ebbed slowly, not completely vanishing and Darien nearly passed out from the relief. “Hobbes,” he gasped, “Hobbes”
Somehow, Darien found that he was on the floor of the lab. He imagined that during the last episode he had fallen out of the lab chair. He felt bits of glass crunching beneath his head as the face of his partner suddenly appeared, “I’m here, Fawkes, I’m right here.”
“Hobbes I can’t do this,” Darien whispered, his voice agonized, his eyes wide, “I can’t –-“
“Yes you can, Fawkes, you can and you will,” his partner interrupted, anger in his voice. “Bobby Hobbes doesn’t partner up with quitters.”
The demon attacked again and Darien convulsed at the assault, his face the picture of agony, the tendons standing out in sharp relief along his neck as he fought an inner battle for control.
“Mr. Hobbes,” the gentle voice of the Keeper cut through the situation like a knife, the smaller agent spared her a glance and saw that she was holding a straitjacket, “I suggest that we put this on Darien before it’s too late and transport him to the holding cell."
Several angry replies came quickly to Hobbes’ lips, but he held his tongue. The Keeper was only doing her job, and, damn her, she was right. He waited by Darien’s side until his partner sagged in relief, his eyes closing as he took in ragged breaths, filling his oxygen starved lungs.
Hobbes got slowly to his feet and took the device from Claire, not meeting her eyes. As he once again knelt by his partner, he could feel Darien looking at him with disgust and loathing.
“Sorry partner,” was all he could think of to say.
After several moments of silence, Darien pushed himself up onto his elbows, gazing through bloodshot eyes at his reluctant partner. “It’s okay, Hobbes,” he said at last, his voice soft. “It only gets worse from this point on, precautions need to be taken.”
Darien got slowly to his feet as Hobbes shot the Keeper a withering glare, “Fawkes is not gonna be in that room long, right?”
Claire returned the angry gaze with an almost icy silence, “I’ll work as quickly as I
can, Mr. Hobbes,” she finally replied, “ I don’t want him in there any more than you do.”
“Oh no?” the smaller man retorted as he and Fawkes turned to exit the lab,
“Who’s the one that suggested it?”
The lab door slammed shut behind them, cutting off any reply.
The walk down the hallway was a quiet one, each man lost in his own thoughts. As they neared the holding cell, Darien’s footsteps faltered and he turned to look down at his partner, “I always told myself I’d rather die than go back in there.”
Hobbes looked up at Darien, the straitjacket hanging almost casually from one hand, “Don’t worry, partner, you won’t be in there long. The Keep’s gonna get you your shot and fix you right up. Besides, I’ll be there with you.”
As Hobbes reached out to open the door, Darien shook his head, “No Hobbes, no way.”
The smaller man stuck his head in through the door to take a quick glance inside before pulling back out to stare up at Fawkes, “What? No to what?”
Darien turned his head to stare into the painfully white padded room, “I don’t want you going in there with me, I don’t want you to … to see me … “ he stammered and faltered, leaving the statement hanging in the air.
With sudden clarity, Hobbes realized that Darien didn’t want him to be there when he lost control, when he was no longer able to restrain the demon that was lurking behind his eyes. Hobbes knew that his partner was a proud man; he showed it in the way he did his job, with the tenacity he seemed to be approaching each assignment now. As if he suddenly had a purpose in life, a purpose he never had before, and every time the gland asserted its control, it stripped away a little bit more of that pride every time.
Darien cried out suddenly and grabbed the back of his head, his knees giving out. Hobbes reacted quickly, reaching out to grab his partner’s arms and easing him gently to the ground. He spoke to Darien quietly yet firmly, his voice a steady monotone of support and friendship, the lifeline that his friend needed to find his way through the maelstrom that was trying to devour his mind.
Hobbes watched as Darien struggled to beat the impending monster back, a beast that was clamoring at the walls of his partner’s mind, trying to break in and bring the wrath of Hell with it.
With a choked sob, Darien fell forward. Hobbes held him as he gasped and shook, his body reeling with the effort it took to hang on for just a little bit longer. “You’re doin’ great, partner,” he told him, “I know you can do this.”
“That makes one of us,” Darien replied, pulling back to give the other man a weak smile.
Hobbes helped him get slowly to his feet before motioning to the room behind them with his head, “Whaddaya say we go take a look at the place?”
After a brief moment of hesitation, Darien finally nodded. It was inevitable now, and he knew it. The demon was coming, he could hear its insane laughter; cruel and hard. He could hear it whispering hateful things in his mind, felt the maniacal thrill of victory rising closer and closer to the surface.
He stepped into the padded room, Hobbes right beside him. The brilliant white caused him to squint and blink a few times.
“See? This ain’t so bad,” his partner quipped beside him, his voice light, “A few curtains, maybe a throw rug … “
Darien turned to stare at him. He knew that Hobbes was trying to make light of the situation, to ease the tension and part of him appreciated it, but the quickly growing darker side wanted to rip his head off for even suggesting that he could live in here. It would be so easy, just a quick twist …
Darien turned away and took a deep breath, clenching his hands into fists at his side. “Hobbes?” he whispered. As his partner came to stand beside him, he turned to look at him, “You better get that thing on me before it’s too late.”
Hobbes glanced down at the straitjacket he still held and sighed, resigned. Darien remained stoically quiet as his partner methodically slipped the device around him and tightened the buckles. Hobbes kept his gaze on the task at hand, actively not looking up into his partner’s eyes, not wanting to see the defeat or the fear that he knew was lurking there.
“Tighter,” Darien said suddenly, his voice strained.
Hobbes spared him a quick glance, “What?”
“You need to make it tighter,” he continued, staring straight ahead, his brow furrowed, “you don’t want me busting out of this thing, do you?” He finished the statement by casually glancing down at the smaller agent. Hobbes couldn’t stop the sudden intake of breath when he found himself starting into blood-red orbs instead of his partner’s normal brown eyes.
Suddenly urgent, Hobbes quickly yanked on several buckles, making sure they were tight and secure. When he was done, he took several hesitant steps backward, keeping a wary eye on his partner.
“I think you should leave now, Hobbes,” Darien whispered, bowing his head until it almost touched his chest.
The other man shook his head, folding his hands across his chest, “I’m not going anywhere, Fawkes,” he replied, “I’m here for you, I’m not leaving.”
Darien turned suddenly, fury evident on his features, “I’m not some freak show you can just sit and stare at you bastard,” he spat. “Is that how you get your thrills, watching me lose my mind?”
Hobbes never moved, he knew it wasn’t his friend talking but the beast within. He’d let it talk, let it spout every vile thing it could think of, he didn’t care.
Darien crumpled suddenly, falling heavily to his knees, his face the picture of pure agony and monumentous effort. Hobbes moved forward and knelt in front of his partner, not saying anything, simply allowing his presence to speak for itself.
They stayed like that for quite some time; Darien rocking slowly back and forth, his head bent in concentration as he waged a silent war with himself. Hobbes in front of him, offering his partner the only thing he could. His friendship.
Eventually, the demon began to gain the upper hand. Darien had begun to pace the interior of the padded room, eyes blazing with hate and fury. Hobbes had retreated to a safe position near the door to the room, he was not ready to leave just yet. He wanted to show Darien, and he knew that his partner was still in there somewhere, that he was as good as his word. He would not leave him unless he absolutely had too.
Then that time came as well, when common sense ruled out camaraderie and Hobbes knew that he could no longer remain in the padded room. To do so would only put his life in danger. He had quickly and quietly retreated into the observation room where he would still be able to keep a constant eye on his friend. His partner.
“Hobbes!” Darien screamed, “Hobbes get in here! Hobbes!”
Bobby Hobbes stood on the opposite side of the one-way mirror, watching quietly as the man he had come to consider a friend slowly slipped beyond the realm of humanity and transformed into … well, a monster seemed the only appropriate word. He watched as Darien paced the padded room frantically, blood-red eyes searching every conceivable corner before coming to rest on the one-way mirror. A terrible smile came to his face, there was pure malice behind it, there was nothing of Darien Fawkes in that smile.
“I know you’re in there, Hobbes. I know you’re watching me,” his partner’s voice was low, almost a growl, “Why don’t you come on in here and get a closer look?”
Darien backed away from the glass and spat onto the padded floor, “Come on Hobbes! What are you waiting for?” He struggled against the straitjacket for a moment before turning those horrible eyes back to the glass, “This is your big chance, Bobby,” he hissed, “I can’t fight back, come and prove what a big man you are. Hobbes!”
Hobbes sighed and rubbed his hands over his tired, gritty eyes. It had been nearly a day since he and Fawkes had arrived at the destroyed lab. Claire had finally managed to piece together enough equipment to help her make up some new counteragent. She was working as fast as she could, but where Darien’s sanity was concerned she couldn’t afford to cut any corners.
Hobbes glanced into the white room, noticing that it had grown eerily quiet. He saw Darien standing against the opposite wall, those inhuman eyes staring unblinkingly at the glass. Hobbes had the distinct impression that he was staring right through the glass directly at him, the thought was unnerving and it sent a tiny ripple of uneasiness down his spine.
Moving suddenly, Hobbes watched in horror as Darien ran the short distance and threw himself against the glass, impacting it with a sickening crack!
“Jesus!” Hobbes whispered in surprise as Darien stumbled back a few steps. Then he ran again, charging like an out-of-control bull to run headlong into the one-way mirror. There was another sickening crack and Hobbes saw a red smear left behind as Darien once again stumbled backwards. He watched in numbed surprise as Darien once again retreated to the back wall before charging forward again to impact the glass, leaving another crimson stain behind.
Realizing that Darien was not going to stop, Hobbes bolted from his position and threw open the door to the holding cell as his partner charged at the mirror for a fourth time. Leaving yet another bloody smear.
“Fawkes!” He shouted, getting his partner’s attention, watching as Darien stayed unsteadily on his feet. The earlier wound the Keeper had carefully tended had been reopened and was leaving a crimson trail down the side of Darien’s head. Droplets of blood landed with a soft sound on the padded floor, tiny rosebuds on white.
“Fawkes what the hell are you trying to do?” Hobbes continued, moving so that he was standing inside the room, his hand resting warily on the butt of his pistol.
Darien cocked his head to the side as he gazed icily at his partner, staring into those demonic eyes sent shivers of dread along Hobbes’ arms. He searched for any sign of Darien in those eyes, searched for the tiny spark of humanity that was his friend. He was surprised when he found it.
“Hobbes?” Darien whispered hoarsely, finally falling heavily to his knees.
Hobbes ran the few steps forward and grabbed his partner by the shoulders, looking Hell right in the face.
“Hobbes,” Darien whispered again and the smaller man could see the monumentous effort it was taking for his partner to just say his name. “Kill me,” Darien pleaded, those red eyes boring into Hobbes’ brown ones. “Please Hobbes, just kill me.”
The agony in his partner’s voice wrenched at his gut, but Hobbes shook his head and he tightened his grip on Darien’s shoulders, “No way, partner, you don’t get out of this so easily. You gotta fight it.”
Darien uttered a choked sob as he leaned against Hobbes’ supporting hands, “Partners do for each other,” he whispered. “You said once that you wouldn’t bail on me.” Darien glanced up at him, “Please Bobby, I can’t live like this.”
Hobbes moved to speak when Darien suddenly tore out of his grip and jumped menacingly to his feet. Hobbes scrambled quickly to his own, backing up a few steps as the last trace of Darien Fawkes faded out of those inhuman eyes.
“You’re a little man,” the figure of Darien spat, sneering at him.
Hobbes managed to shrug as he walked in a slow circle around his partner, “This coming from the man that stands nearly a head taller than me.”
“How does it feel to be the Agency’s dog?” the demon before him hissed, the sneer turning into an evil grin, “You like being treated like a pet, don’t you Hobbes?”
“Fat man’s been good to both of us,” Hobbes replied evenly, knowing that it was not Darien who was talking but the evil that now lived inside him.
The demon roared and charged, Hobbes managed to jump out of the way, landing a well placed blow to the back of his partner’s head. Darien went down in a heap, leaving a bright red trail on the padded floor.
“Fawkes, I know you’re still in there,” Hobbes called out, making sure that he didn’t back himself into a corner. Even though Darien was in a straitjacket, Hobbes had not doubt that the man could inflict serious damage in his current state. “I know you can hear me, partner! Just hang on! Fight it!”
The figure of Darien rolled to its side and got almost effortlessly to its feet before charging at Hobbes again. The smaller agent again jumped out of the way, a part of his brain screamed at him to get out of the room. To go back to the observation area where it was safe. However, another part of him didn’t want to abandon his partner, no matter how grave the danger to himself. He didn’t want to leave his friend in here to battle this monster alone.
“You can’t have him,” Hobbes snarled at the red-eyed monster, “Fawkes is stronger than you think.”
The demon laughed wickedly, the entire left side of its face covered in blood. The site was horrific. “I’ve already won,” the creature hissed, “the Darien you knew is gone. Forever.”
Hobbes kept his eyes on the thing before him, a hand still resting on his weapon, “I don’t think so, my friend”
“I’m not your friend,” the image before him replied angrily, then it charged with such sudden speed and ferocity that Hobbes was momentarily caught off-guard.
Darien slammed into him, knocking the breath from his lungs and causing him to slam into a far wall. Darien came at him again, using his entire body at a battering ram, effectively pinning Hobbes against the wall in a crushing blow. The smaller man grunted at the pain of the impact as stars danced before his eyes.
Hobbes slid to the padded ground, dazed. His mind screamed at him to
get up, to gain his footing and protect himself. He saw his partner coming to stand over him and he quickly whipped out his pistol, taking careful aim. He shut down that part of him that would later regret his course of action, this thing before him was not his partner, not his friend. Darien was gone and a monster had taken his place.
As Hobbes squeezed the trigger, the demon lashed out with a ferocious
kick, catching the gun and sending it flying across the room. The bullet impacted the glass mirror, shattering it with a sparkle of sound.
The demon came to stand over Hobbes, a look of pure evil on its distorted face.
“You should’ve killed him when you had the chance,” it whispered savagely.
A figure suddenly came bursting in through the open door, “Darien!” Claire shouted, a hypodermic filled with counteragent held tightly in one hand.
The demon howled in rage and ran to attack the Keeper. Jumping quickly to his
feet, Hobbes tackled his partner and brought him roughly to the ground, holding on for dear life as Darien struggled with the strength of a madman.
“Now!” Hobbes shouted and Claire wasted no time, she ran over and plunged the
needle into Darien’s neck, releasing the counteragent into his system.
Darien gasped as the serum burned through his system, effectively attacking the
quicksilver buildup. As his partner slumped into unconsciousness, Hobbes glanced up at the woman, “Did anyone ever tell you that you have an amazing sense of timing?”
Darien sat quietly as Claire once again gently tended to his head wound. No one
said a word, everyone was lost in their own world. Their own thoughts. The counteragent had not been up to its usual strength, it had only given him a few days, but given the circumstances and the alternative, Darien would take what little he could get.
He still hated the lab, everything it stood for, everything it held over him. He wasn’t sure what he hated more, though, the fact that it controlled his life or the fact that it had saved his life. The ultimate paradox, loving the thing that causes you the most pain.
Will I ever feel safe again? He suddenly wondered. Will others ever feel safe around me?
He had become so accustomed to living his life in constant fear of what might happen that he had forgotten what it was like to simply … live. He closed his eyes as a tide of emotions threatened to break through his neatly constructed barrier. He could feel the supportive closeness of his partner beside him, could feel the expert hands of the Keeper tending to his wound, yet Darien was so ultimately lonely in that one moment that he suddenly felt like he didn’t even want to be around himself anymore.
He opened his eyes and watched Claire gently nod and smile at him, felt the soft touch of his partner resting a hand on his shoulder. As Darien looked from one and then to the other, a sudden thought drifted into his mind, I just want to feel safe in my own skin, I just want to be happy again.
He wondered if he would ever be able to achieve that simple task.