by A. X. Zanier
They weren't talking.
Okay, need to modify that. They weren't talking to each other, though they was chatting it up with me just fine. Just individually, y'know? The kid'd include him in whatever she was discussing, but he'd freeze her out, doing his damnedest to pointedly ignore her. Not that she took much notice of it, it seemed.
I pondered the situation as I drove. Her sitting beside me, as usual, with Fawkes staring out the passenger window. Brooding probably, since I was talking to her about this little fetch job we were on, instead of ignoring her like he was. Thinking about it, I realized Fawkes had been giving the kid the cold shoulder for a couple weeks now, but because we hadn't worked together until today it hadn't really registered. So I'm not too observant when it comes to their relationship, sue me. 'Sides, it ain't my job to keep their love life all hunky-dory. I got enough problems of my own just keeping Fawkes' ass in one piece without worrying if she's got the urge to drop him on it.
I decided to keep an eye on things while focusing on the job at hand, which was supposed to be simple enough. Bossman finally got a hit on where Frankie Henderson was holed up and we were to go in and get him. Literally. Fawkes and the kid were to go see-through, corner the mook and wrap him up for delivery to the Feds.
A'course somewhere along the way something had to go wrong. I get a call for back-up, that the perp spooked and made a dash for freedom. The kid headed down to block an exit in that direction and Fawkes hauled ass up to the roof, where he found the guy, who was not in the mood to negotiate.
By the time I got there, Fawkes was backing away from the gun that was pointing at him, trying to smooth talk his way outta it, but Frankie wasn't buying any today. I was doing my best to sneak up on the guy, hoping Fawkes wouldn't give me away when he caught sight of me. Didn't get the chance. Frankie twitched and Fawkes reacted by jumping away; the back of his legs connecting with the knee knocker edge that ran around the rooftop. With a waving of arms and yelp, he went over.
I shouted, "Fawkes," and blinked in confusion as Frankie suddenly decided to see if the tar paper and gravel combo on the roof was comfortable for a snooze. Wondering what the hell was going on, I watched as the kid appeared in a cascade of Quicksilver flakes. She was leaning over the side of the building and looking like she was on the verge of going over herself.
I rushed to her side, holstering my gun as I ran; not the least bit worried Frankie might get up. The kid had put him down hard enough that he'd be napping for a few. To my amazement, the kid had managed to grab a hold of Fawkes, all 175 pounds of him, which was about her limit for straight lifting, 'specially with one arm, and yet Fawkes was fighting her. One'a his hands had a solid grip on the decorative molding, which had probably saved his ass from making a wet splat on the concrete, some four stories down, and was trying to pull the other outta her grip.
"Pay attention, I'm ignoring you, Ms. Silver," he suddenly snarled, then much to my surprise, "Let. Me. Go." Not only did he carefully enunciate each word, he also released his grip on the building to try and pry loose her hand that was all that was keeping him from falling at that moment.
She said one word, "Okay," and did exactly as he asked, then stood and walked away without a backward glance.
For one instant, Fawkes seemed to freeze in place, a Wile E. Coyote right after running off the end of the cliff look on his face, and then gravity took notice of him and pulled. About five seconds later there was a huge whoomp as Fawkes smacked into one'a those giant recycle dumpsters that had been filled with cardboard and shredded paper. At first I couldn't see him 'cause he was obscured by the ticker tape parade his sudden stop had caused, but when things settled I called out, "Fawkes, you all right?" I had to fight the urge to laugh, betting the kid had assisted in that damn near perfect landing.
He didn't move for a few seconds, making my heart rate crank up a notch or two, but then he shifted, one hand brushing the paper off his face. "Uh, can I get back to you on that?" echoed up to me.
The sound of a scuffle nearby made me spin about to see the kid convincing the now unhappily conscious Frankie that she was not the easily intimidated type as she cuffed him. "Kid..."
She cut me off. "I'll meet you at the van."
"Sure, kid," I responded even as she got Frankie moving towards the stairs.
I headed to the fire escape and clambered downwards to meet up with Fawkes who was just showing interest in getting out of the trash bin. I offered my assistance, which he accepted, and helped him stand once he was on the ground, his knees debatin' the merits of holding him upright. I brushed off some of the streamers that'd decided to go along for the ride and asked, "You all in one piece there, my friend?"
Darien shrugged. "Guess so. We get 'im?" he asked, not even trying to meet my eyes.
"Yep," I answered, grabbing him by the arm and encouragin' him into forward motion. I wanted to get him back to the Keep so Claire could give him the once over - just in case. A four-story fall is a four-story fall, no matter how cushioned the landing.
We had to walk around the block to get to the van, so I figured now was as good a time as any to ask what he'd done to tick off the kid so bad that she'd actually let go. "Y'know, the silent treatment only works if it bothers the person you're not talking to."
Fawkes sighed. "Man, tell me about it," he grumbled. "It's like she didn't even notice... or care."
I debated thwapping Fawkes upside the head, but refrained, not wanting to do any more damage to his screwed up cranium. "You're an idiot, you know that?"
He glared sullenly at me, but didn't say a word.
"Do you think she stopped being able to read your mind just 'cause you were pissed off at her?" I questioned, and watched as he slumped, one hand coming up to rub the back of his skull. I took a peek at his tattoo, noting he wasn't redlining it, there were only four that were bright crimson.
"Crap," he muttered. "She just gave me what I wanted, didn't she?"
"Probably. I ain't the one to ask about what's going on under that hair of yours," I pointed out. "You were the one who told her to let go."
Fawkes groaned. "I know."
"How long has this been going on?" I asked out of curiosity.
He actually managed to look embarrassed. "Almost three weeks," he muttered, and I felt my eyebrows rise up towards my hairline.
"Three weeks? Are you insane?" I shook my head, certain my partner was a total idiot. He had a girl he was crazy about and who was just as smitten with him and he gives her the brush off for three weeks? No wonder he'd been dumb enough to tell her to let go; no sex'll do that to a guy used to gettin' some regular like. "Do you even remember what it was over?"
Now he did his sheepish routine, pausing to closely examine the asphalt between his feet. "A quote."
"A what?" Positive I had misheard him.
"A quote. Who it's credited to, actually," he explained.
I burst out laughing. "Lemme guess, the kid was right and you ain't got the cajones to apologize."
Fawkes proceeded to do his best hang dog expression. "Hobbes," he whined.
I turned about to poke him in the chest. "Look, unless you want her dropping you off a taller building, I suggest you apologize and soon. She may be patient, but she's got one hell of a temper and based on today, it's wearing damn thin."
"Gee, ya think?" he snarked, but it was plain that I'd gotten my point across. He started shuffling forward, his hands buried in his pockets. "Any chance she'll make the first move?"
I couldn't help it; I choked and sputtered, fighting the need to laugh again. "Not a chance in hell, my friend," I confidently informed him, much to his consternation.
He jaw clenched, the muscles visibly twitching as his temper flared to life. "Nice to know whose side you're on, partner," he grouched, and lengthened his stride to put some distance between the two a'us.
"Crap," I muttered under my breath. I hadn't planned on pissing him off, just stating the facts. From what I'd seen, the kid wasn't really angry with him, just, much like Fawkes had surmised, giving him what he wanted. Trouble was, the wants of the moment weren't the important ones and he'd just about figured that out when I went and pushed the wrong button. "Fawkes," I shouted, jogging to catch up with him, but he was in full ignore mode and didn't even acknowledge my presence. Knowing him as well as I did; I knew retreat was the better part of valor for the time being. Once he'd cooled down I'd try again, maybe even help him plot out some way to get back into the kid's good graces.
The ride back to the Agency was painfully quiet, least once the vocal complaints of Mr. Frankie Henderson were silenced with the judicious use of duct tape by the kid. Yeah, not SOP, but even I was getting tired of the mook's scatological descriptions of her parentage, mostly involving her mother and an assortment of farm animals.
Once inside the building we went our separate ways; the kid to drop Frankie in the holding cell until the Feds arrived to pick him up and me delivering Fawkes to the Keep so's Claire could make sure his head was screwed on as tightly as it should be. I then headed upstairs to first report to the chief on the success of the mission and then to my office to get a head start on the paperwork. I filled in all the basics for Fawkes, as usual, leaving blanks on the stuff he had to write up himself, which included his version of the day's events. Detailing Fawkes' fall was tricky. I didn't want to blame the kid, even though she had let go on purpose, so I left it open to interpretation. Not bothering to explain why she hadn't used her abilities to just grab Fawkes and lift him up or how he managed to survive the fall with what appeared to me no more than bruised pride. Personally, I figured that while she may have dropped him, she also didn't want to hurt him and had made sure his landing, though hard, was not dangerous.
When Fawkes finally showed, he was wearing a bemused expression, so I guessed that the Keep had given him an earful after hearing exactly why he'd decided to experience taking a swan dive off a roof. We didn't say much, as it seemed he wasn't in the mood for small talk and got his report written up in record time.
"You wanna grab something to eat?" I suggested when he didn't seem inclined to move.
"Sure," he said after a moment of silent contemplation, and then he stood, looking for all the world like a kicked puppy.
We hit a bottleneck in the lobby where the kid was signing papers so that she could hand over Frankie to the pair of Feds standing there in their spiffy all black suits. Frankie was looking none to thrilled with the situation and proceeded to make a disparaging comment about her sexual predilections, whereupon a roll of duct tape magically appeared, which she handed to one of the agents - along with the recommendation that they use it. That shut Frankie's trap right quick.
Then Frankie was officially out of our hair and the kid was handing over the paperwork to Tiffany, who sat at the lobby reception desk, for delivery to the bossman. I glanced over at Fawkes who watching the kid with this look of pure misery, and I elbowed him in the side. "Rain check, Fawkes, you got other plans."
"You sure?" he asked, turning his head to look me in the eye.
"Positive," I assured him.
He nodded and then, almost shyly, walked over to the kid who looked up at him with a carefully planned neutral expression on her face.
"Wanna get some coffee?"
Okay, not a classic pick-up line by any means, but it was start and I half-expected the kid to respond with some cynical, sharp-tongued rejoinder, but she was apparently not in the mood to take a stupid disagreement and raise it to a full-blown idiotic argument.
"Yeah," he answered, though it came out sounding far more like a question to my ears.
She just nodded and together they headed out the door. Not much, but at least they were talking.
"Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute."
~Josh Billings (1818 - 1885)