"I'm just sayin'," Bobby said as he half-carried Darien down the Agency hallway. "Last time you threw out your back, Eastern medicine fixed it. Not all acupuncturists are made of purest evil. It's a statistical whatsit. Improbability."
His partner seemed to attract people with very bad chi. Bobby figured that maybe him going all red-eyed psychopath all the time probably meant his yin and his yang were all out of whack.
All Bobby Hobbes knew was that something wasn't right. Even Darien's hair was droopy.
Darien whimpered, and hissed, "I'd go back to prison before I let someone else use me as their own personal puppet again."
"I hate puppets," Bobby said. "Fuckin' Pinocchio."
"Exactly," Darien said. "Wait, Pinocchio?"
"I mean, what are the odds that the next acupuncturist is a mad scientist? I am not fond of math, my friend, but I think the odds are low." Bobby stopped and propped Darien against the wall. "Here, let me try something."
"Hey, what are you --" Darien said as Bobby bent at the waist and dragged Darien's lanky body over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. "Ow. Ow. OW."
Darien's feet were banging into Bobby's shins. "This is your fault for letting the terrorist destroy your walker."
"Oh, I'm sorry that I used my medically necessary equipment to save you from stepping on a land mine."
"Details," Bobby said. "At least your eyeballs are not being assaulted by my clothing choices, Jolly Green Giant."
Darien was wearing lime green pants today. Bobby figured you could wear whatever you wanted when you could turn invisible, but that did not help the invisible man's partner Bobby Hobbes when they were seen in public. He had an image to maintain.
"Ow. No, seriously. Jesus fucking ow."
"Shut up, Fawkesy, we're here." Bobby kicked open the door to the Men's Room and slipped inside, making sure that the door didn't hit Darien on the head as it closed. The whining was damaging his hearing. Maybe he could bill the Agency for a stockpile of HEAROS.
"Okay, put me down. Gently!" Darien squeaked. He was twisted over, all hunched like a witch, but not an awesome witch like Witch Hazel, more like a Disney crone.
"Hasenpfeffer," Bobby said. He could really go for some quality cartoons right about now.
"You are the weirdest person I know," Darien told him.
Once Darien was mostly upright, Bobby backed away with his hands up, saying, "Okay, so, you can handle this from here, right?"
"Oh, crap," Darien said. He looked dubious. Bobby did not like that dubious look at any time, much less when his partner was standing in front of a urinal.
"Right?" Bobby repeated. He felt himself tensing up until his shoulders were even with his ears.
"Can you just... prop me up?" Darien asked.
Bobby desperately wanted to say no, but when you'd take a bullet for a guy, you just can't tell him that you don't want to be in the same room while he goes pee-pee. Not unless you wanted to be mocked for the rest of your life, and there was no room on Bobby's dance card for mockery, only awesome feats of derring-do that impressed the ladies.
He turned his back so he was looking at the bathroom door, and Darien clutched at Bobby's shoulder while undoing his fly with one hand.
"I am very uncomfortable with this! I would just like that noted!" Bobby said to the ceiling.
"Who are you talking to? Never mind, I don't want to know. I can't go if you don't stop talking."
"I can stop talking," Bobby said.
"Any time, then."
Darien sighed. "The longer it takes you to stop talking, the longer I'm going to be standing here with my pants down."
Bobby didn't say a word.
Darien finally did his business and was zipping himself up again when he said, "Could be worse, partner. I could be asking you to help me with my colostomy bag."
"I do not think people with colostomy bags would find your remark very humorous, Fawkes."
"Are you serious?" Darien asked, raising his eyebrows.
"I get shot a lot," Bobby said. "It's a worry."
Darien sighed. "Can we stop talking about this now and go back to the lab?"
Bobby pointed at the sink. "Wash your hands."
"It's like you're my mother today. What's gotten into you?" Darien said as he shuffled forward. He kept complaining, and he was moving at turtle speed; regular, not Mutant Ninja. Bobby took the opportunity to lean against the wall and power nap. A few minutes later, he woke up to Darien asking him, "Are you even listening to me?"
"Upsy-daisy," Bobby said, slinging Darien over his shoulder.
"My life is ridiculous," Darien said, his head swinging somewhere close to the floor.
He was totally pouting. Bobby could tell.
Bobby hauled Darien to the lab, plopping him on the waiting gurney. Darien was a skinny minny, but he was also tall, and tall meant that he weighed more than he looked. Now Bobby was the one who wanted a steam room and a masseuse. A pretty masseuse with long, dark hair.
"I'll be with you in a minute!" Claire called from across the room.
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder, Keep!" Bobby yelled back.
"Not my heart," Darien said mulishly.
"That's because of your blocked chi."
Claire turned around and walked toward them, her hands holding a crap load of tiny needles.
"Nuh uh, no way," Darien said, attempting to scramble off the gurney. It was pathetic to watch. Bobby pushed him down with one hand.
"Darien, Bobby," Claire said. She smiled brightly. "I've been studying acupuncture! It's fascinating, really. All my experimental trials have gone so well that I'm ready for a human test subject."
"Great," Bobby said. "Maybe you'll be able to help my boy, here."
"I don't even know why you think I'm gonna do this," Darien said, still squirming around.
Claire stared at him, all intense, like she was seconds away from breaking out a ruler and rapping it across their fingers.
"Shirt off, face down," she ordered.
"Woof," Bobby said in appreciation.
Darien, meanwhile, had gotten trapped inside his T-shirt. "A little help here? Hey, guys? Help?"
Bobby helped by yanking off Darien's shirt and tossing it behind him. Darien turned over creakily as Claire spread the needles on a metal tray. Once everybody was in place, Bobby hovered over Claire's shoulder, or, okay, next to her because he was a vertically challenged individual, as she positioned the first needle.
"Hmm," Bobby said.
"What?" Claire asked.
"You sure it goes there?"
"Yes, I'm sure," she said.
"If you say so," Bobby said.
Claire looked concerned. "Why are you asking?"
Shrugging, Bobby said, "If that's where you think it should go, then that's where it should go."
"If you're going to criticize my technique, then I really must insist that you elaborate."
"Guys!" Darien snapped. "Bobby, stop pulling the Keep's pigtails and let her stab me in the back, okay?"
"Okay," Bobby said, because sometimes discretion was the better part of valor, and someday he was going to impress someone by knowing what that meant.
Claire slanted him a suspicious look, and placed the first needle before he could say anything. Then, defiantly, she placed another. And then another.
"I can't feel anything," Darien said. "Is it in yet?"
Bobby smirked, and nudged Claire with his elbow. "That's what she said."