Chapter 3

(because it's not like my brain is supposed to be working on OTHER STUFF or anything. and, all right, because i wanted to see them hug.)


Close your eyes, baby.

But I can't. I can't close my eyes, or when I open them, she'll be dead. So I stare, my eyes wide, not daring to blink, not daring to look away. I try to hold her with my gaze, to protect her, to keep her from being torn away, like I know - I know - she will be. I have to believe if I don't close my eyes, I won't lose her.

Tears are running down my face, but I won't blink. Oliver is shouting, No! No! like a hammer striking, as if he can beat reality into the shape he wants. But he's as helpless as I am. And Mom... God, Mom is standing there, facing this madman, telling him to kill her. Not us. So calm, so strong.

Then I don't know what happens. Although I'm staring at her, although I can't look away, I don't see what happens. All I know is that she's lying there, staring at the sky, just so horribly limp. My hands are free and I reach for her, but I can't touch her, I can't drag her back to me.

She's gone. Her body is there, but she's gone. Just like that, and there's no chance of her coming back like Ollie did.

This is forever.


"Mom!" I scream, flinging myself upright in bed, reaching out, trying to grab what isn't there, to hold onto what is gone. "Mom!" But she can't hear me. She won't come back. My whole body just aches with emptiness. My face is soaked, my nose is clogged, and I'm just crying Mommy! over and over like some little baby. And I don't care, because all that matters is the pain. I'm so alone. Abandoned. A child without her mother, and I feel so stupid! All that time I spent trying to hate her, trying to hurt her, for the things she never did, things she never said, acting out like some spoiled brat, when I should have tried to make things right between us. When I should have been a more loving daughter.

And that hurts, too, all the more.

Then someone is in my room. It's too dark to see details with just the light from the clock, but he settles on the edge of my bed, a solid weight, and reaches for me. I recoil, because I remember I'm supposed to hate him. He's not the father I grew up with, Robert; he's not Walter, who listened to a lonely teen the way my mother stopped doing when she lost her first husband. But he's here, and he's warm and he's real, and I cling to him like that little lost child, still bawling my heart out.

He puts his strong arms around me and holds me, and I get his shirt all sopping wet as I cry helplessly against his chest. And I don't care; I still don't care. All I want is for someone to hold me and tell me everything will be all right.

But he doesn't. All he says is, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't there to help you."

Part of me hates him for that. Like I hate Ollie, who was there, who did nothing to stop it. Like I hate myself. I should hate Mr. Wilson, but that kind of hate is so huge, so black, it will crush me. So I hate Mom, instead. I hate her for dying and leaving me alone with nothing but lies where my family should be. I hate her and want to hurt her all over again.

That pain burns the worst of all.


Malcolm held Thea against his chest as she cried. She seemed so young, so lost. He stroked her hair, rocked her gently, trying to soothe her. Though he knew there was no cure for this pain she was feeling. He'd felt just as helpless when Tommy lost his mother. Just as guilty.

"I'm sorry, Thea," he murmured. "I'm so sorry."

Moira had chased him off. That strong, proud woman. He should have known better than to try to force her hand - after all, he'd been the one to teach her how to be strong and how to deal with enemies. But he'd still been angry, angry and confused, by her betrayal.

Now he'd lost everyone he'd held dear. He'd lost Rebecca, ignored her cries for help as she lay dying. He'd pushed Tommy away, kept secrets from him. Every time he tried to rebuild the bridge of their relationship, he only ended up creating more rifts. Then Tommy had been killed, yet another victim in Malcolm's grand plan. He'd wanted so badly to have time to reconcile with Moira, but that had been taken from him, as well.

Thea was all he had left, the last shred of his family. Although she'd been estranged from him all her life, raised by another man, he loved her without reservation. He could not make the same mistake; he could not lose her, too. "I promise," he swore, "I will always be here for you. No matter what." I promise you, Moira. I will keep our daughter safe.

This was his last chance.


I don't know how long I cried, but eventually, I was wrung out. The pain dulled inside me and left me feeling hollow. I felt safe in... my father's arms. He'd promised to protect me, and right now, I wanted to believe that so badly, that I did.

Then I noticed something. Pressed against his chest, I could feel the hitch in his breathing, even though he made no sound. I looked up. His eyes glistened with blue light from the clock, though the rest of him melted into shadow. "What's wrong?"

"I'm sorry," he said again, his voice husky in his throat. He lowered his eyes so I couldn't see the light on them any more. "I wish I could have saved your mother. I would have given anything." His words choked off.

I've known Tommy's dad for, like forever. He maybe laughed, sometimes. He got angry a lot. But he never, ever, cried. I just stared, my fuddled brain trying to make sense of it. "You really loved her," I blurted, and it all clicked.

He didn't answer, but he didn't need to. The truth was becoming clear to me, but still, it made no sense. "Why didn't you... do something? I don't know, fight for her?" After dad - Robert - died, he could have married Mom. How did she end up with Walter? If Malcolm had loved her so much...

"I..." He hesitated, and I got ready to remind him that he had promised to tell me the truth. Then I realized he wasn't stopping to make something up. He was hesitant because he probably never talked about this. Maybe he was embarassed. "I didn't feel worthy," he said at last. "Robert was my best friend. I just... It seemed inappropriate." He trailed off and looked away.

"I'm sorry," I said. I surprised myself, but I had to admit, if things had been different... Maybe none of this would have ever happened.