Hello everyone,

This'll be the last ClarexOphelia story from me for a while, I think. It's nice to have it be a trilogy and leave it at that. :) Besides, I'm out of ideas at the moment. This one follows up the previous one (onii-chan) directly and is from Clare's perspective. It's also a mite more twisted than the last one. I hope you'll like it.

Disclaimer : I don't own a bloody thing.

Tough Love

Being wounded is not a situation I am used to these days. I am lying on a bed in a small country house which is located in a fisherman's village at the coast. The morning sun warms my skin nicely as I try not to move around too much to avoid one of the last pangs of pain.

The injuries I had obtained mere hours ago are already healing nicely, though some of the wounds were so severe that the healing process has taken a lot of energy.

A few days ago, Ophelia and I arrived at a large harbor town and took the job to investigate a series of attacks on ships by creatures claimed to be sea monsters. It didn't take us long to figure out that a group of aquatic Youma were involved. The both of us eventually tracked the creatures down to a stretch of coast that was away from the main shipping lines, yet had enough inhabitants to sustain a large group of Youma. We came across villages gutted by these creatures, and triangulated where the Youma could strike next... this village.

We instructed the inhabitants to seek refuge in the woods while we waited for the Youma to arrive. And because the Youma could arrive from two different routes along the beach, we decided to split up and lie in wait. And sure enough, three Youma made landfall and stalked towards the village.

I should have waited for Ophelia to arrive. It was foolish of me to engage them all by myself, I know that now. But the past can't be undone. I attacked them, storming them from behind. But that's also how I found out that these Youma were deceptively strong, easily as strong as voracious eaters.

Despite that, the battle went in my favor. I had slain one and wounded another... but then the tide turned. Three more Youma made landfall... followed by another three. When they were upon me, I realized I had bitten off a little more than I could chew.

They pushed me into a corner, so that the swings from my large sword were less effective. Less effective enough for them to get into striking distance. I felt their claws digging into my stomach, raking across my back, slicing in my calf, cutting into my face... Eventually, I was able to beat them back by increasing the flow of my Youki and forcing them back with brute force, slaying two more in the process. But this was at the cost of being severely weakened above being injured.

That was when Ophelia arrived. She was a magnificent sight, jumping into the air and slicing her sword through the air. She carved into the Youma like an avenging angel.

After all these years, it is still frightening to see Ophelia fight. One moment, she is utterly controlled and fights with frightening zeal and precision. The next, she becomes completely deranged and starts hacking away without mercy.

It didn't take her long to ripple her blade and slice another two Youma to ribbons. I made use of the confusion to recover and mark another kill for myself. More Youma fell to Ophelia's vengeful blade until only one was left. And that's when Ophelia started to play her game.

She taunted the Youma, told her how weak it was and told him in graphic details the many ways she could use to kill him. When she was done with her game, she finished the Youma... or rather, dissection would be a better word for it. She gutted the Youma alive, and told him that if he liked guts so much, he should have a taste of his own.

I was too occupied with healing myself to pay attention to the end of Ophelia's game. The last thing I saw of the Youma was Ophelia force-feeding him his own internal organs.

I'm hazy on what happened next, but I suppose Ophelia dragged me into this house and put me down on the bed. At some point I finally felt safe enough to rest, while Ophelia stood guard to make sure we got all of them.

And that's where we are now. The wounds are mostly closed, and the pain has lessened. But I know what is to come now... because it happens every time I am injured through something that Ophelia considers carelessness.

Nice smells waft into the room from the fire in the adjacent living room. If I crane my neck slightly, I can just see Ophelia's braid swinging as she moves about from the fire to the kitchen block.

If there's one thing I've learned during my travels with her, it's that Ophelia is full of surprises. One of those surprises is that Ophelia not only can cook, but is rather good at it. Of course, her culinary repertoire is limited to fixing soup and baking bread. She once told me she used to help her mother prepare meals when she was a child and a bowl of soup is just what I could use right about now.

To my delight, I can hear her singing softly. It is a silly little children's song called the 'The laughing Claymore and her dog'. I suppose her mother taught her that song as well. I close my eyes and listen for a moment. Ophelia truly has a beautiful singing voice, and to hear her sing is a treat I savor because she does it so very seldomly.

I wonder what she could have been if history has chosen another path for her. Maybe she could have been a farmer, or a nun. Maybe a blacksmith or a trader. But try as I might, I can't see her as anything else than a warrior.

I chuckle for a moment when the thought crosses my mind that she could have been somebody's wife in another life. No, honestly, I can't see my Ophelia as anyone's beloved but mine.

I sit up as Ophelia walks into the room, holding a bowl of soup. There is a slight spring in her step as she sets it down next to the bed with a jovial smile on her face.

"Well, well," she smiles. "How is my patient then, hm?"

"Reasonably well," I reply.

"I managed to find some ingredients to fix us both some soup. There was only little to work with, but we need very little food anyway..."

I look at her a little apprehensively. This is a silence before the storm. I simply know it.

"Well?" she cocks her head slightly, still smiling expectantly.

"Well, what?" I ask.

"How about," Ophelia leans forward, still smiling from ear to ear. "'Thank you, kind Ophelia, for taking the time and effort to do something nice for me.' Honestly, didn't your mother teach you any manners?"

I shrugged. "I'm an orphan, remember?"

I take the bowl and stir the soup with my spoon. The soup is a warm broth made with plenty of fresh vegetables. I bring a spoonful to my mouth and savor it. It really is quite good and I decide to humor Ophelia. "Thank you, kind Ophelia," I drone, "for taking the time and eff..."

My words catch in the back of my throat as I see that the jovial and almost childish expression on Ophelia's face has been replaced by an expression of pure unadulterated rage.

I steel myself as I gently put down the bowl. I knew this was coming.

"YOU FOOL!" Ophelia shouts as she hoists me off the bed and slams me against the wall.

"Ophelia..." I whisper, in a vain attempt to calm her down.

"You stupid, stupid, stupid fool!" Ophelia snarls and treats me to a forceful punch to the stomach, conveniently aimed where one of the largest and deepest slashes had been only an hour again.

The fact that us Claymores heal quickly does not mean that we don't feel pain. On the contrary, for we experience pain in much the same manner as a normal human does. And after ten years of being together, Ophelia knows all the best ways to make me feel pain most effectively. She rains blow after blow on me while shouting.

"IDIOT!" Ophelia snarls with an intensity that is normally reserved for the worst of Youma. She's always been stronger than I am, and today is no exception. She hoists me up again and stares me right into the eyes, her expression not one of anger but one of utter disdain, as if she is looking down at an insect on the ground before stepping on it. "If you are so eager to die, Clare, you need only ask me."

I do not reply. There is nothing I can say in my defense. I've learned this in the past. There is no apology, no explanation that she will accept at times like these. And she's right...

I screwed up. And now I have to pay the price.

"Bloody IDIOT!" she shouted and slams my face into the mirror placed against the wall. I yelp as the glass shatters and slices into my left cheek while she keeps mashing me against the wall. I remember the words of Jean and Miria from so long ago now when Ophelia and I left the northern lands together... they warned me there'd be days like these.

She spins me around roughly to push me into the wall again. I try to bring up my hands to catch her wrist, but I was never good in hand-to-hand. And Ophelia is faster and stronger. She bats my hands aside and firmly grasps both her hands around my neck.

"Ophelia," I gasp as she starts squeezing. I take hold of her wrists and try to pry myself look, but it is as if I'm trapped in a vice.

"I hate people who put their lives on the line like that," she snarls while I fight for every breath of air I can muster. "Don't you realize how much you will hurt me if you... if you were to..." For a moment, it looks as if she is about to burst into tears.

But the moment passes and it only served to make her even more angry. I start to see black spots for my eyes from lack of oxygen, but during these kind of outbursts, I never fear for myself. During this assault, I've been carefully reading Ophelia's Youki and it's been getting steadily more erratic. Ophelia's face is becoming more and more bestial, and judging from her intensity, she is getting ever more closer to going over the limit.

Can you imagine what a nightmare it is to see the person you love turning into an Awakened Being? For your beloved to turn into something that should only exist in someone's worst nightmare? And then being forced to slay her to spare her the horrors of existing as such a being? I have.

The time to strike is now that Ophelia is letting her guard down somewhat. I increase the power of my own Youki and force myself out of her grasp. With dazzling speed, I slam myself into Ophelia's stomach and push her back. Youki meets Youki and the explosion of directed energy shatters the wall of the house. I land on top of Ophelia, some 10 meters from the house onto the sandy beach outside.

I hear Ophelia's growl of annoyance, but I am the first to react. Rather than using violence, I sit down on my knees besides her and quickly pull her against my chest to clutch on to her. "Ophelia," I stammer as she starts to struggle. "Don't leave me," I plead softly. "I love you. Don't leave me."

It's working. I can feel Ophelia's Youki decreasing and her breathing becomes steadily calmer. I sit there for a moment, with Ophelia in my arms. Until I'm sure she's alright. The sun warms our skin.

Finally, I release her and she looks up to me. Again, I see that same jovial expression and a smile that is almost kindly as she looks up to me.

"Come on," she says as she stands up. "Lets get you back to bed."

"Hm?" I ask as I look up to her.

"Yes, come on," Ophelia calls as she calmly walks back into the house through the massive hole its side is now sporting. She comes outside again holding the bowl of soup, which has somehow miraculously survived our onslaught. "Clare, your soup is getting cold!"

I can't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.

And so I went inside to finish my soup. I lay on the bed, being clutched around my waist from behind by Ophelia. Every time Ophelia 'corrects' me, she becomes overly affectionate afterwards. I feel her soft hair sliding over my skin as she moves to kiss my temple. I cock my head slightly to allow her to kiss the nape of my neck. I'd like to think it is her way of apologizing for her outburst. I think that she loves and hates me at the same time.

As I've become a better warrior, these 'corrections' from Ophelia after I had almost gotten myself killed have become rarer and rarer. It used to be that she calmed down long before she is even close to going over the limit, but in the few instances I had been 'corrected' the past couple of years, she had gotten so angry with me that she almost...

I shake my head.

"Hm?" Ophelia asks.

"Just thinking," I reply softly.

"About the now well-ventilated house?" Ophelia said. "Hm, I bet they'll be mad."

I smile in spite of myself.

If there is one wish in my life, it is to hear Ophelia say to me that she loves me. Before I die. Just once. Softly. In my ear. Sadly, I know it will probably never happen.

But the angrier Ophelia gets with me, the more it means that she would miss me if I were gone. And today Ophelia was angry enough to nearly Awaken.

It's the next best thing, in a way.