Forever Lost By Tris
A/N: Been working on this for roughly three months, and this is version 4.0; I think I hit the notes I wanted to. Actually I never considered Robert/Cynthia until chatting a while in Legacy Now's forum with…uh…Legacy Now. So thanks, Legacy; this story is due to you sharpening mental blades with me, if you get the odd metaphor.
This is mostly light romance, heavy on the friendship/hurt/comfort, and I STRONGLY RECOMMEND YOU WIN NEW BLOOD BEFORE READING THIS. CRAZY BIG SPOILERS. Ahem. Let us commence to begin, as my friend Jake would say.
"Ah, good morning Cynthia!" Robert smiled cheerily as his fellow researcher entered the lab. She was looking casual and comfy in gray sweats and a ponytail—although strangely she'd thrown black heels over her bare feet. Her toe polish was chipped and shabby looking.
"Good morning, Dr. Cromwell. How are you?"
"Very well, thank you! And yourself?"
"I've…been better," she said under her breath, then shrugged. "What are you working on?"
"I was preparing the first experiment on the amoebas' microtubules."
"…? What type of experiment is this?"
"Ah…" Robert smiled knowingly as he raised an index finger. "Not many people are aware, but one day we may be able to use the protein in microtubules to alleviate symptoms of Fybromyalgia. Would you like to see them? They're in this Petri dish right here."
Cynthia took a curious step forward. "Will I need a microscope?"
"Actually, no! These are five millimeters in length and can be clearly seen with the naked eye." He motioned her over, and at once her short black heels were a-click. She rested her hands on the lab bench as she approached it, and leaned over to get a close look at the glass dish.
"What kind of amoeba are these, Robert?"
"Take a guess," he teased.
She ran a hand through her blonde hair. "Pelomyxa?"
"That's right, Pelomyxa palustris. My personal favorite; you can find them in ponds quite easily. Look at that one now, extending his psueodopods! He's catching a ciliate, most likely."
The creature oozed out its false feet, forming a dome. Cynthia smiled at the sight, then at Robert's glowing face. "You really love them, don't you Dr. Cromwell?"
"Yes, I do." He gazed fondly at the little blobs as they scooted slowly around the dish. "The smallest things hold the biggest surprises, Miss Kazakov. These babies are organic treasure chests. When it comes…mm…er…"
He had suddenly noticed that not only was she dressed oddly, there were deep half moons of a blue shade carved under her eyes. Her smile was strained, and her eyes tinted red and a bit puffy. Cynthia had leaned her elbows on the bench, chin resting in her cupped palms. Her lilac eyes stared into the micro world, and she had drifted away…somewhere.
He poked her shoulder tentatively. "Cynthia? Is something…what's wrong, dear?"
She started, and tried to smile with trembling lips. "I'm sorry, it's just…" Her words trailed off, and she looked away.
For a moment it seemed as thought Robert were going to nudge his glasses further up the bridge of his nose, but instead he began slowly rubbing the tiny crease that had appeared between his brows. He was very quiet.
"I…I couldn't bring myself to tell everyone yet," she continued, after the silence had hung with heat-shimmering tension. "Ray…died, you see…Valerie and Markus—t-tried to save him, but--well, maybe it was for the best. He…did some terrible things, and…I g-guess I should just be glad it's over." She gulped and fingered the silver cross looped around her neck. "I'm sorry…I don't think I can work today…I think I need to go home. I hope it's alright if the report is postponed until Monday." She sniffled and turned to go.
"Wait, Cynthia," Robert pleaded, removing his thick glasses so she could see his concerned expression. "Is—isn't there anything I can…?" He spread his hands helplessly.
She rubbed at the tears now trickling down her face, and sniffed. "Can I—have a hug?"
Robert closed his eyes and smiled at the childlike request. "Of course, my dear." He stepped forward to meet her halfway and opened his arms.
She wrapped her arms around him, side of her face pressed into his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Cynthia, I'm sorry," he whispered, and patted her back gently. "It will be alright…it always is."
Cynthia bunched his lab coat in her fists and stared angrily at nothing with overflowing eyes. His kind words bounced off her ears. "Why…did he have to d-die? Valerie says he'd just got his mind back. He was just…starting to be himself again. It wasn't him, it wasn't Ray who put the terrible machine in my heart, I know it. It was only because he was sick, but they c-cured him…he would have been the same, he WOULD have!" Cynthia cried out, shaking Robert. "He would have! He would have! He was going to make everything better, fix it all, make it right. I know he loved me. I know! Why did he have to die? Why is life so unfair? I didn't even get to…see him!" Her voice shook. "I didn't see him before he died…he died his real self, but without me…why?" Her voice rose to a scream. "It's not fair…WHY?"
As painful emotions continued to surge through her, she pulled away and glared with icy blue eyes. "Why did you stay in Maryland? You could have saved him if you'd been there! You could have done something, thought of some medicine, some operation Val and Markus didn't know of! You're on the cutting edge, for Hell's sake! Why did you stay behind?! Ray might have lived. You were just—" She forced herself to stop, breathing heavily. "No, I know that—that's not true. I-I'm sorry."
Calm as ever, Robert rummaged in his lab coat pocket, finally pulling out a white handkerchief. Tenderly he wiped away her spilled tears. "When it comes down to it, you are quite mature, my dear," he said softly, mopping up the salt water. "I trust you understand some had to stay behind; I was needed here. But if I could have saved Ray…"
"Oh, I know, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said—" she pushed his hand away, reddening. "Really, I understand. I just, it's so…"
"You two were very close, I think," Robert said softly.
He patted a lab stool. "Would you like to tell me about him? I don't think we ever met."
Cynthia hesitated, then smiled shakily and took a seat. Robert pulled up a stool opposite her and regarded her seriously, as he held his glasses loosely in his lap. He reached out and patted her knee as her gaze flitted to the lab bench. "No, my dear friend, don't worry—the amoeba will be quite alright with a day's vacation. Tell me, please. I'm here for you." He gave her knee one last squeeze and then leaned back, gaze fixed on her face.
"Well…" A flicker of dreamy happiness crept into the sorrow swimming in her eyes. "We met in college, you see…I was already pre-med and…"