Spoilers: This is an addendum to my previous story "Break". As for
show spoilers? Well, there's a tiney-tiny one for "Immaterial Girl"
and a Niagra Falls-sized one for "Father Figure".
Archiving: Have at it, kids!

Notes: *sigh* It happened. I didn't mean it to. I honestly
didn't. I kept telling myself that "NO!" Claire and Darien are just
friends. They're cute friends. She's the mommy-type and he needs
someone to fuss over him. But then, I woke one morning and
went "Crap." Seems my brain has decided that I'm a C/D shipper. Oi.

Anyway, this isn't *too* shippy. It really isn't.

***

Bleed
by A.j.

***

I think it was an orchid.

I can't really remember, you see. Because when I think about it, even
sitting here, all I can see is glass and splinters and... blood.

Their blood. Our blood.

Her blood.

Blood tells. That's what the general populace agrees, at any rate.
People say that the only truth in life is what's passed on through
your veins. Me? I think most of it's crap. Genetics only determine
who you are up to a point. Personally, I think what makes us who we
are is choices. No matter how you look at it, it's our decisions, the
little daily ones, that tell us the most about ourselves.

Blood shouldn't matter more than those.

But things don't always work out like that, do they? No. Generally,
life just makes itself as inconvenient as possible.

Which is why my grandmother was sitting at the head of the table. The
one I haven't held a conversation with ten years. The one I haven't
SEEN in three. My father's mother.

Maybe it's because I've been receiving so many reminders of my family
and the insanely patched role I played in their lives. Maybe not. All
I know is that it's important in a way I can't quite comprehend right
now.

But, honestly, that isn't what's got my heart buried in a solid block
of ice.

No, that has more to do with watching the life drain out of my
friends' eyes. Because I didn't die. I stood back and could do
nothing but observe as everything settled and all that was left was
emptiness.

I'd been having a good dream. A wonderful one, in fact. I was
cooking, and joking, and generally having a good time. And everyone
was smiling. Even the old man.

It seems like years since that's happened.

Bobby was being himself, Alex was scolding him for it, but generally letting it
slide. And Claire... Claire was just being Claire. And that, more
than anything, made me happy. That gave me peace.

These people used to make me feel trapped. Oh, I know I still am, but
I don't *feel* that way. All the time. Anymore. Looking at their
faces, I feel a sense of community and belonging that I never really
had. These people are like me. We're all screw-ups in our own ways,
but we're brilliant in our own ways too. Even Eberts.

Eberts can organize like no one's business. Bobby and Alex... It's
strange, but they're almost like two sides of the same coin. In ways,
she compliments him better than I could ever hope. The old man? Yeah,
his talent is a tad harder to find, but it's there. He knows what
buttons to push. He has the best manipulative mind I've ever
encountered. He may be stupid, but he knows what to do to get you to
act stupider. And Claire... Well, that one's fairly obvious.

There's something about that woman. Something that I can't quite
understand. She's a classic dichotomy. She is my Keeper. The
personification of my jailer, but yet... She is the most genuine
individual I've ever known. Despite everything, she cares. Even about
me.

Even with everything.

I damn Kevin. I damn him soundly. He was my brother, but he betrayed,
then abandoned me in a prison of his own design. Literally. Even the
woman I was to hate has shown me more compassion than my own blood.
Blood. Ironic, is it not?

In the same measure, he leaves me with his emotion for this woman,
and pushes her away from me with more efficiency than having me shoot
her dog.

But in the dream, there was none of that. Everything was fine, and it
was just Claire and I. Not Claire and I and Kevin. Just us. Just
friends. She was easier in this dream than she's been with me in
weeks. It was nothing special. Just blissfully normal and so *so*
right.

It was right because she was joking. And smiling. And shielding Bobby
from making an even bigger fool of himself... and turning the
spotlight towards me. She does that a lot too. Without even realizing
it. I think. But this was different. Easier. Dreamed.

I'd like to think that she isn't as insincere as she could be. That
the mind games and mental blackmail weren't a part of her original
plan. That on some level, what Kevin did sickens her as much as it
does me.

There are times when I find all that really hard to believe. Or even
hope for.

But then she helps someone and that smile comes out. The one that can
light up a room. The one that froze when those doors burst open and
the gunfire started.

I watched her fall.

The others were a blur in the cacophony of sound and shattered
debris, but her... As the bullets hit, she jerked. No dramatic sprays
of blood. Just a start, then a graceful slump that carried her to the
rubble-torn floor.

When they left, it was quiet. So incredibly quiet. There was almost
and absence of sound, the apartment was so still. And I was
untouched. Standing next to my perfectly done turkey, jaw swinging, I
felt my world drop.

I think I screamed then. I'm not sure. All I know is that when I
tried to help them, to see if there was *something* I could do, I
couldn't move. I could do nothing but take in the scene. Blood and
food and glass mingled in a sickening clump, but there, on the edge
of the table, it sat... a single bruised and broken orchid.

It was then I woke, my heart slamming into my chest and my sheets
rent and soaked around me. The only word I could force my dry lips to
form - a name and a prayer...

"Claire..."

-fin-