Title: Refrain

Genre: Television

Series: Defying Gravity

Characters: Evram, Claire

Spoilers: n/a

Rating: PG

Summary: Evram and Claire had been locked in a silent battle for most of their relationship.

Word Count: 669

He can't remember the first time he touched her; that night is a haze of drinks and subtle scent of magnolias drifting off of her skin. Its the most keen lack of memory that Evram feels, in a vacuum of loss.

He's not an angry drunk, or a happy one. He's fairly ambivalent through the whole process, his face calm and blank and his mind near catatonic, but its a state that he craves through every sober second of the day. Just those precious hours where he forgets all the lives his hands have failed to save (or caused to die). He doesn't practice medicine when he's inebriated, doesn't attempt to drive; he takes all the necessary precaution that a habit like his predicates.

He had his favored table in the local bar, away from the door but still close enough to the crowds that he can be amused by the drama his colleagues perpetuated daily. For the first few weeks after Evram had arrived for the NASA program he'd sat at his table alone, ignoring the chaos of the bar around him and letting the mental static of strong liqueur numb his senses. He'd noticed all of them, the strong contenders of the program and the way they gravitated towards each other. She'd been something else, though, his Claire. She'd been undoubtedly skilled, eager to strive in the program but humble enough to bow to others' expertise. In other words, everything too many of the pompous doctors recruited alongside her were not.

For all the great things that she was, space-worthy she was not. It didn't matter that she was strong, capable of surviving any situation put to her, her innate goodness was her downfall every time. It was that goodness, that overwhelming belief in other people, that had drawn him to her. Despite everything she'd been told, everything she knew for a fact from her own training, she had faith in him. She didn't care that he couldn't go a night without a drink, or that he spent the morning after regurgitating every damned one of them.

It'd become a ritual for them, a twisted ritual that brought him comfort in the mornings. She'd run her fingers through his hair, rubbing his back as he shook with the force of it, murmuring words he could never remember.

Evram could remember that it took her weeks to realize, and even then longer to comprehend. It wasn't the pressure of the program, it wasn't the many lives he'd lost; it was addiction, pure and simple. Evram could list excuses and reasons all day, but come night he was back in that bar, drink in hand. Though they'd hadn't said it, hadn't really had more than a handful of sweaty encounters in the night, it could only be love that had kept her at his side. The more he drank the less she did, her eyes taking in every detail of the act, memorizing the tell tale signs of when he was far enough gone that he was willing to leave, and when he was so far gone that she'd need to ask Wass to help her get him to the cab.

Five years was a long time to fight the battle for him but Claire had done it. She'd tried encouraging him, threatening him, bribing him; twelve steps, cold turkey, chemical weening. She'd been practically living with him within months, had a key by the end of the year, but she couldn't make him stop.

Evram can remember the hundreds of times they'd been together over the years, every touch, every kiss, every husky laugh, every teasing look. He can remember every quiet disappointment, every reproachful lecture, every pitying time she led him out of the bar.

He can remember the day that he realized she'd won.

It was the same day she'd dropped out of the running for space, pushing him into the front-running spot. The one place where he had no hope of drinking himself to death.

Review, please.