A/N: For petunia846- Thanks for the prompt!
I shut the door of the loft behind me more quietly than usual. Staying by the door, I watched Michael frown at something on the laptop in front of him, steadily eating the yogurt sitting beside it. After a second, he glanced up, saw who'd just walked in and turned back to the computer.
I didn't reply, continuing to watch him. It felt natural to reply and I wanted to but my voice had caught in my throat. Was I actually going to go through with this? Biting my lip, I took a step forward before I could think better of it.
"Michael, I... Can I... Can I talk to you?"
I knewI sounded like an idiot. Or at least like a frightened little kid. It bugged the hell out of me, but I couldn't... I couldn't help it.
Michael looked up from the computer and frowned at me. He'd caught the strange tone in my voice. How could he not? I couldn't exactly hide it.
"What's up, Fi?"
I bit my lip again, walking up to sit on a stool across from where he stood. I glanced at his half-eaten yogurt, wondering if I could stall by getting one of my own. Michael noticed me looking at it, however, and pushed the container over to me. I almost scowled. Way to foil my plans.
I grabbed his spoon as well and took a bite. If I couldn't stall by getting my own yogurt, I'd stall by stuffing my face with his. Michael watched me silently, obviously trying to figure out why I'd come. Not that I ever needed a reason, but I'd kind of made it apparent that I had one.
"Fi?" he said quietly after a moment. I looked up to him, my cheeks filled like a chipmunk, and blinked innocently. Why had I come? Why was I doing this? I couldn't do this! Maybe I could find a way out, maybe it wasn't too late...
Michael grinned at my yogurt-swollen cheeks and shook his head. "You're not getting out of this. What did you want to talk about?"
Well. It'd been worth a try.
I swallowed the yogurt in one big gulp and shrugged. "Just wanted to talk."
Damn. He wasn't convinced. I looked back to the yogurt cup, trying to gage whether or not I could scrape out enough for a decent spoonful. I jumped slightly when Michael slipped a couple fingers under my chin, nudging my face up to meet his gaze. I winced.
"It's nothing, Michael," I insisted, pulling my chin free of his grasp. I couldn't look him in the eyes. Not now. I knew those eyes too well, I knew they'd penetrate through any of the walls I'd thrown up.
"This doesn't have anything to do with Carlos, does it?"
Seriously? Damn him. Damn him to hell.
Michael backed off ever so slightly. He knew he was starting to make progress. I looked back to him, scowling darkly. I might as well give in now.
"He asked about Claire," I said, a stubborn edge to my voice. I jabbed my spoon into the yogurt cup, determined to scrape out the remains of yogurt.
Michael seemed confused for a moment before a look of sudden recognition washed over his face. "Your sister?" he asked gently. I simply nodded. I didn't trust my voice.
Michael was silent for a while. I could easily guess what was going through his head. He was wondering whether or not to ask about Claire. He was curious. He wanted to know more. Heck, he'd never even heard of her until Sean and O'Neill came to Miami. Oh no, I'd kept that secret locked away tightly. Would I have ever told him? I'm not sure. Maybe eventually. But maybe not.
"Do you..." he started finally, cautiously. "Do you want to talk about her?"
Tears were starting to form in my eyes as I continued to scrape stubbornly at the yogurt cup. Dammit, really? Tears? Now? I blinked widely, trying desperately to push them back. Instead, I succeeded in making it worse: a tear slipped down my cheek, an entire onslaught of its brothers trying hard to follow.
Michael must've been watching me close because before the single tear could slide all the way down my cheek, he reached out and brushed it away with his thumb. Who ever knew he could be so understanding? So comforting? So... so... damn perfect?
I chocked back a sob, dropping the spoon and placing my hand against my forehead, half to hide, half to massage the throbbing headache that had formed from trying to stop the tears. In one fluid movement, Michael moved around the table to sit next to me, wrapping his strong arms around me. I buried my head in my chest, the tears suddenly flowing freely.
I felt like an utter idiot. I'd never cried like this in front of Michael. I never really cried like this in front of anyone. Tears were a sign of weakness, one that I couldn't afford with my lifestyle. It was just second nature to hide the emotion from anyone and everyone. To be honest, I was rather surprised Michael wasn't freaking out. He was taking it in stride. It was like he knew exactly how to react, exactly how to help. Somehow, though, I got the feeling he'd really never had to deal with a situation like this. Not with someone so sincere and so close.
We stayed like that for a while. I'm not sure how long. As I sobbed into his shirt, Michael simply kept his arms wrapped tightly around me. He didn't whisper soothingly, he didn't rub my arms. He just sat there, holding me tight. Finally, after my tears had run dry and I had started to breathe correctly again, I unburied my face from his shoulder so I could talk. I wasn't going to move from his arms, he was too comfortable and warm. But I needed to talk now.
"I was nineteen. We'd had a fight. A really stupid fight. Real sister-like, you know? I was pouring cranberry juice into a cup and it slipped from my fingers. She was wearing this real nice cashmere sweater her boyfriend had bought her and the juice got all over it.
"I felt bad. I did. But... She used to have these really stupid insults no one else could come up with. She got mad at me, of course, and started using these dumb insults. It was just second nature to start up an argument. I even told her I wished she'd never been born." I paused, letting out a shaky breath and raising a hand to dry my face. I sort of wished I could see Michael's face, but at the same time, I was glad I couldn't. I might've broken down again.
"She left the house in a storm. I don't know where she went, what she did. I didn't really care. After a while, I started to feel bad again. I decided I'd make her her favorite dessert as an apology. Bread pudding."
Michael moved slightly underneath me and I glanced up to see he had a wry sort of smile playing on his lips, though the smile didn't reach his eyes. I glared at him anyway.
"Yes, it tasted terrible. Down right foul. But... I don't know. It probably would've at least made her laugh."
I paused again. I couldn't believe I was pouring out so much of my soul to Michael. But now that I'd started... I couldn't really stop.
"She never came home. She caught a stray bullet from a British soldier. It was sheer chance that it was her: she'd been in this huge crowd. It could've hit anyone. But it hit her." My voice cracked on the last word and I gasped back another sob. I quickly grabbed Michael's shirt, clutching it to my face as I fought against the second bout of tears.
Michael tightened his grasp on me, burying his mouth and nose in my hair. It was silent again for another few moments as I fought the tears, realizing I'd never, ever let that much out about Claire to anyone. Not Sean, not Mom, not any of my brothers, friends, family. Claire had always been the one that I had talked to about anything personal or important. Claire had been the one I'd stay up late with, giggling or sobbing. Since Claire had died, I'd had to either let it all boil up inside or let it out when I was alone. I didn't have anyone to just talk to anymore.
But now... it seemed I did.
I could feel Michael's lips pressing down on my hair gently and pushed myself off him marginally, looking up to meet his eyes. He stared back, a small comforting smile settling in his expression. I leaned forward to press my lips against the corner of his mouth.
"Thank you," I whispered.
I didn't have Claire anymore. I hadn't had her for years.
But losing her had allowed me to find someone else. I'd found Michael.
I didn't have Clair anymore. But now I had Michael.
And that would do.
A/N: I love reviewers and live for constructive criticism!