She always thought of the woman, the wife-not-wife, as Claire, even after Anson (or whatever his name was) showed up later that night. Even after Fiona realized her name was probably another one of Anson's in-jokes. Another twist of the knife, salt in the cuts.
Another Claire she couldn't save, another Claire whose ruined, wasted body was heaved into a bag. She didn't want to think about what they found of the men.
After Anson left, Michael called Sam, then Jesse. Jesse said he would look into it. Sam said a lot more, dirty and inventive enough to scald the ears of any FBI or CIA drone listening in. Fi sat and drank her tea. She felt like her skin had been turned to wax, the brittle-drying kind in cheap candles. The kind that heat melts into a dirty, oily puddle.
Michael hung up, finally, and sat back down. He took one of her hands off the cup, held it in his. She didn't look at him. In the time between the bombings and Anson's reappearance, she had tried not to look at anyone. She'd kept her head down and her shoulders hunched, her hair shielding her. I killed them, I killed them beat with her blood. "Why did you plant the bomb in the lobby?" filled her head. Michael's voice, accusing her.
"I know you wouldn't have armed the lobby. I don't know why I said it, nothing else made sense."
She looked at the flowers in bottles, crowded around the windows, and wanted to smash them. "Nothing will ever make sense about today."
"Fi, Anson killed those guards. Not you." He squeezed her fingers, hoping the truth would seep through his skin into hers.
She jerked her head away, tension radiating as she flung her arm out. "Michael, if I hadn't played exactly into his hands, done what I wanted to do all along, those guards would be alive! And do you think their families will care? Any of them? Do you think they'll care what our fucking intentions were today?"
He looked away, the strain showing clearly on his face. It had been a long couple days. She thought of wrapping her handcuffed arms around his neck, the kiss he'd left on her forehead. "Bye, Fi," said so soft anyone trying to overhear would have thought he'd told her something else.
The silence spread between them until finally he stood up, so she did too, and they went through their routines like it was a regular night. He showered, they brushed their teeth, she flossed. She pulled on a little t-shirt, overwashed to silky softness, and a clean pair of panties. They crawled into bed, Michael's mostly naked body swaying and trembling under the weight of exhaustion.
Lying on her side, she wrapped an arm around his waist, and he put his hand on her elbow, his face turned toward her head. He liked to smell her hair, late at night. Sometimes he was so tired he forgot he wasn't supposed to need her as much as he did. She held him until sleep tackled him mid-body and took him under, his body going boneless as butter. Then she turned away slowly, so he wouldn't wake up, and stared into the darkness, imagining the guards' faces at the moment the first explosion shook the walls.
Hours later, she woke with a choked-off scream. Her subconscious had swirled her worst nightmares together, poured them in a fear-frosted mug and topped them with her personal cherry of horror.
She dreamed first of Maddie's face at the window, pale and terrified, before the explosions rip her apart. Then it was Jesse, Sam, her mom, her brothers. Michael. Everyone took a turn dying at her hand, their eyes pleading with her not to push the button, their mouths screaming her name behind the thick glass.
And then, she turned around in the sun, and it was Claire at the window. Her Claire, and Anson's voice was her mother's: "Where's Claire?" His screams became her own. "Claire! Claire!" And Fiona was always too late.
She folded herself smaller, pressed her face into her knees and cried, hard but silent. Michael, who always managed to wrestle sleep back and wake up at the wrong moments, rolled up onto an elbow. "Fi?" He stroked a sweet line up her back, under her hair to the nape of her neck.
"I'm okay, I'm fine, go back to sleep." She lied well. Her voice sounded normal.
But still, he bent over her, wrapping her in his body. He put his arms over hers, around her legs, and he nuzzled her cheek, staying silent when he felt the wetness of her tears. He pressed his back to hers, his skin so warm he heated and healed her like the sunlight would have.
She broke. She twisted her body around, turned her face into his chest, and cried and gasped into his bare skin. He held her, silent still, not wanting to give her words that would force her to remember this moment of weakness. Her shame and her guilt tangled in her stomach until she thought she would be sick. She wished she could be sick over what had happened. The wreckage their lives had made of the lives of innocent people surrounding them. Had she ever been as innocent as those men today, as trusting, as undeserving of death as they were? As Claire was?
She tried to breathe deep to level her system and could inhale only him, the cleanness of his skin and the unbreakable bond between them. Bruised, scarred, burned, bloodied, but unbroken. He fit around her, his hands holding onto her, moving from her legs to her toes to her shoulders and the ends of her hair, like he couldn't bring himself to stop. She took the comfort he offered and buried herself in it. When she turned her face up to his, the tears were gone, and she kissed him deeply.
"You're a good person, Fi." He broke the kiss but barely moved away, his words coming low and mangled against her mouth. "This is my fault more than yours. I wouldn't give up. I wouldn't stop looking, they killed Max, he killed that woman and those guards because I wouldn't stop looking-"
She wrapped her arms around him now, stretching her legs down so she could hold him properly. "No, Michael, you had a right to the truth."
He sighed, and she kissed him again, softer now. He fit against her, legs, sex, stomach, chest, head. When they lay like that, huddled in the deserted dark of an anonymous night, the only truth they had was the physical one. Their bodies, pressed together, warm as any living thing on the earth, reaffirmed their goodness, the innate ability to love they needed to believe they still possessed. Sleep crouched at the foot of the bed like a hungry animal.
She felt as though her body, the muscles and bones, were secrets only his body could decode. He spoke the physical language she understood the best, and he could look at her and make sense of himself. It was the truth he hungered for, the truth she couldn't run from. The night bled into the day, and the room was still.
Author's Note: I feel I haven't been a very good poster lately, but I'm slowly working on editing and repairing my old stories and putting them back up. I also feel this isn't much of a peace offering, but I do hope you enjoyed it.