Thanks for all the reviews you guys! You're awesome!

Sabi2 - Steve has gotten himself into quite a bit of trouble... You'll see more of it in this chapter.

Chinagirl18 - Their reactions are completely the opposite, and it actually made me laugh a bit too. And yeah, the research people are really creepy - but I'm glad, because that's the effect I was going for.

Cindy Ryan - None of the others know about Claudia's connection to Steve. You'll read why in this chap.

elphie gray - I'm so glad you thought Claudia's reaction fit with her character. Hope you enjoy the chapter!

Guest - I love Claudia and Jinks in the show as well. So glad that he became such a huge part of the show - he makes such a great partner to Claudia.

Mari - Thank you! I hope you like this chapter!

Islandwitch - I'm sorry I made you cry, but I'm glad you like this fic so much! I'll see what I can do about making the villains pay. ;)

Swamp Fairy - Up until you mentioned it, I realized that I had never shown how Claudia feels about the connection with Jinks (in terms of feeling his emotions, etc.). Luckily, I had already written this chapter, and your questions are answered in it!

Hero Memory - I'm glad you liked how Steve and Claudia react to the situation. You're right - it was a very harsh way for Claudia to find out the truth, but I wanted it to be like that. I love torturing these characters. ;)


Claudia lay on her bed at the B&B, struggling to keep from crying. She could feel Steve beating desperately at their connection, but she wouldn't let him in. He didn't have the right to go poking through her mind after what he had done to her.

He had lied, put them both in danger, and most of, he had thought she would be cruel enough to keep him hostage.

Hadn't Claudia told him the very first day he was resurrected that he could stop the metronome if wanted to? Sure, she might have tried to talk him out of it, but in the end, she knew it was his decision. As much as she would hate it, as much as it would break her heart, if Steve really felt he needed to leave her, then she would let him. She wouldn't be a sadist - she wouldn't keep the metronome from Steve, holding him on this earth against his will. That would be cruel and horrible, and would cross into MacPherson/Sykes levels of craziness. Steve was her best friend - she would never make him into a slave to the metronome.

Yes, Steve had been partly right. If she had known that he would stop the metronome, not because he was unhappy, but simply for her, then she would have tried to talk him out of it again. And, okay, possibly hid the metronome until they could find a different solution. Because it wasn't fair for him to leave her just because of some stupid desire to protect her. Everything he had done to "protect" her had just ended up hurting her.

She had doubted herself for ages after he had "quit" the Warehouse, she had thought she had let him down. And then, when he was working for Skyes...at first she had refused to believe it, but when she saw him in the forest with Marcus, she had truly thought that he turned on her. In those brief moments, she had wondered why she'd been such a bad partner to make him leave her and join up with the man trying to destroy the Warehouse, trying to kill them all. And then there had been the momentary joy after he had revealed himself to be a double agent, working for the Warehouse. Only to be replaced with horror at seeing his dead body, a body that still haunted her nightmares.

Claudia lay on her bed, trying to block out all thoughts of Steve, of all the crap that was happening was because of his desire to protect her. If he didn't trust her to tell her the truth about one reason he wanted to stop the metronome, would he think she couldn't be trusted with other, better reasons? And why the hell couldn't he just stop worrying about her all the time? Why couldn't he just be happy that they were together and partners and friends and stop trying to protect every single moment?

Angry and hurt, Claudia lay on the bed, trying to control her anger and tears.

"Claudia?" Claudia's head shot up as Myka knocked on her door. She was holding a cup of hot chocolate and staring worriedly at Claudia. Despite that, Claudia felt anger bubble to the surface.

You lied to me. After everything that's happened, after all the times you've lectured me about responsibility with artifacts, you didn't tell me the truth.

"How are you holding up?" Myka asked, going to Claudia's bedside. She placed the hot chocolate on her nightstand, and then tried to lay a hand on Claudia's back. Claudia flinched and Myka withdrew, looking hurt.

Claudia opened her mouth to yell at Myka, but then stopped. If Myka knew that Steve was being experimented on, then she might tell the Artie, who would tell the Regents, who would stop the metronome for Claudia's sake. Claudia knew that Myka and Artie both cared about Steve tremendously, but if Claudia was in enough pain, they would feel they had to tell the Regents to keep Claudia safe. And even though she was furious with Steve, Claudia definitely didn't want to lose him. She had to keep everything about Steve secret, at least until she could find out where he was being kept.

"Sorry." Claudia sniffed. "I just don't want you to come down with whatever virus I have."

"It's okay." Myka said, smiling gently. "I heard you vomiting. You've got some bad stomach flu."

Yeah, it's called feeling the pain of someone who's being starved. But all Claudia said was, "I kind of feel tired..."

"I'll let you sleep." Myka began to back out and Claudia gave her a small smile. The second the door closed Claudia wiped the smile off her face, and sat up in bed. She wasn't ready to reopen her connection to Steve, even though she knew she had to soon. She decided to do some research on her computer, to see if she could find out anything more about the people that took him.

She searched for hours, but found nothing.


CLAUDIA!

Claudia woke up to Steve screaming in her head. Whatever wall she had put up between them had been smashed down, partly due to her lowered defense while sleeping, partly because of Steve's desperation.

It hurts so much...

Claudia shoved her pillow into her mouth to keep from screaming. She had to keep quiet or the others would come and investigate and they would know. Myka would connect the dots. Claudia had to keep them from finding out.

She reached out for Steve in her mind, finding his presence. For a second, she didn't know the difference between herself and him - they were of one mind, they shared the same body.

What are they doing?!

Don't know...

Steve's consciousness was fading away, she could feel him falling into passing out. The pain, hunger and weakness had taken its toll on Steve's body. Claudia thought that unconsciousness might even be a blessing for him. But as Steve slipped away, Claudia suddenly realized that she could see and hear everything that was happening. His consciousness may have been gone, but his mind was still transmitting information to her.

"Subject's reacting well to pain." Claudia could see blurry images of a man staring down at her. She wasn't sure if Steve's eyes were blurry, or if it was her connection to him. The man then frowned. "Why isn't he healing? He should have healed by now! The documents all said - " He broke off, so angry that he couldn't speak.

Claudia tried to move Steve's eyes to see what was happening, but she couldn't do it. She was an observer in his body, not a controller.

"He's losing a lot of blood." Another man commented, in a scientific air that said he quite frankly didn't give a damn if Steve bled out entirely.

"Fine." The first man sighed in irritation. "Bandage him." The second man put down his clipboard and lifted one of Steve's pale arms. Claudia resisted the urge to vomit. It was cut deeply in several places, blood leaking down the sides...

Claudia pulled out of Steve's head, gasping. Her arms, her torso, her back, they all felt like they were on fire. No wonder Steve had called out for her.

claudia

Steve's consciousness returned feebly. He weakly called out for her, hoping that she wouldn't shut off their link, because he didn't have the energy to open it up.

I'm here.

stay

I will.

don't leave

I promise. Never again. I promise.


We have to do something. Claudia was pacing her room, desperately trying to think of solutions. Are you sure there isn't anything that you can remember that could help us?

You saw those people's faces, just like me. That's pretty much the extent of my info. And I have no clue where in the hell I am. I couldn't see out the factory windows - they were too grimy.

Claudia sighed. She and Steve were both trying to hold in their irritation - at the situation, at his captors. They had been analyzing the circumstances for hours.

It's only going to get worse.

Claudia sighed. It was a thought that she had been trying to put off, as she didn't want to depress Steve anymore than he already was. But it was true.

I'm not going to let them do this. There has to be...Claudia broke off in frustration, wanting to punch something. What's the good of a fucking psychic link if I can't even help you?

I'm going to keep hurting you.

Claudia felt her heart melt and irritation fade away. Steve was being tortured and experimented on, used as a dammed lab rat, starved and weakened, and all he cared about was how it was going to effect her.

Don't you dare worry about me. I can hold up. You, on the other hand...

Claud if I die, the metronome will bring me back. If you die...no one will bring you back.

Claudia frowned, feeling something different in Steve's tone of thoughts. It sounded like he was steeling himself for something.

What's going on?

Steve hesitated, and then Claudia felt even more nervous. Steve was steeling himself to do something, something he had been thinking about during the times their link had been closed...

Steve, what's happening?

I'm doing this for you, Claud, okay?

Steve -

But with that, Steve stopped their mental link. He didn't just stop the conversation or put up a wall in his mind, he literally snapped their bond in half.

Claudia screamed, falling to the ground, her head in her hands. The pain was worse than anything she had ever felt - Steve had cut something deep inside her. It was like Steve had smashed her funny bone with a sledgehammer, or sliced a nerve in two. The pain was sharp and relentless, overwhelming her.


Steve lay in his cell, slightly relieved that he was still alive. He couldn't feel his connection with Claudia anymore, and he took that to be a good thing.

If his suspicions were right, then their mental connection had always existed since he had come back from the dead, just an extension of his ability to be connected to Claudia through pain. It had just taken a traumatizing incident such as being captured and turned into a lab rat to make them realize it was there.

Steve was hoping that by breaking their connection, he was also breaking anything that would let Claudia fell his pain.

The pain from his head tried to overwhelm him, but Steve was already in enough pain that he couldn't distinguish one from the other. Every bit of his body hurt, and there wouldn't be any end. There was no way for Claudia to find him now.

But at least he couldn't hurt her anymore