Rating: hard T/PG-13

Characters/Pairings: twisted, implied that it's artifact-induced (and thus dub-con) Claudia/Jinks, as well as one-sided Claudia/Jinks

Spoilers: through 4.04 (There's Always a Downside).

Summary: Even if this is some side effect of using the metronome, Claudia can only shoulder so much of the blame. 1st in my Hold On, Let Go series.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters nor anything else related to the show.

A/N: previously posted on tumblr

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Claudia's worst fear has become that this is going to end badly. Terribly. Horribly.

It never should have started. And maybe it wouldn't have.

She would have died for Jinks. As it stands, she will continue to live for him and he will live for her, forever bonded by the metronome and the Warehouse.

And now there is this.

Her life had always been nonsensical but this, this had taken the cake.

Jinks is gay. He is attracted to men. Claudia is not a man. Sure, she's not, never has been, nor will she ever be the poster girl for femininity but she is a girl or a woman so whatever chemistry that she had mistakenly thought she had felt between them way back when had been a fluke. Clearly, it had been a fluke. And, yeah, you know, maybe on some level what she had continued to feel for Jinks went beyond that of amity and hedged on a slight crush on a man who was and always would be unattainable. But, hey, who hasn't crushed that much harder on someone despite knowing that the object of their affection would never reciprocate?

She felt. She loved. She lusted.

She feels. She loves. She lusts.

The latter had always been easy to ignore and bury, even after she brought Jinks back. Okay, it was a little harder because of the whole going-into-the-light-don't-go-into-the-light resurrection thing but she knew that nothing would ever happen between her and Jinksy, not that way, and she had accepted it and was over it. He was still a human lie detector and he was still gay.

Consequences.

Downsides.

She would endure every bit of his pain. To feel his pain, at the full extent, means that Steve Jinks lives, merely feeling unpleasant sensations that detract from him truly being alive.

Confession is good for the soul.

And he confessed all: when he had suspected and when he had known that she was experiencing his pain while he would bear the marks, the wounds. But he would do everything that he could to prevent her from having to suffer anything, even the sting of a paper cut or stubbed toe. Because she means the world to him.

He meant the world to her.

And then he did it. Jinks did it, he started it. He pressed his lips to hers and she let his tongue dart into her mouth and she could smell and taste the alcohol and at some point, she should have been the sober voice of reason. But she had spent so many months just wanting and in that moment he wanted her and she didn't care because she had just been blindsided and didn't know what to think or feel. She will accept responsibility for the kiss and for not ending it or the others that followed because she wasn't expecting it to progress any further.

It had.

Her memories were blurry because it had felt so surreal. She had just kept waiting for Jinks to come to his senses, pull away from her, apologize, try to excuse the last several minutes, and laugh it off before asking if they were cool. But he hadn't.

And before she knew it, they were beneath the sheets of her bed, naked, sliding and grinding against one another, and she had experienced a moment of clarity when he murmured her name when she wrapped her hand around him to guide him inside of her.

She could see their friendship imploding all around them in the morning.

She had said his name - Steve - and realized that they were making a terrible mistake and there was still a chance to take it all back and to not ruin everything. He had stilled, his eyes questioning.

We should stop.

This isn't right.

"I love you."

"I love you, too, Claud."

And he started moving again and Claudia resolved to hate herself in the morning because if, goddammit, after all the emotional and mental anguish she has felt she now gets a double dose of physical pain, then why not indulge in this physical pleasure that Jinks is offering, giving to her willingly. Even though she knows it must be the alcohol. She's heard that some gay men go a little straight when they've had a little too much to drink. That's all this is. Was. Nothing more.

A onetime thing.

He slipped out of her bed and back to his room and that should have been that. He didn't say anything the following day and neither did she. It was nicely and neatly swept under the rug.

Claudia had many years of practicing the great art of denial.

A couple weeks later, they had been hanging out in her room, and Jinks had coaxed her into singing and playing for him. She had placed her guitar on its stand and he had stood up, about to leave. She had walked over to him and placed on her hand on his arm, above his elbow. Really, it had been the most innocent move. Both of their eyes had focused on her hand on his arm and the atmosphere had immediately tensed.

She pulled her hand back as if she'd just been burned. "I'm sorry."

"We should talk about what happened."

She had shook her head. "No, it was my fault. I knew better and you had been drinking, so, clearly, you were not in your right mind and I should have stopped it. But I didn't. It didn't mean anything and it'll never happen again. We're straight... Well, you know what I mean."

She will begin to blame his soulful eyes that have always pierced straight through her and made her feel warm and wonderful.

"It wasn't your fault, Claud. I can't explain it. I don't know if it's because of the metronome but…."

"But?"

"I don't know. I'm still gay, that's for sure, but… I don't know with you."

She had nodded, tears in her eyes. "Yeah, no, this is another one of the 'downsides' of the metronome. It is my fault."

"We don't know that."

She had scoffed. "Really, Jinksy? Because unless you were kinda hot for me before Marcus killed you, I think that we do know that this is all my fault."

"Claudia…." It was there in his eyes. He had not been.

"Yeah." She shook her head, disgusted and disappointed in herself, and turned from him, walking to the door.

"No, Claud." His hand caught her arm, pulling her back to him.

And it happened. Again. His mouth covered hers and she had whimpered in surprise, and a little in protest, but she didn't push him away. She held on, her hands clutching at his shirt, and his hands had slid lower on her back and pulled her closer.

Like the time before, the memories would blur as to how they went from simply kissing, which, granted, they should not have been in the first place, to her straddling him on the chair.

She had said it that time: "We shouldn't…"

And they still could have stopped.

"I…I don't want to. But if you do—"

And for the first time, she had kissed him and then there was no turning back.

Just like before, afterwards he left her room and they didn't speak of it.

It was as if nothing happened. Nothing had changed, nothing was different. There was no tension between them.

They were Laverne and Shirley.

And so the vicious cycle began.

They both flirt with guys and joke and talk about boys. But some nights, some nights, Jinks would steal into her room and into her bed, and she welcomed him and the pleasure he brought her, the declarations that he loves her panted into her ears.

At breakfast, all day, actually, they exchange looks and smiles that best friends do, because they are best friends. It is who they are to each other as a straight woman and a gay man. They cannot and will not ever be anything more.

"Doesn't this bother you?" Claudia asked one night between kisses and layers of clothing being removed.

"A lot of things bother me, Claud." He sat back. "Yeah, this thing between us is kind of disturbing but I've gotten used to it. I don't mind it and I accept it. I guess that I've just chalked it up to us being connected by the metronome. Honestly, if I had to be doing this with any woman, I'd rather it be you, so, it's not that bad. I really don't mind it." He reached out and tucked her hair behind her ear, letting his hand fall to her shoulder before trailed down her arm. "It's better that it's you."

She nodded her head and they had proceeded forward.

Just as she had counted the minutes with his death, she has counted days since this began.

74

He looks at her, smiles at her, speaks to her just like Jinks ninety-nine percent of the time. It's that remaining one percent of the time, when he is still her Jinksy but he is also something more. Her lover who loves her but does not love her.

"It's not healthy. Not for either of you," Artie said one day and Claudia feared that he knew. Then he had continued. "And let's not talk about the safety risks. I don't know if I should ever split the two of you up. I know that you have seniority, Claudia, but if I have to take one of you out of the field… We can't risk you being in the middle of a volatile situation and Steve getting injured, now can we? At least until we can figure out how to sever or somehow weaken this bond between the two of you."

A few nights later, Claudia had told Jinks that it didn't have to continue.

Silence.

"What if I don't want it to stop, Claud? What do we do then?"

She swallowed. "Well, we will cross that bridge when we come to it."

He had looked at her, the confusion in his eyes equaling hers. "Together."

"Together. Steve?"

"Yeah?"

"When this is all over…" Claudia started again. "I mean, once it's figured out how to break this connection between us—"

"We'll still be friends, Claud. And I'll always love you. None of this will ever stop or change that. And we will always be connected, one way or another."

This will end badly.

But only because her heart is going to break.