Hello readers! So as promised, this is the actual story. Can be read as Clinks or BrOTP, your choice. Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed! Disclaimer: I do not own Warehouse 13. Please let me know what you thought!
Steve glanced up. He wasn't paranoid per se, but ever since Mrs. Fredrick showed up in his apartment, he was more edgy than strictly necessary.
Another creak. Louder this time. Pete and Myka stopped arguing to look up at the entrance this time. Neither of them looked on edge.
Claudia. Like a ghostly apparition, she appeared in the entranceway clad in plaid pajama shorts and a white tee, hair mussed on one side.
"Claude." He sighs as he sits back in his chair. "You scared me."
But something was off. Claudia remained where she was, not bothering to acknowledge Steve's remark or smirk and reply with a witty retort.
Her eyes drag slow and heavy across the floor, studying each individual piece of carpet all the way to Myka and Pete.
"Where's Joshua?" she asked the pair, "Where is he?"
Pete and Myka exchanged a knowing look and stood up.
"Claudia…" Myka said slowly, approaching her with hands raised. The red-headed zombie stared unblinking at her until Myka put a careful hand on her shoulder. She jumped back in distress and Myka retreated too.
"Where is Joshua?" she repeats, crackles of fear edging into her voice.
"Claudia." Pete walked up to her and crouched so he was eye level. "You rescued Joshua, remember? You're sleeping. Go back to bed or the cookie monster will eat you. And by the cookie monster," he says snickering, glancing at Myka, "I mean me."
She slaps him, and the noise causes the girl to back into the wall.
The grin slides right off of Pete's face.
To say it was disconcerting to see Claudia like this would be a major understatement. It was plain bizarre. Claudia was the epitome of hyperactivity, the picture of strong and capable and the "get in your face" mentality.
It suddenly occurred to Steve that she always wore a very guarded expression, even when happy. Looking at her now, small, pale, young, may have been the strangest thing he has ever seen. Well, maybe not the strangest thing, but it was definitely top ten.
Sure, he's seen the comedy bits, has heard the funny stories of people talking in their sleep, who walk in their sleep. But this was different. This seemed to touch on her worst fears, her darkest moments. Pete and Myka hadn't said anything, but from the way she stormed up to her room - and the awkward titters and shifting eyes that followed- something had happened in California today.
But it was irrelevant, in this moment. Right now they had to get Claudia back into bed.
Steve stood up and walked gently forward.
"Claude? You're sleeping. Go back to bed."
Her chest rises and falls too quickly. Her lamp-like eyes snap to meet his at the sound of his voice and she stumbles back, collapsing in on herself in a ball in the corner.
Then the sobs came, not quietly, as if one is in control of their sadness, as in disappointment, in frustration. No; the sobs came in big body-wracking chokes. Shuddering cries with her face screwed up and turning red. It wasn't pretty.
"Stay away from me!" the girl cried wildly. "I'm…Where is Joshua? I need to speak to Joshua."
The vestigial smile fell off of Pete's face and he tossed his cell to Steve.
"Dial Joshua. I'll go get Leena. Myka..." he took a deep breath in and looked at her, "go ahead and try."
"Wait, wait." Steve said in confusion, "you have Joshua's number on your cell?"
"Yeah. The first time this happened we couldn't get into Claudia's cell – it has a wicked passcode- and we ended up having to Tesla her. Ever since then we've all had his number in ours, just in case."
He left, and as Myka slowly approached the balled up girl, Steve dialed the number.
"Hello?" A timbre voice came through the phone line.
"No, it's Steve- but listen. Claudia is having some sort of- well, I guess she's- sleepwalking. She's sleepwalking. Nothing we say is calming her down, and we need your help."
A heavy sigh rang through the other line, and Steve got the distinct impression this had happened numerous times.
"Put her on."
By this time, Claudia had black tear tracks of mascara running down her face and was shuddering violently and hyperventilating. Myka was almost a foot away, inching slowly toward the girl, offering tissues.
"Josh- *sob* u- *sob* a! He's not-" She gives a shuddering gasp. "-dead! Am I crazy?"
Her dead eyes meet Steve's, unseeing, chilling him to the bone.
"Am I crazy?" the eyes ask him, "Am I? I might be. You're not real. None of this is real." She looks down at her shaking hands. "Or is it?"
"I'm crazy." she mutters, an endless refrain, repeated again and again and again, like if she didn't repeat it, she would forget.
A cold metal cage closed over Steve's heart. What had happened to her?
Steve tossed the phone to Myka, who offered it to Claudia, before putting it on speaker phone.
"Go ahead, Josh." Myka said grimly.
"Claudia." Joshua said in the gentlest voice Steve had ever heard.
"…Joshua?" Claudia choked and looked up at the ceiling.
"Claudia. I'm real. You're okay. You're sleepwalking."
The girl in question shook her head, covering her face with her arms again and wailing "No!" with increasing volume.
"Claudia." Joshua's voice insisted, "You are safe. Say the special numbers now."
"The diameter of the sun is 1,391,000 km… Avogadro's number is…"
They slowly chanted various academic numbers together and Pete came in with Leena.
"For some reason," Pete murmured to Steve with a bewildered look on his face, "the numbers are the only thing that calms her down enough on the bad days. I guess it's something they did when she was little. Science always made me freak out, but hey."
"She's smart." Steve remarked.
"Mm. Smarter than you realize, I think. She told Myka once that she keeps it under wraps because it's given her difficulty in the past."
Myka thanked Joshua and tossed the phone at Pete.
"Hey man," Pete began. "Thanks. I know it can't be easy…Yeah, yeah I know... We'll protect her."
Meanwhile, Leena and Myka both approached the girl curled on the floor.
She was still sobbing, hands scratching at pale skin, but she no longer was shaking violently.
Myka extended her hands slowly and brushed them against the sweaty, locked ones tightly gripping red hair.
At the touch, Claudia let out a mixture between a whimper and a sob, and Leena knowingly approached, gently placing hands over Claudia's temples and closing her eyes.
After 20 seconds, Leena pulled Claudia up and placed her hand on Claudia's once more, closing her eyes for a brief second.
Slowly, as the girl seemed to come to her senses, Pete shot Myka and Leena a significant look and they vanished into the shadows. Pete yanked Steve down on the couch next to him clumsily and quickly turned on the television, looking at Claudia out of the corner of his eyes.
The girl in question seemed to come out of a daze, blinking once, then rapidly, looking around at her surroundings while rubbing her goose-bumped arms. She rubbed at her face, scrubbing away the remnants of tears.
"Oh hey Claude," Pete said casually, "didn't see you there. Jinksy and I are halfway through Iron Man. Want to watch?"
Steve looked at Pete in disbelief before settling his eyes on Claudia, who was still breathing too fast and put a hand to her chest. She seemed to take the cue though. Looking at him, then Pete, then the TV as she seemed to come to a decision.
"Yeah. Um…cool. Sounds good."
Steve shot a look at the other man. Shouldn't she go back to bed after an ordeal like that?
"Unless…you'd rather go to bed." Steve said, frowning a little at her.
"No." she insisted. "No, I'd rather be with you guys tonight."
Pete smiled at her and tapped the space in between Jinks and himself. She wedged herself in, resting her head on Steve's chest and feet on Pete's lap.
He accepted the snuggle without batting an eye. A few months ago, if anyone had tried to hug him with such familiarity he would have been extremely uncomfortable to say the least. He had learned quickly that Claudia needed much more physical contact than the average person. Snuggling seemed to be her way of feeling accepted. But only with them, just their little group. Had anyone else tried to touch her, they'd be on the ground in a flash, or worse. He's seen it happen. Not pretty.
Once she was lying on his chest, her breathing calmed to match his own, and he caught Pete giving a low thumbs up to Myka and Leena, who had poked their heads around the door.
Eventually, Claudia became a dead weight on both of them.
Steve looked up at Pete.
"I'll take her up." He offered, "But why-"
Pete shook his head, looking serious.
"The first time we managed to wake her up she avoided all of us for a week. Leena found a half-packed bag. I think she was embarrassed or scared we would kick her out. It's just easier this way."
Steve nodded, and slowly picked her up, with Pete's help. She reached a hand around his neck as they ascended the stairs. Man, he had to lift some more weights at the gym. She was heavy for someone so small.
Even so, they reached the landing of her room, and he laid her gently in bed.
"Mm." she groaned, rolling over with a slight smile. "Thanks, Jinksy. Love you."
A warm feeling spread to his heart.
"I love you too, Claudia. Goodnight."
He waited to make sure she was okay, but she seemed to fall asleep instantly, snoring softly wrapped up in piles of sheets and comforters. It was only when he opened the door that the girl even moved; whimpering a little, her chest rising and falling slightly faster.
He strode over again and tried twice more unsuccessfully to lull her to sleep. Eventually, he just got in bed with her, pushing her over to the side and lying on his back, staring at the ceiling.
Tomorrow he would ask Artie to give them the day off. Maybe they could catch a movie, or look at the botanical gardens in town. She needed a little love, and maybe they could talk about what happened. Or maybe they wouldn't. Either way, they were all there for her. Pete, Myka, Leena. As far as he was concerned, she could have all the love he had within him, and more, if it would make her feel accepted.
He looked down at the girl who had inched toward him slowly in her sleep, so that she was now buried in his shoulder.
This girl would be the death of him. He couldn't find it within himself to care.
So what did you think? Please let me know! (I am considering writing a humorous "morning after" addendum on the end.)