Spoilers: Entire series; set in between "The Hollow Men" and "Epitaph One"
Word Count: 1307
Summary: The world ends above them. They stay down here. It feels a little heavenly to her, this apocalypse. Now only a madman would rise up, go out there. Now staying here is not the crazy thing to do. You see, she half-thinks, while the rest of them twitch restlessly, I had it right all along.
Summary: Hahaha, this, er, may have been written for the Shiny Happy Ficathon. WHOOPS. Thank you, nikitembo, for the great prompt! And, er, sorry I went a bit dark. In fairness: apocalypse.
I just started doing some s2 rewatching, and the Topher/Claire storyline in "Vows" -- and particularly That One Scene -- augh, so amazing and fascinating and gut-wrenching, I wish we could have gotten a whole season dedicated to their interaction alone. Of course, that is what fic is for!
I am the ghost of an infamous suicide,
My own blue razor rusting in my throat.
O pardon the one who knocks for pardon at
Your gate, father -- your hound-bitch, daughter, friend.
It was my love that did us both to death.
She told him once that she couldn't stand the smell of him. Somewhere along the line that stopped. She couldn't tell you where or when. Now, he is going crazy and it interests her to watch it. That sounds cruel. She doesn't mean it cruelly. Her need to make him hurt slipped away; maybe it went the same place as the hatred for his smell. She thinks of Boyd Langton so often that putting rats in Topher's office once upon a time seems like a crude joke that doesn't quite land. Child's play. She remembers trusting Boyd, sleeping with Boyd, loving Boyd, letting Boyd hide her because Topher learned his lesson: after the explosion, he brought her back and put Claire Saunders right back inside of her, not a day missed, not a single thought plucked out. He's never blamed her, for Bennett. He assumes it was Boyd that made her do it. Everyone assumes that. Claire likes that explanation. She can't be certain whether it's the right one (how do you tell whether you're doing what you're doing because you will it or because someone programmed it into you? She knows from experience that it feels the same) but she keeps that to herself. She's never been one for telling secrets.
The world ends above them. They stay down here. It feels a little heavenly to her, this apocalypse. Now only a madman would rise up, go out there. Now staying here is not the crazy thing to do. You see, she half-thinks, while the rest of them twitch restlessly, I had it right all along.
Or perhaps Topher did.
He doesn't sleep anymore. He works. He writes equations on everything. She recognizes some of them. He talks to himself, makes himself laugh, and that part is familiar. He does not shave and the shadow on his face makes him look like a man.
She steps into his lab one night. He's babbling quietly. Hands flying. She likes him this way. Quiet and alone and burning away, a little, from his own intensity. It must be what it feels like to catch a glimpse of your features on your parents' faces. The Claire who did not know she wasn't real looked a great deal like her father. And here she is again. Daddy's little girl.
'Don't you ever stop?' she asks. Her voice is kind. The one she used with the actives. 'You're going to kill yourself.'
'Me dying, not the problem here, Doc,' Topher says. He doesn't turn to look at her. 'The problem is them. Them and them and them and them. Shhh. Man at work.'
'Go to bed, Dr. Brink,' she murmurs. She moves her fingers over his back. He stiffens. She ponders the extent of the stiffening. What will her touch do to him? Does it feel like flesh or plastic, knowing what he knows? She's curious, in spite of herself.
He sounds very young. This shouldn't encourage her. 'What are you doing?'
'Experimenting,' she answers. It's best to stick to terms he understands.
He turns. What sad eyes he has. She touches his face. She finds herself tracing the pattern of her own scars, imagining them onto him.
'Don't -- don't do that,' he says. 'We don't do that.'
She puts her fingers against his lips. His breath is hot on them. His stubble prickles.
'Boyd told me that he would come back for me,' she confesses. Surprising herself. 'And I feel myself waiting. It's heavy in me. Even though he won't come back. I'm going to stay here until I die.'
He laughs. Lower than usual. She'd never imagined he could sound quite so mean. He’s usually such a merry sociopath.
'Like that makes you special? We're all going to stay here until we die. Hey, some of us already have.'
Ah. There she is. The ghost.
'I'm sorry,' she says gently, 'that I shot your girlfriend.'
He laughs again. Jerks away from her touch.
'You should go,' he says to the string of numbers scrawled on the wall in black marker.
'You should come with me,' she replies.
She doesn't expect him to listen, but he does.
It might as well be years ago. A more effective revision of the same moment. He wakes up with her body on him, and this time he doesn't squirm away. This time he is as mad as she is.
The sex is quick and not particularly good. She doesn’t come. The way he shudders when he does makes her suspect it's in disgust, and to him her fingers on his back are rats traipsing over his spine. But then he kisses her neck right afterwards, like he's afraid to hurt her feelings. Like she is a girl with feelings and even when he's sleep deprived and half crazy and sick with grief and guilt, even when he's inside the creature he built, he thinks she is something real.
With his lips warm and chapped, atoning on her neck, she loves him more than she has ever loved anyone in her whole life. More than she loved Boyd. She lets him stay there for awhile.
When she pushes him off of her, his heart thuds on her palm. She stretches her arms over her head as he lies down next to her. He puts his fingers to her hair and begins to smooth it. She recalls something Adelle said once about Topher being very good at keeping his toys neat.
She wonders, melodramatically, whether he might have gotten her pregnant. Daddy's baby is Mommy, and new baby's both child and grandchild. It's like a Greek myth. She has always liked those stories: they seem somehow pristine in their horribleness. There is a sense that Tereus, so desperate to part Philomela’s knees, had to eat his own son; that Oedipus's eyes and Jocasta's pin were soulmates from the start of time. Only idiots think they can escape tragedy.
'Did you,' she murmurs, feeling lucky (how many people get to ask God about the intricacies of their own souls?), 'give me any particular appreciation for Greek drama?'
He scrunches his forehead, straining to remember. It must be hard to keep it all straight. He's made so many people. 'No,' he says at last. 'Nope.'
'Huh,' she says softly.
He stares at her as if she's quite interesting to him, like he doesn't already know every corner of her. 'Why did you do this?'
'I wanted to,' she says. It's the truth.
'But you-- you hate me. You hate me. I make you want to hurl on an inherent level. How does that lead to -- to --' He waves a flailing hand over their naked bodies. Under his flannel sheets their ankles overlap. She finds that a little sweet.
She smiles vaguely. 'A girl gets lonely. And waiting is very exhausting. At this point, you could have been Fozzie Bear.'
He's quiet. Then he laughs. It's his usual Topher giggle. They could be at a staff meeting. The world could still be standing outside the blinds in Adelle's office. 'I said that to you,' he remembers, pleased.
'A long time ago,' she agrees. And then, because she thinks he's earned it: 'In a galaxy far, far away.'
He laughs up at the ceiling, delighted. She watches him. The end of the world, she decides, has fixed him. Even if it's killed everyone else. Even if it will take him too. She rests her hand on his heart again. It beats like a real boy's.