"Hey, where you goin'?" An arm roughly pulled her back.

She found herself lash back, turning and immediately recoiling in horror.

As she saw what stood before her, the insides of her stomach inverted in primal, uncontrollable, and reactionary terror.

She turned to meet the cylindrical end of a gun pointing at her face. She froze in her place. Immediately, however, the pistol was lowered so that she met closely with the most brutish and frightening face she had encountered. Every inch of his skin was purplish, covered in painful looking blends of what seemed to be skin, boils tinged with dried pus, and shriveled up scars.

He had no facial hair or eyebrows, his visage seeming to be a mélange of burns and marks. The only things that stood out were his piercing black eyes.

He stared at her for a moment, in an expression that seemed as equally aghast as hers. Though, she could never tell with something so disfigured. His eyes, however, revealed a bewildered recognition.

Those horrible, shriveled lips parted in what seemed to be words. Before she could hear them, however, she ripped herself away from his grasp and flew as fast as her legs could carry her.

She wanted to be nowhere other than the only familiar place she knew. She stumbled into her room, falling on the floor.

She wanted out. She could no longer take the constant throbbing fear in the back of her mind, the constant action and adrenaline, the constant tension on her nerves. It was slowly plaguing her rationality and poisoning her sleep.


January 21st, 1997

Steven had someone bring many of her belongings from her apartment to this house. She hadn't seen him in person, but it was an almost unspoken agreement that Claire couldn't go back. However, she could do nothing but imagine herself back in the grayness of her apartment, alone in her own world.

That grayness almost seemed welcoming now.

She lied on her bed, eyes staring at the back of her lids. She hadn't seen Steven at all since her last encounter. It had been over a week since she last saw him. Or perhaps time just went by so slowly, and it was merely a matter of days. Nonetheless, like a ghost, she roamed the hallways of the house, exploring the rooms in silence, but always feeling followed. There was only one room she never ventured into, and that was Steven's.

Quickly, though, she had come to realize that his eyes were everywhere. From the moment she woke up to the moment her head hit the pillow, somewhere, somehow, even when he was not present, Steven was watching her.

The thought itself made her squirm in her bed, further furrowing into the false security of her blanket.

There was a sudden creaking of the floor. She found her eyes fly open, shooting towards the source, widening in horror as they met with a broad silhouette towering above her. There was a light whistle of the wind through her open window. There was someone in her room.

It was as though she had been cannonaded with adrenaline, for she leapt out of her blankets, ready to jump off the bed and run for the door. Before she could make any further movement, however, the intruder was already upon her, hand tightly stifling her mouth and crushing her back to the bed full force.

Her attacker pulled away, hand still clamped over her lips, and vehemently hushed her. "Claire, I'm letting go, be quiet. It's Bobby."

Her panicking and squirming body almost collapsed of movement as she recognized those familiar blue eyes staring back at her. His hand left her mouth, leaving her breathing heavily and staring at him, sprawled on the bed with a bewildered expression on her face.

"Bobby? What the hell are you doing here?" she burst out, recoiling and still not yet fully recovered from her shock. "It's two in the morning, Steven could find you!"

"He's been shot-- he's at some hospital out of town," he whispered.

"That must be why all those people were here the other day," she interjected.

"Yeah." He looked nervous, seeming on the edge. He strode towards the door suddenly, opening it and peering down the empty hallway for a moment. He quickly locked the door behind him as he entered, glancing edgily at the window before he sat on the bed. Those clear blue eyes flamed with urgency. "I've been thinking about what you said."

"What?"

"About getting out of all this shit."

Her face contorted with confusion.

"Claire, I want to get out of here. I can't do this anymore," he uttered, sounding weaker with every word.

Her eyes softened. "What happened, Bobby?" She drew herself closer to stifle the need for him to raise his voice. It was then that she noticed his appearance. "You're bleeding! What did they do to you? What happened?"

In the dark, his young face was overwhelmed with shadows. "Everything, just-- I can't do his dirty work. I can't kill for him anymore, it's killing me."

"Okay, alright, calm down," she hushed, worried that they would alert anyone passing. "Stay here for a second."

She left the room for a moment, returning quickly with a few moist towels in her hands. He stood warily by the window.

She handed him a towel, watching him wipe away the edges of his forehead, covered in blood that may or may not have been his own. He sat next to her.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked, hands instinctively rubbing away at his blood and dirt coated arms with the hand-towel.

He shook his head. "No."

"Okay."

"How've you been?" he asked, blue eyes meeting hers with an obvious heaviness.

"Scared. And angry." She exhaled. "Other than that, peachy."

He laughed lightly. "Yeah."

"You look tired," she declared, gazing at his sullen face.

"I haven't slept decently in weeks."

She nodded, eyes catching the side of his abdomen, a pool of dark red staining his shirt. He saw her eyes divert, turning to his own wound, raising his shirt to examine it, eyes scrunching exasperatedly when they met with a nasty looking cut across his side.

She wanted to say something. She wanted to know what had happened, but he was in no mood or obligation to talk. So, she simply shifted to the side, taking a cleaner towel and lightly traced it against the wound.

He exhaled lightly, eyes meeting hers as she sat so close that he could smell the sweet scent of shampoo wafting from her.

"Sorry. Does that hurt?"

"No," he pulled aside his shirt so that it fell wetly on the bed. "It's good."

Her eyes caught his bare back, lean and strong, yet covered in new scratches and bruises. Unlike Steven, whose proximity would always frighten her and shake her to self-consciousness, she felt strangely at home around Bobby. His warmth radiated around him against the damp coolness of the room, urging her to edge closer just to encompass more of that feeling.

"I want to help you."

"What?" She stopped for a moment, the bloody towel resting in her hands.

He was breathing deeply, turning to face her. "You don't even know what he wants you for, why he's kept you here for so long at headquarters, and I sure as hell don't either. It's not because you're a pretty face and you're beautiful," he stopped, blinking hard, "because you are. But he's impenetrable to these things. And he's payin' for your mother, not just out of consideration, but trapping you here by obligation. You can't leave as long as her life is under his control."

"I know." Her eyes averted, mind rushing with a river of new and old thoughts, bare hands idly tracing his now clean wound. He winced lightly. "Sorry. So-- what do we do?"

"We wait for now. I'll come up with something-- and then we get the fuck out of here."

"What about my mother?"

"We'll figure something out."

She swallowed heavily. It was definitely easier said than done. She knew that. She stared at nothing in particular for a moment, unable to pull thoughts together, pull herself together. There was an uncomfortable silence.

"I-- guess I'll leave." He rose from the bed in a sudden state of awareness, grabbing his bloodied and wet shirt from the bed.

"No," she quickly interjected. His eyes flashed with questions. "Can you stay for a little while?"

In the darkness, she thought she saw him smile lightly. Or perhaps it was just a trick of light. Either way, he sat back down for moment, a look of comfort falling upon his young face.

"So what do you do here, all alone?" he asked, in a throaty voice.

"I don't know. I found a library here a few days ago, so I've been reading a lot. And I think about things," she replied, twirling the towel in her hands.

He lied down against the headboard, legs stretched out tensely, eyes facing the ceiling. Her eyes found themselves tracing his bareness, his muscles contracting and decontracting as he lied against the bed, the moonlight from the window falling on his chest and giving his skin an unearthly glow.

"What do you think about?"

She broke out of her daze. "What?"

"You like to think about things?"

"Life," she uttered, dropping the towel aside.

"Life. Funny how it turns out," he added, eyes catching hers momentarily, urging her, almost inviting her towards him warmly.

She needed no cue. She found herself pull up next to him, lying across the bed with fingers covered in unidentified blood, gazing into his young face. What little light fell upon the room seemed to soften his visage, hiding the consumption and instead revealing beautiful, striking angles. "How so?"

He turned to his side to face her, blue eyes meeting hers. There was a heavy seriousness in them. "It's stupid."

She quickly interjected. "No, it's not. Tell me. I want to know."

He exhaled lightly, taken by her complete absorption. She seemed to willingly encompass him in her world, one that was quiet, contemplative, and nowhere near as awful as his. "I wanted to be a doctor. The whole idea of wearin' God's gloves for the day, saving somebody, just always appealed to me. Instead, I end up taking lives."

"That is ironic." She sighed. "I don't think I've ever wanted to be anything. I've never really expected much from life."

"Sometimes I think it's better that way."

She turned to ceiling, eyes tracing a pattern that embossed out to look like a clock. "Is Steven a boss? And you like, his hit man?" she asked, eyebrows furrowing.

"Yeah. If Steven wants someone gone, they're gone. I guess that makes us all hit-men."

She let out a small, shaky breath. "Me too."

"What?" His gaze was now strong, eyes unable to pull themselves away from her.

"That's why I'm so petrified, Bobby. He can just-- make me do anything. Aren't you afraid?"

"I'm scared shitless."

Looking at his seemingly innocent blue eyes, ones that had seen so much worse than she had yet, she found herself fall apart. Killing one man had taken so much away from her, and here, Bobby seemed to do it on a mass scale. How could he live like this?

"What's wrong?" he asked, voice low. Tears had rolled down her cheeks, staining her skin in a wet trail illuminated in the night.

She shook her head, regaining some composure. "Nothing."

"I know how you feel." Without thinking, he found her in his embrace, arms holding her frail body in his warmth.

His intimacy was sudden and startling. It was a move she wasn't expecting, one that she invited wholeheartedly, however. Almost immediately, she seemed to lose what little composure she had gathered in his arms, shuddering in tears, clutching to him with the remaining strength in her body. Throughout the week, she wanted nothing more but to be with her mother. She wanted to go back home to her dim gray life punctuated only by her escapist television immersion. But, at that moment, she couldn't think of a place she'd rather be. Her wet tears were splotched across her face and on his chest as she buried her face in his warmth, hearing his heart and the vibrations as he spoke. He smelled of soap and the outdoors, a genuine and normal place that she wanted to be a part of. How could she ever imagine herself back in that terrible dingy apartment? For the first time in her life, she wanted more. She wanted just a taste of happiness, just to remember what it felt like. She wanted more from life.

His warmth radiated around her in lulling sensation.

"Thanks for being here," she murmured, her red locks wildly spread everywhere, hands clutching to him with dreams of liberation.

He didn't say anything more as she fell asleep soundly as she never had in a long time, comfortably and with hope in her heart.


Thank you infinitely for reading! Your reviews have been so encouraging and so wonderful, and I truly appreciate your patience with my slow updates. Hope you enjoyed this installation-- you will be seeing more of Steven in the next one, and I think you will be delightfully pleased/horrified/confused!