Le Perdu
by B. Cavis

Le Perdu
by B. Cavis

She doesn't cry and she doesn't allow herself the luxury of feeling abandoned. To feel abandoned implies that she was wanted in the first place, and in her heart of hearts Marie doesn't believe that for a second.

She was a mistake. An error in judgment with ten fingers, ten toes, two arms, two legs, and a vagina in between She is the product of two people who didn't love each other and certainly didn't love her enough to stay together and provide a stable home life, and to believe anything else would be lying to herself.

And Marie doesn't lie.

There is a part of her, a little tiny bit, that sometimes wishes she had the happy memories of going to the zoo or playing at the park or being pushed on the swings as she cried out to go higher and higher to the man who she wanted to be the one behind her for way too long. Sometimes, late at night after a few drinks, she lets herself reminisce about a life she's never had and has only witnessed on television sitcoms and in the happy little picture books of her childhood.

There was more love, consistent, never ending love, in her copy of "Good Night, Moon" than there was in her house. And when she lets herself feel bitter about that, she has the fear in her that she might not ever be able to feel anything else.

So she tries very hard not to feel bitter.

Extremely hard.

It's easier now. Now that she's away from her mother and moderately away from her father, she can think of things other than how badly they screwed her up and how life isn't fair because they will never pay for that the way they should. She thinks about what classes she is going to take next semester. She thinks about whether or not she should dump her boyfriend or wait for him to get fed up and dump her. She wonders if sleeping with the really attractive cashier at the coffee shop would be a mistake or just really, really satisfying.

She thinks about other things. But she never can really escape from the main thing. The major point. And she knows it.

Because Marie doesn't lie. Not even to herself. Especially not to herself.

That's how she separates herself from them. From Mommie and Daddy, who never really loved her and never really loved anyone but themselves. How she tells herself apart from the people around her who are so convinced they have the happiness of their parents surrounding them at all times. Who are so certain that their old man and lady love each other unconditionally, and will be together for ever.

They're all liars. All fakes. Because nothing lasts forever, and love has a shorter life span than a fucking fruit fly. She is the living, remaining proof of that. She is the evidence.

With ten toes, ten fingers, two arms, two legs, a vagina in between With bright, inhumanly focused blue eyes, and soft red hair pouring over her shoulders.

Marie's first memory of her father is of his back. He was wearing a soft white cotton T-shirt, soaked through with sweat, and his muscles bunched and relaxed under the strain of working the sander back and forth. He looked up at her, standing at the top of the stairs looking down at him, and smiled bright and clear.

"Out exploring, Marie-Antoinette?"

He always called her that, and she's not quite sure why. Her middle name is Anne.

She had padded down the sawdust covered stairs in her bunny foot PJs, and he had taken her up on his lap and shown her how to work the hand sander. She wrapped her fingers around his, and together they stroked the boat clean and soft edged.

He had smelled like his shampoo and his own body odor, and the scent of him had defined her image of what a man should be for the next sixteen years of her life.

Her last boyfriend once called her "Marie-Antoinette." She had walked away, literally, and never looked back. She's not sure why she did that, but she doesn't regret it.

She loved that memory, that image of him and her doing something together, until she was old enough to know better. To know that her father was not a hard working, soft smelling man. He was a bastard. He was an asshole. He was only human, and a flawed one at that, and he was not her father in any way but blood and eyes.

She once tried to convince her doctor that she needed contacts so that she could have brown eyes instead of the blue she has now. Green, hazel, purple, anything but blue. Anything but his eyes. Anything but the constant reminder that came for her whenever she looked in the mirror and examined her clear skin and pin straight hair.

It hadn't worked. The doctor had sent her away, and she had left without a word.

Marie's first memory of her mother is less pleasant, and she wonders why she has it sometimes. Her memory of her father makes sense-- smell is the strongest trigger of memory of all of the five senses, according to all of the psychology classes she's ever taken.

But sometimes this one hits her, and she remembers it. Remembers each terribly predictable, horribly repetitious, doomed to be moment of it. She hates the fact that this is how she will forever see her mother.

But this is what she has. And she takes it because fighting it and trying to tell herself that if she just goes to enough therapy or takes enough happy pills she will be able to deal with it and move on counts as lying.

And Marie does not lie.

Her mother had been howling about something, and her father had been looking like all he wanted to do was vanish into the floorboards. He said something about not doing this here, and that was the first time in her life that Marie felt like she was out of place-- like she was a third wheel.

She knows why he said it, but that doesn't change the feelings her gut gives off when she remembers it.

But the mention of her, sitting there and playing with her Barbie dolls, seemed to set her mother off. She remembers a flash of something silver and quick, flying forth from the redheaded woman's hand, and then her father had fallen to the floor, clutching his head and grunting.

It was a canteen. A silver hip flask.

Today, Marie only drinks beer and wine, but that's a connection that probably has nothing to do with the memory. It just sort of goes with it in some strange way.

Her mother had been screaming, and her father had picked Marie up and darted out the door, towards the blue pick up truck he loved so much, and held her on his lap as he started the engine and pulled out of the driveway. Her mother had stood in the doorway and thrown the flask at the retreating truck. It landed in the pick up.

Marie's father had found a quiet place to pull over about ten minutes away, and she had looked up at him with the fear of something big and life changing that she didn't understand in her eyes.

"Daddy?" she had asked, and he had crushed her to him with both arms, shaking as he held her. "Daddy, you're scaring me. Wha's wrong?"

And her father had pulled back and whispered into her face, "Marie, baby, I need you to remember something for me. Can you do that?"

Remember something for her daddy? She'd felt like he had just told her he was trusting her to carry the world for a few hours, and her chest had puffed out and her smile had appeared.

"Sure, daddy."

"Good girl. Marie," and there had been something in his eye because it was tearing (but so was the other, so it must have been a big thing in his eye). "I need you to remember that I love you. That no matter what happens, no matter when I see you again, that I love you with all of my heart. Do you think you can remember that for me?"

And with the childish innocence and trust that all little girls put in their daddies, she had nodded eagerly and laughed. "Uh huh."

"Good girl."

He had driven her to Grandma and Grandpa's (her mother's parents, not his) and had a hushed conversation with them about something that she wasn't supposed to hear, before leaning down and hugging her and kissing her.

"You're going to stay with Gram and Grampa for a few days, sweetie. Okay?"

"Okay. I love you, daddy."

And he had swallowed as the thing in his eyes got more painful. "I love you too, Marie. Remember what I told you."

Her mother got custody, just the way her father had known she would, and the courts had decided that her father's visitation rights shouldn't be protected because what with him being out of the country fighting for freedom and the American Way and all that shit, he wasn't a reliable influence. It wouldn't do, her mother's lawyer had argued, for the girl to have to wonder if her father was going to come on any particular day, or if he was out dying in some god forsaken country.

Best to remove him all together. Best to get him out of the way so that his influence is non-existent and non-harmful.

And because her father had a military salary and a military lawyer with a hundred more important things on his case load, the judge had agreed.

Marie's last image of her father was of him sitting at the table in front of the judge, head down on his hands, shoulders stiff and breathing labored. She had called out to him, tried to tell him that she hadn't forgotten his secret and that she wasn't going to, but he hadn't looked up.

Her mother had pulled her out of the courtroom easily, and she had watched the doors swing closed on her father and that chapter of her life.

She had skipped both the third and forth grade, and when she was sixteen, Marie got accepted to college. Georgetown. The place that daddies always dreamed their little girls would grow up to attend, before going off and finding a cure for cancer, ending world hunger, and dancing with their fathers at their weddings to smart, attractive, kind men who could take care of them through thick and thin.


She had gone out to the local Walmart, bought herself a trunk, and loaded her clothes and important belongings into it with the knowledge that, despite what her mother said, there was no way in hell she was going to come back for holidays, birthdays, or, for that matter, ever again.

She was leaving home. For good, and the full scholarship she had received as well as the work study program she was in ensured that all of her finances would be her own. All of her debts and all of her money would come from her labors.

She would owe nothing to nobody, and that made her extremely happy. The idea that when she came out she would officially be her own person was a relief and a half, and she resigned to put her past behind her.

To move on.

And then, a few weeks into her first school year, she had been told that there were some forms that she had to have filled out before she could start work and actually get paid.

She memorized all of her mother's information before she left home. All of the things that she needed to know about social security, birth information, life experiences had been taken and written down in her little notebook and shoved in her messenger bag.

And then she saw the part that said "PATERNAL INFORMATION" and felt like someone had just punched her in the kidneys.

Her mother had destroyed everything in their house that had belonged to her father. Every piece of clothing, every paper, every picture. She had taken them outside and set fire to them in a trash can, and the fire department had come because she didn't have a license to burn anything-- let alone leaves.

There was no information on her father at home. There was no information on her father in the little notebook in her messenger bag.

The only place to find this stuff out was from her father.


And because Marie was her father's daughter, she threw her shoulders back, squared her jaw, and set out to go and get him to give her the answers she needed.

I am not afraid of anything but thunderstorms and rape, she told her reflection, and the blue eyes that looked back at her were fierce and crisp.

*I am not afraid.*

The first time she saw NCIS Headquarters, her first impression had been that the cannons in the front lawn, pointing out towards anyone who decided to come in and visit must have been her father's idea. Her memories of him as well as what she had gathered from her own personality traits lead her to believe that he was good at intimidation. That he didn't take crap.

Big honking guns were right up his alley.

The elevator doors were shiny and bright, and she stared at her reflection with wonder at the woman they showed her. Was this really what she looked like to everyone else's eyes? When the hell had this happened?

Would she look like this to him? This powerful, take no prisoners woman who had steel in her eyes and strength in her hands?

She hoped so. She wanted him to be afraid of her. Fear hastened compliance with her wishes, and if he knew what was good for him, he would comply, she silently promised herself. She was not going to get drawn into a kissy kissy, oh I've missed you so much, lobotomized Hallmark moment. She wasn't going to turn into the daughter he'd always wanted and he sure as hell wasn't going to become the father she deserved.

That boat had sailed, she had whispered to herself. That boat had been long gone before today.

He abandoned me, she reminded herself. He never called, he never wrote, and he never sent me any word as to his state of mind, body, or soul. If it wasn't for the foul expression her mother still wore on their anniversary, she wouldn't have even known if he was still alive.

Don't get suckered in, she whispered to her image before the doors open. Don't be fooled into thinking he can love you, and don't fool yourself into thinking you can forgive him.

There were only two of them back then, she recalls. Her father and the brown haired, lascivious man who reminded her of all of the losers she had turned down in high school. He took one look at her and jumped to his feet, eager and harmless.

She had glared at him, and he had sat back down, castrated and useless.

"I'm sixteen," she growled out. "I'm Jail Bait, and you damn well know it so sit down and be quiet."

Her father had looked up at her, with his eyes the same color as hers and his lips slightly parted. He had stood. Slowly. And no matter how fierce her gaze got, he didn't sit back down. She felt strange about that. Uncertain as to whether to be oddly proud that her father wasn't a coward, or angry that he wasn't hers to control as well.

She settled on anger, because it was more familiar to her. Easier to maintain.


"I'm going to college," she told him firmly. "And as such, I need certain information. Tell the people downstairs to release it to me. Now."

And she had turned on her heel and walked back to the elevators, back to her freedom, and the doors had closed behind her.

The people downstairs hadn't given her any grief about anything. She had expected no less. She had left with his information on her notebook, and when she walked away from NCIS, she swore it would be the last time she ever saw him or dealt with him again.

Because he had told her that he would love her no matter what. And he had been just as much of a liar and a fake as the rest of them.

She knows he tried to contact her after that day. Her roommate started teasing her about her "older male caller" and when the semester ended, Marie got herself a new number and a new roommate.

She has no time for his regrets and his excuses. She hasn't indulged herself into having her own-- he has no right to keep his and expect her to accept them.

Once, and only once, she picked up the phone long enough for him to get a word in. "Marie, baby-"

And she had found all of the spite, all of the anger, all of the venom down in her belly that had been built up over all of the years of watching her mother's hand toss that flask at him in her memories, and spat it out at him.

"I don't need a father," she had hissed. "I don't need you and your regrets and I certainly don't want to hear about all of the things that kept you from calling or writing or contacting me. You left me once, Jethro," and the word had sounded like betrayal on her tongue, "so be consistent and leave again."

And she had hung up the phone on the sound of his sharp intake of breath.

He didn't try and call again. She's not sure if that's a good or a bad thing, and she tries not to think about it.

She tells herself that she's happy not to have a father in her life. That one more person trying to control her and fit her into their mold of what she should be is the last thing that she needs. She tries to tell herself that she is much happier this way-- on her own dime, time, and emotional roller coaster-- and feels guilty about doing it.

Because it's a lie. And Marie doesn't lie.

So she stops trying to justify. One day she just wakes up and decides that trying to keep herself from feeling lonely or sad about her life wastes too much energy, and that if she was really that miserable she would try and do something about it.

She uses logic to diffuse her own bomb, and feels happier for doing so, but not by much and not for long.

Never for long.

Because while she may stop seeing it as an issue, the issue still remains. She can try and deny the existence of the tension-- of this burn in her chest and through her stomach-- but it will never work.

Because life rolls on without you, whether you want to deal with it or not. And if Marie was more honest with herself, she would know it.

But she isn't. And she doesn't. So life, in the perfectly destructive way it sometimes takes to deal with the issues of other people, rolls on. And takes Marie with it.

She isn't sure why she's here.

Not in a cosmic-- what the hell is my purpose-- sort of way, but a more down to Earth manner. What is she doing where she is right now?

*I should be at home studying for my midterms. Or having promiscuous sex like everyone else in my life is right now.* She pauses to examine her reflection in a half opaque window and sighs. Her hair is a mess. Her makeup is everywhere on her face but where it's supposed to be, because she just came through the rain, over hill and dale to get here.

Her shoes pinch. That's the most annoying thing. She makes it a habit never to meet with people she doesn't like while wearing uncomfortable shoes. It makes her cranky and more eager to leave, which tends to make people think she's willing to roll over and accept whatever they decide to do.

Which is a false assumption.

She combs her fingers through her hair and rubs her mascara off using the edge of her sleeve. A bit better. Now she just looks like a drowned rat.

Marie sighs. Hates life for a moment, and presses on.

The call startled her from her normal routine. She had a date tonight-- one of the guys in her dorm had finally gotten her to agree to go out with him, and she had put her diaphragm in and everything right before the phone rang. She had stumbled over the small chair in her room, grabbed for the phone, and known from the tone of the person on the other end that something was wrong.

She knew the person who spoke in the way that people know telephone solicitors the second they pick up. The person on the other end of the line was one of the people who sat around in a small, cramped office all day long and sent out bad news to other people. She had heard Bethesda and "stable," and before she was even aware of what she was doing she was up and moving.

She doesn't want to think about why she's here. Maybe that might be just a little bit too much honesty for any one day to hold without bursting out into seconds and minutes and hours, spilling thick time onto the floor.

There's a difference between being honest and being masochistic, and she learned that one less than a month ago, but it's been a lasting lesson. An important lesson.

She worms her way past the nurse's station, dodges the people who tell her that only family is allowed past this point, and trips over a woman sitting on the floor with her back against the wall before pausing and examining the cloud of people she seems to have found her way into.

The eldest man looks at her, looks her right in her bright blue eyes, nods his head, and offers her his chair. She takes a seat on the floor by the woman uncertainly, and looks down at her uncomfortable shoes and the runs in her stockings.

This is not where she pictured spending her eighteenth birthday. But for her and her luck, it’s typical. She always has been the kind of person to end up in the most ironic of places.

Waiting to be let into see her father, a man who moved on with other women after he left her life. A man who never came back for her to take her along with him.

She glances at her watch, knows that officially she is now eighteen, and feels nothing about that but a strange numbness inside of her stomach.


The brown haired man-slut she remembers from those two years ago looks her over with tired eyes, too exhausted to make a joke. That scares her-- the look about him suggests that no matter what happens, no matter what is going down, he is the one to try and make everyone else laugh.

He’s silent, and it hits her just how serious her father’s condition must be for that to happen.

The woman sitting next to her has dried blood painted in a thick streak of red down her leg. There’s a handkerchief tied around the wound, bright blue, and Marie swallows thickly before finding her voice.

“You’re hurt,” she says, feeling stupid and obvious. The woman looks at her, looks down at her own leg with that same detached numb feeling that Marie has lurking in her eyes, and winces.


“You should get it looked at,” Marie pushes, and the older man sitting on the plastic chair who had gotten up and offered her somewhere more comfortable is looking at the wound as well now, with disapproval in his eyes.

“Caitlin,” he warns, and she rises quickly.

“I’d like coffee,” she announces, and turns back to Marie, who is still sitting on the floor and looking up at this entity in front of her with something funny growing in her stomach. So these are the kinds of women her father surrounds himself with. This is the kind of woman he prefers.

Funny. She’d always thought he’d go after a blond school teacher in the end.

“Would you like to come with me?” Caitlin offers, and takes her by the arm before she can answer. “Sure you would. Tony,” she prompts, and the brown haired man nods. Marie wonders when this woman suddenly became the “in power” one, and feels the tug on her arm reminding her to keep moving.

“I’ll call you, Kate.” The elevator doors close on that parting shot.

There is quiet. Marie presses her heel down on the floor to keep from tapping to a beat only she can hear, and focuses on her breathing.

The woman in front of Marie looks her over with the eyes of someone who knows how to read people, and Marie finds herself strangely captivated. This woman was trained by her father. Is this how her father would look at her if he saw her?

In. Out.

Is she someone interesting to an investigator? Or is she just like everyone else-- every other person who passes by?

She wonders on that for a moment longer, and Kate swallows down something lodged in her throat.

"I take it you are..."

In. Out. In.

"Marie." Is it proper manners to offer her hand to the woman who still has gun powder on her shirt sleeves? Marie does so anyway, and the other woman's grip is firm and strong despite the shock she is so obviously still in.


And those two letters, that all knowing assumption makes Marie's teeth itch just enough. Just irritatingly smug enough to pop the bubble of calmness that she blew around herself before coming here, and when she turns on the woman, her teeth are bared.

"Look, lady, you maybe my father's newest distraction, but you sure as hell don't know me. Don't act like you do. I don't let him do that-- you sure as hell don't get permission." She shoves her hands in her pockets and feels the seams at the bottoms. A bit more information than she wanted to give. But hopefully the woman will be too offended to ask about more.


Not likely.

The woman nods quietly and calmly. "How do you take your coffee?" she asks as the elevator doors ding, announcing their arrival.

Marie's fingernails pick at a bit of crumb caught in her pants pocket. Gritty. "Black," she growls, and the woman's lips turn up in the ghost of a smile.

"Yeah. Have a seat, Marie."

And, surprising even herself, she does. The woman takes two cups and goes down the line of people all looking for something to focus on besides their own misery, fills them, and hands the cashier a platinum card. She makes her way over to the table Marie chose with steady hands and soft movements.

"It's not very good coffee," she offers gently as she sits down and puts one cup in front of either of them. "But then again, it's just a way of me trying to feel more comfortable around you, so I doubt either one of us will be drinking it." She pulls the cap off of her cup and plays with the condensation on top idly. The emerald in her ring catches the light and sends little pools of green on to the table top.

"I make you nervous?" Marie asks, in spite of herself. The idea that she is someone to be feared makes her curious. It's not a new thing, but it's the first time someone has openly admitted to it.

"Not you, per se. The situation. From all observations, you are quite logically Gibbs's daughter." She looks for some sign of a tell, doesn't find one, and the almost smile pulls at her again. "And that makes me uncomfortable because I have no business in Gibbs's personal life. It's something he guards... closely." She shrugs, winces at some small pain, and settles back into her chair once more. "He wouldn't be very happy with me talking to you. In fact, the very idea that I brought you down here, away from everyone else, and started up a conversation with you would probably be enough of a reason for him to do something horribly... Gibbslike to me. Like make me re-file all of the cases according to date and alphabetize by murder's mother's maiden name."

Marie finds herself smiling and wonders when that happened. "Oh yeah?"

"I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your father is a hard ass." She sighs. Her left hand has started to shake slightly-- the shock is starting to wear off and now the horror and pain and exhaustion and emotional instability is starting to hit. Marie wonders if she notices, but it’s a stupid thought because she obviously doesn’t.

“I wouldn’t know,” she says coolly, and Kate nods slowly.

“You stayed with your mother. Which one was she?” Oddly enough, there’s no spite in the question-- no hint of, “which one of the women who couldn’t keep him spread her legs long enough to have you” the way Marie half-imagined the question would sound. There’s only curiosity. A desire for knowledge and new information.

She gives it. “Number one. Ho… How many has he had since?” She’s sort of embarrassed to admit to her curiosity, more so to admit to her lack of knowledge. This is the kind of stuff that she should know-- that should be in her magic bag of information. She’s the daughter.

This woman is just… something else.

Just something.

Kate’s eyes don’t show judgment, though she must have some. Marie tries not to let that preoccupy her. “Two others. Three total. And a mysterious red head who comes around every now and then in a silver beamer.” Her other hand has started shaking as well. She links them together and forces them to keep still, but her thumb twitches tellingly.

She looks pathetic. Like a woman barely holding herself together and doing a poor job of it. Like someone who is about to lose someone they care about.

Marie decides to throw her a bone. Maybe out of pity. Maybe out of something else. She doesn’t linger on it. “That’s my Aunt Rebecca. She’s the only one of the family who still likes him.” The relief that flashes in Kate’s eyes is short lived and slight. She may have just found out the answer to something that has been plaguing the secret, jealous, female part of her, but the man they both don't want to admit caring about it upstairs with a bullet in a vital part of his anatomy.

The waiting is the worst part, and despite the fact that they are both well accustomed to it, it doesn't get any easier with experience.

The coffee is cool enough for Marie to wrap both of her hands around the mug and hold onto it for purchase. Kate doesn't touch hers. Her fingers have started to shake in their jumble of palms and fists.

The green of the emerald flashes in the fluorescent lights. Marie didn't know that was possible.

"I haven't seen him in a while," she finds herself saying, and Kate doesn't look away from her eyes the way most people do when she is being emotionally honest or serious or threatening. "He didn't get custody, and he didn't get visitation." She shrugs. "Hell, it's not like he really cared, though. I mean, it's one thing when he's looking right at me-- then it's all 'oh, why aren't we better with each other' but when he's off on his own, I mean..." She trails off, not really sure *what* she means, but Kate seems to get it.

"My parents divorced when I was sixteen," she offers, and Marie nods in the way that only another person who has known the betrayal of having your foundation shaken can. "It hurt. Badly--- I didn't know if anything I'd been raised up to believe was true, and even if it was, it wasn't much comfort." She shrugs again, having forgot about her shoulder, and the wince is accompanied by a quick take of breath between clenched teeth. "I don't think I ever really forgave anyone involved until I broke it off with my first fiancé and realized that sometimes you just fall... out. Sometimes the bottom rots through, so slowly you don't even realize it's happening. Sometimes it just... happens, and then you're sitting on a pile of shit and you have no one to really blame because it's both of your faults in a way."

She looks at the cup, as if contemplating taking a sip, and Marie looks down at the dark liquid in her own cup in response.

"He never contacted me," she whispers, and there is a brief flash of stillness in the older woman's hands.

"Did you ever contact him?" she asks back, and shivers hard. "It really doesn't matter. Wondering about this kind of stuff won't change anything. You and he haven't had the best relationship." She sighs and gets a pained look. "But there are more important things in life than regrets. Like... bad coffee," she jokes, and Marie smiles weakly as Kate chuckles at her own attempt at levity. "Like knowing that you are loved. And whatever you may believe, Marie, I know your father well enough to know that he loved you from the moment you were born, and loves you still."

"He told you that?" The green light on the table shifts. Marie follows it with her eyes, feeling like she's been hit over the head with a large blunt object and now her brain is swelling.

It's not an entirely unpleasant feeling.

“He doesn’t have to,” Kate says gently. “I know your father, Marie. As much as he would like to deny it.” She smiles, and it’s not a smile of happiness, but it’s a smile nonetheless.

“Now,” she says, standing and donning the voice of finality and decisiveness. “Let’s get back upstairs before Tony starts hitting on the nurses and they throw us out of here.”

He looks peaceful.

It sounds like such a stupid thought that Marie hates herself for it for a moment before sighing and shaking her head. Like anyone’s peaceful when they have just undergone major surgery. He has so many painkillers in him right now, if he looked anything but relaxed and still, then she’d have to worry.

Peaceful is synonymous with “drugged” right now, and she might just have to accept that.

Kate took Tony aside and whispered something in a low voice that quieted the other man and kept him away from the door. The look on his face was pained, and for a moment Marie almost felt a little bit bad about it, but then Kate had leaned forward and squeezed his shoulder hard and firm, and he had nodded and sat back down. The old man in the chair had smiled softly to himself and nodded like he understood, and Marie wondered exactly what kind of knowledge this man had gained along with his laugh lines that led him to be all knowing and capable of mind reading.

Kate was originally in the room with her, but then her hands started shaking so badly that the rest of her was shaking with them, and the man made her leave. She limped out with nothing in her eyes and blood starting to flow anew from underneath the bandanna. Marie doesn’t know where she went, and half of her misses the comfort of someone else understanding.

Half of her is so thankful to be alone with her own emotional conflict right now that she can’t even put it into words.

The machines beep steadily and strong, and she peers down at the face that looks much older than it did just two years ago. Has he aged so much in so short a time? Or is her memory faulty? She’s not sure which is sadder-- the idea that her father could have grown so old since she last saw him, or the idea that she doesn’t see him enough to accurately remember how he looks.

The air is circulated and chilled, and she wraps her arms more firmly around herself. So cold. How can anyone get well with all of this cold around them? Doesn’t anyone get pneumonia or something? Why doesn’t anyone sue or complain?

“It’s cold,” she complains to her father, who isn’t listening because he’s unconscious. She looks guiltily towards the closed door. No one there. Good.

“I’d say you’re looking well, pops, but we both know that’s not the case, and I don’t lie to people.” *The way you do* is on the tip of her tongue, but she bites it back. There will be time enough to hate him once he’s well and she’s able to move away from him once again. She can wait until she’s back on that familiar ground to despise his very memory. Maybe hospitals warrant truces.

Maybe the cold air does that to people.

“Kate talked to me,” she adds, feeling stupid but satisfied in what she’s doing. It’s the air. “She says she knows you.:” She waits for some divine contradiction, and finding none, presses forward. “Does she know you?” Her father remains still. She’s not sure how to feel about that. “I think she does. She seems nice enough. Have you really had three wives? No one’s going to want you with that track record, dad.”


She hasn’t said that word in years, except in reference to someone else’s. It’s… not liberating, but oddly enough it doesn’t burn the way she’d expected it to, either. It’s just a word. A collection of letters and a single syllable that only has meaning because one language or another decides it does.

Just a word.

“I mean, no sane woman wants a guy who has proved he is incapable of compromise and love thrice. It’s like going to the track and picking the one that always loses and has two bum knees. You’re just asking to go around in circles or get shot or something else bad.” Her lip quirks up. “Though apparently, you don’t need any help in the getting shot department. You should work on that.”

She's giving her father advice. God, she never thought she'd be in this position. This is either a really weird pipe dream, or she fell out of bed in the middle of the night, hit her head on the floor, and this is the result of a really bad concussion.

She's not going to wager which one.

Marie takes a deep breath and shoves her hands under her arms to warm her fingertips. She's sweating, and the feeling is balmy and hot and sticky and nervous. When did she get nervous?

The chair by her father's bed looks deceptively comfortable. It's position is intimate-- close and loving in the way that would benefit someone looking to hold their cherished one's hand in theirs as they fought their way back to health, nursed by the purity of their companion's affection and love.

Marie almost gags, bites back the urge, and slowly walks over to the chair, running her fingers over the cheap fabric, before sitting down and... looking at him.

There's really nothing else to do.

"So, um, Kate said that the doctors are hopeful," she offers. "With any luck, you'll be back to your hard ass, boss of a self with some time and rest. Apparently, the bullet didn't cause too much damage to anything vital. You should be okay." She runs the word "should" over her tongue again. "I guess it just goes to show you-- everyone is mortal."

Even him, she thinks to herself, and winces at the idea. She always imagined him as indestructible-- as too much of an ass to be mortal or subject to the issues of mortal men. Like he was just so far beyond all of them that he would never die.

She always imagined she'd have a good long time left to hate him, or to come to terms with him. The idea that she's running out of time is a new and scary thought, and she shivers once more.

It's cold in here.

"I'm not quite sure how to have this conversation," she offers his unconscious body quietly. "I mean, I never actually planned this far ahead when I was coming here. I just... ended up in the waiting room and then I had some bad coffee and..." She stops, aware that she's starting to ramble and refusing to fill the space with words just to feel more comfortable around him.

She edges a bit in her chair and wishes she didn't feel so comfortable around him. The idea that she can relax in his company is deceptively sweet, and if she was anyone else she might be drawn into the soothing opiate of affection and sentimentality.

But she is her father's daughter. And deluding herself is not her style.

"I hate you," she whispers. "I have for a long time and I'm not sure if that can change. I'm not really sure if I want it to change, or if you do." She sits very still for a moment. "But I know that when I heard you were hurt, I came here without thinking about all of the reasons I have to despise you. I just... I came here and I forgot about everything else."

The machines beep a soothing melody of life and sterile medical treatment. She listens. "I'm not sure what that means," she offers, a bit of something almost daughterly in her voice. "But I'm willing to look into it. And maybe, if you wanted to come along, I wouldn't have too many objections."

She looks down at him, her hope in her eyes, and wonders what exactly she is going to be tomorrow when he wakes up. Wonders if she will be someone other than who she is now-- someone unfamiliar to her.

Who she will become is a mystery to her.

But she knows where she'll be tomorrow morning. And she knows who will be there with her. And with that very comforting, almost sickeningly sentimental thought in mind, she drops her head to the bed by his arm, closes her eyes, and lets sleep take her anywhere it wishes.


Feed me. It stops the voices and soothes the hunger. Really... Okay, not really. But it helps.

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