Right as rain
Continues from Deep breath
Charlie looked at his hands and felt the softness of his palms. The gun calluses and silver burns were gone. The skin on his knuckles was free of any scars or fights from when he was a kid. The scar behind his right ear that was thin and ran three inches up toward his scalp was gone. Even his fingerprints were slightly different. But the one thing that terrified Charlie the most was the intense flash of pain when he touched something.
It didn't happen often, really only a handful of times, but they always seemed to come at the most inopportune time.
"What's going on, Matty?"
"I can't tell you, Charlie. I want to, but I can't."
"I don't understand."
"It won't let me."
Charlie looked down at the floor and saw two men lying in a pool of blood, their blood. In the heart of one was a knife. Kneeling down, Charlie noticed his bare feet were covered with blood and he was wearing scrubs. Charlie looked up at Lewis.
"Is that their blood on you, Matty?"
"Oh no, Charlie. This is Vivienne's."
Charlie reached out and let his hand hover over the knife. It smelled of silver. Then, without thinking, Charlie grabbed the hilt and pulled it out.
The flash of pain was so severe it felt like his mind was being torn apart. A hallway. The back of a dark haired man. Then a hand holding a bloody knife. Another man, this time with brown hair; his face is upset and he's yelling something. Suddenly there was the side profile on the edge of the mirror across from his hospital bed, but the flash vanished as quickly as it had come, right before the mirror reflected back the owner's face.
Charlie held two PHD's computational and systems biology. It was fancy talk for being extremely smart. Despite his head injuries as a child, Charlie excelled at micro biology and scientific theory. The latter was more a hobby, but it still made him pivotal in the development of a lot of the armor and weaponry for the Pipers, specifically the Therian-Weave body armor. The most recent design possessed camouflage properties and he could not remember designing any of the latest prototypes. Looking at it now, he could see his train of thought, but more importantly, he could see the flaws.
"Yeah?" Charlie said absently as he stared at the molecular code on the double monitors in front of him.
He had been pulled as a Field Piper, stripped of his rank, and was working, of all places, in Duibne Industries North Tower medical labs. He was never alone, not that he couldn't handle himself - he still remembered how to kill a man 20 different ways - but he was more valuable now as part of some exchange program between Simon Huntington and their representative, Vivienne Sena. Another interesting tid-bit, but apparently not something he knew to forget. That was the Commander's business and Charlie never dwelled on it since Vivienne Sena's relationship with Huntington didn't concern him in the least.
"I received the notes you made."
Charlie looked over at the tech in the white lab coat and fitted sweater dress. He gave her an appraising look and then raised his eyebrows.
She held up the flash drive he had left on the head DI tech's desk. "This is 5 gigs worth of documents."
Charlie sighed and looked away. "It's about that molecular extractor."
This was the same machine they used on him to extract the silver from his body and cause the extensive tissue damage. It was also not part of the distribution of information between DI and the Pipers R&D section. He had been poking around DI's system, with a little help from Lewis, and found the information just where he knew it would be.
"How did you get this information?" she asked, trying to sound annoyed, not that Charlie cared.
"I was in it. It gave me a sort of intimate knowledge of its inner workings." Charlie leaned on the desktop he was working on and looked directly at the woman. "Did you read it?"
"Not all 5 gigs, no."
Charlie turned away from her and looked back at the code streaming across his double monitor. "You let me know when you get through it then."
"You shouldn't have had this information in the first place."
Charlie reached out and plucked the flash drive from the tech's fingers and tossed it in the trash can underneath his desk. He had very little patience for people nowadays and she was wasting his time. "You know, I'm very lucky your machine didn't skin me alive, down to the bone. If you don't want the help, the notes are now in the trash. If you do want it," Charlie said, not looking at the woman the entire time, "then dig it out."
"You're a guest here at Dubine Industries, Doctor Hammond."
"And you're wasting my time just standing there."
The words coming out of Charlie's mouth felt wrong, but his annoyance was growing by the second. She had about five seconds before he dug the flash drive out of the trash can and crushed what could potentially be enough information to push their research on the machine at least five years when a familiar scent wafted toward him. It didn't help his grumpy mood.
"Mr. Hammond? A moment?"
Charlie slipped off the chair and dug into the trash for the flash drive. He set it, none too gently, on the table top in front of the tech. Then he turned and looked at Simon Huntington standing just inside his office, holding the door open for the tech.
"Cheese it, it's the boss," Charlie mumbled.
"Are you going to ask me how I'm feeling?" Charlie asked leaning back against his desk, crossing his arms.
"I don't need to ask. It's pretty apparent."
"It's actually a relief you're so intuitive, Simon. Everyone else won't fucking stop asking."
Simon assumed a relax position against the office door, leaning on his left shoulder. "It's not why I'm here."
Charlie pointed to the door silently. Simon nodded. Charlie shrugged.
"You had your IT Piper hack into my system. Again."
"Your system is flawed."
"Aren't they all, Mr. Hammond?" Simon stared at him for a moment before entering the room further. "Is Lewis that good?"
"Oh, he's the best."
Simon stared hard at Charlie, not that he was trying to intimidate him, but to read him. Viv was helpful with her tricks, even more so than Ellis had been. His perception picked up on the calmness of Charlie's strong heart - not at all nervous about the questions. In fact, Simon wasn't even sure he was breathing, Charlie was so relaxed.
"If your people read the notes, if they can understand them that is, they'll find it helpful."
Simon remained silent.
"It's a lot of scientific theory and quantum physics. You let me know if that's over any of their heads."
Simon grinned at the sarcasm. Charlie was extremely intelligent. The paperwork from his findings was impressive, enough so that Simon agreed to keep DI's doors opened to Vivienne's Pipers, despite the severe animosity between him and the men. Ignoring the fact that Simon did it to appease her mate and to keep things civil after his bond with Vivienne came out. She really should have told Brig before things went south.
Simon put his hands behind his back, a move that never failed to make the other Pipers tense, but Charlie moved nary an inch. "Try not to eat the hired help, Charlie. No one likes a grumpy boss. Besides, it's not like you."
"Isn't it? I don't remember."
The expression on Charlie's face tightened just a hint, sadness micro flashing across his blue eyes. The young man's skin was flawless and his dark hair soft and spiky. For as irritable as Hammond appeared to be, Simon wondered if Charlie thought his life now was worth it.
"Would you have rather died, Charlie?"
"I don't know," Charlie said without hesitation. "Being immortal kind of sucks. Now, if you don't mind?"
Simon watched as Charlie settled back into his seat and turned back to his monitors. No Piper would have turned their back on Simon, not in a million years. From what Vivienne had told him and what he saw, they were all wired to react that way toward Simon, except for Charlie and the younger Piper, JT. They were different, both by some random cosmic change it seemed like. Simon turned and silently left Charlie's office.
Catherine was almost three months old, born prematurely at 30 weeks, just over seven months along in Vivienne's pregnancy. Her birth had been violent and traumatic, for Viv, for Catherine, hell even for Lewis. Poor Lewis, Viv thought.
"Gimme," Brig said, reaching for his drooling daughter. Despite the premature birth, Catherine was healthy and developing on schedule, more than likely her father's genes at work, making the little girl an extraordinary fighter, surviving the trauma that caused the premature labor. Viv remembered the pain that pushed her body into overdrive.
"What, Viv? What's wrong?"
Through tears of pain, Viv watched as Lewis looked at her, then back at the monitors, and then back at her. "I don't understand. Are you...right now?!"
"Right now, I'm having this baby RIGHT THE FUCK NOW!"
That was a bad day, she recalled. A long, bad day.
The sound of zerbers and their daughter laughing till she couldn't breathe filled the hallways. Viv looked up at Brig and instantly smiled, watching him play with his daughter. Her skin was slightly darker than Brig's, but not near as tan as Viv's. Her hair was showing signs of curls, although short yet thick and brown. She had Viv's nose and lips, but her father's blue eyes - not quite as bright blue, but looking like they were getting there. And Catherine was extremely pudgy, that healthy chubby that made babies look so damn adorable. Catherine held her head up, looking at her father, her fat fingers grabbing onto his polo shirt collar, covering it with her drool.
"Want me to take her so you can do this?"
"I was hoping to show...."
"Fine," Brig said, cutting her off. The smile on his face withered as he handed Catherine back to Viv gently.
Viv sighed and took her daughter back in her arms. Their relationship had been damaged, to say the least, when during the hunt to find Kyle Evans resulted in the accidental revelation that Simon had bonded with Viv, and had been bonded to her for some time. She was fairly certain Brig would never forgive her for it, despite it not quite being her fault, but then her mate insisted that Simon was just using her anyway.
It was a sore subject.
They had planned to get married right after Catherine had been born, when everything settled down, but that had yet to happen. The hunt for Kyle Evans happened, two pipers died, Charlie woke up, and a slew of his men ended up in the hospital. Instead of Brig being there when his first child being born, Lewis was there. They made him Catherine's godfather because of it. Not that he didn't appreciate Lewis' efforts, certainly helping Viv deliver their baby was not in his job description, he did surprisingly well, thanks to the internet and youtube. Brig really needed to talk to Lewis about his internet usage, though.
Things were bad, at first, but Brig couldn't stop loving Viv. Still, it made for uncomfortable silences. Brig stopped suddenly and looked at Viv. The surprise on her face was clear, for once, and she kissed their daughter as she looked up at him with those golden brown eyes. Reaching out, he touched Viv's chin, caressing it with his fingers and then a slow smile formed on her lips.
"Alright. I love you. Just call me when you need me."
Viv's smile deepened and she tilted her head up to kiss him. Bending over he kissed her softly, the kiss slowly deepening into a more passion lip lock when their daughter reached out and grabbed his ear, tugging on it savagely while laughing.
"Ouch, oh my god, her grip!" Brig yelped and nuzzled his daughter, giving her another zerber in retaliation. "I'm going to find Red. Check up on Charlie."
Viv nodded and walked off toward an elevator. She didn't like to talk about Charlie as much as Brig didn't want to talk about Simon. Brig didn't know if it was guilt because what happened to Charlie was because of Viv or because she felt like she lost something when Charlie lost his memories of her. Brig didn't know whether to be jealous or just concerned that Charlie couldn't remember he loved her. He had no regrets in letting Charlie recover in DI - he no longer had to fight for Vivienne in an awkward, silent war with his Piper, but he wondered if maybe Viv didn't regret that Brig didn't.
Charlie woke up during the worst possible time. Red hated himself when he thought that, but when that day happened, hell breaking loose was an understatement. The hunt for Kyle Evans had gone terribly wrong. There was no other way to put it. The Elder Hammerthynn had cracked Viv's skull the morning of his weekend bender with Camille and with barely thirty minutes of sleep in forty eight vigorously fucking hours, Red had to put VIv's face back together. The Elders Hammerthynn and Jameson elected to stay in the city much longer than planned - Red knew it was to avoid rumors of Vigo's break down. As far as they knew, none of it leaked out, but by the end of that day, it paled in comparison.
He learned very quickly he did not know how to tie a knot that could support more than five hundred pounds of weight, swinging on a rope that could barely hold that. He also learned what it felt like to burn. The scars were gone, but the recovery was almost worse than the damage. Red was starting to dream and it terrified him.
Straightening off the wall he was leaning against, he shook off the fear and ducked inside the lab. His badge gave him access to the entire floor; basically anywhere Charlie could go, which was everywhere, Red or any other Piper could follow. The DI nerds didn't like it at first, but they got used to the big Pipers hovering. It wasn't like anyone but Charlie could understand any of the experiments happening down there anyway.
Dr. Mallari was still there, Charlie's doctor through his ordeal, and was always extremely friendly. Red liked and trusted him. Everyone else? Not so much. Simon Huntington and Vivienne had an agreement, among other things. Shaking his head, he felt the bitterness rise up in him thinking of what Viv hid from their Commander, but it was not a topic of conversation that concerned any of the Pipers. Trust had been broken and that was hard to fix.
Moving through the lab, Red peered over shoulders, eliciting annoyed grunts, and he smiled as he moved back to Charlie's office. Turning down a long hallway, Red peeked around a corner and saw Charlie's door closed. Beyond that were Dr. Mallari and Simon. Simon was already looking at Red when he peered around the corner; damn that vampire spidey sense. Red greeted him with a lift of his chin. Simon finished his conversation with Dr. Mallari and they both walked toward Red.
"Hey Doc," Red said with a grin.
"Reese," the good doctor said with a smile.
"It's Red, dang it," he grumbled - the doctor refused to call him Red because he thought it was too obvious.
"So it is," Dr. Mallari said, pointing to Red's hair and moved along with a grin.
Red turned to Simon and sighed. "You see Charlie?"
"I just did." Simon did not offer any more information. He was always like this - ask what you want to know, but don't assume he'll offer it.
"He ok? That pretty little tech with the tight sweater dress looked pissed."
"I don't know if Charlie is ok, but he's certainly acting per the norm."
"Meh," Red said. "There's nothing normal about Charlie anymore."
It wasn't like Red to talk about Charlie to anyone, certainly not to someone outside the circle, but Simon, Red realized, could keep a secret. Maybe he saw something the others didn't.
"It's only been three months. He's adjusting."
Red thought about it. There were a million things that Red noticed, but to put them into words was harder than he realized. Physically Charlie looked exactly the same, save some minor scars, but if you really watched him...you could see it.
"He's not the same physically. I mean, he is but he isn't."
"You mean the running. Endurance?"
Red was surprised. "Yeah, how'd you know that?"
"Viv," was all Simon said.
"Right, right." Red fell silent and put his hands into his jean pockets. "He's quiet, more so than before. I don't know."
"Maybe if you gentlemen treated him the same?"
"We are, but...it's not the same."
Charlie's office door opened and he stepped out into the hallway. Red immediately grinned at his buddy. "Sup, dude. You ready?"
It was time to go.
Their talking was distracting. It was hair above what he could legitimately hear, but it was like a buzzing in his head. He couldn't make out whose voices they were. Charlie had been looking at the code all day; not anything he and Lewis had stolen from the DI databases but the design for the Therian-Weave. DI had something similar but it was nowhere near as sophisticated in design or application. This code seemed flawed, but he knew it was his own, he just couldn't remember designing it.
"Jesus, do you MI-"
"- he's certainly acting per the norm." Simon's voice.
"There's nothing normal about Charlie anymore." And Red's voice.
Charlie turned and looked at his door. The offices had fairly sound proof construction, for obvious reasons: trade secrets, etc, but suddenly Charlie could hear them clearly through the walls. He gulped nervously.
"It's only been three months. He's adjusting."
"He's not the same physically. I mean, he is but he isn't."
"You mean the running. Endurance?"
"Yeah, how'd you know that?"
No secrets between the VR and the vampire, apparently. Charlie's tempter flared again, making him clench his jaw tightly. Vivienne's concern was misplaced. He wasn't interested in her guilt or reparations for it, he just wanted her to leave him alone. Slipping off his chair, he pulled his lab coat off and threw it over his monitors.
"Right, right. He's quiet, more so than before. I don't know."
"Maybe if you gentlemen treated him the same?"
"We are, but...it's not the same."
Charlie walked up to his door and pulled it open, resisting the urge to tear it off its hinges. Red was concerned, the calmer side of his brain told him that, but they were talking about him with absolutely no regard to whether or not he could hear them or not. Stepping out into the hallway, Red flashed a smile at him and Charlie realized that they were confident in the knowledge that Charlie really couldn't hear them. How could he? The walls were reinforced steel, two feet thick - redesigned from the zombie event several years back. There was no way he should have been able to hear them.
But he did.
"Sup dude, you ready?"
Charlie's eyebrows furrowed. Pulling gently on the door, it clicked shut. "Yeah."
Red was dressed in casual clothes; his jeans and Fruit Loop shirt. Charlie was wearing gray trousers and a light blue button up, trying to fit the scientist look and blend into the medical lab personnel, but he never spoke with them, other than to give them directions. Slipping his hands into his pockets, Charlie passed Simon and Red who broke off their conversation.
That was something Charlie never thought he'd see - Red talking to Simon Huntington. Not only had Charlie changed, but everyone around him had changed as well. Red and LT were Charlie's best friends, at least they were before his accident. LT was soft spoken but carried his authority easily, no one questioning it or his position, but now? LT was constantly at odds with the new Piper, Paulson. Charlie knew nothing about, but he wouldn't as just a Field Piper. As Sergeant, he would have known what leadership knew - that there was something going on with Paulson. Charlie figured it had to do something with his family background. Apparently Charlie had met Paulson at Glenveagh, but of course he had no memory of that. Charlie was fairly certain LT and JT hated each other, he just wasn't sure what the threat to either of them was feeling.
Red and Paulson were close now, the best of friends. Red also had Charlie's old Sergeant position. He wasn't sure what to think of that. They had to step someone up in Charlie's absence, but now that he was back, it was painfully obvious that Charlie wasn't Sergeant material and his absentee demotion continued. Red also had a girl and played at a bar called The Howl on the weekends. Charlie had been awake for three months now and not once had they asked him to come out to the Howl to see them. But then he made himself scarce on Saturday nights to avoid an invite.
Quietly Charlie walked out of the medical labs with Red at his side, jabbering on about something in his animated way. Flailing his arms, trying to make Charlie laugh, which he did in the appropriate places, but it was apparent he was phoning in his responses when Red stopped his chattering. On their way back up to the ground level, Red apparently couldn't stand the pregnant silence and asked the inevitable, making Charlie sigh inwardly.
Viv laughed silently in their heads as she smiled down at her daughter. 'I have pumpkin with me.'
'I'm down on sub level four, just finished talking to your Charlie.'
Viv paused before replying. She struggled to withhold what she was feeling from their aura, a trick she learned much to Simon's dismay. Their aura ebbed clear of the pain she felt just talking about Charlie, but the pause was enough.
'Sorry,' he said sheepishly in her head.
'No, that's fine. Everything's fine. Coming down.'
Viv waited in front of the elevator, bouncing Catherine in her arms, feeling the weight of her when the doors opened.
"Hey, it's the munchkin and mom!"
Red stepped out of the elevator and immediately reached out for the baby. Viv handed her over and Charlie stepped out of the elevator behind Red and didn't even look at Viv, but instead gave the baby a cursory glance.
"You looking for Simon?" Red asked void of malice or sarcasm. Before he couldn't even say Simon's name without sneering. She knew the memory was still there for them, but Simon and Red had suffered an incredible trial by fire, literally, and it changed things between them. Viv was pretty sure they might even be friends, but it was something Simon never wanted to talk about, even to Viv, so she left it alone.
Her eyes passed over Charlie but he was barely paying attention to them. Clearing her throat, she looked back at Red and smiled as she watched him pretend to bite her daughter's fingers, making Catherine laugh.
"Yeah, time for another talk." The talk just being a review of their little exchange program between the Pipers R&D program and DI. "How's that going, Charlie?" Viv looked over at Charlie but he had already started to walk away. The pain in her chest was sudden and immense.
'Viv?' Simon said in her head.
There was no controlling that kind of anguish as it spilled into her aura with Simon. Even Red stopped and looked after Charlie.
"Try not to take it personally, Viv," Red said so quietly she barely heard him. They watched as Charlie walked the hallway to the doors leading to the ground level and disappeared presumably to wait for Red outside.
With a deep breath Viv cleared the undoubtedly pained expression from her face and turned a smile to Red. Shrugging, she pressed the call button for the elevators, opening them immediately.
"It's all good, Red. You babysitting for me?"
"Oh no, I don't need her falling in love with me. Wouldn't do that to you." Red handed Catherine back with a grin and kissed Viv quickly on her cheek before jogging off to catch up with Charlie.
Viv stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for sub-level 4 and tried to squash down the devastating hurt Charlie seemed to cause every time she saw him. The elevator moved smoothly down and when it opened, Simon was there with a concerned look on his face.
"Hi," he said smiling at her. "Run into Red and Charlie?"
"I brought the pumpkin for you to see," she ignored his question and smiled brightly. "Wanna hold her? She smells delicious!"
Raising his eyebrows, he reached out for the baby. "That's just disturbing, Vivienne. But if you don't want to talk about it-"
"No, I don't want to talk about it," Viv said cutting him off and moving into the hallway.
"Alright," he said softly and then turned his attention to the baby. Viv watched as Simon gave her a huge grin and touched her face gently. "I wonder what it's like for her, being the only little girl in a world full of men that adore her."
"It's super awesome sauce," Viv said with a grin that felt real.
"Charlie?" His buddy turned and looked at him with blank, blue eyes. "Viv was talking to you when you walked off."
Red didn't like it when Charlie elected to just remain silent when someone was speaking to him. Presumably because what he had to say was not what the person wanted to hear, but Red pressed an issue that had been bothering everyone.
"I know you don't remember her, but what's with fucked up attitude toward Viv?" Charlie faced Red, making him a little bit nervous, but he tried not to show it.
Charlie just shrugged silently.
"Dude, it's me, Red. I'm your friend. Talk to me. I don't understand, none of us do."
"That's kind of the point, Red." Charlie shook his head slowly and stared off at the ground. "I don't know who she is. You all say I had some sort of thing for her, but I don't now. There's nothing there. And even if there was, wouldn't that be a bad thing?"
"Then why is everyone expecting me to? I don't know her. I don't like talking to her. I honestly want nothing to do with her."
Red looked away and let out a long sigh. He had gotten so used to Charlie mooning over Viv - it was just...normal. Sad, yes but normal. Charlie just wasn't the man he was eight months ago. Quiet, yes, soft spoken, still, but the thing that drew people to him was gone. The warm and truthful personality that made everyone feel at home had transformed to an awkward creepiness. That wasn't Charlie he knew. Red didn't know who this guy was.
"You've done your job, Sergeant," Charlie said in a monotone voice. Red looked at him, feeling the sharp edge that was implied. "Some people you just can't help. That's when you leave them alone to sink or swim."
"You'd never do that."
"I would now."
"Your predicament with Mr. Hammond, you need closure."
Viv was getting easier and easier to read. Sort of. He was having to rely less and less on their aura and instead learned her peculiar mannerisms and tells. Simon knew it had been extremely difficult for her to deal with Charlie, especially since he had absolutely no memory of her. That, on top of his complete personality change, had confused and upset everyone around the former Sergeant. Simon couldn't begin to understand what Charlie was going through: the memory loss, physical changes, professional failings, and feeling like an experiment gone wrong had to be overwhelming. Everything about Charlie was unique now and it was only because of Vivienne that DI did not descend on the good Charlie Hammond and dissect him. So instead Simon agreed to let the Pipers in to get a closer look at their Piper. Was he using Vivienne?
But was he genuinely intrigued by the turmoil and anguish Charlie was going through? Did he feel bad for the guy? Did Simon feel responsible?
Viv shut herself off from their aura in a blink of an eye. It was void of all emotion; from Viv and himself, and it hung there between them like a cold vacuum.
"Come on, Viv."
Simon and Viv had gone up to his office on the top floor of the North Tower building and he sat on the square, black couches near the window, holding Catherine. The baby was pressed up against his chest and she was drooling onto his five hundred dollar silk shirt. It was apparently nap time since she was starting to fall asleep, snoring softly like a phlegmy kitten. Instinctively Simon began to rub her back like he used to with his own son, so many years ago.
Viv was looking out the window and he could just see the profile of her face. She had told him stories of her adoptive father. How he taught her to cut off the emotion; to never let it confuse the situation. The line between the person she was in her father's world and the world she showed to everyone else wasn't all that thin.
"Were you in love with Charlie?"
His question surprised even him, but there would be no other reason as to why Viv was so hurt by Charlie's complete refusal to even acknowledge her. Finally, Viv chose to answer.
"No. No, I wasn't. But I cared about him."
"It had to have been hard on Brig."
Viv turned and looked at him. "You're my psychiatrist all of the sudden?"
"It's annoying, isn't it? When someone pokes and prods?" Simon grinned at her. Viv narrowed her eyes at him and then pulled her phone out. "Don't you dare."
"Shut up, it's cute."
Simon rolled his eyes and stared out ahead of him, waiting for Viv to take the picture with her phone. "You know, if Brig sees it, he'll get pretty upset." The click of the camera phone gave him no warning.
"You never want to talk about this new found friendship with Red. Why do I have to discuss Charlie or even Brig for that matter?"
"Isn't being incredibly nosy and hypocritical what friends do?"
"Yes, but that's not the point."
Simon snorted and looked down at Viv's baby. She was completely knocked out on his chest, drooling all over his shirt. "Your daughter has made a mess of my shirt."
"Imagine what she's doing to my breasts?"
Simon could not help but drop his eyes down to her chest. "You should really show me, so I have an idea."
"Shut up," Viv said with a laugh and sat down close next to him, reaching out to touch her daughter's hair, pulling on a short ringlet.
"Get your closure with Charlie."
"And how do you propose I do that? He barely talks to me."
"You'll figure it out."
Simon had no clue, but the conversation had already progressed to uncharted territory for him. He didn't like to see Viv upset - it always made her cranky.
"You know I've spent every night since waking up just trying to remember one thing. Just one, Red. The last thing I remember, besides the Beta and the Commander not speaking, or that the Elder Hammerthynn was coming, was writing a report up for Diego back at R&D home office. Suggestions of biochemical code for the body armor camouflage. Diego and I had finally replicated the original prototype and we were excited about the next phase. And now he's dead. Because of her."
Charlie looked back at Red who stared at him with his shocked, bright blue eyes.
"None of us would have been in the sewers if it wasn't for her. You wouldn't have ended up with third degree burns all over your body if you all hadn't been looking for that human. And why were you there?"
"Paying back a debt. We were there because of you, Charlie. We owed Huntington for your life."
"But why was I there?"
Red remained silent.
"Yeah, Red. It's easier to just stand silently, isn't it? When the answer isn't as pretty as you'd like."
This was the first time he spoke about how he really felt about Vivienne Sena; at least how he felt about her after being in the hospital because of her for eight months. She changed everything. Shaking his head, Charlie took a step toward the lobby doors.
"I'll walk back, Red. I need the air."
"Wait a minute, wait." Red put his hand on Charlie's shoulder gently. "Listen, alright...fuck all this noise, seriously. Let's just drop it. Come out with us to The Howl. You haven't seen me play yet."
Charlie shrugged. Finally an invitation; he had been waiting for it, yet dreading it at the same time. It was another new thing to adjust to and he wondered how many other new good damn things could there be in twelve months?
"I don't think I'd be great company, Red." Still, he felt himself relax as Red did his damndest to include Charlie.
"Don't be a dick. Come see me and JT play."
Charlie raised his eyebrows. Paulson again. The new Piper had managed to fit into the tight knit group with almost nary a snag. He and Red had a lot in common: music and medicine, those two being huge in Red's life. Charlie hadn't gotten to know JT yet, but the Piper kept to himself for the most part. The other Pipers liked him well enough, but he was quiet and avoided confrontation, except with LT.
"Hey, what's the deal with JT and the LT?"
Red's smile faltered and he shrugged slowly. "I don't know. They get along ok."
"No they don't." And they didn't, even Charlie saw that.
"Ok, seriously? I have no idea what's going on there. JT doesn't talk about it at all. To anyone. He keeps to himself like that."
"He'd be stupid not to," Charlie mumbled. "Ok, I'll go with you this week to the Howl. I need a break."
Red wrapped his arm around Charlie's shoulders and immediately tried to give him a noogie on his head. The two play fought in the middle of the lobby until the DI tech in the tight sweater dress walked by, giving them an annoyed look.
"Ohhh, she wants me," Red said a little out of breath.
"She hates me," Charlie snorted and felt a little closer to normal again. "Come on, let's go."
"Gimme a piggy back ride," Red said, trying to jump onto his back as they exited DI. Charlie laughed and shoved him off, his grin huge and happy, if only for a little while.
((OOC Red and Charlie out))
It had almost killed him when he found out about their vampiric bond. Ignoring the fact that it was disgusting, it was - to him - the highest form of betrayal. Viv said they bonded while in Siberia, to which he asked if that meant she slept with him. They didn't talk for two days after that. When she finally told him that no, she had never betrayed Brig by sleeping with Simon, nor would she ever, Brig wanted to know if he had kissed her. Petty, yes, but they didn't talk for another two days when she told him he had. It boiled his blood just thinking of it, but Brig trusted her. He had to trust her; no one else would at that point.
His father all but rescinded his blessing when it all came out. Duncan was cordial to Viv, but any headway they made in their in-law relationship had been shot. Vigo hasn't spoken to Viv since he hit her out on the Run. Hammer, weirdly enough, was standing behind Brig but had not turned his back on Viv. Basically, life went on. Charlie had woken up to some devastating changes and that was the focus of all their energy at the moment. The birth of Brig's first born had brought the families together and they were expecting Brig's mother and brothers to US soil very soon. While they were all there, Brig figured he and Viv would get married, but they hadn't talked about it.
Strike that. He hadn't talked about it. Viv tried once and it resulted in them not speaking for another two days.
Looking around, he turned and looked into the back seat for something to read when he saw Catherine's diaper bag sitting in front of her car seat. With a roll of his eyes, he realized he'd probably have to take it up to her while she was speaking to Huntington. Reaching in the back, he grabbed her diaper bag and pulled it into his lap. Opening it, he checked the contents: extremely small diapers, wipes, powder, a small bottle of what appeared to be breast milk, and at the very bottom was a flat, square piece of child sturdy plastic. Picking it up, he turned it over and realized it was a frame. It was a recent picture of the three of them, something Viv had taken candidly while they were all curled up in bed. Catherine and her big blue eyes, drool stained pink onesie with Viv in one of Brig's tshirts, one hundred times too big for her, and himself shirtless. His arms were wrapped around both as Viv held the camera up and at arm's length. He wiped the plastic cover and smiled. With a deep sigh, he opened the car door and grabbed the bag to head up to Simon's office.
Viv clamped down so hard on her part of their aura that her head throbbed for a moment from the strain. Keeping Simon out was getting easier, sort of, but it was also a serious strain. She felt her eyes water as she blinked slowly, trying to maintain the look of effortless calm and serenity.
"You are really straining, aren't you." Simon's voice was mildly humored with just a tinge of annoying accurate sarcasm.
Viv shrugged, turning away from him on the couch and staring back out through the windows as she slouched down. One minute she and Brig were absolutely fantastic, as if nothing had ever happened. Then they weren't talking except when Catherine was concerned. It was painful and demoralizing at the same time.
"It's like...it's like he wants to change his mind. Take it all back. I strongly believe that if it weren't for Catherine, he would have left me." Viv turned and looked at Simon. She didn't need the benefit of their aura to know that was guilt written all over his face. "That's how things with Brig are."
"Wouldn't it be difficult? Being so strongly attached through scents?" Simon's voice was small and thick with guilt. Sadly, it did not make Viv feel any better.
"Difficult, yes. Personally? It would kill me." Viv's face tightened and she snapped, "And it's not we've ever had sex. If we had, I'd understand, but he says its emotional betrayal." Viv turned and faced Simon, getting angrier. "This is why both my marriages lasted barely two years. I don't understand this crap. I didn't do anything. It's not like I chose you over him for this to happen to. It's not even my ability."
"What if it were the other way around?"
Viv glared at Simon. "Really? You're going to turn it around and make me feel guilty for being pissed off?"
"Just putting it out there."
This was Simon's fault. It wasn't Viv's choice to ever be anything but, at best, a resource to Simon, yet through a series of unbelievable events, he chose to inexplicably bond with her, a werewolf. He barely knew her.
"You're angry with me," he said flatly.
His hazel brown eyes looked at her from behind Catherine's sleeping head; her almost curly brown hair sticking up in front of his face. All at once Viv relaxed her hold on their aura and let him know, unequivocally, what she felt.
It was a bitter, ugly resentment toward Simon for what he had done to her. The position she was put into with not only the pack, her Elders, and the father of her child. No one trusted her. Especially not Brig. Disappointment and embarrassment filtered into the aura, filling it, making Simon look away from her and go pale.
"Brig says you're using me."
Simon's lips curled into a bitter smile. "I'm sure he does."
"Yeah, but is he right? I defend you, which only makes the situation worse, especially if it's in vain. Are you using me to keep tabs on the wolves and distract them long enough to get whatever information you want to get out of Charlie?"
Simon flicked a look at her and she felt a flash of fear before he reeled it back in.
"Wow, really, Simon?" Viv was genuinely surprised. "You are using me."
"In regard to your Charlie-"
"He's not my fucking Charlie."
"Ok, ok. In regards to Charlie, we're using each other. He has access to DI research, as well as your IT Piper Lewis hacking into my system and getting whatever else they can get their hands on. But as far as our bond goes - I have no idea why that happened, when it happened. I meant it when I said I saw something in you that I made me rethink your kind. I respected you. I didn't just want to fuck you - literally or figuratively."
Suddenly Catherine started to cry softly in her sleep. It eeked out like a kitten mewing until finally her blue eyes opened up wide. Her chin trembled as she pulled back and looked at Simon, her eyes practically accusing him.
"What, you don't believe me either?" Simon asked Catherine, making Viv smile. He looked at her and reached out to hold her hand. "I am sorry. And no, I'm not using you. Not exclusively, at least."
Viv rolled her eyes. "It is what it is, Simon."
Catherine's eyes welled up and big, fat tears began to roll down her face. "Aww, what's wrong, pumpkin?" Her daughter looked at her and as quickly as the tears came, flashed a gummy grin at her. Her head bobbed, the neck muscles not completely developed, and bounced her forehead right on top of Simon's mouth.
Viv smacked him and he immediately murmured an apology when there was a soft knock and his office door opened. Looking over her shoulder, Simon's secretary poked her head into the office.
"Commander Jameson is here, Mr. Huntington," and held the door open wide to let him pass.
His scent hit her immediately and that tingle of arousal rippled through her enough to make Simon clear his throat. Viv ignored him as she watched Brig walk in looking handsome and absolutely desirable, even with their daughter's pink kitty diaper bag over his shoulder. His eyes immediately narrowed and his mouth tightened when he saw Catherine in Simon's arms.
"Please hand my daughter back to Vivienne, Simon."
When Brig opened his eyes again, Simon had done what he had asked and moved away from his girls. Holding his hand out to Viv, his face relaxed and she immediately rounded the corner and stood by him. Simon was wise to remain quiet. He stood by the large windows with his hands in clear view, void of any type of expression. Brig looked down at Catherine and she smiled up at him, her head bobbing sleepily.
"We forgot the bag. I thought you might need it." Brig was surprised he was able to speak to Viv without the taint of irritation in his voice.
"I think we're done anyway." Viv looked over at Simon who lowered his eyes and gave her a soft smile.
Without another word, Brig gently took his daughter from Viv and his nose wrinkled at Simon's scent on her pink little dress. Immediately he wrapped his arms around her, pressing Catherine to his chest to try and erase it. He turned and exited just as Catherine's arm flapped out and she put her mouth on his shoulder, looking back at Simon. Turning his head, he saw Simon lift his hand and wave goodbye to Catherine or maybe to Viv, Brig didn't know nor did he care.
Leaving the office, he waited by the elevator and began to give his daughter zerbers again, making her laugh and covering her with his scent. Viv was quiet, just watching him play with their daughter. Once they entered the elevator and the doors slid closed, he looked at Viv who looked up at him with an expectant expression.
Kissing the side of Catherine's head, he considered his situation with Viv. "Do you think about us having more children? I mean soon?"
If Viv was surprised, she didn't show it. She was either affectionate toward him or completely silent. Arguments between them used to be vocal and rather loud, but Viv took the high ground lately, letting him vent his frustrations or just let him calm down. She never really got angry about anything - just withdrawing for a couple days. He hated that about their fights. As much as he didn't want to yell at her, he hated not speaking to her altogether.
Viv shrugged and said, "That's pretty much up to you, babe."
"Why is it up to me? Don't you want more?"
"You know," she started in her monotone voice, "I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop."
"I don't...for what?"
"Brig, you know I love you, at least, you used to. I know if it wasn't for Catherine, you would have bailed a long time ago."
"Me? Why would you...? What does Catherine have to do with us staying together?"
Viv lifted her chin upwards and then looked down at the ground, avoiding his stare.
"Do you want to be with him?"
"Of course not. I couldn't be without you."
He felt a sob catch in his chest as Viv seemed resigned in waiting for him to leave her. Reaching out, he touched her face and then pulled her into a deep kiss, surprising her and confusing Catherine who bumped her head against his at the fast movement.
Brig deepened the kiss, tangling his fingers up into her hair aggressively and twisting Catherine away from them in his arm. Viv's arms came up and wrapped them around his neck, returning the kiss. He broke the kiss and looked at her. There were tears in her eyes and her nose suddenly pink. Then the elevator door opened.
"You have to press a button for it to move, you know." Simon reached in and pressed the button for the lobby and then backed out. With a roll of his eyes, he walked back to his office as the doors slid shut.
((OOC All out))