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Ties That Bind

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The death count is high, much too high when Walter Sykes’ senseless war against the Warehouse is over. If either side can be deemed the winner, their victory is a Pyrrhic one. Everyone who fought for Sykes is dead. Steve is dead, Mrs. Frederic is dead, H.G. is dead, and the Warehouse has been obliterated. The Regents are in a panic, they’re all mourning, they’re all devastated and shaken to their cores. Everyone but Claudia is debating what to do, what their first priority should be.

Claudia has had a one-track mind ever since she picked up Johann Maelzel’s metronome. It takes no time for her to pack a couple of bags: clothes, her laptop, and the metronome. She tucks her Farnsworth and mini-Tesla into her pockets. Fight or flight.

She’s been using Steve’s Prius ever since he was fired—no, not fired, but sent undercover on a suicide mission. It wasn’t like he could come back to Univille to reclaim it with the story that was fabricated. Claudia waits until after Myka checks on her, her own eyes bloodshot and swollen, filling with another round of tears to shed for the ones they’ve lost, and tells her that dinner is ready. She lies on her bed, staring at the wall and tells Myka that she’s not hungry; Myka just nods and says that they’ll check on her after dinner before leaving the room.

Claudia listens to Myka’s footsteps retreat and waits thirteen minutes before grabbing Steve’s keys off of her dresser and her bags out of her closet. In all the shock and confusion following the destruction of the Warehouse and the death of Mrs. Frederic, the metronome was the last thing on anyone’s mind other than hers. She knows Artie has some sort of plan formulating in his mind, one that could reverse the fate of Warehouse 13 and Mrs. Frederic, but it’s not enough for her if it doesn’t bring Steve back. She cannot just let him go.

 

******

Claudia's not sure how she ended up in this place. Stuck somewhere between running and hiding. She can't deal with everything that's happened over the past year—it's too much. She doesn't want to deal with it. She clutches the metronome and stares at Steve's corpse. She's afraid to release the pendulum rod because she's terrified that it won't work. That his heart will not resume beating in time with rhythm of the metronome.

It's an overwhelming sense of desperation and desolation that fills her. She knows it's only a matter of time before the Regents or Artie, Myka, and Pete find her. If she doesn't do this now, then she'll probably never have another chance and Steve will be gone for good. She's lost him but he's not gone, and yet he is. She wants him back. She needs him back. He is the Shirley to her Laverne. He is the best friend she has ever had and, gay or not, he just may have been her soul mate. She doesn't want to live without him. She wants to wake up and find out that the past couple of months have been a nightmare—that Jinks was never sent undercover, that he never died, that her heart hadn't been ripped out, torn apart, put back together again only to be blown to pieces.

The fingers on her left hand dance along the wooden side of the metronome as the right hand rests on top of Steve's. Claudia can do this; she wants to do this she tells herself as her fingers hover over the pendulum rod. All she has to do is remove the latch and set the rod swinging at a steady rhythm, a strong healthy beat for Steve’s heart to keep time with. If she just sets the rod free, it will start ticking out the beats for Steve’s heart to follow and he’ll be alive again. Her hand moves to the base of the metronome. She wants Steve to live. She knows that he would want—not this. Claudia’s conviction and determination wanes because Steve wouldn't want this. Deep down she knows that he knew that his death was a distinct possibility and yet he willingly walked into the fire. So that he could protect her. It’s not that she’s ungrateful, but with all the casualties his sacrifice seems in vain. What would he say if she brought him back?

He would be so disappointed in her. He would be honored that she cared so much but he’d be quick to point out, as gently as he could, how misguided she was in bringing him back; her intentions are not pure because they are selfish. He would tell her that she has her whole life ahead of her, that she shouldn’t be afraid to live it and to love. Then he would ask her to let him go, beg her even, and let him rest in peace.

Let go.

Claudia exhales, setting the metronome down. He’s gone and she’s not going to bring him back. She can hear Jinks’ voice in her head, “So brave,” and she feels like she could breakdown at any moment. She grips his hand tighter, gathering her strength from him; he is still her rock. She closes her eyes and remembers his smile, remembers his eyes, remembers him full of life. Taking a deep breath, she opens her eyes before squeezing his hand one last time. She lets go, places a kiss on Steve’s temple, and whispers goodbye. She has to make herself walk away. She doesn’t look back because if she does, she just might change her mind.

She exits the building and there’s Pete’s damn mom, the grand high Regent herself, leaning against Steve’s—no, her car. She’s in no mood to exchange pleasantries or engage in small talk. “What?”

The older woman stares at her, trying to figure her out. “You didn’t use the metronome?”

Claudia looks around. “Does it look like I used it? Do you see Steve Jinks? Alive?”

Jane’s chest rises and falls. “I know it doesn’t feel like it, but you made the right choice, Claudia. If you’d chosen differently—it’s a path that it would have been very difficult to come back from. It would have changed Agent Jinks if you had brought him back. He would not have been the same. It’s going to take time, but you will heal. If you need to take some time off—”

“Oh, I will be doing more than taking some time off. I quit.”

Jane’s eyes widen. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think that I heard you correctly.”

“I think you did, but, I’ll elaborate just so that there’s no misunderstanding: I am tired of all of this. Do you know how many artifacts have tried to kill every single person that I care about since I joined the Warehouse? In two years, do you know how many relationships I’ve watched that place destroy? I’m sick of it, all of it. I’m done. Find someone else to do inventory and filing.”

Jane is on Claudia’s heels as she walks around to the driver’s side of the car. “Ms. Donovan—Claudia, you do not fully understand how important you are or the full extent of your purpose at the Warehouse.”

She spins around, furious. “My purpose? No, no, no. If this is about me being front-runner for the position of Caretaker, I think I’ve made myself perfectly clear: I am not interested.”

“You are not just the front-runner, you are it. There is no one else. The Warehouse has chosen you. It chose you long before you were aware of its existence.”

“Well, it’s just going to have to get used to the disappointment like everyone else has and choose someone else.”

“Claudia, please, wait—”

“No. It’s over. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” She yanks open the driver’s door of the Prius then hesitates a moment before fishing the Farnsworth out of her back pocket. She stares at it for a moment, letting her resolve build, then she shoves the communicator at Jane. “Tell Artie that I’m sorry. And that I said thanks.”

Jane starts to shake her head slowly, “I will not.”

“Take it!” Claudia barks, jabbing the Farnsworth at her.

The older woman jumps, looking frightened, and she reluctantly takes the object, her hands shaking ever so slightly. “Whenever you’re ready to come back…”

“Oh, go to Hell,” Claudia spits, pulling her mini-Tesla from of her front pocket. Jane jolts, expecting Claudia to fire at her. Instead, Claudia throws the weapon to the ground at Jane’s feet before climbing into the car and roughly pulling the door shut.

Jane watches as Claudia pulls into traffic and speeds away. She collects herself, regains her composure, sighs and opens the Farnsworth. “We have a problem. The situation has escalated. Ms. Donovan was less than cooperative. Do whatever is in your power to delay the transfer.”

 

******

Pete shoves himself away from the table and stands. “So that’s it? We just let Claudia take off to God knows where and we don’t go after her?”

Myka speaks calmly, “Pete, she’s in mourning and we have to let her deal with this her own way and in her own time.”

“I’m not saying that we should forcibly bring her back here, but we can’t not keep an eye on her.” He looks to Artie. “Can we?”

Artie adjusts his glasses, carefully measuring his words. “Our orders are to let the Regents handle the situation and apparently they have a plan. Oh, and a timetable. It seems that they always do.”

“The Regents are going to handle it? What are they going to do except upset her even more?”

“Pete—”

“Artie, you know—”

“Agent Lattimer,” Mrs. Frederic begins, appearing out of nowhere, still looking a little worse for wear since her and the Warehouse’s recent resurrections, but her voice and presence still carry the same power and intimidation as before. “You are under no circumstances to initiate contact with Ms. Donovan. You are not to search for her, and you will not disobey these orders. Is that clear?”

Pete swallows. “What if she—”

“If Ms. Donovan were to contact you, then please, by all means, feel free to converse with her as you would with any other friend and former colleague. What has happened has happened and what will happen, well, that is not up to you. It is not for any of you to bring Ms. Donovan back here. There is a plan, trust in it.”

“Like Jinks trusted in my mother’s plan?” Pete’s words taste as bitter on his tongue as they sound.

Myka shakes her head and walks out of the room. She doesn’t agree with how the Regents always choose to handle certain situations, but she respects their authority and their level of ignorance. The Regents must protect the Warehouse at all costs but they don’t understand what it is to have and lose a partner. They observe, stepping in when they feel it is necessary; to them, dying for the Warehouse is a noble sacrifice, one that should be made with little to no hesitation. Myka would die for the Warehouse but she would rather risk her life to save Pete, Claudia, and Artie first—the Regents do not and cannot understand the bond of a team and the family that they make up.

“Agent Lattimer, Ms. Donovan has always been able to fight her own battles. She does not need you to speak on her behalf simply because she is not here to do so. We are all quite aware of her current feelings regarding the Regents, the Warehouse, and her future role. In time, she will come to accept all these things and she will return.”

Pete does not notice the way that Artie tenses when Mrs. Frederic mentions Claudia’s future role. Artie had promised her that it would be up to her. He’d only been trying to protect Claudia and to reassure her, to comfort her; he can only hope that one day she’ll be able to forgive him for continually letting her down and lying to her. Perhaps if he’d been honest with her and told her the brutal truth that she didn’t want to hear, she wouldn’t be running now, not when she needs them and they need her the most.