Title: Strawberry Bread
Characters: Clare, Teresa, Elena
Warnings: Gore and general, all-around eew factor at the end.
Summary: Teresa took her in, fed her, clothed her, made her feel needed again... But in the end, all she left her with was agony.
Disclaimer: Yeah... no.
A/N: I really wish I knew exactly how they make Claymores so that I wouldn't have to worry I was getting something horribly wrong. Oh well.
And there were always blueberries,
sweet and plentiful
on rock-and-pine island slopes
above glinting water, below
billowy summer clouds,
unless they were brown-
bitten leaves on drought-brittle hills,
and bones of wolf-kill
- "What It Was Like," Jane Whitledge
Clare had loved her as soon as she saw her: that tall, slender figure clad all in silver and white. This woman moved more gracefully than any dancer (and with that big sword on her all the while!); Clare’s own bruised legs felt shaky beneath her, especially after days of seemingly endless walking through nowhere country.
But it was more than that. This Teresa, who might as well have been a real goddess instead of only having been named for one, was kind. The kicks of the first day notwithstanding, she did not beat Clare; she didn’t even call her names or slap her around a bit if she followed too closely. And she even caught food for her and cooked it on spits over little brushwood fires. She
let Clare eat it all, instead of snatching it away like the yoma had done. If Teresa were a goddess, then Clare might as well have died and gone to heaven.
Or so she herself thought. Her body probably would have told a different story; she had been too hungry for too long, and a few meals of the gamey meat she was much too grateful to ask for more of weren’t much comfort. Long, treacherous roads along sheer cliffs, where Clare had to pick her way carefully among an ocean of loose stones; routes through forests clogged with untold years of undergrowth and biting flies; and a bed of pine needles and compacted earth were not well suited to a little girl.
So, the night she would later remember– painfully, of course– as one of the happiest in her life was one of the ones they passed in a town. There was a nice little inn there with a red tile roof; Teresa booked a room for them both and then they sat down for dinner. Teresa wasn’t hungry, of course; she sat in a corner and made do with a little mug of ale. She had money though, and told Clare to order anything she wanted. The inn had a fresh batch of strawberry bread, something Clare recalled– from somewhere, but she did not bother to question herself for further details– as her favorite food.
It was that that made the night memorable. She stuffed herself with slices of the sweet brown bread and glass after glass of milk. She was still half-feral now, and like any animal she was content to glut herself with the most tangible substitute there was for love. It filled her stomach, an infinitely satisfying weight; it pulled her soul downward, leaving her mind blissfully
blank, and she drifted off to sleep in a haze of clotted sweetness.
And so her love for Teresa was simple, and Clare would have followed her anywhere; she desired more than anything that beautiful, loving mother who was the source of all nourishment... that smile, that walk, even the smell of her skin....
...The smell of her skin. Perhaps that was the thing that followed her more than the strawberry bread. Lying now on a straw mattress in the Organization’s headquarters, racked with pain, Clare would have given anything for one more taste of peace and sweet delicacies.
Today her stomach cramped and spasmed torturously; Clare may have loved Teresa, but the woman’s flesh had thrown her body into agony: her face felt pricked by needles of ice, and her eyes swelled and ran with tears. On the cot next to hers, Elena clutched in one hand the locks of her brown hair that had just fallen out; with the other she rubbed her shamefully bald scalp with
something like obsession. Clare’s own hair was long gone–she wasn’t sure quite why, since it was surely only going to grow back in the same color; in fact, her head was already covered in a fine, colorless down like the skin of a peach; still, her head throbbed too much for her to question it. So she lay and watched Elena: the swift motion of her hand against the side of her head; the way the blood that drained from the wound down her front rippled, red and glossy, to the shivering of her skin.
(And it was disgusting to see, but there were many more disgusting images her mind would conjure up if she let it: she would imagine how the men from the Organization had gotten the material to turn her; she would see their gloved hands digging through Teresa’s skull and pulling out chunks of brain, pale and slimy and shot through with ruined pink vessels-- and by now, probably crawling with the goddesses only knew what. There was nothing that could not be reduced to its component parts; even an earthly goddess was nothing but raw material now. The only grave this woman would know was Clare.)
In this place, even the water ran red with blood. Well, even Clare would have been forced to admit, not literally. She and Elena got their drinking water from a tap in the wall, and it ran perfectly clear, as cold and refreshing as heaven to their stinging faces and parched throats. There was no bath here, but Clare would kneel on all fours in front of the faucet, splashing herself with water until she felt half alive again. And yet, every time she drank out of her cupped hands, her mouth tasted unmistakably of iron.
Elena was still picking and shivering, but Clare squeezed her eyes shut; the pain was getting bad now. She bit the inside of her mouth to keep from crying out, but it was all in vain. A sound, even if it was just a little mewling, escaped her lips, and Elena must have heard it, because a second later she was on her feet (unsteadily, from the irregular sound of her footsteps), stumbling her way towards her as well as she could. The girl entwined her hands with Clare’s, so tightly that both of their knuckles went white from it. That was the last thing that she would remember.
...Or rather, it was the second-to-last. When her mind was finally wiped clean with pain, purifying like a white-hot fire, she felt the weight of what was left of Teresa, darkly satisfying in her stomach– brains as full and sweet as the inside of any strawberry. And for a while, she was content once more.