I am alone, surrounded by the color blue

pg-13 | major character death

He felt himself getting impatient as he waited for Sean. He forced himself to still his hands and rest them on his thighs as he sat in the school's office. He knew Sean hated being pulled out during class, but visiting hours at Bedford Hills only ran until 3:30 pm. It took forty-five minutes just to drive there and on more than one occasion, he had been told he couldn't visit Mira because the visiting room was full.

Eric had tried to lodge a complaint - he had been told if the room is full, other visitors are asked/told to cut their visits short, instead of making people leave - but Mira told him not to make waves. Visiting was a privilege and they could take away visits altogether if they wanted. When Mira tried to lobby for prison staff to give the inmates more sanitary napkins every month, she had gotten in trouble and he hadn't been able to see her for six weeks.

Sean finally showed up, his bookbag slung over his shoulder. He was panting as if he'd been running. It was one of the "upgrades" Sigma had put in. His head had some kind of special sensor in it and if he moved really fast, it would make his face flush and give the appearance of increased breathing. Sean had explained to Eric exactly how it worked but he still didn't understand it. All he knew was that Sean was happy, because this meant he could play at recess or participate in gym and not have to remember to fake exertion.

He took Sean's hand as they left the school. Thanks to Sigma's people - or maybe Akane's people - or Alice's people, for all he knew, because he still didn't know how the Crash Keys ran - Sean could attend school as Eric's adopted son. They had paperwork and everything. Sean had even wanted to take Eric's name, even though Eric thought Mira's was prettier.

Given that they were making television specials and movies about the Heart Ripper, and "Mira Weich" was still a household name, that was probably smart.

Sean's hair was brown, kind of halfway between his hair color and Mira's. Sigma had given him Eric's nose and mouth but his eyes were shaped more like Mira's and the blue-green color was closer to hers than his. He didn't really know why Sean wanted to wear glasses, since neither of them did. Maybe the real Sean did.

Before he started the car, Eric took one of his antianxiety pills. He always got stressed out on the highway.

"When Sigma makes your first body switch next month, do you think he'd mind if I came?"

"Um..." Sean suddenly became very interested with a loose string on his sweater.

Eric knew Sigma didn't like him. He was pretty sure nobody liked him. Maybe Akane. He didn't think he had shot her in any of the other places. Except Mira kinda was responsible for killing her parents, so maybe not. He didn't think he ever shot Phi, either, from what Sean told him, and Phi really didn't like him.

"It's not like I shot any of them in this world," he snapped.

"N-N-No, but ... Sigma remembers you shooting Diana. I think he's angrier about that than you shooting him. If the situation was reversed and you remembered him hurting Mira, you'd be mad with him."

He swallowed hard, suddenly sorry he had brought it up. After they did the SHIFT thing, he'd been having nightmares. He used to think they were just his mind imagining what Sean had told him, until Mira confessed the same thing was happening to her. So now he was pretty sure he could actually ... remember shooting Diana.

He had aimed the gun at her first. He wasn't sure why. Sigma was much bigger, but he had also been farther away. Maybe that was the reason. Eric didn't like the alternative. Sigma had acted weird around her the entire time in Dcom and even before Delta told everybody about the time traveling stuff, Eric thought Sigma had a thing for her.

So maybe he shot Diana first just to make Sigma suffer.

Akane had gotten him a therapist who actually knew about SHIFTing and timelines and stuff, so he could talk about what he'd done in the other worlds. He hadn't wanted to, at first. He hadn't wanted to talk about his dad, or Mira killing his mom, or anything, really, but Mira made him promise.

What he hadn't told Dr. Holmbolt was that it really bothered him that Sigma - and the rest - didn't like him, and he didn't know why. Nobody ever really liked him.

Sean had said that maybe after they did the SHIFTing, Mira might start to be different. He said she had been exposed to human emotions for maybe the first time and it might switch something on in her. Eric didn't really know if it was true or not. But he hoped maybe the SHIFTing could have the same effect on him. Maybe it would have fixed him. Therapy and medication was hard and he had wanted an easy answer.

The staff at Bedford knew him and Sean by now. This was different, though. He almost couldn't believe it. It was too good to be true. Mira would still be shackled, but they would be in a private room, not in the crowded public visiting room. He had permission to hug her in the beginning and before they left, although he wasn't allowed to kiss her or touch her in any other way. They would get a whole two hours, uninterrupted. Guards would be watching on the monitor, but nobody would be in the room with him.

And it was all because of the man they met for the first time after they signed in. Sean reached for his hand and squeezed it tightly.

Maybe Eric should have been scared, or anxious, but the guy looked more like Sigma than the old man he remembered from the desert. Well, he looked like Sigma if he dyed his hair red and slicked it down and started wearing suits and looked even grumpier. Sean said Akane and Alice had checked him out and even hacked him to make sure he wasn't dangerous. He passed all their tests, so they kinda trusted him a little. Enough at least for someone to ask him for this favor.

"Del O'Malley," he said, extending his hand. Eric hated handshakes - he always shook too hard or not hard enough - but he did his best.

"You've had the rules explained to you?" Delta's voice was cold and he looked angry. Eric started to feel a bit uneasy.

"Uh, yeah."

"We'll be good," Sean said.

"Okay." Delta stared at Eric for a few moments, making him feel guilty, somehow, before letting out a deep sigh and running his hands through his hair, messing it all up. He still looked mad, but now he looked agitated, too. Eric took a step back. "Look, I don't know you guys from Adam. Sigma asked me to do this, so I did it, but I gotta know that you're not gonna do anything stupid. I went out on a limb askin' for this."

"Um, who's Adam?" Eric asked.

For whatever reason, his question seemed to break some of the tension. Delta got that look on his face that people usually got when Eric just said something stupid. He felt Sean squeeze his hand again. "We're going to behave ourselves."

Another deep sigh and Delta gestured for the two of them to go in. Eric tried to control his excitement. When he got to the door, he could see through the window that Mira wasn't wearing her orange jumpsuit. She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and she looked like she even had a little lipstick on.

She smiled at him, but not a real one. Diana had explained to him once how you could tell a real smile from a fake and he hadn't understood the science stuff about the muscles but he got the thing about the eyes not being involved. Mira's smile only used her mouth.

He was used to not being able to touch her, so he gave her a weak smile back and brought up his hand in a small wave. Sean launched across the room and hugged her tightly. When Sean stepped back, Eric took his turn.

It was hard for Mira to hug him back with the shackles on, but she tried. Being able to touch her again felt ... weird. Eric sat down across from her, gripping his knees under the table to resist the need to hold her hands. Now that they were here, away from nosy fellow visitors, he didn't know what to talk to her about.

He could talk about his job, the promotion he just got. Not that it was that impressive. A different title and a small pay raise but he still pretty much just did filing for the Organization for Assistance with Reentry into Society. Sean thought it was important. But he was a kid. What did he know?

Before he could say anything, Sean started talking about how exciting it was to be back in school. Eric had never liked homework but Sean couldn't stop telling her about his science project.

"I wish I could help you with it," Mira said. She smiled again, but there were still no eye wrinkles.

Of the three of them, Sean probably had the realest smile. And he was a robot.