Bleed To Love Her
by Annie

"Once again she steals away
Then she reaches out to kiss me
And how she takes my breath away Pretending that she won't miss me"

His footsteps echo in the empty hallway. He's been looking for her for half an hour, only a gentle finger of worry sliding down his spine at this point. He turns the corner, sees Armstrong loitering.

"Have you seen Diane?" He keeps an unconcerned note in his voice. The gossip about the two of them is bad enough as it is without sparking more. Especially now, with no job to do and too much free time for idle speculation and salacious innuendo. Armstrong jerks his thumb.

"Thought I saw her going into the Sister's office a while ago."

"Thanks," he replies, but Armstrong is already heading the opposite direction, looking for a dark corner to sneak a smoke most likely. He retraces his steps and pushes open the door to Sister Peter Marie's office.

Diane is lying curled up on the cheap sofa, head propped on an armrest in a way that's going to give her one hell of a crick in the neck when she wakes up. But for now she looks peaceful, the lines in her face smooth for the first time in months. The shirt of her uniform has pulled out at the waist, revealing a slim expanse of pale skin. One arm is dangling limply, fingers brushing the carpet that needs to be vacuumed.

He hates to wake her. Knows she'd be grateful it was him that found her like this and not one of her fellow officers. She gets enough shit for being one of the few women on the job; she doesn't need the ribbing she'd get for falling asleep on duty.

He crouches in front of her and shakes her shoulder gently at first, then harder as she slumbers on. Finally, she comes to, blinking slowly until she focuses on him.

"Wha--Tim?" She jerks upright, rubbing her eyes. "Shit, Tim, I'm sorry. I had to talk with Pete and when she wasn't here, I just..." She raises a hand in a half-shrug and trails off.

He understands. "It's okay." He tilts his head and studies her for a long moment. "You alright?"

She barks a short laugh. "Do I look alright? Three days now we've been in twenty-four hour lockdown and it feels like months. I thought the riot was bad but this waiting, doing nothing...the goddamned tension is getting to me. I'm not sleeping at home. Then I get here and all I wanna do is sleep. How fucked is that?"

He tries for the reassuring approach. "Leo's working on it, Diane. This lockdown won't--"

"--last forever. I know. I've heard it all," she interrupts. "Look, Tim, I let you talk me into staying when I wanted to take my vacation time, but I can't do this anymore."

He searches her eyes and sees the truth in them. She's close to the breaking point and all he's done is keep pushing her, telling her he needs her, he can't do his job without her by his side. He nods. "I understand. Take your vacation, Diane. Go somewhere with Didi and get away from here for a while."

She's shaking her head before he finishes. "You don't understand, Tim. That' s why I came to see Sister Pete. I was gonna come see you next."

An alarm goes off inside him. "What're you saying?"

"I'm saying I'm leaving, Tim. I'm not coming back."

The alarm is now a shrieking cacophany in his head. "Shit--Di--No! NO!" He manages to stutter out. "Don't do this. Take some time off, relax, think things over. But don't make a decision like this just because you're tired and tense. Fuck, we're all tired and tense!" He's babbling, close to counting off reasons on his fingers for why she should stay. Not that he can think of a whole lot in his current agitated state but he's desperate to try.

She looks away, staring out the tiny window in Sister Pete's office. "It''s not that. Not all of it."

"Then what? What is so fucking horrible that makes you want to leave here for good?" His voice is spiralling upward and he barely manages to catch himself before he begins shouting at her.

"You," she replies evenly.

He's stunned, knocked into silence by an invisible kick to the solar plexus. She rubs a hand over her eyes.

"No, that's not what I mean," she tries again, wearily. "It's you and me. Or more specifically, it's you and me in this place."

His anger is warring with his confusion and hurt and for a moment, anger wins. "Can you give me a fucking straight answer for once, Diane?"

She looks out the window again, over at the desk, on the carpet. Anywhere but at him. "Do you remember the first time we made love, Tim?"

"Of course I do. It was the night of--"

"--Jefferson Keane's execution," she finishes for him. "Yeah, and do you remember why we made love that night?" She goes on, not waiting for an answer this time. "We were so disgusted by the whole idea of execution, of death, of killing, that we had sex to prove to ourselves and the world that we were still alive. And it was great, Tim. It was fucking great."

He smiles, remembering the heat and the frenzy of that night. "It was pretty great, wasn't it?"

She smiles back at him, lost in the past for a moment. Then her smile fades and she continues. "I fell in love with you that night, Tim. But I also started losing myself that night, only I didn't know it then. Oz had seeped into my pores and it wasn't until the night of the riot that I knew the Diane Wittlesey I was when I first started working here was gone. I went from the Diane that cried at the death of a deer, the Diane that got nauseated at a murderer's execution to the Diane that killed a man without hesitation or remorse. I stopped being who I was that night and became someone else. Someone I hate."

He raises his hands to stop her. "Di, you did what you had to do to keep both of us alive. Scott Ross would have killed me and raped you if you hadn' t shot him."

She nods. "I know, and in my mind I know I did the right thing and I'd do it again if it happened. But in my my heart, I hate myself for what this place has turned me into. And even though it's not fair, I hate you for not changing too."

He snorts. "Not changing? Do you really think that's true? Do you truly fucking believe that I'm the same person you knew three years ago?"

"The same person? No. But you haven't really changed, Tim. You've just've become more of the person you were back then. But I've become less, and that's why I've got to get out of here. Before it's too late. Before I become just like the ones you still believe you can save."

He struggles to argue with her, feels the hot wave of his temper surging through him, threatening to wash over him in a flood of bitter words and defiant denial. But the weight of her measured words squash his objections. He pulls her into his arms and whispers against the clean scent of her hair.

"What will you do?"

She leans into his embrace. "I don't know. We've got some money coming to us from Ma's will. It's not much, but it's enough to get me and Didi settled somewhere far away from here, give me time to find a job. I'm thinking England. I've always wanted to go there."

He doesn't say anything, knows that there's nothing more that can be said. So he holds her for as long as he dares and wonders when exactly he fucked up so badly, when his life and Diane's life became such a shitstorm of regret and chances missed that she wants to go all the way across an ocean to escape it. He holds her and he silently tells her he loves her, will always love her, because saying the words out loud will hurt too much.

The door creaks open and Sister Pete walks in, stopping in her tracks as she sees them sitting wrapped in each other's arms on her couch. She raises an eyebrow but says nothing and he could almost kiss her for her polite restraint. He releases Diane and they both stand. Sister Pete smiles pleasantly at them.

"You needed to see me?"

"I did," Diane replies. She looks at him and he clears his throat self-consciously.

"I've got some paperwork to do," he lamely adds. He knows all that's left is the formalities, that Diane has left Oz already, has left him already. He bends down to kiss her gently on the cheek before he goes. He's halfway out the door before he hears her voice again.

"Goodbye, Tim."

He keeps walking.


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