Malcolm found himself pounding on Gil's front door a little after two in the morning. I shouldn't be here. That thought played over and over through his mind. I shouldn't be here.

No, he should have called, first, but the second the door closed behind Eve, everything came crashing down around him. The bands of panic steadily tightening around him since finding out his suspicions about her had been right, snapped.

A primal scream burst from him before he could stop it, scaring Sunshine who fluttered about her cage, chirping wildly. Malcolm couldn't comfort her, though. Not with the tidal wave of thoughts and emotions careening around inside him.

He felt... too much.

Any second and he thought he would explode from the pressure.

He decided to get out of his loft before he ended up doing something he'd regret. Walking seemed safe. It seemed like the most logical thing to do, in fact. Long as he kept moving he could avoid... everything.

He didn't have a destination in mind when he walked out of his loft. His only plan was to keep going and never stop. Somewhere after his exit he decided to come here.

To Gil.

The only person in his life who could help make sense of what happened.

Mistakes.

He made so many damn mistakes the past few weeks.

The biggest one trusting someone he had literally known nothing about before entering into a relationship with her. No, he corrected as the light in Gil's hall flipped on. My biggest mistake was not trusting my instincts.

To not listening to his heart.

Malcolm's breath started coming in short, shallow pants. His vision frayed at the corners. He braced his hands against the doorframe as he waited for the door to open. His fingers vibrated on the wood so hard he feared they'd be bruised by morning.

Not that he didn't deserve the pain.

He squeezed his eyes shut to try and stop the images wanting to push through the cornucopia of other images always at the forefront of his mind.

Not that it worked.

Old memories mixed with new.

Ten-year-old him pulling back the tarp and seeing the face haunting him for all these years.

Sophie Sanders.

The Girl in the Box.

Eve's sister.

Icy shards poked him with every breath he managed to take.

Lies twisted with dozens of other lies he had been told.

Added to the guilt already trying to pull him down.

The harder Malcolm tried to claw for solid ground, the more he found himself being sucked down by the undertow.

He'd been low before but not like this.

My fault, he realized as soft footsteps sounded in the entryway. It's all my fault.

He was the one who let Eve into his life.

His heart.

He was the one who trusted her.

Slept with her.

Gave a key to his loft after less than two weeks of dating.

I knew something was wrong. I knew it! Yet, I ignored it...

For what?

The pleasure he found in her company?

The comfort he took from her touch?

What exactly did he gain from this... relationship?

Besides being proven, once again, what a fool he was?

A tear rolled down Malcolm's cheek. The hotness of it contrasted with the coldness of his skin.

Another followed.

And another.

Soon his cheeks were wet with them.

The door opened, but it wasn't Gil framed in the doorway. Malcolm blinked through his tears, stunned to find himself face-to-face with...

"Sorcha?"

Her name came out as little more than a rasp.

Inarticulate really.

Seeing her sent a fresh fireball of shame, guilt, and regret shooting through him.

A month.

He hadn't seen or heard from her in four weeks.

Not since the night she stormed out of his loft.

Out of his life.

Because he chose an illusion over their friendship.

Over her.

A tidal wave of thoughts and emotions surged across her sleep-flushed face before it went carefully, neutrally blank.

"Malcolm." Her fingers trembled on the door she gripped so tight the knuckles bled white. "What're you doing here?"

The lump in his throat prevented him from answering her.

Not that he had any idea of what to say to her.

Sorry seemed paltry, pathetic.

He needed to do something, though.

Before the annoyance building in her eyes caused her to lose what little patience she had left for him.

He surged forward before she could slam the door in his face, latching onto her with arms that suddenly became tentacles, and cinching down tight.

Sorcha didn't do more than issue a tiny squeak of surprise.

Understandable given how rarely he hugged people.

Even her, Malcolm realized as his quaking fingers dug into her back. He could count how often he hugged Sorcha on one hand.

Hugging people made him recall the times his father hugged him. The smell of his cologne. The feel of his sweaters against his cheek.

He developed a sensitivity to touch following his father's arrest.

It was too much of a reminder of Martin Whitly.

Of the lies he told him.

His deceit.

It's a pattern that repeats itself over and over, he thought he waited for her to shove him away, revile him for the dumb son of a bitch he was, and slam the door in his face. A circle that never ends because I regress backwards three steps for every one I take toward.

Sorcha didn't push him away or call him names. Not that she needed too. The dark things in his head were doing a good enough job of it for her. No, she simply folded her arms around him, those quick, clever fingers of hers sliding into his hair and massaging his scalp, the back of his neck.

Hope sparked inside Malcolm.

She was still his friend.

Not that he deserved her friendship after the way he hurt her.

"What is it?" Her soft, lilting voice washed over him, flooding him with much needed warmth and comfort. "Has something happened to Ainsley? Your mom? Gil?"

His breath hitched on a sob.

How could he tell her she had been right? Eve wasn't who he thought she was. Using me for the information she wanted about her sister.

And he let her.

"Mal?" She made to pull away but he tightened his hold on her, terrified if he let go that he'd fracture completely. "Talk to me. Please. You're starting to scare me."

Malcolm released a shuddering breath as he buried his nose into the hair at her temple. That exotic mix of jasmine, orchids and vanilla filled his nostrils. Slid down to where his hurts bundled together and soothed them.

"I know who the girl in the box was."

It wasn't what he intended to open with. It just poured out his mouth before he could stop it.

"You finally remembered who she is?"

Slowly, gently.

Giving him room to speak if he chose to do so.

Never manipulating him.

Never pushing him.

Respecting his boundaries.

Understanding him.

Like only she did.

"Her name was Sophie Sanders." His fingers curled into the soft fabric pooled at her waist. Anchoring himself in the present as much as to keep her warm

body against his chilled one. "She's Eve's sister."

"Eve?" The fingers in his hair trembled. The ones on his neck curled. Her only physical reaction to his revelation. "As in the woman who ghosted you for what... four months until your mother so helpfully got her on the phone?"

He flinched at her sharp tone but managed a soft, "Yes."

"So." Her low hum vibrated against his shoulder. "Your girlfriend's the sister of the girl in the box."

"Ex," he corrected quietly. "She's my ex-girlfriend. She left tonight after getting the answers she wanted about her sister."

He expected her to tell him it was what he deserved for his stupidity.

That he invited this pain when he chose to let Eve into his life, his bed, without taking the time to get to know her. Really know her, he amended silently.

Again, Sorcha did none of those things.

"I'm sorry, Mal." Her sighed stirred the hair that fell across his face. "I truly am. I did hope you'd be happy."

She'd never admit she hoped it be with her. Even if he confronted her about it, she'd deny it.

Wave it off.

Switch things back to him.

Like she had all the other times he tried to confront her about things. Not this time, Malcolm decided as he released a shuddering breath. There can be nothing between us if there's not honesty.

"Sorch..."

"Don't." An edge crept into her tone. A silent warning to back away. To leave things alone. Not that he could. "You've just had your heart broken."

"So did you." He only realized it too late. "And it's my fault."

"Yes, it is." No softening the blow. No tempering the truth. Another dart in his already weeping heart. One he deserved because of the knife he plunged into hers. "You sabotaged us, Malcolm. Like you have all the other times we were traversing that territory between friends and lovers."

Malcolm reared back as if she struck him.

"I've done this before?"

How many times?

Why hadn't he realized it?

Because I'm blind to anything that isn't murder is why.

"Yes, you have." Sorcha made to step back but his arms around her stopped her. "If we're going to talk about this, can we do it inside? I'm freezing."

Malcolm finally noticed she wore a thin cotton sports tank and sleep pants. Her Batman ones, he realized as he let her go. The ones she wore when she had a bad day and needed the comfort of her childhood hero.

"Where's Gil?" he asked as he shut the door and followed her into the living room. "Isn't he home?"

"He got called out to a scene about an hour ago," she said as she headed for the kitchen. "Traffic fatality or a drive-by, I'm not sure which. Was half-asleep when he told me."

"Why are you staying at his place?"

"Because having a complete meltdown on the steps of the courthouse is apparently a bad thing."

"You had a meltdown?" Guilt trailed after Malcolm as he followed her into the kitchen. "Because of..."

"Not because of you, no."

"Then, why?"

"Trial prep for Watkins." She moved to the stove to grab the tea kettle. "And I found out today that Robert chose to go to trail rather than accept the deal the DA was offering him." She turned but didn't move to the sink. "Trial preparations for his case start next week."

Malcolm realized he'd have known that had they been talking.

Had he not devoted all his time and energy to a lie.

A fantasy.

"You're going to have to testify."

"So will you." Her mouth turned down at the corners. "I tried to negotiate a way out of it but Jonathan doesn't see an option because of the role you played in my rescue."

"I'm fine with testifying," he quickly assured her. "I can..."

"I didn't want you testifying, Mal." A hitch in her voice had him frowning. "Not with Watkins looming in your future."

"He'll take a deal."

"Yeah." She barked a soft laugh. "Thought Robert would, too."

"Robert is a malignant narcissist." Like his father. "He wants and craves the attention a trial will give him."

"I know." A shudder went through her. Rattled the kettle she held. The only sign of her anxiety. "He thinks he's going to charm the jury and they will release him."

"Bundy thought that and was given the death penalty."

"Robert believes he's Bundy reborn."

That was as unsettling a thought as him becoming like his father.

"We're the same," he heard as she went and filled the tea kettle from the faucet. "Remember that, my boy. We're the same."

The bands around his head, around his chest tightened. His hands spasmed. It took every ounce of his remaining control to not sink to his knees and scream at the top of his lungs.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there," he managed around the ball of ice lodged in his throat. "I should have been there."

"I thought I had a handle on it," Sorcha admitted without shame or preamble. "Then I saw Robert outside the courtroom and I just..." Her shoulders lifted, dropped. "I fell apart."

"Remembering the trauma."

Something he understood all too well.

"Yes." She moved to the stove. "Thankfully, Gil was there and talked me through it."

"I should have been there, though."

"You were busy." No bitterness. Just... sadness. "And I didn't want to intrude on your happiness."

An illusion of happiness, he silently corrected. One based on nothing but lies.

"I'm still your friend." The words tasted hollow, empty. "I should have been there for you and I wasn't."

"Honestly, Mal?" Her eyes flicked to his. Open. Honest. Vulnerable. "I didn't need you. I needed..." She wet her lips with her tongue. "I needed my dad," she said finally. "That's what pushed me over the edge. I needed my dad and he wasn't there." Her breath shuddered out of her. "He's never going to be there because he's gone."

"Sorch..."

"Gil brought me here because he didn't think it a good idea to let me drive home."

"You should have reached..."

"Out?" A bit of that hurt snapped in her voice. "No, I couldn't. That was overstepping our new boundaries."

His heart twisted at those words. He watched her set the kettle on the burner before getting down two mugs from a cabinet. Her knowledge of the house, her comfort at being there all served as a reminder of the years they shared together. She was as at home here as he was.

Because Jackie and Gil made her part of their family like they did me.

"We're not friends anymore, are we?"

"We're always gonna be friends, Mal." The eyes that met his were achingly, brutally sad. "But it's pretty clear after what happened with Eve that we aren't meant to be anything more than friends."

Malcolm's world tipped. He had no idea until he collided with the floor that the sensation of falling had been a real one. He mumbled, "ow," while picking out the gold and pink specks in the tile.

"Dammit, have you eaten today?" Sorcha dropped beside him, one hand on his back while the other brushed his hair from his face. "I bet you haven't." He hadn't but he wasn't going to tell her that. "Okay, I'm going to make you some toast."

"No."

"I wasn't asking."

"I won't eat it."

Petulant, sure, but he didn't care. Not at this point.

"You need to eat something."

"That's not why I fell."

One of her brows winged up.

"Why did you then?"

"Because." Malcolm pushed himself into a seated position. "I've lost you."

"You haven't lost me, you idiot."

"Yes, I have!" He hurled the words at her. Damning her, damning Eve, but mostly damning himself. "I've lost everything we had because I tossed it away!"

"Mal..."

"I knew something was wrong with Eve!" The words exploded from him with such force he thought he'd shatter from them. "I knew!" He slammed his hands down on the tile. Hard enough the pain shot all the way up to his shoulders. "You knew!"

"I did, yes," Sorcha admitted with a slight nod. "It wasn't my choice to make, though. It was yours. And I respected that choice."

"You didn't give me a chance to make it." He hurled the accusation at her even as he told himself she wasn't the one to blame. "You walked out before I had a chance to make it."

"Because I know you," she said without heat or malice. "You were going to pick her."

"How do you know?"

"Leslie, Samantha, Julie, Eve," she ticked the names off one-by-one. "All of them choices you made after we started moving into becoming more than friends."

"What?"

"You thrive on the flash and burn. On the pain." Sorcha sat back on her heels. "You're a borderline masochist, Mal. You believe you deserve the pain and humiliation because of what your father did." Her sigh hung in the air between them. "I've put up with it all these years because I understood that. Accepted it. But I can't do it anymore. I just can't keep repeating the same circle over and over. It's not healthy for either of us."

Malcolm's breath came in short and shallow pants as every word hit home. Panic was an icy poker jabbing through his belly. Even as he ordered himself to breathe, slow and steady, the air wheezed in his lungs, stuck there.

"Mal?" He barely heard her through the noise filling his head. "Malcolm. Look at me."

He didn't offer any acknowledgement.

He couldn't.

Sweat ran cold and clammy on his skin, soaked through his dress shirt. The edges of his vision blurred. Any second he thought he'd pass out.

He needed to get out of there.

Malcolm lurched to his feet but nausea hit, a bright bite of pain that left him moaning like a wounded animal.

He stumbled to the bathroom and was violently ill. Afterwards, he curled into a ball on the floor and waited for the shaking to pass. Pain twisted his insides into knots.

He had everything and gave it up for nothing.

His body quaked as emotions pent-up these past few weeks finally burst free. Dry, heaving sobs escaped him. His fingers curled into tight fists.

He wanted to die but didn't have the strength to carry out his desire.

He felt more than heard Sorcha enter the bathroom. He scooted away, body curling into a tighter ball. Humiliation added to his misery.

Sorcha didn't say a word. She just sat on the floor and rubbed his back in slow, soothing circles. He wanted to knock her hands away but also desperately, pathetically needed this comfort.

Needed her.

Her fingers sifted through his hair, easing the headache pulsating behind his eyes, and silencing the dark things hurling insults and vicious taunts at him.

"Little darling, he heard through the white noise filling his head, "it's been a long cold lonely winter..."

He twisted as she sang, burying his face against her belly and breathing deep of that haunting scent that belonged to her, and her alone.

"Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here..."

Malcolm found himself falling asleep, lulled by Sorcha's gentle ministrations, and soft voice.

As he always was.


A/N: Hello, all, and welcome!

This is set after the events of episode 17. For those reading Tremors, this is a mini-spoiler about where things will end up at some point between Malcolm and Sorcha. Good news is that those interested or care can also find out what happens in Back At One between them heh

This is for my seventh entry on my Bad Things Happen Bingo card, prompt being, "Panic Attack."

Please, if you like this piece, favorite/kudo/bookmark it! Thanks for reading! Take care!