I've been reading the lovely inconsistentwriter's Tear Me In Two (The Moonlight Will Anyway) series on AO3, so I was already in the headspace for this fic. Then Hozier's "It Will Come Back" came on when I was driving to school one day and I knew that I had to write this, even though it's taken a while because grad school.
You don't need to read Tear Me In Two to understand this fic, but I recommend that you do anyways because it is a wonderful series full of Claire Angst.
When he was younger, Jim had hated when his mom was working a night shift. He was scared that his mom would go to work one day and never come home. Now, the night after a full moon? He was thankful that she wasn't there to question why he was taking a thermos full of soup with him on a walk through the woods, especially when there had been so many so-called feral dog attacks recently.
It was the night after the full moon, and Claire still hadn't come home. She had disappeared three days before the full moon. Jim had thought she would have come back today, shown up to school exhausted and covered in scratches. She had done that last month and had temporarily put a stop to all the dirty looks that her parents had been giving to Jim and Toby.
Jim could tell where she had been by the claw marks on the trees and the paw prints in the dried mud. And he had seen her in this area. Or at least, he had seen a feral dog with a blue hairclip still stubbornly clinging to her streaked fur. He placed the thermos on a flat rock and opened it. He grabbed a napkin out of his backpack and placed the spoon on it.
"I know you're here, Claire."
"And waste the soup?"
She stepped out from the trees and shadows that had been hiding her. Only a single hair clip clung to her hair, desperately trying to tame her mane of curls into something manageable.
"You can have it." Hopefully it was Claire's stomach that growled and not the wolf.
"I made it for you. Besides…" Jim trailed off before he could ask the question. She probably wouldn't know when she had last eaten. The last full moon, she hadn't remembered what had happened when she had disappeared. She had looked so lost as she had said it. Claire was amazing in so many ways, among them her brilliant mind. She was one of, if not the smartest, students in their year. She was taking enough classes that she could graduate high school this year (though she'd need an extra year so she could go to college), and she still had straight A's.
(Or at least she had straight A's before the dog bite.)
Claire had once confided in Jim that she thought her mind and grades were the main reason why her mom loved her, because having a smart daughter was a status symbol. And now she was losing parts of her mind to the wolf.
"Besides," Jim said again, "it's already open, which means it's already cooling."
"I don't want you here," Claire said, and if it wasn't an obvious lie Jim would've felt like he had been slapped. As it was, the pain of her lie hurt less than the pain of how disorientated and hurt Claire was. When she was on top of her game, she was a much better actress. She was normally capable of making her lies sound seamlessly true.
"I don't want you around me," she continued. This was less of a lie.
"I know you. You're not going to hurt me."
"Yes, I will." A huff of sardonic laughter escaped her lips. "I don't want to, but I'll hurt you. I'll hurt all of you. It's better like this. It would be better if I were gone forever; I'm just too much of a coward."
It took Jim a moment to realize what she was talking about. When he did, he had to place a hand against the tree bark to ground himself. He was no use to her if he panicked over her words. "I'm not going to kill you, Claire."
"You should, before I hurt someone and make them like me."
"You need to eat. You're not thinking straight. Please."
Maybe it was the hunger, or maybe it was him, but Claire finally sat next to the soup and picked up the spoon. Slowly, Jim walked to her and placed a hand on her knee.
"You're making this even harder," she said, looking at him with watery brown eyes. It was the first time she had met his eyes since the "dog" bite. How long had flecks of gold been floating in her irises? Since her first transformation? Since the bite? She hadn't had them before.
"You're going to be okay."
"No, I won't. All of Blinky's books on lycanthropy say it's incurable."
"I don't care. Come back with me. We'll get through this together, my love. I promise."
Her eyes widened before she began to sob into his shoulder. Jim realized that this was the first time he had told her that he loved her.
I swear that when I started writing this Claire wasn't suicidal. But then, when I went to reread (and edit) this fic it made me tear up, so I think it fits the narrative.