by Hecate

You're not invited to stay
You're not intended to go

The first time you see her you have no idea who she is. She's just an experiment on the run, and you're supposed to catch her/it as fast as possible. She's fast, and it takes you longer than it should but it doesn't really matter. Even you have some bad days.

The second time she manages to escape, it takes you a bit longer but it's not because she got better. You're still sore from your last mission and you're tired from the night you spent drinking. You catch her at the end of one of too many long, white hallways. She manages to give you a hard kick against your shin before you get a good grip on her. You carry her back to her cell, her heartbeat like thunder against your hand.

The next time she gets out and you chase her, she throws a book at you and spits right into your face. You ask the doctors who she is then. Their answer doesn't really surprise you.

The fourth time she simply waits when she sees you walking towards her. You stop right in front of her, and still she doesn't run. When you turn she walks right beside you, her steps mimicking yours. "You think they let me escape on purpose?" Her voice is rougher than you imagined. You think it must be a consequence of whatever they're doing to her. "So they have some distraction at work? Watching how you catch me again and again."

She looks at one of the cameras in the corner and you follow her gaze. You know the people behind these, you know that their eyes have as much emotions in them as the cameras following your every move.

"Wouldn't surprise me."

She nods. "Doesn't mean that I will give up, you know?" This time you nod.

The fifth time isn't a real escape; she barely makes it to the end of the first hallway. She shrugs at you and bites into your arm when you push her into her cell. For some reason that makes you smile.

She talks to you again when you catch her the next time. This time her voice is even rougher and her breathing fills the breaks between the words with a weird sound. "You know, the experiments aren't the worst thing about it. It's the time going by. It's my life going by without me living it. Just this cell, this bed and… them." You look at her and you don't see her brother in her. You see a part of yourself.

The next day you go to her cell carrying a TV with you. You hook it up without a word, leaving her in the empty room just to come back some minutes later with a video recorder and a DVD player. You have no idea what kind of movies she likes so you just bought her the current Top 10. She probably doesn't know what she likes herself.

Soon they let her run again but it's a senseless amusement – there is no chase, she falls right into your arms instead. She struggles but she doesn't bite you. You think she should but you don't tell her. She is too light when you throw her over your shoulder. "You should eat more." She giggles at that, then she coughs, her body a shuddering mess against yours. "Tell them to stop feeding me with this crap and I might be able to eat again." You put her into her bed and watch her until she is asleep. You leave some books beside her bed.

You think about getting her some clothes when you're on your next mission. It amuses you. It scares you as well, but that doesn't keep you from buying a blue dress for her. You don't even know if it will fit.

You give it to her the next time she is on the run again. She laughs a little and carries it to her room, doing some dancing steps beside you. The cameras follow her dance and you know that it's not a coincidence that it's always you they send to catch her. Or that she only can escape when you're in the building. It's another thing that doesn't surprise you.

She's wearing the dress when you bring her new books the next week. It's too big for her but she doesn't seem to mind. She takes your hand and moves to the music coming from the TV, forcing you to move with her. It's not real dancing but it's probably close enough for her. You think that her smile is beautiful.

When you catch her for the ninth time she hops on your back and demands you to carry her back. You never even think of refusing.

You don't see her for a while after that; and when you come back and this frail creature stumbles into your arms it takes you a moment to realize that it's her. You carry her back, discarding the new clothes you bought her. They won't fit her now anyway.

She doesn't try to escape for a while. She can't. You come to visit her anyway. She's asleep most of the time; and when she's awake she's rambling and crying. You call her by her name the first time then. It makes her smile.

The next time you have to bring her back you find her asleep on the floor right in front of the last door. You don't tell her; you know it doesn't matter. All she would have seen after this door would have been the blinding white of snow.

You read a book to her the next day. The way she listens to you, the slight frown on her face, the concentrated look – it makes you see her brother in her for the first time. You don't like it.

She slumps down in your arms the next time just to start struggling a moment later again. You feel the urge to tell her that it's much easier to carry her back when she fights, but you don't. She's your job. Sometimes.

They send you to bring her to her next experiment. They don't have to tell you that it will be her last, the way they smile is enough. When you open the door to her cell and hold out your hand, she knows. Without a word she takes it, and you walk her to the lab. The cameras whirr over your heads, the attendants grin at you and you know that some of them will die in an accident soon. But it doesn't matter now, not as long as her hand is in yours, a dying butterfly's last moves. When you reach the lab you stop and turn her around. She shakes her head when you open your mouth to speak. You understand. There is nothing you could say that wouldn't sound like a lie now. You kiss her instead.