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Written for hardtime100 challenge -- #170 Junk Food


by levitatethis

Gloria should hate him--outright--and to an extent she does.

He was a murderer, cruel and simple, and his actions, under the orders of his brother--O'Reily, Ryan, obsessive, possessive--dismantled the remnants of the life she had been clinging to.

Cyril did what he did out of love for his brother. Ryan did it out of some misguided love for her. The whole thing was a Twilight Zone nightmare where love meant death--death of hope, the end of a future that could still be constructed and re-jigged. She should despise them both, the cursed O'Reily brothers, for dragging her into their poisonous web.

It was easier said than done when Ryan was out of sight. In her mind she practiced ignoring him or verbally lashing him until his ears bled and his resolve broke in half. By contrast, when she saw him she struggled to maintain her stoic resistance against the instinctive smile that fought to wrestle free of her lips, flattered at the focused--arousing--declarative love she'd never experienced with anyone else.

Cyril was a different matter. Against rational judgment she felt maternal towards him. It was more than the attack prior to Oz that left him with the mental workings of a child. They were both survivors of the worst possible assaults on their bodies and souls, left in pieces and struggling to glue themselves together again. Gloria couldn't help but see a lost soul in his eyes, scared and unsure, wanting to trust, still needing to believe in good over evil.

For all his brute strength, Cyril looked very small in the infirmary bed. The laceration over his eye didn't tell the full story about the latest attack he had survived in the gym after Ryan was distracted from the vigil he normally held over his brother's well being. Gloria knew Cyril was desperately looking for Ryan now, hoping he would show up and throw an arm around his shoulders, singing a calming lullaby meant to soothe. But Ryan was in the Hole and comfort had no place in Oz.

She should let him suffer.

Turning back to her desk, she reached into the top drawer then made her way over to Cyril's bed. Her approach brought a huge grin to his face and she flashed to the determined look that must have graced those same features while he strangled her husband to death. Just as quick, she shook the image clear from her head.

"Hi, Dr. Nathan," Cyril said slowly.

She smiled. "How are you feeling?"

He shrugged. "Okay..."

"I'm sure Ryan's worried about you."

Cyril twisted his lips into a tight line and lowered his gaze to the bed, nervously, playfully pulling at the blanket. She could read his face. He didn't want to disappoint his brother.

Without a word she extended her right hand towards him. Confused, he looked at the package she pressed into his hand. Recognition lit up his face.

"My favourite," he gasped and immediately went to work opening the M&M bag.

"Mine too," she replied softly as he poured the contents onto the blanket and began making piles with the different colours.

He stopped and looked at her expectantly. "Would you like one?"

She gave him a closed mouth smile, shook her head and replied with a rather offhand, "No, it's okay. Those are for you."

He stared at her for a second and something familiar, scarily comfortable, tore through her body, like seeing a kid make a leap of adult logic too profound for their brain to truly comprehend.

He picked up a yellow one and held it out. "Please?"

Gloria willed back the tears clinging to the lower rim of her eyes as she thought about her husband, the phantom family they never got the chance to discuss having or not having, the way she thought love was versus what Oz implied it could be. She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Instead she focused on the small pile of yellow M&M's Cyril was moving away from the others, rolling them across the blanket towards her.

She furrowed her brow.

Cyril wrinkled his nose. "I don't like the yellow ones."

Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, she cupped her hand over his. "Well then how about I eat those ones instead?"

"That's what Ryan does," Cyril said wistfully after a moment and began to eat from the other coloured piles.

"I'd expect nothing less," Gloria muttered and popped an M&M in her mouth.

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