When the Clock Strikes Midnight

Prompt: Picture: by pygmymuse. Ficlet O'Clock: Bring ye commentfic requests!


Liana Mir

Series Listing

16 — 02. Summer

When the Clock Strikes Midnight

16 — 02. Summer through 03. Autumn

Wake and Thrive

16 — 03. Autumn through 17 — 01. Spring

Its Own Absolution

16 — 03. Late Autumn

After the Grief

16 — 03. Late Autumn

Battery Acid

17 — 02. Summer

Accounting for Redemption

17 — 02. Summer

Counting Heartbeats

18 — 01. Spring

Song Between the Waking and the Dreaming

20 — 04. Winter

Echoes of Anchor Lost

21 — 01. Spring

Don’t Remind Me That It’s Over

21 — 02. Summer

Welcome

21— 02 Summer through 22 — 01 Spring

Name Me Another (or Glass Angel, Redux)

22 — 01. Spring

Glass Angel

22 — 01. Spring

Pause the Sonata

22 — 02. Summer

Without a Reason

22 — 03. Autumn

Learning Legato

23 — 02. Summer

Acceptable Cost

23 — 02. Summer

History Lesson on the Night Train

23 — 03. Autumn

Abyss Looking Back

23 — 03. Autumn

Collateral Damage

23 — 03. Autumn

Five Reasons I Love You

23 — 03. Autumn

Little Things

23 — 03. Autumn

Owning Beauty

23 — 04. Winter

Dream the Dance

23 — 04. Winter

Snow Day

24 — 02. Summer

As the River Breathes

AU 21 — 04. Winter

Normal written in coffee grounds

When the Clock Strikes Midnight

Unlike Cinderella, Shift had no hearth to welcome a prince to...

The clock would strike midnight, soon, and all Shift wants is to remember that she has a heart before her cinderella run is over.

16 — 02. Summer
Kingdoms and Thorn Science Fiction
Flash Fiction Short Story

Shift knew the clock would strike midnight. She knew that at the end of midnight, her cinderella run would be over. Unlike that ancient fairytale, Shift had no hearth to welcome a prince to and she left no glass slipper.

She was sixteen years old. Her mother—for what else could she call Watcher, the girl who had raised her?—had abandoned her permanently. She would likely never see her own child ever again. Sixteen years old and this was the first two weeks she had ever spent living as a normal youth.

Andre, her caretaker for the period, was washing dishes in the kitchen. Shift could hear him from the balcony as she stared up at the starry sky. The ticking clock was loud within her ears. They had surprised her when they offered her the “vacation” as a bonus for having been ranked best operative among the teams, but she had accepted it, and her time was almost over.

The water stopped running, and she listened to the normal sound of cabinets opening, closing, and then Andre’s light tread through the living room. He tried to make this normal for her, tried even though he was an operative too and knew how to walk soundlessly on carpet. She had surprised him when she arrived, playful and exuberant and successfully the perfect image of a careless, carefree teenager, but he went with it, acting the part of a stoic but lenient uncle.

“Jennifer,” he called softly from the door out onto the balcony. “It’s cold out here.”

Jennifer Haller was the alias they gave her whenever she interacted with military personnel who were not familiar with Department operatives and the handles they went by. It made Shift wonder if that had really been her name.

“It is cold,” she stated simply, uncaring, but it made Andre hesitate. She was quiet tonight instead of her bubbly, cheerful Jennifer persona. She was Shift.

He came out and stood beside her to lean on the balcony railing. At first, he said nothing, just assessed her, and came to the correct conclusion. “I suppose you will go back tomorrow.”

She nodded.

“And where is back?” he asked in the tone of a normal question, as if she could answer.

She flicked a cool eyebrow upward. “And I thought you were the best of your class.”

That gave him pause. She knew him, knew his reputation, had access to records on him that he didn’t have on her. Then the tension eased out of his shoulders and he said softly, “We have that in common.”

That gave her pause. The paradox of the Department: the best were the worst. They were monsters without conscience, without souls, only grief.

Laughter bubbled up from within her and she threw her head back to release it. “Yes, we do,” she agreed. “And I suppose you have lost everything you ever cared about?” She took him in with scathing amusement. The Department took—it had stolen children to turn them into operatives like Shift; it had stolen convicts to turn them into operatives like Andre.

“Yes,” he admitted quietly. “And no.”

“I see.” The scathing remained; the amusement fled. She had lost everything. Every. Single. Thing. Her name, her memories, her family, her life. They had tortured her and broken her. They had taken Watcher away at last. “I got pregnant once,” she said, softly. There was no harm in his knowing. Watcher had seen to that. “I was fourteen years old and an idiot.” No one had told her what sex was and she’d figured it out to her own set of consequences. “Do you know the only time I held her was the last time I ever cried?”

She wanted to cry right then. It was why she was out on the balcony, begging fate and whatever God had given her a heart in the first place to let her make use of her last cinderella hours. “I don’t remember how to cry.”

She told him because he wasn’t like them or the people who had enslaved them both. Andre could have been a team member had he been younger and he was trapped as much as her. He had lost family. He had lost a son.

He did the one thing she hadn’t expected. He gave her the hug that an uncle or a father would have and held her, saying nothing, granting the mercy of pitiless compassion. She hugged him back and pretended for a moment that he was her father.

The clock on the mantel began to chime.

#


Kingdoms and Thorn Science Fiction

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