Leave yourself alone, 

Leave yourself alone.


“Have you seen Iris?”

Clef’s eyes rolled lazily over to regard Adams who was stood in front of his desk, mouth pulled taut and arms folded - the only signs of her nervousness painted on a stiff tapestry. 

“No,” he grunted, uninterested. “Why?”

“Don’t you find it just that little bit concerning that I’m here asking where a skip is?”

“Not really.” 

She audibly groaned. He barely raised an eyebrow. “Okay. Don’t you find it a little bit concerning that I’m here asking you where a skip is because I’ve got no fucking clue.”

He chuffed, “Sounds... like a you problem.” 

“Clef.” He knew that tone. That was the Hey, you ugly bastard, could you give a shit about anyone else for even a second tone. He didn’t care for it. 

He waved his hand absentmindedly before it returned to rest on his keyboard, where he’d previously been devoting a lot of concentration to doing absolutely nothing. “She’s probably with Meri.” 

“She’s not.” 

His eyes flashed up to meet hers, half hidden behind his unimpressed guise. “Then you should probably run off and find her, Adams.” 

“Jesus Christ.” Clef would’ve called it disbelief, but Adams should’ve been used to it by now. With a squeak, her heel twisted on the floor and she marched out of the room, snarling other expletives. 

Clef returned to his work. Or lack-thereof. And he was very dedicated to it. 

Propping his feet up on the desk he began to absent-mindedly scroll through the Foundation’s intraweb, seeing if there was anything juicy going on that he could settle his teeth into. There never was. 

And then, approximately 8 minutes later, he had a thought. 

“Huh,” he muttered out loud, “That is concerning.”

He pondered to himself a moment more before finally convincing his legs to make a move and hauled himself up from his desk, shrugging on the well-worn lab coat that was slung over the back of the cheap swivel chair. 

105, Iris, wasn’t the type to just… wander. Go missing. She was loyal, she’d proved that numerous times. And while she was allowed a certain clearance level due to her position on the mobile taskforce, it certainly was strange that even Adams could not locate her. 

Now, he thought, If I was a twenty-something skip stuck in containment what would I do. Probably kill myself, the boredom must be unreal. He chuckled to himself; being a staff member here often felt just as claustrophobic as the containment cells. 

He wandered for a bit more, half-heartedly keeping an eye out for Iris. She wouldn’t have left - she couldn’t have left. She’d be around somewhere and either he or Adams would find her soon enough. No need for the stress. But just to be sure… 

Can’t you see that you’re only here to be torn apart,

Based upon, and nothing else?

He ran across a couple of junior researchers, their arms laden with various binders and books, clearly trying their best to impress. With mild terror in their eyes at being approached by the imposing and infamous Clef, they nervously informed him that no, they had not seen Iris, but was there, please sir, anything they could do to help? 

Clef waved them away in annoyance. 

Strolling round yet another corner in the maze of the department, hands shoved deep into his coat pockets, he figured that Adams had probably found Thompson by now, and they were off training or whatever Adams had needed Iris for in the first place. 

He actively tried to do the least for the Foundation on any given day, while spending the most amount of money. So wandering around aimlessly, while being a bit more strenuous than he had planned, still worked for him.

“Y’allright, sir?” A drawl snapped him from his thoughts on how best else to fuck over the Foundation. Clef’s eyes swung upwards to where a short, fresh-faced individual was leaning against the white wall, flicking through some research papers. Another junior researcher. 

What the hell. “You haven’t seen S-” He paused a second. Best not to mention the fact he was looking for a lost asset. “You haven’t seen a girl through here, have you?” He sounded like a bloody broken record, and if he had to ask that question one more time he was going to go insane. 

“Hm,” the junior researcher looked up at the ceiling in thought before turning back to Clef. “Dirty blonde, like yea-high?” They waved their hand around the five foot mark, “Training uniform?” 

Finally. “Yeah,” Clef breathed, his voice growled slightly as relief reverberated from the bottom of his chest. “That’s the one.” 

“Sweet,” they smiled lopsidedly, “She went that way, I think.” They flicked their finger down the corridor. “Heard a door go but alls thats down there is toilets so maybe she’s just under the weather, yeah?”

Clef tipped his head in acknowledgement, strolling past the young researcher before rolling his head over his shoulder, “Straighten up a bit, would you? Go do some work.” Always good to keep them in line.

They snorted quietly, “Leading by example, sir.” Clef heard. He didn’t care. 

Clef ambled down to the only door save for one of the archives at the bottom of the corridor. Just a small restroom, although not used by many these days. 

With nothing to lose, Clef rapped on the door. 

Nothing. 

He knocked again. No response. And then something caught his ear. Faint, but there was definitely something. 

Clef pressed his ear against the door. As he strained, he heard something that he’d heard all too many times the morning after various drunken escapades. Vomiting. 

He frowned. As far as he knew Iris hadn’t been taken out on anymore adventures with Adams, and it was highly unlikely that she was pregnant, so what was up?

“Iris?” He called loudly through the door. The vomiting stopped suddenly for a second, followed almost immediately by gagging, and vomiting. But there was no other reply.

“You in there?” Voice louder this time. Clef wasn’t even entirely sure if she would open the door for him; it was no secret that he wasn’t her favourite person, but he liked to think he knew her well enough at this point. 

There was still no reply. 

He tried the handle. It opened. 

“Iris what is up with y-” he shouldered open the door which jammed slightly as he pushed up against what appeared to be an MTF jacket shoved half-heartedly under the door in an attempt to stop it from opening.

Clef stopped dead. 

Tell your wasted time

That I am worse.

Iris was huddled in an almost fetal position, arms hugging the seat of the toilet as her head wobbled precariously above, threatening to give way to another tidal of sick at any second. Her forehead was drenched in sweat. She was trembling. 

But that’s not what made Clef stop. 

Around Iris were scattered at least five medicine packets, all empty. A couple of discarded tablets still lay near her feet. 

“Fuck.” 

Iris’ eyes rolled up to meet Clef’s startled ones, her pupils small and wavering as her entire body shuddered. “Don’t-” she was interrupted by a stream of vomit that left her coughing. “D-don’t-” She spluttered as residue started to build up in her throat. Her voice was hoarse. Desperate. 

Clef was at a loss. “Fucking hell Iris I recon it’s a bit la-” 

“Please.” Fear climbed up her esophagus. “Pl-please don’t g-get anyone.” 

His agape mouth was pulled thin. This scene was also too familiar. Far too familiar. Clef normally knew what to do. And if he didn’t, he just made it up. That’d have to do. 

He moved to her Iris’ side slowly, bones creaking as he squatted next to her. Her eyes never left him. They were glassy. She opened her mouth to say something but all that came out was another mouthful of rotten bile. Up close Clef noticed that that there were solid chunks of pink in the mixture. 

“Iris-” her stare cut him off, a twisted combination of terror and anguish. He sighed. “I’m not… I’m not gonna get anyone if you don’t want me to.” He had a choice to make. He could be an asshole. Or he could be the asshole that helped her through this. “But I am gonna stay here and ride this out with you.” 

He knew what it was like. He knew what it was like alone

There was a lump in his throat. It constricted as he tried to speak, to comfort her. What could he even say? Nothing that would matter. 

And I wish they’d all

Give him a chance.

I owe apologies.

Iris’ knuckles were as white as the porcelain seat that they gripped onto. They quivered with her whole body as her abdominal muscles spasmed and she dry heaved over the bowl, gagging on the stench. 

“I-” 

“Don’t try to talk,” Clef knelt now, one hand hovering near her forearm, not daring enough to make contact. “This is gonna be rough.” 

Iris snorted as she spat into the toilet, the bout of sickness lulling for a precious few moments. “W-why are you here?” 

Clef shrugged, scanning the floor for anymore unopened packets as he spoke, “‘Cause you need help, kid.”

“No,” she hissed, tears welling up in already-red eyes, “Why are you h-here.”

His hovering hand came, at last, to rest on her forearm. She tensed. “Adams was looking for you.” 

“Fuck.” Iris mumbled, still clutching the rim for dear life. “Shit.” Spittle flew off of her split lips. 

“You got that right,” Clef murmured, flicking a couple of dropped pills away from Iris with his index finger, although he doubted that they’d interest her now. “What the fuck did you take?” 

Her hands twitched. You didn’t expect to be questioned about your methods midway through a suicide attempt. “I… I think it was propa-” She heaved again, another wave of stomach acid, partially digested food, and pills spilling into the toilet. She spat the excess out of her mouth. 

“Propranolol?” Clef mused, tilting an empty packet in his hand, “A couple of packets of this wouldn’t be enough to kill you.” He chucked it at the far wall. 

“Good to know,” Iris managed bitterly between bouts of coughing and spitting. 

Clef kept silent for a moment, shifting so he could move from kneeling to sitting. And that’s where he stayed, as he said he would. 

Iris continued to throw up, slightly less every time, and the downtime in between vomiting was becoming longer as her stomach finally ridded her of the majority of the poison she had inflicted. She continued to dry-heave, willing her abdomen to please stop now.  There was nothing left. 

And finally, after what felt like an age, she sat back from the toilet, back resting on the cool wall behind her. Clef shuffled to sit next to her, leaning his head against the same wall. Sweat dripped off of Iris’ forehead and lips, mixing with the bile and spit that still lingered on her chin. 

Silence reigned for a minute. 

You must admit

That you are the instigator

Hanging onto arguments.

“What?” She said, after eternity passed by. 

“What do you mean ‘what’?” Clef scoffed, his chest rumbling. “Fucking hell, kid, what was that?” 

Iris was silent. This wasn’t where she wanted to be right now. This wasn’t where she’d pictured herself being right now. Instead, here she was, stuck with her disgusting boss in perhaps the worst moment of her life - so far at least. 

“I-... Dunno.” 

Clef exhaled, his barrel chest rising and falling slowly. “I don’t need you to explain yourself but…” he trailed off. What did he need? What did she need? “I wanna help you.” 

She barked a laugh, choking slightly. “You want to help? You’ve done enough, sir.” She gave a sarcastic salute with two fingers, her head lolling to face away from his. As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t even stand for fear her legs would give way underneath her. 

He stared for a moment. “Listen. At some point we’re going to have to deal with,” he gestured vaguely “This. But for now, let’s just… sit.” 

Iris was still quiet, but slowly her head rolled back around to look at him, hands resting in her lap as she propped her feet up against the foot of the toilet. She hadn’t told him to fuck off or get out, so, given the circumstances, Clef thought he was doing pretty well. 

“Iris, do you-”

“No, shut up. You’re not good at this.” She stared at the floor, unable to make eye contact. This was the man that was so petty that he’d bullied her for months during meetings. The man that had been just so protective of his own daughter that he’d shown Iris his weapons collection just to terrify her. And yet, here he was. Showing up for her. 

His taut lips curved upwards into a slight smile. Not malicious, or smarmy, or whatever other adjectives had been used to describe that grin over the years. Just a smile of relief. “Alright.” 

And sat in silence, he thought. He thought about himself and Meri; himself and the daughter he did not deserve. And she needed better. Better than an absentee dad who left her to live with some nuns and then trapped her in a hellhole for the rest of her life. If Iris was that, then he’d let them be. 

And he thought of Iris. Nothing more than kid they snatched out of a regular life. A happy life, all-in-all. Parents, friends, family. Who did she have now?

Sitting there, he quietly shifted. “Scooch.” 

Her shoulders tensed instinctually. Clef’s trunk-like arm laid across her shoulders, his gnarled hand coming to rest on her upper arm. The closeness was foreign, especially from him. She wanted to shove him off, keep the barriers up, but it was too late for that. 

Her head thudded back against the wall, shuffling slightly into his grasp. And that’s where they sat, in the limbo of a fluorescent-lit toilet as the evening dragged into the night. 

Eventually, Clef broke the silence. “Where did you get the pills, Iris?” His warm fingers drummed quietly against her sweat-drenched skin.

“Doctor’s office.” 

“When?” 

She pulled a face for a second. “A couple of days ago when I went for that check-up.” 

Clef grunted a response. A moment more of tense silence went past. “Can I ask why?” 

“You said you didn’t need to know.” 

“I lied. C’mon, kid, you’ll have to tell someone one way or the other. And some doctors are less likely to get you sectioned.” This close she could feel his heavy breathing, his musty breath breezing across her face.

She sighed. She was caught in both Clef’s emotional and physical grasp. “I… You know ho-how it is. The t-taskforce, ju-just everything really.” Iris, who’d been steadily regaining her composure for the past dozen minutes, was slowly breaking apart again. She tripped over her words. It was easy to seem okay when your emotions weren’t being called into question. 

Clef only gave her a rough squeeze. She supposed it was meant to be comforting. It was, in its own way. 

“Everything, Clef. Just everything.” He affixed her with a gaze from the corner of his eye, careful not to push her to the point where she built her walls back up. “Alpha-9, living here in this fucking hellhole, not having any fucking friends,” the torrent began to spill out. “Being trapped ‘cause I can put my hand in some fucking photos, having to see other skips getting termiated, knowing that I’ll be in here forever. Everything.” 

Tears had begun spilling from Iris’ face just as fast as the words tumbled from her mouth. He tried his hardest not to get invested in others mental states, that was reserved for precious few. Perhaps he could make some room in his heart for another lodger. 

Iris was dutiful. Iris was loyal. Iris was put-together. Seeing her like this was unnerving. It was terrifying. He wondered how no one had seen the signs.

He wondered why he hadn’t seen the signs. 

Parental instinct took over. His grip tightened on Iris’ shoulder and Clef’s other arm wrapped around her back, pulling her softly against his chest. Her face pressed against the loose buttons of the hideous shirt, uncomfortable and yet comfortable in the way you could only feel in moments of desperation. 

She settled crudely in the tangle of limbs, her head coming to rest under the scraggly chin, her hair catching slightly on his rough stubble. Her senses were overloaded. The stench and taste of vomit and bile still lingered, mixing with the must of a shirt that smelled like it had been sat in a cupboard for eight years, and her own cold sweat. 

Amidst it all, Iris wept. 

“I know.” She heard the grumble start deep in his chest, reverberating in her ear.

Her throat constricted. “No, you don’t know,” she spat the words, but they came out as less than a hiss, “No-none of you know.” She gasped against the old shirt.

Clef knew. 

And he knew that he’d done it again. He’d already fucked up one kid for life, his own daughter no less. And now the realisation was dawinging that he’d done it again. This was all him. 

His adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed his own emotions. Wordlessly his hand shifted to settle on the back of Iris’ head, fingers drifting through her hair.

He’d make it right. 

Cornered by yourself,

Cornered by yourself. 

Clef didn’t know what time it was when he was woken. And he was woken poorly. By a boot jabbing itself into his thigh. 

Adams was once again stood in front, towering over him as he craned his neck to look up, groaning as his entire spine protested to having been propped up against a wall for god knows how long. 

“Clef,” her lips were pursed as she picked her words, “Could you explain to me what exactly is going on here?” 

He looked down; Iris was still clutched loosely in his arms, head buried under his chin, arms splayed. Asleep. 

He looked back up, mouth growing into a bitter smile, “Why don’t you use your eyes and have a look around.” 

And for the first time, Adams saw. Saw everything that Clef had seen, and pieced the situation together. “Fuck.”

“Exactly.” 

“Clef, what the fuck.” The pursed lips were gone, replaced by a look of horror. “Is she-” she pantomimed for a moment, voice turning into a stage whisper “Okay?”

He shifted slightly, repositioning Iris as if to say ‘What do you think?’ “She will be.” 

Adams was already overthinking. “This’ll need to get reported. Fuck. You got any idea why this happened? They’ll section her for sure. Shit. Shit. That’s fucking Alpha-9 down the drain. Bastard. Fuck.” 

“Adams,” Clef groaned, jamming on the breaks, and Adams’ train of thought came screeching to a halt. 

“Yeah?”

“Shut the fuck up.” 

“I don’t think you get it, this is going to throw everything out of the fucking win-”

“Yeah. I know. Just,” he exhaled heavily as Iris began to stir. “Give her a few minutes. Before all the bullshit starts.” 

Adams looked from Clef, to the SCP - the girl - in his arms, and back again. “Alright.” 

“Alright,” he repeated, hand rubbing Iris’ back, “It’s gonna be alright.” 

It’s torture,

Locked inside the chamber.