His sister is born in a sterile room, cut from his mother's stomach while blood spurts everywhere and machines screamed at the doctors bustling frantically about the room.
Daddy slumps outside the room, gazing numbly at his hands, and ignores him when he curls closer, trying to understand what the regretful too much blood loss and we couldn't save her and I'm sorry actually means.
Everything constricts into endless movement and apologetic doctors and Daddy's face so empty and blank, so a nurse takes him to a room filled with newborns and points at a small baby sleeping peacefully.
Your little sister, the nurse tells him, You get to be a big brother.
Big brothers always protect their sisters, right? he asks, wide eyes filled with wonder and pride.
The nurse lets out a surprised laugh. Yes, darling, they do. And they always try to be understanding and loving when their sister talks to them.
He leans closer to the glass, eager and excited. What's her name?
It's close, but not quite right. Curling up on the mattress the nurse set out for him, he figures out what's wrong with her name and falls asleep with the adjustment Amy on his lips.
Amy is small for her age, smaller than most others. When Jim stands beside her, he towers over her by almost two feet.
Every night without fail she clambers onto his bed, innocent face filled with an excited expression as she demands, A story, Jimmy! You promised.
And every night, without fail, Jim wraps an arm around her and weaves wondrous tales about a brave boy named Richard Brook (she wanted a name and he'd just seen the painting of the Reichenbach Falls) who understood people's minds and how they worked. He whispers about hearts and how sometimes they get broken, but Richard Brook can fix them.
Everyone has a heart, he tells her confidentially, Their heart makes them stronger.
A thought occurs to her and she springs up, brown hair scattered comically around her face, And Richard - he fixes them. Is there anything he can't fix?
Broken hearts can be fixed. But sometimes a heart is burned. And you can't ever fix a heart that's been burned out of you.
Amy's six and he's ten when their father dies.
The official report says it was a natural death. It says the situation was aggravated by high levels of stress combined with an unhealthy life style. It says an unfortunate genetic disposition resulted in an unfortunate heart attack.
The official report was wrong.
It's a small funeral, but it's filled with obscene levels of bullshit.
Colleagues from work and extended family preach about his bravery, his loyalty, how he struggled with the death of his wife, but pulled it together because of how much he loved his kids.
They lead Jim to the podium and ask him if there's anything he wants to say about his father.
He thinks about telling how his father started watching Amy and he started watching his father - possibly discuss how his father arrived at home, late, stinking of vomit and hard liquor and cornered Amy, moving closer and closer while muttering about fucking whores and little bitch and you're gonna make yourself useful for once - maybe explain that the instant his father passed out into an alcohol-induced stupor, he tucked a quietly sobbing Amy into bed and snuck into a pharmaceutical to steal medicine and syringe - mention how his father went to sleep that night, and never woke up again, and how hysterically easy it all was, and that he doesn't regret a damn thing.
He thinks about telling them all of this, but in the end he just says, No.
They're tossed from relative to relative before their - ahem - uncle's cousin's brother's sister finally agrees to raise them.
The stingy, old maid promptly shoves them into a boring school run by boring teachers and filled with boring students.
Jim would forgive everyone for being so overwhelmingly stupid, except that two weeks into the term a snobby brat named Carl Powers shoves Amy onto the floor - "cause I can" - and laughs til tears leak from his eyes when Jim threatens to rip his throat out.
No one else cares.
Amy's nine years-old and an absolute genius.
In school, she never speaks, barely acknowledges anyone. Teachers affect sad expressions, discussing "challenged children" and what they can do to help, but that doesn't change the fact they turn a blind eye every time the other students call her a retarded freak because she struggles to breathe after the briefest of sprints.
But at the house, alone together, she tells him everything she saw - Jackie doesn't like to go home, George rubs his thumb and forefinger together when he lies, Mrs. Barr is attracted to the science teacher...
At night, Jim returns the favor, explaining how everyone's broken, how their hearts are so fragile, how if you place the dominoes just so, you could destroy anything...
Sometimes Jim can't help but wonder if she's figured out what really happened to their father three years ago.
Do you think there's anyone else like us? Amy murmurs, snuggled comfortably at his side.
I don't know, he admits, Maybe one day we'll find out.
Two days after her tenth birthday, Amy dies.
Jim wasn't there and he'll never forgive himself.
A tragedy, the teachers say, Asthma attack after school. Fell into the swimming pool. Drowned.
He sits alone and suffers through a sickening amount of condolences, a sappy speech by the headmaster, and heavy amounts of forlorn sobbing among the female students as if the closest friend they would ever have in their whole lives had just died.
Never mind that no one ever gave a damn about either of them.
Carl Powers stands in the center of his knot of friends and mutters something about freaks.
It's empty without her. It really is. She understood. It didn't matter what he said, how crazy it seemed, how random it appeared, she always understood.
I've got a story for you, Amy, he whispers beside the fresh grass scattering her grave, Once there was a boy named Richard Brooke who tried to fix people. But unlike most people, Richard's heart didn't belong to him. It belonged to someone else. And one day that heart was burned out of him and he was left all alone. So now Richard doesn't care about fixing people anymore. All he cares about is finding someone else who can also see everything. He needs someone like him, so he knows he isn't alone. And he'll do whatever he can to find that person.
It's been six months since Amy died and Jim can still remember how Carl Powers smirked when he tripped her onto the rough concrete.
What a terrible tragedy, simpers a random woman standing next to him at the funeral, Carl Powers, oh my. Such a promising young man too.
Yes, he agrees smoothly, Such a surprise.
To have died so young... It just seems that so many people died recently.
Yes, well, he barely contains a smirk, That's what people do.
I'm sorry, says the lady, turning towards him with a superior air, What did you say your name was?
He flashes her a winning smile.
Jim, ma'am. Jim Moriarty.
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