Date: April 10, 2010
Randall runs into Claire one more time before he pulls up stakes again.
"A Hug Before Not Dying"
Ever since he got chased off the grid, Randall has been going light on personal possessions: only as much stuff as he can cram into a backpack without overstraining it, mostly the same stuff he pulled together when he was first tipped off that his name was on the target list. Now he's got most of it packed away again, but the side pockets are giving him a headache. Did he pick up something extra along the way, or did the zipper get caught on something or—?
Claire comes in from the backyard, leading the puppy into the house. House training is a pain in the butt, but it's not like she has anything else to spend her time on. She glances at Randall as he fights with the backpack. "You running away or something?" she says lightly, before picking up the still-unnamed chocolate lab puppy and heading to the sofa to curl up with the dog. It probably shouldn't be on the sofa — but technically it's not, it's on her lap! Right?
Randall looks up, offering Claire a faint smile, and the pup the back of a hand to sniff at. No threat here, see? "Already did that once, when I first came here… but yeah, after tonight, I should have enough cash to get a place of my own again. Figured I better take care of it first thing in the morning." He's still poking at the side pocket, but it's gotten to kind of a standstill.
"Is that safe?" Claire asks, as the puppy licks then nips playfully at the proffered hand. She lets the dog down on the ground and pulls her own legs up onto the couch, sitting Indian style. "I mean… if you get a lease or something, your name will be trackable by the government, won't it? It's sort of defeating the purpose of … hiding. Unless you're just paying cash to someone, I guess." She doesn't really know how renting places works — she's always had a place provided for her.
Giving up on the backpack for the moment, Randall sets it aside and shrugs. "Yeah, cash, month to month. It's not exactly safe, but neither is going out at all until someone fixes this— and I couldn't just stay here all the time." Hence his sympathy for her own desire to get away for a bit. "So I figure, if I'm taking a risk either way, I better hurry up and get to where I can do it without risking anyone else at the same time."
"I guess if I had a job and stuff I might do the same, but I hadn't found one before the shit hit the fan and all that," Claire says, frowning a little and staring down at her crossed feet. Part of her wonders if it's due to getting reprimanded for sneaking out to the club on her birthday — and she feels guilty about that. Peter probably wouldn't have noticed Randall gone, but family's different. She sighs, and glances back up at him. "Stay safe."
Randall shuffles his foot, thinking back to that night. He'd do it again if he had to do it over, but that was a special day for her; he wouldn't necessarily do it again now, especially so soon afterward. "I'll do my best. And— hmm, I can ask around if you want, there's still people looking to hire a few extra warm bodies here and there." And cool with paying under the table, like they did with him. "You've got my number, right?"
"I don't think I can have a job until after…" she says, frowning and gesturing with her hand to fill in the gap. After the Protocol is taken down? After the government stops hating and being afraid of people with abilities? She sighs, and shakes her head. "But after that, maybe." It's a big maybe — since it assumes there is an 'after.' "No… here, write it down. I won't put it in my phone though — just in case." She picks up a pen from the coffee table and finds a newspaper for him to write it down on.
"Until after you can use your Social Security number again? So… don't. There are places that don't ask— you know, if you can put up with washing dishes or something." Randall only knows bits and pieces about living outside the law, really, but it's still a start. He scrawls down the number, then tears off that piece of the page and offers it to Claire.
She takes the number and pockets it, then writes her number down in reciprocation. She gives a shake of her head. "I can't … I promised I'd stay unless I can help it. It's different with family," she says a little darkly. "Hopefully something will change soon, though. I just hope it doesn't change for the worse." She's still worried about Nathan's plans, the press conference he may or may not be holding. "But… if I had to, I'd be a dishwasher. Don't go thinking I'm a snob just 'cause I was a cheerleader." Claire smiles a little at that, trying to inject some levity into the conversation.
Randall leans down, slipping the paper into the backpack— and then, squinting, picks up the other stuff and manages to fit it inside as well. "No wonder," he muses, mostly to himself, "there was an extra hook on the inside…" Zipping it closed, he sets it down again and looks to Claire. "You, a snob? A snob wouldn't have even made it this far." Once, he would've said wouldn't have even talked to me, but that starlet who just landed a TV gig kind of messed with his stereotypes there. There are so many flavors of crazy running around out there…
"Even when I was a cheerleader, I wasn't a snob. I had my moments, don't get me wrong. But I had to do the dishes most nights growing up — my brother picked up the dog poop and took out the trash. Very cliche gender roles, but my mom is kinda old-fashioned super mom sort," she says quietly, homesick for her mother and Lyle and even the pomeranian. "So you got a place lined up or just gonna go find it?"
"I know some places that've had vacancies," answers Randall, "but I haven't gone and talked to any of them yet. If they're full up, then I'll look around some more." And if that doesn't work out either— well, he'll jump off that bridge when he comes to it. "So, do they know you can… I mean, do they know why you're out here? Must be worried about you, whether they do or not."
"My family?" Claire says, reaching with her foot to nudge the puppy with her foot to divert its attention from the table leg it seems to want to teethe on. "Yeah, they know. They tried to protect me, when the Protocol goons came to my house."
Green eyes tear up, remembering the last sight she had of her mom and Lyle before she headed up to the attic and onto the roof. "My mom and brother anyway. My dad… he's probably out there trying to fight them, but I don't really know. I haven't seen him for months." She chuckles a little as the dog turns his sharp little teeth onto her toes. It tickles, but there's no pain. Poor Randall is probably very confused about her family now.
Her dad… Let's see, she said that Peter was 'her uncle, sort of'. Or something like that. If she was Nathan's daughter, then where would the 'sort of' come in? Maybe there's another sibling or in-law that he hasn't yet heard about. More to the point, she obviously misses them pretty bad, and who knows how much longer they'll be split up? Randall gets up from the end chair and walks over toward the sofa, offering a lopsided one-arm hug - holding back only because he doesn't want to assume that she cares to go there.
Claire hugs him back, a little awkwardly, since he's standing and she's not, then laughs as the puppy scrambles up the couch and starts licking and nipping at Randall's hand on her shoulder. "Apparently no one's allowed to get attention but him," the regenerator says as she smiles at Randall. "Thanks. I'm just worried about them, especially with my Dad not around. I can't look after them from here, though Peter's supposed to look in on them." She glances at the puppy. "Mr. Muggles wouldn't like you anyway, oh no, he wouldn't." Her eyes glance back up at Randall. "If I don't see you again, it was nice being your friend. Thanks for being … here." Awkward! But then they excel at that.
Randall eyes the puppy, sitting down so it can get what it wants without digging its nails into Claire's skin in the process, even if she'd theoretically be able to shrug off the damage. He's still taller than her, but only by about an inch from this vantage point. "You named him Mr.—? No, wait, Mr. Muggles is your pet back home or something? Anyway… thanks for letting me take you out for your birthday. It was fun." Even if he still tells himself it didn't count as a date.
"No, Mr. Muggles is my mom's dog. I can't think of a good name for this one. I'm supposed to name him something not froo froo, according to Nathan," Claire says, letting the dog prowl around on Randall's lap. "Thanks for taking me out, even if it got interrupted and we didn't really get much out of it besides the cab ride back and forth. Tell you what, once this stuff blows over, I owe you a couple of drinks, since I all but spit out whatever that was at the bar."
Well, there's a second data point on the mom, assuming that that painfully froo froo name was her choice. "Oh, you don't need—" he starts to say. "But, well, if you want to…"
Hooray for awkward flirting. Wait, is that what this is? They've both been stressed from having to hide out, plus he was starting to think that way about Stephanie until they forcibly dropped out of touch. Randall peers into Claire's eyes, trying to figure out what she makes of it all.
She gives a shrug. "It's good to have friends. I don't have many. I grew up in Texas, so all my friends I knew all my life are back there, and here, every time I enroll in college, something basically dis-enrolls me." Like crashing in the Caribbean. "Anyway, you're a nice guy and it's good to know someone besides people who have to like me because they're related by blood or adopted me." Well, that explains one piece of her puzzle, perhaps. "So you leave tomorrow?"
'Nice guy'. Better back off from that train of thought, then— probably a good idea anyway, at least until after the bigger picture settles down again. And 'adopted' - that might have something to do with her and Peter. But it's still totally guesswork.
"Tonight, actually… I probably would've left before you got in, if the backpack hadn't decided to stop cooperating." Randall leans down to pull it closer, leaning it against his leg so it'll be ready whenever he does get going. "And college is a good thing to shoot for, but— maybe it'll turn out to not be your thing? I feel sometimes like the universe knows things that we haven't figured out yet. Or, y'know, could just be people being jerks."
"Fate and all that? I don't know. I'm not sure if I'd feel better knowing things are supposed to work out certain ways, or really really pissed," Claire says with a wry laugh. She shrugs. "I'd just like the chance to decide for myself, instead of having it be an impossibility because of circumstances. But I guess that's the case for a lot of people. I'm not special in that way." She smirks a little. Just a couple of other interesting ways. "Well. I should let you go then… Good luck… is that what you tell people moving out of a safehouse hiding from the government? Hallmark doesn't make that card."
Randall shakes his head. "There'd have to be a lot more interesting times before they did. 'Try not to die', I guess?" Ugh, that was more melodramatic than he meant to be. Shouldering the backpack, he taps the side pocket - I'll call you later, the gesture suggests - then heads off to the exit for the last time. Long night ahead, hopefully followed by a brand-new bed to crash on.
"Sadly, I think … more interesting times are exactly what we're in for, Randall," Claire says, watching him go. "Maybe we should capitalize on them and start a greeting card line. Jump ahead of the curve." She stands, picking up the dog and nuzzling her cheek against the puppy's head. "Be safe."