2010-06-28: Not That Different



Date: June 28, 2010


After the disaster on the interchange, Claire and Elle find themselves thrown together yet again, where they can discuss their fears about the strange absence of their powers — and find they aren't that different after all.

"Not That Different"

A Hospital Room

It seems that Elle was taken away by the paramedics soon enough that she showed no sign of chlorine poisoning - at least, none of the signs that one overzealous EMT had listed for her. However, they insisted on keeping her for a few hours of observation.

So there Elle was, a curtain separating her bed from Claire's, staring up at the ceiling and mentally replaying the events of the last hour or so. Finally, she speaks. "Claire? Are you awake?"

Her mother and Lyle aren't answering their phones. Peter hasn't answered her text message, surreptitiously sent through the cell phone she isn't supposed to have on. Claire doesn't realize it's Elle in the next bed until she hears the girl calling through the curtain. She considers ignoring her, pretending to be asleep — after all, she has a head injury, along with a casted arm, and what seems like a cold, thanks to the chlorine gas — irritated eyes, a stuffed up nose.

After a long moment's hesitation, she reaches out with her good hand to pull the curtain open, turning on her side to peer at Elle with red-rimmed eyes. Clearly, she hasn't healed yet. "Yeah," is her terse answer, looking at the other petite blonde with some suspicion.

The suspicion, mixed with wariness, is mirrored back at the blonde. For a moment, she just stares at her, unsure of what to say. It looks like her body got off relatively easy from the accident, though she has a sprained wrist from trying to heave open doors, and a scattering of cuts and bruises.

"What - what happened? We.. you.. I mean, you're all.." Elle lowers her voice. "Injured. Have you been taking the Pills?" Somehow, it's doubtful that Elle is referring to birth control - in this context, it's got to mean the power-supressing Haitian pills.

"No." Claire's single word answer is fiercely whispered, her voice a little husky from the irritation of the chlorine inhalation. Climbing through that window put her rather close to the spill on the ground. "I don't know. I think it might have been the eclipse. Wasn't there one like that a few years ago?" Not long before she noticed her power for the first time.

"Have you tried using yours?" she whispers next.

"It.. it could be. I think I remember something like that, but I don't remember details." Elle's life has been quite a tangle the last few years, and she can't place a similiar event in her mental timeline. "No," she replies to Claire's question. "I didn't want to. I don't.. feel it."

Elle moves to roll onto her side so she's fully facing Claire. "All the time, it's like a tingle in the back of my head. There's no tingle. There's just emptiness." Why is Elle opening up to someone who's often been her arch nemesis? Her guess was as good as anyone else's. "Should I, do you think?"

The fact that Elle's "tingle" is missing verifies that it's not just Claire. Should she feel relief? Claire's brows knit together and she chews her lower lip. "Probably not in the hospital. If it's … sketchy or something, it might do something weird to like, pacemakers or you know." She brings her hand to her head, wincing as she touches the stitches. "Are you scared?" she asks, not quite meeting Elle's eyes. "I mean… we … if they're gone for good, we maybe could be normal." The tone is wistful, but her eyes are afraid.

Elle nods her blonde head. "Yeah, that's true. I'll try it once they let us out of here." She takes a moment to give a scowl in the general direction of the nurses, of whom Elle clearly is not a fan.

"Scared? Me?" Elle tries for bravado, lifting her chin and putting on a brave face, but it doesn't hold. "Yeah. A little." More than a little, it's true, but Elle isn't so emotionally healthy that she'll admit that to anyone, especially Claire. "Normal? I don't know how to be normal." Her tone is frank, and slightly bitter. "I don't even know what normal looks like."

"Yeah," Claire says, brows knitting together. "Me, too. Funny, I wanted to be normal, but now I'm terrified. And… like, if we're broken, what about people who might be using theirs, who need theirs, and suddenly don't have them?" She's worried about Peter, mostly. Nathan — he could be flying. She frowns, trying to to think of everyone with a power and how the lack of it might be imperiling their lives this very instant.

"I used to know what normal was, but I don't know anymore. I could probably handle being normal though…" she actually smiles at the thought, even though the pain killers have worn off and her arm throbs and her head feels like it weighs two tons. "I think I could handle it."

Elle's thoughts are very similiar to Claire's as she mentally runs through the list of her Evolved - well, 'friends' might not be the best word, Elle Bishop didn't really have friends. But she had people important to her, who could be relying on their powers the instant the eclipse comes by. On the top of her list is Gabriel, though Peter is definitely on there as well.

"What if they don't come back? I.. they need to come back." Elle's voice almost cracks with this sentence. It goes unsaid that Elle very likely couldn't handle being 'normal', whatever that would be. Her power has shaped her entire life; now what was she supposed to do?

Not surprisingly, their feelings on the situation are fairly opposite — despite their similarities, they're often on the opposite side of things. Both raised by "Company men," Elle was brought into the Company life while Claire was shielded, its existence hidden from her. Both are afraid, but Claire isn't sure she wants her power to return. "If it doesn't come back," the younger of the two says, "we move on. We live like normal people. Is that really so bad? I mean, wouldn't you like to run around in the rain without fear of shorting your system? You know there's a guy who looks like he could be my dad but he's like 400 years old? I don't want to see everyone I know die — it might not be a bad thing to be normal."

She glances at her cell phone again — the longer that Peter doesn't answer, the more worried she grows. "I'm just scared for the others."

It's too much, Elle can't keep still. She sits up on the bed, fidgeting with one of her earrings. The other got lost during the crash, it seems, giving her a lopsided look. "But I don't know how," Elle says emphatically. Whether she means how to move on, or how to live like a normal person, it's not clear. Probably both.

"Living without the Company was bad enough at first, even if it was for the best." Now there's a loaded topic she's not going to go into. "But without my power, too? Then who am I?" It says a lot for Elle's distress that she's letting Claire, of all people, witness this existential crisis. Trying to change the subject, she asks, "Who're you waiting to hear from?"

"Peter… my mom, my brother. Pretty much anyone to make sure they're okay." Noah is left of the list. She's given up on knowing if he's okay. Nathan, too, but only because Claire is pretty sure Elle thinks he's dead. She puts the phone back down and closes her eyes.

"You do what everyone else does. You live. You get a job. You buy milk and bread at the grocery store, and you don't zap people who piss you off, just like the rest of us. You are not your power, Elle. You're a person with thoughts and wants and needs that are totally separate from your power. It just gives you an edge in certain situations, right? Learn to live without it." It sounds like good advice, but not advice Claire herself has listened to.

Elle flops back down on the bed, her eyes returning once more to the ceiling. "I tried getting a job," she admits to Claire. It seems to be Sharing Time between the two. "It didn't work out so well. I don't exactly have a bulky resume." This understatement earns a weak smile, and she turns to face the girl again.

"You're… not wrong, I guess." Just because it's Sharing Time doesn't mean under any circumstances that Elle is going to tell Claire she might be right. Elle has changed, not gotten a lobotomy. "I hope Peter's okay, too," she offers, her brow furrowing. "I haven't talked to him in.. a while." Elle, Queen of Understatements.

"He's probably fine — it's just that he takes risks since he can," Claire frets a little. "I mean… I guess I do too. If I weren't already hurt, I would have plowed in without thinking… I mean, I still plowed in but I knew at that point I wasn't healing anyway." Which might make her less intelligent or maybe braver than she thinks she is.

"And yeah. The job thing is hard, when you're pretending to be normal. I got one at a fast-food restaurant… I keep trying to go to college and every time I get in, something keeps me out. But maybe if I'm no longer a freak show exhibit, people will quit trying to kidnap me and things like that, right? It might not be so bad."

"College," Elle muses aloud. "I've never even thought of college. Dorms and mess halls and professors and homework." Her voice is almost wistful, but there's fear in it, too. "I don't know. I don't know what I'd do with my life. The big picture and all. I didn't know that before this whole.. whole.. debacle, and now I doubly don't know." She lets out a loud, exasperated sigh, rubbing her still slightly raw face with her uninjured hand.

"Look at it as an opportunity to find out," Claire says, turning to look at Elle again, her brows creased as the pain in her head and arm grows with every moment as the pain killers' thrall wears off. "It's okay not to know, you know. Most people our age don't have their whole life planned. And you know, those who do? They usually get thrown for a loop somewhere along the line. I don't know any grownups whose lives have gone the way they expected." Grownups — they're grownups now, but she means people like her parents and Elle's.

"You know I haven't seen my dad — Noah — since like, before Christmas? Pretty sure my mom wasn't counting on that or anything that's happened to her for that matter." Claire's voice breaks a little at the end there, the physical pain pulling out the emotional pains she's been burying for months. "Shit. Pain hurts. I need more drugs." With that, she pushes the nurse's call button.

Elle nods, vaguely comforted by Claire's words. What a world it is, the two girls bonding, sharing. Claire not healing, Elle tingle-less. "Yeah. That's true. I just… gah. I don't know. I wish I had some sort of guidebook." At the word 'dad', Elle winces slightly, memories of both of their fathers flooding into her head. "At least your father's alive," she murmurs softly. There's more pain than acid in her tone.

Claire's eyes fill with tears and she closes her eyes. "Maybe," she murmurs, because she really doesn't know if he is or not. The nurse comes in and after a brief discussion, inserts more pain killer into Claire's system. Once she leaves, Claire turns to face Elle once more. The drugs are quick; she will be woozy and heavy-lidded within moments.

"If it's permanent, Elle, it's not a bad thing. No one has a guidebook. I know we're weird because we're not normal, but we're not that different from normal people either. We're still people," she manages to say before her eyes close.

Before Elle can decide whether or not to go over and comfort the girl, the nurse has arrived and soon Claire is woozy. Sitting up and placing her feet on the floor, Elle closes the space between their two beds, and watches the girl fall asleep.

When she's sure Claire's asleep, she stares at her for a moment, studying her face. Finally, she murmurs, "Thank you, Claire." With that, she begins to walk towards the nurse's station to see about being discharged.

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