2007-08-27: South and West


Eric_icon.gif Claire_icon.gif Sandra_icon.gif MrMuggles_icon.gif


Shopping turns into unexpected meetings.

Date It Happened: August 27, 2007

South and West

New York

Union Square, a drizzly summer afternoon that brings some people in doors. Despite the large farmer's market lined up on one side of the park, only the most dedicated organic shoppers are making their way through the tents. None of that really matters to the viewer, though, it's just an establishing shot. Focus on the office building at the very end of the park that houses three large department stores - a Whole Foods, then above that a DSW Shoe Warehouse and then above that a Filene's Basement. Smoothing down her damp blonde hair, Sandra moves behind the tall rack of sunglasses and furtively glances around it. Opening her large purse, an also damp Mr. Muggles has pillowed himself in among her wallet and various other purse related items with a decidedly unhappy face. "Well, I never. You just stay put, Mr. Muggles and be a good boy. To think I would just leave you out in the rain. Don't those security guards know who you are? That you're the cutest and best toy dog to ever win the Texas Dog Show? Quick, Claire, are they looking this way? Let's hurry and find the skirt rack before they get too suspicious."

Claire loves her mother. Really. She does.

However, love cannot abolish the look of embarrassment that is painting Claire's features with its rosy hue. "I don't know, Mom," she groans, making her way after the elder Bennet woman with her eyes pointedly avoiding contact with anyone else. Sure, this is New York and toy dogs are a common accessory. But Mr. Muggles is wet. And he smells wet. And her mother is trying her hand at dog smuggling. Another day in the life of the Bennets. It's no use trying to convince her mother to leave the dog at home. She's tried before, only to meet with unadulterated failure. No, the best policy is just to accept it and move on: Her mother is Siamese twins with a pomeranian. "I think it's over there," she adds helpfully, pointing in what she hopes is the right direction.

Why is Eric Walker at a department store? Why? Because of two reasons. Two very important reasons. The first is very mundane. Whole Foods. Must have something to cook and or reheat to feed himself. That's a moral imperative. So as he walks in the front door he is already holding a hand basket in one arm with a slightly bored expression on his face. That expression sharpens up though when he glances down at the paper in his hand. The second reason he was here you see was something more esoteric. Something arcane. Something downright /strange/ to him. It was his sister Adrienne's birthday soon.

…and she wanted shoes

"…I don't even know what some of this stuff MEANS!" He mutters under his breath as he glares balefully at the scrawled notes he hurriedly wrote from the strange descriptions his mother spouted to him over the phone. Ugh. This…might take awhile.

"Well, be a darling and give it a looksee, please." Sandra pets Mr. Muggles reassuringly and then zippers up her bag most of the way again. Of course, she leaves a little air hole so that dog can breath. The very idea of leaving Mr. Muggles out on the sidewalk in the rain is just enough to make the poor Sandra weepy. Someone could steal him! Or he could be stepping on. Too many terrible things could happen to her baby while he was out there alone without his mama to protect him. "Okay. Are we ready? Let's go get you some of this New York fashion I keep hearing so much about. Don't see how it's any different from good old Odessa fashion, but there you have it. Can't have my daughter looking the same as she did last semester. I read somewhere that's a big faux pas. Quick! They're turned around!" Bennets deploy! Go!

Must move quickly! At Mother General Bennet's command, Lieutenant Claire speed walks in the direction of what she hopes is the skirt rack. More importantly, it's in the direction of the nice big red sign marked 'Clearance'. Because sales are kryptonite to anything with a uterus. NEW CLOTHES BECKON. Resolve growing weak! MUST GO AND SPEND MONEY.

Claire does all of this, however, while still looking down and shoulders hunched. It wouldn't be good if the security guards noticed that the little blonde ex-cheerleader and her mother managed to sneak around them. There's a problem with this plan of attack. She isn't really looking where she's going.

Well, the groceries don't take all that long to get done. Most of the things are soup or things he can just warm up. He had made it all the way to the department store, his purchases in a plastic bag that rustles as he walks. Really the young man looks very little like the pictures that have been flashed on the cover and insides of finance magazines. In his jeans and faded blue t-shirt with the autobot symbol emblazoned on the back of it. Its got a picture of Hound on the front. He likes that t-shirt, because everyone forgets about Hound. Hound shouldn't be forgotten.

The important thing though that he is still looking at that little square of paper. Not where he happens to be walking.

Coming around a corner at the same time Claire is, Eric and the young Bennet get to experience a fun fact of time-space law! No two objects can exist in the same space! There are also various rules of physics involved…but lets not get into all that. The important part is that Eric runs headlong into Claire. Now…normally this would not be a problem, Eric can indeed keep his feet. However he is unbalanced by the shock of seeing a cute blonde…and by having one hand occupied with groceries.

"Gyak!" He exclaims, very articulate, as his eyes widen at the collision…of course then…being himself…he reaches out to keep Claire from falling with a helpful hand. This has the bad effect of throwing him off balance, and with one arm windmilling he goes tumbling over backwards, eyes wide…and his windmilling hand catches and tangles in one of the dress racks near him. This sends an avalance of soft silky dress-things down onto the hapless young man.

…oh god. Could this get any worse?

…only if she falls on him.

…and then only if someone gets pictures of it.

The two blonde woman quickly move their feet, Sandra cautiously looking over her shoulder to make sure that those security guards don't have some X-Ray vision that will make it possible for them to see the small dog curled up in her purse. Everything is alright on that front, however before she can even comment on that luck, her daughter suddenly rams right into another young man. Oh dear! Dresses everywhere! Clutching tightly onto her purse filled with dog, she rushes forward to help with picking up her daughter and then the poor Eric. "Oh my heavens! Are you two alright?" Of course her daughter can heal just about anything that happens to her, but that doesn't mean she wants to see her hurt. "That just looked painful! Here, darling, let me help, you've got Prada all over you." Stooping over, she starts picking the dresses off of Eric so he can get up, too.

Claire keeps her balance, right until one of Eric's flailing feet manages to accidentally hook her ankle. Fortunately, that sends her in the other direction from Eric, promptly landing on her rear end just in time to lift her hand up to catch the rack that is falling down. It clears the young man well enough, but nearly clocks her. Once the impact's absorbed, Claire switches hands so she can shake off what little pain is there from the weight hitting at an awkward angle. "Yeah," she manages. "I'm alright."

Then up she goes, setting her part of the mess right again. Then her hands drop to start straightening her tennis skirt and sweater. And hair. Can't forget about fixing the hair. She shoots a glance in Eric's direction during the process, making sure he's okay.

"Ow," That profound statement is the first one they hear from Eric as he sits up. He's draped in pastels. God. Jack would laugh his ass off if he saw him like this. Thankfully he's not here to do so. Shaking his head slightly he sits up. Face slightly flushed with embarrassment he grins towards the pair of Bennets. "…sorry…" He apologizes towards Claire before looking gratefully up towards Sandra. "…and thanks." He adds as he picks the rest of the dresses off of himself. He stands smoothly to his feet then, unfolding to his full height before turning to offer Claire a hand up…but she is already on her feet it seems. "…not hurt are you?" He asks of her then, concern written across his face.

A hand shoots out to grab a hold of the tumbling rack. Sandra will not allow it to clock her either her daughter or the young klutzy man. Everyone seems to have the same idea, though, it all turns out alright in the end. The rack is righted, the dresses picked up and hung back in their places. And there's a bit of a muffled 'woof' from Sandra's purse. "Quiet, you," Mama Bennet tells the hidden Mr. Muggles. Louder, taking in Eric this time, Sandra appraises him, much like if she were looking at cattle. Only kinder than that. Eric isn't up for butchering. "Well, now isn't he just the gentleman." Not knocking Claire down, but helping her back up. "You're welcome, young man. You must be off to somewhere important to be walking as fast as that."

At the attention, Claire's lips curl into a sheepish smile as she rolls her shoulders to get them back into the right spot in her sweater. There's Mama Bear here, and the younger blonde seems to be perfectly content to stand just to the other side of Mrs. Bennet. "No, I'm okay. Thanks." The words are quiet, offered in reply between her mother's conversation.

No butchering is good. Eric likes all his parts just where they are he does. He does seem to just be…well…embarrassed by the whole fiasco. The purse gets an odd look for just a moment. Did it just bark? Maybe its a cellphone. The frank appraisal takes him slightly aback though. He's from New York. They don't do that there. At least he looks clean cut, fit and athletic, at least mildly intelligent. He suffers though the look over though with good enough grace before he nods. "Good," He says towards Claire before he looks back towards Sandra. "…I was just shopping for my sister. Sorry…" His lips twist up in a lopsided smile. "…I must have been concentrating on the directions and no where I was going."

Nothing to be embarrassed about! Everyone's standing and in relatively good health from the incident. Glancing over her shoulder at Claire, Sandra looks her over with more scrutiny, as it to make sure she's alright. But, everything seems to check out and Claire says that she's alright, so that's no problem. "Well now, shopping for a sister all by yourself? No offense, but you are way out of your depth, young man." Especially in a department store. "We were just getting Claire here some school clothes. Maybe we could pool our talents together and all make it out alive, hm?" She looks to Claire as if to check and make sure this is alright, but she's already all but decided to take this little wounded bird under her wing. "How's that sound?"

For a moment, it looks as though Claire is going going to protest. Her blue eyes open wide as she looks at her mother, but it's too late. The offer's been extended. "That sounds great, Mom." Turning her uncertain smile in Eric's direction, she shrugs. Might as well look enthusiastic about it, right? She doesn't really achieve such a lofty goal, but the effort's kinda there. Kinda. "What were you looking for?"

…now this is entirely different. His own mother wouldn't even come out shopping with him. Eric is…well…entirely off balance here. He looks…well…mildly shocked. Not in a bad way, not in an insulted way, but more in the '…wha really?' way of things. He rallies fast enough though before he smiles towards the pair of them. "…if its no trouble…" He adds after a moment of thought before he seems to relax slightly and laugh as he smirks slightly. "…and I know I'm out of my depth. I have no idea what half the terms mean…" He says before rubbing the back of his head slightly and glancing around to find the discarded slip of paper with the instructions on it. Claire does get a smile, warm and easy and mildly lopsided as most of Eric's smiles are. At least she's trying. "…shoes actually."

Maybe this is because Sandra's a Southern Woman, apparently kinder and more friendly than the local New York Women. She's all for hospitality, even when it doesn't include her home. "Well, we're native speakers of the shoe language. Why don't you just hand over that list to the experts and we'll have you on your way with a sisterly present in no time." It's good to collect friends for Claire. She's been worried about how her daughter is adapting to this new environment, especially with the added bonus of having such a burden to worry about. "Claire, honey, take the list from this nice young man and we'll start with your shoes, too. I'm Mrs. Bennet, by the way." She's not one of those moms who prefer friends use her proper name. "And you are?"

Effectively cowed into a near silence by her mother's friendliness, Claire simply sticks her hand out to take the list with a startled, Must Obey expression. Oh, right. She's supposed to be smiling. There's a small shake of her head and then a tight, close-lipped smile curls her mouth again. A small shrug pretty much says, 'Here, I'll take that' without actually breaking into her mother's conversational stride.

"…I think I need an expert to translate this," Eric replies with a shake of his head as he picks the folded piece of paper off the ground. He sighs a moment before he hands the list out for Claire to take should she want to. As that's what the Head Major General Bennet asked of her. "A pleasure to meet you then Mrs. Bennet. I'm Eric Wa—" He pauses a moment before he shrugs slightly. "…Lancaster. Eric Lancaster." Might as well use his given name. They doesn't seem to be from around here so they might not recognize it. "And nice to meet you, too, Claire," He adds as he hands the list right over. On it is written in a very precise hand many words that were like arcane mutterings to Eric, but are easily translated into size, style, and make. It would have taken Eric at least an hour to do that.

"Well aren't you just lucky you stumbled into us, then?" Sandra smiles warmly at Eric at the introductions and nudges Claire to take the piece of paper for him. She has a conversational stride alright, and her accent easily places her as not from New York. Southern. Though where in the exact South is hard to say. "Now isn't that lovely." Suddenly, there is yipping coming from Sandra's purse and the woman blinks. "Whups. That'd be my cellphone. Just, uh, give me a moment. You two head on toward the shoes and I'll meet you there!" Waving absently, shooing them off, Sandra makes a quick detour between racks. It may be possible to hear her say to her purse, "Now, stop it, Mr. Muggles, I told you I'd get you a treat when we were back safe at home. If you keep this up, there'll be no doggie biscuit for you."

What choice does Claire have? NONE. That's what choice. At least the guy that her mother seems so intent on sending her shoe hunting with doesn't seem to be a bad sort. Alas, it's also hard to tell these things from a first meeting. "Nice to meet you, too," she offers, tone friendly enough. Looking down at the list, she tilts her head and then crinkles her nose. "Geez. Your sister addicted to stiletto heels much?"

Dear lord does she have a conversational stride. She's like a force of Southern nature. Hiding a smile as he turns his head, the young man that could possibly buy the entire department store turns towards Claire as he stifles an amused smile. Cellphone. Yes. Well one doesn't usually promise a cellphone treats. However he ignores it and just keeps that partly amused smile on his face as he turns towards Claire. "…she…really doesn't take no for an answer does she?" He asks before he shakes his head and smirks slightly. "…I have no idea. She's addicted to whatever is the 'height of fashion' as she loves to say." He plucks at his t-shirt a moment before smirking slightly. "…I'm not quite the same."

"Yeah, but…" Shaking her head at the other girl's taste, Claire shrugs. "Whatever. She wants to have old lady legs by the time she's thirty, that's her business." Dressy little tennis shoes carry Claire towards the shoe racks with an easy stride, her head tilting over her shoulder as she makes idle conversation with Eric. Her dad would likely have a nuclear meltdown if he knew what his lovely wife was up to. Best make use of the opportunity to socialize. "And no, she really doesn't. But it's okay. She means well, so you gotta just smile, nod, and know she's just trying to help." Approaching the towers of foot-dressing glory, Claire looks back down to the list. "Okay. Here we go." First up? "Mule. 3+" heel. Black. Size 8. That shouldn't be too rough." And with that, the cheerleader promptly starts walking the aisles, scouring the racks with her eyes. "C'mon," she encourages. "You just gotta think of it like a Scavenger hunt."

"I'm not sure she thinks that far ahead anymore," Eric replies with a smirk. "…either that or these will just be for special occasions. She has enough shoes to make a small boat out of already." He pauses before shrugging. "But that's what mom said she wanted, so…" So that's what he'll get. "…and I'm good at smile and nod. Professional even. I work in computer support." He smiles and nods a lot in that job. He raises an eyebrow though. Scavenger hunt. He can try to do that. "…first scavenger hunt I've been on with shoes as the prize."

Oooooh. Not only did Mom send her off with random boy, but Mom seems to have sent her off with random OLDER boy. Oh, yeah. Dad's not definitely gonna hear about this one. "If high-heeled shoes were your idea of a terrific prize, I bet that would make it a little harder to hand with the guys on football night," she agrees with a more genuine smile, actually turning her head at last to offer Eric a flash of pearly teeth. And then she goes back to her task. "Oh!" she cries at last, stooping to extract a box only to push herself back up to her feet and hand the box off to the poor Brother Errant with nary a glance back. "Here." And her eyes are already back on the list. "Ew! Yellow patent leather?!" Turning her wide blue eyes to Eric, she shakes her head. "We're… gonna skip that. Trust me. It's a mercy omission. She'll thank you for it later."

Yeah. I'm sure when Mr. Bennet finds out Eric will be in for a death glare. Right now though he is happily oblivious to any future or impending doom that might or might not be headed his way. He snorts though and grins back towards her. "Not quite the football type, but yeah…I'm sure I'd never hear the end of it." Well, if Jack or Lachlan see him here…he might still never hear the end of it. "Besides, I apparently have enough trouble walking normally, I don't think I could take heels." He says with a flashing smile back towards her. He catches the box easily enough before he laughs. "…I'll take your word for it. After all your the experts!" He says, voice cheerful before he pauses to glance down the aisles around. "If you don't mind me asking, where you two from?" A tone of curiosity in his voice. "I'm native New York, and you two aren't from around here…your mom is too…" He waves a hand a moment as he thinks for a word. "…nice."

"South and west," Claire answers vaguely with a smile to indicate that she really doesn't want to talk about it. It's New York. Most of the country is south and west. Take the hint, Eric. However, the dodge is offset with a wry little smile as she teases her absent mother. "I think it's something they put in the ground water. Goes right to the manners."

"That explains it then," Eric takes said hint with more than good grace as they walk, laughing softly. South and West. That's a good one. At least his company for today's shopping trip is witty and amusing. She's not insulting him about how he should look or dress either, both more excelent points. "…and if you can find out what they put in it smuggle me some. I think they could use it up here." Pause. "Wait. No. Strike that. It would throw off the whole 'rude taxi driver' thing we have going for tourist purposes."

He's a guy. Guys typically don't know how to dress. This is not a news flash. Especially if they don't have to go anywhere. Eric's mother should be proud that the thing doesn't have holes in it. Claire's eyes move to next on the list. The next item is a long-toed pump, and her azure gaze is back to working the racks while her easy smile lingers. A hand stretches up to tuck blonde hair back behind her ear. "Yeah. You never know what consequences changing a New Yorker's natural habitat could cause. You could make 'em go extinct or something. Eric Lancaster, indirect executioner of the New Yorker."

At least Eric knows how to put colors together so they aren't eye-searing. He can pick out his own clothes. Go him. He is carrying around a bunch of 'bachelor food' in his grocery bag, but that's not so bad. Maybe he just ran out of stuff he could be lazy with. If he notes Sandra following them he doesn't seem to care or mind as he shakes his head, that amused smirk remaining on his face. "I'd hate to have that title," He adds. "Rather save New York than destroy it. After all, all must stuff is here." He says with a solemn nod before he laughs once more. "…and my dad would be mildly put out as well I'm betting."

Most people would be more than mildly put off that most of New York would be put at risk or anything of the like. Sandra would be one of those. Especially since right now she and her family lives within city limits. Or close enough to be considered within them. Waiting for a convenient time to show back up in the conversation, Sandra kind of sidles in behind them as if she's been there for awhile. "Now what title would that be, dear?" Readjusting her bag there's a little bit of a woof, but it's something that could be explained away should that really be necessary. "Now, remember, Claire, we've got our own shopping to do and I need to get home to start dinner. We should let Mr. Lancaster finish up and be on his way soon. Don't want to be yammering his ear off when he's got places to be." Never mind the fact that she was the one that forced the three of them together.

"Hey, I said 'indirect'. I wouldn't be standing here talking to you if I thought you were gonna do it on purpose. I'm just saying. Way to Hell and good intentions and stuff," Claire teases, casting a golden smile in Eric's direction. She's about to say something else when Sandra makes a timely intervention. "Uh, nothing, Mom," she offers with a roll of her eyes, a shrug, and a tiny bounce on her toes. Picture of innocence? Not really.

But now Mama Bear is reining in her cub, and Claire looks back down at the list and twists her lips into a smile more apologetic as she tilts her head. The list is extended at the end of an arm, held out straight, so that Lancaster might reclaim his list. It's easy to settle into that very managed schedule by her dutiful mother. "I… I don't think your sister's gonna end up getting those. I don't see them anywhere. Sorry."

"That is what they say," Eric agrees with a smirk back towards her. "I bet its true too." As Sandra comes up behind them he smiles pleasantly towards the Mom. "Nothing at all, I was just plotting on giving manners to taxi drivers…and the effects that might have on New York in general is all," He replies lightly. Innocent no. Amused indeed he is.

As Claire hands back the list though he smiles slightly. "…thanks for helping, the both of you. I needed it…" A grin towards the younger Bennet. "…don't worry about it then. I'll work on this Scavenger hunt and see if I can find them." If not, he's sure his sister is going to get more than enough to be happy for her birthday.

He pauses a moment and then reaches into his coat pocket to fish around and eventually come up with a crisp and clean white business card. "Here," He says handing it towards Sandra. "…if you ever need anything computer wise repaired, just give me a call." He adds cheerfully before he steps back.

Sandra gives her daughter a Mother Knowing Look for a moment, looking between Eric and Claire. The boy is much too old for her to be approving of the two, but she knows they weren't talking about nothing. "Alright, if you say so." Of course, she doesn't really believe that. Innocent, Mr. Muggles' left paw. "Any time, sweetie." Taking the business card, she looks at it a moment and then hands it over to Claire. "Here, keep that safe, would you, honey? You know I'll only lose it." Also, unzipping it would reveal there to be a toy pomeranian dog in there and with an employee starting come this way, that's the last thing she would like to give away. "Why thank you. It was just such a treat to run into you. Good luck with getting your sister her gifts." Then, with a protective arm going around her daughter, she starts to guide her off for more school apparel. "Isn't it funny who you run into in New York?"

Did— Did her mother just give her a boy's phone number? Claire looks absolutely bewildered as Sandra hands off the business card. She has a purse! Yeah, okay, Mr. Muggles is in there, but it's not like he's going to eat it. What just happened? It's hard to tell, but Mrs. Bennet works her Quick Two-Step and suddenly they're on the move again. As they start to walk away, Claire laughs. "Yeah." Then when the cheerleader looks at the business card herself? She stops abruptly and rears her head back, all mirth lost as suspicion comes rushing back in. Then she looks up to her mother. "…Didn't he say his last name was Lancaster?"

What? He's not /that/ much older than Zach! However, Eric seems to be pleasant enough. No hitting on Claire, no leering or eye waggles. Just a pleasant enough conversation. He blinks then as he remembers something though. "…oh…my card says 'Walker' on it, that really is my name…Lancaster is my given name." He smiles slightly for a moment. "…I changed it awhile back…long story." Half the people in the city know who he is now though, he seems to have stopped hiding…at least as much as he always did before.

Then poof. Off they go. Eric watches the pair of them leave before he shakes his head and smirks slightly, glancing back down at the paper. "…Eric…you have the weirdest days sometimes." He murmurs to himself before he turns away himself and starts strolling off. On the search…of shoes.

Do not read too much into that Claire. It's only for safe keeping. Worry creases her forehead a bit when Claire points out what she missed on the card. He did say that, didn't he? Sandra glances over her shoulder at Eric and gives him a bit of a smile. More of that Southern warmth, but when she turns around again, she pulls Claire a little closer to her and walks faster. Noah's not the only one who can be overprotective. "I think I saw a Gap around the corner, darling. Let's go try there. I'm sure they're much nicer to pomeranians." And they don't have boys who have switching last names. Not that their family is one to talk, but anyone who changes their last name has something to hide. Maybe it is a little funny who they might run into in New York.

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