Date: April 4, 2010
Randall tries to help Claire not go stir-crazy.
"Weird Rave Club"
It's her last day of being a teenager, not that she thinks much of that. Claire's mind is more on the worries her biological grandmother, uncle and father have all implanted in her mind. Worries of a war between those with powers and those that hate them. Worries of the world finding out they exist. Worries of her father doing something stupid that will get him killed. And worries of how the plan to get everyone together for her birthday are probably going to go wrong. After all, the best laid plans of mice and men…
Once more, she's taking out her worries in the kitchen. Instead of brownies this time, she's making cookies. A big mixing bowl seems to have everything but the kitchen sink in it: oatmeal, cornflakes, coconut, flour, sugar, eggs, and of course, chocolate chip cookies. That's the standard recipe. To this, Claire is adding toffee bits before beginning to try to stir the whole mess together.
The start of the day for Claire, and for most people, is the end of the day for a few others. Graveyard shifts are less common than evening shifts - actual graveyards, road construction crews, manufacturers running around the clock to get the most out of their shop equipment - but they tend to pay better, because people willing to work them are less common, too.
As he walks into sight, Randall has a paper towel covering his forehead, mopping up a bit of sweat before crumpling it and stuffing it into a pocket. And squinting. Maybe he shouldn't have gotten rid of it so soon; the light from the sun is bothering him more than the heat, now. "It's a little early for suicide cake, isn't it?" he offers, peering over Claire's shoulder as he tries to figure out what the mix really contains.
Claire jumps again — dropping the rubber spatula onto the kitchen floor. She scowls a little, more at her clumsiness than his interruption of her busy internal monologue as she bends to pick it up. She moves to the sink to rinse it out, glancing over her shoulder at him through a tangle of blond hair. She hasn't really brushed it yet today… at least she brushed her teeth.
"Suicide cake?" she asks, as she washes the spatula, then picks up a wash rag to go clean the batter off the tile. "Why am I always dropping things around you?" she adds, a little defensively, like it's his fault.
"I don't know," says Randall, scratching absently at his own hair - by now, it's grown back enough to not look presentable without a trim or a longer wait - "I'm not trying to sneak up on you, I promise. And 'suicide'— well, you know how some people go to a soda machine and get one dose of everything in the same cup, just to be random?" Then again, that was back when he was in high school; who knows if anyone still does that. In any case, his attention wanders over to the ingredients that haven't already gone in, ticking them off against his memories of short-order cooks.
"Ooh. We called that kamikaze, which I suppose is the same thing," she murmurs in understanding, before tossing in the remaining ingredients. "It's not cake. It's cookies. Or it will be. It's a recipe, except I decided to add the toffee bits on a whim. Because toffee makes everything better, right?" she says, stirring the batter together. It's rather thick and takes quite a bit of elbow grease for the spatula to make the rounds in the bowl. "You just coming in?" she asks, as she stirs, before scooping up a bit of batter to taste. Her mother used to warn her of the possibility of salmonella from the raw eggs, but she really doesn't have to worry about such things now — as if that would stop her.
Randall shrugs. "I guess so— it's kind of like fudge, isn't it? I think maybe it's an acquired taste. Always seemed to stick to my teeth whenever I tried it." Even syrup requires a light touch - and it's impossible to miss how hard Claire is having to push at the stuff. "Yeah, didn't start till around eleven. Still pretty busy, I think maybe because of college students ramping up for final exams? As long as they're giving me hours somewhere, I'm not gonna complain to them about it."
"Lots of midnight noodle eating finals crammers?" Claire asks, before starting to spoon out the batter onto cookie sheets. "I wouldn't think there'd be a lot of late night noodle eating, but maybe I'm not cosmopolitan or metropolitan or something enough. Just a kid from Texas. Not a lot of noodle eating there. It's all about the steak." She glances up. "You from New York or a transplant, too?"
"Actually, they don't serve noodles." Randall pauses there for a second, leaving room for the inevitable 'what?' look. Everyone has that look the first time they hear about that place. Then, with not enough room to double up on the immediate task, he contents himself with moving some stuff out of her way so there's more space for her to work with. "I grew up in California, myself, came out here a few years ago. I was trying to get a handle on my ability and— well, it wasn't bad there, really, but it was all way too familiar by that point. Needed to get away from my blind spots, so to speak."
"The Noodle House doesn't serve noodles?" she asks, looking confused as she continues to spoon out batter onto the sheet. "California's nice. I wouldn't mind living there. Here, everything's so … cramped. Closed in." She sighs, picking up the sheet and bringing it to the oven, before punching in the time on the timer. She leans against the counter and looks at him. "Especially when you can't really go anywhere, but then I guess I'd feel the same way if I was in a California safehouse, too." She smiles, slightly. "Sorry I freaked out at you the other day," she adds, glancing down.
"It is. It's nice if you're in the mood for company, crowds especially… not so much when you want some quiet time. I used to have a nice little place—" Before he got chased away from it, that is, and he furrows his brow at the thought. The landlord may have rented it to someone else by now, and even if they haven't, the government agents probably ransacked it on general principle. "And hey, don't apologize, better safe than sorry." Instinctively, he reaches one hand out as if to steady her shoulder, only to hold back at the last second.
Claire raises a brow at him. "Sorry about your place," she says, not missing the emotion that comes with his mentioning it. She changes the subject: "So what's this Noodle House if it doesn't serve noodles? Is that some … weird… rave club or something and I just am not cool enough to be all hip with the kids' slang these days or something?" she asks, crossing her arms as she tips her chin to look up at him.
Randall shrugs. "I don't know, a bunch of people have different ideas about it… my favorite is that the owner bought it from someone else, and he changed the food but he was too cheap to change the sign. Like Arnold's. I suppose I should ask some time if I ever see him around." The distraction works; his expression untwists, and he wanders over to settle into a nearby chair.
"Oh, so it is food, just not … noodles. Not even spaghetti?" Claire says with a smirk. "At least you get out of the house. I guess I could but I'm scared I'll screw it all up by drawing attention to myself somehow. I'm not sure how. It's not like I'm that noticeable or noteworthy, but I don't know how to be sneaky either." She frowns and brings the mixing bowl over to the sink, scooping another bit of batter into her mouth before pushing the faucet and filling it up with water.
"Not noticeable? Oh, c'mon, you're like the one they'd have playing a cheerleader in the movies." If only Randall knew how right that was. Granted, her hair isn't in any shape to be plastered on a billboard right now, but it was better the last time he saw it. "Well… maybe instead of trying to be sneaky, you should just try to find someone loud and flashy to hang around with—" Then he shakes his head, leaning back and looking defeated. "Wait, no, what am I thinking? We're in here because we're in danger, and here I am, suggesting you drag a friend in front of the crosshairs."
Her brow furrows as she looks at him skeptically. "I'd be the cheerleader because I'm small and blond, maybe. I was a cheerleader, actually, in high school. Didn't really go very well for me," she says wryly. "And it's best if I'm the one in the crosshairs. I can survive it. Most people can't." Apparently she's no longer afraid of him being a mole. Maybe someone talked some sense into her paranoid head.
Which, after a second's thought, only gets him looking more worried. "I suppose you're right, but I still don't like it." Especially if they're doing worse than just shooting— but that way lies a million ugly thoughts, which he figures he'd better not mention out loud. He's gotten her worked up enough as it is, and himself too. "There shouldn't be anyone in the crosshairs. Or if there is, then it ought to be because of what they did, not because of what they might do. This isn't Minority Report we're talking about here."
"That's a movie, right?" Claire asks, looking a little confused. Not her kind of movie. The timer dings and she grabs an oven mitt before going to the oven to slide the cookies out — if he weren't around, she'd probably just grab the cookie pan straight from the oven, but there's no need to gross the nice man out. "But you're right." She glances over at him. "Am I still red glowy around the edges or does that change day to day?"
Randall nods. "Yeah, Tom Cruise, science fiction— cops could predict who's about to break the law and arrest them ahead of time. Or it was supposed to be science fiction, anyway." He returns Claire's gaze, eyes flickering up and down for a split second. "It's a little closer to blue now, I think - maybe because you got a good night's sleep for once - but I'm tired enough that it could be off. I think red's more your color, anyway."
"Maybe blue's more the color of worry than anger," Claire says thoughtfully, picking up a spatula and moving the cookies to the cooling rack on the counter. "I'm less mad and more worried than I was the other day." She smiles and shrugs, pushing her hair out of her eyes. "And I'm going to get fat because I keep baking for something to do. I can't fight the bad guys so my plan is to gorge on sugar, I guess. That's a solid backup plan, dontcha think?" She uses the spatula to lift a cookie off the pan and holds the spatula out to him so he can take the cookie if he likes. "Don't burn yourself."
"That too," Randall murmurs, getting up again and carefully working the spatula, setting the cookie down on a paper towel so it can cool off first. "And you've got a ways to go before you get fat…" Hang on, there's the germ of an idea somewhere in there. Think think think… "Hey, my mind just jumped from 'exercise' to— Do you go out clubbing much? Late at night, dark, crowded. Not too hard to lose yourself for a little while, if that's what you're looking for."
She chuckles and turns back to work at putting the rest of the cookies on the racks. "Clubbing… no. I haven't done a lot of that. I haven't really done a lot of things since the world turned upside down and all if you know what I mean. But it might be fun," she says cautiously. "I'm only 20 — well, tomorrow, I will be — so it'd have to be a place that doesn't require ID. That and showing ID is probably not the brightest thing when we're supposed to be hiding."
"Happy birthday," he says, a faint smile touching his lips despite the pall that still remains over their shared circumstances. "Tell you what… let me talk to Felipe tonight, I think he knows a guy. Wouldn't necessarily hold up if you got pulled over, but it'd probably be good enough to flash at a bouncer. I'm off tomorrow night— maybe I could join you for it?"
Rationally, he shouldn't be suggesting this to her at all. He especially shouldn't be thinking about going with her, considering what happened the last couple of times he did that sort of thing with anyone— but those were odd exceptions. And he hasn't been doing all that much himself lately, besides working for a few hours and crashing for a bunch more…
"Oh," Claire says, looking surprised, before picking up one of the warm cookies to bring to her mouth to nibble, her green eyes watching his face for a moment. "Well. Tomorrow I think they're going to make me be … family-ish… Angela and Nathan and Peter and all," she says, glancing down. "For the birthday. But maybe afterwards, if I can sneak off." If the world's still standing. She has her doubts.