DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Day 56: Twin Pines Restaurant (Morning)
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stlg13bomber wrote in damned
As he stepped out onto the exciting, snowcovered streets of Future Town, Carter was struck by how much the town during the day differed from the shadowed streets of nighttime Doyleton. He was then struck by the memory of what had happend the last time he'd come to town, and given a third strike by guilt at the thought of what he'd done to that poor diner.

That would have to be his first stop. Carter stuck his hands in his pockets and wandered down the street, checking each gap between the buildings for slumbering gigantic rats just in case the ones he'd killed still had kin in town. It wouldn't be easy to explain that you'd blown up someone's place of business trying to kill your own shadow with a one-handed molotov cocktail, but Carter felt he needed to at least make an effort at apologizing. If they were still rebuilding, maybe he could even spend an hour or two helping with the work. He didn't know much about Future Construction but he imagined it wasn't hard to pick up. At the very least he could help paint a sign, or sweep the floors, or something useful like that.

...now that was funny.

Carter stopped in front of the Twin Pines Restaurant, staring at its immaculate front door and windows. Not a scratch. He walked around to the side to make sure the explosion hadn't gone that way instead, then to the other side, and then stood out front scratching his head in confusion. The restaurant seemed untouched, as if the explosion had never happened. He knew it had happened, of course, he'd been carrying a splint around for three whole days to prove that horrible night wasn't a dream, but the Twin Pines seemed to have recovered even faster than he had.

Boy, Future Construction must work really fast. He couldn't even tell the difference from last week.

[Claire]
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There was no getting away from Damon fast enough. Claire scrambled off the buses and nearly plummeted into a snow bank on her way. Some part of her took note in how picturesque the whole place looked. Snow packed on rooftops like icing on gingerbread, deep green pine trees peaking out from white blankets; the very picture you would expect to find on a holiday commercial. Normally, this would have all charmed her very deeply, and she would have paused to breathe the frigid air in and admire the view before taking shelter from the cold.

Except Damon had gone and murdered any trace of a good mood she had. So when she tore free of the buses, all Claire had for the postcard picture town was a dark scowl and a steady stomp of footprints through the snow. She was not pleased. Not in the slightest.

There didn't seem to be much in the way of people out today. No surprise there, considering how cold it was. Crazily cold. Claire shuddered, tromping out of the park and immediately searching for a likely place to shut away.

That is, until she spotted Andrew Carter marching up the street.

Having spotted him from the back, Claire spent a moment rooted to the spot and squinting at his form from a distance. But there was no mistake. No one in the institute walked the same as he did. Immediately she followed after him, occasionally trotting for a few steps to better catch up. Which she didn't do until they'd hit the other end of town - and the restaurant.

Claire gaped from several paces behind the man. Her eyes darted over the door, the pristine walls and the forms of people dining in the windows. It was like they had never touched the place. Did that mean they were okay? They weren't going to get into trouble? Had the asylum fixed it like they did her room this morning, or had the townsfolk done it themselves?

The snow crunched underfoot as she took a short step forward, calling out with uncertainty. "Andrew?"

Andrew whirled with a bright smile. "Claire!" Just the lady he wanted to see. She was familiar with the Future, so she'd knew what was going on here. And on top of that...she was kind of nice to have around. She was smart and she knew about a lot of the more soldiery things most girls didn't get. Of course she was a little rough and rude but that was how a lot of people had to be around here. That was okay.

He pointed up to the Twin Pines with glee as Claire came closer. "Look, it's all right! You can't even tell we did anything. Do they work fast here or what?" Someone inside the restaurant stared out at him with confusion, then shrugged and went about their business.

His enthusiasm was a little overwhelming. It seemed to leak over and infect her by force, putting a smile on her face when Claire had no idea what it was doing there. "Hey..."

At least she knew she was welcome to join him. She took a few more laborious steps (it was rather slippery in the spots where the snow had cleared) and drew up next to him, squinting at the restaurant. "I don't know. I think...I think the same thing that happens to the asylum every night happens to this place too. I don't remember things getting fixed that fast by hand." She shrugged. "I broke my desk last night, and now it's good as new."

Still, that didn't allay her fears completely. There was still the chance that one of the shop keepers would remember them from a security film. She shuffled uncomfortably on the spot. "Do you think they'll recognize us?"

"How? I mean, they weren't there that night, they probably don't even know how their restaurant got broken." Carter wasn't familiar with the concept of security cameras. "I guess someone should tell them they've got giant rats and evil shadows wandering around but I don't know if they'd believe us. Dr. Landel told them we're all crazy, remember? and evil shadows are pretty crazy."

That reminded him. Carter shuffled one foot, enthusiasm flickering as he remembered the events of last night. He hadn't heard anything from Frank one way or the other, though he was almost certain that his friend was recovering nicely under institute Future Medicine care. "I didn't see the shadows again. But I did run into...this guy. He kept sparking and setting himself on fire, like he was some kind of broken machine, and he set my friend Frank on fire too. I hit him with my crowbar in the head because I thought he was a robot and he fell down and started melting. It was like hot wax but it smelled like burning skin, and he looked like a person the whole way down." Carter shuddered. That smell, dear god, that horrible horrific smell...it was why he never liked being too close to his own explosions when humans were involved. The smell was the same for every human regardless of morality.

But the smell wasn't as bad as what Carter himself might have done. He wrapped one arm around himself, kicking wide furrows in the snow. "I thought he was a robot, or evil, but Frank said he might have been a patient. I...I don't know if he's dead or not. I don't even know what he was."

"They could have caught us on the cameras," Claire insisted. "They had to have had them on at night."

Though that begged the question of what they would do with the film once they spotted the shadowy figures pursuing them in the first place. The revelation hit Claire with all the subtlety of a bullet to the hit, and left her feeling stupid not two seconds after she'd let the words fall from her mouth. If they had seen those shadow things on tape, wouldn't the whole place be in some state of emergency? It wasn't exactly a common thing. Nor was popping into existence in the middle of the pet store.

No, if anything, these people were oblivious. Under some sort of spell or made to look the other way. The fact that the asylum was able to tug them back in from town at the end of the night was only proof that Doyleton was under its power.

But Andrew had worse news. Claire listened to the story, trying to fathom the possibility of a man who sparked himself on fire. A robot seemed like an even more bizarre possibility - in fact, Claire might have preferred to think it was a person than some creepy machine that could think and act like one. Yet that wasn't the point, it seemed. Not when Andrew carried on to describe hitting the man, and how he'd melted from the skin down.

The image was horrifying.

"...I..." Her teeth worked at her lips. What could she say? It was utter insanity, and Claire was still trying to wrap her head around a man lighting himself on fire. With what? Had he been covered in petrol? "I don't know. I've never even heard of something like that before. He tried to set your friend on fire?"

She searched his eyes. Then she stepped closer. Thick mittens and the bulk of his coat made the gesture a little silly, but she still gave his arm a gentle squeeze. "If he was attacking you guys, then you did the right thing. Sometimes...sometimes we come up against things we can't face peacefully, Andrew. You have to survive."

Most of the time, a woman showing Carter even the slightest bit of affection would reduce him to blushes and stammers. Women didn't really pay much attention to him anyway besides casual flirting (and of course Hogan was always the major target), so when it did happen he got nervous and fidgeted and pondered whether they'd really go for him and by the time he got done with that they'd moved on. But it was different with Claire. She was...strong, even more so than the women from the underground. Her endorsement meant a lot more to him then the possibility of ordering a root beer float for two.

"I know that," he said awkwardly, trying to force complex thoughts to order themselves within a simple mind. "I was in a big war before I came here, biggest one the world's ever seen, fighting against the nastiest jerks that ever were. The shadow was right, I did kill a lot of people, but I didn't even think about it because they were evil people. It was just what I did." No, even that wasn't quite right. Carter shook his head and forced himself to add, "And it was fun. I liked it. I really, really liked it, and when I did it well that's when everyone liked me best."

He looked up at the restaurant again. It seemed so shiny and welcoming today, with the picturesque snow hanging off the eaves, you'd never believe monsters had been there. The constant thrashing of the world between horrific and peaceful at every sunrise disoriented Carter more and more every time it happened.

"Nobody does that here. I don't have a CO and I don't have orders, and the evil people one night are good people the next day. It's..." He pressed both hands to the sides of his face, then peeked out at Claire through his fingers. "I just want someone to tell me what's right," he whimpered. "Everything's so much more confusing without Nazis."

Nazis.

Suddenly, everything had become less clear than before. Or was it more clear? Claire stared into Andrew's eyes and found not one trace of a lie. He wasn't making this up. So he was like Grell, trapped in a time that wasn't his own. Like...but how was that possible?

She had seen her own shadow pop out of the ground and attack her. She'd been bitten by a vampire, she'd seen eyeballs that floated on magic alone and a woman who opened rips in thin air. Yet even still, stretching her beliefs to add time travel to that list was just...She didn't want to think about it. She didn't like being a part of a world this big. Not when you started throwing magic into its midst.

Luckily, she didn't have to think too much about it. That wasn't the point. Andrew being a soldier and having to kill was. So Claire set the Nazi matter aside for now, and focused on where she could help.

"Listen, Andrew. When I was...before here, my plane crashed on an island. There were a lot of bad people there. They were waiting for us. They tried to take my son from me. They kidnapped me, and they hung my - my friend, Charlie. They hunted us down. I didn't fight them for the longest time. I left that up to everyone else, because I didn't want to do it. I couldn't do it.

"But when everybody else left, it was just me. Me and my friend alone. They kidnapped me again. And I didn't have a choice." Her throat grew thick, but she wasn't letting memories get the best of her. Her expression was as steely as ever. "I escaped. And I made traps for them when they tried to follow me. I had to learn how to shoot, how to use knives, how to use explosives. Now I can't remember how many of them I've killed."

Here was the crucial part. She gripped him by both of his shoulders and made certain that she had his eyes before continuing. "People like you and me? We're not killers. We're not made to kill. We've had to learn how to do it to survive. And maybe it's different for you, because you've never had to do it up close, but things will change. It will get easier. These people, no matter what they do during the day? It's a lie. They're our enemy. You have to remember that, Andrew. Neither of us would be killing anybody if we had a choice." Needing to ease the mood, Claire put on a thin, regretful smile. "It's not a bad thing to want to live."

Carter wavered slightly when she grabbed him, his nervous eyes wide and intent upon her face. He nodded along as she talked while his expression grew steadily more astonished.

He'd just assumed she was like Tiger or the other German underground women, some normal woman who'd gotten swept up in the madness and done the best she could. As capable as Claire was in a crisis, he'd never thought she'd actually been through a war, let alone something even more horrible. If she'd done all that all by herself that made her tougher than...than most men Carter knew, let alone girls.

Her shadow had mentioned something about a baby. So that was what it meant.

Carter nodded so hard his head nearly fell off. "I do want to live. I want everyone to live and I want you to live to. So I'll do my best and I'll get better at doing it up close and not freezing up. I'll practice." His eyes narrowed and he tilted his head to the side. "Well. I won't mean to practice, but I'll be better the next time I have to do it." You couldn't just practice killing people like you did sharp shooting or knitting.

It surprised Claire to find that she was grinning up at the man, and grinning with feeling. She had actually helped him a little, hadn't she? Claire used to be good at that sort of thing, offering kind words to friends and delivering hugs where they were needed. She wasn't half so open as she used to be, but it seemed she wasn't as rusty as she first thought.

She'd missed this. Not that she wanted people to feel bad like Andrew had just now, but Claire missed the little moments like these. Sparks of connection. Putting smiles on people's faces. Maybe that was one thing she could thank the asylum for.

"You don't have to practice, no," she patted him on the shoulder reassuringly, and let go. "Just take charge next time. And remember what you're fighting for. It always helped me - imagining what I had to lose."

She took a step back and shivered. Marveled yet again at the foggy breath streaming from her own mouth. The cold was biting today. Worse than yesterday. Like standing in a freezer.

But she could handle another moment longer. For Andrew's sake. "I'm really glad you're okay," she confessed, somewhat abashedly. "And I'm sorry for snapping at you before. I just didn't understand how...how your ring worked. I thought we were out for good."

Carter rubbed one elbow and looked sheepish. "No, no, it's fine. I didn't know it would bring us back either. And I know it was pretty important to you to get out."

What was he fighting for? The team divisions that he'd worked with back in WWII were missing, nobody was threatening America and the safety of the free world anymore. All he had left were the monsters of the institute and...people. Miss Aigis, Kairi, Admiral ZEX, Frank. All the people who couldn't defend themselves properly. And the Future, too, the big wide wonderful thing he needed to see someday, he needed to get tehre and make sure everyone else made it safely there too.

Those were worth fighting for. And sometimes killing for, but they'd started it and he did what he had to do. There's a war on, you know.

A small, relieved smile slipped onto Carter's face as things came back into focus again. The world was still complicated but he had a better idea of his place in it now. He could get through this, even if he didn't know exactly where he was going.

And Claire was strong, she was a good person to follow. Not a CO, just...someone smart whose advice he ought to listen to. That would be enough.

Carter jerked his thumb slowly at the restaurant behind them, nearly flushing with the effort of his request. "Since the diner's all better now, y-you...um." He let out a small chuckle at his own awkwardness before he started over. Bash in a guy's head with a crowbar and can't even talk about a restaurant. "You wanna get something? Maybe some coffee?" Even he wasn't sure of his own intent, but it felt like the thing to ask.

"Well, still. I feel so silly now." She managed a chortle and stared at her feet. There was a lot of things she had gotten wrong about this place. Being unable to escape on foot or by magic ring was disappointing, but at least she could safely eat the food now. Even if they had switched to that horrible porridge.

The offer caught her offguard. A few seconds were spent blinking at him, uncomprehending, before her smile crept back in place. "Um. Sure. I'm not too hungry, but I could do with a drink."

Going for a drink. The idea seemed so alien and so familiar all at once. Honestly, the more time she spent at this asylum, the more she remembered of her old self. Life before this. She was even recalling the names of films and the sounds of engines, machines, the chatter of crowds. The scent of fresh sheets. How people could make you feel warm inside.

The asylum was a terrible place. She was making no mistakes about that. But no matter what insanity it threw her way, it still had the island beat by a mile.

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