DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Day 56: Callahan's Grocer (late afternoon)
Are they going to kiss or what?
gald_digger wrote in damned
It looked like the day was nearing its end, and Anise still had plenty of money to spend. The way the sky darkened well before the end of the trip was a bit unnerving. Did the monsters come out at sundown, or did they come out at a specific time chosen by the institute staff...? Whatever the case was, she supposed she ought to stay on her guard.

She carried a light shopping bag with the few tools she found at the hardware store, and looking around the street, the best place she could think of to go and spend her remaining dollars was the grocery store. Hey, maybe they even had gels! If Anise could buy a few of those, she'd be extra prepared the next time she or her friends got hurt. Excited by this realization, she hurried to the store.

Anise received a strange look from the clerk when she asked "Do you have any apple gels?" She ended up having to describe them to him, something she never imagined she'd have to do. Could it be that Earth didn't even have gels?

"Oh, uh... do you mean those gummy candies?" the man at the counter asked, a slightly dubious look on his face. "Try the snack section. There should be a couple up here by the counter, too." He motioned to a small candy display just by the counter, and then to an aisle which appeared to be filled with candy, chocolate, crackers and other snacks. Anise followed his direction and entered the aisle, looking over the rows of bags, boxes, and plastic containers. There were a lot of things to choose from, and unlike the other stores she visited that day, most of it was affordable!

But before she would allow herself to get sidetracked by whatever looked tasty and cheap, she had to find those gels first.

[Natalia!]

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Though Claire had a tiny bag for her bear, she was carrying it herself through the streets. The bag handle was stretched around her mitten-thick hand, leaving the fingers free to properly cradle the bear. It was a cute thing, golden brown and soft. Much smaller than she'd wanted to get, but five dollars could only get you so far. She hoped Aaron would like it.

Perhaps she'd be able to find him a better one when she left this place. It seemed like it would be a long trip to California, from what little she knew (remembered) of American geography. There was no reason why she wouldn't be able to stop in a toy shop along the way.

Funnily enough, the bear hadn't expired her gift card entirely. Claire now had a single dollar to her name, and milled about town wondering if it was even worth trying to spend the last of it. Nothing much of use could be bought for a dollar. Save for in a grocery store.

Claire wasn't exactly hungry, but she wasn't about to say no to more food. Particularly if it wasn't pink slop or papayas. She had about had her fill of papayas after three years. Imagine how pleased she was to find that the local grocer had a wide selection of fruits and veggies available, even in a town so small as this. Claire stalked through the aisles, inspecting apples and slightly green bananas and - oh. Mandarin oranges. It would be about that time of year, wouldn't it? If they came in season during the hottest months in Australia, then it followed that they would start selling them around winter in America.

She meandered through the selection, perfectly happy to lose herself in the miracle of a room stocked to the brim with food.

[Sora you need a mom that isn't a disembodied voice. Come here, young man.]

[But he loves that disembodied voice...]

Sora walked out of the antiques store grinning from ear to ear and cradling the bag that held his only purchase thus far. He'd blown over half of his money on the necklace that he was planning to give to Kairi, but he didn't care. The shopkeeper had even placed it in a nice box for him, so he'd be able to present it to her like a proper gift.

He hoped he could find her soon and give it to her, though he would rather do it back at the institute when they weren't being watched every second. That meant it would have to be at night, but that was okay: he could just go to her room or ask her to come to his before they went out for the night on their usual club duties.

The boy wandered around on Main Street for a bit in search of his friend, but seeing how the sun was going further and further behind the mountains, it was staring to get even colder. Eventually he had to give up on finding Kairi and find some shelter.

He ended up heading into the grocery store, mainly because he needed to do something with the rest of his money and he was wondering if he could find some tropical fruits that they didn't usually serve at the institute. It was going to be even tougher to get good food now that the military was in charge, so he wanted to stock up.

And that was how Sora ended up wandering through the produce section of the grocery store in search of coconuts.

[CAN A DISEMBODIED VOICE GIVE YOU HUGS OR CLEAN YOUR EARS, SORA?]

She eyed the grapefruits. Being much bigger than a lot of the other options available, it was far out of her price range, but Claire still traced the dimpled skin with longing. Beside it was pumpkin - also too expensive, but nostalgic enough that she took a closer look. The tangerines were next, then tiny plastic crates of cranberries, and beside them lemons, though she didn't really like lemons by themselves. They belonged in drinks.

Once the lemons and limes were done with, Claire found that someone had already beaten her to the next stand over. A young boy, with hair standing up all over his head and a very familiar face. Her brows furrowed, and she drew up beside him, puzzled.

"Roxas?" Yet the moment the thought came to her head, it was banished. Claire didn't care how many magical spells this place had going for it, there was no way that Roxas had grown out his hair and died it brown in one day. That would be the stupidest thing she had ever heard of. What use could that possibly be?

Flustered, she tugged at her hair and dropped her eyes to the produce, already hunching away from the boy. "Sorry. Thought you were someone else."

They actually had coconuts here. Sora didn't know how -- they probably had them driven here from somewhere, if those cars he'd seen around town were any indication of the way transportation worked on this world -- but he wasn't going to question it. There were coconuts! He could buy one and it would last him for a while, but maybe it would be best to get one for Kairi too. Even if he'd already gotten her something, there was nothing wrong with getting two gifts, was there?

Though right as he was about to set his focus on picking out the two best coconuts from the bunch (and he was an expert), he heard a voice calling the name of his Other. Was Roxas here...?

But as he turned around, he only saw a blond woman standing there. Her apology made what had happened clear, and while Sora had always been annoyed when the Organization members had called him by Roxas' name, he couldn't blame this lady. They did look a lot alike.

"Oh, it's okay. We're, uhhh..." But there was no clean, simple way to explain how the two of them were actually connected, and so Sora sadly had to fall back onto a half-truth. "We're related! We get mistaken for each other all the time." He extended his hand to the woman. "I'm Sora!" he introduced, wanting to clear things up for her as soon as he could.

This was Sora? Why had Roxas said that they were only friends? She blinked at the boy and wondered how she was supposed to mistake him for anything less than a brother. Their faces were identical. And the build, too. If it wasn't for the hair would have been his twin.

"Sora? You're Sora?" A moment was spent blinking at him and the offered hand, then broken with a befuddled smile and a shake of the head. She shook his hand briefly. "Sorry, you just look so much like him. You're the boy he travels with at night? The one who runs the club?"

She had seen his name on the bulletin board more often than not. It was hard to believe that the person in charge of those missions was the spunky thing in front of her. She should have clued in when Roxas claimed he was a friend of his, but even then she wouldn't have thought he'd be this young.

Oh, she was being rude wasn't she? "Oh - I'm Claire. Littleton." She smiled again with a touch more surety, then let her gaze fall to the fruits below. Coconuts. Another fruit she was half sick to death of, but she supposed it would seem exotic to anyone else. Claire took one in hand, turning it over and frowning at the sticker. It just seemed so bizarre to think about buying one. All she'd have to do on the island was climb a tree. "Are you getting one of these?"

Edited at 2011-05-18 10:30 pm (UTC)

The fact that she knew him by name and even about what he did took Sora by surprise. He realized that he signed his name on the bulletin pretty often, but he didn't know how many people actually noticed that. He was flattered that it seemed like Roxas had thought to mention him whenever he had talked to this woman, and it made him wish he could find his Other. Now that he thought of it, he really should have gotten him a gift too...

"Yeah, that's me," he said with a slightly shy smile. He was proud of himself and what he was doing, but being treated like he was famous was still a new feeling in some ways. Even though he'd been known as the Keyblade Master across many different worlds, this was different somehow.

At the introduction, Sora nodded his head, pausing for a moment when he heard her name. Another Claire? He hadn't ever heard that name until he came here, and yet now he'd met two people who had it. That was interesting. Maybe they were from the same world. "It's nice to meet you," he said as he shook her hand.

Turning his attention to the coconuts, Sora nodded in response to her question. "Yeah, I was thinking about it! Where I'm from there are coconuts trees all over the place, so it's kind of nostalgic for me." He was sure that she could understand that. Couldn't everyone? Even the most independent people had to get homesick sometimes.

"I wasn't expecting you to be the same age. Not after I saw who you were on the board." She wet her lips thoughtfully, turning a mother's eye to the boy. He didn't even look old enough to be behind a wheel yet. Being trusted with handing out missions and investigating the asylum seemed like something the older patients should look after. "Is it just you and your friends in the club?"

The only explanation that would make any sense was that the rest of the club members were teenagers too. And even then, it was a stretch. Sora seemed like a sweet boy, much like his brother, but it was hard to think of him as much of a leader. Not like John. Not even like Jack. Once he'd started going on about the coconuts it became impossible to compare him to the two at all.

"Same here, actually. Not for my whole life, but for a while. I've been eating nothing but coconuts and papayas and boar for three years, so I can't stand the thought of eating one more. So sick of them" Her smile turned secretive as she delicately deposited the coconut in a vacant dip in the pile. "Were you on an island too?"

He didn't look it, to be honest. He wasn't pale, but he wasn't as badly tanned as the rest of the castaways got. And he sounded American. He could have been Hawaiian, she supposed.

It seemed that Claire, like so many others, had underestimated him because of his age. Still, she wasn't speaking to him in a condescending way. She was just surprised, which was flattering all on its own. He was glad that she didn't ask too much about how he and Roxas were related, though if push came to shove he could always say they were fraternal twins. He just didn't like lying. "Well, not all of them are friends from home, if that's what you mean. There are some people who just saw the posts and decided to join up, but I try to make friends with everyone who joins." He wasn't sure how clear that was, but anyone who was willing to help him was automatically a friend as far as Sora was concerned.

As Claire explained that she was also used to eating coconuts, Sora studied her curiously, wondering why it was that she'd been eating all of that for only the past three years. Maybe she had moved to an island? But if she'd gotten sick of it then why hadn't she left? Maybe she hadn't been able to?

"Yeah, I guess it can get kind of old after a while," he agreed. Sora hadn't minded because it had been all he knew, and his mother had usually cooked a variety of different things to keep things fresh. "But yeah, I grew up on an island. How about you? Did you move onto one?"

As they spoke, Sora started to pick up and set down different coconuts, trying to decide on which two he wanted to buy. Maybe Claire was sick of them, but that didn't have to stop him from buying some! Once he was done, maybe he could help her with whatever she was looking for.

There was only word to describe Sora thus far, and that was sweet. Claire couldn't keep a straight face as he went on to describe the members of the club. He kept tugging her into a smile, and it became impossible to continue working out the mechanics of his leadership. He was just a nice boy trying to help people, and who was Claire to begrudge that? (Though she still hoped that there was someone here looking after him and his brother. It was just too sad to think about otherwise.)

"That's really nice of you to help people out, Sora," she remarked softly. "You know, a lot of people step up to do that sort of thing, and it turns out they were only doing it to help themselves. It's good to see someone who actually cares." She reached out and softly patted him on the shoulder in congratulations, beaming brightly. The kids here were all so sweet. It was enough to give someone a toothache.

The island, on the other hand, was a much more sobering subject. Her arms went crossed as she watched him examine the coconuts, her smile fading around the edges. "No, no. My plane crashed." Claire took a thin breath. Her memories of the time before Ethan's capture hadn't all returned, but she did remember being on the plane. Hand on her belly and drifting off to sleep when suddenly, everything started to shake. Jolted. Broke away. She couldn't recall how they had made it to the ground, or how she had wound up crawling on all fours in the sand. "We were flying from Sydney to Los Angeles and things just...the plane broke in two in midair. Been on an island ever since."

She paused. "Until now, I guess. I don't know how these people found me there."

The compliment that she gave him came out of nowhere as far as Sora was aware. He didn't expect to be thanked or acknowledged for his work on the club. It was always nice when he was, of course, but the fact that she had decided so quickly that he was doing the right thing for the right reasons took him by surprise. How could she know when they had just met?

Then again, he made his own judgments about people pretty fast, decided whether they were a friend or not within a few moments of talking to them. Maybe Claire was like that too. He smiled at her. "Thanks. I'm just trying my best." He wasn't usually so humble, but he felt out of his depth with his club duties.

Though any warm feelings were immediately forgotten when the woman went on to explain what had happened to her. A plane crash? The best thing he could equate it to was his gummi ship, and while it had crashed once or twice, it had never been that severe and he had always been able to get it running again with the help of others. He didn't know where Sydney or Los Angeles were, but that didn't matter much.

"So you've been stranded for three years? I guess... it must have been kind of a relief then, to come here." He studied her with a frown on his face. What a terrible fate she'd been dealing with. He really hoped that she could eventually get her way out of this prison and back to where she belonged. She'd been waiting far too long to see home again -- longer than he had.

She gave him one last bright smile at his thanks, then let the subject drop. Well, if he was going to try to help people, who was she to get in the way of that? Claire just hoped the group would stay out of trouble, with how young everyone seemed to be. Alex and Karl probably hadn't been much older, and they were as tough as anyone else on the island. It was just hard to remember that when both of the boys had such baby faces. Neither one of them had gotten awkward or gangling yet.

Her efforts there should be focused on Goku, who was definitely too young to be in the asylum. Period.

"It is, I guess. You don't know how much you miss things until you see them again. Like..." Claire circled the stand and picked up a humble box of blackberries. "Variety, for one. Or stores. It's weird to just have all this stuff here and ready for you. And turning on the lights, and cars, and...everything."

There was a beat. "Though I would like the showers better if they didn't make you do it with everyone else." It had been among the top three things (that weren't people) that she had missed on the island, and now it was hardly any more relief than wandering the halls in the dark was.

Hearing her talk about all the things that she hadn't had access to while on the island, Sora was shocked to realize that she'd been cut off from so much. Destiny Islands had stores and lights and all those things, but Claire had clearly been stuck somewhere wild, somewhere without other people maybe. The idea that she might have been all on her own, just trying to survive, for three years...

He didn't want to force answers out of her when it was probably a pretty hard thing for her to talk about, though, and so he only nodded along with her explanation. Talking about how his island home had been a paradise would just rub salt into the wound, wouldn't it? Even Sora knew that.

"Oh yeah, showering here is kind of..." He trailed off, not sure if there was a good word for it. It had been really tough for him the first few times, but he was at least getting used to it at this point. He was relieved that it was all split up by age, at the least. "I guess there isn't really the space to have individual showers for that many people, though."

As he spoke, Sora picked out his first coconut, which was ripe and perfectly spherical with hardly any imperfections. He tucked it under his arm and then looked to Claire with a small smile. "So were you going to buy anything?" There was a lot of fruit to choose from, and more food besides.

"There should be," Claire said fiercely. "It's the worst thing. I've never felt so uncomfortable in my life." That was a light word for it. And perhaps a bit of a stretch. During her pregnancy she had spent plenty of time with her heels strapped in the air and a doctor peeking under the sheets. Though it didn't seem so prudent to be telling a kid like Sora about that.

Besides, that hadn't come with the same shame as being forcibly stripped and showing her scars to the world. She had been a lot prettier even when she was blown up like a balloon.

She smiled at him as he tucked the coconut safely under his arm. He could have gone for chips or lollies. Most kids would have, she suspected. As for herself? "Yeah. I think so. I've missed a lot of things while I was gone, but I only have a dollar left, so...something small."

The apples were over a dollar (which was ridiculous, as far as she could remember), and berries were definitely out. Claire glanced behind her, reaching for the next best thing. "Kiwis are always good," she said softly, pressing her thumb lightly against the skin to test the ripeness. Ready for snack time, it seemed. The smile turned into a grin as she brushed Sora's arm with her free hand. "Do you want to go pay together? Or are you still shopping?"

Edited at 2011-06-02 09:03 am (UTC)

The most uncomfortable thing in her life? Sora thought that maybe that was taking it a bit too far, but it was possible that she was exaggerating on purpose. He hadn't realized that some adults also found the whole thing to be embarrassing, but apparently they did. Even girls! He gave her a sympathetic look, but it wasn't as if he could do anything to help her with that.

It seemed easier to move onto the subject of what to buy, and Sora paused for a moment when Claire mentioned that she only had a dollar left to spend. Sora, on the other hand, had a lot more than that. "Oh, well... I have some extra money and the day is almost over, so if you want me to buy some things for you, that'd be fine!" Otherwise it would go to waste, and Sora was always eager to lend a hand to anyone in need. Even if it was for something as ordinary as fresh fruit.

And he was still shopping, but mainly because he needed one more coconut. Sora maneuvered himself around the display that held all the coconuts and eventually found another one that fit his high standards. "Did you want some more kiwis?" he asked Claire. "Or anything else! Really, get whatever you want." He didn't have all the money in the world, but he was pretty sure he'd be able to cover whatever she wanted.

Her eyes snapped open at the offer. "What?" Slowly, she began to shake her head, hands joining in with the protest. "No no, I couldn't do that. It's your money."

But he only kept on insisting. As tempting as the offer was, Claire couldn't take it. She wasn't starving anymore. And Sora...Sora was too sweet to take anything from. She wouldn't give a second thought to swiping something from Damon if she needed it. This, on the other hand, tugged at her heart. The kids here were suffering too. She couldn't take away something that might make their time in this place more bearable. Not even if it was being offered on a silver platter.

Claire grasped him by the shoulders, the smile on her face hinting at something more than the effects of Sora's charm. There was a bitterness there, though its meaning was a mystery. "No. You keep your money. I know how to find food for myself." She nodded for emphasis. "They feed us well here. I have a bag of snacks in my room. And if nothing else, there's whatever I can find in the woods at night. I don't need anything else. But you - you're a growing boy. You need it more than I do."

She took a steadying breath, patting him gently before releasing him. "If you have something that can help you, you shouldn't give it away. They'll take everything you have."

As far as Sora could tell, Claire's reaction was kind of intense. All he'd done was offer her some of his allowance and she'd grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him one of those serious adult talks in response. He realized that he shouldn't be throwing something valuable away, but there wasn't much here that he was interested in buying and food wasn't something that he needed to worry about.

He still got the good stuff while everyone else was fed that slop, after all. He would have been happy to let Claire buy something here that she was craving since he really didn't want the rest of his funds to go to waste, but...

With the way she was talking, it was pretty clear that she wasn't going to agree to his offer no matter what he said. Giving her a slightly sad smile, he nodded and then glanced down at the two coconuts that he was holding. "Well, are you ready, then? We should go pay..." He was sure that the staff would be leading them back to the buses pretty soon, and he didn't want that to happen before they had a chance to finish their purchases.

He didn't push the matter any further. Good. Lines of worry trickled out of her expression, turning the smile soft and genuine once more. "Yes. I'm ready."

She took him by the arm, stuffed bear tucked back into the bag dangling off her wrist and her kiwi clutched in hand, and marched them off to the checkout. A near noiseless hum was drowned out by the stiff music and bustle of the store, and so the only sign of her contentment remained the satisfied quirk of her mouth.

Claire didn't need Jack. Didn't need Kate, didn't need Hurley, not Jin. Not Sun. She was making friends now. True friends. Ones who would offer her grins and favours and hellos and honestly mean them. Andrew, Bella, Grell, Muraki, Klavier. Not to mention the young boys. There were an awful lot of them here. Still, it was some comfort to know that Roxas had someone as kind as Sora for a brother. They would look out for each other, and in turn Claire would look out for them. Their parents must be worried sick.

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