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Night 52: Pet Supply Place
stlg13bomber wrote in damned
[From here.]

"Owwwww!" Carter groaned, dropping Claire's hand and clutching it to his chest. Perhaps he should have found a more subtle way of breaking the stone. When he took the ring off to relieve the pressure there was a red circle around his finger where it had crushed the skin. By tomorrow it would probably be a bruise and then everyone would know how foolish and impulsive he'd been.

This was definitely not a good way to impress a girl. Carter smiled sheepishly at his companion, still rubbing his hands. "So, uh...welcome to Doyleton."

The pet shop was still in great disarray and smelling of kitty litter, but a few lights had turned on since the last time Carter invaded the premises. Somehow the faint glow just made things creepier by highlighting the shadows, and Carter drew slightly closer to the woman with him. It was all right if she was scared, because anybody'd be scared if they were a woman out by themselves in a dark and scary place, so Carter would need to stay near and protect her.

Boy, he wished Colonel Hogan was here to tell him how to do this.

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It was indescribable. Claire popped back into existence, reeling back and blinking the spots from her eyes (whether they were an effect from the trip itself or the sudden flooding of light was hard to say). She looked around. Gaped at the shelves. The cool lighting from above. Colorful packages, cages for sale, wide windows out front.

She ignored the man completely. She ran over to the window, slackjawed and awestruck as she pressed her hand against the glass and peered outside. Through the glass was a humble little town under a broad night sky, a few lights dotting the scene through windows and doors. They were all vacant. Mountains in the distance, and surrounded by pine trees. No asylum in sight. Claire's breath hitched, the air drawing misty clouds on the frigid glass.

"Oh my god..."

Her heart had lodged itself in her throat. She was out. It was - it had been so easy. He'd just broken the ring and they were free. How did that even...

No. Now was not the time for questions. She could spend the rest of her life pondering the reasons why and never get anywhere. The 'why' wasn't important: her freedom was. That was all that mattered.

A sudden thought struck her dumb and she nearly wilted against the glass. Aaron. Her son. He was in L.A., she knew it. She just had to get from here to there and she would see him, hold him again. See her little boy for the first time in years. It couldn't be far. She'd never been closer to him than this.

Her shoulders shook when she drew away from the window, turning back to face the miraculous stranger nursing his hand. For the first time that night, her expression held no steel, no caution. Her lips wobbled as she tried to smile up at him, wiping her newly wet eyes.

"You got us out. I can't believe it...You..."

She strode right up to him and took his good hand in her own, squeezing it tight. "T-Thank you..."

Carter stared at the crying woman with his mouth slightly open. He was happy to get out too but she acted as if he'd just liberated her from a Gestapo prison. It wasn't so bad in there, and it wasn't so great out here--oh, it was nice to get to walk around and see new things but aside from the televisions he hadn't seen anything really spectacular.

"N-no problem, ma'am," Carter said, unsure smile on his lips. "I just...well, I wanted to get out too, y'know?" He laughed. He didn't mention that he wasn't sure if Landel couldn't still pull them back in the morning like he usually did. It just didn't seem like the right time.

Something twitched at the corner of Carter's vision when he raised his hand. When he twitched to look at it the motion stopped and only kitty litter and leashes cast sinister shadows in the pet shop's dim lights. It had almost been like...must be seeing things.

Her breath hitched and her shoulders shook, something almost like a silent laugh. Claire was happier than she'd been in ages, but the emotion had grown awkward over time. No reason to smile during the days on lifeless beaches, littered with empty homes made from tarps and wood and bits from the plane. Now she wanted to stifle her voice and let it burst out of her at the same time, and found herself unable to do either. It was hard.

Claire let the man's hand go and collected herself, wiping her face with the back of her hand and smiling even wider. He seemed a touch confused by all this. Claire murmured her thanks once more and tried to explain through the thick lump in her throat. "I'm...it's been ages. I haven't been out in years. I haven't seen anything like this since...god, I can't believe this exists. This is real."

She couldn't take her eyes off the place, scanning the aisles with watery eyes. Then she spotted the cashier counter, and her amazement was momentarily forgotten.

Hasty strides wove her through the aisles and right up to the counter. There was a rack stocked full of snacks. Each wrapper was in place, fully sealed. No chances of tampering, unlike the food at the institute. Her belly screamed with delight. Two whole days without food made her abandon all reason. Claire snatched a handful and immediately tore into a packet of beef jerky, only half chewing the leathery meat before she swallowed. The taste was horrendous - too much at once, seasonings she hadn't had to contend with in years. At this point? She didn't care.

Within moments she had downed the whole pack. Her expression was of absolute bliss. She seemingly forgot all about her partner for the night until her eyes fluttered open again and landed on him. "...We should save some of this and get out of here. It's all wrapped. Safe food. No one's done anything to it."

She rounded the counter, searching for the plastic bags. She wanted as much food as she could carry. Even all candy was better than nothing.

Carter followed her around like a perplexed puppy, still scratching his head. This place was so run down compared to the institute and wrapped up beef jerky was quite inferior to the lavish meals they got for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sure, he was happy to get out too, but this was really over the top. Even a few years at Landel's...he'd done a year at Stalag 13 and rarely had his sanity threatened, years at Landel's would never invoke such a strong reaction from him.

Maybe it was a woman thing.

"It's only jerky," he said faintly, trying to be encouraging but having no real idea what was going on. Was that even beef jerky? It might be dog treats. There had been times Carter would have resorted to eating dog treats but Dr. Landel managed to make ice cream filled with beans taste good. "Didn't you eat any dinner? We can go find you something better, I know there's a diner that might still be open. You don't have to eat it that fast." Even the sensation of hunger (real hunger, the kind that tore at your stomach like a cat writhing in a bag) had started to be a fading memory.

Well, they'd leave soon and then she could eat. And then they could start exploring The Future in earnest.

"No, I didn't eat dinner," she explained shortly. Her focus remained on the plastic bag and stuffing it choc full of food. "I haven't eaten since I got here."

She had been wavering on that point a bit. Her conversations today were giving her very real doubts as to whether or not the food was drugged, but now that they were out it didn't matter. They would get food on the run and not have to worry about sedatives or poisons.

Though the mention of a diner had caught her attention (the jerky hadn't been nearly enough), that wasn't her first priority anymore. Having even just a bit of food in her belly was helping her think clearer. They would need food, yes, but they would also need other supplies. Especially if the staff at the institute found out they were gone and put everyone on alert. Claire wasn't certain how far this place was from the hospital, but she wasn't about to take chances either.

Her bag stuffed, she stretched the plastic handle wide enough that it would slip over her shoulder. She needed her hands for other things. "Come on."

[To here.]

Edited at 2010-10-22 12:36 am (UTC)

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