A/N: Well hello! We’re on to episode five; No Pain No Gain in the ‘She’s…’ series. Thanks to steampunkangel for beta’ing. Also this fic coincides with Race’s follow up comment!fic for the same episode, so they’re kinda happening simultaneously. I hope she doesn’t mind ;)
Summary: Claudia comes home from ‘lunch’ with Mrs. Frederic and feels a little shaken.
It seemed nearly everyone was shaken up from their respective missions. Myka and Pete were very quiet, insisting that they didn’t need dinner. That was weird enough on its own, but coupled with Artie and Steve’s ‘hush-hush’ behavior and Claudia’s glazed, distracted eyes, Leena had to wonder what the hell was going on.
Claudia’s aura, sleek and silver, seemed dull for once, or at least very weary. Leena wasn’t sure what Mrs. Frederic had explained to her… hell, she wasn’t sure of what Mrs. Frederic’s intentions were when she whisked Claudia away, and yet…
Leena sighed and leaned back against the couch, cuddling a cup of hot chamomile tea to her chest. And yet she knew exactly what she’d been doing at the same time. Training Claudia up to be the next one. She held in a breath and finally sighed out, curling her legs up.
She couldn’t say she was completely surprised when not five minutes later, Claudia walked over and boldly took the mug from her hands, placing it on the coffee table. The redhead rubbed at her nose and sat down, grabbing Leena’s arm and lifting it so that she could huddle against the innkeeper, placing the arm around her middle.
Leena’s eyebrows raised and she looked around the room to see it empty. Steve had gone to bed, and Pete and Myka were still talking outside. Artie had gone home. She exhaled and breathed in Claudia’s scent, rubbing at the woman’s arm gently. “Hey…” she frowned at the small sniffle and looked down, Claudia’s face pressed tightly against her chest. “Claudia…” The agent merely shook her head, completely overwhelmed. She felt grief, awe, intrigue, she felt inspired, and yet there was that part of her that was so unbelievably freaked out, so panicked that she didn’t know what to do with herself.
“I…I saw an artifact being born,” came the murmur from Leena’s chest and the innkeeper let out a small smile, keeping her voice hushed.
“You did, huh?”
A nod was her only reply and Leena reached out with her other hand, pulling Claudia against her. Despite Claudia’s emotional state, Leena suddenly felt happiness bubble up in her chest. So this caretaker thing was really happening. She was really being trained up… And though that thought worried Leena slightly, she had to admit, this felt like a secret club. She felt like she suddenly had someone who could actually understand her.
“Leena,” Claudia whined and pushed herself up. “I… How can I sense artifacts? How is that even possible? I just… I am so confused, I am so scared,” her lip quivered. “I mean, was this a part of me this whole time? Am I like you? Is…is this like you reading artifacts? Because I don’t kno—“ She was cut off with a kiss and Leena lingered a while to make sure the redhead had well and truly shut up.
She pulled away and stroked Claudia’s cheek. “Because you’re special,” she gave a cheesy grin. Seeing the beginning of an eye roll, Leena chuckled and shook her head firmly. “I will teach you all you need to know about sensing things out, okay? It won’t happen overnight. You’ll have to work at this.” She sighed. “Claudia, she picked you and only you. And it’s for a reason, okay? Because you’re good enough. You’re the right person.”
Claudia took a shaky breath, hands bracing against Leena’s upper arms. “Okay.”
“But I will be there, okay? Remember? I’m not going anywhere.”
At that, Claudia sniffled again and pressed herself against Leena’s chest, letting herself be cuddled and for once not giving a damn about who saw.
An hour had passed, the clock on the mantel reminding them of its presence, both soothing and disconcerting at the same time. Eventually the thought that had been roiling around Claudia’s head like a washed out tornado was released into the open. “I met him.”
Leena froze, her fingers hovering over Claudia’s arm for a moment before they resumed their stroking. “Who?”
Claudia struggled to swallow, her eyes closing in anguish. “David.” She opened her eyes and nearly laughed at Leena’s reaction. Maybe Steve’s ability was rubbing off on her, because she watched as Leena’s face contorted as if she were trying to act nonchalant and any minute she’d pretend not to know a thing about the man. Eventually, honesty won and Leena bit her lip, her shoulders slumping.
“She let you visit David?”
Claudia felt a pain in her chest at the almost childlike tone to the question, biting her lip to stop a sob from escaping her rebellious mouth. “She… Leena,” she croaked. “I won’t ask how you know him, or… or anything like that.” She said, “But Mrs. Frederic told me that wonder isn’t always endless,” she rubbed at her eyes, tears streaming down her cheeks thick and heavy. “You… you won’t leave me will you?” she asked quietly. “Because… Because if I get left behind, well frak…” she held on to her lips with a finger and a thumb to stop them from shaking, “Well I don’t want to be whatever she’s signed me up to be. I won’t do it, Leena. I can’t lose everybody again and I—“
“Shhh,” Leena soothed shakily, rubbing tears away from her own cheeks before she gathered the woman into her arms. “I won’t leave you behind. I can promise you that.”
That was all the reassurance Claudia seemed to need, and she sat there for a while, knees straddling either side of Leena’s hips, head on her shoulder and her arms wrapped firmly around the innkeeper’s back in a tight hug. “I’m kind of being a Debbie Downer, huh?” She used one of her fingers over Leena’s shoulder, continuing to wipe at her eyes.
“I think you’re allowed to be.” Leena smiled. “Now…” she pulled back to look in the young woman’s eyes and delivered a soft kiss to her lips. “Tell me about this artifact.”
At that, Claudia’s eyes glistened from both the tears and pure excitement. She rearranged herself to lay her head in Leena’s lap and recounted the experience. The feeling of pride in herself at recognizing the situation. The woman’s bravery. Mrs. Frederic’s blasé attitude about letting her keep the artifact. Leena merely smiled the whole way through, stroking her hair as a means to calm the both of them down. She’s definitely the one, Leena thought to herself with a private grin. She wasn’t sure what that ‘one’ entailed exactly… but for once, she reminded herself that she wasn’t scared to find out.