Title: The Important Moments Always Take Place In Diners
Author: Gab (Milena D)
Rating: PG-13
Genre/Characters: Angst, Family/Claudia, Mrs. F, mentions of Team
Summary: Mrs. Frederic doesn't let her assets hide for long.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the mourning that inspired this scene...

Author's Notes: Wrote this in about an hour after having watched the finale and instead of sleeping. I had no beta so I apologize in advance for any mistakes! I went over it myself but I'm pretty tired so... :P I hope you guys like it!

"You, young lady, were quite difficult to track down." Mrs. Frederic's stern voice jolted Claudia out of her focused research into how many spots there were in a square inch of the marble countertop in front of her. "Despite, might I add, being under surveillance."

Mrs. Frederic took the stool next to the runaway at the diner counter and ordered a coffee.

"Chatterbox here to cuff me up?" Claudia asked, not bothering to glance at the muscle-bound Asian bodyguard she knew was behind her.

"Why would he do that?" Mrs. Frederic returned, allowing what minute maternal instinct to wonder if the raspy quality of the girl's voice was due to lack of use this past week or if it had something to do with the cloud of guilt hovering above her. In any case, Claudia didn't seem inclined to answer. Thanking the waitress for the cup before bringing it to her lips, Mrs. Frederic continued. "Detainment. Incarceration. Those are for the guilty."

That, at least, caught the teenager's cautious attention.

"You weren't exactly cheering for my team when I was there. You and Leena seemed pretty convinced I was single-handedly responsible for bringing MacPherson to the warehouse." Claudia reminded her bitterly, her worn nails now making random patterns on the counter.

"I was." Mrs. Frederic replied succinctly. "But it would see our positions are reversed."

Claudia turned her head and raised her eyebrow in question.

"I sit here convinced of your innocence and you sit there convinced of your guilt." She remarked heavily, adding some sugar to her coffee. Claudia hadn't started at her declaration but the look in her eyes was that of a trauma reliving itself. Adding just a touch of milk to her coffee, Mrs. Frederic stirred the new concoction for a good long while; the time it took Claudia to finally look away.

"I didn't bring...I mean," the young girl swallowed thickly, "I don't remember helping him."

"Because it didn't happen, and you know that. I know that." Mrs. Frederic informed her firmly before softening her tone into something approaching inquisitiveness. "And yet, you're still on the run." Claudia didn't respond.

With a small, disappointed sigh, Mrs. Frederic held out her hand and her bodyguard handed her a good sized file. She gingerly set her coffee aside and starting flipping pages at random; she knew its contents inside and out.

"When Joshua disappeared, so did you." She said casually, leaving Claudia a moment to catch up before going on. "It took the state four months to find you. And every foster home in which you stayed for more than six months ended in the same scenario."

Finally the teenager showed signs of life.

"Not that I'm not enjoying the history lesson, Prof-..." She caught herself on a memory and kept on her tirade. "But I was actually there, and my memory, genius that I am, is quite good. So it's been a blast chit-chatting about the good 'ol days but you know, there are 15 states I haven't been in yet and they are just calling my name."

Despite her passionate speech, Claudia couldn't move two inches before a huge meaty hand clamped down on her shoulder, forcing her to stay seated.

"We're not done." Mrs. Frederic scolded her.

"I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that one." Claudia muttered. "I'm not guilty, you said it yourself. I wasn't a prisoner to the warehouse, I'm my own person and under some kind of wacky law that gives me rights if I can photoshop proof of age, I can go, stay, leave whenever and wherever I want. And you know what? I'd be willing to bet my Vegas bucks that you'll all be better off without me."

"And we come to the heart of the matter." Mrs. Frederic announced with fake cheer. She closed the file and stared Claudia down. "You were there when your parents died. You were there when your brother was assumed dead."

"Does that mean you're next? Cuz I could really do without this conversation." Claudia retorted angrily.

"I saw your face when we'd gotten you to even remotely suspect yourself of being implicated with MacPherson. That was not the look of guilt, nor the look of fear. It was unadulterated terror that comes from believing you could be responsible for harming people you love, for putting them in danger. Something I should have noticed before then." Mrs. Frederic intoned wisely, regret filling her for the events she could have prevented. Like the tears that were beginning to accumulate near Claudia's lower eyelid.

"Through my years at the warehouse, I have seen more than my share of the impossible. I am not beyond believing in curses, not at all. But you are not cursed, Claudia. You are an incredibly resilient young woman, and an very injured child, yes. But you don't cause these things to happen."

"Tell that to Artie." Claudia whispered. "He got a sword through the chest because I took advice from a psychopath with a chip on his shoulder the size of the warehouse."

"I can't do that." Mrs. Frederic said in a tone that was much too reminiscent of the paramedics at the scene when she was 10.

"What? Wh-what happened?" Claudia demanded fearfully, angrily, as though the older woman had somehow shirked her duties in protecting them. At least her eyes were focused again.

Mrs. Frederic gave Claudia's file back to her bodyguard and paid her tab.

"MacPherson initiated the warehouse's self-destruct five days ago." She informed the scared girl.

"Okay, so a bunch of mostly dangerous artifacts are gone, I'm sure there are..." Claudia couldn't finish her sentence. As the instant denial left her, her chest started to feel very tight and her eyes were prickling again. "Artie? Pete 'n Myka? They're...they're not..."

"Agents Bering and Lattimer have contacted us from inside the warehouse offices. They're mostly unharmed but they face a lack of provisions, the absence of ventilation and other life support mechanisms, and a host of devices set off by the explosion." Mrs. Frederic reported factually, forebodingly.

"And Ar-Artie?" Claudia asked about the closest thing she had to a father, her eyes on the ceiling trying to keep her tears from falling. Mrs. Frederic gave a pained sigh and nothing in the universe could have kept them from sliding down her cheeks.

"According to Pete and Myka, Artie was in the umbilical." Mrs. Frederic said slowly, trying not to let the obvious hitch in Claudia's breathing affect her.

"The umbilical...the corridor of friggin' bombs...that's what it's for? To kill agents and trap the others inside." Claudia seethed, her teeth coming down hard on her trembling lips.

"Agents are trained never to go into the umbilical in crisis situations." Mrs. Frederic informed her.

"Then why-"

"He tried to follow MacPherson."

Claudia gave a harsh laugh of derision.

"Of course he did."

"There is a hope." Mrs. Frederic continued slowly.

"Of reaching Pete and Myka before the warehouse kills them?" Claudia interjected angrily.

"Of Artie having survived." Mrs. Frederic returned just as forcefully, hating herself for giving the grieving teen any hope on a snowball's chance. "Artie touched the phoenix a great many times. If the artifact's effects could have been transfered to him somehow without the need to wear it, and if he wasn't too close to one of the explosion sites..."

"And if he didn't die from the thousand-foot drop onto the warehouse floor?" Claudia continued, her tone seething as she saw through Mrs. Frederic's tactics.

"Regardless of what happened to Artie, I have two agents trapped in a dangerously active warehouse and I need a way to get them out." Mrs. Frederic told her, laying her cards down. "You were Artie's protégé, you know the warehouse and how it works. Pete and Myka need you."

With that she got up from the stool and adjusted her suit jacket.

"Sometimes you do more harm by running away from your family than by staying with them. Where would Joshua be today if you'd kept running?" With those parting words, Mrs. Frederic and her bodyguard left the small-town diner and got back into their car. Before the diner door's springs had allowed it to close, a shaking hand pushed it back open.

Couldn't help getting this out before my other fics. I just finished watching the finale and...yeah, I'm gonna need to write and vid a lot more before I'm over it. :P Hope you guys enjoyed it!