"Hey Mom! There's something we've got to tell you," said Ashley, bursting into the large stone kitchen of the Sanctuary. "Hold up!" she exclaimed, the vital piece of news quickly discarded as she took in the sight in front of her. "What are you doing? What's going on? Where's the Big guy? What do you think you're doing?" Ashley sounded progressively more horrified as she realised what the scene before her entailed. "Are you cooking?"
Helen straightened up from the position she had taken her face set with deep concentration as she measured ingredients. A streak of flour was unknowingly rubbed into her hair as she ran her fingers through her fringe in frustration as she tried to work out why the ingredients listed were never what she thought should be put in.
"Yes, I am cooking," Helen admitted, slightly insulted by the look on Ashley's face. "Try not to sound too surprised. Bigfoot has gone to bed early, Henry dropped a rather large crate on his head so I've demanded that he take some rest."
"Oh right, well I'd better go check on him make sure he's, you know, OK," Ashley said casually, trying to back out of the room.
"Wait, didn't you have something to tell me? And what is he doing here?" Helen asked sharply, her eyes narrowing as she observed John trying to back out of the kitchen without being noticed. He had tried Helen's cooking before.
"It can wait. We wont get in your way," said Ashley, attempting to follow her father.
It was too late.
"Try it." Helen waved a sharp kitchen knife in the air indicating the pot in front of her.
Ashley swallowed nervously. "What is it?"
"What do you mean, 'What is it?' I'll have you know I have spent hours making this." Helen glared at her daughter, then noticing for the first time that she was half soaked with water and that the water was now steaming off her clothes in the oppressive heat of the much trialled kitchen. "What was it you wanted to tell me?"
"Are those walnuts?" asked Ashley, warily eyeing up the concoction bubbling in the pot in front of them.
Ashley looked desperately at John. "Are you going to try some?" she asked trying to deflect some of the expectant food tasting off her and on to any nearby victim.
Helen gave him a sharp look. "Why not?" she demanded.
"I've already eaten," he stated calmly lying.
"Yeah, we had McD's," said Ashley jumping on the back of the lie, astonished that she could have missed such an obvious escape.
Helen raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "Well you know what, Miss Ashley? There is no way on this Earth, John would ever eat a MacDonalds."
"Oh," said Ashley faintly, realising her fatal mistake. "Where's Henry? Has he tried some?" She was determined not to be the only one to endure this torture.
"Try it," ordered her mother having found her other guinea pig, Henry, highly conspicuous by his absence.
"No, wait! There's something urgent we came to tell you. We haven't got time to eat."
"What is it?"
Ashley looked to her father for help. It wasn't as urgent as she had made out. He took another step backwards still going for the escape. In truth, he had been looking forward to seeing Helen again, even if only for a few moments, but the smell emanating from the angrily frothing pots were rather unsettling.
"We were at the old bridge and saw a body float past. It washed up along the riverbank at the edge of the dock. We pulled it in and it was a man dressed in Cabal uniform. There were huge claw marks all over him, possibly from an abnormal. We put the body in your lab, we thought you'd want to check it out."
"I see. And?"
"That's it," admitted Ashley. "We thought you'd want to know."
"I do, thank you. But why is that so urgent that I have to rush away this second? If he is as dead as you say he is then he'll still be dead after dinner."
"Yeah, I guess."
Ashley paled at the suggestion. "To be honest Mom, I'm not hungry. The body was pretty gruesome, I cant face food right now. Urgh." she emphasised for dramatic effect. "I bet it didn't turn his stomach though, eh?" she said with a smirk indicating Jack the Ripper as he tried to melt away into the shadows of the hallway beyond. John's eyes bore into hers as her passive revenge attempt took effect.
"I wont intrude," he said quickly, turning to leave before he became trapped.
"Wait," said Helen.
He stopped, albeit reluctantly.
"Stay for dinner. You can both tell me more about it."
Ashley raised a eyebrow trying not to laugh at the look on her fathers face. He was absolutely torn. Torn between staying and having to eat Helens cooking or escaping to his hated, damned solitude. Provoked by Ashley's poorly concealed laughter he took a deep breath and admitted honestly his fears.
"Helen, your cooking always was awful and I don't expect that has changed over the years. I'm sorry but there it is."
The smirk dropped from Ashley's face as Helen waved the sharp knife around crossly.
"Fine," she snapped. "Don't say I didn't ask you."
The dynamic duo thought they could sense a shade of hurt in her voice.
"However," he carried on with a great effort. "It would be interesting to see if it has improved at all."
"Suck up," mouthed Ashley, secretly pleased he was staying and at the same time terrified of the trial by food which lay ahead.
Helen tried not to look too pleased. "Ashley, go and set the table."
Written for the Diehard Challenge: 'Family Man'