Title: Closer Than They Appear
Prompts: chocolate biscuits, disillusioned, threadbare
Pairing: Nick/Claudia, Nick/Jenny
Disclaimer: I own nothing… no seriously.
Closer Than They Appear
She was no Claudia Brown. They were opposites, like the sun and the moon, yin and yang, vanilla and chocolate. So why was she sitting there eating the chocolate biscuits he knew Claudia adored?
Nick Cutter watched her as she meticulously dipped the chocolate biscuits in the warm milk, just as Claudia did. But she wasn't Claudia. The red vanished nails screamed 'Not Claudia'. The brightly coloured clothes yelled 'Not Claudia'. The heavy eye make-up cried 'Not Claudia'. But the way she swirled the biscuit in the milk – once clockwise and twice anticlockwise- said otherwise.
He shook his head, running a hand through his blonde hair. He was imagining things – projecting things. As similar as they looked, they were so different. Jenny Lewis was not Claudia Brown. Maybe in another life, another world, but not this world.
Cutter sighed, closing his eyes. This world was a nightmare. In the space of 6 months, he'd lost the woman he'd been falling for, his certifiably insane wife had tried to kill him and he'd lost his best friend. His blue eyes fluttered open meeting a pair of curious brown eyes. "Can I help you?"
"You were staring," Jenny Lewis stated, leaning against the edge of his paper covered desk.
"My eyes were closed, as a matter of fact."
"Before that," She folded her arms. "I saw you."
"You're seeing things," Cutter retorted. He wasn't going to admit to staring, especially at her.
Jenny rolled her eyes, "These days I wish I was seeing things."
"I think we all do," Cutter said ruefully, resting his head on his hand.
"James thinks we need a break," She looked at him pointedly. He had barely left the ARC since Stephan's funeral and everyone knew it.
"And what did you say about that?" His lip curled into a slight smile. He could tell from her tone she didn't agree with their boss.
"I said it would be nice if anomalies stopped opening for a while but that isn't likely. And no one is trained or stupid enough to do what we do."
She blushed a little. "I'm sorry, aren't I part of the team yet?" She asked coolly, not wanting to show embarrassment at her Freudian slip.
"You are," Cutter told her. "Just haven't heard you include yourself in it before."
"Well they say that chasing dinosaurs is an incredibly fast team building exercise."
"They do, do they?" He held back a chuckle but couldn't keep the mirth out of his voice.
"Yes," Jenny nodded, continuing with her fabrication. They both knew she was joking but they needed the humour to get through the day. There was too much darkness in the world, too much sadness.
"You really are something," He shook his head at her, marvelling at how quickly lies left her tongue.
"Something good or something bad?" She smirked as he stammered to answer the loaded question.
"Just. Something," He concluded lamely. He still wasn't sure what she was.
Jenny opened her mouth to say something but was cut off by the anomaly alert going off. "I swear that thing chooses to go off when I'm about to leave."
Cutter chuckled and stood up, "Probably not. Even Connor can't make a sentient computer."
"God I hope so. I've seen too many movies where they take over the world. We've got enough problems as it is," She followed him out of his office and fell into step beside him.
"Let's deal with the anomaly before we start thinking about that."
Cutter stole a glance at Jenny as she sat beside him in the passenger seat. She was looking at the passing countryside in the mirror, facing away from him. His heart skipped a beat. For a moment, he could have sworn she was Claudia.
"You're staring again," The corners of her lipstick stained lips turned up into a small smile.
"Just checking you're ok," He replied casually. "You took quite a tumble."
They'd dealt with the anomaly but she'd stumbled over a root in the forest as they herded the triceratops back to the anomaly.
Jenny rolled her eyes and turned to face him. "You try running in high heels."
"Not really my cup of tea, I'm afraid."
"I should hope not. That image would give me nightmares." She leant her head against the window, going back to gazing into the distance.
"Are you sure you're ok?" Cutter asked, concern growing. She wasn't usually this sedated. Jenny Lewis was a Carp Diem kind of person; she didn't sit in silence for long.
"Fine," She replied quickly then sighed. "I'm just… I'm wondering about Claudia."
"Claudia Brown?" Cutter clarified.
"Is there another Claudia that you know?"
"No, she's the only one."
"And she is me. Apparently." Jenny shook her head as if the idea was so abstract she could shake it away.
"In another evolutionary timeline," Cutter said, his hands tightening on the steering wheel.
"What was she like?" Jenny's voice was so quiet he could barely hear it.
"Claudia was nice," A smile crept onto his lips. "She was fair, probably gave me more chances than I deserved. She was easy to talk to and she was good."
"She sounds brilliant," Jealousy coloured her voice.
"You're actually more alike than I thought," The words escaped before Cutter could reign them in.
He paused before answering, "You eat those chocolate biscuit things the same way."
Jenny gave him an odd look. "Everyone eats them the same way. You dunk in milk then put them in your mouth and swallow."
"Yes but you swirl it in the milk. Clockwise then two times anticlockwise."
"You noticed that?" Her brown eyes widened in surprise.
He shrugged, "I notice little details all the time."
"It's what my Grandmother did," Jenny looked down at her fingers, fidgeting. "That means I could have been her."
"Or she could have been you."
She put her head back against the window, closing her eyes. "This is complicated."
"Yes," Cutter nodded, steeling another glance at her. She looked so dejected he didn't have the heart to tell her that the way she was fidgeting was exactly what Claudia did. Maybe they were more similar than he thought.