Disclaimer: Alphas and its characters do not belong to me but SyFy. I'm totally addicted to this how now.
It was lunchtime.
Lunchtime was the oasis in the middle of the workday, a brief reprieve from the mind-numbing paperwork and almost as comforting as the familiar adrenaline rush of the constant game of cat and mouse (albeit, Alpha after Alpha), although the latter was few and far between this week. Apparently, crime still ran rampant in New York City, but Red Flag was disconcertingly keeping their movements low and under the radar.
Which lead to the current week of constant boredom – caged in their building, pacing for a call from the Department of Defense– and begrudgingly playing catch-up on paperwork. Apparently, two weeks of forms and reports tended to pile up fairly quickly, even more so when they were Alpha-related. Go figure.
Lunch, though. Sweet, glorious, attention diverting lunch.
Rachel hummed in satisfaction at the first bite of perfection.
"Your food is mashed," stated Gary. He sat across from her, his own lunch in front of him. "Your food should be separated. The meat is squished into the bread and dripping onto the paper." Gary quirked his head to the side as he spoke, fixated on Rachel's lunch (meatloaf sandwich and a side salad dowsed in ranch dressing and sliced pickles) as if its existence went everything against nature.
Rachel, mouth full of meatloaf and French baguette, blinked in confusion but the corners of her lips automatically tilted upward at Gary and his concern regarding her lunch. Her meals were usually take-out with the others due to convenience and a hectic workweek. A salad, half a pastrami sandwich from across the sleep, or a box of lo mein noodles from Chen's two blocks away; she usually picked something with no frills. Due to the quiet week, Rachel indulged in making a home cooked meal for herself and Nina.
However, she ended up with too much meatloaf.
Like, three quarters of a loaf.
(Nina forgot to mention she was on her bi-weekly No Red Meat campaign).
Good thing Rachel liked meatloaf.
It was her favorite food – it was a recipe from her mother after all.
Gary, however, did not seem to be a fan of meatloaf.
"Come on kid," Bill lumbered by, an extra large, double meat and guacamole burrito in hand. "Not all food has to be separated."
"I'm not a kid," Gary retorted. He shook his head, determined to rectify an obvious wrong. He waved a hand toward his own sandwich. He lifted the slice of organic, 100% whole wheat bread – crust-less – off of his own sandwich and revealed two slices of turkey with one slice of tomato, one lettuce leaf, and a smear of mayonnaise. "It should look like this. Separate. Neat." Gary emphasized, "A clear line of division."
Rachel glanced down at her sandwich thoughtfully. The meatloaf's deliciously fatty beef juice had already saturated the bread French baguette and was dripping from it, onto her fingers and landing on the wax wrapping paper haphazardly spread on the lunch table. Meatloaf was not the cleanest food to eat.
"I can't really – I don't think I can separate it," Rachel attempted, glancing from Gary and back at her sandwich with furrowed brows. "Meatloaf is a little difficult to…make neat."
"The bread and meat are all mashed together," Gary persisted.
Rachel licked her lips. "You can still eat food when it's mixed around with other food, Gary."
He tilted his head, brown eyes scrutinizing food with obvious confusion, his fingertips tapping rhythmically against the tabletop.
"Would you like a bite?" Rachel suggested, lifting the sandwich and waving it slightly in Gary's direction.
He frowned, "But you took a bite of it, Rachel. Your mouth was on it, w-with your germs because you already ate some of it."
"Umm, you can bite the other half of it," said Rachel. She brightened, reaching for the knife beside her salad that she used to cut her fruit, "Oh! Let me split it in half. It's really good, promise."
"You don't have to," Gary spluttered, eyes as wide as sauces at her nonchalant suggestion. His hands moved forward to – "Rachel, your germs- they're already on the- No, Rach –"
The flash of the knife.
Rachel grimaced. "Ow."
Gary froze, his hands still in the air in mid-motion of reaching toward her.
"No, no, Rachel, you're bleeding, there's blood. Your blood, Rachel."
"I'm fine Gary, don't even worry about," Rachel attempted to soothe him, glancing down at her index finger, blood welling from the neat, clean two inch cut against her tan index finger. The innocuous knife lay on the table top, a glint of red on the ridged side. She grabbed a napkin from her bag and pressed it against the open wound, "It's a little cut, no big deal." She stood up, "I'm going to go look for a band-aid. I'll be right back."
The stricken look on Gary's face did not lessen. He hurriedly followed after Rachel as she stepped out of the break room, lunch forgotten for later, and back toward her own office. His hands were flying mid-air as he spoke, his eyes searching, "Let me help, Rachel. I can help. The American Red Cross website says that your cut is a superficial wound, which means we don't have to go to the hospital. I can help. I-I was the one who-who cut-"
"No," interrupted Rachel. She paused, turning around to stare him down, "You didn't hurt me. The knife slipped out of my hand."
"I did." Gary insisted, his eyes darting from Rachel's face to her napkin-covered hand. He could already see a drop of her blood seeping through the brown paper napkin. "If I hadn't struggled against you, you wouldn't be bleeding."
Rachel shrugged. She knelt by her desk and busily opened drawers. She had band-aids somewhere. "When I was younger, I got more scrapes and bruises from rolling around with my cousins."
"You were rolling on the ground?" Gary frowned. "That doesn't sound hygienic."
"Yeah, 'rolling' loosely meaning me and my cousins used to fight all the time. I was-" Rachel laughed as she continued rummaging through a drawer, sparing a glance down at her flat-heeled shoes, "-still am, a tomboy."
His fingers didn't stop as he searched the Internet or wherever else he chose to look for information, "Rachel, you're a girl, not a boy. And your name is not Tom, it's Rachel." He paused, flicking his gaze toward her, "You should keep the wound closed a-and disinfect it, and- hey- Rachel, where are you going?"
"To the bathroom," Rachel tucked a band-aid in her pocket to use for later. "I'm disinfecting it right now."
He followed after her, reciting instructions. "So, after you keep the wound pressed, and disinfect it-"
"I'll be right back, Gary," Rachel waved as she stepped into the quiet of the Women's restroom.
Her footsteps echoed softly in the bathroom as she crossed the room to the sink. She placed the band-aid on the countertop. She hummed softly as she casually glanced at her wound. It really was small and non-problematic and she was the one waving the knife around. The cut was minor annoyance but she wanted to confirm it was just that – minor.
One by one –
Her sense of hearing was the first to go, the thrum of the ventilation vents disappearing…
Her sense of taste disappeared; the memory of her meatloaf sandwich still sitting on her tongue.
Touch. She could still touch but it left her body otherwise numb, an odd sensation due to the lack of sensation.
Carefully, she gathered her senses and placed them on the backburner to simmer – her taste, smell, hearing, and touch –until they were an afterthought.
Her vision remained. She evened out her breathing, inhaling through her nose and exhaling through her mouth as she focused her energy on her eyesight. It enhanced, narrowing and focusing, again and again, bypassing the clean ridges and lines of her fingerprints, enhancing a little more until she saw the cellular composition of her index finger. The cut was slightly jagged but otherwise clean from the nick of her sharp knife, blood still leaking from the torn veins. She narrowed her vision even further – blood platelets were already forming to converge at the sight of the cut to properly clot the bleeding area.
Rachel nodded to herself. A band-aid would suffice. Gary didn't have to worry.
She inhaled, centering herself for the rush.
Every time, every single time, no matter how often Rachel did it, emerging to the real world after using her Ability felt like jumping into a pool – a little exciting, her spine tingling with the little aftershocks of bewilderment as she adjusted to her surroundings, the thrum of her blood rushing in her ears unfamiliar despite the one time she closed off her senses except for her hearing and listened to the intimate thrum of her own heartbeat.
"-and hydrogen peroxide-"
She would recognize it anywhere.
Against the hundreds of thousands of people around, Rachel could find his voice, even from a whisper.
She was…Rachel was pretty sure she was in the Women's bathroom. There was definitely no sign indicating that the bathrooms were co-ed.
"- should prevent infection and-"
"Gary," Rachel stuttered, her nerves still tingling from her hyperawareness. She stared at her teammate incredulously. "This is the girl's bathroom."
"I know. You're a girl, therefore you're supposed to go to the girl's bathroom," Gary stated with a shrug, nervously playing with his wristbands now that he knew he had her undivided attention.
"And you're…a guy, Gary."
"I know, Rachel," Gary confirmed. "We have different parts. My reproductive organs are on the outside while yours are inside."
"Then…?" Rachel smiled, hoping that Nina wouldn't decide to burst into the bathroom to reapply her make-up. That would be awkward, although this conversation already felt like it was heading to Awkwardville. Rachel waited with bated breath for his response. Knowing Gary, it could be anything.
"I wanted to help you properly disinfect your finger." Beside him was a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and cotton balls.
"Oh," Rachel bit her bottom lip, attempting to bite back the grin working its way across her face.
"Your hand," Gary held up his own hand, the palm laying flat as the makeshift surgical table for his first-aid care.
"Yes, Dr. Gary." Rachel giggled as she placed her hand on his, her cut facing him. His hand was warm and his skin soft. Rachel liked being in close proximity to him.
"I'm not a doctor, Rachel. My cover is a data analyst," reminded Gary, his eyes trained on her hand. He lifted a cotton ball, hydrogen peroxide already on it and gently dabbed the wound with it. Off-handedly, he boasted, "Although I was Agent Bell before."
Listening to Gary talk, his voice soft and familiar to her ears, helping dampen the initial surprise and rush of pain as the peroxide came into contact against her cut. She winced but otherwise remained still as Gary carefully dabbed the peroxide on her finger and cleaning up whatever blood was still on the skin.
"Don't worry, I'm almost done." Gary slowly moved his hands away, leaving Rachel's hand in mid-air. He picked up her band-aid, meticulously pulled the flimsy plastic covering from the bandage, wrapping one end of the freed, clear adhesive plastic on her skin before slipping the other plastic covering away from the other end. His focus was like laser precision as he made sure the nylon square fully covered her cut before wrapping the other adhesive half around the rest of her finger, and creating a snug tourniquet.
"Finished," he said triumphantly.
Rachel lifted her up to the finger to the bright light of the fluorescent light bulb, examining it. "Looks great, Gary. Good job." She glanced at him. He was still staring intently on her finger, "Why the hydrogen peroxide?"
"Rachel, you're a girl," stated Gary, "Girls shouldn't have scars." His voice suddenly softened, "You shouldn't have scars."
"Oh," Rachel looked up, meeting Gary's eyes. His eyes were trained on her – a little shy but determined to make her hear him. She raised her hand, gently pressing her knuckles against his clothed shoulder, "Thank you."
"I don't know why you're thanking me, Rachel," said Gary, thrumming his fingers against his pant-leg. He looked away from Rachel and onto the bathroom tabletop. The bridge of his nose and tips of his ears were a little pinker than normal. "I said it because it was a fact. You don't have to thank me for stating a fact."
"Yeah," Rachel nodded. She looked at her finger, wrapped carefully in a clear band-aid, answering him just as softly, "But I wanted to."
"Okay," Gary nodded.
There was silence. They were both looking away from one another. In the Women's bathroom nonetheless.
"Can I – Can I try some of your squashed sandwich?"
Rachel grinned, "Yeah, I'll make one specially for you."
SS: I really, really, really hope that there are more…romantic interactions or romantic-like interactions between the two! haha Still, they're good as friends too, it's just that they're individually so cute and would be even cuter together! ;) Tell me your thoughts on my fic! I hope I kept them in-character.