She trekked along the side of the highway, an old, worn leather bag slung over one shoulder. Tiredly, she shook the water out of her eyes as the rain dumped itself on her weary body. She wanted nothing more than to get out of the god awful weather, but as of two weeks ago she had officially become homeless.
It hadn't necessarily been her fault. Her previous employer had upped and disappeared, leaving her without work. After that, she had no other way to get income, and was eventually kicked out of the rental suite she had been living in.
This led her to walking along the side of the highway, the wind slinging the rain into her face with a mocking air about it.
She hissed as one car came particularly close, dumping the contents of a conveniently placed pothole all over the side of her already soaked clothing and causing her to shiver even harder. This weather was horrible. If it was just rain then maybe it wouldn't be so bad, but it was wind, rain and the constant traffic that didn't even bother giving her a second glance.
Her brown hair was drenched, trailing down the nape of her neck in a rather unpleasant and causing her to resist moving it. After all, it would only end up back in the same position in another ten minutes or so. The silver streak that ran through her bangs was hanging limply against her cold cheek, as if to offer comfort to the poor woman as she continued her lonely trek, and her dull blue eyes glared at the world.
Damnit, she really didn't like all of this wind and rain. It was an accident waiting to happen for the vehicles speeding by, and she would be the ideal accidental target for fate.
She sneezed, cursing her lack of a better jacket and shivered again.
She'd given up on hitch hiking a while back, considering that it was pouring rain and everyone was too interested in getting back to their warm homes to care about some random woman on a highway.
Totally engrossed with her thoughts, she didn't even notice the large black truck pulling up behind her until a voice called at her.
She turned, blinking.
"You need a ride?" the man asked as he walked towards her. He was ruggedly handsome. Blond hair cut short, darkly tanned skin, and a pair of bright green eyes looked at her with concern.
"A ride would be great." She replied with a rueful smile, "If I had somewhere to go."
"You sure? Nearest town's thirty klicks from here."
Thirty? Holy hell, how had she not been able to read the signs?
"In that case, a ride would be awesome." She barked out a laugh.
"Great." He smiled, revealing white teeth. "Hop in."
William Lennox couldn't help but stare at the woman now sitting alongside him in Ironhide's cab. Sure, he knew he would be getting a good scolding later for picking up a random woman on the side of the road, but the paranoid mech could shove it. He'd been brought up being told that he shouldn't pick up people along the side of the road, but to do so if there was a good reason.
In his opinion, this was a good reason.
She was trudging along the highway like the weight of the world rested on her shoulders, and he'd immediately pulled over, ignoring Ironhide as he snapped at the soldier to keep his aft moving.
Like that threat bothered him anymore.
She was about his own age, perhaps a few years his senior, with shoulder length brown hair and a streak of grey through her bangs that he'd only seen on a handful of women in his life. The only oddity that he could see would be the blue eyes that went hand in hand with her lighter skin.
At the moment, she was simply staring out the window, her bag set on the floor between her feet. And now that he was taking the time to get a good look at her, there appeared to be burn marks of some kind on her hands, though it was a little hard to tell considering she was tugging the thin rain jacket she was wearing over her hands absently.
"So, what were you dong out in the middle of nowhere?" he couldn't help but ask. "I'm Will. Will Lennox."
"Clara." She glanced over at him, a smirk crossing her features. "And it's not really that big of a deal. I'm currently homeless. I'm just wandering around for now, seeing if anyone needs a private chef."
Will raised a brow. "Private chef, huh? How does that fit into you wandering around in the rain?"
"Not a lot of people are actually looking for private chefs." Clara shrugged. "Couldn't pay rent, got kicked out."
There was a plan beginning to form in Will's mind, and considering that he was going to die one way or another, he decided he'd rather face Ironhide's wrath than Sarah's if he came home with a story like this.
"This is probably going to sound creepy, but do you want to come back to my place?" Will asked with an awkward cough.
Clara turned her eyes to the soldier, sizing him up, most likely. "Are you trying to pick me up?" she asked suspiciously.
"Nope. Married." He sent a sheepish grin her way. "But it just wouldn't feel right to leave you somewhere in a town without anywhere to stay. Plus, my wife would murder me. With great pleasure."
Clara relaxed into the passenger seat, absorbing the offer for several minutes. "Well…."
"Please. Even if you just stay the night. I can buy you a bus ticket if you want to leave tomorrow." Will continued, using the soft tone that one might use with a stubborn child. Not that he would know anything about that, of course. Because he totally didn't have a little girl waiting for him at home.
"I suppose so." Clara finally replied with a small grin sent his way.
Will allowed himself to relax. At least now he knew Sarah wouldn't tear him apart. But now he had left himself wide open for Ironhide.
God help him now.
As Ironhide pulled up the long driveway to the farm, Clara found herself having second guessing the decision to come with Will. Sure, the guy seemed nice enough, but she'd watched enough television to know that just because a guy said that he was married didn't actually mean that he was. For all she knew, this farm was located so out of the way so that no one would hear her scream.
Relax, idiot. She chided herself. Nothing's going to happen. You're just being paranoid again.
To her mild surprise, the door of the farmhouse opened to reveal an attractive blond woman and a little girl who couldn't have been more than three.
Her heart gave a small pang at seeing the toddler. Her own little one would have been ten this year.
She shook her head. God, she needed to let go of these things. She held on for too long. Even though people had told her that it was alright for her to hold on to something like that, she couldn't help but feel that she was still too emotional, still too attached to what could have been. But this wasn't that future that could have been. This was what was happening now.
"We're here." Will said with just the slightest amount of drama. "I should probably warn you now…Sarah's going to coddle you despite the fact that you're a fully grown woman. It's just the way she is and I suggest just going with it. She may not react well otherwise."
The tone he took suggested that he had rebelled against this woman more than once, and it hadn't ended well for him.
"Alright then." She smiled, nodding once. "I'll keep that in mind."
Will climbed out of the truck first, waving to Sarah as he walked around the front of the vehicle to catch the excited toddler as she threw herself at her father. Clara watched for several moments before opening her own door and climbing out, making sure that she didn't leave anything in the cab.
As Sarah caught a glance of her, she looked at Will questioningly, to which the male replied. Clara could practically see the shift in the other woman's stance as she sent a worried look in her direction before walking over to the brunette.
"Hello." Clara offered weakly, not entirely sure what else she could say in this situation. Sarah sent a gentle smile her way as she held out a hand, to which they shook for a moment.
"I'm Sarah Lennox." She introduced.
"Clara Cook." She returned before sneezing. Man, all of this rain really wasn't helping her from catching a cold.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. Let's get you inside. I have some clothes you can borrow while we throw yours into the laundry." Sarah hummed, taking a hold of Clara's hand and practically dragging her into the house. As they passed Will, who was holding the toddler, he mouthed the words 'I told you so.'
Clara blinked, suddenly thrown into bright lights and heat and everything was just spinning as Sarah continued to haul her down several hallways. Will had been right: his wife wouldn't take no for an answer. She was a woman on a mission, and Clara was obviously not in on what kind of mission that it was.
"Uh…" she started, only to be cut off as a towel and a bathrobe were shoved into her hands.
"The showers in this room. I'll be down the hall in mine and Will's room when you're done. I'm pretty sure you and I are about the same size…" the blond trailed off to herself, though Clara was sure that she hadn't paused in her thinking. "Just bring me the clothes when you're done and we can get a load of laundry done. Oh, and then we can get dinner started."
If there was a God out there, Clara was sure that he was snickering at the dominant blond woman who barely looked as though she could lift a hand against someone giving orders like a military commander.
Slowly, she retreated into the bathroom, flicking on the lights and fan before taking in her surroundings.
The bathroom was quite large, considering that it was probably the master, and the color scheme was a pleasant light cream and amber. A window was neatly placed next to the mirror above the sink, and it stretched across the remaining wall to the corner. Considering that they were out in the middle of nowhere, it was safe to say that there was no need to be concerned about people looking in on them.
She supposed that she should probably get the shower going, so that she could avoid the mighty Sarah Lennox's wrath.
Smiling to herself, she turned on the shower before stripping herself down, only taking a moment to examine the scars adorning a good portion of her arms before clambering into the scalding heat. She winced at the burning sensation that pounded against her skin, and then it faded into pleasantness as her skin grew accustomed to the temperature.
It only took her a couple of minutes to clean and warm up, and then she towelled herself down while staring into space. Pulling on the bathrobe, Clara gathered up all of her clothing, including the drenched items in her pack, and wandered down the hall to the room that Sarah had designated.
The blond was just finishing laying out several pairs of fuzzy pyjama pants, and barely glanced up as she tossed a pair at her head.
"These should fit." She mused, pulling out a tank top and throwing that at her as well.
"Thank you." Clara murmured, wondering how she had gotten so lucky to be taken in by this family, if only for a night. "I have my clothes here, like you asked..?"
The end of her sentence ended in a question, but Sarah didn't seem to notice. She turned with a small smile and relieved the brunette of her clothing before shooing her back down the hall to the bathroom so that she could get changed into the borrowed clothing.
After changing, Clara wandered back towards the general area that she guessed was the main living space. The smell of bacon and eggs wafted into her well trained nose, and the brunette inhaled the comforting scent greedily. Oh, how she wanted to have her hands on a chopping knife at this moment…
"Oh! Those are some of the things I wore before I had Annabelle.." Sarah mused to herself as she mixed something that looked suspiciously like pancake batter. "I think they look better on you than they ever did on me."
Clara hummed something in reply, seating herself at the counter. This was unfamiliar to her. She was used to being the one cooking the food, not watching someone else cook. How one managed it was beyond her thinking capabilities. The smooth feel of the hilt of a knife in her hands as she sliced through green onion, the tangy scent sinking into her palms as she scooped it up and placed it in the pan…
"Do you need any help?" she offered, getting back to her feet and moving around the counter to take a look in the pans on the stove.
"Could you keep an eye on everything for a minute?" Sarah replied immediately. "I've got to go round up that husband and daughter of mine from the barn before they go out for a last minute ride."
"No problem." Clara smiled back, feeling as though she had a purpose as she took the mixing bowl and spoon from Sarah. "Take all the time you need."
The blond hummed a reply as she grabbed her coat and started out the back door, slipping on a pair of gumboots as she did so.
Clara got down to business immediately. After double checking that the bacon was good to go, she scooped the scrambled eggs out of the pan and deposited them into a bowl before covering it with a plate and grabbed another pan out of the cupboard for the pancakes.
By the time that the three Lennox's came stumbling in, covered in mud, Clara had powered out a good stack of pancakes, bacon, and eggs, and was moving on to setting out plates and cutlery.
Sarah blinked, shocked at the amount of food that had been made in such a short period of time, while Will simply looked at the food, up at Clara, back at the food, and shrugged before setting Annabelle down and grabbing a plate.
"Looks good." He said as he scooped a spoonful of egg onto the plate before moving onto the bacon. Sarah moved over to the fridge and grabbed butter, milk, and the syrup before setting them next to the plate of pancakes and grabbing a smaller plate for Annabelle.
"Clara's a private chef." Will muttered around a mouthful of bacon.
"Really?" Sarah asked, scooping food onto Annabelle's plate as the little girl giggled and reached chubby little hands up at her mother.
"Yep." Clara said as she wiped away a spot of grease. "I apologize for the mess. I'll clean it up for you in a minute."
"No, no. It's fine." Sarah replied thoughtfully, sending a side glance to Will. Clara wondered what exactly it was that she was missing here. They were thinking of something that she wasn't aware of, and she had a bad feeling about it.
"Dank 'oo!" Annabelle gurgled brightly to Clara as she toddled by with her plate.
"You're welcome." The brunette replied with a soft smile.
Her bad feelings could wait for now. She was too busy enjoying the moment of living the moment as the chef that she was, relishing the smug feeling that she usually got after serving up food.
All she wondered now was what tomorrow would bring.