Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Note: Sorry this chapter is a bit late. My family lives overseas, so yesterday I spent most of the day flying back to the U.S. for another semester of college. Anyways. Episode four of season three had Claudia and Pete teaming up with Hugo and his nephew Brady to track down some artifact marbles at Brady's prep school. I've been wanting for a while to do something involving Claude's parents, and this chapter gave me a decent way to do it. Plus it shows off the more big brotherly side of Pete that I don't write very often. Enjoy!
Hall of Fame
Once Hugo and Brady were safely reunited, Claudia headed off down the halls of the school in search of Pete. A few twists and turns later found her standing outside the principal's office. Peter was inside talking to Principal Marshall. Probably about wild mushrooms. One of these days they were going to have to come up with a better lie.
There was a large trophy case in the hallway across from the office. While she waited for Pete, Claudia headed over and began to look at the various trophies it held. A few were bronze or silver, but the vast majority were gold. There were trophies for every sport imaginable as well as all sorts of scholastic events. In short, it was a showcase of success. And the size of it nearly made Claudia's head spin.
"You ready to go?" Pete asked, coming out of the office.
"Yeah, sure," Claudia told him. He let out a whistle as he came to stand beside her.
"Impressive," he said appreciatively.
"Seriously," Claudia agreed. She looked over at him as a thought struck her. "Do you think there's some sort of Warehouse hall of fame out there somewhere? Like maybe the regents have a giant trophy case and we all get medals for stuff."
"Maybe," Pete said. He crossed his arms as he thought it over. "It's a cool idea."
"Artie would win Most Irritable Agent," Claudia said with a grin.
"And Biggest Eyebrows," Pete added.
"Myka would be Smartest Agent Ever."
"I'd be Best Looking," Pete said confidently. Claudia snorted.
"Easy there, Brad Pitt," she teased.
"You're just jealous of my stunningly good looks," Pete told her.
"Keep telling yourself that," Claudia said. "And since you're having so much fun over there, what award would I get?"
Pete looked her up and down for a moment as he thought about it.
"Most likely to succeed," he said finally.
"Seriously?" Claudia asked skeptically. "Cliché much?"
"I'm serious," Pete insisted.
"Right," Claudia said drily. "I'm not exactly the poster child for success. I didn't even finish high school. I dropped out when I altered my foster care records to emancipate myself."
"But I thought you did some online college stuff," Pete said in confusion.
"I had to take the GED first," Claudia admitted awkwardly. "You know last April when I told everybody I was going to that science convention in Rapid City? Well, I didn't actually go."
"So what if you didn't finish high school?" Pete told her. "Lots of people take the GED."
"It's not just that," Claudia said. "Aside from the Warehouse, the longest I ever held a job was three months. I had to hack other people's bank accounts to pay my own rent. I've paid most of it back now, but still. And you don't even want to know how many times I've had to wipe my police record."
"You can do that?" Pete asked in surprise. "Can you get rid of speeding tickets too?"
"Pete," Claudia warned.
"What?" Pete asked innocently. Claudia just shook her head. "Look, Claude, we've all done stuff we're not proud of. I used to be a drunk. But I haven't had a single drop of alcohol in almost ten years. Who we used to be doesn't have to control who we are now."
"That's pretty deep," Claudia told him.
"Thank-you," Pete said proudly. He smiled briefly before turning serious again. "So maybe you did used to be some washed out hacker who couldn't hold a job. But you're not that person anymore. You're a crazy talented Warehouse agent who makes the rest of us look like amateurs. And someday you're gonna be caretaker and you're gonna be amazing at that too. And if the regents do have a giant trophy case hidden in some creepy underground vault, then I'd bet anything there's a big shiny golden one with your name on it."
"Thanks," Claudia said sincerely. "That means a lot."
Pete couldn't help noticing that she sobered a bit as she turned back to the trophy case.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Hmm?" Claudia said absently. "Oh, yeah. Fine. Why wouldn't I be?"
"I don't know," Pete said with a shrug. "Artie said you were having a hard time and he thought you might be stressed out or something."
Claudia hesitated, her eyes still on the trophy case. Then she sighed.
"Friday was the anniversary of the crash that killed my parents," she admitted.
"Claude, I'm sorry," Pete said sincerely. "I didn't know."
"I didn't want to make a big deal out of it," Claudia said, trying to shrug it off. "I mean, it was fifteen years ago."
"My dad's been gone more than thirty years and some days it still hurts," Pete told her. "Just 'cause they've been gone for a while doesn't mean you stop missing them. They're still gone. There's this whole piece of you that isn't there anymore. That never goes away."
"I guess seeing Brady and Hugo together kinda got to me," Claudia admitted. "Hugo's just so proud of him, you know?"
"You wonder if your parents would be that proud of you," Pete said in understanding.
"I never had any of this," Claudia said, motioning at the trophy case. "I was never on any sports teams. I never won a science fair or a spelling bee. I didn't graduate with honors. Technically, I didn't graduate at all. And my day job doesn't really put me in the running for fame or fortune. I don't have anything to show."
"You've got a pretty sweet retrieval record," Pete reminded her.
"It'd be perfect if it weren't for the stupid doorknob," Claudia grumbled.
"That one doesn't count," Pete told her. "Outside interference."
Claudia grinned a little.
"Hugo was telling me all about Brady," she said, turning her gaze back to the trophy case. "He wants him to be a Warehouse agent so bad."
"Well, he doesn't have any kids of his own," Pete said. "Brady is his only legacy."
"My dad was a lawyer," Claudia said, looking up at him. There was a faint smile on her face. "He was a partner at his firm. I guess he was pretty good because we always had money. He used to donate crazy amounts to charities. My mom was an ER nurse. She didn't make a lot of money, but she helped save lives."
Claudia trailed off as she looked back at the trophy case.
"Sometimes I just wonder what they would think of me if they were still here," she said quietly. "Would who I am be enough for them."
"When I was a kid," Pete told her, "my dad used to say: 'Pete, there are two things I want for you in life: I want you to be a man of integrity and I want you to do something that makes you happy.' I think that's what all parents want. To raise their kid right and know they're happy."
"You think so?" Claudia asked.
"Yeah," Pete said with a nod. Then he smiled as if at some private joke.
"What?" Claudia asked suspiciously.
"Nothin'," Pete said quickly. Claudia's glare made him cave in. "I was just thinking that the first time I saw you I thought you were a crazy psychopath."
Claudia smiled as she thought of the day they had saved Joshua. With her nosebleed and sickly appearance, she had been quite a mess. Not to mention she had kidnapped Artie.
"I kinda looked like one, didn't I?" she joked. Pete nodded.
"You looked like you'd just escaped from prison," he told her. "And now..."
"Now what?" Claudia asked with interest.
"You're not that kid anymore," Pete said honestly. "You've grown into a strong young woman. Hugo was right. You're a force to be reckoned with. And if your parents were alive, I know they'd be even more proud of you then I am."
"Thanks," Claudia said quietly.
"Eh, it's what big brothers are for," Pete said with a grin. "And so is this."
He opened his arms and wrapped her up in a big bear hug. Claudia laughed as she hugged him back.
"Now," Pete said, letting her go. "Enough with the mushy gushy. I'm starving."
"You're always starving," Claudia told him.
"I'm a big boy," Pete said defensively. "I gots ta eat. You up for pancakes?"
"Why is it always pancakes?" Claudia asked as they turned and headed toward the school entrance.
"Because they're amazing," Pete said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"You better be buying," Claudia told him. "I can't afford your appetite."
"Fine, I'll buy," Pete said, caving in.
He reached out and pushed open the door of the school. Claudia followed him as he headed out into the parking lot.
"So about my speeding tickets," Pete said suddenly.
"No," Claudia said firmly.
"Why not?" Pete asked.
"Because it's illegal, Pete," Claudia told him.
"Only if you're caught," Pete countered.
"I give up," Claudia said, throwing her hands in the air in surrender.
"Does that mean you'll do it?" Pete asked.
In answer, Claudia reached out and pushed him into a light pole.
Leave a review and let me know what you thought! Also, best of luck to everyone else who is starting back to school.