Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Note: This chapter consists of two parts: a slight scene extension early in the episode and then an additional at the end. I've also created a glimpse into what I think Claudia's past might have looked like. Enjoy!
Breakfast at Leena's
The sound of the front door slamming told Leena that Artie had left. She could hear muffled conversation upstairs as Pete and Myka gathered their things. Myka had gotten into the habit of keeping a travel bag ready and Pete could throw together the essentials in five minutes or less. As soon as they got going, Leena would have the B&B all to herself.
She headed back into the dining room to clean up the remains of breakfast. She had passed up on cleaning off the table earlier so she could talk to Artie. Not that he had listened. He rarely did. He could be incredibly thick-headed when he wanted to. Luckily for him, Leena wasn't in the habit of saying, "I told you so."
When she reached the dining room, Leena found Claudia still sitting at the table. The teen looked a little surprised. She didn't seem to have noticed Leena's entrance.
"Claudia?" Leena asked carefully. Claudia's head jerked up in surprise. "Are you okay?"
"Yup," Claudia said quickly. She grabbed the last pastry on the table and quickly stood to her feet. "Good to go."
"I know Artie's been a little irritable lately," Leena said sympathetically.
"He's always irritable," Claudia joked.
"That's true," Leena agreed. "He's just worried about the Warehouse and MacPherson. Don't let it bother you."
"I mean, whatever," Claudia said with a shrug. "It's all good."
The moment was interrupted by feet pounding down the stairs at that moment. Leena and Claudia both turned to see Pete and Myka carrying small bags.
"Vegas, baby!" Pete yelled. Myka laughed as she headed out the door.
"Have fun," Leena called.
"Par-tay!" Pete said. He danced out the door singing a song Leena couldn't identify.
"Artie said they weren't supposed to have any fun," Claudia told her.
"What Artie doesn't know won't hurt him," Leena said conspiratorially.
"Hey Claudia!" Pete called, sticking his head back around the door. "I have to run back up to the Warehouse to get something. You want a ride?"
"Totally," Claudia said. She looked at Leena and held up the peace sign. "Peace out."
Leena shook her head, a smile on her face. She stepped over to the table and began stacking up the crumb-covered plates as Claudia headed for the door.
"What do you need from the Warehouse?" Claudia asked when she reached Pete.
"Issue 43 of the Iron Shadow," Pete said. "I left it there last night."
"A comic book?" she asked skeptically. "Seriously?"
"The Iron Shadow is not just a comic," Pete retorted. "It's the story of a lone man standing against the injustices of society."
"Riiight," Claudia said, still not convinced.
The closing of the front door prevented Leena from hearing the rest of the conversation. She grabbed the last plate from the table and placed it atop the small stack she had created. Then she looked toward the door, craning her neck to see if she was truly alone. She was.
She pulled out her phone and sent a quick text to Artie.
You owe Claudia an apology.
Let him stew over that for a while. Over the last few years, Leena had gotten used to being Artie's conscience. Maybe this time he would be smart enough to listen to her.
As she slid her phone back into her pocket, she suddenly realized that she could smell something burning. She groaned and hurried back into the kitchen. The oven thermostat had been acting up for weeks. Artie kept promising to get it fixed, but so far it hadn't happened.
Leena hurried to the oven and pulled the door open. The oven mitts were sitting on the counter within easy reach. She quickly pulled the burning pumpkin pie out of the oven and set it on the stove top. It was slightly browned, but still edible. A few minutes more, however, and it would have been seriously burned.
"That's it," Leena said as she pulled off the oven mitts. Desperate times called for desperate measures. It was time to declare war. "No more Scotchies until you fix my oven, Artie Neilsen."
That would show him.
"I vote waffles," Claudia said, pushing open the door to the B&B.
"What?" Pete asked from behind her. "No! Pancakes."
"Waffles," Claudia insisted as Myka, Artie, and Leena entered the B&B.
"Pancakes," Pete argued.
"Alright, enough!" Artie growled, rubbing his forehead.
"I think Myka should decide," Leena offered. Claudia and Pete both turned to Myka with their best pleading faces.
"I kinda want biscuits," Myka said honestly.
"Aw, come on, Mykes," Pete whined.
"You'll have to take that up with Artie," Leena said. "He's the one in charge of biscuits."
"Indeed I am," Artie said with flare. He gave a partial bow. "And I would be delighted."
"Thank-you, kind sir," Myka said, playing along.
"Assuming you can get my oven to work," Leena told Artie pointedly.
"Please," Artie said as the two of them began to walk toward the kitchen. He didn't sound the least bit worried. "How bad can it be?"
"Bad," Leena said bluntly.
"Bring it on," Artie told her. He had been spending way too much time with Claudia.
"Guys," Pete whined as he followed after them. "Can't we have pancakes too?"
"Hey, Claudia?" Myka said. She took a step forward to stop the teen from following the others into the kitchen.
"Yeah?" Claudia said, turning back around.
"I just wanted to say thanks," Myka said sincerely. "For believing me."
"No problem," Claudia said with a shrug. "I know what it's like to have nobody believe you. And what it's like to be stuck. It's not fun."
"What do you mean?" Myka asked curiously. Claudia hesitated as if she didn't want to answer. Realizing she might have pushed too far, Myka hurried to correct the mistake. "If you don't want to tell me-"
"No, no, it's uhm... it's cool," Claudia assured her. She took on a bored tone, trying to show that it wasn't a big deal. "A few years ago I was with this foster family and the guy sort of had a temper. He didn't hit me or anything. He did throw a stool at me once, but that's a completely different story." She waved her hand to get herself back on track. "Anyway. Sometimes when he would get mad he'd lock me in his closet and leave me there."
"That's terrible," Myka said. She was shocked that someone would do that to a child.
"It wasn't that big a deal," Claudia said, trying to shrug it off. "And I wasn't exactly an angel, so I was kinda asking for it."
"It doesn't matter what you did," Myka insisted. "No child deserves to be locked in a closet. For any reason."
"Maybe," Claudia conceded. "But it really wasn't that bad. I had way worse in the psych ward. Electroshock therapy is a pretty shocking experience, to say the least. All things considered, I'd say I turned out pretty okay."
"You definitely did," Myka told her warmly. Claudia shrugged.
"Aw, you're making me blush," she said teasingly.
"No, I mean it," Myka said. She tilted her head as an idea struck her. "You know, we should have a girl's day sometime. You, me, and Leena. What do you think?"
"That could be fun," Claudia agreed. There was a wide grin on her face.
A loud crash sounded in the kitchen, followed by Artie yelling and Pete repeatedly apologizing as fast as he possibly could.
"We should probably go check on that," Claudia said, pointing over her shoulder.
"Yeah," Myka agreed with a grimace. "Before Pete does any more damage."
"Alright!" Leena yelled from the kitchen. Her tone made it clear that she was not happy. "Which of you is going to clean this up?"
"On second thought," Claudia said, freezing mid-step. She turned to Myka and pointed up the stairs, a silent question on her face. Myka quickly nodded her agreement. The second floor of the B&B suddenly seemed far safer.
The sound of Pete and Artie arguing echoed after them as they hurried up the stairs.
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