Trying To Fix It


claire_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Trying To Fix It
Synopsis Claire turns to Francois for advice on a frustrating topic and learns something surprising about her team leader.
Date March 09, 2018

The Bunker

When you want to be left alone, you take the time to learn the habits of the people around you. When it comes to workouts, people prefer two times. Before the start of the day and at the end of the day, this means there are times that someone can sneak down into the workout room in seclusion. To lose themselves in their thoughts with no interruptions.

This is why Claire Bennet is down in the Bunker’s gym in the middle of the afternoon. It hasn’t been all that long since she had the blow-up with Curtis. Since that day, the tiny ex-terrorist had been even more withdrawn, more sullen. She held it together while the team trained, but it was obvious that the whole thing bothered her and still did.

The frustration and other feelings were still broiling under her skin. Her best solution, without another blow-up at a subordinate… especially Curtis… was to take it out on something. At this moment, it was a punching bag suspended between a pair of chains.

Claire has already been there long enough to work up a sweat; unkempt hair, clings to damp cheeks… it’s too short to be effectively held back with a tie. Her eyes are on the bag, but unfocused, mind turned inward. Concentrating on how the rough fabric bites into unwrapped knuckles. Whatever, she is currently thinking… it has her hitting the bag with more conviction, soft growled grunt after each contact with the bag.

She is completely unaware of her surroundings at the moment, maybe she just isn’t expecting company.

He's a quiet presence behind her, hands tucked into pockets. Even if she wasn't so trapped in her tunnel vision, Francois has always had a quiet way of entering rooms and now is no different. The slaps of Claire's fists to fabric are relentless and loud in the otherwise empty training space, and he doesn't try to interrupt her, waits until she finally relents for a moment to breathe.

And then makes his presence known with, "A good thing it cannot hit back."

Should she turn, he has a smile ready — mild, amused, a smile that implies he is aware he is not Wolfhound's foremost expert on hand to hand. He's not here to correct her, anyway — she and he both know she is hitting that thing to hit it, rather than honing her technique. She and he both know that she has obviously needed the outlet.

Why, that he doesn't know, but now roams nearer. He is not dressed for his own workout, wearing slacks and a button down, as if he were on his way to a briefing with an external, but is here instead.

There is a physical reaction to a voice suddenly being behind her, Claire startles; though there is no sound to go with it like some women do. Half turning to look behind her, chest heaving from the exertion of the workout, her hands move to stop the slight swing of the bag. She is genuinely surprised to see him standing there.

“Francois.” Claire uses his name like a greeting, looking away like she's been caught in some not-so-dirty little secret.

“I like my job,” Letting go of the bag, the regenerator turns to finally offer a half of a smile in return, even though her eyes remain dulled to any emotion. “And I find it is better to hit something rather than someone, even if it feels like that someone deserves it.” Running her thumb over the back of her knuckles, feeling the slowly dulling sting of scraped flesh; her ability lazily working to repair the damage. “Plus, it helps me think.”

There's enough content in her answer that Francois takes it as invitation instead of dismissal, and he roams closer, shoes leaving temporary indentation on padded ground. "You are the consummate professional," he says, his tone of voice at once genuine as well as mild in its mockery. "I am glad to know you like your job, of course. You have seemed unhappy."

He sidles up to the punching bag, and lends his shoulder to it — so that should she start to hit it again, it won't weave under her jabs, which can come faster, harder. In a bar fight, the assist would be his arm around some deserving victim's neck while she lay into him.

"What are you thinking about?"

“Thanks,” The tone suggests Claire understands the compliment for what it is, offered up with a mild touch of sarcasm. “I’m…” There is a heavy sigh, the bag eyed with intent to — probably — hit it again. “I’m just frustrated.” The punch she throws at the bag is weak at best, but only cause at the moment, not all of her is into it.

However… “Mainly, about this whole Curtis… thing.” The next few punches seem to ramp up. For her size, she at least isn’t weak… something she works very hard to not be. “I’m pretty sure everyone is aware of the other day….” The words are bland and sound like they takes like ash on her tongue. She isn’t proud of that moment.

Pausing, fists still up in position, Claire levels a look up at her team leader, “How the hell am I ever going to be an effective team leader, if I can’t even get any sense through his thick skull.”

Francois holds the bag, and Claire punches it. He does a fair job of remaining a neutral quality when it comes to these kinds of things — for Wolfhound is full of wild creatures who snap at one another due to impositions of territory, hurt feelings, anything at all. One hopes that it only contributes to their effectiveness on the battlefield.

For his part, his colleagues know him to be mild mannered, and that his temper, should he lose control of it, runs cold rather than hot. It's a little aloof, a little impersonal, but perhaps to be expected from someone who was formerly immortal.

"That is not your job as a leader," he says, gently. "It is his, to be open to sense."

Something a little like disappointment shifts in his chest, having thought that maybe someone would have taken some lesson from extended punishment, but judgment is reserved until he knows more. Now to make inquiry without being too obviously nosy, while equally, it could well be his job to know. "Was it some work matter? And keep your hands higher — you're immortal, remember, not immune to being disoriented."

Hands do come up a little higher as directed, offering him a small look of appreciation; though it falls into a pained expression. How much does she tell? What does she say? However, while Claire’s mind debates, words come out like a dam has broken, “I wish it was work related. That would be easier to deal with.” She takes a few more good shots at the bag, before stopping, hands resting lightly on it; as she tilts her head to look around it at him. “However, I am worried it could end up affecting it. I — I have been trying to mitigate it. I want it mitigated.” Hence her frustration. “But, I feel helpless dealing with it.”

Claire finally sighs, stepping away from the punching bag. “How much do you know about his fiance?” Does he even know about anything about Curtis’ past. She doesn’t really wait for an answer before she asks another question. “That she died around the time of the Civil War?”

Francois' jaw sets ever so, and not just because of the sharp punches being delivered to the bag he holds stationary. As she steps away, lowers her hands, he too rounds around a little, allowing for space. He shakes his head at this question — it doesn't seem as though his and Curtis's working relationship is blessed with mutual understanding. From Wolfhound, from most, Francois has likewise kept some parts of him concealed.

Particularly the person. "I do not know personal detail," he says. "Only our own official records."

He wants to ask: what is this it she wishes to mitigate, but he holds his tongue, lets her say things in her own way and pace. She came here, after all, to vent; now she has the ability to do so with more than only her fists.

“It was me,” Claire offers softly, looking almost ashamed or a little guilty. While it is soaking in her hands come up slowly, palms out as if to stall his thoughts. “But it wasn't. It was an Institute clone of me, without my ability.”

Hands turn up in a look of helplessness, “So all he sees is her when he looks at me.” The statement is blunt and to the point. However, she hopes it puts a lot in perspective. “He says that he knows I'm not her, but then he looks at me and I am not so sure.”

Sidestepping to the wall, Claire picks up the water bottle she has laying there. The crinkle of plastic is loud is the quiet room. “Even after all these years. I don't see what that version of me saw in him.” She sighs and turns to look at her team leader, she looks as helpless as she feels. “I'm not telling you this to get him removed from the team. When he decides to listen, he is a great asset for Amarok. I’m just… I'm concerned.”

It's a testament to the range of lives that Wolfhound leads — that anyone, these days, leads — that while much of what Claire says is surprising, it is not wholly shocking. Certainly not unbelievable, when it absolutely ought to be. When it comes to the Institute, and the many lives it's interfered with and altered—

Francois follows, mind elsewhere momentarily, before sharpening on the present moment once again. He moves to lean against the wall, arms folded across his chest. There is a rueful twist to his mouth as Claire clarifies herself, a slight shrug at Curtis as an asset. His value is certainly hard to deny, but goodness gracious.

"Would you believe me," he says, after a moment, "when I say that I know some of what Curtis is going through?"

Blonde brows slowly furrow as what Francois says sinks in. She doesn’t look like she believes him. He seems so put together and… well, it’s hard to compare her Team Lead with Curtis. She studies the much older man for a long moment, hands wrapped around the bottle, but not opening it… for the moment it is forgotten. Finally she cannot help but ask —

“Really?” Her tone carries that same mild disbelief.

“How —” Claire starts a little hesitant to ask. However, it is her desire to fix this kink in their team that drives her on. She asks softly, “How did you — or did you — work past it?” She almost uses the word ‘over,’ but you don’t ever get over something like that… even the young regenerator, who has never been in a relationship like that, knows. The lost of her brother taught her that reality.

"I knew where my heart lay."

Even as he says it, Francois knows that sounds— how it sounds. Romantic, overwrought, too simple. He remains in his spot against the wall, and shrugs his shoulders. Something in the fine creases at his eyes tells that he senses her restraint. He wonders if it is respect, or if most of Wolfhound know better than to ask him the kinds of questions that would have dense information and story come tumbling out like bricks from a closet. Maybe a little of both.

Too bad, though, he loves talking about himself. "My partner was the sum of parts of himself — a past and a present version, merged into one, into a new whole, and he was the only one I knew. These parts were separated, later, given physical form, and so he has duplicates of a kind. Not clones, but as you say, it is hard not to look at one and not think about the other."

And those ones even— if not loved, cared for him in return, but he stops there when it comes to inviting focus on himself. "I worked past it because I did not lose as Curtis lost, I think. But it sounds like you are a different woman to the one he loved. If you were the same, then you would see what she saw."

At least a little, he thinks.

"Perhaps it would do him well — the both of you, well — to make newer acquaintances of another. A clean slate," the idiom comes a little belated, as idioms sometimes do, for him.

“Maybe,” Claire murmurs, not completely convinced that would work. Though the fact that he seems to have come out okay, it helps… Finally, she decides the twist the lid off and take a deep drink of her water.

She angles a look over at the man, thoughtful… a little regretful. “I am sorry for the problems any of this has caused,” Claire often picks apart that day on the dam; even if it was years ago, the nightmares of dangling off the edge persist. “But I do promise, I am trying to fix this.” Claire turns her attention to twisting the cap back on. “Or hopefully, get him to stop thinking I need more protection than the rest of the team.”

Bending long enough to set the water bottle back down again, Claire at least seems a little better of a mood. A little. The bag is eyed, before she looks back at Francois with a grin. “Spot me a little longer?” It is unusual for her to ask for company. Her smile grows a little more as she adds, “You can regale me with tales of being older than any of us. That has to have made for an interesting life.” It’s a little cheeky, probably pushing it a little.

“Maybe a few pointers?” About living so long, the regenerator implies. She doesn’t know if she is really bound for an unnaturally long life, but she knows he understands what it is like.

The day at the dam stands out to Francois for its strangeness, as messy victories often do. He's already done his picking — himself and Gitelman going through analysis, her pointed questions, his justifications, admissions to mistakes — and doesn't think back to it now, or with frequency in general. There will always be complications, snap tactical decisions, near death experiences. Seeing his second lieutenant disappear over the edge of the bridge was more memorable to him than the actions that led up to its happening.

His smile is sympathetic as she promises to fix this, but he tips his head out towards the space of the training room. Let's go.

"You should know, Claire," he says, before letting go of the topic, "that you cannot fix a person. Curtis needs to be willing to fix it as well. It is his heart, and his responsibility. Do not allow him to have you feel like it's yours."

She asks for pointers, and this gets a broader smile. "Keep journals," he suggests.

Head tiltings a little as she listens, Claire understands what he is saying, but she still looks conflicted. “You make it sound easy,” she points out with a bit of a sigh threading through the words. “I know you’re right… “ fingers snag her towel from the bench and throws it over. “So.” She probably hates to admit it, so the words come out rather bland. “I probably have some work on myself to do too.”

Tennis shoes squeak on the polished flooring between mats as she moves towards the training area. Pausing, she turns lightly on her tiptoes to wait for him to join her on the walk. Dark blonde brows drop a little at the… “Journals?” She doesn’t sound convinced? “Explain that reasoning to me, cause you do not look old enough to be senile.” There might be a glimmer of suppressed humor in her eyes. “I’m not sure I could handle living long enough to look amazing and be unable to remember yesterday.” No… not a flirt in that compliments, just a statement of fact.

“Seriously, though, why do you keep journals?”

It was, at best, a frivolous kind of response, but as she pokes at him, Francois is dimly aware that it's laden with explanation. Because they exist out of the normal narratives of people and so they must keep their own. Because sometimes what feels like yesterday was, in fact, thirty years ago. Because it saved his life, to keep journals, and maybe along the way his sanity. She did say seriously, and perhaps would like a serious answer.

But he shrugs, and says instead— "Oscar Wilde said that to have a personal journal on you was to have a good book to read at all times. I find it to be true."

The vanity card is an easy one to play, but maybe one day, he'll show her one of his. Something old, faded ink, vaguely embarrassing for how young he sounded, but God knows his books changed some hands before now. Maybe it'll become self-evident then, maybe not. "Come," he says, with a gesture, out onto the training floor. "Enough of me and my sage wisdom. Show me what you got."

There is a mild look of confusion at the quote. Maybe she has a hard time believing her life is any sort of worthwhile read, but Claire still offers the senior lieutenant a smile. “Well, for what it is worth…” The towel if tugged off her shoulder and dropped on a nearby bench. “I appreciate that sage wisdom.”

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