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Don't Lose My Number

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Steve returned to the B&B from checking in on the Warehouse to find Claudia laying on her back on the couch, noodling randomly on her guitar.

"Anything?" Claudia asked hopefully.

"Nothing. No pings. Not so much as a pi."

"I think Lena has one in the oven, actually, but she wouldn't let me help," Claudia said. "I still think we should've gone with Pete and Myka to Tahiti."

"Artie swore that was a simple snatch and grab," Steve said, sitting in a nearby chair. "I doubt they need us."

"Exactly, we could go pick up hot guys," Claudia said matter of factly.

Steve chuckled and rolled his eyes.

"What?" Claudia asked.

"You would spend the whole time hiding behind your phone," Steve said.

"Would not," Claudia said.

"Or an open mic," Steve said.

"How is it hiding if everyone's looking at me?"

"You're not so much interacting as performing," Steve replied.

"You've never come to see me at open mic night, how would you know?"

"I was a little busy chasing after Sykes and Marcus, sorry about that," Steve said, grumpily.

Claudia huffed, sulking into her guitar.

Steve frowned. "I'd have been there if I could you know." He paused. "And you never did tell me about that guy? The guitarist, I think?"

Claudia looked up at him.

"I hated telling you to lose my number, you know. I just had to. For the cover, it was safer."

"I know." Claudia looked down, breaking his contact with her eyes, and starting to strum minor chords on the guitar.

Steve got up, sitting on the edge of the couch. He placed his hands on hers. "Do you know, or do you keep telling yourself that?"

Claudia looked up at him, eyes searching his. "Know."

Steve winced, then frowned at her. "Claudia."

Claudia sighs. "That always knowing when someone's lying can be a real pain sometimes."

"I can't lie to myself either," Steve said. "So telling me things you're trying to believe? Not going to work."

Claudia sighed. "Intellectually, I know that's true, but it still hurts."

"And you didn't say anything because..."

"Well, you died, then there was the metronome, and the pains, and breaking the metronome and... I figured that was enough to be going on with, there never seemed to be a good time. And then I wasn't and it just kind of... came out?"

Steve reached out and hugged her. "In all the craziness, I forgot I promised myself to make sure I told you this. Claud, I promise, if I have to leave, it's for a mission, and if I have any choice, I'll always come back."

Claudia leaned into the hug, shaking a bit.

"Claudia?" Steve asked softly. He gently took the guitar and placed it on the floor, then shifted behind her and pulled her close so that Claudia was snuggled against his chest.

"No one ever wants to leave; it just happens," Claudia whispered.

"I'm back, Claud. You brought me back, through sheer force of will. Just like you did for Joshua. You kick ass, Claudia Donovan."

Claudia buried her face in his chest. "Not kicking so much ass now."

Steve rubbed her back. "No one can kick ass 24/7. That's why we have partners. And multiple teams. And downtime." He picked up the TV remote. "I think you need to find the worst movie you possibly can on Netflix."

Claudia looked at him, confusion on her face.

"Or the best movie? Seriously, you look like you need to make fun of something. We can search by actor, find some good eye candy. You look like you need a distraction. Or we could go into Univille and... get coffee. Night breakfast? I'd suggest pie, but you said Lena was baking. I can get up and..."

Claudia shifted so she was fully in his lap.

"Okay, no moving," Steve said, settling her against him. "Pick something. Crappy kiddie cartoons, torture me with this Revenge thing everyone seems to think I should see, I think they have a couple of MST3K movies without the misting or..." Steve stopped as Claudia selected something in the queue. "OK, now you're just punishing me."

"You said I could torture you."

"But that 'I will always find you' bit is...." Steve stopped. Oh.

Claudia looked at him expectantly.

"Never mind, kid, go ahead and press play."