Spoilers: All of S1
Summary: Claudia sometimes wonders how she gets through each day at the office – sometimes advice helps but often enough it doesn't. Claudia POV mix of humour and angst, with a fair touch of Claudia/Nick on the side.
A/N: Betaread by fififolle. Some quotes included are modified versions of actual historical quotes, though I'm afraid I forgot sources for most of them.
“Zeal without humanity is like a ship without a rudder, liable to be stranded at any moment”
- Owen Felltham
It's when she's struggling to find her calm that she tends to turn to the particular object of scorn, eyes glancing to the left and thoughts drifting. The tear-away calendar block sits on her desk, mostly ignored though. On a rare occasion she'll swipe a bunch of the pages off, flipping through them before depositing them in her bin. The quotes, each one beginning with the next consecutive letter of the alphabet, are full of virtually meaningless drivel that anybody could write and usually Claudia doesn't give the awful thing the time of day. Except, sometimes, when she's a little desperate and doubtful, she wonders if there's a little truth to them that shouldn't be so bluntly dismissed. Doesn't help that it was her ever critical Aunt Agatha – who'd insisted she wasn't cut out for the Civil Service - who had gifted the thing to her...
Always let your subordinates know who's boss, but never bully them. A firm hand and good communication are vital instruments to back up rational thinking and discipline in the work place.
She scoffs at that sentiment. Does she have any subordinates? Certainly Cutter or Stephen would never think of themselves that way. Their behaviour implies they consider their team outside her remit half the time. Firm hand or not, it seems she struggles to communicate adequately with them, which flusters her as she thought she excelled at that aspect of her job. Connor is perhaps the only member of the rag-tag team they've got going that might act like she's in charge, if purely because he's unlikely to go against her command – of course Connor is in fact under Cutter's command as it were. Though, she has to admit to being relieved Nick isn't directly under her, professionally speaking. Otherwise life might prove more complicated in the future than would please her, and that would definitely displease Lester more than a little. For now the connection is there but the meaning is still vague and undisclosed.
Bring a positive attitude to your feedback and people will accept constructive criticism with more grace.
If only Lester would take the thought to mind, it would halve the amount of complaints she receives daily.
Collect your thoughts together before replying to any questions.
She can honestly say she already does that one, fat lot of good it tends to do for her though, since Nick always goes off on a tangential thought, Lester will always find something to fault even if it's not hers, Connor will always have ten more questions after that answer and Stephen just looks back at her, calm and cool, a little unnerving because she can't tell what he thinks unless a smile creeps up on his face if she tries a joke. Abby always takes her time though, she can tell, a small pause like she's doing the same and there are days when she thinks the only true and proper rational conversation she has is with Abby or the other assistants.
And she's hates that her mind went there. Assistant. She's not even officially Lester's assistant, he has one already, or possibly two – does he collect them? Is she the latest in line to be sucked into this role? - but she might as well be. She feels like an assistant to everyone on the team, general dogsbody, the person who arranges it all, who makes it happen – everything from lunch to an airlift. Nobody is there to make things happen for her, nobody thinks much about her, which is why she screws that page up in the tiniest ball she can physically manage before tossing it clear out the door. Let someone else clean it up, today she's had enough because she'll be going home to empty cupboards, if she even gets home on time at all.
Decide what you want from a colleague before you undergo a review of their position.
It was quite possible that if she did a review of anyone's positions she might find they weren't suited to the jobs they unofficially had. She wasn't even sure Lester was suited to his role, but his bacon would be saved by his connections, besides which HR didn't dare bother intervening with anyone so high up.
Claudia was, however, very relieved she'd gone with her first instinct and just listed the whole team as consultants. Consultants didn't get any employee benefits but they did get a nice fee, and in this case she'd made sure to take out insurance coverage for injury and death, though she rather hoped she'd never have to explain someone being ravaged by a toothy prehistoric creature to the private health insurance again – there were only so many times they were likely to believe it was a crocodile. It would have been so much easier and believable if it had been Abby, the “zoology consultant” - and she felt bad for thinking it – instead of a physics consultant. If they kept it up at this rate they might run out of their actual consultancy pool.
Every days brings obstacles – be prepared to try and rise to the challenge.
Obstacles? Would that be an accurate description for maniacal ex-wives involved in a grand conspiracy or is that more of an inconvenience on top of the ten-foot long prehistoric alligators munching on the local population?
The creator of this pithy book of motivational phrases and quotes, Dave Hartfield, had clearly never had reason to question the definitions of problems and obstacles, or, as she would prefer to call the ones she came across, roadblocks. People who had normal careers, that didn't involve time travel, had relatively known quantities that by comparison made for a crystal clear roadmap.
Fortune favours the brave.
Apart from being blatantly ripped off, the type of motto you'd learn from a childhood Latin class, it was such a load of horse shit. She couldn't bear to look at it a second longer than she had to, it got ripped to shreds, an inadvertent confetti spread across her desk by an incoming draft as a colleague opened a window nearby. One large piece was flipped over, still legible: brave.
If it were true there would be a lot more good, brave, men and women still alive today.
Gathering information can be one of your most powerful tools – don't neglect this valuable resource, it's just waiting to be tapped into!
If she ever had the nerve to write a pithy letter to the author she'd probably have asked “Pray, tell, how exactly does one extract information from a scaly creature from an indeterminable time period?” Claudia knew when it came to researching prehistoric creatures she'd be stumped, and for the most part uninterested too, that was why they had Connor and Nick. That was in fact at least half the justification she'd made to Lester for them being kept on the project.... The problem was sometimes people expected too much, and “her pet academics,” as Lester had called them once, didn't realise their own limits. Try as they might they didn't always have an answer, or more accurately, anything resembling useful information - because no, figuring out you'd in fact discovered a new species with unique anatomical features was not, 90% of the time, much help – and then everyone looked to her. Lester impatiently, as if she was a child who's conduct he was deeply disappointed in. Abby and Connor looked for direction, Stephen tended towards doing his own thing in his own way and Nick...
Nick tended just to stare often enough, whether he was looking for an answer or not, and occasionally made her feel like she was another new species he'd discovered. Considering he'd been mourning his (ex-)wife, who'd abandoned him for another time period, for eight years and possibly a little still, then maybe women did feel like that to him. Claudia hoped that once he got over the situation, and Helen, that he'd put half the enthusiasm into the discovery of their relationship as he did currently on random creatures.
Home is a sense of where you belong, strive to make your workplace more fitting and your mood, as well as productivity, will increase.
She stared around her desk – she had a photo of her and her parents taken what now seemed like long ago, after her graduation, and freebie stress reliever ball in the shape of a fat pig. Hardly homely or particularly personalised. Still, she rarely spent much time at her desk these days so she supposed it mattered little.
The little touches tended to go into the clothes she wore these days; it was a challenge to get practical outfits that were both classy, professional looking, and didn't impede her running from this week's big bad monster. Plus, there was the fact it was best to avoid red – she'd always liked the palette of bold and basic colours, but after the pteranodon incident she preferred to at least leave red for casual wear.
In order to discover new lands, one must be willing to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
Now that was one of the unintentionally very true phrases the thing presented. She just wished Helen Cutter had never found the shore again.
Jokes should be about laughing with and not at a person.
That's one she flags for the attention of the entire universe.
It doesn't seem to have stopped mocking them all yet.
Keep trying and eventually you will be rewarded.
There are few rewards Claudia cares for.
There's no chance of a true promotion in sight, just more money that she doesn't have enough time to spend. The closest she gets to a reward is a night off with friends, a couple of bottles of wine and no mention of her job.
The one thing she keeps at most consistently is trying to figure out the mind of one Nick Cutter, with limited success. There's plenty she knows from observation – he buys far too many stripy shirts, he's fond of organised clutter as a lifestyle choice and he has enough of a sense of humour not to freak out at outrageous chat up lines – but even with the resources of the government she can't work out what his life has been like. She has facts and figures, dates and names of time spent studying or his jobs, but no real knowledge of what makes him him apart from the tragedy and mystery unravelling in front of them all. It frustrates her more than anything else because for all his cheeky grins and shared jokes, he won't open up to her one bit.
Live life like this is your last day.
Curse the calendar for being so painfully relevant – she hardly needed a reminder her life was going nowhere fast when there was the chance of being torn limb from limb every other day.
Phrases like that made it sound like life was about taking risks and all she knew was her experience put up large warning signs at the thought of risk taking, as that was exactly the thing that would made it another someone's last day.
Make your mark in your chosen field.
In another ten year's time that might be possible, right now she was eternally in Lester's shadow. He often passed the buck to her, meaning she had power, but there was no influence, no reputation outside this dreary office. Some days sitting around in here it bothered her to have some of the higher up's looking down on her as little more than a glorified secretary, and other days she cared far more about what power she did have - to facilitate saving lives, keep peace and order, and pushing the boundaries of science. That last one wasn't one she'd ever dreamt of doing but it did wow her often enough when she thought hard about it all.
No idea will go anywhere without enthusiasm! A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one.
Shame that this office generated a lot of mediocre ideas people got behind, like dress up Friday – did they realise how impractical either costume or evening attire would be for those out in the field? - or lunchtime entertainment sessions in the spare meeting rooms.
You could write an absolutely amazing proposal for the benefits of introducing a new committee to do research into creature capture and retention, or a report on the importance of ascertaining the relevancy of current rumoured top secret projects elsewhere in the world, and no one would give a damn. Whether it would cut their work load or not made not a whit of difference as far as she could tell.
But karaoke at lunchtime had them literally squealing with joy.
O gets absent mindedly scribbled on, over and over until the pencil marks are so thick you could blow away a layer of excess. Then she starts on the rest of the note, quaint girlish doodles escalating into garish scenes of violence and she never recalls what it said underneath. Not every day is made or lost on the basis of a few choice words, some days she's lost before she made it through the door.
Provide a united front against your critics.
When they were being criticised by outsiders was about the only time they ever had any appearance of a united front. Seeing Lester defend Nick and co. did bring a smile to her face and every so often she wondered if she should dare record it for posterity, blackmail and/or leverage material. There were few things she could think of doing to make Nick speechless and showing such footage to him was the most professional option.
Question what you know as much as what you don't.
They seem to do that every single moment lately. A single anomaly turns into two. Two turns into many and there's a pattern, a pattern they have to use but can't entirely trust. Ever changing circumstances lead to it being unwise to have actual expectations.
Her contact list is packed these days. Number and emails for numerous conceivable needs. Logic dictates that they might need SF, larger military backup, experts from nearly a dozen fields, air lifts, rescue helicopters – in other words a force slightly short of the actual British army. But the other side of her new logic says there's all these other things that haven't happened yet. They don't fit a pattern, apart from the category of what if.
What if an anomaly isn't contained? What if it never closes? What would you need to stop a whole continent's worth of creatures from coming through? What if it vents toxic atmosphere onto our side? What if it opens into a place where it's the vacuum of space in another time? What if it causes a worldwide outbreak of something and she has to convince the CDC to take them seriously about where the killer virus is from?
If she has cause to jump ship and get a new job she can at least feel satisfied the line in her skill section of her CV that lists “Critical thinking” will be fully qualified.
Reaching goals requires a clear definition of what you want.
Takes a bit more than that, Claudia thinks, as she stares through the glass to see Nick wildly gesturing as his enthusiasm increases. A sea of blank and bored faces is staring back toward him, a few staring out of the room and back at her, but he's either oblivious or undeterred. If it's the latter then she's impressed, though she gets the overall impression Nick is only clear on what he knows and not what he wants. Takes two to tango and it isn't going to go anywhere fast if he doesn't know where they're ideally heading.
She doesn't even read the next set of S, T or U – she tacks the first two together offset just enough for the capital letters to be the prominent feature, as she cradles her phone handset in the crook of her neck and flips through the portfolio in front of her. For the 4th time today she's put on hold as a secretary goes away to fabricate some bullshit explanation for why their boss isn't taking her call. So much for damage control, this time the story is much too juicy for the media. She waves the sticky backed sheet for U on her free hand's index finger as she listens to the crappy musak and wishes she hadn't already disposed of F, then at least she could spell out what she would never voice.
Vision is admirable. Plans are commendable.
Claudia has read the plans. There are plans for alien invasions, nuclear holocaust, fascist rule and a dozen other end of civilisation as we know it scenarios. There was never any plan that mentioned rips in time and space, and in retrospect that's a very large oversight given the Home Office was prepared for almost anything else.
In the absence of a plan Lester was tasked for the creation of one. It got off-loaded onto the first unfortunate to piss him off, who passed it on to several others in the office for an opinion on how to and somehow it's now a department collaborative document. They add lines to the wiki daily.
It reads less like a formal plan with procedures of what to do and more like a day to day survival guide, and she thinks maybe this is what they need more anyway.
We all have a choice to be a person who watches things happen, who wonders what happened or who made things happen.
There was no doubt the first two applied to most people she knew. She counted herself under the last, and disturbingly Helen too. Sometimes she wondered if she would have liked Helen had she met her under difference circumstances.
She couldn't tell why the woman had saved her life. Instinct said it was one-upmanship, that or simply mind games, playing with her, playing with Nick. But she couldn't discount the idea that Helen wasn't as bad as she appeared, that whatever she'd been through had only changed her so much.
They all talked her up as the Home Office's most wanted or at least the frustratingly mysterious, the pain in their arses, but there had to have been a reason Nick had loved her, why he defended her to a degree still. There had to be more to Helen Cutter, but it would likely be more than Claudia would ever know.
X was a cop-out.
All the X's were Ex's instead. Extremely, excellent, exciting. Everything pointed to the conceptual failure. Surely they should have checked there were at least a few phrases to use before they coined the idea?
It was stupid, it was being pedantic, but it was something to concentrate on on a bad day. It was better than staring at the bright birthday card that had been sent round the office, bursting with well wishes, and wondering why Nick hadn't signed it or why he couldn't answer the one question he'd let slip through.
“Do you still love her?”
She expected Helen Cutter to play games with people, but she was starting to wonder if it was a trait the Cutter's shared in common, however differently they did so.
Yes is empowering! Why simply say no, when you can be positive and proactive by saying yes to what it is you do want.
She'd told him not to go through the anomaly and no hadn't worked. No had seemed the right choice, but perhaps she was forgetting that Nick didn't like being told no, didn't like restrictions and in the face of scientific discovery a bad feeling wouldn't slow him down.
So, she decided to say yes. She wanted to say “Yes, I care about you. Yes, I love you. Yes, I want to try and make it work.” Yes to overcome it all and make everything right, and when she couldn't say any of it she settled for a full on kiss. Somehow that seemed to say pretty much the same thing. At the very least there were still lips involved...
It was a reason to stay.
It wasn't reason enough though, not for him and she watches him walk away.
Nick gambled and lost. Now all the potential was on hold, all the moments like a hazy dream instead of defined memories. Claudia never got round to reading Z but she wouldn't have liked the irony.