Starlight Midnight Goodnight

Participants:

des3_icon.gif sera_icon.gif

Scene Title Starlight Midnight Goodnight
Synopsis Things get stranger as Des finds out more about Sera Lang.
Date March 21, 2018

Williamsburg


Snowflakes flutter in swirling eddies and currents through the night sky. On the outskirts of Williamsburg, there's street lights on at this hour. The old, yellowed bulbs turn the snow a jaundiced color against the backdrop of brickwork buildings. The snow started collecting faster than anyone expected, and without regular road maintenance it meant driving became hazardous for multiple reasons.

That's why Desdemona Desjardins is standing on the side of the road just after 8pm, listening to the whirring noise of some tan late model sedan’s rear tires trying to get unstuck from the snow. Barney had been kind enough to offer to take Odessa out for dinner, a meeting of the minds, he’d called it. Dinner, maybe drinks, and discussing scientific disciplines and discovering where they overlap. Then they got stuck in the snow on the way to the one restaurant open in Red Hook. They never even made it as far as Red Hook.

The tires whirr again, the rear end of the car struggling to get traction and finding none. The cold is biting, but up ahead there's some headlights. They draw Desdemona’s attention, looking like they're coming this way, but then they turn off into a side street, the distant sound of a plow scraping asphalt accompanying the vehicle.

“Hey can you give me a hand?” Sera asks from behind the brown station wagon. “I've got a bag of sand in the back, if we sprinkle it around we can get unstuck.” She alights from behind the car, blue eyes wide and a weird smile spread across what can be seen of her mouth behind an overly long, striped scarf.

The street light flickers.

“Yeah, of course.” That’s weird. It is, isn’t it? Des glances back toward where she’d seen the headlights, then focuses back on Sera. The flickering light overhead causes her to frown. She misses the days when the city had consistent and reliable power.

Glad she wore boots today instead of cute flats, she trudges through the snow to the back of the wagon. At least this isn’t as bad as that storm years ago. Or, at least it hopefully won’t be. “Never had winters like this where I’m from. What about you?”

“I grew up all over the place,” Sera note as she gets behind the station wagon, popping open the back hatch and swinging it up. “Snow, rain, sleet, frogs,” blue eyes sweep slowly over to Odessa. “We had all kinds of weather. Spoopy weather.” Lunging into the back of the station wagon like a noodle-armed marionette, Sera hauls out a garbage bag full of sand with a small hand shovel in it.

She opens the bag enough and grabs onto the mouth and hefts it out, letting it hang at about stomach level in a white-knuckled grip. “I hold, you spread?” Blonde brows raise slowly, and Sera motions with her chin to the right rear tire.

The street is otherwise desolate. Silent except for the wind and the idling noise of the car engine. Until Sera thinks of a question. “Where did you grow up?”

“That sounds very biblical,” Des comments about the rain of toads. “Which I think definitely qualifies as spoopy.” Yes, she also speaks Internet. Once upon a time, she had an awful lot of time on her hands and not a whole lot to occupy it. Ah, she misses the glory days of smartphones.

Des reaches into the bag to grab the shovel and start spreading the sand around the tires, hoping it’ll be enough to give the vehicle some traction and allow them to move. “Did most of my growing up in Texas, but I don’t remember it that well.”

Should it be this empty out here? Sure, there’s snow, but people went to work today, right? Kids went to school and there should be somebody else coming through here, shouldn’t there?

The uneasiness is shoved down as Des shoves her hand back into the bag to get another scoop of sand. “Life in New York is a lot more vivid. So, maybe that’s why I remember it more vividly.” She smiles faintly and moves on to the other side of the car.

Something Des says elicits an askance look from Sera. It's brief, though, and unelaborated on. “I think that's enough,” she admits with a touch of one hand to Odessa’s, taking the small shovel from her and placing it back in the bag. With a grunt of effort she hauls it back into the rear of the station wagon beside a gasoline canister, four bricks, and a rolled up blue tarp. She swings the door shut, then looks back to Des.

“Hop in the driver’s seat and give it a little gas. I'll push.” Sera motions with one hand to the open driver’s side door, her face illuminated by the red glow of the tail lights turning her pallid skin and the freshly driven snow pink. “We’ll be there before you know it.”

The open driver’s side door is stared at for a moment. Why is it open? Wasn’t Barney driving? Why isn’t he pushing?

Des approaches the open door and peers inside. Okay.

Okay.

Ignoring the coiling knot in her stomach, Des climbs into the driver’s seat and rolls down the window before shutting the door and slowly pressing down on the gas pedal. Her fingers wrap around the cold steering wheel, the leather of her gloves creaking as she does.

Get the car moving, Odessa. Then get Sera in the car. Then start asking questions.


Sorello’s Diner

Red Hook


Reclining back against the plush leather upholstery of their booth, Sera makes a small gesture up to the waitress. “Oh and, two coffees? Bring plenty of cream too, I don't like it overly bitter.” Making a smooch-face at the waitress, Sera leans to the side and rests her chin on the back of her hands, fingers laced together.

It was a relief to be out of the cold. The drive to the diner was unremarkable, the roads clearer the closer they got to Red Hook. Though Sorello’s is still open, Des and Sera are the only two customers due to the blizzard raging outside. Every so often a plow truck, with orange hazard lights flashing, drives by with its plow dropped scraping the street.

“I'm, honestly? Kind of in the mood for breakfast for dinner. They do good burgers here but, two eggs over easy, a side of bacon and sausage, and some really crispy home fries just…” Sera’s eyes narrow as she describes her ideal meal. “Something about that just sounds perfect.”

“Well, shoot. I was going to do a burger, but now I’m going to have to have pancakes.” Des rests her hands on either side of her seat, feeling the leather under her fingers. There’s something surreal about all of this, and anything that feels real is welcome now.

Her scarf still hangs around her neck for now, even though her jacket’s been shrugged off, her gloves shoved in the pockets. She presses her lips together as she thinks. “Yeah,” she says quietly, “just the pancakes for me. Short stack.” Big meals aren’t a thing she indulges in hardly at all anymore, too used to starvation and fasting. “Thanks.”

Once the waitress is gone, Des pulls her glasses off her face. They’ve been fogging up since they got inside. They just need to adjust to the change in temperature, so she sets them off to one side near the ketchup and the salt and pepper shakers. Leaning forward slightly, she offers a smile to her companion. “Glad you decided to come out with me.”

“Likewise,” Sera notes with her attention focused out the slatted blinds to the snowy night streets beyond. “It can get kind of lonely at my place and,” her head inclines ever so slightly toward the window, disturbing her hair from behind one ear to fall down and frame the side of her face. “I don't know. Sometimes it just feels good to cut loose.”

Sera brings her attention back long enough to flip her menu closed and slide it away for the waitress to pick up later. “There's something about old diners like these that's comfortable. Because no matter when you see them they always look the same, like a fly suspended in ointment. There's the red leather of the booths, the blinds,” she reaches up to strum one long finger across them as though they were strings on a guitar. “The burned coffee and chrome trim. It doesn't matter where in the country you are, these places all look the same.”

Reaching out for the menu again, Sera squares it with the edge of the table. Slowly moves her hand away, watches it, then squares it again before being fully satisfied. “After a war you can't really say that about most places in the country,” she briefly meets Des’ gaze, then picks up the straw sitting next to her untouched glass of water. “It's like a pocket of normalcy in a big, weird, scary world.”

Idly, Sera begins to peel the paper wrapped away from her straw, flicking the tiny bits of paper down onto the table in front of her as she does.

“You’re right. Anywhere in the country, there’s a diner like this.” Des smiles, sort of nostalgic for the places she’s been. “I was in a place that looked almost identical to this in northern Iowa. It’s like some architect just sold the blueprint and people dropped them into random cities. All cookie cutter.”

The paper flutters to the surface of the table like the snow outside the window. Beneath the table, Odessa wraps her fingers around a series of invisible threads, testing the tension. Feeling for something pulling against it. Time moves forward, and she can feel the presence of others in its stream. The waitress. The cooks in back. The vehicles outside. Sera across from her. Or she should, anyway.

“So, tell me about yourself. Where were you born? Where have you travelled? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?” Des chuckles quietly. Basic questions. Who the fuck are you? is far too blunt, and she’s been told it’s rude.

Everything feels normal, time feels normal. Nothing is causing any changes and Des feels fully in control of her ability. Sera doesn't seem to notice the adjustments, the testing of tension on time’s leash. Instead, she stops stripping the straw of its paper about halfway down and tugs on the intact end, putting a little bit of space between the end of the straw and the paper.

“Here in New York, all over the place, and ginger.” Blue eyes lock challengingly on Des at that last sentiment. As if to say it's a valid flavor. She also puts the straw in her mouth and just blows the paper end off like a missile into Des’ forehead.

“Oooh, ginger.” Des nods her head approvingly. “Nice. I actually like that one a lot, too. Hard to find, though. Mint chocolate chip is mine.” Her head tips to one side, looking thoughtful, “Although I’m reconsidering now.”

The paper hits her square between the eyes and Des lets out a startled huff of laughter. “Nice shot.” She picks up her own straw and peels back the paper so she can put her lips to one end and fire back. Her shot goes wide, however. The paper goes spiraling neatly through the air, soaring over the back of the booth just to the left of Sera’s head. She shrugs. At least it looked neat. She makes a note to herself to pick up after herself before they leave.

“I was born in Odessa, Texas.” It’s an elaboration on her previous comment. She often doesn’t tell anybody that information, especially since she’s supposed to be staying as far away from her true identity as she can manage, but… Des is hoping for a flash of recognition. She’s hoping for answers. “Moved to New York when I was still pretty young.” Which isn’t precisely true, but true enough. “I just keep coming back.”

Sera’s attention drifts to Des from something she was looking at over the other woman’s shoulder. She furrows her brows thoughtfully, then nods and looks down as the waitress comes back over with empty mugs and a little plastic bowl full of individual creamers. She fills both mugs up with coffee. “You girls need anything else?”  

Sera looks up at the question, then slowly shakes her head in dismissive fashion. “No, it's fine,” has a languid tone to it, and Sera picks up her spoon as the waitress turns from the table, turning it around in one hand idly. She doesn’t move toward the creamer, the packets of sugar, just disinterestedly stares at the back of her spoon for a moment before setting it back down and exhaling a huff of breath that blows the errant lock of hair from her face.

“Yeah,” Sera says as she looks toward the direction of the kitchen, to nothing in particular. The way someone might when they're not really paying attention anymore or are feigning interest.

“Am I that boring?” Des asks gently, leaning slightly to one side so as to catch Sera’s attention again. “We can talk about what you want to talk about. I’m… I don’t have many friends,” she admits. Maybe that will come as no surprise at all to the blonde across from her. “So I’m not all that great at this. But you’re a lot of fun.” And also possibly related somehow. You know, that’s a thing.

Des lifts a creamer out of the bowl, shaking it gently before peeling back the foil top and pouring it into her coffee mug. She stirs it in, listening to the gentle tink of her steel spoon against the ceramic mug. Diner coffee isn’t good enough to drink black.

Making a face that's at once dismissive and hard to read, Sera subtly shakes her head and raises two fingers at Des.


Raytech, NYCSZ Branch

Lobby


Breakfast for dinner wound up being a good decision, four cups of coffee perhaps not. But, the night was punctuated by a ride home from a Good Samaritan Yamagato employee who drove both Des and Sera back to the Raytech building after Sera’s beat up car couldn't handle the roads. They’d said their goodbyes to Phillip and carded back into the lobby with the snow hammering down outside.

“I'm just going to crash on the lobby couch until my shift starts,” Sera admits as she loosens her striped scarf from its tight loop around her neck. “My place is on the other side of town and that guy already did so much for us.” Blue eyes scan the lobby, and Sera turns on one heel, leaving wet tracks in the wake of her battered old boots.

“See you in the morning, hmm?” Both of Sera’s brows raise as she asks that rhetorical question of Des, hands jammed into the pockets of her brick red pea coat.

“Nonsense.” Des shakes her head and strides after Sera, looping one arm with the other woman’s. “You’ll come up to my place and sleep somewhere that the heat isn’t turned down for the evening. I’ve got pyjamas you can borrow and blankets and pillows galore. You can even sleep in the bed and I’ll take the couch.”

She starts to steer the receptionist toward the elevator. “Besides, all those windows? It’d creep me out to sleep here. I’d think someone’s watching me.” Des makes a face. “C’mon. I’ve got dessert upstairs anyway. Come help me eat chocolate cake.”

There's a moment where Sera tenses when her arm is taken, eyes cast down to Des’ hooked around her bicep. She looks back up, weight balanced on the balls of her feet, tightly wound like a coiled spring. It only lasts for a moment, though, before she relaxes. Black and orange sneakers scuff against the floor, and Sera looks over at her desk.

“I'm— not interested.” Sera finally says flatly, giving a gentle wiggle of her elbow as she extricates herself from the friendly arm-in-arm lock. “It's, I'm fine with the windows, really. I… had a fine time today, Des.” Sera looks to her desk again, then back to Des. “You're a nice person, but,” her nose wrinkles and she doesn't fill in the gap.

“I like couches,” Sera explains, straightening the collar of her navy blue peacoat. “I'll be like a ferocious guard dog, sleeping by the door.” The attempt at levity injected to the end there does little to dismiss a sense of rejection.

Des immediately backs off when Sera expresses her disinterest, hands up in a gesture that says I mean no harm or I’m unarmed. Take your pick. One of them is true.

She stares at her coat and then steps back two steps. “All right, that’s enough.” Odessa throws her arms out to either side of herself to bring time to a standstill. Outside the windows, the snow is held in perfect suspension. Everything is silent. No ambient sounds of the HVAC unit or the hum of computers.

Her hypothesis is tested and proven when she can sense that Sera is resistant to her ability. The way Clara was. The way Hiro was. It’s a tug in her chest, a sensation of resistance. The indistinct whispers in her mind scream out that this is wrong, but they’ve never liked to be denied total control over anything. Time most of all.

“I started this evening out with Barney. In a sedan. Then suddenly, I’m with you instead and it’s a station wagon. Your coat was red when we walked in the door, now it’s blue.” Des shakes her head slowly. “Who are you?”

The demeanor shift is instantaneous. Sera’s posture changes, back straight and shoulders square, chin up and one foot leading the other. For a moment it looks like she's about to punch Des square in the mouth, but when that arm comes out it's to draw her into a tight embrace instead. She smells like dryer sheets and bacon, a hint of coffee and cheap deodorant.

Odessa,” Sera says firmly, but with a reservation in her tone. “It's really you.”

Odessa immediately throws her arms around Sera and begins to cry. “Oh my God. Are- Is it really— Are you real?” Dark blue eyes shut tightly and tears roll down her cheeks as she clutches tightly to the other woman like she’s afraid she’ll disappear in a wisp of smoke.

“I don’t know who I am. I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what’s real anymore.” She chokes out a sob and breathes raggedly, trying to get a handle of her emotions and her words. “Please. Help me understand. Are- Are you… Are you Kara?”

The hug ends immediately when that name is spoken. Sera leans back, hands still at Odessa’s shoulders and brows pinched into a tense furrow. The edges of her eyes are red with emotion but nothing like what Des is experiencing. She looks away, then back up again.

For too long a time, Sera says nothing. She lingers in the moment like a speck of dust suspended in the air, expression startled. “I am.” Is suspicious, now. One brow lowered and another raised, her grip tightens.

“How,” Sera begins, carefully enunciating. “Do you know that name?”

Fingers curl tighter into the wool fabric of Sera’s coat. She’s about to start to beg her not to go, afraid that she’s about to be abandoned. Like she always seems to be. “I… It was… buried deep in my mind somewhere, I guess? I don’t know how to explain it.” There’s a little hiccuping noise that she presses her lips tight against. “Is that my name too?”

So badly, she wants to just bury her face into Sera - Kara’s shoulder. But there’s also this need to look at her. “Who are we to each other?” Des thinks she knows the answer, but she wants to hear it from her. Providing answers that may be wrong lead to lies that are more easily believed.

Slowly lowering her hands from Des’ shoulders, Sera shakes her head and looks down to the floor and then up to Des again. “I'll be square with you, I… don't entirely know what's going on myself. I know this probably isn't, uh, helpful. My name is Kara Price, because I chose it for myself. Kara after a comic book character,” Supergirl, “Price after the medic who saved me when I was a baby.”

Sera looks Odessa up and down, looking puzzled. “I know you are… Odessa, but you go by a different name here. So,” she looks down, to the puddle of melting snow that won't ever get any more melted until they decide it so. “I had a daughter I named Kara, but you're not her.” Obviously, her tone implies.

“Your mother does… look like me, though. I figured that out, found out she died. Covered up. Company business.” Sera’s expression tightens at the corners of her eyes. “She died on my birthday. Your— our birthday? I don't understand it. But we’re not related. We can't be.”

Odessa nods her head slowly as she listens and understands on some level. There’s been enough strangeness that she’s seen in her life to handle this. Slowly, she starts to get her crying under control, lifting one hand away from Sera’s coat so she can press the back of her sleeve to her nose as she sniffles. She wipes her thumb under her eyes and takes deep breaths.

“I’m Odessa because it’s the name that… stuck. Knutson, originally, for the nurse that looked after me.” So, they have some similarities. “Price because I found out that was my mother’s name.” For a moment, she’s quiet, looking down at the snow, the puddle in its arrested river. “How…” She looks up again, lower lip worried between her teeth for a second as she thinks about the words. “How did you find out about me?”

“Because I knew you.” Sera explains carefully, shoulders tense and chin tilted to the side ever so subtly. “Over there”, is said with an intentional obtuseness, as if testing something.

The brunette’s chin lifts slowly and then comes down again in a nod. “Another timeline,” she says knowingly. “How did— What was our relationship?”

“Surrogate mother,” Sera explains, squinting. “I wouldn't use the term timeline, either. That's— that doesn't match the science of what I know we were researching. But, I'm the mother of my world’s Odessa Price. She was an in vitro fertilization as a part of a project to create synthetic Evolved abilities.” It's all very clinical, explained as though it was from a textbook.

“She was born in 2008, but the lab was raided by a man named Hiro Nakamura who has the ability to manipulate time and space. He stole her, hid her from me in the past. We— caught up to one another without ever realizing it.” Sera’s story is an unfathomable one, a tangled web of events so confusing it defies belief.

“My ability plays some into this, but that's…” Sera presses a hand to her forehead and exhales a slow, tired sigh. “I've been stranded here for going on seven years now. Everyone I ever knew is either dead or changed. I… looked you up, which wasn't easy. Followed the breadcrumbs to here. I wasn't sure how similar you'd be. How similar any of this would be.”

Sera chews at her bottom lip. “I need to get home.”

The explanation, the coolness of it makes perfect sense. It’s how she explained the circumstances of her birth to Richard the other night. “I know Nakamura,” Odessa says quietly, an edge to her tone. “He’s dead.” And if he isn’t, he’s been doing a much better job of laying low than he usually does. She’d love to drag him out of the time stream and get some answers from him right about now.

“Let me guess. November 8, 2011 is when you arrived.” It’s not a question she expects a negative answer to, given the way she just lets out a breath of wry laughter and shakes her head. “She’s looking for you. Your Odessa. I’ve… seen it. I’d say this is going to sound crazy, but this whole fucking thing sounds crazy so far, so I’m just trusting you can keep up.”

A slow, deep breath, and she continues. “Something happened to me in 2011. I… there was an accident involving my ability. And now I’m… connected to my other selves. I can’t explain it, but it’s… it’s real. She said she was going to go over there to get you back if she had to.”

There’s an apprehension to her expression now. Odessa knows what she would do for the people she cares for. And she can sense that her other self is somehow even more ruthless.

And there’s the fact that Sera managed to find her. Even if she has some sort of advantage with her knowledge of the other Odessa Price, she still managed to track her down to Raytech. That means others may be able to as well. And that leaves Des with an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“What’s your ability? I know you’re like me in some way because…” Odessa waves her free hand through the air as if to demonstrate her inability to hold Sera in a suspended moment of time. “What do you do?”

Thoughtful for a moment, Sera furrows her brows and looks to the side. “Whatever happened in your 2011 must have somehow bled over into mine. Or— the timing was just right.” Rolling her tongue over the inside of her cheek, Sera considers the possibilities.

“My ability is still something of a mystery. I've had it all my life and I don't fully understand how it works, neither do the folks at Pinehearst where I work. We've been studying it for a long time.” Sera shifts her weight from one foot to the other. “Best I've been able to have it explained to me, I modify the concept of causality. Effectively I remove it from the equation. Things within my personal field can happen. There's a how and a what, but the why becomes a variable. I can insinuate myself into situations like I've always been there, retroactively adjust my presence in the world.”

Sera looks up to Odessa, still nervous. “I did it here. Sera Lang died in the war, so I took her possibilities. She could've been the secretary here if she hadn't died. So now she is, except it's me?” Sera’s eyes narrow. “Ssssort of?” Her brows screw up, hands tuck into the pockets of her coat. “The longer I manipulate causality the weirder things get for me. I bleed into personalities and memories. The why of me starts to get hazier. Really… it's weird. I don't fully understand the ramifications of it, or what it means long-term.”

Finally, Sera exhales a slow and steady sigh. “It feels clearer here, though. Whatever it is you're doing — stopping time? If you're anything like my Odessa. It makes it easier to think. Less noise.”

“That’s what I do,” Odessa confirms with a nod of her head. Which feels like it’s spinning after the explanation Sera’s just given of her own ability. But, she’s impressed and she lets it show on her face. “But I could tell that things weren’t right. I take it that… doesn’t usually happen.” Her brows furrow in confusion. “You… spliced yourself in to my evening, but I knew I didn’t start out with you. I saw the differences.”

There are so, so many questions to ask here. “You… Pinehearst. So you work for Arthur Petrelli? Or worked, I guess?” Maybe he’ll hold a job open for seven years. “Oh… fuck. I just have so many questions I want answers to. If you’re the surrogate, who’re the… donors?”

Des has a feeling she isn’t going to like many of the answers she gets. So what else is new?

Sera’s blue eyes wander the time-stilled lobby. “The bigger the revision the more obvious it is. If I cut someone directly out it's— hard. It's like, I have to focus on a bunch of things at once. Barney won't remember what happened, he'll just have a vague sense of deja vu if you ever bring up that day. But I was focusing on him. You?” Sera inclines her head to the side. “I was trying to get you to notice.”

Tongue pressed against the inside of her cheek, she starts to wander the floor. “But you saw some of the jump cuts. I think. Only someone with your ability can perceive the feeling of that. My Odessa could too.” Sera’s brows furrow, eyes averted to the floor. She shrugs, then, fiddling with the length of her scarf.

“I never knew who the donors were. Doctor Meier didn't disclose that to me, she just…” Sera closes her eyes and shakes her head slowly. “I wasn't even sure if I was going to carry to term. She hadn't done in vitro experiments with Advent before. It's a miracle my baby survived.” Sera’s brows crease together, fingers awkwardly tugging at the hem of her scarf.

“Honestly, I know Arthur is dangerous. I… have a feeling my memory has been tampered with on a few occasions. There's gaps, weird ones.” Sera lets the scarf go, then exhales a slow sigh. “You remind me so much of her. You're almost identical.”

Alison? My ability comes from Advent?” Des rakes her fingers through her dark hair, briefly exposing the scar across her forehead as her bangs get swept out of the way. “This just gets… weirder.” And she’s going to have to tell Richard.

“Arthur is… Ambitious.” Which is a bit like a synonym for dangerous in this context. One she identifies with. “Whether or not he means well, I can’t say. I know that over there, I work for him. He seems to treat me well enough…” Odessa’s mouth pulls into a wry smirk that fades almost the instant it appears.

“I’m sorry you… wound up here. I’m sorry you’re so far from home. I think if you can tell me what you were working on, we might be able to figure out a way to send you back. As much as I want to be selfish and have you here.” Her smile is more genuine this time, if shaky. “I know I’m not your Odessa, but… I still consider us family. If you’ll have me.”

Sera looks away, one arm wrapped around her waist and her meandering not stopping. She swings a leg around, heel scuffing the floor, uses the momentum to pivot on her heel and do an about-face. “I'm afraid to make attachments here,” is decidedly clinical for someone who is usually more whimsical. “I… need time to process all of this,” long fingers twitch as she gestures around the room to the moments of today.

Quick to move past the subject of family, but not dismissive of it in its entirety, Sera is easier to focus on less ephemeral things than emotions. Like work. “I'm a part of a project called Looking Glass.” Hearing that name said aloud sends a chill down Odessa’s spine. “I don't know the specifics, it's a very classified job. Compartmentalized.” She forms a little box with her fingers at that. “My role involves the particle accelerator at Mount Natazhat in Alaska. I'm… not a scientist. I mean, I have an engineering degree, I handle maintenance, but that's secondary.”

Dithering a bit, Sera takes back her hair from her face and threads some behind one ear. “My ability apparently allows me to modify the, uh,” she squints. “Quantum state of particles. Something about interfering with particle observation? I don't understand the science of it, I just do what I'm told. When they run the accelerator they ask me to observe calculations, sometimes watch the live data feeds, and envision certain prescribed outcomes. The eggheads figure out all the hard parts.”

But it's with a helpless shrug the Sera admits, “I don't really know what Looking Glass is, though. We were running a scheduled test on November 8th, 2011 and there was a power surge. One of the coolant lines ruptured and Doctor Kravid had the accelerator powered down and sent me in to check on the main fence crew…”

Brows furrow together, and Sera looks like she's struggling to remember things. “I— remember hallucinating once I got into the hall. A man in a black parka and snow pants. There one minute and then not. Then… we started getting a power surge in the reactor, but all of the equipment said it was turned off.” Sera threads a lock of hair behind her ear again. “Then… I heard an alert, about a core meltdown, but we didn't have a reactor there. Then, I…”

Sera exhales a sigh and holds a hand at the side of her head. “It gets hazy. I think there was an explosion. I woke up and the facility was in ruins, but… I was over here.

“Natazhat…” Des lets out a heavy exhale, focusing on what she can provide answers to, instead of indulging the sting of rejection at the idea of not forming attachments. She can appreciate Sera’s position and knows better than to argue. For once. “I think I know what happened. I think our worlds collided at that point in time. At that exact moment, I was in Cambridge and… There was a temporal disturbance there. Meanwhile, in Alaska, here… I don’t know how to describe it. I wouldn’t call it a time machine, but I’ve been told that there was a device meant to send a message back in time. But the calibrations were off. I think instead of sending a message back, it sent a message… sideways.

Odessa shrugs a little helplessly, unsure of how to explain it all. Especially the parts she’s only heard second-hand. “Shortly thereafter, a rift opened up. I was partially the cause of it, but… much, much earlier. That’s where the ruins came from. I think a combination of your possibilities and the rift in time and space… caused you to fall through?” One hand balls into a small fist, thumb rubbing against the side of index finger and against palm nervously.

“I’ve seen Looking Glass.” Purposefully, she neglects to mention that she’s only seen it in visions. “I think it’s supposed to show other realities. Maybe allow travel between? I don’t know for sure. But I think that was the ultimate goal of it.” Des laughs softly. “Maybe everyone’s trying to find out how green the grass is on the other side.”

“It's greener on my side,” Sera says without hesitation. “This… world is horrible. I know it's yours but, the war.” A haunted look briefly crosses Sera’s face. “We ended Humanis First and that… everything, by 2010. Our kind didn't live in fear, it was… it is an amazing place.”

It's the first time Odessa has ever heard someone speak so emphatically in the favor of that timeline. “Everywhere has problems, but it was better there. For all of us.” The us, clearly, being Sera and her daughter. “You're— maybe if this side had a Looking Glass project we could recreate the effects. I could… you could come with me.”

The offer Sera makes is reflexive, without thought or consideration. At least not initially. “I don't care that there’s already an Odessa there. You might as well be different people. There's plenty of room to live, and… you wouldn't have to hide who you are.” Sera motions to Odessa’s dark hair. “Arthur likes my Odessa. I know he'd like you too. The Petrelli’s could set you up… give you a life. Family.”

Breathing in deeply, Sera runs both of her hands through her hair and paces from side to side. “I can't stay here.”

“I know,” Odessa says instantly, tears having started rolling down her cheeks the moment she’s told she wouldn’t have to hide. “I know you can’t stay here. You have your family there. I wouldn’t dream of making you stay here. If I can find a way to send you home, I will. I promise. I’ll send you home to your Odessa.” As much as it hurts.

Finally, Des starts pacing herself, crossing to one of the couches in the lobby and sitting down heavily. “I did this to myself. I deserve to have to hide. To be hunted. Hell, I deserve to be caught.” But that doesn’t mean she’s going to turn herself in, or lay down and wait for it to happen. Above all other things, Odessa wants to live. And she wants to be free.

“I’ve seen your world through her eyes. I saw the ivy climbing the walls of the Deveaux Building.” Odessa closes her eyes, a small smile curving the corners of her lips upward as she remembers what she saw in her vision. “People were thriving.

But how many corpses were needed to fertilize that garden of paradise? How many bones does it take to pave the road of good intentions?

Odessa opens her eyes, looking at Sera. Her smile fades slowly. “I don’t deserve to be happy in your world,” she offers as a matter-of-fact and sighs quietly. There’s one more thing.

“This side has a Looking Glass project.”

Sera doesn't have the will to fight Odessa’s nihilism. Instead, she hones in on what can be recognized and adjusted. As she approaches Odessa it's clear that she wasn't expecting there to be a companion on this side, as if the striking symmetries hadn't all been leading up to that point.

Stepping right next to Odessa, Sera practically looms over her with their considerable height differences. “Where is it?” Her eyes are wide, shoulders tense, hands clenched closed.

Up, up, up, slides Odessa’s gaze until she can match Sera’s. Obviously they didn’t bestow her genetics on the temporal manipulator, or she wouldn’t be so darn short. What must it be like to reach the top shelf without a small ladder?

“I don’t know,” Des admits. “I’m trying to find it. But I know it exists, and I have leads.” Consternation brings her brows together over the top of her glasses. “I… I’m a window through time, I think.” She chooses her next words cautiously. “I think it may be possible to recreate the effects of the Looking Glass through Evolved abilities.”

Dark blue eyes narrow. “Can your ability have an effect on the probable outcomes of others’? On mine?

“I don't know,” Sera admits nervously. “I don't— experiment with my power. We did, for time, but people just went missing. It's… Arthur was afraid that without knowing the limits of my ability, it might simply not have any. I could unravel… myself.” Sera scrubs a hand at the side of her face and creases brows together in an expression of frustration and worry.

“I try to limit it to myself, my immediate surroundings, my pigeons.” She doesn't explain that. “It's safer that way. Moving Barney was a risk, but I thought if I didn't make a big enough revision you wouldn't notice. But… I could — I don't know what could happen if I just start trying to change the causality of your power. Especially your power.”

Sera heaves a sigh and jitters, starting to pace again. “Can we go back? This— is starting to feel claustrophobic.” She's been getting more tense and anxious the longer she's in the field of frozen time.

“Of course. I’m sorry, I thought it would help.” Odessa closes her eyes and lifts one hand into the air, feeling for tension and slowly releasing threads from their coils. Removing the kink in the works, the flow of time resumes. Her shoulders sag with relief, a heavy breath passed audibly between parted lips. “It’s… It’s easier with you nearby,” she admits softly. “My ability has been… difficult of late.” Of the last seven years. Relatively speaking, that’s of late. “I don’t blame you for not wanting to experiment with yours.”

Even if Odessa does routinely throw caution to the wind in her quest to ever increase her own power.

“Your Odessa… Can she travel through space the way Hiro Nakamura can?”

There's a subtle shake of Sera’s head to answer the question, easier to see as the tension unwinds from her shoulders. “No she’s…” her head slowly angles to the side as if she were listening for something. “Their abilities are different. My Odessa freezes time, just like you.” Darren Stevens would disagree to the just like you part were he not ashes.

Flexing her hands open and closed, Sera turns an inscrutable look to Odessa. “You know you can't tell anyone about this, right?” Her brows furrow, lips downturn to a frown. “The people here are nice, but I don't trust your boss overly much. He's nice but I get the feeling he can be a little manic.” Says Sera without so much as acknowledgment of the irony. “Besides, I… know Mr. Petrelli died here. I've read what people wrote about him in books. I don't think anyone would trust me if they knew I work for my Arthur.”

“I… Mr. Ray already knows who you are.” Odessa folds her hands together in her lap, resisting the urge to pick at the rough texture of her skirt. “Not precisely who you are, but he’s seen a photo of Rianna Price. When I look at her, I can’t see you. But he does. Mr. Bellamy does. That’s why he was weird the other day. He’d seen Rianna before.”

Her eyes trace the frame of the elevator on the other side of the lobby for something to focus on while the wheels turn in her head. “We have to tell them something.” Des looks up again. “You’re younger than she was, which I think you knew already. We don’t have to tell them you’re from over there. We can say you’re my sister. They’d buy it. They know my memories have been tampered with, and they’d absolutely believe my mother had two children and the Company separated them and covered it up. It would allow us to spend time together without drawing suspicion. While we try to figure out where to find or how to recreate the Looking Glass.”

Odessa swallows down a wave of emotion. “I know you don’t want to get attached. I completely get that. I just want to help you get home. You deserve to go back to your family. I know Odessa really misses you. I can feel it.”

Sera’s brows furrow, hands clench, and she stomps in a slow circle before looking back at Odessa. “Tell them I don’t know anything, then. I can play dumb,” she opines with a rise and fall of her shoulders and a huff of breath that pushes an errant lock of hair from her face. She almost leaves it as that, stalking toward the front door, before finally making her way back over. She seems just a little more manic now, one hand sweeping her hair back from her face.

“Ok, ok, ok,” Sera gestures one hand slowly in the air, “yes, tell them I know nothing, and I’m just a mystery. Then…” blue eyes narrow, “Rianna… Rianna?” Sera looks down at the floor, shifts her weight to one foot, then looks back over at Odessa. “I think that’s the name of a Fleetwood Mac song I like.”

No, that’s Rhiannon.

Kara.” Odessa is on her feet and placing her hands on the taller woman’s shoulders to slow her pacing to a stop. “Everything’s going to be okay. This is our secret. I’ll say that I felt you out and you clearly have no idea. They’ll buy that.” For a little while. At least until Kaylee offers to see if there’s a block in her memories, too. They’ll cross that bridge when they come to it.

“You said you chose your name.” She changes the subject to give her something else to focus on. “Did you have a name before? They just called me the Odessa girl. It stuck. But you probably knew that already. I’m your Odessa said the same thing.”

The question elicits a vacant-eyed look from Kara that never really left her for as long as Odessa talked. Finally, she shakes her head and looks down to the floor, hands retreating into the pockets of her coat. “I don't remember anything before the age of… three or four? I was raised by the Company, then kept in the care of…” her eyes wander for a moment, “Maury Parkman.”

Blue eyes find Odessa again. “I stayed in Arthur’s care, directly or not, the rest of the time. Until he was strong enough to take the Company down, rebuild the world into something better.” Sera looks to the side, brows furrowed. “I didn't like them at first. But… they helped me.”

Maury Parkman.

Fuck. No wonder she doesn’t remember things. Why she has gaps in her memories. Odessa pulls Sera into another tight hug. “I’m so sorry. That can’t have been easy.” She would know. “I’m… I’m glad they helped you, though.” She withdraws again after only a moment, aware that her affection probably puts Sera on edge.

“I’m so glad I’ve met you. Even if you leave tomorrow and I never see you again… I’m glad for this. I thought you should know.” Des pulls off her glasses and rubs at one eye with the side of her fist. She’s definitely not going to cry again. “I’ll keep trying to dig up more information on the Looking Glass. Let me know if you need anything at all, okay? I’ve got your back.” She smiles, putting her glasses back on. “I’ll let you get some rest. You sure you don’t want to come up? I won’t bug you. I just want to know you’re safe.”

Sera flows out of the embrace like a dandelion in the wind, wavering and then catching herself quite intentionally. Her hands come out of her pockets and she sways to one side, then the other as if to a tune only she can hear. “That's all I wanted too,” she admits, “why I came here. To… see if you were really you.”

But then she steps back, carefully throws one end of her scarf over her shoulder. “I'll be safe,” Sera admits with a wrinkle of her nose. “People can't hurt what isn't real.”

And just like that, she flickers away like a corrupted video clip, leaving brief afterburn images of herself in the air that fluoresce blue, red, and green before fading like sunspots before Odessa’s eyes. Sera’s things are still on the front desk, the name plate still reads Sera Lang, whoever that really is.

But for now, she's somewhere else. Sleeping, probably. Hopefully.

She has to be at work in a few hours.


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