What Makes Sense

Participants:

des2_icon.gif ray_icon.gif

Scene Title What Makes Sense
Synopsis Richard and Des have a lot of catching up to do.
Date April 2, 2018

Raytech Employee Housing: Des' Apartment


The past couple of weeks have been a flurry of travel and activity for Richard Ray, who’s slipped back into the skin of the ‘man of action’ that Edward once called him disturbingly quickly. So between these events he’s been catching up on paperwork.

A part of him’s felt much more alive than he has in years.

It means that he hasn’t had time to catch up with Desdemona Desjardins, however, and that’s going to be fixed tonight. It’s late when the knock comes on her door, knuckles rapping against the wood of the entry in the safety of the corporate housing wing.

“Des,” he calls out, “It’s me.”

Well, fancy that. Des jumps up from her sofa after setting aside her bowl of popcorn. She turns down the music coming from her stereo - Shostakovich - and opens the door to her apartment with a broad smile. “Richard!” She steps back and gestures into the apartment. “Come on in.”

Once he’s inside, she locks the door up behind him - deadbolts and chain. Call her paranoid, or thorough. “Can I fix you a drink? Or I’ve got Pepsi.” Water’s a given. She moves into the open kitchen, bare feet on tile. She’s dressed for bed in her shorts and an oversized sweatshirt. If the hem weren’t bunched up at her back, he might not realize she’s wearing gym shorts for bed.

“I take it this isn’t a random social visit. What’s on your mind?” She’s already pouring gin into a glass for herself, thanks.

Richard was working late, which means he’s in black slacks and a button-up, though both tie and jacket have gotten lost somewhere - probably draped over his office chair, if he hasn’t been back to his own room yet - leaving a gap of skin at the neck where the tie would be. He steps along into the apartment with an easy smile, glancing over the room.

“Water,” he admits, “Don’t want to drink any caffeine this late. And I’m pretty sure we have a lot to catch up on - haven’t really gotten a chance to sit down since you showed up in Manhattan.” She gets a wry look at that one.

“Sorry about that,” Des grimaces and shrugs her shoulders lightly. She retrieves a bottle of tonic from the fridge for herself and a bottle of water for him. “Glass? Ice?” She pours the tonic over her gin while she waits for his response. “I really was just worried about you. It wasn’t… It wasn’t anything other than that. I was worried you wouldn’t think about the park, so I decided to check it out for myself.”

“I still can’t believe he’s dead…” Richard breathes out a heavy sigh as he steps along over to find the couch - dropping himself down onto it in a boneless sprawl, toeing off his shoes as he leans back and stretches out his legs, “…and he’s not the only one. We should catch up and compare notes, I’ve— found out a lot recently.”

“Me either. I figured the old bastard was too stubborn to die,” Des admits with a little more dark humor than she actually feels. With drinks in hand, she comes to join her friend on the couch, handing him his water. She tucks herself against one corner of the sofa, knees up and arms resting against the peak they make. She sets the bowl of popcorn between them on the cushion.

“You first, then.” Which is to say, she’s found some things out too.

“I’ll start with the one that’s going to hit hardest,” says Richard, looking back over to her for a long moment before offering in quiet tones, “I had a clairsentient who knew him try and home in on him… Jean-Martin’s dead, Des.”

The glass slips from her fingers as if in slow motion. It’s really just the way her grip slowly goes slack and the glass drops by degrees from the friction of her fingertips. He even has a shot to catch it before it drops onto her sofa and then to the floor.

No.” Des is in tears instantly. “No. How?” He was an old man, of course. It could be just as simple as the explanation for Broome. Somehow, Des doesn’t believe that. She was supposed to find him. She was meant to have a chance to apologize. To explain. He had been her friend, in some unusual way. She buries her face against her knees, shoulders shaking with her silent sobs.

Richard knew she would react poorly, although perhaps not this poorly - he does have a report stating she nearly stabbed him to death, after all! The glass starts to slip, and he near-lunges over the couch to grab it before it drops. Carefully setting it aside, to the table, he reaches out a hand to slide over her shoulder as she buries her face against her knees.

“I don’t know,” he says quietly, “Just that there’s no— that there’s nothing to lock onto. She was pretty— pretty sure about it. He was the one sending those packages that I got, I learned that too… you were right. It was an old man.” Just not the one she thought.

There’s a loud, wet sniffle from Des. “We… I admired his work when I was younger. And he looked after Julie and Liette…” He’s owed some kind of explanation, she figures. Her voice is strained with emotion. “After the Institute took me… He mentored me, in his way. When I began to turn on them, he protected me.” And then she stabbed him in the back in the most literal sense.

“The last thing he…” A fresh wave of tears cuts her off. There’s two shaky breaths before she can continue. She lifts her head and smiles, lips trembling from the effort. “He called me a harpy. That’s the last thing he said to me.” It’s funny, you see, because… Well, it isn’t. She deserved it.

Richard shifts fully over to her side of the couch, reaching over to wrap an arm around her shoulders there in her little curled-up ball in its corner, drawing her in against his side. “I know,” he says quietly, “And I’m sorry, Des. We’ll find out what happened to him… we have to. I have to.”

Fingers brush up against her hair and neck, and he offers her a faint and sad smile, “I tried to get him to stay. I really did. I don’t think— he really believed he could find redemption through our work. I don’t think he differentiated a lot between me and— the other me, either.”

Des curls up against Richard’s chest, though her arms stay wrapped around herself. His presence is warm and reassuring. It’s good she wasn’t alone when she found this out. Good she didn’t somehow make this discovery herself. “He always noticed my shoes,” she laughs softly, slowly getting her hiccuping sobs under control. “Fuck…”

“I’m sorry,” Richard murmurs down against her hair, breathing out a sigh against it as he holds her, “I’ll try and pay more attention to your shoes.”

Des lifts her head, laughing again. “I gave up my shoe collection when I joined the war.” She nudges up to drop a kiss on his cheek. “But thank you. That’s really sweet of you to offer. My penny loafers aren’t that exciting these days.” Taking a deep breath, she starts to wipe the tears off her face, even as more just slide down. At least the worst of it is over. The shock has worn off.

The invitation to continue is extended. “That wasn’t all you wanted to talk to me about.”

She nudges up, and Richard leans back a bit to give her more room, though he keeps an arm around her. “Yeah. So…” He draws in a breath of his own, then exhales it, his free hand coming up to wipe a few tears from her cheeks as he says quietly, “You remember when— when we were in your mind, after we lost control, and you and Kaylee were listening to a voice in one of the Company headsets?”

He grimaces slightly, “The voice told her ‘David Cardinal is alive’.”

“Is… Is that your dad?” Des’ face screws up with confusion after his hand leaves her cheek. “I… I heard something completely different when I listened.” Which isn’t terribly surprising, she supposes. That wouldn’t have had as much meaning to her as to the Ray siblings. But… It’s still something. It’s worth noting that the voice did care about making sure what Kaylee and Des heard had meaning to them.

Which is fucked up, because that was in her mind and— “Do you think I knew that, somehow?”

“No, I… maybe one of your other selves did, in some other timeline? I don’t know, it— “ Richard grimaces, shaking his head a little bit, “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. She started digging— she went to Tamara even.”
“And… she found him.”

Odd, Richard doesn’t seem happy that his sister found his biological father.

“I take it that wasn’t as awesome as I think it sounds.” Because while Odessa would give almost anything to have known her father, she realizes not everyone’s worth knowing. “I… What happened?” Confusion gives way to concern and she takes one of his hands in hers, squeezing encouragingly.

“So.” Richard leans back a bit, looking up at the ceiling, his fingers curling back with hers warmly, “A long time ago, a man named David Cardinal met a woman named Michelle LeRoux, and they fell in love. She was a genius, he was just a mechanic — and Evolved. Just before they finished getting married — I have the marriage certificate, it’s marked unfiled — he was black-bagged, probably Company. She was killed in a car accident.”

“And there he spent twenty-five years in a hole without answers,” he says quietly, “Without explanation, without even getting to know who, or why, he was there. Until one day, Allen Rickham ripped through the wall and pulled him into the custody of Edward Ray — Pineheart Timeline Edition.”

“That’s… Heavy.” Des’ cheeks puff out with an exhaled breath. Yikes. “I know the feeling… I’m not going to say I had it better or worse than that, but I know how the Company is.” Better than most, but not as well as some. “What else, then? None of that explains why you look like you swallowed an entire lemon.”

“Just about then,” says Richard, still regarding the ceiling, “Arthur Petrelli ripped the power out of me and cut my god-damn hand off. I escaped, but he was hunting me. Tyler… brought me to that Edward, who said he had work for me. There was a man there tied to a chair with a bag over his head, whose power would - as a side effect - keep Arthur from finding me with Molly’s ability.”

He draws in a slow breath, “He ripped that ability out of him and gave it to me. And dumped the man somewhere. He heard my voice on television years later, and recognized it. And wondered why the man who stole his power was going by his last name.”

Fuck.

Des shakes her head slowly, disbelieving. And yet. “So… I—” She’s glad she left her glasses on the nightstand for the night, because she needs to just rub her face. This is one of those kinds of stories. “So your dad had no idea he’s your dad.”

“Oh, here’s the fun part…” Richard’s chin drops back forward, and he looks at her directly, “Michelle died June eighteenth, nineteen-eighty-two. She was not pregnant.”

“What the fuck, Rich?” It’s one of those things where Des has to laugh, because it’s the only thing that will keep the horror from properly settling in. She leans back and lifts her index finger. “Oh, I can do one better.” First, she reaches across for her rescued gin and tonic and takes a large gulp. “I might have actually been born in 2009.”

“I’ve got photographs that prove that Michelle was pregnant that year, and photographs that prove she wasn’t. Fuck, I have photographs that show that Edward knocked up Juliette Luis, but since those are the same ones that have my mother pregnant in them— “ Richard throws a hand up, eyes rolling skyward, “— who the fuck even knows what timeline they’re from. Or I’m from. Ezekiel didn’t have any answers, he was looking for them too, so whatever bullshit happened to me happened to him, too…”

Then he’s peering at her, “How’s that work?” Shit, did he kiss jailbait? She’s not even ten, Richard!

“I’m sorry, what?” Juliette Luis? That’s a name Des is very familiar with, and not because of the Fournier twins. Her brows go up and her mouth forms a small little ‘o’ as she tries to puzzle out exactly how convoluted all of this really is.

The answer is ‘exceptionally.’

“Forget about my shit for now. What the what? How is- How does that— So, there’s an alternate timeline, maybe, in which Michelle LeRoux and Juliette Luis were both pregnant, and… And what?” Because, really, this is too much.

“I have photos,” Richard claims with a shake of his head, “Edward and Juliette, there with David and Michelle, all happy, both women pregnant…” He shrugs helplessly, “I can only explain it by assuming it’s another timeline.”

“Well… That’s what makes the most sense when nothing actually makes sense,” Des agrees in roundabout fashion. When in doubt, blame it on a branching alternative timeline?

This must mean it’s her turn, since he isn’t pulling out a family album to share the insanity. Yet. “I did some… I don’t know. I had another fucking vision. The other me, the one from Arthur’s timeline. She was born in 2009, taken from her mother by Hiro Nakamura - who I’d like to punch in the face, just so we’re on the same page - and hidden in the past. If I had to hazard a guess, he wanted to get her away from Pinehearst. She was an experiment. Which…”

Des looks down at her bare feet, toes curling around the edge of the couch cushion. “Which means I’m probably an experiment. Just like I always thought I was. Adam once told me I could be synthetic, when I told him I didn’t know where I came from. I just about lost my mind I was so upset. Now?” She lets out a sigh that almost sounds like a note of laughter at the end. “Now, I just accept it. It’s the only thing that makes any fucking sense, right? But it doesn’t explain the discrepancies. One person isn’t supposed to have such wildly different origins.” Or so she posits. “So, what’s real?”

“I slammed Hiro into a wall once, if that helps,” Richard observes, his tone dry, but then he’s just listening. Then he breathes out a snort of laughter, sweeping a hand upwards, “Some people have biographies. We have ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books.”

A heavy sigh, eyes rolling to look skyward, “Oh, randomly while I’m thinking of it, Danko’s on the grid again. Assassinated someone near the bay, last tracked heading to Staten, so, if you see a bald psychotic with a rifle let someone know.”

Slowly, the brunette nods her head after she mulls it over. “Yeah, actually. It does. All I ever tried to do was help him, and then I hear about this. Makes me wonder what else he’s responsible for.” But she has to admit - if not out loud - if what she’s heard about Luther’s encounter with Rianna Price is true, Hiro Nakamura did his best to ensure she lived. So maybe that counts for something. She wouldn’t dig him up, bring him back to life, and kill him a second time or anything, at least.

“We also have the weirdest random asides,” Des points out. “Normal people would fixate on that. It would be the leading story.” But not them. “Fuck that, though. I’m… not happy to know that.” Which implies someone might have thought she would be. “Of all the cockroaches to survive, him and not…”

Des shakes it off. “All right. What else you got?”

“When I was lost in the Wasteland,” Richard reveals, “Nakamura showed up… asked me if he should kill me for what I’d done. As if I was Ezekiel. As if he shouldn’t’ve stopped that time travelling asshole much faster…” He grimaces in frustration, “Idiot. Between him and Peter, I swear to God…”

A heavy sigh’s released, and he shakes his head, “Anyway. Um. You were Company, and Institute after— “ He looks up with a glint like he’s had a sudden idea, “Did you ever hear of a Richard Schwenkman?”

Des’ favorite subject: the places where she worked unwillingly.

Okay, so she realizes her information is valuable and her experiences are important, but sometimes she wishes - often she wishes - she could just have been a normal kid with a normal life and normal jobs. And an actual doctorate. (Ugh. Fuck yourself, Witchenstein.)

“Name sounds familiar. San Fran, I think? Never met him, though. I just… see names pop up on projects once in a while. Office e-mails. I think he accidentally Cc’d us about a pizza party once. Spoilers: We did not get pizza. Roosevelt Island was the worst.”

Ahem.

“Why?”

At least her falsified identification says that she has an actual doctorate. That counts for something, right?

Richard’s free hand comes up, fingers pressing again between his eyes to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Great. San Francisco. That means that he’s either in hiding, dead, or with Kravid,” he mutters, “He’s the— the third guy in the tape. The one that isn’t Edward or Michelle.” A vague flick of his fingers, as if to indicate the Looking Glass tape.

“Great.” Kind of, actually? That’s more information than they had before, at least. “Well…” Des rests her chin against her knees again, staring off into the middle distance while she thinks. She lifts her head again only to take another drink from the glass in her hand. The other still holds on to Richard’s. “You know something, though? We’re still who we are.” She looks to him from the corner of her eye. “No matter where we came from. I doesn’t change who we are now.

It’s part pep talk (that’s for him) and part reality check (for her). “I always thought knowing about my past would somehow redeem me from all the awful things I did when I felt like I didn’t know better. But… it doesn’t. The only way it changes those things is if they somehow never happened, and… I’m not that kind of lucky.” If anything, the memory of the house they saw in her mind, when she was a child, proves the things she doesn’t remember are even worse than the things she does.

“No.” Richard breathes out a sigh, his head shaking, “No, it doesn’t. We’re still us, whoever that is, and whoever we choose to be…” He shrugs one shoulder, “We make up for our pasts and try to make a better future. Still. All this mystery?” He cracks a bit of a smile, “Really pisses me off sometimes. I’d like to find some answers, instead of just— more questions.”

“I know. Me too.” One, two, three gulps and the glass is emptied, set aside, and Des curls up tight against Richard instead. “There’s… There’s so much I want to talk about. But I know most of it is the stuff you don’t wanna hear.” For good reason. Knowing she’s a war criminal is one thing. Knowing exactly why is another entirely. The less he knows, the better off they both are. “Everything’s a jumbled mess. There’s… just so much. The Institute alone…”

That’s been on her mind since she ran across Dr. Frank Witchenstein. But it’s one of those things she’s made the executive decision that he’s better off not knowing. “I don’t know what they’re doing. But I can just tell they’re up to something.”

Des closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, reaching out with her ability in that way she does every so often out of paranoia. She can feel the others in the apartment building. Or she can sense the impact they have on time, at the very least. She couldn’t say definitively if the presence she senses in the direction of any given person’s apartment home is actually the person they expect to be there.

There are no unexpected ripples in the river, however. No necessity to bring things to a halt to test the tether. The only indication that she’s done anything at all is in the way she goes tense for a moment, and then relaxes with a heavy sigh. It could be anything.

“I’m glad you told me all of this.”

“I know. I can feel that they are too…” A sigh whispers past his lips, Richard’s head shaking ever so slightly, “The old games all starting back up again, the ripples in events spreading outwards. Butterflies flapping their wings, and I’m left to anticipate the storm like some kind of weatherman…”

He chuckles, then, and looks down to her; a faint smile, one hand lifting to brush some hair from her eyes. “I need to tell it all to someone,” he says quietly, “And you’re one of the few people that’ll understand. I trust you, Des. I probably shouldn’t— “ The Eve incident being an example why! “— but I do.”

One corner of Des’ mouth hooks up in a smirk. “No, you probably shouldn’t,” she agrees readily. “But all I can do is say thank you for trusting me, and tell you that I’m doing my best to be worthy of it.” Even if she’s holding back herself. “I wish I could protect you from all of it. I wish I could dig up every answer you’re looking for.”

The woman shifts her position carefully, unfolding her legs so she can turn and sit on one side of him and plant her feet on the cushion on the other side of his legs. She is not sitting in his lap, thank you. There is no contact with it at all. She just wanted to stretch out, is all. Even if she does have to keep her knees bent slightly to avoid aforementioned contact.

“The voice… The one Kaylee heard. It said to me, let me in. I think it’s whatever gave me that power as a child. I think it’s… waiting. I think it wants me. Or something. Fuck, I don’t know.” Des shakes her head quickly, trying to clear her doubt and confusion in one motion. It doesn’t help. “But the thing is, Eve heard it too. But in her own voice. In her own body. That’s… That’s why I reached out to her. It’s why I did what I did. I know it was stupid.” And it’s already time to start dyeing her roots again. He can see that when he brushes the hair away from her face. That grey streak at her temple is already trying to remind her of the consequences of her miraculous ability.

“I still think I need to try again. But without her, and with something other than Refrain. I don’t know if it will work, but… It’s data, regardless of the outcome.”

Those legs cross over him, and Richard casually rests an arm over them, hand resting on one knee. What, they’re there, he needs to put his hand somewhere!

“Let’s try what we can without resorting to experimentation for a little while,” he cautions, “We can try and track down Luis, look for other sources of information. Company records, Institute records. I know that both of them were keeping up with Looking Glass, so— if I dig a little maybe something’ll come up.”

His nose wrinkles, “Eve’s— she means well, but I think she’s seriously unwell herself. Her perceptions are heavily skewed, and that can make her dangerous.”

“Yeah. I… might have figured that out.” Des winces instantly. “Don’t be mad, okay? She wanted to warn me about what she saw.” Which she knows Richard and Kaylee know about by now. “She wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be hurt. And that I could help protect you.” That isn’t quite how Eve put it, but it’s how Des is putting it. She rests her hand over Richard’s on her knee.

“And she had a vision about me, too. About someone… looking for me. So she found him first.” She has to tell him, doesn’t she? If she doesn’t, it puts him in danger. Fuck. “He’s Institute. But he was just an intern. A nobody. He’s hiding, just like I am. But… apparently, he had a crush on me.” Des looks away, a huff of derisive laughter at her own expense. “Can’t imagine why.”

“Okay. First of all… you are an intelligent, beautiful woman, so there are plenty of reasons to have a crush on you,” says Richard, his free hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose and his eyes closing, “Second of all… you found an Institute intern and didn’t mention it? Are you sure he’s just some nobody that’s in hiding?”

More Institute. That’s just what he needs in his life. Damn it, Ezekiel.

Her hand lifts off his to pivot, palm up in the air. “I’m mentioning it now,” she says defensively. “I didn’t have a chance before! You were busy.” Maybe it’s the sort of thing that would have warranted a phone call, but… Well, she has no actual defense. “I was trying to protect you. Okay? I never claimed to make great decisions. If he was someone important I would know. I made it my business to know anyone who either could have furthered my career or been a threat. I didn’t even know this guy existed. He’s a friggin’ kid.” Okay, so he’s in his late twenties, but as she nears her mid-thirties, that feels like childhood to her.

“He’s kind of creepy, though.” Which might be why she’s bringing this up instead of continuing to keep it to herself. “But when he looks at me…” Not looking at her friend, she makes a face like she’s tasted something bitter that’s trying to come back to haunt her. “I think he’s sincere. He says he… He says he wants to protect me. And he said someone is protecting him, and that she might be able to help.”

A sidelong glance checks to see if he’s following along and caught her drift.

Richard’s other hand slowly comes up, and he buries his face in both palms for a long moment’s silence.

Finally, muffled, he asks, “You didn’t say that he was Institute, did you? You used the present tense.”

Des draws in a deep breath. “Yep. I sure did.” Now she decides, fuck this, and stretches her legs out completely. “So, you know, if I get black bagged, you know who’s door to knock on? In theory, anyway.” Because if anyone knew where to find these people in practice, they wouldn’t be out there.

Well, Wolfhound’s doing a great job of it, actually. But it’s a work in progress. If Des has any luck, they’ll get to whoever’s looking out for Frank first.

Fuck.” Des leans back until the back of her head rests against the rolled arm of her sofa. “Sometimes I just… Finding the guy wasn’t my idea. I would have been content to let him stay an unknown.” Except that she took one look at him and had to know what he was about. That curiosity will get her every time. “He doesn’t know I’m here. I haven’t told him my alias, or… anything like that. He recognized me, though. I’ve looked people square in the face who should have known me, and they didn’t. He recognized me even though I’m not wearing an eye patch and a face full of scars.” And that’s what most of the Institute last saw of her. Only Luis saw the way she looks now, minus the darker hair.

“And I don’t think he’s former Company, so that means he’s probably obsessed.” Des stares at the ceiling, expression blank, which only highlights how rattled she is. “I’m not even going to ask what I did to deserve this. I’m trying to change, though. I swear.” That’s a plea to the universe that’s likely going to fall on deaf ears.

“Okay. Okay, we can handle this…” Richard’s hands drop down to rest on either side of her knee, and he looks up at the ceiling again as if - as well - to ask assistance of an uncaring universe. “Okay. He knows you, what you look like, your name, which means we can’t just feed him to Gitelman. They’d squeeze him like an orange and your name would spill out.”

He looks over, “Did he— do you know if he contacted this person that’s protecting him yet, and has he mentioned who they are?”

“He wouldn’t tell me who she is, but he did keep using feminine pronouns, so I can draw a few guesses as to who might have enough influence and genius to stay hidden, and help others do the same.” The question on Des’ mind is what is so damn special about a nobody intern that he’s worth protecting. Why wasn’t he left to be picked up in the trials? He shouldn’t know anything.

“So, he’s probably not the nobody he thinks he is.” She believes him when he says he thinks of himself as having been just an intern. But everyone had a project. Maybe he was working on something big. Maybe he was close to something, or someone. “He wanted to come with me. I told him it wasn’t safe. But I gave him a dead drop for communications. The Memorial Wall always has someone around. It’s easy enough to blend in.”

“If we’ve somehow stumbled onto one of Kravid’s people, that’ll be the best news I’ve heard all year, honestly,” admits Richard, one shoulder lifting in a shrug, “I doubt we’re that lucky. Maybe one of the other San Francisco branch heads, though… mnm. Okay. So we need to find out what he knows, but without actually tipping our hand.”

Fingers rub against his jawline, his lips twisting in a frown, “Threat level? Physical, or ability-wise? Do you know if he’s Evolved at all?”

“If he’s Evo, he didn’t let on. And if he knows me as well as he thinks he does, he knows I’d be fascinated with a display of power.” A look is cast Richard’s direction in tandem with a shrug. Some things don’t change. “He’s not very physically imposing either. I’m confident that if he attacked me, I’d knock him on his ass before he knew what hit him.”

She trained hard to defend herself in the war, after all.

“I know you’re joking, but… the way he looks when he talks about her? It could be Kravid. But it could be any of them, I guess. The women in the Ess-Eff office seemed to inspire some serious loyalty.” And Des was stuck with all the male colleagues. Well, not all… “I’ll see what he sends to my dead drop. He seems versed in how those work. Didn’t ask for me to meet with him face to face instead. And he said all he has at his place are some suits and a Tiffany poster. So he travels as light as I do.”

“Okay.” Richard rubs a hand against the back of his head, “We may need to bring him in for telepathic interrogation.” Who needs chairs and torture implements when you have telepaths? “Ideally— we’d take him on the street, avoid identification, sedate him. Rip through his brain, then leave him alone in the back of a van, you do your trick and suddenly time starts again and he’s somewhere safe. We get the information, you get brownie points for ‘saving’ him from some unknown bad guys.”

He really does have a plan for every occasion!

Des just stares at Richard for a long moment. She looks like she might be about to object. Instead, she sits up and fixes him with a stare. “Anyone ever tell you you’re really hot when you’re being clever?”

“What?” Richard’s brows raise a little, “Was I being clever? That’s— I mean, that’s really a pretty basic plan there.” He regards her bemusedly. Is she making fun of him? “Is there something wrong with it?”

“You’ve been at this too long,” Des teases. “It’s only basic because you’re used to having the tools at your disposal.” She tips her head to one side, considering for a moment. “There’s nothing wrong with it. It’ll work fine. But if you really want to get him? You let him think he’s saving me.” That part she isn’t sure how to work, but it’s something worth noting. “He wants to be my knight in shining armor. I can see it.”

“Shit,” Richard breathes out a chuckle, “Maybe I have been at this for too long. Mm. I can see a few ways to do that, but— “ He frowns, scratching at the edge of his jawline with trimmed nails, “Not at this stage, not yet. Too much danger in him rescuing you off to somewhere and frankly I don’t want you being carried off to some Institute lab.”

“Yeah, I don’t want that either…” Des sighs. Well, that’s more or less worked out, isn’t it? She hopes, at least.

“You sure you don’t want a drink?” She’s lifting herself up off the couch, careful not to jostle him too much as she swings her legs over so her feet can touch the floor. “Because I need another, and I think you might want one too.” There’s a more generous portion of gin splashed into her glass this time than the first one. She isn’t drinking them as fast as the last time, so presumably some lesson was learned. Likely in the form of a massive headache.

“I need to know what you’ll do if the… other me shows up. The one who works for Arthur.”

She gets up, and Richard reaches over for the water bottle to open it finally. “No, I’m good,” he admits, taking a swig of water before leaning back, regarding her thoughtfully at the question.

“Mm. Honest assessment of the woman, based on your observations?”

“She’s me, if I didn’t meet someone like you.” It’s the most honest thing she can think to say. She opens the fridge and takes out the tonic again, pouring it in on top and adding a couple ice cubes carefully after the fact. To encourage her to drink it slower. “She’s dangerous, but so am I. We’re fighters. I’m a fighter. No matter where or when I am. She just… got picked up by someone who knew how to appeal to… I don’t know. The whispers I hear? He encourages me. Her.” It’s hard to make the separation when she can feel things from the other woman’s perspective.

She had just as much difficulty separating herself from the Odessa in the Virus timeline. At least this one’s still alive. And, if Elle Bishop’s experiences hold true, will be for another year. “She’s angry. She’s sad. That’s a dangerous combination on me, no matter how you slice it.” Finally, she turns around, resting her hip against the counter to support a comfortable lean while she takes a sip. The large ice cubes bounce off the edge of the glass and hit her lip, meaning she doesn’t indulge long. “She’s trying to find her way here, and I think after what happened in 2011, she can do it.”

Especially, she reasons, if the other Odessa makes her way to Mount Natazhat.

“Okay.” Richard draws in a slow breath, leaning back on the couch and staring at the water bottle in his hand, “What would you do, if you were in my place? Avoidance doesn’t seem likely as a successful tactic; she’s resourceful, and we’re an obvious target, though with the benefit that I was never a big name in that timeline, as far as I know. Subversion? Do you find it likely that we could succeed?”

He looks back at her, a brow lifting. The last option remains unsaid: Assassination.

“I’d be honest with her.” There’s a pause before she adds the caveat: “To a point.” Odessa and honesty aren’t the greatest of friends. “I think our best chance is for me to talk to her. If there’s one person I’ll believe is looking out for me…?” Des shrugs her shoulders. “I wanna live. I wanna live in every timeline. Especially after what happened to… I don’t wanna go through that again.” Her lips twist into a frown. He saw what happened to her. Knowing that she’s dreamed it over and over again… Of course it was traumatic.

“I think I can probably convince her to work with us to get what she wants. Especially because it’s the truth. I want her to find what she wants and to go back to her time.” Even if it means saying goodbye to Kara. The closest she’s gotten to any answers since she started the quest to find out more about her parents.

The music on the stereo, quiet as it is, catches Des’ attention suddenly as the track changes. She stares first at the sound system, then sort of through it, as if in a memory.

“I hope you’re right. Arthur…” Richard’s eyes close for a moment, “Arthur was always more a force of nature than a man. He could change people. And I know you want to live, but— I don’t know if that other you necessarily feels the same way. I mean— “ He opens his eyes, lips twisting in a grimace, “Just look at Ezekiel.”

“I’ll be honest, Des, I…” He trails off as he notices the expression on her face, and pushes himself up from the couch to step over, “Hey. Des. You alright?”

“Yeah…” Her reply is absent at first, unspecific. There’s a moment where he must wonder if she heard anything he said at all. Finally, she lifts her head again, surprised to see he’s gotten up from the couch. “Sorry.” Des sighs heavily and runs her fingers through her dark hair.

“This is one of my favorite songs,” she tips her head toward the stereo. “Sometimes I just kind of… lose myself, you know? Sorry about that.” Blue eyes close as she plays back the last few moments in her mind. She nods. “Yeah, Arthur’s… He knows just what to say, I guess.” And if she sounds impressed, it’s because she is. It’s a good skill to have, and one she doesn’t possess. “I want to believe that she’ll trust me. I’ve always been the only person I can really trust.” He receives an apologetic look immediately following. “No offense. That’s just how it used to be, before you.”

“It’s okay. It makes sense, I just… remember, she’s not you,” says Richard, easing back down to sit on the couch, slouching forward and looking at his right hand for a long moment. Fingers flex inward, then out, the black marks that match Peter Petrelli’s hand perfectly moving with them like the tattoo they aren’t.

“Arthur’s… he scares me,” he admits quietly, “He’s one of the only people that ever— that ever really has. It was a nightmare I thought ended on the roof of Pinehearst, but… the idea of it coming back?”

He shakes his head, “It scares the hell out of me, Des.”

“We know how to kill him.” Which shouldn’t make the doctor’s eyes light up quite so much as they do, but he knew what he was getting when he hired her. She keeps her place at the counter at least, rather than advancing as she did the last time this subject came up. “We can do it if we have to.” But she doesn’t want to. Kara seems to have high regard for Arthur, and Des can’t help but wonder if there’s merit to that.

She shouldn’t entertain the notion, but…

“In my, uh… In my vision, I discovered my ability - or hers at least - comes from Advent. They perfected it, I guess. Which I shouldn’t be surprised by, I suppose.” Des shrugs. “Pinehearst.” They seemed to have control of things and more resources, but that’s going off what she’s heard from others. “If they could do it, then so can I.” Dr. Desjardins believes herself every bit as capable as any scientist Pinehearst may have employed.

“Don’t be afraid of him. He’s a just man, and he can die just like any other.”

“It only worked because he’d absorbed Claire’s ability. I don’t know what this— other him has absorbed, we might need something completely different,” Richard admits, rubbing both hands over his face, “Sometimes I wish I hadn’t sabotaged the Formula, but… knowing what he did with it, what he would’ve done with it. He’s a monster. And I say that having known a lot of monsters in my time, Des.”

He’s shaken by the idea, perhaps more so than she’s ever seen him.

He glances up, “Still have some of that gin?”

“I’ve never met him, myself. Not outside of my visions.” Des sets her glass down on the counter so she can retrieve one for him. “You want a shot?” She holds up her thumb and forefinger, spaced apart to indicate the usual size of a standard shot. “Or a ‘Dessa shot?” The space between those fingers widens. Significantly.

“Alcoholic,” Richard tongue-in-cheek accuses. “A ‘Dessa shot sounds good, actually. Sorry, I…”

He grimaces, looking down with a shake of his head. “He took my hand, once. My ability. Would’ve taken more, if Bebe and Tyler hadn’t taken him down with a shotgun. Bought us enough time to get to the boat before he regenerated.”

“At least I’m functional~” Des sing-songs as she pours a generous shot of gin into the tall shot glass. No rocks for him. She expects he can temper himself just fine. She pads back over to the couch with both drinks in hand. Once she’s passed his off to him, she sits down next to him again, resuming her stretched out position with her legs across his.

“He sounds like a real charmer.” To her credit, she doesn’t look to his marred hand. She knows how uncomfortable it is to have someone stare at old scars better than most. “With any luck, we won’t have to deal with him personally. We can send his contingent back and never deal with them again.” She has no delusions about liberating another timeline.

“Thanks,” Richard says, collecting the shot and offering her a faint smile before leaning back to make room for her legs across his lap, “And with any luck. With any luck.”

He shakes his head, “Adam’s a narcissist, but Arthur— Arthur’s a full-blown megalomaniac. He’s more dangerous than Sylar ever was, because he doesn’t need to kill you to take your ability.”

“Neither does Sylar,” Des points out with a shrug of her shoulders. “Although I would say that made him less dangerous, not more.” She smiles faintly around the rim of her glass, remembering trying to teach him to use her ability the way she does.

It didn’t end on a happy note, so the smile fades almost as quickly as it came. “I see what you’re getting at, though. I’m… not trying to argue with you. He’s bad news. I get that.” She knows she has a tendency to defend traits she holds herself. Even the indefensible ones.

“Oh, speaking of…” Richard grimaces, remembering another thing he hasn’t mentioned, gesturing with his glass towards her, “…you’ll never guess who we saw at the auction. Go on. Guess. You’ll never guess, not in a million years.”

“…Sylar?” Des wrinkles her nose, brows knitting together as she fixes her friend with A Look. If I’m not gonna guess, why do I have to guess? So she gives the most outlandish and incorrect answer she can think of.

“Close,” Richard deadpans, “Samson.”

And he downs the shot.

Richard’s companion goes very, very pale, then downs her refreshed drink, heedless of the ice that bumps against her nose and numbs her lip. She sets the glass down on the table at her back with a thud! and sweeps her bangs up from her forehead in a deliberate fashion, exposing her scar.

That is what you should have led with.”

“He killed me, you know. Ezekiel, that is. Back in ‘seventy-seven,” admits Richard, setting the glass down and shaking his head, “He’s killed a lot of my friends, too. Good news is, the old bastard doesn’t look good at all. Looks like age and time are finally catching up to him — cancer, if I don’t miss my guess. Couldn’t’ve happened to a nicer guy.”

“There’s something fucked up about cancer being the thing that gets that man.” Something almost hollow in that victory.

But only almost.

And it isn’t a victory yet.

“He killed the other you. He killed my parents. Nearly killed me and Hiro Nakamura… Yeah, he’s a piece of work. I’ll be happy to see him gone.”

“Archie Rasmussen. Wendy Hunter. Angelina Jackman. Molly Walker…” Richard picks up the emptied glass, gazing down at it for a long moment, “Yeah. I’ll throw a party for that fucker’s funeral, and apologize to Gabriel after.”

Then he’s leaning back again, “Fuck. All the vultures circling again, and we haven’t even found the proverbial corpse. I don’t like any of this, Des.”

“Yeah, me either.” She bites her lip and stares off into space thoughtfully, listening to the quiet sounds of the music underneath their conversation. “That other shoe’s gonna drop somewhere, and I’m afraid it’s going to be square on our heads.”

“Guess we’re just going to have to build helmets, then,” Richard muses, closing his eyes for a moment, “This all over again. I guess six years was enough of a break, hm, God? Back to work already…”

A faint smile over, “Any other horrible new revelations on your part? I think I’m out.”

“Probably not a bad idea. We should include tin foil liners, though. I think that’s about where our lives are at right now.” One last sigh, and Des decides it’s time to put a fork in it. “Nothing else from me.

“Wanna get drunk and watch Duck Soup again?”


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