A Broken Duet


vf_kaylee_icon.gif vf_ruiz_icon.gif

Scene Title A Broken Duet
Synopsis Kaylee and Ruiz do a little bonding over a broken duet.
Date December 13, 2011

The Hub

The kids have mostly been sent to their rooms to sleep or study. The new piano teacher is off doing something else.

But someone is playing the piano in the hub, based on the soft sounds echoing down the hall. None of the notes are played loudly, though the Hub is spread out, it still resonates slightly on the pipes. The song sounds incomplete, like there’s something missing from it.

It should be a duet.

It’s not.

Ruiz sits on the side with the pedals, playing a half-complete song. His sleeves are rolled up, revealing the tattoo on his lower arm, as well as the wrist watch he now wears. A wrist watch that never, not once, left the wrist of another woman who’d spent a lot of time within the Hub. The woman he’d come to the Hub with, not long after Edward had started it up to protect some fraction of civilization from the plague that threatened them with extinction.

A red banded wrist watch, worn with age, that ticked away much more steadily on his wrist than it had ever done on hers.

“I use to sit outside the door and listen to you guys play,” comes the softly spoken words of his sister’s best friend, behind him. “It was amazing how well you worked as a team….now…. ” Kaylee Thatcher comes around into his line of sight, moving to rest her elbows on the top of the piano, watching his fingers move along the keys. “Now it just sounds broken.”

A sad smile is offered to the man, “Hello Mateo. Long time…” In fact, it had been at least… not since his sister died, since K-Mart told Kaylee what happened. “I hope you don’t mind. It’s… been lonely since…” she trails off, uncertain if she should really even mention Odessa.

It did sound broken. Ruiz sighed, putting his fingers down on the keys as he looked up at the blonde, nodding her closer so that she can sit on the bench with him. “I’m honestly surprised Dess never taught you how to play.” But he’s not sure he wanted to play with anyone right now. Maybe he wanted the music to feel broken. Either way, he turns and looks at her, trying not to appear as sad as he actually felt.

They had enough sadness in this place. Everyone had lost someone. Some had lost everyone.

“It has been lonely.” For both of them, for all of them. But he knew she was specifically meaning since Dess. “She would have missed you too, you know.” He nudges his shoulder against her, just to let her know, in short, that she was just as important to Odessa, in the end. “I wish she’d never gone out on her own…” Wished she’d taken someone, at least. Wished she’d taken her negation drugs even if she’d gone scavenging, wished… so many things.

Kaylee doesn’t have it in her to comment on being taught to play. That she had tried, but much like her skills with guns, she just couldn’t manage to do two different things with her hands. She preferred to listen anyhow and let the music carry her imagination.

“Me either. I didn’t even know she was going out.” That seemed to sting just as much as losing one of the very few people she trusted around here, it even colors her words. “You know what the worst part was…. I had to get the details from K-Mart. My own dad, couldn’t be bother to tell me…” She lays nothing at Mateo’s feet… he owed her nothing like that, but her own family was another matter.

Kaylee moves to sit on the edge of the bench when she spots… “Is that her watch?” She asks quietly in a hushed tone. She’d recognize it anywhere.

“I’m sorry. With everything that’s going on I…” Ruiz trailed off. There was a lot going on, most of which she did not know about. Much of which her father would kill him for revealing to her of all people. (He doesn’t think that as literal as he probably should, though.) “I should have been the one to tell you.” But he wasn’t. He doesn’t know why her father wouldn’t have mentioned it, though— perhaps he did not want to be the one bringing the bad news.

Why he would leave it to K-Mart….

At her question, he raises the wrist. He’s always been fairly compact, which meant his wrist wasn’t much larger than hers. Only a small adjustment had been necessary. The hole it had rested in on her wrist looks much more worn than the one that keeps it in place on his. “Yes. Your father did tell me. Gave it to me as proof.” Proof that she made it back, but died. Proof that she was dead.

And a good thing, too. If he’d thought she was just missing he might have tried to leave to find her. Which meant he couldn’t train with the kid.

“I’m sure your father’s just busy— he does a lot for the community.” And Ruiz knows the man’s trying to get them… somewhere else.

“I’m not upset at you,” Kaylee says, giving the man a smile, “You have enough going on with that and Lynette.” She wants to wrinkle her nose at that, but doesn’t. Maybe jealousy, maybe just… they were just… so… ugh… yeah. After a moment of hesitation, she reaches out and touches the face of the watch, her expression falling a little. “I’m glad they didn’t throw it out.” Like they did her, but of course, she skirts that. That thought, makes her vision blur… she didn’t deserve that.

The hand drops away, fingers moving to touch one of the keys, listening to the haunting and deep sound, but also listening to the way it hums… like the voices in her head would. “She was trying to get me to stop my meds,” Kaylee says softly, finally admitting a secret she had told no one, else. Maybe she felt without her friend, that… her brother was the next best thing right now.

“She… she thought dad was up to something,” brows furrow again as Kaylee pushes that key again, the mournful tone vibrating through the air, her eyes going distant. “What a perfect way to find out what the big boss was thinking…then a telepath.”

Enough going on with him and Lynette. It’s funny she should mention that, cause the things that have been going on he’d been talking about hadn’t so much been Lynette as that kid Magnes who seems to have been spending a lot of time with him. Ruiz shakes his head, laughing a little, cause he’s not really told many people about the … engagement thing yet. “Did you hear we got engaged? Well as engaged as you can get in this strange purgatory.” With that, he plays a few chords that seem to sound like doom. It’s a joke.

But maybe he understood the jealousy. Not everyone had someone in this place. He doesn’t know who he would be if he and Lynette hadn’t found each other here. Or if he would still even be, for that matter.

“You should stay negated. Going off the drugs is what killed Dess,” he adds. Maybe that doom chord had been for many things. Not just this purgatory they’ve found themselves trapped it. “If won’t be like this forever, Lee,” he does offer. “Your father might be an insufferable bastard, but… if anyone can get us out of this strange place, it’ll be him.”

Her finger hovers over the key again, but doesn’t push it. “Engaged?” Kaylee sounds amused and maybe a little surprised. “Congratulations… I mean it.” She gives his shoulder a bump with hers and a smile, it is tinged with sadness, but it’s still genuine. She really does despite the bland tones. “I know I tease you guys, but someone deserves to be happy around this hellhole. I’m sure Dirk will be besides himself.” The mention of the Hub’s own procreation cheerleader her irritation shows.

“Insufferable bastard…” Kaylee can’t help, but laugh at that. “I know he is my father and he only wants what’s best for me, but… never has there been a better description.” Her head shakes slowly and she finally presses that key again. “I’m too much of a coward to try and stop my meds,” she sighs out softly, “Edward would make sure I did anyhow…” if anyone knew what she’d do with that ability… it was her dad.

“Speaking of dad,” Kaylee says as the somber note dies away again. “What do you think of those new people he’s been so interested in lately? I’ve noticed you around that guy…” Kaylee is watching her friend out of the corner of her eyes as she asks, “You know me, I’ve been trying to stay off his radar, while he’s distracted. So I haven’t had a chance to get to know them.” Though how long she will stay off his radar, after putting Isabelle on the warpath, remained to be seen.

“Oh God, Dirk.” Ruiz shakes his head, once again playing a doom chord. “‘Nette was not happy with those propaganda posters of his.” He’s sure she knows which one. “I tried to tell her that we could just say we’re making a baby and get a few days off, but I’m not sure she found that funny.” And part of him knows why. They hadn’t exactly been using anything to keep babies from happening. They didn’t have the supplies for birth control these days. He didn’t imagine the scavenging parties took time and space to bring back condoms.

A tiny Lynette would have been wonderful in some ways, but this world just— was not a place he’d want to bring a kid into. Children die. They had a hard enough time keeping the twenty-odd children they did have fed and alive. “He really didn’t think his poster through. There’s barely enough food to go around, barely enough medical supplies.”

They’d likely lose mothers as well. But he doesn’t add that.

“You are right— your dad would probably somehow know and slip you meds while you slept.” He wouldn’t be at all surprised, after the things that beady eyed professor seemed to know.

The new people. “The kid’s okay. A little crazy, but he’s been helping me out a lot.” His garbage man job could not be considered the most glorious of jobs. No one wants to clean up after everyone. And most people wouldn’t want to run the incinerators, either. He’s sure that Odessa hadn’t gone through the incinerator— because he’d checked.

“He really didn’t.” Kaylee draws out that word ‘really’, making it a little sing-song-ish. “He had the gall to ask me to be a spokesperson for it.” She gives a short laugh, because the thought was completely ridiculous to her. “Me, of all people. I’m not exactly miss popular, winning over the guys.” There is a roll of eyes. If it bothered her, she never lets on… It’s a skill of hers, being able to lie through her teeth.

“Or the ladies either… ” Kaylee states with a fake brightness, as she admits, “I am pretty sure, Isabelle wants to kills me.” It’s stated very conversationally. This was a confession that normally she’d give Odessa, but… her brother was good for a close second. Leaning to where the shoulders touch, the telepath whispers, “I probably shouldn’t have called her cheap.”

Kaylee straightens and grimaces, “Sorry. I am hoping it doesn’t get back to Edward, last thing I need is him getting his nose into that.” There is a pause before she adds… “Though, he might already know.”

The mention of calling the local bartender cheap causes Mateo to laugh. He’s not one to argue with the assessment too much. She might have hit on him once or twice or multiple times. “Oh, I bet he already knows. I doubt there’s much that goes on in this place that he doesn’t know about in some form or another.” He sometimes believes that Edward knows everyone’s secrets. Including his own.

“I don’t think he’d risk you, though. I grew up in Argentina— we lived in a town, but even that didn’t have the best medical care. Mortality rate would be high when attempting to have babies.” If there was even a .01% chance something would happen to that man’s daughter? He wouldn’t allow it. “He’s very protective of you. I wonder if all fathers are that way.”

He didn’t have one, so he often wonders it. He also wonders what kind of a father he would have been… before the world fell apart.

“Good question,” Kaylee offers with a chuckle. “If you believe everything that was on the internet, all fathers are overprotective when it comes to their little girls.” Her head tucks down, hands clasping in her lap, with a thumb rubbing across her palm.

“You know…” She starts softly, after a moment of thought, “Family isn’t always about blood.” There is a glance that goes over her shoulder to the door. “I see you with those kids. You and Lynette might not end up having kids that share your genetics…” Cause who would really do that in this world? “But, I think you both help give those kids the family they crave and need.”

Worried suddenly, like she might have overstepped with that comment, Kaylee gets to her feet. “I’m… sorry. It’s not my place to say things like that…” she murmurs in a quick apology.

With a blink, Ruiz glances toward the woman as if she’d said something very surprising, which was probably why she stood up and apologized so quickly. But he smiles after a second and shakes his head. “It’s amazing. You’re negated and still you manage to read my mind.” He’s negated too, probably one of the best things that had ever happened to him, to be honest. Nothing quieted the noise in his mind like negation. Not even Lynette.

He would give up his ability in an instant if he could, now that he knew that it really had been his ability in the first place. Without it, that sound didn’t pull on him. Without it, he finally had a little peace. Peace that didn’t last, cause a little beady eyed bespectacled man had asked him to use his ability. And he found out those holes in space might have actually been a link of some kind.

“It wouldn’t be a bad idea. The kids could use a family. Right now they’re kind of everyone’s. But if we ever manage to get out of this place, to no longer need to hide, then they would certainly need an actual family.” He said that as if he believed they could actually leave. Which is more than he would have probably ventured to say a few months ago.

But things have changed in those months. Whether she knows it or not.

“I…” Kaylee starts and then trails off, head ducking a little. “I promise I didn’t read it… even if I wasn’t, not you.” Never the trusting ones… “I could just hear it. In your voice, plus… Lynette getting upset about…” she trails off again.

Brows lower, thoughtful at the idea of not needing to hide. Hope can be a dangerous thing. “Maybe. Kids need stability… a sense of place and of being wanted.” Her eyes unfocus, as out of habit she reaches for what isn’t there. “I can’t think of a better person… most of us done here, are not the best role models.” She angles a knowing smile down at Mateo.

Moving close, Kaylee doesn’t sit, instead, she leans down and loops arms around his neck loosely, nothing intimate. Just like any friend would. A gesture of comfort, of course, done by someone who doesn’t normally get into personal spaces like this. “I’ll leave you to your playing… I just…” She sighs softly, her forehead touching his head briefly, “I never knew my siblings… so I can’t even imagine how much you miss her. I miss her, too. She really… seemed to understand me.” She leans, back tilting her head where she can look at him again, “I just didn’t want you to think, that she’d be forgotten… at least not by me.” Kaylee offers him a sad smile.

Would he have minded so much if she had accidentally read his mind a little? Possibly not. After all, all his thoughts had been about things they’d been talking about. It wouldn’t have been a major breach of privacy. “It’s fine, Lee,” Ruiz responds, shaking his head so she knows he didn’t think she actually would have. On purpose. But he knows how abilities can be. His own, mostly. It happened at times whether he wanted it to or not. Negation had been so welcome. In many ways.

Reaching up, he touches the arms around his neck, eyes closing as he leans into the hug. He’d always been a little tactile, so it doesn’t strike him as anything odd. Just a friend showing another friend affections when they needed it.

And he did need it.

“She won’t be forgotten. Ever.” If he had anything to say about it. She’d loved the music, loved the kids, loved her friends and her life down here. It had been so different from any life she’d had before. A place where she belonged, where she was needed. “She was happy here. I think the happiest she’d been in a very long time.”

And now she was gone. “We’ll see her again someday.” He never seemed the religious type, or at least not one who talked about it much. But he says it as if he believes it.

Unfortunately, for Ruiz, Kaylee doesn’t really think that way. The world is too cruel to her. However, she also doesn’t squash whatever he believes. She only tightens her arms in another hug, before letting go and straightening. “I hope your right.” How nice would that be? Especially, after this shit of a life.

Reaching up, she gives his hair a tussle; the sad smile turning into a mischievous grin. “I’ll see you at dinner, buddy.” Despite the tease, there is a warmth in her voice. “I’ll even make sure to save you and Lynette a place.”

She turns to go, calling over her shoulder, “I’ll even make sure it’s a Dirk Initiative free zone.”

Honestly? He hopes he’s right too. Ruiz won’t go into that further though, just nodding. One day. With her invite and then punchline, he laughs, sounding amused. Even if the topic itself might not be amusing. “We’ll see you there, Lee. Take care of yourself.”

Don’t go off the drugs, especially. But he doesn’t say that, of course. After all, it’s really her choice. She just knows what happened to at least one of them who did stop taking the negation drug as often as she should.

As she continues, she’ll hear the soft sounds of a piano following behind her. Not a broken song, this time, but one that he knew Odessa had loved.

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