A Cure For Loneliness


monica_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif

Scene Title A Cure For Loneliness
Synopsis In uncertain times, two old friends find someone to lean on.
Date June 15, 2018

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

When Monica showed up at RayTech today, she used the front doors. She signed in as a visitor. She got a little pass to clip to her clothes.

It's unnatural, is what it is.

But that's what it takes to come see her friend without rousing his entire security team. Or giving him a heart attack. And with the news buzzing around about his business, it might be a good time to go gently. So someone actually tells him that Monica is here to see him. And she actually waits right where they tell her to wait.

There's more security than the last time she was here, too. The doors have to be opened from the inside, there's a secondary set she has to pass through as well, and there are guards posted in the lobby. Not enough to make it look militarised, but it's clear that Raytech isn't taking a lot of risks here.

"Monica." A smile curving slightly to Richard's lips as he walks out in a grey suit, hands spreading a little to either side, "Good to see you. C'mon, let's go to my office."

She doesn't mind the extra security, really. It's only an old habit that makes her reluctant to use doors and to let cameras and eyes see her coming and going. Once upon a time, it was a way of life.

But easy to let go of once Richard makes an appearance. She returns his smile, sliding over to take up a spot at his side. "Rich," she says warmly, "good to see you, too." There's a gesture for him to lead the way, just before she glances up toward a camera and gives the security guys a wave.

Richard brushes a hand against the back of her shoulder as if to escort her in the right direction, heading for the elevator doors. "I hope this isn't something too dire," he says a bit wryly, "I think I've had all the bad news and demands I can handle for one month, honestly…" Into the elevator once it opens, and he hits the button for the right floor.

"It isn't dire," Monica says, tilting her head as she looks over at him, "just found myself with some free time and thought I'd come by." She steps into the elevator, leaning back against the wall for the trip up. "I heard some about your month. I'm sorry about Remi. The papers said it was a landmine left over from the war?" It's a question, because it seems like a stretch to her but she's not completely closed to the idea that she's just overly paranoid. "Too many explosions lately," she adds, seeing as her work also had one. "How are you handling it? Occupational therapy? How's… Jaiden handling it?"

"I don't believe it was a landmine for a half second, since someone tried to kill Kaylee recently for being a telepath," says Richard with a sigh, fingers raking back through his hair, "Too much of a coincidence… they say there's too much telepathic static from her death for the postcogs to find anything, though, so there's no real way to get proof. I don't believe it was a landmine, though." He glances over, one shoulder lifting in a shrug as the elevator goes up, "Jaiden's… doing the best he can. So is Graeme. She had both their kids, you know."

"Okay, good, because I didn't believe it, either." Monica frowns at the news about Kaylee and she lets out a sigh. "Is she okay? Someone's targeting your telepaths. Or all telepaths? Do we know how far it goes yet?" 'We' slips out easily, she doesn't even seem to notice. Instead, she shakes her head when he mentions Graeme. "That's right. I did know that. Will you tell them— that I'm sorry? Ugh, something better than that, you know what I mean. I'm a lot better with revenge than condolences." And that is true, but even so, she steps over to put her hand on his arm. "This month has sucked. I should have come by sooner."

"Oh, she's alright. Then I had Lazarro breathing down my neck because the government wanted one of my best scientists due to some… unpleasantries during and before the war," Richard says with a shake of his head, "And now she's on the run, and Luther punched me in the face." His free hand comes up to scratch at his jaw lightly, the elevator making a soft 'bing' sound as the doors slide open, "I found out some information about my biological family, my father wants nothing to do with me and I can't blame him, my mother was killed because the Company was incompetent as fuck, and then I had to interview a woman who wants me dead living in your corporate housing. So yeah— " he offers her a faint smile, the doors sliding open, "It's kind've sucked."

"The Park has had it's own fun lately. Who wants you dead? I mean, if you have a short list," she says, gallows humor with a crooked smile. "Why did Luther punch you in the face? And also— ouch." He of the broad shoulders can certainly land a solid hit, that she remembers. Monica steps out of the elevator, turning his way which leaves her walking backwards. "The Company's still haunting us, huh? I wish you had been able to find better news about your family. I mean, I know you have the siblings here, but still, it would have been nice. I know what it's like, feeling all… alone." There's a beat there, because maybe that's a little too real. So she goes on. "I got a bird, did I tell you? Foggy Nelson. Spoiled as hell, but pretty good company."

It's not at all like being alone, at all.

"A bird, eh? Nice— I got a cat," Richard admits easily, "Ingrid Ryans stopped by, almost literally threw him at me and left, saying it was fate. Crazy girl. Still, he's a good kitty." He stops at a door, reaching out to press the card from his lanyard against a panel before opening it and walking in. Grey walls and floor, office plants here and there along the walls, a black glass desk with a few odds and ends on it. An in box, a picture of Elisabeth. There's a chess game in progress on a board off to one side. The broad window gives a view of the roof-top gardens of the adjoining main building, familiar to her!

"Luther was upset that I let her escape," he admits once the door's closed, "Although I'll deny saying that to the law should you ever bring it up. And… my family's complicated. Always has been."

"Well, it's nice to know none of the Ryanses escaped being one hundred percent nutty," Monica says with a chuckle. It's the little things. The view of the gardens gets a crooked smile, as they are fairly familiar, but the rest of the office gets a more curious examination. "You could use a pop of color in here," she says, dryly. Since black on black is still her go-to color scheme.

He gets her attention again, though, so she can give him a look. Really? "As if I would." Tell the law, that is. "Luther didn't know you were gonna let her get away?" She stops her tour of the office at the picture of Liz, pausing for a long moment before she picks it up like she might need a closer look at it. "Yeah, always has been," she repeats quietly before setting the picture back down and lifting her chin back up. "At least life isn't boring? I mean, my last company meeting got exploded across two continents and my— " that word gets drawn out a little, as she attempts to work out what to call Cesar even, "— friend in SESA got sent out on an assignment over a month ago and I haven't heard from him since." She doesn't say she's worried that he might be dead, but that is the worst case scenario there. "And Marlowe's turned her boss' hospital room into a work space. I keep having to tell the nurses to let her be."

"No, it's…" A rueful almost-chuckle as Richard walks over to the desk, dropping back to sprawl in his chair, "…it's not boring, no, I'll give it that. Sorry yours has been pretty bad too." He rakes a hand back through his hair, gaze sliding to the windows. "But no, he didn't. He was— understandably angry at her after finding out what she'd done during the war, and… I needed it to look realistic. For Lazzaro's sake." He grimaces, "It was the right thing to do for everyone involved, but it was an incredibly shitty thing to do at the same time, I'll admit."

When he sits, Monica slides up onto his desk, crossing one leg over the other. "Nah. Just our entire upper ranks wiped out in one day. NBD." And as part of the public relations department, she's actually had to handle actual PR stuff. Nightmare.

She smiles a bit at his explanation, amused maybe. "So you earned the punch," she says, teasingly. "It's hard to do the right thing, hard to protect people. We pay for it, right? But you still do it. This scientist, she has a good friend in you. I hope she knows that."

"I probably did." Richard brings one shoulder up in a slight shrug, "And yeah… it is. I always do it, but it always costs me." He looks up to her with a smile, faintly sad, "And she knows. I hope. Any luck, I've bought us time to… work out her situation. Complicated as it is. Oh— shit. There's one other thing that you should know. Hush-hush, all secret…"

"Not as much as sitting by and doing nothing would, I think," Monica says, reaching over to squeeze his shoulder. Affection. Encouragement. "I always liked that about you. Conviction. And you know— if you need help with all this stuff on your plate, I'm here. If I can help, you can always call me."

His last words get a warmer smile and she curls her fingers under the edge of his desk. "I love hush-hush. What's up?"

Richard's head tilts a little to one side, looking at her as she says that as if he wasn't sure she meant it— then a rueful smile, one hand coming up to cover hers in a brief squeeze. "Thanks, Monica," he allows quietly, "That means a lot. I don't have many people I can rely on for this sort of… thing these days."

Then he reaches over, picking up the framed picture on his desk. "Mm. This is going to get a little weird, so you're going to have to put the whole 'that's impossible' reflex away in a box for now." Silent a moment, looking at that picture in his hand, he says finally, "Liz survived. Magnes, too."

"I don't, either. Have many people," Monica says, "My own fault, I know. But there was a time when I was completely lost and you gave me a purpose. And a future. I haven't forgotten that." She looks down, though, fiddling with a pen sitting on his desk. It's a very interesting pen. And who knows, around here, it could be a robot.

Her gaze moves to follow him, though, chuckling at his words. "Weird was normal, once upon a time." Which is to say, that reflex is easy to ignore. She watches him looking at the picture, her head tilted, her expression sobering. But when he gets the news out, her look turns to a stare.

"How? Where are they? Are they okay? Jesus, of course they're not okay. How?"

The mention of giving her purpose earns her a faint smile, genuine for it, and then Richard's looking back to the picture. "Time," he explains, falling into his lecturer voice that she likely recalls, "Is not a line. Every decision creates a new timeline, a new string along which the future travels. Somewhere we didn't stop the virus, somewhere we didn't stop the flood, et cetera, et cetera."

A deep breath, exhaled slowly, "When Magnes focused all his gravitational power into a single point under my alternate's control, and that crazy sonuvabitch aimed the Mallett Device at it—- the combination of things tore a hole between strings. It dumped them into another world."

Hazel eyes flicker up to her, "Some of Brian and Gillian's kids - from the Lighthouse?— found a camcorder in the sewers. It was a tape of them attempting to create another portal, to try and get back. It didn't work very well — but it worked well enough to get the camcorder through to here."

The tone is familiar, enough to get a flash of a warm smile as he starts. Monica tilts her head, though, more serious as he explains. Especially as one of the former future-murders, what he says has something of an impact. But one she's able to mostly bury. What she has a harder time stopping is the roll of her shoulder, there where skin meets prosthesis. Her own reminder of what happens when a mad man from the future decides to mix his science experiments and see what happens.

Monica gets to her feet. Her hand moves over her mouth for a moment as she crosses the room to stand in front of the windows. For years she's been holding that one moment in her mind— when she could have stopped that black hole with the pull of a trigger. All she would have needed to do was trade one life for others. One friend for another. An impossible decision. And she lost them both for not taking it.

"Another world," she repeats, mostly to prove she's listening. And to make sure she still has a voice. It takes time, but she controls whatever internal turmoil she's juggling and turns to him to handle the practical parts. "Pretty good start, if the camera and the tape both survived. Not living things good, but pretty good." And she knows Liz won't give up. "What can we do?"

"Nothing." The picture's set down, Richard's head shaking as he pushes himself up to his feet. Stepping away from the desk, coming up behind her and resting a hand on her shoulder. "Edward… left me instructions to be on the roof of the Deveraux Building this Christmas. Last note he left for me, back in twenty-twelve. Eve painted a picture years ago of the roof of the Deveraux Building, with— what I know is a dimensional portal appearing, and coordinates. Christmas, again." He looks out over the garden, adding, "And one of Else's last written songs can be interpreted as a journey through four timelines to 'get back home'. Washed up on the shore of the never-was…"

He offers her a smile, faint again, but there's confidence in his eyes and his voice. "They're coming home. We just need to be here when they get back."

"Nothing?" Monica is surprised at that, but it passes quickly because of course they can't do anything. If they could reach through timelines to help, they wouldn't need to help. Still, doing nothing is hard for her to accept. She'll get there, eventually. She listens to why there's nothing to do but wait with a gentle sigh. "Okay, so Christmas plans are set then," she says with a small, but crooked smile. "How are you so calm about this," she adds with a laugh. And she crosses back over to pull him into a hug, maybe a little overzealous, but only because it comes on impulse and excitement.

"I've had to explain it more than once," Richard chuckles, returning the hug— chin briefly resting against her head as he breathes out a sigh, "I got all my freaking out about it done by now. Just counting the days, and… dealing with shit as it comes."

"How many people decided you'd lost your mind?" Monica leans back, but not too far, just so she can look at him. "Right. We have to keep you and yours alive between now and then. I don't want to have to tell Liz any bad news." Of course, he's got the security part handled, so Monica thinks for a moment about her own contribution to Richard's safety.

"How's a monthly hangout sound? Movie night. Poking around the ruins. Hitting golf balls off the roof, I don't know. But something. We'd only have six before we have to figure out what Liz likes for a monthly hangout night."

"More than a few," admits Richard, looking back down at her, "Not a lot of people have much faith in me these days… pretty sure that half of them look at me and see him." He brings one shoulder up in a shrug, "It is what it is. And— a hangout night could be fun." A smile crooks up a bit more, "Assuming I'm not assassinated by Eileen Ruskin and her friends, or some human traffickers on Staten Island, or Lazarro decides to throw me in jail for collaboration or something, I'd love to."

"Hey," Monica says, poking a finger against his shoulder, for emphasis, "anyone who looks at you and sees him doesn't know what they're talking about. They don't know what he was and they don't know who you are." But she does, is the implication.

"Assuming all that, we'll have a day on the books then. So don't get killed or thrown in jail because I would be super disappointed." It's the only reason that matters, surely. "Why is Eileen trying to kill you? I thought we were all buds last time around."

"That's not Eileen," Richard admits, shrugging one shoulder - the one she just poked - and crooking a rueful smile, "Or it is, but it isn't our Eileen. She came from another timeline with the rest of the Horsemen. They want to wipe out all traces of the technology used to travel between superstrings, and she seems convinced that I'm going to re-make them."

Wry, "She had balls, at least, taking refuge at Yamagato while raiding your shipments…"

"You know, I never understood that idiom. Balls are notoriously vulnerable and easy to hurt," Monica says, but it's just idle chatter as she digests the information. A moment later, it's replaced with pacing. "I thought it was weird that she was there, that she was weighing in on security matters. I mean, a lot of us know she was never the Ferry's traitor, but the common assumption tends to lean that way."

That Eileen might turn on them isn't the real issue she's having, though. There's something else. He can see it in how her fingers twitch, how her steps quicken. Her ability wants something to do.

"Praxis was behind the bombing," she says with a certainty she can't prove, "it was organized, well timed, well executed. A whole new set of people are running Yamagato now. Hachiro hasn't improved, Kimiko hasn't improved. If someone inside wanted Eileen to be there… gave her access to information she could use to weaken us…" If, if, if. Monica turns to look at him, head tilted and an odd look on her face. "I need to do some digging."

Pacing stops and she comes to settle back next to him. "Are you going to? Re-make them. I mean, not just to piss off these Horsemen, but maybe to help Liz and Magnes, too?"

"No, she wasn't. I know who the traitor was, and it wasn't her…" Richard exhales a sigh, glancing out the window, "…they might be working with Praxis, I don't know. Someone is supplying Sedro-Wooley with tech, what I saw when I was there couldn't have been solely from your shipment that they hit. They're working with somebody at least. I doubt they came through the Looking Glass with crates of infrastructure."

He turns away at the last question, walking towards the desk and raking a hand back through his hair, "It's not that simple. My mot— Michelle was literally the smartest human being on the planet. The Company and Institute tried for years to recreate her work, and failed. Unless I can find what hole Caspar Abraham is hiding in, I doubt I even can. I…" A grimace as he drops back into his seat at the desk, "I know how to emulate some of what the Looking Glass did with evolved instead, but I can only think of how to account for two of the three travel axes. I don't suppose you know any evolved who control molecular harmonic vibrations?"

"I don't know that they're working together. But if someone inside Yamagato is trying to help bring it down, those two groups are a good start to eat away at the foundations." Monica looks over at him, nodding to his point. "So they have some kind of support out there. They would have to, to be able to hit Yamagato as hard as they did. Unless they brought things with them from wherever they came from."

She leans back against the desk when he sits, letting out a sigh of her own. The science isn't her forte, as they both know. But she lives in close proximity to it these days. Very close.

"Wolfhound could find Abraham," she says, picking up his pen again to twirl it between her fingers. "I might be able to. If we pool our resources, we'll get him. Can't hide forever." His question gets a crooked smile, playful. "Is that what the Beach Boys were singing about? What's molecular harmonic vibrations? Might be able to find someone, even if I don't know them. Did I mention that I saved Nicole Varlane's life recently? I think I might be able to call in a favor or two there."

"I honestly haven't the faintest idea," Richard admits, leaning his head back to stare at the ceiling, "Superstring travel requires three axes. Spatial, temporal, and… vibrational? I have the coordinates for our superstring, they're the frequency of the sun. I doubt that's a coincidence."

He brings his head up a bit, admitting dryly, "I suspect that Abraham's with Kravid, and let me tell you, Wolfhound's definitely looking for her and her people."

"Oh good. For a second I thought we might have it easy," Monica says with a chuckle. "I'll poke at it, see what the brains over at Yamagato think it might mean. Um. Brains I can trust." There's a handful. One of them might be an artificial brain, but still, he counts. "Something like a tuning fork for the right universe, yeah? Diving rod, whatever. So the spacial-temporal part doesn't drop you in the middle of a planet or something. We've been having those crazy solar flares, maybe someone is already trying to tap into that frequency, yeah?"

That's a joke. Because the science part is really obtuse to her. But she's okay with that, most of the time.

"Okay, so to sum up. We have Horsemen from another timeline trying to make sure no one else can travel between the strings, but we need our people to be able to by Christmas so we have to try to build a machine that the Horsemen want to kill you and your people for building even before you wanted to build it. And somewhere in there, I get to punch someone. Hopefully."

"I'm working on making radio contact with another timeline," Richard admits, gesturing vaguely across the desk at people who aren't there, "Even if Gillian keeps making 'you're going to destroy the world' faces at me."

His hands drop, then, "And yeah, the tuning fork thing, essentially. And I don't think we need to build a machine at all, but— " He grimaces, "— there are other reasons to try and build the machine. Fuck." Finger rub against the bridge of his nose, "This is giving me a headache. I just wanted to build infrastructure. So… the best chance we got is probably to locate Kravid and what's left of the Institute. Then we can sic Wolfhound on them, and hopefully recover Caspar."

"You know, there was a time in my life when that statement would have seemed like gibberish," Monica says, although the tilt of her smile gives away that she doesn't think that was a better time. "I get that this is one of those things you need to be careful with and check and double check, but I dunno. The world seems pretty resilient so far. Plus, if people have already come through, I don't think a few communications are gonna hurt. We haven't blown up yet." Which is always a good sign.

Monica reaches over, a hand resting on his cheek. "The world's always gonna need saving. No matter what happens, no matter what we do. But the thing that's gonna last? Is what you're doing here, in Jackson Heights. Building a future instead of murdering one. This thing with Kravid and the timelines, that's part of making our little corner of the world the best we can make it. But. You've got people you can lean on for the headache stuff. Delegate. It doesn't have to be all on your shoulders.'

Richard tilts his head into that touch, offering her a faint smile; the facade crumbling just a bit. "Not as many as once," he admits, "There aren't many people who really believe in me anymore, Moni— all I get are worried looks and punches in the face anymore. Once upon a time, I'd have people lining up to help, but…" He draws back with a sigh, closing his eyes as he leans back, "People were Liz's job. Not mine. I really do hope what we make here lasts, because that's the kind of legacy I want. Just doesn't seem like fate agrees."

"That's not true," Monica says, pushing back up onto the desk, "Liz was good, don't get me wrong. But I was never there for her. I was there for you. She was an ally, she could issue orders, but we followed you. And when you were gone, stuck in the timestream for all those months? We fell apart without you. I don't know what all happened to make you feel like you weren't the glue the whole time, but you were." She drops the pen back into place before she looks back over at him again. "People want to believe in you, Richard. Believe in them, they'll return the favor."

Those last words get a crooked smile, more impish than it should be probably. "Since when do we care what fate wants? It needs to get over itself. We'll help it along in that."

Richard's hands spread slightly. "I was back. She was gone, and…" His hands drop, "So was everyone else. I didn't even see most of you until after the war was long over, Monica." He brings a hand up, rubbing against the side of his neck self-consciously, "I had my family and— that was about it. If I was the glue— I didn't hold things together very well. Or at all, really."

He shrugs, "I plan on trying, that's for damn sure. It just— " A grimace, "It feels like something's coming, and it's something bad. Like all of this is just… a prelude."

"No. After Alaska, that was different. Rich. I let you down in Alaska. And after. I… have never been good for much of anything except the fight and I couldn't even do that anymore. Not really." Monica's cybernetic fingers move, curling in, fanning out. "I didn't know who I was without it. Still don't, mostly. That wasn't your fault, though. And by the time I was coming back out in the world, I didn't know how to find anyone. But I never stopped believing in you. Just myself."

Which is all a lot more real than she tends to get these days. And while she might normally lean back on a joke to flip the tone back upward, his next words keep her from doing it. "I'm with you there. We're in the storm before the storm."

"You never let me down, Monica," says Richard with a furrowed brow, leaning forward and resting an arm on the desk's edge to get closer, "I told you that in the cabin. I meant it then— and I mean it now. You have never let me down, not once. I've never asked you to do a single thing that I wasn't proud of how you carried it out. Not once." Eyebrows go up, "I don't wanna hear any more of that, since I'm the only one who'd know if I was let down."

Monica looks at him when he moves closer, his words getting a small shake of her head. She's never really been good with emotions, her own especially. Worse now that she's spent years locking herself down. Her eyes glisten and she squeezes them shut for a moment. It doesn't help much, because she still looks just as shaken when she looks at him again. She opens her mouth to say something, but nothing seems to be coming to her.

So instead, she leans forward, with very little warning, and presses her lips to his. Her fingers rest against his cheek, a far more gentle touch than she's generally known for.

She closes her eyes against emotion, and Richard's expression softens. "I mean it," he starts to say, looking up to her from his position, "You've always— "

Then she's kissing him, and he's not entirely sure how that happened.

After a moment, his own hand comes up to brush against her cheek, breath caught in his throat as he returns that kiss for a long moment before drawing away slightly, blinking up at her in startled, mute questioning.

Monica trembles under that touch and she leans into him all the more for it. But when he pulls back, she does, too. Just enough to breathe. "Sorry," she says, giving away that this wasn't exactly the plan, but an impulse she didn't fight off. And the fact that her hand slides to the back of his neck gives away that it isn't an impulse she necessarily regrets. "Is this okay?" she asks, a touch of embarrassment in her tone since that's definitely a question she should have asked a few moments before now.

One doesn't normally plan this sort of thing, after all! Richard draws in a slow breath, then exhales it along with a faint almost-chuckle. "Yeah, it," he murmurs, thumb brushing the corner of her mouth as he looks back to her, "Yeah, I was just… um. Surprised?" He was definitely surprised. Not wanting to give her the idea that he regretted that impulse, though, he leans in to brush his lips back to hers again.

It's only polite. It was his turn.

"That's fair," Monica says, amusement brightening her eyes and the brush of his thumb drawing a crooked smile from her. When he leans back in, something else flashes into her expression just for a moment— anticipation and desire get reflected in the kiss as she leans into it. So it may come as less of a surprise when she starts to peel her jacket off and moves to climb into his chair, a knee falling on either side of him.

There are a lot of ways to ward off loneliness, after all. Hers. His.

As she peels off that jacket and leans in more, Richard's lips part against hers to deepen that kiss; fingers raking back over her neck and into her hair, his other arm reaching to pull her fully to him as the heat between them rises abruptly in more ways than one.

There are a lot of ways to ward off loneliness. Sera will have to hold his appointments for the rest of the morning, because they'll be practicing one for awhile this afternoon.

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