A Rue By Any Other Name


devon5_icon.gif seren3_icon.gif

Scene Title A Rue By Any Other Name
Synopsis Devon drops by Seren's for an impromptu visit to discuss Rue… and Rue.
Date September 24, 2020

7:48 pm
hey, seren, it's devon from wolfhound. im working on the case rue got wrapped up in earlier this year. are you busy?

Raytech Industries Corporate Housing

8:27 pm

When Seren opens the door to their apartment in the Raytech housing complex, they have a guarded expression on their face despite best attempts to hide it. "Devon," they greet him quietly. "Hey, come on in." They're dressed down for the evening, drowning in black sweats and a grey tank top. When the door closes, they reaffix the deadbolt and then gesture inside.

They've done a lot to make the eco-brutalist architecture of the new housing complex more homely. Bright colors dominate their home, rugs on the floor shades of warm oranges and reds, complementing the sofas in the living room. Warm-colored woods make up the other furniture, and plants hang from twine nests on the ceiling in corners and along the main entry.

The succulents hanging near the door are eye-catching, flowers on their bodies brightly colored. A blue bloom with yellow bodies of pistils glow in the dim light of the entryway.

Baird makes himself known by barreling down the hall on lemur-paws. He glides on bat wings to collide with Seren's back, holding onto their shirt and clambering up to poke his head over their shoulder, peering at Devon with his ring-tailed face and golden eyes. Seren looks back at him with a scoffed chuckle, reaching back to scratch the side of his head. "Curious after all?" they tease him.

Baird's ear twitches in reply, and follows it with a coo that sounds birdlike, of all things.

"Anyway, what can I do for you?" they ask, looking back to Devon with less weight on their shoulders than before, despite the creature clinging to it.

“Hey,” Devon greets with a small, crooked grin that seems normal and natural in spite of a subtle uncertainty that gripped him as soon as the door to the apartment opened. He doesn't know Seren, although his other self didn't exactly know them either, he had the luxury of at least meeting them on a few occasions.

“I…” he has to pause when Baird comes running. For someone who's faced down evo-hunting robots without flinching, it's the smaller beasts that he finds somehow unsettling, and Baird is no exception. Though the creature is regarded with only the slightest knitting of brows — one can almost hear the young man wonder if it bites — until Baird makes sounds. That's unexpected and disarming.

Dev looks from one face to the other. His twin likely had a similar reaction, but there's no reference point for him here and now. “Sorry,” he offers. It lands somewhere between a question and an embarrassed chuckle.

“I know it's late but…” Devon hitches a shoulder up slightly. It's meant to be another apology. “I was hoping you could help me. I'm trying to track a couple of names that came up.”

For a moment, Seren doesn't seem to know what to make of that. And clearly, that takes priority over reaction to Baird. They reluctantly sigh, and just as reluctantly nod. "I mean— yeah, come on in. I'll tell you whatever I can, I just don't know what good it'll do you."

As they turn and head down the hall, they brush one hand against the petals of one of the hanging flowers. It glows, letting off a golden glimmer of pollen that floats downward as they head through the main hall and into the living room. Baird unravels himself from their shoulder to spring onto the back of the couch in a scamper to reclaim his spot before anyone else has the chance to steal it. Seren's spot is near enough by it on the L-shaped couch, and then sink down into it hard, glancing up at Devon with a touch of wariness.

"She's not gotten herself into any more trouble, has she?" they can't help but ask with cautious hesitation, concern at the heart of it.

The passing inspection that Devon gives the apartment is one of casual appreciation. There's something inspiring in the unique and warming decor that fills the otherwise utilitarian space. It distracts from his hesitation over Baird and seems to ease the awkward nature of the visit.

Until Seren voices their concern. “No.” Devon is quick to answer, although a frown briefly touches his forehead. He's certain that Rue isn't in more trouble, simply the same trouble as before.

“She was working at Cat’s Cradle.” Which still seems odd, as odd as how well she'd been moving between him and other customers. Like she hadn't been grievously wounded just some months before. Confusion colors the look he gives Seren as he continues.

“She thought you might know about Hollis or Adrianne? She…” Dev looks aside in search of a fair description, one that isn't tainted by his severed friendship with the other Hound. “She wasn't happy that I was digging into it again, and wasn't happy those names were brought up.”

Seren nods slowly at the news about Cat's, their eyes forward and distant for all that they try to carry an aloof attitude about it. "Cat's. Sure." They definitely knew that's where she'd been spending her time up until now, sure. Their brow furrows and they look down at hands clasped between their knees. Baird leaves his spot standing watch on the back of the couch in favor of climbing onto Seren's back again, taking advantage of the fact they're not leaning back into the cushions, apparently. He tugs on the black cord of a necklace wound around their neck, leading them to place their hand over his and hush him.

Whatever the desired effect the figment had been going for, they're no longer falling deep into their thoughts, at least.

They take in a breath and hold it re-examining their reply before they simply shake their head. "No," they admit on a weary note. "No, neither of those names are familiar to me." They roll their jaw, tongue visibly pressed to the roof of their mouth before they continue on. "The only name Rue brought up, the only— unknown face she brought up was someone she called Li, and it was right before she pulled a gun on me."

The flicker of movement belonging to Baird briefly gains Devon's attention. He's once again stricken briefly with a sense of uncertainty that he’s never been able to explain. It contrasts and buries a thrill of wonder, reminiscent of childhood. He'd be curious if he could get past his subtle discomfort.

“Li,” he echoes, Seren’s voice drawing him back to his reason for intruding. A question hooks on it, but the line snaps as they continue. Pulled a gun. Devon lifts his eyed from Baird to look at Seren.

“I'm sorry, she did what?”

Seren only shakes their head, looking off. "Yeah, of course she'd not have mentioned that part. That would have been awkward, wouldn't it." they mutter, more disappointed than full of vitriol. Whatever issue they take, somehow, it's not with Rue herself in this particular instance. Meanwhile they're lost in their thought, Baird expresses interest in Devon, puppylike amber eyes swiveling up to him as he lets go of Seren's necklace. He braces himself against their shoulder, thinking about drawing nearer. His head turns off to the side as he considers a method of approach.

"The Rue Lancaster that lured me to Cat's Cradle," and that part is a touch bitter, knowing that Rue works there now, "when she realized I was onto her, she… made her way to the couch in the apartment and pulled a gun on me to keep me from leaving. I asked her— the code phrase that was supposed to let me know if she was who she said she was. And, you know? She wasn't."

Quiet, Seren lifts their head to look back to Devon. "No, she wasn't my Rue, but someone else's entirely. Li." Their gaze goes distant briefly before returning to the moment as they suggest, "I've got a portrait of her, if it'd help. I don't know how much it would, though. She said— it'd been 'eight years, three months, twenty-five days' since her wife had been taken from her. I'm— pretty sure she's dead."

Devon is silent as Seren explains. His brows furrow, contemplative, as he digests the story piece by piece. He glances once at Baird, but the depths of things exposed by Seren’s accounting of Rue hold his thoughts. Rhys looks up with a concerned expression to Cesar, barely able to stand on his own. “They let the wrong person go.” The woman’s gaze stays narrowed and appraising, though not much hostile, “Now I know someone who might sort of match that description, but that ain’t the name I know her by.”

“Eight years,” he murmurs to make note of it. Hands pat at pockets in the midst of distraction. He should have brought a notepad. “Was… Is Li her wife?” “‘M Hollis. Thought maybe her wife finally called her home.”

A tightness settles into his stomach. Devon’s brows bunch and he looks toward the window, whatever he’d found months before tumbles like the pieces of a spilled jigsaw puzzle. Too much to make sense of just now, especially without the notes he’d made when he’d first started work on the case. One thing has undoubtedly been made clear.

“There’s two of them.” As his voice comes back, his eyes return to Seren to find confirmation in that fact despite the confidence he speaks with. “Two versions of Rue, and one of them is working at Cat’s Cradle.” Here Dev pauses again to wonder which is at the bar, and where is the other. “That picture might be helpful. And a last name?” There’s a handwritten name on a scrap of paper laid out behind the yellowing plastic shield that reads Adrianne Dietrich. “Do you know it?”

Seren slowly comes to their feet meanwhile Baird leaps properly from their shoulder and walks around the back of the couch, inching closer and closer to Devon. His hands are always the thing that come first. He would like to say hello with them, but he's still not sure he's wanted, possibly. He's working on a solution though.

He'll find one. He's determined.

Meanwhile his summoner is rubbing the side of their neck while they approach the desk by the floor-to-ceiling windows. It's laden with charcoal sketches, and sifting through them they realize quickly it's not in the mix anymore. "Yeah," they relate quietly, without particular affect. "Somehow, there's two of them. And the one that held me up is one convinced the other is ruining her life, but not fast enough, so she decided to…"

Seren pauses, tongue passing over their teeth before they busy themself with pulling out a manila folder from the desk organizer that only haphazardly does its job. As calmly as they're able, they leaf through the pages within as they turn back to the couch. "Anyway, I don't have a last name. I'm assuming Lancaster, unless they didn't share names while married. Li is obviously a nickname, short for… who knows."

They pull off a sketch from the top, a pencil sketch of a woman with pastel pink hair and pronounced cheeks accented by a tightened, close-mouthed smile. The green of her eyes otherwise pop against the graphite sketch, the only two things in color. It accents the sadness in them, the tears at the corner of her eyes. The woman sketched has her brow pulled together even while she smiles. Like she's happy, but— she knows something distressing, even if she's smiling her way through it.

“Hey, please don’t cry. You’re gonna be alright. I really wanna give you a hug right now, but that would look weird so I’ll just have to wait until no one’s watching.” Agent Messer scrunches up her face a bit. “But tears are a lot. We’ve got this, I promise you’re going to be alright.”

Seren's a good hand, a good eye for detail. Even with the emotion of the memory they put to paper, the woman's unmistakably got the features of…

Of one of the agents who brought Rue in?

"Our Rue is easy to tell apart, since she's in a brace, but with her getting better—" Or they assume she's still getting better, since she's working somewhere now, "Maybe we won't be able to tell the difference forever. But Our Rue knows Baird's favorite food. And the Other Rue, Li called her Rhubarb."

Abruptly, Devon's shoulder is tapped after he's been suitably distracted by the proffered sketch. Excuse, Baird politely indicates, very close now. He would like to see, too.

The sketch is taken with the same air of distraction as the hunt for a notepad and pen. Devon’s mind reels with the calculated chaos of a game of Snake. Just as soon as he feels like he’s landed on one thing, another reappears that he has to maneuver for. The drawing is no different, he both knows and doesn’t know the woman depicted in front of him.

”Hiiii…” Liza’s voice rings out somewhat pleasantly as she slowly makes her way over to bridge the distance. About to retreat to go get the car, Liza stops as soon as she hears what Rhys says. “Weeellll…” Her eyes fix on Rue. Liza returns the smile “If nothing else I’ll be a friendly face.”

The tap on his shoulder draws him back to the present and, surprised, he looks

at Baird. An uneasy tenseness settles between his brows, a quick look shoots to Seren then returns to the creature. Small movements, with all the care of a brain surgeon operating for the first time, he turns the artwork to allow Baird a look also. His gaze returns to Seren with the faintest undertone of unsureness.

“That’s…” Devon’s eyes flick to the paper then away again. “Agent Messer. Liza. She’s a SESA agent.” It doesn’t answer any of the questions that have come up from Seren’s revelations, but it has turned the dead end into a many-forking path. “Do you think you’d be able to tell the differences? If we went to the bar, would you know if that’s your Rue or the other without putting yourself into more danger?”

Tiny hands settle on Devon's shoulder with weight to it; not an uncomfortable amount, but enough to announce Baird's presence. He reaches out to grasp at the edge of the paper, at once curious and also wanting to dash it away since he knows what the topic does to Seren. They catch wind of his intention before he has time to act on it, hands lifted to catch him. "Come here, you."

That grabs his attention, and before Devon has any say in the matter he's being used as a launchpad as the lemur-bat goes leaping into his imagineer's arms. The fur of his black-ringed tail goes grazing past his launchpad's cheek and nose, the flit of tail helping to balance the creature out and course correct on their way to a position slightly off from where he would have landed otherwise.

"Gotcha," Seren enthuses to the little creature, arms braced around him so he can hang off their shoulder and hip without risk of falling. Then, though, they have to turn back to the conversation, as uncomfortable as it is.

"I mean, yes," they admit, but it doesn't sound like they want to. "I'm assuming the passcode will still work, if nothing else. She said Rue hadn't writ that detail down in her diary… which is, I guess where she got a lot of her information from."

It's a bad memory, one that makes them close their eyes in pain, head tilting away from the conversation. "But, um… if I had to guess, the other Rue might be done messing around with ours. Maybe. She didn't seem happy things went the way they did with me, both before and— after she held me up. She…" Seren's brow furrows, eyes opening to a distant stare off to the side. "She didn't seem happy about any of it by the end. I don't think she got what she wanted to out of it. I think she was looking for validation that she was the better of the two of them and I… I yelled at her over it."

Still avoiding Devon in particular, they look back down at Baird as he tugs on the chest of their shirt to get their attention, offering him a small smile. They'll be okay.

"She said she didn't know what was going to happen with Richard. She seemed to regret that, too."

He’s listening, while studying the drawing, while somehow pretending there isn’t a Baird on his shoulder and looking at the picture too. If he can get a tag on which one is which…

The thought ends, interrupted by a flurry of bat wings and lemur tail.

Devon is left temporarily unsure of what to make of the experience. From Baird perching on his shoulder, tiny hands grabbing for things, fur floofing against his face while the unusual creature uses him like a springboard. It draws Devon’s attention from the murky and uncertain depths of what he knows versus what he knows and brings it back to Seren.

Whatever Baird’s antics had really meant, finding Seren struggling with the memories puts a full stop on the Hound’s investigations.

“Seren,” he starts, apologetic and regretful that he hadn’t been more tactful. He, of all people, should know better. “I’m sorry. I got carried away with…” He glances at the drawing, then offers it back to its owner. “I’m sorry, I should’ve considered your feelings instead of running with everything you’ve shared.”

Seren shakes their head firmly, jaw setting. "Listen, Rue getting her name cleared was the most important thing to me. It's why I called SESA and told them all this, too— what little good it seemed to do me or her. I tried explaining there was a second Rue Lancaster, and they— it's not like they didn't believe me, but they asked me to explain how, and…" A touch of frustration enters their expression as they look to Devon. "That's their job, not mine, isn't it?"

They let out a sigh, adjusting Baird's seat on their hip. "Mr. Ray doesn't talk about what happened to him, but he came back changed. He… he deserves justice for what happened. Maybe she made a mistake, maybe she made it for the wrong reasons and only realized it later, but she needs stopped before she ruins anyone else's lives." Brow furrowing, they add more quietly, "She already ruined Rue's and mine."

“It is,” Devon agrees quietly. He looks at Baird, still vaguely unsure about the creature, but seeming to silently consult on the situation. At least his own expression appears that way.

“You know.” His voice takes on a new energy, one that isn't rushed or hasty, but still determined. “It was Agent Bluthner who first acknowledged the differences.” He chooses his words carefully. The beginnings of an idea form with his words, based on the pieces of his memories, scattered like a jigsaw puzzle thrown by an angry toddler. “He said some things during the arrest, I'm still working out what it all meant. However.”

Devon looks up at Seren. “Would you be willing to press charges against the false Rue? For what she did specific to you. I'm not entirely sure, but I think we can show a connection to the other kidnappings.” At the very least, the assault and false imprisonment should be enough to hold for a few days.

Seren is in the process of lifting their shoulders in a large, open shrug when Baird decides to crawl up their arm and sit on their shoulders, encouraging them to make room for him. They reach over to ruffle fur under a trio of fingertips as he sits on their shoulder, arm stretched over the top of their head. Is it a hug? Whatever it is, it doesn't phase them.

And ultimately, they just shrug their free shoulder again anyway.

"She wasn't a false Rue," is what they finally state with certainty, and it doesn't sound like they're avoiding the question, just pointing out something that needs acknowledged. "She just— I don't know how, but she was Rue. I almost— for a minute, I didn't know it was her. And even then, I didn't want to believe it. I'd heard, but I didn't want to…"

Seren trails off in a mumble, "Didn't want to believe that something like that was happening."

“You're right.” The correction was fair. Just as he's struggled with being the wrong Devon, he shouldn't be labeling someone in similar fashion. “She's still Rue. Not ours, but still Rue from…” He trails off, realizing he doesn't know. And that he didn't know there were two of them before tonight.

Brows furrow, his mouth closes. He’ll have to figure out how to reconcile that bit of new knowledge.

Devon’s focus shifts from introspection after a moment and returns to Seren. “Would you press charges,” he asks again, quieter, and less persistent than he may have presented the request before. A beat later he includes Baird in the question with a look, imploring.

It's the look to Baird that seems to seal it. Or at least, it does before he slides his furry arm down the front of their face and they get a noseful of it when Seren is about to reply. They sputter for a second, one foot going back in a bracing position in anticipation of a wobbling Baird. When he does indeed go scampering behind their head from one shoulder to the other like it'll erase the whoops, their brow creases with a resigned smile as they glance at him.

"I mean the kidnapping charge should obviously come first," Seren opines, then looks back to Devon a touch uncomfortably. "But… sure. I mean, if nothing else stuck. There's laws against breaking and entering and threatening someone with a gun, still, right?"

They're joking. Hopefully there still is.

“There's laws against entering premises uninvited,” Devon confirms, eyes following Baird as he continues, “and the gun. That's assault even if she didn't physically hurt you. Some lawyers could argue attempted murder, and that would stick if we knew her angle and could prove she intended to follow through if you hadn't agreed.” Still a possibility, but that one is pinned as unlikely.

“We should be able to get kidnapping added once she's detained. I wonder if there’re laws specific to stolen valor.” He allows his thoughts to rest there for only a minute.

“I've got some calls to make,” Dev decides. There are favors to ask, steps to take. He’ll need to coordinate with Agent Bluthner, maybe Jared could offer legal advice. He drags a hand over his face and takes a breath. “We can make this right, Seren. It's going to be hard, but…” He glances at Baird, seeking help for the confidence inspiring speech he'd like to make.

A quiet chitter comes from Baird to finish out whatever it is Devon meant to say, one that curls in on itself into a catlike mrow after the initial clicks of sound.

The references Devon make go largely over Seren's head, save for it relies on you to press charges to get this ball rolling, according to him. Even Baird's encouragement that it'll be worth it falls flat against their mood. Their lower lip worries as they bite on the inside of it, glancing down and then back up again. When they speak, it's not about Rue at all.

Not that Rue, at least.

"She's still not come back?" they ask. "To Wolfhound?"

Devon’s mouth twists in what might be a smile of thanks. He couldn’t have said it better — even if he had vocal talents to rival Baird’s. “Tomorrow morning, we’ll get started officially.” It’s going to mean a long night ahead. Not that it’s anything new. The smile fades following a look to Seren — nothing he can say will be of any more comfort than what’s been offered already — then disappears entirely with the question.

“I haven’t seen her,” he admits, regret touching his tone and expression. “It… the raid was bad. Our team was hit hard.”

Seren's hands clasp together before them for a lack of knowing what else to do with them, fingers lacing. It's not their business, they try to tell themself. But it's… so very hard not to still care. Baird pulls on the shoulder of their shirt in sympathy.

"I'm sorry. I— I'm hoping she'll…"

They fail to find more words than that, but when they look up again, it's with a warm smile, one they try to keep from thinning. "I'm glad she's still got someone fighting for her. If— if you need anything, Devon, just let us know, okay?"

Nodding, Devon musters that crooked grin again. It’s small, hindered by sorrow for Seren’s losses, compounded by the hurt from his own. But he makes an honest effort, nods again. “Yeah. We’ll make this right again. She’ll be back.”

Taking a breath, Devon checks his phone for the time. “Thank you for talking with me,” he says, looking up to find both Seren and Baird. “I’ll… see if I can pull enough strings to have an interview tomorrow. The sooner we start…” The better.

"I hope you find everything you need, and that they believe your determination more than they did mine," Seren offers up, their smile diminishing none. They mean it.

Baird on their shoulder shifts, one hand lifted by his side in a curl before he unfurl it to give Devon a small wave and a final chitter of encouragement.

His final verdict: That one's all right. He can come back anytime.

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