A Shadowed Homecoming


elisabeth4_icon.gif kaylee_icon.gif richard4_icon.gif

Scene Title A Shadowed Homecoming
Synopsis It should have been a celebration, but it's just too hard.
Date January 22, 2020

RayTech Building, NYCSZ Branch

The security gates rattle steadily as they close behind the limousine that was sent to pick up Richard Ray upon his return to the United States, the sleek black vehicle rolling to a halt in front of the doors of the main building. A minute - maybe two - passes before one of the passenger doors swings open.

One foot hits the blacktop first, and then the end of an antique cane - the silver wolf’s head of it used as leverage as Richard pulls himself out of the vehicle. He looks like hell; his hair and beard are scraggly from lack of a razor or scissors, he’s paler and thinner than he was, and if his sunglasses were off one imagines they’re pretty sunken from a lack of sleep.

But he’s alive. And home.

The relief on getting the call that the jet was in the air and en route home is indescribable. Elisabeth still doesn't know for sure what happened — just that it was bad. And she sent the kids to stay with Harmony for his arrival home so as not to overwhelm him with the energy the munchkins put off.

As the car pulls in, she is tense but not unhappily — and when he finally climbs out of the car, she pulls in a breath to calm her heart. Sharing a glance with Kaylee, Elisabeth pushes open the door. Uncertain how hurt he might be, she comes to a halt in front of him before reaching out to touch his face. Blue eyes search his features and he can see the flash of knee-melting relief and joy at seeing him mixed with concern.

Dressed for earlier meetings, Kaylee stays back as Elisabeth moves forward, a hand moving to keep the door from closing. She gives the lovebirds space. Once she had known his plane had landed, she had the rest of the meeting wiped for the day. Seeing him, she knows it was the right call.

Behind her, security stood waiting, just in case. Bob lets out a soft prayer of thanks, under his breath. He motions the guards with him to keep an eye on their bosses, before his guilt forces him to become scarce. Bob just needed to see Richard for himself.

The telepath doesn’t watch him leave, but she knows. Her attention is on the man just out of her reach. Kaylee’s jaw clenches against the surge of emotions at seeing him, eyes pricking with relief that he was finally home. The hand on the door, curls into a fist and lightly taps on the door. She had told herself she wouldn’t cry, not yet.

At the sight of his wife and sister, Richard manages a smile— if a faint one, little more than a tug of his lips up at one corner as he tries to muster the expression for their sake. He takes a step away from the limo, and then Elisabeth is coming out to greet him.

A breath’s pulled in upon her reaching for him, and he jerks away instinctively, one hand coming up warningly. “Careful! Don’t— don’t touch me, it’s not…” He exhales the sigh, shoulders sinking a bit, “It’s not safe, lover. Not… not right now.” It kills him to say it, to pull away from her. The one thing he wants more than anything is to hold her right now, but he can’t.

He swallows once, hard, looking at her through those dark glasses and saying softly as his fingers twist atop the wolf-headed cane, “It’s good to see you, though. Can we— go inside?”

The reflexive jerk backward makes her go still, her hand falling slowly. It's all she can do to mask the hurt — not because she thinks he doesn't want her to touch him but because it's confirmation of what she fears. That what happened to him and to Nathalie potentially did a hell of a lot more to him than he's been able to say so far. Elisabeth's smile is tremulous but she nods immediately; tears will be for another time. "Let's get you inside and settled."

Pivoting on her heel, her gaze takes in his physical state as he moves and Elisabeth can see the toll on him. He's exhausted. And he's steadying himself on … an artifact that makes her eyes narrow just slightly.

Reaching the doors, she holds it open to let him precede her and greet his sister. "Should we settle you into the smaller apartment?" Elisabeth asks quietly — they never got rid of hers when she and Aura moved into his and made it their home. If he needs separation from people, it might be a good option. But she’s not sure what he needs and it makes her a bit anxious.

Watching Richard jerk away from his wife, wipes away all her struggles not to cry or the desire to hug him fiercely. Worry bleeds in as it confirms what they knew. As he approaches, Kaylee’s chin lifts a bit and he gets that familiar smile. “Big Brother,” she manages softly in greeting, moving out of the way so that he can go inside, hands folding in front of her to stay her need to ensure he’s real.

“Mr.Ray,” is echoed from the guards standing readily inside, one even adding a “Welcome back.”

“Business is still standing, we managed to not burn it down,” Kaylee offers in an attempt of levity and because this was all so awkward, though her heart isn’t into it. “We kept busy though, a lot to tell you about once you’ve had time to settle and get your bearings.”

That flash of hurt is like a dagger in his guts, and Richard’s gaze cuts away from her so he doesn’t need to see it. Then she moves, and so does he, walking towards the doors - the cane isn’t entirely needed, but it helps.

And obviously it has meaning as more than a mere prop.

“Kyle. Dave. Bob. Good to be home,” he offers to the security guards, trying to put on a brave face as he straightens a bit, a nod over to them as he steps in, “Little sister.”

He offers her a faint, tired smile, “I wasn’t worried. I knew the place would be in good hands— sorry for, you know, interrupting your other job.”

Just a nod to the latter. He’s sure there is. For later.

There's a low murmur from Elisabeth to the large dark-skinned man unobtrusively holding up a column in the lobby that she'll be in for the night is the only thing she really says to the security personnel — they need to reassure themselves that he's okay too. He was taken right from under their noses. Shifting her weight uncertainly, she says, "Kaylee, come on up with us?"

She's not going to grill him on it all, but Elisabeth would definitely like to get him to a quiet location to sit down and rest some. This way he won't have to tell as much of the story as he can more than once for today. She is having to bite back a million questions and stomp on the need to hug him tightly, and she does it by moving to call down the elevator.

The request from Liz was surprising, the telepath had been ready to let them continue on their way. There is a small nod in agreement, moving to following them with guards on her heels. Clearly, security had been tightened since he left.

“It wasn’t a problem and my bosses were understanding,” Kaylee adds with a humored glance at Liz, who was one of those. “I imagine they will be glad to get me back, but I’m not going until we are certain you’re ready.” Her tone telling him there was no hurry there.

Moving to Elisabeth’s side, Kaylee’s fingers subtly move to touch the woman’s hand. A quiet show of support and an acknowledgement of her troubles with the situation. It was hard to ignore the pain and struggle.

“Yeah, it…” Richard looks upward, watching the butterflies flutter about in their pre-programmed patterns above the lobby, “It may be a little bit before I can take the reins again.”

It’d be super awkward if he accidentally killed a Yamagato Executive or something.

Tearing his gaze away, he walked towards the elevator. So familiar, and yet something about the whole place felt dreamlike to him - as if he wasn’t really here, and was still back on that concrete floor baking in the heat of the Middle East.

Once it opens, he steps inside and slumps back against the wall, his eyes closing. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly, “I wish I was in— better shape right now. I wish this was a happier homecoming. I wish…”

Elisabeth grips Kaylee's hand hard for a moment before they all get into the elevator. She's got control of the momentary flash of hurt, and she slants a small, grateful smile at the telepath. It'll be okay. It will be. This isn't their first setback.

"Don't." As she leans back against the back wall of the lift, blue eyes look at her husband. "You are not to blame for what happened. Not to blame for Nathalie's sacrifice. And even though I know you're freaking out about it, you will be okay." There's a moment where a flash of grim acknowledgement lights her eyes. "We both know you're perfectly capable of controlling it." This is not the first world he's been in possession of it.

Pulling in a low breath, she says quietly, "I don't know if Eileen will help you. But we could ask." Elisabeth looks at him, her memories of the day Bright Eileen got the conduit sharp and cutting. She remembers the terror. And the guilt. She owes Eileen Gray too much to even articulate.

“Richard,” Kaylee says firmly, from her place at the front of the elevator, using the mom tone. “Stop. You have nothing to apologize for. Especially to us.” Arms folded across herself, watching a changed man that was still her brother at the core. The guards standing to each side of her, trying to be invisible. “You’ll get this.” Kaylee’s faith in her brother’s ability is rock solid, even if she doesn’t always agree. Even with faint memories from another time battering at her mind. So is the way of siblings.

“Though, if you start spitting out Shakespeare, I might have to shoot you,” Kaylee isn’t serious tho, the small sheepish smile tugs at the corner of her mouth. It was a voice she’d know anywhere, having experienced that man’s special brand of crazy. But the telepath keeps her ability held back as tight as she can, if she hears that voice in his head….

Kaylee lets out a soft sigh, looking down at the floor between them. “What do you need from us?” she asks quietly. “Resources? A cabin in the woods? Any special food requests?” After his ordeal maybe he’d prefer a… “Stiff drink, maybe?”

At the mention of Shakespeare, Richard actually smiles, if faintly and fleetingly. One hand lifts up to tap against the side of his head, observing quietly, “The old man’s been quiet. They all have been. Nobody’s spoken up yet. I guess they’re all sleeping in the graveyard.”

His head drops back down forward, and he opens his eyes again. “Just… a quiet apartment, a stiff drink— hah. And something that I’m really not going to enjoy— can we just get upstairs, go somewhere quiet to talk?”

"We can," Elisabeth replies. "The kids are at Harmony's. We can just go home until we sort out what you want to do next." That was basically her plan anyway. The elevator doesn't have that far to go, so the low dinging sound shouldn't be much of a surprise. She gestures for Kaylee to go ahead. "The door's open," she tells her sister-in-law.

When they finally do make their way from the lift to the apartment, it looks much as Richard remembers aside from the fact that a space has been cleared out against one of the living room walls and somewhere she ordered and managed to get a piano delivered. He said she needed a hobby other than baking.

There is a simple nod to both of them before turning around and gesturing to the guards. For their part, the guards spill out ahead of the trio. They stop at the apartment door, taking up positions outside. They know better than to think they are going in. Kaylee steps between them, motioning them a little further apart so that Richard doesn’t feel crowded when he goes in.

Satisfied, Kaylee opens the door for the other two, standing aside and waiting for them to go through so she can close it behind them.

Richard steps inside, and at the sight of the piano he smiles faintly - stepping over, a finger trailing over the wood. “About time,” he quietly teases, glancing back to his wife. Then he steps over to the couch, dropping himself down into it and leaning the cane to one side, head falling back. “Fuck. Okay. Where do I even— where do I fucking start.”

“Adam— Adam was a red herring. Is a red herring. We shouldn’t’ve ever been worrying about him.”

The strain in Elisabeth's expression eases slightly as she meets his glance. A faint flush crawls her cheeks and she shrugs sheepishly. "It was that or gain another 10 pounds," she quips softly. Although, to be fair, it looks more like she's dropped weight over the past couple weeks than gained it.

Lowering herself gingerly to the edge of a chair, she shares a look with Kaylee before turning her attention back to Richard. "All right…" The words are slow as she processes. She doesn't press him but the drawn out acknowledgement is certainly an invitation to explain further.

Unlike the others, Kaylee is too tense to sit. There was no relaxing for the telepath. Instead, she paces slowly across the room, with arms folded, listening. The pronouncement from her brother, has her slowing to a stop and turning to look at him with a furrowed brow. “What do you mean?” There were two known dangers, which means… “The Entity?”

“It was Shedda Dinu.”

Richard closes his eyes, his lips twisting into a grimace, “Adam thinks they answer to him. They don’t. They answer to Mazdak, and Baruti Naidu. They— I don’t know, it was Rue, but she wasn’t acting like Rue, so I don’t know.”

A lean forward, elbows resting on his knees and both hands rubbing over his face, “They took— both of us, me and Nathalie. They took us to Iraq. Obviously, sorry, that’s fucking obvious…”

His hands drop down, and he stares at the floor, “Gave me that cane. Told me he was behind everything, basically. Then he killed me.”

Despite her job and the fact that she's been home for a year, Shedda Dinu is not as familiar to Elisabeth. She's really only heard that name in passing. Her brows pull together at the information that somehow they're behind this, and she asks in a puzzled tone, "How do they even fit into this?"

Threading her fingers through her hair, though, she says quietly, "We know it's not the Rue we know, we're just not entirely sure the specifics of it." She pauses. There is still a wealth of uncertainty regarding Rue Lancaster, but it's definitely known that the one in custody is not the same one who had Richard taken. "She's either a doppelgänger in some form — whether alternate timeline or someone who can look like her and knows her well enough to improvise — or she's got a trigger, like Bast… Curtis, sorry. The latter is more unlikely at this point, but I can't imagine that a version of Rue came in with my group without someone noticing." If she and SESA on the site missed that, there are some serious issues. "She's currently in a safe house in the hopes that whoever the other one is will make a mistake."

Eyes drop at the mention of them killing Richard. What could she say to that? Jaw clenching, but there are no words. She focuses on the rest.

“Not all of the travellers arrived via outside of the portal with you, like Shaw and his wife, so might be an alternate form” Kaylee gently reminds her sister. “She might have come through with Eileen, too.” Just a thought on her side of it.

As for Shedda, Kaylee knows more about. “Speaking of Shedda-Dinu, I have something for you when you’ve had time to settle in. Yi-min and I have been talking. She’s an interesting person. I like her.” Right now was not the time for lists or the fact that the name Baruti Naidu means something to her. “But what I will say is… I’m not sure some of them know they’re working for Mazdak.” Shoulders lift a little, like there you have it.

“She— good, good,” Richard looks up to his sister, the ghost of a smile briefly touching his lips, “At least one of my operations is going well— and yeah, I imagine they don’t. That’s not how societies like this work…”

His gaze drops again, and he lifts the cane, turning it back and forth as light gleams off the scuffed wolf’s head cap. “Nathalie…” His voice trails off, and then he draws in a slow breath, “I tried to stop her, but it was too late. She shouldn’t— she should’ve been the one to walk out of there. She shouldn’t’ve— brought me back. She just…”

He closes his eyes, voice quieter, choked with emotion, “She just— fell apart to nothing.”

Black, ashy smoke seems to drift up off Gabriel's skin, and starts spreading. Immediately, the fine green stalks of grass pushing up through the autumn forest floor all wither, crumbling to ash that lifts into the air, drawn to the vortex. Soft thumps of bird bodies fall from the air immediately above, reduced to bone and wet ash before they hit the ground. A nearby tree cracks as its vitality is siphoned away, leaves withering into nothing but dust. And that corrosive dark energy is growing, feeding, more and more of it pouring out of Gabriel — and siphoning directly into Eileen's broken body, flooding through bullet wounds that mend themselves around it, but not stopping.

Elisabeth's blue eyes close, her jaw tightens visibly. "I'm so sorry," she whispers to her husband. The upwelling of tears is held behind her closed lids. And she relives moments that are too close to reality.

Richard Cardinal explodes into a swirling storm of shadows in mid-step— The roiling mass of shadow and energy crumbles and churns like an ink black sea.

Her hands rub up and down her thighs in agitation and she can't say anything else. "I'm so fucking sorry, Richard."

Nathalie was no one that Kaylee had really known, only that she was Wolfhound. When he speaks of the young woman, the telepath’s eyes cast down and away. Maybe it was his tone or the flash of mental imagery slipping through the cracks from her sister-in-law.

Saying sorry felt so hollow, but what could the telepath say?

“A selfless soul,” Kaylee comments quietly in sympathy. However, knowing her brother he would have done the same thing. It was a lose-lose situation all around “Neither one of you should have had to go through that.”

Richard’s silent for a long moment, then he brings a hand up, fingers wiping at his eyes although he’s all out of tears to shed. “She… anyway. Anyway. He just— he just fucking left me there. And you know the rest. I called Alia. I talked to Rebel, or whatever he’s calling himself these days. I talked to fucking Taylor Reed of all fucking people…”

He shakes his head, his eyes closing, “I— did you look at the map? We’ve been fucking manipulated this entire time, we’re— we’re stuck in a web.”

Elisabeth needs another minute to wipe her own tears, and she pulls in a shaky breath. "Glanced at it, but I've always needed someone else to explain that shit. Your mother couldn't even make heads or tails of it." Or so she said. She also said it might be enough to make a body insane. Liz isn't as sure of that, and she's not entirely sure Michelle was being honest. But then, she never is sure of that with her mother-in-law.

Rebel brings her head around thoughtfully, but Taylor Reed makes her gape at him. "What even the fuck is Taylor doing in all this?" She is totally lost, and the way she says his name definitely implies that she knows at least a Taylor Reed far better than Richard may have realized.

Reed's name tickles at the back of her mind, it was familiar in a way that it sat at the tip of her mind. Brows furrow as Kaylee tries to reach for those threads of memory, but could not connect the dots fully, just a digital voice and images flashing over a television. Frustration at her inability to remember gets a heavy sigh, so she turns to what she does know.

“You’re right, we’ve been manipulated all this time. For generations even.” Kaylee comments bitterly. It was something she’s said to him many times, since she learned the same. “The worst part is we don’t know which way. Dad knew how you get me to do what he wanted, whether I did what he wanted or didn’t.” The telepath watches her brother thoughtfully.

As much as Kaylee hates to say it, “At this point, it feels like we’re stuck riding this out to the end, big brother. Unless we can figure out how to stop this momentum.” She turns an apologetic look, Liz’ way cause she travelled so far to end up in another fucked up world. “Cause the world is just dead set on destroying itself.”

“Malice was keeping him safe, but— he went dark when the EMP hit the west coast, he was probably disembodied at the time,” Richard explains tiredly, looking up to Liz, “The kid doesn’t know the— darker side of his ability, so don’t tell him if you talk to him. He doesn’t need that shit on his shoulders.. He doesn’t know Malice was him, either. He’s been running with the Praxis hacker. Calls himself ‘Transceiver’.”

He shakes his head, “I reached out to Malice, but the kid answered instead. Heh. I think that leaves just me and April alive from the old Team Ray…”

Then he suddenly frowns, looking at Elisabeth with a confused expression. “But— wait. She couldn’t? I notated everything, and— why didn’t she just have Lisa come look at it?”

Elisabeth goes very still and her blue eyes sharpen on her husband. "Your mother knows where Lisa is?" she asks quietly. It's a dangerous tone. His wife is annoyed. "Your mother's response to looking at your pet project was to inform me that she couldn't help us, it was a lifelong project at best, and that she was afraid for your sanity," she tells Richard calmly. "Which tells me that your fucking mother is up to some things that none of us have any idea about."

The mention of Lisa gets her attention, for the most part Kaylee had fallen silent as she knows nothing about all that. So she lets them talk, moving to lean a hip against Liz’s chair. “The fact Lisa has Edward's ability… I’m not sure I could trust what she has to say.” Even though she has never met Lisa, she was family and it still pains her to say it.

“Nngh. I was worried about this…” Richard brings his hand up, pulling the shades off and dropping them into his lap so he can rub his fingers over his eyes, “I’ll— I need to talk to her anyway. I’ll bring this up. Fuck. I’m so— behind, I realized this too fucking late and now…”

He falls silent, eyes closed as he trails off.

"Well, behind or not, it's time you explain the whole thing in simple language to your wife and your sister, love," Elisabeth retorts quietly. "Because some of us really do not comprehend the web the way you do. And I've seen too many alternate timelines at this point to keep certain things straight as they regard this one, so I need to see it laid out." She moves to stand, unable to remain still. Her arms cross, and she bites her lip.

"And for the love of god… don't argue with me about it, don't fuck with me over it, and if you go to ground because I'm making you do it, I will find you and I will kick your ass. See the fucking therapist. Tomorrow." Elisabeth narrows her blue eyes on him. "You made me go when I got my ass tortured. Now it's your turn." Because dealing with Nathalie's death has to happen.

Kaylee gives a slow nod of her head and points a finger her sister-in-laws way. “What she said. Don’t keep us in the dark, we’re all in this together. Right from the first day Edward put us on this path.” Who knows where that exact point in history was.

“I’ll— write it all down as plain as I can, after I get some sleep,” offers Richard wearily, offering a faint smile, “I was going to come and tell you all but— then Rue showed up. I figured an hour or two delay wouldn’t hurt anything.”


Then he holds up both hands, grimacing, “Fine. Fine. I’ll go to the stupid therapist.”

She'd kiss him, but he'd lose his shit if she got in his personal space right now. Elisabeth can see it in the weary way he holds himself and still yet watches them as if making sure they're not close enough to touch him. "Thank you." That she won't have to fight him on it is just one more thing off her plate. "Let's get you tucked into a bed to get some sleep before the monsters realize you're here and show up. I'll let them know tonight that you're back but that your ability is going a little wonky and they can't touch you right now." It's ridiculous that their children have enough experience with that to actually take it at face value.

“Good.” Kaylee says to all of that.

Unfolding her arms, the telepath moves towards the door. “I’ll go get security briefed and make sure to get ahead of all the rumors that no doubt have reached the lunchroom staff.” The lunchroom at Raytech is where all rumors go to spread to the mass of employees. “Then I’m going to make a casserole so y’all don’t have to cook.” The neighborly thing to do. “That way you can just focus on being together again.”

At the mention of the children, there’s a flash of pain across Richard’s face. “I… if I wear gloves I should at least be able to hug them,” he suggests hopefully, looking up, “I don’t want them entirely alienated from me…”

A shake of his head, “But— yeah. Sleep. Sleep sounds good.”

She eyes him. "If you feel comfortable with the gloves, by all means. If you think that knowing your power's a little wonky and they have to be careful of you for a little bit just in case will alienate your children, you haven't been paying attention to who their superhero is, love," Elisabeth tells him gently. Her smile is weary, faint, but definitely present. "Bed. Now. See them after nap."

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