A Very Difficult To Unwrap Present


cardinal_icon.gif kaylee2_icon.gif valerie_icon.gif

Scene Title A Very Difficult To Unwrap Present
Synopsis Exploration by Valerie yields an interesting record of the life of the Ray Clan Patriarch.
Date December 25, 2010

New York Public Library

Sometime on Christmas Morning, Kaylee could hear a voice around the corner. Late enough that she was awake, early enough that she wasn't quite aware. "Come to the library today, don't forget!" the voice said. When she turned to look, it was a young blonde, dressed in Christmas Best. A green velvet dress with fluffy white fringe, and a hat with the same. Not the red most people use, but green has always been Valerie's favorite color.

"Just don't forget I have a surprise!" she says with a smile, practically bouncing where she floats, before she vanishes back to her body without waiting for even a response.

Seventeen she may be, but sometimes she seems much younger. The way she was raised probably has a lot to do with that. This first Christmas with a semblance of family besides her dad seems to have brought it out in her.

Later, when the older-middle sister arrives, she's back to her crutches and normal-borrowed clothes, waving Cardinal over too. "I found something! I need help getting to it, though. I mean, in person." There are benifits to being a non-corporal projection. And negatives.

In the physical form, she always looks weaker, tireder, paler. The smile is still readily there, but it's not quite the same. "And Merry Christmas you two!" she adds, the cheer in her voice, but not quite as bright.

There's no Christmas Tree in the library; it'd be difficult to get one into the ruins to begin with, and Cardinal's been too busy to try and pick up any sort of fake tree and set it up. There's little in the library that speaks of the season, at least anything that he's set up.

It was a long night. He got in late after dealing with the incident at the gala, talked to Griffin, and then crashed to sleep for what was left of the night and the morning thereafter.

After dragging himself up and using what passes for a jury-rigged shower and getting dressed, he heads out into the main reading room that's used as a general living area by the current occupants of the library. "Merry Christmas," he calls over, rubbing at his face, "Whatcha need help with, kiddo?"

The soft turtle neck sweater she's wearing is a cheerful red color. Her long blonde hair is gathered up on the back of her head in a messy bun, a pair of black sticks tucked into it to keep it in place. "Merry Christmas," she offers softly in turn, a glance going to Cardinal as well. Even though she's a little sad about not being with Joseph again this holiday season, her sister's infectious smile takes the edge of that and the younger blond gets a smile in return.

Tucked into her arms, are a pair of brightly colored packages. Both the size and shape of clothing boxes, one bigger then the other. Glancing around for a place to put them, so that she can offer her help. "What's up, Valerie?"

"You brought presents!" Valerie exclaims instead, genuinely surprised and suddenly very excited looking again. While still pale and weak seeming, but she can still be excited at the sight of wrapped presents. "…I don't have anything to give either of you…" she adds with a quiet nudge at the floor of the library with her foot. "Now I really hope what I found is something cool…" Cause then it can count as a present! It's practically wrapped even. In wrapping paper called mystery.

Also the Library itself.

At the sight of the boxes, Cardinal's brows raise just a little; an awkward moment, since he doesn't have anything for gifts either. "You didn't need to… ah, I don't have anything either," he admits, fingers rubbing at the nape of his neck slowly, "Thanks, though, Kaylee."

That said, he looks back to Valerie, his brow furrowing a little, "So where's this thing that you found?"

"What? You think I'm going to come here empty handed?" Kaylee muses, mood brightening with the younger girls excitement. "I like to give, blame my upbringing," she comments lightly with a wave her hand to dismiss Valerie or Cardinal not having anything. "I don't ever expect anything in turn. When I see things I buy," she adds with a shrug.

"Bigger on is your's Richard, something I saw the other day and thought it was totally you. I could be wrong and you totally hate it." There is a flash of a smile to the eldest born. "The smaller one Valerie is for you, been holding on to it. Hoping you like it, it seemd perfect for you." She reaches out and rests an arm around Valerie's shoulder in a half hug. The presents are left where they are for now as she gives Valerie an expectant look. "So about this thing…"

Aaaah, present left where it is. Valerie looks over at the small box with a look of want, hands itching to tear at the paper and see what's under it. The half hug holds her back, for the moment. As does what she found. It's a startled "What" that pulls her eyes away from the present, and her desire to have x-ray vision. "Oh— I— well when you said that dad stayed here— Dad liked to leave things places he knew the right people would find them, right? Like breadcrumbs. And— well— I can walk through walls and I studied buildings a lot, sat in on architecture classes as much as the physics classes when I could. But. I spent a lot of the last few days exploring, and last night I think I finally found something, but I can't get to it, cause you'll have to move behind a shelf and stuff— but you can help me! You're big and strong."

That was to Cardinal. Though Kaylee's certainly tall. They're both a lot bigger and stronger than her.

"I know you said that this dad was asshole-dad, but… might give a clue what he was planning when he recruited you?" she says to Cardinal. "And maybe it's NOT asshole-dad. Maybe it's… anyway, I don't know what it is yet, but… it could be cool?"

The idea of something hidden immediately piques Richard's interest, of course, and if he had ears that could prick up they would. "A shelf? It's not necessarily him, could've been one of the other groups that used the place — Phoenix, PARIAH — who knows," he admits, taking a step over, "Lead the way, we'll get it open. Whatever it is."

Maybe it's wrapped Christmas presents. Full of horrible things. That would fit Edward's MO.

Her mouth hitches up on one side, it's not hard to hear the want in Valerie's thoughts even if Kayle isn't listening to the words. "Okay…" She lets go of Valerie and plucks up the smaller package and offers it over. "Show us where this thing is and while Richard works to get it, you can open your gift while you wait."

It's not a bribe, Kaylee's just as excited for her to open it and a bit nervous. Really nervous. Maybe it's a good thing none of them are empaths, cause she's just nervous in general about today.

That brightens the smile again, and Valerie takes it with her free hand and holds it against her chest. Her first Christmas Present from big sister. "You read my mind." Then she blinks and looks with surprise. "Did you really read my mind!?" Well she had been practically projecting desire to reach over and rip off paper and see what her present was.

"Oh, it's this way," she points with the a nod of her head, and moves along with the crutch. It's not the warmest part of the library. "Oh— if you have an axe you may need to bring it. I think that part of the library got flooded or something, cause there's bad water damage… It's this crawl space, though, in the stacks. I can almost see what it is— but it's too dark. My projections don't come with night vision." Unfortunately. "I just know there's something there."

"An axe? Give me a second, then…" A chuckle stirs on Cardinal's breath as he turns around, heading towards one of the storage areas. Not long after, he returns with a fire axe from storage, hefting it up on his shoulder and heading to follow, a maglite carried in the other hand. Not that he needs it, but, you know, the girls might. "…and if air can get in, I can get in."

"Sorta." Kaylee admits a bit like a kid that got caught with hands in the cookie jar, with a sheepish smile. "If you shout it's hard to ignore." She says it softly as if giving up some big secret, as Cardinal moves away for the axe.

The return of Cardinal gets a smirk, eyeing the axe with a touch of amusement. "You almost look like your ready to go chop down a Christmas tree." Kaylee's smile saddens a bit. "When I was stuck back in the 1880's, had friends at the inn I worked at and it was traditional that they would go out for the tree. Every year, they had to find a tree bigger then the last to get a reaction out of the ladies of the inn."

Kaylee shakes her head and moves to follow her sister, "It's amazing the things that will bring back memories." Head nodding at the axe on his shoulder.

"Really?" Valerie says with an impressed sound. Actually she repeats it a few times. There's a lot to be impressed at about these two older people. They've experienced a lot that she could never have dreamed of, she thinks… They're so… cool. "We don't need a Christmas Tree, though." Not when they already have presents? "Maybe next year. Even if it's a tiny one!" Cause there will always be a next year, at least as far as Valerie is concerned.

After more gestures and motions, she leads them into the ruins of the Stacks, where the wind bites through, and there's some of the snow falling outside. She had dressed warm just because she knew she would be asking this of them.

There is a lot of water damage. Remnants of books everywhere, too ruined to be identified, shelves and bookcases cracked and fallen. "That one— it needs to be moved aside, and then we need to get through the wall. I think there used to be another way to get into the crawl space, but… you could get there, but I don't know if you could bring back what's on the other side…."

Maybe Cardinal could. "Can you?" she looks up at the man who could be her brother, eyes curious.

"I'm a lumberjack, and I'm oh-kay…" A brief snippet of song before Cardinal lets it trail off, his head shaking with a chuckle, "…I think I'll pass on the tree-chopping, traditional or not. It'd be a long walk to a pine tree, for one thing." A smirk over to Kaylee, "You know, there's a such thing as too big a tree for a lady too…"

The flight jacket keeps Cardinal fairly warm as he walks through the damaged portion of the library, glancing upwards at the stained ceiling with a grimace. "Snow must've melted through into here last year," he murmurs, then approaches the book-case, craning his neck to check it out, "…I could. Depends on how big it is."

If there is another one echos in Kaylee's own head, a glancing going to Cardinal, maybe to see if he has the same sort of cautious view of what the future will bring. Of course, her father dealt in futures, if they were all his kids, would he protect their futures like he did Valerie's?

It was an interesting thought.

Cardinal's comment get's a groan, but an impish grin. "I refuse to comment on that." Even if it is tempting.

She focuses instead on what needs to be moved to get to whatever it is the youngest of them found. She moves around Valerie to give the shelf a test nudge to see if she can be of any use in moving it, listening to own the wood protests the pressure. Kaylee presses lips together and glances at Cardinal as if waiting.

The bookcase itself isn't too heavy, some of the shelves having fallen off in the flooding, and almost all the books washed away as well. There's little in the way of additional weight, other than the frame and some of the shelves. Together they could shove it aside, though Valerie just pushes herself closer, but also well out of the way, with the help of the crutch, and resists the urge to rip open her present.

For now.

"It doesn't look that big— about the size of — well it's smaller than the box Kaylee brought for you, but much bigger than my box." That's the best comparison she can think of. "I'm not sure if there's room in the crawlspace for a whole person anymore, though. It's collapsed in a few places too, I think." The lack of light kept her from seeing for sure, but what light did seep through, she could tell it wasn't completely intact.

"The quickest way there is through the wall right behind the shelf. About a foot in. Luckily it's not all concrete here." Mostly wood, and rotted wood for that matter.

After the analysis by Valerie, Cardinal sets down both maglite and axe against the wall before moving in to lend his shoulder to the shelf; working with Kaylee to move it out of the wall, the wooden structure groaning in protest as it's edged more and more away from the wall. Then? Then it gets pushed just a little too far.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, look out…" And timber! Down goes the shelves, hitting the floor with a mighty crash after being tipped too much to one side. After the loud impact, he wriggles a hand against one ear, "Well. That's one way of doing it… pass me the axe."

There is a grimace and a cringe away from the sound of shelves crashing to the ground, hands to her ears. Kaylee waves at the dust in the air and gives a little cough. "I really hope there isn't some deadly mold or something… that's the last thing we need. Merry Christmas kids! Have some asbestos." Her toen a touch bland.

She glances back where they are aiming and then Cardinal with a nod. The axe is passed and then Kayle steps back giving him plenty of room. "Have at it, shadowman."

"Oh— I hadn't thought of that…" Valerie says, suddenly looking a little worried as she looks at the two older people. They can be so negative it's just hard to keep up her positive front. "I'm sure he wouldn't have done something like that…" she says quietly, but her thoughts are projecting how she's worried about how negative they both seem to be! Then again, it could have been left by asshole dad…

"Did real dad ever stay here? The one that isn't from the future?"

"No. Not that I know of, anyway…" The axe is hefted up, and Cardinal braces one foot on the edge of the fallen shelves as he regards the water-damaged wall that was behind it, his eyes narrowing a little. "Ho, ho-" And then the axe slams into the wall, sending chips flying everywhere, "-ho! Alright, back up, girls…"

It takes a little while as he hacks into the wall— pausing as he finds a support beam, he moves a little to one side, working his way through the plaster and wood of the wall until he makes a hole. Squinting into its darkness, he drops the fire axe to one side. "I think I see something…" A step closer, and he reaches into the wall— fingers feeling around, he grunts, "Got it."

As he pulls his arm back, there's a large book of some sort wrapped in plastic. "Well, well, what's this, then…"

When the axe is dropped, Kaylee's curiosity has her stepping forward to take a look at what is extracted from the wall. "Is that?" Brows lift some at book, fingers reaching out to touch it, even still wrapped in plastic as it is.

Kaylee glances up at Cardinal. "You think it's his?" There is no hiding that curiosity and sort of longing to know a man that has never really been a part of her life, only a name on a birth certificate and a picture in her pocket.

"I— well that's not too scary," Valerie says, moving forward again with her crutches. She was supposed to open her present while the older man worked at getting to that, but for a few moments she forgot, lost in negative thoughts spawned by the older ones. She seems to realize this, and steadies herself upright on her crutch, firmly under her arm, so she can have both hands free to tear at the paper.

This place is so trashed, that no one will mind a little extra liter, right?

"Someone knew the place was going to flood. That's very 'dad-like'," she comments, nodding at it. But she has PRESENT to open…

The book - whatever sort of book it is - is wrapped in layers of cellophane and plastic, protecting it as predicted from the water damage. Cardinal turns it over in his hands a few times, then glances to the pair with a crooked smile, "Well. Let's get back to the warm part've the library and open it up - and let Val open her present before she explodes."

Valerie's comment gets a glance. "That's true." She murmurs softly, eyes going to the plastic wrapped book. She turns very thoughtful, only shaken out of it at Cardinal's comment.

She blinks and nods. "Your right, Richard. Last thing we need to do is catch our death in here." Kaylee seems almost reluctant to turn away from the book and shoo at the youngest. "Come on. Lets go get warm and see what Ray left behind."

And Valerie's opening her present already! As quickly as possible, and when she gets it open she stares down at it in surprise, and then looks toward Kaylee, "Are you sure you don't have dad's power?" Cause, much like the book that's wrapped in plastic, she's gotten a small book of sorts, a journal with a pen, with dark green binding. Blank, something she can fill up with words, photographs, whatever she wants in the future. "Thank you, Kaylee," she says, hobbling over to wrap an arm around her big sister, before moving quickly to the warmth. Because she wants to see what she thinks dad left behind just as much as she wanted to see her present.

"You really don't think we'll get sick, right?" she asks along the way.

A laugh stirs on Cardinal's breath as he realizes that Valerie's already tearing into the wrapping paper of her gift. The wrapped-up book tucked under one arm, he leads the way along back into the secured zone, his head shaking a little bit to the question.

"No, we're not gonna get sick. Not unless we hang out in the cold long enough to get pnuemonia or something."

It's not long before they pass through one of the metal doors and head down to the lower level, and the blessed heat that radiates from the heaters therein. A chair's dragged up to a table, and he drops down to sit, starting to peel the cellophane and plastic wrap away from the book.

"Not that I want to risk getting sick?" Kaylee comments after returning that hug, with one. "And no, thankfully, I don't have Ray's ability… even if it seems like it." A glance going to the book out of amusement then anything else.

"I personally wouldn't want that." Her head shakes a little. "Too much responsibility there." A smile touches her lip as she adds, "I'll stick with dating men that can see the future." Not that Joseph's ability works anymore, which may be a good thing. Neither of them need to see their future, best to leave it to the fates.

Or maybe she's just scared to find out if it's bad.

Her path takes her to the table that Cardinal is situating himself, grabbing a metal folding chair to drag over for herself and dropping into it next to him. Hopefully, he doesn't mind being in close quarters, but… Kaylee wants to see.

With the new book held firmly against her, Valerie takes the rest of the way in silence. Oh yeah, she could get sick— rather easily. She hadn't thought of that. But she doesn't speak outloud on that matter as they get back to warmth, and she can drop down into a chair and lays the smaller book down on the table in front of her, scooting her chair until it gets closer, so she can see what the plastic wrapped book has.

Oh yes, expect to be crowded by two blondes, one tall, one tiny, Mister Cardinal.

It's not a book with pages, per se, but as the layers are unrolled and pushed off in a bundle to one side, it's revealed to be a heavy-covered binder; a photo album, edges showing the wear and tear of age if not water damage. The cover's opened up, revealing the faded photographs within.

"Huh. I think… it's Edward," Cardinal admits, frowning down at the first few pictures.

The photographs look to be of Edward Ray throughout his life. A photo of a young boy no older than tweleve standing with a High School cap and gown and a diploma rolled up, little wire-rimmed glasses on his nose. The next photograph is Edward, only a little older, sitting at a table in a library at a college, surrounded by much older college age students. One of them happens to be Mason Chesterfield, who has his arm around the young Edward's shoulder, and laughing along with the boy. In front of Edward is a copy of Isaac Asimov's "CHANGE!"

Kaylee looks at the pictures and nods slowly. "I'd bet it is." She looks past Cardinal to Valerie, pointing at a picture. "At least we know where you got the over achiever gene from." The older blonde teases the younger one.

Her eyes drift to the photos again, brows dropping. "I struggled in school myself." She doesn't say it was cause she was a slacker or she hung out with horrible friends and various others things. "I can't imagine being that young in college. I can barely keep up as it is."

"I only got my diploma at fourteen," Valerie says defensively, though she never had a cap and gown. She graduated by way of GED with tutors helping her the whole way. "You'd probably have done better if you had my tutors… but I wonder who that is," she says quietly at the first picture of Edward with someone, though she hovers and waits for the next pages.

If they're in order, it's hard to tell. So far they seem to be.

An MIT lecture hall shows soon after the previous one, a man standing up front, the picture seemingly taken from behind scores of young adults listening in intently. A projectored image behind the older gentleman can be seen, a double helix of DNA splitting apart. After a few moments, the man can be recognized from his books— a much younger Chandra Suresh.

"Oh, I recognize that one…"

"He looks familiar…" Cardinal's lips purse in a slight frown at the picture of Mason Chesterfield, but his experience is more with the female members of that particular family. The page is turned, and he looks down at the picture from the lecture hall. A rough snort of breath, "Chandra. He looks just like he did at Coyote Sands…"

A flat glance goes to Cardinal as Kaylee murmurs, "Only fourteen she says." Her head shakes a little at the pictures. "I recognize this guy," She taps a finger on the Suresh picture. "But only cause I remember looking at the book at the University's library. Never read the book." She adds looking a touch embarrassed about that fact. That was when she was more into partying and other such activities.

"Coyote Sands?" Is asked after a moment, Kaylee glancing at Cardinal out of the corner of her eye for only a moment before studying the picture again. "So by this picture at least we know he was into all that genetics stuff."

"It would have been nice if he labelled them," Valerie can't help but say, though she frowns and looks like she wants to ask what Coyote Sands is and has to do with anything. It's not a name she's heard attached to a place before! And her sister had beat her to the question. Though she waits for the answer on that one, she still looks down at the next page. Which is probably where her wish for a label is being made even more.

Edward is older in this picture, late twenties or early thities, more easily recognized by the three, seated with a young woman on the hood of an orange Triumph spitfire, in a parking lot overlooking the Adirondack Mountain range of New York City. She is smiling, but Edward looks morose. The license plate reads '86' as the year the registration expires, but none of them recognize this woman at all.

On the other visible page, there are several more pictures of the woman, all alone, in various locations, and she is similing in all of them. However, the further the pictures go, the less and less healthy she looks, but it doesn't seem like much time at all has spanned between them… No more of Edward, even as they flip the page.

The last in the subsequent line of photographs, the woman looks at her sickest, yet still smiling, she is obviously several months pregnant.

"The government's first attempt at a concentration camp for our kind, back in the sixties," Cardinal says quietly as he turns the page, "Something went wrong, and they sent the military in to kill everyone. The few who survived founded the Company."

A frown creases his lips, then, as he looks over the new picturs. "Not sure who that is… anyone know her?" The tips of his fingers rest on the last picture, "Maybe one've your mothers?"

Kaylee watches Cardinal as he talks about Coyote Sands, brows slowly furrowing. Finally, all she can say is "Huh. History is working to repeat itself." The woman in the photo is studied carefully, lips pressed into a fine line, before she shakes her head.

"Not my momma and not anyone I recognize," Kaylee finally supplies softly, there is a sort of pity for the woman in the photograph. "Wonder what happened to her?" Might not be her mom, but she can't help but wonder.

"Not mine either," Valerie says simply, though there's a curiousity in her voice. The woman was obviously sick and dying— it reminds her a bit of the way she was when she was younger, and how much her father fussed over her, all the while seeming to not be fussing over her. She chews on her lower lip. Coyote Sands, the Company, all that goes over her head. But these things gain a lot more of her attention. They're so very personal.

The next pages show just how out of order things are as they continue on. It seems to have gone backwards. Edward is even younger than he was on the hood of the car. The unknown woman is back, younger, healthier, with big 80s hair. A metal trailer is visible behind them in the picture, and there's another couple with them, all drinking beer out of bottles. The man, dark haired, a heavy beard, sits with a folded bandanna, vest and fannel shirt, seems to be passing a joint toward Edward right as the picture was taken.

"Isn't that what you and your friends were doing a few days ago…" the young blonde says outloud, as she wrinkles her nose a bit. Apparently, she was easedropping. But she did say she was exploring— and that happened to have been one of the times she was exploring.

At the reminder of the disastrous attempt at relaxation from a few days prior, Cardinal's head dips just a bit away; a frown creasing to his lips for a moment. "They were," he says quietly, his mood taking a sharp dip as he scans the pictures, "Looks out've order. I don't know the other two either…"

The page is turned, his head shaking a little. It's not as personal to him; he's not even certain if he's related or not. Or if he wants to be.

A chuckle comes from the telepath, hand pressed to her mouth for a moment to stifle it. "Such a good example there, Richard." There is more amusement there then anything, Valerie's reaction probably placating a different reaction. Not that in her younger years she wasn't like that.

"I don't recognize them at all. But then how much do people change in looks as they get older." She adds with a soft sigh, head tilting to the side to look at the next page. "Not to mention how many people look different with facial then without. Like a whole 'nother person."

The other woman who was around the campfire, bairly visible, can be seen in the next picture with the original unnamed woman seen with Edward. Together they have nice 80s hair, and the new woman is both blonde and pretty, but not recognized. This time it's the new woman, the blonde, who is pregnant, standing in the snow with the other woman, her arm around her. They both seem to be marvelling at the snow, and the busy street that's visible around them.

Another picture shows the blonde again, with the bearded man, standing outside of a garage. They have matching rings, wedding bands, showing to the clever and observant, that they had been married. This time the bearded man wears a jump suit, with a nametag on the breast, which reads in clear letters 'Dave.'

Edward can be seen again, around the same age he'd been on the hood of the car, the blonde woman pregnant in each of them and the bearded man not far off. The pictures all seem to be grainy photographs of partying and wild abandon. Despite being pregnant, she doesn't seem worried about her partying.

Cardinal drops silent for the moment as he goes over the album's next pages, looking over the pictures one after the other; pausing, then, at the sight of the group in front of the garage. His brow furrows just a little, but he doesn't say anything. He does think loudly, though, enough for Kaylee to likely overhear. My father's name was David…

"So… He was friends with these people?" She reaches across to test the adhesive on the pictures. "You know sometimes they put stuff on the back." The words trail off, but Kaylee doesn't work too hard at the picture. "I'm too afraid of wreaking the photo's," she concedes, letting her hand drop to the table again.

Nails tap lightly on the table. "Dave," Kaylee can be heard murmuring, leaning over to read that name on the tag about the same time she hears Cardinal's thoughts. Her head turns a bit to look at him, head tilting a little to study him, maybe to see he looks related, eyes narrowing a little.

Valerie's not a mind reader, so she glances at Kaylee at the mention of Dave, a little confused, before she squints down at the pictures in the album again. There's so many of them, so many to be looked over in detail again later. The next pages look to be taken from inside a car, the distortion of the window showing pictures of Boston, all in fall-season. Pictures of Harvard Campus, of the Boston Commons— and then a few candid pictures of a young brunette sitting at a diner. Blow that, she's seen again, face on, smiling brightly at the camera as she reaches for it, the camera-man seated across from her.

Kaylee will immediately recognize her mother.

"The man got around," Cardinal murmurs in dry tones as there's more pictures of a woman - a different woman, this time. "So who's this… either've you know?"

"Ya think?" Kaylee says blandly to the comment of Ray getting around, head shaking a little. "Amazing…" She murmurs and then the page turns and her breath catches.

"I know her," Kaylee says softly, sad smile pulling at her lips. "That's my mom, Karen. They were married. My Granma said that my grandaddy liked him." There is a soft sound of amusement in the back of her throat.

"She loved him so much —I think she still does really, but he broke her heart bad enough to make my life a total lie." By the end of it, Kaylee's words are tinted with a bitterness.

Despite the heartbreak that Kaylee mentions, the next pictures of Karen and Edward do seem to be happy— Karen, at least, is dazzling in them. There's an apartment, the wallpaper and furnature recognized froma dream, with her mother in the kitchen, smiling back at the camera, pregnant and happy. And healthy. There are more pictures, some of her, some of Edward. In the ones where he's facing the camera, he's actually smiling, with blue eyes bright— ones where he's caught by surprise, he looks sullen, like something is eating at him.

The last photograph in that apartment shows Edward standing at the sink in the kitchen, looking guilty. A broken mason plate lies at his feet, and a little head of blonde hair peeks around his calf. Her hands are on his leg, and she seems to be hiding there.

This image sparks a memory long forgotten within Kaylee.

She remembers the plate— she remembers being the one who broke it— she remembers fearing her mother's wrath, for it had been great-grandma's. But she remembers that someone else had claimed responsibility for it.


A smile just-edges up a little at the corner of Cardinal's lips at the sight of that last photograph; reaching out with a fingertip to brush over the surface of the photo just to the side of that little tuft of blonde hair peeking around the corner. "I bet I know who this is," he murmurs, glancing back to one side, to Kaylee.

There are no words or smart comments from Kaylee when they flip through those pages. Memories of her own father are so fleeting that when a photo reminds her of a moment, her vision blurs. She remembers She can't comment to Cardinal as emotions make her throat tighten and she has to clear it before she can say, "I was never an easy child… always getting into stuff. Getting into trouble." Not much different now really, except no daddy to take the blame.

Pulling a hand into her sleeve a little, Kaylee wipes at her eyes with the cuff against the side of her hand, giving a small sniff. "Momma has a hell of a temper when she gets pissed enough." Teeth bit at her lip for a moment, eyes going to her lap as if fearing looking at the photo's will set her off again.

"Awww, you were cute!" Valerie says with a giggle, reaching across Richard to touch her sister's arm with a teasing poke. Troublemaker! It isn't like she can't tease her big sister sometimes, and this is one of those moments.

The next set of pictures seems very different from the apartment, out of place. Cubicles, all empty of people, old computer monitors visible in each, perhaps from the 1990s. The next photograph is blurry, a wall, post-it notes visible, and strings. Unfortnately, nothing is really legible on them.

The next photograph is awkward, obviously taken by Edward himself. There's a cut on his forehead, stitches just added, red and angry looking, just along the hairline. A nurse can be seen leaning over him, tending to the wound. The next picture is of the same woman, though this time she's trying to cover her face and laughing at him.

The next photos are clearly some time later as the cut on his forehead has become a slight scar, Edward and the nurse, around a Christmas tree, opening presents.

And she is visibly pregnant.

Valerie makes a soft sound in her throat— because just under that is the picture of a incubator, with a teeny, tiny premature baby, barely hanging onto life. Edward's face can be seen in the reflection on the glass thrown by the flash as the camera man.

"I was born early cause mom died…" Premature babies don't have the best odds of survival. Edward hadn't been able to save her mom, but he'd been able to save her.

"You're still good at the getting into trouble thing," Cardinal offers by way of faint teasing; shifting a bit to bump his shoulder against Kaylee's in an attempt to cheer her up. Of course, it's a bit hypocritical, since his own mood is stirring on a low ebb too. Then, it's back to the book.

Odds. It's always about the odds, of course, even with Edward. All he can predict are probabilities - not certainties.

He shakes his head a little, and turns the page.

The bump to her shoulder, gets one in return. "I'm very aware of my nature," trying to put the amusement back in her voice. "Thank you very much." It's the whole reason she is there and not on the island with Joseph.

The new woman in the pictures, grabs her attention. A part of Kaylee wants to be angry at the woman in those next photos and briefly it does flare bright in the back of her mind, but she doesn't have the heart to hold it there, especially with the picture of Valerie there in the incubator. It brings into reality the delicate nature of the youngest of them. What she went through and what Edward did to save her.

"Sorry about your momma," Kaylee finally manages to say, leaning forward to look Valerie's way.

The following pages are much less scary. A small girl growing up in various places, putting together a stack of blocks, playing chess and checkers. One game she's knocking over the black king with a huge smile on her face up at the camera. A dimple in the cheek mirrors the one that Valerie occassionally shows. A Japanese man can be seen in another one, hovering over her as she writes with a green colored pen, going through complicated kanji on a small easy-erase board. She's not even five, by the looks of her.

A few more pictures, including one of her not much younger than she is now, holding up her cellphone with a shamrock dangling from it, and a wide smile on her face.

"Well— at least there's no more pregnant women." She liked the idea of being the youngest! "It's okay, though— at least now I know what she looked like— I didn't know dad had this…"

That's the last photograph of young Valerie. What comes after seems more and more recent, probably after she vanished.

A tube television, turned off. Edward can be seen holding the camera in the reflection.

A pile of loose change on a linoleum floor, several dollars worth.

A boiling pot of pasta.

A deck of playing cards, in the middle of a game of solitaire.

A torn open down pillow, stuffing partly removed and scattered over an unmade bed.

A photograph of a CNN news broadcast, showing Allen Rickham waving to the cameras. A ticker below reads "RICKHAM TO TOUR GROUND ZERO." Below are smaller headlines: "ennifer Childs Body Found. | SCOUT makes progress regarding terrorist cell raids. | Biomere Corporation to re"

The book ends, with many empty pages left behind unfilled.

"I think he was… working on his power, here," Cardinal says quietly as he looks over the last few photographs, "The loose change thrown on the floor, the bubbles int he water, the random cards, the down. And then, well…" Fingertips splay over the last photo, "…obvious."

After checking the next few pages - empty - he heads back to the beginning, flipping past the first page to find the one with the sick woman again, pregnant and smiling. There it stays as he stares at it, his lips pursing in a thin line.

"I counted four…" Kaylee murmurs thoughtfully. "Four different pregnant women." There are four possible Edward children, can't be lost on them all. The testing will clear up all of it in the end, though.

"I want copies of the ones of my mom and Ray." Kaylee says as the album ends. "Momma got rid of anything with Ray in it when he left. The photo I found just happened to be wedged against the wall behind a bunch of old torn up boxes." Knowing Edward, he put that there himself knowing she'd find it.

"These last ones tho…" She looks at the other two curiously. "You sure it was him working on his ability? Never really knew how he did things. Kind of odd, huh?"

"I mean… why take a picture of a boiling pot of stuff? Or… a card game?" Kayle seems to find a lot of amusement in that. "I mean… this is not my thing… Not sure how all that points to Midtown…" She trails off softly as the pages are flipped back by Cardinal.

"I think we can all get copies of the ones we want," Valerie says, as she finally sits back in her seat with a quiet sigh. It's not quite what she might have wanted to give as a Christmas present, but it's something more than they had before— it's something. "I guess finding that can count as a Christmas present still, at least." For Kaylee, but she looks worriedly at Cardinal, chewing on her lower lip a little.

How much longer til they get the results of their testings?

"Warren." A quiet statement from Cardinal as the tip of his finger thumps against the photograph of the sickly brunette, his fingers skimming down to turn the page again, looking down to the picture of the blonde and the bearded man once more, his lips pursing slightly as he says quietly, "Me."

They're guesses, of course. He's not Edward. But he's pretty sure of it, and that's audible in his voice.

"So…" Kaylee starts listening to Cardinal's theory. "I — agree there, but… why have him tell me my brother would have the blue box?" That's the sticker. Her fingers trails down to the photo with Edward and the blonde that might be Cardinal's mom. "You don't think —" The telepath doesn't want to finish that one.

Instead, she says, "I guess if those are your parents that they were close to Edward." Really close if the pictures say anything. "Might explain his interest in you, hmm?"

Kaylee leans back in the chair, eyes on the book, "We really need those results." Her gaze shifts to Cardinal now.

"I guess I will have to meet the crazy guy after all," Valerie says with a shrug, but at the same time she doesn't look too upset. Having two brothers may be better than having one. Even if she's not sure if the man next to her is a brother or not. He's something to her, either way. Doesn't have to be blood to have a connection…

"When do we get the results? Before New Years?" She hopes? Cause anything further away feels forever off.

"I don't know. I had them sent off… I'll go see him in a day or two, see if they're ready," Cardinal says, leaning back in the chair and reaching both hands up, fingers raking back through his hair to push his head back, his eyes closing, "I'll get us some answers. One way or another."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License