an Unkindness


aman_icon.gif faulkner_icon.gif isis_icon.gif

Scene Title an Unkindness
Synopsis A stray returns to the Safe Zone, complete with lost and found sign, only to discover the people— the person she left behind isn't the same as he was.
Date March 28, 2021

The Safe Zone's changed since Isis was last here. Over the last year, it's grown— the effort of many years of work finally paying off rapidly and visibly. The reclaimed island she stands on now was a construction zone previously, and now is one of the highest-tech places in the city. Roosevelt Island is the same thin strip of land it's always been, just reimagined with a high-tech school and hospital on it, along with new tightly-packed residences surrounded by parks and apartment buildings.

The townhome she stands in front of has only a planter of holly bushes for greenery, no yard to speak of, and a five-step stoop between her and the door.

In some ways, it's just as hard climbing those steps as it was getting the rest of the way here. But she does it.

She knocks rather than ring the doorbell, waits there in the pre-spring chill in the air, breath hovering in thin streams in front of her face. When the door opens, though, it's not Isaac on the other side.

Shit. Did she get the wrong number?

But the unfamiliar man on the other side, dressed down in athleisure, furrows his brow at her anyway like she's familiar to him. Brown eyes study her intensely, like he's seeing someone step off the page of a book before him. He takes in half a breath, and starts to ask "Are you—?" but cuts himself off to turn his head slightly back over his shoulder instead.

"Hey, Isaac?" Amanvir Binepal calls back into his house.

"I think the redhead you told me about is here."

Aman's Townhome

Northern Roosevelt Island

A worn, brown leather bomber jacket hangs open. Her hair is pinned up with a little metal stick, revealing a shaven undercut of peachy red fuzz. But, the wide-hazel eyes that dart over the stranger in the doorway are unmistakable.

If the unclaimed redhead had anything prepared, it's fled and left her high and dry under the scrutiny of that furrowed look. But, the limp cardboard with block-Sharpied letters - dangling cock-eyed now as she follows the man's attention back in towards the home - says enough:

Lost & Found

There's a hollow tip-tap-tap of her glassy nails on the makeshift sign's edge. "So, uh.. he told you about me… All bad stuff, I hope?" Her low chuckle bubbles up a bit tittering, and is thus cut abruptly short. "Ahem." ♫Just keep smiling, just keep smiling, just keep smiling-smiling.♫

The man at the door cracks a grin, on the verge of saying something when he hears a reply from inside. Regardless, he tips his head for her to come in, stepping aside to allow entry.

"Hm?" comes distantly, followed by, "I'll be right out!"

It's a few moments before he emerges into the living room, and into sight of the doorway; judging from the look of him — the gym shorts, the sweat-stained white T-shirt, the towel around his neck — he'd been in the middle of an evening workout.

"Who is—" he starts to ask, but the question dies in his throat as he sees exactly who it is. His eyes widen with shock, and for a long moment he just stands there, staring, as if he can't quite make his eyes believe what he's seeing.

"I…" he starts, but the words can't quite escape his throat. "I… I thought you…" he tries again, but then he just shakes his head and lets out a shaky chuckle, remembering his manners. "Come in. Come in!" he says, gesturing.

"You've just saved me from leg day, trust me, you're doing us a favor," Aman jokes before shutting the door behind Isis and bolting it again. He glances between the two, reserving judgment on Isaac's failure to launch until later, after the lady has left. Still, he can't help but rub the side of his neck in sympathetic embarrassment for the stammering he just witnessed.

Perhaps his girlfriend won't think less of him for it. He turns back to her. "I'm Aman, by the way," he clarifies. "One of Isaac's co-workers."

"You drink tea?" he asks, trying to make sure she's welcomed properly before he gets out of the way. After a moment's consideration, he follows that with, "Beer??" He shrugs by tipping one hand out with a cant of his head. He won't judge.

Someone ought to start taking bets on this staring contest. But, to her credit, Isis’s wide-eye gaze is accompanied by the widest, goofiest, unabashed smile.

“Thought I was dead? … Can’t get rid of me that easy,” she comments quietly, giving the ‘Lost & Found’ sign a little jostle.

The sound of the bolted door causes her to turn sharply, sign falling cockeyed into one hand. A quick narrowed look is given to the lock before her vibrant gaze slides back to Aman. “Nice to meet you. Um, actually… A beer would be ah-maze-ing.”

She takes a tentative step forward at Isaac’s gesturing, angling her body to look the place over this way and that. “Look at you: working out, new roomie. Or, I mean - I’m not assuming just room- but he said…” Her gaze darts back and forth between the two as a loud cough tries to bury her turn at stuttering. “Yup, definitely beer.”

"Yeah. Beer. That would be amazing. Grab me one too, if you would," Faulkner says. He's not taking his eyes off Isis, and there's a grin of his own on his face — slightly dazed, perhaps, but genuine. Finally he notices the sign as she jostles it, and he lets out a laugh.

"Yeah. Aman's a coworker, and a friend; he's letting me crash at his place. I still hit the old place at the Slope now and again, but it's… not ideal," he says, his gaze slipping off to the side, his smile dimming for a moment. "For a number of reasons."

"But… hey. Welcome back," he says, his eyes moving back to Isis, his grin returning. "You're a sight for sore eyes. How've you been?"

Aman's humor with Isis' self-consciousness dips significantly when Isaac circles back to his own situation, even by avoiding mentioning… all of it. His poker face is less than stellar given the shift from half-grin to something decidedly less than that. "Two for you, one for me, and I'll let you talk," he decides, heading for the kitchen.

Dull thunks of cans shifting around inside the refrigerator sound before he returns with precisely as many cans as promised. It's a quick thing to pass them off to one of them, then the other, then to slip for the staircase leading up the second floor to the townhome. "Nice meeting you, Isis," Aman remarks with warmth, but he's already nearly out of sight up the stairs.

In the short time it takes Aman to return with the brewskies, Isis’s makeshift sign has been discarded by the door. Her smile is softer, weighed slightly by the concern left in the wake of Aman’s significantly shifted mood, but sincere nonetheless. As much weight as there is to this very moment, there is still a sense of celebration and, at least for her, relief. Afterall, someone answered the door!

She sees Aman off with a little wave. A sip of the bottle and she’s casually slinking off into the next room, movements instinctive in her ever constant, curious way. “I’ve been… “ She breathes out a short puff that is part laugh, part sigh. “I’m here. That’s good enough for me.” There’s not enough in the room to keep her attention diverted long. Nothing more interesting than the man she came to see, anyway. She turns back, expression pinched by thoughtfulness. “I’m sorry it took me so long to get back.”

Faulkner watches her as she roams. "I'm… sure it wasn't easy," he says, offering a strained smile of his own. "I'm glad you're back," he says, and this time his smile is a bit brighter, less strained. He opens the beer, but he hesitates to take a drink of it; trying to figure out what to say is hard enough while he's sober, thanks.

"I've changed," he finally says quietly.

Which is about as non-helpful as it's possible to get; he chuckles wryly at it, and for a moment there's a glimmer of Isaac's old humor in his eyes. Now he takes a drink of his beer; he's already made the most awkward possible start to this conversation. "I got kidnapped. Again," he says. "Or… something. Back in July I woke up in a plane crash in fucking Canada, with no clue how I got there. Without my ability."

He glances over apologetically. "And, uh. You… should probably be careful about touching me," he says, not without some reluctance. "There's more than that to what happened to me, and I don't know how it would play with your ability." He swallows, and it's not hard to read how nervous he is about that — for all that he's not sure how to handle this, he's glad that Isis is back safe, and he would very much like her to remain that way.

Both pale little hands slip around the cold bottle as she listens, hazel eyes growing wider. At the mention of the crash, her gaze flicks over him in a hurried, worried assessment. “I mean, I expected you’d have changed, sure. But…” There’s a long pause. A long stillness.

She dips her head in and aside, gaze narrowed by thick dark lashes. One brow slowly creeps into an arc. “You do realize telling me not to touch you only makes me want to do that even more, right? I haven’t changed that much.” Which isn't entirely true. She’s changed. A lot. But, not in this. She smiles briefly, long enough to draw her back in another step nearer to Isaac.

“I didn’t come all this way - across all those miles.” Step. “Out of all those ditches.” Step. “Through all those -” bodies She shifts a lock of sanguine hair from her face with a twitch of her head. “- obstacles, to not touch you.” She holds out a hand, drops of condensation like beads of liquid crystal on her upturned palm.

Her hand is shaky.

Despite everything, Faulkner's lips curl up into a smile. For everything that's changed, it's good to know that this, at least, has not; Isis is still the same fireball he's known. His eyes fall to her hand and linger for a moment… but then he sighs. "Alright, but… hear me out, okay? Let's finish our beers. Then if you want… full speed ahead. But it'd kill me if something happened to you when you just got back."

It makes sense that one of them is practical. Probably for the best.

Her fingers curl starting at the pinky, one after the other. "That's fair," she resigns quietly before another deep drink. For a second, she holds his gaze, bottle tipped high. Daring to down the whole thing. But, her sly smile leaks around the edges and she lowers the drink.

"Fill me in."

Faulkner gives her a look, but he can't quite stop himself from smiling, too. It's a good note to segue into his story on, which… does not involve so many smiles. "Flight 666, I call it. Origin point unknown, destination a fiery crater in Canada. There were… several of us on that flight. Doctor Necromancer included, if you can believe that," he says with a wry smirk.

Faulkner looks away, hands tightening on his beer. "All of us woke up in what I can only describe as techno-coffins. None of us had any idea how we'd gotten there. None of us had our abilities, either. We still don't," he says darkly. He raises his hand and flexes his fingers, as if trying to twist the shadows around them, but… nothing. "It wasn't just negation, either; we've apparently been stripped of the Suresh Linkage Complex at the genetic level. Our blood tests are abnormal. Our brain scans were abnormal, too, which… "

"In November, I had a stroke. I'd moved out of the Park Slope place for the most part by then, which is good — because if I'd had a stroke out there I probably wouldn't have been able to have this conversation without getting a medium involved. It wasn't just me, either — a bunch of us had these strokes, all at exactly the same time. Then the same thing happened in January. I was lucky in that there's not a lot of permanent damage — some of the others have had loss of motor function or senses — but there is also no reason I should've had a stroke." He looks over to Isis, his expression tightening. "And there's nothing to say that this body won't have another. Quite the opposite, in fact; one of the biggest risk factors for having a stroke is… having had a stroke," he says, taking a drink.

There's a quiet little scoff and a bob of a red mane at the mere mention of Dr. Necromancer. "Oh, yeah I can believe that," Isis replies all too cheerily.

The weight of the tale burrows creases of concern deeper between her brows, then around her eyes, until the burden shows by pulling down the corners of her pale lips and draws her gaze downward into the small hollow of the bottle in her hand. "So… You're completely normally abnormal?" She attempts to smile, but it manifests as only a slight twitch at the corner of her mouth. "But, they're working on it? There's testing? I mean…"


"I'm sorry." Isis looks up to him anew. "I'm sorry I didn't make it back sooner. I'm sorry I was away at all to begin with. I tried to leave it all sooner. I tried to come back…" her lips remain parted with what lingers unspoken, for a moment managing only a strangled noise of uncertainty. She takes a deep breath, but the sigh it's released as does nothing to settle her, instead leaving her with subtle shivers as she looks him over as if for outwards signs of ailment. Too bad she doesn't have Doctor Necromancer's ability. Then again, it sounds like neither does the doctor himself.

Isaac's eyes widen as he sees Isis's distress; instinctively, he reaches a hand towards her —

— only to stop at the last moment, his hand hovering an inch away from her. "Hey. You came back. That counts for a lot right there," he says quietly, mustering a grin… but the smile doesn't last long. It drops away as he withdraws his hand.

"I'm glad you're back," he says. "I was really starting to think…" He cuts himself off. There had been a lot of things he'd been starting to think when it comes to Isis — that she wouldn't be coming back. That she'd died. That he'd never know what had happened to her. That —

He shakes his head, cutting off that line of thinking. He has enough problems without fretting over might have beens that aren't; frankly it's a little ridiculous. He drowns it in a gulp of beer.

So instead he gives a sour smirk. "Anyway. Completely normally abnormal isn't a bad way to put it. All of us look normal. We feel like ourselves — sans abilities, at least, which is… like losing a limb," he admits. The worst part of all is that he's getting used to being without it. "But we're not. Not even close. After the second round of strokes, Doctor Necromancer conducted an autopsy on… one of us," he says carefully, taking another drink of his beer.

"According to him — in the last thing we got from him before he fucked off to parts unknown — we're constructed. Artificial. These are pretty much whole-ass prosthetic bodies, right down to the brain." He hesitates for a moment, then shrugs. "Which is… actually pretty impressive, honestly. If, you know. Pretty disturbing."

He shakes that off and looks back to Isis. "Thing is… I don't know if your power would even work on this body. And if it did… what if it had another stroke while you were inside? That'd be the worst," Faulkner says, taking another drink…

…and discovering that his beer is now empty. He regards it with dull surprise, then sighs and sets it down, looking back to Isis. Moment of truth.

There’s a softening of her posture - a weight lifted and a soft breath taken that seems to lighten her, almost drawing Isis that last small distance to his outstretched hand. To her credit, she holds onto that posture - that hope - even when his hand falls away and takes the warmth of him with it. She nods slowly, giving him the space to turn over all the silent horrors that are the ‘might have beens’.

The next is a series of reactions like watching a plant grow in timeskip film - a progression that happens too fast…

It starts with the hope of his outstretched hand.
Feel like ourselves—: Preheat with head-tilted curiosity.
But we’re not: Add a pinch of uncertainty.
Conducted an autopsy—: Stir in large doses of heart-wrenching concern.
We’re constructed: Bake until eye-widened fear broils up from the inside.

“Constructed,” Isis repeats. And again. “Constructed?” She’s entirely organic, yet she seems to be the one glitching, stroking. Her honey-hazel, widened gaze turns over him in staggered sweeps. “Then where’s…” She takes a small, silent step backwards.

“Where’s the real Isaac?”

Where's the real Isaac?

It's funny, the way you can feel hope die. It's like those words are a knife made of ice, stabbing him neatly in the chest; he can feel the cold radiating out, carrying with it a dull numbness… and behind that, a dull, aching pain. It's… a lot like his nightmares, lately. The ones where he's dying.

For a moment, the hurt those words cause is visible on his face — a flicker of shock, of disbelief, of pain. Only for a moment… and then his expression changes, emotion draining away, leaving nothing at all behind. It's an expression Isis has seen once before.

He stands up, regarding her with that empty expression for a long moment. "The real Isaac," he echoes slowly, rising to his feet. He's silent for a moment, considering Isis. "You know… I didn't expect this. Not from you," he says, picking up his beer and studying it for a moment.

"Cloning was a possibility we considered. At the start of this. How could we not? Our bodies were genetically identical, save for the Suresh Linkage Complex." He chuckles bitterly. "Though I have to say, I didn't expect you to freak out. Where does the real you go when you swap bodies, anyway?" he asks, a hint of bitterness slipping through in his voice for a moment.

He shakes his head. "The real Isaac… I don't even know if there is one anymore. Maybe I was cloned and the 'real me' got ground up into dogmeat. Or maybe I was harvested for my ability." Again Isaac shakes his head wearily. "I don't even know why I exist, Isis."

Abruptly, the numbness at the heart of him cracks open like a cyst, spilling out white hot rage. "But if I knew where the, quote-unquote, 'real Isaac' was… don't you think I would've found my way there by now? Don't you think I'd have done something? Do you really think I'd be sitting here, waiting to fucking die?!"

Barbs. Oh, so familiar - barbs of pain. This knife cuts both ways and apparently Isaac 2.0 has no qualms wielding it.

But, where Isaac disappears into emptiness, Isis's instinctual retreat is somewhere decidedly less quiet. "Don't-" she warns as a quiet snarl amidst his tirade. But, it goes on, adding fuel to the fire. And the images he paints! Death at every bend! She's backing up, head down, a fiery mane shaking side-to-side as if physically battling his words, or more likely some demon summoned thereby.

Snap. Her head comes up, gaze gold and lively and fierce. She points. "Don't you dare assume that some transplant of memories gives you the right to speak as if you know me." Two steps forward. Backwards. Side to side. The broiling consumes every muscle. "When I jump, it's not some copy. I won't pretend to understand cloning… or the full concept of soul. But I do know that if the man I love is out there… Possibly in pain, alone, or even dead as you say-!" She grimaces and rakes her hand through her hair, grabbing a fistful in a tussle as if this might help her come to grips with the thoughts that jostle around beneath. "Then I owe it to him, to us, to find him. Not linger here with some doppelganger version - some half-truth."

"No." She shakes her head repeatedly as she sets aside her drink. Then again, with quiet finality: "No."

Silence stretches for a long moment, Isaac watching her… and then, there's the barest hint of a smile at one corner of his lips, a thing bitter as wormwood. "He would've loved to hear that, you know," he says, his voice quiet and oddly gentle. He turns and moves to where her sign — Lost and Found — lays on the ground, picking it up. He stares at it for a moment, that bitter smile broadening just a hair, and shakes his head — Lost and Found, indeed.

"I don't regret the time we spent together. Or… the memory of it, I guess," he says softly, shrugging. "But… I guess this is goodbye, Jo," he says, and for all the softness in his voice, those words are like tombstones crashing onto marble. Goodbye.

Isaac lays the sign down, giving her his best grin for just a moment; it almost seems like there might be something glimmering at the corner of his eye, but surely it's just a trick of the light — surely that, and nothing more.

Then he turns and strides towards the door. "Tell Aman I went out for a walk if he asks. Good luck… and… sorry you came all this way for nothing," he says kindly, but he doesn't stop walking, doesn't let her see his face again — he steps out, the door slowly swinging shut behind him as he strides into the night.

The raised voices brought with them raised concerns from the party who'd retreated upstairs. Aman had moved to the hall to listen, and when he sees the door open— sees Isaac head out— his eyes widen, brows arching. He doesn't have an ability on him today, nothing that could see him speed down those steps before his friend and roommate is gone into the night. Instead, as it closes, he's left to turn to Isis with his bewildered expression.

"What the fuck happened?" he breathes out. It carries with it a certain sense of what did you do, save for there's a lack of accusation in his concern.

Except for that if she tries to go without explaining, he absolutely reaches out to stop her.

Isis stares at the door shut tight. Not even a shadow, a dear shadow, of the doppelganger left to her. Tension ripples visibly from her jaw down through the pale pillar of her throat. "He-…" A suppressed cough clears her voice of the strain. "He went for a walk," she replies, still staring at his absence.

Then her eyes widen and she spins to Aman, reaching out towards his elbow to steady herself as if whatever thought that's come to her has done so with physical force. "But, he needs to come back," she urges the tall, dark stranger. "I need him to come back. Call him. Bring him back." Her eyes dance restlessly over Aman's face - part plea, part unhinged desperation.

They're dancing in a precarious moment of time here. In him is a clear willingness to help. There's only so long before Isaac will be out of sight, out of hearing outside. But—

"To apologize?" Aman asks bluntly.

Only if the situation really calls for him to come back.

"If he wants to," she retorts. Sure, she could call out, but the likelihood he'd return to her? If he was her Isaac, maybe. But, he's not. Right?

She speaks hurriedly, glancing at the door as if it were a ticking time bomb. Words falling out of her face without filter or even thought. "He's the only link to what happened. To The Originals. I've been in a clone. Or an Original? A- a- hive. Hydra. A network. Maybe-… Maybe?"

Her grip tightens. "Please!"

Clearly, she's got some kind of idea here. Aman takes one look to the door, and then back to her. He opens it with his free arm.

His other rotates at the elbow, fixing behind her back. It's followed by a less than subtle nudge toward the threshold.

"Only way I see him coming back if he's upset is if he hears you say sorry," Aman indicates blithely. Still, he casts a worried look out into the evening regardless. Christ, did he even take a coat with him? "You want him to talk to you again, you gotta throw the olive branch."

Isis shies away from the touch at her back - though doing so only results in her stepping further into the open doorway. She stares incredulously at the side of Aman's face. "Whose side are you on, anyway?" she blurts out and runs outside.

"Isaac?! Isaac, wait!"

Isaac, it seems, was lying about walking anywhere, if the figure at the end of the street is any indication. He's not walking, he's running, still in gym shorts and T-shirt — not the best attire against the chill of the night air, but he doesn't seem to be too worried about it given the pace he's going at. Did he move this fast before? Surely not…

…or maybe Isis just hasn't seen him with the proper motivation. But he's motivated now, vaulting obstacles without losing speed, hitting the ground without losing a step and launching himself forward again, feet pounding the pavement like a demon is behind him. If Isaac hears her, he shows no sign of it. Then he rounds the corner and…

…he's gone.

"Shit," Aman breathes from where he stands on the porch. The sheer speed Isaac's off at feels like enough of an indicator of his state. Rubbing the side of his neck, he looks down at the sidewalk, back to Isis.

The question of whose side he's on is unanswered, because surely it was a rhetorical. But…

"He'll be back," he sighs. Aman's sure of that. "He might hate me for it later, but if you want to hang around until then… you can try putting your idea to him then." His hand slides off the side of his neck to swing down by his side, expression rueful. He almost decides to leave it between both of them, but he finds himself looking to find Isis's eyes anyway.

"Listen, if you think it's tough coming to grips with whatever the fuck's happened to him, imagine how he feels." He sighs out hard, "It's been an absolute fuck of a time for him since July. Christ, since fucking January." And not the one this year. "Whatever worst-light scenario he decided to go painting right away…"

Aman lifts his brows, asking, "Just take it with a grain of salt, yeah?"

Isis stares down the street, willing the faintest hint, the merest shadow, of Isaac back around the corner. "A grain of salt through an hourglass long overspent, maybe…" Her nose starts to wrinkle up onto a sneer but she huffs it away like a dejected canine, allowing her to save face when she turns back to Aman. Her voice pitches into a sickly saccharine note to go along with a bright smile, "Can I borrow your phone?"

Patience is a virtue served better by those who haven't wasted so much time.

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