And It's Going to Be Okay


chess5_icon.gif luther_icon.gif

Scene Title And It's Going to Be Okay
Synopsis Chess can't tell Luther what he wants to know, but he does the favor of telling her what she needs to hear.
Date May 27, 2021

It’s a weekly Thursday tradition — if the weather allows — for Chess and Luther to close up work at the Deveaux Society, and go for a walk along the water, eventually winding up at one of the Red Hook bars to cap the evening off with a drink.

The realization that this is the last time they may do this strikes Chess as she powers down her computer and reaches under her desk for her change of shoes, swapping the heels she wears for a pair of Nikes. As she bends to lace the sneakers up, tears seep out from under her lashes. She sucks in her breath, steeling herself for the conversation that’s to come.

She’s left telling Luther until now, and she can almost hear the clock ticking. The desk calendar is unmarked, nothing signifying the importance of one day from another, but the 11th seems bigger and bolder for all its uniformity.

It’s time.

Red Hook

It’s one of those walks where Chess seems a bit distracted, needing to be pulled back into the conversation as her mind wanders. She tries to find the right moment to bring up the trip, but it doesn’t fit in anywhere in the conversation, and with every step it’s harder to find a way into the topic.

The hazy skies and smoke from the looming fire steers the conversation naturally in that direction, though at least the wind off the water keeps the smoke at bay. It doesn’t do the same for Chess’ worries about a different danger altogether.

Tradition, routine. It's a regimen that keeps Luther out of trouble most of the time. He has looked forward to it every Thursday evening and only occasionally regretted it on Friday mornings.

That's why, though, the break in the pattern hasn't gone unnoticed. Chess' distraction doesn't sit well in Luther either, yet the man has found every other thing to talk about until he's sick of avoiding the other, more invisible smoke looming in the horizon of their conversation.

"Is somethin' wrong?" Gruff and seemingly unapproachable as he is on the outside, Luther retains a soft and ginger spot for those he cares for. With softness in his quiet observation, he slows even further in the pace as they go. "It's been eatin' at ya since we left the tower. Maybe even before that."

She glances up at him and takes a breath, reaching up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear while she turns to look for a bench to sit on. She gestures to the closest, one that looks out at the water. The sun is setting, and even though they look at the broken skyline of Manhattan, the sunset is vibrant, painted in reds and pinks.

Chess sits down, her eyes on the water rather than the sun. Despite the dozens of ways to start she’s rehearsed in her mind, her mind is blank. She heaves a sigh and reaches to take his hand, squeezing it.

“I’m going on a trip,” she says quietly, her eyes on the water so she doesn’t have to look at his face. The last time she warned him she might never see him again, it was on a phone call three thousand miles away. And this time, the chance of her not returning is even higher.

Tears well up in her eyes, still watching the water. ““It’s important, but it’s somewhere you won’t be able to reach me.” Her voice cracks, and she drops her gaze to their linked hands. “But I want you to know it was my decision, and it’s something I feel I need to do.”

A thread of nervousness reflects in the stiffness with which Luther eases on to the bench beside her. They've done this walk several times, sometimes with him cracking a joke about his age affecting his knees, not that it's true. Much. A moment of silence meets the sunset and broken skyline instead.

When she takes his hand, there is an extra familiar warmth emanating from his fingers. He looks down at the squeeze, then up to her face as she announces her trip. That would have been fine, but when Chess goes on to say that she's going to be unreachable, he truly tenses. A few extra ticks of silence pass. "What do you mean? Are you going out to the Dead Zone?" The unspoken, unasked why butts up against the conflict of immediate rejection.

"They've got satphones that work out there," Luther continues. His tone matches his fingers, tightening. Concern writ into furrowed brow, he leans closer, seeking explanation and her eyes.

She squeezes his hand in return, and she looks up, her dark eyes tearful and dark, mirrors where he can see himself reflected back.

“Not the Dead Zone. Phones won’t work. I can’t explain, but I won’t be alone, and it’s really important,” Chess murmurs in a voice thick with swallowed tears and the unsounded sobs she’s managed to stifle so far. “I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.”

Her lips part again, this time, with a sob, and her free hand comes up to cover her mouth.

“I wouldn’t leave you if it wasn’t important,” she whispers. Twin tears stream down each cheek, and she lets go of his hand, only to fling both arms around his neck. “I need you to tell me it’s okay and I need you to tell me to be brave, okay?” The words are muffled by his shoulder where she’s buried her face.

She can see the growing concern and worry where the ruins of casual demeanor fully collapses under the weight of her failing composure. Luther's reaction is nearly automatic that he puts his arm around Chess to tug her close in a comforting hug. "You're always brave. Bravest person I know, with what you've been through," he says softly. Luther lifts his hand, gently stroking her hair and back to soothe her tears.

But the parts where she's mentioned leaving, stressed importance, and that she's not going alone leave him unable to offer the permission and the acceptance she seeks. Luther swallows down roughly, blinking several times in his own struggle with emotional tumult. "What're you not telling me, Chess?" he asks, releasing his hold around her. He looks down to the top of her head against his shoulder. "Is this about Adam again? Where are you going?" The questions force out from an anxious, hard-lined jaw.

“I’m not,” she protests into his shoulder, but the questions only elicit shakes of her head. After a moment, she pulls back, standing suddenly to walk toward the water, fingers wiping her cheeks and then gripping the railing. It’s black with soot and ash from the fire to the east.

“It’s not about Adam,” Chess assures him, voice firm on that fact. She studies the skies to the west, where the faintest orange glow can be seen between the gaps of the buildings on Manhattan.

“I’m not exactly sure where we’ll be.” This is both true and not true, and she knows it. She doesn’t like lying, and she closes her eyes, then turns to face Luther.

“I need you to look after Alix and Kim for me. Check in on Clover and Sage, too, and Jac, but she has more people looking after her,” she murmurs, focusing on the tasks she’s assigning rather than the half-truths she speaks. “And I’ll ask them to look after you, too.”

Resistance underlies Luther's reluctance to release her from the embrace, but he does. With confusion still woven into his troubled expression, he listens but with visibly growing worry.

"Chess… No."

Luther's head tilts, a watering grey-eyed gaze focused solely upon hers closed. "Why are you talkin' like this? Like you're…" He reaches for her shoulders, not wanting to let her go without the very strongest of reasons, as if physically holding on for dear life. While his grip might be strong, his voice wavers. "Just fuckin' tell me. Please."

Tears stream from under her lashes; the little bit of makeup that she wears mixes with the saltwater to smudge her cheeks. She’s given up trying to brush them away, and rests her hands instead on his forearms — not to pull his hands off her shoulders, but just to cling to him, his strength, for probably the last time.

She doesn’t think she can bear another moment like this.

“I wouldn’t go if it wasn’t important. You know that, yeah?” Chess whispers, finally looking up and meeting his gray eyes with her dark ones. “I will tell you this. I’m under an NDA. I can’t say for who or for what, or who else is going, but my guess is you’ll figure that out soon enough. Some of the others will probably tell their loved ones, but…” she shrugs, and flips a lock of hair out of her eyes. “I’m very aware that I’m lucky not to be in Rikers, and breaking it might land me back there.”

She bites her lower lip to keep it from trembling. “I can’t not go, not knowing what I know. You’d do the same thing, but I’m glad you don’t have to.”

Beneath Luther's grip on her shoulders, he touch warms a few degrees as he fights for composure and stubbornly holds her gaze when she meets his. His head shakes side to side, still in denial of the news. The man searches for anything more deep in her stare, even as she determines he can't know. Even as she knows he won't force it from her.

His hands release slowly, but only to allow him to step in closer and draw her in again. "It sounds like you'd be safer in Rikers, but with this city's fuckin' track record with prisons," he growls from between gritted teeth, defensive sarcasm dripping down along with a tear that escapes the wall, falling, lost somewhere in her hair.

Luther's breath hitches for a moment. "How can I get you to come back?" The question, impractical as it is, must be asked. “Apparently I’m not above kidnapping, you know.”

Her hands release his forearms to wrap tightly around him, fingers curling into loose fists from helplessness and frustration. Chess huffs a soft, wet laugh at his attempt at jokes, but shakes her head at the more serious question. He can feel the fabric of his shirt grow damp beneath her eyes, and the rise and fall of her own shoulders when a sob racks through her slim frame.

“I’m going to do everything I can to get back, I promise,” she whispers. “I love you so much.”

Once, that word had been so hard for her to say. Now she wishes she’d told him so many more times — now that she isn’t sure she’ll be able to tell him again.

In a smaller voice, she admits, “I almost didn’t say anything. But I’m trying to be brave. Telling you I’m leaving — it has to be harder than what I’m doing.” She sniffles, finally stepping back to search his face. “Right?’

Luther stands stock still, because moving otherwise would probably cause his normally steady foundation to crumble against the eroding emotional tide. He stares outward to the waters beyond the rail. Until she whispers those words. The man sucks in a breath she can feel under the rapid expanse of his chest. Holding it. Holding her. Until she steps back, he doesn't want to let her go. But he does, eventually, with great reluctance.

With her looking up at him again, he reaches up a hand to wipe some of the streaming makeup. The same hand moving to brush bay breeze-tossed hair somewhat back into place. "I'm glad you told me. And I know that… I won't be the one to hold you back from whatever it is you're going to do. Because, you are brave. And, it's going to be okay."

That statement spoken into existence, he punctuates it with a light kiss of encouragement and reassurance on top of her head. "I love you, Chess," he rumbles softly. "I'll miss you more."

Chess’ face crumples when he says the words she asked him to say for her sake, and she throws herself into another tight hug, one that lasts for several minutes…

…because she knows it might be the last.

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