Apple and Tree


des2_icon.gif sera2_icon.gif

Scene Title Apple and Tree
Synopsis The fall may be far, but they stay near.
Date May 21, 2018

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office: Lobby

It’s so, so close to quitting time. The early evening sun is shining merrily in through the windows, promising a warm evening awaits. The clock is ticking away the final seconds to six o’clock.

Until suddenly they aren’t.

The cause is probably obvious to Sera even before Odessa steps into the lobby, slowly rolling her wrist and curling her fingers in toward her palms one by one. “I wanted- I needed to see you.” Low black heels sound quietly on the polished floor as the brunette approaches the reception desk.

“I need a favor.”

The video of a goat screaming incoherently into a boy’s face until he breaks down crying is frozen on the screen of Sera’s computer. She turns, slowly, regarding Des the way one might a particularly large spider lingering in the corner of a bathroom. There’s fright, first, then wide-eyed staring, and then when she realizes it isn’t someone else she relaxes and slouches against the back of her chair.

“Sorry, I thought you were…” Sera waves a hand dismissively, then picks up her can of Moxie and tips it back, querying what time-frozen soda tastes like. She wrinkles her nose. It still tastes like Moxie. “Sure,” she remarks casually, as if nothing about her day or any day is weird or will be weird. “What’s up?”

“What, the boss?” Whether she means Richard, or the one she had before she came here, Des leaves it intentionally vague. “That’d be a hell of a trick.”

Her good humor doesn’t last. Can’t. Dropping her hands to her sides, she picks at the side seam of her skirt nervously. Blue eyes behind red glasses are puffy and rimmed a paler shade of it from earlier crying. “You came here because of me, right? To Raytech, I mean.”

“Basically,” is vague enough from Sera to stand in for a yes. Setting down the bottle of Moxie, she reclines in her chair and kicks up sneakers feet onto her desk, hands lacing behind her head. “I mean the health insurance is nice too.”

Sarcasm aside, Sera interjects with her own priorities. “There's a ruined mini golf course in Elmhurst, I was thinking we could go play a round. I can dig up some clubs and balls,” from where neither matters nor is answerable. “So maybe I came here for the miniature golf opportunities as well!”

Des presses her lips together and has to take a deep breath to keep herself from crying again. “I really wish I could do that. I want to goof off and pretend nothing fucking exists right now.” She shakes her head and looks down at her shoes, gathering her thoughts for a moment.

Regret is written deeply into the lines of Odessa’s face when she lifts her head again. “I have to run, Kara. Because trouble is coming to find me, and I can’t lead it here. I’ve already fucked it up enough.” Lower lip is pulled between rows of teeth and worried at. “I need you to stay here and watch over them, because I can’t. And they’re your best shot of finding a way home.”

Sera’s — Kara’s — reaction is a sudden lowering of her brows at the adoption of a disapproving look. Her feet sweep off of the desk and come to place squarely on the floor in front of her chair. She picks up the can of Moxie and takes another rueful swig of it, then drums her nails against the aluminum.

“You don't…” Sera wrinkles her nose as if she smelled something bad, “run from trouble.” There's even a hint of confusion and disbelief, as if Odessa told her she likes chocolate syrup on French fries. “You’re Odessa Price for fuck’s sake.”

Wanted criminal, yeah.” But she laughs softly, in spite of herself and with a slightly unhinged note, because this is just about as absurd as Kara’s implying. “They’ll hang me if they catch me. All it takes is contact with a negation drug, or someone like Rene? And that’s it. It’s over.”

Odessa is at a loss. There’s no good answer to this problem she’s faced with. The situation she’s created for herself with a lifetime of wrong place, wrong time, wrong decision. “I don’t want to run, but I don’t know what else to do. The government or Wolfhound will take this place apart piece by piece looking for me. They’ll ruin my friends’ lives. They have families. I’m just one person. No one is worse off by having me out of their life.” Even if she can hear Richard’s voice in her head, protesting that last assertion.

Squinting, Sera tilts her head to the side and looks at Odessa like she was only really seeing her for the first time. “Sometimes I forget you're not my Odessa.” There's a hesitance in Sera’s posture after that, an uncertainty and a nervousness. For a time she's quiet, hands folded in her lap and brows furrowed. Thoughtful.

“Why, exactly, don't you turn yourself in?” Sera asks in a gradually louder tone of voice, moving from a hesitant whisper to a more confident full speaking voice. “Aren't there courts and lawyers here? Or is due-process something only my world knows how to handle?”

There’s an ache in her chest that accompanies the moment when Kara seems to realize that Odessa isn’t as much like her daughter as she thought she was. “I think innocence is a hard sell when it comes to me. I think a lot of the charges against me are unfair, but… the worst ones aren’t.”

The Odessa Price of Kara’s world has something that she does not: A benefactor. Someone who believes her worth to them outweighs the crimes she’s committed. She had that briefly in the Institute. …Maybe there’s someone like the Arthur Petrelli of Kara’s world, or the Richard Cardinal of the future, who would be pleased to exploit her in exchange for her life.

What a broken fucking record that would be.

“I just don’t think due process comes out in my favor.”

Again, Sera’s brows furrow and her eyes narrow. There’s a scrutiny in her expression, one brow raised and arms crossed over her chest. “Do you think you don’t deserve to be judged for things that you… clearly admit to doing?” With the angle of her chin, Sera seems more assertive than usual, more structured and less Sera and more Kara. “I mean, at the end of the day you’re saying that you know you’ve done something worth capital punishment, and that you don’t… care to suffer the consequences.”

She threads one hand through her hair, raking a mess of blonde locks back from steady brows. “Why?” There’s something else behind Sera’s blue eyes here, but whatever it is feels as opaque as the walls behind her desk. “What makes you more special than anyone else? Why do you get preferential treatment? I’m not impartial, I love you no matter what you’ve done. But I’m not the world, and I’m certainly not your conscience.”

Looking to the paused video of screaming goats on her computer, Sera twitches her brows once, then flicks a look back to Odessa. “Why is your favor more important than justice?”

There’s no great answer to any of that. Not a good one. Only a whole laundry list of reasons that range from bad to whatever worse than terrible is. There’s an instinct to ask if she thinks her Odessa isn’t guilty of some terrible things, but that isn’t fair to her.

“Because I’m— ”

No. She isn’t.

Odessa stares down at the floor again, tears falling freely. “It isn’t, okay? I can try to justify what I did until the… inevitable heat death of the universe, and I don’t think anyone will understand why.” Even she isn’t sure about it some days. That might be the nature of her insanity.

“Are you going to turn me in?”

Sera throws a wadded up ball of paper at Odessa. “No,” is her more verbal form of answer. “But I think you need to figure out what the fuck you’re doing with your life, and why you need to keep going at it. I’m not saying you don’t deserve to be free, but maybe you should earn it.” Sera leans back in her chair again, looking Odessa up and down. “My daughter isn’t perfect, but deep down inside she knows what’s right, even if it takes her for-fucking-ever to actually do it.”

There’s a look to the front windows of the lobby, then back to Odessa. “I’m not going to stay here when you go, though. Raytech will have to find another secretary. Because I’m not here to push papers, and even if they are the best hope for me to get home, that doesn’t hinge on me being their door-person.”

Odessa flinches when the paper hits her. She should have been paying attention. She is now. “I’ve been trying to earn it, Kara.” It’s not an excuse, but a plea to be heard. “I’ve been trying to use my knowledge to help people. Heal them. If I can help people, maybe I can undo some of the bad I did during the war.”

The brunette sighs heavily. “I’m not asking you to stay in this job. I just… want you to keep an eye on them, I guess. I think they need you.” Two fingers slip behind her glasses to wipe tears away from her cheekbones. “I don’t know. Maybe I just… No, I don’t know. It’s your life. You should do what you want with it. You don’t owe me a damn thing.”

Stooping down, Des picks up the paper and rolls it between her palms as she stands up again. It’s something to fidget with, like she does when she feels for those strings.

Strings that are pulling at her and starting to remind her she doesn’t have the mastery she once had. Odessa takes a shuddering breath that has nothing to do with her crying. “I have some loose ends to tie up. I won’t be gone forever.”

“Where are you going to go?” Sera asks, casually. There’s something lingering behind those words, much as there felt like there was to her earlier interrogation. She slouches to the side, resting her elbow on the arm of the office chair. “And does anyone else know you’re leaving, other than The Boss?”

“I thought I’d see if I could find a bed of clover in Park Slope,” Des responds easily. “He knows,” she admits, because there doesn’t seem to be much use in denying that. “I told him I wasn’t going to tell you, either. So you can act surprised when I don’t show up for work tomorrow. If you want.” The tears finally come to a stop again and she wipes her face one last time.

“I mean, I’m not your mom.” There’s a huff of laughter with that. See? It’s a joke. And… Okay, it wasn’t that funny, but Odessa’s in a rough place and it seemed funny at the time.

Closing her eyes and laughing ruefully, Sera shifts a look over at Odessa that is partly chiding, partly serious. “I’ll take care of Ray,” she says with all the confidence of someone who may already have done so. “But you didn’t really answer me, which is more of a me thing than a you thing.”

Arching her brows, Sera leans forward and drums her hands on the tabletop. “Where’re you going, and how long do you plan to make-believe there?” It’s a cold way of describing fleeing from justice, but not an inaccurate one.

“As long as it takes to find out who’s trying to kill the only friends I’ve got, and how the fuck I can change their minds.” Which is not a euphemism for kill them, for a change. Des intends to exhaust her options before resorting to her knives. But she’ll keep them sharp all the same. “As for where, I’ll do what cockroaches always do and find some hole to disappear into. Not sure where that’ll be yet.”

She grins. “Wasn’t kidding about Park Slope. Looks like a great place to get lost.” And probably eaten by a starving former zoo animal, honestly. But at least it’ll be somewhere that’s green in this concrete forest.

“When you find out,” Sera says with a raise of her brows, leaning for add and out of her seat to squarely rest a hand on Odessa’s shoulder, “you tell me where the fuck to find you. Because I didn't wind up in this shit-hole dimension where I can't get reliable cell-phone service for my only daughter to abandon me.” There's a squeeze of her hand, there at Odessa’s shoulder.

“When you're ready to make a choice,” and Sera isn't implying about where she's running, but what she's running from, “I'll be there for you too. As long as you don't push me away, I'll always be there for you.”

“M- Mom…?” Instead of crying again, Des doubles over the desk, her palms braced against it as she lets out a whine of pain. “Fffuck. I’ve held this too long.” She cringes, shrinking in on herself, forcing herself to keep her breathing even. “I- I know. You’re the only person who…” In place of words, she just nods her head quickly, expecting Kara already understands the sentiment. “I won’t abandon you.”

Odessa’s finally found people she can belong to, and now she has to run from them. “Thank you. For… for everything. I’ll get a message to you as soon as I can.”

“The sooner,” Sera urges, “the better.”

It's only then that Odessa sits up in her bed, a warm mug of chamomile tea and a bottle of Advil by the bedside. The transition doesn't make sense to her, it has no beginning and no middle. But in that confusing juxtaposition there is an ironic familiarity.

Weird children come from weird parents.

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