Beach Coffee


bf_cassandra_icon.gif emily_icon.gif

Scene Title Beach Coffee
Synopsis While taking early morning coffee, Cassandra and Emily find company in each other, though neither of them are the same the other remembers.
Date August 7, 2019

US Virgin Islands

The wedding of Richard and Elisabeth had passed. Surprisingly, there were no dimensional incursions, time-skipping Japanese men, iron-skinned ex-presidents, or omnipotent evolved serial killers to be found; only a nice wedding on a beach in a relatively untouched part of the world. The next morning found a large portion of the party contingent asleep, recovering, or enjoying the novelty of being in a world of luxury and relative calm. It’s amazing how well you can sleep when you’re not having to worry about the day-to-day of living in New York, and Cassandra? Well, she’s taking advantage of it while she can.

The small cafe that serves the hotel is on the beach, facing the east, to allow early risers a chance to eat or, in the case of a couple of people devouring egg sandwiches in a corner, people who haven’t slept yet. Breakfast fare is simple - fresh fruit, fresh coffee, and a selection of croissants and pastries, some drizzled with honey - but while the food is simple, the scenery shared is worth the price of admission. After all, how many people can sit on a nearly-deserted beach and watch the sunrise?

Cassandra has chosen a spot near the edge of the patio that leads out to the beach, letting her bare feet rest on the pristine white sand while she remains seated on a comfortable chair. A silver pot of coffee sits on the table steaming, along with a pair of croissants - one halfway eaten already. She’s not got her phone, or a newspaper, or anything. It seems that she’s simply enjoying the serenity of the place, her bare toes wiggling in the sand.

Emily Epstein has never been able to sleep well outside her own home, and tonight has been no exception. When the sun finally gets around to showing its face, she figures it's as good a time as any to begin wandering the grounds. Theoretically, a safer time, at least.

She's not ruled out that something ridiculous and sideways-slanting won't happen before they all get home. It's better to hedge your bets and be pleasantly surprised, than caught entirely unawares.

The gift-shop flip flops announce her presence, clapping on the tile of flooring inside before she gracefully exits onto the patio, transferring from one height grade to the next without so much as a pause or a heavy footfall. Her gaze slows afterward anyway, thought turning inward and her gaze going distant. Then it lifts, her attention going toward the beach at first… before slowly returning to the patio. She hasn't seen Cassandra yet in her skimming of the patio's occupants, but she smells the coffee, and the coffee makes her stay. She begins to wander tentatively in the direction of the bar on the patio, wondering (despite its currently unmanned state) if it's open, and if there's an espresso machine hiding back there.

There is an espresso machine set up. With it being so early, the regular staff for morning hasn’t shown up yet and the late-night staff can’t be bothered for things like this, since they’re getting ready for the morning rush. This early in the morning it’s mostly coffee or croissants. Anything else would have to wait for the kitchen staff to notice the order fluttering on the expo machine. Early morning is for continental breakfast, and that means that you serve yourself. The espresso machine is mostly hands-free with a posted sign on ‘how to work this thing’ on the wall next to it. Put the grounds in here, hit the button, and then in two minutes you’re ready to go.

Cassandra, from her striped beach folding chair, glances over at the *slap slap* of footsteps echoing from the restaurant behind her, pushing herself up to look back at the aimless wandering soul searching for sustenance. “This early, it’s serve yourself.” she calls out helpfully, giving a wave so Emily can see where the disembodied voice actually came from. “They didn’t complain when I took a whole pot of coffee for myself, either. I’ve got to make sure Richard tips this place well…the service isn’t half bad, and the coffee is amazing.”

Cassandra's voice brings an automatic turn of Emily's head in her direction, her expression dull from early-morning tire at first. When her eyes settle on just who's waving her down, though, her brow lifts at first and then her eyes widen just a tad in a delayed reaction.

Oh. It's her.

Emily lingers stopped in place, swiveling from considering the machine and then to the pot on Cassandra's table, her look smoothing over now that the shock is over. She merely arches an emotive eyebrow in question, lifting her head to indicate the pot with a glance. "You gonna finish all that on your own?"

Living in post-war New York and all, wasting good coffee was a sin. She's just looking out for her.

“It was either this or the whole urn, or just walking back and forth. While I’m not completely sedentary, I thought that might have been taking a little too much advantage of my benefactor’s good graces.” Cassandra motions Emily over. “C’mon. Grab a cup from the tray and I’ll pour you one. If I drank this much coffee in one go, I’d be vibrating through the floor.” There’s another chair already set up next to the table, ready for Emily or anyone else who might decide to join in. Instead of watching to see if the other woman makes her way over, Cassandra sits back and gazes out over the ocean, listening to the waves lap against the sandy shore while she sips her coffee daintily.

“Hell of a change, this, compared to New York.” Cassandra says, off-handedly. “Being here, one could almost forget everything that’s gone on before. Paradise has a way of blurring your perspectives.”

For a moment, Emily lingers, then reaches to grab a cup for herself. Cassandra's comment addressed to the sea makes her lag in her approach, which she takes slowly, more purposefully. "Yeah," she echoes back, more filler than agreement. She's a little unsure how to approach the observation, from what angle.

“It’s nice to have company.” the brunette offers quietly, cradling her cup in both hands after filling Emily’s mug with a stream of the freshly brewed coffee. “Close friend of the bride, employee of the groom. World traveller and seer of the past.” She waves her right hand with a muted flourish, almost like a tired magician would once the trick being performed was finished. “Tada. Tis a nice little den of thieves we have out here in the middle of the ocean.” Cassandra turns her head slightly to look over at where Emily is, watching her from the corner of her eye for a second, then looking out over the ocean again before a short chuckle escapes.

“Jesus…” Cassandra shakes her head and physically turns the chair towards Emily. “It’s like my junior high dance all over again. I never know what to say to get conversation going. I’m so out of practice.” A pause. “I’m Cassandra.’ You wanna sit with me at breakfast?” And she offers a hand.

The extra step of pouring her coffee for her makes Emily furrow her brow, uncertain how to address the niceties shown. She makes a note at the back of her throat in acknowledgement, maybe even thanks, and stays standing for the moment. The cup is lifted, smelled, her eyes drifting shut as she takes a sip.

God, it's real coffee. And it tastes amazing.

"You travelled," Emily observes over the top of her cup, eyes opening to look down at Cassandra. "With Elisabeth?" She doesn't take the hand, fingers idly tapping the side of the mug while she studies her.

“Oh yes.” Cassandra pushes herself up a little in her chair, taking another sip of her coffee. “I travelled on my own and met up with Elisabeth. We both had quite the journey, with Aurora and the others.” she smiles, blowing the surface of her cup. “Of course, officially, I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the information you’re seeking.” Pages on top of pages of contracts, declarations of secrecy, and files wrapped in miles upon miles of red tape and penalties ensure that she keeps that information close to the vest.

“Are you friends with Elisabeth and Richard? I haven’t met many out of our little circle in my time here so far.”

"No," Emily answers in the interest of honesty. "I wouldn't say that. But if you've met Devon…"

She slowly eases into a sit in the chair, hands curling around the cup to let its warmth seep into her palms while she looks over the horizon. After a moment of thought, she leans her head to the side, speaking to Cassandra without really looking her way. "Aurora told me all about the other me she met," Emily relates off-handedly.

"And I met the other you, before."

Now she does glance back the traveler's way. She won't tell if you don't, Cassandra. Then she looks ahead again, taking a sip.

“I’ve met Devon. We had to do a storytime with my ability using a bit of his clothing. Elisabeth’s mentioned him regularly in conversation. He’s her son in her eyes. Chosen family. Kind of like me, but in another life and light.” And then Cassandra goes quiet, her eyes closing as she remembers the worlds she ran through. She was a scared child following other scared children through a broken world toward an uncertain future. The ultimate result left her and many others stranded on the shores of an unknown world with no way to return to where she had been before.

And now she’s on a tropical beach. How times have changed.

Cassandra glances over and holds Emily’s gaze for a moment, then nods. “You remind me of a woman from what we called the Wasteland universe. Emily, her name was. She was extremely strong, you know? She had a willpower that kept her moving, in spite of the MS and the crutches. The fact that she didn’t just survive, but thrive there, was a testament to her resilience. She was a good person, from what I was told.” Cassandra shifts and continues speaking. “She was a key part of the resistance against the government. I wish I knew how she was…and if you’re this world’s Emily.” There’s a soft exhale of breath. “All these different strings really make conversations difficult if you don’t keep the pronouns straight. I see why Richard is always on edge. This requires a lot of work.”

And then, in a quiet voice, barely heard over the waves. “Was the other me…was she nice?”

Wasteland universe, Cassandra says, and Emily absorbs it in silence and stillness, her gaze focused on the shore. She swallows again, unnecessarily, to clear taste from her mouth. Her eyes half-lid in thought, wondering at what the other woman has seen. "Yeah," she agrees idly. "She sounds like a survivor." She's half-tempted to ask more, but… the matters of other worlds should be left alone, left to where they belong, she figures. For some reason, she can't bring herself to confirm her name. It all feels a little too bizarre.

To the question posed, Emily only nods at first. Then she confides, "Don't worry, she was just as awkward as you are." The comment made, she allows herself a small smile. "To tell you the truth, I didn't really know her. She was a SESA agent. She seemed nice enough, earnest enough. She made an effort to be friendly to strangers." She glances askance at Cassandra pointedly. Sound familiar?

Cup lifted to take another sip, she asides, "Probably better to just focus on you, though."

“Ain’t that the truth.” Cassandra says with a sigh, agreeing with Emily’s sentiment. “If I had just focused on myself, I’d probably not be here at all. Just on my home string watching the world disintegrate. Liz and company might’ve made it here without me, or they might’ve not.” Cassandra shrugs slightly, looking out over the water. “Thing is, if I hadn’t? I wouldn’t have met Liz. Or been in Aurora’s life. Or learned so much about what could be and what is. How big the world is and how scary it can be. How wonderful it can be, too. Still,” Cassandra chuckles. “It’d make a hell of a book or a TV show. Too bad no-one can ever read it or watch it. I don’t suppose it matters much anymore, now, does it? What’s past is past.” Cassandra takes a sip of her coffee. “I’m just lucky enough to be able to look back and see it with perfect clarity.”

Cassandra chuckles at the barb, taking it as playful more than malicious. “It’s nice to know that things across strings work out the same in some ways. The little ways, like people and behaviors. Nice people are nice, Liz liked to sing - stuff like that. As far as the me here, I’ve learned a little about her goings on here, like she was a SESA agent. Didn’t find out she lived in New York and was killed in the line of duty until after I had moved in. You don’t know awkward until you meet a dozen different people she helped on a daily basis. I just get to smile and go along with it, or tell the story that I’m an Institute Clone, which sounds like the plot to a bad police procedural. It’s tough, you know, coming from somewhere so different and arriving in somewhere like this.” A beat. “Theoretically.”

Emily lets out a snort of amusement and derision both at the theoretically, slanting a glance back Cassandra’s direction. Institute clone, really? Still, she supposes there’s weirder or less weird backstories that could have been lied up, none of them truly believable to anyone who wanted to look hard enough. Her brow furrows while she takes another sip of coffee in silence.

She thinks for a moment before she ventures a cautious, “So where did you come from? I had thought it was all … terrible bad things everywhere else, but Magnes talked last night about a place where things seemed to go better than they went here. No Civil War. Release dates of things changed.” Leaning back into the chair, she crosses her legs, elbows resting lightly against the armrests.

It's actually something Cassandra is fairly well versed in. The history of this dimension was one of the series of courses all of the travelers, as they were referred to in documentation, were put through before being allowed out to mingle with the common folk. Cassandra, being a historian, was able to fill in quite a few gaps from her home string - how they got here historically to start, even though the data would never be released to anyone.

“The place where I came from…” She nods thoughtfully. “That was probably what Magnes was talking about. No civil war. Licensed evolved people, using their powers openly and getting paid for it. Lots of peace and prosperity. Hell, the US was a model that the world was striving to become. Some of the differences were pretty minor, in the scheme of things, but from my point of view, a little strange. I mean, did you know the band Queen was fronted by a guy in this string? Blew my mind to find that out.”

She goes quiet for a second, finishing her coffee, cradling the mug in her hands carefully. “When I had to escape through Looking Glass to the wasteland …that's when it went from bad to completely off the rails. Like World War III off the rails. .” Cassandra takes a sip of her coffee. “You'll forgive me for not embellishing my tale of fiction, of course. Too early for that sort of thing.” .

Emily furrows her brow, the rest of her face in her cup while she thinks that one over. Looking Glass? she wonders, but keeps the thought to herself, brushing her thumb against the side of her cup. Rather than focus too deeply on the moment, she lets her gaze flit to the horizon again, finding calm in the waves as they meet the shoreline. “You’re here now,” she murmurs a reminder to Cassandra. “You’re safe.”

“It might be different here, but there’s at least a future to look forward to.”

“It is different.” Cassandra admits. “And I am safe. Thriving, even. I mean..” She turns to look out over the ocean. “How many people can honestly say they get to start all over again? When I escaped my thread, I was 100% sure I wouldn’t have survived another hour.” She lapses into silence at the memory. After all, machine-gun toting thugs meticulously clearing the lab she was stationed in would have certainly had her ending up a casualty, written up as ‘encountered an insurgent’ in some report that would quickly be classified, sanitized, and destroyed.

The silence that comes from Cassandra is met with an easy, accepting one on Emily's part. She can't imagine what the other woman went through, but knows it's better to allow that time for reflection.

Up to a certain point, at least. Then, they'd have to move forward.

"Surprised Devon hasn't texted me yet," she asides, rocking to one hip to reach for her phone. She clicks the screen on to consult the time. "I'm glad he's getting sleep, at least, while the rest of us early risers suffer." Said entirely by someone who by no means looks as though she is suffering, toes near the sand, eyes on the shore. "I think I might take the opportunity to go walking, though. Enjoy what's left of… all this." Emily gestures with her cup at the scenery.

“This place is even more of a paradise now, after all that’s happened. Places like this…” Cassandra sets her coffee cup aside, pushing herself up in her seat. “Are like jewels. We’re lucky to be here.” In more ways than one. The sheer amount of money it must have cost for Richard to haul everyone was mind boggling. More money than Cassandra would ever have to put out on a trip, that’s for certain.

“Enjoy the solitude. Unless you want him to wonder where you are, that is. Sometimes people just need to be alone and being here in paradise can really help some people heal.” And it’s just now that the sun starts to peek over the Eastern horizon, the light gently illuminating the pair on the beach. “It was good to meet you, person who I think is named Emily. Hopefully we’ll bump into each other in New York. It’s nice to have a quiet conversation.”

Emily sets aside her coffee as she rises to her feet, stepping off the patio and into the soft sand that immediately tries to absorb her feet. "Wouldn't exactly call anything immediately following some deep-seated fears being rattled… healing exactly," she muses, tongue tsking against the side of her cheek. "But I'll savor the experience for what it's worth."

She lifts a hand and waves without looking behind her, only knuckles and back facing Cassandra. "Let's hope it's nice and calm the next time we run into each other, too." Emily calls over her shoulder while she walks. "Though with our fucking luck…"

As resigned as the teen seems to the inevitability of more strange occurrences happening, it sounds like she's also made her peace with it.

Oh well. Onward, into the light.

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