Believe In Me


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Scene Title Believe In Me
Synopsis Richard makes the difficult call where it comes to Desdemona.
Date May 21, 2018

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office: Richard Ray's Office

A pair of newspapers are laying upon Richard Ray’s desk, their headlines visible as ‘RAYTECH CHIEF BRAND OFFICER KILLED IN TRAGIC LANDMINE ACCIDENT’ and ‘CRIMINALS OF WAR - WHERE ARE THEY NOW’. A personnel folder sits off to one side, and a yellow plastic folder to another. The office window has been tinted opaque, the strip lighting along the top and bottom of the walls brightened to illuminate the office. Where the surface of the desk can be seen through the paperwork, a map of Staten Island can be seen on the display, with a list of recent news-feed stories lined up along one side.

He just got back into town today and he’s already knee-deep in blood and work. He’s still in civvies, a slightly dirty sweatshirt and a pair of worn jeans that contrast the look of his office sharply.

He’s also been crying.

There’s no real way to hide the reddening of his eyes or the shadows beneath them, and he’s not even trying, even knowing that he’s called someone to his office for a talk that he knows may go poorly.

Des knows - or believes she does - that those tears weren’t for her. Remi’s loss hasn’t hit her nearly as hard as many of the others here, for various reasons. On top of that, she’s already got a lot on her own plate. That second news article - which she has clipped out and stashed away in her firebox with her Company file - is chief among her concerns.

Seeing it out on the desk is precisely what she expected, but fills her with dread all the same.

“I’ve had my things packed for a while now,” she begins with, like a get out of jail free pass. For him. If he doesn’t even want to have this conversation, she’s offering to just leave and never darken his doorstep again. She isn’t sure how the cards have been dealt in this game. “All you have to do is say go.

Unless, of course, he wants to turn her in. And she wouldn’t blame him if he did.

“Don’t be fucking ridiculous,” Richard replies tiredly to that, hand lifting to rub at his eyes for a moment before vaguely motioning across the desk with a wave of his hand, “Sit. Sit your ass down and let’s have a conversation before anyone does something stupid like that.”

He breathes out a sigh, looking over his desk, “I was gone for a month. Just a month. Remi’s dead. Assassins are stalking my friends and family and employees. I’ve got a god-damn meeting with Staten Island Pirates, and I find out that the person I’ve stuck my neck out the most for apparently was part of Humanis First during the war.”

Odessa’s fingers curl around the back of the chair until her knuckles turn white. Her face goes pale and she looks vaguely ill before she finally steps around the seat and sinks down into it slowly. She closes her eyes and lets out a heavy exhale.

Silence stretches on while it’s clear she’s thinking of what to say. As if she hadn’t rehearsed this moment about fifteen hundred times already.

“I have no defense. No argument. No excuse. I thought I had nowhere else to turn when the war began. I fell in with my contact -” No. That’s depersonalizing the issue. Richard deserves better from her. “I fell in with… with Valentin. He was…” Her partner? Her friend? “It’s just how it was. I can’t even say I considered leaving. I didn’t know what else to do, so I took the easy road at the time. Just like I always do.”

Odessa sighs heavily. “I’m sorry.”

“You should’ve told me.” Richard’s hands fold on the desk’s surface, and he looks across it at her, “I would’ve… I don’t know what I would’ve done, but I at least would’ve been aware. The rest of it, we can work around, we can spin, but…”

A heavy sigh spills past his lips, and he shakes his head, “Kaylee’s not pleased, I think our head of security is really displeased… Hana’s already on your tail thanks to Eve, she asked me if I knew who Dorothy was, which is as much as her saying that she knows you’re here.”

Silence for a moment, before he asks wearily, “What should I do, Des? The walls are closing in around you here, and I’ve put myself in with you.”

There’s no moment of anger, just regret for everything. Whether Eve had put Wolfhound on to her or not, it would have happened eventually. Especially once that article was published. “You should tell me to go. You should turn me in. You should do…” Odessa shakes her head. “You should do whatever it takes to save yourself. Your company. Your family.

Blue eyes open again, finally, and settle on Richard as a sad smile spreads across her face. “That’s what I would do. Self-preservation’s the name of the game, love. You do what you have to do to protect yourself and the things you care about. If that means throwing me to the hounds, then do it. I deserve it.

Once, someone had told her the past didn’t matter. Now, she’s been thoroughly disabused of that notion. “I’ll abide by whatever you ask me to do. You… You gave me this chance.” And while she didn’t necessarily blow it, she never earned it in the first place. Only through lies of omission. “I owe you everything.”

“You’re part of my company,” is Richard’s firm response, a hint of steel to his voice as he looks at her steadily, “Part of that family, my family. I— I’m not just going to throw you to the hounds because you deserve it for what you’ve done… maybe someone else would.”

One hand comes back up to rub over his face, his voice and tone softening, threaded with pain, “I’m not… I’m not somebody else. If self-preservation was ever the name of the game I wouldn’t’ve eaten a god-damn nuclear weapon in Antarctica.”

That hand drops back to the desk, and he sinks back in his chair, looking at her for a long moment. “You’re a survivor, Des,” he says quietly, “And you’re smart. And you don’t deserve this. So give me options. Ideas. Give me something.”

“I can’t be part of your family,” she says firmly, matching his previous steel. “It will ruin you. It will ruin all of you. You have blood to think of. You have something I never could. That’s precious, and you know that. I’m not worth all that risk.”

Finally, she breaks, and the tears start to run down her cheeks. Desdemona takes off her glasses and tosses them down on the desktop, hands shaking as she wipes at the rivers making their way down her face, laden with mascara and eyeliner. “And I will always love you for it. For thinking of me like this and for… For everything. But I can’t. I can’t let you do this. Not to yourself, not to Kaylee or Valerie…”

Des takes a hiccuping breath. “There are so many people who depend on you, and on Raytech and what it stands for. There are people who are depending on the research I’ve done. If Raytech goes away, all that goes too. You have to continue so that can continue.” Even if having her name on it will taint the good work, someone else can sanitize it eventually.

“My idea is I’m going to walk away. You found out who I really am, I got spooked, I ran. That’s the official story and it’s what you hold tight to.”

“You’re going to walk away… and where are you going to go, Des?” Richard’s hands curl against the arms of his chair, and he pushes himself up to his feet, moving to step around the desk - one hand lingering at its edge as he looks down at her, “Not to Kravid. You can’t go back there.” It’s a statement, but there’s something pleading in his eyes.

“Your research isn’t done yet. There’s so much good you can still do, if…” If she could put her past behind her. If those old ghosts hadn’t resurfaced again to haunt her. He trails off, looking down at the floor before looking back to her, jaw setting, “And you are part of us. Even if we have to deny it in front of a grand jury one day, Desdemona, you are, and always will be, one of us. And you’ll always belong here.” Those reddened eyes reflecting pain as he looks to her, though he’s out of tears.

He’s cried too many, for too many people, today already.

“I don’t know where I’ll go,” she admits, her voice about as small as she feels. “And you’re better off not knowing even if I did.” A deep breath steadies her, even if the tears continue to flow. She rises to her feet, rubbing her damp fingers against her skirt before reaching up to touch his face.

“I never wanted to do this to you. I never… ever wanted to hurt you.” Des closes her eyes and leans forward to rest her forehead against his, even if she has to get up on her toes to do it. “I don’t know when this happened. I don’t know how… But I love you. And I’d rather die than let something happen to you.” Selflessness, such as it ever is in her case, has always been where Odessa runs into trouble.

“Every terrible decision I’ve made in my life was made because I was scared. This one is no exception. And it might be the most terrible choice I’ve ever had to make.”

She withdraws so she can meet his eyes again, hers shining still as more tears fall with each blink. “Deny me. Every time they ask you, deny me. We’ll… always know. That’s all that matters.”

“Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice,” Richard recites quietly, his brow resting against hers, one arm sliding around her waist to help support her there, to hold her in that partial embrace. A shaky breath’s drawn in, then exhaled, his other arm wrapping about her as well to draw her in against him..

“You’d better not die to protect me,” he murmurs quietly, the tip of his nose grazing hers, “I want you alive. I want you happy. I want you here with me, but apparently I can’t have everything I want…”

She laughs softly when he carries on with the inadvertent biblical reference, in spite of herself. “More than three times, if you have to.”

When he draws her in, she rests her head against his chest and lets her fingers curl at the back of his neck. “They’re going to hang me when they catch me.”

It’s the first time she’s said it out loud. And it’s not a question of if anymore. If she tries to escape this city, she expects to be caught. And the longer she stays here, the more likely it is to happen. It could have happened earlier this month, when she discovered Eileen Ruskin lives. Everything up until now has been luck, and that’s running out.

“Who’s gonna believe I was just a scared little girl for so long? A scared little girl in a monster’s clothing.”

Her breath comes in shallow, desperation grasping at her heart for a moment she can’t quite keep at bay. Her voice lowers to a whisper, “Say my name, Richard. Tell me I’ll mean something after I’m gone.”

“Odessa Knutson Price… Desdemona Desjardins… whatever name you go by,” Richard says softly against her hair, one hand lifting to brush over it down to her neck, pressing there gently, “If you think this is the end of our story… you’re wrong.”

“I do six impossible things before breakfast sometimes,” he murmurs, “And if one of them has to be saving you, then I’ll do it. Because you’re here, in my arms, in my heart, and I won’t let them have you.”

She shifts in his embrace so she can bring her arms down to wrap around his midsection instead, curling fingers into the fabric of his sweatshirt. “I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve you. I don’t… I don’t…”

Des leans up and presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “You already saved me. I was a broken husk of a person after the war. I didn’t know who to be or where to go or what I was anymore. I tried so hard to be… something someone else wanted me to be. My whole life, that’s always what it’s felt like.” Slowly, she smiles, genuinely, “And then you came along. You told me to just be myself, and… I think I was, for the first time. I think I really was. I wasn’t worried about whether I was human or Evolved. I just… was.”

The urge to start sobbing anew is swallowed back with no ease. It takes several seconds of quivering lips and quiet sniffles and glistening eyes before she finds her voice once more.

“Now it’s my turn. Let me save you.”

She leans up, and Richard’s head turns just enough to brush his lips more truly to hers, lingering just a moment. “I don’t believe in zero-sum games,” he tells her softly, one hand lifting to cradle her cheek in the palm of his hand, thumb grazing the corner of her cheek, “So let’s save each other.”

A slow breath’s drawn in, his eyes closing, “You’ll have to run. We can make a show of it, for the cameras, for the record. Your ability makes escaping child’s play. You’ll have to hide, for awhile. I have a feeling that you’ve met some people lately that might help with that.” Nothing explicit. Nothing he can be directly called out on.

Hazel eyes open again, and he smiles tenderly down at her, murmuring in a thick voice, “And let me work a miracle over here to bring you back again.”

It’s brief, but it still makes her heart flutter. She has no right to it, she tells herself. To him, or to the feelings she has. Still, she allows herself to feel it for now. She’ll chastise herself later and cry alone somewhere far from this home he’s created for her.

“If you manage that, I’ll… I don’t know. Be convinced you’re a probability manipulator or something.” Luck would be a hell of a superpower to have right about now.

“I love you. And if we never see each other again on this side of freedom, just… know it was all worth it.” Des hugs him fiercely, like if she can just hold on tight enough, the world around them will just stop and they can have this moment forever.

Which is a little ridiculous of a thought, when one considers her power. But even that, sadly, has its limitations.

“I’ll be sure to wear my running shoes.” They are definitely red and sparkle like rubies.

“Yeah,” Richard leans down to brush a kiss against her brow, a smile felt there faintly, “I know.”

He’s always been a little bit Han Solo.

“And you’ll be surprised what I can do, Des,” he murmurs, pulling her fiercely against him in return, “When I’m properly motivated. And some news I got earlier has me believing in miracles again. So what’s one more?”

“All right, all right. I’ll believe in you.” Because she needs something. She doesn’t have a whole lot of faith in herself at the moment.

“I’ll leave here looking distraught, but give me until tomorrow. I… need to see Sera one more time. I don’t want to just disappear on her, but… I won’t tell her about any of this. I know this has to be our secret.” Des’ grip starts to ease a little, but she doesn’t attempt to pull away. She doesn’t want to.

“Yeah, of course. I… shit, I know there was stuff I was supposed to talk to you about,” Richard admits with a faint chuckle, “But I can’t really remember it at all… “

Fingers brush down through her hair, trail along her neck as he murmurs quietly, “I’ll miss you while you’re gone. Nobody will watch the Marx Brothers with me, nobody will listen to my crazy plans, but… it’s not forever. I know that it isn’t. Just believe in me, Des. Please. Somebody has to.”

“I believe you, Richard. Of course I do.” She can’t help it when he talks like that. Like this is all just a passing thing and everything will work out just fine.

And even if it isn’t, if it never is, they’ve had this. Whatever this is. And maybe that’s enough for someone like her.

“You probably wanted to ask me about… what happened to Kaylee and I on that shipment?” At which Des sighs heavily. “Natalie Gray. The name is familiar, but I think I’m just putting importance on the coincidental.” She makes a face that he can feel against his shoulder even before she pulls away enough for him to see her wrinkled nose and furrowed brow. “There was another voice on the radio, though. They… They knew me.”

Which means her list of suspects there is very short.

“What did they know?” A slight furrowing of Richard’s brow as he looks down to her, “They knew your identity… as Price, I assume? What did they say?” He keeps close, even as she pulls away that much, one arm still curled ‘round her waist securely.

It won’t be long before he won’t be able to touch her anymore, after all.

“Gray is… well. That’s Gabriel’s surname, but I don’t know the names of anyone else in his family,” he admits, “So it’s possibly coincidental.”

“Yes. That’s what it seemed. It was like… It felt like talking to Humanis First. It made my skin crawl.” That much is clear from the way she squirms a little in his arms, but not to make a move to escape. “They said my secret was safe with them. And they wanted me to kill the man we took hostage.” Des does Richard the courtesy of looking him in the eye when she admits, “And I would have done it, too. I feel like I need to find out who these people are. I feel like I’m our best chance at that.”

Which means this parting of ways is… fortuitous in its own way. She can’t go back to Kravid. That’s a disaster in the making, and the best way to paint a target on her back. But if she can find some remnant of Humanis First, maybe she can prove where her heart lies when that time comes.

Or maybe it’s just a different sort of target to paint.

“I’m terrified of everything,” she confesses. “I don’t know what the right move is. But I’m going to do what I can for you here. And I trust you’ll save me in the end.” She smiles and reaches up to touch his face again, brushing her thumb over his lower lip. “You’re the idea guy, right? I’m just the sharp implement.”

“You’re thinking of Edward,” Richard replies self-effacingly, a faint smile curving to his lips, parting them to kiss her thumb gently, “I’m just the knife he pulled from another reality and threw at fate’s throat.”

He watches her eyes for a moment, and then he nods ever so slightly, murmuring, “Just remember what you learned here. With us. With me. Remember who you really are… and don’t let Odessa Price kill Desdemona Desjardins.”

When Richard reaches the bottom of the stairs and rounds the corner to enter through a small doorway, a gigantic human head crashes through the door frame. Blind eyes stare back at him, blonde hair whipping around, mouth open and a howling scream comes from the seven foot tall face of Odessa Price. From inside the mouth there’s another panicked cry, as Desdemona Desjardins reaches out from inside of the open mouth, blood covering her arms and hands, glasses shattered, dark hair in tangles, sobbing and crying for help as the gigantic head clamps teeth down, chopping off her arms at the elbows and swallows her whole.

“This isn’t Humanis,” he says then, head shaking slightly, “And it’s not Kravid, not the Institute… no. I think this is something else. I think these are people from another timeline. I think they came through the Looking Glass. I met Iago Ramirez, out in the northwest… and Lang. They weren’t the same ones we knew.”

More tears are shed. She may not have seen what he saw, but she can feel the weight of his heart, how he wants her to be safe. To be the woman he came to know. For someone with such constant crisis of identity, she has to wonder if she’s putting importance on Desdemona because she means something to him.

But she means something to her, too. Even if she’d rather hear her own name. Names have never let her outrun her past before. This time is no exception.

“Maybe you’re right. I… met Eileen. She didn’t remember much about what happened between us.” Des shakes her head as she thinks. “She called herself an approximation. When I asked her what name she knew me by, she was evasive and didn’t answer. Which… aligns with your theory nicely, I think.”

A rose, by any other name… but they both know that she sheds identities like a chameleon when she needs to. She’ll do what she needs to survive. He fears her losing everything she’d built for it.

“Eileen?” Richard’s eyes widen at that, “That’s… I didn’t know she’d shown up, that’s…” His head lifts to look upwards for a moment, and then back down to her, “Worrying. So that’s four that we know of, that died and are still walking around… “ His jaw tightens, “Well. I’ll have to have a talk with her.”

He shakes his head ever so slightly, brushing off business again to look down to her, a hand curving to her cheek, thumb brushing away a tear. “I just want the you that I know to come back to me,” he murmurs, “The real you. The one I know is in there.”

“She saved my ass in the park.”And that’s a story he doesn’t need to hear. It would only make him angry - and not at her, for once. It was handled, at any rate. “You might try there if you’re looking for her. Or maybe she’ll find you. That’s… kind of her thing. Always has been.”

There’s a moment where Des remembers Munin and her remnant getting the drop on her. It’s not a comforting thought.

His tenderness brings on more tears, but these are given with a smile. “I promise,” she says easily. It feels easy to promise this to him. “I’ll come back to you, as long as you’ll have me.” Her chin tilts up and blue eyes half-lid. Desperation for physical assurance is tempered by the quiet voice in her mind that tells her she doesn’t deserve it.

“You’re one of us, now,” Richard says softly at her words, “And I’ll make it safe for you to come back to us. Somehow.”

The warmth of his fingers brush against her cheek to smooth back towards her jaw, cradling it— and as her chin tilts up he leans down to meet her, lips parting ever so slightly as they claim hers in an actual kiss.

Des wraps her arms around the back of his neck and comes up on her tiptoes to crush her mouth to his. The tears flow freely again, and she doesn’t care. This may be the last chance either of them has for this closeness. And it’s gratifying to finally have this pull responded to.

“I’ll come back,” she whispers between kisses. “I’ll come back to you.”

The hand on her cheek slides back, into her hair, his other arm sliding lower to her waist to help her rise up closer. Richard’s eyes slip closed as his mouth moves on hers, her tears staining salt to his own cheeks. “You’d better, Des,” he whispers, eyes opening to meet hers again.

“You’d better.”

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