bf_belle_icon.gif magnes_icon2.gif

Scene Title Branches
Synopsis In a search to find answers to the mystery of his family and his own identity, Magnes Varlane seeks out the one person who would know him the best… his mother.
Date November 28, 2014

The New Jersey Pine Barrens are anything but. The rolling, forested hills of rural New Jersey are awash with trees, currently in the blazing colors of fall foliage that have taken up hues of orange, yellow, and crisp red against a rich amber-colored sky. Thick, fluffy clouds threatening rain are kept to one side of the horizon, where the sun breaks through them like a great orange ball, casting goldenrod hued light out across that forested land, along with even longer and grasping shadows of autumn trees.

Driving out here from Kansas was an arduous task. But it wasn’t one that Magnes had to do alone. His sole partner on this car ride was a woman he now feels somewhat responsible for, a brunette with presently unkempt hair and too many split ends, eyed reddened from days of intermittent sleepless nights and crying. Belle Ashford, as she’s known in this world, is many things, but not an Isabelle that Magnes is familiar with.

The long drive from Kansas has given them a great deal of things to talk about. Isabelle’s alcoholism, her admittance to a rehab clinic in California, meeting a man who would become her brother-in-law there and beginning a life of sobriety and happiness with the help of her sister Thalia. Now, though, she’s a fugitive and Colin Verse could be in jail now.

But, she’s a staunch believer in second chances, and presented with the living embodiment of that in an alternate Magnes Varlane, Isabelle feels more resolute than ever that there’s a chance for everyone. No matter how unlikely it may seem.

“I’ve never met her,” Isabelle offers after a long spate of quiet, her attention focused out the passenger side window to the passing trees. “Thal never talked much about our extended family. I never really knew her and I didn’t even realize it was the same Donna that you— ” Isabelle corrects herself, “my Magnes was related to.”

Those dark eyes move from window to the man in the driver’s seat.

“What do you think we’ll find there?”

Medford Lakes Road

Tabernackle, NJ

November 28, 2014

4:34 pm

"According to the document I was given, it said Thalia lives with my mother. I'm hoping that she lives out here somewhere." Magnes continues to drive, taking a deep breath. "It's a lot to take in, but me and the version of me who lives in this world are clones, the original me is a very long story, but basically he's sick and lives at home, I think. I'm not really sure how it all works…"

"What I do know is that, according to the timeline I've been given, I've never actually met my mother. The me here thinks he did, and even I used to think I did, but I haven't." He doesn't sound happy about it, but he sounds as if he's at least come to terms with certain things. "So, I guess I'll learn some things here, maybe…"

Belle offers a look at Magnes, prying her attention away from the fall foliage. “I mean, she used to. For a while there, yeah.” Belle furrows her brows. “Live here, I mean. With Donna. That was before she moved out west and met Colin. Whoever gave you your documents, it— probably was outdated. That all happened pretty recently.”

Magnes slows down, directional on, the mailbox on the side of the road reads 374 Medford Lakes Road, which is the address in the dossier he was given. Belle sits up straight, running a hand through her messy hair, trying to get it back to its usual calm and composed state that’s supposed to match her inner bliss according to her hair stylist. “I’m not going to pretend how that’s supposed to work,” she belatedly notes about having never met his mother.

Turning off the street, Magnes pulls into the paved driveway and pulls up behind a mid-thousands Buick. The house is surrounded by trees, like everything else in the Pine Barrens, though most of the autumn foliage is smothered behind towering pine trees here that shadow the two-story colonial style house, with its white-washed wood siding and cottage black shutters. The lawn is a little overgrown, the flower garden too, but there’s a light on in what looks like the kitchen.

“You sure you want to do this?” Belle asks, looking over from the house to Magnes. “Sometimes, digging around in stuff like this… it’s hurtful. I can go myself, see if Thal’s there.” She’s uncertain, at best, about all of this.

"I need to do this. I need to know how much my mother knew about the things my father did, I need to know more about my past. It still feels like there's so much I don't know, like there's missing pieces." Magnes steps out, and walks around to take her hand by the time she's out, then starts heading toward the house.

"I think my memories are of the 'alpha clone' as they call him, because he's the one who lived with my mother, assuming my memories are real. I'm called the 'aberrant clone', because I'm the only one other than the alpha clone who didn't basically melt. And I barely know how any of this works either." He just takes a deep breath, and keeps going.

By the time they're up to the house, all he can really do is knock.

Belle is nervous, following hastily behind Magnes and watching the house with an anxious furrow of her brows. Standing behind and to the side of Magnes, she tucks her hands into the pockets of her puffy, cotton-candy pink winter jacket and looks back to the street while waiting for someone — anyone — to answer.

It takes another knock before anyone comes to the door, but the woman who answers sends a chill down Magnes’ spine.

Magnes has distinct memories of his mother, from what he believes are another iteration of himself. But even those memories, aren't from here, and the divergence of timelines five years ago put considerable change in motion. When the door opens it isn't to the mother he knows, not in the way he remembers her.

Donna Varlane answers the door in a wheelchair, her hair gone almost completely gray and scarring up and down the left side of her face that has claimed one of her eyes. Her left hand is missing two fingers, and her left leg is missing below the knee. In spite of this shocking contrast, the smile she has is nothing short of iconic, translating between iterations without difficulty.


Magnes,” Donna breathlessly exhales, “oh my God, sweetie, is it really you?” There is emotion in her eyes and voice, tears welling up and throat tightening around her words. Her good hand moves to her chest, clutching a small gold cross as tightly as she can. Belle earns a look of uncertainty, and Donna looks back to Magnes momentarily paused, but then thinks to wheel herself back into the cluttered entry hall to give everyone space to come in.

"Yeah… but… what happened to you?" Magnes starts to walk in, motioning for Isabelle to follow. "This is Thalia's sister, Isabelle."

"I have a lot of questions. I'm confused about a lot of things, and I have a lot that probably sounds just as confusing…" He thinks about what to say next, and then just states, bluntly, "They said you were dead."

There's a noise in the back of Donna’s throat, displeasure evident in the tone. “Whoever they are, sound extremely rude.” Tucking her chair in to just enough space behind the door, Donna allows Magnes and Belle to come in, and that elicits a sidelong look from the elder Varlane.

“Thalia’s adopted sister? I remember you when you were just a baby.” Donna smiles fondly, then offers a look over to her son. “Magnes, I… I've tried calling you. Calling your friends. I'd heard stories about… I mean with the drinking.” Worry traces through Donna’s tone, and she says nothing about how she arrived in this current state.

Her house on the interior might have been nice ten or fifteen years ago, but it's too much of a house for one woman. The walls are lined with pictures, old photographs of Pete and Magnes that clearly look to be from the 1970s or early 80s, though Magnes is but a boy in them. Some of the other pictures show an unfamiliar young blonde girl about the age of six or seven that Magnes had seen in other photographs here, and also in the dossier.

In the foyer, there's a carpeted set of stairs that don't look like they've been used in a long time. Stacks of newspapers are piled up at the foot of them. The house is hauntingly familiar to Magnes, who has seen its general architecture in his dreams for years. It looks like it was built in the 1960s and was rarely updated since, right down to the faux wood paneling on the walls.

Past the foyer, Donna leads Magnes and Belle into a cramped kitchenette and dining room. There's only one chair at the table, possibly to allow space for her wheelchair to pass through. Donna wheels right over to the refrigerator on coming in. “Are…” she looks back to Magnes and Isabelle. “Either of you hungry? Thirsty?”

Belle, tense and awkward, sheepishly shakes her head and offers a nonverbal refusal with a wave of one hand. Her eyes are drawn to the kitchen sink, surprisingly clean and orderly, with dishes recently washed and stacked, though the counter would be a challenge for Donna to navigate on her own.

"I've been driving for a while, so that would be nice." Magnes does look around though, curious, taking everything in. It's such a strangely surreal experience that he can't help but stare at things, seemingly innocent things. "I have to be honest, because if I'm not honest I can't really call myself a good son."

"I'm from another world, trapped here, trying to get home. Stuff to do with black holes, gravity, my ability. The Magnes who lives in this world, he got sober, he's a cop. He doesn't know you're alive, and they probably keep you from him. But I'll make sure you get back together, I promise." He picks up a picture of the blonde girl, staring at it.

"Do you know… about the things my father did, the experiments? Because if you know or not will determine what questions I can even ask…" Then, holding the girl's picture up, he admits, "I don't even know who this girl is, the files said I have an unknown sister."

Something dawns on Magnes as he looks at the photographs around the house. There's no pictures of anyone who could be Felicia, not anywhere. The only picture of a brunette girl is that photograph in the dossier Arthur gave him, identified as Felicia at age 2, but there's no family pictures of her anywhere here.

Bella reaches up and grabs Magnes’ arm firmly when he starts talking about other worlds to his mother. There's a warning look, but it's given too late to stop that conversation from opening up. Instead, she fires an apologetic look over to Donna with brows raised and head shaking, an awkward smile flashing across her face.

Donna looks up to Magnes, for a moment seeming vacant and distant, then her expression scrunches up into something that almost looks like she's about to cry, and then slowly shakes her head while murmuring, “No, no, no, no. You're a good boy,” before opening the refrigerator. That reaction elicits a worried look from Belle to Magnes, and she grips his arm tighter. “God bless your sister, she's a good girl too.”

From the refrigerator, Donna removes a pitcher of iced tea and sets it down on the kitchen table, then motions to Belle with her good hand. “Sweetheart, can you fetch the glasses?” And Belle just jolts into motion with a quick nod, not even sure where to go until Donna gestures to a cabinet.

As Belle is retrieving the glasses, Donna looks up with an emotional expression to Magnes. “My little boy,” she says softly, a smile replacing the more contorted one from before, “your father… he would have been so proud of you. A police officer.” That elicits a side-long look from Belle to Magnes and a quick look back to Donna.

“He loves you so… so much.” Donna’s voice cracks when she says that, starting to reach out to pour the tea, but Belle quickly interjects and starts to do it for her.

“It's okay Miss Varlane, let me help.” Belle shakily says, unsteadily pouring the tea.

Donna, watching Bella work, seems somewhat distracted and diverts from her earlier conversational topic. “Oh, sweetheart, you’re just like your sister. So kind.”

Belle grimaces, then forces a smile. “T-thank you Miss Varlane.”

"There's only one picture of Felicia. Isn't she my sister?" Magnes asks, and then walks over to his mother carrying the infamous family picture he already has, walking over to Donna.

He crouches down next to her, staring up at her, looking worried and anxious as he holds the picture out to her once she moves from the refrigerator. "I'm so confused about everything. About my father, my sisters… I feel like nothing makes any sense…" he says to her with a pleading look in his eyes. "Mom, I'm so confused…"

Belle isn't sure what to make of the name Felicia, it isn't familiar to her. But Donna, Donna knows it. Eye closed, she lifts her good hand up to her face and straightens an errant lock of hair. “That's your half sister, and I won't have her pictures in my house because I respect myself too much to.”

That elicits a look back and forth from Bella, who settles in to the one chair at the table. “Half sister?” She asks before firing a worried look back at Magnes.

“My Pete… wasn't always a good man.” Donna says, and others might still agree with that assessment. “Not long after you were born,” she says with a motion to Magnes, and he feels like she's talking about the alpha Magnes, “your father… strayed. We were having tough times, and he— she gave him a daughter.”

Donna swallows awkwardly at that, and Belle covers her mouth with one hand. “Asshole,” she whispers sharply, though Donna doesn't seem to register it much.

“When he was traveling for work, he'd stay with them. Like a second family. One day his hussy got sick and he had to take care of his illegitimate daughter, and he played it off like he was taking care of a coworker’s sick kid.” Donna visibly angers at that, sliding her tongue over her teeth. “He let that… child stay here, with you, with us. We took her on a family vacation to India.”

Slowly shaking her head, Donna swallows audibly and wipes something out of her good eye. “He came clean after the mother got better. After the girl was sent home, and I… I threw your father out. For a while, anyway.” Donna looks back down to the table, lips pressed together tightly. “Right up until you got sick…”

Belle doesn't move her hand from her mouth, just watches Magnes with wide, glassy eyes.

"I met her, I guess that explains why she didn't really know much about me." Magnes doesn't comment on Pete, mostly because it's the least surprising thing out of all this.

He reaches to take her hand, continuing to stare up at her. "Can you tell me about my other sister?" he wonders, because that's, well, something he's monumentally curious/concerned about. "I can't remember her at all, I've only seen her in a file… I've never really met her or anything."

Donna breathes in deeply and exhales a sigh, gently squeezing Magnes’ hand with her good one, the other remains self-consciously out of sight in her lap. “Your sister was…” she shakes her head, hand trembling a little. “Your sister was always a handful. Getting into places she shouldn't, just… mischievous. Not like you.” At that she squeezes Magnes’ hand gently.

“Her name is Clara, but… you two grew up together, you should remember her sweetheart.” Donna’s comment is unhelpful, mostly, as it only stirs muted and murky memories of the alpha Magnes, difficult to recollect and muddied beyond clarity. “She left for college in 94, and when she graduated she went on to study climate science overseas…”

There's a moment of thoughtful absence in Donns eyes before she notes, “I think she went to work in Antarctica, to study climate change. She's such a good girl these days. But,” Donna’s brows furrow, “not much a fan of your father. When she found out about Felicia, when she was older, she stopped calling herself Varlane and started going by my great-grandmother’s middle name, Francis.”

Belle is silent through much of this, nervously watching Magnes and occasionally darting a look to Donna. Finally, she asks, “Ms. Varlane are— do you live here alone? All by yourself?”

Donna smiles, slowly shaking her head. “Of course not.”

"I remember now, sorry, I've been having a stressful time." Magnes notes the name, and doesn't move from his mother's hold, staying right there as he listens. As he calms a bit, he starts to realize that something isn't quite right, and his mother's well-being starts to increasingly become a concern. "Who's taking care of you here?" he wonders, not asking what happened to her physically or mentally, it might be best not to.

Donna smiles, about to answer Magnes’ question when it's answered for her. He feels the presence moving into range of his ability at the same time, beyond where walls and maternal distractions play havoc with his concentration.

Belle?” The disoriented call comes from the stairs to the second floor, back in the direction Belle and Magnes had come in from. Thundering the rest of the way down the stairs, Thalia Verse looks ill-prepared for this revelation, barefoot and in sweatpants and her NYU sweatshirt.


Magnes!?” Thalia croaks as she reaches the doorway, skidding to a stop and bracing herself with both hands in the doorway. It's fear in her eyes when she sees him, not just surprise. “No, no, I didn't do anything wrong!”

She thinks he's a cop.

"Thalia!" Magnes looks back at her, somewhat shocked that she recognizes him. He considers if they've actually met in a universe where Isabelle didn't die… well, clearly they have. "I'm just here to see my mother. And I was thinking I'd leave Isabelle here, because I want her to have the chance to put her life back together after things got so messed up."

"Thank you for taking care of my mom, by the way." He looks up at Donna again, asking, "Is there anything I can do? I could cook dinner, I've gotten really good at cooking."

Magnes’ thanks are muted by Thalia’s anger at her sister. “Belle! Jesus Christ, how— they arrested you! Did you break out?

Bolting up from her chair, Belle looks first to Donna and then to Thalia. “Thal— it's not— it's complicated. Is Colin here?”

“No he’s not here! I ran as soon as I saw what happened!” Thalia snaps back, and Belle apologetically slides her way out of the kitchen, hands on Thalia’s shoulders, bringing their argument into another room. But it doesn't end, it just becomes a muffled shouting match in another room.

Donna, all the while, watched the two sisters fight with a slow shake of her head and mild frustration covered by a veil of something foggier. Eventually, when they take the fight into the living room, she looks back to Magnes with a patient smile.

“Thalia’s a good girl. After the bombing, I let her and her husband take my home in California. My doctor was here in New Jersey and… and I missed our old home. I had a nurse for a while,” she explains without really any prompting, “but when Thalia came to stay with me I didn't really need her anymore. But,” and finally this reaches its point, “Thalia isn't a great cook. Not like my Magnes.”

Eyes lit up with pride for her son, Donna offers a glassy-eyed smile filled with both pride and bittersweet regret. “I wish I'd been a better mother for you, to deserve a boy who turned out so good.”

"You're a great mother! I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for you. You always tried to help me be myself." Magnes carefully moves to rest his head into her lap, closing his eyes. "I wouldn't want any other mother, there aren't any better mothers."

He sniffs a few times, tears starting to stream from his eyes. "Thank you for being there for me when I needed you. I love you and I'm grateful for everything you've done."

Though the argument in the living room continues, neither Magnes nor Donna seem particularly aware of it, beyond the occasional high-pitch shouts. As Donna’s hand comes down to the back of Magnes’ head, the smell of the house, the sounds of argument, and the feeling of his mother's fingers through his hair—

“Are you out of your fucking mind?”

Pete Varlane’s voice rings through the air, penetrating walls and reverberating in windows. “Your brother is dying in another room and you want to abandon us? No! No, you are not going to New York!”

A woman’s voice, young and impassioned, rises as loud as Pete’s. “No! No you don't get to use Magnes like that! You don't get to dictate my life and use my sick brother to guilt me! A summer internship could mean— ”

No!” Pete shouts back at her. “I am not splitting this family up! It matters too much to me to— ”

If it means so much to you maybe you shouldn't have cheated on mom!” Clara’s scream sounds like a gunshot, and the ferocious slap that comes after a return-fire.

Silence permeates after, followed by mumbled apology, and the angered crying.

I hate you! I hate you!

Donna’s fingers scrape gently across Magnes’ scalp. “I hope you can stay a little while,” sounds softly pleading. “After Columbia, after… after the explosion, I was afraid you didn't want to see me.” She hesitates. “Like this.”

Then, softly. “I love you, Magnes. I'm so glad you're here.”

"I don't care about any of that, you're my mother!" Magnes sits up onto his knees, holding his head for a moment after the rush of thoughts.

Is this what Kaylee meant when she said his mind was like swiss cheese? "I'll stay for a while. I'll cook every single night I'm here, and I'll make sure I come visit more, too." He'll meet with his counterpart, he'll make absolutely sure that she's taken care of.

"I missed you…" He stands up to lean in and wrap his arms around her shoulders, face in her shoulder. "We'll get caught up and everything."

"What exactly happened in Columbia?" he asks, curious now. "If it's not too difficult…"

Donna smiles, wearily, then folds her hands in her lap. “Well it… it was right after your father died.” She looks to the sink, then back again. “I'd flown out to New York for his funeral, and… and I decided to stay a little while, I couldn't go back to that house in Costa Verde, all alone. Plus, you were just so… you were so hurt.”

Smiling softly, Donna looks away and down to her lap. “There was this big gathering at Columbia University. A lovely woman named Helena was talking about people like you, about courage. It reminded me of the rallies I used to go to before I met your father.” Donna’s smile goes distant, then. “I… I don't really remember what happened. But the doctors told me there was an explosion, fourteen people died.” She tried to stay positive. “They said it was a miracle that I lived.”

"Oh, I know Helena. But… I'm glad you survived." Magnes stares down at his hands after pulling back from her slightly, shifting into a crouch again. "Having these gravity powers has made my life very interesting. I can't imagine what I'd be like without them."

"I feel like I should have stayed with you." he notes while moving to stand up again, this time to go to the fridge. "I'll cook something. I know how to make pizza from scratch now."

“You were always such a bright boy,” Donna says with a warm smile, right around the time teary-eyed Thalia and Belle emerge from the hallway back into the kitchen. As they do, Thalia hooks an arm around Belle’s shoulders and both make mumbled apologies for heir behavior.

“You alright, Magnes?” Belle asks with both her brows raised in worry. Donna smiles away their concern and wheels around the table, motioning to the two young women.

“He's fine. My sweet baby boy is just fine. He's going to make us dinner.” As Donna wheels around and last Magnes, he notices something that he hadn't seen before because of the way her hair had fallen.

A mark.

A scar, behind her right ear.

“Everything’s just fine,” Donna says with a sweet, tender smile as she looks back over at Magnes.

Just fine.

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