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Scene Title Circles
Synopsis At another bus station, in another part of the world, the least likely people run into each other. The world moves in circles, sometimes.
Date November 16, 2011

'24-7 Diner', Washington State

It’s raining.

Not that rain is exactly unusual up in the Pacific Northwest by any stretch of the imagination, but even by local standards it’s been raining an awful lot lately. If one were of a poetic mindset, they might look at the grey of the clouds and feel the chill autumn rain pattering down and think that even the weather was reacting to the state of the world. The skies themselves weeping for those massacred in the streets, for those who’ve lost family and friends, for the loss of hope and trust in the heart of America.

But it’s probably just something to do with global warming.

”Blood in the streets of Austin today. After breaching the free speech zone established in the city’s downtown district, pro-evolved protesters marched on City Hall in defiance of the martial law edict, a march which ended tragically when…”

A just-audible sigh of relief travels through the diner as a waitress switched the channel from the news, replaced by an old black-and-white episode of Leave It To Beaver instead. It’s a sentiment that’s shared by the man sitting at the counter - the bus terminal down the block having drawn in enough patrons that the booths are full - from the slight easing of tension in his expression as the news goes off.

“Here’s your food, hon,” the waitress offers tiredly, setting a plate in front of him before moving by to the next customer. Fries, burger, standard diner fare. No special orders to make him stand out at all.

A grey hooded sweatshirt is draped over Richard Cardinal’s lean frame, hood pulled up to fight the chill - and help conceal his identity. Blue jeans are spattered with dark spots where the rain caught him coming in, cuffs tucked into steel-toed boots. He checks his watch to make sure he’s still got plenty of time, reaching out with that arm for the ketchup bottle to pour a small pool on the side of the plate.

The particular rain of the Northwest was something April surprisingly had to readjust to, after her (extra) years in New York and Utah. By now, though, it's back to being just a normal fact of her life. Buses, namely the ones that travel long distances, are less of a fact of life, but sometimes it's worth surrendering a little agency to be surrounded by an anonymous crowd. Or just to not be driving.

Pushing her way in through the diner door, April shoves the hood of her jade-green jacket back, shakes collected water from her sleeves. She's wearing a darker green shirt underneath, pants of some dark brown synthetic material, wide-toed running shoes in black and white. Her black hair's cropped just as short as it was the last time Cardinal saw her, but at least she isn't on the run this time.

She surveys the crowded diner — of course it's crowded, a whole spate of buses just came in, including hers — with slightly cautious reserve. No seats except at the counter, and that puts her back to the entrance. It also harbors a patron worthy of a slightly dubious double-take: most people lose the hood once they're inside.

Still, it's not like April's expecting problems. So she finally accedes to the meaningful attention of the waitress and walks up to the counter — not next to the hooded man, but about three seats down. The TV gets a glance; he gets another; and then she turns her attention to the menu. Mostly.

The ketchup bottle's set back down, and Richard picks up a french fry to swipe through the pool of thick red, bringing it up to his lips to take a bite therefore. Slumped forward to rest a folded arm on the counter, he chews contentedly— turning his head a touch as he notices someone sitting down, just instinct to check who it is.

It takes him a moment, brow furrowing with that don't I know— and then he nearly chokes on the french fry as it hits him. He coughs several times as he forces the potato down his throat the right way, thumping a fist on his chest.

Once he can breathe again, that breath comes out in laughter just shy of silence, one elbow resting on the counter and his face sunk into his palm, shoulders shaking with the repressed mirth.

It probably makes him stand out even more, even aside from the hood.

The waitress has just stopped by to solicit April's choice of beverage when the hooded man seems to have a minor crisis of the choking variety. April watches him sidelong, askance, without any evident intention of being a considerate Samaritan and trying to help. The waitress, meanwhile, hovers worriedly without actually being helpful, saying are you all right, sir? like she expects him to be able to answer.

Choking segues to near-soundless laughter, and the conclusion is obvious: he's fine. April flips over her coffee mug and sets it out to be filled, while keeping the laughing man in the periphery of her view. "Care to share the joke?" she asks lightly, not having missed that it just might have something to do with her.

One hand is held up, skin marked oddly by black - a tattoo, maybe, of another hand clasping his own - palm first in a request for patience as he waits to recover from that fit of ironic humor. Finally he regains control of himself, his hand dropping back down to rest on the counter as he draws in a slow breath, and then exhales it with an audible chuckle.

Fingers push the edge of the hood back, letting it crumple down to the back of his neck as he abandons anonymity. "Time may not be a line," he says, a wry smile tugging up at one corner of his lips as he looks down the counter to the woman, "But it sure does feel like it goes in circles, sometimes. Been awhile."

April can wait. It helps that the waitress fills her mug, and the coffee is — halfway decent, anyway. Then it's her turn to choke, or at least splutter, as a face she hasn't seen in more than a year (but remembers all too well) is revealed. She presses a hand to her mouth, coughs once, twice. "God." Her gaze flicks towards the TV, and through it the litany of recent events so pointedly not on display at present. "Doesn't it just?" is the sardonic agreement of the woman currently living a circle, if one with variation.

She shakes her head, takes a deep drink of black liquid, sets the mug back down. "You're right, it has been a while. A year? Yeah," she affirms, mostly to herself, momentarily distracted by thinking back. Green eyes refocus on Cardinal. "I'm glad to see you out and about," she adds. Alive. Hale. Not still in the middle of the chaos — because April's pretty sure he was, at some point. That doesn't seem like a huge supposition.

"A year. It might as well be a lifetime," Cardinal admits, reaching out to curl his fingers around the coffee beside his plate of burger-and-fries and lifting it up to take a careful sip of it. It's not bad. But then, it's better than what they got from the coffee machine they used to have in the library.

As the mug's lowered, he cants his head over. "Glad to see the same from you. You were in a bit of a… hurry, last time I saw you… worried now'n then how that turned out." Just the hint of a smile twitches to his lips, "You're looking well, so guess it turned out okay." His gaze tired, shadows under his eyes; shoulders slumped a bit. None of the cocky arrogance the man used to carry like a mantle.

"Another lifetime," April agrees. The waitress ducks into the pause in their conversation to take her order: a bowl of chili and steamed vegetables. After, she looks back to Cardinal. "That was…" It takes some thinking to pin down the exact occasion, because last time, she never actually saw him. After that moment, the woman chuckles, shakes her head. "Another bus station, wasn't it? Go figure."

She pauses, takes a drink of coffee. "Yeah, it worked out. Laid low for a while, finally gave up on the place after last November." April glances sidewise at him, briefly. Continues. "Living in 'Frisco these days, but I wind up in Seattle a fair bit. Among other places." The coffee comes up again, providing an excuse for silence, a moment for thought.

"Didn't expect to run into you out on this side of the country. You heading south?" A deliberately neutral query, conversational; the very opposite of probing.

"Shit, it was a bus station, wasn't it…?" Cardinal turns his head a bit to look to the doors, as if expecting Agent Sawyer to come rushing in to fulfill the synchronicity of the occasion. She doesn't, of course, and he turns back to pick up his burger.

A hearty bite later, chewed, swallowed, and a napkin lifted to daub juices and ketchup from his mouth. "Worse places to spend your time, or so I hear," he admits, a shoulder lifting in a slight shrug, "Yeah. Don't normally get out this way myself, but — you know the business."

A wry look sidelong to her, "Work calls you somewhere, then you've got to get home on your own, you know?"

April echoes Cardinal's glance at the doors, mostly to make sure there isn't something (or someone) she should be watching for. Fortunately, the answer's no. She goes back to her coffee while he eats, and in short order the waitress happens by with refills.

"That there are," she agrees. Neither of them needs to explain which ones. As he continues, though, April's gaze flicks away, and she takes a long drink of coffee before responding. "Yeah," she finally says, not quite putting the mug back down. "Yeah, I do know."

She stares in the direction of the wall for a moment, then shakes her head and looks back to Cardinal, a slightly damp gleam to her eyes. She's not about to mention it, though. "Seems like it might be time to redefine home," April comments, almost succeeding at levity, if only because it's a case of laugh or cry.

The waitress shows up again, deposits her order with a pleasantry, receives brief gratitude in return. April picks up her spoon; doesn't immediately apply it to the chili. "Sometimes I wonder how much of all this can be traced back to us, one way or another," she remarks; there's no levity in that.

"Yeah." Cardinal considers the burger in his hands, and then repeats more quietly, "Yeah."

He sets it down, arms folding on the counter and weight leaning there. "They say that home is where the heart is, but I think mine just went away up… where I was doing business," he says quietly. The language circular, evasive, but he figures she can follow along all the same. God knows she's been in the same line of work.

Fingers brush over the edge of his coffee cup, musing, "I've wondered that. I've wondered that a lot, lately."

April is about to take a bite of soup when Cardinal's shift at the edge of her view snags her attention; she sets it back down, regarding his lean. Closes her eyes as he speaks. Yeah, she can follow. "I'm very sorry to hear it," she replies, equally quietly. Folds her hands on the table, remembering… something she'll never forget, even if it was undone.

"I'd like to say time helps," she continues at last. "It wears off the rougher edges, at least." Even when you don't go on to turn it back upon itself. Sort of. April reaches for her coffee cup, just to have something to do with her hands. "I'm sure you've gotten this a lot, but if you need an ear…"

"I'd say you wouldn't understand most of it, but…" A sidelong look, a tug of Richard's lips up at one corner in an almost-smile, the coffee cup raised up just to his lips without taking a sip, "You might be one of the few people who would, honestly. Getting too close to my father was a sure way to get that old Chinese curse put on you.."

A sip of bitter darkness spills over his tongue before he admits several moments later, gaze lingering on the surface of the drink, "We knew it was a possibility. Shit— even likely, in our line of work."

Father gets him a sidelong look, an expression of clear albeit momentary surprise. "Don't think I knew you were related," April remarks, over a sip of coffee. There's only one mutual acquaintance she can think of who fits into that particular blank. She also notes the choice of tense — was — but herself chooses not to ask; the time-traveler is more than content to leave Edward Ray in her past.

She nods as he continues. "Still something else when it actually happens." April casts a glance at the television and its now-unobjectionable display of classic reruns. She regards it unseeing, reflecting on current events rather than the mundane travails of fictional characters. On an impulse, she reaches into her coat, pulls out a pen and an index card. Scribbles on the card and slides it down the counter — a number, no name. "Can't guarantee that's permanent, but…"

Definitely different from the last time, when April wanted nothing to do with anyone.

"Heh." A wry note to his tone, as Richard validates her surprise, "Neither did I."

Then that surprise is returned when the card's slid down the counter, and he crooks a brow up - glancing from it to her, and back again. His fingers cover the card and make it disappear in a flourish, a con-man's trick repurposed for no real reason other than whimsy.

Sometimes the world needs some whimsy. Today seems like one of those times.

"I don't have a number right now myself. I'll send you a message when I do," he allows, managing a faint smile, "Thanks."

April smiles at the moment of whimsy, appreciating the break from somber subjects that it provides. She also has cause to smile at his mild surprise. "Like you said," she remarks, "things turned out okay." Distance, spatial and temporal. Not feeling like a rabbit beset by hounds on all sides. These things make a difference.

She nods to his words. "If you don't, that's fine too." And with that natural break in the conversation, April at last takes the chance to eat some of her soup…

…only to pause a couple bites in, clearly struck by a thought. "Speaking of work," she begins, turning to Cardinal again, spoon half-raised but not quite pointing at him. "Acquired a couple new associates last month. The both of them named Brian, funny enough." April glances at her spoon, sets it down, continues. "You wouldn't happen to be familiar, by chance? They came a bit light on referrals."

She eats her soup; he takes a few bites of burger, enjoying them with the relish of someone who's probably been on lighter rations for the previous week. The question has Cardinal chuckling.

"Who doesn't? You could say the man's fairly ubiquitous…" The cheeseburger's set down, and he lifts one of the french fries, waving it vaguely as if to indicate 'all around', "He's a good guy. Not always big on manners, but— " He trails off, then shakes his head, "But he's a good guy. He takes more on his shoulders than most of us. Never complains about it."

He bites off the end of the french fry, chews, swallows. "I can vouch for him, for what my vouching’s worth."

The change in pronouns is noted, implicit confirmation that, yes, they are speaking of the same Brian(s). April smiles wryly, occupies herself momentarily with a sip of coffee, a bite of seasonal vegetables. "It's worth something," she assures him. "Not least because it fits with my impressions," she allows. "Thank you."

She goes back to eating then, to enjoying the peace and quiet of this moment untroubled by the world's greater concerns, to camaraderie found in an unexpected place. To circles made and remade in their endless permutations, whether on the grand scale of death and destruction or the lesser one of encounters in diners and bus stations.

"Circles," April muses aloud. "Well, I guess if I'm ever in the middle of the country, I'll keep an eye out for diners," she remarks, casting a lopsided smile towards Cardinal.

As silence falls for the time, Richard finishes off his burger; a little more relaxed for the company, even if they've never been close, if only because April is someone who understands.

There are some people who have lived lives so unique that few others could understand what they've been through. Two of them are sitting at the counter in this diner.

Those words then bring a chuckle as he pushes the emptied plate away, moving to push up to his feet. A wry smile offered back to her, a brow lifting, "I'm hoping that the circles are closing, finally, but— can't hurt to keep an eye out anyway."

"I've got to go catch a bus, but — I'll keep in touch. Take care of yourself, April," he offers with a tip of his head, an honest sentiment, "And if I drop out of touch and you need anything, well. Brian is a pretty damn good courier." Part of the benefit of being ubiquitous.

He turns to slip out of the diner, then, musing over the vagaries of fate through April Silver in his path of all people.

Maybe someone up there is trying to tell him something.

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