Crisis of Identity


des2_icon.gif mara2_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title Crisis of Identity
Synopsis Turning to Richard for help with the strange, things get significantly weirder.
Date December 18, 2018

Safe Zone

The Songbird Motel is little more than a converted tenement building in the Safe Zone, but the lobby is clean - if a little dark with burnt orange carpet and wood paneling on the walls that give it a distinctly 70s feel - and the doors have locks that actually work. The note left at their dead drop said there would be a key available to Lamont Cranston. The room is under a different assumed name, of course, but Mara paid with cash, and Desdemona snuck in with the help of her ability.

Room 505 is unremarkable. The carpet is a dark shade of blue, the drapes are beige and ivory striped. Through the windows, the neon lights of Yamagato Park are visible in the way they reflect off the clouds.

“What if he didn’t get my message?” Des may as well be pacing a rut in the floor. “I guess I could hole up here and you could drag him from Raytech…” She glances up to her mother, pushes the red frames of her glasses up her nose unconsciously. Her hair is piled up on top of her head and covered in a plastic shopping bag. Her dye is processing. This place has a hot water heater that will let her stand under the spray for a whole thirty minutes if she wants. She’s tested that theory.

Mara doesn't answer. Something’s been bothering her all night. She's been erratic, fidgeting and twitching and unable to sit still. Even now she's pacing the floor of the hotel room, cigarette in one hand and the other threading and re-threading a lock of hair behind one ear.

“I'm sure he got it,” Mara eludes, but she doesn't sound it. Instead, she flicks a look at the wall-mounted clock and realizes only five minutes have passed since she did that last. “I'm sure— of a lot of things. Certainly.” She moves to the window next, parting the horizontal blinds with two fingers and looking out onto the street below.

Then, up. To the aurora.

There comes a knock upon the door; five beats, the old classic ‘Shave and a Haircut’ knock.

It’s Richard on the other side, of course; wrapped in an old worn trench coat that he’d picked up from somewhere, that old fedora perched on his head. Apparently he’s decided to be inconspicuous in the classic movie sense, or possibly Looney-Tunes. It’s hard to say, really.

He waits for the answer, glancing back to make sure there’s nobody else watching or waiting.

Des’ head lifts and her pacing comes to a stumbling halt at the knock on the door. A quiet gasp punctuates the cessation of movement. “I’ve got it,” she murmurs, shooting a glance to Mara before she moves to the door and looks out the peephole.

The door opens and Des heaves a sigh of relief. “Come in,” she greets with a brief, shaky smile and a quick peck on his cheek as he passes by. “I was worried you might have wanted to stop answering my calls after the last…” Another quick twitch of her lips that passes for a smile in tandem with a shrug of her shoulders. That happened.

Turning from the window across the room, Mara eyes Richard in the way cats eye mice. Blue eyes are fixed on him, cigarette burning idly in one hand, the other still parting the blinds. As she steps away from the window, the blinds snap shut and she threads that errant lock of hair behind an ear again.

Mara says nothing, save for standing a few feet behind Odessa like her shadow, stretched long across the ground in a ray of afternoon sunlight. The thin coil of smoke coming from her cigarette hangs languidly in the air, like the unspoken question on her lips.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Richard murmurs as he offers her a fond, if tired, smile; he looks like he hasn’t been sleeping well. No real surprise there. He steps along inside, and then his attention drifts to the other woman in the room.

He takes a moment to try and remember the trip here. Okay, he’s pretty sure he actually travelled here. This time.

“And… you know, honestly I don’t even know what to call you anymore,” he admits, a hand lifting in a helpless gesture as he removes his hat, “You’ve got more names than I do. So what’s up…?”

A look between the pair. He assumes that something is up since both of them are there. A social meeting seems unlikely.

“And I think I have you both beat,” Des reminds Richard in a quiet voice. As far as aliases go, that is. “Look, there’s been some… more strangeness than usual. We need your help.” There’s a crinkle of the plastic bag as she reaches up to run a hand through her hair out of habit. She frowns and shoves her hands into the pockets of her faded purple hoodie instead.

“Mara had a… I don’t know, a vision? I saw it too.” A glance over her shoulder shows she isn’t sure how much of the details of the situation she should reveal. “It was like the sorts of things I see, but in real time. But… the past.” Des growls in quiet frustration. “Fuck. Am I making any sense?”

“I can feel this fucking aurora in my teeth,” Mara explains sans any real introductions. “I… felt it before, back in Alaska after the sky exploded. It's like I've got fillings and somebody's holding one of them big scrapyard magnets over my fucking head.” Her demeanor is drastically different from Sera.

“I need t’know how t’get it t’stop,” Mara explains with an emphatic wave of her cigarette-laden hand. “I feel like I'm being turned inside-fucking-out. So,” Mara takes a quick drag off of her cigarette between words, “fix it. With science. Or whatever it is you do in that big building of yours.”

“Huh.” Richard’s brow knits a little as he sets the hat on a cheap dresser-top, “That— well. I don’t know how your power works, but it must have something to do with superstrings. We’re undergoing a Coronal Overlay Event.” He waves a hand vaguely, “In layman’s terms that means we’re really close to other possible timelines right now. It has something to do with neutrinos, apparently, I don’t fucking know, I’m not a scientist.”

A hand comes up to scratch at his chin, and he frowns, “If you can feel it like that… hm. We could do some tests, see if there’re any materials or magnetic fields that can stop the feeling. That’d actually be some useful data, honestly.”

“That’s not how I feel it, but… Yeah. Shit’s fucked up. Worse than it’s been just since 2011.” Des runs her tongue over her teeth and moves to sit in a green upholstered armchair. She grabs a pack of cigarettes off the stand next to it and shakes one out.

With the stick between her lips, she frowns, looking for the lighter and then patting herself down as she speaks. “I don’t know if it’s some time shit or if it’s because we were where we were when the sky fucking tore open or what.” Brows furrow as she plucks the cigarette back out of her mouth again. “What about your bunker in Kansas or whatever? Isn’t it supposed to shield from temporal fuckery?”

“You have a bunk—” Mara explodes.

One moment she's about to incredulously comment about the nature of Richard's survivalist tendencies, and the next minute there's a cacophonous sound of an explosion so loud that it blows the windows out of the hotel room. Glass rains down on the street, curtains rustle, and a swirling haze of lime green energy tinged with shades of yellow burns where Mara was standing just a moment ago.

After she explodes there's a backwards scream that comes roaring into the room, starting small and building up into a reverse Doppler effect before Mara solidifies in the exact same spot, screaming at the top of her lungs, dressed in a floral print blouse, ratty jeans, and an old pair of brown work boots.

She immediately collapses onto her knees clutching her head, and Odessa can see that her hair is blonde with layers of gray, wrinkles crease her face and hands, and she looks decades older. Glass comes raining back into the room in that same moment, and the sound of the explosion plays backwards as well as the windows rebuild themselves, car alarms stop, and a stuttering freeze frame effect blurs the edges of Mara’s body for a moment.

Then, she ducks. “No stop!” But there's nothing to duck away from.

“I wish, no, you’re mistaking that for the Ar— “

Richard was trying to explain the bunker when there’s some form of spatiotemporal explosion, followed by a spatiotemporal implosion, followed by still more fuckery going on. The man’s first reaction when the sound bursts through the room is to dive behind the bed and drag Des with him. They hit hard, but when there’s no roar of fire or the bed (or them) being exploded, he lifts his head up just in time to watch Mara reverse herself. Or whatever just happened.

Rolling up to his feet, his eyes wide as he stares. “M— Sera, Rianna, Juliette, whatever the fuck your name is— fuck, um. Can you hear us?” A glance to Des, then back, “What can we do?”

It doesn’t take any coaxing for Des to accept Richard’s playing shield as they dive behind the bed. She shrieks and covers her head as glass goes shattering from the windows, then returns. When the green firelight she feels all too familiar with fades, she slowly curls her fingers around the edge of the bed, digging into the comforter as she pulls herself up to peek over the top.

“M- Mom?”

What the fuck!?” Mara screams as she scrambles away from Richard. Falling onto her backside she crawls on hands and heels up against one of the walls, looking around wide-eyes at the hotel room as if seeing it for the first time. Heaving, panicked breaths make her chest rise and fall rapidly, and she's checking herself for injuries.

“Oh my god,” she says in a sharp exhale, “oh my god where am I?” There's abject panic in this woman’s eyes and no recognition when she looks at either Richard or Des. “Where the fuck am I!?

Oh no. Richard’s hands come up, spread a bit as if to show he’s unarmed, and he doesn’t try and come closer. “Uh— a hotel in the New York Safe Zone? Look, our— friend just exploded and you appeared there so we’re about as clueless as you are,” he half-lies, his eyes still wide with shock at the whole situation, “Who, uh, who are you?”

A sharp glance to Des, a play along look. Overlay events usually only last fifteen to twenty seconds, so hopefully…

“It’s okay. We’re not going to hurt you.” Des shoots a worried look back to Richard. It’s like Mara felt this coming. Her own breathing is coming in fast and shallow, but she tries to get her panic under control. Normally, she’d use her ability to give herself extra time. This seems like it might only exacerbate things with the energy resonating in the air.

“My name’s Des. This is Richard.” As long as they’re asking names, she may as well give theirs. She seems to have no recollection of either of them. Initially, she’d suspected that Mara — the real Mara — took back control somehow, but the physical changes…

This is someone else.

The stranger’s face contorts. It takes a moment of stillness, but she finds the strength to sit forward, then crawl up onto her knees and really look at Des. She squints, mouth open, face contorted into a look of abject confusion. “Des— Destiny?” She can't process what she's seeing.

Slowly, the woman wearing Mara’s face — or perhaps that's backwards, it's hard to tell — rises to her feet and takes a bewildered step forward. “Destiny, is— that…” Confusion is replaced by recognition, and then a slowly-dawning expression of horror.

“No.” She mumbles. “No, no, no, how is this— how!?” Hands at her face, parings and grasping to see if she's real, the stranger begins backing away again. “No! No, how do you know my name!?” She asks in a shriek, “what did you do to me!?”

At the name Destiny, Richard’s eyes go truly wide— a look exchanged with the woman next to him— and then he’s quickly trying to calm the woman backing away. “You’re— wait, wait, calm down,” he offers, half-reaching out although he’s not close enough to touch, “You’re in another timeline, one where the flood didn’t happen, I’m— my name is Richard Cardinal. Michelle Cardinal’s son.”

Maybe she’ll recognize that name, if she recognized Destiny’s.

“What he says is true.” Des gets to her feet slowly and holds out her hands placatingly. “I am Destiny, just not the one you know.” She takes a second to try and best describe what’s happened — at least as she sees it. “If you look outside, you can see the aurora? We think that’s from our timelines getting close to one another. You’ve just… swapped places with your double.” At least, she hopes her mother has swapped places and that she hasn’t just simply stopped existing. That… She can’t even think about that right now.

Swallowing back her fear, she continues. “I’ve had a similar experience. It’s really fuckin’ wild. But you’re safe here with us. We’ll try to help you however we can.”

Familiar names and words, maybe it’s just the tone, something is causing this woman to relax. She keeps her back pressed up against the wall, fingers curled down to the carpet, nails dug into the fiber. Swallowing audibly, she stares at both Richard and Des with still-panicked eyes. “Joy,” she identifies herself, “my name— I’m— I’m Joy.” Flicking a look to the windows, Joy seems uncertain as to whether she should move, but then looks back to Richard.


“C— Chel doesn’t have a— ” Then, unexpectedly, Joy’s eyes grow somehow wider. Recognition. “Oh my God. You’re the one who called on the radio!” Joy bolts up to her feet, one hand on the wall for balance, and looks at the room again with new eyes. When she snaps a look back at Richard, the fear is gone, replaced by something just as intense: horror.

Elisabeth,” Joy blurts out, frantically. “This is— Elisabeth is going to— oh my God. Oh my God it hasn’t happened yet!” Hands dragging down her face, Joy scrambles toward Richard like she was going to tackle him, but stops herself on the opposite side of the bed from him. “The machine is flawed! It’s— Don’s— ” She has no frame of reference, no certainty on when she is, let alone where. “What day is it!?” Joy screams, crawling onto the bed and across it towards Des and Richard. “Is it Christmas!?

It’s not just Joy that’s getting more desperate now, as her words alight a fire in Richard’s own eyes. “No! No, it’s— it’s not Christmas yet, we’re planning on bridging the gap that day,” he says quickly, stepping to the bed’s edge, reaching out towards her, “Who’s Don? Did something go wrong— ?”

A look of frantic worry flicked to Des, then back to Joy, “We weren’t planning on using the machine, we were going to use El Umbral to make the connection— “

“What’s going to happen on Christmas?” Des looks between the two of them and gently rests a hand on Richard’s shoulder. For support and to urge some calm. “Deep breath,” she instructs in a soft voice. “Please stop screaming, or someone’s going to call the cops and I don’t want to have to try and explain what’s going on here.”

And she has a plastic bag on her head and it’s all quite embarrassing.

“We have time, Joy.” That chosen nom de guerre rings ironic in her ears. “Tell us what’s going on. Please.”

“Don!” Joy shouts, “Donald Kenner, he's— the head of Ark— he's— he's the Director. He deposed your mother, he's had her locked up for months. He has control of the device now and he's— my god what he did to Else.” There's horror in Joy’s eyes, confusion too, as she starts putting the pieces together.

“My god, they're going to kill Elisabeth.” Joy says with furrowed brows. “Don— he's going to kill them all. You have to warn her, you have to tell her not to— she can't— ” Joy clutches her head and when she speaks again her voice reverberates back as though talking in a tin can. “What's— happening— t-to me—

Eyes wide, Joy stares up at Richard. “Tell her not to trust Doctor Ford!” It's emphatic, screamed, “She can't trust— ”

Joy explodes into a pillar of light that doesn't so much demolish the room as last time but implode in on itself and collapse into a blast of light, leaving a soaking wet and panting Mara in her place.

Kenner?” Richard stares back at her. The regional head of SESA? “What device, what did he— “ His words stumble over each other at the last words, and then he’s recoiling slightly in a lean into Des’s touch, breath catching in his throat. “He’s— wait, you can’t, hold on just— “

Then all is light, and he throws up an arm to shield his face, grimacing as he turns away from the blinding blast.

Des is a little bit better prepared for things to go pear shaped once Joy’s voice starts to take on that eerie quality. She ducks back behind the bed again, dragging Richard with her and waits for the flood of light to fade again.

“Stay,” she demands of the man as she hurries back out to Mara’s side. “Mom! Are you okay?” Looking back over her shoulder to Richard, she calls out, “Deep breaths!” Then back to Mara, she wraps an arm around her shoulder. “You… You swapped places, didn’t you? Come on, let’s get you a change of clothes.”

As she’s helping the other woman toward the bathroom, Des points a finger back at Richard once more, “Don’t you dare leave this room.”

What the fuck just happened!?” Mara gasps as the much smaller Des helps her up by the arm. Her now bare feet leave wet impressions in the hotel carpet. She's trembling from head to toe, the water dripping off of her both icy and briny. “W-what the fuck— where— ” Mara looks over to Richard as she’s guided to the bathroom, eyes wide and posture rigid.

“I can't— I was— ” Mara struggles to make heads or tails of what she saw. Whatever it was. As she eases in through the bathroom door she grips the door frame for support as her legs buckle and she nearly slips onto her knees. Instead she stays standing and exhales a shuddering breath. “Oh my god are— are all those people…” There's tears in Mara’s eyes when she finally looks at Odessa. “What the fuck did I just see?

“Fuck. Fuck!” Richard’s lips twist into a grimace as he blinks spots from his eyes, as Mara reappears in place of ‘Joy’; turning, he paces away through the hotel room, then back, waving a hand vaguely at Des’s thrust finger. He’s not leaving. He does leave Des and her ‘mother’ to the bathroom for now, even as his brain races to figure out what to do now.

“I don’t know,” Des says quietly, her arm wrapped tightly around Mara’s waist as her knees threaten to give out. Once she’s steady again, she guides her the rest of the way in to sit down. She reaches into the shower and starts the water running, checking the temperature periodically to see when it’s finally warmed up.

“We think you swapped places with your double from a different timeline. Similar to what your Odessa and I did. Except you did a full…” She draws a circle through the air with her finger to indicate the reality swap. “Don’t move yet, okay? I’m going to get you a change of clothes. Whatever you saw? It hasn’t happened yet.”

Des exchanges a grim look with Richard as she steps out of the bathroom, moving to where a pair of bags sits near the bed. Good thing she insisted on packing for a couple nights stay. “We can still warn them.” She isn’t sure how, exactly, but she has a few ideas of where to start.

Still trembling, Mara nods and closes her eyes. “Dry clothes,” she says softly to herself, brows furrowed and shoulders hunched forward.

Dry clothes.

Not Long Later

The door to the bathroom opens and Mara — emerging in a pair of old, ratty high-waisted jeans and a crop top sweater that says MIT across the chest — looks less like herself and more like some sort of pastiche of herself and Odessa. The clothes can't be her daughter's, they don't exactly have the same dimensions.

“I'm sorry,” is the first thing out of Mara’s mouth on the way out of the bathroom, ruffling her hair dry with a hand towel. “This… this isn't how it should be.” There's a haunted look in Mara’s eyes, worry creasing her brows together. “For anyone.”

“No. No, it shouldn’t.” Richard draws in a slow breath, then releases it, stopping his pacing and looking over to Mara with unhidden anxiety in his gaze. His hands spread, and he says, “So let’s try and fix it. What— what did you see? The you that ended up here was from the Flood, and— I think from the future, a few weeks or months anyway, so I guess you ended up there?”

“She warned us that Don— that someone was going to kill our friends, over there.”

Des has been staring warily at the door to the room, expecting someone to knock and complain about all the shouting. It’s almost improbable to her that no one arrives, but maybe luck is on her side for once. Her mouth quirks up at one corner as she wonders if maybe her mother’s power might have kept complaints at bay somehow.

“This is what Richard and I have been working on,” Des explains. “We’ve been trying to figure out how to get our friends here safely.” As much as she’s been able to actually assist in planning, at any rate. “If you can tell us what you saw, it might help.”

“I was in a room,” Mara says after a moment of silent consideration. “It, uh— big. It was big, like a garage or a hangar or something, but it didn't have any windows to the outside. I saw— ” Mara presses the heel of her palm to her forehead and closes her eyes. “There was a lot of old, rusted machinery. Engines, stuff I couldn’t recognize. Everything smelled like rust and the ocean.”

Looking up to Des, Mara’s jaw tenses. “You were there,” she says worriedly, “but it— it wasn't you it— it was my girl. From my world.” Mara’s hand slides down her face, cradling her mourn behind a cage of thin fingers.

“Elisabeth was there too.” Mara says softly, reluctantly. “There was some… some kind of machine. Like a huge pillar, all sorts of wiring and pipes. I think it was cold, there was— frost all over it. And a television screen.”

Mara brings up her hands and forms the shape of a triangle with them.

“Elisabeth was— she was talking into it. I wasn't— I couldn't… I couldn't tell” Mara swallows a breath and scrubs her hands over her face. “An alarm went off. These doors. These big doors at the back of the room opened and… I heard a man on a loudspeaker but… I couldn't— water filled the room from the doors.” Her pale eyes lift up to Richard.

“I think we drowned,” is a whisper. a whisper.

As the triangle-shape is made with her hands, Richard’s face pales. “The Looking Glass,” he breathes out, closing his eyes, “Okay. We can change this. You moved in— you were in the future, not the present. We talked with— with the you from there. We can change this.”

His eyes open, gleaming with determination, jaw set, “We can make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Again, whispers the voice in his mind that knows how possibilities work, how superstrings work. He ignores it.

Des exchanges a look with Richard that says she’s thinking the same thing. “I’ll find a way to warn them,” she vows. Wrapping her arms around her midsection, she gets a faraway look as she considers how she’s going to manage that trick when she hasn’t had control of her visions thus far.

She doesn’t know how to console either of them. “This is good, though. The other Odessa is with Elisabeth. That means I have a stronger connection there.” Two has got to be better than one. “Between her and Destiny… I can’t miss, can I?” The other versions of her are dead, after all. Not the most comforting thought for her.

“She’s coming to find you, M- Mara. You know her determination.” Des glances back to Richard again. “And you know mine. We’ll save them. Somehow.”

Nervously swallowing, Mara wrings her hands together and paces the hotel room floor. “Something’s wrong,” she says in a hushed voice, looking at her fingertips. Closing her hands, she looks over at Des, and then Richard. “If that hasn't happened yet, what— I can't time travel.” Then, brows creased she clarifies. “At— at least not forward and backwards.”

The words have Richard giving Des a confused, questioning look before he looks back to Mara— starting to say something, pausing, then clearing his throat. “Alright, so what exactly can you do, because I’ve honestly never really been sure,” he observes, “The Overlay has the potential of messing with a lot of abilities, but without knowing how yours works, I can’t even make a guess…”

“Neither can I,” Des points out, coming to lean against the armchair she’d been sitting in before the commotion started. “But I did it, somehow. Maybe it’s something to do with our proximity when it happened. We were together when I wound up in your world, too.”

She holds up one hand, “Put your flair for the improbable…” The other hand comes up opposite, palms facing. “With my ability to manipulate time, and perhaps, improbably,” she brings her hands together with a quiet slap, “we were able to jump to different points in time?” Des shakes her head a little helplessly, “I don’t know. It’s the best theory I’ve got.”

The thought has Mara looking nearly cross-eyed. Pressing the heel of her palm to her head she wrenches her eyes shut and lets out a frustrated growl. “I don’t— know. I’m not a fucking scientist,” she says with a huff of breath. “Things just happen. Sometimes— sometimes I’m not even sure… I— I’m not even sure who I am.” Swallowing nervously, Mara looks up to Des, then over to Richard.

“It’s like… wishes.” Mara oversimplifies. “I want something to happen and it usually does. I can’t control how or when. I wanted to be dry, so,” she motions to her clothes. “Where did you think these came from?” Now that she’s made Des and Richard question the nature of their reality, they suddenly can recall that Mara didn’t bring a change of clothes with her, and the probability of them just being in the hotel somewhere was so low, and yet — like a dream — they just accepted the change and the logic of it.

“Sometimes I want to be somewhere else, so— I am.” Mara claps her hands together, illustratively. “But it’s not instantaneous. It takes time to get there, but I don’t experience the in-between moments. You all might not either. I just— I don’t know how all this works. I’ve never had someone to really teach me, I’m a fucking propane salesman’s— ” She cuts herself off, exhaling a ragged breath. “N-no I’m— I’m… a— I— I was studying my power at— at Mount Natazhat with— with Erica?”

She doesn’t sound convinced of her own reality.


Richard brings a hand up, fingers rubbing between his eyes, “You really— you really don’t know who you are, do you? Someone did a fucking number on you, or else your power did, I…”

His hand drops to his side, and he looks to Des, briefly chewing on the corner of his lips as he internally debates something. Then his eyes cut back to Mara, and he asks, “…do you remember Jean-Martin Luis?”

Mara’s stare is vacant. “Who?

For all that Des oftens feels like she doesn’t know who she really is, at least she has a solid foundation of experiences that she knows are hers. Or at least, enough other people can corroborate that she feels confident enough that those events actually happened. For all that’s missing, she at least has something. That’s more than Mara seems to have right now.

“That’s right,” she murmurs reassuringly. “You told me you were in Alaska with Erica once.” That must be real, right? Maybe it’s the jump between worlds that started to unravel things. Or maybe she’s simply gone from life to life too many times.

That she doesn’t seem to know who Luis was is discouraging. “I have… He was a scientist that worked with the Institute,” Des explains, the shortest version. “He had a daughter named Juliette. I have a file about her. She… looks like you.”

Lack of recognition turns into abject confusion. Mara takes a step back, looking around herself and reassessing her surroundings. “That's— impossible. I'd remember that. Sh— show— show me.”

Mara tenses, bumping into the corner of the bed and startling herself. She swallows nervously, breathing in short and shallow breaths, hands trembling, eyes wide and unblinking. “Show me,” Mara huffs the request out between breaths, looking terrified.

“Do you have the files?” A soft query to Des, even as Richard brings a hand up, “Easy. Take a breath… calm yourself. Do you remember— look, what’s the first, uh, body you were in that you remember? There had to be someone before Sera, right…?”

A look back to Odessa, then to Mara, “Who were you when you were with Kravid?”

Procuring the file with details of Juliette Luis’ battle with the Shanti Virus requires no manipulation of reality or probability. Des packed for this trip, and one of the bases she intended to cover was whether or not Mara had any recollection of Juliette.

She wouldn’t phrase it quite how Richard does (which draws a wince), but it had to come up somehow. Digging through a duffle bag on the floor by the head of the bed, Desdemona procures a copy of the file in question. Holding it out patiently for Mara to take, she watches her go through the emotions with sympathy etched into the lines of her face.

“I don't— ” Mara doesn't have an answer for Richard. Her brows come together, lips part, jaw slacks, and there's a vacant look on her face that seems to imply no small measure of uncertainty. Or perhaps something more profoundly empty than that. “I was me,” Mara insists, one hand at her chest, “I don't— I'm not— ” There's a red flush in Mara’s face, a nervousness, a tension. She backtracks through her own conversations, ignoring the proffered folder, eyes flicking left and right.

“Sera?” Mara finally asks with a squint, with a look of bewildered confusion, like someone who was concussed trying to remember their name. She looks to Des, then back to Richard. “Sera was just— a fake name. A false— a— ”

Mara snaps, snatching the folder from Des’ hand sending some of the contents fluttering to the floor. One of which catches Mara’s eye when it lands on the carpet, face down. A photograph. Chest rising and falling, Mara takes an anxious step forward, folder clutched in one hand and kneels down to peel the photograph off of the floor.

When she turns it over, when she looks down at the image staring back up at her, she just starts to silently cry.

“I…” Richard’s eyes widen a little at the woman’s reactions, glancing back to Des and to Mara again, “…you really don’t know how your power works, do you? Christ.” Not anger, or derision— pity there, dawning horror for what he’s starting to realize the woman’s gone through.

One hand comes up to push his fingers back through his hair, lips twisting in a grimace, “God. I… and here I was thinking you’d be the one with all the answers.”

“Think about it,” Des says gently. “When you revealed who you were to me, you were pretending to be Sera. When you left and followed me here, Sera stayed behind. You became Mara instead.” She frowns and starts gathering up her folder slowly, sinking down to sit on the bed.

“It’s starting to make sense why the picture of my mother and my memory of her didn’t match your face in the beginning, too…” If she was Juliette before she was Rianna… Des presses her lips together, unsure what to make of that revelation now that she’s really taking the time to think about it. Was Rianna Price just a borrowed life?

What does that make them to each other? “Kara…”

“I don't know her,” Mara says through fingers clasped over her mouth. Her eyes are reddened around the edges, hand trembling, cheeks wet with tears as she stares at a photograph of her own face, but one she apparently has no memory of. Blinking a look over to Des, Mara stares at her with wide-eyed and existential horror, her identity and sense of self shattered.

The photograph falls from Mara’s hand, and Mara collapses to her knees and clutches the sides of her head. “I'm… I'm not Kara,” she says with a furrow of her brows and a look in her eyes that is both horrified and bewildered. Looking up to Des, Mara shakes her head and her jaw unsteadies. “You are.”

“What?” Richard’s single-word question is accompanied by a confused blink, his gaze sweeping back to Des’s face as if to search for answers there.

Des catches the photograph out of the air and slides it back into the file, setting the whole thing aside behind her on the bed. “That’s what you told me you wanted to name me,” she confirms in a quiet voice, trying to be reassuring. She exchanges a worried look with Richard and wonders if they’ve done precisely the wrong thing. If Mara had been better off with the mystery about herself and her ability and all that entails.

Just because Odessa would have wanted to know everything she could about that power, if it had been her own, doesn’t mean the same applies to anyone else. “Is… that what you mean?”

Mara nods, half-heartedly, looking uncertain of herself as she does. “Maybe,” she whispers, then looks down to the floor. Silent and broken, Mara finally just sinks down to her knees into the floor. She stares at her hands, fingers flexing open and closed, jaw unsteadied.

“Who am I?” Mara whispers, helplessly. “I… I'm your mother,” she says shakily, looking up to Des. “But I— I'm… I remember being a boxer. I— I remember the Pancrateum.” Her jaw clenched, fingers curl into her palms. “I remember being— I remember feeding the pigeons in my apartment. I— I remember knowing— knowing all my family was dead.” Swallowing awkwardly, Mara looks around the floor. “I remember— I remember joining the Marines. I remember Afghanistan. I— remember… Texas.” Her expression goes vacant. “I remember my little boy… I…”

Mara brings her hands up to her face and begins sobbing, shoulders heaving and fingers curling into the unkempt locks of her hair. “Mi pequeño.

“Easy…” Richard’s voice is soft as he sinks down to sit on the edge of the bed, reaching out to touch her shoulder briefly, “Easy. Just… take your time and sort those— memories out.” A look to Des — wide-eyed, unsure and worried for the woman, but clearly not having any idea what to do here.

“Maybe you’re… all of those people.” Maybe she’s none of them. How do you begin to decide where a power like that ends and a person begins? Desdemona gets to her feet and paces the floor. With a heavy sigh as she brings her hands to the head and the crinkling sound reminds her of the bag still on it, she starts toward the bathroom.

“I’m going to rinse this junk out. Keep an eye on her,” she asks of Richard, gaze pleading. “I’m going to give some space to… process.” Because the mention of the little boy has her rattled. There’s just no coincidences in their world anymore.

Mara slouches her back against the bed, pulls her knees to her chest, and wraps her arms around her legs. As she lowers her brow to the back of her knees, she sobs again, quietly and broken. It would be a long while before—

An Hour Later

Desdemona stands by the window overlooking the street beside the hotel room bed, only the faintest inkling of how she got there. The excess dye has been washed out of her hair, stained towel around her shoulders. Richard is still sitting on the bed, but doesn’t recall what happened between the moment he touched Mara’s shoulder and when the clock ticked up a whole hour.

Except that his hand is on the bed, and Mara is gone.

“I… wait, what?” Richard’s brow furrows and he glances at his watch, “What just… happened?”

He pushes himself slowly to his feet, looking around, “Damn it. She’s gone, isn’t she…? She shouldn’t be alone in this state…”

It takes Des a moment to pull back from her reverie, staring out of the window contemplatively. When she comes back into that moment, however, she immediately curses. “No, no, no.” Dragging her fingers through her drying hair, tugging at it until her scalp hurts just enough to feel like a punishment for turning away, she scrambles over to where her mother last sat.

“She does that,” she tells Richard, tears welling up in her eyes. “I’ve gotta— I need to go back to Staten Island. I need to try and find her. She shouldn’t be alone in this state. Oh fuck, I shouldn’t have turned my back on her.”

“I don’t think it would’ve mattered, I know I was still looking at her…” Richard grimaces, stepping over to reach out and grab Odessa’s hand. “Take a breath,” he says, looking her in the face, “Yeah. You need to go back and find her, hopefully she’s just gone home. She might just need some time alone, if— I mean, if all of those memories just shook loose, that… I can’t imagine.”

“Neither can I,” Des admits with a shake of her head. What Mara must be going through is unfathomable. Even her own struggles with identity don’t even scratch the surface of what just happened in this room. Her shoulders sag, defeated. “All my power, and I can’t get back to Staten Island tonight. It’s so much easier traveling with her. No worrying about when a ferry can actually be caught.

She slips her hand free from his and sinks down to sit on the bed. “Guess I’m here for the night… I’ll head back home in the morning and look for her.” There’s a quiet sigh as she lowers her gaze to the floor. “Gather up some things and head back to the mainland after that.” Whether she’s successful or not. If Mara doesn’t want to be found, Odessa is certain she won’t be.

“Sometimes power unfortunately takes a back seat to the basic realities of life,” Richard admits, his hand coming back up to rub at the nape of his neck, grimacing, “I can’t get you there on this short notice in any way that doesn’t risk you being exposed early anyway.”

He sighs, stepping back over to sit on the bed as well beside her, “Hopefully she’ll be waiting for you. She’ll need the time anyway.”

“I know.” Des tips her head to rest on Richard’s shoulder. “I’ll leave word for you when I get back so you know where to find me when you need me.” Personal crisis aside, she hasn’t forgotten her promises to him.

“Thanks for coming out to help us. Even if it didn’t go as planned.”

“Hey,” Richard says softly, wrapping an arm around her and leaning his head against hers, closing his eyes, “I love you, you know that. I’m not ever going to not come if you call, if I can at all get to you.”

“And since when have any of our plans gone the way we expect anyway?”

Des smiles faintly, in spite of herself. “Fair point. I’ll have to give you that one.”

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