Darkness In The Light Of Day


faulkner_icon.gif seren2_icon.gif

Scene Title Darkness In The Light Of Day
Synopsis Play in shadows leads to tales too dark for any time of day… but Isaac is unexpectedly granted the chance to say goodbye to the ability that's been torn from him in the process.
Date August 4, 2020

Park Slope

It's only been a month since Seren and Faulkner last saw each other, but it might as well have been a lifetime.

The black Pink Floyd shirt hanging off of their frame is so old it's begun to fade, but that bothers them none. They shift their weight to one foot and lift the other off the ground, a knee poking through a hole in their tattered jeans while they rotate their ankle idly. For them, their biggest concern presently is what flavor of ice cream they're going to get from this truck that's parked on the edge of Park Slope.

"I've heard really good things about the cookie dough mix here…" Seren muses as they go flatfooted again, Converse scuffing the pavement. "Have you tried anything here before?" With the question, their head turns to Isaac, revealing better the tiny creature perched there. Baird is a black axolotl today, save for the fronds sticking from his head. They, like his eyes, are a golden-yellow color, and waver in the air like he's underwater.

It's a normal day. A frustratingly normal day. Another one without answers, another one that's hard to enjoy knowing what's happened coupled with the looming unknown of what's to come.

"Once," Isaac answers. "Never seem to be in the right place at the right time," he adds quietly. He's wearing a dark gray shirt and black pants, his hands stuffed in his pockets — a far cry from his normal bearing. "I'll probably have Rocky Road." That brings a ghost of a smile to his face. Seems fitting, somehow.

"Mmm…" Seren hums the sound, and the creature on their shoulder purrs, impossibly, like a cat. "Man, that sounds amazing."

But there's a decent amount of time yet between them and the front of the line, three customers deep before it reaches them. So they turn to Isaac, recalling something. A glance over their shoulder confirms that no one's come up behind them yet, so they feel more comfortable in their actions than they would otherwise.

"Hey—" With a touch of excitement, they gesture with one hand for his elbow. Their grey eyes ring with silver as they begin to grin. "I've been practicing."

In the corner of perception, Seren's shadow on the ground begins to move though they themself stay perfectly still. It lifts its arms, a corny imitation of the wave performed with decently lifelike qualities to it, though there's something just a touch cartoonish about their interpretation of it.

Then the shadow spins in a circle before striking a hand out toward Isaac's. The imagineer looks back to Isaac with that subdued, but pleased smile, waiting for his reply.

Isaac is smiling as Baird purrs… as Seren calls for his attention, he looks to them, one eyebrow raised. Then, the shadow trick.

Isaac's smile remains, but the rest of his expression seems to sidle away from it. "That's… that's pretty good," he says, trying not to let on that he feels like someone just punched all the breath out of him. After a moment, he raises his hand, tries to line up his own shadow's hand with Seren's…

…but at that, his facade breaks. His shaking hand comes up to his face instead, and for just a moment, he closes his eyes.

"I can't," he says flatly, eyes still hidden behind his hand.


"Shit," Seren breathes, their hand beginning to reach in a gesture surely meant to comfort. Their shadow snaps back to its mundane form, and Baird on their shoulder crawls over the crest of it, resting on their collar instead, head craning to look at Isaac. His golden fronds flicker in his curiosity and concern. "Are you not feeling well?" they ask with apology in it. "I'm so sorry."

How could they make this better? Somehow…

They take in a sharp, quick breath. "I know— I… listen, if you're not feeling all right, we could still…" Their eyes turn away for a moment, sheepish, and the hand held between them both begins to curl. They're positive they could do it, just uncertain how the suggestion will be met.

"I could project— what you want it to do." Seren attempts a smile for his sake. "I'd not want you to hurt yourself. I could just…"

They've never really mentioned being able to do what they're proposing, but maybe it's possible. The shift of the silver in their eyes, the way it begins to glow a sparkling white that encroaches on the grey of their iris— maybe they could bring back the feeling.

"If that's okay?" they ask, cautiously. But even then, maybe just at the hope of it, an impossible thing happens. He feels rooted in a way he hasn't since the accident. It could just be nothing— but it feels like things should, at the same time. Like if he just reached out…

"I… don't worry about it," Faulkner says at Seren's apology; his hand is pinching at the bridge of his nose. He isn't quite looking at them, but he doesn't sound like he's mad; more… distracted. Like he's committed some kind of awkward faux pas, and is trying to grasp for words for a moment…

…but as Seren's eyes spark white, Isaac feels something. A tremor races through him, head to toe, as he feels it — that familiar sense of a presence, lurking just out of sight. At his feet, in the shade, all around.

Faulkner looks at them, incredulous, words forgotten… and tries to reach out one more time. Not with his hand, but with his will, through his shadow. Stretching, as though it's waking from a long nap.

He feels the first shifts take a moment, but by mid-stretch, everything is happening effortlessly. His visualization, his memory of how this magnificent feat should work bring him something that feels so real, it's impossible to distinguish the difference.

Seren lets out a small gasp when they see it begin to happen, and their own shadow jumps in reply, hands clapping. They hadn't meant to engage their ability quite so soon, but they're relieved. Baird on their shoulder just looks on, his waterpuppy face difficult to read, but the gold fronds on his head begin to glow white just like his summoner's eyes.

For the bonded pair, channeling the sensations Isaac envisions for his shadows appears to be an effortless thing. Seren begins to smile for it. For just a moment, anyway, maybe things could be like how they were. "It's just a bit of help, that's all," they assure him.

Isaac puts his shadow through its paces, making it stretch and bow and pose, and for a moment he feels like himself again. Alive again. His lips curve up into a smile, bright and amazed and full of unselfconscious joy… then Seren speaks, and those words ring in his mind like iron bells. Just a bit of help. But it's not. It's not, and he knows it's not. This isn't him; it's all them.

But… oh how sweet it is. What an indescribably precious gift it is, to have, even for a moment, this illusion of being himself again… but it's not real. He hangs on for a moment longer, closing his eyes, feeling through the shadows as he once did… but everything feels just… a little off. He sees the strings now, and some of the magic has left the illusion.

And so, after hanging on for just one last moment — long enough to say goodbye — he lets go.

Everything is blurry when he opens his eyes again; shaking his head, he wipes at his eyes. What is it he's feeling now? Joy? Pain? Agony? Grief? Maybe all of those things.

He looks over to Seren, eyes a bit red, and forces a wry smile. "It's a bit more than that, I'd say," he says quietly, voice a bit shaky. "But…" he hesitates for a moment… then his grin takes on another wry twist.

One more time.

He cups his hands, raising them, and from the darkness there he shapes a single tiny feather, black as night. For a moment he just holds it… then he moves, shuffling a bit to the side so that his shadow falls over Seren, and releases the feather, letting it float through the air towards them. "Thank you," he says quietly.

For a moment, Seren's happy too. Isaac seems so relaxed, so relieved— like an old friend's come back to him— but then… then he begins to look sad. They blink once they realize that shift has happened, uncertain when. They see the red of his eyes and hesitate to speak, uncertain if it's better to call attention to it or not.

But then he conjures something, and he creates a link between his shadow and theirs. Seren lifts their brow in surprise when they see the small feather, blinking once. Speechless as it floats to them, their hand lifts to catch it against their shirt, but as soon as it hits their chest the black of it collapses to shifting shadow again, part of it seeping into them and part of it slipping between their fingers.

Their hand slowly curls closed over their heart, eyes searching his as their eyes lose the white glow to them, gleaming back silver once more. Baird on their shoulder shifts and begins crawling toward their back a moment before Seren throws their arms around Isaac's shoulder in a tight hug.

They don't understand fully what's happened to him, but they don't need to in order to feel his sadness, his… loss.

"Anytime," Seren assures him in a quiet murmur against his shoulder. This close, it's easy to hear the tiny, burbled note of agreement Baird makes.

The hug catches him by surprise… but after a moment, Isaac hugs back. He hangs on for a moment, then a moment more… and then, at last, he lets go and steps away.

He's smiling now, though, and he looks… more like himself, somehow. A little less subdued, a little less beaten down. He glances to the ice cream line and chuckles — it's moved forward a bit while they've been talking, and even as he looks, the last customer between them and the truck gets their ice cream, giving them a clear shot at the window. "Let's go get some ice cream," he says, nodding towards the window. "My treat."

"And then… if you want to know, I can tell you what's going on with me," he says, his smile fading a bit. "But ice cream first." It's not quite Dutch courage, but it's the same ballpark.

Gotta make the best you can out of what you have, right?

Seren sympathizes with that with a small chuckle, turning back to the truck. When the vendor acknowledges them both when they step forward, the summoner lifts their chin in a jut. "Hey there," they greet first, because that's important; the polite interaction. "Could we get two scoops of the chocolate chip cookie dough and two scoops of rocky road?" Their head turns momentarily toward Baird on their shoulder as he makes some quiet noise only understood by them, then shifts a glance to Isaac while waiting for their order to be scooped.

"He wants to know if he can try some of yours," they explain, and to demonstrate his eagerness, the black axolotl crawls behind their neck from one shoulder to the other to more closely be by Isaac and pass along his request with his best tiny impression of puppy dog eyes. "I'm being sassed for always getting the same kinds of flavors."

Reaching up to grab their napkin-wrapped cone first since it comes out, Seren grabs one of the small sample-sized spoons and retreats away to make way for Isaac.

"I'll allow it," Isaac says, with a very Isaac-like smirk; he nabs a sample spoon of his own, drops off the money for both, and as soon as his cone comes up he starts to walk. "Follow me. I know a spot."

The good thing about being on the edge of Park Slope is that it's easy to find somewhere private — an old metal bench sits amongst the trees, making for an ideal place to sit and finish their ice cream… and to talk.

"Here we are," Isaac says, taking a seat on the bench… now, if only he knew what to say. For now, he settles for digging out a chunk of Rocky Road with the sample spoon and offering it to Baird.

Seren rocks back to their seat beside him, taking a moment to do some melt management on the side of their cone before glancing to the offered spoon. Baird's tilting his head at it, sniffing it, but not taking it, so they intervene and gently take it for themself, holding it up patiently for the small creature to finish hemming and hawing over the very thing he asked for to take a lick off the spoon. His tiny little feet, all four of them, dance up and down, and his summoner lets out a scoff of a chuckle under their breath. "See? The new thing wasn't terrible after all. Don't know what you got so worked up for, Baird."

After letting him take another tiny nibble off of the spoon, Seren disposes the rest of the sample by trying it themself. Their brow arcs up and they emit a tone of pleasant acknowledgement. Not bad.

Sticking the spoon in the side of their cone, they look off at some distant growth, focused on it rather than turning to Isaac. Maybe it makes the question less heavy when they ask, "Are you running into problems like I did? With your ability just…"

Gradually failing to work, over time.

"I know you weren't as young as I was when you manifested, but you were still pretty young… right?"

It's funny; he'd brought Seren out here intending to lay the whole mess on them, but now… now he's struggling to find the words.

Where to start?

Answers, he supposes. "I was… mm… a teenager when I first learned to control it," Isaac says. "Cliched — adolescent coming into power, blah blah — but that's how it played out," he says. As he talks, though, his left hand going to grasp his right arm, as if he's cold. As if he's trying to shrink into himself… because the answer to Seren's other question is a hard one. "No. No, what happened to me… it's been sudden," he says slowly. "Like an amputation."

He realizes what he's said as soon as the words are out of his mouth, and he immediately wishes he could take them back… but it's too late. "This stays between us, okay?" he asks hurriedly, glancing over to Seren.

Seren gives just as hurried a nod in reply, trying to mask their concern and alarm. Baird lets out a twanging growl from his perch on their shoulder, head tilting. Amputation? He looks down to make sure Isaac's shadow is still attached to him.

"Baird, this isn't like Peter Pan," his summoner murmurs to him under their breath. "This sounds bad."

More determinedly, Seren lifts their eyes back to Isaac. "Who the fuck hurt you? Who do we need to go beat up?" How dare someone come between anyone and their ability. For a moment, the melting ice cream is forgotten.

Faulkner nods glumly… though Baird's checking to see if his shadow is still attached does draw a hint of a tired smile to his face, despite the gloom.

Seren's reaction, though, makes Isaac blink, for a moment completely taken aback… and then, for a second time, he smiles. He has to swallow at the sudden lump in his throat; it takes him a minute to gather the words to speak. "We… we don't know," Isaac says. "It's an ongoing investigation, but so far they haven't been able to turn up much."

He takes a deep breath. "That party we went to. With the lady with the laser doppelganger. The night after that… I ran, went home, went to bed. Same as every night. The next time I woke up, it was 5 am and I was in the middle of a plane crash in Manitoba, and my ability was gone," Isaac says, his voice cracking a bit at the end. Good thing there's ice cream! He takes a bite, uses the moment he's got his mouth full of delicious ice cream to try to get a little more of a grip.

"Manitoba?" Seren asks, more taken aback by that than anything. "You woke up in Canada?" Their mind is running now, and they try to quiet to not draw any further attention. Then before they can even blink again, they catch on to the other important details in what he's said.

The plane crash. And the robbing of his ability.

With a flicker of realization, the light in their eyes shifts. They take a bite off the top of their ice cream and even it out only out of necessity, trying to figure out what they think about all that. How they should support Isaac now. "That's terrible," Seren remarks softly. Tiny Baird leaps from their shoulder to Isaac's, landing with a small thump on his shoulder. The little creature is barely a hand's length long, and he curls up in a circle before nesting down into his shirt.

"… And that happened so long ago now." At least, it suddenly feels like it's been an eternity since Independence Day. "You've been suffering all this time."

Their heart is breaking for him and his loss, and for the lack of answers he faces.

"Right?" Isaac snorts, a bleak flicker of a grin crossing his face at Seren's shock that he'd woken up in Canada. He'd gotten a laugh out of that too. Granted, it had been the kind of laugh that had nurses keeping both eyes on him while trying to reach for the sedatives, but it was a laugh.

Baird's hop to his shoulder draws a blink from Isaac, then another tiny chuckle as he nests down. "Thanks, buddy," he murmurs, reaching up to gently pat the tiny creature. "It's… been rough, some days," he admits, a little awkwardly. That's at least partially a lie — it's not just some days — but it's not one he regrets. "I wasn't the only one, though. There were others. And whatever happened in the crash… we're all showing SLC-N now on blood tests."

The black axolotl on Isaac's shoulder lets out an indistinct crackle of noise that tries to be a reptilian purr at the pat to his back. Many thanks. Glad to help.

"I would say that's impossible, because I want to believe it is, but it's clearly not. It— it's possible, just awful." Seren's eyes flicker down to their ice cream, toying it between their hands and using the serving spoon to scoop themself small bites like it's the mental elephant they're trying to process. "And it's not one of those cases where shared pain makes it any easier to bear, either. I— I'm so sorry you're going through this."

Tempering the emotional rise that wants to come from them with a cooling snap of ice cream, they say more quietly, "Every time I lost more of my ability over the last… five years, I would be in denial over it. I found ways to cope, ways to rationalize, even though I felt my limits getting smaller and smaller. I had— time to work on processing it, even though I spent most of it convincing myself everything would be fine and I'd never lose Baird even if I lost all of my other friends, but…"


They stick the ice cream with the spoon again before giving a small shake of their head. Self-conscious, they push on. "What I'm trying to say is, I can relate a little, in that sense of loss. But, what you're going through is unfathomable. It's something no one should ever have to face. And… Despite it, you're still standing." Looking to Isaac at their side, Seren gives him a small smile. "You're stronger than you know."

Their eyes soften as they wonder, "Is there anything I can do to help?" They let out a faint chuckle, acknowledging, "It doesn't sound like there's opportunity to grab, like, a bat or something and go with you while you shake them down to give back what they stole from you, or I would, but…"

Faulkner just looks at Seren for a moment, a small smile of his own crossing his lips as Seren asks if there's anything they can do to help. He just stares at them for a moment, then gives a tiny shake of his head.

"You say that… as if you hadn't just imagined a crippled man whole for a moment," he says softly, a gentle humor in his face as he looks at Seren. "And, mind you, that was an impressive trick in its own right. Extraordinary, even, and I don't tend to toss superlatives around lightly," he says, his smile for a moment taking on that familiar edge of snark.

Faulkner's gaze slips away after a moment, though, leaving him staring at his ice cream. "But… remarkable as it was in its own right… to me it was something even more. A chance… to be me again. To process, as you said. To come to terms with… with what I've lost, and… I don't know. Say goodbye?" He frowns, giving his ice cream a momentary glower.

"So first of all… thank you, for that," he says, flashing Seren a brief grin. "And thank you for being a friend. I need all of those I can get right now," he says, gaze drifting back to his ice cream. "There isn't really a lot I can do to fix this, myself… but I'm trying to keep my eyes and ears open, in the hope — faint that it might be — that I might be able to find a clue, a, a piece of the puzzle… something."

Now he looks back to Seren. "That'd be something. Just keep your eyes and ears open, and let me know if you catch wind of anything that strikes you as… odd. For all that it appears to be a perfect enigma, something this big can't be truly seamless… and the more eyes there are looking, the more likely that someone will spot a loose thread we can tug on to pull this whole thing out into the light."

He pauses, then looks back to Seren. "And, uh. Maybe get a bat. Just in case," he says, giving a light-hearted grin… despite the fact that it isn't a joke, really. He does not want to think about anything happening to Seren, of all people.

A cold dribble of ice cream starting to melt onto his hand draws his attention back to the cone; his eyes widen, and he immediately takes a bite.

When Seren receives compliment for what they've already done, they smile, but there's a self-conscious cringe to it for all that they're glad they've already been of help. They lean forward, elbows on their knees, sheepishly ducking their head while they listen to the rest of what he has to say.

Their eyes soften at hearing he was able to say goodbye to what was stolen from him. A tightness grabs hold of their throat— equally manifesting at the corner of their eyes.

He shouldn't have to be suffering like this. No one should.

"I'll keep my eyes open," they promise, lifting their head just slightly, and lifting their ice cream along with it. "If there's anything I can do to help unravel this unGordian knot, some place you want to check out that you can't go yourself or something because you think they might recognize you… just let me know."

The suggestion to get a bat after all makes them chuckle while they narrow their melting lump of ice cream down one lick at a time. "I could," they admit, and after nipping a bite off the top of the cone and juggling the bite as though it's hot when in reality it's the last strike toward brainfreeze in action. "I keep telling my dad Raytech's safe and on its own campus with plenty of security measures, but he keeps recommending I get a bat, too, just in case." Wincing as they swallow the rest of their bite, they suppose, "I could give it a shot."

Baird shivers on Isaac's shoulder, little black axtolotl body covering over with permafrost. He begins to react to it just before it takes him, coming to his feet like he could run from the phenomena before it wrecks him— but his movements arrest to agonizingly slow things and he lets out a tiny, thin grumble.

Isaac nods gravely. "I appreciate that," he says. Inwardly he doubts he'll take them up on that, unless the need is dire indeed… but it's better to have an option and never have to play it than to need it and not have it.

At their talk of getting a bat, though, Isaac's expression lightens. "Can't hurt. Maybe get a glove and a ball, too," Isaac agrees, grinning. "People get ideas when they see someone going around with just a bat," he observes, before turning his attention back to his ice cream…

…at least, until Baird starts to transform into a Bairdcicle. He looks over with mild concern. "Baird?" he asks, glancing to Seren. A look at the wince on Seren's face provides a clue as to what's going on there, at least. "You… just gave yourself a brainfreeze, didn't you."

Stubbornly, Seren does their best to not look embarrassed about it. "I mean," they argue, head tilting back in discomfort even for their faux combativeness, which brings them to laugh before admitting, "Not on purpose!"

They look to Baird, and on seeing he's frozen up, they give a small additional laugh that they try to stifle for the sake of their imaginary friend. Seren's not laughing at you, bud, just the circumstances surrounding you, promise. "Sorry, Baird… we'll have to do better next time."

The blue seeps into him, changing the black color to a deeper blue. Baird waggles his head as he regains control of himself, golden fronds flopping about.

"I should hope not," Isaac says, giving Seren a wry, one-sided grin. He takes a measured bite of his own ice cream, glancing over and grinning as he sees that Baird's shaken off the grip of the brainfreeze… though he's come back a bit different, it seems.

Isaac's smile fades into a thoughtful frown, at that. Coming back from adversity, changed is a theme that his own thoughts find very easy to circle around, these days… changed for the better? The worse? Or just… different?

He chuckles and takes another bite of his ice cream. That, of course, is one more chapter he has yet to write. "Anything else you want to see around Park Slope?" he asks.

Seren takes a moment to think about it, before replying with a quiet brightness, "Can you show me your favorite place to go around here?" Self-conscious, they start to smile. "I don't get out here much. I'd love to see the best of the sights."

Faulkner thinks for a moment, then chuckles. "Sure," he says, grinning. "Hope you're up for a bit of hiking, though."

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