swap-cesar_icon.gif swap-kara_icon.gif

Scene Title Facetime
Synopsis When you're here, you're family. Whether you were expecting it or not.
Date July 7, 2021

Red Hook

"The Stoop"

“Fuck. Fuck!”

A demanding, urgent knocking raps against Cesar Diaz’s-no-wait-Kara Prince’s-no-wait-Clara Kent’s room door at the SESA temporary safehouse known as the Stoop. In the late morning after Kara had been whisked away by agents of the OEI, Cesar now finds himself in a rapidly growing desperation and hope that she, in his body, has been returned.

His phone in his smaller lady’s hands is still ringing.

Call from:
Shani’s Comida Caribeña
New Haven, CT

“Clara! Clara are you in there? Hey are you up?! Fuck… Answer the door, please! Goddamnit…”

Cesar knocks again, loud and insistent.

Cesar's own face answers him at the door, squinted and groggy as he opens up the door, one hand braced against the wall. "Diaz," Clara mumbles out in his own voice. "I promise, whatever it is, it's not worth yelling about."

And then she notes the ringing phone. Sees the caller ID in profile that somehow pings familiarity to her. She blinks once, confused.


Cesar doesn't take any of the critical moment when Kara manages to drag his body to the door to chide her for sleeping in. Instead, he hurriedly presses Accept and Speaker on the phone's call and holds it up into Kara's (his) face.

There's a bustling of noise as the call picks up, first a young lady's put-upon huff of final relief before she calls to someone with her. "Mami, Cesar's awake. You want to talk to him?"

More rustling. More mumbling from the young lady as she's scolded and shoo'd, something missed in the line quality but it sounds like 'ruts' with a rolling 'r'.

"Buenas? Cesár? Soy mamá," an older woman's voice then inquires over the phone probingly.

Eyes practically bugging out of their sockets in alarm, Cesar stares at Kara for her answer. He mouths, 'Say Bweh-nose Dee-ahs. Means good morning.' at her.

Kara looks down to Liza's frantic expression and then makes a displeased frown at Cesar when the phone is shuffled. She takes ahold of the phone properly and gestures for Cesar to come in to continue his coaching, and then rubs her hand to her face, trying to clear the grogginess from her expression. At least they don't have to contend with having bedhead.

Okay, Kara Kara. You've got this.

"Buenas, mami," Kara answers as Cesar, mirroring the inflections used by Asea and Cesar's mother to guide her. "Sorry for not picking up sooner– a case has got me on the road." She looks off for just a moment to consult Liza's expression, checking in to make sure she doesn't go too off the rails. Or at least if she does, she knows immediately.

There's a bit of silent shuffling as Cesar slides in quickly to the room. He doesn't look to have changed outfits at all, donning still the oversize t-shirt and sweatpants from yesterday's after work fare. Neither is Liza Messer's bedhead properly groomed yet, but very hastily tied back with a hair band. Thankfully the agency had provided them in the toiletries, otherwise it could have been a rubber band.

"What? Oh, you're working? Mmhm." Cesar's mom switches easily to a lilting, gently melodic inflected Trini dialect of English when Kara does. But, one can feel a degree of skepticism in her voice as the two receivers hear her response. "Asea said you were sick? You couldn't talk?"

Cesar, face in hands, pulls his palms down as he tries to salvage it. There's miming of coughing into a fist, then a flat hand swishing across the throat, and then two thumbs up and a wide open mouth smile. Just a brief cold, 24-hour bug! All better, see? Already back to work…

The wince Kara makes is genuine, and she clears Cesar's throat. "Oh she told you?" she asks, rhetorically. An attempt is made at making him sound slightly more raspy. "I didn't mean to make you worry. I couldn't hardly talk yesterday, but I'm feeling a bit better today."

She cough-clears her throat into a hand she pulls up to her mouth and laments, "Terrible timing, huh."

A panic rises quietly as she realizes she doesn't want to have to continue to answer questions. "I'm doing much better now, promise. How are things going there?"

The second mmhm sounds further off. Shani must be narrowly eyeing Asea from her spot by the phone line. "You work too hard, Cesarito, of course you'll get sick," his mother sighs as they're wont to do. "When are you going to come visit again? You'll bring Monica?" Just like her to run over the gentle redirect and not answer how things are going at the restaurant. It's irrelevant to a mother's investigation of her son's activities… and prospects.

While Kara slowly feels the rising panic like a lobster in a pot, Cesar is at a mortifying red-faced boil in Liza's pale features. It's all he can do to pace as a caged tiger on the floor of Kara's room, hands clasped on his blond head and mind churning. Then, he stops as an idea comes to mind. Abruptly, Cesar gestures to the phone and mimics like he's driving, then uh-oh can't hear you oops no signal. Darn that war-torn infrastructure, right? Right?

Too bad Kara doesn't wait for the full of that message.

She thinks she's got it, though. She thinks she's rolling with it excellently. Picking right up on those cues.

"I can try to drive up for a visit soon," she answers smoothly, brows raising at Cesar's mother. "I can't make any promises for anybody else." Kara's on the verge of saying something else when she catches that Cesar-in-Liza's gestures had not ended there, that something else is going on off screen. Her brow begins to furrow. "Wh–?" she starts to ask.

She absolutely does not parse the second half of the game of charades that's being played. Cesar's body begins to smile in a grimace and goes, "Ah," before looking back down to the phone. "Uh, sorry mamá, one of my coworkers was trying to get my attention. Do you, uh–"

Kara looks up over the top of the phone to Cesar. "Want to say hi?"

To the consternation of Cesar, Kara absolutely has misinterpreted his signals. He mouths a panicked "no wait" when she utters promises and then narcs on his presence to the woman on the other side. Cesar shakes his head emphatically, hands lifting to press on either side of his forehead.

"Yes, you should bring Monica," insists Shani, sounding quite pleased that she's heard her son say certain keywords. Then, there's added confusion. "Oh. Hello…?"

Cesar chews Liza's lip hard, then regrets it and hisses a low "Clara!" at her before walking over to Kara holding out his phone. "Um, hi, Missus Diaz. I need to, ah, need to borrow your son for a bit. He'll call you back!" Cesar doesn't wait for an answer from the woman on the other end. He quickly reaches over and taps the End Call button on the screen before trying to snag his phone back from Kara's - his - hand.

"Jesus Christ." The blaspheme sounds vulgar especially from Liza's voice. “Okay. Okay, that could have gone worse,” Cesar frets, but tries to dismiss all the worrying possibilities and scenarios away.

Kara releases the phone if only to reach out to shove Cesar on his shorter shoulder with her newly-freed hand, asking now that there's room to, "Don't you think a little bit of heads-up would have been nice? A little time to tell me your cover story with them?" She frowns, not saying she'd not have done it, but also that she'd have appreciated warning. Her frazzled utterances don't end there.

"What was your plan if she'd not said any English, huh?" One hand gestures wildly by her side. "Yo sé all of dos palabras in Spanish, Diaz." She feels ridiculous for having phrased it like that, but there they are. Wide-eyed, she lets out a hard sigh. She pauses. She admits and agrees with more of an even temper, "That could have gone worse."

She lifts one hand to rub it at her forehead, grumbling.

"I didn't exactly have the time to do that," Cesar retorts, brushing a hand on the shoved shoulder, "considering you went on a field trip with Agents Bright and Reeves. My sister was supposed to say that I was too sick to talk and keep my mother busy. But she's a - was - a nurse herself." His arms spread wide in wildly gestured mirror. "So I don't know, alright? She was supposed to buy me a few days at least. I panicked. And this," Cesar gestures the throat cutting no signal handsign again, "was supposed to mean that you were losing signal? You know?"

Kara only winces, feeling like it should have been obvious now that the stress of the live situation is gone

Cesar's hands lower, shoulders droop tiredly and in some relief. The hand without the phone in it wipes down his face, and up again, raking fingers through the messily tied hair and stopping at the still strange sensation of feeling the blonde strands. "Anyway, though. Thank you for taking the call," he says, subdued. "Hopefully that was enough to ward off her questions. What time is it… Restaurant should be opening soon, which means Mom'll be too busy…"

A text message notification pops up as they're talking, and Cesar glances down to the phone with a new level of horror twisting into his feminine features.

Message from Asea
¿kn s Clara?1

"Oh no."

k acs rmno2

"Oh shit…"

"Diaz…" Kara interjects, trying to capture his attention since he's flustered again.

mami qre tu Facetime3

"Oh. Fuck…"

The panic Cesar had displayed earlier is nothing compared to the gut chilling drop of his expression to the phone screen. It lights up again, this time with a photo of a crooked smiling young woman who shares a sibling resemblance to Cesar, albeit arguably the better looking of the pair. The waitress from the past, possibly remembered more by the innocent small talk inducing queries she’d aimed at Kara once upon a time, is in the photo wearing blue-green medical scrubs and a jaunty graduation cap while standing in front a large brick and mortar lecture hall decorated with large butcher paper banners proclaiming: CONGRATS SCSU CLASS OF ‘21.

But more pressingly are the words above that, for the phone is ringing again, this time asking for a Facetime call.

Cesar cups the phone in both hands, then holds it back out in offering to Kara.

Kara closes her eyes and drags her hand down her forehead to her eyes, fingertips pressing into them. "Just… tell me what you want me to do this time. Should have bought you a minute to avoid answering, at least at first, yes?" Her hand smears down off the bottom of her chin, and she looks to Cesar with as much patience as she can muster, the phone not yet considered. "Tell me what you want me to tell them."

She reaches forward quickly to take hold of the phone to remove that source of anxiety from Cesar's hands, but doesn't answer it yet. Her brows arc up at him in silent insistence for direction.

"It's a little too late to lie," Cesar grits out between his teeth in a grimacing smile. "But… say we've got a pit stop, uh, and that you can't talk long. I'll be 'Clara', okay? And whatever my mother says about visits or family or anything really, just smile and nod and say 'okay Mom'. It'll be fine, yeah, it'll be fine."

In last seconds of remembering, he rakes both free hands through his hair and pulls off the hairband hurriedly to try and smooth it down the rampaging cavewoman look and make himself - Liza's self - look halfway presentable. "How do I look?" No longer Category 5, at least. Cesar, regardless of the assessment, nods for Kara to go ahead and answer.

Kara really does lack the words for judgment, tilting her head to the side and letting out an unargumentative, "Eh." at Liza's overall appearance. She still doesn't look professional, but it's where they're at. Kara looks back to the phone and closes her eyes, exhaling a long breath to steady herself. She lifts one hand to rub her thumb over her brow before supposing, "All right." and hitting accept on the call, leaving only herself as Cesar in the frame.

"I really only have just like two seconds," she says apologetically in the hopes of getting that word in edgewise.

The initial judgment doesn't give Cesar much hope to salvage his appearance, but he still tries anyway as Kara picks up the video call. With him still out of shot, he keeps quiet and listens, face wrinkled in a wince of worry.

"Cesar, for God's sake are you actually working?" Asea's face is one of harried disapproval, but mild in comparison to what could have greeted Kara initially on the other end. It's a different expression from the woman who at one time, had a much friendlier and warm disposition towards a surly and largely silent Kara Prince sitting at a booth in Connecticut. The young woman turns to someone off screen. "Aquí, Mami, le contesta. Pero él y yo no tiene mucho tiempo, sí?"

"Sí, sí, dáme ese," Shani fusses beside Asea. The camera is turned but still held in Asea's possession further out so it includes both Cesar's mother and younger sister in frame. There’s a definite familial resemblance once Kara sees them together. Shani, a proud woman with darker skin like Cesar’s and a deep mane of hair currently tamed into a hair net leans in, her frown deepening some lines of age. "Cesar? Why are you answering if you're driving? It's dangerous."

"And who's 'Clara'?" pipes up Asea, a sly smile breaking out and brows arching with the sort of nosy, investigative query that comes with the definite suspicion in tone.

Liza's bold blue eyes turn up in entreaty of Heaven. Perhaps to come smite him from the embarrassment. Cesar quickly drops his attention back to Kara, motioning her to ad lib a little.

"We're just at a pit stop, Mami," Kara answers in strained tones that aren't entirely put-upon at this point. She lifts her other hand to rub it over her face in a signal of her— Cesar's— continued stress. "I promise you I am not trying to cause any stress."

Her eyes narrow at Asea for not dropping the topic of Clara, very clearly shifting off of the mother in the frame in doing so.

She's never had siblings before, but this experience is quickly turning her onto what an unappreciated blessing that has been for her unknowingly her entire life. She sighs through her nose and admits, "Clara is another agent," without even twinge in voice or expression. It's like it's not a lie. Cesar's voice twists tiredly after that as Kara tells the phone, "Listen, I love you both, but I really need to know if this is a call where you need to tell me something, or if this is just punishment for my coworker hanging up on you."

Shani's eye narrowing is relievingly brief as she listens to her son explain about this unshown Clara. If she's unconvinced, she at least makes a show of seeming unbothered otherwise and quickly shifts her gaze to look over Asea's shoulder at something behind and off screen. "Ah sí, debo abrir el restaurante pronto. Tu papá también volverá del mercado,4" sighs the woman resignedly. She bustles away to do something now that that act seems to take precedence over the digital comm.

Asea likewise seems to sense the pressure of time, but that drives her to hurry the conversation. "Don't be rude, Bro. Mom's just concerned 'cause you were sick, so don't blame her." The verbal chiding covers her own seeming disappointment about the identity of Clara. "Anyway, I also have to take off to meet up with some folks for a 'business brunch'. Not what you know but who you know, you know? Text me when you decide when you're going to come home. You better figure that out pronto, now that you've promised." There's a specific emphasis, despite the swiftly spoken words, that Cesar's sister expects to be caught. She ends it with a genuinely impish and somehow affectionate grin through the screen at Kara. "Love you. Visit soon."

She turns her head, her volume suddenly turning up. "Mami! Cesar's gotta go! You wanna say goodbye?"

"Dile que no trabaje demasiado!5"

Asea rolls her eyes at that with a shake of her head and another smirk back at her brother. "You heard her, right? Good luck with the case, 'MacGruff'." A wink and a quick tap of the phone on the other end concludes the video call.

Cesar, standing off to the side and listening in silence, holds still until the call ends for real and dares not move for a few beats more as if expecting another surprise. When it doesn't arrive, he releases a long, heavy breath he'd been holding. He turns away, a hand reaching up to pinch at the bridge of his nose, but finding it too strange to be feeling Liza's instead it doesn't linger there long. "You're a lifesaver, thanks," he says finally once recomposed. “Honestly. That probably couldn’t have gone any better.”

Oh thank god for those words that seemed to unlock the situation. Kara just nods graciously when Shani peels away, and then looks back to Asea when she enters the foreground again. Hearing where she's going and what she's up to, though, one eyebrow arches up high in curiosity for just what she's getting up to.

Is it really a business brunch? Kara doesn't have to have a sibling to wonder. Who says things like that.

(Driven young people with better social skills than you, that's who, Kara.)

"Yeah, I heard her," Kara promises Asea with a faint smile, fond, and nods just before the line disconnects, and she doesn't move after it does. She, too, stares at the screen after it disconnects, long enough her eyes refocus and she catches sight of herself in its reflection— not her, but Cesar. She re-angles the phone after that to reduce the mirrorlike surface of its screen, holding onto it a moment longer still like there's something that'll be lost when she does. "It's— no problem," she insists in a subdued quiet, finally offering the phone back without really looking up. "It was nice to…"

She grimaces more than smiles and tries to wave it off, gruffly concluding, "I haven't had anything like that in a long time." One hand comes up to the side of her neck with the admission, unsure how to make this moment end without looking or feeling more awkward than she suddenly does.

Accepting the phone back in hand, Cesar slips it away into the pocket of his sweatpants. He hasn't missed the quiet look or the dismissing wave off, but doesn't say anything at first. He looks confused at first, head tilted in regard of Kara. Or, in realization of just how strange it is to see his expression at such a disembodied perspective.

And this is a man who has spent a lot of time in front of mirrors.

"What's your situation like?" Cesar then asks to spur on the investigative thread. "Anybody you need to talk to about, you know. This?" He gestures to himself, currently all of Kara.

"I've let my partner know," Kara answers quickly, and the probe of a question sees her posture close off, her hands coming back down by her sides. "She's both more and less understanding than I expected given she's…" Her eyebrows come together sharply as she looks away. "Going… through something different but similar, herself." She doesn't know how else to put it, hesitates to be more specific.

She only shakes her head and looks down to Cesar again in Liza's petite form. "The world we live in, right?" she commiserates without smiling, because it's not meant to be funny. "It's just me and her. Before her, just me. Been that way since…" Again, her expression tics for a moment toward something unhappy, a complex knot of feeling motivating it. She summarizes the time and circumstance as, "The war."

"The world we live in," Cesar echoes, eyes rolling in more in exasperation than disbelief of it. "Then again, it's been this way for way longer than anybody ought to be alive long enough to remember. Apparently. Latest, what… 2006?" He frowns too, thinking on when the world truly learned of those with superhuman abilities, and the madness that has since followed it to result in the Second Civil War. Liza's face isn't as suited for conveying the wry and dry expression he wears on it. Sympathy forms behind his frown, and he runs a hand back through the blonde locks.

"Well, listen," he says, clearing his throat lightly. "If you or your partner ever have a need for anything, you can reach out. Add at least one more on the list, yeah? And it'll not just be you and her." His gaze having been skewed aside to the door leading out, swings back to Kara in his body. The sight emboldens him to push more sincerity in place of hesitation. Cesar reaches out his slim hand, palm tilted up in open invitation to shake and seal some kind of a friendship. "We could all use the support, in times like these," he says, faint, amused smile returning, "worst case, you've got a buddy to grab a drink with. If you ever get in trouble with the missus."

Nose wrinkling, Kara admits, "I have to admit to a bias in that I'm actively reminding myself that this is you, not the body you're currently in. Which is– weird of me, but, uh…"

She reaches out and clasps the much smaller hand with her currently large own. "Felt like needed context."

"It might be good to take you up on that. My other drinking buddies are harder to get a hold of these days." She smiles quickly, then lets go of the sealed agreement. "Relocation tends to make that a bit harder. At least this time, Providence is a bit closer than the move I made before it."

The mention of Providence lifts Cesar's brow up with interest, but he curbs his curiosity with a Cheshire cat smile. "Tell me about it," he says with a vague wave of his hand and the phone in it, "Over a beer or something, later." For now, he catches the time that lights on the phone's clock display with the movement and the awkwardness of his sudden intrusion dawns upon him. The fact that he’s staring at himself, independent of having any ounce of control over the situation, floods through the pale skinned features he currently wears.

“Anyway,” he says with a flush and a quick turn, “I think there's still some pizza in the rec room, so. Actually, fuck that, there's got to be some bagels - I'll call one of the guys." Steps retreat back, and he nudges Kara's door open and edges halfway out. “Thanks again, Clara.”

The door clicks shut.

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