Family Is What You Make It


devon_icon.gif jared_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title Family Is What You Make It
Synopsis And they'll stand by you no matter what the multiverse does.
Date November 1, 2018

Jared Harrison's Apartment

Dinner at Jared's place is a common affair for people in the RayTech world. He cooks for the grandkids and Harmony once a week, he has Richard for dinner whenever the other man can spare the time. Devon, however, is harder to capture, living in Rochester as he does. Jared's been making the run back and forth to Rochester every couple of weeks to see the grandson in person and calling him regularly. Jaiden's death hit the boy hard and Jared worried for him — worries more when he's out of contact. But… there are other bits of news that should be shared too, as they begin to approach the holidays.

"I'm worried that raising his hopes on this will be worse in the end, if something goes wrong," Jared admits to Richard as he puts the finishing touches on dinner. Chicken piccata is a treat these days, lemons being so damn hard to get. With a dish towel thrown over his shoulder, the older man looks as much at home in the kitchen as he seems in the board room. "But given how much he's lost already, I also don't want to send the kid into catatonia by dropping her on him with no warning." It's a fine line they're walking with who needs to know and why.

There are few places where Devon feels comfortable enough to simply let himself inside, fewer still where he has the means to do so. Jared’s home is one of those places, and the door rattles lightly with the sounds of a key being pushed into the lock and turned. It’s probably earlier than expected — there aren’t a lot of places for the young man to spend his time in the Safe Zone, during his sporadic visits — but the door opens and he lets himself inside.

“Smells good,” he calls as he pushes the door closed behind him. Definitely better than anything he could ever make. But then even the chow at the Bunker is better than most things he manages to cook. And knowing the way Jared cooks, this is going to be worlds better than the any of the food he usually has. After shrugging out of his jacket, Dev leaves it to hang near the door as he wanders further inside.

One of the perks of working for Raytech is accessibility to better food without worrying about the shortages as much, but it’s still difficult to get a lot of fruits, vegetables and other easily-perishable items into the Safe Zone even for them. Richard wasn’t about to miss this dinner.

“You’re the one who keeps telling me to share more,” he notes in wry tones as he leans a shoulder against the kitchen’s entryway, gesturing with a hand towards the room, “I’m not sure how well it’s all going to work out in the end, but I’m giving it a try…”

The door opens, and he pushes off from the wall to turn with an easy smile, “Hey, kid. Take a load off, how’s it going? Epstein was worried about you awhile back…”

Glancing toward the door as Devon's key sounds in the lock, Jared smiles faintly at Richard. "Whether it works out the way you want it to specifically is irrelevant, son… it's the fact that you're doing it that matters. It's too easy to fall back into the days of paranoia and fear… and in the end, doing that will destroy everything you've built. I'm proud of you."

He reaches up to pull the dish towel off his shoulder and dries his hands as he walks around the small island to wrap Devon in a firm hug. "Perfect timing," he tells the young man, gripping his shoulder tightly when he releases him from the hug. Blue eyes search Devon's features. A brief nod says that he's at least mostly satisfied with what he sees and then he heads back into the kitchen, listening while they talk about what's been going on over on Devon's end.

“It’s alright,” Dev answers Richard as he returns Jared’s hug. An awkward grin forms, and he angles a look between both older men. “Yeah… I caught up with her and she said she stopped by your office.” His brows push up toward his hairline as he says that. “I got hauled off for a training exercise, and …no cell reception.”

He joins Jared and Richard in the kitchen, but keeps himself apart from the cooking. His hands tuck into his pockets, but his shoulders lift into a shrug. “So what’s going on? How’s life in the Safe Zone?” Being in Rochester most of the time it’s hard to keep up sometimes.

“It happens. You two an item, or just friends?” Richard’s brow lifts in a way that suggests he’s unsure if just friends harass CEOs for the location of their paramilitary buddies after 18 hours without contact, and the grin that he flashes can be best described as ‘shit-eating’.

Then he’s leaning back against the wall, “Eh, the usual. Conspiracies, decades-old secrets, cosmic horrors threatening to escape their prisons, still on schedule to rescue Liz and Magnes from their side trip through superstring reality, you know.” A shrug, “The usual.”

This is his version of ‘breaking it gently to him’.

There's a snicker from the other side of the kitchen island, Jared lifting his glass of whiskey to take a sip while Richard asks the first question. Devon's face is making it impossible for him not to laugh. It amuses him to see Richard mess with the boy a bit — Dev needs embarrassment and laughter.

And then there's the second part. The glass in Jared's hand thumps to the countertop and he raises a single brow. "You know… there is middle ground between beating around the bush so hard you dig a trench and nuking someone from orbit with information. A little tact would not kill you." Face? Meet palm. The older man's blue eyes swivel to Devon to evaluate how the boy is taking that particular news.

“What?” Devon’s already awkward grin hitches higher on one side, and he looks and sounds incredulous. Because it is totally normal to inquire about a friend’s location. He looks at Jared, wondering if maybe there’s any help there. But no, Pops is laughing himself — that whiskey glass doesn’t hide anything. “I… think… I’m going to not answer that.”

The awkward eases to something a little more normal as Richard continues. It’s all the same, even if it’s nothing he’s heard recently. Because life couldn’t be complicated enough without cosmic horrors and conspiracies. But as it’s revealed that there’s a schedule — a schedule — to rescue — wait, rescue? — Liz and Magnes, his grin becomes strained until it’s not really a grin at all.

“What?” Dev looks from Richard to Jared, his eyes alone moving as he stands rigid. It’s a searching gaze of both men, as he tries to parse that bit of information. It’s a long few seconds before he slowly shakes his head. “You… This is a joke, right?” His voice cracks as he asks, and he’s not sure which answer he’d prefer.

“Bandaid, off,” Richard says with a shrug as he flashes a faint smile to Jared, and then looks back at Devon with a more serious expression, pushing off the wall again. A hand claps to the other man’s shoulder as he walks past, nodding to the table, “No, I wouldn’t joke about something like that. Have a seat.”

The eyes on Devon are wary as Jared watches the color drain from the boy's face and his initial incomprehension shifts to denial. In a gentle tone, he encourages Devon to allow Richard to help him to a chair, "Sit." Dinner preparation is already finished, and it takes a mere moment to set it to keep warm on the stove. Jared picks up not only his own glass but the bottle and two other glasses to bring over to the table. It's rare that Devon drinks in Jared's presence, but this may call for something stronger than the usual. He comes around the counter and sets the glasses and the bottle on the table. When his hands are free, he rubs Devon's back firmly. "Breathe, kiddo."

The lawyer pours amber liquid into both of the empty glasses and hands them across the table to the two younger men before lowering himself into the chair on the other side of the boy with his own. 'Pops' and 'Uncle Richard' are not just monikers — as strange as their little family is, it's what they have.

Still shaking his head, Devon lets himself be turned toward the table. Side trip through superstring reality? The idea of it isn’t that far fetched for most people. Even for him, under normal circumstances, he could accept it. This evening, the notion is incomprehensible, and it shows when he stares at the chair he should be sitting in.

“You wouldn’t joke about something like that.” It’s echoed, as though hearing it in his own voice would make it more concrete and believable. He grabs the chair in one hand and eases himself onto it. Both hands rest on the edge of the table and he looks up from the glass that’s placed in front of him, to the two older men.

“Yesterday was her birthday.” That’s much easier to understand. “I took Emily to a creek off I-95 for the bonfire.” The same that he does every year for Liz’s birthday. Devon’s eyes narrow a little and his head shakes again, side to side. “That can’t… the gravity well… She’s alive?”

“I know.” Richard eases himself into another chair, a hand raking up back through his hair as he looks at the ceiling for a moment to sort out thoughts and words. Then he looks back over to Devon, and crooks a smile.

“So apparently, what you get when you create a gravitational singularity and fire a time laser into it is a trip sideways through the universe. They shifted through the fifth dimensional axis and into an alternate timeline— another superstring,” he explains, calmly and carefully, “They’re working their way from world to world trying to get back to us, and we’ve been using what few moments of communication we can grab to check on their progress and figure out how to safely get them here again.”

Wry, “We’ve discovered some surprises along the way.”

Mention of his daughter's birthday sends a flicker across Jared's features as well and he looks away for a long moment. It's a tough week. One of a couple shitty weeks for the older man — the week of Nov 8th sucks for SO MANY reasons - lost his wife and daughter the same day on different years, plus his daughter's birthday is basically the same week; and the week of his anniversary is also hard. Taking a slow sip of his drink, however, he turns his attention back to the younger men at the table. They keep him moving forward, they and the other Ray siblings and the grandkids. He's adopted a whole tribe.

"That would be the understatement of the century," Jared mutters in dark amusement. And then he can't help shaking his head on a smirk. "Christ, that girl." The entire madness still has the power to surprise him.

As Richard gets into the academics of what happened, Devon wraps his fingers around the glass still waiting in front of him. Whiskey, for all intents and purposes, is meant to be enjoyed slowly and over good conversation. However, while listening to the explanation of how Liz and Magnes ended up not only in another timeline but are working their way back, he breaks the rules. The glass and his head tip back as one and a couple of swallows make for short work of the amber liquid.

He carefully places the glass down on the table’s surface and returns his hand to the edge. The science of it makes sense, from what little he understands and the even less that he’s being told. But the whole of it is a bit much to wrap his head around. As is, “Surprises?” The flatness of Dev’s tone likely implies he isn’t sure he wants to know what that could be either, or it’s going to require another drink. “How… when did you find out?”

“The first clues were early in the year, although we wanted to confirm them before we started spreading this around for… obvious reasons,” says Richard with a shake of his head, “We didn’t want to give anyone false hope. Now— well.”

A faint smile, “Now we know enough to know for certain. Now we just need to work to get Magnes, Liz, and Aurora home.” Aurora?

When the younger man seems to need a few minutes to parse everything, Jared takes those few moments to go ahead and get up from his seat and bring dinner into the table. Something to do with their hands maybe will make the conversation a little easier. By this time, most of the people around him know that Jared very much does what Liz always did — feeds people in times of crisis. Apparently they both learned it from Carina Harrison.

"Looks like you get to be a big brother," Jared comments quietly. He's remaining calm in the face of what's being laid out, perhaps waiting to see Devon's reactions before he jumps in there. He remembers the shock of learning this — too many words coming at him would have been beyond overwhelming. So he simply keeps an eye on Devon.

“Work.” That part Devon can grasp easily. There’s a thing that needs to be done, and while he doesn’t have the slightest idea of what that could possibly be, something in his expression and posture says he can do that work. He will do whatever work, if it means Liz is really alive and coming back.

“Aurora?” Jared’s explanation for who that is gets a look of disbelief. Brows push up and put deep wrinkles in his forehead and he looks from Pops to Uncle Richard. He lifts a hand to scrub at his head. As dinner is laid out on the table, Dev takes the bottle and pours himself another drink. “Liz, and Magnes, got transported through time and space to another…” A gesture with one hand indicates a vague wherever. “Somewhere along the line there’s an Aurora in the picture. And they’re all heading home, but we still need to rescue them.”

Somehow it all makes perfect sense.

“Nine months after that, thereabouts, yes,” Richard says with a shake of his head, letting Jared fill in that particular mathematical equation, leaning back a bit in his chair with a creak of its legs. Then there’s dinner, and he reaches over to grab a piece of bread and start buttering it, noting, “That’s about the long and short of it, though, yes.”

It makes perfect sense to him.

"I'm still boggling over the fact that you managed to do that twice in a year, Richard. You do know what causes it now, yeah?" Jared's tone is dry, but the only way to keep things light enough right now is to keep them light-hearted. It's too easy to let this time of year create darkness. Besides… giving Richard a little bit of hell for being careless in front of Devon might keep the young man from making the same mistakes!

Dishing out a plate for Devon and setting it in front of him, Pops encourages him, "Eat. It'll help soak up what you just downed — and that was the good stuff too," he chides gently.

Twice in one year? Dev half frowns, disbelieving, as those pieces come together. So that means… “Aurora’s not… Liz had her. While hopping through other timelines. About nine months after falling into a gravity well.” He scrubs his face with his hands. It's a lot of information to digest all at once, and he's seen some pretty weird things.

“Okay.” It's a generalized statement, not really a response to anything, and yet an answer for everything. He looks down at the food in front of him, then picks up his fork to start eating.

Richard’s gaze flickers up across the table, and he raises both eyebrows. “Do not make me throw this perfectly good roll at you, Jared,” he declares, before taking a bite of that buttered bread to savour the carbs, setting it down to the edge of the plate.

“Yeah. My youngest daughter,” he says quietly, “She was doing pretty well in the Pinehearst timeline, I’m told. I… am sure that Liz can keep her safe through the Wasteland.”

A little worry creeps in, there.

“I know, it’s a lot to digest.”

Laughing outright at Richard, the older man settles back into his chair. He's trying so hard not to worry. A futile endeavor, to be sure, but he doesn't have the luxury of losing his shit when his family needs him. Dishing out chicken cooked to perfection, he comments mildly, "Carina will roll over in her grave if you throw food at the table, Richard. Especially over her mother's picatta. Dinner is sacred time." His grin is easy, though he continues to watch Devon carefully. The younger man never dealt with Liz's death well. Jared well remembers the first time he was finally allowed past the boy's walls, and it wasn't pretty.

"So… she's alive. She's doing okay, so far as we know. They have managed to traverse at least two timelines that we're aware of, and assuming their ability to travel holds… we expect that they're making their way here." He leans on his elbows around his own plate. "We've kept it quiet for a lot of reasons… not the least of which the fact that you're dealing with what happened at Kabetogama(SP??). But… we figured you might need a little time to get your head wrapped around it before their expected arrival. I guess more their hoped-for arrival. Around Christmas."

For a long moment, the older man looks every one of his years. "If everything goes right… she'll be home, kiddo." If everything doesn't… well, the older man will keep it together for the men sitting at this table.

It’s a ridiculous amount of information to digest all at once. Made more difficult because of the nature of it. But Devon fills his fork with a healthy mouthful of chicken picatta, because sometimes eating is distracting enough that processing weird and unusual news is made easier. It takes attention off the problem, or quasi-problem.

Wasteland makes him pause, halfway into a second bite. That’s a future that he’s somewhat familiar with, and all its bad memories that were and were not his.

“So how do we get them home?” The question is asked slowly, and only after he’s resumed eating and made a small dent in his serving. Of course he would latch onto that concept, rescue was mentioned earlier. While he doesn’t believe anyone really needs to rescue Liz from anything, that’s something he can wrap his mind around until he’s given himself time and space to confront her eventual return.

“I’m working on that,” RIchard says as he sets down his fork, lifting up a napkin to dab at his lips before looking over with a faint smile, “Gotta trust that the prophets and the boss knew what they were talking about when they made the predictions they have… hah. We’ve stopped so many prophecies, can’t be hard to make sure one happens, right?”

Savoring the bite in his mouth, Jared says nothing on that front. The fact that Richard works on prophecy and and prediction still occasionally makes the old man leery. But he smiles faintly — it's taking all he has to hold on to the hope that this one will indeed come to pass.

Prophets have never been inside Devon’s circle, at least he’s never been aware of any, and so the idea of prophecy and predictions are mulled over. Changing futures had been a theme when he was younger. While he’s thinking he looks at Richard and, for just a second, could be wondering if the older man is certifiably insane. Either the verdict is no, or the jury is still out, because soon after he shakes his head.

“I’m not sitting this one out.” It’s said decisively and not asked. Devon glances toward Pops as he says it too. It’s one of those rare times he speaks up for himself in front of those who’d seen him transition from adolescence into adulthood, and there’s a touch of caution in his expression at how the simple statement will be taken. “Not this time.”

“You haven’t been.” Richard shakes his head as he cuts a piece of chicken, “You remember all the times I was asking about about triangular-shaped machines on those hits on Institute bases…? Those are portals to other timelines, like the one the Horsemen used to get here.”

After taking a bite, he admits, “I’m kind of glad we haven’t found one yet, because they’re more dangerous than anyone realizes."

"Do you think the underground remnants of the Institute are still working on it?" Jared asks as they eat. "What's the likelihood that they'll be able to pull together enough of the science without your mother's calculations, do you think?" Because he's figuring whatever there is to find in an old dorm room in Kansas still won't be enough to put together the whole machine.

"Personally, I have to admit that I hope no one is opening up portals with that machine — it doesn't seem to have ever gone well. And it seems far more likely that Liz and Magnes are not traveling that way anyway. So just getting rid of the damn thing seems like a good idea to me." There's a faint grimace as he says it.

Dev watches the two older men for a moment longer, possibly still expecting some pushback or wondering why there wasn’t. Then he returns to his own meal, though still rolling the information around in his mind as he finishes off the chicken on his plate. It makes him go quiet for a while, except for the faint scraping of fork and knife against plate.

“The concern I have,” Devon eventually says, “given the dangers. Is if we’re not controlling it, who is? And how many are there?”

“I’m hoping the answers there are ‘no, they can’t’ and ‘zero’,” Richard says with a shake of his head, “My mother was— brilliant beyond words, and unless they’ve found a hypercognitive they won’t be able to reproduce her work. Maybe not even then.”

He gestures slightly to Jared, “Once they’re back, we’re burying this technology, absolutely. It’s too dangerous for anyone to have.”

To say that Jared looks relieved might be a bit of a simplification. The idea that the wrong people could get their hands on the technology to do this again is giving him occasional fits of what-the-fuck. "Let's hope not even then," he comments. "Given the fact that this damn machine apparently ripped you from your real parents and that we're potentially dealing with goddamned invasion like the Horsemen… It's just a bad idea all the way around. We as a species are often entirely too sure of ourselves when dealing with things we don't really understand. And inevitably it goes poorly. Just like in every alien invasion movie ever."

“Dismantle it,” Devon opines. “Spread the pieces over the world, preferably into locations that are inaccessible. Volcanoes, Mariana Trench…” He leans back in his seat and gently eases his plate forward, since he’s finished eating. “Shoot some into space toward Mars and Jupiter.” In short, just make it go away when all is said and done.

“As dramatic as that is, we do have a thing called a ‘blast furnace’,” observes Richard with an amused twitch of his lips at Devon, “The harder thing to get rid of will be the knowledge…” He wrinkles his nose, “Once a Pandora’s box is opened, it can be hard to shut. Fortunately we may have some things we can do about it surfacing again.”

This is way outside the lawyer's wheelhouse, so Jared simply listens to the explanation and waits to see if Devon needs more questions answered. He can't get a read in whether the younger man is really doing okay.

As tempting as it might be to hang on to that knowledge, to spread it so without certain pieces it's useless, there's also truth in what Richard says. And Devon understands this. Safest is to minimize the number that know the making of it and destroy as much of that knowledge as possible. Still, “It'd be amazing to see it, how it's made and how it functions.”

Dev shakes his head, and by all outward appearances he seems well enough. Even if he did drain one glass of whiskey and is nearly through with his second. “Let me help clean up the kitchen, Pops. Did you plan dessert?” Hopefully there's dessert.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License