Fate And Feelings


aman_icon.gif kaylee3_icon.gif

Scene Title Fate and Feelings
Synopsis Kaylee takes an impromptu trip to handle some unresolved business.
Date April 12, 2020

Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

Spring was late in coming this year, with hellaciously persistent periods of chill, but some days were graced with temperatures nearing normal. Even so, Amanvir Binepal has a scarf wound round his neck while he works in the middle of a free-standing garage, pushing aside boxes of fall decorations and instead pulling forward wicker furniture, one piece at a time.

He's relaxed a great deal since he returned home to the sleepy college town of Annandale-on-Hudson, since he made his excuses to his parents about why he had needed to leave New York as quickly as he had… and for so long. His father in particular had badgered him for details, for what really had happened, but Aman stuck to his guns.

With a grunt, he hauls the wicker couch out by the corner, frowning at its heaviness, its awkwardness. Maybe this wasn't a one-man job after all.

It'll be fine. I can figure this out. he thinks to himself, unaware just how loudly his attempts at self-conviction are. He sighs, hands settling on his waist while he tries to determine if there's a better way to tackle this. Aman scoots around the side of the couch to push away some of the other boxes, head dipping while he creates more wiggle-room for himself, patient with the process carried out in the shadows while a crisp and bright sun shines out over the driveway and road in front of the small-town home.

“Need help with that?”

A familiar voice calls from behind him. When he looks, Aman finds Kaylee standing at the end of the driveway watching him with a sheepish smile. The sun reflects off of golden strands of hair, currently pulled back into a ponytail at the base of her neck. She had a motorcycle, maybe that is why several strands of hair drift in front of her face, only to be captured by fingers and tucked behind her ear again.

Those fingers follow her hands to tuck into the pockets of her brown leather jacket, just before Kaylee gives a shrug. “I mean it sounded like you could use a hand, but I’m more than willing just to stand back here and watch the struggle.”

Not even a moment after, Kaylee looks a bit awkward, shifting uncomfortable and looking down at her feet. “Is this weird? It’s weird… “ she decides, glancing over at him out of the side of her eye with a worried look. Whatever, the drive that brought her there was failing quickly, it’s obvious as one of her booted feet slides back a step.

It takes a second for her voice to dawn on him.

Aman's turn is slow, his head moving before the rest of his body does. Strains of confusion play at the corner of coherent thought, followed by a thought of… No way. He blinks twice before the rest of him comes about to face Kaylee and take an instinctive step closer toward her, still shrouded in shadow. He's in sweats and a hoodie, a far cry from anything he usually wore back in the city. It's something he might be more self-conscious of, but he can't get over that she's here at all. Is it really..?

"Kaylee?" His hand closes at his side as he struggles with saying anything at all beyond that. But then she has her struggle and the tension of surprise fades, a huff of laughter escaping him. He doesn't smile, but he's at ease that he's not the only one who doesn't know what to do now. "What…" He looks to her, and then the bike, then up the street before he makes his way back around to her again, all in the space of about a second. "What are you even doing here?"

It's not as though he's not glad to see her, that's for certain, but a difficult pang is associated with addressing her presence. At the very least… God, she looks good. She looks like she's doing okay.

He's glad for that, even if he's less glad she's chased him down.

"It's only a little stalkerish," Aman finally admits, a grin pulling at the corner of his mouth. Reluctantly, he finally steps from the shadow of the garage, beginning a walk down the driveway toward her. "And definitely out of the blue."

The telepath doesn’t back away any further, nor does she close the distance. Hands stay firmly tucked into Kaylee’s pockets. The feeling of awkwardness continues as she chews on her lower lip clearly uncertain of what to say. Finally, there is a soft sigh as she makes a decision. “I didn’t like how things were left between us.” She had been called in and asked Bob to drive Aman to the barge. “Then you were gone,” she offers, giving him an embarrassed look. Especially as she admits, “After a time, I realized you were probably not coming back, so I called in a few favors.”

Kaylee gives a soft huff of amusement, “I know it's stalkerish, but I knew a phone call wouldn’t be enough for me.”

Taking a deep breath, Kaylee finally makes herself look up at the man. “I’m sorry, Amanvir.” There, she said it; broke the dam, so to speak. “I’m sorry for my behavior and for leading you on…” which she hadn’t really meant to do, “… and… and I’m sorry that you had to meet Luther like that.”

Aman's pace slows as she points out realizing he wasn't coming back, his steps stuttering to a halt several arms-lengths from her. He hadn't planned on going back, after all, but he hadn't been abundantly clear about that in the note he'd left behind. The words were vague but earnest, a declaration that he was sorry for getting her wrapped up in his business, and that it was something he should figure out on his own.

He'd called and told Ande he needed time off to handle something personal. He didn't know when he'd be back.

And then he'd left town entirely, not even waiting for Kaylee to have gone on her trip.

But the one thing that breaks his introspection is the way she views it all, a crease appearing on his forehead. What? If there's any wrong she's committed, it's well outshined by all the good she tried to do by him. Aman lets out a faint laugh. "Out of all the things you could ever try to apologize for, of course it's got to be for someone else's behavior."

"God, Kaylee."

He'd meant to keep his distance, but he closes in those last few steps and wraps his arms around her in a firm embrace. His thoughts ripple in an involuntary inventory of his own actions, and everything about her. He'd missed her— was surprised to see the jacket but adored it— forgot how she made him feel.

Why in the world had he left?

That's a harder thing to answer, living in feelings rather than thought. But ultimately, he lets go of the embrace to give her a quirk of a smile. "I'm sorry things went the way they did, too," he admits, something sad fleeting its way through his expression before it moves on. "But I'm really glad that I didn't jeopardize your job or your life. As much as picking up my life and leaving sucked… nothing worse happened, you know?"

The hug is returned with minimal hesitation, but maybe a bit gingerly like she’s afraid to hug too tightly. “I missed you, too.” Kaylee offers in return to the unspoken. “And I’m glad you’ve survived without Raytech’s protection so far.” When she pulls away enough to look up at him, up close he might see little things off about her. There are shadows under her eyes and her smile might appear forced.

“Some hope for you in this crazy world for you, yet,” she teases affectionately, giving his cheek a matronly pat.

“I will say that I think leaving was the wrong thing for you to do,” Kaylee says in a chiding tone, with no anger or appearance of talking down. “Never face things alone, always have back up. If we didn’t want to put ourselves in danger, then… we wouldn’t be there. That being said…” The smile tugs a bit to one side.

“I think you should come back to the Safe Zone.”

Glancing past him, Kaylee’s brows furrow a bit. “For one, you’re putting your family in danger and we can’t help when you are too far away.” She was concerned about his well-being. “And, like I said, you’re missed.”

Aman's in the middle of looking down at Kaylee's signs of wear when she pats his cheek, and he gives a mock recoil back in offense for his supposed inability to look after himself. Yeah, he's done all right, a faint grin says as he recovers. "Gotta give me some credit," he chides her in return, trying to mask from her any sourness he might have about it.

About just how out of his element he'd slipped into, how out of control things felt, and how little it felt he could do about it if he'd stayed in the middle of her world.

Accordingly, when she tells him to come back, his smile fades and his lips part in an answer that fails to find immediate form. The brown of his eyes shifts in the light as he looks away and then back to her, taking in a breath as he tries to brace himself for his answer as much as her.

"Before I skipped town, I went back to the teleporter," Aman says with a shake of his head. "Told him I'd take his ability off his hands for an extended period so he could focus on being present, being a dad to his kid. My limit with it is three, so, if anyone came… I grab my mom, grab my dad, and get them the fuck out to somewhere else safe."

He breaks conversation to look back at the house, brow settling. And out myself as Expressive to them in the process, but… Turning back to Kaylee, the thought finishes of its own accord. But that's a price I'm willing to pay, if it keeps them safe.

Aman sighs slowly, shoulders beginning to pull back in a shrug. "I mean…" One hand curls around to the back of his head, ruffling his hair before he lets it fall, hanging off the curl of the thin scarf about his neck. "It's as solid a plan I could think of. It keeps them safe more than it puts them in danger, I'd think. Because people like Redd…"

Even after all this time, he flinches at the thought of that man's rancor, the hatred and spite as he pounded at the glass of the cell. But it's soothed away in short order.

Kaylee said she missed him. Maybe not in as many words, but he can read between those lines.

He lets his weight shift from one leg to the other, another small smile pulling up the corners of his mouth. "There's no guarantee it's just you that tidal wave would hit, Kaylee," Aman remarks with that same touch of regret as before. "No telling… just how messy that could get."

The short bark of laughter escapes Kaylee before she can stop it, so she offers an apologetic smile after. “Sorry, it’s just… Do I look worried?” she asks, holding out her arms. “So you’re being hunted by a superpowered madman. I’m more worried about you than me, though I admit your plan is pretty solid.” The smile she has, fades slowly. “Except for the fact you probably won’t know he’s there until he wants you to see him.” Her brows tip up with that matter of fact statement. Know what I mean? they say.

“One thing we have going for us is Redd’s doppelganger is…” A pained look creases her forehead and furrows her brow. “… oooon a bit of a trip so if Redd shows up, we’ll know it’s actually him.” Of course, he was one of the people she had taken off with on a boat.

She's determined, isn't she? Aman's ability to hold a smile fails him, every last attempt made to hold onto it before it slips away. For as much as he's made his peace with the ability he took on and wrangled it into submission, an anxious glaze not quite his own clings to his thoughts.

"You don't look worried," he admits, more reluctant about it than he'd like to be. Shouldn't she be worried?

But then there's the comment about the doppelganger. "So he ended up staying out of town after that trip he went on?" Aman asks, eager for the distraction. "Good for him."

So why was she trying to convince him to do something different?

Looking down at her, his brown eyes settle over her signs of tire. Kaylee…

"Why'd you come up here really?" he finds himself asking before he has a chance to overthink it. "What's going on?" Are you all right? is heard in the subtext of the question, the concern in his voice.

“I’m hoping he did, but to be honest. We lost sight of him in the fight. They didn’t find a body, so I refuse to believe he’s dead,” Kaylee admits with a strained voice, glancing away from Aman. There may be a threat of tears, but none fall, not yet. “There have been so many times that we thought we lost someone, only to have them show up again. So I’ll continue to hold out hope.”

Why was she there?

The telepath rolls that around in her head. “And I’m here, because you’re my friend, Aman, and you’re in trouble,” Kaylee says, after a hard swallow. Fingers tucks stray strands behind her ear again. “I’ve had enough deaths to deal with, I don’t want to add yours to it.” Even now the soft cries of those lost souls on the sub haunt the quiet moments in her thoughts. “Don’t think I could forgive myself if I let it happen.”

Finally, Kaylee looks back up at Aman, her expression matter of fact, “I know people that can help. You met Luther. He comes off as harsh, but I trust him with my life and I know he’d help if I asked.” There is a way she talks about him, a faint tone of affection. “And you met one of my brothers, Richard. But I have two, and I couldn’t ask for better brothers than him and Warren. If I asked them for help, I feel confident they would. And that’s just the start of the people and resources I can tap.” Warren might be crazy, but she still believes in him. “I don’t want you having to live in fear,” she looks past him to the house,” Living with your parents,” that might be a tease, cause that will do hell to his dating life.

“You are a good man that got into some questionable shit. You’ll find that my family is always big about what’s here.” Kaylee taps his chest with a finger… his heart. “Not so much your past… unless you know, you’re some megalomaniac bent on destroying the earth or starting World War 3, then there might be a problem.” She smiles to show that last bit is a joke… it’s only a partial smile, so she might be half serious, too.

Fight? It takes Aman a moment to silently reel at that, for all that he keeps a straight face. It's a good thing Kaylee looks away, because he can't stop at the very least from his eyes widening. Wait— so the trips you both went on— they were the same, and… Oh boy.

Later, Aman.

It's clear she's upset, which takes priority for him. His hands slowly come up to rest on her shoulders, thumb brushing over her coat in the hopes of providing some small comfort. "Kaylee…" he starts, the interruption gentle enough to allow her to bowl on past him again if her thoughts aren't complete, and she does. He smiles, even with a touch of unease to it, at the thought of not looking after himself— not providing for himself in the most basic of ways— in a way that grains the wrong way against his sense of masculinity.

But his smile becomes more earnest at her tease, at seeing where her heart is about the matter. He shakes his head to himself as he looks down at her. "God, I missed you," Aman feels the need to say before he presses a kiss to her forehead.

The front door to the house behind them opens at the same moment, feet in flats hitting the wooden porch along with a call of "Veerji! Screwdriver ki te ya? Your dad—" extended in the direction of the garage initially… but it's impossible not to see Kaylee and Aman together at the end of the driveway, bringing it to its abrupt close. The dark-haired woman on the porch blanches, one hand instantly coming to her hip as she looks out to them both, but mostly to Aman.

What have you got yourself into now? Aman doesn't need to be a mindreader see she's thinking that, either. He turns back to the woman his age, similar enough in looks they could be siblings. He tsses in her direction. "Jassi," he calls to her friendly warning, his hands not leaving Kaylee's shoulders. He's got nothing to hide or be ashamed of, after all. "Don't go starting shit."

Jasleen only shakes her head, no smile on her face though one can be seen in her eyes, even at a distance. "Tell me where the screwdriver's at and I'll be on my way."

Aman waves a hand in the direction of the garage, to which his cousin scoffs and steps off the porch to go get it herself since Aman's being rude like this. As she crosses from the sidewalk and into the garage, she shoots a pointed look in Kaylee's direction. "Nice to meet you," she calls out, with particular emphasis since Amanvir's not even polite enough to introduce them, apparently.

That finally does rankle him, and he looks back to Kaylee, arms dropping to his side with a disgruntled expression. "No megalomania here," he replies belatedly, attempting to reinject a bit of levity into their conversation. "Just someone who wouldn't mind getting back to his life after all, maybe."

He doesn't guard his voice, necessarily, but it quiets some as he adds more softly, "Can't have you worrying about me, after all. You've got enough on your plate."

“Long story,” Kaylee explains to the unspoken words, allowing the kiss to her forehead even leaning ever so slightly. Still she’s guarded, even if she offers him a fading smile when he pulls back again.

The arrival of one of his family members, has Kaylee stifling a chuckle, watching the other woman with amusement. Waving back and offering a called out, “Same,” in return, but neither does she push for an introduction. There is a touch of uneasy, but she hides it behind that bright smile of hers. “Maybe, I should go,” she says softly, “and we can continue this conversation when you come back to the Safe Zone. Where there are fewer eyes watching what we’re doing.” There is another glance behind him at the house, with a highly amused grin.

“I just needed to see you were okay for myself.” Kaylee glances back down the street where a Mantis sits, a helmet resting on the seat. Chances were good that the trip had indeed been spontaneous. “And make sure you know you’re not alone in all this Redd stuff. I have room on my plate to worry about you. Can’t stop me, won’t stop me.” That was just who she was.

As much as Aman would like to protest the idea of postponing the discussion, he does finally look over his shoulder to see just how much time he has before his cousin heads back inside and surely spills the situation to his mother, who will come standing at the window, peering at them. Fifty-fifty she just didn't come on out.

It takes a mental smack to own face to cut himself off on actively thinking about why, focusing instead back to Kaylee. "I'll make some calls tomorrow," he promises. "See what it would take to get me moved back down there. Get my job back. Because… you're right." As uncomfortable as it is. "I can't keep putting my life on hold for forever."

Her comment about being unstoppable turns the corner of his mouth back into another grin. "Well, now you've seen me. You know I'm okay. And… it's nice on my part to know I've been missed. That I didn't wear out my welcome with all the…" Aman flips up a hand in the air, trying to find a single word to describe it, and finds he can't. He only shakes his head and lets out a laugh, wondering for a moment at his whole situation— both the one he left behind in New York and the one he faces presently.

With a long-suffering tss of a sigh between his teeth, he admits with a touch of amusement, "And I guess if I stick around here much longer without any real plans for the future, all the threats I've been getting about finding me some nice girl to settle down with might actually turn into something." It's a joke, or at least it's meant as light-heartedly as possible, but Aman sighs again as he chuckles at it. It's clearly not something he wants for himself. He's too much of a free spirit himself, combined with the presence of mind to not want his questionable life decisions burdening anyone else.


Jasleen, toolbox in hand, heads back up the sidewalk and into the house. The door isn't even pulled all the way shut before she's shouting inside, "Auntie, you're not gonna believe—"

It finally slams, though, and Aman doesn't so much as flinch. But it does get him to finally say something that's been lurking unformed in his mind.

"There's… just one thing I want to be clear about if I come back, Kaylee: I can stand on my own. If I make bad decisions, they're mine to make, and I'll accept whatever comes from them. I don't want you to feel like you have to throw every resource you have at fixing my problems for me, all right?" His brow starts to furrow. "I want to see you again, I'd want to hang out again— I just don't want to be the stray you took in and promised to look after." Aman looks off to the side for a moment. "All this talk about shit your family can do, about all these resources you can throw at my problems— that's not why I was interested in you in the first place, and it's definitely not the reason I want to come back."

"So just as long as we're clear," he says a little hesitantly. "That… I'm not looking to take advantage of your generosity. I'm interested where your life intersects with mine, but I'm not asking you to take on all my problems as your own."

Even though she seemed more than ready to assume them.

There is a huge smile hidden behind the press of fingers when he turns back to her, but the telepath doesn’t have a say in his family, so keeps opinions to herself. From her look, she was charmed by the whole situation. Though, he starts listing out the conditions of his return and brows slowly lift. Well, she thinks to herself.

“The strings of fate are fickle things,” Kaylee comments quietly. “Not always straight, but more often a tangled mess like strings of stored christmas lights. I can’t… guess in what way ours intersect. Things with me…..” Kaylee sighs.

“Those strings are complicated and tangled to hell and back,” Kaylee says with awkward uncertainty, even having a tough time looking at the man in front of her.

“But, no, I’m not looking to fix your problems, Aman.” Kaylee says immediately after, finally forcing herself to look him in the eye. “But I'm going to have my friend’s back and use what I have to keep you alive if need be.”

Fingers touch his arm, Kaylee looks almost haunted. “I don’t want you dying on me if I can help it,” she whispers.

At first, Aman's raising an eyebrow at her when she goes on about fate and strings. "That's a hell of a non-answer, Kaylee…" he interjects, attempting to be gentle about it. But he can't help but not find the exact comfort he was looking for. Her meeting his eyes finally helps, and he nods with a touch of relief to it. Relief that fades when she gets that look on her face again.

"Hey, hey—" He lifts his arm to curl his hand around her cheek, watching her intently. "I'm glad you get how serious this potentially is, but… it'll be all right. You're not going to lose me. I'm too stubborn for that." No humor now, only seriousness, meeting her eyes.

For a moment, he's on the verge of asking more about what's driving her fear, the silent I don't want anyone else dying she keeps trying to dance around admitting, but this isn't the time, or the place. Or at least, that's what he decides. His thumb brushes her cheek, some wordless other decision under consideration as his head dips a little closer to hers.

She came all this way. he reminds himself.

It gives him a confidence he wouldn't have otherwise. Or at least, a confidence he thinks is his. "Promise." Aman insists quietly. Then his eyes close after he leans the last of the way, nose brushing past hers as he kisses her.

Even with telepathy on her side, the kiss catches Kaylee completely off guard. With everything she had tried to say this was the last thing she thought would happen. Her breath catches in her throat and her body stills with surprise. This… wasn’t what she meant….

Almost as quickly as lips meet, Kaylee takes a step back, breaking it with a dip of her head and a gentle staying hand on his chest. “Aman,” his name is spoken breathless, but also in apology. Taking another step back, her focus is somewhere on his chest, though it is hard to pinpoint what she might be thinking. Her emotions are all over the place.

Kaylee’s brain is a complete jumble and she didn’t want to say the wrong thing, so almost regretfully she simply murmurs a soft, “I gotta go.”


Okay, so maybe he read that completely wrong after all.

"Kaylee," comes from him with just as much apology as she steps back.

Aman doesn't need anyone else to give him an earful about how he's overstepped, he's already doing that to himself, drowning in embarrassment that overwhelms the push of confidence that was pressed onto him. His mind is a jumble of squirming, writhing variations of What were you thinking? that he's not able to shake. Not sure he wants to.

Because, god, if he did not just fuck that up.

"Should we just forget this whole conversation ever happened?" he asks with the tone of someone attempting to be helpful.


Kaylee’s words are gentle, knowing his panic over the kiss. “That -” kiss “ - doesn’t change anything or how I feel about wanting you to come back.” She starts to reach to bracket his face, but thinks better of it. A small sad smile touches her lips, as she tucks her hands back into her pockets. She didn’t want to cause more issues. “I still want you to come back, because you are my friend first and I don’t want you alone against Redd.”

A self depreciating sound escapes Kaylee when she starts to turn to leave. “You know… you deserve better than someone like me, Amanvir,” she says turning back. “I left my husband, because I am a horrible, selfish person. Not just that, I fell in love with a man that doesn’t seem to feel the same, twice mind you, but I’m too scared to look…” Regret flits across her features. She pulls a hand from her pocket to motion to Aman, “And I met a good man I might have feelings for, but I don’t know what is real or what is the manipulation of… of…” she searches for the right words to describe the Entity.

“An interdimensional… bitch who wanted to destroy the world.

Kaylee knows how that sounds and lets it ride, let him think she’s crazy if he wants. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves and sending an embarrassed glance to the house behind him. “It wasn’t a non-answer, it’s the honest to goodness truth about myself. How can I share my emotions and feelings with anyone when I don’t even really know what is true and what is someone else's long game?”

Aman doesn't know what to say to any of that. There's surprise that washes over him, but doesn't make sense. Not to this degree of it. It rolls over itself, churning and smoothing out into something calmer. This is not the end of the world.

It's not, he realizes with a prickle of irritation, but goddamn if he could just be left to his own emotions right now.

The struggle that occurs within him can be felt by tension alone, happening on a layer under conscious thought. There's little time to consider whether or not she sounded certifiable for thinking that the universe or an entity or whatever was somehow conspiring against her or for her in terms of her love life. The already-slippery topic they're treating with is that much harder to address with the delicate reply he'd like to.

Instead, what comes from him with frustration is:

"Kaylee, this isn't some manipulation. You came and tracked me down, and if you can't trust yourself, who can you?"

Aman looks away with a short, exasperated sigh. "If you're scared, you're scared. Don't try and beat around it by putting yourself down, and don't—"

Everything's gonna be fine, right?

He flinches in the mental equivalent of someone shoving away someone trying to lay their hands on him. God, this is a bad moment for him, right in the middle of Kaylee expressing wonder if those around her are being manipulated or not.

Aman lifts his hand to swat at an invisible gnat as he tries to regain control, and quickly of his own emotional colorboard. The activity helps. "What's wrong with being honest with yourself? With others?" he implores with more passion than he should. "Am I just a friend, or a guy you actually like?"

He desperately needs to know.

“Of course,” Kaylee starts angrily, her voice raising slightly. Remembering where they were she stops herself and blows a frustrated breath. Her cheeks were slightly flushed, even though she knew it wasn’t his fault. “Of course, I’m scared, Aman. I’m scared every goddamn day. Of my emotions for you, for Joseph… for Luther, but…” But how does she explain what only a handful know?

“Do you trust me to show you something?” Kaylee finally asks. “I need you to understand why I can’t do this right now.”

For Luther.

Well, he can't say he didn't see that one coming. No matter the conflict it stoked within him to hear it.

But at least she's being honest.

Aman is present fully when she struggles through how to describe her situation, eyes on her when she makes her decision to show him something that will help him understand. He looks behind his shoulder for a moment to see if they're being watched (not that he can immediately see), then thinks through places he could teleport them both for better privacy, discards that idea, then reconsiders doing this here and now before—

He reaches out a hand to her, abrupt, but firm of conviction. His eyes show it. "Show me," he asks, bracing for anything.

There is immediate relief when he agrees, so Kaylee reaches out to take his hand in her, it’s cool to the touch. “Thank you,” Kaylee whispers, curling her fingers around his and…

The world goes black, the only thing lit is the woman in front of him and possibly himself. It's almost like the both of them are shedding the light, but the darkness seems too thick to see anything. Kaylee’s own appearance hasn’t changed, though curly blond floats slightly, weightless in the void. There also might even be a pair of white wings on her back, but it is hard to tell. They vanish when he looks right at her.

Before he can focus too much on anything, Aman can suddenly feel the ground under his feet. If he looks down, he can see them standing on a mirrored surface. Where their feet touch the glassy surface, it acts like water with ripples spreading around them, crossing and uncrossing on their journey outward. But when he looks up…

A tangled string web - not unlike a black widow’s web - stretches out into the infinite around them. Everywhere Aman looks, there are photos and newspaper clippings attached to the strings. “This is what the world looked like to my father,” Kaylee offers quietly, though her words echo around them. She turns to look behind her, where she looks there is a spotlight. It shines down on a single desk, where a craft kit is open; little scissors, spools of yarn, scotch tape, paper clips, safety pins, post-it notes. There’s also a small radio, antenna angled up.

A man steps into the light, string in one hand and shears in the other. Receding, mousy-brown hair, round glasses, sweater-vest. He reaches down, pressing the corner of the yarn spool onto a button atop the radio, and music begins.

”This place is the last time I ever saw my father.” Kaylee says, sad as she watches Edward begin cutting out a picture, his back to the pair. The music has a thumping beat, a trilling guitar, and Edward subtly dances to the rhythm. “This is essentially my father’s mind.”

Fingers brush along a gray string, a picture of her brother Richard hangs from it. “This was how his ability worked, he takes information from the past and predicts the events of the future. He could also figure out how to change the past to create new results.” The hand falls away and she turns to look at Aman, “His driving force was to ensure his kids lived through whatever happened in the world. No matter the cost.”

Kaylee stands among the millions of threads that seem to go on forever in every direction, each a life, the thought has her wrapping her arms around herself as if suddenly cold. “I found out later, his ability was a gift from a malicious being stuck between time and living all moments at once. That almost all seers, in fact, were manipulated by her.”

In the darkness, above Kaylee’s father, a pair of thin ropes unravel from the ceiling and hang on each side of the older man. They quickly come alive as they move to twist around his wrists and go taunt, the man doesn’t even flinch. He has no idea. Following the lengths up, Aman could probably just make out a shadowy figure edged in red holding the ends, puppeting her father from above. Back down below, the snipping stops and they see Kaylee’s father set down the article he was working on. Turning, he moves towards the strings, still brandishing the scissors. A thread is carefully selected, held between his fingers, and snipped. That single cut causes the whole web to dramatically fall to the floor in a tangled mess around them. “Every time I start to think that something is real… I find out it was all part of some great and grand plan.” Kaylee toes at a clump of string at her feet. “That’s why I am scared.”

Shit in Kaylee's world is weird. She's lived in the past, takes trips away from work in law enforcement that result in people being killed, and so many other things he doesn't even know about.

So it's not as hard as even he would have thought to being receptive to the idea that maybe this wasn't just overactive paranoia of hers talking. Not that it wasn't still paranoia— just— he realizes that she might not be exaggerating about the sinister universe force, or its influence on her life.

She thought she'd thrown him in the deep end before, but if so, this is a black hole.

Amanvir stands in the dark, looking slightly up toward the place the figure in red had been… his gaze slowly falling back to the mess of string on the ground until his face follows. But I couldn't possibly be a part of this, he wants to insist. His mouth opens then closes, his hand flexing by his side as he looks down, eyes narrowed in additional, wordless consideration as he weighs the situation.

It's not about whether you are or not, though. It's about Kaylee's fear you might be.

And he can't control that. He struggles his way through bargaining with himself about his ability to change her mind before coming to an odd sense of peace about it. He gets it now, perhaps.

As unhappy an understanding as it might be.

"I'm guessing he's not around anymore for you to ask him yourself," Aman finally says, looking back to Kaylee. "What is and what isn't anymore."

Kaylee’s attention is on her father who is back to cutting out articles, but she hears the question and gives a small shake of her head. “No. He died shortly after he told me about what he did for us, but little things happen here and there proving his reach is long, even now.” Giving a little humorless laugh, “That version of him, anyhow.” Whatever that means.

A hand lifts and wipes away the scene, leaving them in darkness again.

“I know you don’t believe you are a part of this, but we are all butterflies to someone,” Kaylee says, crouching down. Grabbing up some of the strings she starts to wind them together. “It only takes stepping on one of us or changing our course to effect major change in the future.”

Behind her, two men step out of the darkness. One Aman’s met, Luther and the other… he’s only seen in a few of the photos in her house. That must be Joseph. Both men have a red string tied around one of their ankles. Following them, they join the rest of the string and yarn that Kaylee is winding. Once it’s all wound into a large tangled ball of red, she stands. He can see a red string tied around her own ankle. “I hate knowing the future, but I know enough that… my feelings are a mess. I have seen a future with Joseph and worlds where I’m married to Luther.”

Kaylee reaches into the ball and pulls out the end of one of the red strings and offers it out to him. “I like you Aman, I really do. I enjoy being around you, but I… I just need a friend right now, not a lover. Mostly, because I don’t know myself enough right now. Everything that I have shown you about my life, so far, is just the very tip of a huge fucking iceberg.”

Aman doesn't understand the significance, not fully anyway, of the red ties between Kaylee and these other men. But he understands enough when she takes the ties that bind and offers some of it out to him. His eyes flicker in surprise as he looks back up at her, arrested for what to say. Then with a blink, he looks back to the red lines leading away…

Considers, briefly, the talk of futures, and now other worlds. Other visions, other versions.

The panic that had started to build rolls over and over and under, and comes up again as something less severe. Like a hand on his shoulder and a whispered assurance against his ear. Yes, this is foreign and disconcerting, but he isn't alone. It's okay. Everywhere and nowhere, Aman feels that other emotional presence with him, giving him the space to feel discomfited, but bolstering with the notion that this shall not be his undoing.

It's with significant lean into the grace pressed upon him that he makes it through this moment with any modicum of it in his reaction. When he blinks, it's a slowly done draw, and then he looks back to Kaylee.

"You know, those… other dreams, those other versions, no one says they have to be here. You're you. If you still feel strongly, then… maybe it's just meant to be. But if you also want to chart your own path, there's no single road for doing things right. No one path that you have to follow." Instead of taking the string, he lays his hand over hers, giving her a small shake of his head. He continues to hold her hand in his.

"Listen, I… came off strong. If what you need, what you want, isn't that… then I'm okay to keep this thing without labels. To not push you into something you're not ready for." Aman squeezes her hand before letting his fall. "We can ride this wave out and see where it goes. Some day down the line, maybe we re-evaluate you and me in a different light. But Kaylee, all this…" He lifts his head to look around, ripples appearing under the slight shift in his feet. "If it's only the tip of the iceberg, I don't know how much I can handle. And you deserve to know that up front, too."

With a faint attempt at a sporting grin, Aman tells her, "I can do my best to hang on, but… it's like I'm holding onto a strand of twine in a goddamned hurricane." He lets out an equally faint laugh at his effort to make light of it.

Her gaze drops to the ball of yarn held to her chest with a small, sad smile. “I appreciate the effort, but it’s okay if you can’t. Joseph couldn’t. Honestly, I’ll be amazed at anyone who can weather this storm. Not sure there is anyone.” The scene fades away and… they are just two people standing on a driveway holding hands, though Kaylee’s quickly falls away and tucks into her jacket pocket. “Except for my family, of course. They are stuck in this weird fucked up world with me.”

Dropping her gaze to her feet, Kaylee sighs, “Speaking of which, I should go. I kinda just… took off. Needed to clear my head and ended up here.” She glances up at the house, before settling one him again. “I just needed to make sure you were still okay.”

Even aware of the eyes on his back, the ones that look out to Kaylee with a furrowed brow and hide thoughts not a lick of which are in English, Aman reaches forward to wrap Kaylee in a firm, if brief embrace. "I'm okay," he promises. Taking a step back, then, his brow arches. "And once I'm back in town, I'll check in you to make sure you're okay."

I mean it. he thinks, but doesn't know how to say it without it sounding contrite. Instead, he looks down to the parked Mantis.

"Drive safe, okay? The roads up this way are no joke."

“I’m keeping you to that,” Kaylee says pointing at him as she backs up, a smile on her lips. “I’ll see you back in the Safe Zone, Amanvir.”

It isn’t until the helmet is over her head, hiding her face behind a black visor, that the smile crumbles. Kaylee's chin trembles with each deep shuddering breath as she rides off watching the man get smaller in her mirror. That hurt more than she’d ever let on to anyone. It never got easier pushing people away.

The more she tried to cling to the idea of fate and fought against the idea of what her father might have plotted for her…

The lonelier Kaylee felt and the muddier the rivers of her fate felt.

“Fate, you’re a fickle bitch.”

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