For Better


joseph_icon.gif kaylee_icon.gif

Scene Title For Better
Synopsis For better or for worse, they are in this together.
Date March 25, 2018

The Sumter Household, Elmhurst

It is after midnight in Elmhurst and the world is dark and deathly quiet.

In one of the neighborhoods filled with homes, one in particular has rows of solar panels on the roof. They gleam in the dark, bouncing off what light the neighborhood has. A car pulls up to it allowing a well-dressed woman step out. Leaning in briefly to say something to the occupant, Kaylee Ray-Sumter closes the door and watches the car drives off.

Completely exhausted, Kaylee takes a moment to pull off her heels and carry them the rest of the way up to the home that she shares with her family. She was thankful that she finally made it home from that seedy auction over on Staten Island. There hadn’t been anything useful this time that could fall into Raytech hands, but what she did get was tucked away in her office at work.

What the hell she was going to do with a skull was beyond her….

Inside, everyone was asleep, even the trio of old dogs. Missy is even reluctant to do more then look up and thump her tail on the hardwood floor, when Kaylee lets herself in. This time there were no kids to greet her, no Joseph to give her a kiss hello to a chorus of ‘Ewws!’

Kaylee stands there for a long moment, shoes in hand and eyes closed, listening to the mental murmurs of her family. There is a twinge of guilt, cause she knows she was later than she told Joseph. Events after the auction had waylaid her longer than she planned.

To be honest, it was times like this, being a telepath sucked… She wanted a drink… or something to numb the anxiety and stress that she was feeling. For now…. Shoes are dropped by the door and Kaylee heads for the kitchen. Unfortunately, brownouts being so frequent, as much as it would be her other go to, ice cream isn’t such a common thing around the Safe Zone.

So when Joseph makes his way down, he’ll find his wife, sitting on the counter, in her her little black dress and styled hair laying prettily over one shoulder…. with one of the kid’s chocolate pudding cups and a spoon; looking like there was a huge weight on her shoulders again.

It’s been a very long night….

In contrast, Joseph looks like a man well retired for the evening, favouring drawstring pyjama pants and a loose fitting T-shirt. That he has on his reading glasses indicates he probably did not rouse out of a sleep — habitually, he can be found on her later nights still reading in bed, sometimes for work, sometimes for leisure, almost always from the library.

Not normally this late, however, being more of an early riser, predictably.

"Hey, honey. We got more of those?" is what he immediately says once he beholds the sight of his wife getting real on some pudding cups, his voice quiet, as is his wont when the house is full of sleeping children and dogs. On bare feet, he goes to retrieve one for himself to share in irresponsible midnight snack decisions.

She looks like she's about to fall off where she's perched, and he's not too polite to say, "Ain't it the case that when you get a fancy three letter acronym job title, you get to delegate?"

Good humour only minimally masks concern.

Though she heard him move through the house and knew he was coming to her, Kaylee still manages to look guilty when he steps into the kitchen. The smile is equally guilty as it is affectionate. “Hey, handsome.”

The spoon acts as a pointer, turned towards the refrigerator and the goods within. One thing about being a part of a big tech company is the ability to keep the employees and their families fed. “Just got a food shipment in, there’s plenty,” she says just a softly, as if she might have plans for more…. might.

While he does that, she leans over and pulls open the drawer next to her leg, extracting a spoon, and closing it very softly. When it came to the sounds of the kitchen, the kids had bionic hearing. While she appreciates his attempt at humor, Kaylee just doesn’t seem able to gather up the strength for it, though she does smile when offering the spoon.

On the subject of job privileges she comments blandly, “Delegating, unfortunately, only goes so far. There are just certain things we need to do for ourselves. Richard and I did manage to find an Eve Mas painting though.” His brother-in-law is all into those prophetic painting. Old habits really.

With a soft sigh, Kaylee scoops a bit of pudding on the end of her spoon, while she adds, “And then we found Eve Mas herself.” The woman that helped cause many of the telepath’s nightmares. “Well, by found I mean, she found us.”

Accepting the spoon, Joseph leans next to her, elbow braced against the tall counter top, eyebrows raising a little at news of an Eve Mas original collected at an auction, and an Eve Mas herself. Other information is gathered than just this, but he doesn't immediately pounce on her for what's bothering her — she could well just be tired, considering she's sitting in her evening dress still, chowing down on dairy-based snack food for children.

"Oh yeah?" he says, in a tone that could tip either way — somewhat cautious about inquiring further, and somewhat curious in spite of himself. "How's the future doin'?"

It's been some time since he's acquainted himself with it.

The sound Kaylee makes, followed by a resigned sigh says it isn’t good. Her gaze drops to the mostly empty pudding cup, spoon in hand. “Not too good,” she says with a grimace, hands dropping to rest on skirted knee… of course, careful not to get anything on it. “Eve showed me one of her visions,” she seems almost like she is hesitant to mention it, but… since it could affect their family, she just comes out with it.

“Someone is going to attack Raytech,” the telepath tells her husband softly, blue eyes finally lifting to look into his much darker ones. The worry, the confusion… the guilt… it is all there for him to see. “No idea when or even why they are doing it, but… they kill several of us and take Mr. Harrison captive.” Just saying it outloud to him, Kaylee loses her appetite and sets aside the treat. “It’s why I am late, Richard and I went back to Raytech and hashed out some short term security plans, until we talk to Mr. Bellamy.

“Tomorrow, work crews will be here to start upgrading the security.” Here. Their home. Kaylee’s gaze falls away, unfocus. Lost somewhere in her own thoughts. Possibly, into the past.

There are a few things to unpack there, on a broad spectrum of importance. It takes Joseph the time it takes Kaylee to finish, and a few seconds after, to decide which parts of that he needs to prioritise. The pudding cup is certainly now at the bottom of the list as he straightens out of his sleepy lean.

"Okay," he says, like he's about to say something illuminating, and instead says, "What?"

He shakes his head quickly, holding a hand up. No, she's confused too, he got that. Never mind. He is also putting down his midnight snack. "Define 'they kill several of us', like— on a name kind of basis. Who exactly?" At the back of his mind, there's an alarm bell going off — security in their home is a good thing, and later, he'll probably think so, but in the moment, the need for it inspires an irrational, kneejerk resistance, denial distilled.

Sensible enough not to voice this inner protest, anyway, and focuses on this first thing.

Resting hands on each side of her on the countertop, Kaylee leans forward a little, fingers curling over the edge. It was the reaction she was expecting, a normal one… One that she might have had herself if she had been handed that information… or if she hadn’t in the past spent so much time getting those types of messages.

“From what I saw,” Meaning Kaylee witnessed it in the seers mind, something risky in its own way, considering the last time she ventured into Eve’s head. “Sera… Barney… Remi…” Mentally, she steps through the scene piece by piece. “Des… Richard…” There is actual hesitation here, her eyes refusing to meet his, as she adds a soft, worried, “and me.”

Straightening, Kaylee moves to rub a hand over her cheek wearily, eyes prickling a little from emotions she’s trying to keep down. It’s hard to hide those emotions from him. “It could be nothing,” she points out, though the words taste like ash on her tongue. Her tone says she doesn’t believe it even as she says it, visions have come true too many times in their past. “But after Eve’s last vision, I’m not taking chances.”

Kaylee feels first rather than sees Joseph's hand — it shifts her hair aside so that his palm can rest at the bend between neck and shoulder, the edge of his thumb making a soothing sweep back and forth. It could be nothing. It's a familiar refrain. Something he's said before, has been said to him. It's been a long time since he's acted as prophet.

It's been a long time since he thought of himself that way. "Wish I could say for certain how things like that work," he says, gently. "After all this time, I dunno anymore. Stands to reason that the act of seeing a thing has to change something. I bet all those people in Eve's dream look surprised."

Who even is this Eve, anyway, is what Joseph doesn't say.

"I don't think you should take chances," is what he goes with instead. "But you should know you're gonna be okay. Richard won't let anything happen to you, or his people."

Leaning a little into the warmth of his touch, savoring that contact and the hum of his mind, Kaylee gives a small, slow nod of her head. “I know,” she whispers softly with a light sigh. She won’t either is what doesn't get said. He knows her well enough she doesn't have too.

“I just wish it didn’t feel like…” Kaylee trails off, unsure what it feels like. Eyes open, lashes wet with tears that haven't quite reached her cheeks, and full of worry. Fingers of both hands reach out to snag the soft worn fabric of shirt. Redirecting her thoughts a little, she softly says, “It has been so many years since I have felt this type of worry and…. Joseph, this feels like things are happening again… what if…” What If…

“I promised you, I wouldn't let anything darken our door,” she states matter of factly, look up into his eyes searching them. “What if I can’t keep it away?”

Fingers tighten the grip on his shirt and give it a light tug. “Promise me, if things start getting bad again, you’ll take the kids and go back to Detroit?” They still have a home there after all. “Or the bunker?” It is obvious how much this worries her.

His other hand curls around her arm, not trying to direct her hold of him, just holding in return. The worry she sees reflected in dark eyes seems to be on a lesser scale of worry for her life — it's more concern for her in this very moment, the guilt and the fear and the pressure he feels mounting in her. Mention of the bunker is responded to with a twitch at his brow. Memories of war time. The idea that she's thinking at that scale—


Another sweep of his hand through her hair, pushing it back. "We wanna keep the wolves away," he agrees. "But that ain't all on you. I ain't leaving you to them. We have to leave, you say the word and we'll go — all of us together."

It isn't something Kaylee wants to argue, who stays and who goes. Not in this moment, anyway. One of uncertainty if things will even happen. Her whole world was in that house, but, she also had Richard and Valerie. But, that argument could wait for the ‘if.

If it comes to it she’ll make the argument then.

For now she offers him a smile, gentle and loving. “Okay, Love,” she whispers, with just the smallest bob of her head, a hand coming up to rub carefully at the tear-filled eyes… but making sure not to turn herself into a panda. “Together…” she agrees for now.

As his hand brushes through her hair again, she manages to snag it before it can be pulled away again. Head turning, she studies how her smaller more delicate fingers curl around it; impulse has her pressing a kiss into his work-callused palm.

“I’m sorry you waited up so late,” she offers a bit sheepishly, her thumb brushing at the smear of lipstick that had been left behind. “I’m glad you did though.” She wasn’t sure if she would have been able to sleep if she hadn’t been able to talk to him, though… she still might not.

They'd had the kind of conversations that enable, in turn, this conversation. Joseph remembers speaking in whispers while they'd waited out the worst of it in that bunker, not knowing what kinda world was waiting for them above: I can't do this anymore.

It had been a confession, more than a declaration. Something about having Hannah back by his side, some about the crying newborn growing up quickly in hellfire. He'd seen children in shock, the way they got silent and glassy eyed, the way trauma warps their view of the world like melting glass, and long story made short, he couldn't do this anymore where 'this' meant being in the kind of place that let the sharp edges of the world cleave off parts of him. Both he and his wife have their share of nightmares, still.

He knows his wife doesn't think he's weak for it, either, but he feels a pang of something like suspicion of it that moves him to squeeze her hand.

"I don't mind waitin' up," he says, gently. "And, you know— you don't gotta protect me from everything, you know. You can talk about this stuff, even if I'll worry about it. We can figure it out together. We've been through too much for you to be doin' that."

Too much indeed.

The words hit too true. She knows it, she feels the pang of guilt for trying to hide things, it has her sitting a little straighter. "I know — " Kaylee breath out softly. "For better or for worse…"

Long fingers reach up to comb through the gray starting at his temple. She loved that gray… she couldn't help it. "I can't help it," her gaze watches the actions of her own fingers through his hair. "The nightmares of sitting at your grave… They still haunt me." Her other hand tightens in his a little. "Their getting worse again, because things seem to be starting again. Nothin' like the government doing things… more like things that remind me of the Nightmare Man… and…" she trails off letting herself look him in the eyes again, hand falling from his temple to rest on his chest.

"There are whispers about Adam Monroe," there is a grimace at even mentioning the man's name. Kaylee lets out a breath. But it is a name she has mentioned before… he was the reason the two of them are sitting here now. "I'm hoping it is nothing… that he's forgotten about me… that I ran away."

There is a small shake of her head, "I still can't help but feel like my past is starting to catch up."

"Weird thing about the past," Joseph says, settling back into his lean next to her, playing a little with her fingers, "and it's the same weird thing about the future," added, with a conspirational raise of his eyebrows, "it don't really exist like we want it to, if it exists at all. Like a photograph locked in a drawer, like a room we're about to walk into, and then we're confused 'cause it came back or it weren't what we expected it to be."

It's been a while since he thought about life's inevitability as a path of any kind. His has had too many twists and turns for him to believe that he was somehow destined to be by Kaylee's side, raising their kids. No, he made it so. They did, together, probably in spite of probability. Of prophecy, of pasts.

"All we got is right now. Don't matter where we been, or where we're supposed to be going. If Adam Monroe wants a piece of the present, then he'll just have to come try and take it. It don't belong to him."

"When the hell did you get so wise, Joseph Sumter," Kaylee only half teases. Her husband has always been the voice of reason between them both. The level head to her impulsive side. "You always know the right things to say."

Her head suddenly lift, blue eyes lifting to the ceiling. Kaylee was listening. Who needs a monitor when you have a telepath?

"You're right," she says after a moment. "And I am thankful for right now and every day that comes after; but, maybe I want to be selfish, too, and keep you around. To think about the future as more then a potential…" Kaylee sighs looking down the ceiling, studying his face, like she does like she's trying to commit it to memory. "I want that hope, that we'll get to grow old together… to have our grandkids watch us on the front porch dancing to the radio." Just like her grandparents… the story she told.

A woman has to have a life goal, after all. Role models to live up too.

"I don't know what I would do if I lost this."

Joseph watches her eyes lift to the ceiling, smiles a little, and then only nods to what she has to say, on hope for the future. Not unreasonable hope to have and hold onto. Maybe it's the kind of optimism he protects himself against, but he's not stupid — he knows well that it's the kind of hope that gets others through the day.

"You'd find out," he says, a little rueful, and squeezes her hand again. "But we're gonna do everything we can so you won't have to. I haven't read up on how seriously governmental powers take prophecy," and maybe he ought to, "but given y'all have contacts up there and Raytech ain't exactly small potatoes— "

Imagine that. Seeking protection and assistance from a reliable government.

A soft amused huff of sound escapes the telepath, a look is angled at her husband out of the corner of her eye. "Hard to get use to that," Kaylee admits, a touch ruefully. "I know we have contracts with them. I'm in meetings almost weekly with government officials, but… the idea of trusting them with the lives of my family and people." Her head shakes slowly. "It is tough." Might also be why neither her nor her brother thought of it.

"I'll mention that to Richard." There was one, not quite tiny, issue with that idea… and she lived in an apartment on Raytech grounds. "It's a good idea…" It really was, if they could figure out how to protect their one war criminal from scrutiny.

"I also have faith in, Mr. Bellamy," Kaylee seems rather certain of the former janitor's skills. "Though I fall a little bad that he gets saddled with this so soon after his promotion."

She lifts their clasped hands, to rest her cheek against the back of his hand, she looks tired suddenly… "I told Richard, I'm taking tomorrow off." The statement comes out of nowhere… Like an afterthought. An 'oh by the way'.

"Good call."

Probably, if Joseph knew about a harboured war criminal who'd run with Humanis First, as the only obstacle between Raytech and competent government assistance in preventing a massacre, he'd suggest: throw her to the fucking wolves. Maybe even in that language. He has his sore spots.

But part of the deal of heroism retirement is not getting to know everything and act on much else, so trust that Kaylee and those she moves with have their interests at heart maintains. It's an easy trust to have. His wife is, after all, a telepath, capable of seeing through minds and into the heart of people. He smiles a little crooked when the visible fatigue seems to set in, and he leans in to kiss her brow, before hooking an arm around her waist and sliding her off the countertop, his other arm ready to hook her knees up into a carry.

"Then I'm takin' you to bed. Sooner we get you upstairs, sooner you'll be sleepin' in."

There is no protest as Kaylee is scooped up off the counter, only a quiet laugh so as not to wake the kids, as arms moving instinctively to around his neck. Once settled into his arms her grip loosens a little, the look it gets from her speaks volumes… of love and affection she has for her husband.

Maybe she does want sleep… But also… maybe a thought sneaks in… He'll see the look, as thoughts shift, and she pulls his head down enough so that she could do that she had thought about when he first walked into the kitchen in that worn t-shirt and pajama bottoms… she pulls him into a heated kiss. Something short, quick… but also full of promise.

"Maybe you should call in sick, too," Kaylee whispers with a touch of her normal mischief, eyes filled with an unspoken promise. A finger moves to lightly tap his forehead. "I can hear you thinking about it", she teases mercilessly.

A strange voice told her recently that she had never fought for herself… that she needed to find her own desires… Her true self.

None of that was true.

She had fought for this for her - they had fought for this together. On many occasions they shaped their lives together and never gave up on each other. I mean, how many women could say their husband travelled through time to find her or take her hand and walk into danger. Not many. She knew her own desires.

Though at the moment… those desires were very simple ones.

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