Friends, Not Family


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Scene Title Friends, Not Family
Synopsis Brian goes hunting rumors in the interest of forging an alliance.
Date October 2, 2011

The small town of Moab, Utah


It was like coming out of water for a gasp of air. The whole world was changed at this point. But New York was the eye of the storm, the pit of chaos unharried by order. There were checkpoints to get past, police to avoid. And a lot of it had to be done on foot. But the further he got from New York, the noose felt lighter. Get to Pennsylvania, steal an old car, move a bit further.


Finding under the table work took some time. But with enough copies of yourself you can work up a good bit of money pretty fast. Farm hands, manual labor, landscaping. Eventually Brian was able to consolidate enough to buy an old beater. An old Dodge Ram that now belonged to one Brian Chevalier.


Find some work, get some cash, fill the tank. There were some close calls some days, though the further he got away from the east coast the more freedom he felt he had. It was an uncomfortable living situation, but he found a system and learned to make do.


Less talk of Phoenix now, less PARIAH. They were words that people may have heard of, but other words were the focus. What was here and now. The Guardians started to filter through the air more commonly. It was time to get to work. Sending off copies of himself to keep finding odd jobs, making money, continuing the trip but now listening. Carefully.


Weeks were spent shuffling back and forth. Listening to this person, following that one. Light contact with suspected individuals then falling back and waiting. Little to no fruit born. No results, all potential contacts fell through. More digging around. More nothing. Money starting to dry up, he was going to have to focus more on getting under the table work to sustain himself out here. The more bodies he made to dig up clues, the more bodies he had to feed and hydrate. The more hotel rooms he had to purchase, cash only. He had sent out one Brian ahead with the Dodge to go further west, back to California. Until a small paper crane appeared on his doorstep at his cheap motel in Salt Lake. Moab. Eklecticafe. 11:15 AM. 2 days.

Getting to Moab was more difficult than he originally would have thought. He had to pool the last of his money together to get another beater, which didn't make the trip. He had to hitch hike some, and hoof the rest. The young former agent Brian Winters, sweat dripping down his white shirt, came practically hobbling into the small town of Moab at 11:30 AM. Using the jacket to wipe sweat from his brow the sleep deprived Winters looks at the small note he had scribbled for directions to this place. He was late, as hard as he had ran. Asking for directions the young man continues his way through the small town until finally finding the small cafe in question. Trying to gather himself as best as possible, trying to make himself look somewhat presentable more sweat is dabbed off and the jacket donned. The cafe is entered, and his eyes dart about the place.

Moab, Utah. A little hole-in-the-wall town, larger than where she'd grown up but smaller than those she'd been haunting of late. The kind of town whose lifeblood depended on tourism and thought nothing of adding two more strangers to the mix, especially not at this time of year, when the snowbirds all flocked in. Despite all this, and despite understanding the peculiar symmetry that had brought her here, Moab, Utah was not quite a place that April Silver felt comfortable in. The name alone roused too many unpleasant memories.

Still, the woman had taken a table in the cafe, and settled in to wait even when the clock ticked on past the appointed time. April filled the time by working her way through coffee and some variant of a southwestern salad with studied nonchalance — although her choice of seating had been carefully exact, putting her back to a wall and leaving two fairly clear routes out of the building, as well as a view of the main door. Dressed in cutoff shorts, a simple but durable green tee, and hiking boots, with dark hair cropped very close to her skull, she could have been just another tourist visiting for the local hiking opportunities… although the paper crane sitting at her table's edge, turned as if to watch the cafe entrance, is a less typical touch.

Green eyes flick to the door as it opens and one rather travel-worn man steps in. Ah. If she had to guess…

Grey eyes flit around the cafe before the crane is recognized. The former agent takes a scan of the rest of the room before walking to the counter. The menu is glanced at for a few moments before Winter's face screws up a little in resignation and he looks up at the woman behind the counter with a helpless expression. "Just a black coffee please. Whatever size is medium for you. Or small, small's fine." Some wadded up cash is retrieved from the depths of the brown jacket and pushed across the counter. There is some light clinking as coins fall into the jar.

Stepping away from the counter the young man sets his path towards April's. He gets near the table when,

"Here's your coffee, hun."

A sheepish smile is offered to April as Brian turns to retrieve his coffee and then settle down on the table. His coffee set in front of him. A light smile is given to the woman in greeting. And silence falls over him, looking to her he then looks at the crane. "I'm sorry I'm late. That's ah.. That's an interesting way to set up a meeting you got there."

April watches from the edge of her vision as her probable contact goes about getting himself a coffee, then finally slides into the opposite seat. Setting her fork aside, she echoes his smile with genial sociality, the air of two acquaintances well-met. Interesting, he says; he's not wrong. The former prisoner, fugitive, freedom fighter glances to the white paper crane, then plucks it up from the table and folds it down flat. "Well, we do live in interesting times," she remarks with a faintly crooked smile, tucking the token away now that its purpose has been served.

She tips her head in the direction of his coffee. "You want something to eat with that? Seems like you had a bit of a rough trip." There's no edge to the question, no recrimination for lateness; just casual concern. "I admit, this place is rather out of the way, if you aren't an aficionado of outdoors sports. Takes some determination to get all the way out here." Which is a leading statement, of a sort.

"That we do." He answers, studying her a little more closely now at her remark. Looking her over until it borders rude his eyes go back to the crane. "More interesting in some places than others." He looks over his shoulder at the entrance of the cafe. "This is a nice little place."

"A couple of ill-timed decisions made it hard for me to get here on time." He shakes his head a little bit. "I'll eat later. To be honest I had no time to stake this place out as would have been my druthers. I have no idea who you are. Or what this meeting is. I have hopes. But for all I know this could be a trap." He gives a light smile, even were it a trap, there is no fear to be easily found in this man's mannerisms. "It took me some doing to get here. But hey, if this meeting is what I hope it is. It was well worth the work." He brings his cup up to sniff at the coffee, giving a relieved sigh at the welcome aroma. Lowering it back down he glances back up at her.

"My name's Brian, by the way."

April weathers the scrutiny in silence, situational hazard that it is — though her gaze flicks away, towards the street outside, so that she doesn't have to watch him studying her. That prickles her skin, stirs a murmur of disquiet. "It is, isn't it?" she agrees, gaze following an anonymous passerby as he crosses the width of the building. "Peaceful. Everyone just going about their own business."

Her contact — Brian — continues on, moving the conversation past purely casual subjects into those bordering on… well. Definitely not casual. As he does so, her overt focus recenters on him. "That goes both ways," April replies. "Hope. Suspicion." She smiles, a bit ruefully. "Though as the ones on home ground, I admit, we have a few advantages."

She extends a hand across the table. "April. I represent the Guardians, who I understand you've come quite a long ways to speak to." She smiles again. "If nothing else, I have to say, I admire your persistence."

As her gaze goes towards the window, Brian focuses on studying his coffee. He nods quietly to her assessment of the town. Listening to her while studying the black liquid before him has him smiling somewhat playfully. "A few advantages." A short exhalation of a laugh follows the words as he finally dares to take a sip of the coffee. Holding the cup away from his mouth he gives it a look post-sip as if seeing it for the first time. A begrudging nod is given. "I haven't had good coffee in a minute. Lots of gas station stuff."

As her hand goes out his coffee is quickly set down and he returns the favor, giving a gentle shake of her hand as his eyes go to meet hers. When her name and position are revealed his eyes look like they may nearly well up. "If that is true, April. Then I am so very glad to meet you." He responds softly. "It has been a good bit of work roaming around here blindly."

April chuckles softly. "I once went nine years without good coffee. I don't much recommend it." The words are light, delivered in an almost glib tone, but the smile accompanying them doesn't reach her eyes. She pauses a moment to take a drink of her own, then lifts the mug in Brian's direction. "So. Having reached us at last, what now? What is it you seek?"

"I could go nine years without any coffee, I think. But if you're still having coffee and it's bad. I feel like that's far worse." His smile in return to hers is genuine and sincere. Despite the suspicion he speaks of he does seem to be gradually opening up.

"That's a very good question." He smiles back at her. "I hope you don't take this personally. But I've been looking for a while. It's possible people other than the Guardians know that I'm looking for them. The people I work with have no shortage of enemies and…" He splays his hands out as if the rest of his concern is self-evident.

"My ultimate goal is to just get those who are working for the same thing in better communication. And I am uniquely suited to facilitate that kind of communication." He takes another sip from his coffee, before his smile fades some. "I'm very sorry that happened to you." His hand goes to briefly press at the side of his neck. "You probably don't remember it.. But." He gives a light shrug. "Still. I'm sorry. You have any memory of them?"

April can certainly fill in that blank, as Brian spreads his hands. "You came from the east coast, yes?" she says, as if that much hadn't been conveyed to her by others. "I can see how that might be. It's certainly… eventful… out there."

She would have said more, but her companion changes the subject, and not in a way April precisely considers congenial. The good humor in her expression dims as well, and she casts a thoughtful look Brian's way. "What, my souvenir of a night with too much alcohol?" There's another lopsided smile that doesn't reach her eyes, belying the facetious words. April takes another sip of coffee. "I wouldn't say I'm sorry. But it was a very long time ago, and I've moved on."

He nods in response to her first question. "New York." He offers before bobbing his head more in agreement with her opinion of the place and how eventful it may be. Though as he changes the subject and her demeanor dims, he takes on a more sympathetic expression, lowering his head somewhat. He turns his collar out to reveal a matching mark on his own neck. "I worked with them for a brief period of time. I'm thankful for some things they gave me. But I'm glad you've moved on." He gives a bright smile straining to bring the mood back up.

He pauses for another moment, holding his breath. His lips purse as if trying to map out his next words. Finally he settles in, "Things are getting even more. Frightening. In the east. I imagine if the west isn't that way now it will be soon. If we're all going to get by, we should all be working together. That's all I want. And as I said, I could be very helpful in making that happen."

April does a double-take as her companion implicitly admits to working for the Company — in New York? — and gives his face a closer scrutiny. But at the idiosyncratic remove of ten years, nothing surfaces except the vague sense that he might be familiar… and that might just be because she's looking for it.

Simple enough, and more comfortable by far, to let the conversation move on, when it does. Not exactly to happier topics, but certainly more current ones. Her lips downturn in an understated grimace. "I do watch the news," she agrees, pausing for another sip of coffee… and perhaps to marshal her thoughts.

"In principle," April continues, emphasis on the words light but definite, "you have a very good point. However, it is not our norm to bring inside those who come looking just because they are looking. You understand, I expect, what holes that can open up." She sets her nearly-empty cup aside, folds her hands on the tabletop. "That said, I think we see eye to eye on the value of working together." A brief smile, the most sincere one she's given in a while. "Say friends, not family."

At the double take Brian gives her an evaluating gaze. His lips part in effort to start a question though they are bitten back. As she continues to speak, and even inform him that he is to be kept at arms length his smile becomes bright and energetic once again. A light sigh of relief is let out as his eyes dance up to her. "I'm very glad you said that."

Moving his coffee to the side his hands are placed on the table, bridging his fingers together. "That suits me just fine. Though I believe we may operate better in the long term if all of us have a more familial connection…" He gives her a grin. "Friends for now is just fine. I think you'll see I have a habit of growing on people."

"I imagine we both have a lot of checking to do on each other. To make sure this meet is genuine and not a ploy but… Do you have any idea on next steps?"

April inclines her head. "We'll deal with the long run in due time," she replies, not disagreeing with his statements — on either front. The more personal conversation they haven't had, she leaves set aside, at least for the time being. Leaning back in her chair, the woman lifts a hand, ceding a figurative stage to Brian. "Well, you came out here like you had a plan. Objectives for this connection. So why don't we start there?" She smiles again.

"But maybe you should order first. I have a feeling that conversation might take a while."

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