Gone With The Coffee


faulkner_icon.gif isis_icon.gif

Scene Title Gone with the Coffee
Synopsis Isaac meets with Isis to discuss their situation — the rescue operations as well as their own situation.
Date July 2, 2021

Isaac (2.0?)
Friday, July 02, 2021 ᛫ 3:03 pm
Hey. What's up?
You free to get together?
Yeah, totally!
Cool. We need to talk.
Coffee shop by campus. 5-ish?
Yeah. Ok.
See you then.

The setting is too familiar and too bitter for the occupant seated and waiting…

The redhead keeps her hands turned in and tucked under her thighs, occasionally shifting her weight. She keeps her sharp little chin directed ahead, Raytech Campus looming through the window at her side. Isis keeps her hazel gaze down on the phone in front of her while steam drifts up from the two mugs at the table, casting a haze before her freckled features.

"Well, this is awkward," the familiar voice of Isaac Faulkner states with some amusement… bearing two cups of his own and a wryly amused smile. "Good thing this place has good coffee," he says, setting one cup by Isis's and sitting down opposite her.

"Thanks for coming," he says, more seriously.

Isis looks up with both brows lofted, but as her gaze readjusts to the duplicate coffee cups in hand… Well… Gods damnit, she’s smiling already. Her chuckle comes out an amused little puff of air alongside a gentle shake of her head. “I was just trying to get the jump on currying favor for The Talk. I hope this isn’t hurting the value of my bribe.” She finally recovers both hands from their tucked place and instead cups them around a mug.

“How’re you feeling?” Translation: I care, and can we at least pretend and do the pleasantries first?

"Nah. Good coffee is always appreciated," Faulkner says. Her question of how he's feeling sees him sober a bit. "Better. Much less fire, fewer assholes and killer robots trying to shoot me. Haven't had any seizures since, either, so maybe I've got some time yet. You?" he asks, setting his own mug down, then putting his elbows on the table, folding his hands together as he regards Isis.

Liner-embellished lashes narrow slightly around orbs of vibrant hazel. Some time yet. “That's good…” Perhaps pleasantries aren’t always pleasant.

“I’m hanging in. You know, like the kitten in the motivational picture…” Isis reaches up and turns her glassy, short-nailed fingertips into claws to cling to an invisible branch overhead. Her face even takes on a nervous smile, head canted so that gentle waves of amber slip across her countenance. After a second, a terse chuckle has her lowering her hands back to the comforting warmth of the mug. “So…” If two coffees were awkward, this part is just down right uncomfortable.

Faulkner laughs politely, giving a rueful smile. "Sometimes that's the best you can do," he says, letting out a sigh as he reflects for a moment.

Then he looks back to Isis. "Anyway. Let's talk turkey. I got a text from Kaylee. She wants me to try to convince you to stay out of this; she mentioned something about trying to get you to see reason, which I believe means trying to convince you to stay out of this," he says dryly, watching to see her reaction to that.

Depending on the reaction anticipated, one might be sorely disappointed. Instead of one, there are several - small, carefully reigned adjustments:

Isis extends and then recoils her slender fingers around the mug. She wets her lips in a small peek of pink before biting her tongue visibly between the subtle parting. Only then does she incline her chin, giving her the vantage of considering Isaac from down her tiny, button-esque nose as a delicate tension curves inward at her pale cheeks. “… And?”

While not as overt as Faulkner might have anticipated, Isis's reaction is perhaps not surprising. One corner of his mouth curls up into a wry smirk. "And I think perhaps Kaylee doesn't know you terribly well," Faulkner says dryly. Then his expression grows more serious. "Tell me honestly. If I were to attempt to convince you to stay out of this, what would you say the odds of success would be?" he asks, leaning forward, studying Isis intently.

Pursed pale lips expel the weight of a deep breath in a windy whistle of relief. “Wooh.” She may be on trial, but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t being tested either. The melt sets in, shoulders lowering slightly between curtains and coils of sunny-rose. She matches his smile, even holding his gaze for a short time before considering the depths of her coffee, trying to divine answers from the swirls of lighter cream color inside.

“To quote the Almighty Magic Eight Ball: Outlook Not Good.” She chuckles and shakes her head. “At least, that’s what I wish I could say.” She takes a deep breath and leans back, sinking into her seat in the universal body language of exhaustion. “In fact, it looks like you’d win. Not for lack of trying, I assure you. When one door closes, another door does, too. And another. And another.” She looks to the window and Raytech Campus on the other side. The lighting must be a bit harsh at that angle - she blinks her eyes in a few quick flutters and clears her throat.

Faulkner's eyes gleam with amusement at her Magic Eight Ball crack, his lips curling into the barest hint of a smile. The smile fades somewhat as she continues, though. "It feels that way, sometimes," he says, looking down at his coffee.

"For a long time, we felt… helpless about this whole mess. Trying to figure out what had happened to us. And how. And why. We're finally starting to get some answers, now… but they're not good ones."

“I cannot begin to imagine what you’re going through,” Isis responds quietly. His expression of helplessness drags her back to the present, attention shifting away from the window-framed corporate structure and back to the man across from her as he continues.

He lowers his voice. "The people who did this are terrifying. They got Kimiko Nakamura. They abducted a member of Wolfhound out of Wolfhound HQ, right under their noses. That was a year ago. The people who did this managed to keep it under wraps for a year, and in truth it'd still be under wraps except…" He shakes his head. "Well. We did finally turn up a lead. Or a lead on a lead, anyway."

He looks at Isis, his mouth tightening. "If it wasn't for Wolfhound, we'd still be up shit creek because they're on the other side of the world, somewhere in eastern Europe."

The redhead narrows her gaze momentarily, picking apart the first real pieces of information regarding the doppelgangers since the night she showed up on his door nearly four months ago. She lets silence sort the little breadcrumbs into their respective tiny piles and finally drops her gaze to the table. “Wolfhound. Raytech. Mazdak. Monroe. Nakamura.” Her voice drops an octave, sinking under the weight of her thoughts as they dive into deeper, darker depths. “Straus. Zimmerman. Shedda. SESA.”

She huffs quietly - part laugh, part scoff. “All these names. All these boogeymen we’re meant to fear.” Her soft lips curl up slightly at the corners. “Remember, they’re all just flesh.” Many of which she’s worn. Her gaze slides back up to meet Isaac’s.

Isaac regards Isis for a long, silent moment, his expression blank. "… and?" he finally asks.

“Aanndd…” Isis pulls out as a slight hiss, the demand to continue as much torture as it is liberation. “Each time you crawl inside expecting some epiphany and it’s just another meatsuit. It doesn’t matter what money, what motives, what ability.”

She looks over into the coffee shop, into and through the meatsuits people that mingle and sip and chatter and carry on. “And, I’m not afraid of them,” she manages, tight lipped. “I’m afraid…” The redhead inclines her chin, stretching against the tension that begins to knit into her throat with a clawing grip. “I’m afraid that most of my memories of you-… of him…” Isis closes her eyes - perhaps to search the memories of which she speaks. “Are going to be that look of surprise framed in a doorway.” He didn’t deserve that.

“Or worse, one day it opens and he’s not on the other side anymore.” She brushes the outer corner of one eye, flicking away the dust or eyelash or some other persistent annoyance there, before she risks looking back to that familiar face across the table.

Isaac is dead silent, his expression empty, his eyes dark and unblinking. "If you weren't afraid of that," he says at last, his voice soft and cool, "I would have concerns."

He regards her for a moment longer before shifting in his seat. "So. Let me say this," he says, frowning at Isis. "Whether they are flesh, or steel, or paper mache, or an assortment of brains in jars — it doesn't matter," he says evenly. "It doesn't matter. What matters is what they've done, and that despite that, and despite the best efforts of a large number of well-connected and generally clever meatsuits, it's taken us nearly a year to even find a hint of a clue."

"They're good at covering their tracks — really good — and they don't care about our well-being. The second they think someone's on to them, they're going to try to cut all liabilities, and that means our original selves become a lot more valuable dead than alive. And that means…" He raises a finger. "We only get one shot. To cross the world without drawing attention. To find exactly where we're being held. To get ourselves out of wherever they've got us, and then to make it back out of the lion's den outside that."

Isis chews on her lower lip, her gaze stuck on Isaac as his words pick apart her unseemly statements. Then the reality of their frail lead is set so obviously and painfully before her. She lowers her gaze and her head, heavy with understanding and more than just a pinch of chagrin.

Faulkner closes his eyes, leaning back in his seat. "Anyway, that's the quick version. Do you happen to speak any other languages?"

Her brows tighten nearer to one another and she blinks several times before lifting her head to reveal a popped brow. “ASL. Some Spanish. Conversational German. Why?” Her freshly humbled position takes her thoughts down a curious turn: Why hadn’t she bothered to learn more? She’d been chasing leads-… No. Correction: she’d been blindly turning down alleys praying for leads, for months now. And here she was begging to be of assistance. With what to offer? Meatsuit disguises. That Brian or Adam had found uses for the subterfuge inherent in her ability didn’t mean she could-…

“Fuck,” she says quietly, pulling her hair back with a combing of her fingers, blinking as if surfacing for the first time from a cave or perhaps even a deep well. Emotions. Ick. “I’m sorry.”

Faulkner observes Isis carefully… but it seems like he's made his point. He lets out a quiet sigh. "Me too," he says softly. "It's… kind of a shit situation. If we had more time…" He trails off, letting that sentence die — if only is the most useless pair of words in the English language. "No point thinking about ifs, I guess," he says ruefully. "Except two."

"The first: if we succeed — if I make it back — I'll give you the full rundown. The second: If we don't…"

Faulkner pauses for a moment to take a deep breath. "Well. We'll do our best to make sure that that doesn't come to pass, but sometimes things don't work out like we plan. So if we don't succeed… I'll leave a letter behind. With everything I know." He takes a breath again, his gaze on Isis. "If we should fail… avenge us. See that the people behind this aren't able to make anyone else suffer as we have," he says, laying a hand across the table, halfway to her. "Please."

His hand has barely brushed the table’s surface when hers is there - having resisted the compulsion to do that very thing so many times already. Her touch comes with the ever present reminder of her ability - a flutter to stir in amidst all the other tumultuous emotions lurking in the undertow of their conversation. It forces her to take a moment, focus, and center herself till the sensations lessens to a gentle hum in the background of one’s consciousness.

“I’d burn the whole mother-fucking place down,” she promises quietly. She slips her fingers under his palm, her thumb brushing lightly against the back of his wrist. Isis doesn’t bother promising it’ll be unnecessary. She doesn’t know enough to be sure the words would come with any weight. And, she can’t bring herself to lie to him - any version of him.

Hazel eyes, vibrant with flecks of gold, search his face intently. “What-… what is going to happen to you if you find them?”

Isis's words bring a smile to his face. "Thank you," he says quietly, relieved.

Her question, though, sees that smile widen, a look of happiness on his face. "I told you why I came to New York, didn't I? That I was looking for someone. Family. Well… it's not what either of us intended, exactly, but when he wakes up… he'll find he's got a twin brother now."

"I'll need to get another identity set up for me, of course. New name, all that. Beyond that… I don't know. A lot of what comes after is going to depend on him." His smile takes on a certain wryness. "Magic Eight Ball says: reply hazy, ask again later," he deadpans.

That smile could take her breath away. It has. It does still. It makes her grin like a fool, delighting in his happiness regardless of… everything. Isis's laughter is warm as the conversation comes full circle regarding the omnipotent, fortune telling Eight Ball.

Outwardly she's silent, but the way her gaze traces the contours of his features, of that smile, betrays the hurried pace of inner thoughts dancing around.

It's moments like these that she's love him more. The same moments she can't possibly comprehend why he might ever love her back.

He imagines Isaac sleeping.
She imagines him in agony.

He would welcome another self with open arms as family.
She would welcome another self with a long walk off a short pier.

Her thoughts do not drag her under this time, though, not when his smile is so bright. Instead, she simply shakes her head in fond disbelief. "A new name, huh? Something fancy, no doubt." She teases. "I can't wait to hear it." Her thumb brushes gently again.

"Fancy? Mm… not so sure," he says, still smiling that wry smile. "But we'll see what you think when I get back." When, not if; he's already brought up if once, and that's all he intends to say on the matter.

He squeezes her hand one last time, then lets go, drawing his hand back to close around the mug of coffee in front of him. The one she misses will be back soon enough, if they do their job right. "Anyway. The second thing I'll tell him — right after I explain why we've got the same face — is that you're here waiting for him. I know he's missed you," he says.

“How do you kn-” Isis cuts herself off before she can continue, visibly biting her tongue before it can betray her further. Of course he knows. She slowly pulls her empty hand back, fingers curling into a little fist that falls back into her lap. “Sorry. I-…” She closes her eyes. It’s easier this way, especially given the public setting of their little exchange. “I am fully aware I spend a lot of time apologizing to you - to him. To you.” The little redhead takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry I haven’t loved you better through all of this. You’re part of him, and-… I just-… I just don’t know how to do this right.”

But, surely someone knows. Someone compassionate enough. Someone selfless enough. Someone inherently good. She opens her eyes, meeting his gaze with a spark of realization. “What would you have done?” Her query is quiet, but not so much as to disguise the hint of desperation therein.

At Isis's apology, Isaac's eyes slip off into the distance; there's a smile on his face, but something about the set of his face, the tightness of his jaw, hints at pain, too… but in the end he only shakes his head, that smile still on his face, warmth shining through pain. "You never know the answer to a question like that until you're standing there. Not really," he says gently.

"I don't know what I would have done," he admits. "Hearts are tricky things. They go where they will, regardless of what the rest of us may think," he sighs, shaking his head… but then he looks back to her and gives that wry smile of his again. "And this really is quite a mess, isn't it? Clones and abductions and… all of that. All I can say is that I wish you — and him — the best. Think of me as an amicable ex, maybe?"

That tiny fist comes up to her sternum of its own accord, doing nothing to protect her from the wound of his words. They are an act of mercy… right? Releasing her in some way? Is that how these things are meant to work?

This isn’t her Isaac. Those are not the eyes that saw her in the greenhouse. That is not the hand she touched in the park. That is not the body she shared at a picnic before dusk. Those are not the arms that held her long after the sun had set.

And, that all has to count for something… lest we are all just meatsuits.

Isis gives a small, nearly imperceptible nod. “Yeah. Okay.”

If it is mercy, why does it hurt so much?

That's probably his cue to leave, honestly; they've addressed everything they came here to say.

But somehow he can't quite do it. He knows, in the very marrow of his (synthetic) bones that if he leaves now — if he turns his back on her — he'll be seeing her again, haunted by the image of her as she is now — a creature of fire and glory, diminished by the pain of a wound that he had caused, no matter his intention.

So he stands up, but he doesn't leave. Not yet.

Instead, he strides to her side of the table. "Hey," he says quietly, and opens his arms.

Isis begins to turn her face aways as he rises, aiming her distant glare for the campus outside. But, then - he’s still here. She turns back to follow his movements around the table with an expression pinched by confusion. Hazel eyes widen subtly and turn over him.

He should have walked away - ripped the bandage off fast and clean. But one mercy deserves another.

It’s not as if she could find the strength to deny him, anyway. She shoots up from her seat and slips her arms under his, her small hands splayed on his back. Her face is hot against his neck, and one last time she embraces this Isaac. “It’s going to be okay. It is.” Isis promises - for their mutual benefit.

Isaac holds her, one last time. "It will be," he answers, with conviction. "It will."

He holds on for a long moment — one more time. One last time. And then…

And then the inexorable march of time has carried them forward, and the moment is passed. Faulkner lets go; he steps back and away. "Thanks for dropping by. And thanks for the coffee," he says, with a wry grin. "We'll talk again after." After all of this is done.

Then his smile takes on a bit of a sadder look — the wound of a parting that's starting to heal. "Goodbye," he says, because it needs to be said. Then he grabs his coffee and turns to leave.

Isis steps back, hip bumping gently into the abandoned table. She steadies herself with a hand on the table, giving a tiny nod. “Okay,” she says again, voice small. “Later.”

It happens when he’s turned. When she’s faced with his back, forced to watch the first steps carrying him away.
The air rushes out of her with a force that makes everything ache from her middle up through her to the very sting in her sharp, hazel eyes. The pain of it curls her subtly forward, a free hand bracing to her middle.

Her boot shuffles, an imperceptible movement in the constant buzz of the merry cafe. Isis’s hand on the table shifts around the edge and holds on for dear life… the only way she can keep from running after him and undoing it all in a gesture, a word, a kiss, … anything.

Each step taken is more painful than the last. By the time he has crossed the room, she couldn’t call out if she’d dared - her throat seized and bitter raw despite having not spoken a word. When he reaches the door she can feel the shards of the curse holding her still, and herself together, come unglued. The sob comes out choked and hoarse, her hand flying up to muffle it as one or two people pretend not to notice with prying side-eyes. She turns away, head lowered so that the tears bypass her cheeks and fingers and fall directly to the small coffee-ring-stained napkin below.

Isaac doesn't look back. He doesn't let himself look back, despite the urge to do so that grows with every step, the gravity that settles on him as he walks, seeming to try to pull him back. His steps slow as he nears the door, dragging him to a stop.

His eyes tighten… but he won't let himself look back. For better or for worse, he isn't the one she came back to see… but in the glass of the door he can still see the reflection of the scene behind him. He tries not to look at it too closely, because some things hurt even viewed as a reflection in the rearview. "Goodbye," he murmurs, one more time…

… and then he moves forward, bumping the door open with his hip and stepping out into the daylight. The bell on the door jingles as it closes behind him… and Isaac Faulkner, the PHARO, is gone.

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