Groundhog Day


jane_icon.gif luther_icon.gif

Scene Title Groundhog Day
Synopsis Luther wakes up after the incident in New Mexico with questions.
Date February 2, 2019

Kansas City, MO; A Government Hospital

Over two weeks ago, RayTech’s Head of Physical Security, Luther Bellamy, 6’3” and roughly 230 lbs with the AEGIS armor on, was airlifted out of New Mexico in critical condition. A concussion, internal hemorraghing in multiple spots requiring surgery, and several units of valuable blood later, the man had been wrapped like a mummy and nearly dead like one for the days following the New Mexico incident.

Interestingly, his listed contacts had included now Attorney General, Jane Pak. That he even had a listed contact, especially one so easy to find and one who had security clearance, came as very convenient for the hospital in notifying the Attorney General of his presence.

He’s been under for a while. The slow drip of IV fluids accompanies the soft, unobtrusive beeps of the EKG hooked to his prone form. The oxygen is there as a precaution rather than necessity, and that’s been the procedure here. An excess of precaution. Additional testing had shown Luther’s ability had, to use an ironic turn of phrase given the circumstances, “burnt out” from overuse. Classified pictures of the joint op given to her for a third-party case review had show the swath of fiery destruction Bellamy had nearly singlehandedly inflicted upon the region; wildfires that are, at present, still burning their way across the forests. The Deputy Secretary of the Interior probably blew a gasket, and the National Parks Service isn’t exactly a well-funded branch of government at this time.

But, the man to blame is still asleep. They’ve taken him off sedation and the waiting game to see if he wakes up has started.

Jane has seen the files, read the reports, signed off on several agreements that no one will ever see again. At least until classified paperwork is released in the far flung future. When no one cares anymore.

But it's her personal connection that has her staying at the hospital, not the official reasons. She's got her laptop with her, her feet propped up on his bed, her attention splitting between work and him. Music plays from tiny computer speakers— Korean pop music that usually plays when he wakes up in proximity to Jane. Maybe she's hoping it'll trigger a habit to get up and get moving.

“Remind me… Which one’s your fav’rite?”

Luther’s sleep-slurred, semi-coherent words roll thickly from the man at a volume just above the speakers and thinner voices of the poppy boyband. She may have missed the slightly increased pace of beeps that indicated a change in the otherwise steady heartbeat and drip rates. His mouth corners twitch in a faint, upward crook of a smile. In an attempt to move, he groans as he realizes that it’s not the best idea in the world. He’ll blame the drugs.

"Luther!" Jane sets the laptop off to the side and sits herself upright. "Don't try to move," she says, a bit too late to actually keep him from moving. "You really took a beating. You're in a hospital in Kansas City." Her hand comes over to lay over his, gently. It's that bad. "Do you remember— " she already said his name, so she cycles through to a different question to test his mental faculties, " —who the president is?"

It's as good a question as any.

Her warning, belated though it is, goes heeded as Luther settles into the space of his hospital bed. Beneath her hand, his normally warmer skin is cool to the touch. Already sluggish from being bedridden for several weeks, the man is slow to respond to her query. They had shown her the dented helmet he’d worn, all the more testament to the armor capabilities of the AEGIS set. Or, his sheer dumb luck. Either way, a test of mental faculties was a good idea.

“President? Rickham… wait…” Angled brows furrow, his eyes beneath attempting to focus on her face. She could almost see the mental map drawing lines. “Praeger.” Is that the right answer? Even so, it’s his final answer.

Fingers twitch beneath hers, and his hand twists so their palms meet. “S’good to see you,” Luther pushes of his vocal chords. How was it that even those felt sore somehow? And even his bleary-eyed vision needs a moment. Of course, once the moment passes in several blinks and he starts thinking, there’s a spike of his heartbeat and a tightening of his fingers around hers.

The initial, wrong answer has Jane reaching for the call button. Even when he gets it right eventually, she still alerts the staff. He'll need a more professional look over. Her hand moves over his, her other returning the squeeze underneath.

"It's good to see you, too. With your eyes open. You had me worried." He had a lot of people worried. But they'll have their turn to express it later. "I hope your boss gives you hazard pay, or I'm going to let Vinnie arrest him." She looks down at him, her smile small, but crooked.

His gaze follows the push of the call button, but Luther doesn’t protest to it. Expecting to be interrupted at any moment, he curls those fingers a little tighter. Testing the strength of them. The mention of Vincent and arrests chucks a niggling worry into the spotlight, making his angled brows twitch closer. “You wouldn’t…” But oh yes she would. It might be a little joke between them, but there’s an air of seriousness underneath it all.

“What about the others?” Luther asks after a pause to swallow dryly. “Are they all safe? Did they… come through?” For lack of a better way to phrase it. “Are they here, too? Did you get to see them?”

Jane's expression changes at his question. The answer isn't an easy one. "We gained some and lost some. The Ruizes, Eve Mas, they didn't make it out of the observatory. The Rays made it out relatively well. We found some of the travelers, but they arrived scattered all over, so we're not sure how many made it yet." She isn't entirely sure this operation can be considered a success . "No one is sure how this all will shake out. Could be everyone made it and everyone will come home. Could be the opposite of that." Her hand tightens on his, her features turning apologetic. "I wish I had better news for you."

The news as its related gets a round-eyed stare and sharp inhale from Luther as if he'd just been shot all over again.

The heartbeat monitor and breathing monitor spike with a prompt beep of alarm for the irregularities detected. His whole body promptly shivers, shuddering with a withheld swear, a silent and sudden slap of incredulity and then grief hitting him. The hand in contact with Jane's curls tightly as the man turns his face away, eyes staring blankly towards an equally blank wall.

She'd recognize that haunted look from Luther, the slam down of a weighty guilt coupling in a manifestation of the other stages churning within: anger, denial, bargaining, depression… and assigned blame unto himself.

His gaze returns to Jane, the man rendered speechless for that long moment. She's the first to see his wet-eyed, blinking look like he were trying to apologize to her for all the wrong ever done in the world. Then, another realization strikes him, another invisible slap. "Chess…" The name whispers out like a tiny branch to catch on to before the full plunge into an abyss.

He tries to move and sit up. It's a bad idea. But he tries anyway, hand releasing from hers to push at hospital's too soft bed mattress. The machines continue to beep with alarms.

"Don't do that, Luther, it's not your fault," Jane says, reaching up to touch his face. "It's not your fault."

It isn't long before the medical staff react to those alarms. Jane steps aside to let them work, but she doesn't leave and none of them ask her to. There are quite a few pokes, prods, and questions for him to endure during the flurry of activity, and it's quite a stretch before they're left alone again. After the nurses mention that he needs rest. Jane comes back over to sit on the edge of his bed, her hand coming to rest on his leg. "A little pushy, aren't they," she says, of his crackshot medical team. Her tone doesn't make it to jovial, but she tries. "I'll keep you updated as we get more reports. If you want to be updated."

Though he hears and understands the words, the touch, Luther has yet to truly acknowledge and work on those issues. Everything serves as a distraction, from Jane's touch to the insertion of the medical team that comes in. Several questions are answered, most of them with a dissociative, neutral tone. One attempt is made at humor in answering a question, though it's awkward at best. The sharp look the nurse gave him for his retort of resting when he's dead thoroughly chastised the security chief.

Once the nurses have left and the machine alarms silenced, Luther does look tired again. Or rather, defeated. He reaches out a hand to cover Jane's again, gaze lifting and staring at her face. "I need to know what happened," he says, nodding to the offer of reports. "But, Jane. I lost it out there," he says quietly to her, holding her gaze but not entirely seeing only her there. His thoughts drift back to the battle, and brows furrowing down, he murmurs, "It was my team to lead. We were supposed to… I was supposed to protect them." Whether he means a nebulous them of the team he’d been in charge of or all inclusive them of the group in Sunspot and all those before it is unclear. But, she's heard this song before from him. Since their first meeting years ago, Luther had always been this way.

“God, she’s going to kill me,” he utters after another sharp inhale and wiping at his eyes with his free hand.

Jane understands. Her time in the military wasn't without losses, her own people included. So she listens, nods, and gives him a sympathetic look. "It's part of the job," she says, blunt but not unkind, "when we lead, sometimes we lose people. It's the price of taking people on. Doesn't get any easier." No matter how many times they go through it. "Tell me about losing it."

It sounds like an order, but he knows better. It's an invitation and permission to unload.

"She's not going to kill you. If she's mad it's because she cares about you. And she'll be glad you make it home again."

He could remember her telling him about Sanchez, and the reasons why they got into the fight at all. It was life as they knew it. Luther's head bows with the guilty weight of time, brows furrowing as he can't bring himself to look at Jane's face at first. "The bird psychic, Gray. She sent one of them, said she wanted to talk. Then she put this vision in my head. I don't know what really happened but I felt it. It was electric. And the screaming. Watching that man, Sylar, turn to nothing but ash."

Shutting his eyes, he steels himself against the intrusion of other visions, the sort that haunted him from his past during the 2nd Civil War. "After that, I remember turning around to give an order and then… it was like… I got mad. I lost it. Everything felt like, like it was on fire." Because it was.

The hand that had wiped his eyes reaches up slowly to the back of his head, feeling the bandage and gauze. The pause grows long. Luther knows he could have died right then. Maybe should have. And for what?

But he's still here, and finally turning back to look at Jane, angled brows twitch up and he stares at the woman seated there, uncertainty colored in embarrassed realization of his condition. That she was here, spoke volumes. "Are you mad?" he asks tentatively.

How many soldiers have shared stories like this with Jane? How many Evolved? She listens with her hand on Luther's arm, her touch meant to be encouraging. And comforting. "It was a lot, out there. You weren't supposed to have to go back to war." There's no blame in her voice, or her expression. Maybe some in reserve for the people who put him in this position, but none for him. "It's over now."

His question gets an amused quirk of her lips and she shakes her head. "I'm not. Just glad you're okay. And thinking maybe you were safer as a contractor."

A wince crosses over Luther’s features, only partly because of the realization of how much throbbing pain he feels in his physical body. The rest of it no doubt comes from the harsh pain of truth in Jane’s words. “Not sure which number person you are to have said that,” he rumbles, not meeting her eyes and instead looking down to his medical tape and heartbeat monitor covered hand. “If enough people say it, must be true, right?”

Luther shakes his head slowly and settles back, exhaling a tired sigh. “What happens now?” The question comes out almost rhetorical, but it’s also a question pointed to the Attorney General for a reason. The top voice of the law of the land, so to speak. The man’s brows pinch together as he reviews what’s in his mind. What’s on his mind. “They're just going to send me home?” he wonders aloud, “Or, I’m going to be responsible for what happened out there.”

After a beat, he realizes belatedly, “I don’t feel… right.” He flexes a hand, fingers reaching invisibly for the energy in the room and getting nothing. Luther frowns again, turning to Jane at that revelation.

"I can't speak for everyone, but I'm very wise," Jane says with a crook of a smile. But her hold on his arm isn't as lighthearted as she's trying to appear. Especially when he asks about the near future.

"No one at RayTech is being held responsible. As far as the government is concerned, this was a SESA op that went sideways. Ops do that. You aren't going to be held responsible. What you are going to do is stay here until they clear you. Then you're free to go home or anywhere you want to go." Jane's fingers drum on his skin, dancing with the thought she has drumming in her mind. "Maybe you should stay with me a while. Until you feel a little more like yourself."

She can help with that. In a myriad of ways.

When he reaches for his power and fails to reach it, she relaxes her hand against him again. Her tone becomes softer than he's used to hearing from her. "You pushed your power a little far. You'll need time to recover from that, too. Just like everything else. It should come back to you, though. You're still testing SLC-postive."

Though he knows Jane means to be reassuring, Luther continues to frown faintly when he’s told he needed time to recover from overuse of his power. The unsettled, impatient expression creeps up - an expression she knows all too well out of the man - as he grumps out a noise low in his throat. Luther turns a sidelong glance towards the door and turns over thoughts on her invitation. At least that’s what he reads it as, when he flips his hand over to grasp hers, to bring up to lips. “You’re an angel,” he says around pressing a kiss onto her knuckles. “And thank you, for all that you’ve done. For staying.” As if he couldn’t be more sentimental, pushing an added sense of longing into the show of affection. Around her hand, he works up a smile back at her, one that’s kind of crooked at the end. “And for the invitation to stay.”

That bit of grumpiness gets a crooked smile out of Jane, a teasing shake of her head and a a sympathetic look that's more playful than sincere. Not that she doesn't have sympathy, but just that he has no choice but to wait it out. Poor thing.

When he kisses her hand and starts complimenting her, her gaze turns up toward the ceiling before she looks back to him again. "Don't tell anyone," she says dryly, "I have a distinctly devilish reputation to maintain." Still, her hand tightens around his and she doesn't correct his assumption, so he must have read her right on the invitation. "You'll be back on your feet in no time, Lu," she adds, more genuinely, and she leans over to press a kiss to his forehead.

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