Heavy Lies The Head


jared_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title Heavy Lies the Head
Synopsis Damn it, Richard, I thought we were done with this! I'm too old for dimension-hopping daughters and yet another war!
Date June 3, 2018

RayTech: Jared's Apartment

RayTech has spared no expense where the could make their employees' lives easier in this city. Jared's apartment might not have been the brownstone that he owned before the war and it might not be luxurious, but it's really nice — the large, open layout makes him feel comfortably at home when he's here.

The bell at the front door ringing is not exactly expected, but it's not a shock either — he's a social kind of person, so people are regular visitors to his door. He's just not sure if he'll open it to find his de facto grandchildren bounding in to steamroll him into making cookies with them or something else.

With the new security protocols being put in place, however, he's more careful than he has been in this past year, verifying who it is before opening the door. "Richard," he greets the younger man with an easy smile. "Come on in. I just put coffee on, would you like some?" He asks as he gestures Richard into the living room and then closes and locks the door before following.

“Jared.” Richard looks like he hasn’t been sleeping very well, shadows beneath the eyes but the faint smile is genuine enough as he walks inside, wearing his usual work suit. Maybe it’s a little rumpled, but he’s never really been good at keeping his clothes ironed. His sisters nag him when it gets too bad.

“Please. Some coffee sounds great, black please,” he asks, glancing around, “Anyone else here?” Casual, but it sounds like a this should be a private conversation sort of question.

"Nope," the lawyer drawls out slowly. He hasn't missed the more strained look Richard's been wearing lately. A month in the Pacific Northwest followed by an assassination of one of our own will wear on anyone. It is wearing on everyone — he very much liked Remi.

He goes into the kitchen, his gaze calm but focused on the young man who has become family. After pouring the coffee and giving Richard enough time to pace the length of the living room a couple of times, shift his weight to the balls of his feet, cross his arms, and bounce in place for a couple moments, Jared brings the drinks in and hands one to Richard.

"You might need the decaf, son," he teases lightly. But there's genuine concern as he lowers himself into an armchair slowly with his own coffee. "Do you need to give me a nickel?" Invoking the old ritual is always a good indicator of whether one of the kids or grandkids needs dad/granddad, just venting space, and/or serious advice.

At the question, Richard slips a hand into a pocket of his jacket and produces one - holding it a moment before flipping it over. He already had it ready, which probably isn’t a good sign for the direction the conversation’s going to go.

“I’m… going to have to explain some wild stuff,” he says, easing down to sit across from the older man, “Some of it might seem a bit unbelievable, but— “ A wry almost-smile, “— you know the sort of life I lead. I work with six impossible things before breakfast. You need to know it, though.”

The old man blows out a slow breath. Richard hasn't actually done this since the days right before the war when he told Jared about all the shit that had led to his daughter's death. He leans forward over his knees, coffee cup clasped in his hands between his knees, his blue eyes intent on Richard.

"Hit me with it," he invites quietly.

Where to start? Richard leans forward as well, hands cradling the mug of coffee as he watches the steam rise, letting his thoughts drift like the patterns of it in the air’s subtle currents. A slow breath is drawn in, and he begins.

“I’ve been… looking into my parents,” he says quietly, “Evidence surfaced that my past was— somewhat counterfeit, and I didn’t know why. I found out why. My mother was a hypercognitive— her ability was literally ‘the smartest fucking person on the planet’. The Company was watching her. She invented something. It was a machine, a machine that could look into… alternate realities.”

He looks up at Jared, “A world where I didn’t stop the nuke in Antarctica. A world where Phoenix didn’t stop the virus the Vanguard were building. Every major decision is a branch, a new timeline, potentially. Everything that could ever happen, happened, somewhere.”

Now might not be the appropriate time to tell Richard Ray (née Cardinal) that he's already aware of the massive gaps in his background. Although he'd had not one but two PIs who attempted to find anything after Liz had told him Cardinal wasn't dead, neither'd really had luck. He'd actually figured WitSec or something, so he'd quit digging — and Richard had long ago proven to be a man worth trusting.

This information, though — the younger man is asking a lot of suspension of disbelief with this one. Except Jared is something of an old sci-fi man. "So… you're talking about the Guardian of Forever, essentially," he muses thoughtfully. "Only instead of changing one thing in the past and coming back to the present and finding it changed, the timeline splits off from itself and just keeps going. There was a show in the '90s like that, if I remember right. Interesting premise." He pauses. "You're saying your mother built the Sliders gate?"

“I remember that show.” Richard’s lips twitch up a bit at the corner of his mouth at the memory, “Sabrina Lloyd. Now that was a— anyway.” He waves a hand slightly, “Not.. quite. I mean she didn’t mean to. She thought she was building a device to see through time, she just got the… axis wrong.”

He grimaces, “There was a big aerial display when she turned it on. An aurora. The Company panicked, moved in, everything went wrong and exploded. She ran— into the street. Car hit her. Dead on arrival.”

A slow breath’s drawn in, “So. We come to present day. Edward— I’ve told you about him— left me one last instruction. Be on the roof of the Deveaux Building on December 25th, this year. I also acquired a prophetic painting of that roof, with a display that looks exactly like my mother’s device. The Looking Glass. Logical assumption is that someone will be coming through from another timeline.”

One eyebrow quirks clear up Jared's forehead practically to his hairline. He couldn't look more skeptical if he tried. "Okay… you do understand that for all that you've told me, I'm still something of a fossil and what you're suggesting right now sounds ludicrous, right?" He holds up a hand. "That said? I've seen more crazy shit since you walked into my world than I ever thought possible."

He reaches up and scrubs the back of his head with his fingers. "None of this sounds like it's of the earth-shattering proportions I feared when you set the nickel down, though." He peers at the younger man. "So what are you dancing so hard around?"

“There are more things under heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies,” Richard quotes, his head shaking, “I have video evidence, and paintings to prove all this, if you’d like to see them. I keep track of things. And…”

He takes a sip of coffee, looking down at it. “Some kids found a tape in the sewers. An old tape… not from this timeline. Watching it showed that it was a test of a Looking Glass type procedure in another timeline that ended up sucking the video recorder through, dumped it in this world. Jared…”

He draws a slow breath, then looks up, “Jared, Liz was on that tape. Our Liz. Trying to get home.”

The lawyer pales visibly. It's probably a really good thing that he's sitting in the armchair. Frozen leaning there on his knees he has this rather dumbfounded expression, as if he can't comprehend the words that just came from Richard's mouth. The coffee cup that he was holding between his knees drops unnoticed to the floor while he stares at the younger man, its contents flowing across the floor unheeded.

Jared swallows hard, and the sudden breath he pulls in gives away that for a few moments there he actually wasn't breathing. Even now, it looks a little more shallow than it should.

“We… we have the recording,” says Richard quietly, watching Jared, “It’s not just wishful thinking. It’s her. The— the black hole, I guess it went all the way through.”

He draws in a slow breath, worry in his eyes as he looks at the older man, “Jared?”

Shit. Please don’t be having a heart attack.

One hand rises to drag down his face, his fingers pulling at his cheeks until they reach his jaw, where his mouth opens as if he's going to say something.


Silently, the older man gets up and walks across the living room to the small cabinet on the far wall where Richard knows he keeps the bottle of Scotch that is occasionally indulged. Two glasses are pulled from the row on the cabinet and Jared fills them each with two fingers of Scotch — and this is the good stuff, mind you. The really expensive imported shit — and proceeds to bolt one of the glasses as if it's merely a shot glass. With the back of his hand to his mouth, he stands there staring at the wall. And then he pours three more fingers of Scotch… and then goes back and adds two more… before he brings both glasses back to the seats. He holds one out to Richard, his hand trembling, and proceeds to park his ass right back in that armchair.

Without one word.

Well, that’s understandable, thinks Richard, reaching out for the glass himself. “I… double-checked everything,” he says quietly, “I checked all the prophetic songs, found clues there. The borders of precognitive paintings. I had experts go over the recording.”

He takes a swig of the scotch whiskey, eyes closing as he falls silent for a few moments, letting the burn die down. “She’s alive,” he coughs then, “And she’ll be home on December twenty-fifth.”

Jared's jaw is tight, a muscle ticking near his ear. Richard can almost see the teeth grinding behind the deceptively calm face. It's the same expression the man's daughter had just before she totally lost her shit and knocked him into the ocean, if he remembers correctly. Maybe it's good that the old man is not powered.

Maybe it's good that he's got a lot of years of discipline to call upon to keep from killing the messenger.

He takes a healthy swallow of the contents of his glass before speaking, clearly choosing his words very carefully. "As I understand it, not all prophecies come to pass, Richard. Some, by virtue of others simply being told about them, are actually thwarted. How can you be certain that this one is not one of those?"

“Precognitives can be… wrong,” Richard admits, his head shaking a little, “You’re right, there. Prophecies can be changed.”

He looks back at the older man, at his lover’s father, for a long moment before he says in quiet tones, “But Edward isn’t ever wrong. I believe in him. And I believe in her. If anyone can get home from another god-damn dimension, it’s her.”

Jared swallows the rest of his Scotch in one go, the glass resting in his lap while he reaches up and props his head on his other hand, elbow on the arm of the chair, to rub his forehead and stare at the man he's come to think of as a son. "You know," he begins in a tone of mild aggravation, which he then cuts off before completing the thought.

He breathes in and then out in a slow fashion, his mouth a tight line that he wipes the corners of in agitation. When he stops, he's got his fingers covering his mouth while he studies Richard. "I can't wrap my head around this just yet," he finally says in a grim tone. "One part of me wants to smack you upside the back of your head for believing this bullshit and tell you that someone is fucking with you," Jared informs him. The smack to the back of the head has become one of those rituals just like the nickel. "Another part of me is screaming in rage in the back of my mind because you told me. And God help me, Richard, if I let this sliver of hope in and you're wrong…"

He shakes his head and has to look away, toward the far wall of windows looking out over the balcony and street. The struggle isn't a small one.

“I know.” Richard brings both hands up, rubbing them over his face as the other man says that, the drink set down between his feet, “I know. You’d fucking kill me if I didn’t tell you, though, Jared. You can’t deny that.”

"Yup." The simple acknowledgment is unadorned. Blue eyes the same color as Liz's turn back to Richard. There is a hint of the heartbreak the man is feeling only in the tears he won't allow to fall.

Resting his head back against the chair, Jared observes quietly, "How many times has that woman cheated the Reaper?" Because once the whole story — at least as Richard knows it from his own perspective — was told, the old man had to literally boggle at the sheer number of times Liz had been almost killed in a two-year span. His daughter had been waging a war that he hadn't even known was being fought. "She doesn't know the meaning of the word "quit," and you wouldn't come to me if you weren't 200 percent sure of your information." Because Richard is still a secretive bastard. "So… I guess we're going to have a hell of a Christmas present this year, don't you think?"

“If I’m wrong…” Richard manages a faint smile as he sits up, “…you can shoot me. I’ll even hand you the gun. I mean. Preferably in the leg or something instead of my head, I mean, I don’t want to die.”

He leans back, then, a hand raking through his hair, “And you’re right. She doesn’t quit, and that’s why I know she’s going to make it. No turning back this time, because they’ve got miles to go before they’re back to their lives…” The last sounds like a quote.

The fact that it sounds like a quote catches the older man's wandering attention. Jared shakes his head and observes quietly, "I've been watching you for the past several months, Richard. And I'm neither stupid nor blind. I always thought it was crazy when someone like my grandfather would say that things go in cycles. But he was right. And the last time I saw those particular tight lines in your face, I didn't understand just how badly the world had gone to hell when I wasn't looking." He sighs heavily. "If you need me to do something — anything — you know where I am. Don't think you have to keep me out of things to protect me. If Remi's death does nothing else, it proves that some things out there haven't changed."

There’s silence from Richard for a little while as he looks up at the ceiling.

“I can feel it happening again, Jared,” he admits finally, “The past is catching up to us again… the remnants of the Institute are moving around out there, there are people who died in this world who’ve come from a parallel world to cause shit here - and apparently start a colony in fucking Washington. Someone killed Remi. Someone tried to kill Kaylee. I had to send a… I had to send one of my people away because the government was breathing down my neck and they don’t believe in second chances.”

“I don’t want things to get as bad as they were back then.”

Leaning forward in his chair again, Jared looks him straight in the eye. "Then don't let them," he tells the younger man shortly. "You have a habit of isolating yourself and then taking on responsibility for things that aren't yours alone to bear. You have people around you. You have me, you have Kaylee and Val and Warren. You have contacts that I can only imagine. What you don't usually have is the …. how shall I phrase this?" He pauses a moment, seeking the right words, a little less quickly than usual thanks to a hideous amount of Scotch swallowed in the past half hour. "Your strength lies in your knowledge and your ability to put pieces together to form a coherent picture of what's happening out there. Perhaps some of your mother's hypercognition actually translated to you — you're one of the most intuitive puzzle-solvers I've ever run across. But you don't like to share, Richard. You hoard what you know instead of trusting the people closest to you. You need…"

Jared's never put it together even in his own mind in quite this way before, but now that he says it aloud to the man in front of him, the epiphany is blinding. With his hands clasped between his knees again, he smiles faintly. "Think of your team like a ship crew, if it helps… you're the captain, you deal with the big picture. You have a ton of information at your fingertips. The first officer on a ship deals with the relationships of your team, building the ties that keep you together. Disseminating the information to the people who need it so the job gets done and constantly in communication with those people to share new information and updates. Information is not meant to be hoarded — it's a tool to be used, and the more people who are trained on the tool, the better the outcome is."

He pauses and swallows hard before saying quietly, "Your first officer isn't home yet. So you're going to have to step up for a while and do the things she would normally handle for you — the relationships part. The sharing part that draws a team of people together to fight a common enemy or fight toward a common goal. This time around, have a little faith that people actually want the same thing even if you're all using different methods to get there… and try just talking to them, son."

“I lost literally everyone within a week of her… going away,” Richard admits, scrubbing a hand over his face, “I'm not good at… people. Christ, Jared, I don't even have any friends anymore. I have family, employees, and a cat.”

He sighs, offering over a faint smile, “I'll try to be more— open. I'll see who I even have to tell about things. You're right, I mean…”

Leaning forward, he picks up his drink, “You know what the worst part is? There's a part of me that loves this.”

Jared moves to set his empty Scotch glass down. He's probably going to pay for that indulgence later — he doesn't look foxed as yet, but it's starting to hit, most likely. He hasn't done anything about the coffee on the floor yet either. Some things… are more important.

He can't help the faint grin when Richard confides that to him. And he sighs a long breath. "Yeah… it's a bit fucked up," he agrees mildly. "But there are a lot of old soldiers, Richard, who would understand exactly how you feel. Who never quite learned how to live in the everyday world because they've always fought for something and have no idea what to do with themselves when they're not fighting."

With a roll of his shoulders to ease the tightness where shock created muscle knots, the lawyer comments quietly, "In a speech once, Reagan said, 'If not me, then who? And if not now, when?' You have impressed me more than you'll ever know with your willingness to stand up and fight. I just want you to remember you're not fighting alone." He reaches out, gripping the younger man's arm tightly and holding his gaze. "You never were. You only thought you had to."

The hint of a smile tugs at Richard’s lips, the hand not holding the glass reaching to cover the older man’s on his own arm. “In a very real way, this is literally what I was meant for,” he admits, “Edward… arranged things left and right, I’m pretty sure. To make me what he needed. To make me what the world needed.”

He shakes his head slightly, “You’re right, though. I’m not fighting alone… and maybe I need to reach out again. We don’t need to fight in the shadows anymore. Maybe it’s time to fight more in the light for a change.”

He's never spoken a word about Edward Ray to Richard, so his thoughts on the other man are entirely his own although the fact that Richard has been groomed in some ways to follow the prophecies and the string maps… well, he worries. "You helped start a war so that these fights didn't have to be fought in the shadows anymore," he points out quietly. "If you're just going to fall back on those old, secretive patterns… why did we bother?"

One more brief, tight squeeze of the younger man's arm, and Jared moves to get up. "Let me grab a towel to clean up the coffee. I think I might need another cup, young man. And meanwhile… sit here and fill me in on what we already know about this ridiculous alternate dimension situation. Those are words I never thought I'd say out loud to another human being," he mumbles somewhat grouchily.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License