It Was You and Me


nick_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif rue4_icon.gif wright_icon.gif

Scene Title It Was You and Me
Synopsis The conscripted commiserate over coffee.
Date December 14, 2020

The Reach

By the time the sun’s risen, its light reflecting off the snow in a near-blinding shine across the mountainous terrain, Richard was already up. He didn’t sleep well, not in this house. Not that the bedroom wasn’t comfortable, but perhaps because it was too comfortable.

It was his bedroom after all - in a strange roundabout way - but a ‘him’ that he’d murdered in cold blood several years before he’d ever stepped foot in it. There are a lot of ghosts in this house.

It’s around breakfast-time now, and while others might be looking for sustenance he’s standing at one of the front windows, a cup of now-lukewarm coffee as he gazes out over the view.

He loves it, of course. Which is all the more irritating.

Footfalls sound behind him, not heavy but not trying to be light — Nick can be stealthy as a spy, but he doesn’t try to be when he’s not skulking around doing CIA business.

“Morning,” he says, voice a little rough from want of sleep. He heads directly to the coffee pot, pleased to see it full but for whatever’s in Richard’s cup. “Cheers if you made the coffee, mate,” he says, poking around the cupboards to find the mug and pouring some for himself. He takes a sip, not minding the heat or needing the caffeine more.

Long but slow steps — so he doesn’t spill the coffee — take Nick across to where Richard stands admiring the view. “I’d almost say the trip was worth it for this view alone, but honestly I could’ve gone without seeing this if it meant not having to know what we know, and worse, needing to go deal with it,” the Englishman says, not looking to Richard but out the window at the frosty landscape.

“I’d ask if you’re alright, but if you said yes, I’d call you a liar or a madman. But,” Nick glances at Richard at last, out of the corner of his eyes. “How are you, I suppose is a little more open ended.”

Wright pads into the room looking bleary-eyed despite the hot shower and make-up. She looks across the room and Richard and Nick only momentarily before silent fetching herself a mug and filling it. She takes a sip and sighs, It’ll have to do, before rummaging around for sugar.

With her coffee augmented, she finds a place to sit close enough to not have to be yelled at to communicate, but far enough away to stay out of the conversation if it seems more prudent. She pulls her legs up under her and nestles back into a hideous burnt orange cuboid chair.

Knowing that she’s not going to have to go trudging through the mountains or stare down a scope at anyone or perpetrate a B&E, Rue’s actually bothered with her make-up today. Enough foundation to cover her freckles, liner to make her eyes appear wider and more alert, neutral shadow applied. Ginger curls have been released from last night’s braid and shaken out to give the coveted I woke up like this impression. The mauve lipstick is her signature, and part of her hopes it’s a bitch to wipe up off the coffee mug she’s going to drink from.

It won’t be. She can’t stand make-up that makes doing dishes harder.

Despite all attempts at best appearances, she’s not well rested. Save for her boots, however, she’s dressed for the day with a cozy blue sweater over her layers. She’ll probably add another layer of pants before traveling, but for the house, this is fine. The wool socks keep her feet warm enough as she makes her way into the kitchen. “Morning,” she greets quietly on her way to retrieve coffee. She’s not chipper.

Once she has her prize, she flashes an empathetic glance Wright’s way before joining the men at the window. There’s a brief touch of her hand at the back of Nick’s shoulder, a look and a small smile exchanged before she goes back to cradling her mug. “First of all, who the fuck gave the sun permission to shine this bright this goddamn early in the morning? Second of all, what the fuck? What the fucking fuck.”

No one has ever accused Rue Lancaster of being eloquent.

Richard’s silent for a few moments to consider how to answer Nick’s question. After another sip of coffee, he finally answers with the possibly-unhelpful but entirely-accurate response of, “Haunted.”

The profanity from Rue brings the hint of a smile to his lips, and he glances back over his shoulder to her. “Yeah, right? Not exactly what I was expecting, but…” A breath’s drawn in, then exhaled in a sigh, “I suppose I should have. I can’t escape him. Temporal inertia and all that bullshit, I guess…”

He looks back out the glass, “This place is literally perfect for my tastes and I can’t stand it.”

Nick’s reply to Richard’s answer is just a nod. What else is there to say, really? He doesn’t have time to say much, though, because they’re joined by Wright and Rue, and he turns to murmur a good morning to each.

“What a long, strange trip it’s been,” he says, which serves as a reply to both Richard’s sentiment and Rue’s, and probably the expression on Wright’s face as well.

He turns to look at the interior and then back over to Richard, smirk emerging. “Your taste could use some modernization, but the architecture’s nice and you can’t beat the view. Too cold for my blood, though.”

After another sip of coffee, he adds, “I still say we could have accomplished this via a conference call. Maybe the Frequent Flier miles’ll be worth double.”

Wright gives Rue a wave and a weary smile as she passes. She perks up a bit when Rue breaks the seriousness of the moment with an explicit rant. Richard and Nick’s admiration of the architecture earn them a baffled quirk of her eyebrow at their backs. They must not have young children with no apparent proprioception who would sheer themselves in half if they ran into any of these sharp-ass concrete corners. The thought reminds her that she could really use a hug from the Tiny Baby Ames.

“If we went with a teleconference we wouldn’t have been in a controlled environment where they could keep us from immediately reporting them to Interpol while they try to explain why we shouldn’t,” she says in response to Nick’s comment. “Have we figured out why we shouldn’t?” The question comes off as mere curiosity. Richard was almost certainly party to explanations other than her own unexpected and stressful conversation with Joy last night.

There’s a flicker of sympathy unconsciously passed to Wright from Rue that doesn’t show in the little smile she exchanges with her over her shoulder. “This whole knowledge of the apocalypse could have been an e-mail,” the redhead murmurs with her own chipper brand of sardonicism, bringing her coffee up for a sip. “I’m sure some precog told them we aren’t going to call Interpol.”

Regretfully, Rue shakes her head. “We aren’t, because if the Second Great War Relic is at all legit, he’s probably got a tight hold on things. We report Broome and we’ll either be discredited, or… I don’t know. I’ll probably get brought up on more bogus kidnapping charges or something. Some conspiracy nonsense and we’ll all disappear if we want to try and break up the ballgame.”

This is about the time where she’d normally just leave it with a succinct and singular fuck word. Or an extravagant stream of profanity if she’s feeling a need to underscore a particular mood. But Rue continues at length instead. “That and the panic if what we were told here actually got out. Raith’s right. Things were bad enough when news of Expressives broke. We’re still a fractured global society because of it.” This is all surprisingly well-spoken of her, for someone who likes to remind people she’s just a model when it comes to acuity. “Tell people armageddon is at hand? Humanity as a whole isn’t good in times of darkness. If these are the end times…”

Rue puffs out her cheeks with a heavy exhale. “I don’t know about you, but I slept on it and I don’t trust anybody else to handle this garbage heap except us. We’re good at this.” They have a decent track record between them, at least. Her own opinions on her last performance with Wolfhound notwithstanding.

“Shit’s all fucked anyway.” There it is.

Richard gives the snow outside a look before admitting dryly to Nick, “So do I. He did this on purpose - he knows I hate the cold and snow. That’s why he built all his stupid secret bases places like here and Alaska, so I wouldn’t accidentally stumble across them.”

He turns away from the window, then, shaking his head, “Rue’s right, of course. Even if we were only trying to save one world, that’s billions and billions of lives. Multiple…? It doesn’t matter what they’re all guilty of. This is bigger than that little bit of justice we might find from trying to turn them in.”

The cup of coffee is used in a motion towards Rue, “And like she said— I don’t trust anyone else with it either. Who else? The US government? Christ, they took all the evil scientists that you at Wolfhound picked up, shoved them in a box and told them to custom-build a virus they were going to release world-wide to kill Adam and anyone genetically related to him. And if you don’t think Mazdak’s infiltrated the government in multiple branches, you’re underestimating them.”

“No,” he grimaces a little, “This is what I do. It’s a shitty job, and I’m sorry to ask you to join me on it, but I can’t think of many other people I’d rather ask. You’re all uniquely qualified for various reasons.”

Nick nods in his agreement, glancing over at Wright with a wry smile. “Asshole sounds like he has some pull with CIA, and my guess is someone with Interpol US protecting him, so even if we did inform, he’s probably protected. It’s bloody ironic that I ended up working as a spy for the agency that Raith was working for when he had me killed.” Or the start of the same agency, anyway.

After taking a sip of coffee he turns his back to the view, finding a wall to lean against. “I’m not sure I’d say I’m that good at what I do, given that I’ve devoted the last decade of my life to trying to find these war criminals and bring them to justice, only to walk into one’s den only because he orchestrated it. But I’ll do my best.” He smirks, wrapping the coffee in both hands. “My best seems to suck, but it’s yours for the taking.”

“Any idea how long it will take to set up the IRIS? Elliot’s ability can’t be maintained past a few weeks,” Wright lies, testing. If it’s as simple as drop it on the ground and go then they might not need Elliot either way. If it’s going to take longer, she can bite the bullet and point out that she’ll actually stay linked to him past that expiration date. Assuming their link survives the trip, anyway.

“And how much intel do we have on the root timeline? Or on the mechanics of time travel and parallel timeline transference via the Looking Glass? And what was it about Mateo Ruiz that made a return trip possible that we won’t have this time? Asking for a friend,” she clarifies, “Who is a huge time travel nerd who might get stuck there.” Elliot merely nods in solemn agreement.

“To be fair,” Rue sing-songs to Richard, “you didn’t ask us to do shit. And I don’t want to hear any of your—” She clears her throat and rolls her eyes. “It was me from the future-past but also future garbage, either.” By the time she’s on the last two words, she’s dropped back into her own manner.

Nick gets rounded on next when he disparages his own skills, with Rue’s brows lifted. “Hey. Excuse me? Don’t talk about my partner like that. He’s pretty great and he’s made it this far, so he’s doing better than you seem to think he is.”

Immediately she whips around to face Wright, suddenly (play) stern, snapping the fingers of her free hand and pointing at her — but really at Elliot. “Not one fucking word.”

God, he’s taught her that particular counterargument and she’s actually using it against other people.

Rubbing her hand over her face, Rue gives a serious consideration to Wright’s concerns. “Well, what we don’t have that the others did, is Walter.” Slowly, that ginger head turns to look toward Richard again. First, just out of the corner of her eyes, then full on. “We don’t, right?” She shrugs one shoulder as she brings her coffee back to her lips, murmuring around the ring of the mug, “Wouldn’t be the first temporal manipulator you had stashed in your closet.”

“All three time-jumpers that I know of are dead or otherwise off the table,” affirms Richard with a slight shake of his head, “And Ruiz— Mateo was able to open a sort of portal into the space between timelines. If you fed in sufficient power, it could breach the next timeline and offer a… safe-ish leap between. Unfortunately, he no longer has that power and I believe that the Mateo from Root is dead.”

He grimaces, “Which leaves few options for getting back. Even if they have a working Looking Glass portal, building one on the other side isn’t an option either, they lack the industrialization through most of the world for that technology and frankly I’m not a scientist anyway. I’ll… start looking into options outside this group.”

A breath’s drawn in, and he takes a sip of coffee, “This timeline branched off the root a long time ago, but the primary difference for our purposes is that Operation Apollo failed, resulting in the flooding of most of the world. We do have a fair amount of intel on it, largely thanks to a sizable number of refugees that we took in from that timeline. My mother and I are both native to that timeline, as well.”

That’s probably news to most of them.

Rue’s reprimand draws a chuckle from Nick, and he shakes his head. “I don’t need a pep talk, Rue, but thanks. Just pointing out the latest in a long series of ironic happenstances that seem to rule my life. I continue to be Fortune’s fool, but I’ve accepted that a long time ago.”

He doesn’t seem too down on himself, his tone matter-of-fact, before he turns to listen to Richard’s explanations and musings.

“Speaking of ironic,” he adds, though the Brit looks fairly impressed at learning that Richard’s not from the same timeline as the rest of them. “You’re still the same you I’ve always known, though, yeah? Not a second one that’s popped through in the last couple of years, and supplanted the first? Because that, mister, is getting a bit played out,” he adds with a smirk. The humor doesn’t quite reach the man’s tired blue eyes.

Wright presses her fingertips to her chest in a playful What, me? The feeling of someone addressing Elliot through her is a strange juxtaposition of her conversation with Joy last night. Mostly though she shares Elliot’s curiosity at Rue’s willingness to call Nick her partner.

And it seems that Wright did not in fact know that Richard hailed from an interdimensional elsewhen. “Well, Elliot will be happy to hear that,” she says as though he didn’t just hear it himself, as if he wasn’t already happy to have heard it. “He’s always been worried that in the unlikely event of an interdimensional journey he’d slowly get sick and die.”

She doesn’t feel the need on her own to elaborate until Elliot suggests she might want to. “It’s from a book series he was obsessed with as a kid,” she says. As though he isn’t still kind of obsessed. Still rereading the same tattered paperback that he’s carried with him since middle school. His oldest surviving comfort object.

Rue freezes for a moment, glancing back at Wright with some kind of apprehensiveness and awkwardness. She continues to hide it behind her mug and another healthy sip of coffee at first. Then, she turns and stares out the window again instead, clamping down on the empathic bleed of her momentary shame and enduring concern.

“Heh. No, I’m the same me you’ve always known, Nick,” Richard says with a slight shake of his head, “I came through when I was literally days old, I didn’t even know until… relatively recently, to be honest. The version of my mother in this timeline died before I could be born. And— nothing to worry about there, Wright, Elliot— we have extensive evidence that there’s no harm living in a non-native timeline. Your resonance eventually shifts to match the one you’re in, even, although we’re not sure how long it takes.”

“Root is… well, if you’ve ever seen that old movie Waterworld, it’s basically that. People living on the tops of old skyscrapers drowned by the flood, flotillas of boats and ships everywhere. When we took some refugees in, the one settlement we have good intel on was about to be attacked, so we don’t know its current state. Hopefully the OEI has more current information.”

He looks down into his coffee, hands wrapped around it, “I… look. It seems that the more I run from the Institute the more it dogs at my heels, so I guess I might as well embrace it. But I— I need people to make sure that I don’t turn into him.”

Nick lifts a brow at the mention of Elliot’s long-term worry then chuckles lightly when Wright explains it came from a book, and nods as if that makes perfect sense to him. His expression sobers again as Cardinal explains the Root timeline.

“Shit, Take a big bottle of vitamin C with you when you go so you don’t get scurvy, mate,” he murmurs. “And I volunteer to punch you anytime you show signs of becoming Big Dick, so long as we’re in the same dimension and on the same continent.”

He glances to Rue and then Wright, his dark brows lifting “We need a code word for when we need to intervene. Wanker Alert? Too obvious?” Despite his light words and attempts at levity, he gives Richard a more solemn nod for the other man’s self awareness and caution.

“I think Old Yeller would work,” Wright says. “Though, Richard, if you’re worried about using resources provided by the fruits of evil to perform tasks without oversight maybe, I don’t know. Burn it to the ground and start something new.” She shrugs, but doesn’t say Just make sure Simon’s still in the house when you do.

Elliot gets Rue’s attention to say, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to draw attention to that. I’m not upset, just surprised at your progress. Still happy to be your boyfriend. Proud of you.” The only emotion travelling through the network is Elliot’s regret at having caused Rue to shut down. And Wright’s honest dislike of what is most likely the idea of Simon Broome remaining alive.

“I just wish I hadn’t said it,” Rue murmurs softly so as not to disrupt the other conversation. She shakes her head slowly, regretful herself. “I just feel foolish all around.” Nick didn’t need that pep talk, after all. “Don’t worry about it, though. I’ll feel better after my coffee.” It might take two or three mugs, but maybe she won’t care about saving face once she has enough caffeine in her.

“Yeller’s a good one.” That remark comes in a voice raised, intending to be heard. “But hopefully it never comes to that.” It’s important for Rue to convey that much, lest she appear to Richard to be eager to remove him from the equation.

“The fruits are already there. I’m not going to waste them just because some monster made them off the blood of others. At the very least we can try and make something good come of their suffering and death,” says Richard, and he doesn’t say it lightly; there’s a weight to it, that says a part of him will always blame himself. After all. Wasn’t it him, in a sense?

“I hope so too, Rue. I hope so too…” He takes a deep breath, “So. Let’s see if we can do things right this time.” The coffee’s raised up in an easy toast, “To a bunch of ghosts and spooks saving the world, then.”

Nick’s glance at Wright suggests he doesn’t disagree — in fact, he’s already said something similar on this trip, and he’d be happy to offer his lighter to set the entire thing ablaze. But there are resources here, and they may as well make use of them. He nods at Richard’s sentiment, and lifts his own mug, wishing it had something more heartening than caffeine.

Za nas,” he murmurs, British accent shifting to Polish. “So remember, if any of us cold-cock you after hollering Yeller, it’s all for the safety and preservation of the universe.” He grins over at the two women, like this might just be a power he’ll abuse.

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