Just Like Her


elaine_icon.gif magnes2_icon2.gif

Scene Title Just Like Her
Synopsis Magnes reunites with the first Elaine he knew.
Date February 16, 2019

Outside yamagato-park

February, the night of the 16th, Yamagato security hasn't exactly been happy. Magnes has been doing this thing where, every time a red head comes through the main gate, he sort of dramatically swoops down out of goddamned nowhere. He doesn't go after her or anything, he just flies back up into the sky shortly after, looking a bit disappointed.

Security hasn't been pleased, and rumors have started to spread about a weird guy jumping out at redheads. To the point that they're getting ready to call SESA, and they've informed the known redheaded residents about the strangeness outside, and to show caution.

It isn’t as if Elaine doesn’t suspect something. She’d already talked with Joe and Emily and then even vague mentions of some weirdo lurking around? Yeah, that’s Magnes. It doesn’t matter if it is him or not, she’s ready in case any sort of flying weirdo attacks. As she slips out the gate of Yamagato Park, she has a brief conversation with security before she heads out.

Moving down a few blocks at a brisk pace, she pauses near a corner to wait for the car she’s called for.

Almost immediately, Magnes swoops down from the sky, landing much more smoothly than she's probably familiar with him being able to do. His hair is long, shoulder length, much different from what she'd remember, and he's in his dramatic long black coat and somewhat strange looking boots that seem fashionable but practical and handmade.

He stares at her, then suddenly places a hand on his stomach and hunches over, tears immediately spilling from his eyes.

Not a word is said, he just can't contain himself, his emotions on overload. She can feel that familiar but subtle physical weight that comes with his strong feelings.

While Elaine’s instinct when anyone appears out of nowhere from the sky is to pull the tazer she’s got stashed in her purse out, she doesn’t. It’s not because it’s Magnes and she knows Magnes, but it’s because he’s suddenly crying. Some witty comment she might have spouted about him just appearing or crashing from the sky is lost in the chilliness of the night air.

“Magnes?” It isn’t really a question, more of a test to see if he’ll respond. “Magnes, are you alright?”

She can worry about the fact that he’s not dead later. It isn’t as if she didn’t see this coming.

"We were together for seven years, I saw you die last month…" Magnes struggles to say, still not looking back up at her. He can barely get the words out, his body is practically frozen. But finally, he lifts his head, eyes red, looking directly into her's. "We were engaged. And you… you look just like her, and it hurts. Other than my daughters, I loved her more than anything in the world, I ripped open holes in the universe to get her a better life, and now… now I'm here and she's gone."

He inhales, then just stares up into the air, clearly with no idea what to do next.

“T-The fuck?”

She could accept he wasn’t dead, it wasn’t a far stretch. Nor was it unacceptable that he’d come from another universe. But to show up and then just suddenly pour out everything in a fit of emotion? That was what had her nearly tripping over her own feet as she places a hand on a nearby brick wall to keep from literally falling over in shock.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” She wants to say more, but she can’t. She wasn’t there. She couldn’t invalidate his experience. But in some ways, she understood what it was like to have something you loved ripped out from you. “I mean, if it bothers you too much, I can always go back…”

She gestures over her shoulder towards Yamagato Park.

"I needed to see you. You're… you're not her, you're still someone who means the world to me, and I don't want to stay away from you. You're not the same person. There were similarities, but… she wasn't you, even if she was. I just… seeing your face, I didn't realize how hard it would hit me. Or maybe I did, I don't know." Magnes groans in a bit of frustration, wiping his sleeve over his eyes. "I expected this to be you yelling at me and her laughing at me. That's kind of how I always imagined this whole reunion. I went to four different worlds in the time I've been gone, and I just… I always idealized what it would be like to see everyone again, and to introduce her to all of my friends."

“I mean, if I were her I’d laugh at you over all of this and how weird it is. But you’re right, I’m not. People change over the years and take different paths. I mean, I guess this would be seeing what I’d be like if I were in her shoes. Different paths, you know?”

Elaine tilts her head to the side as she looks at him, then looks down, fishing out some tissues from a little plastic pack in her purse. She reaches out her hand with the tissues to hand them to him. “Don’t wipe your face on your sleeve. You’re wearing a nice coat.”

She straightens herself up. “I hope at least seeing me isn’t making your pain worse. Because, regardless of what the universe has brought to either of our feet, you’re still important to me.” She rubs the back of her neck with her free hand. “I feel bad, you went through universes and you’re just back to the same old Elaine you started with.”

"This coat came from three universes ago, so I really can't replace it. I'm not even sure if the technology exists to make my boots here…" Magnes takes the tissues, wiping his eyes as he manages to smile a bit. "I've met so many versions of the same people. I think Qui— Robyn…" he quickly catches and corrects himself. "Changes the most out of nearly anyone I met, from world to world. Though I change pretty dramatically too. I was kind of evil and fought myself in the world where I met Elaine… other Elaine."

"You're not a consolation prize. When I first met her, when I realized that I had feelings for her, it was barely a few weeks into being trapped into another world. It kind of went, well…" He shrugs his shoulders. "You know how it was when we first met."

"But I told her about you immediately, told her that she wasn't you, that I wasn't trying to replace you with her, that you're different people. She was like, a nerd, a total bookworm, loved to teach children. And she looked at me like this awesome hero, believed I could do anything. Though, admittedly, she's seen me fight robots, pirates and a lot of super powered assassins, so… that kind of thing does impress a girl, especially when you save her from a doomed apocalypse."

"But you… I have my memories of you, I always told her about you and everyone else. I've gone through talking to alternate universe versions of people so many times, at this point, I don't have a lot of trouble thinking of them as different. But… something deep down makes it hard to fully separate." He walks a bit closer to her, examining her face. "Little things, little nuances, things you do, the way you move. So many things are still the same. My heart hurts, a lot, but you mean the world to me just like she did, because a part of me can't help but love you. I look at your face and I remember saving you a thousand times, breaking the laws of how reality is even supposed to work just so that I could see this face smile."

Elaine takes a moment to picture how things were and what had happened. The thought of Magnes explaining her to, well, her… “I mean, I can see it. She kind of sounds like a younger, less jaded version of me. You saved me when we first met so I know what that’s like, but you saved me from some assholes and some snow, not from an entire ‘doomed apocalypse’. I can kind of see where she’d be enamoured.”

She doesn’t back up under scrutiny, holding still so that Magnes can just study her. The same person, but not. “Things blend, though. Different universes are weird things but… I mean, we got Adel from it. I didn’t give birth to her. I didn’t raise her. But I got to meet someone amazing and beautiful and kickass and like… somehow I do kinda feel like I’m her mom. I’m the same person, I just took a different path. If our world had ended up going one way, I could’ve been her mom.”

She listens to him talk. “I don’t want you to hurt over me, though. I mean, like… I think it’s beautiful you found her. I think you probably made her very, very happy. But even if I’m not her, I look like her, so…”

She stops, looks at him, and just smiles.

"I just… it's not you who's hurting me, I've been hurting every day, for her, for other reasons. I've seen so many people die, stay behind, get hurt. Sometimes the same people, over and over. I even lost Robyn in one world, after I told her I'd save her, I couldn't… Our Robyn apparently experienced it, in one of those… visions." Magnes listens to her, realizing that there's certain things that need to be said, that he can't avoid. He briefly places a hand on her cheek, then lets go, rubbing the back of his neck. It's in that way that he does when he has a thing to say. "So, about alternate universe kids, and us…"

“Yeah, Robyn mentioned seeing other versions of her. They really fucked with her. Still makes me a little worried about her because of it.” Elaine glances back at him. “I mean, I’m glad you tried to help her, even in another world. I’m glad you went around helping people when times were tough. That really is heroic, you know?” There’s a long pause when she realizes he’s doing it again. “Alright, spill the beans. What’s up?”

"Years ago I got other Elaine pregnant. We have a little girl who I thought was Adel because I was still the young dumb version of me that you knew before. Uh, we started calling her Addie about the time I realized she was a pale redhead." Magnes stares at her about awkwardly, considering what to say next. "Things are a bit complicated right now, but you'll be able to see her soon, if you want. She's still very young, and she'll probably think that you're her mother… I have pictures."

Elaine coughs for a moment. “You got her pregnant?” Well, that was unexpected. Sort of. “You… thought you made Adel?” She scratches her head. “I mean, I guess that proves that there are millions of different butterflies that cause tornadoes…” She peers at her feet, then back at him. “But… you said she’s here? She’s young? How old is she?”

Her expression twists back and forth between excitement and concern. A daughter? One who might think she’s her mother? It’s hard to form actual solid feelings about that. So she doesn’t. “I’d like to see pictures.”

"She's six, and yeah, I uh, I got Elaine pregnant pretty quick. I don't really get it really, me and you had tons of sex without a condom, and I got her pregnant within a few weeks." Magnes looks thoughtful for a moment, as if he's never really had time to think about this. "Oh fuck it was the pill, that had to be it! Man, I was dumb. But I love Addie, so I wouldn't change that for anything."

He unbuttons the top of his coat, revealing a bit of his paisley purple shirt under it, then pulls out a layered plastic bag of photos and other papers and such. Probably the bit of things he managed to accumulate across a few worlds. Then, unwrapping it, he looks at a few things. One thing he holds up is an ID, him from some years ago. It says Ness Parker. It's a New York ID, but… much different from anything she's seen. A lot fancier looking, like something out of a sci-fi.

But then he puts it back, and digs through the stack of photos until he pulls a particular one out. It's of Elaine sitting on the couch, looking a little thinner than this Elaine, with different hair. She's doing Magnes' slightly shorter but still kind of long hair, and he's sitting on the floor in front of the couch, with Addie between his legs, the expression on his face suggesting that he's struggling to do her hair while the little girl laughs, playing with a stuffed bunny.

Then he just hands it to her, waiting for her to process.

“Or maybe I’m just infertile in this universe, who knows,” Elaine mumbles, but she trails off as she leans in closer to look at the photo, then takes it to look at it fully. And look at it fully she doers. It’s hard to read her expression at first, as a whole range of emotions rain across them. The photograph keeps her attention in utter silence for several minutes before she looks back to Magnes. She almost seems to have forgotten where she was as she glances back around for a moment.

“Your family is beautiful, Magnes. That’s… honestly the sort of thing I dreamed of having when I was a kid. You all look so happy…” Her voice shakes, just slightly. “I’m so sorry, Magnes. I’m so sorry for you. For her. For the little one.” She smiles faintly. “You with a six year old… that’s a fun thought.” She looks at the photo one last time before handing it back to Magnes. “Although if I meet her, I’m not her mother. I’ll be her Aunt Ellie. Especially because no one deserves to have the title of ‘mother’ taken from them, even if they aren’t here anymore.”

"Every Varlane has to have some weird existential stuff eventually. She'll get used to it. I'll tell you about some of the absolutely insane things I've learned and experienced when things settle a little. Honestly, I think what sums it up best is that this world looks like paradise compared to the last two worlds." Magnes takes the photo back, putting it back into the stack, then slides it back into his coat where it'll be attached to his gravitational field again.

"I still feel very empty without her, but also, meeting friends, seeing the Lighthouse Kids, I realize that I have to keep going for everyone, for my daughters." He looks over at Yamagato, rather fascinated by the entire area. "I'm trying to get in contact with Kimiko. I plan to ask her for a job. I kind of became a physicist. You have to become a physicist when you spend seven years figuring out how to travel across universes."

"I sometimes talked to her about feeling a little guilty. Early in my relationship with her, I took all of the mistakes I made with you, and then I improved on myself, I grew up for her as much as I could, but also for Elisabeth." He shakes his head, though, continuing on with his point. "I became what I figured you'd have wanted, based on the reasons you said you broke up with me. But I told her this, I never hid anything from her, because I never wanted her to think of herself as a replacement. But then I think of you, and I feel kind of bad that I waited until a different version of you to grow up."

“Well, weirdness is a Varlane trait. As long as you make sure she’s okay with how weird things are, I’m sure she’ll grow up just fine. And really? It’s just as important to have people around you that you appreciate that you aren’t in a relationship with. I wish I had learned that lesson a long, long time ago.” Elaine laughs, rubbing her neck a bit, then she tilts her head to the side.

“Ms. Nakamura? Good luck with that. She’s the CEO, not to mention I’m not sure how friendly she’d be to much of anyone.” She pauses. “Oh, right, since you haven’t been here… she lost her husband less than a year ago in a bombing. Someone targeted Yamagato. I almost died myself. Anyway, she might not be the same person you knew. I can’t help you there because I’m not really very high in the ranks, so I’ve got no pull.” Well, at least he’s been given a heads up.

She gets an odd look on her face as Magnes continues to talk. She looks a little more soberly at him as he continues and, when he’s finally done, she speaks. “Magnes, you would have grown up on your own just fine, with or without me. You could’ve disappeared for seven years and come back all grown up without a pretty redhead in your life. But you know what? Don’t you for one second disrespect her. I know what you told her. I know you told her that she wasn’t a replacement. She wasn’t a replacement because she was another living human being. She was another person. You grew up because you met a girl who was cute and got her knocked up and wanted to try and be a good father and not make the same mistakes. You learn from your mistakes, as one should. But you come here and tell me that you feel guilty you didn’t grow up for me? I know she’s not here, Magnes, but you were going to marry her. Her. Not me. You didn’t do any of this for me.”

"I know, I didn't mean it like that… these discussions are weird. Me and her had them sometimes. Existential shit is weird, we tried to work it out a lot, it made us stronger. I've always had a really weird guilt. It's probably childish, it's just a thing that's in my head sometimes. Being away, living this whole life away from everyone else. They're just things I thought. I did do all of those things for her, I'd do anything for her, but I always had guilt. She always said it was stupid." Magnes tries to clarify, then looks thoughtful for a moment before he looks back up at her.

"I guess it felt like I was cheating for a while. Not in the relationship sense, but like, in the sense of occasionally thinking what you might like and seeing if it works with her. I'm only telling you because it feels, like, I don't know, it feels like I should? She knew, but there aren't really rules for this." He looks down again, thinking, then considers, "I don't know, maybe it's that I keep thinking that I owe you something. I was last here seven years ago, I don't know what I owe anyone, if anything. I have a lot of confusion about all of this."

"Also I have a meeting with Sensei— er, Kimiko, next month." he states, as if that's some good news. "And I read about that. I've been hoping that she's alright."

Elaine glances back at him. “No, there really isn’t much when it comes to those sort of rules… I mean, there’s rules for nothing at this point. We’ve broken them all.” She waves a hand at him. “You can think someone’s dead and then they show up right in front of you seven years later.” She shrugs slightly. “But to be honest, you don’t owe me anything, Magnes. I suppose the most you owed me was letting me know you were alive when you could… which you did.”

She laughs, then rubs the back of her neck. “Yeah, the bombings were a mess. You should’ve seen how silly I was with my arm in a sling like that. Thank goodness all the doors and stuff at the Cresting Wave is automated or I’d have looked pretty ridiculous getting my apartment door open.” She nods. “But I don’t know much of Ms. Nakamura’s personal life. Maybe seeing you will do her some good. Kind of neat to see you a bit more grown up.”

"I don't always feel more grown up, but I do feel more capable than I was before. Though, I don't really think I'll change a whole lot. I met a fifty something year old version of myself, he was a lot like me. He might have even been less mature in some ways, but it was pretty insightful." Magnes realizes what he just said, then holds up a finger. "I'm over fifty years old in the Flood universe. It's, uh, a long story that I'm still figuring out. I'll tell you about it later."

Looking over at Yamagato again as she speaks, he frowns a little. "I'm glad you're okay, I don't think I'd have handled it well if you were gone too. My plan is to get a job here, get one of those apartments, and have a good life setup for Addie. Maybe Hailey too, I uh, I never knew she thought of me as a dad, that was pretty surprising. I don't think I realized that I had any impact on the Lighthouse Kids." Then, holding up a hand. "Don't say you, you don't count, that's just, way too weird."

"If I managed to get all of that, I might try to find a roommate, someone who can help me with Addie and everything. But I'm not really sure who'd both be free to just… be my roommate, and who I'd trust with Addie." There's a look of worry, a sort of parental look that she's very much not really seen on him before. "I don't… I'm weird about leaving her with just anyone, I don't even like leaving her sight. When we're together I try to keep her in my gravitational field, like a little moon. Being a dad is like… it's the best thing, and also terrifying all at once. Everything that I do, I have to think about her, how it'll affect her, if it'll make her life better, if it'll make her happy. She's like, the entire world."

"And… I know that Adel is an adult now, but now that I'm a legit dad, I just… I have to be there for her, I get what being a dad is now, and all I can think is that I have another daughter out there who only knew me as an immature kid." he admits, obviously not forgetting his other daughter. "She saw me turn into a blackhole, I asked her to shoot me back then, so that people wouldn't get hurt. She has to be traumatized…"

“You’d be surprised what an impact you had back then. As much as you could be a mess, you kind of had some things figured out. Hopefully a few more things now.” Elaine grins a bit. “But a roommate is good. Your daughter can’t just have you alone in her life, she’ll need a babysitter from time to time. Thought about asking Dee?”

Elaine takes a moment to look up at the stars, then back at him. “It’s actually kind of cute to hear you say that. Means you’re a good dad. She’ll always have someone to look after her and keep her safe, which is really kind of important these days. I think she’ll turn out alright, as weird as it is for me to say you sound like a pretty cool dad.”

“Adel took it pretty rough when you died… well… left I guess. She broke the news to everyone, which was… it wasn’t the easiest thing for any of us. But I think that she took it the worst out of anyone. I wish I saw her more than I do… but I don’t see much of anyone.” She laughs for a moment, then rubs her face. “I work too much.”

"I spent a lot of time literally figuring out if we should overthrow entire governments and change the nature of entire worlds for the good of the people in them. I escaped prisons run by evil dictators more times than a person should reasonably have to escape prisons. Hell, I had to consider how ethical it was to bring a bunch of people back here who died years ago. So…" Magnes just sort of throws his hands up. "I think I can handle raising a kid and making a few personal life choices."

"It's hard to imagine you as a workaholic." But then, thinking about Adel… "I have to see her. It's… it's so different. When I was younger, I knew, intellectually, that she was my daughter. But… now I feel it, in my very core. I know what her being my daughter means. I have to be there for her."

“Oh, sure, a kid’s easy. That’s only one, tiny, fragile life depending on you for everything and then you have to make sure they don’t go take over the world.” Elaine laughs. It’s a funny thought, but it really would make sense for Magnes to have a kid who tried to take over the world. “I’m glad you did get to feel that. I’m not sure I’ve ever got that sense and I don’t think I ever will. It’s a hard concept to grasp. Like you said, intellectual is one level, actually feeling it is another.”

She shakes her head a bit. “Well, believe it. I’ve become a lonely workaholic. It’s pretty tragic. My apartment is basically my second office as well. At least it’s organized. All of the apartments Yamagato furnishes are wonderful for connective technology. I could work while taking a bath, if I wanted.”

For a moment, she looks flustered. “… not that I do.”

"It was harder when she was a baby, I didn't know what I was doing at all. Elaine was already used to kids, she was a teacher in the bunker. She forced me to learn to change diapers and how to shop for proper baby stuff. I think that at the end of the day, I probably bought more toys than proper baby stuff, but I tried my best. I had a pretty well paying job even though my job ended by me being literally exploded and then put back together." Magnes pauses for a moment, for her to process that. "Which is when I woke up in a secret prison."

Just to emphasize the absurdity of the situation, he continues, "And then I led a jailbreak and we implicated hundreds of people in a grand corporate and government conspiracy, then fucked off to the robot apocalypse world."

"It's pretty crazy, really. Even though it was parallel, so the year is the same as it is here, it's still the world Adel came from. I… saw the kind of place she was living in, the life she would have had to lead, the dangers she'd have faced. I don't think anyone can fully appreciate how strong that girl is, to have survived all of that." He doesn't look particularly happy, because, well, she's his daughter. "We liberated that world, aside from the nuke, but, I just wish we could have done that for Adel."

"Sorry, I'm rambling." He considers what she says for a moment, then retorts, "I'd encourage any Elaine to do anything while taking a bath."

“You sure live a weird life, Magnes. I mean, if anyone else was telling me that I’d be like ‘holy shit what happened to you?’ but with you… it’s just a Tuesday.” Elaine shakes her head a bit. “I am kind of glad you got to see Adel’s world. I think you should visit her and tell her about it… I think that would bring the two of you a lot closer. She’s a bit of a workaholic too, last I heard from her.”

Elaine snickers slightly at the comment, but looks at him. “If you do get a job at Yamagato, take the time to appreciate the apartment. Seriously, that bathroom is the coolest I’ve ever been in. It also feels a lot safer there to me than anywhere else, especially living alone. I mean, that might not be a big deal for you but… safety’s quite a luxury these days.”

"I don't really take safety for granted. I think the more powerful I realize I am, the more that I realize I'm not all powerful, that I have weaknesses. Anyone with a gun can stop me if they act quickly enough. I try to be prepared, but I've learned that an ability isn't everything. I've been negated and depowered a few times. I didn't even have my ability when I led the jailbreak." Magnes looks down at his hand, opening and closing it.

"I need to think about the safety of not just myself, but other people. Hell, I immediately tethered you to me the second we started talking. I can be a little paranoid about things, always used to having to suddenly react. I'd love to live somewhere I'm not always on edge." He can't help but stare up at the sky himself, just kind of taking it in, the fact that he is here. It's something that's still surreal to him. "I've had to fight or deal with people we stopped in this world years ago. I never fully appreciated how awful, how powerful some of these people were. It pushed me to become better, forced me to try to reach my full potential, but it also forced me to realize my own mortality."

"The very first world I ended up in, where I met Elaine, I came across Hermod. He was a version of me who joined the Vanguard. We had a fight, a kind of dramatic fight. And… we had a discussion, about something I'll try to explain to you when I know more about it. The nature of who I am, what I am." He lets that sink in for a moment. "And then he just… right in front of me, shot himself in the head. I watched myself kill himself."

“To be honest it actually doesn’t hurt to be a bit paranoid. I don’t think I’ve seen what it’s like to live somewhere that you are completely at ease. I don’t know that it’s possible, really, because there’s always the potential that something will go wrong.” Elaine studies him carefully. “But yeah, at least you’ve become stronger thanks to all of it.”

As soon as he mentions Hermod, she blinks a bit, trying to picture the situation. “Magnes… that’s fucked up. Like, legitimately, that’s fucked up. I’d say you should see a therapist but I dunno that anyone can afford the kind of therapist you’d need to work through all your issues with.”

"I actually did have a therapist for a while, when I was in this one world. But I've gone through a lot more sense the last time I had therapy. If I don't have PTSD after being in a robot apocalypse, I'd be pretty surprised." Magnes looks around, sighing. "We should go somewhere."

"I'll get a therapist when things settle a bit. I still have a lot of things to fix, I need to find my father. Not to mention the fact that I had a secret sister and a bunch of other family stuff. My family is… very complicated. Mostly because my father is awful." He reaches out to take her hand. "Let's go to… I don't know. I'm not sure. I don't like being out in the open too much."

“Well, as long as you remember to do it. I don’t quite know how you managed to get through all that without just combusting from the conflicting emotions.” Elaine glances around a bit, then nods. “I suppose being out in the open is kinda weird. I’d offer my apartment but security already thinks you’re a threat, so it’s probably not wise to do that until after you have your meeting with Ms. Nakamura.”

"I'm also banned from Japan and I have to fix that too." Apparently the car will have to be disappointed, since Magnes holds her hand with a sort of gentle firmness, then flies her into the air. There's not really much in the way of vertigo like in the past, his flying is different, smoother, more stable.

He flies until he finds a rooftop that isn't a complete mess, carefully landing on it with her. "This is a lot better. Actually, it reminds me of how I proposed. Me, Elisabeth and Elaine all had a fancy rooftop dinner, then I flew Elaine into the air and asked her to marry me. She was still super pregnant. We were going to get married here, in this world."

Vertigo or no, Elaine is not used to the whole flying thing. It’s been quite some time since this happened. “You’ve been practicing,” she teases, looking around as the two of them land. “That does sound like a lovely way to propose to someone. I approve. You did well. I’m sure she was very happy.”

It’s sweet to hear what happened to this other version of her, but in some ways it makes Elaine feel vaguely uncomfortable. She shrugs it off in favor of humor. “I hope I would have gotten an invite to the wedding. I could’ve walked the bride down the aisle or something.” There’s a wry grin.

"She was always very excited to meet you. The whole idea of meeting you was always something she looked forward to. I'd have definitely invited you." Magnes lets her go, then reaches out in front of them as she says he's been practicing. He grips something in the air, causing light to distort slightly, then pulls, causing a slight bending of a small spot in space.

He lets it go, allowing it to snap back like rubber. "I had to learn a lot about my ability. It's a bit more complicated than gravity manipulation. I don't actually fly the same way anymore. I push dark matter to propel myself instead of falling up."

“I think it would have been nice to meet her. It would have been fun.” Elaine’s attention is drawn to Magnes’ display. “I mean, your ability has always been a bit weird. I never knew how to describe it as anything other than just ‘Magnes’. Some things are just too hard to put into words.” She smirks. “Which is funny, cause when it comes to abilities that’s where I’m pretty okay.” She taps her head.

“Can’t say if I’ve gotten better with mine, to be honest. Lots of things have changed over the years, but my ability is pretty much what it's been.”

"Addie can speak a bit in other languages, I think mostly because she taught her so much. If she has an ability, I don't really know yet." Magnes raises a foot, then steps up onto an invisible platform. Then he jumps up and down a few times, before crouching and staring down at her. "The older version of me shared a lot of insights about my ability. The whole belief thing goes pretty far. If I believe in myself, I can do a lot. I uh, I think the principle of this is that I'm standing on the dark matter that's kind of everywhere, or something. Older me isn't good at science, he does haiku."

“I feel like you could’ve used your ability to do a comedy act.” Elaine notes, pointing at his invisible platform. “But also, respect your elders. Haiku is an ancient and regal art and people always only remember the one about the refrigerator.” She shrugs. “I’ve read a lot of haiku. It’s what you get when most of your workday involves reading old Japanese manuscripts.”

"I mean, is he really my elder if he's me? I don't know, weird thought I guess. " Magnes jumps down from his invisible platform and lands in front of her, stretching. "He said I was terrible at haiku. But yeah, just… I'll need your help, moving forward. What I thought of as a life here, it's a bit scattered. I can get a job, I can blend in, I've had to do that so many times. But this is my home, I care, there won't be any other worlds. I don't know what it means anymore, what my goals are, what the future is. Hell, I spent years following psychic predictions, otherwise I wouldn't have even been able to make it here. I talked Edward Ray into being augmented, because I wanted to get home so badly I was willing to give a guy ultimate insight into everything on Earth…"

"Honestly, it was mostly for Addie, but there's no excuse. That's all over, and now I'm here, with no framework for what to do next, no one to guide, to take with me with the promise of a better world." He stares down at her, that confusion clear in his eyes. "This is the better world, and I'm not sure that I know what living is anymore, after spending seven years with one goal."

“What if you’re him? Ever think of that?” Elaine grins as she looks back at Magnes, but her expression sobers as he mentions this being home. She sighs. “Magnes, I hate to tell you this, but I’m no oracle. I don’t have a great life. I mean, sure, I’ve got an apartment I love, a job I’m good at, I look great on paper. But I’ve not got things figured out. I can help you get settled back in, I can share with you what I’ve seen and heard and what things are like now from what we went through without you here… but there’s no book to follow. If there was one, I’d have read it by now in whatever ancient language it was written in.”

She offers him a wry smile. “So now you’re back in the place I was before… everything I knew and loved was gone and I had to just find my way with the few connections I had. I had to find my place in a war, I had to find a way to still stay connected to my friends even with being so far apart. So the first thing I’d put on the Magnes Varlane To-Do List is to go to your daughter and make her smile.”

Elaine pauses. “You said the other me’s smile was something you’d do anything to see. So… she lives on in your daughter. Make her smile and see what that makes you feel. See what it makes you think of. Sometimes you can find direction and purpose in something simple… and other times you just have to drag yourself back to your feet and hope your heart heals.”

"I mean you have Robyn." Magnes says, before he looks down at her hand, and then it's like something suddenly hits him. "Wait… did she call you her ex… I was so emotional that night that I don't think I paid attention." It seems to boggle his mind a bit, and he looks completely shocked. "Well shit. I guess we'll have to figure all of this out. I really wish I was here during the war, I feel like I failed my own world in a way. I could have done something, I know I could have, I've done it before. When I think about how much I did for other worlds, and then I look at what happened to my own, it almost feels like I failed. Me and Elisabeth, Isabelle, Lynette, Ruiz, Ling, Kain… saving the world is like our thing.""

“Well, I had Robyn. She gave me back her engagement ring, right when the war was hitting, right when shit was getting real. She ran away. I mean, I’d be lying if I said she didn’t hurt me, because she did, pretty badly. I learned how to get by on my own a bit… kind of ended up just trying to reinvent myself. We started talking again maybe a year or so ago, I finally just sort of said I’d try trusting her again.”

Elaine rubs the back of her neck. “So I’m basically feeling things out with her, I guess. It’s still insanely scary because I trusted her so much in the first place that trying this again is like…” She shivers. “I just don’t wanna get screwed over again, you know?” She looks at him seriously. “But you can’t blame the problems of this world on yourself. You don’t have to save the world, sometimes you just have to live in it.”

"I'm going to assume that you already did all the yelling, so I'll leave that alone. When I get settled with Addie, maybe I'll put the band back together and we can try to be a bit normal, I don't know." Magnes' hand goes back to his stomach, like some sort of anxious tick. "I have so much to worry about right now, I just want to hurry up and be done with it all so that I can start processing. But the consequences of what we did in other worlds still aren't quite over, I have to finish a few more things, and then I can rest."

"But not saving the world, that's a tricky thing when you've literally showed up to worlds like a team of messiahs there to save everyone. When you've stood between and felt connected to a vast expanse of infinite universes. When you can literally touch the fabric of reality." He reaches out and plucks space, causing a little rubbery wiggle of distorted light. "After a certain point, you start to feel like everything is your responsibility, that everything that goes wrong is because you didn't act fast enough or smart enough…"

The idea of putting the band back together is one that makes Elaine smile, just slightly, but she lets it fade as she watches him. Observing, listening, she’s mostly still while he fidgets. “The weight of this universe is not on your shoulders, Magnes. You weren’t here for seven years and we didn’t destroy ourselves. We just lived our lives, as people do.” She sighs. “Here’s the thing, Magnes. Remember that part about there being no rules? No guidelines for how to go about living? That means it doesn’t have to be your responsibility.”

She points at the little spot of light he created. “You’re only responsible for the things you make yourself responsible for. You get to choose that. You like science, right? Stop thinking macroscopic and think microscopic! The world doesn’t need you to save it, your daughter needs you to be her dad.”

"I guess the key here will be to make decisions that keep my daughter safe, and go from there. Maybe working for Yamagato will be a good way to make the world better. Though it's a bit ironic that I have to make sure that scientists don't discover certain things about how the universe works, even though it's probably inevitable." Magnes stares at his hand in deep thought, because there's just so much to consider. "I can objectively prove certain things and throw the known models of physics into disarray. I know scientific concepts that aren't even in science books. And it's all dangerous, it feels like being the guy who invented the nuke, except I've already seen what happens when it gets out."

“Magnes, take a second and just breathe, okay? You’re getting weird again.” Elaine lets out a little huff of air, peering over at him. “Science was never my thing but what I do know is that you’re good at it. However, everything you’ve said to me tonight in general makes me want to just tell you to relax, slow down. Give yourself the chance to be a person again, not just a ball of science or a hero. Go find a hot tub and stay there for a few hours and stare at the stars and don’t think about science, just think about how pretty they are. Just do something for yourself that reminds you of the fact that you’re a person, not a concept, not a role, just you.”

"This sounds like something she'd say to me. She kept me grounded a lot, and I think that without her here, I've been losing myself a bit. I haven't even really spoken to anyone I came with, I wanted to just let them live their new lives while I figured out how to solve these last few problems." Magnes holds his hand out for her's again. "I've been staying with Delilah. I think I'll go back and play with Walter. Show him more comic books he's allowed to read. I uh… I get antsy when I can't parent."

And then, as if revealing that he's accidentally said something, he shakes his head. "I mean, ignore me, don't worry about anything. I'll take you back down."

“Come on, Magnes. ‘Let’ them live their lives? You don’t get a choice about it. Life goes on without you, it’s a matter of you figuring when you’ll join back in. We’ve all been going on with our lives for… our whole lives.” Elaine laughs, but there’s enough frustration in there to notice. “Clearly you’re doomed without an Elaine to tell you that you’re being silly.”

She takes his hand. “Dee’s a solid choice to stay with. That’s a redhead that’ll keep you grounded, for sure. She’s kept me grounded plenty in the past.” She chuckles. “Just make sure Walter knows that your daughter doesn’t have cooties when she comes to visit.”

"Well, Future Walter got along with Adel, so I'm sure young Walter can get along with Addie. Addie's a really intelligent girl, I'm sure she can handle a cootie accusation." Magnes laughs a little, then raises her up a few feet before he begins to fly back down to where they came from. He keeps them upright, trying to keep her steady and make the whole transition a little less jarring. A lot less jarring than his tendency to just jump off a roof.

Once they land, he releases her, smiling. "I'll see you. It was nice reconnecting. I'll try to stay out of trouble. When I throw a dinner party, I'm sure it'll be a big reunion for everyone."

Elaine takes a moment to smile back. “I’d give you a hug but you’ve done so well seeing me so far that I don’t have the heart to hug you and make you cry.” She straightens herself up a bit. “Welcome back, Magnes. Just remember what I said. Live your best life.”

"We can hug in the future. I just… need to take baby steps." Magnes stares to slowly float above the ground again, staring down at her. "I guess look forward to seeing another kind of baby we can make. I'll see you around."

Then he flies up into the sky, moving much faster than when he was younger, a lot more controlled. He was clearly trying to hold back a bit when he was flying with her, to avoid making her possibly get nauseous.

Soon after he lifts off, he entirely vanishes above some buildings.

He'll be back eventually.

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