Like Tokyo Disney


chess3_icon.gif luther_icon.gif

Scene Title Like Tokyo Disney
Synopsis …this conversation is not. There are many things that can't be spoken, but a thing things that need to be.
Date February 9, 2020

Praxia and Safe Zone

Over the phone.

Chess has folded herself into the window seat of her room, one side pressed against the cold glass that stares out at Praxia below. The room is vacant and seems barely lived in. She didn’t bring much with her; everything she has here is either worn or in the bag sitting in an unused chair.

The night is a foggy one, the mist coming in over the water and draping the already gray concrete landscape in more gray. She’d like to see the stars tonight, remember the impromptu stories of made-up constellations she and Miles would share when they forgot the real ones.

She sighs, unwrapping herself to go to the phone. She owes a phone call to someone, and she’s put it off, because she knows she can’t say enough to appease the worry Luther feels for her, and not being able to talk freely is an exercise in frustration for both of them.

But now it’s almost time, and it might be the last time she can hear his voice.

She presses the contact for his name, and wraps an arm across herself as she stands, staring out the plated glass.

Luther often doesn't answer promptly when it comes to phone calls, but even with the excuse of spotty Safe Zone service, hers is one he hardly ever lets trip over to voicemail. Especially nowadays, with extenuating circumstances all over. And having little else to do - and little motivation to do it. Her call, though, is always one that motivates.


He tries to sound steady, but she knows better. Alcohol can't mask the anticipatory tightness that grips the rough timbre. It's that, or sleep deprivation. Maybe both. And no small amount of forced alertness. More shuffling and rustling crackles through as he moves. The couch creaks loudly.

There’s a small catch in her throat at the sound of his voice. Chess hasn’t had anything she’d call a home in almost a decade, but he’s the closest thing to it. Him and Miles, even if it’s the wrong Miles.

One hand scrubs her lids as if she could press back the tears that want to spring forward. It’s too early for that.

“Hey,” she murmurs, her voice a little husky. She hasn’t talked to anyone for a few hours. “You okay?” she asks, tipping her head as if that’ll help hear the truth of the answer. “If it’s a bad time, I can call back.”

She hopes she can, anyway. She isn’t really sure when go-time is. There’s still too much she doesn’t know, can’t know, until it’s time.

"No." The first syllable following her name doesn't sound like an answer to the first question, but a reaction to the last statement. Luther grunts as he levers himself up to a seated position on the couch, scrubs a hand over his face, and repeats, "No, it's fine. I can talk."

"How're you doin'? Everything… 'vrything okay? Stayin' out of trouble?"

Luther winces silently at the awkward small talk. Worse, that she's finally called him and that's what he comes up with. "I mean…" He trails, unsure where to go with it at first. Hopefully she knows what he really means and not like he's getting a casual call from a daughter away at university.

He squints kitchenwards to the microwave for a sense of the time.

"But I mean, really. Everything okay with you?" Better this time, less slow, more concern. "How's it going out there?"

Phone calls are, not surprisingly, not Chess’ forte. She’s terse and sarcastic in person; it translates poorly to this medium of satellite and radio waves. Small talk is hard and with Luther, usually unnecessary.

“So far,” she says, lightly as possible, to the question of if she’s staying out of trouble. “I haven’t murdered any of my ostensible siblings yet, so that’s saying something.”

She huffs a small laugh. “And they haven’t murdered me, so.” She shrugs a shoulder, then rolls her eyes at herself, because of course he can’t see that. She could facetime but that’s not really her. Nor him, for that matter.

“I’m okay,” she says a little more seriously. “It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. I read a lot. Run. I’ve learned a new trick with my ability that’s pretty cool. How’re you? Keeping Mad-Eye in line?”

“If I thought it would help, I’d stick some of Ducky’s energy in a bottle and sell it,” Luther replies with a headshake, the gesture unseen, yet somehow audible. “She’s fine though. Same here… mostly.” He doesn’t need to state the reasons, so to speak. Or so to not speak. “Alix, too, she okay? I imagine they’re making sure you aren’t, y’know, causing any more incidents of domestic or international terrorism.” At least not yet, the drop off of his rambled deadpan humor suggests.

“Do you all get the news out there? Can’t imagine him not keeping up somehow.” And while Luther is about to go off on a tangent, her words catch up to him and the conversation steering wheel yanks left. “Wait, what new trick?”

“Yeah, I could use some of that, so if you figure it out, me first,” Chess says lightly. She moves to the sofa, folding herself up into one corner, each bare foot tucking beneath the opposite leg.

His words about international terrorism get a short huff that’s meant to be a laugh, but it lacks humor. Because it really isn’t funny and she knows he doesn’t mean it to be. “Alix is all right. We haven’t gone anywhere, so all international acts of terrorism are not of mydoing, no matter what the news says. He’s aware. He’s not happy with it. I don’t think I can take Lanhua in a fight, so I’ll figure it out later.”

The way he asks his follow-up question makes her chuckle, this time with a little more sincerity. “Don’t worry. It’s one-hundred-percent au naturale, nothing synthetically induced. I’ve figured out how to curve my throws… like a boomerang? Or just down a hallway or something. Good for blind corners, you know?”

She stretches to reach for the bottle of sake sitting on the coffee table, then splashes a little into the cup nearby. She’s quiet for a moment, before she adds, “You know I love you, yeah?”

"Huh. Neat trick. Good, good…" Luther has a little time to contemplate the concept of her being able to throw around blind corners. Strategically, what a boon. He's still verbalizing, semi-incoherently noodling to the idea when she speaks again, and the mumbled noises of his moving around as if he were pretending, mimicking the motions of how Chess usually puts her spin on things, come to a halt.

She knows he's heard her. She knows he's not been unexpectedly cut off either, though a few long beats pass before Luther's voice crackles gravelly over the earpiece. It's not the signal. It's him, trying to savor it.

"Yeah." Another beat, he finds his breath again. "I love you, too."

And another. "Maybe, when this is all over, when you come back, we'll do somethin' that's fun. Like. Tokyo Disney, but better."


She waits him out. It’s not something they say, really. Actions over words has been their unspoken mantra, but when separated by 3000 miles of deadspace, it’s hard to show it with actions. And it might be the last time she can say it — that reality is one they’re all too aware of.

“Don’t make it weird,” she says with a laugh that might be covering something more like a sob.

Covering the phone for a second, Chess takes a deep breath, then speaks again. “You’re such a nerd.” Her words laced with affection, however, and she takes a swallow of sake before speaking again.

“How are things there? Never thought I’d say I miss the Safe Zone, but I do,” she says. “It’s pretty ugly here. Nothing but gray slab. I miss Park Slope’s greenery.”

Luther clears his throat with half a cough forced through a tight airway. "Alright," he says, both in trying not to make the call weird and emotional, and in answer to her question. "As much as it can be, without you and Alix around." So much for not making it weird. But, he had definitely gotten used to the girls being present.

"Really? That's a damn fuckin' shame," rumbles Luther, his frowning evident, "'cause California deserves better." His hand reaches up, itching at his beard as a stand-in for the discomfort he feels. "Guess, 'til all this Liberty Island attack shit gets figured out and the fed's not going to just arrest you the moment you set foot back in here…" He grunts, loathe to conclude his thought.

So he doesn't.

"What's your timetable?" The emotion stuffs itself down, military style jargon creeps up. Luther realizes it, shakes his head and revises, "What's there to do out there? Gray slabs do make for good street art canvases." A beat skips, "And target practice."

The cough and pause and addendum to his words make her eyes well up again and she closes her eyes, willing down the lump in her throat. Happily, he gives a path for her emotion to travel, from sorrow and regret to anger.

At Lanhua, which isn’t particularly helpful at this moment, when she needs to trust those working together.

“We’ll get it sorted somehow,” she says, voice a little husky, but she takes another swallow of sake, the slosh in the glass heard easily through the line.

The question on the timetable is met with silence, but luckily he gives her another way around it with his follow-up. “It’s pretty much a city in the Ziggurat. Anything you can do in a city block I’d say you can do here. Night club, restaurant, gym, zen garden.” Chess huffs a small laugh, because… well, she’s not very zen, despite all of the philosophy she reads. “I run a lot. I don’t know. I’m sure someone’s doing something but I’ve just been reading and running and trying not to kill anyone.”

She bites her lower lip, before speaking again.

“Listen. I want to tell you — if anything happens to me…”

The tears spring up in her eyes again, and she sighs in exasperation, setting the glass of sake down harder than she intends. She stands, moving back to the slatted windows, to squint out at that gray slab world below.

“I know you’ll be angry at me. But I need you to forgive me.” She swallows, this time sniffling once — if he had any doubts she was crying, he has the evidence now. “I’m sorry. I don’t think it was wrong to come, not yet. It might work. But I know… I know it’s been hard.”

By coincidence, they drink together about the same moment in time.

Night club? Did she say… Luther's questioning grunt reeks of dubious feelings. Who else could be there to merit a nightclub? "The hell they got goin' on out there with a night club?" mutters the man as fingers toy with the neck of a glass bottle, eyes explore the depths of brown liquid swishing within. But his focus isn't on the whiskey.

Not when Chess speaks - asks - of forgiveness. Of anything happening to her. She can't see that he sits bolt upright, fingers tense around the bottle neck and phone. "Chess? What're you sayin'?" Failing to mask the spike of anxiety, it's all he can do to keep from sounding angry at her. "What's goin' on? Tell me." The last pair of words ekes out more desperately than demandingly.

She presses her fingers against her eyes, as if that could will down the tears that prick them at that lash of anxiety in his voice. “Nothing. Nothing yet. Nothing bad.”

“I just meant…”

Chess shakes her head. He can’t see that, of course, and it’s more at herself, as she silently chastises herself for going down this terrible thread of thought. There’s nothing to be gained here. What’s she’s asking, he can’t promise.

“I just meant if things go badly and something happens to me,” she repeats, tears sliding out despite the efforts to dam them, “that you won’t hate me for trying.”

She takes a breath and it catches — there’s no hiding it this time.

“I’m not saying it’ll go badly. But just in case. I can’t…” Chess swallows, starts again. “I need to know you won’t hate me. That at least someone will remember me as maybe a little good.”

Nothing bad, she claims, but the wavering pitch, the halting breaths, mimic his own. Luther blinks several times as his vision starts to sting. For several beats with her repeated askance, he falls silent. Eyes close. He breathes.

But his teeth grit and fists clench. Finally, he manages to speak again. "You know that I… I wouldn't." Couldn't. Hate her? It's not even a question for him. He'd be damned, though, if this was how they'd last speak to each other. If this was going to be the last they spoke, he'd make it count.

"Tell me what's going on, Chess. Please." When Luther opens his eyes again, stares at the blank, undecorated wall lit only by the yellow tinge of a shaded lamp, he tries to picture the young woman's face. What distress might be doing to mar it. He then looks away, unable to bear. Luther sighs, struggling still. "What's going to happen? What're they… what is he trying to do to you? If you can't say, well. Well fuck 'em. Say it anyway." The near empty bottle clunks down loudly, hammering on his point.

Chess returns to the couch, curling up into a small ball, pulling a pillow against her to hug. The tears stream unabated now, and now and then she sniffles while he speaks. She shakes her head again at his questions.

“I can’t.” Her voice cracks on that word, too. She takes a shaky breath, and starts again. “It’s for your own protection, Luth. I promise. And he’s not doing anything to me, I promise. There’s a plan and that’s all I can say because of what we talked about on that mountain, yeah? I can’t say more than that, but I haven’t done anything I don’t want to do. I’m not a slave or a hostage or anything. I could go home but I need to try to stay and help do this.”

She wipes her eyes and sighs. “I just… I needed to know you’re okay and that you won’t hate me. I can be brave except for that.”

"Chess, stop." Luther's reply is a plea rather than a command, more desperate in the way he wants to beam his desire to be there physically. Not that he'd be much good at anything, except perhaps to set the whole building on fire and carry her and Alix out back to safety. "Listen, hey," he says after a huff, a beat to compose himself and tamp down on the mutually growing distress. But what to say? When he's in the dark on what she's implying of some life-threatening task, he offers a steadier consolation. "I'll be okay. And yeah you are - brave, that is. So. You gotta do what you gotta do. And, you gotta take care of Alix and the others… or don't… I mean, she's, they're grown." So they can handle themselves, is what he has to make himself believe.

Luther shakes his head, swiping up the bottle he'd set down. Easier to choke the neck of that to distract his throat from threatening to close up. A swig of the whiskey helps burn off tears. Then he slumps forward, phone still up to his ear, other hand gripping the drink hanging off the edge of his knee.

"Tell me one thing, then…"

All those questions up on the mountain, and there was nothing Luther could provide her then but an impotent rage at her progenitor. He didn't understand much then, and still wouldn't be able to decipher it now, but he parks his concern on what he does know: that he wants Chess to be okay. And, if he can dare to dream, be happy.

"Did you get the answers he promised you?"

She keeps her eyes closed and listens to his gruff voice. It’s easier to pretend they aren’t three thousand miles apart that way. She swallows and sniffs, both sounds wet and hard to cover, then drags her sleeve across her eyes and then shaking her head at herself for crying like a baby.

“Yeah. They are,” she says in agreement. ‘The others’ are well equipped to protecting themselves, though Alix has the least defensive — or offensive — of abilities. “It’s not really them I’m trying to protect.”

It’s the whole goddamn world, if Adam’s words are to be believed.

The question he asks is met with a pause, and she considers the answer. There are so many things to know, things she hadn’t thought to ask at first, things she hasn’t been brave enough to ask since. But Chess nods once, unseen, before she answers.

“Yeah. He didn’t lie about that.” There’s no emphasis on that to indicate he’s lied to her at all, but they know he’s lied in the past. That he lived a lie of a life in the past.

“Listen,” she starts again. “It might be fine. I just don’t know when things are going to happen so I wanted to call before I couldn’t.” She reaches for the bottle of sake, splashing more into her cup, and a little onto the coffee table. She grimaces. “I love you, Luth.”

Made more gruff with drink, Luther's voice hitches even as he elects to respond to the news of Adam's honesty with a monosyllabic, "Good." His less comprehensible grumblings sound haphazard in uncertainty of how to proceed on that info. He still dislikes the immortal Brit, and one instance of plainness won't likely save Adam from Luther's fist.

Then he, like her, swallows down the wobbling of his reply with stiff drink and a short sniff.

"Slow down on that drink, alright?" Ignoring that he's consumed much of what he has in hand, he sounds like he's half-heartedly chiding her, but also himself. "Gotta… gotta have a clear head for what's coming." Whatever it may be, whatever unknowns lie in their future of possible disaster scenarios. "At least… before you go? Text me, okay?" It's more a request that doesn't expect response right away, setting up instead the expectations of that future. A sliver of hope peeking through, anticipatory optimism in spite of it all. A few heavy beats skip. Luther clears his throat softly. "Love you too, Chess. You and Alix… take care of each other. And I'll see you soon." He makes that an unspoken promise. Even if it’s one he can’t be sure to keep.

“You’re not the boss of me,” Chess says in a small voice, a stab at levity when she feels what’s left of a broken heart breaking yet again.

This was her choice, she reminds herself. And as much as Luther is family, she has family, here, too.

It’s a small consolation, knowing she’s caused so much pain to this one constant in the last few years of her life.

“Yeah. I’ll text. And we’ll look out for one another. The others, too.”

That, too, is a promise she can’t be sure she can keep.

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