Love And Great Buildings


bf_lynette_icon.gif vf_ruiz_icon2.gif

Scene Title Love and Great Buildings
Synopsis Some things survive the test of time.
Date July 12, 2013

An Auction House in Mexico

The precog had said that this would be an auction for her paintings. That's… not exactly what Ruiz found when he walked into the building. First, he had to buy a nice suit so that he would fit with the appearance, had to trim his beard so that it wasn't as scraggly, but he kept his hair in it's curls. But while there was an 'authentic Eve Mas' for auction, there were many other things as well.

Something to keep swimming in this crazy stream that happened to be his life. He didn't know what it would be, but if the dreamer had told him, he figured he would wait and see.

This had been the first time in months he'd stayed unnegated for more than a few days. It had been strange for him, to hear that sound again, know that he could use an ability he hated.

But the whispered sounds also felt comforting, somehow. The soft hum of electricity in a transformer at the moment.

He stood in the hallway outside the auction hall, looking up at one of the paintings on the wall. Not the authentic Eve Mas, but a pretty painting all on it's own. A leafless tree in the middle of an open field with the sun rising or setting behind it.

There's a door at the end of that hallway. A sign claims that there's a garden behind it. A true claim, as it turns out. The door opens as Lynette lets herself back in, just hanging up her phone after a call to remind her to come back into the auction at some point.

She'd been mostly avoiding the people here.

Her blonde hair is pinned back from her face, she wears a flowy dress and heels, and she's framed by the garden behind her. Red leaves and blossoms make a good background for her. She sees him standing there, looking at a painting. It's been more than a year since she saw that face last, but she hasn't forgotten it. She just… expects him to disappear, to turn out to be someone else, to be her imagination. So she stands in the doorway, phone in her hand still, staring.

And then she breaks out into a run, door slamming behind her. Hopefully he's got good footing because she runs right to him, into him, lips all but crushing to his, arms clinging to him. All with very little warning. She knows it can't be him, that it'll end up being someone she needs to apologize to and something to be embarrassed over, but at the moment, she can't think about that.

The sound of her shoes against the floor had been the only warning. Turning toward the sound, their eyes meet for a moment before she crashes against him like lighting into a metal rod. There's a soft grunt against her mouth, a familiar sound. At first he gives under her force, leaning back. He is the right height. The right feel. He tastes different, though, a light hint of cigarette on his breath, on his skin. Mateo hadn't smoked. This one does, though. The brands she'd been partial to, just enough to smell her, taste her.

Everything about her senses says that this is what it can not be, while still feeling just a little different. Hands slide up against her face, thumbs on her cheeks, fingers against the back of her neck and sliding somewhat into her hair. Everything about his senses say that this is what it should not be. But he couldn't stop himself, either. Even if he knew exactly what was happening here. Exactly who she is and who she was not. And maybe at the same time, he didn't care.

"'nette," he murmured breathlessly against her lips, without even thinking about it. She was 'nette. She would always be 'nette.

In any life.

Tears fall against his thumbs when he touches her. She draws the kiss out, categorizing all the things that are exactly like she remembers, noting the differences. This Lynette doesn't smoke, but she used to. Those brands were her brands, too. That smell familiar in a different way.

When he speaks her name, a name that only Mateo had ever called her, she breaks the kiss with a sob. She doesn't go far; her eyes don't even open. Her forehead rests against his, her fingers toying with the curls in his hair. That's familiar, too. Lynette always liked it when he'd let his hair go curly.

"You can't be him," she says, eventually. But even so, there's hopefulness in her words. Like she's waiting for him to tell her it was all in her mind. That she finally woke up from the nightmare.
The tears against his thumbs sends a surge of guilt into his stomach. But even then, he did not wish to pull back. When she eventually did, however, his eyes stung, moisture forming as he looked at her, so close. Her hair was different, her eyes were the same. Same and different, wrong and right. All at once.

"I'm not," Ruiz had to mutter softly, voice whispered and even hoarse, but his. The accent seemed different, too. Hers had still spoken English as well as him, but his accent carried more of his Argentine background in it. This one had much less, almost none. But he wasn't him. But he was. Both all at once.

Just as she was both. Her and not her.

He knew he should let go of her, stop this. But he didn't. He couldn't pull his hands back, as his thumbs rubbed at her tears, spreading them against her cheeks.

Lynette nods at his words. She knew he wasn't. But her eyes open a moment later so she can look at him. "I don't understand," she says a moment later. Her hands don't leave him, either. Can't. Won't. She trembles under his hands and leans into him a little more. "You know me." More than just her name, her tone implies.

Her hand moves along his jaw and a smile comes to her face. It's crooked and dim, but there. "You grew a beard," she notes, as if this amuses her somehow. "I like it." Her fingers don't linger there, though. She traces her way along his face and back through his hair again. "He looks so much like you." Of course, Ruiz probably doesn't know the he she's referring to. But it works either way.

"I do know you," Ruiz affirmed her statement, even as he added a moment later, "And I don't." There were small things different, big things different. Everything. All at once. He couldn't stop touching her. He didn't want to. But he also knew he would need to explain, somehow. It wasn't fair to her to not tell her, even if part of him knew that he shouldn't. That getting her involved in… in him might be dangerous.

"Is there— somewhere we can go. I can explain." He could explain here, he could explain anywhere. And she might be the only person he could tell the entire story to.

He didn't understand exactly what she meant— he though the he she referred to was… him.

That answer only seems to confuse her more, really. But she seems okay with letting him come at it however he has to. One thing's certain, though, it would be difficult to shake her now that she's seen him. As with the her he already knew. But she nods, because there is a place they can go. Before she can lead him there, though, she leans in and brushes her nose against his. She puts her hand against his, turning to kiss his palm before she steps back. Her hand stays in his, though.

Her other hand composes a text. Telling someone that she had to leave. To cover for her. These are not unusual texts for her to send. People around her were ready for them, seeing as she's only just agreed to step away from home.

Where she leads Ruiz, though, is to a nearby hotel. A nice one. Her room is more like a small apartment. Nicer than some small apartments. She holds the door open for him, gesturing him in.

For the most part, Ruiz remained quiet on the walk over to the hotel, going over his thoughts in his head, trying to figure out what he would say, what he should say. If he should leave anything out, as his mind told him would probably be for the best. But the size of the hotel room certainly took him aback. He'd known she had been fairly well off— he'd seen it when he followed her back before he lost track of her. When he followed her to the graveyards, when he watched her from a distance for a few months.

But the hotel still surprised him.

It was much nicer than his.

Stepping inside, he looked around, allowing himself to be distracted for a few moments, before he turned to look back at her. As soon as the door closed, he took in a slow breath. After a moment, he decides that perhaps showing was a better idea. She'll feel the pull of electricity, all too familiar, and the whole world seems to take a breath. It shifts, forms, pushes together into two places, causing the lights to flicker. One place is near him, a ring of lightning and black slickness that sparks. The other is a few feet away. Both small, but large enough to fit a hand through.

And stable.

Something the him she'd known had often had trouble doing.

Lynette watches him as he passes into the room, closes the door distractedly. A different source of distraction, but it's a similar effect. She doesn't get much deeper into the room than that, since when she feels that pull, she stops mid-step. And her breathing hitches. She looks between the portals, eyebrows lifted. Walking closer to him, the first thing she does is slide her hand through. Glancing to the other, she watches her own fingers appear, then disappear as she slides her hand back out again.

When she looks back to him, it's clear she's impressed. But the expression falters, fades. Her hands come over to take his, her grip firm, reassuring. "You have the noise, too." That isn't a question. Mateo didn't share all his secrets with her, but she familiar with that one.

Some secrets were too secret to be shared. There were things Ruiz had never told his Lynette, either, but he had told her about the sound, about how he always heard it unless negated, that constant buzzing or whispering or roaring in the back of his mind. Sometimes loud, sometimes soft. But always there. Like a fan that no one ever turned off that would sometimes rattle and would usually just be an ever constant white noise.

"Point A— " he motioned to the close portal. "And point B. Bridged. And sometimes, under very specific circumstances— the two points are in the same exact place."

He can't demonstrate that here, he couldn't if he tried. It was not the right place, the right time. He didn't have Magnes. He didn't have extra energy. But if he was anything like him, she would understand what he said next.

"Two points, in the same place, connecting two paths in the garden."

He talks, she listens. However much or little she understands, she seems to be waiting until he gets through his explanation. But those words, the garden, that seems to be all she needed to see what he meant. She lets out a breath that sounds almost amused, but there's a wonder in it, too.

"I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths," she says, idly. But she looks back to him, that wonder in her eyes, too. "You're another him. And there was another me."

Lynette lowers herself onto the couch.

"Okay," she says, drawing the word out. This is the kind of thing people laugh off. But the evidence is difficult to dismiss, really. He shouldn't be standing here, but he is. "I was betting on clone."

Something in what she said makes him look sadder. That hint of moisture in his eyes no longer a hint. Ruiz's hand slides up and rubs his short cropped beard as he looks away from her even as she sits. "You liked the labyrinth story best in my world, too." There's something hoarser about his voice, as if he's trying to fight back tears and not doing the best job.

The sadness made it harder to appreciate her joke, even if he did shake his head at it. "Not a clone. Just… another him. Adrift in the wrong stream."

He wore a ring on his finger, that she might notice now that he's rubbing his face with said hand. It's black with a ring of diamonds. There's a second ring, too, around his neck, much more feminine looking.

Lynette looks up when he replies, a frown coming to her face. "I'm sorry." For his loss, for bringing it up, for being her but not her. "I didn't really think you were a clone, I was just trying to…" She stops herself, shaking her head before she stands up again. The ring gets a glance. It's the inverse of her own. Titanium with a dark stone. She twists it around her finger.

"Can I get you a drink? Something to eat? There's a room service menu here somewhere. Or, the minibar is pretty well stocked still." Rambling. She doesn't know what to do with her hands, or herself, so she walks to a desk against the wall to rummage through the papers there.

His tongue slides against his lips as he looks away from her, feeling how dry and parched they are, even if she had just been kissing him. He too felt lost. Part of him screamed to move closer to her, wrap his arms around her and just let everything out. Everything he'd held in, everything he couldn't share with anyone. The things he only ever could share with her.

Another her in another world, but still her.

Ruiz runs his hand through his curls and before he answers, "I don't need anything." It's a lie, but he feels like he can't ask for what he wants, either. Even if she had just been kissing him.

The portals he opened flicker, the energy disipating from them as they close once again. No more holes in space. No more Point A and Point B.

"I found you. After I came here. I saw you a few times… what are you doing in Mexico?" Had this been what Eve had wanted him to find?

That answer prompts her to turn back to him, her expression incredulous. "I'll get you a drink," Lynette says, dryly. She disappears into the little kitchen, just for a moment or two. Long enough to grab water bottles and some fruit. She comes back in time to see the portals close. It makes her frown. There's some comfort in seeing his power for her, even if it doesn't feel that way for most other people.

Lynette sets everything down on a small table, errand done. Her hands run down the sides of her dress before she looks up at him. "You— saw me." She looks thoughtful for a moment, counting back months since anyone saw her. "You've been here a long time." A sigh meets his question, though. "I work with a few charities, setting up events and volunteering. I used to volunteer— I took some… time. But I've been encouraged to try to get out more again. But the auction is to support a local relief aid organization."

"We— I— " Ruiz trails off before he ever really starts. It's difficult to talk about, really. But he had started. Taking the offered water bottle, he shifted where he stood and kept looking at her. She should not be in Mexico. But she was. She did charity work, which didn't exactly sound like something he had expected. It sounded like something her father might have done, though, certainly.

"It was early last year." When they arrived, he meant. "There's a painting in the auction," he noted quietly, toying with the bottle's lid rather than opening it. It gave him something to do. To distract him. "I thought I was coming here to see it." It sounded like he didn't think that anymore.

"Early last— year," Lynette repeats, although there's no reason to except that early last year was memorable. But instead of digging more into that, she hops topics. "Which painting?"

Even if that wasn't really what he was supposed to find there. She doesn't think so, either, all things considered.

And with that thought, impulse drives her forward. Not to kiss him this time, but to take his hand. Her thumb runs along his knuckles, but before she completes the gesture, she drops his hand again. "I'm sorry. This is— " Difficult. Weird. A miracle. "All I've been asking for for the past year and a half is to be able to see him again," she says with a gesture to him.

The question is forgotten as she touches him again. Ruiz's eyes close, his breath catches— but then she's letting go once again and he looks down where her hand had been and then up where it was now. His breath sounded more hoarse. Because he understood. He knew what she meant. And he had seen her. He knew she was there. But he also knew what she'd lost, all too well.

After a moment, he put down the bottle of water, reached out to take the hand that had touched his. He pulled it closer, pressing it against his chest, or more accurately the ring hanging around his neck. Her ring.

It was his quiet way of saying that he knew.

"Eve Mas," he added out loud, that thickness to his breath heard in his voice, as he looked across at her.

Lynette's brow furrows when he takes her hand and she looks at their fingers instead of his face. Until she feels the ring against his chest. She looks up then, searching his face for a long moment. And then she hugs him. Comfort, this time. Support. When she pulls back, her hands cup his cheeks. He knows. And she knows.

"Oh, Eve," she comments, her hands moving again, retaking his. "She gave me that painting a long time ago. It already came true. And people love her work." And the nature of her work. There's a bit of an impishness to her expression, though, one that hints that she didn't mention to the auction goers that it's a prophetic painting that already happened.

Suddenly, the painting didn't matter all that much, because as she held his face in her hands he starts to crack. Fully and utterly. The storm had been brewing in his eyes from the moment he saw her, but now it all crashes down. Ruiz falls into her, returning that hug that had been all too brief, until it seems she's the only reason he's able to stay standing.

It had been her hug, however brief, that had seemed to give him the permission, finally. To cling to her as he fell apart.

Because he did. Fine tremors went through him as he held onto her, as knees threatened to buckle. No, Eve had not sent him for the painting after all. He'd shut down so far that he'd wanted to just disappear, to take himself off the board. And really there had only ever been one person who could stop that.

She had been dead. And she was right here, holding onto him as he let himself shatter.

As they always have been, Lynette's arms are ready to catch him. To hold him. Him breaking down gives her a reason to stand straighter, to be stronger. Tears fall still, but she doesn't interrupt his. No, instead, she rubs his back and presses a kiss against his hair.

"Javi," she says, because there is no other name to call him, not for her, "you don't have to be alone anymore. If you don't want to." It's true that he is not her Ruiz. And she is not his Lynette. But from the moment she saw him, she had already decided that she would make some kind of space for him in her life, what kind of space it would be was all that she hadn't decided.
She wasn't her, but she was.

She called him Javi, too. It had been why his new identity had fit him so well. But no one had called him Javi. No one could possibly say that name like she could. Ruiz held onto her, let all of the emotion he'd held in spill out. He doesn't even lose control of his ability, he just loses control of himself. She wasn't her. He knew that. He'd loved his wife, but he'd also made her one final promise. One he'd not been able to keep.

To love her in every life. To find her again.

He didn't need to be alone. If he didn't want to be.

Part of him wanted to be. The part that knew he didn't deserve her. The part that had wanted to die alone on a beach thousands of miles away from where he had imagined she should have been.

But every other piece of him just wanted her. He stopped shaking, and suddenly his hands grasped her face as she had grasped him. And this time his mouth found hers, something desperate in the way he kissed her. Desperate to connect, desperate to feel, to taste. To let their tears mingle together with their lips.

He wasn't him, but he was.

Fingers move to his hair, running through it in an effort to soothe him. Her arm is tight around him, to remind him that he's not alone, that she's here, that she wants to be here. It was familiar to her, that thread of self-hatred. She's only sad to see that in another life, he felt the same way.

Lynette only leans back when he stops shaking, to check on him. She hadn't expected his hands on her face or his lips against hers. Surprise only lasts a beat, though, because she has that same desperation. Her body presses to his differently then, her hold on him turns to grasping. The warmth of him, being close to him, it brings up dual emotions. Sorrow, in the tears and in the shake of her hands, but also desire, which is difficult to hide the longer the kiss lingers.

When she pulls back, her lips press together, her head dips. But it isn't long before she kisses him again, against the corner of his lips, against his cheek, unwilling to part from him for longer than that.

"I'll be in the garden. Find me in the garden."

"I found you," Ruiz whispered against her lips, with tears still streaking down his cheeks and mingling with his beard. He didn't care, though, because there she was. He had found her a year ago, but he hadn't been ready. Neither of them had been. Everything that was familiar comforted him. Everything that was new made him want to learn how it had happened. How had this woman came to be. How had she became what she had.

There was so much he wanted to tell her, say to her, show her. So much he wanted to know about her, about them. But right now he didn't care part from her, the same as she could not part from him for very long. Lips pressed against hers, found her cheek, slid over her jawline, down to her neck. He wanted to see if the same things would make her gasp for air, if the same touch would elicit the same sounds from her as they had in his path of the garden.

Arms and hands moved, to push off his vest, to pull out of his shirt. He began to lead her toward the bed, like a dance. If she gave an indication she wanted him to stop, he would, but right now he did not feel that.

And he hadn't needed a drink, or fruit. No. All he'd needed was her.

When his lips find her jaw and neck, there’s a strangled noise from her throat, her fingers dig into him, her head tilts, silently asking him for more. Lynette moves when he does, helping him out of his shirt, starting to peel off her dress and not caring about the trail of clothes left across the hotel room floor.

There is no indication that she wants to stop.

Even after, when they’re a tangle of legs and sheets, she can’t seem to disengage. Fingers slide across his skin, like she’s making sure he’s real, he’s there. Savoring. It’s true that she wouldn’t have been ready last year, and this morning she would have said she still wasn’t. But now, there’s even a small smile on her face— a rare expression. Even rarer that it lingers.

With their immediate physical and emotional demands met for the most part, they could appreciate little things they hadn't had the time for originally. Like how she smiled in the same tired way. Like how his hair curled even more when sweaty, almost to the point of ringlets.

And while this Javi had the same tattoo on his arm that hers had, he had some of the same scars, this one lacked a few scars her Javi had had. And some he had not. The injection scar his neck being the most noticeable, where he'd been injecting himself with negation medicine for… years. He also had a small surgery scar on the side of his chest. A small incision, likely exploratory.

His hand finds her ring, very different from the one that still hung around his neck. "We were only married for two weeks," he suddenly says, probably dampening the mood a little, but he couldn't help but talk about it— talk about her. He wanted her to know about her. About him. About them.

And he wanted to know about her and him, as well.

Lynette glances down at her hand when he finds her ring, but back up at him a beat later. “If she married you, she loved you more than anyone she ever knew.” She speaks from experience, of course. “The moment I met him, my life pivoted around him. I wasn’t really big on the idea of marriage. I never thought there was anyone I could trust not to leave.” And clearly, she knows his felt the same. Her fingers slide between his, curling around him as she pulls his hand to her lips. Against a scar unique to him. She hugs his hand to her chest next.

“What happened to her?”

Her hold tightens, a comfort for both of them, but also to let him know that he can talk about his Lynette. She’ll listen.

That didn't seem to surprise him. But as he didn't think of Lynette as having left him, he didn't think of her husband as having left her. Death was something no one could plan for or control. And he imagined his other self would have fought to stop it, if he could have.

Just as he knew his wife had did everything she could to make it back to him one last time.

"I know. We hadn't really talked about it, but I knew… I knew." That marriage had been a big step for her, even with everything that had been going on, with the uncertainty of death looming on them. He had never asked until he felt like there had been a chance, that they could leave the world they were trapped in and make a life together.

"There was a… it's hard to explain. My world was very different than this one. But she died. Trying to make it so we could escape. A few days later, we did." He'd always been careful about mentioning the others, those who had escaped with him. But he didn't feel as guarded with her.

"We knew there was another world out there. Maybe one that wasn't full of death and disease and hopelessness. She made me promise that I'd make it there. To the garden."

To find her.

Lynette listens, her thumb brushing against the back of his hand. “There’s a lot we didn’t talk about.” Either set of them, she means. “Things I don’t like to talk about, things he never wanted to explain. But I was okay with the past being in the past and us making a new life together from then on. People thought I’d lost my mind. Or they thought I married him because he was the most handsome man anywhere. And both of those are true, but really it was because I knew. And once I knew, I had to have him,” she remarks with a crooked smile. “My father alway said I was too used to getting what I wanted.” But knowing her father, it was said with indulgence, if not encouragement.

How the other her died, the reasons for it, it makes Lynette sigh gently. Her fingers run along his cheek, a lingering touch. “She wanted you safe, even if she couldn’t be there with you.” The garden turns her smile sad, though. “I like the idea that any version of you loves those stories.”

In a way nothing she told him had been unknown to him, but it had been nice to hear her say it. Nice to hear her justifications. "You think I'm still the most handsome man anywhere?" Ruiz turned to face her, grinning in that way that almost seemed to be toying with her. Another him, that she had loved, and he had been the most handsome man anywhere, but they did look pretty much the same.

Just as she looked so much like his Lynette. Especially like this. With that small sigh on her lips, with the lingering touch. She had wanted him safe. And here he was.

"The world seems pretty much the same as mine up until a point— from what I could tell a year or so after the Bomb." That was when it changed. "We were both raised on those stories, so of course we both loved them." And to him they took on a whole new meaning.

After a moment he shifted, pulling away from her finally to lean over the edge of the bed and pull his vest over, dragging it up onto the bed. Not to get dressed, but to pull something out of a pocket on the inside. A worn piece of paper.

His smile makes her smile. It always had, always will. She’s leaning forward to kiss him before she even thinks about it. It’s brief because she ends up smiling against him. When she leans back, she makes a show of debating the answer to his question. “I’m not sure,” she says, and her fingers move to lift the sheet and peek under, as if that might help decide. She looks back at him, her smile crooked, “you’re in the running.”

Banter comes easy. Banter makes her feel almost normal.

“You even have the same tattoo.” She could trace that maze in her sleep, redraw it with her eyes closed. And, of course, because he loves them, she loves them. But her thoughts on that stop when he brings out the paper. “What’s this?”

"We got it in 2009. Or at least I did." Ruiz explained as he unfolded the piece of paper. It had other type on it, it had been a used for something at some point, but the type had faded. It wasn't what had been written on the page that had him holding onto it, though.

It had been the charcoal sketch over the recycled page. Eve Mas had only had so much to work with down in the Hub. People didn't bring back printer paper or canvas or parchment when they went scavenging.

It's a drawing. Of a house. And two people holding hands. And a few scribbled words. We die. Love does not.

"Lynette gave it to me. I guess she'd been holding onto it for a while. I couldn't ask our Eve about it because she'd died about a month before then." And he hadn't thought to ask the one here, in the brief time that she had been around him.

“You got yours early. Javi got his when he came to New York with me.” Lynette’s expression falls to a more bittersweet one as she speaks. “We met in Argentina. On a beach. I was two drinks in and having a good night and he looked… empty, I guess. So I asked him to join me for drinks, ditched my girlfriends, and never looked back. We walked that beach all the time. But,” she adds, shaking herself out of the memory, “when I was getting sent back to the States, I almost stayed for him, but he came with me instead.”

Lynette looks to the paper when it’s opened, and she sits up a little straighter. It’s a sharp movement, surprise widening her eyes. “You don’t need to ask Eve.” She turns to grab her phone— something that’s never far from her— and pulls up a picture to show him.

It’s a painting. One that looks remarkably similar to the sketch in his had. It doesn’t have the words on it, but it’s more clearly Lynette and Mateo holding hands and the house looks like it needs some fixing up, but it’s the same house. “We live in that house.”

There was a lot that she just said that strikes something in him. They met in Argentina. He couldn't find any mention of him in Vanguard in anything he looked at, just the usual 'troubles down in Argentina' and as far as he could tell they hadn't done any of their big activities. He did believe they probably existed, though, but he couldn't really ask.

But then she talked about Eve, and— showed him the picture on her phone and he took in a slow breath of surprise. The same picture, just in better detail. That Eve had had access to better mediums, better canvas to work with. "They had the same dream," Ruiz whispered quietly, looking down at it.

"This is were you live?" He reached to rub his fingers against the ring around his neck, one of the only things he happened to be wearing right them. That and his watch, which didn't work and looked like a ladies watch, in fact. "I wonder if Eve knew… I would make it here."

"I guess they did." Lynette looks at her phone, then at his drawing, then at him. She studies him for a moment, his hair, his beard, his shape, then looks back at the picture again like she might be able to tell if that painting was her Ruiz or this one.

His question pulls her out of it and she nods. Flipping to the next picture, he gets presented with the house as it stands in reality. In better shape than her painting. Although there seems to be some work still going on, even so. "She called that painting Cedar and Pine," she says, "When we found it, we bought it on the spot. It isn't everyday you watch a prophecy come true, right? We didn't live there, though. We had a place in the city, but I— couldn't stay there after… he died." The words seem hard for her to say, still. Her head tilts for a moment and her attention turns to the picture instead of him. "He died there, in our apartment. So I did what I could to make the Cedar House livable as soon as possible. Which, you know, is fine. That's where we'd planned on moving anyway, when it was finished. Just happened sooner rather than later."

It isn't fine. Not really. It is what it is.

But she looks back at him again, bringing up a smile. That's less familiar. His Lynette didn't smile unless she actually wanted to. "Probably. Maybe that's not what she thought she was looking at, at the time, but she probably knows it was now. I mean… this Eve. Sorry. You meant your Eve."

"A house of cedar and pine?" That had been what Lynette called it, he thought, and even if he had been crying and trying his best just to keep breathing, he remembered everything about that moment. About the way she felt, about how she bled, about how scared she sounded as she fought to tell him her last words. Part of him even loved and hated the song that he had sung for her. Loved it because he knew she had loved it and it had been the last thing she had heard. Hated it because it had been the last thing she had heard.

"I understand. I left our entire world," he responds to her confession of not being able to remain living in the house he had died in. He hadn't even wanted to be in the world anymore. He would have tried, if only because his promise had been one of the few things he'd had left of her. But it led to the same thing. Nothing here had been touched by her.

This wasn't the world she had died in.

"I did mean my Eve, though your Eve is the one who found me and sent me here." He didn't have to state his wonder on if she had known. Known that he would find her, that they would find each other. "Maybe this is supposed to show us that— we're connected," he reaches across to touch her hand. "That maybe… maybe it's not just Borges that every me loves." The same tattoo at a different time. They had met at different times too.

"Yes," Lynette says to his question, "that's what she called it and that's what it's build out of." She didn't know the significance of that phrase for him, but her words are gentle all the same.

His own confession brings out a more serious expression. She knows what he would have done, because it's what she would have done. If it wasn't for having that one thing to live for. It was a promise for him, hers was a little different. But she's glad for it, for each of them having a reason to keep going, one foot in front of the other until their paths met again. She only smiles again when he mentions Eve, it's just a small expression, but not a surprised one. "She told you to go find her painting." Amusement ripples through those words. So like her, not to say it directly.

The touch of his hand pulls a sigh out of her, a soft sound accompanied with a heavy-lidded look his way. Maybe it's not just Borges. She leans into him again, kissing him in a slow, lingering way. It isn't fevered like before, but soft and welcoming. Maybe it's not just Borges and the tattoos. Maybe it's them, too. Lynette can buy into that easily. There's no one like him, there's no one for her but him. She's known that since the moment they met at a popup bar in Argentina.

A knock on the door brings her out of that indulgence, and she pulls back in surprise. "Oh my god, what time is it?" He isn't really given time to answer, because she hops out of bed and wraps herself in a robe. "I'll be— just a second," she says, something apologetic in her tone, more than leaving him alone in bed should really get. But she turns to leave the room. He can tell when the door opens, because there's a hushed conversation in Spanish and the sound of a young child crying for his mother.

Manuel's nanny brings in his stroller and bags and a folded up play pen while Lynette balances a baby on her hip, cooing softly to him to soothe him. He's been crying, that much is obvious from the tear-stained cheeks and how his little hands uncurl from tiny fists. "«Thank you so much, Ofelia. I am sorry it was a rough afternoon. Take tomorrow. See the sights before we head back to New York?»" The woman says her own thanks and kisses Lynette on the cheek, and then the baby, too. And then she's gone.

At the knock, Ruiz looks over in surprise before noticing that she's, well, getting up and wrapping herself in a robe to go and answer the door. With a regretful sound, he too slides out of the bed and at least reaches for his enough to be moderately presentable in case whoever knocked on the door might be coming inside. He gets his slacks up, but not fastened, before he realizes what it is he's hearing.

There's a thud as he sits back down on the bed heavily, a thousand things running through his head, that soft roar he'd actually forgotten about in her presence pushing itself forward with a buzzing of a transformer once again. For a moment the lights flicker, but it doesn't solidify into anything. Not a portal or even a gasp of air, because even in shock, this Ruiz still has fairly decent control, brought on by the fact that he's negated so often.

But the flicker alone would tell her that he's hearing and understanding what is happening.

There had been no child mentioned in the article, and he's sure there would have been had there been one. There was a tightness in his chest that had nothing to do with overuse of his ability and everything to do with this particular surprise. He would feel embarassed about being in such an obvious state with the nanny who will no doubt be asking questions if she didn't already recognize him, but he's too busy staring at the child balanced on her hip.

He looks like you.

He had thought she meant the other him. No. No he can see it. By the time the nanny is gone, there's tears falling from his own blinking eyes, ones he can't really even think to stop or wipe away. Her and him. Wrapped up in a small bundle of a person. Right there in front of him. Dirk's memo had hurt his Lynette, he knew, it had hurt him too, but not in the same way. Because he had known he should never have seen this. This beautiful combination of the both of them.

The nanny does give him a glance when she notices him, but knows enough about her employer to know not to mention it. Lynette likes her privacy. The only other indication that she's noticed anything at all is a look toward Lynette's hair before she leaves.

The flicker draws Lynette away from the door and she turns back his way. When she reaches the bed, she sits next to him and ends up with one arm around Mateo and one around Manuel. She doesn't speak at first, just lets him have a moment or two to adjust. But what she does say, she knows it's likely to start the tears all over again, so it isn't too long a wait.

"His name is Manuel."

A simple statement, not out of place when someone meets a child for the first time. Without context, her tone would sound overly cautious. But here, with him, with the one piece of Mateo's past that he was glad to share with her, with the reason she picked the name in the first place, it's a loaded comment.

Manuel squeals softly when he hears his name and his little fingers grab for Lynette's face, prompting her to lean over to give him a kiss on the top of his head. "Yes, that's you, my little darling," she says as her thumb rubs against his shoulder.

Manuel. It's not that he's surprised that he had told her about José, or that he might have wanted to name a son after him. She named their son, without having ever known him. Unless she'd met him in Argentina before they left, but he doubted that— But he's still surprised and she's correct that there's tears again as he lifts his hand and hesitates, wanting to touch the boy but… but.

Considering when he had seen her, and how she hadn't looked pregnant, how there had been no child listed in the articles. He looked much too young to have even been alive when his father had been. "He didn't even know, did he?"

He'd never seen his child, never seen her hold him, never seen her coo at him. And he hadn't been with her while she went through all of that, either. She had been alone. "I'm so sorry. I— " That hesitating hand reaches up to rub at his eyes and looks back at the boy in her arms, the way his fingers grab at her face, the way she hisses his head and rubs his shoulder. Finally he settles on an emotional and breathless, "He's beautiful."

When he hesitates, Lynette doesn't press, but she does lift her hand to wipe away some of his tears. Her throat tightens at his question, a single year sliding down her cheek. "I only found out for sure a few days before… the murder. I was trying to figure out how to tell him so that he'd be as happy as I was. So he would know that he was going to be a great father." Her voice breaks there and she shifts her attention to Manuel instead. Her arms gather him up into a hug that is more for her own comfort than him needing her.

"Thank you," she says, for the compliment and the sorry together. "He's just perfect. He already likes Borges. And he's manifested," she notes the last with a kind of amused exasperation that speaks of her being equal parts proud and frazzled over that development. "My father came to New York to help out. Did you… ever get to meet her father?" Explaining him to Jeremy would be a task, but one she doesn't mind taking on. In the end, he usually came down on the side of Lynette's happiness.

Manifest already. As a baby. "Is that even possible?" Ruiz responded in the same quiet tones, cause he had never heard of a baby manifesting before. It probably had been possible, because sometimes strange things just happened. He hoped it had been nothing like his, nothing like hers, but he doesn't ask. Instead he picks up his vest again and pulls out his id, which was the enhanced driver's license that would allow him to travel to and from Mexico— by land. He'd driven down here.

He'd needed the time to think.

But it's the name on the license that he mostly wanted to show her. Javier Ayala De Santos. He had taken one of his past love's names, and his son had another. "I liked using Javier cause you always called me Javi." And she had been the only one.

"No. I haven't met your father. My world… was difficult. About eighty percent of the population was dead or dying." Or… monsters responsible for the dead and dying, but he left that out. "I'm okay, though. Apparently your world has cured what my world was dying of."

"Apparently," Lynette says, "or I've been stuck in a fever dream. Which is likely. New parenthood can feel that way." She reaches over to put a hand on his, reassuring. "He's happy. He's not scared of it. He uses electricity to power force fields. It's only come out when he's feeling something to heavily. Which makes sense, that was my challenge, too."

She looks at the license, her face crumbling at the name. At what it means for him. "Javi used to tell me stories about him. How he was full of life, despite the world they lived in. He never said that José pulled him back from the brink, but I knew. He gave him hope. And you, too." That's not really a question, but curiosity colors her tone. His use of Javier makes her smile, though and she gives him a crooked smile. "I always told him I used Javi because it was easier to remember during sex." That is a familiar story, at least. Lynette always did like to sidestep the truth.

"Well. You'll meet him here. I mean, if you want to come back to New York, you could meet him. The house has guest rooms, more than we need, but you're welcome to one of them. I know this," she says with a gesture to the bed, too how they spent the afternoon, "is complicated. But you're…" / /Not// him, but not not him.

The reason for his nickname makes him laugh, as it had the first time he'd heard it. "You do certainly remember it," 'Javi' teases, grinning over at her as the tears have started to dry on his face. His eyes and cheeks are still reddish, but that would take time to fix.

Hope was a good way to describe José. Someone who had definitely pulled him from the brink. "If we had another, we'd have to name her after Eve." It's a joke, one that's said in an emotionally worn out way as an offhanded comment. But he's definitely thinking that once he's found this again there's no way he'll let it go. Especially if she wanted him in her life. It also quietly let her know that, even if not in the same way, Eve had just pulled him from the brink.

But definitely not in the same way.

Her father will recognize him. Others might as well, too. It reminds him of some advice he had gotten not long after arriving in this world. That dampens his mood to something more serious. "It might be dangerous for me to stay. There might be people looking for me…" He wanted her to know that, just in case. "I don't know what they would want from me, but I got a warning from someone. Someone not unlike Eve."

That a dragon might find and use him. Or find and devour him. "I don't want to put either of you in danger."

But he can't imagine not staying with them, either. Even if he's still hesitating to touch the baby in front of him.

"Somehow I manage it," Lynette says, her eyes threatening tears again when he laughs. But it comes with a smile and a wry tone, even if she blinks away they tears. His joke makes her lift her eyebrows, but there's a softness to her expression. It's twofold. Grateful for Eve's intervention and touched by the notion that children don't seem to frighten him. Her Javi was so haunted, she was half sure he would be afraid to have Manuel. "Eve is a beautiful name," she ends up saying, her words soft.

Manuel seems to be entertaining himself by tangling his fingers in Lynette's hair. It must be a common occurrence, given that she isn't phased by it, even the little tugs that come every now and then.

"Well. There's also the fact that someone killed my husband. Not by chance. So you might be in more danger than you think. But— I'm very good at staying hidden when I need to. The house is out of the way. No one comes that isn't meant to be there." Which he knows, since she disappeared on him along with everyone else. "There's a place for you there, if you want it." Because she isn't letting this go either. Not him and her.

She knew the danger, she was still willing to accept it, to let him into her life and be close to her son. Who apparently has a ability somewhat opposite to his. "I actually found out I can use energy from more than just electricity. I used fire as well," he responds quietly, thoughtfully. His ability had changed a lot. For one. The portals had been different looking, felt different, far more stable. And that didn't even include the circumstances that brought him and the others to this world.

"I don't use my ability much anymore. I'm usually negated. I asked the doctors for it, when I got here." He'll explain why, but he imagined she knew at least part of how his ability affected him. She had mentioned 'hearing it', before he'd explained how he actually was her husband in some ways.

With a nod, he leans over and puts his id away again, before looking over at the boy. The boy who would have never known his father. While he knew he couldn't be his father, wasn't actually his father… he could give the boy that. The ability to know who his father should have been. "I'll go with you. Or at least meet you there." He had not planned to go back, but he still had the truck he'd bought before he left. It would make it back up there.

"I should introduce you to some people, to. If you're okay with that."

"I understand. Javi said it was easier on him, when he was negated. He wasn't often, but I understand." Of course, now she figures that he wanted to be ready for when his past caught up with them. "Whatever you need, that's what we'll do." Her Ruiz didn't do many displays of power, either, so she couldn't say if he knew the finer points of what he was capable of.

Lynette laughs lightly after he agrees to come to New York, her head shaking. "I'd like it if we went together. You'll have to forgive me if that seems a bit… clingy." She doesn't mind appearing so. Or being so.

"I'll meet anyone you think I should meet. It's only fair," she says with a nod toward Manuel. Sprung that introduction on him. And as if reminded, Lynette stands, putting Manuel on her hip before she crosses to a closet to pull out and unfold a crib. Hotel provided. Even though it would definitely be easier with both hands, it doesn't seem to occur to her to ask for help. And during this endeavor, she finally realizes just how tangled her son's fingers are in her hair. "Manecito," she says to him on an indulgent sigh, "«did you miss me that much?»"

She looks back over to Mateo, her expression apologetic. As if this all were inconveniencing him in some fashion.

As she stands to unfold the crib, without even thinking of asking for help, Ruiz is right beside her, reaching to assist. She didn't have to ask. He didn't have to be told. That she's speaking Spanish to her son makes him look at her with a softer expression, as he knew any other him would probably have been touched by it. "You know… when we were married. I vowed to love her in this life and any other." Because they had known about the other worlds.

Because part of him wanted to believe all hims would love all hers. That that was one thing the garden would always show. Even if it went against what Borges had meant to write. That all variations were true, that one path they would be an enemy. That some they would not even exist. "I think that was why I couldn't approach you when we first arrived. I wanted to…" But he didn't. He wishes he had, now. He could have been with her through it, even if he knew it had been too soon for the both of them.

"I read your letter. I can't say where he is, exactly, but I'd like to think that he's wherever my Lynette is." That the two of them had met, somehow, in whatever passes for an afterlife. "They died on the same day."

In different worlds.

Lynette blinks when he comes to help, but her smile comes on the heels of surprise. She ends up watching him for a few moments, until she has to fight off tears again. She had accepted a long time ago that she would never see him like this. Helping with the baby. She turns her attention to untangling her hair, an effort that gets a squealing laugh from Manuel. When Mateo speaks again, her gaze flicks over to him. She listens in silence, trying and failing to keep herself from crying again. That he had promised to love her that way, that it made it hard to actually talk to her at first. "I'm not sure how I would have handled it, then. I wasn't in a good place." Probably still isn't. But a better one than she had been. "You were— I thought I was seeing him, sometimes. In a crowd or at— " The letter she left at his grave. Mention of it brings her up short.

Where are you right now?

"That's a lovely thought," she says, although her voice is strained. "I hope that's true. That they could find each other. The same day…" A hand lifts to wipe at her face, but it doesn't stop her tears from continuing to fall, slow but steady. "I don't know why that makes it all seem worse, but it does."

God he had wanted to. Because he knew the moment he would speak to her he would fall in love with her all over again.

And he did. He loved what parts of his Lynette he'd seen in her. He loved what parts of her that were wholly her. He loved the way she said things differently. He loved the way she spoke Spanish. He loved the way she looked at her son. He loved the way her son looked at her.

He even loved that the knowledge made it sadder for her, because it had for him. When he'd counted the days backward and realized what it had meant, he had wanted to just cry on that bus, even with all the pain in his chest, with the pounding of blood in his head. As she wipes at the tears, he reaches to touch her, still holding that child that actually had a piece of him somewhere. "I'm sorry."

Though not for telling her. His apology was the empathetic kind of sorry. Because she could understand his pain, and he could understand hers. "I wasn't in a very good place either." He'd tried to self-destruct many of his closest friendships, cut off others entirely. "I shouldn't have followed you around, but I wanted to see you."

His touch draws her in and Lynette touches her forehead to his. Her free hand clings to him and she nods gently to the apology. "I'm sorry, too," she echoes, for the same reasons. She knows he's still grieving because she is. She knows it was hard for him, because it was hard for her. But when she opens her eyes to look at him, there's warmth there. Comfort. Acceptance. "You're forgiven," she says with a slight smile, a gentle laugh. It's hard to say if there's anything she could hold against him for long. Or at all.

Plus, if their positions had been reversed, she would have done the same.

"Will you stay here? With me— with us? While we're here?" Lynette just barely manages to keep it from sounding like a plea, but the way she looks at him gives it away. That she needs him, now that she knows he's real. There's a vulnerability in it that she doesn't seem to know how to hide— not this version of her. It isn't that she was never closed off, she very much was in her own past, but she learned another way and now she can't go back. And with him standing here with her, touching her, she has no desire to.

As their foreheads touch, Ruiz closes his eyes, letting his hand fall to her neck and hold her close in that way. He would hold her like that forever, if he could. There's so much more he could tell her about his world, about his Lynette, about everything that had happened there— but he mostly just wanted to be close to her, to touch her. "I'd love to," he responds quietly when she pulls back enough to open his eyes, to see how much she wants him to stay, needs him to stay.

"If you want me to go back to New York with you we'll have to take a truck. Or a car." He has a truck, but it's pretty cheap. "My ID won't get me into the country in an airport." He hadn't intended to fly, after all. It will only work via land and sea. And he doubted she wanted to take a ship all the way up there. "It's not a bad drive." It would give them time to talk, time to tell stories in the cabin of a car.

Lynette lets out a relieved sigh when he accepts and she leans back in, pressing a kiss to his forehead, and his cheek before she leans back again. But she doesn't let go of him, like she might worry that he'd fade away if she did.

"We took a train here," she notes, "Manuel doesn't like to fly. He loved watching out the train windows, though. I think we could manage a drive." Her hand finally moves from Mateo, so she can reach up and ruffle Manuel's hair some. "And I had better feed you before you notice you're hungry, huh, my little darling?" She looks back to Mateo, like she might be about to say something. But she changes her mind a moment later. "I usually lay him down after." Hence the crib. "The kitchenette is about to turn into a war zone, so… enter at your own risk."

"Truck or train, it all sounds good." The three of them can get to know each other even more, and he wouldn't have to be alone with his thoughts anymore. Ruiz had seen what being alone with his thoughts had led to.

Despite her warning, he follows, because he doesn't want to miss a moment after all the moments he's already missed. And he knows that the other him would have wanted to be there too, if he could.

He would just have to make up for both of their absences.

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