Never Look At The Sun


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Scene Title Never Look At The Sun
Synopsis Hold out / My own reflection / I've found out / Less than perfection
Date July 5, 2021

The stars are bright and plentiful tonight.

Even living in the partially blasted ruins of New York City, and the Safe Zone that followed in its wake, there was just enough light and pollution to make seeing the stars a struggle at the best of times, particularly the closer you got to places like Phoenix Heights and Yamagato. Rochester hadn't been much better, truth be told, and rarely was there time enough to get out of the city enough to take in such a sight.

Watching them shine in the sky is a stark reminder of a lot of things. Of times on the road during the war, of nights on rooftops in Ireland, of visiting her mother, of trips to the French countryside. Of better times, really. There's an edge to it, though, knowing what awaits them all in the near future. There's a new, almost threatening aura to the starwashed sky above now.

And yet, Robyn Quinn still can't help but stare up into nothing.

Ruins of Toledo

July 5th

11:02 pm

Being able to see in the dark helps, of course, but when it comes to the starry sky, each dot of light radiating in the heavens, the darkness is irrelevant. Head craned upwards and knees pulled up to her chest, she sighs. For the first time in her life, she feels small. What can they even do, at this point, in the face of such poor celestial odds?

The knowledge that what they are doing may be futile, that she doesn't even seem to make it back home, weighs heavily on her. Not knowing if Matthew would make it back in time to be saved, in whatever form that would take in this case only compounds the intense pressure she feels in this moment.

The prophecy that she, Richard, and Zee had looked over- had they actually called it? Was everything doomed if they were still successful? Were they just creating a circle of misfortune, like the name of the song implied? What could they even do now, knowing where the possibilities of where prophecy and the potential future they now know about intersect?

This was why she didn't want to come on this trip to begin with. This exactly; she had even told Hall as much. Even knowing the end was coming, cursed as that knowledge was… she could find solace in it if she were home, with Matthew and her studio. Not that that's even an option with Matthew still lost on his adventure in time.

If she said she was trying not to dwell on it, she'd be lying. It's all she can think about for the moment. Will tomorrow be different, with renewed zeal tempered by trepidation? Maybe. Maybe she'd write a song about it, assuming whatever vehicle she ends up in is as conducive to the activity as Doc was. Just having the four of them had been lovely, and Cat would make a great person to bounce thoughts off of.

Cat, who had caught her having a moment with Else. Why did that bother her so much? Even now she feels that race of panic again. The truth is, she'd been trying to avoid getting too close to anyone here, much less Else. She'd made a point of barely talking to her after their initial encounter, and as much as it hurt, she knew it had to be that way with how everything in this world was going to go. At least, until Cat had started to break down that barrier.

And now, with her most recent revelations, that barrier feels gone entirely. And where was it getting her? Making the same bad decisions she always makes. Some bad habits are hard to shake, apparently. But why was it a bad decision? Else was something, someone she'd wanted to have back for… years, a feeling that only grew after seeing them together in another timeline.

Else had also apparently lied to her, or was somehow unaware of whatever is going on with her ability, but from Robyn's experience in the past with other precognitives, the former seems much more likely. And that is upsetting on a level she can only partially articulate. Why? Why lie to her?

Exhaling sharply, she buries her face in her knees, shoulders slouching. She has faced down wars, having her face mutilated, horrific robots, time traveling villains, serial killers, and even possibly her own death. And despite that, this is the most helpless she's ever felt, on the heels of how useless she felt in the rubble of that underpass. It's a haunting feeling.

For a woman who doesn't believe in fate, fate weighs heavily on her shoulders tonight.

She should be doing the work she had left the meeting planning to do, and the two notebooks next to her spilling out of her satchel speak to that intention. So far, her work - making copies of all the songs from Else's journal for each of her fellow team members - has gone unattended to.

A glow rises to her cheeks, and she pulls her legs closer as she tries not to sob. Ultimately, she's not sure what hurts more - knowing the likely futility of their mission, or knowing that she may not even get to see Matthew again before the end, hers or otherwise. This was exactly why she didn't want to go, this was why-

"You look more like me than you. What's up with that?"

Robyn lets out a yelp that is barely kept from being a shriek as she jumps to the side, sliding over her satchel, eyes wide and marked by glistening tears forming in the corners of her eyes the match the glow radiating off her face as she looks in the direction of the voice - and sitting next to her, she sees herself.

"Zee," she breathes out, a hand over her heart as glittering tears drift down her face. "Jesus fucking Christ, just because you can be invisible doesn't mean you should do that!" Breathing heavy, she slides back to where she was with a look of disdain on her face. "What the fuck. What do you want?"

Zee tilts her head, looking appraisingly at Robyn. "Whoa," she says quietly. "Are you, uh, okay? I'm sorry, I just was wondering why you were sitting off her alone." A beat, and she furrows her brow. "Did you know you're glowing? Is that something we do? Do we glow?" She doesn't even seem that bothered by the brusque way Robyn addresses her.

"I thought you didn't do what I do," Robyn is quick to snipe at Zee, wiping tears from her face as she turns away from her, placing her forehead back against her knees.

Zee is quiet for a moment, before she rolls her eyes and sighs. "Humour me," she says in a quiet voice, watching her other self intently as she does.

Robyn's expression is flat for a long moment, sleeve running across her face as she sniffles, failing to realise she has been sufficiently distracted from whatever was troubling her. "Uh. I mean… yeah. It's something I do. My- god, this is going to sound weird." A rueful chuckle escapes her as she sits up a bit. "It's hard to show now, but I don't- I guess technically I still have blood in my veins, but the truth is I bleed light."

She holds her left arm out in front of her, rolling her dampened sleeve back up and squeezing her hand into a first to make her arm tense up. As she does, Zee can see a bit of a faint glow, one that pulses and grows brighter around her veins when she tenses her arm. "It gives me a bit of a… bioluminescent quality. So, unless I actively suppress it, I always have a bit of a faint glow to me, and it can come out stronger when I'm experiencing, uh. Heightened emotion."

So, like right now.

"Wow," is genuine wonderment from Zee as she leans over to look closer at Robyn's arm. "So you do glow." She blinks and smiles; it's clear to her this is a neat thing, even if her smile doesn't last. "I've never done anything like that, I don't think I can do anything like that.."

"I disagree," Robyn asserts, before relaxing her arm and turning her hand so that her palm faces downwards. She wiggles her fingers as light begins to drift out from their tips, but rather than extend outwards to light the way ahead like usual, the light bends backwards and begins to run over her arm up to her elbow, coating it like it were brightly glowing paint. "I learned how to do this a few months ago. I have… no idea why or to what end, but it's… interesting. I have theories on how it could be useful."

Zee's eyes grow wide with shock at this sight. "Whoa," is another sound of wonderment. "So, does that mean you can… turn into light? Because that's what that looks like to me." There's a hopeful tone in voice, rocking a bit so she leans closer to Robyn.

The answer she gets is a scoff and a shake of Robyn's head. "Nope. Never figured that one out. I don't think I ever will, either. How my ability works has… changed substantially over the years. The truth is, I lost access to it for years after pushing myself to the point of burnout. Permanently damaged my eyesight in the process."

She swallows audibly at that thought, for a moment risking another spiral of despair as she remembers the events she went through in the Arcology. "That said, I know we can do it. I've seen another one of us, in another timeline, do it. It's amazing… and terrifying. I don't actually know if I want that much power." She purses her lips, considering for a moment if she should tell Zee about their villainous counterpart, but ultimately decides against it.

"When my ability did finally start to come back…" she starts, turning to look more directly at Zee, "I could only control darkness, and see in the dark, something I could never do before. It took almost two years for me to regain control over light, through stress and desperation." She taps the side of her head, a sad smirk forming. "Got my eyesight back in the process, and I'm terrified if I ever lose my ability again, or get negated, that it's back to grayscale and photophobia for me."

"Photophobia? Light hurt?" Zee seems confused by this, furrowing her brow. "…achromatopsia, then?" She exhales sharply, wrapping her arms around herself. "Sounds like we've both been through a lot."

"That… is exactly it, actually." Robyn tilts her head as she tries to read Zee's expression. "You're much smarter than you let on."

"Don't be a jerk," Zee huffs back, turning to stare straight ahead.

"No, I mean it. You clearly don't let on how much you actually know. You keep really catching me off guard with it. It's impressive." For once, not an insult or a belittlement from Robyn - rather, a genuine compliment. "At any rate, that's why I don't believe you. That you can't do what I do. I've been there. I've had trauma that cost me my ability and left me with permanent damage. I'll never forget November 8th, 2011, and that's a big reason why."

Closing her eyes, Robyn presses her forehead against her knees. "But I found it again. I think you can too, if we work together. I had a mentor back home, Colette Nic- Demsky. She was instrumental in getting on the right track with my ability more than once. Maybe I can do that for you?"

Zee stares ahead for a long moment, silent and unwilling to give Robyn any sort of response or answer. After a minute, she looks back over her shoulder, back at the convoy behind them like she's contemplating escaping from this conversation. Instead, she inhales breath, letting her hands fall into her lap as she looks down at them.

"I don't know how things are back where you come from, but… mum's a scientist here. Worked for the Department of Evolved Affairs and… I forget what they were called before that. OSI, I think?" She rolls her shoulders, hunching forward a bit. "She never studied abilities like some of the others did, she travelled around a lot to wherever they needed her. I never really lived in one place for too long at a time, outside of New York."

Fingers wrap around the fabric of her jeans, bunching them up in her hands as her shoulders sag. "But she used to always be impressed with the progress I was making with my ability. Used to tell me that I had the potential to be the strongest photokinetic in the world, which was already an exceptionally rare ability."

She clicks her tongue, closing her eyes herself. "And then the flood happened, and I lost it all. I don't know that I can actually regain it." Robyn may not know about Zee's healing, but this comment is something that carries a genuine sentiment regardless. Still, she turns her gaze over to look at Robyn's still glowing arm, and the other woman can practically see Zee doing math in her head as she watches her.

"I don't think I need a mentor. It's like… a muscle I haven't worked in a long time. It's tense, prone to injury if I push too hard. I need to work it out, more than anything. I don't need to be taught." Not yet, at least.

Robyn runs a hand over her mouth as she listens, opening her eyes and looking ahead. "I'm sorry," she says quietly, empathically. She gets it. She also understands there's probably little more than needs to be said on that matter. "Well, if you want help, or… I guess a proverbial gym buddy, let me know."

Chewing on her lip for a moment, Robyn turns to look over at Zee, cheek still pressed against her knee. "I heard you helped fight off the assholes who hit Wildcat and Speedwagon? I thought you couldn't-"

"I don't want to talk about it." Meaning, Zee isn't ready to tell her counterpart about what Natalie and Richard did for her. Not today. Not with Natalie's death still fresh in her mind. A part of her feels guilty, knowing how much what the two of them did to heal her must have weakened them, but Natalie in particular. "It just… I acted without thinking. It reminded me of being in the Ark and…"

Her lips quirk side to side. "I don't want to talk about it," she repeats, this time in a whisper. One hand reflexively curls into a fist, the other running through her hair. Neither motion draws Robyn's attention as unusual. "I don't like guns," she admits. "Never been a fan. But I- I wasn't going to just sit around and cry like I did in the Ark. I couldn't stand to let that happen again."

Robyn is quiet as she listens to Zee, shifting so that she's looking just over the top of her knees. "You still haven't told me much of what happened in the Arcology. Do you want to talk about it?"

"Do you want to talk about why you're out here crying?" Unlike past conversations between the two, this time Zee isn't sniping back to prove a point. Well, she is a little, but there's an undercurrent of genuine worry to her voice as she reaches over and places a hand on the other woman's shoulder. "Is everything okay?" she asks again, hoping this time she gets an actual answer.

"No." It's a simple response, with no clarification to which question of Zee's Robyn is answering. The answer comes in how she sighs and pulls her knees back up, burying her face into them like someone much younger might do. It's more than enough to tell Zee that she means no to both questions. "I might be okay, but I'm not fine at all," is a more direct answer, quoting a song Robyn remembers from just when the war was kicking off.

"The DoEA," is what she says after a moment, a transparent way of steering the conversation away, "they were the good guys here. Right?" There's a sense of pleading buried deep in the back of those words. "Where I come from, we had our own Department of Evolved Affairs, but… they were a force for evil. Oppression. Tools used by a government that wanted the evolved, specials, whatever you want to call us, they just wanted us dead, gone, or imprisoned. They were one of the forces that instigated our civil war Richard and I told you about."

Taking a deep breath, she looks over at Zee, raising a still glowing arm to rub at her eyes as she does. "I have to know mom worked for the good guys. I can't- I can barely handle the times I've been the villain of the story. I don't know if I can take it if she was." Her voice is small, quiet, uncertain. Hopeful she already knows the answer to this question.

There is a long moment of hesitation from Zee as she studies Robyn, a thin smile crossing her lips as she chuckles despite the seriousness of the question at hand. "I mean, they weren't perfect. Yeah, though. They were the good guys, far as I ever knew. Mum definitely was, or I wouldn't be looking for her, y'know?"

A moment lingers as Zee considers elaborating, but she decides against it, instead shrugging. "Mr. Ray worked for them. Dad worked for them. Director Cardinal worked for them… like I said, it wasn't perfect, but at least in the places I was, with the people I knew, I couldn't imagine it any other way, you know?"

"Is that why you always refer to them so formally, because mom- your mom, worked with them?" Robyn lifts her head back up just enough to keep her words from being muffled. "Edward and Michelle, that is. I never knew my world's Edward Ray, but I know Michelle. It's so… strange to actually hear her called Director Cardinal, but I think it suits her. But to me she's still a… well, colleague might be a stretch, but the idea is there, I've worked with her a few times since she came to my world. I mean, and she's Richard's mom."

"Colleagues? Nah, there's no way, she's way out of your league." Zee is, for a brief moment, all smiles. She preens, clearly pleased with her teasing despite how Robyn rolls her eyes. "Besides, she's a scientist, like mom. You said you're, what. A cop?"

Robyn lets out a huff, shaking her head. "I do a lot more than routine law enforcement, or even federal law enforcement. Sometimes I have to work with other departments, or civilian entities, like Richard's company - which is where Michelle works these days. Or… I end up working with them for private endeavours, like when I went to Antarctica with Richard, Michelle, and a few others a few years back to track down information on mom."

Tapping the side of her nose, she frowns. "Because remember, I didn't… know anything about what she'd done before I was born. Neither did she. That's… a big point of divergence in our lives, I guess." She scrunches her nose, burying her face in her knees again. "S’why I never knew dad too."

Zee's expression sours, looking down at her feet for a moment as she listens. "So your SESA was like our DoEA."

"Seems that way, with the added bonus that yours doesn't have acronyms within acronyms," Robyn notes with a genuine chuckle.

"Mmm." Zee is quiet for a moment, clearly stricken by something as stares downwards. "You and I are more alike than you realise." She does, though, moreso than she's willing to explain right now.

"That's bad news for you," Robyn grouses, exhaling sharply. "I hope that's not the case, to be honest. It's better if we're not."

The withering look Robyn gets in return is not one she's used to seeing from Zee, who in turn rolls her eyes and shakes her head. "It's not so bad, you know. I mean, I don't want us to be too much alike, but…" She sits up a bit straighter, squaring her shoulders for a moment. "If we were, maybe you'd remember how to see the positive in things."

Raising an eyebrow, she looks over at Robyn and shrugs. "I get it. It sucks. I'm guessing more than I know. You don't have to tell me how crushing that is," she says in a low voice as she turns back away from Robyn. "I've been there. I've lived that for the last decade." She pauses, raising a finger and wags in front of her. "And I certainly wasn't always in a good place, because it's never as easy as just waking up and deciding, 'oh, everything's fine today and I feel great!', yeah?"

She lets that linger for a moment before she looks back at Robyn. "But if you don't even try, nothing's going to get better. That's what I had to learn. Sometimes, some things are outside of our control. If we don't make the most of it, what's the point? You can't control other people, how they feel, or what they do."

"You sound like my therapist," Robyn remarks in a droll tone, slowly pushing herself up to her knees. "You wouldn't be saying that if you knew what I knew," she remarks obliquely, dismissively. "Or knew the people I know."

Zee watches Robyn as she rises up to her feet and shrugs. "I mean, maybe you're right. But I have a saying I use to encourage myself to press forward, to try and keep smiling, to try even in overwhelming odds. It's gotten me through a lot."

"I have a feeling you're going to tell me even if I say not to bother," Robyn notes, brushing off her pants before looking down at her other self.

"Rien ne peut m'arrêter maintenant." Zee says the phrase simply, and nods.

"'Nothing can stop me now'?" Seeming a bit perplexed, Robyn watches the other woman for a moment. "That's an… interesting choice." She turns like she's getting ready to leave, before pausing and looking back to Zee as she bends back down to pick up her bag and notebooks.

"I have a favour to ask of you. Do you mind helping me make copies of Else's songs?" There's a hopeful tone in Robyn's voice, even as Zee's fingers curl around her chin for a moment.

"Uh, I guess, sure. I'll come find you in a few. Meet you at Wildcat?" Zee nods, a weak smile on her face as Robyn nods and turns to walk off again. Zee turns, watching her go for a long moment, before letting out a held breath and turning back around.

"I wonder what that's all about," she says as she scrunches her nose. "Weird." She doesn't immediately rise, instead holding her hands in front of her and looking down at them. They tremble for a moment - a different sort of shake from what she's used to - as she groans and clenches her teeth.

It takes a moment, but the effort earns her a reward: The brimming of light from her fingertips.

"Someday, we'll be able to share our secrets. I hope you get it together by then, Quinn," she whispers as the light fades and she relaxes, a smile on her face.

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