Of All the Gin Joints in the World


corbin_icon.gif daphne_icon.gif

Scene Title Of All the Gin Joints in the World
Synopsis This isn't how Daphne Millbrook wanted "the one that got away" to see her again.
Date July 10, 2020

Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba

The world doesn’t look so bad when viewed from up high and behind glass. The sky is blue, the trees green, and this window is high enough up that the sounds of traffic or people are too distant to make it through the thick panes. This far away from the rest of the hospital rooms, there’s no beeping from monitors or voices of harried nurses.

Most importantly, there’s none of the other people from the plane crash to ask questions, or worse, commiserate.

Daphne sits stony faced in a wheelchair, arms crossed against her stomach as she stares with hard, angry eyes at the world outside. The bright sunshine seems to belie the fact that she feels she’s living her two worst nightmares at once. Reliving them. As she has too many times before.

“There you are.”

It’s possibly because of a friend that Corbin was able to find her without walking around the entire hospital, but he can still hear that before she sees him reflected in the glass overlooking the city, walking up behind her. He hasn’t changed much since the last time she saw him— just a little more wrinkles around the eyes and lips, hints of age and time. But still him. Still Corbin Ayers. His suits are a little nicer than they used to be, a little more put together, like he took some time to make sure he actually had his tie on correcting before he got to the hospital.

He can’t help the sad smile on his face, though. This was the last way he’d wanted to see her again, certainly. It brought back some memories. Not exactly pleasant ones, but somehow… fond anyway. Mostly because of who had been involved. “See anything interesting?”

Daphne’s eyes close and she mouths a silent swear, hoping her own dim reflection doesn’t reveal to him, that paler, fainter ghost in the glass that she wasn’t aware of until she saw his.

She forces a smile onto her face as she turns in the chair slowly to look up at him. She looks much the same, a little paler, maybe, or it’s a trick of the light and an illusion caused by the darker hair. Gone, however, is the light and joy in her eyes, much like the last time he’d seen her without her ability, when she had been so ill with the flu that had stripped her of her power and her ability to walk.

That had an explanation, at least.

“Of all the gin joints in the world,” she begins, but then shrugs at his question. “A pigeon carrying a Red Hot Cheeto a few minutes ago. He flew away though so I didn’t get to watch how that worked out for him, sadly.”

Her dark eyes study him for a moment. “You look good. All grown up.” They weren’t kids by any means before the war, but he’s polished up a little in places he’d been scruffier before.

“I happened to walk into yours,” Corbin finishes the line with a sly grin, as he moves closer, spreading his arms to show off his suit, “I got a promotion, if you can believe it. I’m more behind a desk and in case management than in the field now, which is probably a good idea. I never liked having to shoot at people, or get shot at.” And sometimes the field had called for that.

He’d done it when he had to. But that didn’t mean he had to enjoy it. Managing cases gave him a feeling that he could still do things without having to be hands-on as much. And in some ways it was more like his old job, keeping track of the records and making sure that everything was filed properly.

Transparency was something he wanted this time around. When he could manage it.

‘One of my co-workers called and told me you were here.” Involved. Kidnapped. He can’t help but look down with a grimace. He had been given a brief of what had been found so far. And he knew what that meant for her especially. “I asked if I could take some time out to help with your case personally. I probably won’t get assigned the actual case, but…” He’ll still try to manage it a little. He’s sure others will too. He half expects Nicole to demand to get some field time, if what he heard is true. “Anything I can do for you?”

She gestures to one of the nearby chairs. “Sit down so I don’t have to stare up at you, will ya,” she says a little wryly. She sounds like her old self, though she doesn’t look much like the Daphne he had known. The dark hair is just a superficial change — there’s a weariness and heaviness to her spirit that he’d only seen when she was ill.

“You didn’t have to do that,” she adds, maybe a little too sharply, because she winces and closes her eyes. “Sorry. I just… the only thing I hate more than being like this is having you see me like this, you know?”
Her dark eyes open again, but she turns her head to look down the hall rather than into his earnest face.

“I do appreciate it. It was nice of you to come,” Daphne adds, a little more softly. “Alanis Morissette has nothing on this special brand of irony.”

“Her brand of irony didn’t make very much sense in some cases anyway,” Corbin jokes as he pulls a chair over and sits down, so they are on closer to the same eye-level. He still looks quietly concerned, even a little grimacy, especially when she says she’d rather him not see her like this. “You’re not sick this time too, at least,” he offers as an aside, so that she can at least have that. She might still be in a wheelchair, but she wasn’t sweaty with fever and coughing and looking otherwise weak and horrible.

“This time you still look like you, more or less.” Though he did note the weariness. It added a gravity to her that she usually didn’t have. “Though your hair’s different. I like it.” He’s not surprised he recognized her, even after ten years, and it hadn’t just been because she was in a wheelchair and in the place he was told she would be. He could still see her in that face, older or not. She was still Daphne.

“At least I’m not sick,” she echoes, though with none of his conviction. Her tone is bitter rather than wry, and she looks away again.

The flu was temporary, is the thing. This is not.

She doesn’t vocalize those thoughts, but he knows her well enough to know what she’s thinking. Nine years hasn’t changed that much.

Her hand goes to her short-cropped hair in its natural color. “I don’t actually remember changing it,” she says, with a shake of her head. “I don’t remember looking at myself in the mirror the night before and seeing it, but I was pinned under some wreckage, probably hit my head a little.”

Her brown eyes find his face again. “Do they know anything more than what they’re telling us? I don’t expect a miracle cure but is there a suspect? Do they have a theory? The others said something about Gemini, and those assholes — Mazdak.”

There’s a thoughtful sound when Corbin hears that she wasn’t the one who changed her hair to brunette, which means he can chalk that one up to another change that had been done to her in her time after being taken. Why would they change her hair? It was her natural hair color, he assumed, but he wasn’t going to ask specifically even then, because, well— she had more important worries than hair right now.

“We don’t know a lot, no,” he responds simply, shaking his head. “It’s possible that Mazdak is behind it, but this is a weird move even for them, but it’s— potentially possible. The presence of those ACTS they found some of you in concerns me…” After all, he’d seen those before. And so had anyone who had been familiar with those who had ended up destroying the Company from the inside pretty much.

This kind of stuff, experimenting on people, was right up their alley. “We’ll look into it as much as we can. This is what SESA was formed to investigate.” Crimes against… her kind?

She turns her sad brown eyes to the window again, brows drawing together as she stares out. It might seem she’s done talking, for the length of the moment that stretches between them — seeing him again would be awkward enough without it being for this particular reason. And the reason she left New York seeming more and more pointless.

“The Department of Evolved Affairs was also supposed to help expressives, once upon a time,” Daphne murmurs, more to herself than to him.

Her palms come up to cover her eyes and she groans in frustration.

“If my ability comes back, remind me I need to go live in Tibet or something, will you?” It’s about as close to saying she was wrong to leave the United States as Daphne is going to get.

“I’d say the Department of Evolved Affairs didn’t have me— but it did,” Corbin says with a small shake of his head. “But I wasn’t as high up as I am now, so— there’s that. I think I can reasonably say this wasn’t us at least. That doesn’t mean it’s not someone who wasn’t once associated with us, though.” Cause, well, the Company and the DoEA had so many skeletons in so many closets they probably had more skeletons hidden within closets hidden within ribcages of skeletons hidden in closets hidden within skulls hidden within closets.

Yeah it was probably that bad at this point. He wouldn’t be surprised if it was tracked down to someone with ex-Company ties at some point, cause— they just seemed to have their hands in everything.

“I’m not sure Tibet is the best choice. Madagascar actually has some pretty good Expressive policies though. And lemurs.”

That’s a joke.

But not completely. It is actually an option. Better than Europe, in some ways. “Or Germany, if you really prefer Europe. They’re not too bad.”

She sighs, covering her eyes with the palms of her hands, then drags her fingers through her short dark hair. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair,” she says, before turning to look up at him again.

“You know I trust you. It’s just… agencies and organizations I don’t trust. A person can be good. People tend to suck, and groups of people with power and resources? Power is a corrupting force, even when it starts out with good intentions. You know,” she waves at the ground, “Hell, intentions, paved.”

His suggestions of where to emigrate earns him a small Daphne snort, but there’s no amusement in her eyes. “It’s probably moot anyway. They say we’re not even testing positive for SLC-E anymore. I guess at least I don’t have to be afraid of every robot I run into. So there’s that.” Always looking on the bright side.

“It’s not impossible for someone who was Expressive to be depowered— it happens sometimes. It happened recently with another Expressive I know. They lost their ability and tested negative— some get their abilities back, though, there’s treatments for some. Some…” Corbin trailed off, trying to think of what had happened with some of the others. What few he knew about— well, in most cases they never got their ability back. In some cases they got something else entirely…

Would Daphne be happy with anything other than super speed? With a frown, he shakes his head. “You’re right, though, groups can be dangerous. That’s why good people have to stay in them. That’s why— I couldn’t leave when you asked me to.”

This was something that— perhaps, was something he’d needed to say for a long time. There had always been reasons. There had always been the ghost of a memory that haunted him— but that hadn’t been why he’d stayed.

She hangs on his words, that glimmer of hope that she might get her ability back, for a long moment. For a second, she looks more like the old Daphne than this defeated angry person that’s a stranger, for as much as they’re not strangers.

When he brings up the past, though, she presses her lips together and looks away. One hand comes up to press the knuckles against her mouth, and Daphne nods. Once, twice.

It’s another long moment before she looks back to him again, dark eyes wet with tears. “I know,” she says softly. “And it’s why I still love you.”

The truth always hurts, in Daphne’s experience.

Her hand comes up to swipe at her eyes, and Daphne looks down the hall. “Listen, Friday, I know our entire past history is based on rescuing one another, and I’m glad you’re on the case as one of the good ones that I trust. But I won’t be offended if you want to pass this one off to someone else, either.”

He knows this tone of voice — it’s her friendly-arm’s-length tone she used with him in the beginning of everything. “No hard feelings. I mean, we’re not even in America, and I’m not — okay, well, technically I’m still American, but I wasn’t in the good ol’ US of A when whatever happened happened, so. I won’t be offended.”

With a sad glance away, Corbin chooses to look out the window after she admits to still loving him, despite the fact he had to choose what he did over her, just as she had chosen what she did over him. It had been painful for them both, and it had taken years to work through. He hadn’t even attempted to go on dates, but then he also didn’t want to put anyone through the situation of his history. It wasn’t like most people knew about Hokuto, or understood what was going on there— and most women, notably, wouldn’t want to get involved with that if they did, he was sure.

And now—

With a slow breath, he decides to focus on the present and the case at hand. It was easier than the heartbreak and the worry and the past and the present and the things that could have been and the things that were.

“I’m not actually on the case,” he admits. “Not the field part, at least. I’m in charge of the field people, though, so I can keep a close eye on what they’re doing and make sure they don’t dismiss things they shouldn’t, or don’t follow leads they need to follow. I’m sure that Miller will be on this pretty strongly too, even if she has a very big conflict of interest— I do too, but not quite as big.”

An ex being involved was not as big a conflict as being involved yourself— and losing your children. She shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the case, but he also knew that they probably wouldn’t be able to keep her off it.

Just like they wouldn’t be able to keep him off it.

“Would you prefer to stay in Kansas with your dad instead of coming to New York?”

Daphne keeps her eyes on the ground between them as he doesn’t answer, and then when he does. She nods when he says he’s not on the case officially, smirking a little when he calls her not quite as big a conflict of interest.

“Are you calling me fat?”

The attempt at levity is a weak one, but she manages to at least look less sad for a moment.

“I don’t know yet. I don’t know that I want him to see me like this,” she admits, before turning her wheelchair to point it in the direction of her room. “I won’t say it’s good to see you but I’m glad to see you doing okay, if that makes sense. But right now I just… I need to go.”

If it were the old days, she’d already be a blur, a rustle of wind against his coat.

If this were the old days, nothing Corbin could have said or done could have stopped her. There would have been no hope to follow her. This time, though, there was. But at the same time, he hesitates, he swallows the words that start to come out, even stopping with his mouth open for a moment before he closes it again. It was almost as if she did run off in a blur. At least for a second.

She didn’t, but, perhaps, he’d let her have that much. Her ability to leave with the last word, like she’d always had before.

Even if this time he gets to stand there and watch her as she wheels out of sight.

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