One Penny, Two Penny


raquelle_icon.gif rhys_icon.gif

Scene Title One Penny, Two Penny
Synopsis Raquelle comes to Rhys for help and Rhys comes face to face with the impossible.
Date February 1, 2020

Nite Owl Diner

NYC Safe Zone

February 1st

3:12 pm

Realizing that you have friends in higher/more connected/official places is something that can happen after you pop up from a post work nap, startling your fiance and one of his dogs and then just scrambling for the phone as you stammer about pennies.

There is the ‘ewww Dad and Daddy we are still HERE’ that comes from the neighboring room at the sound of something clattering to the ground, and then the almost in unison shout from two men with some latino in their blood ‘WE ARE NOT F*CKING’. And a concerned cough of one or two parental figures from the room…on the other side.

Fast forward, a phone call made to an old friend and someone firmly slotted in the ‘younger brother from another mother’ category of associations. Simple message “It’s a cheat day, feeling like carbs, meet me at the diner?” sent to Rhys.

This is what brings Raquelle Cambria sauntering through the doors of the Nite Owl Cafe, dressed in dark grey henley, hair simply arranged to look effortless but in a way that’s clearly styled…fitted dark jeans and a black leather jacket. Make-up is of course on point and he removes a pair of sunglasses to look around for a place to sit and/or the person he’s supposed to be meeting.

Rhys doesn’t arrive for another twenty minutes, leaving Raquelle by himself with a particularly talkative young waitress named Diane, whom he’s learned is Evolved, hasn’t manifested, and survived getting the special flu — H5N10 — a decade ago when she was 9. Rhys’ arrival comes while Diane is in the middle of talking about her favorite romance pairing on River Styx, providing a distraction from her conversational anchor.

It’s the hair that Raquelle recognizes the most, if only because it’s clear Rhys needs to come in for a trim. That he’s dressed for work in a sleek ink-black suit and tie makes him look even thinner than he is, but it also implies that perhaps he hasn’t had the time to come in. Rhys’ priorities always were toward his work obligations. When he spots Raquelle, there’s that small and wordless smile and a wave of his hand before he weaves his way through the diner and insinuates himself at Raquelle’s booth.

“Can I have a coffee, extra cream and sugar,” Rhys interjects to Diana, who only then remembers that she’s on the clock and flashes a pleasant enough smile to the young SESA agent. “Thanks.”

Blinking a look over to Raquelle, Rhys folds his hands on the tabletop and leans forward. “So, I just found out that there’s going to be a huge ceremony for the reopening of Roosevelt Island later this year, big. Lots of parties, music, dancing. You and your— is he your husband yet? — whatever, you and Bolivar need to be there. He needs to socialize like any good rescue puppy.”

Diane has been such a dear, and Raquelle has let her know that after each progressively odder request. Scattered throughout her story, so he can get a break from time to time. His dad skills have prepared him for moments like that. Plenty of ‘mmhms’ and appropriate ‘reallys?’. By the time Rhys does finally decide to show up? There’s a container of maple syrup, 2 biscuits, 2 lemons on a saucer and finally a cup of coffee on the table. Black as his eyeliner. But, after the cup of coffee there really was no delays or breaks until Rhys had arrived.

That blue gaze filled with judgement, concern, and love travels from the younger man’s hair, flicks down his work attire, and then down to his shoe before traveling back up to his hair and his eyes narrow ever so slightly as they linger on said hair.

“Alas, fate seems hell bent on making sure me and my cafe au Latin love remain living in sin. Have a wedding planned, but ya know. Evolutionary bullshit and secrets seem to take priority over seating charts and tux fittings for my groomspeople.”

This is drawled with a mostly faked put upon roll of his eyes before he shifts forward slightly to mirror Rhys’s pose, a small smirk tugging at his lips. “Parties aren’t really his thing, babycakes, you know this but I’ll ask him. Maybe my mom and Papa will want to go as well.”

A long pause. “Also, I am the rescue puppy in my relationship. Thank you very much. I mean we’re both queer aging bitches but I’m the one who used to wear collars.”

Color flushes Rhys’ cheeks and he can’t help but laugh as he looks down to the table and therefore the assortment of odds and ends Raquelle has collected. When he flicks a look back up to the man across the table, it’s an earnest smile reflected back at him. “It was a dog pun because of the police thing and…” Rhys laughs to himself and waves a hand in the air. The joke wasn’t important.

“I know what you mean about secrets taking priority,” Rhys says, raking his hands through either side of his hair and slouching his head forward as if he were just going to lay his head down on the tabletop. “I’ve been working twelve hour shifts six days a week with everything that’s going on right now,” and the addendum of none of which I can talk about shows in the fatigue of his eyes.

“So if this isn’t about the wedding,” Rhys asides, mouthing a silent thank you to Diane when she returns with his coffee and a small ceramic cow for cream, “is this just a social call? Or— is this about the kids?” Rhys is always worried about the kids.

There is a soft tsk, not mocking but genuine fondness sprinkled with faint amusement as Rhys clarifies his joke. “I got the pun, but what kinda fairy god big brother would I be if I didn’t add just a little bit of inappropriate innuendo to our regular exchanges?” Raquelle waggles his well groomed eyebrows before curling a hand around his cup of coffee, leaning forward to rest an elbow against the table.

“Don’t let me forget to give you something for under your eyes… to help take down some of the evidence of the stress.” The hairstylist offers with a hint of concern as he studies the younger man, catching his bottom lip between his teeth and nodding sympathetically. “It is hard to be fabulous and out there savin’ the world isn’t it?”

Then he just gives a shake of his head slowly. “The girls are… coping. My mom and dad are also coping.” He exhales softly. “1, I did want to make sure you got a break. But this is kinda a work call too baby. I mean. Okay. So remember how I was like ‘oh yeah, my mom is sick so my mom and dad are staying with us? Turns out, that’s a lot more complicated?” He takes a looooong sip of coffee. “If I say pennies. What does that mean to you?”

The evident tension in Rhys’ expression only grows as Raquelle continues to talk. He becomes momentarily self-conscious of just how tense he is when Raquelle mentions some ‘under eye’ treatment, which has him filling his coffee with a little too much cream from the backside of that ceramic cow; some spills out onto the table. Making an exasperated sound in the back of his throat, Rhys sets down the cow and then sets about wiping up his spill while making furtive eye contact with the man across from him.

“Pennies,” Rhys echoes, as if he didn’t know precisely what it is Raquelle might be talking about. Tongue against the inside of his cheek, Rhys grows quiet and eventually finds it hard to look Raquelle directly in the eye. “Last year SESA performed an inspection of an old Company facility out on Long Island…” he says as if that somehow is related to Raquelle’s inquiry. “Jac was with us. Before she was an intern. She… helped us find a sealed chamber in the building, and behind a concrete wall there was an old lab from back in the early 80s. One of the first things we found was a chalkboard with names on it…” Rhys shakes his head, “Including one M. Cambria.”

Sighing softly, Rhys leans back in his bench seat and looks at his over-creamed coffee ruefully. “We didn’t have any connection to you, for certain, and the agency didn’t want to alarm you. But if you know something about pennies,” he says with a furrow of his brows, attention flicking back up to Raquelle with a considerably more serious look in his eyes, “then this is all rather suddenly your business.” Rhys briefly looks away, teeth toying at his bottom lip. “Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”

There is a flicker of confusion in Raquelle’s eyes at the mention of M. Cambria, and those eyes narrow a bit as he gives a tiny shake of his head. “So there was a room somewhere in secret organization land, that has a chalkboard with my father’s first initial and my family’s last name?”
He takes a slow sip of his drink before setting it down with a short huff, not of exasperation but just a quick exhale of air to try to cushion the impact of another disturbing fact. Quite poorly. He gives a solemn nod. “Yep, a lot of weird shit has suddenly become my business.”

Then he begins, he tells him about his mother’s cancer and the cause being his father. He tells him about finding out his father was apparently involved in defeating some pretty serious things. He tells him about the random visitors to his home and shop involving visions of memories. Then he tears up a bit, flutter his lashes and tilting his head back by the time he gets to wrap up.

“So yeah, all these years my father’s had a hard time in his relationship with me and I grew up with daddy issues but it turns out that how close I was to him when I was a baby or toddler, ya know just a kid? I don’t think he had those foundational memories. He doesn’t remember any of the stuff he did. So now apparently there’s something about pennies out there that might have those memories on them.” A shrug as he slumps and dabs as his eyes with a napkin.

Rhys reaches out across the table and takes one of Raquelle’s hands, squeezing it gently. It;s a familiar gesture, it isn’t the first time either has been support for the other. “It’s all a bit classified,” Rhys says in a conspiratorial tone, leaning forward over the table and moving his coffee aside with his free hand. “There was a man named Caspar, special — like us — but he could encode memories… steal them, really. He could steal them and put them in objects to retrieve later. He used pennies because I guess he thought he was being clever or something.”

Slowly releasing Raquelle’s hand, Rhys glances around the diner, then looks back. “Wolfhound recovered a whole jar of them from a place Caspar was holed up in. He was on the government’s most-wanted list, he wasn’t a good person. He’s dead, though, so getting anything off the pennies is near impossible.” That much has Rhys’ expression shifting into one of distorted frustration. “SESA has the pennies under lock and key in Kansas City, they’re running tests to see if there’s another way to get the information, but it’s been slow going.”

“Raquelle,” Rhys says with concern evident in his eyes, “if your father’s memories were taken by Caspar, there’s a good chance he might have been a Company agent. There’s a good chance whatever memories he had… they might not just be ones of you. Or just— they might be awful things.” He doesn’t want to be saying this. Not now. Not to Raquelle. “Maybe it’s… some kind of messed up blessing. Maybe this is how you get something most people don’t with their father…” Rhys’ voice hitches a little. “A fresh start.”

Leaning forward as he squeezes Rhys’s hand in return, Raquelle cocks his head to the side as he listens as Rhys adds more color to the rough sketch of details the hairdresser already had. There’s a bob of his Adam's apple as he swallows and gives a small nod as his hand his released.

He lowers his eyes for a moment before looking back up to meet Rhys’s own gaze. “I know he was one, an agent or whatever. And because people showed up to show us what happened, so does he.” He’s quiet for a moment before continuing carefully, shoving the baggage connected to his feelings on the matter side. “They took his memories, and he fought them every step of the way. Even if the memories aren’t um, ideal. They took them from him, and he was trying to fight to keep them.”

He distractedly reaches for Rhys’s hand again, as if trying to get a better look at the other man’s nails. “My father fucked up in a lot of ways, some his fault and some not. I can’t hate him for that, but I will hate myself if I don’t at least give him the choice to know what he lost.”

The look in Rhys’ eyes says he wants to help, wants more than anything to find a way to give Raquelle that peace of mind. But Raquelle knows that pensive silence, knows the crease of Rhys’ brows and the downward cast at the corners of his mouth. “I don’t think I— ”

“I might not be so hasty,” comes from the aisle beside their booth. No one was standing there a moment ago, but now there is a white-haired old man with a smug look that Raquelle Cambria has come to hate. And yet…


…Walter Renautas might be the only one who can help.

Rhys reflexively withdraws his hand from Raquelle’s and straightens up in his seat. There’s a troubled look in Rhys’ eyes; startled, protective. He reaches inside of his tailored blazer for something holstered under his arm, but Walter slowly raises one hand and makes an apologetic face.

“I don’t mean to startle, I just… I was looking for this fine young man,” Walter says with a motion to Raquelle, “and I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation.” Rhys’ eyes narrow in the same moment his pupils begin to widen, taking in something other than simply light.

Raquelle gives another gentle squeeze of Rhys’s hand as he watches his facial expression. He even braces himself for the inevitable here. It was a long shot, and his respect for his friends abilities or resources never wanes, but hope reigns eternal.

Then he hears THAT VOICE. 3 things happen. There’s a flicker of emotions ranging from anger, fear, and resignation in his eyes. He blinks slowly and just lifts his head to stare over towards Walter. And he just exhales. “Oh god not this motherf*cker again.” He huffs out the breath and pastes on a strained smile. “Just happened to overhear. Like some fucked up green fairy hallucination generated guardian angel with a magical remote to a memory based VCR that can only rewind.”

He gestures towards where they are sitting. “Let me guess, stuff’s about to get trippy again?”

“What are you?” Is Rhys’ question, overlapping Raquelle’s more rhetorical one. Renautas considers Rhys for a moment, head quirking to the side and one brow raised. Rhys’ pupils are saucer wide, his hand on the table is trembling with a subtle tremor more like a nervous tic than fear. Walter notices the motion, then makes a soft ah sound and looks down to the floor in a humble expression of guilt.

“You’re the boy who sees people, aren’t you?” Walter asks of Rhys, whose pupils only now begins to slowly contract back down to normal. A bit of blood makes itself evident in his right nostril, met by a swift application of a diner napkin. But he doesn’t — can’t — take his eyes off of the ghostly old man, who now belatedly turns his attention to Raquelle.

“Trippy is, I suppose, apt. Though we may not wish to have such an experience here in the public venue.” Walter explains with a gesture around himself to the diner. “I would very much like to meet with you again in, perhaps more candid surroundings.” Then, looking past Raquelle to Rhys, his voice drops into a more conspiratorial tone. “Perhaps with him.”

Rhys pulls the napkin away from his nose, red with blood, and looks between Raquelle and Walter. “What’s going on here?”

It is a reflex really, Raquelle’s gaze flicks between Renautus and Rhys and at the shift in Rhys’s body language and that tremor causes him to lean forward. The napkin finds its way to Rhys’s hand a split second before Raquelle can offer it. “You okay baby?” He has to ask, low and his voice filled with concern. He also offers a hand.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you knew the way to make an appointment as you’ve just shown up randomly and then rolled the projector of forgotten memories.” The hairdresser finally replies softly to Walter. “You want to meet? We plan. We meet. It has to matter.”

Then he takes a deep breath and looks to Rhys. “This is who started to reveal to me and my family, the truths that my parents forgot.”

Rhys’ expression is one of abject uncertainty, watching the exchange between Raquelle and Walter with his mouth slightly open. Whatever it is he saw when he looked at Walter, it’s left him speechless. Old man Renautas, to his credit, notices Rhys’ shock and affords him a wan smile, then turns his attention back to Raquelle.

“I assure you, Mr. Cambria,” Renautas says with the gentle tone of a kind grandfather, “it most certainly will matter. I’m precariously close to understanding something of grave importance to all of us, to your family, and to your father… and I believe answers that you yourself have been seeking.” His brows slowly rise. “Answers regarding Cindy Morrison.”

That name catches Rhys’ attention and he sits up straight, only now taking Raquelle’s offered hand with one of his. “How— what do you know about her?” He asks with a quaver in his voice. Renautas’ smile grows some, and he regards Rhys out of the corner of his vision.

“Just stories,” is Walter’s glib response, “but if you’re interested in participating…” the old man’s eyes narrow. “You helped Hiro Nakamura once, didn’t you?” That has Rhys’ hand squeezing tight as a vice around Raquelles. His heart lurches into his throat, stomach turns into knots. He has no answer, Renautas already has all the answer he needs. “Perhaps you might be able to help me the same way. Our abilities are not entirely dissimilar.”

But then, Walter blinks a look back to Raquelle. “You, your father, and this young man. A time and place of your choosing. I should be able to find it with an approximation of timeliness.”

“Hiro was the one with the bad ponytail right?” Raquelle pipes up after a moment, his own gift swirling and hoving and knocking at the doors of his restraint at the feeling of the younger man’s distress. But he just squeezes Rhys’s hand in silent solidarity for what…ever this is.

There is a long pause as he regards Walter, studying the far older man with the scrutiny he uses when perhaps examining a new scalp and he finally exhales softly. “Hey, Rhy…” He starts carefully. “You got time for a sick day or an evening free tomorrow?”

I can mm— ” is Rhys’ whispered half-response. He tries again with a fuller voice. “I can make time,” he adds, looking from Raquelle to Renautas. “For whatever this is.” Rhys isn’t entirely sure what to make about any of this dynamic, or the man who is half here and half everywhere.

“Then we will reconvene,” Renautas says with a slow rise of his brows. As if that were somehow a farewell, Renautas disappears like a blown out candle flame, leaving Rhys somewhat slack-jawed and staring off into a vacant point in space where the old man was a moment ago.

When Rhys’ eyes gradually level back on Raquelle, there is an unvoiced but burning question behind his eyes: What the fuck was that?

The hairdresser lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding. So much oxygen, but his gift seeps into his voice. The automatic attempt to be reassuring. "Apparently Casper the Elderly Ghost wants to have a memory lane date with you, my dad, and I. I mean, I know there's such thing as a bucket list but aren't you supposed to check things off pre kicking the bucket?"

A weak but easy smile is offered as he gives the hand another gentle squeeze. "That's what we get for being so damn pretty. Even the ghosts trying to shoot their shots."

The smile does falter as his lashes flutter and he quietly asks. "Are you okay babes?"

“I’m— not sure I will ever be okay after that,” Rhys says with an obvious quaver to his voice. He tries to laugh off his obvious nervousness but it comes out as something more choked and harrowed. The hand grasping Raquelle’s squeezes tighter for a moment, then releases and slips away. Rhys exhales a slow breath through his nose, staring down at the table in front of himself, then awkwardly fusses with his necktie and slides out of the booth.

“I— I need— I have to go,” Rhys stammers, looking for all his worth like Ebenezer Scrooge after his visit with the Ghost of Christmas Future. “Can you— will you— call me? When you’re ready to meet up with…” he looks to where Walter was a moment ago, but says nothing. His vacant, nervous stare says enough.

Another flicker of concern that just melts into outright worry can be seen in Raquelle’s eyes as he catches his own bottom lip between his teeth and gives a small nod. He lets the hand slip out of his own and tracks the younger man with his eyes before letting out a short exhale. “Text me when you get somewhere safe.”

Then he also pushes himself up to his feet, idly adjusting his jacket sleeves and nodding. “I’ll call you for that appointment then, don’t miss it.” He exhales softly and then turns to stare in the direction Walter previously appeared before looking back to Rhys. A thousand questions, but enough respect for the younger man to not pry.

Rhys swallows, nervously, then steps up to join Raquelle out of the booth. He moves in and wraps his arms around Raquelle’s shoulders and holds that embrace for just a moment, then steps back and keeps his hands at his old friend’s arms. “I’ll be there,” Rhys promises, trying to hide a hint of guilt in his eyes. But you can’t hide those feelings from Raquelle. You can just hope to be honest with them.


Rhys struggles with that.

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