Pandora's Picnic


devon2_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif emily_icon.gif

Scene Title Pandora's Picnic
Synopsis Should some boxes remain unopened?
Date April 20, 2019

A greenspace near Brooklyn College

It's that time of year where the weather is fine and almost warm enough to enjoy the fresh air without the need of long sleeves. It's the time where summer is close enough one can almost taste it, where it's difficult to concentrate while stuck indoors, because the renewal of nature is a swatch of colors against the last dreary traces of winter. It's a time to stretch bones that have been hibernating during the cold months and trade wool hats and mittens for sneakers and sunglasses.

It's time for picnics.

That's what Devon decided earlier in the week. That he wanted to have a picnic. So he made the arrangements, first by finding a green space and seeing to most of the food prep — which, honestly, involved him running trips to the market for ingredients and Jared crafting the lunch choices. And it culminated with him inviting Emily and Elisabeth to picnic too. No surprises this time, either, he made sure both knew the other had been invited.

The green space he'd found was close to the college, a swath of grass partially shaded by a couple of trees. Dappled light spills through the newly budding branches and onto the blanket Dev has already spread out while waiting for the others to arrive. A backpack and a reusable grocery bag at one edge of the blanket both promise a selection of finger foods and drinks.

Emily's bookbag lays next to the arrangement, the nose of a tall thermos of coffee poking out of the opened zipper. Picking it up in any way, one could hear the rustling of snacks inside. She didn't know how much Devon would end up bringing, but figured it was better to be prepared.

She sits with her flats placed beside her, feet meshed into the grass as though it were the sand on a beach. Might as well be to her. Despite the temperature her sleeves are still three-quarters in length, all the better to soak in the sun and let her bask in the warmth with coffee in one hand and a sandwich square in the other. She was taking the moment of peace for what it was worth, enjoying it as long as she could.

After all, Devon said he wanted to talk.

Elisabeth had a couple of errands to do after dropping Aura at school with her bodyguard this morning. Her own shadow stays far enough back that he's not terribly obvious — thank God for small favors. Devon might notice him just because he's seen the man around Raytech; he occasionally trails Jared as well.

As she joins the other two at the blanket, her blonde hair clipped back to keep the front out of her face on this sunny, cool day, Elisabeth is once again feeling the awkward. In jeans, a long-sleeved blue and white blouse, and hiking boots, she looks casual in her dress, but her demeanor is a little more cautious. A canvas tote comes off her shoulder and she lowers herself to the blanket to sit. "Hi." The wariness may or may not come from just being in proximity to Emily herself — the audiokinetic treads carefully with the younger woman, if only because she's important to Devon.

A grin is directed to Liz when she arrives and takes a seat on the blanket. The awkwardness and discomfort are pointedly ignored. It doesn't make them disappear, but instead of dwelling on them Devon goes right on about setting out the rest of the food. That is, after all, a thing that softens hard feelings and helps bridge gaps. Or so he's been led to believe since coming into the Chessmen all those years ago.

Besides, he would really prefer at least understanding between Emily and Elisabeth. It's important to him even without the reasons for wanting to speak with them both.

“Pops made the food,” he says. It's intended as an invitation to help themselves. And a promise that it's not only edible but also delicious, since it wasn't made by himself. Devon settles into a spot beside Emily, his attention seemingly on the food even though he hasn't made himself a plate yet. It's an old habit, of weighing and analyzing. But instead of voicing those thoughts he says, “I'm glad you both could make it out today.”

One eye opens mid-sun-bask as Emily hears Liz’s footsteps approach, eyes tracking her movements. “Hello.” she greets in return, her voice even — verging on light, even. She’s had plenty of time to get over their last awkward encounter, and knew she’d be here. In short, Emily had time to prepare.

She takes the last bite of the sandwich in her hand, washing it down with a gulp of coffee. Rocking onto one hip, she does her best to pivot without dragging the whole blanket with her, and smooths out what little she does displace. Her legs cross, feet tucking comfortably under her as she settles in along with Liz. She looks between them both before her hands come to settle in her lap around the small tin cup she’s drinking from — her fingers reach around it, toying with a silver ring on the opposite hand. Her eyes shift toward Devon when he speaks, head tilting at his latter comment.

“Way to start off ominous, Dev,” she chides him, the corner of her mouth lifting in a small, if brief, smile. Emily lets her posture settle, regarding him with aloof attention. Her hand lifts off the cup for just a moment to lightly wave away an errant bee interested in their food before resuming her subtle fidgeting.

"Very formal," Elisabeth teases almost at the same time as Emily's chide. She can't help the grin that quirks the corners of her lips. She settles a bit more comfortably and comments mildly, "You know… I'm getting the feeling that you're pulling out the big guns." Tipping her head, she helps herself to a plate because she knows well that Devon won't until she does and she hopes Emily will do the same. "No one can turn down my father's potato salad. I have no idea what the man does to it. To this day, he won't tell."

She keeps her tone light and she picks up a carrot from her plate to crunch on. As she nibbles, she asks gently, "Wanna talk about what's rattling around up there now or wait til we eat. Emily and I can, I'm sure, figure out the small talk for a while."

The mild banter draws another brief grin and a slight roll of shoulders. Devon shifts where he sits, to drape his arms around his knees. “I’m not even allowed in the kitchen when he’s cooking,” he says with a chuckle. It’s a solid truth everyone knows that he isn’t allowed in the kitchen, and it’s not just to keep secret recipes secret.

Putting aside the jokes about his inability to create food that tastes good, he looks at Liz and then Emily. “I don’t think it’s pulling out the big guns, but I’ve been thinking these last couple of days.” He’s really been thinking the last couple of weeks, but it’s only very recently he’s come to a decision of sorts. “Go ahead and eat, it’s… not supposed to be something crazy heavy that it’d ruin a meal.”

He looks somewhere near the food again, but still not at the food. And he still doesn’t fix himself a plate. Dev keeps his arms hooked around his knees, one hand clasping the opposite wrist while he navigates through his thoughts. “I’m… considering trying to find out what happened,” he explains carefully, after a moment. “After California. How I ended up on the beach after the mission.”

Emily's eyes shoot to Liz when they speak almost over each other, tension in her shoulders for a moment before she looks back to Devon. His comment reminds her she needs to teach him how to make some staple foods to tide him over so he wouldn't have to do something awful like grab a microwave platter or eat ramen when he wasn't sharing a meal with others. She doesn't bother pointing out the finger food she'd already eaten while they were waiting for Liz, noting how whatever it is he wants to talk about is weighing him down, despite how it wasn't supposed to be heavy.

Her cup is halfway lifted when he gets to explaining it, and she pauses. There's a slow blink while she considers it, and she ends up taking the sip of what's left of her small cup after all. It gives her a moment to decide what angle to approach that from. "You must have something particular in mind," Emily points out. "Because I think everyone you know, and even people we don't are already trying to figure that out."

She takes in a breath and exhales it away carefully, eyes narrowing in thought before she glances back to him. "Okay. Pros and cons of the plan?"

Elisabeth doesn't appear surprised by the announcement. On the contrary… it's entirely possible that she's simply been waiting for him to be ready to bring it up. Even after all the years apart, some things hold true — Devon's never been one to simply let things lie. She picks up a fork and starts eating, her blue eyes on him watchful but calm. Emily's asked a good question and she'll wait to hear his answer before volunteering any of her own thoughts on the pros and cons of the matter.

“I don't know who's doing what,” Dev admits, “or where those who are looking have looked.” It's a mild frustration, but then it's also on him for not being proactive until now.

He lapses into another pause, his decisiveness faltering briefly. What he has in mind is probably one of the last things he'd willingly seek out, however he's uncertain of where else to begin. However…

“Pros to knowing.” Devon lifts his eyes, but not his head, and looks at Emily and Liz. “I’d know what happened. Instead of missing hours, something might click so I'm actually missing two months. There might be intel.” He could continue, but he shifts gears. “Cons, I would know what happened. Could make the gap worse. May not find anything at all.”

There's a beat as Emily wonders what he means to use to find this out. She adds "Pros:" with a thoughtful lilt to her voice. "We find out how you survived." Definitely an agreement there. "Cons…" Her voice twists with hesitation, but she doesn't hold back from suggesting, "What if the 'how' in finding out, and the how of how it happened, make it not worth it?"

She shakes her head at that, realizing she's essentially repeated him not once, but twice. "Would you be able to move on without finding out one way or another? Or will it always haunt you?"

That'd be a con, in her book.

Setting her plate down, Elisabeth ponders her words carefully. "So… from the perspective of someone who has missing time, okay?" There are 10 years of her life missing, give or take. And that's not even counting the fact that a number of hers have actually been tampered with. "Your situation isn't quite like mine… but it is in some ways, so take it for whatever you think it's worth."

She goes quiet, clearly struggling to find words. "Not pros and cons but… two sides, nonetheless. On one side are the questions of how they've gone missing, what happened in those missing months? You'll forgive me for being paranoid here, but it seems clear to me that someone is behind it and it's not a simple case of injury amnesia. And finding out that information could be critical to your safety or to… God only knows what." Elisabeth hesitates. She's sounding as bad as Richard used to.

"On the other side of the argument… is a fact that I know you don't want to consider." Her blue eyes on the young man are steady. "Some memories… you'd give anything not to have to relive." She has a number of them. "You don't know what happened to you. There are a lot of dark possibilities, especially given your ties to Jaiden and Remi." Who were murdered — although in Jai's case, no body = no death. So she still has some hope. Even if it's faint. "You don't know that someone didn't block them from you to keep you from terrible trauma." Her tone indicates she thinks it less likely … but then, she's been through a lot. "In addition, there's the consideration that actually breaking through whatever the block is could trigger some really nasty shit — either in your own head or could set in motion circumstances and contingency plans on the part of whoever did it."

Elisabeth shrugs slightly and says softly, "I'll back you balls to the wall, kiddo. Always. But be very sure you want the answers. The Monkey's Paw has definitely fucked up my life a couple times."

The idea of amnesia, related either to the mission or the near-drowning that landed him on Brighton Beach or a combination or events, hadn't been swept off the table. Devon has left it as a possibility, one of several likely realities to explain the chasm he's left with. It's one of the many reasons he’d been weighing the idea of seeing if what's missing could be recovered.

Likewise, he's also considered the likelihood that it wouldn't be worth looking into. Not just for the reasons stated, but the reasons he refuses to consider also.

“If I don't find anything, I've at least tried one of many options.” Dev looks at Emily as he answers her question, and the response shouldn't be a surprise. He's persistent, likely even enough that he'd pick at a scab relentlessly, both literal and figurative. He shifts his gaze to Liz next, then settles that thoughtful look somewhere downward again. “I know it's a risk, especially with all of the unknowns. I feel like Pandora's Box is in my head right now, and either nothing'll happen or shit’s going to hit the fan.”

"Shit will hit the fan," is Emily's bet, and she swings a knee up so she can hook an arm around her shin while she sits. Her expression is dark despite the levity in her voice, thoughts troubled. She lets her eyes swing down to the dregs of her drink, contemplating the swirl of it as she rotates her wrist. "Dev," she inputs distantly, "Only chase down that rabbit hole if you're ready to face the worst possible answer."

After all, his team never would have left him behind if they thought there'd been a chance he'd survived.

"Otherwise, find a way to move on." The suggestion is made carefully, glancing at him only afterward in her hesitance. "You talked about wanting to move on, do you for a bit," she means 'for once', "you know?" Emily sits up a little straighter, hoping her posture will help create a more reassuring figure even though her brow is furrowed at him in concern. "This would be a clear way to do that. To not dig, and just be grateful for what you've got, and live."

Not that she expects he will.

There's an involuntary snort of amusement at Emily's immediate rejoinder. Well, at least she's already getting the picture of what she's in for if she sticks around. If Elisabeth had reservations about the younger woman — which she didn't, given the way Emily reacted both at Raquelle's and the hospital — any such emotions would be gone. She closes her eyes for a long moment, allowing the rush of gratitude to abate while she presses her lips tightly together to keep from speaking those feelings aloud.

When she does open her eyes to look at Devon again, the audiokinetic simply nods. "Just remember what happened to Pandora when she opened that box." Elisabeth has a cautious edge to her tone, but she doesn't naysay his decision nor try to make him lean one direction or the other.

"Emily has a point, Devon. If anyone deserves to walk away, you are among them." Much as she did when he made his choice to bow out, she stands firm and offers what he asks for — perspective — while leaving him room to weigh the possibilities and make a decision for himself. "Think about what you want out of the pursuit of this… and weigh what you may find. I can tell you firsthand? Wonderland is full of horrors." And unfortunately for them all, she kind of figures that whatever happened to him is simply a harbinger of more to come.

“Much as I’d like to leave it alone, there’s also the possibility that ignoring it could be just as bad as looking.” Devon has been looking at the problem from all angles. He’s had a lot of time to think about the various probabilities. “Better to know what we can and prepare than let it surprise us and really bite us in the ass.”

It may still bite them all in the ass, regardless of how much they know and prepare for, but he doesn’t say as much.

He leans over slightly so he can press his shoulder against Emily’s, and he lifts his head to look at Liz. “I know it’s only been a few weeks since whatever happened in California, but I think it’s time.” Regardless of what’s hidden or not hidden. “Unlike Pandora’s box, we at least have the foresight to know that trouble’s possibly lurking so we don’t have to go recklessly digging around. Clearing this…” He pauses to consider his next words, gaze shifting away from Elisabeth for a moment. “Clearing this could make moving on from soldiering easier.”

Dev’s gaze finds Liz again, then angles to look at Emily also, weighing their reactions.

Only a few weeks, he says, somehow stuck again. Emily's glance to Elisabeth is short but troubled before she guards her reaction better. She lifts her head to look over at him, not intending to call it out. Again. He knows, despite his slips. At least … she hopes he doesn't keep forgetting.

When he makes his excuse, she does her best to force a faint smile in reply to it. She tries to believe that really could be the case.

But she doesn't.

The expression in Elisabeth's eyes is pensive when Emily looks at her. The older woman is just as troubled, and although her facial expression is calm, her eyes give it away. It's not just that he's missing time, he's struggling to keep straight how much time he's missing. "You're not wrong," she replies quietly to Devon's assertion that leaving it alone could be worse. "And if it's something you feel you can't move on without, then you know Richard and I, among what I suspect is a large number of others," she slants a faint grin toward Emily, "will have your back. I'm just sorry Emily's introduction to this insanity that we live had to be the way it happened."

Pulling her feet under her in a cross-legged position, she rests her elbows on her thighs and leans on them. "So… where do you want to start? And what can we do to help?" It's really that simple for Elisabeth.

“Me too.” Devon looks at Emily again, a bit longer this time, apology plainly in his expression. He'd had no plans to keep Emily in the dark about the conspiracies and string theories that have been common in the lives of the Chessmen, but he'd hoped to break it more carefully. He presses his shoulder against the younger woman’s again, meaning to give her comfort, then straightens.

“I'm open to suggestions,” he says carefully. “And I'm not rushing into anything. With… whatever happened, I want to make sure we've got back up plans in place.” Which is a major change from his usual headlong, maverick tendencies.

Letting his knees drop, Dev raises his hands to scrub through his hair. “Right now, I was thinking of talking to Richard’s sister.” Another big change, he's always been leery toward telepaths. He looks dubious of his own decision there. “Besides contingency, mostly I just… need support. And voices of reason, if it looks like the wrong path. Or anything seems off.”

Emily can't help the scoff that comes from her at the expression of Devon and Elisabeth's regret about being exposed to their 'insanity', as it was called. In lieu of passing any comments about what she thinks about the bullshit of it all, she looks down at her lap and firmly bites her tongue. She feels Devon's gaze on her, looks up only when he leans into her, her head following with it.

She's not immediately sure what talking to Richard's sister means, or which sister he means, but her support is present nonetheless. When he asks for it, she takes ahold of one of his hands in silence, holding it tightly in her own. As for alternatives, any other suggestions … she finds herself uniquely unsuited to offer any offhand, and warily looks to Liz for anything she might be able to suggest.

Nodding slightly, Elisabeth replies, "Kaylee is a good place to start. Cassandra might be able to help… I'm not sure. Her ability has some quirks, and people may not count as objects for the purposes of her postcog." Letting out a slow breath, she nods. "I think I can handle the keeping an eye on you part, kiddo," she tells him softly, fierce affection and protectiveness briefly visible in her expression. She teases lightly, "It can't be as bad as your exploits from the Brickfront, right?"

It can — he's more experienced at shenanigans now. But Elisabeth isn't going to stand in his way — he's earned the right to choose his path.

Following a look at Emily, Devon squeezes her hand and silently promises to bring her completely into the loop. He has all of the uncensored, unfiltered information available, years of research and documentation of events leading up to the war.

“I'd be less nervous if this were exploits from the Brickfront,” he admits.

“I've never dealt with postcogs.” At least not knowingly. “Liz, if you could talk to… Cassandra? Get a feel for things. I don't have anything from the mission.” Even those clothes he'd been found in were gone. Devon looks at Emily, giving her hand another small squeeze. “If you want to see Kaylee with me. I’m… I'd like to have another perspective.”

Brickfront is a repeated enough word that Emily means to ask on it later. Like… The Ferry Brick House? she wonders as she files away a mental note to follow up. Previously, she'd have left that gap in knowledge and let it lie, but they'd passed an invisible line at some point. No longer did they shy away from talking about the past, work, other areas of their own lives.

At some point, she'd have some sharing of her own to do, but she always moved a little slow when it came to that.

Her brow furrows at the mention of Cassandra and Kaylee both. "I've met Kaylee previously," she offers evenly, her expression mild. No hint there of the awkward encounter that had been. "So I can go with you if you want. If you need … perspective," the word itself handled very carefully. "I can provide that. Date corrections, so on."

A hand to hold, as well, but she doesn't say that, just leaves hers in his.

"Sure… I'll talk to her," Elisabeth replies softly. She picks up a canned drink and takes a long sip. Although she's fully aware of the undercurrents, they're not her undercurrents and therefore not her business. Unless someone makes them so.

"I think it's a good first step," she tells them. "Just… let me know if you need anything else."

“Great.” It isn't exactly great, but just having a plan, a way to begin moving forward, seems to be a weight of Devon's shoulders. “This’ll help. A lot.” A nervous energy carries those words, even though he sounds confident in the decision. A grin even quirks around his mouth.

“So there's a lot of food. We should eat it so I don't have to take it back.” Not that returning to Jared's apartment with it is a problem, but Dev would rather see Emily and Liz enjoy more of it. “Pops even made cookies. I think just to prove to Carina that he could.”

"The fuck? Cookies are easy," Emily says a little loudly in her disbelief. She clicks her tongue off the side of her cheek as she reaches across the blanket to find the container holding said baked good. "All the shit that man can make, of course cookies makes the list." is added as well, voice tapering back to a mutter.

She's good at this part — shutting down the serious and trying to find points of levity, scraps of moments that can salvage an entire meeting. It's the only way their entire relationship has worked thus far.

Her hand doesn't leave his for a long time, holding on past when's sensible, and only letting go because she needs two hands to tackle the tupperware.

Elisabeth covers her smile right up until Emily comments, and then she starts giggling. "Cookies might be easy, but my dad?" Her laughter, so easy and natural suddenly, makes her seem years younger and more easygoing. "Well… when I was a kid, he was great at the barbecuing and could do a few things passably well, but my mom was the one who loved to cook."

She looks down, retrieving her food toying with it with her fork briefly, memories washing through her. "Mom used to chase him out of the kitchen. He wasn't nearly as bad as Richard, but she … cooking and baking were her stress relief." Devon has totally seen that with Liz too, hence her amusement. "She started teaching him to cook, though, when I was still in high school. She'd tease him… that if anything ever happened to her, she couldn't leave him to starve."

Sadness flickers across her face and Liz clears her throat. "My mother… the one who traveled home with me? She never had that. We… died, as far as she knew, in 1982. She just remembered how bad he was in the kitchen, I guess."

Leaning back so he can rest on an elbow, Devon watches Emily and Liz start to really get into the food. He follows their conversation about food and cooking without offering his own input. It's no secret that he can possibly make sandwiches, and his idea of coffee would better suit as pitch. But he smiles faintly while listening to them chat.

The laughter coming from Elisabeth, who she's only ever seen as serious and reserved, brings Emily's head back up from working the lid of the container off. Oh. she mouths. She's seen hints of it — but never seen her actually do anything like let down her guard.

"Well, he's great at breakfast," she inputs brightly, trying to steer the conversation away from alternate realities and death simultaneously. "And he's offered dinner and lunch on other occasions — and really, as long as I'm not cooking, it's a pleasant change from the usual."

Her expression lapses for a moment, realizing her own state is different now. The joke is less true. With a tilt of her head as she finally pries the cookie container open, and Emily looks a little relieved — after all, she still cooks half the time for Teo as much as with him, even though some nights are entirely under his purview.

"How's being back?" she tries, even though there's a slight hesitation at the beginning of the question. Emily rolls with it, hoping it's far enough away from what came before. Who knows if it'll work out that way.

Her eyebrows rise to her hairline and Elisabeth can't help chuckling. "Well… uhm… it's not what I expected," she finally settles on. "I found out… a few years ago that you guys were having a civil war, so I knew that between that and the time that had passed, nothing would be the same. But I didn't quite expect what we found. It's been a bit of an adjustment." To say the least.

In the spirit of giving Emily a complete reply without inundating her with a ton of personal information she doubts the girl really wants or needs, Liz considers the question. "It's been hard," she admits quietly. "It's getting better, though. I'll be going back to work soon, and that will probably help settle things out just that bit more."

Once the lid is taken off the container of cookies, Devon waits just long enough for Emily to take one before he leans in to snag one for himself. Taking a bite, he reclines again. “A job’ll help with routine,” he opines. Which in turn will iron out lingering wrinkles. And he sounds happy for Liz too. Getting back to normal — or creating a new one — is never easy, and a new job is great.

"Well, good news is this isn't some shit-tier reality where we lost the war or something, so there's that," is meant to be a joke, one Emily realizes is in poor taste once it's too late to take it back. She tries to recover by pointing out, "So… It could be worse." but shakes her head at herself even as she says it. Feeling the need to compensate somehow, she places the open container directly in front of Liz.

Her brow furrows as she realizes something. It's a jump, she knows, but she tries anyway, glancing up to her. "I…" Emily starts, scowling for a moment. More at herself than anything else. She hastily brushes her hair back from her face, threading strands behind her ear. "It's entirely different, but I can relate on some level—"

"Your life entirely changing, and everything you knew suddenly… it's not invalid, but it's just different now." She looks back up at Elisabeth again, issuing her a small nod. "Nothing's the way it was, and it's almost like…"

Whatever it is, she doesn't say, her posture shifting. "And it's overnight. Just like that. Whole new life." Emily's brow pops, and glances down at the food with a forced-enthusiastic, "Enjoy."

"Even if you were ready, even if you chose it. It's not — it's not like there's a manual for it, or—"

"I'm just saying—"

She's trying to say she understands, but she can't get over the part where she feels like it makes her sound like a presumptuous asshole for attempting to relate. "Yeah." Emily clears her throat. "Um, welcome back to normal. Or something." This is usually the part where she'd have long-since seen herself out of a conversation, but she stays put. The edge of the cookie in her hand is bit off to keep herself from rambling as much as anything else at this point.

Elisabeth, for all that she and Emily had an interesting first set of impressions, doesn't seem to take the words in any but the way they're intended. She takes a cookie and then nods. "Change requires some time to adapt, regardless of whether you saw it coming and irrespective of the size of the change," she agrees. "Even changes like… well, when Aurora was born. I had time to prep, obviously. Still didn't make it simple." She clearly understands what Emily was trying to say. "I appreciate the chance to … make a better impression this time," she tells the younger woman.

With a smile at Devon, who seems to finally be relaxing some, the audiokinetic steers the conversation to something perhaps a bit more neutral, asking Emily about the classes she's taking so that the conversation can move somewhere that the younger woman feels less exposed.

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