Reflected Glory


sf_faulkner_icon.gif sf_nova_icon.gif

Scene Title Reflected Glory
Synopsis Isaac Faulkner's never been one to fear his own reflection. Until today.
Date October 25, 2020

Poughquag, New York

It’s shockingly fast, the way the city and its hustle and bustle fall away into the rearview mirror as one leaves New York City, heading north along the scenic Tahonic State Parkway. This late in the year, the trees wear their autumnal gowns, the vibrant reds, golds, russets, and oranges striking a contrast with the bright blue sky above.

Nestled in the back seat of Faulkner’s car, the aspiring senator has managed to set aside the work of a busy campaign season for a quick day trip. It wasn’t without sacrifice — he woke up brutally early to clock in a few good hours of work before picking up Nova at her dorms, and he’ll be staying up late to make up for a day spent in her company.

With a driver, at least, he can still do some work and answer calls, in between paying attention to the cellist. She spends the moments he’s working looking out the window at the idyllic countryside, listening to a recording of the concerto she’s learning. Now and then her fingers curl as if playing the instrument; whether in practice or in habit, it’s hard to say.

When she hears him greet one of the other congressmen she knows he dislikes, Nova looks over at him, wrinkling her nose in mutual distaste for the politician, but she bites her lip to keep from laughing, so that he doesn’t laugh in response.

She needn't have worried about that; even a junior senator develops a strong poker face — and voice, for that matter — early in their career if they want to go very far. He does however, flash her a faint grin of commiseration. Faulkner is not always a particular fan of the people he has to associate with, either… but another thing a politician gathers very quickly if he wants to go far is a network of allies. Not friends, most often, but at the very least people you can quid pro quo with, with some degree of reliability.

Such as the one now rambling in his ear. The flicker of a smile fades quickly, submerged beneath Isaac's poker face. "Yes, I'm well aware— " he begins, only to be cut off. He tries again. "Yes, I— "

This time he remains silent for a long minute, a look of irritation on his face. Finally, he has enough of an opening to speak. "Yes, you have my support," he says, his voice quiet and clear, his words sharply enunciated. "Keep me apprised of how it's shaping up. So long as it doesn't get buried in pork barrels, I'll vote for it," he says, now adopting a milder, more conciliatory tone… though the look of annoyance remains on his face. "Excellent. Now, was there anything else?" he asks, with just the faintest hint of sharpness on the last word — a subtle bit of encouragement to wrap the call up, which, alas, isn't taken. Instead, Faulkner listens for another few moments, his expression unchanging. "I see. Thank you for informing me." Another beat. "Yes. Thank you, Senator. Good day," he says. There's another beat, and then he hangs up the phone… and only then does he allow himself to heave a dramatic sigh and slouch back into his seat.

The exaggerated dramatization earns him a giggle from Nova who pulls out her earbuds so they can have a conversation, and she slumps in emulation, only she lets her head fall on his shoulder.

“Poor, dear, sweet hardworking man,” she says, one hand finding his to interlace her fingers with his, before bringing it up to her lips. “What did he want this time?”

Before Isaac can answer, the driver speaks from the front seat, his eyes seeking Isaac’s in the rearview mirror. “We’re here, Senator Faulkner,” he says, turning off the main road to take the small access road up to the apple orchard farm that’s the site of their outing.

When Isaac looks out the window, the cant of the side view mirror allows him to see himself.

Only it isn’t.

Instead, he sees first the white hair, white beard, and blue eyes of his father. After a blink, the image of his father looking back at him is gone. Isaac sees only his own surprised face.

Nova's flopping on him draws a smile to his face, even now… and that smile only broadens as she pulls his hand to her lips. He opens his mouth… only to get beaten to the punch by his driver. He exhales another sigh, but this time there's some amusement to it — Nova is making it very difficult for him to be cross at the moment, bless her.

"Well," he drawls, offering Nova a warm smile. "Sounds like we're about to— "

He cuts off as his eyes find the mirror and see Daniel Linderman's face staring back at him. Even now his expression doesn't change… but in that moment, a stillness settles over him, not unlike that of a man atop a frozen lake when he hears the first crack of the ice. His reflection is back to normal by the time he's processed what he'd seen.

Had he seen that?


Nova’s voice is soft, tentative, and her eyes full of worry when he looks back at her, but she offers a small smile, before looking past him to his side of the rustic countryside they’re chosen to explore today.

“”I forget there’s so much color in the nature outside of the city,” she says. “I wish I could paint it, but the last time I painted anything was in sixth grade and Galen Jorgensen said my tree looked like a frog’s penis, so there went all my aspirations for being the next Renoir.”

Her eyes sparkle a little with the story, no doubt intended to shake him out of whatever is distracting him at the moment.

The car pulls to a stop at the end of the drive. “I’ll be back in three hours unless you call me to get you earlier, correct, sir?” the driver says — perhaps to go get himself a bite to eat while he reads the newspaper at a local diner. His eyes seek Isaac’s in the rearview mirror.

When Isaac looks up, he can see the driver’s eyes in the foreground of the oblong glass, and his own reflection behind that — only once again, he sees his father’s eyes staring back at him.

Isaac's expression is troubled; his eyes are slow to focus back in on Nova. Despite himself, though, Isaac finds himself snorting an incredulous laugh at Nova's story. "Oh, please tell me you used that opportunity to ask how he'd become so intimately acquainted with frog penises," he says with a sly grin. She really does make it very difficult to be cross.

When he catches Daniel Linderman's eyes in the mirror a second time, he hesitates again… but this time, it's only for a moment. He can be taken aback by a shock once, but he prides himself on not making the same mistake twice. "Yes," Isaac says, sounding only a little distracted. "Yes, that will be fine."

He pauses for a moment, his lips creasing into a frown; keeping his eyes on the mirror, he raises a hand to his head, as if smoothing an out of place hair. The eyes and the face are undeniably his father's; what about the hands?

“Sadly, eleven-year-old me was far too well acquainted with l'esprit de l'escalier,” Nova says with a laugh. “I wasn’t quite as quick witted as the specimen of banter you have before you today.”

She’s kidding, of course.

Her own gaze flits toward the front of the car, unsure what he’s looking at, and the angle is not one that affords her a glimpse into what he sees. When he brings his hand into view in the mirror, it too seems to be that of his father’s, aged and wrinkled. When the driver opens the door to exit the vehicle, the movement in the mirror obscures the apparition for a moment; only the dark suit of th chauffeur is seen for a moment, and when he’s out of the frame, it’s once again Isaac’s image in the glass.

A moment later the door opens on Nova’s side opens first, to let them out into the recreational farm for their few hours of apple picking in the autumn sunshine. Nova slides out, and unless Isaac slides across to exit from her end of the back seat, the driver walks to Isaac’s side to open his door next.

"Always lamentable, that," Faulkner says, his attention drifting away from his reflection — his reflection, once more — and over to Nova, long enough to give her a brief grin.

He watches as she slides out, then waits for the chauffeur to open his own door to make his own exit, giving a murmured thanks before heading over to join Nova on her side of the car. "So. Ready to pick some apples?" he asks.

Nova slips her hand into Isaac’s as they head to the little stand at the front of the farm, where a few teenagers dressed in autumnal plaids and overalls sell apples, pies, breads, doughnuts, jams, and of course, the privilege for people to go pick their own bushels worth of produce.

Once they’ve paid their way, they’re supplied with a cup of hot apple cider, wooden baskets, and directions to the orchards off to their left; to the right is a petting zoo and pumpkin patch.

At least in the orchard, no mirrors seem to wait to haunt him with his father’s visage. The trees are thick with apples, bright mottled red-and-yellow honeycrisps that lend the air a sweet scent thanks to the abundant crop. Most of them are within easy reach, though a few trees have been picked clean from the lower branches thanks to the smaller children who’ve come through before them.

“I demand one picture at some point, but you can decide if it’s for public consumption or not,” Nova says with a smile, gesturing to the pastoral scene around them. “It’s just beautiful here, isn’t it?”

The day is picture perfect — the sky looms bright blue above them as a backdrop for the still-green foliage of the trees which contrasts with the red fruit nestled among its leaves. Nova herself wears a cheerful yellow sweater that makes her eyes seem all the bluer in contrast.

Isaac takes a moment to take things in — the sky, that deep blue that autumn seems to bring, the green leaves, the red and yellow of the apples… then his eyes move to Nova, and he smiles. "It is, definitely," he says, letting his gaze linger on her for just a moment.

Then his grin widens, and his gaze turns back to the surroundings. "Take a few, if you like. But not for public consumption. Not yet," he says, more seriously. "The paparazzi will start stalking you sooner or later, but I'd rather it was later."

The moment of seriousness passes quickly enough. "The petting zoo might make a good backdrop for one," he suggests with a grin.

“Fair enough,” she says softly. “I’m happy to keep you to myself for the time being.”

She steps closer, standing on her toes to kiss him lightly, but only after glancing around to be sure no one shares this corner of the orchard with them. It’s fun, sometimes, to dodge the public, but wearying, too.

“Definitely the petting zoo after we pick and eat a gazillion apples,” she agrees, ruffling his hair a little. With that permission granted, though, she tugs her phone out of her pocket and sets the timer on the camera app to give them a few seconds to find the right angle.

As Nova holds up the camera, tipping her head against his, the composition is charming: blue sky, green trees, red apples, yellow sweater. But just as the timer runs out and the fake shutter click sounds, his countenance shifts from his own youthful face to that of Daniel Linderman again.

That kiss puts a very real smile on Isaac's face, and the ruffling of his hair draws a quiet laugh from him… but then, as he sees his father's face again, he tenses. His smile remains, but he can feel the tightness at the corner of his eyes as the rest of his expression tries to sidle away from it. What the hell? For some reason, seeing it on the phone is way more disturbing than seeing it in the mirror had been.

He raises a hand to his mouth the moment after the phone makes its faux shutter click noise, and fakes a sneeze. "Bleh," he says, grimacing. "How'd the picture come out?" he asks, glancing to Nova with a very real concern.

“You okay? Allergic to apples?” Nova quips, making an exaggerated yikes look, ala Chrissy Teigen. She taps the thumbnail of the photo to make it bigger, and there in the photo is a very normal, if slightly stressed looking, Isaac.

Nova’s brows draw together as she shows it to him, and she hugs him around the shoulders. “You look a little… fraught… in that one, poor stressed Senator. We’ll have to find a way to help you relieve some stress. Probably involving…”

Her lashes dip flirtatiously and she bites her lower lip as she thinks for a moment, eyes looking up and to the left as if she’s picturing all the ways to relieve stress.

“…feeding a pygmy goat or pot-bellied pig apples.”

She holds the camera up again, hoping to catch a laugh from him in the frame. This time, it’s only Isaac who looks back.

She gets her laugh. It's even genuine; he won't say that the ghost of his dead father not actually showing up in frame isn't a source of great relief, but she'd earned that laugh fair and square. Brava. "Well. That sounds entertaining. I'm a bit dubious about the stress-relief value of feeding apples to farm animals… but I suppose the only way we're going to find out is to give it a try," he says with a grin.

The Mystery of Linderman's Ghost is something he'll need to solve sooner or later, especially if this is going to be a persistent thing — or if, god forfend, it should get worse. For the moment, though — for the next three hours, at least — Isaac Faulkner has more pressing concerns in front of him.

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