Remembering II


devon_icon.gif emily_icon.gif

Scene Title Remembering
Synopsis A trip is taken out of the Safe Zone to complete a ritual of remembrance.
Date October 31, 2018

Behind the lids of her eyes, Emily is remembering the bright festival lights lining the sides of the streets from the costume parade. If she lets her thoughts drift, she can still feel the music in the air, see the smiling faces of the paradegoers …

… All faces except one.

She lifts her chin off her knuckles, eyes opening as she looks to the left, just like she had earlier. There are no parade lights now, only the soft glow off the dials on the dashboard.

And Devon, at the steering wheel, just as quiet and distant as he had been all evening.

I-95 Northbound

October 31

8:57 PM

It's been a while since Emily's been outside of the Safe Zone. And she's definitely not been out of town in this direction in years. She shifts her weight uncomfortably in the passenger seat, elbow digging into the armrest as she sits up a little straighter. The stars are clearly visible from her seat, a sight she takes advantage of by leaning her head against the window.

She hasn't asked exactly what they're doing. After how last time went, she trusts they're not on an unspoken trip to Rochester. But it's clear something's weighing on his thoughts tonight.

"You all right?"

“It’s not much further.” Devon’s response is much in the same, tones of distraction and lacking in his usual optimism. Avoiding. His hands shift, grip on the wheel adjusting, and he angles a glance toward Emily. He even musters a grin, though it’s just a shadow of what it normally is. He’s fine, it implies.

“Thanks again,” he continues, eyes returning to the road. It’s not the first time he’s said it either.

More minutes pass again in silence broken only by the rough sounds of the road. There are few markers to where they’re going, the lack of infrastructure outside of the Safe Zone leaving many places unidentifiable without the aid of a map. Dev guides the car past the remains of a sign for a smaller town, —RISON hangs off a single post at an angle. No telling where the rest of it went.

The distracted response earns Devon a dose of side-eye of skepticism about his current state. Her lips firm into a thin line as she shoves down her reservations both about their destination, and the purpose of the trip, eyes closing again as they rumble along and she silently self-encourages patience.

He kept thanking her, even though he'd not clearly explained what they were doing yet. It… it would be good to finally help him with something, though. Give something back instead of just demanding and being a burden.

She just had to be patient.

The ride continues in silence, but at least it doesn’t feel like an awkward or baited silence. Even with Devon’s reluctance to explain the full purpose behind the road trip. He’d briefly mentioned a place a little further north but really hadn’t said too much beyond that. Except the thanks that seem to come at random. He does glance over again, to offer that half grin, even if she’s no longer looking.

Eventually the car does begin to slow down and ease into a turn. Where the highway showed obvious neglect from the years following the war, the street they’ve turned onto might never have been maintained at all. It’s slow going, navigating over a road slowly being consumed by creeping plants and roots of trees that line both sides. There isn’t a smooth part left to the surface of the pavement, pockmarks and cracks riddle strip that stretches far out into the darkness.

“There’s just something I need to do,” Dev says. It’s as much as he’s said before. “It’s… I do it every year, on this day. Just… I couldn’t go to Minnesota…” The house in Kabetogama was gone, so he had to find somewhere new. “I thought… that maybe after I could get you that lunch you missed.” The one that got interrupted, but he’s going the safer route.

"It's okay." she says again, in case he's forgotten. It's possible, with how worked up he was getting.

When he brings up the lunch, a resigned sigh is exhaled through her nose. Her brow furrows as she stares at him. Lunch she missed? He was the one who'd been throttled. She returns his half-grin for a moment before she throws out her hand on the dash as they go over a particularly rough pothole.

She keeps the thought to herself, but she wonders if they're going to have a car to even return by the end of the night, with the way the pavement was. "Does it have to be any one place in particular?" Emily asks gently, careful to frame it as trying to be helpful instead of sniping about the state of the road. Maybe a suggestion to take an alternate route aside from this road wouldn't be out of the question.

“…No.” The answer is slow, as though he hadn’t considered the significance of the location before. The tradition had always been at the lakeshore, on the property owned by Jaiden. Devon had spent the last month trying to figure out what he would do this year. “I saw this place on a map, there’s a little creek…” If it’s still there, he doubts the golf course it runs through is still a golf course. “It looks really peaceful.”

And their location could look really peaceful, even in the dark with the half-full moon illuminating autumn branches. Between ancient trees and overgrown hedges, here and there an abandoned house can be seen, none of the sardine-packed houses and tenement style condos they’re used to seeing. Old stonework lines the road between lanes, marking property as much as aiding vehicles from sliding down the embankment.

Fingers still braced against the glove compartment, Emily nods in the dark, mulling over the suggestion to just pull over here without giving any more voice to it. She slowly sits back, her hand falling back to her lap as they pass through the once-well-maintained neighborhood. "You said it's not much further." she echoes back to him.

The moonlight coming down hinted at the overgrown majesty only dimly, the headlights before them providing the most insight into the world ahead, and it's limited at best. When the vehicle finally slows to take another turn, Emily leans forward in attempt to glean a better understanding of just where they're at before shooting a confused glance at Devon. Here?

The new road, Park Drive, is hardly wide enough to be a two-lane road for the first few minutes driving down it. When what's left of the road widens out, Emily turns to try and get a better sense of their surroundings, noticing a glimmer of light off the left side. "Is… is that it?" she asks, squinting at the dark. It looks like water. Looking harder, she can even see a stone bridge crossing the creek before it dumps into a larger pool.

Letting the car roll to a stop, Devon follows Emily’s gaze through the window. With the greenery grown as much as it has, it’s difficult to pick out the winding path cut by the little creek until it reaches the bridge. “I think so.” And even if it isn’t, he seems to like what he’s seeing.

The car is put into park and the ignition turned off. “You can wait here if you want,” he says, with a look over to Emily. “But you can come with also.” He wouldn’t blame her for staying behind, it’s chilly and no telling what the ground is like. But he won’t turn her away if she chooses to follow, either.

Giving her the chance to think it over, Dev lets himself out of the car. He walks around the back of the car, his shoes crunching on the crumbling pavement with each step. The sound doesn’t carry far, and it doesn’t mask the sound of the creek burbling and chuckling nearby. He opens the trunk and fetches a backpack from inside. One strap is dragged onto a shoulder, and he spends another few seconds digging out a flashlight.

The car rocks slightly as Emily roughly nudges the door closed with her hip, her footing unsteady at first as she makes her way around the front of the car. When she sees the flashlight turn on, she lets out a sigh of relief along with a murmured, "Oh, good." before she can help herself. Afterward, she nods to him, still standing down by the hood. "I didn't come all this way just to sit in the car." she tells him matter-of-factly, brow raised to accentuate her point, before turning to judge the path before them. She tosses her head for a moment to keep her hair from falling into her eyes and starts after him carefully. This wasn't the first time they'd ventured off the beaten path together, but it hadn't been dark last time.

The quarter-moon glow off the surface of the water catches her eye again, and she pauses for a moment to look up at the stairs visible through the cloud cover. A fog of breath escapes her as she murmurs, "You were right. It is beautiful out here." And dark. Very dark. She hastily keeps moving down toward the creekside, not wanting to lose sight of the light.

Closing the trunk, Devon nods a reply to Emily’s decision. He didn’t expect her to want to stay in the car, but felt it should be offered as an option. The flashlight is clicked on and the light cast toward the brush that lines the edge of the road then beyond to the footbridge. It looks like the bridge isn’t too far away, ten or so yards perhaps once they’re off the street.

It’s a few steps down an almost steep embankment to get off the road itself, and he holds a hand out to offer her an extra point of balance. He keeps the beam of light pointed close to his feet instead of far out ahead, giving them both some idea of what kind of leafy things and branches they’re walking through.

“Yeah.” Dev slows long enough to glance back at Emily, then follow her gaze up to the sky. He doesn’t linger to stare or appreciate it though. He picks his way through bare branches as the bridge gets closer, and he holds aside some of the more stubborn growth.

His continued seriousness draws a frown of concern that's hastily banished away as he offers his arm out to help her. She lets go of the grip on the left crutch, hand on his forearm as she shuffles down the embankment. Suddenly grateful for the lack of central lighting because it hides how warm her face grows after having to grab on tightly to keep herself from losing her balance. Emily bites back a remark just barely, not wanting to deter him … or herself, for that matter. They were so close now.

Shuffling past the branches held back, she nods back at Devon in silent thanks. When her crutch touches the first bit of concrete from the path again she stops to reassess, letting out a sigh of relief. Being able to stand on semi-stable ground again, regardless of how it was overgrown with grass and weeds, lets her feel a bit more confident in helping him with … whatever happened now.

What did happen now?

"How can I help?" she finally asks, breaking the silence that had fallen again.

The question catches him off guard, and Devon hesitates with one foot on the bridge. The other pushes off the moss and earthen ground a beat later and he shakes his head. “I don’t know,” he says quietly. That’s the easiest answer. He doesn’t want to brush off her offer, but this is something he’s always done alone. Not that he’s kept it secret from the other former chessmen — and he’d left the unspoken, open invitation if ever they’d want to join him — but he’d never had anyone else with him.

The flashlight is handed to Emily as he walks toward the center of the bridge. It isn’t very long, a dozen or so strides from end to end. The walls are stonework much like those fences they passed along the way. He pulls his backpack from his shoulder as he walks and, once he’s reached the center, sits on his knees and starts pulling things from it.

The items are fairly ordinary, a few small pieces of wood, little twigs and kindling, a box of matches, and a folded piece of paper. Things are arranged carefully and in silence, with the twigs and shavings layered first. Dev takes a match from the box and strikes it against the striking strip, then holds the flame against the shavings and kindling.

Well, the flashlight is helping. Sort of. Emily stands back, only casting the light out for him at first. The further he moves away causes her to shuffle forward on the remains of the path, trying to make sure he's still got enough light as he works through his bag. Before long, instead of watching him work, she begins to watch him directly, and the almost-methodical care put into what he's doing. When she speaks up, she's careful to keep that same softness to her voice from before. "Devon, what's all this for?"

He doesn’t answer at first, his care and thought put into nursing the small flames into feeding off the twigs. Devon’s done this many times before and it takes patience. Several more twigs are added, these ones only marginally larger than the first small bunch, and then he leans in to carefully blow on the embers. The tiny flames respond by brightening and growing, and he watches for several seconds before finally adding one of the larger bits of wood to the pile. It’s all very careful, practiced, to keep the embers from being smothered.

“Next week is seven years since the events that started the war,” he explains quietly as he sits back. The fire is given a chance to rest and consume at its own pace. “But today is Liz’s birthday.” He pauses, his eyes still on the fire. Seven years hasn’t made the events of that day any easier to accept, and he still struggles with it, especially this time of year. He swallows and carefully adds another piece of wood to the small fire.

Her eyes dance back and forth, swimming through time in an attempt to try and find context. Liz? He'd never brought her up before. Richard, though …

"Elisabeth?" she asks cautiously. She clicks the light off, the string off the end of the flashlight wrapped around her fingers so it can hang while she walks closer to the small fire. It strikes her how quiet it is out here, little else sounding off at this time of night, this time of year. It's just them and the small fire and the water under the bridge.

His eyes slant in her direction when she moves, but it doesn’t seem as though Devon plans on stopping Emily from joining him at the fire. He watches her approach, some part of him still as distant as it had been on the drive over. “Yeah.”

A crease forms between his brows as he looks into the fire again. Seven years. “She never made it back. But I still celebrate her birthday.” Dev reaches for the stick he’d added to the fire and shifts it a little bit over the coals.

"We moved mountains, and we murdered futures. Whatever we had to, to save the world. Sometimes it was worth it. … Sometimes it wasn't."

Emily pauses then, a respectful distance still between them. She can almost see that wall, that invisible wall that separates them. The one where they talk — but never too much. Never ask too much. Never anything personal, save for those explosive accidents.


She looks past her own hesitations, and back to her friend.

"… don't know what happened." is the admission she makes, more to the night than to Devon himself. It's progress, though. "Was there an accident?"

“She’s just gone.” Devon’s heard the story a thousand times, a thousand different ways, replayed over in his own mind. “She tried to stop a madman and…” Liz was gone, nothing left except the memories of her. “They said she died in Alaska, pulled into a gravity well.” It’s been seven years, and he still hasn’t come totally come to terms with it.

Dev grabs a stick to nudge and prod the coals. Small orange sparks and tiny embers fly up to disappear into the cold night. His mouth firms, lips pressing together as he lets out a careful breath. “Liz promised she’d come for me,” he explains much more quietly. And maybe, in keeping his own little tradition, he’s made that happen.

The tension in Emily's shoulders slack as she looks out over the water. She's lost for what can possibly be said. Comforting others isn't exactly a skill she's honed … or needed.

As the embers let out a pop, she shakes her head. "Happy Birthday to Liz," Emily murmurs, afraid to say anything more lest it sound like a eulogy. It feels like they'll be here a while longer, so she rests her hand on the wall of the bridge to steady herself as she sits down a little closer to the small fire. She bundles her crutches together off to her side.

"Tell me about her." she asks, careful with the delivery of the request. Respectful, even. "She sounds… Brave. Determined."

“Wise,” Devon adds to the list. “Compassionate. Strong. She knew when to take a gamble. And that we would make a difference.” He lifts his gaze from the fire and looks at Emily. “Easiest person ever to talk to, about anything. And… She didn’t take shit off no one.” He grins slightly, hesitant but amused at whatever memory that description evoked.

Sobering again, he looks at the fire. He adds another smaller stick to the flames. “She fiercely loved and protected what was hers. I met her a couple of weeks after the Dome came down. Followed some rumors to find her because I had some information I thought she could use. It wasn’t very long after that and I was part of her team. And… then she just… kind of became like mom.”

Even though he's sobered, Emily looks at him hard until he glances back up again. When he does, she gives him the same half-grin he'd started to show off earlier. Words don't come easily, but she nods, hoping he holds onto those fonder memories instead of the lack of her.

"I…" Leaning to the side on one hand, she breaks eye contact shortly after, brow furrowing for just a moment. Her expression smooths out, calm as she peers into the flame. "… lost someone, too." She takes in a breath, shaking her head slightly to wave off any impending emotion before it can rear its head. She sounds thoughtful, removed. "I never had the luxury of knowing what difference they made before they were taken away. Granted, it happened when I was young. Too young to really understand one way or another, I suppose."

"What happened… why… the reason for it. At least you know that." Emily posits, expression deadpan.

“Do I?” The question really isn’t directed at Emily, Devon’s attention seems to be deep inside the flames. Does he really know the reason for any of it? “I’ve lost so many people.” And for what, the statement seems to ask. There’s a touch of anger, directed at nothing more than his own thoughts, those dusty unanswered questions he’d thought long gone.

"You do." Emily insists, her voice firm with that conviction. "She's gone, but at least she didn't die in some desert fighting some useless-as-fuck war— she went out making a difference." Out of the corner of her eye, she considers him and arches her brow. "Or do you not think she did? Make a difference?"

That’s one way to look at it, though he never has. Devon shakes his head slightly, then slants a look at Emily. “She was trying to, but… the gravity well was created by the psycho she was trying to stop. If he hadn’t been there…” And he isn’t sure how Magnes played into the whole mission anyway.

“She should’ve made it home.”

Dev leans forward to add another piece to the fire. The flames appear healthy now, giving off warmth even if the flames aren’t very large. He watches the yellows and oranges lick along the wood, for a few seconds just sitting silently. “I’m sorry that you’ve lost people too.”

"I'm sorry you've lost so many." she quips in response. It's brusque, but she means it. And there's no sense in debating what should have happened.

Emily starts to lean forward, her hands clasping together in her lap. She looks down at her hands, cast in shadow as they are, and slowly shakes her head. "… And I'm sorry. About the other day. About … all of it."

It feels selfish to bring it up now, but some opportunities had to be seized as they come up. She adds, perhaps a little too harshly after, "And don't you dare try to blame yourself for any of it."

The addition stops the half-formed ghost of a grin, and Devon’s brows tick upward. “Don’t blame yourself for Avi’s insanity,” he responds, almost in deadpan. He watches her for a moment, then looks away, to watch the fire. “Whatever that’s about, let’s just deal with it when it happens.” And not talk about it again otherwise. It’s his usual strategy.

She's more than happy to go along with the usual strategy. Emily actually looks relieved by it, even if a little stiff still from Devon's rebuke. Sure, she didn't blame herself, but she still wasn't sure how to feel about it regardless. She shakes her head at just how crazy it all was. "I'm trying not to dwell on it too much. I'm not sure it's working, though." Her lips firm into a hard line, an attempt at a reassuring smile that falls flat.

"… It's nice." she says suddenly, attention back on the fire. "That you do this for her."

He nods, and lets the crackle and pop of the fire fill the lapse in conversation. But after a time he picks up that bit of carefully folded paper still waiting beside his backpack. Devon turns it over in his hands, but he doesn’t unfold it. Following a moment of staring at the paper, feeling the crisp edges, he leans forward and sets it into the coals. It doesn’t take long for the note to curl and blacken as the fire takes it.

There's plenty that she wants to ask, even a few things that she almost does. Instead, she watches the paper turn to smoke and ash.

After a long enough period of silence has passed that the fire starts to dim, she lets out a quiet 'hm'. "Devon." She states, her posture shifting. Straightening.

There's still a healthy pause after that, a comfortable silence as she mulls what she means to say. "You don't … Aren't…" Emily's brow furrows as she contemplates the coals and then finally turns back to him, head tilted in thought. There's no exasperation to her - she just can't figure out what to say and for once doesn't hesitate to think out loud.

"You text me if you need anything, all right?" She shakes her head slightly, looking at him with a stern expression. "I don't think she'd want you to feel alone. I don't want you to either."

With a nonchalant roll of her shoulder, she carefully adds, "That's what friends are good for, right?" Though she does well to play it off, it's clear the statement holds significance for her. She frowns at something, probably herself, before shifting to start coming back to her feet by grabbing ahold of the wall to help her up.

When she begins speaking again, Devon lifts his gaze from the fire and looks at her. A small grin pulls at one corner of his mouth at her sternness, but his expression stays otherwise more melancholy. “Yeah,” he agrees quietly, “if you do the same.” That’s what friends are for.

He looks at the fire again as Emily shifts toward the wall, but after a breath he stands. It’s probably time they headed back toward the Safe Zone. And there’s the promise of food. Dev offers a hand to Emily to help her get onto her feet.

"Yeah." she agrees in return, then wraps her arms around his shoulders in a decisive hug. It's firm. "I'm—" she starts to say, then resolves not to say sorry. It's not her fault what happened to Elisabeth. Saying 'sorry' didn't wasn't accurate, or sufficient. There weren't any words that felt like they would be. She lets out a sigh and only hugs him tighter before her arms fall away abruptly, the sleeves of her jacket swishing against her sides as her arms swing down.

She swivels on her foot, leaning back against the wall to help her maintain her balance. "Is there anything else you need to do here?"

He’s surprised at first, when Emily pulls him into a hug. So much that for the space of a heartbeat he stands very still. Devon’s arms lift with some resolve and he circles his arms around her as she starts to speak again. He returns the hug until she shifts away, and his head shakes to answer the question.

“Just make sure the fire’s out,” he says quietly. He turns after a moment to pick up his backpack and then stamp out the rest of the embers. There isn’t much to burn on the bridge, but he’d rather not take any chances. He scuffs a shoe to scatter the coals and let the chill get into them more quickly.

Scooping up her crutches, she sighs at him as he sets to work doing what he'd just said she could help with. Back to him being as distracted as before, it seems. She waits patiently, reigniting the flashlight as their firelight is scattered to sparks. When Devon steps back, she inches stamps out a coal in particular, just to do her part. Hopefully, he'll go back to his usual self soon. For her part, she's not looking forward to a return trip as silent as the drive out.

Offering the flashlight back out to him, she nods casually. "Just remember, when we head back to town and the MPs go, 'Hey, didn't I see you two like two hours ago?' we don't make any jokes about killing people out in the woods." Her delivery is more or less deadpan. "Or about successfully burying a drug stash, or…" she trails off in order to bite back a smirk as she heads back down the path.

“We just explain that the spirits were restless,” Devon suggests as he takes the flashlight. Lifting his gaze, he grins at her, just a small one but less distant. “We were instructed to vanquish the Horseman of Winchester Hill by the Lord Charles Addams of Greenwood Manor.” One brow ticks upward a fraction, conspiratorially.

An amused breath escapes her in a fog of as she returns the glance. "The headless one?" she asks, lagging behind. She takes in a breath to steady herself, more mindful of her steps than she was on the way down.

“No one’s seen his face in centuries,” Devon improvises. He slows and turns when Emily starts falling behind. “He wears a hooded cloak, and doom comes to any who try to look inside.” He backtracks some, closing the space between them, and holds a hand out to help her navigate over the uneven ground.

"It's a wonder we didn't make it back later than we did, faced with such a foe." Emily remarks grimly. She stubbornly keeps forward under her own will, ignoring the offer for the time being. The sour glance she shoots at the incline indicates she might have to swallow her pride shortly. "Do we give them the gritty details, or do we leave a bit to mystery?"

Slowing a little more, so he can follow and give Emily the benefit of the light casting over her shoulder and more out front, Devon considers the tale. “Leave it to mystery,” he decides. Gore and grit could easily be overdone. “We followed the Horseman as far as we could, but he vanished, like fog.”

She lets out a hmph of acknowledgement, foot on the slope back up to the road. "Some things are better left to mystery." she agrees, then turns back to him with a sense of resignation, finally laying a hand over his forearm for support during the climb.

As much as she preferred their relationship distant, she was glad he'd brought her with him. It wasn't like she relished knowing some of his sadness, but Emily finally felt like she had something to contribute back.

Maybe just like the mysterious Horseman, Devon's melancholy spirit would vanish with the dawn. Or at least, soon.

She hoped, anyway. And she'd keep make her own effort at seeing it happen.

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