Rue Times Two


elliot_icon.gif rue4_icon.gif

Scene Title Rue Times Two
Synopsis After waking from a nightmare, Elliot confronts Rue about the existence of a doppelganger.
Date November 20, 2020

Red Hook, Elliot’s Townhouse

Elliot wakes with a start, though his escape from the nightmare isn’t as violent as it could have been. The dream is still fresh in his mind, holds a quality of realness that makes it easier to remember. The emotions from the dream linger just as long, unwilling to let him go free just yet.

The Palace was broken, corrupted. Was it even the Palace, or just another dream interpretation of it? When he looks there now all is as it should be. The hallways connect where they should; infinite and labyrinthine. The Mill to the Apartment Complex to the Church to the Mill. The doors are properly labelled or hidden, the items are all on their pedestals. There’s no trace of that directionless helplessness.

The forest, the screams for help, the accusations. Liar. Liar. Liar. Reflexively he tests his link to Wright, just feeling at the edges of it to assure himself it’s still there. She must be sleeping soundly as no emotion travels through. That in and of itself helps to relax him.

He knows Rue is tucked into him, and he feels a moment of guilt for jostling her as he woke. As she stirs he runs his hands delicately over her hair, looping it behind her ear. Seeing her, peaceful, is comfort enough to release the last of the nightmare’s hold over him now.

The peacefulness is an illusion. The moment he startled, Rue’s eyes opened and she laid very still, waiting, assessing threats. Finding none, he feels the shift in her finally that betrays the alert state she was holding before she came into her awareness. She relaxes, sinking against the mattress and, briefly, back against him. “Hey,” she says gently, a hint that she’s about to shift and roll over.

First on her back, then on her other side to face him. “You okay?” Affection is exchanged for affection, Rue reaching out to place her hand on his cheek and brush her thumb over his skin. “All’s quiet,” she promises. “You know I wouldn’t sleep through…” There’s almost nothing she can sleep through, except the rhythmic thump of bass through the floor at Cat’s Cradle, apparently. “Wanna talk about it?”

Elliot scrubs his hand over his face to get the rest of the wakefulness in there. He shuffles in the bed, squaring himself to Rue. “I just,” he begins, but seems unsure where to start. “I had a nightmare. Do you ever reuse places in your dreams? Like you visit a place that you’ve never been in real life—it’s totally made up—but you know it’s the same place when you see it in another dream?”

Rue’s eyes narrow faintly as she considers what he’s saying before giving her head a nod. “Yeah, I’ve definitely done that before. Like deja vu in dreamland.” There’s a lightness to her tone without it being dismissive. “You have that tonight?” Her hand drifts to his shoulder and glides down his arm, eventually coming to rest against his hip.

More Ark bullshit? she nearly asks, but figures if it was anything else, bringing up the nightmare he actually lived through isn’t going to help.

“Almost always,” Elliot responds. “It started there, but it was like someone made a distorted duplicate of that place just to fuck with me. I think my dream may have been influenced from the outside.”

He pauses as he runs through it again in his head. “It felt targeted. A bunch of different things, from the real world and not, just all crammed into a single ‘fuck you’. But then somebody grabbed me from that place and brought me to a cabin where other people had also been pulled out of nightmares. Devon and—”

"Did you have any luck finding the other Rue?"

The stop is abrupt and the pause is heavy. Elliot’s face ripples through remembrance, confusion. He looks to Rue directly, has trouble trying to formulate a question. He rests his hand gently on her shoulder.

“Is there another Rue?”

Nodding her head with understanding, Rue is content to let Elliot talk his way through his nightmare. To help him unpack it once he’s ready to do that. But there’s more to it than just a nightmare. It might be… targeted? Her hackles raise, already calculating how she’s going to find someone who’s plaguing his dreams. What can she do about that? How can she protect him going forwar—

Knocked out of her thoughts, Rue’s eyes widen when Elliot asks that question. “I—”

He said Devon, so she’s able to put two and two together, even if in this case it might be three and one. The answer is still four. “Yeah…” The admission comes out in a breath, astonished to have had the question levelled at her and unsure of what to really do with it.

“Yeah, there is. It’s— It’s why I left Seren.” Rue disentangles herself from Elliot. Not to withdraw entirely or leave his bed, but to at least have this conversation while sitting up. It feels awkward to be laying on her side and trying to have such a serious moment. “Are you familiar with multiversal theory? Like in comic books?”

Elliot pushes himself up into a sitting position as Rue does. “I’m familiar with the concept at a pop-culture level,” he replies, “Yes.” His mind is already racing with the implications of what she’s only alluded to so far, but he gives her space to continue.

Rue draws in a deep breath. “Okay, don’t freak out.”

That’s not a remotely promising start to things.

“There’s annnnother version of me,” she starts to explain in a tone of voice heavily laden with uncertainty, a small quaver to it, “from a parallel reality. And she’s a real bitch.” That’s the high level overview, but it’s a place to start at least. “She… She got me framed for kidnapping,” he might have seen that on the news early in the year, and the note that she was cleared without being charged with anything, “masqueraded as me for… god only knows how long, to steal information. And she hurt Seren.”

Of all the crimes the other Rue has committed, it’s clear that’s the one she finds the most egregious. “I call her Marlene. It’s my middle name. It just… It’s just a thing.”

Elliot looks away, not to avoid her but to process as his eyes flicker over the far wall of his bedroom. When viewed out of context the situation is frankly awesome. In the original meaning of the word. The implications are… he doesn’t have space to process it all now.

“Wow,” he starts, then gives a half laugh as he remembers Rue’s response to his own life's weirdness two months ago. “So, that’s a lot.” He laughs quietly, and turns to look at her. He takes her hand in his and squeezes gently.

He’s not wrong. “It is.” Rue’s voice starts to even out again, now that she’s sure he isn’t going to be hit with the human equivalent of the blue screen of death. “I know.”

“Two things,” he says, seriously but still jovially. “We need to establish countersign in case she tries to fuck with you again via me.” He doesn’t proceed to his second thing, gauging her reaction to the first.

"Agreed." There's no hesitation in that. "I should have established one with you… right away." Rue sighs, but it becomes quickly apparent that she's given the matter thought already. From around her wrist, she takes her bright orange hair elastic.

"If I don't ask you for this," she holds it out to Elliot, "shoot me."

That simple. “What’s the second thing?”

Elliot accepts the band with a short laugh. "I like your enthusiasm, but we should probably come up with something more in depth. Sign, countersign. Another countersign maybe, if we're going all out. I don't want to shoot you because you didn't have your morning coffee and forgot to ask for a hair tie."

He rolls the elastic between his fingers without looking, hooking it with the outside of his thumb and pulling his fingers apart to roll it down over his hand onto his wrist. "You remember the spy days. We'll have to pick new word combinations."

The second thing seems forgotten for a moment. When he remembers it he stops with his mouth open for a moment before he says, "There's actually two second things. Seren was one of the people trapped in the dream with me. Along with a SESA agent and an unsettling piano player. And a living angel statue, but that's beside the point." He waves his hand to dismiss his tangent.

"So I'm going to check with Devon first, but if it wasn't just an unusually vivid nightmare, I'll have to reach out to Seren as well."

Rue shrugs her shoulders. “After what she did to Seren, I’m not messing around with her. If you have doubts, I want you to take me — her — out.” It doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to shoot to kill, but the last thing she wants is for him to get hurt because he granted the benefit of the doubt when it wasn’t deserved

“That was my code with… my old partner.” She nods her head to indicate the hair band he just slipped around his own wrist. “I asked him every day.” There’s a pain in her when she smiles and looks down now at her hands resting over the covers across her lap. “He always had it. Always.”

But she’s not saying no to the sign and countersign notion. It’s a good one. Just one she has to think on for a moment.

When he mentions reaching out to her former colleague and her former… Well, Rue looks up again. “Thanks for the heads up.” He doesn’t need her permission to do whatever he needs to do in order to look out for himself. “If there’s anything I can do to help…” That’s an offer he should know by now is a standing one.

Instead of asking more about the dream, which she may do in a moment, she fixes him with a stare like she’s assessing something intangible about him. Or about them. “Impact.”

“Scatter,” Elliot says after a brief ponder. Wright taps his attention. He suddenly looks alert, and cocks his head to the side as he raises a finger. He pulls up his dream to show her and she begins to stream it. He feels her fear, her sadness, her confusion, how she loops back to fear and bafflement. Wright recedes.

A moment later his phone chimes and he scoops it up to tap through the lock screen. Violet. Ranger, her text reads. Crenellation his reply. “Wright didn’t feel anything from the dream, which is,” he pauses, “Good for her because it sucked. Also scatter was for you, I wasn’t talking to Wright.” He sets the phone back down, sighs deeply.

“Oh,” he says as he remembers the second second thing. “You left Seren because an evil doppelganger of you hurt them?”

Rue’s patient while Elliot needs his moment to connect with his partner. She turns her attention away politely, following the shape of the frame of the door out to the hall with her eyes slowly, as if it required study. When he starts to speak again, she returns to him. “I figured,” she responds with a smile. Scatter is a good choice, because it’s not one she would have come up with on her own. Creating a code to counter against someone who thinks like her, because she is her… Not the easiest task.

“Yeah.” The smile fades. “She tricked them. Called them to my place at the Cradle and pulled a gun on them when she couldn’t provide the response to Seren’s call.” Rue lowers her gaze again, feeling deep remorse for what happened to Seren. “She knew everything about me. Knew what I’d… She knew about my activities, knew things about people in Wolfhound that no one should have known…”

Blue eyes close as if that will help her block out the pain. “She told them everything. About how I’d been cheating and who with and… I guess she said she was trying to show Seren exactly what kind of person I was. But I don’t think for a minute she did it to hurt Seren. She did it to hurt me.” Seren just got caught in the crossfire. “But what if she hadn’t been content to just destroy our relationship? I worried that if I let Seren salvage things… The next time Marlene came around, she’d—”

Rue’s voice is choked out before she can finish that thought. It doesn’t matter how it ends. The hypothetical result is still painful. “That’s why I couldn’t stay with them. Seren isn’t like us. They don’t… live this kind of life. Where people have vendettas against them. Seren’s safer far, far away from me.”

For that matter, so is Elliot. The shame Rue feels in that is visible in her even when she turns her face away. “I should have told you so much sooner. She could have— She could have done something by now.” Rue isn’t sure why Marlene hasn’t.

There’s a lot to unpack there. Elliot’s Rue is clearly not the only one with a knack for infiltration. The trap was devious, and was sprung regardless of Seren’s realization that she wasn’t their Rue.

And this information is certainly coming in late. A lot of damage could have been done by now. He’s told his Rue things he has almost never said out loud, things that could be used against him, sold to his enemies. Not that Elliot has any right to accuse someone else of withholding information. That takes the sting out of any upset, leaving him with a sigh of resigned understanding.

Elliot sidles toward Rue on the bed. After a moment he wraps his arms around her to pull her into him. “We do need to work on communication, don’t we?”

“I understand that this situation is lightyears away from normal. It’s okay to confide in me, I’m not going to use your past mistakes against you. I still carry the weight of my own, I’ve got no room to judge.”

“You’re safe here,” he pulls her into him tightly for a moment, Here in my arms.

She had been braced, she realizes only after the fact, for him to yell at her. To throw her out on her ass where she belongs. Out of his life. It’s only once she’s pulled into his arms that she relaxes and knows she’d been worried at all. “Yeah,” she responds in a whisper, resting her head against his shoulder.

Rue curls in against Elliot, wrapping her arm loosely around his form as though she could stand to tether herself there with him. “I’m sorry. I fucked this up royally.” That bears to be owned up to. “I’m so sorry.” And maybe he hasn’t forgiven her, but he seems willing enough to try. That’s more than she feels she could hope for. “I don’t deserve you.” It’s delivered quietly, but without the usual cutting self-deprecation. This is more, well… Rueful.

“What did I tell you about talking about my girlfriend like that?” Elliot asks, almost absent-mindedly as he rests his head against hers.

Rue lifts her head and fixes Elliot with a sheepish look. “After all that bullshit, you want to call me your girlfriend?

He seems unfazed by the question for a moment, but comes out of whatever reverie with a few blinks. “Partner?” he tries. Maybe it’s just a terminology clarification, they never did settle on anything. “Sugar Momma.” He leans away, scrutinizing her responses to each. “I’m open to suggestions on this.”

There’s something that passes behind her eyes when he says partner. The pain is passed off as noncommittal distaste with a wrinkle of her nose. Rue shakes her head and he tries again. “Sugar Mom— I will strike you.” There’s no seriousness in that threat. But he’s succeeded in making her smile again, in spite of herself. “Girlfriend is fine. It’s just… unexpected is all.”

Elliot’s regret for the moment of Rue’s discomfort is kept under control as he allows the conversation to progress along Rue’s dismissal. Enough to log it and be mindful of it going forward. He flinches against her threat of attack playfully.

“Unexpected how?” he asks, with a clearly unserious level of scrutiny. Seriously suddenly unsure if he’s overstepped, though clearly hiding it very well. She had speculated about what he’d been assuming was a much bigger relationship declaration milestone with him weeks ago. ”Is it too early to say I love you?”

She had been mostly joking when she’d said that. Mostly, but not entirely. “I just… didn’t think you were one for labels is all,” Rue admits with a shrug of her shoulders. “You kind of gave me an oh shit look when I joked about things before, so…”

Taking a deep breath, she forces a little more confidence into her smile. “Okay, if we’re working on communication, then hear this: I’m really cool with you calling me your girlfriend. Or whatever term you want to use, so long as it’s doesn’t imply one of us is banging the other in exchange for money.” Her shoulders have tensed up a little bit through that declaration, betraying her anxiousness. “And I’ll call you whatever you’d like me to call you. I’m just not ready to put partner back into rotation yet. That still belongs to Dearing.” That one still hurts.

Elliot nods in understanding. There's a lot of ties on his end to partner, a label he's only ever applied to Wright, and she to him. "I'll be honest, I'm not great at maneuvering around relationship terminology, so I usually go about it all wrong. Boyfriend works for me. It's honestly been a while since I let anything progress past the 'neither of us are using our real names' stage of a relationship."

He shrugs, though he's at least partially joking. "My past dating experience is kind of a mess. But communication is key, so I'm willing to hash it out as much as we need to. And adapt as we go."

The tension eases. “God, right?” Rue can’t help but laugh softly at the mention of not using real names. “Although I wouldn’t have called that dating.” When she did it, she means. The war was a different time. Nothing was like… For the better, it was nothing like this.

“Exactly. We both know we’re kind of fucked in the head when it comes to personal relationships and trust issues and… Yeah, I didn’t help that much. But I like to think we both get it, and it means we’ve got a chance.” If Rue can stop fucking up, she realizes. That order may be a tall one, but it’s not impossible. “We’re nothing if not adaptable, right?”

Elliot pauses when Rue mentions her omission again. He tightens his grip on her hand just enough to mean, hey. “I’m not upset that you didn’t tell me, and I don’t hold grudges. While something bad hypothetically could have happened, nothing did. We’re in the clear.”

“We’ve got this,” Elliot says, leaning in, staring meaningfully. Close enough to kiss if she's into that sort of thing.

And she is.

A Few Hours Later

Elliot is showered and as alert as he can be in the pre-dawn hours. He plans to confront Devon in person to gauge whether or not any of the dream was real. Though there’s almost no chance that he’s mistaken. Unless he somehow pieced together the existence of a multiversal doppelganger girlfriend based on subconscious hints he’d been collecting, the dream was real. Devon and Seren and Agent Cooper were there.

As he closes and locks the front door of his apartment the true horror of it hits him. Are there two of me? More? he wonders, fighting a sudden spike of anxiety that draws Wright’s immediate attention. His heart pounds like he’s being punched in the chest. Oh god, he thinks, gripping the wrought iron banister of the entryway stairs hard enough to turn his fists white, Is there anoth

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