Snoqualmie Maybe


benji_icon.gif calvin_icon.gif claire_icon.gif phoenix_icon.gif walker_icon.gif

Scene Title Snowqualmie Maybe
Synopsis Visitors to the Guardians' settlement in Snoqualmie find not everything here is unfamiliar.
Date April 19, 2018


Before the war, Snoqualmie was a small, rural city of some 10,000 residents, known for its scenic, recreational, and historical attractions. In the wake of the November 2013 EMP, faced with the failure of logistical networks, a lack of governmental support, and consequent famine and desperation, the vast majority of inhabitants fled or perished. However, unlike most outlying polities in the Dead Zone, Snoqualmie was graced with the opportunity for revival when the Guardians moved in, negotiating an agreement with the stubborn holdouts still clinging to the town. In the years since, refugees have trickled in from the hinterlands, brought by rumor and hope to what has been made an island of order in a sea of reverted wilderness. Of late, that trickle has all but dried up, and the town stabilized at around 3,000 inhabitants — considerably smaller than during its heyday, but remarkable for the broken west.

As if painted in an ombre effect, from east to west, pale blue to deeper cornflower, the sky overhead is already crowded with stars. The picturesque community of Snoqualmie sits beneath the looming mountainside, each home glowing from within. It’s an inviting picture, especially compared to what lies outside the community’s proverbial walls.

With some daylight left, people still walk the streets or sit on porches or balconies, greeting neighbors and chattering pleasantly — it’s an exciting day for the community, with visitors — something that doesn’t happen every day.

Outside one of the more modest homes, a small gathering of people sit around a firepit in mismatched patio furniture. The pleasant smell of burning wood mixes pleasantly with cooking fish. The few residents who sit waiting for food hold their own plates and forks — one teenage boy holds a (hopefully clean) Frisbee — apparently brought from their own homes.

Walker sits in a bright red— or it once was bright red— adirondack chair, his feet propped up on a stool that definitely was not intended to go with this chair. He isn't partaking of the food yet, maybe not ever, really. At least not until everyone else has had something. Instead, he's entertaining the younger kids in the gathering. By playing a guitar very poorly.

They asked for a song. It's difficult to say what he is producing is one. But he doesn't seem to mind being the butt of the joke, so long as the children are amused. One of them goes so far as to reach up to ruffle his hair to console him. But she's very tiny, so he has to slouch to make sure she can reach.

Having been left to her own devices after the meeting, Claire had decided to wander and get the lay of the land. So to speak. She knew she stood out some in her BDUs and combat boots. Those aviators are still perched up on the top over her head, acting a bit like a headband, pulling the shoulder length hair out of her face.

The gathering had been spotted a little bit ago, though she doesn’t approach.  Claire stands off a bit, shoulder leaning against a rather large tree with a broadleaf caught between her fingers and twirled.  There is a sadness there as she sees the interaction between the people and follows the frisbee with her eyes. Community. Family. It reminded her of days when she had been apart of Endgame and even Pariah. Those — in between moments.

Though Claire has that lingering sadness swirling in her mind, Walker is recognized from the meeting and even manages to get a small smile to tug at the corner of her lips at his antics.

Manning the fish on the makeshift grill atop the fire pit, a man in a hoodie looks up from where he’s turning the filets.

“Hey Levi, you take requests?” he asks. “I’d ask for another but I can’t remember any.” A seff-deprecating grin is wide, the firelight reflected in his pale green eyes, dancing across the freckles on his tanned skin.

It’s a face that’s familiar to  Claire, one she’s seen far from here. It could be a trick of the light or simply a lookalike. But the voice is familiar, too.

The attempt at a joke is met with various chuckles. One of the children chimes in with their own request. “Play the one about the dragon, Levi! You remember that one, right, Phoenix?”

Phoenix chuckles and nods. “Pretty sure that one’s more than just about a dragon,” he asides to one of the other adults in the vicinity, reaching for a bit of fish that looks done with the tongs, and setting it on someone’s plate.

"You can't remember your own name, Phoenix," Levi says with a smirk sent toward the cook. "But I do, any song you want ruined, I'm your man." Once he remembers one, that is. He shifts a little when Claire approaches, glancing over her way with a smile. "You hungry? Phoenix makes the best fish on the west coast," he says, as if there are a significant amount of seafood chefs out here to contend with.

But the kids get his attention again and the request gets a warmer smile. Or maybe the kid. Even though Walker gives Phoenix a sidelong look at his comment, he turns back to the child with a grin. "You have to sing it with me," he says, nodding toward Claire, "we don't want to scare away our visitors, right?"

He sits up, apparently taking the request to heart since when he starts to play Puff the Magic Dragon, it actually sounds good. He looks over at the kid, giving the cue to jump in on the lyrics.

That are totally only about a Dragon, Phoenix, oh my goodness.

There is something that nags at the back of Claire’s mind as she watches the interactions, it starts when Phoenix speaks up… when the firelight reveals his features briefly, brows lower thoughtfully. There is a familiarity to the man. Like she feels like she should know him, but she can’t quite place it. Maybe the war. Maybe before. Who was this?!?

Wracking her brain for some clarity of who that stranger is, Claire almost misses the invitation. Almost. The twirl of the leaf stops and gaze shifts over the Walker. There might be a moment where she had a bit of a dear in the headlights look. It is only a few moments before she gives a small shake of her head and says, “I ate. Thanks, though.” Her refusal is polite and punctuated with a somewhat shy smile, looking down at the leaf in her hand.

As the song starts to play, Claire can’t help but give a short laughs, stifling it with a hand. Of all the things she didn’t expect to hear. Completely amused, Claire tosses the leaf aside and finally steps more into the firelight, though she doesn’t sit, yet. Giving the kid her full attention as if waiting to hear these lyrics.

The kid and a couple of others gather closer to Levi and begin to sing — it’s a strangely light-hearted moment here at what feels like the edge of the world, somehow surviving after what felt like the end of the world. Phoenix chuckles, obviously not offended by the banter (given he started it), and continues to dole out the fish to those with plates.

He glances up at Claire when she steps closer. His own features are unmarred by effort to recall the memory of her face. “This is one of the visitors, right? I didn’t forget her, too?” he says, which gets an easy-going chuckle by the other adults around him.

“You let me know if you change your mind, miss,” he says, with a nod of his head for the petite woman.

Emerging from the growing shadows is another figure, slow to converge on the little knot of social activity going on. For most of the community, receiving unexpected strangers is peculiar enough that Benji Ryans might draw glances, but then, she isn't a stranger to all. In turn, she has enough unfamiliarity with the community that her wander — post-business — is exploratory in nature. Reacquainting herself. Her boots are dusty, and she wears a practical combination of denim and a down-stuffed jacket with wool lining a generous hood that drapes off her shoulders, hands clad in lambskin leather.

The last time she was here, she wasn't really here. The details matter. The texture of the earth beneath her boots, and the smell of smoke-fire on the air. And a little bird told her that some wolfhounds were in town.

She isn't alone, either, moving alongside a figure a little taller than she is. If they were talking, it's not of so much consequence that she doesn't break out of their pattern to move closer towards firelight, drawn either to the prospect of warmth and conversation, the scent of food, the thrumming of a guitar, or maybe Claire Bennet, someone else with whom she is familiar with in a somewhat professional capacity.

Bennet's been in Wolfhound long enough to know where they get some of their information from. Sometimes, it just comes to you in a dream.

Calvin strikes a rougher figure in the gathering darkness, his mane bristled into coarse dreads past his shoulders, sweaters layered beneath the salvaged rumple of his coat.  It looks to be military issue for all that the rest of him is far from it, muddy green and slouched open wide at the shoulders.

He hangs back outside the firelight’s reach while Benji goes on ahead, a curl of steam issued out after a sigh.  Centering himself, eyes ringed bright with baleful light in his long face, hands jammed down deep into his jacket.

Just for a moment.

Then he’s dragging in along after her, heels kicked in to rake the topsoil away with every step, pebbles dancing ahead between Benji’s boots.  

The song is a quick one, at least, but the kids seem to enjoy it. Levi chuckle a little, but when he looks up and sees a couple figures heading their way, he stops playing and stands up. Alert. He lets one of the kids climb up into his seat and strum on the guitar while he comes over to stand next to Phoenix.

"I wouldn't be surprised, Phe. You forgot all the other pretty blondes, too," he says, the tease coming easily, even though his gaze is outward. But he nods over to Claire, gesturing toward Benji. "You guys bring extras in?" Only after the question is actually asked does he actually look over her way. Curious, if a bit on edge.

Levi’s comment gets a bit of a crooked smirk, though her attention is given to the other. “You seem familiar,” Claire admits to Phoenix, with an apologetic shrug of her shoulder. “But could just be a coincidence,” she points out since there are times people look alike.  

As attention is shifted away from one person to another, Claire’s brows lift with a touch of surprise. Seeing one of Wolfhound’s informants in the flesh was not something she would have expected on the other side of the country. “Well…” She starts, though she isn’t addressing the approaching pair, Claire looks at Levi. “They do say we travel in packs. I know her,” the regenerator assures.

A welcoming smile is turned to Benji, asking once she is closer, “What brings you all the way out here, Ryans?” It’s habit to turn to last names. Of course, the dreamwalker’s companion stands out enough in this group to snag Claire’s attention. He gets an openly curious once over, from head to toe, before turning a questioning glance to Benji again, since this one she doesn’t know.

“Yeah?” Phoenix tips his head, looking up at Claire more curiously — but the uncertainty of her tone keeps that curiosity at a low hum.

“You from Phoenix at all?” he asks, brows lifting in that open, frank face of his, before his head turns to follow both her gaze and Levi’s to the two figures outside of the circle of firelight. He’s less worried than Levi seems to be, and continues to flip the fresh fish on the makeshift grill on the firepit, doling it out to the next plate pushed his way.

“Friends of yours are friends of ours,” he says amiably, the wind shifting the fire’s direction so it lights up his tan, freckled face for a moment, before the shadows flicker across his form once again. “You hungry?” he calls to Benji and Calvin.

Like they’re strangers to him.

Benji's approach is languid, non-threatening, where most of her tends to be — at least, in the waking world. Kicked pebbles are crushed under boot heel, a glance chasing back and behind as if considering the convenience of kicking some back before deeming herself too uncoordinated. Her attention returns forward, a slight and polite smile ready, maybe a little more easy than it was before.

"We're something different," Benji says, catching Levi's words as she nears, hands in pockets. To Claire, airily; "Oh, you know, we were just in the neighbourhood."

Not likely as simple as that, given givens.

But if she's about to say something more, her eye is drawn first towards the amiable gentleman just near the fire, light casting aside shadows. Forgetting what she was about to stay, she stops short and stares, breath caught in her chest. Doubt ripples through her, like perhaps she is someone who must question the validity of what she sees and experiences rather often, and her gently friendly manner falls away as she stands there awkwardly instead.

Raises her hands, tucking longer locks of black behind her ears as she then pivots to look at Calvin. For cue, or guidance, or just to check that she's not gone insane and he's seeing this also.

“Calvin,” Calvin introduces himself, helpfully, in Benji’s wake, shades of Aussie influence still slanting at his vowels.  “Sheridan.”

They might’ve heard of him — or his name might’ve been lost in the shuffle of dozens of other SLC-Expressives with an ongoing vendetta against what constitutes civil society these days.  He’s been in the papers, once or twice, suspected of killing fugitives from the war before they could be brought in. Wanted.

He certainly looks the part, looking back at her with glittery sharp eyes smudged in kohle, beard bristled a coarse ginger under his jaw, striped with touches of grey.

He doesn’t care to explain his own presence, relying on the we that preceded him.  What Benji said.

Speaking of Benji: he looks to her pivot with a critical ??? furrow before he looks past her to see what prompted it.  What he sees is Phoenix in the firelight, standing over a grill. He looks back to Benji. And back to Phoenix again.

“…You the town chef, are you?”  

The fact that Claire knows one of them eases Levi a bit, although he stays on his feet instead of taking his seat back from the kids. He does look more welcoming by the time the pair are closer to the little cookout.

He lifts a hand to wave as Claire greets them, taking in Calvin's introduction with a nod. There's a second glance that might imply he's heard the name, but he doesn't change his demeanor. "Walker," he says with a gesture to himself. "And the cook is Phoenix," he adds, clapping the man on the shoulder. "Make yourselves at home. Grab a seat, grab a plate."

The question about Phoenix gets a chuckle and Levi shakes his head a little. "Only when we're desperate," he comments, although this is clearly not true, as the people around seem pretty happy with the cooking.

Pheonix’ question about where she might be from gets a small shake of her head, before she say, “Nope. Never been there, either.” The fact that he is asking that, coupled with the name, it’s not hard to deduce that, “But I am guessing you are, huh?”

The name provided by the dreadlock’d man is familiar to Claire, brows ticking up with a hint of surprise, though no judgement accompanies that look… just more curiosity from the tiny ex-terrorist. “Well… Nice to finally put a face to the name I’ve heard now and then,” she offers with a bit of a smile that tugs to one side, with a hint of amusement.

“Mostly a fisherman, but gotta eat to live, and trout doesn’t taste great as sushi, from what I’ve heard,” says the man named Phoenix with an easygoing smile. Benji’s sudden stop in her tracks draws his glance that way, his own brows drawing together as he appraises her awkward stance.

It’s a long moment before he lets his eyes go back to Calvin, then to Claire and he lifts his shoulder in an easy going shrug, picking up another cooked bit of fish with the tongs to set on one of the nearby plates. “That’s a more complicated question than it seems. I apparently was headed there, at some point, so that seemed as good a name as any. Better than John Doe, anyway, right?” His smile grows. “I guess I should be happy I wasn’t headed to somewhere like Schenectady or Boring.”

He looks down to flip one last bit of fish then hands the tongs to the man sitting to his left, nodding to move a little closer to the small group of standing strangers. His gaze returns to Benji, then back to Claire. “Haven’t met anyone who knows me yet, but if we’ve met, I’m sorry I won’t remember.”

It's altogether very possible that had Phoenix never opened his mouth, Benji might have fooled herself into thinking that she wasn't staring at a ghost. At least, maybe for a minute longer while she questioned her sanity, the fidelity of her memories and dreams, waking or otherwise, her ability to divine through the firelight. But when he speaks, uncertainty evaporates. Confusion remains, but not uncertainty.

And she can hear his words, putting them together like disparate puzzle pieces, like she can get the idea of the whole picture, now, even if it's only filling in from the corners. It just also doesn't occur to her to, you know, be cool.

Breaking from Calvin's side again, she cuts a quick path through the scattered individuals, a half-jog that unselfconsciously has her flinging her arms around Phoenix's shoulders and weight thrown into the embrace. His warning about his own memory lost in the white noise of revelation, and so she commits once there after her momentary, frankly more characteristic hovering back. But it's a rare thing, to find something from home, and to be happy about it.

"You disappeared," she explains, a little helplessly, only really untangling herself once she can sense physical protest — but once she does, its completely, with a step backwards.

So late, Calvin raises his hand to advise caution, but Benji’s already Benjiing off to fling her arms around ‘Phoenix.’  He drops it again, teeth bit out white in a private wince. Private, apart from the audience of Claire and. Levi. And Phoenix and the kids.

He watches her go, and embrace, eyes reading keen in the firelight — watching for a prickle or a shove.  Not so worried that he flies over in pursuit


They’re probably alright.

“Yeh I’m like — more famous than famous?” he tells Claire, his shoulders turned square to her even as he takes a slow step backwards for the tangle of time travelers.  “Almost like, ‘infamous,’ some might say?” And then to Levi, with earnest interest:

“Is that why they have you playing guitar?”  Desperation? He grins, as he steps.

It’s a little mean.

"We haven't figured out why he— or anyone else— would have wanted to go to Phoenix, though. It's a damn desert down there." So, clearly, a terrible place to be. Although, Levi's tone seems to be more amused than really disapproving. His expression switches to surprise when Benji runs over and starts with the hugging. Walker looks over at Calvin, then to Claire, then back over to Phoenix and Benji again.

"If your girlfriend just wandered into our town out of nowhere, I'm officially calling it as the wildest thing that's ever happened."

But hugging seems to be okay around here. So does wincing. Both get a grin.

When Calvin moves, Levi looks his way. The question gets a bark of a laugh. "Oh, definitely. There is no other reason to subject yourself to it." Maybe if they needed to torture someone. But, barring that.

“Infamous, eh?” Claire says sounding mildly impressed, as the amusement at this dreadlocked stranger continues.  “Been there done that,” she comments after him with a chuckle, but then she leaves them to their reunion with Phoenix. Watching them for a moment longer, it seems to remind her of something.

“Hey, Walker,” Claire steps closer to the resident, fishing a folded and sealed letter from her back pocket. “I’m, actually, hoping you can help me. I was given a letter to deliver, while I’m here.” Looking down at the front of the letter and asks, “Know where I can find Ted Barnes?”

Those pale green eyes alight back on Benji just as she’s rushing at him. Luckily Phoenix has already set down hot and oily fish-flipping tongs and can catch the hug.

If there was any remnants of doubt it was JJ, it’s gone in the easygoing way he accepts it, strong arms coming up after a brief moment to lightly return the embrace. There’s a gentle pat pat like standoffish fathers sometimes give their children, taking the affection but unsure how to return it. That part isn’t like JJ, but it’s clear that Benji and Calvin are strangers.

“DId I?” he asks, stepping back after a moment, to look a bit deeper into Benji’s face, eyes flicking left to right as if to read the answers of his past and identity in those clear blue eyes.

To Walker, Phoenix cuts a sidelong glance and smirk. “Your mother is the weirdest thing that’s happened.”

Yo mama jokes are still a thing in the apocalypse.

He glances over to Calvin, unable to determine if he’s part of the forgotten past or not. “Where are you all from — if you remember me and you think you remember me,” Claire is nodded to, “I guess that’s a start.”  To finding out who he is, goes unsaid.

Benji shrinks back once the embrace is over, happy to free Phoenix of the obligation even as she fills vaguely ill by the end of it, and without regret at the same time. Unfortunately, she can't telegraph very much through eyes alone, even ones as open and bright as hers — but there's a whole mess of articulate emotions there, not the least of which being the kind you feel when you're just glad to see someone. When Phoenix asks where are you all from, she gives a soft flutter of a laugh.

It's a good question, with a ridiculous answer.

So she says, softly, "Um," and then, "New York." Her hand presses flat to her chest, a subtle wariness now shadowing behind her expression as she stares at JJ Dawson-Mortlock staring at her like he's never seen her before. Understanding the impossible thing that's happened on an intellectual level is different from experiencing it. "We weren't— I mean. We were friends. We all were." Self-conscious, all at once, she glances back at the group, to Levi, back to Calvin, back to.


"How long have you been out here?"

Something in what Levi says rocks Sheridan forward midway through a backwards step — his lifted boot swung up and planted afore rather than behind.  Levi has captured his attention, as a strange cat might capture the attention of a tom who isn’t sure there’s room enough for two of them in this camp.

“I could play if you like!”

A friendly offer from a friendly boy!  He opens his hands out.

He also winks at Claire.

“We’re in the Bronx if you ever decide to get back into it.”  Infamy — as he crooks his fingers at Walker for the guitar — one ear still turned back to the exchange between Benji and Phoenix behind him.  He can help with that too, any evidence of shared unease burnt off in a grit of his teeth while he shrugs the strap up over his head, and adjusts the sit of the guitar at his hip.  He shakes his hair loose.

“A dark and desolate New York City, the year twenty-forty A.D.”  A few odd plucks into testing the tune, he strums into a series of more familiar chords, turning as he does so.  “The Department of Evolved Affairs rose from the ashes.”

What is there to be self-conscious about?

"My mother is a delight," Walker says to Phoenix, a hand moving to his chest as if in shock that he would say such a thing. But he falls into an easy smile a moment later. "And, of course, your mom, Phoenix." It is the required response.

There's a crooked smile when Calvin takes up the guitar. And a chuckle for the song chosen. But it's Claire that grabs his attention.

"Barnes? Oh yeah. He's kind of a big deal around here." He glances in— presumably— the direction of Barnes' place, but instead of giving directions, he turns back to Claire with a warmer smile. "Want me to take you that way?" The offer comes with a nod off away from the cookout. "We can let Phoenix and his friends catch up some."

“Terminator? Really?” Claire asks with a barely contained chuckle, shaking her head. “Bronx, huh?” She considers Calvin for a moment and then tsks softly, “Don’t tempt me, I’m a recovering addict of infamy. Looks good on you… not sure, so much, on me anymore.”  

Then it’s Walker that gets the regenerators full attention again, giving him an relieved look. “You do?” She huffs out a sigh of relief, “I was worried I was going to have to wander around this whole place asking people.” She really was not looking forward to having to interact with that many people and she felt a little at her quota. “You, sir, are my hero and I would love the company,” the warm smile returned with one of her own. Taking a step back, Claire motions for him to show the way.

Claire doesn’t move to follow right away, offering the others a bit of a wave, this isn’t a typical for her since the war. “Nice to meet you all. Maybe I’ll see some of you around.” Calvin gets a wink from the wild-haired blonde, before she hurries to catch up to Walker, “Tell me more about this place. Have you always lived here?” And so starts the questions.

“Friends,” echoes Phoenix — JJ — his eyes widening just a little as he glances from Benji to Calvin and back. There’s surprise but something hopeful in his expression. The mannerisms there are those of their friend, their fellow traveler in time.

“About three and a half years I guess? Some of the gang ran into me a bit east of here. I had a map and, with it, a memory of planning on going to Phoenix at some point, but why… I don’t know.”

He nods at Claire and Levi as they make their goodbyes. Their leaving seems to be the signal for others to do so as well — with all the fish cooked, those gathered around the fire pit begin to move in different directions to their own homes. Phoenix gestures to the mismatched lawn furniture for Benji and Calvin to sit, if they wish.

“Not sure why I don’t remember. I remember new things fine. Might’ve been the EMP or something else,” he says, before reaching a hand to Benji, a handshake to preface a new introduction. “I’m afraid to ask who I am. Who I was.

Still processing her immediate reality set to the tune of guitar strings and auxiliary chatter, Benji keeps her focus locked on JJ, sharp and intent and soaking in everything familiar and everything alien— until something in Claire Bennet's tone and word choice draws her attention. Pivots in time to aim a quizzical look her way for maybes and winks, a look that includes Calvin and his new guitar in its scope by the time the littlest Wolfhound is on Walker's heels.


Benji's arms lift a little at her sides and then drop back down, a helpless sort of gesture, before her posture straightens as Phoenix reaches out and offers his hand by way of introduction. The way her heart seems to twinge feels neither bad nor good, just discomfort for its own sake, before she goes and takes that hand — not really into a handshake, turning his hand so hers is perched upon his as she says, "Then we have so much catching up to do," and scuffs out a clumsily quick, ironic curtsey. "We're Benji and Calvin."

This is fine.

She moves for the lawn furniture and perches the edge of it, cutting any chance of relaxing off at the pass. Now, the look to Calvin telegraphs something like uncertainty, like— "Maybe that makes sense," she says out loud instead, to Phoenix. "About asking, and being afraid."

“G’niiiight!” called sing-song after his new mates Bennet and Walker, Calvin continues to pluck slow along the tune he’s selected to set the tone.  A subtle shake of his head is the assurance he has ready on deck for Benji and her look, faux friendliness carved dark away from the bones of his face. Without it, he’s a more insidious presence in the fire’s glow, all creeping shadow and questionable intentions.

Without it, he looks much more like a sort of person you’d hold off from your camp and question at gunpoint.

Not even an acoustic guitar can help with that.

He lets Benji keep the lead, half-hearted undermine aside, and is much slower to take a lawn chair for himself.  One leg stretched out long, the other bent as a rest for the guitar. He’s keeping half an eye on the others, even as he listens.  And plays.

“You’ve always been a good guy,” is his contribution, idle and in aside.  “Very nice.

Phoenix glances from one “new” face to the other; it looks like he might be appraising how they’ve changed with his older memories, but of course he has none of those. He still has that boyish look about him, though a few more crinkles at the corners of his eyes, a few more freckles across the bridge of his nose and cheeks from days working outside. A bit of a beard, but more of the kind that comes from not shaving for a few days than one that he’s trying to cultivate into anything more.

He smiles at Benji’s uncertainty — it’s the opposite of intimidating.

“I promise not to blame you if it’s not something I like,” he says, almost gently toward her, before glancing up at Calvin’s comment and the way he says nice.

He’s a bit intimidating, but Phoenix’s smile doesn’t falter.

“That you’re here,” his green eyes look around them, to indicate their surroundings, “that makes me worry a little less. If you’re okay with April, that eases some worries. I mean, I could’ve been working on the other side, for all I know — during the war. For all I knew.”

He reaches for a fireplace poker to prod the logs in the fire pit, sending a few embers up into the dark night around them like fireflies. “I’m sorry if I made you worry,” he says, more to Benji than to Calvin — it doesn’t seem like Calvin worries much, or at least not about him. “It’s been good out here, but I always had the questions in the back of my mind.  Do you guys live out west here or just traveling with the others from back east?”

It’s like he’s avoiding asking the obvious question — who am I? — until they’re ready to answer it. He nods to Calvin. “There’s some beer in the cooler there, if you guys want.”

Nice has Benji wanting to interject, but she keeps that thought to herself — JJ Has Amnesia so therefore can't tell when Calvin is being sarcastic in his particular way of his, she thinks, and besides. He was nice. A good guy. More than that, because they all had to be more than that to do what they did, but she takes a breath, and lets it out again. He has questions that he wants answered. Nothing more, nothing less. She shakes her head, at his apology. No, no, it's fine.

As if it's okay, that he made her worry. As if worrying is what she did.

"You would have known," she says, after a moment of thought. "If you'd fought on the other side." On her knees, her hands tangle together, and clench a little harder. "You would have known that much."

She glances aside towards the beer, indicated, but doesn't get up to retrieve one, even if she could probably use it.

The beer retrieves itself — three cans nudged up out of the cooler in an eerie sorcerer’s apprentice line of beverages drawn by an invisible hand.  Calvin stops playing long enough to catch and sling the first to Benji, aluminum glinting sharp across the firelight. There’s no indication of anything strange in his posture or attention, craned lazy back over his shoulder in anticipation of the next can.  His friends might not notice at all, if they’re preoccupied by the unknown nature of their own existence.

He tosses the second can to ‘Phoenix,’ and cracks the third open for himself, both elbows lifted over the bulk of his stolen guitar.


Beer goes well with campfires.

“Just traveling,” he says, shortly.  “We’re travelers.”

Benji’s words of assurance are met with a smile and a dip of Phoenix’s head. 

“I thought so, too, but doubts sort of suck like that. They don’t always play well with other thoughts,” he says, lifting a brow as he watches the cans lift themselves on out of the cooler.  He blows out a low, impressed whistle. 

“Now that’s a handy trick. The bonus to forgetting shit is I get to see cool things and forget I’ve already seen them,” he says, catching the can and popping its tab to take a sip.

He sets the can in the cup holder of the chair arm, then leans forward, resting his arms across his knees.

“So let’s start at the beginning, I guess. What’s my name?”  That question should have a simpler answer than the tangled truth that comes from time travel, false names and false identities.

But they have time to unravel it.

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