So How Was The Weather In The Afterlife?


richard5_icon.gif nathalie4_icon.gif

Scene Title So How Was The Weather In The Afterlife?
Synopsis Cousins catch up with each other, after one was resurrected from the dead.
Date July 5, 2021

The Convoy

rKB2 to bKB1 to con - move incomplete
rK and rKB1 to bKR1 to con - move incomplete

The pen in Richard’s hand twitches as he scribbles down obscure notation in a small notebook from where he’s perched on the back of the currently-empty Wildcat, the door with the spare tire swung open to provide a small platform for him to sit on. His shoulder leans against the doorframe, his complexion a shade or two closer to ashen than usual after the exhausting day he’s had - both physically and emotionally.

He’d asked Nathalie to meet him over there when she could, now that they’ve both had some hours to breathe. Not a lot of time, admittedly, but time is at a premium these days and the clock is always ticking.

And it isn't like Nat has any pressing appointments to attend to, so after a run of clean up, recovery and scavenging, she's quite free to come to the other end of the convoy. She approaches Wildcat with her gaze up at the sky. It's a wonder she doesn't trip over anything on the way. But there's a level of appreciation in her expression.

Expected, perhaps, when someone never thought they would see the sky again.

When she reaches him, though, she leans against the side of the car. "Keeping notes?" she asks, rather than saying something like hello. But what are hellos to two people who have brought each other back from the dead. Surely that gives them the right to skip small talk.

“Keeping track of moves,” Richard replies with a slight twitch of a smile as he looks up, watching her for a long moment before closing the notebook. He tucks it under his jacket, and only an observant eye would notice that it’s just dissolving away into the shadows rather than actually going into a pocket.

“So… cuz…” He looks at her again, and then eyebrows both go up, “…what the fuck?”

Small talk is for other people.

Nathalie lets out a long breath. That is the question, the big one. She's been pondering it herself. On both sides of life.

"God where to even begin," she says, tilting her head in consideration. It takes a few moments, but she eventually decides on a point of entry. They're all just as crazy as each other, in any case.

"The afterlife is broken," she says, then gestures between them, "Our afterlife. They're folding in on each other like some sort of Escher painting. The working hypothesis is that if I can find the right people— the Catalyst— we might be able to straighten it out again." Her hands move to her hips and she looks over at him. "Obviously we have other things to worry about here, too." It's her own question, giving him the floor for his own mission.

“The Catal– you’d need Claire,” Richard grimaces, one hand coming up to rub over his face. It’s night; the shades are pushed back, up onto his head. “Wrong timeline, unfortunately. I don’t– I don’t even know where the Flood Catalyst might be, who Ishi passed it on to here. But– yeah, we have…”

He shakes his head, then looks at her steadily, “Nat, what happened? How is this– how is this that you? Not that I’m not fucking overjoyed by this, but – what happened to– to the Nat from here? Is she still here, or…?”

"It'll keep," she says, as far as finding Claire, "it's all sort of… outside of time. When we go home, it shouldn't be any better or worse there. Hopefully." And in her mind, it is a when. She's not ready to accept anything else.

Nat reaches a hand over, holding onto his arm at his questions. The weirder stuff. Even weirder. "I'm both. It doesn't even feel like two people sharing the same space, just one person with some very confusing memories." That part she hasn't ironed out yet. If it ever can be. "You didn't lose anyone."

She falls silent for a moment, stepping away from Wildcat to pace a little. She kicks a small rock that had fallen into the road. "I crossed from one graveyard to another. This one. They're all— " She stops, the memory of that crossing haunting her expression. The vision of the figure at the center of it all sending a shiver through her, all the way to her fingers and toes. She shoves her hands into her jacket pockets. "The timelines, all their graveyards, they're all connected. Eilean called it the tangle. With some help, I was able to navigate it. Found you here. This moment, this ambush, with this time's conduits here and everything… stretching. We were able to pull it off. Coming back."

It’s news that releases tension that Richard didn’t even know he was holding, a hand coming up to cover hers on his arm– giving it a squeeze, as he smiles wearily at her. “Good,” he murmurs, “I’m– tired of having to trade lives for lives. Sorry-not-sorry about being willing to trade mine back for yours, though. What goes around comes around.”

A twitch of a smile, “Which reminds me. Fuck you for killing yourself for me. You knew damn well I wouldn’t want that.” He’s not really angry about it… probably because she’s alive again.

"So am I. I'll be happy if no one has to sacrifice themselves again. I made Maes promise when he started this. I don't want you and me in an endless cycle, one for the other." Nat lets out a quiet sigh. She trusted him, in the end, that he wasn't lying to her. She had to. But still, she was glad that he wasn't just saying what she wanted to hear.

She can't help but bark out a laugh when he continues, and she gives him a warm smile. "I wanted it," she says, simply. "I didn't want your kids to lose you. Not after everything your family went through. And I know it's what they wanted, but even so. It's what I wanted, too." She had always carried a weight around with her, like a lamb who knew it was being raised for the sacrifice. That fate fulfilled seems to have lightened her considerably. "I guess we're just going to have to look out for each other from now on. So we don't end up in that situation again."

“It is what they wanted,” Richard harrumphs, “But– thank you.” A genuine gratitude there, “For literally everything. And you’re damn right we are. No more heroic sacrifices– we do this together.”

The smile fades, then, and he breathes out a sigh, “Assuming we can do it at all. Outlook’s not good – in at least one timeline we absolutely fuck this up, turns out Glory’s from the future - but at least we’ve got warning about that.”

“Maes. Was that the– army guy? I hadn’t seen him before right there, at the end.”

"You're welcome. And thank you, too. For literally everything." Nat comes to sit down next to him, echoing his sigh. "Warnings are good. Perhaps we have time to figure out a different way to come at it. I mean, we're sitting in a timeline right now where we didn't manage it, but we know that's not universally true. This time won't be any different. We'll figure it out, we'll go home, and we'll fix Glory's future."

Perhaps she's riding the high of having just been part of a miracle, but she's ready to believe in another. On any number of them.

"Yes, the soldier. World War One. He's been trying to figure out how to do this. Come back from the afterlife. He's— well, fucking cryptic like the rest of them, really." Maybe it's a side effect of being a ghost. "But he got me here."

“Yeah.” Richard smiles again, a little more fully this time. Maybe her confidence is infectious, as tired as he is at the moment.

One hand comes up to scratch through his beard, “So– ah– you said that it’s all tangled up and we need the third conduit to fix it all? What’s left of it, anyway, it wasn’t doing so well last I heard.”

"It'll have to do," Nathalie says, expression slipping into a frown. She remembers the difficulties Claire had been experiencing. She can imagine them extrapolated since the last time they saw one another. "It might be— I mean, I made… contact with the first person who held the Catalyst. I'm hoping that will make some difference in bringing them back to full strength. Or something like it."

She can't help the warmth in her smile in remembering Inanna, the small family she'd been welcomed into however briefly. It didn't feel brief. And for someone who spent her life desperate for family, it was certainly a memory that sticks.

"I think that's what I have to do. Reach that distant person in there. And then we try to put things back together."

Richard listens, and he nods– he doesn’t completely understand, but he trusts that his cousin does, and he understands enough. “Sounds like we’ve got another job for the list, then,” he allows, a wry smile as he looks up at the sky, “Getting kind of long, but we’ll manage somehow.”

He hesitates, then glances over, “I– did you happen to find out anything about, fuck, I don’t even know what to call it. You know the symbol? The– the reversed s-curve with the lines, the half-helix?”

That makes Nathalie pause and tilt her head. Her journey was a strange one, long and harrowing. Some of it, she doesn't want to comb over too closely. "Hmm," she says in thought, her voice slow, "no. Not directly, anyway. What do you know about it?" She's willing to see if it connects to anything she saw there, she can do that much. "Besides that it's mysterious."

“Not enough. I don’t even know if it matters in a realistic sense, but…” Richard’s brow knits as he rolls what he knows around in his head, “I’ve been putting together– myths, legends, and fact where I can, and I think whatever it represents, whatever it is, is the actual origin of our abilities. A great… metaphysical aquifer of power that connects everything. The symbol can be the DNA half-helix, it can be a branching river, it can be time… and whatever it represents, legend always refers to it as a guardian of those things.”

He grimaces, then, before letting out a laugh, “It’s probably just me finally cracking honestly.”

Nathalie stills at his explanation, her muscles going stiff. It's clear that she does, indeed, see some connection to her experiences in what he says. The word he uses, though, it doesn't fit for her at all. "I don't know that I'd call it an aquifer, that makes it all feel quite benevolent. More like a bloodletting." Her hands push back through her hair, just to remind herself that she's real and that she's far away from the being at the center of everything.

"I don't think you're cracking, though. Or, if you are, then I am, too. I don't know how to explain, but I know that the conduits came from the Entity. Before she was that. She— saw herself giving parts of her power, parts of herself away to save certain people. And so she did that. A piece of her power, some of her memories. I think she was cutting herself into pieces. And then, later, I saw— " Her eyes close as she pauses, but that particular image has her snapping them back open again. "It's still happening. Power, life, memories, getting torn away from whatever is left of her. Whether or not that's the source of all the abilities, that I can't tell you for sure. But it makes sense to me. It seemed to be the source of everything, when I saw it."

“She might have been the first but I don’t know if she’s the original source. I feel like there’s something else, something– “ Richard draws in a breath, then exhales heavily, shaking his head, “I don’t know. I feel like I’m looking into a dark room and I’m so close to finding a light switch. Maybe she was the original conduit… a conduit of power. We always did wonder what they were conduits of.”

He looks back at her, then shakes his head, “Do you think that– if we found Inanna, if we reunified them– it would help calm her the fuck down? She’s going to destroy every universe, at this rate.”

"I think it's worth a try," Nathalie says, spreading her hands in a helpless gesture. "It's what I want to try. She built a family out of them, they matter to her. It might be the only thing to reach her. She's so profoundly broken, Richard. It makes her dangerous, yes, but also vulnerable. And I'm not sure her worshippers are actually trying to help her at all." She might be biased, given all the givens, but she's not discounting the possibility that someone else is pulling her strings.

"We won't let her destroy everything. But I think we can solve it without it coming to a fight between her and us. And I'd really prefer it that way because she is terrifying." Nathalie will do her best to remember her as Ninbanda, rather than the destructive force they know her as today. Maybe it will make the difference.

“They have Edward,” says Richard with a grimace, “In an ACTS unit, and they’re keeping him on the edge of death using him to make their plans, but– I don’t understand what they’re trying to do either. And unless we get tutti-fruity tied to a chair I don’t think we’re getting answers anytime soon…”

He shakes his head, “You’ve got more insight on this than me, so I’ll trust you on this, I just don’t know how to– hell, I’ve never even met her.” Wryly, “Sometimes I feel like she’s avoiding me.”

"Tutti-frutti," Nathalie repeats, a thread of amusement in her tone. As far as nicknames for people who killed you, it's a doozy. "Once we get back over there, we'll see about getting him in that chair. And about getting your dad away from them. Those— the ACTS— that's no way to live." And she should know. The depths of what they're doing to Edward, well, she finds it easy to imagine.

"I wouldn't take it personally," she adds, "I think she's a little confused. And I'm pretty sure she's doing her best to avoid all of us. But maybe if we get the band back together," the Nin-band-a, if you will, "it'll get her attention. Something she can't ignore. That's my current plan, anyway. But I'll think on it."

She did only get back a few hours ago.

“He killed both of us, he doesn’t get a proper given name,” Richard replies with a sniff at the first comment, and then he shakes his head, “Yeah, he– deserves to rest. I doubt he’s even aware right now, they must be dragging stuff from him telepathically. There was so much traumatic damage to his brain…”

“Anyway. Yeah. Time to think, I… fuck,” he sighs, offering her a faint smile, “It’s so– it’s so good to see you, you know. I mean, obviously I had a you here, but– ”

"I can't say I disagree," Nat says, because she's not sure she would manage anything as family-friendly as that if she came face to face with Baruti again. And probably, a silly name is more insulting than a crude one, in this case. She doesn't comment further on Edward's situation, on how cruel it is. They both already know.

So, instead, she gives him a nudge with her shoulder and a small smile. "It's good to see you, too. It's good to be on solid ground. I know I said thank you already, but I really mean it. I get to watch the sun rise again. And I'll get to hug Emily again. Avi. Lucille. Those little kids of yours." Every person she didn't get to say goodbye to. She stands up again, like she might be enjoying the feeling of gravity pulling her to the dirt. "I'm gonna do a round, see if anyone needs help." Healing is what she means, but old habits of talking around her ability fall back into place easily. "Find me if you need company."

“Don’t burn yourself out, you just came back to life,” Richard not-quite-jokes with a wry twitch of his lips, pushing off to his feet as well, “I should get to checking on people too. And maybe grab something to eat before I fall over. Talk to you later, cuz.”

Because now, there is a later for them.

And that’s changed everything.

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