Stand By Me, Part II


devon2_icon.gif emily4_icon.gif

Scene Title Stand By Me, Part II
Synopsis If the sky that we look upon / should tumble and fall / Or the mountains should crumble to the sea / I won't cry, I won't cry / No I won't shed a tear / So long as you stand, stand by me
Date August 16, 2019


The sound is an interruption, separating dreamer from dream. A twitch, a flurry of sight unseen moves eyes beneath lids. But even stirring, Emily Epstein doesn't fully wake.


Again, the sound beckons. It's more insistent this time.


Emily's eyes snap open, pupils widening in the dark.


The clatter of pebble against window insists again. Please.

Please, Emily, wake up.

4:05 am

Laudani-Epstein Townhome

Sheepshead Bay, NYC Safe Zone


The door swings shut without fully closing behind her, the hair on the back of her neck raised as she steps out into the fall crisp. It's not just for the weather. When she had glanced out her window, she'd looked out and seen something in him that didn't sit right— something that drove her to immediately head down. Barefoot, she winds her arms tightly before her to ward off the chill. "What's wrong?" she asks, eyes sharp as she looks him over.

From the flicker of movement at the window to the quiet creak as the door opened, Devon had waited. Not in stillness, even though the street behind him is still. There's a restless energy, a tension to his posture, neither that ease when he sees the motion above nor when the door opens and Emily steps out into the predawn air. The thrill that rises when she appears is brief but musters a faint smile. It's also short lived.

Something is wrong.

His expression doesn't exactly fall, but the burden he's carrying casts a shadow. He walks forward and climbs onto the porch to meet Emily. Putting off the answer for just a moment longer, he wraps his arms around her tightly, face tilted into her cheek.

“We found something,” he explains carefully, voice hushed beside her ear. Devon's eyes squeeze shut as he sighs. “Something big. I can't… I don't even know what to think.”

The lack of an initial reply save for the embrace twists Emily's stomach with a nameless brand of worry. He's not being evasive, he's just— keeping everything the way it currently is for that much longer. She holds onto him, one hand cradling the back of his head as she returns the embrace as firmly as it's given. At this angle, the furrow of her brow is hidden. When Devon finally musters his answer, she merely nods, cheek brushing his.

"It's okay," she assures him. "Devon, whatever it is, it's all right. Okay?" Emily breaks the embrace only so she can cup his face in her palms to meet his eyes. "Just… breathe." Once she's sure she has his attention, she lets her hands fall to find his, the temperature forgotten.

"Can you explain what it is?" she asks softly, searching his expression for answers his words might not hold.

Devon’s arms loosen reluctantly, and his eyes are slow to lift and meet Emily's. His mouth opens, but he sighs instead of explaining. His eyes drop and his head tilts until his forehead touches hers.“I thought maybe another look was needed. What if we'd missed something, and why were those memories found easily?” He pauses, eyes raising so he can look at Emily again.

“Kaylee thought it was weird too, and agreed another look wasn't a bad idea.”

He hesitates again, chewing over the knowledge as if it would make it easier to digest, simpler to share. “She… found that the older memories were… like a patchwork. Like they'd been placed there.”

The word fades, but with an implied and. There's more, but it's not added to the shit stew just yet. Devon lifts his head and half turns his face away, though his eyes still slant to watch Emily.

Maybe it's that she's already cold, so the room for feeling a chill wash over her is lessened in impact, but Emily doesn't appear to react to that news at all. She seems more concerned with how he keeps trying to hide from whatever it is, her head leaning just slightly to the side to try and better hold his gaze when he starts to turn. Her thumb brushes over the back of his hand while she thinks on what that could imply, and she starts to tug him toward the half-closed door.

"Do you want me to fix you some coffee?" she asks, pushing the door open with her free hand, the nose of her toes pushed up against the crack of darkness that appears in the frame on the off-chance it contains a kitten on an escape attempt.

It's been easily a half dozen years since Devon had sought out coffee when sleep became elusive. He'd learned to chase away the nighttime monsters and haunted dreams through other means — usually with something a bit more potent. However there's a deeper comfort to be found in the rich, dark brew. Many more sleepless nights were weathered with a mug of coffee than a glass of amber colored liquid.

“That sounds great.” He sounds… not exactly relieved. Not quite better, either. Momentarily bolstered against whatever new horror he's facing.

His grip around her hand tightens as though letting go might change things. As if Emily were the light he needed just now. He's quiet for a few steps, as he's led into the house. Then, quietly, “I'm sorry I woke you.” While the result was intended, Devon is honestly apologetic for doing so. Again.

"You could have called," Emily suggests to him, her smile faint. The door is sealed as quietly as possible behind them, no kitten at their ankles. He's tired of Emily's sleepless nights and unbothered by this one in particular, apparently. She holds onto his hand until they reach the kitchen, fingers tensing in a firm squeeze before she lets go. She'll need both hands, but she'll not fuss at him if he crowds her— like she would if it were daytime and things were normal and he'd not just told her his oldest memories appeared to be false.

Coffee was the obvious choice, as it's a comfort for them both. It's something warm to hold, a mug filled with nostalgia and happier memories besides. With even just a sip, maybe it would clear some of the ugly fog that now settled around Devon's thoughts.

But the time taken in making it also allows Emily to think.

His memories were a patchwork, he said. And.

Emily doesn't bother replacing the tin back in the cabinet, leaning her hip against the counter while waiting for the water to heat and filter into the grounds. She looks back at Devon, the heel of one hand on the countertop, fingers curled around the rim. And? she asks silently, patiently.

“I know,” Devon responds on a sigh. He could have — should have — called. He lingers in the doorway to the kitchen, for the moment caught in should’ves.

Until the sounds of coffee being prepared lifts him from that fog and back into the present. The reason that kept him from sleeping and drove him to walking the streets again in the middle of the night. He focuses on Emily, watching her set the coffee to brew while he works through the revelations again in his mind.

“Kaylee said it was like my memories had been pieced back together.” He hesitates on moving from the doorway to sit at the kitchen table. “She's not sure who did it. And…”


A sudden wave of fear rolls through him. Saying aloud that his memories were like broken pieces of pottery glued back together is one thing. He can live with shattered memories. The next is like driving a knife into his chest and hoping it doesn't injure him.

“And she found a link,” Devon continues on a shaking breath. Uncertainty furrows his brows as he continues to watch Emily. What is she going to think or do? He can't stop himself from fearing the worst. “She… found that… whatever Adam did, part of the result was… making a copy.” He swallows. “Of me. And our minds are linked.”

Emily follows so far, she thinks to herself. Memories being pieced back together — Devon had died after all. It's uneasy to think that maybe patches of his memory had been filled in by someone else's hand when they brought him back, if they weren't his. Did he know they were or weren't? Still, she can't shake the feeling that there's more to it.

Then comes the And…

In their time together, Devon has seen Emily close herself off countless times. She would be in a moment, then suddenly withdraw, the light in her eyes changing. There would be a subtle shift to her posture, usually her shoulders tensing. Sometimes she would fold her arms. She had the tendency to deflate when she was trying to avoid attention; would harden her expression and her stance when she was closing herself off emotionally.

She does neither of those things. The blank look that comes over her doesn't accompany a withdrawal from the situation, but the mental disconnect is clear. She needs a moment. The longer she realizes she needs a moment to process, the tighter her grip on the countertop becomes.

Still, she doesn't look away. Quietly, the machine behind her starts to drip coffee into the pot in a steady trickle.

"What?" is all she manages to ask, barely vocalized. She can't separate herself from her spot to comfort him, despite feeling the burden that knowledge is causing him. Her hand stays attached to the counter. It might be the only thing anchoring her.

A copy of me.

The words echo loudly inside Devon’s head. He'd said them before, hours ago, but somehow they'd seemed less real then. Like a poorly planned prank. Speaking them now, witnessing Emily's reaction to it, sends a hot lance of renewed worry through his core.

A copy…

But he's still himself.

Without thinking on it, he steps out of the doorway and to where Emily stands at the counter. His fears are wrestled down so he can give her comfort the only way he knows how. The information is still new, still raw like a fresh wound in his mind but in this moment, he pushes it away so that he's Emily's anchor.

Devon's arms wrap tightly around her shoulders, but he doesn't force her to move. His head dips, cheek resting against the top of her head. “I'm still me,” he whispers, a gentle reminder to Emily. He's no different than he was five minutes earlier. “Nothing's changed. I promise.”

Emily shakes her head. "No," she says at first, reassuring as well as insisting on it, despite the unease only really beginning to settle in from hearing the news. "No, I—" She takes in a breath and timidly lifts her free arm to settle around his waist. "I know," she clarifies thinly, gaze flitting aimlessly while she looks over his shoulder.

She doesn't know, though. And he doesn't.

"They…" Her stomach turns, and she holds on more tightly to him. Her hand finally leaves the counter, crawling up his back to clench around his shirt and hold onto him tightly. For his sake. For hers.

"Those fucking people, Devon," escapes from her in a violent murmur, a whispery thing that would prefer to have been shouted. She holds onto him that much tighter. "It was fucking bad enough piecing together they were using you for…" It's late, and the name of the thing doesn't immediately come to her. "That fucking Gemini thing, but this…"

Her breath hitches, and she fights to beat down the discomfort that is clawing its way up her esophagus. "I— I don't understand, Dev," Emily confesses, her head turning into his cheek without lifting her eyes. They close. "What do you mean a copy? How even— What do you mean linked? What does that even…"

Now she's closing herself off, trying to rein in her emotions. She lets out an exhale, the thinnest of gaps opening between herself and him despite the fact she's not let go. “That other project in the Praxis hack talked about linking people together. Linking consciousness.” Emily is working on processing, just not emotionally. Not yet.

She’d lost him, then regained him. Now there were two of him, apparently. What does a person even do with that?

For now, Emily just focuses on breathing. Another long exhale comes from her.

“It means…” Devon falters. What does it mean? Any of it? He hasn't had time to consider any part of it, let alone really come to grips with the situation. It takes him a second to move out of that rut and shake his head slightly. Does it really actually mean anything?

“Nothing,” is his decision. It's murmured into Emily's hair. “It's just another guy. Like a twin. He's not me and I'm not him. We're different.” Words, even with their roughly hewn logic, are meant to fill those gaps and bring her back from shutting down.

His arms tighten around her. He can't make the situation any easier to grasp, he doesn't understand it himself. He can assure her that he isn't going anywhere.

“Whatever experiments happened, it's all in the past now.” Devon’s voice remains quiet, firmed against his own worries. He picks his head up, cups a hand against Emily's cheek to turn her face to his. “Time to stop picking at it… and start healing.”

The insistence that the other him isn't him is met with silence, a stiff stillness from Emily. Eyelids flit open as she stands in silent opposition to what he's said. How can he know, after all? How can he be so sure it's really that simple?

She doesn't fight his attempt to meet her gaze, but neither does she exactly lift her eyes to enable it. That takes a moment, and when she does, they're filled with worry. It's not for a lack of trying that she has nothing to say, protests myriad but silent. They're layered, and as much is visible in the shifting of her expression as she moves mentally from one counterargument to the next. It's hard, must she has to muster the courage now, or she fears she never will.

"Dev, when they brought you back, if they made a copy of you, then you both are you, aren't you?" she asks, voice soft. The assertion is made in the form of seeking clarification only to temper the impact it might have. Her brow furrows. "And if— if that's the case, does that mean there's still another you potentially still out there with those people— still being experimented on?"

Emily shakes her head slightly, teeth baring as she argues with herself about asking the obvious question. "Do you know? Can you tell, if your minds are supposed to be… linked and all?"

She imagines that's not an easy answer, or else this would have come up sometime before they went spelunking in his mindspace again.

“An identical twin is essentially a copy,” Dev points out, “but they're both their own person, even if experiences were the same for a majority of their life.” It's a very simplified explanation, but the subject is beyond complicated. He and his copy are not the same person, no matter the origins, that much he's sure of.

The link is in a realm all its own. He doesn't even know where to begin to figure that problem out.

He hesitates, words stalling as his own understanding is lacking. “The Institute…” Brows furrow as he recalls earlier conversations. He looks aside, but his hand remains cradling Emily's cheek. “The Institute had a lot of experimental programs. Project Hydra was making clones. It… never really worked. And Heisenberg is… I think it's the mental link.”

Which doesn't explain what the link does, or what it means. Devon sighs. “Richard could better explain it. Basically, what Kaylee has determined, is the link… acts kind of like a… television broadcast I guess, seeing and hearing what the other is. But.” His head shakes after a second. “But we don't know if it's working. Or how it works. Only that…” His hand drifts from her cheek to the back of her head as he hugs her tightly again. “Only that they cracked the code and it worked with me.”

His insistence about them being more like twins is met with an uneasy shift from Emily. “Dev,” she tries to argue, but lapses into silence as he works through what he believes it all is. Maybe it’s just better to let him get it out of his system. She lets him have that moment, because he needs, she feels like. To share is better than to let it sit, and though there’s some comfort in that, closeness is comfort of its own.

So she tries not to break it when she works to reclaim his attention, hand resting on his shoulder at first and then cupping the side of his face. Easing away is done slowly. “Dev,” Emily repeats calmly. “Just… listen to me, okay? I know this is hard, but…” She turns around in his grip to glance to the coffee pot, sniffing away the vestiges of drowsiness. Her head shakes as she reaches for a mug, swapping it out and placing it on the warming element instead of the bowl of coffee while she pours a second cup. That one she slides to Devon as a kind of peace offering, something to help him chew on what she’s about to say.

Emily keeps her gaze down on what she’s doing while the she lifts the mug off the element, still leaving it to catch the trickle of fresh coffee as she speaks. “There’s a difference between having a twin and whatever happened to you, you know? People aren’t just born with a set of life experiences installed in them already. And … what second life would there be to draw from here? What would there be to copy from, but…” Her grip tightens on the mug.

“Devon, what if there’s a second you out there waking up every morning still thinking you’ve been left behind? Waking up worried your team doesn’t know where you are?” she asks, not willing to look back at him just yet. “What if those people never chased you down because they had a second option to fall back on? What if they’re still experimenting on you and you don’t even know it?”

The distinction between the two becomes harder to maintain vocally, but she’s agitated. Her hand quivers, so she swaps the pot back into place, taking her half-filled mug and setting it aside while the element sizzles with the drips of coffee that had fallen in the brief period nothing had been in place to catch them. “Devon,” Emily says, trying to keep her voice even. “You can’t just…”

And failing to do that, she lapses into silence, a short breath coming from her as she looks down at her drink. She imagines she’s not being very fair to him.

But none of this was fair.

Devon stares at the mug that's pressed into his hands. Perhaps the steam and dark liquid will reveal some better explanation, something to fit the pieces into place. “I know it isn't.” His interjection is quiet, somewhat subdued. He never said that he and the other version were twins, only similar to the phenomenon. They were still different, individuals, and that's what was important.

He doesn't look up when Emily begins laying out her own interpretations. He can't. The weight of the situation, the insanity of it, of everything, sinks into him.

His brow furrows when Emily falls silent, worry and guilt drawing a tight breath from him. He shouldn't have pulled her into his problems. What's he got to offer besides the damaged remains of his life, and some kind of parasitic alternate somewhere else in the world.

“I don't have any answers.” Devon's eyes lift slightly, not enough to meet Emily's gaze, then slant away. “I can argue the other side of the coin, but…” They'd end up going around in circles. He sighs, a glance sliding to the living room and the front door. “I'm sorry that I woke you with this.”

"You being sorry doesn't change how shitty this is, Devon," Emily says before she realizes how it could be taken. Her brow knits, a pause lapsing as she wonders how to rephrase her intent. "And me getting a solid night's sleep isn't a decent trade for you being alone." She trusts herself to look back at him, satisfied with what she's said for once. "Okay?"

Her hand slides off her mug, finding the side of his shoulder. He isn't exactly enveloped in an embrace, but she holds that look on him. Her eyes are tired and solemn, but everything about her says she doesn't want him to deal with this on his own.

Emily's expression finally breaks with a small smile. "You're right, though. You finally know what happened. That's better than we were before. Knowing is a bitch, but we'll get through it. The answers will come eventually, too," she assures, lifting her hand to brush his hair from his face with a graze of her fingers. "In their own time."

A thought strikes her, the uplift to her being sagging down to something more grounded. The light in her gaze shifts. "How many people know, exactly?" Emily asks softly.

From the door to somewhere lower, Devon's gaze travels without fully focusing on anything. It's both unfair and shitty. The whole thing. He could have sat on it until morning, or later, kept it to himself until he believed he was sure of things. It wasn't fair to burden Emily with it. His eyebrows knit further when she reminds him that he isn't alone.

He could be fine keeping it to himself.

Eyes raise finally when Emily's fingers brush against his brow. He searches her expression, his usual openness guarded. We’ll get through it. Relief flickers like a match lit in the depths of winter, and worry batters at it like a harsh wind.

“Yeah.” Devon sighs his agreement without much optimism. “We know what happened.” He glances down, finding the mug still in his hands, the hot liquid inside still untouched. It gives him a moment to reflect, since he hasn't done enough of that already.

“Six know.” He looks up again, seeking Emily's gaze. “Including you.”

Devon's lack of optimism brings an invisible strain to her. She feels it in her chest, somewhere intangible. Emily nods at the confirmation about who knows, adding with lightness, "Maybe seven, if Teo's awake and listening without meaning to." in an attempt to provide some levity. (He definitely means to, if he is— let's be real.) She shakes her head after, letting out a long breath, measured in its release to try and disguise it as a sigh.

"Dev," she says at the end of it, a meaningful pause following to make sure she has his attention still. "For real, though, you should make sure the seventh is some kind of professional." It's something that would make her cringe if she heard it herself, but it doesn't change the strength of her belief for him. "What you've been through isn't…"

Emily lifts her brow as she looks back to him, sighing short and open as she focuses her thoughts. "It's not like you're going to find a support group for what you've been through, but you've been through shit that's not just going to go away, emotionally or mentally. Don't—" And speaking of Teo, she glances back out of the kitchen briefly as she has him in particular in mind. "Don't let it hurt you any more than it already has."

"Don't let it rob you of any more sleep," she encourages softly.

Mention of Teo prompts a look out of the kitchen. There isn't room for doubt that the conversation in the kitchen is being ignored. At least Teo doesn't seem to be someone to go running with sensitive information. Devon hopes he isn't, but his brows furrow slightly with concern for a potential leak, even though Emily seems somewhat unconcerned about her roommate’s eavesdropping.

“Seven,” is voiced at a whisper. It's important to keep count, to know who's privy to the situation. If the wrong people know…

His focus returns to Emily when she resumes speaking. She isn't wrong, but his denial has deep roots. It shows in a tightening around his eyes and mouth as he returns her gaze. She isn't wrong, though, and there's no accusation.

His shoulders slump. Denial fades into exhaustion. He's tired. Devon lifts a hand and rubs his face. It isn't only the sleepless nights, but the weight of these developments. Since returning from Sunstone. The unanswered questions and answers that only reveal more unknowns. Burdening those he cares most deeply for.

“Yeah, maybe,” he murmurs. He drops his hand and his eyes to the cooling mug in his hands. “You're right.”

Emily quirks her mouth in something like a smile. "I know I am," she replies wryly, a dry humor to it. She finally feels it's a good moment to drink and cups her hands around the coffee before taking a test sip. Getting back to sleep might be hard, but the cozy drink really did help in that moment. Her shoulders slope downward after she takes a longer sip, the warmth traveling down her core.

Her gaze unfocuses as she surrenders herself to a moment of quiet thought. "Dev," she interjects quietly after a realization hits her, a lack of urgency to it. It sounds important nonetheless. She looks to him at her side. "I know I'm upset about what you went through, but I want you to know I'm glad you're here. I'm glad to have you back. I'm angry it took so much, but…"

She shakes her head to brush away that less-important thought. One hand rests on the countertop, palm up, fingers splayed for him to lace his through hers. "Just know I'm happy you came home." No matter what. goes implicit. No matter what else they find out, or what happens because of it.

A faint grin quirks at Emily's response, but Dev keeps his eyes turned down. There still aren't any answers within his mug of coffee. Except perhaps that the coffee itself is the answer. The thought that it might be drifts over the weight of his worries, a philosophical cloud born of sleeplessness and stress.

He takes a sip of the brew. It's still a familiar comfort food — drink.

His eyes come up when Emily says his name, and he studies her while she speaks. His eyebrows knit, a crease forms between them. “Em…” He begins, but abandons the thought when she shakes her head.

The mug in his hand is placed on the counter so he can slide that hand over hers. The other lifts to cup the side of Emily's face, thumb brushing lightly against her cheek. Devon studies her a moment longer, looking into her eyes, then draws her hand up to kiss her knuckles. “Okay,” he murmurs as a tip of his head puts his cheek to their entwined fingers.

Emily's look softens, the ghost of a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. She tries to brush her thumb against his cheek, awkward as an attempt it might be, and gently nudges her chin in the direction of the hall. "Let's sit down, put something boring on. Maybe things will be better after you get some rest?"

“Maybe.” Easier to agree, to put the problems and worries on a shelf and leave them be. Facing questions he doesn't have answers for is like bathing a feral cat. The distraction of anything else is a welcome one. Devon draws in a deep breath then lets it out slowly as he looks to the hallway. “Yeah, let's do that.”

It's as much as Emily can offer right now, so she nods tepidly, masking an internal sting of relief the idea was accepted. The pot is left behind, mug scooped in one hand while she holds onto Devon's with her other, leading him down the hall. A foolish amount of energy is put into pretending everything is currently fine, or that it will be fine any time soon. She looks back at him as she lets go so she can pull down one of the throws to settle in with, making themselves as comfortable as she can.

Emily can't smile though, not anymore. She's tired and worried and stuck with the feeling most of her concerns will be kept to herself. Devon's secrets weren't hers to spread.

But like him, she gets the feeling she'll have a hard time knowing what to do with them.

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