Strings Of A Harp


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Scene Title Strings Of A Harp
Synopsis Before the journey into the mainland begins, Edward Ray makes a confession.
Date June 16, 2021

It’s been the longer half of a week since Destiny witnessed Richard Cardinal use his ability to miraculous effect in healing Edward Ray. Things have improved for it all around. How could they not? At first, she was ecstatic. Over the moon, in fact! What’s there not to be excited about with this change of events?

But as the days have worn on, Des has begun to think she sees writing on the wall, and it looks a lot like a neon sign advertising a new vacancy. While he becomes more and more self-sufficient, she finds herself out and among the people of the Pelego, offering to do any little odd job for little to no compensation, just to give her an excuse to have her mind on anywhere else and to be anywhere else.

Spades — Destiny’s first mate on her trip around the world with Asi and Silas — passes Edward on his way down the docks, carrying a stack of books. A familiar stack of books, at that. He doesn’t say anything about the fact that he’s got the vast majority of the captain’s collection of medical journals, textbooks, and guides. He’s merely quick to make his way to whatever his evening’s destination may be after only a brief exchange of pleasantries. It isn’t unusual to see him coming and going from The Featherweight, even when she’s docked. He and Destiny are quite fond of each other, in spite of how cool they both think they’ve been playing it to everyone else, as well as to each other. But Edward’s a father, he knows.

As he makes his approach, he can easily spy Destiny sitting cross-legged on the deck, staring up at the sky, her lips pulled into a thoughtful, pink-painted frown. He’s familiar with the shade — the lipstick belonged to her mother — and the fact that she only wears it when she’s giving into her sad thoughts, no matter how chipper she otherwise presents herself.

“I can’t just leave him,” she says to the sky. “But if I tell him what’s going on… I don’t think he’d stay. Or worse, it would break him to know I’m not just traveling for trade again.” She sucks in a deep breath, on the edge of a shudder. “He said he’d follow me.” The little blonde scrubs her hand under her nose like that could be enough to ward off a sniffle.

The lipstick smears. “I wish you were here. I don’t know what to do…”

The creaking of the dock and Edward’s footsteps on the deck reach Destiny’s ears and she gasps sharply. She curls her hands into loose fists and rubs frantically at her eyes to wipe away any trace of tears, though it just makes them redder.

She’s on her feet too quickly, like there were frames missing in that act of animation. “I can explain!” Turning, her expression shows plainly that he isn’t who she expected. “Oh. I. Ah. Sorry. Uhm.” Destiny flounders word by word to string together one coherent and unaborted thought. “I thought you were…” She pulls a face, looking away.

Destiny has done everything she can to be strong for her crew, and Edward Ray is even more than just crew to her. This is a lapse she’s tried so badly to avoid. “Okay, Des. Now’s a great time to take what you’ve practiced and make time reverse.” Scrunching her face up small, she focuses very, very hard on making the last, oh, 45 seconds something that never happened at all.

One eye cracks open again and slowly scans for signs of success before her gaze settles on Edward again. “Oh, heck. Dinnertime already, Eddie?”

So much for pretending to be just as fine tonight as she’s been pretending every other night since jumping to the conclusion that Edward’s just one last home-cooked meal away from informing her that he’s leaving.

Edward looks up from his thoughts, clearly distracted, and it isn’t immediately clear to Destiny whether her ability worked, he didn’t hear her, or he’s just being polite. “Sorry, what?” He asks, brows twitching into a little expression of worry, then relaxing when his thoughts catch up to his ears. “Oh, dinner. I suppose it is, isn’t it?”

Offering a somewhat dopey smile, Edward looks from Destiny out to the water with a squint. “There was something I was hoping to talk to you about, actually.” He still sounds distracted, or perhaps the correct word is distressed. “Do you have a minute or…” he glances around, unsure precisely how busy she is.

Destiny’s relief is fleeting. Her stomach drops so hard she thinks for a moment that it’ll land on the deck. “For you,” she returns an echo from an earlier part of the evening, “I have two!” She doesn’t feel the even keel she’s projecting. He’s not oblivious to that either.

“Is this a talk over tea sort of thing?” The captain tips her head toward the stairs she just mounted. Or is this a stare at the waves so they don’t have to look at each other conversation?

“It can be,” Edward says with a wan smile. He motions for Destiny to lead the way inside and follows her into the ship. The small-talk that follows while Destiny sets up the tea and Edward takes his usual spot at the small table beside a port-hole window is thinner than usual, and she can tell Edward has something on his mind. The way he keeps fiddling with his glasses, the way he keeps his hands folded in his lap to try and stop from fiddling with his glasses. She has to keep her back to him to hide her growing concern. Both for her own feelings and for him.

By the time tea is done, Edward’s had enough time to figure out how to approach the topic. He manages a more full smile when the tea is poured, cradling the cup with both hands. “I know you want to go west,” he says, searching the steam of his tea rather than look Destiny in the eye. “But I… I don’t think you should come with us west. It’s not going to be safe and if—if anything happened to you I’d never be able to forgive myself.”

Destiny is silent in the wake of that, staring down into her own tea. It’s not precisely an uncomfortable silence. If anything, Edward taught Destiny to slow down and think through things, rather than simply blurt out her thoughts. She’s not always good at it, but this time… She’s trying.

“If I don’t go, are you going to comfort yourself with some lie that if I stay here, I’ll be safe forever?” It’s not an accusation, but a request for his honesty. Her eyes say as much when she looks up across the table at him again.

In that moment, she looks older than she’s portrayed herself to be. He knows the truth of her, of course, and he watched her make the transition from definitely a teenager to someone who wants to be taken seriously and seen as a woman after everything that happened in the Ark. After the responsibility she inherited, rather than allow to pass on with James Woods.

Wringing his hands around his cup, Edward shakes his head. “It’s not about you being safe.” He says, but then scrunches his face up and glances at Odessa. “I mean—it’s a little that, I just—” Edward sighs sharply. “I never thought in a million years anyone would be headed that way. To Alaska.” His eyes become distant, unfocused. “I just…”

Edward stares down into his tea in silence for a moment. “I’m afraid if you go with the travelers, there’s—” Closing his eyes, he shakes his head. “God, there’s no easy way to start this conversation.” He looks up to her, brows furrowed. “Destiny, can—can you promise to keep a secret?”

Eddie,” Destiny responds almost reproachfully, even though he can see her concern for him growing. “I’m already keeping plenty of secrets between us.” But she leans forward, resting her forearms on the table and reaching out to lay a hand over the back of his.

What’s in Alaska? she wants to ask, even though it’s been pinging in the back of her mind ever since she heard from Richard that Anchor was their destination. It gives her a headache when she tries to recall why it’s important. “Talk to me,” she asks of him instead. “Please.”

Staring down into his tea, Edward is silent. Destiny can’t recall the last time she saw him like this. “You know I used to work with Michelle Cardinal,” is how he starts this, not making eye contact. “That we worked together in the DoEA before the flood. But there’s—there’s a lot about that time I never told you. That Michelle never told you.”

Continuing to wring his hands around the mug, Edward looks up at her with furrowed brows. “I’m afraid that if you go to Alaska, you’re going to find some things out about me that—” he looks down again, “—that will change how you see me. Irrevocably.”

It’s confusion that creeps in first. Yeah, she knows that about him, because it’s how he knew about her, isn’t it? Why would he think she’d be shocked or worried about that now? But even in their darkest moments in the Arcology — before and after Don’s coup — he’d never had this kind of quality to him.

Destiny exhales a breath that’s almost a laugh. “That’s what you’re worried about? You’re worried that I might—” The word hitches for a moment, but only just. She forges ahead, because she’s not ashamed or embarrassed. “—love you less?” Now she lays both hands over his. “We’re family, Eddie.” That slowly came to be when she gave up her life above the waves to join he and Else in the Ark, over the course of the three years they spent there before she escaped with their songwriting friend.

“We stick together,” she insists. “Through everything.” Ever since her parents’ murder in 2006, Des has been desperately trying to hold on to those who would care for her, who would be the family she made, if not the one of her blood. “Everyone else is… gone.”

While that brings a pain in her chest, she chooses to see the good in what’s around her. “But I have you.” As she so often does, Destiny smiles with a brightness like the sun on a clear summer’s day. “And you have me! Nothing about who you were more than ten years ago will change who you are to me today.” Whether that’s true or not, it’s clear Destiny believes it.

Staring down into the teacup once more, Edward is yet again silent. “I never…” He starts to say, but then loses the confidence and changes his approach. “I took up work with the DoEA after being on the run with Juliette for years. We’d gotten tired of it, hoped time and administrative changes had shifted from when it was the OSI.” His brows furrow, one thumb tracing a chip in his teacup. “Mr. Petrelli was very good to us.” He says in a whisper.

“Yeah,” Des responds in a similar hush. “Us too.” They have that in common.

“Did you know I…” Edward tries to say it again, and stops. Then, mustering all the courage he can, he finally gets it out. “Did you know I used to have an ability?”

Now her blue eyes widen with surprise. Her hands draw back to wrap around her own tea mug again, head tipping almost birdlike. “Used to?”

“Patterns.” Edward says softly. “I used to be able to—to see patterns in data. Make extrapolations, predictive models.” He does not look up from his teacup. “They tested me after I turned myself in with Juliette, it’s why they offered me a position in the first place. Thought I’d be valuable.

Nothing so far raises any alarm bells for Destiny, though the corners of her mouth curve into a frown at how difficult he’s finding it to just tell her.

Swallowing audibly, Edward furrows his brows. “The—the DoEA wasn’t created to protect people like us. It was always intended to control us. The Ark—the Arcology—it was a research think-tank. There was a department there run by a Doctor Pratt that was researching a form of permanent chemical castration of our kind.” His voice tightens. “It felt important. Arthur would always talk about—about the dangers of unchecked power. How things like this would be a deterrent.”

Edward looks up at Destiny. “I worked on one of those projects.”

She’s speechless, staring unblinking, unbreathing. She could be a statue, or frozen in time for all he can tell for several seconds. Then Destiny finally exhales heavily, blinking as though in a daze. “You mean like—” She doesn’t want to say the word. If she doesn’t say the word out loud, then he can’t have been party to it.

Instead, she offers what understanding she can. “Mom and Dad believed in him, too.”

Edward shakes his head. “It’s not what you think. It’s—it’s worse.”

Only now does Edward take a sip of his tea, using the time to figure out how to continue. When he sets his tea down, he chooses to skirt around the facts. “One day I told Arthur I wouldn’t have a hand in any of it. He—he didn’t much like my answer. We argued, and he—he stole my ability. Told me I was fired. Told me if I said anything about what he was working on he’d—”

Edward swallows audibly and shakes his head. He’d digressed. “I informed on Arthur, called his bluff, and you know how that ended for him.” An atomic explosion, a coverup. “The project I worked on for Arthur was shuttered, I retired for—for a couple of years.”

And then he came back at Michelle’s insistence, Destiny knows this part. How they found Else, how they found her song Shores of the Empire State and feared the worst was yet to come. But what she didn’t know was, “Right before the end, when the flood was coming? I—I learned that the project had been shuttered, but not dismantled. That it was still out there.” Edward says, hands balling up into fists.

“That’s why I didn’t go to the ark with Joy—Juliette—and Lisa.” Edward says in a hushed voice. “I had to go back, to make sure.” He looks up at her with brows furrowed. “I had to go back to Alaska.”

I informed on Arthur. Again, he’s managed to stun Destiny. She’s had years to come to terms with what happened that day when Arthur Petrelli apparently killed himself in an inglorious spectacle. He died, and her parents knew they had to flee. All she’d ever known tipped on its head. She swallows hard, trying to cut her racing thoughts off at the pass before they can try to connect a line between those events and Edward’s choice. Had he thought about the fact that she might put those dots together and blame him for what happened? Or was it enough that he’d participated in that project in the first place?

“So you already know what’s there,” Destiny says instead, rather than let those dark memories distract her from the now. “Or… did you never make it that far?” She didn’t travel much before the flood, and she’s only traversed by sea since. She can only imagine how difficult it must have been.

Edward shakes his head. “It was too much. Too far, too hard. I turned back, wasted a long, long time.” He glances out the door of the cabin. “I know the kind of hell they’re driving into, how dangerous it is. Juliette, Lisa, and I we—we lived out there for years. I watched people die. I—” Edward closes his eyes and breathes in deeply through his nose. He was digressing again.

“I never made it back, but I know what’s out there.” Edward says with tension in his voice. “It’s a weapon,” he whispers. “One that I’m terrified our new friends are looking for. They came all the way out here, back into another dimension? For what?” Edward shakes his head, looking down at his legs.

“Richard healed me, but I—” Edward closes his eyes. “I keep letting him past my guard, because I feel guilty for what happened to him. But I don’t know him, Destiny. I don’t really know any of them.” And that’s what scares Edward even more than Destiny finding out his dark secrets.

“Eddie…” Destiny says with reluctance and insecurity.

“…I may’ve lied about a couple things.”

Glancing away, she makes the decision to come clean about her own secrets finally. “You remember when we had the radio in the Ark, and I would sit and listen for the Director?” Her fingers curl tightly around her tea. Fortunately the enameled mug has cooled enough, or she might sear her palms. “I heard a lot of things. I heard… myself sometimes?”

Her expression is one of awkwardness when she looks back at him. “But even when I wasn’t at the radio, I could see myself. As I’d fall asleep at night, sometimes I’d see… Her? The other versions of me. Like Odessa.” The one that traveled with Elisabeth. “The other Odessas kind of… bled into me?” Her lip curls, the expression is pained, waiting for rebuke.

Except she doesn’t leave space for it. “What I’m trying to say is…” Des’ cheeks puff out as she exhales. “I know him.” Her head cants to the left slightly. “Sort of.” It tips further. “In a weird way.”

Edward folds his hands in front of his mouth, staring down into his tea again. He hums softly, then closes his eyes and shakes his head. He makes a noise, a grumbling thing Destiny recognizes from when he’s frustrated. It’s the radio. The thing that had been cobbled together in the Ark. It had been a source of so much trouble, but also a glimmer of hope. And now, even more trouble.

“We’re not talking about a gun,” Edward says quietly into his hands, eyes distant and unfocused. “We’re talking about a machine that—if it’s still active—could strip the abilities from every single person with a power across the whole of the world. Something that uses the Earth’s magnetic fields against you.” Not us. He hasn’t thought that way about himself in a very long time.

“Destiny, I don’t know what they told the Council of Captains about why they’re here…” Edward says with a shake of his head, “but if there’s any chance it’s that weapon, I need to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. And there’s—there’s a very real chance if it comes down to it I might not make it back here.” Now he looks up at her, and she sees the look in his eyes he was trying to spare her.

It’s fear.

Destiny sucks in a breath and keeps a level stare on Edward. She may feel like she can trust Richard, but… Odessa isn’t the best person, is she? For a moment, she sits conflicted, unsure whether she should argue that she might know what she’s talking about.

“You’re right,” she says quietly. Then repeats, in a stronger voice, with more conviction, “You’re right.” He’s challenging her to push past the internalized inclination toward a faith that isn’t hers, and think about what she knows. What she believes.

Destiny believes in Edward Ray.

Nodding her head firmly, she makes her decision. “Then you’re definitely not going without me. If you’re right, then we’ll need all hands on deck.” To put a sailing metaphor on it. “Because I can’t take it if someone else I care about goes off to look for whatever and I’m left wondering forever what really happened.” He’s seen what it’s done to her and it’s what brings a quiver to the lips that are otherwise trying to form a stern line.

Edward massages his forehead with one hand. “I nearly left without saying anything,” he murmurs, but then his mouth twists into a wry smile. “I suppose we’re past all of that now. But you have to promise me you won’t tell anyone else about this. It’s—it’s too important. Too dangerous. Not at least until I know whether or not it’s safe.”

“I would have chased you,” the young woman insists. Then acquiesces. “Just us.” With a short nod, she adds, “Not even Spades.” Agreeing not to bring her first mate in on any plans she makes is a serious thing.

But her brows lift as her eyes widen and Des draws in a breath, impressing upon him the sincerity and solemnity of this vow. “Not even Else.” They’ve stuck together through thick and thin since she got back, even if they’re the type of friends who wander freely in and out of each other’s lives. It’s always as if no time has passed whenever they find one another’s orbits again.

It’s the thought of Else and what they’ve all been through that leads her brows to knit and her eyes to cast down to the table. “But, Eddie… Can I ask you a question?”

Edward makes a bit of a face, somewhere between displeasure and discomfort. He hides it behind his tea, taking a long and contemplative sip. The look he gives her over the brim is wordless acquiescence to her question.

“Why did you and Else…” It’s an uncomfortable thing she’s been putting off for what feels like forever by now. “You could’ve found anyone else to take you out there.” Drawing in a breath, Destiny straightens her shoulders a bit. “You didn’t have to ask me to stay with you.” Now, the big question.

“Did taking me to the Ark help you find what you needed?” She’s seen too much by now to dismiss it as coincidence.

Edward smiles, then shakes his head. “It was Else’s idea,” he admits, lowering the teacup. The question wasn’t as bad as he’d expected. “We’ve known each other a long time, she and I. Michelle found her before the flood, we’d even had a little bit of a warning, but couldn’t… stop it. When we found each other in the aftermath, she had insights.” Edward’s brows raise and he blinks a look up from his tea to Destiny. “I’d be a fool not to follow the advice of a precognitive.”

Then, amusement draining out of his face, Edward frowns. “Admittedly, if I’d known everything it was going to lead to… I never would have gone there in the first place.” He doesn’t mean that, though. Joy, Lisa, he would have gone to them no matter what.

Des takes the answer in stride, relaxing when she sees him smile, even if it doesn’t last. Even if the trauma shared between them still feels like fresh blood on her face sometimes. “Yeah. I tend to listen and read between the lyrics what Else’s trying to say.” She smiles in return, then also sobers along with him.

“I regret a bunch of it.” If she didn’t, she’d be some kind of monster. “But I don’t regret that it led us to meet!” Destiny reaches out and rests her hand on Edward’s arm. “Not even for a minute.” By now, he knows when the cheer she’s injecting into her tone is false, and this isn’t it. “I miss them, too. Rina, and Joy and…” There’s another name on the tip of her tongue, probably more than just one, but she lets out her breath instead. “But they made it out because we were there.”

Even if they’d separated and couldn’t follow.

The glassiness in her eyes does reflect the pain of it, because of course there will always be pain, but her smile speaks to the fact that her world did not end with the Commonwealth Arcology. “And there’s no one else I’d rather be with now, so. You’re stuck with me, Edward Ray!” Destiny gives his arm a pat and leaves her hand to rest on the table between.

Edward’s expression shifts to a quavering smile. He forces it to become kinder, gentler, happier; for her. But behind blue eyes, his feelings scream something else:

That’s what I’m afraid of.

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