Sweet Tea And Salty Tears


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Scene Title Sweet Tea and Salty Tears
Synopsis Kaylee gets a mysterious visit from an agent of unknown origins.
Date September 14, 2020

Kaylee's Apartment - Raytech Industries' Corporate Housing

After knocking on the door of Kaylee’s suite, Agent Toussaint stands with his head slightly bowed and his arms held behind him. The long cashmere trench coat in gunmetal gray is a little too warm, perhaps, for the balmy September weather, but it does look the part of autumn, and if it’s too warm, he certainly doesn’t show it.

When Kaylee opens the door, he smiles, a toothy and bright thing. “Good afternoon, Detective Thatcher, or do you prefer Ms. Thatcher? I do try to get my titles correct, ma’am,” he says, the words tinged with the low, slow drawl reminiscent of the swamps and levees of the deep south.

“My name is Agent Marlon Toussaint,” he says, offering a hand across the threshold. “I’m just doing a follow-up on the event you survived in July, ma’am. Is it all right with you if I ask you some questions?”

The woman stares at him blankly with an expression void of any emotion… though maybe there is a hint of sadness in the way red-rimmed eyes look down at the offered hand. “Ms. Thatcher is fine, I’m on leave from Scout,” she offers quietly with thick words, taking the hand after hesitating. The grip is brief and her slender fingers are cool in his.

When she lets his hand go, Kaylee steps back to pulling the door wider. A clear invitation and agreement to questioning. Kaylee isn’t dressed for visitors, in fact, when she was told there was someone there to see her, she barely managed pants, to go with her black tank and royal blue flannel shirt, before he knocked. Her mane of blonde curls are twisted into a messy bun, with plenty of loose locks to frame her face and those sad blue eyes.

Closing the door behind them, Kaylee motions him further into the apartment. It’s far more spacious then her old one, filled with greenery and plenty of windows to let in light to counter the concrete’s cold appearance.

“Can I get you anything to drink, Agent Toussaint?” Kaylee asks like a good host, as she steps through an opening in a curtain wall, into a small central atrium. “I made a fresh pitcher of sweet tea this morning.” Plants occupy almost every wall and a short dome of glass arched above them. At its center is a dining table that looks like it would have come out of a farmhouse. It was completely out of place compared to the mix of organic and industrial of the rest of the apartment.

“Have a seat and make yourself at home,” Kaylee says, managing to muster a small polite smile.

The agent dips his head in something akin to a small bow, and follows her into the apartment. His dark eyes take in the setting, and there’s something appraising in the the way his intense gaze moves about from one item of decor to another, like perhaps he’s taking mental notes.

Of course he is.

His smile broadens at the mention of tea. “Never let it be said I turned down a glass of sweet tea made by a southern woman, even if Kentucky is hardly the south by Louisiana standards,” he says amiably, as he moves toward the farmhouse table and pulls out a chair.

He doesn’t sit yet, but takes a cell phone out of his coat pocket and sets it on the wooden surface before shrugging out of his coat and draping it neatly over another chair. His movements are slow and deliberate, and throughout the actions, he keeps an eye on her progress toward the kitchen through the corner of his eye.

“Don’t let my Granny hear that, though I think her parents were from even deeper south,” Kaylee states with a faint smile. Under the natural light, at least, the dark circles under her eyes seem to disappear. “Excuse me a moment, I’ll get that tea,” she says politely, seeming to be slowly pulling herself together.

With a flick of her wrist, another portion of the curtained wall is opened enough to show an equally industrial kitchen, coverced in warmer touches. Pill bottles are lined up on one of the islands. It only takes a few moments, before a tray with two pour glasses of tea and the pitcher are carried into the dining area again.

“I’m sorry that I have been able to answer any agency's questions before due to me….” Kaylee grimaces hard and doesn’t finish that, looking suitably embarrassed and rapidly blinking back a brief threat of moisture in her eyes. When she continues, it’s with a thicker tone. “Not sure how useful I’ll be, but… I’ll try.”

There is a quick stop by his seat so that she can set a glass within his reach. In that time, Kaylee studies him as if trying to place him and asks, “I’m sorry if you already said, but which agency are you from? I didn’t think to ask my Security Chief when he called up to tell me I had a visitor. I had assumed SESA, but you don’t seem local. I’m familiar with most of them.”

“Thank you, Ma’am,” is said quickly and quietly. The cell phone is opened with a quick scan of his face.

“I’d like to record this, if that’s all right by you? It will be encrypted, of course, and it’s only for the sake of accuracy. It won’t be shared beyond our department except perhaps as general findings, rather than specific cases, if we pool intelligence with SESA or some other group,” Toussaint says. “And no, I’m not with SESA,” he adds, a little redundantly. “We’re a separate department of the United States government that has been tasked with looking into the incident that occurred in July.”

He leans back in his chair, though his hand hovers over the phone, ready to tap record if she gives him permission. “We have the information about what happened that day, and your memories leading up to it, but I’d like to ask you some follow-up questions, check on your progress since then.”

The pitcher is settled within reach of them both, before Kaylee slides into a chair across from the agent, tucking a foot under her. There is a soft ah from her about who he works for, though brows furrow as the worry isn’t fully dispelled. The fact that there was nothing but mental silence didn’t help, so there was no way for her to know if she was truly safe or not.

“Makes sense to go with a neutral agency,” Kaylee comments, “since I heard a lot of the agency’s here were hit pretty hard by the Event.”

Kaylee’s gaze drops to the phone with it losing all emotions, before she looks away to some unknown point with a few rapid blinks. Even so, she gives a small nod, followed by a quiet, “But…. yeah…. sure, anything you need, Agent Toussaint.”

Turning her focus back on the man, Kaylee sits a little taller. “Ask away.”

Toussaint smiles and inclines his head. “I’m sure they will also look into it,” he says quietly, tapping the record button and then folding his hands together to focus his gaze on her.

“I am aware that the news that your ability was lost affected you. I’m very sorry to hear about that,” he begins. “If you need to take a break from questions, just let me know. I know this may be difficult for you, but do know it isn’t my intent to upset you, but rather to help.”

He looks at the phone again, making sure it’s recording. “Interview with Kaylee Thatcher, September 21, 2020,” he murmurs.

His dark eyes return to her face. “Can you tell me if you’ve experienced any strange symptoms or anything you can’t account for, since you’ve returned home?”

There is a huff of bland amusement at the mention of being affected by the loss of her ability. A part of her wants to say something snarky about it, but he’s already asking the first question.

Kaylee takes a moment to consider the question, thinking back, before she shakes her head, “Beyond what’s expected from not being evolved? No. Nothing unusual.” There is a small apologetic tug at the corner of her mouth.

Toussaint nods, slowly. “I know it’s probably hard to separate what’s normal versus what’s related to your ability being gone, after so many years with such an ability. Let’s just start with some easy questions, then.”

He picks up the phone, sliding the recording app to one side before opening a second app, consulting it for a moment, before looking back at her, dark eyes acting like a mirror that reflects her back at herself.

“Have you recently met anyone you recognized but couldn’t place, or experienced any loss of time, where you couldn’t account for what you were doing for the past several minutes or longer?” He frowns, and adds, “After your hospitalization, I mean.”

That question and subsequent clarification draws a bitter chuckle from Kaylee. She can’t help it. “I’m glad you specified when,” she says bitterly. “Because… I have plenty of that… though more missing time throughout my life - hazards of the life I have lived - but no… not since my hospitalization.” Again there is that apologetic look. She really wishes she had something useful.

“In fact,” Kaylee sighs out, leaning forward to rest her elbows on the table, and trap the glass between her hands. “I haven’t really left my apartment since I got back.” Her focus shifts down the glass, suddenly looking uncomfortable.

His return smile is sympathetic, and he leans forward, resting his arms on the table folded across one another. “Look,” he says, “What you went through was an awful and confusing thing. There’s no manual on how a person recovers from that. I don’t know how I’d recover from that, and I don’t think my ability is as part of my identity as someone with a more mental power, like yours.”

Reaching for his glass, Toussaint brings it to his lips and takes a sip, then sets it down again. Every movement is slow, deliberate, much like his voice. But there’s something in his sharp gaze that makes it seem he could move very quickly if he needed to. “I can tell you that in a case like this, you’re probably comparing yourself to how everyone else handled things. Am I right?”

He gauges her expression for a moment, before continuing. “But those people who seem to handle it better, they probably have engaged in a lot of behaviors that aren’t healthy by most standards, while you were recuperating in here.” He taps his temple. “We all deal with things our own ways. Your way might be what was best for you, in the long run. You don’t have to feel embarrassed about any of it.”

By the huff of bland amusement, the agent knows he’s hit the nail on the head. Kaylee mimics him, sipping her own tea. When it settles back on the ring left by condensation, she considers how to answer him. “I heard I was the only one that… snapped.” There are a few more blinks of damp eyes, her focus on the glass still.

“But…. it’s not the first time I've done that,” Kaylee admits reluctantly, “Compared myself to others, leaving myself feeling like something must be wrong with me.”

Taking a deep breath and another sip or tea to steel her nerves, Kaylee goes about explaining. Whether he wants the story or not… “I don’t know if you remember the aurora’s a few years back were? It was pretty traumatic for me and a friend. We share many of them. Some good, but some…” Kaylee shakes her head slowly.

“The worst one we experienced was me dying, him carrying my bloody body in his arms and trying to get me to medical care. It was… horrible, especially for him… He… he broke. I know it, I felt it.” she says that last with a waver in her voice and a finger brushes at the corner of her eye.

“But then like a day or two after it was like nothing happened at all.” He can see the stress in the furrow of her brow, just remembering it. “I was not okay, I was struggling so hard… but he was happy… and…” She doesn’t complete that sentence, moving on to say, “I tried to talk to others about it, but they brushed me off like I was overreacting and that I should be happy for him. I haven’t been able to get myself to bring it up to him again.”

Closing her eyes against the pain of those memories, Kaylee shakes her head slowly. Only to let loose another rough laugh… it sounds like it’s on the verge of being a sob. “Sorry,” she murmurs brushing at the tears that were gathering and swallowing hard. “So yeah… I can’t help but feel like I overreacted… even though I don’t feel like I had total control over what happened.”

When she mentions the auroras, Toussaint nods once. “I remember,” he confirms, quieting to listen to her explain. His expression turns from one of casual interest to one of sympathy, and he looks down when she wipes her eyes, as if to give her a moment of privacy.

“You don’t have to apologize, Ms. Thatcher. I’m sure that was hard for you. Some people find things easier to compartmentalize than others in times of trauma. Coping mechanisms. My guess is he has one you may not be aware of,” he says, voice gentle but not coddling.
He glances down at the phone and then back up at her, brows lifting. “How would you describe the way your mind feels without your ability — is it like you remember from pre-manifestation?”

Of course, even he doesn’t believe. Kaylee doesn’t argue though, just gives a small nod…. Just like she’s given to so many others. It wasn’t worth it. A small part of her withers a bit further, settling a knot in her stomach. “You know… I’ve had it so long, I… don’t remember what it was like to be without it or being aware it was there. Even negated, there is a comfort to the idea it’s there below the surface, just… sleeping.” It was like she was describing something living.

Her thumb brushes down the foggy condensation, as she thinks how to describe her mind now. “Have you ever sat in an empty room, Agent Toussaint? Just you and no one else?” Blue eyes drift up from the glass to the man sitting across from her, only to unfocus again. “It’s never really completely quiet. There’s an underlying hum of electricity all around us. Now imagine there is a black out and you are left in total silence. Only you, the darkness, and your own very loud thoughts.”

Swallowing against a pit of growing anxiety and grief, Kaylee quickly sips tea to wet a dry throat. “And while you sit in that silence your mind starts trying to make sense of the quiet and you…” She reaches up and touches her fingertips to her own temple. “You start hearing a high pitched ringing. A steady tone as your mind tries to put sound to nothingness.” As she talks her voice thickens with emotions, her gaze unfocuses and goes distant.

“It’s always there and I hate it so much,” Kaylee chokes out with a small hiccuped gasp. The tears are finally rolling down her cheeks. “I need it back,” she half sobs out. “It’s so quiet and.. And so loud. I feel blind… like someone has cut off a limb.” Her head drops and fingers curl into her hair. “I need it back,” she whines out pitfully.

The agent can see that Kaylee’s struggling to keep her composure, fighting with her own personal hell, as knuckles turn white. “Why me,” the former telepath whimpers to no one, like many people before her when affected by such a change and the harsh reality awaiting them on the other side.

The man’s brows draw together, forehead furrowing a little and he nods once. Then twice. He slowly reaches out to tap off the red button on the recording app of his phone. He sits in silence for another few seconds that feel like longer, before he speaks.

“I don’t have an ability like yours, that’s always on, that puts me in tune with other people,” he says. “So I struggle to really understand what that’s like. You do a good job of explaining it, though.” He nods again, dark eyes looking away from her to focus on something else for another few seconds, before he turns back again.

“I’m not a psychologist. I don’t have advice for you. I’m just…” Toussaint spreads his hands, a little helplessly. “Just a data collector, at least at this moment. But I would suggest to try to focus on the noise of the external world rather than the silence of your internal one. Play music. Talk to friends on the phone. Volunteer somewhere. I know it will never equal the constant hum that surrounded you, but maybe that’s okay, too. Maybe you’ll be able to hear something you missed before amongst all that noise.”

He reaches for his phone, but doesn’t turn it back on. “I don’t want to upset you with more questions. But is there anything else you think I should know? Anything I haven’t thought to ask?”

“Everyone makes it sound so easy,” Kaylee says miserably, once she’s able to talk without a sob interrupting it. Her head is still bowed and eyes closed, while she rubs the palms of her hands against her temples. Giving a sniff or two, she finally straightened, though she still can’t quite get herself to look at him.

Kaylee brushes at cheeks with the sleeve of the flannel she’s wearing and sniffs again. “I should be asking the same,” she gives him a wavering smile, which quickly fades as eyes get watery again. “I don’t want you to feel you have to stop the questioning… this is just so… new and just another fuck you by the universe in an already crappy year.”

Thumbing the corners of her eyes, Kaylee finally answers him, “I don’t know what there is to know about the crash and the fact I tested out to just be another human being. I went to bed after dinner with my friend Luther, only to wake up with a gaping head wound…” She turns her head enough so that he can see the scar trailing out of her hair line a short ways down her temple “… surrounded by the wreckage of a downed plane.”

Leaning forward, Kaylee rests her arms on the table. Her cheeks are splotchy and eyes red, but there is a bit more clarity there and an intense curiosity. “I mean… am I even really me?” Clearly, it’s something she’s thought about since waking up. “Being a powerless clone isn’t even the craziest thing I’ve seen in my lifetime and the crash survivors wouldn’t even be the first. I saw what the Institute was capable of when the Ferry helped destroy it and I refuse to believe they were the only ones with that technology.”

There is a soft huff of amusement, before Kaylee adds blandly, “Maybe I’ll dissolve and end this damn nightmare.” At least she’s not crying anymore…. For now. Still she looks guilty for saying it, “Sorry. It’s been a shitty several months so far. Hell, I almost got nuked last year by some crazy body hopping mad woman.” Her mouth pulls to the side at how that sounds. “Sounds crazy I know, but you’d have to have been there to get it.”

Toussaint is quiet as she speaks again, now and then opening his mouth to speak, but closing it again as she goes on. “Don’t apologize, please, Ms. Thatcher. Even without the rest of the very bad year, it’s quite a stressful event to deal with, I’m sure. For what it’s worth,” he offers a small smile, “I do hope you don’t dissolve.”

He taps the recording button on the phone to stop the numbers racing across its glass, and tucks it into his jacket pocket. “Again, I’m not at all a therapist, but I would say your ability is not what makes you you. Without theorizing what caused its absence, let’s imagine that isn’t a mystery; that we know the reason, the reason makes sense. Obviously you still wouldn’t be happy, but… not having this part of you doesn’t change your identity, just as a physical loss doesn’t change the identity of an amputee. It will affect your sense of identity, but it doesn’t change who you are entirely.”

He offers her his hand once more. “I hope when I see you next, things will be better. Thank you for your honesty. It’s truly refreshing in my line of work.”

It’s clear by her expression that Kaylee isn’t quite there, yet. Doesn’t believe it will ever be alright. At least, not right now. Like for anyone that lost an important part of them. Something they used almost their entire life. It will be a long road for the… former… telepath to accept who she is and that she’ll never be what she was.

For now, Kaylee’s psychological wounds are too fresh and hurt too much to feel hope for the future.

Kaylee takes the hand with a small sad smile that doesn’t manage to reach her eyes. “Agent. Detective… we’re pretty much on the same team right? We work to protect the people.” Her eyes shine with a threat of new tears. If she gets to continue on as a detective that is. “I’ll work on being better, promise. It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Agent Toussaint. I just wish I had more for you.”

He squeezes her hand lightly. “You don’t have to have more. This is about your experience since the incident. There’s nothing I’m expecting for you to tell me. I promise I’m not leaving here empty handed. I have exactly what I came for.”

Rising from his seat, he lifts the glass for another swallow, setting it down with just the ice rattling at the bottom. “If nothing else, a proper sweet tea made it worth the time. Almost as good as a pitcher on a hot day in Louisiana, but don’t let my grandmother hear you say that,” he says. “Try to have a nice afternoon and rest of your day, ma’am.”

There is relief over the fact that he isn’t leaving there empty handed, it eases up on the knot in her stomach some. The agent finally manages to get a genuine chuckle out of Kaylee. “I would never dare to snitch on you, sir,” she assures as she rises to her feet, intent on showing him out like a proper hostess.

“Come on, I’ll do you one better. Send you off with some fresh baked banana bread for your trip back,” Kaylee offers with a touch of her normal mischief, thumbing away the last of the moisture at the corner of her eyes. “One of the benefits of having a true southern granny is you inherit the best recipes.” And just like any woman raised properly, she won’t take no for an answer.

So when Kaylee closes her door with one last, “Goodbye,” the agent will be holding a bag with a neatly wrapped half loaf of banana bread. A gift from a seemingly kindred spirit.

Once there is a door between them, the telepath seems to deflate with a deep sigh of relief. A bump against her leg, pulls her attention down to Willy, who squints up at her and grates out a chirp of sound. “Coward. You made me face that alone.” The cat only gives a flick of his tail and trundles away like he owns the joint.

Brows slowly lower with paranoia and suspicion, her attention turning back to the door. Pulling out her phone, Kaylee feels something she hasn’t felt since the crash. Dialing, she steps away from the door. “Hey, Lou. I need you to do something. Pull the security footage from my room to the lobby? Yeah.” She says with a nod as she starts to clean up the dining room. Moving to grab at the glass the agent had used, she hesitates on touching it. Pulling her hand away slowly. “I want you to save all the footage on an external drive. Yeah. I want the parts with the agent that just came to see me. I’ll get back to you on what to do with it. I need to talk to my brother. Thanks Lou.”

That feeling she was experiencing?

Hanging up, Kaylee doesn’t pick up the glass or touch it, but she does wonder out loud. “Who exactly are you, Agent Toussaint?”

It was purpose.

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