Talk To Me


joseph_icon.gif kaylee3_icon.gif

Scene Title Talk To Me
Synopsis It's a long needed conversation that doesn't go quite as planned.
Date July 9, 2019

The Benchmark Center

Within the immediate scope of the red Benchmark building is small parkland kept tamed by local residents. It's a bird bath and two benches type area — one tree for shade against a bright, early afternoon sun, and the patchy grass growing in on fresh earth is sun-green. It provides a change of scenery in which one can enjoy their packed lunch in between appointments, meetings, and desk time, and also provides a convenient and neutral location in which to discuss marital problems, questions of parental duty, and god knows what else.

Joseph Sumter is here to do both!

Because he is a busy person who has gotten very good, very quickly, at multitasking. He's already here by the time Kaylee arrives at the agreed location, one triangle deep into his sandwich lunch, a thermos of tea sitting at his elbow. She will remember how he decided black coffee wasn't good for him, and started shopping around for tea-based alternatives he could stand, and it seems as though he hasn't given up in the interim several weeks of separation. In that time, she's suffered exactly one coma, and didn't see him at any point before or after.

He seems well, personally, in professional but not overly formal clothing, his usual palette of tan and the lighter spectrum of blues, brown leather shoes tucked beneath the picnic table he's sitting at. Frameless glasses, a watch, and his wedding ring comprise all visible jewelry, but she can imagine he is wearing a fine gold chain on which hangs two crucifixes, hidden out of sight beneath his collar and shirt.

She would probably have to deploy her power to get a bead on what he is thinking, as he is scrolling through emails on his phone, sandwich half held neglected in his other hand.

When it comes to Joseph, Kaylee never dared to look into his mind. Even now as she stands just inside the door watching him through a window, she doesn’t look within. She doesn’t dare, only savors the sound of this mental thoughts behind the walls of her mind. The nights were so quiet now without his thoughts next to her or the kids in their rooms nightly. Now she only sees them occasionally when she picks them up from school, when her schedule permits.

You’re own doing. Kaylee reminds herself.

Finger tips wipe at her eyes, dashing away tears she didn’t deserve. There was a purpose to this conversation. Fingers tighten around the milia envelope clutches in her hands. Be strong, Kaylee. Even as she thinks it, her stomach twists with her nerves.

It takes a couple of moments longer before she steps out into the little area, Kaylee looks nothing like the corporate woman she had been, having quite quickly given it up. What she is wearing now was more her, casual and comfortable. A nervous smile on her lips, Kaylee softly says, “Hey.” Guilt pulls her gaze down to a point on the table in front of him, fingers pushing loose lengths of blond behind her ear. “Thanks for meeting me.”

Sensing her approach, Joseph finishes up on his phone, looking up and ready when she speaks. There's a smile in return — it's an automatic kind of smile, closed, thin. He's gotten ever so slightly harder to read over the past several years, a little bit due to his chosen profession, and a little bit out of habit. Better, anyway, at not being the open book he used to be, even if those who know him best can peep through the pages.

So Kaylee can see — and probably expect — the strain already present.

"Sure," he says, putting his phone face down on the table. "Sorry about— " A gesture, at his set up, food and drink. "Day got away from me." Dark eyes dart to the folder in her hand, then back up to her face. "Take a seat."

Her head shakes a dismissal at the apology. “Totally understand. I know how that is.” Ever since she left she’s been constantly on the move herself. Settling herself across from him, Kaylee slowly sets the folder on the table. Then rather than make him wonder, the folder is pushed across the table. The ring is notably missing from her finger, but a gold chain holds the ring around her neck.

Kaylee just couldn’t get herself to really put it away.

When she draws her hands back, folding them in front of her, Kaylee finally explains, “It’s the trust fund paperwork for the kids. I haven’t had a chance to get it to you. Jared went over it all with a fine tooth comb.” Her voice sounds small to her, even as she tries to exude confidence. It was tough “And… the first check to you should show up soon. As I promised, you guys will be taken care of.”

After his separation from Clara, Joseph had worn his ring for a long time after. That hadn't even been a matter of appearances, transplanted as he was into New York City — habit, holding onto something, a decision put off for as long as possible, a lack of critical analysis, a fine web of factors that would all collapse if even one was broken. Whether there is something similar going on here is anyone's guess, wedding band still worn where it's supposed to be.

He hadn't even considered leaving it behind, that time at the hospital. He pulls the folder over, flipping it open, his expression schooled into something that gives little away — but the smile is gone.

He's not sure what he was expecting, upon her explanation. Or maybe he was, and it wasn't this. He clears his throat, and asks, in an even tone, "Didn't you leave your job?" Eyebrows ticking up a fraction, a glance over his glasses.

Kaylee’s head nods slowly, watching him look over the paperwork. “I stepped down from an executive position, when I accepted the NYPD SCOUT position, but I’m still a partial owner. It is Raytech, family business and all. It won’t be as much as before, but… it’s something and the kids’ college will be covered. If my brother doesn’t get the company shut down or destroyed.” It’s said with a touch of bland humor. It was always a possibility, he was a Ray even if adopted. Trouble was always in the name.

“That’s… that’s all I…” Kaylee starts, but the words catch in her throat. If she finished that sentence, it would be a lie. If that had been all, she could have had the paperwork delivered. There was so much she wanted to say, but couldn’t find the words. Wasn’t even sure he wanted to hear them.

Sitting across from Joseph was harder than she thought it would be. There were feeling and emotions involved that threatened her resolve… misguided as it might be.

Kaylee needed to say something tho…

“So… The kids don’t say much when they visit…” she starts after taking a shaky breath. “How are y’all holding up? School year’s getting ready to start.” Kaylee knew that meant new issues, with three kids. “Bet they’re dreading it.”


Joseph is still looking at the paperwork in front of him, as if reading it, as if comprehending the status quo, when he is not quite managing to do either of those things. You guys will be taken care of, and he knows how the kids won't see it that way. That he probably won't even present this folder to them, that the financial realities of raising children and preparing for their future are invisible, unknowable things that don't answer for what they can see in front of him. And he knows how they feel.

He said yeah, just now, in answer of a question, but looking up, doesn't immediately recall what it was. He says, "We're moving," on impulse, suddenly making concrete something he had only been thinking about. "There's options. Kansas City, maybe. Benchmark's got another facility further out, too." He closes the folder, expression inscrutable. "You were right, New York City's not the best place to raise a family."

Kaylee’s head snaps up. “What?!”

She hadn’t expected that type of announcement. The surge of panic shoots through her body and straightens her spine. The woman looks ready to protest as thoughts turn immediately to her kids, especially her son. No. She feels sick at the thought. There is a deep urge to fight him over the decision, but the words die on her lips; instead she takes a shaky breath and looks away, furiously blinking.

Despite her feelings she knows she did this to herself. But why are her lashes suddenly wet? She felt numb more than anything.

Her plan was to say something, but the moment her mouth opens, there is a gasp like she was finally catching her breath. There are a few more shaky breaths as she struggles to say anything. Kaylee knows she doesn’t deserve to feel this way, she did this… but there is a certain type of pain to it.

The worst fear of her decision, finally sinking in.

“Okay…” The word is small and strained, the telepath’s head nodding her understanding. He is right of course. This place wasn’t as safe as they hoped, this is what she had proposed once… but why did it hurt so much now that it was reality?

Kaylee pushes to her feet suddenly. What she needed now was to get away and process, to let the implications of it all sink in. Her eyes focus anywhere but him, finding a heat wilted flower to focus on. Kaylee knows she’ll break if she looks at him.

“I’ll… I’ll talk to Jared and get the rest of the papers together.” There had been something holding her back from that last step… but now… “He’ll discuss the terms of-” The pain of what she was saying hits her hardest, forcing her to take a breath. A hand presses her to stomach as her emotions make her feel nauseous. Finally, she just turns with the intention of walking away as her hold on her emotions crumble.

Later, Joseph will reflect — possibly with some anger — that his strike across the bow was nothing in comparison to what she had already done, what she continued to do. It will feel like the old anger he used to know about his (first) ex-wife, petty and combative and resentful, which won't help. But immediately, Joseph just feels bad about it, insides twisting as pain flashes so clear across Kaylee's face. Not the intention.

Or maybe it was. They'll never know, because she's getting to her feet, turning away, and he's certain that this is why they don't work anymore, because she won't—

"Talk to me," he says, practice and discipline making his voice come out even and gentle. "If this— if you leavin' was ever about escaping the hard conversations, well, honey, that's not how this works. Not when we got a family between us."

The words bring her up short.

“It’s never been about the hard conversations, Joseph,” Kaylee says thickly. They had plenty of them over the years. “This is all about me. As selfish as that is.” It was hard to admit that to him. She was being selfish and she knew it.

Turning around, so that her back isn't to him, Kaylee admits further, “I almost came back a few times.” Just a simple truth. “Wanted too, but didn't know how and didn't feel like I ever could.” Brows furrow a bit, thoughtful. “Then I got buried in all the training and studying… spending what time I could with the kids.” Brushing a hand over wet cheeks, Kaylee sighs.

“The truth is, Joseph, I don't know what I want anymore,” The telepath hazards a look her husb… her ex's way. “I used to know. Thought I had everything I ever wanted, everything I dreamed about when I stuck,” he knows what she means by that, her time in the past. “Then we came back here and… things started happening. New Mexico happened. The worst part is I can’t talk to you about it.” She signed all those forms. “And even if I could, I’m not sure you’d understand. Hell, I don’t even fully understand what happened.” How do you explain things like that? Much less wrap her head around it.

“I don’t want you to take the kids so far away from me,” Kaylee with a voice on the edge of tears. Her hand comes up and waves off anything he was going to say to that, she wasn’t done, “But no matter how much the idea is killing me, you’re right. It needs to happen. Get them as far away from this place and everything around me.”

There is a hesitation, there is one thing she hadn’t hardly told anyone recently, “You know? Adam found me. He really did and all I could think is… how glad I was you and the kids were not there.” There is fear when she mentions Adam, but unlike before there is no pain in saying it. “Kansas City is better for you and the kids.”

There are a lot of things to unpack, here.

And Joseph can't do it all in his lunch break. Especially not when she doesn't seem to be looking to him for a say. Somewhere in the midst of it, he decides he's not hungry and wraps his sandwich back up in its wax paper, expression mostly neutral save for how she can see the hard set of his jaw. Like he's stopping himself from saying the things he wants to say.

When she mentions Adam, though, there's a break in it — an urgent glance over that has his hands pausing, but when she arrives at her conclusion, her reason for saying so, that sharpness dulls back over.

He honestly hadn't come here to fight. He wanted to talk logistics, the practicalities of what they were about to do, how to share slices of their life, what he was meant to tell the kids. But maybe they're not there yet. She sure as hell is not, talking like what they're doing is somehow the best for everyone. "I want you to know," he says, eventually, "that what's happening ain't 'cause of external forces beyond your control. You know I came to a point where I stopped believing in that much. And for the record, there's no just comin' back. I don't want you showin' up on their doorstep without you calling me first." Their, which is perhaps a strange way of talking about his home, like it belongs to their children — but he's not an idiot.

He knows that's what's pulling her back. "You call me, and we talk about what you want. 'Cause we ain't gonna get anywhere 'til you figure that out."

His invitation to talk is, apparently, cancelled. He is gathering his things and is unable to do it in a way that suggests he is perfectly calm and in control of himself, but he manages it for the most part.

"That's because you didn't want to believe anymore,” Kaylee snaps a bit harder then she means too, really.

“You want to be outside of it pretend it ain’t there… and I get that." She didn't come here to fight either, but in her mind he was being unreasonable. Tears are replaced by anger and stubbornness. "But those ‘unseen forces’ are still out there, Joseph, I've seen them. But your right, it isn’t the whole reason we are here… but it is a part of it." Her frustration with him clear.

That same feeling has her giving a huff, when he tells her to stay away from the house. “That isn’t what….” Kaylee sighs and looks upward and tries to calm her nerves and the knee-jerk of emotions. “I have never, nor would I ever, just show up at the house,” Kaylee finally says is a flat, but calm voice. Just like he ain’t stupid, neither is she. “I’ve only picked them up after school or whenever you’d drop them off.” Like the agreed to when it first started. “I will never assume to just walk back into that house without talking to you first and seeing if there was a way back. I wouldn’t do that to them.” It hurt that he actually, assumed that of her.

“Damn it, Joseph. This is not the conversation I had hoped to have.” The telepath shakes her head, it really hadn’t been. “I’ll have Jared contact you about terms and custody and get the papers drawn up.” Where Kaylee had been dancing around the idea, something about the conversation shoves her in a firm direction. “Don’t worry, I won’t stop the move.” One thing was certain though, she wasn’t going to let him cut her off from the kids completely.

"Wait— "

— just comes out of his stupid mouth, and he has to stop himself from wherever it was gonna go next. But anger complicates itself quickly and for all that Joseph is at peace with leaving mad this one time, the idea of this whole thing turning into another ugly divorce, spoken through third parties and documentation thrust forward like punishment for saying the wrong thing and distrust on either side, is borderline panic inducing. However!!! He's not going to, and stops himself. She's not Claira, and they shouldn't be scrabbling for a last word.

He picks up the file, as if reluctant to do so, letting go of whatever he was going to say, of any sense that he has control over this conversation, of his part in it. "For a telepath," he says, in a tone that would, in any other context, translate as a kind of grim humour, "you're no good at guessing what I'm thinking."

The joke is not that he wants her to read his mind. But asked, maybe.

And besides, he's not much of a prophet, either.

"When you want that conversation, I'll be here." Because the one she hoped to have probably closely resembles his, too.

“Have I ever been?” Kayle returns, with a small rueful twist of her lip. A touch of her own humor in spite of all the negative emotions.

As she leaves Joseph there in that little garden, his comment leaves Kaylee with a lot to think about. Maybe that was exactly what had landed them there… if she ‘listened’ more. The telepath had always been too scared to look behind that veil she tossed between them. Preferring ignorance.

Too late now.

Or at least that was the thought in her own head. It was a thought that would stick with it. Festering and stew in the back of her own mind, driving out reason. She’ll have convinced herself fully of it when she calls up Jared. Asking for help getting the final paperwork started and to help her change her legal name.

Each step there after would driven by that thought.

Too late now.

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