The Distance Between Then And Now


colette_icon.gif kaylee2_icon.gif

Scene Title The Distance Between Then and Now
Synopsis Colette and Kaylee are reunited after seven years.
Date March 19, 2018

Jackson Heights

Five in the evening used to be the heart of rush hour across all of New York City. Since the end of the war and the foundation of the Safe Zone that dynamic has changed. Automobile traffic in the Safe Zone is a bare minimum. Between fuel limitations and infrastructure challenges every resident owning and operating an automobile simply isn't feasible. In the southern parts of the Safe Zone foot traffic is dense around this hour, but as far north as Jackson Heights the dynamic has changed. The only traffic coming from the Heights at rush hour are convoys of dump trucks and vans from Yamagato construction sites.

That makes the dull green motorcycle parked out front of the Raytech offices stand out. It's an older bike, likely made sometime in the 1970s, but has been kept in pristine condition by a caring owner. As Kaylee Ann Ray-Sumter emerges from the lobby and encounters that vehicle parked on the roadside, something about the entire situation feels weirdly familiar. Then, a prickle at the back of her mind, the presence of someone that she can't see but is—

Kaylee Thatcher.”

Woefully out of date.

Leaning up against the motorcycle, a form both familiar and unfamiliar ripples into view like a watercolor painting brushed into being. Leather jacket, short hair as dark as her jeans, arms crossed and green scarf wound around her neck. Were it not for the muscle that she's gained over the years, the sight of Colette would be like looking into the past. There's a tattoo at her neck these days, the jagged line of a pulse, and both eyes are blind again. But that smile, that static tingle of her mind’s texture.

“Been a while.”

There is no mistaking Kaylee’s old friend.

After a long day behind a desk, a long couple of weeks… a pretty long month, in general, Kaylee is taken by complete surprise. It is not easy to surprise a telepath. With so many people around her, she hadn’t noticed the mind right there with the bike. A hand flies to her chest, as if Colette had given her a heart attack.

Oh look.. A wedding band on that hand.

“Colette,” the name is breathed out with equal surprise. Of course, just like Colette looks different, Kaylee looks less like the tomboy she did, and more like a woman who runs a company with her siblings. Today, it is a neatly pressed black pantsuit, with a pale purple shirt that is just visible under the woolen gray long coat that is currently belted closed. “Well, I’ll be… it has been awhile, indeed.”

Her head tilts a little to her side, smile bright, but thoughtful, “Richard told me you were up in Rochester. What brings you to our doorstep today?” A delicate brows arched a little.

Colette mimics the expression, leaning off of her motorcycle and closing the gap between them with long strides. There's no words there, just a brief pause as she appraises Kaylee up close, a brief blind-eyed look flicked to the ring on her finger and a glassy quality coming over that milky state. “You look ridiculous,” is Colette’s final greeting before throwing her arms around Kaylee and drawing her into a tight hug, said no time had passed over the last seven years. “You look like a politician.

The embrace is tight, surprisingly so, and when Colette leans away she keeps a hand on each of Kaylee’s shoulders. “M’sorry I just… dropped by like this. After— forever.” A smile turns into a more guilty expression, and Colette’s brows screw up into an apologetic furrow. “I just— I didn't know how to apologize. For the lost time. For— for never looking for you. I just— Life.”

Swallowing audibly, Colette finally lets her hands come away from Kaylee’s shoulders. “If— if you've gotta go, uh, wifely duties or whatever.” There's an uncertain and nervous look in her eyes. “I'll— I get it. I just… I needed to— ” one hand waves dismissively in the air at her own inability to express what she's feeling at the moment.

In the past, the telepath might have been a little hesitant about affection, hugs were never really much of her thing, but… after so many years… Colette just gets as tight of a hug from Kaylee; the older woman, making a bit of a happy sound in the back of her throat. Or maybe that is a chuckle, as she says softly, “I look so ridiculous. I miss my jeans.” She really did.

Once Colette leans away, Kaylee has to brush at her eyes, looking kind of embarrassed for being caught being emotional like that. She tries to cover it up by trying to reassure the other woman, “No. I’m— I’m not in a hurry, Joseph will understand and it’s his day to pick up the kids. I know, for a fact, he’d be tickled to know how you are.” Seems the once wild telepath has been domesticated.

It takes her a moment to collect herself, before Kaylee can look Colette in the eyes again. Almost immediately, she regrets it, the emotions well up again; hands move to gently touch the other woman’s face, bracketing it with a show a affection. “Look at you. I never realized how much I missed you.” The words are thick with emotion, her head shaking side to side slowly, as she says, “Don’t apologize. Life caught us both, I’m just as guilty… I could have pushed to bridged that distance” — the one that had grown between them — ” so many times, but — it just never seemed like the right time.” Teeth catch at her lower lip briefly as she also admits…

“I was also scared that… we had grown too far apart,” the telepath says those words so softly, as she lets her hands fall away. “Yet… here you are.” The watery smile on her face and the tone of her voice says she is pleased by that fact.

“I was a kid and stupid and… and…” Colette shakes her head, a smile flickering across her face as she reaches up to sweep one tear away from the corner of her eyes. “Some— people mentioned the old Grand Central mural last week and I just— I got to thinking about you, and… I’m sorry. For the way things went when I was younger, for not being there for you when shit went down.” Blind eyes look to the ground, then sweep back up to Kaylee with the softest of expressions.

“You… kids?” There’s some words missing in there, but Colette finds them. “You have kids?” Her smile grows, more honest now and brighter. “I— I can’t even— you had kids with Joseph!?” That suddenly hits her like a lightning bolt. It’s followed by an uproarious amount of laughter, one hand cupped at her mouth and face flushed red. “Kaylee, oh my gosh, I’m— you have to absolutely tell me everything. We— is there— ” Colette looks around, noticing the derelict condition of much of the neighborhood. “Is there like, a company cafeteria or something inside where we could grab a coffee or something? Because… I… don’t even know where to begin.”

It’s been so many years since they sat and talked for hours on end deep below the city, when their troubles were shared in the ticket booth Colette had turned into her own personal den. They had changed so much in the intervening years, but in the moment these two reconnected, it was like all that time hadn’t passed, and the great divide between them sealed shut.

Having never had anyone really react that way to the news, Kaylee can’t help but blush, hands moving to the cover red cheeks; still she is secretly pleased at Colette’s reaction. “I didn’t even —” Kaylee gives a short laugh. “I had no idea, that no one told you.” She really is shocked, hand pressing together in front of her mouth, amusement dancing in her eyes.

“Well, then — “ Glancing over her shoulder at the entrance to the building — It’s settled then. “We do have a lot to talk about then.”

Kaylee offers out a hand to her friend, with a wiggle of fingers; just like old times. “We have a cafeteria. It’s small, and the kitchen is closed, but there is a coffee machine. It’s how we are helping out our employee’s during the food crisis.” No one can say that Raytech doesn’t take care of their own.

Pulling Collette along, her eyes still know how to glitter with a mischief, just like when she was younger, leaning close as if letting her in on a secret. “Watch out for Sera, don’t look her in the eyes.” There is a wink, “I’ll vouch for you. Then —” She turns the other’s hand to show the ring on it, you can tell me your story, too?”

Firing a conspiratorial look to Kaylee, Colette cracks a find smile and raises her brows in a you know me kind of look. She follows Kaylee in, no real assent about her own story, but there'll be time enough for that later. As the pair re-enter the Raytech lobby Sera has her head down and headphones on, bobbing her head up and down to some song and drumming in the air with two pens while reading something on a tablet.

Colette cracks a smile and flashes Kaylee a look and then takes her hand and squeezes it gently before suddenly everything goes pitch black. Kaylee remembers this trick, remembers the disorienting darkness of Colette’s invisibility. They only need to go twenty or so feet straight ahead before they're fully behind Sera and out of observation’s way.

“I uh, don't know which way t’go from here.” Blind eyes flick left and right, and Colette gradually unwinds her fingers from Kaylee’s. “Lead the way to a cup of coffee and seven years of catching up.”

Behind them, Sera mumble-sings to herself. “Make your own mmm hmm hmm, sing your own special song, make your own mmm hmm mmmm hmm.”

Caution has her looking back to where Sera is, a small smirk on her lips. The woman made her uncomfortable, so this worked out — “Perfect,” Kaylee comments lightly.

Motioning to the other woman to follow, The COO is Raytech Industries, directs them into the space that is considered the cafeteria. It is not fancy by any standards, small. It serves its purpose, with a small kitchen area where meals are prepared, coolers lining the walls with a variety of chilled foods and drinks. At the moment, it is also fairly empty, only a handful of folks scattered throughout, since sometimes… projects require a little overtime.

All of this is passed, the telepath’s path is aimed for a rather impressive coffee maker set up. Stacks of generic off-white ceramic mugs are stacked next to it.

Taking two of the mugs, Kaylee offers one to Colette, “So… I should start.” Maybe she is just excited to talk to Colette again, but there is just an energy about her… something she hasn’t felt in sometime. “Joseph and I have been married for 7 years now.” She lets that time sink in for the younger woman, while she concentrates on her own cup of coffee. “No wedding or anything… it was impulsive.” Which might account for the fact that all Kaylee has is a wedding band. She glances out of the corner of her eye at her friend, with a smirk. “Neither of us has ever regretted that choice.”

She waits for Colette to get her’s made, before finding them a spot at a small table in the corner, giving them some privacy to talk about their lives away from prying ears. “Everything— ” Her smile falls a little as she broaches the more sensitive areas of the subject. “ — that happened before the war. It helped drive the choice. Put things into perspective for us both.” Cup left on the table, Kaylee shrugs off her jacket, pulling a wallet from one of the inner pockets. A worn and creased picture is pulled out and set on the table. It is a candid photo of Joseph, with their kids, that is slid across. There was no hiding the love and pride she has for her family. “Finding out I was pregnant with our son, Carl, was the final push I think.”

A smile flutters across Colette’s lips at the sight of the photograph, earnest and overwhelmed in ways. She cradles her mug in both hands, shoulders hunched forward and eyes distantly focused, if they even can be. “You… you've such an amazing family.” Taking a sip from the coffee, Colette uses her other hand to fish a wallet out of her back pocket.

From within she withdraws a recent looking photograph, folded into a square. Once unfolded, it shows Colette in the middle with an arm around Tamara to her right and Tasha to her left. All three of them as smiling, looking just a little red-eyed like perhaps they'd all been crying before the picture was taken, but it's happy tears. Each have a hand visible in the picture, each with a ring on the same finger.

“That's mine,” Colette says softly, but with pride. “After… after they got me back from the Institute, I realized a lot of what I thought was important to me didn't really matter. Just them. We’re— the three of us are together. For the rest of our lives if I’ve anything to say about it.”

There's just a touch of embarrassment and nervousness in Colette's voice, confiding to the wife of a pastor that she's not only queer — which Kaylee’s known for a long time — but in an even more unconventional relationship. “We live right over in Williamsburg. Huge house, it's— M’happier than I've ever been.” She eyes the photo of Kaylee’s family and suddenly becomes overwhelmed with emotion, ducking her head down and wiping one hand at an eye. “M’so glad you are too.”

“They are amazing,” Kaylee says in confidence about her own family. Heavily biased, of course. “Joseph is an amazing father, you should see him. He gave up being a pastor… he.. Didn’t feel like it was right for him anymore.” It sounds like a bittersweet moment, but even she understood, even though she had tried so hard to give that back to him. “So — instead — he’s been working to become a mental health counselor. He works with Lynette over at Benchmark.”

“You really should come by the house sometimes, let him see you himself.” Kaylee chides softly. “We are living in Elmhurst. Not a big fancy house, mind you, but it suits us just fine.” Simple people, simple wants.

Manicured nails pluck the photo up, that Colette set down, Kaylee scrutinized it thoughtfully. There is no judgement as she studies it, maybe a touch of nostalgia. “It’s — it’s so nice to see a smile on your face. To see all of you happy. You, more than anyone I know, deserves that. ” The photo is set back down carefully with a gentle smile; her own eyes threatening tears again. “No matter what anyone says, after everything, I think we should be allowed what makes us happy.”

Fingers reach out to touch Colette’s shoulder, gripping it gently. “It’s a beautiful family, Colette. I’m so happy for you and proud of you.” Her voice thickens with emotions, tears being held back and kept in check. “It is an amazing feeling to see one of my closest and first friends again. To know that… I got to see her as this grown, confident, and happy woman.” It’s Kaylee’s turn to wipe at the tears that now slide down her cheeks; brushing at them with the palm of her hand.

“I definitely missed you,” Kaylee whispers, eyes dropping to the mug in front of her, hands curling around it again. “Let’s — ” Blue-eyes flick over to Colette, with a sheepish smile. “Let’s try not to push each other away anymore.” Something they were both guilty of. There is a longing, in that statement, for a friendship she thought she lost… One that had been especially, special to her.

For all that Kaylee can keep her composure, Colette absolutely can't. She's an open nerve of emotions on her best days, but around people she trusts and confides in there's no guard to her feelings. That she tears up in this reunion was inevitable, but it's Kaylee’s admission of having missed Colette that hits her the hardest.

Shoulders hunched and a hiccuped sob skipped past her lips before she can clamp down on it, Colette pushes her coffee aside and reaches out to take Kaylee’s hand from across the corner of the table. She's smiling, in spite of the sound she makes. “'ve lost too many people t’ever push anybody away again. ‘Specially not you.” Blind eyes see without seeing, convey the wealth of emotions that well up from the younger woman. “When I saw you at the library opening, I… I knew I had t’find you. I'd love t’see you’n Joseph an’ the kids. I can tell ‘me about all the crap we used t’get into.”

“A’missed you so much,” Colette mumbles. “Kept thinking about trying t’find you an’ Joseph. But— I was so scared that y’might not’ve made it, and I just— I couldn't.” She squeezes Kaylee’s hand tighter. “God, you became a pantsuit-wearing housewife,” is blurred out next along with an emotional bubble of laughter. “I think Sable’d write you out of her will after that.”

Composure is a flimsy thing, but it is something Kaylee has had to learn. The hand is easily taken, the affection she still holds for the younger woman is plain on her face. Her own barely touched coffee is set aside, so that her other hand can clasp around the hand, capturing it there in a warm grip. “I’m sorry I missed you at the opening.” She had been wranging kids and dealing with her own grief. “Gillian did a beautiful job.”

Clearing her throat, Kaylee doesn’t linger on that. The conversation of Eric is always an emotional one. Instead, she tries to steer the conversation to something much lighter…. Her current lot in life.

“But… you see… this is what happened without you to watch out for me?” She chides Colette gently, trying to tease the other woman a little, for a smile. Her elbows swing out, as if letting her get a better look at that pant suit, though the hand is not released. ”I got domesticated… and let my brother, Richard, turn me into a corporate working stiff.” The hand in hers gets squeezed gently, as she leans close and adds in a scandalous tone, “Though I still think of Joseph as one of the best thing to happen. One choice I would make every time.” Kaylee feels confident of this. “He’s — been good for me.”

Cracking another smile in spite of the overwhelming emotions, Colette wipes another hand at her eyes. “I bet he has. Joseph’s one of the good guys. Never met one like him, he's just— good.” Gently untangling her fingers from Kaylee’s hand, Colette picks up her coffee and takes a sip, trying to steady herself.

“I can't believe so much time’s passed…” Colette says in a hushed voice, looking up to Kaylee. “Richard came and visited me a few years ago, back when Wolfhound was getting set up in Rochester. I think— he felt guilty about everything. S’good t’see money hasn't changed him, or you. M’glad you’ve got family, ‘cause that's the most important thing in the whole fucking world.”

After drinking nearly half the mug of coffee, Colette sets it down on the table and wrings her hands around d the ceramic. “I dunno how the fuck you got prettier, but it's unfair. You're like a majestic business-giraffe now.” She waves one hand up and down as if to demonstrate Kaylee’s height. “I just got buff and ink-happy,” Colette adds with a feigned roll of her eyes.

Cheeks color at the compliment, it turns Kaylee’s face a nice shade of pink, even though she gives Colette a look that is a mixture of amusement and you’re full of it. “I dunno about prettier, but you are not as biased as Joseph, so I will take the compliment.” Hands fold around her mug again, nails tapping against the sides. Even though she only sees the scars, it still feels good to be seen that way.

“And do not sell yourself short. Buff and ink-happy is attractive.” Kaylee notes with a knowing look, chin tipping up some challenging her to deny it.

“I’m very happy that you have family, too.” Kaylee’s smile gentles as she looks down, “Family is the most important thing… I started out with practically none… and now my cup runneth over. ” Almost as soon as the words leave her mouth, brows furrow.

“I… just wish I didn’t feel like I need to keep looking over my shoulder.” She takes a deep breath and adds softy, ”That… I’m going to wake up and…. It’ll be gone.” She glances at Colette out of the corner of her eye. “You know?”

Colette knows, certainly. There’s a slow bob of her head, brows furrowed. Kaylee hasn’t seen that expression in years, but she knows it well. “Yeah, it’s… a hard feeling to shake. I…” Closing her eyes, Colette draws in a very slow breath and curls her hands closed, then exhales a slow sigh through her nose and uncurls her hands. “I’m… actually going to therapy, to help with that.” Though Colette smiles, it’s a difficult one. She’s embarrassed.

“The war was— hard. I have a hard time sleeping, just… “ Colette shakes her head and feigns another smile. “I grew up in a bad time. Pollepel, the war, everything. I never realized how much a toll it took on me until I started… just snapping.” She looks away, raking one hand through her hair. “It’s getting better— easier— I just wish I’d started sooner.”

Kaylee’s head nods slowly listening, understanding. “Joseph was amazing after Pollepel. After… the war. I don’t know how many times he found me huddled in a ball crying hysterically or had— ” Her voice falters a little. “ — had to deal with everything and me being pregnant as well.” She smiles a little, obviously a little hesitant to talk about that, but there is pride in the man she married. “I think that is partly why he went the direction he did. The rest of it… everything he dealt with himself.”

Shoulder lift a little, as she says, “I still have the nightmares now and then.” Somethings you can’t drive away. “But… I’m okay.” She gives a small chuckle. “The hard part I am finding… is locating a therapist who will talk to a telepath.” That fact is sad and amusing all at once, still she smiles.

“Mine seems skittish,” Colette admits, reaching out across the table to take Kaylee’s hand. “It’s— comforting, to know I’m not the only one dealing with things. He’s told me I should go to a veteran’s group, you know— talk with other people dealing with what I am.” Squeezing the hand, Colette makes a small, weary attempt at a smile. “Oh, uh— I didn’t decide to go there, but… you remember Lynette, right? Blonde, council member? She’s got a whole recovery center, therapists and everything. I was kind of… embarrassed to go anywhere that I might see people I recognize, though. So— mine was an easier choice. There’s not many in the Safe Zone, though. Therapists.”

Exhaling a breath she’d been holding in for a while, Colette squeezes Kaylee’s hand again. “I’m up in Rochester every other week, but… I’d love to have dinner with you and Joseph. Where d’you two live? I mean, obviously the Safe Zone but… we can figure out a day to come over, invade your space. Everyone’ll be so happy t’see you.”

Kaylee knows all about Lynette’s place. “Joseph works at Benchmark,” she confides like it’s some huge secret. So she clearly knows about the place. “Should meet her husband. A very nice man.”

A finger is lifted — hold on a second. Kaylee’s shoes click on the floor as she hurries over to grab a napkin from the counter. In moments, she’s back in her seat and fishing a pen out of her inner coat pocket. She looks a little embarrassed to admit, “When you are always going to meetings, you have to be prepared.” The words are murmured as she writes down an address for a house in Elmhurst, as well as numbers to reach her at. “Look for the solar panels on the roof.” Perks of the job really.

The napkin is folded in half and offered over between two fingers. “You realize, rumors are going to be running rampant in the office about me giving a woman my number.” It’s a tease of course. No one will be talking about it… maybe.

Cracking a smile as she takes the napkin, Colette can't help but bubble up in laughter. She checks the number out, then re-folds the napkin and put it into her jacket pocket. “Easy fix,” she says with a wry smile, “just tell ‘em that’m married.” It's a piece of paper away from the truth.

“Okay, Colette says determined as she grabs her barely-touches coffee, letting Kaylee’s hand go reluctantly as she does. “Now, indulge me,” she makes a vague gesture with spread fingers. “Tell me all about the fact that you have kids.” The plurality of that statement is mind-boggling.

Then, with a lopsided smile Colette adds, “…and I'll tell you about Adel.” The closest thing to a daughter she'll ever have.

The moments last, ones between friends long since lost. They find one-another in the interstitial moments of life between tumult and change. They'd talk well beyond when they should have stopped, delayed parting just a bit beyond that. But in those moments, it almost feels like the distance between then and now isn't so far.

It feels like the past isn't quite so far behind, and the people that were left there aren't so far gone yet.

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