The Legacy of a Broken Frame


kincaid_icon.gif kristen_icon.gif nora2_icon.gif

Also Starring:


Scene Title The Legacy of a Broken Frame
Synopsis The story of a life one woman will never lead is partially revealed on her death bed.
Date June 30, 2011

Studio K

More than a month has passed since the first signs of the non-evolved version of H5N10 hit Studio K. Weeks of halted production where only the minimum allowable amount of contracted shows have hit the airwaves, be it radio or television. A skeleton staff of retained evolved remain, doing only what is necessary to keep the company afloat. All of this time the one man on the throne is not the one most would have expected.

One of the television bays has been converted to a makeshift hospital where the SLC expressive care for those who have been struck down. Dirk, the executive assistant loathed by so many, has seen better days. He's also seen worse. Since he's been able to sit up, he's been at Kristen's bedside and keeping vigil. There have been rare moments of lucidity, few and far between, all of them interrupted by the letting of more blood and insistence that she's just fine.

Today is no different.

"K, you can't get up…" the exasperated voice of the personal assistant can be heard nearly across the room. "Just lie back down, Kaytoo has people hired, just relax." There's a moment of silence where the slight hiss of a whisper and what sounds like a symphony of violins can be heard from behind the heavy plastic. Kristen Reynolds just took a breath.

Kaytoo hasn't been getting much in the way of sleep. The few hours he's allowed himself to have away from the job have often been taken up by many side tasks, including saving his mother from herself, and various other things. Having this place to come back to, every day, is probably the only thing that keeps him going. Kincaid knows he needs a break, but as soon as he stops, the gravity of the last month will hit him. As long as he keeps working, he can numb it.

The door to the room opens quietly, his dark eyes looking inside and gratefully stilling on Dirk. Once he had never thought he could be grateful to see the man, but right now… "Is she being stubborn again?" he asks in a softened voice, as he opens the door more. There's a mask on his face and a pair of gloves on his hands. Even if he's Evolved, and immune, he's tries his best to avoid any chance of becoming a carrier. Even on the days he stays in his old office for the night.

Which is more nights than even the young woman behind him probably knows. But at least with her behind him he doesn't have to face today mostly alone.

The girl who steps in behind Kincaid is quiet; her dark eyes are wide above the mask she's worn at Kincaid's insistence, though it didn't take too much urging. This strain isn't meant for them, but there is the unreasonable fear of the illness that comes from seeing death from much too close of an angle early on. That and the more reasonable fear of becoming a carrier are enough.

The reasons she is here are complex, but part of it is penance for not seeing this coming, and trying to do her part to right the balance of the damage done by Calvin.

She hesitates, lingering at Kincaid's elbow as she peers into the room. The metallic scent of blood mingles with antiseptics. Nora swallows hard behind the mask, but does not retreat.

Dirk turns his redenned eyes toward Kincaid and gives him a slight nod in answer, withdrawing from the bed and leaning back in the plastic chair that's been set up for him. On a small tray table beside him is a legal pad and pen, the top page smeared with ink and splotched with the blood of a few too many coughs. He hasn't had the heart to have it taken away. "She's been trying to write a will," he rasps, his own breathing still labored. "I keep telling her she's going to get through this— " Then the man cuts off, as if unsure of his own words.

The string quartet starts up again as Kristen struggles to raise her hand to straighten her hair. There's company and she's vain enough to want to look presentable, even in light of her current condition. "He won't take a— " her words are cut off by a wet cough muffled by a turn of her head into her shoulder and a clot the size of a child's fist lands there. It blooms and grows down her sleeve before stopping halfway down her bicep. "— memo."

Looking past Kincaid, she gives the teen a slight smile with red stained teeth. "Buffy, she'd beat this…" is the greeting that Nora receives, then she flits a vermillion glance back to Kincaid. "Caid… there's some things I need to tell Russo. Where is he?"

Worrying about protecting someone else from the sight gives Kincaid another option for ignoring his own emotional response to the sight. His hand reaches back to take her arm gently, squeeze the fabric under the crinkling plastic of the glove. She can't see his forced smile, but the mask shifts enough to emulate it.

"He… he's trying to spin the downtime so that we don't get stormed by feds every other day," he says after a too long hesitation that hints it could be a lie. Or an excuse. He doubts his father wants to see her in this shape. Anymore than he does.

But one of them has to.

"I'm surprised you didn't have one made up already, K. You're always extremely practical about those things," he says with an amused tone, even if the amusement isn't anywhere near his eyes. There's too much blood to find much amusing right now.

The teen lifts her chin to smile at Kristen; after all, if she can smile, Nora can. "I watched the show. I loved it. Except for the season with the dumb military guys," she murmurs, her voice a touch too gentle and soft. It doesn't sound like her.

Moving forward toward the notepad, she gives a nod to it. "I can do it, if you want," Nora adds, her voice coming through stronger this time. "It might be easier for me," she adds, a sympathetic glance toward Dirk. Sure, the last time she'd seen him, she was threatening to castrate him, but he's obviously in pain watching Kristen's life drain out of her in so many coughs and sputters.

"Practical and immortal…" Her breathing has calmed to the sound of a string quartet instead of a full symphony and she waves a few fingers dismissively. It's a gesture that's gone from commanding to patehtic with the loss of too much energy. "They're two different sides of a coin.." The great pains she's taken to mask the Tennessee twang that's been the bane of her existence takes up too much of her concentration, so it's left to the wayside with much of her cool demeanor.

Dirk's somber behavior is like a complete one eighty of his personality. Without so much as a glance to the young woman's figure, he slides back and out of the way, letting her have access to the pen and notepad. He looks away and then climbs from his chair, taking a few wavering footsteps toward the door. "She likes sweet tea," he mumbles as he passes Kincaid, "I never knew." Admitting something so small seems to deflate the man who seems to have built an entire life on knowing everything about the woman in the bed. "She gave me the recipe, I'm going to make some." Without any further excuse, he slips out the door and closes it gently behind him.

"Season four, they lost Cordelia." To the producer, it's reason enough to dislike the show but whatever thoughts she might have had to follow disappear as her eyes fall to the notepad. "I need to tell you something, Caid. Before I d— d— go," she refuses to use the word, still clinging to the now emaciated belief in her own immortality. "I want to write some letters.." The three words are disjointed and don't seem to belong as she splits her attention between her visitors. "Send them to Kelly, my momma, and Russo."

No one's immortal. Kincaid doesn't say it, but he thinks it. Not even those who were supposed to live to grow into later years, and then suddenly were snuffed out by the very government this woman fought against in her own way.

A glance is cast toward Nora, grateful that she's taking over the writing, and he tries to fight the tears forming in his eyes. Tears triggered by Dirk, though he would refuse such a thing. The man gets a nod as he leaves. Kincaid hadn't known either, and he tried to learn everything in the last eight months as well. Hiding the tears doesn't work, so he settles with looking away, moving closer to K and the bed.

At least he can hope her vision is too blurry to see. "Of course. We'll write down everything you need to say. And I'll make sure that… that Brad gets it. And your mom and your sister." Though Brad he'll try to hand it to personally. A hand moves against the plastic, trying to reach through to take her hand.

Moving to the chair, Nora picks up the pen and the pad, crosses her legs and sets the writing tablet there. The motions are deliberate, more thought given to the tasks than necessary to keep her mind from the tragedy that lies before her. She knows what it's like to lie in bed struggling for a breath and wondering if it'll be the last she ever takes. She knows about wanting to say last words to those she loves, in case she never sees them again. She doesn't need to think about these things. She's lived them.

Despite the studied motions, despite the attempt not to think, a tear slides down Nora's cheek and into the fabric of the mask she wears. She ducks so that her dark hair veils her face as much as possible. "I can write fast. Just talk, and I'll get it down," Nora assures Kristen.

Kincaid's hand is held loose with a rather weak grip, Kristen is too proud to both acknowledge the emotion that's taken hold of her guests and reciprocate the tears with some of her own. "I can't make it sound as pretty as I want," the drawl in her accent causes the vowels to draw out a little too long, tiring her out quicker than she normally would be. It's a trade off for her concentration. "You just tell Kelly that I forgive her. You tell her that all her runnin' it just made me better n' stronger. That I grew out of needin' a big sister a long time ago. An' I forgive her for takin' our daddy's life."

There's a long pause as the sickly woman takes a few breaths in and out, leaning back against her pillow and closing her eyes. Tears that she could have shed in earlier days are dry now, traded for a drop of blood from over exertion. "An' I just wanna tell my momma that I'm sorry. I shouldn'a left her, I should'a done good by her an' stayed where I was. Maybe if I'da listened, I would'a lived a better an' longer life."

"Nora can be pretty poetic. She can get the message across," Kincaid says with a glance toward the younger girl, a silent one that seems to say he'll rewrite them for her if she doesn't want to. It is his job as well.

"You may have lived a longer life, but not necessarily better. You wouldn't have met me, or Dirk… Or Brad," Kincaid says with a very gentle squeeze against her hand. The plastic feels colder than his hand, slicker, and even a little sticky. But he keeps his glove on, even as he reaches for a towel to reach in under the plastic to wipe gently at her raw and blood stained cheeks.

Calvin made the most horrifying contribution to the timeline. And if he sees the man again it will take all his restraint not to try breaking his face. Try being the key word.

The pen scratches swiftly enough on the paper, Nora's handwriting much like herself — fluid and compact at once, no flourishes or curlicues or bubbles. A tear runs off the end of her nose to land in the middle of the words, dark blue ink swirling for a moment in a tiny pool before it saturates the paper.

"Just that you care… that you're sorry, that you forgive them… it's enough," she says in a small voice to Kristen. She bites her lower lip to cut off the last word when her voice cracks a little, head ducking back down to shield tear-stained cheeks with dark hair.

"Bradley Russo…" There's a long moment where only the song of Kristen's breathing fills the small area where she's laying. Turning toward Kincaid, her lips quirk into the smirk she's been photographed with one too many times. "Sometimes, I can't decide if knowin' him was a curse. He made me a whole lotta money but the cost… I think it was a little too much."

A laugh bubbles up from inside of her and spills out over her lips, ending with a cough that she wipes away on her already soiled sleeve. "I think sometimes that he's just as clueless as I am when it comes to knowin' what he wants. So many women all the time, pretendin' that there was ever anything inside him for me. I couldn't stand by him, not when he's always so ready to run off with the next set've legs that passed by. He told me he loved me, you know, I told him the same…. but I don't think it was ever love. Maybe in our own way… we don't really know how."

"I'm not sure how that will translate into a letter," Kincaid says quietly, with a kind of grimace. Hearing such things about someone who's blood you share is difficult, but he knows that he hadn't been entirely faithful. Even as a child, who shouldn't have known anything about sex or illicit romance, he knew his father had friends.

"I think he does love you, though. But I think it's one of those loves that he'll never realize until… until he can't have it anymore. I think that's how he loves— in retrospect." A love to regret and mourn with strength only once it's completely out of reach.

"You shouldn't be dying like this. I came back to…" he trails off, closing his eyes. "People think I took this job to be closer to him, but I didn't— I did it to be closer to you." In the beginning, at least. She's the one making death bed confessions, but he has a few of his own. Ones he would never make unless she was on her deathbed.

More tears slide down Nora's cheeks. She takes notes more than writes the letter itself yet… knowing that Kincaid will likely want to edit that in the long run, or simply give him the message himself. She reaches for his other hand, squeezing it with her smaller one. The gloves hinder the small token gesture of compassion, but it's the thought that counts.

Another tear slides down to plop onto the paper and she takes a shaky breath. As they make their confessions, she faces her own demons. Quietly.

A bark of a laugh rasps out, ending with yet another cough. It sounds too much like a jackal bearing down in its prey, harsh and unsympathetic. Whether its for the sentiments that Russo may or may not have toward her or even the confession itself, Kristen simply drops Kincaid's hand and turns her head toward the curtained window.

"No one ever wants to be close to me," the self depreciation carries the full weight of its truth, "not unless they're wantin' somethin'. Tell me Kincaid August, what is it that you want that brought you so close to me?"

There's a long moment of silence where Kincaid just looks at the younger girl, as if asking her to understand what he's doing. In a way he may even be asking for permission. Many people who aren't parents know by now, but it still seems odd to bring it up. Not that she'll likely live long enough to tell anyone except Dirk.

And Dirk would probably think she's telling him a story to fuel his old conspiracy theories.

After that pause, he finally looks back, eyes steeling over. "I wanted to save your life. Lot of good that did. You won't die the same way, but you may die in the same month… I'm from the future— a future. Everything's changed, and… I couldn't change the one thing I was actually trying to."

With both his hands occupied by women, he just has to let the tears fall.

When Kincaid looks back, it takes a moment for Nora's eyes to lift from where they stare at the indigo rings on the paper she writes on. Her gaze meets his, and she gives the smallest of nods. Her hand tightens on his, then lets go. Kristen needs Kincaid’s attention, and Nora'll be there for him after.

His words draw the smallest of sobs from her. They came back to change so many things, and instead they've wrought more disaster, more despair. She stands, putting the memo pad down with a shaking hand to move further away, where Kristen won't see her shaking, her back to the bed, her face to a wall.

For the second time Kristen erupts in a painful barking laugh, the gurgle of blood in her lungs comes up just as she cups her hand over her mouth to catch the pool as it bursts out. "Always good for a laugh ain'tcha Kaytoo," she wheezes, letting the fluid run between her fingers and onto the sheet. It's not the first or last time that the nurses will have to change her bedding. "Sellin' me a show, huh? Well I don't think I'm long enough for the world to see it through but you have my blessin' if it helps."

The hand is wiped off onto a cleaner part of her white blanket and she turns her face toward the coverd window. "Tell me the story, Kaytoo, tell me how it begins since I know how it ends. I won't be alive to watch it… I know that much."

"No, K, I…" Kincaid starts, closing his eyes for a moment. It does sound like a television show, a ruse. A lie. It wouldn't even be a very good one unless he was travelling around in a telephone booth of some kind. Everyone in the business knows time travel just makes audiences argue about mechanics instead of the story.

Sometimes the arguements happen when it's real, too. Though not the same kind.

Taking a slow breath, he opens his eyes to focus them on Nora at first. Again, briefly, he looks like he's trying to ask permission. It doesn't last long before he focuses back on Kristen.

"It starts with a character, like you— a Producer, a media woman, who's tenatious and beautiful and strong. The kind of woman who chases down what she believes to be the right thing, the story that the people need to know about. She learns of a horrible thing that members of the government and the military have done and tries to find evidence, to expose them. She even succeeds. But even before she tries to go public, they find out, they threaten her and those she loves— her business, her profession— or her life. She doesn't back down. She knows what the right thing to do is— but before she can get the evidence to air… she's shot in the back and killed. With no warning, in her apartment. It looks like a burgalary. Her apartment is trashed. Computers, cellphones, storage devices, boxes… The studio is even broken into."

It's said in distinct words, but there's a guarded sound to them. This is a story that he almost can't say without crying— but if he tells it as a story, as a television show— it seems easier.

"Her Assistant tries to take over, and her oldest friend, who she loved and who loved her— they realize they can't fight this world that has surrounded them. That… the right thing to do took the one woman they admired most. One of them gave up. The other…" he trails off, shaking his head. "I don't know what happened to him yet." Or ever, really. Kincaid has no idea what happened to Dirk. Not knowing his full name doesn't help with that.

The girl at the wall glances back when she hears that pause, finding Kincaid's gaze and then glancing away again. She doesn't nod, nor does she shake her head this time. Telling Kristen who they are won't help save her — the reason they've told so many of the others. Telling her won't help them stop the horrible things that have been unleashed by one of their own. There's no practical reason for him to tell her, but there are reasons that have less to do with pragmatism and more to do with love and friendship.

She shivers slightly, and crosses her arms as if to keep herself warm, though the room is warm enough. "You wondered why we didn't know who Buffy was," she says softly to Kristen — her only comment to help the woman believe the words that Kincaid says are true.

"Sounds like one hell of a show, Caid," Kristen whispers, her singing lungs still gurgling with every breath in and out. "If you want people to care, though, you gotta tell it just right. Start with season two and work your way backwards." She stops short when words become too difficult to manage while still trying to breathe. As she struggles, one of the monitors goes off, sounding a loud alarm to the staff that's taken over for the evening shift.

There's a grunt of frustration from the woman as she reaches over and shuts if off herself. She forces another painful cough and keeps her head turned for a moment before her chest finally rises and falls and the familiar sound of her breathing continues. The norm, but not normal, the nurse keeping vigil simply glances up at the visitors and then past them to the woman on the bed.

With a grimace, Kincaid looks past the woman struggling in the bed toward the nurse who he'd somehow forgotten was there. Maybe better they're talking in metaphor, in that case. But it makes it hard to continue— even if he needs to. Those eyes shift to Nora, "It is just a story— like Buffy," he says, not speaking the fact that he's trying to tell her it's okay. He doesn't need to be believed. But he wants to tell her anyway.

Even if it's just a story for a dying woman.

"The second season— that's… that's where the time travel comes in, so the story can be done as background— flashbacks or something. Anyway— the man who'd been her closest friend for years, he got married and had a kid, but he was never happy. He… sold out I guess you could say. To protect himself, and her legacy. Even if the only thing he could perserve was her name. And his memory of her."

With a slow breath, his eyes stray down, to the woman's chest, watching to make sure it continues to move. "The boy— the kid— he grew up always seeing this picture that his father kept of her. He kept it hidden, but always brought it out when he'd drink himself into a guilty stupor. It wasn't until he died and the boy was placed in foster care that he found out there was more to the picture. In the frame was a news article about her death… He only discovered it when he was in high school. Being… molded for government service like his dad…"

There's a slow exhale. He's not even sure that Nora knows this part of his story. He'd only known one of the others before he joined the Ferry. Only one.

The one responsible for what's killing this woman.

"The kid got curious, as… kids do. He dug up a past that the government would rather have kept buried… He was only 14, but they took him from his home because he uncovered too much. Too much about her, about what they did to her." Even as a kid, he was good at research… Lowering his head, he can't help but touch the back of his neck, as if scratching an itch. Or a scar.

"So the time travel… over a decade later, he's given the chance to go back in time. To see his family, to… make a difference." His voice is cracking by this point, breaking. Tears run down his cheeks. "But it was that picture. And what was hidden behind it… what was hidden underneath all that… that really brought him back. Because if he could save her… maybe that would be worth every risk."

Turning around, Nora leans against the wall, arms still hugging herself and tears still streaming down her face. She doesn't try to hide it this time. This time, the tears are for Kincaid rather than for the woman in the bed, or for herself.

"Kincaid," she whispers softly, not to interrupt, but simply in that manner that says I didn't know.

Her hand brushes back over her cheeks, wiping away the tears, before tucking back protectively into her self-hug.

"If she'd managed to get the story out, to tell the world what little she knew… show the pictures that should be shown. You think it's the right thing to do? Take a stand? I don't got nothin' to lose no more 'Caid, my time is runnin' out quick." The monitor beeps again, this time the woman doesn't reach over to turn it off herself. Her eyes open and fixed on a point somewhere else in the room. Several seconds go by with the before the pitch of the machine rouses the woman at the other end of the room.

As the nurse rushes over, the producer grabs the younger man by the arm and looks him in the eye. She struggles to sit, using her surprisingly firm grip as leverage for her weakened body. Her mouth opens once as she tries to speak but when her skin reddens and her lips begin to turn a bluish shade it becomes evident that something is blocking her airway, preventing her from voicing her thoughts. She lets go just as the nurse reaches them and shoos the visitors away.

"No— no," Kincaid says, reaching forward as if to try to help her. Even pulling away from Nora as he does this. He heard his name, he knows now that she didn't know. He's not sure how many people knew. It wasn't something he shared often.

The tragedy of a broken picture frame.

The nurse shooing them out gets a look, one that seems desperate to try to stay, before he looks back at Kristen and bites his lower lip, catching the mask with his teeth for an instant. "There's always more to lose than one life," he says quietly, almost a whisper, before moving toward the door, hurrying out with tears staining the mask on his mouth. He expects Nora to be right behind him.

"Wait…" Nora says softly to the nurse, and pauses in the doorway on the wake of Kincaid's exit. "Don't… you shouldn't shoo out visitors." This is to the nurse, as the teenager holds onto the door frame. Her body is angled away, her feet poised for flight, to follow Kincaid out to the hall.

"Someone needs to be with her… no one should be alone…" when they die is unvoiced. "Let that guy come back in. Let someone be with her. No one should be alone like this, not just because it's bad — when it's bad is when she needs someone the most. And I know you're a nurse, I know you care and all, but someone who's not there because they're paid to be, should be here too. To hold her hand… to make sure she's not alone."

This stand that Nora takes is a quiet one, hushed and reverent in the words she's afraid to say, but strong in her resolve, in those fingers clinging to the frame. "I won't leave until he comes back."

The nurse doesn't argue with the teen, seeming unconcerned that Nora's hanging onto the frame of the door while she pumps her hands just below the producer's chest. She bends to listen, or perhaps feel, at the producer's mouth before repeating the motion. Almost a full minute goes by before Kristen finally coughs up a wet clot of blood that spills out over her cheek and slides into her hair.

For the moment, the producer is breathing again.

Out in the hallway, Dirk stands near the door watching Kincaid. Two glasses of amber liquid in hand he extends one of them to the other man as something of a peace offering. "It's Dickson."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License