The Man Who Kills Me


des2_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title The Man Who Kills Me
Synopsis Memories of lives not her own come flooding back when Des discovers Ray's secret.
Date October 27, 2017

RayTech Industries

A paranoid mind might notice some small and curious irregularities to the in-place procedures for setting up the offices and research section of the Raytech NYC Branch Office.

And the woman now known as Desdemona Desjardins certainly possesses a paranoid mind.

There's a room now far from the CEO's office that is just labeled as 'Executive Storage Room' on the blueprints, which even aside from the curious name has a very high level of security to it - to whit, nobody who isn't on the Board of Directors has access, to the point that Richard personally carried several boxes into the room upon arrival today rather than allowing anyone else move them inside - and he spent several hours inside, incommunicado, before emerging.

The security system for the door isn't scheduled to be installed until tomorrow, though, creating a small window when there's nothing but the fear of someone walking in to keep someone with building access from investigating…

Des is nothing if not a creature of insatiable curiosity. While in possession of her ability, at least. That need to know and to have control of everything possible is consuming. That room is a mystery, and she needs to solve it. Surely there's something in there that will hint at what Ray's real game is. No one ever recruits her for benevolent purposes. Not even the Ferry.

With the hallway clear, Des walks to the door with all the purposeful aura of someone who's meant to be there. The door slides open, and she slips inside, turning around to hold the handle and make sure she's closing the door as softly as she can behind her. After no unexpected alarms go off, she lets out a quiet sigh and turns around to face the room, and inspect its secrets.

Strings of myriad color dart from one chalk board to the next, some connecting to corkboards, all dangling with photographs, Company files, and newspaper clippings. The fire in her eyes cools to a smolder, brows knit together, and she takes one tentative step in.

The scene makes her stop cold. Blood feels flash frozen in her veins and she actually doubles over and dry heaves, the panic grips her so swiftly and so terribly. She's seen this before. In her dreams so many years ago now. The memories are fuzzy, but the recollection is there. The memory of pain is there. With wide and wild eyes, she steps further inside, looking for a picture of herself she knows was there, but sees as a blind spot in her recollection.

It's such a simple tableau to fill her with such horror; just strings, strung across the midst of the room connected to free-standing plastic latticework on four sides to provide anchor points that aren't the walls. A single thick strand goes from ceiling to floor, and four others surround it, with a number of interconnections strung back and forth between them all. Others leap from the main line to the lattice and then back to the main line. Photographs, newspaper clippings, post-it notes hang upon the strings to mark the interactions between whatever those five main lines are.

Some of them, perhaps, indicating events she may recognize.

A line from near the top of a main gray line goes to the bottom of the central line, labeled '2037 - 1961 - Richard Cardinal - Coyote Sands'.

A line from the mid-point of a white line to slightly lower on the main line, labeled '2019 - 2009 - Niles, April, Doyle, Reed, Nathan, Edward - Moab'

There are other things in this room. A stack of painting frames are leaned against one wall, partially unpacked from a box of them, the top-most showing a phoenix rising from the walls of Moab - and below in reverse, a skull of smoke from the same. A record player, closed, with an Else Kjelstrom vinyl press sitting on top of it. A stack of 9th Wonders! comic books by Isaac Mendez.

There are at first no notes about Odessa Price present. The strings she saw in her dreams aren't here… but there's a whole box of string nearby. Perhaps it isn't finished.

Still, her heart hammers in her ears. This isn't what she saw in her dream, but she's never seen anything else of its like before. That alone is enough to keep her concerns raised.

Some of the events listed aren't familiar to her. She doesn't realize she knows who Richard Cardinal is. Twice over, in fact. Moab, however, she does. That day is vivid in her mind, even if everything that followed for months was a smoke-hazed terror. The tension winds its way back into her just as it had started to take its leave.

Ducking under a low-strung line, she heads to the still-packed box of string and reaches in to start rummaging through.

Timing is, of course, everything.

As she rummages through the box, through clippings and blurry surveillance photographs, the sound of the door opening behind her just might be the worst timing of all.

"…Des?" A surprised query in the voice of Richard Ray as he pauses just inside the door, a box tucked under one arm, brow furrowed in deep lines as he looks at the woman rummaging around in what - to the uninitiated - just look like craft supplies.

"What are you doing in here?"

"You're back." A man Odessa recognizes, but Des doesn't casts a dark silhouette in the door frame, his drab jacket spotted with rain on the shoulders, collar upturned. There's beads of water in his short hair too, some trickling down the side of his face. Intense blue eyes lock with Odessa's, and she feels a flutter of anger building up in her chest. Jaw unsettled, she stomps back across the office and ducks under those strings strings. The man stays still, though his brows twitch ever so subtly, pupils dilate as if his focus is changing.

Before he knows what's happened, the box he was holding is tipped over on its side on the floor and his back is pressed against the closed door behind him. Des is there, pinning him with a arm across his shoulders and a knife at his throat.

Where did she even get that?

"What is this?!" Dr. Desjardins doesn't look homicidal, she looks terrified. Her dark head jerks back to indicate the entire mess of things behind her. "All of it! What is it?!"

There's a blink and there he is, pinned against the wall by someone he knows has done terrible deeds before, a knife at his throat and that wild look in her eyes. Briefly, there may be cause for Richard to regret having taken his sister's recommendation to hire her.

"Wh— whoa, whoa," he starts to clear his throat, then thinks twice of moving his adam's apple any closer to the edge of that blade. He doesn't lift his hands, splaying them open by his sides as if showing off his helplessness, "Uh, I'll… be happy to explain if you can maybe put the knife down, Odessa."


There's sweat on her brow. She looks pale, exhausted. Her mouth trembles as she speaks even just that small, single syllable. She does ease the knife back enough to allow him the space to swallow, however. "Don't call me that name. That's not who I am anymore." She doesn't want to hurt him. "Start talking, or I start cutting." Unless he makes her, anyway.

"Okay. That's a good sign, then…" A slow, careful breath in, an exhalation out, hazel eyes searching hers, "…what the hell has you— alright, could be any number of things, so I'll go first." As if he has much in the way of choice right now.

"It's my collection of… prophetic predictions, more or less, in a variety of media. That thing behind you," he flicks his eyes at it, since he's not about to make any sudden moves, then back to her, "Is a physically-realized visualization of temporal interactions between five separate but roughly parallel timelines."

This may be the most scientific thing she's ever heard him say. He doesn't even really like using computers.

"Temporal interactions," Des repeats. She understood perfectly what he said, if not the implications. She doesn't hazard a look over her shoulder at the things he indicates. He doesn't know that quick burst of use of her power has left her drained, so she isn't going to give him the notion of an opportunity to disarm her, lest they both discover that he can.

Odessa steps back from the man, and her elbow catches on the stack of newspapers she'd avoided earlier. The entire stack falls to the floor in a crash, and she wheels around to see newspapers sprawled out on the concrete all around her. She snaps back to look at him–

Pulse quickens and breath comes in shorter measures as the dream floods back to her. "Where did you learn to do this? How did you know to do this?"

"This would really be an easier conversation to have without a knife to my throat, Desdemona," Richard observes in very careful tones, his eyes narrowing just a touch, "Because that's a very complicated question with a very long answer and I'd rather not be pinned to a door while I answer it. If you please."

Hazel flickers to the knife, then back to her face, a single brow arching.

– and he plants a fixed-blade knife into the middle of her throat up to the hilt. Odessa lets out a gurgling noise, and this man she trusted steps in and places an arm around the small of her back, gently lowering her to the floor as her legs kick and buckle from shock. "Shhh," he whispers, "shhh, the pain's almost gone. It's almost gone. It's going to get cold very quickly." He presses the knife up, blood is pooling out from the wound and spilling onto the newspapers.

"Yes, well, we don't always get what we want, do we?" Tears well up and fall from her eyes, catch on the lower frame of her glasses where they rest against her cheekbones, pooling a moment before spilling over and down her cheeks. Des decides on a different question: "Why?"

As those tears well up in her eyes and spill downwards, trickling down her cheeks, there's honest concern in his gaze, in his expression. "Des… c'mon, just put the knife down, okay? Whatever's going on, we can talk about it…" The tip of his tongue moistens suddenly-dry lips, and he swallows slowly. Not wanting to antagonize the apparently distraught woman, he answers that second question simply:

"And it's here so I can keep track of things."

"I don't know why he killed me for this," Des sobs, the fear plain in her eyes and the words like broken glass in her throat. Still, she does not yield.

"For what it's worth," he leans in and whispers against her brow, "I really did like you. You just– you don't follow orders. You've probably already seen too much, and…" His lips twitch, "well, I can't have you fucking this up for me."

He walks away from her, to a green string, and takes the knife out of his pocket again. This time he cuts the green string free, balls it up, and shoves it into another pocket on his coat along with a photograph from Company files of a family. Odessa recognizes her family in fading consciousness. They're the last thing she sees before it all goes dark.

"I don't know what I saw!"

"Okay. I don't know what you saw either, or who… killed you, for what, but," Richard says carefully, keeping his voice as steady as he can, "We can talk about it, okay? We'll figure it out, you know, assuming you don't cut my throat or anything."

After a moment, his lips twitch slightly, "That bleeds a whole lot, anyway, and I think you just bought that outfit."

Des' chin juts up, exposing the horrific scar that crosses her throat, usually hidden behind the high collars of her shirts. "You think I don't know that?!" Suddenly, she realizes she should keep her voice down. That someone might hear her shrieking from this place where no one but the boss is supposed to be. Someone might come investigate. She cannot have that.

At his shoulder, her fingers twitch, feeling for invisible threads as she visualizes the hallway beyond. Feeling for disturbances beyond the walls. Her eyes close, she focuses. "No," she whispers, her arm starting to go slack against him. Grip becomes too loose and the knife clatters to the ground in the space between them, then she starts to fall backward to the floor.

"Oh, no you don't– " Richard pushes off the door behind him as she starts to slump backwards, hoping he doesn't step on the knife – he doesn't – even as his arms lift up and 'round her to catch her and keep her from hitting the ground. Or the string web behind her, which is honestly more likely.

And it took a lot of work setting that up!

"Des. Des, c'mon, stay with me here…"

She's limp in his arms, lids fluttering as she desperately attempts to hold on to consciousness. A panicked whine resounds in the back of her throat, one hand comes up weakly to paw Richard's face the way that Odessa had done with the man Des doesn't know. There's no strength in her to fight either.

Fortunately, there's also no need to fight.

Hands slide down the sides of his jaw, along his neck, catch on the slope of shoulders for a moment before they drop awkwardly out at her sides again. That she's still crying, however silently, proves she's still with him.

It's a rather awkward position to hold her in, especially with her briefly pawing at him, and once she's slumping further he shifts just enough to ease down to one knee— then shifts to sit on the floor, drawing her with him to try and settle her carefully as well.

Out of reach of the knife, thank you.

"Talk to me," he asks, gently but firmly, "C'mon, Des, what happened?"

"I didn't see anything." The whisper is barely audible, the barest movement of her lips and the tears that continue to fall are the only movement from her now. "Please don't kill me." The last time she lied about the possession of her ability, she had expected to be killed. Maybe even welcomed the relief it would have brought her. But now? She wants to live.


"I'm not– I'm not going to kill you," Richard replies in confusion, shifting to rest her head on his knee; fingers brushing the hair from her face gently as he looks down at her, his face a mask of mingled concern and utter bafflement. "Why would you think that I would, and…? Adynomine? What about it?"

In one timeline all of this would make sense. Unfortunately for him, he lives in this one.

It shouldn't make sense to her either. It doesn't make any sense, which is why it's so fucking horrifying. Why her jumbled thoughts can only snap together to form an incomplete picture and panic grips at a mind that had more recently trended toward the rational.

"I need…" Des falls silent, her chest rising and falling slowly. "M– Ma–"

"Why? If you do… need it, I can probably get some," he admits - Adynomine IV isn't too difficult to get these days - but he still looks down at her with confusion, "Des, help me understand. I'm not– I'm not going to hurt you, I'm not going to kill you."

"Dreamed…" Not of this, but something enough like this to trigger it all back to the fore of her mind. "I w- want to see–" Des can't find the strength to open her eyes. She wants to give up, but is just afraid enough of what that might mean to give in entirely and let the unconsciousness take her. Would she wake again? Time wants to put an end to what she can do. She feels it. "Help…"

Richard's free hand finds hers, folds over it; fingers warm against her own as he rests it over her stomach, his other hand gently brushing hair back from her brow. "I'm right here," he says softly, "C'mon. Stay with me here, Des… whatever's going on, don't let go, okay? Just stay with me."

A glance to the door, mentally calculating how long it'd take to get her to some medical assistance…

Fringe is tacked against damp brow, but brushed away easily. There's a scar across one side of her forehead that's meant to hide, too. She's very pale, but not cold, not clammy.

Nothing tragic happens when her head finally lolls fully against his knee. Unconsciousness drags her under and all that happens is her pounding heart finally starts to slow. Her breaths are deep, more even. Just sleeping.

It's certain that Richard has never had any particularly professional-level first aid, but he knows a few things to look for. She's not cold and clammy, she's not feverish, she's breathing evenly and her heart rate is evening out. She's sleeping, and it doesn't seem to be in any way that's unhealthy at least.

Medical staff might have some questions, too, and that opens up risks - especially with her being delirious as she seemed to be.

He just shifts; letting her rest head in his lap, leaning over to collect the knife and put it away, and he lets her rest. His phone's opened up as he waits, and he handles business through there for a time.

It's a full half hour before Des begins to stir again, evident at first by a slow inhale that's deeper than her previous rhythm. Lids flutter, then slowly open, cobalt gaze glassy at first, unable to find focus as she looks around the room as much as she can without turning or lifting her head.

Finally, her gaze settles on his face, focus comes in slowly. Her lips part around a syllable that's ultimately aborted. There's only confusion in her expression. Her eyes lid heavily again, and for a few seconds, it looks like she might just sleep again. Her head shakes back and forth slowly, twice. "Did I hurt you?" she asks in a voice thick from sleep and previous tears.

Ray's phone-lit face turns to look down at her as she awakens, his thumb tapping the button once to darken it before he sets it down to one side. He watches her until she speaks, and then he smiles faintly, "No, although I was a little worried you were planning on it for awhile there. Took away your knife while you were out, sorry - had to confiscate it, wasn't sure if you were planning on putting it at my throat again."

"I'm…" Des swallows, and darts her tongue out between her lips to relieve some of the dryness. Tries again, "I'm sorry." Brows furrow as she brings the previous events back to better recollection. "I panicked," is rather a statement of the obvious, to be sure.

"I noticed," Richard observes a bit wryly, a brow lifting slightly as he looks down to her, "So… you want to tell me what that was all about, because normally people don't have a psychotic break over a bunch of string and post-it notes."

There's really no way to explain this situation without sounding like a complete lunatic, and she knows it. One hand braces against the floor, moving to try and sit up. She makes it a few inches before she sags back down with a sigh, still feeling too weak. "I had a vision." According to every scrap of information she's been able to dig up on her, Odessa Price never was pre- or post-cognitive. And until now, there was no evidence to suggest that she was still in possession of any ability at all.

"There was a room like this one," Des continues softly, glancing about at the strings. "A map like this one. I had… I hadn't seen it before. Then, just like you did, the man who made it found me looking at it." The fear is creeping up on her again, showing in the way her eyes get a little too wide behind the lenses of her glasses. The pace of her breathing starts to pick up. "He sent me off somewhere to die, but I didn't." One hand comes up to cover her throat, slipping under the turtleneck collar of her sweater to feel the scarred but unbroken skin beneath her fingers. "So he killed me. Said I'd seen too much."

There was no evidence of vision-related abilities in her file, no, but 'temporal manipulation' is a rather vague thing… and as the Flash demonstrated, not everyone who has a vision needs to be precognitive. Or even Evolved, for that matter. Richard's seen and heard stranger things. He's even experienced a few himself.

"This man you said killed you in the vision…" His eyes narrow ever so slightly, "…can you describe him? What did he look like?"

"Taller than me, but not… tall like you. Thin. Brown hair. And these… Blue eyes. They're what stick with me the most." Maybe it's just haunting to look into the eyes of your killer? Eileen's gaze hadn't had the same effect on her, but it had been dark and she had been blind. Not the same sort of focus in her rage. It hadn't been premeditated. "Kind of buggy."

Tears start to well up in Des' eyes again and she blinks them away until they overflow and glide toward her temples. "He was so soft spoken. There wasn't any anger…" Anger she could understand. Rage she understands.

There's a flicker of both recognition and resignation in Richard's expression when she describes the man. He shifts a bit - trying not to knock her off his lap - and leans past her, fingertips reaching out to snag the edge of the box beside the string map. They rasp and fumble for a moment before he snags it, dragging it closer and finally picking it up, swinging it to rest beside him. He digs into the box, going through post-it notes and photographs before finally coming up with one. He looks at it for a long moment, then shows the photograph to her, asking quietly, "Was this the man you saw?"

A man in his forties in this particular photograph; thin, brow hair, short, shadows beneath bright blue eyes, but he's smiling for the camera, sitting somewhere that might be a living room.

Edward Ray.

The woman resting in Richard's lap goes very, very still. "That's the man who kills me," she whispers, terror starting to overtake her again. Des trembles, looks ill, and the tears flow more freely now. If she had the strength, she looks like she might run.

Instead, she manages to roll off his lap, face down on the floor an push herself up onto her hands just the barest bit before she starts heaving. Nothing comes up, fortunately, but the sound is still horribly unpleasant. Finally, she slips back down to rest her cheek on the floor, arms stretched out in front of her. It feels cool on her skin, and it helps.

The photo's tossed back into the box, and Richard reaches over, rubbing his hand over the small of her back reassuringly as she retches; grimacing a bit, but fortunately they're just dry heaves. Once she's stopped, he says gently, "Okay. Tell me everything you saw, the whole situation. Any details you remember…"

At first she goes a little rigid at the contact, then it has the assurance he intends and Des begins to relax. For the moment, she's content to lie there and gather her thoughts, try to recall what she saw. "I didn't recognize much… A photograph of Sylar, three different dates written on it." November 8th made sense, the other two… not so much. "Some newspaper clippings about that school about ten years ago?" That's a vague statement, but it was a big event. And it had been a Vanguard job, so she has some dull recollection of it.

"A photo of a man I knew at the Arcology." Des falls silent then, save for a wet sniffle. "And a photograph of my… family? I recognized them as my family, but their faces are… fuzzy to me now? I've seen my father's face in visions before – the flash? – but that didn't turn out that like that. It wasn't him. I don't have a family, so I don't understand."

"Easy, Des… easy." That reassuring touch continues, just a gentle brush up and down her back as she rests there against the floor and tries to gather herself physically and emotionally. Richard listens, nodding ever so slightly. "Okay. That all makes sense… what about aside from the web itself? What do you remember about your surroundings, about why you were there? Take your time, let it come back to you…"

Maybe it all makes sense to him.

She's never talked through it before. Never did she dare reveal what she saw to anyone she might have been close to during the war. Not the truth of it, anyway. Not the whole picture. "It was an office, but not an office building. Something industrial? Grey, cold. There were windows, but they were all covered up."

Finally, palms flat on the floor, Des pushes herself up slowly, getting her knees under her until she's sitting upright again. Folding her legs together to one side under her skirt, she takes a moment to just breathe and convince herself that she isn't going to faint again. "It wasn't our world," she says with conviction. "Not yet, anyway. It was… dead."

"Dead." A soft echo of her chosen words, and Richard looks up past her to the map of strings and notes that forms between the lattices at the center of the 'storage room' for a moment, his lips pursing as he considers possibilities. Then he looks back to her, still settled on the floor beside her as he asks, "Some sort of contagion or disease… or a nuclear winter? It's important, if you have any idea which one it might have been."

His hand lifts, fingers rubbing against the side of his neck, "And when did you have this vision?"

"Shanti." Des says quietly, recalling a painting Sylar had shown her once. Recalling with better clarity now the story he told her of a future he'd been sent to unwittingly. "I had to wear a wristband saying I was clean when I returned from outside. I was dosing with Adynomine." Which perhaps explains the earlier request. "That was something he said to me, that I hadn't been taking it regularly, so I was a danger."

As to when, her cheeks puff out a little with a heavy exhale. "After the second explosion in Midtown." It's a long time to hold on to a vision with such clarity. It speaks to just how much it frightened her.

"Okay." Richard offers her a faint smile, then, one hand brushing against her chin to try and raise it and meet her eyes, "Okay. You're going to be alright, and he's not going to kill you… not this you, anyway."

He slants a glance back to the web, then looks to her, hesitating a moment before pushing himself up to his feet, brushing off his knees. "Here, let me— let me show you what happened, the visual aid might help," he offers, along with offering her a hand up, "Put some fears to rest."

Des lets her chin be lifted, but doesn't return the smile. At least the tears have stopped again. For now. She accepts the hand up, standing on shaky legs and keeping a hold on his arm as he leads her ahead.

Doubtful that it's going to help, Des goes along, because she is curious about what it all means. What it is that he's working on. And why he's not going to kill her for having seen it, the way the other man did. "Okay…"

"This…" Richard picks up an extendable stick from beside the lattice and flicks it out, reaching in to indicate a part of the 'main' line in the center, where a red post-it has been attached with the simple phrase 'Mt. Nazahat' upon it. "…is November 8th, 2011. We were in the middle of severe solar activity - which as I don't need to tell you has been shown to affect abilities already. The Commonwealth Institute…" Here he trails off, and with a grimace corrects, "Richard Cardinal activates a device powered by Collette Demsky and Elle Bishop in an attempt to send a message back in time. The equipment is misaligned during the fight, although it is activated nonetheless and a message sent through. Shortly thereafter, another device is activated that may have been a literal time machine, at the same time a gravitokinetic overloads and creates a short-lived singularity. Shortly after that, the particle accelerator explodes."

He stares at the strings for a moment, then takes a deep breath, "This event shakes the strings - as it were - due to severe disruption of the fabric of time and space. This period of temporal disjunction lasts from November until— " The stick moves up, "— early January. The remains of Moab are pulled back into the timestream and crash on top of Mount Nazahat. Unusual radio transmissions are detected."

A glance to her, "…and, I'm assuming because of your sensitivity to time, it's not only radio transmissions that we were tuned into."

Des stares in disbelief at where the strings lead and cross as he explains it all to her. It all makes sense, and she's able to follow along without much difficulty. Mount Natazhat is something she may have heard in passing, but never details about.

Slowly, she nods her understanding and looks up at Richard. "Do you have the Arcology in this map? November 8, 2011?" She might know something he doesn't.

"I don't, yet…" Richard crooks a brow upwards, "There was a lot of significance there, although I was prioritizing temporal-affecting events while I was setting up the map initially. Did something happen? My agents on site during that assault weren't— ah— the most scientific observers, I'll admit." Wry, although there's affection there.

"Yes." Grip on his arm loosens and falls away, Des steps back mindful of the strings, draws an invisible line through the air from Natazhat to a blank space where a notation about the Ark could presumably go.

"November 8, 2011. Odessa Price is killed when she's dropped fifty feet in the Arcology's nuclear reactor chamber." She speaks clinically, like the whole thing happened to someone else. "In an effort to save her, Darren Stevens' ability is employed." Brows raise as if to ask if he's following her so far, or if she needs to explain who Darren was and what he could do.

At that, Richard winces ever so slightly. He's familiar, it seems. "Shit," he breathes out, "Darren's… wait a minute." He looks at her for a long moment, brow furrowed, "It's been— a long time. No offense, Des, but you should be dead by now." Nobody's ever survived a use of that particular ability for so long.

"It's the second time he used his ability on me." Now she smiles, and it's not kind, because neither resurrection was kind to her. "Our abilities don't play nice together. The first time, I was in full possession of my ability and it sped up the healing process instead of reversing my injuries." Which would explain why she was reported to be sporting an eye patch, a face full of scars, and white hair during her time with the Institute.

"Not so on the second time around." Again, she shifts gears and speaks about what happened to Odessa Price, as if that isn't who she is. "With the reactor melting down, Darren's ability goes haywire. He loses control, and instead of reversing Odessa to a state where she might live a couple more years on this planet before a sudden stop takes her again, he rewinds her further, to a time before her ability was stolen from her."

Blue eyes fix on him, watch his reactions as she continues the story. "Odessa's ability takes hold, and when Darren attempts to disengage, it prevents him from doing so. She reverts to a state that predates her first death," hence the face, "but also ages in the process, creating a sort of paradox in the clash of competing abilities."

"Darren Stevens' life is siphoned to restore and sustain hers. And Odessa Price…" One hand is held up in front of her, and she waits for his focus to shift before snapping her fingers.


A spark of green fire briefly appears from the tips of her fingers. Is visible in the depths of her eyes for the barest of moments.

"Acquires his power."

There's silence for a long moment, as Richard regards her… and then he brings up a hand to rub down his face. "Jesus," he murmurs, looking back at the map, fingers closed over the lower half of his face, "All that happening at once, I'm surprised we didn't tear the fabric of space-time entirely apart. We're lucky the side effects were as… minor as they were."

Assuming they actually were minor, after all. And assuming there weren't any he doesn't know of.

"I haven't even told you what happened at Moab yet."

Des could stand to look a little less smug when she tells him that, but her strength is returning. And she loves knowing something he doesn't.

At that, Richard's lips twitch in a smirk. "We'll get back to that, then," he deadpans, looking back to the map, "That's not immediately applicable, although it's a hole in my records I'm eager to fill." Don't take that as a double entendre.

"Back to what you saw, though…" The pointer drifts over to one of the other main lines of woven strings, these in green, "You were with the Vanguard. You were, I assume, aware of their intentions to release the virus? This is a timeline where that happened."

Fair enough. Des inclines her head to grant that her story will wait for another time. She is an equal mixture of amused and horrified by the knowledge that part of Moab simply fell out of a rift in time and space. It's fascinating.

"Oh, yes," her tone is dark, voice pitched lower than it was earlier, "I am well aware of what their intentions were." A smirk grows, like she recalls those days fondly. Then, her demeanor shifts suddenly and she looks alarmed. Her eyes close and she takes a deep breath. When she looks at him again, she looks more herself. Well, the version of her he's seen most often since recruiting her. Perhaps there's more to that notion of separation between Odessa and Desdemona after all.

"Sylar told me that he saw that future. Went there. Everyone was dead." Des shakes her head slowly, "That's when I rebelled against Kazimir and sabotaged the virus." It isn't often she admits her involvement in those schemes, and never so freely. But something about this seems to important. Like keeping it all to herself now wouldn't serve her.

At that tone in her voice, that look in her eye, Richard watches her sidelong for a long few moments… and then he nods ever so slightly when she steadies herself. "In one timeline," he says, looking back to indicate those green strands again, "This one in particular, you didn't turn on Volken… or whatever you did wasn't enough to stop him. That must be the timeline that Gabriel saw that you just mentioned."

He frowns at the map, "The man you saw — the one that killed you — is dead in our timeline. He was in the Ark when it was destroyed. He has the ability to analyse probabilities… these maps are just one way he has of keeping things straight."

She has the grace to look sheepish when he looks at her like that. She'll have to explain that too, eventually. It's not the first time he's seen something like that, of course, but there are no mirrors here, and she is no Niki Sanders.

"Mister Ray…" There's concern now in Des' eyes, and fear, but not to the same degree as before. A different sort. "There is something wrong with Time." Capital T, Time. "I thought it was just Darren's ability warring with mine at first, but…" Her lower lip is sucked between her teeth and gnawed on for a moment while she thinks. "I saw her. Me. I don't have that ability, and neither did Darren." Her jaw sets. "And it wasn't the first time."

"It's not just you. I have a recording of a radio transmission of Else Kjelstrom a month after she died," Richard says with a motion of his hand towards the musical section of the room, "We triangulated the coordinates. They were coming from a radio station I own, only none of the equipment we had there was broadcasting it. For those few months, at least, the other timelines were bleeding into ours…"

He looks back over, then, frowning, "What else have you seen?"

That part is trickier to answer. "I think… I saw a different me? It was… Strange." Des removes her glasses, tucking one arm into the collar of her sweater and scrubs a hand over her face, finally starting to rub away the tear tracks with the pads of her fingers. "It seems like it happens when something plays hell with my ability." Because she can at least put one and one together to get two. "There was opium involved, so I suspect my vision was… distorted?" The warning look she shoots him tells him that she also feels it was true.

"I was in New York, but it had been bombed out. Nuclear winter, like you said before. Ash fell like snow from the sky. I was told that I was somewhere and somewhen else." She'd written down her vision, revisited and re-written the details many times over the years as she'd had to abandon notes. "New York— The world was flooded. Munin…" She lets the name trail, unsure of how to proceed.


Richard closes his eyes, reciting softly, "Swallowed up the moon, burned up all the land, seen it all here… the lapping shores of the Empire State, building a new day from nothing."

Hazel eyes open again, and for a moment he looks through her, not looking at her at all. Then he looks back to the map and says quietly, "That's a timeline where I failed. Where I wasn't able to stop the detonation of the bomb, code-name Munin." The pointer's lifted again, taps the blue woven line. Very few connections go between it and anywhere else, except for November 8th, 2011. "Where the Vanguard's contingency plan flooded the world."

"But Munin was a p—"

Oh. Eileen was a metaphor.

Understanding comes swiftly and Des nods her head twice. "I never knew of that plan," she feels compelled to point out. She wasn't exactly invited to the board meetings or the company picnics.

"Then I've seen two different versions of myself," Des murmurs softly. "Maybe." It's hard to explain her little adventure in Oz, but there's no way she could have known the details about that timeline that she knows. No reason she would have dreamed it up. None that she's aware of, anyway.

Blue eyes close and the woman inhales deeply. "I can feel Time," she tells Richard. "I can feel it on my skin. It's always there. And I can hear my power whispering to me, but I don't… really hear it." Eyes open again and she steps forward, then reaches out, hands splayed out first in the universal sign language for I'm unarmed. Then, she places her hands on his shoulders and slides down the lengths of his arms slowly, a light touch. "This is the closest approximation I can give for what it feels like."

She steps forward, and Richard momentarily tenses up. She did just lunge for his throat with a knife in recent memory, after all. He relaxes after a moment, though, watching her face as her hands brush down his shoulders, his arms… and he nods ever so slightly. "I know what you mean… a little, at least," he admits, "I used to have an ability myself." Used to. She's probably noticed the little things, the way he pauses at doors overlong sometimes, the way he stares at dark spaces as if confused as to why he can't see through them before it hits him. Old habits die hard.

It's a more sardonic smile then that curves his lips, one brow lifting, "So, you've seen two different versions of yourself. If I tell you a secret, will you— well. I guess I can't make you promise not to react badly until you hear it."

Her hands lift away and she unhooks her glasses from where she left them from the collar of her sweater, sliding them back into place. "I could tell," she says softly. "You have these little habits. Movements that you probably don't even realize you do. I used to do the same when my ability was taken from me."

Des' smile grows broader. "I've worked and lived within clandestine organizations my entire life. I'm good at keeping secrets."

"I know that Sheridan worked on a method of restoring abilities… I'm hoping we could recreate that," Richard murmurs, looking back to the map. The pointer's brought up - way up - to near the top of the grey pillar of woven strands. "Twenty thirty-seven, a man named Richard Cardinal manages to leap back in time," he explains, sweeping the pointer all the way down to, "Nineteen sixty-one, he arrives in our world. He makes contact with a man named Simon Broome and together they hatch a plan to fix everything. Or so they think. Sometime in the seventies, Cardinal is killed by Samson Grey on Staten Island. Broome continues with the plan in the background until…"

Up goes the pointer, "October twenty-ten. Somehow, and I have some guesses given what Evolved they had available, they use his brain to restore him to life, and he takes his position as head of the Commonwealth Institute." A sidelong glance, "Your boss, whether or not you knew it."

Slightly higher, the tip of the pointer, "November eighth, twenty-eleven. I kill him again."

The pointer lowers slightly, and without looking to her he says quietly, "Richard Cardinal was my birth name."

Des stares in disbelief. This? This is the man who stole her power from her? Who threatened to kill her if she stepped one toe out of line? Her face turns away, staring into the middle distance with a conflicted look.

Suddenly, she lunges forward with the intent of disarming him (he could put an eye out with that thing, and that's not an experience she's keen to repeat) before going on further offensive.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa— " Richard stumbles back, flailing with the pointer a bit as she grabs for it. Not that he's terribly afraid she's going to use it against him, it's just instinct to try and keep it out of her grasp. He nearly snags it on the string web, and he does knock over the Brill Paintings in a clatter of wood and glass.

They're just prints, it's okay, he can make more.

"He wasn't— I mean it wasn't me, it was just another, a different version of me!"

"You took everything from me!" Oh, that's right. She's actually seen three versions of herself. One took her own life to save her family from this madman.

Des lets her fist fly, and it's clear she's combat trained. She likely wouldn't have survived the war without it. "You took my son!" Bella's son, more accurately, but the boy she helped raise. Again, she throws another punch. "You killed Ellie!" And another. "You took her son!"

Richard's been in his share of fights as well, and he's learned to defend himself, or he wouldn't have survived as long as he has. He isn't defending himself as well as he could, though, and maybe she'll realize that as he takes the hits. He rolls with them, but he's still feeling the impact as knuckles crack into the side of his face as he stumbles back.

He takes the second hit as well with a grunt, dropping back a quick few steps to put some space between them, one hand coming up palm open, "…you done?"

It's not satisfying, which has to be the point. He's not putting in the effort, he's just letting her hit him. There's no thrill in it. No catharsis. "Fight back!" she demands, rushing forward with the intent of tackling him to the ground.

"No, damn it, I'm not going to fight— " Then she hits him head-on in a rush, cutting off his sentence with a grunt he goes down with a solid thump of impact against the hard floor, knocking the breath out of him. Stars spin behind his eyes as he tries to grab for a wrist, "God damn— it, Des!"

Her knees will be bruised from the impact with the floor later. There's a low sound from her throat that's like frustration that transitions to something else when her tiny wrist is caught in his hand. Brings a grin to her face. "That's more like it." But she lets her other hand fly again, this time for a backhanded slap.

It's only now that Richard might come to regret the instructions to security to stay out of this room in particular.

Fingers tighten around that slender wrist even as the back of her other hand cracks across his face, briefly shutting him up and forcing him to bite down on his lip in a brief flow of crimson across his chin. Ow. He's grabbing for her other arm, then, even as he kicks up against the floor and rolls, pulling on her wrist to try and drag her into a better position to try and restrain her.

With her other wrist snagged, he has better control over her, and being so much smaller, he's able to throw her off of him and onto the floor. Struggling beneath him, the smile on her face decays slowly. The attempts to pull free grow weaker, until finally she goes still, arms pinned to the floor and catching her breath. The fight drains from her, that calm he saw earlier returns. Des stares up with uncertain eyes. Not afraid so much as unsure of what he might do next.

"Des. De. Mona." The syllables of the name that she's adopted are pronounced very carefully one after the other as he pins her down, blood staining his lip, the side of his face already starting to bruise from one of those hits. Probably a combination of them, really. "Focus. On the here, and the fucking now, alright…?" She grows calmer, then, and he frowns down at her, "Are you quite done trying to murder me today?"

Her chest rises and falls heavily as she catches her breath, as sanity settles back in and drives away the madness that whispers in her mind. "Honestly?" Des shakes her head slightly. "I'm not sure." She tried to tell him she was trouble. "It's… a lot to take in. I have so many memories."

"If it's all the same to you, then, I think I'll keep you right here for a bit," is Richard's somewhat dry - but quite serious - response, still catching his own breath as he maintains his position above her. He nods, just a little, at her words and says quietly, "I'm sorry. For all the things that you, that Elle, that… so many other people went through. But that wasn't me. I've already got plenty of guilt I'm carrying around because of who he was, trust me, Des." Maybe that's why he let her hit him. A part of him will always feel responsible for it all.

"I think that's more than sensible," Des agrees. Her tongue slips between her lips, running from one corner to the other before hiding away again as her mouth presses into a thin line.

"I can empathize with that." She carries a lot of guilt, too, but for deeds she's actually responsible for. That another version of her unleashed a virus that killed nearly the entirety of the world's population in only five years is not a sin she bears. She made the right choice. "I'm sorry about your face." Des is genuine about that. "About attacking you…" Her gaze slants away as she adds, "Twice."

The grip on her arms does relax slightly, but not enough that she can easily escape; Richard's body above hers shifting into a more comfortable position, knees against the floor still. "I've had worse," he deadpans, "But just so you know, Doctor Desjardins, I will be taking this into account when it comes time for your yearly review. You may not be getting access to that coveted covered parking space after all."

He manages to hold that serious expression for all of three seconds before he chuckles.

There's no testing of his grip when it eases, though she considers it for a moment, evident in only the briefest twitch of her fingers. But then he's calling her by her title and she seems to shrink into herself a little, not intimidated so much as ashamed. Until he finishes what he has to say.

After those three seconds, the tension shatters like glass. Des giggles helplessly beneath Richard, shoulders quaking and eyes squinting shut. "Oh, you're funny, Mister Ray."

She laughs, and Richard does too, his shoulders shaking slightly as the humor inherent in the whole ridiculous situation stirs up from deep in his gut.

His head drops a bit, eyes closing, then lifts to look back at her as a faint smile curves to his bloodied lips, "We've all got things we feel guilty about, Des. That's what this is about. Making up for it."

The laughter subsides and Des nods her head slowly, looking up at him again. Her gaze lingers on the blood on his lips, apology shows there. For someone who prides herself on control, she completely lost it there. "Does this mean I'm not getting fired?"

Or handed over to Wolfhound.

"No," Richard says with a slight shake of his head, "You're not getting fired."

He fixes her with a steady look, then, "I think we need to find you a trustworthy therapist, though."

Des winces, gaze sliding to look off to one side. A therapist. Yeah, that's always gone well in the past. They don't teach her kind of situation in school. Who the hell is even equipped to handle the amount of trauma she's been through? Especially considering how little of it seems to make sense in the physical world. Who do you even talk to about time travel and other selves? "I talk to Bella…"

"Mnm. And can you promise you're not going to attack me with a knife or try and punch my face in again, Des?" It's dryly stated, Richard's brows raising ever so slightly. "I don't want to fire you, or— worse, but you need help. Of some kind, anyway."

That brunette head shakes from side to side three times. "No, I can't promise that. I can promise that when I'm rational I don't want to, unless it's to defend myself." But they know that's not the same thing. Nothing that transpired earlier was rational. "This is why I need the Adynomine."

"Okay." Richard watches her face for a moment, and then nods slightly, "I'm sure I can get a supply of Ad-four without too much difficulty, it's a schedule four after all. Nobody'll really bat an eye about it. But you know this is just a — temporary fix, right? You're treating the symptoms."

Now she looks him dead in the eye when she says, "My ability says I could kill you here. Now. It would be so easy." Her tone is cold, but with a strong undercurrent of fear. "I don't want to do that. I like you. I like working here. I want to change." Her eyes close again, briefly, exhaling a shuddering breath. "You don't know what it's like… to be so powerful, untouchable. To have it consume you."

Or… maybe he does. "Did yours speak to you? Sing to you?" Des realizes she's never asked anybody else that question before. Never wondered if her situation was anything other than singularly unique, or if everyone struggled against their powers to maintain their sense of self.

"No. No, it's…" Richard releases her wrists slowly, which is probably an unwise choice when she'd just mentioned how easily she could kill him, rocking back to his knees and settling there. His lips purse for a moment, before he offers quietly, "It's different for people with abilities like I had. Our struggle is more— physical than that, the pull to stop being this weak, vulnerable, limited meat and become something else. No, yours…"

His head cocks a little to one side, "Yours sounds more like Gabriel's."

She nods, understands. There's a surge of something inside of her when he relinquishes his hold on her, and leans back, that she has to close her eyes against and breathe her way through. When her eyes open again, Des flashes a shaky smile. Whatever test she just went through, she's overcome it. "Why do you think we got on so famously?"

She's watched as she breathes, Richard's expression wary as he makes sure she's not about to lunge at him again, and then relaxes when she does. A smirk, "Why am I not surprised you got along with Gabriel?"

"Not Gabriel," Des corrects gently. "Sylar." There's a difference. A huge difference. She and Gabriel are not what she would qualify as friends. Something about her encouraging the killer in him. Also trying to murder his girlfriend. Little disagreements like that.

"You should probably kill me," is a little abrupt, but honest. "Someone probably should have long ago." Des lays still, just as he left her. Nonthreatening. She smirks, "Well, I guess someone did. Twice." Is it any wonder she's a little unhinged? "But I want to keep surviving. I just… want a better way. A better life to live."

Ray's brows lift slightly, and he nods; maybe he wasn't sure if she knew there was a difference. "Yeah, well, call me a bleeding heart," he says then, offering her a faint smile, "Until you stop wanting that, and trying for that, I'm not going to kill you, Des."

Implicit in that is, of course, that he would if she returned to those old ways.

"That seems fair." A promise, however tacit, that he'll kill her if she goes off the deepend again, properly, is a comfort. One she never thought she would feel. Maybe this is what progress is? "I'm going to sit up now," Des warns in a soft voice, but doesn't move yet. Not until he gives permission.

"Go for it," Richard allows with a tired smile, "And I wouldn't mind discussing time with you more at some point, when you're… ah… well." He rubs a hand to the back of his neck, "Maybe after we get that ad-four in."

Bracing her palms on the floor, Des slides herself back slightly before she pushes up to sit, legs still straight out in front of her. "It's better if I talk about it while I'm not negated," she admits. "It helps to be able to… feel it."

Des closes her eyes, like she's focusing or meditating. Maybe she is, after a fashion. "I told you I feel it on my skin. This… flow. But I also feel it in my bones. That's the best way I can describe my power. It's like it's in my marrow." She looks at him again from behind her glasses, that vulnerability there again. Not the cold certainty of a woman who could so easily take a life.

"There's… strings." There's no irony in her words, she just lifts one hand, slowly, to gesture to the space above them, the room and his map. "Just like those. I can feel them." Her hand waves through the air between them, fingers catching as though they found invisible harpstrings to pluck. "Time moves in only one direction: forward.

"Until November 8, 2011."

Richard glances back to the strings, and then to her as she plucks at the air, a frown flattening his lips.

"There was a loop… I thought that we'd closed it when I killed myself— " And how many people can say that and mean it literally? "— but with everything else that happened that day, maybe it started something even worse."

Back to the strings again, "There was some bleed in from the other timelines, I didn't — even think that was possible."

"I can feel it pulling at me in all directions. Time isn't supposed to pull sideways. That's not… not how it works." And even though she speaks with conviction, she can't be certain that what she says is true. Who knows what delusions her ability causes her? Maybe it's all a side effect of the war with Darren Stevens' ability to reverse time states. Des doesn't think it is.

"Someone came through," she says, as though realizing it for the first time. "The man at the Arcology. He… He wasn't from here." Suddenly, Des looks tremendously sad. Her hands fold in her lap, and she stares down at them, picking at the wool of her skirt. "He knew me. A different me."

If it wasn't for the very physical evidence that something did happen with time, Richard might brush it aside — but something happened, without any doubt. So he's not going to dismiss her out of hand, whatever issues she might have that blur her judgement.

"Which man…?" He looks back at her with a slight frown, "It wouldn't be the first time. I know a… half-dozen people still at large that've come from other futures, other timelines."

"I thought that's what it was, too. Someone from the future." Des shakes her head. "But… I think it was sideways. Same time, different… line." Her shoulders hunch up in a helpless shrug and she looks back at him. "I don't know who we were to each other. He… died."

Ray's head cocks a little to one side. "Do you have a name," he asks gently, "An ability, anything… distinguishing? I can ask the wasteland refugees and see if they knew him at all."

"Ruiz," Des supplies. "The Institute was running tests on his abilities. He could open… portals? Point A, Point B. But only within line of sight." So, nothing that suggests he could dimension hop. Not to her, at least.

It occurs to her, "He couldn't have been from the wasteland. He only confused me for his world's 'Dess when he saw me restored. I still…" Des hesitates, it's difficult to talk about. "I still had only one eye in that future."

"Hhn." Richard brings one hand up to rub against his jaw, rasping to the stubble there, "He could've been from the Pinehearst timeline, where Arthur's plan succeeded…" A flicker of emotion there, a tightness at the mention of Arthur that she might notice. "A few people came back from there. We don't have any records of visitors from the flood or the virus timelines, although that doesn't mean there haven't been any."

"There was a picture of him in the map room in my vision." Des rubs a hand across her jaw and settles her chin against her palm while she thinks. "But something didn't feel right. I don't know how to explain." Her gaze becomes distant as she gets lost in her thoughts. "Every time we avert one crisis, all we do is create another fork in the garden path…"

"It's true," admits Richard with a shake of his head, "All we can do is try and steer ourselves down the right fork, though. If you started worrying about the infinite timelines created by every rippling decision and all the people in those, you'd go fucking crazy."

He looks back to the map, "Edward killed you in the Virus timeline because you were a threat to his plans. Because he'd calculated that you were likely to do something that would screw them up, or upturn them altogether."

Perhaps that's part of her problem. If she feels the impact of events on Time, as she sees it, maybe that's why her brain is so mixed up.

Edward. Des's glance slides up to the note about Moab, remembering reading that name in the list of travelers. Then, she looks back at Richard. "Who was he? The man who kills me." She's afraid she isn't going to like the answer.

"It's a complicated question," Richard admits, giving her a rueful look before shifting in a lean back, resting his weight on one hand and wiping his face with the other, a smear of blood coming away on his fingers. "I don't know what that Edward is up to, but… he was a physicist at MIT. He worked with Phoenix, back in the day, offering his probability analysis abilities to help out with their plans. He was a manipulator, a schemer, a deadbeat father… lot of hats that he wore, did ol' Edward Ray."

He probably should have held her down again before he told her that. Lips pursing tightly and eyes going wide with anger is the only warning Richard gets before Des' hand flies out to deliver another slap across his face. "What the fuck!?"

"Ow! Jesus— " Richard brings a hand up to rub against his face, glaring back at her, "Can you stop that, please?"

"He's your father?!" At least it was just the one this time. Des isn't actually trying to kill him. "Why did you leave that detail out until now?!" Her voice pitches higher as she goes along, showing the way her panic is increasing. Also, he probably didn't say anything because of this reaction.

"Maybe because you keep hitting me!" Richard points out, hands spreading a little, "Also he's dead, and he wasn't actually my father, so can you calm down a little?"

"He stabbed me in the throat, okay?" Odessa says defensively, shoulders hunching up as she eyes Richard warily. "I felt it. It was awful." Her hand comes up to rub at her neck absently. "Maybe I wouldn't keep hitting you if you told me something that isn't terrible."

"All I have are horrible— look, anyway he's not my father," says Richard with a shake of his head, "He— should've been. My parents asked him to take care of me when they died. He foisted me off on the nuns."

A glance to the door, then back, "He walked out on Kaylee's mother when she was a kid. Abandoned Warren I think before he was old enough to remember him. Valerie was the only one he stuck with for long, and then he left her in Midtown."

Dryly, "He's not winning any father of the year awards."

"So you're an orphan, too." Des empathizes. Seizes on that note, because it's the one she can relate to. It doesn't make her angry, just sad. For him. For her. "Do you remember them at all, your birth parents?"

"No." Richard shakes his head, fingers still rubbing at the side of his face, "They died the day I was born. I tried tracking them down, just before the war… just found a bunker that Edward'd set up for us, so the four of us would survive what was coming."

A glance around the room, "And all this came of that, so that's something, at least. But no, I don't… really know anything about them."

"So that's something else we have in common." Des sits up on her knees and leans forward, reaching out slowly to touch her hand to Richard's jaw. "Let me get a look at your face," she says softly, encouraging him to turn his head with gentle fingers so she can inspect the damage she's done.

"That's one thing, I suppose…" Richard closes his eyes - a sign of trust, perhaps, despite the number of times she's hit him today - and turns his face so she can look at him. There's no serious damage, of course, but a few bruises are forming even as the reddened mark from her slap is fading.

"I'm alright," he says more quietly, "I've had worse on a good day before."

With his eyes closed he doesn't see her lean in further, but he feels her lips on the skin of his cheek. Soft and brief, then she's settling back again, withdrawing her inspecting hands as well. "I'm sorry."

It's a surprising touch, hazel eyes flickering back open… and he offers her a faint but genuine smile. "Eh," he dismisses, "I'm sure I deserved it for something. Try not to do it again, though, I mean, it's not exactly my idea of a good time."

"Good to know," Des says with a small smile. And quick lift of her brows. Then, moving on, because that absolutely did not just happen… "I'll go check out Benchmark this week. See if they have a therapist I can talk to." The idea clearly doesn't thrill her, but Des sees the necessity of it.

Ray's smile tugs up a bit at one corner, and then he shifts slightly to push himself up— rising to his feet and offering her a hand. "I'd suggest Kaylee, but some people get a little twitchy about letting a teep poke around in their heads. I'll put in an order for the ad-four tonight."

With his assistance, Des gets up off the floor. "I'd… She knows I'm not a good person, but I don't think I want her to see that much." They both come from troubled backgrounds, but Des never found the right path. Not until now, at least. Stumbling as she is. "Thank you. And… I'm sorry again. For all of it. I'm trying, I swear. And… please don't tell anybody else about my ability. It's dangerous when people find out about it."

"You'd be surprised how much she could forgive. But that's up to you," Richard says, certainly not pressuring on that angle. He knows he wouldn't want a telepath in his head if he had a choice. A wry smile, then, "What ability? You're SLC negative, as far as I know, Dr. Desjardins."

"I'll consider it," Des grants with a tip of her head. It's the least she can do in penance for what she's done today. His feigned ignorance of her ability draws a broad smile from her. "That's right. It's what my registration card says."

"Exactly." Richard offers her a wink, "Now get out of this restricted area while I…" A moment's pause, "…get a steak to put on my face or something. You ever consider a career in boxing?"

"And ruin this pretty face again?" Des shakes her head with a wide grin. "Not a chance."

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