The Official Lie


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Scene Title The Official Lie
Synopsis In the wake of what happened in Praxia, Avi decides what will be done with Devon.
Date March 3, 2020

Not so many hours have passed since the Tlanuwa landed in New York and the Hounds were left for their various destinations. For Devon Clendaniel, that meant finding his own way to the Bastion — a place he vaguely, vicariously, remembers. Walking the halls to his twin’s room left him feeling like an unexpected houseguest, or the sibling that had been left out of the loop when the family moved.

So much has changed. Everyone has changed, himself included. It made him self conscious as he stood in the middle of the quarters that had belonged to his other self. That sense stayed with him as he showered, helped himself to some fresh clothes that hung on him a little differently than they would have on his twin. A marked result from his year of captivity.

All that's left is to wait.

He knew a number of his teammates had been injured, that Avi at least was making sure Rue and Scott were well taken care of. One thing Devon has learned very well was patience, and it serves him well now while he occupies a chair beside the closed door of the commander's office. He sits forward, with elbows resting on his knees and his hands folded together, looking so much like the version of him who'd washed up on Brighton Beach nearly a year ago.

Now he’s washed up on entirely different shores. Weighed down by different trouble.

The Bastion
Phoenix Heights

March 3rd
9:14 am

This is Avi’s first and foremost point of duty now that they’re back in New York. The steady thump of his booted feet down the corridor toward his office is like a drum beat before a firing squad. Seeing Devon waiting for him, Avi doesn’t stop so much as make a brisk stride past the young man, slamming the heel of his palm into his door to throw it open. “In,” he grunts without turning back, going straight for the small liquor cabinet beneath his office’s window.

Devon’s head lifts at the sound of approach, like a hound alerting to potential danger. There shouldn't be anything immediately threatening, but his distress for that instant is thinly veiled. He stands when the older man gets closer, finding some relief in having the freedom of movement. It isn't much, but there's enough relief that he can sigh at his inhibitions and steel himself before following Avi into the office.

Avi pours himself a half glass of whiskey, does the same with a second glass, then brings both over to his desk. He sets Devon’s drink down on one side of his desk, then goes to sit at the other. The only sound in the room, at least for a moment, is the creak of old leather and Avi’s ever-suffering sigh.

“How much d’you remember?” He asks, looking over the rim of the glass, taking a long drink from it. “Of what he— the other you— experienced. How…” he makes a gesture in the air, struggling with the words to explain this. “How complete is it?”

“Like a book that's based on the movie.” Devon steps to the far side of the desk, folds his hands behind his back instead of finding a seat for himself. “There's… a lot missing. I'd get glimpses every now and then, just a minute or two. Sometimes I'd see more, it could be hours or days between.”

A flick of his eyes sends a glance toward the door. “It's… it wasn't anything I could control.” Or if there was, he'd never learned it. Dev angles a look to the window, then draws his full attention back to Avi. “Whatever they were doing? I don't know why or what.”

Avi nods, a mostly vocalized grunt accompanying the gesture. He tips back his glass, finishing his drink extremely fast, then rises up out of his chair almost as fast as he sat down in it. Making his way over to the door, Avi shuts it and turns back to Devon.

“Head injuries can cause memory loss,” Avi explains casually. “Traumatic brain injuries, especially ones that go undiagnosed. There was a lot of concussive force being thrown around in enclosed spaces.” Making his way back to the desk, Avi sits in his chair and then pulls out some paperwork from under a pale blue folder. He looks it over, then slides it across the table to Devon along with a pen.

“That’s a medical leave of absence form. You’re gonna’ fill in headaches, dizziness, and memory loss on there.” Avi motions to the packet with a flick of one finger. “Then you’re gonna check yourself into Elmhurst, tell ‘em about the collapsing building. Let them check your skull.” There probably was trauma, given that a building fell on him.

“And we’re going to sweep this under the rug.” Avi says flatly, as if they were discussing some lapse in judgment. “You’re Devon, and the one who was living in Praxia died in the collapse. That’s what we’re going to tell everyone.” He picks up his empty glass, scowling into it.

As it's all being explained, Devon casts around for a chair, such as the one more or less next to him and opposite Avi’s. He moves a stack of papers from the seat to the floor so he can sit. This is a conversation meant to be done sitting down. Even if his sitting is more on the edge of his seat and less slumped into it.

One hand rubs the back of his head while the other draws the packet closer for a more thorough look. When Avi mentions sweeping it under the rug, he looks up at the older man.

It could work. It's unorthodox, and the level of shit they'd be in if it was discovered is daunting. But it could work.

Dev looks down at the paperwork, moves the glass meant for him into Avi’s orbit, then takes up the pen. “I am Devon,” he says quietly, with subtle emphasis. He's the one they'd lost a year ago, but not the one who'd made it back. He frowns, but presses pen to paper to fill out the form. “Shouldn't even be a question.”

“But it will be.” Avi says sternly. “I will be a messy, uncomfortable question for the rest of your life. Because you don’t have all of his memories. Because, after you two split like some kind of fucking tape worm, you started having different experiences. Like identical twins raised by two different families, who sometimes had phone calls with one-another.”

Realizing he was about to break into a rant, Avi stops himself and looks ruefully at his empty glass. “Dev,” he says with a hitch in his voice, not making eye contact. “Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, there’s a difference. But that conversation ends here in this room. Scott, Rue, and Huruma can suck it up and keep a secret.” He slides his tongue over his teeth, then looks up to Devon. “And you will too. From everyone.”

Then, after a tense beat he adds, “Especially Emily.”

The pen in Devon's hand stills, and he slowly lifts his eyes to look at Avi. A part of him pitches with anger and frustration. This wouldn't even be an issue if he hadn't been left in Praxia. If somehow he'd known they were aware of him. At the same time, another part realizes the logic, understands the necessity. The trouble and hurt that would come from this secret being spilled would be worse than messy and uncomfortable. The emotions sit in conflict, like the two halves of himself still bickering.

He looks aside, first to the form under his hand then to the closed door. Like trying to escape the Ziggurat all over again, how is he going to hide the differences.

“I swear on my parents’ graves I won't tell Emily any of it. I just want to return to life as normal. To my life.” The life he should have been living. As much as that's possible, with whatever secrets he needs to keep. “Whatever I need to do, it's going to be done. I've taken enough hits to the head that memory loss is the most believable thing ever.”

“I haven’t talked to Huruma yet,” Avi admits with a look down to the table, “she’s going to know. Because of her ability and… because I’m promoting her to command. I need someone with her experience to help me manage the business. Before I run it into the fucking ground. I know better than to try and keep a fucking secret from her. You two should talk about this.”

Avi slouches back in his chair, smoothing his hands over his face as he sighs. “When Rue gets out of the hospital, I’ll let her know. She’s going to be on leave for a long time, but she knows how to keep a secret. Scott follows orders, so he shouldn’t be an issue.”

Pushing his chair back, Avi stands up and grabs his empty glass and walks back over to his small bar, pouring himself another finger. “You’re gonna need to be on medical leave for at least six months. That’s not even part of a cover, it’s just…” he sets the decanter down and turns back to Devon, glass in hand. “That’s just good fucking sense. That should give you some time to go through journals, whatever fucking texts are in the phone we recovered. Everything. Piece together as much as you can.”

Devon places the pen on the desk, leaving the paperwork half finished so he can sink backward with a feeling of being overwhelmed. Maybe he should have had that drink, but the idea of taking it now sits even worse. He drags a hand over his face, then sits forward to cradle his head in his hands. “Yeah,” he hears himself agreeing. Huruma is a good choice as both commander and someone he should talk to. “Yeah, I should talk with Huruma.” And a beat later, “Rue can keep a secret.” She's kept plenty of his in the past. He has to dig deep to find faith that the team, his team, is going to pull through together like always though, and even then it’s uncertain.

He sighs, drags his hands over his head until his fingers lace against the back of his neck. Six months though. Six months on leave, six months to learn whatever he can about himself to fill in the gaps. For a moment he’s silent, staring at the floor to avoid meeting Avi’s scrutiny. Eventually, Devon takes a breath, lets his hands drop so he’s resting elbows against knees. “You ever have anything like this happen before?”

Avi doesn’t answer right away. There’s a distant look in his eyes, followed by a look out the window. “You ever hear about how I lost my eye?” He asks. It’s rhetorical, he knows Devon never heard the real story.

Once more, Avi downs his entire drink in a single swallow and sets the glass back down on his bar, then walks back over to his desk and sits down. “It was eleven years ago…” he starts, gesturing somewhere far away with one hand. “The US Government was just starting Operation Apollo. Wrangled up some green talent with abilities, put ‘em on an aircraft carrier, and flung them at the Vanguard like darts.”

Wringing his hands together, Avi sits forward, then rests his elbows on his desk. “I drew the short straw, wound up getting assigned to track down a right son of a bitch by the name of Edmond Rasoul, big-time fuckboy who’d taken over Madagascar in a coup.” That much Devon had heard about, how Huruma and Avi worked together to liberate Madagascar. But this doesn’t sound like an oo-ra fist-bumping story.

“Uncle Sam sent two teams. I was Alpha, boots on ground two weeks before Bravo would land.” Avi picks up the pen Devon was using, setting it down between them. “I was to make contact with the local militia, figure out what the on-the-ground Resistance strategy was. Make nice with the locals, grease the tracks for Bravo to come in and lay down stakes.”

Avi sighs, shaking his head. “Few days in, I get jumped. Daofei Kung, mean motherfucker. One of Kazimir’s boys from the Chinese side of the Vanguard. Probably bumped elbows with Yi-Min Yeh back in the day.”

Fidgeting with the pen, Avi stares down at the desk. “So Kung catches me off guard. Gets me down on the ground, and he plucks something out of a pocket It looked like thread at first.” Avi says, curling one finger. “But it was a worm.”

“He pulls my eye open, drops the worm on my pupil.” Avi’s tone is flat, mechanical, detached. “It… squirms behind my eye, attaches to my optical nerve. See, Kung had an ability. He could telepathically communicate with specific types of invertebrates, specifically worms. Worse, he could fucking implant them into people and turn them into puppets.”

Avi brings his hands up to his face, scrubbing his palms over his cheeks and eyes. “For a week and a half, I’m Kung’s bitch. I do what he thinks, act like he acts. He uses me to spy on the MLF, lay the groundwork for the Vanguard to roll in and butcher Bravo when they arrive. But they weren’t counting on the United States being the single most yee-fucking-haw country.”

“Because we sent Sylar.” Avi says flatly.

“Ambush failed, mostly. Couple’a folks got grabbed. Sylar figures out what’s going on with me, because he’s Sherlock Holmes and Hannibal Lecter’s lovechild, and he rips my fucking eye out of the socket.” Avi makes a pop sound with his mouth. “Worm’s gone. Suddenly I have a gaping hole in my face, and a gaping hole in my memory.”

Avi folds his hands in front of himself, looks up to Devon, then nods. “So, yeah. In a short answer, sorta’.

If ever there was a good reason to not hear the official story, having a fucking worm dropped into your eye as a means of mind control ranks pretty high. Devon’s face draws with the discomfort he usually reserves for dogs when Avi gets into the details of his experiences. It leaves him speechless, unable to find the words for commiseration from memory loss because, in the moment, having a worm burrow behind your eye and then Sylar rip it out later is pretty gruesome.

That could also just be his squeamishness showing.

He makes a sound of ew and shakes his head a few moments after Avi’s finished the story. It can't be helped, there are simply some things that are just gross.

Devon casts a side eye at the paperwork as he straightens. “We’ve lived some fucking messy lives.” He half sounds like he wants to laugh at the realization. As if neither he nor Avi had known even before this moment.

“Yeah,” Avi agrees with a huff of a laugh. He reaches across the table for Devon’s signed leave form, adding his own signature to the bottom to make the lie they’re going to commit an official one.

Yeah we have.

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