The Princess In The Tower


des_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title The Princess In The Tower
Synopsis Richard meets clandestinely with Odessa to discuss her past… and her future.
Date August 13, 2018

The Rookery

A message delivered, a meeting set, out from beneath the watchful eye of the Trade Commission — whatever it is that Richard Ray wants to talk about, it seems that he wants some privacy.

He’s chosen a rather curious place for that, though, all things considered.

The flickering neon lights of the Rookery are a far cry from what they once were, the noise of those in hawking goods or buying in the open-air market covering the rumbling noise of gasoline generators, power lines and laundry lines crossing over from building to building in maddeningly uneven patterns, as if a spider had chosen to weave above the streets here. Whores walk the streets, weapons are sold at a discount appropriate to their wear, pirates sell stolen cargo, and perhaps most precious of all — fresh food available at a premium from smugglers here and there.

Just at the edge of the markets sits what used to be a bar; half burned out from a fire nearly a decade ago, the main room is still intact if long since stripped of anything valuable. There’s a table in the corner, though, and it’s there that Richard is settled in, dressed in BDUs and a bomber jacket, a gun resting on the table in case he needs it.

There’s also a wisp of smoke rising from a cigarette in his hand.

It feels good to get out, even if Des isn’t terribly fond of the buzz that is the Rookery. She has to admit that it’s a convenient place to not be noticed. Though the large glasses on her face give her a nerdy sort of look that doesn’t look as at home here as some. But even would-be water barons need accountants, as she’s discovered. Maybe she’s not so out of place after all.

There’s a smile on her lips for the man at the table when she slips free from the crowd and moves inside the husk of the building to join him. Her gaze flits to the gun, unconcerned. But noted. She pulls a chair out and spins it around so she can straddle it, black skinny jeans keeping her legs protected from any splinters the battered seat might want to shed.

Resting her arms across the chair back, her smile broadens into a grin. “Hello.” She’s very glad to see him.

“Hey, beautiful.” Richard’s smile is genuine, reaching his eyes; it isn’t alone there, though, as she can see the thoughts racing behind them. A part of him isn’t here, is busy analysing strategies and plans, working out strategies, the next step in what he has to do. Despite that detachment, there’s a life to him that she hasn’t seen in awhile. As if he’d found his footing again.

The cigarette’s stubbed out on the table, and he leans forward, resting an arm folded on the table. “This is where it all started, for me,” he launches into a story before anything else, “I walked in for a beer. I ran into Flint Deckard and Teo fighting over something. Tracked ‘em down. That’s how it all started, how I got involved in… everything. I guess I would’ve ended up involved eventually, but…”

He looks around the room, then back to her, “…this was the start of my story, of the part of my story that matters. Seems appropriate to come back here.”

Pink colors her cheeks at the greeting and compliment. Sometimes she’s still very much girlish about these sorts of things. For all that she is decidedly not a little girl. Behind those red frames, blue eyes widen and look around the space, trying to imagine what it looked like before. When he finishes speaking, she turns back and tilts her head to one side.

“Appropriate why?” Des asks with furrowed brows. Immediately her mind races toward the worst conclusions. It’s hard for her to shake doom and gloom, and she has the distinct fear that he’s looking for a bookend in this place. To end something.

“Seven years ago, someone told me it was time to rest,” Richard admits with a shrug of one shoulder, hand moving in an absent gesture, “I did. I let the Deveraux Society take the reins, put down my sword, focused inward. On my family. On myself.”

Then he crooks a smile, “On the eighth day, the Bible forgets, he got the fuck back to work.”

“Eileen called me Schachmeister and it’s time to earn that title again,” he says, “I’ve got a ton to tell you, and then we have a lot to do. You’re probably not going to like some of either of them…” A wrinkle of his nose, “A lot of them, probably, but the world’s a place of unpleasant truths and worse actions, so we’ll make due.”


Little by little, the fear recedes and the smile returns. Even when he tells her she probably won’t like a lot of what she has to hear. That much, at least, she’s used to. “Every time we find an answer, ten more questions pop up. I can handle a little unkind truth and disappointment.” Especially if they’re doing it together.

“Okay then,” Des bids him to continue with a nod of her head, “I’m listening.”

“So… one.” Richard straightens, watching her for a moment as he tries to think of how to phrase the next words. Finally he gives up with a slight shake of his head, and he rips off the bandage. “Samson Grey worked for Arthur Petrelli as his personal assassin. He sent him after your parents. Your father worked on the Formula project— he may’ve been killed to keep that secret, even though he’d retired from the Company by then.”

If he’s leading with that, what else could he have?

That was not even near the bottom of the list of topics Des expected Richard to cover. There’s a stunned silence that follows the news where Des casts her gaze down to the table top, following the grooves and knicks in its surface while her mind churns over the information. “That…” She falls silent as soon as she’s begun, and stays that way for several moments.

What she doesn’t do is cry. It isn’t as though this changes the state of things. Her father’s still dead. Has always been dead. But now… she might know why. “I guess that makes sense,” the woman murmurs a little numbly. “It explains why they took me, I suppose. They weren’t just monitoring him like the others. They didn’t just assume I could be—”

There’s sorrow in those blue eyes when they lift again to settle on Richard’s face. “I’m an experiment. I always suspected it. Knew it, deep down… Adam told me once that I was synthetic. I always wondered how he knew.” Des presses her lips together, which pull into something like a sad smile. “Makes a whole lot of sense.” She swallows back a lump in her throat and sniffs just once. “Okay. What’s two?” She doesn’t even question how he knows this. Like so many things, he just does.

“I don’t think you were an experiment, Des…” Richard reaches out, his hand sliding over the table to reach for hers, callused fingers to brush against her own; his voice quiet but serious, “I think they were scared of you. Remember what we saw, in your mind… I think you were being monitored.”

His gaze darkens a bit, “Adam Monroe was in Level Five from nineteen-seventy-seven on. Everyone who’s still alive from the Company will tell you that. Only he wasn’t. The entire Company had their memories altered. He was still active in nineteen eighty-two — he was at the overlay event, when my mother died. He teleported in with some woman named Joy to help with the cleanup. At this point we can’t trust the memories of anyone who worked with the Company when Arthur and Charles were alive.”

“You don’t think Company scientists would have jumped at the chance to create a child with powers? What if my father—” Des sighs and shakes her head. The what-ifs don’t matter. They can’t answer them. Not with their current data. “I still don’t understand what we saw. I don’t understand what happened. How it could have…” Again, she trails off. None of it will make sense unless they can find some unredacted versions of her file, which she’s not certain exist, or delve into her memories again.

“Joy? I—” Des frowns. There was a time when she was trying to change and called herself by that name. “I don’t know who that would be. Adam never mentioned her. Not that I can remember anyway.” And Adam told her a lot of stories. “I suppose he wouldn’t, though. He was trying to fill my head with all this romanticism… You don’t mention another woman to the one you’re trying to net.” She’s figured that much out about how the courtship/manipulation process is intended to work.

“What else?”

“So…” Richard’s brow knits a little, “So one last thing that I found out. Rianna died in that hospital, Des, and people better at investigating things than I am didn’t even have the name Kara come up on their radar. I don’t know who she is — maybe things are different in that timeline, I don’t know — but I can’t find a scrap of evidence that she’s your mother.”

“I know. I was… I was there.” Des laces her fingers with Richard’s, quiet and contemplative a moment. “In the other world, Hiro Nakamura told me that Kara isn’t my mother. That he never stole me from her. That Arthur lied about all of it. Changed both our memories. As far as Kara knows, she’s Odessa’s mother. I don’t know that it’s worth proving otherwise to her. I… They love each other.” And family is something that’s important to her, no matter which version of her they’re talking about.

“The picture in my file? I see her now. It’s like something… changed. It used to be that when I pictured my mother in the hospital that day, I didn’t see her. Now? Now I do.” Des exhales heavily. “It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe it’s something to do with her ability. I want to say I feel connected to her, like we must be something to each other, but maybe that’s my own wishful thinking.”

“I don’t really… understand her power,” Richard admits, his fingers curling with hers, thumb brushing over her knuckles, “If we keep digging, I have a feeling we’ll find out eventually. Also have a feeling we won’t like that, either.”

He draws in a slow breath, holds it, then exhales it slowly, “So. Speaking of things that we won’t like… you’re going to have to go to trial, Des.” His free hand lifts to forestall reactions, “We’re pretty sure we can make sure you walk free afterwards. No hanging. No prison. I’m sure there’ll be— restrictions, but we can work with that.”

“I’m not sure she does either,” Des offers with an apologetic sort of shrug. She nods solemnly to the notion that they won’t like the answers they find if they keep digging into the truth of her supposedly shared past with Kara. That’s almost a given. Almost none of the answers about who she really is or where she comes from have been pleasant ones.

When he says what he has to say next, Des’ mouth drops open to respond or protest, but she holds it when he motions. Her mouth snaps shut again almost audibly, lips twisting into a somewhat sour expression even as her brows denote confusion. Wasn’t he the one who didn’t want her turning herself in?

“Who the hell is we?

“I know, I know…” Richard’s expression turns tired for a moment, “I exhausted every avenue I had, but in the end the one guy that could just dismiss everything— well, there’s no fucking chance. So we have to go through this the legal way.”

Stupid ‘civilized society’. Life was easier when they were all working under the radar, sometimes.

“And— well. Lynette’s been working on this, I know. Your legal team. Myself. And… certain people still working behind the scenes to keep civilization propped up,” he admits, his tone dry, “I trusted them to take care of things while I was resting up. I trust that they aren’t going to fuck me over now.”

“My— What? My legal team?” Des shakes her head slowly. “You’re not telling me something. This is my life you’re toying with here. It’s not a game. I’m not a piece on a chess board.” There’s a lack of conviction in her tone, like she isn’t sure she really believes that herself.

“What if these people hate me and what I’ve done more than they don’t want to screw you over? If I were… just about anybody else, I’d figure you’ll get over it eventually. Your anger would be a small price to pay.” Des starts to tug her hand away again. “And I think you would get over it.” It’s almost like an accusation, but there’s too much self-hatred behind it to make it truly sting.

Her head swivels one way, then the other, looking for signs that this is a setup.

“I’m not toying with you,” Richard replies sharply, “And I wouldn’t— do you really think I’d just let you walk off to the fucking gallows, Odessa?” She tugs her hand away, and he draws his back, dragging emptied fingers over the wood as he leans back in his chair, looking at her for a long moment.

“Do you really think I’d just let you go, shrug, and go on with my life?”

It’s her name that draws her out of her spiral of paranoia. Seeing enemies in the shadows. In friends. Blue eyes are drawn back to him, wide with surprise and wet with unshed tears. “A lot of people have done a lot of terrible things to survive,” she explains. They both know she’s talking about herself. This is how she views the world and people’s intentions. Everyone wants to survive, and she believes everyone is just as capable of the ruthlessness she’s shown.

“I don’t know what you’d do,” she admits in a quiet voice. “I think it’d be very easy to forget all about me once you have Elisabeth back, and you have your daughter.” It’s the fear she hasn’t admitted to out loud until now. The one that makes her look at him so sadly after he kisses her or gives her other affirmations of love and affection. “You’d go on with your life because you’d have to. It’s just what people do.”

“Odessa…” A hand comes up, Richard’s fingers rubbing between his eyes, “You’ve seen my string room.” That hand falls, and he offers her a faint smile, “Do you really think that I’m the kind of guy who lets things go and moves on?”

The last words have his expression softens, and he asks, “Did Liz treat you like a rival or anything like that, Des?”

“I never told her.” It’s not that Liz wouldn’t have known. Des isn’t particularly good at being subtle where her feelings are concerned, but she never came out and said that she’s in love with the father of Elisabeth’s child. “There’s no— It’s not about that. I’m not looking to fight her.” She’s gone that route and it didn’t work out well for her.

Looking down at the table again, she brings her hands together, fidgeting restlessly. Feeling invisible strings between her fingers that would let her escape if she just pulled. “If you really want me to… to give myself up, I will. I just have a few things I need to get straightened up first.”

“You never really knew her. She’s a very… accepting woman,” says Richard with a shake of his head, “There’ll never be a need to fight her, she’s… there’s nothing to worry about, Des. And it’s not going to change how I feel about you.”

He dips his head in a slight nod, “Yeah, not— immediately anyway. We need to get our shit together and do this right. I have some people I need to talk to, you wrap up your ends, and we’ll make the arrangements.”

Softer, “It’ll work out, Des. No more Sword-of-fucking-Damocles hanging over your head.”

Des smiles sadly. “I know.”

Do this right. What is the right way to do this? Des knows what capture feels like, and right is never the word for it. There’s a dreadful anticipation of what it might be like to be captive to someone who doesn’t want something from her. Wanting a rope around her neck doesn’t count. There’s no bargaining her way to little freedoms that she can imagine. A shudder runs through her and she looks very pale.

“I might throw up.”

Richard did warn her that she wasn’t going to like it.

“Yeah, I can understand that,” he admits, glancing across the room and pushing himself up to his feet— taking a few steps over to the bar, dragging an old garbage bin slightly warped from the fire from behind it and swinging it over to sit beside her in case she needs it.

“I need you,” he says, looking at her seriously, “I can’t have the government chasing you still, not now. We need to be able to move freely if we’re all going to survive whatever’s coming.”

Des stares into the bin for a long moment, as if contemplating whether or not to use it for the purpose it was dragged out for. Eventually, the color starts to return to her cheeks and her breathing becomes more even. The moment of sickening fear passes.

Dark head lifts and she meets the serious gaze given. “I get it.” It’s not just about her, it’s about everybody. Whatever’s coming is going to need a strong resistance, and she’s hamstringing that right now. Des wipes at her eyes and nods her head quickly. “I hope—” She cuts herself off and sighs. “I’ll do whatever you need me to do,” Des promises. “Just tell me when.”

“You’re not in this alone, Des,” Richard says, taking a step closer, hand sliding up her shoulder as he offers her a faint smile, “You’ve got family this time. You don’t have to save yourself this time.”

“Let us save you, instead.”

“I’m going to be counting on you,” Des teases with a faint smile. She pushes herself to her feet, nudging the chair out of her way so she can wrap her arms around Richard and rest her head against his chest.

“Alright. I’ll be the princess in the tower.” Like in all those story books she read when she was little. It’s a role she plays well. “You’ve got a hell of a dragon to slay to get me out, though.” She squeezes gently and draws back. “But I trust you.”

“You don’t always have to slay the dragon,” Richard replies, his arms going around he to cradle her closer, fingers brushing down her hair and neck as he murmurs more quietly against the top of her head, “Sometimes you just need to speak its language.”

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