The Wolf And The Lightning


lynette3_icon.gif mateo_icon.gif

Scene Title The Wolf and The Lightning
Synopsis Nothing stays hidden in the past forever. And it's better to come clean before it all comes out.
Date March 13, 2018

Benchmark: Lynette and Mateo's Room

The bedroom is decorated in warm colors, mostly owing to the fact that much of the furniture and décor around the room was brought up from Mexico and comes with colorful flourishes. But also because it makes the room feel comforting. In one corner, a record player sits on a stand with a collection of records. Jazz, mostly. Almost nothing after the 1940s.

The bed is flanked by two side tables, usually piled with books. Although there is a his and a hers side, it's difficult to tell which is which. There are more pillows on this bed than any pair of humans would ever need.

In the closet, a safe is tucked away toward the back. Instead of valuables or money, it holds weapons. It doesn't get opened often, but it is certainly there.

Inside the Ruiz apartment, Lynette has had the afternoon to herself. Mateo was out, Silvia was out, and Lynette finished her first draft of rationing scheduling, so she knocked off early. From the bedroom, Fly Me To The Moon plays, loud enough for Lynette to hear over in the kitchen. The smell of coffee fills the room, because she is in the middle of making un cafecito which is probably one of the only things she can make in a kitchen without supervision.

Nothing has caught on fire, so that's a good thing.

Bringing the little cup and saucer with her, she crosses the living room, blowing gently across the top to help cool it, and heads back into the bedroom.

In the bedroom is a painting. She hasn't shown it to Mateo yet, because she's still contemplating it. And the others, but she didn't take all of them. Just this one. It hangs off the edge of her bedside table, held in place by a book. She looks obviously troubled once she's in view of it again, but it isn't just the painting. There are several things troubling her.

One of those things troubling her might be the fact that Mateo should have been home to the Benchmark hours ago. He never spends extra time at work if he has a choice about it, and he'd already given his notice as well. This day, though, he's late. Very late. He didn't play the piano at his usual time. He didn't go upstairs to shower and change as he always does. He'd not shown any sign of anything wrong at the dinner with the Lighthouse Kids. Nothing besides worry for his daughter. But he hadn't been very talkative about anything except Silvia that night either— and he'd left before she woke up too much, kissing her on the forehead.

No, he doesn't even know that someone had come to drop off a painting.

The door pushes open finally to the smell of coffee. Not burning coffee, either. Good sign there. He's not dressed in his jumpsuit, having changed at work— or never even changed into it in the first place. It's hard to tell.

He didn't keep secrets often, though.

In his hands are a few books, the text to small to read right away, and he puts them down as soon as he gets inside the suite. "You're making coffee," he helpfully comments on the obvious. As if he wasn't hours late.

"I made coffee," Lynette says, also as if he wasn't hours late. She sets her coffee down and starts rolling up the painting. She's not doing it so fast as to totally hide it from him, just to keep it from shocking him. She puts the rolled up canvas on the bed, picks up her coffee and comes toward the door between their room and the living room.

She doesn't smile when she sees him. That is probably the first time that's happened.

"There's enough for a second cup," she says with a nod toward the kitchen. "Oh— and maybe make sure I turned the stove off." She makes a face there, like she knows she forgot and is a little embarrassed about it.

"I don't smell anything burning, so… it seems like it's possible you remembered." This time. Mateo takes it all in stride, even smiling a little. But now that he doesn't have 'parent drama' to keep him occupied, there's tension on his face that she can recognize. Almost as if he'd been straining his ability for a time. He disappears into the kitchen, to check the stove, to pour himself a coffee, black.

He takes his sweet time in there, though, as if using the pouring of coffee to think. To prepare himself.

When he returns to the main room of the suite, he still has the mug in hand. Not steaming, but still plenty warm. "It was turned off," he's already saying when he crosses back in.

Lynette doesn't move from her spot while he takes his time. She leans against the doorframe. She sips her coffee. It's pretty good. It reminds her of Mexico, which isn't a coincidence.

"That's good," she says mildly, when he comes back out. Her head tilts. An eyebrow lifts. "Are you going to make me ask?" She doesn't want to have to ask, is the implication, but of course, now she sort of already has. So she lets out a sigh. "I was worried." She's not mad, it seems, but there's a touch of hurt in her expression that she can't seem to stamp down. So she looks at her coffee, to hide it.

Worried. Looks like pretending he's not late isn't going to last long. He moves to where she leans, taking his first long sip from the warm coffee. When he does speak, it's softer than his normal voice, almost as if he's suddenly rather… unsure? It's hard to tell exactly what emotion this is. Perhaps guarded. More so than he'd been when they just started out. "I had to… look into something. Took the day off."

It helps he had a job pretty much lined up, with the exception of he's not applied yet. A possible job at Raytech, where he hopefully won't have to clean up quite as much rat shit.

"Took longer than I intended. Apparently, a book dealer had a big loss the other day, a bunch of books shredded." And he couldn't get what he wanted from the new library, either.

He avoids looking at the books.

"Did Dess leave? She'd said she would only stay another night yesterday."

When he answers, it doesn't seem to help. In fact, it makes her face fall a little more. Enough that she turns away from the doorway and heads back into the room. "That's too bad," she says, about the books as she sets her coffee on her side table, "there aren't nearly enough books around here as it is."

When she turns to look back at him, her chin lifts. She might be debating about saying something, about what to say. She's never been in this particular situation before, where someone wasn't around and it mattered to her. Where he was keeping something to himself and it hurt. But his question saves her from having to think those particular thoughts any further. "Oh, yes. She and Eve left together." There's a look down to the canvas. "She had some paintings. Des was in one."

Some paintings. "Now I'm picturing Eve running around carrying big canvases in frames over her head." And Mateo doesn't think he's that wrong in his picturing, either, though probably not the frames. Leaving the books behind, he follows after her. With a deep breath, he starts to… well… ask a question, "Did Dess tell you why she was here? And why she was out of it for— " That's as far as he gets before he steps up beside her and sees the canvas.

Him. He doesn't even need to see much to know it's him. The body shake, the hair—

And he's stepping into el umbral.

The lights don't flicker, but that tension is there. He takes in a deep breath, perhaps trying to hold it back. And seemingly successful.

"I guess for once she didn't see me as an otter," he whispers instead of asking more about it— cause, well, she always claimed to see him as an otter before.

"That's not too far from the truth," Lynette says, since Eve did run in with a bunch of paintings. She leaves out that she was bloody and screaming at the time. A detail for later, perhaps.

When he starts to ask a question, Lynette puts a hand on her hip. "This sounds an awful lot like changing the subject, Ruiz," she says, dryly. It's a little more difficult to chastise him with his last name these days, since it is also hers now, but she does her very best.

But he spots the painting and she unrolls it the rest of the way so he can see the whole thing. "Not this time. Or, at least, by the time she painted it, she decided to make it less otter-like." Of course, they can't see his face, so who knows. "Des was in one. Banging on this triangle like she wanted to get out. Scared. She said it was one of the other versions of her. There were a couple others, too. Richard. And Eve said the other was of another precog that she knows." That's not how Eve put it, of course. "I took this one." Perhaps that is an obvious statement. Since it's here. It's also obvious why.

It sounds like changing the subject…

But it wasn't. Not the question. Focusing on the painting was, though. After a long moment Mateo reaches down, as if he might touch the art— but instead he just runs his fingers across the air just above it. The electricity. The shape. The way the paint gives the image of swirling inward, drawing in everything.

"She thinks she found out how we are related. How we played the piano together like we'd done it before," he explains quietly, not taking his eyes off that image. Was this his future? His fate?

The sound in the back of his head seemed to think so, mocking him, even. Even the seer had seen it now. "She thinks it's not from another timeline. That it's from this one— where we knew each other. Me." Not another him. Him, him. "Kaylee, your telepath friend. She went into her head— found old memories, blocked memories. Hidden ones. Ones that might have contained me."

Might have, he says, but… he seems to think that's more than might. If one can trust the telepath.

Lynette herself has mused on the idea of what would happen if Mateo could step through, where he might go, what it might mean. The painting makes it less of a fun thought experiment and more of a terrifying possibility. Not because of his power but because Lynette isn't also in the painting. It brings back an old fear. "She said another otter was slipping from one stream to another," she says when his hand hovers over the painting.

But when he goes on, she looks up from the painting and over to him, her expression neutral. By force, but that's the best she can do. "Oh?" It's a prompt and for a moment it seems like that's all she's going to say. "Did Kaylee find the same thing in your head?" An assumption has been made, somewhere in Lynette's mind, about what he'd spent the day doing.

Another otter. Slipping from one stream to the next.

It cause a tightness in his chest just thinking about it. Mateo doesn't know who his other selves are, but he knows one thing he believes. That somehow, they always meet. It's something he's held on to, to make this whole thing feel a little more… beautiful. Like the garden would always lead to him and her.

"Not my head. Just Des'. That's why she was… out of it. I think." He doesn't quite understand why she had been practically comatose until she finally came out of it, but she had been. "Des thinks we were brother and sister— raised together. Until some people, the Company— the one that came up in the tribunals— that they separated us. Erased our memories, gave us new ones."

His mother, who he'd known was a telepath, had been apart of it.

"That sounds like something they would do," Lynette says since she is well aware of the sort of things they got up to. Them and their successor. She pushes the painting away from the edge of the bed, making room for her to sit there instead. She drops with an exhale. Her hands move into her hair, holding her head up briefly while her elbows rest on her knees.

Whatever is troubling her, though, she pushes it to the side and looks over at him with an easier expression. A warmer one. Her hand reaches out for him. "It must be strange to hear all that," she says, her voice less strained, her tone gentle. "Kind of a lot to take in for you lately. What do you think about it?" There's a pause before she notes, "Kaylee doesn't usually leave people like that. She's been through my memories, it wasn't like that. But maybe… digging out something repressed like that, maybe it was a strain on her."

Mateo leaves out Des' thoughts on why they separated them, and instead focuses on the stuff going through his head, "I knew my mother wasn't my mother. Not my biological mother," he confesses. He'd found that out already— but he'd never mentioned it before. He didn't mention she was a telepath until Kaylee. "She died when I manifested— before, not because of." He feels the need to explain that. "I always thought her dying caused me to manifest, but if they…"

He shakes his head. The idea that his entire life was a lie was bad enough. "I don't even know if the name I gave you and Silvia is mine." Or if it has just been a lie. He hadn't cared that his mother wasn't his mother— but what if…

The longer he thought about it, the more that— emptiness pulled on him.

"Might be the only way to know for sure what is real and what isn't is to let your friend into my head." As soon as he says it, he looks back at her finally.

One thing Lynette is good at— and has always been good at— is listening. She listens when he explains about his mother. There's nothing like shock or upset on her face, even when he explains things she hadn't heard about until this moment. Just a nod to show she's paying attention and understanding in her expression.

But something in what he says gets her back up to her feet. She comes over to put her hand on his arm, even before he turns to look at her. But she lets him finish before she replies.

Her hands move up to his face to cup his cheeks. "The name doesn't matter," she says first, "We're a family, regardless. The life we have here, that's real and it's not going anywhere." That little bit of reassurance comes with a brush of her nose against his.

When she eases back from him, her hands drop to his shoulders. "You think maybe you manifested because something came back when she died." Whether it was the inkling of missing family or a held back ability, or even just the lift of whatever telepathic interference was in his mind. "That's up to you, Mateo. I can tell you that I trust her. And I'll be there with you, if you want me to be. But it's up to you if you want to know."

"I don't know what happened anymore," Mateo responds quietly, stepping closer to her and pressing his forehead against hers as his eyes remain closed. The proximity quiets that noise in his head, same as it always had, but the doubt keeps his chest tight. "I want you there— and that's what scares me." Yes, he's admitting to the fear. "It's easy to say the past doesn't matter til you see it. Until you learn what it actually is." Is. Was.

Once he'd said that everything he was now was hers— that his life hadn't begun until they met. But that wasn't true. There'd been a lot before her. Things he's ashamed of, much the way she'd been with the Olympians and what had happened to them.

"If you see those things, it could change the way you feel about— " About him. About them. About everything.

Lynette slides her arms around him, holding him tight against her like she might be able to remove the doubt as easily as she does the space. "I can't promise that I won't be shocked, or that I won't need to process. But there's one thing I can promise. Nothing can change how I feel about you," she says, then her voice quiets into a whisper, "and I'm not afraid of any darkness. I chose you, my darling. All of you."

She leans back, but only enough to be able to look at his face. "So tell me now. You want me there, so I'll be there. Seeing them won't be as hard if I know what's coming."

Tell her now, so she has to see it.

Part of him had always known he would need to tell her. It'd just never come up, she'd never mentioned anything related to it. No one had. The radio once had a moment, but she hadn't been in the room…

Pressing his lips against hers in a quiet wish she will forgive him for the things he knows aren't the fault of anyone except himself, Mateo disengages, stepping back out to the room and returns with the books, which he hands them over to her. As if they're the start. "If these books had gone into Argentina more, I might have been in them."

The author, Lyuba Kolosova. The book, Wolves of Valhalla: The Rise and Fall of Kazimir's Volken's Vanguard.

He watches her, waiting for her to understand, while that roar threatens to sneak up behind him, to close in on him.

The kiss gets returned, Lynette doing her best to reassure him through it. She follows a couple steps when he leaves, but she stays in the room. Whatever he needs to tell her, it's probably better in here, in case Silvia walks in or someone knocks because she's needed.

When he comes back, she looks a little confused. But she takes the books and looks down at the spines. And then he explains. He can't miss the blink or the way her eyes widen in recognition. She looks at the books for a long moment. Normally, Lynette is very much an outward processor. But when it comes to other people's confessions, other people's pain, it's the opposite. So it might be a tense stretch before she looks up at him.

Firstly, she reaches over to take his hand, as if to show that she's not going to run away. "You don't feel that way now," she says, more a statement than a question, but there is room in there for him to correct her. But she's sure enough to move on. "I believe in change, Mateo. In second chances. And third." She's said that same thing before, any number of times, sometimes to herself. There are questions, obviously, but she leaves them unspoken.

"I don't deserve it," Mateo responds very quietly, looking away for a moment. His voice is so whispered it's almost like he's hoping she doesn't hear, or doesn't listen. Even if she says she believes in multiple chances— he's almost sure she'll change her mind as he keeps talking.

"He called me Hati," he explains softly. "After the wolf that swallows the moon. I wasn't there to fight— I didn't handle weapons. I was a weapon." One that devoured anything in their path. He doesn't even need to point out specific details, because… "I was already a monster so I didn't care."

Dess had said something similar, about her childhood. But he hadn't been a child. He had known exactly what he was doing. And at first, he didn't care.

"The people who think they don't deserve it are the people who deserve it the most. Need it the most." That's her professional opinion. And her personal one. Lynette looks back at the books as he talks, then sets them down on the bed. She turns back to him, though, because it's important that she hears him. It's important that he knows she is hearing him.

"If there's one thing I know about waging war, it's that any cog will do. I know it doesn't make you feel better, but if it hadn't been you it would have been someone else. You are not the reason any of that happened. They took advantage."

She comes closer to him again, her arms moving around him. Comforting this time. Accepting. Warm. "I wish I could take that for you," she says gently, "I know what it's like to turn yourself into a weapon. Into a monster. I know it's hard to shake." She certainly hasn't shaken her own. "But, my darling, you are a good man." That she knows for certain. "You're something beautiful," she says, clearly meaning more than just on the outside. But something deeper, somewhere deeper.

Keeping it in had been him, certainly. Mateo may never have told her if he could have avoided it, if he didn't think she might be about to find out on her own. Part of him still looked up at her, wondering when she'd change her mind, realize… "I'm not like the ones who helped you in the Ferry," he added, nodding toward the books, that he dropped on the bed. Some of the accounts had been about those who had turned.

"I left, but it had been only after … it doesn't matter." He could say he didn't know their goals, didn't know most of their plans. But it sounded like an excuse to him. He hadn't asked.

"I could have sabotaged them when I left, destroyed some of them— even just taken them with me… but I didn't." He just… left. Ran. Hid. They'd had Operation Apollo to worry about at the time, so they didn't chase much. But he didn't stop until he met a little girl who needed help. His first attempt to make up for everything had started with her. That little girl made of sand.

And even then he still hid.

Until he met her.

"Mateo, you walked away. That's the first step. You don't have to have done anything like that. And you don't need to be like them." Lynette moves a hand to brush through his hair, her touch as gentle as ever. "To turn from them into you? That's not a journey many could take." Her fingers turn, running the back of them down his cheek. She looks up at his eyes and while she doesn't smile, there's love in that gaze all the same. "I'm sorry that you ever felt that way. Like you were a monster." It's a thought that makes her reflect back on when they first met. When they were training. The things he said then. Things she said. "I'm with you. You know that I'm always with you."

There's the smallest shake to his head, as Mateo can't help but disagree with her on his worthiness. It's slight, at least, not as big as it might have been if she weren't touching him. But she can feel it. It's there. The sound in his head threatens him, makes him feel even more monstrous. With tears forming in his eyes, a choke in his throat when he breathes, he leans closer and kisses her, hoping that will show the words he can't quite manage to get out. His hands go to her back, holding her in place.

He's still afraid she will change her mind, will turn around and run away, but the fact she's calming that fear every moment she stays helps. And makes him love her even more.

Lynette gives him a gentle smile when he shakes his head. She felt it, but she doesn't do more than try to reassure him with a look and the press of her body to his. They could toss words back and forth on the subject all day.

When he leans in to kiss her, she meets him halfway to return it. Her hand slides to the back of his neck, so she can hold him there as well. If there's worry about her feelings, she wants to sweep them away. If there's worry that she'll ever go, she wants to push it out of his mind.

The kiss tastes suspiciously like salt by the time he pulls back. And there are tears there to explain that when he does. Mateo isn't the type to cry often, so when he does. "You're too forgiving," he whispers against her, even as he leans to press those lips against hers again. Softly. When he can pull back, he doesn't even bother to wipe his face, because, well— he half expects her to. As he'd wiped away her tears. "It may not even come up in my head… they might not be as forgiving as you if it does…" He keeps waiting for someone in the government to do enough research that they figure out who he is…

That one day the wolfhounds will come looking for the wolf that swallowed the moon.

But until then… "I probably should have told you earlier…" He wouldn't have thought so ten minutes ago, but now he does. He'd almost told her when she confessed what happened to her team. But he would have rather just been understanding than really show how much he understood.

A sigh follows when he pulls back and Lynette opens her eyes to look over at him again. His words get a wry smirk, but she returns the next kiss, too. "I like to think I'm just forgiving enough," she says. And she proves his instincts are pretty good because her thumbs move to wipe his tears. "Either way, I'll be there. I'll protect you, if it ever comes to that." In whatever fashion she may need to, likely.

"There's no should have. You told me now. I'm sorry if you weren't ready to." She lifts up onto her toes to kiss his forehead, her hands staying on his face as she does.

"I love you," Mateo mutters quietly, leaning into the hands and fingers that clean away his tears. "I never thought I would ever find someone to fill all this… emptiness." He'd felt it for almost his whole life. That something had been missing. The more he thought about it the more he felt he shouldn't think about it. But it had always been there. And finding out about his possible past didn't fill it. It just explained why.

His lightning filled it. His sand filled it. His family. The one he found, when he hadn't even known he'd been looking for one.

And maybe that sister, as well. A family he'd never even known he had.

"Maybe if you can forgive me… I can forgive myself a little." A little. He doesn't think he ever will, not completely. But maybe a little. One day at a time.

His words have Lynette looking downward, but her thumbs keep brushing his cheeks, even when it isn't needed anymore. "You are the world to me," she says quietly, her voice taking on an odd quality as she tries to hold back her own tears, "you took a dark past and turned it into a star-filled sky. I admire that." Love goes without saying, as it often does.

When she lifts her head again, her eyes are wet, but she's managed to keep the tears back. "I hope you can forgive yourself, Mateo. And if you can't, I can give enough for both of us."

Enough for both of them.

And that might just be enough all around. Mateo pulls her back into a kiss, which also leads to pulling her backwards toward the bed— a bed with a painting on it. One they probably still need to talk about. Even then he stops before he lays down on top of it, turning to glance at it and disengaging so he can move it off the bed. Cause he intends to be using that bed as soon as they close the door.

"I'm not going anywhere, 'Nette. I promise." Not into that swirling vortex, not anywhere that isn't right next to her. That is one assurance he can give.

Now that he knows she is not going to leave him, he doesn't think anything could keep them apart. And won't. If he has anything to say about it.

Once he starts moving them, that kiss turns heated. Because it could only mean one thing, really. Or she intends to make it only mean one thing. Lynette can only laugh when he moves away to take care of the painting. He's heard that laugh before, amused, delighted, eager. And so it's her that goes over to shut the door.

But she's back next to him in a moment, and her arms move around him as he speaks, her hands move under his shirt, which might imply that she's not listening. But she is, and her lips curl into a warm smile. "I know you're not," she replies softly. "You're stuck with me," she says, her smile turning more playful as she echoes something he once said to her.

She leans in to kiss him, gently at first, but it isn't long before she pulls him into bed. It's been cleared off and everything, be a shame to waste it.

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