This Ordinary World


sf_faulkner2_icon.gif sf_nova_icon.gif

Scene Title This Ordinary World
Synopsis isn't, Isaac and Nova realize, as they try to flee one surreal situation and encounter another.
Date January 16, 2021

The Upper East Side

Isaac Faulkner had been on high alert for the short walk back to the car he and Nova had taken. His driver had said nothing about Isaac's state, but as soon as the car starts moving, Isaac rolls up the partition and seems to deflate, slouching back into his seat wearily.

"Thank God," he breathes.

Nova pulls the scarf she wears from around her neck. It’s a soft thing, made of viscose and not meant for warmth so much as fashion. She reaches for a bottle of water left in the cup holder from the ride over, uncapping it and pouring a small amount onto the pink-and-white fabric before turning to Isaac.

She lifts her scarf slowly, making no sudden moves, her gaze on his face and her expression somber. Her blue eyes are wide still and he can feel she’s still tense, wired from the scene inside the Petrelli Mansion. The cloth comes to rest gently against his cheek, to wash away the blood. Though he can see she’s scared, it isn’t of him, even if he showed a side of himself to her he never meant to.

He also showed her his heart, in those moments he defended her.

“I’m sorry,” she says softly, eyes swimming with tears.

Faulkner's eyes move the instant the cloth touches his face, but as he sees Nova he musters a faint smile… one that immediately collapses as he sees the tears in her eyes. "No, oh no, don't — don't be sorry," he says, forcing himself to sit back up. "It's alright, it's alright, you're… you're safe…"

He'd been worried about the prospect of getting any blood residue on her, but those tears in her eyes completely banish that thought; his arms rise up, falter, then gently reach out to pull her close.

Once in his arms, Nova exhales, a long and shaky thing like maybe she’s been holding her breath this entire time. Isaac can feel her tremble, but she does seem to relax, that tension ebbing from her body now that he’s calmer. Her arms wrap around him, fingers of one hand gathering the fabric of his coat.

“I wasn’t worried about me,” Nova whispers. And she hasn’t been, not since Asami reached for him, and all worries about herself, what she saw the day before, worries about that other self she’s seen once or twice before faded away.

“I just don’t understand,” she sniffles against his coat, then draws back up enough to look at him, blue eyes flicking left to right like she might be able to see a solution in his darker gaze. “What do we do now?”

The way Nova curls into his embrace is enough, for a moment, to make him forget about… everything. Well. Maybe not forget, but it's enough that he can make peace with it for the moment. When she says she wasn't worried about herself, he lets out a slow breath, and even now he can't help but smile.

Ah, but she's right. Practical concerns. He takes a breath. "For now… we go to a safe place. I'll take a shower, then… then we can sit, and talk, and… just be, for a bit. Catch our breaths. Then we can figure out where to go, and what to do," Faulkner says quietly. He's smiling, but it's not one of the smiles he's practiced and honed; this is a smile just for her.

“So long as we’re together,” Nova murmurs, reaching up to push back a lock of hair, out of place from the fray with Asami. Whatever danger he’s in or thinks he’s in because of what’s been unlocked in him, she’s clearly put herself into, willingly. Even willfully.

She doesn’t know where they’re going — whatever unfamiliar word muttered to the driver that Isaac had given was enough to elicit a nod and a start of the vehicle in that direction.

But Isaac knows the coded destination is only a few blocks away; his safehouse is still in the Upper East Side, down the street and around the corner from the Petrelli Mansion they’ve just fled from. It shouldn’t take them more than a few minutes to get there, for them to close out the rest of the world and feel safe for at least a few minutes until they can figure out a plan.

A few minutes on a winter Saturday, when the traffic is rarely terrible at this time of day, at least by Manhattan standards. But a glance out the window reveals some stall up ahead. Even from the backseat, Isaac can see a legion of red brake lights from dozens of cars seeming to suddenly flare up at once, glowing red against the black mirror of the wet asphalt street.

"Together," Isaac agrees, his tone both firm and gentle as he reaches up and gently runs a hand over Nova's hair, smoothing it. It's a promise: together.

But then…

The lights. A traffic jam? Odd. Troubling. What unsettles him the most, though, is the way the lights had all seemed to come on not in waves, but at once.

Tension creeps back into him.

Nova’s brows draw together as she feels Isaac tense up, and she tips her head to look out the window. It isn’t that uncommon, but she missed the fact it seemed to come out of nowhere. She looks over at Isaac, watching his expression.

The bumper to bumper traffic inches forward. But when a gap appears, large enough for the driver to slip into it, to start edging his way to the right for an eventual turn, a cab two lanes to the right suddenly pops out at an awkward angle to wedge its way into the spot ahead of Dave, Isaac’s driver.

It’s hard to tell, with the partition up, but Dave seems unfazed by the abrupt maneuver by the other driver.

From behind them, roars a thunderous clamor of several motorcycles sputtering and revving. Though it’s illegal to split the lane in New York, suddenly Isaac’s car is flanked on both sides by slow-moving motorcycles, close enough that if the windows were open, Isaac or Nova could reach out and touch their handlebars or sleeves.

Not a single car behind them honks in protest at being cut off.

Isaac's eyes narrow, darting left and right; the fine hairs on his arms and the back of his neck are standing on end. Fear creeps up his spine, a cold prickling feeling like the tap of a spider's legs.

Still. He trusts his driver. Dave's gotten him from Point A to Point B intact before. But…

"Buckle up," he warns quietly, his voice a decent facsimile of calm. He looks at her and smiles; strained though it is, the affection he feels still shines through. "Just in case." He reaches over to flip the switch to lower the partition a bit. "Dave? What's our ETA?"

Nova gasps when the elbow of the biker beside her window bumps the glass, and her hands shakingly reach for the seatbelt when Isaac tells her to put it on. She fumbles twice, missing the slot entirely before managing to click the two ends together.

“Hard to tell, sir,” Dave says, glancing up into his rearview mirror at the couple in the back. “I’ll see if I can get out of this.”

They seem trapped, though, wolf-packed in, as if every driver in Manhattan has decided to drive on this very street, at this very time. It’s painstakingly slow, but Dave manages to get the car to the right lane. The five motorcyclists, now on their left, pass the intersection, continuing north.

Then the tires squeal suddenly as Dave finds himself on a far more open street, and he speeds up.

Nova glances over her shoulder, and her mouth drops when the five motorcycles appear behind them again. “How-” she murmurs, turning to look at Isaac, her hand reaching for his again.

But in front of them, a moving truck blocks the right lane, its ramp down and doors white open. The left lane has a few cars heading west, among them a periwinkle van and a blue Nissan Versa. The van suddenly cuts across the double yellow, heading straight toward their car.

Dave doesn’t slow down and speeds toward the moving truck. His hands are steady on the steering wheel. His eyes are fixed on the road ahead.

"Appreciated," Faulkner replies to his driver, starting to buckle his own belt; when her hand reaches for his, his reaches back, wrapping around hers. Together.

Faulkner's eyes widen as he sees the van cut across the double yellow, lips peeling back in a grimace as the car speeds forward, seemingly on a collision course with the van ahead. "Ohshit," he whispers, his words about a tragic accident echoing in his mind as his hand tightens on Nova's.

“Dave!” Nova’s voice screeches even as her free hand does two things — first finds her belt buckle, then the door handle, ready to bail out rather than collide with the huge truck in front of them. The door flies open just as the periwinkle van broadsides Isaac’s side, pushing the car toward the sidewalk with a nauseating sound of metal on metal.

Nova pulls Faulkner with her as she tumbles out of the car, crying out as she hits the sidewalk. Two motorcycles crash into the van, while another hits the back bumper of Isaac’s car, sending both rider and bike hurtling over the top of it. The rider bounces off the front hood while the bike miraculously lands on the ramp of the moving van before ramming into the furniture within and crashing onto its side.

Isaac has no time to think as Nova pulls, dragging him out, and everything stops making sense. He hears her cry out, then feels himself hit, bounce, roll, hit again, then roll to a stop against a wall.

Time passes. Three seconds, five, ten, who knows; for Isaac Faulkner, the world is void of meaning. He isn't unconscious, precisely, but he's floating on the edge of it, everything fused into an incomprehensible blur. There is pain — distant but pervasive. There is sound — loud and violent. Motorcycles and vehicles collide in slow motion, their riders doing acrobatic somersaults as they fly through the air.

Then, gradually, he starts to come back, awareness knitting together. The pain closes in, a pulsing ache like the screeching of an alarm clock. He remembers what happened. He remembers where he is. He remembers


He staggers to his feet; his face hurts, his whole body hurts, but he doesn't think he's broken anything. He wipes his face, notices the wetness of blood on his hand but doesn't think anything of it. Where is she?

No one runs toward them. No one pops out of their cars to help any of the crashed vehicles at all. It’s silent now, but for the creaking of metal trying to disengage itself from metal where the van now intersects Isaac’s car. Silent but for the tinkle of glass on pavement and the plink plink of some liquid dripping from one of the crashed vehicles.

The driver, Isaac’s loyal driver, slumps forward against the steering wheel. He never braked or tried to veer away from the collision. No skid marks mar the street from any of the vehicles.

Nova’s getting to her feet, wincing but whole — one knee of her jeans is torn and bloody and a cut above one eyebrow drips blood on her cheek. More worrying is the awkward angle of her left wrist as she favors it, pushing herself up and to a standing position with the other hand. She rushes to Isaac, her eyes wild and wide, and she pulls his hand. “We need to get off the street,” she whispers.

Thank god. Nova's okay. The safe house is close, at least; they should be able to get there by walking. But…

"But… Dave," Isaac says. He doesn't resist as Nova pulls him away — he's still a little too punch drunk for that, a little too dazed, but he drifts along behind her as she pulls him away from the street.

“He wasn’t right already,” Nova whispers, glancing wide-eyed over her shoulder. “Come on,” she insists, tugging him toward a side street.

The trouble with the Upper East Side is that there’s no little alleys to disappear on, just the long broad avenues and the smaller streets bisecting them, flanked by tall buildings with no yards to hide in.

If he needed more encouragement, the wail of police sirens can be heard — somehow seeming to come from both directions of the road they stand on.

“Come on. We need to keep moving.” She squeezes his hand, willing him forward, faster with pleading eyes. “I don’t know where we’re going but if you think maybe the safehouse is compromised we should hide somewhere… parking garage? Park? Somewhere off the street.”

"Safehouse should be fine," he murmurs… but sirens aren't a good look for him. Not now. And she's right. Dave hadn't been acting quite right, had he? Hopefully he's okay.

"Y-yeah. Let's… let's go," he agrees, starting to move of his own volition. "Parking garage. Yeah. I can… I can call another car. Get us to another bolthole." He's starting to shake it off, starting to pick up details… things like the way the street is so quiet. Things like the way there aren't any skidmarks, none at all. Things like the way Nova's hand isn't quite right. Something broken, maybe… but maybe he can do something about that, in a minute. Once they're a little safer. "Let's go," he says, starting forward in a lumbering jog, eyes scanning as he looks for a place to lay low.

The street they turn on boasts tall apartment buildings with the lower, floor levels taken by a few shops, but it’s mostly residential, which suits their needs well enough. At the first sign of a driveway that leads into a subterranean parking structure, Nova tugs Faulkner’s hand in that direction. Now the adrenaline is starting to fade, she cradles her injured wrist against her chest and sniffles now and then as the pain and fear begin to settle in one more.

It’s quiet in the parking structure, and dimmer than the sunlit day outside. After following the downward slope to the lower level, Nova looks around, pointing to a spot that’s hidden from the main path any cars might take. A car covered in canvas sits awkwardly parked and straddling the stall so the final slot is too small for anything but a Mini Cooper or Fiat. There’s space between the canvas-shrouded car and the wall to sit; the acoustics of the garage will alert them to anyone coming their way ahead of time.

“Here,” Nova murmurs, looking up at him and tugging him that way before she slides down to sit on the dirty ground, her back to the cold cement wall. Her eyes close as she knocks her head back and sighs wearily.

Isaac settles down beside her, sighing. "Okay. You just… rest for a bit, okay? Let me… send a quick text here…"

He rummages in his pocket for his phone; the screen is cracked, but it still seems to be working, thankfully. It takes him only a few seconds to tap in the message… then he slides the phone back in his pocket and turns to Nova. "Alright. Hopefully we'll have a car in a few minutes. But while we're waiting… let me see your hand."

“That was so weird,” she murmurs, her gaze flitting in the direction of the street, then back to him. She brings her hand up and it doesn’t take a doctor to know the thing is broken, the way the bone bumps upward at the base of her hand. At least it’s not a compound fracture with broken skin and blood.

“It’s just my bow hand,” she says wryly, like either hand is less important for a cellist. He’s learned enough about her art to know that’s sarcasm and to know that a serious fracture to her hands, wrists, or arms could be career ending.

Of course, their entire situation is likely career ending, but Nova hasnot quite reached that conclusion for herself, as Isaac has for himself.

“I’ll be okay,” she murmurs, but her voice quavers despite her attempt to be brave and shake off the pain.

"Yes," Isaac agrees, his voice gentle. "You will." There is a certainty behind his words that speaks of the depths of his determination. His hands very delicately reach out to take hers, his touch featherlight on her skin; after a moment, he closes his eyes and tries to remember. How had he healed himself?

How had it felt? Behind all the fury, behind the betrayal, behind the stab of rapier-sharp fear he'd felt when the glass had gone into his neck. What had he done? Or… had he done anything? More and more, everything that had happened is starting to seem like a blur. He tries to concentrate, tries to pull recollection out of the tangled skein of memory.

He had felt… something wrong. The glass, the rupture. The break, in this case. And he had…

It starts with a tension. A tightening, a feeling of energy gathering in his hands. A warmth, a vitality, slowly building…

But with it comes strain. A burn that starts in the center of Isaac's brain, a heaviness, like trying to lift something after a marathon workout. That feeling of vitality in Isaac's fingertips wavers and starts to slip away, to dissipate; beads of sweat pop out on his brow as he struggles to hold on, but that feeling of heaviness intensifies, blossoming into a black pit of vertigo that threatens to unravel consciousness. He lets out a soft noise and his hands fall away from Nova's. "Shit," he pants, slumping back against the wall, tiredness washing over him anew.

"Heh. Guess I've got… a way to go with this yet. I think I can do it, but… I'm still a little worn out from earlier." But it's noticeable that, while the weariness is still marked, it doesn't seem to hang around as pervasively as it did last time. Maybe he'll be ready to try again soon… although in the meantime, he needs to do something. A splint, probably? He knows that works for a sprained wrist, but is it right for a broken one? Probably better than nothing, at least. Isaac's coat is mangled enough that shredding it and using it to wrap Nova's hand wouldn't be a terrible loss, but there needs to be something stiff to brace it, too. Inkpens, maybe? Not even close to ideal, but, again,better than nothing. "Okay. Maybe we can… splint that or something while we wait?" he asks. "Then… if you can bear waiting, I can try again once we get to a safehouse. Otherwise I can have the car take you to a hospital and get that looked after."

Her fingers curl instinctively when his fingers touch her skin, though there’s no pain, as gentle as he is. She watches them for a moment, then looks up at his eyes, her own wide and wondering.

“It’s okay,” she says softly, reaching to touch his face with her other hand and tipping her head up to kiss him, a soft and sweet thing.

She looks around for something to splint, but shakes her head at the offer to drop her at the hospital. “I don’t want to go without you. Not until things are sorted,” she says, looking back up at him. “I just — I’m afraid if we get separated…”

Nova shakes her head again, unable to say the words. “What happened on the street? Aside from Dave… that van came right at us, and the bikers. None of that was normal. Nothing’s been normal since yesterday.” Her breath hitches in her chest, and she shakes her head. “Maybe even before that.”

That kiss banishes the weariness to the corners of Isaac's mind; it can't dispel it entirely, but despite it — despite everything — it makes him happy. The smile on his face is bright.

His expression fades to something more solemn as she continues, and he nods. "I don't… I don't know," he admits. "It was…" Isaac trails off, shaking his head. His mind keeps coming back to tiny details — the way the traffic had gone fucky all at once. The way there hadn't been a single honking horn. The way there hadn't been any skidmarks. The way the aftermath of the crash had been silent and still. The way sirens had seemed to be approaching from everywhere.

"It wasn't normal. Not at all. Dave's a good driver; he's been getting me where I need to go, safely and in good time, for years. But there weren't any skidmarks… he didn't even try to stop. It's like he didn't even see it…" Faulkner breathes, his expression shaken. "But…" he trails off, swallowing… then shakes his head. "I have a thought, but… not right now."

"Let me… let me get your wrist taken care of first," Faulkner says, tearing off a strip of his coat and drawing a couple of pens out of his pocket — the expensive kind, made of polished metal. Hopefully they'll do. "This… might hurt a bit," he says, apologizing in advance; he can try to be gentle, but the simple fact is that moving bones around is almost certainly going to hurt like hell. "Are you ready?"

Nova begins to protest when he rips his coat, but knows there’s no deterring Isaac Faulkner when his mind is made up about something and the bloodstains are probably not all coming out, anyway.

Her lips press together and she takes a deep breath through her nose before offering her wrist again. But she pulls it back before he can touch it. Her fingers curl loosely and her hand trembles in anticipation of the inevitable jolt of pain that will come.

She shakes her head, exhaling out in a breathy, nervous laugh. “No,” she says, shaking her head, but she smiles and nods then. “But do it anyway, I guess.”

Isaac looks up when Nova pulls her hand back, but there's no sign of irritation or annoyance in his expression — only a questioning look. The trepidation on her face is answer enough to that unspoken question; when she smiles, though, Isaac smiles back. "I'll be as quick as I can," he says quietly, and with a hint of regret, and…

He is that, at least.

Faulkner is not terribly practiced in this, but he does know how to do it — you don't do boxing seriously and not get acquainted with hand injuries and how to treat them. Faulkner gently folds a swatch of cloth around Nova's wrist, then presses the pens against the back, straightening it, and wraps as quickly as he can — tightly enough to constrain, but not, he hopes, tightly enough to cut off circulation, doing his best to tie it off quickly and securely. "Done," he announces, letting go of Nova's hand. "And… sorry."

She holds her breath as he works, managing not to flinch or pull away, though her eyes tighten a little now and then.

“Thank you,” she murmurs in response to his apology. She parts her lips to say more, but the familiar squealing sound of tires on parking-garage concrete can be heard, and she stiffens beside him, ducking a little lower behind the cover of the canvas-covered car.

“How much farther is the safehouse?” she asks out of curiosity as she waits for the car to come into view — if it’s one of his, driven by one of his drivers, she doesn’t know.

Isaac sighs, slouching a bit, settling in closer to Nova. "Not far, honestly. Shouldn't take us long to get there…" he trails off, looking unhappy. "In normal traffic conditions, anyway; traffic turned out to be about as far from normal as it could possibly get, so who knows? That traffic jam just… sprang up out of nowhere, it seemed like…"

He cuts himself off, shaking his head. "It's not far. I just… wanted to get us to ground as quickly as I could. Somewhere safe."

The car pulls up, stopping alongside the canvased car the two hide behind. The driver’s side door opens and closes, and they can see from here the nice shoes and trouser bottoms of Isaac’s man as he walks to the right side of the car. He opens the back passenger door for Isaac, holding it open and waiting, but he doesn’t say a word.

Nova tips her head to look around the car, then back up at Isaac, waiting for him to move first.

Isaac rises to his feet, sighing with relief, and extends a hand to Nova. He smiles. "Shall we?" he asks, with the well-polished air of a gentleman asking a lady to dance. "Hopefully this ride goes better than the last one," he says, though he's still smiling as he says it; they say lightning doesn't strike the same place twice, after all.

Placing her uninjured hand in his, Nova rises, a little awkwardly since she can’t push up with her other hand, and holding it against her chest throws off her balance just a little.

“I’d say it can’t go worse, but…” she murmurs, making a face. Things can always get worse.

Approaching the car, she gives the new driver an apologetic smile for the strange situation, before sliding into the back seat. Once Isaac is there as well, the driver closes the door with a soft thud, then returns to the driver seat.

As they approach the garage’s exit, a look out the window reveals five cars ahead of them, even though just moments before there had been no sign of life in the underground structure at all — not the sound of footfalls nor ignitions starting. No echoes of car doors opening or closing in the cavernous concrete space.

Nova’s brows draw together, and she turns from the window to look at Isaac.

Isaac's lips compress into a narrow line; he glances over to find Nova already looking at him. Ha. Seems she likes this about as much as he does. "Do you… would you rather maybe walk a few blocks instead?" he asks, a hint of unease in his voice. Suddenly he's less confident about lightning not striking twice.

“Yeah,” she murmurs, drawing out the word slowly. “It’s like it really doesn’t want us to drive anywhere.” Glancing at him, then at the driver, she reaches for the door handle. At least this time they’re idling and not still driving as she steps out of the car again.

The driver glances back in the mirror at Isaac. “It’ll just be a few minutes,” he says, voice easy and amiable, but he doesn’t seem to think anything is out of the ordinary.

“We could take the subway, but…” Nova glances at Isaac, brows knitting together. “I don’t want to even think what weirdness would happen down there.” At extremely high rates of speed.

"Right," Isaac says, nodding to Nova. "Just as well, really. I had something I wanted to talk to you about, and it'll be easier if we're not having to jump out of moving cars," he says, mustering a wry smile… albeit one that's looking more than a little worn around the edges.

Turning back towards the driver, Isaac clears his throat. "Actually, it'll be fine; Nova's decided she wants to stretch her legs for a bit. If you would, though, go ahead and drive to the Tower and bill it normally; that way maybe we won't have to worry about paparazzi and you won't have made the drive for nothing. Also… when you get there, if you would, pass a message to Mrs. Miller — tell her I'm alright, and ask her to meet me at Midsommar, on a Sunday afternoon. Also tell her I recommended she tip generously." That should do it, hopefully. "Thank you," he adds with a gracious smile, sliding over and getting out beside Nova.

He shuts the door and nods. "Shall we walk, then?"

Nova stands waiting, glancing down at her hand in its makeshift splint, then looking up at Isaac at the obvious code words, one brow lifting a little. The driver murmurs his understanding and stays in the queue to exit the structure.

“That’s an ominous conversation starter,” she quips as she begins to walk in the direction of a pedestrian entrance leading directly to the sidewalk so they don’t have to walk in front of the cars that have appeared out of nowhere. The drivers in each of the cars — now four, as one’s managed to pay his parking fee and drive away — pay them no mind.

It’s all so ordinary.

As is the street, once they step out onto the sidewalk. The traffic is normal for a Sunday in January — light, or as light as it gets in Manhattan.

Nova looks to Isaac expectantly, both for whatever bomb he may be dropping on her and direction as to which way to walk.

Isaac laughs quietly — even after everything, something about the sheer normalcy of this moment makes it possible for him to laugh. "It wasn't intended to be!" he protests. His humor fades a bit, though, as he considers his words. "Back before… things went bad. There were a couple of points I wanted to answer to," he says quietly. He turns left onto the sidewalk, one hand reaching out for hers — the one that doesn't have a broken wrist, naturally.

"Remember when we went apple picking?" He smiles faintly at the warmth of that memory, but his eyes are faintly troubled. "I was… I kept seeing something. In mirrors. In pictures. It was my dad instead of me. His face, his smile… not mine."

After that admission Faulkner is silent for a moment, before looking back over to Nova. "I wanted you to know that it wasn't just you. That's all," he says quietly.

As they walk, nothing veers into their path. Traffic continues at its leisurely Sunday pace. A couple of joggers run by and one lifts a hand in a friendly wave.

Nova’s brows draw more tightly together at that, but she laughs when Isaac does. Her expression doesn’t lose all signs of stress, but she’s in pain, even if she tries not to show it.

But when he reveals that he too has seen things, the frown deepens again. Her hand tightens on his, reassuringly. “That must have been scary,” she says softly, looking up at him with a worried expression. “I’d chalk mine up to hallucination or whatever if it wasn’t for what happened to Justice… and well, now all of this. But what Asami was saying — it has to do with what’s being repressed in us, somehow?”

Nova bites her lower lip thoughtfully. “I can’t see what the connection between seeing these things would be with… whatever you can do now. Magic? Super power? Are you a Pokemon trying to evolve?” Her smile flickers into place, then fades again. “I’m glad you told me,” she murmurs. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. We could have known we weren’t alone in possibly maybe losing our entire grip on reality, hm?”

Faulkner offers a wave and a smile in return at the jogger; even now, after everything, his politics-brain is still working. The mention of Asami, though, sees his expression cloud with worry and uncertainty. There is one thing he's certain about, though; when Nova apologizes, he looks at her and gives a faintly rueful smile. "Hindsight is 20/20, they say; we both did what we thought best, for reasons we felt were valid. There is nothing to be sorry for in that," he says, his voice firm, but kind.

"As for Asami…" Faulkner begins, then hesitates. "That wasn't the Asami I knew," he says quietly. "I mean… maybe I didn't really know her as well as I thought, but… I feel certain that she wouldn't have just… attacked someone like that. She wouldn't have kept going after she almost killed someone for no reason."

Faulkner considers for a moment, then shakes his head. "I don't know what this… power… is. Where it came from, or why I have it. Or why it was sealed — because there is surely a reason. One thing I will say, though… I don't like coincidence, Nova; I'm very skeptical about it, and the more extreme the happenings, the less prone I am to believe it could be a coincidence. So…"

Here he hesitates. "Consider the timing," he finally says, his voice soft with concern. "At a little after 4 pm yesterday, Asami spontaneously developed these powers. Within the hour, you saw what you saw, and Justice Quinn spontaneously ceased to exist. I don't think Asami knowingly had anything to do with that, but… I have a hard time believing that there's no connection between two happenings that so blatantly defy everything we know about reality. These powers might have been sealed for a reason."

"And then… today. What happened at the Petrelli manor… and what happened on the drive," Faulkner finishes, his voice still that quiet tone of worry. He looks over to Nova. "Do I sound paranoid? If I do, please tell me. This is one instance where I wouldn't mind being wrong."

“Not paranoid,” Nova says softly, then smiles and laughs, squeezing Isaac’s hand. “Sorry to disappoint,” she quips, but her expression sobers again as they walk. Now and then, she glances over her shoulder at the road and sidewalk behind them, like she expects more motorcyclists to be coming up out of nowhere, or perhaps a pack of marathon runners, when no marathon had been scheduled.

“Everyone at the park yesterday was also at the park the day my cello was taken, too, you know? Jac and Brynn said Mrs. Petrelli remembered Justice, too, right? She was also there. And then for us all to be at the same park for different reasons yesterday — what are the odds? It’s in Brooklyn, and we all live in Manhattan — I’m not sure where Justice lives.” Nova’s frown deepens and she looks down. “Lived, I guess.”

After another glance over her shoulder, she sighs, and tries to smile, but it wavers and falters. “What’s that movie, with the red pills or blue pills? Not Alice in Wonderland. They all wear black clothes and sunglasses.”

"The Matrix," Faulkner supplies. "I remember that one. Dad wasn't a fan…"

For a moment, Faulkner thinks back. No, his dad had not been particularly impressed by that one, had he? But Isaac remembers liking it. How long ago had it even been since that movie had come out?

"Glitches in the Matrix… what a terrifying line of thought," he chuckles unhappily as he makes the connection she's going for. But… supposing that this were, in fact, something like the Matrix… supposing all of these strange things that have been happening are, in fact, glitches… what would that make him? What would that make… any of them? Any of this?

And what would that make Asami? Neo? Being chased by agents and flying away certainly seems like it'd fit the part… but no. No. No, no, no. Something is terribly wrong there. He'd seen the look in her eyes when she'd come at him, and it hadn't been the look of any savior he wants to follow… not that he'd been given much of a choice on that. No, that had been more like Jack Torrence than Neo — take your medicine. He'd gotten Nova away, at least… but for how long? Isaac lets out a slow breath and shakes his head, as if to chase out those thoughts. Ugh.

One thing at a time. Get to the safehouse; he can worry about how to keep Nova safe — and how to deal with Asami — later. "Just a little longer; we're nearly there." There's a crosswalk up ahead; turning there should have them within a half-block of where they need to go. "Then we can see about taking care of that hand of yours. And," Faulkner says, mustering a grin, "I happen to know that the safe house has a fully stocked and maintained mini bar. Maybe I can mix you a belated birthday drink." He knows he could certainly go for a drink right about now.

“That’s the one,” Nova says with a nervous laugh. “ My dad loved it. Quoted from it a lot. I only caught it now and then if he was watching it. I don’t actually think I’ve seen it all the way through. But don’t you think I should write the summaries for Netflix or something? People wear a lot of black and sunglasses and have to take pills to understand their true reality.

The normalcy of the walk has definitely lifted her mood, even as they talk about how close their situation feels to something utterly impossible. She grins at his offer to make her a cocktail, and then looks up and over her head as if to consider it very carefully.

“Yes,” she says with certainty. “But only if you pretend to card me.”

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