chess6_icon.gif ff_gracie2_icon.gif ff_liza_icon.gif richard5_icon.gif robyn7_icon.gif ff_rue_icon.gif ff_silas2_icon.gif ff_tay_icon.gif

Scene Title True
Synopsis Just kidding. The trouble could not actually fit in that van. It's all over the place now. Like a broken glowstick.
Date July 8, 2021

Gasping breaths and frantic splashing from flailing limbs break the stillness of the moment that seemed protracted into forever.

Rue Lancaster’s head snaps from right to left. Far down the line, a blonde head stays just above the water, slender hands clinging desperately to rock that splits the river briefly.

Finally free of her laces, Rue chucks her second boot aside to land more or less near the first and crosses the river at the shallows, sprinting further downstream to where Liza holds on for dear life. “I’ve got you!” she cries out, voice hoarse from all the screaming she’s already done.

She shimmies out of her maxi skirt and twists it into a makeshift rope, wrapping one end around her wrist before dropping to her stomach on the shore and flinging it out to the other woman. It falls short and she fights back another round of tears before casting it out again. The second time, Liza manages to grasp onto it. Carefully, she reels her in toward her, Liza able to use the rock as leverage when she gets around the other side of it.

Finally, she’s on shore, coughing up water, sneezing it out of her nasal cavities, and clearly feeling as awful as she looks. Rue scrambles to kneel at her side, alternating between rubbing and gently thumping on Liza’s back. “I’m sorry,” she whimpers. “I’m so sorry.”

Liza tilts to one side until she collapses against Rue’s lap, curled up on her side with her back to her wife. “I’m okay,” she promises falsely.

“I’ll be okay,” is more accurate.

Two Years Later

Salvage Bay 7
Back Office

New Chicago
Ruins of Indiana

July 8th


Things were not okay.

Rue and Liza Messer stand on the far end of a spacious back office behind Salvage Bay 7, one of the many full-service salvage and repair garages on the outskirts of New Chicago’s bazaar. The tension in Rue’s expression is mirrored, literally, by another Rue.

Gracie stands across the room, blood on her hands and some spatter marks smudged on her face. Nearby, laid out on a ratty sofa, Robyn is being tended to by a burly-looking man in a workman’s jumpsuit who is applying pressure to a gunshot wound at Robyn’s hip. Sharpie marker scribbled on his jumpsuit reads “SAL” in big, friendly letters.

Robyn is fading in and out of consciousness, breathing heavily, brow slick with sweat, face pale. She’s lost a lot of blood. Most of it is soaked into Sal’s couch. Phosphorous, like a broken glow-stick. Sal’s expression with glowing blood on his hand says everything. Tay vocalizes it.

“What the fuck.” Tay exhales as he leads Richard and Chess into the back room, only to spot Rue and Liza by one way, then Gracie at another. “What the fuck?

Silas, the odd-man out in this, sits on the arm of the sofa by Robyn’s side, keeping a closer eye on her amid violence and chaos.

What the fuck?” Tay exhales the words. A demand, a plea, an exasperation.

The arrival of Tay, Richard, and Chess sees Silas look up, relief washing over his features as he levers himself up off the arm of the couch; Tay's expression speaks volumes enough as to what he's saying. "Yeah," Silas calls, a lot more evenly than he feels.

He takes a breath. "Uh. Robyn got shot and exploded into lasers. She's… lost a lot of. Uh. Phosphorus. I think. Chess, can you help?" he asks hopefully.

Despite somehow still being conscious, Robyn has clearly moved into a state of at least mild delirium.

Or at least that's what she thinks.

Reaching up, she rugs on Silas' arm. "Silas," she says quietly. "Silas," sounds a bit more urgent this time. "I think I'm starting to hallucinate," she breathes out quietly. "But if I'm not, and I pass out? I need you to-" She stops to wince and groan and wince again, letting out a pained whine. "Just put me in the ground, yeah? I can't live in a world where there's two of her."

It's a joke, certainly, but probably not a good one for the moment. Not that Robyn's ever had that level of discretion, even when in perfect physical health.

With that she falls quietly again, just giving pained, drawn out breaths as she looks up at the ceiling and tries real, real hard to move as little as possible.

Chess rushes in on Tay’s heels and stops abruptly when she sees not one but two Gracies. Her head swivels from side to side and her eyes narrow slightly – Elliot’s doppelganger was a surprise but Gracie’s from Flood, right? But then she has her own identicals, and her mind jumps to clone.

Her mouth works to try to say something but then she’s being asked a question and her eyes widen.


She’s healed a broken leg. That is her entire curriculum vitae when it comes to this new ability of hers, and someone bleeding out is a different matter. Especially when Robyn’s blood looks like a glo-stick that got broken at a particularly rough rave.

“I can try.” Sorry, Robyn, Chess absolutely doesn’t sound confident.

Still, she moves forward to crouch beside Silas. Her hands lift, visibly shaking, and she frowns down at Robyn, looking down at the glowing blood with more uncertainty. “If this goes sideways…” Chess has heard some horror stories about these conduits.

“Where’s Nat?” she asks, not yet putting her hand on Robyn. “Is there time to find her?”

“Robyn!” The hood of that stained yellow poncho that Richard’s been wearing in the rain is shoved back as he rushes across the room to the couch where the others are hovering over her. Behind dark lenses his eyes sweep over her, judging the severity of the wound, lips pursing in a thin line.

One hand drops down to brush against Chess’s shoulder, and he says softly, “I can guide you through it. The trick is…”

Then he notices the other elephant in the room and trails off. He looks from Gracie to Rue. To Gracie. To Liza. Back to Rue, then to Gracie.

“What– ?”

When Richard looks in Liza's direction, the blonde gives a small shrug in response. Her expression is just as confused as those around her, though she crosses her arms over her chest as she gazes in the general direction of the rest of the group. Despite being the shorter of the two women, she stands slightly in front of Rue as if to shield her from herself.

“I know, right?” The reply to every what and what the fuck comes in tandem from the two Rues, who immediately fix each other with identical looks somewhere between bewildered and offended.

“Supernatural freaky Friday,” Rue murmurs, shaking her head a little haplessly. She keeps a hand on Liza’s shoulder. Not protectively, but assuringly. In this relationship, she is the shrinking violet and Liza is the hitter. It’s quite the departure from the Rue the travelers know.

Gracie and the Rue across from her, however, hold themselves similarly. Confident enough, but without the chip on their shoulders. “You’re—” Her focus goes distant for a moment before it snaps back to Liza. “I—”

“Who are you?” Rue finally asks. She’s not afraid of the answer, but there’s apprehensiveness all the same. There’s also empathy, concern for this other woman that looks like her and clearly got caught up in her own mess.

Gracie’s gaze is slow to drift up to her double. “I— I’m— I’m you.” She shrugs helplessly. “Or you’re… me?”

Rue leans back a little, incredulity on her face. “How?

It's with a slow rise and a very uneasy whine that Robyn raises a hand into the air, as if waiting to be called on in class. "I…" She has to stop to take a laboured breath. "I know the answer to this one, call on me."

She doesn't wait to be called on.

"She's not from here," is the answer she gives in a low, strained voice. Words are hard right now, that much is evident in her voice. "Like us. I can- someone please put my light back in my body so I, uh."

She stops there for a moment, before abruptly continuing. "I can explain."

Tay closes his eyes firmly, opens them again. Still seeing double. “One thing at a time,” he stresses, looking at Richard. “Tricks. The her not being dead kind.” He nods to Robyn on the couch. “You tell her, I’ll keep an eye on the Barbie girls.”

He doesn’t understand what Richard’s been through, misreads the confusion. He slips past Richard, looking down at Robyn’s glowing blood and files that away under things that will keep him up at night.

“Are the people who did that to her gonna come back around for seconds?” Tay asks the room. “Second question, how much fucking trouble are we in?”

Sal, helpfully, looks up from his makeshift triage. “The blood on the road coming in here was the problem. So I’m guessing not a lot at the moment, until Sonny finds out what you did to his boys. As for trouble…” he looks around the room and shrugs. “Your guess is as good as mine, chief.”

Then, Sal looks at Richard and Chess with a somewhat pleading expression: Can I go?

Robyn's tug at Silas's sleeve is met with concern, but when she cracks a joke he musters a grin. "Glad you're still able to joke," he says. "Cavalry's here, at least. They'll get most of your… er… light… back where it goes, double-quick," he says, with all the reassurance he can muster, then glances to Chess and Richard. "Ain't that right, Chess? Richard?" he says with a grin.

Sal's look is caught, and Silas nods, moving in to take over applying pressure. "I'll take over on this," he says. His gaze slips to look over the Rues and Liza… but that whole duck, duck, goose situation of who's who can wait until the bleeding's been stopped, at least.

"No one's coming back for seconds," Liza raises her voice in response to Tay. The second of his two questions remains unanswered as she's not entirely sure she knows what to say to that. The hand on her shoulder is grounding, but it's still eerie seeing Gracie across the room from her and her brow furrows in concern mixed in with her confusion. Straightening herself up a bit, she looks across at Robyn. "I'm looking forward to this explanation once you're able to."

She's not expecting answers from her until she's not bleeding and probably delirious. The small blonde tilts her head a bit to the woman at her side, lowering her tone slightly. "You okay Rhubarb?"

Chess’ hand hovers above Robyn, and she frowns as Richard trails off. Her blue-eyed gaze flits from one person to the next, and she shakes her head slightly, not following what’s happened with the shooting.

“What boys?” she asks Sal, glancing over to Silas with her brows lifting since he seems to know what’s happening more than most.

But more immediate is Robyn’s wound, and she takes a shaky breath. It hadn’t hurt her to heal Gracie (or whatever her name is), except to tire her out a little, but this is a fresh wound, and this is a new power, this thing in her she doesn’t want at all.

“Here goes nothing,” she murmurs, before reaching for Robyn’s wrist, avoiding any of that glowing blood in case it burns.

“I– “ Richard’s gaze flickers back and forth for a moment, fingers curling into a fist at his side and a breath drawn sharply inward. “Make sure neither of them leave,” he says abruptly and sharply in Tay’s direction before pulling himself back to the possibly-mortal wound at hand.

It’s not like there’s a modern hospital to bring her to, after all.

A deep breath drawn in, he turns back to Robyn and Chess, his fingers curling to her shoulder. Trying to push past everything and focus on his friends - and not losing one of them. “You don’t– you don’t need to know how to fix it,” he says quietly, “The conduit already knows. You need to surrender to it. You need to let it do the work, and trust it.”

Anyone who knows him more than a little can probably tell why it was so hard for him to master that aspect of things when he still had it.

“Yeah,” Rue assures Liza. “I’m fi—” She cuts herself off with a sharp gasp and lightly whaps her wife in the arm. “I got Lanced!” Before Liza can even ask what the hell that means, she barrels right on into the explanation. “You know,” she drops her voice to a level she thinks sufficiently conveys masculine, “we live in a society?” She points a finger-gun at her head and makes the sound when she pulls the trigger. “And then he was just there like we weren’t supposed to notice the difference?”

There it is. Dealing horrifically poorly with trauma and deflecting with (wildly inappropriate and often dark) humor is a universal trait that’s constant across all timelines with all Rues.

Gracie stares across the space at her alternate, blank-faced and sort of slack-jawed. Is that how she sounds?

Blinking away the moment, she turns and moves toward where Robyn is laid out. “Sure,” she says over her shoulder. “Let’s go with that.” Rue just shrugs as Gracie crouches down and brushes hair away from the injured woman’s brow, letting the contact linger. “I know you’re about to fuck up my entire life, Quinnie,” she murmurs softly, mostly to herself, “but fuck if I’m going to let you die for trying to help me.”

Her other hand settles on Chess’ shoulder. “You’ve got this,” she promises. “You’ve done this before and we’ll do it again.”

Slowly, Robyn's eyes drift over towards Gracie, and in her bloodloss, adrenaline crash haze, she offers just the smallest of apologetic smiles to her. What's about to happen had been something she wanted to do in private, the whole reason she'd gone out with Gracie and Silas was to corner her away from others.

No real chance of that now. Truly, no one fucks up Rue Lancaster's luck like Rue Lancaster does, and apparently that's multiplicative.

She offers Chess and Richard just the most weak and tentative looking thumbs up, before letting her arm fall back limp to her side. There's not really much to say until she's a bit more cognizant, and she doesn't really have much in the way of energy anyway. If she wasn't worried about not waking up, a nap would be nice right now.

Tay has been quietly watching the two Rues this entire time. Richard’s focus on them has his hackles up. It’s bad enough there’s doppelgangers he’s traveling with, it’s another to be ambushed by them.

Sal, meanwhile, excuses himself as far as the doorway. “Just so we’re clear, I don’t want no trouble. When you’re done in here, kindly show yourselves out the back.”

“Thanks,” Tay offers over his shoulder before Sal slips out and closes the door to the garage.

All the while, Chess is trying to acclimate herself to the burden that’s been put upon her. This isn’t a broken limb. It’s so much worse. She can feel with a touch what’s wrong, can feel something inside of herself, reaching out like the cilia of a barnacle in cold seawater. Shattered bones, internal bleeding. This is bad. She knows it, but on the same level she doesn’t know what else there is to do.

Chess can feel, instinctively, the flow of life leaving Robyn. She’s dying. So Chess is faced with a choice, try or don’t.

Richard's explanation about the Conduit sees Silas raise his eyebrows — he is not, perhaps, the best acquainted with Richard, but he knows the man well enough to be pretty sure that just letting things happen is probably not his strong suit. "Sounds like floating," Silas offers.

Sal's comment gets a nod; there's still the matter of the Pinzgauer parts for the Wildcat, but that's something that can be handled later. After this has been ironed out. "You got this, Chess," he says. Encouraging Chess and keeping the pressure on Robyn's wound is about all Silas can do to help, so he's doing his best to accomplish both of those.

"This wasn't the kind of trouble I was expecting to get into today," Liza says softly, her gaze lingering on the injured Robyn and the attempts to heal her. There are certainly questions, but she's not rude enough to ask them while someone's actively dying. It doesn't, however, stop her from taking a moment to study the woman who's the mirror image of her wife. She reaches up to place a hand over Rue's before she tears her gaze away to make sure that her redhead is actually okay.

“Yeah, okay,” Chess murmurs to Richard. When Gracie puts her hand on her shoulder, though, she shakes it off, turning with a flash of distrust in her pale eyes. “Don’t,” she snaps through gritted teeth. “I don’t know who you are, but I’m pretty sure you’re not who you say you are, and until we know who you are and why that is, you and me are not okay.”

Her attention goes back to Robyn, though, and her eyes flutter closed as she gives herself into that feeling. She moves her hand to Robyn’s waist, just above the wound at her hip – Robyn’s fading quickly, and maybe the time it takes for the energy to travel makes a difference. The thought is distant, as if obscured by a layer of fog as she gives herself to the power.

It’s hard for her to let go, too, but she focuses on the feelings – the sense of the healing energy curling out, stretching, and the warmth that follows. There’s a glow, pale gold, that emanates from her hand and to Robyn’s body. After a moment her hand stops shaking and she breathes in at last, then out again.

Behind darkened lenses of reinforced plastic, midnight eyes flit towards Gracie and linger there as she speaks and reaches out, as Chess replied. Richard’s fingers tighten a bit on the latter’s shoulder, a breath drawn in through his nose, subtle indicators of the emotional tumult going on beneath the surface.

A tempest held back only by the need to make sure Robyn is healed.

“There you go,” he breathes out as he feels Chess start to relax, “See? It knows what it’s doing. Trust it to do what needs to be done.”

Gracie withdraws immediately, biting back on the urge to snap in return, but arguing about it won’t help anyone, least of all the one who needs it most. The suddenness of her recoil causes her to tip to one side, bracing herself with one hand to keep from falling entirely on her side. That momentary contact was just enough, however, that she can feel it, the way light and life bleed from Robyn.

She pushes back up to her feet and grasps at Richard’s arm. “I can help,” she says quietly, appearing to remember herself quickly enough and withdrawing before he can shake her off just like Chess did. Instead, Gracie just watches and feels the push and pull of the conduit’s energy.

Rue’s inappropriately timed epiphany has faded back down to be covered over again with the vastly more appropriate amount of concern. Her hand turns over beneath Liza’s so they can hold hands at their sides instead. She looks up at Silas curiously. “I… honestly thought you were dead, Mr. Mackenzie.”

The breath leaves her lungs with a particularly heavy exhale. It slowly clicks into place that the other her has been calling Robyn by the wrong name. “I’d say I don’t think we covered this in science class, but that would imply I actually showed up for science class.”

Having lapsed back into unconsciousness, it takes a moment for Robyn's eyes to flutter back open as she exhales a long, rasping breath. It instantly gives way to something more familiar.

"Fffffffuck," she breathes out.

Eyes open wider, looking around the room at who she can see from where she lays, slowly and surely processing things a bit more clearly as the conduit does it's work. First to Chess, then up to Richard and Silas. Her head turns slightly to Gracie, then her gaze shifts past her, to Rue and Liza.

"Silas, you promised," she whines. He didn't.

A hand rises, resting over her heart as she looks straight up at the ceiling, taking a moment to try and dredge back up everything that's happened since she got shot. She's still, save for her other hand moving to the pocket of her pants on the side where she didn't get shot, feeling around to see if something's still with her.

She frowns and closes her eyes again. She would be able to think now that she's slowly coming out of her punch drunk, bloodloss addled state.

Now that she's not a few ticks of the clock from dead. Again.

Chess feels the exertion hit her like a sack of bricks. A wave of fatigue and light-headedness that comes on with an alarming speed. Her entire body goes slack for a minute as she catches herself, finds her breath caught in her throat and a numbness in her extremities. It’s exhausting healing someone, but on the same token she can’t argue with the results.

Robyn’s bullet wound is entirely healed, there’s not a scratch on her. The hole in her pants shows a bloody patch of fresh skin, not even a scar. But Robyn can tell that this treatment isn’t complete. There’s a dull, bone-deep ache in her hip and a mild radiating pain that extends from hip to knee. The external damage is done, and the pain is merely present rather than blinding, but she’s not fully healed.

She may need a cane to walk until the rest of the injury can be mended. But for now the warmth spreading through her body, the bathwater sensation rolling under her skin, feels like the most relieving balm she has ever experienced. The white conduit is—as Abby had long insisted—a miracle.

Tay had watched the entire miracle-working with an unblinking stare. Not only because Robyn is bleeding white phosphorus, but because she was bleeding in reverse until she suddenly wasn’t anymore. This is the second time he’d seen the power of the conduit in action, and while he doesn’t understand the significance of what Chess and Nathalie can do, he knows exactly what it means.

“You good?” He asks, and Robyn feels like the intended target, but Tay’s eyes are on Chess. He’s concerned for them both in this moment.

At hearing his name called, Silas looks over to the other Rue and offers a small smile. "Nah. Little thing like a nuclear explosion isn't gonna keep me down," he says lightly. "Good to see you. You too, Liza," he offers, before turning his attention back to Robyn.

He snorts at Robyn. "Plenty of time for sweet oblivion… but there's booze in New Chicago to drink first," he says, grinning as he focuses on keeping pressure on Robyn's wound…

…which, thankfully, isn't needed for much longer.

As the blood seeps back into Robyn's wound, Silas gingerly takes his hands away… and it looks like that's no longer needed. "You did it," Silas says, looking to Chess a broad smile of relief. Robyn's not dying anymore… which means that now things are about to get complicated.

“Good to see you too,” Liza echoes Silas’ sentiment, then she squeezes Rue’s hand gently. “Pretty sure this isn’t the kind of thing that’d ever get taught in a class.” Much as she’d like to ask questions about whatever miracle was being performed, she’s leaving space for the dust to settle and tensions to find their own footing. Without Robyn at death’s door, the situation’s turning into an entirely different one and the blonde seems unsure what to expect.

For a moment, Chess clings to the arm of the sofa, fighting that wave of dizziness that threatens to knock her over. At least she’s in a crouch and wouldn’t have far to fall. Her eyes close to keep from seeing the room spin like a Human Roulette Wheel, and she shifts so that she’s not balanced on her heels anymore, but instead, sitting with her back to the sofa. One hand reaches up to squeeze Richard’s; Silas’ cheerleading earns him a tired smile of gratitude.

Blue eyes find Tay’s when he asks his question, and her answer is a soft huff of a laugh. “Could really go for a venti Nitro cold brew right about now,” she quips, but more seriously adds, “No? Fine. Just need a few minutes for my legs to un-Jello.”

Finally, she pats Robyn’s leg. “Jesus. You even bleed dramatically,” Chess tells Robyn with a roll of her eyes, but it’s with a tone of amusement that fades with the next few words. “Now explain this bullshit. Who is she?”

“I’d give you a Conduit Snax but we lost them all to the ocean,” Richard allows quietly, helping ease Chess down to the couch, “Hydrate, electrolytes, protein, rest. You’ll need all four.”

Yes, he really named them ‘Conduit Snax’. Nobody should let him name things. This is what happens when your marketing director gets killed by land mines.

Once she’s settled, he turns to look at Gracie - who was saying she could help - and then the other Rue, and back again. His expression is hard to read, especially with the glasses hiding his eyes. He draws in a slow breath, and then asks in a very level tone, “…one of you isn’t from here. Which one, and where are you from?”

He’s not waiting for Robyn’s explanation, it seems, but going straight to the source to give one of them the chance to fess up.

“My birth certificate — if it still exists — definitely says Chicago, Illinois,” Rue offers in her defense, like it means absolutely anything. “So I guess that means I’m not from here.” Is this an issue about being a transplant? It sounds like an issue about being a transplant.

Prompting a side eye from her double. “So does mine,” Gracie can’t help but chuckle through her anxiety. She glances to the couch briefly, then decides to put her intent behind it and stares worriedly at Robyn. “I’ve definitely seen you bleed before and it didn’t look like that.” A smirk catches the corner of her mouth and tugs it upward just a little bit, she can’t help but agree with Chess’ little quip about Quinn and drama.

Loosing her hand from Liza’s, Rue crosses her arms under her chest, like she’s holding her own self for a sense of security. She glances around those gathered, slowly realizing that maybe she should be nervous right about now. That maybe the red mess on the pavement outside might not have removed the target from her back.

She inches just a bit more behind her wife. Though she be but little, she is fierce. “When I was a kid, I used to pretend I had a twin that I got separated from.”

Gracie brings her attention to her and lets out another breath of laughter, looking down to her feet a moment. “Yeah, same… Did you call her March, too?”

“Obviously,” the other woman replies.

“She was born after midnight,” they say simultaneously.

And so does Robyn.

"I didn't live so I could hear this story for the millionth time," she grouses, offering the pair of Rues an apologetic smile.

The two turn their heads sharply to look at the woman on the couch. Rue dips her head, sheepish and apologetic. Gracie’s lip curls faintly, eyes rolling until she remembers that animosity may not be a good look right now. Liza, on the other hand, grins recalling the story for the ten millionth time.

"Ugh.” Robyn groans. “Here I am wishing Richard would have more patience, while at the same time losing mine. One moment please."

It looks like Robyn is going to immediately stand up, but instead, she turns to Chess, leaning closer to her. "Thank you. I don't deserve it," she near whispers, before sucking in a deep breath. "If this happens again, though? Just.. let it go. Save the energy. Please." With that said, Robyn starts to try and rise to her feet—

— only for her leg to buckle and she fall back to the couch, biting the back of her like she's in a non-negligable amount of pain. "Fuck, okay. I'm very glad I'm used to using a cane, but the umbrella I've been using for one is back at the convoy. I'll have to go barter for another one later." She tries again to pull herself up to her feet, using Silas' shoulder, and then the back of Richard's chair in lieu of a mobility aid.

Chess’ eyes are barely open; it might look like she’s asleep. But she rolls them when Robyn tells her not to try to save her in the future. She points to the woman with an outstretched thumb, shaking her head as if the words serve as Exhibit B to the allegations of drama.

"First things first," Robyn starts as she slowly rounds around the room, stopping by Rue and Liza. "It's a pleasure to meet you both. Robyn Janestine Quinn. The woman you know that looks like me is at our caravan, you should go say hello before we leave. She'd love to see you both again."

Rue tilts her head. “Huh. Wh—” She catches herself. You can’t just ask someone why their name’s not right. “Nnniiiice to meet you,” she recovers slowly, narrowing her eyes faintly. It’s like Robyn can see the little hamster running its heart out on that wheel, trying to cook up a nickname. “Robyn.” She’s got nada.

"Nice to meet you, Robyn," Liza replies, raising an eyebrow, then lowers her tone. "… this is all going to be really weird, isn't it? I'm not hiding behind a bush or something too, am I?"

God, I hope so,” Rue whispers under her breath.

When all Rue can come up with is a simple repetition of her name, a devilish smirk forms across Robyn's face, first looking over at Gracie, and then over at Richard. "This has a point I promise, but first-" She turns back to Rue and Liza. "Honey, you have no idea how weird this is going to get… if you want it to. You can bail now and just be a little weirded out. Go see some friends. Or, you can stick around and learn about the wonders of the multiverse."

Oh yeah, she's just… going in.

"Are you in, or out?"

“I’m invested now.” Rue settles herself down on a short stack of crates. “We’ll stay.” Her wife, now suddenly the tall one, leans against Rue's shoulder. "We're in," Liza replies.

Gracie just looks between her double, her wife, and Robyn with a blank and disdainful expression. “Well,” she mutters, “this is happening.”

Robyn, mustering all the energy she can despite the pain her leg is still in, claps both hands together and does- well, it would clearly be a more dramatic turn if she could do a dramatic turn right now. She faces Gracie and tilts her head slightly. "Gracie, can I borrow your iPod? I need appropriate music for this."

“You are banned from reading Agatha Christie novels for the rest of your life,” Richard mutters under his breath to Robyn, arms folding across his chest as he shifts impatiently. His eyes are on Gracie, though, behind those darkened lenses, unwavering. He may not be blinking.

Tay, perhaps despite himself, crosses his arms and leans back against the wall by the door. Satisfied that neither Robyn nor Chess are going to explode, or melt, or both he leans into this dramatization by leaning away from it. He shoots Richard a brief look with a crooked smile, then watches Robyn with mirthful confusion.

Here is a woman who was just shot in what was clearly a firefight and—whatever else, judging from the condition of Silas’ pants—and now it’s become the Agatha Christie Hour. Okay, the incline of his head says, looking between Rue and Gracie. Wow me.

Silas is not as impressed by the Robyn Christie Mystery Hour, judging by his nonplussed expression. "You, uh… got a speaker to go with it?" he asks, frowning uncertainly; he's not sure where this is going, but he's also not sure whether he wants to go out on an errand or not. Might give me a chance to buy some new pants, at least.

"… music. Okay, this should be interesting," Liza murmurs, glancing at her wife.

“Does she think she’s Neil deGrasse Tyson?” Chess mutters to Richard. “Also, fuck now I want snacks. Thanks for that.”

She pushes herself up a little more on the sofa, so she can raise a cynical brow in Robyn’s direction, waiting for the woman to make some sense. “Less theater, more information. Unless she’s got Gaga. Then by all means.”

Ordinarily? Richard would quip back at Chess. Right now, though, he just watches silently. Waiting. Grinding his jaw a bit, from the subtle shift of his mouth.

Gracie?” Rue asks, fixing Robyn with a curious look. “That’s what…”

Gracie completes the thought. “What Pepper calls you. Us. Yeah.”

She’s stalling. Her shoulders shift uncomfortably, subtly, her expression just a little too fixed. With a sigh, she reaches into her pocket and withdraws her chunk of an iPod. The hang of her skirt is different once the weight is out. She doesn’t pass it over, however. She just holds it up demonstratively. Yes, she has it.

“You’ve been talking to Sarah.” Then she folds her arms together, her hand and the device tucking under the opposite elbow. Finally, Gracie sets her eyes back on Richard. “I’m from a lot of places. Just not this one.”

Her chin dips down to her chest, her shoulders hunching up. Her posture slouches. “And… I think that’s all I can safely say..”

Rue starts to look uncomfortable. She recognizes her own fear when she sees it. It’s like a mirror.

Clearly, Robyn had been relishing the theatrical element of this presentation, regardless of the mood of the rest of the room. The smile on her face is one of someone enjoying a moment for once. It doesn't last.

As Gracie brings up Sarah and tucks away her iPod, speaks of safety, the smile on Robyn's face vanishes. "You don't get it, do you?" she states flatly, the theatrical joy having drained from her voice. Shaking her head, she takes a hobbling step towards the other woman. "You've already been under scrutiny once. I backed you up then, and frankly, I don't like being made a fool of. I would like to stay on your side here, Gracie. You need to work with me."

The look on her face, the tone, the way she tilts her head - it's very familiar to Gracie.

"I've been noticing things for a while, small things that only clicked together recently. 'Quinnie', for one, was what started my mind wandering. There's no reason for Rue Lancaster here to call me that, which she herself just backed up. Your… overt familiarity with several of us, the constant dodging of topics, bunches of things. It all added up." She holds out several fingers in succession as she takes another hobbling step forward. "The fact that you have music released the day after I released my album was the thing that made it fall into place."

She shakes her finger, her other arm propping her against the wall. "That was in 2011. You're at least from somewhere… christ, I don't know the words for this. Somewhere… tangential to where we're from? Whose safety are you looking out for, yours or ours?" She turns, looking back over at Rue and Liza. "Hi, yes, again, multiverse is real, some of us are from another world. Try to keep that between us, thanks."

She approaches close, just out of arm - or leg - reach, centering her gaze on Gracie, a smile returning to her face - but this one, while lacking outright malice, seems much more threatening. "And besides all that, you've wandered into the spider's parlour, little fly. Do you play with light often?"

Tay is quiet through all of this, watching the back and forth between Gracie and Robyn. He shifts he weight from time to time, keeping one foot firmly planted on the floor, another with a heel against the wall, perfect to launch himself forward if he needs to. It isn’t until Robyn’s tone shifts toward the end that Tay tenses. He glances at Rue and Liza, then back to Robyn, then around, gauging the expressions of the others.

This all felt like a powderkeg again. Like the boxcar. It wasn’t going to go the same way twice, unless a lot of people get cool with a whole lot of things really quickly.

Silas frowns at what Robyn says, and that frown deepens at Gracie's evasion… but her shift in tone sees his expression flatten. Tay's not the only one getting Witch Trial II: More Burn the Witchening vibes out of this, and for all that he's starting to have concerns, that little fly line rubs him the wrong way. And there's something else that occurs to him, as well.

"Okay, whatever you're trying to say, maybe you oughta say it straight out," he says. "Because I'm pretty sure we're not the spiders in this parlor," Silas points out, as evenly as he can. "Remember the whole laws are not enforced equally, fuck around and you'll find out bit we got when we arrived? Might be a good idea not to stick around for the find out part, unless we want to try to explain timelines to whatever passes for the New Chicago PD."

Liza’s gaze goes first from her wife, then to Gracie, and her lips curl downward in a frown of concern. She squeezes Rue’s shoulder with a gentle hand, then takes just the slightest step forward to act as a more imposing shield for the redhead. She’s sensing the bad vibes and she’s not sure how comfortable she is with things now. She lets her attention rest solely on Gracie now, the concern remaining spread across her features.

There may be another roll of her eyes or two on Chess’ part as the show goes on, but when things get to the point, she sits up a little higher. Her blue eyes narrow to settle on Gracie and she shakes her head at her response.

“You’re gonna have to say more than that if you wanna be safe with us, Lancaster.” To Chess, she is longer Gracie, a nickname that belongs to the other Rue. “That you’re from somewhere else isn’t the problem, per se. It’s that you lied to us. What does matter is how you got here and why you’re with our group pretending to be someone you’re not.” Chess shrugs her shoulders. “We aren’t going to keep a liar in the group. We don’t need to string you up, but if that’s all you’re going to say, Chicago’s the last exit on this little adventure.”

To Richard, she asides under her breath, “Do we have any telepaths to sort this shit out?”

The dramatics are normally something that Richard would appreciate in his own way, but in this particular case there’s something about it all that has him on edge. More than on edge. He doesn’t even look over to Chess at the quiet question, his focus entirely on Gracie now.

“Which one are you,” he asks, his voice tight and carefully kept level, his eyes on her. His expression was equally tight, one hand tightening into a fist by his side, “Which February Lancaster are you, Gracie?”

Which one are you he asks, but she can hear the real question, read it in his body language.

“Don’t worry,” she says, stroking the back of his head with one hand while looping her opposite arm around his shoulders. “I took the counteragent before you entered the room.” Whatever’s happening to him, they will not be going down together.

“Wh— “ A push of his head back against her hair, those dark eyes flashing up to her with a look of betrayal, his hand loosening on her thigh as weakness starts to wash over him, “You poison— “

No time for recriminations, Richard. Ingested zodytrin and adynomine don’t work this quickly, no telling what it is he’s been dosed with, but he can’t rely on his ability. Muscular strength rapidly waning, so some sort of paralytic or sedative. No way to tell if it’s a lethal dose, and can’t rely on a physical struggle or reaching for a weapon.

“Red King override,” he hisses out, head snapping towards the conference room table and its integrated system although it’s starting to blur in his vision, “Full— security alert— “

Rue rolls her eyes and turns Richard’s face against her chest again, muffling his voice as he tries to call for a lockdown. “Sssshhhhh.” He struggles, but it feels like he’s pushing through deep water. “You don’t want anyone else involved in this.”

One high-heeled foot plants on the floor, then the other. His hand slips away from her thigh uselessly and she drags him out of his chair and down to the floor, her elbow locked around his neck. “If I wanted you dead, you’d be dead,” is offered as some sort of assurance. “Now go the fuck to sleep.”

Tell me you’re not her.

Gracie dances back one step, then another. Her eyes get wider, she feels her blood run cold. She’s been navigating this maze for so long, but now she sees herself faced with the dead end, with foes at her back.

“I’m a watcher,” she says softly, shoulders hunching up further and shrinking back. “I’m supposed to watch and not interfere.” Gracie tightens her arms around herself, eyes darting between each person present, looking for allies, tracking movements.

Rue climbs to her feet and crosses over to her other self, concern etched deep into her features. “Hey,” she says quietly, reaching a hand out to rest on her shoulder. “It’s okay.” She looks out at the group. “It’s okay, right?” There’s something horribly disconcerting about watching this unfold.

The interloper looks surprised to find compassion extended her way. “…You don’t hate me?” she asks softly. “I’ve been pretending to be you for… Well, it’s been a while.” She swallows anxiously.

Rue, in turn, looks just as confused. “Why would I hate you? That’d be like hating myself, and I don’t have a shrink anymore, but if I did still have a shrink, there’d be a lot to unpack there.”

It disarms Gracie enough to laugh. It breaks down the dam that was keeping the rest of her emotions at bay. She starts to cry. “I didn’t sign up for this,” she whispers, strained. “I didn’t want to…”

The native iteration of Rue embraces her other self, a hand against the back of her head as she shoots a wary look out to the others, just this side of sharp.

Robyn's expression goes blank when the exchange between the two Rues begins, lips pressed thin as she listens to them, a distant look in her eyes. After a moment, she huffs out a heavy sigh and looks up towards a window, before slowly turning and beginning to hobble away from Gracie and Rue.

"You know what?" she intones as she leans against the wall with each step. "Nevermind. We all have our secrets." She offers a pointed look over towards Chess and Richard. This includes the three of them. "I'm satisfied for now that you're not here to murder us in our sleep, but if you think you and I are done talking, Gracie, you're wrong. Particularly if you want to stick with our group. If you want to stay here, in Chicago?"

She gives a light shrug. "You're on your own, then. Consider it a homecoming." She stops as she nears a chair near Richard, moving to lean against its back. "I'd recommend we leave it there for now. But if she does get another chance?" She looks up at Gracie and shakes her head. "This time is the last time."

Groaning, she turns to face Tay, flashing him a pensive, uncertain smile. "Tay, mind helping a lady get around for a bit? I either need to find a cane, or a Nat."

Tay leans off of the wall, looking at Gracie, then Richard. He rolls his tongue between his teeth and cheek, starting to approach Robyn, but hesitating midway through. It isn’t Richard’s question that’s eating at him, he doesn’t have the context for that. Instead, it’s her answer that is.

“You’re here to watch.” Tay says with a shift of his jaw to the side. “Except when it involves a raid on our convoy. ‘Cause you weren’t just sitting back and watching then. Now we hashed that out and you assured us you weren’t spying for those raiders that shot us the fuck up. It was all a big case of mistaken identity.” He glances at Robyn, then back. “Now we find out you ain’t even from here, and you’re some kinda watcher which apparently no-fucking-body needed to know until you couldn’t keep it a secret anymore.”

Tay rubs one hand at his jaw, looking down at the floor. “‘Cause you know what I call somebody who keeps fuckin’ secrets, observes, and only talks in riddles when they’re captured?”

He remembers the face of his father. “That’s a fucking spy.”

Silas frowns. He's still convinced that getting out of here is the way to go, but he doesn't have an answer for Tay's arguments. Because he's not quite wrong, is he?

Well. Except for one thing. "If she hadn't opened her mouth on the radio, that wouldn't even have been a thing; no one woulda looked at her twice. And if she hadn't acted today when she did, odds are good Robyn wouldn't have only taken one bullet, because those schmucks rolled up shooting and didn't seem too keen about asking questions, period," he points out, frowning — he still remembers Gracie just being there, smoking gun in hand and two men dead from gunshot wounds. "Best case, Chess wouldn't have been able to heal her enough to walk outta here, and we'd have to spend longer waiting for her to get healed enough to leave, which would've invited more trouble. Worst case…"

Silas trails off there, because he still remembers how much glowing blood had soaked into that ratty old couch. He takes a breath. "Trouble rolled up and started shooting. She picked up a gun and helped save our asses, and that's a fact."

Then he glances to the trio of Gracie, Rue, and Liza, because he's said his piece; it's on them now. "Unless I'm missing my mark — that pack of bozos was looking for you and found us. Am I right?" he asks the other Rue.

Liza's arms fold over her chest, as if somehow it ends up making her look taller. She makes her way to stand over by the two Rues as she nods to Silas. "Look, I don't think anyone wants trouble, right?" She glances sidelong at her wife, but still faces the others. "You can't change whatever trouble's happened before now, but someone mistook one of your group for my wife. That issue's not going to be a problem now, obviously, but it's our trouble and we look out for our own. As far as I'm concerned, if she can't go back with all of you, she's just March and she's staying here."

Chess rises, unsteadily, one hand gripping the couch’s back for support. “No, not nevermind,” she says, eyes flashing in Robyn’s direction, and she gives a nod to Tay at his assessment of the situation. That’s a spy.

“She’s spying on us. The question is for who. And…”

She looks up at Richard, sees that look on his face. Tell me you’re not her.

“You didn’t answer his question. I’m fucking glad you don’t hate yourself,” she gestures at Gracie and Rue’s embrace, “because trust me, I know what it’s like to hate someone who looks just like you and how confusing that can be when you look in the mirror.”

But this isn’t about her or Lanhua.

Chess narrows her eyes on Gracie. “Who are you spying for, and how the fuck did you get here? And answer Ray’s question.”

“No,” is Richard’s flat, quiet statement to Robyn as she says that, as she stops near him. Just no.

Tay, and Chess, are asking the questions he wants to know – so he remains silent. Nostrils flare slightly as he inhales a deep breath, then breathes it out again, his arms lifting to fold over his chest. The fingers of one hand curl into his opposite bicep, pressing hard in against the leather of his jacket. He’s struggling internally right now with a storm of conflicting emotions, watching the two women embrace and fighting to keep the anger and anguish off his face.

He told Gracie he’d protect her. Stood up for her when others wouldn’t. Helped her get better at hand to hand combat. Held her at night, even if that was all they did. Après le déluge, nous.

But suddenly he’s faced with the reality that he doesn’t know who she is at all.

Rue keeps her protective arms around Gracie, her glance to each of the others growing increasingly wary. She looks to Liza, knowing she’ll step up to any fight, but finding that knowledge worrisome in this moment.

Gracie’s face is streaked with tears when she looks up again. There’s a silent gratitude when her eyes land on Silas, nodding her head nearly imperceptibly. Taking a shaky breath, she glances to Tay and Chess in turn, then to Robyn, and finally to Richard.

“I don’t know how to answer that question,” she says. “I’m not her,” she tips her head toward her counterpart, “and I’m not the one from your world. I’m just… I’m me.” She’s shaking, prompting Rue to tighten her embrace. Gracie knows full well what that question means, and she will dodge the truth of herself like her life depends on it, because it does.

“I’m not… I’m not spying like you think.” Gracie turns herself to fit more against Rue’s side, so she’s at least partially facing out to the others as she speaks. “I’m observing, but I’m not… reporting anything to anybody. All I was told was to watch. I was told not to interfere, which…”

Her mouth curves up into a sardonic smirk as she looks to Silas again. “Every time that I have, that’s gone real great for me.” Just like he said. Taking a deep breath, her gaze lowers halfway to the floor, unfocused. “If I’m on anybody’s side, it’s yours. If you’ll hear me out, I can try to start from the beginning.”

As she lets out a weary sigh, this time it's Robyn's turn to roll her eyes. Lowering her gaze down, she focuses on Richard and Chess. "So, by that metric, are we just giving our other resident spy a pass?" The way she stares flatly Chess may serve to fill in the unstated gap there - she's talking about Glory.

"Despite the fact that we know they were lying about who they were, where they came from, what they were doing? Despite that they were snooping around and being evasive? Despite the fact that they only came clean after they were caught with their hand in the cookie jar?" Standing unsteadily, Robyn crosses her arms and shakes her head. "What's different here?" She motions to Gracie, though her eyes don't leave Richard and Chess. "That she's less confident, more scared, and not plying us with honeyed words and largely unverifiable information?"

Unfurling her arms, she throws them up in the air, before quickly having to grab something to steady herself, not used to the condition their leg is in. "Why does it matter where she's from? You're clearly looking for a specific answer here, or you wouldn't be pushing so hard. And that's before the assumptions that she has the terminology and context to quantify that. Not everyone's like us Richard. I could barely even think of a proper word for a parallel timeline a moment ago."

Her eyes flit over to Gracie. "From where I stand, she's right, she's really only tried to help, and look where it's getting her. Trust me when I say she could continue to help if we let her." Or make her, six of one half dozen of the other. "Just do what you do with all the other castaways and former miscreants and, I don't know. Flip her? Hire her? I thought you had a whole thing about this."

"Robyn," Richard says tightly, not looking away from the two Rues, "You get to have an opinion when a February Lancaster has kidnapped you, leaving you chained to a ceiling to be gutted by a sword and forced to try and crawl to safety until you bleed out and die, just as bait for your cousin to kill herself bringing you back."

Both Rues turn their gazes to Richard and look on with the utmost horror at the description of what happened to him. The native iteration looks a little sick. Gracie already looked that way.

Robyn's eyes widen, balking as physically as she can at Richard's remark - but seemingly not in horror of what he's describing, but rather- "Excuse the fuck out of you, Richard Ray. I didn't get dragged across reality against my will to be told I don't get to have an opinion."

“Alright everybody clearly has very big balls that Gracie’s stepped on.” Tay announces over the din of argument. “Some of us liked it and some of us didn't,” he says with gestures to one side of the room and then the other.

Then he

takes out a gun.

“Let’s just cut to the chase.” Tay says, pointing it at Gracie, who holds perfectly still, then looks back to the group like someone at the podium on The Price is Right estimating the cost of a can of beans. Higher? Lower?

“Or do we want to just tell her to fuck off and be done with it?” Tay lowers the gun, never having even switched off the safety.

Silas's brow furrows as the conversation keeps bouncing back and forth, seeming to pick up intensity with every volley. Other spy? Other spy? Silas thinks, his eyes moving back and forth between Robyn and Chess.

It's not until Richard says that Robyn doesn't get an opinion that his mood starts to shift away from concern and perplexity. The signs aren't obvious, but they're visible — the tightening of his mouth, the way his face seems to shift from concern and puzzlement to blankness — the blankness of a sheer rock face that a would-be climber only realizes is unscalable when they're halfway up with no way back.

Tay's gun earns a quick shift of Silas's gaze, but the only sign he gives of recognition is a slight nod — seemingly of approval — before his gaze shifts back to Richard.

"Cutting to the chase sounds good. Here's the last thing I have to say. If our opinions don't mean anything, then why the fuck are we here?" Silas asks. Despite his words, his tone isn't heated — it's cold and low and sharp as a winter wind gusting through a graveyard. "If you can't trust the goddamn people who were actually there — the member of your crew who just got shot and nearly died…" he says, still without heat but with a careful enunciation that hints at the volcanic fury he's containing…

He takes half a beat to take a breath. "…then don't," he finishes quietly, shrugging.

Only then does he look to Tay. "I say she stays with us. If she still cares to."

Liza stiffens at the sight of the gun, narrowing her eyes a bit as Tay waves it around. "How about we talk without threats?"

“It’s not the same for a lot of reasons, namely that she didn’t try to evade the truth like this one, and she wasn’t there deliberately for us,” Chess says when Robyn brings up Glory. “And if you remember, I stepped out of that initial conversation about that, so however we handled that wasn’t my decision.”

Richard’s words draw her attention, though, and her eyes widen at the description he gives, before settling on Gracie and seeing the look on the redhead’s face. “That also makes it a bit different, I agree.”

Her gaze shifts to Rue and Liza for a moment, before she tips her head in Silas’ direction. “Gracie was protecting herself. They said as much, that the shooters thought she was that one. I wouldn’t chalk it up to heroism.” She keeps her eyes on Rue and Gracie. She takes a deep breath – standing and talking is taking a toll on her as her body is still exhausted from the healing. One finger is lifted, as if to say ‘one more thing.’

“We have a lot of questions still. Who she’s observing for is really fucking important, and how they’re supposed to know what she ‘observes’ if she’s not meant to interfere… there’s a lot at stake here, and not just whether our opinions are listened to or not.”

Her pale eyes shift over to Richard. “It sounds like you have the most say on this, at least to me. My opinion is we either leave her here, or we take her for more questioning, but if she stays, it’s with guards.” Her eyes narrow a little. “Maybe your cousin, if it’s who I think it is.”

Rue, who isn’t sure whether to put herself bodily between Gracie and the man with the gun, feels relief when she ultimately doesn’t have to make that choice.

“Wait, what?” Mention of another watcher is news to the now-admitted interloper. There’s someone else watching them all and she’s the asshole here? As much as Gracie might want to pry into that, she has enough sense to keep her mouth shut — about this one thing. She reaches up and wipes her face, pressing her lips together to try and force them not to tremble. She draws in a deep breath…

And lets it out as an embittered sigh. “Yeah, I panicked back during the ambush and I didn’t have the chance to make clear what I was trying to say, but I was trying to protect people.” She throws out an arm out toward the street, jostling Rue slightly in the process. “I could have stayed hiding and risked Quinn getting shot again or Silas getting hurt, but instead I threw myself into that fight to help.

Very purposefully, she does not even glance in Liza’s direction to betray her additional motivation. “If I hadn’t been left busted in a boxcar all night, I’d have helped dig people out!” Now she isn’t just scared, she’s mad. “You know what? No. Let’s just test this theory of mine and find out if I have a psychic kill switch in my head.”

Gracie stomps a few paces away and lets out a breath all in one hard exhale, her lower jaw jutted out like a frustrated bulldog as she glares skyward. Well, ceilingward. “Are you there, God? It’s me, Febs!” Theatrically, she leans to one side with her hand cupped to her ear, listening.


“That’s what I fucking thought.” She turns back to the others. “You wanna know why I’m here in the middle of this post-apocalyptic clusterfuck?! Because I was dying and some asshole comes and pokes me in the nose,” she leans forward and taps Rue on the nose lightly, causing her to dance a step back in surprise, wide eyes blinking, “then tells me get in the giant fucking Christmas ornament, Shinji!

Oh, good. Another universal constant. All Rue Lancasters are huge nerds.

“Then I’m in fucking flyover country with nothing but the clothes on my damn back and Girl Scouts training from two decades ago!” Gracie claws at the air like she might reach into heaven and tear God Himself to shreds. “Alright, you antediluvian motherfucker, listen up! I am over it! I have had it with being your fucking Barbie doll!

Rue leans over and asides to her partner, a hand cupped around her mouth to muffle the sound of her whispering voice, “I always thought of myself as more a Midge.” It earns an elbow to the ribs, a sharp shh, and a bewildered side-eye from Liza.

“In no particular order,” Gracie continues undeterred, “I have been shot at, had my leg broken with a baseball bat, been stabbed, shot at again, slapped around, nearly drowned, had dysentery or some shit, shot at again—” She counts each of these out on the fingers of one waving hand. “—finally decided to trust someone and got—”

Her voice grows particularly loud for the next item on the list —

boneshaker’d with a nat





— and exhales hard before dropping to a volume of yelling that’s more conversational by comparison.

“—for my fucking trouble!”

But the rant does not stop there. “I have eaten the fruit of the poisonous goddamn tree and that’s not even a fucking metaphor!” Gracie clenches her fists. “You wanna know what’s going on? You come the fuck here and check it out for yourself, because I am done! I am not!” She stamps her foot. “Fucking!” She stamps the other foot. “Doing it!

After that last ragged shout, the fire finally drains out of her and she sags, catching her breath and shaking all over. “I don’t even want to be with you people anymore. I just don’t care. Maybe I’ll never get out of this place, but…” She drags one trembling hand through her hair, struggling subtly with it when it snags on her tangled curls. “I don’t care anymore.”

Rue hesitantly reaches out and rests her hand on Gracie’s shoulder, lifting it just slightly to pat her awkwardly.

Gracie just sighs, weary and defeated. “I’m done,” she breathes out. “I quit.”

Robyn doesn't look entirely surprised as Gracie begins to break down, listing the various things she's been through. If anything, she looks perturbed, maybe even annoyed as she pinches the bridge of her nose and sighs. "Fuck. This is exactly what I'd hoped to avoid."

The truth is, the moment Richard had started pushing to know which Rue she was, Robyn had known exactly who stood before them. Between Richard's sudden obsession, the knowledge that Gracie possessed an ability, and her deep reluctance to speak who she worked for, it wasn't too hard to put together. The mention of Richard's cousin, if it's who Chess thinks it is, left her without a shadow of a doubt.

As Gracie reaches the end of her rant, there's a small flash and a crack of light in Robyn's eyes as she visibly strains. A snap and crackle echos as a second Robyn Roux forms out of light between Gracie, Rue, Liza, and the rest of the group. The original is left breathless, leaning against a wall as she watches her duplicate past Richard.

The duplicate matches Richard's gaze for a moment, before smirking and looking back over her shoulder at Gracie. "Ayo, Séance," said in the manner of someone not from France trying to force the accent. "Long time no talk."

Gracie’s head snaps up, her face goes white.

She winks, before turning back to Richard. "So I think what happens now, is that we just walk away, yeah?" The duplicate's voice is clearly synthetic, replicating Robyn's irish accent in a strange, almost autotuned-esque quality. "I think it's a waste, knowin' what she could do f'r us if she were t'come along. Hell, I'd guess she could even help get us home. But I'm guessin' that's outta the cards now."

"Also, 'I quit' was supposed to be my line," the original notes with a raised finger. "How can I be dramatic if you keep stealing my lines?"

Richard’s head turns in Silas’s direction, his jaw tightening at the other man’s words, and he’s about to respond– but then Gracie’s talking, and isn’t that what he was waiting for before making any decisions?

He only understands maybe a third of her nerd-reference laden tirade, but he understands enough. Enough that he’s all but stopped breathing to stare at her, and before he does draw in another breath– there comes Robyn’s light-clone to smirk at him and then look back to Gracie.

And what she says hits just as hard..

He’s silent for a long moment before finally inhaling a slow breath, his eyes closing behind the dark plastic of his sunglasses. “She’s right about one thing,” he says quietly, his voice tight and carefully controlled, and then he’s turning on his heel, “I’m tired of being a puppet on that thing’s strings too.”

No more words before he’s striding towards the exit without looking back.

Tay holsters his gun without so much as a flinch. As Richard is moving to the door, Tay gently lays the back of his hand on Richard’s shoulder and meets his stare. “I think you need to read me in the rest of the way,” is all he says, letting his hand fall away after the insinuation of needing to know the rest of this story is made.

He raises his brows, looking at Gracie, then the others. “I’ll get your shit,” Tay offers to her in a much more subdued voice. He isn’t going to strand her here without her personal effects. He also isn’t going to stick around for the rest of this. It all sounds deeply personal, and he’s seen precisely enough of this to know how he has to proceed, and wants nothing more.

He turns to follow Richard out, reminding the room: “We’re rolling in an hour.”

Silas says nothing for a moment longer. "Great," he finally says. "Fantastic. Outstanding. Motherfucking primal," he enunciates carefully, the complete absence of emotion in his voice and on his face lending the words an unsettling quality. He lingers for a moment longer, his gaze moving from face to face as he tries to think of something else, but… there's nothing more to say, so instead he just shakes his head, his hands curling and uncurling. "Robyn. You need a hand?"

Liza’s gaze slowly sweeps over those leaving, then she glances at Silas. “Doesn’t sound like there’s time to catch up, but it’s good to see you alive and well,” she says simply with a nod in his direction before her attention is back on Gracie. She studies her with a look of both sympathy and a touch of confusion before she looks to her wife. “You still keen on that idea of having a sister?”

Chess’ brow rises as Gracie begins to rant, and it’s clear she’s not following most of it, the references going way over her head. She shakes her head slightly to indicate she has no idea what’s being said, but some things register.

Gracie yelling at her unseen boss of this spying mission, for one.

Richard calling whatever or whoever that is a thing, for another.

“Richard. Wait,” she says, rising to follow, but it’ll be at a far slower pace – she used most of her energy to heal Robyn, and most of whatever was left in this debate. Tay’s words that they’re leaving soon are caught as he too follows in Richard’s wake.

“Thank the fuck for that. I hate this city,” she mutters, glancing over her shoulder at those still standing.

The others leaving is both a relief and not. This is the end of her journey. She won’t be making it home now. Her hope of ever managing it has all but slipped through her fingers now. Gracie looks so haunted around her eyes, those dark circles from lack of restful sleep seem more pronounced now. This is about as good an outcome as she could have expected from Richard knowing she isn’t who she claimed. If loses Silas’ support too… That one would cut so much deeper.

And she would try to apologize, maybe try to explain better, but she’s contending with a duplicate of Robyn Quinn. One she realizes seems to know her, and Gracie in return seems to know her as well. As near as she can tell, the other timeline’s Robyn Quinn never had that hideous nickname for her.


Because she talks to spirits.

She continues to watch the two Quinns warily. Even as she turns her head toward Liza to answer her, her eyes stay on the photokinetic(s). “I…” She darts a glance to Liza so quickly, she doesn’t even register what she saw. “If you’ll have me, yes. I’d like to stay here.” She left a good community behind at the Pelago, but could it ever be safe there again?

Rue wraps her arms tightly around Gracie again, who halfheartedly lifts an arm to rest her hand against the forearm settled against her midsection in this hug initiated at her side, rather than head on. She doesn’t understand even a little bit what all that shouting was about, but she doesn’t care. “Hello, March,” she murmurs against her stunned alternate’s hair. “It’s nice to see you.”

Gracie sighs and pats her hand against Rue’s arm. “I’m sorry,” she finally says to those who’ve lingered. “I never meant any harm.” Except maybe to that light clone, if she doesn’t knock it off with the predatory stare.

With Richard and Tay gone and Chess departing, Robyn sighs and lets herself sink against the wall, barely managing to keep from sliding down to the floor. In doing so, she takes her eyes off Rue - both of them - causing the light duplicate to snap from where it stands, instead appearing beside her.

Rubbing her hands over her face and eyes, she lets out a frustrated groan that turns into something a bit angrier. "I sure the fuck do not," is a practically growled answer to Silas, not bothering to look in his direction as she addresses him. He doesn't deserve her ire, but her ire is directionless at the moment. "I'm going to need the long walk back to decide if I even want to stay a part of this idiot carnival anyway," she remarks bitterly, as if not going to Alaska were even an option.

Reaching one hand up, she snaps a finger and the light duplicate vanishes, having served its purpose of being a barrier between Gracie and Richard. Her chin rests against the back of her hands as she stares ahead blankly, before shaking her head.

"I know you didn't," is likely cold comfort to Gracie. "I should've kept my fucking mouth shut until I could talk to you privately, like I'd wanted. I'm sorry," is probably something that would cause even more tension between her and Richard if he were still here to hear it. "And to be entirely honest, I'd still bring you along despite their complaints if I thought I could get away with it." All said without ever looking at Gracie, as if somehow Robyn's found a way to feel a smidge of guilt for these proceedings.

She doesn't yet rise up and storm off. She wants to, but she can't. Instead, she folds her arms across her midsection and stares ahead silently.

Silas nods silently at Robyn's refusal, but he remains silent. It's Gracie that he directs his eventual reply to. "I know you didn't, too," he says, still in that even tone of voice, before his composure finally breaks, and he, too, sags against a wall. His hands come up to hold his face. "Jesus wept." For a moment he stays there, taking in a long, shaky breath and letting it out. "What a fucking mess."

Finally he pulls his hands down, looking at Gracie. "I don't blame you for not wanting to stick with this… idiot carnival," Silas says, shaking his head. "But I wish like hell it hadn't turned out this way. You stepped up when you didn't have to. Thank you for that. Sorry I couldn't do… anything." He nods once to Gracie, then looks to Liza and Rue. "Liza… good to see you doing well, too. As much as I hate that this whole pants-on-head circus happened, I'm glad we crossed paths; I hate saying goodbye to a friend, but it helps a little knowing that she's in good hands."

Liza affords Silas a genuine smile. “She’s in good hands. We make it work, even if life isn’t perfect. She’s welcome with us for as long as she wants or needs to stay. I can’t say I envy whatever it is you’ve got going on with everyone, but I hope your group keeps you safe.” She turns back to Rue and Gracie.

“Thanks for having my back in that fight,” the blonde says, this time directing a smile to Gracie. “Sorry if we got you into trouble, but you’re welcome here.”

Gracie nods her head to all of it, looking like she’s become numb to everything now. Her head turns one way, feeling something tug at her. “Thanks,” she murmurs absently, shrugging out of Rue’s hold to cross to Robyn.

“Shut the fuck up,” she tells her pre-emptively as she grabs her hands. “I don’t have much time.” She closes her eyes. “Shut the fuck up again.” Quinn was thinking it.

Warmth and light start at their joined hands. It suffuses her body and soul. The tide rolls in and pushes out, the ebb and flow of life. A little bit of hers to add a little bit to Robyn’s. “Shut the fuck up,” she reminds in a terse whisper.

Rue watches this exchange with wide eyes, looking down at the clasped hands of the two former lovers. She blinks rapidly, then looks around the room for some sign that what she’s witnessing is expected or isn’t.

Normally, telling Robyn Quinn to shut the fuck up repeatedly is a good way to just get more sarcastic responses, quips, and comments, and of all the people here Gracie likely knows that best. Whether she doesn't have the energy or just feels too guilty to bother responding isn't clear, either way she doesn't fight Gracie as the other woman takes her hands, much less look her in the eyes.

Amazingly, she doesn't think anything of it anyway.

Not until she feels that warmth rolling through her again for the second time in just this short morning. Where she had been expecting a lecture, a taste of wrath, or something walking along similar lines, she instead gets… well, she isn't sure what to call this, and that says more about her than anything else.

Her eyes close half way again as she turns so that Gracie's job is that much easier - almost like she's entirely lacking surprise at the biggest revelation in this moment. It doesn't take much for Robyn to feel more steady on her feet, less like she'll need to be leaning against every wall on the way back to the convoy. The change is visible too, her posture straightening, feet shifting to hold her up better now that they can.

She won't be right as rain, but at least she won't be hobbling back to Speedwagon. A cane might still be a good idea, if only to be safe.

Opening her eyes, she silently nods to Gracie. She's been asked to shut the fuck up, after all. The soft, genuine smile that forms on her face speaks everything she needs to, and is one that Gracie should recognise whether she wants to or not.

Thank you.

Silas, for his part, also shuts the fuck up. His brows furrow and he watches what transpires like a magician seeking to unravel someone else's trick… because he's seen Natalie's brand of healing — now Chess's — often enough to recognize it being employed. Just as he's seen what it looks like being on the wrong end of his own trick. He'd had his suspicions after Robyn's cryptic comment, but he hadn't been sure what was going on — not entirely sure, anyway — until now. 'Playing with light'. Other things too, it looks like, Silas marvels.

But if she coulda done that all along, why'd we have to get Chess and set off this whole clusterfuck? And what'd she mean about not having much time? Silas ponders, frowning thoughtfully. He thinks he gets some of what's going on, but he still has questions.

Liza's reaction is much like Rue's. She stares a bit, wide-eyed at the glow shared in the pair of hands. Her gaze goes from Gracie to Robyn, then briefly to the others still left in the room. She clearly is unused to seeing anyone with a power quite like that, so she takes the opportunity to observe.

It isn’t as extensive as Chess managed to do. The flow of energy slows gradually to a trickle, the light dimming along with it until it’s simply faded and gone, but Robyn is better off than she would have been without it. Spotting the subtle changes in her posture, Rue is quick to step forward. The from-here iteration may not read much for books without images, but she knows how to read herself. She’s there when Gracie wobbles and finally sags back. Normally quick with a witty (or at least smartassed) comment, they’re both struggling for words now.

“You have a power?” It’s the most obvious question.

Gracie grins up at her ostensible twin, tired, but recovering. She’s not nearly so drained as the conduit bearer was. “You don’t?” she queries back.

There’s a pause that passes between the two, culminating with Rue giving a shrug. “Touché, I guess.”

Gracie rights herself without shrugging off the hand left on her back to steady her. Her gaze settles on Robyn. “I can at least give you that much.” It’s a show of her good faith.

It’s an apology.

There's a lot Robyn wants to say.

I knew it!

A power? She has a swiss army knife of powers.

I don't think you owe me a thing, so I appreciate it.

I don't deserve it.

She'd love to tell Gracie that this is why she'd love to have her around, how useful she would be - but that's part of the problem, isn't it? Too much focus on how to use her and what she can do, and not enough on her.

So she lets out a shaky breath and gives a shallow nod, eyes cast down at the ground. "For what it's worth, we'll miss having you around." Her and Silas, at least. The latter is an assumption, but a safe one given all the givens. Her gaze moves past Gracie, to Rue. "Do your parents still live here?" Which is the nicest way asking if the Lancasters are still alive that she can think of.

"Yeah," Silas agrees quietly with Robyn's assertion. "You will be missed." He still has questions about a lot of things… but none of them matter now, not really. Not now that this has turned into a parting of ways. What a crying ass shame.

But there's been more than enough of frustration and regret this morning, so Silas schools his features into a smile. "Well. If we meet again before… before all's said and done, I'll buy you a drink," he chuckles. "And hey. If you happen to find a teleporter around here, maybe you can do something for Mikey after all," he ventures, looking hesitantly at Gracie. It says something, perhaps, about Silas that despite the lies Gracie has told, he chooses to believe that the concern she'd expressed for a sick child is genuine.

Liza's the one to answer the question. "We moved in with them when we came to New Chicago. It's been honestly wonderful to have family around and I'm pretty sure they don't mind us helping out," she says, giving Robyn a small smile. "They're doing well." She looks back towards Gracie again, her eyes staying on the redhead as if somehow she can assess how she's doing visually.

Rue’s brow wrinkles a little, bemused at Robyn’s comment, but only for a moment. “Yeah,” she confirms Liza’s response.

Gracie had been holding her breath from the moment Robyn asked the question, and while she heard it from Li, it was something else entirely to hear it confirmed by her other. It leaves her all in one rush, her hand settling against her chest. It’s been more than ten years since she saw her mother and father. Over the course of a year, she watched phone call after phone call after phone call go ignored by the Rue Lancaster of Robyn Quinn’s world. Watched her ignore them when she would have given anything to see them, just to speak to them, having to content herself with their voices on voicemail. In this world, they’re alive. It’s more than she dared to hope for and the reason she avoided New Chicago on her way to New York. If she’d found them the way she hoped, she would never have left. She swallows uneasily. Will they accept her? Maybe she should run rather than risk rejection.

Looking to Liza and Rue, her shoulders start to settle. Fears start to ease. If they can accept her, maybe Kathy and John Lancaster will too.

Turning back to Robyn and Silas, she takes a step forward and offers her hand out to the latter. “You… You were real good to me at a time when I really just needed a friend. I’m sorry about everything. All of it.”

She may not know what Robyn is thinking, but she’d agree with it all the same. The convoy would be safer with her and what she’s capable of than without it, but she can’t be safe with all of them. Not anymore.

“Thank you, Silas.”

Silas looks surprised… but then he smiles. Ruefully (but of course!), but a sincere smile nevertheless. He has a thought about what she can do with her touch — he remembers the way she'd laid a hand on Chess's shoulder — but even so, he doesn't hesitate to take her hand, not even a little. "You're most welcome, Gracie," he says gently. Hope you find a spot of happiness.

No one knows how to break up a moment with ill-timed attempts at humor the way Rue Lancaster does. She leans forward, a hand cupped to one side of her mouth to stage whisper, “She’s March now.” She catches the look her wife gives her and shrugs her shoulders up, eyes widening a fraction with a quick little shake of her head. What? Sor-ry.

She thinks she’s funny.

Silas, as it happens, agrees — despite everything, he laughs, grinning to Gracie — or March, then. "March, huh. When I was growing up, we always used to call daffodils 'March Flowers'. 'Cause they'd always pop up around March…" …and as sure as they did, there'd come a late snow on em.

Silas shakes his head. "So long then, March. Be safe, okay?"

She can’t help but crack a small grin at her alternate. Silas’ own commentary mends her frayed nerves some. “Yeah, you too.” She squeezes his hand before she lets go and turns back to the other her. “Hey, if you get to take Rue from February, then I get to be Mars.”

“Fair enough,” Rue sing-songs her acceptance. “Always love a good nickname.” Another thing every one of them has in common.

This is it. This is the end of her journey. The end. This is finally laying to rest any hope of finding her way home. “Hey, uhm…” Gracie — Mars — looks to Robyn, but glances to Silas periodically to indicate that she’s included in her last request. “Tay said he’s going to bring my things. Could you… Could you see if Elliot will do it? I owe him a… Something. An apology, an explanation.” She shrugs helplessly. “And if he doesn’t want to come… Then that’s fine. Just tell him I hope he finds her.”

"Hmm?" Robyn seems distracted for a moment, lost in thought as she blinks a few times and looks over towards Gracie. "Oh. Yeah… I can try. I can't make promises. I don't even know if we'll get there before Tay sets off with your stuff. But, I'll try." They still have to get her a proper cane, so it's going to be a tight timetable. She stands by her word, though, she'll try.

The exchange between Rue and Gracie that would be so wholesomely amusing under any other circumstance feels a bit bitter instead. The smile that crosses Robyn's face is begrudging and hollow, fading quickly as she pushes off the wall and limps forward towards Silas. "If we want to make sure that happens, I guess we should get going." Her voice speaks volumes about how she doesn't want to.

"I hope from here on out… things go better for you, Gracie." As much as they can goes unspoken but carries in the space between words. "I'm sorry I couldn't do more." She turns, looking to Silas and nodding, before offering him her arm. She's going to need some help, after all.

Silas's own smile matches the reluctant tone in Robyn's voice; he nods to second Robyn's words, but for the moment, at least, he finds he can't really think of anything left to say. So instead, he just takes Robyn's offered arm and gives a last smile and nod to those present.

Liza gives Robyn and Silas a small smile. "We'll be sure to take good care of her. It's the least we can do." She looks to her wife before nodding. "Just be careful out there, okay?"

Gracie just nods. Her throat’s too tight to manage a further goodbye now. When the two travelers have gone, she turns to look at Rue and Liza. “What happens next?”

“I don’t know,” Rue admits. “They didn’t exactly cover this subject in… social studies.” She wrinkles her nose and offers an amendment. “Home ec?” She shrugs helplessly.

“It’s been nine years, eight months, and one day since I last saw my Li,” the otherworld version of her wife tells her. “I know you’re not her, but… I’m…” A wry smile tugs at her mouth. There’s no way to express her feelings that will ever come out right. “I’m glad for the chance to get to know you,” will have to be enough to suffice.

"She's lucky to have had you if you miss her enough to count the days," Liza replies, the growing smile a glowing example of just how she's touched by the sentiment. "I'm sure her loss will be our gain."

“If you think she’s lucky, maybe she does too.” Gracie doesn’t seem wholly convinced, but it’s one of those things she’ll never know for sure. She pushes past it. “Maybe we should…” She frowns. “Take this outside before your buddy Sal gets impatient.”

Rue frowns. “Probably.” She takes her wife’s hand and then her new sister’s. “Let’s go tell Dad and Mom that the stork showed up eight-and-a-quarter years too late,” she suggests with a big grin.

“Thirty-three,” Gracie corrects. “I was—”

“Born after midnight,” Rue completes with a roll of her eyes. “Right. Whatever, big sis. Let’s boogie.” She tugs Liza a little closer, squeezing her hand.

Liza laces her fingers between her Rue’s, giving a reply squeeze and a gentle nudge of her shoulder against her wife’s. “No idea how we’ll manage to explain this but… we’ll find a way. There are probably weirder things in the world.”

“There are stranger things in heaven and earth than exist in your philosophy, Horatio,” Rue offers cheerfully.

Gracie barely registers the misquoted Shakespeare, instead staring off in the direction of the gates and the convoy as she passes through with what will ostensibly become her new family. This is the first time she’s actually acted for herself since she was catapulted across timelines in 2011. She can’t help but wonder if it’s the right decision. Will she call danger upon the heads of this Rue and Liza? Will the caravan suffer for the lack of what she can do? She casts a nervous glance skyward, but there’s no guidance from an indifferent god, just the clouds…

And the looming threat of a storm on the horizon.

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