Unhappy Occasion


aman_icon.gif bf_kara_icon.gif bf_rue2_icon.gif

Scene Title Unhappy Occasion
Synopsis After an attempt to throw away her troubles, Marlene and Kara discover it isn't that simple.
Date September 18, 2021


Standing over the countertop, in the midst of chunking a potato, Kara Prince stops what she's doing to lift her knifehand to to her forehead to both brush back a stray hair and to theoretically rid that portion of skin from the sweat that forms in the late afternoon haze of late September. It'd be one thing if there was any kind of breeze, but even with the windows all open nothing but stagnant air swelters in the air.

The farmhouse has a simple charm. Dried herbs hanging from exposed beams, fresh flowers set in a tall mason jar on a shelf, wildflowers pressed in a hardcover book on the arm of a couch beside a stack of paperback novels. It's home.

Yi-Min's off at work this time of week, but it's home nonetheless, even without her physical presence. Her touch still remains in all nearly everything about it — nearly everything that actually makes the place whole rather than serviceable.

Coming up from her reverie, Kara sighs and finishes the last bit of dicing of the skinned potatoes, bringing the chopping board to the metal pot set on top of the counter. The flat of the knife is used to topple the potatoes in atop the carrots, on top of the cut of meat that rests at the bottom, sitting in water and bouillon and spices. She flips down the lid of the container the pot sits in, and plugs in the cord into the wall. With a delightful little chime, the top of the pressure cooker is locked into place and Kara sets it to start.

When she takes back the cutting board to the sink, she catches sight of her truck heading down the road toward the driveway, kicking up dust behind it. "Ah," Kara murmurs to herself as she picks up the sponge. Marlene's back from town.

In spite of the hot pink hair tie holding back the bushy mane of her hair, it’s still an unkempt mess from the ride in the truck with the windows down. The bun at the nape of her neck is more like the memory of one, with fewer locks still in place than aren’t. The door closes with a noisy clunk!, the keys tossed in the air with a jangle as she rounds the front of the vehicle to head toward the farmhouse.

“Kara!” Marlene calls ahead unnecessarily, certain that the truck’s noisy engine was enough to tell of her arrival, but courtesy is not yet dead and buried. Her boots are wiped on the mat at the door, unlaced and left out on the stoop before she heads inside. She can already hear Yi-Min’s voice chiding her for even thinking of stepping over the threshold with all that road dirt and city grime caked to her soles.

Inside the house, she heads toward the kitchen, led by her nose and the time of day. A black brace hangs off two fingers as she makes her way to the table. Her voice is cheerful in a way it hasn’t been in months. “Am I interrupting? Or just in time for help?” The back brace is hung off the back of a chair by one arm loop. Marlene smiles almost impishly. She’s dying to say something, but she has enough manners that she won’t just launch into it if there’s something Kara needs. This is, after all, her home, and she is a guest in it.

"I just put food on. I was wondering if you'd end up making it back tonight after all or not," Kara says over her shoulder, scrubbing the starch-stained plastic with soap, pouring it over with water standing in a tub, and then starting a second time. "Can definitely help set the table if you feel like it. It'll be twenty, thirty-some minutes before the food's done. However long the timer on the side says."

She's not a fan of the insta-pot, but it consumed far less electricity than an overnight crockpot. Sacrifices were made in that regard. But— she can't deny its convenience, either.

Pulling the clean wet rag out of the tub, she turns partly over her shoulder, one eyebrow arching. "You're in a particularly good mood. Things go that well in the city?"

Wasting no time in heading for the cupboards to grab the plates she asks the cursory question of “just us?” Nodding to the confirmation and making sure she pulls down place settings for two. “Well,” Marlene begins, glancing over to Kara out of the corner of her eye while she procures knives, forks, and spoons, “I met someone on Tuesday.”

There’s a brief beat before she creases her brow and wrinkles her nose in a mimic of disgust. “Not like that. I followed up on a lead on craigslist — I know, this is not making this story sound any less like some kind of singles ad thing — but there’s this guy who said he was… looking for a psychometer.”

Taking the dishes to the table, Marlene is one of those types who sets things out just so. Whether it’s just because it’s something she actually has some kind of control over, or because it’s something she picked up from her wife, or even Erica (she seems the type), everything has a place and an angle and time can be afforded to meeting those standards. “I made sure it wasn’t some kind of kill you and wear your skin bullshit, met in a public enough place without putting myself in a location I thought might get me in trouble, and he…”

Now, she lifts her head to properly catch Kara’s eye. “He just kind of borrows abilities, I guess?” She should feel some sense of guilt for what she’s about to say next. Rather, she should feel guilt about the implications of it. “Joke’s on him. I am not taking it back.” Marlene lifts her hands from rotating a plate so the pattern is faced just right, showing her palms to her friend and wiggling her fingers. “Look, Ma! No visions!” At that little joke, she laughs. Quite possibly the happiest sound Kara has heard from the Rue Lancaster of her own timeline since they reunited earlier this year.

Kara is content with her own business and taking her own time right up until Marlene feels the need to begin explaining herself and this person she met, deciding the board's been rinsed enough and slowly turning back to hear the rest of this story head-on. Her hands rest on the side of the sink countertop as she leans back into it, fixing the other woman with a skeptical eye. Was it really safe? Did things really go that well?

The realization Marlene is without the ability that's slowly been killing her takes a beat for it to sink in, bringing her to blink in surprise and lift her head up a little. She struggles at first— losing an ability was something that Yi-Min had dealt with throughout this year— but this is different. This was desired; consented.

Well. Mostly.

"I can't believe…" Kara trails off, thought unable to be finished. She finally gets over the warring kinds of surprise, falling eventually on the side of the fence where she's happy, too. "That's— that's incredible." With a small shake of her head, the munitions chaplain's normally gruff demeanor begins to peel away in shades as she leans away from the countertop. She sounds like she wants to be excited, but is still a little hesitant this all sounds too good to be true. "You're safe now? Completely free of it?"

All the redhead does is grin from ear to ear. Yes, she clearly believes she’s safe now. Free. With a quiet squeal, she hurries forward and embraces Kara. They both know she’s not much for that sort of thing, but maybe she’ll make an exception just this once for Marlene. “I can,” she begins as she withdraws, “just… start to think about establishing myself here.” As much as they both know she doesn’t want that. There’s ultimately no harm in making a space for herself here while she waits for opportunity to return to where she belongs, is there?

Only after she's assaulted with the hug does Kara disregard her own concerns. She lets out a startled laugh, spins around once with the shorter Marlene in her grasp, then settles her back down.

"This calls for a celebration," Kara remarks knowingly. "Time to butter your paws nice and proper." That might be a tease, but she's also quite serious about in her own way. Wagging a finger in the air knowingly at her destination, she heads to the pantry and opens up a latched crate to pull out a half-drank bottle of whiskey. She's beaming with a smile when she turns around to show her spoils.

"I think there's a bottle of wine somewhere around here, too, but it's downstairs." That requires getting a flashlight before heading down to the cellar, and she's good with the easier-to-obtain celebration drink. "Here's to your new future," she declares with a lift of the bottle by its neck.

There’s more peals of happy laughter when she’s spun around easily by Kara. There’s very few women who can do that with her, given how tall she is. It reminds her of Adrianne and airplane rides across the living room. …And skydiving off her parents’ armoire, but that memory includes significantly more lecturing about how a plastic grocery sack is not a parachute, nor is the bed a landing pad, young lady. Worth it for the sounds of her aunt’s howling laughter.

Those things had happened here, too. Those things aren’t lost. Marlene smiles, already rummaging through the drawers for the flashlight. (Safer to go now than only once they’ve polished off the whiskey.) Holding it up with a quiet aha! of triumph, something out the window catches her attention for a moment. The smile twists rueful for a moment, but only just. No stray cloud will dampen her sunshine. Those things from her past aren’t lost.

And neither is she.

When Marlene ducks down into the basement to find the wine, Kara takes a moment to finish up the dishes she'd left half-done. The time it takes for the food to finish is short, the lights in the kitchen flicked on and left on as the sun vanishes beyond the horizon while they eat before switching finally to the sun-charged lamp left in the windowsill to let the generator rest for the evening.

The wine is serviceable, the bottle finished while they chat local events and memories of their past lives in equal portions. In the end, only the single celebratory shot for Marlene's freedom was taken from the bottle of whiskey.

Away the bottle goes back into its hiding place when Kara begins to clean up the kitchen close to midnight, Marlene already retired to the living room to spend some quality time with the couch, her house shoes kicked off one by one before faceplanting into the cushions.

When the last creaks of steps fade up the staircase, the sounds of nighttime bugs serve as backdrop for an otherwise silent night, one Kara plans to enjoy as long as possible, intending to sleep in as late as her internal clock will let her in the morning.

But fate had other designs for them.

10:45 am

Kara Prince’s reverie is broken by the sound of screaming coming from the main floor. It’s just shrieking at first, shrill and panicked, then it’s her name being called out. The voice is Marlene’s.

Kara!” Staggering from the couch with a hand under her nose to catch the blood that’s running freely, she can’t help what she’s left on the cushions before she woke up from the sudden inability to breathe properly. “Kara!!” Marlene leans over the sink and flips on the faucet. Her vision is clouded by blood, too, the tears she weeps just crimson streaks down her face.

“Kara, it’s happening again!”

Movement can be heard right away at the first sounds of distress. Footsteps thunder down from the farmhouse's second story by the time her name is being called, and Kara pauses at the base of the stairs only to briefly consider the blood staining the couch pillow before her head whips toward the kitchen.

What she can see of Marlene in profile is like something out of a horror movie— but it's not the first time she's seen something like it happen. Just the first she's seen it this bad.

A kitchen rag is grabbed, swiped under the water. "Let me see," Kara asks calmly, swiping past the source of the rivulets apiece to see if they're still flowing. Nosebleeds she knows how to treat, but…

"This can't be happening again," she insists despite the reality. She's unable to keep a stoic face, brow creased with worry while she dabs away under the other woman's eyes for lack of a mirror. "Marlene, you said—"

“Yes, I know.” Marlene’s attention is focused off out the kitchen window for a moment. Something moves beyond the pane, but it’s no more than a momentary distraction from her very real terror. Letting her streaked vision shift back to Kara, she responds again, “I know,” in a high-pitched whine, voice already raw from her crying and shouting.

“This was supposed to work,” the redhead insists. Fortunately, as Kara wipes away the blood, it’s only tears that replace it on her face. They’re still tinged faintly pink, but it will clear again quickly enough. The blood still drips from her nose, but even that seems to be letting up some. “I don’t wanna die,” Marlene begs her friend and the universe simultaneously, her voice small. “If I can’t go home, I just want to build a life here, with you.”

And if that sounds like anything other than a scared girl in need of a friend, she really doesn’t care.

Kara lowers the wetted cloth to let it lie over the sink while she steps into the pantry to grab a strip of paper towel. The limited disposable resource is balled up, handed over to Marlene so she can leave it under her nose. "Abilities work different ways. Maybe borrowing really did mean… borrowing."

Distracted, she lifts a hand and watches to see if any additional waves of agony hit. Still rattled but momentarily satisfied, she leaves to head for the couch, unzipping the pillow's cover to pull it out and bring it back to the sink. Kara starts to blot away at the stain on it with the wetted cloth, brow furrowed. She can't fix aught but what's in her hands right now, and it's the same kind of frustration she feels over Yi-Min's situation, much as her partner insists she's fine— mostly.

At least this is a problem with a potential, easily-seen solution.

"You have this guy's information, right?" she asks gruffly. "We find him. We go back into town and track him down. You haven't been like this in…" Trailing off, Kara glances hard at Marlene out of the corner of her eye.

Marlene nods her head shakily at Kara’s supposition about the nature of abilities, pushing the paper towel under her dripping nose gingerly. She trembles, slowly getting her crying and her breathing back under control. “Yeah, I kept his information. Just… in case, I guess.” Even though she fully intended never to cross paths with this Amanvir ever again. She was supposed to be free. Her next words are spoken resolutely. “We just have to…”

Her gaze lifted, staring off into the living room, eyes not fixed on the far wall beyond her, but somewhere in the middle of the space. Focused, but not. “…find him.” Then she heaves a sigh and looks back to where Kara is washing the pillow covering her condition may have ruined.

Checking to see there’s blood on her hands before she reaches out, Marlene lays her free hand on Kara’s shoulder. “If it can’t be salvaged, it’s not because you didn’t try.”

She isn’t talking about the pillowcase.

"No," Kara answers harshly and instantly, her head half-turning back. The tension in her shoulder ripples as she reshapes her answer, more calmly but still firmly insisting, "No." She doesn't— can't look at Marlene presently, and finds out moments later her deft touch with the bloodied couch cover isn't so deft presently.

A soundless swear leaves her as she puts it and the pinked washcloth aside, rubbing at her jaw. Her eyes search out the kitchen window, seeking answers somewhere between the field beyond and the sky beyond that. "Let's not waste any time," she decides. She sidles past the sink, past Marlene to the pantry once more, retrieving what was left of the bottle from the night before.

"Take an anti-anxiety—" she says with a gesture to the whiskey, "get dressed, and we'll get on the road."

And then she herself is off, footsteps heavy on the creaking staircase as she climbs in search of keys, clothes, and a shotgun for the ride up.

The withdrawal after the first no is quick, once Marlene feels that tension that works its way through the muscles of Kara’s shoulder beneath her hand. She presses herself back against the counter to give the other woman more room to move around, and it’s almost like the extra physical space might also give Kara more room to think and to process. Only her blue eyes follow the agitated movements.

She checks the white paper under her nose, adjusts the way it’s folded, then presses it in place again. The instructions are easy enough. She can follow those. “Yes, ma’am.” Get the bleeding under control, take a healthy drink of whiskey, and get dressed in something that doesn’t look like she stepped straight out of a horror film.

The bottle and the shotgun can ride up front with her, Marlene’s decided.

Several Hours Later

Sheepshead Bay, NYC Safe Zone

"Yeah, take care, Mrs. Mueller," Aman calls over his shoulder as he heads back out from the AC to his bike. He lets out a sigh at the air, grateful he at least has an empty basket he's going back to, and opts to pull out his phone at the same time he pulls the key for the bike lock. He thumbs past a few texts to see he's missed a call while riding, brow lifting.

The number…

Huh. The hair on the back of his neck prickles for some reason at the timeliness, and he quickly fixes the phone between shoulder and ear as he crouches. The dial tone rings away placidly. He's distracted as someone greets him in passing, delayed in returning a lift of his chin as he unlocks the bike and swings the chain into the key-guarded box on the back of his bike.

The call drops several rings in, and he mutters before redialing and trying again. Service just hasn't been the same for his lightRadio since Praxis went under. He knows he should just swap to the GhostNet especially since they don't even make the damn things anymore, but he spent a pretty penny on the box and isn't ready to move on. He'll get his money's worth out of Alcatel-Lucent yet.

"Hey, this is Amanvir, just returning your call," he greets with customer-service cheer when the call connects, leaning his bike away from the tree it was supported by.

The phone picks up after only a brief delay and Aman is first greeted by a heavy sigh and a whisper before the caller goes into their own proper greeting.

«Oh, thank God. Hi. Ah… This is Adrianne Dietrich? Listen, I know we made a deal, but I need my ability back. Like… now? Could we arrange something?»

There was an edge of desperation to the voice of Aman’s client. Considering she’d basically ghosted after dumping the psychometry and taking the money, her asking for it back suddenly is definitely out of the blue.

"Oh, no, that's not any issue…" Even as Aman assures her, he's flipping his phone screen out quickly to consult the time before he mounts his bike. "I took a look this morning and found out what I needed to already. I need to finish up a current appointment, but I could meet you here shortly." He's doing mental math— time back to Pigeon, time enough to announce he's taking "lunch", swap clothes, head out and come back…

"Where would you want to meet? Want me to head out your way?"

Her way, meaning the address he'd looked up using the information he was falsely provided.

«Uh…» There’s a moment of hesitation, a hushed whisper pointed away from the phone. «Yeah. Yeah, Elmhurst? Sure, just don’t dress too nice, okay? It’s not the best neighborhood.»

Aman lets out a laugh, warm and reassuring. "Don't worry, I'll wear my best schlepping clothes." His humor tapers out, friendly confidence still remaining in his voice. "Give me… about 45 and I'll see you out there. Meet at the memorial garden?"

“Yeah. Great. I’ll see you there.” Marlene flips her phone closed and looks over from the passenger seat to Kara. “Memorial garden, he said. Better than the apartment. Hollis would’ve been liable to drag us all in for coffee.” While it’s said with a note of complaint, there’s still the ghost of a smile playing on her lips.

The last of the whiskey is polished off, the bottle tossed carelessly behind her seat. The redhead sighs, brows pinched toward one another in an anguish that isn’t physical, but runs bone deep all the same. “I’m ready for this to be over.”

"Almost there," Kara murmurs distractedly. She flips the turn signal, looking around the opposite bend of the corner to check for traffic before she brings the car onto a new road, cutting across two lanes to pull into a turnlane for the highway.

Not much longer to the Safe Zone now. Cross the river, and they'd be there.

Satoru Memorial Garden

To his detriment, Aman's never actually been to the Garden before to have known that access to it is restricted to those who are either customers or caretakers, to prevent theft of the precious community food grown within. So rather than waiting inside the fenced gardens, he stands by one of the entry gates, one hand in his pocket while the other thumbs his phone screen.

To his credit, he's arrived just as he said he would: comfortably and casually. He's in a white tee and jeans, a brown cloth vest he had been wearing slung over his forearm instead. He finishes up his text with a sigh, lifting his head to scan the sidewalk again, looking only right.

On his left, across the street, Kara closes the door of the station wagon they've driven up. "Okay," she indicates, more at ease now that they're actually here, even if she's not lowered her guard at all. She glances up and down the road herself, chirping the car locked as soon as the passenger door is closed, too. "You want me to come with you? Or you got it?"

She offers out the pair of sunglasses they'd bought on the way up.

For all her nerves, Marlene manages a smile for Kara, easier than she expected it to come. “You might make him rabbit if you look at him with that severe thing you’ve got going on,” she teases, drawing a circle in the air to indicate Kara’s whole face at the moment. It’s easier to make a joke than to deal with her own anxiety in any way that can be remotely construed as constructive. In this way, she’s an exact mirror of her counterpart native to this timeline.

“I’ve got it,” she promises with more seriousness, taking the sunglasses and sliding them in place. “Keep watch.” The handles of the purse hanging from the crook of her arm — a prop more than anything, to make her look and feel like she belongs in the city — are adjusted. “If I need you, I’ll fumble and drop my bag. You can swoop in like Batman.

Okay, so that anti-anxiety helped just a little. “I’ve got this,” she assures again, and starts off across the street after checking both ways for traffic. “Hey!” Marlene calls out ahead of mounting the curb, one hand raised in greeting, and to get Amanvir’s attention.

That's all it takes for his head to whip back. Any surprise he has is replaced quickly by a lopsided grin. "Yo, Adrianne!" Aman calls out jokingly. If he wants to cringe after he took that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he hides it well. "Sorry, I was going to grab a seat in the park," he apologizes with a thumb gesturing behind him. "But turns out it's not a sit-down kind of establishment."

After a breath of laugh at his own expense, he shakes his head and dons a more serious air. "I really do appreciate your help, again. Sorry for the whole cloak and dagger nature of the agreement." He smiles briefly. "My client appreciated the privacy our arrangement afforded, immensely. I can't overstate how much."

He takes a moment, pauses before saying anything else, looking Marlene over a bit more closely. Her posture reads stressed, the same way her voice had on the phone. "Hope I didn't put you out too much?"

Marlene laughs quietly, but she can't quite keep it from sounding nervous. "It's no big," she waves her hand at the gates, blowing off his concern for the lack of garden seating. “Still made a good meeting place.”

His question, the way his concern doesn’t seem feigned, catches the woman off her guard. Marlene looks down at the concrete under her canvas-sneakered feet. Briefly, she tips down her sunglasses to rub at one eyelid with the pad of her finger, providing at least partial relief to the irritation that’s bothering her. The other eye was visible, as she didn’t shut it while rubbing the first. The sclera was pink in some places, but bright red throughout most of it.

“No… I mean, I’m fine.” She winces and shakes her head quickly. “It. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I’m glad it helped you, and them.” With a shrug, the glasses are pushed back to rest properly against the bridge of her nose and she lifts her head.

Aman catches sight of it immediately, the same way he's picked up on the rough-at-the-edges woman staring bullets at them from across the street. He glances that way for barely a moment before sidling half a step closer to Marlene, his voice lowering. "Ms. Dietrich, you sure you're all right? If you're in some kind of trouble…"

He doesn't know what the hell makes someone's eyes look like that, but getting the shit beat out of them feels like a strong possibility. "We could take this conversation somewhere you might feel safer?" he suggests calmly, no hesitation to it.

“Ah… I’m fine,” the redhead insists again. “It’s nothing..” There’s nowhere she’s safe from what’s happening to her anyway. Marlene smiles, trying to smooth things over as best she can. “I’m sorry to call you again outta nowhere. I just…” She glances down again. “I need my ability back, that’s all. I just ran into a situation where I have to use it.”

Or never ever use it again, thanks.

“I take it you spotted my friend.” She flashes Aman an appropriately rueful smile. “Don’t worry about her, she’s just looking out for me.” Marlene lifts her crooked arm and pulls one strap further from the other to open the bag wider. “Do you need money for my early termination of our deal?”

With a shake of his head, Aman reaches for Marlene's hand. "No, Ms. Dietrich. Please." He firms his hand around the side of hers with a small smile. "I'm not holding your ability hostage. That'd be a terrible business model, for one."

With the touch of his hand to hers, part of what he says sounds like it's coming through a tunnel, a layer of something over it. It clears quickly, around the time he says hostage. But then after that's done, she notices the whisper, the out-of-placeness of other things. Signs her grafted ability is back right where it belongs.

For better or worse.

"For two, I'm not that kind of person. I really do mean it that if you run into trouble with something, don't lose my number. I'll likewise hold onto yours so I know just who's calling." Aman glances to Kara across the street, not entirely sure she really is there purely for Marlene's safety. "If there's anything I can do, anywhere I can direct you, no matter how low-key it needs to be, give me a call."

Marlene looks unsteady on her feet for a moment while Aman is restoring her ability to its rightful owner.

Well, that’s not true. Whoever the rightful owner of this psychometric ability was, there probably isn’t enough of them left to identify even from dental records. She’s certain she, the one left alive, isn’t the lucky one in this situation.

The ginger laughs a little nervously as she feels like she’s come back to the moment in mid-swing and missed part of the conversation. “No. Yeah! No.” Smooth. “It’s cool.” The smile she’d been wearing fades away again and she looks Aman up and down briefly while closing her bag slowly, giving herself more time in the moment. “You’re really nice, Amanvir.”

Her other hand lays over his, pale and lightly calloused. “Don’t lose my number, but change the entry to do not answer, okay? I’d say you’ll thank me later, but…” There are several failed attempts at another smile of any strength that sputter out and fail rapidly over the next few seconds. “I hope you stay nice. And that you help more people.” Marlene shakes her head. “I just can’t be one of them.”

And she doesn’t trust herself not to point some of her former associates the way of this Expressive borrower if it means buying her life. Or even just more time.

“I’m gonna go make my friend take me for ice cream before we head home.” Her head tilts subtly back in Kara’s direction. “But thanks again, yeah?”

The worry in the dark of Aman's eyes is a hard thing to shake, especially at that continued hint there's something else wrong here. He starts to part his lips to ask when a twinge at the back of his mind silently queries him what's wrong, and the moment's passed. Now they're talking about ice cream.

So he smiles with warmth, simultaneously pulsing reassurance silently even if it can't one hundred percent cover his concern. "Great day for that. Fall will be here before we know it," he says as he shifts his posture, breaking the direct face of his body to hers in a way he knows to silently free people from feeling like they need to stay. "Take care, ma'am," Aman bids her with a half-lifted hand before he finally gets his feet to do what they've been asked.

The look he gives Kara unintentionally when he glances back telegraphs his concern, but he does turn away, consulting his conscience and the woman whose emotions are wound with his in silence while he walks. He receives a ping of what feels like sympathy, and a permission to feel his resignation. The disappointment is mirrored back to him in a softer fashion, a reminder to be kind to himself as he was with this girl.

Can’t save them all.

The redhead hesitated only a beat, ensuring she wasn’t about to have to talk him out of trapping her there, before beating her own retreat. There’s relief in the smile on her face when she crosses the street to rejoin the woman at the station wagon.

Kara is no less alert when Marlene returns, still staring a suspicious hole in the back of Aman's head while he walks. She finally relents when he unlocks a bike, turning back to the woman she shepherded here. "I'm glad there wasn't any trouble," she admits. "Now if only…"

She can't finish that thought, jaw tightening. If only there were something she could do negates that there was and, that through a mixture of compassion and gracelessness, that chance to help Marlene was lost. Kara's eyes dip in guilt but the look is gone by the time she looks back up.

"Where to?" she asks.

Marlene’s preemptively removed the sunglasses, because it matters to her that Kara sees her, bloodshot eyes and all, when she tells her, “Hey.” She takes one of the blonde’s hands in her own for a moment. “Don’t do that. Don’t go there.” Her fingers squeeze gently. “I go to the bottom of that mineshaft every night. It’s dark down there, and the company’s not great.” The what-ifs, especially where it comes to Claudius Kellar, are unproductive at best. There’s no knowing if it would have changed a single thing. Mazdak cares more about getting what they want than honoring their agreements.

“Letting her go was the right thing.” No matter what it cost her.

Releasing her grip on that hand, Marlene instead slaps the hood of the car with a grin. “You’re taking me for ice cream!” Putting her sunglasses on, she makes her way to the passenger side door. No serious moment took place here. “Then we’re stopping to load the entire back end up with booze and junk food before we go back home.”

Kara bristles at the grabbing of her hands, either because her method of immediate defense for them both is now impeded— or because she was supposed to be the one doing any consoling here. Perhaps both. She blinks languidly and looks away, not because of the way Marlene looks, but because of the message those eyes try to carry.

There's no undoing that her actions felt like a betrayal. There just isn't.

Ice cream is an easier subject entirely, one that brings her to huff in absent amusement. "Are we now?" she asks gruffly. She thinks on it a moment, resisting a sigh. It's better to just give in. "If we're already picking up some ice cream, I'll give Yi-Min a ring, too. I bet she's not taking it easy either today."

She looks back to Marlene with a small smile. "Might as well make the full best of the trip, after all."

It might have been an unhappy occasion that drew them back here, and unhappy occasions that surrounded the people Kara cared most for, but she'd be damned to let them wallow in them.

Like Marlene said herself, there's better ways to spend those ever afters.

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