We'll Always Have...


richard4_icon.gif rue3_icon.gif

Scene Title We'll Always Have…
Synopsis Two souls bonded in grief, haunted by themselves.
Date February 23, 2020

Phoenix Heights

It’s been a rough month for Rue Lancaster. And when things get rough, there’s one thing she can be reliably expected to do, and that’s engage in self-destructive behavior. Tonight’s flavor has been a warehouse party, where she proceeded to get obliterated and dance until dawn threatens to kiss the horizon. She’s still bleary-eyed when she makes her way down the street long after the last bus has stopped running. Bleary-eyed, but not unaware. Her boots crunch over occasional patches of packed-down snow on the sidewalk. She sticks to the light of the street lamps where she might otherwise be inclined to stick to the shadows to avoid notice.

Her skin is cooling in the chilled night air, still feeling hot from exertion and alcohol, her coat left open over a draping cowl neck dress in a shade of dark purple. The combat boots aren’t a great match, but anyone who actually knows her should find it in keeping with her style. If she’d had a ride back to the Bastion tonight, it would have been heels, but sometimes Rue is practical.

Especially when she knows there’s someone out there who wants her to be in a lot of trouble.

She may not have been sticking to the shadows, but the shadows have been sticking to her.

Despite how drunk she may be at the moment, she can still hear the sound of her boots on the sidewalk given the empty streets at this hour. Which means when a second beat suddenly joins hers out of nowhere just a couple yards back, she'll likely notice the discrepancy.

Richard Ray's not in a suit and tie today; he's dressed in a pair of urban camo BDU pants that show enough wear to have been used during the war, and a beaten old bomber jacket that's been in use since before the war. His hands tucked into the pockets of that jacket prevent one from knowing if he's holding anything, and a pair of sunglasses prevent one from really knowing what he's thinking. Especially since his expression is carefully neutral.

Rue is trained to notice these things. When the second set of footsteps suddenly joins hers, she doesn’t let on that she’s noticed. Her marching pace remains consistent, unbroken. She listens closely for a change in the ones following. Do they slow down to a meander? Are they speeding up to overtake her? Are they truly following her at all?

Those strides are long enough to match hers, she realizes. Slowly, she’s putting together a picture of what’s at her back. The cadence is heavy, but not overly so. There’s no hurry, and it’s with a measure of confidence. Likely a man, then. At least her height, possibly taller. And the fact that they weren’t there moments ago almost certainly means an Evolved ability of some kind is at play. Perhaps auditory manipulation or teleportation.

Looking up at the street sign hanging over the intersection, Rue notes her cross streets and mentally counts the blocks back to the Bastion, gauging whether or not she can sprint it. By the time she reaches the corner, she decides she can, and breaks off into a dead run across the street. If it’s not her the footsteps at her back are after, then she’ll look foolish. If it is, then she’ll look alive.

She’s half-way across the street when Richard’s call lifts in the evening air, a dry commentary, “You should’ve turned the corner first.”

He leans against the light-post that rises from the pavement there at the corner, not pursuing her, arms folding over his chest and gaze locked on her through the dark shades that he’s wearing.

Instinct carries her forward several more steps before she’s pivoting back to catch sight of the speaker, whose voice she recognizes but doesn’t immediately place. The shape of him beneath the street lamp is readily identified, however.

Rue stands in the middle of the street, jacket open and chest rising and falling hard, eyes not quite wide enough. She’d heard that Richard Ray was good at this, but there’s no way he’s that good, is there? She waits in silence for the other shoe to drop.

“It would’ve broken line of sight,” Richard provides; his voice carrying to her easily in the late-night emptiness of the streets, both eyebrows raising a little, “I know that Pentacles taught you better than that.”

A beat passes, before he asks in dangerously casual tones…

“Assuming you were trained by him. And not somebody else.”

Rue sniffs sharply. “Bastion’s a straight shot from here,” she explains. Her posture is rigid, held hostage by her trepidation. “I was betting outrunning versus outgunning.” Now it’s her turn to let a beat pass between them, uncomfortable. “I’m on suspension right now, and I’m unarmed. But I’d like to reach into my coat, if that’s okay with you.”

Carefully, Rue holds up her hands, showing them to be empty and starts to spread them out to her sides, where the outer pockets are sewn into her coat. The drape of it is even, so unless she’s carrying a gun in either pocket, she’s probably telling the truth about not having a weapon she’s intending to go for.

“Funny how it’s always Pentacles. Everyone always forgets that I’m descended from Wands.

“Do I look like I have a gun trained on you?” At the request to reach into her coat, Richard’s lips twitch ever so slightly, “Although I suppose there could be a sniper waiting to take a shot, so, smart not to make assumptions. Go for it.”

He tilts his head a bit, “You know, Wands is the only one I never actually met. Always wished I had. You gonna stand there in the middle of the road until you get run over?”

“Not yet,” Rue responds evenly. “And I’m not sure you need one. Sniper or no.” But once she’s granted permission, her left hand slides into her pocket and slides out again with a dark object that blends into the fabric and remains mostly obscured by the palm of her hand.

Until she turns her wrist and reaches over with her other hand to unscrew a cap. It’s a flask. “It’s like four in the fucking morning.” Rue shrugs and takes a drink. She doesn’t need it, but the burn feels good going down. And maybe it’s the liquid courage she needs to put one foot in front of the other and start back across the street to where Richard is waiting for her.

“Yeah, it’s four in the morning, and most people in the Safe Zone don’t even own a car, but it’s the principle of the thing,” Richard replies, and he’s probably rolling his eyes as he says it. He’s wearing sunglasses, though, at four in the morning, so who can tell?

“Besides. Our last meeting didn’t exactly go that great, so I decided to have this one be on my terms.”

His terms being, apparently, four in the morning, somewhat drunk, on a street corner.

More than somewhat, but who’s counting? It becomes apparent when she reaches the corner and she blearily only sort of meets where she approximates his gaze to be behind the sunglasses. “I honestly don’t remember the last time we saw each other,” Rue admits with a frown.

Even to her own ears that sounds like a coverup. “You’d have liked her. My aunt.” Rue holds the flask out to him, one brow raised. Sharing is caring.

Which is either really gutsy, given what he remembers their last meeting as, or she is who she appears to be.

The flask’s considered for a moment, and then Richard looks back up to her, both eyebrows raised in a look of mild disbelief at the temerity of the offering.

“Maybe you are the real Lancaster,” he observes after a moment, head cocking a bit to one side as he considers her, “Hard to tell without a telepath to confirm, though. Our last meeting ended up with me getting drugged and then shipped off to Iraq to die, so you’ll have to forgive me if I say no, thank you.”

“Suit yourself.” If he won’t partake, she’ll just drink for him.

Rue rolls her tongue over her teeth. The more time he spends talking, and the less time he spends holding a gun on her, or pulling a knife, or choking the life out of her with his bare hands, the more at ease she begins to feel. Or maybe it’s just because she’s allowing herself to get drunker.

Her tongue catches on a canine, eyes drifting up and right as though she’s just spotted the metaphorical light bulb going off over her head. “I remember now,” she grins faintly when she finally puts the pieces together. “Last time you and I saw each other, you were looking for Gabriel Gray.

Blue eyes start at his feet and work their way slowly back up to his shades. “You told me you’d died then, too. Still pretty fly for a dead guy.”

“It happens more often than you’d think.”

Richard watches her through those dark sunglasses, his expression less casually friendly than it normally would have been in a situation such as this. “Me, though…”

One shoulder lifts, then falls, “I’m a bit of a cockroach. I keep coming back; never been one to go gently into that good night.”

Then his tone gets colder, “Nathalie, on the other hand, wasn’t as lucky.”

The teasing demeanor drains away slowly when he speaks the name of her missing friend. It’s with deliberate slowness that Rue screws the cap onto her flask again, her eyes remaining solely on Richard. “What are you talking about?”

Nathalie, to the best of Rue’s knowledge, had an argument with Avi and decided to go walkabout. It’s not the first time she’d done it, and she assumed it wouldn’t be the last.

“What do you know about Nathalie?”

“My mother’s cousin was Sarisa Kershner.”

Richard never looks away from her face even as her jovial teasing fades, watching her reactions, her expression, every sign that he can use to figure out which Rue this one happens to be.

“That was Nathalie’s mother, making Nathalie one of the only surviving blood kin I actually have on this shitty little planet. So when both of us got kidnapped by someone who looked and sounded an awful lot like you, Lancaster…”

A single brow lifts a little over the edge of his shades, “Well. I happen to take that personally.”

Rue’s eyes narrow faintly as she follows the narrative, Nathalie’s lineage, and how it leads back to him. She’s about to nod her understanding, but she only gets so far as the upward lift of her chin before he tells her that someone who looks like her //abducted/ her friend.

She doesn’t have to ask where’s Nathalie, because she heard what he said a moment ago. He’s the cockroach, and she wasn’t as lucky.

Standing as still as a statue, she processes the information. Internalizes it. Reckons with it. If not for the way the light seems to drain from Rue’s eyes all at once, he might wonder if she heard anything at all. If it affected her.

Rue takes a step back. “I— I didn’t,” is all she can manage to offer in her own defense. Didn’t know. Didn’t do it. It’s unclear.

Richard watches her for a long moment… and then he breathes out a sigh, his head turning away to look at nothing at all.

“I know,” he says quietly, “It wasn’t you, it was someone with your face, or an alternate you, or… shit, if anyone understands that, it’s me.”

For a moment, all that passes between them is the audible catching of Rue’s breath as she pushes down her very real fear that he may have been about to lash out, and that she was not in any condition to fight back. Not well at least. This should be a wake up call.

It isn’t likely to be.

“She can’t be dead.” Now that he’s told her he believes it wasn’t her, that she is who she appears to be, she allows herself the luxury of looking away while she thinks. “Nathalie couldn’t—” And yet, she doesn’t feel as though he’s lying to her, and Rue finds herself believing in his certainty.

“Everyone’s been saying that.”

Richard doesn’t look back to her, just staring down the street as if seeing something that wasn’t there, his voice quiet. Tired, really. He’s probably had to have this part of the conversation too many times now.

“If that were true, though, I wouldn’t see it every time I closed my goddamn eyes.”

Rue sniffs loudly, breaking the silence that stretches on. Nathalie’s gone, and it’s because her friend trusted her. She doesn’t question who else knows. In hindsight, she knows she may have been the last to know, and she understands why no one would want to tell her.

Her gaze lifts to Richard, then back again to stare at nothing in between them. He’s still in her line of sight. She’s still prepared if she needs to be. What the fuck does she say to this? How does she follow this up? This… He is not the person she should cry in front of. She doesn’t trust him with her emotions (that list is small enough to be counted on one hand, even if she had missing fingers), and his trauma is greater than hers.

“I’m sorry.” It doesn’t even begin to touch the tip of that iceberg.

“Nothing to be sorry for. You were a victim in this too.”

Richard looks back to her, expression serious as he adds, “Although if I do find this imposter, I’m putting two bullets in her head and sinking her into the bottom of the river. You should get a tattoo, or a password or something.”

So it isn’t her he sinks into the river.

Honestly, she’s surprised he didn’t just do that to her in the first place. Given what’s happened to him, she isn’t sure she would be able to blame him if he’d decided he didn’t care which her he found.

“Passwords I can do.” In her line of work, Rue’s avoided tattoos. Distinguishing marks. It might be time to break that rule. “So, pick ours.”

If there’s one person that understands being blamed for a double’s actions, though, it’s Richard Ray.

“Any of the Royal codewords would be too obvious,” he muses, one hand coming up to rake fingertips back through his hair for a moment. A faint ‘heh’ escapes him then, and he suggests dryly, “We’ll always have Berlin.”

The uneasiness twists and shifts into desolation as Richard makes his sharp proposal. Rue’s throat is tight, and in the light of the street lamp overhead, he can see the emotion play out on her face. The quiver of her mouth, the way the muscles in her neck work around a hard swallow, the breath that hitches, first pushing her chest out, then drawing it inward.

“Yeah.” The sound of her voice is strained, rough from whiskey and devastation. “That’ll work.” It hurts. It hurts a lot. But maybe it deserves to.

Maybe it does. Maybe that’s why Richard suggested it. It’s a hurt that’ll never quite heal for both of them.

He breathes out a heavy sigh, shoulders sinking a bit as he stares down at the pavement for a moment. “Did you know about her… ah. Abilities? And I don’t mean the ‘life sense’ bullshit on her registration card, I mean what she could actually do. And where that came from.”

“I had… I had some notion,” Rue admits. Whether that’s the whole truth or not is anyone’s guess. “I knew she’d been able to do extraordinary things. Fix things that can’t be fixed.” Avi is a glaring example.

There’s a loud sniffle and the redhead scrubs the back of one hand under her nose before pulling her flask out again. “Fuck,” she hisses before taking a drink. Again, she whispers, “Fuck.”

“Yeah.” Richard closes his eyes, drawing in a deep breath, “She could. Even death.”


A sigh, and he reaches out a hand towards her, one brow lifting. He’s probably asking for some of the liquor in that flask. “Just once.”

Rue nods solemnly and holds the flask out to Richard without a word. “Reminds me of an old cartoon I used to watch when I was a kid. I think it was a cartoon wolf or something, trying out for the fuckin’ circus?”

With the drink passed off, she turns her head away and stares off down the darkened street. “Tells the guy he’s got a great act, shows off all these tricks, but the guy’s not impressed.” One corner of Rue’s mouth ticks upward in a faint smirk. “So he says he’s got a real good one that’ll blow the guys socks off. And I don’t fuckin’ remember, maybe he eats a lit stick of dynamite? Blows himself to kingdom come, anyway. Guy is wowed. Says he loves it, just raves about it.”

The first tears fall down Rue’s cheeks in spite of the fact that her smirk is edging into a grin. “The wolf guy’s ghost walks in and says something like ‘It’s a great trick, but I can only do it once.’ End scene.” Rue presses her lips together and sucks in a sharp breath as she tries to hold back tears in earnest. “Damn it, Nat.”

The flask’s taken, Richard’s gloved fingers careful not to contact hers as he does so. He brings it up to his lips and tilts it back, taking a swallow before offering it back over wordlessly as she speaks.

“Yeah.” Quietly, “I tried to stop her once I… but it was too late. And she was too good a person not to do it anyway. It’s just who she was.”

He leans back up against the light post, grimacing as he rests his head against it, “And I don’t have the faintest idea how to use this damn thing. She grew up with it. I didn’t.”

Rue takes the flask back and downs another swallow, staring blankly ahead as she lets the tears flow freely now. She doesn’t sob or even really cry, but they well up in her eyes and she doesn’t impede the overflow that creates little rivers down her face. “Yeah. Nat really was the— The fuckin’ best of us.” And she feels confident in that assessment.

Finally, she refocuses her gaze on Richard, shrugging her shoulders once. “You’ll learn what to do with it, same as she did. She wasn’t born knowing how to control it. Just because she got it young doesn’t mean…” Rue shakes her head. “It’s math. It’s not about when, but how long.”

Richard’s long since run out of tears for his cousin, but the weight of it is clear in the slump of his shoulders, in the way he talks about things. “You know what they say about dogs and new tricks,” he says quietly, lips twitching in an almost-smile, “But we’ll see. I can’t throw a life away that she thought was worth hers to save.”

“It was Mazdak, by the way. Baruti Naidu, specifically.”

“Yeah, they say that shit’s disproven.” Rue’s teardrop shaped mouth twitches into a smile, albeit a brief one. Old dogs can learn new tricks. With the right kind of motivation. From where she’s sitting, a willingness to honor a legacy is a pretty good motivator.

The revelation of who’s responsible for her friend’s death — who her double is likely working for — is accepted with a slow nod of her head. Expression grim. “Well, that’s twice they’ve fucked with the people I care about now.” Her gaze goes distant as she recalls what she and Huruma uncovered in the middle east. “Gonna get a freebie on the punchcard real soon here.”

And by that, she definitely means a free punch.

“It’s a race to who gets that asshole in their sights first, I think,” Richard says a bit grimly, glancing across the street to make sure nobody’s taken too much interest in them. A pretty girl and a guy on a street corner sharing a drink, though, isn’t too notable.

“I’m more worried about Pentacles, honestly, speaking of old dogs.”

Anger is swallowed down with another mouthful of alcohol before she holds the flask out again to see if Richard wants another round. “It’s not a competition,” she murmurs, voice thick from the drink and from the emotion. “As long as the fucker responsible dies, it doesn’t matter who pulls the trigger. We all win.”

Even at this hour, the pair of them isn’t exceptional. Besides, they’re both smart enough to shake a tail, or bullshit their way past scrutiny. But the mention of the former Royal has Rue shaking her head. “I’m sure he already knows,” she reasons out loud. “He’s been keeping me at arm’s length for a while. Not just since the arrest. It’s gotten worse. I know he’s been holding back on something.”

She snorts softly. “Now I guess I know why.” Rue sighs heavily. “And I think he might have been worried about me.

“He knows. He picked me up in Madagascar, him and Huruma… I think she was there because I was planning to start depopulating Africa to track the sonuvabitch down and they couldn’t let me do it.”

Richard reaches out to accept the flask with a grunt of breath, “Probably for the best. I might’ve actually done it.”

Down the hatch goes more liquor.

“Well, that would’ve been the wrong call.” In case he wasn’t aware of that. “Protecting innocent people? Not dragging them into this kind of bullshit that people like you and I deal with on the daily? That’s what makes us better than the motherfuckers we fight against.” Rue has to wonder if they — aforementioned motherfuckers — ever break down the way she’d like to right now. Suspecting that they don’t would allow her to keep from humanizing them, which is antithetical to what she preaches, and is why she supposes that they must. Everyone must break down at least once in a while.

Then again, maybe she feels what’s human more acutely than most she surrounds herself with.

“Gotta say… I appreciate you believe I didn’t do it.” Rue scuffs at the pavement beneath her with the toe of one boot. “I’m… real thin on allies and people who trust or believe in me these days.” She shrugs her shoulders, adding, “Understandably.” It isn’t hard for him to guess who she’s granting a pass to here.

“Christ, Lancaster…” The flasks’s held back out in her direction, Richard looking at her with a single eyebrow high on his face above the darkness of his shades, “Do you not think that of all fucking people, I— wait— “

He hesitates, then, watching her for a moment with a sudden furrowing of his brow, “You do know about Ezekiel, right?”

Rue takes another drink from her flask, fixing Richard with a look that's part scowl and part confusion. "You mean the asshole my BFF Noa came back from the future to fight?"

She wipes her mouth with the side of her hand. She doesn't care much about her manners at this point in the evening and this deep into her inebriation. "Adel says he's suuuuper dead. Why bring him up?"

“Oh, he is absolutely dead, I promise you that…” Richard draws in a slow breath, his head tilting back to rest against the light-post he’s settled near, eyes closing.

“The Director of the Institute, hailing originally from superstring designate Wasteland-A, was better known in his time by his name. Richard Ezekiel Cardinal.”

His chin drops back down, and he looks at her through dark lenses, observing quietly, “So I understand evil doubles, Lancaster.”

"Jesus fucking Christ," Rue spits out, her face falling. She sags back against the street sign at her back. "Well, I guess I'm in good company."

She shakes her head then, looking suddenly defeated. "I don't know what to do. No one trusts me. I can tell everyone's concerned that I actually did it, and this is all an act." Except the person she supposedly wronged, apparently.

“The entire government keeps an eye on me because they think that I’m going to snap and try to take over the world at the slightest provocation,” says Richard in dry tones, one shoulder lifting in a shrug, “And no matter what they say… none of the old Ferrymen really trust me. Everyone looks at me and they see him.”

He shakes his head, “Wish I had some advice there. The people who are worth it will come around.”

“Yeah, I…” Rue drains the last of her flask and stares down at the pavement at her feet while she caps it and slides it back into her pocket. “I keep hoping that’s the case.” But it’s clear her heart is in pieces and she feels completely alone in this.

She must be, in some respects, or she almost certainly wouldn’t be out here by herself, drunk and reckless. “I’m not sure they will.”

“Fuck ‘em.” Richard replies dismissively, “Life’s fucking hard enough without carrying the weight of something a different you did - trust me, I know better than anybody. And if they put that blame on you, then… you’ve got to ask if they ever really trusted you to begin with.”

A bit of bitterness to that last. As he said, he knows this situation very well.

“Why’d you join Wolfhound?”


There isn’t a single beat missed. There’s no time required to reflect or ponder what events led her down this path. The answer isn’t that it was the right thing to do. That there was injustice in the world and she could see to at least some of that being rectified. It’s all those things, but none of them. She could easily have stayed a photographer, documenting atrocity and dragging it into the light of day to force people to confront it. That would have been a form of justice, too.

But that isn’t the path she travelled. That isn’t where she found the strength to keep going.

“He saved my life. I know how to handle a weapon because he and Jens taught me.” That isn’t how he saved her life, but it helps. “Hana was my mentor. When Avi told me the two of them were starting a company and asked if I would join, I signed on there on the spot.” Informal as it may have been in the beginning. “He believed in me during a time when almost nobody else would.”

There had been others who supported her, but that number is a meager one. “Now…” A brief smile is meant to suggest some sort of wry humor, but all it conveys is pain. “Not so much.”

“Yeah. I get that.” A little nod from Richard. He understands the Cult of Personality only too well; people have followed him for the same reason before.

A sweep of his hand back towards her, though, “But was it just for them, or did you actually want to be a hunter? It’s… easy in the lifestyle we lived to fall in behind someone good or bad, but is it what you wanted to be?”

“I wanted to be a ballerina,” Rue snorts. It’s a joke, but only because the circumstances of the world have made it a joke. What a frivolous little dream to dream while society collapses. “I wanted to be an actress.

She shrugs, a simple thing, leans against the street sign at her back. “So that’s what I became. Jens always told me I had a face for intelligence. Said even if I could never learn to throw a punch,” she did, “or aim true with a rifle,” she does, “that I could still be useful with a bright smile and these big, blue eyes of mine.”

Intelligence isn’t all hacking and infiltration, after all.

“I wanted to make sure no one would hurt people the way that I saw those people on Pollepel Island hurt. I had every reason to stay out of it. I could have lived a comfortable life, you know? But… I couldn’t turn a blind eye to what was happening to people like you.” Expressives. “So, I helped hunt those responsible, because that felt like the right thing to do.”

“Hey, I started all this as a cat burglar,” Richard observes with a brief chuckle, motioning with one hand, “A ballerina isn’t too much stranger of a start.”

The mention of Jens has him looking briefly nostalgic, though he shakes his head to dismiss the distraction, “He’s rarely wrong. Those are good reasons, too. I was just— curious, really. I suppose the work runs in the family.”

A breath’s drawn in, exhaled in a sigh, “I wish I could give you better advice, I just— I’ve been there. I live there. And I know it’s hell.”

“I wanted to be like her, you know.” Adrianne. “She was jumping out of planes and going to all these places I thought were so exotic.” Rue shakes her head. “Glad she can’t see me now, I guess. What a mess I’ve made.”

It had been bad enough being on opposing sides of the government line. How her aunt had had to tell her to keep her damn head down. The things Rue didn’t know how to do then that she’s learned the necessity of now. “I guess at least the company’s not half bad here.” In hell, she means.

“Trust me, the jumping out of planes in exotic places isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Richard observes a bit dryly, a hand coming up to scratch at the curve of his jaw, “Apollo was all of that I ever want to do again, thank you very much. Argentina was a fucking nightmare, and Antarctica— “

He waves it off, “Anyway. Yeah, at least there’s that. I hope it at least helps knowing you’re not the only one who’s dealing with this evil twin bullshit.”

His experience, as Rue has always suspected but is finally coming to properly realize, is vast. “I must look like a kid playing with toy guns to you.” She looks down at her shoes then, not necessarily embarrassed by her lack of experience or ashamed of it in anyway, but self-conscious about something she can’t put a name to.

“Don’t be fuckin’ ridiculous,” Richard replies with a roll of his eyes behind his shades, and he points a finger at her before stating in firm, no-argument-allowed tones, “You walked out of Bannerman’s alive. Nobody walked out of Bannerman’s that I could call a kid, not after that.” There’s some heat there. Some lingering feelings about the incident in question, whatever they might be.

“And that’s not even bringing up the Wolfhound ops I’ve seen your name on. Hercules. Geopoint. You’ve seen more action over the past five years than I have, I can tell you that.”

He’s right about all of it. Rue lifts her head finally and fixes Richard with a haunted stare. “I carried her out of that place,” she tells him. Nobody walked out of Bannerman’s Castle and could be called a child after that. “Nathalie.”

The jaundiced glow of the streetlamp overhead highlights the tears that fall down her face. “I thought we were all going to drown. At one point, the water was so high, and I fell. I thought that was it. But I was holding her. I— I was holding her.” The little girl who would become one of her closest friends. And now, she’s gone. “And all I could think was that I had to keep her head above water. I had to get back up so I could keep her safe.”

The anguish contorts Rue’s freckled face and she buries it into her hands as she chokes out a sob. “She trusted me and that’s why she’s dead!

Instinct has Richard stepping in, an arm listing to reaching out - then hesitating, stopping mid-reach for her. A moment later he’s cursing at himself internally, abandoning complete caution and stepping into personal space to reach an arm around her shoulder to pull her to him.

He’s wearing gloves, he’s wearing a jacket. So long as he keeps his head up, there shouldn’t be any skin contact. So it’s awkward, but he’s not going to just let her sob like that without trying to offer comfort.

“No.. no, no,” he breathes out in a heavy sigh down to her, “No, don’t. They would have gotten her somehow. Same with me. Blame Naidu, not yourself. Nathalie would fucking kick you if you keep doing that, and you know it.”

Rue is stiff at first in his arms, seems as though she’s going to fight her way free, but ultimately succumbs to the comfort offered. She’s spent so much time distancing herself from the people she trusts, that she wants to protect, she hasn’t reached out for anything she needs.

This is a shortcoming that isn’t new, however. It’s a learned behavior, from the very event they were discussing that made her who she is now. A being of incredible strength, so long as she continues moving. But the moment she stops, she becomes brittle. Easily broken.

Rue’s movements have been arrested for some time now.

There’s silence for a long moment as he holds her, gloved fingers brushing gently over her hair. “It’s not your fault, Lancaster,” Richard says gently, “And Nathalie never would’ve wanted you to blame yourself. Not for this.”

A sigh stirs her hair, and he murmurs, “You should get home, though. Get some rest. Just— try not and blame yourself. I know it’s not easy. God knows I do it enough.”

Rue withdraws slowly, turning her face away to grant herself some illusion of privacy or dignity as she starts wiping streaked mascara and eyeliner from her face with the pads of her fingers.

She nods, a jerky up and down bob of that ginger head. “Yeah,” she breathes out, voice still strained with emotion, even though the crying has subsided for now. “Yeah…” Her gaze flickers to him momentarily, then goes distant again. “I suppose I’ll see you around.”

Heaving a sigh, Rue turns on her heel and starts to continue on her way toward the Bastion. The only home she’s got right now.


Richard calls after her as she starts to depart, offering quietly, “You ever need to talk about this shit, just give me a call, alright?”

There aren’t a lot of people who know what it’s like to have an evil twin, after all.

Then he’s gone, a shadow sweeping away on the wind.

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