What You Know


jenn_icon.gif rickham_icon.gif

Scene Title What You Know
Synopsis Jennifer Chesterfield tries to cheer up Allen Rickham, and Allen instead dispenses to her a piece of advice she takes to heart.
Date August 18, 2009

The Verb, Cat's Penthouse

On the other side of glass, New York City looks like it's on fire. Rippling waves of heat distort the horizon, and the way the sun sets over Manhattan truly makes the city look as through the horizon were nothing but an unending inferno poised to consume the world in cleansing fire.

The bombastic notes of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra vibrates off of the windows, the rich choral music echoing through the spacious penthouse's air-conditioned confines, so much cooler than the true temperature outside, where the blistering dog days of summer threaten to melt the city like a paraffin candle.

Dully reflected in the glass of the window, the weathered lines of Allen Rickham's face mirrors that look of languid uncertainty back at him. As his focus changes, leaving the city blurry, his own countenance comes into clear focus. Tired green eyes stare into themselves before studying the dark circles beneath his eyes and the creases in his brow, the frown lines at the corners of his mouth, crows' feet beside his eyes. No matter how much a man of steel he is, even steel is ground down by the inexorable progress of time.

When the volume of his self-indulgent music drops by several decibels to stop drowning out his own worrisome thoughts, Allen jerks his head to look towards the stereo with a mildly amused woman stands with her arms crossed, the tip of a remote control poking out from her fingers as he raises one quizzical brow to the man moping by the window.

"You know you might be just a bit more gargoylish if you turned to metal and climbed up to perch on the roof…" The tongue in cheek comment from Jennifer Chesterfield forces an involuntary smile across Allen's lips. Leaning away from the window in his armchair, he looks across the room at the bespectacled woman, letting his chin rest on the fingers of one raised hand.

"I'm not sure I'm comfortable doing that anymore," he quietly admits against the droning sound of cello and choir still softly emanating from the speakers, "not after what you told me that—" Rickham's speech comes off halting, brows creased together as he rubs his fingers up along his cheek. "It worries me, is all, changing myself."

"A power had nothing to do with what happened." Stern, almost parental despite the age difference, Jennifer walks across the room slowly with soft clicks of her heels, expression softening some. "Trauma makes people do unfathomable things, Allen. 'Experience changes people,' didn't you say that yourself in your congressional address in 2002?"

Snorting out a laugh, Allen's smile becomes somewhat toothy as he hides half of his face behind splayed fingers, eyes open and uplifted towards Jennifer. "So you follow politics?" It's an easy enough out from the more depression topic, and Jennifer allows him that much.

"Politicians I'm interested in," she notes with an incline of her head, "I voted for you. For what it's worth." The worth comes in a more honest smile, less self-depreciating. Allen's still silent, however, just watching her as she approaches and yet keeps her distance at the same time. "My husband did too," that addition seems more for herself than Allen, "we both thought you'd make a fantastic—"

"I didn't." Cutting Jennifer off, Allen's voice comes off a bit sharp. "I don't want to dwell on the hypotheticals of—"

"Whether your ability will turn you into a murderous monster?" Jennifer's turn to smile now, and it's more of a knowing smirk than a true smile of happiness. As much as she seemed to let Allen away from the root of the matter that's nagging at him, she just used that as a verbal trap to put him right where she wanted him.

"Did you play word games like this with your husband, too?" As soon as the words leave Allen's mouth he's practically trying to bite them out of the air for all his teeth gnash. "I'm sorry—I didn't mean it like—"

"I did…" It's Jennifer's turn to interject, her arms folding just a bit tighter as she looks down to the floor, then slowly up to Allen again. "You remind me of him—stubborn, proud, and secretly insecure. You're not a monster, Allen, you're not even the same person he was."

Closing his eyes tightly, the lines of age grow deeper in Allen's countenance as his fingers smooth along the side of his head. "The potential is there," he grumbles out, "it was like looking out a window, and seeing yourself ten years down the line, and knowing— knowing— that you're going to lose everything that matters to you."

"You really haven't learned anything these last few weeks, have you?" Walking over to the chair, Jennifer rests the remote control on the armrest and shakes her head slowly. "The future's not set in stone, you of all people should know that. After all, you're living proof that the future can be changed, even if it's just a small nudge here and there." The words, ultimately, are of little consolation.

Allen sighs heavily, leaning forward in his chair, forearms resting over his knees and shoulders slacked. "Maybe…" Green eyes drift back up to Jennifer, catching for a moment her own pensive expression. "You never did answer my question from before." One brow rises inquisitively, and Jennifer slowly turns away, affording Allen her back.

"I haven't thought of an answer yet." Reaching up to lift her glasses with one hand, her fingers pinch the bridge of her nose, eyes shut and a strained look painted across her concealed features. She's able to wipe that away though, play it off as nothing as she turns around. "I haven't really made up my mind. Part of me…" she looks away, out the window to the glow of sunset, "part of me wants to just run away, stay with my sister for a while…"

"And the other part?" Allen rises up from the chair slowly, aching joints giving him a hard time as he uses the back of the chair to steady himself. Jennifer smiles faintly, tilting her head to the side.

"The other part of me wants to stay here, stay in the city… try to make a difference—somehow. I don’t know." Biting down on her lower lip, Jennifer looks up towards Allen, an uncertainty on her face one that seems unusually complex. "You're really the only person I can talk to, who isn't young enough to be my daughter. I… I have a hard time just—relating to them. Maybe they're how I was when I was younger; idealistic, hopeful…"

"Idealism isn't just the province of the youthful," Allen notes with a tilt of his head to one side, "it's just that young people are less likely to realize how unrealistic they're being." It's a darkly sarcastic smile that Allen offers to Jennifer, a hesitant hand hovering near her shoulder, but ultimately pulled away without any contact as he walks past her towards the stereo, forsaking the convenience of the remote.

Jennifer's eyes follow him, watching his slow movements as he stalks over to the radio and turns it off. "What do you think I should do?" It's a direct request for advice, one given to a peer, to someone with experience. Allen's head dips down, and he regards Jennifer over his shoulder with one raised brow.

"You're absolutely certain that you want to go to me for advice on what to do?" There's a dry laugh that comes from the tall, rail-thin man as his head shakes and smile grows. "I've been sitting here in your daughter's building for months, waiting for a call that might never come, from a ghost that lives in the internet." One of Allen's brows rise slowly, "You're sure you want my advice?"

A mirthful smile quirks at the corner of Jenn's lips. "Well, I could always use a good example of what not to do…" she notes playfully, shifting her weight to one foot as she starts to walk; not towards Allen but away from him, bending down to steal his seat, sinking back into the plush leather as her own eyes take up his vigil over the sunset horizon.

"Do what you know," Allen says flatly with a roll of his shoulders. "You are who you are. We're old dogs, Jennifer, we aren't going to learn new tricks. It's too late to go and try and reinvent ourselves. I'm not sooner a freedom-fighter than I am a ballroom dancer…" He tries to smile, reassuringly, "Do what you know."

Thoughtfully staring out over the glow of the city's burning horizon, Jennifer pries her eyes away from that light to regard Allen silently as he makes his way towards the elevator. "I'm going out…" For the first time in months, Allen doesn't need to add as he presses the call button for the elevator, turning to look back at Jennifer. "If you see Cat, tell her I'll be back before too long."

Smiling weakly, Jenn nods her head once and feigns a smile enough for Allen, he reciprocates the polite expression as the doors slide open with a chime. Once he's disappeared into them, and the doors have closed shut, Jennifer looks out towards that fiery orange glow of the city beyond. Her teeth tug at her lower lip, and one hand moves down to withdraw a cell phone from inside of her blazer.

Staring down at it, there's an awkward silence until she flips it open and stares at the keypad. Some things time takes from you — faces, names, places – other things, especially those with an emotional content stick with you for a long time. Dialing a number across her phone, Jennifer's eyes close as she hears it ringing, a smile of relief crossing her face as she brings the phone up to her ear, her heart skipping a beat at the click of someone picking up.

"Hello?" It's a mildly accusatory tone of voice, one of someone who doesn't expect anyone to know the number called. Jennifer's smile fades just a touch as she gives a moment too long of a pause before speaking.

"It's been a long time," her voice carries an anxious tremor to it, "how're you doing, Bob?"

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