Oh, Hail to the Thief* | Clark Debussy + David Haller
'...Hey, uh... Can you help me out here?' David calls.
Clark will, of course. But he also will engage in a certain amount of languorous-ness wandering over to help the supposedly all-powerful mutant figure out the high-tech locking mechanisms on the Debussy's well-secured front door.
(Occasionally he thinks he's over David Haller being thought of as 'special' enough that landing Clark with life-altering injuries and three months of his son not being able to look him in the face was acceptable collateral for all parties involved. But then again, oh wait... Nope.)
'Thanks.' David says, pushing his hands into his pockets.
Clark feels his smile go bitter; the taste of Ronda's Citrus Soda on the inside of his lips: 'Getting twitchy Haller?'
'Not a huge fan of locked doors.' The other man admits dryly.
The lock's a retinal-numerical combination. Or numerical-retinal, maybe. The numbers go in first, then the scanned image. The keypad is cold under Clark's scarred fingertips. or maybe, burning?
Should he even be able to feel that?
David's voice: 'What's the code again?'
'What's the code again?' Clark frowns over his shoulder to Daniel, who just smiles benignly, head ticking left like a second-hand on a clock face.
Ah, of course.
Clark punches the numbers, then straightens up so the bright light can flash over his right eyeball. David hovers at his shoulder, all...awkward and yeah sheepish; a wolf in sheep's clothing... Maybe a bit giddy on nice French wine and home-made Moroccan chicken . Division Three cafeteria food does make one pine for dinners not prepared by dodgy bio-engineering conglomerates.
'Hey, um—' David starts, but Clark holds up a hand:
'Forget it.' He says. 'Inter-colleague socialising is apparently normal and, let's be honest: a military intelligence outfit on semi-permanent lock-down ruled over by a literal basket-case doesn't scream 'dinner-party ambience'.'
Clark gestures downwards:
'Sydney going with you?'
For just a second, David looks nonplussed; like he's noticing the ginger cat winding itself languidly between Clark's ankles for the first time. It's a weird expression; it flutters over his face like a dazed butterfly.
'Oh...No.' He decides eventually. 'She can stay here. Just... For now.'
He smiles. Awkward. Genuine. Big blue eyes (and god, he can put those away): 'Thanks Clark.'
And he steps over the threshold, out into the darkening sky.
Out into the sky...his boots thrust up against the clouds, hem of his jacket bunching up at his waist, hair dragged downwards (or maybe...upwards) in a long spike from his skull to the floor. The dark geometric steel. The jailhouse.
At Clark's feet, Sydney meows plaintively after her boyfriend.
Clark frowns. He feels the warmth of Daniel reappearing at his side, all done-up up in his dress blues, their fingers touching briefly as he passes his husband back his cane.
(Weird. He'd forgotten he didn't have it.)
'What'd you do that for?'
The hiss and slam of the interrogation room door. The lock clanking back into place, green lights blinking on on on on all over the security feed.
Clark doesn't even turn his head. He doesn't have to to know Daniel's vanished. As has their home. Their dinner table. Their nice wedding-gift wine glasses clutching the vestiges of three bottles of good Roussanne.
Instead, there's the security monitors, and the grainy monochrome image of the top of David's head as he slides into the chair opposite Lenny Busker—the body that claims to be Lenny Busker— slumped across the glass tabletop like a marionette with her strings cut.
Clark rolls his eyes:
'...Son of a bitch.'
Can't Stop What's Coming* | Sydney Barrett + Kerry Loudermilk
Front kick, jab, hammer fist, knee
Knee, back kick, exits check for exits
four o'clock! back roundhouse, kick, grab, knee--
Kerry rolls her eyes and steps away, leaning over the mezzanine railing into the lab below; finds Cary blinking up at her:
'Did you say something?' He asks.
'No...' She returns shortly 'You said something.'
'I didn't, say anything..?'
They stare at each other.
—There you are
Kerry spins and lashes out with her foot, the back of her heel making contact with the punchbag behind her and sending something small and scratchy and ginger leaping for safety and hissing the whole time.
'It's ok!' Kerry shouts back, fixing her eyes on their unexpected visitor, now clutching the railing with its fur sticking straight up: '...It's just Sydney.'
Kerry hears the clatter of Cary dragging himself to a halt halfway up the stairs: '..Sydney?'
'We have a fight lesson.'
Kerry hears Cary's sigh in her head.
'You mean 'defence' lesson, right?'
Kerry shrugs: Whatever you say
She folds her arms over her chest, eyeing the particularly pissy-stared feline in front of her with disdain.
'I could've kicked you over the balcony.' She tells it flatly. 'Don't sneak up on me.'
The cat just looks at her. Then—too fast, no-one can see it (no-one can ever see it, it's fucking annoying)—the whiskered interloper switches back into a particularly smug-faced Sydney Barrett.
'Maybe your reflexes need work.' The other woman suggests innocently, tugging the fingers of her gloves back up tight.
'Oooor I could kick you over the balcony.' Kerry repeats, 'I kinda prefer that plan.' And this time Syd's mouth tilts at one corner.
'Come and try then.' She says, raising her fists. Kerry snorts:
'Oh, you should've stayed a cat.'
Behind the two women, Cary pulls his glasses off to pass a hand over his sleep-deprived eyes.
'Try not to break anything this time, huh?' he sighs 'And I mean, y'know, bones; teeth...'
'I'll do my best.' Syd returns, dodging awkwardly out the way. Kerry's mouth splits into a grin.
Like, it's only lesson two: she'll go easy on her.
But man: she is totally getting back at her for that reflexes quip.
I'm Sick of This Record Already* | Lenny Busker + Oliver Bird
It's the solid smash, like. The crunch. That's the...that's fingernails clenched in your heart, man. That's the buzz.
Two fingers; flick.
Roll roll rol—
Lenny's mouth moves. It makes, like, a smirk.
'Morning dandelion.' Oliver drawls, wandering into the kitchen. Like every morning. Lenny doesn't turn round 'cos— pfft, whatever— but she follows every pad of his fleshy foot-soles on the tiles. Still damp from the shower. She has sharp ears; and he has a bathrobe tied round him—a fluffy white one like robbed from some hotel and Lenny thinks, vaguely; did I do that? Do I do that now, rob hotels? Do they let me into hotels?
She thinks—not often, but y'know, occasionally—that they'd be a fucking hilarious Bonnie and Clyde type twosome; cruising it round the West Coast on some psychedelic psychic honeymoon, if Farouk didn't have all their strings wrapped tight round his fists and good to break at the first little tug.
Or would you rather be a pig?
'...Well that kinda depends, dunnit...?'
Lenny picks another clean white hen's egg from the carton; leans down until her eye is level with the counter-top; places it a careful eight centimetres from the edge.
'Bacon.' She blows a strand of hair absently out of her eyes 'Got any bacon?'
Roll roll rol--
Oliver leans against the breakfast bar, face turned towards the sun glinting across their extravagant front windows.
'Would you look at that?' He sighs, and Lenny still can't quite get if everything he says is ironic or if it's just that dumb accent: 'Another beautiful day...'
He holds his glass to his lips and takes a long swig of vodka. A mouthful. A fucking gulp.
'...Care to share?' Lenny suggests, even as she takes the sixth and final egg out of its box. Even as she notices the rest of the Stoli bottle, suddenly free and easy and standing just right there on the breakfast bar, screwtop unbroken, basically begging her to get her mouth round it.
'You're using up all the eggs.' Oliver warns laconically; which is just bullshit and they both know it. There will always be eggs in that big powder-blue fridge in the corner of their perfect retro-kitsch suburban kitchen. No matter how many Lenny cracks, whacks, breaks, smashes; scrambles, launches, squashes, swallows, chokes on; sucks raw—
There will always be. Fucking. Eggs.
Roll roll rol—
The egg shell lies splattered across the floor. But instead of sunny yellow yolk—hey wouldya look at that?—dark, black, tarry gloop seeps across the tiles. Like gasoline. Bike oil. The sticky as hell BBQ rib sauce at Denny's. You can make a whole meal outta that, man. You can build sandcastles outta that stuff.
Surprise is kinda new here, in this place. You know: it's an occurance. It doesn't happen that often. Lenny hears the chink of Oliver's martini glass being placed back on the counter-top as he comes over to lean on his elbows beside her.
Together, they watch as something clicking and reptilian pushes its way free of all the too-white shell shrapnel. Big eyes, black, creeping, long jointed legs like a spider. Too many of them, Jesus, what's that, six? Seven?
They look at each other: Farouk's playthings; the frozen man and the cornflake girl, playing house in some retrofitted conformity nightmare for the big man's amusement.
Lenny reaches extravagantly over and drags the vodka bottle across the marble and back into the safety of her own warm embrace. Cracks the top.
'Well.' She announces needlessly. 'That's not a fucking chicken.'
So Only One Life Can't Be Enough* | Amy Haller + Ptonomy Wallace
'I just want my brother back.'
The man reclining in the chair opposite, with the sharp cheekbones and the cellar-door eyes—Mr Wallace—doesn't even blink. But there's something. His mouth flick-flick-flickers like a sticky VCR pause.
Amy curls her fingernails back into her palms: 'Can you...do that?'
A pause. Sounds like...pity:
'Ms Haller. Your brother is an insanely powerful mutant—'
'—But you have all thi—'
Wallace holds up a hand: '—I didn't say we couldn't.'
Under her thin summer cardigan, Amy shifts her shoulders; listens to the crack of the vertebrae in her neck in the eerie quiet.
She wonders how many floors down they are, buried away in the bowels of the building even David speaks of with a kind of splintering respect: Division Three (Division Three of what, Amy wonders). There were no numbers on the elevator; just... coldness, and two Kevlar-plated soldiers, and this Mr Wallace— more coldness— appraising her over the rim of his spectacles like Christmas had come early.
'So what...What do you need from me?' She asks.
The man looks at her for a moment longer. It's weird. There's just the two of them in here, but it feels like dozens of eyes on her. Hundreds—
'Just your memories.' He answers, eventually, and Amy barks a laugh:
'Like I can trust those.'
'Well that's the thing;' Wallace says, and now that flick at his lip is almost a smile. Very very close. 'maybe you just need an outsider. An objective eye.'
Mutants. Amy thinks disingenuously and their cryptic; Jesus. But she doesn't reply; just laces her fingers tightly together in her lap and feels Wallace stretch his legs out under the table, warming to his subject.
'Like I said;' he repeats 'your brother is an insanely powerful mutant. But beneath that, y'know: he's just human. And like any human, his mind is his greatest weapon... and his greatest weakness.'
Amy holds his gaze. She doesn't trust him—she can't, not after everything. But maybe, still, she trusts him more than she trusts David.
She glances around at the dark, concrete interrogation room. Some trick in the walls; the corners never seem to be in the same place twice. Maybe there are no corners. Maybe it's not even a room.
Fuck. Amy shakes her head, trying to knock her neurons back into line.
'Can he find me here?'
Wallace follows her gaze, dark eyes ticking around them. 'No. The place is psychically shielded: you know that.'
Wallace legitimately grins at her incredulity. 'Actually, it was designed to keep his father out.'
Amy hadn't expected this: 'Xavier?'
Wallace nods. 'We've improved on it a bit since then. 'Sides...' and this time when he speaks, his voice is a bit softer— a bit, understanding: 'Do you really think he's gonna come looking for you?'
Amy looks back at him. She can feel his ankle beside hers under the table, his knee bouncing a little in anticipation. Hunger.
Amy remembers lying beside her little brother in the fields behind their home, his skinny fingers stabbing the air in front of her face, pointing out rabbits in the clouds, giggling as she dug her hands into his side and tickled and tickled and they both laughed like grass and clouds and each other was all happiness would ever be.
No she doesn't.
Be a Fake or Shiver* | Oliver Bird + Melanie Bird
'—Moon river, wider than a mile—' Oliver sings quietly into the thin air. Listens to his own voice stroll around for a bit and then echo back to him. Watches it. It's brighter than he thought it might be. Greener.
—O l i v e r?—
'Shhh...' Oliver closes his eyes. Does he look like he wants to be named, right now? Then; an idea occurs. He reaches upwards; yanks.
Somewhere above, a ceiling fan clicks and whirls into life.
Huh. He smiles, hair swirling around his face. Watches the tiny glittering letters of his own inescapable designator as they're sucked into the air-stream. Neat.
—O i v r—
'—Oh. Liver!' He interrupts the irritating sarcophagus-black sky. 'O... L i v e r. Oh Oliver, you're ruining your liver—'
But it seems it's too late for poetry. The landscape around him jostles like a knocked box of cornflakes and Oliver groans, fingers suddenly covered in vodka:
'—Ah wait, not—'
Protests are pointless though. The sweet, hazy world explodes in a storm of cigarette ash around him; turns black and dusty and crumbles to the floor, and is replaced instantaneously by normalcy by banks of monitors and dials and cables and the floro-punctured ceiling and Melanie standing over him, hand on the mouthpiece of the comms headset he's pretty sure has Cary's name neatly printed on a label on the side.
A pause. Then Oliver sighs. Dramatically.
He was enjoying that drink.
'Could you maybe, not do that?' He complains, sitting up, tugging the electrodes from his temples. 'I was fine.'
'Were you?' His wife replies coolly.
'Yes.' He runs his hands through his hair, noting how cool his skin is, sweat tacky at his hairline. How long was he out for? 'Where's Cary?'
'...It's two in the morning.'
Oliver shrugs: 'Yes, and? Where's Cary?'
'Two in the morning Oliver.' Melanie repeats, as if it has a significance 'Monday morning.'
The Birds look at each other. This is happening far too often nowadays: Melanie knowing more than he does. Melanie remembering more than he does.
Perhaps some kind of warning bells should be ringing.
'...There was a thing, wasn't there?' Oliver guesses eventually, off Melanie's stonily blank expression. 'A...party?'
Melanie sighs 'Not everything's a party, Oliver.' She disclaims, and her husband makes a face: 'Well you certainly can't blame me for that...' He returns lightly, then clicks his fingers: '...The uh, the guys from New York?' That's it, he remembers now: the Westchester rich kids. 'How were they?'
'Honestly? Not great. They came all this way to see you. Because you asked them to.'
'I was working, baby;' Oliver protests 'you could've shown them in—'
Melanie blinks. Then—with aplomb, one has to admit—she reaches behind herself and yanks the lab door open, revealing the vaguely incriminating sign tacked onto the other side: DO NOT ENTER. DIMENSIONAL INSTABILITY HIGHLY PROBABLE.
Oliver rubs at the corner of his eye: 'Ah, well. Yes...'
'—Nightmare, Oliver—' She raises her voice '—both of you, nightmares.' and Oliver guesses Cary is actually still here, lurking somewhere on the other side of the glass and avoiding the domestic. '-Don't even t—'
'—Melanie, I'm sorry,' Oliver interrupts, twisting round to re-start the monitor behind him. He sets the scanner moving, backwards, backwards—ah, there: 'But look, please.'
The screen fills with odd, flightly blue lines, undulating, pulsing.
Melanie doesn't come any closer, just sighs: 'Oliver—'
'—No, just. Let me show you.' He urges. Then, when she still doesn't move: 'I was excited. I forgot about the visit, I'm sorry. But this is—' he grins, despite himself, despite his wife scowling at him. '...It's amazing. Melanie. This could change everything.'
He holds out his arm, inviting. And Melanie doesn't fold herself into it, like she might have done once. But she does come closer. She does follow his gaze.
'...What is it?'
Oliver chooses to ignore her testiness, tracing the shape on-screen with a fingertip. It's like a photographic negative: globs of hazy colour pocked with blank space, constantly reforming—A jellyfish of a world, but a world nonetheless.
'It's...' Oliver breathes out; feels like the first time he's done that in a bit '...I found it, Sunflower. A new plane of existence.' Foreign static frequency 'Between conscious and subconscious...Or maybe, more accurately, beyond?' He glances again towards all their equipment, the electrodes dangling abandoned from their monitors, the sheaves of dot-matrix readouts piled up on the floor. How quickly could he get under again? Without Cary's supervision? The urge to explore is like electricity crackling at the base of his spine. 'We're calling it the Astral Plane...'
Beside him, Melanie's face is steady, following the neon elastic patterns of a world she can't see unfolding across the screen.
When she speaks though, it's almost a laugh.
'...Just how far away from me are you trying to get, Oliver?'
Hope I'm Wrong But* | Sydney Barrett + Cary Loudermilk
'Sydney: you're young.'
Syd blinks, fork halfway to her mouth.
Cary winces; makes an awkward rewind gesture with his fingers. 'Sorry, that sounded, creepy--'
'—Well, yeah, just a bit.'
'What I meant was: you're a woman.'
Syd tilts her head. 'You're not doing so great here.'
Cary sighs, and Sydney takes the chance to glance surreptitiously around the nearly-deserted D3 cafeteria, checking to see if there's anyone kicking about who's fluent in scientist. But... Nope. Just her luck. By this point, she's well aware that Cary is way better at thinking than talking.
'It's just,' he begins again 'Kerry. She isn't...used to being out and about so much, y'know? She isn't used to having so much time to herself... not without—'
'—Kicking someone in the face?' Syd offers brightly, and now it's Cary's turn to look antagonised.
'Sorry.' Syd tries to soften her expression. Just a bit. That was probably unfair.
She cautiously reloads her fork with beef stroganoff:
'...Not without a mission or, I don't know, some...purpose. She's always...I mean, we both have...very specific skillsets and...'
Cary trails off, glancing a bit helplessly up at the ceiling, and suddenly, Syd gets it.
'Oh my god.' This time her fork clatters a bit when she drops it back to her plate: 'if you ask me to take her shopping—'
'—No!' Cary looks horrified 'No nothing like that. Gosh no...' He presses his fingers despairingly into the corners of his eyes, knocking his glasses halfway up his forehead.
'I just... It's been a really long time since I was twenty-six and... the two of us, we're used to being together all the time but I, I worry that this...' He presses his palms together and pulls them apart again, and Syd knows what he means; the violence of it; the loneliness. 'That this...separation...means something—'
'—Like what?' Syd asks. And a second later, she sees the way Cary's mouth tightens into a thin line and...Oh.
Into their awkwardness, that disembodied announcement comes over the tanoy—their daily reminder that Summerland and Oliver Bird's voice spilling cheerily from every one of Cary's eccentrically engineered appliances was a very long time ago:
Remember: a loss of meaning is not normal...
Syd picks her fork up again, nudging her food a cautious sixty degrees around her plate.
'Cary.' She murmurs bracingly. She is so not the person to have this conversation with. 'You're gonna be fine—'
'—I'd ask Melanie to keep an eye on her but...y'know...' The older man makes a face; and Syd does know. It feels like they left Melanie behind in Summerland too. Maybe she's still wandering the corridors back there, listening to her husband's voice in the walls. Or maybe curled up beside him, the two of them stuck together like frozen icepops.
'Maybe just...I dunno—'
Syd feels awkward even as she hears the words fall out of her mouth:
'–Be her friend?'
Cary looks at her. Taps his fingers against the side of the water jug:
'...Yeah.' He replies quietly. 'That.'
When The Chips Are Down* | Melanie Bird + Amy Haller
'What are you doing?!'
Melanie flinches as her office door crashes against the wall, revealing Amy Haller, blue eyes huge and mouth as tight as a civet's asshole.
Melanie barely pauses in piling the last of her books into their boxes.
'Amy. How are you?'
She keeps her words minimal. It's getting harder and harder to veneer over the sticky web of her brain with a sensible, head-mistressly demeanour. Oliver always told her she had no poker face. His however—oh his was marvellous. Uncrackable.
'How—?' Amy flaps a hand at her side. 'You're leaving? You're all—you're—You can't do this! What if—'
'Leave. Leave Summerland—'
Melanie pulls a long strip of sticky tape from the dispenser like she's pulling out intestines.
'Summerland is done.'
'There are kids here--'
'—Don't pretend you're worried about the well-being of the children Amy, let's not play that game.'
Amy stares. She might be trembling. The edges of her flowered blouse seem to blur where the fabric meets the sun-soaked air of the office. But then; it could just be Melanie's vision. Or maybe the world really is just giving up. Pulling apart at the seams.
Oh god: metaphor. Kill me now.
Amy opens her mouth again, but Melanie cuts her off. 'Have you seen anything in the past few weeks that suggests Summerland is any kind of place for children? That any of us are even vaguely qualified to take care of ourselves, never mind young people?'
'—David's gone.' Melanie snaps.
'And what about when he comes back? Where will you be?' Amy demands 'Across the country? Part of Division Three, whoever they even are? After all of, the—They tortured me, Melanie, remember? They kidnapped me and put me in a cell underground with these terrifying terrifying people and asked me questions I had no idea how to answer and these are people you're trusting—?'
'I don't trust anyone. I don't even trust me.' Melanie says flatly. 'And David?
She breathes out. A long breath through her teeth. Rests her hands on the lid of the final box with all those textbooks that don't even belong to her and a battered copy of The Subterraneans buried (fittingly) down one side that she could recite in her sleep.
'Just pretend he's back in the nut-house. Out of sight out of mind, right? Isn't that the easiest way?'
Tell Me Now About Entanglement* | Oliver Bird + Cary Loudermilk + Clark Debussy
He's not fast enough to stop David— the man just vanished in a haze of flame, okay, he's not getting in the way of that— but Clark does manage to jam his cane across the entranceway just in time to stop Cary Loudermilk sprinting past him as well.
'What the shitting fuck is going on??' He demands, just as Cary gasps: 'Clark! I need—'
'—What is...?' Clark leans around the other man, squinting towards the spot David just vanished from, and the crumple of fabric and blood splayed across the cold ground.
Clark jams his cane abruptly back into the floor; suddenly he needs the support. He takes a few jolting steps:
'Did David do that?'
Cary looks in absolutely no state to reply. He jams the heels of his hands into his eyes. There's blood caked in the creases of his fingers.
'—Clark, I-I need...' He tries again, points towards the outside: 'Kerry's... There's a minotaur—'
'Cary.' (Clark has never ever regretted his years of undercover ops training. He doubts he could panic nowadays if he tried.) He points with his free hand: 'Is that Oliver?'
'—Is Oliver alive?'
Cary stares at him; then nods, desperately hard. 'Just.'
'And where's David gone?'
'...To... find Farouk.' Cary intones darkly, and breathes out like he hasn't in hours.
'—Okay...' Clark grips the other man's arm in vague reassurance. So much for you don't need to be afraid.
'...What do you need?' He asks.
'Can you—?' Cary glances back at Oliver's bloodied form—
'—I've got him. You go.'
Cary doesn't need to be told twice.
Clark hobbles across the rough-hewn floor, taking in the incongruous horror littering the ground. He swipes at some of the debris with his cane; Are those femurs?
'Bird's neutralised. Repeat, Bird's neutralised.' He reports into the monitor at his wrist 'Haller has progressed to stage four, over.'
'Rodger. Haller has progressed to stage four, confirm.' Comes the Vermilion's replying sing-song, doubly-distorted through the comms channel. Clark winces as he kneels awkwardly down beside Oliver's prone form. Jesus. Those aren't gunshots.
'Confirmed. And a medical team to my location please, quickly.'
'Are you secure, Agent Debussy?'
'...Well that's a question...'
'Secure, over.' Clark confirms. He stretches over to hold his palm a few centimetres in front of Oliver's mouth. There's an exhale, but just barely. Just barely. This close, the air is thick with the coppery tang of blood. The smoky gag of burnt flesh.
Clark swallows, hard.
'...Bet that ice-cube's looking pretty good right about now, huh buddy?'