|Summary||Richard's barely aged a day. Isabel's aged... rather more.|
Everything happened in such a rush. By the time the fight is over, Richard is barely conscious, and so his transport to the hospital and subsequent admittance go largely unremembered by the injured agent. Isabel is not his first visitor, however; that would be the official visit from his X-Force debriefer to take a full run-down on what the hell happened and where the hell he's been. It leaves him even more raw and exhausted than he was before. At leas the's got painkillers.
In fact, Isabel does not arrive with any immediacy. The dawn stretches into day and fades again into night before a knock comes at the door, quiet but firm in its rap. On the other side, Isabel Weiss (Sikorski) stands with her hands twisted tight behind her back, waiting.
It's possible that Richard has been dozing, as people are wont to do on painkillers. But either way, it's only a moment or two before he's responding to the knock with a half-wary "Yeah?" Inside, the worst of his injuries are beneath the hospital gown, but he has that scraped and raw look about him. And, most notable of all, he's hardly aged a day. Or, rather, he's only aged a few years.
The door swings open, and for a moment, it seems as though no time at all has passed. Silhouetted in the doorway, Isabel looks much the same as she did thirty some years ago. Her hair still hangs in loose, dark waves around her shoulders. She's still whip-thin, leanly muscled with the work of training, clad in jeans and a white shirt and a dark jacket. Her voice is familiar and warm and low as she steps forward, one hand pressed to her mouth as she says, "Oh my god. /Rich/." The eyes above it are different, though, lined with wrinkles earned by a lifetime of worry and laughter, and when she draws close enough to drop her hand to his arm in tentative touch, it's clear that although the years have been good to Isabel, they have also /passed/.
"Iz." There's something flat and almost distant in the word, but as Isabel draws closer she can recognize the shock and grief and terror hidden away behind Richard's eyes. "They told me -- the year. They told me how much time--. I didn't think--" His skin is warm under her touch.
"Rich," Isabel says again, swallowing hard as she meets his eyes. Telekinesis snakes out to tug a rolling stool toward her, and she perches on it next to him. Her hand rises from arm to forehead to brush the backs of her fingers against his brow in a gesture that is inadvertently maternal. She nods, a bit brisk, as she tells him, "I read the report." A beat of silence follows, and then she adds, quietly, "I was sure you were dead.
"I -- probably would have thought so, too," he admits quietly, watching her. With a forced smile, Richard attempts to joke, "Ex-boyfriend disappears for twenty years, you usually assume death or dismemberment. Sorry I couldn't call."
"Damn right," Isabel answers, pulling her hand back to twist it into her lap. They are familiar hands, save for the band of gold that fits snug and familiar on her left hand. "You'd better be sorry. Fucking unacceptable."
"Well, you went and got old, so I think we're even." Richard's smile taut and uncomfortable across his features, he sets his head back on the pillows, turned to watch her. His eyes dip to her hands, lingering briefly, and then rise. "Told you so."
For a moment, Isabel is deeply tempted to respond with something like 'It's Isabel Beaubier now' just to really fuck with Rich's mind. Given the circumstances, however, she instead smiles faintly and spreads her palms flat against her knees. "Tried not to," she says. "But it happened anyway."
"Well that's dumb," he decides. "I didn't dump you so you could try /not/ to." Rich lifts a hand to scrub it over his face. "God. Do you have like -- kids and everything now?" After a beat, he says quieter, "You've had a whole life."
"Get old, Rich," Isabel answers with a breath of humor. She tilts her head, then admits, "And-- the other, too. For a while." Her smile warms, happy and fond as she admits, "Three. Peter and Esther are 24. Jael's nearly 20." Her hand lifts again, settling light against Rich's arm. "And you've had a wild few years."
Some of the humor fades from his face, overwhelmed by the pressing weight of reality. "Your kids are closer to my age than you are, Iz."
Isabel draws in a breath, settling her hands in her lap again. "I know, Rich," she says quietly.
As Isabel's hands draw back, Richard shifts one of his to try to slowly intercept one, reaching for the anchor of her. He doesn't say anything for a long while.
Isabel is quick to return his grasp, twining their fingers together in a familiar press. She leaves the silence for a long stretch before she says quietly, "You'll get through this, Rich. I know things have changed, but-- they also /haven't/ changed. We're still doing good work. And you will, too.
"Iz, I--" Richard's expression looks very close to breaking, and he finally has to angle his head away before her care undoes him entirely. He opens his mouth again, as if to say something else, but he can't quite find the words.
"It's okay," Isabel says, quiet and low as she draws her chair closer. The firm, sure touch of telekinetic fingers smooth his hair back in a slow stroke as she squeezes his hand. "Whatever it was, you're here. You survived. And you're home.
"It wasn't supposed to be just me." Richard squeezes his eyes shut, his free hand pressing its heel against his brow. "Iz, it -- it wasn't just me."
The telekinetic brush of non-existant fingers stills, and Isabel looks down at him with a drawn-in breath. "Tell me," she says.
"The team -- not everyone made it over the years, or -- some of them wanted to stay and keep fighting. You're there and you start making a life, and then home becomes -- different." Richard swallows tightly. "But Peter--" Peter his best friend, Peter one of the sources of Isabel's disgruntlement early in their relationship in case Richie was going to leave her for a guy like certain other ex-boyfriends. "He was behind me. And then the attack happened, and he said to go through, he /said/ he was /right behind me/--"
"Oh," Isabel says softly. "Rich." There is understanding thick in her voice, though she does not give words to any suspicions in the case of Peter.
"Oh," Isabel says softly. "Rich." There is understanding thick in her voice, though she does not give words to any suspicions in the case of Peter. "They told you the rift is closed?
"Yeah," Richard says very quietly, his voice thick. "I saw it."
"I'm sorry," Isabel answers in matching quiet. "Was it as bad there as Staten Island suggests?
"I saw them destroy entire worlds," Richard says, still not looking at her. "They wanted to destroy the entire galaxy."
"Well they're not fucking getting this one," Isabel says with sudden force. "They said your intel on the ships let us keep it contained to the island.
"Yeah. It was -- contained," Richard agrees. "I don't know what I would have done if it weren't. The sort of technology we had to fight them there -- it's so far beyond anything we have here. Earth wouldn't have survived a large-scale invasion." He takes in a slow breath.
"We've made a few improvements while you were gone," Isabel tells Richard with a whiff of amusement. It fades after a beat. "But I'm glad we don't have to try."
"Yeah," Richard says. His gaze slides along the wall. "We were all but finished over there, and now it's just -- over for me." He swallows again, forcing himself to look back to her. "I hear we're public now. Think I'll get twenty-something years of backpay?"
Isabel meets Rich's gaze with a smile, forced warm and easy. She knows how to do that now. "You don't look twenty-something years older," she says in light tease. "Maybe -- how long was it. For you?
"A couple years?" Richard guesses, smile returning, albeit tensely. "Hard to keep count. Everybody's got a different calendar."
Isabel is quiet for a moment, watching him in close study. "Fuck, Rich," she breathes. "You look just like-- like it hasn't been a day since we sat on that cliff."
"It's been at least a couple days," he tells her with a sad smile. "I'm surprised you can even remember that far back now."
"I can still kick your ass, Rider," Isabel tells him firmly.
"I'm actually a galactic hero now, so."
"Oh yeah?" Isabel's brows shoot upward, impressed. For real. "What's that like?
"Well, it totally means you can't kick my ass anymore," Richard says.
"Three seconds, flat on your back," Isabel says, so matter-of-fact that it doesn't even sound like a boast. She nudges him a little with the grip of her hand on his. "You'll have to show me."
"I'm actually not -- quite so badass anymore," Richard admits ruefully. "They outfitted me with some tech that augmented everything. I haven't been this slow in years."
Isabel's brows raise sharply as she gives Richard a closer study. "You've never been slow," she says. "How fast /were/ you?"
Richard smiles wistfully. "Very fast."
"Fast enough to leave Jean-Paul in the dust?" Isabel wonders in faint tease meant to coax a fuller smile from him.
"I was already fast enough for that," Richard says with a faint smirk. It fades after a moment. "Is he still--"
Isabel shakes her head, but she follows it swiftly with, "He stopped doing field work a few years ago. Took a few too many hits. He's always been damned good behind a desk, though." Her lips crook into a smile. "There are still a few of us around. And a lot of very young, spry things."
"Bet he loves it there, too," Richard murmurs wryly. Perhaps seeking more relief to help distract him from the grief weighing on him, he says, "Will you -- tell me about the others?""Of course," Isabel says without hesitation. "Whatever you want to know." She waits a beat, looking down at him, and then draws in a deep breath as her hand tightens in his for a moment. Then she starts to talk, telling Rich about the world he lives in now from X-Force out. It takes a very long time, and she does not release his hand to slip away until long after the drugs have sent him back into sleep.