2046-12-10 Trying To Be All Right

From X-Factor

2046-12-10 Trying To Be All Right
Date Posted 2016/12/10
Location Open Hands - Mutant Town
Participants Ciel, Rohan
Summary Ghosts of the past, shadows of the present.
Plot Nip-Tuck
Open Hands consists of two adjacent row houses purchased at auction from the city. Repaired but hardly refurbished, their continued existence is a constant uphill battle. Their insides have been converted to suit every purpose, not the least of which being beds and living spaces for mutants in need.

The main building boasts a wide array of pre-owned books, video games, and a donated ping-pong table. Daily activities include yoga, career coaching, group therapy and crisis counseling as well as many other wholesome distractions.

Non-prescription drug use and the consumption of alcohol on-grounds is strictly prohibited. Meal times and curfews are more loosely enforced by fellow residents and volunteers, as well as the community chore list.

It is a fall evening. The weather is warm and raining.

It is, technically, still before lights out--but Open Hands is largely quiet, the residents apparently already having shut themselves already. And Rohan is on patrol. Clad in a green sweater and faded jeans, a stinger clear on his belt, he moves through the ground floor rooms, checking windows--and the sprinklers. He pauses to consider the Christmas tree, adjusting a few of the ornaments, while he remains vigilant, form tense and senses on high alert, like a frightened animal.

Ciel's had a long day, something perhaps evident in the strain around her eyes and the way her once-neat ponytail has slid toward disheveled. Open Hands is her last stop. She shifts the weight of her bag over her shoulders before mounting the steps and shoving the door open, her gaze sliding across the place in quick study. It pauses as her eyes find Rohan, and she stands in the doorway for a silent beat.

Rohan hears that shove of the door and reacts perhaps a little too quickly. He swirls about to face it, one hand going, instinctively to his Stinger. He looks tired himself, eyes shadowed, but still in control, the set of his jaw indicating his determination to remain so. His eyes are conflicting, shading a little toward a panic he will not let free. As he sees her, something like relief comes to his expression. "Sky," he says, hoarse, and takes a step toward her.

"Hey," Ciel says, answering the familiar nickname with a brief smile. Her hand rests on the strap of her bag, bracing. After a beat, she steps forward in matching move, into the room proper. "I uh. Kade-- told me. About the feds, and Echo."

Rohan's feet, seemingly without conscious thought, take him right up to Ciel. "Yeah," he says, suddenly awkward, looking down to her, the expression in his eyes conflicted, haunted. He swallows, and looks away, seemingly lost for words. "I'm staying here for now," he says finally. "I--I won't ever let _her_ get a finger on any of them ever again."

Ciel nods, the motion quick and assured. "It's a good idea," she agrees. "And you're the best person to do it. You'll at least be able to tell if someone's-- compulsed." She draws in a breath, gaze lifting to meet his.

"Yes," says Rohan, gaze locked on hers. "And--I'll know if she's near. I know the taste of her mind better than my own." He says this unhappily, his tone only a faint echo of the pain at the back of his eyes. He draws a deep breath. "I am," he says, quietly, "trying very very hard to be all right."

"Yeah," Ciel says, her smile faint and a little rueful as she watches him. "Sometimes that's all you can do."

Rohan bites at his lip for a moment. "I really want to hide in a dark corner with a warm blanket, my cat, and a very large bottle of whiskey," he tells her. "But--the kids need me."

"Maybe your office and a small bottle of whiskey," Ciel suggests. Her smile spreads for a beat, then settles smaller again. She pauses, then checks, "You've got backup here?"

"I gave up on getting drunk," insists Rohan. Except for a certain day last month. His lips twitch. "But there might be a hidden bottle in my desk. For emergencies. Medical emergencies." He runs a hand through his hair, rumpling it and fluffing some of the thick dark strands upright. "Not right at the moment. But I'm expecting some. In case I have to sleep sometime."

"Okay. Good." Ciel's gaze slides up to follow the run of his fingers, then drags downward again. "If you need someone else. You know you can call us."

"Us?" Rohan questions the little syllable for a moment, but his eyes slide away, going to the wall. It's a nice inoffensive wall, completely dry. He exhales. "Yes."

"Me," Ciel clarifies. She pauses for a beat, then adds, "Kade." Quickly, she finishes, "And the rest of X-Factor, I'm sure. Whoever you need."

Rohan's expression tightens a little at Kade's name, but he says nothing to it. It takes a clear bit of effort, this not saying anything. But he manages it. "Yes," he says. "Of course. We're--very glad for X-Factor. Even sometimes I think they forget I _work_ here." His voice is a little wry. "And after...the other night..." His voice trails off. "It was raining," he said. "When they took Will and Misty. I saw the rain splattering against the wall, and I froze, because I couldn't help but think of..." A pause, and then his voice comes with a sudden savagry. "I should have killed her."

"Ro," Ciel says, his name quiet on her lips. She shakes her head, and her ponytail shivers behind her. "This isn't your fault. They should have been able to hold her."

"I used to be harder," says Ro, his voice very quiet. "I killed people. You know that." He bites his lower lip, worrying at it for a moment. "But when I came here, I tried to be--better. Make up for all that red ink in my ledger, my cosmic debt. But sometimes I wonder--am I really better, or just soft and foolish?" He swallows. "Here's the other thing," he adds. "What I saw in the fed's memory was a scrap of security footage. She broke out--but then was knocked out herself by men in dark hazmat suits and loaded into a van. If she didn't go willing--if she is being used...knowing what she is, what sort of monsters use _her_?"

"Monsters we need to find," Ciel says. Her voice has gone firmly cool, determined. "Did you see anything that might give us some hints? A lead to follow?"

"Nothing of use," says Rohan. He takes a deep breath, trying to swallow his doubts and worries. Focus. "Except I suspect they're the same people who--took Will and Misty. I wonder." He hesitates. "I was kinda fuzzy after they tranq'd me. But I almost wonder...if they're collecting mutants they think are useful. Apparently," he adds, voice dry, "I'm not."

"Don't say that like you're disappointed." It starts as a joke, but Ciel's voice sharpens somewhere mid-sentence. Her fingers tighten on the strap of her bag. "We need to get a handle on this. There has to be something we can start with."

Rohan presses his lips tightly together. He glances down, not commenting, but then says, "I could..." His voice trails off. "Well. I was going to say I could show you what I saw, both the memory I snatched and the other night, but--I could try to draw it instead. Especially the leader. That way we could show more people."

"Do both," Ciel says. She glances briefly around the room, then shifts her bag off her shoulder to drop it to the floor before she folds herself into the nearest chair. "Show me what you saw."

Rohan hesitates, as if something within him hesitates to breach the sanctum of Ciel's memories, even for a good cause. He settles into a chair himself, and begins--first, with the security camera memory he plucked from Agent Stone, a little vague about the edges now after two transfers: Echo's escape from jail, her slumping to the ground outside and being placed in a van by men in hazmat suits. Then, his own memories of the other night, of chasing Misty into the rainy alley behind Oddball and failing to fight off the scarred man with the eye, the man with the tentacles grabbing Will, Rohan falling unconscious as tranq'd. These are a little more vivid and immediate--and, also, despite a few hasty edits, coloured with Rohan's own emotions, the pounding of his heart in his chest, his panic at the spluttering rain, his desperation, his worry, his fear. For a few moments, it's a hint at what it is to be him.

The impact of Rohan's memories is hard to miss. Ciel's breath shortens, and her hands curl tight against her knees as she closes her eyes. She watches them play against the back of her eyelids, sifting through them as they become part of her own memories, once removed. She swallows tightly as she opens her eyes again, fixing on Rohan in a silent, dark worry, but she says nothing.

Rohan swallows, watching her. There's a touch almost of embarrassment in his expression. Those memories make him barer than he wanted; there are no illusions and defence in his own head. He lowers his head a head a little. "It's _something_," he says a little hoarsely. "Not a clear lead, but we--know a little."

Ciel nods, though her gaze slips away from his. "It's something," she agrees.

"I suppose," says Rohan, rubbing the back of his neck. "There's always good old-fashioned leg work. Hunt up places that rent vans. Suppliers of those odd hazmat suits. Every security camera we can find within route. Figuring out where they may have come from, within reason."

"Don't worry," Ciel says, pushing herself up to stand with haste and a thin smile. "We're good at old-fashioned leg work. I'll see what I can turn up. Get Lexie on it, too."

"You're the detectives, after all," agrees Rohan. His voice is a little more, determinedly normal. He arises too. "I'll be holding down the fort here, but if there's anything I can do, let me know? It helps sometimes, to have things to do. And say hi to Lexie for me. Feels like it's been a while." He seems about to leave it there, but he hesitates for a moment, and then says, quietly, "Thanks."

"Sure," Ciel says. She settles her bag back into place, turning toward the door. For a moment, she hesitates there, looking back at him. After a beat she says, "Take care of yourself, Ro."

"Trying to," says Rohan with a thin smile. "Trying to avoid both the bottle of whiskey and the need to comm people in the middle of the night." His smile grows, just a little. "Take care, Skylark. It's dangerous out there. I know you can take care of yourself, but."

"Comm me if you need me," Ciel says, serious in the face of his smile. She lingers a beat longer, watching him, and then disappears through the door.

Rohan watches her go. He leans against the wall, letting out a deep breath, resting there for a long, long moment, until he can regather himself and return to his lonely patrol.

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