From Bernadette with Love

Started by Mason Miller, October 17, 2019, 09:03:49 am

Mason Miller

The message had come cryptically in the middle of the night, Dyton time, and Mason had stared at it for more than an hour trying to figure out a response. Not knowing who it was from was one thing, he got plenty of those particularly after a night he didn't remember so well the next morning. There was also the occasional job related message with logistical details, who he was after, that sort of thing. But this one left him completely baffled:

Quote from: unknownHello Mason, have heard a lot about you and would love to finally meet. :) I'll be on Dyton we should grab some ☕

Who could it be? "R.M." He said, staring at the screen. "Coffee?" Neither was a code name or password to anything he could recall. How did they know who he was? How did they get his number? "Who the hell are you?" His frustration reverberated off of his bare apartment walls. A man of taste he may have been, but decorating was never his strong suit. He was never in one place for long enough to worry about it anyway.

The next morning, after typing out and deleting a number of responses and even going so far as to send his sister Millicent a message asking if she knew who this mysterious RM might be (her return message being less than helpful and quite vulgar) Mason finally settled on what he felt to be a proper response.

Quote from: Mason Miller"Ok."

An address came immediately as a response, followed by three variations of a text-based smiley face that left Mason feeling very unnerved. He checked his watch, only an hour to reconnoiter the meeting place and ready an escape plan - regardless if it was a jilted lover or an unknown job contact, one thing was clear. This was a trap.  He tucked a pistol from his stash in the back of his waistband before heading out the door and left for the rendezvous.

Rory Mayfield

Rory had been a little early to the rendezvous point. Well, quite a bit early. He had been very early. To be precise, he'd been sitting in the cafeteria for 72 minutes now, having arrived even before receiving a response from his father, and he'd been turning that response over in his mind for 58 of those 72 minutes. It was an admirable feat considering said response had comprised of one two-letter word, but there was plenty there for Rory's frantic, fast-firing brain to dissect. Like, the fact that those two letters were followed by a full stop and not an exclamation point surely meant something, right? Rory just wasn't sure what, hence the 58 minutes of rumination.

The cafeteria he had picked for this momentous occasion was not a very nice cafeteria, but it wasn't terrible. There was a handful of colorful lanterns hanging from the ceiling, so at least they'd made some effort to spruce up the place -- although the fact that there were so few of them kind of had the opposite effect of highlighting how sparsely decorated the rest of the space was. But beggars couldn't be choosers, and a sixteen-year-old (almost seventeen-year-old) runaway half-away across the 'Verse from his home world was pretty much a beggar in practice. A nagging voice in the back of Rory's head told him he'd be in deep trouble if his father decided to turn him away, but it was a voice he had submerged in a lake of pigheaded optimism, and he kept firmly pushing it back under every time it managed to raise its ugly head above the surface.

Rory hadn't even touched the herbal tea he'd ordered to calm his nerves. Annie's portable terrarium sat next to the forgotten cup on the table. A waitress with orange-streaked hair and a nose ring had initially asked Rory to set it on the floor instead, but he had used his skills of persuasion to convince her to let the matter go. At least, that's what Rory thought had happened. In reality, the waitress had felt bad for the obviously antsy teenager and decided she wasn't getting paid enough to push some puppy-eyed kid around.

Rory leaned forward on his arms and looked through the glass at Annie.

"Are you nervous, Annie?" he asked. "I'm nervous."

Annie looked back at him with her beady tortoise eyes, and as Rory began to (for the eighteenth time since leaving Bernadette) think about how bad he felt about lugging her around in such a cramped container, he finally appeared.

Rory felt like he was watching a slow motion scene in a movie: the door swinging open, Mason's silhouette appearing in the doorway, his tall form stepping over the treshold, piercing blue eyes scanning the room.

Then the weird time anomaly passed and everything was moving at normal speed again. Rory suddenly became wonderfully, painfully, horribly aware of how close he was to meeting his father for the first time.

"Over here!" what Rory wanted to call out, but the words got caught in his throat and came out as a kind of a croak,  not loud enough to reach Mason's ears. He waited for his father's  (my father's, can you believe that, I'm actually about to talk to my father, this is so crazy) eyes to meet his and as soon as they did, he waved at him and gestured enthusiastically towards the empty seat across from him.

Rory's wide-eyed gaze stayed fixed on his father the whole time he made his way across the room. The spawn of Mason Miller was fighting a losing battle against the grin of half joy, half abject terror that was trying to force its way on his face.

Mason Miller

Mason stared at the young man waving at him. At first, he had assumed the gesture was for someone else, but the lad had looked deep into his eyes and smiled. And it wasn't a casual smile, the type which you offer a person as you pass them on the street. An acknowledgement of your existence, nothing more. Mason hated those. So affected and artificial. Mason didn't much care for passing people on the street, but this was far, far worse. No this boy knew him. And the urge to run leaped into Mason's throat and he began to sweat around the collar. He suddenly wished he had thought to bring a flask.

Mason paled because he thought he knew what this was. He wasn't stupid. You couldn't live a life like he had and not have something like this come back to haunt him. There were plenty of times he had shot without thinking of the consequences it would bring. The progeny that would come to find him years later and seek justice for the years of hardship that had resulted from of his actions. He hadn't pictured it like this. His hand reached around behind his back to find his waistband empty, the gun gone. He must have dropped it when scaling the neighboring rooftops looking for snipers. That might also explain why he was sweaty, but Mason didn't dwell on that.

So, he couldn't just shoot the little bastard. He'd have to talk his way out of this.

Not one to back down from confrontation, Mason cautiously walked over to the small table and sat down brusquely, the wooden chair squeaking on the linoleum floor. His weight settled and his posture slumped and he quite possibly looked more the teenager than the one sitting across from him. "I don't blame you for wanting to find me." He said after a moment, reaching into his inner jacket pocket and pulling out a pack of cigarettes. He lit one, and stared across the table. "I expected you to be older. Bigger, perhaps." This kid must have something crafty up his sleeve if he thought he was going to get one over on old Mason Miller. If Mason had indeed killed one or both of this kid's parents, that was enough to make anyone get creative with a plan of revenge.

Mason eyed the terrarium suspiciously.

Rory Mayfield

"I don't blame you for wanting to find me."

Rory's heart skipped a beat. He'd been a little worried he might have been too vague in his message, that once Mason got here he would have to give him a rundown of their kinda-mutual-history (he'd been told he was very bad at keeping his rundowns clear and concise), but there was recognition in his father's voice. Not to mention the actual words he spoke with that voice, of course.

"I expected you to be older. Bigger, perhaps."

Rory glanced down at his arms, which were wirier than they appeared under his sweater but nothing compared to the guns his father was packing. He wasn't offended or anything. No, he totally got it. If he had Mason's physique, he too would have been disappointed to discover his son was a skinny five-foot-sevener. He shrugged apologetically. "I'm almost seventeen," he offered, and nearly succumbed to a coughing fit upon receiving a faceful of cigarette smoke in response. He managed to suppress it, although his eyes watered something fierce. He had to hold it together. He'd already disappointed his father with his stature; he didn't want to give him any more reason to consider him a let-down.

As he was wiping the tears from his eyes, he noticed Mason's gaze being drawn towards the terrarium on the table. "Oh, that's Annie," he said and gently patted the side of the container, beaming like a proud papa himself. "Don't mind her. I just brought her for backup." Was it just him, or did Mason look a little wary of her? Oh God, what if he hates reptiles? Rory pushed the thought aside and cleared his throat. "So... I guess I don't have to go into the details. About my mother and the... thing." The thing being his conception and the circumstances surrounding it, of course, but how awkward was it to talk about your conception with your father? The less said about that the better.

A silence that could be interpreted as either awkward or tense fell between them. Rory didn't register it either way; he was too mesmerized by Mason's face. He'd seen pictures of him on the Cortex, but being this close to him in person was a whole different story. He studied every line and curve, looking for any features he might have inherited from this stranger sitting across the table from him. As he did so, he slowly leaned further and further in without realizing it.

Mason Miller

October 19, 2019, 05:35:38 pm #4 Last Edit: October 21, 2019, 07:19:21 am by noseatbelts
Seventeen? Blimey, he is a child. Mason briefly thought to where he was seventeen years ago. It was a long, long time ago. Before the war. He was still with the Navy then, but in Intelligence. Running missions against the rising insurrection that would later become the Independent Faction. "Ezra..." The word slipped out as his memories took hold of him. Imbedded, he had been there for six months searching out and infiltrating separatist cells. It was unlikely that anyone who'd met their demise on his account would have known his real name. He tried to recall someone with a surname with M. 

As this mysterious R.M. patted the fish tank, or whatever it was, what he said next pulled Mason out of his reverie.

"Oh, that's Annie,"

N.E.! Nitroglycerine Explosive! Mason eyed the liquid sitting in the bottom of the tank This kid was absolutely mad, bringing even that small amount of the highly unstable explosive agent to a populated area. Trying to keep his cool, but with a lack of sleep and a solid hangover- Might still be pissed, actually.- Mason searched out the exits and did a quick count of the patrons in the cafeteria. If he set this kid off, and the kid then set off the device, they'd all be dead. Mason may have been a lout, a womanizer, a drunk, a knob-end, a failure in every sense of the word---

Alright, that's quite enough, thank you.

-but he wasn't about to have the deaths of a dozen or so civilians on his hands. Not again. Only a real bastard would do something like that. Mason was beginning to really dislike this R.M.

"So... I guess I don't have to go into the details. About my mother and the... thing."

Now that was strange. Mason didn't recall killing any women on Ezra. He generally had a code of conduct about that sort of thing. Not that there wasn't one or two in his bounty hunting days. But during his time in the Navy? And on Ezra? No. He didn't think so. He began to think maybe the kid had the wrong idea after all. It wasn't him Mason he was looking for at all! It was some other poor git who'd be stuck with this particular responsibility. Mason began to breathe again. Now, there had been women he knew on Ezra. A few of them, as he recalled.

He's nearly there folks. 

"Listen- whoever you are- I'm sorry about your mother. I'm sure that whomever it was that did her has it coming. But it's not me, mate."

As his worries subsided he began to think on those girls. Plural? He was always a bit of a carouser but those months on Ezra had been very busy with the spying and the infiltrating and the assassinating that there really hadn't been time for his other hobbies. There was one woman in particular that remembered. He couldn't control the smile that lifted his lips. What was her name?

He's got it.

The smile left with the blood in his face. "Marion Mayfield." Mason slumped. "Bollucks."

Rory Mayfield

October 21, 2019, 02:54:50 am #5 Last Edit: October 21, 2019, 07:19:34 am by noseatbelts
Rory was shaken out of his trance-like state when the face he'd been so focused on studying suddenly opened its mouth and spoke.

"Listen- whoever you are- I'm sorry about your mother. I'm sure that whomever it was that did her has it coming. But it's not me, mate."

A shot of panic. Did he have the wrong guy after all? After all the work he and Shay had put into tracking him down; tacking all those clues on a pinboard, connecting them with a tangled web of red string, poring over their creation for hours until Marion came home and they had to hide it under his bed because God knew what she would do if she found out what her son was up to -- speaking of which, they had broken into the datapad she used for work, and Rory had felt so bad about it (it had been Shay's idea, of course), and he didn't know what he would do if that turned out to have been in vain...

No, it couldn't be. Rory shook his head. There were a lot of things he was unsure of, but this wasn't one of them. He'd done his homework too well.

"No... I'm sorry, it can't be anyone else. I'm positive."

Pause. Anticipation.

"Marion Mayfield... Bollucks."

"That's her name, yes. Well, just the Marion Mayfield part, not the... oh..." Rory trailed off, noticing the blood draining from Mason's face. He looked like he was about to pass out. Come to think of it, he'd been looking kind of clammy the entire time they'd been talking. It reminded him of that one time Shay had food poisoning at camp.

"Are you alright, Sir? Do you need a glass of water?" Should I be calling him dad or something? No, that's too soon. Oh jeez, he's not looking so well...

And then it hit him.

"Wait a minute..."

He leaned forward, his brow furrowed.

"...Your ears stick out a little!" He pointed excitedly at Mason's ears, then at his own, the family resemblance obvious if you knew to look for it. A triumphant smile spread on his face. He beamed at his father like someone who had discovered an ancient tomb full of priceless artifacts.

Mason Miller

Sweet, forthright Marion. If there had ever been a person in Mason's life he had considered settling down with- which there wasn't, but it there were- it would have been Marion. He had never in his life met someone quite like her. Pretty, but plain, she spoke her mind and let a person know exactly what she thought of them, bar none. This news hit Mason pretty hard. He thought of all of the possibilities he could have had with Marion. The life they could have built together. Mason had never seen himself as a family man but with Marion? Maybe. But circumstances had prevented that wholesale. Soon after their affair had begun, things on Ezra took a turn for the worse and he'd been called to the other side of the planet; the capital city where he had been tasked with taking care of the Governor. When Mason returned, Marion was gone and that was the end of that.

Or so he thought.

Mason looked across the table and saw Marion in the boy. The eyes, big and brown. Dark wavy hair, light features, high cheekbones. Mason's heart ached, which was not something he had felt since primary school. Alcohol usually dulled that and he bloody wondered where the rutting waitress was when-

"Wait a minute...Your ears stick out a little!"

This bothered Mason. Perhaps a bit too much. Yes, his ears did do and there wasn't a thing that could be done about it.

Many, many years earlier...

A young Mason, no older than Rory, sat in a doctor's examining room, his face young, hopeful, eager. He hoped for the words he'd longed for his entire, brief life.

The white-coated doctor before him looked at the chart in his hands, then at Mason, then at the chart, then at Mason. The doctor stepped forward and looked closely at the boy's ear for a long while. Stepping back, he sighed and shook his head slowly.

Young Mason's crest fell.

Back to the present...

"Rude." He said under his breath, his hand subconsciously brushing at his ear. Where does this brat get off? Finally, Mason spotted the waitress across the cafe. He raised a hand and snapped his fingers, indicating he would indeed like service. She looked at him, rolled her eyes, and went the other way. So much for that drink. His dreams dashed once again, Mason returned his attention to Rory. He didn't know what the kid wanted from him, of all people. "Alright, I'll admit to knowing your mum. But that was bloody ages ago, who knows who else she was-" He stopped short of defaming Marion with a cough. "I'm sorry for your loss, truly, more than you know. But I'm not the one who killed your mum." His eyes went briefly to the terrarium. "And neither did any of these people. No need to blow anyone up today."

Welp, folks, I was wrong. He don't got it. What a prat.

Rory Mayfield

November 07, 2019, 11:08:49 am #7 Last Edit: November 07, 2019, 11:10:51 am by Rory Mayfield
"Alright, I'll admit to knowing your mum. But that was bloody ages ago, who knows who else she was-"

Rory shook his head. Didn't they go over this already? He was sure that Mason was the one, that it could not be anyone else. The ears were proof enough, and now that he had caught wind of that one physical trait he had inherited from his father, he was eagerly scouting his increasingly pained face for more.

"I'm sorry for your loss, truly, more than you know. But I'm not the one who killed your mum."

Hang on a second. What?

"And neither did any of these people. No need to blow anyone up today."

Rory blinked and shook his head again, this time in confusion rather than defiance. "Blow... up?" Was his father having a psychotic episode? If so, he really wished his mother had told him about those, that seemed like relevant information for a number of reasons. He followed Mason's gaze, which was drawn towards the terrarium on the table, and something clicked. He wasn't sure exactly what, but something alright.

"Uh, that's just my tortoise, she's... not explosive. Look-" He held up his palms, as if he was showing a police officer that he was unarmed. Then he carefully removed the lid from the terrarium and lifted up the shelled critter inside with both hands.

"Her name's Annie. She's a Russian tortoise. A lot of people are confused about how I can tell she's a girl, but it's actually pretty simple, see, her tail is straight and pretty short. The males have a longer tail that curves to the side and has a little barb at the end. I'm not exactly sure how old she is, because we adopted her after her previous owner abandoned her. Can you believe that? I just don't understand how anyone could abandon a little bǎo bèi like her..."

Annie sat still in Rory's hands, blinking at Mason with her little black tortoise eyes, regarding him with curiosity -- at least she looked curious if you were adept at reading testudine facial expression. If you weren't, then, well, she just looked like a tortoise.

"See? She likes you!" Rory beamed. Please don't hate reptiles please don't hate reptiles please don't hate reptiles please don't

Mason Miller

Mason did not like Annie at all. "I don't like turtles." he said, all but cringing away from the be-shelled lump of wrinkles and claws presented to him. With the revelation that the tortoise was not, in fact, explosive, he began to suspect that this kid didn't actually want him dead after all. This encounter was beginning to wear on him. "Or really any reptiles, come to think. Most animals. Children." The list could go on. He ashed his cigarette on the lip of the terrarium.

What did this kid want? He was being elusive and obtuse and confusing. What in the 'Verse was he doing with a turtle? How had he gotten here? Why wasn't he back home, in school or whatever it was that children were meant to do this time of year? Mason realized he really knew nothing about children. Perhaps if he had ever had any of his own.


Stayed in one place for long enough.

I think...

Or at least with the same woman for more than a single night.

He might finally...

There had been so many one night stands. The corner of Mason's lip curled into a grin as his thoughts drifted to ghosts of dalliances past.

No! He's losing it, quick, somebody do something.

The Waitress finally made her rounds over back to their table. She looked at Mason and Rory with the sort of false friendliness you tend to get in a small cafe where the staff are overworked and underpaid. "Can I get you and your son anything else?" The ease and informality of her question hung in the air for a moment. Unlike Annie's tank, this was a true ticking time bomb.

"Oh, no, he's not my..." Mason's head exploded. Goosepimples ran up and down his entire body. His heart slowed to a thunderous crawl in his ears. His ears that stuck out a little bit. Just like the kid's. He looked into RM's eyes. Marion's eyes. He remembered the weeks he had spent with the boy's mother. The love they had shared. The birth control they had used. Had they used birth control? It was a long time ago. Nearly seventeen years ago. The kid was how old, again? Those ears. Marion's eyes.

Mason had grown very quiet, frozen in place while all of this rolled around in his mind. Finally, after a moment, he swallowed the lump in his throat. "My son." He said with equal mix of awe and befuddlement.

The Waitress grew impatient. "I'll give you a minute."

Rory Mayfield

"I don't like turtles."

Rory might have been crushed by the sentiment if Mason hadn't inadvertently given his inner -- not that inner to be honest -- pedant something else to latch onto. He barely registered the rest of his father's words, launching into an enthusiastic, rapid-fire spiel as soon as Mason was done listing a few of his least favorite things.

"Oh, she's actually a tortoise, not a turtle. Tortoises live on dry land and turtles live mainly in water. But that's okay, it's a really common mistake," he rushed to add, as if fearing he'd humiliated Mason and needed to help him save his face. "And to be a fair, I suppose some people do intentionally use the term "turtle" to refer to both the water-dwelling species specifically and the members of the Testudine order as a whole. I just personally think it's unnecessarily confusing to conflate the two when separate names exist for-- uh, I really wish you wouldn't do that..." the enthusiasm in his voice deflated as he watched Mason tap his cigarette on the edge of Annie's tank.

Holding the tortoise to his chest with one hand, Rory pulled the terrarium closer and, as Mason sunk into his thoughts, began to carefully pick up the ashes from the substrate. When the waitress swung by he pretended to be too focused on the task at hand to pay attention to the exchange between her and Mason, but the jug ears he'd inherited from his father perked up.

"Can I get you and your son anything else?"

"Oh, no, he's not my..."

A storm of conflicting emotions washed over Rory in rapid succession: elation at the waitress' words, disappointment at Mason's response and apprehension at the prolonged pause that followed. He looked up from the terrarium and met his father's gaze; he had that food poisoning kind of look on his face again, only this time he seemed a bit more focused, not quite as feverish.

"My son."

Rory was clutching Annie with both hands now, stroking her shell in a nervous absentminded gesture. The waitress walked away, leaving the two of them to stare at each other in a heavy, awkward silence that Rory felt he should be filling with something, anything...

"I'm sorry. Please don't be mad."

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