2010-07-23: Insomniac



Date: July 23, 2010


I can't Sleep.


The Safehouse

Sleep hasn't come easily the last few days. Since the nightmare and the apparent undercurrents of said nightmare, Sydney hasn't exactly been keen to sleep. In fact, quite the opposite. She cat naps some, but not long enough to dream, and certainly not long enough for her fear to accumulate into something so tangible that it creates indiscernible screams amongst the safehouse.

She hasn't worn that nightshirt since that night. Trading it for a pair of little brown shorts and a lavender spaghetti-strapped tank, she should be cold except she's wearing a leather jacket that is all-too-big for her. Roving the hall— because they won't let her out for a real walk— Syd finally stops at Fred's door. It's been days since the invitation was extended, but Syd is only accepting it now.

She raps gently on the door. Cautiously, perhaps. She's altogether unsure, unaware, and perhaps a little nervous, but these she manages to keep to herself. It seems she's moved forward with her control.

Spending most of his time reading these days, Fred has been doing the same today. Books…whatever the agents are able to get for him. He's not being picky, as long as he has something to read. And preferably something that didn't dumb down the words for the average American reader. But he wouldn't complain if it did. It's something to do. At the knock at his door, he gets up from his bed and shuffles over to his door. Opening it up slowly, he gives Sydney a weak smile. "Hey. How're you doing?" A redundant question, but he asks it anyway.

Leaning against the frame, Sydney eyes him, her dark eyes filled with something nearly indiscernible and not-altogether-there. An odd eeriness haunts her and has followed her for nearly a month now. Her lips press together in a thin line at the question as she considers it weight in her own mind, the heaviness of the answer transformed into something all-too-light, "I'm fine." It's an obvious lie; she hasn't smiled in weeks. But then some lies are just simpler than the truth.

And then as if remembering she was the one to knock on his door, she asks quietly, evently, "Did I wake you?"

Fred looks her over for a few seconds and nods. Better not to push the issue too much right now. It's been a while since any of them have smiled. Or given a real, honest to goodness smile anyway. And as strained as they all are, they're more likely to argue, fuss, and fight instead. He shakes his head to her question. "No, not at all. Please…come in." He moves aside to allow her in. "What can I do for you?"

Sydney shuffles inside, not quite sure why she's here. She looks about the room, not that it's very different than from where her and Amy sleep, but it's different than the hall which should be a relief. And theoretically it's a new place. Newish. She swallows as she enters the centre of the room only to freeze. Finally her answer is slow and methodical. "Couldn't sleep." Vague, really, but it's not entirely untrue. She glances at him with a small shrug before forcing herself to add, "And. The spy people." Another vague sentence crying for further explanation that she somehow can't bring herself to give.

Fred closes the door behind them and pulls over the free chair in the room, offering it to Sydney. He watches her casually. It's become harder and harder to figure out stuff to talk about these days. They spend so much time together. Practically every waking hour. What much else is there to talk about? He takes a deep breath in. "It's hard to sleep these days. I don't blame you for having trouble." Ah, yes. The spy people. There's that too, isn't there? "Oh…yeah. That." He takes a seat down on his bed and looks at Sydney. "What do you wanna know?"

The chair is accepted a little stiffly, but she takes it anyways, tugging the jacket closer to her skin. It takes her a few moments to settle as her thoughts press some form of honesty, if only out of courtesy. "I'm not sleeping out of consideration," Sydney quips back. She shrugs again. When she's awake she can keep her feelings in check. When she's asleep— all the world's a canvas for terrific disaster, that much was evidenced by that night. The question about the spy people hangs in the space between them before she shrugs. "What is there to know?"

Fred sighs and nods. "Of course. Heightened emotional states can cause a person's ability to run rampant if they don't keep a check on it." He says quietly. "That much…well, that much I learned in my time with the group I work…worked…work? For." He's pretty sure he still works for them. He smiles softly. "Well, what do you want to know?"

Sydney's eyebrows furrow a little as her eyes squint. She kind of stares at Fred for a few moments before whispering, "I'm not a project." She plants both of her feet on the floor and it's her turn to sigh now. Hers is heavy, almost representative of her own feelings that she manages to keep locked inside. "What do they do?"

Fred shakes his head, holding up his hands defensively. "That's not what I meant." He sighs softly. The question of what he does. Good. A good way to explain! "You know how psychiatrists and psychologists study a group of people, to see what drives them? What causes them to do certain things? To see if they have certain personality attributes in common? How they react to various stimuli? That is sort of what I did…do. But more than that. I'm still a therapist as well. I talk to some people with abilities. Especially the more dangerous ones. The company I work for…they do bring in people and test them, but they've got ways to make them forget, or modify their memories. As well, they tackle the more dangerous people with abilities. They're almost like a police force for the evolved. That's our name for people with abilities. 'Evolved'. Not everyone is dangerous. No. And people with abilities who are not a danger to society, we let them live their lives without any trouble. People with abilities who are a danger to society, they are locked up by use, where we have special means of keeping them locked up. It's my job to talk to these people and sometimes work with them to see if they can be helped. I still do my other work, like at the community centre that you found me at. But I do this as well."

"Everyone treats me like a project," Sydney tightens the jacket around her again like she has a chill. In fact she even shivers. Yet it's not cold in here. She listens intently to the words about the company, her eyebrows furrowing tightly together into a solid kind of V. Even once Fred's done talking she kind of stares at him. It's not blank as much as it's calculating. Discerning. Shifting in the chair, she tries to make herself more comfortable, but manages only to fail. Finally she probes about the one thing she manages to process amongst all of the chatter, "How… how… who is dangerous and who isn't?"

"No, I don't treat you like an experiment. I don't exactly treat the others like that either." Fred replies. "It's a study, yes. But they are people just like anyone else." He states simply. "The Company has a rule for their agents. 'One of us, one of them'. Meaning one person with abilities, one without. It's equal pairing." He smiles. "How do we distinguish the dangerous from the safe? By observation. Take two people with…pyrokinesis. Probably one of the more common ones, and I'm sure you can figure out that it's the ability to create and manipulate fire. It's a potentially dangerous ability. But, one person we observe may not use their ability, or only use it in a safe manner, that won't put others in danger. That person is not dangerous. But another person might use the ability to actively harm people or to his advantage in gaining power somewhere or attempting a robbery of some sort. That would be a dangerous one who would be kept locked up." He takes a deep breath in. "And I know you don't like hearing about him, but Roberto is most definitely an example of another dangerous one. Using his ability to harm others."

"I didn't say experiment. I said project. I'm not something to be fixed." Beat. "I'm fine." Sydney's lips tighten as if they mean to smile, but it comes out as more of a grimace than an actual smile. There's no merriment in her eyes, and certainly no good humour in her lips. It's drained out of her like the colour from her skin (although admittedly this has improved substantially since she left that warehouse). "He doesn't have a name; that would mean he meant something." Her words are cold, collected, disconnected and controlled by her own emotion suppression. "And he didn't use it to harm me." She presses her lips together again, alerting herself to stop speaking on the subject.

And then, refocusing on the Company, quietly she asks, "What about someone who can't control it and gives nightmares to everyone in proximity?"

Fred shakes his head. "Never said you were something to be fixed, neither. I don't think you are." He sighs softly. He knows when he shouldn't talk about something, and moves on to the next topic. "As I said, when people with abilities experience heightened emotional states, their abilities tend to take on lives of their own. This does not mean that said person is a bad person and needs to be locks up. On the contrary!" He tilts his head lightly. "Also, your ability doesn't actually do anyone any harm. It won't always do this. Eventually it won't cause others to have nightmares. And there are things we can do that will help you." He says softly. "This company I work for, we don't lock people up for losing control of their ability. Only if they use it with malicious intent."

Sydney hmmms. It's quiet, but it's there. She leans back in her chair and gently closes her eyes, extending her neck so her face parallels the ceiling. Her wariness is evident in her expression, but then everyone keeps telling her how normal it is. Looking forward again, her dark eyes open just as gently. "What… things…?" Regarding her ability, "You don't know that. It's… different than before." She shrugs. She can't explain it and isn't sure it's worth the effort in trying. Biting her bottom lip she tilts her head at him.

Fred tilts his head a little bit. "Different?" He asks softly. "How is it different?" Taking a deep breath in, he takes a moment, mind going through the motions of what he can tell her. Really, telling her ways to help with her abilities is totally different than telling her about his activities with the Company, and he's already done that a bit. "There are plenty of concentration exercises that you can do to help make control of your ability second nature."

"Just… different… the whole house was in terror because of my nightmare… it's never been like that before, and nightmares aren't… new…" Sydney shrugs again, her eyes narrowing just a little. "Like… like I know something about people I shouldn't. When they touch me…" a frown plays on her lips before she shakes her head. "I do yoga. I'm a therapist, relaxation and concentration exercises aren't outside my field. I know some. I've used some. But it's like… things have spiked." She draws her feet onto the chair and hugs her legs tightly.

Fred takes a deep breath in. "It's possible that you've not had as deep of emotions as you've had because of what has happened now. Don't get me wrong…I know your past. I know it better than anyone else, and you know that. But this is even worse than before. And the pain, the emotional scarring because of it, is causing the nightmares to actually spread your fear toward others. It's not unprecedented." Or maybe it is. But after all he's seen, it wouldn't surprise him. He sighs. "If we weren't locked up here right now, I'd be able to possible get you some drugs to help you with your ability. To give you sleep without having to worry about your nightmares affecting you or others around you." He sighs softly. He furrows his brow in slight confusion. "What do you mean you know something about people that you shouldn't?"

"You don't know everything…" Sydney says lowly before shaking her head slightly, her gaze on the floor, absently, one hand rests on her upper thigh, until she rather consciously neutralizes it, folding both arms over her chest, essentially collecting her whole body onto that chair. "I don't really want to dream them either. While it's courtesy to others it's… also a little selfish." With a frown she finally looks up at him again, her face flushing a little, "Agent Morris touched my shoulder to direct me back upstairs… I wasn't wearing this jacket, it was like… skin to skin.. I know he's afraid of spiders…" she shrugs again, what more is there to say?

Fred smiles. No, he doesn't know everything. To be honest? He'd never claim that. But, when it comes to powers, he knows the most about them. At least of the people in this house. "So…a form of…well, Empathic Touch, for a lack of a better term. You can see a person's fears, you can possibly even see their joys and stuff." He says thoughtfully.

"I suppose," Sydney states quietly with another shrug, before hugging her legs to her chest again, tighter now. It's reluctant, really, fearful, perhaps. She'd only started getting used to her ability and now the rules have changed on her. Doesn't really seem fair, but then how is she to know? She runs her tongue over her dry cracked lips, the bottom one scarred her her last adventure with Roberto. The feel of the scar tissue under her tongue gives her pause. Pressing herself out of her frozen state she finally observes, "People should be able to have secrets…"

Fred watches Sydney with soft eyes. "I'm sorry. I know how hard it was for you to deal with your ability as it was. To have yet something else new to have to worry about?" Fred sighs softly. "Perhaps this is just yet another aspect of your ability showing itself. Yet another possibility after having been under so much duress."

"I thought I was free. It was scary to be without," again, Sydney's tongue is run over her pale lips, that scar irritating it again and giving her reason to freeze. "But after a few weeks… " her eyebrows furrow as she considers " … it was… bliss." Frowning again, it's her turn to sigh. And then she quietly whispers to the floor once again, "I've had worse. I don't see why this brought it about."

Fred shrugs. "There is still a lot we don't know about abilities. But, different times in our lives bring about different aspects. Or that's a theory anyway. And stress can always bring forth something new." He takes a deep breath in. "That's the best explanation I can think of."

"I suppose." Sydney is quiet now. She presses her lips together again, unsure of what to ask or how to respond. Finally her legs are lowered from the chair as she pulls the jacket tight to her body again, it's not cold in here, but she's thinking, hesitant again. Finally she asks, "Why did you lie to me?"

Fred looks at Sydney curiously. "Why'd I lie to you about what…specifically?" Admittedly, there's a few things that she could mean when she asks that question. And for each lie he's told, he's got an answer for her. Multiple answers in fact. Some truthful, some lies.

"All of it," her features harden considerably, pressing herself away from that vulnerability that comes all too easily. Sydney stares at him, her lips finding that vague neutrality in a kind of straightened line. "The AP. The people you work for. All of it."

If it's possible, Fred's features soften more. "You have to understand. I wasn't allowed to. Even now, I'm not supposed to be talking to you about it." He gazes at Sydney intently. "Beside the fact, it was foremost to protect you as anything else. I didn't want others to find out that you knew because that could have put you in more danger than you had already been in."

"W-w-why?" the whispered stammer only reflects her weariness with everything transpiring. Biting her bottom lip, Sydney swallows hard, trying to remain firm in her resolve. She fights to keep her features hard, her eyes, however, fail her enough, just enough for her to stare at the floor. It's easier to watch, easier to see, and easier to stonewall. "I'm… a big girl. I can take a lot…"

Fred sighs and shakes his head. "But there are some things that are too hard to deal with. Even for me, and I've been trained! You-Know-Who is not as bad as what I was trying to protect you from." Okay, maybe that's a little lie in and of itself, but he's trying to make a point.

"What things?" It's a simple enough question, and it's asked to the floor. Sydney shifts uncomfortably on the chair, her own strong will failing her. Her nose wrinkles at the mention of Roberto, even if it's not actually his name that's spoken. "I… fly under the radar. Even from myself."

Fred shakes his head. "It's near impossible to stay under the radar. But I've been partly trying to do that for you since I found out about you. Every time they've gotten close to you, I've lead them away."

"It's not. I didn't know…" Sydney didn't know she had an ability. For a long time she had no idea. Her lips press together again. "Who are they?" her face flushes a little, just a hint as she changes her gaze to her feet. The stare is intent, purposeful. Her lips twitch slightly, just a little, a reflection of some unuttered feeling.

Fred sighs softly. "'They', being both the AP and this other company that I work for. And they know when you have an ability even if you don't. They've got ways of finding these things out." He says gently. "I know it's confusing and hard to deal with. But it's true."

There's some silence as Sydney considers the weight of the words. "They don't care. No one ever bothered me about it. And you know about them. Obviously not the best kept secret on the planet." Her lips are pressed together again, but there's still that twitch, something untold, something fought.

Fred chuckles softly. "I know about them because I'm paid to know about them." He says quietly. "It's a huge kept secret." Sighing softly, he says, "It's bigger than you know. It's even bigger than I know, no doubt. I just know about the American chapter of this company."

Sydney trembles a little underneath that coat and even in the warm air. She inhales a quick breath, and opens her mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. The emptiness seems to prevail now. She sits there in the quiet for a moment, nothing really to say, just letting her thoughts win out. Silent. Reflective, perhaps.

Fred watches Sydney for a long while in the silence. After some time, he stands up off his bed and walks over to Sydney, kneeling next to her. Placing a hand on her leg, he gazes at her quietly. "What're you thinking about?"

The contact actually has a different effect than likely the one desired. With a kind of odd hiss, goosebumps form along her skin as she cowers slightly, her body language more telling than she'd like. And then it changes, a little more puzzled and curious then tense, "You're afraid of thirteen?" That thought remains unuttered, unspoken, and altogether silent.

Fred blinks and furrows his brow in slight confusion. "Yeah…how'd…" And then it dawns on him, his hand bare hand is touching the skin on her leg. Quickly he takes his hand off. "Umm…yeah. Triscadecaphobia." He clears his throat, obviously uncomfortable at even the thought of it. "I've had it for about…twelve years now, give or take." So roughly, if she's keeping track, since he was 13 himself.

"When you were thirteen?" Sydney whispers the question before staring down at her legs. The access to his fear is unsettling to her, very unsettling to her. Her face flushes a little as she she quietly bites her bottom lip, agitating that scar tissue again and leaving her just slightly wary. Wary enough. "I'm sorry," the apology is whispered.

Fred winces at even the sound of the number. Perhaps at other times he would have hidden his fear of it, but after all that has happened to them lately, what's the use? "That's when my uh…why my real parents died and I was separated from my sister." He murmurs silently. "I guess it just stuck with me. So much happened." He says silently. "And I was young. It's silly, I know." He smiles weakly.

Sydney shakes her head just a little, "It's not silly. At least you know why." She furrows her eyebrows wearily. "I'm sorry." Moistening her lips again she stares at the floor. "I didn't mean to." And then equally even-toned she adds, "I'd rather know hopes and desires. Fear is… depressing."

Fred shakes his head. "No, I'm the one who's sorry. You told me…when Agent Morris touched your shoulder it happened. I should have been more careful." He says in a quiet tone. "You could probably train your ability to the point where you'd be able to know people's desires and hopes if you wanted to."

There's a quietness that comes over Sydney as Fred apologizes. Her fingers press into each other as she laces them together thoughtfully. She chews on her bottom lip before stating rather than asking, "You lied to me very easily." Her eyebrows furrow as she presses her hands to her thighs, moving to stand.

Fred sighs and shakes his head. "No. Not easily. Never easily. I didn't want to lie to you. I love you too much to ever want to lie to you. It has pained me to lie to you. If you would use your ability on me right now to detect how I'm feeling, you'd know. And I am sincerely sorry."

There's a distinct pause as Sydney's eyebrows furrow even further. She's frozen for a moment; like time has stopped. A hand lifts hand to her own cheek, "I… should… go…" The tone is leery. Confused. Not altogether there. Finally, managing to move, she shuffles to the door, still chewing her bottom lip.

Fred gazes at Sydney as she starts toward the door. "I…I'm sorry, Syd." He says quietly, but he doesn't say anything more, letting her leave and think about everything she's heard tonight.

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