2009-10-11: Living Image



Date: October 11th, 2009


Cass comes face-to-face with a friend she thought was dead only to find out it's someone else entirely.

"Living Image"

New York City

Nipping out to the bank is an easy decision for Cass. It's normally something that she leaves to her workers, as she trusts them and all they have to do is make a quick deposit, but today she feels like she needs a short break from the store. And what better way to do that than take a quick trip to the bank? Waiting in the long line that snakes in front of the two hassled tellers in front of her, the woman crosses her arms and leans forward a little. Though she is glad to be out and about, she'd prefer to be out. Then, she can take the long walk back to the store and enjoy the unseasonably warm fall weather.

A woman steps in line. behind Cass. A bank is the type of institution to draw all sorts of people — everyone needs access to their money if they have enough to put in an account — but this woman fits in especially with her expensive business casual: black suit jacket, its single button clasped over the white camisole underneath, pearls, a pair of white designer slacks.

… None of these things match the familiar face the person in front of her knows. Agitated and distracted, Tracy doesn't want to be in New York in the slightest. Unshouldering her bag, the strap brushes the customer ahead of her. "Sorry," she offers under her breath with a cursory polite smile before going back to her purse hunt.

The person who steps into line behind her doesn't garner Cass' attention in any sort of way. She's not really looking behind her and why should she? It's not until she's bumped on the shoulder by Tracy that she glances behind her in order to tell her that there are no hard feelings. "No pr—-" The quick look over her shoulder turns into a complete whirl around as the brunette stares at the blonde in front of her. "Niki?" This is impossible. Niki's dead. Peter said so. Then…who is this? Did Niki fake her death? If so, then why was she here? That would seem ridiculous. A million questions are running through her head and none of them seem to be making any more sense than the last. "I thought…"

Tracy shoots her head up abruptly, delayed with her phone in hand. Despite this happening a few times before, it's a surprise. She doesn't disguise the look she gives the woman in front of her: one of shock and 'are you crazy?'. Still, she gives Cass a broad smile, bright and reassuring smile. Yeah, she looks like a friend of yours, et cetera et cetera… "You thought I was someone you know," she decides to finish Cass's sentence for her. "I know, I look like Niki."

Skeptical, Cass just gives Tracy her own 'are you crazy?' look in return. It's not just that Tracy looks like Niki - she looks identical to her. Maybe a difference in clothing and a way of holding herself, but she looks like she was clone of Niki. "I was going to say I thought you were dead." Because she's still not sure this isn't Niki under some sort of deep cover. Or perhaps she lost her memory again, which happened before. The line moves forward and obligingly Cass takes a step backward in order to accommodate it. She manages to trip over the wide base of the ropes that separate one part of the line to the next. Quickly shooting a hand forward, she just manages to tip the whole thing over. With a loud clanging noise, Cass tumbles to the ground along with the brass rope holder.

The pale blue eyes studying the unfamiliar face in front of her suddenly search Cass out with astonishment. Confused, Tracy starts to question the statement — I thought you were dead — but all she gets out is a soft "ah— " before she's cut off by the woman and the ropes clanging to the floor. She rushes to Cass's side, long, blonde hair falling off her shoulders as she leans down and tries to take the woman's elbow. "God," she breathes out. "Are you alright?" Her mind not entirely on good will, Tracy tries to urge Cass out of the bank line. "What… did you mean? Just then." Determined, but hesitant to ask, there's a distinct look of worry there. An expression more suited to her look-a-like. "You thought… I was dead? Niki."

Clinging to her arm, which is what she fell on when she took her tumble, Cass allows Tracy to help her up and then move her out of the line. "I'm…yeah. I just…I do that sometimes." Fall flat on her face. Or not know where her feet are. Or just generally manage to injure herself in normal, every day situations. Tucking some of the hair that fell out of her bun and back behind her ear, she just studies Tracy. With the blonde giving her that look, it's enough to tear at her heart strings. It's so much like Niki it hurts. "No not…nevermind." The brunette just shakes her head. "It's more than 'you look like Niki'. You don't just look like her. You look exactly like her. Like a twin. Not even a twin, a clone."

She looks like Niki. She's not Niki. Niki wouldn't be surprised about someone hinting at her own death, would she? Then again, anything's possible. But it's Tracy whose brow furrows critically at Cass. She slowly sits the strap of her purse over her shoulder once more, holding onto it a good deal more tightly than she had been. "I know," she says again with an on-edge smile that rapidly cools and disappears. She glances at the line that Cass disrupted with her clumsiness and steps closer, turning away from the bank customers. "I'm Niki's … sister." The words still feel foreign as the explanation spills out. "Did something happen to her?"

That explanation makes Cass just stare at Tracy stupidly. Her sister. That's…Niki didn't have a sister - one that was alive anyway - which she tells Tracy in so many words. "Niki didn't have a sister." Of course, that's not counting Jessica, but if she really is Niki's sister than she would know that. This really is a weird meeting and it's not making the bookstore owner any more comfortable be around this woman who looks so much like her friend. She doesn't seem to care about the people in the bank line or anyone else in the bank. It's like she has conversations about weird things like this every day. Which, really, she does at both her job and off hours. The question she's asked tilts Cass' head just a bit. "You don't know?" Needless to say, strange for someone who's supposed to be her sister.

"We weren't…" Tracy trails off, pursing her lips and eyeing the rest of the bank. Unlike Cass, she cares who might overhear. The subject at hand seems to trump her concern, however, as does the sinking feeling in her stomach. "…I didn't really know her. Until… God, it's been over a year ago…" Her gaze goes distant for a moment before she snaps to. "I didn't know she existed." Tracy address Cass straight-forwardly. "Please just tell me what happened."

And, unlike Tracy, Cass is someone who is too empathetic. Even before she was tested on, she never could stop thinking how she would feel if she were put in the other shoes. "She never…" Over a year ago? "Did she know?" How could that be something Niki would keep from her? Her gaze softens then, not sure of how to break news such as this to a family member. It doesn't matter that Tracy doesn't seem to know much about Niki, she's still technically family. If what she's saying is true. Now is when Cass takes notice of the people around her and lowers her voice, concerned. Putting a hand out, she attempts to put it lightly on Tracy's shoulder. "She died. It was a few months ago. I honestly don't know what happened."

Tracy nearly recoils under the empathetic touch; though she doesn't move away, she stiffens. She barely knew her sister, but hearing that she's dead … the expression on her face might be hard to read, given that it's a collision of several reactions. It's an unusual conflict for Tracy, and a struggle to comprehend. She's surprised at the surge of emotion over the death of a woman she only met a couple times, but who shared her face. "I didn't know," she finally says quietly. "…I didn't— oh God, didn't she have kids?"

Maybe now that Tracy could understand why Cass was so startled and defensive at seeing her randomly in a bank line. This is possibly the worst and more appropriate place for the two of them to meet. A bank very similar to this is where Niki saved her from bank robbers, which started their friendship. Feeling the recoil, the brunette pulls her hand away from Tracy as if she were something burning. "Sorry," she says softly, though she was just attempting to be comforting. "I didn't know until a little while ago, either. It had been a few weeks since I had talked to her last and then…" she trails off, blinking for a moment as if she were fighting tears. "Yes. Micah." For the moment, she doesn't mention that he may be missing. How could she add to bad news.

Tracy looks away from Cass, turning her head toward the main area of the bank. An inappropriate venue for these revelations to be sure. She is, of course, clueless to that fact that it's also appropriate. She takes the brief pause to collect her thoughts, running a hand through her straight hair, fingers lingering for a moment at her neck, over her string of pearls. Her gaze studies Cass once it returns. The woman's reactions, her near tears. "She was a friend of yours," she states the obvious.

It is the obvious statement, to which Cass merely nods. Does she really need to say yes? With a frown, the woman readjusts the strap of her purse for want of something to do with her hands. It's not exactly like she has something else to fiddle with. "She was the godmother of my baby." That seems to sum up the relationship that Niki had with Cass and her family.

Even this ice queen's heartstrings manage to be pulled. Cass really couldn't have made it sound any more devastating. Tracy reigns her reaction in to be slightly reserved, but her eyes show sentiment. Mostly sympathy for Cass; the reality is, this stranger in front of her is more affected by Niki's passing than Tracy is. Her voice — so similar to Niki's, but with inflections that are so vastly different — is hushed as she offers, ill at ease: "I'm sorry. This must be so strange for you."

All that Cass has managed to say is the truth. It is supremely strange to see Tracy standing there in front of her with Niki's face, but not be Niki. Especially when she has to be the one to give her the devastating news of Niki's death. "It…is, yeah." There's no point in mincing words now. Patting down the fly-aways that inevitably manage to escape her bun, she seems to be just as uncomfortable the conversation now as Tracy does. "I'm…sorry I had to be the one to tell you."

Also strange would be sauntering away and abruptly parting ways. Thus, Tracy is momentarily stuck. Awkward. "I keep running into people who know…" she adjusts quietly. "…who knew her. It's really quite … unexpected." Being mistaken for Niki opened a lot of doors for Tracy. Some she didn't want to go down. She glances to the bank tellers — at the business she came here for — but aims a smile at Cass. It's not bursting with warmth, all things considered. "My name is Tracy, by the way. Aaand … I suddenly think I'm going to do my banking tomorrow."

"Things like that seem to happen a lot." Cass gives Tracy a somewhat lopsided smile. It's considerably warmer than Tracy's, though it is also sadder. Even if she may not be banking any more, either, she certainly feels closer to Tracy due to how she looks than Tracy feels about Cass. Oh, right names. "Cass. My name's Cass. Sorry. I just told you all these things and I didn't even know your name." Strange. "But, Niki used to say that, too. That everything seemed to be connected somehow in the strangest ways."

"It certainly seems that way," Tracy concedes to say, albeit reluctantly. She might normally go the polite route and say it was nice to meet you, but under these circumstances… she's grateful for the faint buzz in her hand when her phone, set to vibrate, rings. She glances at the screen and smiles almost dismissively at Cass, though there is apology in it. "Washington," she explains, going on to say, cavalier, "Always a fire burning." On a Sunday evening, no less. "I need to take this."

Right. Well. Now Cass feels awkward just standing here staring at a woman who doesn't seem to really take Niki's death as anything other than a piece of information. Even though they're sisters - albeit though they just found out about it recently. "Right." It's hard for her to keep the sort of disappointment out of her voice. She's not sure what she was expecting from Tracy. Something to show remorse and some sort of lingering sense of mourning. "I'm sure there is." Maybe she should be more understanding about the strangeness of this meeting, but right now all she can think about is this woman is walking around with Niki's face and it's just not fair. "Well. It was nice to meet you. Good luck banking." And with that, she can't take it any more. Slipping her bank deposit back into her purse, the bookstore owner starts toward the exit.

As Cass makes for the street, Tracy can't help but turn to watch her estranged sister's friend leave, even as she answers her phone. Her greeting is featureless and distant in light of the meeting. "Tracy Strauss." Despite being somewhat dismissive moments before, she starts to walk toward the exit while Cass is still in sight, to follow her, a conflicted sort of longing in her eyes — for what, she can barely peg herself. Ultimately, she comes up short. What's she supposed to do? Instead of chasing Cass down and saying who knows what, she distractedly carries on her conversation about whatever figurative fire is burning in DC. "…I'm sorry, what legislation?…"

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