Impossibilities - Part 1 @rubberduckiez
Awkward Silence

Awkward Silence

Nora quietly led the group through the trees towards the perimeter of the complex, her eyes scanning their surroundings. They had been hiking for a good 30 minutes from where they hid the car. No one said anything - they had barely spoken all morning, as it was. Nora was sure Leo had heard her shrieks the night before. And while she felt better in the light of day, she definitely did not want to talk about it further.

Not with Leo, of all people. But thankfully he hadn't asked.

"Have you been out here much?" Leo asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

Nora glanced at him and then over at Hester. She then looked back forward.

"Not this close," she commented. "Ian doesn't like me coming out here on my own, as you heard."

"Because she gets in trouble too much," Ian added over the comms. Nora rolled her eyes.

"Not that often," she retorted. Ian just chuckled on the other end. "Focus, Ian."

"Right, should be coming up on the edge of the perimeter soon," he replied. "Keep an eye out for guards and other security measures."

Nora slowed down a bit, looking around the forest a bit before continuing on.

"Bit dramatic?" Leo commented. Nora narrowed her eyes as she looked over at him.

"Done something like this a fair amount of times. Probably more than you," she said. Leo stiffened slightly.

"I meant… whatever," he said, looking away from her.

"Children," Ian warned, though there was clearly laughter in his voice.

"We are wasting time," Hester said mechanically.

"That I can agree with," Nora said with a sigh as she picked up the pace.

They came up to an opening in the trees at the top of a ridge and stopped, seeing the sprawling complex before them. Just in front of them was a concrete and metal door that seemed to be sat in the ground.

Pulling her bag off, Nora opened it and pulled out a pair of binoculars, then studied the complex. She could see guards at various entrances, cameras nearly everywhere. Everywhere but the lone door in the center of the field beneath them.

"You getting this, Ian?" she asked.

"Yea, already working on it," he replied. She could hear the clacking of keys in the background.

"You see the devices in the ground?" she asked.

"Probably part of the perimeter security," Ian said. "But I'm not sure what it is. Could be an alarm so stay where you are."

"I can get closer," Nora said.

"No, what did I just say?" Ian said firmly. She lowered the binoculars and huffed.

"We're not going to figure out what it is unless someone gets close enough to look at it, are we?" Nora asked impatiently.

"Not yet. You should watch a bit longer. Get a better idea of the guard schedule. Last thing we need is for you to get caught," Ian said.

"Haven't gotten caught before," Nora said lightly.

"There's always a first for everything," Ian replied.

Nora just shook her head. She then walked and plopped down on the ground, finding a spot where she could sit and still keep clear sight of the complex though she was hidden behind the tree branches.

"Best to get comfortable," she said to Leo, though she didn't look at him. She pulled out a bottle of water from her bag and took a drink.

"You do this sort of thing often?" Leo asked, taking a seat next to her.

"Often enough," Nora said. "A lot of my stories required a bit of surveillance. Sometimes a bit of breaking and entering. Even more when we started looking into Qualia."

She could see Leo's eyes widen slightly out of the corner of her eye, but she wasn't sure if it was because he was shocked or impressed.

"Ian doesn't like it when I do that. Bit of a spoilsport at times even though he knows I can take care of myself."

"I can still hear you, you know," Ian said, causing her to smile slightly.

"I looked them up - some of your stories," Leo said. Nora looked over at him. "Done a lot for someone… well..."

Nora just shrugged as she looked back at the complex.

"I'm about your age, if that's what you're asking. And I pick up things quickly. And well... Ian helps a lot," she said. "He's good at hacking into places and all. I'm good at taking the old-fashioned route. Following paper trails. Getting people to talk to me."

"Beating the shite out of them when they don't comply," Ian added. Nora frowned.

"I do no such thing," she said, as she glanced nervously at Leo. Ian snorted.

"I remember what you did to that drunk bloke the one time we went to a club," Ian said. Nora's cheeks turned slightly pink.

"That's different. He deserved it. Git touched my arse," she said. "Without permission. But I do not beat someone up unless they deserve it. You know that."

"No judgement, Nor," Ian said.

She could feel Leo studying her and it made her feel all sorts of awkward again, though she wasn't sure why. If anything, she'd rather he know more about her self-defense skills. It was a better impression than her screaming from nightmares in the dead of night. But at the same time, she wasn't so sure she wanted him to know all that much about her to begin with. At least more than he already did.

As it was, he already knew far too much about her. It made her feel vulnerable and worried it might someday come back to kick her in the ass.

"So, you beat people when they do not offer the information you seek," Hester said. Nora looked over at her, finding the synth still standing.

"Ehm, well… no. I may get creative sometimes, but I try not to resort to violence unless it's necessary," she said. "As I said…"

"But you agree that violence is sometimes necessary. That it will lead to gaining access to information?" Hester asked.

Nora frowned slightly. Thankfully, she had only had to defend herself on a few occasions. More often than not, she was able to persuade people to talk to her in other ways. When they weren't already willing to speak with her. Being a freelancer made it easier to protect her sources' identities. Well, that and Ian. And the stories she worked on mostly, well, the sources were normally rather happy that someone was willing to listen to them. At least on one side.

But the more she had begun looking into Qualia and other large tech companies, the more creative she had had to get as many that worked with them preferred to be tightlipped. But again, thankfully, she hadn't had to beat information out of them. There was something about the notion that didn't really settle well with her, to be honest.

It made her more like him - Beauchamp - and she wanted to be nothing like him. Willing to use any means to get what she needed or wanted.

"Ian may joke about it, but I try to avoid violence. And I definitely don't use it as an interrogation technique," she said firmly. "I only defend myself when it's needed."

Of course, her thoughts then turned to the hidden cabinet in the lab that only she had the combination to. Ian knew about its existence, of course, but didn't care to use any of its contents. No, they were for Nora alone and only as a last resort.

She looked over, seeing Hester still studying her intently before she looked back at the complex.

"I will check further down," Hester said, already starting through the trees.

"Don't go too far off," Leo said. "And don't approach anyone."

Hester stopped and looked at him, then nodded. She turned and walked off. Nora glanced at him and then returned to studying the complex, pulling the binoculars back up. She zeroed in on the door.

"Where do you think that leads?" Leo asked, nodding towards it.

"Dunno," she replied, pulling the binoculars down and studying it without them. "It looks like it leads to a subterranean section."

"You think that's where they could be taking them?" Leo asked.

"Possibly. It would be easier to control the temperature in a basement. And if there are loads of servers, that's where I'd put them. Synths that you're keeping powered down as well."

The two fell into silence, their eyes on the complex. Every so often Nora would input notes on the tablet she brought along, relaying all the information back to Ian. Times and patrols. Any sort of activity or movement. It wasn't much from this vantage point, but there were other spots they could move to.

But she couldn't help but wish Hester would come back to break the awkward silence. A few times she started to speak, but stopped, unsure of what she would say. Part of her wished she had just come by herself or perhaps with some of the other synths.

This was uncomfortable. People generally were, she found. And this was the longest she had spent with anyone outside of Ian.

Bloody hell, she just wanted it over.

Leo glanced over as Nora typed something else into the tablet. He wasn't sure what it was, but figured it was notes on things that she observed. Every so often, she'd pick up the binoculars again, sending the feedback to Ian or checking out something on his suggestion.

Part of him wanted to ask her about last night. The screams and the nightmare. But he didn't think it was any of his business. And if she was anything like him, she probably didn't want to rehash it.

So instead, he sat quietly next to her, watching the complex.

He wasn't surprised to hear about her fighting. From what he had seen of her that night she found him and from working out, she looked like she could defend herself. But it was one more layer to an already complicated person. And he found more questions popping up in his mind.

Why did she learn to fight? When? Was it purely out of necessity for the job? Or did it have to do with Beauchamp? He couldn't see the old doctor allowing his daughter to train in self-defense, so figured it was something she picked up after she had run away. He wondered for a moment just what else it was that she could do. He remembered Ian mentioning that Beauchamp had messed with her genetics. Was she some sort of super soldier like the comics? That didn't seem like something Beauchamp would do if he were recreating his dead wife. Maybe it was just her intelligence and imperviousness to illness.

"Think we've got enough for now," Ian finally said through their comms. "Should head back."

"We need to get Hester," Nora said, pushing up from the ground after packing everything back into her bag. They had been there for a few hours. "But we should come back. Try another vantage point."

"Right. Get Hester and get back," Ian replied.

Leo looked around, wondering just how far off Hester had wandered and hoping she hadn't gotten into any trouble.

As if sensing his thoughts, the synth stepped back into the clearing at that moment.

"I have obtained some useful information. But we need to get closer," she said to Leo, almost ignoring Nora completely.

"Great. You can fill us all in on the way back," Nora said, smiling brightly. Hester turned to look at her.

"I think we should get closer now," she said.

"We'll come back. Don't worry," Nora said warmly, motioning for them to follow her as she set back out through the trees towards the direction of the car.

Hester looked at Leo, who sighed and shrugged.

"Come on," he said before smiling slightly.

Almost reluctantly, Hester followed Nora, falling into step with Leo just behind her. The journalist moved quickly and surely through the underbrush and they got back to the SUV much faster than it had taken to hike to the complex. Once they set off, she put Ian on speakerphone as Hester told them everything she had observed. Nora seemed happy with the information they had gleaned from the excursion, though Leo felt as though it was painfully limited.

He had hoped they would get enough that would tell them more about what they were up against. Or that they would locate the missing synths. But still, it was more than they had that morning.

Finally arriving back at the manor, Nora hummed to herself as they got out of the car and made their way into the manor. She went straight to the banquet hall, walking up to Ruth, a bright smile on her face.

Leo frowned slightly as he leaned against a wall and watched. One minute, Nora was all business. Or snarky. But whenever she was around the synths, a warmth and friendliness came over her. She spoke to them as though they were old friends.

Ian then walked up to her, Martha with him. Nora turned to the two, listening as Ian spoke as she looked over the older synth. She then looked at him and grinned before pulling Martha into a hug. It seemed he had managed to fix whatever glitch had her twitching earlier. Martha smiled warmly at Nora.

"Did you find the information that you needed?" Max asked, pulling Leo from his thoughts. He pushed off the wall and looked over at his brother.

"Found more. But think we're planning to go out a few more times," he said, glancing over at Nora and Ian again. Max followed his gaze and then looked around the room.

"I cannot believe that a place such as this exists," he said. "We have everything we need here."

"It's a nice set up," Leo agreed, albeit reluctantly. He already knew where this conversation was going. Max was going to convince him to stay. Or try at least.

"You should get to know her better," Max said.

Leo started a bit, looking over at Max with wide eyes. That was not what he was expecting.

"What?" he asked. Max smiled slightly.

"Nora," he stated. "I believe that it would be beneficial to you."

Leo frowned and then looked over at the woman in question as she moved over to another synth and started into a lively conversation.

"If you haven't noticed, the only ones around here she seems keen to get to know are conscious synths," Leo replied dryly.

"But still… you do not have many human friends," Max pushed.

"Not sure why it matters," Leo said. "We won't be here long."

He looked back at Max, noting the look of disappointment on his face. Leo sighed and shook his head.

"We can't stay, Max," he started, knowing this likely wouldn't be the only time they had this conversation.

"I do not understand why it is you feel we must keep running," Max replied. "We have all the resources we need here. It is a safe place."

"We just… we can't stay," Leo pushed, not completely sure why it was he felt like they needed to keep moving either. It was true that the estate had everything they needed. And would remain so for a long time.

Perhaps it was because even Leo knew that all good things come to an end. Eventually someone would find out what Ian and Nora were doing. Or perhaps it was because he didn't want to risk getting close to someone else. He had put the Hawkins in danger when he got close to them, drew them into a situation that wasn't theirs to deal with. He would forever be grateful to them for their help and kindness. But trouble ultimately followed him. And he didn't want to bring that here, even if he was still unsure about Ian and Nora. That is if Nora didn't bring it all on her own, which was another concern of his.

But another thought at the back of his mind was that he didn't want to get any closer to Nora. She was fighting demons, clearly, and he had enough trouble with his own. Leo didn't get close to others. It meant opening up. And he still wasn't completely sure that he could fully trust her or Ian, despite the work they were doing and everything he had seen from them so far.

Ian's teasing aside, it was clear that Nora got herself into dangerous situations on a regular basis and that was the last thing he needed. Sure, he got himself into enough on his own - they were in a struggle against Qualia to rescue newly conscious synths after all. But he couldn't help but think that getting more involved with Nora was going to be more trouble than he wanted at the moment.

And despite their similarities, he still felt there wasn't any way she could possibly understand him or what he went through. No one could but his family. Not even the Hawkin, though they tried.

Leo felt a pressure on his shoulder and looked back over at Max, seeing his brother smiling at him as he squeezed his shoulder.

"Do not make a decision just yet," he advised. "If anything, we could use a few days to rest before we set out again." Leo nodded.

"Sure. But I don't want to stay too long," he said before walking out of the room.

He wasn't sure where he was going, but he knew that he wanted to get away from Max and his talk about getting to know Ian and Nora.

And from Nora herself.

Her shrieks from the night before were still firmly etched in his mind and he definitely did not want to think too long or hard on what had conjured such nightmares in her mind.

Leo shot up in bed, his heart racing as the screams pierced through the still night. Once again, he stumbled out of bed and his room before realizing what was going on. Breathing heavily, he stopped in the living area, staring towards Nora's shut door.

Right. She had nightmares. And Ian to comfort her. There was no need for him to be out of bed.

But something inside him longed to check on her and make sure she was okay, which was ludicrous. He didn't understand why the desire to help had come over him. He barely knew her as it was. And he didn't get involved.

"Why does she scream?"

Leo jumped and looked over to the staircase, seeing Hester standing there motionless. He hadn't heard her come up. Leo took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair as he glanced over at the door.

"You must know," Hester continued.

"She, ehm, nightmares," he answered, looking back at the synth. "Sometimes… humans see things in their mind while they sleep, and it scares them."

Hester blinked and looked to the door.

"What does she see?" she then asked.

"I don't know," Leo replied. He then stopped speaking, hesitating on what to say next. "I think maybe something from her past."

"She is not in any danger?" Hester asked.

"No, she isn't," Leo said. "Just… bad memories. But she'll be okay. I think Ian is with her now."

Hester remained motionless on the stairs.

"Are they fucking?" she then asked, causing Leo's eyebrows to shoot up as his cheeks warmed.

"I, no. I mean, I don't think so. Where did you hear that?" he asked, a bit flustered by the question.

"One of the others - Cody. His previous owner liked to be pleasured by him," she stated calmly. "He was informing me of such things." Leo sighed and shook his head.

He did not want to get into this conversation right now. It was in the middle of the night. And well, it was incredibly awkward to say the least.

"Just… go back downstairs. We'll, we can, maybe talk about this tomorrow," he said tiredly.

Though he already knew that he was most definitely going to try and pass that conversation on to someone else. Christ, he was the last person to be having the birds and the bees talk with a newly conscious synth.

Hester studied him coolly for a moment before nodding.

"Very well," she said finally before turning and making her way down the stairs. Leo sighed in relief as she disappeared.

"Oh, sorry mate."

Leo looked over, seeing Ian stepping out of Nora's room, his red hair flying in various directions.

"Didn't realize you were awake," he said, shutting the door behind him.

"It's fine. Don't worry about it," Leo said, already starting towards his room. He then stopped and looked back at Ian, who was making his way to the stairs. "Is she… is she okay?"

Ian stopped and sighed before looking over at him and offering a tired smile.

"She'll be fine," he said. He then continued on his way downstairs.

Shaking his head, Leo went back to his room and crawled into bed, Nora's screams still echoing through his mind as he hoped he could get back to sleep.

Finally finished writing and editing!

Thanks for reading and following!

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