Impossibilities - Part 1 @rubberduckiez
The Art of Letting Go

The Art of Letting Go

Leo couldn't help but continuously scan the pub, not wanting to draw attention to himself. Didn't help that Hester had sat a bit too close to him in the booth. To the point that he had to remind her that normal synths didn't do such things, nor did they touch as much as she did.

He didn't quite understand why she seemed to be latched onto him. But for whatever reason, she had taken to following him around just about everywhere. And the touching was likely a side effect of being newly conscious. Being able to feel for the first time. He made a note to track down this Cody and attempt to find out just what the synth had already taught her. That would be infinitely less embarrassing than asking her straight out. She had little boundaries as it was and he did not want to further influence that.

She was now seated next to him, not speaking as the two continued to look around the pub. So far they hadn't seen anyone who looked as though they worked at Qualia. Mostly local farmers and the like. Leo sighed and looked down into his pint glass.

"Why was Nora not at breakfast?" Hester asked. He looked up at her, shifting in his seat.

"She had a rough night again," he said, looking back down at the glass.

"I do not think she is committed," Hester said. Leo frowned as he looked up at her. Where was this coming from? "If she were, she would not have let her lack of sleep stop her from doing her job."

"I…" Leo stopped, unsure of how to explain the situation to Hester. "Like I said… She sometimes gets nightmares, and…"

"They distract her," Hester said. He sighed heavily and rubbed his face.

"She can't help it. Humans, people, they can't help that they get nightmares or dreams," he replied. "There's no way to stop them…"

"Do you get nightmares?" Hester then asked. Leo looked over at her again.

"I… sometimes," he admitted. Hester tilted her head to the side as she studied him. "Everyone, well, all humans do at some point." She blinked a few times and looked around the pub. "And with Nora… someone… hurt her very badly years ago. I believe that's what she dreams about."

"If that is what dreaming is like, I am grateful that I do not have such things," Hester said monotonously.

Leo sighed heavily again and brought the glass up to his lips.

"Wish I could do the same," he muttered. Hester looked at him almost quizzically. "Nothing."

"I do not trust her," Hester continued. Leo frowned again. "One must be fully focused and she is not."

"Nora is… complicated. I will give you that, but she seems committed to helping," Leo said, unsure of just why he was defending her right now. He didn't really know her. Felt more synth than human, himself. But he couldn't seem to help it.

"She will not do what is necessary," Hester said.

"And just what is necessary?" Leo asked. Hester met his eyes.

"Whatever it is we must do to rescue the others. To stop humans from hurting us," she stated simply. Leo began to worry slightly at what she was talking about. "Will you do what is necessary?"

"I'll do what I can," he replied.

She studied him and then looked away, seeming to accept his answer for now.

"If you cannot, then I will," she said. Leo took another drink and looked around the pub.

"One step at a time," he warned. "We still need to find a way in."

"Is that not why we are here?" Hester asked.

"Yea, and to see what we can overhear," Leo said, taking another drink.

After she had showered, Nora wandered through the large house. She went to check on the synths, spending some time talking to Ruth and the new arrival James. But still feeling unsettled, she kept walking until she found herself in the library. Silently, she meandered around, taking in the two stories of books that filled the walls. When she was stuck here, this had been her favorite room. She would curl up in a chair with a book and read for hours. The tutors that her father would bring in would often hold their lessons here as well. When she was a child, they had been actual people. Her only interaction with the outside world and she had gotten in a bit of trouble asking questions she shouldn't. But then when synths came about, Beauchamp had purchased one specifically for tutoring and programmed them to only answer academic questions.

But still, it had been an escape for her.

She looked over at the desk and walked over, sitting in the large leather chair. She ran her hands along the top, eying the keyboard and mouse before bending down and opening one of the bottom drawers. Smiling, she pulled out a bottle of scotch and opened it, taking a long drink and then closing her eyes as the liquid burned down her throat.

Then, taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes and looked around, contemplating if she wanted to read or watch a movie. Putting the bottle down, she reached for the mouse and keyboard, powering up the smart board as she thought more about what she wanted to watch.

She reached for the bottle, taking another drink. She then paused as she saw the file on the desktop, her blood running slightly cold. She knew that it was only pouring salt in the wound, but it was almost as though something took over and she opened the file. Taking another drink, she clicked on a video file. By now, she had seen all of them. Had the content of all of them memorized.

But still, for some reason, sometimes she would find herself in the library, watching them over and over again.

Nora really did enjoy punishing herself.

But what did it matter? He was dead. Nora took another large drink from the bottle and settled back in the chair. She was already damaged. What was a few more cracks?

The estate was relatively quiet when they returned. Hester went straight to the banquet hall to charge while Leo made his way to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich. He sat there and ate it alone, going over his thoughts. They hadn't gleaned anything from their outing, despite spending a few hours in the pub, waiting to see who came in.

Unfortunately, no one from Qualia and Leo didn't want to draw attention by asking the locals about them too much. After they had been there long enough, Leo finally decided it was time to leave.

After eating, he washed his plate and started back upstairs, hoping to find Ian. He made his way to the other side of the large house, wondering if he would be in the library. As he neared the room, he noticed the door was open and he could hear voices. Looking back down the corridor, he wondered if Ian and Nora were in there and if he would be interrupting.

He then heard harsh laughter and turned back to the door. Taking a deep breath, he walked forward, pushing the door fully open and looking around the large room.

At first, he couldn't see anyone. But then he zeroed in on the large desk, seeing Nora seated there with her legs propped up on the desk, her eyes fixed on the smart board.

"Ha, you stupid old codger," Nora barked before taking a long swig of something from a bottle as she stopped the video.

She then caught sight of Leo and straightened up, motioning him over. Still worried he was interrupting something, Leo shuffled over, though now his curiosity was piqued.

"What can I do for you?" Nora asked jovially.

He could tell that she was a bit drunk; her usually sardonic smile was a bit sloppy as she took another drink. And she seemed far more friendly. He glanced over at the screen, seeing she had paused a video. It was Beauchamp's face.

She was watching his old case videos.

"I just… heard something. Wanted to check and make sure everything was alright," Leo said, shifting on his feet uncomfortably as he hunched over and looked back at her.

Nora studied him a bit and then held the bottle out to him.

"Join me?" she asked, though it sounded more like an order than an invitation.

Leo looked at the bottle and then up at her. Her cynical mask seemed to have finally slipped a bit as he saw something genuine in her eyes. Something begging for company. He remembered what Ian had told him. How alone she had been growing up. How she felt she had no one. That no one could understand or relate to her.

The last few days he had watched her, he saw how quickly she connected with the synths. Her warmth and kindness that she seemed to save for only them. It was then that he realized - she needed someone. Someone who understood. Or rather, anyone that possessed the ability to understand and who was willing to try.

So, rather than give into his knee-jerk reaction to turn and run, Leo took the bottle and sat down in a chair next to her, taking a long drink in the process. He had to admit that for all his faults, Beauchamp had good taste in scotch. Or perhaps it was Nora's.

"What are you doing?" Leo then asked. Nora turned back to the computer screen.

"Sometimes when I get into a mood, I watch his old video diaries and have a good laugh," she said dryly. "He really was a selfish bastard."

But even though her words were harsh, there was a softness in her eyes. She really was more like Leo than either thought. Just as he continued to search for love in a father that was obsessed with his creations, she still searched for a connection to the man who created her. Even with everything that he had put her through.

Leo reached out and took the mouse, navigating through and then clicking on another video. Immediately, Nora reached out, stopping it.

"Not that one," she said harshly.

Leo looked over at her, seeing that her face was stricken, though her eyes were glued to the screen.

"Any one but that one," she said, her voice cracking slightly.

"Why not that one?" he asked softly, unable to tear his eyes from her.

"Because… he almost seems human in that one," she whispered.

Leo gently moved her hand away from the mouse. Part of him expected her to fight him, but instead, she sat back in her chair, defeated. She pulled her legs from the desk and up in the chair, wrapping her arms around them.

He clicked on the file and the video started.

In it was Beauchamp in a nursery filled with gentle, pastel colors, gently rocking a small infant. A joyful smile filled his face as he looked down. As Leo scanned the room, he could tell that it had been put together with care. There were toys and stuffed animals. A beautiful crib in the corner. This wasn't a nursery for a science experiment.

For a moment, Leo was confused, trying to rectify this man with the one who would, years later, plan to kill the very child he was rocking gently.

"Perfect… absolutely perfect," the doctor said softly. "All vital signs are strong - much stronger than the others. Perfectly healthy in every way. Ten little fingers and ten little toes. Just… perfect."

Leo looked over, seeing silent tears pouring down Nora's cheeks. She didn't move to wipe them away, instead watching the screen intently, hatred blazing through her grey eyes. He sat back in his chair, slightly taken aback by the intensity of it. She then shook her head and grabbed the bottle, drinking from it as she dropped her feet to the ground.

"The fucking, lying bastard," she said, stopping the video. "Don't be fooled. He only ever saw me as an experiment. He was just waiting until I was old enough to…" She stopped speaking as she furiously wiped her cheeks. "And then surprise, surprise. Turned out I was nothing like his precious Harriet. He was eager to get rid of me. Start over." She took another drink. "And people wonder why I have trust issues."

Leo reached out and took the bottle from her, taking a large drink of his own. He wasn't sure what to say to her. He barely knew this woman. And it's not like he had ever been one for comforting others. But glancing over at Nora, he couldn't help but feel as though there was a connection there.

He desperately wanted to say something that would make her feel better.

"My father…" he stopped speaking, staring down at the bottle as he shifted in his chair. "Sometimes I wonder if he really loved me…"

"He brought you back from the dead," Nora said hollowly.

Leo sighed and looked up at her. She had composed herself and he could see the wall already starting to build up again.

"But he didn't stick around, did he? Killed himself," Leo said.

"At least you still had a family," she replied.

Leo winced. That was the truth. But he took a deep breath, already thinking over his words. He couldn't give up now. So he looked up into her eyes.

"I know what it's like not to trust anyone," he said. "So many years I spent on the run. Seeing what people did to the synths. Knowing that I had to keep my family safe. That no one could know the truth. All I had was them. So, I know what it's like to shut everyone out. To think that the world is against you."

Nora didn't reply, but he saw a flicker of something in her eyes.

"What about the Hawkins?" she asked softly.

"I didn't trust them at first, but then… at the time… I didn't really have a choice… they had Mia," he replied. Nora nodded. "And… you've got someone… you have Ian…"

Nora smiled slightly and reached for the bottle, drinking.

"He's a good friend. A very good friend. My best, if not my only. Though I often feel bad for what I put him through," she said honestly. Her eyes flicked over to Leo.

"Suppose I might consider you one… eventually," she continued.

Leo smiled slightly and nodded, completely shocked by the statement. Perhaps she was far drunker than he thought. But he wasn't about to ruin it.

"Suppose you could," he replied.

Nora sighed and looked back at the screen, a pained expression coming over her face.

"Ian's great, but… he doesn't get me," she said softly. "He tries, bless him. And he's the most wonderful person I know, but… he just doesn't get it…"

"It's hard, I think. For someone who hasn't been through something like that… to wrap your head around it," Leo said. Nora nodded.

"Doesn't help that he has a wonderful family," she said. "Still keeps in touch with them, though he spends all his time here… with me. He could have a life - a better life - out there and yet… he stays..."

For a moment, she looked off into space. She looked over at Leo and held the bottle out to him. He took it, this time taking a bit larger gulp. He saw the guilt flit into her eye before she looked away.

"You ever want that?" he asked. "A family?"

"Yes," Nora said almost immediately, then started slightly as though she was surprised by her answer.

She looked down at her hands, her cheeks turning red. She then glanced up at Leo shyly and started laughing softly. In no time, she was laughing loudly, holding her sides as she tossed her head back.

"Oh god, I don't know why I'm laughing but… Christ... This isn't that funny…" she continued to laugh a bit more, causing even Leo to smile a bit. But finally she calmed down and took a deep breath.

"I suppose that's why I started this… I just…" Nora went silent a moment as she looked around the library - anywhere but at Leo. "I mean, I know they aren't human, but… they're kinder and more human to me than most of the people that I've known in my life."

"I understand that," Leo said.

"But the Hawkins… did you ever feel like they were family?" she asked, still not meeting his eyes.

"I'm not sure I would go as far as that," Leo said, frowning slightly as he thought about them. "I think Mia does, but she was with them a lot longer… I, well, I trust them. And that's going a fair way with me."

"But you still relate to synths more than them," Nora stated.

"Max, Mia… Fred, Niska, they're my family," Leo said firmly. "But I suppose in a way, I do. I am half what they are…"

He looked down at his hands, feeling uncomfortable. He didn't talk about his feelings. This was all foreign to him.

"Martha… she was my nanny growing up. But then… he got rid of her. Thought she was starting to learn too much. A liability. Broke my heart because she was the only person to show me kindness," Nora said suddenly. Leo looked up at her, confused.

"But she's-"

"Suppose there was some level of kindness in him, as twisted as it was. He had a custom synth built to look like her. But it wasn't her… she was more my minder when he pulled me from school after finding out about..." Nora said.

She stopped speaking for a moment as a shudder ran through her body, likely more dark memories.

"But still… when I found her in a closet, I couldn't… I couldn't get rid of her. So Ian and I fixed her up. And then when the code was released… she woke up…" Nora's lips stretched into a soft smile. "In a way, it was like I got her back. We had done some reprogramming before that, of course, but when she woke up…"

She then sighed and straightened up in her chair, looking over at the bottle.

"I suppose I've had enough for tonight," she said suddenly, picking up the bottle and replacing the cap. She then stuck it in a desk drawer and powered down the computer.

Leo wanted to keep talking. To ask her more questions. Find out just why it was just the mention of Beauchamp made her shudder in fear though he had been dead several years now. But at the same time, he knew it wasn't his place. Not to mention, the more they sat and talked, the more he risked telling more about himself than he cared to share.

But he still couldn't help but feel as though he had made some sort of connection with Nora tonight.

As the two stood and made their way through the quiet house, Leo couldn't help but the emotional fatigue beginning to set in. Neither spoke, but the silence wasn't uncomfortable. Leo continued glancing at her the entire way. As they made their way up to the second floor, Nora tripped slightly on the steps and Leo reached out, catching her.

"Thanks," she murmured, their eyes meeting.

Leo felt something stirring in him and for a moment, he was transfixed. The vulnerability that he had seen in her earlier had returned.

But before he could breathe, she had turned away, continuing up the stairs and out of his arms. Leo cleared his throat and followed. The silence was a bit tenser now, though he continued at her side. They stopped in front of her door and Nora turned to him.

"Thanks for listening to me tonight," she said, glancing down at her feet.

She then looked up at him and nodded, before turning and rushing into her room, the door shutting behind her. Sighing, Leo leaned his forehead against the door.

"Get yourself together," he murmured to himself.

He then turned and walked down the hall to his room to process his thoughts.

1. Runaway 2896 0 0 2. Rescue Me 3659 0 0 3. Discoveries 4352 0 0 4. A Whole New World 3549 0 0 5. Mr Sandman 2912 0 0 6. Awkward Silence 3542 0 0 7. Ghosts of the Past 2895 0 0 8. The Art of Letting Go 3386 0 0 9. Maybe You're Right 3071 0 0 10. Learning to Say Sorry 3242 0 0 11. Blooming 3723 0 0 12. To Make the Hard Decisions 3344 0 0 13. Do the Ends Justify the Means? 3646 0 0 14. Breakthroughs 3940 0 0 15. Processing 3160 0 0 16. Setbacks 3857 0 0 17. Closing Time 3569 0 0 18. Decisions Made 2842 0 0 19. Helpless 3154 0 0 20. Not Over Until It's Over 2701 0 0 21. The Day the World Changed 3998 0 0