Author Topic: An Unexpected Meeting  (Read 110 times)

Rick Connors

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An Unexpected Meeting
« on: August 13, 2019, 05:40:17 PM »
Dallas, 1994


For a cemetery in the middle of a busy city, Calvary Hill was surprisingly peaceful. Of course, no one had warned the petite woman now walking between the headstones that Texas was quite this hot, but she wasn't too concerned. She could cool off once she got home again. Her eyes skimmed the graves, checking the names against the information on her phone as she walked on, finally reaching the burial plot she had been told was there. Mary Connors.

"Gotcha."

Mary Connors. It was a fairy common name, one of probably dozens in the city of Dallas alone, and yet, there was only one Mary Connors who had been married to Oliver and survived by a son named Richard. It couldn't have been too hard for the woman to have tracked her down, once she knew what she was looking for and where to look. The real question was why. The cemetery wasn't very crowded that day. It was too damned hot to linger very long in the open sun, but the man who was watching her didn't much care about that. What he wanted to know was who she was and why she'd been poking her nose into his background.

He'd already sized her up from where he sat, comfortably cool in his air-conditioned white sedan. Not black. Too damned hot for black. He shoved a hand through his too long hair and reached for his sunglasses. If he wanted to know what she was doing here, he was going to have to get out of the car and ask.

Despite the sun beating down on her head - thank gods for wide brimmed hats - the woman knelt down beside the grave, reaching out to gently trace her fingertips over the carved letters. Both Mary and her husband, Oliver, were buried here, their shared epitaph a loving memorial from the son they had left behind together.

"I know you probably can't hear me, Mary, and I'm just a stranger," she said softly to the sleeping grave. "But Jack's alive. He's safe. He's married to a woman he loves, and you're a grandmother to one little girl and another one on the way. I'm going to try and bring your boys together, Mary."

It was too bad he couldn't hear her from where he was. Her words might have brought him some comfort or at least, eased his suspicions, but he'd find out who she was and what she was doing here soon enough. Adjusting his shades, he paused another moment to watch her. She didn't seem threatening at all. In fact, she seemed reverent the way she was touching his mother's grave, but who was she? He'd never seen her before, and he'd made it his business to know everyone who'd ever been part of his mother's life for a reason. There was only one way to find out, and he preferred the direct approach.

Stepping out from under the shade of the trees, he started toward his mother's grave at an easy pace, so he wouldn't scare her away.

She heard the car door close, and the slow approach of footsteps, but she didn't react to them. After all, it could be anyone. It didn't have to be her contact - she knew she was early. She'd wanted to talk to Mary alone first. Easing back, she rose to her feet, tucking her fingers into her back pockets.

"You have a beautiful family," she told the sleeping grave. "I'm sorry you never got to meet them."

That last remark gave him pause. No one knew about his mother's other family -  no one but him. No one was supposed to know. They'd been very careful that no one had ever found out, except those he wanted to know, except those he wanted to find.

"I'm sorry, do I know you?" he asked, as he approached, hands at his sides to appear non-threatening.

He was tall and solid - not overly muscular, but solid enough to show he was fit and worked hard to keep himself that way. Blue eyes were hidden behind sunglasses, dark hair that was a little too long to be fashionable, his face at least partially obscured by a matching dark beard. He had a kind face, but one that looked a little too serious.

She turned her head toward the man who had come up beside her, tilting her head back to get a good look at him, and inwardly cursed. This wasn't her contact; this was her mark. She sighed softly, offering him a wide smile.

"Nope, you don't," she answered honestly. "How much did Jeremy give me up for?"

The man chuckled, as if her question amused him. "He didn't. I figured it out for myself. You don't poke your nose into someone's life without someone else noticing. So, what do you want?" he asked, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans while he awaited her answer, as if that might do less to intimidate her than it would if he crossed his arms.

"Me? Nothing." She shrugged. "You do understand about confidentiality, right?" She flashed him another winning smile, though she was ever so slightly tensed, ready to run or fight if she had to. He definitely had a weight advantage on her.

"So, what are you doing here then? And please don't tell me you're a friend of the family, I am the family," he told her, sliding the sunglasses from his face and calmly folding them in his hand, so that she could see his face and see that he wasn't a threat. At least, not yet.

"You're half of the family," she pointed out, pretty sure he already knew that. "I wouldn't say I'm friends with the other half, but I might get there at some point. I'm more friends with his best friend." She blinked, surprised when he lowered his sunglasses. Those eyes were something else.

Dark brows lowered above intelligent blue eyes that seemed to be weighing her words. He was not even half the family, if truth be told, but he was the only one left who knew the location of her grave.

"It seems almost a shame, their names aren't listed there," he said, with a brief glance at the grave. "But she wanted it that way."

"I think he'd understand." She looked down at the grave a moment longer. "You know ... you look an awful lot like each other." She was having to step carefully around what she could and could not say, not having talked to Jack about making contact yet.

"So I've been told," he said, with the slightest hint of a smile behind the dark beard. He hadn't had a beard when he'd first met one of his mother's other sons. He'd been young and idealistic then, "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" Joseph had called him, just like Jack.


Rick Connors

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Re: An Unexpected Meeting
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2019, 05:40:51 PM »
"Is that why you're here?" he asked. "Because of him?"

She hesitated. "Can you hold that thought for a second? I just need to make a quick phone call." Of course, she didn't think twice about pulling out her slimline smartphone and unlocking it, forgetting that in 1994 cell phones were more like Star Trek communicators or bricks.

Those dark brows of his furrowed in the middle as she pulled something out that looked like a phone, but was a lot smaller and sleeker than anything he'd ever seen before.

"Uh, sure," he replied, trying to get a better look, not only at the phone, but at her. She didn't look very intimidating, just a pretty little blond thing in a tank top and jeans, but he had a feeling there was a lot more to her than she was letting on. He wasn't going anywhere until he got some answers, so he just took a lazy lean against a tree, and folded his arms while she made her phone call.

To her credit, she didn't move away or try to make the conversation difficult to overhear. In fact, she put it on speaker.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Lena," she spoke toward the phone. "It's Nali. Did our friend over there leave any instructions about me making contact?"

There was a pause, then the other voice came back with,

"Do you need rescuing?"

The dark-haired man who had not yet introduced himself, as it seemed obvious who he was, rolled his eyes. He wasn't sure who Lena was, but the blond's name was obviously Nali. He pushed himself off the tree and moved closer.

"No, she doesn't need rescuing. I'm not gonna hurt her. I just want some answers."

"Nali ..."

The blonde woman nodded with a wry smile. "Yup, that's him. I can't really say anything right now?"

There was a sigh.

"Give me a second."

Nali looked up at the man beside her, green eyes squinting in the sunlight. "So, do you like the ocean?"

"The ocean?" he echoed, a puzzled look on his face. Why would she want to know that? They were a long way from the ocean. Unless Jack was still in California, but he'd already looked there and had come up empty, even after Joe had told him not to bother looking there. "Look, if he doesn't want to meet me, then why are you here?"

"Oh, just be patient," she told him, rolling her eyes. "There's a lot you don't know." The phone in her hand blinked to life again.

"Nali? Tell him as much as you can. The plan hasn't changed."

Nali grinned cheerfully, looking as though a weight had just been lifted off her shoulders. "Thanks, Lena. I'll call in when I get back and let you guys know how it goes."

"Take care," Lena said, adding, "Rick? Try to listen with an open mind. It helps."

The line went dead, and Nali tucked the phone away once again.

"Who is Lena and what makes her think I don't have an open mind?" the man, whose name was apparently Rick asked, brows furrowed in either annoyance or confusion. He was smart enough to figure out that "Lena" was likely the woman's "best friend", and that they both had some connection to his long, lost brother, but he still had a lot of questions.

"Okay, this is complicated," Nali told him. "It's not just half an hour of talk. So let's start again." She held out her hand to him with a smile. "Hi, my name's Nali Dewsun. Your brother, Jack, asked me to find you."

"Rick Connors," he said, reaching for her hand and meeting her gaze. "But you know that already, don't you?" He gripped her hand briefly before drawing back, squinting in the sun as he looked her over again. "If it's such a long story, maybe you should tell me over lunch," he suggested.

"It's good to meet you, Rick." Her smile was back, and far more relaxed than it had been. "Please tell me that lunch will be somewhere out of this ridiculous heat."

Another smirk appeared on his face, this one a little warmer than the first. "It's not that bad. Have you ever been to San Antonio in July? Now, that's hot," he told her, unfolding his sunglasses and putting them back on his face. He was going to need them if he was driving. "Come along, little lady. The car has a/c."

"Well, only half of that endearment is accurate, but I'll let that slide," she said mischievously. She paused, looking back to the grave. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Mary. You should be very proud of your boys." Nodding, she turned back to walk toward the car Rick had indicated, apparently not at all embarrassed to be seen and heard talking to a grave.

Rick frowned, overhearing the woman bid his late mother farewell. He made sure her grave was well-maintained and he came to visit her often, but he knew it was only a resting place for her body; her soul had moved on. He said nothing of it though, only huffing in amusement as his companion denied being called a lady.

"My mother always said to treat every woman like a lady, until she proves herself otherwise," he told her, opening the car to let her inside. It wasn't everyday he asked a near stranger out to lunch, especially one who was female. And a pretty female at that.

"I might have been complaining about the little part," she defended herself with a laugh. She pulled her hat off as she ducked into the car, shaking out long blonde hair that looked as though it spent a lot of time at the beach.

"If you were any smaller, you'd be a child," he pointed out, going around the car to climb into the driver's seat. As soon as he turned over the engine, the a/c blasted out a steady stream of cold air, but it would be a few minutes before the inside of the car cooled off. "You like burgers?" he asked, as any Texan might.


Rick Connors

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Re: An Unexpected Meeting
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2019, 05:41:13 PM »
"Yeah, I know," she conceded, fully aware of how much she was lacking in height. "I'm taller than my parents, though, so that's a plus, I guess?" Even though the car was warm, the first touch of air was enough to make her sigh happily. "Hmm? Oh, I love food. Seriously, you could give me a big stack of potatoes and I'd eat it all."

He looked her over doubtfully, wondering what her parents might be like if she was the tall one in the family, but too polite to pry. "I think I can do better than that," he remarked regarding lunch. "Seatbelt," he reminded her, as he pulled the car forward down the road that led away from his mother's grave.

She snorted with laughter, reaching to pull the belt down around herself. "I promise you, I am a fully grown human woman," she assured him. "All the right body parts arrived at the right time, they're just in a compact package."

"Oh, I have no doubt!" he said, smirking to himself. He'd taken a good enough look at her to know that already. She stood at least a full foot shorter than him, but she seemed to have all her curves in the right places. "On second thought, you like Mexican?"

"I don't think I've ever had real Mexican," Nali answered, smirking to herself at his response, which told her quite a bit about him. "Good, is it?"

"Mexican restaurants are a dime a dozen around here. Some good, some not so good, but I have someplace in mind," he told her. "Is this your first trip to Texas?" he asked, though he'd already deduced that. She wasn't handling the heat very well, and as far as most Texans were considered, it wasn't even that hot.

"That obvious, huh?" She turned her head to watch him as he drove, admiring his profile. He really was stunningly handsome, and built, but with a softness that made it really tempting to hug him at some point just to see what it would feel like. Not an excuse to feel him up, not at all. Well, maybe a little. "I don't really travel that much. Most of what I do happens through contacts and from home."

"And what is it you do exactly?" he asked, pulling out onto the street, heading east toward the main road. He wasn't sure how well she knew her way around, but at least, she seemed to trust him.

"Well, most of the time I work in my parents' inn," she said in a cheery tone, turning eyes back to look around at the scenery passing by. "I make a mean Screaming Orgasm. And on the side, I'm kind of an information broker? I mean, I don't sell military secrets or anything, and I'm not really a private eye. I just ... find things out for people."

"A what?" he said, chuckling. Thankfully, he wasn't that hard to shock or he might have swerved in traffic. He assumed she was referring to a drink of some sort, but it was one he'd never heard of. "You just poke your nose into other people's business for a fee," he said, bluntly.

"It's a cocktail," she explained, laughing. His blunt assessment of her side job made her nod. "Pretty much. But I do it discreetly, and I'm very picky about the jobs I take."

"Did you get paid to find me, or are you doing your friend a favor?" he asked, though it hardly mattered. There was no denying she was here or that she found him and that someone with a connection to his half-brother had hired her.

"This is a favor," she told him honestly. "Lena's very fond of Jack, and he needed answers. Just like you do, really." She rubbed a hand through her hair, shaking it away from her scalp for a moment. "I am going to tell you as much as I possibly can, okay? I try not to lie, as a rule."

"I have a feeling Jack has more questions than I do," Rick confessed. Many of his questions had already been answered when he'd met with Joe, but he still didn't know where Jack had been hiding all these years.

"Maybe. I think you both have the same number of questions, but on slightly different topics." Nali seemed pretty sure of that, resting back against the seat. "Is it always this hot here? How do you survive with no sea breezes?"

"There's a little breeze on the lake. I think you'll like it there," he assured her, turning right and heading south toward the lake, a small oasis of green and blue in the heart of the city. It was a short drive to the lake from the cemetery, with a few little restaurants dotted nearby.

"I must sound very spoiled, I'm sorry," she apologized through a chuckle. "Where I'm from is pretty temperate, and we're by the sea, so even when it gets hot, there's always a breeze."

He shrugged. "Not really. You're not from around here and you're not accustomed to the climate. I get it," he told her, though she had yet to tell him where she was from. "That phone of yours though ..." he said, glancing her way momentarily. "Looks high tech. Cutting edge. Where'd you get it?"

"Ah, it's actually pretty bog standard tech where I'm from," she said thoughtfully. "That's a question that'll make more sense once I've explained where that is and why it's complicated."

"What, are you from the future or something?" he said, chuckling at his own joke, ignorant of just how close he'd come to the truth with that guess. But before she could answer, they were pulling into a parking lot outside a cozy restaurant in sight of the lake. "This is it," he told her. "Doesn't look like much, but they have the best burritos in the city."

Glad not to have to answer that question, whether it had been a joke or not, Nali latched onto the topic she could manage to talk about for the time being. "Burritos are those wrap things, right? With beef?"

"Yeah," he replied, chuckling again. "You've really never had Mexican, have you? Well, you're in for a treat. Just go easy on the hot sauce," he warned her, before climbing out of the car and pocketing his keys as he moved around to the other side to get her door. "De esta manera, senorita," he told her in nearly perfect Spanish.

Confronted with a language she wasn't familiar with, Nali produced a language Rick had probably only ever heard in movies. "Annon allen," she thanked him, settling her hat back on her head as she stood up out of the car. "What is hot sauce?"

He chuckled, assuming she had just thanked him, though he had no idea what language she'd been speaking. "De nada," he replied  once again in Spanish. Blue eyes sparkled with amusement, the trace of a smirk on his face. "Do you trust me?" he asked, though she hardly knew him - or so he assumed.

Rick Connors

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Re: An Unexpected Meeting
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2019, 05:41:31 PM »
Nali looked him over with a teasing glimmer in her eyes, lips quirking into a smile as she answered. "Well, not enough to ride you like a cowboy yet," she said easily. "But yeah, I trust you."

His eyes widened at her remark for a split second, and then he broke into laughter. "I'll pretend I didn't hear that, " he told her, though it was going to be hard to forget. Either she was a shameless flirt or she found him attractive - or both. Preferably both. "Beer or no beer?" he asked, not wanting to assume there. He'd found most people either loved it or hated it; there was no in-between.

She shook her head. "Just water is fine," she told him. "I don't drink alcohol during the heat of the day, it's just a dumb thing to do." And given that she had told him her parents owned an inn, she had probably seen just how dumb it could be.

"Okay, Just Water. Let's pop that Mexican food cherry of yours, shall we?" he asked with a smirk, turning to lead the way into the restaurant. "So, where are you from that you've never had Mexican? I can't quite place your accent," he said. She obviously wasn't from Texas, or she wouldn't have asked about hot sauce.

"Honey, if I had another cherry for you to pop, your car would have fogged up by now." Nali paused, her eyes widening as she realized what she had said, and fell about laughing as she followed him toward the restaurant. "Oh, you won't have heard of it. It's an out of the way place called Rhy'Din."

"You're right. Never heard of it, but the world is a pretty big place," he said, as he pulled open the door, letting a couple exit before waving Nali inside. "Don't take this the wrong way, but even your name is unusual. Is it short for something?" he asked, curiously. He almost couldn't help but ask questions; it was just part of his nature.

"No, it's just Nali," she told him easily, removing her hat as she stepped inside. The bliss of air-conditioning seemed to make her shoulders relax a little more as she paused to wait for him. "Not short for anything, doesn't mean anything. Short and sweet, like me. What about you? How did you become Richard?"

He shrugged, smirking yet again as he gave her an answer that wasn't really an answer. "It was on my birth certificate." He couldn't help but notice how she seemed to be enjoying the cooler air - more proof that she wasn't a native Texan. "Why don't you find us a place to sit and I'll get the food?"

"Uh, okay." She hadn't missed the evasion, but since she was just playing for time at this point, she let it slide. Twirling her hat between her hands, she scanned the eatery, and made a beeline for a table next to a window - still shaded, but with a nice view.

He wasn't trying to be difficult exactly, but she wasn't much more forthcoming with her own answers as he was with his. Tit for tat. He'd meant his answer to her question as a joke, as the real answer wasn't all that exciting. "I'll be right back!" he promised, turning to line up at the counter to order lunch.

Settled into her chosen seat, Nali let her eyes wander back to Rick as he stood in line to order. She was going to have to somehow explain the year she was from, the place she was from, and perhaps even what she had found out would happen to him in the next year or so. All difficult subjects, and none of which he was guaranteed to believe.

While Nali was contemplating what to tell him, Rick was busy picking out what to order for lunch. There were a lot of unanswered questions rolling around in his head, but first things first - his brain functioned better when his stomach wasn't empty. It wasn't more than ten minutes before he returned to the table carrying a tray laden with beef burritos, tortilla chips and salsa, bottled water, and a Corona.

"Wow, this all looks yummy," was Nali's response. "I wonder what I did to deserve this? Good food, gorgeous company ... maybe I should just kidnap you and find a preacher after lunch."

He chuckled again. "You are very good for my ego," he said, as he set a plate in front of her, which was identical to his, despite the fact that he probably had a bigger appetite. He even went so far as to open her bottle of water before setting that there, too. "Welcome to my food addiction," he said, twisting the cap off his Corona and saluting her with it. "You'll be lucky if you can roll out of here after lunch," he added with another smirk.

She lifted her water to toast him cheerfully, taking a sip of the cool water. "Honey, trust me," she promised. "I can definitely take this."

"Girl after my own heart," he said, taking a swig of his beer before starting on the burrito, which was so stuffed full of beef, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes that he chose to use a fork and knife. "First trip to Texas?" he asked, which also seemed obvious enough. At least, she'd dressed for it.

Nali watched him tackle his food for a moment before following suit, taking up her knife and fork to begin eating. "It's actually my first trip to any of the southern states," she admitted. "I've been to Montana and New York, but nowhere else in the U.S."

"What's in Montana?" he asked, other than wilderness. He didn't bother to ask about New York - at least, not yet. But there wasn't a lot in Montana, unless one liked the outdoors.

"An old friend's long lost family," she said around a mouthful of burrito. She paused to swallow before continuing. "He was adopted, like me, and he wanted to know about his birth family. Turned out that, like, seven generations ago, the family split into branches, and the half that thrived founded a ranch outside Boseman that's still going. They were real nice people."

"I see," he replied, feeling a little stupid for asking. "I didn't mean to pry," he said, not quite apologizing. "It's kind of second nature," he said, just short of telling her why. It seemed she knew a lot more about him than he knew about her anyway. "So, this is about Jack, isn't it?"

She smiled, silently conceding the apology and letting it go. She understood why asking questions came so easily to him. "Yeah, it is," she said with a nod. "He'd like to meet you, but he can't risk coming to Earth in this time zone again." He liked asking questions? She had just given him a lot of fodder for them.

He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it just as quickly, confused by something else she'd said. "Time zone?" he echoed, looking puzzled. "What does what time zone we're in have to do with anything?" he asked. They were on Central time in Dallas. When he'd met with Joe in California, they'd been on Pacific time. There was two hours difference between the two time zones, but he still didn't understand why that mattered. Where was Jack anyway? Was he so far away that they'd have to coordinate what time it was when they met. But then, something else she'd said sunk in. Coming to Earth? If he wasn't on Earth, where the hell was he?

Rick Connors

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Re: An Unexpected Meeting
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2019, 05:45:16 PM »
"I don't mean the global time zones," Nali said quietly. "I mean this linear time zone. Technically, he doesn't exist anymore, at least as far as Earth is concerned. He left in 1974, and I suppose you could say he landed in 2013. The year I came from today is 2019."

Rick lowered the fork and knife, narrowing his eyes as he scrutinized her face, as if he was looking for any hint that she was lying or even joking. If this was joke, it was a cruel one, but though he hardly knew her, his gut told him she was telling the truth. "You're saying you're from the future. You know how crazy that sounds." It would explain a few things, but it was impossible. Wasn't it?

"Believe me, I know," she assured him. "But I don't lie. This is the biggest thing you'll need to believe from me. Everything else is easier to take in once you're okay with knowing that discretionary time travel is possible, if not encouraged."

"Discretionary," he echoed, frowning dubiously. "I suppose it would have to be, wouldn't it?" he said, though he still wasn't sure he believed her. "I guess that explains your phone," he said. She was asking him to make a very big leap of faith, but if this would somehow lead him to Jack, he owed his mother that much.

"Yeah, it does." She nodded, watching him carefully for any sign that he might not be taking this as calmly as he seemed to be. "Time is linear, and there are any number of ways to mess up the future. Jack left Earth when he did because there was nothing left here for him, and he wanted to stay with his friend, Tommy King. If Tommy had stayed, he would have died two weeks later, and Jack would have been totally destroyed by that. Helena - my friend, Lena - she saved them by bringing them to Rhy'Din and the future."

"And this Rhy'Din is not on Earth," he deduced. He didn't need her to tell him that much, as it now seemed obvious. "Well, that explains why I've never been able to find him," he said with a shrug of his shoulders as he quietly contemplated his burrito.

"No, it's not." Taking a drink from her bottle, Nali leaned in to explain Rhy'Din to him - the Nexus, the portals, the unique culture of the planet and the city that shared the name. She knew it was a lot to take in. "They say seeing is believing."

He had remained quiet all through her explanation of Rhy'Din and the Nexus. To his credit, he had not laughed at her, nor had he turned pale. He had merely listened, his attention rapt, as if trying to gauge whether or not she was lying. She certainly seemed to believe her own story. She was either telling the truth or she'd lost her mind, and he hoped it wasn't the latter. "What are you proposing exactly?"

"I'm offering to set up a meeting," she said honestly. "Obviously I can't take you to Rhy'Din today - Jack hasn't had time to prepare himself for that meeting, and it wouldn't be fair to either of you to just spring it. But if you give me a date, and a location to pick you up in, I'll be able to arrange with Jack and his family."

He shrugged, still unsure if all this was for real. She was asking him to take a lot on faith. "I don't suppose you have any proof that what you're telling me is true," he said, taking his fork and knife back up again, before his burrito got cold.

Nali blinked, surprised to be asked for proof. She hadn't expected that. "Uh ... I've got photographs on my phone, but you probably wouldn't accept them as anything other than a costume party."

Rick lowered his utensils a moment to look over at her. "Can I see his picture?" he asked. That in itself was a kind of proof, even if it only proved that he had a lookalike out there somewhere claiming to be his long lost brother.

Setting her knife and fork down, Nali pulled her phone out of her pocket, unlocking it to slide through the pictures stored on it. She'd asked Lena for a picture of Jack so she could identify Rick, but now it seemed as though it was going to be used for something better. "Here." She handed her phone across the table to him; on the screen was a picture of Jack, his arms around a sun-kissed woman and a little blonde girl. They were all laughing toward the camera.

Rick tried to ignore the fact that Nali was showing him a photo on some kind of futuristic cellular phone that didn't exist yet in his time, or so it seemed. Taking the phone from her, he studied the photo, noticing the man's similarity to himself, but some differences, too. "He's younger than me and his hair is lighter, but you're right - there is a resemblance." He let his gaze move to the woman and girl in the photo. "I assume that's his wife and child?"

She nodded. "Yes. Jasmin's his wife, and Noelle is their daughter," she explained. "Noelle's three years old. He took his wife's name when they got married."

He studied the photo a moment longer, but there wasn't much more to see that might prove she was telling him the truth. He couldn't deny that the man in the photo bore an uncanny resemblance to himself though. "Why did he do that?" he asked, carefully handing the phone back, though he would have liked to have examined it closer.

"From what I understand, his dad was an abusive bastard, and Jack hasn't used his real surname since he left the man's house," Nali told him, tucking the phone away. "He thought he had nothing, no family at all. And he married into one of the biggest families in Rhy'Din."

"That's putting it mildly," Rick murmured regarding her remark about Jack's father. "As I understand it, he left home as a teenager and was never heard from again. If what you're telling me is true, then that explains why no one's ever been able to find him."

"How far were you able to track him?" she asked curiously, cutting into her burrito once again. She knew it was unlikely he had managed to get a wealth of information on Jack, given the state of information sharing in this decade and the one before, but she was interested to know how close he got.

"I wasn't," he replied. "Jack's a ghost. Everything I know about Jack, I learned from Joe, and it's not much. After his father died, my mom - our mom - wanted to get in touch. That's when I contacted Joe, but he hadn't heard from Jack in years."

Nali nodded slowly. "From what I understand, Jack met Tommy King in Half Moon Bay, California, and they became good friends," she told him. "They went into business together, making and selling surfboards. In 1974, Tommy should have died in a road accident while delivering one of those surfboards. Lena, who is now his wife, had already met him, and when she went to Half Moon to pick him up, he had already died. She says Jack was distraught, a shell of who he had been, completely lost. She risked a hell of a lot to go back and warn Tommy ahead of time, and invite both of them to come to Rhy'Din with her. Long story short, they said yes."


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Re: An Unexpected Meeting
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2019, 05:45:33 PM »
Rick took a swig of his Corona, while he listened to Nali's tale, his burrito long since devoured. "That's quite a story," he said, not saying whether he believed her or not. Whatever he thought, she certainly believed what she was telling him, but the only proof of its truth was her word and that photo of Jack on her cell phone. He sighed, wishing there was some way he could be sure. "You know how crazy it sounds, right?"

Wiping her mouth with her napkin, Nali nodded. "I do know that," she told him. "I've never had to explain anything this complex before." And she hadn't even touched on what was going to happen to him next year.

"If it wasn't for that photo ..." Rick mused aloud. Not even Joe had had photos like that. All of his photos were of a much younger Jack, before he'd left home, before he'd met Tommy. "How'd you find me?" he asked, curiously.

"Lena did a little digging and got onto an archive on Rhy'Din that collects and correlates intergalactic internet and extranet information," she explained. "She wanted to try and give Jack peace of mind. A search for him showed up Joseph's information, and you were in those photographs. With a face and a name, people aren't that hard to find."

"It sounds like a bad science fiction movie," Rick murmured, not complaining exactly, but still not sure he should trust her either. "I really want to believe you, Nali," he told her. "I've been looking for Jack a long time." He sighed again. "But I need some kind of proof."

"What would you believe?" she asked softly. She couldn't possibly present him with proof right at this moment without knowing what proof he would accept.

Rick took a minute to consider her question. How could she prove she was telling the truth? There was really only one way he could think of. "Show me how you got here. If you can prove to me that this Rhy'Din is real and that you're really from the future, then I don't think I'll have much choice but to believe you."

She raised her brows, a little surprised by his request. "You want to see a portal?" she asked. "Won't you just convince yourself I set it up in advance and it's just trickery?"

"I guess that depends on how convinced I am," he said with an almost amused smile. "Look, Nali ... I like you, and I want to believe you." He sighed again and leaned back in his chair. "I guess it doesn't really matter whether I believe you or not, until you talk to Jack."

She frowned thoughtfully. She could offer to take him to Rhy'Din right now, and have him stay overnight with her, but that would mean him confronting the reality that was her parents and all the other races in Rhy'Din. "Look, let me talk to Jack," she suggested. "May I meet you somewhere tomorrow?"

"All right," he agreed. "I'll meet you at my mother's grave. What time?" he asked, unsure whether that even mattered, if she was coming from the future. All of this had theoretically already happened, but he didn't want to think about it too hard.

"Whenever is best for you," she told him with an encouraging smile. "I can pinpoint my arrival to the minute. You can't."

"I have some business in the morning. How's 3:00?" he asked. Business as in a job. Unlike Jack, he couldn't just disappear into thin air, never to be heard from again. He had responsibilities.

"Three works for me," she agreed. She could manage any time, to be honest, but she didn't think he was quite ready for more details about just how time travel worked. The cemetery was isolated enough that she thought she could probably provide the evidence he needed simply by arriving.

"Three it is then," he agreed, smiling. "Would you like me to drop you off somewhere?" he asked, since he'd driven them here. He'd mentioned wanting to go talk to Jack, but he had no idea how she was going to get there or when she wanted to go.

"Uh ..." Nali hesitated. "Somewhere ... somewhere people aren't going to be around?" she suggested hopefully. "Usually I just walk until I find a place with no one in it."

Rick chuckled. "Well, the cemetery is usually pretty quiet. Want me to take you back there?" he asked, assuming she had to be out of doors, though he wasn't too sure of that either. "How does it work exactly?"

Nali looked a little awkward as she answered. "I have an activation stone," she told him. "All official, I'm registered with the Governor's office and everything. But it means that so long as I'm discreet, I can open a portal pretty much anywhere."

"Anywhere," he echoed, eyeing her dubiously. It wasn't so much that he didn't believe her, as it was that her story was just so, well, unbelievable. "Why not just open one in the ladies' room then?"

"Discreet," she repeated with a faint chuckle. "At some point, someone would realise that I went into the bathroom without coming back out again. And there are cameras everywhere on Earth, even in this decade."

"I don't think there are any cameras in the bathroom," he said with a smirk, though he was willing to concede that she had a point. "There's always the park, but I think your best bet might be the cemetery. No one saw you arrive. I doubt anyone would see you leave." Except him, perhaps, because how could he not?

"I think you're right about that," she agreed with a smile. "Thank you. I know seeing it happen won't be enough to convince you, but hopefully tomorrow you'll be able to experience it."

"I want to believe you, Nali," Rick told her again. "It's just ... You have to admit, it's a little hard to believe." He was willing to keep an open mind though, remembering what the woman on the other end of her futuristic phone had told him.

"Oh, I know." She chuckled, shaking her head. "I'm lucky you haven't just tossed me out and refused to let me say anything at all. I mean, I'd offer to take you through today, but you'd have to stay over at my parents' place, and I'm not sure you're ready for them."

"Or maybe they're not ready for me," he said, teasing her a little. He couldn't imagine what she meant by that remark. Were her parents ogres or something? It wasn't like they were getting married, was it? He was just going to this Rhy'Din to meet Jack.

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Re: An Unexpected Meeting
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2019, 05:45:52 PM »

Nali snorted with laughter. "Hey, if you think you can handle being mothered by a pair of four foot tall halflings who will be absolutely convinced you're going to marry me and give them grandbabies, you're very welcome to try."

"Four foot tall?" he echoed, chuckling a little. "So, adopted or not, the apple doesn't fall far from home," he teased her further. Despite her crazy story, he found himself enjoying her company, surprising even himself.

"Yeah, well, I was kind of raised in a hobbit hole," she pointed out in amusement. "I think I stopped growing at just the right height, personally. Just because you're a giant in disguise ..."

"A hobbit hole," he echoed, brows furrowing. "Like in the novel? You're teasing me, right?" he asked, really hoping she was because her story was starting to sound crazy again, and he really didn't want her to be crazy.

"Little bit," she admitted laughingly. "I mean, their apartment in the back of the inn is built to scale for them, but the rest of the place can accommodate the bigger races. My mom's a hobbit, my dad's just a standard halfling. That's why they adopt - they're just that little bit too different to have kids together."

From the look on Rick's face, he was looking confused again and more than a little troubled. "Is there anything else I should know?" he asked, curiously. He wasn't sure what the difference was between a hobbit and a halfling. The important thing was whether or not they were real.

"Just that ... anything is possible on Rhy'Din," she told him. "There are no limits. Every universe has some representative there. It's easier to believe when you see it." Which was why she had not mentioned that her next-door neighbor was a minotaur named Celia.

"Anything?" he echoed, as dubiously as before. Anything was a rather broad description. "This Rhy'Din makes string theory sound like child's play," he murmured, though he was no physicist.

"Well, that is one thing Earth's scientists have got right, the many worlds theory," Nali pointed out. "You don't have to believe a word of this until you've seen it for yourself. You just have to trust that I'm not going to hurt you, or let you be hurt. Can you trust me that far?"

"I just want to see Jack," he admitted. "I promised my mother I'd find him, and that's what I intend to do," he told her. It wasn't exactly the answer she was asking for, but he intended to see this through, no matter the outcome.

He couldn't deny that she knew something about Jack. He just hoped she wasn't leading him on a wild goose chase.

"You'll see him," she promised firmly. "He wants to see you. He just needs advance warning, because he's a little more vulnerable than he seems. At least, that's what Lena tells me, and I trust her."

"What do you mean by that?" he asked, wondering why Jack would be vulnerable. Was there something wrong with him or his mental state, or was she worried this all might come as a shock to him?

"I know you know what his father was like," she said quietly. "From what I gather, Jack's been carrying that all his life. Sometimes you just can't let some of the hurt go, and it does more damage."

"Jack's father was abusive. It's why my mother left. She regretted leaving her sons behind, but he gave her no choice. Things were different then," he explained. "You didn't talk about things like that then. And divorce was frowned on." He paused a moment, unable to hide the grief from his face. "I promised her I'd find them and make sure they knew she never stopped loving them."

She was silent for a long moment, reaching across the table to lay her hand gently over his. "I'm so sorry for your loss, Rick," she said softly. "You're a good man, and your brother is a good man, and you deserve to know each other."

He stilled at her touch, feeling confused, not only about Jack but about her, too. Or more accurately, about what she had told him. He wanted so badly to trust her; if only her story didn't sound so crazy. "I kind of feel like I've wandered into an episode of The Twilight Zone."

Now it was her turn to look confused. "The what now?" she asked, blinking in surprise. "Is that like a special place where all the weird and wonderful things happen on Earth?"

"Only on late-night TV," he replied. Or wherever they showed old episodes these days. He'd been almost too young to remember it, but had seen some episodes in re-runs years later. He smiled in amusement at something. "Finally, I know something you don't."

"Oh, I'm pretty sure you know quite a bit that I don't," she assured him, her sunny smile reappearing even as she remembered she was holding his hand. Drawing her arm back, her smile deepened. "Maybe you'll teach me something someday."

"Maybe I will," he said, his smile softening. He found himself regretting the fact that she'd pulled away, kind of liking the way it felt to hold her hand in his, but he said nothing of it. After all, they'd only just met, and though he thought she believed what she was telling him was true, he wasn't so sure about it himself. "Well, I should probably get you back home before it gets late."

"You're sure you don't mind giving me a lift?" she asked, tucking a tip under the lip of her plate for the busboy. "I mean ... it is a little strange, to drop off a weird woman in a graveyard."

"Not if you're there to visit a grave," he told her, which is how they met in the first place. "I wonder ... Did you know I was going to be there today?" he asked, though he had no idea how she would know that, even if she was from some future place in time.

"No," she admitted, sliding out of her seat and up, hat in hand. "I was expecting to meet Jeremy. He was going to show me around a bit, get me used to the area before I approached you."

"I could show you around, but I know you want to get back," he told her. Who was this Jeremy guy anyway? What did she need him for when she had him?

"Well ... I don't need to know where I can find you now," she pointed out with a bright smile. "We have a date." She batted her lashes at him teasingly.

He huffed a short laugh. "Are you flirting with me, Miss Dewsun?" he asked, not even bothering to hide the amused smirk on his face. As strange as her story sounded, he was really hoping she wasn't a lunatic. She was far too cute to be crazy.

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Re: An Unexpected Meeting
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2019, 05:46:13 PM »
"What, you only just noticed?" Nali laughed her hearty, happy laugh again. "Damn, I guess I need to work on not being so subtle in future."

"I must have been distracted," he told her, with a teasing smirk. But what was he distracted by? Her story? News about his brother? Her pretty face? All of the above?

"Right." She nodded, looking him over. "Note to self, show more skin. Just one boob, or do you want both of them marked up with a formal invitation?"

He quirked a brow, not only surprised by her question, but unsure if he was understanding her correctly. "I think you look perfectly fine just the way you are," he assured her, exchanging looks.

"Fine is a good start," she said, that sweet smile still in place as she giggled quietly. "C'mon, Mr. Connors. Let me show you how I get home."

He might have said more than that if he knew her better, or if he was drunk, but neither was the case, so she was just going to have to deal with "fine" for now. "If you're ready," he said, moving to his feet.

She bit her tongue before she could say something decidedly unsubtle, setting her hat back on her head as she headed for the door by his side. "Thank you for lunch, by the way. It was delicious."

"I'm just sorry you have to leave before I can properly show you around," he told her, reaching around her to get the door. It wasn't too difficult considering how tiny she was, compared to him.

The brief moment of being surrounded by him, almost cornered, brought a warm flush to Nali's cheeks that had nothing to do with the heat that flooded over her as they stepped out into the sunshine once again.

"I'll make you a deal, then," she said over her shoulder. "I'll show you around Rhy'Din, you show me around Dallas."

"You're on," he said, without hesitation, even if he wasn't entirely sure this Rhy'Din existed. "Just say when," he told her, assuming she didn't mean today. He held the door for her, allowing her to exit first before following her out into the heat of a Texas afternoon.

Stepping out into the sunshine, Nali stretched out her arms, rolling her shoulders for a moment before letting her hands fall to her sides once again. "Well now, you'll have to give me your contact information if we're going to be making plans together."

"I don't have a fancy phone like you," he told her. He still had no explanation for that, if, in fact, it really worked and wasn't some kind of trick. But if it was a trick, she'd gone to an awful lot of trouble, just to play a prank. "Tell me, this isn't Candid Camera or something, is it?

She paused, looking up at him. "Is there something that absolutely would not happen if this was Candid Camera?" she asked curiously.

"If this is Candid Camera, that means you don't really know where to find Jack and that all of this has been some elaborate prank, but I don't think it is." He paused beside her, turning to face her, needing to meet her gaze head on. "You don't strike me as the kind of woman who would toy with someone's feelings like that. You also don't strike me as a liar. I don't completely understand what's going on here, but I'm gonna take your friend's advice and take a leap of faith. What's the worst that can happen?"

"Why would anyone go to this length, and touch on something this personal, just to pull a prank?" she asked, genuinely confused and a little alarmed that he apparently lived in a world where that sort of thing happened.

"Exactly," he said. "It doesn't make sense. Whatever the case, I do believe you know something about Jack. I'm just having a hard time wrapping my head around the whole Rhy'Din thing. But like I said, I'm willing to take a leap of faith. I owe Jack that much, and if I don't, you came a long way for nothing." Or presumably so, anyway.

"Maybe you'll find it a little easier to sleep on if you wait to watch me go through the portal," she suggested. "I'm told it's quite something to watch."

"Oh, I intend to," he assured her, whether she wanted him to or not. He smiled and offered her a gentlemanly arm. "Come on. Let's get you into the a/c before you wilt."

"Oh, and a gentleman, too," she said, sliding her hand into the crook of his arm with a smile. "You're just all kinds of tempting, aren't you?"

He couldn't help but grin at that. "I try." Contrary to popular belief, his accent wasn't much different from hers, which made him wonder what kind of language was spoken in Rhy'Din. Or maybe she had learned English. He banished those thoughts from his head before they distracted him again. "So, is there anything else I should know about the future?"

"Oh, plenty," she laughed. "But I can't tell you about it unless you decide to come and live in it with your brother and his family." Her laughter abruptly stopped as she remembered something. "It's, uh ... it'll be up to Jack to tell you about it, if he chooses to."

Rick furrowed his brows. "Why is it up to Jack?" he asked, wondering why it would be up to Jack to tell Rick about the future, unless it was about their family. What was it he didn't know yet?

"Because it's kind of personal, and I probably shouldn't know about it?" she suggested. She didn't want to be the one to tell him what was going to happen to him within the next year.

"Personal for who?" he pressed her further, his background in criminal justice showing itself in his stream of questions. "And how do you know about it, if you shouldn't?"

Nali sighed, rolling her eyes. "Let me put it this way," she said, turning to face him. "Do you really want a complete stranger telling you about a life-changing event in your future?"

"What, do we fall in love, get married, and start a family?" he asked, his turn to tease, blue eyes bright with mischief. It wasn't that he wasn't taking her seriously, so much as he couldn't help but tease her. "You can tell me that," he added, nudging her with an elbow.

She snorted with laughter. "Darling, how do you know I'm not already married to the you who moved to Rhy'Din?" she countered sweetly. "Maybe I'm here to make sure it really happens."

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Re: An Unexpected Meeting
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2019, 05:46:32 PM »
"Now, that's an interesting thought," he said. "I guess we better get you back home to the future me then," he teased further, not exactly taking her seriously, as he lead her back toward the car.

"Yeah, the baby's going to want feeding soon," she said through a truly wicked grin. It wasn't an unpleasant thought, the idea of being married to this tall streak of gorgeous gentleman, but she was supposed to be making the link between him and his family.

"Hmm, interesting thought. I wonder if it's a boy or a girl. A boy, I think. Just as handsome as his father," he said, mirroring her grin with one of his own. Two could play at that game. He had never thought much about having a family, but somehow, the idea of having a family with her wasn't such an unpleasant thought.

"Oh, of course," she agreed laughingly. "But his big sister is the spitting image of me, of course. And worse when it comes to mischief, because you just roll over and show your belly every time she cries crocodile tears."

"Do I?" he said, grinning in amusement. He came to a halt as they reached the car and turned to face her, a little too close for polite company. "Does that sound like such a horrible future to you?" he asked, resisting the inexplicable urge to take her in his arms and kiss her.

She tilted her head back, not at all perturbed by his closeness, letting her gaze roam over the handsome face above her. "No," she said with soft sincerity. "No, it doesn't. We'll have to have a really good chiropractor on call, though, or you're gonna be walking like a hunchback within weeks."

He laughed, blue eyes dancing with mirth. "And why's that?" he asked. He had a pretty good idea what she was getting at, but he wanted to hear her explain it herself.

"Well, I can't spend all my time dangling a foot from the ground," she pointed out. "You're going to have to bend down on the regular if you want more than hugs from my perfectly pint-sized perfection."

"Oh, I see," Rick replied, with an amused smirk and a twinkle in his eyes. He could have chosen to take her up on that offer right then and there. It was a tempting thought. It had been a long time since he'd been on a date, much less involved with a woman, but there was still the question of her sanity. "You know who you remind me of?" he asked, betting she'd never guess.

"I'm pretty sure I'm never going to guess, but I'll have a go," she said adventurously. "The one that got away." She stuck her tongue out at him. He had to have had several girlfriends, right? No woman in her right mind would pass up a chance to be with this bearded Adonis.

He chuckled at her response. He'd expected it to be wrong, but he hadn't quite expected that. "Not quite. I was thinking about Dr. Who. His Companion or whatever she's called. Don't they hop through time, too?" he asked, indicating that portal hopping and time travel weren't entirely new concepts to him, though they were the stuff of science fiction and not reality.

"Which one? If it's Sarah-Jane, I won't complain," she told him cheerfully. "Or Nyssa. She's tiny and smart. Yeah, you can compare me to Nyssa." She grinned up at him. "I don't time hop that much."

"Okay, Nyssa," he replied, agreeably. He might have even swung a flirtatious arm around her shoulders if they hadn't reached the car. "At least you knew what I was talking about," he added as he unlocked the passenger door and pulled it open for her.

"Well, Doctor Who got a revival a few years back," she explained with a grin. "For me, that is. You have that to look forward to." If he lived that long.

"So, when is a few years back?" he asked, knowing he was probably playing with fire asking about the future, but it was too tempting not to ask.

"In about ten years, for you," she told him, careful not to give him too many clues about how far from the future she had come. "It got popular fast, too."

"Ten years, huh?" he asked, pausing a moment before going around to the driver's side of the car. "Is that when we're going to invent cell phones the size of a wallet?" he pried.

"Oh, they're already working on that, but you have another few years of buttons and bricks before the first one comes out," she told him, tucking her seatbelt into place before he told her to this time.

It was 1994, and the internet was just being invented. There wasn't a computer in every household yet, and unless you were a doctor or a lawyer, it was unlikely you'd own a cellular phone. It was hard to imagine what technology would be like in ten years.

"So, I assume we won't have flying cars, like in the Jetsons," he remarked, that amused look still on his face.

Nali laughed. "Not on Earth, no," she told him. "Sorry to disappoint you. Although people are starting to make robots that are actually useful. When they stay upright for more than ten seconds."

"Robots," he echoed, visually metallic creations like that of Robby the Robot. "No androids, like in Terminator?" he asked, though he realized those had come from even farther into the future, not to mention the fact that they were also just the product of someone's imagination. How did the saying go though? Imagination is the mother of invention? "Just how far into the future are you from?"

"Nope, not telling you that," she said with a smile. "Not until you visit. It's all to do with keeping the time line as stable as possible. If you know what's coming, you could potentially game the system - not that I think you would - and I would get in a lot of trouble."

"And how would I do that?" he asked, turning the tables on her. "It's not like I'm asking you to give me future lottery numbers," he said, as he pulled the car out into the street, back in the direction of the cemetery, which was only a short drive away.

"It's just something I'm not supposed to share," she said, but her eyes were thoughtfully as she considered him. "I could tell you what year I was born in, if that would help?"

He shrugged, frowning a little. "I don't suppose it matters. You're from your time, and I'm from mine," he said, with a hint of sadness. It wasn't like she was going to stay here or he was going to stay there. They both had lives in their own time and place. This was about Jack, after all, not them.

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Re: An Unexpected Meeting
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2019, 05:46:51 PM »
"Life can take unexpected paths," she said quietly. "I'm thirty, if that helps." She caught his hint of sadness, her smile fading a little. Time travel was a bitch sometimes.

"For what it's worth, you don't look thirty," he said, offering a brief smile before turning his attention back to the road. He'd hadn't offered many compliments thus far, keeping his flirting to a minimum. There was no point in encouraging her, only to disappoint her, and he wouldn't insult her by suggesting a one-night stand.

"Must be my sunny attitude," she teased. "People who go through life frowning get old fast. My parents are almost always happy and smiling, and it kinda rubbed off on me."

"Nothing wrong with that," he said, unsure where he fell in that equation. Probably somewhere in the middle. He wouldn't go so far as to say he was happy go lucky, but he wasn't depressed either.

"You should smile more," Nali offered, without thinking. "It should come naturally, whenever you're looking at something that makes you feel good." She looked over at him, and as though demonstrating, her own smile shone forth again.

Instead of smiling, he laughed, both at her demonstration and her suggestion. "I haven't even known you for a whole day yet, and you're scolding me already," he teased, stopping at a red light and signaling to make a left turn.

She cackled softly. "Wait until you meet my mom," she warned. "You think I'm bad? Where do you think I learned it from? She's the biggest, sweetest flirt in the 'verse."

"And one who's already married," he reminded her. He was possessed of certain scruples apparently, and hitting on a married woman was one of them. The light turned green, and he stepped on the gas, turning the wheel to make a left turn onto the road that would take them back to the cemetery. "What about you? Any significant others? Boyfriends? Girlfriends? Friends with benefits?"

"Not at the moment," she conceded easily. "Broke up with my long-term girlfriend a couple of years ago; had a couple of flings with some guys. Nothing serious. I'm guessing the same for you? Possibly minus the flings with the fellas?"

He arched a brow, only for a moment, at the mention of a girlfriend. He'd only been kidding, but apparently, he hadn't been too far off the mark. Okay, so she swung both ways. Not a big deal, though he didn't really want to share. He shrugged in response to her question.

"I went so far as to get engaged once, but it was a mistake," he said, not bothering to go into the details. Either she didn't know everything about him, or she chose to pretend she didn't.

"Sometimes it's not meant to be," she agreed softly. She didn't know a huge amount about his personal life - the whole deal had been to locate him at an appropriate time in his life and broach the subject of Jack and Rhy'Din, after all. "You know, I don't have a dossier on you or anything. I literally just had to locate you."

"I'm afraid you'd find it kind of boring," he admitted. He didn't think his life was anything extraordinary, despite his occupation. Dangerous at times maybe, but he tried to be careful.

"You don't need excitement to live a good life," Nali said cheerfully. "Good company works just as well." She dared to reach over and pat his thigh.

"Oh, I have my fair share of excitement," he assured her. It wasn't that; it was what he did with his free time that was boring. Or maybe it was the lack of free time.

"Do you do anything just for fun?" she asked curiously. "I mean, I don't know everything about you, but I haven't turned up anything much other than work on the surface scan I did."

"Long walks on the beach ... That sort of thing?" he asked, with an expression that said he was teasing her again. "Maybe you should hold off on your questions, until tomorrow," he suggested as he turned into the cemetery.

"All right, mystery man." Nali nodded in agreement, glad he hadn't changed his mind about the next day's meet up. Hopefully Jack would be prepared to meet his brother.

"It's more fun that way," he said, easing the car over to the side of the road not far from his mother's grave. He was quiet a moment, as if considering something. "Do you think Jack will want to visit Mom's grave?"

"I think he probably will." Nali paused, easing her seatbelt from around herself. "At the very least, he'll want to say goodbye for himself, and it's easier to do that when you have a physical grave to talk to."

"Why don't you just bring him with you tomorrow then?" he asked, though that might mean he wouldn't see this Rhy'Din of hers or meet her parents just yet. Then again, he could always go back with her, as planned, for a few days. If she really was a time jumper, she'd theoretically be able to bring him right back to the same time he'd left, wouldn't she?

"I think that would be too much at once," she mused. "I mean, it's his decision, but I think seeing your mom's grave and you in the same moment? That's a lot for one person to take in."

"If you say so," he replied, with a shrug. It didn't much matter to him. He just wanted to meet his brother at long last and make sure he passed along his mother's message. "Can I ask you something personal?"

"Sure." She twisted to face him, giving him her full attention, as well as the full force of her inviting smile. After all, there wasn't much she actually had to keep from him, and him showing an interest in her was an encouraging feeling.

"You said you came here to find me because of Jack," he said, turning as much as he could to face her, though he was a little too tall to face her fully. "Was it really just for Jack?" he asked. He'd sensed something else, some deeper purpose that she wasn't telling him, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

Nali gazed into his eyes, and cursed her complete inability to tell a believable lie. She was going to have to somehow work around this one. "Mostly," she admitted with a rueful cast to her smile. "I wanted to know what kind of person you are for myself."

"And you can tell just from having lunch with me?" he asked, doubtfully. He had always tried to live a responsible life and do the right thing, but he didn't think a few hours spent talking over tacos was going to prove anything.

Rick Connors

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Re: An Unexpected Meeting
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2019, 05:47:10 PM »
"First impressions count for a lot," she told him with a faint smile. "You found me talking to your mother's grave, and you've been nothing but kind and warm with me. That says a lot about you, and all of it good. Not to mention you offered me lunch, you listened to everything I had to say and didn't once get angry or accuse me of lying, and you offered to bring me back here. I think I have a good handle on you now, sure."

"Like I said, I want to believe you. I usually have a pretty good gut instinct about people. Even if your story is a little hard to believe, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Crazy as it sounds," he added with a chuckle, wondering what had gotten into him. "Are you sure you haven't bewitched me or something?" he teased, nudging her knee with one of his.

She laughed. "You're playing with fire, Mr. Connors," she warned him in amusement. "Careful, I might just kidnap you for myself."

"Not if I go willingly," he replied, that smirk on his bearded face again. On impulse, he reached for her hand to brush a kiss against her knuckles. "Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight, 'til it be morrow." Okay, so that line had belonged to Juliet. It still applied to the situation.

Nali couldn't have hidden her blush at the unexpectedly romantic gesture if she'd tried. Her eyes stayed locked on his, enjoying that smirk probably more than she should do. "Ah, screw it," she muttered. Her hand reached across, taking a firm hold on his collar, and she pulled him close, planting a kiss on his lips that was a long way from shy or tentative.

It was either lean in or let her rip his t-shirt. Besides, he'd been dying to kiss her all day, and now that she'd made the first move, who was he to disappoint her? Blue eyes the color of a summer sky danced with mirth, even as he returned her kiss, careful not to go too far, but leaving them both a little breathless.

Drawing back, Nali was definitely a little breathless, green eyes just a little unfocused for a moment as she looked at him. "Damn," she murmured, drawing her thumb over his lips before letting go of him. "Should have done that sooner."

"Definitely some sparks there," he murmured, taking his time leaning back. "If you don't come back tomorrow, I'm going to be very disappointed," he told her, with an expression that told her he wasn't teasing.

"I'll be here," she promised. "And if you're not, I'll track you down. We have a date, remember?" All right, so it wasn't much of a date, but she was going to hold onto it. "It's been good to meet you, Rick."

"Don't worry. I'll be here," he promised, not quite ready to say goodbye just yet.  At least, not until they were both out of the car. "I assume you can't do this here," he said, regarding opening a portal, though he really had no idea. There were no phone booths around, anyway.

"Not in the car, no." She couldn't quite bring herself to say goodbye, despite knowing she'd be back tomorrow. "I guess that means I should get out."

He was tempted to ask her to stay the night, but he knew it was a selfish request. She needed to go back and see Jack, and she really didn't know him very well yet. Only one more day, and he'd know whether or not she was telling the truth, and he could go from there. Though if she really was from another time and place, it would give new meaning to "long-distance relationship".

"I'll see you tomorrow, Nali," he assured her. The ball was in her court now.

"Damn straight you will." She began to lean toward him again, but caught herself. More kisses would lead further than either of them could afford to go on a first meeting. With a regretful smile, she winked at him. "See you tomorrow, darlin'." Opening the door, she slid out and into the hot sunshine, wincing as she set her hat back on her head.

He got out of the car, as well, not wanting to say goodbye, but curious what this so-called portal looked like. He looked around to make sure no one was watching, relieved to find them alone. It was really too hot to spend much time out in the sun, but that fact worked in their favor.

"Nali!" he called, reaching for her arm to draw her back around to face him, if only for a moment.

She'd barely gone a couple of steps before she felt his hand on her arm, turning back in answer to his call. "Yes?" The word felt eager and hopeful on her lips, warmth that was definitely more than friendly shining from her eyes as she looked up at him.

There was something she wasn't telling him, he was sure of it, but what it was, he didn't know. He was tempted to kiss her again. That was one way to ensure she wouldn't forget him, but he decided against it. Lifting a hand to touch her cheek instead, he smiled warmly, invitingly even, despite his doubts and misgivings. "Don't be late."

Her smile widened as he touched her cheek. "I'm never late," she assured him, catching his hand to press a kiss to his palm. "You can give that back tomorrow."

With another wink, she stepped back, checking the area for watchful eyes before pulling a smooth white crystal from her pocket. She drew her thumb over it, murmured something under her breath, and the air in front of her changed ever so slightly. There seemed to be a ripple there, some subtle alteration of the fabric of time and space, just waiting for her.

He found himself strangely reluctant to let her go, but he knew he had no choice. What was it people said about letting someone go, and if they returned, they belonged to you? He knew he was being silly, but he found himself hoping she was telling the truth. And then, something happened that he couldn't explain. Whether it was some kind of trick or the real thing, he wasn't sure, but he found himself frozen in place, watching as the air around her seemed to ripple, like a wave on the ocean.

She glanced back over her shoulder just once, offering him a reassuring smile. "I'll be back," she promised, and stepped forward. The rippling air seemed to fold around her, and for a moment, he caught a glimpse of a sunny beach, waves rolling over the sand, before the folding seemed to finish, and Nali was gone.

"Nali!" he called, moving toward her, unfrozen at last, but too late to catch her or to follow her through to wherever it was she was going. He'd caught a glimpse of it, wherever it was, surprised to find what appeared to be a sunny beach, waves rolling over the sand. He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting exactly, but that wasn't it. Either she had been telling the truth or she was a better magician than Houdini.

Either way, she was gone, and he couldn't exactly accuse her of having somehow orchestrated a prank that elaborate. He was just going to have to come back tomorrow.