Ian doubted that any of the residents would consider any one of his role a friend - friends typically were those you held close, could confide in, someone who looked out for another’s well-being - and so it felt wrong to consider the people of the island in that capacity as well. Though that didn’t mean they weren’t beyond checking in on once in a while to ensure that they were doing alright.
Daryn O’Conner had become somewhat of a ghost. That was to say, Ian had not seen her around at all since that day they’d spoken at the lighthouse. He had suspected that she was not in good sorts even then, but her up and vanishing from civilian life as they knew it was odd.
He didn’t assume to presume that she had friends who cared about her because he was not privy to exactly the sort of woman Daryn was or had been. But everyone had someone to look out for them, so he found it a bit odd that she was keeping to her apartment. Whatever intel he had on the things happening inside the small dwelling he brought no connection or awareness to. The steps toward number one oh four took less time than he anticipated and it wouldn’t look uncommon for a guard to be lurking about outside a residential dwelling.
A hand would lift, knock softly at the door before it retreated back to his side. Weapon holstered, probably to his disadvantage but he was willing to offer the benefit of the doubt in this case, he waited to see if the woman in question was there, and if so if she would even open the door. He had no desire to force her to do anything, simply put he was checking on her out of the kindness of his heart to ensure that nothing had come of her negatively.
With a measure of patience Ian waited for an answer if one would come at all.
Daryn heard Ian coming long before he knocked. With nothing else to keep her mind occupied, she’d fallen back into the old habit of constantly listening to the ‘voices’, or thoughts of others. So when a new ‘voice’ came closer, she tuned into it a bit closer. The fact that she was on his mind, and with concern nonetheless, was confusing. People she knew far better and had done so much more for rarely considered her at all. Why was this relative stranger here.
When he knocked, the door unlocked and opened of its own accord. Daryn stood at the opposite end of the short hall inside her apartment, watching warily. “You’re not here on business,” it was fact but she stated it out loud anyway.
Abilities still startled him sometimes; he should have been used to the surprise and shock, often the awe that came with all of that, but he still managed to find himself unsuspecting. He didn’t care really if anyone was reading his mind, he had nothing to hide and he wasn’t an interesting enough sort to have anything anyone could use against him.
As the door swung open Ian looked down the corridor at the figure of the woman standing down the hallway. “Ma’am,” Ian greeted softly, offering a nod. He didn’t make any attempt to cross the threshold into her home, especially unbidden.
He didn’t blame her at all for the mistrust and unease. Ian shook his head, “No ma’am, just here to check in on you. Make sure you’re alright.” It was the honest truth. There was no sense in lying to anyone these days, they usually could detect it or see right through misleading words.
“How are you doing? I don’t see you around as much.”
The rumor (or more of a fact really) was that they’d removed her from the hospital indefinitely, which he guessed was one of the reasons why he hadn’t seen her recently.
“Sorry.” She didn’t need to read his mind to see that the show of her ability made him uncomfortable. At least she wasn’t speaking into his mind, that was the one bonus of having her voice back.
Shifting uncomfortably herself, her arms tightened their grip around her shrinking frame, looking him over again carefully. “But… no one sent you.” She wasn’t purposefully reading his thoughts, but she also knew that no one else would have asked him to look in on her. And the only reason the government would come calling would be to haul her away again or collect a body. She never had figured out what they did with the dead…
Unsure of how to answer the question, she just shrugged. “You can come in, if you want.”
He wasn’t necessarily uncomfortable, he was just old fashioned and used to communication through word of mouth, not always through mind or matter. Shaking his head at her, Ian’s brow furrowed, “For what?” If anyone needed to apologize it was them; the soldiers, the government, the guards all needed to be telling people they were sorry.
Anyone else might have been offended or taken aback by having their mind read but Ian wasn’t like most people. He also made no movement forward to give her space to be comfortable. “No. Nobody sent me. Just checking in on you. I can go if you’d like.” He hated to see her like that, as if he had ulterior motive and was there, sent by someone to spy on her.
At the invitation Ian nodded, “As long as that’s okay with you.” A step over the threshold, and then another. The door would swing closed and he paused to wait for her to go first, not wanting to spook her.
He had a feeling she would know that his weapons were put away and not easy to get to, the safety on. There was no harm or intent here.
Pale eyes studied him closely as he moved inside. Once the door was closed, she turned and led him into the living room. The place was empty, save the government issued furniture. Since her release, she hadn’t really been up to making the place feel more like a home, and all of her prior belongings were long gone.
She motioned for him to sit, moving off to the side out of his way. “Is there something you need?” People didn’t often come to see her without wanting something, or being ordered to come. “You don’t look hurt, but I’m sure there’s someone at the hospital who could treat you if you were ill.” She knew that he wasn’t, she would have sensed it otherwise, but that ability was not public knowledge.
Her place was simple. His place was simple, too. There was no place to judge there as he moved through her apartment. He had seen many small dwellings like this but it felt haunted, as if no one lived there at all. No personal touches, no belongings, as if she were a ghost and he simply wandered into her space.
“Thank you,” was uttered politely as he moved to sit as beckoned. And then Ian shook his head, “No. I just wanted to make sure you were alright. I haven’t seen you around lately.” He was fine, or at least he felt fine.
His leg, the prosthetic one, tried to be as normal as possible while his other stretched out a bit easier. “I haven’t seen you at the hospital, either.” He wouldn’t bring up the rumor, didn’t want to rub it in, but if he was right she was cooped up here.
Moving to the chair opposite the couch, she sat on the edge, watching him with continued curiosity. “I’m not allowed there anymore, so… there isn’t really any other place to be.” She was still waiting for the catch, he wanted something. Everyone wanted something. “How have you been?”
Her words hurt his core. Without a purpose a person could dwindle into nothing. Become that literal ghost. He feared for her but life had a funny way of working out when you least expected it. Ian hoped that it was the case here.
“Not allowed.” It was repeated and felt heavy on his tongue. “You were one of the best physicians there, if you don’t mind me saying so.” It was the honest truth. He had no reason to lie to her. Though he would expect some lashing out - he was a guard and he felt out of place in her home.
“Fine,” came the reply coupled with a nod. No PTSD outbursts since Memorial Day, and otherwise things were looking up.
“How are you?”
Her gaze dropped to the floor at the compliment, but she just shook her head a little. “Thank you. But I’m sure that wasn’t public opinion.” If more people felt that way, wouldn’t there have been some push back, at least some outcry in protest to her being removed? But there was nothing. There were witnesses to it, people had seen what had happened. But nothing was said. She was there one day and gone the next. That must have been what it was like when she was taken. Life went on.
“It’s for the best, either way. I’m not well.” There wasn’t much else to say. She’d inadvertently answered the question before he’d been able to ask it.
“Or maybe it was, and nobody told you.” His jaw set and Ian swallowed, gaze falling to the floor. “I apologize, ma’am, for that.” He wasn’t here to stir up anything but he couldn’t help himself. She was great at what she did, people needed her, and she couldn’t do what she was made to do. He would have felt so incomplete had the roles been reversed.
People here weren’t standing up out of fear. Who would be that brave if not to seek punishment for outcry? Someone had gone to prison over a network post. It was unreasonable. Even he had to disagree at some point.
“Ill?” Ian lifted his head, looking up at Daryn. “What can I do? Can I get you anything?” Last time she’d requested a gun. But he didn’t hesitate to ask regardless.
Her eyes flickered from the floor to watch him with a little smirk. “Do you always apologize for things that aren’t your fault?”
Looking away again, she just sighed and shook her head. “It’s very nice of you to ask. But there isn’t much than can be done about it. It’s one of those chronic things.” Rubbing the back of her neck, she stood again. “Can I offer you something to drink, or eat?” She wasn’t doing much of those things herself, she might as well him something so that her rations didn’t go to waste.
“Only when it matters,” he replied softly, meeting her gaze. Maybe she didn’t care about apologies but then it seemed to him that she’d never gotten a formal one.
Shaking his head at her, Ian politely declined. He couldn’t take food from her like that, even if it wasn’t being eaten. It seemed wrong. “No, but thank you. You’re sure there’s nothing I can do?” Maybe that was code, maybe not.
The guards knew the apartments were bugged.
She studied him for a moment before looking down once more. Daryn no longer cared about bugs or surveillance. She had nothing left to try to hide, and they’d already taken everything from her: her freedom, her health, her sanity, her friends and family, and her purpose. “I’m afraid not. It’s very kind of you to offer, though.”
He nodded at her.
Hope was a precious, valuable thing. He knew that lack of color in her eyes - Ian had seen it plenty of times amidst war. People struggling to survive and others tearing their world apart because they had a decision in their minds that they felt was right. But you could be wrong, too.
“Sorry to bother you, ma’am,” Ian breathed kindly, frowning at Daryn. He didn’t pity her, she didn’t need that, but he felt bad regardless. “If you think of anything, let me know.”
“You haven’t bothered me. And thank you, you’re too good and kind for this place and these people.” Daryn didn’t know what else to say or do. She didn’t know how to be around people anymore. The quiet ease she once had faded away and other than a few fleeting moments, she never knew the right thing to say or do anymore. It was easier to just stay by herself, even though it was lonely and unhealthy. It didn’t feel like she had any other option these days.
Her words touched a deep part of his heart. This job was thankless, often filled with regret and guilt, anger and resentment. He understood the dynamics of it but it didn’t make it any easier. “Thank you,” Ian breathed, nodding at Daryn. “These people could use a bit of kindness and goodness, too much so to leave them behind.” He wasn’t bragging, it was the truth as he saw it.
Ian did the best that he could with what had been laid out before him. He knew that JD did the same, taking care of the residents as much as possible to make the burden less. Give them something to look forward to, something to hope for.
“Some more than others.” She felt badly about the comment but she felt it was true. The last few months proved to her that not everyone was as worthy or appreciative of kindness and effort as she’d once believed. If she could go back in time with that knowledge, she’d be much more discerning about who she spent her energy on.
A nod would come. She wasn’t wrong in that fact - often we went into the future blindly and had to learn from our mistakes. It was the only way one learned. He wasn’t concerned about whether or not anyone liked him, what mattered was doing the right thing at the end of the day. Which was often the harder thing to do.
“You aren’t wrong about that.”
Daryn watched him in silence for a moment before looking down again. There were a few minutes of awkward silence before she began to pace a little. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a drink or something? I’m sorry, I don’t really remember how to entertain guests. Then again, I’m not sure I ever really knew how.” She’d never had much of a social life before, but at least she could be around others.
For the sake of her well being Ian nodded, “That would be nice, thank you.” Her offer was accepted when before it was refused. Entertaining was not something that everyone was good at but if he could encourage her a little he didn’t mind the indulge.
“My parents used to entertain a lot,” Ian offered, offering Daryn a small smile. “Before my dad passed away. I remember being young and wanting to stay awake to be at all of the parties and gatherings the neighborhood had. After dad died, mom decided it was too much. She got a lot of support from the neighbors, there was always someone coming by to check on us or drop off food, but even that sort of fell away.”
Ian shifted a bit to get comfortable, “And after all of that, I’m horrible at entertaining.” He chuckled a bit. “Guess you just have it or you don’t.”
Thankful for something to do with herself, Daryn moved off to the kitchen, returning shortly thereafter to hand him a cold drink. She listened as he spoke, nodding a little. “I know what you mean. My mother and grandmother would host lavish parties all the time. I wouldn’t know where to start. At least my sister seemed to pick up some of it.” Sitting on the edge of her chair once again, she hesitated before speaking again. “I’m sorry about your father.”
The drink was accepted. He took a sip politely and then looked around for somewhere to set it that wouldn’t damage the grain of the wood or leave a ring or a stain. He settled on holding it, the bottom of the glass nestled against the arm of the chair he was sitting in.
“Thanks. It happened a long time ago. We come from a small town, probably bigger than what you’d think immediately but small enough where everyone sort of knows everyone. Dad was the Fire Chief for a long time, he died rescuing a child from a burning house. Didn’t make it out in time.”
Noticing him looking around, she motioned to the table. She didn’t have any coasters, or much else, but she didn’t want him to feel stuck holding the drink either.
Listening to him explain, Daryn frowned faintly. She knew she was lucky not to have experienced the loss of a parent. “He sounds like a brave and noble man. I think he would be proud of who you’ve become.”
Thinking about Richard Marsh still got Ian emotional. His father had been his hero for the longest time, and knowing he sacrificed himself to save a child was a measure he knew he would never quite live up to.
“I hope so. He was my hero. I wanted to be a fireman for the longest time, but I enlisted in the military instead.” Mostly because he couldn’t be around his siblings, who had become nearly out of control.
“And now you’re the hero, to a nation.” Even if he hadn’t been one of the kinder guards, Daryn still respected those who’d served elsewhere, sacrificing their own health and welfare for others.
“I was never a very religious person before, but I like to think that those we’ve lost are still looking out for us in some way.”
“One of many,” came the reply. He wouldn’t brag about his service even if he had fought and lost his leg defending the rights of Americans. He hadn’t been alone in the endeavor, JD was just as much a hero or better than he was. Plus all of the other brothers and sisters in arms that had fallen in the line of duty.
Her words brought a measure of comfort to him. He was grateful for that. “I hope so. I want to think I’ll see him again somewhere. That we all will.”
Daryn nodded slowly, watching him thoughtfully. “I hope you’re reunited some day, if that’s how it works. I’ve only ever lost one person to death, but I’m not sure I’ll see them when the time comes.”
Nobody knew what would happen after they were gone. That was the tricky part - what if there was nothing? What if there was everything? He wouldn’t spend all day debating what came after death with anyone, frankly all he cared about was making it through life a decent human being.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” he echoed honestly.
Daryn nodded slightly, staring at the floor again. “I lost my daughter not long after coming here. I think she was one of the first born on this island. I never got to hold her. I’ve thought about her more in the last few months than I ever allowed myself to before. I guess without other things to focus on it’s harder to avoid it. I wonder if she’d even know me, if she should.”
He would never know such a burden and prayed that he never had to, but as soon as it left Daryn’s lips the glass was set aside and Ian leaned forward, toward her. “Of course she should. Why wouldn’t she want to?” He didn’t know the circumstances nor did he expect her to divulge but he could understand the deep loss.
“What if we could get information? At least give you some peace of mind.” There had to be files somewhere on the island and he knew a person or two who might have access to such things.
Sighing, she raked her fingers back through her hair and looked away. “The same reasons others don’t want to know me anymore. I didn’t believe that she was gone, I swore they were lying to me. They told me I was crazy, they weren’t wrong.”
Looking back to Ian, Daryn wasn’t sure how to respond. “What kind of information?” Peace of mind felt like a foreign concept these days, but maybe it was something that could keep her going.
Ian blinked. He couldn’t help it. “You know there’s limited resources and ways to transport off of this island. If she did go, she’s in the wind. If not, she could still be here. Though there has to be information. Intel. A file somewhere about both of you that might give you a few answers.”
Shaking his head at Daryn, Ian shifted closer, reaching out to take her hand. “You aren’t crazy. You might think you are, this place probably makes anybody crazy, but you aren’t what they want you to be.” He wasn’t exactly Government either, not when he had witnessed all of the things they put people through for no reason.
“I can’t make promises that there will be anything, but usually there are files. Classified or restricted, someone has to be able to access them. There is always a trail.”
“Do you really think she could still be here….?” And alive? Daryn wouldn’t allow herself to say it out loud, or to hope for too much. The disappointment if she was wrong would be like losing her all over again and Daryn knew she was not currently strong enough to handle that.
When he took her hand, she flinched but did not pull away. She wasn’t used to being touched, even though she knew he wouldn’t harm her. “And what would happen to you if they knew you helped me?”
“It’s possible. With this strain of Government authority anything is possible.” He had seen a lot of things in his time here, many unspeakable things, that others didn’t need to know about. He didn’t want to hurt her more or give her false hope, but if he could bring some closure to her either way that was better than the nothing she had now.
He noticed her flinch but he held on the same way she did. “Prison, maybe? Who knows? It’s the same risk we take serving the country overseas. What if we get infiltrated? Captured? It’s worth the risk.”
“Is it?” She wasn’t sure what they’d do to him if they took him in, but if it was anything close to what she’d experienced, she didn’t want him to have to go through that because of her. “You just… can’t get caught. And if you do, then blame me. Tell them I forced you, or threatened you. They don’t know much about the things I can do, they’d believe you.”
He wouldn’t do that. Never would her name leave his mouth, but he nodded at her all the same. “I won’t. At least, I hope not. I’ll formulate a plan and keep you updated.” Maybe that would spark a bit of interest, get her outside.
Daryn watched him warily. She’d already decided that if something did go wrong with this, she would take responsibility one way or the other. But hopefully it wouldn’t come to that. Taking a deep breath, she nodded once. “Okay.”
With a nod he took a breath. Squeezing Daryn’s fingers, Ian let her hand go and sat backward. “What is the best way to reach you?” The homes were bugged. He didn’t know if hers was still operable - sometimes the residents disabled the cameras and the wire taps - but if so they couldn’t talk about things here.
“And in the meantime if you have trouble of any kind come find me. I’m here to help.”
Daryn looked down at her hand, strangely comforted by the touch he offered. At the question, she just arched a brow at him and then tapped her temple with a faint smirk. “It’s easier than you think.” Pun intended, she just shrugged. “I have nowhere else to be but here.”
She nodded at his words. She wasn’t sure if she would go to him if there was trouble, but it was nice to know he offered to help. And she was sure he was honest about it.
At that point toward her temple Ian couldn’t help the little smirk that erupted. Of course. She could hear his thoughts, lying wouldn’t do any good even if he had intended to mislead her.
“Fair enough.” Another soft laugh.
Moving to stand up, carefully, Ian raised his hand in a wave. “I have to get back on patrol. But we will be in touch.”
As he stood, she did as well. “Thank you. Again. For everything. I really do appreciate everything you’ve done.” Her words were genuine. Any time he associated with the mutants, he was putting himself at risk with them and with his commanding officers. She didn’t take that for granted.
“You’re welcome.” A breath would be taken humbly. He was glad for the bit of recognition but he wouldn’t let it go to his head. That wasn’t any way to finish the day.
With that, Ian turned and began to head back toward the door, moving the way he had come. “Take care of yourself. I’ll come back to you soon whether I’ve found anything or not.”
And then the door was opened and he was stepping out into the day.