Characters: Jeremiah, Devon
Rating: M for language
Summary: A visit to the remains of Valhalla Sector means a good father/son talk.
Disclaimer: These characters are not owned by me, but by J. Michael Straczynski, MGM Studios, and Showtime Networks. No infringement is intended.
A/N: I wanted to see a conversation between Jeremiah and Devon post-Libby death, and so here it is. Constructive criticism is welcome. Flames will be happily ignored. Enjoy. :)
"If the relationship of father to son could really be reduced to biology, the whole earth would blaze with the glory of fathers and sons." - James Baldwin
Valhalla Sector appeared very different from the last time Jeremiah visited it. Of course, when you're shoved into a prison cell and then tortured in front of your own father, the scenery's usually the last thing on your mind. His steps beat a resounding echo in the corridors, corridors he saw once filled with Valhalla personnel. Rigid in death, all victims of the virus they desperately wanted to control, yet had no power to flee from once it began to spread.
Experiencing the Big Death up close for a second time wasn't really high on Jeremiah's to-do list. Assuming he had a to-do list. Which, he pondered with a wry grin, wasn't a good assumption at all. Like most who survived in the New World as wanderers, Jeremiah met each day as it came, without much thought of the future because, hell, no one could have predicted the Big Death. Despite all the shit they put together after 9/11, after all the anti-terrorism drills and the random screenings at the airports. They searched for explosive devices, bombs you could find and disarm, or detonate in some deserted field far away from people's homes and workplaces. No one ever suspected that the biggest threat to humanity was something so tiny you could barely see it with the most powerful of microscopes. Everybody so scared shitless about getting blown up they forgot to check inside people's bodies for weapons too.
Death came knocking on the doors, but instead of taking the first born, it took the parents. The mentors. The guardians. God didn't create this plague. Man did. But God let all of that happen. He sat on his fucking omnipotent ass and let everyone die.
And that, in Jeremiah's mind, was unforgivable. Despite the continual placating from Mister Smith, who insisted God wanted to make amends, Jeremiah thought it was just a little too late. Like sixteen years worth of too late.
God had a lousy sense of humor. Because sometimes, when you think you're up against the wall and got no hope left, He liked to deal out a hand that you gotta bet your entire stack of belongings on.
Jeremiah stopped at an open door, rapping his knuckles on it to announce his arrival. "Dad?"
Devon looked up from his workstation, rubbing his tired eyes as if making sure the lanky figure standing close by actually existed. He had many of those moments lately, dreamt that Valhalla Sector still ran as it always did. Dreamt the president still held sway in that mockery of the American government they built behind walls of 7 inch thick concrete. Saw his son's tortured, battered, and unmoving body..."Jeremiah. I've been waiting for you."
"Yeah, I got your letter." He wandered into the office, and an awkward hug took place between them. After all these months, Jeremiah still had no idea how to greet his father. After many years of not having one, he guessed he fell out of practice. It still felt fucking weird to know that his hunches had basis in fact. His father managed to escape the Death and lived for fifteen years buried with one of the last remaining strongholds of the Old World. "So you wanna know more about what happened to Libby?"
"She was my lab assistant, Jeremiah. I think I have a right to know about that."
"Look, Dad." Jeremiah sighed heavily, his palm rubbing against the stubble on his chin. "I'm not the right guy to ask. You want the facts about her death, you gotta talk to the one guy who was there."
"And there's no way in hell to get a straight word outta him. He's nuts. Thinks...thinks God talks to him. His head is really messed up, Dad."
"So, why did you drive all the way out to Valhalla Sector to tell me that I just asked the wrong person to come? Why not send Smith instead?"
Jeremiah shrugged his thin shoulders. "I dunno. Me and Smith aren't really on speaking terms anyway. It's Kurdy the guy's comfortable with, not me. Not like I can go up to him and ask for a huge favor. And if some of the stuff Kurdy says about the guy is true, I'm not sure I wanna get to know him better."
"You still haven't forgiven him." Devon slumped backward, his office chair squeaking in protest against his sudden weight.
"Do you?" Jeremiah grabbed at an empty chair and rolled it towards Devon before settling into it. "Dad, he killed her, and then he kept the truth about it from everybody. From me. And he ended up telling Kurdy first. God-damned Kurdy."
"He was scared, Jeremiah."
"He was stupid. Half the time you talk to him, he's like this wide-eyed little kid, y'know? And the other half he's saying stuff about God and I just tune him out."
Devon smiled. "Sometimes fools make the best prophets."
"Yeah, well, they also make good punching bags," Jeremiah answered humorlessly. "What do you need to know, Dad? How much it hurt when I lost her? Or how much it hurt when I found out she worked for Simms? Or how much my fists hurt from punching in walls instead of punching in Smith's face?"
"Jeremiah, I trusted Libby with my life. You do realize none of us would've gotten out of Valhalla if she didn't help."
"Yeah, yeah, I remember that." Remembered how scared she acted when she handed him the note, remembered how much he yearned to reach across those prison bars to touch her, to comfort her. She looked so fucking lost. How could that sweet girl, the one with the timid smile and the gentle voice, how could she have worked for that asshole? "Man, how much of that was her, though? I tried to go through every damn conversation I remember just trying to find a clue, y'know? She never slipped up. You wanna talk stupid? I fell in love with a spy, Dad."
"You think I haven't done the same thing? The moment I heard about her betrayal, I went through all her papers. Labnotes. Little reminders to herself to finish chores or to check on certain experiments. She hid everything so well. I'm just sorry I didn't pick up on it sooner, Jeremiah. I would have forbidden her to speak with you. Oh, God. And all the stuff I said about you. She fed it to Daniel's group. Led them straight to you."
"So we both got played. Hell, she played the entire Alliance for damn morons." Jeremiah's leg tapped restlessly against the edge of his father's desk. "Do you know how many times she talked to Markus? And Lee Chen. Holy—she duped King Paranoia too! I've been working with the guy for two years, and Lee still doesn't think my trust's worth jack. She was his major contact within Valhalla, wasn't she?"
"My main conduit into the Mountain, yes, Jeremiah. She had...she had her influences." A small, wistful grin appeared on Devon's face. "She charmed each and every person in Valhalla when she arrived. Too smart for her own good, kept getting into trouble on the Outside. One of the scout teams brought her in. Plopped her right at my door. Said I needed another kid to look after."
"Yeah, cuz Eziekel turned out really well, Dad." Jeremiah said.
The side of Devon's mouth quirked upwards in amusement. "You grew up okay."
"You weren't there when I grew up."
Devon chuckled. "Point taken. But I keep wondering where I went wrong. Why did she stray into the path of the enemy? I'd taught her the same ideals, the same morals you knew by heart..."
"The Dark Side's strong, I guess." Jeremiah's head tilted in a resigned gesture, his eyes squinting off into the distance.
Devon laughed. "I can't believe you still remember that. You and Michael used to watch those DVDs over and over, pretending you were Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. I took you to the new movies, the prequels? And...and..."
"Michael wanted to dress up like Darth Vader..." Jeremiah shut his eyes and grinned.
"But the mask got too hot for him."
"And he complained he couldn't eat popcorn or drink his root beer with it on." Jeremiah said, still smiling, still wondering why the memories of his brother held deep sway within the depths of his heart. "I'm...I'm sorry, Dad. You know that, right? I mean, there were so many things I should've done to stop him from..."
"Jeremiah." Devon gripped near-savagely at his son's shoulders, forcing Jerem to lock stares with him. "I told you before. Knowing you survived for all this time is a goddamned miracle. It gave me hope that maybe there really is a future for this world. A good one this time. I'm just a terrible reminder of the past..."
"No," Devon snapped, expression uncharacteristically intense. "Hear me out. I worked too long on the research which led to the virus. The money was good. It kept us comfortable. And I thought as long as my family was taken care of, I had nothing to worry about. They said the strains would never be used, and I believed them! Jeremiah, if there is anyone who should be apologizing, it must be me."
"Dad," Jeremiah said, brow wrinkling in slight but growing annoyance. Hell, they could both howl "I'm sorry" at each other and not make a dent into their respective mounds of simmering guilt. "What happened with the Big Death was an accident. A huge mistake."
"A world-altering mistake," Devon added wearily.
"So the world ended. Big ass deal. We're learning to live in a new one."
"Is there room?" Devon said, half to himself.
"What are you talking about, Dad? Room for what? You? Damn straight, there is. There's lots of room for everybody now. You, me, the Mountain, the Alliance. Even people living in places farther than we can reach with rovers and jeeps. Room for damn near everybody. Room to grow again. I just...I like knowing you're gonna be a part of it."
Devon studied his son's face, not seeing so much of his own there anymore, nor of Jeremiah's mother's. He was his own person now. His own man, as honest and damn near-heroic as anyone else living at the crest of the New World. If his son turned out to be the only legacy Devon could leave behind after his death, he would be damn proud of it. And happy. And when he passed on, he would tell Mary about Jeremiah, and about how their son helped shape the future of the world for the better.