"Hello, welcome, pardon the mess," Reed said, ushering Stella threw the lab she was familiar with, although perhaps not in this state. He'd had a lot of work to get through since last she was there, beginning and ending with the ideas for machinery he couldn't get out of his head. Ideas had been rushing at him left and right, his own, other people's, and although he'd made a promise to Stella to take some time off, recalibrate to this decade after two years (only two days) away, some things were undeniable. Half-formed ideas covered almost every surface in the benchwork area, computers with their innards ripped out, test tubes culturing bio-organisms for targeted purposes, a set of blueprints Sam had dropped off days ago newly covered in Reed's annotations. There was so much work to do, and no real way to begin, so Reed had tried to do all of it, leaving semi-formed prototypes in his wake, all needing a few final tweaks before they could be fully realized. And as much as he had enjoyed that time to step away, under her recommendation, practically doctor's orders, that feeling of being on the cusp of a breakthrough, right about to do something truly innovative -- nothing made Reed feel more like himself.
Hence today. "I don't know if Liam told you," Reed explained, guiding them towards a separate area, partitioned behind a set of glass sliding doors. He'd meant to knock down the wall, "About the note? The idea for a flame-proof suit." Different than flame-resistant, and so much more difficult to engineer naturally. "I'm working on it, and it got me thinking about one, well, for you. Visibility-proof, so to speak." Truthfully something he'd had an idea for ages ago, not designed with Stella in mind, but the idea to use bio-organic cells to create a fabric to render a wearer invisible -- the idea had high potential, huge value if it could make it to market, but even Reed's overactive mind had never been able to make it work until Liam's idea had unlocked it all. "I put together a little prototype, I thought, if you didn't mind a little experimentation, Dr. Sawyer, we could try some things out."
'Pardon the mess' didn't even begin to cover it, really. Stella had seen Reed's lab in various states, most notably when he'd needed his brain scanned and also after her second missing week, waking up there and seeing the fallout from whatever happened to them all. She wasn't about to comment, not when he'd just gotten back from being trapped in the past. At some point, if things remained this chaotic, she might sit him down to have a conversation about organization. And sleep.
"Flame proof suit," she repeated, still concerned when it came to thinking of Liam and fire in the same sentence. "Yes, he'd mentioned." Her brow furrowed at his mention of something for her. And a prototype. Because apparently Reed didn't actually sleep ever and was going around making things like that. Still, a smile quirked at the corners of her mouth. "Of course, Dr. Van Allen. How can I assist you?"
Reed had to appreciate the kindness Stella demonstrated, seeing all of the mess spread across those lab benches, and saying nothing. She was well within her rights for a lecture, a what did I just tell you? kind of talk, but gave up none of it. There weren't many people that Reed would let into his space like this, fewer still that he'd confess any kind of concern or fear to, but constantly Stella was proving herself to be the right choice for him to confide in. She had an unbeatable instinct for when to push him and when to listen, when to volunteer a second opinion and when to let him go where his intuition took him. It was that instinct Reed was hoping to capitalize on when it came to this suit, nothing more than a first draft idea, but still something he hoped would be impressive upon first unveiling. "Your assistance is just being yourself, I hope," he said, returning her slight smile as he pulled a length of fabric from a drawer, soft and flowing, almost colourless as it flicked out over a lab bench. "I won't get too into the specifics if that's not interesting, but this is a techno-organic weave that, to my best intentions, should mimic whatever is behind it." Sure enough, it seemed to cast a silvery, filmy cover over the table it rested on, not quite invisible, but transluscent under the florescent lighting. "It's not quite innovative, things like this have been developed for years," Reed added with a dismissive wave of his hand, casting aside any idea that it was his best idea yet, "But my hope is that on you, as you come in and out of visibility, this material will too." He was, honestly, excited to test the theory with her, hoping it lived up to the expectations that his calculations had predicted. "You've been practicing, right?"
Her gaze followed the fabric as he moved it around, watching how it shifted and changed and then rest over the table. Whether this was a brand new innovation or not, as Reed seemed ready to dismiss, it was still impressive. Stella stepped forward, fingertips brushing over the fabric as she listened to him. The potential was there, the possibility it could be something exciting. Just like how flame proof was needed so Liam didn't have the possibility of burning all his clothes off, the opposite issue of her going invisible and being nothing but clothes was a reality.
"I've been practicing," she confirmed, though she lifted her hand to hold up a finger, get him to pause as she thought. "If it mimics what's behind it -- I understand the theory that it would be invisible if I am, but what about when I'm... normal? Is it going to mimic me? Like, my skin?"
The grin that moved over Reed's face at Stella's question was undeniable, excited to see the way already she was following his train of thought, happy to have the chance to share his thinking with someone as cerebral and critical as her. "Exactly," he said, nodding along with her words. "Hence why this was never fully taken to market before, nobody could really figure that part out. I admit, it's not the most elegant solution and I'd like to leave the option open to retool it at some point, but right now the idea is that the organic material in the weave would only activate when you're invisible, and otherwise be in a neutral, opaque state. It took a little work --" He grimaced briefly, thinking of a few iterations that had been less than successful, didn't bother adding more details. "But what unlocked it for me was thinking about the tests we did at the hospital, the way certain types of radiation made you visible and others didn't. It was just about adjusting the light spectrum that the textile would respond to." Somewhere along the way Reed had shifted into his professorial voice, lecturing like he was back in the seminar halls, and he finished the little speech with a roll of his eyes at himself. "I'm a little excited about it," he confessed.
Maybe it said something about her that Stella didn't mind when Reed got into more of a lecture mode than conversational. It was almost soothing, honestly, but she chalked that up to her love of learning, spending so many years in classrooms and lecture halls. She liked listening to someone speak knowledgeably, confidence and intelligence were some of her favorite traits to see in others. Plus she'd grown used to the timbre of Reed's voice, the little cues of it that gave away when he was excited, or frustrated, or trying to think. She'd grown used to all of Reed, really.
"I'm excited to see how it works," she replied, offering him a smile and pulling her hand away from the fabric, unsure of the next step. "What do you need me to do?"
Every little piece of Stella's willingness to along with this, an idea she had not even signed up for, encouraged Reed's enthusiasm along. He was always able to lose himself in his work, flung himself into it more often than not, but more than just something he did, Reed's ideas, his inventions, were who he was, a subtle difference that meant Stella's question was exactly what he'd hoped to hear, an affirmation he hadn't quite realized he wanted until there it was. It mattered to him, deeply, what Stella thought, not just of his work, but of him -- Reed stumbled briefly around the sudden awareness of it, before he got back into motion, returning to the drawer he'd stored the fabric in and coming up with more of it, stitched neatly into a set of gloves. "Well, in short, try these on. I thought the intricacies of hands, the fine motor skills would be a good testing ground. And then, do what only you can do." Meaning, defy the laws of light refraction and see if what he'd created would follow suit, phasing in and out of vision. It wasn't as if Reed had been immune to it before, but all over again he was hit with the singularity of Stella, the way she was unlike anyone else he knew.
Stella took the gloves with delicate hands, carefully fitting them on and looking over them a moment. It was strange, seeing them on her hands - seeing her hands through them. Nerves kicked in quite suddenly, because she had been practicing, taking into account what little information Sue provided in how to control what she suddenly found herself able to do. To be able to do it on command, it was still touch and go. That was the issue when the key to it all was concentration. Sometimes she was too tired, her brain was done for the day, any number of reasons. If she wasn't able to do it now, she was wasting Reed's time. Closing her eyes, she gave herself a few moments to breathe, focus her thoughts, concentrate on her hands. She moved her fingers a bit, like that could bring her thoughts to them more than if they were idle. Slowly her hands started to fade, flickered, then all at once were gone.
Reed had seen it before, this sudden disappearance that Stella was capable of. In fact, he'd done more than just see it, he'd interrogated it with every question, every test that his highly-trained mind could dream up. It was more than just a magic trick to him -- it was something better, it was an advancement, a forefront of knowledge, a frontier between what seemed possible and impossible. To have been one of Stella's first calls, to be trusted by her to figure out what was going on had been one of the greatest compliments of Reed's life. To have been unable to figure out a how or a why wasn't a failure, it was a success. Every scientist dreamed of the phenomena that would be unexplainable, the possibility of coming into contact with a problem it would take generations to solve. He'd seen it before, felt all that rush of discovery before. And yet all of that was not even the ghost of a thought in his mind, seeing Stella's hands vanish under her simple meditation, a control that may have been laborious but to Reed's eyes looked as intuitive as breathing. "Wow," he exhaled, unable to stop himself, "You're amazing." Not his invention -- Reed had almost completely forgotten about the gloves that Stella had slipped on before demonstrating, and even if he hadn't, who cared about them when without Stella's innate ability, they would have been useless anyway. It took a beat before he heard himself, the awe and admiration and affection so clear in his voice that it embarrassed him instantly, sending him rushing to add, "That's amazing, it's really, it's working, that's fantastic. Move, act, they're designed to stay responsive, ideally they should keep up with whatever you want to do."
It didn't feel any different. That's what had always been so weird about it, beyond the invisibility of it all. That such a momentous physical change was happening and it didn't have any corresponding sensation. Stella didn't know anything had happened until Reed spoke, and her eyes slowly blinked open to look down and see. She hadn't wanted to watch, worried that she wouldn't be able to make it work if she'd been staring at her hands - which she was sure would have stubbornly stayed in view. The blush rising in her cheeks could easily be chalked up to the experiment itself, even if it truthfully was caused much more by Reed's comment: You're amazing. Even if it was a mistake, he'd meant what was happening was amazing, she knew that, it still spread warmth through her for those few seconds. At his instruction, she gave a nod and brought her hands together, clasping them, cracking her knuckles, bringing them up to run through her hair. The invisibility didn't stop at her hands, it faded up into her forearms, still something her eyes weren't used to seeing. "These are really impressive," she commented, holding her hands out in front of her, turning the over and studying... well, nothing, but that was the impressive part. "How long did it take to develop?"
Impressive? Complimented as Reed was, happy to know he'd done something of interest, he still found himself laughing it off, brushing away her praise with a wave of his hand. They would have been nothing without her innate ability to make them function -- he wouldn't have even thought to create something like this without her. And he might have said as much too, if the words didn't get stuck in his throat, some self-conscious feeling of sounding too enthusiastic about her keeping him silent on that front. "Oh, don't make me confess to the number of hours I've been in the lab," he said instead, self-effacing even as he joked, knowing how quickly Stella would remind him about his promise to squeeze in some daylight into his regular routine, to at least sometimes see the inside of his own apartment again. "Some of it were things I'd been working on for a while but didn't know how to place, and the rest of it didn't take too long. It was your brother, actually, that gave me the idea. He suggested a flame-proof suit, which I'm still working on, and I figured while I was at it..." Those brief moments he'd seen the both of them damaged but recovering in his lab, how could Reed not want to work on something that might prevent a future incident? Another gesture, as Reed felt suddenly shy, realizing this was something she hadn't asked for but that he'd wanted to give her, like there was something revealing about it no matter how invisible it seemed. He cleared his throat, trying to snap himself out of it. "I'd like to get another round of imaging while you wear the gloves," he suggested, redirecting as always back to the experiment at hand, "If you don't mind following me this way?" Not that she didn't know her way around the lab, but Reed offered her a hand nonetheless.
Stella gave him a look when he mentioned his hours in the lab, but it was as playful as it was serious. She hadn't been under any kind of delusion that Reed would be going on hikes, taking hours out of his days to be away from the place he occupied most, just because they'd had a conversation about it being important. If he'd spent even ten minutes more away from it than he had before, she'd view that as progress. She gave a hum of acknowledgement at the mention of Liam, a flame-proof suit, which seemed incredibly important all of a sudden. If these strange powers were going to be part of their lives, part of them, they had to find ways to accommodate for them. The unknown potential of what Liam had going on scared her more than anything else. Disappearing was inconvenient if uncontrollable, but she was getting better at it and it had never been fading from existence, she was always still there. At the mention of imaging, her mind was drawn back to where they were, what they were doing. Experiment, right. Stella's gaze dropped down to Reed's hand, held out to her, and lifted her still invisible one to take it, watching curiously at the way his fingers fit around the nothingness of hers. "Have you been noticed any side effects or symptoms, now you've been back longer?" she asked, walking through the lab with him. "Everything still okay?"
Her question was so kind, held so much care for him, that Reed couldn't help but make a wry face at it, asking, "Isn't that usually my question?" He did find himself over and over again in the opposite role, watching someone demonstrate abilities that went far beyond human or describing an experience that should never have been possible, and taking on the role of both a researcher and a friend, reveling in the opportunity to show people he didn't just have the skills to help them through whatever problem they were facing, he had the desire to do so as well. But even as he turned her question into a small laugh, Reed knew that Stella was one of the few people who did indeed see the reverse of the common situation, the ways that he also sometimes needed that support and care. She'd been the first person he reached out to after an unexpected bout of time travel, because even then, still reeling with the emotion of it all, he'd known Stella would be the kind, trustworthy person he needed, and it meant a lot, more perhaps than he could really communicate, that she still had in mind what he'd gone through even as they were nominally here to do something for her. "It's really nice of you to ask," he said, dropping the little joke and giving in to the kind of earnestness that Stella always seemed to draw out of him, "No side-effects to speak of. A little confusion, but that's passed. A few dreams, but nothing longterm." He'd woken up with a start a few times in those first few nights, half expecting to see his 1957 apartment around him, but Reed chalked that up to readjustment. "Everything is still okay, and I'm sure that's in part because of you." She'd made his return such a comforting transition when it could have felt just as scary as the initial disappearance. Reed found himself squeezing her hand gently like that would communicate how deeply felt his gratitude was, only to realize that they'd crossed the lab to the radiation bay and still his fingers were close around hers, not quite an accident but still something that left him feeling a little off-kilter, uncertain. "Stella, I'm..." he started, before quickly revising course. "I'm going to take some x-rays."
She laughed softly, nose scrunching at the way he brushed off her question. That was what happened when they were both scientists, she supposed. While they were there because he'd needed her to test something, a something he'd been working on for her, it didn't change the fact that Reed had been decades in the past not long before and Stella was plenty curious at the potential impact it'd had on him. And by curious, she mostly meant worried. Between the two of them, they could probably examine things down to a molecular level to verify there wasn't anything going on undetected, but she didn't want to treat Reed like a lab rat. If he said he was fine, if he wasn't worried - and he was the type to run tests on himself if he felt the need, as shown by his homemade EEG - she would try not to think on it too much.
"Of course," she replied, watching him as he spoke, as if to pick up on any unspoken cues that might tell her if he was telling the truth. "I think confusion and dreams... if you didn't have those, that would be more an anomaly than anything else." Traveling through time, passing by decades to get from where he was to home, she was constantly amazed he wasn't experiencing more oddities or symptoms from it. That was part of why she kept asking. That and the worry. Her brow furrowed at his comment that somehow she was the cause of things being okay, not sure what he meant or why that would be the case, lost in the feeling of his hand squeezing hers and the sound of his voice. Her gaze flicked up to meet his and she didn't move at first, his words taking a moment to register. "Oh, right. X-rays. Yes." Her hand slipped from his as she moved over to the appropriate machine, ready to let him take whatever scans he needed.