Animal Crackers


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Scene Title Animal Crackers
Synopsis Shared meals are a tradition of mourning.
Date December 24, 2018

The Ark


Thick yarn stained dishwater-grey lifts in tangled coils from a bucket, and then slops down to the floor of the hallway with an unpleasant wet sound. Listlessly the mop’s swept back and forth in the hands of the heavy-set man standing in the hallway, tending to the chores that the visitors have been so-kindly given.

The puppeteer’s strings taken from him and wrapped around his own limbs from the barrel of a gun.

Eric Doyle’s expression is flat, his gaze on the floor and shoulders slumped as he goes about his duties. It’s not unlike being back in prison, for him, falling back on old behaviors as inside the loss of his lover eats him up from the inside.

Footsteps approach from the end of the hall, rising in volume as they gain on Doyle from behind. They stop a fair distance away, like whoever is approaching knows not to get too close.

“Hey,” comes Destiny’s familiar voice, soft but raw from a night spent wailing like a mournful banshee. “Put that aside and come with me.” It’s a request, but also kind of an order. If the circumstances weren’t quite so dire, there’d likely be a glimmer in her eye, a hint of mischief. Maybe it’s still there, but a little dull.

She pats a lump in the pocket of her jacket and flickers the briefest and most secret of smiles.

Doyle doesn’t look up until someone speaks, and then the mop’s half-hearted sloshing back and forth over the floor stops and he looks up, his eyes reddened and darkened with deep circles. Sleep hasn’t been something that’s been coming to the puppeteer very well.

“Hey,” he says just as quietly, just as roughly. At the request, the demand, he glances down to the mop… and shrugs, lifting it up and slopping it back into the bucket, leaning the handle against the wall. No smiles from him as he steps over after her, asking, “What’s up?”

Des takes Doyle’s hand and leads him down the hallway until they reach a bench overlooking the gardens. She takes a seat and pats the spot next to her, watching him expectantly until he joins her.

Once he does, she reaches into her coat to reveal her prize: a box of animal crackers.

“They never found my hidden stash,” the teenager explains. “They’re super stale, but they still taste better than brussel heckin’ sprouts any day of the week.” Pushing her nail into the cardboard until it perforates, she peels back the top and holds the box out to him to have the first one.

Doyle’s hand loosely curls around hers, even the grip of it weak as he walks along to the bench. He looks at the offered seat for a moment, then slowly sinks down to sit, leaning forward to rest elbows on thighs and rub over his face.

Then the prize is revealed, and he manages a weak almost-smile. “Always loved those,” he admits, reaching over and hesitating before taking one out between two fingers, bringing it up to his lips to bite into. As he chews, he looks back to the gardens, silent until he swallows.

“Are you okay?”

The little blonde shakes her head. “My dad’s dead,” she murmurs, reaching in to take a cracker out for herself. “And I never got to tell him—” Her throat gets tight, cutting off the words even though her mouth still tries to form them.

Letting out a deep breath, she gives up on the thought, finishing it being too difficult. “About the same as you, I imagine.” She may not have been as close to Meredith as she was to Eric, but there was no one she’d rather have play banker in Monopoly on game night.

And every night on No Strings Attached was game night.

“Do… Do you think what Don says is true?”

Crunch. Half of the stale cracker’s gone in a bite at the mention of Don, Eric’s jaw tight as he chews slowly. “I think that Don’s a fucking lunatic,” he mutters under his breath, “There isn’t any wizard that’s going to fix the whole world and cure all our problems, kiddo. You remember the story. You pull the curtain away and there’s only a guy there. Every time.”

He reaches out to pat her knee reassuringly, “There’s only us, in the end. Only.. only us.”

“Else says she’s heard her, though. That God Don talks about.” Despite the conviction in her voice, Des can’t lift her head to look Eric in the eye. She knows he doesn’t believe, and knows he wants her to feel the same way.

She isn’t sure what to believe.

“I don’t want it to be only us,” Des whimpers. Her animal-shaped snack is held between her fingers, bobbing its way across an invisible plain. “I want Jimmy. I want Meredith.”

“So do I, kiddo…” Eric draws in a slow, unsteady breath, then exhales it all at once, a hand coming up to rub over his face as he whispers, “So do I.”

A hard swallow, and he looks back out to the garden, “I still— I still can’t believe she’s gone. I… it took so long before she would look at me like— like I wanted her to. Like I always wanted her to. And now…”

Destiny bursts into tears, dropping her little cookie on the floor at her feet as she buries her face in one hand. After setting aside the box of crackers, the other comes up to cover the other half of her face. “It’s all my fault,” she sobs.

“I brought us here.” If she hadn’t talked Jimmy into leading everyone through the storm, would they have ever found the tower? If she hadn’t convinced Carina it was worth the risk, would there have been anyone to pilot the sub? Would the otherworldly travelers ever found the Ark without her? “I got them killed.”

“Oh, sweetie, no…” Eric turns, expression stricken as he reaches out to wrap his arms around her and pull her in against him, “No, no, this isn’t your fault. None of it is. Everyone— everyone wanted to come, everyone knew it was dangerous. It was better than staying behind for the Sentinel to kill…”

He grimaces, shaking his head tightly, “No. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Des buries her face against Doyle’s chest and lets her emotion overtake her. For several long moments, all she does is quake and cry so hard that she can’t even force sound from her throat. Her small hands alternate between bunching up the fabric of his coat and weakly batting against him in fits of overwhelming despair.

“He wanted to stay behind, but I told him we had to go. — I told him I had to go. He came here because of me. We could have hid in the storm.” Others could have died — Meredith cold still have died — and she would never have known. She isn’t sure if that’s better or just selfish. A strangled noise escapes her parted lips, and she hugs herself to him tighter.

“It’s not your fault,” Eric rumbles out, squeezing her tightly in his arms against him, his face half-hidden against her hair, “Jimmy would’ve gone in the end anyway. You know he would. He was a good guy, he— he wouldn’t’ve just let everyone go without him. It’d eat him up inside if he did.”

Lower, “The only person whose fault this is is that Don guy.”

The keening noises continue until a coughing fit interrupts her cries. When it subsides, she’s quiet and still in his arms, save for the sound of her ragged breathing. “I’m sorry, Santa,” Destiny whispers. For all of it.

Oh, that was just too much. She may be done crying, but now Doyle is crying, his shoulders shaking in huge, ugly sobbing as he holds her close, eyes squeezing closed as he loses control and just lets the grief and pain wash over him.

She doesn’t hush him or tell him it’s going to be alright. Des doesn’t know if it will ever be alright. Any of it. What she does do is wrap her arms around him in the tightest hug her little form can manage and presses a kiss to his forehead.

“I love you.” If they never make it out of this, at least he’ll know that much. She wishes she’d had a chance to say it to Woods.

It’s only in time that he recovers his own breath, exhaling a long and laboured sigh. “Yeah,” Doyle murmurs, shoulders slumping as he sinks into himself a bit, supported by the embrace, “I love you too, kiddo.”

“Love you too.”

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