In The Absence Of An Excuse


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Scene Title In The Absence Of An Excuse
Synopsis After being shaken back to reality by a brush with death, Colette Nichols finally come to terms with herself.
Date February 19, 2010

St.Luke's Hospital

Some time around nine thirty in the evening is when Nicole Nichols' phone first rang.

St.Luke's Hospital came up on the caller identification, and hospital staff informing her that her sister had been involved in a traffic accident.

Thankfully, for the staff on the other end of the phone, they told her in advance her condition was stable and that she is not in any immediate risk.

It's close to ten past ten now, and street lights shine yellow through the slatted blinds of room 14-A at St.Luke's Hospital. The lights on in the room are a desaturated shade of white, fluorescent just crisp enough to the eye to be unpleasant. Laid up in that hospital bed, tucked under a blanket and in one of those unflattering hospital gowns, Colette Nichols-Demsky stares listlessly out those windows at the side of her bed. She's not hooked up to anything, her courier bag sits on a chair beside the bed, and the young doctor standing in her room checks over a chart when the door opens.

Turning, his brows furrow and eyes angle out towards the brunette standing in the doorway. Colette turns her head towards the sound of the door opening, green eyes full of a mixture of apologetic dismay and that very simple desire for familial contact after a traumatic experience. In a way, being hit by a car was the smack across the mouth she's needed for several days.

Nicole is beginning to wonder if one can become dehydrated from too much crying. It's just one blow after another these days and, being already emotional, the phone call (which she nearly answered, The fuck do you want, Logan?) left her in tears on the couch for a few minutes before she could gather enough composure to get in her Buick and drive to the hospital.

The woman can't remember the last time she ate, or slept. As she comes to understand her new ability more, the concept of needing those things has begun to be something forgotten. She looks worse for wear for it as she steps into the room, with pale skin and the formations of dark circles that make her look tired, when she certainly doesn't feel it, thanks to a full charge of electricity.

Her purse and coat are hung on a hook on the back side of the door. Nicole doesn't offer a verbal greeting to either occupant of the room, nodding only faintly to her sister and then fixing a look of askance on the doctor as if to ask is there anything I need to know?

There's a look from Nicole to Colette and then back again by the doctor, who gives Nicole an assessing stare as if wondering he she should be in the empty bed next to her sister. "She's alright," he offers in light of Colette's silence, "as alright as someone in her circumstances can be, at the least. Your sister's remarkably lucky," which is something of an ironic statement to say about someone who was just hit by a car. "According to the X-Rays Doctor Breyers looked at, she's got a few bruised ribs and contusions across her posterior and up her back, but her spine's without damage and the torn muscles at her knee aren't anything serious."

Dark haired and somewhere in his fifties, the old doctor has a somewhat grandfatherly manner about him, voice deep in gentle rather than authoritative way. "She did, remarkably, what's best for someone in her condition to do. She hit the windshield with the flat of her back, dispersing the shock across a large surface I'm willing to imagine she favored her right side, but it probably saved her life."

Flipping down the top of her chart, the doctor hugs it to his chest and offers an easy smile that tugs up the corners of his graying beard. "The man she was with, mister Ivanov? He's with her father talking to the officers who took her statement. I figure they'll be back in shortly…" A look over his shoulder to Colette, and he can see that pensive look in her eyes. "I'll… leave you two alone for a little bit." He adds afterward, keeping the chart under his arm as he heads out towards the door.

Nicole's face remains rather impassive as the doctor explains her sister's injuries, murmuring a quiet thank you as he turns to leave. She makes sure the door is shut behind him.

She's silent for a time, standing in the room, looking at anything but the girl in the bed. Or at least anything but the girl's face. A slow meandering eventually brings Nicole to pull a chair up at Colette's bedside where she takes a seat. Hands folded in her lap, she simply breathes.



Nicole's lips twitch once and her eyes narrow faintly, the only precursor to what she finally utters.

"Did you jump in front of it?"

"Ff-fuck you I did not." Colette stammers out, wincing as she moves a hand to her side. Codine hasn't quite taken all of the edge off of the problem with her ribs. Breathing out exasperatedly as she continues, Colette's brows furrow. "I was…" Green eyes move to the door, watching the doctor step out and close the door, "I was invisible." She swallows, carefully, wrinkling her nose at an itch and angling a look back at her sister. "I'd never— I— " She seems insulted a the question, enough to bristle despite herself. "I was in an argument with a friend've Judah's…"

Closing her eyes, Colette swallows noisily again and leans her head back against the pillow behind her. "Felix— Felix said something that pissed me off. I— I was getting dinner, about to take the bus to head home and… and he just stopped in out of nowhere, I— he just wanted to see how I was and I totally snapped at him…" There's a weariness to Colette's voice when she says that, her eyes opening up, focused on the window viewing the snow falling outside.

"I ran, he chased me, I— I ran right out into a crosswalk and this guy just— I dunno it feels like everything just slowed down. I don't remember much of it. I know the car hit me, but I was down on the ground, and I think Felix got hit too. He— tried to save me." There's a rueful expression on her face at that.

She sighs, quietly, shaking her head. "It was stupid, the guy driving the car said he was screwing with the radio, didn't even look up. He gave the same statement to the cops, I— I dunno. I… I'm just kind've surprised." She doesn't say about what.

Nicole listens to Colette's explanation, a flash of annoyance in her face when her lead-in is fuck you. Her expression is almost dubious by the time the story's finished. "Are you surprised that someone who shouldn't have been able to see you blamed himself?" It's not exactly saying this is your fault, but it's hinting at it.

"You've been troubled, Sissy. It wasn't completely out of line for me to worry that you tried to kill yourself." Nicole's tone isn't defensive, but rather has a harsher sort of edge to it. "You're like you were when you first came to live with me, but even worse than that. I was worried about you then." Another deep, slow breath is meant to steady the woman, but it does very little good.

"You've got to stop doing these things to yourself." Nicole drags her fingers through her dark hair, eyes carrying more sadness in them than she allows to seep into her voice. "You need to start thinking before you act." A tear runs down a porcelain cheek and seems to surprise Nicole. It's wiped away quickly, accompanied by a small sniffle that the woman tries to convince herself is from the chill outside. "I'm glad you aren't dead and that you aren't seriously hurt," because this sort of lecture might be suggesting otherwise, "but you have got to start… Doing something different."

Another tear falls, and this time Nicole lets them come, lowering her head to stare at the floor. "Did I make you this way?" She knows it wasn't their parents, because she didn't turn out like this at all. The only different factor in their formative years is who did the parenting, and that falls squarely on Nicole's shoulders in the case of Colette. "Did I fuck you up?"

Biting down on the inside of her lips gently, Colette can't look at Nicole when she starts to cry. There's the faintest hint of it showing in her eyes now, a wetness, but she's struggling to keep it down. "I'd never do that to you…" Colette breathes out, drawing in a too-sharp breath that is immediately met by a wince and an aching groan. "Sis— I— I'm sorry. You… didn't do anything wrong, you can't blame yourself for— me being an idiot. I just— nothing's an excuse."

Closing her eyes, Colette finds the ache of her ribs and knee easier to focus on to try and take away the emotional edge. "I'm a colossal fuck up," she admits with a tremble of her jaw, "I— I know. I… I just— I don't know how to deal with things." It's probably the most honest admittion she's made since she was reunited with Nicole. "Dad," and her inflection makes it clear which, "everything back then, my problems now, I just— I never learned how to deal with this shit. I— I just run and then people get hurt and I blame myself for hurting them— " she winces, moving a hand to her side and swallowing noisily at the pain from the deep breath.

"M'sorry…" Colette murmurs, brows furrowed. "I… I know I've been screwing up a lot, and— and I've been hurting a lot of people 'round me. When I saw Felix I— god if I could've run I would've." After the car hit her, she means. "Sis, I— we both got raised by bad people… not you— it— our parents. But you turned out fine," or so the sister who idealizes her elder feels, "I don't have an excuse. I— can't keep blaming shit on them. M'sorry…"

Nicole theorises she turned out miles away from fine, but she doesn't tell her sister so. Colette needs to believe that Nicole has everything all figured out and that she's got it all together, the way she's always believed it. By pretending to be okay, Nicole always hoped that Colette would find a way to convince herself that she could be okay, too. For now, though, she lets Colette see her cry. Elbows on her knees, face in her hands, unabashedly bawling her eyes out. Because she's human.

A hiccup, not unlike something that would come from Colette, finally signals the end to the tears as Nicole forces something resembling composure back into place, grabbing three or four tissues from a table near the bed to blow her nose and dry her tears. "I can't keep doing this," Nicole tells Colette. "I need you to be home for a while. Either with me or with Judah - not with friends. I need you to not go anywhere without my approval. I know you aren't twelve, but I'm going to lose my fucking mind if you keep me wondering where you've gone off to."

And that's where the problem lies. "I— I can't do that." It's not an easy thing to say either, the way it comes out, like she wants to, but just can't bring herself to. "Sis… I— I've never been straight with you," no pun intended, "about— about what I do, where I go… w— why I'm gone so much. I— I can't just, just stay away. Because I'm— I'm trying to do something important with my life. It's the one good thing I've got, it's the only thing I do that makes it feel like m'actually accomplishing something." Now she's crying, not vocally, just tears rolling down her cheeks.

"I… " How to explain this. "I volunteer, to— do a lot of things." No, that's not right. "Roosevelt Island, I— I helped hand out hot meals on Thanksgiving before I came home for dinner. I helped repaint and refurbish apartments for people who were living in slums, I— I helped collect children's letters to Santa from the development, got together with people and— we— we made these kids' dreams come true. I dressed like one've Santa's elves…"

There's a smile, she starts to laugh then rather quickly is reminded she has bruised ribs and makes a hurt noise in the back of her throat, rolling her tongue over her teeth in lieu of whimpering. "I can't… just walk out on them." Like she's been trying to do because she's stubborn the last few days.

"I— I want to tell you everything, but— but I just— I was afraid you'd be worried about me." Colette's logic is flawed in that Nicole wound up worrying regardless. "I love you," she breathes out in a small voice, "I just don't— want to scare you." Which is probably why she to this day, has not told her sister about Pinehearst.

Nicole fixes Colette with an exasperated look. "Those are things I would approve of, Colette." But the fact that the younger girl thinks her sister is naive enough not to have done her own digging and found out what sorts of people her friends are is a faint disappointment.

And here's where the woman lays her cards out on the table. "Going after people manufacturing Refrain?" Dark blue eyes narrow sharply. "Not something I'm okay with." Nicole's expression doesn't lighten immediately. "I've given up a lot for you. I know I fucked up when I gave up my life when I thought you were dead, but that wasn't either of us at fault. I love you dearly, Sissy."

"But no more lies."

"I was— " Oh God that hurt. Colette clutches her side, yelling cannot happen, yelling hurts. It stops her from just biting Nicole's head off the moment she says somethign she doesn't like. Nodding her head once, Colette offers a quieter look up to Nicole, softer, and a bit more sympathetic. "My friend… Joseph, he was a pastor. His— church got burned down over the summer by Humanis First. I— I guess he got depressed, and— he never told anyone about it but… I think he got hooked on Refrain. He— he was a really good friend to me, and some people they— they kidnapped him and put him in this horrible place…" Colette stops there, skipping over that part of the story.

"Joseph is one of my co-workers…" It's the best way she can put it. "And we look out for each other. He— me and my friend Kaylee, we organized the plan to get him out. We got our friends, people we could count on, to help. I— I got stupid and tried to save him myself, and I hurt a lot of people in the process…"

Colette's eyes drop shut, head turning to the side, looking away from Nicole for a moment, before they open partway and she continues. "Over the summer, some people I know had to save my friend Gabriel from this place called Pinehearst…" Voice quieter now, Colette shakes her head slowly. "They needed my help, my— what I can do— to get them in. There were terrible people there, scary, dangerous I— it's where I got that scar on my shoulder." Nicole knows the one.

When Colette turns to look back at Nicole, she's mildly smiling. "I went in knowing it was dangerous, but— I did it because it was the right thing to do. I— I was scared, and I got hurt but— but I don't have anything else to do in my life. I dropped out of high school because of the bomb, I don't have a job," anymore, "I— this means everything to me."

There's a widening of those blue eyes as Nicole is sure she knows the man her sister tried to save. Pastor Sumter?! The idea that someone as good and pure as she perceives Joseph to be hooked on something as terrible as Refrain has Nicole shocked, to say the least. She leaves that alone for the moment, though. There will be time to come back to that talking point soon enough.

For now, Nicole focuses on her sister's troubles, brows furrowing with concern. "There are plenty of things you can do to give your life meaning. And there is so much you can do for your friends without putting your life in danger." Nicole knows this better than Colette likely thinks. "There are other options, Sissy. We can enroll you in an alternative high school, or you can get your GED. I can get you a job just about anywhere you want. There are other ways."

"I don't want the other ways…" Colette's voice takes on a more clear tone, less mumbling. "I— You don't understand. I— I had a job for a little while, a good job at this computer company— it— it was an internship, but…" Colette's voice falters for a moment. "Nothing I've ever done in my life, nothing, has ever made me feel as— I— I dunno, nothing's ever made me feel as accomplished as I have doing this, working ww— " Probably best not to name organizational names. "Working with what I do. Nothing, nothing in my life's— " The can't quite put the words together right.

Silent as she tries to figure out her own thoughts, Colette's eyes unfocus. She stares out the window, at the falling snow, at the streetlights, and takes the time to think. Is this actually what she wants? Her eyes water, just a little, thoughts wandering back to the events, and people, and places that she's been to that took her down this path.

"Have…" Her voice cracks, and when she looks back to Nicole, despite the tears, it's a look in her eyes that her sister's never quite seen in her before. "Have you ever felt… like you were meant to do something with your life? Like— " her lashes bat, spilling tears down her cheek again. "Like there's something out there in the world, just waiting for you to find it, and then everything will be alright?" Dark brows crease together, and Colette looks from the snow out her window to her sister.

"I was meant to do this." In Colette's eyes, the look is certainty. Much of her youth, she never had any of it. Her life was dictated by things she couldn't control, from abusive parents, to the bomb, to the hospital and orphanages. "Remember…" her voice cracks again, "when I told you— when I told you when I knew I was gay?" Her jaw gives a tremor. "It's like that…" Colette's lips creep up into a hesitant smile, hopeful, "This is who I am. I don't… think I realized it until tonight. I don't think— I don't think I ever thought about how much it meant to me until tonight. But this…"

Colette swallows noisily, "The Ferry," her voice cracks again at the delivery, "this is what I'm meant to do."

For all the certainty and swell of what must be good emotions in Colette, the exact opposite is true for Nicole. She likens it to the way a parent's stomach must drop when an only child proclaims they want to go overseas to fight - and possibly die - for their country. Nicole doesn't have words for the turmoil that's churning her guts.

Colette runs. Nicole deflects.

"Pastor Sumter…" The man's voice rings in Nicole's ears when the name leaves her lips and so she corrects, "Joseph is my friend, too." Her lips press together and after an even breath, she asks, "Where can I find him?"

"You can't," Colette quietly offers, holding out her hand towards her sister, "but I can… and I can tell him whatever you want, and… and maybe when he's well enough to walk around, we can both see him." There's a hesitant smile there, and also a strong clue as to the things she's both been running away from and confronted in her life. When he's well enough to walk around on his own. The last time Colette saw him, he certainly wasn't.

"I want… I want to trust you with everything I do in my life, Sis. But you have to promise, that— between me, and you, and Dad…" The only man she considers her father now, "This stays between us." Her smile grows just a little more, and reach as she might she doesn't dare moving to reach for her sister's hand. "I love you… and— I'm sorry I've worried you…" her lips come up into a hesitant smile, "this is who I am."

Nicole smiles back at Colette, but it doesn't reach her eyes as she takes the girl's hand. "Just tell him I wish him a speedy recovery, I guess. Tell him he's in my thoughts and prayers." She doesn't like hardly any of what she's heard today. And even as she gives the hand in hers a squeeze, reassuring, her stomach drops. "I love you, Sissy."

Nicole rises from her seat and drops a familial kiss on Colette's lips. "Get some sleep, okay? I'm going to go visit Mister Logan while I'm here. I'm sure Judah wants a chance to have some alone time with you as well. I'll check in with you again before I go home, okay?" Leaving her sister with one more kiss for good measure, it's clear Nicole's taking no arguments on this subject, as she turns to gather her things on the back of the door and head for the hall.

When the door closes, Colette looks up at the ceiling, her neck muscles tensing and tear-filled eyes welled up again. She's silent, here in that hospital room, for a good long time. When her eyes come down, she looks out the window instead, not to communicate with the man in the sky, with a God she isn't sure hears her. But with a god of smaller things, and someone who has an importance in her heart where faltering faith should be.

Watching the night time snow fall outside, Colette offers a faint smile to her reflection. Being here, in the hospital, has made her realize the most difficult thing she's got to be willing to do, and it's what all children eventually do decide. To start taking responsibility for their own lives, move on, and transition from child to adult. It's not easy, and it's what Colette's been running from all this time, and why the Ferry is the only thing that's made her fill fulfilled.

She smiles, to her reflection in the glass, not because she's happy, but because it comforts her and reminds her of what she's forgotten the most. That no matter how hard taking responsibility of your own life and mistakes is…

…she doesn't have to do it alone.

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