People Fuck Things Up


avi_icon.gif rue_icon.gif

Scene Title People Fuck Things Up
Synopsis Avi takes Rue on a walk that leads her down the rabbit hole.
Date January 16, 2018

The Bunker: Lounge

The one thing Rue is determined not to do today is cry. Get mad and throw things, maybe, but not cry. The news of who their new SESA watchdog will be rattled her, and every single one of them knows it from the way she behaved during that meeting. She’d be embarrassed, but she isn’t. Not when the Major was understanding. Not necessarily impressed by her outburst by any means, but at least aware that it wasn’t without good reason.

Sitting in the common area with her glass and a bottle of rum, she knows she invites comment and question from her colleagues. That’s part of the point. If they have questions, they may as well ask her now, before they have to keep their voices hushed and watch over their shoulders for who may be listening. And beside that, she has absolutely nothing to hide about the situation. Not from any of them, anyway.

The glass in front of her his half full and there’s an unopened can of cola sitting next to it. She’s not ready to dilute the drowning agent for her sorrows just yet. Midday’s a little early to be drinking, but fuck it. Once Robyn Quinn has settled in, she isn’t sure she’ll trust herself to touch a drop. Like with her tantrum in the conference room, she may as well get it out of her system now.

Epstein’s been a silhouette in the doorway behind Rue for a few minutes. He finally makes himself noticed by noisily walking in, shoes clapping on polished concrete. He looks tired — he always looks tired, but today more so — with shoulders slouched and hands tucked into his pockets. The side-eye he gives Rue over the top of his sunglasses says almost more than he needs to. There’s no verbal greeting, though. He just walks past the char Rue is in to one sitting diagonally from her, slouching down against the leather upholstery with a soft series of creaks, keeping his right leg stretched out straight.

“So,” Avi makes a noise in the back of his throat, lifting a hand up to scratch at the side of his face. “You… handled that well.” He makes an expression, more like a grimace than anything else.

Rue makes a noise in the back of her throat and picks up her glass, unable to bring herself to look at the man for more than the briefest of seconds. She takes a drink and shakes her head. “I’m afraid of fucking it up for everyone,” she admits, sullen. “I didn’t… I never would have guessed they’d choose her.

Her gaze goes vacant, like she’s staring into memory. “I loved her once. For a lot longer than I had any right to. I want to think I’m over it, but… I’m afraid of seeing her again. Like this.” If he were anybody else, she’d have told him to fuck off. But Avi gets Rue’s honesty, whether he wants it or not.

Avi frowns, looking over at Rue and then exhaling a more weary sigh. “Yeah, uh, people complicate shit. Don’t they?” He takes his sunglasses off, folding them into the right front pocket of his shirt. “Look, I’m… not the best person to talk about this kind of thing with. I fucked up a marriage, my daughter doesn’t talk to me anymore. It’s…” Clearing his throat, Avi slouches back further into his chair. “People fuck things up.”

There’s other conversation, echoing through the hanging vents. Nothing audible, but it creates a susurrus of noise that leaves the pauses between either of them talking as something more than silence. Somewhere else, there’s the slap of fist on leather, someone using one of the large punching bags down the hall. It’s peaceful in livelihood and activity, means that silence can come and go without it feeling more awkward than it already is.

So. Awkward.

Whoops. Rue winces as he reminds her of his relationship track record. “It’s fine. And I’m sorry.” Her head cants to one side. “People really do fuck things up.” Index finger rubs along the slope of her freckled, slightly crooked nose. She’s gotten used to the little bump about halfway down its length.

The silence stretches on for a few moments. Longer than Rue would like. She sighs quietly, then continues with a little more optimistic tone. “Major seems to think I can keep it together. With this much riding on it, I know I’ll be fine. I always perform well under pressure anyway, right? And we agreed if I can’t, I get put on leave.” She lifts her glass and her eyebrows. “I have leave today. You should join me.”

“Can’t.” Avi says flatly, with no other qualifier. Which is unusual, because he usually like to leave a little something when he disappoints someone, a zinger or otherwise. He quickly slips past that and changes topic. “The empty seat at the table is pissing me off.” Then a beat. “You didn’t hear me say that,” Avi adds afterward. Sitting forward in his chair, Avi drapes his forearms over his knees.

Something crosses his mind. Something that has him looking distant.

“What’re you doing for leave?” Avi’s tone is conspiratorial, one dark brow raised and a brief look offered around the facility. “Actually, let’s—” he slowly levers himself up from his seat. “Take a walk outside. Down by the river.” Not suspicious at all. “It’s nice out.” It’s January.

“Rumor has it,” she says with a grin. And Rumor keeps it. The secrets go no further than her. Narrow shoulders come up in a shrug. Can’t really blame him for being pissed off, though she can only speculate at his exact reasons. And she knows better than to speculate when it comes to Epstein.

Rue leans forward, a twinkle in her eye. She likes being conspiratorial with him. “A stroll with you, Avi? I could never turn you down.” Her glance shifts down to the drink in her hand, debating for a moment. She sets it down on the table and places a napkin over it. The universal sign for I’ll be back for you.

She pushes away from the table and gets up from her seat, holding out her hand. “C’mon, then.”

Avi is quiet on the way out of the Bunker, though not in much of a hurry. He grabs his coat on the way out, buttoned up and scarf tucked in to the collar. The late afternoon air is brisk, making Avi and Rue’s breaths visible as they walk across the overgrown parking lot toward the rushing river. Avi’s strides are long and purposeful as he navigates the tumble-down slope of grass and broken bricks that constitutes the riverbank.

Rue knows where he’s taking her, a well-trod footpath winds around behind the vehicle hangar where a picnic table has been set up on an old concrete slab that once connected a railway bridge that spanned the river. The table is used by Wolfhound associates for drinking and breaks, as it sits just outside of the angles of the building’s exterior security cameras.

Avi seems to be prepared to neither drink, nor take a break. The sun is low on the horizon, casting shadows long and dark. The Bunker’s multi-story shadow stretches across the ground, grasping out for them both. “Can you keep a fucking secret?” Avi asks as he turns to look back at Rue, fixing her with a stare as he puts his sunglasses back on. “Because this,” he gestures around himself, “is predicated on that.”

As they make their way toward the river, Rue is glad she didn’t opt to down the rest of that rum. While the warmth would have been nice, the sure footing is nicer. With her jacket zipped up and a grey ski hat pulled down over her head, the knitted flaps over her ears and her hair puffing out underneath. The curls fall past her shoulders and insulate her neck from the chill somewhat.

At first she moves to boost herself up to sit on the table like she often does when she comes out here, but he’s agitated. So, she stays on her feet, glancing around for a moment before looking back at him just as he turns back to her and begins to speak.

Ginger head tips to one side, curls falling over one shoulder as she gives it a brief shake. “Avi. This is me we’re talking about.” She steps closer, reaching up to rest a hand on his arm reassuringly. “I will always keep your secrets. Anything you say to me stays between us unless you actually tell me to disseminate it.” Her brows furrow, and her breath fogs in the space between them as she lets out a heavy exhale. “What is it?”

Reaching inside of his jacket, Avi pulls out a piece of paper and a pen and scribbles down two addresses. Both in the Safe Zone. “I need you to do two things for me, and you can't ask why.” Holding the piece of paper out, Avi’s expression is more serious than Rue’s ever seen. He realizes how absurd it is, asking a woman named Rumor to keep a secret.

And yet.

“First one’s an apartment. Landlord lives in apartment one, ground floor. Go there, watch to see if you're followed and ask her if she's seen the teenage girl from the top floor loft. Then, go upstairs, top floor attic apartment. Break in,” that part is very specific, “check the place out. See if anyone’s been there. I need you to use your damn skills and give me an assessment.”

Then, about the other address, Avi seems even more cagey. “That one is to Gillian Childs’ home. Ask her if she's taking care of Sibyl and if she's safe. She'll know what it means. If she answers anything other than yes…” Avi dithers and isn't sure where to go from there.

All of this seems highly suspicious.

Rue takes the paper held out to her and looks it over, her concern only growing. There are so many questions that kick around in her mind, but he’s asked her not to ask why, and she can respect that. She’s had to ask other people to do the same, and it’s always an exercise in frustration to be that damn question back in return. “Then, what? I call you and you curse at me and we take it from there?” That’s not why.

“And if I am being followed,” is also not why, “do I note it and continue on? Or do I veer off somewhere else?” Sometimes you want to lead someone to a specific location, and other times you go far, far away. “And if I am being followed, to I continue on to the Childs place?”

“No phones. No texts. Nothing digital.” As Avi says that the choice of location suddenly makes an alarming amount of sense. Whatever this is, he's hiding it from Hana. The firmness in Avi’s tone makes it abundantly clear.

“If you're being followed, do what you do. Hit up Childs once you're sure you're clear.” Shoving his hands into his jacket pockets, Avi dips his head down and furrows his brows, looking like he's still mulling some things over. “This might be related to Quinn.”

There it is. The tenuous thread of causality that links Avi’s request to Rue’s own personal hell. “That SESA agent? The one I killed?” Avi steps closer to Rue. “He wasn't coming after me. He was going after that girl.” Sibyl. “I didn't know he was an agent when I killed him. I didn't tell anyone about her. I took the heat for everything.”

Then, it gets worse. “This guy in Liberty Island, some fed. He was grilling me about all sorts of unrelated shit. Ferrymen activity from a decade ago. What happened at the fucking Ark. What did I know about what happened on Pollepel. He wasn't asking about the guy I knifed. He asked about her.” Avi’s brows furrow, lips downturn into a frown.

“He was gonna kill me. Had a gun in the interrogation room. Was going to make it look like I tried to kill him and he shot my ass in self defense.” Looking to the side, Avi rankles his nose. “I only told part of that to Gitelman. Demsky saved my ass. I… might not have been entirely clear on that.”

Which is to say, Avi will sell Rue just as far down the river if this goes pear-shaped. “She's my kid.” Avi looks away, to the river. “I wanted her to live a life away from all this bullshit.” Looking back to Rue, Avi swallows audibly. “So. Quinn’s here because someone wants me dead. Because Demsky smelled a rat. Because both of us might have impulse control problems.”

You're welcome.

Blue eyes fix on Avi’s face as he tells her all this, concern fading away to something impassive. Years of practice have given her a poker face worthy of envy, even if her display in the conference room earlier suggests otherwise. Behind her eyes, those gears are turning as she processes the implications of all of this. As he explains the implications.

Finally, her eyes close and her shoulders sag with a weary sigh. “Jesus fuck, Avi.” The idea that she’ll have his back, but he may not have hers is slightly unsettling, because after what’s happened to Colette, well… “Does Demsky know all of this too? Or what?” A quick shake of her head dismisses the question. “Never mind. Doesn’t fucking matter.”

Rue’s lower jaw shifts to one side to signify her annoyance and her gaze slants away as well, watching the horizon while she thinks. “What do you want me to do if I discover the girl at either location? Anything? Any message you want sent?” She looks back at him then. It was never in question. Of course she’s going to do this. There was never any chance she would say no to him.

“It does matter. Because no, she doesn't know a fucking thing and it's staying that way.” Avi is bristly in ways he normally isn't. “In fact even telling you this much is twisting my fucking stomach into knots.” He huffs a frustrated breath out afterward.

“If she's with Gillian…” Avi calms down enough to think clearly. “Just leave it be. Come find me and I'll take care of it. If she's at the apartment, fuck… handcuff her to a radiator at Gillian’s or something. She's not stupid enough to go back there, though. I trained her not to be that fucking stupid.” He hopes she'd listened.

Sighing, Avi doesn't so much apologize as dither. “I realize this is a lot of shit. I'm asking you to keep this from Gitelman. From everyone. But Jensen’s not here and— you're the closest thing to a Royal I've got left. And I can always trust a Royal.”

“I won’t tell another soul. You have my word.” And for all that Rumor is an excellent and accomplished liar, she doesn’t make promises she won’t keep. “So… stop getting worried about me, okay?” Though she’d be lying if she said it doesn’t twist her own stomach into knots to keep a secret like this from Hana. But it’s for him, and he wouldn’t ask her without damn good reason.

His kid is a damn good reason, in Rue’s book.

She grins, lopsided. “Well then you better come up with a fun code name for me if you’re gonna call me a Royal.” She’s teasing, but she also thinks maybe he needs to lighten up a moment. Take a breath and come at this with a little less doom and gloom. Though she can’t say she wouldn’t do the same in his situation. Little Miss Sunshine she is not these days. But for him? She can make an exception.

“You keep your shit together, and I’ll honorarily make you Queen of fucking Swords,” and Avi will let Jensen choke on that for the rest of his hopefully long and happy life— he really does care about his brother-in-law but teasing is fun.

After a moment, though, Avi brings a hand up to his head and rakes one hand through his hair. “I’m genuinely sorry about all this cloak and fucking dagger bullshit, but you know I wouldn’t do it unless I felt it was necessary. As for…” he snorts, looking down to the ground. “Look, something’s going on. I don’t know what, but this?” He jerks a thumb back at the building. “Quinn?” Avi’s lips downturn into a frown. “Nah. Something fucky is going on, and — above board — we’re going to figure it out.”

Starting to turn back to the bunker, Avi adjusts his sunglasses with one hand. “If you’ve got any contacts in the Safe Zone, maybe shake their tree about that SESA agent’s death. They let Demsky go without charges, let me go in spite of the fact that I straight-up killed a guy, and they let us keep our jet after we flew it like it was stolen from impound.” Avi looks back over his shoulder, one brow raised.

“That’s an admission of guilt,” he grouses, “if I’ve ever heard one.”

Fuck yeah,” Rue grins at the proposed monicker. “I’m into it.” She bites her lip and her brows jump once. It’s almost flirtatious. Or maybe it is just actually flirtatious. It’s sometimes hard to tell with her these days.

But things grow serious again, and Rue is quick to wave off the apology. “Hey. No, don’t be. You’re my friend. You’re my— Partner.” One hand snaps out to hit him lightly on the bicep. “What good am I if I can’t pull your ass out of the fire once in a while? Lord knows you pulled mine out of the fucking cistern.” She won’t forget that he went back for her on the island when he could have taken that kid and fled with the others. It doesn’t matter if she saved his ass at the Arcology disaster first, or that he wasn’t the only one who showed up to retrieve her. As far as she’s concerned, she still owes him.

For the rest of it, she shrugs a little helplessly. “Whatever it is, she’s sure not in on it.” There’s no way in her mind that Robyn Quinn could be convinced to try and bring down Wolfhound.

Until there is. Rue’s expression clouds as she considers. No, there are some situations she can conceive where her ex-lover might turn on them. Good reasons, too. “I’m going to be careful around her,” she assures, as if it had been necessary. “Regardless.”

First, she shakes her head, and then she nods. “Yeah. Incredibly fucky. Jesus, Av’.” Rue grabs his arm to stop him, turn him toward her. Gloved hands come up on either side of his face, and at this distance, she can tell if he’s looking at her or not, even through the sunglasses. “You be straight up with me about all of this, okay? You’re going to get me fucking killed if you lie to me.” For all that she’s incredibly serious, she isn’t angry. And she isn’t about to say no. “Is there anything else you’re not telling me?”

Avi’s hard to read at the best of times. Sunglasses 24/7 are just the stylish icing on top of two decades of work with the CIA. Whatever’s happened in the last six seconds isn’t the cover story Avi had planned for why he slipped away with Rue, but the one brewing behind his sunglasses is the most uncomfortable one to discuss and the one Hana is the least likely to question. The security cameras will catch Epstein and Rue sharing a kiss at a distance after walking part-way out from behind the hangar Hana knows they all go to take a break at.

Logged in digital record forever, Avi leans back from that and taps a gloved hand on the side of Rue’s face with a pat pat and the flash of a smile as he starts to turn away again before what just happened can sink in.

He regards Rue with a look over his shoulder and then, all smiles, he belatedly answers her question:


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