A Continual Farewell


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Scene Title A Continual Farewell
Synopsis Delia and Nick dream of a time where the distance between them is insurmountable; waking, they try to bridge the gap with apologies and promises.
Date August 27, 2011

Pollepel Island

Cold, white and stark — at first, it seems like one of Nick's many nightmares, given the bleak landscape. The ridge across the water rises gray, the top tinged with white as the rising sun illuminates the snowy dusting. The river is black but for the reflection of the hills and the pale sun. The dark shape of a boat seems lonely enough, before anyone walking along the path sees the solitary figure at the end of the dock.

Silhouetted by the scant light, it's hard to see just who it is, and it would take someone familiar with the man's postures and mannerisms to identify from the back. A leather jacket does little to keep out the chill; a tuque covers the man's head to try to keep in the warmth. Sitting on the dock, his forearms rest on his knees; a cigarette in one hand sends curlicues of smoke into the darker gray sky above.

She doesn't usually take patrol duty. Not being fond of guns or weapons in general, Delia's hold on the rifle is loose and one handed. It dangles off to her side and more likely to be dropped while she ran screaming than held up and ready to fire at an intruder. The crunch of her boot on frosty gravel is the only sound she makes before going absolutely still.

Whether to raise the gun or drop it and flee is a relevant problem in this instance.

In the end, the redhead chooses neither but stands still and stoic, watching the figure on the dock before setting her jaw tightly. It takes a great effort not to show any emotion, something that shouldn't affect her so much any more but the loss is still too new and too raw. Tugging the old sheerling coat around her form, she stares at the back of his head, almost wishing for the ability to bore holes in the backs of skulls.

If he hears the sound of boot on gravel, he doesn't turn. Doesn't move. It's only a few moments later that a hawk's shrill kree breaks the silence again, and he drops the cigarette he holds when he jumps. Flicking it into the water, he then looks up, craning his neck to try to catch sight of the soaring predator.

Tracking it with his eyes, he slowly turns, blue eyes following the bird's path back and beyond the castle before it disappears from view. Lowering his gaze, it's only then he sees Delia.

He swallows, jaw muscles twitching in time with his fingers that he's no doubt wishing hadn't just dropped the cigarette. The look he gives her is a complex mix of apology and pain and fear — one of a tired and ancient old soul and a hurt and scared little boy all at once.

"Red," he finally says, voice soft.

"Nick," is the shaky reply. The last bit of his name got caught and had to be forced out with a small clearing of Delia's throat. Her hand, numb and white from the cold, tightens around the grip of the rifle and her finger finds the trigger, caressing it lightly. She's the one that breaks eye contact first, turning her head and lowering it, letting her hair hide the shame.

Her lips move, presumably to begin speaking again but no sound comes out. It's stopped with a lick of her lips and an audible swallow as she grapples for something, anything, to say. After all, he did lose his sister. So did she. "He's gone," she finally says, not doubting that isn't really what Nick is after anyway. "Raith took him, so if you're looking…" You won't find him.

When she ducks her head, he does the same, eyes casting down and to the opposite side. His brows furrow as he tries to follow her train of thought. Who's gone? Took who? Before he realizes she means Astor.

"I know," he says quietly. "I heard, I mean. I just couldn't get here until now." Couldn't or wouldn't — to him, they are the same.

He opens his mouth to say something else, but whatever it is gets caught, and he shakes his head, turning his back and looking up again. Perhaps to seek the hawk. "How's Benji coping?" is a difficult but necessary question to ask, and a little easier than 'how are you' for the time being.

It's easier for Delia to talk about their son, not that anyone can tell by the sad twitch of her lips and then the shake of her head. "As well as can be expected," a neutral answer if there was one. She doesn't like speaking for the boy but in this case exceptions can be made.

"He's inside," she adds as an addendum in case Nick is looking to escape her company. Nothing else. A long breath is drawn in through the redhead's nose and she looks up at him with pursed lips. "I have some of their things, if you're wanting to claim them… Little things that I was going to save in case — someone — wanted them. Books, a shawl…" Things that were left by Eileen at the castle, she hasn't dared set foot in their old home.

Nick shakes his head, and there's a rise and fall of his shoulders as he takes a deep breath. He reaches for another cigarette from the pack in his jacket pocket, the spark of his lighter punctuating the silence.

"Let Astor or Benji have them. Abby. You. I can't keep stuff like that with me anyway," he says quietly. Apologetically. Everything sounds like an excuse.

He turns to look at her again, before his eyes drop once more to the graying wood at his feet. "Raith probably told you? Epstein's gone, too." The neutrality with which he murmurs the words doesn't match the pain in his eyes. But he isn't looking for comfort — it would be hypocritical of him.

"I'm sorry," it should sound sympathetic but it comes out wooden. It's Delia's turn to give him the apologetic expression, she doesn't turn away, not wishing to seem insincere in her remorse. The gun is lowered until the end of the barrel is pointed at the ground instead of somewhere near his feet. It's the least she can do given the circumstances.

"He was important to you," she qualifies, she was never acquainted with the man except by rumor. Epstein was important enough for York to leave his newborn son, that's really where her knowledge begins and ends. She never wanted to dig any further. "I— I really am, sorry. Do you want to come in? We have tea."

The boat creaks beneath Nick's feet and he shifts his weight, avoiding eye contact. "He was my partner," he murmurs, taking a drag of the cigarette. "I don't think I'll be able to trust anyone else."

Only after he says the words does he close his eyes — she could say the same of him; working partnerships and romantic relationships both come with trust and abandonment issues.

Nick shakes his head at the offer to go in. "I have some supplies on the boat I need unloaded. I can't stay long. Heading abroad tomorrow." He won't say where, of course. It's safer that way.

Finally raising his eyes to look up at her again, Nick studies her longer this time. "I'm sorry we didn't keep them safe." There's more to apologize for, but this is the most recent, the most open wound.

A shaking hand brings up the cigarette for another long draw before Nick breathes out the words in a flume of smoke: "Too little, too late, I guess."

He's sorry again.

In the more than a decade and a half that they've known each other not a week can go by without Nick being sorry. It's always something that can make Delia cry. As he digs his fingers into the seeping wound, she raises her chin. The rising sun highlights the glitter of tears caught on her eyelashes, not allowing her to feign strength.

She swallows again, her throat closing so tight that it's difficult to breathe afterward. The long breath of air that's expelled followed by the short one in, her ribs ache from having to hold it. Her lips form a grimace when her eyelashes release the first trickle down her cheek and she rushes at him.

It's not a friendly sort, or even a longing. The gun is raised, butt first and she swings it at him by the long barrel. "You're sorry?!" she yells at him, blaming him for the first time, perhaps for everything. "You don't get to be sorry for anything!!"

He doesn't move, letting her strike out. The rifle butt swings into his upper arm, thunking as it hits his elbow. Nick's brows dip and his eyes narrow in a silent wince.

Pressing his lips together, he drops his gaze once more to the dock, then clears his throat. "I'll just unload the crates and someone can pick them up. It's not a lot. A few guns, some ammunition, some med stuff," he says dryly, as if Delia hadn't just attacked him with a rifle.

He moves away from her and toward the boat, throwing one leg over to climb aboard. "Don't know when I'll be back this way. Take care," he adds, busying himself with the crates in the boat so he doesn't have to look at her — or the tears in her eyes.

The rifle clatters to the dock and Delia turns, running back toward the castle and leaving on of the few resources they have with Nick. No doubt someone else will be by to pick it up but it won't be her.

Ragged breathing torn by sobs are muffled by the hands she has clamped over her mouth. She doesn't go in, not yet, she doesn't want anyone to see her like this. Raith told her that she had to be strong, she had to stay strong. Crumpling along the wall, she huddles in on herself, letting her tears flow while she tries to make no sound. She hasn't done that since their son's cries could mask her own. Since he left and is now leaving again.

Twice now, it's her fault for not trying.

Fort Greene Nick's Apartment

Waking, the temperature in Nick's apartment in Brooklyn is much warmer from the snowy landscape of the dream just moments ago; rain taps lightly on the window though not loudly enough to wake anyone inside.

The dream has already done that.

Nick's eyes open and he stares up at the ceiling before reaching to the bedside table for cigarettes that no longer rest there. He can still taste the nicotine and smoke in his mouth from the dream, but in this timeline, he hasn't had a cigarette in months.

He could use one.

The last dream time he dreamed of the future that terrifies him so, Delia hadn't. He lies still, not looking to see if she too is awake.

The redhead rears up suddenly awake and pulling the sheet to cover herself high on her chest. Slim legs swing over the side of the bed, her long back curving as she leans forward to keep herself from getting sick. Her hand, as pale as in the dream comes up to feel at her forehead and then wipe under her eyes, catching the tears released while she slept.

It clamps over her mouth, much like it did there, muffling sobs that carried over into reality. The pain she felt there is still so very real an raw here. Half the time it takes her a few minutes to gain her bearings again, she's not used to not being in control. Delia doesn't look back to see if he's awake, not yet. The parallels between Benji's past and her present leave their own scars, the redhead's pride is the cause of this one.

When she rears up, he sits up behind her, studying her back for a few beats of silence. It would be easy to let her have her privacy, her moment in pain. But the distance in the dream felt like a chasm too wide to cross — here there is just a few inches of mattress between them, no years to divide them.

Nick reaches out, uncertainly, to lie his hand on her back, stroking from the bump at the top of her spine downward. The words that come to his lips are bitten back — the apology swallowed before it comes out, an echo of the words that made her so angry in the dream.

Tense muscles relax at the touch and before he reaches her lower back her body is already leaning against him heavily. First her head turns, a wet cheek pressed against his chest, her eyes closed so she doesn't have to own up to the dream that woke both of them. Her hand still clutches the sheet near her collar bone, hiding her front, but she twists and pulls one leg back up onto the matress.

The free hand that caught the tears curls around his side to his back and she holds herself there. Delia's lips part, something he can feel against his skin and a shuddering sigh is let out hot against his collarbone. "I'm sorry I hit you with a gun," she whispers, taking the easiest point in the inevitable conversation in order to work their way backwards. If he didn't share the dream, it'll be awkward.

Kissing the top of her head, he chuckles at the apology, then shakes his head. "I deserved it," is offered quietly, matter-of-factly, no apology given this time. He isn't the person in the dream — not yet — and he may never be now.

Too much has changed.

He breathes, lifting her head up and down with his chest as he strokes her back with one hand. "Don't worry about it. Those things — they won't happen now. Not that way." He swallows audibly, then moves his free hand to tip her chin upward, looking down at her. "Okay?"

"Okay," Delia smiles up at him, it's crooked and small but it's there. Her eys close as she hides them away, they're still puffy from a horrible sleep and irritated from crying. Leaning up, she touches her lips quickly to his as a better start to her day before she draws back again.

Then it's her turn to leave him.

The manner she chooses is to fall back to the matress, staring up at him with a silly grin. "I'm not worried," she lies, without stuttering or avoiding eye contact. The twitch of her lips is what gives her away, like she doesn't quite believe what she's telling him.

Nick has done enough evading and enough lying to know when it's being done to him — but he doesn't call her on it. He answers her silly grin with a small smile, bending over her to brush her lips with his.

"I'll make breakfast," he murmurs before crawling over her to get out of bed. "We have tea," he adds just a touch teasingly.

But, knowing she usually likes something stronger, he adds, "But, I'll make coffee."

"I'll make the Lucky Charms," she offers right after, scrambling to grab a few bits of clothing to tug onto her frame on her way out of bed. Delia hops through the small apartment on one foot, trying to pull her pair of shorts up. She stops a few inches behind Nick and wraps her arms around his waist, pressing her cheek against his back.

The shirt she grabbed is caught in a loop around her neck, not fully on but hanging down enough to hide her from floor level peepers. "Before you say anything, the milk is fresh, I just bought it." There's a beat before she presses her lips firmly against his back, her eyes closed, trying to forget the pain that she felt from the dream. "It's not you, I'm not worried about you…" she explains softly, "I'm worried about giving up. I let you go, I ran away."

Turning off the water faucet, he holds the tea kettle when she speaks, but when she apologizes, the kettle is slammed down on the counter. "Don't blame yourself for that. I didn't give you a choice, and you know it, Delia. Don't try to share the blame on that," he says, voice low as he turns around.

"You were doing what you had to. I wouldn't have -" he trails off, and shakes his head. "We're not those people. It doesn't matter, all right? We won't be those people. You told me, I can't be sorry for things I didn't do yet — that means neither can you. And you have a lot less to be sorry for than me, yeah?"

His eyes seem to plead with her, brows knit and blue gaze focused on her face.

A short jerky nod is his answer, accompanied by a crooked smile. "Promise me you won't let me give up," Delia murmurs, reaching up with one hand to smooth out his brow with a soft touch of fingertips. "On anything."

She stares up at his eyes for a long while before taking in a short breath. "Nick, I— " knitting her eyebrows together, she reconsiders, then shakes her head and gives him another silly grin. "Forget it, it's stupid…"

Nick's eyes flick from left to right across her face when she asks for a promise; he doesn't answer before she starts and stops like a car trying to turn over its ignition. He lets it serve as an interruption, breaking from her gaze to put the kettle on the stove, turning it on to heat and buying a moment's break from the intensity and intimacy he is such a novice in handling.

It's a short interruption. "What is it?" he presses, as he opens a cupboard to pull out the darjeeling tea he prefers.

"I was going to ask if you think Benji is showing us all of this so we don't end up like them." Grinning over her shoulder at him, Delia reaches into another cupboard and blindly grabs two bowls. They're placed on the counter while she digs for the cereal with the coveted marshmallow treasure. "But she already said she was…" As though the two of them staying together or never being together at all could be a turning point of sorts.

"I told you it was stupid…"

The tinkles of their breakfast hitting the bowls, like poor man's music, stops quickly after it begins. Once a splash of milk is added to each, she pulls her own bowl from its resting place and dips a spoon in. Only after she's had her first bite does she give him a guilty look and offer the bowl to him. "Shorry," she mumbles, swallowing the mouthful. There's another pause while she waits for him to grab his own. She's still not fully dressed but neither is he.

"Wh-when Eileen gets me out of there for good… and we go to Munich…" She speaks slowly, leading him along her train of thought like those plans are still the ones they're set on. "I really want Eileen to come too."

He takes the bowl and leans against the counter, raising a brow at the cereal — if he eats anything sugary it's Cap'n Crunch for the peanut butter, but he's not about to criticize her "cooking."

Her changes in conversation topics is like watching a car skid on an icy road in slow motion before finally coming to a stop. "Whatever Eileen wants to do," he murmurs quietly, eyes dropping down to focus on the cereal for a few bites.

"You know she won't go anywhere she doesn't want to," he adds. "And if she wants to go to Munich but doesn't want me there, I don't have t'go," he adds, turning toward the kettle as it begins its keening.

"We were close where Benji and then rest of them are from." Delia murmurs before taking another bite. She chews it slowly while stirring her spoon around in the milk to buy her a little more time to swallow. "I think we started to get close here too, a little. I don't want to lose that."

Watching him pull the kettle from the stove, she reaches for a couple of mugs and one of the boxes of tea. Not the coffee. "Or you." Stated as though her wishes are non-negotiable. "I think with a lot of time, things will change."

Picking up the kettle, he pours the boiling water into the two cups, letting her handle the tea part of it. "Maybe," is non-comital but not argumentative.

He picks up the cup and then the bowl, sitting at the tiny kitchen table. "I'm not gonna stop you from being close to her, Delia. Just don't expect her approval of me anytime soon. I don't expect it, and neither should you, yeah? I think whatever this … tolerance… is — that's about as good as it's going to get. It's more than I should be able to hope for, and it's enough."

He reaches for the milk to splash into his tea. "Don't push for more, or you'll be disappointed. I don't wanna see you get disappointed any more than you already have been," Nick adds, running a hand through his hair.

"Fuck, I want a cigarette," is added with a wry laugh.

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