A Place In The Sun


abby_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title A Place In The Sun
Synopsis A reunion between two former healers, in need of healing. Some more than others.
Date March 23, 2019

Abby's House

There aren't a lot of things that bring Francois back to New York City. It's a place of memories, good and bad, and after enough time, the good can become the bad too for simply acting as reminders of things lost, whether through acts of destruction or simply the decaying effect of time passing. He knows this process better than most, and as he moves down the streets of Williamsburg, he thinks he can count on one hand the amount of cities he has returned to in his too-long life.

Today, there is good cause, although he thinks he's only made it this far by repeatedly calling himself a coward for hesitating.

Coming up on the correct address, a brownstone so identical to the ones it shares this street with, and so painfully reminiscent of the multi-million dollar property he'd called home, once, Francois loiters in front of it. The air is brisk enough to justify the heavy woolen coat he is wearing, the scarf knotted around his neck, the nice leather gloves on his hands. He hasn't brought anything with them, and regrets this now, if only because the ceremony of having a prop would be nice. Wine? Flowers. A pot plant as a housewarming gift.


Ah, well.

He slowly makes his way up the stairs, and knocks at the door, the sound dulled with lambskin leather.

The red door opens up - a cedar wreath decorating the front and a big scrollwork wooden C nestled in it - warmth spilling out into the approaching spring outside and it’s likely who he expected on the other side. Only, a little older. More experienced in life. Scrub pants, waffle knit shirt and blonde hair in a ponytail, she’s been not long off work and she’s looking at the face on the other side of the door.

“Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit.”

She’s still got the accent, even as she’s tilting her head to the side. “You heard I had a spare room. Didn’t you.”

The door opens, and Francois smiles in this automatic and fixed way he's come to learn over the past decade when greeting people — which is, perhaps, a strange attribute to gain from his time as leadership within a paramilitary organisation, but there it is. Its falseness doesn't have time to set and freeze, anyway, not as Abby appears, speaks the familiar cadence and content of her voice, and crows feet deepen at the corners of his eyes.

His heart hurts immediately, and he steps in, trusting in old familiarity and southern hospitality to welcome the incoming hug he uses to smother it.

"You should know sooner or later, I would show up on your doorstep," he says, over her shoulder, unless she decides to knee him back down the stairs and onto the street or something. Likewise, his accent is stubborn, a familiar musicality, the aversion to contractions.

“I figured you might, at some point. I kept a bottle of red around just in case.” The embrace is returned, no hestiance, perhaps a little tight. The door is open but there’s warmth coming from her that keeps the cool air at bay. But she lets it linger, just a moment longer before releasing him, looking him over head to toe. “Looking good there Francois. Come in, before you let my warm air out. I can’t heat the neighbourhood.”

And she’s stepping to the side to usher him in, close the door behind him. “Kasha’s not home, it’s just me, she won’t be home for another two hours. Come in. You want something to drink? Eat? Stay for dinner? Passing through?” Rapid fire. In the kitchen a monkey goes bolting bast, a quick glimpse of the Capuchin as it busies itself in the kitchen.

He holds her there as long as the both of them can tolerate it, some source of tension easing by the time they are separating, and a soft laugh trails off at the news of his preferred shade of wine. Inside, Francois obliges her welcome by shrugging himself out of his coat and scarf, peeling off gloves, ensuring no traces of ice or urban street grime are being tracked in on her floors. The warmth of the building brings a mild flush to his face, ears first.

There is a darting, half-spooked look after the blur of monkey shape.

"I can stay a while, for dinner, if it does not impose," he says, warming bare hands together as he follows her inside, looking around. "I have precious little other business in the city, to be honest. I'm based out of Rochester." Which is not an insubstantial road trip, but he's made harder journeys for lesser reasons.

“You’re staying for dinner.” It’s decided. As if that was ever in doubt even if she had to wrap a plate to send him back on the road for. “Rochester. Better than Buffalo. Go explore, I need out of my work clothes. Get into something that hasn’t been around sick people and probably carrying the lord knows what on it. Go explore, if Tabaqui tries to climb you like a mountain, just tell him to go to his tree. Sorry for the mess.” As if this place doesn’t look perfectly put together and everything in place. Well, until you look in the livingroom and see the renovation process. “I’ll meet you in the kitchen. The wine’s in the cabinet by the fridge, left side, take your pick.” And she’s peeling away, off to the stairs so she can hightail it get changed.

Francois watches her go, nodding a little to himself about monkey contingencies, and turns back to the rest of the house. These buildings tend to follow a bit of a blueprint — the foyer, the staircase, the immediate living space, and even the trajectory of the kitchen is familiar. Uncomfortable, wistful pangs.

By the time she returns, he's still in search of a couple of wine glasses, a domestic sight as he opens up overhead cupboards, back to her, in comfortable blue jeans and a sweater in green, his favoured colour. There is, too, the double glint of engagement ring and wedding band on the appropriate finger.

Which is amazing that he ever had the time. He does look well, however, no new and interesting scars to speak of or that she can see — slept, fed, in decent health, and a little older, finally. Nowhere near his true age, but convincingly over the mark of 40.

"You're putting your roots down, then?" he asks, when he hears her approach.

“It was here or the daily commute for an hour to New Orleans from Butte La Rose.” He knows Butte la Rose. He at one point thought it would be his resting place after all. A sheer blouse, pin-point flowers on its surface, a tank top beneath it and jeans. Fuzzy pink slippers. Some things don’t change. Tabaqui is sitting on a low boy, chittering away at the blonde as if scolding her while eating a usurped baby carrot. “Oh you get yourself to the tree. I don’t wanna hear it. You’re fine.” She chastises the beast.

Then she’s moving to probably the last cupboard he might have looked and is producing the wine glasses. “For the next four years at least. That was my commitment to Elmhurst in turn for them paying for the rest of my degree. Four years at the hospital. One as nurse, three as practitioner in the ER. Seems that they rather like the idea of not paying for another doctor, when they can pay for a nurse practitioner and have an already there doctor sign off on my orders. I’m a lot cheaper. But it’ll still be a good deal of money. Almost done the learning part.”

She turns, leaning against the counter, smiling, arms folded across her chest, looking him over. “You’re looking good.” There’s the sense of looking at something or seeing someone that you didn’t really realize that you missed. “You settled in Rochester or are you feeling a pull to back here too?” She lights up and moves to her bag - still big, never a tiny purse - and pulls out a book. “Ghostwriter?” The book, about Francois. “Life with the Kami’ is maybe what you should have had the writer call it.”

The monkey is a draw, now that Abby has the glasses handled. Francois moves towards the creature, hands folded behind his back, keeping a solid few feet of distance but unable not to curiously tip his head, observe the Capuchin's little hands, its fixed expression and long, articulate tail.

"I confess, I do not miss working in a hospital — but then again, I never properly earned my way there. You've done well."

He turns, as she asks about Rochester, in time to see the glossy hardback in hand. Black and grey, a silhouette in an old photograph with his back turned, a title in an unassuming font. Francois' benign smile immediately goes crooked, abandoning monkey to his carrot as he walks over. He opens his hands out for it to be passed to him. "If I am the ghost, yes," he says. "But don't tell anyone."

As if it wouldn't become obvious to certain prying eyes, with enough reading.

“Francois Allegre! A pseudonym?!” Abigail faux gasps, hand to her chest. “Look at you, tongue wagging on both ends.” She smiles though, passing it over. “You’ll sign it I hope? I was going to take it up and soak in the bath and start reading it after Kasha went to bed. Wanted to see if there was any mention of Butte.” It’s relinquished and she’s moving to uncork the wine and let it breathe. The monkey remains with it’s carrot for now, looking a little on the older side, more white in it’s hair. “He belonged to James.” Or Robert, whatever name rolls off her tongue that belongs to her dead husband. “I took him in after the trials. It was either that or he’d go to some animal sanctuary.”

"If I sign it, you could show no one. The secret must die with you." All wry — as if Francois is aware that this is not the best kept secret he has ever maintained, regardless of whether he indulges in signing the glossy front matter, as either himself or his alias. "A pseudonym of convenience — to publish beneath my own name would stir a lot of uncomfortable questions."

As if there won't already be — but at least, Filip Mikhailov does not exist enough to answer them.

Francois flips through the pages, filled mostly with fine print but also the occasional grey photograph — none of himself, of course — or copied journal entry. Looks up, when she speaks of the monkey and her dead husband, benign smile softening away. His hand stops on a page nearest the front, holding it in place, but doesn't offer it over yet.

"I'm sorry," he offers. "And that it is such a late coming sorry, too."

“Nothing says you need to sign it as Francois.” She points out. “Besides, no one ever visits and looks in my bookshelves.” A long time ago, there might have been a photocopy of one journal in all it’s french glory with the english translation. But somewhere in nearly eight years, it disappeared. Living on the run does that to your personal belongings.

He offers an apology and she shakes her head, as if refusing it. “It’s not like you could have offered it sooner.” She was in another country. Then in the countryside. Far away. Far, far, far away from New York. “He did, what he did. And at some point, he had to atone for it.” And then she’s turning away, putting her back between those words and him so she can check on the wine. There’s no wedding ring on her finger. Not even a trace that there was one. “How’s Teo?”

There would have been a time where geographic boundaries wouldn't have stopped Francois for being there for someone — like now, probably, is a time for that. Back then was not. But he accepts her absolution, offering her a flicker of a smile, before he goes and sits down, laying the book on a table surface as he fishes a pen from his pocket. He writes in the air, as if to get a feel for Mikhailov's signature, before he applies it to an inner page, a soft scratch of pen on paper.

"Teo," he says, as he writes. "Is Teo. Good, I think."

Not exactly the most personal of answers for someone you are married to, but he continues at a clip with, "He oversaw some of these passages for me — I otherwise kept the writing a secret. Here, I wish to show you something I indulged in."

Liquid burbles, deep and red into two glasses, the monkey hightails it off to somewhere in the house with a soft chitter, taking it’s carrot with it and a few more. “I hope he’s good.” He thinks. She’s not going to touch that. But she does bring over the glasses, passing one over so she can look. “What did you indulge. You are one that I doubt rarely indulges, like myself.” She lifts the glass, taking a small sip.

Francois cuts a glance Abby's way, on the matter of indulging, as if maybe there is any irony in her words he could detect — and of course, there is none. Part of what he does love about her is the lack of ambiguity in things she says. He twiddles the pen, before he steers the book around for her to look at, while drawing his glass closer to himself.

Hidden in the front matter is where he's signed the spikey signature of his pseudonym, as suggested, but the stark whiteness of the page draws the eye to the entry of text at its centre.

with thanks

to my guardian angels

on pale and dark wings

and my love

for finding the end of the story

"A small acknowledgment," he says. "As I cannot complete my memoirs without showing my hand, so."

There’s wobble of her head, wobble of her lips a little as she reads the words, the thanks from the author in plain black and white, placing her wine glass to the side before she picks up the book and holds it up, holds it close to read the words a second time.

The right corner of her lip turning up in a smile. “In the time of all sweet things beyond, whatever mind may comprehend, remember seek, forgetting find.” She murmurs. Now the other side matches in height and there’s a dampness at her lash line. “If he hadn’t let us bring you back, I would have dragged you to my home regardless of Volken’s men, and made my parents bring you to a hospital. I wasn’t going to let you die. Not alone out there. Not if I had a say.”

She looks over at him. “No regrets. Best time travel experience ever. Even if it was my only one.”

"Mine too," Francois says, and it decidedly was not his only one — just unreservedly the best.

He smiles, now, clearer and brighter than before — no crookedness, no frozen falseness, and he raises a little out of his chair just enough to lean across, a hand touching her arm, and a kiss placed to the top of her head. Speaking of indulgence, this kind of simple affection feels like that, these days, when it had come so easy several years ago.

She closes her eyes at the kiss, closing the book and putting it down, taking his hand and pressing the back of it to her lips to give him a kiss back before releasing it. “It has been too long and that’s my fault. Lord but it is my fault. I should have kept in touch after the trials. Or at least let others keep in touch.” She didn’t. Butte’s pretty good for hiding in. “But you’re here. What brought you here? Or really, did you hear that I had a spare room?” There’s a pause, a suddenly serious look. “Or are you in need of a flaming baptist?”

"We all scattered to the four winds, ma chérie."

Francois settles back in the chair, taking up the glass of wine. "Perhaps I heard you had a good merlot," he suggests. However, she's looking for a real answer, and he switches his attention to his drink, a rare moment of slight— awkwardness. Self-consciousness, even. "You said you were here," he says, after a moment. "It's been a long time since I've made friends with someone I don't work with. Or even do work with, really.

"If I ask them things like 'should I retire?', it is a loaded question. Unprofessional, you know. And I thought perhaps you'd like to see me too, on a whim." He adds, "I don't mind the drive. I have a very nice car."

“I do have a good merlot. Robert taught me that. How to pick a good one. Well mostly I just stick to the ones that he like in the basement of the one restaurant that time, or he’d bring home to drink.” Backwoods barbie learned to a degree how to at least fake sophistication when it comes to fermented grapes.

“We all scattered, you’re right. As for making friends, is it making if you’re already friend?” She looks to the stove. “I have steaks in the fridge. Or we can order chinese and wait for it to come and go sit on the sun porch upstairs. While there’s still sun.” She’s looking him over again, tilting her head, as if memorizing everything, comparing it to what was, filing it away in some mental catalog. “Do you miss him?”

A pause. “Or well… it?”

A guarded look briefly hardens up behind green eyes, broken then when Francois raises a querying eyebrow. "The healing?" Now he drinks, a long and appreciative sip from the red. The bottle is not going to make it out of here alive, he foresees. "In moments of panic only. Existential or otherwise." This is delivered light-hearted, and not made insincere as a result.

"I almost forgot about your burning ability. I think of you in possession of the gift even before I remember it was mine. And I vote for Chinese — so you don't have to host me too much."

“Someone comes into the emergency room and they die. And I reach out as if it might still linger.” She nods. “I can do it in my dreams. I don’t flame. I just.. Heal.” That bottle of wine and maybe the other in the cabinet won’t indeed, make the night. But then again, that’s what they are there for. One imagines she doesn’t get to drink much.

“Oh. Party trick.” Down goes her wine glass and she’s pushing up the sleeve of her shirt. “It’s been this long. Though, it’s my Dah who helped me figure it out. Lots of hours in the field. He made a little cement pad for practicing. God bless his heart.” Abby smiles, wriggling her fingers. Sometime, in the middle of the wriggling, those digits, the tips of them turn into that coronal surface, but goes no further down that the second knuckle and the flames flick back and forth in time with her movements. But the rest of her stays intact. “Makes for easy campfire lighting in the summer.” It was a lot of practice. “I can talk now too. Little garbled now and then. But.” A lot better that vague motions with a flaming limb. “I done growed up and learned how to not set buildings on fire. Or patients. Partners. Not accidentally.”

"I am proud of you," Francois says, declarative and understated, a joke and genuine both. He'd watched the flames lick along her skin a little like she was showing him a new song played on guitar — the way these things have become so strangely ordinary. "I hardly know anyone without a superpower. It is amazing I've lived this long as an ordinary man."

He thinks so, anyway, and this doesn't carry with it irreverence or ego, just a statement of fact. It's been an interesting past few years.

"So you are taming it. Are your days of putting it to heroic use behind you?"

“Not a much call for flaming baptists as there was for healing ones.” She points out. “So I guess the answer is more, the opportunities or requests don’t come. Unless they really need wound cauterization in the field, but even that doesn’t really happen.” An undercurrent of lament as she turns to start hunting through a drawer in search of a take out menu. Even the great Abigail Caliban has nights where she doesn’t Martha Stewart up dinner and orders take out like any other person in the world. Despite the cost.

“You’ve lived longer as someone with one, than without.” She is swift to point out as she brandishes the menu, laying out before them. “Have you learned how to live without it better than before?”

Chin in hand, Francois surveys the menu with hooded eyes. "Perhaps I do miss it," he says, not in quite answer to her questions. "Without realising. I think things would be different with me now."

Saving people in the most direct way fathomable, instead of struggling on the front lines. And he'd thought, before, about what altering quality there might be in possessing the healing gift, if it had changed him on some spiritual level — and if its departure has changed him back. He sighs through his nose, all at once in his own head rather than sitting at the table with her.

Until he says, "Chow mein, obviously. With the sesame chicken.

"I think I'm still learning," is the answer he decides upon. "I think getting older forces one's hand, there."

"I don't feel as close to god." She'll confess, grabbing a pen and putting a check mark there beside the desire food. Sweet and sour chicken for kasha, fried rice, mongolian beef. This is not a vegan house, though, yes, there we go, vegetables are also added. A rounded meal on account of the child.

"Rochester. What's in Rochester? Other than you? Who else do you see from days of old?"

Francois has nothing for this first part — his mouth makes a sympathetic line in his face, familiar a little with the internal struggle of godliness. It's in his book, some. Under emphasised through the impartial lens of some unknown Russian historian, sure, but there. He thinks he put too much stock in religion, in those days.

He doesn't say that either. "Wolfhound is in Rochester, except when we are hunting. It's a big space, full of people. Young things and old. Avi Epstein, Hana Gitelman. Some of the young ones who came back from the future. Huruma, Colette Demsky. Claire Bennet."

No one close to him, in other words, and so suggests his tone. Names in orbit, glimmering familiarity.

"And some new faces," is how he summarises that, after another mouthful of wine that he is careful to keep from staining his lips, his teeth. Practiced! "Good people, all."

“Huruma?” There’s a smile at that. “She’s there?” She sounds happy at that. “So it sounds, like most of the Ferrymen migrated to there. Hana is surely an asset. Claire too. The ones from the future. Cash is around here, I am told. Though she sits in a garden, turned to stone. I am thinking of getting a plot in the garden close to her. Keep her company when I can.” If the woman remains there, now she’s back in the city.

“It sounds…lovely. Wolfhound. Though it sounds too like you might be wanting something a little more?” But there’s a finger held up and she’s heading for a land line. “Let me get the food ordered and we can go to the balcony in the back. It’s covered in glass, so Kasha can grow stuff in the winter. Or at least let her summer plants come inside for the winter.”

"Good idea," Francois says, watching her head for the phone, formulating a little the things he wants to say, in answer to her comments, queries, or otherwise. He takes the bottle of wine by the neck, hefts it up, and heads off to explore this balcony in the back while she phones in their order. It's a slightly assumptive action, he thinks, in civilised society, more conscious of it than he would be if they hadn't had such long years apart from each other — but a part of him misses that ease with another person.

A shift in environment — the smell of earth and plant life and sun lamps and soon, wine and Chinese food. For the minutes it takes for their dinner to arrive, Francois takes charge of the conversation in that he keeps it irreverent — complaining of the commute, describing his new four-wheel drive, updates on the statuses of Hana and Colette and Huruma and any other name that he remembers overlaps with Abby's orbit of knowledge. He doesn't talk about those that have died.

By the time they have their food, and are settled in, comfortable, he says something like, "Do you miss it?" And, upon realising this is an echo of what she had already asked him, he clarifies, "The danger. You are still doing heroism."

“Would I be a horrible person if I said yes?” Chopsticks poke at whatever is in her container, sitting with legs crossed, picking out the mushrooms and putting them to the side to be composted later.

“You’re right. Danger and heroism don’t go hand in hand. I miss the former. Elisabeth said that living for so long, on the edge like we did, it changed us.” She looks over at him. “And I do. Miss it. But then I send Kasha off to school in the morning and I just…” She frowns, blonde brows furrowing. “I miss a lot of things. Robert. Cooking food with almost nothing but a stone and water. Sitting on the back of boats motoring up the back rivers.” A deep breath that’s let out. “They say SCOUT is recruiting. I’d almost think of applying but I have the obligation to Elmhurst. Plus, really, I don’t know if they have a need for a flaming baptist with a medical degree. What would I do other that “Here, let me cauterize that for you.”

"Wolfhound found a place for a powerless battlefield medic with no degree at all," Francois points out, arch, likewise attacking his food selection with chopsticks, his appetite ambivalent, but Abby would recall that about him too. "A woman who can conjure and become fire is a powerful asset."

He shakes his head, as if to dismiss these foolish hypotheticals. "But so too is a mother to a little girl, and a nurse to a patient," is the counterpoint. "I'm sure things would be different for me in that situation."

Or would it? He knows a little of one future where he played stepfather to a son and still ran with wolves, but isn't that the case for most people they know. Doesn't that just mean both things can co-exist. Maybe not, maybe not in this world, where the war is over, and they have to board jets to go and seek out their fights. He remembers his wine, and drinks some.

She looks thoughtful, aimless poking at the noodles. “Would mean breaking my contract with Elmhurst.” She points out. “I have the money though, from Robert’s estate.” She looks over at him. “To pay them back.” Finances isn’t going to be a hindrance. “But you neglect to acknowledge that they took a powerless battlefield medic yes, but one with what, over a hundred years of experience.” She gestures to the book. “And has been on the battlefield for many many more years. Seasoned war veteran.” A sage nod. “Why on god’s green earth Francois, did you write the book? Did you need money? Or just… feeling mortal?”

Francois does not say that is an exaggeration as to the over a hundred years of experience — it's delivered in the look cut across at her as he winds noodles around his chopsticks. No need. It's beside the point. Seasoned war veteran, he'll accept.

His smile returns when she suggests money as a motive. "I have money too," he assures her, a cheek full of Chinese noodles, swallowing before he continues. "It is the new America, and heroism pays well now." He settles back, reaching for his wine glass again. "Perhaps mortality. Why not? I imagined myself undying for so long and now a little piece of me shall go on," a gesture with that wine glass, indicating the eternal nature of the printed word as an all encompassing horizon. "But I prefer to think of it as an exorcism.

"I've held onto my stories for so long, with only journals to tell them to. I don't seek fame, really, but— acknowledgment, perhaps. That I lived, that I existed, and did things of importance." A little hint of mirth sparkles in green eyes, as he adds, over his wine, "Before it was cool."

Hands go up at the look, the smile is apologetic for having called him over a hundred years old. But she settles in still with her own food, her own noodles twirled. “Before it was cool.” She agrees. “That you were here, on this earth and you made a difference. Known or unknown.” There’s a nod. “I can understand that. Now the question though is whether you approached a publisher or whether a publisher approached you and why oh why, did you write it under the auspices of another person and not just yourself?”


These are fair questions, ones that feel so self-evident to Francois who has otherwise had to answer to so little. But it is a comfortable thing, to update Abigail on these details, her earnest interest circumventing any chance of awkwardness, feeling past the schism that time creates.

"I approached an agent who has represented other authors and researchers working in this field. History revised by the truths that have emerged over the past decade, you know, Evolved ability, Volken's ties to the war and beyond, how it all fed into the Institute. Once I could verify with her who I was, the rest of simple enough. As for the pseudonym— "

A brief pause as he sets about topping up his glass, and then Abby's. "I think the responsible thing is to detract unwanted notice, but honestly, when I tried to write from my own perspective, I couldn't. It felt too private. Pretending like I was someone else, writing about it, seemed to help. Trust me, there were a lot of moments when I almost gave up the whole enterprise."

Abigail holds out her glass for the refill, letting him share the duties of host with regards to this, a smile on her face. Like so many dinners in the past. “I can see that.Clarity on the past but with that wall between you and that. It becomes more factual and less… personal.” She sips at the wine. “Like a mask I suppose.” She breathes deep, satisfied with the answer. “So what then, about this other person who is claiming it’s fiction, not fact? Just ignore it and hope they ease away and are forgotten?”

"It is fiction inasmuch as memories are unreliable," Francois says, sitting back, gesturing a little with the still half-full bottle of wine before he sets it back down in its place. "I did my best. They just want proof, and I don't mind that they don't get it, if that's what prevents it from being taken seriously. It will be read, and that's enough."

Is it enough? It may have to be. Writing process aside, Francois has no designs for celebrity, even obscurely. What he has designs for is something he is still working out.

"You must tell me what you think of it."

“When I finish reading it, I most certainly will. Maybe I’ll come out to Rochester to visit you and bring you bagels. See old faces. Bet half of them don’t realize I’m back. I know that Cardinal near bout soiled his pants when he saw me working at the hospital.”

She smiles, shifting in her seat, food put down and tucking feet up under her so she can propr an arm along the back of the couch and support her cheek on one palm. Finally ask that thing that she’s been not asking but should. “Where’s Teo? How are you both?”

It's a little weird, isn't it? Like there was this mercurial moment in time where Francois was supposed to fall in love with Abigail but fate intervened and they found separate safe harbours. For the best, he's pretty sure. There are jokes about friendzones that are super funny and not at all reductive and sexist, but he also values his friendship with Abigail almost as much as he does whatever it is he has with Teo. It certainly keeps better when left unattended, god knows.

He thinks all of this in a flash, smile listing regretful. "He lives in the Catskill Mountains," he says, "as a sort of soft retirement. Wolfhound was just forming, so I was— I have been working a lot, and it is where he wanted to be, for that time. We are a little bit— the city mouse and country mouse."

You know, if they were homos.

"It is difficult but doable," he adds. Rest assured. "I will tell him you're back in town, drag him back to civilisation."

“When you talk to him, tell him Weezyana is back, but if he… would prefer to remain where he is, I would understand.” Maybe they were. There would be psychologists around the world who would state that shared trauma - or kami’s - might be a poor basis for a relationship. Or the very nature of what they possessed and had spread from one to the other might just have been the both of them clinging to some last vestige of something now gone.

There could be dissertations for sure written on the subject matter if it was known. But it’s not really and here they are, sitting on a couch indeed, both having found harbor in the hearts of others and their hearts far away.

“How do you deal with it? I dream about him nearly weekly. That night, in his cell, ten minutes to fit in a lifetime.” She shakes her head. “Life without him by your side”

It's a slender knife, these words, finding a soft spot and resting. Francois would bet money that Abigail can put a needle in someone's arm as if it was always a part of them, gentle as anything. Still, the sting is there.

He reaches over and he takes her hand, because sometimes the best way to handle any amount of pain is focus on someone else's. "Cold beds are terrible things," he agrees, quiet. "Especially after sweet dreams." He doesn't know what he thinks of the man that Abby loves, even after death, save that he is sure she did love him, and that that's enough. "I don't have very good answers, unfortunately. I try not to become angry too often."

Maybe that's a little candid, but the advice is meant for her. Maybe she isn't past the point of anger. Maybe she never felt it. Wrath never felt like a natural part of him, either, and he's more inclined to blame Volken for that than he is Teo.

She she paid Raith ten thousand to kill him. At some point, there had to have been some wrath. Most certainly, there was some wrath. “It was a cold floor.” Vague comment. That he lived to see trial clearly meant that she called it off. Because of a silly thing called love. “I miss another person in bed beside me, barely touching, never quite. That’s not my daughter after a nightmare.” One could term the dream she had as a nightmare too. Depends on how you look at it. She holds his hand squeezing it not too gently. “You know what I miss too? Adult fucking conversation that doesn’t revolve around what a ruptured aorta looks like and what gross thing happened to them today involving a patient, or hey did you see that protruding femur?” Imitating some of her co-workers.

Also, Abigail swore. She said the F word. Fainting hearts beware. Maybe it’s the wine. Or nearly ten years.

Putting people on pedestals is one heck of a way to lose friends fast, and so Francois is not too surprised to hear a cuss come out of Abigail Caliban — but maybe a little charmed by it.

He gestures with his wine, and says, "So happy to oblige," and, upon thinking about it, "I think I miss that as well. Wolfhound is full of puppies, and the old dogs are all business." It probably doesn't have to be that way, but it seems the best way to keep his relationship with Wolfhound operational. Some distance, some borders. He drinks down his glass of wine with a reckless head tip backwards, and sets the empty glass down.

Still holding her hand, content to keep their fingers tangled so. "You should find that other person," he says. "To share a bed with. You deserve that."

“I don’t know that I want to. Some other person. There wasn’t even someone up in Canada.” That likely would come as no surprise to everyone. She untangles her fingers from him, standing up to starts tidying up this and that on the low table, stack empty containers, finish the bit of wine in her glass till it’s just streaks. “I think I’m like my Dah in that regard. One person. Or maybe i just feel cheated and don’t want to. Or can’t. Or hung up. Or too dead inside, or something.” Or something. “I just know I keep dreaming about him. I always wake up at the same time in the morning that he swung from the rope and I stare at the wall and remember his touch and then I just get on with my day.”

Abby gets up, starts tidying. Francois also kind of lists forward in his seat like he might want to help but ultimately comes to a resting place with his elbows on his knees, the melancholy shade of thoughtful.

Silent, too, no quick answers coming as something turns inward.

But not for long! Don't worry about it. There is renewed focus by the time she's describing horrific nightmares, a kind of mourning he's not certain he's ever experienced in the same way. "Even if we had our abilities back, there are things it couldn't touch," sounds trite but he says it anyway, an admission of unhelpfulness. "But even if it did, perhaps it would erase too much. He would be gone properly if you stopped hurting."

She’s tidying because she needs to get up and do something. She’s never been an idle hands kind of woman. Broken ankle and she was still up washing dishes and laundry and on the go. “You’re right. There’s some things that could never have touched, Couldn’t fix or make whole.” She looks over at him, that slightly lopsided smile. “I hope that the day it stops hurting Francois, is the day that I’ve passed, and I get to see him again.” More dishes stacked. “And then slap him in the face for a few things before kissing him again.”

She breathes in deep then lets it out, stopping this domestication. “I miss movie theatres. I would have Kasha stay at a friends or a sitter and would just go to the movies. What do you miss, from before the war?”

"Good food," is an immediate answer, of a person who has thought about it before now, and is also happy to follow the curve of conversation. Francois stands up, mostly because she is, stretching his legs. Facing the prospect of a long drive ahead of him as he turns a shoulder to her, attention directed out through the open window as he speaks. "Which is no complaint for the Chinese delivery, of course, but we've had our brushes with scarcity of late."

Which means no nice restaurants, or at least, ones that stay in business for any length of time. "Rochester is a little better," he says. "If you can ever get away for a night or two, to make going out there worth it. There is even a little movie theatre."

“Well now that I realize you’re there and a few others, I’ll have to see if Liz will take Kasha for a night or two.” But there’s a movie theatre and she slaps his shoulder gently, a gasp. “Shut your mouth! What do they show? Please tell me Jurassic Park. Teo said long ago it was the first movie he brought home for you. I gave him so much trouble for that. First movie, and it’s rampaging dinosaurs eating everyone.” A roll of her eyes before wrapping her arms around him to squeeze and hold tight. “Once the gardens back up proper in the yard here, I’ll drive up some green beans and the like. Make you and the others some meals. Or I’ll make em here and you can shove em in the freezer and when you need some southern cooking, you just put it in the oven. Or baloney cake. I can send some baloney cake.”

Francois winds his arms around Abby. Leans, like a large dog, allowing his weight to settle against her smaller frame for a moment or two before settling back on his heels. There's been a laugh, about Jurassic Park, and its still evidenced in the crinkles next to his eyes as he straightens up enough to make eye contact.

"They did show Jurassic Park," he says, and he did attend, is definitely not necessary to add. "There aren't many new titles from abroad, but many old favourites. And they let you drink."

His hands go up and smooth the hair back from her face. He doesn't respond to offers of food — fresh vegetables, frozen meals, baloney cake — with the expectation that his ascent is explicitly implicit, as he instead says, "It is really good to see you again."

“It’s good to see you too. It really is.” She echoes, nodding as she sucks in on her lower lip with a smile. “And now, now,” She’s mirroring that same movement, smooth errant flyaway blonde hair. “Now we pack up the leftovers for you to take home, and get you gassed up so you can get back to Rochester unless you’re gonna spend the night in the guest room and go in the morning. And I will come out in a few weeks and come make the trip out there.”

This was nice. Difficult conversations navigated, only mild trips in the thorny parts, his heart grazing its knees but nothing serious. Francois is happy, when he drops a quick kiss down onto the crown of her head, with thoughts of southern home cooking transposed into the Bunker's large kitchen, whether from his own reheating efforts or because Abby has graced them all with their presence, a small ray of sunshine cutting into a world of concrete and white light. Impossible to get muddied, to do anything but light up a room.


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