A Separate Peace


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Scene Title A Separate Peace
Synopsis Acts of compassion bring peace to a man on his deathbed, though not to those surrounding him.
Date June 11, 2011

Old Dispensary

A shadow occupies the doorway of Nick's room. Outside the radius of light cast off the gas lantern left to burn on his bedside table, Eileen Ruskin is half a pale face with a colourless eye trapped behind a cage of black lashes that watches not the man in the bed but the willowy blonde woman with the cornsilk hair who has taken her seat on the edge of the mattress. It is a rare thing that the Remnant allows anyone inside the Dispensary, but most rules have an exception; this is one the Englishwoman is willing to bend so her brother can pass in peace if the sickness claims him like she thinks it will.

She hates that it would be a relief.

"You're absolutely clear on what I'm asking you to do?" she asks from the doorway.

It's been over a year since she was last here, learning to shoot a rifle with Raith and planning out the rescue of Joseph. Now she's here again for a whole new reason, but just as sad and upsetting. She may not know Nick well, but he is still one of them in a way. There is a small nod of Kaylee's Thatcher's head from where she sits, back straight and ankles crossed rather lady like.

"Yes," finally follows the nod, Kaylee dragging her attention from the sick man to Eileen and whatever bird she has working as her eyes. "Go in an block whatever memories are upsetting him." Long fingers reach to touch Nick's damp forehead gently like she's done the kids when they were sick.

Fingers spread out a little, as if readying to go in. "What I see won't go past here." A small understanding smile touches her lips. "I assure you I can keep secrets." A significant glance goes to Eileen, probably to indicate she doesn't tell Joseph everything.

The young man's brows furrow at the touch to his head, but he doesn't open his eyes. He hasn't for some time — hours, now. Enough to make the rest of the Dispensary's residents worry along with Eileen that the end is near.

Those that care anyway.

While he may be unconscious, there are murmurs and moans and fear-stricken No's — he may be asleep, but he is not at rest. Thin, pale but for the spots of red in his cheeks from the fever, Nick looks more like the man that came to Pollepel so many months ago, except now his hair is almost too long, damp and following perpetually across his eyes until someone — usually Eileen — tucks them away.

Eileen communicates her gratitude through silence. Although a telepath herself, she does not know how much of her childhood she's exposing to Kaylee with her request; her quiet insistence that whatever she sees will not go any further than this room leaves her feeling vaguely uneasy without being able to pinpoint why.

She says nothing more.

There is soft shushing noises gentle as Nick seems a touch restless, probably mentally as well. All while Kaylee works to wind herself through the younger man's mental defenses. Leaning over a little more, fingers of both hands bracket Nick's face, ignoring the sweat and the smell of illness.

The telepath falls silent herself, shoulders slumping just a little as she slides into the sleeping mind. Her head tilts down, eyes closing as he goes to look at what is torturing this poor man.


The name is spoken gently, a soft call into the darkness. Kaylee pushes through the veil of his mind, looking for where the curtain of his subconscious splits opens to her. Nick. I'm here to help.

Those dark brows crease more and his head tosses on the pillow; as dark and unholy as it is, his mind is his sanctum, so far only breached by one other soul, and she in need of help.

Kaylee finds the Nick she's met huddled in what looks like a cement-walled room; blood streaks the walls where he has tried to claw his way out; fingers holding his knees to his chest gleam with the slick crimson. The air is thick with the scent of sulfur, though it's bone cold here, an oily blackness closing in around them. You can't. Please. You can't be here. You can't see this. The voice comes without Nick lifting his head to search for the intruder; it resonates from within rather than from the vision's lips.

Just let me die comes as a desolate whisper.

He's given up. Before Kaylee can respond, however, a small boy spills from the black shrouding the periphery; small and thin, wiry with bright blue eyes under a mop of dark hair, eyes that don't look as dead as those of the man in the corner. He beckons, then leads Kaylee away from the dark corner of Nick's mind to a grim and gray street in London, to a flat above a shop.

"He doesn't want you to see. He's ashamed. He hates himself, and even hates me," the small boy says, reaching to tug Kaylee by the hand, his own bandaged. "But it's here. What he doesn't want you to see."

She doesn't get to respond to the plea's of the older Nick before she's being led away by the little one. There is a worried glance back, then the corner fades into the streets of a place she's never been. Unfamiliar to her as she's never even really left North America. Her ability helps sharpen the fuzziness around the edges, bringing it into focus.

Kaylee is led along easily, her hand curling around the smaller hand, careful of the obvious injury. "Show me," she says quietly, determined to see this through no matter what it could be. It was the only way she can help him.

Leading the telepath up the steps, the small boy looks back, an eagerness in his eyes for help, for compassion that the older Nick has lost. But as they move to the second floor and into the cramped and shabby flat the Ruskins called home, he fades away once more into the darkness, leaving Kaylee with the older Nick's memories.

They unfurl, seemingly slow though in the space of the mind a second can be a year. The secrets of the Ruskin household come in the forms of whispers and murmurs, soft sobs and hissed threats. The tension between the older Ruskins that Kaylee knows now clear, the tortured soul of Nick now laid plain…

Only after she has the chance to see does the small child return, tugging her hand again. "He's sorry, miss. He tried t'kill me t'keep it from happening, when Samuel sent him back to stop it. He wouldn't like me showing this to you…" His eyes, less bright now, scan her face, less certainly now, seeking her mercy. The bright eagerness gone, replaced by fear and shame.

When the memories fade, Kaylee can't look at the young boy. She just can't. Not until she is in control of her own emotions. Through the whole thing she wouldn't allow herself to shy away or close her eyes to the memories. The telepath watched every horrible moment of it.

Teeth press into the soft skin of her bottom lip, her head shaking a little. "I… I can't say as I blame him," Kaylee finally manages to gasp out, emotions making words rough and halting. "Clearly, It's eating him up inside. Like a festering sore." There is no malice or judgment when she looks at the boy, maybe a sort of understanding. If only Nick knew some of what the telepath herself has done. "He can find peace with it." Kaylee still has the nightmares, but she also has support where she needs it. Even so… "But I am not sure he is ready yet. I can help give him time."

Outside of Nick's mind, tears glisten against long dark lashes. The only real hint of what's going on in there and the telepath's reaction.

Scowling as he sees her reaction, the little boy looks away, biting his lip and looking in his tiny sullenness more like the older version, bright eyes dimming to that flat and pale blue. He jerks a nod that is too adult for his small frame. "Do it," he says tersely, and while his voice is still juvenile, the tone is not.

On the bed, the ill man turns toward the wall abruptly, as if he could block out the intruder of his room, of his mind.

"It will not be forever," Kaylee explains, but already she's taking hold of his memories. A swipe of her hand, fades the scenery, bringing them to the 'film' archive of his memories. Lengths of cellulose acetate, hang in midair crossing this way and that, moving at a rate of speed of any camera reel. "What I do will eventually crumble away." The strips of film slide across the palm of her hands, eyes searching the images embedded on it.

She does glance over at the little boy briefly. "Maybe by then…" if there is a then "…you can learn to cope and start to the healing." There is some encouragement in that sad smile that shows itself.

Kaylee turns her attention to the memories, hands flexing to grab the film and stop it once she finds what she wants. Then slowly she takes the film and starts folding the memory away. It's tedious work, but soon the various horrors eating away at him start to fade. The glue she uses is not the greatest, but for now it'll hold.

Satisfied, the telepath lets the strip go and it starts up again. She watches it for a time. He'll have blank spots in his memory, but no one — except maybe people like Cat — can say they remember all their childhood. "There," she whispers softly, maybe a little jealous. There are times she wishes she could forget some of the horrible things she's done and had done to her.

"Thank you," whispers the small boy, a tear sliding down his cheek as he moves out of the flat to the landing, scooping up an orange cat that lies there on the top step. He burrows his face in the marmalade striped fur and runs down the steps, fading once more into the darkness.

But Kaylee is not left alone for long. A moment later, closing a door behind him, an older Nick emerges in the hallway. There are no more cries or murmurs or noises any more. The flat is quiet. His mind feels quieter.

The lean boy tips his head at Kaylee, giving a short nod of tacit acknowledgment.

On the bed, Nick's form seems to ease a little, relaxing back against the pillow, the crease in his brow fainter, though still present. There is still pain — most of it is physical, now.

Despite what she's seen, Kaylee can't help but watch the boy, tears of her own blurring her view. Taking a deep breath, she turns to the older Nick. She smiles gently and offers out her hands. If he doesn't take her's on his own, she'll move to take his. Her grip warm.

I know how hard it can be. Now you'll have some peace. For now, anyhow. Her lips don't move, but the words ring true all around them. Now it's time to heal physically. Fingers tighten around his hand, her eyes seem almost a brighter blue… or seem to be. "«So don't give up. There is too much for you to do.»" The words sink slowly into his subconscious and root themselves there to mentally bolster him. "«Fight to stay with us.»"

His hands are released then, so she can back up. Kaylee reaches behind her and a pale hand moves to take hers. From the depths, she brings out a memory of a familiar redhead, drawing her out into the light."She's waiting for you and needs you, no matter what your fevered brain is telling you ormaking you believe." The telepath doesn't have to use her ability to add, "Delia loves you. I know it. I've seen it when I've talked to her. She needs you, just like I feel like I need Joseph." Her hand presses to that spot of her heart. "Right here. I know you feel that too."

From the blackness, she then draws out Benji and Eileen. "The people you love and will love need you to be there. To protect them. Even if they don't think they need it." There is amusement there, maybe she knows how that is too. Still, even more people step from the shadows slowly, all around him. "Even friends and colleagues need to you have their backs."

Kaylee only then starts to fade, her words sticking there. "«Remember what I've said. Fight to live. Don't throw your life away, yet.»"

The boy takes her hands, staring down at them and unable to meet her eyes as she speaks. There is more of the adult in this lanky teen, more of Nick's mannerisms: the twitch in the jaw, the way his eyes dart down and to the side instead of at Kaylee's face. Just as she begins to fade, he looks up — blue eyes wet, tears clinging to the dark lashes.

"Tell them I love them, yeah?" he says. "Tell them I'm sorry…" There's a tip of his head, as if trying to remember what he's apologizing for.

A cough parts the lips of the man on the bed, and he turns his face into the pillow, shoulders shaking violently before he slumps back into his pillow.

Tears wet Kaylee's cheeks, but it's uncertain if it's from what she's seen or the sharp pain that comes from using her ability. Probably, a little of both. Fingers fall away from sweaty skin and are wipes on the thighs of her jeans before she wipes the dampness from her own cheeks.

Only when she's composed herself a little, does the telepath look to Eileen. There is a small sniff, before she announces. "It's done." Kaylee takes a moment to straighten Nick's sheets, before unfolding herself from the bed. "If… he makes it, it'll hold for some time. Eventually, however, he'll have to remember and face those memories."

She thumbs at the corner of her eyes and sniffs. "For now, he's at peace. He did tell me to tell you he loves you and he's sorry. Not that he remembers why, but he is." She can't look at Eileen when she says it, she might start crying if she looks at the woman. Wouldn't be a good thing in her own mind.

The cold flash of anger Eileen feels in response to Kaylee's words reminds her why she has to put so much effort into separating her head from her heart to ensure that her emotions don't get in the way of her work. On an intellectual level, she realizes she should be thankful for what the telepath has done and escort her to the door with a friendly hand at her elbow, all soft words and bitter smiles, but is overwhelmed instead by quiet fury and indignation at the wetness the other woman has to wipe from her eyes.

"Don't cry," she tells her in a low, tight voice. "You didn't have to live it."

"Maybe not, nor did I have to live with it or the searing guilt." Kaylee returns, not letting the other woman's anger get to her. "But, I won't apologize for the tears." She won't. "Not after watching it like that or witnessing how the guilt was killing him like that first hand."

Shoulder's square a little, maybe with some pride or determination not to feel bad for her own reaction. She is after all human like the rest, even if she is a telepath. "That aside, he is sorry for what he did. Didn't want to live because of it. Maybe now he'll find the will to live. Take it as you will." A step is taken towards the door with only a glance to the bed. "I'll see if Raith can take me back and leave you to your brother." Feeling her welcome is run out, if there was much to begin with. She'd rather ride out the nauseating headache back home on familiar ground.

In order to gain access to the yawning hallway on the other side of the door, Kaylee must pass by Eileen who gives no indication that she won't allow her until it's too late to do anything about it. An open palm cracks hard across Kaylee's mouth with enough force to bruise it, but it's the wedding band she wears on her ring finger that clips a tooth and splits open her lip.

The animality behind the attack surprises Eileen as much as it probably does Kaylee. Her jaw goes hard, eyes show their white around the edges and the next breath she draws in makes a hiss through wide nostrils. She does not immediately lower her hand or beg forgiveness.

That would imply she's sorry. "Take it as you will."

The telepath is left with the flash of stars that are in themselves sharp stabbing shots of pain through an already abused brain. Hands clutched to her head, it takes her a few long moments to realized what happened. The tip of her tongue tastes the blood on her lip and feels the ragged edge of the chip. There is anger on her part, it shows in the flash of blues eyes. A shifting of darkness deep within her. However, she finally just nods a bit like she might understand the reason, back of her hand brushing at her bloodied lip.

Won't that be fun to have to explain to Joseph or not explain. She'll have to decide on the way back what to do.

"Like I said… What I saw won't go past this room." Her voice is rough and flat, anger edging it. She won't cry over the slap, she won't give Eileen that satisfaction. "I have too much respect for you and the Remnant for what you did for me all those years back," only over a year for them. "Always liked y'all, cause of it." Though a part of her is wondering what a wide eyed young woman saw in them… but that might be the anger talking. "Plus, it's nobody's damn business." The last is spit out as she attemps to leave Eileen to her brother again, still with no apology for feeling pity for the brother and sister.

"Especially not yours," agrees Eileen, "you superior fucking bitch." That it's spoken to Kaylee's retreating back as she exits the room unimpeded takes away most of its power, which isn't very much to begin with. It's petty and it's cruel but it's remorseless too. The door swings shut behind Kaylee with the kind of bang that would promise further violence if it didn't put a physical barrier between them.

The slam of the door breaks through the fog of Nick's sleep — for once, no longer smelling of sulfur in his mind — and he makes a soft sound of waking. His eyes, still a frightening livid red around the blue, are wet when they open and look to the door.

For once, his eyes seek her face without looking away immediately, and his face, still slick with fever, looks more relaxed than it has since childhood. "Hey," he whispers, his voice raspy from his coughing and for want of use.

The left corner of his mouth quirks into a crooked smile, one that may remind her more of the child he once was, rather than the adolescent or the man he became.

There are enough bad memories to torture him in dreams that Kaylee left behind, but there may be the hope of some semblance of peace — for Nick, if not Eileen.

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