A Unifying Factor


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Scene Title A Unifying Factor
Synopsis In the dark of night, there is no good news.
Date September 2, 2019

The Bastion

It’s late when there’s a knock on the door to Lucille’s room at the Bastion. Well after midnight.

On the other side of the door stands Rue Lancaster with a tumbler of whiskey held in one hand, gesturing down the hall. She looks more than faintly perturbed, which is somewhat unlike her when there hasn’t been a big mission recently. “Hey. Your, uh, step-mother?” What? “She’s in the lobby. And she doesn’t look happy.”

A short walk down the hall and to the Bastion’s foyer reveals what — who — Rue was referring to. Lancaster chose to retreat in the opposite direction, leaving Lucille to discover her visitor on her own.

Nicole Varlane stands with her hands on Pippa’s shoulders. There are dark circles under the mother’s eyes and daughter’s are red and puffy from crying. A child’s suitcase sits just a few feet away from the two of them.

“I need you to watch your sister.”

It’s not a request.

The Hound in question puts her tablet back on her desk as Rue enters and her eyebrows raise before she nods and slowly gets up, "What in the fuck…"

Walking down the hall she comes to see Nicole and her youngest, baby, cutest sister Pippa standing there like they just ran for their lives. "What in the fuck is going on?" Catching herself with a smile and crouching the tall woman reaches for her sister to grasp her in a tight hug, "Well hello my Little Agent," Whispering into her hair and planting a kiss on the crown of Pippa's head before her other hand goes out to grasp at Nicole's, her eyes leaving the child to stare at the electrokinetic. "Where is Dad, why…"

There's a stroke of fear in her belly, "What happened?"

Pippa’s little arms wrap tight around her older sister. She doesn’t start crying, but there’s a relief there to be with family. Family that’s not quite as tightly wound as her mother clearly is right now. She stays clinging even as the subject of Lucille’s focus changes. She’s good at staying quiet and letting the adults do the talking.

“We had to split up,” is Nicole’s succinct explanation of the situation, the reason her partner is missing. “I don’t have time to explain or argue with you. My ride is waiting outside. But I will be back, and I will tell you what’s going on. Just… please, take care of her.”

The little girl angles her head back to look up at Lucille again. “Is it okay?” she asks quietly, clearly afraid to intrude. She knows sometimes big sisters need their space.

Lucille's eyes widen momentarily and her hands are on her phone, one on Pippa's head as she sends a rapid text to her two best friends Col and Nat.

Dad is missing, Nicole is going after him. Gonna track her.

Looking back up towards her step mother of sorts, giving her an exasperated expression but Pippa is here and it might not do to get involved with her around. "Of course it's okay sweetie." Holding up a finger, Lucille jogs back inside. Shouting for Rue to come and help get Pippa and her things. She sends another text.

Will text when we should meet.

She grabs something from her room and returns with a foldable black phone. "Better to have a secure line." What she doesn't say is that it has a GPS installed in it. "My number to my own burner is keyed in there." She's had to give a few of these away to sources she keeps in the underworld of crime.

"But you have to give me something. A sentence, what is happening. Is it…" she stops and looks closely at Nicole, "Adam." That's what her father was investigating. Lucille was head strong, Nicole knew this but the younger woman was cooperating. She could see Nic was at her wit's end.

While Lucille retrieves the burner, Rue returns to the foyer to gather Pippa’s suitcase and lead the little girl down the hall to the rec room, where she can sit in a comfy chair and watch something on the TV. Nicole is silent until she’s sure her daughter and Lucille’s friend are no longer in earshot. “I can’t tell you anything yet. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I can’t risk compromising the information.” She can’t risk Lucille acting on anything before she has a chance to make her report.

“Just look after Pippa. I have a meeting. After that, I promise I’ll tell you everything you need to know.” Nicole looks so tired, defeated, shoulders sagging as she asks, “Please trust me.”


Something Lucille needs more of but Nicole is one of the few who have it. "I'll keep quiet and watch Pip, just… hurry back." Less wanting to be rid of the duty of watching her baby sister and moreso wanting the darker haired woman across from her to be safe. Reaching forward, Lucille envelopes Nicole in a tight embrace whispering in her ear, "Be careful please." Before releasing and walking back into the Bastion.

Not looking back, it reminds her of when she was little and Lucille wanted to appear tough so she never looked behind her when she walked away from Dad going on a 'business trip.' For now though, the Hound has other things to worry about. Entertaining a slightly traumatized young child. "I heard…." Her voice echoing down the large hall as she makes her way closer to where Pippa sits.

"That there was a ton of ice cream in the freezer and… mom and dad aren't around to stop us."

Nicole wants to relax into that hug and cry into Lucille’s shoulder. She wants to seek comfort in this young woman who’s family to her. Part of her is so very exhausted, too exhausted to give in. Because if she starts breaking down, she won’t stop. Instead, Nicole rests a hand on Lucille’s face after she draws back. There’s no smile for assurance or condescending pat. Just a moment shared between two souls who’ve endured too much and understand the need to remain stoic.

Lucille disappears down the hall to join Pippa and Nicole walks down the block to meet back up with her ride.

The youngest Ryans looks up at her older sister with big eyes and doesn’t say anything at first. Finally, she nods her head slowly and asks, “Is there chocolate syrup?”

"There is, but only if you promise not to tell dad. Pinky swear." Crouching in front of the young girl, she remembers when she and Delia were this age. Sadly she never got to witness Ingrid grow up, something she thinks makes it difficult for them to be close now. Difference of ideals aside.

With Pippa, she felt like a fresh start for the family as a whole. A unifying factor.

Lucille didn't want to spoil.

"When I was little, I use to tip toe down the stairs. Like a swift, silent ninja. Dad would never know and then… I would snatch some cookies from the cookie jar. I think he found out one day.. But he never scolded me." There's a hint of a smile, "I think he used to as well."

Luce had caught him one night.

At the mention of their father, Pippa’s lip starts to quiver and her big blue eyes grow glassy until a blink sheds the first of the tears. “I don’t think Daddy cares if I have cookies or ice cream,” she whimpers. She sounds miserable, but above that, she just sounds tired.

“Daddy went away.”

It isn’t as though this is the first time that’s happened, but something about the way she says it, something about the way it affects her, says this is different in some way. Both Nicole and Ryans have variously left Pippa with the other or one of her sisters to fulfil their various duties. She’s used to that.

“Mommy’s scared.” Even if she doesn’t show it.

Lucille has a choice here. Change the subject or dive right in, she thinks about how she never got answers til she fought her father for them. Thinking of how young Pippa is, Lucille tilts her head. "You know… the Ryans women are rather fierce. Very smart. We notice things nobody ever thinks we will." There's a wink as she rubs her younger sister's back. "Do you know where Dad went?"

As for her mother. "Your mother has always been a very strong woman. She's just scared she has to run an errand and leave you with me because you are just so precious!" Tickling Pippa's sides to bring out a smile or laugh.

Pippa squirms at the tickling touch, but doesn’t quiet laugh. All the same, Lucille’s antics earn an unsuccessfully suppressed smile. It’s short-lived as she turns her wide-eyed and still slightly tearful gaze back on her sister. “There was a ’splosion,” she explains. “Mom had me hide in the basement like we practiced.” Even if she was too scared to run to the cellar by herself, she at least knew she was supposed to be there in order to be safe.

“I couldn’t hear real well,” the little girl admits in a soft voice. “But there was someone upstairs with Mom and Dad. When Mom came to get me, Dad was there with a man. He locked us inside and went away with the man.” Being the daughter of the people she is, Pippa knows to note details of strangers. “I couldn’t see him real well.” She squints as though trying to make her mental image come in clearer. “He looked like a shadow against the light. But his hair wasn’t very dark. And he had blue eyes. He looked scared, too.”

Marveling are the intelligence in the young girl, Lucille gives her a wide smile, "You notice a lot little sister, that will always be important. Okay?" Rubbing her back, she walks off to get the mentioned ice cream. Taking a few moments to scoop the ice cream out of the bucket. Adam.

Pale hair, blue eyes. Why was he scared of all people? Didn't he have all the pow- there was that memory she, Rue and Cassandra witnessed. Of that thing.

Now Adam was dragging her father back into it. "Damn it." She whispers before plastering another smile on her face and entering the next room with two full bowls of ice cream. "An explosion you say? Wow that can be scary, you got to the basement too! I think you deserve full marks Private Pippa." Wink wink.

"Don't you worry, dad is coming back and so is momma."

They fucking better.

Pippa nods her head at the assurance that her powers of perception will always be important, not really understanding why, but knowing that all the adults say she’s doing well, so she should keep doing what she’s doing.

When Lucille returns to the room, Pippa has gotten out of her chair and is admiring an empty crystal decanter left out on one of the tables by Lancaster, no doubt. She knows better than to touch it, having her hands folded behind her back and making sure to just look with her eyes. She looks up when she hears Lucille’s voice behind her, straightening up as if to say with just her posture I wasn’t doing anything.

The ice cream bowl is accepted and Pippa climbs back into her chair carefully before digging in. “Yeah,” she says of the explosion. It was scary. She doesn’t know how scary it really was, though. Not like her mother and dad do. She smiles faintly at the praise for having followed instructions and stayed in the basement like she was told. “The war started with bombs. That’s what everyone says. So what if this is another war and Mom and Dad go away again?” She spent her infancy and most of her toddlerhood being raised by Hollis Fitzroy. She spent almost more of her life away from her parents than with them. Understandably, she’s concerned it will happen again.

Luce snickers softly as she catches Pippa in the act of doing nothing at all. "No no no," Coming to sit close to Pippa while eating at some of her own late night dessert.

"No more wars, there might be fighting on this planet until the end of time but no more wars. I'm gonna do everything I can to make sure Mom and Dad get to stick around. Okay?"

"You're very brave, we're way too lucky to have you Pip. You're the next generation," Lucille has never ever, been one to sugarcoat. Not too much, she wants Pippa to understand the importance. "We will always protect you. Always be here for you."

Pippa nods her head like she understands. Maybe she does, or maybe it’s still too big for a child her size to understand. For now, it seems enough to eat her ice cream in silence with her sister. By the time she’s finished the treat, her eyelids are heavy. Each time her eyes close in a blink, it takes a little longer for them to re-open than the time before.

“I’m sleepy, Goose.” Pippa sets her bowl aside and holds out her arms for help off the chair and to bed, wherever that might be tonight.

"Alrighty babe, come on. You bunk in my bed Missy." Scooping the child up and carrying her towards her rooms. Feet slapping on the floor.

She's had this moment often, whenever she's putting Pippa to bed. Lucille would do anything to protect her youngest sister. The one spark they all had to start over, for something new. If anything, Pippa renewed her want to fight on. To make this a world where Pippa would never need to pick up a gun.

Sliding her blanket over the blonde, she looks down and moves a blonde curl from blue eyes. "You're the cutest of us all. Sleep, your mom will be here in the morning." Lucille speaks openly to her sister, "I love you Pip."

It's the next afternoon that finds Lucille in the lounge again, having parked Pippa in a seat and given her free reign of her tablet. She made sure the work files were tucked away first.

There's one beer in her hands, barely touched. Another sits unopened on the table across from her. There's worry in her eyes but Lucille has done her best to try and keep Pippa calm and distracted.

Nicole, where are you?

Hey ‘Cille!” There’s a shout down from the lobby that heralds the arrival of the woman Lucille is waiting for.

Your mom’s here!

There’s a hiccup in the cadence of footsteps in the hall as Nicole hesitates, like she can’t decide whether to continue forward or double back and feed Lancaster her own teeth. Just one or two. Nothing major.

Ultimately, Nicole emerges from the hall and into the common room. Pippa’s head lifts from the tablet, but she doesn’t launch herself out of the chair and go barreling toward her mother. She can see the adults need to talk.

“I swear,” Nicole mutters as she unbuttons the button on her blazer, “if Lancaster calls me Mrs. Ryans one more time…” She tries not to be too annoyed. It’s meant to be affectionate teasing, and there’s no way the young woman could possibly know about the tension there.

There’s a heavy sigh and Nicole shakes her head, making her way over to where her daughter sits so she can plant a kiss on top of her head and smooth her hand over her blonde ringlets, then crouches down in front of her. “Can you take that and go play quietly in Goose’s room? Do you remember which one it is?”

Pippa nods, not terribly thrilled by the prospect of being sent away, but being used to the routine by now. “Okay…” Lifted off the chair by her mother, she pauses to wrap one arm around her leg in a quick hug before the little girl trudges off, tablet in tow.

Nicole turns to look at Lucille fully, sliding her hands into her pockets. “You got one of those for me?” she tilts her head to indicate the beer.

Lucille chokes back a laugh and shakes her head in the direction of the entrance, "Rumor thinks she's funny." All of Wolfhound had some kind of humor, you had to if you were doing this job. There's a wink Pippa's way as she turns her full attention to older woman in front of her.

Opening the beer and sliding it across the table to Nicole, Lucille takes a long sip and places the other beer down. "You need sleep, my bed is open once you finish your beer." They would probably have more than one, but she wanted to make the point known.

"What the fuck is going on?"

Uncrossing her legs to lean forward, chin directly over her bottle. "Dad’s not answering his phone." If there were cameras where they lived out there, Lucille would be hunting down a technopath, but that's the rub with living in the middle of fucking nowhere. Nicole was the only person who had a clue where her father was. "I figured Dad's not dead or you would have said that immediately." It's fired off as a joke but lands awkwardly between the two women as a look of uncertainty settles over the Ryans woman's face.


Nicole offers an apologetic expression across the table, as though she might like it to also be a smile, but she can’t quite make it happen. “Of course. If your father were dead, I wouldn’t have left you hanging like that.” She hates when other people do that to her, after all.

Settling in and taking a long drink of her beer, Nicole seems to deflate. Given her attire, she’s been at Fort Jay. That means she’s been on. Even for someone like her who’s on just about all the time, it gets draining. Especially after what she’s been through. “I don’t know where to begin, Luce.” Again, she’s conciliatory. “So bear with me here.”

The label on the bottle is picked at with broken nails. “Your father and I were working a case.” That much she knows Lucille is aware of. “We went to Providence to chase down a lead… But the lead chased us.” Nicole looks up from distressing the beer so she can give Lucille her proper attention. “Adam Monroe came to my door looking for your father. He… just knew he was there. I suppose he’d had eyes on us.”

Looking so very weary and haunted, Nicole continues on. “There was no threat. No coercion. Monroe very simply requested your father come with him, and your father agreed. Ben locked your sister and I in the cellar and took off with him. And that’s all I know.” She clearly wishes she could offer some kind of assurance to Lucille that the Ryans patriarch is safe and sound, but she can’t. Only supposition.

Nodding along with the beginning of Nicole's retelling, "Dad said as much before he left, I've been watching the house." It's good that Nicole came here and not the Ryans Home or she would have found nowhere there save for an affectionate cat.

Lucille leans back and considers the table as she drinks heavily from the beer, "Fuck."

It's not like she could say she was that surprised though after seeing what she had on those pennies. "They were friends, a long time ago. I think… Adam genuinely might care about him." It makes her feel weird inside, the man who forced Nathalie's hand the end result being that man's death. The man that everyone on the god damn planet seemed to be looking for. He seemed like a Boogeyman.

But Lucille was beginning to think there was something else going on here.

"Dad was involved in some heavy shit… with the Company. Adam was there too, it's old. I think this might have something to do with it. It's like.." Pausing to find the right words. "If you're going to do something big, you probably need my dad at your side." Another heavy drink of her beer, she's gonna need another very soon. Probably time to switch over to tequila. "I know he wants, no deserves answers." It doesn't change that this was normal for the older man to be doing.

"I'm sorry he left you guys, he's pretty good at that." Shade thrown.

Nicole smiles wryly. “I’m under no illusions that your father loves me. I knew he would never stay, but… That isn’t how I expected him to leave us, either.” And it’s not like that, either. They both know. Blue eyes close heavily for a long moment. “Fuck.

Nicole rests her elbows on the table and her head in her hands, burying her fingers in her dark hair. “He asked me to trust him, Lucille. And I couldn’t. How could I? I didn’t even know him.” Maybe that’s unfair to say to his own daughter, but the list of people she’s comfortable confiding in right now is horribly short.

Lucille gives Nicole a weak smile, her father was just… like that she had come to terms with. She was happy he and Nic dated though. Pippa is here because of it. "Fuck," she echoes and slams back more beer.

"It's hard to know him. At first I thought it was just because he would always be keeping secrets. Then I learned it's also because his whole life is a lie, how do you even get to know someone then?" Whether this meant to turn into a moment of self reflection remains to be seen.

"I used to blame him so, so much." Sighing and shaking her head, Lucille isn't mourning her dad, but it's easy to think about how you should have done things no matter how long a loved one is gone. "It's okay." Reaching over and gripping Nicole's hand. "We're gonna find him." There are no more smiles now though because Lucille in her mind is now on a mission. Save her father from himself, kick Adam's ass. All before Pippa's next recital. "There's no choice but to find him, I'm not ready to lead this family." An admission she's not very likely to make to many people.

“I need you to trust me,” Nicole tells her friend. “I’m working this with SESA. We’re going to… salvage this situation as much as we can. I can’t have you going little miss badass off on a mission by yourself.” The old nickname is delivered with affection. A reminder of all they’ve been through together and come out the other side on. “You have to trust that I can do this. And that I’ll tell you how you can help.”

Lucille watches Nicole as she speaks, to trust her is not a hard thing. She cares for her father as well, she will do all she can. Whether they want to find him or not though, her father was very good at not being found if he didn't want. Lucille wasn't sure if he wanted to be found, not yet.

Rubbing the bridge of her nose she takes an even deeper gulp of her beer and places it on the table. There's a soft smile for the old nickname and she squints at Nicole, "Shh, leave the past out of this, ok?" She's not too riled up to not be able to joke, though Lucille frowns. "I know you can Nic, I know." Whether she trusts anyone to bring her father home without her is left unsaid.

"Don't make me wait long," Lu closes her eyes and reaches over to squeeze Nicole's hand. "My Uzi can come out." One of her most prized possessions, "Let's drink. Figure this out tomorrow."

That's the best plan she's got for now.

Nicole squeezes Lucille’s hand in return, then reaches out with her bottle to tap it to Lucille’s. “You’re right. Let’s drink about it. Race you to the bottom.”

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