An Uncertain Reunion


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Scene Title An Uncertain Reunion
Synopsis Lance finds his sister again. Or does he?
Date March 21, 2018

The Outer District

The edge of Lance’s hood is pulled up to shadow his face, hands tucked into the stomach-pockets of the hoodie as he makes his way through a neighborhood that he obviously doesn’t belong in. It’s still the Outer District, but it’s clearly not the part that the evolved scraped out of the wasteland are dumped in; the buildings are clean, the streets regularly patrolled, the people well-dressed and the general feel is that of a nice neighborhood.

No, this is isn’t where Lance belongs. This is where the traitors live.

A scrap of paper’s consulted as he stops in front of a building, trying to ignore the people on the other side of the street giving him suspicious looks. His head comes up to check the address, and he nods once before stuffing the paper away and stepping into the open stairwell.

Up to the second floor, and he stops at a door, drawing in a slow breath before reaching out to hit the doorbell.

The buzz seems too harsh for this area of town. It's a normal buzzer where it should be the tinkle of a wind chime, a musical gong, or something much like either of them. Movement inside answers the call and when the door is opened, Lance is treated to a young woman dressed in casual clothes, topped with an apron. Inside, the home smells of fresh baked bread. He's not invited in, instead he's the recipient of shocked silence.

"Y—" Hailey takes a deep breath and reaches out to grab her brother in a tight hug. "You're alive?!"

Pulling back, she doesn't release his shoulders. She keeps a firm hold of him and gives a very matronly examination of his size, stature, and general well being. "I thought you were dead," she breathes in relief. "Where have you been?" She doesn't wait for his answer before pulling him inside and closing the door behind them.

“Hey— “ There’s no chance for further words to get out before his sister’s pulled him in for a hug; he’s tense for a moment before wrapping his arms around her in a firm squeeze for a moment. He draws back when she does, Lance’s smile a faint and crooked thing. He’s underfed, certainly, all lean muscle and no fat - unhealthfully so, but he’s not on the verge of death.

“Been with the Lighthouse,” he admits, stepping into the home and glancing around awkwardly, “Out there in the wastes, just… getting by. Heard you on the radio.”

"You mean starving with the lighthouse," Hailey interrupts, pulling her brother further in -to the kitchen specifically. There is indeed fresh bread, in the form of buns, cooling on the counter. She rips one away from its mates and tears it open to slather on some jelly. Then it’s tossed onto a plate and set down hard at the place where Lance seems expected to sit. "I made these for the kids near where Gillian lives, but you look like you need it more than they do right now."

Then she disappears down the hallway, leaving him just long enough to close a door.

"Have you seen them?" She asks. Gillian and family, is who she probably means. "Nate is like a little weed, I can't believe it." She's awfully chipper and when she turns, Lance can see that telltale scar just under the wisps of hair that didn't make it into her ponytail. "You heard me on the radio so you came? Oh Lance, you're going to be so happy you did."

There’s fresh bread and jelly, and Lance is eagerly stepping over towards that seat— whatever his intentions here, food is food, and they’ve been scavenging for years— but then something she said hits him like a bolt from the blue, and by the time she comes back he’s just staring at her in utter shock.

“W-what? Gillian’s alive? Are you serious? We thought she was— we thought she was dead!”

Hailey doesn't reply, not right away. Though there are quite a few milling around in her head, she settles. "Well, I suppose I can't really blame you for thinking that. I mean," she gives her brother a helpless shrug, "you don't ever visit. Up to a few minutes ago, I thought you were dead."

She doesn't talk to Gillian about life on the outside, at all. It's depressing to both of them— for different reasons.

"Now that you're here, though, we can get you a good job doing good things," she continues on as she finishes the work she was doing before the door buzzer rang. "I run the welcome wagon. I help people who come into the outer district fit in and be productive." Her blue eyes shine as she takes a deep breath and lets it out in a long sigh, "You wouldn't believe how many poor poor souls have found their way here. All thanks to my messages."

“I thought you were dead, too, until I heard you on the radio…” Lance drops himself down into the chair, bringing a hand up to rub over his face, “Well that’s— good news, that’s— “ He reaches over for the bread-and-jelly, picking it up to take an eager bite of it. He chews, swallows, and then he looks back up at her for a long moment.

“I think I already met the welcome wagon on the way in. They took half the bus, lined them up against the wall and shot them,” he observes darkly before taking another bite.

Hailey pauses, smile frozen on her face for a moment, not reaching her eyes. She darts a worried look down the hallway and then back to Lance. "Silly," she says, in an all too cheerful tone as she reaches over to give her brother a playful slap on the arm. "That doesn't really happen. Whatever you think you saw, it's just something the terrorists make up to spoil the good times we have here." Like the rumored food shortages and forced labor. Looking around this kitchen, it's obvious there is no food shortage.

"You're probably remembering a scary movie or something from when you were starving on the outside." Her sympathetic tone comes with another jelly smeared bun shoved in his direction. "Listen, when you're all fed and cleaned up, I can bring you to the office and we can find you some good work. No more guns, no more sad faces, okay?"

There’s no response to Lance for a few moments as he finishes eating that bread and jelly, his gaze settled on her face to watch her reactions. That pause. That look. And then the cheery denial of reality that comes after that.

He swallows, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Yeah,” he says with forced cheer, reaching out for the next bun, “You’re probably right. And— yeah, sure. Work sounds great, sis. You know me, I don’t like to stay idle too long.”

The smile doesn’t reach his eyes either.

"I'd love it if you'd consider staying with me," She continues on, grabbing the ingredients for more baked goods. Before the war, Hailey was not the best cook or baker… her homemaking skills were more on par with Snoop than Martha. Now, her kitchen seems to be filled with every implement readily available and all of them look well loved. "Gillian didn't, she prefers to be down there.. but it's safer here, Lance."

He is the lucky recipient of another one of those worried looks. Then a disappointed tsk of tongue against teeth.

"Look at you, all raggedy and starving." She admonishes with a sad smile, filling a kettle with water and popping it on the stove. "I'm not going to take no for an answer, I'm not going to make the mistake that I made with Gillian again. You're staying here with me."

It’s been a few years, but not so many that the shift in her behavior isn’t disconcerting to say the least. Lance covers up that uncomfortable feeling by eating, his head shaking a little before he swallows.

“Of course,” he flashes her a smile, “Not gonna let you get away that easily, now that I’ve found you again… I’m going to want to go see Gillian though, even if it’s less safe. I thought it was safe everywhere in the District, though?”

Testing, probing.

That answer comes all too quickly, maybe to Lance's disappointment.

"It's all the wild ones that come in from the wasteland," Hailey says with a sigh. "They're brainwashed by the terrorists, and Lance it's terrible. It's putting a huge strain on our law enforcement, and they—" She shakes her head and stops then, before anything substantial is said. No worried look this time, instead she looks down at the counter, her movements turning robotic and careful as she measures ingredients into mixing bowls. "Well, it'll get better, it always does. What do you think the kids will like more, blueberry or chocolate chip banana?"

Then, she gives him that big smile again, the hollow one. "Oh Lance, I’m so happy. Now that you're here, the family is complete."

“Chocolate chip banana,” Lance answers, because duh, kids like chocolate. And bananas. Of course, he likes anything, after years of scavenging in the wasteland— like jelly-smeared buns, of which he’s finished his third before leaning back.

He knows the dangers of eating too fast after starving for so long.

“It’s good to see you again,” he says more softly, looking back at his sister with eyes that hide his true worries, “I’ve missed you, sis.”

He’s just not sure if he’s really found her at all.

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