colette_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif tasha_icon.gif

Scene Title Anchors
Synopsis The past and the future become a present.
Date March 4th, 2018

Brooks Residence


Life presents myriad choices.

You make one and countless others rush past, no matter how you might like to hold on to them.

Standing outside of a brownstone in the Safe Zone, early morning light casting pale blue shadows at her feet, Colette Demsky reflects on the choices she's made and the ones that have passed her by. When the war ended, it never ended for her. It's because the battlefield she was fighting on wasn't a physical one, but one inside of her own heart. A battle with her demons and her past. One that — unlike the civil war — she lost.

Ever since returning to the Safe Zone at the start of February, Colette has rarely spent more than a few hours away from Tamara and Tasha. It's the most time they'd seen one-another since the war ended, since everything blew up in November. Since she made a choice, and let all the others pass her by. But coming home came with a renewal of commitment, of open eyes and promises that things would be different. Today was her chance to explain how.

Coming in through the front door, Colette had slipped out from Tasha’s room before dawn. Now her booted feet clunk over the hardwood floor, leather jacket glistening with dew from a misty morning rain. She has two bags slung over one shoulder; one courier bag and one canvas grocery bag. She sets both down by the door, balances in the entryway as she unzips her boots and slides them off with two heavy clunks onto the floor.

Eyes wide and alert, Colette picks up the bags by the handle and listens for the sounds of the house. She'd hoped everyone would be awake by now, but she's prepared to square her surprises bedside if need be. “Anybody up?” Colette softly calls to the house, nervousness tight in her chest.

"The duckling was almost up," comes from the dining room by way of the kitchen. Tamara turns from placing plates at the table, casting a welcoming smile to the new arrival. The seeress herself only qualifies as up by the technical definition: she's awake and moving, but still wearing pajamas, floral-patterned white pants and light blue top with lace edging through which a red butterfly peeks. Someone else might offer up the defense that it's Sunday; Tamara feels no need for one.

She pads across the kitchen to meet Colette in the entry, idly switching off the coffeemaker in passing. The bags are considered briefly as Tamara approaches, before she drapes an arm across the brunette's shoulders and plants a kiss on her cheek. "Surprises before or after breakfast?" she asks — although there's no actual food preparation to be seen in progress anywhere, suggesting it's not really a question.

“The duckling is up,” calls a voice from somewhere upstairs. “That sounds like code. The geese fly east at sunset or something,” Tasha says, laughing — she doesn’t enter the kitchen, though, instead simply moving from bedroom to bathroom, bare feet padding on the floors before a door thuds soft dully.

It may be late, but it is Sunday. But Tasha is dressed, at least, even if she’s the last one out of bed.

Life in the house, arms around her shoulders, their voices; it elicits such a visible reaction from Colette. She slides an arm around Tamara’s waist, draws her into a tight embrace and buries her face into the nape of her neck and hair. Colette breathes in, sighs deeply, and brushes a kiss against her jawline before unwinding her arms.

“I'm impatient,” is a surprise to nobody when Colette says it aloud. “Surprises first, uh, with asterisk for coffee.” Sliding out of her jacket, Colette hangs it up beside the door and retrieves her bags, walking with Tamara into the kitchen. Dark brows have a furrow in them that belies Colette’s chipper mood, a shadow of more challenging thoughts just below the surface.

Colette pulls out one of the chairs at the table, setting the bags down on the seat, then pads across the kitchen with socked feet to make herself a cup of coffee.There's a clunk of the coffee out coming off the burner, the slosh of a pour, clink of spoon on ceramic. Domestic sounds, comforting in their simplicity.

“Sometimes I forget how you look when you first wake up…” Though she isn't physically looking at Tamara, she sees her. Turning her back to the coffee pot, Colette watches Tamara for a moment as she takes a sip of her coffee. That furrow of her brows is there again. “I missed this,” is offered quieter.

Tamara chuckles at Colette's answer, reaching out to ruffle her hair as she passes by on the way into the kitchen. She pads after, fetching a separate cup, listening with one ear to the sounds upstairs while seamlessly fitting the steps of preparing someone else's coffee into the spaces around Colette's own. She's in the process of carrying it over to the table when Colette speaks; Tamara pauses all but midstep, casting a glance back over her shoulder, and simply smiles.

Depositing the mug at Tasha's habitual seat — if nothing else, that makes it completely obvious who the drink rightly belongs to — Tamara moves back into the kitchen. Filling a glass of water for herself, she leans against the counter beside Colette… only to promptly set her glass aside, instead capturing one of Colette's hands, turning it up and flattening out the palm with a sweep of her thumb as if she might read its lines. Even though palmistry isn't actually one of the seer's skills, by any measure.

"You are missed," is said just as quietly, and given the tonal texture of a caress — the very opposite of a rebuke. Technically, spoken by Tamara, the words are untrue; her phrasing is not of a kind that alludes to any future event, and everything between the two of them in past years is water under a bridge indeed. But her statement isn't meant to be literal; it's the sentiment that matters, the meaning that runs deeper than any technical truth.

Smiling softly, Tamara rests fingertips at the outside of Colette's cheek. "And you are home."

The sounds of water and pipes and feet can be heard up above, before the door opens again and Tasha’s footfalls move to the stairs. Leaning in the entranceway to the kitchen, she beams at the two of them, enjoying the sight of the close moment before she enters the room completely. She’s dressed casually for the weekend, in frayed jeans and a Rangers jersey that is probably meant for a twelve-year-old boy; her feet, not yet in shoes, are in a pair of socks with goldfish on them — her penchant for odd socks lives on in 2018.

“Morning. It’s still morning, right?” Tasha says with a grin, eyeing the clock. If she’s embarrassed about sleeping in, it doesn’t show. Most days she’s up at the crack of dawn, anyway.

“Coffee fairy, you’re the best,” she teases Tamara, moving to where the cup has been deposited for her, and picking it up to take a sip. “Did I hear something about surprises?”

The smile Colette cracks is tinged with nervousness, a shade that no one but the two women who know her best — and possibly her sister — would recognize. Taking a leisurely sip of her coffee, Colette slips from by Tamara and sets the mug down beside Tasha. Then, she wraps one arm around Tasha’s waist and lifts her up, carefully spinning her a full turn around before setting her down and pressing a kiss to her forehead, nose, lips.

“Today’s gonna be full’f ‘em,” Colette murmurs with a brush of her nose to Tasha’s cheek. One hand raises, threads an errant lock of hair behind Tasha’s ear, and then Colette nods to the bags.

“It wouldn't be a birthday without presents.” Colette hasn't been this invested in Tamara’s birthday in a few years. It isn't that things completely cooled off, but there was a wedge. “Got something for you too,” Colette adds in a hushed tone to Tasha, her smile flush with earnest appreciation for the moment.

It isn't that Colette has been different, but the woman standing in their dining room feels more like a return to form. The intervening two years have been challenging, but ever since Colette came back at the beginning of February, it's been like watching a butterfly that became a caterpillar learn to be a butterfly again.

Tamara looks towards the stairs as Tasha enters, echoing her grin back at her. "It's still morning," she affirms, not that anyone needs to be told. She lingers at the counter as Colette greets the artist-turned-lawyer, reclaiming her glass and taking a sip from it. Only after Tasha's feet are back on the floor does Tamara push herself away from the counter and pad over, setting the glass down at her place setting.

The seeress pauses there, blue gaze considering the two other women. Colette, mostly. Whatever she perceives earns a lopsided smile from Tamara, and an expansive wave towards the bags. Go on, then.

When Colette lifts and spins her, Tasha makes a soft meep of mock protest — Colette’s grown taller and stronger than when they first met, while Tasha has remained as petite as she was at eighteen. “Hi,” she says after the kiss, nosing Colette’s cheek, and laughing once she’s released.

“I don’t need presents! It’s Tam’s day. I didn’t realize we were doing things yet,” she murmurs, because of course she has presents stowed somewhere (as if there’s really a purpose to hiding a gift from Tamara).

She glances over at Tamara and grins. “I think I’m going to be the only one surprised today. I’m not sure that’s fair.” She doesn’t mind, really.

She kisses Colette again, before moving around the table to wrap her arms around the blond birthday girl, kissing Tamara’s cheek. “Happy birthday.”

For a moment, Colette is still. She’s taking in the serenity of the moment as deeply as she can, one hand finding the rim of her coffee cup, fingertips grabbing the handle and bringing it up to just be cradled in two hands. She watches Tamara and Tasha, hiding her smile behind the ceramic mug, and then closes her eyes and breathes in deeply. After a moment, she slips around behind the two of them, letting fingertips reach out to brush along the back of Tasha’s neck, Tamara’s shoulder, and then winds her way around the table to the bags.

“So,” Colette says after taking another sip of her coffee. “I…” her brows furrow again, “wanna preface all of this birthday stuff with an apology.” She sets the coffee mug down on the corner of the table. “I… know I haven’t been around as much as I should. I know some’f you’ve been worried.” Opening the flap of her messenger bag, Colette purses her lips to the side in thought, and then looks up to the two.

Hands moving into the messenger bag, Colette pauses again as she works her way through what she’s trying to explain. “I spent the last three months doing a lot of… looking in?” She finds the right word belatedly. “Introspection.” From inside the bag, Colette pulls out something large and square and somewhat flat, wrapped in brown paper and bound in twine. It doesn’t sound all that heavy when she sets it down flat and slides it across the table. There’s a little hand-made paper tag on it that says, “For the Mirror” on it.

“I haven’t always been the best partner,” Colette admits as she places fingers around the rim of her coffee mug again. “An’ you two’ve been… really good t’me. Patient.” Teeth toy at her bottom lip, and Colette looks down at the coffee mug. “This day’s always been more about Tam an’ I than it’s been about birthdays. I wanted this one, t’be about promises.” Colette takes something else out of the bag, smaller, also wrapped in butcher’s paper and twine, but keeps that tiny crinkled package in her palm. Then, with a nod and a raise of her brows, she makes an encouraging gesture to Tamara to open the package she face to her.

Tasha's grin is echoed back at her by Tamara, the embrace returned in kind. "It probably isn't," she allows, ruffling the lawyer's hair. Fair, that is. She stands there with an arm around Tasha as Colette begins her preface, leaning lightly against the younger woman. The seer's gaze upon Colette is attentive, cognizant of the weight of her statements even as their full context remains faintly mystifying to this listener. But that's only to be expected.

Tamara's hands intercept the package in its slide, coming to rest on either side of it, a sweep of her thumb smoothing wrinkles out of the surface wrapping. The seer knows what lies beyond the threshold of unwrapping it, has known the shape and texture and tone of that moment for hours, days, weeks; she hesitates, one hand lingering on the package, the other lifting to almost touch the pendant at her throat.

Drawing and releasing a quiet breath, Tamara slides the twine off the package, works her thumb under the tape holding the paper closed and pops it free. Pulling back the paper reveals a photo album, distinctive in its design, its cover adorned simply with a stencilled butterfly. She pauses there, her fingers brushing over its lines, forestalling inevitability just a little longer.

Then she opens the album.

Pictures. Colette and Tamara on the apartment balcony, dusted with snow. Both the girls and Judah in front of a Christmas tree, he looking tolerantly resigned, a photo-op Felix no doubt helped stage. A far more relaxed photo of Tamara and Judah in the kitchen, Jupiter being politely but insistently optimistic at their feet — also, being the distraction that let Colette sneak in that candid shot.

Many, many pictures. Later on in the album — not much later, as there's a great deal of space yet left to be filled — the composition changes, reflecting the present composition of Tamara's family rather than its past. But for now, she doesn't get that far.

Tamara stops four pages in, fingertips resting on a picture of the father figure now lost to them. There's a shape there, a pattern, an association — the seeress lives by these things, she cannot help but recognize the edges of this one now set before her. Something profoundly, personally important. And yet —

"I can't— " she starts, stops. Blue eyes lift to Colette, glittering with unshed tears.

When Colette moves to the bags, Tasha finally sits, drawing one foot up onto the edge of the seat and draping one arm over her knee. Her other hand encircles the coffee mug, and she chuckles at Tamara’s concession about her ability not being ‘fair.’ Nothing is, of course. But they have a lot to feel lucky about, even so.

She tips her head to watch the gift exchange hands. When Colette begins to speak, Tasha shakes her head slightly, but doesn’t open her mouth to argue. Sometimes things need to be said more for the speaker than for the listener, and it’s been clear that Colette’s been struggling with this weight for some time. She smiles at the word “promises,” but doesn’t speak, bringing her coffee mug to her lips to sip from as she watched the slow unopening of the present.

Her expression shifts as she sees what it is, and when she sees what’s inside. At Tamara’s tearful reaction, Tasha brings a hand to her own mouth, dark eyes welling with empathetic tears. “It’s beautiful,” she says softly, reaching over to touch Tamara’s shoulder lightly.

The words I can’t have a lot of layers. Colette recognizes at least two, after knowing Tamara for as many years as she has. Both are heart-wrenching, neither unexpected. Colette steps beside Tamara, arm around her shoulder and kiss to the side of her head. She pivots to face her, slightly, and brushes one thumb across her cheek. “I know,” she murmurs, then looks to Tasha with an appreciative smile for her support.

Looking back to the scrapbook, Colette rests her hand down on top of it. “The past is hard,” also has layers, and Colette curls her fingers beneath the corners of the book and opens it not to the photographs of Judah, but the latter photos — few as they are — of the three gathered in the kitchen, but when they were so much younger, when they’d first met. Between some of the pages are other mementos, a Chinese takeout menu with 8/27/8 written on it in pen. A dried white rose next to a dried pink rose. “You gave these to us,” Colette says softly of the roses, brushing her fingertips over them as she holds Tamara close.

Beneath each photograph is a small paper pocket. One photo, of Colette, Tasha, and Tamara in the living room of Judah’s LeRivage apartment draws Colette’s attention. She reaches inside and pulls out a folded piece of ratty notebook paper pulled from a spiral-bound book and opens it slowly. The handwriting isn’t great, but it’s recognizably Colette’s.

It’s hard to imagine that a week before this picture was taken, we were all huddled around Tasha in the Staten Island Nature Center with that Russian. I was so scared for her, I’d wished so much that I could’ve protected her. But I wouldn’t leave her alone. Tamara came, stood by my side, kept her hands on my shoulders. November 8th is coming. I’m so scared, but when she’s with me, I feel invincible. I feel like we can all make it out. I won’t let this happen. Look how happy we can be.

It’s a page from Colette’s old journal, one she kept for years during her time with the Ferrymen. “Every photo’s a memory, every memory has a pocket. I used my journal when I could, an’ for ones that didn’t have an explanation… I wrote new ones. To you.” Colette looks back to Tamara, teeth toying at her bottom lip. “I know it’s not perfect, and… it’s not like having the real thing, but I thought it might be nice for you to have a little something to remember the past by. Something personal. And… and if you ever want to hear more, I can tell you a story. I love reminiscing.” She’s crying now, too, with her head resting against Tamara’s. “I love you.”

Tamara closes her eyes as Colette steps in, lifting her hand so as to allow the turning of pages. When they've settled, she looks down, following the trace of Colette's fingers across the page. Her own mimic the motion, hovering over white petals and pink; she smiles, because the symbolism inherent in them is perennially present even if the memory of their gifting is not. "Yes," she affirms softly.

Hand withdrawing, Tamara watches as Colette draws out the old notebook paper, unfolds it to reveal ink scrawled across the lines of the page. There's patterns there too, in the lines and curves and dots, but their meaning remains opaque to the seer, beyond any comprehension afforded by her vision. The possibility the text represents is a different matter altogether, even before Colette begins speaking on that subject.

There are no surprises as such, not for the seer; but being cognizant of choices as they were made does nothing to lessen the sheer gravity of this moment, this investment, this promise. Nothing truly changes, for all the steps leading to now have already been taken, the only futures left are those that follow from it — and yet there is weight in the speaking, in the declaration of intent, in the pledge whose shadow extends far beyond the breath of its making.

Always and forever have been exchanged between them before, will be exchanged between them again, but even the profound scope of those words, however heartfelt, pales before the commitment of standing in for everything the past-blind seer has lost.

Tamara ducks her head against Colette's chest as she speaks, listening as much to the reverberation of words through flesh as to their passage across air. Tears slip freely from beneath closed lids, silent, the hitch in her breathing felt rather than heard. There's a moment of quiescence in the wake of Colette's final words; then Tamara tilts her head to look up at her, albeit only in profile, reaching up to brush back a lock of dark hair. Straightening, she leans in to kiss Colette briefly, brushing a tear away from her cheek. "There could be others, if you wanted them," she murmurs softly against tear-tracked skin. "On another day."

Then Tamara steps away, pivots, another step bringing her around behind Tasha. She leans her chin on the artist's shoulder, one hand resting lightly on the other. "It is beautiful," the seer agrees, however belatedly — perhaps belatedly enough that she's not in fact corroborating Tasha at all.

Meeting Colette’s gaze, Tasha’s smile is both sad and full of love for both of the women. She quiets again, merely watching and letting them have this moment — they were in one another’s lives before she slipped into, was welcomed into it by both, and there are memories that she doesn’t share with them — despite the fact she can barely remember life before either Tamara or Colette, despite the fact she cannot imagine life without them now or anytime in the future.

Her eyes drop to her coffee’s surface, to give Tamara the tiniest amount of privacy when the woman gets uncharacteristically emotional — tears are much more common for Colette and for Tasha, at least in Tasha’s experience, so it’s a sobering thing to see the seer cry.

When Tam comes up behind her, Tasha’s eyes rise again, and she leans her dark head to the side to knock into the fairer head belonging to Tamara, a smile blooming on Tasha’s face once more. “And so are you,” she murmurs softly, hand coming up to touch Tamara’s hand on her shoulder.

There's a silence that comes over the dining room, an appreciative one that allows for the moment to be taken in and weighed for its importance. Seeing Tamara cry is an experience equally surprising for Colette as it is Tasha, and there's little chance she'll forget this day, and how she feels in that moment, for the rest of her life.

After taking a sip from her coffee and watching Tamara and Tasha with the warmest, most adoring smile, she goes over to the other bag that has sat untouched in the chair. From it another, smaller brown leather bag is pulled. Distinctly, it's a camera bag.

“Couple weeks ago, I stopped by the Vault. Saw my old friend John, and picked this up.” Unzipping the bag, Colette removes a heavy, mostly metal camera from within. “When I was a freshman in high school I took one photography class, and when I started to put together the scrapbook I thought: I don't have any ways to take pictures.”

Tasha recognizes the make. An Olympus OM-1, a very old-school manually operated 35mm. “So, I got a camera. But then I thought… I'm not really an artist, not— traditionally.” Setting the camera down in front of Tasha, Colette’s smile spreads slowly. “I thought, what if I got an artist a camera. So she could find the right moments in time, and I could— I dunno— light them?”

Teeth toying with her lower lip, Colette picks up the bag the camera came out of and sets it down on the table. “Developer, pans, photo paper, film. I picked up some red light bulbs too. I thought maybe we could turn the basement into a dark room.” Blind eyes sweep over Tasha, and Colette comes to lean against the table beside her.

“You're an amazing artist. I’d trust you to capture the three of us and our life together.” Gently, Colette brushes her knuckles against Tasha’s jawline, smiling and still teary-eyed.

Tamara continues to look over Tasha's shoulder as the second of Colette's gifts is unveiled, a small smile lingering all the while. Her gaze follows the placement of the camera with idle curiosity; the hand on Tasha's shoulder squeezes briefly, and the blonde plants a kiss against dark hair. "No one better," she murmurs — a statement made without the weight of augury, but carrying the ring of a more personal sort of truth.

Taking a half step back, Tamara releases Tasha to Colette; a brush of fingers dashes lingering moisture from her face, before she picks up her water and takes a long drink. "The basement," she remarks, leaning her forearms against the back of a chair and looking on fondly as the rest of the package deal is bestowed, "had more room."

There are bound to be a lot of pictures to develop.

Leaning her dark head against the blonde Tamara’s, Tasha watches with curious eyes as Colette begins unveiling more presents. As she begins to understand the significance of the gift, her lips curve into a smile that’s quiet, fond, sincere — one that’s only seen in these intimate, small moments.

“I haven’t taken any real photographs in a long time, but I liked it,” she says softly. “I lost my old Rebel somewhere in all the craziness.” It’s quite a euphemism for the events of the end of 2011 — most likely the camera is collecting dust in the rubble of Bannerman Castle, or perhaps has sunken to the bottom of the Hudson.

“It’d be the most beautiful artwork of my life. And you two are the most beautiful subjects to capture, so half my work is done for me,” she says with a smirk, reaching to ruffle Tamara’s blond locks as the taller woman slips away, before tipping her head up to brush her lips across Colette’s, wrapping her arms around her form for a tight hug.

Thank you. We’ll have to set it up with the timer when we’re not all runny-nosed messes, later today,” she suggests.

Laughter and the faintest hitch of breath double outward from Colette as she lingers in Tasha’s embrace. Eyes closed, she returns the kiss with a brush of her nose against Tasha’s. Colette hangs steadily in that embrace for a while, swaying back and forth the the shorter girl, letting her forehead rest against her hair.

“There's one other thing.” In a day of surprises and promises, Colette still has one more left to give. She leans back from Tasha, hands sliding down her arms, but takes Tasha's right hand in hers. Fishing through a pocket with her left hand, Colette produces something hidden in a closed fist.

“Long time ago, I got a ring. Really, two rings that come apart and fit together. It's a symbol of how two people can be one if their lives fit together just right. How puzzles can be solved. All that.” Looking to the hands holding Tasha’s, Colette motions to her half of the puzzle ring.

“Last week, when I said I lost my half I was lying.” A faint, playful smile crosses Colette’s lips in the unspoken conspiracy shared between she and Tamara. A conspiracy of precognition and preparation. “I was getting it altered.”

From her other hand, Colette produces a third puzzle ring. “For the longest time I thought the puzzle of my life only had two pieces. But,” Colette very slowly slides the ring down onto Tasha’s finger on her held hand. “That was never the case. I was trying to solve something I didn't know the final shape of.”

Lifting up Tasha’s hand, Colette kisses the knuckle above the ring. “Just like I told Tamara. It means forever.” Colette’s eyes are watery with tears, from regret at how much she's worried them both with her job, with the war, with her troubles. But though she's red-faced and crying, her smile is joyous.

“For me, today’s been a day about celebrating love; for what feels like forever.” Colette says softly against Tasha’s hand. “Today in particular’s about making up for lost time.”

Tamara closes her eyes as her hair is disarrayed, then grins at Tasha. That grin broadens upon Colette's statement of one other thing, and she props her elbows on the chair, resting chin on interlaced fingers, her own ring glinting just beneath her line of sight. She looks on as the third ring is unveiled, introduced, placed. As Colette finishes, Tamara moves from her watcher's pose, stepping up beside the two and draping her arms over their shoulders.

Blue eyes linger on Colette a moment, the seer considering a question, choosing in almost that same instant not to ask it. She smiles instead, affectionate, slightly wry. "Today is for moving forward," Tamara opines, glancing between the two other women. "Together."

Tasha’s brows draw together at ‘one more thing,’ glancing over at Tamara — the subtle gesture is very clear and very Tasha: today’s Tamara’s day, is the subtle protest but she doesn’t speak it, letting Colette finish her thoughts and her showering of love.

Because celebrating love is more important than etiquette.

When the ring is slid on to her finger, Tasha’s face crumples with emotion, at both symbol and spoken sentiment. Her free hand comes up to her face first, wiping tears, and then to Colette’s, to caress the other woman’s cheek and jaw as Colette speaks.

Her gaze moves from green eyes to blue, and she reaches for Tamara’s hand, to tug her into a group hug.

“Together,” Tasha echoes Tamara. “Today and always.”

March 4th has always been a complicated time for Colette. A tangle of past experiences, snarled up in a net of present emotions and directions. She’d risen rudderless along a tide of coincidences just shy of a decade ago now, found herself, lost it again, and now the tide’s come back in to where she knows she belongs. This time, though, she’s made the choice to set down an anchor.

Leaning into the embrace, Colette closes her eyes and just sinks into the moment. The past can sit where it belongs in the photo album, the future’s waiting for them all in the camera on the table, and the present is now represented by three rings that forge a promise she’s committed to upholding. There’s no words for the emotions she’s feeling now, the completeness of everything. There’ll be time for them later, too; at dinner, around the house, in the interstitial moments between life’s beats. For now, she’s content to appreciate the place she still has in both of their lives and what it means to them.

Colette knew, going into this, that she had to make changes. In her life, in herself, in the ways she treats others. As she loops her arms around Tasha and Tamara’s waists, just holds them with a desperate tightness of someone afraid this might be a too good dream, she’s thankful for the ten years that have come and, for once, optimistic about the ten years yet to come.

Happy birthday.

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