Après Moi, Le Déluge


avi_icon.gif berlin_icon.gif hana_icon.gif

Scene Title Après Moi, le Déluge
Synopsis After a harrowing encounter, Berlin has nowhere else to turn…
Date October 5, 2018

A small, abandoned cabin sits in the woods in north New Jersey. Almost everything is covered with dust, except the couch and parts of the small kitchen. There are family photos on the walls, memories sitting out on the mantle. None of them are Berlin's. She has no idea who they are or where they went. It's only a place she sometimes comes when she really needs it.

She sits on the couch, a duffle bag open at her feet. Blood mars her face and clothes. And the knife in her hand that she hasn't quite been able to let go of. There is the distinct impression that none of this blood is hers.

In her other hand is a sat phone, Wolfhound issue, stained with blood from where she dialed out Avi's number. The ring sounds distant to her, even though it's right next to her ear while she waits for him to answer.

A click, third time calling’s the charm.

«Somebody better be dead,» is the first thing Berlin hears when Avi answers the phone, «because I was just getting some fucking sleep.» By now, Berlin’s learned not to be pushed away by Avi’s brusque demeanor, that it isn't an indictment of her actions, but rather a defense mechanism. It's hard to lose people you care for if they don't want anything to do with you.

No, indeed, Berlin isn't pushed away at all. Generally, she finds his gruff exterior comforting in an odd way, even if it is meant to be a wall.

She knows about walls.

But tonight the words are answered with a sound that is somewhere between a laugh and a sob, leaning hard toward the latter. "Avi," she says, trying to keep her voice from sounding too panicked. It's difficult. He certainly hasn't heard her this unsteady. Or emotional. "I need you." She doesn't tell him who's calling, either because she's forgotten to or because she assumes he'll work it out.

He's silent long enough that Berlin suspects he may have set his phone down and walked away, or perhaps walked somewhere more private. The Avi Epstein that picks up the phone isn't the one she was speaking to a moment ago. «Where are you, what do I need to bring, alone or with a team?» It is his version of panic. High-functioning panic.

“Alone,” Berlin answers, a touch too quickly. She pauses long enough to remind herself to breathe. “A change of clothes, gas, water, um,” she falters there, very basics covered before she lapses into silence. And it lasts long enough that she might have forgotten that there was more. But she tunes back in eventually.

“I’m in New Jersey,” she says, voice incredulous as if even she can’t believe she’s there. “It’ll be open when you get here,” she notes, “I had to break the lock when I found the place.” Unimportant information. But she rambles through it anyway.

«Jesus fucking Christ,» Avi murmurs into the receiver. «Fine. Okay. I'll drive out but— » He doesn't finish that, they'll cross that bridge when they come to it. «Walk me through what happened. I'm headed out to the parking lot right now. Tell me what happened, kid.»

Berlin lets out a relieved sigh, a piece of an unbearable weight lifting. But that feeling all but disappears when asks what happened. “I… was checking on a lead. A contact told me he’d seen someone from the Arcology, I kind of thought it was bullshit. There’s this… envelope with information about this doctor—“ She glances toward it. Still unopened. Blood splattered just like she is. “I was doing surveillance. But things went sideways. Avi, I— I think I did something bad.” The last word comes out as barely even a whisper.

“You think?” Avi echoes without thinking. She can hear the creak-slam of the side door of the Bunker as he talks. “Institute— Okay. Alright just keep talking okay, I'm listening. What do you think you did, and did anybody see you do it?”

The next sound Berlin hears is the slam of a car door and the turning over of an engine. She must be on speakerphone now. “Also where the fuck am I driving, kid. Jersey’s big.”

“Saddler's Woods,” Berlin answers, because it’s easier, “off the turnpike.”

The other questions are harder, and he can hear her forcing deep breaths as she lets herself go through the events in her head. She would much rather let it go and claim ignorance, but they memory is sitting just there, ready to fall into her lap.

“There were witnesses. Two. His— family.” Berlin exhales, inhales, continues. “I killed him.” The words come out in a rush, then a sob muffled by her hand over her mouth. “I didn’t want to be this,” she says, although she sounds further away from the phone now, “I tried so hard not to be this.” The words are broken up, cut in with gasps for air.

But something hits her, some piece of her mind dedicated to practical concerns, and she puts the phone back to her ear. “Avi, I have to disappear. Oh god, if this comes out and Robyn reports it, it’s a Wolfhound problem. I have to be gone. You shouldn’t come here,” a thought that she should have had before making this call, really. “You have to be able to disavow all of this.”

«Saddler’s Woods.» Avi calmly states through the phone. «Give me a landmark. You need to hang tight, but I'm going to lose signal fast. Stay where you are. It's gonna take me like five hours to get there, but we’ll figure this out.»

"Avi," Berlin says, insistent, panicked. Her breath shakes, but she doesn't hang up and run. Instead, she lays out a route that's half made up of streets with names and half abandoned gas station, felled tree, broken trail sign that will get him the rest of the way to her hideaway.

«Don't call anyone else.» Is the last thing Berlin hears before Avi presumably loses cell phone signal.

All she has left to do, is wait.

Five and a Half Hours Later

Folders are spread across the surface of a dusty table in light of a dimly flickering kerosene lamp hanging by the window. All Berlin has had time to do for the last few hours is obsess over what happened. The packet Adam had thrown at her was a laundry list of crimes against humanity, crimes that the war crimes tribunal has exonerated their perpetrator of, for his compliance in implicating more influential government figures. His testimony against Mohinder Suresh was particularly damning. The transcript of that sits by the files.

The first file, labeled OBELISK, is a comprehensive collection of documentation on a specific flesh-necrotizing ability all to familiar to Berlin. Some of the documents are photocopies of paperwork from the 1940s and in German, others are original copies of documents from the same time period. But the lion’s share are contemporary, detailing the inhumane experiments performed on one Nathalie LeRoux at the hands of the Commonwealth Institute.

The second file, labeled HYDRA, details a cloning program started in the 1980s using cells from Adam Monroe’s blood and tissues. It explores the healing properties of Adam’s blood and the way by which infusions of his genetic material is nearly viral in nature. Not just regenerating a person’s injuries, but changing them on a cellular level to be like Adam. Photographs of tanks filled with mutated human bodies, severed limbs grasping at the air, blood tests and science far and above Berlin’s ability to understand. There's photographs of Claire Bennet, Julien Dumont, and Magnes Varlane in here as well and medical files for them all.

The third file, titled HEISENBERG, is even more opaque. Files including brain scans, neurological tests, brain tissue transplants, and magnetic bombardment of SLC-Expressive tissue. The basic concept appears to be some sort of quantum-consciousness experiment. How to link thinking minds without the use of telepathy. There are also more photographs of Magnes in here, some confusingly depicting him in various states of death with dates going back to 1988. There are also photographs of two albino children, twins, holding hands in a nursery from sometime in the early 1990s.

Doctor Clark’s name was on everything.

Berlin has spread out photos from both Hydra and Heisenberg with Claire plainly visible over the others. Magnes and his strangely dated photos are on the other side of the table from her fellow Wolfhound. Obelisk is another story. Berlin stands at the head of the table, the file intact in front of her as if she were reading it like a book. Probably not for the first time in the last five hours.

A dusty bottle of scotch sits to her right, with two glasses nearby. One empty, one decidedly not. It’s a silent invitation for him to join in when he gets here.

Once he sees all this.

Her fingers flip back and forth between equally horrific images of what was done to Nathalie LeRoux. To her. She stares at pictures of herself from moments lost in a haze that she has never been grateful for before this moment.

The sound of tires crunching gravel breaks the silence outside. A pair of headlights sweep through the cabin windows, and the rumble of an old truck well past its time is a very Epstein noise. What’s unsettling, is that there’s two doors that close on the truck. Footsteps approach from the trail leading up to the cabin, no talking, no flashlights. Just something moving in the darkness. When they get closer to the cabin, Berlin can tell it’s two people on approach.

Epstein doesn’t even knock, he just opens the door and shows himself inside. He looks haggard, dark circles around his eyes and reeks of cigarettes. His jacket is crooked, the hoodie beneath pulled up over his head making him look more homeless than usual.

The silhouette of Hana Gitelman behind him less so.

Don’t be mad,” is the first thing Avi says, both hands empty and spread in front of himself. He doesn’t notice the files. Not yet.

Don't be mad.

Although it's Berlin he faces, Berlin to whom the words are spoken, they might also be meant for the shadow that follows Epstein in. Indeed, they probably are; five hours of monotonous drive is not nearly long enough to weaken Hana Gitelman's simmering temper — and Epstein spent all of them in the very same small enclosed space.

When she first steps into the cabin, the major says nothing at all.

She's not dressed down quite so far as Epstein, gray tanktop under a bog-standard camo surplus jacket, well-worn blue jeans and hiking boots, hair braided back severely. Those camo-covered shoulders settle against the wall by the door, arms folding over her chest, and Hana levels a lioness' unblinking stare upon her wayward Hound. She hasn't missed the papers, but they're paper; they can wait.

"Explain," the major states at last, two syllables terse and stern to match her demeanor.

Once Berlin notices that there’s an extra body outside, she flips the file closed, fingers resting protectively on top of it as she turns toward the door. Her first thought: Intruders. And she’s prepared to act when the door opens.

So when it turns out to be Avi and Hana, she does look mad for a moment and an accusatory look flashes in Avi’s direction.

But then she gets her expression under control, adopting something more distant. She also looks worse for wear. Her clothes and hair still have blood caked to them, although she’s done what she could for her skin. Explain is a harder command than most she’s gotten. She glances away from the pair and toward the files. There’s a lingering silence as she debates just what to explain.

“I was following a lead, doing some surveillance. I lost control of the situation. The target and I had an altercation.” Her tone is as clinical as she can make it, which is pretty successful. At least until she adds her last thought. She can’t help bitterness creeping into her tone. “I won.” Bitter and regretful.

Avi takes a limping gait into the room of the small cabin, glancing down at the papers with a squint, then back up to Berlin. “A lead? You didn't check in that you were— ” he cuts himself off, shaking a hand in the air as he closes some of the distance to Berlin and looks her up and down with his brows furrowed. He sees the bottle. He sees two glasses.

Looking around the cabin, Avi checks the windows, the exits, reassesses everything he'd taken for granted walking blindly into the cabin like he did. He's slipping. He's getting old. Sentimental. He's quiet for a moment, looking at Berlin again like she's a dog who’d just showed up after being lost in the woods. Concern mixed with a what did you get into screw of his brows. He reassesses the papers, sees Claire in some, and then levels a worried look back to Hana.

“Okay.” Is how Avi reframes the whole thing, having much the same monosyllabic coping mechanisms to stress that Vincent does. He eases, just a little, and splays his fingers around the top of one of the glasses and symbolically slides it over in Hana’s direction, then picks up the bottom and pours a finger in each glass.

Then keeps the bottle for himself.

“The fuck happened?” Avi asks, gently. “Essay version.”

There's nothing gentle in how Hana receives Berlin's words — in the silence that only seems to become more frigid, in the subtle blanking of expression and posture that can only be described as ominous. She lets Epstein's version stand nonetheless… if only to see what the young woman before them is willing to yield easily. The best that can be said about Hana's non-response is the suspension of judgment it represents — no absolution offered, but no irrevocable condemnation laid down either.

By the same token, the major does not detach herself from the wall, does not join them at the table, does not take up the implicitly offered drink; indeed, she fails to give it so much as a glance in acknowledgment. She simply waits for the words she expects to hear.

Essay version. Berlin looks between Avi and Hana, his indulgent frustration, her stony expression, and neither one gives her much comfort in this particular moment. Other times, yes. She looks back to the table, to the papers and photos spread out there.

And then she sits.

And lets out a sigh.

“Here’s what I know now. It all came in a bit at a time, but what’s clear on this side of things is that this guy,” she says, shuffling through the Hydra file until she finds Adam’s information, “Monroe found out Dr. Lawrence Clark’s new identity and decided he needed to get taken care of. Dr. Clark was all over these projects, and all of them are full of inhumane experimentation. Monroe is— or maybe was— a regenerator. Claire is in here, too.” Berlin pulls the Obelisk file over, fingers idly flipping the edges of the pages within. “When I came to look into it, he seemed to be trying to just… live a quiet life out in the middle of nowhere. But I thought I should… warn him. Have him pick up and hide somewhere else or go back to the courts for a new— whatever. Because obviously, he’s been compromised.”

There’s a pause there. Obviously, whatever she had wanted to happen during this excursion didn’t pan out. And there’s a particular thread of this situation that she isn’t entirely sure she wants to report. What she wants, though, hasn’t had a lot of sway in her life lately.

“He’d gotten a pardon. Sold out some bigger fish, got his freedom. Monroe didn’t tell me that part, but when I spoke to Clark, he mentioned it. But—“ Berlin looks down at the file she’s been hovering over, face screwing up for a moment before she gets it under control again. “He recognized me. From the Arcology. He had a rifle, I had a knife.” She gestures to herself, since her sitting here without a bullet hole explains how that panned out. “I panicked, came here, called Avi.”

Those are — not quite the words Hana expected to hear.

There's a sound when it becomes clear that only one person could possibly be meant by Monroe — low, wordless, too guttural to be termed anything but a snarl. If looks could kill, the one she aims at the back of Epstein's head would have been as lethal as Berlin's knife. Fortunately — for everyone — it isn't.

There are three shades of ire in the Gitelman lexicon, silence and fury and adamantine spite. Rare though it is for the Hounds to evoke anything beyond the first, there's no mistaking what's in play now.

There's a scuff as the major uncoils from her place against the wall, but still no words. Only the sharp crack of her hand against the door, nearly as loud as a gunshot in the confined space, if of completely different timbre. The sound of the door swinging shut in Hana's wake is quiet only by comparison; the sounds of her feet on the ground outside are more muted still, retreating until they fail to penetrate the cabin's walls any longer.

“She's fine.” Avi says with absolutely zero conviction in his voice. “We’re fine. She probably just left the stove on.” He narrows an eye, glances over his shoulder to look back at the door, then back to Berlin with a lopsided expression.

After that Avi takes a long swig from the bottle and sets it down on the table. He exhales a hard sigh, drums his palms on his knees, and looks up to Berlin with an inscrutable but also perplexed expression. “I thought I'd know how to come at all the stuff you just said, by the time I finished that,” he eyes the bottle, “but I didn't. So I'm just going to…”

He trails off. Staring into space for a moment. Then, slowly, Avi looks back to Berlin. “We rescued…” his good eye narrows. “There were seventeen kids in the arcology, sixteen made it out of the culvert. When— ” he sucks a sharp breath in through his nose. Details later, he chides himself.

“Do you know who this guy is?” Avi asks, pointing down toward the file of information on Adam. “Monroe?”

Berlin braces herself as Hana makes her way out, but still, the door slamming makes her jump. Her hand comes to cover her face while the other picks up her glass. She looks shaken again when she has to move her hand to actually drink something— perhaps as shaken as she sounded over the phone.

She doesn’t look up while he circles around the details, but she doesn’t look particularly relieved when he doesn’t follow them to their logical conclusion. Mostly because even if he didn’t in his head, he will sooner or later. She only looks up from her glass when he finally asks a question.

“He’s old, like… ancient. He’s obviously got some history with some of our people, so he isn’t a new player. He likes to play puppet master. And he’s only just getting started.” She sighs and pulls her feet up onto the chair, resting her arms on her knees. Looking over at him, it’s pretty clear there’s more to say, but she opts to leave her thoughts unspoken. “Definitely an asshole.”

“For the record,” Avi says with a motion of the bottle to Berlin, “he's on the major’s hey I just met you and this is crazy but here's a dozen bullets so go die maybe list.” His brows raise, carefully placed humor set like a weighted blanket over her shoulders; reassuring. “It exists. She might've hoped for a call.”

Slouching back into his seat, Avi looks at the files on the table, then back to Berlin. “Before we get any further up Blame Alley, this dead guy — Doctor whatever — exactly how dead is he? Where's the body? Where are the witnesses? What were their ages? Did they know who you are?” Avi counts on his fingers, raising one for each question until he's got an entire open palm.

“We’ll start there,” Avi remarks. It's likely going to be a long night.

“There’s a lead for her,” Berlin says, humor not quite hitting for her at the moment. She pulls out the addresses Adam gave her, setting the paper on the table and sliding it his way. “This is an address Monroe told me I could contact him at. I’m pretty sure it isn’t… that easy, but there might be something there. The other side is Clark’s home address. That’s where I left the body.”

It, rather than him.

She pulls back to take a drink, putting off answering for a short span of time. “The family was there. A husband and son. The boy was maybe ten. I’m not sure if they will have left the body there or what they did with it. They don’t know my name, and it was still dark, but the husband would probably recognize my face.” Hard to forget, after all. “And he’s dead-before-he-hit-ground dead. I slit his throat.”

Her fingers tap against the glass and she looks over at him for a long moment.

“I didn’t call you to report in,” she says, voice quiet while she glances at the door. “If I was anywhere near ready to go through all this, I would have called her.”

“Yeah, well,” Avi makes a noise in the back of his throat, “I could say some shit about wolves and dog and packs or whatever but… it comes down to the fact that you know this isn't a clubhouse, and as surprised as some people might be to hear this, I actually am an authority in this organization. And I answer to her. Not you.”

Avi takes a drink.

“But neither of us are out here because this is a business matter.” Leaning forward, Avi sets down the bottle and rises up from his chair, walking over to Berlin so as to share something in confidence. “It might not look that way, but she's fucking worried. About you.” Clearing his throat, Avi stands up straight and looks down to the files.

“We need to do cleanup before dawn.” Avi admits and sounds exhausted by the notion already. “Nobody else knows we’re down here. Far as I know we’re going to clean this up and move on. But whatever’s left in the light of day is whatever's left. So…” Avi slides his tongue over his teeth and looks back to the files, placing a finger atop one. Specifically.

“This?” His dark eye fixes on Berlin. “We discuss later.” Quieter, softer. “Somewhere safer.” Then, looking to the door, Avi hesitates to see if anything comes back through that door.

“I know you’re an authority, that’s not what I— “ Berlin stops herself there, breathes in and back out before she looks back over at him. “I follow. This is my job, not Hana’s Home for Wayward Girls.” If that’s meant to match his humor, it falls fall short of the mark. Her fingers wipe at her face in an attempt to appear more together.

Of course, when he comes over, when he continues, it almost ruins her work. She blinks to keep tears back, only nodding in reply. She can’t deny that there’s reason to worry. She is worried.

“If the Major decides that’s how we’re handling it, I can do it. The clean up.” She pushes her chair back to get back up to her feet, looking steadier than she feels. “If she doesn’t want me to turn myself in.” Which is not exactly how Berlin would like this to work out… but she wouldn’t argue against it. All things considered.

A beat of quiet stretches after Berlin's words, just long enough for its weight to be felt, not so long as to be interrupted by words. It's broken by the door opening instead, not precisely on cue.

However she spent her time outside hasn't done much to blunt the energy simmering in Hana's frame, in the stride that carries her into the cabin, in the narrow-eyed stare levelled upon Berlin. She doesn't address Avi — he's not the concern here — and she still doesn't touch the glass.

"That's up to you," Hana states bluntly, clearly having overheard Berlin's last statements. "Three options: turn yourself in, try to wipe the trail and pray your witnesses never catch up with you, or remove all your loose ends."

The tone in which those options are delivered is flat enough to obscure any opinions the major might have herself.

In that moment there's a tell in Avi’s eyes — when they met on Hana — that has the implicit request of we should talk. Then, he slants a look from Hana to Berlin, still standing close beside her. “Your call. I remember Clark’s testimony, I remember that he got off scott free.” He lets that sit where it will.

“Whatever you decide to do,” Avi says with a not insignificant amount of weight, “there's options.” For once since the war ended, the skillset Avi spent most of his life honing comes back into play.

The entrance is hard to miss, given that Berlin is a bit on edge, especially when it comes to how Hana will react to all of this. As the choices are laid out, she looks back to the table. Her fingers curl around the edges of her file, creasing what falls within her fist. “I’m leaving the family alone. I’ve done enough to them.”

Her head turns back to look between them, even though their opinions are difficult to pin down. “But I would like to cover my tracks. I don’t think— I don’t think it would be safe. If I went to prison. Something happened to me. With my ability. I need to get that under control before anyone locks me away. When this all comes around again.” Maybe it won’t. Maybe it will. For now, she is weighing the short term heavier than the long.

“Where do I start?” It’s the opposite of what she’s been trying to learn these past couple of years. But as will many things, she’s ready to learn it.

Hana does not deign to respond to the look Epstein casts her way; why yes, they do need to talk. Obviously.

Just as obviously, not now.

The major doesn't respond immediately to the Hound, either, her eyes narrowing as that rather insufficiently detailed admission emerges. With it comes a whole other raft of questions, and the decision they crystallize.

Outwardly, she extends a hand to Beckett, palm up in silently imperious demand for the files. "Anything that was there, we get rid of. And nothing here returns to the Bunker." Which explains something about the choice of truck.

Something about all of that elicits a noise in the back of Avi’s throat. Breathing in deeply he looks at the files, then over at Hana, and starts to sweep them into a pile, then carry them under one arm. Avi takes one more short swig from the bottle in his hand before setting it down with a clunk on the table. Hana’s glass is left untouched.

“I've got spare clothes in the truck,” Avi says to Berlin. “When we’re done everything gets burned.” Everything. “And I'm not gonna sugar coat this in case you're unclear on things, the hard talk’s gonna come once we get back.”

Shooting a look over to Hana, then back to Berlin, Avi stands up straight. “We good?”

Some Time Later…

The cabin of the truck was uncomfortably crowded on the drive from the derelict cabin to the scene of the crime. Uncomfortably quiet as well, save for the rumble and clunk of the beat up old truck. The files Berlin had come into possession of — reluctantly including Obelisk — are tucked into a backpack on the floor at Hana’s feet. Berlin herself is wedged between the major and the commander, the latter of whom follows Berlin’s directions to the site.

At first blush the scene is a nondescript one. Doctor Clark — under his assumed identity — lived six miles from the nearest settlement. The woods are suffocatingly dark, and the narrow dirt driveway between tall pine trees leads down a short and rambling path to a modest sized house sitting on a short hill. It's hard to see much of anything with the headlights off. The moon provides just enough illumination for Avi to navigate the driveway by.

The forest is silent for Hana. No electronic signals of any kind in the immediate area, just the solemn silence of a cold forest.

As the truck comes to a stop, Avi picks up his revolver from the dashboard and a flashlight, opening the driver’s side door to step out into the cold night air. He scans the driveway ahead of them, no sign of “Burgess’” truck, just tire tracks where it was. His husband and son must have taken it.

The flashlight sweeps to the right, and finds the corpse of Doctor Clark laying on his back a few feet from where Berlin last saw him, throat slashed and blood soaked into the ground, eyes closed posthumously.

“Jesus Christ…” Avi whispers as he looks back to the truck.

Good is not a word Hana would use to describe any aspect of this situation, except in the most sardonic of modes.

Some are less bad, which isn't equivalent at all.

There's a relief in being out of the truck, in the quiet of the night around them, in the apparent absence of others to further complicate the issue. Epstein's whispered swear earns him a flat, sidelong, incredulous look — have you forgotten what murder looks like? — before Hana moves forward, crouching down beside the corpse to inspect it more closely under her own light.

She doesn't touch anything, not even the pale coating of coarse dust that owes exactly nothing to the Barrens' native soil and duff.

"Something. That's one word," Hana exhales, low but not so low as to pass unheard given the surrounding silence. Straightening, her gaze swivels around to pin Berlin. "Is your 'control issue' a concern right now?"

A little late to ask after having already been crammed into the truck with her, perhaps, but the context of that concern has changed completely.

Despite how incredibly uncomfortable the drive was, Berlin lingers for a few beats inside the cab, running hands through her hair and steadying herself before she climbs out. She pulls a flashlight from her bag, but leaves the gun behind.

She doesn’t really need the light to navigate. This will be a difficult place to forget ever, let alone hours after.

Her feet bring her over to the others and she stops next to the ashes, feet near but careful not to disturb. Of course, preserving the scene is the exact opposite of what they’re here for, so her efforts are out of habit rather than concern.

“No,” she answers, quickly but quietly. Despite shaky hands and monosyllabic conversation, she’s confident of that much.

Just a bit past Hana, Avi’s fixed a look on Berlin. It slowly pivots toward Hana, one brow raised incredulously, and as he walks to circle back to them he stops midway, right foot not quite pressed into the ground. When he backs the ball of his foot off of whatever he stepped on, the partly intact and ashen jawbone isn't what he'd expected the crunch was. There's a moment of incredulity, followed by a sour pit forming in the middle of his stomach.

What? His expression conveys clearly. But swallowing back the bile of vertigo, Avi sucks in another breath and motions over to the truck. “I've got four canisters of kerosene in the back, matches in the glovebox.” When he exhales, his breath is visible in the dim glow of his small flashlight like silvery vapor.

Avi struggles not to ask the obvious question. He fears the obscure answer. “Trees are far enough back from the driveway we should be fine. Rained yesterday.” He looks up to the house, then to Hana, wondering just how clearcut she'd prefer this to be.

Straightening, Hana looks over to Avi's voluble silence, to the pale glimmer framed by the beam of his flashlight. She backs several paces away from the corpse, scanning the ground for other stray fragments of degraded bone.

Recognizing a leading comment when she hears one, the major also glances to the house, then to Berlin. "Just break the trail," she says. A dip of her chin indicates the chunk of jawbone still closer than comfortable to Avi's foot. "We'll sweep in those pieces, too." Maybe especially those pieces.

She moves in the direction of the truck, a trajectory that takes Hana past Berlin. Or doesn't, when she stops nearly alongside the younger woman. "Sit in the truck if you'd rather," she says brusquely, continuing the collective focus on practical realities. "Or grab a can."

Berlin is watching Avi and his expression and she straightens her shoulders up and looks back to Hana instead. Her unflappability is easier at the moment. She nods to her a beat before she moves. She goes for the cab first, but only to grab the personal effects that she brought with her. Then she grabs a can and comes back over.

There’s little doubt that she would definitely rather not, but she can’t just leave them to it.

She stops next to Avi, or rather next to the bodies— what’s left of them. She doesn’t answer the obvious question, she just drops her bag next to them. She has her own questions left unspoken , although hers are less easy to answer, about how she’s supposed to go on from this. About what it means about her. She suspects those answers won’t be very encouraging, though. Maybe she’ll ask later.

Avi doesn't have answers for that, or for anything else. Instead, all he has is a shaken look of uncertainty. It can't be the death that's got him so rattled, not from a man who killed a federal agent on a reflex. It can't be the stress of covering up a crime, not from a man who worked for decades in the CIA. It's more in the juxtaposition of things. Tonight, Hana isn't the scariest thing in the forest.

Taking a can of gas in one hand, Avi draws in one deep breath and holds it for a moment. Words come with the exhalation, heavy in their conspiracy.

“Let's get to work.”

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