Blood Ties


gillian_icon.gif rhys_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Blood Ties
Synopsis Agent Bluthner comes to the home of Gillian Childs to deliver a wealth of unexpected information.
Date December 20, 2018


It's been a long day.

Long lines at the market, long hours of editing a new manuscript, long hours spent thinking about the world that's moving around her and the fact that day-by-day it feels like the good old days again. Except those days weren't always good.

In the Childs’ residence, a long day has given way to a quiet night. Jolene is out at WSZR running a shift on their 12 Days of Christmas broadcast session. Eve's been gone more than she's been around, and it's evident that something is going on there. It's just Gillian and Squeaks for the night, and that's not so bad.

«And that was Winter Wonderland by Dean Martin. One of my favorite Christmas songs. Up next we’ve got some more holiday cheer, but I just wanted to remind everyone about the Safe Zone Cooperative’s holiday food drive…»

Jolene’s voice carries through the house, emitted through the radio. Even when she's distant, she manages to find a way to reach out and touch her family. Winter Wonderland was her father’s favorite Christmas song, and she'd remembered that much. So for her, it's a way of remembering him.

But the night isn't all Christmas cheer. A two-set series of four knocks rap on the brownstone’s front door.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is here.

Even as the song has ended and Jolene’s voice starts talking about things happening in the Safe Zone, a few more notes of the song is hummed very quietly. But it’s not coming from the radio. It’s coming from the skinny red-headed kid stretched out on the floor of the living room. With the lesser activity in the evenings, Squeaks has taken to sprawling much like Chandra, only she’s usually engaged in a book or some quiet task and not busy pretending to sleep or swatting at ankles and feet.

Her face is inches from a story this evening. An old hardback book lays open on floor and the girl has her head resting in the crook of her arm. It’s way more comfortable than it looks. One hand strays to give the cat a light scritch before coming back to turn the page.

But comfortable and quiet are interrupted in those few short seconds.

As the page settles, there’s a knock at the door, which brings her head up with a startled look turned in the direction of the door. As far as Squeaks remembers, there’s no one expected tonight. And probably not this late. But sometimes people stop by anyway. Surprise visits are really rare but not unheard of. Pushing herself off the floor, she slinks from the living room and down the stairs to the entryway. She eases the lock undone and then slowly pulls the door open just a few inches, barely wide enough for the one blue eye to peek out.

It takes a little bit longer for Gillian to get up from her seat at the small desk in the living room. It’s not as big as the upstairs office desk, but it’s big enough for the laptop she’d been typing away on. It sounds as if she’s been working on a new book, perhaps a sequel to her best selling semi-romance novel, but she hasn’t really shared too much about it yet. There’s always other things to talk about, and she had been evasive whenever it came up.

She glances over at the door, but Squeaks makes it to her feet first because she’s making sure to save and close the lid of the laptop first, though she starts to say something when it looks like Squeaks is about to open the door. That she only opens it a few inches stills her voice, but she’s right behind her before it gets opened to much. Is it one of the Lighthouse Kids? They had usually knocked, after all. “Who is it?” she asks out loud as the other girl looks through.

“It’s the fashion police, I saw what you were wearing at the market and you’re under arrest.” It’s Rhys, standing bundled up in the cold and still throwing some measure of shade in Gillian’s direction in spite of how chilly he looks. The well-coiffed SESA agent is bundled up for the weather, his navy blue wool coat has its collar upturned just so, patterned scarf protecting his throat from the wind. The leather folio he’s clutching to his chest doesn’t look part of his pinstripe and wingtip ensemble, however.

“But I’m willing to accept bribes in the form of not freezing my ass off,” Rhys says into the crack of the door, “so we can maybe negotiate that part?”

“You can’t arrest her.” The teen’s voice is not completely a yell, but it’s really close. She might fight anyone who tries to come inside to do any kind of arresting. That one eye goes from wide to narrow, suspicious and trying to look past Rhys for anyone else who might be around. Of course she recognizes the agent, he’s one of the see-saw people who took her and Lance to that underground lab place. But that doesn’t make him invited inside.

Not yet at least.

The door closes a half inch as she turns to look up the stairs. Her mouth is opening to call when she sees Gillian there watching. “It’s Agent Rhys,” Squeaks explains instead, with an uneasy side-eye for the opening in the doorway. “He wants to arrest you for wearing things at the market.” Her eyes swivel back to her mom, eyebrows getting bunchy with concern. What sort of crime involves wearing clothes? She’ll have to ask later.

Oh. Yeah, Gillian was close enough to hear the bit about the fashion police and by the way she tilts her head she would possibly agree with Jac’s inner urge to just slam the door on him, if only for a moment. “Let him in,” she murmurs with a exasperated tone. She might be infinitely patient with Squeaks and Eve and Hailey, but that patience does not extend to non-family, it would seem. And they were all family to her. And sometimes that patience was a facade anyway. She just doesn’t have to hide it for Rhys. “You should have seen what he was wearing the first time we met. That should have been illegal.”

It had been a particularly interesting meeting, getting a mission to save someone back in time, but even then she’s not sure she would have forgotten that outfit. Nor did she ever really care what people thought of how she dressed. “Get out of the cold before you let it all in,” she motions him inside, moving over to the radio to look at it reluctantly before turning it down.

Not off, though. Just down.

“I’ll have you know,” Rhys says as he shuffles in like a bird getting out of a rainstorm, ruffling his coat and shoulders shimmying, “that outfit was illegal. In South Africa. Because I’m fairly certain the buckles on the shoes were literal elephant ivory which…” Rhys grimaces, “I did not realize until several weeks later. I buried them. Like,” his nose wrinkles, “a funeral? I felt bad.”

With a little roll of his eyes, he steps aside from Gillian and Squeaks and looks down to the folio held against his chest. “Anyway that— isn’t— why I’m here, actually.” He’d forgotten for a moment what he was doing here, apparently. “Um, I’m sorry… that may not have been the appropriate tone to use to start this conversation?” Another grimace. “The ah, documents. The ones you procured from Fort Hero? We’ve… reviewed them. Well— ” Rhys waves vaguely in the direction of Governor’s Island, “someone did. I didn’t, but I have a brief here,” he taps the folio, “and…”

Trailing off, Rhys looks regretful, brushing a gloved hand over his mouth. “We found some information about Jac’s biological parents and some… medical… information?” There’s an uptick in his voice. “They were going to give you a phone call, but I asked if I could come down in person. It’s— a phone call’s not— right?” He won’t make eye contact with Squeaks, and seems nervous around Gillian.

“I came as soon as they were done redacting the unrelated parts and giving me clearance,” Rhys adds, softly.

With a step back, the door is pulled open all the way to let Rhys in. It doesn't give him immunity to the eyeballing, which the girl manages to keep up while she closes the door behind him. She slides one of the locks in place out of habit while the agent starts explaining. She's still not sure about clothes being an arrestable offense, and she goes squinty when funerals is brought up next. For shoes?

But puzzling about shoe funerals shifts to curiosity as she leaves the door to stand closer to Gillian. “What— ” the question starts to interrupt, but she cuts it off when the agent keeps talking. She wondered if they would ever know what was found.

Now she's not sure what she wants to know anymore.

Curiosity is replaced with uneasiness, the kind that makes a cold and sour feeling in the stomach. “Information?” The kind that can't be told over the phone? Squeaks looks up at Gillian. Her hand follows, to find her mom’s hand instead of hugging herself. Medical things were something they worried about before, with all the things hiding inside her head. Her eyes slant to Rhys again, watching him.

No. No that wasn’t the right tone for this. And any other time Gillian would have made a comment about how they probably wouldn’t have been able to get through on the phone even if they had limited it to a phone call, but instead she freezes for a moment, until Jac’s hand finds hers. With a small squeeze back, she gives a nod. “Yes, in person is better.” Besides, in person she might get to see what wasn’t redacted. “Come on, let’s go downstairs to the dining room where we can all sit.”

She doesn’t reach out for the folio, doesn’t attempt to take it, and trusts the young man to follow her down to the dining room. Though she does pull Jac close for a moment to whisper, “Remember, I am your mom now.” And she intended to remain so, no matter what was revealed.

Though she does feel a tinge of regret that she can no longer hear Lene’s voice as she moves to sit down at the head of the table, where she normally sits for dinner when they all eat together. She motions Rhys to take the seat to her right. “All right. Tell us.”

Rhys is quiet on the way downstairs, looking around the Childs’ house with silent appreciation for how comfortable and welcoming it seems. There’s relief in his eyes, a sense of something unspoken that has lingered with him for a while. When he enters the dining room, he looks for a moment as if he might try small talk, but then reconsiders and awkwardly pulls out a chair and takes a seat, keeping the folio in front of him closed for now.

“So, there’s… really no easy way to start this conversation.” Rhys admits, having some experience with awkward conversations about paternity. “We…” He touches the folio. “The information you pulled from Fort Hero was incomplete, but it gave us in SESA a direction to turn to with regards to further research. None of us were really… prepared with what we found with regards to the list of names you discovered.” Swallowing awkwardly, Rhys leans back in the chair.

“What we did find came to us through contacts in the Deveaux Society. It’s… SESA believes that the Company was involved in a mass information redaction sometime in the mid 1980s that removed physical and…” his brows furrow, “and mental records of some of their operations.” He doesn’t bring up why. “Among them appears to be research associated with the now-public knowledge about the synthetic SLC-expressive abilities project codenamed Icarus.”

Rhys looks up to Squeaks, then over to Gillian, then back down to the folio. “We… we’re fairly certain that Jac’s biological mother, Cindy Morrison, was a part of these experiments as late as the early 2000’s under the supervision of the Pinehearst Company. But, and we don’t have the records to confirm it, but we believe Cindy herself may have been a junior agent of the Company as far back as 1981.”

Opening the folio, Rhys’s expression softens. “I… we have reason to believe Cindy — under an alias — was held against her will by Pinehearst in the Riker’s Island Penitentiary here in New York up until as recently as 2010. We were able to trace prisoner manifests, recover security footage, and compile data from the prison that confirmed our suspicions. The… Commonwealth Institute took over custody for her in 2009 after the fall of Pinehearst. After which time we… we lose track of her right around the time of the 2010 riots.”

Smoothing a hand over his mouth, Rhys looks down at the folio. “We have some information we can share if… if you’re interested. But we have no reason to suspect that Cindy Morrison is alive or deceased presently, and this— none of this challenges your status as legal guardian, Gillian.”

Squeaks stays staring at Rhys until she feels Gillian turn to go down the stairs and into the dining room. Like maybe if she watching long enough the answers and information would start writing themselves on his skin or something. But there’s nothing in that teeny space of time before they’re all moving down the hall. Her eyes dart sideways when Gillian pauses, and her head bobbles in a small and uneasy nod.

In the dining room, she eases into her place at the table after spending a few seconds hovering near Gillian’s chair. She looks from one grown-up to the other, then folds her arms on top of the table and sets her chin behind them to listen.

Bits and pieces what Rhys talks about, she understands or recognizes. Pinehearst was where that Alison Meier worked but as much a mystery as the memory of it. The Company she’s heard a lot about, too. Which sparks an aside, “She worked for the Company.” And the young teen’s statement is made quietly, in her recognizably pragmatic way rather than in echo of Rhys’ explanation. But there’s not a lot of recognition for much of the rest, just guesses she doesn’t share.

The offer of information draws Squeaks’ eyes to the folio. It’s the first time she’s given it any sort of thought. It could be anything in there at this point, and that makes her afraid to know — and afraid to not know. But after a couple seconds she tries to mash down her worry when she look away from the folio and to her mom.

“A lot of people worked for the Company at one point, good and bad. It doesn’t mean anything,” Gillian says in her usual hoarse voice, only a little more hoarse than usual. She had suspected a lot of this based on what she’d see in Squeaks’ mind thanks to Kaylee, but certain things being confirmed were good. At least it lined up with some of what they’d seen. She too had been a child of Icarus.

That reassurance that it wouldn’t change the legal status gets a nod, though she hadn’t really thought it would. “Even if you brought her biological mother into this house in good health and with the capability of taking care of her, she would still have quite a fight on her hands.” Because she’s not giving this girl up even if all that happened. “And based just on what you’ve said— “ and what they know from Kaylee’s telepathy— “I don’t think that’s going to happen.” But even if it did. She casts a look at Squeaks as she hopes the girl understands. When she said forever, she meant it.

For a moment she watches the girl, but she understands the fear of knowing and not knowing, so after a moment she makes the decision. “Share what you have, please. And thank you, Rhys. I know it probably wasn’t easy to get permission to do even this.”

“That's why I went to the Deveaux Society,” Rhys says with a slight shrug of his shoulders. “They haven't forgotten everything you did for… Hell, the whole world. When I explained the circumstances it wasn't hard to have them pull a few strings for me.”

To the topic of the folio, Rhys looks nervous. He looks up at Squeaks, then down to the leather cover and finally opens it. Inside is a printed black and white photograph of a woman with a long face and prominent nose with long, straight hair and piercing eyes. “This… is Cindy Morrison,” Rhys explains, turning the photograph around. “That's a driver’s license photo from 2001. It's the last known one we have. She disappeared not long after that from public records.”

Looking at the text-heavy files below it, Rhys flips through until he finds a particular page. “We were able to find a record of transfer for a Jacelyn Morrison to the custody of a Stefan and Carolyn Ford. The signatories on these adoption papers are all fraudulent, likely Pinehearst manipulations. It's apparent they wanted the adoption to look lawful at a glance on paper. Cindy’s name comes up here, but nothing about her incarceration.”

Rhys slides those papers over, then finds another not far below it. “The Institute was in possession of the lion's share of Pinehearst’s research and SESA has access to much of that. We cross-referenced Doctor Ford with what they had on file, and came up with a surprising number of hits from their internal research records.”

Reading from some handwritten notes, Rhys continues. “It… appears that Jacelyn was a part of a program called Gemini, involving the redistribution of genes from one Evolved to a non-Evolved. A sort of… parallel research project to the synthetic formula. We believe it may have started as far back as the 1980s.”

Rhys flips to another page in handwritten notes. “As far as our lab technicians were able to tell, Jac was an in-vitro fertilization from a fertilized donor egg that Pinehearst was in possession of. We don't know who the actual donors were, however. Which… makes Cindy a surrogate.” Further reinforcing Rhys’ earlier reassurances.

“According to the documentation she also received innoculation against a biological agent called Umbra, but we weren't able to find any other references to it yet.” Rhys seems apologetic about that, and hands those documents over to Gillian as well.

“There's… honestly, there's a good deal more, but I know this is a lot to take in.” Frowning, Rhys looks from the papers to Squeaks and Gillian. “Is… do either of you have questions before I keep going?”

Her eyebrows push up a teeny bit as Gillian reinforces her claim. It isn’t surprise, though, but relief. And trust. Forever still isn’t changing. She nods to show her understanding, and sets her face to what she hopes is more brave. With her eyes first, then head turning, Squeaks looks at Rhys as the decision is made. Her eyes get squinty when the agent looks at her, but it doesn’t keep his nervousness from feeding into her own. She darts a look to Gillian again, just to be sure, then back in time to look at the picture that’s revealed.

The woman in the picture is recognized immediately. It’s the same face from the last memory they had looked at, but maybe less afraid. The girl’s eyebrows get a little bunchy as she frowns with uneasiness. That look is set on the adoption papers when they’re shown next, then turned on Rhys again.

She isn’t sure what to think as he goes on, and it reflects. Her earlier bravery, and what she hopes has been passing for a brave face, starts picking up growing confusion and fear. Her arms shift so they snug more closely to her face and fingers pick and worry at the sleeves of her shirt. She ticks a look to Gillian and back again, more than a couple times, trying to make some sense of everything. Pinehearst and something with genes, Cindy, biological agents… She squeezes her eyes shut. It’s a lot. It’s bigger than a lot, and there’s more?

“I don’t know.” It’s the only honest answer Squeaks can come up with. She opens her eyes and looks at Rhys. “I don’t know that. Any of it.” Her voice shakes a little. “What… What… They made… I’m not real? I’m like Frankenstein’s monster?”

So. Not a child of Icarus after all.

Gillian leans back in her seat as she listens to the explanation, though so much of it is not understood. She had been goth for a long time so she does recognize umbra. “Inoculation against a biological agent named after shadows.” Darkness, shadows. She wondered if they actually had more about that agent in the files and it had just been redacted. She knew how these things worked. She had went to Antarctica, after all. None of that would have been public knowledge if things had gone differently.

And she knew parts of it still weren’t.

Just like she hadn’t told the full story of the Flash or the Blizzard in her books, even if they had revealed a lot that most people probably hadn’t known. She hadn’t wanted to bring pain into Joseph’s life by revealing his role, for one, and for others…

No one needed to know everything about what had happened in that Staten Island Hospital. Not even her.

But at Squeaks’ words she blinked in surprise. “Of course not! Even without all the rest, in-vitro fertilization has been around for many years. Lots of women use it when they can not conceive by the usual means.” Meaning sex, but she doesn’t say that— oh man is she going to need to have that talk with the girl? She had missed it with Lene. So the woman they had seen was not her biological mother, but a surrogate— not that it changed anything at all. No more than it changed where the sperm and eggs had come from. “I’ve never heard of Gemini before.” Did it sound familiar? She shook her head. If it did she didn’t know it.

“Were there any chances of lasting effects? Should we take her to get tests somewhere?” Something she won’t say they had already been talking about.

Rhys bobs his head into a slow series of wordless nods. It’s plain on his face that he feels for Squeaks, but he’ll let Gillian reassure her. It looks like this meeting is tearing him up a bit inside. “The hard answer is that we don’t know. With your consent we’d like to have some blood samples taken — you can do that right down at Elmhurst — so we can have her blood sent up for analysis to our labs. Our science team knows a great deal about the health concerns of the synthetic SLC-expressives and we’re hoping that this is just… a precaution. Nothing in the documents I was briefed on indicate any potential side-effects that wouldn’t have already manifested.”

Clearing his throat, Rhys looks down at the paperwork. “There’s some other things in here, but it— primarily pertains to you,” is said directly to Gillian, “so… well, it pertains to your parents. The Childs’. I’m not sure if that’s a conversation you want to have now, or later. It’s nothing pressing, but it is related.”

More confusion only meets with the explanation being offered regarding fertilization. Squeaks’ face scrunches a teeny bit, her eyes dart from one grown-up to the other, and a new string of questions begins forming. There’s still that stuff about genetics. And she’s immune to darkness? It’s something that never bothered her much before anyway. But none of it still makes very much sense. She starts to open her mouth and go down that line of questions, but the one about tests changes her mind.

The girl folds her lips, teeth pressing into them to keep them closed. She might have probably agreed to it, when it was Raytech. But somewhere else is something different. She’s going to have to think about it. Her arms squeeze close around her head, like an impenetrable wall against loathsome needles, and a look angles itself to The table where it stays.

Or that’s her plan. That there’s still more draws another flicker of a look at the agent. Fear renews itself, mostly spawned from all the missing details and edging around of things. Squeaks drags her gaze to the table then over to Gillian again. “I go upstairs,” is a quiet offer, deciding after some seconds that maybe privacy would be wanted.

Gillian was so focused on thinking about Jac’s well being that she hadn’t, not even for a second, thought anything in those files would have anything to do with her. “The… the Childs’?” she asks in confusion, not really understanding. She hadn’t really been in a good place when she found out what had been going on, that she’d been adopted, but she had known her parents knew, that her younger brother and sister had been theirs and… No. Why would they be in there at all?

They hadn’t been involved with the Company or… her thoughts trailed off and she shook her head. She’s pulled out of itit when Jac speaks and she glances over. “Think on if you would like a blood test. We might be able to get it drawn somewhere else as well, and send one to them for their own tests.” Blood tests weren’t difficult, really, but she would leave it up to the girl to decide. If the files, even the bigs she wasn’t allowed to see, had talked only about side effects that would have happened earlier than now, she wouldn’t push it.

Unless something happened that looked like it could be related, like a sudden illness. She would just need to keep an eye out. And act if she saw anything suspicious. As most parents should. “ seems that at the moment he mentions her parents, the ones who raised her, “But you can stay too, if you want,” she adds, leaving it up to the teen before she looks back toward Rhys. “What did the the Childs have to do with things?”

Brows furrowed, Rhys nods slowly and goes though his collection of files until he finds the Childs family. “So, George and Peggy Childs we're struggling to have children,” Rhys explains, going over medical records. “We found data in Fort Hero that indicated that they were seeking artificial fertilization options, and their consulting physician in then 1980s was… Stefan Morrison.”

“George and Peggy both underwent some experimental hormone therapy treatments, at Doctor Morrison’s advisement. Voluntarily, of course, but Doctor Morrison performed additional experiments on them, and I— well I can't prove it but I believe based on the research we found that both your sister Jennifer and brother Victor may have been influenced by these experiments.” Rhys slides some paperwork aside, then furrows his brows. “But there's a… tangle?”

Rhys looks up from the files. “I don't think it really matters to anyone, now, all things considered. But… all of these documents that were confiscated from Doctor Morrison’s lab and brought into Company possession came through the Hartsdale facility. Jeffrey Winters handled them. He— knew. To what extent I'm not sure but… there really aren't any coincidences.” Rhys looks down at the table. “Are there?”

“Okay.” Squeaks’ voice is quiet. Having some say over the decision is good, especially since hospital places and needles are kind of scary — even the little pinprick for being registered took a while to achieve, but it did happen with those grown-ups showing a lot of patience and a little humor. But that was her choice then also. So probably this is something she can make herself do also. “Okay,” she says again, after a breath and quieter than before. It’s a little bit closer to agreeing to more testing things.

Then, invited to stay, she shifts in her seat. Her feet hook around her chair legs to keep herself from leaving, and she watches Gillian right up until Rhys starts talking again. Reluctantly, worried, she pulls her attention back to the agent so she can focus on his words.

“Him,” the teenager whispers the word as soon as the doctor is named. There’s a touch of fear behind the word. Her chair gives a soft creak as she sits back from the table, but she stays in her seat.

With her eyebrows scrunching, Squeaks takes a worried look at her mom. This is new, those names weren’t in what she found before, but there’s no way to know how many people went to Doctor Morrison before he got found out. Her hands lift and press against her mouth, and she mumbles something against them that sounds maybe like, “I’m sorry,” but her voice is still hushed. Her eyes flick to Rhys, then back again, and she lowers one of her hands to reach for Gillian’s in an offer of comfort.

For a long moment, Gillian doesn’t say anything. In fact she doesn’t quite respond to anything, until she realizes that Jac is reaching toward her. With a small shake of her head, at herself and her thoughts, she reaches out to accept the hand, squeezing it. No, she wasn’t happy with what she’d heard. “Well, they’re all gone now, as far as I know. What they did doesn’t matter as much.” It did taint her memories, though, even if the only memories she had of the Winters were in that one short moment when she’d been in the past.

“I’m not even sure Victor is still alive. I haven’t heard from him since before the war.” He was the only one she didn’t have a kind of confirmation. But last she’d known he’d been out west, and they knew what happened out there. Maybe even he couldn’t outrun a nuke. And if anything of her sister still existed it lived inside of Gabriel. A Gabriel, at least. If that piece of him had survived like Tavisha.

“It makes sense. That they were affiliated with the Company or Pinehearst in some way. Their experiments touched many lives…” They had been the ones who adopted her, which is why it made sense— possibly as part of whatever deal they made to conceive her brother and sister. And now… “It’s probably not really coincidence, but either way it’s a good thing that we found each other.” That part is to Jac. Because it was. Happy coincidence, fate, or whatever else. That part was a good thing. ”Thank you, Agent.”

Exhaling a steady sigh, Rhys nods and closes the binder and slides it into his lap. “I can produce hard copies of any of this for you both, if you want. Furthermore, outside of my responsibilities from SESA, my contacts at the Deveaux Society would like to extend their most heartfelt sympathy for the trouble you're enduring due to this… these past events.”

“Claudia,” Rhys says, not Secretary Zimmerman, not even Ms. Zimmerman, “has extended an invitation to you both to meet with her at your leisure, should either of you wish to pursue further investigation of what was revealed here. I…” Rhys closes his eyes and breathes in deeply, “I can't imagine how disruptive this all must be.”

Eyes focused down in his lap, Rhys shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “We’ll of course keep you updated on any additional findings we may receive related to— Squeaks’ medical history. As soon as we know them.”

A nod follows a very small, timid smile. “A good thing,” Jac echoes, agreeing. Coincidence or not, it doesn’t matter. Her head swivels so she can look at the agent again as he starts speaking. Deveaux Society, that got talked about earlier, but like other subjects she hasn’t figured out what exactly it is. Except that it sounds fancy and important, and that Gillian did something for them.

“Um…” The girl ticks a look to Gillian as Rhys starts looking really uncomfortable, then at the agent again. The information is really just information, and some of it’s even scary, but she can’t exactly blame him for it. It isn’t his fault, he just brought the papers — just like it wasn’t actually Kaylee’s fault either finding those things she didn’t know she remembered. She wants to do something about that still. But for now, instead of being mad…

Her chair scrapes the floor a little as she pushes away from the table, but her own feet are quiet as she slinks across the kitchen to where some containers sit on a counter. She finds a plate and then opens up those containers, taking a couple of things from each to put on the plate.

When Squeaks returns, she sets the plate and its small selection of cookies in front of Rhys. She even nudges it a teeny bit closer to the agent just so he knows they’re for him. Then she slinks around the table again, to stand by Gillian’s other side.

In some ways the offer was tempting, in others… Gillian’s eyes follow Squeaks as she goes into the kitchen and returns with the container of cookies. One of the many things that the woman had discovered she enjoyed doing, especially when she had someone to bake for. Pies, cookies, various other desserts. Once she had never imagined she would have managed to cook a cookie without burning it into an unrecognizable chunk. Now they looked good and brought her a lot of happiness. If only because she could give them to others.

She understood why Juniper had gone into that business as a whole, just with donuts instead of cookies.

From her smile and nods, she agrees with Squeaks’ choice. And is proud that she decided to show the Agent that there were no hard feelings. Especially after what happened with Kaylee. Maybe she would offer to help the girl bake an apology pie or something for the telepath and her rather large family.

“We’ll consider the offer if we choose to pursue this topic more thoroughly,” is what she proclaimed after a moment. “But for now, I think we’re trying to look toward the future, instead of the past.” And for someone who spent so long thinking about pasts and futures and futures past, that alone was a big step. And one she had young Jac to thank for.

Gillian’s answer brings a look of relief to Rhys, his shoulders slacking and the tension in his brow fading. “The documents will need to return with me, but should you need access to them you have clearance to with a written request or a verbal one delivered at Fort Jay. Or just give me a call, any time, day or night.” At that, Rhys pulls out his card from his blazer and sets it down on the table and then picks up the folio of documents.

Turning his attention to Squeaks, Rhys’ expression turns serious. “You’ve helped SESA immensely, by assisting us with that field work. I want you to be proud of what you’ve done, because it’s going to help a lot of people.” Rhys’ attention drifts to Gillian, smiling softly, appreciatively, and — for the past — apologetically.

“Can we talk in private before I go?” Rhys offers quietly to Gillian. “About something unrelated?”

Looking up at Rhys, Squeaks nods slowly. She tries to match his seriousness, but really still looks a little unsure — she only found some old papers and videotapes — but she accepts the agent’s words without asking questions. “Thank you Agent Rhys,” she adds after a few seconds. “It was… I'm happy that it wasn't just junk I found.”

The girl looks from Rhys to Gillian then back to Rhys, curious. There's still more? But she doesn't even ask to stay this time. She lightly pokes a finger against her mom’s shoulder, then turns and walks out of the kitchen. She has a light step that can barely be heard in the hall and then disappearing up the stairs.

“You did great, Jac,” Gillian offers on quietly, giving her praise when she disses what she had done, with a reassuring nod as the girl moved away, leaving the two of them alone. It was hard to think of this as adult talk when the boy there wasn’t too much older than the Lighthouse Kids were now. She was pretty sure Juniper was older than him, but he held his age well. “I’m sure she’ll try to listen in,” she says with a small knowing smile, soft enough that it sounds private, but loud enough that she could probably hear. If she were listening in.

As Gillian suspects. She may have only known the girl less than a year, but she knew that much. She was the curious sort. But the fact she didn’t raise her voice, or make a comment against it other than recognizing that she probably is going to might sound like permission.

To some.

“What did you want to talk add, Agent Bluthner — “ No, just because Eve calls him Agent Fancy Pants doesn’t mean she should. Though she was tempted.

A little.

Rhys’ brows furrow and he nods to the door, walking with Gillian to the front of the house. Halfway letting himself out of the house, Rhys looks back to Gillian with both apology and uncertainty in his eyes. Then, resting a hand on her arm says, “I shouldn’t tell you this… I probably shouldn’t tell anyone, but I remember what Hiro did for you. Why you asked.”

Swallowing tensely, Rhys looks down to the floor for a moment. “I can see your life lines,” he says softly, “your connections past and present…” and then he looks up to her with a serious and conflicted look in his eyes, squeezing her arm harder. “I’m only telling you because I owe you.

Rhys’ eyes take on a reddened and glassy quality, an anticipatory emotional response. “I don’t know anything else, I just— ” Rhys exhales a slow breath through his nose and leans in to whisper something to Gillian.

Peter’s alive.

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