Caesuras Of Sisterhood Between Moments Of Crisis


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Scene Title Caesuras Of Sisterhood Between Moments Of Crisis
Synopsis On the way from one medical crisis to the next, Nathalie and Emily pause to support each other while discussing the past, present, and future.
Date December 27, 2019

Enroute to Rochester General Hospital

It's only after Emily pulls the driver's door shut, car keys cold in her hand, does she show anything other than tight-lipped frustration for the layers of circumstance that surround them both at the moment. "I'm sorry I woke you up." she says, though she can't be, not entirely. "I'm sorry you got dragged into all this and I'm sorry it's a bunch of bullshit." Nevermind that Nathalie's knowing was something bound to happen, whether or not it had been Emily who called her in a panic about the situation. It doesn't stop her from feeling somewhat responsible, having been her usher into this incredibly delicate and unfair state of affairs.

She breathes in deep, clearing her nose, and palms the keys from one hand to the other to fuss them into the ignition. Emily looks over to Nathalie in the process, brow creased as she considers her. "Are you okay?" she asks blithely, pointed. "Because I'm not, and I can't even imagine how much worse it is for you."

"You have nothing to apologize for," Nat says as she settles into the passenger seat, anger passing into bone-deep exhaustion. "Always call me, Em. Especially for things like this." Her hands move up into her hair, pushing it back from her face— a gesture meant to soothe her more than her hair. However upset she is, it can't make her regret pulling someone back from the brink.

Even if—

"No, I'm not okay." Her hands shake as she drops them back to her lap. She doesn't even know how to speak to how she's feeling. It's always been a fear of hers, when people find out and decide they get to choose how she uses her power. The people who have done it in her past have been some of the worst monsters she's ever known. But to have it come from Avi— a man she's admired for years. Her father. Topped with the fear of watching him turn to ash under her hand—

"Why did he do that?" Hurt and confusion come out with a sob, tears falling hot against her skin.

Emily's hand falls from the ignition instantly and she reaches across the console to wrap Nathalie in as tight a hug as she can manage given the awkward angle. "Because he's drunk, and stupid, and scared, and doesn't get the gravity of it. He just—" She shakes her head, her own eyes stinging with frustration over it all. "doesn't."

"I should've known better, that he'd keep pushing and demanding. He did the same fucking thing to me. It was—" This is a moment that might break her, one of those where she'll laugh or cry, and Emily forces out a bitter chuckle. "It was the only reason he called me, too. He didn't even tell me until I got here why."

"I'm sorry," she repeats, grief in it. "You didn't deserve that. If he's got any fucking sense maybe he'll apologize."


Nathalie leans into the hug, trying to calm down enough to stop crying. She needs all the energy she can manage, after all. For Francois. It doesn't work very quickly, however. She'll get there. Her hand reaches for Emily's, to give the same support she's getting.

"What did he want you to do?" Somehow, being angry on Emily's behalf is easier than for her own. She straightens up in her seat and wipes the tears off her face. "He really knows how to screw up, doesn't he? God." She is committed to having this family work out, she really is, she just sometimes wishes Avi wouldn't make it so difficult. Those last words get a sidelong look. If she was feeling more charitable, she might say something optimistic about their father.

But she doesn't say anything.

"I'm sorry, too. You really didn't need to get pulled into all this. What a mess." She could have been with Teo to support him at the hospital or— hell— sleeping instead.

Emily manages a small smile, even if it's little more than a scrunch of her face. She lifts her free hand to wipe at her face and hopefully deter tears from falling openly. She's not exactly feeling charitable herself, but she almost always comes back around to trying to see things from others' point of view. "I mean, none of us would have if Eileen didn't show up in the middle of the night. He's not fucking absolved for his behavior by a long shot, and he should be better at this, but it doesn't sound like this was something he went out and looked for, just something he had to… deal with. And he did it poorly."

Eyes clear for the moment, Emily turns her attention back to starting the car. If she's going to be talking about herself and how she got dragged into this, she needed the distraction. The key won't turn, though, and at first she can't remember why. Then her foot fumbles for the brake, and she gets back to starting the car.

"He called me— told me to come up alone and not tell anyone, said it was about Eileen. When I got here, all he said over and over was that I just had to trust him. We went…" She pauses, looking up across the lot while the car idles after coming to life. She gestures vaguely in the direction they'd gone in. "Through the building, toward the back. Down into like a service tunnel or something. He had her locked in this giant metal case that was down there." It was a boiler, but she could barely see it to know, and maybe it doesn't even matter. "And when we got down there, he just snapped. Eileen wasn't fucking helping, but he just… yelled. Wouldn't stop."

She tears her eyes away from the Bunker, putting the car into drive. She's eager to put physical distance between herself and this place. Her phone cheerfully chimes in her lap 'In 500 feet, turn right'. "Kept screaming to make her tell the truth." Her hand tightens on the wheel after she points them the way the GPS says to go. "He'd been so fucking worried what other people would do with me, with my ability, and he calls me up in the middle of the fucking night and…"

Emily breathes out forcefully, trying to calm herself before she gets worked up. "He did the same fucking thing to you, too," she acknowledges with anger running cool in her voice. "Fucking stupid, selfish lush."

"You're not wrong," Nathalie says, as far as how they all ended up in this. And about it being handled poorly. She can't argue with any of those points. Her hand reaches over to squeeze Emily's shoulder when she goes to get them started. It's been a hard night. And it isn't over yet.

When she retells her story, Nathalie lets out a long, frustrated exhale. "Trust him, he says." She shakes her head, eyes squeezing closed. "And then he pulls stuff like that. I know he's scared and I know he didn't plan this but you're his daughter, for fuck's sake." And one he's not only just having to accept as part of his life. "He worries about what other people will do to us because he knows what he would do with us, if pressed," she says, flatly.

Her hand waves back toward the Bunker. That's just a sample of it, really, but bad enough.

"He treats her like a prisoner to you, then a lost friend to me. I know their relationship is complicated, but jesus." She folds her arms, her attention turning to the view outside of the passenger window. "Do you know he was supposed to kill me? Back at the Arcology. She gave him a fucking list of people that weren't supposed to make it out." And she has not even begun to deal with that little gem. "But that isn't the Eileen he was scared of. It was the other one. The one we knew." The traveler.

But you're his daughter, Nathalie says, and all Emily can do is regard her out of the corner of her eye while she turns out onto the road. "You are, too," she interjects, wanting to make sure that point isn't glossed over.

She sighs forcefully. "He would have killed her if I hadn't talked him down, I think," Emiy admits. "And little did I fucking know she was already dying down there. After everything I went through last winter," Her hand hits the wheel to punctuate how particularly frustrating she finds that in particular. "—after what Geneva went through because we tried to save her, she almost died because he was too fucking selfish and scared to believe me last spring, too busy calling her every fucking vampire name under the sun."

The news about the Arcology list quiets her considerably, voice no longer taking up the entire space of the warming car. "No," Emily says, unsure of what else should follow that. "I didn't know that at all." Her concern only grows the longer she sits with that information, though, because Nathalie's right— the Eileen they knew isn't the one who gave the order to kill her. She glances over at her sister as she tries to divine a reason for it. "Was it because of the Conduits?"

Looking back ahead, she considers Avi's fear of Eileen Gray. The horror and mythos surrounding the Black Conduit still largely goes over her head, but his dread that his friend would be taken from him all over again is something that's easy for her to understand, because she's seen it— seen him wear it as recently as this morning. It was just as intense as the first time he'd screamed about it. "I'm not sure he's ever had anyone he's ever considered a true friend, outside of her," she remarks absently. "Nobody who would put up with his caustic, self-destructive bullshit and still treat him like a human being at the end of the day."

"The whole Sibyl thing, though—" Emily wonders, glancing over before returning her attention to the road and the lines she needs to keep between to avoid getting someone called on them. "Did he ever bring that up? What he did? That she's the reason he went to jail?"

"Yeah." Nathalie would like to argue that it's different, that she walked into his life as an adult and that makes it different, but if tonight has proven one thing it's that he doesn't actually treat the two of them all that differently at all.

"I can only guess," she says, as far as Eileen's motivations, "but she had to know that… I mean, the— the way the Conduits work, especially when the body they're in is too out of it to have any control over what happens… Best case scenario, he would have ended up with one or both of them himself. But more likely, he would have been killed to keep me alive. So was it about me or was it about him?" There is no way Eileen didn't understand the Black Conduit, at the very least. "And he's trying to get me to drain him to heal her. That has to have occurred to him at some point, friends or not. Maybe he doesn't care if she was trying to hurt him. Maybe he thinks he deserved it." His guilt, as they both know, is a powerful thing.

As is everyone's.

She glances over when the conversation turns to Sibyl, her head tilted. "About Lowell? I mean, I have an idea." Some things have been pieced together since, but never the whole story.

It's not like Emily has the fullest either, but if they're talking about things that otherwise might never have been brought up, she'll bring out everything she has. "I just— mean the Sibyl thing in general, I guess. That he somehow found her and figured out Sibyl held pieces of Eileen in her. He locked her up in an attic with the excuse it was a safehouse, because he was worried what would happen otherwise. But then she left, and Lowell," she repeats the name carefully, because he'd previously just been crooked SESA agent to her. "—he happened. Dad arrested, I guess Sibyl vanished, but at some point Eileen got her. Our Eileen. She locked her up too, doing who knows what."

Her head shakes as they roll on. "Then— I don't know, she got away somehow. Eileen asked me to look out for her, told me she thought she'd be trying to make it back to Dad. I didn't know who she was, except that she went by Sibyl Black, or Sibyl Epstein, and she was in the company of someone named Etienne St. James. When I finally saw her, I thought…"

The pause almost seems intentional, for how the GPS chimes in with their next turn right then. Emily just sighs. "I thought, sincerely, that she might be my sister. It was a shock. So, when Eileen brought you and me together and you told me you thought we might be related, I didn't have a typical Epstein reaction to it because it wasn't the first time that curveball had come at me recently." She chuckles, hoping the levity of the image helps at all with their situation. The smile fades quickly, her eyes going vacant except for her focus on the road.

"It's— I don't even know if I had a point. I think it's just that I get he was scared beyond reason, but he also had every right to be. He was scared of the world and Lowell happened. He was scared of Eileen hurting Sibyl and…" Emily hesitates, foot easing off the gas.

"She would have. She was going to. She wanted me to kill her after she got hurt and I brought her back to my apartment, and when I didn't give her a straight answer about it, she hung up on me and told me she was coming up to do it herself." The car stops abruptly as Emily steps on the brake a little too hard at a red light. It lumbers forward another dozen feet before stopping again on the line. She lets out a shuddering breath, nervous at driving as much as what she's saying, and turns to Nathalie. "Literally nobody knows that," she clarifies, hand flattening on the side of the wheel. "Not even Julie. But that was the night I met Etienne— Gabriel— and gave Sibyl back to him. So the only people that know are just him, her, you, and Geneva— because Eileen took her mind and put it in a bird to punish me."

"—and I don't know that I made the right choice, in any of this, Nat. I don't know them, any of them, I don't know what they've all been through together. When Dad was yelling earlier, he said Eileen was the one who called Gabriel off when I guess he had his fingers inside his head? Like, is that what happened to his fucking eye?" Clearly, it seems, and her own are widening at that. She's not even begun to properly process all of it, and now it's affecting her, voice shaking. "What the fuck are we supposed to to if we keep getting dragged into the middle of all their bullshit like this? How are we supposed to know if we're ever making the right call in situations like these?"

The light turns green.

"Okay," Nathalie says first, green light reflecting off her skin as she reaches over to put her hand on Emily's shoulder, "First we breathe. Easy, deep breaths." She does it, too, because they've gone to a place now and she's going to try to bring both of them back from it. There is a glance behind them on the road, just to make sure no other cars are about to ram into them. When there isn't, she flicks on the emergency lights. People can go around them for now.

"I don't know how to make sure we're making the right calls. What I know is, we have to decide how we're going to live and stick to it as best as we can. Whatever they do, we can't control that. We control what we do, how we act, react." Her voice is gentler, slower than it was just moments ago. But she's trying not to exacerbate Emily's panic. "And not killing just because someone tells you to is always the right call. Eileen, she was afraid, too, of losing herself. To the Conduit, to this Eileen." Nathalie knows that fear all too well. She never spoke to Eileen about sharing it, but she didn't need to. "But she took that fear out on you and her anger, too. And Dad just did the same thing. You did the right thing." In all accounts. "That's all you need to do, make your own choice and not let someone else decide for you."

She wishes she could say that they won't always be dragged in the middle of someone else's bullshit. But she can't.

"And to not let fear decide for you either."

That doesn't seem to have worked out for Avi or Eileen.

The request to breathe is met with a sigh, Emily realizing she’s slipped out of being the shoulder to lean on at some point. They seemed to be exchanging that role back and forth equally. The sigh is breathing, though, even if she’s not participating entirely in the continuous deep breaths requested of her. She realizes the light’s gone green about the time that Nathalie turns on the hazards, tempted to keep going.

But no one’s behind them. So fuck it. They can have their moment right here in the middle of Rochester. Emily scrubs the heel of her hand against her cheek, making sure not to let off the brake. She accepts the advice given, finding comfort in the validation that Nathalie provides, as well as the honesty to it. But she wonders.

“Are you ever afraid about it, too?” she asks carefully. “Losing yourself to it?”

Her brow creases. “Eileen seemed convinced you wouldn’t run the risk of being corrupted by the Conduit,” Spoken as if the Black were the only. “She said she felt the harmony of them both in you, and every time it’s ever come up, the only thing she says is you’re special— different.” Emily shakes her head ever so slightly. “But what other people think of us and what we feel and know about ourselves are two totally different things.” It seemed to be a theme today, even. “And I’ve never asked you.”

"Every day."

Nathalie's answer is short, but honest. She lets out a shaky sigh, turning her attention to the road ahead even though there is absolutely no need in this moment. She isn't sure how she feels about being special. Francois had said something similar when she told him, too. But it doesn't feel harmonious to her.

"Sometimes it's hard to tell, you know, where one begins and the other ends. Where I begin and they end. I have memories that aren't mine and knowledge that's not mine. Times when I've tried to use them together— that's the worst. They don't feel good and bad to me. Light and dark. They both feel like monsters. And I worry that it's because of me. Because really, I'm the monster." She shudders lightly, but turns her attention back to Emily. "But you know, it was Gabriel who helped me see that it really doesn't matter which of us is the monster. They're mine to handle for now. And I'm mine to handle, too. So long as I can keep a hand on the reins, so long as I care about doing what I think is right, I'm pretty sure it'll be okay. I think that's what Dad doesn't understand. That the White, it's just as dangerous as the Black. I'm just as likely to disappear into it as the other. And the memories that cling to that one are just as violent and frightening as anything on the other side."

Instead of immediately, forcefully interjecting that in no way is Nathalie a monster, Emily waits for her to finish her thought. She steadies herself and nods her understanding when her sister emphasises her point. “I do agree with him, a little,” she says, looking back ahead of them. The light’s begun to turn yellow, but she eases them through the intersection and turns off the hazards while they go. “You’re only as much of a monster as you let yourself be. And I don’t think you have any intentions of being one. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, and plenty of people to knock you around if you get off course.” She doesn’t smile, but her voice lifts with that touch of levity. “You know?”

“You don’t need to hear it from me, but you’re not a monster, Nat.” In that, she’s absolutely certain. “You care strongly about doing the right thing, maybe because people made you do awful things in the past,” and the specifics of which didn’t need brought up. But, honestly, fuck the Institute. “But you’re more than what was done to you, or what people want to do with you. You’re an amazing, caring, compassionate person— even though it seems like the world did nothing to convince you it deserved it, not for a long time. Even if— even if you get angry— even if you’d want revenge? That’s not being a monster.”

She looks away from the road long enough to stress, brow arching, “That’s perfectly human.”

“And as for the rest of it, that sounds fucking difficult.” Emily might not be certain about advice for figuring out where the Conduits end and she begins, but she’ll call it how it is. “Is there anything that normally helps if they get too loud? Anything that helps ground yourself?” Her chin lifts as a thought strikes her and she says with more energy, growing more excited. “Like a totem. From that movie— the one with the dreams— the one where if they’re not sure if they’re dreaming or awake, they go for something that reminds them of when and where they are— who they are.” The last part might be ad-lib, which she acknowledges with a bobble of her head.

“Could that work, maybe?” she wonders, glancing to Nathalie.

"I don't intend to be one, no," Nathalie says, "but I have been one. I've hurt people. Killed them. Not always with the Conduits, either. And not always when someone else made me." For a moment, it seems like she might leave it at that, let it sink in that she isn't good and caring and compassionate. Those moments are the ones she thinks of when she thinks of herself. The times she's failed. The times she's slipped the reins and been her own worst nightmare. "But I want to be better. I try to be better. And I have to believe that matters, that it counts for something. Or else— what's the point?"

She looks out at the road as they get moving again, feeling perfectly melancholy as she really feels her situation, the weight of it. She doesn't feel special at all. She feels like cracked glass on the verge of shattering.

When Emily speaks again, she can barely look her direction, but there's a tilt of her head to prove she's paying attention. But the longer she goes on, the more Nat turns her way. "I never tried it. Honestly, I just try to ride it out and remind myself who I am when it's over. But— something that's mine, only mine, something I can hold onto. I mean… It's worth a shot." There's a spark of hope in those last words. Like she believes it really might be the answer.

It'd be easy, too easy, to insist that everybody slips and makes mistakes. Murder doesn't fall into that category, and Emily shies away from addressing it, unsure under what context that sort of thing has happened. Instead, she nods her agreement that trying to be better counts. "That's the most straightforward way you can look at it," she says to echo her agreement.

Seeing that little bit of energy come back to Nathalie at the idea that something wholly hers might help gives Emily just as much hope that maybe it actually will. "We'll find something, then," she pronounces, eyes still on the road. "If you have any ideas, you let me know, otherwise I'll bring a few things over soon. Something small you can keep with you, maybe even on you." Which leads to ideas. "A bracelet?" she wonders aloud. "… A tattoo?"

Emily smiles for just a moment. "I'd get one with you, if it helped at all."

The traffic signs they pass now occasionally include a blue and white H with an arrow in the direction their GPS is also directing them. The closeness brings a less easy thought to the front of Emily's mind. "You think the thing that came for Eileen will really come for you too?" she asks, trying to keep the question from being laden with worry. It almost didn't even feel right to call them a person, with how they'd looked and acted. "What even was it?"

She shakes her head slightly, mindful of the other cars on the road now that they're on busier (read: occupied) roads. Don't wreck. Don't wreck. is an extremely unhelpful mantra she has on mental repeat, though it doesn't drown out other thoughts. "After whatever happened out West that brought Elisabeth Harrison and Magnes Varlane back to this reality… Eileen had said she felt something change. She said her birds felt it, that the conduit did— that something dangerous had been birthed into the world."

Uncomfortably, she asks, "Do you think that might have been it?" The better question is how the hell it got into Sibyl, but it's an answer she doesn't expect anyone in the car to have.

"I— have no idea if I could manage to keep a tattoo on me," Nathalie says, "but I like the idea. Maybe Silvia could help us design one. After some experimentation." Gotta see if it would stick, after all. She looks over to Emily, managing a smile of her own, even if it's a tired one. Apparently that's a yes on them getting tattoos together.

But the lightness of the moment isn't meant to last.

"It hasn't so far," she says, lifting her shoulder, "Even if it does… I can't leave Francois like this." Maybe some people, she could argue for her own safety. Not him, though.

Never him.

"It's… a being. It was trapped outside of time, but it slipped through with them in New Mexico. I have no idea what it wants, but it's connected to the Conduits… mythologically speaking. So it probably is looking for them. And if it took Eileen's— I mean, on one level, it's a kindness. But who knows what it'll do with it." Which probably means Nat isn't planning on testing fate too often, after tonight. "I wish I had actual answers for you, but that thing, it's a mystery at the moment. At least to me."

Nathalie not being able to keep a tattoo is something that hadn't occurred to Emily, a nuance she finds to be particularly curious. "Silvia totally could help," she agrees. "Maybe we could even get Brynn to place them. No needles, no pain. Think that might help?" Maybe, maybe not. The process of placement might be an important part.

But they'd figure that out later.

First, there's beings that were trapped outside of time. "Can't ever just be one crisis at a time, can it?" Emily asks with a small smile. She flicks on the turn signal, leaning a little forward in her seat to make sure it's safe before turning. "We'll figure it out. One way or another. Preferably, before it comes to fuck everything up." Once the coast is clear, she directs the car into the parking garage, somehow managing to not accidentally bump the curb in the process of turning in.

"I'm pretty sure Teo's on his way up already. I don't know if he's made it yet or not. But we'll see." She frowns at the parking spots as they roll past them ever so slowly. They're so narrow. Fuck. She waits until there's three in a row that are open, angling the car to fit in that spot. Once she's pulled in, she doesn't bother checking if she's nudged the lines on either side. She'll be that jackass— time is of the essence still.

"I love you, Nat," Emily says, putting the car out of gear and pulling the handbrake. She looks over, and she'd smile again if she had the energy to spare in the face of the difficult situation ahead of them. "You ready?"

"That's a good idea. We'll ask her. She works at that tattoo place still, right?" There's still a lot to think about, like… what they would get a tattoo of, but the idea and the solution seem to have perked her up. "Before everything is fucked up would be best."

She glances out the window as Emily passes space after space, but she's not about to call her out on it— she got her here and that's kind of a big deal at the moment. "Maybe we'll beat him here and he won't have to see the love of his life hanging on by a thread at all," she says. Hope springs eternal, apparently.

Reaching a hand over, she grips Emily's once the car is actually stopped. "I love you, too. Let's go save a life." She starts to climb out of the car, but finds her legs still a little shaky. "Give me a head start. I'm gonna have to pull some energy on the way." Luckily, there's a few people in nearby cars to get her started before she takes off toward the hospital.

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