Chicken Legs


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Scene Title Chicken Legs
Synopsis Bookending more serious discussions, Aurora and Emily discuss the merits of houses with chicken legs.
Date July 29, 2019

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office Housing Facilities

Feet almost take Emily back to the street after she tears out of Zachery's lab room and down the halls of the Raytech building, aware of the lack of a visitor's badge around her neck. Something keeps her from leaving, though, a guilt she can't easily identify. There's something else she needs to do before she goes.

She ends up making it outside, looping back around to the residential complex. Her hand hesitates before she thumbs down the buzzer for 'Harrison', waiting to see if anyone's home.

Despite the fact that there are actually two Harrisons listed, it is Elisabeth's voice that comes through the speaker — lucky guess! "Emily, come on up."

She should have known there'd be cameras and security everywhere in here.

A security guard buzzes her through the doors and watches her all the way to the elevator, unlocking the controls that will allow the lift to ascend to the correct floor.

Richard Cardinal Ray might be a hair paranoid.

Elisabeth meets the teen at the apartment door when she comes off the elevator with a faint smile. But it's the miniature female with sandy-blonde hair who crows an ecstatic greeting. "Embly!"

And there it is, that little pang of guilt that will probably never go away, beaming right up at Emily without a care at all for past misdeeds.

"Hey there," she greets softly, holding her ground and not at all shrinking back into the elevator at the surprise early meeting. She even remembers to step fully out of the elevator door's path before it starts chiming at her that she's in the way. Emily darts a look up at Liz as she nears, expression even and honest, before she looks back down at the small girl.

For her, she forces a small smile. "Your mom said I should come say hello. Are you starting school soon?"

It dawns on her it might've been nice to bring her something other than just … herself. It's a thought she files away for the future.

Aurora's exuberance is simple and infectious. She nods to the question about school and starts talking immediately. "I go to school wif my brother an' sister an' my cousin Carl an' Walter. An' I get to play a lot, and they gots play-doh an' crayons! I write my letters an' I can read!" This last seems terribly exciting to the little girl.

Elisabeth just laughs softly, gesturing Emily to come all the way in, seeming happy to see the teen. "She's been dying to show you and everyone she knows," she murmurs. It was the one thing when they got here that Aura was devastated by — everyone else was way ahead on reading even though Elaine, Lynette, and Liz did their best as they traveled.

The furious nodding and excited talking is a bit much for Emily, who just holds on for the ride. "Oh," she intones politely, her gaze shooting back and forth between Liz and Aurora, trying to gauge, failingly, the monumentousness of the feats described, the mundane wonders detailed. "That's…"

Suddenly, the discomfort fades, the infectiousness of Aurora's energy breaking through. Her shoulders slope and settle, and she lifts one hand for a high five. "That's really amazing, Aurora," she enthuses softly, her smile growing.

Emily looks up when Elisabeth includes Emily in the list of people her daughter had decided needed to know about these things. Oh. Her brow flexes into a crease before smoothing out almost immediately. "Did … did we read together before?" she asks lightly.

Aura high-fives Emily and then grins. "Other-Embly din't have a lotta books, but she telled me stories! An' I telled her 'bout my old house in N'York an' 'bout Unca Felix an' my cousin Cam."

Her amusement obvious, Elisabeth closes the apartment door and cuts off Emily's escape (or something). "Let me get you a glass of water? She'll talk your ears off," she teases with a wink at the pixie.

Aurora looks innocent. "I got way more books now. Almost as many as at my old house before the magic doors! Unca Felix don't got enough at his house yet, though. But tells stories from th' Old Country and they don't need books for that. Did you hear 'bout Baba Yaga?"

No anxiety about the door closing comes from Emily; Aurora has her hooked in completely. "Thanks, Liz," she murmurs with a look back at her, her look sympathetic if not apologetic. She might've been invited over and invited in, but she still feels as though she's sliding into someone else's place by letting Aurora excitedly lead her in.

Even if that someone happened to be herself.

Because she's sure not like that other Emily— no easygoing affect when dealing with children. Her reactions are a little delayed, a healthy pause always to make sure Aurora is done speaking so she's not speaking over the young girl. A lot of the same respectful, encouraging nature is there, just… unrefined. Unused.

She's never really needed it before.

"How many books did you used to have?" Emily's voice is appreciative. Surely there were many. "I have some books, but most of them aren't mine. People I meet were very kind and let me borrow them." And then comes that question of hers. She tilts her head. "I did not hear about Baba Yaga, what's going on with her?" Was this someone she's supposed to know?

Elisabeth presses her lips tight together to hold back a laugh as she heads for the kitchen to bring back water. Emily is kinda in for it now.

"Baba Yaga is a scary old witch in the woods. Sometimes she helps people an' sometimes she curses 'em!" Aurora replies gleefully. "She lives in a wooden house on chicken legs! There's a story 'bout Vasilisa an' her mean ol' stepmom, who hates her an' sends her to Baba Yaga to get lights!" In its most simplistic form, it's sort of a combination of the original (rather gruesome) Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. And Aurora tells the tale with a glee that could only come from Felix Ivanov.

"On chicken legs," Emily echoes back, serious as can be, laugh suppressed. And then the story gets a little darker. And darker. And darker. (What the fuck, Russia.) She nods slowly with each new development.

Thank god when Liz comes back. It's not a moment too soon. She seizes on the moment.

"Aurora has been telling me all about Baba Yaga," she interjects conspiratorially. "Have you heard about all this?"

Translation: what the fuck
Secondary translation: help, we need to change the topic!

Elisabeth just laughs as she comes back in and hears the abbreviated version of Baba Yaga. "Jesus, Felix," she mutters under her breath, still amused as hell. Aurora certainly seems to like the story. "I had some idea, but not that particular one, no," she chuckles as she hands Em a bottle of water from the fridge. An easy shrug accompanies her move to sit down. "Her godfather is Russian, what can you do?"

Aurora seems thrilled for her audience to have the first experience and she says, "Ima draw you a pitcher of Baba Yaga's house, Embly!" She has a small table with art stuff in the corner of the living room, and she bounces over there to do exactly that.

"How are things going for you?" Elisabeth asks mildly. "I understand you're roomies with Teo." She grins. "He makes for damn good cuddles if you find you need them," she offers.

Aurora bounding away leaves Emily feeling a little hollow as much as she is relieved. The little girl had so much energy. She smiles up, hands laid one in the other with palm facing ceiling, and sits up a little straighter in her seat when she takes the water. "Thanks," she murmurs, twisting the cap off.

Emily stops short of actually drinking, the simple question catching her off-guard. She should expect it, have a smiling answer pre-prepared, but the first comment involving Teo surprises her, and the second makes her lower the drink.

"We don't have that kind of relationship," Emily states with a stare, her brow lifting. Then, she drinks. Her gaze falls, the cap resnapped. Voice softening, she goes on, "I'm as fine as I can be. Some days are harder than others. I've learned some things, but not enough."

She darts a glance to Aurora, her voice lowering. "I went west to try and … see if …" The words don't come easy, the bottle crinkling under a tighter grip. Emily shakes her head and looks back, forcing a smile. "But it either didn't work or she's further west than that," Her smile grows strained. "So, I don't— I don't know."

Taking in a breath, she glances down. "I can't do anything more than I already am, and it hurts to see Gillian hurt, and it hurts to see her empty desk. And that's…" A faint laugh leaves her. "That's only one slice of it all. Right now, it's just the part I can't keep quiet." She can't say why it's all coming out now, what triggered the overflow, but it's happening. Emily's eyes gleam at the corner when she looks back up. "Because I was just reminded that if we could have talked, I could have talked her out of it. Whatever she got into, at the very least, I could have—"

When her voice catches, she glances Aurora's way, suddenly realizing her tone of voice and how it must've carried.

A brow quirks and Elisabeth says simply, "You're not friends?" It appears she was simply volunteering silly Italian boys for puppy-pile sorts of cuddles.

But the topic turns to Squeaks and Elisabeth glances toward Aurora, happily drawing at her table. "She can't hear you," she says quietly. As soon as she realized the topic, she muted it from carrying. "She's used to me going silent sometimes." There is pain in the blue eyes when Emily explains where she went and what she didn't find.

"Don't." The word is gentle but firm. "She's out there and we will find her." Elisabeth cannot accept anything less. Not for one of the Lighthouse kids. "Whatever she got into, Squeaks is an adventurer. I sincerely doubt that it started off as anything that anyone would have thought to even attempt to talk her out of, Emily. It probably started as something completely innocuous and when she followed her cute little adventurous nose, she landed somewhere that was completely unexpected."

She reaches out to touch Emily's arm, not exactly wary … but the last time she reassured the younger woman, it didn't end well. Elisabeth takes the chance anyway. "We will find her. Say it over and over again in your head until you believe me — I do not give up, Emily. Richard doesn't give up. And her friends don't even know the meaning of that phrase. We will find her."

Emily’s sudden burst of anxiety is eased at knowing that, somehow, Aurora can’t pick up on what they’re saying. She can see it, even if she wasn’t aware that was a thing that could happen before. “You’re like Lance?” she asks before she can stop herself, brain-to-mouth with no filter for how inconsiderate of a question that might be at the moment. It still feels strange to ask, even though she’s inquired into others’ abilities lately, even though it came from her off the cuff. Her brow furrows, shoulders settling. She might be surprised, but she’s relieved, too.

The comfort Liz tries to provide her is met with a small smile that curls up a corner of her mouth. Again and again, until you believe me strikes a chord in her. She closes her eyes, accepting Liz’s touch but not moving to acknowledge it. “I know we will,” Emily assures her. “It just …”

The end of that thought treads into a dark place she doesn’t want to enter, so she doesn’t. She clears her throat instead. “And— then all this stuff with Devon, it’s all still a bit much. Then there’s layers of personal shit going on in between it all.” Shaking her head, Emily presses her tongue to the top of her mouth while she works through how to even give voice to what the sum makes her feel. “So it’s… going as good as it can be. I’m trying to take the good moments while they come. I’m trying to find the silver linings. I’m trying to not let the bad outweigh everything else.”

“I’m also trying to make sure I don’t forget. Don’t get complacent. With Devon, with my sister, with my father… anything could happen at any time. Richard might poke another fucking hole in the universe and unleash something else terrible. I might run into some other dimension traveler who will turn my world upside down…”

Emily spreads her hands with a sardonic, helpless smile. “Who the fuck knows, right?” Because really, who knew, with the world they lived in. The humor in that might only be felt by her, but it’s enough to get her wiping away the moisture from her eyes and putting herself back together.

It makes Elisabeth laugh softly. Because she really can't deny that … well… if anyone might do it, it's probably Richard. (Sorry to throw you under the bus there, lover, but ….)

"It sounds like you're doing all the right things," she says sincerely. "Nothing is perfect, but almost everything has a silver lining somewhere."

To the other query, Elisabeth seems to have no problem answering the question. "A little like Lance and Squeaks both. Their abilities seem a bit more…. specialized, I guess. Mine is a broad-spectrum audiokinesis." She smiles, teasing, "The sound bubbles were really handy for those nights of walking the floor with a sick baby, I'll tell ya."

Emily lets out a chuckle as she finishes wiping her eyes, a small smile still on her own face. "Can I ask you something really weird?" she asks abruptly, like she might laugh at herself for even doing it. It seems silly, after all, or at least she tries to make it seem that way.

If she's surprised, Elisabeth doesn't show it. She simply sits back and says, "I bet I've heard weirder. Fire away."

"Probably," the thin teen concedes with another chuckle. She's got to ask it now before she runs out of steam, before the feelings of catharsis from sharing what she did fades.

"Liz, how do you do what you do?" she asks curiously. "Like, how does it work? Where do you draw it from? Is it…" At trying to pick any one example, Emily tilts her shoulder into a shrug. "Is it different when you do different things?"

Oh! Okay, now Emily has her attention. Whatever she might have expected, it wasn't to be giving a lesson in power use. But — perhaps interestingly enough — she seems to have an answer. She does pause a moment to consider what exactly is being asked there, whether it's the physics answer or something a bit different.

"Well… I guess the best way to answer that is to tell you it's part instinct and part will." She gestures to the room absently. "For me, sound is as much a part of the room around us as the air. It's something I unconsciously sense at all times. In a soundproofed room, for example, I actually feel kind of like you do when you're swimming underwater. Like the world is muffled. Manipulating sound waves is more a matter of will. Kind of… a mental imagery of what I want to do. There are simpler versions of the bubble around us — where I can basically stop the air molecules at a certain distance around us from vibrating at all. Then you can't hear in or out. Think of it like an invisible wall. The one I have up right now is actually more complex. It's only one way — we can hear her, but she can't hear us. That's… a different kind of manipulation… kind of like a reflection of particular waves back to us off a mirror, if that makes sense."

She pauses. "But at the most basic, any power is a matter of both instinct and will, really. No matter what power someone has, it starts with … sensing something and then once you can identify it, learning to … reach for it, I guess is the best way to describe it." Elisabeth's blue eyes on Emily are thoughtful. The question itself isn't weird. Lots of people are curious about how powers work. But the why she's interested is certainly of interest.

While Liz answers the question, Emily takes her time with a long sip of water, mulling the information over. It's like sifting through a treasure pile and trying to cherrypick what most calls to you, because it's all valuable, but possibly not all relevant. She adopts a thoughtful expression, looking off from Elisabeth. Instinct and will.

Unconsciously, she pulls her free hand closer to herself, fingertips resting over her ribcage, just above her gut. It's over in a moment, and then she holds the bottle with both hands, looking back up to Liz with a small smile. "It's all still new to me, the whole… concept," she explains belatedly, sensing that unspoken question. "And a lot of people I know now, they have it. … Expression, or whatever you want to term it."

"Me, personally, I've always just accepted it, but I've never really…" Emily trails off with another more timid shrug. "So thank you," she recovers. "For letting me ask."

Her head turns slightly in the direction of the frantic drawer. "Does Aurora…?"

Tilting her head, Elisabeth nods slightly. "Most people are more interested in what the abilities are rather than how they work, really." She grins a bit. Glancing toward the little girl coloring enthusiastically on her paper, she nods slightly. "She was tested when she was born. It was standard practice where we were. So yes… though there's no way to know what she'll manifest." That makes her shake her head a little, remembering a dream-version of her teenaged daughter. Clearing her throat, she says, "Genetics doesn't really have an answer about what manifests in anyone or why."

"I don't know why they wouldn't be," Emily remarks absently to the matter of interest. "How is just as important as the what. It's just as much a part of it, a part of you." That being said, she leans back into a more proper sit. "I dunno," she adds dismissively.

She does wonder about Aurora, though— if maybe it'll do with her synesthesia. If maybe it'll be wildly different. She knows her own ability, the depths of which she's far off from understanding, is beyond anything she could have ever imagined. "Whatever it is, whenever it is, it'll be her," Emily intones. "She'll be great."

Elisabeth laughs softly. "Well… I definitely agree there, but I'm kinda biased," she admits. "I'm going to let the field down, okay?" She holds long enough for Emily to agree, and then drops it. Still studying Emily thoughtfully, she comments, "Devon never mentioned whether you were Evo… Expressive, but I have to admit I sort of assumed not. Maybe just because it's so open these days, but… if you want to ask more questions, you're more than welcome." She is willing to answer those kind of questions for anyone. "Are you going to be back in classes soon?" She remembers Devon mentioning that Emily was taking classes at the college, and she thinks she remembers that the SESA interns were also getting tuition help but isn't certain of that memory.

The comment about her status coming after they’ve lost that sense of privacy makes it hard to know just how to answer. There’s a (mostly-unneeded) sense Emily should mind what she says better now. So at first, all she can do is shake her head, brow slowly coming into a knit. “Things are way better than they used to be,” she says carefully. “But it’s definitely … I wouldn’t say open, necessarily. There’s still plenty to be worried about if you’re outed.” Thumb brushing over the side of the bottle, she adds evenly, “That being said, I’m registered Class U. We found out by blood test before the war. Came up during treatments— was just one more thing to worry about, when we learned.”

The crease on Emily’s forehead eases as she thinks back, able to hold it all at a distance through one method or another. Despite that, the segue to something more mundane is greatly appreciated. She sits more upright. “Yes, fall semester is coming up here in a month or so. I’ve been taking summer courses, too. Online, but it’s something. I figured I should take advantage of it while I could.” Her gaze holds on something near but not quite Elisabeth herself before she glances back to the audiokinetic meaningfully. “Who knows how long the internship thing will last, right? If I had to reapply for it, who knows if I’d win out against a pool of other applicants.”

She sighs at herself for the comment as soon as it’s made. It sounds terrible now that she’s said it out loud. “Not that anything like that will happen, necessarily,” Emily amends hastily.

Carefully setting a small field around them that leaves what Aura hears as an indistinct murmur for a moment, Elisabeth nods understandingly. "It's … difficult, sometimes, when you've lived a life of upheaval to really feel like anything at all is going to stick around," she says quietly. She glances at the little girl across the room, admitting, "I cut the sound to her enough she can tell we're talking but not what about." This topic seems a little heavy for the child. She looks back at Emily.

"I've seen both the good and bad sides of what Registration and openness can be… but I understand the caution. More than most." She's lived too many worlds where they've been hunted to near-extinction, it feels like. Pushing a hand through her hair, she comments mildly, "The internship may or may not stick around but you wouldn't have been offered it if they didn't think you could fit into their workplace. Like anything else, Emily, learn everything you can, keep what's useful to you and discard the rest as chaff." She grins a little. "I think the one thing no one ever tells any of us is that adulthood isn't about knowing … it’s understanding that we know practically nothing."

Emily shifts her posture when Elisabeth says she’s effectively muted them again. She only nods, albeit hesitantly. The discussion about acceptance of the Evolved in the world they live in seemed appropriate for all ages, but she remembers very well her mother trying to cover her ears when she was that age, too. The comment about the internship makes her wrinkle her nose, looking off again a little. “Yeah,” she replies with a scoff, “They thought I could fit right into a slot of theirs, I’m sure.” Her gaze slants back Elisabeth’s way with a subtle shake of her head.

Though the comment about adulthood brings a humorless laugh from her. “Oh, really? Is that all it takes?” she asks, finding the observation too priceless to not pass comment on. “Then I grew the fuck up a long time ago, and should be an old woman by now.” Emily almost laughs again, the sound bitten back half-finished before she sighs it away. She seems like she might say more there, but it’s nothing productive so she lets it die along with her laughter. “Anyway, I think the life experience it provides will be worth more than the college classes, so I’m doing my best to piss as few people off as possible out there.”

Elisabeth grins. "Smart lady," she observes, clearly teasing. She likes Emily's sass. "Just so you know? I don't think you fit their slot… just their intent." She winks. "They don't have a clue what they've let themselves in for." She's seen the Lighthouse teens in action in more than one world — SESA is out of their depth, trying to control young forces of nature. She's watching this exercise on their part with great amusement.

Aurora seems to be happy with her drawing now and she swoops up her page and bounces back to Emily. The sound field drops altogether. "See Embly?? Chicken feet!" She gives the picture to the teen, a slightly lopsided square house with a roof that leans left and giant stick-feet with claws on the bottom. There's a person standing next to simple stairs that go up to the house's side, obviously how the stick-lady gets inside. And there are lots of trees. "Baba Yaga!"

"Yeah," Emily mutters, unconvinced regarding the safety of her position at the internship, "I think they were expecting an Epstein in a wheelchair and they didn't get one, though." She glances back Liz's way with a shrug. "But like I said, I think we've made enough of a good impression they might keep us. All of us."

Knowing when it's safe to talk and when it isn't is something that's lost on Emily. She can't hear or feel the difference, so she only smiles right up until Aurora is at her feet. "Thank you, now I understand," the young woman says very graciously. "Do you think her house runs around on those chicken legs?" The light in her eyes shifts as a memory takes hold of a different building with similar legs.

She lets out a small gasp, like she's letting Aurora in on the biggest secret. "Like Howl's Moving Castle? Do you know about that one?"

"A castle that moves?" The little girl appears elated, practically beside herself. "It's gots legs like Baba Yaga's house?? Does a owl live in it?? Is there a princess? Does she use a sword? Cuz princesses gotta be able to fight dragons an' bad peoples." She apparently misunderstood the first word, and her explanations of what a princess should do are maybe a little skewed, but Emily has her rapt attention now. Aurora climbs up on the couch next to Emily and with her big hazel eyes asks, "Tell me?"

Elisabeth covers her mouth. If there is one thing Aurora loves, it's any kind of stories. And well, ya know… if 'Embly' is going to entertain the pixie, maybe Liz can actually get a little work done too! Thank goodness for smart phones and internet.

“No, an owl doesn’t live there,” Emily says kindly, weaving the corrected grammar into her reply. “A wizard does. And a fire demon. He powers the castle, gives it life, and makes it move! His name is Kalcifer. He’s very nice, for a demon.” She looks at Elisabeth peeling off to do other things, but perhaps surprisingly, she looks like she’ll be all right. Baba Yaga might not be in her ballpark, but movies she watched and rewatched and rewatched while on bedrest is right up her alley.

Not to mention, she’s very fond of Aurora’s particular interpretation of what princesses are supposed to do. No one tell the small girl any different.

The young woman smiles, threading a lock of her thin hair behind her ear as she tilts her head to better look down at Aurora. “This story doesn’t have a princess, but there is a very brave girl in it. Her name is Sophie. She meets the wizard Howl by chance, and gets caught up in his magical affairs. She gets cursed by a jealous witch to look very old, and runs away from home. She ends up living in the castle, where she gets to know Howl, his apprentice, and Kalcifer, and a prince that got turned into a scarecrow!” Spoiler alert, Emily. She hopes Aurora won’t mind.

She leans in, hands on the couch. “But what I like best about Sophie?” Emily speaks in even lower tones, emphasising the shared secret between her and the pixie. “She doesn’t need to fight. She uses her courage and her words to win the day. She helps Howl find himself when the darkness almost claims him, she convinces Kalcifer to leave the castle when Howl is in danger, and she makes the jealous old witch realize she made a mistake. Sophie’s heart is what matters in the end — not whether she’s young or old or pretty or mousy.”

Emily’s gaze softens. “Not everyone can fight. But not everyone needs to. Sometimes, the most powerful thing you can do is to be yourself, no matter how the rest of the world sees you. And sometimes… you can do pretty amazing things.” A grin overtakes her and she leans even closer to the girl. “Like tell them what color their voice is, and brighten their day; or draw them pictures to show them what the chicken-legged house looks like. Those are very kind things, Aurora. You should be proud of them— don’t let anybody ever tell you they’re not worth something.”

Aurora is utterly fascinated by the story. She nods sagely at the comment about how some people can't fight. For such a small child, she has very old eyes. She likes the way that Embly phrases the lesson in the story, and she wiggles a little, grinning, at the compliment.

"Yours is green," she whispers. "Like my fav'rite ice cream only lighter. It's real pretty. Just like you!"

Emily's grin turns into an awkward thing, floored by the compliment flung in her direction. What was she even supposed to do with that?

"Really?" She sounds disbelieving about herself, but eager to keep on with the rest of their little talk. "What's your favorite ice cream?" she asks, trying to keep things flowing. Emily knows she has places to be later this afternoon, but some things are just as important.

Like making new memories that outshine the bad ones.

Aurora grins. "Mint choc'late chip," she replies. "It's like this really soft green color an' I had a baby blanket wif that color. Purple's my fav'rite color but green an' blue are my other fav'rites." Aurora tips her head and the starts telling about one time when she and Mummy got ice cream with Unca Felix an' Cassie an' Cam, and Cam fell in the pond and got all wet.

Elisabeth keeps an eye on the two, but not because Emily's presence worries her. She may have taken a couple of pictures with her phone.

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