Closer Than They Aren't


abby6_icon.gif barbara_icon.gif benji_icon.gif cat_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif hannah_icon.gif

huruma3_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif megan_icon.gif nick_icon.gif nora2_icon.gif rue2_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Scene Title Closer Than They Aren't
Synopsis A small representative of the time travelers come in peace, to warn that not all of them do.
Date April 30, 2011

Bannerman's Castle

It's one of New York's early onset of sunnier days, with the sun high and bare of any cloud cover — it makes what has sort of been a dreary, wintery island something beautiful, the green of forest and blue of river, and the slabs of grey stone warming quickly. The partial collapse of the rooftop makes the most of this, and so it's in the wrecked makeshift courtyard that people begin to converge on a rumoured meeting. Benji Ryans, Jr. does very little that is particularly ostentatious (when she's awake, anyway) and so word getting around, outside of immediate invitation, was minimal at best.

And not alone, when people arrive. Hannah Sumter is a presence already, as is Noa Gitelman — better known as Hannah Kirby and Nora Rosenthal. When Joseph makes his way onto the courtyard, he spares a glance for his daughter, and then a guilty look back at the others arriving before finding himself an off-centre position to stand, warily curious but otherwise quiet. Benji ticks off each person with a glance, occasionally a smile for those she's spoken to at least once.

She is a he, for those playing at home, in jeans and a simple blouse, dark hair cut shaggy and slightly wet from the morning. Perched on the edge of partially crumbled wall, which might make people with a better sense of vertigo nervous, the backdrop of a sharp fall behind her, she hides her nervousness by keeping a very firm, rigid clasp on the stone she sits on, heels of military boots digging into the gritty ground.

Back, very back, perched on some rock, near a bolt hole if needed through the wall, is where brown haired Abigail has parked herself, away from immediate people more for their comfort instead of hers - They don't need her warmth today at least. Jeans and long sleeve shirt, she fiddle with a the toe of a pair of cheap sporty flats, waiting for this impromptu meeting to occur. Kasha with other kids, no need to burden the meet with the piercing cry or babbling noises of a nigh one year old. She's keeping to herself, quiet, thumb tapping along her insole as she waits for the proceeding to… proceed.

Megan is drying her hands on her jeans as she joins the group in the courtyard. She was assisting in the kitchen cleanup but she's heard rumors of the meeting and made a point of slipping out after doing her share in the kitchen. The redhead is curious, and as she joins the converging group she shoots a smile toward Abby. To see the now-brunette up and around and back on the island brightens Megan's day considerably, and the sunshine does the rest. She's about as cheery as one gets living like squatters.

The recorder is on. That just means Cat's awake and her eyes are open. The stoic who shows mild curiosity about this gathering lingers near the courtyard's entrance, where she can spot all present and observe with alertly roving eyes.

He's not there as others arrive, Benjamin Ryans taking his time to finally join the group. Freshly washed up from what planting he's been doing before the meeting, making sure to at least put on a fresh unsmudge shirt, though his jeams are not so lucky. He nods to some of the others that are there, before he looks at the younger… man that is his namesake. Benji gets a long searching look before Ryans moves to find a spot among the people, near the trio, to see how this goes and if his… future? grandson even needs his support.

Barbara had been there for a bit now, leaning against a wall with her arms crossed as she waits for this meeting, of sorts, the begin. Standing not far from Cat, a lookis angled from her, before drifting over to the over arrivees, and then finally to Benji. She's quiet, waiting. Curious. These sorts of meetings always prove to be interesting, at least these days.

Nora's dark eyes sweep over those present and those arriving, and she fidgets with the cuffs of her sweatshirt a bit nervously, then realizing it. She drops her hands, putting them in her pockets. When Joseph glances their way, she glances to Hannah to offer a fleeting smile.

Not long after Ryans steps onto the roof, Nick leads the way with Eileen behind him. When he realizes it's Delia's father in front of him moving to take a spot, Nick's eyes drop and he gives a respectful nod. His cheeks flush, uncharacteristically, and he moves toward a spot in the back, arms crossing before he takes in the group at the front, there to address them, falling mostly on the man who seems to be the leader and caller of the meeting.

Does it figure that the (former, part-time) model would be fashionably late to the meeting? Rue Lancaster isn't quite on the heels of the Ruskin siblings, but she is behind them at any rate.

And when she does arrive, its with her arms thrown in the air and a deep breath of fresh air. "Bestie~" she crows, greeting No(r)a. Too much enthusiasm given the situation, but such is Rue. "Benji, Hannah." She levels a smirk at each in turn. It's been longer since she's sen them than any of the other denizens of Pollepel Island. "You look good."

Eileen drifts in a few paces behind her brother. Even with the gradually improving weather, she prefers to dress in layers and makes her appearance in a dark blue cardigan paired with a gray dress fashioned from a material that ripples in the spring breeze, outlining the slender shape of her thighs and hips through the flimsy but opaque fabric. As always, her brown-black hair is a startling contrast to the shade of her skin, paler during the winter months than in the summer, though it would either take an intimate familiarity with her body or unusually keen attention to detail to notice such variations. She is not a ptarmigan with feathers that moult from white to brown, or a snowshoe hair beginning to grow glossy and dark and fat.

She settles beside Nick, both her small hands resting on the elbow of the opposite arm, wind tugging absently at her loose curls. Hannah, on the other hand, has pulled her hair back into a sleek ponytail to keep it from blowing about her face. The fewer distractions she has, the better. Nora's smile is returned in kind, and so is Rue's greeting, chin tucked into a nod. She is making a point not to look in her father's direction for the same reason she tied up her hair.

Benji's posture goes rigid around when the Ruskins grace the rooftop with their presence, a look of alarm sent to Nick before Rue, in all her Rueness, coaxes a smile that could border on relieved, but comes across as strained in any case. She gets a wink, rather than words. A few seconds spent convincing herself it doesn't matter before she allows a few seconds to pass, enough time for no one else to arrive through the doorway. Though there's a steady climb of warmth flushing up her features, she doesn't hesitate for very long — voice quiet on the wind, almost difficult to make out, but just audible enough to get by. "Thank you for coming," she starts, politely, leg crossing over the other more out of nerves than comfort. "Um. One of the first things you might think is, why didn't we do this sooner. I don't know if I can answer that today, and I can't— " She glances for Hannah and Nora, then, head ducking. "— speak for everyone, either.

"It was meant to be about ten years from now, that the Evolved flu crossed over to attack without discrimination. I don't know if it mutated or if someone did it deliberately," and her voice goes a little dry over those words, swallowing, continuing, "but it steadily killed a lot of people. I know this because I was born a handful of years before this happened — 2014."


She glances for Ryans, then, before staring at a neutral spot around the middle of the gathering. The presence of the likes of Megan, Rue, Ryans and Nick burns bright in her periphery. "The future's changed. But not for the better. The cross over's begun, except it's only meant to target Normals. And it started more than twenty days ago." And quiet, jaw tight, bracing herself.

There is a glance from Megan to Abigail… some things Abby has said and other things she's been informed of by Ryans now make a bit of sense. She's been watching the group at the front of this meeting. But their announcement shocks the bloody hell out of her, and for a moment the nurse is caught both flat-footed and stunned, only able to gape in shock.

When Megan speaks, the usual calm that accompanies her tone is clearly rattled. "Wait….. you're saying the N10 flu with an 80 percent mortality rate has just jumped the DNA barrier and mutated to affect non-Evo … in less than TWO YEARS?" she demands sharply, alarmed.

Abigail knew already, from Kasha, from Calvin that now, there were people - at least three - from the future. Now she's presented with three other. So the confession of having been born in 2014, not so shocking to the brunette medic. That the Virus that had ravaged her not so long ago had given a big middle finger to the rule that it was only allowed to affect evolveds and jumped ship far ahead of the schedule? That was new. New and to be truthful, after the fact, unsurprising since Kasha had said that she didn't know what might have been changed already. Clearly, this had changed and it makes the brunette go as pale as Eileen over there is. "Do we know if there's a vaccine in the works for it or whether there will be so that we can take care of those who will be vulnerable?" Her fingers curls around the toe of her flats, gaze on Benji, Hannah and Nora.

The teenager laughs nervously at Rue's greeting, then rakes teeth over lower lip as Benji begins to speak. Her gaze drops to study the toes of her Converse, then peeks up through lashes to watch the reactions to the revelation that Benji delivers in the quiet and dry manner. When she feels Benji tensing, Nora's hand slides out of her pocket to put a hand on Benji's shoulder, squeezing lightly, and she looks from face to face, lingering on those who are the most affected by the news — two of which are Benji's kin.

At Benji's look of alarm, Nick tenses as well, brows knitting together as his pale eyes narrow. A shaky hand pulls out his Capstans, shaking one out to tuck between lips before offering the pack — perhaps out of long and outdated habit — to his sister. "Jesus," he mutters under his breath before a lighter comes out, spark and shh punctuating his swear.

Her features change on hearing this, stoicism faltering and face going a bit paler than usual after a winter of cold and wearing layers to facilitate hiding. "It explains the image in that one painting, of Peter and Agent LeMay in a lab and the biohazard symbols," Cat murmurs. "It's believed, though unverified, the H5N10 was originally engineered by the Commonwealth Institute from a strain of the Shanti virus. A modified version of the Shanti virus was nearly released just over two years ago, the attempt blocked at great cost, preventing a global disaster. Now you, sir…"

A stare which says 'please say no' is leveled at Benji.

"… are saying what was prevented is now starting, by different means?"

Eileen's initial response is silence, either the stunned kind or the contemplative kind — the only person capable of reading her emotions with any degree of accuracy she left on Staten Island, and maybe she's beginning to regret that decision because this affects him too.

It affects everyone. Her grip on her arms tightens, and in the absence of gloves those closest to her will be able to witness the slow drain of blood from her knuckles, growing whiter and whiter the harder she clutches. The bite of her nails through the weave of her cardigan hurts, though perhaps not as much as the sting that Benji's confession contains.

To say she feels a little betrayed is something of an understatement. Whether or not she recognizes the hypocricy of the emotion — deception is a game she herself has played, and in similar circumstances no less — her nostrils flare hard on the next exhale, and Nick can almost hear her joints creaking with tension beside him.

"There's a vaccine where we come from," Hannah tells Abigail, removing her hands from the pockets of her leather jacket, a battered thing of beaten brown, "but you also gotta understand that there's a divide, too. The only people who get access in our time are the ones who follow the rules, and anyway they had years to prepare before it crossed over. You could be waitin' months for a solution, and even then there's no gaurantee you'll be able to get any."

Cat's question has Hannah deferring to Benji, dark eyes solemn. It's her leader's decision how much to tell them.

It's honestly hard for Benjamin not to stare at Benji, so blue meets blue briefly, though the arrival of Nick does snag his attention briefly, since that is the man Delia named as father of the man standing at the head of the gathering. Eyes narrow a little, judging the young man in the way father's do when trying to assess if the boy is good enough for their daughter.

The news, however, pretty much trumps the fact that it's his grandson from the future that's standing up there. Any question he thinks of is being offered, so the former agent is silent watching the trio thoughtfully.

"Wait. I don't understand," Rue says bluntly. She looks between the three at the head of this gathering, and then to the others gathered. "What do you mean you were born in… Twenty-fourteen. That doesn't make any sense." The girl's brows furrow, stuck on just one point of many she could be - should be questioning. And the train finally reaches the junction, changes tracks. "You mean the Five-Ten's going to kill… others, too?" She managed to avoid contracting the disease despite her proxmity to it. She was exceedingly careful. Most Evos are. "What."

"Yes, Miss Chesterfield." Is what Benji has to say to Cat. Paleness setting in after the blush has cleared, and gently, she levers herself off her perch to stand. Her attention drags to Rue, one shoulder lifting in half of a shrug. Surprise. "I wanted you to hear it here," she adds, the sentiment for the woman rather than for the group, before Benji's focus turns outwards again.

Though Nora touches her, Benji only spares a glance, guilt from all directions. The look he tosses Megan communicates not exactly, a small flip of black hair, shoulders coming up to curl in a little, posture defensive. "Someone's deliberately engineered the virus to switch sides, ahead of time by almost a decade. The sentiment is anti-Normals in nature." Clear blue eyes scope out the crowd — father, grandfather, friends and strangers alike. "His name is Calvin— Rosen." Later, she'll wonder why she chose to identify his alias, but for now, it's logical enough and official enough to pass. "His cover was an Institute agent, but now he's rogue. From them, from us. He caused this to happen, and his power — the ability to move metal — makes him very dangerous."

Joseph is over —> there, and shocked, staring from Benji to Hannah. This is much bigger than he gave it credit for, hand wrapped tight around his crucifixes and looking mildly sickened at the news being presented. Even with the knowledge that maybe Hannah wasn't the only one to come back.

Megan glances at Cat in shock. She wasn't privy to much of what went on last year, and the news that it was stopped once already … well, that was definitely not on her radar. Her eyes pivot back to the briefing at the front of the group and she starts to blurt out another question, biting it back as someone else asks about the vaccine situation and waiting for her own question to actually get an answer before she speaks again.

"So…. in the future that you've come from, the one that some of us have dreamed," Megan starts, explaining why she's not entirely freaking out over that — she's had some time to come to grips, "they had time to work on a vaccine. In the here and now, ten years too soon…. it's mutating now." She shoves a hand up to her head and raises both brows. "Whatever vaccinations you all may have had, I need to get blood samples of. Immediately. No one in the Ferry has the kind of biology background that we need to be able to combat this new strain — and there's no guarantee that the antibodies you have will be able to help with the strain that Rosen has engineered." Megan clenches her jaw, and she looks toward Ryans and Eileen. "And we need someone to go fucking take out Rosen. The only real possibility here is to stop Patient Zero from occurring." She looks at the group.

A lot of news to take in, is what this all is for Barbara. HEr brow furrows a bit at the mention of the children being form 2014. She's ready to dismiss it as not possible either, at least until she remembers what RIchard Cardinal told her of a time war back in the fall.


"There are ways for it to make sense, I'm afraid, is a response angled over towards Rue in light of that though, a weak smile across teh triplet's face. But the subject at hand is quickly becoming focuse (as it should be) on the virus. " DOes… this strand of teh virus still pose a threat to evolved? Not that it really matters in the end, but if this is something that's going to effect everybody, we need to take twice as many precautions, after last time?" A look off to the sie, and she grimaces. The name Calvin Rosen oens't mean much to her, but- "So, Rosen has… lost it, then? I don't understand why someone tyring to… prevent such things would do something like that."

A sharp gasp comes from where it's probably least likely expected — the small teen at the front, next to the person leading the meeting. "Calvin what…" she hisses, looking at Benji and then to Hannah, shaking her head, growing pale as a hand comes up to her mouth. "He wouldn'-"

But. There were things he couldn't — wouldn't — tell her. There was so much he didn't say. That she told him he didn't need to.

"Oh, God…"

She turns away, moving away to where the rail curves around, to stare down at the water and cry with her back to those assembled.

At the name Calvin, Nick frowns and he glances at Eileen, muttering in a low voice, "That's the bloke who told Delia she'd die if she came back here…" the 'clairvoyant' Delia told him about. "If we can figure out where he is…." the rest is implied.

Eileen's gaze shifts to give the impression that she's looking at Megan even if the little catbird perched on her shoulder is doing most of the looking for her. "The Ferry needs to focus on protecting Pollepel Island and Grand Central Terminal," she says finally, and although her voice is soft, it's also very clear and edged with something sharp. "Special Activities has its hands full with reconnaissance and subterfuge against the American government. We cannot afford to divide our resources for the sake of eliminating one man.

"Nicholas and I can bring this to Holden and the other surviving members of the Vanguard — this falls under their purview, and they have years of experience dealing with men like Rosen."

Still eying Benji and remaining pale, features showing a blaze of repressed rage which also shows in clipped words and a dry tone to her voice, Cat chooses not to correct him on using the title Miss. A discussion of medical/biological issues doesn't seem the time to reference her doctorate in another field. "Cat will do, sir." Then an aside is offered to Megan. "Calvin Rosen may have engineered and released it, but he won't be patient zero with this virus, given he has SLC powers over metal."

Back to Benji. "Is he still actively distributing the pathogen, or is one release sufficient to his aims? The only speculation I can offer about his motives is simple: retribution against human society for actions against those of us who have SLC. Right now, there are members of HF in powerful positions, including New York's mayor. So, sir… the people who have vaccine in your time and limit it to rules followers, are they HF?"

Blue eyes grow a little wide and Rue breaks away from her place in the loose knot of people to hurry to Nora, wrapping her arms around her from behind. She turns her head so she's speaking to the rest of her group over her shoulder. "Killing— Rosen," whoever that is, "isn't going to fix what's been done. Death for death doesn't accomplish anything. If anything, we should want him to force him to tell us what he's done, if he's changed anything. Or- Or how to make the vaccine?"

Rue hugs Nora a little tighter and fits her chin against the shorter girl's shoudler, whispering something reassuring in her ear before she cranes her neck to address the group again. "Revenge is reactionary. And it's ugly, and unbefitting of us and what we're trying to stand for."

And speaking of reactionary, the black-haired girl levels a dirty look on Ms Chesterfield. "Ahmigawd! Would you stop calling her sir? Are you fucking blind? She's even way prettier than you." Misplaced anger (and frustration born from confusion, because - seriously - what the fuck just happened here her friends are from the future) manifests itself against Cat.

And it's petty. Rue does realise precious seconds after the words fly from her mouth. It shows in the way her cheeks turn red and she buries her face against Nora's hair and shoulder again. "Sorry," she mumbles just loud enough to be heard. Hopefully.

"So. He engineered this strain?" Ryans asks curiously, moving through a few more people, eyes narrowed at the trio. But his gaze eventually falls on Benji who is the apparent the leader. He isn't accusing them persay, but… "Rue is right, killing him solves nothing." There is a clear yet in there, "If he's the one that created this, he's the better bet to help prevent it." A glance is angled to the time displaced trio. "Not that I imagine he'll be amendable to help, however…"

A deep breath is taken as he adds, "However, if you feel he can not be reasoned with, then we may very well not have a choice." He looks at Hannah, Benji and Nora in turn. "From what I understand you three are our Ferry's future, so I'm trusting you three to be honest with us on this Rosen fellow." He gives them a moment to consider this before he asks simply. "Do you feel that he can be reasoned with?"

Amg. Benji's eyes widen a little at Rue's outburst, a hand coming up in show of surprise, fingertips curled towards her mouth and doing very little to obscure a blush that's come back full force, right up to her hairline. "It's okay," she squeaks, eventually, not looking at any Ruskins or Ryanses in the room. Said for Rue and for Cat both. "I know I've— this is all a lot to take in. For us, it's so— " She gives a small shrug, and glances to Nora. She'd like to hug, too, but allows the take over to occur as she steers a look to Cat instead, smile suddenly crooked — as if Cat had said something quaint. She has.

"Humanis First is, where I'm from, an antiquated concept," Benji says. "Their idealogy isn't extreme. People behind the walls were protected, and people outside of them… like the network, like us… we received no vaccinations." She looks to Megan. "That applies to any of us three— but I may be able to help anyway. There are more of us."

It's ridiculous, to Benji — Eileen and Nick are both younger than her, enough years to make it substantive. It should have been weird that Delia is, too, but then, her mom has always been a little young. She glances from her aunt to her father, vague alarm spiking that had already begun at Megan's hard words — but it's not a shock, really. Even Ingrid had warned her, how they would react. "Rosen is our business," she tries, gently, voice too demure to be a credible battle of wills, for all that she's perfected something of a sharp stare, and Ryans' lead in is a necessity. She sends an uncertain glance to Ryans, before nodding in agreement. "We've known him for years and there has to be a way to stop him. I can't say why he did it like this, or even if he regrets it, but I know he's impatient.

"I can— find out," she adds, reluctantly. "He's smart, not insane."

Megan nods acknowledgement to Eileen's statement that someone else will handle finding Patient Zero — or at least attempting to slow Rosen down. Her job is definitely local. "I can't promise anything, but with blood samples from any of the children who've had vaccines in their own pasts," she nods to Benji, "we can maybe get someone out of the international Ferry who has enough research experience to be able to come up with a viable vaccine. To whatever kinds they've suffered. It's…. at least a start, but the mutation could be entirely different now."

Megan grimaces. "As far as protecting the island… The only true protection would be to basically start using the kinds of hygiene and quarantine procedures now, before it even starts, maybe. Anyone traveling from the mainland would need to be kept separated if they've been exposed to anyone who has symptoms. Traveling back and forth limited severely. Uhm…." She blows out a breath. "Christ, Eileen… the antivirals had zero effect on the N10 sypmtoms. I …. don't really know any other way to combat viral outbreaks than good nutrition, masks, good hygiene, the things we had to do all during the outbreak here." She can't comment on the insane part…. because coming back to the past just to infect the other side with a virus that kills 80 percent of the population strikes her as pretty much in the crazy category.

"Look for Flint Deckard. He'll be keeping an eye on him. Make a move against Flint, and you might draw him out for a conversation. Or just leave the contacting and arranging of a meeting to those three" A gesture from Abigail towards Benji et al. "It strikes me as something he might do. Calvin Rosen - " The way she says it, means she knows it's likely not the right last name that she knows him by. " Handcuffed me to the bottom of a car and warned me away from his Dah for his own reasons. It wouldn't surprise me in the least that he's done, what he's done" And no sympathy for whatever will be done to Calvin.

"As for quarantine…" Abigail switches her blue eye'd gaze from the future trio and others, to Megan and members of the council. "No one sick comes to the island. We get a new place established, and quickly, and they're moved there. If anyone's shown any symptoms at all, relating to the flu, either one, they don't get to come to the Island. It's a way to severely reduce any chance that it will ravage the population here. Combined with the other necessary precautions that were taken last time, we might be able to hold off and hold out till a vaccine is developed, and we can get our hands on it through whatever means that we use to acquire some"

Silence is golden, but then again, saying something can be too. Huruma hasn't said a word in edgewise since coming up here, and in fact, she was so much in the background that when she does come away from a wall, she does seem to have come from nowhere at all. Benji wasn't kidding, about a threat. Huruma's silence has given her some personal time to fret over the possibilities that this thing will affect some of her best friends. It is something that she couldn't stand happening. Most of what the others say are words taken from her own mouth, but there is something else that her mind has clung onto, and she verbally flickers around it to make her presence known- before getting to her own bit. "Abigail is right. We need a quarantine safehouse. In case."

If her visit to Cash- Kasha- told her anything, it was that nothing was as it seemed. Huruma steps away from the dark, eyes casting across to Benji, then to Hannah, and Nora, and back again. The stare they get is a momentarily unsettling thing- too still, too much contrast. It passes in due time.

"How many?" She nearly says it through her teeth before catching it, the fluidity of her field up and rippling with each of the people on the roof. "How many of you? And which one of you does he like?" Well, if he is theirs- he has to have at least one that he listens to more often than not, right?

"Your business?"

To say that something in Eileen has snapped would be inaccurate, but if switches exist then the one that regulates her ability to control her emotions has just been flipped. Gone is the carefully tempered mask of neutrality and the steadiness of tone; her voice rises sharply in pitch and in volume, and all of a sudden she's shouting. "This is our time, not yours — that you've come back at all is bad enough, but in doing so you've potentially condemned thousands of people to death, and now you have the nerve to tell us that dealing with the individual responsible is your business?"

Blind fury shivers a crack through the Englishwoman's voice. Her face has gone as white as her knuckles, mouth hard and pale, lips curling around a flash of teeth. "If you're the future of this network, then as far as I'm concerned — this network has no future at all."

Nora lets Rue hug her, though she shudders, back rising and falling with a sob when Rue repeats the name Rosen, and a moment later she pushes away, wiping her face as she turns around. A long shuddering breath is taken and her chin lifts, seeking Benji's face and Hannah's, first, and then the rest, though one hand reaches out for Rue's, curling fingers around the other woman's and squeezing.

"Don't kill him. If he did it, killing him won't solve anything. He's… you don't understand what it was like for us. What he's been through." She swallows hard, and her eyes narrow but she turns to look at Megan. "I've had a future version of it… you can use my blood if it'd help at all, to compare how the strain changed for the Evo version. I don't … I don't know if it'd be helpful at all."

On the other side of the roof, Nick drops his cigarette, Doc Marten crushing out the butt as he stares down. A moment later, he glances up, about to speak when Eileen does instead.

He flinches at her anger, eyes closing as if he is the source of it (in a way, perhaps).

"They're trying to help control it, but I agree — it's no longer just their business," he says quietly, apologetically, eyes moving between Eileen and Benji nervously.

He clears his throat, speaking a little more confidently to the rest of the group. "I heard somethin' on the news the other day about unseasonable flu symptoms showin' up. This might already be hittin' the fan, so to speak." His accent seems to have changed from those others have heard in the past on the island — the American gone, and in its place a blue-collar London accent. "But if we can figure out through whatever means who Patient Zero is, if it's useful for makin' vaccines and such, I can prob'ly track her down." He gives a nod toward Megan. "But this is bigger than just the Ferry. I can alert… the outside. No names, no fingers pointed. But so they know and can prepare."

Around when traitorous saline is springing sparkly in Benji's eyes, though her posture is good and expression is woundrously neutral in the face of someone yelling at her with pure anger, Joseph is tensing — but he doesn't move to stop anything, until he has a few steps taken towards the three, mostly to angle enough to say his piece. "We're not gonna be makin' Council decisions here today," he says, after a second, his eyes on Hannah, then back to Eileen, and those in Special Activities. "We just ain't. It's not fair on any of us, or them. The future of the network is ours, but they're here too. With more information than we got.

"This one— " And he looks to Hannah. "Is my daughter. If they ain't the future of the network, then I clear don't know what is." Dark eyed glance switches to Abby, then. "And let's not be decidin' to make any moves against Flint just now." Bristle bristle.

Benji swallows, blinking slowly, and turning her attention from tharn staring at Eileen to looking at Huruma. Almost inaudible, she says, "Fourteen."

Megan glances toward Nora and nods, apology in her expression. "It was a kneejerk reaction, and I'm sorry. I panicked for a moment." Of all the people on this island, she is the one who has sat 20 out of 24 hours for days on end in an infirmary with children and adults dying around her of the flu when it only attacked the smaller population of Evos. She was rarely ever seen away from the infirmary during the worst of it, sleeping on the floor in the storeroom. "The idea that it is loose in the general population, on purpose…." She grimaces, trailing off in the wake of Eileen's explosion.

The redheaded nurse is watching the group and she takes in a deep breath. "Eileen," she says quietly, "there were many who said the same when some of you came. And they were just as wrong. Let's all take some time to calm down. Whatever else this group of …." Dear God, there are 14 of them?? "Whatever else they are, they are the children of the Ferrymen. And I have to believe that we as a group raised them to do their best to help. Even if one of them's maybe gone a little around the damn bend." She sighs and turns her attention. "Nora, it will help immensely." Her eyes shift to Nick as he says he has contacts. "If you can get it to the right people, there's a chance that they could use Nora's and the others' blood to handle that mutation, but if the unseasonable flu has already gone rogue in the general population, they'd be better served pulling blood samples from that population — it has the current horrifying mutation. Learning what we can from Nora's blood may help them mitigate future evolutions of the virus, though, so that's still important." Other than that… "We might be able to set the GCT up as infirmary and quarantine again, but… I'd prefer to find somewhere less centrally located. Let me think on what we'll need to be able to manage it and we can work out the logistics of a quarantine safehouse in a few days."

"Eileen!" Barbara's been willing to listen, for the most part. She usually is fairly calm and quiet during meetings, but Eileen's outburst has the faux redhead pushing off the wall she's been propped up against, arms falling to her side as she turns to face her fellow councilwoman. "Do you see anyone else here raiding their voice?!" Besides, of course, Barbara. Her eyes narrow, arms crossing as she looks at the other woman dead on.

"Control yourself." It's said with decisiveness that one might say to a child who's acting out, not because Barbara thinks of Eileen that way, but rather because of how she's used to delivering such a reprimand. "Here is neither the time nor place for it." Eyes flit over to Benji, Hannah, and Nora, and then to Joseph, before settling back on Eileen. "The last time I checked, even within the Ferry, these three among others have been doing good work to help us. Let us not say anything e can't take back. While I agree that something needs to be done, throwing around insults and yelling is no way to go about it. Or would you rather they not tell us anything at all in the future?"

That bit said, her eyes settle back on Benji. "She is right, in a manner of speaking. This has gone far beyond you, now, and includes a great many of us within and outside the Ferrymen. If you can't get your friend in chec, soon, and see if he can develop a way to neutralise or whatever he can do with this virus, then we're going to have to do something. But that's not a decision for right now. The only decision that will be made right now is that we're not killing him. Not, at least, until someone attempts to reign him in."

Fourteen is a number filed away in the back of her head. "I would also ask that if you're comfortable with it, you share who else is working with you, in private, so that we can at least be aware. Having to find out from something like this is unfortunate and I would rather avoid it again. That can be done at a later time as well, however."

She takes another step forward, eyes sliding side to side. "What ever you do do, I hope you will at least work with us." A nod to Megan. "If that'll help, it's a start, at least." Arms still folded, eyes narrowed, she looks around, going back to listening to what has to be said. "As for the future of the Ferry," she adds after a moment, "whatever they may be, right now, they're the present of the Ferry. Let's keep that in mind."

There is silence from the one who fails to forget as others speak, and wheels clearly turning behind her eyes as things are mulled over and conclusions are drawn. As questions form. It's a gamut which starts with Cat granting Rue just a moment of attention when she speaks of Benji's womanhood, tied to a brief glance at the flat manly chest of what appears to be a man's body, but there's no commentary on comparative prettiness. Or commentary on the subject at all. Her mind is soon focused on Benji's words regarding HF. "So…" she begins, "they've stopped being HF in your time, and become the government, which is their goal now. Perhaps Calvin Rosen's motive was to give them something to worry about other than taking power and putting us all into ghettos, graves, or both. I think, also," she glances toward Eileen to see if she's calmed from her diatribe and how she might react to commentary from others, "calling him your business was a poor choice of words. More correctly, you might've said he's your mess to clean up."

From there she lets a few seconds of silence pass.

"I think the time has come for full disclosure, here and now, in front of us. Who each of you are, the end of secrets in this matter. Now… what I know of viruses says vaccines are generally made from weakened virus, enough to make the body recognize its presence and generate antibodies to fight it without causing the actual disease. It's why vaccines sometimes cause symptoms of the illness. Although antibodies might be isolated from blood and a way found to produce them outside a human body, I don't quite see how Nora's blood, or the blood of anyone else with an SLC power, will have any use in protecting against the altered virus. It doesn't attack us. Unless…" she pauses again. "…Unless somehow the same antibodies will work against both forms. We don't know the current vaccine would be ineffective, having not tried it."

"As one of those thousands of 'normals' now at risk of death," Benjamin pipes up, voice a bland rumble as he turns to look back towards Eileen, exceedingly calm compared to young woman's anger. He's never really had to raise his voice to be heard, it's the type that stands out and demands to be heard. "I think I can say that the very fact they are back here is not a small thing and I am having a hard time thinking them as failures. Especially the ones standing here." There is a significant glance shot Benji's way.

"They left everything behind to come back here. To a time when their families would see them as nothing but strangers. That takes considerable courage. And there are many of the Ferry that traveled back to prevent things. Fairly recently even. My own children being some of them.

"And let's not forget that the fact they have to be here at all says we messed up enough to warrant it. To warrant the dreams to show us just how bad it all gets." He then turns to the trio, "However, that being said…" here Ben's support stops for duty. "Clearly you didn't expect this, but it has and it isn't effecting only you, but all of us Ferry present and future. You can't come here and tell me that people like me," he's staring at his grandson as he says it, "like Nick, like Megan and Raith are now just as much of a target of this new strain and then say 'It's our business.'

"It doesn't work that way. Stuff like this is exactly why I am co-head of the special activities. It's my business, because it is a threat to my people." He lets his gaze roam over the assembled. "But I do think they deserve a chance to talk Rosen down, before anything else. These are our future generation that must account for something. At least a chance. And Hannah and Nora have both proven themselves trustworthy enough working with them within Special Activities. I trust them." Unfortunately, his interaction with Benji hasn't been the same.

Down below, it sounds like the wind is building — there's a rustling in the canopies of the trees, a flurry of trembling leaves, except they aren't leaves at all. The flock of starlings in the island's forest rise as a hundred streamlined shadows moving under the direction of one mind, but rather than flood toward the castle's crumbling battlements, they're flowing away from it, threading out across the water.

Hannah takes a step toward her father, then, a shimmer of something passing over her skin that gleams like a spread of diamonds in the sunlight. When she realizes that no defensive posturing is actually needed and Eileen isn't commanding the birds to attack, it flickers away again, though she's superstitious enough that she refuses to breathe any signs of relief just yet.

"Kazimir Volken was someone's child too," Eileen says, no longer shouting, but with enough force behind it that her voice strains to accommodate the power of what Barbara is demanding she rein in. There is a reason she does not put her personal feelings on display, and it's only partly because she's a private person — the truth is that she has much less control over her emotions than her exterior normally suggests. Gray eyes gone glassy and hard seek out Abigail's, then Cat's, because they more than anyone else here will understand. "And none of you suggested that we negotiate with him. A virus engineered to kill the majority of the world's population is a virus engineered to kill the majority of the world's population. If you can't see that, then you're all blinder than I am."

She turns, and brisk strides carry her toward the stairs. A hand goes out to brace against the adjacent wall, skin grazing harshly over stone, and she's on the way out with the birds.

"Oh, that's weird," Rue murmurs to herself, though she doesn't specify which bit is weird. She stares down at her black sneakers and presses her lips together, brows lifted as the shouting goes on around her, like an awkward child listening to Mommy and Daddy fighting. She squeezes Nora's hand, and reaches for Benji's with the other. Showing solidarity.

Rue Lancaster stands with them.

Even if she can't quite lift her blue gaze from the stone beneath her feet. Just a glance is spared at the sound of the flocks that rise up from the trees. Her shoulders hunch up tight, near to her ears and a sharp intake of breath is somewhat lost beneath the beating of wings in the skies.

Only as Eileen's departing does she lift her dark head again to speak. "I trust Benji, Hannah, and Nora." Rue offers a smile to the leader, genuine if a little shaky, like her fingers curled around the hands she holds. "I think you all should, too." Firm. Stubborn. And perhaps pitched up too much to entirely avoid sounding childish.

"Just because you can trust a handful of them Benjamin Ryans, doesn't mean that all of them are here, with the best intentions" A glance to Joseph, meeting his gaze when he looks her way with regards to Flint, the former healer can't keep it up and looks away, somewhere else, to Eileen this time post blowup. Finally Barbara. "And you can't reign in a man who has summarily released a virus into New York twenty days ago that will kill any non expressive individual regardless of their love or hate for anyone with the gene. The parents, siblings, family and children of others in the network who have done nothing to Mr. Sher- Mr. Rosen. My parents, if they catch it are as good as dead given their age. Francois can catch it, die from it. He's right well gone and decided to play god and decided himself who will live and who will die. Kazimir Volken was put down for that same reason."

"We've seen how many we lost to just the evolved version of this sickness, others who have done nothing wrong." She lifts her shoulders, then lets them drop, stirring from her parking spot, so to speak.

"Most of special activities is composed of those from the remains of the vanguard that defected. Let them work with those who meandered in from the future if they want, to deal with Calvin, like we trust them to do when the more offensive duties crop up. If they don't want to involve the… future folks then… Something. I don't have all the answers and likely no one else here does either

" She's warm, irritated and angered already, something stewing in the back of her heart and mind. "Talk to him, imprison him, kill him, none of it can fix what he's already done and it can't take it all back. We don't have time manipulators in our pockets, just fourteen time travelers" With that, hands shoved into her jean pockets, she's starting off in the same direction that Eileen is taking off, though likely not to intercept and converse with the other woman, or maybe, who knows.

Fourteen? Whatever number Huruma was expecting, it was probably much less than that. She felt Eileen's anger before it surfaced, and remains quiet until she lets out a bemused little snort from somewhere between shoulders, brows lifting. She passes Megan a glance, and doesn't care remark on what she says about the little ex-Vanguard gone Ferry. Because really- her situation is the same, save for being pretty fresh, still. She can't possibly comment on it right now, so she purses her lips and watches, still as a tree, as Barbara begins the snowballing of words. Huruma watches Ryans from beside as he does so as well, and at the mention of the other 'normals', she hoods her eyes in thought, allowing herself to provide a distraction in the form of Eileen and her emotions.

Maybe she also understands, even if from a different point- and even agrees- and the bent-browed look after the small woman says most of that without actually saying anything at all. Huruma sighs, perhaps a little too loudly for the air here.

"A virus is a virus, and a ferryman is a ferryman. You have proved yourselves, but a gamechanger will b'one, regardless of who." Huruma seems mixed between perturbed and neutral, lips downturned with obvious displeasure, though it does not seem to be directed at anyone in particular. Yet. Her eyes trail after where both Abby and Eileen headed, and back to the trio.

"You'll need help, whether you think you all need it or not. But th'rest need t'focus on keeping well, staying that way- not focusing on this …punk." That's messed everything up.

The rise of birds makes Nora turn to stare at the birds, tensing, ready to run, but then they fly away, and she relaxes.


Turning her wet eyes toward Eileen's retreating back, she takes a shady breath, then nods to Ryans and then to Rue for their support. "We didn't want this to happen. It's… obviously it's not something we expected, or I wouldn't be…"

Heartbroken. Sick to her stomach. Devastated.

"… surprised," is what she ends up choosing. She raises her chin to look over those still present. "I am Ferry — future, yes, but Ferry born and raised, so my past, your future, our present, I'm Ferry. I will do whatever I can to protect the people in this network. I always have. I always will."

She takes a step away from the rail. "I guess if you're going to trust me, a real name might be a start." She hadn't cleared this with Hana, and there's an audible swallow before she follows her gut — if it buys them trust, she will do it. "My name's Noa Gitelman. You know my mother." She waits a beat, before adding, "She already knows I'm here."

At Nick's name spoken by Ryans, he looks up, frowning at the emphasis, giving a slight shake of his head, then turns to watch Eileen move away. He rakes a hand through shaggy dark hair, and takes a step after her before stopping. "Mercy can be discussed later," he says to the group at large.

"And yeah, we need to focus on fixing it, but we also need to find him to see if there's a way of stopping this, and he's our best bet for the answers," the young man says, then turns to look at Hannah and Benji, eyes dropping once eye contact is made with the latter. "You know where he's at? Can you guys get him without letting him know it's a trap?"

Joseph's temper is, as ever, kept in check, dealing only a flat look in the direction of those that walk out before the meeting is concluded. Temptation to follow with a mind to definitely intercept is tangible in the scrape a step in that direction, but he stays, in the end, and sends a glance to Nick. Mouth twisting wry at the notion of postponing mercy, and he folds his arms, silent and observant for now. There is the sense to him this is moving quickly.

Only amplified for Benji, who looks ill at ease enough to possibly be dizzy, waves of anxiety and misplaced hurt only detectable by Huruma and thiose who know her better, despite Rue's words. Rhetoric about blame and responsibility chip away at the calm if nervous demeanor she'd started with, and she shies away from Nick's question. "I don't think now is the time to discuss the details, and I don't know if he'll have the answers. Like I said, I'll find out. I don't know where he's at." Drawing her posture up again, she decides to at least see the meeting through. Curling up in a closet can come later, or dreaming dog's dreams. "My name's still Benji. My last name is Ryans." A glance to Cat. "That will have to do, for now.

"We came back to help," she adds. Reminds. "Even Calvin, at first. We have helped, already." A flick of a pale eyed glance at his grandfather, the mention of Nora and Hannah, before Benji steers her attention off towards the horizon instead. It's almost dismissal, especially as she adds, "I'll stay here for a few more days, if you need more. Perhaps you want to talk amongst yourselves, now."

Barbara frowns, eyes going half lidded and looking down at the ground as Eileen stalks off. Like Joseph, for a moment she seems like she's going to fall, but decides against it. "I'll talk to her later," is said quietly, though out loud for everyone to hear. "I didn't mean to snap back at her so harshly."

Clearing her throat, Barbara turns her attention back upwards, eyes moving around the gathered group. "I don't think anyone doubts that you have helped. Or were expecting someone you trusted to do something as terrible as this. But it doesn't chagned to the fact that it's happened." Hands slip into her pocket, and she sighs, looking over at Rue, then over at Joseph. "Something should be done. I, for one, am willing to trust you. But you can't cut us out of this so easily. At the very least you have to keep us abreast. Perhaps even let someone from Special Activities attend when you attempt to…" She pauses for a moment, not wanting to use the word corner. "Find Calvin. Hurting him doesn't do much good, for his sake. My earlier request stands, if you're willing to entertain it." With that, she finally steps back to her spot on the wall, pausing to look back over her shoulder. "We're all more scared about this than we'll admit. We have to work together if we're going to figure out how to vurb this."

Eyes move from person to person as things progress, spoken words are heard and recorded, facial features along with them. She doesn't seem troubled much by the appearance of birds, nor their exit, Eileen is merely trailed visually for some moments as she departs. But as Abby starts to make her way elsewhere, Cat chooses to speak. "The virus presents three priorities. First is finding out if there's more and where it is. There must be a lab, and it's likely he had assistance in creating it, people who may or may not know what they've done. If and when a lab is found, it should be destroyed in fire to ensure wiping it and any viral samples from existence. When we blocked Kazimir Volken's plans, we used thermite grenades for most of it. One location, a power plant, was submerged underwater by an audiokinetic who gave his life. Another location, the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, was so badly damaged in the fight against Volken himself that it collapsed, and the viral package had to be destroyed by lightning summoned directly from the sky." That Helena had to kill a number of sick people in so doing she chooses not to state. "We have Abby now, and she's far better than thermite grenades, or lightning."

During a pause to her commentary, Nora is looked over for some moments. It's perhaps a mark of the esteem she holds the teen's mother in that her next words come in Hebrew, with a bow of her head. "«Pleased to meet you, Noa. Your mother was my first trainer in Krav Maga.»"

In looking away from the younger Miss Gitelman, Cat's eyes return to Benji and move across other persons. "Second priority is working to protect people from the virus at large already. We can line up resources, get access to labs and scientists working there to make vaccines, goods we can distribute without government assistance. Third priority," she asserts, "is tied to the second, perhaps one and the same. Prevent HF from using the release of this virus to gain more political power through a monopoly on the vaccine."

It's still a little weird to hear Ryans in relations someone other then him and his daughters. It has him studying his grandson again, after watching Abby and Eileen depart. Cat's words are noted, but he's got something else on his mind. There is a thoughtful moment before he moves, boots scraping over stone. Distance is closed between both. "Benji." The name is spoken gruffly and soft. What he has to say to the dreamwalker isn't for other ears.

It may like Ryans is approaching him as the leader of his little band, but it may just be the fact of who Benji is… a Ryans. "I am trusting you and the other kids to get him under control. And if you know anything about me… it's hard to leave things like this to others. Just like I trusted your father to watch over Delia when she was lost." Yes he does know about Nick.

"Delia asked me here, but once I knew about the meeting I would have been anyhow. Show me my trust isn't miss placed. Counting on you." There is so much he could say, but Ryans steps back. Uncertain of how to say some of it anyhow, so he leaves it there. He starts to turn to start to move but stops. "You could also do me a favor and pass along a message to Ingrid. That I'm sorry about the other day and…" he glances over his shoulder to main part of the island. "that I'd like nothing more for her to see the new garden sometime. She's the reason it's there." Benji gets a small smile before the old man moves to turn away.

Hannah narrows her eyes at Cat, and both her brows go up at the other woman's claim when it comes to lab access and the creation of vaccines. She's been largely quiet for the duration of the meeting — she's always been quiet in the same still way that trees and rocks are, though never philosophical enough to come up with this comparison for herself or ever raise questions about whether trees or rocks could talk if they could — but confronted with this she discovers that she has to speak.

"You're wrong," she tells Catherine, but keeps her voice quiet so she doesn't interrupt Ryans' exchange with his grandchild. "There ain't gonna be any linin' up of resources like that because you don't got them, and you never did. You're foolin' yourself if you think it's that easy, anyway. Dead, wrong, too about thinkin' you can do a damn thing about all the political power that Humanis First has already gone and gobbled up. You start steerin' that way and you end up like Richard Cardinal. Dunno if anybody's told you, but where we come from he's no better'n any of the bigwigs you got in your sights, and you—"

She stiffens a little, cutting herself short before she forces Benji or Nora to. "Never mind you," she says quickly. "Don't matter now. I think my point is you gotta think smaller, Doc."

When Ryans makes his approach, Rue gives Beni's hand one more tight squeeze before she withdraws enough to give the pair a touch of privacy. She hugs Nora - Noa again, because she can't think of anything better to do with her nervous energy. She glances around quickly and cups one hand around the other girl's ear, leaning in to whisper something.

Nora's red-swollen eyes dart from person to person, and she squeezes Rue's hand, an anchor. She tips her head with some confusion at Cat's words in Hebrew, though she gives a small nod, and then a smirk at whatever it is Rue whispers.

When Ryans moves toward Benji, Nick can't make out all of the words, but he watches, expression guarded before he looks away, glancing at the others and then back down — out of place. "I'll help however I can," he finally manages quietly, a nod toward Barbara and Joseph, a promise to aid the Ferry even when his sister has stormed off. Pale eyes dart back toward Benji, and he swallows, before adding, voice rough, "Lemme know what I can do to help."

There's only a small shake of her head to Cat — no, Benji isn't sure about Adel's message, or doesn't remember it, anyway. "Adel Starkey is one of us. As was the companion who helped her. You can ask Elisabeth Harrison about him, if you like." Some of that surging distress is slowly tempered, or put on hold, although freezes into tension as Benjamin Sr. makes his way over, Benji instinctively taking a step back in the direction of Rue and her hand holding, and steadying herself on the crumbled ledge of the rooftop. But she doesn't back down, recognising private words for what they are, and doesn't fail to meet the older man's gaze.

She nods once, a little jerky, blinking rapidly and failing to say anything— though the sound she makes sort of suggests it was going to be an I will— before the taciturn Ferrymen is headed away from her, and she looks to Barbara. It's in response to both, in a sense, when she manages to press a smile since the first time Cat talked about Humanis First — smaller, more genuine. "It's my wish that we can work together. I only meant— " But it's a bit late, to clarify, taking a shaky breath and shaking her head.

Doesn't matter. She looks to Hannah, now, but Joseph gets there first — he invites, with a tilt of his head, "Walk with me? If we're all about done here."

Hannah's defiance doesn't faze the woman much, if at all. "Please, do go on," Cat invites, speaking in complete calm. "I'm interested to hear your thoughts. Now, I never said we already had such resources, don't think I was claiming we had them. I simply believe as the virus takes hold, we will have an easier time acquiring them, because many won't want to be at the mercy of fascists. Pardon me for having some optimism. I would expect you also do, in some form, because you came here from where you were. But if you don't, well, I'm used to it. It's not the first or last time I've been thought crazy."

Moments later attention shifts to Nora. "You don't speak Hebrew?" she asks. "I said it's good to meet you, and your mother was my first Krav Maga trainer. I'd like you to meet Alia, I think her technopathy and your radio mastery would fit together well."

And on to Benji, granting him a simple "Thank you."

Benji's attempt at clarification is met only with a wave of Babrara's hand. Not intentionally rude or dismissive, though it might seem such. It is a bit too late, but she is fairly sure she knows what he was going to foe anyway. "Adel Starkey," she repeats, giving a bit of a nod. Like Cat, keeping a mental catelouge, even if hers isn't ever lasting. A smile is iffered back to Benji, then over to Hannah and Noa. "Speaking with ELisabeth Harrison might present a challenge, given what I've heard of her current pricament, but I'm sure someone knows where she is, should we choose to speak to her about it. A bit of a shrug, leaning fully against the wall. "Hopefully, working together will be less… rough than tonight has been. It seems to have worked before now." Even if they didn't realise it.

Cat's use of the word 'crazy' has her sucking in a sharp breath through her nostrils and, against her better judgment, she darts a quick look Benji and Nora's way. Hannah says nothing.

Joseph is bidding her to walk with him, and so she does. Not out of disrespect, she shows Catherine her back and falls into step alongside her father.

"Maybe if you didn't act crazy," Rue mutters under her breath without realising she's vocalising the thought. Oops. Her cheeks turn red and she stares down at the courtyard floor again. She pulls a face that's both a wince and a grimace.

Do you know what makes a good cover for being awkward? Hugs. Hugs are awesome. And so Rue steps away from the younger girl after a parting wink and assaults bestows one upon Benji. Careful, you know, not to send anyone over the wall or anything. "Oh, my gosh. You guys are like the bravest people ever," she breathes in her ear.

"She didn't raise me," Nora says softly to Cat, the quiet words heavy with implication. "I know a few words. Krav Maga among them." As far as meeting Alia, she doesn't say anything. Her arms cross over herself, and she watches Hannah move away with Joseph. She heaves a sigh and shakes her head. "I'm going for a walk," she says under her breath, leaving Rue to hug Benji as she moves toward the exit as well.

Nick seems caught where he is — moving to the exit would mean moving past Benji and Ryans. Instead he ducks his head down and pulls out another cigarette — he never seems to actually finish one, so maybe he is making some progress on his plan to quit, voiced so many months ago unknowingly to his son.

That glance back from Hannah is shared with a wide-eyed look of her own; a nod to Cat following; before Benji is wrapped into a hug, one she gives back with a squeeze about Rue's waist. "People set good examples," she dismisses warmly, before crossing a look across the courtyard to Nick, watching while she isn't being watched. The words ring back through her own head, hollow, detangling from Rue then. "If you'll excuse me— "

She moves, then, neither the first to leave nor the last, the stairwell well free of angry aunts, awkward encounters with grandfathers, and dads left in her wake. The shadow of the castle's interior is a cool comfort and retreat. Hand up to clutch tight around silver pendant that slips free of blouse collar on the first step down.

Up above, the sun shines merrily on.

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