Come Undone


richard5_icon.gif ff_robyn2_icon.gif

Scene Title Come Undone
Synopsis This is how it feels to drown. This is how we come undone.
Date July 1st, 2021

It's only been a little bit since the sun settled below the horizon at the Delphi Flotilla, casting unfamiliar lands in even more unfamiliar shadows as dark slithers across the concrete and wood remains of a city long past. Were it not for the lingering unfamiliarity, it would feel much like home for some. The lights, the sound of music, all of it approximates something much more like the past - and something very different from the Manhattan Archipelago, something that either brings a grounding sense of recognisability to things, or simply serves to drive home the point of just how alien the world around them can be.

It really just depends on who you are.

The Ratmarket
Delphi Flotilla

July 1st
7:47 pm

For one newcomer to Delphi, it's more of the former than the latter. As they stalk through the streets, eyes focused on looking out for a singular individual, they stick to shadows, only occasionally taking a moment at a time to appreciate sights that remind them of the last several years of their life. Drifting in and out of visibility as they move from spot to spot, like a predator trying to avoid being seen by prey before it's too late.

It's just as the light fully disappears to the sky that they finally spot their quarry, smiling as they move in to try and catch off guard.

Richard Cardinal will never see it coming.

Most of the others wandered off in groups, pairs or trios or otherwise, but not Richard; after they all broke from their arrival point he walked off on his own. In his old civilian clothes, he blends in perfectly with the people of Delphi; a worn and patched bomber jacket, stained BDU paints, boots discolored from having to have been scrubbed down with bleach a few times too often.

He’s going over the goods at a stall in the Ratmarket, a selection of old water-warped and stained magazines in particular - one’s held in his hands as he flips through it to make sure it’s in readable condition. People magazine. Probably not exactly a mission-critical supply purchase, there.

Focused on his task, he doesn’t seem to have noticed the pursuit just yet.

The next thing Richard knows, someone is leaning over from beside him, also looking at the magazine he's found. "Oh wow, a People! I haven't seen one of those in forever!" Zee's voice practically rings in his ear, leaning forward on the balls of her feet. "What're you up to, Mr. Cardinal? I was hoping we could talk."

Very nonchalant for how very suddenly she just appeared beside him, possibly not heading the instructions to not advertise the fact that she has an ability. There's something slung over her back too - a guitar, of all things?"

"Ya know. If you're not too absorbed in your magazine."

There’s no start or sign of surprise from Richard, but of course she doesn’t know he could feel her moving up behind him, the raw life force of her presence a surge that had his shoulders subtly tensing and muscles coiling just in case. Her voice, though, brings an exhalation of relief before he smiles faintly - the magazine dropped back onto the table again.

“Just catching up on pop culture,” he admits, shifting to turn back towards her, “What’s up, Zee?”

A pout overtakes Zee's face at her inability to visibly startle Richard, shoulders sagging a bit - it's a weird sort of thing she came to enjoy in the Ark, her ability to catch people off guard at most times. Rather than answer him, she turns her attention to the magazine, picking it up with narrowed eyes - eyes that widen after a moment of flipping through it.

"Oh! I remember this one!" she remarks excitedly, flipping to a page and holding it up for Richard to see. "25 Years of Sun Vulcan and Super Soldier," she says in a low, announcer-like voice, reiterating the headline on a page that shows an image of three individuals in bright, colourful outfits, one each in red, yellow, and blue. "I loved these shows as a kid! I remember when the guy who was Vulcan Eagle started appearing in movies…"

She continues to flip through it for a few moments, a growing smile on her face before blinking and looking back up at Richard. "Oh! R-Right." She looks sheepish for a moment, laying the magazine back down. "Um. I wanted to talk to you about that offer you made me," she says quietly, looking down at the ground. "I wanna do it."

“We had a different, uh– what did Magnes call them? Sentai team on our side,” Richard admits, “They were the ‘Power Rangers’. There’s a lot of little changes like that, little butterfly wings…” He trails off, then looks to her as she speaks of what they’d discussed.

He smiles, if slightly, straightening up and pushing a hand back through his hair. “Alright. It might be– well. I’ve never done it before so I can’t say there aren’t risks. And I know I’ll be– exhausted afterwards regardless.”

Zee's hands fold in front of her as she takes a deep breath, giving Richard a slow and shallow nod. "Right," she whispers, her own posture straightening a bit. She glances back at the magazine for a moment, letting a brief smirk cross her face. "Power Rangers is a silly name," she remarks with a hint of amusement. "Which season even is that? None of them were called that here."

But that's not the important matter here. It's a distraction she keeps letting herself get absorbed in, instead of settling on the big decision she's making right now. "If you'd rather wait, or just, I gues… not… I understand. I, um." She rolls her shoulders, looking down at the ground. "I know I'm asking a lot." Even though Richard offered. It seems guilt may be genetic with Robyn Roux. "And I doubt you want to be exhausted for the trip."

She looks back up, perking up just a bit as she looks up at him and feigns a smile. "At the worst, everythin' stays the same, right?" Right? "So I, um. I'm ready to try at least."

A beat passes. “Yeah,” Richard replies then, “Right, everything stays the same.”


“And you’re not asking a lot, since I offered to try,” he points out with a wry smile, “I just wanted to make all that clear up front. You know the saying ‘It’s not exactly brain surgery’? This kind of is.”

He steps away from the booth, glancing up and down the lane before suggesting, “Why don’t we go back to the boat for now? Should be quiet there.”

Richard's comment on brain surgery brings a deep frown to Zee's face, hands clasped behind her as she looks down at the dock. Academically she knows that this isn't a simple effort, that every ability is different, with different thresholds and capabilities. Yet having it said outloud makes it seem that much more impossible, enough so that a stormy expression forms on her face as she begins to reconsider this.

The idea of going back to the boat gives her something to latch on to. A distraction, mostly, but it works for the moment. "Nova's boat?" She asks as she turns and looks off in the direction she thinks she recalls the boat being at. "She never would tell me what she was doing with it. Leaving it? Coming back for it later? Trading it away?"

Zee's eyes widen, turning to Richard with a sense of urgency in her voice. "Oh, heck, it's probably the last one! We should go before someone claims it!"

“Oh, shit, you’re right– they’re probably selling them off,” Richard’s nose wrinkles a little as he grimaces, one hand lifting to the side of his neck. He should have guessed, after all - they’re not staying here that long.

“Yeah, let’s get moving,” he suggests, head tilting back towards the docks before he starts walking.

"Right!" Zee is quick to step alongside Richard, before pulling ahead of him as she takes off in the direction of the docks. Does she remember exactly where the boat is? No, but she'll know it when she sees it, hopefully.

Either way, it's very clear that she's eager to get on with this, possibly before she changes her mind or has some sort of crisis of conscience that she doesn't at all need to be having.

Despite her head start, she's just finding it about the time Richard makes his way to the boat as well - likely a result of getting a little lost in the docks. She offers him a bit smile, waiting for him to head on before her.

“Hey.” A quick smile back from Richard, and he hops from the dock to the deck. Hopefully it hasn’t already been sold yet, or this could get awkward pretty fast. He walks along over to the cabin, ducking his head to get inside.

“Alright. Just– let’s sit down, and give this a try,” he suggests, giving her a reassuring look, “Hopefully it’ll be quick and easy, I know there’s not a lot of structural damage so it can’t be as hard as rebuilding a spine…”

Zee's eyes widen once more as she pauses before hopping on to the deck. "Whoa, rebuilding a spi-" She stops halfway through, her amazement immediately vanishing as she realises she's been told about this before. "Right," she grumbles, eyes half lidded for a moment. "Mr. Ray."

She lets out a long huff of a sigh and hops across to the deck, following quietly after Richard. Moments like that were exactly the kind of thing she was hope would at least become less frequent parts of her life after all of this.

Slipping her way into the cabin, she looks around for signs of new ownership, before settling herself down on the couch and immediately pulling her legs up so that her knees are pulled in close to her. "Do I need to do anything?"

“No. Just– try and stay still,” Richard says, moving to step over to the couch and settling onto it; twisting to one side to face her, one knee up on the couch. “It’s your– well, it’s your brain so it might get a little weird. Just don’t panic, and trust me, okay?”

He offers a hand out to her, smiling faintly, “Let’s try to give you your life back, Zee.”

The idea of things going weird wasn't exactly something that had occurred to her, even if it made the most sense in the world. Her nose wrinkles, expression souring just the slightest bit as her eyes flick up to Richard, and then back down to his hand. For a moment, she seems reluctant, pensive.

With a swallow, she reaches out and takes hold of Richard's hand, a sad but hopefully expression on her face as she looks back up at him.

As she takes his hand, Richard gives it a firm squeeze. “Just have faith,” he tells her softly, drawing in a breath and closing his eyes as his other hand covers hers as well, sandwiching it between his own.

Faith is, after all, the key. The Black is all about control. It needs to be kept on a leash, reined in, forced to obey so it doesn’t lash out on its own. The White is the opposite, he’s begun to realize. Letting it work through you, instead of for you. It’s no accident that most of the effective hosts in the past have been men of God - for good or for ill.

Learning to give up control, after having to fight for even a little of it over the years, is tricky for him. But he needs to, and he knows it.

Nothing, for a bit. Just sitting, breathing, trying to relax. And then - finally - there’s a warmth that washes over her hand, flows through it, up her arm, suffusing her being. Small aches, little cuts, bruises easing instantly as if they hadn’t been. Then– then–

It fades, and he pulls back, brow knitting, “Fuck. I… okay. This is– okay, this is trickier than I thought, and I don’t want to– fuck. Okay. Don’t worry. We can still fix this, we just– “ He glances to the window of the cabin with a grimace, “We need someone else too.”

We need someone else. Richard can see a brief moment of panic in her eyes, feel her hand tense up - which she then jerks back, pulled close to her chest as she winces and whines at the pain that shoots through her nerves. Her other hand rises, rubbing at her hand as she tries to work out the pain.

It doesn't help.

"I don't - we- " She scrunches her nose, clearly uneasy once more. "We don't have to do this," she whispers, "Do you even… know anyone else?" Another healer? The odds are pretty bad on that one she imagines.

“Easy– “ Richard brings a hand up, offering a faint smile, “— luckily, yes, and it’s someone we have with us. The– did you read all of that shit Quinn wrote down as homework? The stuff about the conduits?”

“The White– the healing conduit– is what I was trying to use, but– “ He grimaces, “It’s delicate work and I’m not sure if I can manage it, after taking a first look. Fortunately… the local version of the White is with us.”

He sighs, and moves to push to his feet, “Come on. We need to go see Natalie Grey.”

A Short Time Later

A Rooftop Garden
Delphi Flotilla

The birds know where Natalie Gray is. She’s surrounded by them.


Crows, terns, gulls, even a few chickadees and sparrows. The rooftop garden a quarter mile from the Ratmarket is primarily for vegetables and a handful of botanicals growing under canvas awnings. The birdsong filling the area is profound, and Richard can feel the presence of every single one of them as he comes up the stairwell onto the roof with Zee in tow.

Natalie kneels amid one of the flower beds, packing wet soul with fragile hands. Neither Richard nor Zee had ever met her before, and she’s considerably older looking than he expected her to be. Her hair is mostly turned white with a few streaks of darker gray and the black of her youth. Her skin is thin and papery, stretched over old bones. But there’s a vivaciousness in her pale blue eyes, a light and life that seems in great abundance.

“Was wondering when you’d come around,” Natalie says without looking at the new arrivals. “Felt you back at the Pelago, but figured I’d give you your space. Went nearly my whole life without feeling another person like me, and now there’s two in the same place.” She laughs softly. “Strange days.”

Richard steps out onto the rooftop, drawing in a slow breath to try and calm his anxiety; his heart racing despite there being no evident reason to. One hand rakes back through his hair and he starts walking slowly between the flowerbeds towards the older woman, leading the way.

“All cards on the table? I’m honestly terrified of any of us getting too close to each other,” he replies with a shake of his head, “You and Stef could honestly kill each other without meaning to. It’s happened before. Well, not you specifically, but…”

A glance back over his shoulder, “Would have kept away, but– we need your help.”

The way Zee has shrunk back behind Richard as they step out on to the roof garden, hunched into as small a space as she can occupy as she nervously peers out from behind him, makes her seem much younger than the reality of the situation. She lets out a whine, the same kind Richard would recognise from when he'd first met Zee on the deck of Nova's ship, frowning as she offers a small wave to Natalie.

Someone she doesn't know, and someone she only probably only questioningly trusts, given how she tends to act with new people that aren't, well, herself or Richard.

"Two?" she questions quietly outloud, looking up at Richard with concern - at least until he mentions Stef, at which point her eyes widen so much they practically bulge out of her head like a cartoon. Clearly this is new information to her.

Natalie makes a small sound in the back of her throat, shifting to sit on her hip next to the planter. She looks up at Richard and Zee, squinting against the bright gray sky. “I suppose you do,” she says thoughtfully, looking Richard over, and then Zee.

“You,” she says with a glance to Richard, “I can’t do anything about.” Then she looks at Zee. “You, though…” Her eyes track from side to side slowly. “I see what the water must’ve taken from you,” she says softly, apologetically.

Looking at Richard again she smiles. “I don’t suppose you’d be as kind as to introduce yourself to an old woman you clearly have some expectations of? That’s usually how these sorts of things start.”

“Don’t spread it around,” Richard murmurs back to Zee with a glance back to her… and then back to the woman when she speaks with him. He pauses, and then exhales a chuckle, straightening up a bit.

“You’re right. I’m being rude,” he bobs his head in a deep nod, “Richard Cardinal. I’m told we have you to thank for Silas being alive, so– thank you for that. He’s a good friend.”

Zee's eyes never leave Natalie despite making a move to try and hide herself a bit more behind Richard. She frowns when addressed by Natalie, wordlessly mouthing something to herself, something about what the water took, what the water gave me.

She finally looks elsewhere when Richard addresses her. First she nods, and as he apologises for being rude, smiles. See, not all of the travelers are rude!

It's the mention of Silas that really grabs her attention though, and like a light bulb being turned on, she abruptly brightens considerably as she hops out from behind Richard, practically beaming. "Oh wow, you helped Smiles?!" Realising she may be a bit too loud for the birds, particularly the crow that keeps looking over at her, she smiles sheepishly. "That's- he's great. Thank you so much, Ms. Gray."

Rather than just offer a perfunctory motion, Zee is quick to march forward, closing the distance between them and offering a hand out to Natalie. "Rob-" She stops, blinking and thinking to herself. "Zahava. Most people are calling me Zee now, though."

Natalie makes a small noise in the back of her throat, then nods to both with a hand gently placed on her chest. “Thank you tends to be in short supply these days. And… I did what I could for Silas. Else is the one who fished him out of the ocean, after all. I just fixed a little hiccup along the way. He helped me with a little problem in return.”

Looking over at Richard, Natalie squints in thought. “Now that I think about this arrangement more, Mr. Cardinal, I’m left to wonder… Why’ve you come to me?” She gestures to him with one hand. “If this is about healing, I feel the same light in you.” She looks back to Zee. “Or is this about something other than the usual?”

“I’m still learning to use it properly,” Richard admits in regard to that light, drawing in a breath, “It isn’t mine. It’s never been mine, but– anyway. I’m still learning, and I don’t… think I can manage this.” He looks back to Zee with open concern, then back to Natalie.

“It’s a little more complicated an injury than a broken bone. I don’t want to accidentally– “ He stops himself before he says give her a brain tumor in front of Zee. The poor woman’s already worried enough. “Mess up,” he finishes instead.

Zee reaches back, scratching the back of her neck, looking rather uneasy - uneasy enough that the mention of Else completely passes her by. "Richard knows my, erm." She pauses again, looking askance to him before pivoting her gaze back down at the ground. "He knows my sister, who just- came to the Pelago."

It's at least a believable lie, if you're not in the know about the travelers.

"He offered to help me with what the water gave me," she murmurs, harkening back to Natalie's earlier turn of phrase. "But, uh. He can't on his own, which…" She swallows, slowly turning into a walking ball of anxiety. "I'd really like to just leave be then, but I- I hate this. I hate not- being who I can be." She stammers over every other word, fingers fidgeting at her side. "Who I used to be, back when mum still worked for the DoEA. When I was going to work for the DoEA."

She falls silent after that, taking a deep breath, almost visibly shaking as nerves take hold. "I feel like I've come undone," is said in a hushed voice, even as tears start to well up in her eyes.

Natalie glances up at Richard, then looks at Zee a bit more prolonged. “I see,” she says softly. All around, the birds are growing silent, watching more intently. Richard is immediately reminded of Eileen Ruskin, of the way she used birds like sensory organs. It has the exact same feeling, and for a moment feels like someone else is here watching them, right up until one of the birds alights onto Natalie’s outstretched hand without her so much as saying a thing.

Of course Gabriel’s mother would have avian telepathy.

Of course.

“This is Roger,” Natalie says, offering the sparrow up to Zee. “He’s a very brave bird, you won’t scare him. Can you hold him for me, like this?” She cups her hands together, offering the chirping little bird up to Zee in the palms of her hands. It’s a distracting tool, giving Zee something to focus on ahead of what is about to come.

“I wouldn’t be here to ask for something for myself, but…” Richard looks back to Zee, then to Natalie, falling silent as she starts to talk. His head turns just before the bird arrives, feeling it coming… and then he realizes, and he lets out a faint chuff of laughter, one hand coming up to rub at his face.

Of all the things he needed to think about, Gabriel’s mommy issues were not one of them.

His hand drops again, and he watches the exchange, as if he could learn something. Bedside manner, maybe.

Already sniffling as she tries to fight back breaking into a full sob, cheeks just ever so slightly stained red as she chokes back a gasp. "Roger?" she questions, furrowing her brow as she looks down at the chirping bird. There's a sparkle in her eyes, a bit of wonder as she musters a mad smile - clearly she's rarely seen something like this.

"Oh," she says quietly, understanding what's happening with the bird as she lowers her hands, palms up and cupped together as she stares at the sparrow. "I, uh." She sniffles again, coughing once as she pulls back her hands and wipes at her face and nose with her sleeve. Gross, but not much else to be done. "I studied something like this once," she offers as she lowers her hands back down, palms once more open.

"Hey there, little guy," she says quietly, leaning forward. "You like Ms. Gray a lot, don't you?"

“I don’t know how you do what you do,” Natalie says softly to Richard, “but why don’t we treat this like a surgeon and their assistant.” As she passes Roger over, Natalie leaves one of her hands on Zee’s wrist. She then offers her other hand out to Richard without hesitation or fear.

“Healing isn’t like sewing,” Natalie explains, “it’s like irrigation. You’re telling the body where to go, where to focus, and where to gather. Fill too much, and the garden drowns. Too little and you might as well be doing something else.”

Natalie looks at the hand held out to Richard. “For something like this, we need a lot more water than two hands can hold.”

Richard, on the other hand, does hesitate when the hand’s reached out to him.

“That’s not up to you.” Abby says in that way she says things that is at once reassuring and frustrating all in one. “Richard, you need to have faith. I know you were raised right, I know you know what that means. Sometimes, you just need to put your faith in God’s hands and pray. Miracles do happen, Richard… we used to make them happen all the time.”

He closes his eyes for a moment, draws in a breath… and he reaches out to take Natalie’s hand, black-marked fingers closing around hers. “I’ll carry the buckets for you, then, I guess,” he says, flashing a quick smile.

Whatever is happening between Natalie and Richard, Zee seems distanced enough from it that she isn't paying it much mind - Natalie's distraction is working, keeping her focused on the small sparrow she now holds in hand.

As the bird hops forward, she visibly winces, but manages this time not to jerk her hands back despite the pain that radiates outwards as she works to keep them shaped as perfectly as she can to hold the small bird in hand.

"Got any stories you can tell me?" she asks the bird absently, fully focused on it. "Songs to sing? I love songs."

Natalie’s eyes angle down to the ground for a moment as Richard takes her hand, as Zee asks her for a story or a song. “One,” comes to mind. Natalie closes her eyes, breathing in through her nose, and Richard can immediately feel a sensation like she is tugging on his arm, but nothing is moving. It’s a phantom gesture, pulling at something internal. There is an exchange of light between both their hands, a warmth, and for Richard a sensation of creeping cold coming on as he exchanges some of his life force through Natalie, and she offers some of her own, to channel it into Zee.

Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise,” Natalie whisper-sings, eyes closed and head subtly moving as that warmth begins to creep up from her hand into Zee’s. It feels like submerging in hot bathwater, at first alarming but then immediately thereafter like a warm, enveloping embrace.

Running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies,” Natalie continues, and Richard can feel the intense sensation of boundless connection. Where his hand and Natalie’s meet, there is not just an exchange of energy but an exchange of being. He can feel her hand touching Zee’s as if it were his own, he can feel a knot of grief and loss in her chest that no amount of healing miracles has ever filled.

And if you don't love me now you will never love me again…”

The warmth spreads up Zee’s neck, up her jaw, rolls over her scalp like warm hands. Richard can feel the flow of this energy, feel the empathic connection to Natalie, feel the birds around him in ways he had never before. The boundaries between them begin to blur, and soon, it feels as if the lines between the two are becoming hazy.

I can still hear you saying…

When nothing immediately catastrophic occurs when Richard and Natalie’s hands meet - some part of him wary that some sort of matter-antimatter reaction might occur - he lets out a breath he wasn’t aware he was even holding. Releasing worry, releasing control, making himself trust and let go.

It’s harder than it sounds. But - for whatever reason - he needs to do this, to help her.

He closes his eyes to reduce distractions, giving her the energy he needs, letting her lead, feeling what she feels.

…You would never break the chain.

From the way Zee looks back up at Natalie when she responds, she clearly wasn't expecting it - she had been talking to the bird, knowing full well she couldn't get an actual response. Or maybe she could, she didn't know how Natalie's ability works, but she clearly wasn't expecting it.

She recognises the song, that much can be seen in her eyes as she stares back down at the bird, her shoulders relaxing as the warmth runs over her, envelopes her. Her eyes close, resisting her urge to sing along with her. It was one of the first songs she learned to play on guitar, of course the knows the lyrics to The Chain.

As the feeling spreads further. Zee can feel the hairs standing on edge as she shudders and exhales slowly. Even this, just this…

It feels wonderful, like being wrapped in a hug she's longed for for years.

What comes next feels like a release of sinus pressure and cloudy eyes clearing all at once. Brain injuries are tricky, restoring cognitive function moreso. Richard can feel what Natalie is doing as if it were his own hands, rebuilding the delicate pathways of consciousness. Not so much making the choices as to what to repair, but letting the conduit make the choices. Was it that simple? Were the instructions on the box this entire time?

A conduit for what, many had asked.

This, it would seem, is part of the answer.

“There.” Natalie says in a whisper, and Richard can feel the ache in her bones and the deep fatigue setting in. When she stops working, there is a deficit within her, one that she does not draw from Richard to replenish for he feels it too, though less acutely. Their life had been used as fuel for Zee’s.

There is no sudden eureka moment that comes with this healing. It is slow to expand, like a crumpled piece of paper slowly unfurling. It is a return of capacity but not knowledge. A muscle that must once more be flexed, worked, and strengthened. It is something that will heal over time, however much of that Zee has left.

“All gone,” Natalie says with a warm smile, trying not to show her tiredness. “Easy as that.” No prayer, no fanfare, just a lingering touch and a miracle.

As the process ends, Richard’s fingers slide slowly from Natalie’s and he sinks back a bit on his heels, drawing in a slow breath. “That easy,” he murmurs, looking at the other bearer with a bit of rueful wonder before looking back to Zee.

Surrender is still a hard thing for him. It remains to be seen if he has enough time to master it.

“How do you feel, Zee?”

Zee's eyes are still on the bird in her hands, focused and intent. A long, shuddering exhale follows as she releases a breath she didn't realise she was holding, slowly parting her hands in a manner that encourages the little sparrow to take back to the air, to go back to Natalie or wherever it desires. Fingers flex out before folding back into fists, squeezed so tight her nails dig into skin.

And yet, there's no pain, no sharp stabs, intense aches, or rebounding pulses. No hurt. Nothing.

"Like someone pulled a veil out from over my eyes," she says quietly. "Like, um…" Her tongue slides across her teeth, turning her hands around and flexing her fingers back out. Slowly, a smile forms across her face. "I don't know… how to describe it." Her hands hold steady, and she wiggles her fingers, looking back up at Natalie, and then to Richard. "But I feel- fine. Fine. I haven't…"

And again, tears begin to well up in the corners of her eyes, overwhelmed by feeling okay for the first time in a decade. It no longer feels like she's slowly unraveling, drowning, coming undone. Like she's woken up from dreaming.

Even with everything she's forgotten, everything she is missing a decade of practice on, she feels clarity, or has at least convinced herself she does.

Weary, Natalie slouches down into an old lawn chair beside her garden, one hand pressed to her brow. She’s quiet, still, and a gull comes to inspect her by perching on the back of her chair and looking at her attentively. It gives an uncertain look to Richard and Zee, then flies off once it seems satisfied with her condition.

“Hey.” Richard smiles tiredly, but the smile’s genuine, one arm reaching out in invitation to the woman as she realizes what she’s regained and it really sinks in. “C’mere. It’s gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay, now.”

Swallowing audibly, Zee looks up when Richard says hey. "H-hi," she replies, sniffling as she tries to muster a smile. It's not that she's not happy, there's just a lot to process right now - and no amount of preparation for her could have braced her for how it would feel.

She chews on her lip as she turns around, moving close to Richard, and throwing her arms around him in hug. Turning her head to look at Natalie, she offers her a smile as well, offering out her own arm to invite her into the hug as well.

"Thank you. Thank you both," she says quietly, taking a deep breath as she moves off the edge of breaking into another round of sobbing. Burying her face against Richard's shoulder, she lets out a shuddering sigh. "C-can I ask you both one more favour?"

Still hugging Richard, she shakes her had. "I-I want to keep this between us. For now. I-I don't want you all to have to deal with it, and I-I don't want to have to… explain." Closing her eyes, she frowns deeply. "I don't think I can handle the questions. It's going to be hard enough reteaching myself everything I learned back before…"

Natalie offers a supportive smile to Zee, nodding understandingly. “You’ve nothing to fear from me,” she offers in a weary voice. “I much prefer to keep the true extent of what I’m capable of a secret as well. Lest the world strip me bare like the giving tree.” Her smile grows a little more bittersweet at that, and the birds have come to check on her, gathering in the garden spaces. “I’m not quite ready for that yet.”

Richard steps in closer when she moves over, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and pulling her in. “It’s okay,” he repeats quietly, reassuringly, “You’re good now, Zee.” A hand rubbing against the small of her back lightly, keeping her welcomed in against him while she works through all those emotions.

At the request, he smiles faintly, “Of course. I won’t even tell Quinn, although she was there when I offered. Take it all in your own time.”

A look slanted over to Natalie, admitting, “Good policy there.”

"We both k-know she'll be t-t-too self absorbed to notice," is at least said with a thin but lighthearted laugh, rather than the borderline disdain Zee normally has when speaking to others about her other self. "At least for a bit."

At least that seems to have brought her back from the edge of tears again, tipping up to place a small peck on Richard's cheek before sighing and slipping back out of the hug. "Thank you," is spoken again for the third time, looking back up at them both with a wide smile.

Her brow furrows after a moment, and she looks down. "Though now I'm just hungry," is quite the non-sequitur given everything that's happened in the last few moments, but she still smiles the most genuine smile she's had in ages. "Are you going to be okay, Ms. Gray? Would you like us to get you anything?"

Natalie smiles mildly and shakes her head, waving off the concern. “I’ll be fine in a few hours, just need to rest.” Richard had heard Abigail say that plenty back home. “But, if it’s all the same to you, what I could use is a little peace and quiet.” Her smile is at once apologetic and graceful. “But I’m… I’m glad you’re feeling well again, dear.”

Natalie looks out to the ocean, listening to the sound of crashing waves.

“Go make the most of your new lease on life.”

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