Copper II


delilah3_icon.gif niel_icon.gif walter_icon.gif

Scene Title Copper II
Synopsis After an incident at school, Walter wakes up.
Date November 8, 2019

Elmhurst Hospital

Elmhurst Hospital is one of two operational public hospitals servicing the entirety of the NYC Safe Zone. Elmhurst is the most newly reopened hospital and also the shortest staffed and least well supplied. This facility is based out of the run down and still partly condemned Elmhurst Hospital building which was scheduled for demolition prior to the civil war. The newer Elmhurst Hospital, which was supposed to be constructed adjacent to this old campus, was never finished and the infrastructure that was laid before the civil war rapidly deteriorated in the decade since. Elmhurst struggles to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Safe Zone population and is in a constant struggle to balance the needs of its patients and its often too-short supply of essential medication. In spite of this, the hospital was donated a brand new MRI by Yamagato Industries and are partially supported by recurring charitable donations from the corporation and other sponsors.

Not dreaming isn't much of something Walter had ever thought about. He'd taken it for granted until now. Playing in landscapes that didn't really make sense, with people he barely knew. A lady, now and again, humoring him.

But when he wakes up next, the boy's first thoughts are of nothing. There wasn't anything before the Right Now. Why is he here? Where is here?

Orientation takes some time. Hearing comes first. Beeps. The smell of fresh air, which is partly foreign to him. It's kinda nice. It's warm, wherever Here is. Fabric tickles.

When he feels his eyes open, it's with barely a pried lid. Sleep has stuck them together, squinted under pale light that seems for all the world a floodlamp. It's not, of course. It's just the ceiling bulb behind plastic panel, rough on those baby blues.

It takes Walter even longer still to realize that he's in a bed, tucked in, hooked up, plastic in his nose. His head feels cold, even though it also feels like he's wearing a hat. How does that figure? The contrast is funny, but he can't really find the energy to laugh about it. The sound that does come out is a bleary, disgruntled muffle of air, more reminiscent of his father than ever before.

Elmhurst Hospital

Elmhurst, NYC Safe Zone

November 8th

2:12 pm

“Hey there, champ,” is the first thing Walter really, truly hears once the muffled underwater sounds end. As his eyes adjust to the afternoon light coming into the hospital room, it’s copper hair dashed with gray that greets him back. Daniel Trafford sits on one side of Walter’s bed in a guest chair patterned with awfully loud paisley print of autumn colors. He leans forward, shortening the divide between chair and bed, holding one of Walter’s smaller hands in his.

Daniel soon turns his attention to his right, to the woman beside him, where Walter’s mother stands much as she had since he was brought to the hospital; frenetic in some moments, statuary in others. Niel’s look to Delilah is one of both reassurance and also uncertainty. He feels like he should know what to do or say in this moment, but the connections aren’t there.

Words are met with a momentarily quizzical look, as if the boy is surprised to hear someone else talking. Aside from, say, his thoughts. Oh. Hard squeezes of blue eyes come after, Daniel coming into focus as Walter's hand warms in its new shelter. He decides to concentrate on that a little, the weight of fingers, and Niel's face beyond that.

"Nn… Grandad?" Maybe it's still a little weird for Niel, less for Walter, but saying it feels nice.

Before he can bleat out much else, his vision swims with red hair, shoulders sagging under the suddenness of his mother's clinging hug around them. Can't smell her shampoo like usual. He knows it by heart anyhow, regardless of the tiny tubes in his nose. Why are there- -

"Mum? Where- -" Delilah doesn't answer him for a moment, her nose against his head, her lips on his brow before her face comes into view. She looks like he feels. Puffy-faced and sunken, exhausted. Dee's hands cup ruddy cheeks and she puts another kiss onto his forehead, carefully avoiding the bandaged up side.

"You're okay," she says, when Walter seems to register distress on his brow. "You're okay. I was so worried, bambino…" One hand wipes at the stale tears still on her cheeks; Lilah's all dried out. She brushes back a tuft of Walter's hair. "You hit your head, love. We're at the hospital."

Niel smiles up at Delilah, maintaining that reassuring hold on little Walter’s hand. “Your mum and I were quite worried. Might be maybe you should wear the same kind of helmet your…” he struggles with the word, but smiles as he finds it, “your grandad does when he's alone.”

Time had not been kind to Daniel Trafford. Whatever was done to his mind is a degenerative condition, one that is gradually worsening even as he has good days and bad ones. Loss of motor function has been among the hardest things for Niel to adjust to, even as he's starting to master his spotty memory and lapsing focus. He's been more prone to spills of both the drink variety and the fall on the floor kind. Doctors have been unhelpful with a diagnoses other than brain damage. But it hasn't lessened Niel’s spirits. For all his struggle he has a new lease on life, he has his family.

“You're gonna be ok, though,” Niel says confidently. “The uh— the— the doc— doctor said you didn’t do nothing that won't heal up all fine. My tough man.”

Even with all of Niel's physical failings, Walter doesn't see them as much as his mother might. She worries and hopes and works past it- - Niel's grandson hasn't known anything else and accepts that. Mention of the safety measures and his toughness gets a tentative smile out of the boy, whereas his mother spends a moment of sympathy.

"You had quite a tumble." Delilah sets herself wearily down beside the bed on a chair, sinking her shoulders and letting her hand linger on her son's arm. "Slipped on a spill and got yourself off of the sink in the boy's room." Or at least, it is what the administration told her. What they assumed. Dee is corrected no less than a few blinks later.

"What? No, I- - I didn't slip on anything…" There's a mild look of guilt for having been where he wasn't supposed to be. "I got sick… didn't wanna make a mess…" The hand not warmed under Niel's picks at the fabric of the blanket over his lap, blue eyes examining the paper tape and cotton on his arm rather than his mother's face; his mother seems curious, though doesn't interrupt. "My head hurt real bad and I was dizzy. The lights got all bright and everything was loud…"

Niel turns enough to look at Delilah in his periphery, brows raised in momentary worry. But then realizing how little he can hide his expressiveness — much like Teo in many ways — he returns something more reassuring to young Walter. “I get headaches like that sometimes,” Niel says softly, reassuringly. “So bad I get sick, or I pass out, too.” Niel’s struggles with traumatic brain injury and the resulting neurological damage are better known to Delilah than little Walter. But at times when Niel fears the boy might feel isolated, all he wants is to make him not feel alone.

“Have— has he…” Niel looks up to Delilah, brows furrowed, “his head? The um, uh, has— did he,” he motions to his head with his free hand, “you know?” An awkward and apologetic smile crosses Niel’s lips as he tries to ask Delilah the obvious question. Thankfully, she knows full well what he’s asking.

Delilah takes a few moments to consider her father's words and piece them into a question. She is used to the process, and Niel knows that she isn't one to hurry him. Once she figures something, she always poses it as a question back.

"Has he ever hurt it before?" Her reply is quiet so as to not worry the nervous boy on the bed. "No, nothing like that." Delilah glances to Walter and back to her father, adjusting her seat to angle more equally.

"My head hurts sometimes but not like this time…" The boy stirs some, blue eyes looking puppylike when he faces his granddad. "Now it just hurts cause I hit it…" Walter puts small fingers to the bandages on his head, and as Dee looks pensively to Niel in that intervening silence- - Walter gasps, small and sudden. He's not accidentally disturbed his goose egg, but he looks startled nonetheless, reaching out to shake Dee's arm. "Mum, mum- -"

Of course she turns back, in time for her son to bleat out desperately, "There was a guy in the bathroom - -"

What.” Niel’s brows furrow in worry, with Walter injured and the mention of a guy in the bathroom — not a kid — his papa-bear hackles raise almost immediately. The hand on Walter’s squeezes just a little more firmly, and Niel flicks a look up to Delilah with a wordless parental fury behind them. Not fury at her, but for whoever might have hurt a member of his family. Niel looks back to Walter, not wanting to interrupt the boy.

Parental fury is something Walter is used to, thankfully. His parents were, at one point, considered dangerous criminals. He knew better. It just means that he knows when adults buckle in and get serious. Niel's reaction does get a brief look of puzzlement until Delilah makes her son refocus.

"What do you mean, 'a guy in the bathroom'?" She has the same expression of teetering anger as her father, tinted with something a little more desperate. "What did he look like? Have you seen him before? Did he- - was he old?" A strange venom seems to shimmer in her, a foreign look to Niel. She's told him many things about herself and her growth, but showing that side of her attitude is rare. "Did he have a beard?"

Her little man, however, just squints back like she's speaking Chinese. "Wha- -? N- No? He wasn't- - he was young- - he- -"

“It's okay,” Niel says reassuringly, giving a little squeeze to Walter’s hand. “I— your m-mom and I are just— we’re um, the uh, we’re— we’re worried. We’re worried.” Looking from Walter to Delilah and back again, Niel asks with a shaky voice. “Who was h— ”

There's a spark of light in the room. A mote of something iridescent, like a reflection off an oil slick or sunlight through a prism. It gleams across the room, dazzled Delilah for a moment. Dazzles then all in the faintest hint of rainbow hues.

Niel reflexively releases Walter’s hand, looking down at his own like he felt something. He blinks away the spots in his vision, tries to figure out what caught that light in the room. It's still sunny outside, Delilah can see as much through the—



The skyline out the window is different than a moment ago. The Queensboro Bridge is intact rather than a divided span. The west-facing window shows the Manhattan skyline, intact, all the way up to and including the World Trade Center.

Niel doesn't notice the change, not that one. But he notices the bed Walter is in looks different, the blankets look different, the room looks different. There's a CRT television in the corner where there was once only an old rusted mount. It's off, the dull black screen reflecting the three people in the room.

Delilah calms some at Niel’s voice, an unintended effect of his reassurances for Walter. It doesn't last.

Her eyes fill with the shine of something ethereal, which has her yelping in surprise and throwing an arm over her face. The other one flings protectively across her son's chest, her frame bent forward in subconscious cover.

She's not sure what's happened except that her vision is spotted like she's been- - outside. Brown eyes blink in the bask of sunlight, the amber of iris bright under it. Both widen when Delilah finally can see again, adjusting to sunny day and beyond. A rock drops through her stomach and clear through the floor, taking the air in her lungs with it.

The room hardly matters to her, even if her periphery does pick up a vague sense of wrongness. She feels a hand on hers, and recenters the whole of her head.

"Honey," Delilah whispers, tearing her gaze away and taking in Walter and his tiny hand clutching for safety. Shit. His face is pale and his body shivering, red hair contrasting like a matchstick's flame. His eyes are frightened, his sounds are stammered. "No no no nononono… ssh, ssh, bambino, ssh…"

Little Walter buries himself in his mother's arms, eyes locked on everything and nothing past the curve of her elbow.

Niel slowly rises from his seat beside Walter’s bed, staring out at the vista beyond the window, of a city that finally looks familiar to him. He opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. There’s just a subtle hiss of air, he lacks the words to explain what it is he’s feeling and what it is he’s seeing. As his hand slips away from Walter’s once he’s standing fully, the entire scene peels back like a theater backdrop lifted with the curtain call. Now, out the window, is just the jagged and ruined silhouette of the Manhattan Exclusion Zone.

Niel swallows, audibly, and fails to notice what Delilah and little Walter can see better from their perspectives. There is a halo of light around Niel’s left hand, a bubble of iridescence like sunlight refracting through a prism, a subtle corona of rainbow hues drifting around his fingertips and over the back of his hand. The blood tests SESA had done, the tests that they’d gone over with Delilah, long-confirmed her father was like her but that function of whatever ability he had may have been permanently lost by his brain damage.

Whatever it is, they were wrong.

"Mom," Walter finally whimpers, and she tears her eyes from the window again as it drops away. Clammy little fingers show Delilah the bright, stark red of a bloodied nose; wordlessly, she takes a fistful of the cotton blanket to clean it from his face. It lets him look away and see the light's source, mouth tasting like blood and fuzzy threads. There is a lot happening, and even more pulling his mother's attentions to-and-fro.

But she wouldn't have gotten this far without being able to do a hundred things at once.

Blanket edge still held against her son's face, Delilah looks to where he does, following it to the sparkle of soft light and lens-flare color hovering from Niel's skin. For a few moments, she allows him the time to stare ahead, absorb- - whatever happened. It clearly meant- - something. And anything that means something to him anymore is a blessing in disguise.

"Da', your hand." She finally whispers.

Niel confusedly stares at Delilah, then looks down at the wrong hand. “What’s— ” then he catches the glow of his other hand out of the corner of his eye and tries to recoil from his own limb. Niel staggers backwards, hits the chair he’d been sitting in, tumbles over one arm and falls backwards into—

Woah there, Mr. Trafford.”

A nurse.

One of Elmhurst’s nurses props Niel up, having just entered the room to check in on the family. A glimpse of pink scrubs eclipses Niel’s broader silhouette, a hand at his waist, gently helping him to stand steady. The light on his hand faded in that moment of collision, dispersed like a glint of light off of an icicle.

“Is everything okay?” The nurse asks, stepping around from behind Niel, blue eyes scanning the room, blonde hair tied back into a loose pony-tail. Familiar in all the ways that are tragic.


"Da', careful- -" The redhead lifts some off of her seat, but her hands remain attached to Walter as if glued. Damnit- -

The entry into the Trafford Slapstick Revue is a welcome one. Even if her face is one that Delilah has tried to avoid here at Elmhurst. Still, fate finds a way. Because of course it does.

Years flicker past like a reel in her head, the front of her mind stuttering with pictures of escaping from the Institute holdings. Good thing that she has some control, these days. Dee swallows a small breath and lets out a larger one, exhaling the rewind and focusing on now.

"Just some lazy feet and a bit of a nosebleed." Julie, despite everything her face brings back, deserves Delilah's smile too, tired but relieved that she's here.

Walter sits there in muffled quiet with tears in his eyes and blanket held against his nose, small hands holding onto Dee's grip and leaving smears. He garbles something into cotton, tone sounding a lot like an unspecified apology.

Julie stands stationary, shoulders back and chin up as she suddenly recognizes the tone of the room. Blinking a look away from Daniel she turns her focus to young Walter, then over to Delilah, then finally back to Niel. “Is everything alright, Mr. Trafford?” There was barely a look of recognition on Julie’s face to Delilah, she was just a child when the massacre happened. If the world is merciful, she doesn’t remember much of it. Or the weeks that followed in Bannerman’s Castle.

“I’m— fine,” Niel asserts, smiling away Julie’s concern and moving hesitantly over to Delilah’s side, as if unsure of what to do with himself. Julie watches the three, then pushes the door closed the rest of the way and takes a few scuffing steps in toward Walter’s bed, angling a look up to Delilah.

“How’s he doing?” Julie asks, busying herself with checking Walter’s bandage and trying to pretend like she doesn’t see his emotional state, more for Walter’s well being than anything else.

Tension lingers in Delilah, but the lack of recognition helps her lose some of that through some steadying breaths.

"Here, da', maybe you should sit…" Just for a moment she leaves Walter's side, taking Niel's elbow and guiding him back to where he'd been cozied up to the bed. It lets Julie start tending to the nine-year-old in relative peace- - still under Delilah's watch, however. She's still on edge, at least mentally speaking.

"He only woke up a few minutes ago." The redhead moves back to the bedside, hands at the edge and warm eyes on the two. Walter flinches a little when Julie begins to check his wrapping, which does need a freshening up. He twists his fingers restlessly, watching Dee step away again to find some wipes amidst the room supplies. If there's one more thing she's fine doing, it's cleaning blood off of faces. She sits back down to take his hands and clean them off, gentle and methodical. "We let him know what happened…"

The boy, for his part, only mumbles for now, passive thank-yous for mom and nurse.

Julie casts an askance look at Niel, who does as asked and settles down into the seat he occupied earlier. But when her attention comes back to Delilah and Walter, there is something unspoken in her eyes. A subtle pinch of her brows, a widening of her irises. She is quiet for too long to be unintentional. But then,

“I’ll go tell Doctor Foster that he’s awake, I think Walter will be clear to be released afterward. But he’ll likely need to come in for a follow-up.” Julie says nothing out of the ordinary, just smiles away her silence with a practiced expression.

Walter is a good kid and it shows, he stifles his fussing so Julie can do her thing, blue eyes on her and then his grandfather seated nearby. Confused, troubled, but still fascinated, as Renards can be. What happened? He doesn't know, but… now he wants to. But at the same time it hurt and the color of blood has left his face, lingering on pale and freckled instead.

What was outside? It wasn't the world he knows. The only one he knows. He's seen pictures otherwise. It seems a distant fantasyland.

As Julie checks things over and she washes up tacky nosebleed, Delilah keeps an eye on her, caught between memories and fret and fear at what happened just minutes ago. Whatever Niel did… it…

"Mm. Right. Of course. Concussions, bleeding, all of that. Gotta be careful… Is there something else?" Delilah asks Julie this, and by her words it is just for her, a weary smile with it, brown eyes ambered under sunlight peeking through clouds and window. The pause, the expression, however small, it may not be suspicious to her, but it still catches Dee's attention enough to have her earnestly concerned with what's bothering the young nurse.

Julie looks directly at Niel, then Walter, then back to Delilah. “Nothing worth reporting,” is very specific and precisely chosen wording. “Unless you think otherwise?” She adds, straightening up from Walter’s bedside and partially turning to the door out.

Niel doesn't say anything, not out of coy cleverness but out of much of that exchange soaring over his head. Instead he just looks out the hospital room window and to the ruined skyline, then down to his hands in silent wonder.

Niel isn't alone in his puzzlement, so there is that. Walter seems on the same page as he, eyes glazed and only partly paying attention to Julie and Delilah. He only looks up when the latter puts her hand on his hair.

"Hey, honey… why don't you tell grandad about your science project? You were so excited about picking something… I need to talk to the nurse a bit, alright?" It seems that Dee is taking the subtle offer of stepping outside quite seriously. "I'll be just outside." She bends over to put a kiss to his head, and on her way to meet Julie at the door, gives the same to her father, a hand on his shoulder.

"I'll be back, da', just… just relax, okay?"

Pursing his lips, Niel glances over to Walter, then back to Delilah and the nurse as they make their way out of the room. Niel flashes a gentle smile, then takes Walter’s hand again. “I used t’be pretty good at science when I was you rage,” he adds with a fond smile. “I made a paper mache volcano, made a mess of my mum’s carpet.” It’s the last thing Delilah hears from them as Julie shuts the door and waits in a moment of awkward silence as an orderly walks by.

“Delilah,” Julie says with a look to the shut door, “do you have a firm handle on what those two have?” She looks back, one blonde brow raised. “Ability-wise? Neither of them are registered, which is fine. But, with your father’s condition. Are you aware of what it is he does?” Her brows go up, forehead creased with worry.

With the soft murmur of her boys behind the closed door, Delilah looks up as the orderly passes, resisting looking to Julie until she is sure he is gone. Her own tension says volumes before Julie even finishes her questioning.

It's not something she wanted to talk about yet, but here it is. The redhead's eyes move back and forth from the door one more time. Sad, just a little bit.

"Not my father. I know he- - there's something. But I don't know what." Breath in, out, composing. There is a tired sound as it leaves her, as if she'd been holding it in forever. "He has some things in his past that I know about, but I've tried to keep them until I think he can handle it. But I don't know if that will happen." Delilah presses her palms together, brows pinching in response to Julie's worry.

"Walter… I know. I know. But how do you?"

Julie’s expression is something of a cipher, eyes partway lidded and focused on the shut door, arms crossed over her chest. She’s like a rubber band wound up tight, near to snapping with potential energy. When those blue eyes flick back to Delilah, she snaps back into the conversation like a dog chasing a stick. “He’s an ability augmentor,” is Julie’s whispered answer, blue eyes ticking back to the door. “But I don’t know how it works, broad-brush. That’s…” she hadn’t answered Delilah’s earlier question.

“I can detect and identify abilities,” Julie explains, quietly again. “Legally I’m not allowed to do so without written consent due to privacy violation concerns for people like us.” She darts a look back to Delilah, don’t tell anyone written in her features. “Your father’s an augmentor, like… Gillian Childs. Or… I don’t know. Whatever he does it interfaces with other people, makes their abilities different in some way.”

Squinting, Julie looks like she just tripped over a stray thought and doesn’t like what she found. “Did— ” Julie looks to the door then back to Delilah. “Does he know what it is?”

Delilah is a contrast; for all of Julie's alertness, she tries to give an impression of security, one hand out between them in a gesture of calm. Even if she's not. This is not something she had expected to address so soon and sudden. Maybe if she can soothe Julie some, she can do it too. The gentle go-on of Dee's hand says she isn't too concerned about privacy violations in this case.

"An augmentor?" Julie can see the tickle of the redhead's nerves rather easily. "Just before you came, he…" Already pale skin pales more long enough for her eyes to darken with it. She looks heavyhearted, if only to give herself time to think.

"No. He doesn't. Dad knows he's one of us. But he …worries about other things." Lilah looks to the floor, arms crossing and jaw tensing. "Before you came in to check on us… " It seems too important, and too coincidental, and her urge to panic boils in her stomach. Just a little bleeding through, doe-eyes widening. "I don't know what to say except- - the skyline changed. Only for a minute. His hands lit up like fucking light bulbs… then it was gone, and…" Both arms unfurl so that Delilah can press her hands over her mouth and nose, muffling a frustrated, nervous noise beneath eyes squeezed shut.

"I'm not ready for this. They're not. He's not."

Sometimes secrets are easy. Sometimes they aren't. Sometimes you just have to wait for someone to come along. Or someone who stumbles facefirst into it. Sorry about that, Julie.

“Are any of us?” Julie asks in a whisper. She doesn't expect an answer. “There are two roads here,” she says with a quick look to the door and back again. “One, you push this down and hope it stays there. Get a prescription for Zodytrin, say it's for yourself, and discreetly give it to your father and son to suppress their ability. It's safe, no side effects.” Julie takes a step toward the door, but stays facing Delilah. “Two, you tell them the truth and get them proper training before it's too late. Spatiotemporal and meta abilities are incredibly dangerous when mishandled.”

Though Julie presents Delilah with those options, she doesn't give her time to make a choice or even so much as think about it in this emotionally-compromised moment. Instead, she pushes the door to the room back open and

“ — which is what I told my cousin!” Julie’s expression turns from stone cold to a jubilant smile the second the door opens, with a graceful bubble of laughter slipping out of her. She holds the door open for Delilah and smiles as if nothing at all was amiss. Niel and Walter sit as they were when the pair left, quietly talking to one another.

Delilah slowly draws her hands back against her cheeks, framing her face in an effort of gaining the composure she'd had before. It's okay. Julie is okay. She hopes. She has no reason to think otherwise. The younger woman's words are truthful, and in the gentlest way, clinical. The facts are there.

"Nothing ever stays where we want it to." Which, in hindsight that Julie may be able to sympathize with… isn't something to keep quiet. There's not proper time to give a more specific reply, though, as the door gets popped open again. Delilah gives Julie a smile for her immediate act, playing along but adding one thing only making sense in context of moments before. "Sometimes I wonder just how much people already know."

"Hey, my boys," there is a distinctly more grounded feeling from his mother now, when Walter folds up under a new hug. He seems just a little bit embarrassed from all the affection now that he's more awake- - but he doesn't object. Mom smells like home, and that's safe.

Julie’s eyes betray for a moment how tenuous that safety may be. But she'd never admit it to Walter. Or anyone. The safest place to be is nestled securely in the embrace of the only insulation against cold, hard truth.

A lie.

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