Cover It Up


emily6_icon.gif julie2_icon.gif

Scene Title Cover It Up
Synopsis As the fires approach the Safe Zone, Emily and Julie speak the unspoken.
Date June 27, 2021

Emily pauses for just a moment when she hears movement at the front door; lets go of an ever-present touch of anxiety when she hears key turn lock rather than someone trying to force the doorknob. In her bedroom in the apartment she and Julie share, she continues folding her laundry– placing every odd item into the tattered old bookbag that she used to carry slung over the back of her wheelchair.

"Juls?" she calls out. "Hey, do you got a minute? I want to talk."

Raith-Epstein Residence
Jackson Heights

July 27th
6:48 pm

"I'm lining up a place outside town for the next few days," Emily adds context without waiting for an initial response. The next few days is a sanitized way of putting it– dancing around the reality that seems certain to face the Safe Zone in a few short moonrises. "I got leave approved for it, but I'd really not want to go alone."

From her bedroom Emily hears the sound of jingling keys, rustling bags, and then a few soft thumps before the door closes. Julie cuts a thumping path from the front door over to the doorway to Emily’s bedroom, leaning against the door frame when she arrives. Her hair is up, dressed for coming home from work at Raytech.

“I was gonna suggest the same thing,” Julie says with a furrow of her brows. “Raytech’s recommending that employees shelter-in-place for the next week or so, it’s looking like the fire might hit the city.”

Stepping into Emily’s room, Julie unshoulders her white wool coat and drapes it over one of her arms. “I picked up some stuff from the store,” she says with a motion toward the front door, “figured we could road-trip north or something, get away until it all dies down.” She looks at the backpack, the clothes. “Where were you thinking of going?”

"Uh, somewhere not here," Emily answers, looking at Julie out of the corner of her eye. She's relieved to hear though that her cousin's been thinking of the same kind of escape she has, and she lets out a short sigh. With it goes her snark. More quietly, she admits, "I hadn't actually booked a place yet. I was just looking to run."

Shoving the rolled up shirt in her hand more tightly down into the cracks of space left inside her bookbag, she mutters, "As far away from the fucking fire as I can." She pulls back from it, sets her hands on her hips and turns to face Julie properly. "North sounds as good as anywhere," Emily surmises.

“I hadn’t given it any thought either.” Julie admits, shifting her jacket around in her hands. “Upstate’s probably the safest bet, maybe Albany for a couple of days and see how it goes? I’d rather not be anywhere without internet in case something serious goes down and we need to head back.”

Stepping deeper into the room, Julie drops her jacket on top of the backpack Emily is trying to fill, as a sort of distraction. “Are you doing alright?” Is more bold than she usually is. “You—you’ve been really wound up the last few months and I know…” she glances to the doorway, “I haven’t really been available. At all.”

"Somewhere with internet sounds good," Emily agrees with a bit of a nod. "If nothing else, that'll… give something to occupy the time with." With vices she hasn't really touched in some time, and she's not even sure she'll be able to fully sink into given the chance, but… the thought is nice at least. Her eyes shift to the coat and then go back up to Julie after she throws it, the message she should stop and talk received.

Maybe not well, but received.

One hand snakes up to the side of her neck and she looks off, rubbing her fingertips against the tension along the back of it. "I'm doing the best I can," she answers without answering. With a slight tremor that's meant to be a shake of her head, she admits, "Recovery isn't a straight line. I was doing good for a while, and then…" She draws in a breath, her hand coming away from her neck, arm lowering and then almost immediately curling over her abdomen.

"Work stress," Emily admits like the words have to be pried from her. "It's made some things worse."

It's not a lie.

Julie sighs, sitting down on the corner of Emily’s bed. Pat pat, on the blanket beside her. “You talked to anybody about it? Y’know, the work stress?” She leans back on her palms, brows furrowed. “We’ve got a bad habit of keeping stuff bottled up, is all. You know, it’s… the way we’re wired. Push it down, don’t bother anyone.”

And yet, she’s trying. Even Avi is trying. Maybe that’s how you break a blood curse, you try.

Has Emily talked to anybody about it? "A little," she admits. "But it's…" She picks up backpack and coat, pushes both aside to make room for both of them to sit more comfortably. Her hands come into her lap as she sinks down, mattress bouncing once with the weight of her. "It's usually about cases, you know? And I've got that therapist, but it's not the same as talking to someone, but I can't tell Devon because it's not stuff that Wolfhound would otherwise know about–" that she knows of, "and I can't tell…"

Julie, obviously, because of the same reasons.

Emily looks up at Julie, the ice in her eyes haunted until she blinks it away and straightens her posture. She doesn't have to talk about what she's seen recently to talk about other thoughts she's kept bottled up for a while. She admits, "I go back and forth with myself about whether it was a good idea to go back; whether I should keep trying to make things work over there. I think about what it did to me, what it nearly cost me." She swallows then, intently aware of the thin scar on the side of her neck. "More than once. And it was never while I was on the job, it's always been…" Her brow twitches down into a furrow of thought. "—in the peripherals of things."

"I don't know if I want a life where I always have to be on. Where I can't ever relax." Emily tries to smile, but it ends up looking like a grimace. "I don't know that I get that even if I quit SESA, though."

“I don’t think any of us get that.” Julie says. The us isn’t the two of them in this room, either. It’s us as a social construct. “For as long as I can remember, it’s either been living to make what I can do…” she says while looking at her hand, “as irreplaceable as possible so I’m not swept aside, or arguing for my right to exist.”

Julie looks up at her cousin, then down and away. “I thought about just… shutting it all out. Running away somewhere, after I broke things off with Sasha. Just starting clean somewhere else.” There’s resentment in the way she says somewhere else, like it’s some magical place she realized doesn’t exist. “But there’s nowhere for us to go. Not really. Because all the trouble, all the—the need to be always on?” She looks up at Emily. “That’s bone deep for us. We don’t get that luxury. Maybe the next generation?” And in that there’s earnest hope. “Maybe later.” But only a little.

Emily's grimace comes smile again when her cousin says she gets it in all the ways that weigh on her mind most. Her gaze softens, and she reaches out to take hold of one of Julie's hands, squeezing it in her own.

"And that's what usually makes me end up sticking with it," she admits. "Because how hard we work now is the difference between the next generation growing up different, or it being the one after that." Tired, Emily acknowledges, "Not many people have the opportunity to actually make a difference. I feel like I… I feel like I have to."

"Like if I'm gonna be shoved in the middle of all this shit anyway, maybe I should just take advantage of that and start running with it already."

Shaking her head once, Emily calls herself out immediately by delicately noting, "And then I go and run away from it in a literal sense, so what do I know." A humorless breath comes from her as she looks across the room and answers herself, "Just that I can only do so much, not everything."

Julie squeezes Emily’s hand back, holding onto it firmly.

“Pa—Luis used to say, ‘If you spill a glass of milk you can wipe it up, if you spill the whole cow that’s a lot harder.’” Julie furrows her brows as she says that, emulating Luis’ gravelly voice and stern demeanor even while quoting literal nonsense. “It’s a goofy saying, but the spirit’s right. Sometimes there’s just too much for one person.”

Glancing down at her lap, Julie runs her thumb over one of Emily’s knuckles. “So we do the so much part, and figure out the rest. It’s why I joined Raytech, because everything else was so overwhelming. At least there, it’s one objective after another. Assignments. I don’t have to choose how big a bite to take, it’s portioned off for me.” She frowns in thought. “Or… maybe I just don’t know how to be free.”

"It's a bit fucking overwhelming isn't it?" Emily asks with a laugh. There's commiseration in that more than anything else. "That's the other thing– if I leave, I have to go back to figuring out what I actually want to fucking do with my life."

"And honestly… that's just as scary as the fucking racists and all the rest of it." She chuckles again, but her brow crumples down into a furrow and she looks down at their hands.

"I'm proud of you, you know? For realizing you needed something different, for giving it a shot. I wish I'd been there more through all of it, but…" Another squeeze of her hand. "I'm still glad for you that you're trying to find something for you." Popping her brows, she adds, "And that you're not sick of me yet– and also that you're going on this trip with me."

Julie nearly pulls her hand away. Emily feels the twitch, sees the look in her cousin’s eyes.

I have to make a confession.” Julie blurts out without making eye contact. Now the grip on Emily’s hand tightens. “I haven’t—been around a lot either. On purpose. For a lot of reasons…” she admits with visible reluctance.

“Something happened to me earlier this year,” Julie says with a little shake of her head, right knee starting to jitter. “I haven’t told anyone.” Which isn’t entirely true, but it’s close enough. “I haven’t told SESA,” which begins to unravel the why of her avoidance. “I didn’t—want to put you in a weird spot. But I can’t—I can’t not talk about this.”

The sudden tension draws Emily's eye's up to Julie in further study, but she doesn't pry. She waits for the initial explanation to come out on its own, and eventually pulls her hand away from Julie's only so she can draw her feet up onto the bed with her, and sitting cross-legged, turns to face her cousin fully. She braces her elbows on her knees, clasping her hands together.

"Okay, like– the last thing you should be worrying about is putting me in a weird spot with SESA," Emily remarks blithely, knowing there's plenty she's done and doing that could do that on its own. She shakes her head to move past that and asks, "What happened?" Followed by a more concerned, "Are you doing okay?"

Julie stares down at her lap for a moment, then looks up at Emily. “Something changed.” She looks away, immediately unsatisfied with that explanation. “Inside me, inherently. I—could feel it happening.” She turns, too, folding one leg under herself to face Emily, the other stretched over the edge of the bed to the floor.

“Back in February, when all that shit was going down in Detroit…” Julie says, glancing down at her hands, palm up. “I can—I was—” She stumbles over honesty, trips over any declarative statement. “I was at Elmhurst when it happened. Felt like my blood was on fire, and I—could see myself changing.” She looks into Emily’s eyes. “With my ability. It was like—I felt something move through me, like—like a fire under my skin. I knew what had changed, how, and—and—”

Julie shakes her head, nostrils flaring. “My ability changed.” No, she doesn’t like that. She shakes her head. “It divided.”

Emily's eyes widen a little. "It's okay," she promises. "It… the timing– the Red Wave hit a lot of people and caused changes in them. Some people outright developed abilities who didn't have them before." She reaches out one hand to touch Julie's knee.

"I get one hundred percent about not wanting to tell people– SESA still doesn't know I've manifested. Some people may suspect because of some shit that happened, but they don't know. My registration isn't updated or anything." She moves on to ask carefully, "Are you managing okay with it, though? That's my only concern."

Julie nods, swallowing down her fear out of pride more than anything else. When she looks back at Emily, there’s a hint of glassiness to her eyes from emotions barely tamped down. “I almost got caught,” she says in a hushed voice, ashamed. “I—when I was still working at Elmhurst I—I was testing it on patients.” Without their consent goes unspoken but colors in the same lines as her shame.

“I can heal people like us.” Julie explains. “But when I do it misfolds—” she changes her approach in explaining. “It negates the recipient’s ability for a long, long time. Someone on the hospital staff noticed, people started asking questions. I—resigned in a panic. Family emergency. Nobody questioned it.”

A light of understanding enters Emily's eyes. One level of oh shit of surprise devolves into yet another tenor of oh shit as she processes, eyes widening. "Okay," she stammers, indicating she's heard all this at the very least. "Well– I'm glad you didn't get fucking arrested. Holy shit." She swallows hard. As much as she tries to have any other words for it, though, she doesn't. Neither in the positive, neither in the negative.

Instead, all she can do is draw her arms in around Julie to hold her in a tight hug, aware of how poorly this could have gone for her cousin. "Jesus Christ," Emily whispers while she tries to get herself together. "Full disclosure? That sounds fucking awesome. But holy shit, Julie."

Grimacing, Julie looks down at her lap. “I haven’t had an opportunity to experiment with it more thoroughly yet,” she explains, as if that’s some sort of shortcoming on her part. The apology feels reflexive, deep-rooted.

“It’s been a lot, lately. Now, with the fires, I just…” Julie sighs, shaking her head and looking back up to Emily. “I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you. I know something’s been going on, I can feel it. But I haven’t—I should’ve asked. I should’ve insisted.” She looks away. “I didn’t.”

Emily only shakes her head, offering a smile of apology– partly deflection. "We've all been doing our best," is the first thing that comes to mind in this moment. She looks back to her nearly-full bookbag, wondering if there aren't other things here they should also be taking with them. "… And anyway, we're going to have plenty of time to talk on the trip, right?"

"I got a rental car by using my SESA ID, so we'll have a trunk if there's important things you want to take just in case. But we should get going as soon as we can. I don't know what traffic's going to look like…" She picks up Julie's jacket and offers it back to her. "But I know I'd love to get ahead of it."

"I'm gonna go get Kettle's carrier, okay?"

Julie takes the jacket, smiling hesitantly as she does. It feels heavier now than it did before.


Emily Epstein is walking the streets of the Safe Zone near Brooklyn College. The buildings and textures of those surroundings blur together as her eyes keep drifting for the sky– a sky which burns, set above a city which exists only in malaise over a change that's coming.

She feels a breeze begin to rise

feels it in the boughs of her arms, whispering through leaves

and as it pushes her hair back from her face, she looks down and forward once more.

She takes her next step, and she moves nowhere. She feels one hand struggle to flex by her side, and tries to reach forward for anything to grab hold of and propel herself with. Her eyes flicker in panic, one she can't breathe through.

Something whispers to her that she knows this is just a dream, that if she can just find something to hold onto, she can pull herself free before the nightmare sucks her down.

At some point, though, she's stopped seeing in anything but light and warmth. Her fingers swim through the air as tendrils of green that can't breathe, the body of her aching up against the side of the house she burst out of where she grew– where a scar along her ribs remains to remind–

She screams in silence, fighting at all to move, to be, to breathe, to be heard–

Emily Epstein walks side by side with Alison Underwood, and it's before everything went wrong. She's so relieved she can move and feel and see again that the other wrongness here doesn't feel out of place at first. The sky remains orange and grey overhead, casting a pallor over the world, and they walk across campus. They're talking, smiling; Emily oblivious to the world beyond even though the smell

she can't breathe, not with all the smoke, there's not enough oxygen, she can feel herself beginning to wither rather than cough, her leaves growing brittle

The smell is like Spring, the scent of flowers in bloom. Oh look, Ali points out a tree in the middle of the commons, and Emily turns. Ali moves across the grass to head that way, and in a blur is standing before it, taking the fat head of one of the flowers into her hand, cradling it.

"Oh, Emily," Ali sighs. She turns her head this way and that, examining the flower.

Emily is both here and there and nowhere. She is the flower– the yellowed many of them a heavy burden carried by boughs sweeping lower with their weight. She wants to recoil from Ali's touch, but she can't. And Ali–

she feels the agrokinetic's presence.

"I'm sorry it's been so long since I tended to you," she says, oblivious of the flames curling green to black behind her, encroaching like the slow but persistent roll of magma over flat ground. "It wasn't for lack of want."

"But you see–"


"You've grown all wrong since I saw you last…"

Emily screams in silence, wanting for anything other than to be locked in this prison. She feels her life held in Ali's hand, at Ali's whim. She sees the shears she holds, cold and sharp and deadly.

"You'll only be right again with some pruning to help!"

The shears snap open and fix their sharpest points around the stalk of the tree's flower, grazing down the side of it until she's satisfied she's reached the root. With a hum of satisfaction, the shears whip shut around the delicate bulb and the petals of the flower burst apart into cinders and broken bloom as Emily–

Hilton Inn
Downtown Albany

3:48 am

The bonds of sleep finally release her and Emily sits up screaming in her bed, scrambling up into a sit to fight off a demon that's not there, someone who can't hurt her anymore. She swings twice into the dark to be sure, and when she's done, she brings one arm around her abdomen to hold herself in a comforting gesture, and sets her other hand to the sheets simply to feel them.

She tries not to thinking of it as a grounding action, lest her stomach turn and her thoughts take her somewhere worse, like feeling her fingers root down into the bed–

Too late.

Emily's hands jerk away from herself and bed both and she lets out another tearful wail. The shuddering gasp of breath in is good, she tells herself. It feels good. It's real. She's breathing

Clean air, too, the smoke of the Safe Zone and the fires that encroach upon it far from her… just as far as Ali is.

She can't be hurt here. Not like that. Not now. Not ever again.

Emily tries to tell herself this many times as she rocks back and forth in the bed, but it takes time for her panic to listen. She doesn't see the light as Julie flicks it on in obvious concern for whatever the fuck is happening in the other queen bed in the hotel room they'd rented late last night. Her breath continues to come in gasps, and in one of them she whispers, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." over her outburst.

Hey, no, hey,” is the whisper that comes from Julie as she slithers out from that bed, long and dark shirt falling like a dress over pale legs as she pads over to Emily’s bed, kneeling on the side to reach out and put a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay…” She reiterates, voice a little more full this time, even if her eyes are wide and frightened.

Leaning forward, Julie settles down on her hip on the bed, winding both arms around Emily, drawing her into a tight embrace. “I get it,” she whispers, then buries her face in the top of Emily’s hair. “I get it. It’s okay.” No request for more details, no desire to make Emily relive whatever nightmare she just experienced. Just a firm anchor into the now, and the reassurances that soon will be better.

Emily returns that hug fiercely, needing it more than she knows. God only knows her having a fit like that likely sent Kettle scurrying hidden under the little loveseat in the pet-friendly room, so he'd be of no help. And the support helps so much in beginning to put those visions behind her, rather than spurring her to turn on all of the lights and be up for hours and hours after this.

"I'm sorry," she whispers again, even though she's been told she's fine. Emily sniffs away her tears and doesn't let the intensity of her hug abate. "They– it all started again with the fires. Over the thought that if you hadn't– then I'd still…" Her throat tightens again, and in frustration, she only then pulls back from the embrace to paw at the tears streaking her face. She takes in another deep breath. "And they said– they were going to be letting prisoners out to help with the firefighting efforts. It all just…"

Beginning to shake her head again, Emily feels the need to fiercely insist, "I'm not normally like this anymore." Not even in a way that needs to be hidden. Her shoulders caving, her voice grows more tired. "It's been months. In a few more, it'll be a year. I– god, I just want to be over it."

"I want to go back to my life. Or– or find a new one." Her eyes close and she wipes at her face again, whispering, "Whatever it takes."

Julie’s silence is not from a lack of attention, but a profound relation to Emily’s struggles. She gently strokes one hand up and down Emily’s arm, keeping her nose pressed into her hair and Emily’s head against her chest. “It’ll be alright,” she whispers, knowing how much of an empty platitude that can be.

“Maybe we’ll all be lucky and she’ll go up with the fires,” Julie says without a hint of humor in her voice. Realizing how intense that is, she pulls away from that kind of dark opinion. “When—when I lost Liette,” Julie says, bringing voice to a name she almost never says aloud anymore, “it took years for me to—to level out. Night terrors, the—the sound of airplanes still—it never gets easier.” She’s never talked about this, what happened in Cambridge, what happened at the massacre. “I won’t lie to you, Em.” She whispers into Emily’s hair. “It never goes away.”

But even in the face of something so heavy, Julie does not relent her embrace. “But I—I know what made it stop hurting so much.” She says softly into Emily’s hair, then presses the smallest of kisses to the crown of her head. “Finding you.

What Julie proposes happening to Ali isn't a joke and isn't meant to be, but Emily laughs anyway. What an oddly comforting thought experiment that was. She opens her eyes to look to Julie as she tells of her own nightmares, the light blue of them wavering but finding some comfort in that she's not alone with these kinds of struggles.

Emily manages a small smile when Julie kisses her hair and shakes her head. "You've had your shit so well together looking after me when I showed up… I'm not sure I'd ever have known. Not like this, anyway." She lifts one hand to ruffle Julie's arm in return. "I look up to you. And I'm so, so glad for you. My life would be… so incredibly different if I'd never gotten on that bus from Rhode Island."

"I'll never regret it. Getting to be family with you makes it all worth it."

It's at that moment the small, waifish black cat of Emily's lets out a rolling mrow and jumps on onto the end of the bed to assess the situation happening in its middle. Emily lets out a tired chuckle. "Yes, you too, you little brat," she tells him. Kettle responds by coming to headbutt the palm she lifts for him.

Her expression falls after a moment, though, and for reasons she'll never quite be able to rationalize, she keeps talking. "I'm… afraid, Jules. That what happened here in the States all those years ago is happening elsewhere. And that their version of Cambridge… wasn't… and won't be televised."

Julie slowly rocks with Emily in her arms, gently stroking one hand over her cousin’s hair, while watching Kettle in silence for a little while. Mention of Cambridge makes Julie tense, makes the rocking stop. She swallows, audibly, and her only response is, “Maybe that’s for the best.” She makes a little, soft gasp between her thoughts. As if she is trying to swallow down the first thoughts that come to mind. “How many people have to die for something to make it worth it?”

Julie doesn’t have an answer.

Emily wishes for one.

"There were hundreds," she whispers. "Maybe more. Maybe a thousand. And when the government thought someone was going to discover what they'd done, they just…" Her features twist, no singular emotion found in that strangled gesture. "Wiped it all away. Blamed it on terrorism when the only thing that was happening…"

A shudder of a breath leaves Emily as she looks down. She ruffles the top of Kettle's head for comfort. "Wasn't that," she summarizes it with a bitter edge. Aware she's saying too much, neither does she stop it. "It's not deaths that makes something worth it, it's supposed to be about stopping them."

But they didn't, with their actions– they caused so much of it. That guilt reflects in Emily's eyes as she looks into Julie's. "They wiped away all those lives to try and cover it up, but it– if people don't stand up against being incarcerated, experimented on, stolen today, then what does that say for tomorrow?"

"I couldn't live in a place where people like you and I aren't free, Julie," Emily laments in a strained murmur. "And I wish no one else had to."

Julie stares into the middle-distance, quiet and still. After a long moment of silence, she turns to look at Emily, putting a hand on her cheek and smiling in spite of the turmoil inside. “We can worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.” She says, searching Emily’s eyes with concern in her own. Then she leans in and kisses her on the forehead.

“Because right now we both need to sleep,” Julie adds, looking down at Kettle. “And maybe all of this looks different in the morning, or maybe it doesn’t.” She glances back up to Emily. “But there’s no winning any wars tonight.”

It's the same way Emily's sent herself off to sleep for two months now. Her own fears mellow away and she leans her head against Julie's before pulling Kettle into her arms. The thin cat lets out tiny eks of displeasure at being picked up when it's not his idea, but he doesn't scramble free yet. "Yeah," she agrees with heavy tire. "Yeah, let's get some sleep." She wriggles herself back down under the comforter she thinks could stand to be slightly heavier, makes a nest for Kettle beside her. She knows perfectly well he'll stay until the moment she moves her hand, and then make a break for it.

"I'm sorry again, Jules. And… thanks." Emily flickers a smile for a moment before she closes her eyes, pets Kettle's side once, and lets him slip off the side of the bed to find someplace else to curl up.

Julie slides off of Emily’s bed, lingering there for a moment. Only then, after she steps away and turns off the light, once she’s tucked in her own bed, back to the room, does she give herself the time to cry on her own.

They’re not winning any wars tonight.

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