aura_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif francois_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title Dis-Family-Functional
Synopsis Every family is dysfuctional in some ways. We just make it work for us.
Date May 25, 2019

Raytech Corporate Housing, Elisabeth's Apartment

The air in the apartment is filled with pleasant food scents. There are snacks set out on the low table in the living area and the dining room table is set for a casual dinner among friends. When the knock at the door happens, Aurora Harrison is the only person in the living room — her mother is in the kitchen and her father the restroom. "Mummy… should I open it?" she calls.

"Yes!" is the call from the kitchen, because her hands are full at this moment.

And so the door is opened by a petite little sandy-blonde pixie who solemnly looks up with hazel eyes that have seen far too much. She's cute, though, in a pair of simple leggings, ballet slippers, and a pink and purple top. She weighs him like he's a bunch of bananas she's not sure whether to buy… and then she opens the door the rest of the way with a shy smile. "Mummy says you can come in, Mister." She's still trying to wrap her tongue around "Francois" and so she leaves that part out.

Being greeted by a miniaturised version of Elisabeth Harrison is obviously a little unexpected from the way Francois' eyeline drops down from somewhere level, and a ready smile skews crooked. He is patient as he is assessed, Aurora's assessment probably dependent on other factors beyond the ones he cared about, such as the bottle of wine encased in crumpled brown paper, nice clothing, fastidious grooming. Ineffable child things.

"Merci," he says, stepping inside. "I don't think we've met before, but you must be Aurora." Slip into French aside, he kind of automatically lightens his accent into a comfortable brand of American — an instinct with both professional strangers and now, apparently, small children.

And also then offers a hand, to either play along with introductions or lead him further inside the apartment.

Fwoooosssshgrggl. The toilet flushes, the sink runs.

“Francois!” Further in, and past the young girl, Richard steps into view with a smile - shaking his hands to clear a few droplets of water from washing them. “Come on in, been too long; admittedly I don’t get up to Rochester much…”

Casual clothing, today - just a pair of jeans and a polo shirt in black, which is such a far cry from both his suit and his bomber-jacket-and-BDUs look that it might be startling. He looks normal except for the pair of shades perched on his nose, sunglasses he hasn’t worn around Francois since his power was taken from him.

The tiny one's eyes go wide when he greets her and Aurora stares at him. As Elisabeth pads around the corner from the kitchen, she sees the expression and covers her mouth. Oh God.

The child takes his hand to lead him back to her father and she breathes out, "He glows! Like Unca Kain, on'y white, Daddy! Is he a angel??"

Aaand Elisabeth giggles erupt. "Good to see you, Francois. I think you've been accepted."

That Francois is probably at least 20% overdressed is just his version of jeans-and-polo-shirts, the evening temperate enough to get away with a nice dinner jacket. He surrenders his hand, this one with twin rings encircling the appropriate finger in something like silver. Offers a ready smile, and a curious searching glance as if to see through black glass rather than divine what it means.

This, derailed by Aurora's pronouncement, and Francois glances down at her in genuine surprise — and uncertainty — and then over to Elisabeth as she enters, and offers her translation. "Or she has found religion," he says, wry. "Of a kind. My apologies. Here," he says, and passes the wine bottle to Richard. "It's good to see you — I imagine it is a busy month."

“Just a bit, what with the Fair and all,” Richard admits as he reaches out to accept the bottle, looking down to his daughter with a fond grin, “No, he’s not an angel, just a good man and a friend of mine.”

Back to Francois, he explains, “She’s a synesthete - she sees sounds as colors, so she tends to recognize people by their vocal, ah, color so to speak.”

He claps a hand on the other man’s shoulder, “But come in, come in, make yourself at home. How’ve things been with you? With Wolfhound?”

The chuckles continue as Elisabeth moves the rest of the way into the living room, comfortably clad in a pair of black slacks and a soft green blouse. Bare feet are the order of the night, apparently, and she puts a hand on Francois's arm to lean up and kiss his cheek. "You're special," she tells him with a grin. "Never had anyone with a white voice before."

Aurora, a little abashed because he's not an angel but still staring at Francois to watch him talk, releases his hand and goes to climb back into the couch where she can watch.

Francois twists enough to return to the kiss to Liz's cheek, a hand alighting on her elbow in familiar greeting. It's an easy thing, to pretend someone has always been here for the past seven, eight years — the human mind is wonderful for adaptation. Patterns and routine are also easy, and there is a lot of that built into simple social interaction — if there is faint strain beneath it all, it's because he is a little out of practice, of late.

And the ordinary and extraordinary stressors of adult life, of course — wolves at the gates. This place is warm and smells of homecooking, however. He is clapped on the shoulder and welcomed in.

"Wolfhound is, perhaps, as well as can be expected," he says, moving to find a seat within the livingroom. "Or better. I would consider Devon's return a net gain." But not without its own unique complications. His gaze wanders from Richard, back to Elisabeth, and over to bright, staring eyes from Aurora, whom gets a quick smile as he continues, "And it has been a punishing last few years — it is good, to have a moment to breathe."

“It was a relief to have him turn up, no matter what the situation is… better than the alternative,” Richard admits with a shake of his head, “He’s— well, pretty much family.”

He waves a hand towards the table, stepping over to pull out a chair and sprawl down into it, “Have a seat, make yourself comfortable— seems like it’s been forever since we’ve talked. I know the feeling about having time to breathe, though, seems like it’s been a year since I did…”

The little girl on the couch tips her head and watches her father and Francois talk. She seems fascinated, although it seems unlikely that it's the topic that has her interest. She slides off the couch to kneel on the floor by the coffee table and takes up her colored pencils while they're conversing.

The wry glance Elisabeth shoots Richard doesn't come with words. Instead, she takes the bottle of wine from him and waves Francois to the chairs with a grin. "Let me pour." She can talk through the open wall. The wine glasses are within reach up to the left of the stove, and while she works on that, she asks Francois with a gentle curiosity, "Do you think now that the objective for Wolfhound has changed some that things will be overall more relaxed?"

Sitting as invited, Francois folds his hands together, willing himself to relax beneath attention as opposed to defaulting into formality, poise. Cracking knuckles absently, methodically, head tipping a little to Elisabeth's question. "Not on paper," he says. "We will trade one lengthy contract for others, perhaps with varied kinds of work — the NYPD, you know about. There will always be bad guys to chase.

"But philosophically? A little. The latest slieu of arrests are, I think, why Wolfhound came to be in many ways. Now that they are over, contracts will be— work, I think. In place of missions."

Semantics, but important ones. At least, evidently, to him.

"And what we may wish to spend our resources and time on may not be always commissioned by third parties. Merci," he adds, accepting wine by the time it's been distributed into glasses, handed out.

“At the very least, you’ll all be spending more time closer to New York,” Richard notes, reaching out to accept one of the glasses with an easy smile for Elisabeth before looking back to Francois, “So maybe we’ll see all of you more often. I know I, for one, will be happier with that idea.”

He motions a bit with the glass, adding with a hint of humor, “And it’ll be easier to track you all down for reports on how the latest hardware is performing in the field.”

There is a brief roll of Elisabeth's blue eyes as she sets Aurora's drink on the low table the girl is using to draw. "I'm still laughing at the fact that you basically developed my ability into a weapon that a number of our friends carry around on their hip, you realize?" It was one of the things that struck her as somewhat absurd when she found out about it… and then it kinda made her all mushy inside. (Aaawwwww, ya missed me!)

A glance at her daughter's current project brings a brow upward thoughtfully but she simply ruffles the girl's hair as she goes back to the conversation at hand. "I'd offer apologies for absconding with some of your people, but I have to admit that I'm feeling extremely relieved to know that Felix and Colette will be among my squad. I'm not entirely sure who else will make up the final roster, but having them and Kaylee definitely makes me less anxious about the situation." That, of course, and being behind a desk. That helps too.

"How it is performing, how it is being wrecked," Francois supplies, with humour, on the tail of Richard's words. Multiple suits of armor returned to Raytech that looked like they had been put through meat grinders are evocative impressions of the kinds of trouble that Wolfhound occasionally skydived into, and this is the kind of grisly contemplation his mind drifts to as he drinks wine and smiles with his eyes at Liz's banter as to her ability concentrated, distilled, into the Banshee.

He flexes fingers that haven't been broken and crooked in years. Habit. "Oh, really?" he says, as to Elisabeth's alleged relief. "Perhaps they will behave for you." They being Colette, mainly, but this shade is cast with affection only. "But in seriousness, I'm glad they've found a place to be. And that Wolfhound has as well. I think we are all a little latecoming in figuring out what to do with ourselves, with the war over.

"What have we missed? In New York," is directed to Richard — who, of the three of them, would know best.

“Oh, no…” Richard points at Elisabeth with a grin, “No apologizing for absconding with Wolfhound agents. Half of them used to be Endgame, Devon’s basically family, and Nathalie is family, they basically stole the majority of their people from us. It’s only fair that you steal a few back.”

He swirls the wine around in the glass a bit as he leans back, “And I wanted to call it the Harrison, for the record. They wouldn’t let me. As for New York— “ He shrugs, “Rebuilding, corporate skullduggery with Yamagato and Praxis, various galas and events… we just opened the hydroponics facility, so the Safe Zone has its own source of food now.”

She laughs at his assertion that a number of them were our people to start with, but it's the information on what he was going to call that weapon that brings a grimace. "Good God, I would never have lived that down," she points out.

What has been missed in New York? "Ooh! A friend of ours is getting ready to open a dinner theater, Francois. If you'd enjoy a show," Elisabeth offers with a smile. "He's a good chef, so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with it. I'm considering using Richard's assets to purchase a season box." She's teasing… sort of. She'd most likely use her own money!

"Perhaps I will," Francois says. "I think Teodoro requires remembering that New York City is not as bad as all that."

You know, in the alternative universe in which his marriage is not a joke or anything, but that seems to be the reality in which he is operating in right now — easy conversation, symbolic rings circling the correct finger, casual mentions of future dating locales. But also, in seriousness: Teodoro requires remembering that New York City is not as bad as all that. It's where his mind goes regardless at mention of rebuilds, of the slight obscenity of high class galas blocks away from food lines, but that is just civilisation being its charming self.

He says, "I have an apartment in Williamsburg now. It would have run for a lot of money, I think, back in the day — and perhaps would be fully operational too." He lifts his wine to drink from, adds, "I had this impression of myself that I know anything about renovating." Big mistake.

“Elisabeth, dearheart,” Richard drawls out, motioning with the glass her way, “The theatre is one of my assets. I own a fairly sizable chunk of the thing, you know, they needed a loan to finish setting it up.” A wink, “I think we can get in to see some shows if you want.”

Then he’s staring at their old friend, “Oh, no. Oh, Francois, no.” He grins, shaking his head, “I’m guessing that in your long life, home contracting is not a career skill you picked up?”

Amused because … yeah, Teo's opinion of the city has been rather evident… Elisabeth looks thoughtful. "It'd make for a nice dinner out." Because, you know, he's trying to rebuild his marriage, right? Does Teo like musicals? She's never asked. But you know, the thought counts! (Who the hell knows if that's even true right now, but she's got to have hope for her friends.)

She offers Richard the rather juvenile sticking out of the tongue. "You can't just have a box. I mean… where's the patronage in that?! The loan was to build, you gotta buy the tickets, ya cretin," she teases.

And then Elisabeth gives Francois wide eyes. "Oh. Oh my." She actually looks nonplussed at the idea that Francois — that debonair man — has somewhere in his years on this planet picked up a skill such as carpentry. It just doesn't jibe with her knowledge of him! "That's gonna be a lot of work. Williamsburg is…" She trails off. Not doing so hot doesn't seem adequate. And anything more might not be fit for the little pitcher with big ears.

Speaking of whom, Aurora clambers to her feet and she brings her abstract art to Francois with all impression of being quite intent on a mission. "See, Mister Fwan-swah? This is what it looks like when you and Mummy and Daddy are all talkin'." She wanted to show him the colors, and her colored pencils only do so much, but the swathes of peacock blue-green, deep blue-violet, and white all mix together in roils of color, the white with sort of a smudge around it where she tried to show the glow.

"I mean," Francois says, to Richard, an affect of deep, droll self-awareness, as he asks, "how hard can it be?"

Apparently quite hard.

And expensive.

He tips his wine glass. Que sera sera. Addresses Elisabeth's point too as he says, "Williamsburg is a work in progress, it will eventually be lovely, I'm certain, but non — I have as much experience sleeping in cars than in homes, let alone ones that belong to me." He is weighing up if he has the wherewithal to impart Hilarious Marriage Anecdotes about his infamous housekeeping failures when Aurora saves him. She is just small enough that he goes and helps her up onto the seat next to him, holding out a hand to view better the art.

"I see," he says, with the affect of revelation. "If that is me, then," pointing to the streak of white, and then to the green, "who is this one?"

“Do you, uh, do you need any help with your renovations?” Richard tries not to grin, but fails, shaking his head. In comparison to the serious injuries and traumas that this group and their friends often befall, something like this can be considered safely humorous. A very human failing, something to bring them back down to earth.

Then Aurora brings over the paper, and he looks thoughtful, glancing to Liz. “…you know,” he muses, “If we got Kaylee and Brynn together, I bet we could make an exact picture of the colors she’s seeing…”

Aurora grins up at Francois, her shyness giving way to enthusiasm. "That's Mummy. When she's singin' it's more blue, but that's pretty close to when she's talkin'. I seed birds in a picture book once that had the same colors as Mummy talkin'. Aunt Yggy said it was a …" She scrunches up her face, trying to remember the word. "I can't 'member. It had a big tail wif lots of eyeballs." She points to the blue-violet. "An' that's Daddy. When he's Shadowbird, though, he's way more purple. I like it when he's purple. He used to tell me stories and they was all purpley."

Elisabeth quirks a brow at Richard. "Interesting idea," she agrees. "If nothing else, it might be fun for her, I guess." She tips her head, watching the little girl explain her picture to Francois. Her gaze on the child holds a gentle pride, a look not really unusual in any parent. Clearing her throat, she murmurs, "Let's not get too many hands to help him paint the place though." A grin shot at Richard implies that maybe there's a story behind the painting.

Aurora has Francois' full attention as she explains, amusement crinkled at the corners of his eyes. "A peacock is the bird with the big tail," he says. "But you know, they're not very good at singing. Not all birds are, but the peacock is particularly bad. I'm sure your mama is much better.

"Probably," he adds, to Elisabeth, teasing and reaching to pick up his glass again. "And I never need help with anything, Richard. But perhaps someone were to view the place, make suggestions as to improvements, and how one might go about enacting them, that might be welcome." A glance follows the straight shot of grins, implied stories, and rather than prompt, Francois takes a swig of wine, quick and short.

“God,” Richard laughs, shaking his head at Elisabeth’s reminder. Then he looks back over to Francois with a brow’s lift, and snorts in amusement, “Of course. Well, I might have some time to go take a look and offer my entirely unsolicited opinions. Maybe I’ll bring a contractor or three. For company. You know us corporate types, we need our entourages…”

The look that he gives Aurora is somewhat torn, though it fades swiftly for her sake. He wasn’t the only Shadowbird she knew.

Elisabeth raises her glass to Francois, her smile easy. "One can only hope," she replies to his gentle taunt that maybe she's better than a peacock. She takes a sip of her wine and moves to stand, walking past Richard toward the dining room and dropping a light hand on his shoulder. She saw the expression.

Aurora looks very serious as she nods to Francois. "Mummy's def'nitly a good singer. She don't sing to pay the bills no more, but Aunt Yggy an' me, we used to watch her at work sometimes." She pats Francois' hand lightly. "You should let peoples help you, Mister Fwan-swah. My daddy's a good helper. An' me an' Mummy too. We helped lots of peoples move here. An' all the places here is much nicer than the last places we lived. So I bet you don't need so much help anyway," she comforts him.

Rolling her lips in under her teeth to bite back what might be a laugh — from the mouths of babes, right? — Elisabeth gets big wide eyes as she changes the subject. "Dinner's on. Let's sit at the table, hmm?" It's nothing fancy, but she's enjoyed putting together dinner for a guest. It's the first time she's really entertained.

Francois listens to adorable moppet wisdom with only minimal glances sneaked to the other adults in the room. He allows himself to be both charmed as well as grateful for Aurora's heroic efforts to diffuse inevitable third wheel feelings that would be easy to catch, in spite of the heroic efforts on the parts of Richard and Liz themselves. A lot of him is grateful to be here, finding comfort in it, familiarity, something family-like and good, a means of getting away from himself.

There is a smaller part of him that is counting down the minutes until he is alone again, that condition of being that is both terrible and impossibly alluring.

"Well, demoiselle, that settles that," he says, of Aurora's conclusion. "If your papa is not too busy, I'm sure." He looks over to Richard, and adds, a little apologetically, "And there is likely shop to talk, in the meanwhile."

There is dinner, though, the kind laboured over in an ordinary kitchen, which is likewise the kind of food Francois would trade any dining out experience for, if given the choice. He is not so full of ennui that he doesn't somewhat snap to attention when Elisabeth invites them over to the table proper, and he offers out a hand for Aurora to take.

Richard lays a hand over Elisabeth’s as it rests on his shoulder, flashing her a quick ‘it’s okay’ smile. Then he’s moving with the others to the table, his head shaking slightly as he pushes past that brief moment. At least there was something of him with his daughter, in some way.

“How’s Epstein doing,” he asks then as he eases himself down to sit at the table, “I’ve been a little worried about the old dog, to be honest…”

"What's a dem-wa-zell?" Aurora asks as she slips her small hand into Francois' and slides off the couch to go to dinner with him. She thinks about that for a moment, and then also asks, "Is it like Mamzelle?" Cuz Cassie used that word for someone sometimes.

Setting her glass on the table to free up her hands, Elisabeth goes into the kitchen to return with a salad of early greens and a bowl of what seems to be rice and vegetables. A platter of roasted fowl soon follows even as the others make their way to the table. "What's wrong with Epstein?" she asks mildly. "Besides being probably ready to take your head off." She heard about the locking the guy in a room. It made her laugh. But it is Epstein. Retaliation might be brutal and served very cold.

When she goes back into the kitchen the last time, it's to return with a pull-apart bread and a caprese salad. Apparently she was a little excited to have company because someone managed to find fresh mozzarella for that salad. And it's still pretty early for tomatoes that nice too.

"A young lady," Francois explains, freely, en route to dinner. Also old fashioned, appropriate to actual children, but Francois' read on what it charming Frenchisms and sexist language is about fifty, sixty years out of date. English is complicated enough. "And you have a very good accent."

Francois does his part — he tops up glasses that sit in danger of the refill. He has only gotten through half of his own glass, normally a little more gregarious when it comes to his drinking, but it's been a long enough time for either Richard and Elisabeth to safely not notice. The last time with Liz had been a more special occasion, anyway. But he smiles at Elisabeth as she brings out food, automatically helping with taking plates, sitting them down where she doesn't easily reach. It feels better, participating, then being catered to.

And a subtle laugh, as to the topic of his colleague. "He does not take kindly to worry," he says. "Problematically. But I would say he is doing well. He has a new lease on life."

“Does he? Good— “ Richard’s chin dips in a firm nod, “I had to lock him and Emily in a room at one point so they’d get over being unwilling to talk to each other. Seems to’ve worked, even if both of them were mad at me for awhile.”

The wine glass is set down, and he adds, “Had to help rescue him from some Pure Earthers not too long ago too.”

Aurora grins up at Francois. "My friend Cassie teached me," she tells him cheerfully. "I know some Fwench— Fur-rench," she corrects herself. Her slight lisp is something school is working with her on. "Aunt Yggy teached me real English. An' Unca Felix teached me Russian too!" Apparently she's still working on verb tenses, although perhaps understandable with several languages in her head. She gives him one of those half-shy, half-secret-sharing looks as she stage-whispers, "I'm not s'posed to say some of those ones cuz they're naughty. But they make Unca Felix laugh when I say 'em."

Elisabeth eyes the girl and just shakes her head. In Russian, she admonishes, «Yes, please, don't say naughty words at the table, little one»." Then switches back to regular conversation. "I think you're lucky Emily didn't take Devon's head right off for that," she observes about the locking in. Passing Francois dishes with food on them as they all settle in and begin dishing up their dinner, she smiles at him. "Francois, are you planning on spending most of your time down here in the city now?" Because, you know, Teo! "Or are you still going to mostly be up in Rochester with Avi?" She thinks he may have told her already but there's been a lot going on and can't remember.

"Does that work?" asks Francois, of Richard, with a specifically dry slant and affect.

Settling down, murmuring a compliment to the chef, emoting over his glass of wine vis-a-vis recent Pure Earth attacks, and naughty Russian words. The strange entanglement of social and professional circles feels like fast growing vines ever since the conclusion of the war and its clean-up — Richard and Avi and Emily and Devon, and Nathalie and Teodoro and Elisabeth. It's not a bad thing, but it certainly feels untamed, beyond his scope of control, with stronger tangling ties that make his own seem frailer for it.

"Half the time," he says, to Liz. "That is the plan. A five hour commute isn't so bad if it is a couple times a month." A hint of amusement. He means it, but he also recognises: it's quite bad for most normal people. He adds, rather than pretending he isn't married to a whole person, "It is a slightly easier thing to manage, with greater reward, than the three hours to spend only a few days in Catskill, where Teo used to live before he moved back here. With Emily Epstein, no less," he thinks to add. "I've given to believe that this was coincidence."

Richard brings up one hand, tilts it in a waffling gesture. “They’ve gotten past the ‘never talk to each other again’ phase at least, it seems,” he admits dryly, “They’re so much alike, is the issue. Stubborn as bulls. Finding out about Nathalie probably hasn’t helped much…”

He reaches over to start filling up his plate, admitting, “It’ll be good to have you closer. We should do this more often— and hah. Really?” A wry look over, “Teo and Emily? That’s a… well. It must be interesting.” Don’t say ‘a disaster waiting to happen’ Richard that’d be rude. So rude.

Even if it’s so true.

Elisabeth pauses, definitely surprised at the news that Teo is living with Emily. A quick look, somewhat wide-eyed, is shot at Richard. Don't say it! The warning could be for him or for herself, it's hard to say. Because … wow. That's….

"Wait… your cousin Nathalie is— and Emily didn't know?" Oh dear God. The blonde picks up her glass of wine and swallows a relatively large mouthful in order to stop herself from allowing a flood of words to escape the orifice in a jumbled rush of what-the-fuck. Swallowing hard, she clears her throat and murmurs, "I bet that was a little shocking."


And the vines grow ever tighter, in stranger ways than before.

Francois has helped himself to a little of everything, but is not letting an appetite get the best of him. As they speak, which would be as good a time as any to eat, he instead pokes a little at crunchy salad pieces with his fork as he listens, absorbs reactions (and suppressed reactions) and finally raises an eyebrow at something that had already been niggling at him.

"Cousin Nathalie?" is an innocent enough query. Their obvious familiarity with Emily Epstein seems par for the course of the oddly muddy lines of social circles in this city, so goes unexamined, but specific word choice is something he can latch onto.

Richard didn’t say it! It was tempting, but he didn’t say it!

“Yeah,” he admits wryly, “Avi and Sarisa’s kid, apparently, and… yeah, I don’t think Emily knew. To be fair, Avi didn’t know either until the birth certificates got looked at and he saw what Kershner’d put down for her father.”

Some lettuce and a bit of cucumber is speared with his fork, and he tips his head in a nod over to Francois, “My mother was Sarisa’s cousin, they were both LeRoux’s before they were married, so— well, I guess Nathalie’s my second cousin or— something like that?”

"Still can't quite wrap my head around you and Sarisa being cousins," Elisabeth admits. She worked for the woman, admired her in a lot of ways — and it shows in the way she adds, "Somehow in hindsight, though, it make some weird sense. I see some of Michelle in her."

Aurora is quiet now, eating her dinner while she listens to the conversation happening over her head. Whether she understands it or not, she's clearly been brought up to have good guest manners, and she isn't interrupting.

Noting briefly what's missing on the child's plate, Elisabeth adds some rice there even as she's speaking. "It's… interesting how small a world it really is."

It takes a little restraint for Francois not to start mapping this out on the napkin at his elbow with one of Aurora's crayons, because he has practice at not constantly appearing to be an insane person in front of people he respects. The math is being done, anyway, lapsing into momentary, considering silence, and the habit he has of thinking through a thing before he reacts to it. He reaches for the bottle of wine and goes to top up his glass.

"I was fond of Sarisa," he says, by the by. "Nathalie has only heard bad things, for the most part. I think that happens, sometimes, with people who die badly."

He offers top ups all round, minus small child. "I gave her my side of it, my memories. In brief, anyway. We had a kinship, of a kind I never looked into — just that it was blood. Perhaps you somehow know more about that than me, too," he adds, wry. Apologetically making the world just that little bit tinier. It is not information he entirely knows what to do with, save to share it.

“I was too. I mean, eventually we were probably going to end up trying to kill each other, but I was fond of her anyway, it was…” A shrug of Richard’s shoulder, fork circling, “Just the sort of games she played. She always thought she had a stronger grip on the game than I did, and I was sorry when I… wait, what?”

The man’s eyebrows leap upwards as that finally sinks in, “Wait, you were related to Kershner? Then— “ A pause, and he brings a hand up to rub between his eyes, “Jesus Christ. I went from being an orphan to having an embarassment of family.”

Elisabeth chokes a little on her sip of wine, staring back and forth between them. Francois's kidding, right? But no… he's not. And Liz is forced to swallow the mouthful of wine and wipe her lips with a napkin as she fights not to giggle. Six degrees of separation my ass. Nothing in her life seems to have more than two degrees in any direction, so why should this surprise her at all? "Just when I think I'm squared away…"

Mental math suggests that … Francois can't be more than a great-great grandfather to Richard, probably closer, assuming a straight-line relationship. But maybe they're just cousins too. Either way, it's funny as hell to her.

"Tell me about it," to indulge in American parlance, Francois setting the wine bottle down. No familial connections for decades — and by choice, for all that time. And then hitting the ground running in the 2010s when it came to forging his own strange ties — the Conduit still warm where it had imprinted itself in Abigail's soul, and Teo falling into orbit, first, and then love, and Daphne, and Eileen. Dispersing with war, and its aftershocks.

He picks back up his utensils. "I do not have very much experience," he says, playing at humour, pretending apology. "My grandfather taught me the saints, but I recall you were once already well-versed."

“Maybe that explains why we always got along,” Richard can’t help but laugh, shaking his head a bit before reaching over for his wine, “Well, at least it’s someone I can’t exactly complain about. Although I refuse to call you ‘grandpa’.” A glint of humor in his eyes as he leans back, taking a swallow of the wine.

“And yes. The Company left me with the nuns for most of my childhood.”

Aurora looks up at the word 'grandpa,' curious about the strange conversation going on but obviously not following most of it. Why would daddy call the man grandpa anyway? Still, she doesn't ask — she's watching them talk and her eyes flicker between them, watching things only she can see.

"I'm just grateful after all this time that we're, none of us, alone anymore," Elisabeth comments quietly. It's been a very long seven years.

The sentiment from Elisabeth's corner manages to sneak a little past the brewing warmth of wine drinking and easy mirth. Francois looks to her, and the crooked smile already in place evens out a little. It's an easy off-the-cuff comment to take seriously when you are super lonely, all the time, (through your own actions) and there is a glimmer of gratitude that feels too abstract and, perhaps, awkward to try to put to words. Especially when his immediate impulse is an expression of doubt.

This is why God invented text messages. Thank you for dinner, he will communicate to her later, on his ride back across the city, and hope it she can lift out of it something about kinship, too.

"Me too," he says, instead.

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