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Scene Title Ephemeral
Synopsis After receiving word about Francois' attack, Teo arrives at the hospital. He doesn't receive enough answers about what happened, but instead, the hope of having them soon.
Date December 27, 2019

Francois Allegre has been cheating death for 78 years.

Ever since Nick Ruskin hauled him up out of a burn pile in Treblinka, Francois Allegre has been two steps ahead of his overdue date with the reaper. Under fluorescent lights, it's hard to tell whether that date has been met or not. Francois skin is mottled and blotched with the delicate blossoms of yellow-purple bruises, one eye swollen shut, bandages around his hands, arms, and midsection hold thick padding against multiple stab wounds.

Seated by Francois bedside, Scott Harkness hardly knows what to make of the mess he's been left with. Intellectually, Scott knows Francois is generations older than him, but all he sees is a man not much older than his son, fighting for his life. The soft hiss-click of a respirator helps keep Francois breathing, the mask on his face to maximize his oxygen intake. A tube is inserted into his chest, relieving pressure on his punctured lung. IV fluids of water and plasma dangle over his bed, clear and crimson hoses plugged into his arm.

Scott leans forward in his chair and scrubs his hands over his face, leaving them to rest at his mouth as he tries to grapple with what happened last night at the Bunker. Avi has left him here, to stand vigil over Francois until someone else came. Checking his phone and the message he sent several hours ago, he wonders if that'll ever be.

12/27/19 - 3:08 am
Francois was attacked. We’re at Rochester General. He might not make it. You should be here.
{{Seen 3:12 am

Sighing, Scott leans back in his chair and closes his eyes. It's a six hour drive from the Safe Zone under the best conditions. If he was going to come, it would be soon.

Rochester General Hospital

Rochester NY

December 27th

9:12 am

Teo shows up wind-blasted and huddling under a scarf, gloves, two coats probably. His nose is Rudolph red and the tips of his ears are likewise made up. But he feels very terrible and stressed, and it has nothing to do with the Heavens wanting to kill him. That's old news. The Heavens have always wanted to kill him, as well as most people he knows.

He says, "Husband of Francois Allegre," to the receptionist without feeling even the faintest shiver of homophobic squeamishness, which is probably character development or something. Forty seconds later, he's opening the door into the room.

Teo spares the briefest glance at Scott, a tactical reflex without real interest. Wolfhound. Check. The next moment, he's scuffing thin traces of sand-browned snow across the floor, on his way to the bed that contains his husband's very pale body, not as yet deserted by its soul according to the plaintive bleep of the heart monitor.

Nathalie practically runs ahead of the others when they make it to the hospital. Mostly because she's applying some practical mathematics to the current situation. Her power stretches out from her, taking just a little bit from everyone as she rushes through waiting rooms and hallways. She has already been taxing herself this morning, but she doesn't mind pushing just a little further. Not in this case. Francois told her she had to live by a code, and while she hasn't worked out all the details just yet, a big part of her code is to not let the people she loves die.

Later she'll examine the likelihood of that lapsing into some sort of immortal codependency, but it works for her for now.

She suspects it'll work for all of them for now.

Sliding into view through the doorway, Nathalie only slows down once she has the right room. "Hi," she says, stepping into the room and smoothing some of her hair back from her face. She's not anything close to collected at the moment, but she's here, and there is absolutely no ceremony involved when she steps over to take Francois' hand to start taking stock of the damage.

Scott watches Nathalie’s more emboldened arrival with an attentiveness he didn’t spare Teo. “Easy,” he says, rising from the chair beside Francois’ bed. Last he’d known Nathalie was down in the Safe Zone on duty at the Bastion, unreachable by phone. His relief on seeing her arrival is palpable. But it’s Teo that Scott moves over to, pausing by his side and clapping a hand on his shoulder in something analogous to a hug with their proximities, but the distance between the two appropriate given the distance life has put between them.

“Glad you made it,” Scott says with a squeeze of Teo’s shoulders, followed by a look back at Francois laying in the bed. “Doctors’ve done everything they can,” he says in a quiet and gruff tone, “but he’s hanging on by a thread.” Scott looks past Teo to Nathalie, letting his hand fall away from the younger man’s shoulder as he steps by him to move to the back of the room and let family and healers take the forefront.

Once he’s in the back of the room he flips out his phone, texting a terse message to Avi before tucking the phone back in his pocket. “I wasn’t there when it happened,” is how Scott clarifies the situation, “I just know what the police were told,” which is delivered with all the tone of uncertainty and suspicion he’s maintained since he was a safehouse operator.

The doorway fills again with a slender blonde who trails Nathalie by only seconds, but it feels like a veritable eternity of time to her. Emily Epstein places her hand on the frame as she passes through its checkpoint on her way to Teo. She floats across the room, steps muted as she edges her way to him. "I'm so fucking sorry," is how she says hello to her roommate, her expression muddied with too many emotions at once though the primary one is worry. "I didn't know. Or I'd have woken you up and brought you with me."

She doesn't ask how Francois is doing, because she can hear Scott's report, she can see how Teo looks at him, and she can see Nathalie's attentiveness. Emily glances sidelong at Scott's suspicion but says nothing on it, turning her gaze upward at Teo instead. She's not much of a hugger— he knows this, she knows this— but she leans her side into his, hand snaking around his back in a gesture of support. "She's going to help him," Emily murmurs, another thing that Teo has likely divined but she figures might make him feel better to hear.

The hand that Nathalie touches is neither deathly cold nor feverishly hot, just unresponsive. A neutral room temperature and utterly still. Francois' face is tipped slightly away, half covered in fogged mask, and there's bandaging too taped beneath, down to his chin. The injuries are extensive. What she can get a read on reflects what's written on the chart magnetised at the end of the bed. Multiple deep puncture wounds to the torso, the emergency surgery necessary to repair damage wrought by a panicked knife.

'Hanging on by a thread' is one of those vivid shorthands that are not inaccurate unto themselves, but what Nathalie might feel is not exactly a hanging on — more of a retreat. A withdrawal into himself, away from traumatised meat and nerve endings, the effort of breathing, of light and sound.

It does make Teo feel better to hear it.

It's very convenient that Teodoro doesn't have to sit and stew in a shitty facsimile of patience, waiting to see if his husband is going to die at this hospital, too. He spent six hours doing that, on the road, trying not to careen off of black ice and crash into his own ignominious death somewhere. Wondering if Emily had gotten his voicemail, if Berlin would respond, whether perhaps the fact that Francois remained in critical condition and Emily wasn't responding nor Avi's name arise had perhaps even meant something had happened to Berlin, too. And then to wonder if it was mean, that he'd rather anyone be more deader but Francois.

It's okay. Berlin is evidently fine, jackrabbiting around with speed. Emily looks fraught, but intact. Maybe Avi's dead? Was almost dead. They'd had to save Avi, first, or something. Fucking Wolfhound.

"Thanks, Em."

Teo twists his head to look hazily at Scott, nodding, clasping the other man's shoulder, because touching Francois right now would be disruptive on any number of levels. A familiar gesture between the two of them, dating back to the necessary rousing rah-rah for winning wars. "Tell me what you know," he says. He means to make it a question, but it emerges a statement.

One thing Nathalie tries very hard to do is not react to what she finds in that touch. No one in this room needs to see the healer look worried or scared. Or angry that this wasn't the first place she was taken. It's a simple practice of bedside manner, how she keeps a gentle expression on her face and gives Teo an encouraging, if small, smile.

But then she gets to work. The worst spots get the most attention, pushing him away from being quite so close to death. There is a thought for his face, too, a glance spared for it, but in the end she decides to keep her priority on life-threatening for now. Luckily, she's brimming with life and energy from the people unlucky enough to be in her path on the way here, instead of just depending on her own reserves. But even so, she ends up needing to stop before everything is completely healed. But it's done in moments, and the speed burns through much of what fuel she has.

And then she needs to brace herself on the side of the bed.

"I've done what I can for now," she says, looking over at Teo, "but I'll stay nearby, get some rest, come back around and do a little more work. He's going to be okay." She glances back down to Francois, her hand gripping his. "When he comes around, he might be a little… He's on a lot of morphine." And she didn't take that away from him. That would be too cruel.

The expediance that a man can be lifted off of death’s door has Scott frozen for a moment. Brows knit and lips parted, he watches Nathalie arrive at Francois’ bedside and then stabilize him in the time it takes him to think back to a young Abigail Beauchamp. Exhaling a breathy sigh, Scott brings a hand up to his mouth and swallows hard, then nods once in an attempt to hide the emotion behind his relief. He and Francois were never close, not personally, but they’ve lived their lives together for years now. Francois is like family, and that is something Scott has in diminishing numbers every year.

“I ah,” Scott starts to say, a little choked up from watching a literal miracle. “It was dark, I was in my bunk. Middle of the night. There was screaming, Avi I think. It all happened really fast. When I uh, when I got to the kitchen — that’s where it must’ve ended — there was blood everywhere. Just— fucking everywhere.” Shaking his head, Scott exhales a sigh through his nose and starts to pace the perimeter of the room as he talks.

“Epstein— I don’t know where he was. Maybe calling for help. I found Francois on the stairs into the kitchen, bleeding out. I did what I could, had some first aid supplies in my storage space.” Scott rubs his forefingers and thumb together as he remembers the moment. “My boy showed up next, we kept him together. Avi came round about… I don’t know— not long after? He was out of breath, bleeding from the head. He’d called an ambulance and the cops. I stayed with Francois, he went outside to wait for them or… I don’t know.”

Shaking his head, Scott leans back against a wall once pacing has worn out its charm. “Avi told the cops someone broke in, that he didn’t get a good look at ‘em. I left with Francois in the ambulance after giving a statement, Avi stuck around. Said he’d take care of things back home. M’boy texted me earlier, said— I don’t know. He said some shit.” Scott looks up to Nathalie and Emily, knowingly, then down to Francois in the bed. “I don’t know what the fuck happened,” he says in a graveley voice, “but I’d like a fucking explanation too.”

It's something Emily is lacking, wishes desperately she had. She has slightly more of one than Scott does, maybe, and if he's been talking to Francis, then he knows enough to know that the story provided to the police was bullshit. She closes her eyes hard as she leans into Teo to either lend him strength or borrow some from him before she steps away to shut the door to the room quietly.

"I still don't know what happened, to tell you the truth," she says softly as she looks back to Scott, then to Teo. "Maybe it really was a burglary gone wrong. They found the thief, and then the thief struck out in self-defense when two well-trained former military jumped her. Or maybe she struck first. I don't know, but we're all here in the aftermath."

She floats back to the bed, the palm of her hand hovering over the end of it. Francois' isn't a face that was particularly well-known to her before this, and she'll do her best to not remember him like this going forward, but for now, looking at him provides a distraction as much as it puts Scott in one periphery and Teo in the other. "It wasn't a stranger, though. It was Eileen."

A fact she'd try harder to obscure if Scott wasn't likely already aware of it.

Nathalie has a better sense of the effects of her own healing than any metaphor can conjure. Wounds closing, flesh and muscle knitting back together, lungs breathing easier. Beneath all the bandaging and under unflattering light, it's difficult to tell externally as to progress, but it'd be easy to imagine that the inky shadows around his eyes seem a little less dark, that the grey tone his skin has taken on, like a cold winter day, has flushed a little healthier.

His hand doesn't twitch. His eyeballs shift a little beneath closed eyes.

And she can sense, herself, the way that bead of life seems to glow a little brighter. Or at the very least, stops its slow sink into darkness. There is so much more left to do, thanks to the disproportionate and unfair exchange rate of her healing and life-force balancing, but he's not going anywhere, not anymore.

There is a lot of information coming very fast when part of Teo would rather attend entirely to: is my husband getting better. Was he so close to the brink that not even the ineffable power of the Conduit can push him back into safety. That's a dedicated few neurons dedicated to siren calling DINGDINGDINGDINGDING as his eyes cut repeatedly toward the body in the bed, Nathalie's shape huddled over it.

But the part of Teo that remains is diligently compartmentalized away from the other one. Skills learned during war, and the terrorism that was his life before their work received that more flattering label.

Teo feels Emily's weight and automatically sets himself against it, holding her up. He looks at Scott, listens. The part that threatens to go right out his other ear, he catches, rewinds, feeds back through his brain. Then what Emily says, too. Why are they talking about Eileen? What does Eileen have to do with. swzzswzzswzz. oh. That's why they're talking about Eileen. He moves some other pieces around it.

Nothing fits.

He hadn't gotten a chance to look at the chart. His brow furrows. The power doesn't usually make physical wounds. He doesn't have to say it aloud, they can guess what he's thinking. "She was gone by the time the cops rolled in?" he asks, trying to confirm how the Hell they know it was Eileen but possibly not a burglary, what is this, what the fuck.

Nathalie also seems to be tuned out of the conversation, holding onto Francois' hand and watching his face. But she seems relieved, so that's probably a good sign. She leans over to press a kiss to his forehead and lets out a gentle sigh. "«You're not allowed to leave me yet,»" she whispers to him, French sounding as natural to her as English does. If brimming with withheld emotion. "«I still need you.»"

But she straightens up and looks over at the others, giving a reassuring nod to Teo. It's been a rough night for him, too, but she's not entirely sure how to help ease his panic. So she looks to Emily, silently asking for her help in that regard. Fix your roomie.

Since Nat is better at the work, her attention turns to Scott. "There wasn't a break in. Not that way. Whatever story Avi told the cops, that's all it is. A story. The official story." To Teo's question, she shakes her head. "She's still at the Bunker. She was shot. And she's confused. Something… tricked her to coming. Misled her. We're not sure of all the details yet, but if it turns out to be another way… well. She's as much captive as she is patient. But let's not let that get too far from this room, okay? For now." But she feels Teo deserves to know as much as she can tell them. Even if it's mostly scattered information. "I don't believe she intended for this to happen, but we'll get to the bottom of it, I promise."

There's a lot of weight behind the name Eileen Ruskin. A lot of weight for Scott as a person, who was there at Consolidated Edison when Conrad Wozniak died bringing it down to stop the Vanguard. His eyes immediately track to Teo, someone who also bled fighting the Vanguard that year. Someone else who also came to accept Eileen, and eventually come to rely on her as Scott did for the protection of the Ferrymen. By the time Pollepel was under siege, Scott was already in government custody, had been for a long time. She saved as many people as we could and, the part HE'S really grappling with, died to do it.

But then there was Avi and Hana’s story, about Eileen and Volken’s power. Stories that Scott only had the edges of, not enough to lay out and make a judgment on. His sigh is a heavy and tired one, the sigh of an old man who's lost too many friends and comrades-in-arms to internecine conflicts. But this, Francois, it weighs on him and it shows in his solemnity. All Scott does to respond to Nathalie is nod, reluctant and uncomfortable, but acknowledgement.

“You've all got this under control,” is what Scott vocalizes, coming up beside Teo and briefly laying a hand on his shoulder, “I'm gonna drive back to the Bunker, get my head around what happened.” He looks from Teo to Nathalie. “Call me if anything changes?” At least here in Rochester there's reliable telecommunication infrastructure.

Okay, that's the second time Emily's heard her sister spontaneously talk in a foreign language today. Everybody's learning a lot about each other, it's just not the things they want to be. The silent look she receives from Nathalie spurs ther to put her own frustration aside and turn back to Teo. She and Nathalie had been living this for a while yet, this morning, this was new still to him.

"We're going to get those answers, Teo." she tells him, her voice soft and carrying the weight of that belief— that with just a bit of time and patience all would be revealed, just as long as he didn't run himself right into the deep end of it. "Don't worry," she says, regardless of whether he's paying attention to it. She steps away from the bed in order to lay a hand on his arm reassuringly. That look is shared with Scott, all too late, and with all too little familiarity.

It's silly, but he looks so different outside his Santa costume, without a smile on his face. Maybe it's what he always looks like, but she'd seen him in that moment almost out of time and is having trouble reconciling the differences. If anything, the look on his face stresses to her how monumentally fucked up all of this is, despite almost assured intentions of downplaying the events that took place.

They might be small, but she could hear them already, in what she was saying. In what Nathalie was saying.

"You need anything?" Emily asks Teo, glancing up to him under the shade of her bangs. "Coffee?" She can't do much here, but she can bring him some if it would help.

Teo allows everybody else to do the talking, for once. His response to Scott is nonverbal, but not unkind; there's a grunt, a nod timed properly to the older man's touch to his shoulder. Yes, he'll call if anything changes. When something changes. That much has seemed inevitable for several hours, and only now does it seem like it's not necessarily final fucking doom coming for them astride a black horse.

"Coffee would be great," Teo tells Emily. His voice sounds distant, as if crossing over a vast distance to reach his own ears.

Because it's storming, nearer-by. A dull roar. Credit to Emily, very little of that happens to be anxiety at the moment. Teodoro moves closer to the bed, finally, releasing his roomate unto the world to procure caffeinated beverages and setting one big Italian foot in front of the other. He comes to the opposite side of the bed from where Nathalie is sitting, places himself in a chair. Doesn't touch, in case that diverts the energy that the girl is pushing into Francois' anemically pale body.

He would like to imagine that Francois looks better 'already,' but he doesn't. That's a fantasy. Teo studies the Frenchman's face. You'd think that six hours had been enough for the terror to sink in, but he's received so much bad news in his life that he tends to reserve judgment until he's on scenario, medical chart in hand, consulting, extrapolating from his own knowledge. And he didn't have enough time to do that, incidentally, before the girls arrived.

What does Teo think?

He doesn't think anything. His mind is snowing static. Emily and Nathalie have already courteously addressed any number of obvious tactical concerns, and he isn't Wolfhound, so.

"Will you have enough energy to heal Eileen afterward?" is the question Teo asks, at last. "She can't explain if she's dead."

That sounds meaner than Teodoro intended. He doesn't fix it.

"I'll call," Nathalie promises Scott. Updates will come as promptly as she can manage. She watches him for a long moment before her attention turns to Teo. Apparently, it doesn't occur to her that it's rude to stare, because she does as he settles into a seat. It's only when she realizes that he hasn't reached out to his husband that she seems to notice that maybe she's in the way.

"She isn't going to die," is her reply, which isn't any kinder, really, and doesn't hold any promise about her own future contributions. But it's truthful, at least. She pushes up to her feet, letting Francois go for the moment. "This is my priority right now." Pointing a finger toward Emily, she starts to move in that direction, too. "I'm gonna go with Em and get some coffee for myself, too. Recharge. Come back and go again. We'll be a little while." She has to go drain some people. Like a dusty vampire.

But also, maybe give Teo a moment to process without an audience.

They'll take the long way to the cafeteria.

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