Foxes and Wolves


colette_icon.gif sasha2_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif tasha_icon.gif

Scene Title Foxes and Wolves
Synopsis Among the expected visitors at her bedside, Tasha finds a stranger with an even stranger connection to her.
Date August 13, 2010

Staten Island Nature Center

The triage is a strange paradox — the hustle and bustle of medics coming and going, checking in on the injured, in contrast to the too-still, too-quiet bodies of the most grievously wounded among them. Conversations are spoken in low, quiet voices out of respect for those trying to rest and deference to those who are grieving over lost comrades.

In one corner, perhaps the youngest of the injures, Tasha Oliver lies in a fitful sleep. Those who have kept vigil over the past few hours have seen her rise up from nonreactive unconsciousness to something more like slumber, complete with whimpers and the fluttering eyelids caused by REM.

The bandage at her throat looks a little worse for wear, the adhesive peeling up a touch where her fingers have pulled at it now and then, and there is a touch of brownish-red on the gauze, the blood having seeped through the stitched wound. If her head hadn't been turned — if the bullet had struck just a touch lower — Tasha would not be on this cot at all. She is one of the lucky ones.

It hasn't been an easy night for the young woman seated at Tasha's bedside either. Colette Nichols looks for all her worth like she's been dragged through Hell and back face first. Blood has dried on her cheeks in thin lines, her hands are tinted pink despite efofrts to wash them clean, and her clothing has splotches of rust-colored stains deeply soaked into the fabric.

Seated on an upturned milk crate by Tasha's bedside, she has only left the once when Elisabeth stopped by to make sure she'd eaten and encourged the teen to try and wash up. Now, she's back by the brunette's bedside, both of her hands wrapped around one of Tasha's, brows furrowed and jaw set tightly to still it from the emotional wobble it would give should she not focus on looking strong.

Dark circles under Colette's puffy red eyes shows both the time she spent crying in the washroom instead of actually cleaning up, and the desheveled quality of her black hair is indicative of the rough ride from the hospital out to the Greenbelt after being brought to safety by Kris Bender.

What hurts most about all of this, is being unable to divide herself equally between the injured that she worries about. Magnes is near to death where he is being treated, and she'd heard the owrds surgery several times in the presence of the medical staff that was tending to his abdominal injury. Gillian, too, is worse for wear from blood loss, but at least Colette is comforted that the Lighthouse operator has a guardian angel all her own perched at her bedside.

Yet Colette is here, because she is allowing herself to be selfish. Because she knows that out of the three of them, if something happened to Tasha and she wasn't there, she'd never forgive herself.

There's one person here who wasn't part of either last night's mission or the triage efforts, for all that she looks like she should have been. Unkempt blonde hair falls forward unbound to frame a face lightly smudged by dirt; one definite streak cuts down across her right cheekbone, a second below and almost parallel to the left arch. Her clothes — apple-green tee and tan shorts — probably date from yesterday, like those of the others here; the girl's sandaled feet are dark with dust, suggesting she's walked quite a ways already this morning.

Two slim-fingered hands set themselves on Colette's shoulders, squeezing briefly. Tamara Brooks doesn't say a word, however; only looks at the unconscious Tasha over the seated girl's head, wearily silent.

The man leaning a shoulder into the wall by the window in the background isn't dressed like a doctor, but the same is true of the other volunteers dedicating their time to the wounded. There are no white coats here, no glossy name badges or intercom system for paging — the most sophisticated technology available for relaying messages are the cell phones that some people are fortunate enough to be able to afford, and if it wasn't for Wireless and Rebel, they wouldn't be able to safely use them inside field hospital.

One of the first things Sasha was supposed to learn when he started practicing is never to form personal attachments to his patients, and for the most part this has never been a difficult requirement for him to fulfill, but there's a distinct difference between treating the victim of a car wreck at the emergency room at a hospital in St. Petersburg and one of the two other survivors that were on his team when they were ambushed by a fucking M60 Batton battle tank.

In his professional opinion, anyway.

This is the first chance he's had to break since arriving at the nature center, and the ex-Vanguard operative has used the opportunity to enjoy a cigarette he lifted off one of his other patients. Smoking is a habit he picked up during his time with the military and, unlike his drinking, has put down multiple times since. He indulges when he's stressed — its orange glow, made seemingly brighter by the darkness that's yet to lift outside — is all that betrays his concern for the injured young woman on the cot a few feet away.

The somber, still scene is suddenly interrupted when the girl on the cot bolts upright — whatever it was she was seeing behind those fluttering eyelids having startled her into wakefulness. Tasha gasps for breath, her heart pounding, and the act of opening her mouth and sucking in air brings the pain of her injury into her suddenly awakened consciousness.

Her hand goes to her throat and feels the bandage, and her eyes fall upon the rest of her surroundings. She makes a strangled little whimper, turning to her side and seeing Colette and Tamara, noting first the blood on the other brunette's clothing, face — everywhere. "Oh, my God, Colette!"

It would have been a cry, if her throat wasn't swollen, but instead it's hoarse, a loud husky whisper. Her legs slide from the bed and to the floor as Tasha tries to rise. Her eyes dip closed as it's too much too soon and she manages not to faint, but stays put for the time being.

Having been startled from her thoughts by the touch of Tamara's hands, Colette's back straightens and her eyes move to settle down on one of the hands. The vision of the reciprocal half to her own puzzle ring immediately stills the anxiety bristling in her posture and instead instills an immediate sense of calm. Mis-matched eyes fall shut and Colette leans her head to the side towards that ring-laden hand, resting her cheek against the back of Tamara's knuckles. She turns her chin, letting lips ghost across Tamara's knuckles along with a heavily exhaled sigh through her nose.

It's only when Tasha jolts to consciousness that Colette moves from the comfort of Tamara's hands to lean forward towards Tasha, still squeezing that hand in one of hers, but the other reaches out to rest a hand on her shoulder and then ghost up to cup her cheek. "It— it's okay— I'm— " Smiling is hard, talking is even harder, and it's obvious that Colette is on the verge of tears again. "Not— the one in bed." She laughingly breathes those words, then notices the orange glow in her peripheral vision situated in the dark of that doorway.

Colette has seen Sasha Kozlow before, but only here and never with a name attached. "Doctor…" is as good enough as any name, apt even if perhaps a bit ironic given his former job description.

Tamara lets her hands fall back so Colette can lean forward, fingers passing briefly through dark hair, blue eyes resting on Tasha. "Stay there," she directs the injured girl, before looking towards Sasha. The seeress tips her head to one side, expression thoughtful, then smiles lopsidedly at the medic, her fingers wiggling momentarily in a genial wave. I see you watching there.

A short-lived pressure on Colette's shoulder is silent indicator for her to also stay put, before the scuff of sandals on floor report Tamara's departure. She walks past Sasha with a warm smile and a few murmured words — "It's okay to go in, you know" — before slipping out into the corridor beyond.

Sasha tenses at the sudden movement — instinct — and lowers the cigarette from his mouth between two bent fingers. Blue eyes drift from the young women to the other side of the room, searching for the halo produced by the overhead lights reflecting off flame-red hair, but they're either too dim or Megan is elsewhere in the center, hidden away behind one of the crisp white sheets that have been hung up between cots to sequester the most serious patients from view.

He watches Tamara go before he reluctantly peels away from the wall, taps off the accumulated ash into a trash bin stuffed with bloodied gauze stained with what looks like it might be iodine, and moves across to Tasha's bedside.

"You're okay?" Tasha whispers to Colette, then glances up at Tamara as she slips away, her eyes darting down the length of the blonde to see for herself that Tamara is safe. "You're not hurt?" she asks, her hands grabbing for Colette's, even as she collapses back onto the bed. Her eyes close slowly, as if she might fall asleep yet again, but she opens them with some effort.

"What happened?" she manages to ask, a flinch at the words as every movement of her swollen throat makes that injury more and more obvious. One hand releases Colette's as she touches the bandage, giving a shake of her head. "I don't remember… we're on Staten? I don't remember what happened."

"I followed orders," isn't quite the same as agreeing that she's fine, but Colette really isn't; not emotionally, anyway. There's a feigned smile offered before Colette's mis-matched eyes drift up to Sasha on approach, then settle back to Tasha, fingers up to brush across the bandage at her throat. "Shhh," she insists with a touch of her fingers up along the side of Tasha's neck, then one finger over her lips. "Lie down and— and don't push yourself. I— I dunno what happened, you were here at the field hospital when I got here."

Glancing over her shoulder to where Tamara disappeared to, Colette slides her tongue across her lips, then looks back to Sasha. "What— what's wrong with her voice? Is she— she's gonna' be okay, right?" One half blind and the other half mute, if Tamara lost some of her sense of hearing they'd be halfway towards some sort of bad joke.

"It is not uncommon to forget," says Sasha, more for Colette's benefit than his patient's. He takes another drag from his cigarette, then touches the tips of his fingers to his throat where Tasha's is bandaged to indicate the wound. "Some stitches," he explains. "Do not pick at them. I have been told that your Ferry has a supply of antibiotics — she will need to take them for at least two weeks. Maybe she remembers, maybe not."

English is not his first language. He shrugs. "Better this way."

The last several hours are foggy, but Tasha's brown eyes focus on Sasha's. "I remember being on Staten. I remember you," she whispers, with a nod toward Sasha. "I just don't remember… what happened." Her eyes drop to look at his hand and back up into his blue eyes. The fact he has a Russian accent seems important, but she can't quite figure out why.

"What happened to my neck?" she asks, brows contorting in curiosity and confusion as she lies her head back on the cot. "How's everyone else?" the makeshift curtains keep her from being able to see the number of injured people in the triage center. Her hand tightens on Colette's and she turns to look at the blood stains on the other teen, and she shakes her head — it reminds her of vision, all that blood staining her shirt, the falling knife. Her eyes close to keep out the image. "Who did we lose?" she whispers.

"I don't really know," Colette offers in a hushed tone of voice, rising up off of the milk crate she'd been seated on to take up residence on the side of Tasha's bed, still holding that one hand, fingers now laced together. "We got everyone we could out of the hospital, but— I— I don't think we got everyone. Gillian, Lynette, Teo, some Japanese girl… two others, I think. Magnes got pretty hurt, I— " Colette looks up to Sasha for a moment, brows furrowed, then shakes her head and looks back to Tasha.

"It'll be okay," is the dismissal of that entire line of conversation, better to not speak of those lost than bring up how grim things really are. "I— I've just been here with you most've the time, I'm… I'm sure somebody'll know what happened once you're feeling better." Swallowing noisily, Colette looks back up to Sasha again.

"Thank you," she croakingly offers, eyes glassy and a small, blood-pinked hand offered up to the Doctor. "I— I'm Colette, and— th-thanks for taking care of her. I don't— I don't know how to thank you. Are you…" her brows furrow together, "are you in the network? There's— there's so many people here I don't recognize."

The blonde returns with the same lack of fanfare by which she left, her hands now burdened by several items. She looks up at Sasha as she steps up beside the Russian, meanwhile pressing a glass of water into Tasha's free hand. The little bottle of aspirin is dropped to a rattled landing in the cot where the girl can avail herself of them if or when she chooses. "Wolves run in packs," she tells Colette, completely matter-of-fact in tone. "When they go with anyone at all."

Upon that statement, Tamara moves around the cot to join Colette on the other side. The satchel slung over her shoulder is dropped down to where she can hand it to the younger girl. "These were for you. Both of you."

Sasha's brows bend down at Tasha's question. He presses his lips around the cigarette's filter and averts his eyes, casting his gaze out the darkened window and the vague silhouettes of trees on the other side of the glass, the rainwater forming silver threads that then wind across its pane. "It is still too soon for numbers," he says gently, or at least as gently as his coarse voice is capable, "but Yuan Tien lost twenty-one." He studies her reflection in the glass. "You are very lucky, lapushka."

Tamara's return spares him the awkwardness of having to explain his affiliation. The piece of red fabric that he'd knotted around his bicep on the battlefield hangs with his jacket over the back of a chair elsewhere in the center, leaving him dressed in a long-sleeved black shirt that clings closely to his athletic frame and a pair of drab olive pants, military-grade. He narrows his eyes at the sibyl, saying nothing else.

At the placement of the glass in her hand, Tasha glances down, then back up at Tamara, smiling softly. "Thanks," is her hoarse reply, before taking a sip. While the fluid tastes good and refreshes her dry mouth, the mechanics of swallowing make Tasha wince and cough just a little. She holds her hand out to the side to keep the water from spilling on her with the shaking of her thin frame.

Her eyes move back to Sasha and those brows contort. "Twenty-one," she whispers, and her head shakes. "Tien — Tien's okay? You were there… you and … Tien is okay, isn't he?" her voice rises in volume though not in quality and she coughs again, her eyes flashing with some frustration. "I'm okay. I can help take care of people. I don't need to be in bed."

That Tamara answers for Sasha says something, and the look of puzzlement at the comment of wolves running in packs has her briefly lost in consideration of the context. She's never heard Tamara use that specific animal allusion before, which may be more significant than Colette realizes.

There's a soft sigh that slips past Colette's nose though, when it becomes clear that Sasha chooses to avoid answering with his name, though her rumination on that is cut short — likely intentionally — by the delivery of the satchel of clothing. There's a softer sigh of entirely different emotional content on taking the bag, giving it a squeeze to feel the shape and rigidity of the contents before pulling the top flap open where she sits at Tasha's bedside. There's a furrow of her brows when she inspects the clothing inside, one brow raising before looking up to Tamara thoughtfully, then slowly closes the flap down and crookedly smiles. Whatever it was that Tamara picked out for her, it seems to have given the teen a reason to smile, even if ever so brief.

"I saw Tien a little while ago," Colette offers with a slow nod, "he uh, he came by to check on you. I was too— distracted to ask him what happened, too worried, I…" Cutting herself off, Colette looks down and away, then up to Sasha with one brow raised. "Are you the one who took care of her?"

Two pairs of blue eyes meet across the cot, and Tamara tips her head the other way before simply offering Sasha a slow, rueful smile. Altogether too much as if she knows the thought behind his consideration. "We are all ourselves," she tells the Russian, as if to reassure. Whether the words are reassuring, of course, depends on the listener.

"You stay," the seeress tells Tasha as she takes one step back towards the bed: if I have to insist I will. "Then wasn't here. Water's just water and you almost fell over." There's a momentary pause before Tamara continues. "Do you want breakfast?"

She doesn't ask Colette; maybe the other girl will simply have to live with Tasha's answer. Or else Tamara isn't giving her a choice.

Perplexed, Sasha almost forgets to address Colette in the midst of Tamara's explanation. He has more difficulty following her train of thought than a native speaker might, and a few moments of silence from his corner elapse before he remembers. "Yes," he tells Colette, drawing out the single syllable. "I was."

Not am. "There should be no complications, but it is safest if she stays here for another day, two. The hunter follows the fox back to her earth — they will be waiting for us to come out again."

"Thank you," Tasha manages, realizing this man was the one to help her from whatever trauma she has been through — the answer to that question never really answered. Maybe Tien will tell her later. She laughs at Tamara's bossy insistence, but the sound is a broken soft chuckle that is halted as soon as it is begun. Laughter seems out of place in this quiet infirmary, anyway.

The word fox brings Tasha's dark eyes back to Sasha's face. Her last name means Fox in French. Her mother's last name. There's something about Russians and her mother that her pain-addled brain just can't quite grasp. She looks to Colette and tilts her head. Does Colette know?

Shaking her head as if to shake out the cobwebs, Tasha closes her eyes and refocuses, this time on Tamara. "No, no food, no thank you," she says, very decidedly.

"You're going to eat breakfast or I'll sit on your chest and force-feed you," Nnnnope. "I mean it!" Scooting just a touch closer to Tasha, Colette worriedly creases her brows and squeezes the brunette's hand, then looks back to Tamara. "She'll have like soup or something, 'cause it'd be easy to swallow. But she'll eat or I'll totally get the Doctor here to stick an IV in your arm," and Colette whips back around to brandish an accusing finger at Tasha at that, then points down to her arm and back up again.

Trying to restrain a smile, Colette finds it easy to swallow it down when there's a shout of pain from across the field hospital. The young woman winces, hunching her shoulders forward as she looks towards the sound at a bed surrounded by clotheslines and curtains, then looks away and down to the floor. The reality of the situation just hit her again.

Tamara offers Tasha a flickered grin, then turns away from the injured artist to regard Colette. She brushes her fingers through Colette's hair, then sets two fingers beneath the younger girl's chin, nudging it up until their gazes meet. "We are all here," she says softly. Although, after the seeress' momentary pause to give Colette's shoulder another reassuring squeeze, one of them soon isn't. She's off to find useful things again.

"Just broth at most," Tasha argues though she smirks and stifles a giggle at Colette's antics. When that cry of pain comes, Tasha strokes Colette's arm, her own eyes worried as she peers up at the mix-matched gaze. She nods at Tamara's words. "We're all here," she whispers, turning to smile at Tamara, but getting her retreating back instead. She'll have soup whether she likes it or not.

Sasha's silence has her glance his way again, and she smiles toward him a little uncertainly. "I'm Tasha, by the way. That's Tamara. This is Colette," she introduces in her husky voice, maybe forgetting if it's already been done. Then a little out of the blue, or so it probably seems to both Sasha and Colette, "This is a weird question, but were you here in June? When we all had visions? Did you have one about a woman you don't know, maybe looks like me a little?" Abrupt and to the point, sometimes she is like her parents.

He'd been about to leave, turn on a booted heel, duck around the nearest sheet and seek out Jensen Raith, wherever he is, because if anyone in the hospital has a flask of hard liquor on them it's his old friend Vithar, but—

Irritably, he breaks the cigarette between his fingers and flicks both pieces into the rubbish. When he looks at Tasha again, his blue eyes have gone sharp and he scrutinizes her face for the first time instead of the gauze at her throat, where his focus had primarily rested before. She's young, attractive with a vulnerable mouth and kind eyes— the kind of woman he'd have considered courting in St. Petersburg or preyed on in Grozny if she were Chechen.

Sasha is two very different people: the man he pretended to be for his parents and younger sister, and the man who has never felt more comfortable in his own skin than he did torturing people for his superiors. Problematically, he's not sure which one he is right now. "Bee-bottom?" he tries, somewhat lamely.

Cue Colette's face going ghost-white and her eyes slowly widening. She doesn't — can't — say anything, because all of the sudden what Tasha has said and what Sasha has confirmed is the absolute affirmation that these visions are connected. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she's thinking about the video camera on the night stand by her bed, thinking about what opportunity she's missed here. "Oh— God…" is a croaked attempt at speaking, but Colette simply can't manage it.

The gravity of finding another vision so intimately tied together as her own and Tasha's is harrowing, to say the least. More so when it's the life of Tasha's mother that is the topic of conversation. Or, more realistically, the lack thereof.

Coincidence or fate? Tasha's blood-shot eyes widen. It was all based on the fact he was Russian, and she simply hasn't met another Russian. It wasn't a logical leap of conclusions to make, and if she was feeling better, if her mind were clearer, she probably wouldn't have made it at all. "That was my mother," she whispers, and at once those wide eyes are pleading as she sits up again, hand lifting as if to reach for Sasha before dropping onto her lap. There's nothing he can do now.

"She told me about her vision and … please, mister, if you see her that day, make sure it doesn't happen? What she saw?" She doesn't know how to handle this — should she ask him to avoid Joanna completely? Will that keep her mother safe, or will it just mean that her mother dies in a parking garage with no one there to help her? "I … I don't know how to stop that future but please…" Tears slide down her cheeks as she looks at the man who may have saved her life last night, as she asks him to save her mother's — somehow.

It's a small world. City. Whichever. Sasha exhales through his nostrils, wipes off greasy smears of ash on his shirt and is suddenly looking very uncomfortable for someone in an environment where he usually thrives under pressure. "She asked me to hold her hand," he tells Tasha, "and to tell you that she loves you."

He pauses, then. Comes to the abrupt realization that he's passed on a message someone hasn't yet left with him and feels the corners of his mouth hook up around a humourless smile. "What is your mother's name?"

Tasha presses her full lips into a thin line, giving a terse little nod as the tears in her eyes spill over onto her cheeks, mixing with the blood and soot there that's only been mostly washed away. Her neck, of course, is antiseptically clean since it's been stitched up. She swallows, wincing again at the pain. "Thank you," she whispers. The intent of the message, even though her mother is still alive, weighs heavily, making the already-known fact a treasure to cherish. Her mother's last words were for her.

Last words that haven't happened yet, and won't, if she can help it. "Joanna," she says quietly, glancing at Colette, unsure if she should admit the last name. After all, most of Ferry only knows her as Tasha Oliver.

Having restrained herself by Tasha's side, anchored herself with the holding of the brunette's hand. Colette sweeps her free arm around Tasha's shoulder, burying her nose in the girl's hair at the side of her head and closes her eyes. There's silence, while Tasha and the Russian doctor speak, but when there's that lull after Joanna's name is spoken, Colette opens her mis-matched eyes slowly and turns to look up at Sasha with a serious expression, her dark brows furrowed together intently.

"It isn't going to happen," Colette insists, "that future." Swallowing with a tight throat, her attention flicks askance to Tasha, then back up to her doctor again. "Because I know somebody who's gonna' stop it, fix everything, an'— an' then nobody'll have t'die."

Teeth press down on Colette's bottom lip, draw back until the lip escapes and her stare leveled on Sasha doesn't waver. "I'm not gonna' let it happen."

"The worst people to trust," Sasha warns Colette, "are the ones who make promises they do not know they can keep." Joanna alone isn't much for him to go off of, and for a moment there's a question on the tip of his tongue, but before it can find its voice he swallows it back down again. The girl isn't going anywhere, not for another day or two at least. What he said about the fox and the hunter is true but does not only apply to the armed forces patrolling the greenbelt's borders and the insurgents hiding inside.

Eventually, Tasha will go home to see her mother. With patience

"If you need anything," he says, finally turning to leave, "ask them for Kozlow."

"I know. I know. But if he does see her…" Tasha murmurs to Colette. They keep promising each other this, that it won't happen, that they won't let it happen, that everything is different. And yet here is the 'Russian' her mother doesn't know, now tied in an explicable way to her own life, someone she hadn't met until yesterday who carried her to safety. She can't remember the details, but his face, she saw in her dreams, and she felt that he was a friend as soon as she saw him in her little makeshift hospital room.

"Thank you, Mister Kozlow," she whispers, this whisper borne of emotion rather than the trauma to her throat.

Tamara must have known he was not going to sit with them, for when she passes him on the way back in with a tray of soup bowls, Kozlow's meal is handed to him in a mug.

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