Further Consequences


avi_icon.gif hana_icon.gif

Scene Title Further Consequences
Synopsis After getting Rue involved in a tangled affair, Avi brings a secret burden to Hana.
Date January 17, 2018

The Bunker

Nambiza. We need to talk.

Words fit to strike concern — or suspicion — into anyone's heart. These particular ones strike Hana while she is otherwise at ease, for given values of the phrase. Dressed down in white tanktop and charcoal pants, dark hair plastered to her skull with the sweat of a workout just completed, Hana pauses in the full extension of a stretch and glances towards the ceiling. Not that there's anything to see, no clues to be found either there or in the heavens beyond.

Training room, she sends back, digital missive utterly devoid of tone, and continues with her cooldown routine.

The gray vault that is Wolfhound's training room is otherwise unoccupied, its concrete floor softened by an array of exercise mats. There are no chairs, and even if there were, Hana would not seek one out — not in the wake of those words. She eschews the cane as well, leaving it where it rests against a wall and beside some other things, like water; she will meet Epstein standing solely on her own two feet. This may be a less than formal meeting, but with that prelude, it cannot be casual.

It's both a very short time before Avi steps in through the doorway, and a seeming eternity. Hana pivots to face him as if it were a natural step in her routine; perhaps it even is.

"What do we need to talk about?" is as neutral in person as was the remote summons; that's eminently typical of her in matters of business, which she is willing to give benefit of doubt this is. The guarded suspicion darkening her eyes is not so typical — or was not, until recently.

Avi’s posture is tense, possibly because he’s in a suit. When he shook off the trappings of the CIA and fell in with the Ferrymen, he by and large overturned his more formal attire as well for whatever functional and mostly-fitting clothing he could get his hands on. Today, it’s something more crisp and business-like. It looks new, possibly never worn. “I need to amend my official statement I made to you on the murder of Agent Lowell.”

Hands in his pockets, shoulders square, Avi faces Hana at a distance of about five feet. His weight, as always, is shifted to one foot to avoid putting pressure on his bad knee. The brace for which is hidden below the wide line of his slacks today, though Hana can still see its shape behind the fabric. “I withheld information from you.” That he withheld information from the government goes without saying. There’s tiers of responsibility, and he places Hana at the top of that particular pyramid.

The suit is an even worse sign than the words Epstein started with, but Hana pays it no outward attention. She regards him levelly, her first reaction to his declaration of amendment a slow, measured inhalation. Her jaw sets, and her eyes darken further, but — "Somehow, I am not actually surprised."

Not surprised. Only disappointed, a disappointment not presently reflected in the studied neutrality of her expression and tone.

"So. Report, Epstein."

A deflated sigh escaped Epstein, one hand coming up to scrub at the back of his neck. He takes a moment, head bowed, composing his thoughts. “I didn’t kill him in self-defense,” Avi admits in a mutter, letting tension turn into awkward pacing as he moves with a limping gait across the floor. “That ain’t gonna make any sense until I walk this back, though. So…” as he trails off, Avi is visibly chewing over his words.

“I didn’t tell you this, because there’s levels of trust in my life. Professional, personal, beyond personal.” He makes little chopping motions with one hand. “You’d been all the way in professional for a long time. There’s some shit you’ll just never know, because it doesn’t impact the job.” But then, he’s here, and he’s telling her. “This shit spilled over the partition. Personal got into business. Fucked up everyone.”

As he circles back, Avi looks more nervous than Hana’s ever seen him. Even in the face of getting sent back to Liberty Island. His own welfare doesn’t make him nervous. He’s never nervous when his own life or safety is on the line. It’s the other, then. “A few years back, in 2015, I got a call from a contact in the Safe Zone Military Police. They…” Avi bobbles his head from side to side. “Sometimes they’d roll through orphanages, look for SLC-E kids, figure out what they could do and register them. Wards of the state, useful future assets I guess. They keep a close eye on them through the foster system.”

Rubbing a hand at his mouth, Avi steps around in a slow circle again. “I get this call about one of the kids. MP tells me one of the nuns at Saint Margaret’s was worried about one of the girl’s they had. Didn’t want her winding up with the regular care system, she had some kind of either unmanifested or poorly understood ability. They were worried about her safety.” Avi’s tongue presses to his cheek, and he faces Hana again.

“This kid, Sibyl Black?” Avi looks away from Hana, unable to make eye contact. “Fucking…” he breathes in deeply. “I do a favor. I go down to the church and I talk to this kid, do an interview. Figured I might be able to pawn her off on Gillian, somebody who’s good with troubled kids. I get her in a room, tell her who I am.” Avi looks back up to Hana. “You know what she tells me?”

Avi stares for a moment. “She tells me she didn’t die.” A hand comes up to his mouth, scrubs again. He breathes in deeply, and the story is getting disjointed. The next sentence is a hammer blow, making the rest of the story even more disconnected seeming. “She’s Ruskin. The kid was Eileen Ruskin.”

He paces; she stands stationary, intent gaze following his every move. He paces, dodges eye contact with every turn, gives every evidence of nerves. Justifiable nerves. In contrast, Hana only grows more still as Epstein continues, tension coiling ever-tighter within her frame. The kind of tension that, five or seven years ago, would have expressed itself through pinning him to a wall, or perhaps just dumping him on the floor — but she's tempered those responses since, leashed them, even if some days it's difficult.

Right now, that's very difficult. But Hana's able to hold herself motionless while Epstein tells the story of a girl…

…right up until he names names. Real names.

Hana's fingers curl into white-knuckled fists, a low growl rumbling out as it's her turn to pivot, to walk half the length of the largely featureless space, bare feet quiet as they step from mats to cool concrete. She thinks as she strides, strides as she thinks, pieces slotting into place and their associations, significance, veracity all tested.

Epstein lied before, by his own admission; he could be lying now. Every new word from his mouth is cast under suspicion, shadowed by Hana's history with manipulation and deceit. Indeed, if not for the fact that their relationship has been so scrupulously professional, he could hardly have come up with a better hook for her — a rootless child, the name of someone lost who at the very least qualified as one of Hana's own… one in whose final actions (as best Hana was able to piece them together) the major saw altogether too much of herself.

Bennet could sell her a story like that, make it stick. Epstein? Even Hana's roused suspicion has to allow that to be… dubious.

Her pacing stops at last, her back to Epstein, spine rigid, hands still clenched. "And I should believe you now?" Hana snarls, biting edges wrapped around the core of hurt she's trying not to reveal. Trying, and not quite succeeding. She whirls around, swiftly crosses the distance between them as if it didn't even exist, stares into his eyes with a focused intensity of presence that nearly makes her seem the taller one.

"Go ahead. Tell me the rest."

Avi squares Hana a look that for a moment feels tense and slightly off from the way his glass eye doesn’t dilate or meet her stare. But then, shoulders rise up, hands too in a helpless shrug. “I’d tell you to ask her yourself, except I have no right fucking idea what happened to her…” Epstein brings up a hand and brushes his knuckles against his cheek. Glibness is clamped down, it’s challenging, he hasn’t had to carry himself in this level of professionalism in a long while.

“Sibyl is and isn’t Eileen. Sometimes she is, sometimes she isn’t. Most of the time she’s some sort of… pastiche?” He squints, is that the right word? He rolls with it, owns it. “She knows things only Eileen could know, stuff about my eye, personal shit only she and I ever talked about. My biological daughter, my ex-wife. Jensen.” Avi looks away at that, down to the floor. “But it comes in fits and starts, like… Eileen isn’t all there. I don’t know how to explain it, and frankly I didn’t want to. I paid the nuns fifteen hundred dollars to keep their mouths shut, and effectively adopted her.”


“Rented a place in the Safe Zone under an alias, let her stay there. All my trips back? Checking up on her. She’s only 13, but she’s… capable. Old for her years, but not as much as she should be.” Avi looks away again, one hand rubbing over his mouth. “The more Eileen she is, the worse Sibyl is when she’s… less Eileen. The kid gets scared, disassociates. If I didn’t know it any better I’d say she was fucking possessed, like Volken.”

The last bit has Avi staring off in the distance. “I made… a call. Eileen died, long time ago. Whatever the fuck it is inside of her isn’t Sibyl. Isn’t Eileen.” Not enough for Avi to call her by her name, only in definitions and qualifications. “If anybody knew who she was…” Avi doesn’t finish that, lets Hana fill in the gaps. Either she’ll understand his reasoning, or she won’t. “I tried t’keep her safe.”

Hand over his mouth, Avi sighs into his palm. The hand sweeps down, both find their way to a pocket after unbuttoning the front of his suit jacket so he can affect a more relaxed posture. “So July.” He tries drawing this story together. “I was late heading back to the SZ. Apartment was empty, so I tracked Sibyl to the Red Hook Market, she likes going there. Usually it isn’t a problem, I taught her how to elude a tail, how to take care of herself.” Survival skills, surely the normal things a man teaches a thirteen year old. “She was being followed, it was dark and raining. Guy comes up on her, I can see he’s got a gun. I grab her, pull her out of sight, and right when the guy notices us I take him down.”

Tension slacks out of Avi’s shoulders as he exhales a breath. “Thought he was a human trafficker from Staten. Fuck, maybe he was both. He got a couple of shots off into the air, MPs heard. I found his ID in his wallet… turned myself in.” Avi looks up to Hana, brows tense. Uncertain of her. “I sent Sibyl to Gillian Childs. She was our failsafe if shit went sideways.”

Then, filling in another gap, Avi adds. “I sent Rue down to the Safe Zone to check on the kid, see if she could find her. Rue… doesn’t know who she really is. I told her she’s my daughter. That I was worried. She… didn’t find Sibyl, but got jumped by some Pure Earth fucker who was casing the old apartment. A SESA agent — didn’t get a name — wound up saving her. I realized this was way the fuck outside of my control.” He says in vast understatement. “Realized that I either trust you implicitly, or I don’t trust you at all.”

Avi spreads his hands. “I decided not to pack up and run.”

There's precious little feedback from Hana as Epstein continues his tale — no wavering of her attention, no shift in posture, and above all… no sound. No words, no exclamations, not even a snarl. Not until the mention of a failsafe — that evokes a flicker in Hana's expression.

It's his involvement of Rue, though, that gets Avi a sudden right hook to the jaw. The last straw, the breaking point of Hana's restraint: the man has essentially compromised two of her proteges to some degree or another.

And it remains an open question how much she trusts him from this point forth.

That fracture, fortunately for Epstein, is brief. Uncurling and recurling her hands once, Hana pivots, walks forcefully in an arc that takes her away and then back around again all too soon. "You should not have involved Lancaster in your personal fuckup," she snarls, statement a whipcrack through the hall. "You should have trusted me years ago."

Should have brought the girl to Rochester goes unspoken, but looms large between them. If he had, they could have avoided every fucking bit of the hot water Wolfhound is now in.

Hana runs her hands through her hair, leans her head back and closes her eyes, breathes out. "What do you expect me to do with this now, Epstein?" the major snaps a moment later, gaze dropping to fix intently on him.

She's already thinking, evaluating, considering. But she wants to hear if he has anything actually useful to say.

“Fuck if I know,” Epstein says with a slight impediment as he works his jaw from side to side. He’s a few staggered paces away from Hana now, politely not spitting the blood in his mouth onto the floor. One hand massages the spot at his cheek adjacent to the impact, tongue checks teeth to make sure he hasn’t lost any more. Whatever’s left is still accounted for. “I didn’t come to you for a fucking solution, I would’ve done that two years ago if I wanted your help.

Still massaging his jaw, Avi makes a face after he thinks about how that last part sounded. “Look, I didn’t want that kid around this shit. Around you, around any of this life. Ruskin’s life was fucked up beyond repair by being around this kind of shit,” and ex-Nazis. But that goes unsaid. “I thought maybe… whoever the fuck she is, she could have a life of her own for fucking once.”

He doesn’t try and justify his use of Lancaster. “I don’t know how much of this shit is related to the spooks that tried to put one in my head on Liberty Island. I don’t know if this is a fucking vendetta from Pure Earth for all the boots we’ve put in Humanis First’s ass…” Exhaling a heavy sigh, Avi looks around the training room, then paces in another anxious circle. “I don’t know…”

Avi mirrors Hana’s earlier gesture, running a hand through his hair. “The guy who came after Lancaster was evolved. Electrokinetic. SESA agent? I don’t know. But the whole fucking thing makes me nauseous. They had eyes on that property there was no paper trail to, they tagged Rue, and a SESA agent just happened to be nearby? And he lets her go without filing a report?” Tongue brushing over aching teeth again, Avi trails off and leaves the possibilities hanging. It’s clear the situation is deeper than he’d realized, and now it leaves a child dangling in the wind.

“You’re right,” is something Avi doesn’t say often, even when she is. “I should’ve come t’you sooner. Demsky probably wouldn’t be…” he makes an angry noise in the back of his throat. “She shouldn’t have ever fucking…” he swallows that down. “Like I told you after DHS let me loose, the guy interrogating me was asking all sorts of fucking questions about the Ferrymen, old contacts, safehouses. I came t’you because I realized I’d fucked up by trying to compartmentalize this shit. Because, it ain’t compartmentalized. Something is going the fuck on.”

Hana slants a dark look at Avi for sake of his spiel — not wanting her help, not wanting 'this life' for the girl. One of those, she faults, files away on the negative side of a mental ledger; the other, she not only understands, but agrees with. There is, however, no gain in belaboring what should have been, in proposing alternatives that no longer matter, in dragging out recriminations for choices made years past.

There is also no satisfaction in being declared right, rare though that admission is. Hana knows she is, does not need external validation — and the problems that face them are more important than any petty bickering. For the same reason, she doesn't dwell on mention of Demsky.

"No," the major agrees at last, her posture straightening in a way that speaks more of business than personal. There's still some compartmentalization to be had. "We've definitely stumbled into something."

Hana remains still now, fingers loosely interlaced before her, demeanor neutral and aloof as she proceeds to leave the subject of that something behind. "There's not much I can do to find the girl." He could have given her a phone, a tracker. Could have had a line of contact to her no matter where in the entire world she wound up. But Epstein chose otherwise. "Either she returns to Gillian, she reaches out to you, or…" …she doesn't.

Voice trailing off into silence, she turns, walks, makes her way over to the things she's set aside. Hana scoops up her water, takes a long drink; eyes closed, she lowers the metal bottle and draws in a slow breath before continuing, not looking back towards Avi. "I'll keep an alert open for her name," the major allows, the sole concession she can reasonably offer.

There are other things she could say. Intel to dissect, hypotheticals to argue over, lines of investigation to consider. But…

For all that Epstein's committed to trusting her now, that trust no longer runs so solidly in both directions.

Instead, Hana falls silent, regarding the distance beyond a featureless wall.

Slowly, Avi walks up beside Hana and keeps one hand at the back of his neck. “I'm gonna do something that probably makes this worse for you,” isn't the most comforting thing for him to say after so much awkward silence. The demeanor Avi takes, the stance, all of it is in incongruent with not only his professional dress but the demeanor in which he's carried himself as a member of Wolfhound and his time as a broken alcoholic with the Ferrymen.

“Fifteen years ago the CIA shoved four people from different branches of the armed forces together. Those assholes became the closest thing to family I was ever able to keep.” Epstein looks down at his feet, shoulders hunched and head slowly tilting to the side. “They were rocks for me when my boy died. Now Kershner’s… dead, I figure. Raith’s barely there anymore. Lancaster’s…” he waves a hand in the air.

“Look,” Avi exhales a sigh and closes his eyes. “I spent a lot of time before the war mourning friends, mourning people I trusted who betrayed me, mourning family. Mourning people that were like family.” Eileen, somehow. “When I joined up with you it was to kill people that deserved it. Because I just didn't see a fucking point in anything else.”

Quiet for a moment, Avi chews his words. “You're not who I thought you were. Working with you’s been some of the best time of my life, and I cut around that with a fucking knife because I’d been there before and lost it all. I'm too fucking old to stand over your grave and mourn someone that I'd trusted.”

Closing his eyes, Avi steps away from Hana. “It doesn't change anything,” he ultimately confirms. “Choices, actions, what the fuck ever. But choices without context are misleading. I've misled you enough times, because I'm a selfish old fucking man.” Turning to walk away, Avi tucks his hands into the pockets of his slacks. “So that's the context. You're a good leader, a good peer, and I'm scared that I might think of you as a friend I can trust.”

Quiet, again, Avi looks back at Hana. “Let me know what — if anything — you want me to do about this shit I've taken on your doorstep.”

Hana's eyes close as Avi begins to speak, as she waits for that threatened other shoe to drop. There's a slight lowering of her shoulders at the mention of family, a slow breath out, but it likely escapes Avi's attention. For all that she's less than two-thirds his age, altogether too much of what he says resonates with Hana — family, betrayal, mourning.

The difference is, she seems doomed to repeat the same patterns, rather than preemptively destroying their potential… or the potential of something different.

Only when Avi steps away does Hana open her eyes, turning to face him even as he withdraws. Picking up the cane but not using it, she strides forward, closing the distance he's opened; if there's a slight hitch in her gait, it's something the major considers utterly beneath notice.

"I want you to not lie to me, Avi." Avi, not Epstein, a single word that shifts the entire nature of the conversation. Inserting herself in front of him, Hana stares up into his eyes, grim resolution layered over shadows both new and old. "We'll deal with the shit." Whether or not she believes his revised story, the fallout's not exactly going away anytime soon; dealing with it is not optional.

"You're one of mine," Hana reminds him, jabbing a hand at his chest. There is no softness in that statement, no graceful sentiment; it is instead voiced with the emphatic intensity of steel and fire, certainty and determination. Such possessiveness may not be the same as family… but that word lurks around the edges, in the spaces between, not so very far away at all. "I will back you to the hilt… right up until you force me to choose between you and my convictions." She turns away, eyes closing, shoulders rounding in marked contrast to the fixed rigidity of her spine. There are memories in that motion, losses, ghosts. There was almost one more — almost two.

"That only ever ends one way."

Whatever stories underlie that admission, that warning, Hana keeps them to herself as she strides towards the door.

Avi is as motionless as a prey animal in the presence of a predator when Hana jabs that finger into his chest, both wary and fascinated. “I can’t make promises,” Avi calls after her, a but clearly hanging out at the end of that comment. “When you live your whole life learning how to lie to people, learning how to untie a lie is… harder.” But then, even more guilty than he felt earlier because she called him Avi, he exhales a snort and scrubs at the back of his neck.

“But, I can try.” It’s more than he’s promised to most, and more than he’d promised to the Ferry back in the day. But this isn’t the Ferrymen, and Hana Gitelman isn’t the same woman she was back then. “But that street goes both ways, even if it pisses us both off that I just said that.” The corner of his mouth threatens a smile, more nervous than earnest, but something.

They had to start somewhere.

It comes as no surprise to Avi when the words he calls after cause Hana to stop short, to cast a dark glare over one shoulder, and then to resume moving swiftly down the hall without speaking so much as a word.

Some things change. Some need to be started over. And others ever remain exactly the same.

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