avi_icon.gif devon3_icon.gif emily2_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif

Scene Title Gotcha~
Synopsis The walls close in around the Epsteins.
Date December 17, 2018

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

A few weeks have passed since an awkward brunch turned into an enjoyable movie. Casual conversation resumed over the days, mainly through sporadic texts since Devon had returned to Rochester. November and it's remembrance ceremonies and holiday gave way with none of the excitement that most still remember from years past— the war seems to have taken care of all those — and December has quietly arrived. With the turning of another month came a new request.

Meet me at Raytech, check in for your badge and go to the computer lounge third floor. Bring snacks.

It might seem like an odd text, but Dev is renowned for forgetting to include specifics. Anyone from his circle can explain that's just the way he is. And it proves to be in his usual fashion that, while strange, there's nothing nefarious waiting.

The lights are low, but there's a cheery glow spilling into the hall. Inside, several tables have been pushed aside and against walls, but one with a computer sits near the back. A projector has been set up, displaying a beautiful 16-bit world made up of bright colors and animated characters. The pitchy music of Super Mario Kart comes merrily from speakers hidden around the ceiling.

Devon is seated in a comfortable chair, probably borrowed from one of the nearby offices. There's three or four others also, unoccupied. In his hands is a controller, and he's intent on the screen. Maneuvering the koopa car through the Star Cup is no easy feat.

“What the fuck, Devon.” Emily laughs from the doorway after she finally peeks in. She can’t help herself, seeing just what she is in the darkened room. At first she’d questioned if he wasn’t there at all yet, followed by seeing what was projecting, and finally who was the one playing.

She’d had the same reaction to the text, though the tone then was far less amused.

Being that it was Raytech, she has no concern at all about clearing the doorway, or navigating inside with her wheelchair. Her worn, cerulean backpack is strapped to the back of it, sagging under the weight of items zipped in. The expression she wears as she nears the front of the lounge is incredulous, the light of the projected game reflecting from her eyes. “You brought your games?”

Rainbow Road is the bane of all Mario Karters, and even Devon is failing to complete the race in a decent place standing. When Emily comes in, his little car is being returned to the track by Lakitu but he’s already fallen to sixth place by the time he has control again. The game is paused and the race exited when Emily finally comes through the doorway, and he half grins at her.

“I thought I’d let the twins try it out, if Harmony’ll let them.” He sets the controller aside and pushes his chair backward so he can pick up a canvas bag with a fair collection of old SNES games inside. “Never too young to lead Mario on adventures, or travel through time with Chrono and Marle.” The bag is offered to her, before he regards the race again. “Left the ones I thought she wouldn’t approve of back home, but there’s some good ones still. And since you like games…”

"Games from this century, maybe." Emily teases, taking the bag before it's swiped away. She smirks briefly up at him, a visual indicator to drive home it’s just a joke. "Speaking of any of those, I did bring my laptop. I had no idea what to expect. So if you want to try something other than your Super Nintendo… that's an option, too."

She's shaking her head as she sifts through the titles in the bag. Some of them were ones she’d only heard of, but others have some nostalgia trapped to them, even if she’d never touched them herself. “You go big when you collect things, don’t you?” she asks offhandedly, remembering the thick book of movies she’d gone through when they last saw each other.

“The new games are all well and good, but nothing beats 16-bit glory.” Devon grins as the bag is taken and sits back to let her go through the titles. The game he’d been playing is left to run through its title screen sequence for now, though he does find a remote to lower the volume before it becomes obnoxious.

“These games games were designed for replay value and story, not the eye candy overload of the games today.” Of the high quality graphics, he's not a big fan. “Richard let me set up in here, we’ll introduce the twins later if he can convince Harmony that it's great for hand-eye coordination.” And some of those games actually require using logic, reading, and memory. “But since that’s not going to happen until later, we are going to play.”

The well-formed opinion about the state of gaming earns Devon a look out of the corner of Emily's eye, some interest developing. He'd said previously he didn't have other games, never delved into the why. "I mean…" she pauses in her search. "Sure, maybe the newest stuff has headed that way, but if you've never played some of the early 2000's classics, you're missing out. And smaller developers put out great stuff with good story and gameplay, if you go looking for gems like those." She seems thoughtful, ready to go digging for 21st century scrollers emulating the style of games like these. It sounded like there was some persuading to be done.

The mention of the twins doesn't break her mood, but her smile is a little strained as she passes the bag of games back to him. Kids? She wasn't sure about kids. Sure, she liked them enough when they were well-behaved, but she also liked cats, too. And in her opinion did considerably better with one over the other. Her previous experience with kids like Peyton's was just a fluke, as far as she was concerned.

"Go on, then." she encourages him. "You pick what we should get into." Devon appeared to be the expert in this era of gaming, it seemed prudent to let him choose.

“Those smaller developers are alright,” Dev marginally concedes. “But their stories either overwhelm the gameplay to where you've got twenty minutes of actual activity to every six hours of story, or it's too short and leaves you just as the story’s developing. And neither are great for replay.” He takes the bag and passes over the player one controller. “To be fair, early PlayStation still had the balance between playtime and script that made it worthwhile. But they botched their platform games trying to implement a three-dee world.”

He rolls his chair over to the console that's been wired to somehow run through the projector in the ceiling. “Don't worry about the twins. They're cousins or… I don't know. Richard's kids. But they're not going to be here.”

The power is briefly shut off the console and the game Devon had been playing is ejected. He takes a minute to shuffle through the cartridges, peeking over at Emily as he pauses on one and then another. Finally he chooses one and sets the cartridge into the machine. After the game is turned on, they're greeted with a black screen and a slowly ticking pendulum.


“Thanks for coming, Avi,” Richard says as he steps into the elevator, shaking his head, “I do appreciate it, given that it’s such short notice… hope things’re going alright with you? I know that things’ve been kind of heavy lately…”

A request, sent off in the morning, for a meeting at Raytech if Epstein has time; Richard says that he needs a favor. It’s probably not an easy one, knowing the man.

As the elevator moves upwards smoothly with the softest of vibrations, he turns a serious look at the man, “I’ve got something that I think only you can deal with, though.”

“Heavy.” Avi says in a huff of breath, leaning against the back wall. “Yeah, that's… that's one way of putting it.” Running a hand through his hair, Avi leans his head back and thunks it against the wall. “Rich, I don't mean t’go all Lethal Weapon on you, but I'm getting too old for this shit. I'm one more bad day away from either a wheelchair or a grave, and honestly?” He slides a look over to Richard. “I'm not sure which is worse.”

But that's the life he signed up for decades ago, and the resigned sigh that escapes Avi Epstein is perhaps the only part of him that will ever escape anything. He's stuck here, in this life, for as long as he lives it.

“Whatever it is, if you need the rest of Wolfhound for it you're gonna need t’go through Hana too. And I know the last time you were at the Bunker,” Avi eyes Richard, “she said you were drawing on the walls?

“Guilty. To be fair, she asked how dimensional physics works, and she had a whiteboard,” is Richard’s plea, hands spread a touch, “It’s easier with diagrams.”

“That said, you need to take a day for your own shit and stop dealing with other people’s shit, if you ask me,” he says pointedly, knowing full well that Avi did not ask him, “You do have your own shit to worry about, and you need to keep that in mind, man.”

The elevator doors slide open, and he steps out, frowning down at his side and pulling out his phone— tapping something out onto the screen as he starts to walk, possibly replying to a text. “You’re not gonna do anyone any good if you just fucking collapse one day.”

“I didn’t.” Avi says, belatedly leaning off of the wall. “Ask you.” He tucks his hands into his pockets. “About my shit. Look, fucking— ignore whatever I said to you that made you think this cocked-up idea that I need someone to look out for me or something. If a decade of alcoholism and Madagascar didn’t kill me then fuck all of nothing can.” Richard’s never seen him quite that defensive before.

As he steps out of the elevator, Avi’s shoulders are hunched forward, posture tense. He slides Richard a side-long look. “Leave my shit the fuck alone. Now, what the fuck did you want me to come down here for, other than to give me a case study in why I don’t tell people personal shit?”


Emily has to try not to laugh again, still shocked he's got that strong an opinion about old gen versus new gen gaming. Man, had she had this information months ago… She finally does chuckle under her breath, shaking her head at him while he chooses.

"Cousins." she echoes in agreement, given Devon's explained relationship with one Richard Ray. She does seem put at ease knowing that the kids wouldn't be joining them. Games like the one Devon's put on aren't exactly riveting for … well, she was imagining them to be kindergarten, maybe first grade age. It's an odd assumption. "What're their names?" she asks as the title screen rolls.

It's one she hasn't played, and she's content to watch for the time being, it seems.

“Ricky and Lili,” Devon answers as he settles back to watch the screen. “I think they’re in kindergarten?” He hesitates, trying to settle on how old they are now, and feeling a little bad that he hasn’t been keeping up very well. Living in Rochester has a lot of drawbacks. “Lili’s a little brainiac, she’d probably take this this game and some of the other story-driven ones. Ricky’s crazy smart too, but I think he’ll like the platforms more.”

The swell of music — classic 16-bit sound has an epic, adventurous feel to it with each new cut scene — brings a small grin to his face. If ever he had a hobby he could spend hours in, it was this old school gaming platform. But a minute in his eyebrows tick up and he digs his phone out of his pocket.

“Oh, great,” Dev sighs and shakes his head. “Sera’s giving the food guy problems. I know you brought snacks, but I thought we should have real food…” He taps a reply as he stands and explains, his tone fading with distraction. “I need to rescue the delivery. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Sliding the phone back into his pocket, he scoots his chair aside and heads into the hallway.

"Of course she is," is the only thing Emily can mutter, and not with any tact. Not that it's needed in front of Devon, but something she should probably avoid in case the secretary were to come check on them. She looks after him over her shoulder until she can't hear him jogging down the hall anymore, then slowly turns back to the paused game.

She makes an obligatory effort to be interested in her phone rather than get wrapped up in the game, but barely a minute passes before she's reaching for the abandoned controller. Unpausing, she test the controls, and begins to wander. Emily's expression blanks, and she leans to one side, elbow against the armrest of her wheelchair while she peers up at the large projection.


“It’s called friendship,” Richard replies with a roll of his eyes as he leads the way down the hallway, “Maybe it’s stupid of me but I actually care about you not fuckin’ ending up dead in an alley or something, Pentacles. God knows I respect the hell out’ve Hana and her crew, but they’re all so objective-oriented nobody’s gonna look out for your goddamn mental health right. Anyway, fine, whatever—” He tucks the phone away, heading for a door and sweeping his card at it, “I need you to take a look at something for me.”

The door clicks open, and he waves the other man through.

“I’ve gotten this far without anyone ever looking out for…” Avi stops, realizing on as he’s saying it that it isn’t true. There was one person in recent years who cared about him enough to check in on him and make sure he was okay, but birds stripped the flesh from her bones on Pollepel Island. The realization of that fact brings silence to Avi, a crease to his brows, and a haunted look to his eyes.

“This had better be good,” is all Avi says, without any real conviction. His chest hurts too much for that at the moment.

“You got me now, Avi,” says Richard as he claps a hand on the man’s shoulder, “You’ll eventually forgive me for it.”

A firm and sudden shove pushes the older man into the room, and the executive slams the door behind him.

“Security override REDKING, lockdown computer room 3B,” he barks out sharply, and within the room, a solid thud comes from all the doors that lead in - and out - as the security locks engage.

The closing of the trap leaving the two Epsteins locked in together.

She hears the voices down the hallway at a distance, doesn't think much of them at first. Then her fingers stop moving on the controller, sitting up a little straighter as they draw closer, brow starting to furrow. Perhaps Richard was just walking by, but …

No. She hears him say that name, has barely enough time to turn before the door is slammed. Her jaw drops, putting everything together all too late. A sibilant hiss comes from her quietly as she looks around the room, then down to the controller in her hand before throwing it like it's a snake that's bit her. "Shit."

Facing away from him, her elbow hits the armrest again, face in her palm. "I'm going to fucking kill him." Emily rubs her forehead with two fingertips, not looking behind her. Adrenaline already rushing, she tries to sigh it away unsuccessfully, her hand trembling. "Goddammit, Devon."

Avi’s only just straightened himself up when he’s staring at his daughter inside the room. His eyes move to the wheelchair she’s seated in, then back up to uncomfortably silent eye contact. Devon’s name is lost for the moment in a haze of blind rage. Face red, hands clenched into fists, Avi turns toward the door behind him and doesn’t so much as say anything to Emily before he’s slamming the flat of his hand against it.

Richard you slimy piece of shit open the door.” Avi isn’t shouting, it’s more a penetrating rebuke in deep but angry tone. “You made me check my gun, you asshole!” Probably for unrelated reasons, but Avi is probably not fit to have Wilby on hand at the moment.

Emily's shaking her head to herself throughout the yelling, glad he's taking care of it for the both of them. It gives her time to try and figure out what… to do. If anything. She comes up short, lost in layers of panic,

…. that give way, inevitably, to other emotions.

"Just who the fuck do you plan on shooting?" she asks sharply, head raising up off her fingers while she looks at the game still being projected on the wall. There weren't that many people in the room, after all.

“This is for your own good, Epstein,” Richard replies loudly enough to carry through the sturdy door, “You’re both fucking miserable without each other, so just talk already!”

Then, silence from outside. He’s probably walked away.

Him,” is Avi’s delayed response. “Just— apparently later.” Bringing his attention across the room to Emily, there's a decidedly frustrated look on Avi’s face that can't quite smolder enough to look like anger.

“Tell me this isn't your idea.” Avi nearly begs, running a hand through his hair and standing with an awkward crook in his posture, as though he weren't sure whether he should be standing, sitting, or running.

"Shoot him in the foot first. And once for me." Emily just might be serious. She rubs her hand down the side of her face before sitting up straighter. Now that the initial shock is wearing off, the betrayal is sinking in.

Devon had told her to bring snacks.

How angry she is with him in particular manifests itself in other ways. "Is this how you react to anything to do with me?" She cuts her wheel to turn half toward Avi. "Just fly off the handle every fucking time?" Her mouth firms into a hard line, canting her head to an angle even as she shakes it. Her particular brand of frustration has a strong shade of disappointment to it as she watches how he holds himself. "You're acting like a fucking cat that's been dropped in a bathtub and I'm the water."

She looks away, a snort of breath escaping her. "No. This wasn't my idea. If I needed to talk, I would have just called."

“Yeah, because you’re great about calling. Is it time for your Q4 voicemail yet?” Avi throws his hands to the side, then limps in a circle and walks back to the door and pounds on it again, this time without shouting threats through it. Eventually he stops, and just softly bangs his forehead against the closed door.

“Look, neither of us wants this… I get it.” Avi says in the direction of the door, voice muffled. “Richard just thinks he’s so fucking smart. But this isn’t an elevator and this isn’t a fucking sitcom!” He slaps one hand against the door again, very clearly shouting at Richard this time. It’s followed by one last, grunting hammer of the bottom of his fist against the door before he pushes away, grumbling angrily.

"Like you're any better?" Emily fires back, her tone incredulous. And hurt. She lapses into silence, feeling smaller in her seat as he leads into shouting again. She runs a hand back through her hair with one hand, turning herself away with the other so she doesn't have to face Avi when he starts pacing again.

"Jesus…" she mutters to herself, jaw tight. Her hand finally finishes its slide down the back of her head to hang off her neck. If they're waiting for us to talk to each other, we really are going to be here all night. The thought only makes her feel heavier.

She'd been adamant that she wouldn't be the one to break down first. Richard even knew that. They'd talked about it, and he'd just shook his head at it, at them and their stubbornness. Goddamn him.

"Move," she demands, spinning back around again to roll in the direction of the locked door, not looking up at Avi. She wanted her turn, apparently. Hands on the armrests, she practically sweeps to her feet, her movements graceful in her anger as she stands and the wheelchair rolls away behind her. She leans on one hand against the door for support before pounding on it with the back of a fist.

Her voice is raised. "You don't get to decide for me, for either of us, how we talk or work out any of our shit." Bang. "Either of you, do you hear?" Bang bang bang.

"Richard, you said you had your own fucked up shit with your family, what the fuck are you thinking throwing stones like this?" Despite already knowing it's a futile effort, she tries the handle and lets go of it with a loud, but unintelligible swear.

“Yeah well, most of his are dead too,” is Avi’s attempt at something like conversation, a hand hanging at the back of his neck as he slowly turns to regard Emily pounding on the door. Quiet, for a few moments, Avi limps away from Emily and the door, letting his hands come down to hang helplessly at his side.

He looks around the room, at the computers, the chairs, then up to the ceiling. “You think…” he hesitates. “Nnh, last resort,” Avi decides with an eye on the fire suppression system. Instead, he turns around and looks back to Emily.

“First of all,” Avi starts in on her. “You don't get to give me shit about not calling when I called you like fifteen fucking times before I got marched off to the middle of fucking Death Valley to play Terminator against an army of fucking robots, and had to leave a fucking voicemail.” Jaw set, arms crossing over his chest, he's already reflexively breaking into a lecture.

"I can't decide if that makes getting revenge for this easier or harder." Emily mutters more at the door than at her father. It takes her a moment to decide against continuing to pound on the door, but she does, turning her shoulder into it and leaning back against it instead. She follows the look up to the ceiling, apparently having a similar thought, but she shakes her head instead.

When he rounds back on her, her brow ticks up in surprise, the fight visible in her eyes before he's finished. "First of all, I don't know why you'd thought I'd have a goddamned signal. And second," She lifts one arm to gesture back and forth between them. "I'm not at your beck and call, we don't have that sort of relationship. Maybe if you didn't only call when having a breakdown."

It wasn’t a ff—” Avi clamps his mouth shut, brows scrunching up and mouth doing much the same as he refrains from saying something he’d regret. “Whatever. I’m not here to argue with your mother’s talking points.” He looks to the computers again, then back to the door. Realizing he’s trapped in the room has Avi’s hands clenching into fists and his posture board-straight.

Avi starts to turn back toward the door to hammer on it again, but puts too much weight down on his bad leg. There’s a noise in the back of his throat, a whine, then a frustrated growl of pain. Hobbling a few steps, Avi collapses down into a desk chair and grips at his braced knee. “Mother fucker I’m going to fucking stuff him inside a fucking jet engine.”

Emily's eyes start to widen again as he deflects he's not actually having an argument with her, something that she gets so frustrated with she can't even form words to. The best she gets is an exasperated groan that crescendos out of nothing until it's just short of yelling volume. "You're fucking impossible," she swears and batters the door with the heel of her palm again.

She's breathing in to throw out another salvo in their back and forth when he stumbles and it catches in her throat. Before Avi even sits, she knows something's wrong. It's like watching a mirror version of herself when she's having a bad pain day, and it takes her by surprise. "Dad?" Emily croaks with concern, looking him up and down with worry. She can't help it.

Pissed off or not, she still cared about him.

She slides down the door, slowly deflating as she collapses into a sit. Her knees bend, pulled halfway toward her, and she rests an elbow on her thigh and her face into a half-balled fist, eyes closing. "… Is this what it's going to be like, the rest of our lives?" Her head pops up from her hand as a small realization strikes her, voice lacking any bite as she looks back up to him. "How many times have you been in the Safe Zone lately? Like in the last year? How often do you actively choose to not come see me?"

“Twice a week,” is Avi’s matter-of-fact answer, deflecting away from discussion of his pain. “At least. For work.” As opposed to for her. “Look,” Avi says, adjusting the placement of the metal brace on his knee, tightening the straps the hold it in place, “I don’t make a habit out of wasting my time trying to force myself into the lives of people who don’t want me in them.

Sliding his tongue between teeth and cheek, it’s clear that Avi doesn’t like the taste of those words in his mouth. “I don’t blame you,” he says with a furrow of his brows, “for not wanting me in your life. I fucked up our family. I fucked up my life. I’m a nearly disabled recovering alco-fucking-holic who’s buried more people in a shallow fucking grave than a… a…” Avi throws a hand up in the air. “I’m too fucking mad to make a simile.”

Emily's expression hollows at something he's said, her hand falling to rest on her knee. "Dad, I don't—" she starts to stammer out when he goes on telling her he doesn't blame her. All she can do is stare, at least until he fumbles. She thinks for a moment, going down a list of names mentally, and deciding ultimately she doesn't care to compare him to any of them, or any concept related to 'serial killer' that popped into mind.

She lets out a pained sigh, head still spinning. "Who said I don't want you in my life? Mom?" It was probably Emily herself, actually, but something said in a moment of anger she doesn't even remember, years past. Trying to say anything else takes a few attempts. "I've —" God, was she really going to say it? "I've been waiting the better part of my goddamned life for you to come home."

"Yes, you fucked up. Yes, I was — am still — mad at you for not being there. I…" She hangs her head, grimacing. Why was this all so painful to say?

"I'm not going to fucking apologize for being an ass to deal with. I was angry, I was scared, I was a fucking child, and you weren't there." A humorless breath escapes her. "I didn't have any control over what was going on. I didn't have a choice in any of that. But it would have been a hell of a lot easier if—" Her voice breaks, ending the thought prematurely.

Emily exhales unsteadily, her eyes glassy. "I thought for the longest time you didn't want me in your life." She lifts her hand by her side to smooth her palm over the top of her head. "I know it's more complicated than that." she recognizes, her gaze vacant as she stares somewhere by his braced knee.

Because I didn't!” Avi just shouts to the room. “Fucking— look at me Emily! I didn't get a busted leg and a glass fucking eye sitting behind a desk pushing papers!” His face is beet red, voice hoarse, furious. “The last thing I wanted was for anyone to be in my fucking life! Anyone!

Grabbing the back of the chair, Avi levers himself up into a standing position with a limp, no weight put on his bad leg. “If you'd have been in my fucking life at all I'd be visiting you and Taylor on my fucking birthday! I've— I never wanted you t’go through the same fucking shit he did!”

Every single person I've ever fucking loved and let into my life is dead!” Avi screams, throwing his sunglasses to the floor as he tears them off his face. “I watched someone I cared about get eaten alive by fucking birds! I watched my fucking brother-in-law see your aunt and cousin get gunned down by a fucking drone in a ditch!

I'm not burying you!” Is a primal scream that nearly makes Avi lose his voice. He's trembling from head to toe, hands shaking, breathing heavily.

For all her attempts to hold onto the image that her father was a good person, Avi was doing everything he could to destroy it. She has no idea if he's twisting the knife because he wants to run away that badly, or if he actually means any of it.

Regardless, it breaks her.

The hand on her knee is pressed against her mouth, fingers curled out as she tries to keep it together. As much as she wants to yell back in return, or over him for that matter, she can't. The words catch in her throat for some time. But once he gets it all out, there's not even time for his voice to stop ringing.

"So the next clear, logical choice was to fucking go get a new daughter instead?"

It's not shouted as loud as she'd like. Doesn't challenge the intensity of his voice at all, not with how she's fighting back tears. But it'll do.

Fuck you!” Avi shouts as he points at Emily. “Sibyl—” as soon as the name leaves his lips, there's a click in the back of his mind like a key turning in a lock. An expression of how the fuck crosses Avi’s face, brows scrunched up and teeth clenched. Confusion is replaced by betrayal, by indignant rage.

She's not my fucking daughter!” Avi shouts to everyone who ever called her that. “That child was Eileen fucking Ruskin! The one person who ever tried to save my fucking life! The one person in this entire fucked up world I trusted to let in, because I stupidly forgot that life is a fucking pit of broken glass!

“I don't know who the fuck told you about her,” Avi is limping toward Emily, “but I watched her die, Emily. I watched her birds eat her alive while she protected children escaping a fucking genocide! So when this cruel fucking world handed her back to me— when I realized who she— ” his voice cracks. “I locked her in a fucking attic to hide her from this awful fucking world!

"No, fuck you," Emily shouts back at him in the middle of it, without a shred of guilt about it. Even guiltless about how angry she is with him, though, her eyes start to widen as he explains just who Sibyl is.

Fuck. FUCK. She starts to look away, at least until he starts toward her. Her hand braces back against the door, and she hurriedly tries to come to her feet. She's not taking this news, or him for that matter, sitting down. Emily starts to grit her teeth, prepares to do what she feels is probably the right thing, right up until Avi says what he did.

"The fuck is the matter with you?" she screams at him. "You—" There's not even words for this.

She can't. She cannot.

Standing in front of the door, Emily turns to her side so she doesn't have to face him, hands coming up to the side of her head like it'll help her better cope. "Jesus Christ," she breathes, eyes wide.

Avi doesn't have a response. He just stands there, trying not to put any weight on his leg. Jaws clenched, he looks around, finding a security camera to glare at before bringing a hand up to cover his face. Forefingers and thumb scrub the corners of his eyes, and he moves a few hobbling paces away from Emily, his back to her.

“She wasn't a prisoner.” Avi mumbles after a moment. “You don't— nobody could understand. It was… a fucking safehouse. If anyone figured out who she was, she'd be dead… again. I— couldn't fucking lose her again.” Swallowing tightly, Avi exhales an exasperated breath.

“I did anyway. The fucking world caught up to us.” Avi doesn't explain any further than that. “I don't know where she is. If she's alive or dead. I trained her to fucking disappear.” He closes his eyes, fingers in his hair. “So she did.”

Somehow, she remembers to breathe. Each one hurts. When he gets to explaining he doesn't even know if she's alive, Emily feels like she sways, not even sure if that happens.

'I do know.' she'd say, if she wasn't suddenly worried that that was a worse decision than what she'd already done with the information.

In the process of putting herself back together, she breathes out several swears and swipes at her eyes, hands still shaking. She takes in a deep breath in particular, and stops herself from speaking, unable to properly decide what to say without making everything worse.

"We aren’t our parents, except when we are…. I see the same sort of intelligence behind your eyes. And a sincere desire to do the right thing even if you haven’t figured out what that is yet."

She still didn't know for sure. Keeping them away from each other sounded like a great plan, but Emily didn't even know what she didn't know.

"I know about her because I saw her," Emily ends up saying anyway, sounding miserable about it. She shakes her head as she starts to turn back. Any more words fail to come, her hands lifting away from her sides in a helpless shrug. "For whatever the fuck that's worth."

“Bullshit,” is the first thing out of Avi’s mouth, but it's said with the tone someone might use to deceive the color of a shirt. Quiet, matter-of-fact, without much emphasis or importance. A moment later, he's doubting himself. “Bullshit,” Avi repeats, slowly turning around to look at Emily anew.

He doesn't take back his assessment, just levels a reddened state at her with a hollow look in his eyes. “That's bullshit,” is just denial now, and nervous stammering for lack of a better response. “What does—” Avi’s brows twitch. “She's—” He winces, taking a limping step forward. His tone shifts, posture changes.

Where?” It's not interrogative, it's desperate. “Where'd you see her? How— when was it? Was she ok? Was she with anyone?” Now it's interrogative.

Emily's expression crumples as she watches him go through the changes. She doesn't know what she expected. "The fuck does it matter, anyway?" she deflects, sounding exhausted. "Just set your fucking fire and go already."

“It matters because a dried up fucking Nazi accountant kidnapped her fucking mother,” is a thing that Avi says. In this moment. “Because some messianic fucking death cult is looking for her and if she isn't prisoner of that life-sucking vampire banshee devil cunt then I need to make sure she's safe!

Avi is laser focused on all the wrong things at the moment. The actionable items. The solvable problems. It's a microcosm of his married life, focusing on crisis overseas and putting all of his energy that he felt toward wanting to repair things with Rachel into trying to fight a rich old white man’s war.

In his defense, those sounded like pretty serious reasons. Poorly timed, but extremely valid reasons.

She's withdrawing even further, though. It doesn't take much to figure who the 'banshee devil' must be. "So are those two things separate? The death-cult and the devil-woman? Which one has the Nazi?" Context is important, but Emily honestly sounds like she's shrugging him off now.

Avi’s dealt with his fair share of disinterested bureaucrats, the way Emily passively asks her question triggers old and deeply seated responses. His tone changes, they've gone from an argument to an exchange at the drop of a hat. “Same? Different? Fuck— I don't really fucking know, it's the goddamn Vanguard.” Avi’s brows raise. “From the book,” for the children in the room who didn't live the nightmare.

“They're looking for their dead fucking zombie boss, who’s living inside of—” Avi dances around the truth. “Someone who thinks it's fucking hilarious to wear Eileen’s corpse like a fucking sock puppet. Look, if they find Sibyl I don't know whether they'll put her on a fucking throne like a bunch of Nazi Ewoks or put her in a bonfire for killing their boss. I don't know.” He's almost manic right now.

“This—” Avi starts to gesture with a hand but turns it into a clenched fist. “This is exactly the kind of shit I didn't want you in the middle of! These people will fucking kill you! If they think we’re close— if they think they can leverage you against me they'll kill you, your mother, your boyfriend,” possible past tense there, “and anyone else they can to get whatever the fuck it is they want.

Nearly out of breath, Avi stares down at Emily with wide, wild eyes. “And I swear to god if they so much as fucking looked at you sideways I'd start the entire fucking civil war again to make them regret it.” Avi’s jaw trembles. “I was in a federal prison. Last year.”

There is no context or segue.

Each additional fact peppers into her, but her expression overall doesn't change. Emily squares her shoulders, leaning back into the wall while she listens. She has things she'd like to say about his take on Eileen Gray, but she can be patient.

Because 'I was in prison' jumps to the top of the list of things needing addressed. "Why? Because of me?" she asks flatly.

No,” Avi says with a furrow of his brows, as if he expects her not to assume that. “Last year. I was in the Safe Zone. Wolfhound business. Sibyl… left the safehouse, went for a walk to the market.” Epstein’s jaw sets. “Somebody followed her. He was good, trained, kept his distance and only engaged when there were bystanders.” Like he's citing from a manual on how to be a creep.

“He came after her. It was raining, dark, and he had a gun.” Avi looks away, then back to Emily. “I killed him. He was a SESA agent.” There's a snort at that line, and Avi scrubs at the side of his face with one hand. “That was the last time I saw Sibyl. I surrendered to the military police, and they locked me up.”

Looking down at the floor, Avi’s expression is torn somewhere between a frown and a snarl. “Turns out there were men on the inside, old Humanis First types. Tried to have me killed. One of my squadmates burned her ass busting me out. Had a bad feeling.” Raking a hand through his hair, Avi looks lost in the story for a moment, struggling to find his purpose in it.

“Now they're all dead.” Avi explains quietly, as though discussing the weather. “Fed was… someone I knew, turns out. All this bullshit, everything, it's like some fucking funhouse purgatory we’re all fucking chained to.

Swallowing noisily, Avi scrubs a hand over his face. “I don't know what the fuck I'm trying to say. I just…” He trails off, looking disappointed.

The light in Emily's eye changes. Ah. "Sibyl." she says slowly. And then he keeps going, well past the point she wants to be listening.

It's an entirely foreign, but possibly genetic reaction, because she starts to pace. She would very much not like to be here anymore.

Had these been different circumstances, she'd have been thrilled he were opening up to her so much. As it stands, when she rounds back just before hitting one wall, she strides back quickly to the door, slamming her palm and heel of her hand against it again. "Open the goddamned door, Richard."

Sliding his tongue against the back of his teeth, Avi weakly levers himself down into a different chair. He's lost his posture, his strength, and anything resembling a direction other than blind panic that simmers in the back of his mind. Scrubbing his face with both hands, Avi stretches out his bad leg and just leans forward, head in hands and gaze fixed on the floor.

Emily turns her hand to the side, balling it into a fist as she continues to pound on the door. When it's clear that not enough time has elapsed in this hellhole yet, she lets her hand slide down it partway, then turns back with a sullen expression.

It hardens as a thought takes hold of her. "Fuck it." She looks right at Avi, jabbing a finger at him. "You get to hear shit you don't want to, either."

"Guess what? I don't hate you. I can try all the fuck I want, but it just doesn't take. So I hope you fucking know how much it destroys me when you do stupid, selfish, self-destructive shit like all of this." Her hand swipes in a circle to gesture the entire situation.

"Second uncomfortable truth: You can distance yourself from me all the fuck you want, but you're fucking naive if you think that's going to mean jack shit to people that evil. So all you've done is make yourself, and me, miserable,"

"For fucking what?" Emily shouts louder now, begging for an answer. Her arm is shaking by her side. "So I can't have a fucking bug-out plan whenever the bad people come in the night? Like fucking Sibyl did? Fuck you."

She shakes her head, hand pulling back to herself, curled up by her face as she starts to pace again.

Some of the fire has burned out in Avi. Without looking up he addresses Emily with his focus square on the floor. “It's worked fine so far,” Avi says hesitantly. “All these years and nobody's fucked with you. I take one person in and try to actually be in their life?” He looks up, slowly. “And it falls apart.”

Moving his hands from his head, Avi claps his palms on his knees. “Kid, this— isn't about me wanting you to hate me or… or whatever reasons your mother has to hate me, and god knows I gave her plenty. I just… I just wanted you to stay as far as fuck away from me as possible, because I'm a human fucking disaster.”

Hanging his head again, Avi slouches and stares at the floor again. “You've already has to endure so… fucking much. Your whole life’s been a fucking battle.” He glances up, only now noticing how long she's been standing for. He looks at the wheelchair, then back again.

“You should sit down,” Avi says gently, trying to make it sound reasonable as best as he can. “I didn't mean to— I didn't want this.” He gestures around the room. “I didn't want it like this.”

There's just no winning. It's not a contest, but she'd been hoping for a prize. Satisfaction of some kind. Was winning seeing him deflate? Was losing being able to, however shitty it was, see where he was coming from?

"Fuck," Emily mutters into her knuckles before dragging them along her temple. She'd scream if she thought it would help. Instead, she pauses in her pace to round back on him, though her voice is already starting to lack the bite it had a minute ago. "Don't kid me. I'm an adult, capable of making my own decisions. Of forming my own opinions. Fuck whatever Mom wants me to think." It becomes abundantly clear her vitriol isn't just maternal, though.

She doesn't know what to do at first when he acknowledges what she's been through, save for looking away from him. Emily's shoulders slope down, a lump forming in her throat that she struggles to swallow. When he suggests she get off her feet, she looks back, and then to her chair for a long moment before relenting with a small nod, still not ready to speak again.

Her steps are careful, almost with a perpetual limp to her gait. She walks like someone who doesn't trust their balance, but neither do her feet bring her forward only in small shuffles — they're wider than that. More notably, she walks unassisted entirely, her arms folding across her chest to help her fight the urge to reach for something to help support herself. It would take more than two days to get used to trusting herself, to walk confidently on her own. For the time being, she has no trouble with quietly sitting back in the wheelchair, not wanting to discuss her big change. Not here, not like this, not now.

"It has… been one big fucking battle after the next." Emily admits in a small voice after she's seated. "And it would have been easier to face if I'd had a father to help me. But no, your shit gets to be bigger than mine, even when it's my entire life we're talking about." She sounds defeated again, nothing sharp behind her words as she finally turns back to him, taking a moment to look into his eyes. Both of them. She looks like she regrets what she's said already, but wasn't able to keep herself from getting one last stab in.

"I didn't want it like this either." Emily apologizes, her voice a hush. Her hands clasp together tightly in her lap. "But it sounds like life's just one big pit of broken glass." She had been listening, it sounds like. To all of it.

Hesitantly, she draws in a breath, looking down at her hands. "I had a dream a while back," she offers, not sure what next to follow that with… how to explain.

“I’m sorry,” is Avi’s knee-jerk reaction to the revelation that his daughter had a dream. He realizes how eminently fucked up that is and rests his face in his hands, blowing a sigh into his palms and scrubbing them down his face and chin. “I mean— did you?” He’s not good at this, never has been, not with anyone. It shows.

“Was uh,” Avi reaches up to touch the side of his neck, attention averted elsewhere. He’s trying not to circle back to how big his shit is, because he has some choice words about that. Instead, he just tries to listen. It’s hard. “Was it uh… good?”

Avi can’t recall the last time he had a good dream. He’d forgotten people have them.

Given enough time, given the way things had been going lately, she would forget what having one would be like.

"No," Emily replies, the sound stifled in a choked laugh. For some reason, it's really funny. "You were dead."

The humor found in his innocent question burns out quickly, though. "I was at your grave." A short pause. "It fucking sucked."

“Yeah.” Avi’s favorite monosyllabic response. He briefly looks up at Emily, then down to his hands as he rests his arms over his knees again. “I’ve had that one. Except they buried you in Arlington next to Taylor.” Because it’s a dream. Brows pinching together, Avi wrings his hands and looks up to the locked door, then back down to the space between his feet on the floor.

“I went and saw him last month,” Avi mumbles, two fingers rubbing where a tan line used to remind him that he was once married. That faded a long time ago. The ring even longer. “It’s a mess.” He grunts, softly. “Everything. Everywhere.” Exasperatedly brushing a hand over his face, Avi isn’t sure what he’s doing or saying anymore.

Slowly, he gets up from his seat and tests putting some weight on his busted leg. “Alright,” he says softly, “this is… this is enough.” Turning to find one of the black dome security cameras, Avi waves with one hand. “Open the fucking door, Richard. You aren’t a licensed therapist.” It’s less angry now, outwardly. It’s just exhausted.

Emily's lapse in words turns into a silence that lingers. For as little as she tries to think about her father on most occasions, her brother and the memory of him, all her feelings about him and what happened to him, all live layers deeper. When Avi mentions he went to see Taylor, her eyes flick up at him earnestly. She seems like she's about to ask, when a nagging thought at the back of her head reminds her the DC area is still an exclusion zone. The question of how he saw Taylor, and how legal that visit had been, stalls her from speaking even longer.

"I'm glad you took the time for that," she finally says, entirely lacking bitterness. "At least somebody's still going to see him."

When he stands again, her shoulders start to slump, wondering if their requests to be let out will actually be heard this time. If so, there's something needing done. She turns around in her chair, the toes of one foot pressed into the ground to try and steady the wheelchair to keep it from rolling. With a single jerk, she unzips the top of her backpack, digging in until she finds something that crinkles noisily. When she pulls it out, she flips it over on both sides to confirm it's made the trip without ripping.

Emily turns back around with a nearly flat, but not sturdy, package held in one hand. It's wrapped in Christmas-themed paper, and has no label attached to it. She didn't think she'd need one, as the gift was meant to go direct from her to the person who would be receiving it. That still was the case. "Here," she voices quietly, the only warning he'll get before she tosses it in his direction. "Catch." If the door was about to open finally, she didn't want it with her anymore. Maybe its new recipient might appreciate it, at least.


The sound of the door’s lock coming undone is quieter than the sound of it closing, somehow.

The package is snatched from the air, nearly fumbled onto the floor. His reflexes aren't what they used to be. Closing his eyes, Avi tilts his head down and then draws in a slow and thoughtful breath. He doesn't open the package, just crinkles it between his hands and nods slowly. There's a silent acquiescence, but the complexity of it isn't immediately evident and won't be for a while.

“I didn't get you anything,” Avi says quietly. “Not yet,” is his unexpected clarification. When he looks up to Emily, there's frustration and something kinder behind that one good eye he has left.

“You kill Richard, I'll kill Devon?”


Rochester isn't always the welcome respite from the chaos of the Safe Zone, but today it's nothing but. When Devon’s bunk door shuts behind him, he is — for a moment — left in the total darkness of his room. There's a hum of electrical conduits in the walls, of distant machinery, the HVAC system. It's a serene amount of white-noise to help replace the static in his head.

When he turns the light on, however, it's clear someone has been here. Sitting on his bed is a wrinkled and creased Christmas present that looks like it may have been at one time thoughtfully wrapped. Less so, now, with it's rough edges, wear, and tear. A piece of paper lays atop the present, with familiar handwriting in black marker.

Make it right.
That's an order.

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