Half Empty Half Full


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Scene Title Half Empty Half Full
Synopsis It's a matter of perspective.
Date February 5, 2019


Childs' Residence

The last month had been long. Too long. Sometimes, Gillian felt as if a lifetime had passed, and it some ways it had. She had seen things, right up until the 12th, though she hadn’t shared them with most people. They had happened in the privacy of her office, most the time, when she was working on her book or when she was doing paperwork, but there had been many of them. Some affecting her.

But none quite as much as what happened after the 12th.

But it was no longer the 12th. It wasn’t even January. The door to the brownstone closed behind them, the house remained warm, but it had an emptiness to it even then as they moved around. Someone had cleaned, someone had kept Chandra fed. It looked like very little had changed. The yellow cat rubbed up against her legs within moments, and Gillian couldn’t help but smile. “It’s good to be home.”

Even if the home was now emptier.

“Yes.” It’s quietly spoken and directed downward as Jac takes the time to untie her shoes and pull them off. But there’s also a lot of relief in the one word that’s given first. She didn’t know that a couple of days would turn into almost a whole month. She also didn’t know how much she’d wanted to be home until they were finally on the street the house sat on and she became squirmy with eagerness to be inside and not gone anymore.

Leaving her shoes pushed off and out of the way, she scuttles out of the entryway and down the hall. There’s exploring to do, to make sure things are still where she can normally find them. “That trip was too long,” she decides as she shuffles her feet against the floor. The girl pauses and looks over her shoulder. “I’m sorry again.”

“You were trying to help people, and from what I heard, you did.” Gillian responded with a shake of her head, because, like every other time it had come up, she didn’t blame Jac. She did kind of blame Richard, but for different reasons altogether. “I might have been disappointed if you had said no to saving people’s lives,” she admits after a moment, reaching over to touch the girl’s arm, somewhat akin to the way she brushes fingers against others. “I do wish you had stayed out of trouble, but sometimes you have to get into it to stop a tragedy. I understand that.”

While she had been in her twenties during most of her so-called heroics, she knows in part that it was because none of those situations had been happening to her knowledge at a younger age. “Though you are still grounded.”

That part comes out of nowhere. She hadn’t mentioned it before.

“Grounded.” Jac feels the word out as she echoes it slowly. She knows what it means, or at least what it used to mean. Carolyn would find every reason, any reason, to make her grounded and locked in her room. That alone is enough to make her cautious. But it’s just now being said and that really makes her worry.

“But…” She cuts the word short, deciding questions aren’t the best idea, and folds her lips together over her teeth. Her head rocks with a slow nod, to show there’s no arguing happening, and also maybe hiding some of the worrying about what’s going to happen.

“From working at Raytech,” Gillian explains after a moment, perhaps catching the tone. “You won’t have time, anyway, if you want to do the Internship at SESA.” Not what one might expect grounding to be exactly, but there it is. “You’ll have to go to bed early and get some sleep, do your homework so your lessons don’t lax while you’re helping out there.” While Gillian likes Richard, she now doesn’t trust him to ask her first before he takes her daughter across the country to help pull people out of an interdimensional anomaly. No, she doesn’t trust that from him at all.

With SESA, it was different. She didn’t like everything they did, but they had always asked before they took Squeaks on a dangerous adventure. And she knew that at least one had risked her life to keep her safe.

She could remember when they had first gotten the letter. Addressed to Jac Childs.

”Is this something that you want to do?”, Gillian asks, looking down at the letter with a furrow to her brow, but it sounded like she knew the answer even as she asked it.

Jac, excitement and wonder at the invitation still making her fidgety, twists around and leans on the table and look at the letter again. She’s read it at least six times already, but it’s still super amazing. At least the answer to the question is easy. “Yes. Yes I think so… Yes.” Her eyes turn from the paper inviting her to join the government agency, eagerness plain but also a hopeful and unspoken Please, Mom.

Grounded from Raytech. It isn’t what Squeaks was expecting. She looks confused first, trying to figure out what that actually means. She’s not allowed to go there ever anymore? “I do want the internship,” she answers instead of trying to put her wondering into questions. That can be figured out later. “Really for reals. I will, I’ll do all of that with homework and everything. Even… even… extra.”

“Then we’ll consider that your punishment. Between you and me, it’s more punishment for them then for you,” Gillian says with a small grin as she moves deeper into the house, finding some things that were placed in the wrong spot to put them where they were supposed to be. She hadn’t always been the type to get particular about cleaning and where things were placed, but the last ten years had changed her and she would never quite be what she had been before ever again.

“If Richard asks for your help in the future with a project, you make sure I’m okay with it.” And give her the chance to say no if it sounded too dangerous. She doesn’t wish she said no this time, knowing what had been going on. The girl had already been involved. She had found the camcorder that had shown Liz and Magnes in another world, even if something else inside the recording had made itself known.

That had been the same thing Eve had been seeing. And possibly the same thing that had gotten her killed. Thinking of that saddened her mood, as her hands fell on a small sketchbook that had been on a side table. A sketchbook that wasn’t her own. It belonged to Eve. Fingers trailed along the cover almost like she had petted the cat when they had first gotten inside. Chandra has already stopped rubbing against legs and sprawled out right in the middle of the floor.

“I will I promise.” Squeaks liked going to Raytech and asking questions. And there were lots of ways to learn things that most everyone else probably wouldn’t know, like by watching things or the computers. Going to Kansas was an adventure she never expected, especially the scary parts, and she learned so much from it.

When Gillian starts moving again, the girl turns to follow. The random things not where the belong usually aren’t noticed by her, home has things that sometimes aren’t put away, except when someone is cleaning up — and sometimes not always even then. But she watches the tidying, and also recognizes the sketchbook that’s picked up.

What happened to Eve is still a mystery, one she couldn’t explain. She tried, but there was a lot missing, a lot of things she wasn’t sure about. She didn’t know that the ghost-thing was actually the seer until after. Reaching out, Jac places a hand on her mom’s arm. Her head follows.

The touch on the arm, and then the head resting there makes Gillian slowly relax from the tension that was raising. It doesn’t stop the dark thoughts, the sad thoughts, but she does have to ask, at least once, to someone, “Do you think it would have gone differently if I would have been there?”

From the sounds of things, the “terrorist attack” outside that is somewhat public knowledge, she probably wouldn’t have been much help there. She didn’t handle loud noises and danger as well as she used to. It had caused too much of a strain on her. She could barely handle a group of kids popping out from behind a couch and wishing her a happy birthday.

But she had this girl, leaning against her, and her hand goes up to touch the girl’s hair, as if to press her closer, an awkward kind of hug. “I knew Richard had been wanting my help… And Eve as well.” Eve especially. She’d wanted her to assist with the Golden Eyes problem, with the Adam Monroe problem, with the Samson problem. But each time she had avoided it beyond trying to give the older woman advice. Advice she often seemed to forget about, or at least only somewhat follow.

If there's an answer to give, or if one is really wanted, Jac doesn't know what it is. Sometimes it's probably better to not say anything but just be there. So she doesn't offer any words at first, choosing to keep her thoughts inside and quiet for the time being. But she tips her head a little, without lifting from where it rests, to look up from the journal at Gillian with worried eyes.

“I don’t know.” The girl’s answer is quiet. She’s thought about it, about how things could have gone if Gillian had been there if Eve had stayed home, if — there’s so many if’s. There’s just not any answers that she can offer.

She looks away as soon as she’s spoken, eyebrows bunching. I don’t know isn’t a good answer but she can’t find anything else. Instead of saying more, Jac twists and wedges herself under her mom’s arms and hugs her tightly.

What the young girl knew or did not know was the same as what Gillian did and did not know in this case. She didn’t know if it would have made a difference if she would have helped Richard. She doesn’t know if Eve would still be here if she had. “I guess we’ll just have to live with not knowing.” But at least they get to live, which was more than some. “I am proud of you, for trying to help them.” Even if she didn’t know how many were helped besides Magnes and Elisabeth, but she had liked both in many different ways.

“Did I ever tell you that Magnes and I were internet friends before I ever met him. We talked in chat rooms and stuff, back when the internet was more reliable.” The change of topics helps keeps her tears under control. There were always stories to tell this girl, anyway, always something old she wanted to explain. It reminded her of all the thing she’d hated about her parents for a while. The ‘I remember when” phenomenon. Maybe it was different in this case, or at least she hoped it was. “He used to help out at the Lighthouse a lot when it was first started. The kids liked him. He would read comic books to them and things.”

It had been nice, back before the Lighthouse had tougher times, before she had been kidnapped by the Institute and used, before she had tried to think of ways to move the Lighthouse and keep it all at the same time. It had never happened. They had moved to the Grand Central Station safe house, the Bay Ridge house, then finally the island and then to Canada.

Those years in that lighthouse had been some of the best, though.

Stories are always welcomed eagerly. It's never mattered if they were the back in my day kinds or when I was a kid or the kinds that are in books, Squeaks loves stories. And the ones about life before the fighting are sometimes the best because of how real they are. She looks up with open interest. “Lance and Joe talked sometimes about how he read to them,” she answers, “when we found the video with him. “But I didn't know you knew him from even before-before.”

She's heard lots about Canada, from the older kids, they talk about it sometimes. And she wonders about the before times, but that seems to bring up sad memories so she never asks. Or she tries not to.

“I didn't see him a lot when we were stuck,” Jac points out. She didn't really go looking for the strangers though. She stuck mostly to the people she knew, and only sometimes talked with the grown-ups she didn't know. “Maybe he could visit and you and him could tell stories about the Lighthouse and before.”

“Only online, really, but— I think his handle had something to do with Robin. Like the Batman Robin,” Gillian says quietly, a hint of fondness in her voice. It had been easy to be fond of him for what he had done with the kids. He’s not sure they would have handled that long winter when they lost Denisa, nearly lost Hailey and her as well. He had helped a lot with that alone, and she knew that what had happened to the kids had hurt him as much as it had hurt her. “Mine was Jitterbug,” she adds on with a shake of her head. So many lost, so many possibly regained.

Seeing Denisa, Mala, and Lucy had been a shock. She did not know if she would quite get over it, even if they sounded as if they wanted to come back to the city. There was enough of an age difference that even those who had known them might not immediately recognize them, but she loved those kids.

She had loved those kids.

Probably always would, really. Just like she thought she would always love the rest of them. For what they helped her to become and who they were, both. And many other reasons. “We should go see him sometime,” she agrees, even if she knows that it will probably take some time to happen. “I have a lot of paperwork to catch up on. With the Council.” The Council had understood her absence, even if she couldn’t actually explain it to them. “I have a lot of catching up,” she responds, picking up the notebook that she had been rubbing lightly and tucking it under her arm. “And I should take care of a few things here, too.”

The bits and pieces of the life from before the war are absorbed, Squeaks listens quietly and watches Gillian’s expression. She’s heard a little bit about Magnes from the older kids, about him reading comic books and being around. And she’s heard of the others who’d lived in the Lighthouse, even though the girls that had come back are not the same girls that were lost here, there’s still something good about them being in this world now.

She hopes, anyway.

“Oh.” She knows things didn’t just stop because they were not at home for the last month, but it’s a realized moment that with things not stopping means they still need to be done. The girl makes a face, apology and guilt and puzzled all wrapped up together. “Yeah. Me too I think.” Her schoolwork, which was already mentioned, and probably other things.

Gillian was rambling and she knew that. She was trying hard not to think too much about what had been lost almost a month ago, who had been lost. Who should have been in the house. It was as if a piece of her family had been ripped away, and that was hard. It would take time, and she would bury herself in the work until she felt like she could deal with it. “Don’t work too late, though, you need your sleep,” she adds as the girl realizes she too has a lot of work to catch up on.

Even if she was grounded from working at Raytech, she still had an internship that she needed to get ready for, one that her mother was proud she was involved in. She just hoped the Agents watched her, made sure she didn’t get involved in anything that they couldn’t protect her from. Maybe she would need to call Cooper and ask for a favor…

But first… “I’m going upstairs. To get started on the work that I need to do. But if you need to talk or… or just don’t want to be alone, we can always work in the same room.” The living room had enough space for the both of them. She wasn’t going to say she didn’t necessarily want to be alone, though.

But she didn’t.

“Okay.” Jac’s simple answer is quiet and given as she looks up. Catching up in school hasn’t exactly been the easiest, but she has been working and even made good progress. There’s still plenty of work to do, though, and she’d rather do it in company than alone. Even if it’s just quiet sitting or a short talk about an unrelated idea. She isn’t completely sure she’s ready to get right back into it, though. Knowing it’s needed and being ready to start are two very different things.

With a short sigh, the teen looks up the stairs, at the very long climb. Then she looks over her shoulder to the not-as-far-away kitchen. “Could we make cookies first?” A hopeful look follows the question, as she looks up at her mom. “Then we could have a snack while we worked. It’s easier when there’s cookies, especially new ones.”

So much work to do, but the mention of cookies causes Gillian to look away from the trip upstairs back to the young girl. With a smile, she moves closer and puts a hand against the girl’s arm, a hug that isn’t quite a hug but is still physical contact and comfort for them both. “That’s a wonderful idea. I think I have some snickerdoodle mix we can bake up.” And if not, they have the old standby of chocolate chips that they can go with. Either way, there will be cookies.

And cookies really do make things easier. It gives them something to take their minds off everything.

“I heard they didn’t even have cookies in some of those other worlds,” she jokes as she leads the way toward the kitchen.

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