His Father's Footsteps


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title His Father's Footsteps
Synopsis On a cold fall evening, a father learns of the death of his son for all the wrong reasons…
Date March 16, 2011


Winter's coming.

The sky is filled with clouds, snowflakes falling in light flurries, but it won't stay. The ephemeral weather is going to break, evidenced by the occasional glimpse of the sun through the patchwork sky. Planting his axe into the tree stump with a heavy chop, Griffin Mihangle wipes sweat from his brow, brushing back a long lock of dark hair from his forehead. The firewood isn't going to split itself, though judging from the heap of split logs nearby the work has been quick going. There's something satisfying about doing it by hand, about relying less on the devil's hands that have caused so much pain throughout Griffin's life.

Up here in the mountains, there's few people that will come and see Griffin's handywork, he cares more for the people that live here anyway. When the wind changes directions, the scent of seasoned meat carries on the wind, a reminder that dinner is on its way. A more jubilant reminder comes bounding out of the woods a moment later into the clearing, boots too big fot his feet crunching down on branches in crunching steps. The boy's smile spreads ear-to-ear, head shaved down to a military crew cut for ease of maintenance, looking practically Spartan beside his shaggy-haired and bearded father.

Griffin wonders if he ever looked that happy when he was 11.

"Dad!" The boy shouts, tripping on a branch and stumbling, hopping on one foot and then turning around to look behind himself, before turning to square his attention on Griffin again. "Dad, someone's here!" It's the kind of urgency in his son's voice that has Griffin's heart racing. Only a handful of people know where he lives, even fewer that Dal would feel compelled to come and get Griffin this hastily over.

"Mom's talkin' to 'im right now, he says he needs t'talk t'you both." Finally stopping once he's in the clearing, Dal offers an askance look to Griffin, one corner of his mouth quirked up into a smile and eyes squared on the axe in the stump, then back to his father.


Far away from where the sound of splitting wood once echoed, where Dal had run off to fetch his father, a cabin rises up out of the woods. Simple and cozy in size, ribbed with moss and shingles of mushrooms on the south face. It's been here longer than either of its residents have, nestled in the Adirondacks, and will likely be here once they're all gone. On the front porch of the cabin, under those patchwork clouds and sparse snow flurries, a guest has come to the Mihangle residence. Unwelcomed, uninvited.

He looks more the part of a woodsman than Nadira can manage, barefoot out of comfort with a thick wool blanket wrapped around her shoulders for a little extra warmth. Dark coils of hair frame her face, a few streaks of gray highlighting her right temple and her right eyebrow as well, a thin scar on her forehead nearby to the white hair.

"I can't tell you," her uninvited guest says, on the stairs to the porch, not deigning to invite himself any further. "Not without Griffin here. He… deserves to hear this from me. You both do." His heavy winter jacket is buttoned down and ready for worse weather, fur-trimmed hood folded down behind his head, catching scraggly locks of hair just as messy as her husband's. Aric Gibbs' beard is thicker than Griffin's, older and longer. She doesn't want him here, and the tattered red cloth worn as an arm-band is why.

Griffin put Messiah behind him.

Bare feet cold against the wood of the porch, Nadira's fingers pull at the blanket around her shoulders, as if warmth in her arms and shoulders would somehow make up for cold toes. It doesn't. Her gaze is firm, however, remaining on the porch like a guardian to her house. He invites himself no further, and she makes no invitation in return. "I do not like bad news," she says, gaze scanning Aric's beard before coming to rest at his eyes. "And I do not like trouble."

As Dal comes running to get him over a rather unexpected guest, Griffin quietly raises his brows, lifting his hand to wipe the sweat from it once more. Despite the chill in the air, he's warm thanks to his hard work. Much better to use his own two hands, which are calloused from the hard work he's put into this home. Better to get splinters and callouses than get too soft.

After a moment, the man moves up to his son, lifting the boy up and hefting him over his shoulder lick a sack of potatoes. "Alright, then. Let's go see who it is, champ." A pat on the boy's back, and Griffin makes his way back toward the cabin that his family calls home. It's everything he dreamed of, really. Everything he ever wanted. A home for his family, where they can live in peace.

Once he emerges from the woods, 'Dal is set down on the ground, his back patted. His green eyes, however, are set on his wife, and subsequently, the visitor and the red cloth that he wears as an arm band. "'Dal, why don't you go get cleaned up?" Brows crawl up the man's forehead as he approaches, moving immediately to Nadira's side and placing his arm around her waist, giving her a squeeze of greeting.

One scarred hand lifts up to his chin as Nadira calls out Aric on being the source of trouble. His expression remains as dour as ever, fingers raking thorugh his thick beard as he attention shifts to the sound of movement through the woods. Breath drawn in through his nose, Aric exhales a sigh that is visible as a cloud of steam in the cold evening air. As Griffin even comes into view, a look is offered to Nadira: part apology, part warning.

From up the winding trail where Aric had come, a straggler indicates that he hadn't come alone. She's young, probably somewhere around Owain's age, wavy blonde hair framing her round face, pouty lips and pointedly worried eyes, like a doe watching for a coming hunter.

She too is dressed for colder weather, but a stranger to Nadira. The red scarf she wears tucked inside of her leather bomber jacket is indication enough where her alegiances lie, one that the young woman nervously fingers with gloved hands as she walks up the dirt path, boots crunching hard packed dirt and dead leaves underfoot.

Aric says nothing to her, but Nadira knows full well that Aric needn't speak to communicate with people. The moment Dal's wiry frame comes running out from the woods at his father's side, the young woman is making her way for him. "Hey Dal," she says in a cheerful, silken voice, friendly as if she knew the boy. She doesn't. One corner of the blonde's mouth creeps up into a smile, but Griffin can see it doesn't reach her eyes. He can also see that she's wearing makeup to hide the fact that she's been crying. No amount of concealer — wherever she got it — can hide the puffy bags under her eyes though.

I'll keep him company is read in the young woman's posture, though as Dal brushes by her and up the steps towards his mother, she isn't making a move to follow. Instead, she's awkwardly standing on the front steps ahead of Aric, looking at Nadira with a brow raised in wait for permission to go inside.

"Walk and talk," Aric says with a nod away from the porch, where little ears can't hear.

The Egyptian woman's stance is firm, an unyielding statue on the porch, her greeting to Griffin only a soft lean in against his side. Her eyes flicker to her son, a smile mostly in her eyes in his direction before she looks back towards the young woman. Her gaze seems calculating for a moment, almost a glance of warning before she nods to the blonde. "Go on," she offers before the motherly guardian of the porch shifts. Reaching just inside the open door to the cabin, she pulls out a pair of boots. She tugs them onto her feet, one hand on Griffin for balance until the pair of them safely protect chilled feet from further chill. She glance to Griffin, then nods towards Aric, offering no verbal response. She's quieter when she's worried.

Green eyes follow the young blonde woman, brows raised as he watches her for a long moment. Suspiciously, and with an air of protectiveness thrown in there. He doesn't quite like leaving his children alone with a stranger, but 'Dal can also handle himself well enough. No son of his will ever grow up unable to defend himself or loved ones.

However, his main concern right now is the man who wishes to speak with them, and ensuring that his wife doesn't fall over while she's putting on her boots, giving her a faint squeeze. Once she's all nice and ready for a walk, Griffin offers a small nod toward Aric. Alpha male syndrome at high levels today, it's Griffin who steps off of the porch first, his arm around his wife.

Aric is content to walk alone, away from the cabin. While his aide takes care of entertaining Dal, Aric grows silent in his slow meanderings. He stops several feet away from the porch, turning to look back at Griffin and Nadira, then down to his feet. "Few days ago we got word about a transport coming out of the city, headed south…" Brows knit together, and Aric's eyes focus on a distant point in the woods. The cold wind picks up, whistles thorugh the stickbare branches of the trees, carries on it a few more flurries of snow.

"Sixteen passengers, most of them kids, bound for Georgia. Din't know where they were going, didn't care. They needed to be let go." Blunted nails scratch through Aric's beard again, and he turns his back on Griffin and Nadira again, starting to walk further away from the cabin. "I had Amanda set up a strike team, Owain volunteered." The invocation of his son's name sends Griffin's heart sinking down to his stomach, when spoken off of Aric's lips.

"Eight kids made it out." His words become shorter, more curt, more abrupt. "I lost four good men to the Cause. Tried to get his body… we couldn't. He went out like he wanted to, like his father lived…" Aric's eyes rise back up to settle on Griffin, brows furrowed and lips downturned into a frown. There's no tears in his eyes, no emotion in his voice but stoic regret. He'd cut out his heart long enough ago.

Reaching into his jacket, Aric withdraws a tattered red scarf, holding it out to Griffin. "Those kids are safe with the Ferrymen thanks to your boy. He didn't show them fear."

"Owain…" Nadira's mouth carefully forms the word, her arm sliding about Griffin's waist. Perhaps for his own comfort, perhaps for hers, but she can't entirely hide the tiny tremble through her body. "A hero," she utters, the words sounding a little forced. "This shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have. He shouldn't have been there." The words, though angry, are quickly subsided as she pushes that inner fear and anxiety away, the trembling stopping. "He deserved a real life," she says, calmer now. "Something better."

At first, Griffin's gaze remains suspicious. What the hell is this man here for, why is his peaceful hideaway being disturbed? Dinner is almost ready, and Aric and the girl are intruding on his time with his family. Family time he's worked hard for, gotten scars for, and gone through so much for.

But then, as the other bearded man finally gets to the point, the color suddenly drains away from Griffin's face. He doesn't tremble like his wife does. No, he wobbles, staring long and hard at the bearer of bad news. A shaky hand reaches out, taking the tattered scarf, green eyes lowering from Aric's fce to the fabric. He looses his arm from around Nadira, holding the scarf in both hands. Staring at it, as if he can somehow make this all not true.

Then, the tall man is suddenly much shorter as his knees give out from beneath him, the man falling to the ground in a crouched position. He doesn't notice. He doesn't care. His son, his firstborn, the only thing he had left of Cindy, who he still loves, even after all of these years. He loved his son, always did everything he could to keep the boy safe, away from danger…away from harm.

"Why…why did you let him go?" The man's voice is soft as he speaks, staring at the cloth. Then, the tears come, first glistening his eyes, then flowing down his cheeks in big, fat droplets. "My son…"

Aric may have cut out his heart, but Griffin never has.

Maybe he should.

Sympathy briefly echoes in Aric's face, perhaps only because he can hear the errant thoughts in both Griffin and Nadira's minds. Aric waits to answer Griffin, gives him a moment to greive, but only that. Scratching at the back of his neck, he looks up to the cabin, to the blonde young woman standing in the doorway between the porch and the interior, too curious for her own good.

"He asked," is Aric's simple answer. Though konwing that won't be enough, he affords Griffin a touch more elaboration. "He wanted more than anything to be like you. The old hero of Messiah. You may've given all this up, may have found your bone and decided to bury it in the woods. But Owain knew that one day someone was going to come and dig it up. He was fighting for all of us, which is more than I can say for you."

Cold, harsh, emotionless; everything it takes to lead a group like Messiah. That is what the world has turned Aric into, a man who delivers sorrowful news with reprimand and criticism. "He got his wish. It's more than most people get." Aric's eyes rise to meet Amanda's on the porch, and the blonde slips away from the door, headed down the steps and towards the path. Aric knows when his welcome is about to be up, Amanda doesn't need to run interference anymore.

That Dal's confused and saddened figure is left in the doorway in her wake paints in image in Aric's mind that won't soon be washed out.

Nadira's eyes snap to Aric, colder than her usual. "We all fight in our own way. Some of us by keeping the hope of a normal life alive." She swallows hard, a hand reaching to put on Griffin's shoulder, squeezing gently before she moves towards the cabin and her son, pulling the blanket from her own shoulders to instead wrap it around Dal like some kind of invisibility cloak to protect him from everything.

At first, only silence meets Aric's accusations. Silent, fat tears that are rolling down Griffin's cheeks, soaking into the worn jeans he wears, the battered Carhartt jacket that keeps the chill of the autumn air away from his aging bones. For a time, all he can do is stare at the tattered scarf, his fists clenched around the fabric. And all he can do is sob, mourn for his lost son who went and threw his life away.

Then, angry green eyes roll up toward Aric, the man sneering. "I did my time." His voice catches in his throat, cracks under the weight of this sudden grief that has been forced upon him by this news. "I stopped fighting because I wanted to give my family what they deserve. A normal life, happy childhoods, anything but the life that I lived." And suddenly, those old vectors come out, the man literally only able to get to his feet through the sheer force of his willpower. "Anything but the pain and suffering that I caused. Anything but the violence that took the rest of my family."

Now on his feet, his eyes fade back to their natural green color. "And where were you? Where were you when my son was dying? Where were you when those other eight kids died?" The man sneers. "Poor planning, poor execution of the planning, underestimating your foes. My son is dead because of your failure in leadership." Griffin straightens, invisible hands parting the dry grasses they stand in.

He has to blame someone, right? Aric is simply the most convenient scapegoat.

"You should leave before I do something regrettable."

Aric is just as stony in the face of accusations flung as he was grief, even if this is just another expression of it. He waits, not to be dismissed, but for his second to make the way across the firt path towards where he's finished his conversation. Amanda arrives not long after things have become painfully awkward, her eyes averted to the ground for fear of meeting Nadira's, hands in her pockets and stride not breaking once as she passes by the three, headed down the winding dirt road in the flurries of snow.

Aric looks over his shoulder after her, tongue sliding across the back of his teeth before he turns to Griffin, brows furrowed and voice resonant in the back of Aric's mind like a dull, rusty bell.

He died because he wanted to be like you.


Confucious Plaza Apartments

By the time Griffin is waking up in a cold sweat, cheeks wet from crying and pillow stained with tears, he can see Nadira's silhouette sitting on the edge of their bed, face lie partly by dim moonlight spilling thorugh their narrow bedroom window. Her throat working up and down in a dry swallow.

The clock silently counts by, seconds and minutes of silence in the night. It will take time to explain what happened, even more time to understand it.

But the lesson was clear enough.

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