How Do We Forgive Our Fathers?


berlin_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif emily_icon.gif

Scene Title How Do We Forgive Our Fathers?
Synopsis Eileen endures Emily and Berlin. Just… being them.
Date December 11, 2018

The road is long and dark. Only the car’s headlights illuminate the narrow forest track spiraling open ahead of them. There are no street lamps out here, just reflections glancing off old, forgotten street signs and intermittent mile markers that Emily could use to piece together their destination if the woman in the driver’s seat hadn’t already told her where they were going.

Pine Barrens, New Jersey

Eileen, as usual, isn’t the most engaging conversationalist. For most of the trip, she’s allowed a double-sided mixtape to occupy Emily’s attention; although the vehicle itself is in rough shape with a burnt-out check engine light and a broken speedometer, the radio has no problem filling the car’s interior with Fleetwood Mac’s distinctive warble.

The Englishwoman is a fan of 70’s classic rock. Go figure.

She’s like a cat in the dark

And then she is the darkness

She rules her life like a fine skyark

And when the sky is starless

Once in a million years a lady like her rises

Oh no, Rhiannon, you cry, but she’s gone

Your life knows no answer, your life knows no answer

She keeps her eyes on the road, attention focused near the edge of the trees where the occasional deer can be seen picking through the frosty overgrowth, although it isn’t wildlife that she’s probably on the lookout for. Her left ring finger taps against the steering wheel in time with the music — and if Emily chances a glance at her reflection in the rear view mirror, she might even catch her lips mouthing the lyrics.

Taken by, taken by the sky

Taken by, taken by the sky

Taken by, taken by the sky

Emily's listened to the tape in and out, mostly paying attention to the surroundings as they go by. She's been patient, entertained enough by seeing (what little of it can be seen, at least,) the sights outside of the Safe Zone. After going over a particularly rough bump on the road, and feeling the vehicle rattle, she glances to see see if any more warning lights come up on the dash. "You need a new car," she observes as politely as she can manage, leaving exasperation out of her voice. "Let me handle looking for one when we get back."

Though, seeing as she's interested in the music as much as she is the road, who knows if Eileen hears her at all.

“I like my car,” Eileen answers. “Jaguar, Mark II. Nineteen sixty-seven. She’s a British import, like me. The last man who worked her over used to work me, too.”

That’s probably too much information, but also: it’s a joke, or at least the closest thing Eileen comes to a joke on the subject of Gabriel Gray. As the song draws to a close, a sloping driveway enters Emily’s field of vision.

Eileen doesn’t bother with a turn signal. Either it’s also out of commission, or she sees no point in it; there’s no one behind them to signal to.

The vehicle’s wheels crunch over gravel and ice. Headlights sweep across a frozen pond of some kind, obscured by cattails that stand tall and brittle in the cold. A cabin sits at the end of the driveway, its windows as dark as the forest had been, although the air smells of fragrant woodsmoke and the promise of a fire burning in a hearth inside.

Eileen shuts off the engine.

A figure stands in the doorway, a jacket hastily pulled on when she heard the engine approaching. Berlin doesn't quite fill the space, but her hand braces against the frame as if she were trying to. She steps out, pulling the door closed behind her to conserve what heat there is inside. She starts for the car— although she knows this is about to be an awkward conversation.

She didn't know Emily was Avi's daughter when she last met her.

Blue eyes seem to have an unnatural shine to them, like a strange cat in the dark, as she gets close enough to speak to them.

"There's some food inside," she says, instead of hello.

A look is shot to Eileen via the rear-view as she pulls up the driveway. "Well, if you decide you're looking for a new mechanic, I'll find you one." she offers, possibly joking on some level. But really, it was a miracle the car hadn't already broken down, with how it bore almost as many lights as a Christmas tree.

She looks to the door, and can make out the figure that's there but little about them. "Is that her, then?" The door is opened by hand and nudged away from the car with her foot, crutches and boots both helping her find her balance as she pulls herself out of the car.

The door nudged shut behind her, she doesn't leave the side of the car as she takes in the oddly-familiar person walking toward them. "Berlin?" she asks, confused, then looks past her to the cabin door like she expects it to open again. What would Berlin be doing here? She wasn't… a healer.

Her thoughts go sideways fast. What Berlin was was Wolfhound. She turns to the driver, sounding incredulous. "Eileen, I swear to Christ, if this was a trick to make me see my father…"

“For once this has nothing to do with your father,” Eileen says as she climbs out of the Jaguar and slams the driver’s side door behind her. The snow in the trees muffles the sound more than any extra effort she makes to be quiet. It absorbs her footsteps while she circles around the vehicle, passing both women on her way toward the cabin.

That Berlin and Emily know each other is a surprise; but in hindsight, she thinks, it shouldn’t be.

It’s a small world, getting smaller.

The snow caked to her boots leaves tracks on the cabin’s wood floors. She makes a beeline for the hearth, scrubbing her palms together to generate additional warmth. Her joints feel rigid; even wielders of the Black Conduit, raised from the dead, feel cold.

"Hi," Berlin says, brushing her hair back from her face. "Come on, it's cold out here." She turns back for the cabin, too, not really explaining herself or Eileen. But Avi's mention makes her look toward the fire.

"I understand you want some healing," Berlin says, instead of dealing with any of that. "It's going to take some time. Your case is more complicated than most of what I see." Most, but not all. "But spare me a few days and you can walk out of here, good as new." Nevermind that doing that much that fast is draining on Berlin. She'll deal with that part herself.

Emily takes in the inside of the cabin in a few glances, keeping any further outbursts to herself for the moment. Jumping straight to the accusation she had feels a little foolish now, so she observes and catalogues in silence.

When Berlin gets straight down to it, though, she doesn't immediately turn back, struggling with something. It was now or never, apparently. She shifts a look to Eileen by the fire before she faces Berlin again. "That's… good to hear, I guess." But for all her intention on getting out what she means to say, a more selfish curiosity rises first.

"It's — degenerative, though. I've been dealing with this my whole life. If you…" she pauses then, still trying to reconcile that instead of just 'sensing' life, the young woman could actually heal it, "—do your thing, is that it? Just that, and everything's fine? Or will it come back?" Emily shakes her head slightly, taking a moment to adjust her footing. It felt important to get this clarified up front. "It's not an injury. It's a disease."

Eileen settles in an armchair with faded upholstery, coming apart at the seams. Rusted springs creak beneath her weight, however slight. “It’s never fine,” she says. Her fingers navigate the topmost button of her woolen coat, opening the garment close to her throat.

Already, the few snowflakes attached to her coat and the glossy black sheen of her hair have begun to melt thanks to the fire’s proximity. As fine droplets of water, they continue to glitter in the cabin’s ambient glow.

“My husband carried this ability before I did,” she continues now that her coat is sufficiently loose, “and he used it to heal all manner of afflictions, but he was special. He could take someone else’s gift apart like an old pocket watch and reassemble it to track time with the precision that migratory birds measure the sun.”

Her voice is low, thick. She sounds like she has a mouthful of gravel. “But he was special,” she says again. “We call it the Black Conduit. Berlin possesses it, too.

“Say nothing of its opposite.”

While Eileen answers, Berlin watches her from the corner of her eye. She can't exactly refute anything, but there is a quiet sigh before the end. "The Conduits are a set of abilities that exist beyond the people that hold it. When I die, they'll find a new person. And then another and another, on and on," she says, hand gesturing in an endless circle. "But that's not an answer. The answer is that I don't know. I haven't had a disease come back yet, but this isn't something I do very often."

Her reasons are, perhaps, obvious.

"But as far as I know, once I heal it, it will be gone." It's not a guarantee, but it's the best she can offer. "I don't plan on using the Black for this," she says, more to Eileen than to Emily. She's the one who will understand. "If I can avoid it." Since it went… poorly last time.

In the time it takes for both of them to explain what's behind Berlin's ability to heal, or something like it, Emily should have had ample time to have a seat. Instead, she remains standing, convinced she'll not speak at all if she sits. "There's something you should know. I didn't… Listen, I didn't ask about this for me." She has to pause and recollect her words, realizing how odd that sounds against what she'd just asked.

"There's someone I met who has way more need of this than me. So…" Emily tapers off with a growing frown. "I had wanted to ask you to help her." She shifts her weight again, not flustered, but not exactly comfortable either. Berlin seemed ready to just jump right in.

Eileen isn’t anticipating her own reaction to this unexpected piece of news, and it surprises her more than Emily’s deferral does because she laughs. It’s a rough, hoarse sound that only rises in pitch and intensity as she realizes it’s happening.

Her hands fly to her face, cupped around her mouth in what’s probably an attempt to stifle it.

It doesn’t work; she’s heaving.

In contrast, Berlin stares at Emily, her expression blank. It's unexpected for her, too. Even Eileen's laughter doesn't change her features. Eventually, she remembers to breathe out. And back in again.

"The offer isn't transferable. Or on the table anymore," she says, tone as icy as she can make it. And she turns from the room to head for the kitchen. There are some noises from that direction— cabinets opening, liquids pouring— but she doesn't come back into the room right off.

She's going to need a minute.

This situation clearly required far more tact than Emily just applied to it. She tries to salvage it by biting hard on her tongue, on ignoring the laughter and conveying how serious she is, on explaining herself further.

No chances for that, though. Nope. Goddammit, Emily.

For a moment she can't say anything at all, then she turns for the doorway Berlin's exited through. She could fuck it up for herself, but she was going to try real fucking hard to not leave, metaphorically-speaking, empty-handed. "She's a veteran from the war," she explains, loud enough her voice carries into the other room clearly. Keep it together.

"She got hit by something that crippled her. Nerve gas or something. Even if it's— She doesn't deserve what happened to her." For all her attempts at being altruistic, her frustration is creeping through. "I've lived with this bullshit my entire life, I can wait a little fucking longer or the whole rest of my life for all I care, but I figured I'd fucking try for her sake."

God, she hoped she wouldn't fuck this up somehow worse.

Keep it together is some great advice that Eileen could probably use.

Even with Emily spelling out the gravity of the situation, she’s having a hard time doing anything except (apologetically) yowling into her hands. Her face is wet with tears streaming from eyes she’s pinched shut, body doubled over and bent at the middle. She tries filling her lungs with air to stymie her laughter, but this only adds more fuel to her reserves.

It was just a matter of time until something broke her.

When Berlin reappears, she carries two glasses with her. She listens to Emily, but her attention comes with a sidelong look as she passes over toward Eileen. She sets a glass of water next to her, just for when she's able to calm down again.

Berlin's glass is alcoholic. Some local moonshine.

"Sit the fuck down," she says, although she seems aware that she's likely to set Eileen off, as she looks her direction for a moment. But she follows her own advice and sits down. "Who is it?" The question sounds more annoyed than she might want it to, but she can't help it.

In the time it takes for Berlin to come back, Emily's started pacing. Eileen's laughter was grating on her, and it was increasingly becoming something she wasn't going to handle gracefully. She looks a little too hopeful when Berlin returns from the kitchen, acquiescing to the request and shrugging her crutches off her forearms without much grace. One clatters to the floor instead of staying at the angle she's left it at.

Eileen's (presumably) renewed laughter finally reaches a point she can't stand it anymore, and she pulls a cardboard-comfortable throw pillow out from behind her, pitching it in the armchair's direction. "For fuck's sake," she snaps, seething. "I never said it was for me."

Yes, she'd like very fucking much to not have to deal with her own condition, but this was what she'd chosen and she was going to have to stick with it, by the sounds of things.

Emily leans forward, elbows on her knees and her head in her hands as she massages her temples. "Her name's Jolene." she informs her palms loudly. "Her last name's probably Childs, but I don't fucking know."

The pillow bounces harmlessly away, no real harm done. Eileen’s laughter is winding down, reduced to a low whimper, although her body continues to tremble and shudder for a minute or two after the noises have stopped.

“You alright?” Berlin asks Eileen, but instead of genuine concern, it’s more of a dry question. It comes with a sidelong look and a lift of her eyebrow. She turns back to Emily, noting, “I’m not sure she’s ever actually laughed before.” It’s possible this is meant to be a joke, but her tone is too harsh to hit the mark.

When Emily explains who she meant to ask for, Berlin shakes her head. A young girl named Nathalie has a strange history with Gillian Childs and her daughter, but Berlin doesn’t let recognition show on her face. But it is filed away for later.

“This is exactly why I don’t tell people that I’m a healer. There’s always another name, another person. They all need it. None of them deserve what’s happened to them. You have no idea what you’re even asking me or what it costs.” She drinks, a healthy gulp because she needs it. “You won’t like to hear this, but the only reason I agreed to this is because I respect your father.”

"I don't." Have a clue what it costs her, that is. Or like hearing that this, inevitably, had something to with her father after all. Emily would drink, too, if three glasses had been brought. Instead, she places her palms together and swipes them down her face with a sigh that doesn't actually release any tension.

She looks toward Eileen as well, a humorless snort escaping her. "That's rude," she asides to Berlin in a flat voice that doesn't do well to hide her amusement. That undercurrent vanishes as she adds, "Almost as rude as she's being." Or herself, apparently, but that was different.

Emily grinds the heel of her boot into the floor, staring toward the fire with a glower. "This is exactly why I don't tell people I'm an Epstein. I stop being my own person and just turn into Avi Epstein's daughter, and the fucking baggage that comes with that, depending on the person." It's accompanied by a hard swallow.

"… No, I don't know what the use of the Conduit costs you, I didn't even know something like that existed ten minutes ago. I figured I'd be meeting someone who charged—" She almost says 'an arm and a leg'. Almost. "A lot, someone whose services were reusable, with the right tender. But no, sometimes I make stupid as shit calls because I'm trying to be more than just Avi Epstein's fucking daughter."

Then again, nothing said self-destructive Epstein tendencies like looking a miracle in the face and abrasively offending it until it ran away.

“Oh fuck off, both of you.” This from Eileen, although there’s no heat beneath her words, no malice to blacken them. She’s smiling when she says it, hands braced against the inside of her thighs as she levers herself upright and straightens her spine.

Her shoulders roll back. She spreads her palms open. “You live in the light.

Inside the hearth, the fire crackles, wood splintering under the pressure conjured up by the flames. Smoke interspersed with embers wafts up the chimney. “This world Epstein and Gitelman, even Volken eventually fought for— it belongs to you. You inherited it the moment the last man condemned at Albany had the stool kicked out from under him.”

She picks up the glass of water Berlin left on the end table, but does not drink. Traces a thumbnail along its rim instead. “Forget your fathers, the voices in your heads, your doubts, past lives, all of it—”

Her postures deflates on a sigh. She levels a look across the room at both young women, exhausted — but not from laughing.

Her mouth is still soft. The smile maintains. “I’ve never seen anyone take so much offense to wanting what’s best for the other. Do you really not see how alike you are?”

Berlin stares at Emily while she talks. She cannot even. So she’s grateful, in a way, when Eileen cuts in.

Her response is a sigh. Her gaze lingers on Eileen, then flicks over to Emily. Assessing for a moment. How alike are they? The question circles an uncomfortable topic, so she doesn’t address it at all.

“I’ll go see Jolene. I’ve met her before, a long time ago.” She didn’t know how she came out of the war, or she might have gone sooner. “But I don’t work for anyone. If I heal anyone, it’s because I want to. And they want to.” She looks back to Eileen there, her expression dry. Are you happy? left unspoken but implied.

With Eileen, it was never just words at face value. Always something underneath them. Emily leans back while she listens, her head turning to Berlin first before her eyes catch up at that last comment. Alike?

Always something else to throw into the mix.

Her visible frustration is cut to nothing as she wonders, trying to not jump to conclusions immediately, what is meant by that. It's accompanied by a slump of her shoulders as she sinks into the couch, relieved when Berlin says she'll visit Lene. Thank God.

For a moment, she says nothing, afraid to jeopardize Berlin's willingness to go. Bites her tongue instead of voicing some errant thought aloud. "Okay. Understood." she acknowledges. Her foot shifts on the ground, nudging against the pole of the fallen crutch and then Emily tries, and fails, to bite back a follow-up. Carpe diem, or whatever Eileen was trying to imply, right?

"I can't, and won't, ask you to change your mind about me. But if you decide on your own I'd be worth the effort, I very…" she pauses, trying to not let her pride, or fear get in the way of finishing that thought. Her voice is quieter. "I want a shot at a different life." It's a struggle to put words to at all, but she does. Different, not 'better'. She won't put much stock in hoping for it, refuses to address just how much she'd want that shot.

Her inability to look up at Berlin anymore as she tries to keep a poker face might speak for itself anyway. She scoots herself forward to reach for her fallen crutch and pick it back up.

“I’ll drive you back to the Safe Zone first thing in the morning,” Eileen tells Emily. “You can choose whether or not to tell Fournier where you’ve been.” Or who with.

Now she does drink, and finds herself missing the more stringent taste of alcohol. Thinks, then, of Iago and his liquor — and whether or not the trek through the snow at this time of night would be worth the chill. “If a different life is what you want,” she says, “you’ll certainly get a glimpse of what it looks like for other people out here.”

Rather than stand to seek Iago out, she leans further back into the chair, letting the natural curve of her body conform to its shape.

She has all night to check in with Aquila.

It's probably a good thing that Emily doesn't look at Berlin. Because she's staring. There was a moment— just a brief moment— where she lived in a world where this girl was her sister and although it was gone in the space of a breath, it was enough time for Berlin to imagine what it might be like.

"I'll need her for a few days," she ends up saying to Eileen. And then, to Emily, "You're already here, might as well not waste a trip." A mercurial nature, this one, swayed my emotion and moments. Even if she tries to make it sound like it's just the convenience and not emotion that drives her decision.

Emily's fully prepared to figure out her story for the night, having gotten herself together to stand and start heading for the kitchen. She pauses in her trek, turning toward Berlin in surprise. It's her turn for a blank expression now, trying and failing to understand how she's changed her mind already. "That's thoughtful of you." she manages to say, and then passes through the doorway to look for some of the previously-mentioned food.

She's got a lot to think about, and be thankful for. And process. To say this all had been a lot to take in was an understatement. Maybe she'd have more tact about it all in the morning.

And morning is still a long way off.

“There's a little game I like to play,” Eileen says, and crosses her slim legs at the ankle, “it’s called I never…”

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