Hummingbird In Winter


emily_icon.gif genevab_icon.gif

Scene Title Hummingbird in Winter
Synopsis A bird in the hand is worth all the relief in the world. Now to just figure out how to get her back in her body.
Date December 21, 2018


Julie and Emily's Apartment

A breath of worry fogs the glass of the balcony door, a smudge from her forehead left above it as Emily Epstein leans away from the glass and begins to pace her apartment nervously again. From where she stood, she could see the gaudy red and yellow hummingbird-feeder that's been hanging empty since late October, as unattended to as it should be given the time of year. At the end of her pace at the front of the apartment space, turning on her heel, she can see into her bedroom, where the window should be letting in plenty of sunlight from outside.

There's an odd thing for each view, something that's out of place for how things should be — for how they normally are:

The feeder isn't empty despite the cold weather, the mater mixture in it carefully monitored for signs of freezing. The bedroom is darkened, windowframe covered over with a board serving as a barrier keeping the elements from intruding unexpectedly into the living space. It's at least opened now, whereas until the board was bought and secured, the room had been closed off with towels stuffed under the doors to preserve the heat in the house.

Emily's pace ends prematurely only halfway back across the apartment, a longing look spared toward the feeder from this angle before she shakes her head and heads into the kitchen to wander aimlessly in there instead. She should really have something to eat, but she's not had an appetite for going on two days now.

It's been hard to, with her stomach churning from obsessing over every decision made this past month. She refuses to class anything she's done as a wrong decision — a mistake — given the complex nature of what she's brushed with, but she's had to concede maybe she made some bad ones.

Emily has no idea what has happened elsewhere since Eileen let herself out of the apartment night before last, and has made endeavors to keep quiet about the events — including not digging any deeper than she'd already tried to. She's sunk into the strong belief that rocking the boat any further is only liable to make things worse. For herself, for others. In general.

In the back of her mind, she wonders if Eve had it better in the end, running off speaking tongues after their initial brush with Eileen's memories. It inevitably slips toward wondering if the seer won't be the one to come kicking her door in next, once she realizes Geneva's not come home since that night.

She leans forward onto the counter, elbows hitting first while she cradles her head against the edges of her hands. She's forgotten entirely about meaning to fix herself something to eat.

The girl sitting in the apartment isn't the only one concerned with matters of food right at the moment. Just outside the boarded-up window, a tiny, green-and-red form flitters its way through the chilly brightness and comes to rest right on the brink of the hummingbird feeder: a meeting of two splashes of color in a world of otherwise absolute stillness. In the wide rays of harsh sunlight, everything is strangely bright and icily clear. Silent.

The hummingbird in Emily's yard provides one of the few visible sources of movement in the immediate area, meager though that may be— and the nature of that movement speaks of a measured distress. Stiff hops, punctuated by shivers ruffling the feathers of that small frame. If it is possible, though, the creature appears to be deeply grateful for the presence of food in the feeder; the end of its long, thin beak quickly buries itself into the flower-shaped opening without much further ado.

A source of temporary solace in the wintry waste. But for how long?

Whatever the case may be, Geneva is not wasting this opportunity to fill her belly. Constant hunger— even feeding multiple times an hour— is the entirety of her existence now.

"Fuck," Emily shouts at nothing, her hands coming to slam down on the counter before she tears away and starts pacing again. Her laptop has been left open and long-abandoned on the coffee table she marches past, fingers curled up in her hair. It's almost immediately upon turning around to head back toward the balcony that she notices that second spot of color against the white and gray world outdoors.

Hummingbirds in winter were even a more rare sight than feeders being set up for one.

Her breath catches as she rushes to the glass, hand on the lock of the sliding glass door fumbling noisily with getting it released. It doesn't take long for her to pull it open, head poking out into the cold that eagerly creeps in through the open door and settles around her socks. Emily's demeanor is at once relieved and distressed, worry and elation both playing out in micro-expressions as her eyes dart after the tiny bird.

"Gene? Gene, jesus christ, where have you been?" This is asked, of course, as though an answer could even possibly be forthcoming.

As the little creature finishes what she can of the feeder’s contents in scrupulous, sporadic bursts, her beady black eyes settle longingly on the boards framing the window. The keen vision of the bird had not allowed her to miss the movement just past the glass; by the time Emily approaches the lock separating their two worlds and is fumbling with it, she is already hovering right in front of the anticipated opening, wings all a-blur.

Once the door has cracked enough for her to slip through, she shoots straight through like a miniature kaleidoscopic cannonball, the path of her entrance taking her whirring right over Emily's head. She alights on the countertop well within the apartment, twittering unintelligibly. And shivering.

It’s cold, that shuddering says non-verbally. An obvious sentiment, given the rush of wintry air that had accompanied Gene’s flight inside.

The door is practically slammed back shut, lock clicking as Emily whirls back to see where the bird's gone. The skitter of tiny claws on the counter is enough that she finds her quickly, the sputtering of bird noises ensuring it otherwise.

"Pretty fucking cold, huh?" she voices rhetorically as she comes up to the counter. Her brow is furrowed deeply, and she reaches out with both hands to carefully cup around the small bird's form. Cradling her in her hand and under her cardigan both sounded like good options for helping her get warmed up. "God, I was worried sick. Do you know what the temperature's been like? Hummingbirds weren't made for winter, Gene. I guess I should be glad you didn't decide to migrate, at least. I don't fucking know."

She's familiar with the shape of the bird, with its markings, with its usual mannerisms. Things it likes and appears to dislike. This is uncharted territory, though… Hummingbirds in winter, to start with.

Lee not being Lee and actually being Gene is another thing she doesn't know exactly how to handle, but she's already adjusted to the difference, at least. That part of Eileen's lesson had been agonizingly easy to pick up on.

"The fuck are we going to do, Gene?"

The enclosing warmth of Emily's hands is welcomed with an appreciative shudder after the experience of the frozen hellscape outside, and Geneva gratefully allows herself to disappear into those cupped palms, only the top of her head peeping out and over. Her torso is ice-cold to the touch, and the other girl will be able to feel her minute trembling from within.

The only feasible response Gene can give to the line of questioning aimed at her is to vocalize a hummingbird-style squawk: a harsh-sounding chit, feathers ruffling in a confused combination of agreement and agitation. Emily didn't have to tell her hummingbirds weren't made for winter, particularly one that had never… hummingbirded before. It is a wee bit of a problem.

The movements inside Emily's hands are growing increasingly exasperated, even though Gene had been resting there but a few seconds. Talking to Kaylee had been so easy compared to this; the lack of communication alone is threatening to drive her insane. But— by now she has spotted the laptop resting on the coffee table, and she tries to indicate the direction of the desired object in the form of a sudden storm of chitters.

Emily frowns sympathetically down at the little bird as the chill seeps into her hands. A tut escapes her as she starts to pace back across the apartment again, not noticing Geneva's pointed twittering for a long moment. When she does, she arches an eyebrow.

"I don't think Google has any solutions for this one, Gene." she voices even as she sits down on the edge of the couch, curling hand into herself to continue warming the bird in her palm, while the other reaches out for the laptop. A tap to the touchpad wakes it, a browser window opened already. The address bar flashes with an indicator, waiting for an entry.

"I mean, we could try looking something up? 'How to keep an indoor hummingbird happy during winter'? Could be something." Emily pauses, weighing that idea. Her shoulders slump and she looks more tired than before. "Fuck if I know," she sigh again into the air, for no reason other than it makes her feel better having said it.

Google had not been the approach Gene had had in mind. Somehow, 'how to fix bird body swap' does not seem like the sort of search query that would garner many results, nor any variation thereof. A spate of frustration suddenly manifests itself as another deceptively sweet-sounding tweet, this one with perhaps a slightly bitter edge to someone with some imagination. All these whirling words and thoughts she wants so very, very badly to say, but is physically unable to— it is as though she is suffocating in an airtight container with only the slimmest of straws for air.

To someone used to loudly and blithely expressing herself, it is torture. She has to resist the urge to go for the word 'FUCKKkkkk' in the address bar as her first impulse.

Instead, she gingerly flutters out of Emily's fingers and onto the top of the keyboard, tiny sharp hummingbird claws scratching the exterior of the keys as delicately as possible. Precision is nigh impossible the way her digits are formed, and Gene is also highly impatient. Thus, the word that ends up in the address bar is accompanied by numerous typos. But it is recognizable.


Emily blinks as Geneva hops onto the keyboard directly, her own hands coming off of them. Oh, the surprised action says, arms lifted clear with slightly widened eyes. She doesn't get it at first. Then:

"Oh." She leans forward to see what's typed as it happens, intent on the letters that pop out. Really, that two-way communication was possible at all right now is sort of a miracle, short of having a telepath handy. And Eileen wasn't here.

"Sibyl?" is spoken aloud with confusion, her brow starting to furrow. Why would Gene be worried about Sibyl when she was stuck in a bird? Regardless, she looks down at the small hummingbird. "She's fine, as far as I know. Etienne didn't say much, so it's not like I know where he took her. So," Emily shakes her head just slightly as she goes after what she presumes to be the main concern here, "Eileen never got to her. She's safe." She reaches out to clear the search bar to let the little bird type again, should she want … and she's got a feeling she might.

"And since she's convinced that he'll come back to rip her out of her body and put Eileen Ruskin's mind in it, I'm confident Sibyl's safe where she is. And well-guarded besides." You know, with the serial killer mosaic minding her and all.

A good thing Eileen isn't here, or else the communication Gene would be trying right now would be decidedly more physical. A whistle-like trill of relief deflates her little chest, though the concern does not drain from the rigidity of her posture: there are far too many moving unknowns. Gabriel, for one. Of course. But Eileen will also likely be looking for her, which makes her next proposal rather more uncertain. But she can think of no other way for it to be done—

dzshe coulxdf tfurnme bsajck

Emily's mouth parts, half a breath inhaled like she means to speak. She reads and re-reads the line, not out of an inability to understand the desired message it implies, but rather…

"I'm really not sure about that."

Her head starts to shake again, the fingers of one hand curling around her ear as she tucks her bangs away from her face. "We don't know what happened when she woke up, but I'd be hesitant to trust Sibyl with… anything. I don't know how stable I'd trust her to be. I mean, you saw that hellscape in her head. And then she woke up thinking the Vanguard were still around. Like. Fuck. Who knows who or when she was when she woke up after we handed her off?"

It was hard for Emily to have faith in Eileen Ruskin, having difficulty viewing her as anything more than the gory, picked-apart zombielike remains that they'd witnessed coming through the doorway of Eagle Electric. She adds hastily, "Besides, it didn't seem like she had control over her ability. Definitely not like Eileen does. You know which one I mean."

The bar is cleared again before Emily leans back into the couch, tipping her head forward carefully. "Since you're back, maybe it's as good a time as any to…" One hand lifts in a vague gesture. The phrase doesn't come out, but 'contact Eileen Gray' is certainly implied. Her brow starts to furrow, well-aware that's probably not what Gene wants to hear.

Yes, yes, and yes. The darkening of Gene's feathered face has turned her expression practically murderous at this point; none of that information is exactly new to her. That proposal, however. Wings whirring like a bee's, she carves a new path across the keyboard like the world's pointiest hurricane, claws attacking Emily's poor defenseless plastic keys with a renewed vigor.

atrfer yotiu itrhs fdsjkhduijfkdfhhjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

Backspaces. Breathe— an attempt at calm. More backspacing.

aetr yoiy fuckigjkask sres??/?/?????????????????tah h bictghhh

Sibyl may not be in total control of her power, or for that matter her entire being, but to hell if she is going to trust in Eileen's goodwill any more than this.

If visible steam could be rising from the little bird's head, it almost certainly would be at this point.

If she's not careful, she's going to get her feet stuck in the keys, and then where are are? is for some reason the thought that Emily first has to Gene's pointed … well, attempt at a pointed message. The dozen or so question marks make her case heard.

She nods along after reading, trying to show she's following, and hopefully not looking like Geneva's concern's being brushed off. "She did this, and she's going to undo it." Emily says firmly.

Eileen had done this as a lesson, not as a spiteful last act on her way out the door. No, if she were entirely done with Emily, she probably would have used the gun she'd leveled on Geneva.

The browser's address bar is in a rather ridiculous state by now, and Gene is about to heap even more gibberish to the end of that extended line of spam.

hewo the fuicikj dp you kjow thatr adlso ,…./wheur ismhy boduy

Her movements are a fraction slower than what they were before— she is wearying, perhaps. Or simply so incensed by the ways this conversation is going that she has settled into a cool, more deliberate rage. One or the other.

There's another long pause as Emily wonders how to even approach Geneva's first question. She ends up shaking her head, leaning forward again. "You're at the hospital. You lost consciousness and hit your head as you went down, in the middle of one of those visions like people have been having. That's what I told them, at least." While she says as much, she taps the touchpad to open up a large sticky note for the bird to type into.

Tongue in cheek, she looks down at the small bird. "When you wake up, SESA might want to talk to you. You've got to tell them you don't remember shit about what actually happened — tell them about whatever vision you had before, or just make something up entirely." Emily leaves her hand over the pad, her thumbnail scratching back and forth on the plastic beside it as she eyes Geneva calmly, but imploringly. "For Sibyl's sake just as much as yours and mine."

As the rectangular note pops up on the screen, the bird seemingly has to take another few moments to stabilize herself, a thunderously dark expression resting on her tiny brow. It is amazing how clearly her displeasure manages to find a way to shine through, even in such an animalistic guise.

There is a certain stiff iciness in the way she performs her next scratchy, fitful hops across the keys.

so shell bee safe from eieen u mean.

The spelling and punctuation of this newest sentence are far more accurate than in Geneva's previous rage-filled spasms, and this is not accidental; she wants to make sure her point is made very clear.

Why does Emily trust this notorious, would-be child-murderer to feel any compulsion whatsoever to restore Gene to normal?

"Gene, not just from Eileen," Emily tells her, voice soft but clear. "From like a shit-ton of people. From whatever's left of the Vanguard that's out there, too. People who didn't take plea deals, who still believe in really fucked up shit and want to wreck the world." It takes her a moment to try and figure out how she wants to stress how serious it is, a quiet exasperation briefly taking hold. "Like, last year somebody tried to kill Sibyl. If her name pops up anywhere, especially with SESA of all places, it'd be bad." she lifts one hand to scratch at the side of her face in idle thought, slanting a glance back down at the bird. There's no discomfort, or distance or patronizing underlayer to the expression she wears.

Emily and Geneva are just two people having a conversation. One of them happens to be a bird right now.

"Not to mention, the whole world thinks Eileen Ruskin is dead." Literally the world, given the Albany Trials. "So, we can't bring up Sibyl, and we can't bring up Eileen, because it'll just escalate shit even worse and call the attention of who-even-fucking-knows. I don't want my name anywhere-the-fuck near that, and neither do you. It'd make our brush the other night look like a walk in the park."

"And I don't know about you, but I've been through fucking enough to know that's not a hole I want to dig for myself." Her brow pops up in a high arch a moment after she says it. "I don't want to end up dead in a ditch, or under someone else's power in various stages of being on the way to one."

Emily looks off for just a moment before she returns her attention to the bird on her keyboard. "This all got the fuck out of hand, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry you got roped into that shit with Sibyl and I'm sorry I didn't make you leave before Eileen showed up. You're a good friend, Gene, and you were just trying to do what you thought was right." Her brow starts to furrow in a moment of frustration. "This is all complicated, with very high stakes, and I don't even know what I don't know to begin with." Her breath catches as she starts to say something else, but sighs instead.

This is a little cathartic, though. Talking it all through with someone.

"Everything that happened with Sibyl was just one giant manifestation of that. I learned that Sibyl housed Eileen and I went to go talk with her to find out exactly what that meant — how much she remembered, if anything. What she felt about my dad, what she knows about him in general. What, if anything, she knew anything about me." Her expression grows weary. "But then you and Eve showed up, and the opportunity to properly ask those things went up in smoke." The light in her eyes changes as she realizes she's picked a poor turn of phrase.

"No offense meant," Emily adds quickly. "It's not like you knew what the fuck you were getting into."

With all the patience she can muster given the crippling flood of emotions inside her head, Gene maintains an aspect of stony calmness as she listens to Emily's exposition, settling to a stand-still just on the outer periphery of the touchpad. It is difficult to read the face of a hummingbird, but her silence and stillness— unusual as either a bird or human— reveals the sheer amount that must be on her mind.

There is simply so much she wants to say in response to all this. But that blinking cursor still represents her one and only communicable outlet, and she swivels her head back towards it now. Perhaps as an indicator that she can’t decide what she wants to say first, the thoughts she prods onto the screen now are incomplete, leaving a line of erratically abandoned phrases that read a like a stream of consciousness.

dojnt knmow

juissdt waantred 2 kleep her safe


"I know." Emily voices, eyes on the screen. "I know, Gene. You did the best you could with what you had. And if you hadn't been there…"

She lapses for a moment, eyes closing. After a moment, they open again. "Well, I'd have felt a lot more alone." is how she chooses to put it. Geneva's presence had certainly deterred her from even considering Eileen's request.

"I want to fix this. I want to get things back to normal." She says, rocking for a moment to fuss and correct her posture. Emily lets out a loud sigh, eyes going to the ceiling while she thinks. "I can call Eileen and — well, we'll make something work out." She's all stream of consciousness, sounding confident. "I'll let her know the lesson was learned. That I take her seriously. That I'm sorry." Her gaze falls so she's staring more ahead than up, a distance to her expression. There's a tightness in her chest, though she sounds all too casual to have said what she did. Yes, she understood the lessons. And she felt the threat of them, regardless if that had been a desired side effect.

"I need your word you'll not breathe a word about any of this shit to SESA, though, Gene. You had a vision and you fell and that's the last thing you remember. No Sibyl, no Eileen." Her eyes finally drop back down to the bird. "Can you do that?"

Two piercingly black, avian eyes stare straight at Emily. One of Gene’s claws hovers directly above a cluster of keys, ready to commence the next response, but she holds off for just a second or two longer longer than necessary. When the motion is completed at last, it’s in a lightning-fast jab that leaves a distinct scratch streaked across the face of the ‘W’ key.

wweell tallk


‘We’ll talk’ obviously carries the implication of when I am able to actually talk. But for now, the bird is showing clear signs of fatigue; being in a continuous state of stress is not good for anyone, and in Gene’s case, it is physical as well as emotional. Her head bobs once, coming to rest just on the surface of her chest, and suddenly she feels so very, very small.

The deflection isn't encouraging, knowing Gene's stubbornness. Nonetheless, concern for the girl-in-bird's state takes priority. At least Emily knew she was safe. From here, they would figure out the rest.

"Come on, then." she murmurs, reaching out with both hands to scoop the hummingbird up again, bringing her curled in one palm close to her chest to let her rest where she'll be warm and minded. When the other hand is freed, she pulls the laptop closer to herself, intent on becoming a quick expert on keeping hummingbirds as an indoor pet.

The results she finds aren't encouraging. Her brow furrows sharply, worry causing her whole head to ache. Emily really was going to have to find the right thing to say to Eileen to make this work. She said she'd not let anything bad happen to her. But the whole hummingbird in winter thing is bad enough.

She closes her eyes for a moment, exhaling and carefully looking down at the small bird and stroking the back of its head delicately with the tip of two fingers. It's for her sake more than anything. Lee loved it — who knew what opinion Geneva might have of it.

"We'll figure this out. We'll make this right."


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License