I'll Be Home For Christmas


colette_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif

Scene Title I'll Be Home For Christmas
Synopsis The Nichols sisters meet in the abandoned subway tunnels beneath Midtown's ruins for what they hope is not the last time.
Date December 8, 2010

Derelict Subway Station

Once a bustling station vibrant with life and people, this terminal has been abandoned. Not difficult to see why, as it's close to the radiation zone, and the only easy entrance to it connects to a tunnel still registering as black on radiation detectors. The area itself sits in a marginal zone of radiation, but the ceiling has collapsed in enough areas to block easy access from the safer zones. An out-of-use subway train lays dead on the tracks. The front car rests on its side off the tracks, while the second, third and fourth car are upright. The fifth has been crushed under fallen debris, either from the initial shock wave, or from later deterioration of the roof above. Any other cars in the train are buried under the rubble.

Windows have been busted open in a few places, and the side door of the middle upright car is opened. The only light in the tunnel comes from this car, a sign of electricity, as the fluorescent lights in this car have been turned on. The hum of a generator can be heard. In the terminal itself, there are doors leading to maintenance rooms and personal offices. One of the doors has a large boulder resting in front of it - a boulder that has been placed there deliberately.

The other end of the tunnel disappears into the darkness.

Underground, dawn never comes.

Someone else in this very train station once had that revelation, it holds no less true all this time later. Within the cordoned off ruins of Midtown, the derelict subway station at 51st street and Lexington is an unknown inlet into a concealed network of both literal and figurative underground activity. The subway station itself has seen so much damage over the years since the Midtown explosion; floods and fires, deep freezes and structural collapse. It's a small miracle that what little is left of the station remains.

Trash litters the ground when an intruder's silhouette first casts long and dark down those stairs into the subway station. A cold wind blowing in from topside in Midtown sends weathered newspaper pages blowing across the tiles floor on her descent, reveals puddles of icy water frozen in a thin upper crust, broken bottles and shattered masonry half frozen in the rime.

Her shoes report softly on the steps, louder on the crunch of debris once she reaches the bottom. An entire turnstyle has been uprooted from the ground by someone, purposefully, creating a narrow inlet past former subway ticket stations where enormous pieces of frost-coated concrete have toppled down, creating an a-frame entrance to the underground, trimmed with twisted rebar reinforcement.

The underground itself is unlit, save for by the pale, cloudy light filtering in from that narrow entrance. Nicole Nichols can see her breath as a steamy cloud, standing there in that entryway. It looks different in daylight, somehow more somber, like a crypt torn open by an earthquake. The last time she was here it was pitch black, that respectful shroud of darkness would be welcomed again.

Nicole is dressed much more sensibly this time for an excursion like this - much more so than the last time she was down here. Acid wash jeans haven't been quite the fashion for some time now, but they're still Nicole's favourite. And they pair well with the leather jacket she wears to protect her from the chill. It's pierced with buttons, and safety pins, pyramid studs and grommets that seem to really serve no purpose. It's a leftover from high school. It still fits.

Perhaps a perfect testament to how little Nicole Nichols has changed over the years. But you'd best not say that to her face. A nervous glance is sent down to her Blackberry, checking for any messages for the umpteenth time, steeling herself with a deep breath to enter the crumbling subway tunnels.

No signal.

In Midtown, and now underground, it's no surprise. All of the local towers were destroyed in 2006 that once covered the Midtown area. Somewhere in the impenetrable dark down the far side of the subway station towards the platform where passengers would in years past wait for their subway train, a voice calls out to Nicole.

"He's gone," is something that Colette Nichols is only now starting to come to terms with. "Something happened, and— he's gone." She comes into view far closer than that dark beyond, first appearing as suggestions of light and dark that are reminiscent of a halftone drawing of Colette, then further fleshed out in details of color as well as value. That she's been crying is kept to herself, though there's little that her reddened, puffy eyes can do to help hide that.

She's much Nicole's sister in appearance, especially today. Colette's leather jacket, scarred by fire from a molotov cocktail during the riots, is more understated than Nicole's, though her older sister's stonewashed jeans are mirrored in scuffed and abused leather pants on her sister. Boots scrape along the concrete as she comes into view, arms wrapped around herself, hood from her sweatshirt pulled up over her head.

"Judah's gone, his electricity and phone are still on— bank account's still active…" That she'd taken out the maximum withdrawal of $200 from it with his ATM card goes unspoken, but it will help to survive.

"I don't know what to do," is a much harder admission for her to make.

"Come here," is Nicole's quiet command, bridging the gap between the two sisters with sure steps. She doesn't care if Colette wants to return the hug, but Nicole needs to hold tight to her little sister. "I know," she whispers into her hair. "He warned me, but I… I couldn't get in touch with you to tell you. You weren't returning my calls, and I didn't think it was safe to leave a voice mail with something like that, in case…"

Colette is hugged tighter against Nicole's chest. "In case they'd gotten you, too." Whoever they are, really. "God. I am so glad you're all right." She leans back to cup the younger woman's face in her hands, stooping down the small bit she needs to be at Colette's height. "You cannot go back there. Not for anything. Not for anyone. I should have made you hang up the second I heard your voice. God, I am so stupid."

Nicole Nichols is afraid.

Stiff as wet cardboard, Colette offers up only fleeting resistance to the affection afforded by her sister. However much of her coldness is also reflected in her expression, with searching eyes cast askance when Nicole cups her cheeks. She's silent, awkwardly so, trying to puzzle out something behind mismatched eyes. When her distant stare finally does settle on her sister again, she lifts up gloved hands enough to gently move Nicole's hands from her cheeks, then steps back, holding Nicole's hands in hers.

"I know," is a blanket assessment of some of the situation. That Judah tried to warn her, Colette didn't know, but the security protocols in place are something she's been dealing with long enough — had ingrained in her by Hana enough — to be second nature, when she's thinking straight.

"I need to know what you know. Who's responsible, what— what he was trying to warn you about." Colette's hands squeeze Nicole's firmly, her brows furrowed and jaw unsteady, trying to remain strong. "I— I need you to tell me everything, Sis."

"He… saw something, Colette." It's so rare that Nicole calls her sister by her given name. It's always Sissy or 'Letty or anything else. "When it just about everybody but me seemed to have visions of the future… He saw his." Dark lashes fall against Nicole's cheeks as she stares down at the crumbling floor. "Are we safe here? Are we safe to talk here? Are you absolutely certain?" She glances back over her shoulder, back the way she came, and shakes off the unease.

If it weren't safe, Colette wouldn't have spoken at all. At least, that's what Nicole has to believe in order to keep functioning right now. "He's been arrested. At least, that's… What we think happened." We. Like she's talked this out with Judah herself. Or maybe it's not that at all. "He… recognised a voice in his vision. A woman. My contact in the NYPD, and his old partner." A hand comes up to press the backs of fingers to the underside of her nose as though it will quell any oncoming tears. "He called me on the seventh. Just before the riots. He wanted to make sure I… He gave me a letter. It said only to open it if he disappeared."

And she's opened it, it seems.

"That's how I found out about everything. By the time I was able to read it all over and put all the pieces together… You were gone. I didn't know if they'd come for you, too. I don't even know who they are. I don't think it's the PD." Nicole shakes her head. "I'm sorry. I tried… I didn't know what to do, but wait for you to…" To finally call, or show up. Nicole's getting used to the idea that her sister is just going to flit in and out of her life without any regard as to how much it might make her worry.

Turnabout seems to be fair play in that regard.

Colette's hands start to tremble, and hiding that nervous tic is why she withdraws her hands from the grasp with Nicole's. Swallowing tightly, Colette blinks her eyes a few times to try and wipe away moisture gathering in them. Her throat works up and down, trying to swallow the lump in her throat and the taste of bile on the back of her tongue. She nods, repeatedly, in a way that seems more neurotic than anything else. "Okay," she whispers sharply. "Okay it— okay, that's… that's how it'll be, then."

Sweeping a gloved hand over her mouth, Colette withdraws further, turning away from Nicole, affording her a profile view. "I'm not registered…" Colette explains as she lowers her hand from her mouth, "in— in any way. If they got to Judah, than they— they probably know that I didn't register as a non-evolved when the deadline came up. Which means people might come looking to you, to— t'see if you know where I am."

Colette's mismatched eyes lift back to her sister, followed by a slow shake of her head. "You either need to come with me, now, and don't go back to your apartment or— " the or seems hard to vocalize. "Or I don't know when I'm going to be able to come see you again."

The older woman with her blue-streaked hair smiles sadly and shakes her head, drawing Colette in for a kiss. It lingers longer than it should between sisters, to an outside observer. "If I disappear," Nicole reasons with false humour in her tone allowing her to sound like she thinks this is going to turn out all right, "they'll know you've figured it out. They'll know I know what's happened to you. But… But if I carry on business as usual… I can help you."

Nicole reaches into her pocket and withdraws… a large wad of twenty dollar bills. "There's… two thousand here." She presses the cash into her sister's palm, curling Colette's fingers around it. "I can get you more. Just tell me where I can drop it so you'll get it."

There's no attempt to hide the tears when they start to fall down Nicole's cheeks. "You can hide yourself easily. I… I would only slow you down. Your friends don't trust me. And… I wouldn't expect them to, considering my connections." She presses her hand to Colette's cheek again, her fingers even without gloves are warm against the younger woman's skin. The trembling there has nothing to do with the cold.

"I'd ask you to come home with me, but I know you won't. But don't… ever worry about leading them to my door. If you need me, come to me. No matter what. I will protect you." Nicole's voice becomes thin, strained. Her last words are a choked out around a sob. "I love you, Sissy."

Colette almost drops the money, her fingers are so unresponsive. A noise hitches in the back of her throat, hands shaking, holding desperately onto the money now because it might be the only thing she ever gets from her sister again. For as much as Colette put the option of running away out there, it seems when it comes down to push or shove, she doesn't want to let go of anyone else in her life that matters to her. Too many of those people are lost already.

That Colette throws herself at her sister is perhaps the break, emotionally, that she needed. Her arms wrap vice-tight around Nicole's shoulders, face buries at her neck rather than the studded shoulder of her jacket, and the tiny, private sounds of crying that she makes do little to offer an apology to this early birthday present she's given to her sister.

Sniffling noisily, Colette uselessly curls gloved fingers against the unrelenting leather of Nicole's jacket, lets the warmth of tears dampen her neck, lets the sounds of crying echo in the subway tunnel. It's the second time she's broken down underground, the second time she's let herself cry since it felt like she had cried away every tear she had.

"I'm gonna' be changing my phones. I'm— I won't give you a number, it's not— " safe was what she was going to say, but a bitter laugh and a feigned smile offered to Nicole's next instead comes before: "Not like I answered it on time anyway, right?"

Exhaling a shuddering breath, Colette's thin arms squeeze tightly around her sister. "There's an old post-office blue box across the street from this station. If I leave a dollar bill under your door, I need money dropped there. Other— otherwise I'll try to come by myself. Wh— when I can."

Which is to say that it might take a while.

For a while, it's all Nicole to do to just hold her sister and listen to her, nodding her head to prove her attentiveness. She doesn't want to let go. She doesn't want Colette to leave again. "It's best if you… If you don't give me your number. Don't tell me where you're going." Just in case. "But if you're in danger, you call me. I will come for you, no matter what."

Nicole gives a shudder and curls her fingers in Colette's hair. "Are you sure, are you absolutely sure that you can't come home with me? I could hide you. I could protect you." She already knows the answer, but to not try is admitting defeat. "I could maybe bribe some people, call in some favours." It's cheating. But it's politics. It's what Nicole knows best.

Whoever had Judah Demsky arrested likely isn't interested in money or favours.

"I'm sure," is Colette's whispered response, apologetic as it is. She leans in, at that touch, rests her forehead against Nicole's chin, swallows down too many different and conflicting words. Instead, she just offers a faint smile and lifts her hands up, weakly brushing gloved fingers through Nicole's hair before slowly stepping away from her sister, lips pressed tightly together and jaw tense from trying to show those telltale signs of emotional fatigue.

"You have to promise me something, though," Colette insists as she shakily lifts up the flap on her courier bag, sliding the large wad of money down inside before velcroing the flap shut again. "Can you do that?"

"Depends on… what you ask," Nicole admits. She rocks forward, resisting the urge to step forward and keep her little sister as close as she can. "What… What is it?" She occupies herself with wiping away tears, and breathing deeply to try and bring her emotions back under control.

It's simple enough.

"Be home on Christmas Eve."

Some things are too important to forget.

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