rue_icon.gif nathalie2_icon.gif

Scene Title Inspired
Synopsis In vino veritas.
Date January 3, 2020

The Bastion

It’s going on 2:30 in the morning. The Bastion is quiet, save for a quiet voice drifting from the common space of the kitchen, thin and tinny.

“Hi, sweetie,” the unfamiliar voice begins. “It’s — Well, you know who this is.” There a quiet sigh and a long pause. “I just wanted to wish you a happy new year. We didn’t hear from you at Christmas, which is fine, we know you’re busy, but… We just wanted to say hello.”

There’s indistinct talking muffled in the background, a man’s voice. “Yes— I mean, no. It’s her voicemail,” the woman’s voice continues. “You know how it is. Maybe she doesn’t have a signal in… Rochester? Or maybe she’s in Albany? Are you in Albany now, sweetheart?”

Silence falls again, broken only after several long seconds. “Anyway. Don’t forget to send us your birthday list. You’re going to be eight this year. That’s a big deal. Love you. Call me back this time, please? Okay… Love you,” she repeats. “Bye.”

Rue Lancaster scrubs the back of her hand under her nose, fingers curled around the neck of a bottle of bourbon. On the counter in front of her sits her phone, the screen glowing up at her and illuminating her face and curls in a blue-white glow that penetrates the dark of the kitchen.

A quiet grunt penetrates the silence, followed by the sloshing of liquid in the bottle as Rue lifts it to her lips and takes a long drink. Her free hand settles on the phone, blocking out most of the light it gives off, poised to throw it across the room.

Something has her head snapping up suddenly, staring owlishly at the mouth of the hallway and sucking in a deep breath. “How long have you been standing there?”

"Longer than you'd like," Nathalie says, her tone gruff but there's an apology buried in there somewhere. Pretty deep, because as evidenced by her walk when she attempts to move forward, she has already been at the liquor. Maybe she came out of her quarters for water. "Was that your parents?"

Normally, she wouldn't ask. But she is not normal tonight. Or at all, lately. She wouldn't know what to say if someone asked her about her parents, but her thoughts haven't reached that far yet. Maybe in a few minutes.

"And will you share your bourbon?"

Two equally important questions.

Rue sniffs loudly, but manages a smile for a friend. Realistically, anyone she would have found standing there would have been counted among her friends. But Nathalie is an exceptionally welcome sight. “Yeah,” is the answer to both questions, coincidentally.

The bottle is set out on the counter in favor of sliding off the stool she’s been occupying at the island so she can fetch two glasses from a cupboard. “S’long as you don’t mind my germs,” she quips. They both know Nathalie has nothing to fear from that.

“M’ mom calls every so often,” is a little dismissive, but there’s clearly far more to it than that. “I try to text her. Let her know I’m still alive.” Glasses are set out, then filled. “She wants me to go back to Chicago…” Everyone involved in that situation knows it’s not going to happen. A glass is slid across the island for Nathalie to take. “I’m a shit kid.”

Coming over to lean on the island, Nathalie huffs out a laugh at the notion of germs. "Your germs are fine. Maybe not everyone's around here, but yours are A-OK." She speaks slowly, deliberately, making sure every word actually makes it out as if this would make her sound more sober. It does the opposite of that.

"You're not a shit kid. Family is complicated." She's only had family for a few months, but even she knows that. "Was she— I mean, you were Ferry. Were they Ferry? Is that why they want you to come settle down?" She doesn't ask the question that circles around her brain, does she even know her daughter, because she's not quite that gone yet. And she can guess the answer, given the situation she just walked in on.

“Brilllllliant,” Rue declares with a grin, nudging the glass the last little bit of the way. They’re on the same level with regards to speech and over-enunciation. No stones being cast here.

The grin fades and the ginger shakes her head as she climbs back up onto her seat. “No. They were in the midwest when the shit hit the fan. Kept their heads down. Avoided the fighting. I… tried doing that at first. But I couldn’t. I… haven’t been home since the war.” Rue worries the nail of one thumb between her teeth for a moment, pensive. She stops just short of actually biting at it, lowering that hand to wrap around her glass instead.

“They don’t get it.” Rue frowns. “I mean, how could they? All Mom ever wanted for me was to be…” She trails off and smiles wryly. “I mean,” she continues the thought, disjointed, “she got her wish. I’m sure she tells her friends at the grocery store about her daughter, the famous war photographer.” There’s a quiet chuckle, as; if that’s what she’s actually known for. “Always that focus on the arts. I was supposed to be a model. I mean, I was for a while, but not a famous one. I wanted to be a ballerina. An actress.”

Rue lifts her glass from the island’s surface and holds it up in a mock toast. “Mom never thought she’d get a spy and a sniper.”

"That must be hard," Nathalie says, leaning deeper on her elbows as Rue talks. "I mean. You save the world. What's not to get?" She tips her glass back a little, instead of downing the whole thing in one go. She's not entirely sure she wouldn't spill it all over herself. And she still has her dignity. So far.

"I am sorry you didn't get to be what you wanted to be, though. Could still happen, though. When you get tired of holding this place together." There are a few things Nat has a hard time wrapping her mind around. Familial expectation is one, for sure. But she also can't seem to recall a time when she wanted to be anything like that. She followed the footsteps of the people she admired, that's as close as she ever got to having a dream.

"Mom doesn't need to understand how badass you are for you to be amazing, Rue. Luckily. It's a shame, though. She could be being proud for bigger reasons than photography."

Rue’s nose wrinkles up at the mention of saving the world. “I don’t know about that.” Even if she has probably called it exactly that before. “I think she just doesn’t realize… It’s not clean work, you know?” If anyone knows that, it’s Nathalie, and Rue’s grateful she doesn’t have to expound upon what she means.

“My dance teachers told me I’d never be a prima ballerina anyway.” Her old dreams are brushed away. Childish fantasies. Rue finds herself wondering what a child like Nathalie would have wanted to be. “I’m right where I need to be, I think,” she says with some conviction. As conflicted as she is about her family situation, she’s at least confident about her place in the world. “If it helps her sleep at night to think I’m a photographer and not a bounty hunter, then that’s fine.”

Rue stares down at her drink and sighs quietly. “You know, I… There’s something I’ve never really… Talked about with you.” Speaking of the war. “I’ve just never quite been sure how to, you know? I, uhm…” It’s not like Rue to be tongue-tied. She takes another sip from her drink and frowns thoughtfully. “Do you remember when we first met?”

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess that part isn't… normal." Nathalie makes a sound that's something like a laugh, but it's lacking in any actual mirth. There are people for whom this is not normal, and they are the normal ones. Statistically speaking. "Your dance teachers sound like jerks, Rue. Big jerks. Biggest ever. If they knew how good you'd end up being as a sniper, maybe they would have been nicer, huh?" That part comes with a crooked smile.

She happens to agree that Rue is where she belongs now, and she attempts to express that by reaching over and laying a heavy hand over Rue's arm. "Where else would we be, right?"

Her hand pulls back, because she feels a little unsteady half draped across the island. And she luckily finds a stool to sit on before Rue asks her question. Nat blinks her eyes slowly and lets out a long sigh. "You mean… the first first time and not… this first time," she says with a gesture around the Bastion, even though that is not where they first met after she joined Wolfhound. But close enough. "I mean. Yeah, I remember. Hard to forget."

“Normal is…” Overrated? Boring? “Difficult.” Rue shrugs it off. If she were any good at normal, she’d visit her parents in Illinois once in a damn while instead of drowning herself in the bottom of bottle after bottle. But she smiles, pleased that Nathalie thinks so highly of her dancing abilities. She keeps up on it, after all. Even though she has no illusions that she’ll headline the New York Ballet, she still takes weekly classes and calls it an exercise regimen.

Rue turns her arm over and slides it away from Nathalie until their hands can link instead. She gives her friend a squeeze. Reassuring, grateful.

At the clarifying question, Rue simply nods. “I just… Fuck.” Her eyes settle on where their hands are clasped together, follow the length of Nathalie’s arm, up her shoulder, and manage to find her face again. “I can’t believe I held you in my arms. You were just a little thing then.” She swallows hard, wishes now she’d suggested they sit on the same side of the island. Maybe this is better. “I thought I was going to die there. I was ready to die there.”

Nathalie's memories of their escape from Bannerman are all tinged with death. From the first volley right through Eileen dying, every moment bleeds. "We were supposed to die there," she says, into her glass. "We were supposed to die at the Arcology, too." Her eyes lift from the bourbon to Rue's face, fluttering against a rush of emotion. "We didn't."

She should smile. It's a good thing. They survived, far more of them than anyone expected.

She doesn't smile.

Her hand clings to Rue's, finding comfort in how warm she is, in the blood pumping through her veins, that she's alive, but it comes out in tears wetting her eyes. "I don't like to think about that day. It was hard. I was barely in control of what I could do. I could barely find my feet to walk under the weight of it all. You all were the first good people I'd met in a long time and Eileen— " She stops there. They all know what happened to Eileen there.

Rue’s fingers tighten around Nathalie’s hand. For as horrific as the fall of Bannerman’s Castle was for her, she can only imagine a fraction of what it must have been like for someone who could literally feel all the death around them. “Improbably,” she begins, trying to keep her tone light in spite of the dourness of their topic of conversation, “I have a knack for surviving.” A knack that every other version of herself that she’s aware of didn’t possess. There’s a lot of complicated feelings surrounding that knowledge that she doesn’t care to address right now. Or possibly ever.

“I’m sorry,” she settles on. “I shouldn’t have brought it up. I just…” Am drunk. In a mood. “I’ve just been thinking about why I’m where I am now. Why I’m here instead of in my parents’ kitchen, poring through listings from modeling agencies. And I think that part of it… is you.”

Which feels like an awful lot of weight to put on to one young woman’s shoulders, and Rue has enough presence of mind to realize that. “I remember holding you while the water rose.” Her gaze goes distant, a little vacant. Those aren’t easy memories for her either. “I remember thinking about how I had to protect you. That no matter what happened to me, you needed to make it out of that place alive. And the best way to make sure that happened was to stay alive myself so I could look after you.”

She shakes her head, takes another drink. “After we got to Canada, I thought that was it. That I’d done everything I could. I went back to Chicago and tried to keep my head down and look after my family. But they didn’t want or need that from me. And I couldn’t help thinking that there were so many other Nathalie LeRouxs out there that needed someone to help them keep their heads above water.”

Ta-dah. That’s it. That’s why Rue Lancaster continues to risk her life when she’s in so far over her head. Outclassed and surrounded by people with extraordinary abilities, and Rue keeps persisting. “So, congratulations, I guess. You inspired me. And I’m not the only one.”

"It's… okay. It's a thing we all went through. We can talk about it. Sometimes. Occasionally." It's an attempt at a joke, but it doesn't hit quite right. A mix of the subject and the booze makes it a little difficult for Nat to put on a face. And even more so when Rue goes on. It is a lot, at first, and Nathalie's response is a wide-eyed stare. But the moment passes as Rue explains a little more and she's able to breathe again.

Her buzz might be a little ruined, but these things happen.

"There were a lot of us, then. Kids, I mean, swept off by the conflict. Before it was a war, after. Usually, that's who gets forgotten about. The people who didn't choose to be there, but get the worst of it." She tightens her fingers around Rue's hand, giving her a small smile. "You guys are the ones who inspired me, though. I watched you all fight and die for a chance at hope. For people who couldn't fight for themselves. So, I guess it was sort of a circle of inspiration." Her hand rubs over her face, because she could be more eloquent, maybe, in a more sober moment. But then, in a sober moment, they would not be having this conversation. And there is just that one other nagging thought that Rue put into her mind.

"You mean Robyn, don't you?" she says, peeking through her fingers before her hand drags down her cheek. "I haven't figured out how to tell her. Avi told me she'd been looking for me. But just— I have no idea what to do about that."

Rue nods along as Nathalie speaks. She gets a little misty-eyed, but doesn’t shed any tears. Not yet anyway. Maybe she isn’t quite that sloppy just yet. But she sets her drink down and layers her hand over Nat’s in an extra show of support. This is a tough subject for both of them, and they’re just this side of honest enough to talk about it for a change.

Again, she nods. “Yeah, Robyn. She… When she asked me to look after Matty, she mentioned you again. I thought about telling her, but… It’s not my secret to tell.” And it so was not the time. “She was ready to give up everything and take you in and… I mean, I think things worked out the way they were meant to work out. But you meant a lot to her. She’s been wondering for years whatever happened to little Nathalie LeRoux. She… I don’t know if she deserves to know, only you can decide that.”

A shrug of her shoulders. She can only advise. Either Nathalie will do something with her words, or she won’t. “She’s talking about retiring. It might be the time to tell her. She’s got that kid now. Maybe she’ll finally do right by both of them.” Maybe it’s hypocritical to say that Robyn needs to retire, while Rue means to keep on, but she doesn’t actually care.

"Of course she deserves to know," Nathalie says with a sigh, "If I'd known she'd been looking all this time, I would have told her before. But now it's this thing. 'Hey, remember that kid you wanted to take in and have been looking for for like, a decade? It's me, the one who razzed you the whole time you were with Wolfhound.' It's a thing." The guilt over keeping that secret is covered by a long drink, but unfortunately it still lingers in her expression when she sets her glass back down.

"I'm glad Matty has her. He— He needs someone." She knows. She was in his place herself. She might have regrets about getting herself lost in the shuffle, and she's happy he doesn't have to do that as well. "I wish she had stayed with us. She seemed happier here." Sometimes, anyway. When they could all forget about the reason she was here and just be friends together.

“Look,” Rue shrugs her narrow shoulders near up to her ears. “Robyn just… It’s fine. She’ll be fine. It’s not as big a thing as you’re afraid it is. She’ll probably just hug you and get weepy for a bit.” If anyone knows how Robyn Quinn may react to that sort of information, it should be her.

“I think it’s for the best that she’s moved on. That last mission at Fort Irwin…” A shudder runs through Rue’s frame. “She wasn’t the Quinnie I remembered. The further she gets away from this life, the better off she’s going to be. The better off Matty is going to be.” He deserves a chance at a life that resembles normal in some fashion. The chance Nathalie never had.

Lifting her second hand off Nathalie’s again, Rue rests it over her chin and mouth, seeming at a loss for a moment. “I’m glad we found each other again. I’m glad to have you on my squad. You… You’re real good, Nat. Real, real good.”

"I'll… figure out how to tell her. Promise." Whether or not it will be graceful remains to be seen, but as far as New Year's resolutions go, that's what Nat's got so far. Talk To Robyn. "She wanted to be out of this life back then. After Bannerman. She kept on going, though. She deserves some peace, I think." Not them, though. Maybe next year. Or the year after.

"I'm glad, too. Wolfhound— it was the first thing I ever had that felt like a family. I don't know who I'd be without it." There's fear behind that statement, too, but she plays it off with a rub at her eye as she stands from her seat and scrambles around the island to pull Rue into a hug. And tries not to pull her off her stool. "Whatever happens, I want you to know that you're family to me."

Rue may be inebriated, but she’s not totally off her game. She’s off the stool and with her feet planted firmly on the floor by the time Nathalie rounds the island. Her own arms wrap around the younger woman tightly, cradling the back of her head. “You’re the sister I always wanted, Nat,” she assures.

She’d wish she could protect her from everything, but the truth is that Nathalie’s more than capable of protecting herself. That in itself is a relief. Rue squeezes her gently and sighs into her hair. “I love you. No matter what happens.” Because heaven knows something is bound to happen eventually. The lives they lead are not quiet ones.

"I love you, too," Nathalie says into Rue's shoulder. She sniffles, too, using the back of her hand to wipe at her eyes before she leans back again. The woman's a model, for goodness sakes. "I think I need a refill, do you need a refill?" Even if she doesn't, she does. The past few days have been an emotional drain that she was not prepared for.

It's possible that drinking it away is not the answer, but it works, either way.

And she's had a lot of role models in this regard.

When she retakes her stool, she definitely feels far too sober for the moment. Both her glass and Rue's get a fresh splash (or six) of bourbon.

“I definitely need a refill,” Rue agrees with a big smile. She boosts herself back up into her seat and nudges her glass over to Nathalie’s side of the counter so she can pour for them. Then she drags it back across the quartz surface toward herself and takes a long drink.

“Let’s talk about boys,” she decides. The perfect change of subject. Not at all likely to make anyone start crying. Except maybe with laughter. More bourbon is sloshed down the hatch before she picks up that torch. Rue stares out past Nathalie’s shoulder into the middle distance, a little wistful. “I would climb Avi like a tree.

Then, the second Nathalie looks away, Rue cracks a smile and shakes her head. “Like a fucking tree,” as she slides something out from beneath her right leg that she’s been hiding. Black, small, two metal prongs. Nathalie feels the cold metal on the side of her neck

then nothing.

The electrical snap of a high-voltage taser sends Nathalie collapsing down onto her side. Had anyone else been in the Bastion right now, they’d have heard it. But with Francois in the hospital, Avi in Rochester, and everyone else out on assignment or home asleep. It’s just Rue and Nathalie here in the moment. Exhaling a shaky sigh, Rue sets the taser down on Nathalie’s stool, then takes a knee beside her and slides a slim black vinyl case out of her right front pocket. It’s just large enough to hold a pair of syringes, both of which are uncapped and stuck into the side of Nathalie’s neck with expedience. Each used syringe is folded back into the case and returned to her pocket.

With the injections administered, Rue stands up and untucks her phone from her back pocket, dialing a number from memory. “She’s down,” and then she turns the phone around and takes a photograph of the room and sends it to the person on the other end of the call. Looking down at Nathalie, Rue furrows her brows and huffs out a sigh.

“Sorry, kid,” Rue offers to the unconscious young woman. “You know how it is.”

The sudden surge of a heat-mirage trimmed with opalescent, rainbow-hued light precedes the arrival of a young woman with bubblegum pink hair and dark eyes. Wrinkling her nose, she looks down nervously at Nathalie, to which Rue comments. “She won’t bite. Right now.”


Nodding, Val takes a knee beside Nathalie and lays a hand on her back. “Are you coming too?” Val asks with both brows raised. Rue shakes her head, sliding her tongue across the front of her teeth. She can still feel the swimming sensation in her head from the drinks.

“No,” is Rue’s delayed response. “I’ve got a couple more things to do here.” Val nods, biting down on her lower lip as she looks down to Nathalie, and then both of the young women vanish in a shimmering haze of rainbow-colored light, leaving no trace of either of them behind.

Rue looks around in silence, then runs a hand through her hair.

“Better her than me.”


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