It's Called The Safe Zone For A Reason


gillian_icon.gif hailey_icon.gif julie_icon.gif

Scene Title It's Called The Safe Zone For A Reason
Synopsis After being shot, Hailey makes her way to the home of an almost family member.
Date February 21, 2018

The New York Safe Zone: Elmhurst

The rows of brownstones that Gillian Childs call home are one of the nicer ones remaining in the Elmhurst area. Repaired brownhouses fill the row that she calls home, flanking both sides of the street. The door a deep beautiful hardwood, it has a small window in it allowing her to look out at guests who come up the stairs to the three story rowhouse. The railing on her steps are thicker, studier and higher than most the rest of the houses, to accommodate for those who might need extra assistance to get up the six stone steps. A mail slot sits below the window, the numbers denoting the address.

Inside, Gillian sits at the first floor window, though the shades are drawn, so it wouldn’t be known easily. Chandra lounges on a bench, sprawled out and comfortable.

A small light is illuminated at the porch and in the downstairs window, perhaps showing that, indeed, there is someone home besides the cat.

There’s a faint tap tapping on the door.

After the knock has been made, Hailey slumps into the frame and rests her head against the wood. She’s been running as fast as she can since being set free, she’s exhausted, her shoulder is throbbing with pain, and she’s never felt so alone in her life.

She can’t feel Jim, she can’t feel anything and she’s never been so scared in her entire life.

The only person she could think to go to for help is the one she has considered a mother for as long as she can remember. This is the first time Hailey’s actually visited the address since receiving it, not because of any ill will or hurt feelings, she just doesn’t like being around so many people. Gillian knows that better than anyone.

It does not take long at all for the door to open. Gillian can’t see the girl’s face when she looks through the curtain, but she sees enough to open the door, even if she’s touching something not visible a small stand near the door. Once she sees though, she reaches up to grab the girl and pull her inside. She may have left the Lighthouse due to certain disagreements with her brother, but she still considered the kids hers. In many ways.

Close enough to hers.

“Hailey?” she asks, helping her inside and making sure the door closes behind her. Out of the cold, though she can tell already that—

Whatever is wrong with her isn’t caused by the cold. That the girl came to her house, tells her a lot right there. “What happened?”

“Pure Earth,” Hailey manages, trying to inch her arm out of the coat she’s wearing. “I lost Jim,” she whimpers in addition, “I can’t feel him anymore, I can’t feel anything anymore.” She’s never been negated before, this is a new feeling to her. A terrifying feeling.

She’s not as worried about her shoulder now, the arm below the slow seep of sticky red blood has gone numb long ago. She’s worried about Jim and Dayton and the reindeer she’s left out overnight. “Gillian, I’m so scared. What if I can never feel him again, or find him?”

What if her little monkey-baby gets hurt by the Pure Earthers looking for their runaway.

Pure Earth. “Good thing you got away,” Gillian responds, not even thinking about blaming the girl for having lived outside. She knows why people still did it, why people don’t wish to give up what little freedoms they have. And especially why she doesn’t want to be around people.

The animals, though— that worries her. Chandra awakens, the ten year old cat flicking his tail as he looks up, catching onto the empath’s emotional state even if she’s not sending out her emotions. Animals are aware of things, especially with their people. Even if the two hadn’t been together in a long time, he still recognizes Hailey as one of his people.

“We’ll try to find Jim, but first— you’re hurt.” She reaches out with her ability, trying to feel the that little knot in her, pushing some energy into it— but nothing seems to happen. Whatever the negation is, it’s beyond her ability to undo it. “We’ll fix you up, it’ll get out of your system eventually, and we’ll go look for him, okay?”

First she has to see exactly what happened to the girl. If it’s beyond bandaids, she will need to call for help.

The wound is high in the crook of her shoulder, just in the divot of where the ball of her shoulder and collarbone connect. The site around the bullet is purple and streaked under the skin with hot red lines. They spider out of the hole like a system of roots, or a crimson web. Hailey can’t even look at it, she’s seen too much in her young life already and she refuses to look at her own. Perhaps, that’s why she doesn’t carry a gun. She will be now.

When Chandra sashays into another circle, kneading the pillow stuffing to a softer bed, Hailey lifts her good hand and beckons him over. Gillian can see Hailey’s distress quite plainly, the problem is that Chandra can’t. Instinct tells her something is there, but the cat can’t feel her.

As she pulls the cloth down enough to see the wound, Gillian takes in a quick breath of surprise before looking back at the young girl with a sense of worry. “How long ago was this?” She wants details, to know how long the poor girl has been running around with a bullet in her arm, and also… She knows just enough about wounds to know that red lines rooting out is not a good sign. Reaching, her hands run over the girl’s face, feeling for a fever.

“You should go to a hospital. Immediately.” She knows the girl avoids crowds, but she doesn’t want her to slowly die of infection, either. Hospital would be the best option, and the nearest one is even in this district.

Chandra might understand emotions of his people, but the inability to sense them means he’s more interested in his nap than worrying about his people too much right now. He makes a small sound, almost a half meow, almost a chirp at the offered hand, but doesn’t bother getting closer.

“No! No please no hospitals,” Hailey sits up quickly along with the desperate plea, causing a cry of pain shortly afterward. “No, they’ll make me register and then I’ll have to stay here. I can’t stay here Gillian please.”

So many people, so much vermin, although it’s shut down right now, the sheer number of rats where she’d be forced to live… she shudders. “I was scavenging this afternoon, I found some stuff to sell and some cash,” she hasn’t checked her pocket yet to see if it’s still there, but she not holdin out any hope. “They got me between two crossroads, Gillian I called two dogs and they’re dead.” Tears start spilling from her eyes in twin streaks down her cheeks. For the loss of the dogs…. and Jim.

“Gillian, please don’t make me go to a hospital… please?” She wants to, but she doesn’t say the word she really wants to call her.

“They won’t make you register, Hailey. It doesn’t work like that. The hospitals in the safe zone aren’t just for residents. You only need to register if you wish to receive the government stipend and stay in the safe zone.” There are, after all, many people who don’t live within the safe zone. Gillian knows they would not turn her away for treatment due to registration or resident status. Though they might have questions about the source of the bullet.

“I’ll say I found you outside while I was… doing something. You can give them a false name. I can pay your hospital bills, that won’t be a problem, but— I can’t remove a bullet. I might be able to contact someone who can, but I have no idea when they will be able to get out here. And even then, the risk of infection is high. You might already have an infection.” Keeping her hands against the girl’s face, she doesn’t feel a full fever, yet, but the red lines alone scared her. “A hospital’s safer. And I promise you they won’t force you to register or stay, unless you want to.”

She’s not just saying it to try and make the girl do what she wants, either. She knows that hospitals can’t turn people away.

“If they have questions about how you got shot, I’ll answer them. I know someone in SESA. We’ll work this out.”

Hailey’s expression is a dubious one. Gillian has never given her cause to doubt anything, especially not her promises. After a shuddering breath, the blonde just nods in acquiescence. “I don’t think I can pull my coat on myself,” she utters, the defeat plain in her voice. She did manage to inch it off though.

“Gillian, they won’t make me stay, will they?” She doesn’t live in the safe zone but she does have responsibilities, lives depending on her. “I mean… I have to go find Jim and Dayton, they’re out there alone. The reindeer need to be put in for the night, it’s after dark the wolves will be out.” She not worried so much for the reindeer, the bars on the paddock will keep anything out, it’s the lone horse and monkey-baby that has her fretting.

“They won’t. You haven’t committed any crime, so there’s no reason to force registration on you, and there’s a list half a mile long of people trying to get into the Safe Zone. They’re not going to bump all those waiting people for a girl who doesn’t even want to stay,” Gillian offers reassurances, but she looks relieved that she’s going to get some proper medical care. She would have called on all the favors she had to get someone out here today if she hadn’t— “It would be safer if you did, but it’s your choice. You’re a grown woman now.”

But the hospital would always be the better option. She’s sure some of the people she would have tried to call would have agreed with her.

Moving, she helps her get her coat back up over her shoulders, unable to mask her worry that— it could still be bad. “We’ll get you fixed up and back to your friends as soon as possible.” She wants to say that at least registration would still be a good idea— it would help her come and go from the Safe Zone legally— but, as she said. She’s a grown woman now.

Hailey is silent all the way to the hospital and when they reach the building with its starch white interior, she balks at the door. She can’t remember the last time she’s been in a hospital, they didn’t even go when Mala got sick, they stayed in the castle. Giving Gillian a concerned expression, she trudges through, her dirty boots tracking muddy slush on its clean white floors.

Her shoulder is throbbing, now that the adrenaline has worn off. She’s finished running, finished arguing, and she can do nothing but trail behind Gillian like a lost puppy. Any questions, she plays as mute as her brother, deferring them all to her once guardian.

Elmhurst Hospital is one of only two medical facilities serving the Safe Zone. Not due to a lack of medical infrastructure but of trained medical professionals. The building is packed to capacity at most times, with walk-ins from residents and — especially in these winter months — individuals seeking medication for basic illnesses. When Gillian and Hailey arrive the waiting area of the Emergency Room has a dozen people in it, most without any serious or visible injury. A single soldier in olive-drab clothing with a pistol at his hip watches the room, ensuring everyone is safe.

As Gillian and Hailey come in through the sliding doors, the soldier offers a mild smile and a concerned look to Hailey. Seeing her expression and posture, the soldier looks to the receptionist on duty and sidles over, quietly speaking to her and pointing to Gillian. They both make eye contact with the woman and the soldier waves them both over.

“Miss Childs,” the soldier says, his Velcro nametag reads “Waltz” and he recognizes her immediately. “Private Andrew Waltz, you— my kid brother reads— I read your books.” He eyes Hailey, then just manages another small smile after clearing the queue for them.

The receptionist, seeing the pause in the exchange, looks from Hailey to Gillian. “What’s the nature of the emergency?”

Times have changed since the war, thankfully.

Gillian’s no longer afraid of the hospitals and the official buildings and what they could mean. She no longer thinks that she’s selling away her rights if she steps into them. It helps that she’s actually part of the Cooperative, gives her some insight into what it means when she does give away a piece of herself. And she had joined the Cooperative for just this kind of thing…

To help people. And this time, she’s helping someone who’s practically family.

A dimpled smile meets the man who both recognizes her, and admits that he read her book. After trying to push it off on kid brother. “Thank you, Private Waltz. It’s good to meet you. Thank you for all your hard work. And for reading my book.” After all, each book purchase keeps her in that nice brownstone she happens to call home.

She doesn’t bother to pull out her ID, since she’s already been identified, instead looking at the blonde girl, with blood on her coat. “I was doing charity work and I came upon this poor girl. Not a resident. She’s been shot. Since medical supplies and personal weren’t with me, I brought her in for treatment. I’ll take responsibility for any bills that she has.”

The part that’s a lie comes easy.

The sight of the uniform coming over and actually talking to them has Hailey ready to bolt. She doesn’t though, only because Gillian promised. Private Waltz is eyed warily through a curtain of blonde hair that’s obscuring her dirty face. She knows what she looks like right now, a filthy street urchin that would match the scenery of a dumpster a lot better than the harsh white of the hospital.

Hailey lets Gillian do all of the talking for now. The hand on her uninjured arm is white knuckle gripping a fistful of Gillian’s sleeve and is likely not going to let go soon. There’s a small sound, though, likely only audible to Gillian because of proximity but Waltz might be able to see because of the slight tremor of her hair. Hailey’s teeth are chattering like mad.

At the words ‘not a resident’, she slides behind the brunette, trying to hide herself from the view of the soldier. Her arm, though, and the bloody bullet hole in her coat are still visible.

The receptionist is fast to react, reaching over to a land line and immediately calling for assistance. She gestures to Gillian and Hailey and mouths wait right there while pointing around the corner of the front desk. Private Waltz looks shocked at the story.

“Jesus Christ, someone shot her?” Waltz looks down at Hailey with visible concern in his eyes, then back up to Gillian. “Do you know where? Uh, what part of the city? I can put a call out and dispatch will send someone out.”

Behind the desk, a blonde nurse in pink and black scrubs is quietly talking to the receptionist. When she looks up and makes eye-contact with Gillian the older woman immediately recognizes the surviving Fournier sister. She steps around the counter, glances at Hailey and rests a hand on Waltz’s shoulder.

“We’ll handle it, this falls on SESA anyway,” the nurse explains, knowingly. Waltz still looks concerned, but he looks to be familiar with the nurse and offers a silent I love your books thumbs up to Gillian before stepping away. Nurse Fournier looks up to Gillian with a fond, if surprised, smile.

“Hey there, I'm Nurse Julie,” she says in soft tones to Hailey, offering out a delicate hand. “I'm gonna take care of you, ok?” Julie looks up to Gillian, giving her a knowing look with an incline of her head to indicate over here. “I'm just like you,” she says to Hailey, motioning to her nametag that has SLC-E Practitioner printed on it. How she knows that Hailey is evolved from just a look goes unsaid.

But she's eager to get the pair out of the lobby, hand out for Hailey, posture indicating a nearby hall deeper into the hospital.

“I intend to contact SESA on her behalf as soon as she’s taken care of,” Gillian responds simply. She had expected that SESA might want to investigate, but she knows a few people who she can talk to. And she can act as an advocate of sorts. And she does intend to report it, even if she will try to keep Hailey out of it. That she suspects Pure Earth operating that close to the Safe Zone is too close.

As the nurse approaches, her smile deepens. “Julie— it’s good to see you again.” She might even look familiar to Hailey, a little. Though she’d been gone from the island before Julie actually joined them. Her twin, on the other hand, had briefly lived with the Lighthouse Kids.

She’s still smiling when the soldier moves away, before she focuses back on Julie, motioning Hailey to follow.
Julie is regarded with a slight twitch of Hailey’s eyebrows, there’s a slight recognition there but the young woman is quite a bit different than the Liette she knew briefly. Yes, Lighthouse kids came and went the ones that actually went were remembered. She follows, though, not saying anything until they are out of Private Waltz’ range of hearing.

“Did Liette change her name too?” she whispers to Gillian, not quite trusting the blonde nurse as much as Gillian does. “Why do they have to investigate?” she questions further, investigations mean people milling around, though in the case of those trucks and Brady, it’s not really breaking her heart.

Hailey inches out of her coat a little, the gunshot now searing hot under all of the layers. She can feel the bullet still there, every time she tries to move her arm or something brushes against her shoulder.

The word Liette is easy to pick out among the whispers, and Julie looks momentarily blindsided by it. After a second she recovers and passes it off with a smile as she brishly guides the pair into Observation Room 3 just beyond the double doors out of the emergency room entrance. “Liette was my twin sister,” Julie says in a soft, gentle tone of voice as she walks to the foot of the padded examination table and pulls out a sheet of crinkly paper to lay out over it. “She… passed away.”

Julie smooths out the paper, then tap, tap, taps it with her fingers. “Take your coat off and come on up and I’ll see what I can do.” A look is given briefly to Gillian, measured and uncertain. “A gunshot wound is pretty serious, where was she when this happened?” Blue eyes flick back to Gillian, one brow raised.


Gillian hadn’t been there when the girl died, but she heard about it. Rather vividly. From her brother’s wife, from others who had been there. She’d wanted to know who among the Ferry allies had died so that she could give them specific areas of the Library that she’s been working so hard to open. It’s dedicated to Doyle, but she added a Fournier section for both Liette and her mom, as well as a Kjelstrom music room and a Bennet reading nook for Claire’s brother.

But she looks sad as Julie hears, nodding a little. “You can tell Julie what happened. It’s okay,” she offers Hailey, so that she knows she can at least tell her some of the truth. “And I have to report it to SESA cause people like that can not be allowed to operate so close to the Safe Zone. If they manage to get inside, they could do a lot of damage. You won’t have to talk to them.”

They might insist, but she will insist otherwise right back. Who wins might depend on which SESA agent she gets ahold of.

Gingerly, Hailey takes off her coat and lays it beside the table on the floor. Then, she slides up onto the paper with the utmost care to her hurt shoulder. The paper bunches and tears on one side of her and she uses that to fidget nervously with as Julie and Gillian speak.

“The Bronx,” Hailey says plainly, speaking only because it’s Liette’s sister and because Gillian said it was alright. “There were five of them, they asked for my ID card.” For the first time since getting into the mess, Hailey realizes what a blessing it was that she has no ID at all. At least they don’t have her name. She relaxes visibly for the first time since coming into the hospital, both shoulders sinking a little as her back curves downward into a poorer posture.

There’s a lump under her shirt where the bullet hit her shoulder. The bullet itself is not visible and there’s no exit wound on the other side. The site is dirty, a combination of Hailey’s own filth and the events of her day. From laying in the street, to the back of a truck, to sloshing through water before finally knocking on Gillian’s door.

Julie doesn’t hide her expression, one of immediate concern at the severity of the injury but also at the situation having been possible at all. “What… were you doing out in the Bronx?” She looks at Gillian, almost accusingly, then pulls on a pair of latex gloves and carefully begins examining the wound. She breathes in sharp, shaking her head and walking over to a phone on the wall. “Doctor Blair to observation room three, Doctor Blair.” She hangs up the phone and looks at Gillian again, then steps back over slowly to Hailey’s side.

“Sweetie, you shouldn’t leave the Safe Zone. I had someone in here the other day, stabbed sixteen times and left for dead, and they’d just gone into the ruins of Queens past the border fence.” Swiftly moving from Hailey over to the nearby sink, Julie gets out some cotton swabs and antiseptic. “How long ago did this happen?” Another look at Gillian, brows very high.

“I’m not entirely sure how long. Maybe six, seven hours.” Gillian is estimating based on how long it would take to physically walk from the Zoo to her home in Elmhurst. She left in a few hours extra just in case. “And she knows, Julie— But she’s old enough to make up her own mind about this. I’d like to talk her into setting up home in Park Slope, or something, but…” she trails off, looking at the girl. She wants to insist upon it, but she’d been lucky the girl came to the hospital at all. “She has family out there.” That’s the best way she can think to describe it— “Family she can’t bring into the safe zone.”

But she hopes the girl thinks twice about it now that she’s been shot and was ambushed by five guys. In order to help SESA she’ll have to get a good description, but for now… Her wound is the most important part.

“The Bronx is my home,” Hailey darts a panicked look between Julie and Gillian, and it’s clear that she’s just about ready to bolt. “The Safe Zone makes you register then you’re on the list.” But then Gillian comes to her defense, somewhat. Park Slope isn’t an option either, Park Slope wouldn’t let her keep wolves and reindeer, monkeys and a horse. Things that are dangerous to other people but needed her to take care of them. Then there’s the matter of the list.

“They were from Staten Island, that’s where they took me after they shot me.” Took her away from Jim, who is likely wandering the Bronx looking for her. The thought brings tears to her eyes. “When is this going to wear off?” The question is pointed right at Gillian, “I have to find Jim, he can’t take care of himself. He’s a scatterbrain and just doesn’t know when he should hide.”

“Easy, easy…” Julie narrows her eyes as she considers Hailey’s wound. “Hailey,” she says carefully, “I can tell that you're an animal empath thanks to my ability, and… you appear to have been chemically negated. We’ll need to do some blood tests, first to make sure you haven't been drugged or poisoned, second to make sure you don't have any bloodborne pathogens or other diseases from your…”

Julie squints, reaching up from Hailey’s shoulder after noticing a few red bumps. She gingerly brushes a gloved finger through the girl’s hair then exhales a sigh. “Or… make sure you haven't contracted any life-threatening parasites other than these fleas.” Julie points another look at Gillian, then back to Hailey.

“I've seen people come in from Staten Island and the Bronx with Typhus, Hailey. It's a bacterial skin infection from being around raw sewage and other filth. The ruins are full of…” Julie slows herself, draws in a breath. “Your friends,” she presumes animals from the flea bites, “aren't meant to survive in these kinds of conditions. Not with the pollutants.”

Biting down on her bottom lip, Julie finally goes about cleaning the area around the gunshot wound. “This isn't a conversation for now, but… maybe SESA can help you relocate them to a proper natural habitat like western New York where they could thrive without being so close to humans? They might be happier.”

When Hailey mentions a list, Gillian shakes her head slightly. She understands why the girl has this view of registration, she even wrote about it in her book about the Flash, and how at least one group used public registration as a shopping list. She doesn’t agree with that view any longer, mostly because the registration list isn’t public. Instead she focuses on the girl’s panicked question.

“It depends on what kind of negation they used. Once it wears off, we’ll go out and find him. He probably went home.” Wherever home is. She returns Julie’s judging look with a glance, but doesn’t wilt under it. She fought in the war so that the girl could live in better conditions—

But perhaps she needs to hear other options. Western New York? Probably a better option.

It feels as far away as Canada had been when the kids first left her. “Just do whatever you need to do for her for now,” she responds to Julie.

Then they’ll try to figure out if it’s even possible to talk the scared girl into new options.

“You can’t release them into the wild,” Hailey insists as her hair is being poked through. “Dayton is tame, Jim doesn’t have a pack, and the reindeer…” There’s a fawn that she wants to watch grow up. There’s a little fox that needs the mice, there’s mice that need the food. If she’s taken away from the zoo, who will take over her routine. “The wolves, they’ll be okay but the rest of them wouldn’t.”

“Gillian please,” she’s begging now, the desperation in her voice causing it to crack and threaten a new spill of tears. At the very least, she’ll have two clean streaks on her face. “I fixed some of the cages, I can fix more,” she continues to try to convince Gillian of the value of her home. “And it’s clean there, I keep the paddock shovelled and..” She reaches up to itch her head. “There’s nowhere for me here, there’s no space. Too many rats and too many people. I just can’t.”

It’s not the list she fears as much as losing what little she has.

Julie looks between Hailey and Gillian, then back to the wounded young girl. “I can’t make you do anything,” she says firmly. “I’m just a nurse. I know your animals are your friends, but if you put yourself at risk of exposure to a fatal illness, and we aren’t able to get to you because you’re outside the Safe Zone… “ Julie finishes cleaning the area around the gunshot and shakes her head slowly. “Who’ll take care of them then?”

Moving away from Hailey with a gentle brush to her shoulder, Julie walks over to Gillian and then speaks in a quiet voice. “Doctor Blair is likely going to recommend surgery. The bullet’s still lodged in her shoulder and she’s going to need a round of blood tests at the very least. She can’t keep living out there, or she’s not going to make it another year. Especially not in the winter.” A worried look is offered to Hailey, then back to Gillian with a slow shake of her head.

“She needs medical care, proper nourishment, probably psychological assistance as well. I could get her set up with somewhere comfortable to stay but… given her predisposition I don’t think that’s idea.” Worrying at her bottom lip, Julie slowly pulls off her latex gloves and sets them in the biohazard container. “She’s an adult, though, legally,” and Julie will dispute it otherwise, “so we can’t hold her. But, you have to realize how serious this is.”

“I know how serious it is,” Gillian responds softly, but is not looking at Julie as she does— she’s looking at Hailey. All she can think is that she failed the girl. “But for now just do what you can for her, whatever it is, I’ll pay for it.” Medicine, procedures, whatever is needed. She already has an emergency stash of money put away for medical— she’d been building it ever since she started making money again.

Mostly so she could help her daughter if she ever needed or asked for it, but in many ways Hailey is a daughter too.

“We can talk about getting you set up better when this is over.”

Maybe she can get her a generator, a water filtration system, security fencing— some things to make her little home away from home safer and cleaner.

Psychological assistance? Hailey frowns as she hears those words but doesn’t say anything further. She falls silent and concentrates on her wound, silently willing it to get better. Surgery, a hospital stay, all of this means more time away from her friends and more time that Jim will be alone somewhere in the Bronx ruins. She doesn’t even know if he’s still alive.

She takes a shuddering breath and presses her lips together to keep her chin from trembling. Large tears drip from the corners of her eyes and streak the dirt on her cheeks. Dirt that isn’t usually there but it’s been a day. The fleas on the other hand.. Well she hopes that Brady and his men got a bunch of them while lugging her lifeless corpse into the back of the truck. The hand attached to her good arm reaches out to find Gillian’s and she laces her fingers with the older woman’s in a bid for comfort.

It's with a reserved sigh that Julie can tell this isn't getting resolved to her satisfaction tonight. “Give me the name of your SESA contact, just so I can file it before anyone else does. That'll make sure you get the agent you want, not one randomly assigned to this case.” Turnimy, Julie briefly looks back at Hailey, then flicks a look at Gillian.

Discreetly, Julie pulls a prescription pad out pf her pocket — that she shouldn't have — and scribbles something on it and hands it over to Gillian. There's an address in Elmhurst on it, rather than a scrip. “If she gets hurt again, and it's nothing serious. That's my address. I don't know what you, or her, are up to but… I owe you, and the others, in ways that memorials and moments of silence can't repay.”

Nearly interrupting that, the door opens and a bearded doctor steps into the room with an easy smile and a somewhat deer in the headlights look. Julie is quick to sweep back to a more professional tone. “Doctor, this is Hailey. Small caliber gunshot wound, not immediately life-threatening but it— ”

“Thanks, but I'll take it from here.” Doctor Blair admits with a polite smile. From there she's dismissed, and the doctor will call the shots. But it's much as Julie imagined. Surgery will be needed to remove the bullet, which may have broken inside of Hailey’s body. Antibiotics for infection. Pain medication. A sling for 4-6 weeks. Loss of the use of her arm for at least a month to ensure safe recovery.

“They call it the Safe Zone for a reason,” he smugly says on multiple occasions.

“Thomas Cooper is the Agent,” Gillian responds simply, leaving out details of how and why. She could have chosen Veronica, but her sister-in-law might get a second glance from people and taken off such a case. Cooper, as far as most people know, has no major past connection with her.

They might have gone out once or twice, though.

She’s gives Julie a grateful look as she pockets the ‘not a scrip but an address’ and offers her a not. She hopes that, someday, the two of them together will find a way to make Hailey’s life outside the Safe Zone just a little bit safer, since it seems unlikely they will change her mind anytime soon.

At the appearance of the doctor, she squeezes the girl’s hand in an attempt at comfort, “You’re in good hands, kid,” she says, still avoiding using ‘kid’s’ name. “I’ll go fill out the paperwork while he fixes you up. I won’t be far, I promise.”

Julie is bid farewell with a soft grunt, the kind of non-verbal acknowledgements that siblings give each other. Surgery, pain pills, recovery time, all of this information is drowned in her head, outweighed by worry for her friends. Especially Jim. As Gillian squeezes her hand and leaves, Hailey is unable to voice a thought or feeling and simply falls silent.

The doctor is ignored with a turn of the head the moment Gillian leaves. It’s rude, and somewhere deep inside she knows this, but there are times to care about the feelings of people. Today, Hailey just doesn’t feel like it.

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