It's Gonna Be Okay


avi_icon.gif emily3_icon.gif

Scene Title It's Gonna Be Ok
Synopsis After reporting her assault Emily tries to return to work.
Date November 18, 2019

Sheepshead Bay

Some days, rare as those were, Emily might get a text saying she wasn't needed at her internship that day. When her alarm goes off the Monday after she filed the police report, she's sitting upright in her bed not out of a desire to get her day started, but in the hopes she might have such a message waiting for her. After disabling the brainteaser puzzle that plays gatekeeper to switching the alarm off, she immediately checks her messages. No luck.

She gets ready for her day, checking her phone after each task. No luck.

Mondays this semester she went to Fort Jay to start her day, heading to campus later in the afternoon for class. It's just a normal Monday, she assures herself. Maybe news about the report she filed Saturday wouldn't have trickled out to Governors Island yet.

Emily pauses in adjusting her large scarf around her neck so it better disguises the bandage there, looking at herself in the mirror. "Fat chance," she tells herself, grabbing her bookbag with a mutter. Her arm aches, and she only remembers to sling the bag over her uninjured shoulder after aggravating the other first. "At least," she grouses to no one but the cat that sits by the door, watching her progress. "The bruises are easier to cover up."

Kettle blinks slowly at Emily, judging her in silence the way cats do. Trying to hide from it all wasn't a good thing, Emily. The young woman ignores what she mentally projects the cat as saying, grabbing her keys instead. She takes one last look in the mirror by the door.

"Right. Monday."

Fort Jay

Heading straight to her desk and only taking off her coat and scarf once there spared Emily from an initial walk of shame, but sitting and staring attentively at her computer didn't exactly save her. Agents and other workers shaking off the doldrums passed by on their way to get coffee, but she very firmly kept her eyes down on rearranging her inbox.

Hellos were returned curtly but cordially. It's not enough to stop some, though.

Some of them ask after her by name.

Movement in Emily’s left periphery feels like someone passing her desk until it very suddenly isn’t. A small bottle of Jameson whiskey is set down on the corner of her desk, unopened. She knows that calloused hand holding the cap, follows it up with the broad-shouldered paternal figure wearing dark sunglasses indoors on a cloudy day. Avi Epstein isn’t a SESA agent, but here he is in the office pool.

“I can just leave this here,” Avi says quietly, “and go back to the Bastion.” His sunglasses slide down the bridge of his nose and he glances around to the other people at the desk, “Or I can pull you in to a conference room for some professional consulting on a job I’m working on.” Avi releases his hand from the bottle, then tucks his hands into his pockets. “Your call.”

The bottle is glanced at once before Emily starts to look back to her screen. A focused furrow in her brow goes uneven at seeing it, at first only registering the hand. Her shoulders square even before she looks up entirely, fighting off an urge to turn away— hide. That's somewhat impossible, to hide the thing she'd rather hide, given he's standing on that side of her to begin with.

Not to mention, he'd not be here if he didn't already know.

She looks back at her screen with that same busy-at-work expression she'd had before, save for her hands lay unmoving on the keyboard. Her pinky shifts, tapping without pressing any keys while she takes a moment to consider it. The toes of her flats scrape the ground as she pushes back from the desk far enough to open the rolling storage cabinet underneath it, pulling open the drawer just wide enough to comfortably deposit the bottle inside and shut it again.

And then with finality, she sets her computer to locked with a two-key flourish, not looking at him until after she comes to her feet. "It's 8:05 on a Monday, and you're in a suit," Emily observes quietly. "Must be important." She doesn't step away from her desk just yet, last-minute reservations clinging on. If he'd called and raised his voice, she could hang up. Him being here in person was different.

But she supposes she places a certain amount of trust he won't make a scene at her place of work.

Emily concedes to the invitation to speak with a small gesture of her head in the direction of the nearest conference room.

“This bar has a dress code,” Avi says casually with a jerk of his thumb over his shoulder, “plus I had a report to deliver to that weasel Voss. You know, the usual. Business.” Avi’s brows crease together, his attention diverting momentarily to the desk drawer, then back to Emily.

“Oh and,” Avi’s brows rise, “you’re not on the clock today anyway,” he finally adds without a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “So, since you don’t actually have to work today, I thought maybe we could step out for a few hours. I’ve gotta run some errands and I could use a spare pair of hands.”

Avi looks toward the doorway out of the office pool, then back to Emily. “Or maybe we’re going to a different bar. The sky’s the limit.”

It's clear in an instant Emily doesn't share the same sense of humor about deviating from what's normal today. She looks back to her desk, for a moment genuinely concerned she didn't punch her time when she got here. There's a flicker of confusion in her look. Hadn't he just said he wanted to talk in a conference room? When he keeps going, essentially telling rather than suggesting she take the day off, the message is received… unpleasantly. Her expression hardens as she looks back to him.

It's a Monday. On Mondays, Emily goes to Fort Jay in the morning, and has classes in the afternoon. She normally takes her lunch around 11:35. That's— that's what she does. That's her schedule for her internship this semester.

Emily shifts her weight hard as she's confronted with losing that normalcy, microexpressions cycling as she works through emotional and logical processing of what he's saying, running on too little bandwidth to determine all the carried weight of his words based on his tone alone.

"Did Voss tell you I'm not working or is this something you just made an executive decision on?" she hears herself ask in a hush; all whispered steel as she tries to avoid attracting attention. Her posture closes off, her arms crossing tightly before her. She looks up into his eyes, trying to see through the sunglasses rather than see her own reflection in them.

Avi pauses, nostrils flaring, then he blinks a look away to a nearby and unoccupied desk and draws in a deep, slow breath. “Voss is in the conference room,” Avi says with a motion toward one of the frosted-glass walled spaces just off of the offices, “where we’re gonna talk. Then,” Avi inclines his head toward the front of the building, “I figured you might want a drink. After the fact.”

There's no smugness in Avi’s tone of voice, not like there usually is. Instead, there's a twist of something more awkward and uncomfortable, the way he gets when he has a feeling a situation isn't going to turn out smooth. That near-avoidant but stubbornly present tack he takes.

“So,” Avi says with a subtle wave of one hand, “a it's little from column A, and a little from column B.”

Emily closes her eyes in a moment of frustration, her head dragging to one side in a purely emotional response before she lets out a hiss of pain from it, purely physical. Her fingers dig into her elbows rather than reach for her neck, though she’s quick to reright her posture to avoid aggravating her injury continuously.

“Fuck,” she forcefully mutters after, the reason for it omnidirectional. She swallows hard, looking past Avi to the conference room he’s gestured at. For a moment, she seriously considers charging past him and ending the conversation there, going to face her problems on her own. But there’s a good chance Voss and the institution he represents might tell her to take the day for herself and turn her out. And if she were to be alone…

She can’t handle this alone right now. Avi will make a good enough companion if normalcy isn’t there to steady herself by.

“Yeah,” Emily tells him belatedly, looking back to him with a dulled edge to her sharpness. She keeps her space, but there’s a distinct change in her eyes as she mentally shifts from handling this all herself to anchoring herself off of his presence. It’s practically unspoken, but she accepts his being there and what he’s trying to offer, relying on him to stay close and not go. It’s as though she’s fifteen years younger, taking his hand with her much smaller one.

Instead, she keeps her arms folded before her tightly as a way to keep her composure. She nods to him directly, though, instead of at the conference room. “Let’s go,” she murmurs, taking those first steps without waiting for him to lead.

Ferry between Governor's Island and the Safe Zone

Emily has the bottle of Jameson clutched in her hand while she looks out over the water, her grip tight around the neck. She'd picked it up when collecting her jacket and scarf. She took it with her, seeing as she'd not be back in the office for a while.

Two weeks. Two fucking weeks.

Half of her wants to throw the bottle and half of her wants to drink it.

She'd half-wanted to argue her case for why she should be allowed to stay, and she'd half-wanted to make Voss see things from her side.

Afraid of doing the latter, she'd not done the former. Neither drinking the whiskey nor pitching it overboard was a little the same. But only a little.

She makes a soft note in the back of her throat that might be carried away by the wind, the first sound she's made since they left Fort Jay. She's stayed glued to Avi's side, but she hasn't so much as looked up at him. But now she sighs forcefully, her gaze still distant while strands of hair whip past her face in the late fall chill that feels even colder coming off of the water. "I want to say…" she starts, eyes narrowing. "Something like, 'Maybe I shouldn't have gone to the police.' But I don't think there was any hiding this one. So on one hand, I controlled the narrative by starting it…"

But then there's the other hand. "But now who fucking knows what else is going to happen." She has a sardonic rejoinder for herself immediately, though, still not looking at Avi. This is a string of rhetoricals meant only for herself, maybe. "No, wait, for the next two weeks I do. I at least know that now." Even if it would be defined by a lack of what she was doing.

"Fuck everything." Emily decides on a sigh that deflates her, remembering Lance will show up at work eventually and ask where she's at. Without a doubt the news would bleed back to her friends one by one, if not to the whole fucking group text at once. Her free hand comes up to her face, hiding half of it in the curve of her palm. She closes both of her eyes, shoulders slumping. Her energy leaves her, save for that iron grip on the bottle.

"Did you actually have something you needed help with today, or are you just here because they had you come get me," Emily asks wearily, like there couldn't be any other reason. Maybe it's easier in the moment to pretend those are the only possible ones.

She's still not really processed he's here, for all that she seems liable to use him both as a crutch and a punching bag.

“I had work. There's bullshit afoot, up in Rochester. Psychic bullshit.” Avi waves a dismissive hand at the notion, as if it were only half important. “They called me when you filed the report, somebody I know here had it cross their desk. Business was an excuse to get in the door. I knew they'd be benching you.”

Avi hunches forward and leans against the railing of the ferry, looking over to Emily at his side. “I know you're gonna hate this, but… you're a lot like your old man.” He smiles, faintly, looking back out to the water. “Back in 91 I got mugged. It happened in DC, I was on my way out of a bar and decided to cut between buildings back to my car. Somebody jumped me, got me good in the side with a switchblade and I got him back with a fucking brick to the mouth.”

Sighing, Avi watches the horizon. “Anyway, I filed the reports and whatever. He tried to sue me for assault, which got exactly fucking nowhere. But I got put on administrative leave. Not medical, not for the cut, but for the trauma. Which I laughed off at the time, right? I got that guy with a fucking brick. Fuck him.” But Avi shakes his head, his laugh not quite honest. “I didn't really get what PTSD was back then. Didn't imagine myself someone with traumatic stress.” That, he laughs at.

“I didn't rest. I spent the two weeks drinking and being reckless. About a month later I broke down in an Olive Garden bathroom while I was out on a date with your mother.” Shaking his head again, Avi looks back to Emily. “It's not a punishment, kid. You're an Epstein, we don't unpack without somebody t’unwrap us.”

"I had a thought last night," Emily shares blithely in return. "That the hate crime thing might blow up in my face. Maybe I should have just said assault. Because yeah, your status is a protected trait, but like— I'm pretty sure your job isn't? And I'm not even fucking sure those kids knew I ticked an E instead of an N." Her brow knits together.

At least she's looking at him now. Processing, in the time it'd taken her to share what's currently eating at her.

"Jesus Christ, what doesn't get back to you?" she balks instead of saying anything more relevant. The rest of it, though, she doesn't know how to address, not with him, not even though he's trying.

Her gaze softens even if her eyes narrow at him before she looks away again, setting the bottle on the railing and keeping a firm grip on the neck. She resettles it, turns the whiskey around to read the label. She hears him, even if she's not found the right reply for it just yet.

"Rochester feels so normal compared to shit out here," Emily observes offhandedly. "What's going wrong out there?"

“Just some stupid shit,” is Avi’s way of deflecting back to Emily. “And I hear a lot. Your dad may've retired from the spook business, but… I dunno, there's an analogy there. Whatever, I hear shit, it's what I do.”

There's a silence that falls between the two, threatens to lose the thread of their conversation. Avi fishes it back after exhaling a sigh. “Look, it isn't about whether you can prove they knew in advance or not. It's about the possibility that they did. You played it safe. A chunk of the Chesterfield registry was stolen from Elmhurst a while back— patient records and registration status. Maybe they got it, maybe it was just wrong place wrong time. It doesn't matter. They can go fuck themselves.”

Avi adjusts his sunglasses, pushing them up the bridge of his nose. “But I got a question for you,” he asks with an angle of his head away from the water and toward Emily. “And you can't use Dev as an answer. Is anybody training you in self-defense?”

That those guys can go fuck themselves is the first thing Emily appears to agree with, meeting his look out the corner of her eye. It makes it harder to deflect his next question, even if it's one that results in the tug of a frown from her.

"Sort of." she admits, trying to ignore how saying as much leaves her feeling hollow. At least it was better than none, she tries to tell herself. "Teo took it a little personally that I didn't know my way around a gun; had me learn how to take care of one and took me to the range. We went to the gym for a while, practiced self-defense. It's been months since we've done it regularly, but I would have been fucked if we hadn't, I think."

Her eyes half-lid as she adds, "I … got jumped last fall, too." The hollow feeling deepens, but there's comfort in saying it out loud to someone. Finally. "It was different. I was waiting at a bus stop, it was dark, and a man came flying out of an alleyway onto the curb. Men came after him. I said— something. Something stupid to try and spook them off. Thought maybe they'd be deterred if they knew someone else was there."

"They weren't," Emily says simply. "And… I got lucky. Lucky I got to his gun before he did, and lucky that Ei—"

But he doesn't like to talk about Eileen, and it feels self-serving to bring her up again. It was nice that he was here at all. Her lips purse to make sure the rest of the thought goes unspoken, her gaze dropping to the bottle again.

"I should go find a class to take, or something," she supposes. "Like krav maga or something." Even in a half-dead New York, there had to be a niche market for something like that, right? Too many people knew someone who'd had something bad happen to them in this city while it tries to rebuild itself and be as safe as it's supposed to be.

Or maybe that was just her.

Avi regards Emily over the frames of his sunglasses, making a noise in the back of his throat that is once parentally judgmental but also invested. Something she can’t say he’s ever been for much of her life. “Teo’s shit in a fight,” is Avi’s opinion, “Ghost’s better but he’s… busy. With bullshit.” Reaching up to scratch the side of his face, Avi looks back out to the water. “Huruma’s a good bet, she’d be eager to do some instruction in her downtime and she’s over at the Bastion more often than she’s not.”

Shifting his posture, just generally unable to stay still for too long, Avi crosses his arms over the railing. He hasn’t called her out on not telling him about the first attack, given that she didn’t have an injury or file a police report that time he chalks it up to luck. Or something in the ellipses that began her silence. He lets his own silence hang over them for a moment, filled with the sound of gulls and the river, the engine of the ferry, the distant city noise.

“When’s the last time you checked in with Julie?” Avi asks, looking over to Emily again.

"She's the one who stitched me up," Emily replies immediately, the label on the whiskey intensely fascinating now. There's something in the weight of the question that causes her to close off, the same way she had the last time Avi had asked her if she'd seen Julie lately.

Ghost must be the evil twin that Teo spoke of without speaking of. Huruma is more familiar, and Emily isn't sure how she'd start that conversation with her, or even if she'd want to. "Teo's not a shit teacher," she asides distractedly, hoping to derail him.

“He’s a shit fighter,” Avi reiterates, “so yeah, he’ll teach you how to fight — poorly — just fine.” There’s a little crook of the corner of Avi’s mouth at that, some self-satisfaction in the dig. It’s hard to tell just how well Avi ever really knew Teo, but Emily knows they used to at least be in the same orbit. Whatever confusing, complicated orbit that was isn’t clear.

“But you need to go see Julie,” Avi reinforces. “You’re SLC-U, that’s either a massive advantage in a fight or a massive disadvantage, and until you know what it is you’ve got you don’t know which side of the coin you’re on. If you manifested something discreet, she should be able to tell. It’s worth getting looked at.” Avi furrows his brows and leans away from the railing some, gripping it with his hands. “It’d make me relax, just a little, that you’re not going to go thermonuclear the next time you get jumped.”

"Dad, please," Emily tries to head him off, brow creasing as she turns to better regard him. Her stomach knots. "You don't have to worry about that." She holds that look on him, trying to speak without doing the actual saying, and oblivious to the weight behind what she has said. Her head shakes ever so slightly, something in her telling her he'll need to hear the words to be satisfied. She breathes in, measured, her hand rocking the bottle off of the railing so her arm comes back to her side.

"I'm not… like that." comes from her uncomfortably, and she takes a moment to look to make sure no one else is really within hearing distance. Luckily for them both, the ferry out from the island isn't really filled with passengers at this time of morning. Emily slides her gaze back to Avi. "I did manifest," is a terrifying thing to say out loud anyway. "And it's not like that. It's not dangerous like that."

Not to say that it wasn't still dangerous, though.

Avi blinks a couple of times, looking puzzled by the words that came out of his daughter’s mouth. “Well…” he looks down to the deck of the ferry, brows scrunched together. “I mean it’s,” he looks back up to her, “I’m not worried about you. I trust you, really. I… probably could say that more often. Ever.” But then, as if it had slipped his mind for a moment, he realizes what else she’d admitted to somewhere in between how convinced he is that he doesn’t need to worry about it.

“Wait, you manifested?” Avi practically splutters out. She might have slinked away into the conversational darkness without a second thought had honesty not won out. “You. You,” he points at Emily, “manifested. When? How long ago? Who knows?

"I don't know, I don't know, the list is small, and if you tell anyone, I'm going to punch you in the teeth."

Emily looks away, chin tucking and arm swinging absently by her side while she regards the water with a severity to her gaze. "It… happened, at some point. I'm not sure how long, because it's…" How had he put it? "discreet."

"Julie had tried to tell me back in the spring, but I…" Her forehead wrinkles momentarily in a moment of guilt and frustration both. "But I convinced her she wasn't seeing anything. By July, though, I knew. There wasn't any hiding from it, then."

Her weight shifts hard and she regards Avi out of the corner of her eye again. He's known her status for just as long, if not longer than she has, but she has no idea how else he's going to take the news about manifestation. It took her months to really come to terms with it herself. It was one thing on paper to be Expressive, and an entire other for it to be real, finally.

Avi’s brows furrow, more than they already were. He looks around the deck of the ferry, fortunate that it's so sparsely populated, and leans in to Emily. “Something sensory? Telepathy?” He looks a little nervous at that one. “Heightened vision? Oh, maybe like Chesterfield. The memory thing?” He taps his head with two fingers.

“Your old man was a spook longer than anything else,” Avi assures. “Whatever it is, your secret’s safe with me.” His brows rise, eager anticipation in his expression as he tries to measure how much pride to show now and how much to show later. “Don't keep me in suspense here,” he practically whispers.

Emily’s expression undergoes a metamorphosis of discomfort when he leans in. Avi giddily invested in an answer isn’t something she’s used to seeing, and it unsettles her, given the very personal topic. She looks away, head turned down while she debates answering.

A pause elapses into a full silence.

Broken by a jagged: “Does it really matter what it is?”

She shakes her head finally, then looks up toward the city. It looms over them both, a facade of new and great things cast by the numerous rebuilt buildings by the waterfront, masking the reality of the Safe Zone beyond. They’ll be docking soon.

The discomfort isn’t gone. She hesitates, remembering being immediately burned the last time she shared her ability after feeling like she could trust someone, no matter how misguided that had been. Emily struggles with whether or not there’s merit in answering at all given the fear that very thing might happen again. She feels the weight of not having told her mother yet, either.

She wonders what it says about her relationship with Avi— how she thought it had been improving— if she says nothing at all. The thought causes her expression to harden.

When Emily speaks again, there is a distinct lack of pride in her voice, even a strain of frustration as she answers out of a sense of obligation. “I’ll spare you the poetry of it,” she says flatly, wondering if she sounds as hollow as she feels suddenly. She knows she shouldn’t talk about this flippantly, but she just wants to get it over with. “I can talk people into doing anything I want.”

“There’s stipulations to it. Rules. I have to believe in what I’m asking. I can’t just talk someone into something asinine. At least,” Her expression twists with frustration as she looks away. “At least, I don’t think.” Her free arm folds across her midsection, grabbing her opposite elbow.

“It’s this really fucking awe-inspiring thing I was scared of for a long time, and I’m still trying to… figure it out, okay?” The defensive edge to the words belie maybe she still hasn’t. Not entirely. “It’s not some fucking parlor trick to fuck around with.”

“But it’s me.” Emily says quieter, still sounding both hurt and guarded. “It… it turns out, that’s what I am.”

Avi is silent in response. Playful, almost teasing amusement drains from his face as he gains understanding. When the ferry comes to an abrupt stop at the dock he nearly jumps out of his skin, bolting up straight and looking around as if suddenly suspect on how many eyes have been watching. How many ears listening. As other passengers queue to disembark, Avi takes Emily by the shoulders and leans in close to her. His face is painted with an expression that she doesn't need to see his eyes to understand. But expression that is unfamiliar to her on his face.

Avi is afraid.

Stop,” Avi says in a sharp whisper, looking around again with wide eyes visible over the frames of his glasses slouched down the bridge of his nose. “Don't— you can’t tell anyone else that. How many people have you told?” His eyes dart around the ferry and he looks ready to shove them both into the queue to leave. “How many?

Emily makes a tone in the back of her throat as she avoids looking at him, tries to bat his hand away but he gets a good grip on her shoulder anyway. She shouldn't have said any of that, not the way she did. She knew before, but she feels it more keenly now. "Never before using words like that," she mutters glumly, looking off to the the cluster of people waiting to leave the boat. Her grip adjusts around the bottle in her grip to keep it from slipping.

"I don't know— Devon knows. Julie, Teo, Gene…" She trails off, looking like she's thinking. Are Astor and Jasmine people who should be brought up? Sharing that Eileen or Gabriel Gray Substitute Eileen know is suicide even she knows not to touch even in this weird state she's slipped into. There's someone slightly less damning but more concerning she should probably share, though: "Eve fucking Mas knows about it."

Emily finally looks back up at him. "Raquelle Cambria. Brynn." She furrows her brow. That's just about everyone, isn't it? Maybe?

God, that look on his face.

"I don't really plan on telling anyone else," comes from her in a flat tone that she hates. She sounds like a petulant teenager. "You get why I don't want to update my registration now, don't you?"

“Who the hell is Gene? What the fuck is a Brynn?” Avi whisper-shouts after Emily rattles off names he isn’t even remotely familiar with. “It doesn’t matter,” Avi hastily sputters, gingerly guiding her into the queue off the ferry. “Eve Mas, Eve Mas— Jesus Christ so it’s safe to say the entire city knows by now.” Exhaling a ragged sigh, Avi looks down at Emily and there is still — much as there was before — fear in his eyes. But whether its fear of what she can do or fear of what other people will do now that they know isn’t clear.

Gently releasing her arm, Avi is quiet and trying to remain calm as he talks to her. “In the history of people with that ability, nobody’s ever used it for good and nobody’s ever lived long enough to try.” It isn’t a threat, it’s a fearful admission. “Emm,” he says with a shaky hand on her shoulder, “Emm, do you own a gun? Nevermind. I’m going to get you one. You keep it on you at all times. On your hip, wherever.” It’s moments like these he appreciates the lax gun laws post-war.

Swallowing nervously, Avi looks away from Emily. “Jesus Christ,” he reiterates, biting down on his bottom lip for a moment. “Jesus Christ.

He gets it now. He more than gets it. Emily can see that, feel that.

This was a mistake. She shouldn't have burdened him with this.

She lets herself be steered physically, gives him those moments to try and grapple with what she's told him. But once they're on solid ground, she takes a hold of his arm in return. It's clear his panic is just going to get worse, and it's hurting to see him like this. For as many times in her life as she wished she had a tangible sign her father cared, she never wanted to see it manifest like this.

"Dad," Emily says as she pulls him aside from the flow, looking back and up to him. "Dad." she insists, as soothingly as she can.

"It's gonna be okay."

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