It's Complicated


avi_icon.gif berlin_icon.gif

Scene Title It’s Complicated
Synopsis Avi and Berlin have a heart to heart.
Date October 25, 2018

A digital clock reads 3:12. The dot beside the numbers indicates AM as opposed to PM.

Three in the morning isn't a particularly busy hour of night here behind concrete walls and under blankets in the dark. There's a low hum from the hot water pipes and the distant vibration of generators through the concrete floor. There's a faint sliver of light under the door from the hall, and the muffled din of distant music coming from Colette’s room down the hall. She's here this week.

But for Berlin Beckett, three in the morning isn't a time she expects to hear or see anyone. Even ghosts like Hana need their sleep, and this hour is often well past her longest stretches of late work.

But still, there's a knock at the door.

The Bunker

Berlin’s Quarters

October 25th

3:13 AM

Avi Epstein can't sleep. He hasn't slept well since 2001 when the Towers fell. It isn't any particular nightmare that's keeping him awake so much as it is a general sense of ennui. The bottle of bourbon in his hand is untouched, cap still securely in place.

Walking down a concrete walled corridor, he stops outside of a room pounding with music. For a moment he considers telling Colette to turn it down, but then just shakes his head and continues walking past the other doors. When finally he reaches his destination, Avi looks at his watch — date and time, Epstein — and exhales a sigh as his eyes close.

“The fuck am I doing?” Avi asks to himself outside of the door. It's late, he knows, and he's had every opportunity to talk to Berlin and he's spent every moment distracting himself with literally anything else. He's run out of ways to distance himself from her, run out of ways to noncommittally say they'll talk about something and then not.

He doesn't even realize he's knocking until he five beats in.

It's probably telling that Berlin opens the door as quickly as she does. But then, she doesn't get the best sleep, either. Certainly not lately. She's not even dressed like she meant to sleep. Lights on. Book lying open on the bed.

Avoiding her has been easy since the meeting, since Berlin has taken to lonely perches and quiet corners. It might be unsettling now, how easily she seems to disappear. Her expression gives away that he wasn't who she expected to see when she opened the door, an arched eyebrow and an elongated silence meeting his presence.

"Avi?" she eventually says, her tone more prompting than an echo of that surprise. "You okay?" With the question, she steps back, ushering him in rather than making him stand out in the hall in the middle of the night.

“For now,” is Avi’s opaque answer as he presses forward into the room. It's now that she sees he has a small spiral-bound notepad, memo style, in one hand. It's old, dog-eared, and stuffed with folded copies of other papers. In some places it's been marked with colored tabs.

Just past the threshold, Avi pauses to take in the room, looking as awkward as one might expect of him being in this situation. His shoulders are slouched and head hung, but he's stiff and tense. Anxious. “I told Richard who you are,” is how he chooses to open all of this in the way he always does when he's afraid: antagonistically. It's like he's just wired to piss people off and push them away.

Berlin leans a shoulder against the wall, like she feels the need to help keep it up while she watches him. Her gaze takes in the bottle, the notebook, slouched posture. And the fear. It's difficult to miss, because it's what she's been watching for.

Through this ordeal, she's been calm, understanding, accepting— she knows she screwed up in the most spectacular fashion and she's more than willing to step lightly until her footing is right again. If it ever is. But there, with that opening move, she shifts.

"What the fuck, Avi?" She stands off the wall, hands gesturing widely for emphasis.

“Yeah.” Avi says flatly, looking for a place to sit that isn't her bed. He sets the bottle of bourbon down on the corner of the bed though, it isn't for him. Instead, he opens up his little spiral-bound book, pulling one of the pieces of paper out from within. He unfolds it, but doesn't afford Berlin a precise view of whatever it is at first.

“He had a right to know,” Avi says quietly, brows furrowed. Then, he offers the paper out to Berlin. It's a computer printout of two images. Both driver’s licenses. One is from the early 1980s and is for a brunette woman with striking blue eyes.

Michelle LeRoux.

The other, from 2009 and shows a blonde woman with very similar eyes and jaw structure.

Sarisa Kershner.

“Brunette’s Richard’s mom.” Avi says quietly, not looking her in the eyes. “Blonde is— her cousin. Sarisa Kershner. LeRoux before she was married.” There's a moment where Avi looks like he might simply sit on the floor out of indecisiveness.

“She's your mother.”

Unfortunately, there really isn't a place to sit except the floor and a footlocker settled under the window. She doesn't look to be sitting anytime soon. Given how she yanks the paper out of his hand, looking down at it and the women there. Her gaze moves between them, not just their similar features, but their information, too.

She knows that Richard's mother is a complicated subject, but for her, the last name is enough to explain to her why Richard might want to know. Why someone might think telling him was a good idea. But however close she gets to understanding, those last words wipe it away again. Her attention flicks sharply to Avi, then back to Sarisa's picture. A beat passes before she shoves the paper back into his hands, pulling back like she's afraid it might bite her if she holds it any longer.

"I don't know those women," she says, eyes drifting to where he left the liquor, but more to have somewhere else to look than out of longing. "I don't have family, Avi. Not family like that. Not mothers and fathers and cousins and reunions over the holidays and," as she speaks, she starts to slip— her words coming to fast, her breathing too swallow, "I don't know. Birthday parties you don't even want to go to."

That's what families do, right? Families like that.

Avi ambles over to the footlocker and grips the window sill with one hand, levering himself down into a seated position while keeping his braced leg extended. “Trust me it'd be easier for me to believe you hatched out of Sarisa’s fucking head, fully formed, like fucking Athena than the actual truth.”

Exhaling a deep sigh, Avi hunches forward and scrubs his hands up and down his face. “When Robyn was looking for… you, I guess, she stumbled onto your birth certificate and uh, papers. For putting you up for adoption.” Avi looks up at Berlin, brows furrowed. “She had me listed as the father.”

He doesn't explain further.

Nothing in his words helps to calm her breathing, or the panic knotting between her lungs. But the way he chooses to present it lets her latch onto something else. Something more solid.

"You must be thrilled," Berlin says, dryly. Bitingly. "Not everyday you're listed as someone's father. Wow." She shakes her head, letting out a long, shaky breath as she crosses to the window herself. She picks up a small, stone carving— a white rabbit with a mortar and pestle— looking at it instead of Avi. "Is that why you're scared of me or is it the Volken thing?"

The Volken thing as if it were something inconsequential. Her tone implies that either one of the options would be a bad reason to be afraid, although in reality, she's really not sure which he would dread more than the other.

“I'll have you know I can be afraid of more than one thing at a time. My ex-wife takes up about five spots on that list.” Avi says without missing a beat, crinkling the license photographs of Michelle and Sarisa between his hands. He folds the paper up and puts it with his notebook that is sat beside him on the footlocker.

“I'm not your father,” Avi seems certain of, though he doesn't explain why. “But I knew your mother, for decades. I worked with her, and I know her games. This,” he motions to his notebook, “putting my name on a birth certificate and an adoption form? That is her reaching out from beyond the grave,” he pauses and looks up to Berlin, “to send a message.”

Avi looks down to the floor, hands folding in his lap. “I just don't know what that message is.”

She's careful about setting her statue back down and her hands rub against the sides of her jeans. She just can't quite look over at him still. The windows are frosted over, but still appear to be a better place to look. "Well. Nice to know she was the kind of person to put a message to a coworker on the birth certificate of the kid she didn't want."

It takes a few more moments, but Berlin works up the wherewithal to look at him again. "I hope you're not here to ask for my help. The only message I ever got from her was go away." She pulls away from the window, dropping onto the edge of her bed instead. The bottle gets picked up, but just so she has something to hold onto. "If some of the information is fake, all of it could be fake." And maybe it would be a nicer thought to Berlin, that her mother was still a mystery.

“You're not wrong about her,” Avi says as he stares at his hands. “She was a manipulative, self-serving piece of shit. She's the reason Sylar wound up in the White House. We were friends, but she was a piece of shit who didn't…” he shakes his head, “deserve someone like you.”

Swallowing awkwardly, Avi wrings his hands together. “The point is none of it matters, but you deserved to know. Richard’s a friend, one of the small number a piece of shit like me actually has. I trust him. Given the givens, you should too.”

Making a noise in the back of his throat, Avi focuses on the bottle. “It doesn't matter who your parents are. Blood’s just blood. All my parents ever did was fuck me up and fail to give me coping skills. My real dad was Jensen’s father, Roy.” Avi looks up from the bottle to Berlin. “You make your family.”

He sighs. “What's on a piece of paper is just fucking ink.”

Berlin had an easier time when the conversation was harsher. When he's nice, she squeezes her eyes closed to push down threatening tears and tightness in her throat. "Trust isn't easy for me. Doesn't seem to be easy for him, either." Richard— an easier topic. "Did you tell him… about the conduits, too?" When her eyes open, she looks at the bottle, opens it, drinks it. She doesn't have glasses stashed around here, and even if she did, she wouldn't wait to go get them. "Is he gonna look at me like I'm about to explode with nazism at any moment?"

Rubbing a hand over her face, Berlin nods as he goes on. "That's what I'm trying to do. But this is… I don't want people to love me because I can heal them and hate me because I can kill them. I just wanted to be someone… normal." Berlin might not have been normal, but as close as she could get. "I don't want this, where I'm useful and powerful and that's why people come for me."

Standing up, she crosses to her shelf of books, pulling out one that ends up being a fake book full of keepsakes and secrets. She pulls out a business card. Praxis. She crosses over to Avi and holds it out toward him. "If you want to chase down her message. Tell this guy you know Nathalie LeRoux. He's the only clue I have to who my father is."

A clue she hasn't followed up on herself.

A clue she's giving to him, instead.

Taking the business card in one hand, Avi turns it over and looks at it carefully for a moment. It's tucked into his notebook, between the blue and red tabs. “Don't worry, I still think you're mostly useless,” he says with a monotone register, blinking a look up to Berlin afterward, ghost of a smile at one corner of his mouth.

“He knows about the conduits.” Is all Avi feels like he needs to say about it, the rest of it hangs on Richard’s reputation. “I'm sorry I'm not the best equipped to handle this. You're just lucky you're not my daughter, because I fucked that whole thing up real good a long time ago.”

Avi slouches his shoulders forward, hands folded between his knees. “You gonna open that bottle or’m I gonna have to take it from you?”

“Yeah, well. You, too, old man.” Berlin doesn’t match his smile, even the ghost of one, but something in her tone says that she’s trying. She doesn’t seem encouraged by the notion that Richard knows. Or the implication that he would be the one to know how to handle it. Often, the solution to her situation comes with someone dying. She’s had enough of that for this month. And definitely doesn’t want it to be her that has to go.

Berlin looks at the bottle, because it’s very tempting right now. She had a father, for a moment, even if it was one that wasn’t very happy about it. And then she didn’t, again. “You know, when I used to ask Alejandro where I came from, when I was a kid, he would tell me they found me floating down a river on the back of a golden swan.” She was always a little too practical to have ever believed him, but she liked to hear him tell it anyway. The story written on her birth certificate might be less fantastical, but it might be one she could hear again. Even if it’s not true.

In the end she takes a drink— even a long one— before she passes it back to him. “You better take it. Before I decide to spend the night drowning in there.”

The bottle sloshes as Avi takes it, looking down with furrowed brows. “Yeah, well… I might be the wrong guy to look to for responsible drinking. But, whatever. You've been benched and all I've got on my plate right now is a munitions review with Harkness and probably something else super exciting that I'm forgetting.”

Taking a drink from the bottle, Avi looks over at Berlin, then settles it down on the floor beside the footlocker. “What I'm fucking failing at saying is… don't put too much stock in what a piece of paper or a blood test says about family. You want to grow up maladjusted and turn to me with your problems…” he shrugs, looking down at the bottle, “I'm not going to stop you.” Hes quiet for a moment, expression distant. “You don't need a government-issued ID to regret calling me family. Jensen did it all the time and he turned out fine.” He didn't.

"I think any chance of growing up well adjusted went out the window a long time ago. For a lot of us." Berlin sits, perching on the edge of the foot locker. That this position points her away is probably not by chance. "But I think I've put enough of my problems on you lately. And I've always been okay being an orphan." Which is a lie. She's accepted it, but that is a fair distance from being okay with any of it. But it isn't a deception, either. It's an out.

For him or for her, she's not sure.

"And don't worry," she says, looking over a shoulder at him with a wry, sideways look, "I wasn't planning on making you do any DNA testing." Her gaze falls to the bottle next, and it seems the idea of drowning isn't such a bad one after all, because she picks it up to drink again.

Avi sighs. Not his usual long, heavy, go away sigh. But it's a smaller one, a nasally snort, and Berlin feels the footlocker shift under his weight.

Feels a hand on her shoulder.

“Jesus fucking Christ you're her daughter,” Avi says with a jokingly sharp tone, tinged with tension. “You… have a lot of her in you, actually. Sarisa.” There's a tone in Avi’s voice, cracked and raw, a rare moment of vulnerability. “The half of her that wasn't psychotically ambitious would've… she'd be proud of you. For what it's worth.”

Then, smaller.

“I know I am.”

Berlin looks up when his hand rests on her shoulder. She’s tense at first, but it ebbs away. She smiles toward him, although the joke makes it tilt crooked. “Hopefully I have the good parts.” Not the parts that went sideways. There’s a curiosity in her gaze as he talks, but she doesn’t ask about Sarisa. Later, when she’s ready to actually learn about her.

And his last words wipe the urge away, in any case. She glances away, but a beat later she reaches up to curl her fingers around his. Words are slower in coming while she focuses on easing the churned up feeling in her gut.

“I think it would have been nice. Being your daughter.” Her words are simple, but she needs to clear her throat to get through it all the same.

“Yeah,” Avi says, which at first makes it look like he's agreeing. But he's not. “People think they want a pet monkey, too. Then it either takes shit on their furniture or rips their face off.” He lets his hand slip from Berlin’s shoulder. “I fucked that up.” He admits, closing his eyes and slouching in such a way that is bad for his posture.

“Look it's… I'm not trying to give you the brush off. Really. It's just— I was— am— a shitty father. You and the Ferry kids got to know the me who was cleaned up and sober. Mostly. After people like Eileen and Kaylee straightened my ass out.” He runs a hand through his hair, slowly shaking his head.

“Maybe things could've been different.” Avi says in a smaller voice. But then, his brows furrow and he scrubs a hand at his cheek. He's quiet, frustratingly so. Something is on his mind, but he's chosen not to speak it and it's settling poorly.

“Be thankful you get this. This is me operating at a full ten,” may be the saddest thing Avi has ever said.

Berlin shifts enough to look over at him easier, her hands dropping into her lap. "I don't know, Avi. I'm not an expert on family, either. The closest thing I've had to it is a bunch of odd memories fluttering through my head. What do I know about fathers?" She looks down at her fingers as they weave together in her lap. "Wolfhound is like a family. But I've been holding them all away, like I always do. They're safer if I do. I am, too. I don't know if things could have been different. Maybe they could be. You still have your daughter. You guys could try again. Having a bad father is better than having no father. Having a father who wants to do better? That can't be bad. Even if it's hard."

She lifts her head at his last words, glancing over his way again. "Avi. Do you think we're not? Thankful?" Her brow furrows at the idea, like she thinks the correct answer should be obvious to him. "I didn't call you at my lowest moment because I had no one else to call. I called because I knew you would come. I knew you would help."

Oh is written plainly on Avi’s face. Some color leaves his cheeks, his expression sags, and he looks away. Maybe it was the revelation that he wasn’t her last ditch phone call, maybe it was the stuff about parenthood, but something has Avi stirring and shifting awkwardly where he sits. He makes a lot of noises, a chorus of grumbles and thoughtful sounds and grunts of uncertainty that never really become even partial sentences.

“We’re not safer in the dark,” is the only thing Avi is sure about. “Neither are you. Trust me, you know who we are and the kinds of people we eat for breakfast. Things can always be different,” Avi quietly agrees, then on considering the bottle, pushes it aside with his foot. Then, he stands. Creaking and old, minding his broken knee as he does. At first it looks like he’s going to just leave, but instead he offers a hand out to Berlin.

“Up.” Avi demands.

It’s easy for Berlin to sit patiently through his grumbles, maybe easier than the actual talking parts. Especially when he makes good points that she doesn’t really want to hear. Wolfhound is full of capable people, top to bottom, but she isn’t sure she wants to see how they look at her when they find out. There’s one in particular that she has been avoiding.

Of course, she also doesn’t want Francois to find out from someone else.

When it looks like he’s going to leave, she looks back down at her feet without reply. Perhaps she needs to think it over first. But when his hand reaches for her instead, she blinks and looks up at him. There’s a beat before she takes it and pulls herself up.

“Where’re we going?”

“Out.” Avi says, well after three in the morning. “To shoot shit with guns.” He sighs after that, awkwardly letting go of her hand and tucking his hands into his pockets. “Huruma ordered an automatic shotgun a few weeks back to and it arrived yesterday. I was gonna’ hide it until Christmas, but…” He shrugs, taking a step toward the door.

“It’s got explosive rounds.” Is how Avi really tries to sell it.

Berlin nearly mirrors his movement, but at the last moment, she moves to tuck her hair behind her ears. But shooting things in the middle of the night must be an okay idea, because she smiles slowly and rocks up onto the balls of her feet. The addition makes her chuckle, like she’s humoring him. But she’s the one who moves for the door first.

“Well, Let’s go see what we can blow up.”

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