emily_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Jumpscare
Synopsis "The time for fleeing is over. Face god and walk backward into hell." — Zachery, probably
Date November 15, 2019

Sheepshead Bay

A young woman walking away from the campus of Brooklyn College hunkers her shoulders down against the slight, but uncomfortably cold breeze that flows her direction. Huddled up inside her toasted creme peacoat made puffed by the layers she wears against the weather, she lifts one balled hand before her and coughs noisily into her fist. It's uncomfortable, made all the more prevalent by how when she breathes at the end of the spell, the intake of breath rattles her sinuses with a clogged sniff.

Fuck this weather. Fuck this whole time of year. Fuck every single Christmas decoration she's seen so far.

Not feeling well has put Emily Epstein in a bad mood.

"Ugh," she mutters at nothing at all, lifting her eyes from her feet to peer down the path ahead. Seeing close to no one, she decides fuck this part of town, also. She hated walking alone.

There is someone else. Someone also in a peacoat, though it's a stark black, collar high and hands jammed into pockets. Someone taller. Someone freshly off a long, unwanted drive to a pub near here because of an emergency that turned out to be absolutely nothing.

Someone who has found themselves walking behind Emily. Someone with a decision to make. And, ultimately, someone who finds themselves slowing their pace in the hopes of Emily disappearing around a corner somewhere until…

Until that cough.

"Are you taking anything for that?" Zachery's voice rasps out from behind her a moment later, as he catches up for reasons (probably) unbeknownst to either of them and stares straight the fuck ahead.

"Jesus fuck—"

Apparently she's clogged up to the point she's fucking deaf, too, because she did not hear her follower at all until then. Emily starts, rotating on her heel with her balled hand clenched into a proper fist, eyes sharp. They widen even further when she gets a look at who it is just short of actually striking out.

Her hand unclenches.

"… Zachery?" she breathes out, brow knitting. In trying to make sense of why he's here, her eyes start to water. Her arm loses its tension, falling partly before stopping. She looks liable to reach for him with it instead. Maybe to hug him.

Maybe to hit him after all.

"What the fuck," is a sharp admonition completely at odds with the emotion on her face. "Where the fuck have you…" Whole sentences are apparently beyond her, but she looks back the direction she'd come from as if it will magically have an answer for where he's been and what he's doing here now. Unfortunately, life doesn't provide answers so easily, so she looks back at Zachery directly to ask him as much with a loud glare, her eyes still glassy against her will.

He might be missing an eye, but Zachery is familiar with the body language of someone about to slug him. As he steps past Emily, his eyebrows pop up and his arms go wide in a reflexive gesture of — hi, just me. And then… he just keeps going.

Walking sort of awkwardly half sideways, half backwards, hands stuffed back into the pockets of his coat, he studies Emily's face. But maybe not closely enough. "Come on, then. Weren't you taking that cold of yours somewhere?" Without letting her answer, he flatly fires off another question, "You get a flu shot? Did they have them, still?"

Emily isn't playing along, though. She starts moving again only to stomp after him, taking another sniffled inhale to make sure her words carry enough force. "This isn't fucking funny, okay? You disappeared, after telling me all that s—" stuff, possibly, but she's too flustered to finish the thought. Her pace is slow and the group of students behind them that had before been far off start to catch up.

"I thought you died or something, the fucking way you were carrying on at the coffee shop before you ran off. Jesus fucking Christ, Zachery."

She might carry on, but something stops her.

"Hey, Emily?" calls a voice through the crisp air, bringing Emily to turn back again. That group is closer now, within reasonable shouting distance. A honey-blonde young woman Emily's age stands with a group of three others, hands in the pockets of her winter jacket. "Hey," she calls again, just a little too warmly. "I was hoping to catch up with you." Unlike how she had with Zachery a moment before, Emily's eyes don't flicker with recognition at anyone in the group.

The boy directly by the girl's side stands six foot two, and is too slender to effectively hide the baseball bat he carries with him. So he doesn't. He just carries it casually.

"You got a minute?" the other girl calls, voice light.

Zachery might carry on, but something stops him too.

Her tone is what stops him walking, but her words manage to quiet his potential response. Confusion has only just started to knit his brow when another voice rings out and catches his attention. His eye fixes onto the group beyond her. And that bat.

He stays quiet. Hands balling into fists in his pockets and head dipping, he leans forward and takes a slow couple of steps in the direction from which he came - back toward Emily.

Eyes squint in suspicion at the sound of her name, and Emily lets her gaze roam the girl — and her friends — freely while she tries to remember how they knew each other. It comes back in pieces. They had English together in the spring. She'd seen her again recently working at the Library Café.

"Oh, I remember you! Em, right?" The barista at the counter asks Emily before she even puts in her order. She blinks once, brow ticking into a guarded furrow. "Emily," she clarifies slowly. The barista nods twice. "Right, right— I just remembered, that's what that one boy— Joe, that's what he called you."

Among other things, Emily thinks to herself, suddenly glad Em was the end of it. She nods and makes smalltalk, wondering when it'll end. The girl, though— Alissa— she seems intent on continuing their chat.

"Are you part-timing right now?" Alissa asks, leaning forward with her arms folded on the kitchen counter. It was slow anyway, so the idle chitchat won't kill anyone. Right?

Emily shifts uncomfortably, though, uncertain about answering questions about herself— about how she's inadvertently being held hostage just because she wants to order a coffee. "Sort of," is as much as she'll offer at first. "Doing an internship, actually. It's covering my tuition, and I don't really have time for much else."

"Oh? Where's that out at?" Alissa asks, perking up. Anywhere better than here? This certainly didn't pay for her classes fully.

"Out with SESA," Emily admits. "Out on Governors Island."

Alissa tilts her head, furrows her brow a touch. "Huh," she says, seeming to find that odd. Maybe it was just a surprise to hear. Emily shrugs, and Alissa gives her a flash of a half-hearted smile. "That's interesting." She leans up from the counter, reaching for a cup to mark up, finally.

Alissa has that same tilt to her head now, as if there'd never been a bridge between that time and the present. "I wanted to ask you about that internship, actually."

Emily, a chill over the back of her neck, shakes her head. She's frazzled still, piecing things together out of order. "Sorry, I'm kind of in the middle of something." she voices, turning back to Zachery as he closes the gap between them again.

"Oh," Alissa pipes up. Her eyes dart to Zachery. "Is he bothering you?" The boy on her other side turns, wearing a confused look, then swiftly swivels back to observe the dynamic between one Epstein and one Miller. Realization dawns, and his stance shifts. A smile pulls at one corner of his mouth. Adrenal indications of shock turn into something else— excitement.

The chill that had been teasing her senses now flushes down Emily's arms, touching her chest— gripping her heart. Her eyes ice, noting more sharply the shifts in stance of that other group. The bat. What the fuck were they doing with a bat in this weather? "No," she insists firmly. "He's not."

But they don't seem convinced.

By the time Zachery reaches Emily and comes to stand beside her with no clear expression painted on his face, he looks almost like he hasn't even really been paying attention. Like he's wandered over just in order to not leave Emily behind, rather than with some more direct purpose.

And, truly, he might not actually be sure why he made his way to her side.

His eye is still fixed, though, on that group. All four of them get a look over, even if his inspection consists of more than just that. That hint of a smile - it does not go unnoticed. If not for one Miller's years in training on how to hide these things, he might return the visual cue.

When he finally speaks up, after Emily, it is with his head lifting and his words crisp as the threat of winter that lingers on the air. Polite. But a little eager. "So, then. Am I bothering you?"

The disgruntled flash in Alissa's expression indicates yes. She tries to figure out how to spin this back in her favor.

The boys beside her don't. They're running with the last direction they were given, acting as if Emily hadn't answered. They continue forward toward them. The one carrying the bat lets the tip of it bounce up and down once in anticipation. "Hey," he says smoothly. "You heard her. Step off, buddy. Leave our friend here alone."

That's what does it. The suspicions turn into alarm bells that ring noisily in the back of Emily's head. Her gloved hand goes to touch Zachery's near the elbow as she unconsciously shifts her weight, one foot sliding back. "I don't know these people," she whispers urgently, looking back and forth between them and then to Alissa.

There's no time to determine motive, or even intent. Fight or flight kicks in. They're severely outnumbered, likely outgunned.

Flight it is.

"Zachery," she whispers, that hand at his elbow closing around the fabric of his coat. She starts to pull.

"I know them." Zachery answers. His focus shifts from the group to, "Run if you want to, but I've seen these little shits. Growing up, I'd have run with you."

The more words leave him, the more they're tinged with determination. He doesn't bother whispering, finally cracking a wide grin as his focus hones in on the boy with the bat, curiosity gleaming. "Come on, then," he breathes out in a chuckle, pulling his hands back out of his pockets as he squares his shoulders and takes another step forward, caught sleeve or no or not. "You look like you have some fight in you. Let's see it."

The two boys look at each other for a moment, the unarmed one giving a slight lift of his brow, then. "Guess we get two for the price of one," he asides to his friend. The other girl making up the last of the group of four hooks an arm with Alissa's to lead them after the other two at a much more leisurely pace.

Emily leans forward to try and pull back Zachery before her gloves slip off his coat. When his arm jerks away from her, she makes a second swipe that goes wide because of the forward step he takes. For a moment, all she can do is look to the two approaching them and the odds she'd just decided were too great to face.

And yet still here they were.

Oh, fuck.

She lifts her hand to her mouth, biting the side of her glove to more easily tear it off. Eyes down, her bare hand digs into the bag hanging at her side, fumbling between mundane objects in it. Fuck. Why did this have to happen now, on a day where she didn't come armed because she'd been on campus. Bringing a gun to a knife bat fight could have been a sure way to get these people to back off.

The boy with the bat looks a little too gleeful as he surges forward the last of the distance. "Maybe this'll teach you to partner up with those Evo-lovers!" And he lifts his arm to swing.

But when he does, it's not at Zachery. He goes for his initial target, who realizes she's being prioritized all too late.

There is no grace to what Zachery ends up doing next - no visible signs of having thought this thing through. When that bat goes up, he breathes out what sounds like the beginning of a laugh that never quite makes it out before he makes his move.

He could have thrown a punch. But with the depth perception and the rush - his own heartbeat now solidly in his throat, Zachery instead throws himself, kicking off of the pavement and arms wrapping around torso, all of his weight going into taking the bat-swinging shit down with him as hard and far back as he can. Hoping desperately that if the bat falls, it does not fall far.

Emily yelps when the bat makes its initial collision, even with it deadened as it bashes into her shoulder. Her breath catches, cough hacking its way out as finally she pulls something free from her bag. Whatever it is, she coughs into it, trying to clear her airway while she stumbles a step back.

The wannabe slugger topples to the concrete, awkward and unable to recover right away due to his determination to hold onto that bat. He snarls as he grabs Zachery by his scruff and anywhere else he can to get enough space between them to beat him with the bat instead.

The other boy goes in to rush Emily to keep her from escaping. She braces her posture on seeing him, eyes narrowed. "Back the fuck off," she growls, more rattle to it than she'd like. She can obsess over that later. Shoulders hunched, she watches as he grins in reply to the threat.

"Should have just come with us," he remarks smugly. It's a look wiped from his face a moment later, replaced with a grimace first, then a cry of pain. A hiss and spray accompany it— the song of the mace Emily sprayed onto his face, the first dash being into his eyes. "God, you bitch!"

She doesn't take any time to respond or even react. Not to him. She's immediately turning toward the scuffle near her feet, ready to swing and use the bottle of pepperspray as a blunt object if she has to. "Zachery!"

"Emilyyyy." Zachery calls back in singsong, sounding suspiciously like he's having the time of his life as he tries to get a good look at what's going on over there, and just before batboy gets a handful of coat.

"I know you- FHfPhH-" An arm strikes him full force across the face as he tries to clamber over to grab hold of that bat. "You can do BETTER - ffHthAn THAT —" In midst of flailing limbs and just as he looks like he's about to be pulled to the side, he jams an elbow into the boy's ribcage as hard as he can possibly manage, aiming to fracture bone rather than hit organ. Even without the help of his ability, he knows the spot.

"Oh, hey, what the hell," the girl walking with Alissa nonchalantly chimes as the boy with the bat howls in pain too, dropping his bat. She lets out a disappointed click of her tongue, even as the boy scrambles to recover it. "Looks like they need help?" is posed as a question, a vast understatement. She'd been hoping they could hang back and watch the show, after all.

Emily watches the trade of blows between doctor and ruffian anxiously, hovering. Every time she feels like she could make a difference, the moment passes too quickly to react. Instead, she swallows hard. This would be a good time, she thinks to herself, to use my ability. All the conditions seemed right, after all.

If only she could find that place within her to speak from.

The boy behind her, face still covered in orange spray, suddenly closes both his arms around her from behind, cinching her arms by her side. "You vindictive little—" Emily curses him, throwing her weight to try and create space for herself. She lowers her center of weight, trying to get him to lose grip around her from that alone. It comes naturally, she realizes; in ways it wouldn't had she not trained with Teo.

Breaths coming sharp and painful, the boy grappling with Zachery grabs him by the shoulder, headbutting him as hard as he can with his forehead to disorient him. After, he swings Zachery down toward the ground while he makes an effort at standing.

It's an effort not as strong as it could have been. He wasn't anticipating that action-movie act of bravado to disorient him, too.

"Fuck!" Zachery hits the ground following a headbutt for the second time this year, teeth bared in pain. A further attempt at hissed out words ends up hurting him more than anything else. "That's — fuck. Hghrh." There's a wet gurgle of a cough that cuts off anything else he might have wanted to say — as blood starts trickling from from a now (again) broken nose and into his throat.

Sooner or later he'll learn how to keep people from getting close to his face, but right now he's too busy with his swimming vision — already pre-impaired — reaching one hand up to his face in what is more instinct than anything else, while the other tries to find the ground he's been thrown on in order to start planning the whole getting up thing. He's no good to himself OR Emily down here.

But instead of the ground, that hand finds a leg. Even better. Unable to do much of anything else, he grabs fabric as tight as adrenaline permits and pulls inward.

"God… damn it!" the formerly-bat-bearing boy howls as he's pulled back onto the ground yet again, head hitting concrete, ribs screaming in agony. He likely says other things, too. They are incomprehensible. His system is lighting up like a particularly satisfying Christmas tree, what with all the different spots on him that are singing in pain. He rolls onto his good side, clutching at his chest rather than swinging again.

In the meantime, Emily's dropping of her weight has freed her arm, letting her elbow her assailant roughly, spinning away from his grip. Away and behind him, she clenches onto one of his wrists with her bare hand, pressing down on his back while she pulls up on his arm. Down he goes to a knee, sputtering in pain from the irritant all over his face and in his nose, and now this on top of it all.

Only barely in time does she take note of the girl in the black leather closing in on her, one hand in her pocket to grab something. Emily's eyes widen, meeting hers. "Stop," she implores, looking as deeply into the other girl as she can. "Please. What did I even do to you people?"

Never mind the aggressive hold she has on the boy she peppersprayed.

Something in Emily's passion reaches the girl, though. And it's the oddest thing— the way she swears for a moment that she understands what drove the girl to come here as well. Because the emotion, these thoughts she feels— they cannot possibly come from herself. She's never had a loved one lose out on work because someone with an ability was better suited at doing it. And she certainly doesn't hate SESA for defending that person's right to a job.

"Whatever happened, I had nothing to do with it," Emily pleads, cautious and unmoving. She shies away from the specifics of what she's inuited, afraid it would just escalate things. "Please, just …" Her brow knits, "Just stop this."

The girl reluctantly relaxes, hand still in her pocket clutching onto something, but… And then her brow furrows. She looks back to Alissa. Alissa, who looks perplexed as to why her friend hasn't drawn. "Come on!" she urges her.

But the girl stays her hand. "These guys are getting their ass kicked. And I don't see you helping either," she observes, overly defensive. She glances back in Emily's direction warily before shaking her head.

Her hand slides from her pocket, weaponless. Alissa had looked incensed, as though she might have charged in too— until that. Now she deflates.

Compassion is a lovely thing, even with three dumbasses down on the ground making various noises of hurt.

The oldest dumbass — Zachery, the one who should probably know better than to have done what he's done so far — tucks in a shoulder and rolls onto his side. The amusement is gone from his face, now, this whole situation too familiar. Too reminiscent of another time, which has him gritting bloodstained teeth as he listens along and eyes Emily first, then the other two girls.

"Em- Emily," he starts in half speech, half cough, willing his voice to be steadier but only managing to up the volume, "They don't care. They don't stand for- for anything, they're just… they hear a thing and… follow." With his faculties slowly returning to him through the pain that lingers, he plants a palm down onto the ground, fingers bloodied from his nose, and starts to get slowly to his feet.

But not, decidedly, before his other hand swipes for — and grabs — that bat nearby, yanking it free. Immediately and without thinking, his white-knuckled grasp tightens on the weapon and he lifts the bat to swing, full force, for the still swimming image of his previous assailant on the ground.

Emily twists her assailant's arm back even further to a painful angle before kicking him down and away from her, stumbling a step back from her effort. He hits the ground and starts to make his way away, stinging eyes and lungs robbing his desire to go in for round three. Great, as far as she's concerned. Zachery's words don't initially register for her. She's in the middle of taking a deep breath, feeling the cold settle into her throat and chest. Her head tilts back. Maybe this is the end of it. They seemed to be backing off, after all. The breath she took aggravates her airways again, leaving her with the need to cough and clear her throat.

It takes just a second, but a second is all Zachery needed. Her brow furrows when she sees him pick up the bat, swing it back. Eyes widen but words don't come. Not in time. The bat thunks as it collides with its target, the sound of bone and wood thicker than the groan it produces. The first hit catches shoulder and hand, sprawling the college student onto his back. Even cringing in pain, his already damaged ribcage is wide open for a second hit.

When the bat goes up again, the girl in the black leather screeches. All cool is gone from her. "Jason!!" she cries out, full of fear and worry. She's moving forward again.

This time with the knife from her pocket— and with Alissa shortly behind her, sprinting.

No, no no, Emily thinks, seizing up during that critical moment. Zachery, why? She doesn't know how to react. Instinct only kicks in after the second hit lands, and she lurches forward to try and intervene. The boy is screaming as his ribs go crunch and Emily is stepping forward to try and stop Zachery until she's not, her wrist grabbed and pulled back.

Like to a dance partner, she twists as she goes, face inches from the other girl's when she stops— the cold of her knife pressed up against her neck. Emily meets her eyes, urgent and pleading to intervene. For the space of a blink, the girl holds eye contact, then roughly spins Emily around in her grip, keeping the knife to her throat, ready to twist her wrist at any moment.

"Hey, Cyclops," the girl snarls, pressing the knife harder to skin. It's just a pocketknife, but the blade is sharp, glistening with a crimson edge. Alissa is sprinting past her and Emily both, stopping just outside of swing range of Zachery. She darts a look between the two pairs, brow arching when she settles back on the men. "I'd hear her out, if I were you," is a suggestion made condescendingly. Alissa's pride hasn't left her, and she appears far less rattled than the girl with the knife to Emily's throat.

The moment Emily steps forward, Zachery's attention seems to waver. Her steps alone catch his attention enough for him to turn around just in time to watch her be grabbed and pulled away again.

He stands, wincing body on one side of him, Emily and her dance partner on the other. For a moment, it looks like he might have forgotten how to breathe through the blood that's trickled down his face, into his collar. A delayed exhale arrives in a shudder of a sentence — "God, that's satisfying."

Despite the fact that his eye is now fixed squarely on Emily, those words are probably not about the situation she finds herself in. He lets his shoulders drop as he catches his breath in ragged starts and stops, the bat dangling at his side. Grasped, still, as if his life depends on it. As he looks between Emily's face and the one right behind it, something pulls at his lips, something that looks equal parts grin and idle sneer, filtered through a good amount of exhausted frustration.

"Alright," he answers with a cheerful tone that does not match his expression, before a single and much more grimly spoken word follows. "Speak."

The topic is predictable, given the predicament and the precluding activities: "You drop the bat, or she gets it." Despite how still Emily is standing, the way the girl leans into her threat physically as well as verbally slides her hand just so— just enough the cut stings and deepens, forcing her to suck in a breath at the sharpness of it and somehow be still despite it. Her eyes close hard, a shallow and slow inhale occurring before she opens them again to look Zachery's direction.

Emily says nothing, given her position, but her gaze reflects layers of thought. Trying to figure out what was behind Zachery's words; Weighing what will actually happen if he turns the weapon over; wondering if someone actually has seen this shitshow by now and immediately rerounded whatever corner they came from rather than get nearer.

She feels alone as she cautiously lifts her hands in a gesture of surrender, despite already being overtaken.

Alissa boldly reaches a hand out to Zachery for the bat, head cocked with a small smirk at the corner of her mouth. It doesn't take a mindreader to glean she's interested in making sure an eye for an eye is taken here, so to speak. The girl with the knife at Emily's neck, though, her gaze keep darting to the crumpled body at Zachery's feet, her concern for his health paramount. The other boy is on his ass on the curb, trying to wipe his eyes clean with his hands still covered in grit from the concrete. "This fucking stings, god," he moans.

Emily swallows. "Listen," she says softly, words meant for the girl despite her gaze still on Zachery, almost looking through him as she wills herself to speak from that space of deep compassion. "This doesn't have to get any worse than it already is…"

"Shut up," is what she receives for her advice, thankfully without any accidental or purposeful slip of the knife.

"What it is," Zachery hooks the beginning of his sentence to Emily's, tone erratic with distractions, "is that your boy Jason's broken in about eight different ways because you lot didn't have a plan beyond 'wreck shit for a cause'. Now, you could go on assuming that you could kill poor Emily here, or you could put hands on him before, oh—"

He chuckles, an ugly sound that manages to relay, just for a second, in how much pain he still is along with how his breath isn't really evening out. The acute awareness of the broken skin on Emily's neck is not doing him any favours, either. Clearing his throat, he continues, "Before he bleeds into his abdomen any more than he is. Which he is."

He lifts his free hand to swipe the back of it slowly across his mouth, smearing partially dried blood as he aims a cold stare at Alissa, before his gaze darts back to the girl holding Emily, eager. And smiling, forced and toothy, through the red and with broken nose.

"Trust me. I'm a doctor."

His grip on the bat tightens.

"Oh my god."

Alissa just frowns, but the girl with the knife has eyes wide as saucers. They look at each other, poles distinctly out of alignment. Alissa's head starts to tilt slightly to the side to will her friend to be just a little bit colder in this moment.

Oh, the irony.

"Alissa," her friend says instead, voice pitched half an octave. "Alissa, call an Uber or something."

"What?" she scoffs, incredulous. Her gaze starts to wander, looking between all the different ways this has gone differently than she anticipated.

This was only supposed to take a few minutes. They're still expecting her back at the library after the rest of her break..

"I can call one." Emily says softly in that space where Alissa hesitates. The knife shifts with a jolt, and Emily is thankful, not for the first time, that this girl doesn't have the blade fixed over her artery. "If you let me get my phone," she continues evenly. "I can have one here in five minutes. We're still close to campus. There has to be one nearby."

When the girl doesn't respond, Emily lowers one arm to reach into the pocket of her jacket anyway, bare thumb tapping the screen to life. As promised, the screen turns a vibrant pink as the app opens. Then the knife stings, and her breath leaves her; she thinks she's made a mistake—

But it's just a slip, one more lighter line caused when the girl in the leather coat pulls away, running forward with the knife still in her hand. It's immediately clear she does so without injurious intent, because she's practically on her knees those last few feet. "Jason," she breathes out tearfully, settling in over him. "Oh my god. We're going to the hospital, okay?"

Emily has her gloved hand shoved up against her bleeding neck, unable to tell what Zachery can intuit— there's only one deep, worrisome cut, interlaced with shallower lacerations from where the girl had been slipping the knife around. If dealt with carefully, it won't get any worse than it already is. But Emily isn't applying direct pressure— there's a tilt to it, pulling up toward her chin even after she finishes tapping her screen and lets her phone arm fall.

There's only weariness as she looks up and looks for Zachery's gaze, unaware of any of that. When she breathes, her cold brings another rattle to the inhale, and she sniffs it away. Entirely out of place, possibly from shock, she really wishes she had a fucking tissue.

Zachery shifts his weight when the girl's position changes, and immediately pulls away from Jason when she lowers herself down to his side. When he meets Emily's gaze, he's still a little wild-eyed with the adrenaline rushing through, but the smile disappears as quickly as it came on.

"We're leaving. Emily, we're—" His words falter, as if by moving away from his spot he's left some of his confidence right along with it. That bat, though, is coming with him as he begins to walk toward Emily — rushed, reaching for her arm this time. "We've got to go."

"We—" is as far as Emily makes it to saying, either in protest or agreement. She half-holds up her phone in explanation as Zachery starts to pull her away. But on looking back to the sorry group of four who'd tried to jump them, and seeing nothing but blame and vitriol in Alissa's eyes as she glares their direction — she opts to turn after all with Zachery and go with him, letting her own footsteps match his urgency.

"Back to campus," she directs them, determinedly but without force to it. "Back to people. It'll be—"

Safer? Theoretically, sure, but campus was also where she'd met Alissa in the first place. The sentence dies with an uncertain note, but she keeps moving in that direction anyway.

Another attempt at speaking is made, but fails as she pulls her hand away from her neck to look down at it. The cotton sticks uncomfortably before pulling away, and while the black cloth hasn't exactly changed colors as much as gotten darker, the slickness on her fingers leaves her feeling unsteady.

She looks up at him at her side, seeing more clearly the way the lower half of his face has streaked. "You're bleeding," Emily notes vacantly.

"So are you," Zachery replies, still breathing uneasily, too fast, only to follow it up with an utterly unconvinced query of: "The campus?" He stops in his tracks, grabbing tightly onto Emily's sleeve with blood stained fingers, and intently searching her face with a little too much energy, still.

"You can't be serious. People are not indicative of goodness, in case you hadn't noticed!" He throws his other arm out toward where they just came from, the bat following the motion upward in a lazy arc. Disgust seeps into his voice like an oil spill. "People is what's wrong with the world, people is what cut you."

They seriously weren't about to have this argument.

Not now.

That's what Emily seems to say without saying, her eyes going back and forth between his eye and no-longer-eye, like both are going to somehow provide her insight to his thought process in equal parts. She's incensed. She's all for arguing that that's the safest option, sticking to her guns— but all that leaves her is a plaintive, broken: "Zachery."

She takes in a breath, argument prepared and everything. Just what else were they supposed to do? Instead, the air is held, her eyes closing hard. She looks away from him, back toward campus…

And then down at the phone in her hand.

"Not all people." is as much as she's firmly able to insist, thumb flicking across the screen. Her other hand reaches up to grab onto Zachery in return, fingers grasping the surface of his coat to keep him close or to steady herself. It could just as easily be either.

"I've got to—" she starts to say before deciding it needs prefaced with a much more urgent, "Please don't go." It's all catching up with her in delay now, all the emotions that accompany the adrenaline crash. She looks up at him, holding on all the more tightly. She's keeping it together for now, but if he doesn't stay, she clearly doesn't think she can. "I should call Julie. She's not just people. She can help; She'll know what to do. She's my cousin." Said in the way someone might say sister, or mother. "She works at Elmhurst."

Besides: "What else are we going to do, anyway?" They can't just stand here and will their injuries to undo themselves.

Zachery's expression in response to his name is something of a mixed one, confusion reigning in the way his eyebrows knit. He leans into the grab at his coat out of a sheer lack of anticipation for it, before pulling upright again, muscles tense as he steadies himself - and her with it. Still not letting go of Emily's sleeve in turn, even if that bat comes back down again in his white-knuckled grip.

Head lifting, he looks down the street one way, then another, the way someone might look for an escape route when a fire alarm comes blaring. The pain from his broken nose finally seems to be catching up with him properly, and an uncertain noise leaves him as he rolls his jaw in discomfort.

"Okay." Then, a beat later, barely above a whisper, "Okay. Elmhurst. I'll stay with you until you meet. But we're not meeting her at a crime scene." And, once more, he begins moving forward.

Emily obliges the steps forward by following, walking in silence. The forward movement helps to clear her thoughts, the steps meditative. She almost forgets to lift her phone in that absence of thought, just focused on moving in an attempt to avoid becoming overwhelmed with processing what just happened.

Abruptly, after the screen has already darkened, she taps the phone to life again and dials the number she has listed as her ICE. She waits through the tones, patient, breathing in and out in steady measurements to hopefully avoid sounding as distressed as she has been these last few moments.


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