Late Arrival



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Scene Title Late Arrival
Synopsis A new lamb joins the Ferry's growing flock.
Date March 24, 2011

In Dreams

Sometimes he can hear the rain all the way down here — it doesn't happen very often, and when it does it's a distant, murmuring sort of sound that presses in around his head and fills his ears with gentle pattering. There is little to do on the subway platform's bench except to listen, and to wait, and Joseph has been doing both for longer than he can remember. The station is dark but for the gas lantern on the bench beside him; if he wants light, then he must make the walk back to Grand Central Terminal to seek it, and although the Ferrymen's central hub is not far, a brisk few minutes at most, it would be unimaginable for him to put more distance between himself and what it is he's been waiting for when it's taken so long to eliminate most of it.

He knows his wait is over when the light of another lantern appears down the line, gleaming off the tracks and filling the tunnel with a flickering glow that Joseph could easily mistake for fire if it wasn't accompanied by the sound of footsteps crunching through the gravel.

Their silhouettes appear a moment later — a large, broad-shouldered man whose hand has swallowed whole his much smaller traveling companion's.

He takes the time to breathe in before standing — no more hesitation than that, however, Joseph on his feet not a moment too long after seeing the long shadows ahead. Leg twinges with the movement, where a bullet had pierced muscle as long ago as it had, leaving a scar that seems to pull every winter, and with more frequency as the years climb on. A coat hangs over old woolen sweater, navy and round-necked, and makes his shape look bigger than it is to those coming down the tunnel.

Lifting the gas lantern by silver handle, the light splays up his chest, alights worried features but does very little to instill light into dark, dark eyes. It manages to play off golden wedding band as well, a little scratched up though it is, a robust curl of precious metal on the correct digit.

In any normal circumstance, he'd call out. Joseph does not, this time, voice caught in his throat like it had the very first time he'd taken the stage for a sermon, a lifetime away.

As the figures draw closer, Joseph's eyes strain in the dark to pick out finer details like the smooth, leathery texture of the old child-sized suitcase the little girl is carrying in her other hand, the shape of her face, or eyes like a deer's, dark and cautious. The larger of the pair is Jensen Raith, beard trimmed close to his jaw, and jacket thoroughly soaked by the rain. She's not much better off, but Raith appears to have made some sort of attempt to shelter her because her clothes are damp instead of dripping, and she isn't shivering with the violence or intensity that she could be.

Brown hair made slick and stringy by the moisture clings to her cheeks. A heavy winter coat several sizes too large for her small but vaguely plump little frame hangs off her like a cloak, the sleeves rolled all the way up to her elbows so they don't get in the way of her hands.

"Sumter," Raith calls out, and his voice is cautious too.

"Jensen." Quieter, but projected — another throwback to sermons, the way he speaks. Slow steps carry Joseph forward, and speed up some with the nauseous swing of gas lantern light that comes to hang a little lower to guide his steps. "You two get in okay? It's rainin'."

And other stupid observation, but it seems easier to talk over the head of the small figure at Raith's side than it is to greet her in words — but then again, she has Joseph's full focus, chest growing tight and releasing again in some relief to see her whole and healthy. Anxiety has been knotted up too hard to completely loosen, but it has permission to progress to something normal, now. Some days, the Grand Central Station and its adjoining tunnels seem like the safest places in the world.

Unless you know better. The butt of the lantern scrapes the rough terrain as Joseph is coming to crouch-kneel in front of her, hands out to steer her close so that he can see, gentle grips on her sleeves.

"Your wife said she'd write," Raith says, looking down at the top of the little girl's head as Joseph sinks down to the floor in front of her. "The other one," he amends, then, and releases his hold on her hand. There's something about his tone that suggests he isn't sure Claira will, and he makes an attempt to convey this with a look, but Joseph's focus is on his tiny ward.

As it should be. "You might want to have Delia or Megan take a look at her, just to be sure. She doesn't talk much, but she's been coughing since around Columbus." He reaches into his coat and pulls out a transparent folder glittering with rainwater, its paper contents protected by a thin, flimsy layer of plastic and lip held shut with what looks like a plain older rubberband. "Birth certificate, social security cards, registration, for what it's worth. I can get Intelligence working on the new stuff as soon as they have a little more room to breathe, but if you want my advice — keep her inside."

If the little girl can comprehend the importance of what Raith is saying, it does not show on her face, which she's steeled into a solemn mask that would be harder to maintain if she wasn't so tired from the journey. She forces herself to meet Joseph's gaze and hold it.

A bit uselessly, Joseph fusses with the sit of the oversized coat, as if he could will it into fitting her properly. Making the whole world fit her properly. "She said that, huh?" he says of the first part, and there's a glance given to papers and little more than that for the time being as he meets dark eyed look held steady in the midst of exhaustion. Something in Joseph's tone that communicates he catches Raith's drift, traded glances or no. Dark, wet hair is pushed back from her small face with his broad hands, offering her a smile, one that says he's glad to see her.

"C'mere," he sighs out, and it's probably more for his own sake than her's that he pulls her into an embrace, but then again, he doesn't underestimate the value of a parent opening their arms for their children. He's warm and dry, and he holds her like he would take on all the cold that clings to her tiny frame if he could. "Let's get you somewhere you can settle in. Are you hungry? Either o' you?"

Arms snake around Joseph's neck, and the little girl buries her face against it, nearly walloping him with the suitcase, but Raith is there to relieve her of it, effortlessly hefting up a week's worth of clothes and whatever personal belongings she was able to fit inside on top of that. He can feel her swallow and the heat of her breath, which has begun to tremble.

"I can stick around for the night and make sure she settles in okay, sure," Raith says. In other words: yes. He's hungry, and might offer to carry Joseph's lamp as well, but his hands are already full as he turns and begins to lead the way back to the Terminal. "She'll make a good playmate for Walter. They're about the same age, and Eileen thinks he's too rough for some of the younger ones. Delilah doesn't see it."

"An' I'm sure she can hold her own." But she's a bit big to carry, and so Joseph just holds her for a few more protracted moments as Raith's steps start to echo, before pulling back and squeezing her arms above her elbows. Then he takes her hand in his, massaging life and warmth into fingers as his other hand picks up lantern, throwing wobbling shadows about as its drawn up along with himself.

Cue to walk with him comes with a step after Raith and a gentle tug to hand gripped, but Joseph keeps his paces slow enough for her shorter, wearier ones, occupied with the sight of the top of her head, and the immediate terrain in her path.

"Thanks for bringing her in," is offered after a while, gentle voice bouncing echoes back at them from curved tunnel walls.

"You don't say no to a thing like that."

The walk back to Grand Central Terminal is endured in silence, but it's the companionable kind. The darkness is eventually replaced by the softer, intermittent glow of electric lights powered by the network's generators. Midtown's derelict, crumbling tunnels have been transformed into tidier corridors of concrete and corrugated metal with long, thick lengths of wire hanging from the ceiling like fat black snakes. Behind closed doors, refugees and Ferry operatives alike settle in for the night either alone or with their families — this late, it's unusual to see anyone out and about including the woman who rounds the corner up ahead.

Delilah Trafford's red hair is long and loose, and her mouth opens into a wide smile at the sight of the trio coming down the passageway. It's past Walter's bedtime, but he isn't far behind her anyway, an old graying mixed-breed Molosser with a distinct limp trailing dutifully behind him. "There you are, Joseph!"

The lantern is hefted up a little more to shine the light farther, show up the shape Delilah and her tagalong make in the darkness for the benefit of the girl Joseph leads down the tunnel, his hand clasping her's. "Evenin'," is neutral greeting, but delivered with a smile, enough distance eaten up with trudging steps for it to register in the gloom. "Delilah, I'd like y'to meet someone." He loosens his hand of the girl's and places it high on her back, nudging her forward just an inch or so in gentle urge, hand then going up to rest at the back of her skull. "This is Hannah."

He expects she knows the name. A few of them do, before now. But the normalcy of introduction is important. "Hannah, this is Delilah, she's a friend of mine. And I think I see Walter bein' shy back there." Little joke. Some kids are shy. Some certainly aren't. Some also recognise affectionate sarcasm.

"I'm not," Walter says abruptly, and in a voice that's maybe a little louder than is probably appropriate. Smudges of grease bruise his round, freckled face, and he hooks fingers around Samson's collar as he comes to stand beside his mother, though there's no danger of the old dog knocking Hannah down. He only knows from experience that some people aren't as affectionate toward his furry playmate as he is, and his mother has taught him manners enough for him to be aware that there's a chance Hannah might be like Francois and Eileen in this respect.

"Stay," he commands. Then, "Sit."

Samson sits. "Ravi de vous rencontrer. That means it's nice t'meet you in French. D'you know any other languages?"

Hannah is silent. She's given no indication that she even knows English until she shakes her head in response.

"Neither do I." This from her father, standing protective even if it's just beside and slightly behind her. Joseph glances from the girl to Walter then to Delilah, betraying that residual nervousness wherein he doesn't feel as prepared as he oughta, but then, what amount of preparation was there ever? "I was gonna fix what there is to eat and git your mom to help me out — maybe you an' Samson can show Hannah around a little."

He pauses, and adds, "She's gonna be livin' around here, now, so you'll behave y'self."

Walter's face pinches into an expression that roughly translates to I always behave m'self but as he's opening his mouth to give words to this thought, Delilah steers a reproachful look in her son's direction and it snaps shut again. He scuffs an untied shoe against the concrete floor. "Okay," he concedes, and — like a gentleman — offers Hannah a grubby hand.

She darts dark eyes up at Joseph and Raith, seeking permission, then realizes if her father wasn't going to give it, then he wouldn't have made the suggestion in the first place. Her fingers close shy around his and he gives them a reassuring squeeze that transforms into a hard yank that drags her away from her father's side. "C'mon," he says. "We can go visit Little Ben. He doesn't talk real much yet, but his mom never shuts up."

Joseph's mouth presses into a line as the boy's words echo back, at the jolt of Hannah's body when she's tugged, but— he stays his reactions, before edging to the side to go and relieve Raith of his daughter's personal effects bundled into suitcase. He's had anxiety attacks since he was in his teens, took medication for it after he stopped drinking it down, but now he does neither — just tempered with age and the knowledge that bringing his daughter to New York City, or at least receiving her, isn't the worst thing to happen to her.

It's definitely not the worst thing to happen to him. He takes a shallow breath, and glances to the other nearby adults, as if awaiting judgment, opinion, or even instruction.

Delilah makes no judgment; her eyes are kind. Raith's are hard in comparison, but they have been the whole time that Joseph has known him. "She'll be fine," is what eventually breaks the silence, a cheerful bubbling from the statuesque redhead as she watches her son escort Hannah down the corridor with Samson in tow. "It might take her a few weeks to adjust, but they always do. Sometimes I wish Griffin and Nadira had stayed — there's so little we can do for them all the way out where they are if something happens. Gillian, too, even if she's got her reasons.

"Right, then!" And she claps her hands together. "Let's get you settled in. There's some stew already on the stove. We've just gotta wait for the potatoes to soften up some and I'll break out the sourdough. Jensen, be a dear and pop out to see if Francois and that boy's father want to join us. Always plenty of room at the table."

Raith doesn't even have to pass Hannah's suitcase over to Joseph — he's already taken it. "Relax, Pastor," he murmurs, bumping his shoulder against the other man's as he moves off in the same direction the children disappeared. "Don't forget you and your little girl are among friends."

"Wouldn't be able t'do this otherwise."

And Joseph's tone brooks no disagreement, especially with its meaning veiled. Unable to do this, the parent thing. Unable to bring the girl out here at all. But laying that to rest for now, he offers Delilah a more sure smile and a nod of agreement, a hand out to touch her arm as he moves on by. "I'll get her stuff put away then help you set the table. Thanks." He lingers, first, watching what he can of the two shapes of the children depart, eventually obscured by Raith's bigger, plodding frame.

Only then Joseph moves, to divert down one dark, underground passage, for a corner his daughter can call her own.

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