Less Than Kind


avi_icon.gif emily_icon.gif nathalie_icon.gif

Scene Title Less Than Kind
Synopsis A trio practice at being a family.
Date May 24, 2019

Spring Creek Settler's Park: Rory and Berlin's Trailer

The place itself isn't much. One of many identical trailers filled with people waiting for the lottery. This particular one is a little more personalized, decorated with stone statues outside (and a few inside). Obviously, the place is small, but this is where Nathalie has invited her family over for dinner. She may have arranged it so that Rory would be at work when they got here, but she will claim that it was unavoidable. There are things she's not ready for. Like introducing her boyfriend to her new-found family.

But she is ready for something that resembles a family gathering. Whether or not the other two are is up for debate.

She's ordered food, some Chinese food in probably too many forms, but she wanted everyone to have something and her selections got out of hand. Nervous food orders should not be allowed. However, they are and so Nat is sitting in the front room, twirling a chopstick in her fingers while she waits. Possibly forever.

The rumble of an old pickup truck outside is about as familiar as a person’s voice at this point. Even though he’s changed vehicles half a dozen times, Avi has always had a soft-spot for beat up old pre-1990s trucks. Something about EMP resistance or some half-assed way of explaining away his own personal preferences as practical. The loud, metallic clak of the truck door outside is a solo one. He didn’t offer to pick up Emily.

“…that’s not what I said at all.” Avi argues with someone outside the trailer. “No, I said she’s on fucking sabbatical,” is nearly a shout. “Oh, no, you’re more than fucking welcome to try and text her, but I’m going to tell you now you’re going to have better luck if you shove that phone up your ass and try and text your esophagus!

For a moment everything’s quiet outside. But then, “Hello?” Followed by a hiss and a muttered curse. “Fucking— dropped signal,” comes with the sound of footsteps up the short stairs leading to the trailer door. “Fucking goddamn worthless piece of shit phone.” He’s right outside the door, and the whak, whak, whak of his knock against the thin aluminum door is the most polite thing he may have done all day.

But then he just shows himself in without waiting for even so much as a hello.

“Can you fucking believe this?” Avi asks Nathalie as he brandishes his phone in one hand. As if he’s been to this trailer before, as if she knew whatever the fuck he’s on about, as if everything is normal right now. “I just got talked down to by Cat fucking Chesterfield. A decade ago she was playing fucking Heart covers in a sweaty basement and now she’s giving me shit about Hana dropping off the face of God’s fucking green Earth.”

The Uber driver had dropped Emily off at the wrong trailer, and not immediately knowing any better, Emily was squinting at it and wondering if this was really the place. There wasn't an earth-grounded lockbox outside of it, for starters. Her head is tilted toward her phone while she awkwardly lingers during the search, attention drawn by the passing pick-up. She glances up automatically, does a double-take at who she thinks she's seen.

Her brow furrows, phone lowering as she wonders. Then, she doesn't need to, as his voice carries.

Emily gives a thin sigh, sliding her phone away as she walks between the trailers and follows the sound of the voice. At least she'd only been a few numbers off. When she peeks around the corner, the door is swinging and she begins to frown, considering for a moment her place in all this.

There was a familiarity in his barging in, even if he had knocked. She tries to brush away the onset of doubt by stepping around the grounded lockbox to head for the doorstep, posture stiff as she maneuvers to the door. Brushing her hair back from her face and threading strands behind one ear, she hesitates twice before she knocks quietly with the backs of her knuckles.

Her brow furrows at herself, wondering what she's even doing. She can hear Avi carrying on inside, after all.

"Hana is a crazy effective intelligence operative," Nat says, as if Avi had already been there or, at least, entered like a normal person. "Every government should be nervous that she's gone dark. Want a beer?" She gets up, greeting him with a pat on the shoulder before she comes to answer the door.

Emily is greeted with a bright smile as Nathalie opens the door. She steps out and gives Emily a hug. "Thanks for coming," she says, and she means it— she knows this isn't her ideal gathering. "Come in, come in," she says, stepping back through the door and gesturing Emily through. "Have a seat, have a drink, eat some of this food or else it's all I'm gonna have for a week." While she's holding the door open, she looks back over at Avi.

"Who's Heart?"

“Jesus fucking Christ the Ferrymen you stayed with should be charged with a fucking war crime,” Avi says as he pulls out a chair and turns it sideways, then settles down casually on it. “And yeah, I'll take a beer,” he says without making any effort to get himself one, instead dragging over a box of Lo Mein and angling a look over his shoulder to the door.

“Hey kiddo,” Avi says in greeting to Emily, “did your rusty flail of a mother at the very least educate you on who Heart is?” He asks, and it's entirely possible that he might already have been drinking. As he waits for the answer to his question, he's snapping a pair of chopsticks apart and scooping Lo Mein straight out of the box to his face, brows raised expectantly.

Emily's posture lifts as she sees Berlin, smile returned even if she can't quite shake off all the stiffness in her immediately. She navigates her way in and tips her head in a nod to acknowledge the invitation for food, continuing to linger for a moment well away from the table while she takes in the interior of the place. She'd never been in one of these when she moved back to New York, skipped the temp housing unit entirely thanks to moving in directly with Julie.

She turns when Avi addresses her, expression blank before it flattens entirely. Had to go straight there, didn't he. "They played one year at a 4th of July celebration," she replies evenly. "I didn't get the what the hype was about when it happened." Emily turns toward Berlin, explaining, "They're the band who did Barracuda."

Apparently she knows the one song. She's not about to confess she only learned it because of Guitar Hero.

Emily gravitates a little closer to the table, hunger and curiosity about the food winning out against everything else. She doesn't reach for anything just yet, eyeing it all over. "Berlin said there was a re-org," she asides, finding relevance in it since she'd overheard mention of it on her way in. "Congrats on the promotion, by the way." Now she leans, pulling a container of fried rice closer by the tiny aluminum handle.

Nathalie grabs a few beers and puts them out on the table before she sits down and picks up a box for herself. "We were in Mexico, Avi," she says, as far as the music she grew up with, "and you'd have to try them posthumously, so." She looks over at him with a lift of her eyebrow. There was also Brian, but perhaps she wants to spare him the scrutiny. Emily might explain, but even their most well-known song doesn't seem to trigger any recognition.

So she nods when Wolfhound is brought up. "We're moving into the Safe Zone, too. To help with the NYPD. It's nice to skip the plane ride just to come hang out." There's a pause before she looks back over to Avi. "Not that any of us ever did that. Just to come hang out."

“They have Heart in Mexico,” Avi grumbles half-heartedly, in spite of all the other conversational landmines. Hunched over his box of Lo Mein, Avi continues to eat as he looks between Emily and Nathalie, trying to ignore the awkward reality of this dinner. Trying to ignore the narrative around Nathalie’s existence and what it means to Emily. What it means to him. To the corpse of his marriage.

Anyway,” Avi says over the noise of his own thoughts, “yes. Safe Zone. We’ve got a glorified contract with the city’s piggy bank.” There's a clear double entendre there. “Got a space out in Phoenix Heights. Kind of nice, but not as big. No jet hangar,” he grouses before stuffing his face again, trying not to look like he's languishing under the weight of his own internal narrative.

Any moment would be a good moment to bring up those circumstances, as no moment would be a great moment, but Emily edges around the topic in her own way as much as she avoids directly looking at Avi or addressing him directly. Instead, she tugs the decent-sized paper box close enough she can snare the top of it open, reaching for a plastic fork to shove into the mountain of too-pale fried rice. "Yeah, the shorter commute to come say hi will be nice."

About that lack of direct addressal.

With calm, Emily flits her gaze up to Nathalie only. "That's coming up soon, isn't it? The cop-homecoming, or whatever you call it." Her brow furrows with a twinge of concern. She lets out a note of discontent at something before peering back down at the food, scooping a bite directly from the box. It's hers, apparently.

As for Wolfhound's involvement, she wastes no time in stating what she feels about it. "Sounds dangerous."

"Not as much as they have Juanes," Nathalie notes dryly, only a half smile giving away that she's just giving him a hard time.

She digs out some chicken and shoves it in her mouth indelicately. Either she's hungry or her manners are total trash. Or both. She lifts her eyebrows at Emily, then glances at Avi, then back to her sister again. "I think it might be less dangerous than the work we were doing hunting down the leftover Institute." Which is meant to be reassuring. "Which is why we don't need a jet on hand around here," she says, her tone turning a touch more amused as she smirks over at Avi.

She looks between them, suspiciously like she might prod at the topic everyone is stepping around. But, she sinks back a little instead of saying anything.

Making a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat, Avi sets down the box of Lo Mein and looks over at Nathalie, then Emily. “Yeah, June 10th is their official first street date. We’re on track to be saddled up by then. Fucking Ivanov quit on us, but I guess that isn't surprising. Demsky’s the only reason he agreed to sign up with us anyway, and I think he's a little too shellshocked for soldier work anyway.”

Drumming his fingers on the tabletop, Avi snatches up his beer and looks over at Nathalie. “Don't blow smoke up her ass,” he grouses, “she wanted in on my life, she gets in on the risk. It might look less dangerous on paper because the Institute shit was a handful of engagements spread out over several years, but this is concentrated hot and cold running criminality. If the NYPD decides to take on the fucking Triad or human traffickers or Pure fucking Earth, it's gonna be us in the Katsch rolling thunder.”

With that, Avi knocks back a swig of his beer. “Lower quality enemies, but fuck me if they aren't more numerous. Plus we've gotta pull our punches, which means no shoot first ask questions later. It's gonna be rough out there.”

The casual injection of people, groups, and references that go right over Emily's head aren't lingered on by her, though she spends more time than necessary examining the box to find the next place to scoop a bite from. When she looks up, she finally looks in Avi's direction if only to do so with a glower. There's a difference between being honest and needlessly callous, she might say, but that's a little more direct than she's going for at the moment.

So Emily gestures vaguely at him with her fork as she looks back to Nathalie. "That." she says to echo his point. It's all that comes from her before she goes back to playing out other things she could have said in silence, one bite at a time.

"I'm not blowing smoke up anything," Nathalie says, pointing her chopsticks in Avi's direction, "I'm just saying we're less likely to run into evil science labs, killer robots, or technozombies who want to drown us in their corpse water." Then she picks up another bite to chew on while she looks over at Emily. "I'll take some opponents who are just people happily."

A pause.

"Well, not happily, but you know what I mean," she adjusts with a wave of her hand.

"Em," she says, adjusting the focus of this particular conversation just a touch, "are you thinking of becoming a full fledged agent over there? When they get off making you guys grab coffee and file all the paperwork." She understands that part, she was on a desk job at the beginning of her career with Wolfhound.

She didn't get anyone coffee, though.

“It’s a living,” Avi comments, though it’s not clear whether it’s about fighting technozombies in a flooded laboratory or Emily’s prospects of government work. Or both?

It’s probably both.

“SESA seems to have their head screwed on right and nowhere near the vicinity of their own assholes,” Avi adds, clarifying his stance somewhat. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity state-side that didn’t involve you prost— tuh— selling. Services. With whatever ability you wind up manifesting.” Avi sets down his beer, looking briefly at Nathalie, then back to Emily. “Which reminds me, have you had your cousin check you out lately? You don’t want to manifest fucking lasers at an inopportune time.”

"They're pretty forward-thinking, SESA," Emily remarks lightly. "Everybody gets their own damn coffee." Having interns around was a new thing for them. "At least, no one asks me." Silence lingers a moment longer as she pushes herself toward answering the question that was actually asked.

"But no," she clarifies quietly. "I'm not."

"It— the internship pays for classes, so I mean I'll stick with it, but I'm not sure that's what I want for me." She comes close to shifting her gaze Avi's direction in a sort of tell, but looks back down at the rice like it's tea leaves. Do signs point to her future adjacently or parallelly containing evil science labs or killer robots? Perhaps, if she went that route. Perhaps even if she didn't.

Her nose wrinkles at his question.

"No," she replies flatly, finding something about the subject distasteful. Probably because she thought she was more than any ability she might have, and the same goes for Julie. "We haven't seen each other as often since I moved out," Emily admits, rooting her fork around for another bite. "We do lunch or dinner every few Sundays, depending on her schedule, and we tend to spend that time catching up instead." might even be a little pointedly said.



Words are arrested before they're spoken, her eyes uncertain. They fall deliberately back to the food, rooting a little more vigorous than before. The topic of manifestation brings a disquieted uncertainty about her. "I don't know," Emily suddenly mutters, downing a forkful of rice as an excuse to quit speaking.

Nathalie nods to Emily's answer— or maybe to the glance toward Avi. She understands, either way. "Smart, though. Getting college paid for. What are you studying, then?" Her eyebrows lift with the question, like she really wants to know, rather than just making conversation. "I never went to any school at all," she notes, as if to explain the curiosity.

She looks over at Avi when he brings up Emily's impending manifestation. She shakes her head a little, like she can't quite believe he almost said what he almost said. Or maybe she's surprised that he stopped himself from actually saying it. "I was in the same room as Julie once. She kept looking at me funny."

For obvious reasons.

Her attention turns back to Emily, her expression turning more serious. She glances to Avi, but then back to Emily again before she speaks. "What is it, Em?"

Avi just makes a grunt of a noise in the back of his throat and reaches for the box of lo mein again. He occupies his mouth with eating rather than talking, but it's clear that there's something percolating behind his eyes. There's a tension in the way he’s chewing, and a noisiness to his silence. He is a play in contrasts, eating all the fucking noodles.

"Getting the basic coursework taken care of first." Emily replies noncommittally. "ASL." she adds, because that does not fall into the initial grouping. "I can change my major whenever, the fields they accept under the internship is pretty broad. It's still my first semester, so I've got time to settle. Not much time, but…" Her shoulders tip in an awkward shrug.

She's trying to avoid answering the what is it, possibly.

Her gaze wanders off. "It's…" Emily starts, not sure where to go with it, either to escape the conversation or lean into it. Eyes end up settling on Avi of all people, her brow furrowed.

"Speaking of the hospital," which no one was, but now it's a game of loose association between Julie and other topics rather than manifestation. "I'd— I'd been meaning to ask," A quick look reveals only the beer to clear her palate with, which she currently avoids by looking back at Avi again. "After what happened, do you remember getting to the hospital at all? Who was there?"

It sounds like she might continue to speak in wide, overly ambiguous circles, save for the sidestep she takes closer to the deferred subject by asking, "… Did you talk with her at all?"

Nat gives Emily a firm nod— she understands that there are some things she might not want to discuss during an awkward family meal. The very first one, even. But she gestures between them with her chopsticks, a silent request for the two of them to continue later. Girls only, as it were.

She shifts her attention over to Avi, because she's curious about some of these questions, too. She was just a little too focused on getting him better to think of them at the time. "When do we go find whoever did it and toss them at a jail cell somewhere?"

That's her very important addition.

“The only cell they’ll need is a coffin,” Avi says quietly, reaching for his beer, “pretty sure I killed most of ‘em, and I figure Richard’d be dead if he didn’t, so…” he shrugs, taking a swig of the beer, “I’ve filled enough graves with idiot bigots to know there’s always more.”

As he sets the can down, Avi looks over at Emily with furrowed brows. “Kid, I don’t even remember anything after I set one of those assholes on fire. Richard said I got my bell rung pretty bad and we busted out of a van or some shit? I don’t remember a fucking thing, and I sure as fuck don’t remember the hospital. Why, did Rue come by?” Avi narrows his eyes. “She she bet you twenty bucks for something?”

He wouldn’t joke if he knew.

Ah. Emily's posture shifts, her head canting to the side and away. That's… great. she internalizes, leaving her fork stabbed in its little box so she can brush her hair from her face, gather herself enough back together to look back at him again. This is the sort of thing you should look at someone while you bring it up.

"So you don't—"

Maybe it was left out for a reason, though? she wonders to herself. Maybe they came to an agreement to not tell him?

Well, if that was the case, maybe they should have fucking mentioned it.

Eyelids flutter as Emily steels her resolve. Shit. She realizes, internally, this might be more difficult than she thought, but neither does she want to shy away from it. "—So you don't remember Eileen being there," comes out as gently as she can possibly say it, brow furrowed. Her posture is locked in, not knowing what to expect from him, but none of her gut feelings guessing the mention will be taken particularly well.

Any explanation or clarifier she might add onto that statement falls to be produced in a timely manner, a quiet start and stop happening in stutters.

Nathalie pauses with her beer halfway to her lips and looks over the top of it at Emily with widened eyes. She also has no idea how Avi will take that one, but it's pretty clear she isn't expecting it to go well. So while Emily starts and stops her follow up, Nathalie jumps in.

"Did you guys know Gabriel is alive?" Speaking of Eileen. She looks over at Emily, then — ever so reluctantly — moves her attention to Avi. She really hadn't intended to share this particular part, but if they're dropping bombs, she's apparently not going to make Emily be the only one. "I talked to him recently. For conduit advice." That's not gonna make it better. "A ghost told me how to find him. It was a little crazy."

She is maybe too casual about ghosts, but they aren't exactly an oddity for her, really.


That’s the sound of Avi setting down his beer as hard as he can. There’s a little crinkle-clank in there too from the way his fingers dimple the aluminum of the can. He sucks in a sharp breath, face red, and isn’t sure which of his two children to focus on first. The fact that this is a situation he needs to deliberate will not weigh heavily on him until much later. But he swivels a look over to Emily first, because hers is somehow less incindiary than the hot fucking nonsense that just came out of Nathalie’s mouth.

“That thing,” Avi says through his clenched teeth, “is a fucking life-sucking parasite. Not Eileen. Here I was warning you about Nick Ruskin when I should’ve been fucking warning you about that fucking dusty vampire wearing Eileen’s fucking face!” Completely losing his temper, Avi slams both of his hands down on the tabletop, causing dishes and chopsticks to rattle. “This is what I was afraid of! This is why I tried to keep you in a fucking plastic bubble, because you’re going to get yourself killed because you have the survival instincts of a god damned lemming!

It’s the loudest Emily and even Nathalie has ever heard Avi shout. He has to take gulping breaths to get his breathing under control in order to do the same damn thing to Nathalie as he snaps his reddened eyes in her direction. “And you should know better. Gabriel Gray— ”

Killed your mother almost comes out of his mouth. Almost.

A l m o s t

But it would be a lie, and one he isn’t even completely sure of either.

Instead he’s just stuck in a loop of unspoken profanity, one hand clenched into a fist.

It almost feels like a continuation of an argument bit off the last time Eileen was mentioned, save for nuance added by time and additional developments. Emily flinches at the initial clatter of the can, tensing, because as ready for it as she might have been, she's still not immune. The takeout in her hand is set down on the table before she drops it, because that might happen.

"She's not a goddamned thing, neither of them were," is the first thing needing addressed, so she does so while he's still shouting. By the time the table is slammed, incense at his behavior has strengthened her spine gradually. She's not sure how to get in a word edgewise, so it takes until he sputters out for her to get her own words in order, to give them a bitter voice.

There's no forethought given to how damning or frightening any of it might sound to him. "Eileen Gray was many things, many more than I could possibly know, but she wasn't a fucking parasite. She was a human fucking being." Emily seethes. "Ruthless? Yes. Manipulative, yes. She also had that fucking conduit and it did who the fuck knows what to her." But onto other examples.

"Self-serving, and justifiably paranoid? Well, so the fuck are you, but at least you're still here to talk about it.

"What she was afraid of is exactly what happened to her. She was worried about being killed and being fucking replaced once Sibyl realized who she was and came into her power and her senses, and look what the fuck happened!" Emily doesn't mean to carry on like all of this should be obvious, but it's something she's carried with her for almost six months. She's furious he doesn't remember Eileen's being there, even though he really can't be blamed for that.

"Sibyl won. Your Eileen won."

Irate as she is without understanding the why fully in the moment, she raises her voice too. "And she probably fucking left instead of waiting for you to wake up because she knew you'd act like this! Because it's impossible to hold a hard conversation with you without you acting like a goddamned child!"

There's barely a breath before she completes his sentence for him, spoken with the drive of a challenge. "Gabriel Gray is the only reason your friend is alive again." isn't true, but sounds good in the moment. "So take that into fucking consideration."

The volume of the conversation takes Nat by surprise. She expected a reaction, of course, and she's been told off by Avi before— but not quite like this. And when Emily returns the volley, she ends up looking back and forth between them, trying to process what's happening along with what Emily is saying.

She hasn't seen Eileen in months. And she's missed a lot.

"Is she… dead, then?" she asks Emily, her tone quiet compared to the other two. Her brow furrows in obvious distress. It's a difficult situation. She didn't know this timeline's Eileen very well, but she remembers feeling her fade away and die with a clarity that won't leave her no matter how she might try. And while there might be some relief that she's found her way back, she wouldn't have wished it to be at someone else's expense. Even someone as complicated as the Eileen that traveled through the Looking Glass. So she can't quite keep in the sigh that follows her question.

"I have that conduit, too. The dusty parasite one," she says, a reminder that comes with a lifted eyebrow as she looks back to Avi. "She had found a way to remove Kazimir from it. And Gabriel Gray had to control it and his own original ability. Not too many people are willing to talk about the Black Conduit, let alone have actual, lived in advice. And I think he might have helped me find a way to keep myself. And to keep from stumbling into the same life he did." The one where he murdered his way through the years.

Jaw set and brows furrowed, Avi stares down at Emily with a face flushed with anger and a hand balled into a fist. It's hard to tell if he's heard Nathalie or not, or if the sound of blood rushing to his ears has drowned out everything else. If his look could bore a hole through Emily it might well at this point, but instead it just simmers without heat or fire or physical effect.

Face contorted into a rictus of smoldering anger, Avi takes his fist and jams it into his pocket. There's a paper crinkling sound, his eyes never leave Emily. Anger turns to something that looks more hurt, something more like betrayal. Hand coming out of his pocket, Avi slaps a few crumpled $20 bills on the table with a slam of his hand. He affords Nathalie one look, just one, and then without saying another word storms over to the door and throws it open. The door’s spring arm yawns noisily as it opens, then brings the aluminum storm door slamming shut behind him with a hollow crack.

Standing her ground is more terrifying than she thought it would be, and Emily feels all her emotional energy being funneled into the aggressive shield of the glare she returns right back at him. It shifts, her gaze finally breaking off of his only to look down at what he pulls from his pocket. She blinks rapidly several times, trying to process, but all she comes up with is, "Are you fucking serious right now?" when she quickly realizes he means to leave.

Brow twitching, she starts like she might storm out after him, but she never gets as far as lifting a foot off the ground. Still wearing the same expression, she looks in Berlin's direction. It's not intentional, but she doesn't know what else to do. "I don't know for sure," she answers with exasperation. "But, basically, yeah. The Eileen who introduced us is gone." She deflates internally as she says it, still holding all the tension in her with less of the fire. It's a process, though.

"Fuck," Emily mutters, because it seems appropriate. It's tangled ball of a word, shades of an entire emotional spectrum delivered in its swift expelling. There's more she'd like to say for sure, but there's something else that leaps to the front of mind first.

"We probably shouldn't let him drink and drive."

Lucille warned Nathalie that family gatherings sometimes go like this. Still, watching it happen is a bit like watching a train crash. Everything seems to go in slow motion at first, then all of a sudden, it's all in flames.

She looks at Emily, the matter of Eileen's complicated existence put to the side for now. Because she's looking for guidance instead. And once she gets it, she snaps into movement.

"I'll get him," she says, giving Em a squeeze to her shoulder before she heads for the door to come out on Avi's heels. The poor door is left to slam behind her as well.

"Avi," she says, jogging a few steps to catch up to him, trying to get his attention. "Avi, come back inside," she says, reaching out to put a hand on his arm and slip around in front of him. "It's my very first family party."

“Yeah, congratulations,” Avi says, closing the distance on his beat up pickup truck, “it’s just like when I was a kid.” He stops at the door, opening it but not getting inside, just lingering there with the door partway shielding him from Nathalie, as though he would use it to deflect her concerns. “Any more last minute fucking surprises you kids want to fucking throw at me? Is my dad a cyborg? Is my brother out of prison?”

His what?

“Oh! Or maybe you all found out Francois is my mother?” Avi throws one hand up in the air, both exasperated and exasperating. “I mean I’m all fucking lubed up now, why stop at hey we know where Sibyl is or hey she’s alive or hey the woman you’ve been mourning for eight fucking years isn’t a fucking ghost in a child’s body anymore!” His voice rings out through the trailer park, and silhouettes of concerned residents shadow their windows facing where he’d parked.

Nat lets him yell, but doesn't keep her distance. She ends up with a hand on the truck door as well, likely to keep it from being able to get slammed closed if that's where this rant ends up going. "We're a little graceless, I know," she says, although she sounds more stony than apologetic, "she didn't know you didn't remember Eileen was there. She's trying to tell you something difficult. For you and for her. I know you see the other Eileen differently, but Emily's mourning a friend right now, too. We can all be a little too much when we're emotional, right?" She tips her head, a gesture that undoubtedly means to include him in that, too. "She tried to find a way to tell you. It wasn't smooth, obviously, but she tried."

She glances back toward the trailer, aware but not worried about the neighbors starting to peek out of windows nearby. She's more curious as to Emily's reaction to all the yelling. But her focus shifts back to Avi soon enough. "Come back inside, Dad. Please?"

Graceless does describe Emily at the moment, audible in the clatter as the storm door falls closed again. She'd started to head out, foot out the door, but developed sense enough to leave it alone, at least for now. In her view, she'll either add more yelling to the mix or be the cause of it. She moves away from the screen and glass and leans into a pace that ends only on its second pass when her eyes catch on the abandoned dinner, her hands moving to busy themselves with cleaning up the table instead of uselessly wringing. Re-righting knocked over containers, she swipes stray grains of rice into her palm to attempt to make things orderly if not quite the way they were before.

I'm sorry sounds like an appropriate thing to say if they come back. It also sounds like a good way to make things worse, because now she's sorry— Maybe she could offer to leave? Or would that, too, just make things worse? Make it easier on Avi to stay but distress Berlin in the process?

Emily grimaces at the hypotheticals, continuing to play them out while she wipes down the table with a napkin.

Suddenly Avi looks his age. The gray in his hair looks more pronounced in the dim exterior light at night. He doesn’t move his hand from the door frame, but instead moves his attention from it to the trailer and back to Nathalie. He doesn’t hold her gaze long.

“Not tonight,” Avi says, stepping up into the truck and hoisting himself into the driver’s seat, subconsciously cautious of a leg he doesn’t need to fret over anymore. He takes in a deep breath, then exhales a sigh through his nose. “It’s too late for that,” is exactly what Roy Raith said to him once, but that was oncoming mortality and this is a dinner gone sour.

“You know…” Avi looks through the windshield at the trailer, the driver’s side door still wide open. “When I was with the Royals, Jensen, Lancaster, and I would get in these stupid fucking fights.” He looks back through the opening of the door to her, his expression difficult to read both because of the dim lighting and because of his implacable features. “Your mother used to be the peacekeeper.”

Avi tugs gently on the door, a polite request. “She didn’t want to be either.”

"Well, you don't make it fun," Nathalie says, and she has little doubt that having an Epstein, a Raith and a Lancaster was more of a challenge than anyone deserved to handle. If the next generation is anything to judge by. She lets go of the door, but she's not quite letting him go just yet. She reaches a hand for his arm, not to make a repeated plea, but to make sure he's sober enough to drive. She only steps back again once she's sure. "It would be a lot easier to yell at the both of you, but less productive, I think. And it isn't too late for anything. Next time, we'll try again."

That's a hook she's not letting him off of. But maybe she'll be nice and give both him and Emily some time before the next invite.

She closes the door for him, giving it a tap as she steps away and heads back inside. She can only hold in the sigh long enough to get the door closed behind her. Quieter this time.

Turning back at the sound of the door opening, Emily lets herself hope for just a moment… and then tries to conceal her frown as she tosses the rice-stuffed napkin away in the trash bin with a little more force than necessary.

Maybe she should have gone out, she thinks.

Maybe Richard had the right idea, locking them in a room together, is an even quieter thought underneath that.

"I shouldn't have—" Emily sucks in a breath, the topic too jagged with all the different things she should have done differently. "I'm sorry." she manages out a moment later. "There was no good time or place to have that conversation, but I shouldn't have picked then, and I shouldn't have…"

She looks away, vaguely in the direction she knows the truck to be parked. Emily hopes, she hopes very visibly to not hear the ignition turn. She'd take a round two over him leaving again. She'd even take pretending none of that had just happened and try to pick up where they'd left off before then. It'd been a long time since she'd had a family dinner that wasn't just her and Julie, and she's only just now begun to appreciate it for what it was.

But the engine turns over, headlights come on, and that old truck departs.

Along with any number of Emily’s hopes.

"You don't have to apologize," Nathalie says as she comes over to Emily's side. She looks at the collection of food— what she and Rory will be eating for the week, it seems like— instead of the door when she hears the engine. Her hands move to her hips, resting there a moment before she looks back over to Emily. "He just needs some time," she says, "you needed to tell him, so don't worry about the timing."

She drops down into her seat, grabbing her beer to hold onto. Maybe she'll drink it in a moment, but right now it's serving better as something of a security blanket. "You don't have to clean up. Come and sit." It's a request, given with lifted eyebrows and a bit of her own hope. "Everyone can't run off or I might start doubting my hostessing."

That's a joke. Meant to be one, even if her tone falls short.

For a moment, all Emily can do is stand there, starting and stopping without actually saying anything. As much as she tries to pick up the pieces of her emotional state, her regret and guilt for the way things went are very visible. She finally breaks the loop she's in by placing a hand on the back of the chair she's still not actually sat in, gripping it hard. "None of that was your fault," Emily insists, because it sounds like there might be actual worry that what happened reflects on her ability to successfully host a dinner.

So she sits finally, hands clasping together in her lap to keep them from shaking.

"Sure, I needed to tell him, but I didn't have to …" Emily pulls one side of her mouth back, shaking her head. "I just couldn't stop myself, though. For all the shitty fucking things the Eileen we knew did…" Only barely does she stop herself from going into any examples, because maybe that's not the important part right now, "she was still someone. She wasn't some cartoon villain like he painted her to be. She's still the reason you and I met, and…"

Her brow furrows. "Nobody even really knows she's gone. And if they did know, who would mourn her? Everyone cared about Eileen, his Eileen so much and were so impacted by her loss, but…" She trails off and somewhere in the silence, she blinks rapidly, her face turning down toward her hands. "Fuck," is barely more than a murmur. "She trusted me with knowing what happened, and I hope I didn't just jeopardize it. Her."

"We can mourn her," Nathalie says, simply. "Whatever she was, she wasn't a monster. And she was kind to me when I needed her." And now, would this Eileen even remember her? Would there be any connection there at all, the next time they saw each other? That's a loss Nat feels keenly. Not to many people could relate to her, or to Eileen.

Suddenly she regrets all the time she didn't spend with the woman.

"She's not so easily jeopardized. And Avi might blow up big, but he knows how to be discreet." Made a career of it now and then, even. "He wouldn't do anything to hurt her. She'll be safe. You didn't put her in danger here. You did make sure there were some more people to watch her back if something goes sideways. We can do that." She gestures between them, because she's certain of that much.

That reassurance brings Emily to look back up, a calm stillness coming over her. She nods, relief present. There's few people she trusts wholly, but Berlin's unique position along with their previous straight-shooting interactions ensure she locks in the explanation without argument or doubt.

Maybe it would be okay.

"We can mourn her," Emily repeats back. Even if she wanted me to kill Sibyl. Even if she lashed out, even if it nearly cost Gene her life. Her expression twists as she struggles with it for a moment, one hand sliding free from the fold to absently push one of the to-go boxes around with her fingertips. Could you mourn someone, even if they'd done something like that? You'd mourn Dad even after all he's done.

That sort of settles it for her.

"Thank you." Emily murmurs, but even that sounds like an apology. She looks back up and her expression remains inscrutable and deep for only a moment before a thought skips across her mind like a stone on water.

"A ghost told you to go talk to Gabriel Gray?" she asks a little incredulously.

Nat's reply to the thanks is just a warm smile and a wave to dismiss the necessity of it. Apparently Emily doesn't need to say sorry or thank you.

And she can't help a laugh at the question. "Sure. A ghost, an apparition. Astral projector, maybe. But I assume it's someone from the conduits. He knew about Gabriel and me, and we're all sort of aware of each other." Which, she realizes belatedly, probably sounds strange to people who aren't her. "It isn't just the power that get passed down, but a connection to the other people who've carried it. It's why people get scared of the Black, because Volken is in there somewhere." This does not seem to worry Nathalie, though. She knows her Volken had a change of heart eventually. But she also has faith in her ability to keep them all on lockdown. Or she's good at making it appear that way.

The truth of her own fear is buried deep.

"Did you already manifest?" While they're asking hard questions. "You seemed nervous when he brought it up." Her tone is more curious than accusing. She keeps enough of her own secrets to understand why other people do as well.

"Oh," comes from Emily, there being a lot to react to in the explanation about the conduit. There's no shying away from it, no inherent fear that other people might have. She's only vestigially aware that Volken ever held it, so that stain isn't something to worry about for her. The only holders she knew and could relate to in some way were of course Berlin, Eileen, and a Gabriel Gray she never met. Even without that predisposition to assume the very thing should be associated with evil, though, her brow furrows at the explanation provided. "God, that's got to be a challenge, dealing with … more than one person being in your head. Being you along with you." She doesn't get it, but she can imagine.

That thoughtfulness cracks when the question she'd avoided earlier is brought back up again, gaze dropping as she goes retreating into herself. Her arm comes back closer to her, completing the image of beginning to close herself off. She never quite gets as far as folding her arms, though. "I don't know?" she finally says, more apprehensive than she probably should be about the topic. "I don't— I mean, I…" Again, her expression pulls into an almost-grimace just at the mention of it. Her eyes darken. Finally Emily shakes her head, insisting quickly, "I don't think so, Berlin." She stays in that shrunk-down hunker, tense. "Now would really not be a good time for that." is added as a quiet afterthought.

"It's… strange," Nathalie will admit as far as her situation. "Most of the time, when the bleed over happens, it's a memory that isn't mine, but feels like mine. If I try, I can talk to them, I managed it once, but I was warned that was dangerous. So that's not— normal."

She leans forward, her arms folding on the table as she looks over at Emily. "I don't think abilities tend to care very much about their timing," she says, her smile crooked, but gentle. "I understand being afraid. But my advice is to find out for sure and start getting a hold of it. If it turns out you have. Whatever it is, whatever it turns out to be when it happens, it's a part of you. And you have people who will help you through it." She pauses a moment, fingers spinning her beer in slow circles. "I could go with you, if you ask Julie to see what's going on, if anything is going on. Strength in numbers?"

There is one other thing, although she isn't sure of her own timing on it, either. "Also," she starts, opting to charge forward all the same, "I've started going by Nathalie. That's the name my mother gave me. Nathalie LeRoux. I'll probably still answer to Berlin, though," she adds with a more sheepish smile.

"I can see why that might be dangerous, if you can't tell you from them," Emily posits, finally glancing up out of the corner of her eye. "But maybe it's just a thing that needs practice." She pauses for just a moment before thinking aloud, "Nothing about your situation is normal." Sitting up a little straighter, she wonders, "Maybe you're just a better listener than the people who came before you."

She's no less sullen or apprehensive about her own situation, though there's some levity in her gaze as she glances back again. "I'm not sure it's a strength in numbers thing, but I appreciate it nonetheless. I'm just … worried we've had the conversation already." Emily admits, her brow knitting as she says it. "I'm pretty sure we have."

The topic of the shift in name brings a surprised lift to her, gaze flickering as she wonders what she's supposed to do now, or what she's done wrong until then. "Oh," she says again, voice pitching up an octave. It takes her only a moment, though: "Nathalie," Emily repeats back, trying out the sound of it. Finally, she wears a small smile in return, one visibly mostly in her eyes. "That's a beautiful name. I've never heard it said like that before. She was French?"

"That's the truth," Nat says, because her situation is definitely not normal. Normal for her, maybe. The notion of practice makes her smile crookedly, although she does not point out that that's good advice for both of them. "We might have had this conversation before. And we might have to have it again, huh?" She lifts an eyebrow, half teasing. "The offer's on the table, if you want some support when you find out. But whatever it turns out to be, it's meant to be yours," she says, her expression and tone more serious. She carries a borrowed power, and she knows it will be someone else's someday, but what Emily will have will be hers alone.

"Her heritage was French," she says, because that much she's aware of thanks to the— admittedly complicated— connection she has to Francois, "I'm actually not sure about a lot of details about her. I'm still learning. She was a complicated person." If there's anyone in Nat's family who isn't, she's yet to find out about them. "We seem to collect them, don't we? Complicated people."

Emily arches her brow as she realizes maybe she was misunderstood. "I meant… me and Julie." she explains awkwardly. "That she tried to bring it up before and I didn't take it seriously." She shakes her head, considering leaving it before she explains, "At some point, I came home and she was sitting on the couch, and she looked up and she was like 'Em, you manifested!' and I was just tired and done and it had been a long day," At the memory of it alone, her face grows long and she sighs, "and I looked at her and I was like, 'Julie, come on, no I didn't.'" Mouth quirking briefly, she continues, "And she gave me this odd look and then she shrugged it off and went, 'You're right' and went back to what she was doing. And I didn't think about it again for a long time, but maybe she just let it go at the time, and was right all along."

She chances a glance up at Nathalie, shaking her head. "But there's been a couple times lately where I can't put my finger on it, but just… something's felt off. I don't know how to describe it."

Letting out a breath of laughter at the mention of complicated people, Emily's smile strengthens. "It might be our lot in life, collecting complicated people," she commiserates. "At least we've got each other now to get us through it." It comes off the cuff, but she sobers a moment later, realizing she means it.

"Oh, I see. I thought you meant me forcing my support on you," Nat says with a chuckle. But. She nods when Emily explains the conversation with Julie. "When I met Julie," she says, poking idly at the food, "she brought up Volken l's life force power and I went, 'what's that?' and she rolled with it. I think she's just game to keep people's secrets, if that's how they want to play it." Which, all in all, is a good quality. "So maybe just try that conversation again. If anyone would know, she would know. And then you would know. And then you get to make informed choices, which is the important part."

Nat gives Emily a wry look as she goes on. At least until that moment when she sobers. Then she softens and answers with a nod. Because they do have one another, to make things worse together and to make things better together, too. "Come on," she says a beat later, "help me eat some of this food." She really got too much even if all three of them had stayed. They have work ahead of them.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License