Mercy, Sometimes


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Scene Title Mercy, Sometimes
Synopsis A very terrible family reunion.
Date June 7, 2018

Somewhere on Staten Island

Rain sounds like thunder from inside the shipping container.

It’s dry here, even if the three individuals crowding the small, narrow space aren’t. Water saturates Nicholas Ruskin’s clothes, holding it close to his skin like a damp, sticky seal, and plasters errant curls of his dark hair to his brow. Although it’s summer and the air outside is warm in spite of the torrential downpour, the teenage girl sitting with her back to the container’s corrugated steel wall beside is trembling violently. A ziptie fastens her arms at the wrist, just as Nick’s are, tight enough to bite into skin but not so tight that it breaks it — unless he struggles.

Sibyl has. Blood gathers in the crooks of her fingers, under her nails, and along the plastic’s edge. She’s quiet now, the shallow sound of her breathing drowned out by the rain’s percussive roar overhead, eyes squinted shut as Eileen crouches in front of her and pushes stringy blonde hair away from her face with her bare hands.

“I come from a world that’s parallel to this one,” she’s saying, her words directed squarely at Nick even as she tucks a sopping ashen strand behind Sibyl’s ear, “where the Vanguard fell and the government gave us all an opportunity for a fresh start. Life was good, the outlook bright — until it wasn’t. So I took what I had left and crossed over.”

She uses a knuckle to tip up Sibyl’s chin. “I read your books. Listened to your radio. We were all curious about what happened to our other selves here. I believed everything I heard and saw in print until I went to visit the island. The birds there remembered. They showed me the truth.”

He hasn’t struggled, not yet. Nick knows how to break out of a zip-tie binding, but two things keep him from doing so. The first is more important than the second: Penance keeps him compliant — something she could probably have expected. The handcuffs and zipties and Iago’s rifle butts to the ribs are all so many unnecessary trappings.

The second is simply that getting out of the bindings doesn’t mean he’d get far.

His brow furrows, confusion and worry etched on his forehead, as he stares across at the young girl his sister’s taken captive. “The truth? As opposed to what?” is a simple question. “Why didn’t you just come to me first, Lee? I could’ve helped you from the start. I don’t know what I was like in your other world — I’m afraid to ask. But the birds…” His hand twitches, the nervous urge to rake it through his damp hair unsatisfied.

He doesn’t say that the birds should have told her how he mourned.

“You’re CIA, love,” Eileen says, slanting a glance across at her brother. “All you can do to help me is look the other way.”

She keeps her knuckle positioned under Sibyl’s chin, but when the girl tries to turn her face away the Englishwoman is quick to snag it in her fingers. “Now. Tell him your name.”

Sibyl’s lips move. No sound comes out, not at first. So Eileen prompts her: “Out loud, please.”

Black,” she chokes. “S-Sibyl. My name is Sibyl Black.”

Eileen responds by digging the tips of her nails into Sibyl’s cheek, and the corner of her mouth, prompting another flinch but no outward indication of real pain. “Your real name.”

This time, when Sibyl hesitates, the skin under Eileen’s fingers immediately begins to blacken and blister. The girl barks out a short, hoarse scream, then, “Eileen! My name is Eileen!

“You know my allegiance would go to you first,” Nick mutters, but then Eileen is hurting the girl, and his posture bolts upright, agitated. “Eileen! Stop! You’re-”

Hurting her is the point. He looks sickened at his sister’s callousness, emotions keeping the information from registering for a few slow, dull moments. He blinks, uncomprehending, at the blackening skin on Sibyl’s face. At his sister’s name, on Sibyl’s lips.

“I don’t understand. What are you saying? What are you doing to her? She’s a fucking kid, Lee!”

Eileen abruptly releases her hold on Sibyl’s face and uses that same hand to brace against the inside of her thigh, easing back to her feet. “She isn’t,” she states, voice flat, without any of the emotion that is doing things to Nick’s she doesn’t like.

“Did she ever tell you about Kazimir Volken?” she asks. “His ability, or what it allowed him to do?”

She can’t tell by looking at Sibyl’s face, which is as unrecognizable as it its expression is incomprehensible, features pinched together in agony so intense that she’s no longer making any sound at all. “She jumped,” Eileen says, “from her body, to the birds, to that.

Nick’s jaw tenses at the mention of Volken. The blackening, the blistering — it’s too much to process. He shakes his head slightly. “She didn’t. I didn’t know her history until it was too late. Your history.” He shakes his head again. “Fuck.” Two — three? — Eileens to account for is too many.

His eyes slide back to Sibyl’s face, and his brows draw together. “Then why are you trying to hurt her? If she’s you — if you’re… There’s a kid in there, somewhere, and a version of you. Shouldn’t you be helping each other?” The words are directed at the woman, not the girl, but his blue eyes lock on the girl’s face for a moment — sorrowful and apologetic.

It’s just for a moment, before he turns back to look at the blue-eyed woman holding him captive. “Or are you just him now? Even he showed mercy sometimes,” he says, eyes narrowing. Angry.

“No.” This from Sibyl. Her voice is thin but only vaguely European. If Nick listens carefully, there’s a familiar cadence to it beneath the pain. “He isn’t there.”

Eileen smiles. Or tries to. It’s a little too rueful to count, even if the corners of her mouth are turned up on a technicality. “He isn’t,” she agrees. “I hear other voices, sometimes, but never Volken’s. Not anymore.”

She twists a deliberate look over her shoulder, toward the shipping container’s opening and the slanting rain outside. “The girl can read my mind, and I can read hers,” she adds, like it’s an afterthought.

It isn’t.

It may, in fact, by the only thing she’s been thinking about for the past few days. Ferns ripple in the nighttime breeze. Iago and Finn are out there, somewhere, even if neither Eileen nor Nick can differentiate their shapes from the other shadows.

“That’s a problem.”

Nick’s eyes slide from one pair of blue eyes to the other. If eyes are windows to the soul, perhaps he’s trying to figure out which one is the truer version of his sister.

“It doesn’t have to be,” he says, quickly, when the woman speaks so tersely.

“There’s got to be away to solve it. To unify or something. Or just… what about distance? When you were in Washington, could you feel each other? Read one another’s thoughts? I can take her somewhere far from here. Epstein had her? He can take her somewhere.” His words come tumbling out in a torrent. “Delia would if I asked — somewhere you won’t go. There’s places up in Canada. I can take her to France. Or if you go back to Washington, she can stay here…”

His gaze moves back to Sibyl’s face, and his face contorts as if in physical pain. “You can’t tell me she’s you and then expect me to watch you hurt her, Lee. Jesus Christ.”

“Love hurts.”

Eileen slips a hand into her coat. Without gloves, she feels naked and vulnerable. “If I wanted to kill her,” she says, “really kill her, I would. A syringe of Amphodynamine and a single bullet. Easy.”

She moves away, booted feet sounding dull in the echo chamber that is the shipping container’s interior. As she crosses the threshold and steps into the squelching mud, she reaches out to hook the fingers of her free hand around the edge of the door.

“If I can’t fix it, I will.”

He stares at Sibyl for a moment longer, before turning his head to look at Eileen. “That’s fucking bullshit and you know it. You came here from some other world and you’re going to take her life just because it’s bloody inconvenient for you? You’re the interloper. You have no goddamn right to do it and I won’t help you.”

Restrained as he is, the vehemence in his voice doesn’t match his posture, and it’s not a side of him she’s seen — at least not as adults. He’s been angry in her presence, but never at her — not the Nick she knows.

“I will help you to find a solution. Or a compromise. But fuck you if you think that I’m going to let you kill an innocent kid and whatever’s left of my sister who sacrificed everything for what she believed in, yeah?” He leans his head back against the wall of the container, closing his eyes wearily. “If you’re at all the same person, Lee — I can’t believe you think that’s all right, on any level.”

Because Nick’s eyes are closed, he doesn’t see his sister’s facial expression soften, or the indecision murkying her intentions — whatever they are. He hears, instead, the door grind shut behind her, followed by the higher register of a padlock snapping into place.

If what she’s told him is true, then Eileen’s thoughts and feelings are a little less opaque to Sibyl beside him. She lets out a rickety-sounding breath, the start of a sob smothered against her shoulder before it has the opportunity to rise into something sharper and keening.

That’s familiar, too.

“She’ll let you go,” she tells him, not quite trusting her voice yet, but making the effort anyway, “when the rain stops.”

Nick’s eyes open and he focuses on the girl, more so than he has with the other Eileen in the container. His mouth twitches into an attempt at a smile, but it doesn’t take.

“If you have any of her memories, you know I’m not really concerned for myself,” he says softly. “I’d like to be able to get you outta here, though. I don’t understand… well, there’s a lot I don’t understand. But if you’re Eileen… you’re a hell of a lot cleverer than I am, so maybe we can think of something together. To either fix this so you both survive or to get the hell out of here and I’ll get you somewhere safe.”

He hunches up a shoulder to brush against his jaw at a sudden itch or tickle. “Epstein knew who you were?” He shakes his head slightly. “Are?”

His tone is flat, unhappy, but his eyes still hold that guilty look she knows too well. “I’m sorry I let her…” He shrugs. She knows — if it’s his sister, she knows.

Sibyl raises her eyes, bloodshot and bleary, to look at Nick for the first time. There seems little point in blinking away tears when the rainwater dripping off her hair and lashes will just take their place. It’s a reflex.

“Some memories,” she says, and maybe she’d leave it at that if she had more to fill the silence with than the drumming on the roof. Also: She and Eileen are in agreement about at least one thing. Nick deserves the truth. “It’s like— trying to find my way around in the dark. I know what’s supposed to be there, but I can’t see it. Only feel for things. Always reaching.”

She shifts her focus back toward the section of the storage container where their view of the outside world used to be. Now that she has one of the things she’s spent the past six years reaching for sitting right beside her, she’s at a loss for what to do except angle her body sideways and rest her head on his shoulder.

“Kaylee was trying to help me. I lost her in the woods.”

He studies her as she speaks, nodding as if he understands. He’s never had an ability like hers — never had two consciousnesses at odds in one body. But reaching for something he can’t attain — that he understands.

“Kaylee,” Nick repeats, relief coloring the two syllables. “She’s out here then? Do you think Eileen-” his gaze flicks to the locked door to indicate the other Eileen, rather than the one the small girl holds within herself, “would she be willing to let Kaylee try? Or-”

He groans in frustration. “Is there even any point to trying to plan something — or does she know everything we talk about?”

It’s a problem,” Sibyl echoes her other self’s words.

Her breathing slows, a fraction of the tension in her neck and shoulders released as she makes an attempt to reach out with her ability to the closest birds. She hesitates. “She’s,” and it’s safe to assume she’s referring to the interloper, as Nick so gently put it, “angry.”

In case that wasn’t obvious to literally everyone else.

“She doesn’t like telepaths, or seers. Or anyone with an ability she thinks might get in her way.”

“You know,” Nick says a little wryly, “I picked up on that.” About the other Eileen being angry.

He glances to the door again, that worried look returning. “Do you know what happened that made her come here? Wherever she’s from… she’s always been a bit… “ he glances back to Sibyl, and there’s another attempt at a smile that doesn’t quite make it. “Challenging,” he finally settles on — because he doesn’t want to offend the Eileen that’s here in the container with him, even if it’s housed in the stranger’s body.

“But this… I don’t recognize,” he says. “I want to help her. And you. If she lets me out, I’ll do what I can to find Kaylee. Eileen says she wants to fix it — maybe she’ll try.”

His eyes move to the door again, then back to the teenager in front of him. “Is there anyone else I should get — for you? Epstein? Do you have parents?”

“Epstein left,” Sibyl says in a tone that suggests this is probably the end of that particular conversation. If Nick had any lingering doubts about her identity—

She shifts, drawing her legs up into her chest, and moves as though she’d like to wrap her arms around them for comfort. Impossible, as they’re still ziptied behind her back. Her body presses closer to Nick’s.

“There was an accident,” she says, deciding that Nick’s first question is easier for her to answer, “except that it wasn’t.” An accident. “Selfish risks. Poorly thought-out solutions to problems that didn’t really exist.” Nick might get the impression that this is a little like feeling around in the dark for Sibyl, too. His frustration is also hers; although she can read Eileen’s mind, the Englishwoman is making it very difficult for her.

“I can’t see it,” she confesses, finally. “She won’t let me. It hurts too much.”

Nick shakes his head slightly. “He didn’t want to,” is said softly, but without much will to argue the point. The familiarity, the feeling that this is Eileen, means he knows there’s no reason to argue.

He knows too well that fear of abandonment means there are very few second chances.

The rest draws a sigh from him. “A wounded animal is the most dangerous.” He shifts, uncomfortably, to find a more forgiving position. “And the…what she did to your face. Kazimir’s thing. Where’d that come from?”


There’s more emotion packed into those three syllables than either Sibyl or Eileen has shown all night.

“She’s angriest at him, most of all.”

While Sibyl resists the temptation to ask Nick if he’s seen him, her urge is palpable. The question hangs unasked in the damp, stale air.

Eileen hears what Sibyl hears. Eileen knows what Sibyl knows.

“Shit.” Nick doesn’t ask the questions but the answer Sibyl gives answers more than a few of them.

He shakes his head slightly — a tacit answer to Sibyl’s question. “No idea where he is,” is more direct — perhaps in case the Eileen out in the rain has any delusions of finding the man through her brother.

“Listen,” he says, suddenly, leaning forward. “You need to let her know the other part of you, too. She won’t care about this other Eileen. We Ruskins are used to killing off the parts of ourselves we’d rather not have hanging around. Usually metaphorically, but in this case, unfortunately, it’s a bit too literal for my taste.”

He lowers his head a little, to lock his blue eyes on hers. “But you’re still a kid and the Eileen I know would find a way to save a child who needs help. Buy yourself time. We’ll figure something out. I’ll find help.”

“Gabriel,” Sibyl says again. “Find Gabriel.”

The repetition of his name is a kind of comfort, too. The more she repeats it, the more real it seems like either Nick or Kaylee might actually succeed.

“He’s alive,” she insists, turning her face against Nick’s chest as exhaustion finally sets in and the trauma her body’s been through tonight catches up with the rest of her. “I felt him.”

She closes her eyes. Nick can’t pinpoint the exact moment she falls asleep, only the moment when he becomes aware sometime in the next few minutes that she is.


It sounds more certain than he feels — if Gabriel doesn’t want to be found, none of Nick’s CIA training will be enough.

He leans his head back and closes his eyes when she rests against him — she can feel the tension in his muscles, but he doesn’t pull away. He owes his sister much — in this moment, a shoulder to rest on is the least he can do.

The rest will be much more difficult — even if he’s freed by the other Eileen.

Somehow he has to save both of them.

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