Mineshaft II


avi_icon.gif rue_icon.gif

Scene Title Mineshaft II
Synopsis After years of lies, Avi finally comes clean to Rue.
Date July 13, 2018

The Bunker

Rue Lancaster gave up her dreams of being a dancer before the war. For a while, she left her shoes in the bottom of a storage locker to gather dust, feeling the pursuit childish. It’s only once she began to grow that she accepted that dancing is just a part of her. She may never make a career of it, she may never want to, but she can still enjoy the release it gives her. A certain serenity, like some get from yoga, meditation.

It’s also a hell of a workout. Earbuds in her ears, the cord plugged into an iPod strapped to her bicep, she moves fluidly to the music only she can hear. Pirouettes, leaps, and little steps en pointe bring her about the floor of the workout room. Her red hair is pinned to the top of her head in a bun that becomes progressively free with each swift turn.

There’s a carefree quality to the movements - Rue always seems most at home in a pair of ballet shoes. Even a small smile comes across her face when she realizes that she’s no longer guarding her movements to compensate for healing ribs. That she’s moving truly freely again is a relief. She only laughs at herself when she scuffs her toe on the floor, causing her to stumble and lose the flow.

Which is when she finally looks up and pulls the buds out of her ears. Breathless, she shakes her head. “Well, shit.”

“Careful,” comes a familiar voice from behind her, near the door of the workout room. “That music player whatever’s an antique. Unless Yamagato decides to dig up the ashen remains of Cupertino, at least.” Avi Epstein cuts a broad silhouette by the doorway, arms crossed over his chest and a gym bag at his feet. He leaves it for the time being, stepping away from the door to approach Rue. There’s something about his posture and demeanor that belies a trouble.

“Good work out west,” Avi adds belatedly, like an afterthought though delivered with that humble sincerity he uses when trying to actually compliment someone. “You and Dearing’s report is enough to give me fucking nightmares.” He pauses, reaching up to scrub one hand over his mouth. “More nightmares.”

“I’ve never seen Dearing like that,” Rue says like an admission. Like she’s divulging some secret that’s been kept between herself and her second. It has, really. Rue’s written reports are cut and (exceptionally) dry. Whatever else she might have had to say on the subject is banished with a shake of her head. “I mean thank you. Sir.”

Pressing the pause button for the much-cherished relic on her arm, Rue carefully releases the straps one by one, walking over as she slides the holster off her arm to set it in an open duffel bag against the wall. “I paid a small fortune for this thing. Worth it.” The earbuds are wound carefully, but discarded without much care. More easily replaced than the iPod.

“But you didn’t come here just to say good work, kid.” A finger hooked under the elastic of her leotard drags it away from her skin and a quarter inch to the right, adjusting where it subtly digs into upper thigh. “What can I do for you, Avi?”

Epstein scratches at the back of his neck, looking down to his feet. “We've got a problem. It's… a big one, and…” drawing in a steady breath, Avi slowly exhales a weary sigh and rakes a hand through his hair. “I gotta come clean about some shit.”

Swallowing dryly, Avi starts to pace, wandering away from and then circling back to Rue. “You remember a few months back, I had you check out that safehouse of mine looking for a kid?” He won't look her in the eye when he asks that.

“If we didn’t have problems, we would be out of work,” Rue quips, but the smile disappears almost as soon as it comes. He has to come clean. “That’s never a great way to start up a conversation,” she teases, brows lifted as she waits for him to continue.

The good humor fades in moments. “Gosh, I had almost managed to put that out of my mind.” There’s no acid in her rejoinder, but the sarcasm is thick. “You finally ready to tell me what all of that was really about?” It’s not that she hasn’t forgiven him - Rue’s good graces don’t work that way, and especially when it comes to Avi Epstein - but knowing that he wouldn’t or felt he couldn’t trust her with the truth has put a strain on things.

“I figure it’s gonna be pretty fucking unavoidable,” Avi begrudgingly explains, one hand still scrubbing at the back of his neck, “any uh, day now. So.” He doesn’t finish that thought. “That kid, Sibyl? I… I found her after the war. She was put on my radar by a contact in the military. Picked her up before the government could, was going to ferry her out of the States for her safety…”

But that didn’t happen. That’s basically the story Rue had pieced together from what Avi had told her before. “When… I couldn’t…” Swallowing noisily, Avi looks to the side, then over to Rue. “She knew things she had no way of knowing. Plucked them right out of the fucking ether. I— for a while I thought she was a telepath, or a— whatever the fuck they call people who can see the past.” Fidgeting, Avi looks away from Rue again, shoulders slouched and posture like a dog that just shit on the carpet.

“Then— I mean, she had gaps. She only knew specific things. Then— then I figured it out and…” Slowly, Avi squares a look up at Rue, the one person who may have been carrying more guilt about this entire situation that he ever had. “She’s Eileen.” Because Rue was one of the last people to see her alive.

“Post-cognitive,” Rue interjects quietly while she patiently waits for Avi to find the words he needs. This isn’t the man she’s used to seeing, and it puts her on edge, makes her feel a little sick to her stomach. Until he gets to the crux of the issue.

Blue eyes blaze with a sudden anger. Slowly, long fingers curl into a fist at her side while she processes exactly what he’s just said. “I was expecting… Anything but that. What the fuck do you mean she’s Eileen?”

If Rue had fought harder, if she’d screamed louder about her own innocence, if she’d done anything but lay down and accept that Eileen was going to have to kill her, maybe she could have saved her mentor. If she’d delayed her from being where she was when she was… Fuck, if she’d just been smart enough to realize that Griffin Mihangle was playing her for a fool.

“How’s that even possible? How could you not tell me?!” It was terrible enough failing Avi by not being able to secure his ward, but to know that she failed Eileen a second time? Tears spill from her eyes. Rue feels the pain in her hand before she even realizes she’d sent it flying at Avi’s face. It comes up to cover her mouth, which has dropped open in shock, fingers trembling now as she staggers back a step, wide-eyed and somewhat frightened at her own sudden spike of anger.

She hits him so hard his glass eye flies out of the other socket, hits the floor with an audible click, and rolls to a stop against the wall several feet away. Avi reels from the blow, one hand reflexively coming up to his one good fucking eye as he staggers, his bad leg buckles, and he drops down onto one knee. “Fuck,” Avi hisses with a groggy shake of his head and a lurch forward.

“Fucking… fucking,” Avi murmurs, pulling his hand away from his face, where the area around his eye has already started to turn an angry shade of red tinged with blistering crimson and yellow. It’s not bleeding, though, so there’s that. “That’s fair,” Avi murmurs, nodding slowly to the ringing in his ears.

Rue shrieks because she just knocked Avi’s eye out. Her mom was right, it’s not fun and games after that point. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.” She looks around frantically until she spots where the glass orb lays on the floor. Grabbing a small towel out of her bag, still clean, she picks up the eye with a grimace.

“Fuck. That was…” Really violent. “That was really not…” Okay. Acceptable. “I’m so sorry.” Rue looks up at and winces at the bruises blossoming from her handiwork. “Should I go get some ice?” For the moment, concern about what she’s done outweighs her anger about the secrets he’s kept from her. “You should have told me…” While she may have been no less upset, she at least may have kept her mad hands at her sides.

“It's fine.” Avi says, even though it isn't. It's going to look awful tomorrow, and for a while after. Shifting his weight off of his bad knee, he forces himself up to his feet with a slight stagger. “And it would be a fucking secret if I told you.” Still gingerly touching his cheek with his fingertips, Avi eyes Rue and then looks down at the towel and his glass eye.

“It's Eileen’s mind, lost… faded… somewhere inside that kid. She's not Eileen, and— she is. I didn't want her entire fucking life to be trying to…” Avi exhales a ragged breath. “I just wanted to protect her from Eileen’s mistakes. Her life.” He swallows, looking down to the ground and then back up to Rue. “The secret’s out. Shit’s… fucked. I…” Avi closes his eye and winces. “I have to deal with my choices.”

“And you don’t have to do it alone.” The towel is held out toward him, sheepish. Freckled cheeks puff out with a heavy exhale as Rue considers what all of this means. For Sibyl and for Eileen. “I get it. I get wanting to protect her. But shit, Av’. You’ve got to start…” Trusting? She shakes her head, dismisses the notion. He is who he is, and like anybody else, he does what he thinks is best.

“I get it,” she repeats. “What can I do to help you? Both of you.”

Avi looks down at the glass eye perched in the towel ruefully. He snatches it up, wipes it off on his shirt in the hopes it's not dusty, and turns around to slide it back where it belongs. Blinking and awkward, Avi pulls at his eyelid and slides the glass eye around to the correct orientation.

“There isn't shit any of us can do,” Avi admits reluctantly, “not… right now anyway.” The ache in Avi’s other cheek only grows with time, and it distracts him from the conversation for a moment. “Seriously. I mean it. Maybe soon but… there's some shit and,” he exhales a ragged sigh. “Look if you want to help, go talk to Richard Ray. I'm having him try and track down Gabriel fucking Gray. Maybe you could actually lend him a hand with that, because I'm not sure he even knows where to start looking.”

Gabriel Gray is a heavy name to invoke, for a man who is “officially” dead, even if many in the Ferry assume otherwise. The obvious relationship this has to Sibyl, now, seems clear.

“Sorry…” Rue winces, but doesn’t turn away when Avi reclaims his prosthetic and puts it back into place. She owes him a good bottle of something later. While he may have earned some kind of reaction, that reaction was excessive.

Brows scrunch together over blue eyes, quizzical at first when he claims there isn’t anything to be done. But when he does give her a lead, her eyes get big again and her brows hike toward her hairline. “What?” It’s not that she ever believed Gabriel Gray was dead - she’s heard rumors about the siege topside that she wasn’t there for. And he seemed so much larger than life anyway. Legends never really die.

“Yeah,” she says, casual as can be as she comes down from the initial shock. “Sure. How hard can that be?” And there’s the sarcasm again. But in spite of it, Rue is sincere. “I’ll get together with Ray and see what we can do.” Because it’s important to Avi, and it will help Eileen.

“There's one, uh, other sticking bit of information. Hana hasn't disseminated it widely yet but— and this is the tricky part.” Avi breathes in deeply and exhales slowly. “You remember that trip I took west? The whole investigation into Ramirez and Danko being alive again? Turns out it takes a weirdly related turn.”

Scrubbing one hand at the side of his face, Avi looks to the door and then back again. “There's somebody out there, wearing Eileen’s body like a fucking Halloween costume. She's the one in charge of Danko and the other… whatever the fuck they are’s.” But then, Avi's face contorts to something between a grimace and a frown. “I don't know who or what the fuck she is… but— but it can't be Eileen. Not the real one.”

“Let me get this straight…” Rue folds her arms under her chest and runs her tongue over her teeth. “Eileen’s spirit is alive in another body, and her body is alive… elsewhere?” She winces, jaw jutting out in annoyance. “That sounded even stupider out loud than it did in my head.”

One finger taps against the opposite arm as Rue worries at her lower lip with her teeth. “So we have to find the impostor and figure out what’s really going on. Right? She can’t just be…” Rather than finish her thought, she heaves a sigh. “Fuck.

Yeah,” Avi grouses, running a hand through his hair. “Hana’s really the only one here who knows as much as I do about what’s going on. “I don’t know where to start, but I’ve gotta talk to Nick… he…” Avi touches his cheek again with his fingertips. “He kind of found out what I’d been keeping from him, and… I expect he’s going to respond about the same as you did, but probably with some more pikey trash accent nonsense.”

Avi tries to smile, but it ends up being more of a wince. “M’sorry for bullshitting you all this time. I thought I could handle it, but I wound up getting Demsky in a bag of fucking trouble, you almost dragged off by who the fuck knows what was going on there… and…” shaking his head, Avi looks down to the ground, then over to the door. “Anyway. Yeah,” his attention drifts back to Rue. “Our lives are an unending stream of bullshit nonsense.”

“Hey,” Rue’s expression borders on stern as her head tilts to one side, her eyebrows coming up. “You know I’m good for grade-A heaps of bullshit, okay? I usually prefer it when it’s not coming from you, but I can roll with the punches.” And she gives as good as she gets, his swelling face attests. “No more lies, okay? You need my help with something, you come clean, and we deal with it together. That’s how we get shit done.”

Then she smiles one of those rare, genuine smiles of hers. The kind that light up her eyes and make her look a little more like the optimistic girl that wanted to fight for freedom and friendship. “We’ll figure this out, okay? We’ll get her back.” The smile fades and she looks her serious self once more. “I think I can dig up some leads on Gray. I’ll get in touch with Mister Raytech and we’ll go from there.” Rue sighs and shakes her head, “Let’s go get you some ice or something, okay?”

Shoulders slacked and lips hooked into a deep frown that creases his aging face, Avi offers Rue a reluctant and resigned nod. With a look to the door, he nods once more and finally moves his hand away from his face. She's right, he'll need ice.

“Or something,” Avi grumbles instead. Whatever will help with the pain.

All of it.

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