More Than Blood


berlin3_icon.gif emily2_icon.gif

Scene Title More Than Blood
Synopsis Berlin and Emily are there for each other. Blood or not.
Date March 25, 2019

Elmhurst Hospital

Having spent so much time in hospitals, including this one, it would be easy to anticipate a certain kind of hatred for it to form in the heart of someone like Emily Epstein. A loathing for it and all places like it and the desire to be as far away as possible would be all too easy to have found a home in her, and perhaps it once did, but she's long-since grown past it. She knows that in the cafeteria, the eggs they make are better cooked on the flat-top grill than scooped from the hotel pan. The precise time they stop serving breakfast, and the hours of the little coffee stands stationed at either end of the ground floor. She knows the faces, if not the names, of the baristas — which ones can make a drink worth having.

"Thanks, Kalia," Emily murmurs as she pulls the disposable cup toward herself, snapping on a to-go lid over the whipped cream with its sprinkle of cinnamon — or had it been cocoa? She wasn't sure. The young woman with braided hair behind the counter simply smiles, nodding contently as Emily steps away with the drink the barista had recommended. She looked like she needed a pick-me-up, or so she'd been told. So here she was, with her pick-me-up drink.

Maybe it would even work.

All her excitable energy from yesterday is hidden underneath bleary eyes ringed with tiredness. Despite the opportunity to go home and sleep, she'd spent a lot of her night here in case … well, just in case. Emily can't remember exactly when Avi arrived in the middle of that, just remembers the suggestion he'd made twenty-odd minutes ago to go get some breakfast while he kept vigil over Devon. She agreed reluctantly, but never made it quite that far, waiting in line here. Coffee in one hand, phone in the other to check the time, she glances one way — in the direction of the cafeteria, plus or minus some steps — and then the other, back toward the larger elevator bay which she could take back upstairs.

Rooted to the spot with indecision, she takes a tepid sip of the very hot latte Kalia the barista had made for her. It shouldn't be a difficult choice to continue down the hall and grab some breakfast, yet here she is.

The elevator doors open and several people get off, but among them is Berlin. Nathalie. She sees Emily there and lets out a little sigh. Heading that way, she comes to put her hand on Emily's shoulder. "Hey, you look lost," she says in greeting. Her tone isn't without sympathy, but there is a tightness in her expression. Hospitals for a healer are a special sort of torture. But she's not here for them. She's here for Emily.

"Come on, I'll buy you breakfast." She starts in the direction of the cafeteria, gesturing for Emily to come along.

Emily starts at the touch at her shoulder, turning belatedly to see who it is. She'd been so out of it, she'd not seen what should have been obvious. A tension immediately builds in her before she lets it out in a controlled, long hiss of a sigh. She can only shrug when Berlin says she looks lost, because she most likely does. "Long time," is all she says as a greeting of her own. She means long time no see, rather than a long time being lost, though the way she looks might make one wonder.

It's apparently very easy to handle her when she's like this — she'd listened to Avi earlier, and she follows along after Berlin without so much as a disgruntled look at the offer to buy her breakfast. "I'll pay for me," she does go as far as saying, but there's a hollowness to it in her exhaustion. She probably won't argue if Berlin insists.

Still, she walks alongside Berlin with no fault to her step. Emily even walks and sips from her drink at the same time, a level of coordination she still occasionally marvels at and is grateful for.

"I've meant to text I don't know how many times," she says once they're halfway down the hall, possibly from rejuvenation drawn from the latte. There's regret pulling at the edge of her tone, flatly conversational as it is. "But I never know what to say. I should've, after January." It's possible there's another 'but' complete with a reason that's meant to follow, but it's held back. Anything she could possibly say sounds like a shitty excuse.

Her voice mellows, and she glances at Berlin out of the corner of her eye. "How've you been?"

"Don't worry about it. I didn't text, either." Berlin doesn't require an explanation and she seems happy enough to let the lack of communication go. "And don't think about paying. You look like you might try to give the money to the drink dispenser instead of to an actual human."

The question about how she's been gets a shake of her head. "Shitty. But don't worry about it. It'll pass," she says, waving off her own recent troubles. "I'm here to make sure you're okay. After Dev— and then him coming back. It's been a whirlwind." She pushes the doors open, ushering Emily in first. "Do you want to talk about it or are we going to eat our feelings? I'm game for either."

The hospital is bound to have ice cream somewhere in this cafeteria.

Emily continues to hold the glance, her gaze softening with amusement. "Well, shit." she murmurs, looking away to sip again from her coffee. It's about then her look stutters away from the conversational, almost easygoing expression she had under the tired. Shitty? But Berlin doesn't want to talk about it. Her mouth hardens into a line, and it takes her a moment to decide her response to that, and the level of respect it contains for the wish to leave those Berlin-centric matters aside.

She'll worry anyway, even if the things will pass. There's just the question of how openly it'll be done.

"I'm not the best at talking things through, even when I have slept," Emily admits with a harshly self-deprecating air. "So breakfast it is." She pauses to look back at Berlin, her hair set at an obscuring angle across her face until she tosses her head so it's somewhat easier to see. Maybe not breakfast just yet, though. There's a silent stammer, emotion without words to fully express it. Instead of trying to address all of what she feels in one go, she begins to tackle it piece by piece.

"I'm not okay," is said with a faint, incredulous laugh. "And I think the more I think about it, the less okay I'm going to be. There's — some pretty fucking glaring holes in logic for how he's here." Her jaw quivers for a moment, emotions not easily guarded. She senses that and tries to remedy it by taking a longer drink of her latte. "I'm afraid of the what-ifs," Emily admits. "But when am I fucking not, though?" She looks back to Berlin with a helpless shrug of her shoulders that's barely more than a visible tic.

Berlin puts an arm around Emily, her hand gripping onto her shoulder in a show of support. "He has a lot of people who will be looking into what happened. If it can be figured out, we'll figure it out. The what-ifs are a little overwhelming right now, but they'll narrow down." Her support turns into a side hug, hanging onto her for a long moment. "They'll check him out here, make sure he's not a zombie," she says, her smile a little crooked as she nudges Emily gently, "and then we can try to focus on being glad he's still here."

A lot better than what they thought a few weeks ago. A few days ago.

"If it's too much for you, no one would blame you, though. Even if it isn't, you're going to have to remember to take care of yourself, too, during all this." She knows that can be the hardest part sometimes. It's easy to get swallowed by someone else's trauma.

The support in all the various ways it shows take Emily by surprise. The actual physical touch is no less shocking to her than the advice to remember to take care of herself. Emily had heard Berlin say she was there for her, but she hadn't taken it for anything more than lip service. Her arm is occupied with her drink, making it hard to reciprocate the hug, even if she felt inclined to. And as it stands she receives it awkwardly, looking to Berlin with a slowly lifting brow.

She finally cracks a smile, little more than one corner of her mouth tugging up while her expression relaxes. There's acceptance in it, rather than anything hesitant, and she leans back into Berlin's side however briefly. "Yeah," she agrees softly, broadly, to either something in it or all of it. "It'll all turn out." There's a questioning twitch to her expression before she gives a short shake of her head, gaze wandering off. "I'm glad regardless, even if we don't know yet. Him being all right, it's—"

There's not words.

Emily swallows hard to avoid stammering. "I saw him," she segues, "Last night. He was up for a little while and I happened to catch him. I should've gone home after, but I'm—" The rest of the breath for that statement escapes her in an involuntary whisper of a laugh. "It's stupid, but I wonder if something will happen again the moment we let him out of sight." Having done it at all was a step she hadn't expected to be able to handle. Then again, she hadn't expected to be affected so profoundly by his absence in the first place. Typical of most things about Devon, she rarely did what she expected she might.

"You want something to eat, too?" she asks suddenly, not wanting to be alone in that act, especially if Berlin was insisting on paying. Regardless, her eyes dart for the grill and hot bar.

"You should definitely take some time and go home," Berlin says, but gently, "If he were in danger still, you won't be any help if you don't rest. And he won't be left alone." She knows Wolfhound well enough to know he'll be looked after now that they have him back. "But it isn't stupid. A little wariness isn't bad, but don't let it tear you down."

She glances toward the food, too, nodding to the question. "Yeah, I'll join you. I wouldn't make you eat alone with me staring at you." That would be awkward. Not that they haven't been awkward before. But she starts forward, grabbing a tray for herself to pile random cafeteria breakfast onto. Some of her choices are not technically breakfast, but they are because she's eating them now.

The conversation is on pause until after she pays and guides them over to a table.

"Even just a nap in your own bed and a shower would be a good break. Refreshing. Better than sleeping in a hospital chair."

"Odds are like three to one that that's exactly what my dad is doing right now," Emily mutters as she settles her tray down on the table. "I don't think he got a wink either." She carefully pulls out her chair, takes her time in unwrapping the napkin-bound silverware. It wouldn't do to send things clattering just because she's that tired. She does take her latte between both hands and drink deeply from it now that it's a little cooler in the hopes of helping with that all, though.

She has little to say for the rest of the advice, but doesn't fight it. "Thanks, by the way." For the food, for caring enough to make the suggestions she has. Stabbing chunks of french toast onto her fork, her brow quirks. "So how's your bullshit going?" Emily glances up for only a moment, expression almost innocent as the question is posed before she focuses on her food again. It might mean very little to Berlin, but the teen was impressed with her own ability to have avoided pressing for details and letting focus remain on herself for this long. "You said it was shitty," she adds as a reminder, in case Berlin might try to downplay it.

"I wouldn't doubt it. But you're still young, there's still hope for you," Berlin says, a bit of a chuckle on her words. Emily might not like it, but there are more than a handful of similarities between her and her father.

Not that Berlin would say so.

But she'll think it.

She's more blasé about setting up her meal, and a fork digs into some eggs as she looks over at Emily. "I've been fucking up at work," she says, which is an oversimplification but maybe Emily can imagine what it means to mess up in a paramilitary organization. "It's fine," this is a lie, "I just need to get it together."

Emily can imagine, and she buys herself a moment of time to figure out what to say by stuffing her fork into her mouth. She straightens her posture when that's done, looking the other young woman over. Her gaze is sharper than before while she considers it. "You will," she finally says, the pause before it long enough the sincerity behind it is hopefully felt. She finishes working her jaw and adds, "And it'll all turn out fine," while she nudges her fork back around her plate. "Unless you don't want it to?"

Her posture shifts to one side as she asks herself whether she means that as an encouragement or a question. Emily's eyes shift slightly off Berlin before she shrugs, deciding to stick by the question and look back to her.

"I do want it to," Berlin says without hesitation. There is some doubt, but no hesitation. "I love being a Hound. Hana and Avi have taken a risk with me and I haven't been living up to it. I want to, though. And those people, the other Hounds, they are the first family I've ever had." Her own real mother was dead before she even knew who she was. And no one came after until the girls in Wolfhound. For a girl no one ever wanted, Wolfhound is more than just a job.

"I'm just not sure I can do it. And I'm not sure what to do if this is the best I actually can do." Her fork pokes idly at her plate, rearranging her food rather than eating it.

"If they took the risk on you, it's because they saw your potential," Emily opines blithely, like it's that simple. "Unless someone has flat-out told you they expect perfection at all times, they don't," Her brow furrows as she looks back down at her own plate, feeling odd saying as much, but feeling it needs said regardless. "Mistakes are a part of the learning process."

She pauses, realizing what's hanging her up on seeing it any other way than a positive one, and lets out a short note under her breath. "You might not get through it as quick as you want, but I bet you will. I believe in you, even if you don't." Emily lets her mouth firm into a small smile as she looks back up at Berlin. "You've got a mostly-level head and a tough spine to handle all the shit you've got on your shoulders." She leans Berlin's way as she adds with more stress to it, "And a good heart, and maybe even a sense of humor hiding in there somewhere, too. So just … be patient with yourself. Or try to be, anyway."

"Family won't turn its back on you just because you fuck up a few times," comes from her before she can color the words out of existence with caution or cynicism. She blinks, trying not to think about it too hard, or consider the nature of the family she's talking about, or its 'who's and 'what's. Emily has to look down again, quickly taking another bite to avoid mentally dissecting her own words.

Berlin furrows her brow a little as she listens to Emily. A touch of confusion in her gaze. Not for any of the words— she understands perfectly well— for the thought that always lingers in the back of her head when she talks to Emily. This could be my sister. And in some moments, like this one, she wishes it was true.

She shakes her head. To clear it. To remind herself that there's not use in wishing. And that family is more than blood. And she tries to reply, but doesn't get farther than a few false starts. So she gives up and reaches over to hug Emily instead.

"I was supposed to be reassuring you," she says, after a moment and she leans back again, her hands on Emily's shoulders. "You turned this around on me."

It means thank you.

And because she is grateful, she doesn't point out anything specific about those last words. Not even a hint of a smile. She can't help it if the silence is a little pointed, though.

"Come on. Let's finish breakfast and go for a walk. Get you some natural light."

The silverware in Emily's hand slides free as Berlin comes to her feet, and she furrows her brow. She hadn't meant to run Berlin off, but maybe she'd come off a bit strong — maybe she she should have—


Emily blinks as she's hugged, the gesture taking her by surprise. Even at her best, it would have.

She's too late to return the hug back, but she lifts her hands and sets them on Berlin's shoulder in return with a small smile. "I'd say sorry, but…" Well, she's not, for starters. Instead, she gives a gentle squeeze with her hand, and nods before she picks up her fork again, making short work of comforting plate of fruit and french toast. She wonders quietly if she'll grow out of finding her own comfort in providing it to others, and decides it's not important for now. They were both better off for having run into each other, and maybe that's all that mattered.

It doesn't stop her shoulders from shifting, a short protest of a sigh coming from her at the thought of heading outside for a walk. "I'm gonna need some more coffee if I'm going to survive that," Emily confides drily.

Berlin accepts the not-apology with a crooked smile and the squeeze with a nod before she turns her attention to finishing off her breakfast, too. "Coffee, sunglasses, bottle of water, the whole hangover kit," she says, apparently not letting Emily off the hook. She might not be able to watch over her all the time, but she can make sure she doesn't sit around in this hospital for a little while. So that is what she will do. "I promise it won't be for long."

Of course, Berlin has been known to stretch the truth before.

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