Never Break the Chain


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Never Break the Chain
Synopsis Listen to the wind blow, down comes the night.
Date July 5, 2021

“Mom, what happens when we die?”

The question stirs Natalie Gray from her flower garden. She stares ahead, vacantly, as if she hadn’t heard it correctly the first time. When she turns to look at her son, his knees covered in dirt and a bag of seeds in one hand, she sets aside her trowel and wraps her arms around his shoulders, running fingers through his hair.

You don’t have to worry about that,” Natalie whispers into his hair, adding a soft kiss to his temple. She holds him so tightly, so ferociously, but Gabriel’s mind is an inquisitive one. He doesn’t lean away, but instead asks into her shoulder.

“But dad died, right?” Gabriel’s question is unknowing, innocent. He barely remembers his father, repressed so much of what he saw the day he died. But still, the question chills Natalie’s blood. She leans back and gently cups her son’s cheeks and looks him in the eye, tears welling up in her own.

Natalie sees no fear in Gabriel’s eyes. No fear of her, no fear of death. Just childlike curiosity. She smiles an overwrought smile and brings him close, kissing his brow and drawing him into another hug. He can hear how fast her heart is beating, and even at such a young age Gabriel knows when his mother is afraid. He has an intuition for these things. So he hugs her back, just as ferociously as she does him.

“Nobody knows,” Natalie finally says, looking out to her flower garden. “But I like to think that, maybe, whatever happens…”

“…we’ll find each other.”

Forty Years Later

Broadway Street
Ruins of Toledo

July 5th
7:13 pm

The sky has calmed. The birds have gone on to their business, and the work of a healer is nearly finished.

Natalie Gray sits with her back against a broken slab of concrete near the collapsed overpass, staring up at the slate gray sky. There are dark circles around her eyes and she looks thinner than usual. The shrapnel wound on her side doesn’t look to have gotten any worse, but her clothes are stained with blood from hip to ankle. It’s hard to tell how much of it is hers and how much belongs to others. There’s still people in need of healing, but she needs a moment to collect herself.

A single jay lands on the rock behind Natalie, chirping softly, watching the ruin around her. People gather in the distance, by the two vehicles caught on the southwestern side of the collapse. She swallows, audibly, and looks over to her humble guide Silas.

“You’re a good one,” Natalie admits in a hushed voice. “Jenny was right to fish you out of the ocean.” She feels paper thin, even her voice has the quality of old linen.

Silas lets out a quiet chuckle from where he leans against another piece of concrete. "Thanks," he says. Under other circumstances he might try to make a joke to deflect the compliment, but at the moment he's… just too tired for it, so he'll take it. "Hard to believe that was only a year ago," he says, shaking his head, but then he, too, falls silent, his gaze shifting to the bird for a moment. The bird's quiet chirps are faintly comforting, even after the Hitchcock-esque horror show from earlier.

There've been a lot of kinds of horror today. Maybe it's just the quiet and the calm of this moment, the ordinary quality of it, that is the comfort… that, and the knowledge that they've made it to the other side of all those different flavors of horror. For today, at least. And… most of them, at least. Walker's gonna get buried in Ohio. Poor bastard, he thinks, but there's not much humor in it, just sorrow at the loss of one of theirs.

"Most of us made it through, thanks to you. A lot more than would've, otherwise."

Not far off, Chess has wandered away from the circle of people she’d seen on the cusp of death not so long ago. Her vehicle had been hit hard, being the lead, and until the end, she had almost escaped without a scratch. If it hadn’t been for Natalie healing them… It wouldn’t be the first time she survived while those she loved died.

It’s a sort of phantom survivor’s guilt she feels, but the effects are similar. Her least concern right now is herself; she stayed far back when the healing was happening, somehow slipping away each time Natalie looked for another injury to take. The bleeding has stopped, but she can barely move her arm due to the swelling and pain that splays out in all directions when she tries to. She holds it against her body, two fingers hooked in her belt loop to keep it from falling slack at her side.

She hasn’t noticed Natalie and Silas where they talk – she’s merely looking for a moment of quiet, away from the people she saw almost died; away from Castle who she abandoned to go fight. Her foot slips on rubble, and Chess manages to keep her feet, but the jarring of the near slip causes her to suck in her breath in a sharp breath. She stops walking, closes her eyes, and tries not to pass out.

Natalie is quiet, both in the face of Silas’ appreciation for the passage of time, and what she had done for the people on this journey. Instead, she looks over at Chess, expression sagging into a judgmental frown. Her attention flicks up to Silas, instead, and she holds out a hand for him to take. “Help me up, please?” She asks, wearily. “There’s something I need to do.”

Silas's own expression flattens into something not so different from Natalie's own frown, but he says nothing; he only lets out a heavy breath and comes out of his lean, stepping over and taking Natalie's hand, pulling her to her feet. As much as it's impossible not to notice her weariness, he trusts her to know her limits. "How bad?" he asks grimly. Can't be worse than Ryans. Right? he wonders. God, don't let it be worse than Ryans.

Inside of a nearby ruined Nissan Versa the crimson cloud better known as Eve Mas does what an imp does best, she spies. Her form shifts and she's looking from the driver seat through human eyes, head down and blood red eyes shifting from Natalie then to Silas then over to Chess.

The woman gives a frown of her own but it mostly has to deal with the exhaustion from shifting. She needed to rest, they all did. After ensuring that Castle would in fact be okay the darker haired woman had spied her younger friend leaving to get a moment alone. Eve just wanted to check on her but then Natalie was there and Silas.

For once Eve didn't have anything to say, she just watches from a distance. Running a pale hand through midnight black hair. She waits.

Unaware of her audience (both inside and outside of Nissan Verses), Chess bends down, reaching out with her good hand to help ease her body into a sitting position. Her hands are still caked with dried blood, both hers and Castle’s. She winces as she has to drop the last few inches onto the gravel and rubble, and the slight jar travels up her body to her wound. Her right hand reaches for a rock to wrap her fingers around, to charge and de-charge in the familiar self-soothing action.

Natalie doesn’t answer Silas. The ashen quality of her skin does. The dark circles around her eyes. The tremor in her hand. Looking over at Chess, Natalie motions toward her with her chin, and leds Silas lead her over. Her steps have lost their strength, gone from steady cadence to shuffling footfalls.

“You’ve been very good to me,” is Natalie’s answer, instead. “I wish there was something more I could do for you, Silas.” Her attention angles down to the ground. “I suppose sometimes the best gift of appreciation is none at all.” She says, her smile bittersweet, though it doesn’t do anything to clarify the strange sentiment.

"You saved my life," Silas points out, lending her his strength; the weakness of her steps hasn't escaped him. "After that… well, the score doesn't go much higher than that, you know? I stop keepin' track after that," he says, mustering a grin to mask his increasing concern. "Something's gonna get me someday, I'm sure, but… it wasn't that day. And it wasn't the sea." That is important.

He continues to help Natalie move, going where she guides. Asi and Monica have both tried to dissuade her, and failed; the only choice to be made is whether she has help or whether she has to do it alone, and Silas opts for the former.

Watching still from afar, Eve slides out of the car and creeps forward. Eyebrows raised and fingers curling around a piece of concrete. "Threads meet."

The crunch of shoes on rubble finally catches Chess’ ear and she looks up – she’s pale, and her eyes seem heavy from both emotional and physical fatigue. It takes a moment for her gaze to focus on Natalie and Silas, and she gives a weary shake of her head.

“I’m okay. Others need it more,” she says, trying to rise again; her balance is bad, though, and her feet slip in the gravel and rubble, and she only lifts herself a few inches before she ends up on the ground again.

Her upper teeth rake across her lower lip and she hisses, “Fuck!” but there’s no voice behind the word to project it.

Natalie smiles at Chess’ stubborn selflessness, just a little pink in her teeth when she does. She lets go of Silas’ hand and takes a step toward Chess, brows knit in a mixture of pain and determination. “I know,” she belatedly replies, “I know.”

Glancing at Silas, Natalie’s eyes show a fatigue so deep he wonders how she can stay standing. As she turns her attention back to Chess, however, the topic shifts. “Almost… thirty or so years ago or so, now, I’d moved out to Louisiana with my boy. We were… trying to get away from the past.”

Rather than offer a hand to help Chess up, Natalie wearily settles down beside her, clutching her own blood-soaked wound at her side. “One day, we found a man on the side of the road. He’d been shot. He was dying.” She moves her hand away from her hip, looking at the blood on her palm. “I… got between him and my son, knelt down to see if I could help.”

Natalie smiles, distantly. “He said he was okay, but that he was just… very tired.” She looks over at Chess, exhausted. “I didn’t know what else to do. There were no phones around, no one to call for help. So I just… held his hand.” Natalie offers Chess her hand. “Because there was nothing else that could be done for him. He’d gone as far as he could.”

Silas closes his eyes for a moment. This is the path she's chosen; if she wants to go down doing the greatest amount of good possible, well, he's not going to stop her. Everyone deserves the freedom to chart their own course, even if it's into the Stormfront at the very last.

Maybe especially then. What kinda person would you be right now if you hadn't answered Mad Eve's call? he thinks to himself, and that thought brings a faint huff of breath that would be a chuckle under other circumstances. Despite the prickling behind his eyelids, Silas opens his eyes and musters a smile. If this is the end of Natalie Gray's self-chosen deathmarch…

…he'll see her off with a smile, at least.

"Before you go?" Eve's head juts out from the mist that hovers nearby. Slowly she lands and materializes back into her physical form, crimson eyes on Chess but centering on Natalie after a sad nod towards Silas. "In our world," Hers and Chess', "Your son has few friends. I am one of them! I wish-" The former seer looks down at her hands and plays with her nail bed. "I wish he knew this world's you now. I wish he and Samson both did."

Her connection to this family is an odd one but Gabriel is a friend. A close one and this is his mother and for all her visions she didn't see it happening this way, with these people. "Gabriel found a piece of you in the love of his life."

"Thank you for helping us, here and there. Without your influence and love, I'm not sure we would be where we are."

Sorry she wants to say to Chess but she has spoken enough for the moment and falls into a sad silence.

Chess’ gaze darts from Silas and then back to Natalie as the woman sits down beside her. Her brow furrows and she presses her lips together; it looks like she might be about to try to stand again, but then she sees the blood on the other woman’s hand, hears the implications of the woman’s words – that Natalie Gray is dying, and she wants kindness as she fades from this world.

“You can’t,” she begins, then licks her dry lips, and swallows hard, shaking her head. “I’m not worth dying for. There’s someone else who can use it, do good with it,” she whispers. Her gaze darts to Eve when she suddenly appears out of nowhere, and lingers there for a moment, before she turns back to the woman beside her.

Does Natalie offer Chess her hand knowing that the younger woman feels beholden to help, in order to balance the scales to repay a debt she feels she’ll always owe the universe? I’ve given enough, she’d told Eve in anger, but has she?

Whatever the reason, as her dark eyes stare up at Natalie Gray’s blue, someone in need is asking Chess Lang to help. Her own bloodstained hand lets that rock drop, tumbling from her hand into the rubble they sit amidst, and she takes the hand offered to her.

Eve is, for a time, a buzzing background noise amid Natalie’s intense focus to stay both conscious and alive. She recognizes the woman’s vaporous presence, but doesn’t quite register her words as she shakes her head at Chess. What she is trying to convey, here, is of more immediate importance to her than whatever is being said to her.

“It’s not about worth.” Natalie says to Chess with a tremor of a smile, though there is also confusion in her eyes. She doesn’t know why Chess seems so prescient about this moment, but it’s too late to reconsider. “I’m not saving you. Not giving you the last of something… I’ve already given everything. A long time ago.” Natalie clarifies, voice low and hushed. “I’m very tired.” She whispers. “So I’m passing on a burden to someone whose shoulders are strong enough to bear it.”

There is no fanfare, no great display of light, no sudden eruption of sound or birds scattering into the sky. There is just a momentary sensation of warmth exchanged from Natalie’s hand to Chess’. No injuries miraculously seal themselves shut, no choirs open in the heavens. To all outside observers, nothing happens, save for a shift of two colors. Chess’ dark eyes bleeding a pale blue, and Natalie’s returning to a pale gray.

It’s only then, relieved of her burden, that Natalie parses even a portion of the massive amount of information Eve dumped on her in her final moments. She has no frame of reference for any of it, never once learned of other worlds or timelines. Instead, she merely hears the names of a husband whose corpse she left for the birds and a son whose fate she will never know.

Natalie looks at Eve, looks through her, and gently leans her head back against a piece of broken concrete. Her eyes stay open, focused on the sky and the birds circling overhead.

Natalie Gray is gone.

Silas hears that last breath, the dying sigh as Natalie Gray lets out her final breath, and it prompts him to let out a long, slow breath of his own, his shoulders slumping as he does. "Goodbye, Natalie. Rest well," he says quietly. He notices the fading of her eyes, doesn't think much of it just now; instead, he kneels beside her and pushes her eyelids closed. That's the only kindness he can offer her now.

"Oh!" Eve exclaims and places her hands on either side of her face as Natalie fades away. "Goodbye Miss Bird." Maybe Eve had misjudged most avian telepaths.

A seer witnessing an event of this magnitude in real time can be rare, even rarer when it's one of their own visions. "So it shall be." Eve looks to her friend who is now changed and that makes two sisters of the heart ladened with an unfair burden. She doesn't hover over Chess but she does crouch, staring into those new pale blue eyes. "I am sorry my dear Boomer. I really am." Because Chess is right they should have a choice and Eve did nothing to give her friend a fighting chance against this fate just as Mad Eve did nothing to avert Castle's.

Eve repeats her apologies and sits on the ground staring ahead at Natalie's lifeless corpse.

“They’re not, though,” murmurs Chess with a headshake, and adds, “One literally has a hole in it,” in the quietest, most deadpan of quips. Burden is something she understands, though. It isn’t something she’d wish on anyone else, either.

She stares down at their hands when she feels that warmth transfer from Natalie to her. When the woman’s hand falls slack in hers, Chess sets it down gently at the woman’s side. For a long moment she sits, staring at the stranger’s face. Eventually she turns, her blue-eyed gaze moving first to Silas’ face, then to Eve’s.

“It’s not your fault, Eve,” she says, her voice soft but flat as she seems now resigned to this fate she tried to outrun. “I just don’t understand why me, of all the people here.” A soft huff of a laugh follows, and Chess raises her brows inquisitively. “I don’t expect she left a user’s manual? I have no fucking idea of how this works.”

All around, the birds that had gathered to Natalie Gray’s side spread their wings and depart, not a single one remaining by the time a minute has passed. The ruins become devoid of their song, leaving only the noise of those still injured and the whistle of the wind to break the stillness.

For Silas, the stillness was a farewell to a woman who had dredged him from the deep and returned him home. Someone who had taken him from his lowest and brought him here of all places.

For Eve, it is the beginning of prophetic fulfillment. Pieces of a story sliding into place one at a time, with an ending yet to be determined. Was the omen a good one, or an ill tiding send on these whistling winds? Of that, she is never certain.

But for Chess, this was in a strange way the fulfillment of a wish her heart dared not make for so many years.

In the distance, plumes of smoke and flames rise up from the forested hills. Stick-bare trees are silhouetted by fire and shrouded in smoke. Screams of both man and machine howl into the starless night sky, and there is a cloying coldness in the still air. Though far from the fighting, jets streak overhead, and death looms in the firelight shadows.

On his back in the frost-glittering grass, Miles Dylan is dying. Blood soaks into his clothes, breathing ragged and shallow, silvery gusts of breath visible at his lips in the frigid January air. Though he has the strength, for now, to clutch one hand to the woman leaning over him that he was able to save. Fingers laced together, Miles manages a pink-toothed smile to Chess.

Sorry,” Miles hisses, brows momentarily pinching together when pain comes through the shock. “I uh, zigged when… when I should’f,” he winces again, eyes clenched shut and breath hitching in the back of his throat.

The heat of her tears streaming down her face is the only thing Chess can feel; everything else is numb from cold and shock. Her own injuries ignored, she’s still trying to put pressure on the wounds but there are too many and she only has two hands — one now that he’s grabbed the other, her blood-stained fingers interlaced with his.

“Sh-hh-hh,” comes out in syllables broken by tremors and sobs; Chess slumps from the crouch she was in to be closer to him, cradling his head and shoulders onto her lap. Tears fall, glittering in the short distance between her face and his. If it were one of the princess movies she’d once watched, so many years ago in Denver, that would be enough to save him.

“Don’t leave me,” she whispers, her breath catching like his, but on sobs and tears instead of blood. “I can’t-” she swallows the words, and sobs again. “I love you,” is whispered, quickly, before it’s too late to say it one more time. One last time.

Miles manages an awkward smile through the pain, clutching Chess’ hand as best as he can. “Hey, hey…” there’s a weariness in his voice, an almost put out tone, don’t cry, it urges. It’s as though he expects this to just be a passing problem. He faces his own mortality with the same carefree ease that he does the rest of his life. What of it he had.

“I love…” Miles’ brows knit, eyes unfocused, “you too, Chessie.”

A wish granted too late.



A flickering golden light dances through thick pine branches. Underfoot, snow crunches with the faintest of thin ice crusts. The dark stranger navigating these woods knows the paths well, for her has hunted through them for untold ages searching for someone always out of reach. Emerging into a clearing, he finds a white blanket of untouched snow broken up by the pockmarks of headstones interspersed in even rows.

Guided by the light of his lantern, the dark stranger approaches these headstones, looking at the faded names on them illegible to his eye. The grave markers cast long shadows that twist and slither across the snow, reaching out to the lightless treeline for the comfort of shadow like shadow against the unwanted caress of lambent flame.


A voice of confusion, a woman’s voice, catches the dark stranger. He jerks, turning toward the sound and lantern raised as both light and shield. His eyes narrow against the glow, and there he finds not a familiar ghoul ready to leap out from behind a headstone and quote Shakespeare at him, but the eyes of someone he had been searching for. The bird that fled between the branches of the trees.

Gabriel Gray lowers his lantern, eyes wide.

Eileen?” His voice is breathless, rough like wool pulled over bare wood. He sees her haunting him in the shadows, and he wonders where she had gone to for so long, why it had taken him an eternity’s eternity to find her, here of all places. When he had searched such darker and more distant shores only to return empty-handed.

Eileen Gray answers him not with words, but by stepping into the aegis of his lantern’s light. Her hand entwined with another. For she had ventured not between the branches, not in a flight. But she had been the bird that dove down into Hades. To find that which had been lost and find, at last


a happy ending.

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