New Year, New You


gillian_icon.gif lene_icon.gif nathalie_icon.gif

Scene Title New Year, New You
Synopsis It's been years since these women have seen each other, but a bond remains.
Date December 22, 2018

The Childs Home

Nathalie is bundled up against the weather. She walked here, checking the address about a hundred times before she actually steps toward the door. She doesn't much resemble the young girl that Gillian Childs and her daughter brought to Pollepel Island all those years ago— a fact that has let her pass under most radars. But tonight, she's here at their door.

She even works up the courage to knock. Softly, at first, but a second try makes it sound like she actually means it.

The brownstone has some rather colorful decorations. Lights, though those were off when the district went dark for the few hours that they turned the electricity off to conserve it, and garland wrapped around the stair rails and a wreath on the door even then. There was even a stuffed Santa hanging off the roof as if he was trying to pull himself up. It seemed Gillian went all out this year.

It doesn’t take long for the door to open, though there had been a pause when she looked out the window before she opened it. Gillian looked different from all those years ago, but nowhere near as much as the young woman. Blonde hair instead of dark hair, for one. But those she had known anyway. She was dressed warmly, in a woven dark purple sweater and black pull on pants. And fuzzy slippers. It was obvious today had been a relaxation day for her.

There’s a hint of ‘do I know you?’ on her face, but she can’t quite place it yet. “I doubt you’re a caroler,” she jokes after a moment, cause a warm smile usually calmed people, and the young woman looked nervous. “Can I help you?”

Is that Jac?” Jolene’s distant voice comes from the kitchen. It isn’t Jac.

“No,” Nathalie says, but with quiet amusement in her tone, “I could sing something, if you like. No promises that the words will be right.” She lets out a heavy exhale, smile dimming back down again.

“I don’t— I’m not sure how well you remember me,” she says, nervousness still there but ease back enough for her to get to it. “I’m Nathalie LeRoux. I heard… Well, I came to see Jolene.” There is weight to that word, see, that implies she doesn’t just mean to hang out. The nerves pitch upward again, because she’s not entirely sure the two women even know what happened at the Arcology, or remember the small girl they brought along to the island. Given that she did her best to disappear once they got there, especially. “I heard she might need some help.”

While Gillian may have intended to call back to Jolene and let her know it was not Squeaks (or Jac as they often called her in this house), but the more she listens the more words freeze in her mouth. Nathalie. LeRoux. The girl may have changed a lot as she grew into adulthood, but there are certain things one does not forget. The events at the Ark had been burned into her memory more than she would ever admit. Her hand shakes for a moment until she grips the door and nods slowly. “I remember.”

Well. There was one moment she didn’t remember. Between the metal bear-sized robot with horrible jaws that she knows she tried to distract in hopes that Lene would escape— and waking up with LeRoux looking down at her. She half wondered if she’d died, but she hadn’t really been injured. She knew that much. “Come in,” she says after a moment. What had happened to LeRoux after the island? She remembered bringing her, and she thought she’d left with the Lighthouse Kids, but…

Then she didn’t hear about her again. She’d half assumed the poor girl had died during the war. She knew Robyn had asked about her more than once.

Jolene might need some help. With a long moment, she looks back toward the stairs leading up from the kitchen level, where Jolene would have to climb to get to the main floor. She feels like her throat has gone dry.

"Thank you," Nathalie says, her tone more gentle. She's not sure if being remembered makes this easier or harder, but she knows she feels a certain amount of responsibility for Gillian and Jolene's wellbeing. She steps into the house, glancing around, curious. "How have you been? I mean, I know you're doing well. I read your books," she pauses, rethinking her words after they're already out of her mouth. "Professionally well, I mean. I've visited the library, too. I love it. Your books, too."

She's rambling.

She's also not sure what to do now that she's here. She stands just on the other side of the door, shoes still on, jacket still on, hands held deep in her pockets.

There's a distant sound of crutches clattering with movement, thump-clanking up stairs. Out of the corner of her eye, Gillian can see Jolene ambling up the steps as best as she can, one hand on the railing and a single cructch vice-gripped in her bad hand, moving with an awkward unsteadiness.

“Jac!” Lene calls from halfway up the stairs. “They had noodles and beef at the market, I made Stroganoff!

At any other time, Gillian would be smiling at how quickly Lene and Jac had become friends and near-sisters. But she shouldn’t have expected anything less. Lene had been about the same age when two women took over as her moms. Maybe she’d always wanted a little sister. Maybe… one of these days Gillian would sit down and explain everything about Lene to the girl, but… “It’s not Jac,” she calls out, motioning LeRoux inside before more of the cold gets in.

“Is there enough to offer some to a guest?” she asks, leading the way through to the stairs and that thump-clank of movement. She won’t try to help unless she thinks the young woman will start to fall, but she will move closer even then.

She had stubborn Petrelli blood. She expected nothing less than for her to do everything herself. Come to think of it Gillian could be pretty stubborn at times too. “Do you remember… Nathalie?” She hesitates for a moment. “From the Ark. We brought her to the island with us.”

Before the Siege, before the birds, before they got seperated.


Coming inside at the gesture, Nathalie looks toward Jolene, a small smile coming to her face. It's an odd thing, but that moment in the Ark has left her feeling responsible for these women. For their wellbeing, at least. It's what brought her here, once she heard.

"It sounds delicious," she says, "but don't worry if there's not enough. I didn't mean to barge in on dinner." She looks back to Gillian as she reminds Lene who she is. There's something apologetic in her expression. Something mournful. It is a hard time to forget. Unfortunately, it's all they have to remember her by.

Halfway up the stairs, Jolene looks like a shadow of what Nathalie last saw her as. When she was at the Arcology, Jolene was a ferocious-looking woman with intense eyes who looked as though she could stare death down and win. Now, she'd lost nearly all of the muscle she'd had back in those days, making her look both thinner and somehow younger. Her hair is darker than it was, less faux red, more a dark burgundy-wine color now. She's leaning on a crutch, green eyes wide.

“Holy— ” Jolene starts to move up the stairs but realizes they're coming down she instead steps back with one shaky hand on a railing and the other negotiating the end of her crutch for balance. “Holy shit, Nat? I— ” Her voice hitches in the back of her throat, remembering that night, or perhaps more accurately only remembering some of that night. How they survived is a different and absent matter entirely.

“There's plenty of noodles,” Jolene says as a hushed aside, transfixed by the surprise guest’s arrival.

“Please, stay for at least a small plateful, if you have the time. Jolene’s a wonderful cook,” Gillian says, to show that it’s definitely not a problem. In a way she understood her daughter’s pride in something that might seem as small as cooking. It was a necessity so many took for granted. It required patience as much as anything else.

With a motion, she gestures for her to join, as she moves down the stairs, joining Jolene, but still not offering more than a hand against arm to help steady. It could be interpreted as a familiar gesture as much as to assist.

“I admit I don’t know what happened to you after. I did look. I know Robyn did too. A lot was going on at the time. You look as if the years treated you well, for which I am grateful.” She had tried, but so much had been going on. She had lost track of where the girl ended up at some point, between what happened on the island and during the war. Sometimes she wondered how she managed to keep her head attached enough to testify when the trials came around. Especially with what happened during the war.

"I don't have any other plans," Nathalie says, looking between the two of them. The haunted young girl they knew is still there, in her eyes, even if she otherwise seems much more together. "And I love noodles." As she comes down the stairs, she squeezes Jolene's arm in greeting. She's not offering assistance, not yet. Not that way.

"That's my fault," she says when she looks back to Gillian, "I disappeared on purpose. I picked another name and slipped everyone who knew me. After the war, I joined Wolfhound, which brought me back to New York. I only heard recently that anyone was looking for me. Anyone I liked, anyway." Someday, she'll figure out how to tell Robyn. She hasn't quite worked that one out yet.

That Jolene is surprised is an understatement. She’s been quiet because she doesn’t have the words to convey her feelings. Instead, she has taken it slowly down the stairs and moved tiredly toward a seat at the table in the dining room, carefully settling herself down. There’s a dutch oven sitting on the table on a pair of metal trivets, inside the pot thick and wide twisted noodles are mixed with a heavy brown sauce and tender slices of beef and onions. Two plates are set out, and Jolene makes a wordless look to Gillian that implies a request regarding the third plate: could you do that for me? Gillian can tell she’s pushed herself a bit hard today.

Wolfhound?” Lene chooses to whisper, more to herself than anything else. She looks up to Nathalie, brows furrowed and expression difficult to read. “I almost— ” she cuts herself off, shaking her head. Even Gillian isn’t privy to what the answer to that would’ve been, Jolene’s never talked about Wolfhound much before. “Who else knows?” She instead chooses to ask.

The apologies make her shake her head, because really Gillian had had so much going on after she left the island that she had forgotten to look for her and just assumed she had been safe with the Ferry. Or maybe she had been afraid that she hadn’t been and didn’t want to find out. There were a lot of people who went missing in those years, and she doubted many of them had ended up in such a good place.

Robyn had reminded her of the girl later, but by then she hadn’t known where to even start looking. But when the girl mentions Wolfhound she freezes in place, surprised and then looks back at Nathalie again. Wolfhound did not have a lot of young members, and now that she looked at the girl— She probably should have recognized her.

She probably would have if she had spent more time with the Lighthouse Kids when they relocated into Canada. She had kept track of them on paper more than personally. But.

“I see,” she murmurs softly to herself, but doesn’t say what she’s realized, either. “Well, it will be good to catch up again.” It’s been a hard few years for the three of them, she would imagine. She hopes slightly better for Nathalie. With a nod to Jolene, she moves up to start handling the third plate, so that she can get the noodles and sauce ready and hand it over to Nathalie and motioning toward the table not too far away where the three of them could all sit and talk. “What brought you by?” Cause she’s pretty sure it wasn’t for the food, even if it will be delicious.

Nathalie follows Jolene, taking up the seat next to her when she sits. She tilts her head at the unfinished thought, but she doesn't press. Instead, she chuckles wryly at the question. "More everyday, it seems like. Avi and Hana know. A couple of the Ryanses. Colette. It's harder to keep it under wraps these days." She glances toward Gillian, taking the plate when it's offered.

That is the bigger question, what Gillian asks. It leaves Nathalie speechless for a moment.

"I… I'm a healer," she ends up saying after a long pause. She lets that hang in the room, then turns to Jolene. Suddenly, her words spill out too fast. It's clear she's not well practiced at what she's trying to give here today. "I hadn't heard, or I would have found you sooner. I wanted to offer it to you, if you— if that's something that you want."

Jolene is frozen in place. Blinking, certainly, but her unsteady eyes cannot command her hands to move from where they touch a serving spoon and an empty plate. Shallow breaths come next, nearly frantic sounding, then the tears. Within seconds Lene’s eyes are red at the edges, face flushed with color, and when green eyes find Berlin’s darker ones she's gulping for air.

“I… I'm a healer.”

She drops the spoon, the plate. Gillian recognizes the signs of a panic attack, Jolene’s had them off and on since the war, when something reminds of her of the gas attack. But this is different, nothing leaps out to imply that's what triggered her reaction. But the tremble of her jaws and the way she vacantly stares through Berlin is all the same.

The creature looks over its shoulder, screeches in the way bears can't, and then rears back and kicks Jolene back as hard as it can. She rolls head over heels, tumbles across the floor and skids to a stop. Finally, the machine turns back to Gillian and screeches again.

No, no, no!” Jolene screams, pushing up on one arm, claw marks raked across her chest that can't regenerate now. She can see the fear in Gillian’s eyes, hears the blaring of the alarms, feels dread building up with terror and panic.

The last thing Gillian sees is the beast bearing down on her with its rotary saw jaws. Blood sprays up the walls with bone and hair and clothing scraps and the drops in black rivulets from the spinning grinding wheels of the bear’s jaws. Jolene screams herself hoarse as she watches Gillian mauled into ribbons by the beast, her mangled corpse dropped with a wet slap to the floor.

The creature turns its gleaming eyes on Jolene, roaring and shifting its weight, lumbering forward on shirking hydraulics as thousands of pounds of steel given ursine shape charge forward toward her. Then, just as quickly, disappears to the right as though it were a fly swatted away by a rolled up newspaper.

The mechanical bear spins end over end before crashing into the concrete wall, pulverizing stone and sending rock debris down to the floor. Jolene is still screaming, incomprehensibly. Right up until she feels a hand on her shoulder from behind.


As Lene looks up to the hand, eyes wide, she sees another woman staring down at her, dark hair and eyes, kind and yet sad. “It doesn't have to be like this,” she says, and the words seem to draw Lene’s focus toward her mouth, like a siren song. Behind the mysterious woman, Lene sees a child.

Oh my god,” Jolene splutters, a trembling hand at her mouth. She looks at her mother with wide eyes, horrified eyes. But then, between tagged and confused sobs, she blurts out. “You saved us.

Whatever happened between that last moment Gillian recalls and when she woke up in the alley has remained a mystery. Up until now.

“My name is Joy,” the woman says, taking Lene’s hand in hers and keeping her attention away from her mother’s ruined corpse. “Feel what I am,” she says, lacing fingers with Lene. “You're that too, right now. Your mother is here,” Joy touches the center of her chest, then does the same to Jolene. “Together.”

With a look to the child, LeRoux, Joy elicits her approach. “Focus. Focus on my voice. On your mother’s gift.” Violet light floods from Joy’s hand, spills into Jolene, and soon the two are cycling the power back and forth. Joy amplifying Jolene, Jolene amplifying Joy, over and over until the energy is white hot.

Then, Joy takes Nathalie LeRoux’s hand. “You can do it,” Joy says to the child, sending all of that light down into the girl, “you can save her.

Hand held at her mouth, Jolene looks at Berlin with tear-filled eyes, finally able to remember what trauma had blocked out all those years ago. She's struggled to figure out how they survived the Arcology, but the truth of the matter was that they hadn't. Not Gillian.

But then…

“I… I'm a healer.”

It’s a good thing that there’s chairs and a counter nearby, cause as Gillian stands and stares she can feel the sudden rush of weightlessness that pushes into her, like that dizzy feeling that sometimes came over her when things got too loud, or the streets too filled. When something made her remember the war. And before. This was before. With an exhale that sounds like air being punched out of someone, she leans her hands heavily on the back of the chair, looking as if she might fall over. Her skin had gone pale, especially evidence when compared with her beauty mark on her cheek.

“You healed me.”

That was a whisper, raspier than even her usual voice. She couldn’t remember a lot of what happened, but she remembered… moments. Seconds. Before. The feeling of… of something. She pulls the chair out and drops down into it, thankfully she didn’t completely miss and end up on the floor, small tremors on her arms, in her knees.

She had been supposed to die. She had been…

She had known that something had happened, but she hadn’t imagined how bad it must have been, how… Her eyes found Jolene’s and there were tears there. If she thought she could move without falling, she might have rushed toward her.

That day had almost killed all of them.

Nathalie reacts to the panic first. She puts a hand on Jolene's shoulder, firm and supportive. "Deep breaths," she says, "deep in, deep out. You're at home, you're safe." Nathalie has never had a problem remembering that day, or what happened to the two women here with her. Nightmares are all that place gave anyone who stepped foot there.

She looks over at Gillian, nodding quietly. "With help. I couldn't have done it alone, but we were lucky." The ability Jolene had. The ability Joy was able to take when Gillian died.

When Berlin turns back to Jolene, her head tips some, checking on her. "I feel like I should have watched over you two better since."

It takes a long while for Jolene to compose herself, or more accurately half-compose. Her eyes are still tear-filled, face still flushed with emotion, hands still trembling, but she’s gone from a post-verbal stammering to something more coherent. But it isn’t words she searches for, rather it’s the corner of the table with one hand. Struggling, visibly, Jolene levers herself up from her seat and moves over to her mother, wrapping her arms around her and holding her as tightly as she can manage. Green eyes square on Berlin after the embrace, and Jolene’s wordless look is one of both quiet reservation and barely-contained hope.

Please,” is what Jolene finally says after such a long silence filling the room. It comes with nothing else, save for the unspoken context that both Gillian and Berlin understand.

Please fix me.

The look in Gillian’s eyes is different than it usually had been. Once she had attempted to look for a healer, but most came at too high a cost, either for the one being healed or the one doing the healing. Since Jolene had never actually said that was what she wanted, she hadn’t pursued it openly. She didn’t want her to think she had to be fixed in order to be her daughter. But God how she had wanted this. For a moment, she’s holding her breath. And then Jolene says please and she allows herself to breathe again. Hoping she would accept it and…

“It won’t hurt you, will it? Will I make it easier?” these were things she wanted to ask. She knew that the girl had healed her, saved her from the blackness that had taken her, but she did not know what the cost to the girl might be, and she wanted to lessen it if she could. “Anything you need, I will give it.” All her energy, if she could. She owed this girl her life.

And in some ways, she owed her daughter just as much. She’s not sure she could have survived the war without her. In some ways, she owed her daughter even more.

In some ways, she believed her daughter saved her very soul.

Berlin stands when Jolene does, but lingers by the table, watching mother and daughter. She doesn't bother to mask the longing in her eyes for what she never had. What she never will have.

She rounds the table, coming over to the pair once attention turns her way. "It won't hurt," she says, whether it's true or not, "but you would make it much easier. And faster, too." Her gaze moves to Jolene and she holds her hand out toward her. "You just have to take my hand."

That's all it takes. The barest of contact and Nathalie goes to work. Normally, she paces herself— before recently, it had been years since she regularly used this aspect of her ability— but not here. Maybe because of Gillian's offer, but it isn't hard to tell that she would have pushed herself either way. Putting in some practice made it all come rushing back to her. The instincts the Institute honed in her. The limits they pushed her to. But this time, by her own choice, for the people she chose.

All evolved abilities come with a cost. Be it the drain that Gillian feels as she feeds her energy to Berlin, or the psychic cost leveled on the healer as Jolene takes her hand. But neither Berlin nor Gillian can understand the complexities of the cost of their actions combined. Neither can understand what it truly means to augment not just one of the conduits, as Kazimir Volken had desired her for, but both of the conduits living within one fragile and mortal shell.

But it isn’t Kazimir Volken who calls to her now. It’s the memories of another former conduit bearer.

"Which aren't you good at? Being a terrorist, an Agent, or a Hero? Or all of them, maybe." There's almost a smile beginning to form in response, though not quite. "My name's Gillian. Gillian Childs." It was in the newspaper. If he goes to look up someone who died recently and got reported, he'd learn it anyway.

"Childs?" His breathing hastens, and Peter takes a half step away from her, then falters and steps towards her again. "You — You were — " Peter looks down to the floor, then around the room at the strings. "I… I had a dream." He sounds a bit awkward, "It's… This isn't a pick-up line." One brow lowers a bit more than the other and he grimaces, "I saw you, and… and a lot of other people in a dream, in a…" He searches for the right word, "A concentration camp. A prison, for Evolved. I… It… it wasn't good." Peter's eyes narrow, "I dreamed of the bomb too, Gillian. Before it happened."

Familiarity. Family. A sense, an emotion; protection.

Jolene closes her eyes as Berlin begins her work, exhaling a shuddering, hastened breath.

If Gillian had known what ability she was augmenting she might not have done it— but considering this was her daughter she probably would have anyway. It wouldn’t have been the first time. While Leroux does her work, she focuses on the young woman, pouring strength into those little knots inside her that feel somehow familiar. Whatever familiarity she feels for them was dismissed as a vague feeling of when she had been dying when she had come back when she had awakened unsure how they got where they were, where the tendrils of shadows had looked so familiar.

Moving to stand beside Jolene, her attention distracted from the flow of energy just enough to put a hand on her daughter’s back, to offer her a hand in case she needs to lean or sit down suddenly. She often avoided helping too much, even if she would have at the slightest sign that her daughter needed it, but she wanted to offer that much. Physical strength, if not strength in that soft glowing energy rising behind her pupils.

A light that seems watery, distorted, because she happens to be blink tears down her cheeks.

The moment draws out. Nathalie's hands cup around Jolene's and her eyes close against both the memory and the emotion that comes with it. And against tears that threaten to come with them. She'd already felt protective over these women, but was that feeling ever really hers? Is there even a difference between her and him? Her and any of them?

Questions she can't answer swim around her mind as she works. It's no simple matter, but with the boost it's minutes rather than hours before Jolene can feel the difference. Before Nathalie's hands pull back and she opens her eyes, breaking the dam for a few tears to fall down her face. Sliding over the nearest chair, she lowers herself down to sit. Fingers wipe at her face, and she busies herself with it for longer than necessary. Both to let mother and daughter have a moment and to take a few moments to find herself again.

It isn’t just color that returns to Lene’s face, isn’t just the dark circles beneath her eyes that are gone, it isn’t just the tremor in her hand that steadies; something less tangible like that changes when Berlin is finished with her tending of the once-traveler’s injuries. Gillian sees it first, the look in her daughter’s eyes, an expression of both shock and fear. Jolene recoils into herself for a moment, fingers pressed to palm, arms crossing her chest, legs hunching up as if she were trying to tighten herself into the smallest space.

But then there is a fitful and manic bubble of giddy laughter. Jolene first extends her arms, palms smoothing across the arms of her chair and fingers gripping the edges. As she extends her legs, Jolene’s eyes are focused on Berlin, as if waiting for the younger woman to pull the rug out from under her as part of some too-elaborate conspiracy. But the absurdity never comes to pass. One socked foot, then another, touches the floor. That’s when surprises changes to tear-filled shock. There’s no pain. When her right foot touches the floor and Lene’s nerve endings don’t scream she freezes, moves the foot again, then just bolts upright.

Oh my god,” Jolene exhales the words in nearly a single slurred syllable. Her hands clench into fists, shoulders tremble, and through the beaming smile she is struggling to fight back emotional sobs.

The change is sudden. At least to someone who's spent so much time watching the young woman in front of her let the circumstances of her life weight her down. Gillian notices all the differences quickly, each blink of her eyelids revealing something new. And she does blink, quite a lot more than she would like to, because there’s tears in her eyes. Tears of happiness, she would say, because they are. As Jolene moves, moves in ways that she couldn’t for so long, those tears fall freely down her cheeks and she looks toward Berlin with what could only be a grateful expression. “Thank you,” she whispers, before looking back toward her daughter. From a future that she’ll never experience beyond vague memories of dreams.

The beaming smile is returned, the gratitude. The joy.

The war had left so many wounds, but the one that her daughter had experienced had hurt her more deeply than almost any of the ones she felt herself. “Look at you,” she whispers, moving so that she can touch the young woman. Gillian may not be sobbing, but she’s definitely crying freely as she touches her daughter’s cheeks.

Nathalie looks between the two, her smile soft as Lene tests out her movements. She gives Gillian a nod at her thanks, but the longer she stays at the table, the more she feels like she's intruding. They feel like family to her, but it strikes her that they don't have any reason to look at her the same way.

"I should give you some privacy," she says, quietly like she doesn't want to interrupt. "Is there a couch I can borrow for a few hours?" She could pass out right here at the table, but luckily, she's had enough practice lately to be able to keep herself together long enough to get herself to a bed. Or a couch in this case.

Lene’s wide green eyes flick from her hands up to Nathalie and then over to her mother. She raises her hands to cup the backs of Gillian’s, then leans in and touches her nose to her mother’s and exhales a breathy laugh that is accompanied by a sob. “Of— of course,” she says to Nathalie with a breathless exasperation. Being healed, by itself, doesn’t seem to be as much of a shock to Lene as the event of being whole again is. She had been wounded and healed through abilities before in her time, but never did she imagine she’d meet a healer with the capabilities that Nathalie has, a healer that could undo what was done to her.

“There’s a couch over here…” Lene says, stepping forward with — at first — a moment of trepidation as she moves away from her mother, as if expecting her legs to give out. When she reaches Nathalie’s side and sets a hand down on her shoulder, her other hand moves to the small of the younger woman’s back to guide her in the direction of the living room. “You can— ”

Neither of them make it there.

The static-electric crackle-snap that accompanies Jolene’s hand touching the small of Nathalie’s back sound like the horrible buzzing a power transformer makes before it blows. The shower of white-hot sparks and deep violet energy that erupts from her hands and launches the two women apart from one-another and onto the floor. A deep, resonating hum emits from both of Jolene’s hands, accompanied by a deep buzzing sound and a vibration in the floorboards. “Oh— fuck oh fuck what— ”

Nathalie feels a full-body tingling sensation, followed by a gut-twisting sense of disorientation and emptiness and — perhaps more alarmingly — silence in her subconscious. It’s like living with headphones on and suddenly having them turned off. The world feels both quiet and massive.

Jolene struggles up onto her elbow, making a whining sound in the back of her throat. “What the fuck?” She whispers hoarsely, looking at the distorted waves of energy emitting from her hand. “What the fuck?

Something’s wrong with her ability.

To Gillian, nothing about her daughter has really changed other than the fact that she can finally, finally, move easily. The idea that she can walk on her own without anything helping brings tears to her eyes. Happy ones, as she beams ecstatically at the young woman. Who isn’t really that young, anymore. Perhaps just woman works, but she imagines part of her will always see her superimposed with the child she’d seen in a dream, the only memory she has of the girl in her youth.

She imagines that’s how most mothers feel. But when the girl suddenly calls out, cursing, she stops in worry, looking to see if there’s pain, or something that she stepped on, but she sees nothing of the sort. She doesn’t feel any change in the young woman. Even without access to her ability, Gillian had always felt that familiar buzz under the surface, like in almost every person who was Expressive. But even when the girl had had access to her ability she had never seen such a display before, it surprised her, made her hurry over to her daughter to offer support, and not just physically.

“What happened?” She glances over toward the younger girl, wondering if Nathalie knew what it was, since it seemed based on the curses, Jolene did not know what the fuck had just happened.

Nathalie gasps as she's pushed to the floor— at the sound, at the burst— and she struggles up onto her knees. She doesn't get much further than that, though, because she suddenly feels the exertion of healing harder than she was a moment ago. And more than that, because her head feels strange. For the first time since she was just a little kid, the only thoughts in her head are her own.

Something's wrong with her ability.

She sits on her ankles, visibly sagging as she looks over at Jolene. She can't feel them, not either of them. Her expression is confused and a little panicked. There's a comfort in the silence, but everything else she's missing is a gaping hole. For a moment or two, there's no answer as she just tries to remember to breathe.

"I'm negated."

It's the only explanation she has for either of them.

Lene isn’t breathing. Not because of anything external, but because she’s holding her breath, frozen in a moment of panic. Her eyes are focused on the rippling waves of distorted energy radiating outward from her hand, waves of goldenrod-colored light that bend and distort the view of what’s beyond them. She finally exhales a stuttering breath, flexing her hands open and closed as this amber light seethes and undulates like smoke disturbed by a gentle breeze.

Mom,” Jolene whines softly, lowering her hands and looking over to Berlin, brows knit with worry, then hastily over to Jolene. “Mom, what’s happening!?”

Sitting back on her heels, Gillian looks from the young woman who brought her back from death and the daughter she’d nearly lost to a weapon that stripped her of her ability so long ago. “I don’t know what’s happened,” she responds quietly, reaching out to take her daughter’s hand, not wanting to lie to the girl and pretend that she did know.

It’s confusing and it’s scary. But still, she looks past her daughter back to the young woman who gave them both their lives back in many ways and mouths a silent. Thank you.

After a moment, she continues out loud. “We’ll figure it out together, though. I promise.”

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