Not Be Alone


emily4_icon.gif nathalie_icon.gif

Scene Title Not Be Alone
Synopsis Emily and Nathalie are both learning what it's like.
Date July 23, 2019

Laudani-Epstein Townhome, Sheepshead Bay

Eyes releasing from the intense squint she's been giving her screen the last thirty minutes, Emily breathes out a swear under her breath and sinks back into her couch. Her head tilts toward the ceiling, resting on the back of the couch while her gaze roams aimlessly in time with the shifting of her thoughts. With another mutter, she shoves her laptop and the latest delivered mystery aside to grab her phone from where she'd left it on the coffee table. The black-soaked screen of the laptop stays on, still displaying the offending information. Emily's kitten nudges her offhand as she starts typing, and she absently obliges the request for pats while swiping across the screen.

6:26 pm
Um, wanted to check in. It's been a while.
How's things?

Nathalie isn't answering texts from just anyone at the moment. She would much rather stay under a rock. But there is a short list of people she's willing to talk with. She looks at the messages, lets out a sigh before she replies.

Have you been keeping up with the Praxis hack?

It's an important question, because any discussion of how she's doing right now is going to need a little background.

Emily winces when she sees the message, lapsing in petting the cat's back. It demandingly crawls into her lap when she goes to reply with both hands, forcing her to lift her arms and tilt the phone down at herself from an angle.

Every now and then I get an email from the illuminati about it. I just got the latest. Saw some terminology that looked familiar.
You in the SZ or Rochester?

6:28 pm
It could have been worse. They could have leaked my name. Pictures. I know Praxis has more.
Are you free?

As much as she might want to hide, she needs something else, too. A friend. A sister. And to that end, she gets up off her bed to get shoes and her bag. The Bastion will hold up without her for a little while.

6:30 pm
I'm at home, or could meet you anywhere.

6:33 pm
I'm on my way.

The sound of a motorcycle pulling up outside Emily's building announces Nat well before the knock on the door does. But still, she does knock politely instead of attempting to barge in.

There is a loud thump thump of nearly-tripping footsteps to announce Emily's proximity to the door, followed by a hiss of "Kettle, for the love of—"

The deadbolt turns and the door swings in, the thin blonde looking only slightly haggard for her travails. "Hi," is as much as she gets out before her tiny black shadow at her feet darts as fast as possible away from the door and the inherent stranger danger Nathalie's presence presents. "I told you," she calls after the kitten who darts up the stairs at full speed. Emily only shakes her head, waving her sister in with one hand. "He'll be fine, he'll go glue himself to Teo for a while and get over it."

Besides, there's bigger concerns right now.

As soon as the opportunity presents itself, she wraps her arms around Nathalie's shoulder in a firm, unerring hug. "Hey," Emily mumbles, willing to stand there as long as needed.

Nathalie manages to shut the door behind her before she finds herself in a hug. She's stiff, at first, but she eases after a moment and her hand comes up to grip onto Emily's arm. She blinks as tears start to threaten and turns to wrap her arms around Emily as well. There's a telltale sniffle, but when she pulls back, she seems to have pulled herself together some.

"It's fine," she says, part of a conversation she seems to have been rehearsing in her head. "No one knows it's me. It's— fine."

Clearly, it's not fine, no matter how she insists.

"Your cat's name is Kettle? That's cute. Clever."

Emily doesn't buy it, which is clear on her face as she pulls away, but a corner of her mouth quirks up at the compliment. She lays one hand on Nathalie's arm, ruffling sleeve and bicep before she turns away, heading for the kitchen.

She finds the words she was looking for only after she's done that. "Sure," Emily concedes. "It could have been worse." She pulls open the fridge door. "But that doesn't make it any better."

A deli bag of turkey is tossed onto the counter. "Are you hungry?" She might be getting a sandwich anyway, by the looks of it. Cheese sails after the turkey. At least it's a low-effort meal. Emily nudges the door shut with her foot and leans over the counter to pull the breadbox open.

"I haven't been able to eat much since it went live. I feel sick." Nathalie speaks as she follows Emily to the kitchen, leaning against the counter while she makes food. "Everyone knows now. Someone has a mix of both conduits. Adam Monroe won't be the only person with plans. Or the resources to figure out who it is."

On this, she seems resigned.

"I have to talk to Avi and Francois about how to best protect Wolfhound. I'm not sure how the government or the NYPD will feel about it. Elisabeth might not care, but her hands might be tied by her bosses." Which is a big maybe, but whatever happens to her, she doesn't want Wolfhound to feel any ripples. "Plus. Last time it was close to coming out, Avi was worried about someone getting the idea in their head that I need to be experimented on a little more."

A plate settles more roughly on the counter than it should as Emily considers that, her brow knitting at the inevitability the words carry. She untwists the bag of bread, motions absent but rough as she works on putting together something to eat. “With him…” She catches herself, correcting herself. “With Wolfhound on your side, you’ve got the best allies you could possibly have against people like Adam Monroe, or whoever else lurks out there. The neo-Vanguard? I don’t know. But that’s got to count for something. I know— I know it’s got to feel like there’s nothing between you and those fuckers, like you’re vulnerable now more than ever, but…”

She lets out a short huff, pushing a sandwich down the counter in Nathalie’s direction. “You’ve got a shield, I promise. And people who don’t want to see you suffer, or think you have to go through this alone.” Only reluctantly does she start to make a second plate for herself, more in solidarity than anything else. She certainly doesn’t feel like eating, after all. “I was shocked when all that came through earlier— when I realized what I was reading. I can’t imagine how you must feel, so I’m not going to pretend I do. It’s fucking terrible that …”

Emily trails off for a moment, then voices the thought out loud with a frown that can be heard, “Well, that it happened in the first place, for sure, and that it’s happening again now. Even if your name’s not there, it’s like you said— fuckers like Adam Monroe or Richard fucking Ray go digging not giving a shit about who gets hurt in the process.”

"Logically, I know. But I worry about how I'll… hurt them. Or if they'll decide it's safer to turn me away. I've been a lot of trouble this past year or so. When do I cross the line into not being worth it anymore?" Nat's fingers come to rest on the edge of her plate, tapping out a quiet, nervous rhythm. "The leak said I killed a couple people. I know what Lucille would say— they were bad people doing bad things to a scared girl. But I'm… I need to process that."

It isn't everyday someone says Richard's name in conjunction with Adam Monroe's. Not with that sort of vehemence. Not within Nat's hearing anyway. She tilts her head, grateful for the chance for curiosity to overshadow her heavier emotions. "What did Richard Ray do?"


Emily has to take in a breath, hold it, pause in what she’s doing to keep herself from getting riled up. “Nothing outside his usual realm of bullshit, I don’t think.” she says evenly, tearing off a strip of cheese from her fixings to give her time to mull over whatever she means to say. “It just wouldn’t surprise me if he was a spearhead leading the charge to find you just for the conduits. Cause more trouble than he helps solve.”

There. That was close enough to polite, wasn’t it?

She presses the bags one by one to her stomach to flatten them out of air, zipping them shut again and returning them to the fridge. Glancing up at Nathalie, her shoulders lift ever so slightly before settling. “He…” Something tells her she’s likely to be pressed for her particular bone to pick. “He used Devon to trick me, right before Christmas. Right after I met you. Locked me in a conference room at Raytech for about an hour.”

Her brow furrows as she shuts the door, continuing to stand in place. Uncomfortably, she tries to explain, “… with…”

She can’t bring herself to say his name— either of them that she might call him.

Emily sighs, managing to say, “We hadn’t talked before then in— I don’t even know how long. Sometimes would trade voicemails — holidays, times he thought he might not …” She trails off, lifting and letting her hand hang off the side of her neck.

"I'm not sure that puts him on the same level as Adam Monroe," Nathalie says, her eyebrows lifted a little as she looks over at Emily. "Meddling, certainly. It seems like he was trying to help, but… a less forceful method would have been better." She glances to her sandwich, as if talking to it is easier somehow. "Richard doesn't have to look for who has the conduits because he already knows. He's my cousin." That's where she lifts her gaze up to Emily, "On my mother's side, don't worry.

"Not that I'm saying he doesn't screw up. Or that what he did was okay. But maybe intentions matter a little bit?"

She hopes they do, anyway. Not just for Richard, but for herself, too.

"You thought he didn't love you," she says, her hand gesturing gently as she goes on, "I know how that feels. Hard to move past that. Takes more than one day locked in a room to work out the history you two have. But I do think it's worth the work." There was a time when Nathalie would have given anything to have a family who loved her. Other times when she couldn't swallow the anger of knowing her parents didn't want her. "Did I tell you I saw me and my mom? When we were seeing… visions, other versions of ourselves? In one life, she regretted giving me up and tracked me down, tried to make up for giving me up in the first place. Loved me." She pauses there, long enough to clear her throat. "In reality, this reality, she died before she got the chance."

Emily’s fingers stop in their kneading when Nathalie says she and Richard are family, gaze jerking back in her direction suddenly. The world’s playing some sort of weird, cruel joke, right?

Nathalie doesn’t seem like the kind to pull that sort of prank.

Her mouth hardens into a line and she looks away rather than give an answer, silent or otherwise, about what she thinks about intentions being the thing that matters. “I don’t know what I thought then,” she admits. “And I don’t know what I think now. I just… if all we’re going to do is hurt each other, maybe it’s not worth it.” She sounds distant as she says it, and seems grateful for the segue away from that aspect of the topic at hand.

“I saw a vision sort of like that. A vision of a place where I was healed,” which was less far-fetched than she used to think it would be, “and a place where he was dead. I went to visit his grave, handled it even less well than I do when I talk to him face to face. In that reality, I’d still made sure he was buried as close to the Raith family plot as I could get him.”

Before Emily loses herself in thought on that, falls too deep into that feeling, she seems to mentally drop it all and comes back to the moment, gaze refocusing on Nathalie. “I’m sorry you didn’t get the chance to know her here.”

"He told me once that Jensen Raith's father was more of a dad to him than his own was." So in Nat's estimation, this other Emily did right by their father.

She nods to the condolences, because she does appreciate it, but that wasn't entirely her point. But then, she had yet to reach her point. "People who knew her said she was… complicated. I imagine if I did get a chance to know her, it would have been, um… difficult. But I can't help but wish I had gotten the chance. Not just to know her, but to yell at her and cry because of her… and to know that she would have my back whether or not we liked each other. Our dad? He's complicated. And he has no idea how to be a father. And he doesn't even know if he'd be any good at it if he learned how. We're gonna yell at him a lot. And cry because of him a lot. But he will have your back and mine no matter what. To me, that's what family is. The people in your life who will back you up regardless of how pissed off you are at each other. I know you have years of bad blood. But I also know that you care about him anyway. It might take a long time before we can chisel through his… Aviness, and maybe he doesn't have it in him to be a good dad, but he does have it in him to be family."

She shakes her head a little, she didn't really come here for this, but once she started, she didn't seem to be able to stop herself. There is one more point she needs to make, one that comes with a wry smile.

"Ridiculous, of course, that you and I have to be the adults while he gets to be childish, but I'm pretty sure we'll be able to flip the roles on him now and then."

Far be it from Emily to try and detail Nathalie from making her points. What was she going to do— remind her they were here talking about far more upsetting things? The answer was well, sort of, only later, to make sure she she didn't leave still feeling an anxious mess.

In the meantime, she mumbles out a note of grudging agreement and tears a bite into her sandwich. It buys her time. "I mean, it's not like we walked into this knowing how to be sisters, either," she finally says. "You don't see us balking at it, or running from it, or saying it can only happen if we take on all of each other's baggage." Her brow pops high in a kind of shrug even though she doesn't move.

"I get he's scared. Of what letting people in means, of hurting me, or of being a bad parent. Making a mistake again." She pauses for a moment, tempted to qualify that, but she lays it back down with a shake of her head. "He doesn't know what the right thing to do is, but shit, nobody does, so he just needs to get over it." Emily scoffs, turning the sandwich over in her grip and re-pressing it together. "It's fine, though."

"We'll figure this out," she says. Her gaze flits back over to Nathalie, trying to indicate she means that about the other thing they've stopped talking about, too.

"I don't disagree," Nathalie says, as far as Avi needing to get over it. Over himself. "He has a lot of work ahead of him. We all do. I don't plan on letting him run away from it." Tactical retreats, perhaps, but not giving up entirely.

She looks at Emily for a long moment before she exhales heavily. The look enough for her to read. "Right." That other thing. She pulls her plate closer, but hasn't actually touched the food yet. "I'm not really sure what I should do. I told myself I wouldn't run from who I am anymore, but I can't help wishing that I'd stayed in hiding. That file says that their subject was the child of a political figure with access to both conduits. I registered as a healer earlier this year. Took Sarisa's maiden name. It won't be hard to figure out. I just don't know if I should try to get out ahead of it or just wait and see who approaches me.

Meanwhile, Emily eats if only to keep herself from interjecting where it's not needed. She hears the unfamiliar name, only nodding at first. Then her look flattens as she considers the choices posed. "It's hard to say." sounds final, but she still is thinking on it anyway. "What would you do to get out ahead of it, exactly? Tell me you're not thinking of going full Petrelli or anything."

It's a joke, but her eyes dart back to Nathalie cautiously anyway.

"I don't think the world needs anyone going full Petrelli again," Nathalie says, although it's hard to tell if she understood it was a joke or if she's joking in return. "No. I would tell the government. See what they say. Of course, the problem is that the people who experimented on me were hiding in the government last time. I know things are supposed to be different now but no government is free of corruption." She spreads her hands out in a helpless gesture. It doesn't help that Avi voiced a similar worry to her recently. But she would have to be naive to assume everyone would have good intentions. And she's not naive.

Phew. No press conferences in their immediate future. At least… theoretically, anyway.

"I don't trust that anything's really changed, just that it has a new coat of paint. All those people hung at Albany for what was done to the country, and somehow we end up five years later with people like Medina running for office?" Emily has to shake her head, attempting to bite her tongue but she ends up muttering anyway, "I don't know. It just feels like there's a whole new generation of bullshit riding on the coattails of the last. Who knows what the fuck is going on under the surface if shit like that is allowed to fly on top of it."

She balks at herself, "But that's not exactly very positive and discredits the progress that has been made, even if people are talking about doing stupid shit now." The sandwich is contemplated sternly, another bite taken out of it before a mew sounds from the staircase, a black kitten head poking between the spindles on the banister. Emily glances up and calls, "If you want some, you have to come get it yourself."

The kitten's face scrunches up as it loudly protests this arrangement. No, you bring his bite of turkey to him directly, mom.

Nonplussed, Emily looks back at Nathalie, returning to the topic. "I mean, if they're watching this Praxis stuff too, they're probably already looking for you, though. There's the chance by connecting with them you connect with good people, or you out yourself to the sinister ones on your own timeline. Your own terms."

"Just, whatever you do, make sure people know? Don't … don't do whatever Squeaks did, and…"

Emily's expression falls then, unable to finish the thought.

"You can never get rid of hate. It will always fuel people toward action. I'm not sure there's a safeguard against hate infecting anything we build." Which is also not a positive outlook on humanity. Nathalie has experienced the best and worst it has to offer. One side always seems to have the upper hand, though. Always slips through the cracks.

She looks over toward the kitten, her head tilting at its plaintive mewing. Pulling a piece of turkey out of her sandwich and holding it out toward the kitty. Trying to lure Kettle down from the stairs.

"I won't disappear. Anyone who wants to try to make me is in for a fight." She's not afraid of confrontation, that much is clear. "I might try to go undercover, but I'll make sure you know before I go."

Emily looks on expectantly as the treat is offered out, waiting to see what the kitten does. Pointedly, she eats the last bite of her sandwich. That seems to do the trick, as its head disappears, only for it to slip between the gaps on the staircase side and leap to the floor a few steps closer to the ground. All gangly legs, the growing kitten pads closer over to Nathalie hesitantly, lead by its twitching nose. It pauses a distance away, head dipping. One paw, the one with a single white toe, is lifted in a tentative sign it might come closer.

"Good," Emily murmurs in reply to the promise not to disappear. "I don't know what I'd do if that happened. Fall apart more than I already am at losing people close to me, for sure." She turns, leaning back into the counter with a sigh.

She's looking out the kitchen window at the side-street when she abruptly announces, "I did manifest, by the way. I have no idea when."

Nathalie seems patient enough to wait for the kitten to decide what it wants to do. She holds still while it decides what it wants to do. It'll just have to come closer if it wants a treat.

She looks over at Emily, her expression sober. "Hard not to. Fall apart. But I promise you, whatever might happen to me, I'll always come back." It's something she tries not to think about that often, that along with being hard to hurt, she's looking at the possibility of a very long life. That she's likely to come back even if she doesn't want to, thanks to the nature of her ability.

The change of topic is eagerly jumped on, when it comes. "You did?" she says, eyebrows lifting. "Are you happy about it? What did you get?"

Kettle has almost entirely encroached on the offered snack when the last thing Nathalie says, that eager suddenness, makes the kitten start. Jumpy, but also intent on the offered prize, it circles in a pace. Emily snorts at something, either the kitten's behavior or something in the comment. Maybe both. Better to focus on the shifted topic rather than that the possibility of another person she cares about being hurt or taken.

"A time-traveling drug addict I helped raise in the future," might not be the most reliable source of information, or make a lot of sense on the first pass, "told me about it because he wanted my help. I don't know if I'd say if I'm— happy about it, but it just helped things click into place, I guess. I mean— I think I'm fine with knowing, it just…"

She doesn't sound very confident about that, continuing to look out the window. The kitten finally gets back in reaching range, tenderly sniffing to make sure the proffered meat is actually as advertised.

"Hmm," Nathalie says, accepting the notion of time traveling drug addicts in the space of a nod. No rules anymore, after all. "Have you asked Julie to confirm?" She opens her hand for Kettle, to make it easier to take the turkey. Eventually. But she keeps most of her attention on Emily. "It can be a lot, figuring out what you can do. But whatever it is, it's about balance. And responsibility. Which sounds boring. But I'm not sure it's boring when you actually live it." Her head tilts a little, her expression understanding. After all, she didn't tell anyone about her abilities until she absolutely had to. "You don't have to go through this alone, either, you know. You've got people with you. People who went through this, too. Even if it's not me, you've got Lance and the others, too. I can tell you that it's easier when you talk about it."

That last part is added dryly. That's a lesson she learned the hard way.

The lack of prying to the reply, the acceptance down to the flippantly-made comment, brings a visible relaxation to Emily. Her shoulders lower, a tension in her expression smoothing over. In the moment, she won't argue at all: there's something very freeing about being able to talk about it. Something even more peace-bringing that she's being given the opportunity to talk about it at her own pace. She finally looks back just before Kettle snaps up the turkey with a delicate affect.

"Thanks," she says, feeling it needs said before she does something that potentially glosses over what was conveyed. "I'll be all right. I'd rather know than not know, it's just frustrating and a little scary because now it's like— you've got to watch what you say, how you say it, and now I'm looking back at everything that's happened the last few months in a whole new light and…" Emily trails off, hand coming to hang off the side of her neck for a moment before she shrugs, fingers lifting as well with it. The kitten's purring can be heard in the lapse in conversation, which makes her let out a breath of laughter.

"Not going to lie, the temptation to curl up in a blanket on the couch and not leave it for the rest of the summer has been appealing on more than one occasion, with everything else that's been going on. June was rough." There's only enough of a pause to ensure the full stop is felt. "But this? I don't know, Nat, trying to figure this out kind of … helped, in a way. Something to focus on aside from…" For a lack of knowing how to define it, she pulls her hand away to gesture vaguely in the direction of everything.

"Though I definitely was tempted to panic at first," Emily says with the edge of a laugh. A rueful smile touches her lips. "Can't lie about that."

Nat is, when it comes down to it, an investigator but one with enough sense not to voice the guesses that come to mind with Emily's words. Instead, she listens and pets the little kitten before she straightens back up.

"I was hiding when you texted so. I get it. And sometimes hiding is okay. I just don't want you to be alone. I want you to go through this with people who care about you." The alternative is unacceptable. Bad enough that it happened to her. "Panic is normal. Having abilities… it isn't just cool tricks, a lot of us can really hurt people. And accidents do happen. But you'll learn it, Em. All its ins and outs and all the quirks. I don't doubt that for a second."

Emily’s smile persists, even if it’s a little strained. “Well,” she intones, “I’m glad I texted when I did, so you don’t have to be alone now.” By extension, it meant she was also not alone. Meeting in the middle, sort of?

She pushes herself out of the lean on the counter, glancing down at the plates for a moment before flitting her gaze back to Nathalie. “You want to find something to binge on the TV?” The food can come too. Just in case. Maybe there’s even a bag of chips lying around, or popcorn. Who knew what snacks Teo had picked up at the store recently.

"I'm glad you did, too," Nat says, her smile softening. The offer makes that smile turn crooked, but she nods. "Sounds good. I've been told my pop culture knowledge is… lacking." And she can't argue that. She's only just been able to really dig into anything like that in the past couple of years. It's spotty. So, she picks up her plate— maybe her appetite will make an appearance— and nods toward the living room. "You'll have to tell me what's good," she adds with a small chuckle.

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