Open Wounds


avi_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif emily_icon.gif nathalie2_icon.gif

Also Featuring:


Scene Title Open Wounds
Synopsis Some are old, some are new
Date December 27, 2019

There is a boat on the other side of the storm drain.

Past the pile of rubble and sodden bodies, which the dogs navigate first, using their noses to seek out the fresh air bleeding in between the loosest gaps in the debris. Smaller chunks of stone are cast aside by hands with some effort, and the larger pieces edged out of the way with all of Avi’s weight behind the stronger of his two shoulders.

It takes time, which is something that is impossible for anyone in the cellar to have a real understanding of until they breach the clog and emerge onto the shore. In a few minutes, water will be running white through the path they cleared and reduce the earth they’re standing on to mud. By morning, the embankment will be gone.

They will, too.

The boat, a small fishing trawler with the words Oar Place Or Mine? stenciled on the side in cracked black paint because someone a very long time ago thought it was funny, creaks gently as it rolls in the waves twenty feet off shore, tethered by an unseen anchor that Calvin will be able to sense but not see.

In the distance, somewhere on the other side of the river, gunfire shines like a sparkler on the Fourth of July. A convoy of retreating Ferry vessels looms beneath the shadowy treeline. Something flashes silver in the water and a round shot from a mortar ignites the sky.

They’re better off floating unnoticed downriver than trying to cross.

Nathalie is cold and limp in Quinn’s arms. Her face is turned over the older woman's shoulder as she leaves the drainage culvert, looking up at the ruins of Bannerman’s Castle, backlit by fires with the dark silhouettes of birds cast against clouds and smoke. Tears have cut a clear path down her face, eyes puffy and red. She doesn't understand why this hurts so much.

Behind them, Colette emerges from the tunnel following Jupiter’s sure-footed stride. Her bare feet are pale, and in the crisp night air she begins shivering harder. One arm draped around Tamara, Colette is blue-lipped and chattering, her lights now little more than dim pinpoints, like stars. “Tell me she's ok,” Colette breathlessly exhales to Tamara between shuddering inhalations of biting cold air. It doesn't even need to be the truth right now, she'd take the warm comfort of a lie.

Avi stands a few feet away, vacantly looking up at what Nathalie does. The birds, the last bits of Eileen Ruskin, wheeling through the air. His jaw tenses, and as Avi looks down his hands clench at his side and brows knit together. He nods, repeatedly, and then looks up to the firefight happening on the river. He doesn't see Jensen anywhere, or Jensen’s kid. As he heads toward the boat, resentment replaces rage.

“Get the fuck in,” Avi mostly says to himself as he approaches the Oar Place or Mine? He has to keep moving, has to get everyone out. “We— really just—

we gotta go.”

Eight Years Later

The Bunker

Rochester, NY

December 27


“Epstein what the fuck is going on!?

Francis Harkness has to shout over the whine of the Tlanuwa’s engines, sitting in the middle of the landing pad outside of Wolfhound’s headquarters. Avi Epstein roared off in the experimental jet just shortly after dawn, when the hours-long transit from Rochester to the Safe Zone and back again would take too long. Coming down the landing ramp at the back of the jet, Avi barks a sharp, “Not now!

Avi turns around to look back up the ramp to the pair of boots that haven't yet moved down to the Bunker. “Keep moving!” He shakily shouts, even though the young woman at his back doesn't need that extra initiative.

She knows what's at stake here.

The Bunker, Infirmary

Hana Gitelman never finished plans for the extension of the Bunker into its adjacent building. A proper infirmary for emergency triage was never built after her disappearance and subsequent divestment from her involvement with Wolfhound. Epstein and Allegre never had the time to follow through either, but half-measures were taken at least. What amounts for an infirmary in the Bunker is an unoccupied bedroom that once belonged to Colette Demsky on the ground floor. Tall windows overlook the river dividing Rochester and a single cot rests up against the wall in view of the windows.

Emily Epstein has been here for close to an hour, sitting in a folding chair beside the bloodied figure of Eileen Ruskin, a first-aid kit open on the floor beside her cot and bloody bandages, scissors, and spools of thread on a small table at the foot of the bed. Devon had gone to lie down for a little bit after the six hour drive in the middle of the night followed up by emergency triage. His own burning desire for answers would wait. Avi would still be there when he wakes up.

There’s a conversation happening that Emily isn’t privy to. It requires no spoken words, which is convenient for Eileen because her mouth isn’t capable of forming them.

A stately white raven sits on the windowsill, its feathers rumpled and dusted in a fresh layer of downy snow. The Englishwoman watches the bird. The bird watches the Englishwoman, and occasionally makes a low, strained sound that comes from somewhere in the pit of its chest.

The next time her eyes slip shut, they do not sliver open again. It’s only then that her familiar turns its attention from the woman in the bed to the woman at the bedside, dagger of a beak parted around a hard, commanding croak.

Emily Epstein.

Abruptly there’s a voice in her head. It doesn’t belong to Eileen. It doesn’t belong to anyone she’s heard before, but it sounds old like aged leather — or dust.

The exchange has been watched in silence, punctuated at intervals by Emily checking her phone. It's rare that two full minutes pass between them. It's not that she understands what's happening, not that it's two ways, but the noise of the bird outside the window continues to draw her attention. She wonders what it's saying with its noises.

Except this last time, its loud caw isn't just that. She blinks, slowly looking up from her screen. It clicks off in silence as she looks over the odd raven with more fascination than before.

"Yes?" she asks aloud, because she assumes that's how this works. It's startled her out of the worry loop she's been in. She looks aside and down at Eileen with a flicker of concern in her gaze before looking back to the bird on the other side of the glass. She realizes then that Eileen's eyes have been shut for some time now, and lifts her hand to take Eileen's, squeezing. Her gaze drifts back to the bird, brow furrowing at it.

"What?" Emily asks of it, not knowing either what to ask it otherwise, or what it might want.

Your sister is in danger.

The raven taps its beak against the glass. It’s a large animal; if it wanted to force its way inside, it could. There’s something paternal about the voice that reminds Emily of her own grandfather in a way that’s both kind and somehow not.

When she arrives, it says, we will show you, and then she can decide. Eileen believes this was arranged.

Nathalie moves ahead of the others once she's on the ground, peeling off gloves on her way to the makeshift infirmary. Her expression is stony, leaving the chaotic swirl of emotion and memory hidden away. She acknowledges Emily with a gentle hand on her shoulder before her attention turns to Eileen. And then to the raven. She steps in front of Emily then, eyes narrowed.

But. There is a ticking clock here, so she steps over to Eileen's side. Bare fingers reach over for the woman's hand, assessing the damage and making her own mental list of what needs attention first.

Once, she felt this very woman fade and die and there was nothing she could do to help her. This time, she can.


"Is Francois alive?"

“Yeah,” is Avi’s clipped answer. “It's still touch and go. I called Teo. I— haven't been to the hospital to see him yet. It's…” he exhales a breath through his nose. “Hiding this from the cops isn't exactly what I wanted t’do with my post-holiday.”

There's trepidation in Avi’s posture as he stands in the doorway, watching Nathalie and Emily in the same orbit for the first time since he stormed out on them at dinner. He doesn't have the capacity to dwell in regret on that, though. There's still dried blood in his hair, still smudges of black on his face from the grimy muck he'd fallen in. His clothes are still stained with Francois and Eileen's blood. He looks like he's barely able to keep on his feet.

The acrid smell of burned coffee lingers in the air, though. Behind Avi, Francis Harkness is a scruffy silhouette, looking in for the first time at the grim tableau in this room. He nudges Avi in the back, and they exchange a brief wordless look to one-another before Harkness offers out a cup of black coffee to Avi. His attention doesn't drift away from Eileen Ruskin for long, though.

“Bug off kid,” Avi suggests in a quiet grumble. Harkness’ brows furrowed together, a look to Nathalie and then Emily, then to the bird that for reasons he can't quite explain feels familiar. Francis spreads his hands in a fine be that way gesture, then backs up from the doorway and disappears into the hall.

Avi finally takes a couple of steps into the room. “It's really her,” he says to Nathalie as if she might remember Eileen. Worse, that she does for reasons far beyond that night in the flooded tunnels. That familial itch in the back of her mind and a feeling of being somewhere or somewhen else. Avi isn't sure how many of his children knew the truth of Eileen before he himself both learned and accepted it. But he isn't going to take the chance that they don't.

Emily’s halfway to voicing another, less flat what into the void when the doorway is filled with people again. Nathalie’s hand on her shoulder isn’t as comforting as it might be given what the bird has been saying. She comes to her feet after pushing away from the bed, glancing back at the raven’s form out in the snow, looking back to Nathalie afterward. “Listen,” she says in quiet tones meant for her alone and not for Avi. “This is already fucked up, but I think things are about to get even more weird. I don’t know how. But you deserve to know as soon as possible.”

The look she gives back to the raven again is telling enough as to where this is all coming from. Emily shakes her head. “The fucking— bird says Eileen thinks you’re in danger.” The look she gives Nathalie stresses I know that’s exasperating, a fact she also acknowledges with an upward, mildly frustrated pitch of her shoulders. “But then again, Eileen apparently came up here and stabbed Teo’s husband like ten times, so I don’t know how much to trust anything right now.”

More importantly, there was what Nathalie came to do. Emily’s gaze flits down to her sister’s hand. “… Is there anything I can do to help?”

Emily says things are about to get weird, and then they do.

The room changes, walls and windows and bed bleeding away into an open space topped by a black, churning sky. Rain falls at a slant. It’s an illusion, but an extremely convincing one; Nathalie, Emily and Avi can all feel it glance off their skin and hair, darkening their clothes where individual droplets make contact with their bodies. It gathers in eyelashes and pools underfoot. All of a sudden the air is warm. A distant peal of faraway thunder heralds a late summer storm, even though there’s nothing to see beyond the immediate area they occupy.

It isn’t an illusion. It’s a memory.

Eileen splashes into view, cutting across the clearing without so much as a glance in the trio’s direction. This is another time and place entirely, and she almost makes it across the short distance before another shape emerges from the dark. Sibyl Black appears to stop the Englishwoman with a look and eyes that gleam like twin gold flames.

She doesn’t move, not to raise a hand, not to furrow a brow. And yet, Eileen is nonetheless frozen in place, her limbs restrained by unseen hands.

“This is not yours,” Sibyl says with inscrutable indifference. When she finally does move, it’s to reach out and touch her face at the same time a howling scream rises from the back of Eileen’s throat. Black veins spread beneath flesh, and as Sibyl— if it is Sibyl— pulls her hand away from Eileen’s cheek, she pulls with it seething clouds of smoke and shadow, of ashes and darkness, of entropy and decay that does not consume her, but rather feeds into her.

The black conduit is drawn toward Sibyl like metal fibers to a magnet, seeping from Eileen’s skin in wisping tendrils. Voices not Eileen’s join the agonized screaming, voices both familiar and unfamiliar to Eileen.

Nathalie knows them well.

The news that Francois is alive, but critical is taken with silence from Nathalie and a tilt to her head like she might be listening to something. Or for something.

Or weighing things, maybe.

But she nods to Avi's reassurance that this is actually who it looks like, who it feels like. Her hand grips Eileen's, but she looks over to Emily when she speaks. She doesn't seem to have a hard time accepting what her sister tells her— she knows what the bird is, knows that at least one version of Eileen learned to pry the man off the Conduit he seemed so entangled with. She's not even sure how to start explaining that situation, so all they get is a sigh. And when the memory sweeps over them, she's spared the need to.

In retrospect, she would have preferred to talk about the bird.

She watches as Eileen comes into view, eyes widening at Sibyl's appearance. Eve had warned her that Sibyl was more than she seemed, and it isn't that she didn't believe Eve, but she is never sure how much of what she says is… actionable.

By the time the Conduit is moving from one woman to the other, Nathalie has tears in her eyes— something else she can't explain. She turns so the others don't see, but she can't hide the tremble in her limbs and shoulders when she hears the screaming. Their screaming. The sound leaves a cold ache seeping through her. She tries to remedy it by tightening her hold on Eileen's hand. "You shouldn't show Emily this," she says in a quiet plea, as if she might spare her sister having to see things and know things to be afraid of. "It came for you," she says to the chilled air of the memory, "I understand."

The danger is not lost on her, but as she stands there feeling Eileen Ruskin slip away again— she can't bear it. Tears slip down her cheeks from closed eyes, focusing on what's really here instead of a vision that is both memory and warning.

"I can't watch you die again."

Words that come from the part of her that is still a broken, scared little girl feeling too much. Knowing too much.

Sibyl,” is the breathless acknowledgement from Avi after the crushing wave of projected memory ends. He'd never experienced anything like that before, wasn't even aware Eileen could do anything like that. The experience leaves him shaken and trembling, leaning back against the door frame for support.

When Avi does finally find his strength all he can say is a hushed, “What the fuck?” Nearly breathless, he repeats himself with a little more force than before. “What. The fuck?

Emily finds her wrapping her arms around her midsection as the warning in the memory is made apparent. There's barely enough time to understand what's happening, much less to process it in any meaningful way, but one hand comes away to lay on Nathalie's back.

The sound that comes from Eileen, it's worse than the memories she'd shown to Emily, Eve, and Geneva when she still was the girl who pulls the black energy from her. If it hurts her to hear, what could it be doing to her sister?

She squeezes Nathalie's shoulder in a silent gesture of support. Emily doesn't understand what exactly she's seen, the gravity of what happened, or what it is, but she understands that it puts her sister in a terribly impossible position. "It said she thought this— was 'arranged'," she explains aloud. It's not meant to be either encouragement or deterrent, but it's the last of what she knows. It's what Nathalie deserves to know.

Her eyes are stinging with moisture as she fights off saying much more than that. She doesn't want this to end in death either, but that's already a well-known fact. "We're here," she vows. Emily knows it's ultimately Nathalie who has to shoulder the burden, but she's determined to do anything she can to make her feel less alone while she does it.

The last of the memory drips away, leaving the floor under their feet dry. Darkness recedes. Thunder fades into a dull roar: just the sound of blood pounding in their ears.

It isn’t Sibyl, the raven informs them from the other side of the glass, but use your ability and it will find you, as it found Eileen. And it will take.

In contrast to Nathalie, the raven’s voice is dry and without emotion. This isn’t a plea, or even a gentle bid to get her to change her mind — simply facts.

Knowing what it knows, it brought her here under false pretenses. To lure you out. So be quick if you do.

Tears smear dark makeup down from Nathalie's eyes as she looks over at the raven. It's not good news, and she's not happy about who's delivering it, either. But. She doesn't take it out on the messenger. She turns to Emily, giving her a gentle, but sad smile. "Thank you. But it's not safe for you to stay. You and Dad shouldn't be here, in case it comes. I have to heal her." That's for Emily and for the raven. "But if I'm careful, she'll be alive and so will I." There's a confidence in her voice that doesn't fit with the shiver in her arms as she wraps Emily in a hug. "Plus, he's freaking out. He needs help."

She lets go of her sister, glances over to Avi, then back again, "I'll try to explain later. I'm gonna get started. Time to go if you're going."

Of course, she knows what Epsteins are like. And she knows what Emily is like. But she can't leave Eileen much longer. So she steps over, resting her hand over Eileen's, and starts to work. Fast is the goal, even though it's harder on her that way, so she isn't trying to bring Eileen back to one hundred percent the way she normally would. Instead, she's getting her far enough along to make sure she doesn't die.

“Fuck you and Big Bird here I'm— I'm not freaking out, I distinctly asked what the fuck it was I just saw!” Avi takes a few steps away from the door and brandishes a hand in the air. “I'm sorry, is there some fucking Epstein Child Hotline where you two discuss whatever weird occult bullshit that was and no one bothers to tell me? The guy with the fucking armory? Because that,” he brandished a hand to where Sibyl was in the vision, “feels like a problem.”

Nathalie was right though, she knows what Epsteins are like and she knows the last thing they do is run (except from their feelings, danger is far less threatening.)

“When she's better,” Avi points to Eileen, “one of you is gonna tell me what the fuck I saw and what that— has to do— with— with Sibyl.” Standing over Eileen, Avi draws in a shaky breath. “But I'm not going anywhere. I left her to die once, I'm not fucking leaving her side again.”

Emily didn’t just say she wasn’t going anywhere for show. She embraces her sister tightly, but she frowns at her when she lets go. “We stay together, we go together,” she affirms, but does step back to let Nathalie work. Avi’s excitement and his gestures are heard rather than seen as she warily looks back at the bird in the window again, wondering at everything it’s said. And what about you? she asks herself silently.

The strange talking bird didn’t seem like it should be left behind, she decides. She crosses to the window, the old frame groaning and squeaking as she shoves it up just enough for the creature to duck through, one hand held out with her knuckles half-curled to provide a perch. “Come on,” she coaxes it. Him? Him. It sounded like a him, all right.

“We all go together,” Emily reaffirms as she turns back into the room, finally turning to her father. “What do we do, fly out? Who else is here aside from Francis and Devon?” As for Devon, she reaches with her offhand across her back to fish her phone from her pocket, awkwardly thumbing it unlocked once it’s freed.

“Hnnngh,” is Eileen’s contribution to the conversation as muscle knits back together and the bullet lodged somewhere between her ribs is unceremoniously squeezed out through the entry wound. Fresh blood stains cotton sheets and the bandages fastened hastily around her middle.

She clutches fistfuls of blanket, white-knuckled. This is a terrible time for her to be regaining consciousness again, and yet—

“Fuck fuck fuck.

It’s like a mantra affirmed under her breath, increasing in intensity (but not in volume) with every repetition. The Englishwoman’s chest heaves. It looks like she might even throw up.

At Emily’s wrist, the raven hooks claws into the loose fabric of her sleeve. Eileen’s pain is its pain, whether it wants to maintain their psychic connection or not. If it has anything encouraging to say to her, it’s kept strictly confidential between the two of them.

Her nostrils flare. There’s an agonized moan caught in the back of her throat.


Nathalie is concentrating, so there is no possible way she can reply to Avi right now. She hears him, she gives that away with a cut of her gaze across the room in his direction. But, it's up to Emily for the moment.

Sorry, Em.

The healing stops as abruptly as it started, only Eileen is awake to feel it now. It isn't her most gentle attempt, but it has gotten Eileen out of danger at least. She backs into a chair and drops into it without much in the way of grace, then looks back over to Eileen. "Her wound will need… cleaning again. Bandages," she says with a clumsy wave of her hand. "Be careful with that bird, Em. It's Volken. And telepathic apparently." Anything more complex than that is going to have to wait because she sinks into her chair and tips her head backward. Half tired, half waiting to see if she has to run away from an unknowable entity. She is aware that her explanation isn't really helping, but give her a few minutes.

It is immediately apparent to Avi that what was done to Eileen was a patch job, something to keep her from slipping away entirely but in the same measure leaves her teetering on a dangerous precipice. “Hey, hey it's alright. It's gonna be fine.” He isn't entirely sure he believes that.

Taking a knee beside the bed, Avi takes one of Eileen’s hands and looks back to Nathalie, brows furrowed and jaw set. He can see how much that took out of her, just sustaining Eileen long enough to



“We can't go anywhere,” Avi says as he looks up to Emily. “Rochester General isn't far away but we can't take her there with injuries like this. Not after what happened here. Not with her being who she is.” And all that implicates. “Eileen was dead, she never signed the Albany Accord, she was never given amnesty for her time in the Vanguard, for the Ferrymen's. We take her to a hospital and they're not going to believe some hocus pocus bullshit truth.”

Sliding his tongue across the side of his cheek, Avi looks over to that horrible bird and will have that conversation later because he's certain her heard the V-Word said aloud.

“We've gotta… uh…” Avi’s brows furrowed, “we need to—” he cuts himself off. The files from Project Obelisk clutter his mind. Memories of Operation Apollo, reports that came back from what happened in Amundsen Scott, stories Francois would tell years later about how he escaped Antarctica. “Fuck” Avi exhales.

“You've gotta keep going,” Avi says with a snap of attention to Nathalie. “We can't leave her like this, there's no hospital that's safe to take her to.” Avi’s jaw sets and he holds out a hand to Nathalie.

Avi is no better off than Nick. Wit's Benji crumpled by Eileen’s side, with Nick refusing to budge, Avi’s jaw sets and his hands begin to tremble. Now it's Jensen standing over the corpses of his wife and daughter. It's the conveyor belt hauling dead babies into an incinerator in Mandritsara. It's the village in Panama during Operation Just Cause in 89. He's crying but he doesn't realize it.

“Nick,” is a helpless mumble from Avi. The mind of half-controlled mumble scream that someone suffering from sleep paralysis might make. He can't get his mouth to move, can't get his voice to raise. All he can do is stand there and stare, jaw trembling, rocking back and forth at the waist as melting sleet clings to him.

Barbara stares back, motionless. Stunned. What's happened is settling in, the handing off of Eileen's wolf headed cane speaking volumes even without knowing the history behind it. She can tell she was right - there was no time in fetching Megan. No point.

Keep going.

Emily will have to appropriately address the bird is what at a later time, apparently, because Avi is freaking out. As he gets more agitated, she makes her way back over to the bed, shaking her head at him. Both hands are occupied, so she tries to convince the genocidal maniac to take a perch on her shoulder instead by lifting her arm there. She's far less concerned what happens to it now; it's lucky she doesn't shoo it off entirely. (Or strangle it. But she knows from what happened to Geneva what kind of torture being trapped in a bird can be, so maybe this is better how he is.)

You really gotta work on learning to respect people's limits. she wants to snap at her father as he extends his hand to Nathalie. Instead: "You've got to trust her it's enough. You just flew to the Safe Zone and back, didn't you? So we do that again. We go back. No hospitals." Maybe he’s thinking clearly enough to realize they’ve got non-hospital options there, or maybe he just has to trust her they’ll figure it out when they get there.

Looking back to Nathalie, Emily can't keep her frustration entirely invisible. She's still sore over Avi trying to push her to do something on his whim, outside of what she believed she was capable of, and she's not about to let him try to force the same on her. "But if we're taking this seriously— worrying about Sibyl showing up— we gotta leave. Now, right?" She looks back to Avi. "So pick her up and let's go." she repeats with more force. Emily turns back to Nathalie again, either to get out of her way if she decides she's trying this again, or to silently seek her agreement.

Eileen’s nails bite into Avi’s hand. “It’s not— Sibyl,” she reiterates, this time in her own words now that she’s alert and does not require the bird to speak on her behalf. Levering herself up onto an elbow proves to be much more difficult — so difficult that she sinks back down into the mattress with a tear-streaked grimace.

“Staten Island,” she roughs out, tangling her fingers in the gaps between Avi’s. Her thoughts are short, abbreviated, but well-considered: “Rookery. Too many people, places to hide. Like— old times.”

Eileen pulls in her next breath through her teeth. “H-Howland Hook Terminal. D’Sarthe has doctors— hnngh. Doctors on his payroll. European.”

Nathalie stares at Avi. It isn't the files from Project Obelisk that enter her mind, but the lived version. Not to mention the last time she did what Avi is suggesting, she turned a man to ash. Her name was the last thing he ever said. She looks down to Avi's hand, then back up at his face. The betrayal on her face is only there for a moment, replaced with a blank stare as soon as she can manage it.

And then Eileen offers her own option, and Nat is honestly not sure which is worse.

"Emily," she says more coldly than she really means to, "it's fine." It's not fine. She stands up, legs shaky, but determined. She steps over to the bird, her hand reaching out to smooth the raven's feathers. "«You are going to help me. Help her,»" she says, in German, which probably doesn't help very many people in the room. Just the right ones. "«I won't take much.»" Cells are cells, after all, and back in the Arcology she drained animal after animal for someone else's benefit. The difference this time is that she is controlling how much she takes. She's not sure how hurting the bird will affect Eileen, or if it will at all, but she knows that it can recover from what she's pulling from it.

"If that thing shows up," she says to Avi when she turns back to Eileen, "I'm gonna throw you at it."

She's probably kidding.


Even though she knows Eileen won't die here on their table, it's for Avi's sake that she pushes onward. Her hand grips Eileen's arm and she heals her further, into stability. Maybe she'll start making sense after.

Either way, she can't look at Avi. Her head can't even seem to turn in his direction.

“What th— ” Avi is distracted from the pinch of nails into his arm as he reaches out to swiftly grab Nathalie’s arm and pull it back and away from Eileen. “No.” In the same moment, the white raven is ruffling its feathers and spreading its wings in an aggressive rebuke of what Nathalie was trying to do. “Jesus Christ it’s— a fucking bird. What’s it going t’do heal her big toe? Christ. Goddamnit.”

Avi is quick to let go of Nat’s arm, raking his fingers through his hair. “Fine, fuck it. Fuck you both and fuck even ever calling you. God, just— get the fuck out and I’ll take her down to whatever butcher is operating out of Filatov’s old place.” He’s spiraling, worry and frustration and everything else making him tailspin.

“Fine. Fine, fucking run. I’m not afraid of Sibyl Black or whatever fucking Frankenstein monster it is now. Francois is over at Rochester General if you want to tell him you’re too scared to fix him.” Avi fires a sharp look over at Eileen for having planted the seeds of doubt in their minds.

Maybe he should have also asked Nathalie to heal Francois first. But his priorities have always been a bit


“You said it yourself, she’ll live. Just— get the hell out of here.” Avi says defeatedly, slumping down beside the bed. “Should’ve— never fucking— ” he grunts through clenched teeth. But he can’t possibly mean that. Not with how everything shook out. And yet.

Yes, Avi, it’s hard not to be frustrated in the moment.

Especially when there’s no less than four strongly-willed people all vying for control of the situation; all of them caring about each other and trying to keep each other’s best interests in mind, their views colored by their own limitations and perceptions.

Fuck you, too very much wants to fly from Emily’s mouth, but instead she chews on everything that’s being said in silence, keeping put in favor of Nathalie’s direction. She knows what she suggested only moments before, but it looks like they’re not doing it. Eileen’s idea she hates in particular, bringing her to frown. Staten Island sounded like as much of an infection risk as staying down there in that boiler.

A thought strikes her and tumbles from her in the same blink. “Where the hell is Etienne in all of this, anyway?” she wonders quietly, looking to Eileen. Ah, shit. Honestly, who knew, but as long as there wasn't the possibility of him heading here, seeing her like this …

Emily's frown deepens before she looks away, warily regarding Avi where he sits.

"You know," she remarks flatly, "Maybe you could appreciate the big damn miracle that's just happened here instead of fucking sulking like a child. Your friend cheated death. And if you're even luckier than you already are, maybe your coworker does, too."

"So enough already." Emily tells Avi, mouth drawn tight. She thinks she's done, but then her shoulders lift in a gesture of frustration. "And maybe tell Nat thank you at some point, too." She looks over to Nathalie then, shifting her posture more toward the door. When her sister’s ready to go, she’ll follow. It sounds like they’re being kicked out anyway.

“Gabriel’s gone.”

There’s too much else for Eileen to unpack, and this is clearly an Epstein matter. In other words: She isn’t about to get involved, except to answer Emily’s question in a way that provides necessary context for the other people in the room.

Gabriel’s gone, because of course he is. If he wasn’t, she wouldn’t have come here alone.

She offers no more suggestions, no further arguments — only the thin, unobtrusive rasp of her breathing, which has since stabilized. What she should say is: Thank you, Nat.

But she doesn’t, and maybe this is the most substantial indication she’s going to be okay. She assumes there will be another time to better express her gratitude.

"Fuck you, too," Nathalie says, as if she might be able to hear her sister's thoughts. "Cells are cells, Dad. And if I'm turning anything to ash today I'd rather it not be you for some stupid reason." The bird is not given a choice. Eileen is not given a choice. Avi is not given a choice. She's still healing Eileen's wound, although her grip is not a kind one. Eileen will have to forgive her that much. "I thought maybe we would take care of her here not carry her off to god knows where— some gutter somewhere so she can go septic and die slow and painful." …Eileen will have to forgive her this part, too. "And I could come do a little at a time. But you have to be such an asshole that maybe I don't have it in me to heal Francois too."

She pulls her hand off Eileen in favor of propping herself up on the side of the bed. "You're gonna be okay, Eileen. I promise." Anger spent, energy spent, she sits back down in her chair. She can't make her words sound gentle, though. But she means it. "Emily, will you drive to the hospital?" Because she's too stubborn to not go as soon as se can stand up again. Also possibly she wants to cry but not here. Later.

“Cells are cells— You never even went to sch— ” Avi bites down on a senseless snap, running one hand through his hair as he stands up from Eileen’s bedside, shooting a look at the white raven as if it said something nasty to him (and it hadn’t.) “Fine. Fine, I don’t… even know what the fuck I was thinking.” Avi breathes in through his nose, looking down to where Eileen lay on the bed, wondering why Eileen is talking about Gabriel.

He comes to: “She’s delirious,” as a muttered diagnosis. Gabriel Gray’s been dead or missing for eight years. Of course he’s gone. “I’ll figure it out. All of this. Just— ” He slouches his back against one of the tall windows beside the one Emily had opened, resting his forehead in his hand.

“Just… everyone get out,” has no teeth to it when Avi says it. Just exhaustion. He’d wanted this day to be over, for Eileen to be fully healed and gone because the aftermath of this with her lingering in his periphery is so much more awkward than if she just became smoke in the wind. “Just go,” he reiterates, barely audible.

Christ, it’s family dinner all over again, except worse. Much like then, Emily freezes when Gabriel’s name is invoked directly, looks to Eileen with a slow lift of her brow. Then to Avi, who brushes past it. A furtive look is spared next to Nathalie and then Emily is shaking her head, looking down at her feet. God, this whole fucking situation.

Yet somehow she feels like she’s going to be the person with the most energy here, with her whole three hours of sleep. Being able to help Nathalie back up and where she wants to go next drives her to take in a deep breath and lift her head again. “We’ll be back,” she says, because of course they’ll be. Emily backs out of making the call on her phone, distracted momentarily by her notifications before she tucks her phone away without contacting Devon at all. When her sister asks her to drive, she bites her tongue rather than admit she still doesn’t have a license, though she comes close enough by promising Nathalie, “I’ll drive safe.”

Eileen being coherent means she gets a look again, one accompanied by a small frown. “It’d be great if we could get a solid explanation for what the fuck was going on here, too, when we get back.” She’s not lived it like Eileen and Avi have, but having enough people shout about it has made her just as tired as they are about it, approximately. Emily offers her hand out to her sister. “Nat?”

Having a strained relationship with your family is better than having no family at all. Eileen would know. She’d follow Avi’s instructions to get out if she had it in her.

He may yet get his wish for her to disappear. Just not yet.

She gives him the next best thing: Total silence.

Nathalie takes Emily's hand, pulling herself back up to her feet and draping her arm around her sister. She doesn't say goodbye to either of them, preferring to turn her focus forward. "It's okay if you need to go slow. Winter and all," she says, although she doesn't mean winter as the actual reason. Plus, a slow drive will give her some time to recover.

She looks back over her shoulder at Avi, but if she had something to say, she keeps it to herself. For now. At least for the next few hours.

"We should bring your roommate something to eat," she can be heard saying as the pair make their way toward an exit.

Avi lets them go past, only letting out a weary sigh once they’ve excused themselves. He wonders how he would have reacted to all of this at their ages, he isn’t sure there’s a good answer for that. He barely remembers his twenties outside of a few unpleasant beats. Once he’s sure they’re gone he moves back over to Eileen’s bedside, looking over the bruises still blossomed purple and yellow on her face, the cut on her cheek that’s partway closed but will need stitches. He sits down with a soft creak of the old springs and metal frame of the cot under his weight, moving a hand over the blanket she’s draped in, coming to rest where she’d been shot.

“Nothing’s ever perfect,” Avi says quietly, even if his voice hitches when he admits it. He looks up to Eileen, to her silent expression, to the fatigue and ache in her. He shakes his head, looks away and to the partly open window, then down to the floor.

Then, perhaps because he doesn’t believe anyone can hear him, Avi says, “I’m sorry.” There’s no quantification, he knows what he means, and if Eileen is coherent enough to have heard him, he’d prefer she read whatever meaning she wants into it. Even if it makes it feel less than genuine.

But he is sorry.

For everything.

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