colette3_icon.gif tasha_icon.gif

Scene Title Partners
Synopsis After her ordeal at Mount Natazhat, Colette is reunited with Tasha and slowly recovers.
Date November 23, 2011

Bannerman's Castle

Bannerman's Castle was never intended to hold this many people. When it was originally conceived as a Ferryman fallback location, the design was that it would be for command and intelligence assets essential to keeping the broader network running. Nobody, not even the council, had considered a day when there was no broader network. When the noose was so tight, so fast, that the only safe exodus would be into a cold stone tomb. Dozens of people are forced to sleep in close quarters to one another, now, packed into communal living spaces that double as kitchens and planning rooms during daytime hours. Privacy is a luxury, and no one person has a room to themselves any longer. But a dispensation on living conditions is afforded to one growing group within Bannerman's Castle: the wounded.

Depending on the severity of the injury and the nature of their recovery, the injured are given preference to living space when affordable. When the survivors from the Mount Natazhat and Cambridge operations came flooding in, saddled with varying degrees of physical and psychological trauma, the Ferry was forced to put these special dispensations to the test. Only the most severely injured are given private quarters, and even then often share it with a caregiver capable of tending to their injuries until they can be moved.

Tasha Renard's quarters have become home to one of the injured, brought across the long journey from Alaska back to New York to find a healer capable of undoing the damage done to her body. With the network collapsing, only one Evolved healer is still listed in the Ferry's register of allies — Sasha Kozlow — and his whereabouts are not always clearly known. So for the time, like a transplant recipient awaiting the availability of an organ, Colette Nichols lays in intensive care under Tasha's watchful eye.

Colette sleeps more than she is awake, struggles with varying degrees of physical and psychological trauma in her waking moments, and sleeps a deep and medicated sleep when she can find rest. Their initial reunion was not a pleasant one, with Colette unconscious, septic, and dying in her sister's arms. The patchwork medical care she'd received on the road back to Pollepel Island was insufficient for the overall injuries and exposure suffered in Alaska. But the Ferrymen's chief medic, Megan, has become renowned as a miracle-worker. Colette's condition was stabilized, and after two days she finally was capable of remaining awake for more than five to ten minutes at a time.

Now, three days after her arrival on the days before Thanksgiving, Colette is able to move around. But able, and willing, are farther apart than she may like. Sitting on the cot in her and Tasha's cramped, closet-sized room, she is wrapped in a cocoon of blankets with shoulders hunched forward and hair months uncut, shaggy and near shoulder-length now. Her bangs fall in a ragged fringe in front of her face, eyes unfocused and milky blind. A bandage on the right side of her neck covers the healing opening where an arterial shunt was plugged into her body. More bandages cover her arms, hidden beneath the blankets as they are. The room is kept warm by a small kerosene space-heater, shedding a dry heat that now radiates from the old stone walls.

Colette waits for Tasha to return with hot tea and whatever amounts for breakfast that she can find. She waits vacantly, eyes blinded, ability unfocused, thrown into her own personal darkness. She didn't ask for tea, for food, but she hasn't asked for much of anything since she came back. However much of her did come back.

The island hasn’t been Tasha’s main residence for the past few months, though she frequents it once a week or so. Without Colette, and without an ability, she’s been using both the resources and skills from her art classes to help others, becoming a leader in a small band of like-minded rebels. She’s been making fake IDs for those trying to hide their Evolved status, and, the past week, a flurry of fake registration cards for the non-Evolved to use to take negation drugs for Evolved friends.

Her mother knows. Looks the other way.

Her father doesn’t know, but Tasha would like to think he’d be proud of her.

But when she’d heard that Colette was coming home — she’d left the forging operation in the hands of her friends to be at Colette’s side.

There’s a tap at the door, the familiar little rhythm only Tasha uses, so that Colette knows it’s her entering the room, and then the door squeaks open, thuds shut. “Hey,” she says softly, surprised Colette hadn’t fallen asleep in the minutes she’s been gone. She moves the plate and tea to a fold out tray she sets in front of the injured young woman, then sits beside her. “Tea at one o’clock, just above the plate. Toast at three, apple at six, a hardboiled egg at nine.” Simple things, easy to eat. Her voice is soft. Always a little uncertain.

Colette makes a noise in the back of her throat, a sound of agreement easier than straining her voice. After Alaska, she couldn't speak, not for the entire trip back east, barely even now. She reaches for the tea, fumbles a little, but manages to take it in one hand, then gingerly the other, and sips from the edge with a delicate, bird-like frailty.

A few tears well up in her eyes, she'd been like this off and on. One hand shakily goes up, wiping them away and sniffling to hide the rest. Tea made her break down, the simple comfort. Her first sip after months of imprisonment. Blind eyes waver from side to side, seeing something that isn't there, and then Colette reaches out toward the sound of Tasha’s voice.

She doesn't reach far, just crawls a hand across blankets, fingers curling and pulling her arm along and out from the covers. Her bandages will need to be changed soon, brown is darkening the gauze in circular marks up her forearm and bicep. Colette’s hand searches for Tasha’s; her tether, her anchor, her heart.

Tasha curls her own hands tightly around Colette’s; it’s the smallest of silver linings that the other girl can’t see her tears that immediately spring up whenever Colette’s do. That she can’t see that Tasha’s too pale, too thin, from worry and lack of sleep, or those dark circles like bruises under her eyes. Tasha presses a soft kiss against Colette’s too-long hair, and rests her chin on the her too-thin shoulder.

It’s been so long it feels foreign. Like two puzzle pieces meant to fit together but still too sharp around the edges to click into place, quite.

“I’m here,” she murmurs. “Let me know whatever you need, Cole. I’ll get it.” Somehow.

Those soft moments of reassurance have always come with a flood of emotions, and Colette’s grip tightens as much as it can around Tasha’s in the presence of such depths. That her tightest hand-squeeze is still soft is a sadness all its own.

“You,” is Colette’s smoky-voiced reply. The reiteration of her hand-squeeze adds always as an addendum.

No one has told Tasha, fully, what happened to Colette. Not one of her rescuers knows for certain to begin with. How she went from leaving New York in March to winding up in Alaska in November is a mystery that stretches across eight months. Colette hasn't had the words, hasn't had the strength to talk about it. But the scars, the scars tell the story.

“Is…” Colette manages a rough start to a sentence, “your family safe?” The follow-up question is an unusual one. Colette hasn't often inquired about either of Tasha’s parents. Right now, however, families of all kinds feel so much more important than they ever have.

Tasha hasn’t asked questions, not the hard ones, anyway. She’s steered clear of anything that might upset Colette — or tried to, since the emotions come and go like gusts of wind that she can’t control, and she’s sure Colette can’t. She nods, her chin moving up and down lightly on Colette’s shoulder.

“My dad’s checked in a few times. You know. Suddenly it gets a little smoky. We chat. He slips out again.” There’s less tension when talking about Vincent now. It’s strange how his becoming a fugitive has improved their relationship. “Mom’s fine. I stayed with her mostly, but come here when I can.” It hasn’t been that often. She’s been afraid she might bring attention to the castle, coming and going more than she needs to.

She reaches up to brush some of Colette’s hair back with her hand, pushing it behind her ear. “You need a haircut,” she says, a smile tipping her lips, audible in her words. “Or maybe curlers.” It’s the tiniest of jokes, tentatively offered to see if it takes at all.

Colette lets out a laugh that nearly verges on a hiccuped sob. She collects herself, swallows noisily, and closes her eyes at the sensation of Tasha threading a lock of hair behind her ear. Tilting her head to the side, she stays like that for a long while, cradling her mug of tea in one hand. For the time being, Colette lets the past hang silent. There'll be time to discuss what happened, where she'd been, and who she lost.

“Maybe when I'm better,” is the most optimistic thing she's said since she was back. “We can get away from here.” Colette’s voice is tiny and broken, but clinging to something tangible and good. Then, with a raspy laugh she wonders aloud, “Have— have we ever been on an actual date?”

Colette’s blind eyes open partway. “I— haven't been…” Dark brows knit together, and Colette’s hand holding Tasha’s squeezes tighter. “I'm so… so lucky,” she brings the tea up, sipping to try and soothe her throat. “So lucky to have you.” Her grip becomes more adamant. “I — can't believe y-you want to see me, after— after I —” Jaw trembling, Colette closes her eyes, but not fast enough to catch tears in them.

After I abandoned you goes unsaid, but it reverberates through the air nonetheless.

The question makes Tasha laugh, too, a quiet thing, like she’s afraid laughing too loudly might shatter the little moment of hopefulness. Of course, it’s shattered anyway, by Colette’s thoughts and doubts.
She swallows and blinks back the tears that well up when Colette’s do, and leans her head against Colette’s, her forehead against Cole’s temple.

“You had things you had to take care of,” Tasha says softly. Simply. Any hurt or resentment she felt months ago is pushed aside — not forgotten, but ignored, at least for the time being. She’s good at that.

“I only wish for your sake you’d told someone your plan so they could’ve helped.” Or stopped her, goes without saying. “And no, we’ve never been on a real date. We’re far too rare and uncommon for such mundane activities.” The last is said in a mock-haughty tone, as her lips curve against Colette’s cheek into a smile. “But we should. See how the other half lives.”

“It’s only fair,” Colette manages in a voice twisted by emotion. “See how the little people live,” her lips curl into a smile, faint and hurt. “Walk in their shoes n’stuff.” She sets the tea aside, shakily, and wraps both of her arms around Tasha’s shoulders. It isn’t as tight of an embrace as she’d usually give, but it’s all the strength she has left in her. She breathes in the scent of Tasha’s hair, buries her nose against the crook of her jaw, and forgets about breakfast.

The mirth replaces sadness, replaces the challenging conversations to come, replaces the fear. For the time being, they can replace lost moments with better ones. “M’never leaving you again,” Colette murmurs into Tasha’s hair.

“Partners,” she reiterates in a raspy voice, “partners work together.

Tasha’s arms slide up around Colette, gently and wary of bandages and the wounds beneath them. A couple of tears silently slide down Tasha’s face, but she lets them fall, unseen.

“You better not. I may not even let you go to the bathroom without me,” she says, a quick sniffle belying the levity of the words. “I wonder if Avi or someone has some handcuffs and I can just cuff you to me from now on.”

Her hug grows tighter for a moment and she bumps her forehead against Colette’s. “I love you, Cole. And I’ll hold you to that promise.” She tips her head to press a kiss into the other woman’s temple. “Partner.”

Colette hadn’t expected to hear that from Tasha, not after what she’d done, not out of a moment of frightful emotional panic. Her grip around Tasha tightens, the noise she makes indicates it’s uncomfortable but she doesn’t relent right away. When she does, it’s to exhale a ragged breath of sobs mixed with kisses to Tasha’s jawline, to her cheek, and brow.

Colette exhales a warm breath, brushing hair from Tasha’s forehead with her nose, ghosting a series of fluttering kisses over her eyebrow.

"I love you too."

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