Rebehold The Stars


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Scene Title Rebehold The Stars
Synopsis In the immediate aftermath of the ambush, Nathalie LeRoux's life hangs in the balance.
Date July 5, 2021

Two eggs, sunny-side up, buttered toast cut into triangles, and two links of sausage.

Sarisa Kershner does not fancy herself a cook. Making breakfast for her ten year old daughter is one of the most challenging things she has assigned herself to do, ranking just slightly above the mantle of motherhood. Setting the plate down on the counter, she looks at the girl across from her not with frustration or some other ill-considered thing, but gentle compassion.

“If you make one sour face at this I’m throwing it, and you, in the trash.”

Said with a smile, meant with love. It was the rapport they had, because Sarisa did not understand how to be a mother, so much as she understood how to be an older sister. Based on the smile coming from her daughter, she was at least managing that much.

Time would rob her of learning how much more of a difference she had made.

Thirteen Years Later

Broadway Street
Ruins of Toledo

July 5th
6:44 pm

Foamy blood rises up in Nathalie LeRoux’s mouth. Little convulsions wrack her body. Death is a horror. They are, all of them, surrounded by it.

Taylor Epstein and Elliot Hitchens kneel beside Nathalie, Tay with his hands on her cheeks trying to keep her attention, Elliot doing his best to try and stabilize her. But even as he pops the buttons on her shirt to get a better look at the wound in her sternum full like a swimming pool with blood, he can tell that there’s nothing that can be done. Her lungs are filling with blood. She’s bleeding out and drowning simultaneously.

Tay doesn’t stop holding Nat’s cheeks. “You’re gonna be okay,” he whispers. “You’re gonna be alright.” His hands tremble and he openly sobs next to her. This is not just a half-sister he never knew, this is the sister he couldn’t save from drowning, making the same choking noises Emily did as she was swept under the waves. He’s losing her again.

The only thing Elliot knows for sure is that there's nothing he can do but buy Richard and Taylor time to say goodbye. His bloody hands stay busy, every second counts. He tries to keep himself clear of taking on Taylor's powerful grief and Nathalie's fear. There's so much of it and it's close enough to feel as though it were bleeding through the network. But it isn't his, he doesn't have room for it. When he catches Taylor's eye all he can do is softly shake his head, no.

Nathalie seems to need the hands on her face to stay alert. Every few moments she starts to drift, but Tay's hold on her and the emotion in his voice brings her back around. She clings to life, but her hold grows weaker by the heartbeat. She would force herself to stay if she could, if only to keep Tay from the grief. And Richard, too.

She tries to speak, but all that comes out is a wet, bloody cough that she can't control. It renews her fear, as much as she might like to appear stoic.

The skies are still filled with birds, their shadows banking and wheeling across the broken asphalt of the city streets. There’s no shame in failing to notice that one of those shadows doesn’t have a mirror in the sky, moving with nothing to cast it in a desperate flight from where it was… to where they are.

No no no no no– ” A sibilant chorus echoing closer and closer until the darkness explodes outwards as Richard Cardinal all but leaps back into corporeal form and lunges towards the pair and his fallen cousin. “No no no you do not get to die on me again, not again– “

"Come on, cousin," Nathalie says, her voice breaking, "this isn't how it's supposed to go. You're always supposed to have a way out."

It isn’t a memory he should have. He was dead at the time; he didn’t, couldn’t hear, couldn’t see. But all that memory, like all of the others of past hosts, memories lay fallow in the Graveyard until something stirs them up. Like this moment has.

There is a way out. Of course there is.

Her breath is shaky as she sets the cane aside and shifts to sit, pulling Richard into her arms. It makes it harder for her to move, but then, that's the point. She can't let herself get scared and run away. She can't let herself think about the sister she's still getting to know or the boyfriend that never asked for anything like this, or her father— or the last conversation she had with her father.

"Okay okay," she says to herself, her hands holding onto Richard's face. "It's gonna be okay. Don't feel bad. It's been borrowed time anyway." Even she isn't sure if she's talking to him or to herself. But she knows that there's only the two of them here and there's only one place that all this energy can come from. "Just promise me you'll go out there and do something amazing. Just one more time. For me."

There’s always a way out.

On his knees there beside her, beside the other two men, reaching out to take her hand in his own, pulling her arm up, head dropping down to kiss her knuckles. Praying as fervently as he ever has that he hasn’t come too late, as he reaches down into his reserves and pulls everything– almost, almost everything– to give to her, the faintest pale light whispering into view where his skin touches hers.

(But if he has come too late, a part of him swears, there’s still a way out. There always is. And he owes her that way out, doesn’t he?)

Tay doesn’t register what’s happening immediately. He’s watching Nat’s face, trying to push down the look in Elliot’s eyes when he shook his head. Richard’s presence is noticed with belated surprise, brows knit together in confusion and uncertainty. It sounds like last rites, it makes his stomach twist into knots. He looks away from it, back down to his half-sister he never knew.

“We’re all here.” Tay says, trying to be reassuring, jaw trembling. She can see the grief in his eyes. “Richard’s here. We’re all here.” He repeats himself. It’s the only thing that feels right to say in the moment when I’m sorry is so, so much harder.

With Richard arrived, Elliot tries to make room. His combat focus is crashing, and the stress of this short but violent event is starting to get to him. There’s so little he can do now, but he can’t stop until it’s clear that he isn’t making any difference at all. Even if just a delay.

He wonders what Nathalie would have looked like in the Ark. He wonders why he doesn’t remember her killing hosts that he also doesn’t recall. He wonders if maybe Bastian was her only victim, and that guts him. He blinks away tears he doesn’t have time for and grits his teeth.

It's hard to say if Nathalie notices Richard arrive. She doesn't seem to react, just focusing on trying to take in the next breath. She doesn't think past that, just one breath. That's all life is to her now, the space of a single breath. The rattle in her lungs.

But she can feel something along her spine, like a bone-deep itch. Her brow furrows with a half-formed thought on the edge of sleep, not entirely comprehended. Fear exchanged for confusion. She expected to be gone, not feeling the shards of her bones pulling back together. And she isn't quite sure if she's simply stopped paying attention to reality and started envisioning herself a gentler end.

“Just… just relax,” Richard murmurs against the hand of hers that he’s holding, that pale light spilling from his touch and through her like a warm wash of water over dirty skin, “You’re gonna be okay, Nat. I’m not letting you die. Not today.”

Let it do what’s necessary. He’s never been good at surrender; he proved that when he tried to heal Zee. But here, with Nathalie dying in front of him, he’d surrender anything to keep her alive.

“I’m going to need you to pay close attention,” is something only Richard can hear. The man standing beside him is an unfamiliar ghost in a sea of hauntings. Long-faced, thin, tired, dressed in an American World War I officer’s uniform. He puts a hand on Richard’s shoulder and looks down at Nathalie.


“I’m going to need you to think about Nathalie. Your Nathalie.” Maes says firmly, and Richard can feel the weight of the soldier’s hand on his shoulder as if he were real. “Your most powerful, positive memory of her. I need you to keep that in the front of your mind, and I need you to listen to it.”

Unknowing of Richard’s visitation, Tay continues to whisper, “I’m sorry,” over and over again to Nathalie, shaking his head as he does.

Nathalie has started to shake, as if they were laying out in the frost and snow. A whimper sounds in her throat and she shakes her head in protest at Richard's words. It's possible that she doesn't believe him, but more likely, she's aware that what he's doing comes with a cost and she doesn't like the idea of someone paying it for her.

It's been borrowed time applies to more than one Nathalie. Possibly every iteration. And every one has the weight and the guilt that comes with it.

But it's clear that something is happening, because she's suddenly able to lift a hand and rest it on Tay's arm in response to his whispers. It's not a grip at all, just the heaviness of a dead limb, but it is something.

“Shut up, cuz,” Richard mutters as Nathalie protests, “I know what I’m doing.” Then a hand falls on his shoulder, as physical and real as a lead weight.

“Who– “ his head jerks up in shock, twisting looking back over his shoulder. He cuts off a moment after, though, because the figure there isn’t alive and therefore… well, given what he’s doing, the soldier likely comes from one place.

The power he’s using right now. He asked for help, didn’t he?

Then there’s silence for a moment, and Richard starts to say something— grimaces, as if he’s about to not go down that path— and then he shakes his head. “I— ah, this is awkward but— do you mind talking about something more personal? I…” He leans forward, arms folding on the desk, “I don’t really have anyone to talk to about it, I don’t want to worry Liz— and you’d be one of the few that understands, I think.”

They’d talked, previously, started in their mutually awkward way to get to know each other. It was the first time he’d been vulnerable around her, though, really. Trusted her as family, as someone he wasn’t worried would judge him, as one of the only people who would understand what he was going through.They’d talked about how he’d hurt someone with his ability - killed them. How it bothered him, despite him having killed before. Something he never even talked to his wife about.

He takes a deep breath, closing his eyes, fingers tightening around Nathalie’s hand as he calls that memory up. As he polishes it to gleam in his mind, to shine brighter than the horror of her crumbling that’s haunted his nightmares.

"It's a different sort of feeling," Nat says with a nod. "I'm not exactly upset about who I've hurt, for the most part. But how it happens sometimes settles… wrong with me." That's how she decides to explain that. But she's pretty sure he'll get it. It isn't long, though, before she's on her feet and coming around the desk to take his hands in hers. One thing she knows she needed when people have found out about how destructive she can be is proof that they weren't afraid. And even though he certainly can do some damage, she knows he won't. And she proves it as concretely as possible.

"You're still you. And it's still yours. You get to decide how you use it. And, you know, it's still a utility. I mean, if it can do this to a face and a mug, then probably not much can hold up if you don't want it to. It means you still get to do what you always do. Save people. Stop bad guys." Her hands tighten on his, like she might be able to make her point through the gesture. "If that's what you want to do."

There’s no fear or hesitation in Richard’s acceptance of her hands, fingers squeezing against hers lightly as he offers her a faint, rueful smile. “There isn’t anything that’s going to make me stop that, cuz,” he admits, “We can rest when we’re done. Someone needs to be the failsafe contingency for this whole bullshit world of ours…”

“Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil,” he quotes, then modifies in half-joking tones, “For I guess I am that fucking shadow.”

"It isn't gonna look after itself, that's for sure." Trouble always seems to be lurking. Put one down, two more pop up like a hydra of villains. "Just remember you don't have to do it all alone." That is as much a reminder for herself as it is for him. But a moment later, Nat can't help but laugh a little. "I guess you are. I figure whatever evil we might be scared of, it's gotta be scared of us, too."

“Same,” Richard says firmly, bringing both brows upwards, “We can do all this shit together.

That’s why things hadn’t felt right since Iraq. They were supposed to be doing this together. But they were forced to choose just one of them. It wasn’t right, wasn’t fair.

'That sweet fruit, that mortal anxiety goes in search of, on so many branches…” Maes says, though he is looking past Richard, at a vacant point in space.

…will give your hunger peace today.

There is a sudden crackle of light from Richard’s hands, a surge of violent light and energy that erupts from his palms and flows down into Nathalie. Tay recoils from the sight and sound, shielding his eyes from the light. In the blind spots it creates he and Elliot can see human silhouettes lingering around them, like the blast shadows of atomic annihilation given shape and form. One is kneeling over Nathalie until it suddenly isn’t.

Richard feels a pulling sensation, as though a great and mighty wind was funneling through his body, starting in his mouth and surging down through his chest, forward into his arms, and down out of his hands. It lifts Richard up off of his knees, as though many hands were holding him up. The current is so strong it feels as though it is going to turn him inside out, it causes his veins to bulge at his temples and neck, fingers to curl in claw-like rictus, and then just as suddenly as the light had come it is gone.

Richard is dropped from a half-standing position down on his knees, sunglasses falling onto the asphalt. His eyes flicker, shifting from ice blue to a deeper hazel-green. In the same moment LeRoux sucks in a sharp breath, back arching, legs kicking, and eyes snapping wide open. Tay, sitting on the street, stares in wide-eyed wonder as she jolts upright, face flushed red and pulse pounding visibly in her neck.

Nathalie’s brown eyes slowly bloom with light, changing. Brown to blue.

Dead to alive.

Elliot lurches back and away, bloody hands up against the light. What the fuck. He scrabbles backward on his hands, watching Richard collapse to his knees. What the fuck. He stands, watching Nathalie come to life. "What the fuck?!"

Nathalie takes in one deep breath, then several short, sharp ones as she tries to focus on where she is. On who she is. She looks over at Richard, the tears in her eyes brimming for a different reason this time.


"That was fucking dangerous," she says to him, although she can't make her tone sound like an admonishment. Rather, she's just relieved that he didn't die. And she doesn't answer Elliot's question, although she seems to have a handle on what just happened. Plenty of time to explain later. She's got all the time in the world now.

Her breathing evens out, adrenaline starting to drain away from her. And when she starts to calm, she turns to look at Tay. There's a thank you in her gaze, a depth of appreciation that there simply aren't words for. So instead, she reaches over to take his arm again, firmly now, to reassure him that everything actually is okay. Making sure he's okay seems to be a priority. Or at least, it's easier to focus on than the everything that just happened.

“You’re… you’re one to talk,” Richard manages to get out in response, panting heavily, one hand pressed against the rough asphalt to support himself, pressed hard enough that there’ll be marks left in his palm afterwards.

He closes his eyes, giving it a sharp shake as if to try and clear it. He’s out of breath, exhausted down to the bone, and the entirety of the world seems to have shifted. An entire sense has been torn out of him, the feel of life all about him suddenly and terribly absent.

All too aware of his heart hammering in his chest as if it were trying to burst – and perhaps it almost did – he finally looks up, looks to Nathalie, hearing the other two but only focused on her at the moment. His tone uncertain as he offers a shaky, “Nat…?”

“What the fuck.” Tay says as a statement, not a question. He stares vacantly at Nathalie, only vaguely registering the hand on his arm. He sits forward, seemingly not in any pain in spite of having been shot earlier. Looking at Richard there's a wide-eyed stare of confusion, questions he wants to ask, answers he wants to demand. But he has none of the words to voice them. Instead, he looks back at Nathalie, slowly shaking his head.

Tay comes to rest on his knees, scrubbing a hand over the top of his head, swiping clean streaks through the dried blood on his brow. A flutter of nervous, confused laughter erupts from him, followed by a louder bark of laughter as he looks at a verifiable miracle made reality right in front of him. He is at a loss for words.

Nobody seems willing to explain the fuck, which is irritating but Elliot still has enough control to realize that it doesn't matter. "If you've got another one of those available," he says to Richard, "there are other wounded here." He gestures to the collapsed Ryans and his collection of birds. In his mind a bird stabs madly into the throat of a dead soldier as he carries Wright to safety.

"It's gonna be okay," Nat says to Tay, her tone gentle. She's not necessarily taking the laughter as a good sign, but it's better than yelling or storming off. She squeezes his arm once more, then shifts. It's quick, her movement to wrap Richard up into a hug. She's something of a slight figure, but she does her absolute best to bear hug him. He's so alive. And she's so alive. And the world around them— it all pulses with beautiful, messy life.

"You won't believe what I've been up to," she whispers to him, a hint to explain for him the depth of what's actually happened here. Tay has no idea how big a miracle he just witnessed.

When she steps back from the hug, she looks out at the world around her. A ruined world. A broken world. But by the look on her face, it might be the most amazing place she's ever seen.

Despite the fact that the world’s spinning in and out of focus, Richard has noticed that something’s off; different yet familiar, something that he feels that he should have figured out but is just out of reach. The fading-yet-present sun stings at his eyes, and he squints at Nathalie with an uncertain expression,

Then she’s lunging in against him, hugging him, and he’s surprised he can’t hear the click of the puzzle pieces snapping together in his head. “Na– how– “ Surrendering words, he wraps his arms back around her in a fierce embrace, closing his eyes and just holding her to him for those moments. He doesn’t know how this miracle happened. Doesn’t know what it means for him, for her, for the Nathalie that was here before.

But that’s the thing about miracles. You don’t need to understand them - you just need to believe in them.

She pulls back, and there’s tears on his cheeks as he looks at her with a wide smile, unable to say anything else just yet. There’re too many emotions and he doesn’t know how to handle them all right now. In the middle of this, Elliot’s question pierces his attention and he looks over.

“I– no. No, I don’t, not anymore, I… hah. Shit, you know, that murdering bastard was right. He was right and he– “ He’s chuckling suddenly, the cosmic joke hitting him like a baseball bat to the side of the head, “— he probably didn’t even know it. Rupe– Rupe left out a word, but he didn’t.”

“We are all of us,” Baruti says as he leans in to Richard, keeping the knife in the wound, “prophets. And every prophet belongs in his house.”

Every prophet belongs in his house. Or hers.”

There is confusion in the air, birds that circle overhead. Lives beginning and ending. The world is changing as they speak. For Taylor Epstein, he is unknowingly witness to a miracle beyond time and space, but the fraction of the truth he beholds is still miraculous to him. A family member he didn’t know he had, that he feared he’d never get to know, moved from death to life in two heartbeats.

For Elliot, it is like jumping into the middle of a serialized drama halfway through. The audience is clapping, tears are flowing, and he knows instinctively that there is a context below that which lives on the surface but is just a smidge too deep for him to perceive. And yet, at the same time, there are things here he perceives even if only for a moment.

A hawkish, bald man with ice blue in his peripheral vision. Dressed in a World War I British officer’s uniform. Gone like a figment of his imagination the next moment. And yet, still, fleetingly real like a fragment of a streamed memory from networked consciousness. There, and not there.

But for Richard and Nathalie, this moment is the closing of yet another circle. An impossibility moving through time, curving like hooks through sheets of dimension, to meet back again where they started.

Or, as Maes would say. It is when Virgil and Dante escaped the afterlife, standing upon a great precipice overlooking the land

to rebehold the stars.


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