Remember Him As He Was


benji_icon.gif calvin_icon.gif delia_icon.gif ingrid_icon.gif lucille_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif pippa_icon.gif ryans_icon.gif sofia_icon.gif

Scene Title Remember Him As He Was
Synopsis A large swath of the Ryans clan comes together for dinner, under the shadow of dark news.
Date September 23, 2018

Ingrid and Sofia's Apartment

The Safe Zone

There’s a soft clink of spoon on ceramic; a single note in the music of company.

Today, the small second-story apartment above the Rose & Trellis Florist is filled with the smell of food, mingling with herbs and flowers. Vibrant orange sunlight spills in through the open windows that are devoid of any kind of screen or storm shutter, letting in fresh air straight from the Bay Ridge streets below. The exposed rafters in the low ceiling are hung with bundles of dried wildflowers and fragrant herbs. In the living room, cups of coffee sit out on an old wooden serving tray, laid out beside a pair of mismatched glass dishes bearing slices of locally grown apples and pears.

A couch that seats just three people can’t accommodate the clan gathered up in the apartment, nor can the solitary recliner sitting in front of an old floor model radio, currently playing tracks broadcast out from the WSZR building across town. The music is kept low, though, because today is about family.

In the small, warm kitchen, Sofia Webb stands over a pot at the stove, quietly stirring a wooden spoon inside and watching a mashed mixture of crushed tomatoes, basil, garlic, and oregano from her plot in the Satoru Memorial Garden commingle. She dashes a sprinkle of salt and pepper into the mix, and bemoans, “I miss having Balsamic vinegar on hand for the sauce,” to the members of the Ryans family that she’s conscripted to help her make dinner in the kitchen.

Adjacent to both the kitchen and living room is a long dining room set with an antique table recovered from the Vault downtown. Though its paint is peeling, on the legs and sides, the old wood of the table is still quite serviceable, though Sofia would prefer there to be a tablecloth. The one they have just doesn’t fit. Instead, there’s a wicker basket of mixed wildflowers and succulents sitting in the middle of the table, around which empty plates — none of which match — are set out at each seat. One reserved for each member of the Ryans’ family here today.

Delia is cutting the vegetables for a salad, only a few feet away. "I'm sure we can figure out how to make it," her idle comment is ended with a bit of a hiss as she pulls back quickly to examine her finger. False alarm, no cut, no foul. "For now… got any red wine that's gone bad? I have a ton of it in my fridge. Nick's always griping that I'm the worst when it comes to picking alcohol."

She doesn't need to drink, she has other escape coping mechanisms.

Since she's stopped cutting for the moment, she edges just past Sofia and checks on the dessert. The scent of cinnamon mixed with fruit wafts through the kitchen as she opens and then closes the oven door. "Hey do you think I should add some egg white to the butter for that crumble crust?" She delivers a wide, catlike, grin to Sofia. "Kidding, kidding… pies don't have crumble crusts."

Little Pippa Varlane watches the movement in the kitchen with wide blue eyes. She tugs on her mother's hand and waits for her to crouch down so she can whisper something into her ear.

"You have to ask her, Pipsqueak," Nicole murmurs in response, resting her hands on her daughter's shoulders.

"Can you ask for me?" It's hard to say no to that face, but Nicole manages with a shake of her head. Pressing her lips together, Pippa has to decide if what she wants is worth getting over her own fright to ask for it.

Nicole turns Pippa toward the action and gently guides her forward. "Go on." After two steps, she lets go of the girl's shoulders and makes her walk the rest of the way across the kitchen on her own.

"Uhm…" Fabric from Pippa's purple and pink flower-dotted dress (flowers, because they were going to Ingrid's, and Iggy loves flowers) is bunched up in each of her hands as she nervously raises her voice. "Sofia? Can I help stir the soup?" When she looks over her shoulder to make sure her mother is still there to support her, she receives a big smile and a thumbs up for being so brave.

“Oh honey,” Sofia says with a warm smile, bending down and immediately picking Pippa up and hoisting her with one arm until the young girl loops a single arm around Sofia's neck. “I figured you'd be content with just stirring my heart,” is said with an irrepressible smile, “but you can stir. It's not soup though, sweetie…”

Bouncing Pippa on her hip, Sofia carries her over to the stove and dips the wooden spoon into the Dutch oven where the sauce bubbles, lifts it up to her lips and blows. “You've gotta blow on it, ‘cause it's hot.” She exaggeratedly blows on the sauce, then holds the spoon out near-ish to Pippa. “Go’n give it a blow for me, honey bear.”

"Are you sure you're happy with just stirring the sauce?" Delia teases Pippa as she finished cutting the last of the fruit, vegetables, and nuts. They're all separated into colorful little piles on the cutting board beside an empty bowl. "Because there's a whole salad here just waiting to be put together. You can tell everyone that you made it all by yourself."

Leaving the salad to Pippa's discretion, Delia begins cleaning up the kitchen. She's quick as a wink in scooping up stray bowls, utensils, a cheese grater, and some measuring cups. The knives are the last to be carefully washed off, dried, and then put away, in a drawer like a heathen because the dreamwalker is just the kind of person to ignore a knife block. "What's next, boss?"

IF the front door was locked, it isn’t any longer. There’s a man in the kitchen entry, shoulders and sides buttoned up sharp in a vest, tawny hair raked back in long dreads. He’s holding a bottle of wine in one hand and a puppy in the other.

A living, breathing, slightly crusty puppy.

It’s brown, as puppies often are, and looks in need of a bath, filth streaked up under Calvin Sheridan’s rolled sleeve and dusted across his side. There’s a scarf tied around its neck. The scarf is green.

Calvin squints across the kitchen’s current population, looks especially hard at the Sofia/Pippa Voltron arrangement stirring the soup(?), and steps back, bumping not-quite-deliberately past his date behind him.

Ingriiid!” Come out, come out, wherever you are.

Anyone who knows the family patriarch, will know that the stoic silence of Benjamin Ryans is not unusual. Content to sit where he was reluctantly put, he watches the interaction of his odd family. Of course, he feels rather outnumbered with all the women in this small space. The thought getting a small tipping up of a smile. Brief and fleeting.

He had arrived a little early, with a flat of strawberries and assorted vegetables from his own garden; but mainly strawberries. Dressed a little above casual. He had a button up shirt on at least to go with his jeans. Even with Calvin arrives Benjamin watches with stoic, if a bit distracted, amusement; drink in hand.

The actual Ryans part of this latest duo is a shadow to Calvin's shoulder, slinking in a little like she would prefer to make sure this is the right place before announcing herself — and then Calvin is reversing, and Benji flutters a steadying hand onto his back. Steadying for either of them, really.

"Careful," she admonishes, and then goes to remove the bottle of wine from his grasp. The puppy, who looks a little like a dirty, furry cauliflower, she leaves to his capable hands.

Nerves haven't been completely burned out of her manner, a darting look that registers Benjamin Ryans sitting nearby, and awards him with a flash of a slightly reckless red-painted smile, but her attention lands on Delia, and it's this direction she picks. Boots, stockings — a run already laddered up one side — and a long-sleeved shift dress are what constitutes as dressed up, despite the funeral black of her chosen palette.

In hand, also, is a modest bundle of flowers, trimmed of excess leaves with her fingers on the way there and tied together with a stem, and its this along with the wine she sets down on whatever flat surface is available as if in tribute, or for admission.

"Hi," is said to the kitchen, in general.

Whatever task Sofia may have assigned her is quickly forgotten at the very audible arrival of Calvin.. which means Benji is there as well. Throwing the dish towel over one shoulder, Delia pivots on one heel rushes toward the brunette to take her by the shoulders. A cursory glance isn't good enough, so she studies her up and down and up and down again, taking note of any scratch or bruise on her surface.

"Hi," she answers finally, drawing Benji in for a tight hug. Her voice is thick, like she's about to burst into tears at any second, that isn't the usual for her — at least not here. The hug is long and drawn out and right at the end mother whispers into daughter's hair. "I'm so glad you came."

But then… over Benji's shoulder, the redhead spies Calvin's little bundle. "Oh.." her words are cut off and as soon as she's let Benji go, she rushes right over there, wiping her eyes with the heel of her hands along the way. Calvin's hug is a bit rushed because of the squirming little bundle of mud and grease, which she immediately attempts to liberate from Sheridan's grip. “Let’s get this guy in the sink before it touches anything.” The puppy, not Calvin.

Bathtub,” Sofia says firmly to Delia, carrying Pippa over in one arm, spoon still held up for her, and comes to the doorway of the kitchen so as to angle a look at Benji and Calvin.

“Sweetheart, you look lovely. You can put the flowers on the table next to that old gargoyle,” Sofia says with an impish smile loud enough for the aforementioned gargoyle — Benjamin — to hear. Then, with a look to Calvin she offers out the wooden spoon with a touch of pasta sauce on it. “Give it a taste. Does this need something? It's missing something.”

Coming out of said bathroom with black and grays matching with her niece’s, Lucille Ryans slowly peers out from the room, face moist and not completely dry from the water she had been frantically splashing on her face only moments after entering the small apartment. Chalk white and eyes red from maybe lack of sleep, the eldest daughter slides into the living room to see the new arrivals and her breaks out into a smile that doesn't altogether meet her eyes. “You brought a pet.” A snort at her pseudo nephew, okay there's a real smile. Luce’s blazer is placed on the arm of the sofa and she lifts the brown grocery bag she had brought along.

“I brought booze and something to offset Delia’s particular charms,” it's the beginning of the dinner and Luce is on the ready for her sister. Benjamin Ryans would recognize this pattern as would the others Luce supposes, it's never a matter of if they will insult each other but when and who would get first blood. This was a gentle tap, opening herself up to a brutal rebuttal from Delia but the eldest has an ace up her sleeves, she's not worried.

Walking up to where Benji and Delia stand, she wraps an arm around her niece and hugs her tight, “Thank god you're here.” Lucille whispers softly and on her arm she sports a fresh bruise, a number of others mark flesh that isn't covered by clothes, not that she is serious about covering up anymore. She must have been in a fight recently.

“Ohhh.” Not a soup at all. Pippa nods her head. “Sauce like for pasketti?” Her mother has given up trying to correct her pronunciation of that word for the time being. The little girl takes in a deep breath and then remembers at the last moment that if she blows too hard, she’ll blow all the soup - well, sauce - right off the spoon and probably onto Sofia’s clothes. So after the fanfare of the giant inhale, she blows very gently on the sauce so that it will be cool enough when it’s taste-tested.

Her interest in that goes just about out the window when Sofia turns the pair of them to the entry and she spies— “Puppy!!” Pippa’s eyes grow big with surprise and excitement. “Mommy, look!” The arm not wrapped around Sofia’s shoulders points to the pup as it’s transferred for a little clean-up. “Bedelia! I wanna— ” She stops herself, though she still wiggles with excitement in Sofia’s grip. She promised to help with the sauce. But she wants to help give the puppy a bath, too. There’s a small whine of indecision as obligation goes to war against fun.

Though a third option suddenly has all of her attention. It takes a moment of actual attention, but when Pippa really sees Benji she becomes transfixed. There's a little smile, a giggle, and she immediately holds her arms out to the darkly-dressed woman with fingers wiggling. “Up! Up!”

Sofia looks over at Pippa, a delighted smile crossing her face. “Oh goodness, Benji, you look like you've got yourself an admirer!”

No bruises, no scratches, and for once, Benji even looks reasonably well rested, going a little tharn under Delia's inspection before relaxing into the hug she receives. "Of course," she murmurs, although both of them know that none of this is a given. The bustle of bodies, the kind words, the embraces are all absorbed as though she has a quota for this kind of thing, anymore, quickly being met in this immediate foray into family time, but not yet exceeded. Which doesn't mean, also, that there isn't a little relief in the hug that Delia gets in return.

As Delia moves for Calvin and the dog, Benji smiles to Lucille, hugging back, giving a soft laugh to her words. "You too," she says, drawing back, and only then seeing the state of Lucille, and she can't help but allow a little worry to flit across her features as the hand on Lucille's arm immediately becomes feather-light and tentative. Are you alright? feels like a damning thing to say in the middle of a family snake pit, so she says, instead, "We brought wine too."

Okay, what was she doing. Flowers and gargoyles and— up.

A little disarmed, Benji looks to Pippa, then to Sofia with a flutter of a smile, then across to Nicole. It's to this last that she seems uncertain as to what to say, but covers up her own momentary fluster by reaching out to accept Pippa from Sofia. A semi-graceful pivot sets the little girl on the ground again, ducking down just enough to hand her the flowers. "Do you want to help me with these?" she invites, conspiratorially. "We're gonna give them to your dad."

There are so many people in her house.

Ingrid imagines that her absence might easily be missed with the size of the crowd congregating around the stove. She’s tempted, too, to see how long she can get away with finding odd candles in other rooms to light, linens that need fixing, or flower arrangements she can primp to distract herself.

The fantasy of a dinner party and the reality of a dinner party are two very different things, and they happen to be in diametric opposition of each other.

It’s Calvin’s invocation of her name that coaxes her out of hiding, a long-handled multipurpose lighter in one hand, and a shawl in the other.

The shawl that she’s supposedly been trying to track down for the past twenty minutes.

“Is that— is that a dog?” she asks from the doorway, stupified.

Somewhere, Richard Ray is laughing.

Always,” intoned back in rhythm with Benji’s careful, Calvin yields the wine bottle without resistance in precisely the same pivot that sees his captive pup tucked into the pocket of his elbow. Football style, he draws it back on the defensive from a hug he does not to try escape.

Rather — he keeps her bound against his far side — making a barrier of himself between Delia and his dirty cauliflower.

“Now now, Delia,” he says, “she’s beautiful just the way she is.”

Crawling with fleas and fungus.

Past Delia a child-spittled spoon is being offered at the end of Sofia’s arm. There’s a visible puff at his chest around the deep breath he has to bolster himself with before he disengages to step that way. He’s careful to give Aunt Lucy a wide berth as he goes, eyes cut wicked blue in aside in the kitchen light, one lunatic catching wind of blood on another.

The look carries over to Benji on a subtler side track, muddled into an unspoken wtf — and stretched further still to a wink at the OG Ryans behind her. He never makes it to the sauce spoon; by the time he’s faced forward again, there’s Ingrid.

He wrinkles his nose at her, and holds the pup out — small enough to fit in his grimy hand. Like a mouldy potato, with mouldy potato legs slotted through his fingers.

“I think so.” He stifles a belch. “We figured, since we missed the housewarming…”

There might be a little relief at not being the only guy in the room now, the arrival of Calvin helps. Strangely enough, Ben hasn’t really ever had a problem with his granddaughter’s friend. The wink gets a salute of his glass.

“Sophie,” He rumbles out from his perch. “It’s smelling amazing. Do you have any aspirin?” Benjamin doesn’t wait for an answer though, as he catches sight of a glance his way. “Benji. You look well,” he offers quietly or as quiet as it gets with the deep voice of his. “You should come by the house sometime, pick up some vegetables before the weather turns much more.”

Then Ryans hunches enough to give his youngest looking daughter a gentle smile. “Hey, Pumpkin. Whatcha got there?”

"Calvin," Delia admonishes giving him her best fake angry look. She doesn't quite mind the rebuff, now knowing that the dog is a housewarming gift. "If that thing got any dirtier it'd look like you. Little orange dreadlocks and all." Then she's off into the kitchen to check on other things.

There's a pie, for instance.

"Hey Sofia!" She hollers, the oven door is cracked open just wide enough so that she can see the fruit bubble and the crust turns a lovely toasty brown. The smell of cinnamon is almost overwhelming, but it's a good smell. Cinnamon is a good smell. "I think the pie is ready!!"

Brows up and watching Calvin and Benji with delighted amusement, Sofia absent-mindedly brings the spoon up and takes a taste, the wrinkles her nose and offers a sidelong look to Delia. “I thought you were making a crumble?” She says teasingly, then “Can you get the wine from poor Benji before the rest of the guests pick her apart like dogs on a carcass?”

Sliding the spoon back into the Dutch oven, Sofia turns the heat down to a simmer and saunters out, drying her hands with a washcloth pulled through one belt loop of her jeans. It's Ben Senior that she's making her way over to, hands down on his shoulders as she stands behind him. “I'll do you one better,” she says softly, as a faint yellow light radiates in her veins. “Most nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are just salicylic acid, which comes from willow bark.”

At first it just sounds like new age medicine nonsense. “But,” and Sofia’s hands work against Benjamin’s shoulders in a couple of quick squeezes, “there's other more effective opioids that in the right measure can really help with pain caused from tension and…” she smiles sadly, “you know. Being.”

A sense of slow relief starts to come through Benjamin’s body, starting at the base of his neck. Sofia smiles fondly, then gives him a soft pat against the middle of his back. “Never got the hang of using this old trick to season food, but biochemistry was my major in college, if you’d believe that?” She flashes him a smile, fond as any, and slips over by Ingrid and slides an arm around her waist just long enough to pull her in and place a kiss at the nape of her neck before circling back toward the kitchen.

Hands steady on Pippa's tiny shoulders, Benji stands up properly as Benjamin Senior addresses her. "All that was left alive when we got back was the sowbread, some daisies," she says, as to what Pippa has for him, the bundle of flowers being a hasty thing of wild, dark leaves and soft purple petals. The offer of visits and vegetables evokes a shy smile, a darting glance that acknowledges Sofia's journey nearer, and she adds, quietly, "I'd like that."

Gently, she redirects the 6-year-old's attention to the vase on the table, guiding small hands to place stems in through the narrow glass mouth. She'd probably have drunk a little less in the lead up to this event had she realised she might be overseeing the activities of a child, but here she is, and it's fine.

This is fine. Benji cranes her neck to better see where Ingrid and Calvin have converged.

Pippa accepts the flowers with a soft ooooh of appreciation. Carefully, she lowers her face to inhale the scent, happy as can be to be helpful. "Uh huh!" She looks to where her father sits and then looks back at the flowers. "Mommy gives Daddy flowers sometimes," she tells Benji, causing her mother's face to flush pink clear up to her ears. Pippa holds the flowers up to show her father, then settles them into the vase with Benji's help.

Nicole busies herself with seeing to the bottle of wine and its distribution. Even if it's only into her own glass. Sometimes Pippa is shy and sometimes she's this child. This is all fine.

“I brought tequila.” A beat, “And wine.” Lucille replies to her niece as she goes to walk into the kitchen with a smile thrown in Sofia’s direction, “Hey there.” Softly, setting her bag down on the counter before turning her head to look at her dad with a soft smile, “Hey Old Man.” Trying to keep her tone light but there’s a thickness in her throat, swelling. Before she can say more there’s Ingrid coming in and Lucille blinks and makes a beeline to embrace her younger sister, “Hey lady.” They don't see each other all too much but Lucille tries always to be close to the sister from another future.

Looking over the other familiar faces the eldest peers over at Pippa and offers the youngest of them all a wink.

It wasn’t what he was expecting, but there is visible relief in the old man. A loosening of shoulders and a quiet sigh. “Thank you,” he offers softly to his daughter-in-law, taking another sip from his glass. “Getting old again su- “ A glance goes to his littlest “- is just as cruddy as the last time around.”

He doesn’t say it, but she would have been the type that Company would have recruited… Really Ryans? After all these years he still thinks like that.

Lucille gets a nod, and a slightly amused greeting of “Eldest Daughter.”

Pippa gets smile when she shows him the flower, “Those are the prettiest.” He retrieves one of the daisies and breaks the stem short enough so that he can tuck the flower behind the little girls ear, when that look dad’s get with there daughters. One that all his girls get. That loving affection.

At Sofia's suggestion, Delia just shakes her head and returns to the kitchen to pull the pie out of the oven to cool. Despite all of the teasing and suggestion of strange ingredients, it looks and smells alright, despite the enormous size of it. "Benji's got this," she says as she swings around to place the dessert on a wooden hot plate, a Christmas gift from Delia one year… everyone got the same thing. A slice from the first tree that fell as she cleared the garden land. With Lucille in direct eyesight, she gives her older sister a playful stick out of the tongue. Pie totally trumps liquor, everyone knows it. "Besides, everyone is just saying hello. She's just going to have to get used to being the most popular one but hey… look where she came from!"

She pauses for a moment to catch the eye of the brunette in the other room and gives her a wide smile. "I wish they had settled in the safe zone," she muses with a sigh. "I know it's stupid, because they're more than capable of taking care of themselves but I get worried that they're outside all alone."

Then she turns to Sofia, "So… hey since the puppy is your housewarming gift. If you ever want a babysitter, I volunteer."

“Well, I think I'll take you up on that offer,” Sofia notes with a wry purse of her lips to the side. “We had five kittens recently, till I talked some sense into Ingrid about the smell of the litter box once they're all full grown. She found good homes for them all.” But then she's eyeing the crusty dog Calvin’s carried in. “Strays, all, but this ones a gift so I suppose they can stay.”

All the while, Sofia has made her way back to the stove to check on the sauce. “Alright, I think this is about ready. I'm going to put some pasta on, get the garlic bread baking, and dinner won't be all that far off.” Bending down to pick up a large pot from the cupboard beside the stove, Sofia seems momentarily thoughtful, then looks askance to Benji and Calvin.

“What have you two been up to lately? Haven't seen you around much. Both your charming faces have been missed around here.” Sofia rises with the pot, continuing to clank around in the kitchen. “Go anywhere fun?” If you call the Dead Zone fun.

Nicole’s eyes go wide as she’s pouring her wine.

Oh no. Sofia’s said the k-word.

Slowly, she turns away from the counter, leaning back against it and watching her daughter with lips pressed together. If she is very lucky, she did not just hear tha—

“You had kittens?” Pippa asks with big blue eyes and a gasp. “Bedelia said she was going to get a kitten, but then she didn’t. Mommy, can we get a kitten?”

Nicole closes her eyes slowly and exhales through her nose. She had just finally quelled months of asking for a kitten. And now? It’s going to start all over again. “Ask your father.” Sorry, not sorry.


Oh, she’ll be sorry… The flat expression Benjamin currently sports will attest to that.

“Ruma wouldn’t want a kitten around my place, sweety. Besides, she’d be sad if you brought someone to replace her…” Ryans didn’t even want the cat… or at least he wouldn’t admit to it. “But you know what, pumpkin, I think you having a kitten is a great idea…” There is a bit of a pause as he looks towards the mother of his baby girl, expression without any indication of his mood, “Your mother’s place is perfect. It’s a much bigger place than mine after all. Plenty of room, lots of sunshine, and Ruma won’t eat her there.”

The thing about separate parenting, means there are separated houses and Ben doesn’t have to agree to having it at his place.

Unscrewing the top to the tequila bottle Lucille pours a healthy dose and snickers at the kitten talk. “Nicole, a cat would be lovely, right?” Sipping her tequila she winks at her youngest sister leaning her back against the kitchen wall. “What would you name them?” Nose tipped down to peer at the little girl.

Sofia's question of if Benji and Calvin had been anywhere fun nearly makes the woman choke and her eyes widen a fraction as a slow smile creases her lips and she looks away, not gonna go there with the family. Benji and Calvin do get a raise of her eyebrows before she shrugs as if to say fuck it, “I ran into Cal in some ruins. Being loud.” Another sip, “Ran into B too,” well she went into.. the Dead Zone with them to get intel on dangerous mutant killing robots but there is a child in the room.

Ruins?” Sofia’s brows shoot up. “Sweetheart, I know you're all biceps and handguns these days, but the ruins aren't exactly safe, or even in your job description, are they?” Ever to worrier, Sofia stirs the pot a little more and the pulls the wooden spoon out and sets it down atop the stove.

A look is slid over to Calvin, one brow raised. “You I expect that from, given the stories Ingrid’s said. But you're being safe, right? Last thing I want is anything happening to any of you, you're family and…” she presses her lips together in a thin line, glancing briefly at Delia and then back to Benji and Calvin. “Well, I just don't know know what Ingrid or I’d do if something happened.”

With Pippa’s attention focused on her father, her mother’s face takes on an incredulous expression.

No. Ben, no. Stop it. Stop! You are supposed to have my back!

Mouthing angrily and drawing her hand across her throat to signal cut, Nicole listens in horror as Ryans lays out the exact opposite of the reality she wanted.

When Pippa turns around again, Nicole is all smiles, despite the fact that she was in the middle of mouthing I’m going to fucking punch you. “Sweetie, we’ve talked about this. Mommy’s place isn’t good for a kitten. You’ll have to settle for the big cat at your dad’s.”

That’s when Pippa’s lip starts to quiver and Nicole’s spine goes straight as a rod. Her eyes dart around the room for salvation. “I bet if you ask nicely, Ingrid and Sofia will let you come over and play with their new puppy. That’ll be fun, right?”

Not as much fun as having her very own kitten, if that little face is anything to go by.

Nicole shoots a helpless look to Ryans.

The glares don’t seem to really phase Ryans, but the quivering of Pippa’s lip… yeah, that will do it.

There is a heavy sigh from the man and he finishes off the whiskey in his glass. Setting it down, Benjamin climbs to his feet and scoops up his littlest daughter, quite the feat considering his handicap, but years of practice helps. “I thought Ruma was your bestest kitty friend?” he asks the little girl, moving her a little way away from the others. “Pretty sure you called her that. She’d be heartbroken you replace her,“ he points out quietly.

“How would you like it if Jonah suddenly decided he wanted a new friend?” Benjamin’s voice rumbles softly as he has this very serious discussion with Pippa. “You’d be really sad right? You want to do that to Ruma?”

Coming out of the kitchen as she’s drying one of the larger preparation spoons (read: double up serving spoon), Delia rolls her eyes at the entire lot. “What about outside kittens, Pippa?” she suggests, trying to let both Nicole and her father off the hook. “I have a shed in the gardens and there’s a lot of mice to get rid of. You can have a whole collection if you want.. But Daddy will have to help us build a nice house for them so they can stay outside all winter.”

Then she places the utensil on the table and slings the towel over her shoulders. “Lulu can even come help with the hammers and nails. She’s tough like them anyway, right?”

“My word, you all know how to turn anything into an argument.” Sofia smiles fondly and rests her hands on her hips, watching Ingrid slither through the group, Benji and Calvin slink among the guests, and Benjamin instigate all manner of mischief with Pippa against Nicole. Sighing softly, she looks over at Delia and hooks an arm around the redhead’s shoulders.

“Alright dear,” Sofia says with a redirecting turn of the younger woman’s right shoulder, “you're the only one I trust in the kitchen right now, so you're gonna help me clean up a bit before everything finishes.” She flashes a smile back over her shoulder, pausing just long enough to point a finger at Ryans.

“Help set the table, would you?” Sofia refuses to treat Ben any differently, even with the impending cloud of illness, until he requests as much. “And Nicole, sweetheart? Thank you for bringing Pippa. She's a delight.”

At that, Sofia moves to escort Delia back into the kitchen and finish off the food preparation. They have a night of family considerations to come, a night to talk and share stories, to tease and to appreciate, to talk and to be silent.

If nothing else, they have time to remember Benjamin Ryans as he is.

Not as how he'll soon be.

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