Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow
Synopsis An evening bus ride turns into the intersection of serendipity and certainty.
Date April 16, 2021

The covered bus stop outside the Red Hook Market is a busy place at this time of day.

With the sun just starting to dip behind the jagged skyline of the Manhattan Exclusion Zone, shadows are long and dark, stretching out across the Safe Zone. A dozen people sit together on the U-Shaped bench inside the bus stop enclosure, its walls plastered with new and old posters for events at the market.

Seating is a premium, however, and some people waiting for the bus choose to stand. There’s a young woman on a cell phone talking in sharp, hushed tones of a public argument to whoever is on the other end of the line. A pair of women in floral print hijabs talk with one-another by the curbside, paper bags of groceries on the curbside at their feet. An elderly man with stooped posture and a warm smile contents himself with texting someone while waiting.

Then there’s Tom Porter.

Still dressed in his work clothes from his lunch rush shift at the Nite Owl Diner down in Bay Ridge, Tom shuffles, scoots, and dances along to whatever song is playing in his large, over-ear headphones. He bobs his head, mumble-whispers a few lyrics here and there, and sometimes even snaps his fingers. The headphones’ cord winds down his side, twisting around his wrist, then connects to the folded Awasu in his back pocket.

It’s just an ordinary day in the New York City Safe Zone, where nothing unusual is happening.

Red Hook Market Bus Stop
Red Hook

April 16th
6:44 pm

Matthew Parkman Jr. can’t sit still either, but unlike Tom, he’s not dancing. It’s just the way things are for a boy his age. The thirteen-year-old turns to regard his current guardian, Delilah Trafford, where she waits. He makes eye contact with her, then slides his eyes pointedly over at the gyrating silhouette of Tom moonwalking across the sidewalk, then back again. With a barely-restrained snicker, Matthew raises one brow, as if soliciting Delilah for her opinion.

Having a couple of kids around to act as physical labor is pretty nice. The grocery run was a bit heavier than usual, but not too much that Dee and the boys can't get it home in ripstop plastic bags.

April chill has Lilah in a denim jacket over her knee-length dress, casual and easygoing in fit. She looks up when she feels Matthew's eyes, brow pinching while she tunes in on what he's trying to share. Partly for him and partly because aww, Dee does give a little laugh and a roll of both shoulders in a shrug.

"Seen worse, little man." She thinks it's endearing, despite the quelling of her smile into the purse of mouth. Walter is on Matthew's other side, more keen on fiddling with his own little music player, one earbud in. He looks up with a curious blink when his mother laughs.

Present at the bus stop as well is another pair of redheads. The lion's share of Elaine's attention is on the girl at her side, vigilantly watching to make sure she's entertained and comfortable while affording the rest of the bus stop's occupants a bit of a glance. While the dance manages to catch her attention and prompt a hint of a smile, it's the sight of Delilah and her two young laborers that gets her attention.

She holds up a hand to wave in their direction. "Looks like our bad luck is good luck after all," she notes, taking a peek at the smaller redhead near her. "We've got friends to hang out with."

Though once she had been Addie, Odette was the name she chose to go by, still. Her superhero name, as she had declared once, in secret. The little medium-sized potato sack of a girl is bundled up in a jacket and a little hat over her red hair, with a woven basket on her arm. “I brought friends, but I like new friends. There weren’t a lot of kids back home,” meaning Providence. Cause that had been home, even during the fires. For the moment.

What she meant by friends, though, she was two stuffed animals whose heads popped out of the top of the woven arm bag. A raccoon and a pink pig, with little eyeglasses that someone had made for Dr. Schwein. Elaine, by now, knew what each of the two’s names was and all a sign of her raising in another world. Teaching her young daughter how to say animal’s names in many different languages. The pig was German. The raccoon was Czech. And they each had their own different personalities.

At least they did to Odette. She might grow out of that one day, but that day wasn’t today at the bus stop. “Magistra Mýval says public transportation is good practice for the future, anyway.”

Matthew looks at Elaine with a somewhat wide-eyed expression. It’s surprise, enough to draw his attention away from Tom’s lyrical gyrations.

“Hi Ms. Darrow,” he says with a polite smile and a raise of one hand in a wave. Unconsciously, Matthew moves to stand near Walter. But it’s Odette that is a cipher to him.

Brows furrowed, Matthew considers the girl for a moment, the stories Robyn had told him about dimensions and adventure, about Magnes. He looks over to Odette, then politely waves to her with a smile. But he doesn’t quite think to introduce himself.

Nearby, Tom’s whisper-singing rises to a falsetto of, “Give me time, give me time!” His eyesscrunched shut and one hand clutched in front of his face as if holding a microphone. He realizes a split second later what he’s doing and stops, grimacing awkwardly while avoiding eye-contact with everyone else.

"Hey, who's that babe waiting for the bus?" Delilah greets Elaine with laughter at the wave, tipping her head to get the boys to stay with her as she steps closer. For the girl with her, Delilah gives a new, personal smile. "And hello, miss Odette, I haven't seen you in a while. I heard you're doing good in school." Said in the ways of an auntie presenting something prestigious that she knows. Walter knows the little girl too, and he smiles a quiet hello while his mother speaks.

Of course, Tom and his misfortune draw her ears and eyes back. When he freezes and inwardly shrivels up on his realizations- - Delilah grins right at him and holds a hand up in the mime of a chefkiss/ok-sign. Pure Pacha. She dug it, Tom, you're fine.

Elaine's expression lightens at the mention of the stuffed animal's cleverness. "That's a very true statement, sounds like you've been learning quite a bit," she turns her attention to the "impressive" performance briefly with an amused grin before she looks back over in the trio's direction. "Matthew, Dee, Walter, it's honestly good to see all of you." The amused grin from Tom's antics carries over when she nods in Matthew's direction. "You don't have to call me that. I get enough Ms. Darrow at work, I like to be Elaine when I'm out. Tends to be more fun that way."

She looks down at the smallest redhead. "Odette, why don't you introduce yourself and your friends you've brought along? I bet they're excited to meet new friends too. I don't think you've gotten to meet Matthew yet." She stage-whispers in Odette's direction, "He's actually pretty cool, I think you'll like him."

“My name is Odette!” the young girl says cheerfully, leaving out any last names, because well, that part can get confusing anyway. Lang is what she would want to say, still, but Varlane? Darrow? Varlane-Darrow? Varlane-Lang? It’s complicated. Odette works. “This is Doctor Schwein,” which is said in a distinctly German pronunciation style. “And Magistra Mýval,” whose name and the title have a different texture to it entirely. Her mother had taught her proper pronunciation as a child and it had stuck with her. It carried with all of her stuffed animals.

She often would correct people who would say their names wrong.

“Nice to meet you, Matthew. I’ve been learning a lot. Magistra Mýval makes sure I do all of my homework.” Though she scrunches her nose a little as she turns her head away as if hiding it from the raccoon’s beady little black eyes. Don’t look, Magistra Mýval. No kid likes their homework even when they use the raccoon as an excuse to do it. “Hertog Vos lets me skip out on it, but daddy made me leave him at home cause he likes to call the teachers names at school.”

“Uh, yeah,” Matthew says awkwardly, “cool.” He looks down at his feet, then over to Walter with furrowed brows and a who is this? expression on his face.

Meanwhile at the end of the block a black and green Yamagato Simul—a segmented electric bus colloquially known as the caterpillar because of its coloration and shape—rounds the corner and begins making its way toward the bus stop.

People begin to rise from the benches and move to the curbside. In that same time, Tom continues to jam on to his music, but with a more reserved head bob and absolutely no eye contact because he is mortified oh my god the cute redhead made a weird gesture at him she must think he’s the weirdest person in the city oh god

Tom closes his eyes and shakes his head. It can’t be that bad.

“C’mon,” Matthew says, gesturing to the approaching bus with an impatient nod, “we gotta get good seats!” He hurries away from the small group, hustling past Odette and Elaine to take up a spot on the curb, looking back and waving repeatedly like it’s some sort of life-or-death mission.

Passingly familiar with Dette's stuffies, Delilah stifles a laugh, though she seems glad that the girl happily engages Matthew. Standing with Elaine, the other redhead gives the boy in question a perplexed look as he seems ready to leap onto the bus. Walter is right behind him, still piping at the older boy with the tail end of a "- - kind of like my cousin or something."

"The bus is going to stop, you don't need to Action Hero onto it…" Aie. Delilah makes a put-upon sound with her nose, then a Look for Elaine before she steps after the boys. Despite it, she laughs, gently brushing past others to catch up. "What constitutes a good seat, Matt?" It's not like he's sightseeing. She knows it's just one of those Things. Some people really like the back, for no discernible reason.

Elaine casts a glance in Delilah's direction with a raised brow at Matthew's determination of needing to grab the best seats. It does spark a smile, though, and she reaches her hand towards Odette to keep her close as they head buswards. "We're riding a bus, not watching a movie," she adds to Delilah's remarks. "But I'm sure Matthew knows exactly where the good seats are." It gets a bit of a grin before she's got her eyes on Odette again.

"I bet we can find a good spot where you can look out the window. I wonder if Doctor Schwein will have any observations."

“He says that the bus smells nicer than the trucks back in Providence, mom. It must use something much more fuel-efficient.” The young girl says, using big words for someone so small, and sounding as if she’s quite proud of herself. Of course, she would claim she’s just repeating what the Doctor was saying. Odette looks proudly down at the pig as if he too were smiling at her with pride, before moving in preparation for getting on. “I would like to look out the window! — yes, yes, Magistra, you can look out with me, she wants to see the new buildings.”

Still, she does not yet pluck the raccoon out of the bag and just moves to follow onboard the bus, to go where her mother chooses to sit. Because even if the woman who had been her mother was technically gone— this woman was still her mother. She had two mothers. One who was gone, and one who was here. Just like she had two daddies.

And that was her normal.

The line for the bus is short, but the bus itself is tightly packed. Matthew makes a soft huff sound as soon as he’s gotten on and scanned his transport pass. All the back seats are taken.

“Oh, over here!” Matthew says, spotting a row of seats opening up as passengers disembark out another door for the market. He takes a seat down on the curb-side window, patting a seat next to him and putting his backpack in another to reserve for Walter. They have a system.

“C’mon, before they get taken!” Matthew cries in a sharp voice, as if this were a matter of life and death. Kids.

“Kids, right?” Tom says with a lopsided smile to Delilah before he gets on the bus, awkwardly whacking his shoulder onto the door because he was still looking back at her. He grimaces, awkwardly, and then ducks his head as he ascends the steps to the driver to scan his pass.

Tom shuffles down the aisle, knowing better than to try and take one of the seats Matthew is guarding like a little watchdog. Instead he stands in the middle, taking a grip on one of the aluminum poles while shuffling through his music with his free hand.

"Right." Delilah only smiles back when she answers Tom, the expression tightening for his sake so she doesn't let a laugh through. Walter pops out from Dee's shadow to slide after Matthew, the system working perfectly when the younger boy sweeps into the seat while sliding bags onto his lap.

"Easy with that food, squirts." Is Dee's only warning as she settles in near the boys on the seat facing, brows up. "It does have to make it home."

The moniker of "mom" is not one Elaine's too used to wearing, but by her expression she still wears it with pride. She guides Odette towards a seat near them, making sure that the girl gets settled in her seat before settling down in one herself. "The good Doctor is right about fuel efficiency," she notes. "I believe it's electric. Which, of course, means it's less smelly and therefore more fun to ride." She gives the girl a warm smile before looking over to Delilah.

"Pretty clever of you to bring a whole work force for your shopping. I wouldn't have thought of that."

“But Doctor Schwein wonders if electricity is really more fuel efficient in the end, depending on where the electricity comes from. If it comes from Ravenwood they use mostly biofuel and natural gas and really how good is that in the end?” Food for thought— from a stuffed pig. Or an eight year old. Odette must have paid close attention in class when they did the Ravenwood talk.

“But it does smell nicer! And looks prettier too. I like it.” And with that, she settles firmly into her seat and looks out. And then she looks up in agreement with her mom, because, well, “No, Magistra Mýval, mommy doesn’t need to add grocery duty to my chore list just cause Matthew and Walter are helping.” And with that the raccoon gets pushed deeper into the bag.

Not today, Choremaster.

“Hey,” Matthew says to Walter, “when we get home, let’s try the Ziggurat of the False Princess dungeon.” He says with a bright smile, eagerly bouncing up and down in his seat. “I want to get an ethereal katana so I can masterwork it on my wind dancer.” He adds with gleeful delight.

Tom, still cycling through his music, side-eyes Matthew. His brows come together, recognition briefly on his face, followed by a fond smile. “You know that also drops in the Forgotten Dimension raid, right?” His brows kick up, attention angled down at Matthew.

Matthew, realizing a stranger is talking to him, looks wide-eyed up at Tom. He shrinks back a little, then smiles awkwardly. “I’m not high enough level for that but uh, thanks.”

“Ah, no problem.” Tom says with an equally awkward smile back. “Sorry I didn’t mean to butt in, I just love that game. A friend just carried me through the Pyramid of Ages the other night.”

As they talk, the bus starts to pull from the curb. The ride is smooth and quiet, with a somewhat floaty quality to it from the advanced suspension, like being in a longboat on a placid lake. Matthew glances over at Walter, then looks back to Tom.

“What do you play?” Matthew asks.

“Oh, I’ve got a couple of alts, but my main is an Iron Marshall,” Tom says proudly.

Matthew rolls his eyes. “Ugh, dumb mace guy.”

Excuse m—” Tom stops mid-flustered shout. Something about this felt weirdly familiar. He looks between Matthew and Walter. Then over to Delilah. Then back to the kids. Gears slowly turn behind Tom’s eyes.

"Right?" Delilah leans back with a laugh for Elaine, and it softens for the girl's shoving the plush deeper into her bag. Odette's conversation with her animals gets just a brief confusion from Walter, unsure about the talk of engineering until Matthew tugs his brain back to more important things. Like katanas.

"If it drops I want the Lyre of the Hinterlands, deal?" Walter answers, only to hear the man on the bus chime in. He's less shy about engaging with strangers, however, and his body language speaks of it. He nudges Matt with an elbow, needling. "He got his butt kicked once and he's been taking it out on every Iron Marshall forever."

"They drag me into that game sometimes," Delilah's voice hopefully penetrates the shield of Tom's brain gears, amused as it comes. Maybe she can make Matthew feel less on the spot. "But it's not really my type."

"A lot of electric vehicles these days run off of green energy," Elaine glances over to the smallest redhead. "I bet Doctor Schwein would love to get a tour of Raytech sometime. I'm sure he'd find something interesting in there." She is only peripherally listening to the conversation about the game, but Delilah's mention of being dragged into the game occasionally gets a grin from Elaine.

"Ah, but see, that means you get to be the cool mom. The mom who plays video games and understands that not all games can be paused." She hasn't seemed to notice particularly why Tom's flustered, and her gaze goes back to Odette. "I always thought I'd be the cool mom, but I think Dee's got me beat."

“You’re cool!, mom! You can read all these languages and you’re really good at all the games we play,” Odette huffs, defending her mom’s coolness. “We couldn’t have those in Providence. We barely had enough electricity for lights at night most of the time.” Internet? That definitely was not a thing, but she understands what video games were. She just hasn’t really played them much because, well, she spent way too much time in the land of low tech.

Even when she visits her mom she’d been more interested in her stuffed animals and books and board games and things that she could touch. “Dancing man plays that game too— does everyone play that game?”

It’s very popul—” Tom starts to defend himself before realizing he’s about to defend himself from a child’s opinion. He raises one hand to his face and mumbles. “Tom, this is a very low point in your life.”

“Aunt Delilah,” Matthew says with a look over at her, “can Aunt Elaine come over for dinner?” There’s a hopeful smile on his face, a brightness in his eyes. There was something about Elaine that put Matthew at ease, even if he didn’t know how to vocalize it. “We could hang out, and…” he tries to find more reasons.

“Mom wants to have everyone over for dinner sometime when she’s back from work, but who knows when that’ll be, y’know?” Matthew says with a bit of a huff, more willing to show his disappointment with things when Robyn isn’t around. Delilah’s noticed it, how Matthew walks on eggshells around her, even if she’s never asked him to.

Tom, scrolling through the music on his phone to hide from his embarrassment, glances up at Delilah. “Hey do I know you from somewhere?” He asks after a moment of thought, tugging one earbud out of his ear as he does. “That’s not a pickup line, either, I just feel like I know your face from—”

Tom’s eyes lift up past Delilah.

Color drains from his face.

He has locked eyes on a semi-truck barreling through an intersection, less than a car’s length away from the side of the bus. Headlights shine through the windows.

Matthew turns slowly, looking over his shoulder at the light.

The truck is now inches away.

His heart skips a beat.


Four blocks from the Red Hook Market

8:12 pm

Blue and red lights flicker across rain-slicked asphalt.

Rows of fire trucks line one side of the street glittering with broken glass. Police cars block off traffic on both lanes. An electric car hums up to the roadblock, setting itself in park. The driver’s side door swings open quickly, and Detective Colette Demsky emerges from the vehicle, fishing through the interior pocket of her jacket for her badge.

She identifies herself, walking past the beat officers directing traffic at the intersection, then rounds the front of the SUVs forming the blockade. Drizzling rain collects in her hair. It’s only then that she sees how bad it is, and her heart skips a beat.

A green Yamagato Simul lays in two pieces on either side of the street on its side. Broken glass is everywhere, mixed with twisted metal. The stench of gasoline fills the air, but that can’t be from the electric bus. But rather, the massive semi truck with twisted wreckage from the bus driven through the grill of the vehicle.

Ambulances occlude view of much of the rest of the scene. A crowd of shaken passengers stand on the curb with police officers, most of them wrapped in reflective thermal blankets. As Colette approaches, an officer moves to meet her.

“Demsky,” the officer says, taking quick strides to meet with her.

“What do we have?” Colette asks, breaking off with the officer to head toward the wreckage.

“City bus moving through a four-way stop, broadsided by the semi going at least seventy miler per hour. No braking.” The officer explains. “Driver of the Semi says he manifested, had an out-of-body experience and lost control of the vehicle. The cab smells of booze, but we’re running a blood text and sending it off to toxicology.”

Colette nods, assessing the wreckage. “Jesus. Was anyone—”

“We’ve got about a dozen people injured, and seven people the paramedics weren’t able to resuscitate.” The officer says with a shake of his head. “It’s going to take time to identify some of the dead, it’s—it was really bad.”

Colette breathes in deeply, then turns her back to the wreckage. “Do we know if any of the deceased are Expressives? Has SESA been called in?”

The officer nods, then looks awkward. “Yeah, ah,” he lowers his voice and looks over to the bus. “Demsky, you were Ferry.” He says quietly, and Colette nods in a slow confirmation as dread prickles up the back of her neck. “We found this in the wreck, we—I thought you might want to know.”

The officer holds out a battered Registration card. The color drains from Colette’s face and the area around her. She brings a hand up to her mouth, reflexively, and looks wide-eyed over at the officer.

The name on the card: Darrow, Elaine

“She didn’t walk away from the wreck, so we… have to assume…” The officer looks down, then back up. “Maybe she got off the bus and forgot her ID, I just—I thought you might want to know.”

Colette’s throat tightens and she turns to look back at the bus, at the twisted metal and broken glass, at the wreckage of so many lives.

Further away, a man in a dark suit watches the exchange. Agent Michel Harris lifts a phone to his ear and turns from the scene of the accident, walking down the street.

“It happened.”


Say you'll stay until tomorrow

Broken pieces of metal lay scattered across a scrub grass field.

I can't face tonight alone

Broken glass glitters amid the debris. A lost shoe, smoke rising from the laces.

Though I know it's over and we're through

A Yamagato Awasu lies face down in the grass, headphones next to it, and a tinny rendition of a Tom Jones classic playing into the night air.

Say you'll stay until tomorrow

Demolished apples, a broken loaf of bread, and several pieces of smashed fruit are ground into the field.

I've known for some time now

Lighting flashes in a clear night’s sky, thunder rumbles unimpeded across the flatland.

That thing's just ain't been right

Groaning softly, Tom Porter rolls onto his side, then breaks into a fitful coughing. Steam rises up from his shoulders and back, the ground beneath him is scorched as if he’d burned it. With a jolt and a gasp, he sits up with wide eyes.

Cause when we try to talk

In the dark, Tom can barely make out the shapes of other people around him. Red hair tumbled down over grass, so much red hair. He blinks his eyes against blurred vision, sees Elaine, Odette, and Walter beginning to squirm, the ground around them likewise scorched.

We both get so uptight

Slowly pulling himself to his feet, realizing he’s missing a shoe, Tom limps across the broken field.

But now you've told the truth

In the distance, headlights shine bright as vehicles tear down an old country road. Tom wheels around, scanning the horizon. No skyscrapers, no buildings, no city.

And I know where I stand

“Hey, hey,” Tom stammers, wobbling onto his knees beside Delilah and Walter. Neither of whom seem fully-conscious. “Hey c’mon we—we gotta—get up.” Tom looks around, over to Elaine, then up past her to the headlights getting closer.

Though it hurts (though it hurts)

What the fuck is happening,” Tom whispers to himself, patting himself down for injuries, then focusing on the headlights again.

Deep inside (deep inside)

What the fuck is happening?

Give me time (give me time)

What the fuck is happening?

I'll get by, so

Walter, eyes slowly fluttering open, stares up at the starry night’s sky.

Though I know it's over and we're through

He turns, looking over to where Matthew lays next to him, their hands linked together.

Say you'll stay until tomorrow

What the fuck is happening?

I need you

J.B. Foster Ranch

50 Miles North of Roswell, New Mexico

July 8th


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