Snowball Games


brynn_icon.gif emily_icon.gif jim_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif sibyl4_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Also featuring: Jonah, the adorable

Scene Title Snowball Games
Synopsis After a heavy snow, some Safe Zone residents take advantage of the winter wonders while they last.
Date November 18, 2018


Elmhurst Park

Waking up to see the world has turned white overnight never fails to make things feel, as well as look, a little brighter. Despite the chill, there's plenty out walking the snow before the streets (or at least the bus routes) are cleared and the city starts to look more like a proper city again. Elmhurst Park is no exception, children running screaming through the snow-covered landscaping and between the trees. The playground set is a frozen castle that stands watch over the snowy field … across which occasionally snowballs are flying.

Bundled tightly against the elements, Emily turns to look at Squeaks by her side. "Yes, I'm serious." she says, possibly not for the first time this morning. There was some winter-weather adventuring that needed happening, unsure footing aside. Her only regret at this point was that there wasn't much in the way of sledding out here aside from a single, overcrowded hill. But that didn't mean there wasn't prime snowangel, or snowman territory that couldn't be claimed out in the Park.

Brynn's game for snow day shenanigans. The cold air has turned her cheeks bright pink and she is bundled up reasonably well against the snow — her boots and coat were obtained while living in Canada, so they're well suited to the winter weather. And having Brian still up there with some of the kids means that hand-me-downs are actually available, which she's sent home a request for so that Squeaks can have them for when it gets colder. Right now, the high in the upper 30s is quite brisk but not killer cold. Her hands, however, are not yet encased in gloves because it's a lot harder to talk with gloves on for her. You've never built a snowman, Mouse? She's kind of appalled.

The little yellow raincoat that often made Jonah Whitney stand out in a crowd has been replaced by a galaxy-print puffer jacket for the snowfall. He's one of the children running through the snow, a wide grin stretching from ear to ear, as he stops to gather up a bit of snow. His mother follows, her own tall form in a fuchsia coat, both bright figures against the white and gray landscape. Jonah throws, and Peyton murmurs something, looking in the direction of the lobbed ball.

A light, hardly packed snowball hits the ground near Emily's feet — Jonah's still a little far away and the snowball's a little too light to have made contact. "Hi Emily!" he calls out, eager to take ownership of the missed missile. "Sorry! My mom says it's not polite to throw at people not looking at me!"

There's actually a touch of suspicion in the look that Squeaks is aiming up at Emily. Not that she's deciding suddenly to stop trusting the older girl, but more like she's trying to decide if she's being teased or not. It's hard to tell sometimes, and her experiences with snow haven't been for playing. The cold wet stuff gets into your shoes and makes things freeze and makes things really hard to scavenge. But that's all stuff in the past now.

"No." Her hands match the words as she speaks, fingers peeking out of her sleeves far enough for signing, just like always, even if they sometimes are made up. "Why carrots though?" The teenager's eyes leave from their squinty look to follow a group of kids run-stomping around the playground. "And coal? And doesn't snow get into your jacket when you lay down?" These are very important questions.

It's quitting time at Elmhurst Hospital — well, for Jim, that is. The actual hospital never quits. Someone else is definitely in there, don't worry. He, however, is exiting, pulling his coat tighter around himself as he squints up at the sky, a smile settling onto his face. He reaches a hand out to catch some of the falling snow, before looking down again to start away from the hospital.

"Hey, Jonah!" he calls as the child catches his eye, and considering his proximity to Emily, she gets a wave, too, and a friendly smile. His eyes then make their way to Peyton, and she's included as well. "Hey," he says, "how's it going?"

At the periphery of the gathering, seated on a bench that flanks a salt-scattered path, a young girl bundled up in wool watches the snowballfight-that-isn't with a strange, distant sort of expression on her face. Because Sibyl Black doesn't know what she's supposed to be feeling right now.

She blinks away fluffier flakes of snow that threaten to stick to her lashes like they cling to her unruly blonde hair or the oversized peacoat she's wearing. A thermos of hot chocolate, courtesy of the Sumter family, warms her hands through the thinner knit material of her gloves.

It's her first time out in the open since leaves were still on the trees, and although she looks like she might be alone to those who don't know her, the idle flock of starlings preening in the naked branches above her suggests that she isn't actually.

Snow dampens sound. She sees mouths moving on the other side of the park without knowing what's being said. The only noises she picks up at a distance are the occasional squeals of far-off laughter.

It's peaceful here.

The snowball hitting near her feet draws Emily's attention, her brow starting to furrow before she hears her name called out from a small, still somehow familiar voice. When she turns to look, pleasant surprise reigns momentarily followed by a small but growing smirk. "While that's true, you also shouldn't throw what you're not ready to get thrown back. I outnumber you at the moment." Her grin might even be devious at this point. Her chin juts up in a nod toward Jim as he wanders their way.

Returning fire might be a touch more difficult for her in particular, being on crutches, but she had friends, after all. "Yooooou're in for it now, Jonah." she warns, any pretense of acting her age today dropped. She looks to Brynn with that same grin, gesturing with her head toward the kid and dropping carefully to her knees in the snow, crutches falling into suddenly-made canyons in the wet powder. It's been a while since she's made a snowball, but she wastes no time in gathering a bundle of snow in preparation for it.

"Help me out here, Squeaks." she says, just before flinging her small missile back toward the galaxy-themed target. Her aim was more or less true, but her enthusiasm might mean it goes a little far…

Ack! Snowball! Brynn steps back and takes a long moment to scan the park. She waves delightedly at the source of the snowball, and she pulls out her gloves to put them on. They're thin and won't last too long against the wet, so she's not planning on jumping in unless it turns into a free-for-all. Instead, she moves out of the initial firing zone, pausing to stand somewhere between where Peyton and Jim speak and where Sibyl sits. The birds in the trees draw her eyes, the flock making her tilt her head just a little. Nothing untoward, she's just watching them.

"Hi, Jim! I mean Mister Jim!" says Jonah, turning his head to grin at the RN, then looking back as Emily warns him. He squeals, with all the ear-splitting volume an almost-seven-year-old can muster, before throwing himself to the ground a bit dramatically, getting himself much colder and damper than the actual snowball hit might have.

Peyton, in the meantime, is turning to smile at Jim. "Hello! How are you? Enjoying the snow or resenting it already?" Because as beautiful as it is, most of the adults will be weary of it before the week's out. Maybe even by the end of the day.

The snowball coming her way catches her eye and she steps out of its path — no snowball martyrs here. Sorry, Jim.

The fwoompy splash of snowball near Emily's feet causes Squeaks to look at it, then at Jonah. She isn't mad or anything, but curious as always. It's like the nerf game she'd played with her siblings. But with snow. So she squats down to pack a few handfuls of snow into a ball. But when she stands up again, it's to throw it — not too hard — at Emily.

And then Squeaks runs to hide behind Brynn.

"Doing all right," Jim replies, sticking a hand into the pocket of his coat as he glances briefly at those beginning the fight, then back to Peyton. "Enjoying it so far," he continues as a chuckle escapes him. "Ask me in a couple days, though, I might have a different answer for you."

His attention is caught by Brynn moving out of the way — possibly a good idea — and he lifts a hand to her, too, a friendly gesture meant to include, though he doesn't know her, before his eyes are drawn to the birds above Sibyl.

Too many things going on, and it's a tactical error, because he doesn't notice Peyton moving out of the way until he looks back to her to continue the conversation — and gets struck right in the chest by the snowball. A half-laugh, half-yell escapes him as his hand flies up to brush the exploded particles of snow off him. "No fair," he exclaims as he gives Peyton an outraged look, though it's marred somewhat by the laugh still in his voice, "I wasn't ready!"

One of the starlings takes notice of Brynn's interest. Sunlight shines through rainbow-speckled wings as it springs from its branch and swoops closer, alighting on a nearby fence post. To Brynn, it looks like nothing but a dazzling wash of colour that lasts only for as long as the bird is in flight.

Jim sees something else: Light bends and a long shadow stretches out in front of the girl on the bench, arms outstretched with slender hooked like talons, groping at the empty space between them, reaching toward him and then—

And then nothing. The starling folds its wings again and the vision is over as suddenly as it began.

Sibyl, none the wiser, raises the thermos to her lips. She drinks.

Emily flinches as she sees the snowball sail well past its intended target, regardless of Jonah's being horizontal. There's not enough time to warn Jim or Peyton — well, just Jim, since Peyton's deliberately dodged the shot. When it seems all's well regardless, she starts to let out a laugh of relief before she's pelted instead. Her expression changes to shock, mouth agape as she slowly turns toward the rocketeer who's betrayed her, and now tries to hide.

"Squeaks, you—" she starts, cupping her hands for another small snowball and pelting it just behind where Brynn is standing in the hopes it hits her intended target. Emily's suddenly glad she's wearing a hat. She's suddenly suspecting she's about to be soaked in snowballs.

From the grin she's still wearing, though, neither appear to be things that particularly concern her.

What? Hey wait! No fair! Brynn unknowingly echoes Jim, her hands flying even as she chuffs a nearly silent laugh at her younger sibling-type. SHe dances sideways, trying to avoid getting smacked with a snowball herself, clearly not in the least upset. It appears she might be pulling out gloves to join the fray but the starling's flight — or rather the flash of color that comes with it — draws her gray eyes once more, and her curiosity is evident. She ruffles Squeaks's hair where the younger girl crouches behind her, and then she abandons the girl to her snow-covered fate, moving carefully toward the bird so she can see it better. Where the wash of colors came from she doesn't know, but she wants to! Her movements are careful as she tugs her backpack around from her shoulder to pull out a sketch pad and pencil without taking her eyes from the little avian fence sitter.

Jonah claps his hands over his mouth to try to stifle the laugh but there's no hiding his delight. "Get them!" he yells over his shoulder to Jim and his mother, who he assumes will be on his side, but Peyton's laughing and lifting her hands in a surrender.

"Time you learn to fight your own battles, kiddo," she says lightly, dark eyes sparkling with amusement.

Jonah's scooping up more snow, trying to make a better, bigger snowball than the one before, and he runs closer to hurl it at Emily — he does aim at the torso, at least, and not the face. He doesn't wait to see if it connects, but takes off running, bringing himself (and the invisible target on him) closer to Sibyl.

"Oh no!" Squeaks gets her hands up in time to keep the snowball from hitting her directly — since Brynn had to go off and leave her unguarded — but splayed fingers only make the snow splash and rain down on her anyway. She drops her hands, shaking wet and slushiness from them only so she can dive in fresh and scoop up another clump of snow. She doesn't bother to pack it into a good ball, but lobs it generally in Jonah and Emily's direction.

Jim reaches down to grab some snow — again, possibly a tactical error, considering he's not wearing gloves — and starts to pack it quickly into a ball with a grin at Jonah. He lifts his hand to throw it…before something stops him.

His hand stills in mid-toss, his fingers still around the tightly packed snow, as his eyes widen. He's looking at Sybil — staring, really, and whatever he's seeing makes him flinch back half a step. He takes in a little breath, almost unnoticeable, and he stands frozen…

…until he lets out a little yelp and drops the snow, breaking whatever had glued his gaze to Sybil. He shakes his hand quickly, rubbing it on his pants, his mouth twisting wryly.

"He's pretty, isn't he?" Sibyl asks Brynn when the older girl is within earshot. Her voice, although soft, carries the distance between them without much effort. One beady black eye regards Brynn cautiously as she fishes sketch pad and accompanying pencil from her backpack, the starling’s body tense, ready to explode into the air if the redhead so much as twitches the wrong way.

At rest, the iridescence quality of its feathers is harder to see.

At the bench, Sibyl mirrors the bird's body language while Jim's eyes are on her, relaxing only when his attention shifts elsewhere.

Brynn's stepping aside broadens Emily's grin for only a moment, though she loses track of the fight for a moment as she sees the quiet girl start to pull her pack off her shoulder, rather than participate. What had suddenly drawn her attention? There wasn't much more time to ponder it, her attention suddenly snapping back to the clump of snow that's being lobbed at her.

A breath of laughter escapes Emily as Squeaks's half-packed ball dissipates back into powder before arrival. "No— you have t-" She lets out an 'oof' as Jonah's missile pelts her near the shoulder, attention turning back to her now-running next victim. "Like this." she clarifies a little more loudly, taking a moment to pack another snowball well. Once satisfied, she tracks Jonah's steps as best she can from her kneeled position before hurling it at her giggling target.

As soon as it slips her fingers she knows it's going wide, swinging more in the direction of the bench. "Shit," she murmurs behind a cloud of breath, either from her poor aim, or from a loss of balance causing her to unsteadily sink to one side and into a sit on the ground. Emily lets out a much more deliberate puff of air to try and blow her bangs away from her face before bracing her hands on the ground to help her maneuver at least into a more comfortable position if she's going to be sitting.

When she brings out the sketchpad, Brynn sets the backpack down in the snow. Each of her movements are slow, so as not to scare off the lovely creature. She lowers herself just as carefully to sit in the snow, apparently either not having heard Sibyl or perhaps she's merely engrossed or even stuck up. She doesn't approach so close as to threaten the bird. A clean page is flipped to without her eyes ever leaving the starling, and her pencil picks a starting point to begin gentle curves and lines on the page. Although the snowball heading this direction could be a problem for what she's doing, as it flies between her and the fence post toward Sibyl! Her reaction makes patently clear she had no idea it was incoming, the way she pulls back suddenly.

"Jim?" Peyton murmurs, her voice soft, not wanting to pull anybody else's attention to the man who stands stricken, and it's just as she reaches out, as if to touch his arm lightly, that he shakes out of his trance, yelping as he does. She frowns, a sympathetic expression, and then finally reaches to touch his arm, making contact this time. "Did you see something?" she says quietly, glancing over at where Jonah's running, but then looking back at Jim.

"Can't get me!" Jonah cries, ducking behind the bench, no doubt disturbing the little starling — though the incoming snowball will probably do that on its own, as well.

This time it's an armful of snow that Squeaks gathers, as much as she can in a single two-armed sweep. She looks first at Jonah, maybe like she's going to run after him. But then Emily falls! That's a much easier target. She runs up to the older girl and throws her arms forward to fwoof the gathered snow onto her from behind. She's off running again, the curiosities of the birds and Jim's weird reaction to… snowballs? Those are all missed. Or probably just ignored.

The aftermath of the never-thrown snowball mostly dried from his hand, Jim shoves it back into his pocket with a little shiver, though only partly to due with the cold. Again, it's almost unnoticeable — but not completely unnoticeable. He looks at Peyton, then at her hand on his arm, and then, briefly, at Sibyl again. This time does not have the quality of last, though. It's not a stare, but a fleeting glance, like one would give a…well, some sort of creature that one wants to observe but doesn't want to frighten away with the knowledge that they are observing them.

It's quick, though, before he looks back to Peyton. "Uh," he starts, reaching up with his non-recently frozen hand to rub his forehead, "I thought so, yeah." He doesn't seem totally sure, though. "Probably just the snow." He smiles with a hint of self-deprecation there, and does not look as though he's about to join in the snowball fight now. He does give one more of those peripheral glances to Sibyl, though. "It can play tricks on you."

And just like that the starling is gone. Maybe it was Brynn. Maybe it was the snowball. Maybe it was Jonah's shrill, small voice.

The world may never know.

The errant snowball splashes across the seat of the bench, but thankfully misses the stranger sitting there. "Sorry," Emily shouts regardless, eyes narrowed after the mischievous boy taking shelter behind the girl's seat. She's just about got herself seated back on her heels when the mountain of snow hits her from behind, some of it sneaking down her neck in the space between her collar and scarf. Her back arches with a gasp and she swings her arm to the snow beside her, trying to strike back with as much power as she can quickly. A wave of snow is skimmed into the air without hitting much of anything before it falls again. A groan escapes her as she shakes her shoulders off, squinting at the retreating figure. Both Squeaks and Jonah had the advantage of mobility here, that was for sure.

Then, an idea.

"Though if you're not too busy," she shouts again toward the girl on the bench. "Perhaps you'd like to even the odds going on here."

The bird vanishing in the chaos is not surprising. Brynn makes a face of disappointment and turns her head toward the snowball fiends. She looks like she might grab up a handful of snow but she still has her sketchpad out and she shoves to her feet to grab herbag and slide it away quickly before glancing up and rolling her eyes at the girl on the bench that got splatted. Sorry! Clearly we need to train that lot better — their aim sucks.

Leaning down, she scoops up a mass of snow to pack into a ball, disregarding her lack of gloves, and pegs it back toward Emily at high speed.

"Mm," is all Peyton says to Jim's blaming it on the snow (at least it's not the rain. That would be cliche), and the look of worry doesn't leave, though she retracts her hand, sliding it into her pocket. Her eyes move from the man to the child as he peers over the back of the bench, giggling.

"Those grown-ups aren't helping me," he declares, pointing over to where Jim and Peyton stand, looking very somber and not at all participating in the snow ball fight. "You should be on my team," he tells Sibyl and Brynn, gathering up some and popping up like a Jack-o-lantern to hurl the new snowball in Emily's direction.

Tromping through the snow, Squeaks puts a little bit of space between her and the other snowball throwers. She raises her hands to her face and breathes on her fingers to work a little warmth back into them. But she stays watchful, the grown-ups nearby getting as much eyeballing as the Emily to one side of her and Jonah's team on the other.

Jim is, indeed, not helping Jonah at all at this point. In fact, his other hand slides into his pocket as well, solidifying that impression. Where's his sense of childlike wonder?! Flown away with the starling, clearly. Considering how he was looking at Sibyl before, maybe literally.

"How's the school year going?" he asks of Peyton, attempting to pick up the conversation again now that whatever he'd seen or hadn't seen has been appropriately glossed over.

Sibyl is not as quick to scissor away as the bird. The impact of the snowball does have her recoiling as if struck, however, and she splashes a hot dash of cocoa down the front of her coat and the unremarkable shift dress beneath. A sudden fumble catches the thermos before it hits the ground; she's on her feet soon after, vessel clutched to her chest as her feet instinctively carry her several swift paces from the bench.

She doesn't run, but she also moves with a pronounced limp — so it's possible that she simply can't. "Be careful," she whispers breathlessly at no one in particular, even if her gaze happens to fall on Emily as she says it. All at once the blood drains from her cheeks.

"BRYNN, come on!" Emily shouts at the deaf girl, knowing full well she can't be heard. After her initial lamentation, her hands fly in broad gestures to to add some actual meaning to all the enunciating she's doing. "Can't we be a team?" She's a little exasperated by now — these odds were looking worse and worse for her.

She's about to beseech the young girl for aid again and try and loop her in on the fun, but she's standing there looking alarmed, if not overwhelmed. Emily's hands settle, held out in a calming gesture as her expression changes to concern. "Hey. It's all right. You can throw one right back at me if you want to— everyone else is, after all." She makes an attempt at a smile before breaking gaze, peering to see where the next attack is coming from.

Brynn just fired back at Emily cuz she doesn't know Jonah and figured it was Em who threw at her. But she gesticulation of Sign in her direction makes her throw both her hands in the air. Shooting a grin at the other girl, she actually forgets and uses the military-esque shorthand that all the LHK know for silent battle to tell Squeaks (and Emily, though the other girl likely doesn't know the signs) that she's retreating from the field of battle to act as Overwatch. She backs toward Sibyl, but she's careful not to run into her — the girl already got startled and pelted — to just observe from the side. She shoots her another apologetic look and signs, I'm really sorry they made you spill your drink. Not that she expects the other girl to know ASL, either, but it's politeness to apologize.

Jonah's a bit too far away and his missile lands short. "I'm sorry!" he bleats out to Sibyl, realizing his coming near the bench is what made that shot go awry and nearly hit her. "Are you okay? Did you burn yourself? You can use the snow to cool it if so, and that guy over there is Mister Jim and he's a nurse, he can help you!" As usual, Jonah's information comes 100 miles a minute.

Over by Jim, Peyton's brows knit a little as she studies the girl standing up — she's seen her before, though she can't place where — before turning to Jim. "Oh, it's going very well, I think. Actually, if you were looking for extra work at all, we could use a part time nurse on staff. We have one, but she's only in three times a week, and I'd like there to be someone the remaining days. If you're at all interested. Or know someone who might be." She studies his face. "Not as bad as the last one, whatever it was," she adds, clearly disregarding the snow excuse.

If she wasn't looking for strange movement, she might have missed the signing all together. Squeaks almost replies with a question in the longer, normal sign language, but the older teen moves off too fast for it to form. So she she shrugs and looks at the teenager she doesn't know. "Brynn says she's sorry that you spilled your drink," she calls at Sybil. "Me too. And Emily and him." She motions toward Jonah, even though he's already given his own apology.

"I could probably swing two days," Jim replies after a moment's thought, and he does seem like it's something he'd like to do, not just that he's saying yes because he has to, now. "I'll have to look at shifts, but I'll let you know. If not, I'll find you someone." His smile fades just a little bit at the question, though not completely, as he nods. "Not bad," he confirms. "It still catches me off-guard every time. Seems like I ought to be used to it by now.

However, his head swings over toward Sibyl again when he hears Jonah say his name, and for the first time he notices that she might be hurt. Chalk it up to being…well, caught off-guard. Maybe he'll get a pass. "I am," he confirms, taking a couple steps toward Sibyl then, though his movements are slow, like they would be if she was a bird that he was approaching. No sudden movements. "Are you okay?"

"Yes," Sibyl says. "Yes, I'm— I'm fine." Limp aside. She looks a little thin been for her slight build with eyes that are bright but sunken: telltale signs of malnourishment, although there's something about the way she attempts to put extra weight on her weaker leg implies, at least to Jim, that she's back on the upswing.

Healing takes time. She's not all the way there. Yet.

Jonah receives a thin, wan smile in attempt to reassure him in spite of the fact that there's nothing confident about her body language or the tone her voice takes when she asks the other blonde, "Is your name Emily?"

There's no reply that immediately comes from the selfsame Emily, save for a long cloud of breath as she shoves down suspicion of her own. Something about the question had been unsettling, but she reminds herself that Jonah (if not someone else by now) had been shouting her name all too recently.

"Yeah," she affirms with another brief, forced smile. "I'm Emily. How about you?" She's studying the young girl more intently than before, finding something like familiarity about her, or at least her presentation. Thin, blonde, sullen, unsteady on her feet …

Peyton turns to look at the girl, smiling before she reaches into her "mom bag" to find a small pack of handiwipes. She moves toward Sibyl to hand her the pack. "This should help keep it from staining. I've saved quite a few garments with these little babies, because that one," a nod in Jonah's direction indicts the poor boy, "is a dirt magnet."

Her other hand reaches for Jonah, fingers meeting palm a couple of time to beckon the child to her side, and he scurries about to lean against her hip. Whether Sibyl takes the gift of the handiwipes or not, she smiles at Jim. "You know where to reach me. If I don't hear from you before the holidays, I'll just put an ad out, so no pressure. It was good to see you again."

She looks to Squeaks. "I recognize you from the twins' birthday. You work for Richard, yes? Make sure he pays you what you're worth," she says with a chuckle, before she lifts a hand in farewell. "We have an appointment to make, but I hope you all have a good day."

Jonah begins to whine with a "But M-" but a look from Peyton staves that off, and he waves. "Bye Emily! Bye Jim! And girls I don't know!" he says over his shoulder as they head toward the street.

Squeaks looks at Peyton, normal suspicion for grown-ups subdued. She can't be all that bad with Jonah and letting him play. "Yes," she answers, but it's quiet and kind of confused, and given after she and the boy are already leaving. "Bye," is offered in that same tone, well after they're too far away to hear it.

Tucking her hands into her sleeves, she eyeballs Jim for a good solid second. He's still a stranger. But she doesn't say so, or even get squinty at him. Following that, her attention goes to Sybil and Emily, then to the way Brynn went. Maybe she should go check on the older girl.

Jim looks Sibyl over with a more critical eye, though seeing that she does seem to be on the road to healing, he stops his approach, and nods once. "Good," he says, and he starts to say something else, but then thinks better of it, stopping it before it starts.

Instead, he looks over at Peyton as she takes her leave, replying, "Sure, I'll do that. Thanks for the offer. Bye, Jonah," the child getting a wave and a smile that's more normal now, far enough away from whatever it was that he'd seen before.

He takes a step back then as he turns to the children — no offense, Emily, but he's 40, so, you know. It's all relative. "See you, Emily," he says. "Bye, girls." The last to Sybil and Squeaks, even as the latter eyes the hell out of him. That's his cue, and he turns too, then, starting away.

Sibyl starts to answer Emily's question with one of her own. "Is—"

Whatever she was about to say next is snipped short by a sharp intake of breath. Her teeth clip together. Suddenly she's looking past Emily, over her shoulder at the other figures on the opposite side of the park, searching the crowd for a familiar silhouette with a kind of earnestness in her eyes that Emily hasn't seen since she herself was very small and looking in the mirror.

Whatever she's looking for, she doesn't find it.

Because of course Avi isn't there. He never is. (Except the one time it actually mattered.)

"Sorry," she says then, using Peyton's gifted pocket wipes to scrub at the front of her coat. "Coincidence. I should go."

Emily's stomach sinks at Sibyl's reaction, forgetting to say her goodbyes to everyone else that's filing off back to the rest of their mornings. The park feels quiet, even with the distant sounds of excitement from the other children and families nearby.

She's never looked like this, Squeaks might note, not even during their more wild adventures. Never looked this uncertain.

"Coincidence," Emily echoes under her breath, head starting to shake. Whatever she means to follow it up with keeps slipping away from her. She registers the smaller girl saying she should leave and blinks rapidly, swallowing away her sudden nerves.

Her voice is just as uncertain as Sibyl's had been as she reaches out to try and reclaim her attention. "You're not Sibyl, are you?" There's a distinct regret in her eyes after the words slip away, almost as if they were by accident.

Squeaks' head swivels back to Emily and Sybil, mouth just beginning to form some words. Whatever it is she's considering say stalls. Because usually Emily, even though she protests a lot, doesn't usually look afraid of anything. It's enough to make her anxious and give the girl she doesn't know another, more wondering look.

She doesn't say anything, her lips fold over her teeth and she looks between the two blondes again. But it's the older one that Squeaks moves toward, with one hand coming out of her pocket so she can lightly press a finger against Emily's arm. It's that thing she does, to offer assurance.

She could deny it. Lie. Imagine another name or another life and feed Emily that instead. It would be easy, but also: not very convincing. She responds to the name Sibyl in the way only someone called that can.

"Did he tell you about me?" That's a yes. She's Sibyl.

Emily lets out a short breath, eyes lifting to the sky for a moment in disbelief as much as to center herself. He. The girl really did know her father. Her hand goes to her face, massaging over her mouth with a soaked mitten like it'll keep her from swearing out loud.

Sibyl. Epstein — Black — whoever she is.

She looks back down at the girl again, sitting into her heels as she considers her.

Whoever she was.

Squeaks' touch distracts her, her face turning just slightly even though her eyes don't leave the small blonde before her. She seems to hesitate on her response, remodulating it possibly.

"Where have you been?" she asks quietly, voice nearing a whisper.

Moving carefully, Squeaks tucks her hand into her pocket again. She looks at Sybil again, a longer look this time. Her feet shuffle and she moves a step away, deciding maybe she should leave them alone. "I'm going to find Brynn," she thinks, out loud but more quietly said than if she were in a library. She looks at the pair again, first the younger then the older blonde, as she starts in the direction she last saw her sister go.

Sibyl assesses Emily from beneath her lashes. The answer to Emily’s question should be straightforward, and yet it isn’t.

“Where he was always worried I’d end up,” is what she settles on, and something steely, almost defensive enters her tone when she says it.

She’s angry. Not at Emily.

“But I think he knew that.”

When Squeaks moves off, Emily turns to look finally, her brow furrowing. She'd call her back, but suspects it's likely better this way. A few less questions later, if she's lucky. The concern is still present in her gaze when she turns back to Sibyl, beginning to remove her soaked mittens.

Worried. About her. And he told her. He…

For a moment, she sees nothing at all of the thin girl in front of her, only hears her heart pounding in her ears. Emily blinks, fighting down the complicated mess of emotions that try to rise. With any luck, she'll find a way to avoid facing them later, too. Her head shakes absently as the flash of frustration fades.

She's fished her cell from the pocket of her coat, and holds it loosely in one hand. "Do you have a phone? Something— to…"

“Don’t worry,” Sibyl says, filling the space opened up by Emily’s unfinished thought. Her voice gentles, loses most of its edge. “He really does love you. That I remember.”

The phone she produces from her own pocket is older, its screen cracked, bulkier than is fashionable these days, but its owner seems like the sort of person who prioritizes utility over style. Also: it’s a burner.

She offers it to Emily.

"Yeah," Emily replies halfheartedly, taking the phone. Her lips purse together as she considers addressing the comment.

Eager to distance herself momentarily from talk of her father. she dials in her own number, thumbs the dial key, and waits for her own screen to light up. When it does, she ends the call and is working on keying her name as a contact before a thought creeps in unwanted. That she remembers? Which one of her?

"Had you been having trouble with your memory?" She holds out the burner to return it with a newly saved 'Emily' in its phonebook.

"Sorry, he… rarely tells me anything." she adds just as softly. "Just assumes I'll know what to do."

“Always,” Sibyl says of her memory.

Of Avi: “One of us should forgive him.”

She glances at Emily’s contact information in her phone, then turns it off, screen plunging into blackness. When she slips it back into her coat pocket, it’s with a decisive, pointed sort of finality.

“It was nice to finally meet you, Emily.”

"It's not that simple." Emily replies, brow furrowed as she glances back up. She'd attempt to smile, but out of the many emotions she has for the subject of forgiving her father, none of them could conjure something like that.

She shifts her weight in the snow, considering the girl before her. "If there's anything I can do, you have my number." Her own phone is tucked back into her coat, hands folding in her lap.

"You, too. Take care of yourself, Sibyl." She lifts her head in an upward nod at her, brushing her hair back behind her ear. "If you need anything, need a place…" Emily starts to shrug before reaching into the snow for her fallen crutches.

“Thank you.”

Sibyl’s booted feet leave narrow prints in the snow as she goes. She steers herself in a different direction than Emily’s companions went, ultimately cutting across a trail so dense with other people’s tracks that it would be impossible for anyone but a bloodhound or a psychometer to follow her.

She has contingency plans for both.

Emily doesn't bother looking up regardless, continuing to collect herself to stand again. Knowing where the girl's gone isn't information she wants to be burdened with right now, already about at her limit with what she just learned. She can't exhale, not really, until the sounds of Sibyl's footsteps grow too distant to hear.

Fuck. she finally lets herself think it and feel it, wondering what the hell she's done. Jesus Christ, Emily, you didn't just step in it, you jumped right in. There's anger, mostly at her father, but some at herself. Lying was something she almost always backed out of, but she hadn't this time. But what would the outcome of it be?

Just what was she going to do now?

Emily steadies her grip on her crutches, turning back to where Brynn and Squeaks had gone. It takes her a moment to box the encounter up better and start off in their direction. She queues up casual deflections for the odd question if it's posed, and tries to refocus herself on the reason they came here.

They'd ticked 'snowball fight' off the list of winter wonder activities already. If the other two weren't cold yet, maybe they could shoot for one more small adventure before retreating to Julie and Emily's for something to warm up with.

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