Sometimes We Need the Lie


bf_eileen_icon.gif bf_gabriel_icon.gif bf_nick_icon.gif

Scene Title Sometimes We Need the Lie
Synopsis Nick and Eileen receive word that Gabriel is under arrest.
Date November 9, 2018

DHS Holding Facility

The waiting room of the DHS Holding Facility is stark and clean with white linoleum floors, white walls, and a white ceiling that reflects the harsh, fluorescent glow of the lights that hang from it. To say that it was not designed with comfort in mind would be an understatement.

It reminds Nick of a prison, and in many ways it is.

A row of chairs against the far wall opposite a receptionist’s booth lined with bullet proof glass is the only furniture in the room, which is large enough for his sister to pace — but only just. Eileen is still dressed in her muted turquoise scrubs and a gray tank top tucked haphazardly into her pants. Her hair appears a little more put together in a tight bun at the nape of her neck, securely fastened with bobby pins that flash under the lights every time she changes direction.

It’s been a few hours since they received word that Gabriel Gray had been taken into government custody for questioning regarding the apparent murder of one Elisabeth Harrison.

Also an understatement: Eileen has not taken the news well.

Her throat remains raw from a screaming match with an unidentified government official she engaged in some twenty minutes ago. Demands to speak with Avi Epstein have gotten them nowhere. She’s had nothing else to do except continuously span the length of the room with her arms crossed and drawn into her body, and she’s already showing signs of beginning to grow frustrated with that.

He should say something.

Blue eyes follow her movements up and down the row of seats. Nick sits at the end of that row, unable, even if he wanted to, to pace its length. Instead his wheelchair sticks out into the path of anyone coming or going up to the receptionist.

He glances toward the booth, perhaps to see if he can catch the gaze of the employee there, garner some sympathy for his sister. But his brief work in an agency not totally unlike this one has made him all too well aware that their situation is not an emergency to anyone besides themselves.

Once, twice, three times, he opens his mouth to speak just as Eileen pivots off into the opposite direction. He rakes a hand through his hair, which is already a mussed from that nervous tic of his. Finally he puts his hands on the wheels to roll forward, in effect shortening her runway by about half.

“Lee. Sit. Wearing a hole in the linoleum isn’t going to help, yeah? Maybe we should call a lawyer. Trent’ll know someone.” His agent has represented a few notorious authors who’ve had their share of skirmishes with the law.

So Eileen sits.

She sinks into the seat beside Nick’s wheelchair and places her feet together on the floor, leaning forward until her arms are resting in a slant across her knees.

The prospect of losing her husband down a deep, dark hole has drained the blood from her face and makes the dark circles stand out under her eyes like bruises. Either crying hasn’t occurred to her yet, or it’s taking whatever energy she has left not to.

She seeks out Nick’s hand with her own and clutches it tight.

When she does speak, it’s in a very small voice. “I don’t think a lawyer is going to help.”

Nick stares at her, his brow furrowed with worry as he studies her face. He swallows when she speaks, that small voice no doubt reminding him of a much younger version of herself, a person he had once protected. These days, she’s the strong one.

His hands wrap around hers, folding the tiny hand in his larger ones. A sigh escapes his lips and he looks away, back to the door that remains closed to them. Locking Eileen away from the person she needs desperately to see.

She’s probably right, and he knows it. He also knows not to say it.

“Maybe not, but he’ll need one anyway, yeah?” His own voice sounds too loud in the empty waiting room. “I’ll just text…”

It’s something to do, at any rate, besides watching her and feeling helpless. He keeps one hand in hers, but tugs the phone from the side satchel of his wheelchair, adept and nimble fingers typing out a message against the glass surface of the phone.

“He didn’t do it.”

The words sound like they could be directed at the receptionist on the other side of the glass, but they aren’t, even if she does glance up from her paperwork and steer a nervous look across the room at the two Ruskin siblings.

“We’ve worked too hard, sacrificed too much.” Eileen curves her thumb along the edge of Nick’s hand. “He didn’t do it,” she says again, as though repeating the words gives them more weight, makes them more likely to be true.

“I know him. He’s killed, but he’s not a killer.”

Her words are met with a nod.

“I know.”

He’s not placating her — there’s sincerity behind the soft-spoken words.

There’s a small chime from the phone and he glances at it, thumb swiping out a short response.

“I know,” he repeats, “but even though he’s innocent, Lee, he’s going to need one.” He pauses. “Especially because he’s innocent.”

Nick nods down at his phone. “Trent’s calling someone, big defense attorney.” He hesitates, before offering, “I can help pay for it.”

Eileen releases her hold on Nick as her body sinks further forward. The enormity of the situation is a weight on her shoulders that has her head between her legs and both hands clasped at the back of her neck.

“The pardons were just a gesture.” She studies the grain of the floor, which looks like it’s supposed to be stone but isn’t. “Empty.”

She lets out a long, slow breath. “They've been waiting years for him to fuck up. Vultures, all of them. Shitty little opportunistic monsters.”

Eileen raises her eyes and focuses on the door the last official disappeared through. It's heavy. Metal. Her stare threatens to burn straight through it. “Someone needed an excuse,” she says, “so they made one.”

When she lets go, he leans forward in a mirror of her own movements, though he leans his arms across his knees instead. He listens, a muscle in his jaw twitching with the tension that comes with the anxiety of waiting, the hopelessness and helplessness of being unable to do anything to help her.

“Maybe,” Nick agrees quietly. He’s seen enough backroom deals to know promises are often broken. The bullet that hit his spine was a betrayal he didn’t expect, either.

“Let’s not give up just yet though, yeah? If,” he cuts a sharp glance to the receptionist that’s meant for the officials beyond and above her, “they let us in soon, he’s gonna need you to be strong. He’ll be looking to you for…”

He gestures, vaguely with one hand. “Hope, maybe. A glimmer of it. You can break later, but he needs to see you’re okay.”

It’s bullshit advice, and he knows it. “Even though you’re not. Sometimes we need the lie.”

Eileen measures her breathing. She focuses on its depth, the capacity of her lungs, trying to determine how much additional oxygen she needs to administer to her body to stabilize the panicked flutter of her heart.

There are habits she's developed during her time as a nurse. This is one of them.

A casual glance at Eileen's relationship with Gabriel and it would be easy to assume gender stereotypes about their dynamic: The Englishwoman is all understated gestures and quiet words, eyes that view the world from beneath a veil of dark, feathery lashes. Her mate is broad-shouldered and barrel-chested with a mass that dwarves hers in comparison. His arms were built for encompassing her entire body in them, and this is the one place in the world Eileen feels like she might be invulnerable.

A casual glance at Eileen's relationship with Gabriel indicates nothing of the wedding vows they both made to protect the other, or how difficult it is for someone as small and as soft as she is to accept that sometimes the best way to protect someone you love is by doing absolutely nothing at all.

In other words: Nick is right.

“Thank you,” she croaks out. “I'll try.”

Her brother reaches for her hand again, folding it in his once again. “I know how hard it is to not be able to do anything more,” he says, softly.

It’s a feeling he understands all too well.

“Should we call someone else? I know a writer at the Times. Light a fire under their asses if they know they’re being watchdogged?” Nick glances at the door again, as if he could will it open. These are the only tools he has to help — his cell phone full of contacts made by virtue of being a known entity in literary circles.

For the first time since being shot, he wishes he still had his Interpol credentials.

The idea of blackmailing Epstein with the threat of an editorial in the Times sends a secret thrill up Eileen's spine, but she shakes her head no.

Not yet.

“Do you remember how she used to put us on the other side of a door like that?” she asks him instead, soliciting a distraction. Mum, she means.

“We used to think the flat was prison, but we really had no idea what a prison was then, did we?”

Sometimes it’s a pardon with painfully strict parameters.

Sometimes it’s a wheelchair.

“I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space were it not that I have bad dreams,” Nick responds, the smallest of smiles lifting one corner of his mouth.

He looks at the door, no doubt imagining the door that she imagines, and Sophie as their warden. “I wish we’d been brave enough to run away.” Earlier, in her case, as she had — but from him and not their mother. “I wonder sometimes what our lives would’ve been like if we had a better start.”

Nick takes another breath to start a sentence that he’s said often enough since their reunion, but exhales without speaking. That their past isn’t an excuse. That he’s sorry.

Right now isn’t about him, though, and he directs his anger at the door, the receptionist, the wall between them and answers. “This is bullshit,” he says, loud enough for the receptionist to hear.

His timing couldn’t be better.

On the other side of the door, a buzzer goes off. Security access granted.

Eileen surges to her feet.

Everything seemed to take forever, upon arrival. The questions, the waiting, the processing, more waiting. Upon his being released, however, it all seems to happen fast, and so when the door opens and Gabriel Gray steps out, he's still only holding his coat rather than wearing it, like it had been shoved into his hands, along with his keys, wallet, phone, held in an absent minded bundle as he steps into the waiting room. He somehow manages to look both dazed and alert, scouring the plain white space for familiar people.

He doesn't have to, of course. Eileen is right there, on her feet.

Gabriel moves in to embrace her, relief palpable, if a little inexplicable — as if she were the one in trouble and not him. His wallet and keys both slide out of his hands and bounce off the floor, clumsy. No show of telekinesis, and no sudden empathic connection resealed between them as Eileen experiences the slightly disorienting sensation of being embraced by a man that she is not supernaturally attuned to. If they weren't so familiar to each other, down to the way their hair smells, or the shapes of their arms in a circle around them, it might be like being held by a stranger.

Negated, of course. Ordinary flesh and bone trapping an even more fragile soul, just like anyone else. He looks past her towards Nick, more acknowledging his presence than attempting to project anything like thank you or confusion.

Nick’s head swivels at the sound of the door opening, prepared to look apologetic at whatever agent might be offended by his impatience. Instead, it’s surprise that registers on his face when he sees Gabe step out, rather than another agent. He rolls backward in his wheelchair a couple of feet to give Gabriel and Eileen some more space, glancing back at the door and expecting someone else to come out.

When no one does, the initial surprise is replaced by both curiosity and relief. When Gabriel looks his way, Nick meets his gaze, a mutual acknowledging.

“You’re free to go?” Nick asks, voice quiet, as if asking too loud will alert someone on the other side of the door who might pull Gabriel back in.

He’s free to go.

Eileen grabs fistfuls of Gabriel’s shirt in her hands and buries her face against his chest, blacking out the waiting room’s harsh fluorescents, and replacing its clean, sterile smell with mustier skin and sweat.

Nick’s question sounds far away in comparison to the drumming of her husband’s heart against his ribs.

She pushes away the thoughts that had begun to percolate before his timely emergence, the dark ones about the things that might happen if someone like Epstein succeeded in taking him away from her.

The weight of his arms looped around his shoulders feels tangible.


Not like some sort of unspoken if.

So she takes her own advice, the one she’s always trying to impart on Magnes, and focuses the only thing that’s in front of her.


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