Starting Small


emily_icon.gif lance_icon.gif nathalie_icon.gif

Scene Title Starting Small
Synopsis Nathalie takes the first step in being her whole self around her extended Lighthouse family.
Date August 3, 2019

Laudani-Epstein Townhome, Sheepshead Bay

Nathalie paces across the living room in Emily's apartment. Her hands twist together as she waits for their guest to arrive. A beer sits on the windowsill, untouched and sweating. No doubt she'll get to the part where she has to drink to get through this sooner rather than later. "This is a bad idea," she says, mostly to herself and to whatever invisible hand guides the universe. "He has no reason to care about this. I haven't given him one. Him or any of the others." Her hands prop on her hips as she looks over at Emily. "We should call this off."

Of course, this is exactly why she wanted Emily here with her. She has ducked out every time she thought about telling the other Lighthouse Kids anything true about herself. That's proven true even lately.

She's not supposed to duck out this time.

But Emily might have her work cut out for her.

At the moment she's decided the best thing to do is sit and let Nathalie work out all this nervous energy. The last thing she wants to do is make her feel trapped, and she knows were she in her sister's shoes, she'd lose it if someone tried to touch her or herd her into calming down.

Sometimes, you just have to let things happen. And sometimes, you're more ready for it than you realize.

The latter, she's being trying to argue for a while, in her own way.

"Nat, he does care. They all do. They care so much it's fucking annoying sometimes." Sorry, Lance. Sorry, everyone else. "But you're right on the money— if there's anyone to talk to first, it's Lance. He'll have the most level-headed reaction about it all, and if you don't want to tell everyone else, he'll stick by you. If you want them to know but not tell them yourself, we'll figure that out, too." She leans forward, elbows on knees, hands loosely clasped while she makes her case. Her voice is soft.

"It's not good for you to hide yourself, hide who you are from the people that are closest to you," Emily repeats, internally feeling the stab from where she's still working through taking her own advice. "But if you decide you're not ready, maybe we just hang out and drink anyway. You're a million things and this is just one of them." A pause. "Two of them." Right, because there's two—

Before she can put her foot in her mouth, she reaches out to snatch up her own bottle off the coffee table, taking a drink.

"I'm sure there's other catching up we can do, too," Emily recovers.

There’s no beer on the windowsill anymore.

This is because, in absolute and impenetrable silence, the window was opened and Lance took it. He takes a swig of the beverage, arms folding on the windowsill in a comfortable lean, and he grins broadly before revealing his presence in a cheerful statement of:

“It’s true. We’re aggressively caring about people. Hey Burr, hey Em.”

He’s in his civvies today, which is to say a sleeveless grey shirt with a hood that’s fallen back, and a pair of worn jeans.

While Emily talks, Nathalie seems to relax some— just some, but it's progress. She might even have gone as far as actually sitting down if not for the sudden voice. Nathalie jumps, undoing all Emily's hard work as she whirls around to see Lance there.

"Jesus, Lance," she says instead of hi, "you scared the shit out of me."

It's like 'hi'.

She looks over at Emily as she runs a hand through her hair in an effort to find some sort of ease to settle into. However unlikely that is to actually manifest. Especially since someone stole her beer. She turns back to Lance all the same and leans against the couch as she takes him in. There's something comforting in the fact that he dressed down for the occasion, at least. "I thought we could catch up," she says, although she puts enough weight in her words to tip him off that this isn't just a casual get together. "Are you up for it?"

"Jesus Christ, Lance," Emily's words fall on top of Nathalie's. He's lucky he didn't pull a stunt like that while Teo was in the room. She lets out an explosive sigh, coming to her feet while she lets Nathalie say her piece. As soon as that done, she arches her brow at him. "Don't you dare come in through that window," is said with a point. "I'm coming round to unlock the front door."

Her look says he better be there instead of inside when he does.

And then she turns, jogging on bare feet to round the corner in the main hall to turn the deadbolt. Moment of truth.

It’s a good thing she said that because Lance had a hand on the windowsill and was tensing up to boost himself through the window when she did. He quickly pulls his hand back and relaxes, flashing them that trickster’s grin. “I’m here, aren’t I? Be riiiiight back—“

Around the front he goes, circling the building to be there when the door’s unlocked, “Hey! Long time no see. Like, twelve seconds.” Then he tries to hug her, because it’s the over-the-top thing to do.

Nathalie blinks when Emily demands that he use the front door, because he is already right there and all, and she can't help a chuckle when he actually goes. She comes along behind Emily, leaning against the wall a little deeper in while she opens the door. "You run a tight ship, Em," she comments, amused enough to actually relax.

When he reappears and attempts to hug Emily, Nathalie shakes her head. "Taking your life in your hands tonight, Lance," she says, dryly.

Yes, ha ha, Lance, very funny, it's been such a long time.

Then he goes in for the hug.

Emily tries to physically step back out of range, to deflect it away from herself. No luck. She's latched onto with an unhappy look, but Nathalie's comment brings a snort of a laugh from her. "You should listen to her," Emily advises drily, and lifts her head to too her chin her sister's direction. "Besides, you see me all the time, it's her you should give that sort of hello to."

She kicks the door shut with a nudge of her foot and looks down the hall. The cat is missing for now, so no worries about tripping on him underfoot. "Living room's that way," she directs with a loose wave of her hand, like they both don't already know.

“I live a life of danger,” Lance observes over Emily’s shoulder with a grin, releasing the hug and stepping along over to sweep an arm open in invitation for Nathalie to get the same sort of greeting. “I’m a man of action. An agent of awesome. Wassup, Burr?”

Years have passed. Lance hasn’t changed much.

Nathalie blinks when Emily volunteers her for a hug as well. She was never very affectionate when they all lived together, so it may be something of a surprise that she steps over to accept that invitation. It's a side hug, but it is something. Which might imply that she has changed over the past few years.

She's trying to, anyway.

"It was nice to see everybody before, even if it came with Eve's… Eveness." That's how she starts her answer as she heads back toward the living room. "A little overwhelming, though," she says, "for me, at least. There was something I wanted to explain, but it was kind of… completely terrifying with everyone all at once." She pauses, turning back to face the other two. "Honestly it's kind of terrifying like this, too."

In front of the couch, Emily turns on her heel and falls back into the cushions. She grabs a throw pillow and pulls it into her lap for the sake of having something to hold onto, eyes warily settling first on Nathalie, then on Lance. She lifts one hand away from the pillow in a helpful gesture as she advises, "So go easy on her. Imagine it's like … like talking about my dad with me, except ten times worse."

She keeps an even expression, for all the discomfort even a mention of him normally brings about. This isn't about her, after all. Emily looks back to Nathalie with a nod to encourage her. You got this.

“Eve’s just been getting worse the last few years, honestly,” Lance agrees with a worried little furrowing of his brow as he steps away after the hug and moves to the living room as well, padding along in and draping himself over a chair. A sip of his beer, eyebrows raising a little as he gives his attention to Nathalie.

“So, uh, I’m getting the ‘I’m gay’ vibes from this talk, but it can’t be that since you know I wouldn’t care. What’s up? Are you— uh, dating Joe or something?” A look of consternation, “Or Cash?”

"No, it's nothing like that," Nat says, because it's true that she wouldn't feel nervous announcing anything about sexuality to him or any of the others. She comes over to sit by Emily, her security blanket, so to speak. "I never told anyone at the safe house the truth about who I am. I told you all my real name at the meeting but there's… more. I have— my ability— "

She pauses there, her head shaking like she's rethinking this whole endeavor.

"I have Kazimir Volken's ability. And its opposite. The Conduits. Before I ended up with the Lighthouse kids, I was a captive at the Arcology. The Praxis hack that's been going on put out some… notes about my time there. Which was real fun to read through," she says, standing back up to her feet like she can't quite stay still.

It's a good thing Emily already had something small and ultimately inoffensive in hand to pelt Lance's direction when his probing queries into the topic at hand involve dating. She goes for the face, regardless of beer being held. The sound of the pillow hitting an object startles a silently-approaching black kitten, whose long legs scramble. Nails scratch on wood flooring as Kettle scampers away and right back up the stairs, too spooked to stick around.

When Nathalie starts to falter, Emily places a hand on her knee briefly in a gesture of support. She's got this. Even if 'having it' means spitting it all out quickly, kind of in the worst possible phrasing, and then physically moving herself to get 'away' from it.

Man, there's no doubt they're sisters.

"There's a Black Conduit and a White Conduit," Emily adds on. "They've always been opposite, and — at odds, it sounds like. But Nat has both. It's…" a big deal sounds lame, but for a moment she's not sure what else to say there. She recovers with, "The Conduit is more than just something Kazimir Volken had. It's this whole thing that's been around for…" She glances up at Nathalie for help, feeling way out of her league despite trying to be helpful. "Forever?"

"And it moves between people, over time," she concludes, feeling that's the end of the useful commentary she can add.

Whump! The pillow hits Lance in the head and he rocks back a bit, catching it with his free hand as it falls to the floor; a wry smile flashed over to Emily before he drops the pillow onto his lap, hand resting on it as he looks back to Nathalie.

Then she goes into explaining something way different from a sexuality reveal party.

His brow furrows as he tries to digest all that, before something at least clicks— and he blinks up, holding up a finger, “Wait! Like— that thing Aunt Abby had, right?” Between the two of them he looks, eyebrows raised.

"Yeah. Like that. Exactly that, actually." Nathalie spreads her hands in a helpless sort of gesture. There is a grateful look in Emily's direction, since she did a much better job of explaining it. Why it is that the right words seem to escape when they're most needed is a mystery. But that's why having a backup is good. "Emily's got it. Both the Black and the White have been around probably as long as there's been Evolved. They get passed around from person to person. I have them right now and someone else will get them after me. I get… memories sometimes, from the other people who've carried them. It's all pretty weird, but there it is."

While she is trying to be honest, she's also trying to downplay it some. She calls it 'weird' instead of being more brutally honest about how upsetting it can be. How disorienting it is. How she sometimes doesn't know if she's real at all or just some collection of other people's minds.

But all that is the more esoteric side of her abilities. Maybe she's starting small. Or maybe she's sparing him the more difficult pieces.

Or sparing herself.

Emily openly looks back and forth between the other two, a missing link falling into place for her when Abby's name is brought up. Oh. Oh shit.

"So Abby," she thinks out loud. "Is probably the one who healed, like, Richard Ray and Elisabeth Harrison?"

Come on, Emily, focus.

She shakes her head, and offers her beer out by the neck to Nathalie for her to have since Lance had stolen hers. Not to mention, she likely didn't need to take in any more alcohol. She's not got the best track record with drinking as of late.

"Anyway, yeah. It's … It's a thing. It's a big thing, actually, and dangerous if it gets around, given there's people who are obsessed with these things, but it's a part of who Nat is." Emily looks up for a second at her sister and then back to Lance.

“Probably, like, Abby healed a lot of people back in the day,” Lance admits, taking a swig of his beer and motioning with it towards Nathalie, “I can see why you’d want to keep it quiet, people would be lining up around the block for you to heal every little thing…” A wrinkle of his nose, “The memories thing is weird, but, I mean, I’ve heard weirder.”

He looks between the two, eyebrows up and looking a bit confused, “I mean, I understand why you’d want to keep it quiet, but why’s everyone look like you’re talking about the end of the world or something? I mean this isn’t even the third weirdest thing I’ve heard this year.”

"I'm not trying to be the weirdest thing you've heard," Nathalie says, looking over to Emily for help. "I'm trying to tell you something about myself. And it's serious because… there're people who find out and decide I should be a lab experiment or a henchman or something. And recently the wrong people have been finding out." She comes back over to the couch, leaning against the arm as she looks back over to Lance. "I guess I wanted some people to know who weren't the wrong people." Her arms fold, discomfort clear— she might have wanted to tell him, but she's still worried. Not about Lance, if that were the case, she wouldn't have brought him in, but about the situation as a whole. "I don't have a lot of people. And I don't always get to choose how this comes out. I know I'm not… close like everyone else is, but you and the others, you're some of the only people out there I can trust not to have an agenda." Not a harmful one, anyway. "The truth is that I'm… scared," she says, her hands moving to her hips and her chin lifting as if she could somehow counter that feeling. Fake it till you make it.

Once that's out, then she takes the beer. And also remembers to breathe.

The only expression Emily can make on hearing Lance is a pained one. Pained because god, it's not supposed to be a competition, here, but also because she can put herself in Nathalie's shoes. And at the moment, she doesn't need to imagine what she feels like, because she's lived it with her friends before. Nothing was bad enough, or weird enough, or…

She leans forward, palm to face while her elbow rests on her knee for a moment. Her friends were supportive, but it sometimes felt like being sympathetic was something they wholesale lacked on.

Maybe they should have started with Brynn. Or Geneva, for that matter.

It's more flat than she means it to be, but she lowers her hand from her face in order to gesture with it as she says, "This is the point where a sorry would go a long way." Emily's expression wrinkles before she shakes her head, looking up at Lance. She can't force him to see it from Nathalie's point of view

(actually, she could, and that thought terrifies her and she immediately steps away from it)

… but the look she gives him implores him to take a gentler tone toward the situation.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to seem like I wasn’t taking it seriously, I just…” Lance vaguely waves his hand around for a moment as if trying to pluck the right words from the air, fails, wrinkles his nose and drops his hand back down to his knee, leaning forward as he tries again.

“I appreciate you trusting me,” he says, offering her a rueful smile, one brow lifting a little, “I don’t want to— belittle it or anything, it’s a big thing, I know. But it doesn’t change a damn thing about how I feel about you— yeah, you weren’t around as long as some of us, and you haven’t been around a lot since you have your own life, but you’re still one of us, Burr. Nat. Whatev. You need any support, you need anything, I’ll be there. So will the others, I guaran-fuckin-tee it. And if anyone wants to poke at you that you don’t want poking, I will straight up murk their ass.”

He brings his hand up again, “You’re not a lab experiment, or a henchman, or a freak, or anything. You’re family. And no weird brain-hopping power’s gonna change that.”

Nathalie stands there for a moment, lips scrunching together as she tries to work out how to deal with that. Not with tears, she's decided, although her eyes don't look to be in total agreement with that resolve.

In the end, instead of grasping for an answer, she steps over to give Lance a real hug. A heartfelt one. She holds on until she's reasonably certain he'll understand that she's grateful, then she pulls back again. "I'm not sure what kind of trouble this is all gonna land me in, but it means a lot to know you're there."

She looks back over to Emily, letting out a long sigh. That wasn't so bad.

But then, a thought, and she looks back to Lance. "Should I tell the others?"

Emily looks relieved, if only a little, when Lance cracks, but doesn't let herself relax until Nathalie's rushing him with a hug. Her shoulders slope and she sits, waiting to see what happens next. Truth be told, she's not sure. Do they sit together, drink, catch up now that this is shared between them? Is this the point she goes through the motions of being a good host and offers them food? Or fishes out the cat from wherever he's hiding so he can be a non-electronic conversation topic and source of entertainment?

But then Nathalie asks that question of hers, and she slants a glance back Lance's way with some hesitation. Should she?

When she steps over, Lance reaches out an arm to return that embrace, giving her a fierce hug in return. “Hey, we’re all in this together,” he promises her as she leans back, flashing a smile, “The Lighthouse never goes out.”

The question, thought, has him hesitate for a moment before nodding, “You should. Just grab Joe by the ear and very firmly explain that it’s a secret or he’ll blab it across half of town. I have a hard enough time convincing him to stop telling people we knew Gabriel when we were kids.”

Nathalie's hand squeezes Lance's arm, because the sentiment isn't missed. And she appreciates it. "I'll be smoother about it with the others. Surely." That's a bit dry.

"I don't know how much of a secret it is anymore. Or how long I have with it being a secret." Certainly anyone who has access to her testimony at the Albany trials and the information from the Praxis hack will be able to put two and two together. Nathalie is just bracing for the fallout. And hoping Wolfhound gives her enough protection from anyone too powerful deciding to act. "But it would be nice if it stayed close."

She looks over at Emily, giving her a warmer smile than she's been able to manage so far. It's just a silent thanks for the support. "Does he know about Avi yet? Or should we order some pizza and really dig into it."

She's only sort of joking.

Emily darts a sharp glance up at Nathalie at the mention of their father, glad that piece of information is already known, otherwise she imagines Lance would dig deeply into it until he knew. Tension builds up in her shoulders regardless and she shakes her head, brow furrowing rather than offering up any kind of answer. "Let's do pizza anyway," she decides abruptly, reaching onto the coffee table for her phone. It's a guaranteed escape from the conversation at least, especially now that it's swung back her way.

"And … yeah, Lance knows because we work together and he knows how to read," she shares while thumbs through her phone trying to find the nearest pizza place. "Otherwise it'd literally never be a thing I bring up. Joe—" There's a flash of realization that shoots up through her and she fixes her gaze on Lance firmly, urgently. "Joe doesn't know still, even though we've talked about him before, and I'd really," She looks equal parts uncomfortable and determined, "really prefer it not become a thing, because I'm sure he'd never fucking let me live it down. That's a hard no for me at this time."

She half-expects betrayal in the form of it being brought up behind her back anyway, but she keeps cynical thoughts like that to herself while she refocuses on her screen. Maybe she could do the hip thing and order online, since the place nearby is a chain. Maybe it'll work. "What do you guys want on this?"

“Yeah, you’re… probably right,” Lance admits, perhaps unexpectedly, his nose wrinkling up a bit, “Joe hero-worships the guy, I mean, he was there for that last run with us. He’d get weird about it. You’re gonna have to tell him about it one of these days, though— “ He points at Emily, “Do it on your terms, but it’ll have to be done sometime.”

He leans back, then, hands spreading a bit, “I am absolutely up for pizza, though. Joe keeps eating all my food.”

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