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Scene Title Substitution
Synopsis Yvette returns to one of the only homes she has known, seeking solace.
Date January 22, 2010

Ryazan, Russia

Snow falls in thick flakes that clump in the bare branches of trees on the other side of the fence that surrounds Ryazan Ironworks. It's twilight, which is eerily appropriate for reasons Yvette Volken is incapable of understanding. Grigori is dead, her father is gone, and Sasha is missing — she has no one in the world except for the fine diamonds of frost that shimmer on the steel gate and the rumpled brown songbirds that sit perched on barbs of wrought iron with hooked feet and toes like miniature sickles.

Rosy sunlight shines pink through a silver haze and illuminates the find blonde strands of her hair. She'd been locked away in the bowels of a ship docked at Marion Island, but this may as well be the end of the world.

Yvette doesn't know all of these things, of course — but one can't help but worry, imagine the worst, when left only to the company of one's own thoughts. She has a key to the foundry gate, has had it for years; uses it now, cold hinges groaning in protest as a gloved hand shoves one of the metal barriers aside. The birds protest more loudly; there's more of them, with their piping chirps and the rustled flutter of small brown wings. It's all of six feet that the young woman walks inside, though, once the gate is open just enough for her slight frame to pass through; the snow drifting down begins filling the prints her feet left, one clump of flakes at a time. Key folded away inside curled fingers, she lifts her gaze to the frost-rimed building, regarding it with a ghost's silence.


It's not her father's voice, but it's one she recognizes from her childhood just the same. The birds take flight, spiral haphazardly into the sky, and where they land no one knows — they're swallowed up by the snow blown across a bloody sky studded with faint pinpricks of light where the stars are just beginning to show through.

"There's nothing there for you," the man says, his words accompanied by the slow crunch of booted feet crackling in the frozen snow beneath the more recent precipitation.

Summoned by the invocation of her name, the pale young woman turns to face the man who speaks it, rose-tinged eyes virtually the only thing visible aside from the snow-dusted fabric of her hooded coat, the dark flannel of her scarf. She looks at him for a moment before her hands lift, their usual fluidity hampered by cold-stiffened, heavy gloves. No, Yvette signs, the gesture heavy, ponderously slow; not because of cold. There is nothing.

Uncertainty makes the speaker hesitate. He is not as fluent in Yvette's preferred way of communication as Volken was, and it takes him an extra few moments to process what the gestures of her hands are intended to convey. When he does, dark eyes grow darker still, black and solemn. He offers her a gloved palm turned up, flakes of snow creating strange patterns on the fabric of the woolen greatcoat he wears and on the wide brim of his fedora, which she has seen him in so many times before.

No more talking.

Pale eyes follow the rise of his arm, lift from the slight curl of his fingers to meet the man's dark gaze. Yvette is still for a moment before booted feet glide across the fresh-fallen layer of snow, compacting it to join the icy crust beneath. Delicately, for all that her grace is masked beneath layers of insulating clothing, she sets her hand in his, curling her fingers around the edge of his grip. One final step closes the distance between them to something as intimate as it is chaste; familiarity, trust, acceptance. The young woman inclines her head.

There is one thing still left, after all.

His hand closes around hers, fingers forming a protective clasp that completely encircles and encases her much smaller, more delicate ones. This may not have been what Kazimir wanted in the end, but Kazimir is not here to protest and never will be again.

Someone else's daughter is no substitution for a lost son. It will, however, suffice. Carlisle Dreyfus' free hand takes the shape of a sign with deliberate slowness and what feels like, at least to Yvette, genuine affection.


And someone else's father is no substitute for hers — but it saves her from being alone. Yvette watches him dredge the sign out of memory, patient and unhurried; she cannot smile, even if her face were not hidden beneath the scarf, but the young woman's eyes convey the same warmth. Retaining that grip, that contact, she steps around Dreyfus as if he were an anchor, making of his position an axis of revolution; steps out and away from the foundry, although not without a backwards glance past the open gate, a pause to consider the key's silver gleam in her hand.

For all the sheltering constraints of Yvette's childhood — the past two weeks have given entire new depths to the meaning of the word alone.

Pressing the key between thumb and forefinger, she holds it up to her escort.

He scrutinizes the key in his predator's acute silence for what seems a very long time but in reality is less than the count of even three. When his other hand reaches around, it's to gently, forcibly close her fingers and pack them into a fist with the key pressed against the softest part of her frail palm.

He has nothing to sign with as long as he's holding her. Resorts to the low gravel of his voice again instead. "Keep it," he insists. "To remember. They'll change the locks soon enough."

To that, the young woman inclines her head once more. She waits until he releases the hand with the key inside, tucking the molded bit of metal away into one of the many pockets her layers of clothing boast. Then Yvette proceeds forward, leaving the gate hanging open behind them.

Snow falls, cloaking the foundry in a shroud of ghostly white.

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