The Deep End


aviators_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title The Deep End
Synopsis Always go swimming with a partner.
Date March 21, 2011

Pollepel Island

Wine has been produced for over two-thousand years, but the Benedictine monks of Cluny left a lasting legacy when they introduced the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties to the region of Burgundy. The reputation of the Benedictine monks and their wine preparation became a common association, one that has lasted the test of time thorugh both historical account and depictions in cinema.

Images of hooded men of the cloth hunched over large casks in candle-lit basements are evocative of a certain snapshot of history, an easily identifiable and relatable depiction of dilligence and indulgence. The Benedictine monks of old did not have the benefit of flashlights in their musty old cellars where wine was stored, nor did they have the annoyance of children that needed to be kept out of the wine, and thus makes the wine more difficult to access.

For these reasons and many others, Avi Epstein is not a Benedictine monk, and what has been brewing through copper tubes, glass bottles and a steel drum couldn't be classified as wine. But he is drinking it in a basement, and by the glow of a flashlight is about as close to candle-light as he's going to get tonight.

It's not wine, and it's not moonshine, either, which would also make it more tolerable. Jensen Raith doesn't have wine of moonshine, either, or a hooded robe, cask, or any of the other trappings of a monk. Just a coat and a gaggle of other devices including an electric camping lantern, and a glass bottle filled with amber liquid. And for as old and musty as the basement is, the wide glow cast by the lantern and he works his way down is maybe less welcome than it otherwise would be.

"Weird place to take your wings to, don't you think?" he asks, probably sarcastically, but with Raith, it's always hard to tell. "Unless you're a canary, I guess. And if you're underground, a canary is the last thing you'd want to be. I wouldn't want to be one." Finally, the younger old spy comes to a stop in front of the older old spy. "How's the juice?"

"Tastes like tires and refried beans," Avi murmurs with a noticable slur, slouched up against one old mortared wall, sunglasses slouched down the bridge of his nose and nearly fallen off. Swallowing dryly, Avi makes a motion that might have been an attempt to get o his feet, but when gravity proves to be too much of a hindrance to upward motion, Avi slouches back down lazily against the wall, then offers a tin cup out to Jensen in the dim glow of the flashlight.

"You want some?" Sounds almost like a dare, or at the very least an ill-advised fit of generosity. "It's terrible."

Raith already has an answer picked out: "Fuck no." The lantern goes onto the floor with some amount of noise, and the bottle is half-offered to, half-shoved at Avi. "Wash the taste out with this, you'll like it better." And if the label is to be believed, Raith has secured a half-filled bottle of whiskey from somewhere. Probably not from the contraption that is hell-bent on ruining Avi's sense of taste.

The cup is considered, tipped forward as if the contents were to be inspected, then just tossed aside with a metallic clatter and a splash of what little was left inside. In it stead, Avi reaches out to take the bottle from Jensen, offering a nod of thanks in return, and it's a miracle he has that much to offer in exchange for alcohol that isn't likely to make him more blind.

"If you're lookin' for the box of flares, I think i saw that little ninja kid walkin' around with it earlier today. Him and your little Kung-Pao god-son or whatever were probably planning on burning something or who the fuck knows." Running a hand thorugh oily hair, Avi offers a suspicious look to Jensen, while working to try and remember which way the cap on the bottle is supposed to turn to unscrew it.

"You're not here for the flares… or to play booze fairy, are you?" Avi sounds only marginally disappointed.

"No." Matter of fact: That means business. To make the world slightly less scary, or maybe just to be nice about it, Raith takes a seat next to Avi. Sort of; there isn't exactly a good spot for doing that, so he consigns himself to just awkwardly leaning back against the wall at about the same eye level. "Here's a proposition for you. Let's wreck some shit."

Shifting his weight forward, Avi hesitates on opening the bottle. One hand lifts up to retrieve his glasses from the bridge of his nose, folds the arms closed and lays the glasses down in his lap. Brows furrow, his lips screw up and he looks left and right in the basement, then offers something of an amused snort before finally unscrewing the bottle's cap.

"Won't Miss Peacock be upset if we mess up her basement?" The sarcasm comes with a drunken smile, even as Avi lifts the bottle up to his lips, a hollow sloshing sound coming with the motion. This is a side of Avi that Raith has seen before, seen in times of hardship where he fails to find that new direction in life. The bottle is usually the answer, even if it isn't the solution.

Only now in seeing Avi here, does Raith realize that there's more going on with his old friend — with his family — than just idle drunkenness. This work with the Ferrymen, if it could be called that, is driving him down a familiar spiral.

"Yeah, probably," is Raith's initial foray into an answer, "But I ain't talking about the basement." And just what is he talking about.

"You see, Avi, it's like this." Like… what, exactly? "You remember back in the day, when we were all in Afghanistan fighting the insurgency? Before we had to do all that fucked up shit so we could come home to congratulations and a big middle finger from Uncle Sam? You know, when we were actually making some measurable difference? You remember those days, right?" Raith gives a nod and diverts his attention towards a particularly interesting section of ground. "Those were good days."

Avi's scoff in reply indicates that maybe it isn't as good as Raith remembers it. "We spent too long chasing our goddamned tails through those fucking mountains, and for what?" The bottle is noisily put down ont he stone floor, and scuffing treads of boots bring Avi shakily to one knee. "Fucking government gives up and just— pulls out like some scared fuckin sixteen year old on prom night. We didn't make a fucking difference, Jensen, we jussst— we just fuckin' made ourselves believe we did."

Flattening a hand against the wall, Avi levers himself up to his feet, one knee bending wobbly as he does. "You think anythin' we're doing's gonna matter a fuck of a hill'v anything in three years? Six?" Epstein's expression turns into a scowl, drunken stubbornness pushing him on, even if something like equilibrium is a bit out of whack.

"We'll be lucky if we wind up hung like those poor fuckin' people, out in the goddamned cold."

"Ponder me this one, Avi." When Avi stands, Raith stays right where he is: Even in the face of adversity, the mountain does not move. "Let's say you're right, everything we're doing is just one giant circle jerk to make us feel like we're accomplishing something. What's better? Lying on your stomach and taking whatever the world feels like shoving in your ass, or staying on your feet, fighting for it anyway, and kicking the teeth out of every glass-eyed sonuvabitch that ain't smart enough to get out of your way?"

There's a moment that passes before Raith says anything else. "You know what we accomplished on October Third, Nineteen Ninety Three? Not a goddamn thing. What did that day mean in Ninety Six? In Ninety Nine? Fuck nothing. All we did was lose two Black Hawks, Deltas and seventeen Rangers. Mog didn't matter, and you know what everyone remembers? They remember how hard we fought for our brothers. So you tell me, Avi, what's better?

"Giving up when you have nothing to win, or fighting even if you have nothing to win?"

Swallowing dryly, Avi considers the bottle on the floor in silence. A hand scrubs at the back of his neck, brows furrow and a vacant look in his eyes hides what little insult he might have taken from the term glass-eyed sonuvabitch, all vision impairments considered. "I don't know…" doesn't sound like him. Not in the body-snatchers sort of way, but in a more tangibly depressing manner. "I… don't really know what the fuck anything's worth anymore."

A quiet noise of frustration sounds in the back of Avi's throat, and he considers the bottle he'd left on the floor. "There's somebody out there— wearing my face, living my life, visitin' my little girl." There's venom behind the slurred drunkenness, venom enough for Sylar, for Sarisa, for everyone. "You tell me what I got left t'fight for? Gim'me a reason to."

It's not hyperbole. He needs a good reason, something to motivate him.

"You got them to fight for." Who Raith means, is not necessarily clear.

"We're going to lose New York, Avi, I won't lie. But the overall war? Uncle Sam's going to lose that, and I'm willing to bet it'll be because of that asshole who's wearing your face, and that yappy government bitch that pals around with him. Believe me Avi, I know both of them, and they're both egomaniacs. President's an egomaniac too, and so's everyone up in the White House right now. But I guarantee you, whatever el presidente's plans are, they are not the same as Sarisa's and Sylar's. Sooner or later, something's going to give, and everyone's going to see exactly what's what/ Who's pretending to be on their side and who actually is, and when the dust settles and things get straightened out, the better world that gets left behind is going to be for them.

"I'm just a weapon, Avi." Raith straightens up just a little bit as he says this. "I gave up trying to make the world a better place for me a long time ago. But I can still make it better for my little girl, and for her mother. Maybe that means dying. Maybe that means killing a whole bunch of people. Either way, I'll do it. Whatever it takes to make sure Liette doesn't have to live through the same bullshit I did. The hysteria and the wars and the going to bed each night believing she could die at any moment. Isn't that worth fighting for, above all other things?"

Stony silence in the face of much to think about is a familiar tell of Avi's to Jensen. He rubs a hand at his eyes, rolls thumb and forefingers around at the bridge of his nose in an attempt to remove the cottony feeling from his thoughts. Swallowing dryly again, he breathes out an exasperated sigh and lets his hand fall down limp at his side. Avi's knees bend, not out of some drunken lack of coordination but to pick up something he'd let fall to the wayside.

Sunglasses aren't entirely reflective of Avi's sense of dignity, but they are a badge of the man he once was. Picking them up off of the floor, he unfolds the arms and looks down into the mirrored lenses. Aviator sunglasses, a namesake he used to hate being associated with, one he came to make his own. Looking up from his reflection he can hardly even see, Avi's crooked stare levels on Jensen with brow-furrowed expectancy.

"Whatever it takes?" It's a rhetorical question from Epstein, one that elicits Avi looking down to his glasses again, in search of something, maybe the man he once was. "What, exactly is it going to take?" That lazy-eyed stare lifts up to Jensen again, and Avi's grip on those sunglasses tightens some.

'A lot of guns.' Or maybe 'murder.' Those are both things that would make sense. There are a thousand things that would make sense. But those thousand things are not what Raith says to Avi. What exactly is it going to take? "Acceptance." And Jensen Raith is dead serious. "This isn't the world it used to be, and things aren't the way they were, and they never will be again, and we have to accept that that's how it is. Who you were, what you did, none of that matters anymore. All that matters now is what you do, and who you are. You want to make the world a better place for Rachel, and for Emily, you have to accept that you aren't going to be able to do that by being Uncle Sam's favorite nephew anymore.

"You're going to get dirty. You're going to get shot at, bombed, and chased by cops and soldiers. You're going to be working from the shadows, never being recognized for the things you do. You aren't going to like all the things you do. But if you want them to have a better world, if we want all of them to have a better life, that's what it'll take. Acceptance that we have to let go of what was, and embrace what is."

There isn't a verbal response that Avi can give to Jensen, there really aren't the right words for casting off your former life for one of anonymous violence; Not in English, at any rate. Instead, all Avi does is leave. His still inebrieated frame staggering towards the door to the storage cellar, then out into the hall using the wall as a brace.

Most people might think that means denial, means a lack of acceptance of the terms that Jensen laid out. Most men would deny the very notion of giving up everything they've worked so hard for their whole life. But Avi Epstein isn't most men. He's lost a son, lost his own identity, and clung to the vestigial reminders of his past and who he once was like a child to a favorite blanket.

No one but Jensen Raith would be able to understand what the mangled frames of broken Aviator sunglasses on the floor of the basement mean. It means out with the old, in with the new. It means giving up everything that keeps him cautious, keeps an old man from being reckless.

It means having nothing more to lose.


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