The Effect of Small Humans


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Scene Title The Effect of Small Humans
Synopsis In need of each other for very different reasons both, Asami does Zachery a favor in exchange for the promise he will return it. In the process, she comes to understand a little why he's asked for what he has.
Date March 3, 2021

Dorchester Towers Apartments
Upper West Side, Manhattan

There was a plan to become a father. But Zachery never had the time to grow into it. Blessedly, the task of bottle feeding, washing and dressing them had been achieved by the time he came home from work today. This made the task of sending the babysitter home early much less daunting.

He sits, presently, on the couch in his living room, with a small collection of toys strewn out on the coffee table in front of him. One baby in dark blue pajamas lies nestled into the soft fluff of a sheepskin beside him, trying to shake a soft, plastic ring into submission.

Another baby in slightly lighter blue pajamas is held upright in Zachery's arms, sat atop one of his legs. Held slightly awkwardly but steadily so that she has no chance of falling as she watches her brother.

The front door closes, the sound of it followed shortly by Zachery's sigh of relief. He looks more tired than he has all day. No rest just yet, but one step closer.

It's just the three of them now, at least until Nicole or her daughter come home. Except for the fact that it's not the babies he's speaking to when he asks with his eyes on the small infant in his lap and curiosity lifting his tone, "Do you remember any of the songs your parents sang to you?"

"Not particularly," the air answers, and it might be lying. "But lullabies where I come from were different things than they are here. There's but one I can think of that's not… too sad."

When a fully-formed someone materializes midcrouch before Zachery, it causes a phlegmy start in the infant on his lap. The woman smiles up at her reassuringly, hands on her knees. She doesn't reach out to offer physical soothing. Tired as Zachery is, she has no doubt he'd quickly bare his fangs should she get any closer than she is now— which is too close still.

"I remember the words. My sister sang it to her son when he was born." Asami tilts her head at Avery, glances to Harvey and his rattling, and then looks back up to Zachery. "Having trouble recalling the ones from your own childhood?"

Zachery's gaze lifts to Asami's face, his expression almost neutral— save for how hard that stare is. It's driven by a clear agitation that finds itself in his words, as well, when he says, "We were not a lullaby sort of family, I think."

His shoulders rise as Avery stirs, a squirmy creature on an all-too-controlled and unyielding form, his arms pulling her just ever so slightly closer. As he looks down at her again, there is little sign of fondness on his face, finding no purchase amidst his search and calculation. "But I could have sworn there was at least one. My parents have passed. My brother might remember, but I haven't spoken to him since…" How long has it been? Not that long, but this last week has been the longest, strangest one he's ever experienced.

He looks up again, brow knitting with frustration as he forces the rest of his words out. "Even if… I don't understand any of this, even if it may be temporary— even if it is, I can't do this halfway."

Asami finds herself canting her head ever so slightly at the idea that Zachery's family was without song. Somehow it strikes her both as odd and yet fitting in a way she can't easily define. "Well, there are always those famous ones…"

She disgresses with a lapse back into silence, her brow lifting when he professes he doesn't want to approach his new reality in half-measures. That, truly, comes as a surprise given the panic he had when the children first appeared out of thin air. It's information she has no rejoinder or proper answer for. Perhaps there isn't one to be found.

"Would it help if I sang to her while I soothe her?" Asami asks calmly. She begins to come to her feet again only so she can turn her hands out for the more sickly of the twins. There's no smile, cheshire or otherwise, to go with this offer. She treats both Avery's state and what her healing enables with an appropriate sense of solemnity.

Shifting his hold to lift and press Avery to his shoulder with all the appropriate support, Zachery rises too, a discomfort driving him to look out into the rest of the room for a moment.

When he looks back down at Asami again, eyes locked on hers, he lifts his head despite the height advantage between them. "That might help her," he concedes, with a small coo of surprise from Avery when he fails to keep anger from slipping into the hand pressed tighter against her back. "But if you end up hurting her, there will be no helping you."

"I would never," she promises to the background of a furiously shaken ring and the sound of baby gaggle from the other child on the couch. Asami looks up into Zachery's eyes to impress upon him the weight of that swear, before lifting her hands to slowly relieve him of the small weight made up of Avery.

She's a little thing used to passing hands in her short life, but she still lets out a single scoff of noise that devolves into a rumbly cough. Zachery can see the flicker in Asami's expression when it devolves that way as she turns Avery gently in her arm to cradle the back of her head against her bicep and lays a hand on her chest.

"Shhh," she calms her softly, a subtle bounce in her knees as she looks down at the baby. She's by no means comfortable with this, a tension in her shoulders, but she chameleons with the best of them. She responds pre-emptively to shift the nature of her support around Avery before Zachery even has time to fully form his complaint verbally. That surely helps, too. "I've got you," Asami promises the small being.

This cannot be a mistake. Zachery breaks away, casting one quick look to Harvey down below before turning to move into the room, and to take a few steps forward with a quick drag of his hands down his face.

"You're right, of course." Anger shoved forcefully into a back seat, his tone is much more measured and careful now, shoulders squaring. "I did get attached. Unreasonably. But part of me thought… what if it's supposed to be this way? What if things were broken, and I was, and now we're just continuing to fix what's…"

The moment he turns to catch sight of Asami holding Avery, his jaw sets, his carefully composed thoughts falling instantly to pieces.

A hum begins to rise from Asami as she sways with Avery against her, her hand still placed gently over her chest. "Nen…" comes the first hush of sound as she begins to unbutton the snaps to better see for herself. She draws in a breath to help with the soft projection of her voice, feeling a sense of warm, comforting vitality begin to pool under her fingers.

"Nen…" she repeats melodically, almost whimsically, the tune as though it were something she's making up rather than reciting from memory. Her attention reaches out, gentle as a whisper, to seek the root of baby Avery's malady. "Korori yo…"

It's her heart.

When the transfer of healing warmth passes from serenader to serenadee, the way the light shifts in the little girl's eyes brings Asami to smile gently. "Okorori yo," she sings softly as baby Avery's silent ills just as silently unwind—

Save for the sound of her breath. The rattle to it fades, the stain on her cheeks easing to a gentle rose rather than an angry red. "Hora yo, yoi ko da," Asami praises her gently in song, and little Avery lifts an arm, hamhandedly grabbing onto her pinky with a firm grip as she continues to stare up, fixating wide blue eyes on Asami's face.

She doesn't pull her hand back until even the physical evidence of the baby's prior struggle is gone— the incision scar down her chest unknitting itself, skin smoothing itself over underneath her onesie. "Nen, nen shi na," Asami bids the little one just as gently, because the song asks her to, rather than out of a desire for her to actually sleep.

But the little one is calm, the beginning curve of a smile on her face as she tries to shake Asami's hand with all the fierceness Harvey was shaking that bead-riddled ring. The woman holding her can't help but bear the smallest bit of a smile in return for it. "Sa," she tells her softly. "Time to go back to your papa, all right?"

She takes a step back in Zachery's direction slowly.

"It's hard," Asami admits so quietly it hardly carries. "To not become attached, I suppose. Even if they are unbearably fragile. Even if their sole purpose, their whole strange existence seems to…"

The end of that observation isn't a kind one, and at the last moment, she decides better of it. She shakes her head like it'll clear away what she nearly did say. "I wish I had gone to be with my sister when my nephew was born," comes from her instead, just as absent, just as quiet.

The more time passes, the more alert Zachery comes, his fixation on Asami and the infant more severe with every breath he draws, every word sung and spoken alike testing his patience.

He wastes no time in stepping forward when she does, the distance created undone quickly and without thought, like the infant is some immeasurable weight Asami needs to be relieved of this instant, his focus shifting there and there alone.

"Who are you?" He struggles not to raise his voice, still, and to take and handle Avery with less abrupt movements than his brain seems to demand of him. But the words that have left him weren't really what he meant to say, either, and he adds all too quickly, "How did this start?"

Once Asami's free of the baby, her energy doesn't become unmuted. In fact, no longer having to support anyone but herself, her body opts not to. She collapses into a chair nearer to the television in the living room space, distance suitably kept while she takes a moment for recuperation. Though she doesn't slouch, the heaviness behind taking her seat speaks in its own way.

"I don't know," she answers vacantly. "I don't know."

She looks down at her lap, toying with the zipper at the bottom of her jacket. "My name is Asami Tetsuzan, obviously, but after I woke up your wife, I'm not sure that's who I am anymore."

Her voice sounds more thin, wavering with a tire that's only beginning to settle in. "I remember this whole other life now, like my own, but— forked. Where instead of seeing inside others and understanding them, I was … able to do that with technology instead. Where I went by Asi instead of Asami. Where I changed my last name. Tetsuyama. Where I didn't want to burden my family anymore with what I was doing, what I had done. There, I had the ability to erase my identity like that. There, I…"

She loses herself in that memory for a moment before rubbing the edge of her thumb across her forehead. She leans forward, elbows on knees. "I wish I knew how this started. I didn't have any control over slipping whatever system was holding me back before. Keeping me negated. It just happened, without me knowing, and everything else has just been a reaction."

"Blindly flailing in the dark, hoping to find anything that sheds a bit of light. Lets me know why this happened. What all this…" Asami struggles to put words to it, and finding she lacks any better for it, only sighs out, "is."

Zachery turns with Avery held against him as he inspects her, eyes darted to Asami only just long enough to confirm she's landed in a seat rather than not.

Still, he stays with his back turned, as if the act of staring down at the now unbuttoned and unscarred front of the child would be a weakness. Or maybe it's the fact that he doesn't have a response ready for what looks like success.

Still, there is a shift— in the way he breathes a little easier, and in the way he, too, eventually moves and sinks down next to Harvey a little too heavily. In the twitch of his expression softening and the unsteadiness of his voice when he says, "If this hadn't happened, this—" He pauses, gently lowering Avery down next to her brother, but keeps a hand touched lightly to the side of her face where the telltale signs and feeling of a fever had become so familiar a fear.

The lack of it is where his attention lingers, his hand next to her face now turning as she reaches to commandeer her brother's ring with clumsy, uncoordinated movements. It is, somehow, entrancing. "I would be personally booking you a nice stay in a padded room. I don't know how to process this. Any of it. It's not…"

He shakes his head. "Why can't I remember it? If both of you do?"

For this one thing, out of all of it, Asami has an answer, and she leans into it with something like relief. "What I do is— Violette called it Intuitive Mimicry. She didn't really explain it before she vanished, but what I've gathered is that I can see in others their ability, and something in me allows for the replication of it when I wake them up to it. Nicole's power, it's like eidetic memory on crack. It includes with it those memories of elsewhere."

"No one else," she stresses quietly, "has that. Not Kaylee or her kids, Gillian Childs, not the cops from the bike chase and the helicopter crash, not Isaac, not—"

Her eyes flicker with some kind of quiet hurt, clasped hands tightening around each other between her knees. "Not Yi-Min Yeh. I'd— so hoped at least the people I remember from there would maybe… but she didn't. She…" Asami sits upright again as she remembers being thrown across the room, being stabbed after she awoke Yi-Min's power. "She didn't," she summarizes in a clipped tone.

"I can do what all of you can. It's one of the only things that's kept me sane in this— not being alone with … any of this." She risks a glance back Zachery's direction. For all that she's not alone in the experience of having superpowers, she's still very much alone in other ways. Through no fault but her own— her lack of control, her lack of providing answers— as much as the circumstances which forced her into being this way in the first place. "I should've— given you a choice. Should have given you all a choice, and I'm sorry. I can't stop it once I see it, it's like…" Even in her self-loathing for this trait, she still faintly smiles at it. The feeling at the time is beyond explanation.

"I'm compelled. To make sure you don't lose your chance to be whole again. I don't know how to put it aside from that." Her eyes refocus back Zachery's way, softening. "I'm still sorry, though."

Much like during almost literally any moment of downtime of late, Zachery looks distracted. While Asami talks, he stares at the twins kicking tiny feet, his expression not quite settling on any one thing beyond exhaustion and the occasional flicker of concern settling on his brow.

He withdraws his hand, looks for a moment unsure what to do with it or the gently cooing babies, but watches them like a hawk regardless. The names, familiar and not, are absorbed in silence.

"I have… three things I want to say," he finally says, when things go quiet. "First of all, thank you. Not for the apology, which, if we're being honest, means very little to me at the moment. But this?" He nods down to the graceless infants now occupied with sticking each other's hands in their mouths. "This does."

Only then does he meet Asami's gaze, with none of the harsh look of judgement he wore at the hospital— granted the ability to finally relax for a moment, his relief makes it into his face as well as words. "This is a miracle."

Asami lifts her chin in a sign of acknowledgement for what he's actually thankful for. She knows, though, the miracle isn't selfless. This deed had been offered to goad Zachery into helping her discover more about her condition, after all.

Even if she found the miracle children to be precious when they weren't crying and when she could help, it didn't erase her motivations.

Taking in a breath, she leans back into the seat she's taken. "What's the other two?" she asks hastily, not wanting to linger on gratefulness.

"Do not mistake my inaction for indifference," Zachery answers without pause, this time, though he takes a moment to pinch the bridge of his nose before scrubbing his palm over his face wholesale as if physically/ trying to keep it and his voice in check. "This //thing that's happening— it just so happens to involve both me, Nicole, and a handful of people within our social circles?"

His hand is brought outward, now, to motion with one finger for Asami to stop, just in case she was thinking about answering this last question. He inhales sharply through his nose, before leaning forward to prop his elbows onto his knees, continuing. "This brings me to thing number two."

His eyebrow lifted ever so slightly, his tone of voice shifts to something more pointedly direct. "From where I'm sitting, it sounds awfully like you're both… causing this chaos, and benefiting from the results. From the confusion. Like a cancer."

Eyes widen, and then eyebrows arch. Asami's expression shifts in grades, from surprise, to disgust associated with Zachery's audacity to…

Something more even-keeled.

"How dare you," she answers flatly. "If you mean that by waking the others up, I've benefited, then… yes, I have gotten more tools to stay ahead of the game, completely by accident. I didn't even know that was something I could do, at first. Something learned."

But still, he hits a point that stings because, on a level, he's certainly right. She looks away rather than face that point aggressively. "All this strangeness— I didn't start it. This all began long before I could fly. As nice as it would be to tidily blame me for everything happening to us… you can't." The words are heavy, followed by a pause before she looks back.

"The most I've done is give everyone the tools to fight back against it," Asami states her grim belief.

As Asami's expression changes, so does Zachery's, surprise filtering suddenly through.

"… You're right," he answers after a few seconds' delay, and with a reluctant dip of his head. "About blaming you— I can't. I don't have enough… information, enough… energy to…"

As if on cue, the babies at his side start growing louder, trying increasingly more agitated noises on for size, one sibling spurred on by the other. He turns his head and stares at them in panicked glances between each face, as if their need or want might make itself clearer to him if he just keeps looking for it.

"Maybe slightly more energy, now," he admits with the faintest cracking of a smile he fails to fight back in time, watching Avery thrash right along with her brother. "Fewer concerns. Even just making it through the days one by one— even if sending the babysitter home for the night may have been a mistake."

Despite the noises the children make, Asami keeps her gaze trained on Zachery, brow furrowing as she watches him. She's tempted to reach out, to try and sift through his thoughts for the words he claims to not have the energy to properly state. Or what he, she suspects, tries to divert the conversation away from.

She stays her hand, but not her voice.

"What's the third thing you wanted to say?" she asks quietly.

The quiet lingers, Zachery maintaining his stare down at the infants without interfering with their sheepskin-supported struggles in the world. His hands drawn back toward him. When he decides enough time is wasted, he sucks in a breath and asks firmly, "Do you know me? Where the memories came from?"

His smile fades to a dead thing, then slips away entirely. He sinks a little more heavily into the couch, still unable to either act nor look away. "I meant to ask Nicole— I have meant to many times, actually. But every time the question's on the horizon, I look at her face, and think… it… unwise."

He looks at Asami, searching her face. Waiting for something or another on top of her words. "But curiosity will stick, won't it."

Her look mellows, a hard thing to read while she studies him in return. She considers her answer, eyes still on him while not reading his eyes, before she ultimately meets them again. "You didn't make your way to Japan, no. And I didn't really leave there."

Asami takes in a deep breath, uncertain how much of the double life in her head she should actually share. "I didn't live in New York the same way I have in this life. I visited once, on an assignment, to an autonomous zone across the river in Brooklyn which was run by a Japanese company. And then…"

Her brow furrows, wondering how to explain. Her gaze loses its focus, floating slowly away. "I returned, after I was betrayed by those I worked for. By someone I trusted implicitly. Only then— it was less legally. I didn't exactly get around then, either. I worked under the table, until I found legitimate employment and a turned cheek from the government, which is— what I'm doing…" The light in Asami's eyes flickers as she fails to line the pieces up. "Now? But no, it's— last year. The last memory I have of there is from 2020, the Fourth of July, it's…"

All she can do is begin to shake her head as much in apology as helplessness. "It feels impossible just as much as it feels like a truth. I worked for ten years in a special response unit, all with people with superpowers. I carved out a life for myself, only for it to fall apart because of something… out of my control, and…"

Asami lets out a hollow laugh. "God, the parallels, Dr. Miller. But it's so different, all the same. A different me." Her eyes finally find him again. "Likely a whole different you, too."

Zachery, too, looks off to the side in thought, as if even with so little context, he still at least tries to imagine what this world would hold. But— he shakes his head, a little thing meant for himself alone. A shift back to the now.

Listening gives him time, not only to let some more of the tension in him evaporate, but also to lean forward and rummage through the toys on the table in front of him, picking up a stuffed unicorn that is deemed sparkly enough to be used as a possible distraction.

"That you don't know for sure is probably for the best," he says firmly, holding the unicorn over the twins with a look of doubt on his face. But they go quiet, both reaching upward in wonderment. "Remembering all of that, sounds— complicated." He glances Asami's way with what looks like sympathy. "Maybe I'm better off. In a better position to focus on home."

Asami's expression shifts, like she should either smile or laugh, but neither thing ends up happening. She just ends up looking tired. "Maybe," she says softly in reply. Her eyes fall to her hands like somehow the prayerlike clasp of them will hold answers for her.

Silence elapses from her, ear turned to the noises the small children make. Eventually her eyes drift shut.

"The one advantage," Asami finally says, "about these other memories… in that world, they call having powers Expression. They isolated it to a genetic marker. The Evolved all have it, even those with latent, unmanifested abilities. Perhaps the same rings true here— how the government or… whoever was watching me knew about my ability before I did."

"If you run some kind of genetic sequencing against my DNA…" She glances back to Zachery shortly. "We can find out. Is that something you'd be able to slip in a request for? Or tell me who needs manipulated to get it done?"

Still with the toy in hand, Zachery stares back at Asami with a look of definite interest knitting his brow, but also his internal struggle showing in a tilt of his head.

Every day, things get more confusing.

For a few seconds, it looks almost like he's about to object to something, but whatever it might have been is forgotten when Asami's very last sentence draws an unexpected chuckle from him, caught off guard.

"Alright," he says first, more confidently now that he's able to sink his thoughts into a topic he knows more about. "You're clearly invested, or putting on a very solid act." He works away a slightly lopsided grin. "But I don't think you're doing this with malicious intent. So. I'm keeping my end of this. I can call in a few favours, we'll have a complete sequence within days. See where we go from there?"

It's a better thing than she'd hoped for. Than she thought she could even dare to hope for. Asami lifts her head from her weariness, meeting Zachery's look with open surprise. One beat passes with her looking wide-eyed at him like that, then another.

"Yeah," she stammers out before a third such moment can elapse. "Yeah, that'd be great. I'd really…"

She'd owe him, she'd say, but she looks back to little Avery next to her twin in baby Harvey. She's already paid for this.

"I'd appreciate that more than you know. To feel like we're not just blindly stumbling around in the dark." Asami sighs as she comes to her feet. "No closer to finding out how deep the conspiracy of repressing us goes, but at least we'll know more about ourselves."

"In some way, that might be a comfort," Zachery answers, though he sounds unsure of it.

"I'll still be feeling like I'm going absolutely fucking mad trying to pretend I don't fear accidentally going invisible at any point, and pretending this," he motions to the twins, letting the toy gently drop between them, but upon looking at them properly, finds his words stuck in his throat. He exhales sharply, as if something's just physically squeezed the air out of him, then finishes with barely enough breath, "… Pretending this is normal."

He blinks, before scrubbing a hand over his face. "After all, what other option do I have? For now."

Asami does manage a sympathetic hum of laughter as she looks to Zachery, brow ticking together. "I find things go better when you don't ignore the fear. If you constantly are afraid of the worst… it still has power over you when it happens. Should it be just another shitty Tuesday on a scale slightly worse than normal, well…" Her shoulders pitch upward in a shrug. Maybe it's an oversimplification of things, but worrying would have arrested her from moving forward by now if she let it rule her.

"At least they're not old enough to judge you for your failings, yet," she observes gamely. "The uncaring universe has provided at least that small courtesy. You don't have to pretend anything about this is normal for their sake, just—"

The front door toggles with keys in the lock, and Asami's head whips in that direction. Light bends around her body as she slips instantly back into invisibility, lapses into a silence that's not entirely free from the worry she advised Zachery to let go of.

"'m home!" Pippa calls from the front door just before it closes behind her.

Asami's throat works visibly to Zachery alone, her muteness continuing. She doesn't move yet, but the sense she's decided it's time to go is felt all the same by the fact she keeps her presence concealed.

Zachery, having looked momentarily lost in thought, straightens where he sits, as if someone's found and pulled him upright by his invisible strings.

And he, too, is enveloped by that same shimmer.

Seconds pass, seconds of silence to trade for Pippa's greeting. Seconds of fear getting the better of him.

Until it doesn't.

"Welcome back, Ph—" He says suddenly, looking toward the hallway as he pops back into view with a conjured smile and corrects himself. "Pippa. How was school?" He leaves no room for an answer. "Can you help me feed Harvey? 'Ella's left early and I think the twins're both ravenous."

To Asami alone, he says much more quietly and with just the barest pinch of escaped gratitude deepening crow's feet, "Go. I'll be in touch."

Asami responds with an invisible nod, beginning to make for the door.

"Sure!" Pippa's backpack is slung off her shoulder and dumped in the front hall in favor of the task she's been asked to help with, bag left for some other time rather than put where it ought to be. She starts to grin, starts to answer, then shivers, looking over her shoulder to make sure the door's closed properly and she's not brought the cold in with her.

She hasn't. Asami's just walked right through her partly, like some kind of ghost. There wasn't a way around avoiding her. Said ghost doesn't look back before walking right through the closed front door.

Pippa shakes her head and locks the door since she's realized she forgot, then turns back for the kitchen. "I'll make the bottles!" she volunteers, barely-hidden pride in that. "School was okay. Art was fun. I dunno, it's school." She grins despite the shrug off of the subject. By the sink, she steps up onto a stool to pull cleaned bottle bits from a drying rack on the counter and open a cabinet to pull out a tub of formula.

"What do you want me to grab aside from the bottles?"

It's just them now. No one to help him answer these questions, to be partner to him in pretending this is all normal, or acknowledge that it isn't.

"I don't know," leaves him quietly, at first, gratitude having left him. He should know, if he's chosen this life.

He tries desperately to search his mind for answers, while the two babies at his side begin to grow louder in their insistence of an unknown need. The two healthy twins, which should be a boon but has left him looking off into the rest of the room with what looks like slowly growing panic.

Full as his mind might be, he fails to find even one acceptable response beyond a repeated, louder, "I don't know."

But as if the rest of him does, he suddenly rises to his feet, face falling and words tumbling from him in a rush. "Can you, ah— can you call the babysit— can you call 'Ella? I'm going on— I've left something in the car."

And with that, he heads for the door.

"What?" Pippa in the kitchen sounds baffled, but she doesn't follow. "Zachery? Um… okay…" She sounds baffled, but as self-reliant as he's seen her to be the last few days, surely she'll figure herself out.

Back turned on the children in the living room, down the hall, before even Zachery can make it out the door— just as his hand begins to reach, in fact— the noise of fussing children grows louder.


Telling the twins apart in cries is a hard thing and yet, something pulls at his gut. Zachery knows— he knows it's Avery, by the way she wails in an upset that's targeted at something wonderfully specific yet terrifyingly broad. By the cough that breaks up the stream of it. Harvey begins to lift his voice to match hers, which doesn't help by any means, but there's no question that something's beginning to happen that… shouldn't be.

Another rattling cough rises from the couch.

Zachery's hand lifts, away from the door.

"Not already," he breathes, the sound of it lost under the cries already flooding his direction. Just as instinct had driven him to turn away before, it now serves to have him turn on a heel and walking back the way he came, spitting out another pair of words laced with a whole new sort of panic. "What's changed?"

There come no immediate attempts at soothing, a thing not yet learned or leaned into. He looms over the couch, the unicorn now at his feet, staring coldly down at the twins as though they've failed him somehow.

But they haven't. She hasn't. "What's changed?" He asks again, thinking aloud as if the tiny humans who the world decided are his will have the answer for him. They don't have to, though, since an answer comes to him either way. "I left."

Avery is scooped up, quick enough to startle her into silence for a moment. He turns, to pace with her held in a too-firm grip, his eyes finding once more the traces of a scar he'd seen vanished before. Not all of it, but enough for him to hold her closer, his expression frozen somewhere between a distant lost in thought and hard determination.

"You're alright," he decides. "I'm not leaving you again."

Her tiny hand latches on to the lapel of his shirt.

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