The Ones You Love


colette_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title The Ones You Love
Synopsis Finally managing to catch Colette, Ygraine dumps onto her a mass of fretful worry. Some of it's even justified, though a good portion has been inspired by a recent conversation about another willfully self-sacrificing teen. In return, she receives a healthy dose of confusion… and a commission.
Date June 30 2010

Alley Cat Courier Service: the Bronx

The interior of this former firehouse is spacious. Very recently renovated, the walls are sturdy and freshly painted in an off-white color. Bays which used to hold fire and rescue vehicles along with their equipment are now wide open. The wall on the far right has a long row of tall lockers for use by people who work here, a steel door marked Emergency Exit at the center, then three racks placed end to end for people who want to keep bicycles, powered scooters, and motorcycles here when not on duty.

The left side features one bathroom each for men and women near the front, vending machines with food and drink, another emergency exit, the break area which is supplied with new furniture, and another pair of bathrooms near the back.

The dispatch area, found at the back, has a counter for people to use while there to receive assignments and check in on their return as well as time clocks secured to the wall. Employees clock in and out by using an ID badge with photo and barcode. On the other side of the counter, there are file cabinets, a few desks, and the manager's office door at the back.

While working double duty serving as a full-time courier for the Ferrymen and the Alley Cat Courier Service is like having two jobs, it isn't quite the scheduling nightmare it would seem. Alley Cat Courier's Bronx offices are thankfully a short distance from Gun Hill Road where Colette Nichols now takes up residence, a convenient situation made slightly less convenient by the fact that she doesn't stay in this building all day.

By the time the sun has started to sink down towards the Jersey horizon, the bustle of business at this branch of the Couriers is beginning to slow. A few cyclists propped up on benches talk to each other on break between deliveries, while a few more bike couriers cme and go down the long and wide central corridor in this converted firehouse.

Colette's choise of atypical transportation for her job has earned some odd looks from time to time, but the street-modified dirt bike — while battered and old looking — has served her well in the few days she's been working this job. That she looks tired isn't a surprise, there's always been a subtle air of exhaustion about her since she joined the Ferry, but that she looks healthy despite the tiredness is a good change.

Walking her bike in by the handlebars, Colette seems lost in her own world, brows furrowed and head dipped down, teeth toying with her lower lip thoughtfully and not entirely heedful of what's directly in front of her.

"Nichols!" Comes a crisp shout from the office window looking out onto the hall, and Colette's head jerks up at the sound. "Good timing I have a package that needs to out to Tottenville, nobody wants to hit up Staten!" Reynold Helms hasn't changed in all the years he's been running things for Alley Cat either, he is — still — a merciless taskmaster. "C'mon, c'mon, time is money Nichols!"

That name jerks up the head of one of the cyclists already there. Now thoroughly distracted from the task of describing options for routes through the ruins to one of the newer Cats, Ygraine quite openly double-takes at Colette - then murmurs an apology and bounces to her feet, following Colette to Reynold's counter, intending to lurk silently behind her until noticed.

"Y— Yeah sure, Tottenville, that's… yeah. I think I know what that is now." Which is to say the old Staten Island designations of neighborhoods just simply don't apply now, not without the semblance of a real organizational structure down there. Taking the package in both hands, Colette furrows her brows and tilts it from side to side, examining the address on the label and nodding her head again. While Colette stares down at the package in both hands, Rey offers a raise of both of his brows, expectantly waiting for Colette to go off on her way.

Not entirely what he gets.

"Hey uh, Rey do…" Colette's mismatched eyes wander up to the blonde maestro of deliveries hunched forward thorugh the office window. "Do you know any good tutoring programs for like… people who want t'get back into school?" Quiet as she asks, Colette looks embarrassed to be even asking the question, and Rey's expression of a mild stare isn't helping problems.

"Nichols I am not the self-helps ection of the local library," he delivers with a deadpan tone of voice and a roll of his eyes. "Ask somebody else!" He exclaims as he slides back in through the window, only to pop his head back out and amend, "when you're off the clock!" before popping back into the window and stepping out of view into his office.

Huffing out a short breath, Colette turns with package in hand and — "Ygraine!" Practically walking into the Brit as she turns around, Colette's eyes grow wide as she stares across at the cyclist, grimacing awkwardly and swallowing as she clutches the parcel to her chest. "You— hey!" At least she's smiling.

Having managed to keep quiet - in spite of her own case of severely raised eyebrows - during Colette's exchange with Helms, Ygraine cracks a mischievous grin and offers a flourishing bow… before stepping into Colette to bodily pick her up in a tight hug.

"Me. And hey to you, too. Wow. You don't feel like the ghost I've been chasing since I got back. Are you sure you're Colette? I'm sure she's intangible…"

"Hurk," is the eloquent way Colette addresses the squeezed hug. Squirming a little, the dark-haired girl offers a lopsided smile when she touches down to the gorund again, stumbling back and reaching out a hand towards the handlebar of her bike, the other arm clutching the package to be delivered to her chest. "S— sorry it— I… I have a lot going on, I mean, you… probably noticed." Furrowing her brows, Colette casts her stare down to the floor of the firehouse, then across to the entrance and back to Ygraine.

"There's been a lot going on in the network, and like… I mean you saw what's going on at Gun Hill. Every since lynette got kidnapped everyone's had to pitch in there, plus getting this job and…" Huffing out a sigh, Colette shakes her head and takes a few steps closer to her bike, balancing the package on the seat as she picks up her courier bag from the floor and flips it open, shoving the parcel in and slinging the olive-drab bag over her shoulder.

"Right, so… Quinn?" Twisting to look at Ygraine over her shoulder, Colette offers a lopsided smile. "She doesn't know about the Ferry, and not— for my— lack of foot-in-mouthing about it around her. Uh, so… I'm hoping to try and get her in to the network, but after talking to her the other day I don't think she's cut out for it. She's Registered, thinks it's the law and just… I don't think it'd be a good mix. I did offer to teach her how to use her ability though, same way Conrad— " Colette still hitches when she says his name. "Same… way Conrad taught me."

Ygraine frowns intently as she listens, watching Colette work. When the younger woman mentions Colette, Ygraine nods slowly. "I… had the impression that might be happening, when she told me that you were lending her books on optical physics", she murmurs, with a hint of a smile. "Not exactly the sort of reading material I'd have expected for you - I'm impressed." It sounds as if she means it, too.

"Quinn… I mostly wanted to know that she checked out. I didn't want to… reveal too much, and discover that she was under surveillance rather than consideration for recruitment. I could potentially try sounding out how she feels about… political matters, if you wanted. And the mere fact of exploring her capabilities might open up a few things for her."

A glance towards Reynold, then Ygraine smiles as she looks back to Colette. "And if you want to know about getting your GED, you could do worse than talk to Elaine. She got hers while at the Lighthouse. I'm sure there'll be a batch of programmes for kids displaced by events of recent years… though I admit that I'm… surprised to hear that you're looking into it. Not too terribly long ago, you didn't seem overly pleased when I tried to persuade you that you could learn about your talents by practice and study. Now you're looking at conventional study? Good for you."

Wide-eyed and embarrassed that Ygraine overheard her, Colette ducks her head down and furrows her brows, bangs falling from behind one ear to cover her right eye. She wrings her hands around the strap of her shoulderbag, teeth worrying across her lower lip before looking up again. "Elaine? R— Really?" There's a hesitant smile there, head bobbing into a slow nod as she looks askance to the office window to search for Rey's looming silhouette. Not finding the Napoleon of Delivery anywhere, she turns her attention back up to Ygraine.

"Conrad got me reading that stuff," Colette says a touch defensively, arms crossing over her chest as she shifts her weight to one foot. "I mean… he wanted me to understand everything about what I do. Quinn didn't even know what a photon was so… I… I kind've realized what Con must've felt like when he started teaching me. It went over well, and… and she's got a lot of potential too." There's the barest touch of jealousy in Colette's voice.

"You remember Tasha's mother?" is Colette's abrupt non-sequitur. "She— showed up the day Quinn was moving in? She— she sort've demanded that I get my GED if I'm… gonna stay with Tasha. I dunno it— it was one of those mom things. Tasha said I didn't have to, but…" shifting her weight around nervously, Colette shakes her head. "I still don't really see the point. M'never going t'be able to have a normal life…" her mismatched eyes alight to Ygraine. "Not being what I am. But… I want to do it, to make Tasha proud and… I dunno."

Ygraine's head cants to one side, her arms folding across her midriff as she listens. A slight frown again creases her brow at a couple of points, but in the end she offers a rueful little laugh.

"Who knows? You might even find that you're quite bright and enjoy learning. Elaine's looking at going to university because she thinks she'd enjoy it, not because she needs to. Something to do for herself, to help her find out about the world, and herself, and what she might be able to become…."

A slight, taunting smile. "Not that you'd have any interest in personal development, or any ability to overcome fears or obstacles, or any capacity to chase goals…."

Snorting out a laugh, Colette quirks one brow and gives Ygraine a mile look, then shakes her head and smiles. "I don't know if I have time to try and pretend to do that sort've stuff anymore. The network's become like, my whole life. Gun Hill's a huge work in progress, and… I dunno how much you know about everything that's been going on." Glancing askance to the doorway into the firehouse, Colette breathes in deeply and then exhales a sigh, turning to take a step closer to Ygraine.

"What happened on June 10th… it… it really messed up a lot of us. It— the things we saw. I'm having a hard time not thinking about it, not— I'm trying really hard not to be scared every time I go outside. But I can't— tell— I have to be the strong one. There's kids at Gun Hill that need me to look like I'm in control, and everybody else there that relies on me. Eileen put me in charge of Tasha, Magnes and Sable. I— I can't look like I don't have my shit together…"

Ygraine's frown now is markedly worried. She darts a glance towards the counter, then gestures towards the door. "Grab your bike. We can talk outside, more easily", she murmurs. "It sounds like you need it."

En route, she studies Colette quite intently, but comes to a halt once out of sight of Reynold's gimlet eye. "Leave the 'I'm an unbreakable superhero' lunacy to Magnes", she tells Colette, opening bluntly. "You're human. You're young. You break. If you try to live a lie, you'll end up snapping. Idiot-boy's already at the stage of discharging himself from hospital, stealing adrenaline, pumping himself full of it, and then cooking himself on stage - because he's incapable of conceiving of his life in any terms other than self-sacrifice."

Ygraine fiercely shakes her head, near-growling at Colette. "Driving yourself into a collapse is not heroic. It's a bloody waste. And it helps no one. So if you need help, ask for it. Some of us will try to give it, you know. Or you ought to. Long ago though it was, and in spite of the response it got me, that old blank-cheque offer of aid if I can give it - that still stands. And even if you don't think you can burden anyone with your personal problems, do it for the network. If you fall apart without sharing, who the heck will know what to do when they step in?"

The fierce look lingers for a moment, then softens, and a hand is offered to Colette. "So… I missed the visions. Back just too late to be part of it. But I know it sounds bad. Very bad. I've no idea what you saw, and if you don't feel able to share, you don't need to feel you ought to. But if people older than you who've been through a fair bit themselves didn't think you could cope, you wouldn't keep having them put faith in you."

Slouching as she leads her bike outside, Colette's brows crease together and she offers a fleetingly askance look to Ygraine until they're out on the sidewalk. Her attention shifts to the offered hand, and she takes it only because that's what's expected of her more so than anything else. Its a reluctant grasp, and her expression seems to indicate she's not even sure where she's going with the gesture as her hand slips away. "I know…" is a catch-all breathily offered answer on the tail of a sigh.

Looking up to the streaks of clouds going across the afternoon skies, Colette stares vacantly, the breeze blowing her bangs away from where they'd covered one eye. "Since you offered…" Colette quietly asserts, looking to Ygraine with brows furrowed. "Do you think yu could do me a favor?"

Ygraine sighs worriedly, doing her best to mask hurt as Colette discards her hand. A slight pause, then a tight nod. "Of course. Depends to some extent on what it is…." She ventures a smile. "But I can certainly see if I can do it."

Looking over her shoulder into the firehouse, Colette's eyes are distantly focused again, looking as though she's staring through the building rather than at it. When she looks back to Ygraine, there's a tilt of her chin up and one brow raised. "I have Sable working on a project for me, something… something I think is important for the network. I want you to get in on it too, if you think you can do it." Nibbling at her bottom lip for a moment, Colette take sher time in finding the proper words for an explanation.

"I want you to go through the network. Talk to people, find out what they saw on June 10th. It's… official Ferry business if anyone asks, I don't care if you have to lie to them and say that Harkness or Eileen ordered it to be done. I'm— they'll understand. If they already talked to Sable, that's fine. I just— nobody's taking a big enough interest in what we all saw and… and there's not gonna' be any way t'stop things if we don't know what t'look out for."

Sliding her tongue over her lips, Colette hunches her shoulders forward, glancing down to the street. Write their stuff down, record it, whatever you feel comfortable doing. I— I think it's important, but I'm not gonna' bug people who already have too much stuff to manage with my dumb ideas. I'll just— get all the info and then show it to the boss-people once it's collected. I— I'd do it myself, I just— I wish I was like Brian."

The world is probably better off with just the one Colette.

Ygraine reaches out with both hands, attempting to take firm hold of Colette's shoulders. "I'll see what I can do", she murmurs softly. "But I've got a favour to ask of you in return. And to try to make you understand how serious I am, I'm going to fight dirty, so I apologise in advance."

She bites her lip, trying to catch Colette's eye - that announcement hopefully enough to bring the younger woman's gaze up to her own. "Once upon a time, back in what sometimes feels like another world, you told me that you loved me, right before you disappeared without a word. I know the way you intended me to take your words. Don't worry about that. But if you ever did really mean it, then I'm calling that in now…."

Gaze searching Colette's face, Ygraine attempts to convey quiet sincerity. "What I want of you is that you find someone you can break on. Someone you can let go with. That quite possibly won't be Tasha - having your safe haven and home be the place that you bring out all the darkest fears in your heart and mind really isn't always a good idea. But find someone with whom you can let yourself drop every last shred of the leader and protector roles. It's a mask you wear, and I understand why you have to wear it, really I do - but you cannot wear it all the time or you will tear yourself apart. Even fully-trained, psych-evaluated, professionally-supported spies are ordered to find someone they can confide in, so they don't go batshit crazy and screw everything up. You are under as much stress as a spy, and you're not letting it all go with anyone, are you? You're trying to keep up one mask or the other or both at once all the time, from the look of you. There's no one you trust enough to share it all with, to talk through your fears, to explain what you think might go wrong. Fix that."

There's a noise Colette makes when she listens to Ygraine, teeth worrying at her lower lip and head shaking slowly. "You're…" there's a huff of a sigh and a smile from Colette, a slow shake of her head comes too, though a smile right behind it. "You were like — are — like one of the best friends I've ever had, Yggy. You're— I have a few small people that I actually consider family, and you were one of the first to be on that list. After Conrad died, after I found out what I am, I… I don't really know what I would've done without you around to take care've me, understand what I was going through and…"

Shaking her head, Colette runs fingers through her hair and tries to get those short locks into some control, with little success. "I've done a lot've growing up, in the spaces in time you're gone. I may not seem any older on the outside, but— but there's a lot on the inside that's changed, that just… talking about, telling stories— it isn't going to show. I know I seem like I'm just… like I'm trying to be tough for everybody, but… I do have someone I can crack to. Someone I have broken down in front of."

Smiling tiredly, Colette looks out to the passing cars on the street, then back to Ygraine. "I know you don't really know Tasha all that well, but there's a reason she and I are as close as we are. There's a reason why… a lotta' things've changed. I love her, like… you know how I mean. She's seen me at my worst, and I've seen her there too. I can be weak around her, I can be me. But the network?"

Colette's brows lift up slowly, mismatched eyes finally settling on Ygraine. "They need me t'be strong, so I gotta' for them. I know we were really close once, and I know I was a jerk to you when I was still figuring out who I was and just… that I was a weird little kid who needed a friend. It may not feel like it's been that long, but for me? I've done more growin' up in the last two years than I have the other sixteen years I've been alive."

Creasing her brows together, Colette shakes her head slowly. "You'n I've grown apart as friends, is all… but that's not either've our faults. We live really seperate lives, an' I think we always have. You're always gonna' be… someone I can turn to, Yggy, but you're not as close t'me as some other people are now. It's hard… to let that weak side've me show to anyone else. Even if you know it's there."

"Then you need to do that falling apart more often", Ygraine instructs Colette, cheeks flushing. "Because it's bloody obvious not only that you have grown up, but that you're wearing thin. I… I really hope that you never thought I took you for just a weird little kid. And I'm very, very sorry if I gave that impression. Heck, I was impressed with you at the big meeting, just recently. Especially in contrast to some others. And yes, I noticed Tasha there, and how you held her and looked to her. I've… heard a little about her from some of the people at Gun Hill. And she is cute, too."

A slight smile, though it's still tinged with both sadness and embarassment, and Ygraine squeezes with both hands. "I used to compete professionally. Team and individual. Pressure always on all of us, from coaches, for the team, for yourself, a need to keep up responsibilities, to satisfy sponsors…. I saw people working past endurance because they felt they had to. Please, Colette. Find some way to ease your load. I know all too well that the only advice of mine you ever took was about your love life, but I'll help if I can, or help you to find someone who can do something to ease your burden. Because I last saw you this… mentally drained when you'd nearly been killed. And I'm frightened for you."

Smiling faintly, Colette tilts her head to the side and looks down to the street. "Maybe…" she admits in a hushed tone of voice, but that stoicism is some amalgamation of Demsky stubborn deferentialism and Nichols avoidance, a hybrid of dismissiveness. "If you can actually get people talking about what they saw in the visions, that'd be a start. I— already know what Tasha saw, and Tamara didn't— uh— it wasn't any different for her than normal." There's a faint crack of a smile at that, "So, just— see who you can get to talk about things. If you know somebody not in the network who trusts you enough to talk about their vision, that'd be helpful too."

Offering a more honest smile, Colette looks down to her feet and then up to Ygraine. "Din't be afraid for me, I— " there's a buzzing noise from Colette's jacket pocket, causing her momentary distraction. As she reaches for her phone, Colette fumbles both for it and the end of her sentence. "Don't worry about me, you knw I'm made'a tough stuff."

Sliding the phone out of her pocket, Colette flips it open and looks down at a text alert, her brows creased together and expression causing her to go briefly pale. Swallowing tightly, she looks up to Ygraine, then slaps the phone shut and tucks it away in her jacket. "I— I gotta' get going. Tasha— I'm sorry— something just came up. It's— personal."

Momentarily looking as if she's on the verge of tears when Colette turns a plea for and offer of personal care into a matter of business, Ygraine quickly tries to school her features.

"Yes, you're tough", she says gently, before releasing Colette's shoulders and stepping back. "Best give me that package, though, or you'll be skinned alive tomorrow. I'll find someone to take it, and cover for you."

In many ways, that's all Colette could even see it as. Lost in the tumultous conflict of thoughts surrounding the text alert she just received, Colette jerks a look up just in time to see Ygraine's more marshalled expression, then looks down to her courier bag. "Oh— Christ— yeah s— sorry." Reaching down to pull open the flap and take the brown-wrapped bundle out, Colette hands it off to Ygraine and dips her head into a nod.

"Thanks, for— you know— covering for me, and everything. I— " Swallowing tensely, Colette breathes in through her nose and looks back worriedly to Ygraine. "Tamara had an episode and… Tasha needs me back at the apartment. I'm sorry for taking off, I just— priorities." Colette, at least, knows where hers belong now. "Are… um, are you sure you're— you know, good with this?" Colette waves the package around to indicate point of reference.

Ygraine nods quickly, managing a laugh though her eyes are still sad, reaching out for the brandished package. "Of course. I'll find a way to get it there. And… I'm glad you're looking after Tamara. Very glad. Now - go. The ones you love come first. We both know that."

Hopping up onto the dirtbike, Colette braces herself as she flips the kickstand up and looks sidelong to Ygraine. Her response comes as she drops down on the ignition and the rumbling sputter of the small engine growls to life, followed by a brief rev of the throttle. "I appreciate it!" Colette shouts over the noisy, sputtering engine. Whatever else there is to say is instead just exchanged as a smile, and while Colette may be as inscrutable as smoke signals at times, the earnest smile she offers is the same as it was two years ago, when she was terrified of her own identity.

Two years isn't a long time to change as much as she has, but like most people who live in the post-bomb world, she's had to do a lot of growing up and fast. Unfortunately, that means trying to catch handfuls of her childhood as it blurs past. That's what growing up in fast-forward can do to people, and thats what it's doing to Colette.

With a rev of the throttle and a squeak of the studded tires, she pulls out off the curb and down onto the street, the sputtering roar of the departing engine coming with a wave as she leaves. Colette's always in a hurry to get where she's going, and it makes judging which turn is the best one to take at any time pretty difficult.

Eventually, though, she's going to run out of gas.

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