The Practice Of Patience


avi_icon.gif emily4_icon.gif

Scene Title The Practice Of Patience
Synopsis In the wake of her actions in the UK, Emily turns to an unlikely source for guidance on what to do next.
Date May 7, 2021

Emily Epstein has not said one fucking word about her "spring break trip" abroad.

It's been weeks. She's taken her assigned leave quietly, kept her head down, checked in on her friends and coworkers caught up in the tangle, overall spending more time out of the house than in. Nearing the end of the leave, though, both understanding that she's been out of the loop and yet experiencing tangible anxiety that nothing has happened and nothing has moved, she finds herself on a Friday evening intruding on the sanctum of the Bastion.

Someone unfamiliar to her– female, shorter, dark hair, Japanese– had questioned her as to who she was when she was buzzed in, but ultimately let her pass. She goes now padding up the stone steps to the second floors to head right for Avi's office. His office rather than anywhere else in the building because she knows how hard it is to put something down you've put so much of your time and yourself into, even when you should leave it alone for a weekend.

… Or forever.


The Bastion
Phoenix Heights

May 7th
6:36 pm

Avi's daughter introduces herself to his office space with unannounced intrusion, taking advantage of the already-cracked door to let herself in and push it shut behind her. She launches immediately into speaking in an attempt to avoid being brushed off.

"Do you have a minute to field a hypothetical?" Emily asks with the determined air of someone who isn't going to take no for an answer regardless.

“I didn’t say that, I said I’d feed you your own dick through a straw.” Avi is in the middle of saying when Emily slides into his office. He raises one finger, and continues berating whoever is on the other side of the phone. “So if you want me to go find a straw tiny enough to—”

Avi pulls the phone away from his ear. “He hung up.” Then ends the call and sets the phone down on his cluttered desk, waving Emily in with his free hand.

“What’s up,” he asks. No rejoinder, no smarm. Just frankness.

"I can't begin to fathom why," Emily remarks regarding the cut-off phone call. She leans away from the door, crossing over to the desk without taking a seat. One hand begins to curl up in thought and then flattens against her side before she launches directly into it.

"Imagine for a second you've been told to trust that the UN is going to bring to light a bunch of shit it itself declares to be sensitive and complicated. You've been given every assurance that they will in fact do it, and not … leave the truth to die somewhere unaired." Her nostrils flare for a moment in how her hypothetical is a little too fucking on the nose, but she's in the middle of it now. She levels a look down at Avi. "But the problem is, you've got a friend who doesn't trust that, who wants to leak the documentation and force the matter into the public eye."

With all the frustration of someone too close to the matter, her hand flies away from her side as she asks, "What would you do in that position? Do you execute trust and patience and faith, or do you do things indelicately and potentially fuck up it being taken as seriously as it should?"

Avi sighs softly, leaning back in his seat and folding his hands over his stomach. “In my experience, the UN’s a bunch of scared politicians looking for the easiest way out of any situation with the least amount of friction. The minute they get any pushback from an official office their entire fucking aparatus grinds to a halt…”

Avi looks away to the nearest window as he continues. “People remember what they did here, but they didn’t do jack shit until the war was already over. You go ask the people of Rwanda how much help the UN was during their civil war, how much they helped stop a genocide there…” He looks back to Emily. “The UN is an underpaid mall cop. You show up with a gun, you’re sure as shit gonna get to rob whatever stores you want.”

“But here’s the other hand on that…” Avi says with a shake of his head. “Information’s a weapon. In the wrong hands, it can do a whole lot of fucking damage, especially to the people you didn’t mean to hurt.” He says, looking down to his desk for a moment. “In a… hypothetical like this? You gotta ask yourself whose blood you want on your hands, how much, and when. Because that’s the ugly reality of this kind of work,” he admits quietly, “it’s never bloodless, even when you don’t fire a single bullet.”

Emily brings her hands together before her, fingers lacing together and her thumb drawing across the ridges of her knuckles while she considers that. "It's already not bloodless, in this one," she admits cautiously. "It's just a question of how much more blood is gonna…"

She catches herself losing the thread and shakes her head, circling back around. "And even if the UN does circulate the information amongst, say, Security Council members, and then it never leaves past their knowledge– that itself is still blood, is still risk. That– if those countries end up not wanting to do anything because it implicates at least one of them, the people who risked everything to even document what was happening to begin with…" A ripple of frustration emerges as she points out, "They've done worse than do it all for nothing, they've done it to deliver it into the hands of the people who'd silence them."

Looking off from Avi, Emily admits, "So if the information is out there regardless, I don't want to dig a hole deeper for those involved to be exposed, or cause their work to be questioned, but the… hypothetical stumps me because neither option is good."

"So I'm looking at the question, I guess, and wondering…" Her gaze comes back to him. "Which has impact?"

Avi wrings his hands together for a little while. “I asked myself the same thing for years. First when I was in the field with the Royals, then when they wanted to put me behind a desk, then when I was living as a prisoner in Gabriel fucking Gray’s little shitty apartment while…”

He catches himself losing the thread and shakes his head, circling back around. “What’s your desired outcome?” He asks, changing the perspective on the situation. “Do the guilty get punished? To the harmed get justice? Do those two things actually overlap?” He unfolds his hands and shrugs. “Do you prevent more harm in the future? Is that important to you, or is this about eye-for-an-eye. None of them’re wrong ways to feel, either.”

Completely unintentionally, Emily's head lifts with her suddenly rapt attention on the situations Avi describes from his own life. Namely the last. Definitely the last. She blinks when he redirects the conversation back to where it should be, shoving the information down to store it, even if never to speak of it again.

"The harmed won't get justice, no matter how much I or anyone else might want that," she acknowledges hollowly. Being dead certainly accounts for that. "Preventing this– stopping it from happening again, because it almost certainly will, is what I'd want." Her hands have come undone from themselves, she realizes, when both of them ball into points of frustration. "But there's no telling releasing the information will cause that– or if it'll cause them to just… hide it better."

Her shoulders slope with that potential reality being exposed, a short exhale leaving her.

"I'd love for them to be fucking ruined the way they ruined those people's lives, but I don't have that kind of power, and I can't afford to daydream about it," Emily rationalizes. "I've just got this– my one piece of the puzzle, and a potential path to getting at least it exposed."

She pauses a beat before acknowledging, "The people it can hurt is us, if they find out it was us. And those closest to us. The cause it could hurt– well, it could hurt the credibility of our fucking government, surely. Some asshole would find a way." Frowning deeply, she wonders, "But if it deals with something this country supposedly stands for, what I want it to, is it maybe worth it?"

Avi makes a noise in the back of his throat; a quiet one, thoughtful. He sits forward in his chair, hands folded at his knees, staring at Emily across from his desk. “Yeah,” he finally says, then looks down at his desk. It’s hard to even say what his yeah is about, if not just some verbal equivalent of a shrug.

But when it seems like Avi has no point left to make, it’s when he makes his most salient one: “Back before the war, we had these little losses. Piecemeal shit, but it hit home, y’know? A friend here, a few friends there. Then we’d hit back harder, take a few of theirs, save a few of ours…” He dithers, shaking his head.

“Then we hit the Ark. Then we…” This time Avi dithers, but it isn’t because he’s lost his point. It’s hard to talk about that day. “Then we pulled all those kids out of the tunnels, we… the whole world watched us dying trying t’save ‘em.”

Liette. Lorraine, even Jensen to an extent. Personal. Painful.

“Whole world saw. Suddenly it wasn't these personal battles. Suddenly it was everyone, everywhere.” Avi says quietly, wringing his hands together. “Last estimates I hear were that twenty million people died in the war. Some folks say it’s more, others less.” He closes his eyes and shakes his head. “Twenty million people.”

Avi looks up at Emily from across the desk. “That number keeps me up at night.”

Without blinking or looking away, Emily abandons the pretense of her hypothetical. "What I saw, the thought of it going unchallenged, is eating away at me. It's not even our fight to fight, technically, but the people who need to know, who have to stand up…"

She trails off herself, then, thinking about the mirror millions of deaths that could bring.

"… They deserve to at least have that choice, don't they?" Her throat is tighter now. "All those people deserve to know what their government is doing to them. To their loved ones." It's here Emily finally sinks down into a seat opposite her father, running out of fire and left only with the hardest parts of the reality. Her eyes close hard for a moment to assist her with leveling her voice before she goes on, "I figure– if the technopath can alter the audio, make us sound different, clean the metadata, it limits the risk of things somehow being traced back to us. Might even be safer, in the end, than…"

Her hands ball on her lap, wondering who she's trying to justify this to at this point.

“There’s no right answer,” is how Avi sums this up. “Not right now, anyay. And maybe not tomorrow, or any day. I didn’t… think things were going to be so high stakes when you got sent over there. Didn’t think this would all be happening over there.” He closes his eyes and shakes his head. “But I guess that’s the trick of it, isn’t it? When you’re swinging a stick around in the dark, you never know if you hit a piñata or a wasp nest.”

Avi gets up out of his chair and walks over to Emily, sitting down on the corner of his desk to put a hand on her shoulder. “You either trust the system, or you don’t. You either can live with the consequences of being the one to make that choice, or you can’t. But nobody can make that decision but you.” He gives her shoulder a squeeze. “I wish I was better at pep talks.”

Emily patently isn't a hugger, but she places her hand over her father's and squeezes it in return. "I've always preferred realistic ones over hopeful ones," she reminds him quietly, an undertone of appreciation, if not humor for his reflection. "Because you're right. It's me, all the way down; unless Lance has beaten me to the punch and set all this in motion already anyway. I had a little time bought with him being in the hospital, but…" A hapless, short laugh escapes her. "No one keeps him from doing what he sets his mind to."

She shakes her head once and holds onto her father's hand more tightly. "I just still don't know who I want to be when I grow up," Emily admits without looking at him. "I thought I knew who I was growing into, that I finally had a grip on it, but all this just…"

"It could radicalize a person, if they let it," she half-jokes, half-fears. "And I never wanted any of this to begin with. I never wanted to be anywhere near anything like this."

“I guess that’s the shitty part of life,” Avi says quietly, pressing his thumb to the side of Emily’s hand like a tiny little hug. “We don’t get to decide what life throws our way, we only get to decide the kind of person we are before, and the kind of person we are after.”

Avi slowly lets his hand slip away, eyes averting to the floor. “Don’t wait until you’re in your fifties to decide who you are.” He recommends with a crooked smile. “It’s not a good time.”

For a moment, Emily doesn't say anything at all. Then, roughly, "I love you, Dad." She lets her own hands come back to her lap, thumb of one hand fidgeting against the palm of the other. Drawing in a steadying breath, she forces a smile of her own, still looking down. "Thanks for, uh–" Now her head suddenly shakes and she begins to come up to her feet again, frazzledness coming back now that the weight on her shoulders somehow feels lesser thanks to the chat.

"I'm not supposed to talk about this," she acknowledges as much as apologizes. "So, thanks, I guess, for–" Having a conversation that didn't happen? Keeping her secrets? She can't decide how she wants that sentence to end, and she shakes her head roughly once more, looking off to the side. "I didn't mean for any of this to be… asking for your blessing, but it feels l got it still somehow anyway. To make whatever decision I end up making."

Pinching the palm of one hand, she looks back to Avi with both brows raised. "I'm going to try to be patient. Go back to work. Give it a day or two. Hope the system works." A beat, before she tags on more quietly, "Be prepared if it doesn't."

Avi is still and silent, like a painting of an old man with a thousand-yard stare weighing the choices of his life against a feather. He blinks away his frozen expression, then reaches over and cups Emily’s cheek in his hand. “I love you too, kiddo. I know I don’t say it enough.”

Avi looks away, letting his hand slip away. “I’m proud of you, too. Really fucking proud. And…” he glances away for but a moment. “And I’m proud you’re making better decisions with your life than I am. ‘Cause… ‘cause I’ve been afraid your whole life that the more you’re around me, the more I’d…”

The more he’d influence her.

The more she’d wind up like Taylor.

Built in his father’s mold.

Buried six feet deep.

Emily chases her father's gaze with a bob of her head to try and call him back to the present. "This is the moment," she tells him with the obvious air of a well-meaning tease, "where I give you all the shit I never got around to for getting me on with SESA in the first place. That bullshit is what's got me standing here now."

"So maybe your fears were right after all," probably isn't what he wants to hear. "That I'd get into trouble of some kind if you were around to put the world in my hands. Even before I was healed, and now– I can get into twice as much of it."

Now it's her turn to not be able to look quite at him anymore, her tone losing its light-heartedness in poking at their mutual situations. "I'm… strong enough to figure out things on my own, but I'm still stronger when I've got you. When I've got Mom. When I've got Julie." Her expression scrunches for a moment, fighting her way through a sudden pang of emotion for the heavy weight of absence of further names. "I'm better when I've got family I can talk to," she insists.

"I think you are, too," she laughs low, arms swinging once by her sides while she continues to look away. "Good decisions and bad alike. We all… balance each other out in the end, when we stop stabbing each other to push each other away." Emily rocks a step back to establish enough distance she can glance up at Avi without having to lift her head to do it, self-conscious enough about what she's said to the point she's nearly ready to bolt. "We can't fix the past. I'm not gonna try to. I'm just… glad you're here now, so I can barge in on you with…"

She lifts one hand slightly to gesture off blithely at everything. "… you know, all this bullshit."

Nerves chasing her heels, innately aware she's already said far too much, Emily rushes on to ask anxiously, "Would you want to, like, grab dinner or something to solidify all this, or should I just take all this bullshit and go skydiving with it or something."

Avi sighs again, silent against all of Emily’s emotional release. He watches the floor in silence after she’s done talking, then looks up to her with a soft, regretful expression. He nods a couple of times, then leans off of his desk. “I wish you’d gotten a proper chance to meet Jensen, and Nat’s mom. You wanna talk about balance…” He smiles, distantly, fondly. “They were my family, for the longest goddamn time.”

Lancaster, well. That’s another story.

“I’ll tell you about ‘em, if you want.” Avi says, grabbing his coat from the hook by the door. “There’s a Nigerian restaurant down the street. You ever had Joloff? Fucking amazing.”

"That, um… that sounds…"

Like a lot, to be frank. The longer Emily stands here the more the weight of what she's said is catching up with her, the sound of her pulse creeping up on her in what's sure to become a deafening wave. A more bitter her would turn up her nose at the thought of hearing about the found family he'd had despite abandoning his own.

But that's not the her standing here. That's not the her that's been through everything she's been through.

"There's a first time for everything," she supposes as her roundabout answer. Still not looking up at him, Emily pulls the door open and steps out into the hall. "We can give it a shot?"

She means the Nigerian food, mostly. But she also means the rest of it.

Avi throws his jacket on and opens the door to his office.

“First time for everything.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License