The Space Between Us


emily_icon.gif julie_icon.gif

Scene Title The Space Between Us
Synopsis Following some triage, Emily and Julie have a long-overdue heart to heart.
Date November 15, 2019

Julie's apartment


Emily lets out a harsh sigh as she leans forward on the balcony railing, arms folded. She didn’t grab her coat before coming out here. Maybe, she reasons with herself silently, it will encourage Julie to not spend an inordinate amount of time out here smoking cigarettes.

But god knows after showing up how she did, her cousin should be allowed at least one.

She pushes herself back up into a standing position when her shoulder aches past a point she’s willing to tolerate. Grinding the palm of her hands against the railing instead, Emily regards Julie out of the corner of her eye. “So,” she asks softly, that first syllable whisperlike compared to the rest of her question. “How’ve you been lately?”

“Busy,” is Julie’s monosyllabic answer that escapes her along with an exhalation of smoke. She’s not far behind Emily, leaning up against the wall beside the sliding door that leads out to the balcony, cigarette in hand, one arm wrapped around herself to hold her sweater-jacket closed against the chill in the air.

Looking down to the dead potted plant beside her, Julie flicks some cigarette ashes into it. Emily remembers when she brought that plant home, when they made a schedule on the whiteboard calendar to make sure it got watered. Now it’s an ashtray. Julie blinks a look back up to Emily, then out to the dim city lights beyond the balcony.

“How’ve you been lately?” Julie asks back, taking a drag off of her cigarette afterward to give her something to do in the space between pleasantries.

Emily just closes her eyes. Her shoulders climb in a shrug of a response in lieu of a returned busy, which she has been. Schoolwork ramping up, a semi-normal relationship between her and Devon, an actual case at her internship. If there was anybody she could talk to about the homicide case and how she felt about it, it was definitely Julie. Releasing the shrug of her shoulders, Emily exhales a thin cloud of vapor away as she looks back to her cousin, willing any of those words to come.

"Jules, are you mad at me?" she asks instead.

“No,” Julie says with an exhalation of smoke from her nostrils. But she looks away from Emily, watching the tail lights of a lone car wind their way down the street. “You are exactly where you need to be. You’ve found a job you can tolerate,” she blinks a look back to her cousin, “you've got a halfway decent guy if you're not sleeping with Doctor No-Boundaries,” she looks back to the tail lights, farther away now. “You're… not sick anymore.”

Flicking ash from her cigarette into the dead plant, Julie lifts one shoulder in a helpless and disaffected shrug. “If I was mad about that I'd be the world’s biggest asshole.”

Emily lets out a hushed exhale, pulling her arms back to herself. Her hands are cold from the railing, and she shoves them into the folds of her arms in the hopes of salvaging what warmth she can. “You wouldn’t be.” comes her argument, stubborn as it is compassionate. She glances back at Julie before away again, watching the space the tops of buildings meet the sky. “If I were in your shoes, I… I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to feel a bit bitter.”

Her mouth tightens at the corners, flattening into a line. “I might even feel left behind.” Emily murmurs. Her shoulders pitch upward in another small shrug, the position held as she struggles to put words to it.

“It’s just…” Her gaze flits back to Julie’s in the dark. “I feel like things changed, and that I haven’t done enough to tell you how important you are to me. That I didn’t… outgrow you, Jules. I didn’t just crash here and then move on and leave you behind— and if I made you feel like that, then I’m sorry.” Her shoulders lift a touch higher as she pours every ounce of herself into that apology and somehow wills herself to stay still in the process, to respect Julie’s space. “I know things changed, I can feel it,” Emily says with regret. “And I’d do anything I could do make things start going back the way they were before.”

Shoulders falling again, she worries her bottom lip for a moment. “I’d do anything I can to help you keep moving forward, too. I know you’re way underappreciated at Elmhurst.”

“It’s a job,” is Julie’s distant answer, her eyes focused past the ground-floor balcony railing to the street. “It doesn’t matter.” But judging from her tone, it does. “I haven’t been happy for a long time,” is probably the most honest thing Julie’s said to her cousin in years. “I’ve just… been circling the drain.” She lifts up her cigarette, sucking in a breath of smoke and letting it waft out her nose, then threads an errant lock of blonde hair behind one ear.

“When you left,” Julie says with a faint crack in her voice. “Moved out,” she clarifies. “It— I don’t know, it was like a light switch got turned off. There was all this distance between us, you were with… Devon. Living with Teo. I couldn’t— ” she makes a noise in the back of her throat, then blinks a glassy-eyed look up to Emily. “He knew Liette.” Her voice tightens when she says the name, one she hasn’t said around Emily in longer than she can remember. “Liette loved him, thought he was… the coolest fucking person in the world. His stupid accent, his stupid eyebrows. His stupid smile. We shared that,” she says accusingly, jabbing a hand at the center of her chest. “Just thinking about him is like— it’s like— fucking murder.”

Julie had never called since Emily moved out, not beyond perfunctory well-wishing. She’d never volunteered to go over the shared residence, started distancing herself. But it wasn’t out of anger, or jealousy. It was out of grief and guilt. It’s clear to Emily now. Grief over the physical echo of a memory so filled with love and guilt over the bitterness she felt toward Emily moving out. Neither of which she’d ever vocalize. Neither of which she feels is fair.

Angrily throwing her cigarette onto the balcony floor, Julie crushes it with the toe of one shoe. When she looks back up to Emily, it’s with shame in her eyes. “When you were sick, everyone who looked at you knew. When people look at me, they just see this,” she motions at herself with a shaky hand. “Nobody can see how— fucking broken I am. Nobody’s going to come and fix me. I’m always going to be like this.” Julie swallows down a shaky breath. “I’m always going to be left the fuck behind.”

At hearing what Teo's existence means to Julie, what it does to her, Emily's eyes widen, the light cast from the apartment interior flickering on her irises. She realizes all too late what it's done, the yawning space it's forced between them, and she struggles with an apology that she's not sure she has the words for. She's not sure any exist to console Julie.

Because she's not wrong. Nothing will fix the hole that's left in her, both invisible yet all-encompassing.

Emily is only vaguely aware that she steps forward to hug Julie as tightly as she can manage, holding onto her cousin's shoulder. "You won't be left behind." she promises fiercely, a strain of emotion in it. "Not by me. Never again." She pulls back only so she can look at Julie more clearly and her expression can be seen. "Julie, I had no idea. I never would have put you through that had I known. I'd…"

She frowns deeply, her gaze flitting this way and that again as she thinks. "I'd never have left." is all she manages to say.

The only response Julie can give is a sob strangled in the back of her throat. She buries her face against Emily’s shoulder, wrapping her arms around her and curling her fingers in the fabric of Emily’s sweater. The mournful sounds of silently suffering months break out of Julie all at once, a cascading collapse of a dam that holds back even older emotions. It's the only time in their entire relationship that Emily has seen her cousin break. She's always been aloof, or if not that mad. But never vulnerable. Never brought to tears.

There are no words to share. No further explanations or elaborations. There is just crying and clinging with all the strength her slight frame can muster. But somewhere, inside all of the pain and the guilt, there's one bit of speech that comes out clear as crystal.

I love you,” Julie whispers against Emily’s shoulder.

It sounds a lot like I'm sorry, too.

It takes Emily aback at first how fiercely her hug is returned, but then she renews her embrace just as tightly, head tilted down to Julie's as much as she can without painfully aggravating the fresh stitches on her neck. The chill in the air is entirely forgotten as she closes her eyes, mouth drawn into a tight line as tears burn at the corner of her eyes, too.

She doesn't say anything, swaying with the hug without letting it break. It can't make up for months of missed embraces and conversations and sharing of anything between frustrations and mundane victories— all the things they've missed sharing with each other. It can't make up for all the things she never knew, either. But it matters in this moment.

She hopes it at least shows Julie she's not alone now, and she doesn't have to be.

"I love you too," Emily murmurs. She curls the edge of her sleeve around the side of her thumb and wipes at Julie's cheek. "Nothing's gonna break that," sounds like a platitude until her voice lightens, a teasing nudge in it. "You're stuck with me, you hear?" The corner of her mouth slides into a small smile and she breathes in deep, clearing her nose. Her eyes still are stinging, but she's escaped without tears freely flowing. Somehow.

“I miss that,” Julie whispers, “being stuck with someone. Inseparable.” She misses her sister. But her connection with Emily has always been close, been almost there.

“Emily I've— ” but then nothing. Julie swallows back an admission, then breathes out an emptiness where words should have been. She looks up from the embrace, brows knit and eyes puffy and as red as her face. She reaches up, touching the side of Emily’s neck with featherlight pressure, examining the stitches. “I don't want to lose you,” is the way she comports her thoughts.

Swallowing away more words, Julie fills herself with unsaid truths. Her eyes track a look across Emily’s injury, pupils dilating then narrowing to pinpoints as she


Julie startles, her hand recoiling as if she’d touched a hot stove. Her eyes grow saucer-wide, and what was at first shock changes to absolute fascination. Exhaling a deep breath, Julie leans back closer toward Emily and whispers, “You manifested.

It takes Emily a moment to respond, her brow half knit in concern for what she knows is going unsaid. Would that also she knew the content that went with it. After a beat, she forces a small smile and reluctantly lets the moment pass. As much as she wants to know what was on the verge of being said…

“I did,” she admits with apology in her voice. Apology for the last time Julie had looked at her and come to that realization. “You’re right.” Emily looks down for a moment and then back up, brushing a lock of hair behind her ear. “I don’t know how long ago, exactly. I’m … still trying to get used to it.”

Julie’s expression remains fixed, locked on something Emily has never quite seen in her eyes before. Though they're reddened and puffy with emotion, her crying has ceased entirely. She has, entirely, latched on to this moment like an anchor. Her blue eyes search Emily’s, lips parted in unspoken questions. Without breaking her eye contact, Julie takes one of Emily’s hands and just holds it up between them, her grip firm.

Emily,” Julie says breathlessly, “have you used it? Have you tested it?” There's a timber to her voice that makes her sound ever so subtly like someone else. “Emily— this is in the top percentile of rare abilities. It's rarer than teleportation.” Her eyes get just a little wider, her grip on Emily’s hand just a little more tight.

Test it on me,” Julie asks in what is almost a whisper, her voice cracking as she does. Emily has not once, ever, seen her like this.

Emily is all for allowing herself to be a distraction, up until a certain point. The light in her eyes shifts when her cousin asks if she’s tested her ability, her hand pulling slightly against the grasp on it. “Julie,” she protests softly, trying to dissuade her from asking questions like that. Then she goes on and asks her to use it now.

She grasps onto Julie’s hand in return. “I—”

Her gaze flickers as she looks down at their hands and then back up to Julie and her wide eyes. Something doesn’t sit quite right with her, but practicing her ability or talking about doing it always leaves her feeling uncomfortable. “Maybe,” is as much as Emily will cautiously allow. “Not now. Okay?”

Brows creased, she admits, “There’s still a lot to it I still don’t have a grasp on. There’s … maybe a whole part to it I wasn’t even aware of until earlier. When I was trying to reason with that girl, I felt…” Her resolve to finish that statement concisely fades, and she shakes her head. “something. Sentiments not mine. I don’t know if that was just the moment, or…” Emily starts to look off, but then quickly refocuses back to Julie, squeezing her hand and giving her the ghost of a smile. “But we can figure it out. If you want to help… then…”

Maybe it would be okay, if it was Julie.

Julie keeps the space between them slight, her voice low and conspiratorial. “Your secret is safe with me, Em.” Some of that initial shine departs her eyes, returning to something less manic. “I studied abilities my whole life, dedicated myself to understanding them, embodying them.” She returns the fastness of Emily’s grip.

“You are special," Julie whispers, as if afraid anyone listening on the street might hear. “But that kind of power is something people will be afraid of. Nobody wants to… believe they don't have free will.” She holds Emily’s hand with both of hers now. “People will try to use you, expect things of you.” Her blue eyes search Emily’s. “But you have the most important gift of all…”

Julie’s eyes widen. “You have the power to say no.”

The uneasiness in Emily's smile returns as an acknowledgement of what Julie warns. She tightens her grip on her cousin's hand for just a moment, nodding. "I know," she murmurs just as softly as Julie has been. With her free hand, she wraps an arm around her cousin's shoulder in a short, grateful embrace. She pulls her hand back to herself only so she can pull the glass door open, gesture carefully with a nod of her head that they both go on in. It's too cold to finish this heart-to-heart out here. Or maybe, it's too open.

"Speaking of people wanting both to use you and be afraid of you, Eve fucking Mas learned about it and immediately tried to get me to use it on someone, then grabbed me by the throat when I turned it around on her instead." Emily narrows her eyes as she mutters, "She had all the wrong respect for it."

Her voice softens down again as she adds, "Raquelle Cambria, though… I came out to him last week and I don't regret it. He was much kinder. He had good advice. And he shares a similar ability, which I didn't know." Looking to Julie, she supposes, "It's … not all bad, when other people find out, I guess. I'm still going to keep it to myself as long as I can. Not update my registry."

Forehead creasing at a thought, she nudges Julie with an elbow. "And hey, don't try to put me on some 'high percentile' pedestal. What about what you can do?" Emily arches her brow at her. "What you can do now, you might not always appreciate it, but it seems pretty damn unique to me. Just as special. Maybe more."

Julie exhales a soft snort and looks away, “It's not common,” is her mumbled response about the amputated stump of her ability. “But it's… just— ” She makes a noise in the back of her throat and shakes her head. Closing her eyes she tries to hold back a sudden flush of anger that colors her cheeks but can't.

Fuck Eve Mas,” Julie hisses. It's only once that explosive bit of words has left her that she gets herself under control again. “If I never see that unstable bitch again it'll be too soon. Did you press charges against her?” Julie asks in an almost petty tone. “That's assault and I would love to see her spend the rest of her days on Zodytrin in a tiny, concrete cell.” Vindictiveness and anger isn't usually Julie’s demeanor, but there is a dark depth to the normally placid pond of her personality.

Emily’s seen Julie grumpy— as she is most days she leaves a shift at the hospital— and even angry at something. It doesn’t compare to this, the sharpness of it. It’s a burning anger instead of something flippant. Her brow lifts. What in the world had happened between her cousin and Eve Mas?

“I didn’t,” she says, not without a bit of caution for the flare of venom in Julie’s voice. “I was more worried about getting out of there, at the time. Was scared she might lose control and turn into—”

You know. That thing she turns into.

“It was a while ago, anyway,” Emily assures distractedly. “I’ve got one police report to file already, and… and I should probably focus on that.” She looks back to Julie with a small nod. “I’ll go in the morning. I promise.” Turning back to the door, she gestures again with her head for them to head inside. “Come on, it’s freezing out here.”

Exhaling a breath in a silvery stream of steam, Julie seems to deflate from her puffed up anger. Her shoulders slack, head bows, and she runs one hair through her hair, raking it back from her face. “Yeah,” Julie whispers, followed by a more audible, “c’mon, I'll cut a codeine in half for you to take the edge off of that.” She points to the stitches at the side of Emily’s neck.

“And…” Julie pauses by the sliding door, her hand on the cold metal. “Thanks. Thanks for… for staying. For not just— ” She exhales a sigh through her nose and pulls the door open into the warm apartment. As she steps inside, Julie looks back at Emily with a quiet earnestly.

“Thanks for not leaving me.”

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