Thy Eternal Summer


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Scene Title Thy Eternal Summer
Synopsis Ben Ryans gets a visitor.
Date September 3 through September 30, 2018

Benjamin Ryans' Home

New York City Safe Zone

September 3, 2018

The sun has started to drop toward the horizon, orange light cuts through the safezone, outlining broken buildings and silhouettes of scaffolding scattered around the city. And also the figure of a young woman as she crosses a street. A wide-brimmed hat hides much of her face and an oversized jacket hides the rest of her. But she has a destination in mind— and in hand, as she glances at a slip of paper to compare the address there to the house in front of her.

LeRoux steps up to the door of Ben Ryans’ home, expression blank and distant as she knocks on the door.

The knock on the door, pulls Ben’s attention from the prescription bottle in his hand to the front door of his home. The bitter taste of the heavy pain pills still coats his tongue. Just this morning, his visit to the doctor had been pretty bleak. It was growing far faster than the doctor had expected. It was as if it was making up for lost time. Years shrunk to months.

What he had needed was more time. There was suddenly so much left to do.

Fingers tighten around the bottle curiously. LeRoux will have to wait a few moments longer has he puts the pills away, out of sight, uncertain of who was paying him an unexpected visit. This wasn’t something he was ready to share.

Soon though, the locks are clicking and the door opens to reveal the old man. Ryans’ eyes narrow slightly with suspicion at the clearly disguised young woman. “Can I help you?” It’s rumbled out in that quiet way that he always has about him.

His visitor seems to have patience, at least enough to wait for him to answer in his own time. When he opens the door, she tilts her head to look up at him. She is disguised, yes, but not from him, it seems. Blue eyes regard him for a long moment. "Mr. Ryans," she greets, holding a hand out toward him, "my name is LeRoux. Nathalie." She adds her first name as an afterthought. "I'm sorry to drop in on you, but I'm here to help. I heard word you might need a miracle."

Even there, she doesn't smile. She might be here for a good deed, but she can feel how aggressive his cancer is and how far it's already gone.

"I'm a healer." Today she is, anyway. Her demeanor certainly doesn't fit the caretaker stereotype, her bedside manner— one could imagine— needs from work. But she's here willingly, no one is twisting her arm.

Bedside manner means nothing to the old man. Her unsmiling expression is matched by his own. Blue eyes shift to the extended hand, but he doesn’t reach for it right away. Instead he looks out into the night. Cautious as always.

When Benjamin looks down at her again, he say, “a miracle.” Not a question, just a simple repeat of her own words. There is a stillness to him, thoughtful. Curiosity and even a bit of wonder finally bleed in at the edges of his expression.

He finally he lets go of the door and reaches out to take the hand, “Interesting to meet you, Ms. LeRoux.” There is a beat before he asks the obvious question, “Who sent you?”

Nathalie shakes his hand firmly, but friendly. His words manage to get a laugh from her, exhaled on a breath. "You, too." One of the good ones, people said. Her brief brush with the Ferrymen hadn't been long enough for her to meet him then, but it's possible she wouldn't have had the same appreciation then as she can now.

"That's difficult to say. I think it traces back to some of the people who work with one of your daughters. It's sort of a small community, people who can help with this kind of thing. But I heard about your situation and so I'm here." Obviously the series of events that brought her to his door is more complicated than that, but her words are true enough. If simplified. "Would it be alright if I came in?"

After a moment, there is a soft grunt of sound from the man. An acknowledgement from Benjamin at how she might have found out. It was plausible and he had said that if anyone could his family would…. But that had been something said to give them hope in the face of something so hopeless.

Though it doesn’t show, Ryans is a bit surprised.

The door is pushed open further and the tall man steps aside to allow the young woman in. Maybe it was the ache in his skull or the pain meds, but the man was too worn to really deny her.

And maybe, just maybe Ben wanted to believe in a miracle.

“Can I offer you something to drink? Water? Tea?” She looked too young for the whiskey Ben was craving to drown himself in.

As she steps in, LeRoux pulls off her hat and slides the door closed behind them. Her jacket ends up draped over her arm, leaving her looking much more like any other young woman running around New York. Which might be a better disguise, all in all. Depending on who she's hiding from.

"Water," she says, laying her coat and hat on the back of a chair. She doesn't sit, just rests her hands on the chair as well, watching him and the way he moves. "Thank you." That also comes after the fact. Like maybe LeRoux is really not very good at this— the social part, anyway. "This will take several visits," she says, and this part sounds much more confident, "to really fix it. I'll make it a priority to come as often as I can, though. We'll make as much headway today as we can." The last thing she wants is time to undo her work. That kind of yo-yo is hard on her, but would be worse on him. "It's your choice, ultimately, but I promise, Mr. Ryans, I can cure you."

The door is shut and locked behind her. Old habits die hard it seems, even in the ‘Safe’ Zone. Though he doesn’t acknowledge it, Benjamin listens to what she says. Weighs the value of those words, even as he pops open the fridge and retrieves a bottle of water.

The chair that she places her things, seems to have an occupant. Golden eye flash from the shadows of the chair, before a large Maine Coon rises up and stretches. Whiskers twitch towards LeRoux before she hops down and moves to run her side along Ben’s legs and tries to trip him on his way back. Unsuccessfully, of course.

When Ben offers over the water bottle he asks the important question, “What’s in it for you?” What was the deal made to earn him his health and the ability to watch his kids grow and find their own lives. To watch Pippa grow up. “My life for what?” There is no malice or distain, just a simple question. He speaks from a lifetime where nothing is free.

Turning her head, LeRoux looks down at the cat, a gentle smile as she moves to get in Ben's way. That and his question give her expression an amused tint. She understands, of course. There's no offense found in it, for her. "Good Karma." She takes the bottle, passing it between her hands before she continues. "I think that… if you can help, you should. I try to live that way." The way she looks at him, she may not always succeed in that. But she's trying to today. "And people say good things about you. About your family. Death is always hard, but dying this way— If I can help spare one family that, that's good for me." She looks back to the cat, gaze following her. "Plus a spot on your couch for a few hours. After. To recover."

That he can understand. How many lives had he spared over the years that he remembered in the service of the Company? Even as he damned others to their fate. “Karma is a fickle mistress,” he comments offering a real smile, the upward twitch of his lips at the corner of his mouth. “I can only hope she looks upon you favorably for your efforts.”

“As for resting, I’ll do you one better. I have a spare room,” Benjamin offers, head motioning towards the stairs. “It’s there for that very reason.” You can’t always take the Ferry out of those that lived it.

This might also be Ben’s way of accepting the help, too.

"She is very hard to keep happy, yes," LeRoux says, her smile coming easier as his does. "We'll see how I do."

The offer of the room gets a warmer look and she nods, "I'll take it." Because she's going to need it. And given his condition and her determination, she's going to need it quite often. What Ryans will learn today— and every visit— is that he'll have to carry her there.

September 10, 2018

LeRoux wakes up in a bed that is beginning to feel more familiar than her own. By her watch and by the darkness outside the window, it's too late to be awake and feeling refreshed. And yet.

She walks through Ryans' home in her socks, hoping not to wake him as she comes to take a spot on his couch. Her phone serves as a reading light while she cracks open a book. Were one to look closely, they would see a book of poetry written in German and LeRoux's own notes and thoughts tucked into the margins. But the only one close enough to notice is the cat that comes to curl up on her feet.

There is the sound of a doorknob rattle coming from the direction of the basement door and the door swings open. Benjamin’s features dramatically shadowed by a lantern held in his hand. It’s obvious that the old man hasn’t seen her yet, his attention turned to closing the door. It’s a bit awkward when you possess only one hand.

When he does finally sees her there, Benjamin goes still for a long moment. “You are awake sooner then normal,” he says, in a casual conversation sort of way.

With slow and careful movements, Ryans moves to where he can place the lantern on the table next to her. “You are going to ruin your eyes like that.” Sounding all the world like a parent. “There is leftover macaroni and cheese in the fridge if you are hungry. Though with the power out, you might be better off making a sandwich.” There is a bit more of a smile as he adds, “And fresh strawberries in the crisper drawer. Last of the season.”

When he appears, Nathalie looks up from her book to watch him. She doesn't offer to come help, perhaps worrying that she might give him the impression that he isn't capable. Or that she thinks he isn't. Since that is the opposite of the truth, she sits still and glances back to her book. So she misses the moment when he notices her. But his voice brings her attention back up again.

She can't remember a time when anyone really parented her, and she takes the admonishment with a gentle smile. From someone else, she might not take it as well, but it's easy to lean into it here. "I was trying not to wake you." Candles and matches might not do the trick, but her rummaging around in the dark might. But with the light there, she turns her phone off for the sake of the battery. The list of food gets a shake of her head, as if she might decline him feeding her at all… but the mention of strawberries seems to change her mind. Her eyebrows lift and she glances toward the kitchen. "You sure you don't want to hoard those?"

“There is a little bit of powdered sugar left in the cabinet,” he says rather then answer that question. “Whatever you don’t eat will probably go to waste.”

“And I was up already,” Ben offers, as a bit of an afterthought, to ease her mind. “I don’t always sleep well. You could say it comes from being old.” Too much going on in his head and then there was the nightmares. Forty, plus years of horror will do that to someone.

Leaving the lantern behind for her to use, Ryans moves into the kitchen. Taking a moment to squint at the world outside the window, the man looks thoughtful. “I think next season, I’ll invest in chickens.” Looking back at her, he adds, “Fresh eggs are far better than anything store bought.” It was odd to think about there even being a next season. Yet here he was talking about it. “Lord knows I could do with some bacon and eggs.”

Ben might be old, but he still has cravings like anyone else.

That's an excuse, and LeRoux knows it, but she still slips her book closed, ruffles the cat, and picks up the lantern to follow him to the kitchen. It's an excuse she'll take. "Well, next time I'll just stomp through then," she says as she digs around the cabinets for that sugar. She'll get there. "I would never say it comes from being old," she says, looking over at him with a gentle, but impish smile, "might think it, though."

Once she's got the sugar and the strawberries, Nathalie comes over to stand next to him and also looks out the window. She finds his words touching, in an odd way for it being about chickens, but to her the idea that he has hopes and plans is a pretty good sign. "They're kinda cute, too. Chickens." Fingers roll a berry through the sugar, her attention turning that way as if she wanted to be sure she was covering it evenly. "You'd have a line out the door if you had bacon and eggs in here. Whether or not they were up for sale."

Ruma chirps sleepily at the girl when she is ruffled. The big fluffy cat follows her into the kitchen and hops up on the counter, taking a moment to yawn and stretch. The giant fluffy head bumps under Benjamin’s chin with a loud purr.

“I think the smell of bacon alone would bring the whole neighborhood,” Ryans agrees with a small smirk. He watches her for a moment, thoughtful. “I don’t think the girls would ever leave,” he muses. “Delia especially. She has always been my eater, even if she is a bit picky.” Fingers dig into the soft fur behind the cat’s ear eliciting a much louder purr.

“Sometimes, I miss when they were little,” Ryans admits watching the cat who seems in a world of bliss. “Come home from an assignment and they always come running. Fighting over who’d get to me first to get the first hug.” There is a little shake of his head as it pulls himself out of the past, brushing a hand down Ruma’s back. “I’m going to get a shower. Let Ruma out when she’s ready, will you?” It’s almost like she is a part of the household now.

Nathalie seems content enough with the strawberries that she may never leave. But as he talks about his family, her expression turns bittersweet. For a girl without a family of her own, stories like his seem like a treasure worth anything. Any pain. Any hardship. For one memory like that one. She glances away to blink away the threat of tears, covering by preparing herself another sugar-coated strawberry.

"Sure thing," she says with an easier smile as she flick her head back up and her hair over her shoulder. Her eyes are still wet, but perhaps the dim light will help hide it. She reaches out to take over petting Ruma, a comfort for her as much as it is for the cat.

September 16, 2018

"But how do you know when they're done growing?" she asks, standing with Ryans in his garden, hands on her hips as she leans over to peer at the pumpkins. Perhaps to divine an answer. The young woman knows a lot— reads a lot, given the pile of books growing in the spare room— but this is a definite blind spot. But she's here to learn. Her hair is held back in a pair of braids, a scarf covering the top of her head, and gloves to protect her hands. She's ready… but unsure of how to begin.

One of the bright orange pumpkins gets knocked on with a knuckle, it’s obvious that it is somewhat hallow. “Most are, but the longer you keep them on the vine, the bigger they get.” Ryans crouches among the long vines, most of his garden is spent, but a few things are still growing, one being the pumpkins and squashes. The scared arm, rests on his leg, while he uses his good hand to check.

“What we are going to do today is shift them,” Ben explains with a bit more enthusiasm then he has shown in a long time. Then again, he’s feeling great. Having tossed his pills awhile go. He felt energized, though… he felt concern for the young woman who is the reason he felt that way.

He pushes as one of the pumpkins, to show a flattening side. He balances it on its end as best he can, propping it. “They always conform to where they are sitting, so they sit one way too long it changes its shape to accommodate.” It is obvious, that even though he grumbles about retired life and doing nothing but garden, Ben still seems to find some enjoyment in it. “My hope is to have some nice pumpkins for carving for Pippa and her friends.”

"So, they're just… never done growing. If you wanted." Nathalie might be making a mental note to look up what record is for how big a pumpkin can get. His enthusiasm is met with genuine interest, as she doesn't mind being introduced to his work here, especially if it means seeing im feeling better.

And it's a good thing he explains why they need to go around moving things around, because she was just about to ask. Instead, she chuckles a little and moves to crouch nearby. She knocks on another one, then the one next to it, just to see if there really is any difference. Never know, he could be setting her up for a joke. "No ugly veggies, got it." Even now, they seem to sell for less than the perfectly shaped ones in the markets. "It looks like your daughter will have more than enough carving choices. How old is she?" Not do I get to meet her, but rather a more distant question. It's easy to feel at home here, sometimes she has to remind herself she isn't. "Old enough for scary pumpkins?"

“She’s six,” Ryans offers up the information easily enough. Shifting one pumpkin finds it rotting underneath, so this is removed from it’s vine, with a bit of sawing at the tough stem. “Not at all planned… I mean… I’m nearly 70 years old.” Not that he looks it. “But like any of my kids, I don’t regret it, even if three of them were surprises.” especially Ingrid. The rotting pumpkin is tossed aside, where a few others lie already, to be added to the mulch pile.

A tall tail and tuffed ear tips cut through the pumpkins in a line towards the pair, stopping to chase something that scurries out from under one of the pumpkins.

While leaving Nathalie to straighten pumpkins, Ben moves to check a few of his squash vines. “Any siblings of your own?” He asks, probably for the first time comfortable enough to ask her something a bit more personal. “I’m the eldest of four myself.” He checks a thick yellow squash, giving it a deft turn to pull it off the vine. “Was a bit of a hellion. Mom couldn’t handle my wild streak and my own father was always away in the Navy.”

“Oh, six,” LeRoux says, tone suddenly teasing. “She’s one of the end-of-the-world kids. I understand.” Back when no one thought they were going to live long enough to see the future. “Seventy? There’s no way,” she adds with a laugh. Sure, he’s old, but he’s not old. She works on shifting the pumpkins, but she looks up at him between scoots.

But it gives her something to be busy with when he turns the questions on her. “No,” she says, as casually as she can manage, “I was an orphan. Actually, I was taken in by the Ferrymen in Mexico. So I guess you could argue that I had a lot of them.” But that isn’t how she sees it, that much is clear no matter how unaffected she seems. “What did your mom do with you, then?” She jumps subjects once the opportunity arises, looking over at him with a smile. “Hard to imagine you misbehaving, you know?”

“Back in those days if your parent signed the paperwork you could join the military early.” The former Company Director moves takes a moment to retrieve a basket for the squash and gourds her removes for their vines. “So desperate for order in her house, she filled it out, we lied about my age a little and at 16… I joined the Army.” It’s rather conversational when he says that, because back then it wasn’t a big deal.

“It wasn't against my will mind you,” Ben points out, motioning at the young woman with a gourd, “I was young and stupid. Felt like I had something to prove. Wanted to be like my grandpa, who died heroically on the shores of Normandy.” The gourd is tossed in the basket, soon joined by another.

“Little did I know, I’d be thrown overseas into a huge war. I realized rather quickly, I wasn't a big fan of the Army,” He trails off for a moment, brows furrowing just a little, clearly cause up in some of those old memories. Though finally, he continues, “Once I was able, I changed services into the Navy. Actually, ended up following dad's footsteps closer than I thought I would. He was a Navy Frogman… and I ended up a SEAL.” Feeling it needs an explanation Ryans adds, “Same thing, different name.”

He pauses in his work, to study Nathalie. “Ward of the Ferrymen, huh?” Dropping the shears in the basket so he can scratch at the stubble along his jaw. “They were always a good lot. Took me and my people in when the Institute destroyed what was left of the Company. Never really realized there was a group in Mexico.” He doesn’t disbelieve, just a realization that it was a bigger thing then he knew.

Nathalie listens, head tilted as he relays his story. Her smile dims, especially when he mentions the war. She knows which one he means, and can understand how it would sour someone on the service. But she doesn’t interrupt, not until he mentions the SEALs. “So you can hold your breath for, like, five minutes or something crazy, right?”

It’s possible she’s just trying to amuse him, even though it is a genuine question.

“Just way stations and safe houses, mostly,” she says, of the operation further off, “they were scattered through Central and South America. Nothing like the operation in New York.” She looks back down at her work, silent for a long moment. “The Institute raided a lot of them. Easy targets. Out of the way.”

Which might be her way to explain how she went from Mexico to New York.

“But they were good people down there. Everyone from the Ferry was good people.”

“Something like that,” Ryans actually smiles at that question, “Though I am sorely out of practice.” He tries not to think on the last time he used that skill.

Even if it seems awkward, Benjamin picks up the basket and moves it to a workbench. Dropping it there, he looks over at some dried up gourds on the table. “They were,” Ben agrees, picking up one the dried gourds, “Always managed to look past the obvious and see the potential in people’s hearts.” Picking his way back to where Nathalie is working, he take a moment to view her work, with a short approving nod. “Probably one of the reasons I joined them.”

Crouching next to her, Benjamin offers her the dried up gourd. Part of the casing torn and lifted to where she can see some of the thick fibers. “Luffa?” There is a wry twist to the smirk he gives her. “Grew those for fun. Was thinking of seeing if the soap makers would like to buy them.”

Another tick, Ben asks, “Sticking around for dinner? Or you heading back to wherever it is you go?” He’s not asking where, just if…

“It was good. People needed a place to accept them when they hit bottom. Especially then.” Back when many people didn’t have a place to run that wouldn’t arrest them. Or worse. “Not too many people would have taken in a bunch of wayward kids like the ones I grew up with.”

Nathalie looks over at him when he settles next to her, an eyebrow lifting at the gourd. “We’re not supposed to eat that one, right?” But a smile breaks a moment later, when he mentions the soap makers. “You should keep them. You’d have the softest skin in New York.” A coveted title, obviously.

The question gets a softer smile, along with the question he isn’t asking. Part of her knows she shouldn’t, but this man half a century older than her has given her a place where she feels almost like family. That’s hard to walk away from.

“Well, maybe,” she says, words turning playful, “what’s on the menu?”

September 23, 2018

Sunlight shines through the window of the spare room, hitting Nat in the face where she sleeps. She turns over with a groan, slinging an arm over her eyes. Her sessions with Ben are almost done, but strangely this has made her push harder when she comes by. With the end so close, she wants to get him healthy as soon as she can.

She’s been asleep here for a long time.

There is the soft sound of the door handle being carefully moving and the soft shhhh of the door edge across carpet. A look would find the door ajar, but no one there. Maybe Benjamin had checked on her.

Of course, from moment blink to the next would find a mop of bright blonde curls and blue eyes peeking up over the edge of the bed. Eyes wide and curious, Nat would find herself being stared at by who could only be Pippa. Carefully, a coloring book comes up and is quietly places on the bed; followed by a handful of crayons, that scatter into the folds of the comforter or thump softly on the floor.


At the sound, Pippa looks nervous and drops to hide out of sight again. Though, it’s only meer seconds before she peeks again.

While she is certainly awake now, Nathalie tries to ignore the door opening. Like she might be able to recapture sleep if she tries hard enough.

But then something hits her, and she opens her eyes to find crayons and a book. Confusion hits first, and she picks up one of the crayons. Jazzberry Jam. She's still peering at it when Pippa pops back up again. She refocuses beyond the crayon and a tired smile slowly forms on her face.

"Hi there," she says, pausing to stretch her arms before she slides up to sit. "You must be Pippa." She slides the crayons into a more controlled pile, then pats a spot on the bed cleared for the girl. "I'm Nat."

There is a flicker of excitement as she is invited to climb up and sit on the bed with this stranger. The little girl offers her small dirt smudge hand, looking rather serious, “Phillipa Allyn Varlane. It is very nice to meet you.” The intro sounds practiced. “Mommy says it is important to introduce yourself properly.”

That out of the way, Pippa breaks out into a smile and picks up one of the coloring books full of ponies and offers it to LeRoux. “Want to color?”


The deep voice of Ben carries from downstairs, pulling the little girl’s attention for the briefest moment. She doesn’t answer her father, instead turns her attention back to Nat looking curious. “Daddy says you are a friend. Mommy has friends that sometime stay over, too.” She offers a hand full of crayons to her new friend. “Mommy thinks I don’t know, but I’m six and a half. I know things.”

“Your mom is a smart lady,” she says with playful sheepishness, “Nathalie LeRoux. It’s nice to meet you, too. Do you like Phillipa or Pippa better?” She, of all people, understands the importance of picking your own name.

Nat glances to the coloring book, then back to the little girl. “I’ve never done that before. Will you help me?”

She also glances toward the sound of Ben’s voice, but chuckles lightly when the girl doesn’t answer. But what the girl does say widens Nathalie’s eyes for a moment. “I bet you know a lot of things,” she says after a beat. “I’m not that kind of friend,” she says, because the girl does know stuff, and she does not want to leave her with the wrong impression, “I’m helping your dad. He hasn’t been feeling good lately but I’m making him better.”

“Pippa’s good,” The young girls says with a firm nod of her head, “And I’ll call you Nat. Now we are all friends.” A chirping meow seems to agree with the youngest Ryans before the rather large Ruma hops up on the bed to greet everyone. Especially, taking time to deposit hair on the adorable pink floral dress Pippa is wearing.

“Uh oh. That means daddy’s close,” Pippa whispers to Nathalie cupping her hand to her mouth. “I’m not supposed to be in here.” Oops!

A shadowed silhouette fills the bedroom door, before Ben lets out a sigh, “Pippa. We talked about this.”

Opening the door a bit more, there is an apologetic look leveled at the young woman from Benjamin. “I hope she didn’t wake you. Her mother asked if I could take her, she… was going out.” There is a touch of amusement in his tone, not at all bothered with watching his daughter.

Pippa puts on her best pouting face, “I just wanted to see if she’d like to color, too.” The little girl gathers up the rest of the coloring supplies - leaving Nat with a book and a couple of crayons - and moves to slide off the bed. Making sure to retrieve anything that slides out of her arms. “She needs help, daddy, she never colored before. Can you believe that? So I’m going to help her!” There is a little of look of determination that mirrors her father.

“Then, I guess I’ll just have to throw out all those pancakes,” There is a casual rumble to Ben’s voice, opening the door a bit wider, letting the smell of it drift in.

Pippa isn’t sure what to do for the moment, looking at Nat with wide-eyed worry. The girl said she was going to do something, but…. pancakes!

Nathalie agrees to them all being friends with an easy smile and she uses her hands to tame her hair some. While she fully intended to color with the girl, Ruma is a decent distraction and Nat reaches over to scratch under her chin. "Morning, kitty," she says before she looks over at Pippa at her warning of an impending father.

She looks up when Ryans comes to the door, and the three of them piled up on the bed looking totally innocent makes her let out a chuckle.

"It's okay, Ben. We're good friends now, right Pipsqueak?" She hadn't woken her, but even if she had, there's no way Nat could be upset about it.

The threat of lost pancakes has her looking over at Pippa in exaggerated alarm. "Coloring after breakfast?" she asks, and quite certain the girl will agree, she grins before she adds, "Race you to the table!" Nat still has to crawl out from under the covers and she makes a show of it for the girl's sake.

Of course, she has every intention of letting Pippa win this particular race.

With a half shrieked giggle, Pippa takes Nathalie up on that race. Holding her stuff tighter, she takes off out the door with her father calling behind her, “And wash your hands before sitting at the table.” Ruma’s ears flip forward, though the cat seems content to stay there with Nathalie, stretching out on her side.

“Yes, daddy!” Drifts back along with the thumping of small feet going down the stairs.

After a bit of a chuckle, Benjamin turns an amused smile back to Nat, “I’ll see you down there, kiddo, but don’t take too long,” he warns, “Pippa has quite the appetite, especially with pancakes.” Probably gets it from her father.

The man leave LeRoux to do whatever she needs to do; slowly closing the door behind him. Nathalie will hear his retreating footsteps, much heavier than his little girl, making the hardwood floor creak underfoot.

September 30, 2018

The morning was still new when Nathalie arrived at Ben’s home, while she had a key to the back door, today found it strangely unlocked. Muddied footprints trailed through the home. Following them, she finds the door the the basement open. A sound, tells her the homeowner is probably down there.

Except, he isn’t.

It was dark and empty… except for a broken sliver of light that cuts across the basement floor. It takes a moment to find the source, a door hidden behind some shelfs. While it isn’t too much of a squeeze, it was clear it would be for Ryans.

Inside, is a secret room. Possibly once used for a storm shelter, maybe it was around during prohibition. Right now, it was simply a war room. Weapons are on racks with ammo stacked neatly nearby, rounds neatly labeled. A single desk sits in the middle of the room, A black long coat and a old dusty fedora sit on it; along with a small closed box. It faces a cork board wall.

This is where she finds Ryans, standing among discarded articles and photos that are spread out all over the floor; with lengths of string. She might recognize faces, but mostly that of Adam Monroe. A few papers, torn and ripped are pinned up there.

Close Friends?
What does he remember?
Knew about son’s death.

Few other photos, some seem intimate. One with Ryans and a younger man who looks like he could be Ben’s son.

Not this timeline?
Killed by a car when a child.
Why did they take my memories?

One piece in particular says Not a deadbeat father written and the word ‘not’ underlined a few times.

Even another with a picture of a big man, Caspar Abraham.

What does he know?
Where is he?
Can he return my memories?

Ben doesn’t see her or hear her, he’s too busy putting up photos of Company founders. He seems almost like a man possessed as he pins a new paper to the center of the board. He’s wearing a red plaid flannel shirt, with it sleeves rolled up and his jeans. Work boots leave marks on newspaper articles collected over times.

How far does the rabbit hole go?

When Nathalie makes her way in, her first instinct is worry. Like maybe there’s someone in here who shouldn’t be. She's been running on adrenaline most of the night and she slips into it easily. She locks the door behind her, because if they’re still here, she wants to keep them here. She slides a knife out of her boot before she follows the muddy trail through the house, down the stairs, and into the basement. She moves slow, knife ready— but what she was not ready for was a secret room with an elaborate investigation board covering just about every surface.

Once she slips in and sees Ben there, she sheaths her knife and steps carefully around papers and pictures.

The underlined note gets a deep set frown.

“I know this asshole,” she says suddenly, as she comes to a stop next to Adam Monroe’s picture. Her fingers touch his visage for a moment before she steps over to Casper’s. The notes surrounding this one aren’t missed, either.

“He took your memories, Ben?” The question comes softly, but there’s some heat giving her voice a hoarse quality.

It’s clear Ben is tense, whatever happened between their last session and now puts him on edge. There is a bit of a jump to his movement, a hand reaching for the gun in his waistband, but he stops as soon as he sees who. Brows furrowed a bit as if confused why she was here, then he remembers. A glance goes over his shoulder to the door, before he admits in a rumbles, “I lost track of time.”

Taking a step back from the board so she can see it, he sighs, “Seems he did and I had no idea. And it is looking like my life is probably the product of what the Company made me.” Turning towards the desk he picks up the box, something moves within it.

“You know Adam?” Ben suddenly asks as it sinks in finally, turning a curious look to her. “I’ve known him since I was a teenager, bu mainly remember the monster her way. Tho..” He offers the box to her to open, a penny nestled within. “According to Eve Mas, he and I were good friends and he saw me bury my son. I don’t remember it, but my memory of his death is on that penny, made by…” He stabs a finger at Caspar.

“It’s been a trying couple of days,” Ben growls out the understatement of the year.

"Don't worry. We can hold off for a little while," Nathalie says, reaching over to pat his arm warmly. By the look of the room… she understands why he got distracted. She looks back to the picture of Casper, her head tilted as she stares at his image, like she might be committing it to memory.

She glances his way when the talk turns back to Adam and silence lingers for a few moments while she processes his words. "Eve Mas, the oracle?" She takes in a breath and lets it out slow as she turns back to Adam's picture. "I'm somewhat familiar with him," she says, although it's clear in her tone that she doesn't think highly of him. It's even clearer a moment later. "He's an entitled prick. And a Nazi." Maybe was, but Nat isn't sure that's one of the things you truly leave behind.

"I'm sorry it's been rough. This is all… a lot to shoulder alone." Her hands move to her hips as she reads more of the articles and notes. Because he's not shouldering it alone anymore. "We're almost finished with your sessions. We'll push through tonight. You're going to need to be at your best." For everything that's coming. What he knows and what he doesn't.

That is the Adam I know. Though, he wasn’t always like that. He had my back for a time in the war.” Ryans gives a shrug. “I’ll never really know what changed that, but yeah… The man I knew while at the Company was a self serving prick who didn’t seem to care who he sacrificed to get what he wanted.” He studies the photo for a long moment, before adding, “I still want to talk to him though. See what he remembers.” A dangerous prospect, not that he ever skirts an issue for that alone.

“And Caspar. Find him and see if he can reverse what he did.” Setting the penny box back on the table, he picks up an article that could be an Adam sighting and pins it on the board.

The mention of the sessions gets a look, “Thank you…” He rumbles out, “I owe you for my life. I’ll now have the time I need for answers to this and to watch Pippa grow.” Looking at the board, lips pressed together he says softly, “I thought I was done, seems life is going to keep throwing things at me until I’m in the ground.”

Reaching over, Benjamin gives her shoulder a pat and a gentle squeeze. “Your a good, kid.” Of course, looking down at her, he sees the mess he made when he first showed up. “I don’t want to keep you longer than I should, you have a life of your own I am sure. Though, having another young person around the house, again, has been nice.”

Crouching down, Ben starts brushing papers together so that he can pick them up with his hand and set them on the table. “Especially, one as quiet as you. The girls could learn something from you,” he jokes lightly.

"I will venture a guess that the Institute and those like them soured him, if he used to be better. But maybe he swings back and forth like a pendulum. One extreme to the other and everything in between." LeRoux turns to look at him again, "He wants to find the remaining members of the Institute. For revenge."

It's something she can understand. She's struggled with her own desire to rain down hell on each and every one of them for a long time. But she has been trying her best to find a better way.

But not a kinder one.

This is where she focuses her kindness, on good people who do their best. On fathers and families. On daughters never having to say goodbye. She knows somewhere that it's a truly impossible task to spare even one person all their heartbreak, but she'll try to anyway. "It's been my pleasure, Ben." Her smile is bittersweet as she regards him and there's hesitation to speak again. But his last words, they get a laugh, even if it's one just breathed out. "Would it… be okay if I still came by? Just sometimes? After we're done, I mean."

The question has Benjamin looking up with a touch of surprise. The scraps he’s collected are tossed on the table as he straightens. “Of course,” he says after a moment, offering her a smile, “It’s what the room is for. For any family or friends that need it.” He gives a firm nod of his head, “I think you’ve earned it, like you earned that key.” And like that, she became a part of the family.

Looking at the mess still on the floor Ryans turns thoughtful, “Think you can help an old man finish picking up? I think I have an egg or two in the fridge, I’ll make some french toast as payment. Get your strength up more before the session.” Brows lift in a question of whether she will or not, crouching again to pick up more of the mess he made.

He pauses in picking up on of the articles, “Also, if you could not tell anyone about this room, I’d appreciate it.” She is the only one who has seen the room, but only one other knows it was there.

Nathalie looks away at his answer, fighting off an expression that's likely to be a tear-stained smile if she lets it go. But she nods to him, so he knows she heard.

The request gives her something to cling onto and she looks around at the floor before she starts picking things up. "Of course. Can't leave a mess lying around or you might trip on it next time." When she straightens to plop some papers down on the desk, she looks back over at him. "Your secret is safe with me." And no doubt he's going to find her own notes and findings pinned up soon enough. Because she's going to keep helping where she can.

Because that's what family does.

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