Time After Time


delilah_icon.gif walter_icon.gif

Scene Title Time After Time
Synopsis You said go slow, I fall behind, The second hand unwinds…
Date June 28, 2018

Safe Zone

A single shaft of summer sunlight spills through tall windows down onto hardwood floors, and specs of dust dance in the lambent glow.

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick

And think of you

Outside, traffic is lighter than it ever was in the past. What is now Bay Ridge used to be congested with vehicle traffic, and now the sight of a horse is nearly as common as a pickup truck. New York is full of old cars now, too. Whatever could survive the Manhattan EMP. Few new models grace these streets.

Caught up in circles confusion

Is nothing new?

Seated in an armchair, a boy with a roguish dash of coppery hair and vulpine features pucks through his box of crayons, an oversized spiral-bound pad of watercolor paper laid out in his lap. Outside, a box truck rolls past the brownstone, followed by two Jeeps packed with military police. The boy pays them no heed. This isn't unusual. This is the world he lives in.

Flashback, warm nights,

Almost left behind

He picks out a black crayon, peeling back a little of the wrapper to expose more of the tip, and gets to work drawing stark and crisp lines across the rough paper. He's humming to the music filling the apartment as he does.

Suitcases of memories

Time after…

In the kitchen, plainly in view of the boy in the armchair, a woman of coppery hair stacks boxed staples in a cupboard shelf. Flour, salt, sugar, oats, whatever can be found at the markets with the food shortages as bad as they are. Fresh vegetables from local gardens rest on the countertop, a Yamagato Industries forklift rumbles down the street out the kitchen window.

Sometimes you picture me

I'm walking too far ahead

Brows furrowed, the boy considers his drawing and begins to add another point of focus. The dark lines continue to be drawn until he's satisfied with their form, and moves on to pick out a well-loved and well-used orange crayon: neon carrot.

You're calling to me, I can't hear

What you've said…

The crayon snaps, and the boy lets out a gasp as the front end goes skidding across his paper, rolls over the edge and strikes the floor, then rolls under the coffee table. Setting his pad aside, the boy slips down onto his knees and starts to scramble ahead, crawling under the table to fetch his favorite crayon.

Then you say, go slow…

I fall behind

In the kitchen, she closes the cupboard doors and notices the ginger boy is no longer in his seat, and with a subtle adjustment of perspective finds him under the coffee table, feeling around for a misplaced crayon.

The second hand unwinds

If you're lost you can look and you will find me

On the arm of the chair his sketchbook is left flipped open, to a picture of a small red-headed figure looking up to a taller one that wears a yellow letter J around his neck.

Time after time

If you fall I will catch you I'll be waiting

Found you,” Walter Trafford exclaims under the coffee table, returning triumphant with the other half of neon carrot.

Time after time

There's a sudden knock at the door.

Delliah’s household tasks are routine, especially on days when the pantry gets restocked; as she closes up the doors and tilts a look to spy her son under the living room table, there’s a small shake of her head and a smile before she marks some things down in a notebook on the countertop.

Then she is in the den, peering at the boy’s hind end sticking out from his hunt for the crayon. She takes the chance to spy on his artwork, eyes moving down the page in a quick study.

Her brows furrow curiously and her mouth twitches, flattening some.

The knock at her door curtails any questioning she was .5 seconds away from launching at the seven year old, returning to his paper pad with the two halves of the runaway crayon.

“Coming! Just a minute- -” Delilah smiles down at him, sparing one more concerned glance to the pad and ruffling her hand across his head. “We should find you some more of that color, I think. Or we could always dye our hair.”

Before there is time for more knocking, Delilah is headed for the front door. She doesn’t open it at first, habit having her leaning up to look out through the peephole in the top.

Out on the doorstep is a familiar face. He's wearing a tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, in spite of the heat, holding his cell phone up in the air and squinting in that way he does when something isn't working as intended. His nose is wrinkled, and there's more creases on his face than the last time she saw him, especially at the corners of his eyes. He's looking for cell phone signal, and he isn't going to find any.

Lilah?” He calls through the door, “Lilah turn down Miss Lauper and come answer the door, please! It's quite hot out here.” Daniel Trafford is always polite.


Where did the air go? Delilah’s chest wrings out and there is nothing coming back in, heat rising instead. A step backwards gives away her presence when she kicks over the umbrella stand, plastic and nylon skittering across the foyer.

Walter peeks out of the living room archway, puzzling at the mess. Before he has the chance to say anything, Delilah steps further back to nudge him back into the next room; she makes a gesture for him to stay quiet, brows together in seriousness. He knows to listen when she makes that particular face. It doesn't stop him from looking confused while she turns the music down.

Dee pivots around to step back to the door, picking up one of her umbrellas and moving to unlock the door. When she looses the deadbolt and knob lock, the door opens only as far as the chain still attached.

The angles of her shoulder and face look out through the inches spared, brown eyes sharpened on the man outside. She is familiar and not, the teenage softness far gone from her.

“I don't know who you think you are or what you think you're doing, but you'd best think twice about trying to pull shit on me. I'll give you ten seconds to leave before I come out there and show you why.”

There's an abject look of confusion on the too-familiar face standing on her stoop, brows creased in a look of worry and concern and eyes briefly flicking into the doorway beyond her and then back to her. For a moment all Daniel Trafford can do is stare vacantly, then with teary-eyed confusion makes a small noise in the back of his throat and lowers his cell phone.

“You…” There's a moment of confusion on Daniel’s face, creased and older, just a touch of gray in his hair to say he'd aged gracefully. “I'm sorry I…” He looks at his phone in his hand again, then up at Delilah. “I thought…” There's a car on the street behind where Daniel is standing, a twenty-something Asian man in a suit standing by the open rear door, he looks concerned. He turns, to someone inside the car, and leans down in to help someone else out.

A woman with a practical mane of wispy gray hair rises out of the vehicle, black cotton pants and a floral print jacket, light enough for the summer. She's old, easily in her seventies, dark sunglasses hide her eyes. The man helping her has a colored security badge on his wrist like the ones they make people in Yamagato Park wear.

“Mister Trafford,” the old woman calls after him. “I told you to wait for me.” Daniel turns, looking at the woman emerging from the car, then down to his phone and back over his shoulder with a brief motion to Delilah.

“That's my daughter,” Daniel says affirmatively, “look how lovely she is!” The older woman moves as quickly as she can up toward the brownstone, taking off her sunglasses and giving a mournfully difficult look to Delilah. Whatever she's trying to convey can't come in a single look.

“Mom?” Comes from behind Delilah in the house. She can hear Walter’s feet scuffing across the floor.

That look in his eyes breaks her heart, but this isn't the same girl he knew; injustice and war changes everything, and that includes her level of paranoia. There are too many variables to think that this could really be him, even if she looks back at him with a listing yearning in the back of her gaze.

The car on the street is only partially visible from where she stands; quite reluctantly, she unhooks the chain as the elderly woman steps up to the house. The door is kept open only enough to block a good view of the house beyond, and show the gleam of the nylon and metal umbrella in her hand. It is not the most practical of weapons. But she doesn't technically need one. She is dressed for the house, a long skirt and tee-shirt faded and torn at the arm. The front has a handmade print, a chipped picture of a woman and ‘E-se K—e-st-o-’.

Delilah returns the look the old woman gives her with one of resolve, anger and confusion brimming under her skin. Her son's voice has her partially closing the door and turning to look. “I said quiet- - get back in the den, right now.”

It is a rare moment when she raises her voice to him, at least at this point in his life.

She means it.

No other sounds come from Walter as he recognizes just how serious the tone in Delilah’s voice is. As the woman approaches to the stoop, Daniel turns his back to the door and excitedly, though somewhat confusedly, tries to explain something to her. “That's… that's Delilah. She's— she's just like her mum, sharp as a knife. Let me— ”

“Daniel, please, we talked about this. Please.” The older woman rests a hand on his shoulder, brows furrowed, and Daniel nods to himself repeatedly, then looks up to the door. Reluctantly, she lifts her hand off of Daniel’s shoulder and moves to the door.


“Miss Trafford, my name is Nia Dawson. I work for the Deveaux Society reuniting families separated by the war.” The senior Miss Dawson plucks a slim business card of red and white from her jacket, offering it into the gap of the door. On it is a symbol, the symbol her time-marooned son once wore around his neck.

“May we come in?” Nia asks in an apologetic tone. “This is a very complicated, and personal, conversation.” Behind Nia, Daniel looks on with a hopeful and yet at the same time heartbroken expression.

Delilah doesn’t look back another time to make sure that her son listens; she expects him to. He knows the ropes. The mention of her mother has Delilah subtly bristling. This guy has some nerve- her brows knit in a crease of irritation for it, until it eases back for the elderly woman. You have her attention.

Nia Dawson? Delilah’s inner rolodex spins and lands, only to spin a second time when the card is held out. She knows that name too. The umbrella finds a perch against the wall so that she can keep one hand on the door, the now empty one moving out to take the card. Her eyes settle on it for some time, mouth in a line much like several minutes ago, in private- at her son’s choice of art.

“It’s been a while since I saw Maui’s hook on a business card.” Or, apparently, in crayon. That will be addressed later.

Delilah responds, voice a little tight in her throat. She is firm, but does not allow anger into her words when she answers Nia. “Complicated? With all due respect, Ms. Dawson… ‘separated by war’ doesn’t exactly qualify here…” She looks up to the man once more, studying the lines of his face and the gray in his hair, the edges of his eyes. It is convincing enough, physically.

“You can both come in on one condition.” Even before she finishes, Delilah’s mouth presses in to stifle a flinch of emotion. It wells up in her tone, brown eyes glistening. She wants it to be face-value, but she knows that this could be anyone. Years ago she would have accepted him without hesitation- - but now? Delilah has seen far too much, and there are only a few things she can think of to possibly vet them on the fly. When she talks again, her voice quakes slightly. “He has to tell me the name of my stuffed boar.”

Nia’s expression suddenly sinks, her brows lowering and a worried look replacing what was once hopeful. “Miss Trafford, he’s been through a tremendous trauma, and…” briefly, she looks over at Daniel, then back to Delilah. “I don’t think he’s— ”

“It was a bear,” Daniel says to the ground, eyes focused on his feet and brows furrowed together. He looks up, gaze still glassy. “You… had a stuffed bear. His name was Samson.” Daniel swallows awkwardly, and Nia looks back at him with momentary concern, then back to where Delilah stands at the door with uncertain expectance.

Tremendous trauma is an understatement. Burning to a crisp is hard to explain yourself out of.

Delilah holds onto the doorknob with a white knuckle grip, waiting for an answer from the man outside. Nia’s concerns aren't given note. When the reply finally comes, Delilah’s mouth trembles in its flatness, and her eyes move up and down the frames of her guests as if in a fresh examination. Nia’s nature makes all the difference, her presence less insistent and more calm persistence. Delilah opens the door.

“…Daddy?” Her jaw is squared, mouth quivering around her teeth. “Oh-” Delilah's hand clenches over her mouth but her eyes betray any attempt at controlling herself; tears spill out over her cheeks in what seems like a torrent. “W-we didn't- even have enough to bury- how-” A keening sob chokes up in a tangle inside of her chest.

Walter hears her from inside- at least, the sound of her crying. He doesn't dare leave the living room, instead peering past the corner of the doorway down the hall. Just one eye, a lock of hair, the tips of fingers gripping the wood.

Being the only one fully in control of their faculties at the moment, Nia sweeps in and carefully places a tentative hand on Delilah’s shoulder to guide her into the house. She looks back to the man waiting by the car, who rounds the front and gets inside to wait. Daniel, for all his worth, follows the pair into the front of the apartment, closing the door behind himself because it’s the polite thing to do when you’re a guest in someone’s home.

Briefly, Daniel catches a glimpse of Walter’s coppery hair and eye before the young man ducks out of sight. His brows furrow, lips part to ask a question, but Nia’s ahead of him. “Come on, please, take a seat and… “ she looks back to Daniel, her expression measured and tense. “And I’ll explain this the best that I figure anyone can.” Quickly familiarizing herself with the open layout of the house, she tries to guide Delilah to the living room.

Daniel pauses by the door, stopping to look at photographs hung up on the wall. He stares at them, vacantly, then briefly raises a hand to dab away tears that dribble down his cheeks that seem to surprise him by their presence. When he looks back at the door to the den, again, there’s no one watching him and yet his gaze lingers there still. He doesn’t say anything more, not yet, not until he can grapple with the situation.

Nia's touch brings Delilah somewhat back to ground, the hand found by one of her own where it rests on her arm. It's easy to find the way around the downstairs, and when they move into the living room Delilah stifles her tears momentarily. Walter is still there, though he has gathered his art supplies and sat himself on the farthest corner of the sofa. The paper pad covers him from waist to nose, knees pulled up.

Best that she figures anyone can? Another understatement. Dee’s feet feel like they're walking on a mix of coals and springs, her stomach upside down. The older woman keeps her from getting sick or stumbling, despite the difference in height.

The photos on the wall hold faces that he doesn't know- save for one- his sister-in-law Marien. The rest- Ferry, The Band, Walter, friends and what scarce family Dee believed she had. One amidst the others, of Teodoro with that copper haired kid crawling all over him. There are parts of their faces that match, in the way kids can be tiny versions of both parents.

It isn't until Delilah is in the room that she turns to check behind her, reddened eyes moving between Nia and where she searches for her father’s shape.

Daniel is slow to follow Nia, looking at once lost and overwhelmed. Gently, she turns and offers him a supportive and beckoning gesture before turning to regard Delilah with a nervous uncertainty in her eyes. “I suppose I'll start where I became involved,” she says softly. “I work for a charity organization called the Deveaux Society, primarily in the southern US. I'm a refugee advocate for Americans who fled the US during the war looking to reintegrate. But I was called on to help with an enormous project of identifying and reuniting families that were separated during the war by internment camps.”

Daniel offers Nia a look when she mentions the camps, then sends a look to Delilah that is silently apologetic. “In 2012,” Nia explains, “volunteers found your father living among other liberated prisoners of a West Virginia SLC-Expressive internment camp. They were unable to identify who he was, and… your father’s extensive injuries had left him unable to communicate. For the time, he was moved to a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri where he's been for the last six years.”

Nia furrows her brows and looks down to the floor, then finally settles in to an open seat. “Due to the volume of people with conditions similar to your father, and… children too young to remember their parents, the Society’s resources are taxed to their limits. By the time they were able to bring a telepath to help communicate with your father he'd started to make a recovery and was communicative again. When he explained who he was you… must imagine the confusion we faced.”

“Thanks to the infrastructure damage of the war, there's no reliable fingerprint networks, facial recognition, nothing. We believed who he was and started the process of trying to find and inform you when… I received a personal visit from one of the Society’s founders, Alice Shaw.” Nia looks to Daniel, who comes in a little more and watches Delilah with glassy, reddened eyes.

“A long, difficult story short… is that your father did not die in the fire that claimed your mother’s life.” Nia says that last part as softly as she can. “He was taken by the Company and detained indefinitely with no identification. His memory was… severely damaged by the combination of abilities and medication he was under. When the Company was disbanded he was moved to a DHS holding facility that would become a wartime internment camp. Which… brings us to the present.”

Nia wrings her hands again and looks up to Daniel, then over to Delilah. “I realize how difficult this must be, and how unusual these circumstances are, but given the severity of the situation I wanted to unite you two without any further delay. Where we go from here is entirely up to you. I… know this is a lot to process.”

“M’sorry Lilah.” Is the first thing Daniel says, and in his tear-filled eyes his apology is for everything he's missed, the life she's lived in the shadow of his presumed death, the things he couldn't protect her from. His jaw is unsteady, his hands shake. It's all he can muster.

Delilah knows that she has to sit herself down before hearing this; naturally, she puts down beside her son, who looks up at the two visitors with an uncertain face, then looks to his mother for an answer she does not give him. Instead, her eyes are ahead, moving from Nia’s face to Daniel’s, and she is finding it hard to look at him for too long, despite that hangdog face of his.

Nia is easier to look at, at least for now, as she explains who she is and what she does. What she and others have done, specifically, for Daniel. She visibly straightens out in her seat when the Company is mentioned, a rigidness in her spine that says something considerable and clear about what that name means to her. She has had a personal experience there, even if she doesn’t remember all of it. The tattoo on her neck covers the proof.

He’s always been somewhere. Kept away. But why? And how had the Ferry never managed to stumble on him, with everything that’s happened? Delilah can’t answer those things for herself, and it’s too long past to get answers from anyone else.

All that matters now is that this is how things are. Anything else relies solely on where she goes from here, as Nia says herself.

Walter watches all of this with palpable apprehension, much of it going over his head— but a lot of it doesn’t, too.

Numbness turns into tears when he says Delilah’s name again, both slender hands moving to smear away salt and wet from her eyes. She pushes up from the couch, and the little boy watches her move away. Delilah is almost eye to eye with Daniel now, a far, far cry from the last he was there for her.

“Please,” Delilah lifts her hands to frame his face, the heat of her palms comforting against his cheeks. She does not bother to try and quell herself now, nor rub the droplets from her face. “D- don’t apologize. It’s… it’s not your fault.”

Daniel is transfixed, his rough hands coming up to settle on hers, tears welling in his eyes as well as he looks at a woman so much more an adult than he’d ever known her. There is absolutely recognition in his eyes, absolutely adoration in the way a parent can only ever see their child. His jaw is unsteady, but he is trying to maintain his composure for reasons not even he understands fully.

“It’s okay, sweet potato,” Daniel says, calling her a nickname that no one has called her since the fire, that no one would even know to call her except her parents. “It just— I m-mm…” he struggles to get the words out, not for emotion but some other impediment. “I mm-missed you so much.” He squeezes her hands, swallowing the lump in his throat dryly, and refuses to look away from Delilah’s eyes.

Nia folds her hands in her lap and straightens her posture, looking up to the pair and down down to the floor. When she looks up again, Daniel moves his hands from Delilah’s and wraps his arms around her shoulders and draws his girl into an embrace more than a decade in the making. There’s apology in the embrace, too. Not out of a sense of guilt, but out of a sense of loss. For a time, Nia falls silent.

She can’t even remember fully the last time that someone called her that. Delilah’s hand smoothes over the side of his hair as he struggles to put the words to his lips; she can see damage when it shows, eyes bent in an obvious sympathy as she lets him take his time.

For the sake of keeping some composure, she waits until she has wrapped him up in her arms before speaking, burying her head against his neck. Her hair smells like sweet flowers and honey, and her hold on him is so much stronger now, as if he might vanish into smoke in her arms. Stranger things have happened.

“I missed you too, Daddy.” Delilah’s breath catches in her chest with a fresh sob of air and tears, and after a solid time spent there she is leaning away, hands once more framing her father’s familiar face. “I- There’s someone you should meet, I think?” Her smile is bright from under the slight run of eye makeup at the corners of her lids, and she folds one of his hands into her own, gentle and insistent when she looks over to the little boy still hiding behind his drawings. Walter can hear enough to know that this is something serious, but not in a bad way; his eyes lift up between his mother and Daniel when she looks back at him, and the pad reluctantly lowers onto his lap, then the sofa as he stands up, socks scuffing on carpet. He is not so sure about this, but perhaps that is to be expected.

“This is my son.” Maybe it was obvious. But she says it, just for Daniel, her hand still firm in his as a constant assurance. “Walter, this is your- - your grandfather.”

Delilah can’t recall the last time she saw her father openly cry, or if she ever really had before. There’s no immediate memory that comes to mind, though this experience will leave an indelible one etched in her forever. At the words grandfather Niel lets out a ragged sob, one hand clutching over his mouth and tears spilling down his cheeks. He’s overcome with emotions, though the awkwardness of such a confounding revelation has him struggling to rein it all in. He swallows noisily, gasps for breath, and stammers nothing intelligible as he watches Walter’s tiny figure.

Nia offers furtive glances to the exchange, patient enough to sit on the sidelines of this intensely personal and yet wholly unusual family reunion. This isn’t the first tearful reunion she’s presided over, but it is the first of its kind given the circumstances. Her presence, however, is largely unobtrusive. She is a white-haired fly on the wall, silent and observant.

Daniel looks at Delilah with wide, reddened eyes, taking tentative steps toward Walter, then drops down to one knee. He smiles, lips trembling, and offers out an arm to his grandson. “It— it’s— ” he can’t finish the sentence without threatening a sob again.

Delilah appreciates the quiet from Ms. Dawson, because really- - this is a stressful circumstance as it is; paired with whatever has caused her father such damage, it becomes even more delicate. Her eyes move to give Nia a grateful look, even if she knows it can’t show just how grateful she is. Words can come later.

Her hand does not leave Niel’s until he takes that small step forward, and even then Dee is behind him, hands resting on his shoulders when he takes a knee. It’s alright.

As children go, Walter seems rather unafraid of strangers; his brows lift to Delilah one more time before he blinks back at Niel, stammered words and all. He’s not ignorant to disability, and he knows that when people cry too much it just chokes them- - the boy’s sympathy looks a lot like Lilah’s, all large eyes and concern. What is he trying to say? How does he fix it? The best Walter can do is guess. He holds out a small hand, pink mouth pressing with a tiny smile.

“It’s nice to meet you.”

It is with the most tentative of gestures that Niel takes Walter’s hand in his, watching him for a brief moment with tear-filled eyes and abject confusion. It is only when he looks up to Delilah that any of this makes even the faintest amount of sense, and he squeezes Walter’s small hand one more time. “You’re— you’re such a handsome young man. Oh, Lilah,” Niel looks up, and there’s a distant and confused look in his eyes, “Charles will be so happy to meet him.”

Nia’s brows raise, and there’s a look leveled on Niel that drifts up to Delilah and back again. Swallowing awkwardly, Nia regain her composure and says in a soft, reassuring tone, “Mr. Deveaux passed away in 2006, Mr. Trafford. Remember?”

Slowly, Niel withdraws his hand from Walter’s and looks at his palm. Brows knit together in confusion, and then reluctantly he agrees with a stammer. “Y-yes, yes of course… yes it’s… it’s…” Apologetically, he looks up to his daughter and slowly begins to stand. His lips twist into a smile that is both rueful and sad.

“It’s okay, Mr. Trafford. It’ll all come together in time.” Nia looks back down to her hands in her lap, briefly looking at Walter, before turning her attention wordlessly to Delilah.

“Thanks..” Walter laughs a little at the compliment, freckled face crinkling with another smile. It’s not Dee that he gets some of that foxy look from. Not entirely. His hand squeezes back, and he watches the rest of the exchange with the attention of a kid seeing something he probably should not have to see. There’s been worse things to eavesdrop over.

Delilah lifts her brows at the mention of a Charles, and it is the last name offered by Nia to Niel that she files away quietly. The old woman earns a look of gratitude for the gentle correction, at the least. As Daniel stands she takes his hand again, wrapping it in both of hers with a gentle sniff. Her eyes are puffy and the tears are drying on her cheeks, but it’s a bittersweet thing. He’s been dead for a long time.

“I don’t know how much they’ve told you about …well, everything, but Ms. Dawson is right…” Even though she can see confusion and a vacancy through his gaze, Delilah can still feel the pieces that sit right. The human brain can be a mess, always trying its best to reconnect itself. “This is- - a lot. And it’s- - okay to make mistakes.” Lilah’s voice is gentle enough that she starts to well up again, a hand pulling back to rub at the inside corners of her eyes. It doesn’t work, and she simply lets the tears fall again.

“I’m just- - I can’t believe you’re really here- - and that’s what matters, right? You have your family again…”

For all that he's been told it's okay, there's still an apologetic smile that Niel manages in lieu of something more formal. There's a thousand things he could say right now, but none feel appropriate given the situation. Instead, he takes a moment to wrap one arm around Delilah and press his face to the top of her head. It conveys what words cannot: everything is going to be alright.

“I… realize you both have a considerable amount of catching up to do, and the last thing I want to do is intrude.” Nia straightens in her chair. “But there's some things we should go over before I take my leave, and some choices you're going to need to consider for the short and long term.”

Leaning back against the chair and relaxing, Nia looks briefly over to Walter again, and then to his mother. “Niel is suffering from what is only recently classified as post-cognitive deterioration. It's a psychological condition brought on by the effects of long-term exposure to mind-altering telepathic abilities. Likely ones utilized by the Company when they took your father.”

Nia breathes in deeply and exhales a slow, weary sigh. “We don't know, yet, why your father was taken or the nature of the fire that claimed your mother’s life. Mr. Trafford — Niel — claims to have known the late Charles Deveaux, the… founder of the society I work for. But we have no records of your father in our offices. But that's…” Nia reaches up and adjusts one of her earrings. “We’re looking into it, because you and your family deserve closure.”

That said, Nia looks down to the floor. “We have two options in front of us right now. If you're willing to take responsibility for his care, Niel can stay here with you. The Deveaux Society has offered to help take care of the medical expenses and ensure your father receives proper treatment. However, that's a significant commitment to a mother. We can also reach out to the Benchmark Center, run by a former Ferrymen associate of yours, Lynette Ruiz. They have facilities there that could also take care of him.”

Niel offers an awkward smile. “It's— I'm not… I mean I know this all sounds…” he makes a motion with one hand that is opaque in its meaning. “I've got a lot to work out. Y-you know? Confusion, and… and I'm a lot better than I was. Either way, we’re a part of each other's lives. Here or there I'm…” he smiles, wearily. “I'm not really going anywhere.”

“You don't have to decide today, either.” Nia notes, “I'll be in New York for a few weeks, and then I'll hand off your case to a social worker from SESA who will handle the remaining administrative work.”

Delilah holds onto her father’s hand with a delicacy she shows in the rest of her frame, and the small, reassuring smile she gives her son; he takes it as a cue to perch back on the edge of the sofa, feet bobbing against the carpet as he listens. It’s new and weird, of course, but he’s heard some real whoppers from his extended family. This is… nice. What does he do with a granddad? Walter’s concerns lie more in the vein of ‘does he like comic books’ than ‘where will he live’.

His mum gets to think about that part. Nia explains what she can, and Delilah listens intently, still feeling the topsy-turvy loops of her insides. The sky isn’t falling right now, and that’s the least she can ask. The cause of the deterioration has her features bending in a frown, eyes on Nia. She cannot fathom why anyone would want to hurt her father- - much less imprison and abuse him for more than a decade. And now he has come back to a world that is nothing like what he had left behind, ultimately forgetting much of.

Two options with significant meanings. The pre-teen in her wants to squirrel him away here at home. The sensible part of her says otherwise. The adult part knows that she doesn’t have the kind of training or time to help someone with such a condition, and it breaks her heart. Lynette’s name coaxes up a small smile from Delilah; she went to the open house they had months back, and it seemed like a good place for those that needed it. The Safe Zone was better for the presence of it.

“You’d bloody better not…” Delilah murmurs, resting her temple against her father’s shoulder, reddened doe eyes flicking up to him, then back to Nia. Her thankfulness shows plain on her features, echoing back to the little girl that had lost everything to ashes. “I can’t- - even begin to figure out how to thank you all for helping him…”

“Mrs. Ruiz- - Lynette and The Benchmark have already helped a lot of people.” The young woman leans away to make sure that Niel can read her face as she speaks, swallowing before she does. Her voice has a measured sort of speed, tentative and clear; before she begins she draws Niel’s hand up to hold his knuckles against her chin. “I would- - like for you to come see it with me soon. I could even introduce you to some people there. Afterwards we can go over options again. How does that sound to you…?”

It's hard for him to process it all, hard for him to understand exactly what it means long-term, but there's a certainty in Niel’s eyes nonetheless. He takes his daughters hands in his, squeezes them, and affirms. “That— that sounds like the best thing…” he swallows, audibly, tears welling up in his eyes again, “like the best thing I've heard in a long time.”

Pleased with the resolution, Nia slowly rises to her feet and approaches Delilah and her father. “If you're amenable, I can leave you both for at least the night. Let you settle in, bond, and then tomorrow we can get the rest of the process in motion so you can start building toward a normal life again.”

When Nia meets Niel’s eye contact, there's a momentary silence that falls over them both. Nia’s brows furrow, as if trying to remember something, but the moment passes. “Does that sound amenable?”

Delilah knows that things will work out. They've got to. Her smile is small and meaningful at his answer. Good. A breath shakes quietly from her chest as she exhales, teeth drawing over her lower lip.

“I haven't made supper yet… and you are more than welcome to stay for it, Ms. Dawson. But if you have a tight schedule I absolutely understand…” While everything still feels surreal, there is something about Nia that just- - grounds her. Regardless of her answer, Delilah offers out a hand to Nia in thank you, likely to offer a brief hug as well, if the old woman takes it up. She knows that now more than ever she needs to learn more about the group which sent them here, and no time like the present to butter anyone up.

Never since the fire had Delilah imagined something like this would happen. Her grief as a child was denial, until it suddenly wasn't. She'll have to press later for details on all that they've taught Niel, from years ago until just now. There's been a lot, and she'd never want to make things difficult by accident.

“I can help! With supper!” Walter chirps, popping into place at Dee’s hip and looking to the adults with a big-eyed look. The corners of his eyes are turned out with the equally big grin. “I know how to make noodles from scratch!” He informs his grandpa and Nia, proud of himself.

After my picture fades and darkness has

Turned to gray

Nia smiles, though it comes with a shake of her head. “I appreciate the offer, but I have some family in the city that I need to see too.” As she starts to move to excuse herself, sweeping in as briskly as she swept in to the Traffords’ lives, Niel offers a look to Nia that is both thankful and uncertain. It's hard to tell what the future might hold.

Watching through windows— you're wondering

If I'm okay

“That sounds… that sounds wonderful,” Niel says with a an anxious trepidation to Walter. The boy in front of him — his grandson — is more perfect that he could ever have imagined. His daughter has become a radiant mother, so much in her own mother’s image. Slowly, Niel looks back to Nia, watching her heading toward the door.

Secrets stolen from deep inside

The drum beats out of time

“Miss Dawson,” Niel asks at her back, making her pause and then slowly, a patient and kind expression on her face as she waits for him to compose his question. “Mn— have— have we met before?” He realizes how that sounds. “Before now? When… when I was…” He dithers, seeing the look in Nia’s eyes.

If you're lost you can look—and you will find me

Time after time

“I don't recall,” Nia admits with a mild smile. “But I suppose anything is possible. The world is a big place,” and she offers a look over to Delilah, and then Walter. “It's getting bigger every day.” Niel accepts the answer, one arm around Delilah and a hand coming to rest atop Walter’s head.

If you fall I will catch you—I'll be waiting

“Come on,” Niel says softly to his family, against all odds. “I want to hear about… about what I've missed.” His eyes well up with tears again.

Time after time

"Every last bit."

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