Together (Again)


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Scene Title Together (Again)
Synopsis Something has gone very wrong.
Date November 9, 2011

Good Hope Lake, British Columbia, Canada

In the SUV, she’s fallen asleep with her head on his shoulder, the rocking of the vehicle having lulled her to sleep in spite of her troubled mind and the electrical energy stored in her body. Physically, she doesn’t need to sleep, but it’s what her brain so desperately needs. It’s what the life she seems to refuse to acknowledge is growing inside of her needs.

He’s warm against her. Warm in the way that she is warm, but it’s not familiar. Nothing about Howard Phillips is familiar to her. Except, perhaps, for the faint smell of ozone. But she isn’t so sure that isn’t her. The air at night after a good thunderstorm.

He doesn’t move her, doesn’t have the heart. He knows she needs this, and that this may be the last chance she has to sleep soundly for a long time. He knows what they’re about to go up against. He knows the horror that waits for them in the Natazhat facility. She can have a few more hours free from that worry…

Now his head rests on her shoulder as she holds him tightly to her. The water and the blood swirl around them. It soaks into her clothes, into her skin, but there’s no chill. Not yet. Right now, there’s only the heat of the air that was just supercharged and the heat of the moment. Through clenched teeth she begs him not to die, this man she knows so little about. This unfamiliar boy. But he knows Ingrid, and they mean something to each other. His words meant something to her. She has to try.

She remembers the pacemaker. She remembers the day she discovered her own ability. Remembers Kain Zarek laying on the ground, the life running out of him. Nicole allows Howard to fall back a little bit, cradling him in one arm. There’s no time for hesitation. This could go poorly, sitting here in six inches of water, but she’s reasonably certain she can contain the current to her own body. She isn’t like Howard or his mother that way. Pressing her trembling hand to his chest, she utters a curse under her breath and releases the jolt over his heart…

Nicole Nichols opens her eyes. The helicopter has touched down and the weight in her lap now — cradled in her arms — is her little sister, kept warm by the blanket draped over them both and the heat of her skin. She hasn’t spoken a word since they left the facility. She has barely dared to look at anyone. The others must think she’s in shock, and who could blame her? She is, really, but not for the reasons anyone else expects.

The people file out and begin the trudging walk back from their landing point to the sanctuary of Hollis Fitzroy’s cabin. Nicole keeps her eyes on the path ahead of her, stepping in the larger footprints made by the men at the fore. They don’t reach their destination until darkness has long overtaken them, and she finds herself dreading the return to this place where she’s made friends. This place where one of those friends will never return.

Hollis Fitzroy is there to meet them on the back steps, every light in the house blazing a beacon. Here. Safety is here. One by one, she ushers the wounded and grieving alike into the spacious cabin, talking to one of the Brians and pretending not to notice the way Steve won’t meet her eyes when she walks in holding the woman who can only be that sister she was upset about.

As soon as they’re cleared to move people upstairs, that’s where Nicole heads, Lucille Ryans helping her maneuver Colette up the stairwell and settle her into a bed. For a long while, all she does is watch the rise and fall of her sister’s chest, a hand clasped loosely around one slim wrist to feel the pulse pumping there. Her sister is alive.

When all that can be done for the injured has been done, they too are moved up the stairs to rest in comfortable beds. While Hollis helps everyone settle in, Nicole slips down the stairs and out the back door. She doesn’t know when her steps turned from a slow walk to a full sprint, but she’s breathless when she reaches the shores of the lake, her breath steaming out in front of her in great white puffs as she bends at the waist, awkward with the swell of her stomach, resting her hands against her knees.

What happened back there?

You did a stupid thing.

It isn’t Nicole’s voice that response back, but the metallic, electric crackle of something sounding similar to Howard’s own voice. The sound, the sensation of his voice jostles Nicole like an electric shock once would. Not anything dangerous, just that static-electric snap of a car door in winter.

A stupid, stupid thing.

I couldn’t do nothing. I couldn’t just let you—

Nicole’s breaths come ragged as she stares unseeing out across the water. While she hadn’t taken the time to consider the consequences — there was no time — this was not a scenario that crossed her mind. As she straightens her posture with a certain rigidity, she’s shivering, and not from the cold. This is properly terrifying.

Saving you was not stupid.

Nicole! Howard’s voice is a downed power line snap in the back of her mind. Maybe if I was supposed t’be here, it wouldn’t be stupid. Maybe if I wanted this, it wouldn’t be stupid. His voice rings in her ears, a tinnitus cry. Maybe if you were just making the choice for yourself, it wouldn’t be stupid. It’s an implication, not for himself, but for, What’s this going to do to Annie?

Tears stream down Nicole’s cheeks as the weight of his words and their predicament causes her to falter, falling to her knees in the snow. He’s right. She took a chance, and in doing so she also took away choice. “I don’t know,” she admits out loud, curling her fingers around the freezing powder on the ground around her. It quickly starts to melt against her too warm palms.

I guess we’re both in that boat, then. Howard admits as a static crackle at her right side. He’s resentful, bitter, and tired. Yet, now, there is no rest. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, Howard’s tone softens. But you need to find a doctor. Or. Some — thing? It isn’t an odd cadence of speech that has Howard sounding so halting. Rather, it’s like a radio station not tuned in properly.

Self-deprecating laughter does nothing to ease the cold knot of fear in Nicole’s stomach. Her glowing eyes cast to her right, half expecting to see him for a moment. This situation isn’t just absurd, it’s impossible. “No shit,” she breathes out, there’s a bite to the tone, but it lacks teeth. She can’t be annoyed at him for what she’s done to herself. To both of them. “That’s not going to happen for a while. You know how long it took to get here. There’s… nothing. For hours in any direction.” The thought is dismissed. If she dwells on the thought of the unintended consequences for her unborn child, she might lose her mind.

If she hasn’t already.

“I’m sorry.

The ghost has no reply.

Previously in this storyline…
Ouroboros Part I

Next in this storyline…
A Hole in the World

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