Tough Calls, Part II


emily_icon.gif etienne_icon.gif

Scene Title Tough Calls, Part II
Synopsis Time ticking until Eileen Gray arrives, Emily successfully connects with Etienne Saint James.
Date December 18, 2018


Julie and Emily's Apartment

The phone she'd pulled from Sibyl's coat isn't locked in any way, and has only a handful of numbers in it. They're skimmed multiple times, Emily's thumb dancing over the green call button several times before it's finally depressed.

«dialing: Etienne»

She waits through the crackled rings anxiously. She counts them. When she hears the click of a established connection, Emily's eyes light up and like the other calls she's made this evening, she speaks first.

"This isn't Sibyl. Please don't hang up."

What greets her at first is the non-silence of a phone call connected but without discernible, distinguishable sound transmitted back. No breathing, no engine growls, no ambiance save for the barely perceptible hum of an idle microphone.

Then, a voice like gravel—

"I'm listening."

Unfamiliar, buffered and tinny, flat neutrality and staccato syllables give away little.

Emily lets out a very slow breath as the voice finally comes through. For a moment, she thought she'd lost connection.

"I called her earlier because I had things I wanted to ask her directly. She came. She overexerted herself, trying to — show us her memories. When she woke back up, she wasn't the same."

She pauses for a moment, eyes shut. "Listen, I'm sorry to call out of the blue, vague as fuck because I don't know you and you don't know me, but I just want to help her and I'm hoping you … might have advice or something."

"Has anything like this happened before? Has — Eileen ever woken up before, fragmented to bits?"

A listening silence, one that carries into a pause after Emily's words. No way to discern what fills that pause, not until the man on the other end speaks again. There's a grated edge, suppressed anger — quiet as it is, slithered through telecommunication.

"Where is she?"

Is not the tone of someone willing to answer questions so much as demand his own answers.

"She's fine," isn't the answer to the question asked, but it's the one Emily gives. "She's asleep now."

"If this is just gonna—" she starts and then stops, hand coming to pinch the bridge of her nose. Her voice is softer as she asks, "Please, can you just… help me out here. Has anything like that happened before now or is this really bad?"

It's an answer to a question, if not one Etienne had been prepared to ask until confirming that the answer would be worth anything at all. Many questions war for priority, the one he'd pushed to the forefront dangling like a lure going missed.

Fragmented to bits.

"If you want answers from me," he says, finally, growled words in between long, thinking silences, "then you'll need to start handing some out yourself."

That tension. Like he's negotiating with a kidnapper. A threat.

"Listen, this isn't a fucking power play, I'm not trying to establish any kind of dynamic. This is panic. Because I don't know what happens the next time she wakes up — what kind of danger she poses to others, and to herself."

"I'm scared to think of what might've happened if those birds got to her." Emily's voice trembles because she does. Her arms fold tightly against the cold. Having her jacket redonned doesn't help against a chill that comes from within anyway.

"She… I think she remembers dying. I don't know, she jumped straight from like, Vanguard to Bannerman's." She's talking through what happened because she doesn't know what else to do.

Her heel bobs up and down like an indication of her pulse. It's rapid. Emily takes in a short, audible breath before she concedes, "If you try asking me something aside from where we're at, I'd be more inclined to answer. Because for as little as I know about you, I'm not interested in giving anyone an address they can show up to kill someone at tonight."

"… Myself included in that." is added perhaps unnecessarily.

"As little as you know."

A whisper of a laugh, dry, but somehow not smug or gloating. Bleak, maybe. There's a rustle, finally, that implies space being occupied instead of just a voice in the darkness. The creak of hinges. Now, buffeting wind, whistling through the line continually as he steps outside, somewhere.

"I have birds too."

One way or another, company is coming. But the threat is left as it is, understated and almost dismissive of expecting an answer, now, to the first question posed. "Who are you."

Yeah, the noise of him on the move definitely doesn't help her heartrate at all. She hits the mute button and slides over to the window, phone still jammed between her shoulder and ear as she tugs the curtains closed over the one shattered window, and the other that's cracked and spattered with blood. It's the best she can do.

It's what Eileen had said to do, anyway.

Emily taps the phone again, the sound of her shifting in the dark suddenly audible once more as she moves to the bed and sits. "That's personal. Unless you feel like telling me more about you, you can just call me Em."

Afterward, she mutters derisively, like it's meant for only herself, "Of course you've got birds."

She lets out a slow breath. "You going to believe I'm genuinely worried about her and trying best I can to keep her out of harm's way, or are you just going to fly off the handle?"

"Why, do I sound angry to you?"

Bone dry. But it's turned around before she can respond— "Because you sound worried. Panicked. I believe that." There is something in the timbre of his voice that transforms as he speaks. It's strange to hear, only registering what it is after it's done — the change of one distinct masculine voice to another. Both textured, both deep.


The inflection is sharper. His accent, familiarly American, more cut clear between his teeth. There is more visual identification for Gabriel Gray readily available than there is audible, and so it might not necessarily ring familiar unless Emily has done her homework.

But she knows she's still talking to the same entity, one that is two. The press of imminent danger has eased, slightly, in his tone — matching her, a little, sass for sass. "There's nothing you can do to help her except tell me where she is. What do you want me to say? Hold her hand?"

"No, if I wanted something along that kind of helpful, I'd probably ask for knowledge of some kind of memory that might calm her down instead of remembering a litany of awful shit that happened to her." Emily would bite her tongue, and she probably really means to, except she adds flatly, "But there's no reason for you to trust me, so that seemed like a particularly stupid thing to ask."

A moment later, much more quietly, "Said like this was smart to begin with."

She's quiet as she stares at the light around her doorframe. Her jaw squares for a moment before she gives up on effectively executing a segue that has any amount of grace. "Tell you what, if you answer me something, maybe I tell you who I am." she offers up. "Because there was something else I wanted to ask you, but it's pretty left field."

"Now she wants to make a deal."

It's not refusal. Dark amusement, a subtle sneer.

"I have more questions that need answering beyond just your identity, Em. I want to know who you are to her. What business you had, digging around her memories. How you know her, who you know."

A beat, and he offers, "You first. Ask your question."

"I wasn't expecting her to offer to show us anything. I wasn't expecting Eve to show up asking her if she remembered who she was, either. I'd planned on talking with Sibyl, not —" Emily pauses, frustrated with something. Probably herself, at a realization from remembering what Eve had said. "Eve had mentioned you, actually, I think."

"I thought Sibyl was my sister, though." She was supposed to ask first instead of telling, but it seemed like prudent enough information to get out first.

"… So, left field: Eileen Gray." A beat, spent trying to figure out the most direct phrasing. Or at least the least-offending one. "Do you want to kill her? If so, why?" In the dark, she frowns to herself, unhappy with the wording either way.

That silence returns, that recent ease — inasmuch as it could be thought of as ease — ebbing.

At least, from Gabriel's perspective, standing on the deck of his boat and half bowed over the edge, watching black waters as he listens to the blocky device pressed to his ear. No outward or audible response to the mention of Eve's name, but he knows a moment of— unease and relief in equal measures.

It's gone in the next moment, as if Emily had pried open his chest cavity with her words and let the cold river winds in. The hand resting on the rail comes to grip it instead.

A few heavy heart beats later as he once again answers a question with another, half-whispered and hoarse, "Why would you ask that?"

Left field is right, but not without implication.

It's not the answer Emily was expecting, and the silence, the shift brings caution into her voice. She sounds calmer, probably for how her tone is lowered, words spoken with care. "Because I don't know if it's true or not, but she seemed to think you do. And if it's the case, I don't know the reason." Her eyes dart to the curtains to stave off any hesitation.

"But if it's not, she needs to know so she doesn't act based on the assumption she's going to be killed otherwise."

"If there's misunderstandings, they should be cleared up." It feels like her ears are ringing, the silence is so loud after she speaks. "Maybe I'm being naively optimistic, but — there shouldn't be any reason that —"

Except she doesn't know that's the case. How strongly she feels the two deserve to be left alone, separate goes unsaid with the rest of the thought as it dies out.

When he next speaks, it's with a certain resignation, words detaching from his resolve.

"If I was ever going to kill her, it was when I kept her captive to save Sibyl from her people. She'd kept her imprisoned for months, dug up her memories, kept her from— " Here, his words scissor off sharp. Starts again. "I don't want to kill Eileen Gray."

There. That's the question that was asked.

"Does she know you have Sibyl?"


She has to mute herself again, shoulders going slack as she takes in that answer for what it's worth. Presumes it's honest.

What the fuck was it with people and locking up that child? "God damn it, Eileen." she whispers to the room.

The phone is held tighter in her hand as she fumbles to unmute. Even still, there's nothing but silence that creeps into the receiver for a period. Because she's still lost somewhere back at for months.

"She does." she ends up whispering. "I was going to make sure she couldn't get to her."

Bad idea after bad idea, Emily.

Her face scrunching in the dark, she asks hesitantly, "Are you in the Safe Zone?"

"At its borders."

Steady. Like trying not to spook something. If not Emily herself, then the tentative accord they seem to have reached.

It's not unlikely that anger is still present. Becoming tempered, however, rather than the cornered canine growl that had filled Emily's ear when they began this conversation. Something more focused and aimed elsewhere. "But I can move quickly."

She's still uneasy regardless. Still feels this is all wrong no matter what she does, even if it's done because she hopes it's the right thing to do. "… My name is Emily Epstein. You're probably not far from us."

What now? She turns to look back at her bedroom door, not even sure what she'd be able to say to everyone in the living room. How much Geneva might have already told Sasha and Julie both.

"Can you promise me nobody gets hurt tonight?"


That name has the spiritual equivalent of spraying a cat in the face with a bottle of water, but Gabriel doesn't let that transmit down the line. A moment of disconnect, a thought back towards the things she had to say, about sisters, before it skitters beyond his comprehension as she asks him if he can promise that he won't hurt anyone tonight.

He allows a beat of silence to carry before he says the easy thing; "I promise."

"Next time, you might at least go through the effort of saying, 'I can't but I'll try.' Plausible deniability, if nothing else." Emily sounds frustrated as she comes to her feet.

Eileen never lied when it mattered most.

She'd have preferred the no. She places no stock in the promise.

"How soon can you meet me at the Elmhurst Hospital bus stop?" she asks regardless.

Because getting Sibyl back where she'd been before still sounded like a better idea than dumping her with SESA.

Somewhere, in spite of the roil of feelings, of white anger and dark malevolence, there's a half-smile.

"Just get there," Gabriel says, the last of his patience burning off like final embers. And then the line goes dead, but not because he hangs up — although it will make no difference to Emily Epstein — but because he implodes into an amorphous, swirling patch of inky darkness that pours itself off the edge of the idled Salve Regina, and goes rocketing for the shore.

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