Tough Calls Part III


eileen_icon.gif emily_icon.gif geneva_icon.gif

Scene Title Tough Calls, Part III
Synopsis Actions have consequences.
Date December 19, 2018


Julie and Emily's Apartment

Compared to earlier, the apartment feels eerily empty. Sibyl's form no longer lies nestled on the couch being argued over as to what should be done with her. Albeit disapprovingly, Julie had agreed to take Sasha and go elsewhere. Nearby, but elsewhere.

Geneva had had none of that, though, and so the apartment wasn't entirely empty aside from her.

The stove clock reads 12:31 am, but Emily stands before the house percolator waiting for it to spit out coffee regardless. She knows better than to fuss with it while it sits on the hot plate, if only just. Even as exhausted as she is, nervous energy still runs through her in fitful bursts.

Waiting is a bitch like that.

"You want a cup?" Emily asks softly, watching the top of the container bubble with pressure. "There should be enough for three." It was the last of the bag she'd been gifted for her birthday.

Damn right Geneva had had none of that. There is a possible child murderer on the way to the apartment at this very moment, and there is no possible way that she would allow herself to be cast out now. The teen throws a distracted look over at Emily when the question is asked of her, pulling both sides of her tattered leather jacket closer to herself in a short, unconscious adjustment. Earlier in the evening she had put the item of clothing on again— not because she is cold or at all intent on leaving, but simply because the jacket makes her feel better. More prepared for whatever unmitigated disaster will undoubtedly be happening later tonight.

"Nah— I'm good," she mutters as she resumes erratically pacing, casting a very mechanical look towards the door, as she had been doing for the past few minutes. "Coffee's not what I need now. I need— I don't know. What was it that your serial killer friend said to you in your phone call?"

Emily just shakes her head, standing up from her lean against the kitchen counter, looking out to Geneva pacing the living room. At least she had ample enough space to pace in — aside from a coffee table, a couch, and a well-worn recliner, there wasn't much else to speak of. A strange piece of artwork hanging on the wall adjacent the door; a waterfront painting of an unmarred New York City bathed in light and life, a lightning bolt held in Lady Liberty's hand instead of her torch, a ball of flame instead of her tablet, wings from her back holding her aloft over her usual platform. Underneath, a folded wheelchair snug against the wall, an abandoned pair of ergonomic crutches laid against it.

The aurora might be able to be seen from the sliding doors of the balcony at the other end of the living space, but as requested, the blinds had been shuttered in all rooms.

"I'll get you some water, then." Emily suggests, prying the fridge door open. Doing something keeps her from passing a less-than-pleasant comment. Buys her a moment to think of better phrasing, at least. "First," she clarifies, because it needs done. "I've never talked to him before in my life, and I'm pretty sure the handoff at the bus stop doesn't make us friends." Waiting for the glass to fill halfway, she shakes her head again. "I just—"

Setting the glass on the dividing wall between the kitchen and the rest of the living space, she lifts her shoulders into a helpless shrug as she recites her deflections. "Making her SESA's problem when she's like that wasn't a good long-term plan. Like it would just be worse in the end. Maybe this way, if things go wrong again, she'll at least be with someone who can handle it. Who cares enough to try, and has the skills to succeed." Her eyes flit to Geneva finally. "You know?"

Geneva does not respond to the comment about the water; at this moment it does not seem like she particularly cares what is offered to her in the way of refreshments. She stops mid-pace at Emily's wheelchair, eyes resting on the odd depiction of New York that is now looming over her. If anything, though, she is staring right through the tumultuous artwork, her thoughts clearly elsewhere.

"And you're sure she'll be okay with this guy?" She draws in a sharp but nearly inaudible breath. The question is a demand. "How do you know he won't do something to her? And also…. does she know about this?" There is no mention of who 'she' is, but Emily can probably guess just from the tone.

"I mean, she's about to," Emily mutters distractedly, not bothering to look at the door. They'll know when Eileen gets here. The thought of that upcoming encounter sends her back to the other corner of the counter, turning off the hot plate before pouring herself a small cup of coffee.

"Gene, I'm about as sure as I can be about anything, here. But he loves her. They loved each other." Another inference, one that makes her rub her forehead in a nervous tic. It was an assumption, based on how his voice had cracked, how protective he was of her, how things were the same but different between this reality and wherever it was Eileen came from.

For the sake of trying to sound like she's confident in what she said, she forgoes adding 'I think' to the end of those statements.

"Listen, you don't have to be here when she shows up. It's not going to be an easy conversation." Understatement. "I don't know how she's going to react."


That’s not the sound of a fist connecting with Emily’s front door.

It’s a boot.

Epstein!” a voice thunders from the hallway, amplified by its concrete walls and tall ceilings. It sounds too big to be coming from the petite Englishwoman, who stands only a fraction above five feet, but there’s no mistaking her accent or the strange, melodic things it does to her vowels.

“Open the fucking door!”

On the bright side, Emily and Geneva probably don’t have to break the news to her.

She already knows Sibyl is no longer in their possession.

The impact of the apartment door being viciously kicked followed by yelling shocks Geneva into a stunned silence; she had been just about to give Emily a snippy rejoinder, but now she shifts with an angry discomfort, entering into a far more leery stance. Her eyes flick first to the door, then over to the other girl’s face. Welp.

Gene is certainly not going to be the one to open it.

Emily's eyes flick to the door, the mug almost jumping from her hand. She'd set it down, but she needs something to anchor onto at the moment. "Jesus Christ," she whispers at the shaking doorframe.

There's no hesitation — the door's getting opened before someone calls the MPs. Or the super, for that matter. "Stop shouting," she calls on her way to the door, glancing at Geneva as she passes with the warning to stay back from it.

She slides the chain lock first, fingers pausing on deadlock for the barest of moments before she shakes her head hastily. Emily pulls the thick door open with a jerk after twisting the knob, waiting for Eileen to let herself in from there.

The good news: Eileen is alone.

The bad news: She’s very unhappy.

Microscopic crystals of snow still cling to her dark hair and the dense wool of her coat, bundled around her wiry frame like armor. Her boots squeak and squelch, leaving wet prints on Emily’s otherwise pristine floor as she rolls into the apartment like a blackened storm front.

Gloves fingers tug at the scarf at her throat, loosening it in preparation for— strangling Emily, maybe. Her expression, although grim, is difficult to read.

She steers a pointed look across the room at Geneva, a stranger, with eyes that are a little too blue to be wholly natural.

"Eileen," Emily interjects, following that look. Locking the door again after it shuts, she steps back into the living room toward the kitchen. "This is Gene. She's a friend of mine, and happened to be there when all this started." Her path has taken her out of arm's reach, unless of course Eileen move to close the space.

For just a moment, hands curling around the mug in her hand, she considers attempting smalltalk. Asking her if she wanted some of the coffee, if she needed to stay in the Safe Zone for the night. Looking back at Eileen, though, she reconsiders it entirely.

"She's not here," Emily states plainly.

Although Gene stands well back to allow Eileen undisturbed passage through Emily’s living room, she does not show signs of otherwise being ready to compromise. The Englishwoman will probably notice the younger girl pointedly glowering at her in a way very unbefitting of a stranger, her arms crossed warily across her body and her whole posture rigid. The look on her face is an easy one to read: I don’t trust you.

She does not speak or move, not yet. But the way she is standing, she is primed for the smallest of disturbances to set her off.

“I noticed.”

Eileen drapes her scarf over the back of a nearby armchair and begins removing her gloves one at a time by tugging at each of the fingers. Her movements are small but deliberate, scissor-like in their precision.

Next come the buttons of her coat.

She’s making herself at home.

“I gave you a very specific set of instructions,” she says. “I told you to stay exactly where you were. To wait for me. What did the two of you do instead, hm?”

Emily's thumb brushes along the side of the mug, her eyes distant for a moment. Her lips part to speak, it taking her gaze to refocus before she does. "I locked myself in the bedroom and went looking for information." she reports, eyes direct on Eileen. Alone, is the strong implication. Unaided. Neither is untrue. "I found Sibyl's phone."

One hand lifts up, rubbing her mouth with the side of her hand for a moment. The focus breaks, a slight shake of her head. "You were convinced Etienne would kill you. I had to find out if that was the case. If there wasn't another way."

For how calm she appears, for how her focus is only on Eileen at the moment, her head turns just slightly away from her. "Gene, could you get us some more coffee, please?" Hand tight around her own untouched mug, Emily hopes the valuable moments away, distraction, distance might keep Eileen from misdirecting any of her anger.

This really was all on Emily, after all.

For a few moments it is unclear whether Geneva intends to comply with Emily's request, because she still just continues to stand there, a warning scowl on her face. Finally, the teen breaks her icy stance to move stiffly towards the other side of the kitchen where the coffee machine is sitting. As she goes through the motions, she remains keenly wary for what Eileen has to say next.

Eileen leans her hip against the chair as she settles into its arm with one leg slung languidly over.

She doesn’t say anything.

Shoulders rolled back, her coat flips open to reveal the holster and sidearm beneath. The discarded gloves are laid upon her lap.

Go on, her body language seems to prompt. I’m listening.

Eyes flitting after Geneva as she heads to the kitchen, Emily looks back to Eileen with some of the tension in her shoulders released. None of this is easy or becomes easier, but she takes the relief for what it is.

"I needed to know for sure, before making a decision like that. I spoke with him, on the phone." Emily is still. "If I had doubted his answer, I'd have done it. But there's something pretty compelling about he'd have done it already, when he had the chance." She breathes in, posture straightening. She doesn't add more to that statement, the specifics of it, just meets Eileen's eyes.

"Fear can be a pretty powerful motivator. And it would have driven you to make a choice I think you'd regret." Whether she means it or not, she sounds all-too-certain, if slightly aloof. Her posture, her look, her tone — she's every bit the image of an Epstein who thinks they know better for Eileen.

Even if her words come from a more well-meaning place. Even if they mask a deeply nervous core.

"Eileen, nothing positive could come from killing her. Etienne isn't coming to kill you. But if she'd died?"

"It's not just about you, either." Look who's back. The subtle edges of Geneva's shadow can be seen sprawling across the wall ahead of her as she returns carrying two steaming mugs of coffee, swift reappearance facilitated by the fact that Emily had already had the coffee machine running when she'd gotten there. Emily's conversational approach may have been a smart one, but it is not one that Gene appears to be content with.

"She's right. Killing her would have been bad for everyone involved, especially the girl." The muscles of her jaw are drawn especially tight as she says this, even as she stolidly places one mug of coffee each in front of Eileen and Emily. No offer of milk or sugar is made, because frankly, she doesn't damn well care even if she knew where they were in the first place.

On Eileen’s exhale, her body deflates; her shoulders draw together as she tilts forward, resting her torso’s weight on her arms, which in turn rest across her knee.

“This is my fault,” she says, which is perhaps not what Emily or Geneva expected, and there’s even an underlying note of sympathy in her tone. “I took you under my wing, but I’ve been too focused on other things to be a good mentor to you. So.”

She reaches into her coat and, with a practiced gesture, frees her firearm from its holster and levels it with Geneva’s center of mass in the same motion.

“Lesson One: Just because someone inhabits a child’s body does not make that someone a child.”

Her thumb swipes the weapon’s safety into the off position.

“Two: There are fates worse than death.”

Gene, no. Emily thinks it, but doesn't say it. It's a thought repeated with each new thing her friend says. Her head swings back to Eileen, gaze pleading suddenly. Her practiced calm, all the mental cue cards lined up with her reasons and arguments — every bit of it forgotten.

Her brow knits as Eileen speaks, thoughts racing to find a way to salvage this. Her words are rushed, her feigned confidence nowhere to be found. "Eileen, I—"

The mug slips from her hand and shatters on the floor at seeing Eileen draw, though her hands still cup around its absent form. Fingers twitch as the safety is turned.


"Please," Emily murmurs, reaching out slightly with one hand. She'd tell Eileen she understands both of those things very well if she had the presence of mind to. Instead, she says, "She had nothing to do with this."

Being that Gene had just finished drawing away from setting Eileen's coffee in front of her, she is in no position to go anywhere. She freezes right where she is, blood involuntarily running icy-cold as she sees the firearm aimed directly at her. But she cannot stop her lip from curling derisively, even as she stares her aggressor in the eyes and lifts both empty hands slowly in her air, palms outward, in a don’t shoot motion.

"These are the kinds of friends you make, Em?" she comments softly, not looking away from Eileen's face for a second. It's nearly a sneer. "What kind of response is this to wanting to protect a little kid?"

Eileen’s other hand, the one not clutching the gun, lifts from where it had been idle against her inner thigh. She extends her fingers, palm blooming open.

Geneva feels a shift inside herself. It’s slow, creeping, like a tension headache manifesting behind her eyes — except this sensation manifests in her heart.

“I’m a big advocate of hands-on learning,” Eileen says. “Sometimes the only way to understand something is to experience it yourself.”

The pain intensifies in the next instant. No one has ever had their heart wrested from their chest and lived, but that’s exactly what it feels like as Geneva’s legs go out from under her and her world plunges into blackness.

She hits the floor. Hard. But not before her head glances off the kitchen counter.

Eileen’s hand closes again, gently, fingers spaced a fraction of an inch a part as though she now holds something small and vulnerable caged between them.

"God. Gene, just—" Exasperation bubbles over for only a moment before Emily's hand closes into a fist to cut off the rest. Geneva was going to get herself hurt. She was practically leaning into it at this point.

When Eileen's hand lifts, Emily doesn't understand at first. Can't possibly.

The other teen suddenly crumpling is something she reacts to before realization even dawns, though she knows something's wrong. She doesn't speak, stunned; just rushes and drops to her knees. She flinches in sympathy as she adjusts Geneva's head, running her fingers along her scalp for the sign of any cuts… takes in a breath to try and process. Her eyes go up to those pinched fingers.

Sorry won't fix this. Saying she understands won't fix this.

She'd move, but suspicion about what exactly is happening to her friend compels her not to do anything rash. Moisture starts to build up in her eyes, frustration manifesting in that way and in her locked jaw. "What did you do to her?" Emily asks through her teeth.

Emily’s fingers come away sticky with Geneva’s blood. A quick check at her throat finds her pulse still fluttering, and if the blonde’s eyes linger on her chest, she’ll see that it continues to rise and fall. Her breath parts her lips, flares her nostrils.

She’s alive. Uninjured but for a small gash in her scalp nestled under her hair.

Eileen rises from the armchair and closes the distance between herself, Geneva’s prone form, and Emily stooping beside her.

“Lesson One,” she reiterates, and holds out her loose fist in front of Emily’s face. Like a seasoned magician, she rotates her wrist at the same time she opens her fingers again, this time revealing a rumpled splash of colour that trembles in the nest of her palm.

A hummingbird. Emily’s hummingbird.

“Just because someone inhabits an animal’s body does not make that someone an animal.”


Geneva’s world blurs back into focus. Her heart, still in her chest — or at least a chest — suddenly thrums to life.

“As I said. There are fates worse than death, Emily. Gabriel’s promise not to kill me means nothing.”

As Geneva's vision swims hazily back into view, she first becomes painfully aware of the sensation thrumming within her chest. A heartbeat— her own, yet not her own— vibrating at many hundreds of beats per minute, a rate which is still rising fast in tandem with the flood of her own panic. She tries to say something, but all that comes out of her mouth, no, beak, is a tiny frantic shrilling sound. "Chi-chit-chi-chit-chi-chit-"

With a small but vehement cry, the hummingbird rises out of Eileen's palm as though drunk, trying to stabilize itself with extremely jerky hovering motions. Quickly learning how to fly, as it were. And then just as quickly, the little thing is gone in an abrupt arc of colorful plumage, diving through the conveniently-ajar door to the shattered window and out into the night sky beyond. One miniature green feather floats to the ground in its wake, just beyond Emily's reach.

Gene is gone.

Emily gasps at the sight of the bird, in active denial for longer than she should be. A helpless, pleading note escapes her as she looks up to Eileen. Please don't do this.

When the hummingbird stirs, Emily slowly comes to her feet, leaving the body on the ground. "Geneva," she whispers, her voice reaching. When it flies off out the only possible exit, she wheels back on Eileen, figuring it was yet another act she made happen. Her voice doesn't raise just yet, but it takes on an edge.

"If you wanted her dead, then why didn't you do it yourself before? You had her for — what was it — months?"

She has no idea the bird's flight wasn't another deliberate demonstration.

"If he wanted to fuck you over, why wouldn't he have done it when he had you before?" The angry slant to her brow reverses in its angle to something more heartbroken as she slides a step forward. "Give her back. Please, Eileen. Don't do this."

“I did warn you to secure your windows,” Eileen says, as though she isn’t one responsible for the hummingbird’s abrupt escape, but Emily’s changed expression causes her own to thaw in turn. So she clarifies: “Your friend will be all right. I won’t let anything too terrible happen to her out there.”

She uses the muzzle of her gun to scratch an itch along the curve of her jaw. “I didn’t kill her before,” Sibyl, “because I’d been told Gabriel was dead. And he didn’t deal with me when he had the opportunity because he didn’t know where she was.”

Eileen slips the weapon back into its holster with a soft whisper of metal on leather. “Rest assured: if the three of us had ever been in the same place at the same time, you wouldn’t be talking to me right now.”

Emily's eyes close and her weight shifts, her boot crinkling on top of shattered ceramic. She looks down to the mug and the rapidly-cooling puddle that surrounds it. Her hand slowly comes to her face, fingers to her temple, palm to her cheek. Insistence bleeds from her like the last retinal movements of the dead as she wearily asks, "How are you so certain?"

There's no fight to it.

“Love,” answers Eileen. This, she decides, requires no further elaboration. She pivots and glides back to the armchair to collect her scarf and gloves, although she doesn’t waste time pulling anything onto her body.

Her buttons are left undone. Her footprints on the hardwood floor: still gleaming under the apartment’s artificial lights.

She offers the younger woman no formal farewell, only a prolonged view of her back on her way out the front door.

At least Emily got her wish.

No one died tonight.

But the lessons Eileen sought to teach echo in her ears in the silence that follows. In the apartment that now might as well be empty aside from her, seeing as the only other body here is void of its soul.

It doesn't take her long to pull her phone from her pocket, hands shaking as she pulls up the contacts page. Avi's name stares up at her first.

Her teeth grit, a stab of shame and anger with herself gripping her chest until she scrolls past. No. No, there was no reason to go crawling to him now. She'd lived without his help all these years. She didn't need it now.

"Julie?" Emily says into the receiver as soon as the line makes a connection. Her voice breaks.

She can't take any more of these fucking phone calls.

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