Twelve Years Gone, Part III


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Scene Title Twelve Years Gone, Part III
Synopsis Twelve years after the world changed forever, surviving members of the Ferrymen gather to remember those that were lost.
Date November 8, 2018

Brick House Museum

Twelve years ago the world changed forever.

From a distance, it's easy to see the aftermath of that change across the broken face of New York City. But history’s scarred perspective only provides one lens by which to see the past. In the moment, in the days following the Midtown explosion and the years that came after, change wasn't always measured in riots and fires. Change was a whisper network on the streets, a subversive collection of right-minded patriots battling a tyrannical government. Change was voting with their feet and fists, so that the generation that followed wouldn't have to make those same choices.

The Ferrymen were arguably the most famous organization born of that civil movement. Hidden away in the shadows of America, nesting in the broken heart of Manhattan, the Ferrymen saved thousands of lives in their short time together. For some, though, saving lives also meant giving them and paying the ultimate price.

Outside of the Brick House Memorial, located in the broken shadow of the Queensboro Bridge, survivors of the Ferrymen network gather after dark to remember where they came from, to unite long-parted friends, and mourn those who couldn't make the journey. Cars have been pulling up along the roadside for hours, and a single military police humvee parked down the street is a stark reminder that no matter how far things have come there will always be a shadow of the past looming nearby. The vehicle and the two officers inside are event security, given the public spectacle that comes when members of the Ferrymen congregate. So much so that a WNYT-13 van is parked across the street, covering the event from a discreet distance.

Past the fresh flower petals, votive candles, and memorial wreaths left on the walkway and front steps, past the framed photos of children — now adults — saved by the network, past the closed door, the Brick House is an emotionally-charged gateway to the past.

Just past six in the evening, there's only a handful of people inside the Brick House. Soft music from WSZR’s memorial coverage plays in the background, lights have been respectfully dimmed save for those highlighting specific operative memorials. The staff of the Brick House has rotated the displays to focus on memorialized Ferrymen, which includes — ironically to some — a memorial to Eileen Ruskin amid photos of the Verrazano Narrows bridge and Bannerman’s Castle on Pollepel Island. Tall candles ensconce an enclosure for Eric Doyle along with a few handmade knit-wool poppets left by visitors.

Standing near a photograph of a Manhattan brownstone — the Hangar Safe House — Scott Harkness is visibly one of the oldest people in the room. The contrast of his presence is a reminder that the Ferrymen were an organization run and led by young people, and that their legacy will always stand side by side with the legacy of that generation. Scott, typically a stoic man, is visibly compromised as he stands by photos of Grace Matheson and Alister McKeon, his former partners in the network. Though they both live, it's been nearly a decade since he'd seen either.

Also present among the memorial visitors is a frail-looking woman who is both strikingly familiar to some visitors and barely known to others. She stands with her head wrapped in a kerchief to hide her vanishingly sparse hair, lips pressed together into a thin line as she looks down at a small photograph of a man in horn-rimmed glasses and a young man with short hair. She brushes back tears with a sweep of one manicured hand and wraps her arms tightly in the sleeves of her amber-colored wool coat. Sandra Bennet visits New York City once every year, on November 8th, to remember what all of the pain and loss was for.

Because it all had to be for something.

She wasn't sure she could come to this. Megan Young dislikes the occasional press-covered events and prefers to keep her profile low. But also… because walking in here is not something she's been able to bring herself to do despite having been in the Safe Zone for quite some time. It brings back so many memories. She managed to slip in the door and take in the atmosphere of the room without really speaking to anyone, pausing for long moments to brush her fingertips across the picture of Darla Hurst, the operator of the Foxhole. The woman had been amazing and terribly good at what she did… and Megan remembers the look of surprise on her face when she died, too. She chooses instead to remember the other woman's infectious laughter, the way her face lit up when something truly amused her.

Pulling in a slow breath, the redhead moves on quietly, pausing to study certain faces. She doesn't bother to try to keep the slow tears from trickling down her face, using a tissue to simply catch them when they're tickling her skin and bothering her. When her steps finally bring her close to the only other operator of her cohort, Meg slips an arm through the crook of Scott's elbow. The picture of Grace makes her smile slightly — not everyone on these walls is gone. "You really should call her, you know," she murmurs quietly. "Even if it's just to say hello. I'm sure she'd be glad to hear from you." She doesn't look up at him, instead studying the Hangar in the image while she holds a clean tissue out to him with her free hand. "Always hated those stairs in the winter," she comments.

Barbara Zimmerman had strongly considered skipping the memorial tonight - though her Ferry connections were known fairly plainly these days, she always feels a bit out of place since she was staying in a bunker for most of the war, supporting them only with money and supplies. But the weight of the disservice she would be doing to those that hadn't been so fortunate had won out, and now here she was. As a former Councilwoman, it was her duty to be here. To remember.

Her eyes linger for a moment on the picture of Eileen as she moves through the brick House, a hoodie pulled up to partially hide her face on the way in. While the venue itself was not somewhere Barbara had ever spent much time, the photos of Bannerman's Castle and other familiar sight get her to pause and look at them, taking in for a moment exactly how long it has been.

“I know I’m not… I’m not good at crafts or anything,” Lance is saying quietly from where he’s knelt before Doyle’s memorial, holding a rather terrible example of a sock puppet in his hand, a felt santa hat awkwardly sewn on and two eyes, one of which is already falling off. “I tried, though. I wish you could’ve taught me how to carve the wood ones, like you said you were going to…”

A slow breath in, shaky, and he wipes his eyes before laying the little puppet with the others, “Anyway. I miss you, Eric. Never forget you. You were like our dad, for a little while.”

Not that anyone can hear him. There’s a bubble of silence a few feet from the young man, although they can see him moving his lips - the words, however, are just for him to say, to hear, and to keep.

Unless the dead are listening..

Or a telepath just happens to hear..

“I do too,” The quiet and familiar voice of Kaylee Sumter pipes up from behind Lance. One look, would show she is dressed down for the night. “Miss him that is.” The press will have to deal with the Raytech COO not looking all executive looking. Worn jeans, a t-shirt, and her ever faithful worn brown leather jacket. Tonight she was Ferry, not a business woman. “Emily doesn’t really remember him and Carl and Hannah never got to know him.” Or at least this version of Hannah. Reaching out, slender fingers briefly touch Doyle’s picture, a smile sad and affectionate offered to it. “Probably would have been Carl’s godfather.”

Looking down at Lance, she gives him a gentle smile, “Sorry, kiddo. I didn’t mean to step in. You’re loud tonight.” Kaylee taps her temple. “Honestly, a lot of them are,” She looks out over all those in attendance, eyes settling on Scott and Megan in turn. Faces she doesn’t see much of anymore.

Arriving together, Tasha and Colette enter the Brick House. The former holds the hand of the latter firmly in her own, lest either of them turn and slip away at the first sign of the news crew or any of the dark memories held within the museum. Tasha murmurs something in Colette’s ear, a small smile for the taller, blind-eyed woman, before pressing a kiss to her cheek, and leading them toward the memorials. It isn’t long before her dark eyes grow wet and the pictures, though her front teeth tug a little nervously at her lower lip when she looks at the picture of Eileen.

“He loved you,” Tasha says behind Lance and Kaylee as they come up to the photo of Doyle. “Always know that, Lancie,” she says, reaching to touch the younger man’s shoulder — once she was taller than him. It seems like yesterday. “He was my champion once, too.”

“Hey, jerk,” is Colette’s perfectly mature greeting to Lance as she keeps one hand firmly gripping Tasha’s for life and wraps her free arm around Lance’s shoulders. In spite of this being her Safe house that Eileen entrusted her with, Colette never returned to the Brick House after it was compromised by Susan Ball. She never returned after the war, never returned when it became a memorial.

Not until tonight.

It's evident that Colette has been crying in the hour leading up to even being in here, and it's clear she'll likely continue through her time behind these old brick walls. There's a tightness in her expression, a flushness to her face, redness to her nose. Jaw trembling, she affords as much of a smile as she can to the others, struggling to maintain some measure of composure.

From there she turns to look over to Kaylee with an expression twisted up in the emotion of seeing her in this place again after so long. She doesn't have enough hands or arms to hold everyone she wants to, and just looks up with wordless appreciation for one of her oldest friends’ presence here. She doesn't have the words to express it, not right now. But when had Colette and Kaylee ever needed words spoken aloud between them?

Not too far away, Scott lays a hand on Megan’s arm and nods once, looking to the photo of Grace again before turning his attention to his old friend. “I've heard she's doing well for herself,” is Scott’s hushed reply. “We… haven't talked since Pollepel.” Which is his way of saying you're right while maintaining his stubborn inability to admit it.

As that voice reaches him, Lance turns his head to look up— rising up to his feet, offering the ghost of a smile. “Hey, Aunt Kaylee. It’s alright, I…” He looks back at the picture, “I know you two were close, too.” Drawing breath to say something else, as the silence field drops… there’re suddenly others there as well.

At the words from Tasha and Colette, he swallows once— hard— more tears glistening in his eyes that he wipes away with the back of his hand, eyes starting to get reddened from his own grief. Not that he’d admit it. “I…” Another swallow. “I know he did.” He wraps an arm back around Colette, leaning into her just a little, “I’m glad to— see you all here. I don’t know if any of the others are coming. You know how bad Joe is with this stuff.”

The bane of redheads everywhere — blotchy face. Megan's smile is a quiet one at the acknowledgement, but she doesn't push Scott. The man is a mule. Instead she simply reaches up with that free hand that has the tissue and wipes one of those rogue wet spots on his face before simply laying her head against his shoulder. Their friendship carried them through a lot of things, and as she allows her blue eyes to take in the pictures of places, images of people long gone, and the faces of those who are still here, Megan lets out a soft sigh.

"We did it," she whispers to him, an echo of his own words the day she found out he was alive. The cost was incredible. Megan's gaze slips sideways and she meets Kaylee's, sees the small group gathered there, and offers them all a smile through her own tears. It was worth it. Every one of the people they saved was worth it.

Suddenly, lifting her head from Scott's shoulder, Megan chuckles. Not all the memories here are hard or bad. Which is as it should be. "Look what our younglings have become," she says with a gentle nudge and a jerk of her chin toward the group.

The telepath quietly watches the interaction of the others, a small smile on her lips. Kaylee’s gaze drifts back to the picture of Eric Doyle and the smile brightens a little more, though her eyes shine a bit more with tears. “You know what my favorite memory is of Eric.” Her head tips upward as she looks at the ceiling. “Of this place as well.” The others get a brief glance. “That one christmas.” Colette knows the one.

“Sitting around that rickety table, reading all those letters out loud. Convincing Eric to be Sant—” Kaylee’s voice catches there, jaw visibly tightening as she fights her own emotions. She didn’t use to be that way. Pulling her attention away from the picture and offering her friends a smile, though she doesn’t look at them. Instead, she offers a soft, “Excuse me,” and moves to distance herself from the picture and them. Slowly, making her way down the line of photos, looking at each face and remembering.

A man's wristwatch is flicked into view as Delia Ryans quickly glances at it and then to her surroundings. She had meant to be here sooner but she can never seem to run fast enough. Also, she got lost on the way so the detour took some time to correct. The hand with the watch is tucked back into her pocket to prevent the chill, her other is carrying a small bouquet of wildflowers tied with a string. That is laid by Eileen's picture.

Her Eileen, not these other ones that seem to have popped up.

She stays silent for a long while and before she joins the rest of the crowd, she lets loose a long and shaky sigh. All of this was a high price to pay for what they have now. A ruined country, starving people, and a very dim light at the end of the tunnel.

A moment after Delia’s arrival, Nick steps in, having been waiting in the shadows of a darkened stoop just across the street. As usual, he looks a bit like he’d rather be anywhere else — for all he did with the Ferry, he never called himself a Ferryman, despite all those hours floating up and down the river to Pollepel.

His hand touches Delia’s wrist, then slides to entwine his fingers with hers. Blue eyes shoot a darting glance at the picture of Eileen, and no doubt Kaylee will feel the ping of guilt that comes with it.

“Hey,” he murmurs into her red hair as he presses a kiss into her temple.

Over by the picture of Doyle, Tasha’s eyes well up with tears when Kaylee’s voice breaks in the middle of her thought, and she reaches out to touch the woman’s arm lightly when she moves away. “It’s okay. It’s why we’re here, yeah?” is all she says, softly, her other hand tightening on Colette’s. Three quick pulses — a tradition born very near the day they are commemorating. Surrounded by some of the faces in the photographs — when they were still alive.

Slipping in quietly, Rue Lancaster makes her way to the memorial for Eileen Ruskin, setting a small bouquet down next to the one Delia's brought. Hers is store-bought, but the black feather stuck in with the stems was a little bit of serendipity in the walk here.

Emotions engage in open conflict behind the stoic expression Rue's built up as a wall. She's sad the woman she knew is gone. Not sure if there's reason for joy or hope knowing what she knows about her spiritual entanglement. Angry that the last words she said to her were ones of anger and fear. Sometimes it feels like neither of them left that island.

Turning away from the display, there's a moment where she doesn't know what to do next. Isn't sure who to reach out to. Surrounded by so many other mourners, Rue still manages to feel alone. She at least manages to step away so that others can come pay their respects while she tries to figure out what to feel and what to do with that.

Lost isn't a terribly comforting feeling.

“At least it's dry here,” Colette calls out to Rue, harkening back to that flooded basement they escaped one month after the eighth. Colette repeats that three-pulse squeeze to Tasha’s hand and slips away from her and Lance briefly, moving past Kaylee with a gentle touch of one hand at her back in reassurance, to come up by her fellow Hound.

“C’mon,” Colette says, gently taking one of Rue’s hands with one of hers. “You don't get to play Pretty Avi today,” is said with a grin, and rather than leave Rue to the sidelines she urges her over to the small group she's standing with — Lance, Tasha, and Kaylee — all survivors of Pollepel Island. Delia and Nick get a brief look, the people here that Colette knows the least. She hadn't seen Delia much in years and barely knew her then. Nick is more of an enigma. A scruffy, younger Avi in her eyes. Babyface Avi.

Over by Megan, Scott leans against her shoulder just so. “If you'd asked me all those years ago if I thought I'd be here to see any of them grow up, I'd have laughed. But somehow the Vanguard didn't kill me, the riots and the government didn't kill me, and a civil war managed not to either.” His throat tightens, a rare smile playing at his lips.

“I'd go through all this again, if I had to” Scott says with a tremor in his voice, “to get to see my boy and these kids grow up so good.”

“S-sso…” Colette says to the room, hesitant at the sound of her own voice. “You all know you're banned from coming back because you used the front door, right?” She cracks a nervous smile. Safehouse Operator humor.

With her face still damp from tears she'll probably shed all evening, Megan still has to keep that smile. So much heartache… and so much good. "I never thought we'd be standing here together seeing this," she admits to him in a soft whisper. This year has brought so many surprises. "You brought me into this… you made me believe." She looks up at the rough-voiced man. "I have no idea how I kept on believing. And here they stand…"

Megan looks toward Rue, and her free hand comes up to press fingertips to her lips. She hasn't seen the young woman in all these years since the nights in that cell when she was setting her broken nose. Clearing her throat, she struggles for a light tone that is instead rather choked. "At least no one came in shouting… Scott bounces people out on their ass for that," she quips, her blue eyes shimmering with water again. She nudges the man in question — she's just as much leaning into him as he is her — and then truly grins. "Or at least he tries." Sass. There's absolutely sass in that tone, fully intended to make everyone smile.

Colette’s comment manages to get a chuckle from her, but the older members of the Ferry are where Kaylee turns her attention. Pushing down a flutter of nerves and a flurry of emotions, the telepath approached Scott and Megan. “Scott,” she offers affectionately. The man being one of a few that believed in her, when so many others didn’t. However, it’s Megan that she offers a nervous smile. “Megan. I was hoping you’d be here tonight,” she admits softly. “I have seen you about, but wasn’t sure how…” She trails off not sure for a moment, how to say what she wanted.

Pulling a photograph from her jacket pocket, Kaylee first looks at it and then offers it to the woman. It’s a picture of a little boy no older than six or seven. “Everything happened so fast after I woke up from the coma, I-I never got to thank you. Joseph told me what you had done and… how I almost didn’t make it, but you didn’t give up.” Her voice catches and she looks down for a moment to steady her thoughts again. “You saved more then me after I was stabbed.” Her head nods to the photo. “That’s my son, Carl.” She gives them both a crooked smile, though there are already tears forming again in her eyes and her voice wavers a bit. “You saved him, too. He was born about six months later.” She can do the math on that one.

“Thank you, Megan,” Kaylee says, the words heartfelt past the tears. “For not giving up.”

A little bit of a smile tugs up at the corner of Lance’s lips, and he points out to Colette— “Maybe they all used the front door. I’m fine.” The sneakiest of the Lighthouse’s kids has to keep in practice, after all. As he told Eric Doyle one Christmas… Ninjas are cool.

He cocks his head a little, giving Rue a thoughtful once-over; they were on the island together, but that was so long ago, after all. Finally, he snaps his fingers, “You— yeah, you were on the castle with us, right? I remember…” His voice falters again, as a memory wells up of Mala carrying groceries in with the redhead. “I remember. Lance, uh, if you don’t. I was a lot shorter then.” He tries to smile. Mostly succeeds.

Something twinges inside at the mention of it at least being dry here, but all the same, laughter bubbles up as Colette teases Rue right out of that morose ditch she was digging for herself in her own head. It's more of a nervous sort of sound than genuine mirth, but it's done the trick. "Oh no. Did I make the face?" Anyone in Wolfhound knows the one. "I do that sometimes. I blame him entirely for being a terrible influence."

The grin that she cracks next suits her far better than the too serious affect the intel woman often wears. "At least nobody ordered a pizza." Doyle would have laughed at that. His former charge gets an appraising look before recognition sparks a light. "Wow! Look at how you've grown." Rue reaches out to shake the young man's hand. He's not much younger than she was when she connected with the Ferry. "I remember you." He and his friends used to keep Samara busy with their antics.

On seeing Kaylee, Scott does not offer her his usual stoic nod. Here, behind the walls of the last safe house, surrounded by family, he doesn’t need to be the operator any longer. After she’s said her peace to Megan, Scott just steps in and gingerly wraps one arm around Kaylee and holds her for just a moment. “I’m glad as hell that I did. Never once regretted that decision, kid.” As he loosens the embrace, Scott smiles, and places one hand gently on Kaylee’s shoulder.

“Is it bad that it’s always shitty tragedy that gets us back together?” Colette asks to the room, affording a quick and reassuring look to Tasha that she’s holding it together well enough for now. “I’m half expecting a fucking dinosaur with guns for eyes to come smashing through the wall any minute now… with how fucking weird out lives are.” She laughs, awkward and nervously at that. “I— practically grew up with all of you. N’how’s it fair that I never… never once said thank you for not throwing my punk-ass out on the street?” Colette’s throat tightens and she forces a smile, looking down to the picture of Eileen surrounded by a few small tea light candles and flowers others had brought.

“Back then, s’like we were all one big happy family, y’know?” Colette closes her eyes and snerks. “Okay uh, happy— No, uh— family, though. Right?” Her brows crease together and she looks back up to the photo. “God, I wish she could be here t’see us… see how we made it.” Closing her eyes, Colette looks down at her feet, swallowing awkwardly and shaking her head again. “I wish…” She can’t quite finish that sentence.

Megan's blue eyes flicker from Kaylee's gaze to the picture that's proffered. She reaches out to take it, sudden understanding dawning when the telepath explains. She's seen Kaylee around here and there, her children occasionally… but it never dawned on her to do any of the math involved in what Kaylee is telling her. By the time she saw the other woman and her kids, there'd been years that had passed. Her fingers tremble slightly as she puts them back up to cover her mouth, and tears flood right on over her lower lashes while the redhead stares at the face of the sweet little boy whose life she apparently completely unknowingly saved along with his mother that night. Oh …. oh, he's so beautiful.

Looking up to where Kaylee's getting hugged by Scott, Meg starts to laugh in a watery chuckle. "Thank you," she offers in a choked whisper. It is a gift — all the people she has helped over these years, this one might be the one that hits hardest. She lost a great many of them that she couldn't help, couldn't save… but then she looks at Rue and thinks of the kids they smuggled out, thinks of Robyn and Kaylee, and now Carl. By any measure… her life, her work, was a success.

Blue eyes flit over the group of attendees, taking in the various reactions, and Megan pulls the picture to her chest to hold it there. She can't push further words out right now, not with her emotions overwhelming everything else. She waits only long enough for Scott to release Kaylee before she reaches out to hug the telepath hard.

Tasha turns to smile at Rue, offering her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, though she keeps that hand in Colette’s, anchoring both of them. “Dry in here… but we’re definitely going for drinks after, yes?” she says. Because memorials like this bring back memories, stories that need to be told, shared, laughed and cried over, together. Colette’s words make her swallow hard, and she glances back at the photo of Eileen, letting out her own shaky sigh. For different reasons.

Nick’s blue eyes too sweep to the photograph and then to the others in the room. They rest momentarily on Kaylee, before he leans to murmur something in Delia’s ear, before pressing a kiss against her temple. He nods to anyone looking at him, before turning to head back out into the cold rainy street. He wasn’t ever quite Ferry… he’ll leave the to mourn theirs while he deals with his own.

".. they hadn't been murdered. Either of them." Delia finishes it for Collette. She risks a glance at Nick as he leaves, frowning slightly but then shakes it off. Then, she takes a deep breath to steel herself against her own emotions. Now might be the time, but she has no tears left to cry.

She doesn't have a bouquet for Eric, she only knew him in a dream. One where she terrorized him, something she does not feel guilty for. Things had to be done.

Not normally one to show her emotions much anymore, the hug from Scott manages to do just that. Kaylee gives a nervous laugh as she hugs the old man, tight. “Damn, I miss you. You two helped me grown up into someone worthwhile.” She dabs at the corners of her eyes, when his hold loosens. “Don’t think I ever forgot it, even the hard knocks.” The last leveled at Megan as she is passed off to the other woman. “I’ve never forgotten any of the lessons.” It’s only when Megan hugs her that the tears really start. Kaylee hugs her just as tight. “Thank you for being hard on me,” she whispers just for the medic.

Pulling away, she rubs at her tear-filled eyes, looking at the smudge of eyeliner on the heel of her hands. “Told myself I wasn’t going to cry,” Kaylee grumbles a bit.

Megan laughs through her own tears. "You're welcome doesn't seem like the right response here," she murmurs into the younger woman's hair, her hand clasping the back of Kaylee's neck for a long moment. When she steps back, she too is looking a little abashed at how much water is running! She raises her voice just enough to carry to the others. "It was worth it… in case any of you sometimes wonder? You were worth all of it." All the fear, the fighting, the wins and losses. Whether they understand the true depth of that sentiment, well… The redhead simply offers a sweet smile that few really get to see, what with the reputation she's earned in some circles.

“Hey, if they didn’t throw me out,” Lance observes wryly, “They were never gonna throw you out, ‘lette.” He clasps Rue’s offered hand, flashing her a slightly-forced smile — not forced because of her, just because of the mood of the day, “Yeah, that was us. Glad to see you.”

“Hey, uh— do you remember the day— uh, we were at Gun Hill,” Lance’s brow knits as he digs for an old memory, standing next to Colette and looking down at that same display, “Eileen stopped by
with all that— European food? Just out of the blue. I think she invited you all to an opera or something— we didn’t go, of course.” A sidelong glance, “Did you? I don’t remember.”

Colette offers Lance a mild look, then cracks a smile and shakes her head. “Oh Lance, honey,” the sarcasm is thick, “that was a cover for literal terrorism,” is said with a broad smile. “We talked in code around you all when you were kids, you know… for a lot of reasons.” Her brows furrow and her smile grows broader. “The food… the food was real though. She…” Colette’s throat tightens and she clamps down on her sentence.

Having been silent for a while, Scott slips away from Megan and rummages through a dufflebag he'd brought and left by the door. After a moment he takes a knee, and looks like he's searching for something. In the interim, Colette bobs her head in a nod and looks over to Rue and Tasha. “We absolutely need to go out for drinks.” It's been a while since Colette had anything alcoholic to drink, long enough she imagines.

“Actually,” Scott says as something clinks in the bag he brought. “Why go out?” And then Scott Harkness stands up holding a bottle of rum in one hand and an imported bottle of Japanese cola in the other. Red plastic cups hang limply in a sleeve out of his bag. “Provided this safe house’s operator approves.”

"You're incorrigible, Scott." Barbara has made her brief rounds through the immediate area, and finds herself staring at the memorial to Eileen as she moves over to join the rest of the gathered Ferrymen and women. She pulls back the hood of her hoodie, by far the most casual thing she's worn out in ages, and chuckles. "What will we ever do with you?" It's probably the most sarcastic anyone present has ever heard the former Councilwoman, but… well, it feels appropriate in the moment.

She offers small smiles to the other gathered, before her eyes land on Nick as he leaves. Her somber smile falters the slightest bit, eyes flicking off to the side as words long forgotten echo momentarily in the back of her mind.

"If the operator says it's fine, I have no issues," she remarks with the barest hint of quiet bemusement, looking over the crowd.

Tasha's greeting is returned in kind and with a warm squeeze to convey her gratitude. Slowly but surely, Rue is beginning to feel at home again. After all these years, this is still her family. Her face lights up when Scott brings out his surprise. "You thought of everything," the ginger proclaims with a lopsided grin.

"That… " is so not Scott Harkness. It makes Megan laugh softly. "You do keep on with the surprises, don't you?" she murmurs. She's relearning her friend all over again. It's kind of neat. Giving Kaylee one more quick squeeze, she moves to sit down on one of the conveniently located benches. "Seems to me a toast would be in order," she agrees as she sits, her eyes flicking to Barbara and then over the others. Their shared past… and the shared friends and operators along the way… deserve that recognition.

“We did go to the opera once!” Tasha interjects. “Aida at the Met. We ran into Rupert fucking Carmichael there, remember? It was a lot of us girls plus Jensen taking out the younger ones — Hailey and Juni and Mal-”

Mala and Liette.

The tenuous hold she’s had on her emotions breaks then, and she brings up a hand to her mouth, to stifle the sudden sob that cracks the name in the middle. Her dark eyes flood with tears, but she lets Scott and Megan provide the welcome distraction. Alcohol and a toast. She turns her attention that way, biting her lower lip to keep from sobbing again, tears sliding down her cheeks. Her grip on Colette’s hand tightens, and she whispers, “Sorry,” to her and Lance and the others in their cluster.

Letting Megan go with a gentle smile, Kaylee turns to Scott as he pulls out the rum and cola. “You can keep the rum,” for obvious reason, “but I’m glad to see the soda, crying is thirsty work.”

Megan gets a nod in agreement from Kaylee and Barbara earns a smile. “I think a toast is a fine idea… There are things I don’t miss, but I do miss the people.” Blue eyes roam over the pictures of the dead and missing. “We were the most diverse and most unlikely group of people thrown together towards a common goal.”

Unzipping her jacket first against the gathering heat in the room, clearly Kaylee has decided she’ll stay for a bit. “Would you like some assistance with the pouring?” the telepath asks holding out her hands to Scott offering to take up some of that duty of passing out drinks.

“Oh.” Lance’s nose wrinkles, and then he’s play-punching Colette’s shoulder at Tasha’s words, “See? I told you that you… oh.” The slight smile falters, the memories a sting for him too— and he’s stepping over around to wrap an arm around Tasha if she lets him, tilting his head in and murmuring, “I miss them too.”

Drinks, then? Drinks! He looks up, a slight twitch of his brows upwards hopefully, “Is that rum?”

When Kaylee opts not to drunk, Scott hands her a cup for something non-alcoholic and then briefly glances down to her stomach and then back up again with a raised brow. She knows the look, and Scott shrugs with helpless amusement at his own half-joking speculation. “I’m not good at toasts,” Scott says as he starts handing out cups, filling them for eager hands as he does. “That’s the house operator’s job,” Scott adds with a purposeful look over to Colette, who would sink into the floor now if that were her ability. Instead, she grips Tasha’s hand a little tighter for a moment, and takes a plastic cup from Scott.

As she looks around the cramped room, Colette considers the old faces surrounding her, the people who came and went from her life and watched her grow up. The people that she watched grow up in return. She shuts her eyes, teeth tugging at her bottom lip, and for all the years between now and then she looks just a little younger in the moment, a little less self-assured than she’s been since the war. For a moment, here in the Brick House, it’s 2009 again and Colette is in way over her head.

“You can’t toast to tonight,” Colette says with a furrow of her brows. “It’s just— no matter how much good is in the world, tonight’s a night that swallows it all up. But— but we can’t just sit and mourn, either.” Her voice cracks. “Not here.”

“Tonight has always been about looking forward. First it was the bomb, then the riots, then the civil war…” Colette’s eyes track across the Ferrymen gathered under this old roof. “But after all of those moments, we were always looking forward to what was ahead of us. Our changing lives, our changing world…” Blind eyes find the floor, searching for a moment for the words appropriate for this.

When Colette looks up again, it’s with a small shake of her head. “But fuck that,” she says, backtracking across on her own words. “Fuck looking ahead, fuck the stiff upper lip and square shoulders. We— we fucking earned ourselves a stiff drink and a good cry, and that’s how I’m gonna spend tonight. Making stupid, ugly faces in front of f— family, an’ not feelin’ ashamed about it in the morning.”

Colette’s grip on her cup tightens just a touch, dimpling the plastic, as she raises it up. “Here’s to doing something different, to living…”

“…and to twelve years of change.”

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