Value of a Life


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Scene Title Value of a Life
Synopsis Cat calls a truce.
Date March 4, 2009

Fresh Kills Harbor

Hers is an active mind, and for so much time she's kept it focused on the haul of data taken from Carmichael's machine. Reading through the whole of it, with still some left to go, Cat has become familiar with a decent slice of Homeland Satan's standard operating procedures and found nothing more of use in retrieving people from Moab. More information is needed, and a means to acquire it. Hana's advice not to go anywhere near Roger Goodman stops her from planning a similar operation. It's another piece of unfinished business.

That sends her traveling the halls of panmnesiac memory, and reflecting on other instances of unfinished business. There remains the issue of Ethan and his potential continued existence somewhere in the world. He was last mentioned being on the fallen bridge, by Abby, and so if he survived Staten Island may be a place he now inhabits. Someone was mentioned as having been there with him at that time, this is also recollected. Then came the flash of Teo's message during Hana's captivity, the part about using birds to send messages, followed by Eileen Ruskin's entry in the Catabase and that bird she paid so little attention to when Victor Childs tried to stuff Teo into a mailbox.

With the sun having reached its highest point and passed it, Cat is tying up her boat to the pier in a fairly quiet area of the piers and stepping from it. Eyes scan the area around her for the presence of birds as she sets down the guitar case and extracts a beat up model. It's plugged in and tuned up calmly.

Some minutes later, the five feet eight inch tall woman clad in threadbare attire of jeans and ratty coat, with her head under a much-abused Yankees cap, begins to play and sing quietly. Just loud enough to catch attention should Miss Ruskin be using avian surveillance.

"Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night, and wouldn't you love to love her? Takes to the sky like a bird in flight, and who will be her lover?"

Speaking of birds in flight — a large raven alights on a wooden post nearby and buries its feet in the crusty strings of frostbitten kelp dangling off it. It isn't immediately clear whether or not this individual is one of Ruskin's heralds, but it watches Catherine studiously from its perch, one marble-like eye turned toward her. There are no footsteps that cause the dock's wooden blanks to creak, no faint rustle of fabric that might indicate someone's clandestine approach. Apart from the raven and the waves lapping against the shore, she is alone.

Or at least she is until a very familiar — if incorporeal — voice drifts through her head. You should know better than to show your face around here, Eileen says, though there's nothing reproachful about the way she addresses Cat. You and Teo are a little out of your league these days. Looking for something?

It's definitely her, recognizable on close attention by someone she met before despite the choice of clothing which obscures features.Or someone, the woman's own mental voice answers with a trace of intrigue to it. I salute you for the ingenuity of application, projecting your communications this way. Can you receive as well as transmit, Eileen? Her eyes settle on the bird, her head tilts, and for some stray moments Cat begins to go over the words to a certain Edgar Allen Poe piece in her head.

But that reverie doesn't continue long, she returns to her purpose here. I've also been thinking about things held onto, and the consequences of holding on to them. Part of me wants to not let it go, other parts say life is too short for such things.

Silence emanates from Eileen's corner. The raven mirrors the tip of Catherine's head. After a few prolonged seconds in which nothing happens, she speaks again, not without an apologetic note that makes her sound more rueful than she really is. It would be nice, she concedes, if I could read your mind, but this method of communication only goes one way unless you decide you want to open your mouth. I wouldn't blame you if you don't.

Her head moves a bit, followed by communication in the more conventional human fashion. Cat's voice is solemn. "Nor do I blame you, using birds to keep watch and talking, listening, through them, Eileen. I can't imagine you'd take my presence here, calculated in such a way as to get your avian attention, as entirely peaceful. Thank you for being intrigued enough to check it out."

"I've also been thinking about things held onto, and the consequences of holding on to them. Part of me wants to not let it go, other parts say life is too short for such things."

We've all lost people close to us, Eileen says. Avenging their deaths won't bring them back — if it could, I'd be cutting a swath through New York ten miles wide. The raven tucks its head under one broad wing and begins combing through the feathers there with its beak, adjusting the way they lay for what is probably optimal comfort. I'm sorry about what Ethan felt he had to do to Danielle. I think he would be too, if he ever thought about it. Maybe he does.

"No," Cat agrees, her voice tinging with sadness, the eyes showing the same and then some. Loss, regret, anger, hatred. "Nothing will bring her back. All she can ever be now is dust from the crematory which finished the job he started when he murdered her, set her on fire, and left her in a field. That, and my memories."

She eyes the bird steadily, voice lapsed away to silence for a span of beats.

"Is there value in his life, Eileen? He has some meaning to you, what that is I don't know."

If Eileen can't perceive Cat's sorrow through the raven's senses, then she must have some other way of tapping into their surroundings because her voice softens, losing what little edge it possessed as it makes the transition to something even more mild, a whisper that rivals the breeze ruffling through the raven's feathers as it looks up and fixes her with a level stare. He saved mine.

"How did he do that?" Cat queries. The emotions shown on face and eyes are still present, but the voice she speaks with is quiet, and she's listening. "Tell me about Ethan the man, show me a picture different than the sadist and murderer, the man I expected would kill both of us, no matter what we said or did. The one who claimed he didn't play games, only to promptly play games."

Sadist. Murderer. Eileen can't deny that those two words describe Ethan, but there are others she'd use as well. Finding them might be problematic. I was about sixteen when Volken picked me up, she explains. I didn't have anything or anybody except myself, so I tried giving him that. He could've taken advantage of me, but he didn't. The raven hunches over and spreads its wings, taking stock of its earlier handiwork. Apparently satisfied, it folds them again and clicks its beak a few times in wordless approval. He's been looking out for me ever since. Ethan's like a father to me, Catherine — please don't take that away.

"I don't doubt you've lived a rough life, survived things no one should have to," Cat replies somberly. "And still I don't think you're made so cruel by that as to tie such hopes to someone with no redeeming graces. I want to kill him. I want to smash every bone with a hammer and make him beg for it to end. I probably always will. It feels, even thinking of letting go, like I'm maybe betraying her somehow. Can you understand that, Eileen?" Her eyes are intent on the avian while she speaks, and during the burst of silence following those words.

"I could kill him, or die trying. He wouldn't by any means be an easy target. Even if I knew where he is to try. If I look for him, hold onto all of that, he continues having power over me. Determines a course and a choice in my life. If I find him and kill him, then…" The words pause for a span of seconds. "I'd need to spend my life looking over my shoulder any time a bird is near, wouldn't I? Waiting for and fearing the flock you send to peck my eyes out."

"Far better to break the cycle here and let go. There are bigger things in the world to worry about than vengeance."

I know what it feels like, betraying the people you love. Eileen can understand that much. I can't speak for Ethan, but if you want to end this then I'll do everything in my power to make sure it stays ended for all of us.

She might send her flocks after Cat, she might not — Eileen won't confirm what her course of action would be if the other woman were to take matters into her own hands, though the way she phrases things suggests she'd be wise not to. If you're willing to accept that, then I'm willing to let us go our separate ways. For the sake of bigger things.

"I'm not your enemy, Eileen," Cat softly assures. "Maybe you'll believe that, maybe you won't. Either way it's true. Chasing vengeance, succeeding in vengeance, would be more than me following a path that solves nothing. It also hurts you. You don't deserve that in the slightest. I won't do that to you. And I don't think he's a threat to me, or anyone around me, anymore."

Thank you. And with that, the raven leaps off the post and explodes into the air. A few powerful thrusts of its wings carry it over Cat's head, then up, up, up on the breeze as it uses unseen currents to its advantage and rises high above the harbor.

"You're welcome," Cat replies, her eyes tracking the bird in flight. She waits until it's gone, then packs up her gear and boards her boat. Back to Manhattan she goes, leaving her issues with Ethan behind on the island's shores.

March 4th: Not Without My Husband
March 4th: One Upon A Rapture
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