War Haven


wf_astor2-2_icon.gif wf_delia2_icon.gif wf_raith2_icon.gif

Scene Title War Haven
Synopsis In the wake of two lives snuffed out in their prime, decisions are made for the one they left behind.
Date August 15, 2011

In Dreams

It was seventeen years ago that Pollepel Island first became a hiding place for government fugitives. Seventeen years later, and the island really hasn't changed that much. What happens on it has changed plenty.

One day after it stopped raining, and the mood in the air hasn't improved much. Two days after Eileen and Gabriel met their ends, and the mood in the air hasn't improved much. Least of all for Jensen Raith, the only one who had been in any position to affect the outcome of the confrontation. He's been as much of a hermit as someone can be on a small island with other people on it, saying little and generally being difficult to track down, save for anyone who had put real effort into finding him. Anyone who cares to look will find him in what had been, at one point, his quarters in the castle. Once full of maps and plans, now full of little save for a bed, a chair, himself and a smoldering cigar. The window is opened to the cloudy afternoon sky only to let smoke out, his attention fixated on the empty space just beyond the portal. He's working through the grief. He's putting off a discussion he would rather not have.

Sooner or later, that won't be an option any more.

There are some things Delia can't do. Unlike her father, her son, her son's father, even her sister, the redhead doesn't have enough prowess to stalk silently from room to room. The sound of her footsteps echo through the hallway long before she comes into the frame, catching herself and then stepping through it with a hurried rap on heavy wood.

"Mind if I come in?" Mostly a rhetorical question, since she's already through the door. Right now, she's calm and collected. Even holding out a cup of fresh coffee for the smoking man. Maybe it's a peace offering. "I'd like to talk."

Raith regards Delia for a moment after she enters. He regards the cup of coffee for a moment. And then, he accepts the drink. "Sure. Why not?" he replies, before he turns his attention back out the window. "You're on the council now. This is your house, now. There's not much I can do to stop you." What he can do, it seems, is take another drag from his cigar, savor the flavor of the smoke for a moment, and then exhale and sip his coffee.

Sighing, Delia steps back to the threshold, waits for a moment and then knocks a little more politely. Before walking back in. "It's not my house. Why didn't you take the seat? Or appoint my dad? Or someone better? I didn't— " She stops and places her hand against her forehead and rubs at her temples with thumb and middle finger.

"I want to talk about Astor," she says quietly. Her shoulders sag a little, as if it's not the conversation she wants to have either. It really isn't but it's something she needs to do. "Did Eileen leave anything like a will?"

"If they did, they were a little too secretive about it." Translation: Raith hasn't found one, if there's one to be found at all. "And like I told you yesterday, it had to be you. You would have been Eileen's choice. You were Eileen's choice." Finally, the old man does pull his attention away from the window to focus on Delia fully. "Sitting on the council is about more than skill, Delia. It's about imagination. About vision. I'm too old. I can plan and organize, but I can't see where to take everyone from here forward. You can. That's why it's you, instead of the old soldiers."

"There's a reason why I stay in the background," the emphatic protest against her apparent imagination and vision derails the conversation Delia wants to be having. Waving it away, the redhead files it away as a fight to be had with the actual council. One that she doesn't really consider herself a part of.

"Did you manage to grab anything of his from their house?" She's back on train and full steam ahead. "There's not much of a size difference between him and Benji, if you didn't. We can make due until I sew him some things or find someone to scrounge up clothes. We have books and there's chores, so he won't be lacking for things to do."

It isn't until he's right their in the doorway that his foot scrapes anything they could hear, and he is like a ghost, two large luminous eyes in the middle of a face that's eaten thin by shadow. At twelve years of age, Astor Ruskin-Grey hasn't nearly begun to grow into his proper height yet, slender inside an ill-fitting sweater and child-sized trackpants tied up tight at the belly by its drawstrings, no shoes, nor socks, his toes splayed bare on the floor. His presence is a little like a stone dropped into still water.


"I can go back and get my own clothes," he informs the room, solemnly. His stare doesn't seem to focus, quite, on the two figures across the room; almost. "I just need someone to drive."

And now the subject the discussion is about has entered the room, which does exactly one thing for the situation: Complicates it. "We can't go back, kid," Raith replies plainly, "The location's compromised. We go back and they'll find us, so we can't go back." His piece spoken, Raith angles his eyes, if not his head, back in Delia's direction. Whether he's prompting her to say or do something, or just observing her, is ambiguous.

The appearance of Astor comes with the sound of Delia sucking in her breath. She turns to give him a small, tearful smile and stalks over to scoop him into a hug. Relieved to see him alive and as ornery as he's ever been, she holds onto him tightly and gives him a firm kiss on the cheek.

At least it's not one of those painful cheek pinches that other aunts give nephews. Sort of nephews.

"No, you're not going back there," she says gently as she sets him down with just as much care. "I want you to come and live with me and Benji. I'm sure Benji would like it very much. What do you think?"

Astor is stiff as a little scarecrow in the woman's arms, his features wooden. It isn't hostility, however; after a moment, like an afterthought, his arms go up in a loose pair of semi-circles to clasp around the woman's waist, the herky-jerky moment of a poorly-handled puppet. He turns his head toward the kiss, but his nearer eye squeezes shut when it presses in, and then his mouth hooks sharply downward at the corners. "I don't want a compromise," he says, firmly as a twelve-year-old who is totally certain that's what his already-advanced vocabulary application of the term 'compromise' means. Magnanimously, he informs Raith, "You can drive me. Benji won't mind. He thinks mom and dad are still going to get married someday."

"Oh, he'll give that idea up soon enough." Finally, Raith sets his coffee down on the floor and focuses his full attention on both Delia and Astor. "I told you already, we can't go back, not for anything." And then, he shifts his attention fully to Delia. "And he can't stay here, either. Shut the door."

Reluctantly, Delia does what it is she does best, she follows the order. The door is closed and she leans with her back against it, one hand tucked behind her while the other reaches for the boy. "What do you mean he can't stay here either? We're the only family he has." Not quite true, he has an uncle out there, somewhere but it's not likely that Nicholas Ruskin will take up the reins of fatherhood any time soon. Delia's already been waiting more than ten years.

"Where are we going then?" Not he, we, it's already clear that she's ready to drop whatever responsibility she's taken on in favor of caring for her nephew and son.

Astor has to move so they can close the door, but it's plain he doesn't want to. The look he shoots Raith is tireder than any twelve-year-old should wear, and he reaches out to grasp the jamb before stepping in, placing his feet as carefully as a cat places itself int he world. He moves aside as soon as he's within, not looking at Delia, so he probably wasn't trying to move away from her. He stands there with his hands down at his sides and his feet settled side to side.

"You're wrong," he says, suddenly. His eyes dart between Raith and Delia. Like a cat, too, he's too convinced of his own significance— at least at the moment— to deign to process that Raith was actually talking about him as if he isn't here. "He'd never give me up. You weren't there; you don't know. Right, Aunt Delia?" He turns his head suddenly, fixes Delia with his stare, and his eyes seem sharper, greener than ever. "Right?"

There has always been one thing about Astor that bothered Raith: The child's ability to surprise him with insight and, well, knowing enough to make things at times more difficult than they otherwise could be. For a brief moment, Raith puts all his experience to use and clams up. The ball's in Delia's court for the moment.

Of ideas that Benji will or will not let go, Delia has no answer. But of Astor himself… "Right," she answers with a slight jerk of a nod. "Neither of us will give you up." It's her turn to give Raith a pointed stare and her eyebrows knit together in a rather unhappy frown. "Where are we going then? Since it's agreed by at least two of us that we're not giving him up."

The child's face abruptly changes color, unexpectedly. He wheels away from the woman suddenly, his arms up, like he's striking away an army of mad little ants or monsters, eyes darkening with anger. "I don't mean Benji," he exclaims. "Benji isn't my dad. I mean Benji's cool, no offense Aunt Lia," he looks at Delia, almost, except he can't; winds up shaking his head furiously, his too-long hair flipping into his eyes. "But Benji's just a kid— like me.

"My dad killed all those guys." Strain shows in his voice, his small hands, and he crosses them over his chest. "My dad c-can make copies of himself, and he learned how to put himself in the birds, just like my mom. They knew a lot about guns, too, and armor, and how to reconnaissance and use in-tel, and they had friends who were the best hackers in the world. Those guys tried to sneak up on them," this must be the most he's ever spoken to either of them before. Ever. "But they made a mistake, trying to get us at home.

"You guys are so stupid," he blurts out in the end. "Let's just go h-home. You'll see. I'll show you. I can see."

The three last words form a lie, unmistakable. A tic starts up at the corner of Astor's eye, eerie to see in a face so young; a hand rushes up the side of his face, slaps it down with painful vehemence.

"The two of you seem to be misunderstanding exactly what is happening here," Raith begins, "You are going to stay right here, Delia, where everyone needs you. Astor? He can't stay here, and the reason why should be painfully obvious. Twelve years go by and they raise this kid without anyone so much as looking at them funny. And one day, a bunch of Terminators show up out of the blue. Do you think even for a second that this happened because they got careless?" The more Raith speaks, the harder the edge in his voice becomes, and the more seriously he delivers his words.

"They weren't after Eileen or Gabriel. Their target was Astor, and isn't it just the damnedest thing that they showed up in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to collect him? If they had a clairvoyant, why didn't they target anyone else? If they had a precog, why didn't they anticipate Gabe and I showing up? There is exactly one explanation, Delia, for how they found them.

"Somebody sold them out."

"I am not my father. I will never put a job over my family." She isn't so young anymore that they can just say Delia's spoiled for raising her voice at the ex-spy and not doing what she's told. There are quite a few things she will do on command but Raith's orders are an affront to everything she believes in.

Reaching for Astor again, she pulls him, back to her so that he's facing Raith. So he can't see her face. Her fingers curl over his thin shoulders, fingernails all but digging through the fabric to his skin. Raith's logic isn't lost on her but the fact that she's grieving along with the possibility of losing the boy as well makes her a little prone to tip to the other side of the scale. Staring at the ex-spy, she begins speaking to the boy. "Astor, you can't go home. You're right, your father would never give you up… That's why we have to work harder to hide you now. For him and your mother." When she quiets, she takes a long breath inward, pursing her lips tightly to seal away whatever additional outburst she might have in there.


Astor is quaking now, thinking in the reverse direction that his ability wants him to. It's like fighting against a tide strong enough to snap bones and squeeze pulpy bruises into one's lungs. Yet he can't not. Gravity, pressure, drowning, and he's compelled not to go with the flow, trying to fix a twelve-year-old mind to concepts impossibly grievous, too far beyond what he should know. Forcing himself still, the blur goes out of his little hands and shoulders. Delia's the only one who can feel it now, the faintest tremor on the last part of his inhale. Breath going in-n-n, out. In-n again. Who?

He doesn't have to ask too.

"If I knew who, someone would've found them in the next room over hanging from a noose with a hastily scribble confession in their pocket." The reason why this would be the case is left unexplained: It doesn't need explaining. "The fact that they didn't give up that we're all here already means they have an interest in keeping that a secret, but who knows how long that'll be true? If Astor stays here, they will find him, they will bring the hammer of God down on us, and Gabriel won't be around to pull us out of the fire this time. Astor can't stay here. It's not safe, for him or anyone else. Do you understand that?"

Delia's fingers don't move to relinquish Astor to whatever journey Raith might have in store for him. They rub, gently trying to soothe the boy, without words. Because those are being used for someone else. "We can hide. No one needs to know that I have him. The three of us…" Unfortunately, Raith has already told her that she's staying here. In the castle. A small problem that she chooses to ignore for the time being.

"I can't just let him go," the tearful plea is a little louder than her plan and she glances toward the door. It's only a hope that Benji isn't skulking around outside listening. He inherited his silence from his father. If light steps are a genetic trait. "He's the closest thing Benji has to a brother, they need each other right now."

This time, for once, Raith's assessment of Astor's character proves true in a way that isn't pure inconvenience. Impossibly, the child says, "He's right."

It's muffled against the fabric of Delia's clothes, but Astor pulls away, back, far enough to look up into his aunt's face. "I don't know what your dad was like, but he didn't get you killed. You can't get Benji killed, either. And you know what." There should have been a lift toward the end of that statement, a question mark dug in between word and speech-mark, but there isn't. A schizotypal flatness. Astor took after both his parents that way, sometimes. "I really.

"Don't want to get anyone else killed anymore, either. So if it's all right by you, Aunt Delia." His eyes drop, not avoidant, but no longer finding any particular point in maintaining it. Or any of this. He closes his hands and puts them in his pockets.

Raith is again quiet and watching, waiting to see how Delia reacts. There is nothing else that he needs to add to the conversation at this point. There might not be anything he can add to it. His point is made. Astor's point is made. All that's left is to see whether or not Delia decides to keep fighting them.

Her hands slip down to Astor's upper arms as she kneels down on one knee. It gives him the height advantage and forces her to look up at his face, it also gives her the opportunity to look into his eyes and search them as her eyebrows dip.

The answer comes as a curt nod and the straightening of her lips into a thin line.

"We'll write… and see you as much as we can." Her eyes dart to Raith, hoping that he'll at least give her that much. Swallowing audibly, she finally lets the boy go and pushes against the floor to raise herself to her full height again. "I want to find whoever did this… and when— " The words are hard to come by, especially since she's never been the violent sort. Even with what they've had to live through. "— they find that room next door. I want to be there."

Astor's still only a child. Staring into her eyes, he's distinctly surprised when Delia abruptly moves on with acceptance; he lets out a tiny breath that he hadn't known he'd been holding in. Probably, Raith catches it, that tiny chink of vulnerability he's bound to grow out of, someday. His hands stay in his pockets, and he tries on a smile at Delia for a moment. It doesn't fit at all, but then he turns his head to look at Raith.

Astor looks at Raith, and Raith shakes the column of ash from his cigar and grinds the tip into the stone floor. If it wasn't already out, it certainly is out now. He doesn't immediately look up, stand up, and get to work clearing out of Pollepel. It's never that simple anymore. For several moments, his gaze is fixed on some empty space in front of him while he thinks. "I'll need a day to plan," he says, swiveling his eyes onto Delia. Unlike her, his expression is one of steely dispassion; it has to be for him to do what he does. "Make the most of that time."

"Thank you."

The parting words are for Raith as Delia opens the door. It's clear that she's not happy with the decision but it was Astor's to make. A hand goes to the middle of the boy's back and she pauses to allow him passage before she walks through. "Come on," she says, trying to make it a little lighter than she feels. "Let's find Benji, we'll go home and do whatever you boys like…" She smiles down at him, it's strained but genuine. She just doesn't feel very smiley right now. "Maybe we can act out Shakespeare on the wall with shadow puppets."

Plans are relayed in echoes down the hall as she leads the boy to more common areas of the castle. "If you're good, maybe the three of us can go somewhere tonight… somewhere far away, like Peter Pan… or Alice." It's a bittersweet use of her ability but she won't be the only one running away.

Those are stories for children, but Astor's too young to think he isn't one yet. Dutifully, he nods his head, long locks banging into his cheeks as he does. One day. Twenty-four hours. His parents used to measure units of useable time that way, too. They'd disappear into it, and come back out wafting out with white lies, which were stories for children too. "Walter said he found a cat," he says, leadingly, despite that there's a distinct lack of dynamic enthusiasm to his voice. Quietly, he observes, "Benjamin likes cats."

Benji likes cats. That's as good a point as any for Raith to check out of the conversation. As he shifts his attention back toward the window and out into space again, everything else suddenly sounds and feels very far away. When Astor and Delia eventually leave, he doesn't pay much mind to it, focused on that point in empty space outside the window. Thoughts of revenge and plans of action can come later, when it's their time. For the moment, Raith is alone in the universe. It's the exact kind of detachment from everything around him that keeps him functioning, even when everything else in his life starts falling to pieces. Quiet, contemplative detachment that ends, ultimately, with a silent statement of simple truth:

Ain't war hell?

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