Whatever God Intends



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Scene Title Whatever God Intends
Synopsis Placing faith in fate and placing faith in oneself do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Date April 13, 2011

In Dreams

In recent years, spring has brought the colour green to Midtown — or at least that's what people have been saying. Joseph Sumter knows better; the ruins' proximity to Central Park is responsible for the creeping advance of the flowering weeds that grow out of the cracks in the pavement and take root in the strangest places, including the topmost level of the parking garage a few blocks away from the entrance to Grand Central Terminal.

They're only dandelions, but the vibrant splashes of yellow are a pleasant change from the charcoal and slate gray that he's used to. The sky is blue today, the surest sign that winter is almost finished ebbing. The garage's roof provides Joseph with a perfect vantage point for simply watching the world as it turns, which is what he was sent up here to do.

He'll be relieved when the horizon begins to grow dark, but that's still several hours off yet, and with only a shotgun for company, the city's desolate landscape is very lonely.

New York City is not the bustling metropolis that it once was, but it isn't completely abandoned either. He can see the boats still in the harbour, and everywhere there is evidence that it's still inhabited. Pillars of smoke rise in the distance, and if he listens for it he can hear engines buzzing like insects, though there is almost no traffic on the broken roads.

It's not quite the mountains, but it has the same vibe to it.

Which isn't to say that Joseph feels closer to God as a result of the brokedown city — sometimes it has him feeling the furthest away than he ever has before. But it's peace, of a kind, with engines humming like insects beneath tree bark. Sometimes, too, there are birds in the sky, and most days, he would even wave to them. But right now, he sits in the deck chair dragged up here for people on duty, with his shotgun leveled across his thighs and held into steadiness. No chance of falling asleep, however.

He adjusts the sit of his glasses, half-moon shaped and framed in silver. Stolen, but what isn't, these days? Stealing is a sin, but only one when stealing isn't a fundamental part of trade, out here.

Flannel sleeves are rolled to his elbows and opened at the throat low enough to show white cotton beneath. Silver and gold and glass glint in his carefully kept crucifixes on the interchangeable chain around his throat, as does the wedding band gold on his finger. It click click clicks against the stock of his shotgun.

He hears the scrape of shoes on the stairwell behind him. One pair of footsteps with a cadence he recognizes without needing to turn and look, but if he does regardless, he'll see the teenage girl crest the top of the steps a moment later, one hand gripping the rail, the other holding the front of her jacket shut.

His daughter is wearing a windbreaker rather than the heavy winter coat that was on her back for most of the previous season, and in the material ripples in the breeze. It would have a similar effect on her hair if it wasn't tied back into a ponytail. If keeping a low profile wasn't the key to survival out here, then Hannah might wear brighter colours than the dark forest green of her jacket or the black sweatshirt beneath it, paired with plain denim jeans and hiking boots given to her by the family of another girl a few years her senior who died during the last H5N10 outbreak, though she's only started to become comfortable with the idea of wearing them.

They'd been friends.

Though he hears her before she's arrived, Joseph keeps his eyes on the cityscape until he knows that familiar wander of steps has landed completely, picking through erratic dandelions and tendrilling weeds that got up here who knows how. Then, he shifts forward some, twisting to look back behind him mostly out of greeting than needing to see who it is, or even how she's feeling, from the rhythm of her steps, their lightness and heavyness.

And though it's unnecessary, he sits the shotgun down out of sight, an ingrained instinct. An open hand goes out towards her, palm turned down. "What's got you up here? Ain't your turn." It's a bit of a joke — if teenagers are going to be on guard duty, generally it's under the guidance of those with several more decades under their belts. But he wouldn't judge her incapable, regardless.

Hannah reaches out and takes Joseph's hand, giving it a quick squeeze before it drops from her grasp and she hooks fingers instead around the metal rail at the roof's edge. Once upon a time, it was there to prevent people from accidentally driving their cars off the side, but there are no cars up here now. She steps up and places her feet on the bottommost rung, leaning over the side and craning her neck to get a look at the pavement below.

It's not the stealthiest way to make sure she wasn't followed out here, but she's not worried about being followed by soldiers because they generally don't. Follow.

The rail creaks, groans beneath her weight, then settles. It's in no danger of breaking. "You know why," she says with a small smile, steering a look over her shoulder at Joseph. Dark eyes seek out the barrel of the hidden gun, then sweep back to her father's face. She knows how to use one.

Hasn't ever needed to. "I brought you somethin'."

Getting to his feet, mostly so he's on equal footing with his daughter, Joseph abandons his station by a few feet enough to join her at the edge, dark eyes fleetingly checking the stress points, and doesn't add his weight to the railing. Arms fold across his chest, and he twists a look back around just to check that Kaylee isn't following her up or anything. The look traded to him after he sees her identify the gun tucked obscured beside the chair doesn't get returned.

Joseph steers his attention to the horizon instead, which has yet to grow dark on the day. Eyebrows go up, and he presses a smile for her that she can only see side on, eyes squinting like something caught his attention. It hasn't. "Y'didn't have to go and do that. Most I got you last year was drivin' lessons." But that's only because it's so close to Christmas.

Hannah lets go of the railing with one hand, reaching into her windbreaker's pocket. "I said I brought you somethin'," she reiterates gently. "It wasn't any trouble, and anyway, I wanted to." Her hand comes out again, object clutched in the weave of her fingers. They open like a clamshell, and she offers Joseph the item resting in the seat of her palm: a piece of wood carved into the shape of what is probably meant to be a bear, though its head is a little too small for its body, and its legs are not as clearly defined as they could be.

"I was gonna paint it," she explains, "but then I thought it looked better this way. Mr. Holden showed me how."

The presented item gets a blink of surprise from Joseph, and easily, a hand goes out to take the thing, turning his back to the landscape as he turns the item around in his fingers, callused thumb scuffing over the edges the tool to make it has created.

For all that its exactly anatomy leaves something to be desired, its intention is clear. "You'll get black ones up around New York," he says. "Though I never seen 'em. I've seen 'em in East Tennessee, though." He wants to tack onto that, we'll go camping sometime. If it happens, it happens. Broken promises are the worst. He has rules, as a father, about the things he can't do.

That, and the promise in the same subject as occasionally aggressive omnivores seems bad form.

"They remind me of you." Hannah closes her hand as soon as the bear has been taken from it. Wind tugs loose strands of dark hair from her ponytail. Joseph's reaction to the offering broadens her smile, showing a brief gleam of teeth as she returns her hand to the rail again, though it only lasts long enough for her to add, a little arbitrarily, "Happy Birthday, Dad."

It makes what comes next all that more surprising. While Joseph is still exploring the figurine's texture with his thumb, she studies his face and ignores the hair tangled at the corner of her mouth, pursing her lips to get it out rather than reach and pluck at it with the tips of her fingers. "Are you and Kaylee gonna have a baby?"

The bear is placed down upon the flat of Joseph's hand, to judge how it stands, and he's about to respond to her well wishing with affection in kind when her next question registers. If it was a no, he'd probably be saying it right away. Instead, eyebrows curl beneath crinkled brow, perplexed and giving her a sidelong look as he closes his broader fingers around the figurine. "We might do," he says, after a moment, Hannah deserving of honesty, despite the grey peppered through his hair, the lines stamped beside his eyes.

He moves to stand beside her, going to put an arm around her shoulders and tug her into a side on embrace. "Only 'cause I'm pretty sure you'd be the best big sister in the world," he adds, voice scraping quiet somewhere above her head. "Seein' how y'are with the others. What do you reckon?"

Hannah rests her dark head against Joseph's chest, and the difference in height between them makes it difficult to read the expression on her face because she turns it away from him to look out across the bleak landscape, maybe searching for other colours poking through the cement, though she finds none.

She's sharp enough to know what the absence of hesitation in his voice means. Sharp enough, too, not to speak until she knows how she wants hers to come out and — much more importantly — how to make it sound that way, regardless of how she's really feeling.

"It's very even. "Do you want it to be a boy or a girl?"

"I want him or her to be whatever God'll intend," could, in some books, be an evasive answer — when it comes form Joseph, it's not, but an honest truth. He's probably a little old to be picky about these things, or wish for a son to play baseball with or a girl to beat back the boys from, and if you want to look at it that way, he more or less has the best of both worlds in the teenager leaning into him. And if he wants to be very honest, this question— the one that came before the last— is one better squared for Kaylee herself.

A hand drifts up to smooth her hair back along her skull, and then drop a kiss onto the top of her head. "Thank you for the present, honey."

Hannah's arms circle around Joseph's waist and hands cinch at the small of his back. He is vaguely aware of the pressure crowding in around his ribs as—

Grand Central Terminal

— a shaft of light spills across the floor of the room that he shares with Kaylee in Grand Central Terminal. It is not day, but night, and when he next breathes in he can feel Kaylee shift against him, her sleek blonde hair like silk on the side of his face and neck. A long, bare arm stretches across his chest, fingers curled against his wrist. Maybe she fell asleep holding his hand or sought it out in her own dreaming state — either way, she isn't holding it now, and she isn't awake.

The cot and makeshift bedside table are exactly the way he remembers leaving them when he closed his eyes, with one exception.

There is a wooden figurine sitting beside the lamp that wasn't there before.

It is in the shape of a bear.

He slips away from Kaylee as gently as a ghost, or this is his intention. She doesn't rouse by the time Joseph is pulling himself out of bed, dressed (redressed) into sleep things, faded soft clothing repurposed into pyjamas in the same way that the terminal is repurposed into a safe house and supply hub, the furniture in the room. Hands seek out the little bear, standing quiet now in the middle of the room — his eyes aren't great without glasses, if better than they were in his dreaming, but his fingers seek out the now strangely familiar ridges and lines of its rough make.

Joseph turns, paranoid, but the room is empty of anyone but himself and Kaylee, some fancy silk thing she got into and out of. No ghosts, either. Past, present or—

Which isn't to say he doesn't hastily pull on proper clothes, stuff his feet into soft trainers, grab a woolen jacket to sling over his t-shirt and keep the bear in a tight fist the whole while. No time to leave Kaylee a note, even if he has no real perception of how much time he has in any capacity — the trail could be hours cold. It feels like nighttime, even down here. But he can explain later, either way, as he moves quickly for the door, easing it open, edging it closed again.

He is fortunate, because the trail is not hours old, because it's only minutes, because the woman who left the figurine on the table shut the bedroom door when Joseph began to show signs of waking and only began to move off when she heard him begin to dress on the other side of it.

Hannah Kirby does not run. Whether or not he emerges into the dimly-lit corridor in time to catch her is, as he said in the dream, whatever God intends.

She is not as religious as she used to be, but this one thing she will not place in the hands of anyone but the Lord. Hands tucked into the pockets of her coat, she moves down the hall at a brisk but relaxed pace, a slight limp to her step that has more to do with the process of growing accustomed to her body once more than it does any physical injuries that she might still be nursing.

If he calls out to her, she decides, she will stop.

If he does not, she'll round the corner.

Look left, look right. Joseph goes quite still, when he sees her moving away from him, a little lost at what to do until the very obvious thing surfaces to consciousness, and he does it without any thought whatsoever. He goes after her, swift steps designed to eat up distance, no limp to his gait despite injury that he never regained full healing faculty over — he isn't quite running, but he will if he has to. And the split second after he starts moving, it occurs to him he might not have to.


It doesn't make any sense, to him. There is no rhyme or reason that the refugee woman by the same name as his daughter should in fact be his daughter, except that memory or either face matches easily despite the some fifteen years by which they stand apart. There is no proof or argument ready about why this should be so, how she is this age, why she should be here — just that it is so, a simple, crystalised kind of faith that any good Christian has taken on at some time in their lives.

It is just so. He'll figure it out later, if need be. Maybe a few seconds from now. Once she stops walking.

And she does. Stop. Joseph's voice is not loud enough to wake the other refugees who have taken to sleeping below ground — if there are any other refugees at all. This is the first time Hannah has set foot in Grand Central Terminal since leaving her own version of it, and she has only been here long enough to leave the gift where her father will find it and watch him sleep for a few minutes as she imagines he used to do the same with her when she was small.

She isn't anymore, and although she's an inch or two below what most people consider average in terms of height, she's since filled in, all lean muscle with the kind of grace that conjures up images of horses and sturdily-built deer. When she moves, it's with powerful, easy purpose.


Joseph slows when she stops, but doesn't stop until he's within a respectable distance. There is the distinct impression he wasn't meant to follow, wasn't even meant to wake up just yet, but he's here, now, hand clasped around the little wooden bear and the abstract certainty that she must have known of the dream in some capacity, and that she is who he thinks she is. Even monosyllabic answer doesn't spin that faith, only puts a speed bump in his momentum.

"How're you here?" he asks, a kind of soft and rushed awe in his voice. It occurs to him he could still be dreaming. The one he woke up from was pretty damn real, from the sun warming his dark hair, to the scent of the urban world on the wind, the weight of the shotgun on his knees and the bite of an old wound in his thigh.

The gentle weight of the teen leaning against him, with the concrete warmth of a loyal dog.

Hannah tips a look back over her shoulder at Joseph, her brown eyes dark, but says nothing at first. It would be nice, or at least easier, if they could do the talking in her place. The silence that hangs between them speaks volumes instead.

"You die," she says eventually, with quiet finality. "Some of the others — they've already seen what comes after. The pine box and the canvas bag. I'm here so Kaylee and your little girl don't have to roll you into the ground until one of 'em is faded and fair and gray, and the other's grown.

"I'm here so you can hold her hand when she's bringin' your son into the world. How's not what matters."

"Oh, honey."

It's a rush of sympathy and sadness for the story she spins with simple words. For a Kaylee that is different to the one lying in their shared room right now, or a son — whatever God intends — that he didn't get to know. For her, in front of him, significantly more tangible as Joseph pushes forward a few more hesitant steps, the threat of a hug on the horizon. Easy to capture for himself, when she was this high, and even now, she's not towering.

But she looks strong. Independent. Harder edged than he is. "You remind me of Lucia," he says, without really thinking, a twitch of a smile. "My sister. I dunno if you woulda ever met her, or if I said so. You must've left behind so much— "

Hannah holds her ground, either refusing to retreat or feeling no innate desire to. Her gaze is as steady as her hands must be, worn and callused, so much rougher than those of the girl who'd offered him the figurine in her palm. "It all came apart," she tells Joseph. "Like somethin' unravelin'. Loose threads everywhere, blown wherever the wind takes 'em. I looked." For Lucia. "Never found her. Mom— Claira," because there's a need to be specific when she's had more than one, "was gone by then, too. Anyway, it ain't so much. I had somebody, they died — Kaylee and Eli's all I got that I didn't bring with me.

"Don't be sorry." She reaches up to the golden chain she wears around her neck and places a hand over the crucifix beneath her sweater. "I don't want you to be sorry. Not what this is about."

"Then I never tied it all together. I know— I know what it's like. For family's comin' apart."

And he shouldn't have let it happen to her. Or. Won't. Joseph's eyes close for a second as he tries to reconcile logic with what's standing in front of him, and it all kind of jars together like a traffic jam. The future has always been symbols and options. Now it's here, in flesh, a result of actions. "Alright." His hand closes tighter around the bear, absently adding, "I wanted t'take you south, that day. In the dream. Outta the city. But it wouldn't've been long, would it? After that, when I…" Died, is the word. She says it easier than he does. For Joseph, it would take some getting used to, even if he's been told before of his expiration date.

He shakes his head, not exactly dismissing it, but rerattling it together in his head. This is the present, and an option still, even if it's her past, weighted and concrete. Joseph steps forward, then, to try and draw her into an embrace, not unlike the hold he'd felt in dreaming.

Her arms loop around his waist again, her back and shoulders stiffer, but the pressure he'd felt around his ribs is the same. So is the fit of her hands near the base of his spine, fingers hooked together, but this time there's no landscape to distract her, no point in the distance she can focus on. What she does instead is turn her cheek against Joseph's chest and close her eyes, breathing in the old, familiar scent of him as she listens to the sounds his heart makes in his chest.

It's the closest she's been to him since coming here, and the first time she's hugged her father in more than fifteen years.

The next breath Hannah draws in is shaky, serrated. Her body might have grown hard, but in Joseph's arms she feels as vulnerable as an infant. It isn't long before the front of his shirt is damp, then wet.

The closest he's come to holding someone like this would be Colette, who was also the closest he'd gotten to a daughter before Hannah had come to him in dreaming, and appeared in real life. Arguably, Joseph therefore has practice, and he holds her even as strength fractures and leaks, chin tucked upon her head and a hand coming up to touch, stroke inky brunette curls. "I'm real proud of you," he admits, after a time, head lifting but doing nothing else to urge her back, hand placing high on her spine. "And I'll look forward to havin' a proper right to that someday too.

"And I want to know everything, but it don't have to be all at once." He has questions, not the least of which are immediately concerning, some more abstract, but for her sake, he stills his tongue. There will be time. He will force there to be time. For now, he cedes the terms of this meeting to her, a hand coming down to gently palm along her jaw to smear away clinging damp.

That is more than kind of him; Hannah wouldn't be capable of answering his questions anyway. I'm real proud of you, are words she's spent more than half her life yearning to hear. Her breath curls sopping and hot against his knuckles when he wipes her tears away with his hand.

A tremor shudders through her and she presses out a sigh.

She will deal with the guilt that comes with not being able to tell him everything later. In the meantime, she lets the rhythm of her breathing dictate what she thinks she can.


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