colette4_icon.gif tasha_icon.gif

Scene Title Wisp
Synopsis Colette and Tasha discover something unusual in a photo album.
Date December 23, 2019

Brooks-Demsky-Lazzaro Residence

Williamsburg. NYCSZ

The dark room glows its eerie, otherworldly red — a color that once seemed disconcerting but now one Tasha finds as comforting and warm as anything else in the house she calls home.


As the pictures of a recent photo shoot develop, she squints at a strange mark on one of them. There, hovering over Colette’s left shoulder, a wisp of something. Perhaps a trick of the light. A speck of dust caught on the camera lens.

She looks to the next photo on the clothesline. The wisp is still there, but a little larger, and not quite identical in shape.

Not on the camera lens, then. It must have been a mote catching the light just so, invisible to their eyes at the time, but caught by the camera’s unforgiving gaze.

Her dark eyes dart to the third shot, captured with the help of the camera’s timer so that both Colette and Tasha shared the frame. She’d relented after Colette complained there weren’t enough photos of Tasha now that she’s the family photographer. They had tried to pose seriously, but something drew a giggle from first one, and then the other, and the camera captured the two of them mid-laugh, hugging one another. Tasha’s head is thrown back in the throes of the giggle fit, while Colette’s eyes are squeezed tight, her smile wide and open.

And the little wisp is there, too — gossamer, ethereal. But it’s moved to Colette’s right shoulder.


Tasha reaches over for the light switch, turning off the red light and flipping on the white. She reaches for a stack of older photographs waiting to be put in albums or framed. She flips through a few, stopping to pull a photograph from the stack now and then.

There’s the wisp in one from their birthdays in November. Another from September. And another from July. And one from May, in a photo taken with Tasha’s mother for Mother’s Day. Another from Christmas.

Its shape and size change slightly in every one, but in every one, the wisp is close to Colette.

Grabbing the stack of photos, along with the new ones still smelling of developer fluid, she heads out of the darkroom.

“Cole?” she calls, her voice a little breathless to her own ears.

What?” It's the completely unhelpful call back from Colette up somewhere on the second floor. Tasha can hear her heavily walking around, somewhere up in their room. Those thudding footfalls her familiarly subconscious way of indicating she's looking for something.

Hey! Did you move that present I got for Abby?” That’s Colette’s equally unhelpful follow-up, barely audible over the hum of Christmas music playing from a laptop in the kitchen, echoing down the stairs to the basement entrance to the darkroom.

If Tasha rolls her eyes, only Tamara would know, and she won’t tell. “Try the closet shelf,” calls up Tasha, making her way up the steps, her head down as she flips through the photographs again.

And again.

The better light of the house doesn’t afford any more answers. The wisp is in every image she’s brought with her. The excuses she can make for it are limited.

She pops her head into the room Colette’s voice came from, accosted by a gluttony of wrapping paper, ribbons, and bags in disarray. “Did you find it?” she asks, though her tone suggests hse’s not particularly worried about Abby’s present, her mind utterly on something else.

“Come look at these photos… something’s weird about them,” she says, glancing down at the one nearby, then squinting, one hand tracing the little blip of mystery.

“Yeah, weird,” Colette echoes without having really listened to what Tasha said. Standing on her toes she tugs down a sweater from the top of the closet, a pair of somewhat shiny-looking pants landing down beside them with a loud and surprisingly heavy slap of dense fabric. “Fuckin’ sweet,” she whispers to herself, tugging at the fabric of the sweater and slowly turning to look back at Tasha. “Okay yeah, they were up— ” and then she notices the photos. “Wait, what?”

Bending down to pick up the pants off the floor, Colette tosses them onto the bed along with the brick red sweater and takes a few tentative steps across the floor to Tasha. “Oh my God did you get the photos from the policeman’s ball developed? Is it the Commissioner? Did he have his hand on Harrison’s ass like I thought?” He didn’t, but Colette won’t let what she thought she saw go. It’s also not why Tasha is here, either.

When Colette finally sees the photographs in question she wrinkles her nose, picking one up to examine more closely. “Was my hair really that short?” She’s not seeing the forest for the trees.

“I wasn’t taking pics of Liz’s ass, so I don’t know,” says Tasha with a laugh, despite the fact Colette’s missing the point. “No. Look.”

She leans over Colette, resting her chin on the woman’s shoulder, and points out the little gossamer wisp in the image Colette’s looking at.

“It changes shape and size, and where it is in the foreground or background a little in every photo, so it’s not dust in the atmosphere, and it’s not dust on my camera or in processing. It wouldn’t be so… consistent and yet inconsistent at the same time. Like here it’s a little oval, but here it’s almost like an M. I don’t get what it is.”

Her brows draw together at the mystery. “Look at those. I’m gonna grab older photo albums and see if it’s in them, too.” She smiles, trying to push away the disease she’s been feeling since she found the little anomaly. “Maybe you have a hitchhiking ghost, like that ride at Disneyworld.”

Four Years Earlier
Outskirts of Burlington, Vermont
March 9th

“They’re in the basement,” Noa Gitelman informs the rest of the Wolfhound operatives, the team having cleared the rest of the house.

The Villanueva family had been interrupted, that much is clear. The breakfast table, full with five place settings and half-eaten food, now sits empty. Whoever had been there left it in a hurry; a glass of orange juice lies on its side, its contents spilling out over the plate of potatoes and ham, and another glass lies on its side at the edge of the table, a puddle of milk beneath it. A few footprints trail still-wet milk across the dining room on the wood planks of the floor before disappearing.

The trajectory leads to a door, and that door, they know, leads to the basement.

The parents are war criminals, high on Wolfhound’s list. But here, in the idyllic farmhouse that they’ve been living in since the end of the war, outside of society’s reach, it’s hard to imagine the crimes that Alex and Mayra Villanueva had inflicted on SLC-E people.

Noa waits for Colette’s order. There are three children in the equation to account for, which they hadn’t been able to confirm until they saw the table and other evidence of the kids. The hope is to negotiate the safe exit of the children in exchange for the parents’ arrests. They’ve managed it before.

But before Colette can direct the rest of the team, the house rumbles — the explosion from below blasting upward to buckle the ground they stand on, throwing Noa, Colette, and their teammates to the ground as windows shatter around them.

Present Day

Wrinkling her nose, Colette angles a look over at Tasha and creases her brows. There's a tension in her jaw that's a little hard to miss, but it fades as she looks back at the photographs with a more critical eye. “It… maybe it's an artifact of my photokinesis?” She looks over her shoulder to Tasha and leans in to press her nose to her temple.

“It's probably nothing,” is Colette’s initial reaction. “It's not dust, sure, but it's…” she feels the way light refracts off of the photo paper, feels the outline of the wisp’s presence in the images more than really sees them. Her blind eyes don't move to trace the shape, that sort of movement is for the benefit of others. Here, now, it's vestigial. “It's probably nothing,” Colette asserts with a crack of uncertainty in her tone.

But there's always that seed of doubt.

“How…” Colette hesitates, turning toward Tasha, easing her chin off her shoulder. “How far back do your photo albums go?”

“Maybe…” says Tasha thoughtfully. “Well, there’s only a couple. A full one since you got me the camera and the one with a lot less from before.”

She doesn’t have to fill in the whys, but there are many. One, they were in their late teens when they met, and most of their photographic antics were captured on phones. There are a few captured by Joanna’s camera that actually got made into print, and a few Polaroids and a few strips from the photo booth on Coney Island. But then they were in hiding, and then there was war, and the long stints of separation.

Tasha pulls away to go get the albums from the shelf where they sit, leaving Colette for the moment with the photos she holds.

Four Years Earlier
Outskirts of Burlington, Vermont
March 9th

The team is quiet as it leaves the house. Their goal is not to kill, unless there’s no other choice, but to capture to bring to justice.

Or at least that’s the case for most of them.

Though they didn’t kill anyone themselves, there were five lives lost today. There’s some consolation that it wasn’t any of Wolfhound’s own, but two of those lives were children, a third just barely an adult. Three innocent lives gone by the selfish act of two parents who didn’t want to face their fates.

“It wasn’t our fault,” Noa murmurs, probably more for her sake than anyone else’s.

They were used to Pyrrhic victories during the war. They had hoped peacetime would feel different.

Present Day

Tasha’s footfalls sound from the hall as she returns with the two albums. The older one is grungy from being recovered from the rubble of Bannerman, but the scars are part of its history, just as the scars the two women bear.

“Which do you want?” she asks.

“The uh,” Colette shifts to sit down on the floor while reaching up to take the newer of the two albums, “this one.” She rests her back against the side of the bed, folding one leg beneath herself. “It's still hard t’look through the old stuff, y’know?” Her brows rise, crease together, and she looks down to the album in her hands, opening it in her lap.

“The tattoos,” Colette says softly, “s’easier. It's like impressions, y’know? Simpler, less intense. Whenever I see stuff from back when, I can't help but get… it hurts.” She smiles, wearily, threading a lock of shoulder-length hair behind one ear. “Brick House was hard enough.”

Tasha sits down beside Colette, leaning against her a little. “I know,” she says quietly, but for that, she doesn’t mind taking the old one, holding it gingerly not because of any distaste for it but because of its fragile state. She kicks off one shoe and then the other, beautiful Italian boots that suggest she has fine taste and maturity, only to reveal a pair of socks with little red and blue gnomes printed all over them, the words ‘Hanging with my gnomies’ in cursive along the ankle.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

After crossing her legs pretzel style, she leans over to press a soft kiss against Colette’s temple. “We don’t have to,” she adds, her dark eyes searching Colete’s face that she knows better than her own by now.. “I mean, it’s just… curious. But it’s probably nothing to worry about.”

Still, unless Colette tells her to stop, Tasha opens the battered album, to start looking for signs of the little oddity.

Making a noise in the back of her throat, Colette shakes her head and leans against Tasha. “No it’s… the only way t’get better is t’heal, and this sort’f stuff is part of all that.” Sitting up straight, Colette begins flipping through the photo album. There’s a deep furrow in her brows that doesn’t go away as she pages through the book. So few pictures from things after Bannerman’s Castle fell. The occasional shot in the hospital during Tasha’s physical therapy. But by and large the majority of Colette’s photo album are from after she’d gifted Tasha that camera for her birthday. A couple years, but so well documented.

The crease in Colette’s brow fades as a smile slowly dawns on her lips. She leans just a little more against Tasha, flipping through photos of the first office Tasha had that she practiced law out of, practically a closet compared to her current one. But as she goes through the photographs, something becomes increasingly clearer. That mote of light, that strange little wisp, is present in nearly every photo, somewhere nearby to Colette.

“I don’t…” Colette trails off, a stressed sigh slipping out instead of words. “It’s only me,” she says, flipping back and forth between photographs that don’t have her in them and ones that do. “Maybe the camera is picking up something that— something I’m doing unconsciously with my— but then…” Colette makes a noise in the back of her throat, shaking her head slowly, trying to figure out how the camera could pick it up and not either of them.

Tasha stops to linger now and then in the book she looks through, hoping Colette is too absorbed in her own investigation to notice when the tears glimmer in Tasha’s eyes as they come across a face or two or three that is no longer in their lives.

It isn’t a long album. A year and a half, give or take, of memories. She closes it and shakes her head. “It’s not in here,” she says softly. “And some of those,” she nods to the camera that Colette has, “were with the same camera. So it’s not the camera itself.”

The album is set on the floor to one side. “But your power’s changed since then, so it might be that,” she agrees. “I don’t even begin to understand how it all works. I can’t imagine what the world looks like to you.” Her voice is soft, breathless, a little — as ever, Colette’s ability is one that she holds in awe. “Do you remember when you made the tree?” Of course she must, as one of Tasha’s tattoos pays homage to that sweet memory of their early days.

“I don’t think it’s harming anything. It’s probably nothing to worry about,” she adds, knocking her head against Colette’s lightly. “There are things the camera picks up that we don’t see sometimes, but it’s so persistent it doesn’t seem like it should be any of the usual anomalies. It’s just… curious.”

Smiling, Colette leans her head against Tasha’s and wraps one arm around her waist, letting her hand rest at her hip. “I remember the tree,” she whispers, in the event it wasn't clear. She shuts her eyes, not needing them anyway, but the gesture feels good. Turning her nose against the side of Tasha’s jawline, Colette smiles in a way that Tasha feels on her neck. “And it hasn't… changed,” she says softly, “it's just grown. Like the tree. New branches, new… things.”

Lifting up her free hand, Colette spreads her fingers and a coruscating aurora of multicolored light rolls down her arm in a way that looks both like water, gas, and fire all at once. The colors lift up off of her arms in ribbon-like curtains and then break apart into tiny motes of firefly-like light that lifts up to the ceiling and dances in the slow, spiral shift of a miniature galaxy. “It's like art,” she says confidently, “the more you practice… the better you get.”

“Well, you’ve gotten a lot better at it than I have with art, but I am an art school dropout after all,” says Tasha with a laugh, tipping her head to lean against Colette’s as the other woman puts on a little light show just for her.

For that moment — when the light creates that curtain-line pane of prismatic light, there’s something just a little beyond the fireworks display of Colette’s creation. For an instant, red, green, blue and violet lines reflect on the white wall beyond — like a rainbow created by a prism when light shines through it.

Tasha’s seen a few of these displays but never this prismatic effect. “What…”

But it’s gone as the curtains of light burst into those sparkling motes and shooting stars. “Did you see that?” is a strange thing to ask, but shows that Tasha does understand a little of the ability after all.

I did,” sounds more breathless coming from Colette than Tasha would have expected. She feels Colette’s weight shift before she moves to stand up, looking around the room not with anything as performative as a pivot of her head but something that goes sight-unseen to Tasha. “The light’s… the light’s weird.” She extends a hand out, toward where the prism had briefly flashed on the wall, and moves her hand left to right as if she’s waving it through something. “The light didn’t… it didn’t scatter right.”

Colette takes a step back, shoulders square, looking down at Tasha with a hand held out to help her up to her feet. “Some of the colors were more intense than the others, like… I don’t know. That was weird.” Exhaling a sharp breath, Colette shakes her head. “I think I spooked myself.”

Tasha’s brows furrow as she stares at the wall, as if she could see the strange color formation still there. “Strange,” she says, but she takes the hand offered by Colette. She pulls herself up and using the momentum to go up to her tiptoes to plant a kiss on the other woman’s worried-looking face.

“Nothing is wrong, whatever this is. Maybe you’re evolving some more, Pikachu, but whatever it is, we’ll figure it out, okay? Or maybe we won’t. And that’ll be okay, too,” she says, pushing back a strand of Colette’s dark hair. She sounds more confident than she feels, a trick she’s picked up since those old days at Bannerman Castle.

Tasha leans her forehead against Colette’s. “Your final form might just be a unicorn,” she whispers with a grin.

A burst of laughter erupts from Colette as she drapes her arms over Tasha’s shoulders, shaking her head. “If you’re gonna mix like, mythological metaphors and pokemon stick with one or the other. But…” she laughs softly, pressing her nose against Tasha’s and then leaning in for a quick kiss, putting aside her momentary curiosity for something more immediately in need of attention.

“…at least the unicorn is on gay brand.”

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