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Ellen went with Abi to the washroom, but finished up her business and departed before Abigail and Angeline chatted about Three Tit Terry. Like Abigail, she didn’t mind changing in the bunk area, but held off for a bit as she went for a brief walk before curfew.

She was drawn towards the sounds of shouting in a language that wasn’t English. Ellen went over to see and hear the situation better. As she got closer, she found that one was shouting in the French, and the other was speaking German. The German woman wasn’t shouting per-say, but she certainly sounded angry, which seemed to rile up the French woman further.

Ellen looked around briefly, hoping someone would take control of the situation. But the few onlookers seemed confused or unwilling to interject. Ellen sighed, then jumped in between them herself.

“Hey, what is going on?” She asked in English first, then in French when that seemed ineffective. The French woman quickly replied, and while she was telling Ellen what had happened, the German woman was trying to interject with her own tale.

Ellen held up a finger and replied back in rough German. “Please wait one minute!” The woman ceased speaking immediately, clearly surprised that Ellen was able and planning to listen to her side of things next.

What Ellen gathered over the next minute, from each woman, was that they both claimed to have brought the same lotion to the washroom. The German woman said she stepped out and left it in the stall, and turned back shortly thereafter to try to retrieve it. The French woman said it was hers all along, and the German woman was lying.

Obviously, one of them was telling the truth, but Ellen wasn't sure shehad any way to gather which person it was. “You need to calm down. I know having little things from home is nice. But no lotion is worth the stress and anger you are feeling right now.” She said, first to the French woman, and then to the German, though a bit choppier the second time. It came out probably more like, "Be calm. All people want things from home. But lotion is not as important as mad and to be angry."

Ellen asked to see the lotion. She looked over the label of the mostly used-up cream, and her brows furrowed in confusion, and then annoyance. There was some of the typical complicated long names of ingredients that she had expected to see, but then a few others she hadn't. Turning it to the front, she saw the name Kadefungin. Then she pieced together exactly what it was for. She looked up at the French woman. “This isn’t lotion.” Ellen said. She handed it to the German woman and told her to feel better, then turned back to the thief. "And the label was in German."

The thief tried to sputter something about how she had ordered it overseas ages ago, but Ellen stopped listening and the German woman shoved the yeast infection treatment into her bag as she stomped off.

Deciding she had seen enough of other parts of Goodnight, Ellen returned to their bunk area. It was quieter than she expected, and most of the sleeping bags were missing. It seemed it was just going to be the crew from the last mission, tonight. She nodded to Brooks, recalling he was coming specifically to watch over Abigail, then went over to her possessions to get changed.

Unlike some of the others, Ellen actually had a few changes of clothes in the bag she had brought with her. She made a habit out of airing out clothes she wore in the day since they couldn't be washed that often, and re-wore pajamas since all she was doing in them was sleeping. She stripped off the shirt, but left her bra on as she threw the larger t-shirt on top. Then she unhooked and slid down the sleeves of the bra, removing it completely for the night. She put on some yoga pants and looked over the rest of the folks. Abigail was pestering Zephyr about being the only man in the bunk.

Though Zephyr looked surprised by the revelation, Ellen was, and had always been, aware of the lack of men in their little troupe. She pulled her hair out of the ponytail and approached the group, listening to the chit chat.
Outside the Chapel

(Abigail and Ellen: A Collab between Stitches and Pascal)

Abigail was the first and fastest to leave. She was quick on the mark standing up, and quicker still with her unsteady canter towards the door - using her body weight, meagre as it was, to swing it open as she lurched haphazardly into the corridor outside.

Ellen wasn't surprised by the girl's eagerness to run. She remembered a similar event when she was younger-- confronted with having to talk about her feelings and the events that had transpired made her feel like she had to justify her feelings… and even more, that she was expected to apologize for them. She had felt so betrayed, so bitter, and so utterly alone.

Ellen probably would have stayed behind and chatted for a bit with the people there, had Abi not run off and reminded her of her younger self. "Excuse me, nice meeting you all!" Ellen called out as she hopped up. "Abi, hey, wait up!" Ellen called out, picking up her pace to catch up with Abi. The girl froze and went through a variety of expressions before swinging around to Ellen, picking a wary frown to wear on her face as she approached.

"Hey Abi, I just wanted to apologize for earlier, calling you out like that was rude." Ellen still wanted to say that Abi didn't look good, but she felt like that would be undoing her attempt at an apology, so she waited. "You okay?"

There was a pause. It looked like she was parsing the information and churning through a handful of thoughts all fighting to come out of her mouth at once. She eventually decided upon "it's okay. You didn't know," and after a moment longer, she nodded. "I'm fine."

Ellen sincerely doubted she was fine, but would pressing right now help? "Cool. So what are you up to now?" Ellen asked, continuing to walk alongside the other girl. Besides, it wasn't like she had anything better to do.

"I'm uh," Abigail wiped her face with her healthy hand, "I'm waitin' on those two to get outta the...chapel." There was a slight emphasis on the final word and no small amount of scepticism. "Brooks don't like the fact I ain't sleepin', so he's taking 'decisive action' - whatever that means."

“You aren’t sleeping?” Ellen didn’t know before--how could she have, really? Though, that did explain some of Abi’s current appearance. Lack of sleep could really mess with the body and mind. “I’m sorry to hear that. Is it nightmares or insomnia?” Ellen had a little experience with nightmares, and hell, when she started trying to sleep on boats she got a little experience with insomnia. She used to get horribly seasick every time she tried to sleep on a boat. In the back of her mind, the idea began to form that it was perhaps something more than just a… mundane sleep issue. It couldn’t be so simple as her just feeling unsafe and restless, right?

"It's neither. I can' ain't so simple, I'm endangering everybody if I go to sleep, for reasons I ain't sure I'm allowed to tell you," Abigail rubbed the back of her neck, scuffing her foot on the tiles. Then she seemed to clock on to how she sounded and was hasty to recover. "It ain't cause I'm gonna blow up or nothin', either!" She held her hands up in self defense. "The sleeping bag, that was, it's an isolated incident! I'd even go ahead n' say it was intentional, in a way!"

Ellen wasn't sure if these things were secret because Goodnight wanted them so, or secret because Abigail wanted them so, but she simply shrugged and moved on, chuckling as Abigail brought up some sleeping bag destruction. "Ahh, I see. Well it sucks that you aren't sleeping." She looked back at the chapel. "But I'm glad someone is going to help you out. Is Brooks someone you knew, before?" She asked. They seemed… cut from the same cloth, in a way.

"Nah I never met him," Abigail dismissed the claim with indifference. "He just...he gets it, y'know?" She glanced back at the chapel door. "He gets it in a way I don't think nobody 'cept for folk who lived the way I do would get it."

Ellen blinked. She clearly didn't get it. But she didn't grow up similar to how Abigail did. If they learned nothing else from the "therapy," they learned that. The good thing was that Abigail had a person who she seemed to get along with. Maybe Abigail didn't need someone like her around. "Well, I'll just wait with you for a few if that's alright." She offered.

Abigail glanced up at Ellen with a brief look of bewilderment. She mulled it over for a few moments before the first, genuine smile flashed on her exhausted face. "Sure."

They weren't kept waiting for long. Audrey and Brooks walked briskly from the chapel next, in hushed conversation. Ellen and Abigail caught the tail end of what Audrey was saying ("-pletely reasonable to have them do that. All I'm saying is approach it carefully. After all, it can't go any more wrong than it already did, right?") as she patted Brooks on the shoulder twice and paced right past them without so much as a nod of acknowledgement.

A more alert Abigail might have been suspicious but the kid drawled "what's all this about 'decisive action', huh?" As Brooks approached.

"It means exactly that. You're worried about sleep; I'm acting on it."

"But how?" Abi whinged with impatience.

"I'm going to keep an eye on you while you sleep."


"That way you ain't as likely to get stressed out and paranoid. I'm afraid that means I'm going to be in your personal space, Ellen. Along with the rest of your group." The bootlegger turned his attention to the other woman, clasping one hand by the wrist in front of him as he stared down at her.

Ellen looked at Brooks as he explained he would be in their sleeping quarters. It was the most she had heard him talk, but she wasn't surprised that he chose to talk about Abigail over anything else. "Doesn't matter to me." Ellen replied. "I'm used to sleeping on demand." She didn't much mind the larger communal sleeping area. The sleeping bags were just as comfortable as her beds on the boats had been, and it was honestly just as loud here as there.

"As long as you don't climb into my sleeping bag, we'll be fine." She chuckled. Ellen wasn't the pickiest woman in the world, but she did have a type-- and Brooks wasn't it. She looked over to Abigail, raising her brows. "You good with this plan?" She asked.

"I mean, yeah, but it's not gonna do much to-"

"Good," Brooks interjected as he brought his hands down to his sides and started to move. "I'll see you both this evening." He nodded once and left. Abigail watched him go.

"I sure hope that don't bite me in the ass down the line somehow," the kid mused to herself. She was just as quick to forget about it and grinned up at Ellen. "Let's get in the queue for the washrooms, otherwise we're gonna be stuck waitin' fer hours."
"Why?" Ellen repeated, though she shouldn't have been surprised that the therapist wanted her to dig a little deeper into her actions rather than just stating the things that had happened.

She couldn't help but be slightly concerned that she had said the wrong thing. She didn't expect a medal for her actions or anything like that, but she had least some acknowedgement that she had contributed to the group's success. Okay, yea, she wanted credit. But what was so bad about that?

"I think because..." She didn't plan her words before she spoke, and just sort of started rambling a bit. "I didn't want to forget him. And... if it were me there instead, I wouldn't want to be discarded and forgotten. We are people, just like them, not faceless, nameless monsters. Yea we have to make tough choices, and maybe sometimes they are the wrong ones, but that doesn't make us any less...human." Ellen didn't make it clear which specific groups she was talking about--and perhaps she, herself, wasn't entirely sure.

Ellen shrugged and looked down. She definitely wasn't getting a 'Good job' today. Not even a damn sticker.
Ellen supposed it was nice that the doctor thought their reactions were all normal, and they had all done well, but it felt like a consolation trophy. Ellen missed the days when just the person who was the best got acknowledged and the rest took the loss as a sign they had something to work on. Losing made her work harder, and practice better than winning ever did, and felt quite...annoyed about being told they were all winners.

Dr. Cassar went on to ask about the most recent mission. He already knew about the technical details, but wanted to know more about it. Should she just repeat what she said in the debrief? Or was he looking for more...interpersonal sort of things. Ellen waited for a few moments, in case someone else wanted to jump in first. Looking around, it didn’t seem like anyone wanted to begin.

Ellen didn't mind taking the lead on that. She probably could have summarized everything that happened, but what came to her mind most was… well, the obvious. Besides, he already knew the technical details, so she didn't need to just repeat all of that.

"The house was all shot up when we got there." Ellen began. She didn't talk about the guy who was bleeding out inside, since it was really Angeline who had taken care of him. She had just helped. "And the supplies were gone. We followed the tracks and caught up to them a few hours later."

"We split up to try to get an idea of if there were more of them, their weapons, whatever. I used my magic to make another version of myself, to get closer and see where the supplies were, and if they had more weapons. Abigail came with me, and stayed close, watching over my actual body. I relayed what I saw to her and then she left to tell the others. I took a position behind the group with a spare gun. After the fog was cast, one of the guys who was already hurt ran out towards me. I shot him a few times. I didn’t mean to fire that many, but… I’m not used to firing a gun.” She felt the sudden urge to apologize for wasting ammunition, but she got the feeling that would come across heartless. She could be sad about the dead guy and also sad about being wasteful, right?

"He took a while to bleed out. I stayed… I don’t know if it was more out of concern that he might get up and try to get revenge, or if it was a guilt thing… but it took so much longer than I expected.” This part was hard to talk about. She knew this was getting into the feels of it all, and she had trouble navigating the desire to be matter-of-fact about it all with the fact that they’d likely label her a psychopath if she didn’t admit to at least some of the feelings she had.

“I went through his pockets and looked at his wallet. I probably didn't need to, but I wanted to know his name, and make sure he didn’t have the keys to their truck. It was different with him than it had been with the FOE agent. That had been… self-defense. I can't write this one off as the same. I know that and I’m not…” Ellen trailed off. “I don’t regret the choices I made, I just acknowledge that it was different.” That was enough of the touchy feely stuff, right?

"After that was done, I checked in with Hans, then returned to the van where Abigail and Angeline were waiting. That's about it on my end. We drove back and debriefed.”
Ellen wasn’t sure if she should believe Abi’s tale. She said things were easy and she mostly hid in the back of a car the whole time. Then again, Ellen’s actual Awakening wasn’t bad, either--though that was mostly because she knew what was coming.

“I… was expecting it, so I made sure to be shore-side. I went out with…” She paused, looking around the group for a moment before continuing. “A gentleman friend of mine and he was asleep when I Awoke. I was in his shower, and when I dried off, I had a message saying the FOE would be coming. I gathered my things, grabbed a few bottles of water and poptarts, and a medical kit from one of the nearby ships, and met up with my ride.”

“We ran into trouble later, with one of the other pick-ups.” Ellen added. The whole night had really been...something. “The FOE appeared at the end of the street. Hans jumped out of the car to start drawing their fire. The kid was still on the street so I jumped out of the car and tried to lead her down the alleys a few blocks away. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I wasn’t going to sit in the car and do nothing. Not when everyone was risking their lives for us.” Ellen wasn’t trying to land a jab on Abi this time, she was just trying to explain why she was so...impulsive, in this particular instance.

“We ended up in an alley blocked by a dumpster and a fence, and the girl couldn’t climb. Three guys in riot gear came at us. The girl I was with froze one, and another… I am not sure what she did to him, but he fell down in pain. I rushed at the woman and we grappled a bit. She dislocated my shoulder in the process, and then the agent took out her gun. I didn’t have a plan--beyond trying not to die, but Hans showed up a short while later.” Ellen closed her eyes, trying to remember exactly how the gun had ended up in her hands.Some of the moments were a bit blurry. She remembered the pain of Ciara putting her arm back in place, she remembered thinking ‘Fuck ‘em.’

Opening her eyes, she took a deep breath and finished her story. “I grabbed the gun the FOE agent had dropped and shot her. Hans was hurt, so I carried Ciara to the car and took over driving for the group for a while. They were doing medical attention in the back for the ones who were worse off. But all of us made it to Goodnight.” Ellen was still holding her biscuit, but she took a few small bite snow that she had finished her tale. It was… a bit long-winded, but Cassar hadn’t put a cap on how long their stories were supposed to be.
The room was silent after Abi finished speaking. There was… a lot going on in the ramblings the girl made, from a history of burns to their apparent source- being forced to abandon any potential studies she had in order to repair a leak in a hot engine. If nothing else, there was a very strong suggestion that the girl didn’t have a lot of experience with having injuries treated appropriately and promptly.

Ellen let the silence linger for… perhaps five seconds or so before the compulsion to fill the silence took precedence. “Abi,” Ellen said, pausing for a moment as she realized she hadn’t actually planned out anything else to say. “Just because something bad happens a lot...that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t hurt anymore.” She seriously doubted those burns didn’t hurt. The kid looked like a walking disaster. Hell, Ellen wouldn’t be surprised if this whole thing was staged as an intervention for the kid, bringing together the people who… sadly probably knew her the best to try to form some sort of support group. The way she was roped in at the end with an errand was quite a strong piece of evidence towards this current theory, at least.

“What. What?” Abigail looked up, blinking. Her gaze briefly flickered behind herself to the door. “Something bad? Lady, y’ain’t never touched a hot griddle or sommin’? Or uh, got a papercut. Smart ladies like you prob’ly get papercuts all the time, right?” Even with the burnt hand, she gesticulated a lot with her hands and fingers - the scaly skin stretching and wrinkling with each movement. “First time you had one probably scared the bejesus outta’ you, pain like nothing else. But now it’s…well, it’s just annoyin’. ‘Ah Jeez, I got another papercut’ kinda annoyin’. And it don’t affect my movement or nothin’ so I ain’t that worried about it.” She shrugged.

Papercuts… She thought these burns were like papercuts. Abi wasn’t exactly a master of a poker face, she legitimately didn’t see the problem with her mini-autobiography. Ellen would have snickered at the suggestion of being called a Smart Lady, if not for the fact that everything Abi said was so… absurd. “Abi, I…” Ellen paused, looking around the room. “I can understand that reaction to papercuts, or bruises on your shin from hitting a coffee table that you could have sworn was not in that spot yesterday. But I don’t think those...kinds of burns are anything like papercuts. And the fact that you are so nonchalant--” Ellen paused, substituting in a word she thought the youth would understand better. “so un-bothered-- Makes me worried for you.”

The concern threw her off. Abigail looked around the room as well, suddenly aware of all the people looking at her - watching her. Her fingers curled up tightly. "Ma'am," she collected herself and levelled her voice, "I ain't sure what kinda life you lived, but my family were salt-of-the-earth Americans. We were proud n' dignified folk but we didn't get much in the way of luxuries, an' hospital bills were out of the question. What you're lookin' at here is a run of the mill, standard procedure injury which - frankly - you can't let get in the way of day to day life." She grabbed the conversation, leaning in. "What concerns me more is why you're so worked up over a lil' burn. If this is how anxious you get over something I ain't able to avoid, what with my power n' all - then I dread to think about how you're gonna handle yourself when one of us gets shot."

"I know you are just trying to turn things around so the focus is off of you, I get it. And I'm happy to talk about myself. But nothing about you seems run of the mill. It isn't just the burns, you look like shit. I mean… come on--" Ellen paused and looked around the room for someone she felt was more 'typical' American. "What about you, Brooks, does her salt-licking/bootstrap-pulling or whatever it is story sound typical to you?" She asked, putting him on the spot whether he liked it or not.

Brooks' eyebrows raised. She leant back a little, stammering out a couple "uhhhs" before gesturing vaguely at Abigail and going "y-yeah. Good kid. Strong girl." The military-esque woman stared him down flatly. Brooks looked back then gestured to the room again with exasperation. She rolled her eyes and folded her arms, Continuing to observe the session.

Ellen looked between Brooks and Abi with shock and annoyance. Was he even listening to the discussion they were having? Ugh. So much for having That support. "Typical aside, I call bullshit on how this is just going to happen because of your powers and you can't get control of it. You didn't read about Jesus turning an entire river to wine and then complaining that he couldn't do anything about it because it was just unavoidable." Ellen retorted. It was a bit of a weird jab, but she hoped that bringing in the big J would help her make her point. Which was currently that Abi needed to get her own shit under control.

“Ok!” Interjected Dr. Cassar, just as soon as he found a gap to push into. “That maybe didn’t go in the direction I thought it would. Look, we all come from different parts of the world and different backgrounds, it’s normal for us to have disagreements about what is and is not normal - and that’s all fine, of course. Ellen, I think perhaps that was quite… accusatory. I don’t like it when people tell me I look like crap, you don’t, nobody does, you know?” He gave Ellen a slightly pointed look. “Abi, it can also be true that something that is very normal for us still isn’t good for us, you know what I mean? Like hospital bills, for example - where I come from, there is no such thing as a hospital bill. If you need to see a doctor, you just make an appointment, so that when you do get a nasty burn, you don’t have to risk it getting an infection or something nasty like that.” Cassar continued, weighing up each of the metaphorical options in each hand, and carefully trying to avoid sounding too critical.

He turned and frowned at Brooks.

“And you… don’t talk a lot.”

A moment passed in an awkward silence - an awkward silence that was, in fact, the direct descendant of the first one, a sort of newborn first-kid awkward silence of the original.

“What was your normal like? Obviously Abi has told us a bit about her life before all this stress happened, would you be willing to talk about yours too?” Cassar eventually asked, turning back towards Ellen.

Ellen wasn’t thrilled when Dr. Cassar suggested she was being a bit confrontational. It was true, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. Still, she let him finish, and was overall pleased with how Cassar described how different normal could look to different people. She probably should have gone with something more like that, but…. Being tactful often came with thinking about your words before you said them, and Ellen wasn’t terribly good at that.

After Cassar finished addressing Abi and Brooks, he turned back to Ellen, asking if she was willing to talk about her life before all of this. “Sure.” Ellen replied. “I was raised in Milano, Italy.” She added for the benefit of Abi. She nearly remarked that it was the boot-shaped one for the youth’s benefit, but managed to restrain herself. “We vacationed frequently, but never the whole family. My mother or father, one of them was always busy with work while the other took us out. Me and my twin sister, Chiara.

“I did a lot of sports, competitive skiing, fencing, rugby, whatever I could get into, really. In 2016, my sister and I were in university and she awakened. They never found her body. After that, it was really hard to stay home. People would see me do a double-take. And my parents… I couldn’t keep going through the motions and pretending it was all just going to be normal-feeling again one day. I eventually left home, traveled for a while, and picked up odd jobs here or there. I sort of… always had a feeling that I might be affected one day, so I think I was just biding my time until then. The last few years I spent working on an Alaskan King Crab Fishing vessel. It’s dangerous work, but I made good money and had a lot of free time in the off-season.” Ellen felt like it was pretty on-point. She didn’t go into much detail about anything in particular, and she certainly didn’t seem to be talking about the same “normal upbringing" that Abi discussed.

“So yea, that’s about it from the before, I guess.”
The chapel was… literally the worst attempt she had ever seen at a prayer space. Granted, Ellen hadn’t spent that much time looking for chapels over the last few years. She saw Brooks, Billy, and Zephyr there, as well as the woman who broke up the fight, another man that she recognized, but probably only from seeing him in passing.

The newcomer stood up, introducing himself with a name and an accent that sounded… Sicilian, perhaps?

Ellen introduced herself after Zephyr, which wasn’t at all a veiled attempt to take the currently open seat next to the most attractive man in the room. She reached out and shook Cassar’s hand. “I’m Ellen.” She introduced herself. “Nice to meet you. So what kind of doctor are you?” Ellen asked.

Dr. Cassar’s smile broadened at the question.

“I am an ophthalmologist. An eye doctor, that is. Not what you might expect, perhaps, but we all do the best we can with what we are given.”

“I’m just glad you aren’t a therapist.” Ellen grinned. She definitely got the vibe when coming in that this was some sort of intervention. “And besides, now I know who to bother when I need my brainy specks fixed.” Ellen wasn’t wearing her contacts today. She had been trying to save them for when she was on missions and the glasses were the most likely to get damaged/get in the way.

After the brief introduction, Ellen moved to the conveniently open seat next to Zephyr.
The rest of the mission passed without much of consequence. The professionals or at least the folks who were more experienced, took care of acquiring the actual medical supplies, and anything else they felt was of value. Then they made their way back to the rendezvous point for their return to Goodnight. Everyone was pretty quiet during the debrief. They were thanked for getting the supplies, and Angie’s work with Peter was enough to keep him alive.

Ellen went to visit him a few days later. It wasn’t like a normal hospital visit, where she would have brought a card or balloons, or flowers that would die a short while later. But she brought her sense of humor and a granola bar she had won in a card game, which was better in her opinion.

Even in the rundown makeshift ‘hospital’ area they had set up, Peter looked a lot better here than he had the last time she saw him. “Hey, Peter..right?” There weren’t chairs next to each of the beds, but she grabbed a folding one on her way over and opened it up before sitting down.

“You are looking a lot less pale now. And I prefer the look with blood on the inside.” She grinned. “How are you holding up?”

She liked to think he was better with a little company, especially after losing people in the Outback. Hell, they had all lost people. “You gotta keep getting better, so you can tell me about that one weird night, like you promised.” She teased. “But for now, I think you’d probably traumatize some folks.” She said a bit more softly.

The pair conversed for a short while longer. Ellen confirmed that her group made it back without any casualties and were able to recover the coolbox. She didn’t have any answers for him about exactly why or how these guys had found out about the drop. Ellen asked him if he had plans to stick around. She knew some people without magic could go back to their lives as if none of this had ever happened, but she wasn’t sure how much Peter really had to go back to. Either way, she wished him luck and a speedy recovery.

It was a nice conversation. People in Goodnight were getting so… worked up and stressed out. It was like a powder keg, if the powder keg was in a building with fireworks and cartoon crates of nitro. Everyone was hungry. Everyone felt trapped. Everyone was missing their creature comforts from home. Ellen felt like she was coping better than most. On the boats, there were times when they didn’t pack enough food, or something spoiled, and everyone ended up rationing a bit more than they wanted. She was also used to people getting tense and explosive when they weren’t sleeping well and couldn’t get a moment of peace or tranquility. And Ellen didn’t really have a home to miss.

Like most others, Ellen missed before she awakened. When she knew it was coming but was still able to do whatever the fuck she wanted. She could go places, do things, meet people… she took those parts for granted.

Ellen caught up with Hans one afternoon, telling him she wanted lessons with a handgun. She knew ammo was sparse, but before he could protest, she was justifying to him why she thought it was a good idea. “These situations aren’t going to get less dangerous. I’ve already shown I’m willing to use one if it is needed. And there are others who aren’t. There is no point in pretending we live in a world where it won’t be necessary to use a weapon...and my magic isn’t great unless we are already like--right next to one another.”

Perhaps she shouldn't have been surprised when Hans didn't have any concerns about teaching her these skills. He suggested simply that they wait until things had cooled off a bit, which was fine by Ellen. She just didn't like the idea of sitting around until the next mission popped up, only to realize she was just as unprepared--albeit a bit more experienced.

A few evenings later, Ellen was sitting with Angie eating their rather meager portions. Ellen was just coming up with another ‘would you rather’ conversation starter for Angie when Billy came over and invited them to come to a sort therapy session to talk about the last job they did. Ellen glanced over at Angie, wondering if Angeline was ready to actually talk. She hadn’t asked the former ballerina yet, and figured the girl would bring it up if she wanted when she was ready.

“I don’t mind.” Ellen said with a shrug, turning back to Billy. She didn’t have anything else going on, and she imagined that even if she wasn’t going to say much for herself, it might be nice and supportive of her friends if she went along, too. “Is Abi there?” That kid had a lot to unpack, and if anyone was hanging out at a makeshift hospital, it was probably her.
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When Ellen reached the campsite, she saw Hans and Mark looking around. She approached Hans, knowing him better of the two, and ‘checked in.’ “Do you have this… all handled, or do you need me to help with something?” Ellen might have been a bit pale in the face, and unenthusiastic about offering to help, and shaking from having shot a man just a few minutes prior, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to be a burden on someone else. Whether it was her appearance, or Hans’ own confidence in his handling, Ellen didn’t know--but in any case, Hans suggested she head back to the van and he would wrap up here.

“Okay. There’s another body over...there, just to let you know.” Ellen pointed back in the direction from whence she came. “I’ll head up to the bus.”

She walked the rest of the way to the van on her own, the gun still heavy in her hand. Between every breath, she vacillated between feeling numb and feeling overwrought with emotion. For some reason, one of the concerns at the forefront of her mind was what the others would think about what she had done. She didn’t even notice the body that was dead or still dying on the ground near the van, preoccupied with her own thoughts.

Ellen paused at the side door, one hand on the handle. The other was still on the gun. The gun with it’s safety off. Ellen took the time to turn the safety back on, and then opened the door and got in, placing it on the seat beside her. She looked at Abi and Angeline, noticing that they...seemed rattled.

“Hey...You guys okay?” She asked.

Angeline was sitting in the van, very pale and her head in her hands, she frankly looked like she was going to be sick and she was covered in dust from being kicked to the floor. “Um-...” How would one even describe what had happened without sounding hysterical. “Well I think we got attacked… But Brooks dealt with it.” she finished, bluntly. To even utter the idea of him being shot might cause her to be sick. “Just trying to forget about it to be honest…” She leaned back, bouncing against the back of the chair, trying to distract herself. Her eyes examined Ellen for a rather long time, a welcome distraction from thinking about the bleeding corpse just outside the van. She stared until a thought came to her mind.

“Is everyone alright? No one got hurt?” Angeline probed, cautiously.

“I understand.” Ellen replied to her initial statement of trying to forget about the whole event. “Everyone looked fine.” She confirmed, knowing that Angeline was asking only about their group, and not about the well-being of the people they had attacked. “Guess you’re off the hook for healing, for now.” Ellen said, grinning lightly.

It was a good thing no one had gotten hurt. Angeline did not look well enough to take care of anyone but herself.

“So….Very Important Question. Would you rather have an extra toe or an extra finger?” Ellen asked. It was a change in subject. Drastic and unimportant. And hopefully exactly what Angeline needed. And who knew, maybe she needed to be distracted, too.

Angeline smoothed down the stray hairs of her ponytail, although after the fiasco of today, most of her hair was stray and had slipped out of the neat style it was at the beginning. She sighed in relief hearing there were no difficulties with anything. “I hope there are still some good supplies in there…” ...Otherwise this would have all been in vain, although she didn’t want to say that part out-loud. Angeline looked up and blinked a couple times at Ellen, making sure she’d heard her correctly. “Um… Odd time to play would you rather but I guess I’d say extra toe? I don’t think I’d be allowed on stage with an extra finger.” The ballet world was cut-throat enough about appearances, an extra finger would have exiled her from all performances for sure.

“What about you? I mean... The benefit of the toe is it’s easier hidden…” Angie speculated.

“You said you were trying to forget about it all…” Ellen mentioned with a shrug. “I don’t know, I mean… Are you going to be able to get shoes to fit an extra toe?” She supposed she could cut it off, but Ellen felt like it was more important to embrace her weirdness, rather than trying to remove that part of her entirely. Hmm...

Ellen glanced over at Abi. That girl seemed like she would cut off an extra appendage. Remove herself from what made her outside of the norm so she could fit in better.

“I think I’d go with an extra finger. I never played piano, but it would be cool to get good at that and play songs that only sound that good because of an extra finger.” Ellen imagined there were ways to make songs like this, but couldn’t think of a cool way to make something special out of an extra toe. “I mean, getting gloves in the winter might be a pain, but at least you still have mittens!” Ellen said brightly.

“You sure you don’t wanna play, Abi?” Ellen asked, looking over at the kid again.

Abi didn’t want to play. No matter, it was just a tool to help them stay distracted, anyway. Ellen asked a few more before Brooks and the others made their way back to the billy bus. She asked if Angeline would rather explore space or the ocean, and then if Angeline would rather eat breakfast food for every meal or dinner food for every meal.

Of those questions, Ellen preferred the idea of exploring the depths of the ocean, and learning what kinds of creatures were there--over going off into space. She was also more comfortable with the ocean and knew of some of its dangers, compared to space. Ellen also answered that she was more of a dinner fan than breakfast, and didn’t usually eat much for breakfast, if she had any at all. She grew up with “breakfast” in Italy, which was perhaps a pastry...certainly not the multiple-platter filled ensemble she knew Americans ate at places like IHOP and Denny’s.

And by what was perhaps some minor miracle, Ellen managed to keep the entire conversation rated G.

The Outback Camp


The first bullet struck him in his right side, piercing his chest and lung - but it seemed as though he barely noticed, apart from a twitch in his arm and a lapse in his stride. The next shot was a miss, from over correcting her aim for her attacker's centre mass, but then he got within fifteen feet of her and a little switch in the back of her mind flipped - the lights didn't go out, but the thought of letting him get any closer dimmed them.

Ellen meant to fire one more shot, hit him in the chest, and conserve her ammo. Consciously, she'd meant to do nothing more than protect herself, do no more damage than absolutely necessary.

Instead she fired three.

One round found its home just above his stomach, one hit him in the dead centre of his chest, and one struck just to the left of his Adam's apple.

He made it a few more stumbling steps, powered mostly by his own inertia, before losing focus and clutching desperately at his wounds, not quite realising that he didn't have - and would never have - enough hands. He wound up face down in the sand, chest heaving against the incredible finality of his injuries, body movements gradually slowing.

It was slower than she expected, not that Ellen had spent a lot of time thinking about how long someone took to die. But when she had told herself that she would be alright with this, she imagined it being a moment--something filled with adrenaline that would pass quickly, and she would process the event later.

Instead, she stood and watched the man fall to the ground, his movements slow. He was dying. There was no way the shots she fired weren’t fatal, but she had expected something much more...instantaneous.

Ellen sunk to the ground a few feet away from the man, painfully aware with each breath she took that the man dying in front of her would not continue to do the same. After about a minute, she straightened, remembering that there were other people around and someone else could be coming her way--or her friends could be dead/dying. She should go and make sure they were okay.

But frankly, what could she do if they were dying? Ellen looked at the man on the ground in front of her, feeling powerless when perhaps she should have felt more powerful than she ever had before. Either her friends were fine and they had been successful, or they were dead and all was lost. Ellen wasn’t quite ready to find out which.

She flicked the safety on, not wanting to be startled into shooting a friend.

And then she flicked it off again, worried that one of the thieves might be the one to stumble upon her.

Ellen needed to know what was going on. She stood up and took a few steps away from the body on the ground. When she looked closely, she could see he was still breathing, barely. He didn’t even have a weapon. Maybe she had made a mistake.

Maybe he had the keys to the caravan. Maybe he had a wallet. Could Goodnight use a credit card for a short while until this guy was reported dead? Could they use cash? Was it heartless of her to wonder? Or was it practical?

Ellen probably should take his wallet and check his pocket for keys at least. She knew she should.

But the act of actually doing it seemed so wrong...and it took another minute for her to muster up the courage. Well… maybe she was just trying to wait to be sure he was fully dead.

Ellen was getting a much better idea of why video games often had the bodies disappear and just the loot remain after combat.

Whether he was in too much pain, or had already slipped beyond the realms of sensibility and consciousness, he put up no resistance to the young woman as she rifled through his pockets. He did indeed have a wallet, containing about $7.50 in cash, along with a debit card reading “Mr Joseph Barrow”, and a couple of old, out of date McDonald’s coupons. He also had ID - full name Joseph Leslie Barrow, age 39 - and an organ donor card, plus a photo tucked behind the little plastic window he’d put the ID card behind.

It was him, though younger, with his arm around another young man that looked a great deal like him - so much like him, in fact, that they were more or less identical.

Like twins.

They were standing in front of some ratty old building that looked like a pub, holding dark brown glass bottles, grinning like absolute idiots - as though they knew they were doing something they weren’t meant to be, and were just daring the world to let them get caught.

On the reverse of the polaroid, written in stunningly neat biro pen, was a little message.

“I know things have been hard, but I want you to never forget that I love you, and that I believe in you. Growing up I knew you could do anything you put your mind to, and I know that still. Please come stay some time, please let me help you, please just let me be your brother, Joe.”

“ - love, Harry.”

As Ellen opened the wallet, her attention shifted to his license. More specifically, his name and his picture. She stared at them for a few moments before noticing the picture of the sibling behind the identification. Ellen could tell instantly that the men were likely twins. She felt a stab in her chest at the thought of tearing someone’s sibling away like hers had been taken from her. Ellen forced herself to read the entire note on the back, feeling like she knew these brothers more than she should. Perhaps it would have been better not to look in the wallet at all. It certainly would have been easier.

Ellen shoved the card and picture back in the wallet, closed it, and brought it with her as she walked away from Joe, towards where her friends were hopefully gathering what they needed from the campsite. She shoved the wallet in a pocket, and carried the gun at her side--finger outside of the trigger guard--unsure exactly who she would encounter there.
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