Shilo's Visit Jan 17, 2020 22:08:55 GMT -5
Post by Nightwisher on Jan 17, 2020 22:08:55 GMT -5
07:00, June 3rd.
“Alright,” Shilo sighed as she walked into the common area of the Team 73 common room. The rest of the Team had gathered, doing various tasks knowing that their Leader’s goodbye was coming. “I’m heading out, before I go-,”
“Can we get a cat?” Vincent’s hazel eyes flicked up from the puzzle he was working on the meet the woman’s. How he managed to do so without flinching at the glare he knew the assassin would throw back at him annoyed her even further. Of course she didn’t want her Co-Leader to be afraid of her, but sometimes she wished he was.
“There’s some fruit in the fridge,” her tone showed the rise in her vexation. “It’s about to go bad so please eat it before that happens, or just throw it out,” she gestured to the fridge for emphasis.
“Hey, Shi?” Vincent asked, sitting back in his chair as he rested the ankle of his right leg atop his left knee. Teal eyes turned to him once more, jaw clenching. “You realize we’re all adults, right? We’re fully capable of taking care of ourselves and don’t need a mama lecture every time you’re leaving?” Shilo’s shoulders slumped a bit and she sighed, tilting her head to the side as she gave him an unamused look.
“Every single time I leave, and give you these little ‘mama lectures’, I come back and you’ve done none of the things that I’ve told you to do.”
“Not true!” Carmen jumped in. She was laying on her stomach on the floor, her legs kicking back and forth, some blueprint for one of her contraptions in front of her. “That one time you went to Russia, you came home and we’d cleaned the entire base.”
“And wrapped my room in tin foil,” Shilo shot back. Carmen, Vincent, and Xander laughed. “And the only reason the base was clean was because Quincy, Nara, and Arte were sick of the smell.”
“That smell was a very important experiment,” Xander responded defensively.
“We have the world’s top chemist and biologist at your disposal. If you want to know how quickly mold grows on different foods, *ask*.”
“They did,” Eric flipped the page of the book he was reading without looking up. “I told them to find out for themselves.” Shilo closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“I’m leaving. Fruit in the fridge. Eat it.” With that, Shilo headed for the door, deciding to drop all the other orders she was going to give the Team to complete in her absence.
“Wait, wait,” Nara spoke up, sounding slightly frantic. The assassin turned to face the hacker, eyes wide in surprise. “Where’s the fruit?”
Without another word, Shilo left a room full of laughing morons.
22:00, June 4th.
The trip from the Team 73 American Base to her destination had been long, but she’d made it without issue. Deep in the Big Horn mountains, miles away from any path a hiker would choose to take, stood a two story cabin built like a fairy tale. Ivy draped over the stone walls; grass, weeds, and wild flowers grew, untamed by the small family that had once taken up residence here. Before she entered the building in front of her, Shilo made her way to the back to kick on the generators; hoping as she always did that the year of standing idle hadn’t rendered them useless. With luck, it hadn’t. She drudged back through the mess of plant life, toward the front of the building and with a sigh, she pushed open the cabin door. Cobwebs, dust, and the musky smell of the unused living space surrounded the woman in a fog of old memories. “Home, sweet home,” she muttered to herself as she flicked on the lights of the front room. It took a moment, and a bit of flickering, but eventually they came to life.
First thing first, Shilo grabbed the bucket of cleaning supplies that she always left in the kitchen. She started with the front room, removing the white sheets that covered the furniture and throwing them in the washing machine before she took the time to wipe down all of the surfaces and remove all of the cobwebs. The front room was rather spacious, taking up more than half of the main floor’s entire area. It was divided in half, with the living room to the left and a platform on the right. The stairs that led to the second floor connected to the platform, but Shilo ignored that part of the room for now. On the left side of the room, a fireplace was built into the far left wall, two couches and three chairs took up quite a bit of the floor space, and a large Persian rug topped with a mahogany coffee table tied everything together nicely. Her mother had always been so pleased with the look of the room, how the couches matched the small stones that made up the walls. A painting used to hang above the fireplace, the original Dance in the City by Renoir. Her father had bought it for an unbelievable amount of money, pulling a few strings and replacing it at Musée d’Orsay with a compelling replica. Though, when Shilo had joined Team 73, she’d replaced the replica with the original. It had been her mother’s favorite and the assassin couldn’t have just let it decay in the old cabin.
The two gray couches and two matching chairs still remained in decent shape, though a bit faded with time. The smallest of the chairs was a now faded pink. It had been a present on Shilo’s fourth birthday -- “a chair just like your’s and Papa’s.” The woman’s teal gaze turned to the chair on the right; her mother’s. In the days after Caoimhe’s death, Shilo used to sneak out of her bed and curl up in it, breathing in the scent of her perfume that had still been soaked into the fabric, though the smell was long gone now. It had been the last true moments of grieving Borys had allowed her. As Shilo vacuumed the rug, memories of her mother and her father lounging on the couch in each other’s arms as she read through her books, or drew her pictures played through her mind. Borys would always be laying on his back, Caoimhe resting her head on his chest as she lay on her stomach or side. Shilo lay on the carpet near them, one of her mother’s hands dangling from the couch to play with Shilo’s hair. Sometimes, Caoimhe would hum, sometimes Borys would recite her favorite poetry, and other times it would just be silent as the family enjoyed the perfect moments together.
With the dusting done, and the floor mopped, Shilo made her way through the rest of the house, giving each room the same amount of attention and care as she had the first half of the front room. Throughout her time in the rooms, memories rushed through her mind. The smell of her mother’s cooking, always a little burnt, as she spent more time dancing across the tiled floor with Shilo in her arms. The dining room, where Borys would tell stories about his travels over meals, eyes twinkling as Shilo hung on every word of his adventures and hoping to someday go on a few of her own. Her father’s study, still filled with books that she had read throughout her life and crystal bottles brimming with expensive alcohol. The memory of losing the sight in her left eye.
Up stairs were the bedrooms. Just as dusty as the rest of the house. Her mother and she used to build forts out of blankets and pillows, curl up together as they waited for Borys to return from his missions. Once he’d come home and pulled the roof of the fort to reveal the two raven haired females, startling them awake in the early hours of the morning, before the sun had even risin. The shock had turned the joy the moment they realized who it was, and the beaming smile from him as he wrapped his arms around both of them and held them close. That had been the night her parents told her she was going to be a big sister.
Her own room didn’t hold the same memories, as she’d spent far more time sleeping with her mother while her father was traveling. Though, the paintings on the walls that her mother had done before Shilo had even been born were a comforting sight. They were terrible and always managed to bring a smile to the assassin’s face. Her mother may have been a fine musician, but an artist she was not.
With the rest of the house cleaned, Shilo finally turned her attention to the right side of the front room. She always worked on this part last. Resting atop the platform was a black grand piano with gold and silver vine patterns carefully embedded into the wood. Borys hadn’t wanted paint but actual precious metals to don the instrument. An anniversary gift that her mother had loved above all other material objects he gave her. It was always the first thing she’d do in the morning; sit at the piano and play, filling the cabin with all different types of music. It had taken years of Borys to finally allow Shilo to pick up her lessons again, but eventually he had. The music had never sounded the same coming from herself as it had her mother. Shilo took extra care cleaning the instrument, taking the time to tune it and make sure the bench was correctly adjusted. It never actually shifted, but it felt wrong not to at least try.
With the final job done, the woman stepped back, looking down at the watch she so rarely wore to check the time. 15:37 PM, June 5th. She’d not slept for two days, with the travel and cleaning, but she didn’t really feel like she could. Nonetheless, the assassin made her way to her old bedroom and lay down. Despite the fact that she didn’t feel tired, Shilo fell asleep almost immediately.
05:00, June 6th.
Shilo woke up at her usual time, feeling groggy and overly rested. She pushed herself up to a sitting position and ran a hand through her hair. The woman sat in the bed for a few minutes, trying to fully wake up before actually starting her day. Eventually she had to give up on the fight and got to her feet to hop into the shower. She took her time, letting the water wash away any traces of the trip, the cleaning session, and her thirteen hours of sleep.
Once out of the shower, the woman pulled a pair of jean shorts, a basic button up shirt, and a pair of tennis shoes from her bag. She slipped the clothes on, not bothering to button her shirt up, similar to how she used to wear it when she was younger, allowing her scars to remain completely visible. She pulled her hair back into a long, damp ponytail and made her way downstairs. Her hand rested on the bannister as she hesitated at the bottom, her gaze on the piano. Shilo always played it, she always would, but every year she hesitated to start. After a few seconds, she finally took a seat on the piano bench and lifted her hands and gently rested them atop the keys as she decided which piece to play. It only took her a few seconds, as the song had been playing in her mind all of yesterday.
Just as when her mother had been alive, the cabin echoed with music. Though, even to this day, the assassin was unable to give it the same life. Nonetheless, she played on, her body rocking gently to the music as her hands danced across the ivory keys.
With the song still ringing through her mind, Shilo stood and pushed the bench back into place before heading to the kitchen to make herself breakfast and pack herself lunch for the hike. She hummed gently to herself, a small smile on her lips as another memory flashed through her mind.
“Ah, Storeen,” Caoimhe would say, her Northern Irish accent forming the words in a way Shilo dearly missed. “You’re too much like ya’ da, sometimes,” she had laughed then, shaking her head. “Reading ya’ books instead of dancing with me.” Five year old Shilo had looked up, exasperated with her mother’s childish.
“Papa told me I had to finish it by the time he got back,”
“If ya’ don’t, I’ll tell him it’s my fault, now come here. How am I supposed to enjoy cooking if I have to dance alone?” A playful pout painted her mother’s expression, prompting the girl out of her seat and into the other’s arms. They’d grasped hands, Caoimhe too close to giving birth to pick up her daughter, and spun around the room, singing until the food was just burnt enough to smell and forced Caoimhe back to the stove while Shilo giggled at her mother’s frantic cursing.
Shilo tossed her lunch into her bag and shouldered it as she headed out of the cabin for the eight mile hike. The forest smelled like fresh mulch as the morning dew still hung in the air. Despite the beauty of the mountains, or the fact that Shilo knew these woods better than anyone else, walking through them was all but peaceful. It had been nearly five full years since she’d last been chased through them, but even now it felt like the pressure of being followed was pushing her forward faster and harder than a mild hike should have been. Nonetheless, she remained as calm as possible, stepping steadily as if her mind wasn’t a rushing stream of memories filled with fear, blood, and pain.
As Shilo neared the end of her hike and approached the small clearing filled with wildflowers, all of the memories of the forest washed away. Two trees stood at the center of the clearing, much younger than the rest that surrounded them at the outskirts. Sixteen years old, to be exact.
“Hey, Mamai. Hey, James.” Shilo’s voice cut into the silence of the forest as she sat down in front of the trees, crossing her legs. “I can’t believe it’s only been a year. It feels so much longer. You’re not going to believe half the shit I have to tell you.” She pulled a water bottle from her bag, taking a long swig. The embellishment was most likely not true. Compared to a lot of the things she’d told her mom and brother over the past years, this year hadn’t been nearly as eventful. Nonetheless, it was nice to imagine their faces lighting up at the ideas of what she had to tell them.
“Vincent is still Vincent. He’s doing well though. I think he’s still not quite over Thea, but he’s getting there. Pretty sure he’s worried about me, but I’ll get into all of that later,” she chuckled, shaking her head. “He got to visit his dad about two months after I visited you last. He said he almost ran into his family. Nearly walked right up to the grave without realizing they were all there. I could tell it hurt, but I’m glad he got to see them. See that they were alive and doing well enough. He found pictures of them and showed everyone. Victoria is twenty-six now, has two kids of her own, Vincent and Henry. She looks like she’s doing really great, happy. Bianca’s twenty-three, about to finish grad school. Vince said she’s getting her masters in Marine Biology and looking into getting her Ph.D. He’s proud,” a bright smile danced across Shilo’s lips as she relayed the information of her best friend’s family onto her mother.
“Lacy’s nineteen, which is crazy. A sophomore in college, theater major. She was the lead in Cabaret, a true Liza Minnelli, according to what Vince read. And Anthony is sixteen. Apparently he looks just like Vince’s dad, like, spitting image,” she looked down at her hands for a moment. Shilo had looked incredibly like Caoimhe before her father had scarred her face. “He misses them, but he says he still doesn’t regret joining the Team. He knows that they’d be proud that he’s making sure the world is a better place. He’s right, I know they would be, but it’s still hard to watch him miss them. I don’t know how he does it, but I guess that’s the beauty of Vince, huh?” She let out a gentle sigh as she thought about her best friend and just how strong he was. Vincent was a pillar of support that she’d always needed in her life and was more than happy to have now.
“Oh, Xander got himself a girlfriend. Her name’s Alex. She’s pretty cool, but doesn’t really...get it. She’s had a pretty rough life, apparently. She’s kind of jumpy and has really hard opinions on things she doesn’t find fair. Which, I get, but she’s...emotional. I don’t know, I’m sure I can be too sometimes but it’s weird watching someone who should get the Code so upset about it. She reminds me a lot of me before the Team. Honestly, that’s probably what bugs me about her,” Shilo pulled her ponytail over her shoulder and started running her fingers through it to get rid of what knots there were. “Hopefully Xander will be able to provide some comfort and help her get a little more steady before the inevitable break up. Unless-.” Shilo took a deep, steadying breath. “Mom, do you think Xander would actually leave the Team if he fell in love with someone again? He left Aixa for the Team, and he wanted to marry her. I don’t want to have to kill him.” The assassin trailed off, thinking about the possibility of it for a moment before she continued.
“But yeah, Xander’s good. Carmen too, who also got herself a boyfriend. Or, something? He’s like way older, like *way* older. He’s also apart of a different kind of group. They’re the good guys, at least, but if Carmen happens to go head over heels, the hardest part is going to be convincing them to actually let us follow through with our Code. I know what you’d say: that the Code’s stupid and we should just change it. But it saves more lives that it ruins… in theory.” A few years ago, Shilo had quite a few moments where she had to think about the Code in a different way. Now, with so many of the group finding people that they liked, it was making her reevaluate it all over again. She was glad to know that she was willing to do so for the entire Team and not just herself. It helped her realize how much she truly cared for them all. “It would be kind of ironic if the Team fell apart because they all fell in love,” a hard chuckle escaped Shilo’s throat as a feeling of helplessness washed over her. Losing the Team...losing any member of the Team to something like that just seemed ridiculous. They had each other, did they really need anyone else? Shilo’s mind went to Combeferre, the other Paradox House residents that she hadn’t seen since she was nineteen, then she closed her eyes and forced the thoughts away. It had been two years without them now and she hadn’t gotten over the pit in her stomach any time she thought of him -- of them. She understood, more so than she’d ever voiced, how Vincent felt when he let Thea go, how Xander felt when he disappeared from Aixa’s life.
“Eric is doing as well as ever,” the woman continued, clearing her throat of the lump she felt rising. “He’s still working on creating better policy to push the STEM field forward, but as always there are issues. His charities are doing better than ever, which he’s happy about. Oh, and the other day he made a breakthrough on neuro-pathways and how the brain stores memories. He says that, in theory, he’d be able to create a false memory and directly plant it in someone’s mind. They wouldn’t be able to feel a thing, completely harmless. Well, depending on what the memory is. But, the idea is, he’d also be able to remove certain memories as well. Just, completely erased. Eric wants to map it out a bit more before starting trials, if he actually wants to start trials. He’s like that, you know? He has a break through like this but he’d rather keep it to theories instead of possibly harming someone.” Shilo shrugged. “We’ll see, though. Quincy may want to take it further. Speaking of Quincy, his stutter is getting a bit better. Nara’s been helping him out with it. It helps that she’s basically everything he’s scared of, but the sweetest person in the world. He went to go visit Jamie about eight months ago. He hasn’t done that since he joined the Team, but he finally did it. It’s been seventeen years since she died, he still wears her scarf everywhere he goes.” Shilo put a hand to the black silk ribbon around her neck.
“Nara’s been slaving away over her computers the last few months. We have a ton more databases to sort through now, it’s crazy. The Team would be absolutely lost without her. She’s doing great though, really come out of her shell the past couple years. Remember when I first met her and I told you she would barely talk to me? It’s harder to get her to stop now,” Shilo chuckled as she pulled her hair out of its ponytail and draped it over her shoulder, keeping it from her face altogether. “I mean, she talks more with Carmen, which I get. But she goes on and on about how everything--. Oh! She told me the other day that your name looks like a raspberry red. She thought you’d enjoy it. James, your name is blue, apparently,” Shilo flicked her gaze to the tree on the left. “I don’t know how you feel about that, but Mamai’s favorite color is red. But yeah, Nara’s the MVP of the Team right now,” her gaze flicked back to the tree on the right.
“Artemis is still a little diva. I don’t think she’ll ever grow out of it. But, she’s more fun to have around now. I had to go on a mission a couple weeks ago, it went to shit. That’s beside the point though. Overall, she’s just...happy to be with her brother I think. Like, she’s great, don’t get me wrong, and the Team loves her. But I think she feels left out a lot of the time. I know I told you that last year too, and the year before...I guess it just sucks that she hasn’t gotten over that yet. We wouldn’t put up with all of her shit if she wasn’t a valuable part of the Team, after all.” Shilo bit into her lip, mulling the thought over for a few moments, pulling her lunch from her bag. As the assassin ate, she continued telling her mother and brother about the different things that had happened with her and the Team throughout the last year. Jokes that they’d told each other that stood out, fights that they’d had, missions they’d completed. Time flew by as she relayed all of the stories she’d been waiting an entire year to tell. Then, she finally came to the topic she’d been holding off.
“I still haven’t been back to the House.” Shilo looked down at her hands as if she couldn’t meet the eyes that she imagined were looking at her.. “I still think about them every day. How they probably still think I’m dead,” a forced chuckled followed by the assassin sniffling at the idea. She remembered what it was like to lose someone in the House, how there was always that hope that they’d come back. There was some solace on the fact that her letters had stayed behind but that probably just made everyone believe she was dead even more than the stab wound would have. “I know I say this every year, but it’s not fair. Nothing’s been fair. Losing you two, Papa… I-,” she cleared her throat. “I know he did what he did to get me ready, and I’m thankful -- I never want to appear like I’m not, I promise. But it wasn’t easy, it still isn’t.” She ran her left hand up and down her right arm as she thought about how hard it still was to get physically close to anyone. It had gotten a little bit better, but just barely. “But I miss them. I have their mementos, but sometimes that really isn’t enough. Just like it’s never been enough for you. I can’t remember the sounds of their voices anymore.” Her voice trailed away as she let the realization of that sink in. It was the first time she’d allowed herself to really think on that fact.
The woman looked up at the sky, closing her eyes and letting more realizations wash over her. Even if she did ever make it back to the House, there was no promise she’d see everyone again. If everyone was still there, they weren’t going to be the same as when she’d left. There’s a possibility that the House had even skewed their memories of her and turned her into some kind of enemy. Shilo lay back in the grass, letting her mind run wild with thoughts of the House and the friends she’d left behind. And with that, the world fell away.
How much time had passed, she didn’t know. Actually, she knew exactly -- none. Her eyes snapped open and she pushed herself up to a sitting position, a wide grin crossing her face. “I went back!” she exclaimed, tears starting to prick at the corners of her eyes. “I-I…” her hands were shaking. “I saw Arlo. I got to see Arlo. She’s older. I…” a shuttering breath left her throat as she tried to steady herself and the emotions that were running through her body. “I might be able to see him again,” it was little more than a whisper, and the words felt like glass because she knew that there was a possibility that she wouldn’t. But the ‘what ifs’ were flooding through her mind.
Shilo sat there, relaying as many of those ‘what ifs’ to her mother and her brother until the sun started to set over the treeline. This day always went by much faster than Shilo was willing to let it. “I have to go,” she murmured, reluctant to leave. But, that’s been my year.” The assassin pushed herself up to her feet and shouldered her pack. “I’ll see you next year, Mamai,” Shilo stepped forward, pressing a hand to the bark of the tree for a moment. “You too, James, keep her safe while I’m gone.” She pressed a hand to her brother’s tree as well before taking a step back and making her way down the mountain.
20:00 June 8th.
When Shilo returned to the base her Team was nowhere to be found. She assumed they were off training, or off doing whatever they Hell they did together. Either way, Shilo was too tired to care at the moment. She tossed her bag into her room before heading to the kitchen to grab herself some food. The Team 73 Leader opened the door to the fridge and froze for a moment. Not only at her Team failed to eat or throw out the fruit that she’d explicitly asked them to get rid of, they’d filled the damn fridge with fruit instead. Grabbing a container of fresh raspberries, Shilo closed the door and headed back to her room, muttering something about ‘mama lectures’ under her breath.