“How long did you all know my brother?”
<SLC> Pioneer Park
The sun has set some time past, and though there is some gathering unrest not too far from here, this park itself is fairly quiet just at the moment. It's cool and cloudy and for the most part the only people still scattered through the park live here, camped out in the shade of the old trees with their belongings.
The playground is currently pretty deserted -- no children in evidence, at least, though there are a few figures not -- actually particularly using the equipment with much enthusiasm. Away from cameras and bright stage lights, Ryan makes a much less glamorous figure, today. His outfit is toned way -- way down from his usual glitz, just well-tailored slim-fit black jeans and a vertically striped black and white button down, a dark silvery-sheened denim jacket over top, chunky heeled black and silver boots, no makeup, a facemask covering his mouth and nose that's been printed with a tesselation of bird feathers in bi pride colors. He's sitting on the edge of a tire swing, hands gripping at its chains, heels dug into the squishy rubberized flooring below without bothering to swing the seating.
The soft sound of heels on the path announce the woman’s arrival in the quiet night. Lily pauses just outside the playground boundaries, staring for a moment at the figures loitering there. Her hands tighten around the leather strap of her crossbody purse, pulling close into her chest for just a moment. No labcoat on like in her Twitter profile picture- instead Lily is wearing a loose black turtleneck and slightly wrinkled skinny jeans, paired with a blue beanie and maroon face mask. Her eyes seem slightly bloodshot in what light there is.
It’s only a moment she stands there; paused, before stepping up onto the foam platform and joining them from a safe six feet back. “I’m Lily Allred,” she says to break the quiet. “How long did you all know my brother?”
Shane has been perched atop the high bar of the swingset -- in the dusk, dim light, at a distance, the diminutive figure does seem half as if he might in fact be An Children himself, though the crisp tailoring of his grey linen vest and slacks, button-down, impeccably tied tie, doesn't seem particularly childlike at all. Despite the height of his perch there's an easy grace to it when he drops down as the figure approaches; it's far easier to see, then, the odd demonic lines of his face, the webbed clawed hand he curls above Ryan's on the swingset chain. Small blessing, at least, that some of his expression is obscured behind a plain black facemask tied behind his head.
"You're --" That's as far as he gets before his breath catches, his solid-black eyes opening to improbably large pools that dominate his narrow face. There's a soft scratchy whispering noise, the sharp gills along his neck fluttering rapidly against his starched collar. "Oh my god," is soft and breathier, clear inner eyelids flicking sideways shut. The swing sways as his weight sags heavily in against Ryan's.
The third member of Ryan's little entourage has remained quiet and unobtrusive, leaning casually against the frame of the swing set. Alma sports a black tailored jacket and slacks that fit her curves rather than disguise them, likewise the blue vest and white dress shirt beneath. Where the flaps of her jacket fall open a careful observer might glimpse the harness that holds two rows of throwing knives neatly tucked into fabric sheaths. Her dress boots are polished to a shine, and her kippah and mask are coordinated, both with black flaming Hebrew text that read "tzedek tzedek tirdof" on a blue field. She bows her head when Lily speaks. "I'm very sorry for your loss," she replies, quiet and even. "May his memory be for a blessing."
Ryan sits up straighter as Lily approaches. He's starting to draw in a breath, but she breaks the silence first; his eyes go wider, shooting reflexively to Shane. His arm curls out, snaking around the smaller man's shoulders. "-- Oh," is all he manages, at first, faltering. "I'm so sorry." His mask billows out with a heavy breath, his eyes turning down. "It's been --" He shakes his head, looking quickly up to Shane again. He swallows, shakes his head again. "I'm so sorry, I just -- this is real unexpected, yeah? I had the impression that y'all hadn't --" He trails off, shifting slightly uncomfortably on the edge of the tire.
Lily’s eyes, puffy as they are, still have a little room to go wide when Shane seems to lose balance. One heel lifts, like maybe she is going to go to him, then falls back down where it was. “Thank you,” she says, her tone firm and slightly cold, giving Alma a small nod. Behind her mask, Lily’s lips push together for a moment. “‘We hadn’t’ is a good way to put it. I hadn’t talked to him in over a decade.” She pauses, then adds, “I thought he must have died a long time ago. So yes, this is all unexpected.”
Shane leans heavily into Ryan's side, his gills fluttering for a moment longer before he straightens. He still clings hard to the swing, his enormous eyes fixated on Lily. "I met him -- over a decade ago. I was just a kid, we were -- locked up together. I was separated from my twin then, too. He kind of kept me going when --" His hand squeezes harder at the chain. "Fuck. He talked about you all the time, back then. How..." He swallows, head shaking hard.
"He saved my life," Alma says flatly. She hasn't moved from her spot. "Ryan, did, too. They saved a lot of lives." Her dark eyes search Lily, her expression unreadable. "What made you think he was dead? If that isn't too painful to discuss, right now?"
"Oh." This is just a little bit flatter; it comes on a brief but intense ripple of disquiet as Ryan's eyes turn up toward the darkened sky. "So you haven't -- right." He drops his hands to his lap, the tire swing teetering. His eyes turn back to Lily.
"A lot of people are saying a lot of things right now. If it had been that long since you --" His fingers curl down hard against his legs. "He risked his life so many times. Whatever you hear in the next few weeks -- there probably won't be many people outside our community letting you know. There are hundreds of people alive today because he risked his life to save them."
Something shifts in Lily’s stance when Shane speaks, tension in her back disappearing and making her seems a little smaller. ”Locked up,” she repeats softly. “I’m sorry.”
She slides her eyes over to Alma, meeting the other woman’s gaze. “I couldn’t find him. He never found me. After a while, the only way that made sense was if he was gone.” Her eyes are dry, but there is pain behind the expression when she looks back to Ryan. “Hundreds?”
"The only way --" Shane's eyes have gone wide again, huge black pools in his elfin face. "We were children. Do you have any idea what that's -- we were kids and our families left us in cages to be cut open and killed. He was just a fucking kid getting vivisected and maybe he should have found you but instead he found so many of us who actually wanted --"
He snaps his mouth shut, eyes squeezing closed as tears slide down his cheeks to soak into the mask. "I'm sorry," tumbles out just as swiftly, "I'm sorry, fuck, you were also just a -- fuck, I don't -- I'm sorry, I don't know what I'd fucking do if I lost -- shit. I'm so sorry."
"Hundreds," Alma repeats emphatically. Her gaze drops away, then slides aside to Shane. "You couldn't have known, about the labs." Her voice isn't so steady now. "A lot of our families never understood. Some never believed us, even after we were rescued."
"Shane --" Ryan's voice is quiet; not entirely steady, either. His hand reaches back for Shane's shoulder, touching there lightly and then dropping. He nods at Alma's words; it takes a moment before his eyes drag back to Lily. "There are so many people who won't listen or won't believe just how widespread an issue it is. A lot of mutant kids --" The tension that passes through his frame is there and gone quickly. "Dawson saved so many lives. Even before becoming a doctor."
Lily’s face drains of colour as Shane lays into her, swaying slightly as her hands close again around the strap of her purse. It isn’t until Alma’s reassurance comes that Lily seems steady on her feet again. “I’m sorry too,” she says, her voice wavering slightly. It’s not clear who she is apologizing to. After a moment, she reaches into her purse, pulls out a sealed travel pack of tissues, and holds it out to Shane, breaking the six feet boundary she had been maintaining by stepping forward. “I wish I knew the Dawson you knew.”
"Sorry," Shane whispers, head dipping as he reaches to take the pack of tissues from Lily. "Thank you." He plucks one tissue carefully from the pack with his claws, dabbing at his face. "I wish you did, too. He was amazing. I --" His breath hitches as he balls the tissue into his fist. "There'll be a funeral. It's -- I don't know if you want -- but a lot of people loved him. You might learn -- at least a little. Who he was." His head tips up, eyes meeting Lily's. "And he did. Always want to find you again."
Alma shakes her head hard. "I'm so sorry you'll never get the chance, but..." She glances at Ryan, then away. "In a way, every life he saved is his legacy. At least...I'd like to think of it that way. And I know a lot of us will be there. For the funeral -- for him. Whether for love or..." She swallows. "...for respect. Or for each other." Her eyes skip back to Ryan and Shane.
"I'm sorry. I wish you'd had the chance." Ryan gets up from the tire swing, adjusting one of the straps on his mask. "The vigil will be starting soon, we should --" His arms cross tight across his chest. "We'll be heading back to New York in the morning. Funeral arrangements aren't set yet but -- if you do want to come when we..." His head bows, weight shifting slightly. "I don't know your situation. I don't want to presume, but I can make sure there's a ticket, and a place for you stay."
Lily’s hand stays out for a moment after the tissues have been taken, eventually dropping back to her side. The words from each side wash over her- it’s not clear if she is processing what is being said until Ryan mentions New York. Her eyes don’t lift from Shane, but she nods slowly. “I- yeah, that would- yes. I would like that. To go to the funeral. Thank you.” Her voice catches in her throat. Another beat, and she steps in, reaching for Shane again, arms hesitantly open - “May I...” she trails off, squeezing her eyes shut as they grow damp.
Shane's breath hitches, too. His fists ease up on their tight grip on the tissues. He blinks just once on a fresh fall of tears, then peels himself away from the swing, stepping into Lily's outstretched arms.