Aldrich finds Lyn, and learns what happened down on Picon, and back on Aquaria.
Location: Chapel -- Vanguard
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 1151
Lyn is in the chapel, near the little shrine to Artemis, the Huntress. She lights a candle with an unsteady hand. She looks exhausted and shaken up. She's in her off-duty tans, with the jacket tied around her waist, as she bows her head to ask for guidance from the goddess she has always seen as her patron.
Aldrich has been searching around for Lyn, without much success. It figures that the moment he stops looking, he would find her. He appears in the entrance, and stops when he spots her, but lingers for a moment, staying back and silent so as to not interrupt her prayers.
Lyn finishes her prayers and lets out a long, slow breath before turning around. She freezes when she sees Aldrich there, and color rises to her cheeks. She moves her eyes to anything else, hey look! A statue!
Aldrich gives a little bit of a smile when Lyn finishes, though it has a decidedly worried cast. He glances away when she does, hesitates, but then starts to walk over. In fact, unless she totally runs away or something, he walks straight up to her and tries to pull her into a hug, without even a word of greeting.
Lyn doesn't run away, and as a result, she gets pulled into a hug. She doesn't seem to know how to react to it, or she's afraid to, as she's stiff as a board for a moment or three. Then she softens a little bit, as the exhaustion washes over her. Her arms go around him in return, although they tremble.
Aldrich doesn't pull away until she relaxes, and then he keeps his hands on his shoulders as he looks into her eyes. "Are you okay?" he asks, first. "I heard some of what happened out there..."
Lyn shakes her head a little, having trouble meeting his gaze. "I froze, people got hurt," she says quietly, swallowing hard. "Something happened, my last day on Aquaria. It brought it back. The thing that put me into treatment back then. The thing that wakes me up in the middle of the night."
"I heard," Aldrich confirms, gently. It doesn't seem to make him any less concerned for her. "Do you want to sit down? We can talk about it, if you need to..."
Lyn pauses, and then she nods to him. She hasn't told anyone. Not even Kamran Anders, about what really happened her last day down there. But now she knows she needs to tell someone, someone she really trusts.
Aldrich nods a little, and guides Lyn toward one of the pews, where she can sit down. "Hold on a moment," he requests, quietly. Then, he heads back to the entrance, where he can close the door and ensure that they'll have some privacy. Or at least some warning if someone is coming in. Then, he rejoins Lyn, and settles on the pew next to her.
Lyn takes in a breath, and she wrings her hands in her lap as he returns and sits. "You know I spent a week on Aquaria after the fall, trying to find and rescue survivors, but I didn't bring any back," she begins, in a somewhat hollow tone. "That's what the reports say, but it's not entirely accurate. Not everyone I saw when I was down there, was dead when I found them."
Aldrich listens silently, letting Lyn take the time to tell the story at her own pace. After she begins, he reaches over to put a hand on her arm, in what he probably hopes is a comforting gesture. "What happened to them?" he asks, quietly.
"The last day, I was in Akranes, and I buried the dead I'd found in a grocery store. Then I headed to the extraction point, which was in a park that had been bombed out in the initial strike," Lyn says quietly. Her eyes take on a faraway look, as she focuses inward, on memory. "I made it to the neighborhood the pickup point was in, and took shelter in inside the doorway of an apartment complex that had stayed mostly intact, hiding from patrols. I heard a baby crying from further inside the building. I went to investigate. I found a mother and her infant hiding in a janitor closet, as she desperately tried to calm the little girl. The baby couldn't have been more than a month or two old."
Lyn’s hands work endlessly in her lap, twining and untwining her fingers. "They'd survived the initial attack, but the Nannybot they'd bought to help with the kid had attacked and killed her husband, mother, and sister. Then it had started chasing them. She'd been running for the last seven days through the city, dodging patrols and the Nannybot. It had been programmed, you see, with their signatures, so that it could always find them if they got lost. What it was supposed to do. So I gathered them up for the extraction, and we waited for the Libran Raptor to signal."
Aldrich's expression darkens with empathy as he realizes where the story is going. He slides his own hand to cover her twining fingers, wrapping her hands in his for a comforting squeeze. He says nothing, allowing her to continue uninterrupted.
"The signal came," Lyn continues, "and I rushed them out to the park and had them huddle behind an old statue that had the top half blown off. I told them to stay put, and I ran out into a clearing to set off the colored smoke to give the Raptor a landing spot. It was snowing. I remember it was snowing because some of the flakes that fell on my face were cold, and melted, where the ash was hot and stuck to my skin. There was so much ash. It was everywhere. I could taste it. It swirled in drifts around my feet, bunched up against lamp posts and benches, and I know most of it was from the destroyed buildings and trees. But some of it, I know some of it used to be people." Her hands tremble beneath his.
"She was having trouble keeping up, because she was exhausted and half-starved from a week without sleep or sufficient food. Her name was Emma. The mother. The baby was," Lyn struggles to remember the name that had been cooed over and over to quiet the child, "Annie, named after her grandmother."
Aldrich squeezes Lyn's hands again, and murmurs, "It's good that you remember their names. We should always remember their names." 'We'? It's anyone's guess what that's about, but he doesn't say anything more, listening with dark worried eyes for what he already knows is coming next.
"Annie started crying. She was cold and little and hungry too, because her mother couldn't feed her properly.” Lyn is clearly back there, in her mind. She starts to shiver bodily. "The wind was blowing so hard, but that wailing came across over the howling, because babies are made that way, to give out a sound that pierces everything, to alert the parent. It goes right up an adult's spine, the crying. But that wasn't the only sound. There was another one. 'Let me help you'. It was in that cheerful, awful, chirping robotic tone. It was the Nannybot, and I turned around just in time to hear Emma's scream cut off as the massive hand snapped her neck. The baby fell to the ground, still crying."
Aldrich winces at the graphic description, but shifts so that he can put an arm around Lyn's shoulder, pulling her close into a half-hug again. "It got the baby too?" he murmurs.
"Let me help you," Lyn rasps out, hoarsely as her throat constricts with terror and horror. "It turned that red eye on me as I screamed and ran towards Annie. I almost made it to her, almost." She turns to look Aldrich in the eye, her pupils dilated and her face pale. "It's foot. That big metal foot. It stepped forward and... crushed... the baby's skull." She swallows the bile rising in her throat. "I can't forget that sound. I can never forget it." She's shaking bodily.
"It was suddenly so quiet, and I froze where I was. And then it said it again. 'Let me help you.' It ran at me and I raised my rifle. I pulled the trigger and it clicked. I was out of ammo. It swung a clawed hand at me and broke my arm," one hand goes to a scar on her forearm where they had to open Lyn's arm up to reset the mangled bones, "and knocked the weapon away. And then the red came. The rage. I couldn't see anything but red, like its eye. Like the blood. I used my ice axe. I beat it with it over and over, in the chest and the head and it would not. Stop. Saying. It. It would not. Fall. Down." She breathes faster and the hand moves to massage her throat.
"It grabbed me by the throat. I was dying. Lights were exploding in my eyes, I couldn't breathe. It squeezed harder and harder. 'Let me help you...die.' It said. Then the Raptor Eco blew its head off. I hadn't heard them land when I went into that rage. The others jumped out, ran to where the...others had been, they were throwing up, screaming. Someone dragged me into the bird. I don't remember what happened after that. I woke up in a padded room with Anders sitting in a chair watching me." Lyn's eyes turn to look at him. "I still see it all, over and over, in my dreams."
"Gods above," Aldrich whispers and pulls Lyn close. As though just holding her could protect her from the past, a futile gesture but entirely characteristic. "I'm so sorry. I wish I could carry this for you," he says quietly, and there's something terribly genuine in his tone.
The comfort from him, something Lyn hasn't gotten from anyone since that day, has her sobbing into his shoulder, her fingers curling into his shirt as if hanging on to him will make it stop, make the nightmares go away, make the memories fade. It was what destroyed her life, what broke her down there. After having her hopes dashed for finding anyone alive day after day, and finally finding the pair, and losing them in the most horrific way possible, it made her doubt her worth in the universe so badly, it shattered her into pieces and took 6 weeks to even return her to the semblance of functionality.
Aldrich rocks Lyn slightly as she cries, and after a moment or two, he starts to murmur something, an extended litany of words in Old Gemenese. She won't understand, of course, but even though it's foreign, the cadence is lyrical and comforting in its own way, halfway between a lullaby and a prayer. Other than this quiet sound, he just lets her cry as long as she needs to, holding her tight.
It's a long period of desperate sobs colored by horror and so very much loss. Everything was lost to Lyn that day, not just the mother and child. Her family, her home, her lover, her sense of confidence and self-worth. Her freedom for weeks afterward. Her capacity for joy. There has been no honest, real joy in her life since that horrible week, capped by the most horrifying thing she ever witnessed. It was supposed to care for them, protect and shelter them, and instead it was the harbinger of death and suffering.
The sobs eventually fade, though she trembles still, his neck and shoulder wet with tears, and her body weight fully on him, as if he is all that is holding her together. Inside she feels like she might break apart and fly off in a thousand different directions, fragile as an egg, or a child's skull.
Aldrich keeps holding her and murmuring his gibberish as long as he needs to, taking no heed of how soaked his shirt might get. When she finally runs out of tears, he kisses the top of her head, and transitions smoothly back to Standard, still in a quiet, soothing little murmur. "You are so brave and good. You tried so hard. It wasn't your fault."
"I'm not brave. I'm not good," she whispers back. "I'm broken. I failed them. Back then, and last night. I shouldn't have left them alone." The woman and child? Jonas? Charlie?
"You tried," Aldrich murmurs, patiently. "That's more than most people would have done. You are not broken. You are wounded. You are still alive, and wounds heal." He kisses the top of her head, then rests his cheek there. "You did and are doing the best you can."
"When will it feel like enough?" Lyn murmurs hollowly. "It never feels like enough." She settles against him quietly, comfortably for a moment, before she remembers what she did before she left. She starts to draw away from him, not wanting to further embarrass him.
Aldrich doesn't try to keep her from pulling away, but he doesn't exactly encourage it, either. "I don't know," he replies. "I nearly got myself blown up and it still doesn't feel like enough." He gives her a crooked smile, and reaches into his pocket for a handkerchief, because of course he's the type of person to carry handkerchiefs. He offers it to her. "But you have to remember... your teammates out there? They aren't helpless, exhausted civilians. They're trained soldiers. Partners. They are as much responsible for their safety as you are. Not to mention for yours."
Lyn takes the handkerchief with a hand that is only trembling a little now, and she wipes her eyes. "Thank you," she says quietly. "I never told anyone, about those last hours on Aquaria." Not even Anders.
Aldrich lets his hand kind of linger on her upper back, ready to pull away if she seems uncomfortable with it, but there's still a deep concern reflected in his expression. "Does it feel better?" he wonders. "Having told someone?"
"A little, but now I worry you'll have nightmares too," Lyn admits, not pulling away from his hand. "I'm so sorry, Al." For telling him, for kissing him?
Aldrich snorts faintly, and shakes his head. "I have my own nightmares," he assures her. "There's no room for yours to take root." He clears his throat a little, and shifts to try to catch her eyes with his. "You have nothing to be sorry about. Okay?"
"I shouldn't have kissed you. It was uncalled for, you made yourself clear it wasn't something you wanted," Lyn says quietly, looking ashamed as she meets his eyes.
"And then I mixed those signals," Aldrich insists, calmly. "And even after the morpha, I kept doing it. I'm the one who should be sorry. It's..." He hesitates a little, and then offers, "I care about you. More than I should, I mean. And I don't know what to do with that."
Lyn's head tilts in confusion as he speaks, and she takes in a slow breath, before letting it out. "What do you want to do with it?" she asks, turning from speaker to listener suddenly. The panic and manic sorrow have faded into simple exhaustion in her expression now.
Aldrich gives a bit of a laugh, and looks up toward the ceiling. "I don't know," he admits, and looks back down. "You should know, I /always/ screw these things up. Always. You deserve so much better than that."
"Have you been introduced to my walking, talking, track record?" Lyn retorts, with a brow arching. "His name is Jonas, you might remember him as the guy who blames me for ruining his life." She sets a hand on his cheek lightly. "We're both damaged goods, Al. But maybe that why we have a connection. We already know how things go bad."
Aldrich smiles faintly, and puts a hand over Lyn's. "I think he would forgive you if he really understood what happened to you." He hesitates, thinking that over, and then winces, "But he doesn't need to know. He's... kind of an asshole, you know." He brushes a thumb over her hand, but he doesn't pull it away. "I want you to talk to Dr. Anders about all of this. Before we...decide on anything."
"He didn't used to be," Lyn says with a little wince of her features. "He just got very badly hurt and it changed him. It changed me." She strokes her thumb over his cheek and nods at his request. "All right. I'll make an appointment with Anders."
Aldrich shakes his head a little, "Lyn Arda," he murmurs. "Do not take responsibility for /his/ behavior. We've all been hurt, in one way or another. We can decide to let it turn us into assholes, or we can decide to rise above it. That decision defines who we are, one way or the other." He smiles faintly.
Lyn can't help but smile at him for that. "Thank you." She finally moves her hand away. "I should go, I still have to finish the mission report, and make that appointment."
Aldrich looks almost reluctant to let her pull away, but let her he does. "Of course." He plucks at his shirt with just a ghost of amusement. "I should probably change my shirt," he observes, with no hint of discomfort. "But I'll see you again soon?"
At least she wasn't wearing makeup. His words get a chuckle out of her before she stands and smiles. "Soon," Lyn promises, and then heads out the door.