"...Emma?" Richard's eye quivered as his gaze flitted back and forth between his sister and the limp body that lay crumpled at his feet.
"Leave it." She pulled her gun upright and turned towards the building. "Wait for me at the front door. Do not make a sound."
Before he could say another word, she had stalked off towards the back door.
"Put the gun down."
Richard strode forward into the boy's bedroom with the disciplined gait of an advancing soldier, his rifle held high against his chin. His target aimed a pistol straight down at the head of the tiny, terrified figure that he held in place with his free hand.
"You think I give a fuck?" the man seethed, the fear in his eyes palpable. Wide eyed, he pleaded, "put it down."
He glanced at the little boy before him, who stared quizzically into the eye of his beloved, bloodstained hero. Could he possibly realize what was at stake?
"Put it down!" his assailant cried.
Fourteen men lay strewn upon the opulent floors of the old mansion, all for this singular reason—to rescue an innocent from a war in which he had no place—and suddenly his efforts seemed to be coming to a fruitless head. Every fiber of Richard's being burned in anger at the sight of the gun pointed down at the scared child, this poor soul that held in his eyes all of the love and admiration that Richard felt for those he had lost in endless battles. All that mattered in the world was his well-being.
He nodded once, his gaze still on the boy, and pointed his rifle to the ceiling. Another nod and he was lowering it to the floor, bending slowly at the knees to kneel before his captor. He stared up at him, his eye steady, his back straight. The man glowered down at him, one eyebrow cocked as he tightened his grip on the boy's shirt.
Richard extended his free hand to steady himself, open-palmed, pacifying. "Tommy," he growled. "Close your eyes."
Ever obedient—he really was such a good boy—Tommy did as he was told. Suddenly, Richard swung the barrel upward and sent a single bullet through the man's unsuspecting cheek.
As his lifeless foe crumpled to the floor, Tommy ran towards Richard's waiting arms, letting his fear seep through his grateful embrace. Richard knew in that moment that he would never let the boy feel such fear again.
Several minutes had passed before she emerged, clutching his rifle in one hand and a suitcase in the other. He opened his mouth to speak, but she charged past him.
"Walk," she commanded. He couldn't help but follow.
They marched in silence for ages before he opened his mouth again.
"Tell me. What happened."
"No." She walked a few paces in front of him, the weight of the suitcase difficult to gauge in her able grasp.
She paused, her face turned towards the sky in exasperation. "Give me one good reason."
His throat clicked in the absence of a valid argument. She laughed mirthlessly, shook her head, and walked on.
"Doesn't feel good to be kept in the dark, now does it?"
"You shouldn't. Be doing this."
"Doing what, exactly?" She turned on her heels to face him.
"Whatever. This is."
"But you don't even know what this is."
They had reached the Sagorsky's, and the orange glow of the street lamp illuminated the exhaustion on her face. He couldn't help but look away.
"Will you come in?"
He shook his head. He couldn't face his would-be family, not with tonight's revelations careening through his mind.
"Well then," she said, thrusting the suitcase forward, "make yourself useful and give this to Nucky Thompson. He'll be expecting you."
He took the case in hand, hating himself for his inability to voice the barrage of questions that fought for release in his mind, but the screen door was swinging behind her by the time he had even looked up.
He lifted the boy, nearly weightless in his arms, and carried him into the hall. He didn't cry—in all the time he'd known him, Tommy never had been an inconsolable child, despite Gillian's claims. He merely clutched Richard's neck in his tiny, dimpled hands, trembling from head to foot.
A muffled whimpering drew Richard's attention to a room he hadn't checked en route to Tommy's. Drawing a pistol from its holster, he peered into the room.
Gillian lay on the four poster, the color drained from her cheeks, her legs tucked awkwardly against her chest and her body seemingly lifeless save for the shuddering breaths that raised and lowered her breast in a pained staccato.
"Keep your eyes closed," Richard breathed in Tommy's ear. He gently lowered the boy to the floor and entered the room.
Her lovely eyes fluttered open as he bent over her. "James?" she cooed.
"It's. Me." He worked an arm under her back and another beneath her legs, lifting her like a rag doll.
"I knew you would come back, baby," she murmured. "I missed you so. You gave me...such a scare."
He was gentle, ever so gentle, carrying her with careful, methodical steps from the room. In the quiet of the hall, the long persian rug sprinkled with blood and bodies, he weighed his options. Tommy stood with his back to him, little fists pressed to his closed eyes. He couldn't possibly carry the boy and his grandmother to safety, and doubted the woman would be welcomed with open arms at his intended destination, even if he could. But, no matter her actions over the previous days, he couldn't help the flood of guilt that met his decision.
He lowered her to the floor, propping her delicately against the papered wall. Her long-dormant innocence shining through as she looked up at him with unseeing eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered. A tender kiss he planted on her forehead, then smoothed the blood away with his thumb.
She'll be found soon, he assured himself as he lifted the child once again and made his way from the blood-soaked grounds. She will be all right.
Even as the words entered his consciousness, he doubted their sincerity.
"Are you awake?" The door creaked softly as Julia leaned in.
"How'd you guess?" Emma pulled her knees up to make room on the small bed for her friend, who took an exhausted seat.
"I just wanted to…apologize. For earlier."
"Please," Emma sighed, "it's not necessary. We were both a bit edgy today. Put it behind us?"
Julia nodded with a bashful smile. "Did you see him today?"
"For once," Emma groaned, "I do not want to talk about my brother." She crossed her arms behind her head and leaned back against the wall, stretching her shoulders as she felt the day catching up with her bones. "Tell me something."
"Shoot," Julia shrugged.
"If you could go anywhere—anywhere in the world—where would you go?"
The petite blonde sighed, her chin tilting toward the ceiling. "It sounds silly, but I've always dreamed of going to Paris."
"What's so silly about that?"
Julia rolled her eyes. "Me? In Paris? I'm not nearly fashionable enough."
"Does that matter?"
"Think of all the great writers, debating on the left bank. Can you imagine?"
"Where did you hear that?"
She blushed, and leaned forward. "Okay," she said, lowering her voice, "you can't tell anyone, but I…I've always wanted to be a writer."
"Really?" This news surprised Emma somehow, and she grasped her friend's hand excitedly. "Can I read something you've written?"
"Oh no, I couldn't possibly—I'm not very good."
"Shouldn't I be the judge of that?"
"They're mostly fairy stories."
"I love fairy stories."
"Yes, but—" Julia stood, pacing the room with her arms crossed, "I'm an adult. I should be writing something real; something true."
"I don't know," Emma said, wistfully, "Seems to me like you should write whatever you like."
"What about you?"
"I'm no writer," Emma laughed.
"No—" Julia returned to the bed. "Where would you go?"
"It's enough to me that I made it out of Plover at all, but…" She thought for a moment, considering the possibility. What if it had been her who had sailed off across the sea, her eyes that had soaked in the sights of foreign lands, her mind bursting with memories she could barely fathom from the seclusion of the old farmhouse? It felt perfectly natural to imagine herself on safari on the African plains, felling big game with her musket. She could feel the sting of wintry air as she scaled the Alps, smell jasmine of the Far East. "I suppose I wouldn't go anywhere," she said finally. "I would just keep traveling around."
"That's cheating," Julia giggled, pushing her friend on the shoulder.
Emma caught her hand as she pulled away and held it in hers. "Would you come with me?"
"Anywhere. I shouldn't be here, Julia. I don't belong here anymore than you do."
"What about your farm?"
"I don't know if I belong there, either." It was a truth she had kept from herself for a lifetime, suppressed by loyalty and responsibility. But somewhere along the way she had become the captain of a sinking vessel, barely keeping her head above water as the demands of the farm threatened to overwhelm her with each passing season; Richard had merely been her excuse to abandon ship. "Let's face it," she said, "neither one of us was given a fair shake in this world. Why should we have to put our hopes and dreams aside? We should be free while we're young, not taking care of grown men or ghosts from our pasts."
Julia looked out at the darkened window. "But Dad, and Tommy. They need me."
Her laugh was downtrodden. "I imagined that's what you'd say." They looked at each other, eyes dancing in the dim lamp light. Emma rubbed the smooth skin of Julia's hand with her thumb, an strange feeling overcoming her. They were so close, suddenly, mere inches from each other.
It was Julia who pulled away. "I should let you sleep," she said quickly, smoothing her dressing gown as she made for the door. "Goodnight, Emma." She closed the door softly, with a weary smile.
Sleep evaded him that night, as usual. His mind reeled with questions, cogs in a restless machine whose purpose he couldn't quite grasp. He toyed with the idea of returning to his post on the Sagorsky's lawn, but thought better of it. The last thing he needed was another confrontation with his sister, while his mind still struggled to wrap itself around the new image of her that had faced him tonight. The woman who had stood before him, who had rescued him with a single shot, bore none of his sister's gentleness but had intend radiated confidence and strength. It was the Emma of target practice and hunting trips, the Emma who could slaughter a pig without a flinch or second thought, the Emma who would have been a fine substitute for him in the war. Tonight she had proven once and for all what their father had made abundantly clear until his dying day—that Emma was the superior Harrow twin.
But had he not made a life for himself here, and a reputation as a cold and calculating killer? It was the only persona that didn't fill him with embarrassment to have to face the world at large. Their fear he relished; their pity, he abhorred. Here, he was Richard Harrow, the Tin Woodsman. How dare Emma take this away from him?
The realization struck him like a shot to the chest, and he was dressing before he had fully registered rising from the bed. The walk was short and oddly familiar, given that he had never traveled to this destination before. It felt like a pilgrimage, like destiny ushering him forward.
He entered through a side door and slipped down darkened hallways, effortlessly passing a distracted orderly. He found her in the largest room, at the end of the hall, tucked into the last bed. Her angelic face was bathed in moonlight, the glow of sleep upon her.
The bed creaked as he sat, and her eyes fluttered open. "You came," she cooed through a blossoming smile. "I knew you would."
"Hello. Gillian." She had slipped her hand into his almost immediately, and he cupped her tiny palm protectively. "How are. You feeling?" he whispered.
"Did you bring me a treat?"
Richard shook his head. "I'm sorry." It was an apology for the myriad ways he had failed her in his duties, but he knew she would not take it as such.
She sighed heavily and turned her gaze to the window. "Can I see him yet?"
"Who? Silly…why, James, of course. I just want to hold him for a little while. I promise, I'll be gentle."
Richard smoothed her hand, a bolt of sadness piercing his heart. "I'll. See what I. Can do."
"Will you hold me? Only, it's so lonely in here, and I get scared at night, in the dark."
A gentle hum escaped his throat as he nodded slowly, standing to cross around to the other side of the bed. He climbed in with nary a sound, wrapping his arms around her thin frame as gently as possible. He pulled the rose-hued ringlets from her neck and planted a kiss in their wake. He could feel the tremors of soundless, wrenching sobs seize her, and he held her close until sleep calmed her once more.