They’re meeting up with Booker, Joe and Nicky tomorrow.
The incident at Merrick Pharmaceuticals had been labeled a ‘tragic accident’ by the authorities and whoever is in charge of the company now. Before then they had had to lay low - Copley helped - but finally they can breathe a bit.
Nile has been to Copley’s house twice to make the arrangements for her ‘death’ and pick up more antibiotics for Andy. Now she makes sure Andy doesn’t aggravate her wounds and eats. They have a regular check in over the three burner phones they purchased, but aren’t really talking much. Nile is getting used to Andy turning on the light when she has a nightmare. Andy’s always awake already.
Two weeks ago Nile had killed zero people. Now she isn’t even sure how many she’s killed. Seven? Five? Fifteen? She’s almost unsettlingly okay with what she’s done at the high-rise while she’s awake. She really doesn’t want to examine her feelings right now so she distracts herself by reading up on gunshot wounds and recovery and pretty much everything medical.
She’s gotten herself a couple new outfits and a couple old ones for Andy from their storage locker. Andy is mobile and shows no signs of infection and there is really nothing keeping them from getting off Britain except Booker. They have to face the issue now.
Booker has been silent, apart from his check-ins, and those have been monosyllabic. Nile grabs the phone from the nightstand between herself and Andy.
07153 456789: Andy snores. Can’t sleep. You awake?
07153 456787: I am.
07153 456789: Nervous about tomorrow? I think we all are but none of them are talking about it
07153 456787: You have no reason to be nervous, Nile. I’m the one who fucked this up. You saved them.
07153 456789: I saved you too you know. On purpose.
07153 456789: I know you regret what you did. They’re your family. Just apologize to them. I think that will go a long way.
07153 456787: It doesn’t work like that Nile. Being sorry does not change what happened. Apologies don’t fix anything. And they won’t want to hear it.
07153 456789: It still matters though. And I want to hear you apologize and mean it.
07153 456787: Go to sleep, kid.
Nile sighs, and does.
They arrive at the Prospect pretty much at the same time, forestalling awkward waiting, and Joe gets their drinks. Nicky and Joe compliment her outfit, ask about Andy’s injury, and look pretty much anywhere other than at Booker. Well, Joe does look at Booker, often actually, but only briefly, with sad eyes.
Booker only looks at his glass.
Andy studies Booker for a moment, then makes eye contact with Joe and Nicky.
”You all know what we came here to do. Is there anything you want to say, Book?” Andy asks.
Booker’s fingers twitch minutely on his glass. He nods, looks at all of them, ending with Nile.
”I am sorry I hurt you. I did wrong and I know I have to pay the price.” he says. To her, to them? ”I’ll wait outside.” He swallows, takes his glass and heads to the door. Nile notices his eyes are glistening.
Andy watches him go. She sighs and shutters her face into what Nile has been calling General Andy in her mind. Andy addresses them as if following a script: ”We are to decide a punishment for our brother Booker for the crimes of endangering the family, betraying the trust of his unit and conspiring with the enemy. I will hear all opinions and we must reach a unanimous verdict.” She looks at Nicky and Joe and both nod. Neither say anything for a long time.
Nile almost thinks nobody will say anything at all, but then Nicky speaks. ”In any army the price for treason is death. But that is not possible for us.”
Joe takes Nicky’s hand. ”I feel I could kill him a hundred times and it would not get me closer to peace. It would only bring more pain.”
”I understand why he did it. He was very stupid. He was selfish, and I’m angry, but I understand.” says Andy.
Nile takes a minute to process it. ”Do any of you actually want to punish him?” Joe and Andy just look sadder than they already do, and nobody says anything again. ”I’ll take that as a No? Then what are we doing here? We’re all okay. He apologized. I forgive him. Let’s move on.”
Nicky lets out a breath that’s almost a laugh. Joe gives her a fond look, but shakes his head. ”I don’t think any of us are okay, Nile.” Joe says patiently. ”I can’t forgive him yet. I don’t know when I’ll be able to.”
Nicky nods his assent. ”There has to be a price, Nile. Even if I had forgiven him already.”
Andy puts her hand on Nile’s wrist before she can object again.
”Nile. He wouldn’t accept it.” Andy says. ”He’s not tried to defend himself since you got him off that table. Sometimes it hurts worse to be forgiven when you’re not ready to forgive yourself. I think I will need less than a year to not be angry with him. I think Booker will need longer.”
”How long?” Nile asks.
”It might take a century.” Nicky answers slowly. Joe squeezes Nicky’s hand under the table. ”We can excommunicate him. That will be enough, and time to heal.”
Joe seems okay with this, Andy seems okay with this. Nile isn’t.
”A hundred years alone? That’s bullshit. He’s depressed, he’s in pain, and he’s obviously not forgiven himself for his family dying! That must have been more than a century ago. If you leave him that long you have to think really hard about what you will come back to. He needs help. As soon as we can give it.” she bursts out angrily. She needs to keep her voice down.
Nile takes a deep breath. ”I say we let him back with a true, honest apology. That’s my vote. Whatever you decide is on you.” Nile gets up. She’s had enough of this.
Andy watches her go. ”Kid’s not sleeping well.” she says. ”But she’s not wrong. I won’t last a hundred years. And I let him get this bad.”
”He made the choice to lie to us, Andy. He chose to betray us. He chose not to talk to us. He alone did that. I don’t think I will be able to trust him for a long time.” Nicky says.
”Andy’s right.” Joe says. ”He needs to have a real punishment from us. He needs to believe it." He looks at Booker through the window. Nile is with him now. He averts his eyes. "But I will go to him when I am ready. I will offer him help once I can give it, but it won't be soon.”
Nicky closes his eyes. He nods. ”It might take a century.” He opens them. ”But no more than that. I hope it will take less.”