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Ascension

Chapter Text

 

That night, Sally dreamed of Rapture.

 

Except it wasn’t Rapture, it was home. Except it wasn’t home, it was Rapture.

 

She padded out into the hallway leading from the her room.. The light flickered and changed at seemingly random intervals. Each time, the light shifted the soft white of incandescent bulb to a lurid blue-green to a glowing gold. Each time, the dream took the familiar farmhouse and grafted onto it the decaying grandeur of Rapture or the gilt halls that had only existed in her carefully conditioned mind.

 

She turned back to her room, but the door had disappeared behind her. A dread filled her. What had happened to Addy and Ruth?

 

 She pressed on, overwhelmed with the need to find the rest of her family.

 

As she walked, even the flashes of her home seemed unfamiliar; everything was just slightly off in the way it always is in dreams.  The hallway was just a little too long, the space between her room and the next too far. Her father’s door at the end of the hall seemed to be moving farther and farther away, the distance extending impossibly with each step she took.

 

She sprinted the last few yards to her sisters’ door, even as her mind transformed the surroundings to Rapture. A series of manic screams and babbling seemed to be coming from the first floor.

 

The doorknob refused to budge. Then, it transformed in her hand from a rusted hunk of metal in a rotting piece of plywood to an intricately carved masterpiece set in a golden door.

 

“Leta,” She cried as she shook the knob, “Masha! Let me in!”

 

The screaming from downstairs had stopped, but now it was replaced by a quiet, mocking laughter which floated up the stairs.

 

Suddenly, the door was again the solid oak they had stripped of its awful paint and varnished two summers ago. Sally desperately pressed her ear to the door to hear some sign of life from inside, calling out her sisters’ names again. A faint and all too familiar two-toned giggling came from inside. Her heart stuttered.

 

“Found is lost and lost is found,” came from inside in a soft sing-song.

 

With a gasp, she pushed away from the door.

 

 She was again in Rapture. The ceiling was gone, replaced with a glass dome. Overhead, a shark swayed indifferently, one cold black eye fixed on her. She watched it swim back down towards where she had come from.

 

Soft microphone feedback sounded from down the hall.

 

“See the pyramids along the Nile. Watch the sunrise on a tropic isle.”

 

Her breath caught in her throat at the soft, sad voice.

 

“Just remember, darlin', all the while, you belong to me.”

 

The halls again glowed white with expensive marble. She turned towards the singer.

 

Red carpet and rose petals led down to where Jack’s room lay. The door was gone, and a small platform stood in front of the wall.  

 

Sally knew who the performer would be, the beautiful lady from her memories. She was clad in a beautiful red gown, crooning softly into the microphone. She looked healthy, stunning, framed in the golden glow of a spotlight, not at all like Sally had last seen her.

 

She had an audience of one sitting in an ornate chair directly in front of the platform. The beautiful lady’s blue eyes never moved from the man’s face as she sang. Even from behind, Sally recognized the broad shoulders and sandy blonde hair of her adopted father. 

 

A feeling of nostalgia swept through the girl. It felt as if she was viewing a beloved memory from long ago. No, that’s not right, she thought. They never met. The lady had been dead for a year before Sally ever saw Jack. So why did this feel so real, so right?

 

“See the marketplace in old Algiers. Send me photographs and souvenirs.”

 

The singer seemed to catch sight of Sally for the first time, and sent her a sweet smile.

 

Jack followed her line of sight, turning in the seat to look at his girl. The former Little Sister felt a swell of pride at how handsome he looked in his tuxedo. She had never seen him so dressed up and polished, even in his Sunday best.

 

He sent her the same smile he had given her since the day she had helped take down Fontaine. Sally basked in the warmth of both loving gazes for a moment.

 

The idyllic scene started to flicker and waver at the edges, like bad reception on the downstairs TV. Green light started to seep in, and the spotlight dimmed, threatening to gutter completely.

 

No, she thought desperately, just a little longer.

 

The lady’s smile turned sad and her voice became softer and breathless, as if it was a struggle to draw air. She reached toward the girl.

 

“Just remember when a dream appears…”

 

The spotlight flickered out and in the dim ambient light of Rapture, Sally saw the woman as she had been that night in Fontaine’s, in her torn and bloody blouse and skirt, blood pouring from the side of her head, down her side, and dripping onto the floor.

 

“..you belong to me,” she rasped before crumpling to the floor like a rag doll, again going limp in death.

 

With a cry of horror, Sally rushed forward to help, only to stumble and fall on something in the dark.

 

She pushed herself up, and came face-to-face with Jack’s sightless eyes, a pool of blood expanding out from his head.

 

She went to scream, but instead woke with a start. Breathing hard and sweating, she pushed the blankets off and sat up.

 

It had been so long since she had dreamed of the lady. And even then, the image had always been fuzzy, the details blurred and made uncertain by the memory of a frightened small child. Tonight, everything had been so real, so clear, like she was watching it unfold in real time.  

 

Why now?

 

Willing her heart to slow, she peered around her room the light cast by the bright moon.  Adelaide moved restlessly on the bottom bunk across the room, her blankets knotted around her. Sally could only hear a sigh and a shift from Ruth on the top bunk.

 

That often seemed to be the case. When one of them had a restless night, all of them had a restless night. It was one of those things she accepted as fact, but had decided not to dwell too deeply on.

 

Addy would be up soon from the looks of it, then she could talk about their dreams, compare notes like they always did. She stood and walked to the door, shutting it quietly behind her as she left.  

 

The hall was as it had always been since they had come to live here eight years earlier: Masha and Leta’s door at the proper distance, Jack’s door a constant at the end of the hall. For a moment she contemplated going into his room and curling up next to him, like they had all done those first few months after their journey to the surface. Her teenage sensibilities balked at the notion, however. She was no longer a six-year-old frightened of the new world in which she found herself and traumatized by old world she had left behind.

 

She wouldn’t worry Dad over some stupid dream.

 

As softly as she could, avoiding the squeaky third step, she padded downstairs to the kitchen for a drink.

 

The open window over the sink let in a steady, cool breeze which fluttered the curtains and made Sally shiver. She regretted not grabbing the afghan from the living room. Nights in upstate New York could still be quite chilly, even in May.

 

As the wind died down, she became aware of a soft murmur of voices from the front of the house. The hairs on the back of her neck rose with the memory of the disembodied voices and laughter in her dream.

 

But those had not been a familiar baritone, a clipped German accent, and a raspy Chicago burr all blending together in a well-known harmony.

 

Surprised by the late night visit -but never let it be said that Tante kept regular hours- Sally quickly placed her glass in the sink and ran to the front door.

 

Sure enough, there in the orange light of the porch lamp sat Brigid Tenenbaum and Charles Porter together on the porch swing, drinks in hand.

 

She gave a cry of delight and ran to the woman, barely giving enough time for the scientist to put down her drink on the railing before catching the girl in a tight hug.

 

“Hello, little one,” she murmured fondly into the blonde hair. Sally straightened from her awkward position and smiled at the man next to her.

 

“Hello, Uncle Charles,” she said politely. He looked even better than he had when she saw him last month. Many of the scars covering his face were smoother, less angry and puckered, and he could open his left eye completely now.

 

“I don’t get a hug?” he rasped in mock offense. Sally was pleased to hear that speaking did not take nearly as much effort as it had, either. She complied and bent to wrap him tightly in a hug, as well.

 

“You grow like a weed,” clucked her Tante.  That was true. Just cresting into fifteen and she had another growth spurt recently, as her exposed wrists and ankles on her now too short pajamas could attest.

 

“She’s going to need a new uniform before the summer even gets here,” Jack remarked from behind her, “She’ll be in a miniskirt at this rate.”

 

She turned to Jack where he sat on the top step with his back against the bannister. The smart remark about being a slave to fashion died on her tongue when she saw the young woman next to him. Eleanor Lamb sat on the next step down, looking unflappable and alert, even at the late hour.

 

Sally plucked at her sleeve, suddenly feeling conscious of everything from her ratty hand-me-down pajamas to her exuberant greeting. Eleanor had that effect on her. While only a few years her senior, Eleanor seemed much older and wiser than seventeen. Sally always felt clumsy and awkward in the face of her serene elegance. She hadn’t talked to her much in the months since the older girl had joined their strange little clan; she was closer to Adelaide’s age, anyway. At least, that’s what she kept telling herself.

 

“Hi, Eleanor,” she offered.

 

“Hello, Sally. I hope we didn’t wake you.”

 

She plopped down next to Jack, who lazily draped an arm over her shoulders. She curled into his side, just in time to see Eleanor look away. Another hot curl wave of embarrassment unwound in her stomach. Her friends at school always did accuse her of being a daddy’s girl.

 

“Oh, no. Just had a bad dream, that’s all.”

 

Jack peered down at her, concerned.  For a moment, the dream returned, and she could only see his green eyes clouded over in death and face smeared with his own blood. She tightened her grip on him.

 

“It’s fine, Dad, really. Just a dream,” she reiterated.

 

He didn’t look convinced, but turned his gaze back to Tante, who held it. The two of them stared each other down for a moment, before she turned her head and huffed.

 

Sally knew the signs one of their tiffs when she saw it. At least this appeared to be more on the scale of a Cold War than World War III.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

Jack face contorted briefly, pain and worry flashing across his expression before he schooled it into placidity. He sighed.

 

Tante was looking at him again, her own expression unreadable. A quick glance at the rest of the faces on the porch gave away nothing either.

 

The light in the upstairs bathroom went on, casting its light onto the lawn. Addy was up, then, maybe Ruth. Sally wanted them down here. It would help if she didn’t feel like the only one not in on the joke.

 

Jack ran a hand through his hair, tousling the already messy strands.

 

“Sal, we’ve got something to talk about.”