A Bond Stronger Than Blue Blood


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title A Bond Stronger Than Blue Blood
Synopsis A trial run for a new babysitter turns into catchup between two former teammates. Elisabeth shows Kay a glimpse of how deep the rabbit hole actually goes.
Date May 4, 2021

The day is a bit cloudy but not rainy, and the weak late afternoon sunshine brightens the playground equipment. Elisabeth has been making a deliberate effort to get Aurora out into the world, to get her away from the extremely protected environment that Raytech's campus is, despite the threats that have already hit them in that supposedly safe space. It's just as much for herself as it is for her daughter – They spent formative years literally on the run in war zones. Aurora had been only just starting to really settle in when all hell broke loose and someone tried to kidnap Squeaks right out of the Raytech campus. It's set the child back emotionally in some ways. So to combat the temptation to get into siege mentality while at the same time making sure all the kids are covered, they are having this 'play date' out in the open, damn it!

And don't look sideways where the dark-skinned Man-Mountain known as Mike is slouched casually on a nearby bench nor toward the picnic tables where a slender brunette keeps a watchful eye on the other side of the playground. They're both good at their jobs, unobtrusive and, unless one knows what they're looking at, mostly they fade into the scenery. Except Kaydence Lee Damaris is one of the people who knows exactly what bodyguards look like.

Park near Winslow-Crawford

May 4, 2021

Richard said Kay came to him needing help. To make sure Ella is safe if – no, strike that, when – shit hits the fan. Because it's going to. And the closer they get to the team's departure date, the more uneasy Elisabeth is. But she has on her best game face, calm and a smile very much in view as she makes her way toward the side of the playground.

"Mummy, what grade is Ella in? Do I know her at school?" Aura Harrison is now nearly 9 years old. She is still small in stature for her age compared to her peers, but she's done a lot of catching up in the three years she's been here. Good nutrition has gone a long way toward mitigating the damage of two years of near-starvation. There is a great deal of Elisabeth in her features, but her hair is darkening now to a sandy brown that may ultimately get to her father's darker coloring, and her eyes came exclusively from him – a hazel-green that can be soft with warmth but can also cut sharply when she's assessing a threat. There's an old soul in that small body.

"Honestly, kiddo, I'm not sure. She might be a senior…" Liz trails off, clearly trying to remember exactly how old Ella is. She looks distracted by the query, but even as Kay crosses some invisible threshold, blue eyes are turning toward her. "Why don't you ask her yourself?" she offers the little girl.

Aura's caution is pronounced, and she studies the mother with a wary eye. And then her gaze falls on the teen, and she grins. "I know you!" Well, she doesn't. She just recognizes Ella from the hallways. But it makes her relax visibly and she bounces toward Ella. "Your mummy an' my mummy used t' work together! That makes yer mummy a badass!"

"Aurora!" Elisabeth facepalms. Good God almighty, she needs to figure out who her daughter is hanging with.

There’s a recognition on the face of Kay’s teenage daughter. “Hi, Ms Harrison.” She’s got a bright smile as she waves. Whether she remembers Liz well or not, ‘Ella Damaris is by all accounts an extrovert, good at going with the flow. She’s a people person, not unlike her mother.

At least, not like the person her mother presents herself to be.

The teenager stoops down enough to be closer to Aurora’s height, one hand held up. “Heck yeah, kiddo! Our moms are bada—”

Coleen Marcella.

Amazing,” ‘Ella course corrects swiftly in the face of her mother’s admonishment. But she looks up to her with her brows raised, eyes wide and expressive. “I mean, she said it first. She’s clearly a bad influence.”

Kay sighs heavily. “You’re throwing the fourth grader under the bus? Real mature. Who raised you?” she huffs, a small grin showing.

‘Ella just beams at her mother a second longer before turning her attention back to Aurora. “C’mon, up high! Don’t leave me hanging!”

Smirking at Liz, Kay gestures helplessly in the direction of their children. Look at this. “Well, I can tell they’re going to be fast friends.”

Elisabeth lifts her head as the girls meet and it's all she can do not to laugh her butt off. "Wolves," she tells Kay with a sage nod. "Pretty sure the answer is wolves raised her."

Aura, meanwhile, is staring at Ella and Ella's mother with this expression of absolute awe. She looks like it's Christmas and her birthday all at once. "She's purple, Mummy!" the little girl breathes out ecstatically. "Her mummy's not, but Ella's purple!" With absolute glee, she jumps high and smacks her hand to Ella's. "I'm not a bad in-full-ence. That's my brother Ricky. He's always in trouble," she informs the teen. "Lili an' me gotta keep an eye on him all the time," she adds, shaking her head as if this is an onerous responsibility.

Elisabeth just snorts out another laugh, amused at the antics of the child. She gestures toward the girls as Aura grabs Ella's hand to lead her off to an adventure among the pieces of equipment and adds, "She's got a quirk – she sees sounds as colors." A faint wrinkle appears in Liz's brow and she looks thoughtful. "I'm not sure she's ever seen anyone else be purple except Richard. And it's her favorite color, so…" There is that to explain the excitement.

When her eyes flicker back to Kay, she studies her old friend closely. "It's really good to see you again." Her voice is quiet but sincerity rings through it. "How are you doing?"

Purple? ‘Ella mouths to her mother, but tilts her head with a shrug and an expression that says she’s gonna just go with it. She waves over her shoulder to the adults as she lets the kid lead her off to the playground equipment. She clearly enjoys babysitting. She probably enjoys the spending money even more.

Kay shakes her head as she watches the girls head off, glancing briefly toward the lookout points of the bodyguards. No, she didn’t miss them. “Colors, huh? Maybe she’ll tell my confused kid about it.” She chuckles, shaking her head.

With the topic shifting more personal, the former cop sighs. “Oh, you know. Busy.” That’s the weakest attempt at a non-answer, and they both know it. Kay’s used to not having people push beyond that, but she knows that’s not what her friend is like. “It’s been a rough year,” she admits, adjusting the brim of her hat against the sun overhead.

Gesturing toward a nearby bench, Elisabeth studies Kay. "So even in the bad old days, that statement would usually be followed by a very clear indicator for 'hands off'," she murmurs in an amused tone. "But I'm not the team rookie anymore so I don't hafta just let it go." And in this case, she's not – because Kaydence is in a dicey, potentially dangerous position with all that's happening. "Richard didn't give me specifics on what you're doing but… I know the basics of Yamagato's apparent agenda." And the danger inherent in corporate undercover shit. "I'm glad you came to us to keep an eye on Ella," she admits. "And I really hope she never needs to use those code words."

Leaning back in her seat, she drags a hand through her hair and sighs. "He told me something happened with you, but he didn't give me any real information." A faint smile quirks her lips. "That man is really good at discretion when he wants to be. You want to tell me about it?"

Kay looks only mildly chagrined when Liz warns her she’s not letting her dismissal stand. With a quiet sigh, she makes her easy way to the indicated bench and takes a seat. “Makes two of us,” she agrees about the code she arranged with Richard.

And the question, the poking near the heart of that rough year is met with a stillness. Kay watches as her daughter shows Aurora the way that she can pull herself up onto the monkey bars, then hang upside down by her knees, all the while making funny faces. One corner of her mouth tics up faintly.

“Last year… I was grabbed. Apparently, I’m too much of a creature of habit when it comes to my mourning practices.” The sliver of a smirk doesn’t disappear, but it changes in quality. She isn’t sure that she’ll change, even after what happened. “I was held captive for… Almost four months.”

Elisabeth never heard anything about a kidnapping. Someone as high profile as her, and as high up in Yamagato Industries’ ranks as she is, would have been noted. But not a word. And ‘Ella continued to attend school as though nothing had happened. There’s no way a girl her age could wear a brave face that well.

“They sent a shapeshifter to impersonate me.”

The fact that Kaydence was kidnapped and that she might be too predictable in her 'morning' (yes, it was misheard ICly) routine… well, it's kind of a club around here. Welcome, there's coffee in the corner and we'll have circle time to introduce ourselves shortly. Obviously that doesn't make the trauma of the event any easier.

Elisabeth's brows furrow together even as her body goes tight at the news. She sure as shit should have heard something about that. And the rest of the story lands between them like a hand grenade. There are a number of questions that she would like to throw out there and it takes everything she has to keep her cop brain on a leash and allow her friend brain to be in the driver's seat.

"That had to be terrifying." Her first words are slow and Elisabeth's blue eyes are laser-focused on Kay's face. The other woman knows her well enough to know the billion or so questions that ought to be coming in rapid-fire sequence. Who? How? How did you get away? "Are you okay?" She manages to swallow the others in favor of that banal one, but she can't bite back the last one before it escapes. "Why the fuck didn't you come to me as soon as you could?!"

It's been a long time since they were friends. Between then and now, there are a lot of years, a lot of illegal activity (apparently on both sides), and even a few timelines. But the question is asked in a tone that says Elisabeth still feels just as protective of her friend as she ever did – nothing about that has ever changed. "What can I do to help you?" The subtle emphasis on the last word conveys that she's already going to be doing all she can for Ella, but it's Kaydence that she's worried for.

“Am I okay?” Kay repeats incredulously, laughing. It’s a broken sound, and not one that’s unexpected in Liz’s vast experience dealing with victims of crimes so personal. “Holy fuck,” she admits for what feels like the first time since returning from the Renautas-Weiss facility, “absolutely not.

She makes sure to turn her back to the playground, lest her daughter sneak a glance and catch sight of her face. “Do you think I wanted to admit something so fucked up happened to me?” Kay presses her lips together, for a moment looking like she may not hold it together.

But she does.

Because she’s Kaydence Lee fucking Damaris. It’s what she does.

The outburst of incredulous laughter is, in fact, almost a relief. Because well… the answer to 'are you okay?' is always 'fuck no' in these situations. Elisabeth can't help but grin when Kay admits to the fuck no! That's a step forward from the old days, right? But her expression returns immediately to the more somber. Pulling in a breath, she lets it out slowly as she considers the many things she can say.

"And even in this day and age, admitting you were kidnapped and replaced for a while is a bit of a stretch for some people," Liz acknowledges softly. She reaches out and clasps her hand around Kay's wrist, anchoring her friend in the here and now with the simple touch. "You're not the only one this has happened to – but we'll come back to that in a little while, if you want. Tell me about what happened to you, Kaydence." Blue eyes search her former partner's face. "If there's anyone who's going to believe how insane your life can get, it's going to be me. I had to survive four timelines to be here again."

When Kay looks back at her, Elisabeth offers her a slow shrug and a facial expression that says whatcha gonna do?

Kay breathes out a shaky breath when Liz captures her wrist. She’s frozen for a moment, looking down at the contact, then back up to her friend. Her shoulders slack, chin dipping toward her chest a bit. Her mouth curves upward on one side in a shaky smile. “Four, huh?” She’s barely fathomed the concept of it, reckoning still with the evidence she’s seen.

She reaches up with her free hand to drag it through her hair, but it connects with the brim of her hat and she stops, adjusting it instead. Glancing around nervously, she settles her gaze on Liz again. “Do you trust your detail with your kid? Could we—” Kay halts, unsure of what she wants to suggest. “I… can’t talk about this here.”

An immediate nod is accompanied by Elisabeth's movement to pull out her phone. She looks across the park to catch the eye of Aura's bodyguard and then quickly fires off a text to the woman. Unobtrusively nodding, the woman looks at the text and then nods again.

Elisabeth moves to stand up, her smile to Kaydence easy despite the concern in her blue eyes. Keeping her voice calm and easy for the sake of their kids, she pitches her voice to sound amused as it reaches the ears of both girls on the playground. She doesn't shout or even speak loudly, clearly using her ability. "Hey, you two –"

Aura's head comes up sharply and her eyes are instantly on her mother, her tiny body tight with the potential for orders to get low or hide!

“Shhshhshh,” ‘Ella soothes instinctively. She and many others like her are children of the war. She knows the instincts. “It’s okay,” she murmurs in a hush.

With a deliberate grin at her daughter, Liz assures, " – we're gonna walk across the street there to get coffee while you guys hang out. Aura, Maggie's got you and Hannah will also be joining up. You know the rules." The admonition is gentle but with an underlying thread of THE ONES YOU DO NOT BREAK UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. "We'll be back."

‘Ella looks askance to her mother, awaiting confirmation that these instructions apply to her, too. When she receives the nod, she smiles broadly. “Go find some trouble, Ma!” she encourages in that New York accent of hers that runs so strongly against the one her mother retains from growing up in Louisiana.

Kay gives her daughter a look of faux reproach. “And you stay out of it, young lady.”

“Always, Ma!”

Aurora relaxes when her mother gives such a casual explanation and she grins up at Ella. A whisper between the girls sets both of them laughing, and that more than anything eases Elisabeth about leaving the girl with the teen in addition to her bodyguard and the backup that's now on the way too.

A brief glance toward the massive man who is her own shadow, a jerk of the chin, and a nod later, Elisabeth is gently nudging Kaydence into motion. And although her friend isn't even aware of it, there's a one-way field around them as they move so they can talk easily!

Kay relaxes some finally and smiles gratefully to Liz. “She’s very responsible, I promise.” Despite their banter. Chagrinned, she’s forced to admit, “She’s an adult.” That’s not really something she’s allowed herself to accept yet. “I missed her eighteenth birthday.”

And Liz can practically see the heart break in Kay’s chest. Adjusting the strap of the bag on her shoulder, she moves along, eager to leave the park behind. “I could really use something stronger than coffee. But…” Kay relents, “I’ll take what I can get.”

Chuckling Elisabeth shoves her hands into the pockets of her jeans just to have something to do with them for now. "For that, you just gotta give me ten minutes' notice so I can have Aura at Harmony's or my dad's place." She shrugs slightly and offers with a rueful side-eye. "Co-raising three Cardinal children is… taking a village. The twins are with their mom, so you don't get that pleasure today. But seriously… you think Richard's a handful? Some days it feels like Ricky is Richard on steroids." She rolls her eyes theatrically, just chattering on a bit to give Kay some time to relax a little, to sort her words and decide how much she's going to tell and how she wants to say it. Mildly, she teasingly admits, "If you'd told me back in the precinct days that this is where we'd be, I'd have put you on a 48-hour psych hold at the hospital."

“Guess I’m lucky we only ever had the one,” Kay muses, but in that way that says if it was luck at all, it was bad luck. “I’d have been lost without my parents to take her when things got hectic.” Given that the Damarises live upstate, that means ‘Ella’s life was probably uprooted quite a bit when she was younger, until after the war or maybe longer. There wasn’t much to be heard about Kay after she left the force in 2010, until she emerged in the Safe Zone as the Director of Public Relations at Yamagato Industries. To be fair, for seven of those missing years for Elisabeth she was presumed killed.

She huffs a breath of laughter. “Yeah. If you’d have told me that, I’d have done the same for you. It’s… It’s insanity.” Nothing short of it, in Kay’s mind. “Coffee’s fine,” she decides once they’ve crossed the street. “I have to drive home later anyway.”

"It really is," Elisabeth agrees evenly. The coffee place is conveniently situated so anyone going into the park can grab a cup before going into the green space. While they wait in line to get their coffee she offers a little bit of herself and the past few years to her companion. With a circling gesture, she adds just in case, "No one will hear us." It's one-way – sound is still getting in, just not out.

"Before 2011, I would have scoffed at alternate universes and downloading someone's brain into a manufactured body and time travel." The words are thoughtful. "Getting kidnapped by Humanis First… that was easy to understand, honestly. It was fear and bigotry. It's kind of sad my life is such an outlandish science fiction novel that no one would even buy it. Too unbelievable. Too far out there. I was almost sure by that point that nothing was going to surprise me again." She grins at Kay. "And then I threw myself into a wormhole and survived. Found out Aura was coming, which let me tell you was a shock and a half. And then it was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to try to get home. Insanity… seems too tame a word," she admits on a laugh.

Kay flickers a shaky smile. “Yeah. I got grabbed by Kazimir fucking Volken.” So, she gets the picked up by bigots angle. “I’m lucky Demsky and Ivanov saved my skin.” Not that it wasn’t a department-mounted rescue, but her partners — former and current at the time — were incredibly invested in retrieving her. “That shit… Yeah. That shit made sense.

Rolling her eyes, Elisabeth nodnodnodnods emphatically. "Right?" She pauses and admits, "I didn't know he'd grabbed you. I knew about Felix being taken."She had begun working with the Feeb on and off around that time, and she'd been thoroughly freaked out. "I'm not sure… whether that was before or after they blew my brains out and Abby's ability saved my life," she confesses. "So… if I never said it back then, I'm really fucking glad that cocksucker didn't kill you." She shakes her head. "Lady… we been through some shit."

Kay’s eyes widen as she looks at Liz out of the corner of her eye, as though she’s afraid to look at her head-on and reveal just how much what she just heard is actually fucking with her right now. Blew my brains out, she said. Well, they each have their secret traumas, don’t they? Only one of them seems to have gotten a miracle out of it, though, which suits Kay just fine in this instance. If only one of them could receive, Liz certainly needed it.

"Totally not fucking with you," Liz offers with a bit of a grin. "I, uhm… was doing a lot of things back then that I guess even now aren't exactly common knowledge." Even with that interview on TV back then laying out a lot of what was going on. "Around that same time Felix and some other people were taken, a few of us decided to hit back." After all this time, the exact timeline escapes her – so many things have happened since then.

Elisabeth grimaces. "It didn't go well. To this day I'm not sure how and why I didn't hear them come up behind me. I was taking sniper shots at a Humanis meeting on the docks. Next thing I knew, I woke up… somewhere." The way her face pales says quite enough without words, though she does say, "They held me for I think it was two days trying to get Ferry locations out of me." She pauses, clenching her teeth tightly for a second. "And when I finally broke," because under torture everyone does eventually, "they confirmed what I told them and Emil Danko put a bullet in my brain."

There is a long moment where Elisabeth has to swallow hard. It doesn't hit as hard this many years later, but there are still effects. "I don't know how they found me after I was dumped in the harbor, but they did. Abby didn't have the healing ability anymore, but they knew who did. He came and helped me and a bunch of others who were hurt that night. I even came out of it mostly intact," she adds, trying to lighten things up. "Just missing a few years of memories of my late teens. But… I came out of it whole and still fighting. Had to keep that mess really quiet – I was still working with the SCOUT team at the time."

Talk about some secrets.

It’s a lot to take in. And it’s immeasurably heavy.

Without a word, Kay drags Elisabeth in for a fierce hug. Her eyes squeeze shut as she hooks her chin over the other woman’s shoulder. “Holy shit.” For all that she’s piss poor at keeping in touch, she realizes just how incredibly fortunate she is to have her in her life now.

“I knew you walked in some… wild circles, but I don’t think I realized how deep that rabbit hole went.” She’s beginning to get a picture now. With their turn in line, Kay falls quiet, except to give her order. There’s a lot to digest. But, in its way, it helps her feel somehow less crazy.

Returning the hug just as fiercely, something she wishes she'd had the chance to do earlier, Elisabeth whispers, "It's a deep rabbit hole, but I am so fucking glad to have you back, Kay. I've been so incredibly lucky when everything has gone to shit, I can't begin to tell you." She should have died at least three other times, she's pretty sure. Pulling back, she offers a watery smile – she refuses to cry in public, but damn those are definitely tears. "But I only told you so that you have some idea that… I get it, okay?"

Releasing her friend and stepping back, she puts in her own order and stands close to Kay, giving her time to absorb everything that was just put on the table. There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio…

It's not until they have their coffees in hand and have decided whether they're sitting or walking while they talk that Elisabeth finally asks quietly, "Why were you taken?" She doesn't start with 'what did they do to you.' That's conversation for a bottle of alcohol. So she tries to keep it to the facts that might be a little easier.

Content to walk in silence until they find a bench to sit on, Kay looks hopelessly world weary when she does. A sip of her coffee is meant to rally her strength, bolster her. It doesn’t manage it, but it’s something. “I would have thought it was because of my position at Yamagato, you know? I was Kimiko Nakamura’s second. When she…”

Kay’s breath catches in her throat. She doesn’t want to say the word.

“When she died, it should have been me who moved up to run the show.” Not forever, not for long, she suspects. Kawahara likely would have shown up to depose her quickly anyway. A white woman running a Japanese company? Unless Kimiko had written it directly into her will, there’s no way it would have been tolerated. “I thought maybe it was all part of some assassination plan. Replace me with a double, kill Ms Nakamura, take control of the US branch of Yamagato.”

Shaking her head helplessly, she has to admit, “But I think it’s about what I was doing before the war.” Kay’s brows slant, she looks directly at Elisabeth and it’s clear she’s about to crumble. “God, you’re gonna hate me. And I won’t even blame you.”

Listening to Kaydence's thoughts on Yamagato, Elisabeth observes quietly, "Somehow I expect even if she had written it into her will, there would have been some serious opposition." She wonders for a long moment where Hiro Nakamura actually is… whether this timeline's Hiro is even alive. She is not sure which version or versions of the man she has actually had contact with here – at least one was a time-traveled version and she always assumes Wasteland. But who the hell knows?!

Her blue eyes flicker to Kay's face at the last statement and she quirks a brow. In an even tone, she tells the other woman, "I have no room to judge, Kaydence. None." There is darkness and a lot of regret in her voice. "I have done a great many things that are not exactly things to take pride in." The outcomes of a lot of her actions were outcomes she thought necessary – Arthur Petrelli needed to be eliminated and Humanis First members were a clear and immediate threat to others. But Liz has never been proud of the actions she herself took in a lot of those situations; too many of them amounted to murder, really. Even if maybe sometimes justifiable.

"I don't think there is a goddamn thing you could say to me that would make me hate you." The assurance is soft and there's a faint, almost bitter, twist to her lips. "Seems like you and I were way more alike than you might think." There are no innocent players in this mess. So far, history has simply judged her kindly. She invites softly, sliding her free hand into Kay's and squeezing tightly. "Tell me."

Kay shakes her head slowly. “Liz, I failed in the most fundamental way possible.” On this, she’s firm. “After Spence died,” her husband, killed in the line of duty, “I was strugglin’. It was just me an’ ‘Ella.” The more emotional she gets, the more her Louisiana roots make themselves known in her accented voice. “Spence and I worked mostly opposite beats so one of us would always be home with her. But when it was just me, I had to figure out daycare, and pay for it, all while navigating that loss. I just… I needed to be able to provide for her.” Her gaze flickers briefly toward the playground they’ve left behind, like she thinks maybe Liz understands what that’s like now.

“On a cop’s salary? Even a detective… That was hard on us.” The first tears start to fall and Kay is quick to set her coffee carefully next to her on the bench so she can wipe at them. “That’s when… That’s when Daniel Linderman came to call.” The shame of what she’s about to admit causes her to freeze. Her lips press together hard and her frame actually shakes from the effort it takes not to just start bawling.

“He offered me… so much money to work for him. So…” The S stutters, almost like her teeth are chattering. “I did. While I was working undercover with Vice, I made evidence disappear, turned a blind eye to things. I just… I enabled him to do whatever he wanted.”

In short: Detective Kaydence Lee Damaris was a dirty cop.

And the more the woman shakes, the more sympathetic Elisabeth's expression is. She sets her coffee down on the seat next to her and slides close enough to wrap her arm firmly around Kaydence's waist, holding her tightly. "I'm sorry," she says quietly. There is no anger or disgust in her tone; there is only genuine sorrow. "For the first five years of Aura's life… I was making it on a waitress's salary," she tells her friend in a low voice. "Or rather… not making it. Even with a friend as a roommate where we pooled our money and the help of an alternate world's version of Ivanov… there were still days I went hungry so she didn't. I get it, Kaydence."

No, Elisabeth didn't falsify or hide evidence on someone like Linderman. But… she did other things. Maybe not for money. But it doesn't make it right either. "We make choices for our kids. Sometimes those choices are the wrong ones. Sometimes they're just… the only ones we can see." She swallows and just shakes her head. "I'm sorry that you were in that position."

There's a pause and Liz admits quietly, "I'm not entirely sure that I'm not going to make those same choices as things keep on, Kay. Donovan brought me in because – in his own words – I don't mind getting my hands dirty. Hell…" she grimaces slightly. "Do you think none of us know what d'Sarthe is into out there? But better the fucking devil you know… and can work with." She feels some shame for that as she admits it quietly, but the woman is married to a man who is an admitted thief.

And if it comes to it? Regardless of her qualms – and there are many! – she'll make the choices she feels like she has to. And maybe she'll live with the same guilt Kaydence is coping with.

Leaning into Elisabeth’s embrace, Kay just nods at first, letting her tears out silently. While she’s not proud of her past, her present might be even worse, but that’s a secret she’s going to keep locked up. Her Linderman affiliation is old news, and most of the evidence of that connection is long gone. No one left from those circles is dumb enough to rat out anyone else. It’s a silent agreement that if one goes down, they’ll take the others with them. After what happened to Muldoon, they all seem to realize they’re lucky to be alive and free.

“I guess I’m lucky I’m not worth much of anything to the current power on Staten Island,” she says with a weak smile after she gets her crying under control, sitting up again slowly. “Without bein’ in the department an’ all, I don’t have anything ol’ Giddy Up Buttercup wants.”

That’s Kain’s little nickname for Gideon d’Sarthe.

And Elisabeth snorts out a soft laugh; she can't help it. Hearing a Kain-ism out of Kay's mouth is almost as funny as when Aura does it. She'll come back to that in a moment, maybe. Or maybe not … if Kaydence loved Kain as much as Kain loved her, maybe she won't revisit that thought at all.

"So what did you have that they wanted? And who are they?" she asks gently.

“Information about Linderman, apparently.” Kay shakes her head. “I have no idea what exactly they wanted to know. They had some kind of telepath…” Her lip curls. “Lucien Crane. It was some apparently rogue branch of Renautas-Weiss.” If the intel she’s been given since her rescue is to be believed.

Elisabeth grimaces visibly though she expected that Weiss-Renautus had to be involved, given the robot doppelgänger.

“The thing is… How they got me, I…” Drying her eyes, she takes a deep breath to steady herself. “Kain Zarek was there.” Even if Liz didn’t know about how Kain loved Kay, how Kay loved him back in the Wasteland, the fact that she worked for Linderman would explain their connection. It explains the Kains and Kays’ connection in the other strings, too.

“He said he’d tried to warn me not to… Not to show up.” Where did those messages go? Did he send those messages at all? She may never know. “But it was a setup. They told me he was a ringer, but…” Kay looks at Elisabeth, deeply affected by what happened. “It was him. I know it was.” Shaking her head slowly, she finally admits, “And Richard told me you knew him.”

Pulling in a breath, there's a flash through Elisabeth's blue eyes. Pain, affection, resignation on some level. Because of course Kain found his way into this mess. A firming of her jaw, as Liz considers… wonder what he'll do with the message they're holding Kaylee's, Isabelle's, and Shaw's bodies hostage and there's robots of them here. Would he care?

She puts those thoughts aside for a long moment and then looks at her friend. "I do," she replies quietly. "He has saved my life more times over the past years than I can say. And I trust him with my daughter's life in his hands." Which is saying a hell of a lot, considering what Liz has been through. "But goddamn, he has an incredible talent for bad decisions," she sighs heavily.

Kay’s heart sinks and it shows on her face. She retrieves her coffee and stares down at the ground. Her hands are shaking. “He must fuckin’ hate m—” She cuts herself off, because she knows it isn’t true. “When he saw I was… When they were taking me away, and we both knew I was dead, he… He antagonized the guy hired to grab me.”

Her breath catches in her throat, her eyes are no longer focused on the grass, but somewhere else in memory. “He… It’s like he was trying to get himself killed. Like he wanted to get shot.” Kay sort of caves in on herself with that admission, shoulders hunching, head lowering and spine curving like a bow. “I know he survived, but it’s like he’s a ghost.”

Drawing Kaydence tightly against her side, Elisabeth clenches her teeth hard. Don't ever doubt that he loves you … in every world, she thinks, wishing that saying the words to Kaydence could make anything at all better. She chooses her words very carefully. "He's been tearing himself apart all the years I've known him," she whispers in a tone that aches with sadness, "the same way I would if I'd failed Richard." It's as far as she's willing to go in offering an explanation for what Kay saw in him. What was said about the how of it is not her story to tell, and she won't break faith with Kain like that.

"I don't think he wants to die, but… he doesn't know how to live either. He's seen so fucking much horror… he came from the first world I landed in, where we never stopped the Virus, Kay." The memory of that world, of what it was like and how they almost didn't make it out, tightens Liz's throat to the point that Kay can hear the words choke. "I keep hoping someday he might forgive himself… but I guess he's about as good at that as the rest of us," she murmurs, laying her head against Kay's shoulder. "Dumbass Cajun," she whispers. Getting himself killed isn't really the best way to make amends.

She has wondered before and she wonders now if the reason he jumped with her the third time was because he told that Kaydence what happened and she couldn't forgive him. In the end, does it matter?

"I'm glad you told me, though." There is a quiet determination in Elisabeth's tone as she murmurs the words into Kay's hair, still holding her friend tightly. Maybe, just maybe, there's some help on the inside for Kaylee and all the others, because Isabelle and Shaw, Kain's own, are smack in the middle of this. Will he care? Guess she's about to find out, after she has a moment to text his ass.

But none of that is pertinent to this moment. "What can I do to help you handle all this?" Elisabeth asks softly. "How can I make it a little easier or reassure you?"

Kay leans into Liz to cry anew. “I love that dumbass Cajun,” she admits. It’s what Liz already knew, but now it’s spoken into the world. “He— I’ve never forgiven myself, Liz. The night before he died, he came to see me, and I let him leave. I never should have let him leave.”

The Kain Zarek of this world may still be alive if she’d have been able to talk him down from the crusade he was about to embark on.

“He tried to tell me he wasn’t… He told me he wasn’t my Kain. Maybe all I ever was to him was an associate.” She doesn’t believe that. She saw his face. “Find him. Find him for me and… Tell him I made it out alive. That I want to see him? I don’t know. I don’t know.

A small smile quirks her lips upward at Kaydence's confession, though Elisabeth is sad too. "That I may well be able to do," she agrees quietly. "He asked me for some space the last time I went to his place, and I try to give him what he needs without letting him think I'm letting him vanish the way I did in the second world." She smirks faintly. "Really, you'd think I'd know better – he wound up back in Rikers there too." Amusement and exasperation. "Cajun's gonna be Cajun. But assuming he hasn't ditched his phone, I can get to him."

Assuming he kept the phone that allowed her to keep in touch with him in case of trouble. And Izzy and Shaw and others being held hostage by the same fuckers who just tried to kill Kay? Yeah… if she can get that message to the Cajun, she will. And if he did ditch the phone, well… there are fucking ways to draw out a reluctant Cajun. She looks at Kaydence and tips her friend's chin up, blue eyes making sure Kay is meeting them. "Whatever you are to him in any world, it ain't an associate," she assures the other woman softly.

If anyone understands loving someone in all their incarnations, even their shittiest and craziest ones, it's this girl. "I'll get to him somehow." It's a promise.

A lot of what Elisabeth says about this world or that world goes right over the top of Kay’s head, but she also suspects it would make very little sense to her and require more time than they have in a month of evenings to help her understand. She’s smart enough to surmise enough of what she needs: Liz will try to find Kain for her.

“Okay,” she breathes out quietly, reaching up to dry at her face. “But that isn’t… That isn’t everything.” Kain’s involvement in what happened to Kay is almost a footnote. Her eyes become haunted, face turning away from her friend for a time, staring somewhere off in the direction of Toronto about six months ago.“They… did something to me, Liz.” When she looks back again, it’s almost out of the corner of her eye, like she’s afraid to look her dead on. Or afraid not to still have eyes on the past in front of her.

Elisabeth’s phone chimes loudly.

The way Kaydence says it makes Elisabeth go very still, instantly on alert and very much protective mode. "What do you mean by did something, Kay?" For all that her body is strung tight with the possibility of the need to act, her tone is as gentle as it can be. What new horror is about to be unveiled?

The chime has her putting her hand into her pocket, but she doesn't pull it out just yet. What Kaydence is telling her is more immediate – and if it were the girls, Mike would have gotten a chime a split second before she did, so that's covered too unless the massive man makes a move.

Please God don't let her be telling me they did an experiment on her… But there is some part of Liz that is already jumping to that thought and fighting to hold her reactions to low-key ones.

“They told me they were going to hand me over to… I don’t know. What was left of Praxis? Or their partners overseas, whoever they were.” Some of that is fuzzy in retrospect. Kay shifts her shoulders and looks away.

Again, the phone chimes.

Frowning deeply, Elisabeth murmurs thoughtfully, "Huh." She doesn't like the sound of that at all, obviously. But while she considers the meaning and ramifications, she pulls her phone out to check it now. Her tension is still high, and she isn't sure how to explain what has happened to Kaylee and Abigail and others.

2 New Messages


Tue, May 4, at 3:22pm
Hello, Elisabeth Harrison. I am T1SIPHONE, but concede T1 is simpler.
I can answer your questions regarding Ms Damaris’ condition.

Kay is staring off toward the kids with the faintest of smiles on her face, politely giving Elisabeth the space to tend to her text messages while she takes the moment to try and calm herself.

She was involved in an experiment called Structure. They held her in a lab and integrated her with a computer system wired directly into her brain. She still maintains a port.

It’s no wonder Kay has no shortage of putting that into words. The hat on the woman’s head makes more sense now.

"Jesus, Kay…" Elisabeth breathes out softly. Her head drops for a moment and her eyes close. Lifting her head, she looks at her companion. Once they were friends – at least work friends. She reaches out and touches Kaydence's forearm. "I can't say I know what you're dealing with," she says softly. "But I'm here anytime you need me." She pauses. "And you're not alone. There are others who've had… similar experiences recently." Liz has no idea if Richard told Kay about any of this. And she's not sure Kaydence wants to know more than that, though quite frankly she's sure the woman could use the emotional support if nothing else.

"Kain got you out of there?"

Kay doesn’t look away from the playground, she just shakes her head. Maybe they weren’t close in the way that Elisabeth keeps her friends close, but Liz was among the very, very few that Kay counted among hers. She’s terrible at forming personal relationships and even worse at keeping up with them. With the shame she clearly feels for her role in Linderman’s organization, it’s not hard to see why she didn’t try to reestablish contact in any meaningful fashion when she returned to New York City after spending the war upstate, where she and ‘Ella had joined her parents.

“No,” is the simple answer to Liz’s question. “No. Eizen recovered him, he healed up in our medical facilities, and then he just… ghosted.” Her smile has faded entirely by that point. “I guess he was able to give Eizen enough information for them to eventually track me down. They performed a joint operation with Wolfhound.”

The phone chimes again. Another message.

I am not a result of the experimentation, but I did manifest from her stress.

So Yamagato and Wolfhound got her out. Elisabeth can only imagine how much Kain is beating himself up over the whole thing, quite honestly. That's a whole tangle of yarn that is probably never going to straighten itself out. A brief look toward the playground shows her 'Ella and Aura playing by the swings and one obvious bodyguard/nanny nearby with at least one more unobtrusive one that Liz spots near the edge of the trees. The girls are safe.

Glancing down at the screen again, she pauses and then looks at Kay thoughtfully. "You… manifested an ability?" she asks, a hint of puzzlement but also just a little concern for how the other woman is dealing with that on top of being kidnapped and god only knows what. "Or is this T1," she wiggles her hand with the phone in it, "something else?"

Kay’s eyes dance between Elisabeth’s and she smiles faintly, but doesn’t provide a verbal answer to the question.

Ms Damaris and I are inextricably linked. My applications are somewhat limited, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. Communications are my specialty.

Nudging Liz’s arm, Kay tilts her chin toward a nearby street lamp. It sits dark and won’t engage until dusk. But a couple seconds after she takes notice of it, it’s suddenly lit up. In the afternoon light, it isn’t terribly noticeable, meaning no one else seems to see the innocuous malfunction.

Both eyebrows shoot up and Elisabeth can't help a grin. "Well… okay then. I guess it makes texting a bit easier, huh?" Among probably a hundred other things. Her easy acceptance of the ability is perhaps not what Kaydence was expecting, but Liz's concern is more about how Kay herself is accepting it. She turns her blue eyes back to the other woman and asks, "And you're doing okay with it? It's got to be hard, figuring out how to feel about all of what's happened… and what you've learned." Alternate reality versions of men you love, getting kidnapped and experimented on, coming away from it with what at least mimics an ability… that's a hell of a lot on one plate.

There's a nudge back on that elbow, and Elisabeth slants a look from beneath her lashes that has an almost sly feel. "And don't just go saying 'fine.' We both know 'fine' is 'fuck no, I'm losing my shit here but I don't want you to see it.' So… find better words, Kaydence Lee." The tone is teasing, but the affection is very real.

“It does,” make texting easier, Kay concedes with a soft chuckle, though she rubs her reddened eyes. The street lamp goes back into its dormant state. She offers a tired smile to Liz for her friendly prodding. “Fuck no,” she says, “I’m losing my shit here, but I don’t want you to see it.” Liz’s words are better, so why not?

I am learning more every day. It is an ongoing process.

“You know, it’s funny. I felt railroaded by the department back then. How couldn’t I, though? They took my division and decided that because I wasn’t one of you,” she means Evolved, “I was no longer qualified to work those investigations. I had been… It was a big step in my career, getting put on that squad.”

Elisabeth nods, this time with sympathy. "Yeah, I pretty much lost my shit when mine manifested too," she admits. "And worse, I tumbled a perp ass over teakettle in the alley I was chasing him through when I did it." She squeezes Kay's arm, glancing at T1's message with a small smile but she keeps her attention on what Kaydence is confiding.

"You were railroaded," she agrees quietly. "You earned your place there, and abilities are just another tool in the toolbox that squad brought to the table." Her own current incarnation, she is damn well living up to that as much as she can. "Even back then I thought it sucked donkey balls that you got shafted like that." She pauses and the adds softly, "I don't hate you for anything you did, Kay. I don't even blame you. We both know the system was and still is corrupt, and we're all human. Why wouldn't you take what was offered?"

It's funny. Elisabeth Harrison, the poster child for NYPD's initiative to be a 'cleaner, better NYPD' is saying this. There are things she could say, confessions she could offer as commiseration, but this is not about her. "I can't say I would have done anything different in your shoes. If someone had approached me with an offer like that when I was scared Aura would be hungry? Yeah, no question is have taken it."

“I hope she never finds out,” Kay says of her daughter with a sigh. “And if she does, I hope she understands.”

Kay leans into Elisabeth’s shoulder. “Thank you,” she murmurs. The next breath she draws in is shaky. “There’s something so big brewin’ out there.” Her gaze is straight ahead when she says it. “It feels like when I was working counter-terrorism against the Vanguard.” The shudder is felt through their contact. Kay had been one of the few to have an encounter with Kazimir Volken, to be abducted by the organization, and live to tell the tale.

Although maybe this is one of the only times she’s ever talked about it. “I thought my days of being caught up in that kinda shit were behind me, you know?” She smiles wryly. “Although, after what you’ve told me, maybe y’all don’t.” She lets that go.

Elisabeth simply gives a silent squeeze and rests against Kaydence silently.

“I’m still bitter. I was always bitter about it. About having the rug pulled out from under me.” Straightening up again, Kay looks over at her friend. “I spent a long time mad about it, being sidelined and feeling like I was being told I couldn’t handle doing my own damn job just because I couldn’t bend a damn spoon with my mind.”

Kay looks up at the dark street lamp again, just for something to focus on. “I’m keepin’ this to myself for now,” she admits. “With what’s happened to me, I’m trying to fly under the radar as long as I can. I’m trying to find the people responsible so I can get answers.” And, knowing what Liz knows about the temper Kay was notorious for, likely a bit of revenge in there, too.

Pulling a slow breath in and letting it out while she looks toward the park, Elisabeth nods slightly. "Well," she begins quietly, "… are you sure that they sent a shapeshifter?" She doesn't look at Kaydence for the query, as strange as it must sound, but… the woman was jacked into a computer and someone or something took her place, so Elisabeth has to ask the question. "As opposed to… a clone or something?" It's not even the strangest question she's asked this month. Adam Monroe? Brian Fulk? She has to ask!

“It was a shapeshifter,” Kay confirms with a grim nod. “She revealed herself when they finally apprehended her.” The fact that she wasn’t taken immediately, when they knew from what Kain said that the her that came back had to be an impostor… That still finds its way under her skin like a rash she can’t scratch out.

“I suspect Crane lifted enough of my memory to help her portray me convincingly.” That thought makes her stomach churn. “Guess it shows how few people really know me, huh? Christ… She even had ‘Ella fooled for a while.” Kay adjusts the brim of her hat for something to do with her hands. “Apparently, my being a better mom than usual is what got her suspicious.” Those aren’t the words ‘Ella would use at all, but it doesn’t stop Kay’s own insecurities.

"Kaydence," Elisabeth chides gently. She knows damn good and well that is not what 'Ella said. The way the girl is with her mother is all she needs to see to know it. The name Crane, at the moment, means nothing to Elisabeth, but she seems to breathe a little easier when Kay is sure that it was a shapeshifter.

"I suspect what really happened is that the imposter knew just enough about you to skate by and kept their distance from anyone who could have seen through it. But they couldn't keep it up all the time around 'Ella and tipped their hand trying to be too fucking nice," she grins at Kay. "The sass that girl has? Not many people interact with their sassy teens the way you two do … I expect the imposter just couldn't handle a mini-Kaydence."

There is genuine laughter in that lightly teasing tone. But there is also concern in the blue eyes. "You're a good mother and she knows she is your world, Kay." Liz watches their girls, the elder now chasing the younger around the slide. "She's a great kid," she observes softly. "Whatever mistakes we make… as long as they know they're loved, it's the important thing."

It’s clear Kay doesn’t necessarily agree with Liz, but she doesn’t push the matter, either. “A mini-Kaydence, huh? I thought you said she was a great kid.” She smirks with a roll of her eyes, then sighs quietly. “I always see so much of Spencer in her. But… Maybe that’s just wishful thinking. She was real young.” Liz remembers. “She doesn’t remember much of what he was like, honestly. Not like what he was really like. You’re not your most authentic self when your kid’s little.” But she’s willing to concede, “Or maybe that was just me.” And ‘Ella saw a lot more authenticity from her mother than Kay would ever realize.

Elisabeth smiles slightly, because Kay isn't wrong. There are parts of herself she hides from Aura, of course there are. She wonders sometimes what her child will remember when she looks back. But she remains quiet, simply lending her support in the way she leans into her friend's side and keeps one arm lightly around her shoulder.

For a time, she’s quiet, just watching her daughter duck around one side of a slide, then the other, back and forth until Aura decides which way to run, then breaks off after her. “She’s going to be a great mom someday,” she remarks with a sort of wistful expression. She comes back to the moment and grins at her friend. “Hopefully not any time soon, though.”

Kay rubs at her eyes again with one hand, reaching out with the other one to grab one of Liz’s, looking for strength she doesn’t feel she has in the moment. “Richard says the guy who runs the show at Yamagato now is the one that set me up.” And it doesn’t sound like she’s doubting that. “What I can’t figure out is why he’s kept me on. Maybe he doesn’t want his competitors to know there could be blood in the water, but a changing of the guard wouldn’t raise that many eyebrows.” After all, Kay was loyal to Kimiko, not the company. “Shit.

"God, not anytime soon," Elisabeth agrees with the first sentiment, huffing out a laugh. "If she's a great mom, she's had a good role model or two." She grins at Kay, nudges the woman with her shoulder, and pulls her arm down to twine her fingers tightly into Kaydence's. Her gaze grows more serious while she listens to the rest. She jumps slightly, her eyes sharp at the exclamation. "What?" she asks quietly. Because Kay obviously thought of something.

That’s responded to with a quick shake of her head. “Nothin’,” Kay insists. “‘M just… exhausted.” She squeezes Elisabeth’s hand. “Thanks for being willin’ to pick up the phone when I call. I’ll try to be better about keeping in touch.” She laughs quietly. “I’d like to do this again sometime without talkin’ about things bein’ shit.”

Elisabeth's return squeeze is just as tight with their fingers intertwined as they are right now. In some ways, Kaydence's willingness to reach out like this is something that's as much help to Liz as it might be to Kay.

"I would like that a lot, lady," she admits with a small smile. She just sincerely doubts that is going to be anytime soon. "Especially now. I have to admit I'm … concerned that they are so fucking certain you won't turn them in for kidnapping that they're now trying to keep you on to have control of that narrative if it comes out. 'Look, why would she even keep working for our company if she thought we were behind that?'" Liz glances at the other woman with a thoughtful expression.

"They could be setting you up for something else though. You be careful in there, yeah? If anything seems sideways, you even get a whiff of something, just… get out." Elisabeth has very real concerns. "If they're dealing with overseas… you mentioned Praxis, but I'm more worried about Mazdak. Which… there's all kinds of tangled yarn around Praxis and Mazdak, so Yamagato's honcho trying to send you somewhere there? It's ringing my alarm bells hard."

“Yeah,” Kay breathes out. It’s all heavy and it can be heard just in that one note. “I’m watching myself as best I can.” She eases her grasp, watching the girls sitting side by side on the swingset. “It’s not my first rodeo, but this is also way bigger than anything I’ve dealt with before.” Tilting her head, she supposes, “Global company, global problems.”

Finally lifting her forgotten coffee, she takes a drink. It’s cooled too much for her liking, but she’s also too stubborn not to drink it anyway. “I need to be gettin’ to the office.” Kay gestures loosely toward the park. “You good if she sticks around for a bit? She can get a car back from the school.” She won’t put it on her friend to make sure her daughter gets home.

Relaxing into the seat as Kaydence seems to find her balance, Elisabeth retrieves her own cup to sip from. "Oh sure," is the easy reply. "We'll just drop her back home when she's ready – it's no problem. I took a bit of time off today to spend it with Aurora. She's adapting well to being here, but … we spent a long time in places that were not good. It was rare that she was very far from me. I don't want her to think we came to this place just for me to be working all the time away from her." There's a thread of determination in her tone. "The job comes behind her, behind family." Unless, of course, the 'real' job comes calling, she thinks with a brief furrow of brows. It clears quickly though.

Taking a sip from her cup, she tips her head and smiles as she watches the teen entertain the younger girl. There's a wistful expression as she watches them. "I want their lives to have a lot of this, you know?" Fucking solar flare. "I think sometimes she's starting to forget. And then she says something." The child has seen far too much.

There’s a pang of guilt that shows on Kay’s face. The job comes behind her. Well, Liz’s job is less dangerous to her when she chooses to prioritize time with her daughter. Admittedly, Aurora needs her mother far more than ‘Ella needs Kay at this age. Still…

“Yeah,” Kay agrees with a nod. “Just gotta keep moving forward. It’ll… It’ll get better.” Because it has to. The former detective climbs to her feet. “Thanks for all of it. I’ll see you around, Liz.”

Tipping her head, Liz studies Kaydence. "Whatever you've got going in that head of yours?" she tells her friend quietly, "If you need backup, call. The cop shit goes by the wayside."

There's an expression in Elisabeth's eyes that Kay's never had reason to really see – the woman who torched her whole life twice just because it was the right thing to do. "Never doubt that I prioritize people above everything." A wicked smile quirks her lips, an expression that Endgame members and especially Liz's closest would recognize and fear mightily. "I've got no issue obliterating it all. And I have access to the good explosives now."

Kay can’t help but smirk back, glad for the more or less unconditional offer to help. “You’ll be the first one I call if I decide to burn it all down.” She lifts a hand in a wave and starts the walk back to her car.

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