Armistice Day


vf_elisabeth_icon.gif vf_ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Armistice Day
Synopsis For the British, it is the day to pause at 11:00 and remember all those who died in World War I and all subsequent conflicts. Remembrance can be strange, though.
Date November 11, 2011

The Hub

The Hub, 11th of November 2011

The mess hall of the Hub is not best-suited to solitude, but the little community of survivors are not exactly blessed with many of the former comforts of the civilised world. Thus, taking up a corner spot is about as close as one woman can come to it.

That she is here after breakfast and before lunch helps somewhat: no one seeks to disturb her isolation as she sits, head-bowed and hands flat on the table before her. It’s not exactly meditation, but her breathing is slow and steady, her posture poised and still.

To one of the time-travellers, she is likely to be instantly familiar - in spite of the short-cropped, undyed brown hair and the distinct lack of the angry scarring left by a bullet blasting through one arm (and the wound’s subsequent power-washing by a certain hydrokinetic), so much else is immediately recognisable. The troglodytic pallor from a life lived largely underground, the degree of athletic toning determinedly maintained as best the worsened diet permits, the angles of how she chooses to sit…

Elisabeth makes her way into the mess area looking for something to drink. It’s hard, sometimes, to deal with the circumstances of this world. As she enters the dining space, though, she’s confronted by yet another familiar face. She’s almost getting used to it by now… Edward, Rickham, Kain, Nicole… it was inevitable that eventually she would come across someone who was a closer connection that mere familiarity. And the sight of the other woman stops her dead in her tracks with an immediate lump in her throat. She can’t even say anything.

Swallowing hard, she shakes herself a bit, and then moves to retrieve that water she was seeking. She moves quietly, but only so as not to disturb Ygraine not to try to hide her presence. When the other woman looks up, Liz finds herself searching those features for a sign of recognition, knowing that it’s not going to be there… and yet unable to help herself. “Hello,” she greets quietly.

The blue eyes are the same. The bone-deep weariness is… similar, at the very least. The Ygraine with whom Elisabeth shared a room for long months in the Endgame safehouse was a traumatised survivor of being paranormally imprisoned, firebombed, shot, and part-starved even before events led to her lurking in a derelict building while on the run from the Federal government. This version’s experiences were no doubt different in critical details, but the outcome looks all too familiar.

Right down to the determined attempt to find an at least halfway-convincing smile.

“Oh. Hello there.” The polished voice is pitched low, just enough volume to reach Elisabeth’s ears without difficulty. “You must be one of the new arrivals. Congratulations on making it to the Hub.”

“Well… in theory it’s a step up, right?” Elisabeth replies, her tone both amused and perhaps a little skeptical. She is cautious as she moves toward the woman, tilting her head. “You… look familiar to me.” She’s having to dig back in her memory and find something from before the high school. She can’t remember if they met in the park before or after that. But… she banks on Ygraine not remembering either. Because… God help her, she needs one person whose basic honesty, good sense, and goodness she can count on here. “Did you… know Norton Trask?”

She slides onto a seat across from the other woman, searching her face. So much similarity. Liz can’t tell her all that’s going on, but… “I think we might have … met in a park or something once?”

Wary politeness is swiftly replaced by surprised pleasure, Ygraine’s features lighting up. “Norton Trask? Hah, yes. Not well, but… I was the crazy woman who brought him a cactus when he was in hospital. He said he was terrible at keeping plants alive, and it seemed like it might be more interesting than a bunch of cut flowers….”

A fondly wistful smile precedes a quick head-shake, before she focuses upon the new arrival - eyes flickering slightly as she searches the newcomer’s face for anything familiar. “I… don’t remember, I’m afraid.” She sounds guiltily apologetic. “I… if you think we did, then I really wish I could say ‘yes’ to recalling it myself. It’s not as if connections from before are easy to come by.”

Elisabeth nods, a faint smile playing around her lips. She simply leaves it at that — a connection, tenuous but present, through an old friend. She doesn’t know what Norton told the woman in front of her after her analog in this world was killed, so she doesn’t want to draw too much attention to those memories. “He was an interesting sort. I remember you because of the accent,” she confesses with a grin. “I didn’t meet many Brits. I remember… after we all went our way that day, he said you were a really good person and he hoped we met up again. But… you know, things went kinda nuts.”

In her world… they did meet up again. The pang in her chest hurts, but Liz doesn’t let the other woman see it. She runs a hand absently over her shorn head, a movement that is becoming a regular one for her. “Did any of your other… mutual friends… actually survive?” she asks softly. “I know… a little about what you guys were doing back then.”

“I… well. Yeah.” The Briton winces slightly, offering a tired shrug. “It… it’s a bit hard to say quite who knew whom, at this distance. There’s been… rather a lot happening. And I wasn’t, umm, in the best of shape for all of it.” Again, she looks guiltily apologetic. “I fear I’m not the person Norton might have told you I was. Though I’m trying to live up to that now. But I didn’t take all the… the death too well. I was… I was with Phoenix, in January of oh-nine. When we failed to stop all this from starting. I tried to hang onto things, and protect people, but…”

She looks away, blinking to try to clear bright eyes… before forcing herself to look back to Liz, and then extend one hand. Though even that gesture is hesitant, one wrist bearing a cleared-from-quarantine bracelet. “Ygraine, by the way. In case you couldn’t remember. I’m truly sorry that I don’t remember your name.”

“There was nothing anyone could have done, Ygraine. No one could have known when they stopped Holden in Nevada that he was carrying live viruses hidden in his truck. There was no way to know what Volken was doing back then.” She reaches out and takes the other woman’s hand. “Liz. It’s really good to meet you.”

Noting the bracelet, Liz nods slightly at it. “Scav run? Find anything good?” She grins a bit. “I’d kill for an iPod.” The tone is thoroughly teasing — finding something like that is probably not going to happen. Even if it did, it wouldn’t work.

The hand-shake she provides is firm, unlike so much of her present demeanour. But when Liz nods to it, for a moment Ygraine self-consciously covers the bracelet with her other hand… before forcing herself to reveal it again and offer a wry little smile.

“A few bits and pieces, yes. I, ahh, don’t know if you’re aware of what I can do, but… well. For a good while, I thought it was pretty much useless. Certainly compared to what I saw other people able to do. But after a while of hiding in here, I realised that I could - should - help with the scavenging. I can get people into places they otherwise couldn’t reach, dodge traps, evade pursuit…. Finding an iPod for you, I can probably manage, if you’re serious.”

“Well…” Liz considers. “If you trip over one, if it happens to work AND have a cord for charging, AND even has music on it… I might be serious AND seriously consider having your babies,” she retorts on a laugh. Because well… that seems like reaching for the moon! It’s very easy to fall into feeling like they are already friends, so the teasing might be out of place, but she doesn’t realize it yet.

“Tell me something .. full-on honest thoughts here, Cuz Norton always trusted your instincts. Tell me what you think of Edward Ray?” Because this would be the person whose assessment she would actually trust not to have an agenda, to tell the truth.

“My babies, huh?” Ygraine looks and sounds both surprised and amused, leaning back a touch and arching one brow… but is eyeing the blonde with curious interest rather than alarm. “Was Norton hoping to set you up with me, or something?”, she asks with a laugh. “I didn’t think I’d made that good an impression on him….”

Chuckling, she shakes her head again - then frowns pensively, leaning forward to rest her arms on the table once more. “I… hrmm.” She darts a sidelong glance towards the rest of the room, before nodding fractionally as she focuses upon Liz.

“He’s not the god among us that some people want him to be,” she says softly, hesitation disappearing as her mind settles into analysing a specific query. “And I honestly don’t know if he’s made the right call on some of the tougher decisions. We’ve lost good people, who seemed wholly uninfected and okay, but were shut out because their suit was ripped. Was that the right call? I honestly don’t know. Was it his brilliance, as opposed to acting out of fear? I honestly don’t know that, either.

“But he tries. He tried to save the whole damn world in January oh-nine. We drove around chasing the wrong thing, but without him… well. Maybe we’d have known the Vanguard were up to something, but… he gave us a chance, however small. And he brought us here. Not as a cult-leader with a Messiah complex - which some people’d frankly like him to be. But… well. He’s sometimes a bit hazy on being convincing about the why. There’re only a few among us who’re committed to saving the whole world: most are a lot more focused on family, or friends, or some ideal of culture or civilisation or progress. Precisely what it is that really drives him, deep down, I don’t know. It might be as simple as thinking that he stands most chance, personally, with hundreds of helpers.

“But he does try. And he has tried in the past. And that counts for a lot with me. It’s… in small part, it’s why I started doing what I do. Going on the runs. I could have kept on hiding in here. But I’m one of the walking dead who go outside now, because when I’m with a group everyone else’s chance’s of coming back go up, and our chances of finding worthwhile things go up. My own chances of seeing the end of the week are much worse, but for as long as I keep doing it, everyone else’s odds improve. In a totally ‘fair’ society, that’d be a rotating duty. Edward’d join us. But our best odds, overall, seem to be with him tucked away in here.”

There's an amused chuckle at the setting up comment. “No, I think he was quite happy keeping me in his own bed,” she snickers.

As the other woman answers the deeper questions, though, Elisabeth pays very close attention, giving Ygraine both the courtesy of knowing that she's being listened to and the sense that what she says has weight. Though why that might be the case is not exactly clear. She nods slowly, considering the situation. “Thank you,” she tells the Briton sincerely. “I needed as close to an objective viewpoint as I could get.”

She herself still … feels rather like she's dancing with the devil. A necessity, to be sure. But still.

Ygraine coughs, clearing her throat as she presents Liz with a familiar blush. “Well, there go my chances,” she says dryly. A deep breath, then she cocks her head, openly studying the strange-to-her blonde.

Why do you trust me to have an objective opinion? That… I had no idea, or more likely I’ve forgotten, that Norton had someone in his life. But for him to have spoken so highly of me that it still holds such weight with you now…. I honestly didn’t think I’d made that good an impression on anyone. This… hah. It’s safe to say I’d no notion of having a hot blonde offer to have my babies. Let alone take me this seriously. I was just in here for the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, as probably the only person left alive in New York for whom it matters at all. You’re… unexpected.”

“I like being an enigma,” Elisabeth decides with a chuckle. “I think… part of the reason is because you told me that day in the park what you used to do before you were in New York. Enough that … I guess it stuck with me that you’d be someone who could watch the world and see all sides of things?” It’s not exactly a question. More like would you believe me if I said… But she shrugs. “You struck me at the time, despite the short meeting, as someone very level-headed. And … maybe because you’re really the only even remotely familiar face I’ve seen in a long time, I jumped to conclusions?”

The Brit’s personality has been one of her grounding forces for more than a year now. Through so much, including nightmares and Richard walking out and everything else. She’s also one of the only really close female friends Elisabeth has — Claire, Monica, Remi… they’re all friends. But Ygraine and Abby? They… are part of a little more exclusive circle. They’ve lived Liz’s fears. And Elisabeth misses Ygraine’s steady presence more than she ever thought possible.

Ygraine blinks, evidently racking her brain for any relevant memories of Liz. But after a moment she laughs, shrugs, and offers a bashful little smile. “I… well. I used to be a competitive cyclist. But from the sound of it, you’re talking more about the academic side of things. I used to want to try to help the world to be a less horrible place. Then….”

She shrugs, expanding the motion into an all-encompassing gesture. “But yeah. I try to keep an open mind, as well as paying attention. It’s generally a good idea for lunatic in a foreign land, even when the world hasn’t ended in the interim.”

If you only knew. “All very true,” Elisabeth agrees. She sips from her water and admits, “I’m really, really glad to run into you, Ygraine. It’s… lonely.” And difficult. And worse yet, she wonders if this is where it is all going to end for them. They’ve only been here a few days and she can feel the weight of the despair here like a physical object, pressing down on the whole place. It’s a struggle to believe that we’re going to be able to re-create this random connection. But if she doesn’t believe it, she might as well give up entirely. And that is not in her to do. Not without exhausting all possibilities. Despite Magnes’s valiant attempt to get them all killed.

“They’ve, uhm… asked me to take on some lessons for the kids on the piano. Do you by chance sing? Maybe we can sort out some things to cheer them up.”

“I, ahh, was in my school choir. ‘School’ in the British sense - before university.” Ygraine is right back to looking and sounding sheepishly self-conscious. “But you play? Really? That’s wonderful. If it won’t… I can try. Though I might make things worse than you playing alone would be, if you really know what you’re doing. But, ahh, yes. Definitely. It could do people good, I think. Ahh… thank you. I… yeah. Thank you.”

Glancing away, Ygraine draws in a slightly unsteady breath. “I… try not to be a morose loner all the time,” she says quietly. “It’s just… in Britain, this is Armistice Day. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is when the armistice that ended the First World War was signed. It’s the point at which we commemorate the fallen, in that and every subsequent conflict.”

Flicking her gaze back to Liz, she ventures an apologetic little shrug. “It… seemed like an appropriate point to let myself think. Consciously allow it. Mostly, I try not to. You… you caught me at an interesting point, for a message from my past. But a good one, I think.”

Elisabeth pauses, and then says quietly, “November 11th is Veterans’ Day here in the US… the day we celebrate and say thank you to everyone who gave of themselves to serve in the armed forces.” She didn’t realize that was today. And for a moment, she’s overwhelmed with a rather confused tangle of emotions. Because she never fought in the military… but she sure as hell fought. “I think I like Armistice Day better. We’ve lost entirely too many in a war that… has no end.” She looks down at the table, and pulls in a quick breath. “I’m sorry. That was rather maudlin.”

She looks up and forces a smile for the woman across from her, who… responded to the simple request to help make some children happier in the same way Elisabeth expected her to, without hesitation. “It’ll be good to have another voice. I’ll let you know when I’m supposed to have the first lessons.”

“At 11am on Armistice Day, we have a two-minute silence,” Ygraine explains quietly. “That’s… what I was trying to do. Though maybe I overran a bit. But, umm, yeah. It… I….” She sighs, then shrugs yet again. “I agree. About losing too many, and it never seeming to end.”

A distinct hesitation, then she cautiously reaches out, attempting to touch fingertips to the unfamiliar blonde’s arm. “I’m… I’m truly sorry that I don’t remember you. Maybe it’ll come to me in time. But, well. If you’re willing, then I’d, ahh, welcome a friend. Or a piano-playing buddy, anyway. Whatever being liked by Norton earns me.”

Elisabeth begins to wave off the apology, though she doesn’t pull away from the touch. Being liked by Norton earned you an introduction. You being *you* earned you my respect, my gratitude, and my undying friendship. But she can’t say any of that, and she has to bite her tongue. Tears suddenly flood her blue eyes, and she does then pull her hand away to wipe at them. “I’m sorry. A little overwhelmed at being here. I would be happy to have someone who considers me a friend,” she replies a little shakily. Wiping her nose a little inelegantly to keep from sniffling, the blonde seems momentarily unable to really gain control of the waterworks. “Geez… so lame. Simple kindness renders me completely unhinged,” she quips, trying to keep it from getting awkward.

“I should probably go — you take whatever time you can find to meditate. I hope that it brings your spirits up a little.” Liz moves to stand, not wanting to embarrass herself or Ygraine. “I will definitely let you know when the lessons are. Okay?”

“Awww, shit. I’m sorry.” It sounds like Ygraine truly is, the Briton seemingly feeling wholly to blame for Liz’s upset. “Really. It’s… it’s okay. Being out there is so far beyond my inflated vocabulary’s ability to describe. If you ever want to talk, I’ll listen. I’ve… I’ve been in here since early on. So I can’t claim to know all about it. But I’ve spent enough time outside I can probably at least ‘get’ some of what you’ve been through. And if you don’t want to spill your guts to someone so clueless she can’t even remember you, then, well, believe me when I say I can understand that. We can stick to singing badly and playing the piano better, as suits our talents, okay?”

It makes her laugh that Ygraine did what Ygraine always does… jumps at the tears and tries to fix them! “I appreciate the offer. And just so you know, I have no expectation that you would remember me. It was a chance meeting that stuck in my head for … a number of reasons that seem ridiculous even to me. So don’t even feel bad about that!” She wipes her face again.

“It’s really not that. I just… realized how much I miss other people too.” And that she’s utterly terrified, being here like this. There is no one here to trust except Magnes Varlane … and that's a tough sell. “But I am really grateful for the small tie that gave me someone to recognize. Truly.”

In a movement that probably surprises Ygraine, Elisabeth leans down to hug her VERY tightly for just a moment, whispers “Thank you” in her ear, and then leaves the mess hall rather more quickly than expected. Making it back to her room before she loses it is of paramount importance to her.

Ygraine is left… to be Ygraine. Inwardly cursing herself for the failings of both her memory — how could she forget a meeting that made such a lasting impression on Liz?!? — and for her awkwardness with people, which she blames for failing to return the hug in time. She got as far as reaching out a hand for the departing blonde… but too late to make contact.

Losing it, she’s not too far from herself. Fortunately she has the ‘cover’ of her quiet contemplation - and pretending to resume that lets her make a passable attempt at hiding the brightness of her own eyes, and the quivering of her palms upon the tabletop.

Inwardly, she’s fighting not to trawl through her memories in search of the last time that someone gave her a spontaneous hug out of sheer affection. That might be an even more painful form of remembrance than the commemoration of the fallen she was here to undertake. But right now, she somehow seems to have been found by someone who’s straightforwardly grateful she exists.

And that feels better than anything she could ever hope to find in the world above.

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