Bonsai Trees and Sugarplums


elisabeth2_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title Bonsai Trees and Sugarplums
Synopsis It's been a crazy year, but that's nothing new. A little ridiculousness is never a bad thing.
Date December 24, 2020

RayTech Corporate Housing, Ray/Harrison Household

Their apartment has been adamantly Christmas-ized by pint-sized elves who seem to all agree that there is no such thing as too many colored lights on a tree. Aurora has been on cloud nine all day, asking her father a hundred million times, "Are you sure Santa will come?" It's only her second Christmas that she can truly remember — she was only 5 when they left Bright under fire, and her memories of Christmas there are of lights and Unca Felix and Unca Lee but she and Mummy had been gone before that holiday. Therapy and a couple of years of growing have a way of blurring the past. So the only holdover has been the insistence that colored lights are better and a tendency to need to verify that yes, in fact, Santa will find her. Despite all that's happened this year, they have still managed to fill the apartment with a plethora of brightly wrapped and beribboned boxes and the children are staying overnight at Jared and Carina's because of a Christmas morning breakfast tradition.

So now, with a fire in their fireplace and a glass of wine half-drunk on the low table in the living room, Elisabeth is putting the last of the boxes beneath their tree for tomorrow. A radio — or maybe it's the turntable — is playing softly in the background while she admires their efforts. The apartment is, these days, adequately soundproofed without her power, so she doesn't worry about bothering anyone as she sings along in a strong mezzo soprano, "Silver bells…. Silver bells… It's Christmas time in the city…"

Of course Santa will come, Richard reassured his daughter, He’s been cleared through security and everything.

The residential area has been festooned with decorations for those living here, and earlier in the evening a train of reindeer-eared SPOT<™> units tramped down the halls delivering year-end gifts to all the residences. Of course, he made sure that Aurora had a safe place to hide if she didn’t want to see them on their little parade, and warned her well ahead of time.

But now it’s just him and his wife, and he looks out over the piles of presents and holiday cheer and smiles. “Man, what I wouldn’t give for a fat teleporter that I could pay to wear the suit,” he muses in not-serious tones, “Nobody would ever convince the kids that there wasn’t a Santa.”

"Ffffffft," Liz grins at him. "Because Lou wouldn't lose her shit if someone came teleporting in here with presents." After the year or so they've had around here? She plucks up her wine glass to take a long swallow as she surveys their home from her comfortable vantage point. "I wouldn't even mind a white Christmas this year," she admits as the music shifts to the song that obviously brought the thought to mind. Though these days she really hates being cold and wet, the kids have managed to give her back some of the joy she used to have in snow itself. Besides, who can resist Bing Crosby's purr?

Setting the nearly empty glass back down on the table, she rummages behind the tree and holds a small box out to him. It's a wrapped box, but it just has a lid with a bow affixed so that it can be lifted right off. "I picked up something at the last minute I thought you might want to give Aura," Elisabeth offers with a smaller smile.

“Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t love to hear that security report. ‘Uh, Mrs Harrison, we have apprehended Santa Claus’,” Richard says, imitating Lou’s voice as best as he can, grinning all the while. He’s relaxed a little for the holiday, even if in a day or two he’ll be right back to fretting.

He wrinkles his nose a bit at the mention of a white Christmas - snow is still something he dreads - but then there’s a box being offered, and he steps over with a bemused expression, “Oh? What is it…?”

Reaching out to take it, he moves a hand to lift the lid curiously.

Snickering, she has to admit, "I really would. I mean, just for the magic of that." Elisabeth's amusement remains on display as he opens the box. It's nothing large or fancy. It's a shoebox-sized package, after all. And inside, sitting carefully bundled so they don't fall, are two small bonsai trees in little pots.

She clears her throat a little, uncertain maybe whether it is something he'll even like. "I thought maybe… you could teach her how to connect and … I don't know. Share something you used to enjoy with her." He knows good and well his wife is really crappy at gardening or plants — she calls it her Black Thumb. Her gaze remains on the small trees and she murmurs, "I always remembered the roses." The picture he took of a rooftop garden where no one else would ever see it, light years ago and a decade away from the here and now. She hasn't seen him do any of that since she got back.

“Oh…” As he sees the trees, Richard’s expression softens, glancing back up to her after a moment, “That’s not a— that’s a really good idea, actually.”

He replaces the lid, then sets the box down before stepping over, reaching out to drape his arms around her neck as he admits, “I haven’t had a lot of time to garden lately, but I try to get up on the roof now and again to weed it… I guess I’ve sublimated that into making them turn Jackson Heights green. If it’s something she’s interested in, I’d love to teach her— that’s a great thought, lover.”

The way his face changes brings a soft smile out of her as well. She leans into his body with her hands settling on his hips, content now that it turns out to be something that brings that look to his face. Elisabeth loves that expression. Her blue eyes roam his features, as if intent on memorizing this moment.

"You give so much all the time," she offers softly, "I thought maybe something like that would help you find your balance too." Bonsai are a bit meditative, after all. "You kept encouraging me to find my music again, and I remember…" it's so strange to remember. "I just remember you used to look happy doing it," she finishes the thought. "And I love watching you when you're happy."

“Ew,” Richard teases, leaning in closer, “Mushy talk.”

He kisses her, softly but lingeringly, leaning back again and murmuring, “To be fair, I’ve started gardening all of Jackson Heights, if you didn’t notice. I… oh. Oh, God, did I— did I ever tell you about the one time I went back to New York, during the war?”

Leaning back, eyebrows going up.

She laughs at him, lingering in the kiss and nuzzling his jaw as he leans back again. Mushy talk indeed. "No," she corrects him, amusement brightening her blue eyes, "you have people gardening all of Jackson Heights. You, my love, need your hands in the dirt personally."

Elisabeth pauses at his question and then quirks a brow, chuckling. "You mean The Great Tree Rescue?" she asks. "Which, by the way, I still think insane and totally you." She can find the amusement factor because he's still alive and all.

“That’s right,” Richard laughs, “I did! I should go up to your dad’s place and check on those trees sometime, make sure they’re still doing well…”

A smile tugs up crooked at the corner of his lips, “And yeah, well… maybe you’re right. It might help me feel more grounded too. And it’d be a good bonding exercise, I think she thinks everything I do involves robots…”

"She does, actually. I mean… she knows the greenhouse is your project, but still. It'd be good for both of you. She's never had a garden, but she loves flowers and plants." Turning so she can lean her back against his chest and drawing his arms around her, Elisabeth lays her head back into the curve of his neck. She's admiring the tree, relaxed in their moment of just being present.

"I think the more grounded you feel, the easier your control will be too," she admits softly. She knows he still worries about the power he wields.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping at your nose…

As the music moves to the next song, Elisabeth can't help a soft smile. "Do you know that when I was a kid, my father actually bought and roasted chestnuts in our fireplace? Just so we could all try them." A beat and her voice is a little more wistful. "I don't know if that's a memory of here or of there… my mom who raised me or my birth mom, you know." She can't remember how old she was that year.

Shaking the thought off a little, she offers more lightly, "We should teach Aura how to ice skate."

“They used to sell them in the streets during the holidays,” Richard murmurs, his arms settling around her and his cheek resting in her hair, “Around the park, especially. Me and Isabelle used to sneak out, one of us would distract the guy - usually her, she learned how to use her tits and ass early - and I’d steal them for us to eat.”

He chuckles softly, then, admitting, “I’m a terrible ice skater.”

Her laughter is husky as Elisabeth retorts, "Of course she did." And of course he did! She shifts a bit in his arms, drawing him into an unconscious subtle swaying motion with the carols in the background. She does have a moment of pause as she asks, "Why do I know that? Did we …?"

Elisabeth shakes her head slightly. "We've never been," she finally decides. But maybe she asked him about it once.

"You always say that, you know — you're a terrible ice skater, a terrible dancer, terrible at music." Tipping her head to look up at him, she muses teasingly, "So far I've yet to see you be terrible at anything you wanted to do. Although you did once promise to cure me of optimism…" She doesn't maybe have as much as she used to, so it's not an epic fail.

“You’re seeing things through rose-colored glasses, Liz…” A rueful curve of a smile, Richard’s body shifting with hers in a sway to match the music. She tips her head back and he leans enough to look down to her, nose wrinkling playfully, “There’s a lot of things I’m bad at.”

“Diplomacy, patience, obeying the law,” he recites, “Convincing people I’m not my alternates…”

"I did say 'anything you wanted to do,'" Elisabeth scoffs with a laugh. He's never even tried do you the first three, to her knowledge — he's just thumbed his nose at them all. "Although as to that last one, fuck all of them." She leans back into his arms, turning her head a little to rest her temple against his jaw as they sway slowly. She promised him a lot of years ago now that she wouldn't let him become the monster… the memory brings a subtle shiver to her spine in light of recent events. But she lets the colored lights of the tree in front of them soothe away the thought for now.

"If I didn't have a little bit of rose left on my glasses and you had less patience and pure cussedness, we wouldn't be here," she whispers softly. Two years ago almost exactly, they stared at one another through an unstable portal that failed. "It's Christmas Eve and we're home with our kids safely dreaming of sugarplums, whatever those are. And it's not a dream." Last year she couldn't really relax and enjoy it, worried to death that a portal would whisk her off again. And who knows if they'll even have a next year? She refuses to let it blight this night.

"You make fun of me being mushy all you want," she tells him, happiness evident in her tone. "It's the silly mushy moments that kept me going for a long time." They're what will carry her through the next world-ending crisis too. But there's such a thing as too mushy, she supposes.

She gets a silly grin and looks over her shoulder at him, playfully dramatic as she sings, "I'm gonna love you til the heavens stop the rain." Throwing her arms wide but still leaning back into him, she belts out as if they're in some ridiculous musical, "I'm gonna love you til the stars fall from the sky!"

There’s a peal of laughter that bursts from Richard at that, his head shaking as he keeps his arms wrapped around her midriff, head tilting down to bury his face briefly in her hair, inhaling the scent of her.

“You’re ridiculous,” he murmurs, “Utterly ridiculous. I’ll never understand why you put up with my crazy ass, I really won’t… but I’m not gonna complain about it either. Mushy’s good sometimes.”

There’s silence a moment as he just holds her, and then he swears, “…god damn it, Liz, now I can’t get it out of my head. What the fuck is a sugarplum and why did I never wonder before?”

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