Brittle Reality


elisabeth2_icon.gif felix_icon.gif

Scene Title Brittle Reality
Synopsis Will he shatter under the revelations?
Date February 28, 2019

Raytech, Lobby and Elisabeth's Apartment

The RayTech lobby is all sunlight and glass and… robot butterflies? It's just a crazy place. The front desk has a receptionist, and there are a couple of guards in the lobby as well. The doors off the lobby appear to be locked to key cards, so getting past this point will require a key card or an escort. Probably both.

The message Felix got was suitably vague. You need to pop into RayTech, I heard that Richard was looking for you. And Curtis reinforced the idea that although it wasn't urgent, it would probably be something Felix wants to do soon, as it sounded personal.

Fel is no longer so directly a lackey of the glorious federal government. So travel is a lot harder than it used to be. But he’s got enough saved, both time and money, to make it there. Personal, huh? How’s that? There’s not much left to be personal about. No more family….unless..


Did someone find something about Lee? His heart’s not exactly in his throat, but it’s there at the back of his mind. That’s the one loose thread, the one person he doesn’t know if he should mourn or not. So he’s got his best pokerface on when he shows, dressed in those plain civilian clothes, bag over his shoulder. Not in the least sure what he’s really doing here.

When he approaches the receptionist and she asks for his name, there's a pause and she looks at her book in puzzlement. "Mr. Ivanov, your appointment is actually up in the residences." She points toward the bank of elevators. "The guard will walk you over and punch the floor. You want Apartment C." She also hands him a visitor's lanyard, just in case anyone else asks about why he's in the elevator.

He has an appointment?

The guard is not exactly forthcoming, though he does escort the former agent to the bank of elevators and swipes his card on the panel to open it for him. He also punches the button for the floor, because it requires the card for that too. And then he even rides up with the silent man… maybe because he's just making sure Felix gets off at the right floor. "Apartment C," he points, and then he waits long enough to make sure Felix is at the correct place before heading back down in the elevator.

He has an appointment

He does?

This…. isn’t likely a trap. He’s got no reason to suspect it is, other than ingrained paranoia. He’s never had a problem with Raytech….and it’s not like people couldn’t track him down. The current job….not the safest, after all.

Attempting to reason with and reassure himself is not working at all, however. Not with his body *insisting* on dumping at least a little hyperadrenaline into his system. It gives everything that swimmy, waltz-time air, as senses and perception speed up, even as motion stays the proper tempo for dealing with the ordinary world.

So he heads for Apartment C, feeling increasingly like this is the intro to a horror movie.

Precious and fragile things
Need special handling
My God, what have we done to you?

There was no good way to do it — Elisabeth knew that from the start. Showing up on him in Rochester left it happening at his place of work. Asking him here is taking the chance that he'll do…. Exactly what paranoid former Feebs always do. But there was no help for it, it needed to be private.

The door opens just before he can actually knock on it — the receptionist apparently called ahead. Her expression is hesitant, and she gives him whatever time he needs to just look. "I'm sorry …" she offers quietly, almost questioningly. As if she's not sure he'll forgive the absence.

He has his hand up, balled into a fist. Fel may not’ve been NYPD for years now, but he’s never lost the habit of knocking like he’s come to serve a warrant. So it sort of hovers there in mid-air, like he’s about to raise it in salute.

Fel just stands there, bizarrely frozen. Of all the insanity his imagination was conjuring behind that door….there was no event horizon where he envisioned this. It doesn’t compute.

Liz can *see* the weird saccadic flicker of his gaze, too fast, taking it all in….and watch the pulse at his temples and throat cycle up to the too-fast-to-be-visually-perceptible range. That’s the only part of him that’s actually moving. He’s even stopped breathing, as far as she can tell.

Then he leans back, looks up and down the hall, like there has to be someone else there. It’s a joke. It’s a hallucination. He never made it out of the hospital in California and everything for the past years is a coma dream.

A few blinks and….Liz is still there. Then there’s that familiar old squint and cant of the head, the little movement that makes him look like a German Shepherd trying to parse its owner’s voice command. Like looking at her out of the corner of his eye will resolve this.

Uncertain of how fragile he is, since Curtis told her that he'd suffered a brain injury, Elisabeth watches him with a hint of worry. "So… I'm not a fetch. I did get sucked into a black hole. And… we're definitely getting too old for this shit." She attempts a small smile. "But I made tea." She bites her lip, worrying at it with the edges of her teeth for a long moment. "I don't… really know how to do this. Please breathe before you faint?"

How different he looks - greyer, older. More wiry…and that terrible scar on the side of his head is visible, as he turns it to look at her again. But he does breathe, a gulping intake of air like he just surfaced from being held underwater.

Direct simplicity has always served him well, so he says, bluntly, “I don’t understand.” And then he leaves it at that. There’s no softening in his expression…and how cold the lines of his face have become.

I pray you learn to trust
Have faith in both of us
And keep room in your heart for two

She steps back, inviting him into the apartment with a hand gesture. Elisabeth's voice is gentle. "Yeah… Very very long story much less long, Magnes Varlane and I didn't die that day. Some weird interaction of powers and maybe the solar storm or whatever else… but instead of dying, we landed someplace else. It took… a really long time to get home again."

She can't help but wonder if this might be the thing that actually makes him raise his voice at her. She's often thought he has to be the most contained individual she's ever known. And she isn't sure what to expect from this older, so much more … aged man. Sadness lurks in her blue eyes as she takes in the differences.

What a contrast to the Felix of that brighter future, sleek and prosperous and confident. This one looks like he’s lost a fight with a barbed wire fence, somewhere in the past. There’s another of those disbelieving squints, the one she’s so often seen levelled at some suspect over the interrogation room table. IT’s the old cop’s mask, if cracked and worn.

And cracking further. For someone who lives his life at insane speeds, emotional reactions can be remarkably slow catching up with him, it seems. He doesn’t know how to deal with this, not remotely. All the carefully maintained balance he’s managed for those intervening years is starting to wobble out of true, like a gyroscope coming off its spin.

When he doesn't move from the hallway, she steps back into the doorway, holding out her hand. "I missed you, Feeb. I promise I'm really here… not going to vanish. Not a joke. Not a ghost." She waits to see if he'll finally move, take the proffered hand or some other reaction.

The Look makes her smile a little around tears that come from nowhere. "I would wrap my arms around if I wasn't afraid it would be the last straw and you'd bolt," she offers softly.

His mouth works, trying to form some question that he never finishes. Then his hands come to his eyes. Not a child playing peekaboo, but a grownup trying to palm away an incipient tension headache, massaging eyes and brows. Another gesture familiar of old - usually followed by him replacing his glasses and squaring his shoulders and making some sour, sarcastic comment.

But Fel doesn’t wear glasses anymore. Then the fingers shift and his shoulders jolt once, as if he’d been shot. A whooping intake of breath that leaves him in what can only be a sob.

Apparently his response to this revelation is to stand in the hallway and burst into tears.

Things get damaged
Things get broken
I thought we'd manage
But words left unspoken
Left us so brittle
There was so little left to give

"No, no, no. Oh God, Felix." Moving to wrap her arms around his slender form, Elisabeth's own tears streak her face as she croons softly, "It's okay. I'm so sorry, Felix. It's going to be okay." She holds him tightly right there in the hall, seemingly in no hurry to push him faster than he can go. She whispers soft, wordless sounds of comfort. It breaks her, that she's made him cry like this. They're both going to be a mess. But she is fierce in her hug, so that he knows she's not a figment of his imagination.

She smells like Liz. That….that can’t be faked. Either his brain is completely broken, or it’s real, and the one person he thought he’d reconciled himself to losing is here. With him. Again.

Fel leans his head on her shoulder and sobs his heart out, as unselfconscious as a child. You can try and ignore what you lost, to bear the weight because you have no choice, short of suicide or insanity…..but when it’s restored to you, somehow it brings it all into the light at once.

Angels with silver wings
Shouldn't know suffering
I wish I could take the pain for you

Well… he hasn't collapsed, at least. His sobs break her heart. "It's okay," she whispers over and over while he cries. Elisabeth's terribly afraid she just broke something in him, and the soothing sounds she makes are laced with calming subsonics. Sometimes they work when Aurora's worked up, sometimes not — but they can't hurt in this instance.

When he finally seems to be slowing just a little, she murmurs,"C'mon, dorogoy, lets go sit, okay?" She tries to lead him inside so they can collapse in a heap on the couch where she can continue to hold and pet him. The fact that her own tears continue to fall, she simply ignores.

Thank God for that couch. Because he does more or less collapse on it. It takes a while for the crying jag to end…..and the end of it leaves him staring at her like an owl, blue eyes the brighter for being red at the rims. Finally starting to filter through, perhaps. Fel wipes at his eyes impatiently, sitting with her, shoulder to shoulder.

There’s an expectant silence. She’s gonna explain this, he knows it. He’s gotten far more sparing with words, it seems, than he used to be.

Her hands on his head and his back are gentle as she soothes him. When he does finally sit up, she cups his face and grins just a little. A brief kiss to his mouth and she gets up. "Let's have that tea, huh?" Because it's a long story. Luckily, however, the tea was already set up. It's not hot anymore, but it's at least warm. She rejoins him and sets both mugs where they can be reached, turning to face him with one leg pulled up on the couch.

"Okay. So…. Magnes's black hole didn't squish us. It sent us … elsewhere. Sorta like what happened at Moab in 2009, but not through time. It shunted us… sideways into alternate timelines. The what-ifs. We figured out a way to re-create the effect, but it wasn't perfect. So… it took us this long to arrive at a place where we could get enough information to actually sort of tune in to the right reality instead of jumping blind." She pauses. "My life is a science fiction novel."

Fel’s listening to her now, face still wet, more than a little blank. But he doesn’t seem to disbelieve her. How can he? She’s a live, warm reality right in front of him. He nods fractionally at that, unthinkingly taking the tea. Russians are like the English, in that any crisis is better addressed with tea in hand.

“I’ve had, now and again….visions of other mes. I think they’re the other timelines, in some cases….” He looks down into the tea. “There’s a New York where the bombs never happened, and I’m married with a daughter. And…another one where you and I have a son, but I’m with Lee.”

Elisabeth nods. "Richard mentioned people were having … overlays, I think he called them. Seeing the what-ifs." She smiles just a little. "I know the world where Pinehearst didn't come down… where you were married to Lee, and you and she had a son. We spent almost five years there. It was the second landing." She looks down, toying with her tea a bit. "I was about five or six months pregnant when we arrived there, and I was… desperate. I sought him out." She needed him. "He did exactly what you would have. Stood by me the whole time, juggled knowing me and knowing her at the same time. Helped raise both her son and my daughter. It… broke all of our hearts to have to split up, but …"

She looks up and pushes a small smile through her tears, a little hopeful. "Aurora is really really hoping you'll be her Unca Felix here too."

That’s another shock, and the narrow eyes go wide. “You met one of the other versions of me?” he asks. As if she hadn’t just said as much. He shakes his head, but it’s more to clear it than in denial. “I… Sheesh.” Felix wipes at his eyes. “I….God, that’s weird. You’ve had a whole other life….time runs the same for you? It’s been years away? Not like in a fairy tale where you pass a night and then find a hundred years have gone by?”

"Feeb… with all that we've seen in this world, that is what you find weird?" She laughs softly. "I love telling you things that make you make the owl face." Big eyes. Elisabeth's smile is gentle. "No, time seemed to pass in a one-to-one ratio. Although… there were a few bizarrenesses in the middle of that," she notes wryly. "Too much to try to explain. Suffice to say, though… It's taken us a long time to get home. And I'm sorry…" There is genuine regret in her expression. "I'm so damn sorry that it had to be that long, and I'm sorry that there was no gentler way to break it to you."

A mouthful of tea, taken from a a cup he nearly spills. Those weird uneven tremors are hitting him - his body is convinced this kind of shock surely warrants his power kicking in. Trying to keep himself confined down to the normal speed of things, well, it’s hard. He swallows, and teeth chatter; less like someone with a chill than the rattle of teeth a cat does when it sights a pigeon.

“It’s….I’m sure none of it’s your fault. I just…this is gonna take a while to sink in. Liz, you’re alive….”

"I know," Elisabeth replies in a quiet voice. "It's why I asked you to come here instead of trying to meet you somewhere…. I was afraid you might…" she pauses and then shrugs a little. "I guess I was afraid to scare you." The admission is difficult, but she swallows the lump in her throat. "I understand about needing time. I think everyone's in that boat, so… I'm trying to give space where it's needed."

Finally, he smiles at her. Watery, crooked, but still the genuine article. He reaches to touch her face with his fingertips, oh so lightly, like a blind man trying to map the contours of a stranger. “I’ll be okay.” His eternal refrain. But then….he always has been. Through death and war and beyond. Fel looks like he’s going to dissolve again….but despite a sniff or two, he holds it together.

"You will be," she agrees. "But … you're not yet. And it's okay." She's not either. Turning her face into his fingers, Elisabeth sucks in a soft breath. "I wish… I could let him know that we made it," she admits as she reaches up to cradle his hand to her face. There's a sadness to her now that is just as deep as his own hurt. She's seen things that she can't talk about and done things she's not proud of. But she even now can't see a way to have done it any better. "When you're ready, I'll still be here," she says softly.

Things get damaged
Things get broken
I thought we'd manage
But words left unspoken
Left us so brittle
There was so little left to give

The grin broadens. “What was he like, this other me?” Of course he wants to know. Curious….if not angry at her. “And I’m ready. Like I’m gonna let you out of my sight any time soon,” he adds. There’s even that old familiar thread of laughter in his voice, as he pats her cheek.

Tipping her head to the side, she studies him and smiles slowly. "He's … sassy," Elisabeth settles on. "Even with all that was coming down the pipe and with going nuclear over his Liz marrying Leland before Cam was born — I don't think it even lasted a month before that blew up — he was just… happy, I guess?" There's a clear fondness for the other him. "All the dominoes just fell the right way for him there, I guess… because the Vanguard was never a thing." She shrugs just a little. "I saw … how hard it was for him when she was killed there… and he had someone who loved him there. It hurt… to know that you were here and dealing with that pain alone."

“Huh,” says Fel. Clearly trying to envision this other self, in his little world. “Married Lee, huh? I can see it. Lee….. was never easy with bisexuality.” Oh, that ‘was’. So much contained there. Gone, in this world, in one way or another. “That….yeah. It’s been a rough while.” His voice is soft, but oddly distant. Devoid of self-pity. “But at least you’re back. Beyond my wildest dreams….”

Setting her tea down, Elisabeth simply scoots to lay her head on his shoulder. "I missed you," she tells him in a soft voice. "He was my friend. They were both my friends. I knew every moment that he missed his Liz. And he knew every moment that I missed you." Tears clog her throat again. "I wouldn't give up the time that I got to know him, but I'm really glad to be home." She grins just a little. "I can't wait for you to meet Aurora."

“…..what happened to his Liz?” Of course Fel had to get around to that question eventually. He nuzzles into her hair, inhaling the scent of her, so very gratefully. “God, Liz. How I’ve missed you. And I want to meet her.” He puts an arm around her, hugs her close.

"Samson Gray," she says simply. Curling into him, Elisabeth sighs heavily. "He'd killed Arthur Petrelli and taken his place at the head of Pinehearst. He was trying to flush us out." There's a wealth of regret in those words. She leans into his side. "I thought staying away would keep her safe," she whispers, remembered grief still strong enough to bring tears to her eyes. "But it didn't."

“Oh, God,” Fel says in that shocked tone. The Grays….never anything but complete trouble. “What happened? And…and who’s she?” he asks. Both arms, now - cuddling Liz like she’s his long-lost teddybear. She can feel that kind of utter weariness in him. Something that’s been knotted for years is now undone….and he’s still in varying layers of shock.

"Her… I mean the other Liz." Elisabeth grimaces. "I thought by keeping away from her life, it would keep Arthur's attention off of her. But it wasn't Arthur, it was Samson… he had his own agenda, I guess. I don't even know." She sighs heavily, not leaving the hug that she knows he needs badly. "God, I missed you," she whispers. She grins just a little bit, drawing far enough back to look up at him, wiping her damp cheeks. "I gave Aurora Ivanova as one of her names — just in case something happened to me, she'd already have your name."

“Wow,” he says. “I can’t wait to meet her. Where’s she?” His smile is decidedly watery….and he’s not in any hurry at all to release her. As if she might dissolve into dreams and mist if he lets go. Chances are excellent she’ll have to pry herself loose, in fact.

Elisabeth laughs softly. "I sent her upstairs to Richard when they told me you were coming up," she admits. "I figured you'd need a little time to absorb, Feeb." She lays her head down on him again, content to simply be in the space him while he processes. "She'll be beside herself when she sees you, so I figured one shock at a time." Besides which, Curtis had warned her he might not remember things because of a head injury — she wanted to be careful of him where she could.

"Take as much time as you need first?" she asks him softly, squeezing him a bit. "I hate that you were hurting for so long."

The immediate impulse is to play it off like a macho idiot. But he’s smart enough not to do so. “Yeah,” he says. “I bet I’m a hell of a change from the Uncle Felix she knew,” he adds, quietly. “The war…..was bad. I mean, all wars are, that’s how they work but….yeah. I work for a PMC now, though they’re supposedly gonna revive the NYPD this year. I’m hoping to at least do some of the training. I don’t know how many former cops there can be left…”

There's a long moment of silence as she thinks about what to say to that. "Does it sound selfish for me to tell you I'd far rather see you as a cop again than in a PMC?" Elisabeth grimaces a little, listening to his speedster heartbeat under her ear. "You look… rather like your years have been pretty much as bad as my last couple. Constant battle. It's kind of sad that being a cop is easy by comparison."

“Well, it was something to do, after the war,” A flicker of a grin. “I don’t know that it’ll be easy. ‘Specially considering the state New York is in now. We’ll have to see.” A shrug. “They may not take me.” He doesn’t really believe that. An experienced detective? There can’t be many of those left, in this day and age.

Elisabeth doesn't even dignify that with a verbal response, just a low, rude sound. After a long few moments, she does say softly, "She's not going to care, you know." Shifting so she can look up at him again without making him release her, Liz smiles slightly. "She's just worried Uncle Felix here won't love her as much as she loves him. She understands you're not the same person, but you kind of are, too. It's a lot for a 6-year-old brain." She pauses and then laughs just a little. "Hell, some days it was hard for my brain," she confesses. "Having some version of you kept me … balanced during those years."

“Hell, it’s a lot for a forty something brain, yeah,” he agrees, with that bemused little grin. “I’ll love her. I already do. That she comes from you is more than enough….and I may be no substitute for Dyadya Felix 1.0, but I’ll learn quick, honest. I mean….” There’s that moment. The dream, the overlay. Where he has a little boy, Aurora’s brother…..and yet another, where there’s a little black-haired ballerina in a New York never scarred at all. Liz can see the moment of fugue and confusion in his eyes, but it doesn’t drive the humor from his face, not entirely.

She's uncertain what causes the momentary confusion, but Elisabeth says softly, "There's no such thing as 1.0… unless that's YOU. Because you were her first uncle Felix, even if she never knew it." She leans over and simply wraps her arms around him, curling up against him so they can sit here on this couch, snuggled up, until such a time as both of them feel ready to face the world.

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