Eating An Elephant


vf_elisabeth_icon.gif vf_ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Eating an Elephant
Synopsis Ever hear that joke about how you do it? One bite at a time. That's how you build a life, too.
Date January 18, 2012

Liz and Ygraine's Flat

"Well… it's not underground and it's not dark," Elisabeth comments, glancing around at the hole in the wall they've found to rent by the week for now. "It could still have rats… and being as I do have my abilities back, that might be a problem." She has a distinct fear of the furry little bastards after … well, a time that she is grateful to only be able to remember bits and pieces of, to be honest. "Of course… given that my hearing is technically shot at the moment, it might be moot!" The last is said in a tone of 'welp, here we are!' kind of forced cheer.

Two full days in the insanity that is New York City in January has been something of a challenge. Trying not to draw attention while buying clothing from some of the local thrift stores, looking for a small flat they can manage to camp out in while they get on their feet a little and get their bearings.. The logistics of this have been what's consumed Elisabeth's mind. That and… a little paranoia. Being out in the open feels too big after a couple of months living in small tunnels, so she can't really imagine how most of the survivors of Virus must feel. She'd be surprised if agoraphobia isn't rampant.

"It'll do, though. Until we get our feet beneath us," she is still trying for that positive tone. "Yeah?"

“We can survive here for a while.” Ygraine’s response is quiet, but she’s peering around with intent wariness. “And I can get to work on identifying and plugging holes, for sure. Track down a couple of those ultrasound devices meant to drive off rodents, perhaps, if those wouldn’t bug you like crazy, too. Sounds like it could be a worthwhile investment, if it stops anything else we buy from getting chewed… But, ahh, yeah. I can see what I can sense about the place, and whether there’re any surprises lurking anywhere.”

She sighs, then manages to find a smile, reaching over to deliver a squeeze to Elisabeth’s shoulder. “As soon as I’m healed up a little, I’ll see about finding something I can do to make money. But it’ll be good to just… revel in things like access to sunlight. And try to adjust to moving around at street level and not worrying about letting anyone see me. It’s going to be ‘interesting’, for sure.”

Liz manages a grin for Ygraine. "No worries… the packet I have had an interview at a club. So between that paycheck and whatever they've tossed into your packet, we should be okay. In relatively short order, we can probably at least find someplace a little nicer." She shrugs a little, looking around. "It's a hell of a lot better than where we just came from. So…" That's a plus.

"What is in that packet, anyway? Now that we're someplace we can stick for a little while — what'd they find for you?" Elisabeth carries one of the canvas grocery bags that is stuffed with staples for the kitchen into the small kitchenette, also setting down a large jug of water… because she wasn't entirely sure whether to trust the water in the apartment yet. "I at least get to keep my first name. That should make things a little easier."

“Well, my employable skills are as a cyclist and a translator,” Ygraine says dryly. “And apparently other-me did both of those, in New York. And is now rather famous. She might not be here in person, but if we’re to avoid crossing paths or being taken for our counterparts….” She starts to shrug - then freezes, wincing sharply.

Ow,” is squeaked. “That’s one habit to get out of, while this heals up…. Umm. Yeah. So. I’ve got some contact details for people in the nightclub scene. It looks as if I might be aiming for, well, pretty much “whatever I can get.” Though taking a little time to sort that out will be welcome. A chance to try to patch together body and mind. Remember how to live in this kind of world again.”

Elisabeth pauses and looks toward her roommate. There's a serious expression in her eyes. "It'll be okay, Ygraine." It has to be. They didn't just face off against Kazimir fucking Volken and survive — AGAIN — to be defeated by everything that's happened. But she could be just reassuring herself here, too. "It'll just take a little time. And we've got that."

Pulling in a slow breath, Liz admits softly, "Being outside makes me feel vulnerable. I imagine it's the same for all of you even more. But it doesn't take long, when nobody takes a shot at you, to be able to start not feeling like that. Plus… I'd be surprised if Tamara didn't include a therapist's name in everyone's packet. PTSD would be a completely expected response after what you've all lived through."

Ygraine moves closer, slipping her better arm around Elisabeth’s back to deliver an affectionate squeeze, while leaning in to plant a quick peck on her cheek. “The, ahh, the fall-back option I always had was ‘pedal really fast on a bike’. But the professional cycling worlds aren’t huge, whatever version I might wind up in… and other-me worked both as a courier and a racer. So… well. I’ve been wondering, a little, if this might actually be a bit of the therapy for me. The most likely job openings are ones that’ll force me to deal with groups of people. But while wearing socially-acceptable masks. And where paying attention to what they’re doing will be a positive advantage.”

A wry chuckle precedes a conscious suppression of the urge to shrug again. “Waitressing as a form of training for social interaction. Maybe it only makes sense in my crazy mind. But yeah… Tamara, I think, has a pretty profound appreciation of, umm, fractured viewpoints. When first I met her, I thought she was ‘just’ whimsical in the brainpan herself. A lot of her behaviour seemed all too familiar to me. The… the way in which she interacted with the world, the way she clearly didn’t see quite the same reality as the people around her. I think she has a very, very good understanding of what it’s like to care for people yet not quite be able to see the world they do. Which is a really stupidly long-winded way of agreeing that yes, she’s probably made sure we all have contact details for therapists. Probably ones she sees us getting on well with.”

"Well, the up side to waitressing and such is that a lot of the income is in tips, so it doesn't require a lot of paperwork," Liz points out. She leans briefly into the hug that Ygraine offers, but she quickly slips away to start putting groceries into cabinets and the somewhat noisy refrigerator. "I'm really grateful that she did enclose that information," she admits as she moves around, limping from the thigh injury that is stitched up but a bit sore. "I haven't… really slept since we got here." The confession is stiff, as if disclosing the information that she's been afraid to sleep isn't something she wants to do. "So… you've never shared a space with me when I'm completely freaked out. You… I shatter things sometimes. Nightmares have brought me out of bed breaking windows in the past. So if you hear things start rumbling and rattling… wake me up, Ygraine. Before I can scream."

Elisabeth grimaces a bit. "I have a feeling it's going to be a little while before I don't wake up screaming. And I hate to put the responsibility for it on anyone but me… but we don't want the neighbors calling the cops either."

Ygraine pensively eyes her companion, pausing after dumping her own bag onto a chair. “Did, ahhh, did your version of me learn to cope with anything like that?”, she asks cautiously. “Not the cops-calling, I mean. Or I hope not, anyway. But the, ahh, well, the rest of it. But it sounds like keeping you away from glassware while you sleep would be wise. Anything else likely to shatter. And make sure I’m close to hand, or at least have some way to wake you up in a hurry. But at least we can hope that here, people will panic a bit less if ‘weird shit’ happens. Powers are very much a known feature, and so long as we don’t do damage, I’d imagine they’ll be pissed off at the inconvenience more than they are freaked out. Or so we can hope.”

The blonde laughs softly. "Mainly she just learned to boot me in the ankle or something when things started vibrating." Elisabeth thinks fondly on her months with the home version of Ygraine. "She … is a lot like you, really. Never quite sure of her own worth." She looks at the Briton. "Never quite trusting that she's a valued friend. I have no idea what happened to either of you to really destroy so much of your self-perception. I probably should have asked her that at some point, but… it just seemed more important at the time to make her understand that it didn't matter what happened before. That what she knew was valuable but that I thought she was an incredibly nice person and valued her just for her friendship."

“Here? I was part of the group who knew most of what was going to happen. Tried to stop it. Failed completely. And then I hid in a bunker feeling too scared to do much of anything for more than a year.” Ygraine starts to shrug, winces sharply, then chuckles wryly. “Of course, that’s actually there rather than here, but… you probably know what I mean. This, umm, this world’s version of me did save the world, got the girl, and now has public honours to boot. Maybe that’s the kind of massaging my ego needs to find an equilibrium.”

The Briton winks, then opens up her bag to set about removing her share of the shopping burden. “I think that we all came to New York in 2006, to try to find ourselves. We were really, really good in our chosen career - but not quite good enough to hold down a place in what was then the best national team in the sport. I could have got into most other countries’ teams, but not my own. And I - we - didn’t really know what to do instead. Getting work at the UN seemed like a good shot at a way forward, even if it was just as an intern. But rather than finding the path to take, we found The Bomb. And lost our marbles. For me, hooking up with Phoenix near the end of 2008 seemed to be the first shot I had at really making a difference. I’d found something that was about more than just trying to glue my own head back together. But that turned out to be a complete failure. And I just… ran away and hid, until a few months before you came along. The idea of being trusted and valued… I think that died with Jennifer, for me. It’s… challenging, to have you insist I merit it. Welcome. Oh, God, is it welcome. But it’s also kind of scary.”

Elisabeth listens as she puts away the groceries, and by the time they're done, she walks to the small living space and curls into one of the rundown armchairs, propping her chin on her hand. "The Bomb made a mess of a lot of people. In your world, after the Bomb killed my mother, I quite the police force and went into teaching. I'm not sure of her exact reasons…. In my world, I was already uneasy enough about required Registration that when I met Norton Trask and became friends with him, his story about being black-bagged and tortured by our own government scared the shit out of me and I went into teaching music. In your world, I was killed by the bomb at Washington Irving High School in 2008. In mine, I was thrown into a fire door that gave way — came out of it hurt pretty badly but I survived. And although the Vanguard tried to blame Phoenix for it, I already knew that Norton was doing things with Phoenix and that there was no way in hell he was behind bombing a school. So I demanded all-in. I wanted justice for my kids. So … I went back to the police force and also worked with Phoenix, which later morphed into some other, far more complex things."

She grins wearily. "I could tell you my whole life story, but you likely wouldn't believe half of what I can tell you. And … I know a bit about how this world's Liz also turned out. Which… gives me something of a road map to work with, I guess, in terms of knowing where to start looking for the information I want." A frown tugs her brows down a bit. "But I have to figure out how to touch some of those sources without destroying their fucking lives." That part weighs on her. "Just like when we landed in your world, Magnes and I aren't giving up… but seeing how badly this has all hurt Ruiz? We can't ask him to do it again. So it's going to have to be a different route."

“Whatever you want to tell me, I’ll listen to. I followed you to another world, Liz. Hearing you out isn’t likely to be harder to grasp than that.” Ygraine shifts her bag, so that she can also take a seat, smiling wearily at her new room-mate.

“But Ruiz… Christ. Poor bastard.” She sighs, shaking her head. “Literally open a world of opportunity for dozens of others, and yet personally….” One hand rubs over her face. “Anything I can do to help… let me know. Honestly. Being useful is, well, it’s rather a special feeling.”

Leaning her head back against the chair, Elisabeth sighs heavily and closes her eyes. "I think that personally… he will never be the same. I know that after learning that at least some of what I've done over the past three years actually matters in ways I couldn't have really imagined before I saw your world… I will never be the same." Her tone is soft but grim — her treasure trove of horrors, the memories that will haunt her for the rest of her life, always seems like it must be full… until another horror finds its way in and she survives it too. "For right now… I need to hold tight to the fact that we made it here. And I need to keep my wits about me to make sure we don't entirely fuck this timeline up while we're here." Focusing on putting one foot in front of the other is the only way she knows to cope with this much trauma — as Teo once observed, shed a few tears where they're needed and then get right back up and keep moving.

Her therapist will probably have a field day.

Ygraine worriedly studies Elisabeth, brows slightly arched and brow furrowed. “How many times have you found yourself at the heart of things?”, she asks quietly. “Or… is that not the sort of question I should ask? Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey and crossing the streams and all that…. But, well. If there is anything I can do to help, please tell me. Either on defending this world against fuck-ups, or figuring out ways to leave it, or anything else. Though starting with setting up something that feels like home would be a good first step, I admit. And figuring out how to help a pregnant woman’d be step two. But at least that is the sort of thing I should be able to research online easily enough….”

How many times has she? Elisabeth snorts a soft laugh. "Well…. There's definitely some timey-wimey shit going on," she agrees. "Uhm…. we had the virus thing in my world, which necessitated bringing in the Chief of Police on some of my extracurricular activities. Uhm… after that — and I may not be remembering these in order, mind you — there was a period of time where people from THIS timeline in the year 2019 showed up in 2009 due a time-hopping accident while some of our own people accidently bumped forward to 2019. Which made things wonderfully complicated. There was… another time-hopping adventure, if you'd like to call it that, where various of us had to be sent backward to different points to save key people who OTHER time-jumpers were trying to kill."

She pauses, without opening her eyes. "Then there was the nuclear device the Vanguard wanted to detonate under the polar ice cap. And then… uhm… well, during that mission, I was actually hijacked by our own government and sent off to help deal with that situation. I even got a pardon on terrorism charges for helping, which then brought a job offer to run a paramilitary unit like the one they have here. FRONTLINE. I did that for a while but then we realized that there was a time-jumping asshole on the loose trying to basically keep on sending himself back in time to change things — a whole squadron of kids came back from our future, like the year 2040 or something, to try to change what the time-jumping asshole was doing. That was the big battle that got me launched into a black hole."

There's another momentary pause as she goes back over her own thoughts. And then she nods slightly, "Those are probably all the major high points… at least in terms of time-travel and asinine things like that. Doesn't take into account fighting Humanis First, an anti-Evo movement that had its fingers in every corner of the government, as well as the Company, which was black-bagging Evos and they'd known about them since the 1940s. That was just current-time dickwads." She opens her blue eyes and offers a smile, though her eyes for the first time since Ygraine has met her perhaps reflect exactly how old her soul feels right now.

Ygraine stares in silence for a few moments, swallows, clears her throat, and then finally finds her voice. Not that “wow” is necessarily the most eloquent of things to say. She follows it with a low laugh, shaking her head before managing to find some sort of chain of thought.

“And… saving us was just… an accidental side-trip amidst all that? Good grief. What are you? Some sort of version of the Eternal Champion? That seems closer than the Oz references I was thinking of previously. But damn, am I glad you found us. Believe me. I feel even more outclassed than I did before, but… whatever the reason is that you have faith in me, I’m yours as long as you want me. Consider yourself stuck with a sidekick. Just… try to dodge nukes and paramilitary groups, at least while you’re pregnant and I’m healing up, okay?”

Wow makes Liz start to giggle softly. "You know… when I say it all out loud, it sounds epic, doesn't it?" She reaches up and rubs her forehead. "Richard used to say that we were in the business of murdering futures," she admits quietly. "Trying to stop all the bad things coming. It's rather like living in a fucking Terminator movie, I gotta tell you. SkyNet keeps coming into existence, just different methods." She seems pensive, and she shakes her head. "I … don't really know how I keep landing myself in the middle of these damn situations. I just apparently have no idea when to pretend I don't see shit going wrong. Or when to walk the other way and save my own ass instead of everyone else's. I mean… that's why I became a cop, right?" She shrugs slightly.

"I'll do my level best to dodge all nukes and paramilitary groups from here on out. I can't promise that it won't get interesting in the Chinese curse sense of the word, though," Elisabeth admits. "With all that I know is going on behind the scenes in this timeline, I… fear that there is going to come a point where we have to read some of the native analogs of ourselves in. And that … Could start another whole chain of events."

Ygraine blinks slowly… then winces once more as she makes the mistake of trying to slump back in her chair. “Ow. Bugger. Ummm. So… there’s bad shit here, huh? I kind of guessed that law enforcement was at least enthusiastic, given the speed with which we were hustled out of there by the seer and her allies. But in all honesty, it sounds as if you’ve been nothing short of heroic. Repeatedly. And that you got things right in ways that I, personally, never did. That even ‘my’ Edward Ray couldn’t see how to manage. So maybe you have some of your answer there, for why you keep getting caught up in the craziness - you keep fixing it.”

"Ha!" Elisabeth snorts. "Right… well, I'll tell you this much. My world isn't as… open and beautiful as this one. Did I forget to mention that when they came back from 2019, it was to let us know that Pinehearst was just as bad as the Company?" She sighs. "So we took them down too…. Only to then have the Commonwealth Institute take its place. Plus… Petrelli is the only thing that apparently kept the Humanis First fuckers in their holes. So… there's that."

Rolling her eyes, Elisabeth merely shrugs at it. "We do the best we can with what we have in front of us, right? I've become a very firm believer in the idea that knowing the future — whether it's what for-certain happens or only what COULD be — is probably the single worst development of the human condition that has happened in the history of man." She sounds rather acerbic.

Ygraine snorts… then frowns again. “Mmmm. I’m inclined to say that Tamara seems to do a good job of helping people. But the cost on her is… far from minor. And she does seem to be very careful, on the whole. I’d imagine that few other people would be as cautious or restrained. Not, I admit, that I’ve seen much of what she actually does - but that in itself might speak to her subtlety. But Pinehearst are seriously bad news, huh? Well, that sort of group does tend to want to avoid any competition for its precious power, and can do a lot to keep down other nasty ones. Or even worse ones….”

Raising a hand, she shoots Elisabeth an apologetic look. “Sorry. You know more about all this than I do, very evidently. And where we just came from is all too clear a demonstration of the limits on some abilities. I think that anyone who loses sight of the people and just focuses on the power - in mundane or Evolved senses - is getting badly off-course. Tamara, I’m inclined to trust for her sake, not that of her talent. Nor even her remarkable ability to set us up with identities and money. Amazing though these gifts are.”

"Tam is… always something of an enigma," Elisabeth agrees quietly. "But she's never steered me wrong. Add to the fact that I know she also helped those who came here in 2019 — talk about mixing the verb tenses — I have complete faith in her here as well as home." She toys with a short lock of hair just above her ear. "As for Pinehearst…. Yes, they're bad news. But based on what happened in our world when we took them down… if push comes to shove in this world, I'd really rather leave Pinehearst's overall position on the board in place. It keeps some of the other players much smaller than they would otherwise be."

The blonde sighs heavily and admits quietly, "When I approached you in your world? Part of that reason was because of the trust that I have in the you that I've known. I knew… that I was going to need to set up my own chess board in Edward's little game." She grimaces a little. "Richard always used the chess metaphors for what we were doing. He was known in some circles as the Red King. When we thought he was dead after the shadow nuke under Antarctica… " When Ygraine's brows shoot up, Liz shakes her head. "Another day. Not yet." She can't talk about that one yet, except in the most general terms. "When that happened, our organization looked to me… but I'd always been considered the White Queen. Not entirely sure why. Maybe because I was more or less just looking to protect people, while he was doing the proactive work of slaughtering the future?"

Shaking her head, knowing she's rambling, Liz just waves that off. "But the lot of them looked to me… and called themselves the Queen's Court." It clearly amuses her. "I never told most of them… the whole damn time it seemed like I knew what I was doing, I was just faking it. Every step of the way. I never know what the hell I'm doing. Just putting one foot in front of the other. Cuz it's not like standing still is an option."

“The queen’s the most powerful piece on the board.” Ygraine’s voice is soft, and as pensive as her expression. “The one that the pawns aspire to become, should they manage to reach the enemy’s back rank. Though in reality, a pawn can become any other piece at that point, as needed. Except for becoming another king. He’s unique, versatile, and vulnerable.”

Shooting another apologetic look to Liz, Ygraine ducks her head. “Sorry. You’ve probably had all the chess analogies and references gone through in detail, many times. But it’s certainly a mark of respect for you and your capabilities, that codename. Even before you got as far as acquiring a ‘court’. Heh. But, umm, yeah. ‘Murdering futures’ sounds pretty dramatic… but a logical name for what it sounds like you were attempting. But for the time being, maybe we should focus on getting ourselves able to stand, before we worry about whether or not we can stand still. We’ve got work to do to find our feet, here. But I’m in it with you.”

Shooting the Briton a smile, Elisabeth says softly, "I'm very glad to have you, Ygraine. More than I can tell you." Pushing heavily to her feet out of the dilapidated chair, she says, "Right now, though… I don't feel like standing. Or even sitting. I'm going to try to catch a nap. You should too." She grins. "Being stabbed sucks." She limps toward one of the bedrooms to sack out on the bed.

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