Finer Points Of Stalking


elisabeth2_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif

Scene Title Foner Points of Stalking
Synopsis A couple days of neck-prickling send Liz out to confront whoever has had eyes on her. It wasn't Ling, but a welcome set of eyes anyway.
Date March 9, 2019

Red Hook Market

It didn't take much waiting before Huruma first saw a face she hadn't seen in years- - save for the occasional visit to Richard, and his lonely old photograph. It's still not enough for her to reveal herself, though. She's not sure why, herself. Just that when she watched Liz walk away from the Raytech housing, a ball of static tangled in her gut and she didn't follow.

Nor the second time, earlier today.

The evening is starting to set in, a long dusk fallen over the river with a chilly orange sun that still warms the brick of the market buildings. Huruma's taken to the inside, familiar surroundings and an easy trickle of minds that seem to settle the murmur of second guesses in her own thoughts.

But then, as quiet as a mouse, the same person she'd sworn at herself for avoiding slips into the wide, encompassing web of hers.

Fine. Huruma slinks away from the stall she'd stopped at, stepping through dim light and around others in her search.

The blonde seems always on alert when she's out. She's not the simplest person to follow, though the first time she had a small child with her — it makes it harder to be quite as situationally aware. The second time, Elisabeth definitely seemed to have the sense that something was off. She kept glancing around uneasily, keeping to more crowded paths and streets. Tonight's outing seems to be less retail and more personal, though she does take the route back to the Market again. The dusk has made the lights come up at the market and she seems to be making for a particular spot in the old Factory's open-air market. Her feet seem to know where they're going, and it's a quiet corner of the grounds where an old stairway, blocked right now, leads up to the walkway on the curtain wall around the palace-like structure of the industrial complex.

It has a good view of the buildings themselves, this small courtyard where Ruth CrowDog's canines once patrolled. Here, she pauses and leans back against the stone walls to simply let memories come.

As the trail leads less through shopping stalls and more towards other parts of the old building, Huruma hesitates in following those last steps. She's stopped, though. Ultimately the empath gets to choose if she closes that gap. There's nobody with her this time, unlike the first. Huruma may not really know who the little girl is, but she's smart enough to guess.

Coat open against the air, Huruma's frame is wrapped in the shine of black leather, pants into boots; gold glitters against her chest above the cut of a deep red shirt, at her ears, a wrist.

Huruma turns the hall after Elisabeth's wake, stopping at the entrance to the courtyard. The metal catches the light before the rest of her does.

With her face tipped toward the rooftops of the old buildings, Elisabeth might seem to most to be entirely oblivious now to her surroundings. She's anything but. In point of fact, the opportunity afforded her here in the courtyard is to expand her senses some and decide if she's just being really paranoid and anxious or if there really has been someone watching the past couple of times she's been out and about. It's not as if that's a strange thing — those who recognize her believed her dead, so she struggles with the fact that eyes do follow her. But in this case, alone in the courtyard under the protection of the walls that used to shelter her squad, she feels… safe? Perhaps not the right word.

"I don't want to buy anything, yes I'm actually who you think, and no I don't do autographs," she ventures. The three most common questions that she gets in the market. She's uncertain who the person in the shadows is, but she's acutely aware of the potential for danger in this place. It's not the home she once knew.

Elisabeth is studied from afar, and Huruma can feel the tickle of knowing in her. Of course she knows she's been watched. It's Liz. Once she speaks it is certain, the levity in her preemptive answers breaking through any last doubts had about seeing her.

"I think I'm the one supposed to be giving autographs these days…" The empath's velvety voice is unmistakable, and her presence equally so once she glides out into the court proper, irises pinning just for a breath. "I do not do them either."

The reaction to the familiar voice is to first go very still and then for relief and pleasure to pour through the listener. "Huruma," Elisabeth breathes out. A smile flashes in the low light. There are so many people she probably ought to seek out, but this one… they worked together only the one time, but the dark-skinned woman made an incredible impression on the audiokinetic. She pushes off the wall and turns more fully to face the other woman. "It's…. good to see you," she offers, the tone holding as much pleasure as sincerity. "It's been a long time."

Something about that ripple effect she has on people just gives Huruma such a tickle. It never gets old, and getting over this hurdle was worth it.

"Has it? I did not notice…" The impression was very much mutual. Huruma steps closer, no hitches in her step nor veers from her familiar features. The years have been kind, even if she hasn't. She stops near enough to reach out and delicately rest a hand onto the other woman's shoulder, as if to test Elisabeth's tangibility.

"… and here I thought Richard was just chasing shadows." Pun intended.

The cheeky smile and the look slanted from beneath her lashes would tell the empath that Elisabeth is amused as hell even if she couldn't already feel the laughter that rolled silently off her. Her hand reaches up and across her chest to rest on the one that lays lightly on her shoulder. "Well… I don't blame anyone for that assumption," she admits wryly. "Even with all we've seen, it's hard to believe that such craziness actually happens, mm?"

Closer up, the years have not been as kind to Elisabeth. Her frame is a bit rangier overall, though apparently motherhood has rounded out what used to be a slightly less curvy figure. Her face holds lines that are not unfamiliar in anyone who's suffered war and hunger. The fact that even now, with someone who can be considered a friend, she remains unconsciously on alert gives away that she's not as far off that battlefield as the general population. "How are you? Still giving Ryans fits?" she asks lightly.

The longer fingers of Huruma's hand move around to clasp the other in a more companionable gesture. It's good to see her, and perhaps Huruma doesn't even need to say the words. Her studies of face and line are passive, noting the details here and there in the back of her mind; Huruma is no stranger to ordeal, and she knows it when she sees it. Instinct always shadows suffering.

"Craziness is an understatement, I suspect." Huruma's words come a touch more gently, acknowledging the damage in fewer words. She understands it. The last question puts a twisty little smile on full lips, amusement bubbling. "Of course I am. If I did not give him all manner of fits, it wouldn't be us, would it."

"I'm… different. I've worked to be… better." Still, Huruma has always been troubled. "We earned our place, though, which made it all worth it…"

Elisabeth seems to take comfort from the grip on her hand and holds on, feeling no need to release the contact as yet. She laughs. "No. No you would not," she agrees on the messing-with-Ryans. Tipping her head and studying the taller woman, Liz nods slightly. "I read…. a lot. We 'landed' in the beginning of February. Took a long time to figure out transportation home again." Huruma was there and saw what happened, so Liz doesn't feel the slightest bit bad about talking to her — but she does keep it in general terms. "Hadda take the scenic route." That is an understatement. "Catching up on all that's gone on here has been… difficult. It's not exactly… what I expected to come home to, I suppose. I knew there'd been a war, I just… didn't really know the extent."

She squeezes the hand she still holds. "I'm really glad to see you came through in one piece. And while it's… still a work in progress," she glances around at the gathering darkness and the lights of the marketplace, "it's not as bad as it could be. I promise you that." She's seen really bad.

"I know enough to know I should not get into specifics." Huruma reassures the prickle of worry by addressing it plainly, a finger to her lips in a secretive motion. "At least, not out in the wild."

Huruma's smile it notably less sharp than it used to be, edges buffed by time and feeling. "I came through in one piece, though Ben didn't." For some reason unbeknownst to Liz, this reply is worth a laugh. "I believe you. It is not perfect, but it is ours. Even Madagascar has its place now, but England remains a bunch of tea-guzzling snotrags."

The snort of laughter over English snotrags is indelicate and honest. Elisabeth's blue eyes flicker upward and she nods at the rest, though. "Yeah… I actually had occasion to see Ben recently. I had a … delivery for him," she admits. "That was a little bit of a shock — makes 'waging war with one hand tied behind your back' have all new meaning." She rolls her own eyes at the quip, her amusement liberally laced with admiration for the man himself. "And something Ben Ryans is adept at, apparently."

Her hand slips from Huruma's grip but she merely gestures to the wall. "I understand a lot of people I know are working for Hana now, tracking down what's left of the war criminals and Vanguard… is that what you are doing in the new and improved America?" She has a thimble's worth of knowledge about what happened to any of their people, but Huruma has never been one to sit idle, so it seems a good assumption.

A delivery? Huruma's curiosity is blatant. All things considered, it may be something she already knows a little about. Two and two and two make six. Still, her head cants in silent question.

"Oh, he had his missteps, same as all of us." Huruma sighs through her nose, patience for her recall of those very things. The pause is enough to tell Liz that something was worth the moment of silence; the other sign being the unsettled look that passes behind pale eyes. A fresh look of sincerity comes with an answer for the rest, "Less numerous Vanguard these days, more… mopping up the Institute and its ilk. Pockets of bargain bin Humanis First militias… the works. Wolfhound does what needs doing, and none of us liked the idea of retirement." Huruma flashes a smile, sharp and more familiar.

None of them. Absolutely none of them.

"In my downtime I still have my fun- - and not all of my fun involves stalking people…" Shocking, she knows. Huruma squints, hand flitting in dramatization and words a conspiratorial whisper., "Ben may say otherwise, but do not believe him. If he goes spreading such horrible lies about me, I have dirt." Kidding, kidding.

Nodding slightly as she leans back against the stone wall again, shoving her hands into the pockets of the heavy gray jacket she's wearing over her jeans, Elisabeth absorbs the information. And she grins. "Stalk and pounce have, I think, always been your favorite games," she retorts mildly. She didn't miss the curiosity about Ryans' delivery, but it's for him to share, not her.

Her blue eyes shift back toward the buildings that make up the complex here and she murmurs, "I lived here for a while. Back before it all went to hell." Her tone is … thoughtful, and perhaps a little regretful. "I liked what I did here. I was proud of it. It had purpose. Meaning." She looks back at Huruma. "Like what you do now. Have you thought about what you'll do when it changes?" she asks curiously. "I mean, not that there won't always be assholes to chase down, but the particular charter of Wolfhound will probably shift some, what with your success at your objective."

"FRONTLINE, right? Or SCOUT?" Huruma murmurs, knowing despite her question. She falls in alongside against the wall, watchful over Elisabeth and her wistfulness. It's something that she gets.

"I'm proud of myself for not falling backwards after… Everything years ago. I assume you've read about Pollepel, the Ark…" Everything that prompted the world to know Liz's face and her interview. "I've come to the conclusion that I may be doing all of this until I'm ninety. Ben and Avi seem to agree, and given they're in the same boat…so." Huruma hums to herself, a sidelong smile for the other woman. "The age range of Wolfhound keeps me spry."

"Otherwise… I have a host of people calling me auntie now. Only one calling me bebe though." Her tone says it much like someone would say nana, or mama. "Speaking of ages- - I noticed you've brought some tiny company home."

Not that she was. Following. You. Or anything like that.

"Both, really," Elisabeth replies in a quiet tone. She spent a while on both teams, though headed up FRONTLINE. Before she blew up on her own life in a futile effort to make amends for getting Ferrymen killed. She doesn't comment on the 'doing this until I'm 90' — although she's coming to realize she doesn't want to be Ryans or friggin' Avi Epstein.

The smile widens at the last, though, relief evident. "So it was you. I kept prickling on the back of my neck, it was making me crazy. Figured if it was really happening… coming out alone in the evening might lure out my watcher." Elisabeth makes a moue of her lips, though, looking a little abashed. "Yeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhh," she drawls. "So, apparently Nicole and I had a similar situation going on that day in Alaska. Although I didn't figure mine out for another couple months. That was something of a shock." And getting home with a tiny shadow through the worlds they've traversed was hellaciously terrifying.

"I wasn't sure that you would really care to see me. I am not exactly family." She did however watch Liz get sucked into a black hole with Magnes. Huruma doesn't give herself enough credit. "And goodness knows you probably hate being crowded anyhow…"

"See? I'm a touch more behaved, hm?" Huruma laughs softly, the sound from her chest. It simmers there. "The poor dear. What a way into the world. For what it is worth, I am glad she was able to be with you. Not that Magnes was chopped liver, but.." A tenuous connection to her home and note of hope for what she left behind. "I know others came with you. I do not have a list. I met the Remi you'd brought. She told me you were alive. Back." Had to see for herself.

"What is her name?"

"I'm sorry I didn't let you know myself," Elisabeth says, her blue eyes apologetic as she turns them to the empath. "Of course I want to see you. There's… so much that I have to catch up on." Blowing out a slow breath, she smiles faintly. "He's not chopped liver — he's actually becoming a pretty incredible, if slightly off-kilter, guy. Might have something to do with how many times I hadda slap him in the head," she quips drily. "But having her? It was… a blessing, for certain. She's the only real reason I didn't give up at a couple of points."

Her smile has that mix of maternal pride and adoration that always comes when you ask her about the little girl. "Aurora," she answers easily, amusement glimmering in her expression. "It seemed… appropriate." Or something. "There are others… the only one I can think of off the top of my head that I know you may know is Kain Zarek." The undercurrents that come with the name are fiercely protective with a deep caring for the man, along with worry. "The others, I don't… really have any idea if you might know their alternates. So, if you happen across someone and they deny knowing you, you'll probably get the unauthorized clone story or something." She rolls her eyes. "You know how they are about classified bullshit."

Even after all these years, there are still secrets.

Although Huruma looks skeptical, she knows that hardship can change even the most innocent people. Magnes included. She'll have to see that one in life. A smile forms when she's right about Aura. Her mother's tether. The girl's name also goads a chuckle from her. "Fitting, yes."

"Zarek? God. That's a time and a half ago.." Huruma's brows arch upward. "Ah, yes. Remi tried to explain that she was some sort of celebrity impersonator from California. But I knew it was her, just… Not her. I am able to tell people apart from what is here." Two fingers move to tap Elisabeth gently on the head. "Not many know about that part. Unique, like smells to a dog." So even if there is another one she knew before - she's got this. It is not dissimilar from Aurora and her ability to discern voices from one another as she does.

Elisabeth tips her head, not aware that Huruma could do that, and she smiles. "You and Aura will have loads to talk about, then." At the curious look, she shrugs. "Not a power. An alternate wiring of the brain. She can see sounds — particularly voices and music, it seems — as colors. She can't tell between the alternates of people, though. To her, they're the same people. So I had to teach her pretty young about doppelgangers and make sure she understood that some of the people she met in our travels, even if they were the same person, they weren't." She grimaces. "It's… Well, she mostly seems to get it. It's easier with certain people, I think. Like Teo's boy… she met elder Walter while we traveled and she's met and will go to school with young Walter, but it's easy to keep them separate in her head, you know? Aunt Kaylee, on the other hand… she has just a little more trouble with sometimes. She knows that it's not the same Aunt Kaylee she had for years but forgets, I think, sometimes."

It is rare enough to know others who can tell people apart, and this girl seems to do it without anything additional. Hearing about the sound as color seems to fascinate her.

"I know that Kaylee could have been a vastly different person. So I am not so surprised…" Huruma purses her lips, thoughts deepening. "I wonder if she might learn someday to tell the pairs apart. There must be differences…or not, if it really is not an ability. She sounds very precocious. Perhaps I'll meet her and see for myself."

Looking thoughtful, Elisabeth makes a noncommittal sound. "Maybe," she allows on the idea that Aurora might tell them apart someday. "I can tell you that each person seems to have a specific color. My mother and I are close, according to Aura, but she can tell the difference in them.I have no idea how or why that works for her. And since there's no way to know what her ability will be until it manifests, I guess we'll have to wait and see if it has anything at all to do with what she does. I mean… I guess it could, but her pediatrician didn't think so. It's just a somewhat rare shift in the brain's wires getting crossed." She smiles, though. "I think I'd love for you to meet her. Whenever you're in town and would like to. At present I have absolutely no idea what to do with myself. Since I'm kind of… unemployed and trying to figure out where to go from here, though, I'm pretty much wide open. So let me know when you're around. We're living in Raytech's complex…" Probably not an unexpected bit of news.

" I know already, remember?" Huruma's eyes narrow some in amusement. "I try to drop in on the R&D department sometimes… They're always good for a testing or two." She does not regale Elisabeth with details, but given what sort of tech she has likely seen - it must be fun and destructive. "The Banshee is lovely, by the way. It's been an honor having you in my pocket."

"I stay at the Benchmark or with friends while I am in town. I rather like spending time here, so…" Huruma angles away from the wall, lingering as only she can. A hand lifts to briefly cradle Elisabeth's cheek, tentative, earnest. "Welcome home, darling."

Elisabeth starts to laugh quietly. "Yeah…. I, uhm, was a little surprised by the Banshee when I got home," she chuckles. "I'm at Benchmark pretty often right now, so you might catch us there… they have good therapists." She and Aurora are visiting regularly.

She looks up at the taller woman at the same time as the hand touches her cheek. The affection is soaked in, her eyes closing momentarily as she swallows a sudden lump in her throat. "Thank you," she whispers. She reaches up and covers the hand with hers, holding it there for a moment. It's meant more than she can possibly articulate that all of the people she knows have been so glad to see her. Overwhelming sometimes, to realize that she mattered to so many. Her words are a little choked and she sounds rueful as she confesses, "It's all I ever wanted, to get home. I wish coming home was easier."

The subtle pinning and dilating of black irises is more visible up close; Huruma's empathic field readily absorbs what Elisabeth gives off, and her expression shifts, more certain.

"How does it go… 'Nothing worth doing is easy', isn't it? Sounds awfully like Western thinking, but… I suppose it has its merits." Huruma allows her hand to stay caught until Liz decides to let it go. "What matters is that you are here now. With your family and where your memories are." A sweep of her eyes takes in the courtyard, for instance.

"The topmost floor of the Benchmark is dormitories. I also teach some lessons. Mostly self-defense." Because of course she wants to beat people up. It's for a good cause. "I hope to see you again soon."

Elisabeth isn't one to allow emotion to take her over for long, and she releases Huruma's hand after just a few moments. She chuckles at the information that the other woman is teaching self-defense. Because of course she is. "I would like that very much." One more glance around the courtyard and she sighs quietly. "It'll be fine. We'll get there."

She pushes off the wall and shoves her hands into her jacket pockets again. "C'mon, I'll walk out with you. I should get back for bathtime anyway." Liz quirks a cheeky grin. "Now that I know I'm not being stalked by someone I'm gonna have to kill in a dark corner, I can go home."

"Ah, if I'd wanted to do that, you would never know." Huruma teases. Good nature despite the subject. Dark humor, right? "But you'll never have to worry about little old me." She pockets her own hands, her lingering becoming a companionable stride alongside Elisabeth.

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