Her Piece Of Blue String


liette_icon.gif lorraine_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Her Piece Of Blue String
Synopsis When the dome causes Liette to fall extremely ill, Jensen Raith is called out to visit his wayward daughter for what might be the last time.
Date February 8, 2011

New Jersey

Most people think of New Jersey as one big spralwing concrete garbage dump, where smoke stacks belch out chemicals into the air, where smog blankets the horizon and where radioactive fallout made an entire city uninhabitable for several years. New Jersey has a bad reputation, and the common association of it with industrial wasteland is due to the strip through Jersey City and along the turnpike out of New York. You go far enough south, far enough away from New York, and New Jersey isn't a half bad place.

The town of Folsom seems like it doesn't belong in the Jersey landscape. Rolling hills, verdant expanses of pine trees, farmland and colnial style cottages and farm houses. Pastoral land just a couple hours from the chaos of New York, too clean and too green for people to assume it's Jersey.

Jensen Raith never has had an excuse to come out ot Folsom, never had a reason to see any of it's sparse population of under two-thousand. But green hills, pastures and cows seems like such a welcome relief from the concrete, grit and urban decay of his battleground. Were it under any other circumstance, this might actually be a plesant trip.

The turn off of highway 54 onto Black Horse Pike means that he's getting close. The reliable old beat up pickup truck that the Remnant has utilized for over a year now rumbles down the highway with only a little rattling and a little sputtering. She needs a tune-up, but when has there even been time for that?

Stuck in a notch on the dash board above the heat vents, a hand-written note reads 10th street, second left off of Black Horse Pike. First driveway on left. It's simple enough instructions, and finding his way out to this isolated corner of the Jersey green has given him time to put things into perspective, consider what's waiting for him at that destination.

A little ways down the road, past so many trees they seem to bleed into a blur of deciduous green, the narrow and dirt road of 10th Street disappears into the woods off of the highway. Light rain patters down on the truck's windshield, just now starting to pick up. Wipers move arrythmically to the click of the left turn signal, and after the logging truck in the oncoming lane rolls past, Raith turns the truck down onto the dirt road, rumbling through a low spot and a murky puddle with a slosh of large tires.

In the dark of the woods, pine branches form a thick canopy overhead, reminiscent of the road leading up to the Garden on Staten Island. The rain can't penetrate the branches more than a light mist, but the fog is thick through the trees. Seeing that first driveway on the left, the truck turns down, moving into an even narrowed and more windy road. Large mossy rocks flank both sides of the driveway's entrance, one split down the middle from a tree growing up out of the middle.

Just beyond the boulders, lights can be seen in the dark, shed out through the windows of a two-story cabin nestled in the woods. The A-Frame house is an economical design, a thin plume of light gray smoke winding up out of the chimney. A man, barely visible on a balcony on the second floor disappears inside at the sign of headlights.

Raith's here, and somewhere inside, so is his daughter.

The man is noted just as intently as the smoke is as the truck rolls to a stop. In unfamiliar country, everything seems all the more dangerous. And Raith has been in enough unfamiliar country to be suspicious of things in familiar country as well. The penlight he flicks on and sticks in his teeth might be the normal tactic of someone double-checking their map, making sure they have the right house, but in this case, it's the tactic of a man popping the magazine out of his Glock 18, verifying the presence of brass before slapping the box against his leg three times and inserting it back into the weapon. That and three high-capacity magazines are all the firepower he has with him, and he feels slightly naked for it.

When the engine is shut off, the lights killed and the ex-spy slides out of the cab, he's glad he is not actually naked, because the cold might well kill him. But wrapped up in proper winter gear, it's not so bad. Hell, under different circumstances, this might not be any different from a father returning home from a business trip, if only for a short time. He's even managed to slip in a couple gifts, just to round out the total package. But the quality of those has yet to be assessed, and quietly armed with a small pack of things he has decided to carry, the truck door closes with an audible slam and the man trudges up to the front door, eyes darting this way and that, noting all the good hiding places and routes of approach. Paranoid.

After a time, walking up to the front porch and the door, he raises his hands and knocks on it three times, although not too loudly. He's left his sunglasses off, as well: He's not here on business.

A few moments after the knock, the door opens. Lorraine looks much the same as the last time he'd seen her so long ago, though tired, and not as well kempt. Her hair looks like it hasn't been washed in a while, pulled back away from her face into a ponytail. "I'm glad you came out, Raith," she says with a voice that sounds as if she's been running around, or perhaps just breathless. The French accent is nearly gone from the one she'd had all those years ago.

"She's really sick, can barely breathe, and I think it has something to do with Julie, but…" she trails off, a worried look on her face as she glances behind her toward a hallway… where another one of her stands near the doorway.

Both of her are dressed oddly, one has her hair down, and one is wearing clothes more suited for lower layers of multiple layered clothes. The one wearing the heavier clothes, and the shoes, was the one to answer the door. "She's in here," the first Lorraine says as she motions toward the second one, staying behind to close and lock the door.

Both Lorraines alone in here, as evidenced by the creak of old wooden stairs coming down into the low-ceilinged living room. The old man isn't familiar to Raith, white-bearded with dark eyebrows, wiping off the lenses of his glasses on a flannel shirt. He looks like he hasn't seen much sleep in the last few days, evident in the bags under his eyes and slowness of his gait.

"Afternoon," the old man greets Raith, brown eyes looking him up and down with that solemn and apologetic expression that a doctor pushed to his limits might have. "God worried when I heard a truck, forgot you'd be coming…" When he reaches the bottom of the stairs, the gray-haired old man looks towards the door, then back to Raith with a distant smile. "I'll give you all some peace."

The status report is really not one that Raith wanted to hear, and it's obvious by his mixed expression: Happy to see a familiar face, not so happy about the circumstances under which he's come. But what can he do about it?

What he can do about something is regard the old man when he appears, returning his nod with masked suspicion. Very few of his past experiences with exceptionally old men have gone all that well. Samson Gray, Kazimir Volken, the ancient, colonial man from Lovecraft's 'The Picture in the House,' none of these adventures have ended well. Especially the last one: Raith has no desire to be saved from some horrific revelation thanks to being struck by lightning. But that then, is why his suspicion is masked. "Thank you," is his reply, quiet and solemn, and then he's off down the hallway towards the second Lorraine. How long has it been? Too long. Could he have made time earlier? Possibly. Maybe things could have gone differently if he had. Does he dwell on these thoughts? No. The past is mutable, but the consequences of changing it always prove dire. They don't need a time paradox.

"You've been such a great help, doctor," One of the Lorraine's says, while the other locks the door. Even if they're far away from places of active crime, having a locked door is still a necessity, especially for people who don't want to be found. Like most of those within the house, and especially the young girl, the sick girl, in the bedroom.

"She'll be happy to see you. She can still talk most the time," the one he's approaching said, while the other begins to move toward the kitchen.

"I'll get you something to drink," but it's not just him she's getting drinks for, but him, and the young girl, the one at the door glances in the room to check on.

Though she likely hasn't moved much in the last few moments since she last looked.

Lorraine's guess is true, and through the frame of a doorway Jensen Raith is presented with a father's worst fear, one that his brother-in-law Avi Epstein has had to deal with in regards to the consistently poor health of Raith's niece. Now, it seems, the shoe is on the other foot.

Liette looks little like Raith remembers her, thin as always, but with a sick oily sheen to her skin. Dark circles have a bruised look around her eyes, and her hair has grown down to unruly length past her shoulders, pink and purple streaks long since faded from the wavy mess.

But in all her sickness, Liette can smile. She makes an effort to sit up, bracing herself on her elbows, mindful of the hydration IV plugged into one of her arms. The drip stand beside the bed rattles some with her movement, and she endeavors to untangle the cord from a stubborn corner of one of her quilts.

"Dad," Liette manages in a meek voice, stifling a rattling cough with one hand afterward, her brows raised in apology, as if she's ashamed he has to see her like this. It's been too long for Liette and Raith, too long for a daughter to be apart from the father she hardly got the chance to know. But — up until recently — it's been safer. Away from the chaos of New York, away from the riots and the martial law.

Out of sight, but not out of mind.

Safer is not always easier. But it is often necessary. Er.

"Hey, kiddo," Raith replies, stepping in through the door frame to get a better look at the sorry mess that has become hi daughter. And through it all, he looks happy to see her and not at all concerned about the state she's in, and act that is nothing is not hard to keep up. But if he looks hopeful, hey, maybe she'll feel hopeful. That's his hope, at least. "It's been a while, you know," the ex-spy continues, kneeling down besides the bed to put himself at eye level with the girl, "Been crazy, too. Did you know I had to kill a submarine? It was pretty hardcore, but nobody had a camera." His father used to tell stories along those lines, so what's the harm in it? "I heard you caught the yuck."

"A submarine? That has got to be an interesting story, even for you," Lorraine says with a smile as she hangs in the doorway to give Raith some extra space to kneel beside the bed, but allowing her to watch with a small encouraging smile on her face. Blonde hair falls into her eyes, free from any restraints of a ponytail, half obscuring eyes that look as if they've had little sleep. In truth she's slept about as much as normal, but she keeps taking turns. There's an advantage to having two of you.

A wheezy laugh squeaks out of Liette as her nose wrinkles, a smile crossing her lips and a light reaching her eyes that Lorraine hasn't seen in several days now. As Liette wets her tongue with her bottom lip, Liette slouches back against her pile of pillows, turning her head enough so that she can fully look at her father. "You can't kill a submarine," she argues, the corners of her mouth threatening another smile, though this one more teasing, as if she were the one patronizing the adult in playful manner.

"It's not… the yuck," Liette clarifies, her thin brows scrunching together. "My brain isn't sending the signals it's supposed… supposed to t'my body, so things are… starting to turn off." Blue eyes alight to Raith, and up close he can see the mottled complexion of her skin and the darkness of her veins. "I know what's happening…" and it isn't something a child should know. "I just… don't know why."

That is perhaps the hardest part, that Liette is sick and in all her precocious intellect can't seem to be able to define the cause, only the symptoms. "How's miss Eileen doing?" That much comes with a tiny, honest smile. It didn't take long for Liette to come wise about how much the older girl meant to her father.

"She's well," Raith states. A strong dislike of not knowing the answers seems to run in the family, Raith for his intelligence work, and Liette for her intelligence: The unknown is perhaps the most dangerous thing of all. But there is something Raith does know: "She's getting kind of mean, though. Or old. Mean and old, maybe, I can't tell. I'll have to bring her by and maybe both of us can figure it out together. Right up until she chases us off the lawn with her cane." Of course, Raith is joking. Eileen wouldn't chase anyone off the lawn with her cane because she wouldn't miss and give them the chance to get away.

With the smallest heft, Raith hoists the pack he is carrying up onto the bed and says nothing else of it. Immediately. "Guess," he says after a moment.

Remaining at the doorframe, Lorraine continues to give Liette an encouraging smile. The distance gives them a semblance of alone time, but she doesn't go far. She spent enough time seperated from her children, she's not about to leave one if she doesn't have to. A hand is even raised, to stop the approaching other half of her.

The drink can wait a little longer.

This time when Liette laughs, the tail end of it is met with a hacking cough, one that has her sitting up propped on one shaking arm, a hand clasped over her mouth and eyes wrenched shut. A tiny whine escapes the young girl after the coughing fit, her hadn moving to her head as she slowly eases back down onto the pillows, eyes still closed fast. She stays that way, still, for a moment, then slowly opens her eyes in the direction of Raith and the pack.

A tiny smile plays at the corners of Liette's mouth, and as she considers the backpack, those blue eyes dance up to Raith's again and she defiantly finds humor in the situation, despite the grim nature of her predicament. "New lungs?" It's a playfully teasing tone, nose wrinkling and eyes fluttering shut briefly. "More likely it's a Sig Saur, knowing you."

"Oh no, it is even more retardly awesome than that." And coming from Jensen Raith, that is saying… maybe not so much at all. This is Jensen Raith, after all. "I kind of forgot, myself, so let's find out what's in the mini-Santa sack." But of course, he doesn't make it easy for her, only unbuckling it so that she can reach inside and then sliding it over within easier each. "I missed you on Christmas," he admits, before casting a glance back to Lorraine, "You too. Two months late's not so bad, right?"

Once again, Lorraine smiles from the door, fully leaning on the frame. There's some words that she could insert, commentary on lateness, and how he also missed the girl's birthday. But some things a better unsaid at times like this. Instead she manages a soft, "You're here now— If you have time, you can stay the night, too." She may not expect such a thing, but the offer is made. Liette, in her current state, would likely appreciate it.

And it would give him more time to tell stories about evil submarines.

Liette's brows furrow when Raith slides the bag over, rubbing at one eye and watching him as if it were some sort of test. Tentatively reaching out, she hesitates and looks to Lorraine when that offer gets voiced. A smile ghosts across the young girl's lips, and when she looks back to Raith, one hand held out partly for the bag, the smile becomes more open-mouthed and eager.

"Can…" For a moment her voice cracks, discomfort showing as she reaches up to hold her throat. "Can you? Stay? Stay the night?" Moving her hand from her throat, Liette reaches down into the opening of the bag as Raith has laid it out for her, tiny fingers feeling around for whatever unknown might be contained within. It's a good distraction, all of this, a needed distraction from a child's illness.

Liette hasn't been sick for long, but the gradual deterioration of her health has been a question ever since she drove a deep wedge between herself and her twin following the cessation of the blizzard last year. Their dependancy on one another is more than just emotional, it is beginning to seem.

Fingers curling around what she finds, Liette's nose wrinkles, brows tense and she draws out what blunted sense of touch alone cannnot identify.

"Well, that was sort of the plan." It's a blunt and honest statement. And the contents of the pack would seem to support this as fact. Some of the things are small goodies: A Heath candy bar and a blue piece of string, perplexing though the second one may be. But then, there are three things that have the potential to have far longer permanence. The first is a battery-operated travel DVD player (and knowing Raith, it's a 50/50 guess as to whether it was acquired legally).

The other two mark the possible start of Liette's cinema collection: One DVD each of Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai, Takeshi Kitano's Hana-bi, and Juzo Itami's Tampopo. Action, drama, and comedy, and unlike the player, all three of these are still in their shrink wrapping: They don't count as starting the collection unless they are new. Jensen Raith, apparently, enjoys Japanese films. And perhaps wasn't sure what sort of film his daughter would like best.

Even in cinema, shotguns have their uses.

"I'm glad to hear that," Lorraine says as she turns away from the door to take two cups from her other half. Unlike Liette, she knows she can survive without one of her halves, but she hasn't lived split in two her whole life— her ability doesn't work exactly the same as the version that her daughter(s) seem to have taken on. Not entirely. The one with shoes and her hair pulled back nods without needing to say anything, before turning and vanishing. To get extra pillows, sheets, and perhaps even ask the doctor for help moving an extra chair downstairs so he can sit next to the bed even longer.

Bearing water in one hand, and a cup of coffee, just the way he used to like it in the past, she steps over to the bed. The coffee is handed to Raith, perpared just the way he liked it, while the water is set next to the bed on a nightstand. Obviously meant for Liette. "I think we have some movies to watch," she says with that same smile she had from the doorway.

Liette starts to laugh when she sees the movies, a happy and bubbling laugh, but as she switches the movies around in her hands, candy-bar greedily left on her lap for later, that laughter turns into a sound that is like kryptonite to any father. It starts with her jaw, trembling, lip unsteadied and fingers curling against the plastic wrap of one of the DVD covers. Blue eyes shut tightly, face reddens, and when those eyes open fat tears dribble out and down her cheeks, dripping off the ends of her chin. Eyes are already puffy, lending to the look of overwrought emotion.

Turning to Raith, Liette draws the stack of three DVDs to her chest, then exhales a shuddering, weak little sob accompanied by a wheezing rattle of her breath. The movies seem to mean something to her, more than might have been expected by their generally non-sentimental nature. But the expression Liette Fournier bears isn't just one of happy emotional overload, it's tinged with something worse.

"I— I don'wanna die," Liette bleats out, her hands shaking and eyes falling shut, shoulders shaking up and down as she clings to the DVDs as if they might be able to fulfill her wish, as if even a fraction of her father's proximity might be able to scare the reaper away. Were it only that easy.

Maybe it is that easy: If Raith really is Liette's father- and he is- it's not enough for the Reaper to come for her. The slowpoke has to catch her first.

Raith doesn't say anything like this. It's not the time for it. He doesn't stay kneeling on the floor either. Moments after Liette begins sobbing, the ex-spy picks himself off the ground and, sliding to sit on the bedside, pulls his daughter into his chest and embraces her tightly. He doesn't know the secret to fending off death. Yet. He is only determined that, if Liette must die, then she will die happy, with a memory of a loving family in a world that still makes sense. No war, no chaos, no insanity. Just her, and mom(s), and dad.

And her piece of blue string.

The coffee cup intended for Raith is set next to the glass of water, a soft clank of ceramic against glass, as Lorraine kneels down to place one hand against the back of the girl's father, and the other against the small frail back. By all accounts, she'd thought she'd lost the girl not once, but twice. Once at her birth, once when Pinehearst falls, and as her eyes close, there's a quiet wish that the string will keep her safe.

And her sister, whatever has happened to her, as well.

Cradled to Raith's chest, Liette continues to cry, though it's obvious that the sick young girl is trying to restrain herself as best as possible. Coughing intermittantly breaks up the somber sound, fingers curling now not in the movies, but in her father's shirt as her nose hides against his shoulder, tear-filled eyes clenched tightly shut. Her thin frame trembles, wheezing breath rattling in her chest. If she makes it through the week it will be a miracle.

It isn't just pragmatism that has Liette stifling her crying, it isn't just trying to reduce the ways she could break out into a coughing fit. It's because the man holding her is one of the toughest people she knows, a man who needs no special genetically endowed ability to have earned that title, a man that has entered her life so late, but given it more meaning than she knew was missing.

Liette is trying to be strong for her father, like her father.

If she is his daughter — and she is — maybe she's strong enough too.

Strong enough to live.

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