Home Is


devon2_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Home Is…
Synopsis …Made of the people who care, not the place you live.
Date June 11, 2011

Endgame Safehouse

Yesterday had yielded an absence in the house, beginning that morning and not ending until some time between what should be supper and curfew. What Devon had been doing all day was not an answer he was forthcoming of, nor was he particularly chatty when he returned. After brief pleasantries that mostly consisted of the teen answering with 'I'm fine', he'd disappeared into Graeme's room with no plans to emerge again until morning.

And come morning, with dawn breaking, a restless night has come to an abrupt end. The teen's own pleading "No," though quiet enough to not bother most sleepers, drags him from the depths of sleep and into wakefulness. Devon draws in a quivering breath as his eyes snap open. Almost immediately his exhale is pressed through a tightness, coming out almost wheezing as he chokes back raw emotion, eyes squeezing closed in effort to continue to contain the hurt of loss.

Both hands lift to cover his face as Devon drags in another breath. A small whimper escapes on his next exhale, though it's followed by him dragging himself free of his sleeping bag. He half stumbles to the door, though pauses in the effort to open it, the boy giving himself some time for composure before venturing out again.

The thing is? Very few things escape an audiokinetic on guard detail. Most things she tunes out, but Elisabeth is far too familiar with the sounds of nightmares to miss the ones that Devon makes. She doesn't go barreling into the room. Instead she moves from the position she had taken near the large windows to get a bottle of water. And she waits for the teen, who she can hear stumbling out of the bedroom, to make his way this direction. The nightlights that are ubiquitous in this building because she herself cannot abide the oppressive dark illuminate the common room enough for her presence not to be a surprise to anyone. "Sometimes talking about it lessens its impact," she offers quietly as she holds the cold water out to him.

It's really only a moment, though it feels longer, before Devon emerges to follow the glow to the main room. His eyes come up at the voice to stare at Liz and then the bottle of water. A hand extends to take the water, brows pulling together over some fleeting worry. "Sometimes… they're back," he says quietly, dropping his gaze further. "It's like they're alive again and… and then it happens again and they're… gone. All over again."

Elisabeth nods just a little bit. "I'm told that nightmares — dreams — are the way the brain copes with emotional pain that's too deep to process any other way," she says quietly, returning to her seat near the window. Her tone is quiet but matter-of-fact. "After 9/11 and after the Bomb, I had the expected horrible dreams… but I had some strange ones too. Where I'd be… sitting with my mom at our favorite cafe having coffee and we'd be talking about …. normal things. Jobs or a show we were going to see or… " She trails off. "And some of those dreams would end with me watching her disintegrate in front of my eyes. I'd wake up screaming — which wasn't as problematic back then as it is these days," she admits wryly. "Some of them would actually end nicely, just … a regular dream where for just those few seconds between awake and asleep she was still alive and everything was okay." Elisabeth pauses. "Those were actually always harder for me," she admits to him quietly.

"I can't imagine my parents still alive." Devon takes a step further into the room, then slowly sinks to sit on the floor. "I can't… I remember some things before, but the Bomb…" He folds his legs in front of him, elbows resting against his knees. "It's usually that day. It's usually… the Bomb going off again. Or… they visit and… something happens so they're…" The teen shakes his head, instead of finishing that thought. "It always ends that way. Same with my aunt."

Resting her arms on her upraised knees the blonde listens to him. She doesn't do him the disservice of platitudes. "I thought those would be the worst dreams I'd ever have." She smiles a little but there is no true amusement in it. More like commiseration. "These days I would rather have those ones," she confesses to him softly. "I'm sorry, Devon. That you've gone through so much."

Scrubbing at his face with a hand, thumb and forefinger making a slow sweep across his eyes to his nose, Devon gives a small nod. "Those are just what happens most often," he says. He drops his hand, then, as though recalling it, opens the bottle of water. "The Dome…" Goes without saying, that event still haunts him, but the loss of family is what drew him awake this time. "I don't know which I'd rather have. Both are bad… Sometimes there's parts from all of it."

Elisabeth's nod is sympathetic. In the darkness of the pre-dawn, she seems… perhaps more approachable? "I can understand that," she agrees. With a soft sigh, she says, "I'd like to tell you that they won't happen after a while, but…. even now, things sometimes still startle me." The admission is difficult. "Until a couple of days ago, I hadn't had a full-on panic attack in … months." She pauses and then says, "The things we've lived in the last couple of years, Dev? They stay with you through your whole life. You learn from them. And over time the edges blur some, so that it doesn't have the kind of power that it did. But you never really forget." She reaches out and squeezes his arm. "Tell me about it," she invites gently.

”I was with my parents when they were killed,” Devon says quietly, twisting the cap back onto the bottle of water. “We were heading home from one of my classes when the Bomb went off, and they… this building came down around us. I went to live with my aunt after that, on… Roosevelt Island.” His head lowers slightly, pressing his forehead against the top of the bottle. “She was… Russo came out for… He read her name, along with several others who’d been killed when the thing was created.” His eyes close for a moment, then open again to glance toward Liz. “After that, things really got bad. Riots and… people killing themselves trying to get out.

”The worst was Humanis First,” he continues after a shaky pause. “Watching them pull people from their beds and line them in the streets to execute them. Watching… being bound and beaten and dragged off to… somewhere…” Again, Devon’s eyes close, squeezed shut as his hands tighten around the bottle “And… killing people, trying so they couldn’t kill me. So I wouldn’t be taken again. —And I felt numb to all of it but… It still gives me nightmares. A lot.”

Elisabeth listens, her eyes remaining steady on him. Compassionate, sympathetic, she understands what he's going through. She slips her hand into his while he remembers. "Numb is the way we survive," she tells him softly. "You have to find a way to distance yourself so that you don't just go catatonic and hide in your own head. The fact that you're having nightmares, as horrible as it is, is actually good. Because it means that you are processing it. Feeling the grief. And eventually you'll come out on the other side. I can't promise when or that it will be easy. But you will get there."

"I always feel like a freak," Devon admits with a humorless grin. "Just shutting off, closing myself away from it so I could keep going, I guess. No easy way to escape when it's time to sleep." His head turns slightly, looking at Liz. "I miss them. My parents, my aunt… Since the Dome came down it's been one person's house or another, no… connection? To where I was staying. It's —me whining, about wanting to go home. You… you've been not home since they ambushed you."

"I can't," Elisabeth says. "They're watching my father and I try to … leave him messages in places that he'll find them, but … every time I go to the house, I chance getting spotted. And if they think he actually knows where I am, they'll lock him up. It's safest for him that I stay away." She leaves her drink and scoots closer to him, leaning back against the wall and wrapping an arm around the teen's shoulders since he's letting her this close. "I still miss my mom. I always will," she tells him softly. "You're not whining. You're finally letting yourself feel it all. And it sucks. A lot." She grins a little at him and confesses, "I'll tell you a secret. I wanna go home too, kiddo. I won't say that it's easier on me just because I'm older… it's not. We all have those places where we feel safe. And when they're ripped away from us, there is always a part of us that is searching for them again."

Devon nods as Elisabeth speaks, watching her with the same understanding. There's homes he can't return to, the ones he'd been known to live at since they're technically no longer home, the others, for reasons of severing ties for safety. He gets it. With a sigh, he relaxes some, head tilting back to rest on the wall, and partially on Liz's shoulder, reminiscent of childhood. "It sucks," he agrees, "and it gets worse every time you have to find a new safe place."

Elisabeth rests her head atop his, comforting. "There are a lot of sayings about where your home is… where your heart is, where when you go there they have to take you in. But I've found over the past few years that the truth of the matter is… that home is people, not a place. It's the person or people who hold you when you need to be held, who care if you're happy or sad or angry, who help you when you need it and kick you in the ass when you need that too." She squeezes him gently. "If you want a home here, Devon, you have it. Not because of the things you do or don't do…. but because I care about whether you're happy or sad. And Graeme cares whether you're happy or sad. And there might be times we treat you like a kid…. but I hope you'll look on those times as the ones we're maybe showing you the most love as opposed to thinking we don't respect you. We want you to be able to not become …. jaded… so young. We want to give you the chance to enjoy some of your life, even if it's a hard one."

A moment passes with Devon searching for a word or three for response, to express his understanding, to voice concerns. Words seem to fail or catch in his throat and instead he nods just a little and relaxes further into her hold. The latter speaks more in volumes of acceptance, for being the kid at times, their concerns, and mostly the offer of a home with the people who care. His eyes close briefly, not clenched as before, but an easy motion of an extended blink, and he lets out a soft, slow sigh. "I… I'd like that," he says, eyes coming open again, "treated like a kid and all." He grins slightly, a half mustered thing that's still shadowed faintly with recent events. "I've never really seen myself as much of a kid, always the youngest but my peers have always been older."

Elisabeth grins a little. "Well… being a kid can suck too, cuz now that you've admitted you're willing, Graeme's going to have still more homework to grade," she says on a smirk. "It might not be official, but you'll come away from all this with your high school education intact." She shrugs. "Someday, God willing, you'll need it." To do something other than fight.

"Man, grading is boring." Devon sighs, not unlike having just been told to clean his room. Some things don't change. He grins just a little, eyes slanting toward her. "It's been a year since I graduated high school. Didn't know leaving college for an internship would land me here. —I'd still like to go back one day, college I mean, pick some field to study." One day, when the war is over.

"Well, that actually makes me feel about eight times better," Elisabeth laughs. "I wasn't sure you'd finished high school, and probably I should have asked before I assumed. But… " She doesn't lift her head off his, still cradling him easily. "I kept feeling guilty for the fact that you were holed up here with us and not getting a diploma," she admits on a laugh. "Maybe it sounds like a stupid thing to worry about when there's so much else going on, but…. it's not." She sounds thoughtful. "I think… if you forget about the normal stuff, you start losing perspective. You start…. forgetting why we're fighting like we are, and when you do that… then you just fight because you don't know what else to do."

"It's okay, just not something I think about or flaunt." Devon lifts a shoulder slightly. "Some people get weird about it, just easier not to bring it up. Probably could have graduated earlier if the Bomb hadn't happened but…" Another shrug. "I think it's okay to worry about it, though. With everything else… There's lots of people who aren't able to finish their education even on a basic level."

Elisabeth consides that and she asks, "Just how high is your IQ?" Because that tells her that she didn't mistake his age — he's young. "And what'd you want to study?" she asks curiously. Hey… it's 'normal.'

"I… don't know?" Devon graces himself to look somewhat embarrassed. "School was just easy, and if my parents had me tested I don't remember. Or wasn't told the results. I was four when I started kindergarten, skipped two grades. I did a lot of home school and college classes with my regular school." He shrugs, that was normal life for him. "I wanted to be an actor, I was studying it before taking my internship."

Blowing out a breath, Elisabeth murmurs, "You're going to be a challenge, aren't you?" She grins at him. And she kisses the boy on the top of the head. She's quiet for a time, and then she starts humming under her breath, lacing her voice with the gentle subsonics that will lull Devon to sleep. She doesn't sing for many people… and as she starts, she has a moment to wonder what she sang to Joshua. And if she'll ever know. But for now…

~~I took my love and I took it down…. I climbed a mountain and I turned around… and I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills, Til the landslide brought me down…. Ohhh, mirror in the sky, what is love? … Can the child within my heart rise above? … Can I sail through the changing ocean tides, can I handle the seasons of my life? …. Mm-mm… I don't know…~~

"Sorry," he offers, an upward lift to his tone seeking forgiveness, even has he grins. But as she begins to hum, the grin fades from Devon's expression, replaced by a look closer to contentment. He sighs, a slow exhale that relaxes him further into her embrace. Eyes close part way, then a moment later completely close. And it isn't too long before the teen's breathing slows and sleep claims him.

Elisabeth's hand on the arm wrapped around him strokes his hair where he rests on her shoulder. When his breathing and heartbeat tell her he's asleep, she leans her head back and just hums softly to herself, a faint sad smile quirking her lips. Somehow, some way… she'll keep this boy alive. She'll keep them all alive.

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