In for the Kill


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Scene Title In for the Kill
Synopsis Elliot asks Gracie to hold his metaphorical beer.
Date July 7, 2021

Everything’s fine when you’re lying. This new age of truth is terrifying, and there’s absolutely no guarantee that anybody will be safer because of it. Everybody in this city is one stray bullet away from dying because Elliot was the one the bullet hit. An expansive buffet of the unprepared.

The idea of being helped is alien; as alien to him as the thing that lives in the prison built around his foundational trauma. As the thing that rings incessantly at the heart of it all. It’s not the help he’s been assuming he’ll need, that help is long lost or out of reach. But, assuming the world doesn’t end, he’s the next threat either way. Certainly, at least hopefully, not at such a gruesome scale. But he lost count of the number of ACTS in Warehouse 0.

The door clacks shut behind him, cutting off calls from one tired member of the convoy to some unnamed other. Each step into the strangely homey space results in a deeper release of the tension that’s been holding him upright all day. All decade. His hands shake like he’s his local self, his breathing is uneven and it’s late in occurring to him that the medication has worn off. It’s been a day; a shaky hand transfers another pill to the cave beneath his tongue.

Some Kind of Hostel
Name Ignored

New Chicago
The Flooded Timeline

Gracie’s been going through it. All her own fault, doing, of course. She’s about four bourbons into the evening. It would have been more, but Silas’ company encouraged at least some measure of temperance. Trouble brews in her mind, a heady sensation that mixes and mingles with the worry gnawing at her gut. There aren’t butterflies in her stomach, but the beating wings of birds caged by her ribs. Predatory creatures that want the opportunity to feast on the carcass of her, of what’s left after the fear has its way with her.

Her own hands are shaking when she lifts one to hesitantly knock on the door of the room she saw Elliot disappear into. No one has noticed her yet. Her head swivels from one side to the other, making sure the coast is clear. A nervous bubble of laughter breaks the surface tension as she thinks she must look like Princess Leia in a hologram.

Elliot Hitchens is no Obi-Wan Kenobi, and she doesn’t hold a lot of hope for her situation.

Elliot contains a sudden burst of fury at being intruded upon by clenching his hand hard enough to leave marks in his palm. He swishes his tongue back and forth to help reduce the pill to paste and scrubs furiously at his brow. Wight snaps her fingers to get his attention, then reads her pulse and takes a centering breath. He chases it with one of his own, and the thanks he sends is far more subtle than words allow for.

The pill is gritty but starting to vanish as he rounds on the door. He places the outside of his foot inside the door against a potential shove, and cracks it open just enough the peer out. Ahh, he thinks. He continues to work the pill away as he considers saying something, but decides to back into the room with the door left ajar.

The redhead steps into view a moment after the door opens that crack, hazel eyes peering curiously at Elliot and past him. There’s a tension in her that feels like a reflection of his own. Her freckled face is flushed, eyeliner fuzzier than it is even when she smokes it out at the edges. There’s the telltale hints of a dried out river of mascara on her left cheek, not wholly scrubbed away.

“Hi,” she breathes out, a hand on the doorknob, not entering just yet even if she is leaning into the gap he’s left. It’s widened only enough to accommodate that. She’s able to tell she’s an intruder in his space. “Look, I can tell this is a bad time,” she admits in a soft voice. This conversation is just for the two of them. While her inebriation is evident, her speech is clear, if pitched a little lower than her usual. “But I could be — will wind up waiting forever if I decide to wait for the perfect moment.”

Perfection is bullshit and aspiring to it leads to wasted opportunity.

“I said I should tell you…” Gracie leans back for another glance down the hallway. First to her left, then to her right. Still no one watching. The invitation to enter is noted, but she waits for the implicit to be made explicit, like some kind of vampire.

Elliot shrugs a worn yellow—”That’s what neon green looks like!” the woman at the book fair says, even though Elliot isn’t stupid and it’s clearly yellow—backpack onto a quilt covering the bedding. He’ll pay attention to anything right now other than the fact that Gracie lied to him and he, of all people, believed her.

He runs his fingers over the rough fabric of the quilt as Gracie’s voice projects into the space. He tracks the steps between here and there, marking the distance of her voice should she suddenly sound too close. An explicit invitation doesn’t come until he dragged a quaker chair away from a chipped, burgundy-lacquered vanity against the wall. The chair is placed close to the door, then gestured at before he walks back toward the bed. He realizes that if he painted some contextless nonsense over the vanity mirror, they’d have a strange interpolation of their conversation in Gracie’s room aboard Freedom of the Seas.

Gracie makes her way into the room finally, caution in her movements. Something is off, and she knows it’s not just the drink. Elliot is eyed warily, like he’s a predator ready to pounce upon her, this prey animal. This is the kind of conversation that warrants a closed door, but her primal brain screams at her to leave it open.

She closes it.

Eyes stray briefly from Elliot to the chair and immediately dart back again, some part of her worried that he’ll stray too close. A tremor overtakes her, shown in her shoulders briefly. It remains in her hands and the set of her jaw.

“I’ve been afraid.” That part is easy to cop to; she is afraid. It takes effort to sink down into the chair he’d gestured to, to trust that he won’t lash out against her.

Why is she so afraid of him?

Elliot has been supportive so far. Even when everyone else seemed to hate her, he chose not to. Gracie folds her hands together in her lap, keeping them where he can see them. She unfolds them again in short order and turns them over, empty palms up, subtly displaying she’s not carrying anything. Doing her best to appear non-threatening in the face of his agitation.

She knows how to deal with the type. Has done on more than one occasion.

If what she tells him turns him against her, there isn’t much she can do one way or another. “I’ve been struggling with whether or not to tell you something about myself, because I’m afraid it’ll reveal something about your Rue that she’s been keeping from you.” She catches herself, amends, “Well, and everybody, I suppose.”

She doesn’t leave him in suspense. She won’t make him pull it from her. “I have an ability.” There’s a faint uptalk at the end of it, like it’s more of a question than it is a statement. The question isn’t whether or not she does or if it’s the truth.

Do you hate me? Do you hate her? Can you forgive me? How much does this change?

Elliot sighs, taking in Gracie's discomfort and regretting his part in it. He adjusts his posture, shows her his similarly empty hands. "Yeah," he says, feigning a smile at odds with the seriousness of the conversation. "I puzzled that out the last time we tried to have this conversation."

Her head cants to one side in response. That was inevitable.

He leans back and supports himself on the bed with his hands, eyes to the ceiling. They're quickly returned to hers in the dim so he can watch her reaction. "Which is why I had my wife test Rue's DNA for SLC expression yesterday."

Her quip is lagged just a moment too long to be an easy thing. “Well, that seems a little invasive, don’t you think?” To both of them. Herself and his Rue. She faintly half-scoffs with her next breath. “Must be nice to live in a world where you can still scrutinize your loved ones under a microscope.”

He sees the tells of someone staving off worry, fear, panic. The stilling of her body but not her breath. That is kept even, slow, deep, deliberate. Her hands turn over in her lap again to clasp together, the thumb of her right hand scraping across the palm of the other with the nail.

“So,” Gracie lifts her brows, feigning curiosity over dread, “have you found anything out yet?”

"There were some extenuating circumstances," Elliot responds with nonchalance, avoiding a direct answer. "For instance, you tried to lead me to believe that my girlfriend has been lying to me." It's a hunch, though he plays it off as a fact. He shrugs with his hands, settling into the bed and tucking a leg beneath himself. Tries to take away the little things that make her feel threatened by him.

"And I appreciate the craft, I do," he says. He doesn't look angry, maybe just amused. He doesn't have a right to be angry, he lied to Rue extensively and repeatedly. Lying to her about having an ability seems like such a small thing in comparison to the real wrongs. "But I'm also familiar with it and I have what I'm told are unreasonable trust issues."

"So how'd you get an ability?" he asks, as though that's a thing that just happens sometimes despite the relevant variables. "What can you do?" He seems honestly curious.

“I didn’t lead you to anything,” Gracie counters with more ease than she feels. “If you jumped, that’s on you.” Her eyes dart down to the floor after she says that, concerned she’s sounded too antagonistic. This is a line she has to walk carefully. “You’re big on the ethical dilemmas that come from time travel and… Quantum Leaping.” That’s still time travel, Gracie. “Comparing 616 to 838 or whatever.” That’s more accurate.

Also: Nerd.

“I led myself to a conclusion. I have an ability that I keep real quiet, and you didn’t seem to know about it, so I think it stands to reason that your Rue might be doing the same.” There’s still too much tightness in her jaw, in spite of how even she keeps that keel of hers. “Seemed a dick move to tell on her.”

But here they are. Gracie fights the urge to cross one leg over the other, reminds herself to keep her feet flat on the floor, just in case she needs to get to them quickly. He asked a question that she’s obliged to answer. “I was dying. Incurable illness — at least in this world.” Her left hand frees itself from the grasp of the right to come up in a half shrug. Maybe she’d have better luck elsewhere.

“I was taken to a man who healed me.” That pulse of hers begins racing, owing nothing to Elliot and everything to memory. She closes her eyes and lets out a shakier breath than she’d like. “It was… a Biblical experience.” Her brow pinches, breath coming in both heavier and more shallow. What was done to her fit the technical definition of awesome. “He said he unlocked my potential.”

Discomfort shows plainly as she continues, hands trembling in her lap once more. “I’ve been able to see people phased between… Whatever. I don’t know how it works, but when they’re in the between, out of step with reality, invisible to anybody else, I still see them. I hear them. Just as though they were as corporeal as you and I right now.”

Her eyes open and level on Elliot, reckoning all over again with her circumstance. “Now?” Her mouth pulls into a shaky smile, fluttery and nervous. “I can do anything.

Elliot is silent. There is so much to unpack there, and each layer of revelation seems to dwarf the last. He sighs, then levers himself up with his hands just enough to twist up onto the bed, leaning back against the metal headboard. He pushes himself back to put more space between them for her comfort. If he's honest with himself, it's for his own comfort now, but he knows how many steps she could take before his knife is deployed and that will have to do.

Everything lines up in ways he's not thrilled about, but he lets it run in the background as Wright lends him everything she has to his analysis of Gracie.

"Before we dig into that," he says, "I can tell we're still on the wrong foot and you're uncomfortable. I've had a long, stressful day but I'm not frustrated with you. I'm sorry that I put you at ill ease, I get that this is difficult for you to admit. Deep secrets."

"That being said," he continues with a tap of a finger in the air, "I'm going to need you to elaborate on the you can do anything now part. If you'd be so kind."

Gracie nods a little to the assurance that she isn’t the cause of Elliot’s agitation. The measures he makes to put space between them eases her by fractions. She allows herself to lean back in her chair a little, compromises with herself by tucking her legs slightly under the chair, letting the toe of one sandal maintain contact with the floor while the opposite ankle crosses behind her heel.

“Certainly.” A steadying breath is drawn in and let out slowly. “Anything comes with limitations.” That’s both word play and isn’t. “I can copy abilities from people, so long as they’re active in the moment. So long as the point of origin — i.e. the person to whom the ability belongs — doesn’t stray too far.”

Gracie doesn’t ramble in the same way Rue does, even with the liquor making her tongue feel thicker in her mouth. Her words are chosen with care.


“All this to say that if I wished harm on any of you, you wouldn’t have had time to worry about it. You’d have just woke up dead.”

…And sometimes she is very much like her counterpart.

“You can see, maybe, why I don’t exactly advertise what I can do.” Her head tilts slightly to one side. Confidence is slowly creeping back into her. “And before you get too worried, I don’t want anything to do with telepathy. My overactive imagination already tells me what people think about me. My best self-defense is that I can’t prove it. I don’t want any chance of that.”

"Jesus Christ," Elliot breathes. He gets it, that is terrifying. He knocks his head back against the wall as he works out whether or not he'll need to kill her. He'd really rather not; it would be hard to live with the memory of killing somebody who looks just like Rue. But if she takes his ability, people will die.

"I can see why you were worried," he says, eyes fixed on hers as he calculates on which step his switchblade would deploy if he crossed the room. He dispels the idea, there would be no way to cover it up here. "So what abilities do you have currently, and how do you copy them? Proximity or touch? Do you know what you're getting or is it a surprise?"

It would be foolish to throw away access to such a useful ability. They need all the help they can get. If she can do any of the things they need in order to get home, it might be worth the risk. Even considering that she's an enormous danger to everybody if he's involved.

“I’m always aware of people with abilities, if I’m close enough. I’m very hard to sneak up on,” she lets out a breath that’s just edged into being laughter. “At least, hard to sneak up on when someone has an ability.” That’s a weakness she’s just admitted to, and judging from the way she watches Elliot, that’s a risk she’s calculated, rather than a mistake she’s made. “I can sense what an ability is before I acquire it. I just… know it. Instinctually.”

Gracie shakes her head and smiles anxiously. “It’s weird. It just works.” She looks away then and rubs at her right eye with the heel of her palm. She checks it once she’s withdrawn and frowns at the smear of kohl left behind. In a practiced motion, she starts sweeping away the smudges around her eye with the side of her index finger. Judging from the looks of them, she’s already employed this maneuver tonight.

She stills for a moment blinking through the haze of inebriation that seems to come and go in waves. “My record is four abilities at once. Right now, I…” Head tilting to one side, her eyes unfocus and roam the middle distance between and past the ceiling, like she’s listening and watching for something.

For a second, Elliot loses track of her, like she’s vanished. Soon enough, however, she’s back again, seated exactly in the same way she was before, still searching that place between. “It’s just the one, and I’m nearly out of range.” She inhales, breath held visibly in her chest for a long moment before she sighs it out with a nod, coming back to the moment. “And it’s gone.”

A faint grimace creases her features. “I know I’m… Let’s say touchy-feely. And I know that I’ve offered physical… reassurance, comfort, whatever, but I’ve never angled for your power. I swear to you. I’m just a tactile person by nature. And I have to choose to pick up an ability.” Her eyes fix on Elliot, watching with an earnest need for him to believe her. “I can drop them at any time, too.”

Elliot tenses visibly when he loses track of Gracie even though he's looking right at her. She doesn't vanish, merely bends against his mind and falls away.

“High table shit,” the voice says, deep and calm and controlled. “Kind of card games the dealer doesn’t say anything that doesn’t move the game along. Big wigs. Big guns.” He scratches at the growth of hair on his chin with his thick fingernails, losing the yellow earned by smoking after all this time in the dungeon.

“Didn’t take long until the handlers started getting suspicions,” he continues, flicking nothing from the cuff of his Institute jacket. Always just too cold down here. “And I waved ‘em off, of course. 'Look the other way' shit on a whole other level. The magic of you didn’t see shit. But what I do doesn’t leave with you. So players, I could tuck a card in front of a packed table, but the math was always wrong. Somebody counted.”

The memory is intrusive, forgotten but in better condition than he feels it should be. Has a quality he can only describe as anachronistic in the remembering. Recent despite being a decade old. Has he remembered this already?

He has to tear himself away from it, it's not as important in the moment even though it's crucial. Because if Gracie knows what his ability is intuitively, she knows that he's a liar. Either she knows he doesn't have an ability but uses one anyway, or she knows that his ability isn't what he says it is. If so, can she also see that he's connected to the Palace? Was she exposing her weakness to him because he can take advantage of it, or warning him that she'll sense a knife coming for her back?

"I need to make something absolutely clear," he says quietly, not angry but afraid. "If you take my ability, it will kill you and everyone around you."

"And everyone around them," he adds, folding his hands together to hide the shiver. "And everyone around them."

"And I thought I already made it clear I don't want it." It's tough to say if she thinks he's lying, overdramatizing in order to discourage her or if she's wallpapering over being stunned. The half second lag in her reply implies the latter to Elliot.

"You couldn't pay me to pick up what you have." She shakes her head. "Not even if I was still dying and you told me it would cure me." Maybe she's overdramatizing now.

She frowns, wrapping her arms around herself and tucking her legs up a bit tighter like she might huddle up small and be rendered insignificant. "So, is it some kind of symbiote or something? You're Peter Parker keeping it in check, rather than Eddie Brock letting Venom out to feed?"

Someone knows. Someone knew, for weeks, and continued to stand right next to him despite it. It's confusing that she doesn't understand the part that's still missing from this conversation. It's terrifying to him that she might know even that.

He doesn't begrudge her the disgust, he doesn't want this either. He never asked for this. "Xenosymbiont," he replies, a word he's formulated but never said aloud. "I'm not really a comic book guy. I'd greatly appreciate it if you could describe to me how you perceive me, sans pop culture references. Including a comparison to how you perceive other people's abilities."

He doesn't pad the request with kindness, this is a night of dangerous admissions. They're walking toward each other on the knife's edge. As far as he's aware, he's never been around someone who could detect his ability at the time where he had one. He didn't need to supply a test result to get his ID.

For her part, Gracie understands that she's straying close to peril, but she doesn't quite understand how thin that razor's edge is and how near a thing it is to her.

Frustrated but understanding enough to realize she can't avoid this or she'll be sunk, she reaches for the words. "It doesn't really come with a label. I haven't touched you, so…" She doesn't remember that day of the travelers' arrival, her fingertips grazing his shoulder at the tavern. "I perceive you in a way that my mind interprets to mean telepath. Without contact, specifics are lost to me." She shrugs her shoulders. "Robyn looks like light. I just see it coursing through her, but I also see nothing at all."

Robyn professes her power to be over darkness, so that's an interesting take on it. "Richard is tricky… I felt life before, just… I can't describe what that looks or feels like. I just knew it. A shadow with power over life and death. Now, just shadow and darkness." She knew immediately when he no longer possessed the Conduits.

"I look at you, and I just see the mind. Don’t ask me what the fuck that looks like. It's just a thing I feel."

Elliot scrutinizes Gracie, impassive but for the way he slowly relaxes. He doesn't have to ask what the mind looks like, he's more familiar with it than he would prefer to be. "We should continue not touching each other in that case," he says eventually. "I much prefer us all alive, and ability interactions are a real worry." As much as he'd love to touch her if it weren't for the facts at hand. He reminds himself they only met very recently, that he's never held her while he slept. That she's given him so many worrisome clues.

"I was really hoping you were going to say something like, 'I can make wormholes,'" he laments. "That would have been very helpful to us. I would love to know where you picked up that telepathic misdirection you just demonstrated. That one could be helpful to me personally." Helpful is an understatement, it's Foundational and Relevant.

“I’ve never picked up an ability accidentally,” she assures in a quiet voice. “That said, I still respect your decision.” If it’s like he says, she doesn’t want the risk either. He asks a question without really asking a question and Gracie turns her head to look toward the wall, mulling over how or if to respond.

She extends another olive branch. “Mister Mackenzie — Silas.” She could offer more if she were feeling more generous. She could tell Elliot that if Silas employed his ability around her without bringing her in on the take, she wouldn’t know where he is anymore. It wouldn’t be so hard to sneak up on her after all.

Gracie keeps that card firmly pinned to her vest.

“It’s a dick move of me to out him like that, but… I trust you.” She frowns faintly. “He doesn’t realize I know. When… When Mx. Evans said d’Sarthe was looking for you, and you left, I asked Silas to help me slip away. I… I was going to follow you.” Gracie’s eyes hold uncertainty when they settle on Elliot again. “I was worried. I know you can handle yourself, but if they sniffed you out and they knew and they— If they did something—”

In other words, she cares.

Elliot feels an undeserved appreciation for being trusted, she certainly shouldn't. He feels guilty in larger measure, and is hopeful to think that maybe someday he can be. He smiles ruefully. "It's better that you didn't," he says. "I had the backup that I needed in the moment."

"And don't worry," he assures Gracie, "the kind of help I need requires his consent. But thank you, that is honestly a huge relief to know. All the people I hoped to find here seem to be dead."

He taps a rhythm on the quilt, eyes elsewhere as he wonders where to go from here. He trusts Gracie not to make a play for the ability, hopefully having given her enough fear to dissuade her permanently. She doesn't seem to know about the Palace, and though he doesn't trust himself to read her with accuracy he feels they're no longer on the brink. "I don't want to talk about it though," he says as an aside. It's been a long day and he's steeling himself for a long night.

“That’s fine,” she murmurs easily. “You know my door’s open.” He can reach out to talk about it. Or not talk about it. That’s another seemingly universal constant of Rue Lancasters, the offer to not talk. She has questions on her mind, but they can wait until another time, or languish into forever.

“So… That’s me, I guess.” Gracie shrugs, her shoulders remaining tense after the movement. “Now you know. I suppose what you decide to do with that from here out is on you.” Looking down to her hands in her lap is another calculated risk, a display of trust. It would slow her reaction time if he decided to make his way toward her. “I’d appreciate if it would stay between us for… as long as it can, I suppose.”

Elliot appreciates the show of trust, but can't honestly say he trusts her back. She could be incredibly useful though, to him or to the operation.

"What you can do might be important for the others to know about," he says softly. "We need a specific suite of abilities, and more of any of them is better. Obviously we don't have access to them all right now, but you never know; we might be able to find people who can help us." He understands her reticence for people to know, he's been telling people the opposite lie for a long time.

"The local iteration of me doesn't have an ability," he admits to point out his own extensive withholding of the truth. If she runs into him, she's going to know either way. "So we have some things in common."

Her eyes come up again, showing faint confusion. “Really,” she breathes out, without the inflection of a question. “I’ll keep that to myself.” Maybe it’s a paltry offering in return. The native iteration of Elliot will be a speck in the metaphorical rearview mirror before very long. She’ll still be there.

Gracie sighs quietly. “My ability will be helpful,” she concedes. “It’s why I’m here. I know eventually I’ll be needed. Maybe I should have led with that, but I’ve been secretive for so long… And I didn’t want to be taken along on this magical mystery tour strictly for my ability.” So she let it be seen as for her profession, which hasn’t seen any advantage being taken. That’s more a relief than a slight.

“Or, you know, maybe I’d have been left behind because of the same fears you have,” she posits. “I just want to help. We all deserve to find home. Wherever that happens to be.”

Elliot adds that last bit to his list of worrisome clues, though it doesn't register on his face as more than bittersweet agreement. "Richard knows," he says. "And we ran into my local pretty much right out of the gate. But it didn't come up and nobody called me on it, so…" He shrugs. Maybe nobody will ever need to find out.

"It does raise an interesting opportunity that I hadn't been expecting," he says solemnly. He's already admitted to her that he wouldn't expect this to work, but that he'd take the chance if he got it. To no longer be afraid of being touched, even if it isn't a permanent solution. "If you're still willing to hold my metaphorical beer."

“Metaphorical,” Gracie confirms. “Literal. Hypothetical.” There’s an apprehensiveness that settles in on her features. More than what already existed. “I don’t like hurting people,” she iterates not for the first time. “But…” Her lips thin out, brows furrow. “I’ve done it when I’ve had to. I’ll do it…”

The breath leaves her lungs in a quiet exhale that leaves her lungs feeling entirely empty. The prelude to taking a leap of faith. Or answering the call of the void.

“I’ll do it for you.”

“Interesting,” Wright says.

“I appreciate that,” Elliot says with a small smile. “Fortunately for you, I don't expect you to be violent on my behalf. All I need you to do is be five foot eleven.”

“That's good.” There's genuine relief and gratitude to that and it sees Gracie's shoulders lower slightly from where they'd subtly (to her, not to him) bunched up with her anxiety.

But her brow knits, confused and more wary in the way she was when this meeting began. “Yeah…” There's caution tempered by conviction. She smoothes her hands over the top of her curls and starts to wind them up into a ballet bun, anticipating.

“I can do that.”

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