Is It Really So Much?


devon_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Is It Really So Much?
Synopsis Not to whine, but JFC how many times will we do this dance?
Date January 9, 2020

Jared Harrison's Apartment, RayTech

Five days.

It's been five days since some version of Rue walked in, drugged her husband, and walked back out. It doesn't seem to have been the Rue that was "arrested" — Devon is certain of that, though Elisabeth is still not entirely convinced. It's hard, with all she's seen, to feel complete certainty of anything when things happen. She has spent the past couple of days being close to home. Wilson won't — can't — let her work on the case; even if it were an NYPD case, she's too close to it. All she's been able to do is watch, stress cook, and try not to hum and buzz where Aurora or the twins will pick up on her fears. She's kept control reasonably well — she has regressed a good bit into siege mentality, her power locked down tight so that no possible hint of it could escape and lead an enemy to them.

Maybe that's an even worse thing.

In point of fact, Devon of all people still knows her well enough to see the cracks in the carefully constructed calm. Though determining whether those cracks are rage just waiting to detonate or something else… well, that's not nearly so simple.

Jared and Carina took Aurora and the twins out to the park. Despite the cold, the kids need the space to run and Elisabeth needs time where she doesn't have to be strong and cheerful for the kids. Is it strange that she's sought refuge not in her own apartment but in Jared's? That's where Devon happens across her, sitting in the living room, curled into a corner of the couch where Devon himself has spent a good bit of time, staring off into space.

Having quarters at the Bastion means Devon isn't spending near as much time at Jared’s apartment as he had been previously. But he still drops by, often unannounced, nearly always in search of some food or coffee in his downtime from work. Of late, he hasn't been around nearly as often though, with the disappearances and Wolfhound being down three of its officers, he's stepped forward to take up the slack.

But all work and no play makes Dev a dull boy. He catches the occasional break.

He lets himself into Jared’s apartment, as he usually does. A backpack is slid from a shoulder to drop onto the floor nearby, shoes kicked off beside it. His first stop should be the kitchen, that's where he always goes first, but the strange, albeit familiar, head he can see over the back of the couch gives him a second’s pause.

“You're in my spot.” Devon’s voice is easygoing, teasing. Like brother to sister rather than child to parent. He isn't blind to Elisabeth’s worries and fears, he recognizes all the markers of a fellow combatant holding it together but only just. In his own way, he has compartmentalized the problems along with his fears. It makes him joke to avoid the real issue. “You want a pop? I left some root beer here a few days ago.”

When the door opens, the blonde holds conspicuously still as she identifies the arrival. Is it her parents and the kids? No… no, it's not. She doesn't turn around and her shoulders slump in relief. "No," she replies quietly. "I'll leave you to relax." Her feet swing off the couch, and it's not until she's on her feet that he can see what she was doing. The heavy knitted afghan that she lays on the sofa cushion is one that Jared brought down from the cabin after Carina came to live here a year ago — something that Carina's mother or grandmother knitted, if he remembers correctly. The occasions when he's here at the same time as Carina, she often rubs the fibers between her fingers in an anxious habit that, oddly, reminds him of Elisabeth's fretful cooking. Something tangible to keep her grounded in the moment.

"Mom and Dad have the kids all out at the park. If the noise gets to be too much when they get back… " Well, he knows where her own apartment is. And she still hasn't looked at him.

“No, you're not going anywhere.” Devon swings around into the kitchen to grab a couple of cans of the promised root beer from the fridge. He circles back around to the living room. The cans are set on the coffee table and he sinks onto the couch beside the place Liz had occupied.

“Come on. Sit.” He's taken the role of no nonsense it would seem. Maybe it's the situation that calls for it, maybe it's the years of being a soldier that have him keeping a calm demeanor. He hasn't been around much since Richard’s disappearance, but he isn't ignorant of the toll it's taken on Elizabeth. “Let's talk.”

She pauses at the retort, surprised into looking at him. It wasn't an order, but… A rueful smile quirks her lips. "You've been around Dad a little much, it seems."

Elisabeth resumes her seat on the couch. The last thing she wants to do is talk, but he obviously needs her and that takes priority. She reaches for the can of root beer and leans back, making herself comfortable next to him. "What's on your mind?" It could be a host of things, of course.

It doesn't even occur to her that it's not his stuff he wants to talk about.

“Yeah, he kind of had a hand in raising me.” While Devon navigated those muddy waters between adolescence and adulthood, Jared was one of the constants until he joined Wolfhound’s ranks. He takes the other can of pop before he settles back and gets comfortable.

The question draws a look. No doubt Liz would recognize the unspoken snark, matured from the teenager she remembers, but it's still his look. He’s fine.

“Actually, what's on yours?” It's an easy counter that’s chased with a swallow of root beer. Devon might have other responsibilities, duties that keep him working through all hours, but he's obviously claiming some time for Elisabeth now. “I've seen shell-shocked soldiers who've kept it together better than you right now. So what's up?”

She looks like she's deciding whether to be offended. It's too much effort, so instead Elisabeth just shakes her head. "Flashbacks, honestly. To just before… everything. He was gone for six months, remember? I didn't know if he was alive." She toys with the unopened soda can, looking down at it. "It feels like I'm living in fucking Groundhog Day. Over and over again, the same shit."

Looking at him, Elisabeth forces a small, sad smile. "We fought so goddamn hard to get here, and as awful as it sounds… right now I keep wondering why. I never expected perfect, I wasn't that unrealistic. I just hoped for… a little less Chinese curse?" The obvious, then — she's girding herself for the worst case.

In a way, Devon can agree. The shit keeps coming ‘round and it stinks worse than the last time. “We're still following leads,” he points out, no flippancy in his tone. The case hasn't dried up even if the leads are a bit lacking. “No one’s claimed it yet, as far as I can tell.” Which should be a good sign. It hopefully means it was either planned by a sort of underhanded cell organization without a set agenda, or an amateur looking for fame.

“You fought hard to get here because this is your home. Sure you made friends along the way, ran into our alternate timeline selves, but…” Devon’s brows furrowed slightly and he shakes his head. “Your people, your family is here. And no matter what happens to any of us, we still have each others’ backs.”

Glancing at him with a faint, weary smile, Elisabeth nods. "I know that. And the man is harder to kill than a cockroach and with his ability intact they're likely to have a hard time keeping him for long, so there's that." It's not common knowledge that the man has his ability back, after all.

She swallows, turning the can round and round in her hands. Finally she sets it on the coffee table and leans back in the seat to rest her head on Devon's shoulder.

"I'm just tired, Dev. I'm really tired of looking over my shoulder. I can't do shit about any of this except wait, which you know I suck at."

“The world is safer now than it was ten years ago. Even five years ago.” Devon looks at the open can of pop in his hands. “It's far from perfect, there's still people in the world who hate or have an agenda. But…”

It would be stupid to brush off the fear and paranoia entirely, and that isn't his goal anyway. It's those skills, the practiced alertness to surroundings and people, the facades of trust and calculated mistrusts that kept him and so many others alive.

“Waiting sucks.” That's easy enough to agree on. “But it's about the only thing to do at this point, at least until something new turns up. And it's okay to let your guard down some. This is probably still one of the most secure buildings in the city. Your bodyguard detail is pretty high caliber.” Dev tilts his head and looks at Liz. “Between you and me, the one you really need to watch out for is that little blond sprite. She's trouble if you take your eye off her for even a second.”

Elisabeth chuckles quietly. "Aura's doing good. She just thinks he's off on another trip. And since he came back safe from being on ships in the ocean, she's a lot less worried."

She sits there with him a long time and finally says, "I came home to so much changed. Walter told me once… to expect it. That coming home wouldn't be what I hoped." Shaking her head, she admits, "It is and it's not. I'm finally at least not feeling like I'm temporary." It's a big step forward for her — getting past Nov 8th and approaching the one-year anniversary of being home, it's finally starting to feel mostly like she won't get ripped away at a moment's notice. Although maybe that's why she's not handling what's going on so well.

“You were gone almost ten years,” Devon reminds her patiently. “Things’ve changed, that's the nature of time passing. Walter’s not wrong, but he came from a different place and time. The changes were more drastic.”

He tilts his head, looks at Elisabeth. He lightly lifts his shoulder, enough to move her head in the equivalent of a gentle elbow to the ribs. “Nothing about this is temporary or guaranteed. I mean… look at the garbage we've all gone through. It's not unreasonable for us to still be on guard at times. But that doesn't mean you've got to live in fear either. I never used to get nervous going into an operation, then California happened. Now it's a matter of… not really desensitizing, but facing the fear. Not letting it control me, you know?”

Swallowing hard, she looks up at him, the gentle nudge by his shoulder just enough to make her raise her head. "Right now… I'm not sure I'm actually scared, Devon. That's the part that really bothers me." Because she should be. She has every reason and right to be. But part of her almost feels relief. She's not just in a holding pattern waiting for the next thing to hit. It's here. And there's jack and shit she can do about it. "I've been here a full year. I'm almost … it's like part of me has just been waiting. Now that it's hit, I can stop worrying that it's coming. Does that make any fucking sense?"

“In a way it does,” Devon ventures. He isn't a psychologist, though, and he can't begin to explain why it makes sense. Maybe it has something to do with circumstance, nurture over nature. “It's… kind of like the battle after a lull, I think. First, you're relieved it's over even though you know the war isn't over. Then the anticipation and anxiety builds, you know something is coming. Everything feels charged like just before a storm.” He's speculating, based on his own experiences. But war is something they both know. “Then one day it finally happens, the levees break, the flood comes. And it feels good because all that energy that's been building has an outlet.”

That. Exactly that. "Yes," Elisabeth breathes out on a soft sigh as she lays her head back on his shoulder. He's a young man now, someone that she loves as family. The child she loved as her own, the young man he has become loved like a younger sibling maybe? Certainly less child now than he once was, though her connection to him still feels protective.

"I never thought … that you could love someone so much that being without them hurt. Unless it was your child. That I kind of got. I could live my whole life without him, Dev… but the little part of me that is his will die with him. It would leave a hole that nothing will fill. I'd go on, live a life, fight for the things that need fighting for, raise our children, and probably be happy enough. But that little part would just ache for always." She's never tried to put it into words, but she lived it for years. "If I went through all of those years trying to get home and I got lucky enough to get here… to find him alive and still loving me too… only to have him die after just a taste of what could be — I literally cannot comprehend what I could have done in another life that was so bad that we deserve that."

She pauses and whispers, "Is it really so much to ask? Just to… have each other to lean on when world-ending shit happens?"

“No.” Devon’s answer is a simple, single word made up of two letters. Usually something so small doesn't carry much weight; when exploring possibilities, the rhetorical, it tends to be speculative. Parents can manipulate tone and volume to give the word a definitive stance. While his voice remains soft, thoughtful, it denies any doubt.

It isn't too much to ask for, to be in the last wave instead of the front lines. To be given more than a moment with a loved one, without the fear of losing them. It's what he wishes for regularly. It's the tiny voice that keeps him awake at night with worries and what if's about Emily.

“Especially if it's someone you love, it's never too much to ask.”

She simply nods and stays with her head on his shoulder, taking what comfort she can find right now.

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