Levitsky Attack


elisabeth_icon2.gif bf_felix_icon.gif

Scene Title Levitsky Attack
Synopsis Queen's bishop opener in a chess game… and some partnerships transcend universes.
Date February 25, 2012

A restaurant in Battery Park

They've been in this world for a month by now. It's a difficult time, and Elisabeth is not doing too well in figuring out what the hell comes next. Her accidental run-in with Bast, however, has put her finally to considering the full scope of her situation here. She cannot go to her own analog here — the woman just gave birth several weeks ago. She cannot approach her father. And there is only one other human being on the planet that she knows for sure who will both help and keep quiet about her.

To that end, she calls the local FBI office and makes an appointment to see Special Agent Felix Ivanov. The name on his desk is "Elizabeth Cranston," and it doesn't say what it's in reference to. Just "a case that she'd like him to look into." The day before the meeting, however, she calls in and lets the office know that something has come up and she needs to ask him to meet her somewhere else — she suggests a small restaurant near Battery Park and gives him a time to meet.

He may be the grand high poobah for the Feds in New York now, schedule booked, appointments hard to make. A lot of crackpots have problems they’re just sure the Bureau needs to know about. It’s the name that gets him. He hasn’t forgotten that joke - he’s a Shadow fan himself, even if the dark avenger has nearly come up on his first century. Some classics never grow old. So he supposes, more or less rightly, that this is a recall to the old days and contacts that don’t dare go through the usual channels. Fine enough.

So, it’s visibly Felix. Her Felix, of a sort. Though in contrast to the man she knew, the one tired to the bone and looking like he’d gone a few rounds with an angry woodchipper, this one is healthy and contented, almost sleek. Not that he can ever put on enough weight to get beyond ‘lean’, but now it’s the wiriness of the well-fed distance runner, not a starveling refugee.

The suit he’s wearing goes with it - it’s good, and clearly tailored to him. His hair’s brushed into a neat caesar, and there’s a lot less gray in it than there is in the old world. Not to mention the goatee he sports. He still looks far more like an accountant than a hardened law enforcement officer, as he runs his eye down the menu…..but Liz’s keen eye will note that even the careful tailoring does not hide the fact that someone still rolls with at least two firearms on his person: a .45 in the shoulder rig, and a PPK at one ankle. The animal.

Or, more accurately, the cowboy.

It's still cold out, and the blonde in the heavy jacket watches from a little ways away from the restaurant as Felix makes the meeting place, her experienced gaze taking in the looks of the Fed from afar. It makes her smile a little to see how he looks… she hasn't seen him look this good in several years now. And it makes her second-guess what she's about to do.

But she needs him. In more ways than one.

She leaves her coat on the rack at the front door of the restaurant, nervously fluffing the pixie-cut blonde mop that she's sporting. She's banking on Felix's interest and shock to keep him in one place long enough for her to explain. She smoothes a hand down the side of her black slacks and absently over the small mound of her stomach.

Making her way through the diners, she comes toward the table from behind him at an oblique angle, sliding into the seat across from him. "Thank you for meeting me." Her voice is oh-so-familiar and after all, given the name, he perhaps even expected the face. But what he couldn't have expected is that she would look like a starveling refugee. She's far too slender, the delicate bones of her wrist in sharp relief as she lays her hands on the table. She's not quite gaunt — a few weeks in this world with its decent food have gone a long way toward bringing her back to a normal weight for her frame, but she still looks like she's not entirely recovered. "Don't freak, Feeb."

It’s a moment of enormous cognitive dissonance. Like one of those pictures where if you look at it one way, it’s two faces in profile, if you look at it the other, it’s a vase. She can see him go still in that utterly predatory intentness, and there is the terrible similarity between her Felix and this one. However he’s prospered in this world, he hasn’t lost that greyhound instinct to chase, pounce, and tear. A long silent looking-over takes her in. That this isn’t his Liz. This is a doppelganger. And in the old stories, the appearance of a fetch is a herald of death to come.

He sits back in his chair, blinking at her. Still startled into silence perhaps, until his throat works once and he swallows hard. No greeting, no preamble. “Something is very wrong, isn’t it?” he asks, voice carefully neutral. “That you’re here. Because…..” He trails off. Describing the Liz he knows in the hazy, cheerful exhaustion of new motherhood doesn’t seem like a good idea. Not until he knows who or what this one knows. “Well.”

She meets his gaze head-on, not hiding from him. And she waits for the initial reaction. Which… frankly, she probably should have expected. Felix is nothing if not entirely deadpan and unflappable. "Well, I suppose that makes this a little easier than I expected," Elisabeth murmurs in amusement. Reaching up in a movement that is clearly habitual, she rubs her forehead near her hairline. "Gimme a second to rearrange the introduction to this — I was expecting to have to explain myself a little more in depth." Then again… Felix was involved in the whole Phoenix agenda and Hiro's shenanigans somewhat. So…

"So… yes, something is wrong. It's not… " Liz stumbles over what she's trying to say. "I had this all worked out in my head, you know. And yet here I am, still tripping over my tongue. I'm not… from 'around here,'" she admits. As if that's not obvious to him — there's a darkness to her, an understanding of horrors, that his Elisabeth doesn't have. "Some things went bad sideways last November in my world… and it kinda ripped a hole through dimensions. Or … something along those lines. I'm so not the science geek." She breathes out a soft breath and looks up at him. "This is the second world I've landed in since the explosion in November. And I'm trying to find a way home. I… hadn't planned on involving any of my friends. But… I can't do what I need to do alone."

Her jaw clenches tightly shut and Elisabeth looks away, suddenly overcome with … well, you could chalk it up to hormones, probably, but the truth is far more complex.

It’s that little swell in the belly his gaze goes to, for a moment. And it’s on the tip of his tongue to ask if, in her world, it might be his? And then, of course, reason supplies that it doesn’t matter. If there’s a Liz who knows him, there’s a Fel who’s known her. Which is why she dares reach out to him. But everything has its place.

“This is another timeline,” he says, calmly. “Another card in the deck we all got dealt, isn’t it? You got ripped out of yours and dropped here. I’d say you might want to stay, you don’t look good, but I think….I think that’d be a bad idea in the long run. You start interweaving things long-term, they fray and fall apart. What can I do for you? First of all, if you need somewhere safe to stay, I can offer it.” A glance at the wedding ring on his left hand, golden silicone. He’d have to take the spouse into confidence….or he could stash her somewhere else. “And I have some old contacts. But what you’re describing is vastly beyond my paygrade, so you’ll have to lay it out for me.”

She huffs out a soft laugh that sounds watery. "Jesus… I've missed you so fucking much," Liz murmurs. "Let's see… Yes, it's another timeline. In my home, like here, we stopped the virus from being launched. The first timeline I landed in after the explosion, however… not so much. It was a hellhole of the first order. I…" The blonde clams up when the waiter brings glasses of water, and after asking the waiter to give them a few minutes, she leans back in her seat.

"Before I ask anything of you, Felix… you can walk away from all of this anytime. If or when you decide you've had enough, I won't hold it against you. Because you can't tell her. And I won't be what causes a rift." She is very determined about this. "In whatever time I have in this world… I need to do some investigating on the very down low." When she looks up at him, there's a sad smile that quirks one corner of her lips. "But I have to admit … that the reason I called you is flat-out personal and selfish. I can't… call my father. I don't have anyone here. And I needed the person I trust with my whole life."

There’s a gleam of tolerant good humor in his face as she offers him the option to walk away. Like she should know better. For surely she does. He fishes his reading glasses from a pocket, pulls out a handkerchief, starts polishing them idly. The gesture, apparently, is universal to ‘Felix trying to think’ across all the iterations in their strange multiverse. Then he settles them on his nose and starts running an idle eye down the menu. Clearly mulling, and not just if he wants ziti or chicken picatta.

“I’m glad to know,” he says, finally, “That whoever I am in your timeline is worthy of that kind of trust. I’ve tried to be.” To the you there is here, is implied. Apparently he can’t bring himself to discuss Mommy Liz and her new scrap of humanity. Naming calls. He takes a deep breath, and then eyes her again, over the glasses. “And I’m betting the Felix you know wouldn’t’ve been able to walk away from this any more than I can. If nature is set in stone in the womb, I’m an obsessive bastard in every world. Am I not?”

"Pretty much," Elisabeth acknowledges with another soft laugh. Wiping her fingertips beneath her eyes to brush away dampness, she seems to settle finally, the final indicator that she's feeling okay the fact that a subtle hum against the skin and fine baby hairs ceases. "So… I guess this is the part where I ask you how much you want to know. Because once I talk, you can't unhear. And there are going to be parts of this that … quite honestly could change the way you see some things in your world." She shrugs a little. "Always something in the seedy underbelly, right?" They're both cops, they know that.

She pulls a menu toward herself, glancing at it while still keeping an eye on him. "I don't know whether to just lay out things in some kind of sequence for you or to let you ask questions instead." Elisabeth smiles faintly. "I don't want to just hit you with too much at once."

“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger, strike the bell and bide the danger, or wonder, till it drives you mad, what would have followed if you had,” he rattles off the quote with a certain somberness belied by the glibness of it on his tongue. “You’re here. That can’t be undone, unless I dragged you out somewhere, murdered you, and dropped the body in the Hudson.” Because there is a certain ruthless part of him that has that as an option. Then he pauses, sighs, “No. Because I’d have to find out what you intended to tell me. Curiosity would never let me rest.” Fel takes a deep breath, lays the menu aside, and sighs, spreading his hands. “Hit me. And you know me. A me. Do you think I don’t suspect that something is rotten in the State of Denmark? I’ve just…..thought it wiser to leave well enough alone for now. A moral failing on my part, I suppose.”

"Honestly, you've been right on the money in leaving Pinehearst and Arthur Petrelli alone," Elisabeth admits quietly. "His very presence may mitigate some things. But he's also willing to kill whoever stands in his way on any front." She sighs heavily. "Part of what went wrong in my world, maybe, is that we took him down too. Destroyed Pinehearst after stopping the Vanguard's virus. And in the wake of that… another organization rose up, worse than Petrelli. Plus on top of that, the anti-Evo hate groups gained significant power. Like… the mayor of New York City, the head of Homeland Security, that kind of power." There's a negative shake of her head. "I have no intention of destabilizing your world. Those are battles for you to fight," she tells him with a weary expression. "And given the way that we got here… well, … I would really prefer to keep Pinehearst FAR, FAR away from all of us."

She knows him. All his little tells, from the way his pulse changes when he wakes (even if he’s trying to pretend he’s still asleep) to that particular flick of his gaze when he has a winning poker hand. And the body language now is all a weary lack of surprise that is not in the least feigned. He rubs his chin, the side of his nose….was this one ever taken by Humanis First, racked and tortured? He doesn’t show the signs of it. “That’s been a suspicion of mine. That he’s keeping the lid on a whole peanut can of snakes we don’t want to let out.”

Elisabeth snickers. "Oh, he's just the Head Snake in that can, that's all." She rubs that spot on her forehead again, almost as if she has a headache. But she leans forward onto the table. "There are things I'd like to know before I go home," she admits softly. "But… for today, I guess I hoped that you might just like to have lunch with me, Felix." She wets her lower lip a bit nervously and observes, "My friends are few and far between in this world. And you make me feel safe. So… as selfish and horrible as that is… I just needed your company today. You can ask me anything you want to know about my timeline, though." She grins a little. "We're going to ignore the Virus Wins timeline that I was in for a couple months. And… If you want to know what really happened at Mount Natazhat on November 8, I guess I can fill you in." She rolls her eyes a little. "Cuz… well, that was us. We broke time, I think."

The lack of surprise in his face….well, that’s classically him, isn’t it? Amazing how the varying universes persist in stamping out this one particular set of genes. “What do you wanna know?” he asks, matter of factly. “I honestly don’t even know where to begin with questions….” The Great Interrogator at a loss? Stop the presses. “And obviously, you can guess, since you haven’t asked….there is a Liz in this world, and I love her.” He’s utterly blase - even his tenderest sentiments are always delivered with that air of grim prognosis. “I would advise you not to meet her, though I can hardly stop you….”

There's a moment where an expression that even for him is difficult to interpret crosses her face. A… knowledge. Or perhaps an understanding. But for a moment, there is a darker sense to her. He can see in that one flicker of expression that this Liz has lived some things far worse than any he (or they) have seen in this world. "I have every intention of staying as far from her as is possible," she replies evenly. "This is her world, her life. That is her father. And of course you love her. You wouldn't be helping her raise Cam if you didn't love her to the bottom of your cute Russian toes." So… clearly she Knows Things. "It's the reason that I'm turning to you," she admits. "I did tell you it was selfish." She seems lonely in ways his Liz has never been. There's a kind of desolation in the easy acceptance that he is not her Felix and she won't presume to assume that he'll do more than he's already offered her — help where he can.

"I see that you actually married… do you mind if I ask his name?" she asks, toying with her water glass.

She’s gotten him to blush, and doesn’t that look funny, color rushing up from his collar. “Leland,” he says, after a hasty sip of water. There goes some of that equilibrium. “To both my own and his amazement,” he adds, brows lifted. Can you believe it? He barely can. A glance at the ring, which only pretends to be metal. Makes sense. Less likely to cause certain kinds of injuries. “So. Start at the beginning. You got popped out of your timeline…..”

That makes her laugh. "Good," she says. "Finally." Apparently in her world, he and Lee have continued The Dance, which is what Liz always called it in her own head. Tilting her head, Elisabeth pauses a moment, allowing the waiter to approach and take their orders — they are, after all, taking up his table — before she begins.

"November 8… I don't know exactly what happened here, although your newspapers report strange aurorae over Mt. Natazhat, Alaska, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. I suspect it looked very similar to what happened in my world that day. Uhm…." Elisabeth pauses, trying mentally to make a long story short without leaving too many of the pertinent details out. She settles on, "The organization that rose up instead of Pinehearst had a psychopath at its head. He was working on a machine to send messages to himself in the past. Both of those places are where he had facilities. We hit them both at the same time in a coordinated attack with the Ferry's Special Activities guys."

Blue eyes slant a Look at him. "And don't make Blinky Incredulous Eyes at me, Felix. It actually … .well, it didn't work, but it did. Time doesn't function the way most people seem to think it does. Anyway, he activated the machine — a machine that used human beings as the batteries to run the fucking thing — and we … destabilized it. So things went wrong. And then the psycho activated a hypnotic suggestion in Magnes Varlane's head that sent his power wildly out of control. He opened a black hole, and he and I were sucked into it." Elisabeth pauses again, thinking through the series of events and then nods. That'll do for a start.

He is making the face. She knows it. It’s the same here, on this unscarred creature. “Damn,” he says, simply. Not a hint of disbelief in his face. She’s here. She’s proof and it can’t be denied….and besides, it may not be a superpower, but he knows when he’s being lied to. “Time broken, indeed. To what end? To steal the moon and ransom it for a million dollars?” Despite the flippancy of his phrasing, she can see the gears turning behind those pale eyes. Assimilating, turning over info….

The waiter finally comes back. Chicken picatta it is. “But from what you said, this wasn’t the first place you ended up.” A statement, but delivered with a questioning lilt.

Elisabeth rolls her eyes at him at the stealing the moon query. "Well… no. His intention was to …" She sighs. "I met Hiro Nakamura a few times. I remember looking into that man's eyes one time and wondering… how many futures has he seen? And how many times has he tried to change something in the past or present, only to see that change make things so much worse than they were before?" She goes quiet as the waiter comes back, and then when he's gone again, she tells him quietly, "Believe me when I tell you? Sometimes it's better left alone." She gestures around them. "My home is… definitely not this good. Because we stomped all over Pinehearst's projects — he was doing the same kind of shit, using Evos without consent for experiments and shit." She shrugs. "But by taking him out of the equation, we left a vacuum… and Nature abhors a vacuum."

Clearing her throat, Liz toys with her fork now, eying the chicken piccata. "The first place we landed was a world where we failed to stop the release of the Virus. Some things went slightly differently… I gather that Ethan Holden was caught in Nevada with the truck or something. And the human vectors were exposed, the Virus went airborne. And then it made the jump to Evos too, of course." The horror of that world is something she is trying to keep hidden behind the matter-of-fact recitation, but he knows her too well for it to be invisible.

“That must’ve made the Black Death look like kindergarten chicken pox,” Felix says, without a hint of hesitation in his voice. “I remember what a threat it represented.” He looks at the wine list. Tonight, clearly is going to demand drinking. He’s going to have to keep this from Lee, Lee won’t be able to deal. “So. You shoot Hitler, and you end up just making another Stalin, is that it?” he presses, as he finally remembers to drop his napkin into his lap.

"Yeah, along those lines." No need to try to explain the snarled mess of time-traveling shenanigans that have taken place in the middle of it. Felix clearly has the jist. Elisabeth grimaces slightly. "Doesn't mean I don't think Arthur Petrelli is still a piece of shit, but… if you want to use what I knew to stop him in the here and now while keeping the good parts of what he does for the world… well, might be worth thinking about."

She takes a long sip of her water with lemon, using the moment to compartmentalize everything she has seen — and done, as well. "As is always the case with me… it's far more convoluted and complicated than I'm making it sound," she offers with a faint smile. "But… when the machine blew in Alaska, basically, it tore open rifts not just in my world but obviously others. When we arrived here, it was to find Tamara and Colette waiting for us. She apparently precog'd our arrival. They had… identity papers and everything."

He cocks his head, the old avian gesture. Uncomfortably like watching a vulture size up which part of a body to start picking at first. “So,” he says, smoothing the square of pale linen over his lap. “What’s the actual objective? You want to go home - how do we do that? Find the right wardrobe and walk you through the back to Narnia? OR…..and here’s my guess, we have to deal with Pinehearst directly, presumably by theft or force, because I don’t imagine they’d be willing to negotiate you a return ticket.”

"Well…." She could. But she's not willing to pay the price for that one. Elisabeth shakes her head. "Pinehearst likely has the research that I need. But I sure as hell don't trust them, especially not with another dimension for Petrelli to attempt to take over, and I can't approach them anyway… not with what happened to Arthur in my timeline." She grimaces a little and admits, "We killed him." Elisabeth shakes her head again. "I can give you the crash course in temporal theory, but honestly it's going to make your head ache to hear it. You'll need way more wine than you're going to want to drink at lunch," she offers teasingly. "Or maybe the good vodka."

“You know about the good vodka, you must be the real deal,” Fel’s voice is oh so dry. “But I think I need to hear this. What goes with chicken picatta?” He’s running an eye down the winelist again, but clearly, he’s listening. “I think a bottle or two. And I can knock off early, if I need to. Sometimes it’s good to be the king,” he adds, with only the barest hint of irony. Well, he is boss bitch, after all.

In all seriousness — because Felix and Liz have definitely done the wine thing a lot! — Elisabeth replies, "Sauvingnon blanc. Something light to go with the citrus." Hmmm. He can see her brain kick into high gear. Because explaining this is not exactly simple. "Time is not a line. That's where we start. Time is… Richard once told me time is like a river. It only flows one way— forward. You can jump forward and backward on the river and as long as you don't stay there very long, you're still in the same timeline. But every choice represents a branch on the river. So if you jump back from now and kill Hitler, the future that you return to… is on that branch of the river. But the main river keeps going… I *think*."

Elisabeth pauses, trying to remember if she understood the imagery right. "That's close, anyway," she finally says. "Basically the way we perceive time is limited by the number of dimensions we can actually experience… in our case, 4. Length, width, depth, and time. The idea is that all timelines exist in the same space and time, overlaid on one another but separated by … I don't even know what. Vibrational frequency maybe? And Magnes and I got bumped 'sideways' if you will. But … just imagine what trouble some people could cause if they figured out how to harness it properly. That's what the psychopath was TRYING to do."

There is an unfeigned shudder of utter revulsion at that. “This psychopath - you haven’t specified his name. Nor the name of the organization. But they’re worse than Pinehearst - we’ve got Hitler in 1936, when it was still nominally about killing hyperinflation and fixing the highways and making the trains run on time, rather than shoving untermenschen into cattle cars. But this guy is gunning for the tech in your original timeline….. how do we stop him?” Because, between one breath and the next, he’s signed on in earnest. That, too, is universal across all the ribs of the fan. That idiot quixoticism, that unwavering conviction that he’s meant to throw himself against the problems of the world until either they break or he does.

"I'm… actually not entirely sure that the organization even exists in this timeline… because of where it splits from ours. Mainly because … that gets into time travel within time travel kinds of ideas. The man who headed up the Commonwealth Institute was… an insane future version of someone that I … would rather not name at this time. But if you want to look into whether it even exists, try looking for a man named Simon Broome and do a quick background on him. Depending on what you find, I can probably at least tell you if you have to worry. I think the answer is no, based on what research I've been able to do since I landed here," Elisabeth tells him.

And then she tilts her head. "You mean how do we stop the psychopath in my home timeline?" Elisabeth hesitates and then says quietly, "I'm hoping that the rest of my team was able to finish their jobs and kill his ass last year." There's definitely a flash of pain involved in that information, hidden swiftly by lowered lashes as she finally actually tries the chicken piccata.

Another name filed away for research. For he will be looking, as soon as he can. He even writes it down on a little pad. Not trusting everything to the digital age, there’s enough of an old-school spook in him. All that time down in DC left its mark on him. “I can get that tomorrow, most likely,” he says. He does have strings he can pull. “And if they didn’t?” Would he do that? Abandon his happy life and jump timelines? Presumably.

That makes the blonde stop and blink at him rather owlishly. And then she sits up a little straighter and says in a soft, matter-of-fact tone, "If they didn't, I may never know anyway. Because I may not be able to get back home. And if I do go home…" She smiles just a little. "You have a spouse and you have your Liz to be here for. If I do ever go, I'll see what I can do about sending you a message to let you know all's well?" Because not just no but hell no is Liz dragging Felix out of a timeline where he is this happy. Uh-uh. No way, no how. "Leland would literally kill your ass for that kind of shenanigan."

Sighing softly, she reaches out to touch his arm. "Felix…. Dig very quietly. I don't want to draw anyone's attention to you. Maybe it's paranoia." Elisabeth — this Elisabeth — lets him see the hardness in her just a little. "But you and Richard taught me that it's better to be paranoid than dead."

He levels that look at her she knows oh so well. “Liz, with us…. there’s no such thing as paranoia. Ever. It’s always justified. Did you ever meet my mother?” His lovely mother, the ex-KGB agent, and the daughter of a man who sent untold thousands to die in the frozen East. For all of his huffing and puffing about being a cop, he comes from a long line of hard-eyed spooks, no denying. “You’re right, though. Leland would draw and quarter me. So let’s make it unnecessary.” A beat, and he asks, distracted, “Did I ever manage to snag him, in your world?”

Liz laughs. "Yes…. I know your mother quite well, I often speak with your parents and your grandfather, shameless flirt that he is. We bonded over you and your occasionally terrifying career." Tilting her head, she adds sympathetically, "No… our world was on the brink of a massive explosion of anti-Evo versus Evo. I don't know if anything can be done to stop it now. You kept risking your life …" She looks down at her plate. "You kept coming on missions with me… not Frontline ones or FBI ones." She wets her lips. "In my world, Phoenix disbanded, but I was working with a new group under the table. We… were doing a lot of good works. The Vanguard was still active and we went after them several times, once or twice with the US government's blessing, actually. But Leland couldn't take the pressure of all of that, and he went down to Boston. You were… kind of glad. It got him out of Manhattan."

She looks up. "Which is why I'm putting my foot down here — I could not live with myself if I dragged you into the same kind of getting your ass shot off here as happened there."

How strange to hear these accounts of this other him. That there’s a Felix too thin and worn, fighting the good fight across the various spans of time. “So I’m universally a stubborn asshole, is what you’re saying?” he asks, teasing, as he takes a mouthful of the chicken. “And I bet I was, if it’s the pressure cooker you’re making it sound like,” he observes. “But, on the other hand, I’m FBI, and I was NYPD. It’s not all about being an egotistical jerkoff in a shiny government car. We’ll do what needs doing.”

He makes her laugh… he always has, though here there is such a lightness to him. He's curmudgeonly and annoyingly arrogant. He's the Felix she first met, before … She hates to think of it this way, but she has to admit to herself the truth… the Felix before she dragged him into her orbit. God… what am I doing? The doubt flashes across her face and Elisabeth withdraws her hand, struggling to keep her smile easy. "Yes, Felix, in every universe, I'm pretty sure you're a stubborn asshole. And occasionally a huge bitch." She winks at him, her tone clearly teasing despite the ring of truth to it. "It is one of your many charms."

The Ghosts of Felixes Past. Imagine her own, lucky in work and love, bratty cock of the walk. The doubt does not go unregistered, and some of his levity departs. “Liiiiiiz,” It’s a scolding lilt. I see what you are doing there. “You know me. It’s going to be okay. I am what I am and that’s all that I am. And what that is is not your fault. Don’t carry the guilt you don’t need to.” He lifts an admonishing finger.

She blinks a quick rush of tears, ruthlessly suppressed, and then laughs softly. "No, you were throwing yourself into ridiculous situations long before I came along," Elisabeth agrees, "although this time around, Feeb? I just… I don't want to get you into anything that's going to make your life harder." This time when she reaches out, she actually captures the hand that he's using to waggle his finger at her, her blue eyes very serious as she looks into his face. "I couldn't live with myself if I blew up your life. In my world… we are both incredibly damaged people by everything that's happened. I don't want that for you here."

His gaze softens further, and he looks into her face solemnly. “I can’t make promises, Liz. I am what I am. I took an oath. I have ties and …and bonds here that I don’t in those other worlds, by your accounts, and believe me, they don’t weigh lightly with me. But…what’s begun is begun. I’ll be careful, that I can promise. It may make things take a bit longer, because of that, but…” He curls his fingers around hers, squeezes them. It’s still Liz. Even if not his Liz. And is he going to be able to help this one and see her on her way, and then keep mum about it to the one he knows for the rest of his life? Entirely possible. The steel in him shows up in the weirdest possible ways.

Her hand convulsively closes tightly around his and it becomes apparent the toll that this meeting is taking, though she's very good at keeping it from her face. Elisabeth's hand is ice-cold and trembling just slightly, and there's a feeling of buzzing against his skin, almost the physical version of angry bees. She was, apparently, utterly terrified to make this contact.

And now, with his hand gripped in hers, the blonde struggles to keep all of the things she wants to say behind her teeth. Because he's not her Felix and she doesn't get to cry all over him. She sure as hell doesn't get to use him or assume that they are friends.

"I'm sorry… I, uhm…" She moves to tug her hand back, feeling her control slipping — not just over her emotions but over her power too. He can feel the subtle pressure swell around him, just below audible range. She is a classic case of PTSD if he's ever seen one, and the stress of meeting him like this has her off-balance.

He knows Liz. A Liz. The Once and Future Liz. He refuses to let go of her hand, keeping it and chafing it gently, like a mom trying to rub warmth into her child’s cold fingers. “Liz, it’s okay,” he tells her, and it does not have the air of a man trying to humor her. He has his good cop moments….and presumably this one has had a lot more than the shopworn version she’s kept company with for so many years. “C’mon, breathe. Deep breath.” The familiarity….both disconcerting and reassuring at once, if it’s possible. “I’m not exactly the guy you know, and you’re not the Liz I know. But you sought me out. Let me help.” Like her Fel’s friendly twin brother.

The blonde nods a couple of times, fighting to even out her breathing so as not to go into full-blown panic — you'd think she'd be more relaxed! But now that the hardest part is done, this is when she often panics. She stops fighting the hand that squeezes hers and just looks down. All she wants in this moment is to find a corner to crawl into and a heavy blanket to pull over her head to hide from the insanity that is her life. It would be funny if it weren't so fucking insane and on some level tragic.

When the humming feeling subsides to a mere tickle of the senses, Elisabeth looks back up and grimaces. "It's been a hell of a few months," she confesses in a rueful, somewhat watery, tone.

“I’ll bet,” he says, softly. His lips thin out, clearly suppressing some other expression. More overt sympathy, but not pity. That’s almost never been his bag. “Well, I’m here to help, for what I’m worth,” he says, softly. “First things first….do you have a safe place to stay?”

He finally releases her hand, settles back into his chair, devotes a little more attention to his dinner. Stress had better not spoil his appetite. He’d starve to death, if it did.

"I do," she replies, fighting to settle into some semblance of normalcy — whatever that is when you're talking to the alternate reality version of your best friend. Of course, she has a little experience with it, at least… and she understand now that she's sitting here Magnes's impulse to tell Isabelle everything.

"We've been here… about a month. We just don't exactly know how we're getting home. So… I guess it's time to start really looking at what we can do to build lives." Liz offers a small smile. "I can't exactly go back to what I do best without impacting her life." His Liz. "And … honestly, I'm not sure I would want to." The admission is hard. "I think … maybe I need to spend a little time focusing on … dealing with everything that's happened. I have to get my head on straight. Before I lose my mind dealing with the next thing." Her hand falls to the small mound of her abdomen. "I think some things better take priority."

God, yes, that. His gaze follows her hand, and his expression turns wry. “Liz, do I have your permission to read Leland in on this? I am married to him and I do live with him, I’m not really capable of lying to him long term. Especially if he starts seeing hotel charges on my credit card billing statement that I’ll be hard put to explain. It look a lot to get him to consent to wed me to begin with, I value my marriage a great deal.” He rubs at that spot between his brows, as if massaging his third eye would bring insight.

“Do we have a time limit? Some conjunction of planets we need to avoid? Other than the obvious deadline.” Just think, Felix, double godfather to Lizkids.

Heh! That makes her laugh. "I … can't begin to tell you. When I know anything, you'll know, okay?" Liz hesitates and then nods very slowly. "If … Yes." She pulls in a breath and then asks, "I hope he's okay with keeping it from her unless or until it's absolutely necessary. I really don't want to impact her life if I can avoid it. But yes, you need to tell him." She sighs softly. It's already turning complicated.

Ever the one taking care of other people first… even when the 'other person' is her. "If I understand what happened well enough… she's got enough on her plate."

“I think I can dare speak for him and say that he will be. Neither he nor I has any innate desire to head out on cross-time adventures,” Fel’s voice is only a little dry. “And…..yes, yes, she does. So we will keep her from you until it’s absolutely necessary. Speaking of….what are your immediate needs?”

Toying with her food now, Elisabeth admits softly, "Honestly, the most immediate need I have, you're already filling." She looks up at him. "You've been one of the cornerstones of my mental stability for a couple years now. I'm not doing so great. I only came from my world with one person… and he's not exactly …" She shrugs. "He's a good person. But he's not one of mine, if you know what I mean. The people we rescued and brought with us out of the Virus world… " She smiles a little. "I have a version of a good friend from among them. She's a help. And I've made friends with several others… " She drops her eyes again. "But they're not you."

Just being around him in all his familiarity, despite the differences, is having a beneficial effect on her emotions. He's real. He's happy. He's whole. And he's just him.

A testament to the Felix hers could’ve been. The core is still the same, but the shell is much less cracked and battered and worn. “May I ask a question, and forgive me if it’s rather blunt and nosy….but clearly you know me, and I imagine I’m like this where-ever you’ve met me….” He wipes at his mouth with a napkin, takes a sip of the wine. “But in this world, for a while, we were lovers. Not in love, it wasn’t like that, really. But….physically. Were you and …..I guess the pronoun here is he, not I? I’m just curious,” he admits.

It makes her smile, an affectionate and tender expression on her features. "Yes." The answer is as simple as that. "You have been… my partner at work, my partner in crime, my best friend, my confidante, and my lover. Sometimes only one of those, sometimes all at once." Elisabeth looks up and comments, "Still are sometimes. When the mood or the need strikes."

She tilts her head, studying him. "Will it make this awkward?"

For a guy who’s learned to sniff out falsity with the same obsessive focus as bloodhounds on a scent-trail…..his own pokerface has never been more than indifferent. So she can see the emotions flit across his face like cloudshadows - amusement, mostly. Kinder and less bitter than the skinny, sardonic man she left behind in 2011. “No, not really,” he says, after giving it real consideration. “I’m a big boy. And I’m not lonely like I’ve been. It’d be very different if my Liz was gone.”

She grins at him a little. "I can understand that," Liz acknowledges in amusement. "I think…. in a lot of ways, you are the man I love most in the world. But it's never been an in-love kind of relationship. It's just been … partners in pretty much every sense of the word?"

She pauses a moment and then laughs. "You're the one lover that my baby's father has always been perfectly comfortable with."

There’s a smile from him in return. “Exactly. Genuinely friends with occasional benefits, instead of just fuckbuddies. We haven’t been lovers since I got married, but Lee deals with the idea. I think….” The fact that she already had a child makes him pause. “Already a mom, eh?”

She blinks. "No… I mean…" Her hand covers the small swell. "This baby." There's a faint grimace. "He doesn't even know about it… Hell, I didn't know about it until we'd already been sucked through a black hole." Liz grimaces and rubs her forehead with a sigh. "Christ, what a mess."

That makes his brows go up, and he whistles through his teeth. “Well, damn,” he says, simply. “I imagine we need to get you to see a doc? OBGYN, in fact?” Perfectly prepared to step up. The surreality of this entire scenario will hit him later. In the shower, maybe. The fact that his little life in the Kansas farmhouse is quite likely to get blown the hell away to Oz. Like it does. It’ll niggle at him - the he that he is in her timeline. Who is he? How’s he different?

Heh! "You think I've been here a month and haven't already been?" Elisabeth asks mildly. "It… was one of the first things I did… Being as I already had an idea how pregnant I was and then spent two months of that time in a somewhat… let's call it food-deficient environment. I'm .. about 4 months already." It's a strange mirror of what happened here to him with his own Elisabeth.

"I'm fine. A little undernourished still," she admits, and then gestures at lunch. "Correcting it as we speak." Blue eyes flicker up at him. "Felix… I don't need you to do anything just now except be yourself. I'm okay. I just… I wanted to see you. And I needed… a little time to let you get to know me, I guess? Because … I know how things seem to work in my life. And there's going to come a point where I'm going to figure out what it is I need in order to get home. Perhaps starting with the information you're SLOWLY and CAREFULLY going to start amassing."

Elisabeth grins a little. "You never could resist a puzzle."

She can see him struggle against that stricture. The instinct is always to go, do, run. He’s never been much for introspection or the contemplative life. The fact that he can’t immediately saddle up and tilt against this windmill…..He visibly reins himself in, and grins, sheepishly. Conceding the point. That’s the thing that’s throwing him most - it’s not his Liz. This is another one. But clearly, she’s got his number. What an image, like the massed reflections in fun house mirrors, infinite Lizes, infinite Fels, throughout the sheaf of universes, all of them locked in some variant of this pas de deux. “No, never,” he concedes, on a sigh, and settles his glasses on his nose, before picking up the dessert list. Gotta work on maintaining his girlish figure.

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