Lingering Tension


elaine2_icon.gif rhett_icon.gif

Scene Title Lingering Tension
Synopsis Elaine and Rhett discuss the situation they've found themselves in.
Date January 11, 2020

Elaine's Apartment, Cresting Wave Apartments, Yamagato Park

Now that they aren’t in the back area near where the strange gas and voices happened, it’s easier to think it over. Rhett is looking at the pictures he took, thoughtful, but not alarmed: at least, not anymore. He hasn’t been filling the air with questions: after all, neither of them truly know what it was, or what happened. Or if it would happen again.

It got late quickly, after their dinner out and the tour which included the weird experience. Now, something more normal was desired: feeling safe and comfortable. Rhett settles down next to Elaine, warm and cozy in bed (not nude, although pants were optional). Rest would have been a good idea, but he’s still too focused on what happened, and trying to make sense of it, to actually sleep.

“I would have thought this was a hallucination, but that we were able to get pictures…” Rhett trails off, shaking his head. The weirdness is a lot for him. Stories are one thing, being confronted with it is another, and he’s not sure quite how to ground all of this with his known universe. Someone having a crazy hallucination ability could have been a culprit more easily than something bending time and space and reality.

“Maybe it wasn’t your voice. Just someone that sounded like you, like a teleporter.” Rhett is just brainstorming options: what else could it have been that would be more logical than an alternate reality?

"Why would someone make that up? There are too many weird elements. Why say what was said? It sounded like she was talking to someone, just not us. I just… I want to ask Lynette. Her name was mentioned, I just want to see if any of it makes sense to her. At the very least she may be able to explain the burns, she knows electricity."

Elaine's not going to sleep any time soon. She lays flat on her back, staring at the ceiling. "Say we assume this is real, not just some elaborate practical joke. If that's the case, this has a lot of implications, not all of them great and not all of them things I understand. I don't have a lot of information, I don't know much about Project Looking Glass, and I don't know all of how the whole returning from other timelines worked."

She lets out a huff of air. "I know they tried to bring people from elsewhere. They tried to bring a me."

“I’ve worked with electrical systems a lot, myself. Repairing them. I could tell something about it was unnatural. Or like… ball lightning, if it suddenly disappeared somehow. It didn’t make sense.” Rhett shuts off the pictures on his phone, though, and leans away to put the phone off to the side. He doesn’t feel like continuing to look at it.

Rhett rolls to his side to face her, moving one hand to set it on her shoulder near him, just a quiet close presence, watching her look at the ceiling. “Who is ‘they’? The people in that project?” Rhett asks. “Do you know why they tried to bring a ‘you’?”

"Yeah, I think the combo of the burn marks and the mention of her name make Lynette a good option for who to approach. If this theory about it being some version of me is correct, she may be able to confirm it."

Elaine reaches up to place her hand over his. "They are Magnes and Liz and the people they brought with them. The places they went, they were just trying to get back home. But almost everywhere they went the world was shitty, so they tried to rescue people. People who might have died in this timeline, people they cared about."

She rubs her face with a free hand. "They took a version of me because my ex thought it would be a great idea to get in a relationship with another me and knock her up. It was a really, really stupid idea."

“Not… Robyn, I gather,” Rhett observes, but smiles briefly. “That… well.” His tone suggests that Rhett finds it a stupid idea too. Nor does he have any idea what exactly to say about it. Elaine’s strange, strange life seems to cause that for him: just being at a loss for words. “Did he think you were dead, then?” Rhett asks, trying to follow the line of logic she is laying out. Dead people found in other timelines.

There’s a tiredness to the question: Rhett is giving it a try to follow the convoluted stories, but it’s edging into hard to believe.

"No, not Robyn," Elaine at least manages a laugh at that. "Magnes, I dated him back when I was barely 18. He… most certainly did not think I was dead. He saw a woman who looked and acted very much like someone he was still in love with. Somehow he neglected to think of the consequences of what he was doing. That's very Magnes for you."

The hand resting on his squeezes it gently. "Please don't go because of this. I tried to really explain before that this was what you signed up for. I know it's a lot. Please tell me I'm still worth it."

“Sounds a little sick to me, honestly. Like going after the sister of your ex,” Rhett answers directly, but not with much emotion. He just thinks it’s weird, but he doesn’t linger on it too much: he’s not really all that interested, and some of the timeline things create skepticism. It’s a lot to believe.

But Rhett does believe in her.

“Go? You need to believe in me a little more than that,” Rhett tells her, moving towards her to rest closer, moving his hand from her shoulder to drape his arm across her middle, hand hooked on the opposite side of her waist. “I’m right here, Elaine.”

"Yeah, I wasn't too happy about it either. But the important thing to note is that that Elaine died. Right in front of people. If that's her voice, it might be all that's left. Like a memory or a recording. I'm not sure what triggered it in that room but I need to find out."

A pause. "And I'm going to have to explain this to my boss."

But he hasn't left. He's somehow still there. "I do believe in you, I just… you reacted so badly the first time I approached you with all of this that I didn't know what was too much. Granted, I explained it like shit, but…"

“Like, a ghost?” Rhett asks. He isn’t as incredulous with that question; a ghost isn’t out of the realm of possibility to him: in fact, maybe easier to believe in than alternate timelines.

“Well, you can show your boss the burn, tell her an electrician told you it was unnatural and didn’t seem to have a good explanation, and show the pictures. Even if she just thinks it is someone with abilities teleported into the wall, at least you did what you could to report it to her,” Rhett recommends.

Rhett sighs slowly. “Well, the thing is, Elaine, I didn’t leave, even if I had to sort of get my head around it. Right?”

"Like a ghost, that's a good way of putting it." Elaine does like looking at it like that, even if it doesn't explain things fully. "I can show her what we've got but I think she needs to know we've got something in there that might have triggered it. One of those items could be dangerous. It's a delicate situation, but Ms. Nakamura isn't stupid and I'm pretty sure she's aware of a lot of things, undoubtedly more than me."

Elaine frowns suddenly. "No, but that doesn't mean I'm not just going to be okay overnight about the fact that literally everyone else I cared about has left me somehow. So I'm sorry if I'm defensive, it's going to take me some time to adjust. It's not personal against you."

“No, I know. You’re defensive. We’ll work on it,” Rhett says, bringing his head to her shoulder, but just being close, nothing else, his arm still over her unless she shrugs him away. “I’m sorry I didn’t hear you well enough right now,” he apologizes gently.

“You’re still worth it. Entirely worth it. I don’t want either us of to feel afraid, not about this. I just meant to remind you we weathered the initial weirdness, and we’ll be okay.”

Elaine sinks in against him, letting out a slow breath. "All of the weird stuff, it's all just stuff that happened. It's not stuff that should come between us. We've made this choice to be together and I won't let it try and mess with that. I—" She stops for a moment, a sick feeling in her gut. This wasn't the first time she'd had this conversation.

She doesn't continue what she was saying, she just clings tight to him and buries her face into his shoulder.

More than the rest of it, sensing her sudden need to burrow and hide against him is what makes his stomach drop. Rhett frowns deeply and hugs her close, partially leaning across her, in a physical protective movement, one hand coming up behind her head to support her face against his shoulder and neck.

Rhett doesn’t push her, though his worry has reached an alarming level, he hides it — for her sake, and stays quiet. He’ll be there if she wants to talk, or if she doesn’t.

Elaine crushes herself against him, desperately seeking out some sense of security. The way he holds her helps, the slightest bit of tension leaving. Still, she mostly stays still, her mind and her emotions processing on two different speeds on two different frequencies. She finally makes a noise. It's her, mumbling, but it sounds more like she's talking to herself.

"That was never the problem. It's not your fault."

Rhett opts for quiet patience. He moves the hand that’s behind her head to the back of her nape, and slowly draws his fingers up and down: into her hair up her neck, then down her spine, then back again. Smooth, slow motions. His other hand adjusts to her upper shoulder, continuing these subtle touches to soothe her. He doesn’t ask anything, but he’s there, and actively participating in this with her, even if he’s quiet.

Elaine's breathing slows a bit, her body relaxing bit by bit until she's calmer and collected enough to try and speak. She lifts her head a bit from his shoulder, enough that she can see him, opting not to fully retreat. She's trying.

"When all this weird stuff started, years and years ago, some of us started having dreams. Dreams of the future but in a timeline not our own. We thought of time differently, that the events were supposed to happen, like what you thought when I first told you. I had a dream that showed a future where I was not with Robyn and I told her that we could fight it, we didn't have to have that future, that I wouldn't let it."

She lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding. "But that weird stuff was not what got in the middle of things. You aren't her, this isn't the same situation, but the sentiment is the same. I don't want anything to go wrong. Especially shit I can't control."

Rhett relaxes his tight hold on her some when she indicates she wants to lean back a little bit out of his shoulder to see him. He’s wearing a calm expression, though his eyes have a reflection of concern he can’t fully keep from her. Were he not in love with her, it might be easier to just be a calm mask, but the emotions are too strong to be entirely held down.

Still, he’s working hard to be what he thinks she needs right now, to support her and help her work through this. “I’m not asking that you control anything. Just that we be together,” Rhett tells her softly, not trusting his own voice to hold out strongly.

“That you be yourself. And trust me as much as you can, however much that is, is okay.”

"It's not that I don't trust you, I do," Elaine starts, "I don't really think you'd go. You love me. I just say it because I'm scared. If I say things, if I give you some easy out to leave, it would be easy on both of us. We'd have a clear idea of what went wrong."

She decides she doesn't like that explanation and so she continues. "I just hurt a lot from wounds I don't know how to heal from because I never expected any of them. I don't want to bleed all over your shirt."

“I know you’re not going to ‘be okay overnight’,” Rhett says, moving one hand from her shoulder to between them, to gently place it on her upper chest, over her heart, fingers on the edge of her shirt collar, palm warm through the fabric.

“I think it’ll hurt, to re-break some of these things, to set them properly,” Rhett says, with a softened little smile. “But we’re set out to heal each other, right? Not just you working to help me and my scars.” He taps a finger on the edge of her shirt.

“Blood doesn’t bother me. Seeing you suffer does,” Rhett says.

The emotion on Elaine's face turns slowly from flat mixture of fear and pain to one of relief. She presses one hand over the top of his hand over her heart and remains there as she looks back at him. Her eyes, watery from tears never spilled, get a quick scrub with her free hand as she attempts some sort of composure. "Just be patient with me," she urges. "I'll come out alright if you give me time."

Rhett gives her a subtle little smile, and leans his head in to kiss next to one eye, near where she was scrubbing the unshed tears away, and then relaxes his head back, leaving the one hand against her heart, the other still low about her, protectively around her but not tight.

Elaine, while still trying to compose herself, allows herself the time to recover a bit. She rests her head against him, but does not bury it, breathing slowly and with focus, a concentrated effort. When she finally decides it's okay to move on, that she's stable enough to try and carry on as normal, she clears her throat a bit.

"If this whole thing is remotely related to what I fear it is, there may be trouble. It could be nothing or it could be a hole in the universe. But here's the thing. You and I? I think we'll be okay. We aren't the front line for a battle. Our job is just to be the messengers. Get the messages to the right people. We'll be alright, even if things get messy."

“Should it come to a battle, I’m not afraid to fight,” Rhett sighs. “Though don’t give me a gun, I’m not a good shot unless I’m underwater,” he adds, trying to add a little levity with the honest admission, and a quick smile at her.

“I want us to have our time together, to survive. That’s what I’m really after. I don’t want others to be hurt either, though. I don’t know about all of this messenger thing… but I do agree we should tell those that can do something about it, just in case.” Rhett’s with her, though there’s prioritizing of their safety.

Considering Rhett’s style of losses - a brutal, deadly loss - that can’t be a surprise.

"I don't think we'll see an actual battle, but I don't know how serious these threats are yet. We just keep going on like normal, I suppose." Elaine doesn't see any other option. "Don't worry though, if I can play messenger during the war, I can certainly handle bringing a conversation and some pictures to people I know."

She looks back at him. "I'm gonna promise you right now that I want to live and I want you with me. Those are my priorities. So if I have to, I'll do my best to protect us."

“I was repairing during the war,” Rhett reminds her with a quirk of smile. “People. Buildings. I’m a healer, I suppose; if I can heal during the war, I can handle healing now,” chuckles Rhett, adapting her language for his own role.

“Good. I’ll make sure you’re in good enough shape to do what you need to, then,” Rhett promises her, patting his fingers near her heart, and giving her a softened, serious smile. “If you want to do the messages alone that’s okay with me, but if you want me there, I want to be there. Okay?”

"Ms. Nakamura, I'll deal with that myself. She's my boss, it's a work thing, it would be a little confusing for you to be there." Elaine certainly doesn't want to explain more than she has to. "But seeing Lynette, Richard, and Liz? No reason you can't help. Plus I get to show you off to friends."

That part is a little light in the dark. "Maybe if I can arrange it, I can get all three of them together. Saves us the trouble of multiple conversations. Depends on how busy they are, I suppose. I'm just going to schedule a meeting with Ms. Nakamura now so I can see her soon. Keeping people out of that room short term, I can handle. Longer than a couple of days, that's tricky."

“Yes, of course. If she has questions for me — I mean, I doubt she will, we saw the same things — I’ll help however you need,” Rhett says. He doesn’t expect to be needed, but that’s not the point of why he’s making it clear that he’s there to support her if she’s worried or unsure.

“All of that sounds like good headway. Then we’ll have conveyed the message.” Rhett rubs her back, and draws his hand from her heart to place the fingers near her cheek and jaw gently. “For work, does that mean you’ll be by yourself in that room? I don’t like it.”

“I’m not sure what she’ll need, not until I see her.” Elaine looks back at him. “But it’ll help to have you help me describe it to the others. I’m not sure how easily it will be to get them in to see it in person, Kimiko can at least investigate.” She tips her head to kiss his fingertips before she smiles at him.

“You don’t have to worry about me. I’m not planning on going in there. I made arrangements before we left to have a sign put up and the room’s already locked almost constantly. It shouldn’t be disturbed and I can work in my office just fine. I’m not going to take a risk unless I feel comfortable with it and until I know that I didn’t trigger it, I’m not going in by myself if I can avoid it.”

“Okay. Just make sure you’re not alone with the thing, though I’d prefer you not go at all,” Rhett sighs. “Your boss might ask you to show her, but… if that happens, just do me a favor, check in with me after, so I know you weren’t eaten by an electrical wall ghost,” Rhett chuckles, though he’s not really joking.

“I’ll stick around the area as much as I can for a few days and reschedule some things. I want to be here for you, if you want me here.” He’s offering to stay over, essentially.

“Ms. Nakamura might want to see for herself, which I understand, but I’ll be sure to warn her about exactly what happened so we’re both prepared going in.” Elaine gives him a smile. “I’ll send you a text to let you know what the scoop is. No electric wall ghosts are going to get me. Besides, for all I know Ms. Nakamura will know what it is and know how to handle it. She knew about a hell of a lot more than I thought she did when last we met.”

She shakes her head. “Anyway, she may have more information on the relics in that room that might have triggered it. We didn’t touch anything, though, so I’m also wondering if maybe it’s the location? Maybe it’s the room and not what’s in the room. It’s also just weird that it was me. Would everyone have seen me had I not been in the room?”

“You’ve been in there loads of times. Maybe it was me,” Rhett jokes softly. He doesn’t think it is, but he’s hoping to draw a smile, so that he can kiss said smile. “I’m the thing that was different, after all.”

Rhett settles back again, just petting her side slowly, listening to her collect her thoughts. “Did we cover that mirror back up?” he asks, trying to remember. He manages not to reach for his phone to check the pictures he took, though he’d mostly taken them before they touched the mirror at all.

“Well, that mirror has been in my office for a while too. I’ve been around it. I don’t see why it would suddenly decide to trigger it.” Elaine shakes her head. “But I don’t think that we covered it up. It should be fine though, the more I think about it the more I’m thinking it’s probably the room. Or me, but I don’t think any of it makes any sense.” She heaves a sigh.

“It clearly must have been you. Even my alternate selves are coming for you.”

“That… sounds creepier than I hope you meant it,” Rhett chuckles, with a disturbed little lift of his eyebrows. “I love this version of you, not those others,” he insists firmly. “So they’ll have to just step off.” Rhett gives her a flashed smile, before it relaxes into a calm one.

“What about something else in the room, maybe not the mirror? Could it be another object that newly arrived that we’re overlooking?”

“It was mostly a joke,” Elaine says, chuckling as well. “But I’m glad you don’t love the others. Because they’re not me.” And really, from what she knows of all of them… they certainly aren’t.” She reaches up to touch his hair, tracing her nails against his scalp in a quick sweep before her hand returns to where it was.

“Well, the problem is that most of those objects I’ve seen before. I go through the inventories and a lot of those pieces sit in my office for a bit before they’re shuffled off to storage. That room is off-limits to most people. So if it was me triggering it, why did it happen then? If it was simply me being around the objects it would have triggered long before now.”

She pauses, and it’s a long pause. “Unless it actually is more like a ghost and it purposefully went there. Maybe not so much a memory as a message.”

“Maybe it was time for the message. For you, or for somebody. Maybe it isn’t the first message. Maybe just the first one someone was there to witness … too many questions.” Rhett sighs briefly. He rolls to his back more, though he doesn’t remove his arm from around her at all. He just chose to look up at the ceiling for a long moment, then to let his eyes close. Part of his relaxation does seem linked to the pass of her nails over his scalp: he appreciates her touch.

“I hope your boss has some clues. But all in all, I’m really glad no one was hurt. We have questions, but we are uninjured. As messages about possible doom go, I’ll take it.” Rhett smiles, though he still has his eyes closed.

“Even if we don’t learn more, I’m glad you’re safe. Stay that way.”

“I mean, if you were trying to send a message to someone when you were trapped as a ghost wouldn’t you try the person who would be most likely to believe you because it’s almost you?” Elaine taps her chin. “Although to be fair, if I were her, not just in her shoes but her, I would have left the message for Magnes. Maybe she’s smart enough to realize that would have been a big mistake.”

She shifts a bit, nestling in against his side, resting an arm over his chest. “I’m sure we’ll find something out, someone’s got to have a little more information.” She heaves a sigh. “I have a feeling once we find out what this thing is they’re going to enlist me to explain it to Magnes and I am not looking forward to that conversation.”

Rhett is grumpy about that. There’s possibly some edges of jealousy related to it, although it’s dampened. He isn’t demanding about any of it but he doesn’t have to like it. “Maybe someone else can do it, one of these others. Lynette,” Rhett suggests. “If they need an eye witness, then me. You shouldn’t have to.”

“I mean, Lynette might be a good option, or Liz because they went through a lot together and Liz was particularly close to other-me and—” Elaine stops dead in her tracks and just stares at him. “Nonono, I am not sending you to talk to Magnes. Dear god that would be a mess. He’d probably try to, I dunno, joust you for my honor or something. Or threaten you with death if you hurt me. I don’t know, he’s unpredictable. He’ll either do something stupid or he’ll be very grateful for you sharing that with him.”

She shakes her head vigorously. “Either someone else goes or we go together. That’s all I’ll settle for. I think he’ll be less likely to fly emotionally off the handle if someone other than me is there, it may be sort of grounding.”

“Hm,” is all Rhett says about the explanation of the obviously eccentric man. “I prefer not to fight, as I’ve said. But I can, and have.” Rhett’s tightened up a little bit, his body language shifting. There’s a slight chilly quality to Rhett’s calm. His waters are generally very easygoing and fluid, but he can summon something else out of there. That was just a glimpse, though, because almost immediately he’s smiling at her again.

“Together. That I’ll accept,” Rhett chuckles.

“I don’t know that he’s actually fight you but he’d likely say something incredibly rude and embarrassing and make a lot of threats in like… a way it’s hard to take seriously?” Elaine shakes her head. “I can’t explain him, you have to see him to understand. You have to remember he’s the type of person who tried to get with an alternate timeline version of his ex.” She rolls her eyes. “I seriously don’t know why he thought that would be a good idea or that that sort of thing didn’t blow up the universe.”

She leans against him, the mere thought of having that conversation with Magnes seeming exhausting. “Together, though. Please.”

“Let’s not talk about this guy,” Rhett chuckles. “I’ll end up feeling like i have to share my crazy ex stories, and nobody needs that,” he says, smiling again, trying to ease the tension.

“And we should at least try to get some rest. You at least, don’t you have work in the morning? I’ll keep watch over you for a little while,” Rhett offers, slightly playful. He strokes her hair, and brushes fingers over her nose and lips, with a quirk of gentleness to his lips and gaze.

“My crazy ex beats your crazy ex for sure,” Elaine smiles a bit, leaning in close to kiss his cheek. “But I will happily shove the idea of exes aside before either of us get too grumbly about them.” She squeezes him with her arm, resting against him a bit. “I do have work in the morning, ugh. I should probably sleep, you’re right.”

She settles in a little more comfortably. “Promise you’ll make sure no weird sparkly electric light ghosts get me while I sleep?”

“That’s right,” Rhett says, entirely letting the crazy ex conversation go — although he almost brought up the pirate he dated. But no need to do that, he can bury things deep. It’s part of his charm: that elusive depth.

“I will,” he promises her, continuing to stroke her hair, though he relaxes himself, eyes open, but distant, quiet, seeking to comfort her and let her unwind enough to rest.

Seemingly assured by the promise, Elaine lets her eyes drift shut. She leans against him, keeping the close contact so she can feel his presence even while she’s sleeping. It doesn’t take long before sleep overwhelms her and she’s out like a light, drifting into a thankfully peaceful slumber.

He might still be awake, but the worries of the world no longer bother her. At least for now.

Rhett is still awake. He’s watching over her, listening to her breathe. He’s not going to allow himself to sleep for a while. There’s a power to doing this vigilance, and it appeals to him on a deep level. He kisses her forehead as she sleeps, nothing more, and settles in.

He’ll keep the ghosts away.

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