Lost In The Shadows


cardinal3_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif

Scene Title Lost In The Shadows
Synopsis They're both lost in their own ways.
Date Feb 7, 2010

Elisabeth's Apartment, Dorchester Towers

There's a full on exoskeleton uniform sitting in Elisabeth's living room. She's supposed to be wearing it full time, but quite frankly? It's damn hard to get around wearing the thing, and there are things she has to do this weekend that just require less…. visibility… than wearing the thing affords. The blonde is doing what she does best when she is perturbed; she's hiding in the kitchen. She's been hiding in the kitchen except for the forays she has to make to see her father and check in at Abby's bar and library. Everything she's working on right now is intended for the library — with more snow coming, more cold coming, there are any number of things they're going to need. Like food. And not fucking protein bars and whatever the hell else they're eating. At least it's cold enough in the upper levels of parts of the library to keep things pretty much frozen solid without need of a freezer.

Elisabeth's own freezer is packed full of things she's already made: two deep-dish lasagne pans filled to the brim with the pasta bake, three large bowls of spaghetti sauce, a dozen smaller-serving bowls (perhaps to feed 2-4) each of vegetable beef soup, chicken soup, and chili. Elisabeth's staring into the freezer with a deep-dish pan of chicken and rice casserole in her hands with a perplexed frown. There's no room in there. It's not going to fit. And that doesn't begin to cover the baked goods filling boxes on the dining room table. Boxes that came from reams of printer paper… half a dozen of them! She hasn't slept much this weekend. The stress is making her insane and she needed an outlet for it.

Closing the fridge, she sets the casserole back on the counter with a frown and sends Claire a text to come and pick up a delivery. Liz herself has a plane to catch in a couple of hours. The tinyblonde can use Liz's car to get it as close to Midtown as necessary.

"You're baking."

The voice comes from nowhere obvious; it's not the familiar tones that she's used to hearing from her lover's disembodied presence, nor any other she recognizes, somewhat flat in tone, raspy — wavering in and out like a radio that's been ill-tuned, scraps of voice and sound stretched, strained in their notes.

"You must be stressed. No surprise."

The sound of the voice, unfamiliar and raspy, makes Elisabeth react as anyone who believes themselves entirely alone would react — She screams, whirling around to locate the source of the voice with her hand instinctively (and futilely) going to the waistband of her jeans where the innerpants holster that she favors usually resides. It's not there, and her hand instead grabs at her stomach, blue eyes wide and frantic. The words don't register until after that reaction. "Wh-wh-what?" Her breath is jagged with panic that roars through her, her voice choking on the stammered words.

"Sorry. I know you… hate when I do that."

If there's a shadow, it doesn't show itself, the voice silent for a few long moments before adding quietly, "You always cook when you're stressed. Hi, lover."

And…. there's no one there. No one that she can see. It enhances the sense of anxiety. Elisabeth sucks in a shaky breath, hope warring with despair. "Richard?" she whispers softly. Closing her eyes for a moment to gain her composure, when she opens them again Elisabeth's hand has moved from her stomach to her heart. "Are you…. why are you hiding?" A frown creases her brows together.

"I'm not… you don't want to see me like this, Elisabeth." There's something wrong with his voice, straining, wispy and drifting in and out of volume, "Sorry it took me so long to… get back. Long walk from Antarctica."

"I don't want to see you like… 'this'?" Elisabeth's tone is incredulous, and tears suddenly overflow blue eyes. Her arms wrap around herself defensively and the fingertips of one trembling hand cover her mouth. "Do you… have any idea how much I don't care what shape you're in?" She pauses, struggling to keep her voice steady and failing. "I heard you …. scream," she chokes, "on the wind. I can't stop hearing it. I don't know if I'll ever stop hearing it. Or seeing… shredded shadows falling to the icepack." Tears slide unchecked down her face, as if she's not even aware of them. "I need to see you. No matter what shape you're in. It doesn't change anything."

There's no answer to those words, at least no verbal one, simply further silence for long moments before a tendril of shadow slithers around the corner and into the kitchen, and then another, as if dragging itself along rather than the smooth, fluid motion of Richard Cardinal's shadowform. No solid darkness, it's tattered, frayed, like wet tissue paper beginning to fall apart that someone's shone a flashlight through, patterning the floor in shredded obtenebration that spills over her feet before slowly beginning to gather together again.

"There's not… much to see, Liz. Not much left. It's— damn. It's, it's good to see you."

A hint of greater emotion vibrates through the otherwise atonal voice, the threads of shadow trembling, tearing before being drawn back into the mass.

Both hands fly up to stifle the sound of sorrow, to keep it from escaping her throat. Elisabeth is shaking as she crouches to touch the strands that spill across her. And her behind thumps to the floor, her arms wrapping around her upraised knees to try to hide her reaction at least some. "Oh, God…. Richard," she whispers softly. "It's enough." Because if it's all they have, it will have to be enough. "You're alive. It's…" She looks at the shredded shadow form and asks softly, "Tell me something only you and I know, okay? Just…. anything. I…. I need to know you're real." She bites her lip. "Kozlow — the Vanguard's guy — is in town. I need…. please?" If he remembers who Kozlow is, he'll understand why she's asking.

It's not a perfect illusion, as it was once before, drifting threads of darkness seeming almost three dimensional as they weave over her hand without any sensation, only to fall away. A chuckle is hollow, flat, at her words, "…nobody stays dead anymore, I guess…"

A few moments of silence. "We had dinner at the Orchid Lounge. Went for a walk… afterwards. Told you what I was doing to John. You wanted to do something crazy. Went up a fire escape… fucked like cats in heat on the roof. That good enough, lover?"

Laughing through her tears, Elisabeth nods. "Cats in heat, huh? Nice imagery," she murmurs in an affectionate tones. "That's one of the best memories of my life, you know." She can't take her eyes off him, though her expression goes a little more serious. "Yeah… you don't know the half of it, love. I'm just…. grateful that you're one of the ones who didn't stay dead. You're in august company, though," she tells him quietly. "Francois survived…. because of Kazimir's power, apparently. He and Deckard had it out down in Mexico or something, so now…. supposedly both powers are gone for good. Seemingly. And Danko made it back alive too." She huffs something that is almost a laugh, her arms still wrapped around her knees. "He came to your wake. It was a nice service, too. You'd have snickered up your sleeve, probably… " She trails off…. it seems surreal to have a conversation with your barely corporeal lover about his funeral.

"I don't really know that I didn't die…" It's a vague, distant murmur as the shadows stir over her feet, "…a funeral, huh? Did I get a gravestone, or a memorial or something? Maybe I could visit it, sometime…" Silence, "I promised you I wouldn't die on you. Tried to… live up to that. There's too much to do."

The need to touch him is a physical ache in her chest. The fact that she can't even feel him hurts. Elisabeth says softly, "I had a marker made." Going to have it done had shades of Wozniak attached, though the placement of that marker is a secret only she and the dead Minea Dahl share. Richard's, though? She bites her lip and admits quietly, "I had it put next to my mother's." She drops her head to rest her forehead on her knees for a long minute. When she looks up, she blows out a breath slowly. "I, uhm…. I found your apartment." If you can call it that. "Moved… your things."

"My…" A pause, "…what, the bomb shelter basement? How did you… even get in there? I didn't think it was even possible."

"I'm resourceful," Elisabeth replies dryly. "A fire axe through a wooden floor does wonders. Althought I admit… it's no longer secure. I blew out the door to leave." She rests her chin on her knees as she looks at him, an impish smile tweaking the corners of her lips. "Lots of pretty things. I put them in my safe deposit box until I could work out what to do with them. The artwork's in one of the library's underground rare book vaults."

"I thought we had this discussion once, about scale, right…? Did you really have to completely destroy my apartment?" There's a pause, and Richard adds, "I'm kidding. I don't really… care, I… damn." Silence, then, the shadow twitching like a flattened corpse going through its death throes, hissing out, "This is… hard. Keeping myself together…"

She makes a sound that's almost a giggle, choked as it is. Elisabeth eyes the shadow and asks softly, "Can you still talk to me without holding it together?" She'll address the other question in a moment.

"It's hard to… explain. I was. It blew me apart, Liz. Lost all… cohesion." A rattling hiss as the shadows spread out, thinner, across the floor, "I had to pull myself back together. I still am. I'm not in — not in one piece, Liz. I think if I… tried to turn solid…"

"Then don't," Elisabeth says softly, alarmed. "Just…. don't. For God's sake, don't make me… go through it again," she whispers. "I don't think…. I could recover." She bites her lip. "You tore out my heart, Richard. Why didn't you tell me what the failsafe was? Didn't you trust me?" Her voice remains a whisper.

"I didn't think we'd have to use it…" Cardinal admits in that dry, tattered whisper of voice, "…and I didn't know if it'd work. You'd be dead, if it didn't, so I didn't think it was… something I needed to bring up. What happened, after? You were all gone, by the time I got to the base…"

So instead, he merely didn't tell her. Just… let her watch him be torn to shreds with no warning. Elisabeth has to bite back a surge of rage that shimmers along in a soft hum of sound around her. It will do no good to yell at him. "We watched… if it hadn't been so horrible, it would have been… spectacular, I guess. It wasn't so much a shockwave, but the chopper went bananas. Raith was flying. He managed to get us the hell out of there, evac'd straight to the carrier. We stayed at McMurdo for a few days. Fuckers mindwiped some of the people out there — some of the ones who saw everything at Madagascar, from what we can tell." She's trying to give him a calm report, but her tone is a little bitter. "We're…. reasonably sure that the US government, or at least someone in it, has hold of the experimental data they were doign with Refrain. I'm not sure how it all ties in. Rebel says they're already building camps for Evos… some have gone missing from H1N1 clinics, and Evos are disproportionately affected by the vaccines."

Actually, that brings to mind somethign that brings her head around to him again. "Did you contact Veronica by phone?"

"It's starting, then…" A silent moment, before Cardinal's shadow draws itself back together, clearing his voice more steady, "…yes. I would've called you, but… I was worried they'd have tapped your phone. I figured you'd want to see me in person." A hollow, bitter laugh, "What's left of in person."

"It's okay," she says softly. "The message got through." Elisabeth is forced to laugh. "Abby thinks I'm out of my mind… she's convinced Kozlow is fucking with me. Claire…. had to catch me when I fell over after Raith came to see us. I thought I was going to faint." She shoves a hand through her blonde hair, moving finally to uncurl off the floor. "It's definitely starting, lover. I found the notebook. And Lola. But I didn't know what you were doing with Zarek or what you meant when you said he was 'in.' Lola went to check on that. I think you're going to need to see him in person, unless you can give me enough information to go on. Abby and Claire are the only people who know you're alive. So if you need to get to me, …" She grins a bit. "You seem adept at sending messages that only I'll understand anyway."

She goes a bit more wary as she paces. "Stick close to Abby if you can. Kozlow is stalking her. He left her message that was really creepy at the bar." She pauses and looks at him. "Mack's probably going to walk. He can't abide the idea that we'll cooperate with ex-PARIAH operatives via Rebel. He also sent us a technopath, apparently; I've yet to meet her. Gillian is doing research for us, and we've got a new guy living in the library. He's like eight feet tall with dreadlocks. Don't panic if you spot him; his name's Bones." She flips through her mental to-do list. "Mortimer Jack is pulling his people off Staten on our recommendation. And he's willing to do some work for us too."

It's a lot of information to soak in, and in his current state… how sane is the shadowmorph, and how able is he to understand everything? Still, he soaks in what he can, listening carefully. "I'll talk to Zarek personally. That project needs to stay on target, it's important. PARIAH… what's going on with that? With Rebel? Heh… you've been a busy girl, Liz. I told you that you could be a leader."

It's like she couldn't stop talking… like she had to tell him everything at once, in case for some godawful reason he will be gone. Elisabeth goes quiet and says softly, "If you can handle the Zarek thing, I've got the rest covered. Don't worry about it for now." She bites her lip. "Rebel's pulling together a full-on army. I don't know how it's goign to play out, and Kershner is…. up to her eyes in something and … God help me, Richard. No. This is too much for you to deal with while you're recovering," she says instead. "What do you need? What do you need from me? How can I help you?"

"I don't… I don't know, I need time…" A quiver shivers through the darkness, bits of shadow drifting away before they're reeled back in, "…I don't think I can… fix myself. No healer can fix this. Kershner can't know about me, I can work better in the shadows…"

"Abby and Claire are under strict orders not to breathe a word to anyone. And I'll keep Kershner from the knowledge if I have to blow my own brains out to do it," Elisabeth replies grimly. Because with what's going on, with the camps and the fact that Cardinal has reached out to Vee of all people? Yeah, that's going to be a priceless bit of intel. Better that the shark not get her hands on it. She steps forward and though she can't feel him, she strokes her hand through the fringes of the shadowmorph's unstable body. "In case I forgot to tell you before you blew yourself to Hell…. I love you, Richard Cardinal."

The unstable shadowmatter coils over her fingers, unfelt, only visible as a ripple of not-light across her hand. "I love you too, Elisabeth Harrison."

She can't twine her fingers into him; she can't even feel him. But Elisabeth manages to quell the tears that spring up again as Claire's knock sounds at the front door. "Guess I better let her in so she can take this stuff to the library." She smiles at the shadow slightly. "Rest. I won't let her know you're here, love."

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