Mercator Here Can't Help


chess4_icon.gif elliot2_icon.gif

Scene Title Mercator Here Can't Help
Synopsis Elliot joins Chess on the deck of Yeah, Buoy! for some comedic deflection.
Date June 11, 2021

On the Ocean

Flooded Timeline

The deck of the yacht is cold, dark, and wet, and no place for someone who hasn’t gotten their sea legs yet. The only light is that coming from the little yacht itself; they’re too far from land for beacons of light to reach them, and alone in this patch of ocean. The sky above is an unrelenting dark canvas, too thick for moon or stars to shine through, and now and then the rain picks up, though it’s hard to tell from the dampness that comes from the ocean itself.

Chess doesn’t mind the dark or the damp, though she could do without the cold. The borrowed clothing she wears doesn’t do enough to keep out the chill of the Atlantic, though she has found a large raincoat to huddle in. The hood covers her head and the body keeps at least some of the rain and spray from seeping into her clothes, but enough has that she shivers now and then as she stares out at the water. It’s not enough to turn her back to the door that will lead her to the belowdecks. Not yet at least.

Both hands hold tight to the top of the gunwale, like she fears she might be tossed overboard if she doesn’t. The water’s only a little choppy — but the deck is slick, and if a large wave rocked the boat, she might find herself slipping and landing on the unforgivingly hard deck floor.

Elliot’s nerves have been mostly settled by Wright returning to consciousness, by her suddenly undying. He’s kept his mind here, in this flooded world. Sea legs seem harder to put under himself when he’s rising and falling while Wright isn’t. It’s jarring, but not insurmountable. He stays in the here and now because there’s nothing he can do to help her attend to Gates’s stability, and there’s nothing she can do to help him cross the ocean.

He falls into the stairwell as he nears the top with the pitch of the ship, but compensates enough to not make a sudden return belowdecks. The rain slicker he wears is cracked along seams caused by tight folds and inhospitable conditions, but keeps much of the rain from becoming too unbearable.

He’s come up to the deck to escape the haggard and sporadic conversation of the others below, knowing that Chess came up here looking for solitude of her own. He doesn’t understand what happened to Agent Castle, and he hasn’t felt comfortable asking. Hasn’t wanted to stray too close to implications he himself isn’t ready to face.

Outside he shuts his eyes against the bracing spray and undulation of the dark water. His motions are purposefully loud, announcing his presence to Chess without having to intrude on her thoughts. He follows her example, holding the opposite rail against unexpected movement.

Chess doesn’t jump at the sound of his footfalls on the wet deck, and waits until he stands nearby before she turns her head just enough to see who it is that’s escaped here to join her. She raises her chin in the slimmest of upnods — enough to let him know he’s not unwelcome, or at least not unwelcome enough for her to storm off or demand he leave her little patch of solitude.

She doesn’t speak for a moment, but when she does, her voice is soft, just loud enough to be heard over the motor of the yacht and the sound of the water below. “It’s a weird thing to be both so crammed together and yet so much space around us,” she says, with a nod of her head to the black nothingness surrounding them.

In the dark and starless night, it’s impossible to separate sea from sky in the distance, and there’s no other lights to give the space any sort of depth. “You’re okay? Wright’s okay?” she murmurs. “Sorry I didn’t… I didn’t understand how bad everything was.” Her voice is small and apologetic, and she glances down at the water that laps against the hull of the boat.

Elliot nods in return, lowering his center a gravity a bit to let his legs compensate for the swells. He tries not to dwell on the conflict in his memories of home. “Yeah,” he says, eyes losing focus for a moment as he pulls Wright’s perspective to him. “Everything is much less bad. Wright’s coming down from the adrenaline right now. Gates is in recovery, prospects are good. I’m…” he bobbles his free hand. He’s here.

He looks down to Chess for a moment before returning his eyes to the black horizon. “Thank you for asking,” he says. She’s the only one who has. Not that he can truly blame anybody else, this is all a lot. “How are you?” He doesn’t know how to ask about Castle, and doesn’t.

The mention of Gates evokes a soft sigh and closed eyes from Chess; it’s clear she was worried about him, too, but hadn’t asked — maybe for fear of what the answer would be.

When he asks about her, she lifts her shoulders. How does one respond to that?

“Physically, I’m at least capable of standing now,” she says, focusing on the easier question first. “Mentally and emotionally, I’ve been better. Also been worse, though, so there’s that for a silver lining.”

She turns toward him slightly and offers a small smile and a little awkward wave. “Glad you’re okay, Wright,” she says, knowing the other woman is probably listening, to give to and get comfort from Elliot in this time apart. Her hand returns to the rail, fingers wrapping around it for that security; her skin is red from the cold.

“I think I hate boats,” she says wryly. “Or at least boats actually at sea and not a dock.” Her brows draw together, thinking of Castle’s blue houseboat back home, a place that’s become a warm refuge for her in the past few months.

"I've lived within driving distance of the ocean my entire life and I agree," Elliot chuckles. "No offence to our rescuers. I always felt boxed in if I was too far away, and now that I'm in the middle of it I can safely say driving distance will suffice from here on out. And Wright says 'Hi, glad you're okay.'"

He puts his back to the rail, gripping with both hands as he scans the horizon for anything other the darkness, expecting to find nothing. It's hard to not rely on the routine of checking all the exits and sight lines.

"I know I was joking before the drop when I said I'd be pissed if this was all an elaborate prank ending in a Pink Floyd laser show," he relates with a sigh, "but I'd rather sit through five of those obnoxious things simultaneously than be on a boat. And I still have Eclipse stuck in my head."

A small smile is offered for Wright at the sentiment shared via Elliot, but then Chess focuses on his words. “I grew up in Colorado and have now lived on both coasts, and can definitively say that I’d prefer to be on the land rather than in the middle of this. I’m pretty terrified even standing out here, but I needed to breathe, I guess.”

She glances back at him and waves a hand vaguely as if to say he’s okay and not interrupting her solitude. Or he is, but she’s had enough of it.

“I barely talked to anyone for the four years after the war so being with so many people in such close quarters is a lot,” she adds. “Shocking, I know. I’m the perfect picture of poise and social etiquette, right?” She rolls her eyes and looks back at him.

“I haven’t actually seen a Pink Floyd laser show. I feel like I’m missing out on a cultural rite of passage now, and now it may be too late to change that,” she adds wryly. “Not sure if I’m sad or not about that.”

“I’ll see if Wright can find tickets to one, it’s absolutely worth finding out that it wasn’t worth paying money to attend,” Elliot says with a laugh.

“She and I took a few years off before returning to Wolfhound last fall,” he sympathizes. “We didn’t get out very much, focused on raising her daughter Ames. So while I wasn’t in complete solitude I certainly got used to my world being a lot smaller. Not that I mind having friends now. Friend. Wow, I still really don’t get out much.”

He holds up a hand to defend himself from a sudden ocean spray, keeping it out of his eyes at least. “If you ever want to see something familiar I can link you to Wright, walk around our world for a while. Eat something other than watery mac and cheese. Probably not while we’re on the ocean, setting a link while equilibrioception is already going haywire probably isn’t ideal.” Something all the other team members have managed to avoid up to this point. Not that he’s going to rush connecting to anyone without reason. There’s so much room for bad behavior in the network.

Chess laughs, a soft exhaled huff of a thing, and shakes her head. “I wouldn’t want to subject her to that on my account. I can just play some Pink Floyd and press my fingers against my eyes or something.”

Her smile turns wry again at his words about friends, and then one brow crooks up at the talk of linking her to Wright. “Equilio-wha?” she says, another short laugh punctuated the words. After a long, wistful look to the horizon, she shakes her head again.

“Maybe. Probably not. I just…” She pauses again, frowning as she struggles to order her words before they leave her mouth. “I don’t know if that’d be healthy for me emotionally, to see what we may have lost.”

That’s what she tries to say, but her voice cracks and the last few words end up swallowed by a sob. She swiftly turns away and ducks her head, one hand coming up as if to ward him off, but with it comes an apology. “I’m sorry. You two…”

Chess presses her hand to her mouth and lowers her gaze to the water below. “You have more to lose,” she whispers.

Elliot doesn’t balk at Chess’s sadness, though he does shift his posture to give her a bit more space. He nods thoughtfully for a moment. “I think at this scale we all have the same amount to lose,” he says quietly. “But I get it. It’s a lot.”

“And while being on the ocean is as awful as it is,” he says, attempting to move away from talk of the stakes of this endeavor, “and despite having lost all of our supplies because Eve couldn’t keep her clothes on, we can still do this job. Save the people we care about. And all the other people too, I guess.” He shrugs as though he couldn’t care less about the latter, but it dissolves into a small smirk.

“After saving the lives of everybody on multiple earths simultaneously, getting home should be a walk in the park,” he says. “I mean, I know it won’t be that easy, but with Home and Remote Offices free from apocalyptic doom they should be able to budget in a return trip. With a fucking elevator to the gantry, holy shit who’s idea was that? If we get home and have to walk down six flights of stairs, I'm grinding the rails all the way to the bottom using Raith like a skateboard.”

The gentle joking does do the trick, and she huffs a short laugh in response to the visual he paints. “I didn’t mind it on the way up, honestly, because it helped put off the jump for as long as possible.” She tips her head. “Maybe that wasn’t great, because it gave time for everything else possible to go wrong to, well. Go wrong.”

She turns, hands holding the railing behind her. “We’ll be okay without supplies,” she says, in case he’s really worried about their lost items. This group… I’m pretty sure we’re all resourceful in our own ways. Though I’ve never caught a fish in my life, so someone else is in charge of groceries until we’re on land.”

More seriously, after a glance over at the door that leads inside the yacht, Chess looks back at him. “I don’t know if you knew Eve before all this, but she’s a really good person. You get used to her weirdness. But if you’re her friend, there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for you, you know? I don’t quite understand what all happened up there, but if she busted into her red mist, she was probably trying to stop it.”

She glances down, studying the deck beneath her boots, then looks back up at him again. “Do you get what happened with Castle, or want a Cliff’s Notes on that?”

Elliot grimaces when Chess defends Eve’s honor, though there’s half a smile there too. “Yeah, I know,” he says. “The Cheshire Cat routine is unnerving, and being caught in her vampiric mist is like being at the bottom of a major depression spiral. But I know she means well. Just hard to parse all the future-witch jargon. I’d never tell her this, but she inadvertently saved my life. Back on Pollepel.”

He drums on the railing with his fingertips for a moment while he considers the rest. “I honestly have no idea what Castle’s situation is,” he says with a bit more solemnity for the obviously difficult nature of Chess’s situation. “I wouldn’t mind a primer.”

Chess huffs a short little laugh at the word choice, and then smiles, a fond thing, for Eve. “She saved mine too, back in the war, when we first met. You’ll have to tell me that story sometime. I was in Denver still back then.” It feels like a lifetime ago.

She looks down then, fingers coming together to chip away at her remaining nail polish. It takes a moment to think of how to explain it, to make it less complicated and also to respect both halves of Castle in telling their story. “They were once two people, two bodies — Basil and Saffron. Brother and sister,” she says softly, now and then looking up but not at Elliot — off to the side, out into the darkness. “Basil died a long time ago, but Saffron’s ability… it has to do with the memories of the dead and I don’t understand all of it, not yet. I only found out after her and I were already dating..”

Pressing her lips together, her shoulders rise and fall in a not-quite laugh. “I keep being in love with ghosts,” Chess murmurs softly, before she looks back at him, swallowing hard.

The moment drags a little before she speaks again. “When Saffron came to our world, /Basil// woke up, and she was still there, inside, too. So they’re both there. So sometimes it’s him, sometimes it’s her, and sometimes it’s both. But when we came through last night…”

A sob shudders through her and she lifts one hand in a half shrug; the other reaches back behind her to grab the railing again, realizing she had let go. “It’s… I mean Saffron deserves a body, too. I don’t… it’s just…” Chess shakes her head.

Saffron’s face isn’t the one she thinks of when she thinks of love.

Elliot can’t do anything but raise his eyebrows and let out a long breath as he processes that. He feels a complicated gnarl of emotions, suddenly finding himself very sympathetic to Castle’s plight. “I’m sorry,” he says, louder than seems appropriate just to compete with a gust of wind.

He doesn’t dwell on it long, and doesn't try to project his own experience onto Chess and Castle’s situation. It would help him least of all. He does wonder what it is about the trip between this place and his own world that could cause the two to switch the body that they share. Most importantly, he doesn’t fall into his old habit of problem-solving where it isn’t requested. “I can’t imagine what that’s like.”

Chess’ mouth tips up at one corner in a fleeting smile of thanks before it slips off again, and she shakes her head. “Me neither.” Her voice is soft, and she glances toward the lit cabin, worry in her eyes for both minds sharing a single body somewhere in the warm interior of the yacht.

“It feels selfish to worry about myself,” she confesses, once again swiping her hand over her face — though the combination of tears and damp sea air make it a futile effort. Her shoulders rise in another shrug. “So I won’t.”

Easier said than done. Chess huffs a short laugh, and looks down, then back up at Elliot with a smirk. “I’ll just feel sorry for the rest of you, and feel better by comparison,” she announces.

Elliot suddenly laughs in a way he must feel is out of character by the way he slaps his hand to his eyes, "Sorry," he says, "that was Wright appreciating your impeccable comedic deflection." He can't keep her emotions out of the network, and honestly he's happy to feel anything other than his own awkward stammering.

He makes a cutting gesture at the air, one hand still steadily at the railing, to say I know. His mouth twitches at the corner as he drives through some subtle agreement between himself and his partner a world away. "If you ever want to talk about it?" he asks, just loud enough to be heard over the storm that carries them, "even just to hear yourself say it out loud before you try it in a conversation with stakes."

He tries to cover some conflict, not between himself and Wright, it's too quick for debate. "I may not be able to help, but I can listen." It's not much, but if he's learned anything in the last ten years, it's that having a sounding board can do a lot of legwork in advance of treacherous conversations.

Her eyes widening at the sudden laughter, Chess can’t help but laugh herself, so Wright wins a point for a moment’s distraction. But once that’s faded, she listens to the offer Elliot lays on the table, and nods once.

One hand reaches to squeeze his forearm lightly, before returning back to the rail. “I appreciate that. Eve’s a good friend, but you know. His mom? So that’s weird. I definitely didn’t know that when we met. Or any of this. I would have run for the hills if I did.”

She tips her head up, letting the rain fall on it for a moment as she takes a deep breath. Letting go of the railing she takes a couple careful steps in the direction of the cabin. “I’m here too, if you need to talk. Once upon a time I was a kid sister, and not terrible at it, I might add.” She tips her head toward the cabin. “I should probably go see how things are or they’ll think I decided to swim for shore.”

Elliot smiles and nods in thanks for the offer of someone to talk to here. His link to Asi will only last another two weeks, at which point it’s just Wright. He wouldn’t be free of her even if he could, but they’re already entwined so tightly there’s often little but comfortable silence between them.

“I’m going to hang out here for a bit,” he says. “Tell the others not to worry about me swimming to shore. I’ll just take the raft.”

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