Need To Be Needed


f_cat_icon.gif f_elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Need To Be Needed
Synopsis One friend is told of a decision and action taken by another.
Date November 8, 2011

Unity National Park

Once upon a time, Midtown was a decayed, ruined, broken shell of what had been a thriving neighborhood, gutted by nuclear fire and picked to clean bones by desperate scavengers. The skeleton of the city that was is still present here, visible in the contours of the terrain. An eye-watering glint of light hints at windows still intact, somewhere beneath verdant vines; piles of masonry and warped metal yield artificial hills which now host shrubs and low-growing plants. Trees dwarf the reaching digits of twisted, tangled rebar, and last year's brown, crispy leaves hide stretches of open pavement — and the cars that choke other parts of what once were streets.

Postapocalyptic wasteland has been replaced by a thriving park ecosystem, although this park has yet to be defaced by paved walkways and interpretive signs. It exists, unfenced and undivided, in the center of New York City, melding seamlessly with Central Park to the north. A miracle wrought by Evolved abilities, the visible beneficence of Arthur and Peter Petrelli, Unity National Park is a living memorial to all of those lost in the 2006 Manhattan Explosion and the terrorist acts which followed after it, culminating in the Columbia Bombing of 2011. In the crater at the park's center stands Unity Park's sole new artificial construct — a graceful stair-step sculpture of white marble which hearkens back to the red helix once present in Kirby Plaza. On its vertical faces are inscribed the names of the dead which this memorial honors.

In this place walks a solitary woman, her age approaching twenty-nine, her height five feet and eight inches. There are crowds around her, but she's not paying them much attention as she moves. Feet in athletic shoes carry her across soft grass and between trees. They, however, pay attention to the jean and Yale hoodie-clad woman with the guitar case over one shoulder and a backpack across the other. The instrument case is marked with the names of the Columbia 14.

Voices murmur as she passes by, drawing this attention. "Is that her?" "I think so." "Cat Chesterfield, look at the medal she's wearing." Some may think about calling out to her, but they leave her in peace. If she wants to speak, she will, they decide. It's known well enough how close she was to a number of the 14, and she seems to be adrift in remembrances.

A spot is picked under a tree; Cat sets down her gear and takes the instrument out, then plugs it into a portable amp. Fingers rest on the strings and frets, but she doesn't immediately begin to play. Her attention is held instead by vivid recollection of how the place looked when it was a radioactive crater until just a handful of months ago.

There are any number of people in this park today. It's a momentous occasion. Elisabeth Harrison is not an unknown to those who follow the Columbia 14 incident, but neither is she a celebrity. She hasn't completely shunned publicity; she's polite and calm when approached, but she rarely gives interviews or sound bites. She has merely kept up her work with the NYPD. And life has taken a bizarre turn lately, too. She knew that Cat would be here, though. And so as she walks through the park, she knows to follow the sounds of guitar music, and she can by now easily pick out Cat's playing from other peoples' from clear across the park. Following the path that will take her to the other woman's location, Liz stops in front of Cat. She has only just recently begun to have to wear maternity clothing at not-quite-six months pregnant. "Hey," she greets her friend as she moves to lower herself to sit down next to her.

Sometime before Elisabeth reaches her she does set her fingers to motion over the strings and frets while still having her mind's eye filled with the images of what the place had been restored from, and even a recollection of the moment it got that way as furnished directly into her brain courtesy of Peter Petrelli's telepathy. The tune she's playing has a bluesy sound to it, one never heard before. It's being improvised on the spot. Her eyes close for some moments, then reopen to take in the area again and commit features to memory while contrasting them against what was.

Her mental activities conclude when she hears feet nearing her and spies the woman lowering into sitting position. A muted smile forms as her head turns toward the impregnated blonde. "Don't get stuck down here now, Elisabeth," she advises quietly. "So I see we're both back in New York."

She had recently been on the road, handling business related to the Chesterfield Scholarships and setting up an EvoCo at Yale, although the first one at Columbia will be opened far ahead of the one in the works at her alma mater's campus.

There's a soft chuckle as Liz settles next to her. She reaches up to shove her blonde hair back, a gold band glinting on her left hand as she does it. "I never left. And I'm not big enough to get stuck… yet. Though I finally had to move into maternity pants — couldn't button my regular ones anymore. And I'm terribly glad I don't have to wear my dress blues much, cuz that's just out. Absolutely and totally." She actually doesn't look like she's gained much weight at all — after Columbia, she lost a good bit, and now she's gaining it back and she looks… healthy. Full of life. "How've you been lately?" she asks, having not seen Cat in several weeks.

There are no rings on the fingers of the now celebrated guitarist/attorney/lobbyist/so many other things. The only thing in her hand is a pick given to her by The Edge when she met the members of U2 in Dublin some time back. Cat is healthy and lean, finally having been able to start sleeping normally again by mid-September. She still seems to weigh about 145, right where doctors say a woman of her height should.

"I'd tease you about carrying twins, but you know better. It has to be very nice, being able to do your own ultrasounds." A chuckle follows, and her eyes wander. "Look at this place, just look at it."

Choosing to ignore the attention that comes toward them, Elisabeth snickers softly. "It doesn't quite work like that, but I do like being able to hear the baby's heartbeat whenever I want. It moves around alot. I've only just started to be able to feel it, but I can hear it all the time." She shrugs easily, leaning back on the tree. Her eyes go over the beauty of the park and she says softly, "Yeah…. pretty amazing, isn't it? They'd be proud."

"I spent hours, days, researching after seeing a piece of prophetic art back in '08, before I got so deeply involved in everything. Before Dani was murdered, before the Vanguard," Cat replies in a voice of reverence and recollection. "There were plants in the painting I saw, here in Midtown. One of them was solanum nigram, a type of nightshade. The other was a species I couldn't find a reference to anywhere, no matter how much I looked. I puzzled over what it meant. Whether or not the plants would actually return here or if they were just metaphor. Now I expect to find both of them someday, right here."

"And they would be. Their spirits are, I'm certain of that," she adds softly. "We didn't do it all, we couldn't, this is Arthur Petrelli's craft. But we kept the torch burning, stood up against the odds when it was necessary. This is the payoff, just to see it now."

Resting her hand against her burgeoning belly, Liz smiles and tilts her face up to the sun. For the first time in a long time, she feels…. God, the word is practically alien to her. Contentment. It's the first week of November, it's getting cold but today is one of those Indian summer kinds of days where pants and long-sleeved shirts or sweatshirts is all that's required. It's sunny, and the sky is that amazing shade of blue that one only sees in the autumn. "I married Leland Daubrey last week," she finally says, apropos of nothing.

She's been hanging out with the man for a while now, the two of them seeming to have some kind of rapport going on. In truth, he's the reason Liz looks so good — the man can cook like no one's business. But romance? Really? It's a complete reversal from their conversation of a year ago, when Elisabeth told Cat that she didn't marry Norton because marriage was forever with one person — she couldn't see herself giving up everyone for one person. And since Norton was fine with their long-term arrangement, she hadn't seen the need.

There was a thought forming in her mind, something along the track of what she'd already been saying, and her lips part to give it voice, but no sound emerges. Silence happens instead, with Cat studying Elisabeth for a moment as if she wonders whether this is really her talking. It could be an illusionist, or a telepath projecting, even a shapeshifter. Her head tilts. "You got married," she repeats, the voice mildly incredulous when she finally produces words.

"We played a song once at my recording studio, on March 28th, 2009. What song did we play?" There were two, of course, a fact only the real Elisabeth Harrison is likely to know.

There's a blink. Elisabeth looks at Cat incredulously, because how the hell's she supposed to remember what they played over two years ag…. oh God. That was right before the botched attempt on Moab. The first time the two women ever played. And Elisabeth smiles a little bit, because the song is horribly appropriate. "In a New York Minute," she replies softly, looking toward the park to quell a sudden surge of tears. God, … a New York minute indeed. It all did change. Reaching up to wipe at those tears, which come altogether too often all the time right now, Liz says softly, "We sang 'In a New York Minute' … I wonder if Henley ever knew how right he was."

"This isn't another ordinary miracle today," Cat replies, still watching her face with one hand reaching up to gently brush away tears. She has them too, but rarely lets anyone see. There'd been a metaphorical river of them after Helena and the others died almost half a year earlier amid those same feelings of failure and betrayal she felt after Dani died. Cat's not one to stomach failure easily, never will be. In this way she's so much her father's daughter, his mark on her imprinted by having driven her to undertake and achieve two bachelor's degrees at the same time before law school.

Right now she's watching for reaction to what she just said, experience has taught her people are sometimes other people wearing false faces, and, well, Elisabeth Harrison. Married. Riiiiiight.

There's a soft laugh at that one. "I'd been teaching that song to the kids in Irving just before the explosion," Liz tells Cat quietly. "To give them something, anything, to hold onto. That they were part of something bigger. That ordinary miracles happen all around, if you just look for them." She nods toward a couple walking down the path, "He just asked her to move in with him, he can't see his life without her." She looks at Cat, her blue eyes sad. "I'm lonely, Cat. Alec's… Alec." He's a rolling stone.

"I just … Felix asked me to marry him, and I told him I couldn't. He doesn't need me. Not really. He likes me better than any other woman he's ever met, he said… but I want him to be free to find the person he loves, not tied to me and a baby living half a life when that person comes along. But Lee? He … needs me. And I need to be needed. I think I need what he's offering. And … he's good to me. And I want… to not be alone in all of this." She bites her lip and says softly, "And when I say it like that, I sound pathetic and I absolutely know it."

Having assured herself this is the real Elisabeth Harrison, Cat's features soften. She listens, and understands. It's easy, when one can never forget. "It doesn't matter if you sound pathetic or not," she offers. "What's important is finding a way to be happy. If this is what you need to find that, it's what you need."

It could be said Cat is lonely too, regardless of whatever romantic/intimate relationships she may or may not have. Her way is to stay busy, find things to channel it all into, whether it's throwing herself into compiling data on and taking down the Vanguard or taking on a sizeable chunk of Helena Dean's mantle since the assassinations. To this date she's not shown interest in any other woman, none yet compare, and as for a man she will occasionally sleep in his bed or a neutral bed, but no one but Cat sleeps in her own. If that changed and something happened, she'd never be able to use it again.

"Congratulations," she offers sincerely, reaching to draw the pregnant blonde into a hug. "Be happy."

Leaning her head against Cat's shoulder, Elisabeth says softly, gratefully, "Thank you. I haven't told anyone else yet, I'm scared to death what they're going to say." And maybe because she's already afraid it's a mistake, though she's unwilling to admit that in a fit of stupid pregnant hormones she made such a huge choice in her life. She sniffles, and then laughs softly around her tears. "God, I'm doing this all the time. It's ridiculous. Every time I start to cry about something at work, every cop in the damn place jumps up 'help' … and every time I do it at home, Lee jumps up to feed me. Good grief."

Suddenly there are images of a cartoon strip featuring a bald boy who always gets suckered by a girl's football trick, a boy whose dog dreams of being a World War One fighter pilot facing the Red Baron when Elisabeth finishes speaking. Cat takes a silent moment to chase those away before speaking.

A reassuring smile forms, she brushes some stray hairs from the woman's face and utters a simple reply.

"You're welcome, and you're knocked up."

She knows all about it, academically. With a pregnant friend, it's a solid bet Cat has read any book within reach on pregnancy, gynecology, and obstetrics.

Sitting upright again, though not feeling the inclination to pull away from Cat's light affection, Elisabeth chuckles in a watery fashion. She searches the small backpack that she was carrying to pull out tissue… this is getting to be a habit. "What was your first clue?" she asks the brunette with a cheeky smile. It's funnier when you think about the fact that Liz barely found out for herself six weeks ago.

"I think it was when you told me you were knocked up," Cat deadpans. Her brow furrows as if she has to think about this. "Or maybe it was seeing the appointment reminder slip on your refrigerator."

Elisabeth gives Cat a gentle elbow to the ribs. "Wench," she says mildly. She sighs. "Play for me? Pick something I can sing," she invites with a smile. Though they do this once in a while, most of the time Elisabeth is begging off, somewhat embarrassed by the insistance that she should use it for more than her own personal hobby and funtime.

"Wench," Cat repeats in a musing tone. "Site of my first professional gigs in the city. I should go look and see if the place is still around sometime." Those were good times. The guitar is lifted off her lap and thought follows, she runs through rock tunes that fit both voices.

Elisabeth glances around and smiles. "You know we're going to draw attention, right?" It's not like it'll be the first time — the two women have done enough playing around even in the club that by now they have a small, local following whenever they deign to actually perform in the Rock Cellar. But she leaves it to Cat to pick a song that works for both of them. And if it gets to be too big a problem, she'll just mute them.

It takes a short time, and it's one Cat isn't sure her friend will know, but she might. Into that territory she ventures, fingers working the strings and frets. Her head inclines so most of her voice is directed toward Elisabeth's womb. It doesn't seem she's worried at all about drawing attention.

"When Reginald was home with flu, uh-huh-huh,
The doctor knew just what to do-hoo.
He cured the infection
With one small injection
While Reginald uttered some int-er-jec-tions…"

She is clearly not remotely familiar with this one, as Elisabeth gives Cat a blank look and merely leans back against the tree they share to stroke her tummy and listen. People also stop on the paths on their way to the dedication to listen, some with no clue as to the identity of the woman singing while others are elbowing friends and whispering in the crowd. Liz merely watches them, the part of her that is a cop still very cautious of who might be hiding in that crowd. You never really know who might be a threat; it is, after all, not moonlight and roses still.

The song stops after that first segment when she sees Elisabeth doesn't know it, and a chuckle emerges. "You've never heard Schoolhouse Rock? They used to play between cartoons on Saturday mornings. There was that one, one called Conjunction Junction, another about how a bill becomes a law…" Cat trails off and thinks again for a moment before remarking "It can never be too early to expose your child to Led Zeppelin…" Or not, given the expectant mother's wariness.

With a glance at Cat, Elisabeth grins. "Zeppelin it is… 'Stairway to Heaven'? It's always a crowd pleaser," she offers.

Fingers resume, playing out the intro chords, then her voice joins in where called for.

"There's a lady who's sure
All that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven."

Playing songs that have a wide range of audiences has the added advantage of some of the people in the crowd may start to sing along. Which is fine with Elisabeth — she is still somewhat leery of singing in public at all, much less doing it in this kind of venue where everyone is heading for a dedication meant to commemorate all that so many of her and Cat's friends died for. Her voice picks up the tune and she sings the harmony for Cat.

"There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder."

There is that, in the back of Cat's mind as she plays and picks up the next segment, but the foremost thing thought of is being here in this place of renewal, a reborn area, with a friend and passing something on to the child within Elisabeth. To give her or him exposure to the work of legends from an early age. It may even prove to be a theme with her regarding this child. It seems fitting as well for other reasons: the song basically being about choices and paths.

"There's a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking
And it makes me wonder."

It is perhaps those words or the ones of the next stanza that cause the teary eyes, or perhaps just the idea behind it. Elisabeth smiles as she sings softly, the women's voices carrying into the crowd. And she looks toward them, her hand absently stroking the small bulge that will, in just a few months, become her child. She hopes that he will have the kind of world that the words she sings now imply is possible.

"And it's whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

"If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.
And it makes me wonder."

Her part is picked up after that instrumental portion, the tempo having changed when called for. Cat continues to watch the area behind which that child grows.

"Your head is humming and it won't go
In case you don't know
The piper's calling you to join him
Dear lady can you hear the wind blow
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whisperin' wind?"

Elisabeth glances at Cat with a grin when the tempo changes, and she keeps singing, but she pauses a moment to gesture at the crowd that's gathered. "C'mon… at least half you are singing already — finish it up with us, will you?"

"And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll."

As the song winds down, she looks at the group and lets the harmony that is her own and Cat's voices twined together play out over the crowd in the very very soft,

"And she's buying… the stairway… to heaven."

Then there is silence, Cat's right hand leaves the guitar and hovers over the expectant one's belly while eye contact is made, seeking silent consent to rest it there. She doesn't mind the attention, but neither was she courting it. This particular performance was made at the request of a friend and with a child in utero as focus, solely.

Several seconds pass before her eyes drift over to the observers and a smile is flashed. "This place just inspires, you know?"

Elisabeth smiles, taking Cat's hand to place it on her belly. The crowd, uncomfortable with that whole movement, begins to disperse, though they're talking and smiling. Most of them. Others perhaps look thoughtful, and some just go on about their business. It's the ones that might look … not calm that Liz keeps watching for. She can't quite help it, in spite of being lauded as 'heroes', there are still times… "It does," she replies mildly. At this stage of her pregnancy, Elisabeth can feel the little flutters, but the child is not large enough to let Cat feel them yet. Still, the blonde sits there and just enjoys.

She addresses the child again, though unable to feel anything where he or she grows, a smile spreading. "So, little one, next week we introduce you to John, Paul, George, and Richard. Now Richard, you see, he didn't always use his real name. He took another one for the stage. Ringo. He was the drummer. Very soon you'll make your mother think you already know all about drumming."

Cat flashes a mischievious grin as the words are spoken.

Elisabeth laughs softly, and shove Cat lightly. "Thanks, you. And knowing you, you'll get it a set of drums before it's old enough to sit up and I'll have a permanent splitting headache…." And then she grins. "Or I could just mute the kid so it's stuck in its own bubble of silence so I don't have to hear it!" Now there's an idea!!

She flops over when pushed, holding the instrument up to not be landed on, and laughs. "I'll never tell," Cat informs her amid extended mirth. But the look to her face and eyes says she's definitely planning something of the sort.

Soon she gets to her feet and packs the instrument away, then shoulders her gear before extending a hand to help the maternal one stand. "Let's go explore," she invites.

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