Nothing Ever Stays


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Scene Title Nothing Ever Stays
Synopsis Leaving the heroism to people more(?) suited to the task, Howard Phillips and Elle Bishop discuss the ephemeral nature of life.
Date February 20, 2011


"I'll— catch up."

Famous last words, Howard.

Benetah the haze of the grime-encrusted arc of the dome, daylight is little more than a greasy smear when viewed through the pollution-clouded surface of the forcefield. The thick, black smoke billowing up from the burning wreckage of a boat sinking into the river does little to help improve the air quality and the filth collecting on the inside of the dome. Firelight is a flattering light source, though, softens hard angles and sharp edges, of which Howard Phillips has many.

Standing on the cracked pavement on the Queens shore, the distantly retreating backs of Eric Doyle, Pericles Jones and Devon Clendaniel are a welcome relief. The half-dressed woman at his back is an unwelcome burden.

Lifting up one hand to rub against the bloody hole in the left shoulder of his jacket, Howard slowly turns to look back at the redhead scrounging clothes from the corpses floating in the water. It serves two purposes, getting Elle clean (if ill-fitting) clothing, and also hiding her uncovered remainder beneath the water.

Warm breeze blows across the street, kicking up loose pages of scattered newspaper. Howard's jaw tenses, brows furrow and blue eyes regard the smoking wreckage of the ship with silent consternation. Fire reflects in his eyes, better than than anything else.

It was stupid to come here.


Indeed, the sight of the three who tried to take the boat is a rather welcome relief. She doesn't like Doyle, and she doesn't know the other two. Not that she knows the fellow for whom she has become an unwelcome burden any better than she knows the other two, but…well, he's saved her life a few times, even if he is an absolute asshole who abandoned her.

The water serves a third purpose, though this one is more to Elle's benefit than Howard's. It helps Elle keep her weight off of that nice bullet hole in her leg, the buoyancy factor allowing her to stand without putting weight on it. Sure, that dirty river water is getting a nice chance to seep into the wound, but at least she can stand up.

That, and the water feels good.

Burnt hands run a pair of pants stolen from one of the floating corpses through the water, ensuring that the fabric is clean and free of any particularly disgusting leftovers from their previous owners. "So you didn't come here just to rescue me. Does that mean you came here, at least in part, to rescue me, Howard?" Elle turns blue eyes toward Howard, frowning slightly.

She really wishes that she knew who the hell this guy is. He saves her life, whisks her away, only to abandon her. She was terrified, especially when he didn't come back.

"Are you some kind of asshole guardian angel, come to save my life and then be a dick about it?" Elle quietly hop-limps toward the shore. Once she gets to more shallow water, she ducks down, half-crawling until she can sit in the water, pulling on her new, way-too-big pants.

"Sure," Howard answers in a gruff, non-comittal tone. He turns away from the departing figures, but his eyes stay fixed on them just a little longer until he has no choice but to pry his eyes away from them, and look down at the asphalt at his feet. "There's a building up the street, bunch of empty apartments, probably people who were at work when the dome went up. Most of 'em are untouched, you can stay there safe until the dome comes down." His eyes narrow, and Howard's expression stiffens some, jaw set.

Clearing his throat, Howard turns his back on Elle, tucking his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he takes a few scuffing steps away from the shoreline, idly kicking a spent shell casing aside with the toe of his sneaker. "Won't be long now…" Blue eyes alight towards the ceiling of the dome high overhead. "Probably."

Once the soaked pants are on Elle and the belt is fitted tightly onto her hips (as tightly as it will go, at least), she all but butt-slides out of the water, onto the shore. There she sits for a moment, while she turns the heat on, so to say. It works nicely, her clothes beginning to steam themselves dry in short order. It's useful, Harmony's ability, for drying off.

Blue eyes turn back toward Howard, the woman frowning. "Can you help me there? If you don't want to stay with me there, that's fine." She frowns, watching as he kicks the empty shell casing in silence for a long moment. Her hands, burnt badly on her wrists and along the tops of her hands themselves, are held up, as if just having them attached to her is painful.

"Do I know you?" She frowns down at the steam coming off of her clothing, whisping up into the stale air of the Dome. "Did they make me forget you? The Institute…did they erase you? Or worse, did my dad erase you?" She chews at her lower lip. "Why do you seem to loathe me so much? What did I do to you?" She glances back down, then up to Howard again.

Silence is the answer Elle gets, at least for a while. Howard seems more intent on kicking that brass shell casing across the asphalt rather than responding to her. When the shell finally skitters under one of the derelict and bullet-riddles cars, he gives up the ghost on its chase, lifting up a hand to brush his bangs back from his face.

Howard keeps his back to Elle, arms folded over his chest. Brows furrow, and the young man looks away, then indecisively shifts his footing and turns to look back at her, slowly winding his walking pace back in her direction. "You don't know me," Howard explains flatly, "we hadn't met until that day in Jersey. But I've heard about you…" Blue eyes search the electrokinetic up and down. Howard exhales a sigh, shoulders slouching as his head dips into a nod.

"C'mere…" It's said quietly, begrudgingly, and in deference of her other questions. Howard offers out an arm, one meant to help support Elle with so that she can take the weight off of her injured leg.

Both burnt hands reach out, the relatively unharmed palms coming to grip at Howard's arm, as Elle struggles up to her feet. A wince is prompted by the action of gripping his arm, as it pulls the burnt skin on the backs of her hands a bit tight, not to mention her poor wrists, which look like someone gave her a red-hot iron bracelet. It turns into a sharp intake of breath as she pulls onto her feet, wincing at the broken ribs and the wound in her leg.

Really, she's doing rather well, considering her Humanis First inflicted injuries. But she's definitely in bad shape.

Once settled on her feet, leaning against Howard for support, she turns her blue eyes up toward him. "If you never met me until then…how were we even? I don't understand…" She frowns, closing her eyes and resting her head against Howard's chest for a moment. Listening for his heartbeat.

"Why don't you like me?"

"Because you're selfish," Howard explains matter-of-factly, starting to walk at a slow pace, one arm around the small of Elle's back. "You're an insufferable bitch," blue eyes scan the nearby streets and damaged streets up ahead. "You don't have a lot of redeeming personality traits…" Coming to the edge of the curb, Howard doesn't bother to look both ways when he steps out into the street with Elle, there hasn't been traffic out here in Queens for days.

Leading Elle across the street and away from the shore, Howard's tone changes some. "I don't blame you for it. Everyone told me how you were raised, like— some sort of fucking lab experiment. I get it." Clearing his throat as he slowly moves up onto the curb, Howard carefully helps Elle up after him, mindful of tender ribs and a wounded leg.

"We're birds of a feather," the electrokinetic explains, looking away from Elle.

"You don't even know me." Elle points this out just as matter-of-factly, leaning against Howard as they walk at that slow pace that works so well for her right now. She doesn't flinch, though, simply turning her eyes down toward the ground that they walk across. "You've hardly even gotten to know me at all…or even given me a chance."

She falls quiet for a long moment, the combat boots that are too large scuffing against the pavement. It's almost comical, how small she looks in those big clothes. Almost pitiful, too, what with the bruises that have blossomed over her features from her sound beating.

"I'm really trying, you know. I know I'm not the best person in the world." She frowns. "I know I'm selfish, and I think only of myself most of the time." She leans a bit more against Howard, letting him guide the way. "I've been trying to change…I really have. I'm trying to do the right thing." She snakes her head slowly, another pregnant pause settling over the pair. "I guess…I'm not doing so well, am I?"

A lackadaisical laugh with an edge of tears escapes her throat.

"Not really, no" Howard agrees as he leads Elle down the sidewalk. "But it doesn't really matter, I don't want t'get t'know you. I don't care what kind've person you are, don't wanna' learn to be friends. I'm just…" Trailing off, there's a lost expression that flits across Howard's face, as if he isn't sure where that sentence goes next, or why he's even here.

Silence comes over him again as they reach the corner of an abandoned street, stepping out into a crosswalk where a pair of cars collided with each other in the middle of the road. Flies buzz and swarm around one of the bloodied windshields, a corpse still in one of the vehicles from where the driver impacted the glass.

There's no surprise on Howard's face, no revulsion, no alarm. The corpse is regarded with the same dispassionate consideration that everything else in the dome has been, everyday and ordinary.

Elle, on the other hand, cringes a little at the sight of the corpse. She feels at least something for the loss of a life to such a gruesome end. Who knows how long that person had to suffer before they finally died, alone, out here in the dome? Blue eyes are glued to the corpse for a moment, before Elle turns, burying her face against Howard's chest.

"Well, if you don't want to get to know me, and if you're going to abandon me again the second you get me to shelter, the least you could do would be to help me understand who you are, and why…why you keep showing up, every single time I'm in danger." She opens her eyes once certain that they've walked past the car containing the corpse, turning to look up at Howard.

"And why were we even?" She's still stubborn. She still doesn't know a thing about this guy. He might not want to get to know her, but she wants to get to know him. Or at least figure out who the hell he is.

Howard looks down to Elle, wordlessly, reaching the other side of the street. A looted storefront greets them, glass strewn about the street and the displays stripped clean of whatever was being sold here. Down a crossing street, fingers of smoke wind up in the distance on the eastern edge of the rome, where the smoke collects as black, sooty stains.

"I'm nobody," Howard explains in all honesty, "I'm just— m'nothing. A mistake nobody wanted, some— fucked up kid that was born for one fucking reason. To be a lab rat." Guiding Elle away from and around the glass, mindful of her bare feet, Howard seems unlikely to answer questions of his identity. "I just… made a choice, that some people have enough bad shit happen to them in their lives. I decided… that I was gonna' commit myself t'making sure I wasn't the source of anybody's problems anymore."

Passing beneath the shadow of another storefront's shredded awning, Howard takes a pause, looking down to Elle. "You gonna make it?"

Elle offers a soft laugh, shaking her head slowly against Howard's chest. "Birds of a feather, indeed." She mumbles this, offering a small squeeze to Howard's waist — which comes with a wince as she recalls that, oh yeah, she's got burns. "I think that's all I was to my dad, most of my life. He never wanted me. He never wanted kids. My mom…she wanted me. She loved me. And then she was taken from me. She died, and she was erased from my mind, because it wasn't efficient to let me mourn over my mother's death."

She turns her eyes to the ground that they walk on. "Without her, he was more than happy to turn me into a lab rat. His little plaything." But she still feels awful for betraying him.

As they pause, Elle leans against him a little heavier, resting. "I'm okay…just…everything hurts. Humanis First…they beat me. Sat me in a chair and hit me with brass knuckles…shot me with rubber bullets." She cringes, trying to put that out of her mind. That was not her idea of a fun time.

There's a noise in the back of Howard's throat when Elle talks, like he's trying to clear it but doesn't quite make it all the way. Silently, he starts walking again, carefully leading Elle along at his side. "My… mother never wanted me," sounds like too personal a thing for Howard to admit. "She never wanted children, never— " he cuts himself off, shaking his head, eyes closed.

"My— my mother died the day I was born. She was sick… too sick to survive the pregnancy. Somehow I survived though, I didn't ask to…" Blue eyes avert to the ground as Howard walks, briefly looking over to consider Elle, then looks back down to the ground underfoot. "Growing up, I was raised by total strangers. They— they never knew my mom, but they wanted me. They loved me, they cared for me… taught me right from wrong n'stuff."

Sweeping his tongue over his teeth, Howard looks up to a tall building drawing closer beyond the next intersection. "Then the Institute took me from them, turned me into their fucking— experiment. They made me this, put me in this— in this cage." Bitterness cuts raggedly through Howard's voice, pain and raw emotion.

"They made me a monster."

"Someone told me that I would have a son one day. Long…long story." She walks along with Howard, holding close to him and definitely using the assistance he offers, happy to have the support off of her wounded leg. "I never even thought it was possible. I figured that everything I've been through, I wouldn't be able to even if I tried…" She glances up toward Howard's face. "Now that I think of it, though…I wouldn't mind having a baby boy. I never thought about it until that guy, that time traveler, told me that he knew my son."

She shakes her head slowly. "If she died the day you were born…if she was too sick to survive…how do you know she didn't want you? From what I've heard…" What she's seen on television, "…A woman doesn't know real love until she's looked at her child, or something." She shrugs. "Sorry…I feel a need to attempt a positive spin when I don't know anything about you."

She sighs softly. "I don't think you're a monster. You're…you're a good guy, Howard. You don't seem likely to tell me why you keep saving me…but you've made a difference in my life. If it weren't for you, I'd probably be dead several times over now. Monsters don't save damsels in distress, they eat them. Everyone knows that."

She turns back to the path ahead. "So if you are a monster, you're a pretty pathetic one."

It's enough to make him wilt, head bowed and shoulders slacked as he steps out into the intersection with Elle at his side. Howard has nothing to say in response, though his face shows the turbulent emotions warring inside. Eyes water, emotion blinked away as he leads Elle across to the other side of the street, then takes the corner to walk up to the front of the brownstone tenement building, carefully easing her up the concrete steps. He's careful on leading her, mindful of both her ribs and her leg, trying not to put too much harm on the already severely injured young woman.

When he reaches the door, it's just pushed inward to the lobby, he hadn't even closed it when he left.

He'd only been two blocks away while she was on the boat.

"Guess we don't know a lot about each other, then," is what he finally decides to say, bitter and defensive in the way a younger man might be. "I'm sure— when you have a kid, you'll— you'll find a way t'be a good mum." The corners of Howard's mouth drag down into a frown as he walks into the eerily silent and empty lobby with Elle, tiled floor crunching underfoot from crumbling plaster that fell from the ceiling.

"There's— an apartment on the ground floor I've been using. You… can stay there until the dome comes down." Though Howard doesn't seem to be leaving her just yet, moving past the mailboxes and towards one of the apartment-lined hallways, leading Elle there to make sure she gets there alright.

Elle isn't stupid. She recognizes the turbulent emotions on his face. He's not so good at keeping up a mask. She used to be a master at that. She lost her touch somewhere along the line. At least, sometimes it seems like that. She's not so good at hiding any more. Who knows where she lost her touch? The redhead with blonde roots watches Howard quietly.

"For what it's worth…I bet she wanted you so bad, loved you so much, that she died so you could live." She pauses, turning her eyes back to the ground. "If I was in that position…that's how I'd see it." She peers up at him, watching his face. "So…maybe think about it that way. Maybe she wanted to take you to build sandcastles on the beach, and celebrate your birthday with you, but she couldn't."

Now she's got watering eyes. Projecting her own past on to his, in a way, but…maybe he could use a little hopeless optimism right now. He seems like it.

"Thanks for helping me…" She murmurs this as they enter the apartment building, leaning her head against his chest. "You're not going to stay with me, are you?"

Howard is silent as he leads Elle into the apartment, the door frame splintered from where he kicked it in. There's blankets piled up on the sofa in the living room, boxes of non-perishable food out on the coffee table, mostly crackers and peanut butter, a few open cans of fruit in syrup, a can opener and a spoon.

Walking Elle to the sofa, Howard helps ease her down to sit, wrapping a blanket around her before rising up and walking away, deeper into the apartment. He's gone for only a moment, returning with a brown plastic bottle and a package of cotton swabs, a face cloth and some pantyhose. Crouching down by the coffee table, Howard sweeps some of the empty cans off onto the floor with a messy clatter, then sets the bottle down. Hydrogen peroxide it says on the label.

"Give me your leg," Howard requests, reaching inside of his jacket's breast pocket and retrieving a small folding knife. Blue eyes alight up to Elle, and his head shakes slowly. "I've done this before."

Elle accepts the silence for what it is. Seems he's the strong, silent type. Probably her least favorite type, really. She likes answers, and a lack of them frustrates her. But…that just seems to be what he's like, really. Blue eyes travel around the apartment as he leads her in, brows raising slightly. Not too bd, really. The person who lives here might not be so happy when they find their door kicked in, but…who cares, really?

She snuggles into the blanket that he wraps her in, watching him thoughtfully, quietly, until he disappears deeper into the aparment. She spends the time alone quietly examining the place. The food in particular looks good. She might have to eat some of his food; she hasn't actually eaten anything since before she was kidnapped. Most of that was vomited up when they beat her, and whatever was left was burnt off thanks to her explosion.

As he returns, blue eyes raise, examining his supplies. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what he plans to do, even before he pulls out that knife. She's reluctant at first. Then, she undoes that belt from around her waist, pulling it out. She then extends her leg, pulling the oversized pantleg up to reveal that gunshot wound, red and irritated from the lack of care, the river water, and the walking. "Be gentle."

That said, she places the leather of the belt between her teeth and leans back, gripping at the back of the couch.

Howard takes one knee, the other bent. Elle's injured leg is propped up across that knee, and Howard watches Elle pull the pant leg up, furrowing his brows and looking down to his knife. "Oh," he murmurs, folding the knife closed against his chest and tucking it back into the pocket. Seems as though he'd planned on cutting the pants open, a more direct and thoughtless approach.

"As a warning, I don't really know gentle." Taking the bottle of peroxide, Howard unscrews the top and fishes one of the cotton swabs out of the plastic baggie it's in. The swab is depressed over the top of the bottle, which is tipped upside down and rightside up in quick sequence with a dook, dook sound. The bottle isn't set down, but rather just held out over the wound. "Look away," Howard warns, before splashing the injury with peroxide.

It burns and sizzled pink and white, foam frothing up around the injury. Another splash washes that froth away, and Howard keeps spilling the peroxide down across Elle's leg until the wound fizzles as little as possible, damaged flesh a pulpy white color around the edges after exposure, cleaned of blood.

The cotton swab comes down next, wiping the injury clean around the edges, then it's discarded. The face cloth comes next, folded over a couple of times and pressed firmly against the wound. The nylons wrap like a bandage around Elle's leg, pressing the cloth down against the wound, cinched tight and tied off at the back of her leg.

She watches him fold the knife, relief washing over her features. He thought that was for digging the bullet out…is there still a bullet in there? Elle can't quite tell. She does as instructed, looking up at the ceiling and closing her eyes. It's better not to look. Better not to know when the pain is going to come. "Try. I've seen you do it before." This is said with her teeth clenched around the belt.

As the peroxide washes over the wound, burning at her flesh, Elle can't help but let out a muffled scream, clenching her teeth down on that belt and gripping the couch tight. She squirms a bit at the painful process of cleaning the river's filth out of her wound, letting out another groan of pain as each splash of the fizzing chemical rinses her wound.

But then it's done, and he's bandaging her wound with the clean cloth and pantyhose. She must say, it's quite a handy replacement, one she'll have to remember if she ever gets shot again. Paler than she was before from the sheer pain, and panting from the sheer effort of staving said pain off, Elle turns to watch him finish, her brow glistening with sweat.


"Not used to having peroxide," Howard admits as he sets the bottle aside, "usually have t'make do with still alcohol or somethin' like that." Wiping off his hands on his jeans, Howard carefully lowers Elle's leg down and away from his knee, then rises up to stand, adjusting his jacket over his shoulders, brows knit together and blue eyes squared down on Elle.

"Earlier…" The electrokinetic starts, looking hesitant to bring it up again. "You asked me if I'd stay." Wetting his lips with his tongue, Howard starts to turn away from Elle, his eyes sweep the thin and dirty carpet on the floor, then look side-long back up to her. "From a little kid, I learned… I learned a lot've hard lessons."

Looking away, Howard turns his back on Elle, hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans. "Nothin' ever stays."

Her leg bandaged, Elle scoots a little on the couch, wincing as the movement once again stretches the burnt skin on her hands, and as she jostles a rib too much. But eventually, she gets to where she's laid out on the couch, wrapped in the blanket. It's good to lay down. "Glad that you had peroxide, then…ugh, totally killing those assholes on sight from now on."

As he brings the subject up again, she focuses blue eyes on Howard. She looks…not so much tired, but weary. Like laying down on this couch is the best thing in the world for her. And it is. Moving hurts too much right now. So she listens, watching him. "I know…believe me, I know that better than anyone." Her tone is soft, airy. "I know that nothing ever stays." Her eyes close briefly.

Then, they open, focusing on his back. "But…you could choose to stay…" She tilts her head to one side. She's tired, but she's hurting a bit too badly to be able to get any semblance of sleep. Especially after being pumped full of whatever they gave her to make her explode like she did. Her nerves are still a little bit excited. "I won't lie when I say that I'd really…really like it if you'd stay…at least until someone else can relieve you of the burden of my company."

She closes her eyes. "But then, if you want to go, I'm in no condition to even have a hope of stopping you." Or do anything, but lay here, really. And maybe eat.

"I could…" Howard agrees with a nod of his head, back to Elle so that she can't see that he's crying. It's the last thing she'll hear him say, too, for the sounds of his sneakers scuffing across the carpet on the way to the door is the way he says goodbye. Never verbally, never cleanly. Howard disappears out into the hall, pulling the door shut behind himself as best as it can be closed, and he makes it evidently clear to Elle his choice.

He could stay, but he chooses not to.

Elle watches Howard quietly, frowning as he makes his sudden departure. There's no tears this time. She fully expected it. Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like a bitch that he's abandoning her. Again. At least there's food, this time. At least she's safe. Safer than she was in that warehouse he abandoned her in last time he decided to leave.

There's no begging him to stay this time. As he heads for the door, Elle's departing words for him are simple.

"Thank you, Howard…"

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