Objects In The Rearview Mirror


aura_icon.gif bf_cassandra_icon4.gif elisabeth_icon4.gif

Scene Title Objects in the Rearview Mirror
Synopsis They can be very much glossed over to make it sound horribly romantic.
Date December 1, 2018

Cat's Crash Pad

“It’s not much of a Christmas tree, but I think I did pretty good.”

The room that they sit in is small and dim. Fading sunlight trickles in through a grime-covered window flanked by ragged curtains. The sound of waves and the sea can be heard, even viewed, if one looks out towards the endless ocean surrounding them. The tops of buildings - familiar ones to New Yorkers - rise out of the water, sentinel-like, the streets below submerged, the city transformed into a metropolitan archipelago that people still call home. “I had to do a little bartering to get some of this stuff but, hey. Do as much as you can with what you can get.”

A branch from a tree, the bark long worn away by the action of waves, the surface mirror-smooth from the endless friction of water and current, has been cut off short and placed in a corner, a broken wheel rim acting as a makeshift stand. The branches have been festooned with plastic and glass, debris that would be considered trash anywhere else, but here woven into garlands and tied into bows. And somehow, in one of the rooms left over from that last Christmas before the bomb so long ago, a string of lights was found and draped over the branches.

Turning from the battery by the window, wires leading out and up to somewhere on the roof, Cassandra holds up a plug. “Aurora? Do you want to do the honors?”

Aurora's sitting in her mother's lap, watching Cassandra string up the lights. She has Blossom in the crook of her arm, and she's been a little uncertain. Last Christmas wasn't Christmas at all — it went very poorly. And Elisabeth glances up when Cassandra asks that, still worried about the little girl's reactions to things. Sometimes they're what she expects, sometimes they're way off in left field. This time, the little girl seems … okay. She climbs up out of Liz's lap and tucks the floppy stuffed dog back into Liz's lap. "Hold Bossum, Mummy." The petite little girl comes over and takes the plug, biting her lip as she deliberately and ceremoniously plugs the plug into the socket.

When the colored lights come on — several of them apparently burned out, so they're lucky they found a set wired in parallel! — Aurora is… entranced. "Oooh," she breathes out, clasping her hands tight in front of her in glee. "Look! Look! They're so pretty! Unca Felix always had white lights," she reminds Cassandra. "Mummy and me like colored ones."

That she said Felix's name aloud without suddenly shutting down is, in Elisabeth's mind, a huge step forward. Maybe this Christmas won't leave both of them sobbing.

Maybe they'll actually celebrate the real thing at home, she dares to hope wistfully.

Even with the strangeness of this world, there are things that Cassandra craves - one of which being a Christmas tree in December. That she went out and found a tree - sort of - found decorations, and found lights of all things in an attempt to make a small puddle of normalcy, is nothing short of amazing. She watches with bated breath as the plug goes in and, with a small sizzle of electricity, the lights haphazardly come on. Letting out a sigh of relief, Cassandra reaches over to squeeze Aurora’s shoulder.

“I like the colored ones too.” Cassandra confides to the little girl, giving her a smile as she moves to sit on one of the threadbare couches, moving aside a bedroll so she can sit without sitting on someone’s bed. “I grew up with my granny having big lights like these in her house on the bayou. I’m so glad I can share this with you and your Mommy.”

Enraptured by the colored lights, Aurora stares at them for a few moments. Then she comes over to climb back into the nest of Elisabeth's crossed legs, tugging Blossom back into her arms. Resting her head back on her mother's shoulder, she looks at Cassandra. "Christmas stories?" she asks, a little hesitantly.

Biting her lip, Elisabeth looks at Cassandra. The little girl is asking for something that could take some of the joy out of this moment… or it could make it bittersweet.

Feeling the hesitation, the little girl looks up. "It's not Christmas without Yggy and Unca Felix and Unca Lee," she says staunchly. "They're not here. But… we could see them…" Because Cassie makes magic happen.

This memory, out of all of the ones she carries with her, is the one that Cassandra was most hesitant about replaying. One of the pockets of her backpack has things - various and assorted things like buttons, barely more than a handful - that she managed to hang on to throughout everything. To most people they weren’t anything, but to her and those who knew, they were memories. Keepsakes that, with her ability, she could replay the world as it was. “That’s right, Rory, we can.” Cassandra says softly. “If you’re sure. If your mommy is sure, too.” Sometimes seeing the past can be difficult, and this promises to be no exception.

Swallowing hard, Elisabeth considers and then gives Aurora a serious look. "Do you think… that maybe we could wait and do that on Christmas?" she asks. "Mummy's… not sure she's okay to see them just yet." The admission is hard — she tries not to let Aurora see how badly she herself is doing some days, but she misses those people intensely as well, and having just lost Kaylee to the Wasteland a bare few weeks ago too, she's not sure about this.

Immediately Aurora nods. Mummy's heart is aching again, and she doesn't want that. "Okay, Mummy. It'll be our Christmas present, okay?" She pats Elisabeth's face gently and smiles. "Another story?"

"Well…" Elisabeth pauses. "I could tell you stories about my Christmases as a kid," she offers. "Or Cassandra could tell you about hers." She pauses. "Or I could tell you stories about your grandfather… and your dad." Liz has told the little girl stories about her father all her life. Ygraine had even drawn sketches of him, though admittedly they were sketches of a younger Virus-world version. Aurora had no need to know that. She at least had a face for her father, most of her early years. The sketches didn't make the trip. And now those stories have new importance these days. Especially now that they know the Ark is real, where it is, and that we might actually be able to get home.

Cassandra is surprisingly stable, thanks to her ignorance of many of the things that she’s seen over the past year. Sleeping is difficult, and the loss of close friends in the exodus from the bomb in Wasteland did little to soothe her shredded nerves. It’s only by maintaining the ties she has built with her friends — no, family, that she maintains her sanity. And only just so. “I like that idea. Is it okay if I sit with You and Mummy and Blossom while we tell stories? I can bring my blanket over to cover us all.”

Aurora hesitates. She's been resistant to hearing stories about her grandfather or her father since they left home. Them being in another world instead of just far away explained why they never once came to see her… but that doesn't mean she's going to forgive it like her mum seems to want. Still, she wants Mummy to feel better, so she nods a little bit. "Okay."

Scooting a little to lean back against the wall with her arms around the little girl, Elisabeth pulls in a breath. "Okay… let's see." She waits until Cassandra has the blanket and comes back, snuggling all three of them beneath the covering against the chill of the evening.

"So… I don't think I ever told you this. When your daddy and I first started seeing each other… it was kinda complicated. Cuz you know, grown-ups always make things more complicated than they have to be." She grins at Aurora. "Remember I told you I was a police officer?"

After Aura nods curiously, Elisabeth continues. "Well, I was also sort of a soldier for a while, too. And your daddy and me and the Uncle Felix who lives in my world, we were all working together. But the first Christmas… me and Uncle Felix were in a place called Russia. It's a country on the far side of the world from here." And all hell was breaking loose and Mummy was killing people, but that's not part of this story. "I had had to leave New York without letting Daddy know where I was going… so he was really really worried when I was finally able to call him."

Aurora looks intrigued now. "There's a Unca Felix where we're going?" That's a big deal. 'Grampa' and 'Daddy' are an abstract for her. Unca Felix has loved her for her whole life. And then she chides, "You know you're s'posed to call, Mummy."

“She’s got you there, Mummy. You are supposed to call.” Cassandra teases once she’s settled down, the blanket swaddling the three of them in a warm embrace, Aurora and Blossom in the middle between the two women, illuminated by the setting sun and the twinkling of the christmas lights. “There is a Felix there, and you get to meet him all over again. How special will that be for him? And for you?” Which means there might be a Cassandra there too. Won’t that be an interesting meeting.

Whoa! Aurora's fascinated now.

Elisabeth has to stifle a snicker at that. It'll be special all right… she's going to worry just a little about that at some point, but honestly, she's more worried about making sure Aurora isn't mad at the other two men who will be in her life. "There is," she agrees. "And yes, I know I'm supposed to call, but it just … went badly." She was kinda kidnapped, not that Aura needs to know that either. "So anyway, there I was, sitting in Russia, calling your dad to let him know that I was okay and asking him to make sure Grampa knew too… and you know what he did?"

Aurora's hazel eyes - God, her father's eyes — are wide as she stares at her mother. "What??" Blossom is being held tight to her chest in anticipation.

"He said 'I love you,'" she tells Aurora somewhat indignantly. "That was the first time he ever said it to me." A theatrical roll of her blue eyes. "And I couldn't even hug him or anything! Boys are so dumb sometimes."

Aurora gasps in outrage. "Bad Daddy!"

Cassandra can’t help but laugh - stifling that one would fail instantly, falling into titters at Aurora’s indignation at her Daddy saying those special words when he’s far from the object of those affections. “It’s hard for boys to say that. Men too.” Cassandra adds from her admittedly ignorant point of view once she gets her bearings back. Saying those three little words moves a relationship from ‘dating’ to ‘something more,’ and that’s a big step for a lot of people. “I bet Mommy hugged him really, really tight the second she saw him, though.”

Elisabeth has to laugh too. "Bad Daddy," she agrees conspiratorially. "But he definitely did hug me really really tight when we were together again." Her little girl doesn't need to know that her father exploded at the end of that story, taking a nuclear warhead into the shadows with him… stopping this very world from becoming. Instead, she says, "It was really hard because I didn't actually see him again until after Christmas." She hugs the little girl.

Her voice goes very low, solemn. The opportunity that presents itself here is perhaps more important than she realized. "It's really tough to have people so far away at the holidays. I always felt very lonely when that happened. And sometimes pretty mad, when it seemed like it was happening because of things I couldn't fix. Or because someone else made me go somewhere like Russia at the holidays."

Aurora is very quiet, curling up a little more tightly between the two women.

Elisabeth glances uncertainly at Cassandra, who has been as close to Aurora as any of the other people in their life since the girl was born.

"It's okay to be mad at them for not being here?" Aura asks in a small voice. She's mad at Mummy too, but it would make her sad to know that. And Mummy and Kain and Aunt Izzy are already so sad.

Cassandra leans against Elisabeth, nodding to that glance, resting her head against the side of the other woman’s. “That’s a very good question, Aurora.” She gives the girl between them a light hug, leaving her arms around the little girl too. “It is okay to be mad if they did something wrong, but not at them for not being here with you. That wasn’t their choice at all. If they could be here with you, or have you where they were, you know they would.” Hell, Cassandra would take that offer in a second. Getting out of this world and into one that made more sense - or at least had land to stand on? That would be high on the priority list.

Pursing her lips, Elisabeth actually says, "It's definitely okay to be mad they're not here. Maybe not mad so much at them but at the situation. But sometimes it's hard to separate those things." She presses a kiss to the little girl's hair, acknowledging the rage that the child must be feeling — she's out of control of her whole life, which is in and of itself out of control. She whispers to her daughter, "And it's okay to be mad at Mummy for taking you so far from home, Aura. It's okay to be mad because you didn't get a say in leaving, and it's been nothing but scary since then." Tipping her head to look down into the now-teary hazel eyes, Elisabeth tells her quietly, "Uncle Kain and Aunt Izzy actually got to choose to come, and they're mad at the situation that made them have to… and they're both sad about missing people too. Me and Cassie miss Aunt Kaylee very much. All of us have a mix of sad and mad over all of this, baby. And it's okay to feel all those feelings. And Mummy'll understand if you need to yell, okay? Even if it's yelling at me for being mean and taking you far from home."

It's so damn hard to deal with all this even as an adult, she's got to give this child a release valve, or all of it's going to fester.

Aurora buries her eyes into her knees, nodding just a little bit but saying nothing else.

“Mummy loves you very much, Aurora, and I love you more than you’ll ever know.” Words really can’t express how much both of these women love this little girl. “Nothing you ever say or do will change that. And, you know, people say your mommy is very smart, and works very hard. And they’re right. She works just as hard as I do. And do you know what?” She pauses for Aurora to look up at back at her and Elisabeth. “We’re all going to find a way out of here. Promise.” They dream of a place with trees and grass and a place to run and jump and play hide and seek. “A safe place with a room of your very own and food on the table, with people all around you that love you very much. Right now, Aurora, you’re what keeps Mummy and me going. Did you know that? Seeing you smile is all I need to get through a day.”

Aurora looks up and then nods just a little before burrowing into her mother where she can hide her face. Her tiny body is shaking with the sobs she hasn't wanted anyone to see. She's way more like her mother than Elisabeth might like in that regard. "Oh, sweetheart," Elisabeth breathes softly, gathering the petite little girl right up into her chest the same way she has done her whole life and curling her own body around her. It hadn't been her intent really, to break through that wall with the child. But now that it's happening, she can't be sorry either. Slanting Cassandra a glance, she jerks her chin slightly in gratitude — because the younger woman's words helped.

It's a long time that the child sobs there, and Elisabeth sheds more than a few tears in that corner as well. When Aurora has finally literally exhausted herself and collapsed in a boneless heap on her mother, sleeping the sleep of purged emotions, the blonde finally is able to relax just a little. She doesn't get up, simply stroking the little girl's hair. "I might just sleep right here," she admits, unwilling to wake Aurora by moving. Not that she thinks the child will wake.

“That’s perfectly fine.” Cassandra settles against the pair, cuddling close. “I wasn’t planning to kick you out of here anyway.”

There’s something comforting about cuddling up in a family group - something that isn’t done often, but when it is, it’s surprisingly soothing for all involved. “You said the right things.” she murmurs softly, stroking her fingers through Aurora’s hair. “You gave her what she needed. She’s a strong little girl, but you gave her permission to be vulnerable…and that will make her stronger in the end.”

"I hope so," Elisabeth murmurs tiredly. "Leaving Arthur's world… your world. It was a hard decision." She turns her head sideways on the wall to look at Cassandra. "Harder than I really thought it would be. I just… they would have never stopped looking for us. Living on the run there was no better an option than trying to get home, I figured." She continues to rub her baby's back — it's as much to soothe herself as anything. "I keep hoping to find the right words to help Isabelle and Kain… but I just don't have them. I don't have them to help myself either."

She grimaces faintly. "I need Aurora to be okay when we get there. Whatever we find… it isn't the world I left. And as much as I love her father… I don't know what to expect out of that when we get there. But this one thing holds true — he will love her to the depths of his soul. And I need to find the right words so she can let him in. And not be mad because he wasn't there before." The weight of it is terrible.

“I know it was,” Cassandra says simply, settling in against the other woman, their bodies forming a semi-triangle over the dozing Aurora. “At the end of it all, I watched as it all came down from Colorado in the bottom of that research lab for Looking Glass. The government crashing down because of it all, and then…They…whoever they were…sending people to kill us all, to keep the information on what we were doing from getting out. We had the choice taken from us. You, Aurora, and I were just more loose threads that needed to be tied off and snipped.”

Cassandra goes silent in thought, blowing out a breath through her nose in a chuckle. “God…remember the movie Elf? That one with the guy…Bill Ferrill, I think he was called, who was one of Santa’s elves running around New York City? Well…the start of the story had him finding out that he was an orphan. That his father had met a woman who he loved very much but they were separated and he never knew she had a baby. He couldn’t have known until they showed up on his doorstep a few days before christmas. That….that might be a good start?” She sighs. “I’m not very good at this either…barely holding it together myself, but I’m doing it, because of her. Because of all of us. For that goal at the end.”

Blowing out a slow breath, she smiles a little. "She knows that her father knows about her and wants her," Elisabeth says quietly. "I was able to get a message back to him… it's a long story," she adds when she catches the querying look. "Did you worry I was setting her up for disappointment?" She wouldn't do that to the child. "I just … couldn't tell you at the time what was happening, why her father couldn't ever travel to see her. You didn't know about the other worlds yet."

Leaning her head back again and looking at the ceiling, Elisabeth says softly, "Somewhere in that mess of the lab you were in… they got it working. And somewhere in the Wasteland, they're working on the same thing. Aurora's grandmother is the original architect of that machine. Our only way out of this world is to find her, if Edward Fucking Ray is to be believed. So we're going to fucking find her. And we're going to figure out how the hell to get home before anyone else from anywhere else manages to find a way through."

She must be silencing a small bubble around Aura's head — she's a lot more careful with her language when the kids are listening. Even when they're just nearby and sleeping.

Cassandra nods, looking up at the stained ceiling above, listening to the sound of the waves outside their window. In another world, it would be a peaceful evening, but here it’s just background noise that quickly blends into the silence surrounding them all. “I know you couldn’t tell me. I mean…different dimensions? Who’d believe you. And that mess of a lab…it was me.” She says this quietly, looking down at the floor, sounding guilty. “It was all me. They brought me things and I used my ability and I got them the information they needed. I was the one who found the puzzle pieces they needed to rebuild it all.” That’s her cross to bear, it seems. The mention of someone else trying to break through in the hell they just escaped from, though, is a revelation, but not an unexpected one.

“What do they think they’ll find? An escape from that chaos? It was insanely expensive to even start the system up in our world…I mean, we had a nuclear power plant specifically set up to power the systems, and the capacitors couldn't hold the load for more than a few minutes even at full charge, and it required me wearing a suit that barely survived the transit to get there. It’s going to be like throwing people into a black hole.” She frowns, her mouth set in a hard line. “It’ll be a senseless sacrifice, throwing all those people in there to test. And that’s assuming coordinates, figuring out what line to even go to. What if they…go home, to my world? Or yours? Oh God, Elisabeth, why are they even doing it?”

"Because some people just can't stop trying to destroy what they don't understand or trying to gain more power," Elisabeth replies wearily. It was why she'd taken the drastic step of leaving her daughter for weeks in the Wasteland to under the Dome — because things couldn't be left as they were. "I was … thankful, I guess, in some ways… when we got to the Wasteland and found out that the version of Aurora's father who lived there hadn't become what he was on the path to turn into. That he'd died trying to make it right." A soft huff of a laugh that sounds almost bitter erupts from her. "So many timelines now… and so many different ways that it's gone between us. None of them good." She strokes Aurora's back. "I look at Mateo and Lynette… and Kaylee and Luther. I envy them," she confesses softly. "And I'm … afraid of what I'm going to find when I get home."

“You’re going to find an end to this journey and the beginning of another one. Same as all of us, really. The unknown is, by default, unknown. The Unknown pulls us towards new life experiences, new knowledge, new human relationships – a renewed and revitalized life. It’s stepping through a doorway into a new and brighter world, and bringing your daughter to the place that she really belongs.” Not that Cassandra herself belongs there, but the choices were limited for survival in her original timeline, so she took the only course she could.

Cassandra rests a hand on top of Liz’s on Aurora’s back, patting it lightly. “I’m not experienced with love - hell, I’ve never really even had a steady boyfriend in my day. Too busy. One thing I do know is that worrying isn’t going to do much good. He has to know something happened. He has to know that the way you arrived in my world wasn’t by choice. You didn’t deliberately leave him.” She squeezes Liz’s hand. “This is not your fault at all, Liz. None of this is. When you get back, the simplest thing is to just begin again. Share your story and just begin.”

Nodding slowly, the blonde turns her hand under Cassandra's and holds the younger woman's tightly, lacing their fingers together. She closes her eyes there against the wall and just holds together what small part of their little family is here in this moment. "It's not my fault," she agrees softly. "But it's my responsibility." And whatever Elisabeth finds at home… it's still home. She's got to find a place for her family — all of them, Cassandra, Lynette and Mateo, Ling, Kain, even the Wasteland kids now that they're here — all of them… to be safe.

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