Our Lives Are Stranger Than Fiction


elisabeth3_icon2.gif magnes_icon2.gif

Scene Title Our Lives Are Stranger Than Fiction
Synopsis If we ever tried to sell the story, no one would buy it.
Date December 2, 2014

Ygraine and Elisabeth's Flat

It's evening when Magnes arrives at Elisabeth's, roughly a week after she learned he was alive. He wears a purple t-shirt with some blue jeans and black boots, and shows up with a small flat bread pizza with multiple cheeses and herbs.

He sits the pizza on the table and takes a seat on the couch, taking a deep breath. "I saw my mother. I stayed with her for a week. I'm… so completely confused. My father has completely fucked our lives…"

When he comes into the apartment, Elisabeth has just gotten Aurora to sleep and she smiles when he arrives. Carrying a glass of wine for herself, she brings his drink of choice to him before lowering herself to sit next to him on the couch. She looks tired in ways he hasn't seen in a while — the subtle lines of stress that disappeared over the past couple of years are carving new grooves into her forehead. "Honestly, Magnes… your father, from all that you've ever said, is a prick of the highest order," she replies quietly. "Did you expect that to be different here? What happened out in California?"

"It's not that I expected it to be different, it's more that I didn't truly understand the extent to which my family is screwed… I think my mother died in an explosion at Columbia, she said she was listening to Helena speak. She said she miraculously survived, but… she has a mark, behind her ear, the clone mark that I have. I think my father brought her back…" Magnes is frowning, reaching for his drink.

"Her memory is all screwed. She remembers at least three different versions of me. I don't know if it was like that when she wasn't a clone or what. I have no way of knowing anything, really. Even when I get back home, I don't know if I'll ever have answers… there's so much." He starts to drink, the distress in his tone quite clear.

Looking over at her, he just seems a bit lost. "My sister, Felicia Varlane, is from an affair. My mother doesn't like her. My father tried to keep it a secret, he apparently brought her over as a child and pretended she was a friend's kid, when she was sick. And, my other sister, the unknown one… that's Clara Francis. I've never spoken to her, but I remember her from that mission. She changed her last name because she hates my father."

There is so much to unpack in all that. Elisabeth has actually met both of Magnes's sisters… which is something of a surprise. She's quiet a long moment, considering what she remembers. "Felicia Varlane was part of the FRONTLINE squad… good soldier. I only met her once, I think," she comments quietly. But she sighs heavily and shoves her hand into her hair as she considers the other information.

"I'm sorry about your mother, Magnes… I'm not even sure what to say to that information," she admits softly. "The Columbia explosion was…" She just shakes her head. God.

"Clara, however…" That requires a long swallow of her wine. "She was working with Kershner in our world. I have to admit that it makes me wonder what the fuck the Tarot Card Cadre are doing in his world… and what exactly the Shark has your sister doing, Magnes." Liz purses her lips thoughtfully. It's an angle she hasn't pursued in this world… and isn't certain they should pursue, given the givens…. but then again, at least one member of that group is moving quietly in the water against Pinehearst, or they wouldn't have passed intel to Felix. It bears consideration.

Glancing at him, Elisabeth says softly, "is your mother being cared for properly?" Because that part seems the more important but for Magnes right now.

"Yeah, Thalia is there, and I left this world's Isabelle there. I plan to finally make contact with my alternate, because I need him to work to get Isabelle's life back on track, and I need him to be there for our mother." Magnes reaches to lift a slice of pizza after sitting the drink down.

He takes a bite, something still obviously weighing on his mind. "I learned that I still have memories of my past selves. Being with my mother, in that house, I suddenly remembered Clara arguing with my father. I think there's a chance that I have repressed memories of my original self, and maybe of the alpha clone. I have trouble telling the difference, it's all so… confusing. Years ago, Kaylee once said my brain is like swiss cheese. I thought she meant because I've been wiped a few times, but…"

Both eyebrows shoot upward as Elisabeth takes in that bit of intel. "Well… " She shakes her head. "I'm starting to think that nothing in any of our lives is what it seems," she admits. "You're some kind of clone, me and more than a dozen other people were caught in the dimensional rift in '82, and I swear to God I sometimes think that we're living in a science fiction novel." She grimaces. "People with powers, entities in the in-between of dimensions, and lost in space somewhere… it's gotta be a bad plot." Her tone is one of mild disgust.

When she finally looks at him, Elisabeth simply shakes her head. "So… I should probably mention at this point that I have someone on the inside at Looking Glass. I just… don't know if that will ever be of use to us going forward. And while you're meeting your alternate self to make sure your mother and this world's Izzy and Thalia are taken care of, I'm going to do my best to help make sure the other Elisabeth's son is safe." She sighs. "And figure out how the hell to convince Ruiz to try these portals again in 2017."

"It feels like things will never be okay… hell, it feels like things were never okay to begin with, we just had ignorance on our side." Magnes sits his pizza down on his thigh, and stares down at his hands. "I keep asking myself, what does it mean for me to be alive? What does something like biological family even mean to someone in my position? I just… I wish there was some answer out there, something someone could tell me. My entire family has been through hell because of my father…"

Liz is quiet for a time and the sets her glass down to look at him intently. "Family — blood or not — is what you make it, Magnes. For most people, blood is where their family begins, and the bonds that hold them together deepen with closeness and connection. But not all… Look at Isabelle. You are her family. Richard is her family. It had nothing to do with blood. I love my father with everything that's in me … but not because he's my blood. Because he loves me the same way." She grins just a little. "You've become my family, too … even when some days I still wanna smack you on the head. Biological family has its place… we all want to know where we came from." There's a roll of her eyes and she points out, "People's fascination with genealogy will back that idea up. But the thing is… even that isn't as much about blood as it is looking for the connections that come with it. Family is here." She points to his chest. "Don't let anyone make you think otherwise.

"And as for your father…" She sighs. "Maybe just keep working with the therapist on that one. Maybe, like Edward Ray, he really is just doing the best he can in a really shitty way cuz he's just that emotionally stupid. Or… just that sure that whatever it is he's trying to save you from is worth any cost. I can't even begin to understand why some parents make the choices they do," she observes. "I can only point out… now that we have Aurora and Addie? I have just the tiniest bit more sympathy for the crazy bastards."

She slants him a look. "Not a lot, mind you. Just … the impulse to do anything in your power to protect your child… how far would you go? How far would I go?" Even now, she's not sure she knows the answer.

"Okay… is such a subjective term, Magnes," Liz says quietly. "Somewhere, we're going to have to define what being okay looks like. Honestly? If finally started feeling like things were … okay enough living here. Until all this. Getting home seemed more and more like a pipe dream. Until the other traveler showed up. And she was starting to think she wasn't going to make it back either. But now she's gone just as suddenly as she arrived… and they know back home that we're here." She looks at him. "So… giving up isn't an option. It's just… a really long game. We aren't getting home before 2017. That's the first chance we'll have. So… we have to find ways to be okay."

Far easier said than done, she's well aware. "We have each other. We're all family. As long as we hold onto it… Okay is what we make it."

"I feel like I have so much work to do, but you're right, I do have a family, here and back home. Though I guess people are going to find it strange that we've become close like we are now." Magnes starts to eat his slice of pizza again, trying to calm his mind a bit. "Back home, we lived completely separate lives. You didn't even really know my friends, I'm not sure that you've ever met the Elaine I was originally dating. I still think one of the most surreal things that ever happened to me was my daughter from the future secretly joining our band."

It makes Elisabeth chuckle. "I'm not even sure I can decide which of the surreal things that have happened to be gets top prize," she confesses, finally helping herself to a piece of the pizza if only to keep her hands busy. "My son from the future coming back to try to kill his father because of what happened to his mother was definitely strange… but it's not the strangest thing I've seen this week, I don't think. There's always the standby — I jumped into a black hole to try to save my friends and ow I'm dimension-hopping trying to get back? I mean…"

Shaking her head, she can't help a grin. "Christ … what does that say about my fucked up life, I wonder?"

"I'm at a weird point where I'm not entirely sure when my family actually started, because of all the cloning. It seemed straightforward until I met my mother. There's definitely something deeper going on. My mother's memories, the way that she remembers every version of me as one person… it really raises a lot of questions." Magnes is silent for a moment, holding up one of his hands. "I just realized that I'm literally a scientific breakthrough. I remember how those people who kept getting cloned would degenerate eventually. I think I'm the only living clone who doesn't degenerate."

"Assuming that there's not some weird deeper twist about my existence." He laughs, looking over at Elisabeth. "Sometimes I look at Elaine, and think, 'I deserve this hot leggy redhead slash adorable bookworm'."

That brings a snort of laughter out of Elisabeth despite the fact that she has a mouthful and she puts her pizza down to grab a napkin and laugh into it. It's a full-on belly laugh that takes nearly a minute to die down. "Sorry!" The gasp comes mid-laugh. When she can finally speak, she tells him, "Magnes … I love the way you look at things sometimes. You have such faith that something better is coming your way. And that there's an order to the universe that means eventually the craptastic stuff is balanced out."

She lets out a sigh with a smile. "I've always had faith… in the idea that wherever we are, we're there for a reason. That we're always exactly where we're supposed to be." Liz pauses and then rather wryly admits, "Richard once told me doing what we do would cure me of being an optimist — like it's a disease or something. But it always makes me laugh when I remember because… even all this hasn't cured it. I still think we'll someday go home. We're enduring all this bullshit but someday we'll actually … I don't even know, get a reward at the end of it? But part of me still thinks I'm fooling myself. So it's nice that on the occasions when my faith wavers, I can lean on yours. We deserve good things. Elaine and Addie. Aurora." She shrugs slightly. "Every time I look at Addie and Aura? I count my lucky stars — and yours too."

"I never really imagined myself being a dad. I mean, I was less mature than my own future daughter, though she's very similar to me in a lot of ways. I'm also, uh, starting to realize that Addie isn't Adel, considering that she has red hair. I guess these things don't work like they do in the movies." Magnes starts to chew on his crust a bit, thinking. "I keep thinking, since I became a dad, how badly I want to get home to Adel and hug her. It's as if I can finally see her through dad eyes, and the idea that I'm not there for her drives me crazy. I know that she's almost my age, but… I just need to be there for her. I need to show her what I'm really like as a dad, because she never truly got to see that in her time."

Tilting her head, Elisabeth nods at that thought. "She seemed to like you well enough just the way you were, Magnes… And even when we get back, it's not like you can be the parent to her that you'll be to Addie. She's an adult," she points out quietly. "Just like I can't be Joshua's mother… not really. I am but I'm not. And I don't think he wanted that from me…" The future kids are something she hasn't really talked a lot about to anyone. "I only got to meet him once. I hope…. whatever he's doing in our time he finds a way to be happy. And I'll be there if he wants some kind of relationship, but… I think maybe he finds it just as strange to try to get to know his mom as a person."

She toys with her pizza and then reaches for her wine glass. "Felix and his spouse have custody of Liz's son Cameron here. He's just … like five months older than Addie and Aura. I can't even sort out how I feel about him right now through all the guilt I have over Liz's murder." Elisabeth grimaces and takes a drink. "Felix has commented that he may send the boy with us… I'm not really sure how to deal with that either. The emotions around alternate universe kids are so fucking complicated."

"I think it's because we don't really have a cultural framework for alternate universes in general. We don't really know what anything means, we're pretty much the first people in history who have to think about these things. Me and you more than most people. We're in a situation that no one in the history of mankind has had to deal with." Magnes shrugs, finishing his crust. "I think we get a pass on finding that slightly overwhelming."

He finally gets back to his drink as well, lifting his knee up onto the couch. "Adel likes me being her dad, she even calls me dad. But I don't think she expects dad things from me, she just… I don't know, I think she sees me as a father, because she can see herself in me. Seeing how she is as an adult, even though I didn't raise her, it gave me a lot of ideas about nature versus nurture."

"At the end of the day…" He thoughtfully stares down at his drink. "We're the same, but different. I'm Magnes, just like the one here is Magnes. Every Donna is my mother, my honest and genuine mother, but it also doesn't make the loss of any one of them less important or severe. We have to accept very contradictory and strange things about reality to avoid going insane."

Taking a sip, he reassuringly smiles at her. "Cameron was this Elisabeth's son, and her being gone is significant, it matters. But he's also your son. Ultimately, in our position, it's up to us to decide what that means and what we want it to mean, because we're the ones who have to decide what those rules are, we're the ones who are creating this cultural framework that didn't previously exist for the human race. Hell, as I've said a few times in the past, I'm the first man in history who has to explain to his ex why I got her pregnant in another universe."

Leaning back in the sofa cushions, Elisabeth has to ponder that thought for a long moment. She huffs out a quiet laugh. "You know…. Cameron's father was one of the people who traveled to this future in 2019. He met the boy, and found out that he himself died before the baby was born. He was one of the Columbia 14. When he came back to our time… he had this attachment to a kid that I hadn't given birth to yet, and I didn't really understand it." Her lips quirk slightly. "It's actually why I understood Richard's need to make the clear distinction between Joshua's father and himself. I needed to do the same thing here… But it does get hellaciously muddy sometimes. I felt the pull to Joshua when we met… I wanted to soothe his awkwardness and make him smile. I don't…"

She pauses and bites her lip. "I don't want to take this baby from the only father he's ever known. He's not my baby. But he is, and I wonder if I should let Felix send him with us. I don't know this child and I didn't birth him. But he is literally my child… I can't even begin to wrap my head around what the right thing to do here is. Making up the cultural rules for dealing with this is way beyond my pay grade." She grins.

"I think it would be different if he were older, but at this age… I can see why Felix wants you to take him. If I was in that situation, I think I'd take him. He'd grow up only really knowing you, and you are his mother. He'd never really have to wonder about what you'd be like or anything like that." Magnes sits his drink down, giving her a very serious look. "When Adel explained that she never knew me, it hit me really hard, I felt like I wish I could have done anything to be there for her. You have that chance. This Elisabeth is gone, but you still have the chance to give him that, to give him the mother he'll always wonder about."

He smiles to himself now, staring down. "Adel loves me so much, she's so happy just to be with me. She's never once questioned timelines or anything like that, she's just happy to have her dad."

It's not an angle she's really been able to think about, though now that he's laid it out that way… Magnes's perspective gives her some serious food for thought. "And what if we leave here and don't go home? What if the next landing place is as bad as Virus or something?" Her tone is quiet but thoughtful as she works her way through her own thoughts on it.

She points out in a pensive tone, "Christ, even if it is home, they're dealing with a second American civil war. I already feel guilty as shit dragging Aura through all this — how do I justify taking that little boy from his father and Liz's father, who are living here in a world that's definitely not perfect but at least seems mostly safe for him? It's not flooded or dealing with a plague or exploded like the future Adel and Josh came from. This Liz made Felix his guardian for a reason. And we could be dragging Addie and Aura into a war zone or worse, you know?"

Elisabeth shakes her head. "No… I hate that this boy will grow up without her. And it tears at my guts to wonder the what-if… but I don't think I'm going to chance risking his life unless Felix absolutely demands it," she says quietly. "Even when Pinehearst falls, Magnes, the whole world doesn't rest on the welfare of Pinehearst. This is by far one of the best superstrings, and he was born here. This is his home. Felix is his father and I don't know even if she'd known we were here that she'd have wanted this. Were it someone else telling me the story you and I have lived… I wouldn't want Aurora taken on this mad ride."

"No, you're right, if she left the baby to specific people, then it makes sense to respect her wishes. I'm not religious, at least not since I stopped trying to date Abby, but I don't think we could go wrong by occasionally trying to respect the natural order of things as a rule." Magnes then considers their world, looking concerned. "I kind of wonder how many of our friends are still alive, after a war…"

"I don't think she had good answers for that question," Elisabeth admits. "I gather communications are very limited… the infrastructure at home has been badly damaged. But… they're rebuilding. We just have to focus on getting home."

"At least with my ability, I could help with efforts to rebuild things. But you know…" Magnes grabs another slice of pizza, staring at it. "It wasn't until this trip that I truly realized how much of an impact one or two people can have. I mean, I've done things in my world that impacted everything, one fight I had changed pretty much all of Japan's legislation on people like us. But going to these worlds… we can really see how much impact our actions can have, and I think that can show us what a difference we can make in our world."

"Yes… I remember the Japan debacle," Elisabeth replies drily. "You were very very lucky that you weren't black-holed for that escapade. It made a huge impact — a very very bad one." She shakes her head. "But you're not wrong. One person makes a difference. And it doesn't have to be a global difference, Magnes. Some of the things that we've seen here… the difference between what happened here and what happened in our world weren't huge. They weren't even important… except to the person it happened to. But it had a ripple effect on other people around that person, which rippled to people that first person didn't even know because it changed something small about the way the person in the middle acted."

She smiles just a little. "That's what I tried to tell you years ago… it's just taken you this long to understand what I mean. To see the reality of the Butterfly Effect." But better late than never. "Big change can come from the smallest decisions."

"I've had to think about my life and my actions a lot more since having a baby, and being with Elaine. Elaine is a very strong woman, but she's different from the Elaine in our world. One major difference is that she doesn't have an army of super powered lesbians protecting her at all times. I can't just fuck off and do whatever I want, I genuinely have to think about her." Magnes raises his pizza to his mouth, frowning. "I should have always been thoughtful of the people I dated, but I lacked the self-awareness to realize that I wasn't thoughtful to begin with. And having a baby really changed everything…"

Elisabeth chokes on the sip of wine she just took, coughing as it goes down the wrong pipe and gasping with laughter. She fumbles to set the glass down before she breaks it. Holy shit, that was not something she ever thought to hear! To say she is flabbergasted is perhaps a little bit of an understatement and it takes her nearly a full minute to stop coughing because she can't stop laughing in between. Wiping tears from her face, she pulls in a couple of ragged breaths and says, "Jesus, Magnes. You can't say shit like that when someone's drinking! An army of superpowered lesbians." She giggles again. "Oh God."

Blowing out a breath, she grins at him. "You've definitely done a good bit of growing up since she came along," Liz agrees, reaching out to ruffle him. "Nobody's perfect when it comes to being thoughtful of others, you can't expect that. But you've definitely come a really long way." She never thought she'd be able to say that to him — hell, she never thought she'd have reason to do much beyond smack the bejeezus out of him. But the sincerity in her tone is real. She's rather proud of him.

"My life was pretty crazy back home, you know. I was the only male in our band." Magnes smiles, starting to stand. "I'm gonna go take care of Elaine a bit, she deserves some time. And I've missed Addie."

He looks over at her, adding, "Feel free to stop by if you need to. Thanks for being here, I'm hoping that things start to get better."

Elisabeth wraps her arm around his shoulders and just squeezes tightly. "From your lips to God's ears, Magnes," she sighs quietly.

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