Pandora's Box


bf_cassandra_icon.gif elisabeth3_icon2.gif bf-felix_icon.gif

Scene Title Pandora's Box
Synopsis Those memories you wish you didn't have? Sometimes there are other ways to keep them safe.
Date November 11, 2014

Elisabeth and Ygraine's Flat

It’s a bit late for Cassandra to be up. Generally at this time of night she’s already back home or, in the event that Elisabeth is out doing a gig, settling down with Rory in her crib to read for a little while before falling asleep in the overstuffed recliner that was used more for cuddling the baby and sleeping than actual sitting.

Tonight, however, is a different kind of night.

Somehow she made it from Brooklyn to Queens without too much trouble, taking a subway and a surface bus to make it to Elisabeth’s apartment in record time, despite the cold rain that normally brings traffic to a standstill. The first hint that someone might be coming in is the rattling of keys in the lock - three of them - before the door is pushed open and Cassandra slips inside. Soaked from the rain, she pushes the door closed, locks it, and leans with her back against it, her eyes closed, trying to contextualize exactly what she’s going to say.

Elisabeth is here - she knows that much. But anything past that? Well…that’s to be discovered, isn’t it?

Oh, she's home. Felix texted her from the other apartment, warning her that Cassandra had been on the scene. That it was brutal. And he's not sure where she'll go, but he hopes to Liz. His hopes are realized when the keys rattle in the locks. Elisabeth isolates the living room sound-wise from the rest of the apartment — Cassandra might need some shouting space. She's sitting curled into one of the chairs in the living room, a mug of tea in her hands and a couple others sitting on the coffee table.

"There's a towel on the back of the couch. Come in and warm up," Elisabeth invites her softly. Her blue eyes are genuinely both sad and worried. What Cassandra saw tonight was the worst of the worst, and Liz isn't sure how the younger woman will react. Especially considering all that she's kept from Cassie until now.

Elisabeth’s voice causes Cassie’s eyes to snap open, laser-focused on the other woman. It’s not rage there, but fear. Genuine fear, that Elisabeth has never seen on the other woman’s face but has certainly seen a time or two before. She shrugs out of her jacket, leaving it and her backpack in a pile by the door - something completely unlike Cassie to do, but then, this is an extraordinary circumstance, walking numbly to the couch, taking the towel, and wrapping it around her shoulders before sinking into the familiar-smelling seat.

Her eyes never leave Elisabeth. Not for a second.

Her mouth opens to speak, closes again, and then stays closed for several minutes, the woman observing, thinking, and watching. The towel is used to dry her hair, messing it up a little, getting the rain out of it as best she can. A shower will be required at some point. When she finally speaks it’s a simple statement followed by a simple question, but those are often the hardest to answer.

“Felix called me to help, and I saw you die, Elisabeth.” her voice is barely a whisper, easily heard in the quiet of the apartment. “I saw you, your head cut open by a monster that turned to smoke. Who are you?”

Blowing out a slow breath, Elisabeth never lets her gaze fall from Cassandra's. "I'm the same woman you met when you first came to New York," she replies evenly. "My name … at least here in this place and time is Elizabeth Cranston. But in the world that I came from, I had another name and a different life. Nothing's changed, Cassandra. You just… know more about my past than you did before. And I'm not exactly from where you thought I was. Does it change who I am?" She gestures around them. "You live in a world of people who have powers. Time travel… or even alternate timelines… can't be that far outside the realm of what you think could be possible. You just weren't expecting to get slapped in the face with it." Her voice stays calm, soothing, much as she would talk to anyone near the edge of hysteria… and for the first time in their acquaintance, she's actually using her ability very subtly on Cassandra to help her calm down some.

It’s a lot to process.

That’s putting it lightly, of course.

Discovering that there are such things as alternate timelines and time travel, that they’re not just theoretical things discussed at high-level conferences or in philosophy circles, is a bit jarring to Cassie’s entire world view. The things that she accepted as fact or, at least, things that she couldn’t know the answer to now had an answer. “You can see how it’s…difficult…to accept that as the truth, even with the evidence sitting right here in front of me. You may be the same woman I met all those months ago, and spent so much time with, but you’re not the woman you told me you were. Felix explained a little in the middle of the crime scene but…” She wipes her eyes with the towel. “I had to come and ask you for myself.”

“So you’re from a different…what? Timeline? Dimension? God, it sounds insane just /saying/ it….” she sighs, trailing off, leaning her head back to stare at the ceiling. “Why did you come here, then? Was it an experiment or something that went wrong, or did a mad scientist throw you into a black hole, or did you have to put the thing inside the other thing to activate the ancient totem that blasted you here? Did you have to escape or did you come here willingly, and if you escaped, was the world you came from really that bad?”

Elisabeth looks… not offended, but perhaps a little… annoyed. "I'm exactly the same person today as I was yesterday, Cassandra, and I never lied to you. I told you who I was, I just left out parts of my life that weren't current or relevant to the life I'm living here. I was a cop, I quit to become a teacher. The school I taught at was attacked by the same people who attempted to set that virus loose here in your world a few years ago. I went to college exactly as I told you, you know more about my life than almost anyone in this place. I just didn't elaborate on what happened after that explosion, except to say I stopped teaching."

She sighs and sets her mug on her leg, both hands cradling it. "You're closer than you realize," she admits with a rueful smile. "After the school was blown up, I went back to the police force, just like Liz here did. I also trained further and did other things, like joining Frontline. Even running it for a time. There was a man trying to develop a machine that could send messages through time, and it… wasn't a situation that could be allowed to continue. It's not the first time it's been developed — the first iteration of the machine was actually built in the early 1980s. And just like in that situation, the machine the guy in my world was building went sideways. It hurtled me and Magnes into a different world… not this one. This one is actually the second world I've landed in during our attempts to get home."

There’s Special Agent Ivanov coming in, meek as a mouse. He hasn’t exactly screwed things up, by his lights, but he’s sure dropped a grenade in Cass’s suitcase, metaphorically speaking. He’s got his glasses in one hand, another hankie in the other. Lee must buy him the damn things by the gross, he’s always got multiples on him.

“Ladies,” he says, gently, as he settles his glasses back on his nose. This one, unlike Liz’s original, has never had the vision surgery to mitigate the need for them.

Cassie looks over as the door opens, her discarded backpack and jacket being pushed aside, requiring Felix to step over them before stepping on them. She returns her attention back to Elisabeth with a soft sound, drawing her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms tightly around them, her eyes peering just above the curve of her knees at the other woman. “We all have secrets.” Cassie says finally, turning her head to look at Felix. “I just didn’t think yours was coming from a different universe entirely. I thought it’d be ‘secretly republican’ or ‘enjoys watching 80’s action films,’ not that.” She’s joking, so she’s either being defensive with humor or coming to terms with it.

Probably a little of both.

Glancing up at the door as Felix lets himself in behind Cassandra, she shoots him a sorrowful look. What they both just witnessed cannot possibly be easy. And for Felix to come here and have to look at her face again right after witnessing the carnage of his lover's life, it guts her. She climbs to her feet and wraps her arms around the man tightly for a long, long moment, and then gestures him to the table where a hot mug of tea awaits him too. Then she moves to sit next to Cassandra and offer the only real comfort she can — the quiet kind. "I'm sorry," she tells the younger woman, putting a hand on her arm. "The more people who knew, the more danger we are in, Cassie. I'm not the only one who was thrown here… and there are people who would very much like to know who we all are." She sighs heavily. "Including your boss at Pinehearst."

Glancing at Felix, Elisabeth admits something that she hasn't told him. "Petrelli has known who some of us are for a while now. We've just been doing our best to protect the others and keep their identities quiet." She hesitates and adds something he's going to not like. A LOT of not-like. "Last year, we came into possession of some very specific information related to us going home. Petrelli sent someone to confront one of them about the research into trying to get home. We've been… skating on thin ice. He's been working there since last year."

He folds Liz into his arms, gratefully, for a long moment, resting his head on her shoulder. His eyes are still red-rimmed, though he seems composed enough, really. Then he breaks it, to go retrieve the tea.

Fel’s got that grim poker face on. But he only nods. “Time’s running.” And he’s determined to get this Liz out of here before it all goes straight to hell, as it seems it inevitably will. At that comment about the very specific info, he lofts his brows, inquiringly. Also one of those expressions common to both iterations she’s known - how many time did he give suspects that look?

The touch on Cassandra’s arm has the younger woman leaning against Elisabeth, her eyes closing. “When I saw you…her…getting killed, I thought that it was all a bad dream. That all of this was just something I made up, or forgot and was just discovering.” She sniffles, giving Liz a brief hug before taking up her mug of tea, taking a sip.

She looks to Felix as he comes closer, then back to Elisabeth, cradling the cup in both hands, warming them through. The mention of her boss - everyone’s boss, really - at Pinehearst gets a straightening of her spine, followed by a blink. “Felix mentioned that me knowing this would be dangerous, but I can’t just leave. I mean…they’ve already said I’m very valuable to their research and have plans for information they want me to help find. They’ll ask questions.”

Liz shoots him back the same look his Liz always gave him when he dared look at her with Suspect Face — eyebrow up in return. Oh no, you di'int! And then she sighs slightly and rolls her eyes. He gets instead the will tell you later expression. For now, she wraps her arm tightly around Cassandra's shoulders and draws the young woman to her for a bracing hug. When she seems stable enough to get her tea, Liz gets up and starts pacing. For Cassandra, this is the first time she's ever experienced the low-level hum of agitation from the audiokinetic. Felix has perhaps only seen it once, maybe twice, in the years she's been here — and it gives away more clearly than words how very tightly wound up she is. The power buzzes along nerve endings in the same way sound rolls off the speakers at a concert, but it's below hearing level. Just a ruffling of loose hair and such in her distress.

"As loathe as I am to say this," Elisabeth tells them both quietly, "I think she may be right, Felix. If she does a runner, they're going to want to know why. And it's not beyond them to bring in a telepath to find out. Plus, and God forgive me for saying this… if they believe that her ability is useful to them for this research… I need her to stay put." She winces, knowing how that sounds. She looks toward the other woman. "Cassie… staying there could also be a huge risk for you." God. "If the person I believed to be behind all this is actually the culprit… you're going to literally be in the lion's den. However, if what they're doing is hoping to bring you in to reverse engineer Michelle's research… you may be the only actual hope we have of getting to it. And it's important."

Knee-jerk reaction is to recoil from that option. The idea of leaving Cassie dangling in the wind, within the Pinehearst fold, is loathsome. But Fel didn’t get to be who and what he is by always yielding to that reaction. He doesn’t snap at Liz or immediately dismiss the idea.

Instead, he doctors his tea with yet more sugar, and purses his lips in that way that makes him look more than ever like an accountant who’s wandered into the wrong building entirely. Like he’s about to tell her that someone’s been cooking the books. Then, after a sip, “…..I think you’re right, Liz. She might well be safest in plain sight. If they have no reason to suspect that she’s in any way related to this, why would they look her way?”

Then a dip of his head in acknowledgement, his shoulders drooping a little, as if he’d just settled a heavy burden on them. His face gets that sealed expression again. “And we do need what we can get. We have no other spies in their camp that I know of.”

The weight of the world seems to start pressing down on Cassie’s shoulders, the buzzing sound felt in her bones instead of actually heard as she watches Liz pace back and forth like a caged tiger. “There….” she starts, glancing to the other two. “There is one option that pretty much no-one knows about that I have.”

She sits up a little. “There is an aspect to my ability that I don’t tell anyone about because… well… it really only affects me. It never came up in any of the tests or questions, so I just left it out. Figured it was an aspect of my ability, which people already knew about and, besides… why would you want a postcog to be able to forget things?”

Cassie reaches into her purse, an envelope inside, sealed, grimy. Carried around for a very long time, it seems. She taps it on her knee and carefully tears open the end, letting a playing card - the three of hearts - and another, smaller envelope slip out to rest on the table. “I did this a little bit after we met, Liz, just…. just because I thought you’d find it cool. I just never thought it’d be used like this.” She glances at the folded over paper. “I’m supposed to ask you about the pizza place we ate at. At least, that’s what I wrote.” She turns the note to face Liz, showing the neat, dated text, a few days after the initial meeting before passing her the sealed envelope. ‘Ask about Pizza Place - first meeting.’ The playing card is lifted. “Open the envelope and read what is inside. I have a portion of the memory of that meeting in here. Moved from my head, to this object. Cut out, like I used a scalpel. I remember we met. We talked. We had pizza. I don’t remember what kind of pizza we had, though, or anything that was said between ordering and getting it.”

She can make herself forget, but can save the memories for later.

“It’s a way to get past the telepaths….if the memory isn’t there, they can’t see it.”

There's a frown from Elisabeth as Cassie starts talking, and then there's a moment of shock. Even as she takes the envelope and brings out the piece of paper, she's quiet. One part of her is horrified that she's even considering this… and the other part of her is a soldier. Her lips thin to a line and she lets her breath out in a slow expulsion.

Blue eyes flit to Felix — the pragmatist in him has to recognize the expression, although his Liz never wore it. It's calculating the angles, determining strategy. "Cassandra… maybe you should allow yourself to use it," she says slowly before turning her gaze to the younger woman, her tone gentle. "I wouldn't blame you. Felix just needs the sketch you can provide of the perpetrator. You don't have to keep that memory, though. You may be needed to testify or something, but if you can keep it there, then at least you won't have to keep seeing it in your nightmares." Because she fully expects that Felix will have them. Probably for a long time to come.

"I should… ask you if I can watch what you saw tonight." Her voice has an edge to it. "But… I don't think I can." She's already lived her own death once. She doesn't honestly want this nightmare memory, as selfish as that might be. "I … do think you should, after this, remove the conversation about Pinehearst, if only because it will protect not you and Felix if something happens — they don't need to know he's involved in any way."

That confession turns Fel’s expression into a mask of utter relief. “Oh, god,” he says, faintly. “That’s the most welcome secret I’ve heard in a goddamned long time. That’s wonderful. Because otherwise, I would be afraid that some telepath might trip over those memories, that thread of thought…..but if you can genuinely and safely hide or excise those thoughts, that’s great.”

He rubs at his forehead, that fending off a headache gesture. “Liz, you don’t want to see it. You genuinely don’t. I could barely stand it.” No shame in admitting weakness, that was one of the most harrowing experiences of his life.

“You really, really don't.” Cassie adds with a nod, backing up Felix’s assertion. “It was horrible.” And the way she stops that sentence with finality means that there isn't much more to say. “You don't need to see it, and Rory doesn't need a mother who's seen her own death, in a way. I don't know what it would do to your psyche - hell, Felix and I saw it and I really wish I hadn't.”

She turns to Felix. “When we finish this conversation, I'll do it. You can watch. It's remarkably like me falling asleep, which it kind of is, but…well, you'll see.” Better to get it over and done with once instead of multiple times.

Elisabeth takes their word for it, looking relieved that they don't think less of her for not wanting to witness it. "I think we should get you both … settled, in whatever ways we can." Her blue eyes flicker worriedly to Felix. "I'm sure Lee and Cameron need you." And she's sure he needs to go be with them too. "I don't honestly think there's more to consider here. Cass…" She trails off. "I'm so fucking sorry you've been handed so much."

“God, yeah,” Felix says, with immense fervor. “I am so sorry.” A nod at Liz. “Once we’re sure Cass is in the clear, I’m gonna head home,” he adds. Still wearing that air of enormous relief.

“It’s a little late to put that genie entirely back in the bottle, isn’t it? Better to have the genie forget that the cork’s been taken out at all.” Cassandra pushes herself to her feet and heads for her backpack, crouching down to rummage through one of the many, many pockets. “Let’s see…” Out comes a notecard and a pen, along with her sketchbook. The little dangling character keychain is removed too, along with her bandanna before she returns to the couch to sit.

Cassie quickly sketches Samson on the sketchpad, adding all the details that she remembers - face, expression, clothing, and style. It’s remarkably lifelike - not a still-life, but close. The page is taken out and offered to Felix. “Your job is to not remind me of this. Don’t make me curious enough to look about what’s been going on. It’s a normal murder case.” Her attention turns to Liz. “Now…I’m going to forget this conversation entirely. From when Felix had me start the vision to a little past now. Everything you told me of….all the alternate world stuff, I will have no memory of. At all. Your job is to tell me that I fell asleep on your couch studying once I was done with Felix. That what I saw was pretty bad, and I wanted to forget. It's something I would have done. Taking a memory is taxing, so falling asleep is a usual thing.. Spread out some books or something, open it to a page half-written on. And keep this. It’ll have the memory in it.” She holds up the little keychain. “Say Rory wanted it or something.”

The pen scratches quietly on the notecard as she writes. Time, date, location, as well as the subject that she excised. “Murder Investigation Memory - Keychain”

“Now then….” The notepad is set aside, Cassie making herself more comfortable on the couch. “If there’s nothing else….?” She lifts the blindfold, tying it around her eyes.

Elisabeth waits until the younger woman is set and the leans over to kiss her temple. "You astound me, kiddo," she murmurs. Then she gets up and leaves Cassandra snuggled on the couch while she does her thing, covering her with the light afghan that always resides on the couch. She moves to stand next to Felix to look at the sketch and visibly blanches, isolating the two of them so Cass doesn't hear more. "Jesus Christ… Samson Gray? What the fuck?"

Shaking her head, she looks up at him with sorrow-filled eyes. She knows what they watched happen, and she wishes that they'd never had to see it. At least Cassandra won't. She wraps her arms around Felix and holds him very tightly. When she finally releases him, it's to walk him to the door. "Go home and kiss your husband and your son. Give them both an extra snuggle for me," she tells him sadly. "I'll make sure Cass is okay. She'll stay with me overnight… it won't be the first time."

“I know,” he says, so softly. “If that’s really Gray….” He leans into the hug, unashamedly, for a long while. His son. For Cameron’s his now. It’s his responsibility to see that kid into the best future he can manage….and to stay alive to do it.

Then he’s slipping out into the hall, and taking the long, long way round to home. To make sure he’s not being followed.

The young woman gives a small smile and a nod at the blanket and the kiss. With the silence field surrounding Liz and Felix, Cassandra settles down into the crook of the couch swaddled in blankets and clears her mind. Externally nothing can be seen, but internally she's backing through the memory, pruning it from her thoughts, the keychain clasped tightly in both hands. The reddish color of the hair on the plastic figure brightens slightly, dark streaks appearing through the plastic, appearing like a manufacturer’s defect as the young woman slumps in her seat, the blindfold tight around her eyes, falling asleep. And when she finally is out, a soft snore escapes, her hands falling open the keychain there, infused with the memory she had just removed.

The perfect spy is one that doesn't even know she's spying.

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