Picking A Side


elisabeth_icon.gif graeme_icon.gif

Scene Title Picking A Side
Synopsis He already chose where to stand, he just hasn't really had to stand there yet.
Date October 17, 2011

Skinny Brickfront

Footsteps can be heard coming up the stairs. Not at a hurry, but the footfalls are heavier than usual, and Graeme doesn't call out until at least halfway up, and after that there's a muttered litany of curses— he doesn't sound hurt, just angry. Angry enough that the drawl that's all but disappeared from his voice is back. It's early afternoon, earlier than he usually manages to show up. But maybe there was early dismissal at the schools. Or something. When he enters the living area, though, he's composed if not smiling. "Heya," he offers, taking a deep breath.

Elisabeth has, for the past ten days or so, literally been ass-deep in alligators — planning for a massive hit that is going to be coming very soon now. The announcement on mandatory Eltingville moves, however, has thrown her into combat mindset. Her first priority is getting Harmony, Ricky, and Lili the hell out of this entire region as fast and as quietly as humanly possible. The upcoming raid plans have to take a back seat to that, but not by much.

Graeme's arrival coincides with other bits of information trickling in as well, and Liz turns to look back toward him. "Hey," she greets. "What're you doing out so early?"

"Hard to teach when half your class is out of school absent and probably not coming back," he murmurs. There's an edge to his voice as he takes a seat on the edge of the arm of the couch, though. And it's a hard edge, an edge that hasn't been there since the days right after he found out about his sister's affiliations. "I don't have a class after lunch and none of the students who come to free period were there today."

There's a long moment of pause, and Elisabeth sighs heavily. "I'm sorry. I should have realized," she says quietly. "All of you guys were the next people on my call list — anyone in our group who is Tier 1 or 2 … needs to decide what they want to do. I …. cannot give you orders on this, but if you want to go underground, it needs to be immediate."

There's a moment where Graeme catches his lower lip in his teeth and looks at Liz, and lifts his shoulders in a shrug. After that, though, he's silent for a long minute. "My registration card says zero," he finally puts out there, and then shakes his head. "I might have spun it a bit when I registered in the first place. And everyone's seen me get stabbed through the shoulder by the midtown man and keep on running like nothing happened." He pauses, then adds, "I don't know, but I'm sure as fuck not going willingly to what they're going to turn into Evo Auschwitz."

Elisabeth nods slightly. "I know you're listed as Tier 0. However… Aric is on the government's radar. Which puts you at a distinct possibility of getting rounded up as well. You'll need to think long and hard." She moves, leaning her hips back against the table while she crosses her arms. "The next two weeks are going to be a bitch around here. Working on this raid is eating my attention. If it were up to me, everyone would be underground as of 12 hours ago. But… the Tier 0 situation is different. If you were Tier 1, they probably would have rounded you up at the school today."

"Aric's already laying low, but I'll get him to go," he finally says. There's a tone in his words, that same edge that hasn't gone away and then for a moment, Graeme looks at Elisabeth. There's more certainty than would be if he were looking for direction. "How long do you suppose I have until they realise I lied about the extent of my ability?" he then asks. "I need twelve more hours to get things settled."

"I don't honestly know, Graeme," Elisabeth says quietly. "You've never been linked in any way to Endgame that I know of. You've never been linked to any of the Ferry or the others here. The only links you have are people like Aric and Remi. It *could* be enough that they come looking… but look at it this way: With mandatory movement, they're going to have to focus their attention on higher Tiers first in terms of sheer volume of people who must be moved. I think you have the 12 hours. You may have several days, even."

One finger lifts, and Graeme shakes his head. "The alphabet soup knew I was your friend when you went underground and spent days interrogating me about whether I knew where you were," he points out. There's a pause, and he furrows his brows. "Days. They had me in there for four days," he finally says. "It'd probably be better to play it safe and take less time rather than more."

"Fuck." Elisabeth reaches up and pinches the bridge of her nose like she has a headache. "I forgot about the more mundane parts of my life — I was sitting here thinking you were at least in the clear on that. You were linked with me before I torched everything." She sighs. "Yeah. Sooner is definitely better than later. If only because being on their list like that may make them bump you to a higher priority."

Graeme lets go of his lower lip, and nods again. "I mean, we did live in the same apartment building," he says, and there's a slight and gentle smile afforded for a brief moment. "It's okay, though," he adds. "I've been getting things ready in case I needed to go underground for months. Skimmed all of the saved interest off my parents' investments slowly enough to just look like I was moving money around. Moved most of the rest of the money to accounts out of Canada or Europe, named the tenants of my house in New Mexico on the deed. I knew it was coming, I think." The next words are more emphatic. "I should have fucking known this was coming, it's been telegraphed as plain as day if anyone pays any fucking attention and I didn't want to." The outburst isn't much more than a little bit louder than the rest of his words, and then he pauses, and then he continues.

"I knew it was coming before I came to New York, but it was nice to have a 'normal'," he makes air quotes, "life for a little bit, anyway."

Elisabeth watches him and says softly, "I'm sorry." She didn't cause this to happen to him… but she feels responsibility for the fact that he managed to get caught up in the part of the drama that is hers. "I hope… that what I'm about to go do will make things better for all of us."

"It's okay." That smile returns for a moment, and Graeme looks towards Liz, and then murmurs, "Don't be sorry." He pauses. "Pretty sure the day's come," he says, and then adds, "I'm not going with Aric. I can catch up with wherever he ends up, later. If the day comes…" he pauses, and then says, "I'd like to help."

That makes her go still, wary blue eyes on him. "What?" Elisabeth asks in a tone of … not really surprise or disbelief. More like… Are you sure? "Why wouldn't you go with Aric?" she asks him quietly.

His breathing is level, his heartbeat is level. This is clearly something Graeme's given a fair amount of thought to, at least once or twice, and not some spur of the moment decision. Probably more. And he looks back at Elisabeth, steadily. "He'll be safe," Graeme says. "He's unhappy about it, but he understands." It's already been discussed, apparently. "I can't run, Liz. Not this time."

She looks down, her expression holding a hint of regret although at what precisely isn't clear. When Liz looks back up at him, she nods slightly. "I'll sort out where best to put you in the raids," she says quietly. "I think … that I'd like you to deal with the Institute raid. There are several people who may be on my list of 'find them and get them out.'" She looks toward the wall and admits quietly, "I don't know if we're all going to survive this. I don't honestly know if any of us will. But it's your choice to make."

Graeme nods. "I know," he says. "But I know the future I saw in those dreams. It wasn't good. And… that lady from the Deveaux group. It's been bothering me this morning, the foreshadowing of what she'd said to me, you know?" He gets up, then, from his perch on the arm of the couch, moves to stand nearer to Liz, within arm's reach. "I'd get myself tangled up in this all over again, if I had a choice."

Elisabeth watches him, her blue eyes shadowed. "What do you mean?" she asks, tilting her head to study his face. She seems not to be following the 'foreshadowing' comment, but she pays closer attention to the undercurrents of the room as he moves in front of her. "At the risk of making an idiot of myself here …. I'm going to tell you that if you're doing this *for* me? Rethink it please."

"Hindsight is an impressive skill," he comments. "Our ability to be able to look back and put together the pieces from what we knew, at the time, and think we should have known it then." He sighs, and there's a tiny smile. "Nah," he says, that drawl coming up. "I'm doing this… for a lot of reasons, Liz. I'm not going to lie and say you're not one of them," there's a quick half-blush, but it's stifled as much as he can. "But I'd be doing this either way. I want my students to have a future where they're not afraid of themselves or their parents being rounded up. Where they can go to school. A future where I don't have to be that guy— and as long as there's a fight to be had I'm going to be. I can't just go leave and be safe somewhere." He says, more quietly. "I wish a little bit that I could."

"I used to wish that," Elisabeth admits quietly. "I used to wish I could close my eyes. Go back to before the Vanguard blew up Irving, unsee so many things." She averts her eyes slightly, focusing somewhere near his ear. "And then I realized… that we're all exactly where we're supposed to be in this world. We're *put* where we need to be. And time traveling motherfuckers aside… we're there for a specific reason. My reason to be in this world is to fight."

Forcing a small smile, Elisabeth closes her eyes. "My father says I've been this way my whole life. So… it's going to be what it is. And whatever it is…" She opens them to look at him again. "I have to step up. Even if I die."

"I know," Graeme says, acknowledgement and acceptance all at once. "Time travel makes my head hurt to think about too much." He grins, and then closes the gap to hug her, briefly, resting his forehead against hers if she'll let him. "Although honest, I'd rather you live. I still owe you an' Felix a game of poker."

She doesn't shy away from the hug, wrapping her arms around his waist with a comfortable motion. Elisabeth's affection for him is clear, and she's never denied any of her friends physical affection in many forms. She also worries, though. "Yeah… I'd like to live too," she admits quietly. "I have… some things I'd really still like to do. Even though it's unlikely as all hell that I'll get to." She lets him rest his forehead there, tipping her face up to him with a small smile. The subtle stress buzz that has been constant in the past two months is almost absent, just a very gentle hum against his skin. "Knowing who he is up there… knowing my son is here… knowing that he tried to kill Richard… if *that* didn't give me enough of a headache, Graeme, knowing that the guy is doing everything he's doing BECAUSE of me? It's enough to make me feel rather like I need to be the one to put a stop to all this. I *never* would have expected Richard to throw over the greater good just for my life. I'm not worth that."

"I know," Graeme says. He's good at listening, attentive, quiet, steady. "Even our knowing— that changes what will happen." He grins. "I'd like to live too. But until then I"ll do everything I can for this fight." There's a gentle kiss on Liz's forehead. "For all of us."

Liz isn't usually QUITE so oblivious. Perhaps Graeme should take it as a compliment to his subtlety that she doesn't pick up on exactly what's happening here until the moment his lips touch her forehead. He's always been physical with her — both before they hooked up and after. And being as he's involved seriously with Aric, they don't exactly get together often. But it hits her that he's letting the man he says he loves go… and like the rest of us, he's throwing all-in. Which means some amount of needing that concrete sense of belonging somewhere. She turns her face upward and leans in to kiss him softly. It's not a passionate kiss; rather, it's a more emotional one of connection. A welcome.

When she draws back, there's a slight hesitation to her, a subtle kind of regret. She won't take him up on the unspoken offer, and she hugs him tightly.

There's a light smile nonetheless, after the kiss he just hugs her tightly right back, and Graeme looks up at the ceiling, and steps back. "Be careful until I get back?" he says, half asking but more of a hope. "I'm going to— to go grab things before curfew, get the ball rolling. I'll be back before curfew tonight though."

Graeme's hand brushes against hers, and a moment longer serves as a parting so that the now-former teacher can go back out into the world. His afternoon, at least, is spent picking things up, his apartment, the bookstore, Remi's family's house on Montauk, making a few phone calls. All usual activities at one point or another, but this will be the last time he does them, until finally when he returns to the safehouse in the evening it is duffel bag with his possessions in hand, and dog in tow, to settle in. All in.

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