Pizza Cures Many Ills


cassandra_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif

Scene Title Pizza Cures Many Ills
Synopsis Just a day at home.
Date February 1, 2020

Richard and Elisabeth's Apartment

Baking always seemed to be an Elisabeth thing.

For as long as Cassandra has known the woman, any time there was a chance to turn flour, yeast, and sugar into some kind of masterpiece, Elisabeth did so. It was more than likely some kind of stress reliever because, truth be told, Cassandra found it quite relaxing, too. There was something about feeling the dough beneath your fingers. Or the twinge in your shoulders when you had to knead something for a certain amount of time that gave you a real sense of accomplishment. Of course, it would be remiss to not mention the wonderful smells and the crackling sound of a good loaf of bread when it’s out of the oven and sliced just so. Yes, baking was a feast for the senses and over the past few months, it seems that the transplant from the Bright dimension has embraced the habit wholeheartedly.

Every time some bad bit of news hit, Cassandra started baking. Behind multiple secure doors at the Ray apartments was a kitchen that could easily allow a restaurant to keep operating, and being one of the chosen that could come and go as she pleased, she took part. Often including her charge, Aurora, in the experimentation, Cassandra threw basic recipes together with whatever bits she managed to scavenge from the market. Flour and yeast, while rare, were starting to become more available as crops were harvested for the first time in as long as people could remember, and there was always someone who could use a taste of civilization.

Her first loaf was, of course, a disaster. Oh, she won’t dispute that it wasn’t pretty, but it was rock hard and probably blunted the knife she used to saw a slice off. In fact, the white was the only part that was really eaten, the rest given to the birds. With practice, it started getting better. The crust, while brown, was more crisp and chewy than rock-hard, and the loaves started rising. This got more intricate when she found a good source of yeast and then started her own sourdough starter, spending several hours walking through the wild part of the Safe Zone with Aurora (and bodyguards) in tow, and even hitting up an abandoned Jewish bakery one day when she had time to hopefully commandeer some of the magic that was stored there from ages past.

Today, however, after giving her starter a spoon full of flour and sugar to keep it ‘fed,’ Cassandra was working on a simple dough of flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil, kneading it with practiced ease, her sleeves rolled up past her elbow. “One of the farmers that came to the market actually made mozzarella, and he sold me a couple of good-sized chunks. So I thought I should share that gift with my favorite girls.” She lifts the ball of dough, pushing it down on the floured countertop, working it into a round. Aurora had gone off to do something, leaving Cassandra, alone, in the quiet kitchen. No radio, no TV, no sound but the heating fans and the oven slowly coming to temperature.

Elisabeth was putting her gun into the gun safe in her bedroom when Aurora skipped out of the kitchen, but by the time Cassandra starts talking, the blonde is wearing a pair of comfortable flannel pajama pants and what appears to be one of her husband's T-shirts taken from the dirty laundry basket by the way it's wrinkled. She's pulled her hair into a haphazard ponytail and as she comes into the kitchen heading for the coffee machine, she slants a look at what's being pounded into shape on her counter. "Fresh mozzarella? Wow. It's amazing what people are figuring out how to do again," she observes quietly. They both saw it happen in the Wasteland and in the Flood world too — shortages of everything meant people relearned how to grow and can their own foods, how to find or make the right bacterial cultures to produce the things they missed like cheese or yogurt or bread.

"Are you sure you're good with staying here with Aura and the grandparents while we go to Detroit?" she asks for about the third time. With all that's happened in the past month, Elisabeth has been struggling a little with things. One of those things is the idea that she and Richard are going to Detroit for a little honeymoon alone. After the massive business meeting he has to have up there, anyway. Leaving Aurora in a whole other town is stressful as hell and Liz has waffled about whether to go. Not because she doesn't trust her parents, but because she'd never forgive herself if shit went to hell and she was that far away. Cassandra and Kain, who hasn't been seen in quite some time, are the ones Elisabeth trusts beyond all else with her child.

But she still can't help asking. "I can stay here. It's really not that big a deal."

No. It's just the first time they've actually been alone anywhere since the group arrived here a year ago.

Cassandra grins as Elisabeth makes an appearance from the back of the house, dressed in her Saturday comfort clothes. Of course she makes a beeline for the coffee - it’s most of the reason Cassandra started a fresh pot after arriving. She’d swear that Elisabeth had a significant percentage of caffeine in her blood at any given time. “Yeah, I was just as surprised as most people were. There wasn’t a run on it, but it was close. Everyone wanted a bite, and he was almost to the ‘name your price’ level of cost.” She leaves the description of getting it there, because knowing that you’re paying the equivalent of a night at the movies for two plus dinner and drinks for a single pizza that you’re making yourself is sobering. But still, little things are what make life worth living. The plan, once this is done, is to go out on the balcony wrapped in blankets and munch pizza with Aurora and anyone else in the house who wants it and enjoy the cool weather - something she used to do before coming here.

At the question about her being sure, Cassandra chuckles and shakes her head. “Come on now, Liz. You know she and I will get on just fine.” She waves a hand, a little puff of flour coming off when she gets kneading again, really putting her forearms into it. “You and Richard deserve a little time away, and if the big, bustling city of Detroit is where you need to go to do it, you go to Detroit and do it. Besides, I found a few more playbills at the market from Old Broadway. Rory and I are going to watch a few more shows when we can.”

Remarkably, it seems Cassandra is holding things together fairly well, but if one were to look closely, the tightness in her posture indicates that she might be a little worried about things. About a lot of things, in fact. Liz may have noticed that her backpack - the everpresent one, filled with things - seems to have more things in it than usual, the small, svelte thing being traded up for something much, much heavier that can carry more. Cassandra has also started carrying a gun - a small Glock 9mm. Something that was common, with easy-to-find ammunition, just in case War broke out.

She’s lived through it once, and if she has to live through it again, she’d rather be more prepared than she was when she crashed into the wasteland future.

Elisabeth hasn't commented on the bag. Or the weapon. The rule is just that it has to be out of Aurora's reach, as always. But some part of her is grateful that Cassandra will be here with Aura and Carina and Jared while she's out of town. Kaylee's not here to watch out for things and although Liz trusts the bodyguards… well, some things are by now ingrained.

"Okay," she says as she dumps an unholy amount of sugar into the cup. It is a luxury to have it and she allows herself exactly one cup a day exactly how she loves it. The rest only get a little sugar. "Dad said he and Mom will keep her during the day while you work and you and she can stay here in the apartment at night. Alia will be with us in Detroit, but Aura's SPOT will be here too." She pauses. "I know I'm just being stupid about this. I really can't help it." Since New Year's and the dream, she has been on edge. "Aura's bag is in her closet. You know the drill."

It's a drill they worked out when they first got here. Where to go if things were bad. Who could be trusted. And where the hidey holes are. If she's mentioned the drill, she's really a lot more stressed than even Cassandra realized. There's been no humming this time to give it away.

"Richard's even convinced Devi to be there for this meeting, so that ought to be fun." She's trying so hard just to find a way to enjoy the short trip. "And he promised me an actual sit-down dinner out on the town." Because Detroit these days is a shining example of rebuilt splendor.

Out of Aurora’s reach is a given. The spot Cassandra’s gun lives is high, high on a closet shelf when she’s here - unloaded - while the ammunition is kept in her backpack in a zipped closed and locked bank bag from the First National Bank of Somewhere. Where she got the bag in her travels she has no idea, but having something that locks like that is perfect for keeping things away from curious hands. “You’re not being stupid. That little girl has been through a lot. I was there, helping you, for almost every step of the way.” She’s Auntie Cass, dammit, and she’s earned that name with gallons of blood, sweat and tears. She even feels a little bit like Aurora is a little bit hers, having spent time with Aurora her entire life, and is thankful that Elisabeth is allowing her to take part. More than a few times she’s come in with Aurora and Cassandra asleep, the older cradling the younger, after a night of stories and talking and just being close. As she kneads, she even goes over the steps in her head, reciting them quietly. “Get Aurora, get her bag. Head to extraction point. If unable to get to that point, signal and move to B. If unable to get to B, get to C - that basement place dug out in that garage in Red Hook. Check communications every hour after dawn to find out where to go for safety.. Stay inside after nightfall.” She nods. “It’s pretty much in my DNA now. We only go over it every week or so.” This isn’t said maliciously, or snarkily, but more matter-of-factly. She’s got it. Aurora’s going to be safe.

“I’ll have to make your dad that strudel thing he likes, as a thank you. Do you think Richard can get some butter before he heads out into the great unknown?” Cassandra had managed to find some cinnamon, of all things, from before the war. Since it wasn’t entirely edible, most people just left it alone while scavenging for other things more packed with Calories. Devi making the trip, too, got a small grin. “Devi’s the tattooed lady I see around sometimes, right? Hangs out with that electrician that goes around the grid?” She hasn’t met Devi yet, but knows of her, like one might know about a neighbor on another floor. Word of mouth.

The thought of a real sit-down dinner is…decadent. Amazing. And Cassandra leans on the counter, resting on her elbows, as she works the dough with her hands. “Oh, just think….a restaurant. Candles and wine. Music, maybe. Food that’s been perfectly cooked and might not even be out of cans….” She grins. “Please, please tell me all about it, or bring a napkin, or something. I’m sure Aurora would love to see it, too.”

Elisabeth laughs quietly — both at the recitation and at the excitement over a restaurant. "Yeah, we can get butter. Shipments are starting to get a bit more regular, so it won't be hard. I'll put an order in today." She sips from her coffee and then her grin turns a bit cheeky. "Yeah, that's Devi. She's a trip and a half. I haven't exactly had a lot of time to go out with her lately, but maybe while we're in Detroit, we'll all hit a dance club too." God, it has been years since Elisabeth did that — even in Bright, she wasn't much for the night life, not with a small baby.

Pausing, she glances toward the piano in the living room — her father dredged it up from somewhere, and although it's been in here for several weeks, no one's seen her playing it except Aurora and Richard. The pixie is still small and slender, agile and sweet. She's missing teeth now, and the fact that mummy is playing again has been Big News in her little world. She's ecstatic and fully relaxed for the first time since they left Bright. "She's been hilarious lately in the evenings. She and Richard hang out and make me play for them."

“Just Chopsticks and the song from the Lone Ranger aren't cutting it anymore?” Cassandra asks with a grin, washing off her hands and chucking the ball of dough into a greased bowl and covering it with a warm, damp towel to rise. Give that an hour and it'll be doubled in size and ready for cheese and tomato sauce - something for Aurora to help with, and something the little girl seemed to be extremely excited about helping out with.

The thought of Liz in a dance club draws a small giggle from the brunette Cassandra. College had taken up most of Cassandra’s time while in New York, but occasionally she did go out to clubs, just to say she did. “Aurora would love to see that. There were concerts filled with lights and sounds back home, lasers and holograms and stages that moved to the music. If the club is anything like that, she might not forgive you if you didn't tell her all about it, but seeing Mommy tipsy on Margaritas, chasing down hunky boys..” she waves her hands in the negative. “too many questions for a five year old. Just tell her about the dinner.”

“Is the music helping to get some things into words that might not be so easy? I remember you on stage way back when - it seemed cathartic to perform, so this, in its own small way, probably gets something kind of like that. I mean, I suppose so.” Cassandra unties her apron, hanging it over a chair to be claimed later. “You've been writing a lot….”

"I have," Elisabeth agrees quietly, moving to sit on the other side of the island that Cass is using for the dough. "I spent some time with Eve the other night… we wrote something new. I'm… not ready for anyone to hear it quite yet." The last time she wrote anything with Eve, it was in Cassandra's homeworld and Eve went on to top the charts with it. Elisabeth refused to allow her name to be associated with it. Cassandra never understood why until much later.

"Mostly I've just been playing old favorites for them. Songs my fingers know by heart, things I played while I was performing back in your world." She shrugs. "But… yes, there are things fighting to get out. Catharsis is a good word."

The bowl is put aside next to the oven to rise and a clean cloth is brought out to start wiping down the counter she had been working on. As a guest, and in her own home, Cassandra always tried to clean up while she was working - it made the cleanup at the end that much faster and allowed multiple uses of the same bowls and the like, so it cut down on dishes at the end, too. And as she cleans, she talks. “I guess I’m in the same position you were when you first arrived in my neck of the woods. A little better set up, true, but still…” Cassandra sighs, wistfully. “At least the feeling of being a complete outsider has started to fade. Cassandra ‘Cain’ is starting to fit a little better, like a pair of pants that needed some time to get broken in before they fit properly.”

She stops, scraping some flour into the trash can, trying to put things into words. “Did you ever see the old movie, Pump up the Volume? With Christian Slater? I kind of feel like him when he was confronted with the heroine of the story who finally figured out who he was. I can’t…put my feelings into words, really.” Cassandra draws a deep, shuddering breath, her eyes closing tightly, the heels of her hands going up to scrub at them before falling away to clasp the edge of the countertop, fingernails drumming in aimless rhythm. “I…I need something, Liz, but I don’t know what I need or even how to figure it out. I’m…I’m clinging to your family because I don’t have one of my own anymore, and I’m forbidden from finding it out for safety’s sake.” She lifts a hand to stop conversation, knowing what Elisabeth was going to say. “I understand why. I do. Really. It just….hurts. And I don’t know how to make it stop.”

She laughs quietly. “One thought? Know anyone who doesn’t mind dating a girl from another dimension?”

Elisabeth offers a small, regretful smile. "Aaaand now you understand why I never allowed anyone into my life," she tells the younger woman softly. It was a long-running conversation between Cassie, Ygraine, and even occasionally Felix himself. "I never wanted any of this for you. If I could send you home, I would do it in a heartbeat." She sighs heavily. "I've watched you this past year trying so hard to settle in. I know how hard it is. I can only tell you… it does get a little easier. I… It took me about two years to finally not feel like I was outside myself and watching myself live a fake life."

She toys with her cup, and then asks softly, "what can I do?" Because Elisabeth honestly doesn't know. There wasn't anything except Aurora that really helped.

“Honestly, before I really got to know you, I thought it was just Catholic guilt keeping you at an arm’s length from everything. You know…what with you being a single mother at the time.” This is said with a small teasing lilt, the conversation making Cassandra feel a little better. And, true, while Elisabeth didn’t exactly dissuade Cassandra’s theories, she didn’t clarify them, either, preferring to maintain a shell of anonymity that was difficult to penetrate.

The thought of returning home was tempting. In those first few weeks, if anyone had approached her with the guaranteed promise of going home, there wasn’t much that she wouldn’t do to make that happen, but over the weeks and months in this new, strange world, she’s learned a thing or two. Cassandra, almost as well as anyone, knows exactly why she can’t go back, and she says so. “I know you would send me back, Liz.” Back. Not home. “I know that if it were possible to do safely, you would, but making something like Looking Glass here is just…. it’s obviously not something that could be made or used here with any measure of sanity. We’re just not ready, and won’t be for a while as a species. If ever.”

Two years isn’t long, in the scheme of things, really. Aurora has helped a lot with Cassandra’s transition, the little girl’s enthusiasm to new experiences making Cassandra think of her like a duck hitting water for the first time. “Honestly just… this. What you’re doing now. I can’t ask you for anything else, really. Let me be a part of your family, as much as you can, until I can strike out and f…” She stops herself. “Make my own connections. Start over. Being here is kind of like the first day of kindergarten at a new school. Everything is different and all the faces look the same. Finding my place is going to be tough.”

She snickers. “Maybe I’ll just turn into one of those cat ladies. Get like, fifteen cats in a one bedroom apartment, wear shapeless floral mumus every day, and watch old soap operas while saying that Matt Damon is going to be my husband.”

"Girl, if you get Matt Damon to be your husband, I am going to have to call dibs before he's tied down," Elisabeth teases back. She probably isn't serious. But she returns to the other topic quickly. "You know you have a home here. Richard… knew about my propensity for adopting people long before we got back here." She grins a bit. "Devon was the last one before you. Adopting you … that changed things for me when we were there. Having you to look out for and having Felix, who knew the whole story from the get-go… those were the things that helped. Finding someone here that you can talk to? That will go a long way for you. And when or if you find someone that you're really serious about? Bring them to me before you tell them where you came from. But I think you should definitely tell them, when you decide they're the right one."

“I guess it was fate that we ran into each other.” Cassandra smiles, then. A genuine smile, one that reaches her eyes and brightens the room. A smile that Elisabeth hasn’t seen in a while. She pushes herself to a standing position and wanders around to the opposite side of the island, pulling Elisabeth into a tight hug, burying her nose in the other woman’s shoulder, her eyes closed as she squeezes her only friend.

And that thought that Elisabeth (and Aurora, and a couple of hangers-on) are her only friends is a little sobering. Cassandra does need to get out more, but with the cold, the attacks on Plum Island, the unknown place in Antarctica that inevitably will get explored, and Richard’s kidnapping, it’s kind of hard to do any of that, or even figure out a place to do that. “I think the thing I need most, right now, is someone who wants to be with me because I’m me. Not because I can show them the past. I mean, Eve tries, but I don’t know if I could consider her a friend. She’s just so intense.” Cassandra sighs and leans back after a second. “I’m really considering taking a mental health month or six and just not doing anything with my ability. Maybe baking…open a bakery or something.”

Elisabeth turns on her seat and hugs Cassie tightly. "Is that why you're hiding out so much?" she asks softly of the girl buried in her shoulder. "Because you think everyone wants something from you?" Stroking Cassandra's hair as she holds her, Liz sighs softly. "I'm sorry. I've been a crappy friend, too busy trying to rebuild my own life and forgetting sometimes just how hard it was in a whole other world." Not forgetting, exactly, but she does have it a little easier here — this is her starting point. "You, Silas, Kain, Ling… I know all of you have to find your own way and I can't really do anything with that. But just know that I'm here, okay? No matter what."

“Exactly, yeah.” Cassie admits after a second or two, leaning against the counter with one elbow, legs crossed. She’s close, but not too terribly close. “Before showing up here, my ability was the way I was supposed to make a living. Research. Museums and the like. Getting all tangled up with Looking Glass was something that just happened…and no, I don’t blame you for getting me into that.” She deftly deflects any guilt Elisabeth might feel over her getting here. “It was the best offer and I would have probably taken it, with or without your counsel. So I’d either be here or dead in the bowels of a facility in the middle of the Colorado mountains. Here is better.” A thought comes to her after a second. “Speaking of…is anything of that place there at all? Was anything like that ever manufactured here, ‘cause if it was, someone might want to go make sure nothing’s brewing. And if not…well…the hikes were nice, and the weather wasn’t too bad.” With the location right on the edge of a dead zone, might not be the best place to visit, but stranger things have happened. See: Antarctic Zone of Life, or whatever.

“Thing is, my ability was pretty much what defined me, for the longest time, and when I got here, I kind of slotted into using it for as many people as I could naturally.” She sucks on her bottom lip for a second, thoughtful, fixing Elisabeth with a determined expression. “I…I think I’m going to retire, more or less, from the seeing game. I’ve got a pretty good handle on keeping it under wraps and can bring it out pretty much whenever I want, for whoever I want. I just won’t advertise. Aurora’ll still get story time, of course, and if you need something, or Richard, or SESA with the investigation on this world’s Cassandra’s death, I’ll gladly help out. Or more of Caspar’s pennies. But other than that, I think the cinema is closed.”

"I'm not going to say it's a bad idea," Elisabeth tells her. "I think… what Cassandra Baumann did here was far too close to what you were doing with your own life. Between Looking Glass and Felix's requests, you stepped into a whole new world with .. basically the same job." She sighs heavily and drags her hand up through her hair before leaning on the counter. "You're not the only one struggling. I know Kain's been out of contact for several months now aside from acknowledging the occasional ping so that I can tell Aura he's okay. Silas is in hiding, and probably going to be there for a while. And I …. Came home and tried to go back to who I used to be. And I'm not entirely sure that's even possible."

There's genuine struggle in trying to build a life. And now things are looming on the horizon that just make her think 'normal' will never, ever be a thing in her life again. "If baking will make you happy, you should totally do it. Especially now, I think you do need to still steer clear of any hint of who you were."

“It does make me happy. I like watching the looks on peoples’ faces when they bite into something they haven’t had in a while. It’s totally unlike what I did before, and I still can keep a little bit of my Grandmother’s memory alive. She and I….” Cassandra runs a hand through her hair, sheepishly. “I have all these memories of standing in the kitchen, barefoot. The linoleum was coming up in places, like in front of the sink and the stove, where she worked most of the time. I remember just listening and watching as she made all these things…mostly cajun and creole stuff, sure, but simple things like bread, biscuits, and cornbread, too. Oh, and cookies…all sorts of cookies…” Cassandra trails off, wistfully, deep in thought.

“It’s not possible to take over where you left off. The second you left, things changed. The world shaped itself around you not being there and, understandably, you showing back up has caused a few ripples. Just like me leaving my world and coming through to this world.” Cassandra, backs away from the counter to check her dough, lifting the towel and prodding it with a fingertip. ALmost done, according to her practiced eye.

“Everyone imagines themselves as a pebble in a pond, with peaceful ripples. Looking Glass was a drill bit punching through multiple plate glass windows, and us jumping back and forth were like bricks shattering the timelines we went through. They’ll heal - god knows I pray they will, in some way - but it’s going to take time.” She nods to herself then, brushing a lock of hair back behind her ear. “It’s decided, then. Cassandra the baker, not Cassandra the seer. The viewing room is closed…except for the previously mentioned exceptions, of course.”

Cass's description of Looking Glass isn't wrong. Elisabeth reflects on that thought a moment. She tries these days to simply hope that they left the timelines they traveled better off in some small way than they were before their portal dropped them there. It's hard. She still has nightmares and doesn't sleep terribly deeply. "Yeah," she finally acknowledges. "Picking up where I left off wasn't maybe the best plan." At least not professionally speaking. "I just… needed to prove to everyone that I was glad to be home." She toys with her coffee cup again just to have something to do. "I didn't want anyone to feel like I was just… waiting to leave again." No. She didn't want Richard to worry that she was just waiting to leave again; she wanted to make things 'normal' as quickly as possible, and not just for Aurora. For all of the people that she brought through with them, for the people who'd worked so hard to bring them home, for herself.

She chuckles softly. "How much would you like to bet me that Felix has just been waiting for me to get my head out of my ass?" The Felix that Cassandra knew definitely was a pragmatist — he would have called Elisabeth on her bullshit far earlier than the more-fragile version he is here in this world.

The timelines they left behind are just that - left behind. The hope that they left them better than they were when they first showed up is a nice thought, but unfortunately they probably will never find out. Cassandra has often stayed up late at night, wondering if the chaos that was left when jumping from what has colloquially been referred to as ‘The Bright Future’ to ‘The Wasteland’ and ‘The Flood’ turned out okay. If the insanity discovered in her timeline caused rifts to open up in society, if anyone survived. If the city, once it fell in the Wasteland, cut the head off the snake, the world starting to heal. If the Archipelago survived the assault from the fleet that was coming to smash them.

If there was something like that in their future.

It’s why she has the backpack, the guns, and the practice of getting those she cares about somewhere safe, away from people that may hurt them, or try to take what they have, or even kill them just for being different. It’s a scary, strange world, but then again, aren’t they all?

“It wouldn’t surprise me. Imagine, one morning, a knock on the door and, voila, Felix, there, wondering what took you so damn long to realize it.” Cassandra seems to be embracing the idea of just being normal, sinking on to one of the stools to sit, her feet dangling a few inches above the floor. “I know you’re not planning to leave, either. Neither am I. Not because this place is good, but because it’s where we are, and punching more holes in reality is the absolute last thing that anyone needs or wants. Dimensional travel already causes enough headaches, and I don’t want to even imagine what might be through the next gate. I don’t want to even find the next gate, or the possibility.”

Cassandra leans over to snag her cup of coffee, lukewarm, since the conversation started, and pours it into the sink, re-filling it from the pot, holding the ceramic in her hands as it warms her through. “It’s just so hard to think of me when I’ve thought of so many others for so long, Liz. I know you understand where I am, because you’ve been there. It’s hard, but I’m accepting the fact that this is where I’ll be for the rest of my life. And that’s fine. I’ll start my own legacy. ” She takes a sip of her coffee, gesturing with it like a baton. “If I ever find someone and end up getting married, you’ll have to promise to be my matron of honor. Rory, flower girl, naturally. Eve will be the DJ, or in charge of the bachelorette party, assuming we can survive the first few hours of it. Maybe see if we can find Ygraine here, too.” And…that’s it. That’s all the people she’s close to, and one or two of them might not even be alive.

The wry chuckle isn't feigned. "I don't have to imagine. You know as soon as I call him and tell him I'm a square peg in a round hole, he'll be rolling his eyes so hard they'll pop out of his head." Elisabeth sighs heavily. "You know… when we got here, the backstopping they did for you would really get you anywhere you wanted to go. If you wanted to go up to Rochester or to Detroit, work in your actual field of study, you could do it. If you want to start up a business here in the Safe Zone, obviously I'm going to be in your corner. All I ever wanted for any of you was to find a place you could build whatever life you wanted."

Cassandra and the arrivals were set up with the ability to do almost anything that they wanted, financially speaking, of course. Some went their own ways, others vanished, but Cassandra stayed with what she knew and where she knew best, outside of where she couldn't go. “Detroit or Rochester.” She shakes her head. “I don't think..yeah, no. I think I'll stick around here. At least here I recognize some of the streets and have a few shops that know my face. Going to one of those cities would be like starting over in Tokyo or something. At least I could speak the language, but I wouldn't have any support system. Besides,”. She gives Elisabeth a wry grin. “I couldn't leave you and Richard alone with Aurora. Or Rory, for that matter. She'd never forgive me if I went off to some far away city - at least, not until she is older. Let me find my footing, get a few more years with your munchkin, and then I'll see about going somewhere else.”

The safe zone is actually starting to feel safe, despite the craziness, and it's where everyone Cassandra knows is located. Staying here is just the right move for her right now.

“I'm going to need your help, naming the place, you know.” Cassandra prompts. “And Aurora's going to need to be my official tester. I want to make her something that tastes lavender.”

There's a moment where Elisabeth looks vaguely skeptical of how something can taste a color, but … well, it's a perfume and flower and stuff, so maybe? She does grin slightly. "All right, then. I think Aurora's more glad to have you around than either of us expected," she admits. "I should have expected it — you're the only person besides me that she's known all her life. She misses Kain, but… she's slowly transferring all that trust and hero status to her father." Which, honestly, Elisabeth is grateful for. "I just didn't realize how much I was going to miss our little band, you know? Even Magnes has put a little distance. I don't see anyone as much as I'd like."

If anyone can taste a color, its Aurora, and having her in the back pocket as a secret weapon is going to help Cassandra perfect a few things. Sure, bread and the like is necessary to have a certain way, but other things that are more out of the norm might benefit from a different touch. “She is six, so I'll probably focus on sweets to start out. I'm sure she won't complain.”

Cassandra’s cup is lifted and sipped. “Looking back as much as I have, it's the memories we had that make us who we are.” she says. Those moments, crystallized in memory, are perfect, no matter the result. Think of a children’s book. Going back now, the pictures would suck, the voices would be one note and cliche, and the storyline would be trivial, but it would still be the perfect book because it was what was needed at the time. “Despite all the hardships we went through, let's remember the experiences. We don't need to get the band back together - we need to start new bands. If Magnes or Felix want to have a guest spot, I'm all for it.”

The smile that quirks Liz's lips upward briefly is thoughtful. "You're pretty smart about these kinds of things." She pats Cassandra's arm. "I'm glad you're here, and you really need to get out a little more. Hang out with some people who have at least some similarities— go hang near the college or something, will you?" She looks amused. "You know if you go out there and sell baked goods, you'll get a ton of people buying.

“It's from habit. And a lot of Kung fu movies late at night. Master Hwang has some good ideas in ‘Five Fists or Fury.’” Cassandra says with a snicker, deflecting the praise a little before reaching up to brush her fingertips over Elisabeth’s hand, giving it a pat. “I'm glad to be here. There are a lot of places I could end up, but here is one of the better ones I could think of with all the things that went on since we met. And just think - if I hadn’t hit that ice in the park, we might have never gotten this far.”

Then, the suggestion comes.

Cassandra makes a ‘huh’ sound when the blindingly obvious suggestion is made. Why doesn't she go out and meet people that might be more amiable to her being around. People not involved with Raytech, or SESA, or some alphabet agency wanting to exploit her ability for some kind of gain. “Yeah. I think I'll do that. The semester is just starting, and there might be a club or two I could get into. Thanks, Liz.”

Cassandra takes the bowl from its warm place and checks, then removes the tea towel, revealing a lovely puffy ball of dough ready to be baked into something wonderful. “And now that we have this, why don't you give Rory a call? I don't think she'd forgive us if she missed out on making pizza.” The dough ball is cut in half, and one of those halves is cut in half to be made into an Aurora pizza. Hands-on cooking lessons. You can't beat it.

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