Skin Deep


elisabeth_icon.gif kaylee_icon.gif

Scene Title Skin Deep
Synopsis That's as far as the facade of holding it together really goes sometimes.
Date January 17, 2020

RayTech Housing, Kaylee's Apartment

It's still dark out. Most people are just getting up, getting their coffee going, their alarms getting turned off. Showers taken. People going about their morning routines like on any other workday. Only this isn't Kaylee's normal routine anymore. Getting dressed in these clothes, putting on the make-up that is needed to hide the strain that stepping into Richard's shoes is causing her. These are not the things she expected to be doing. She is supposed to be putting on her more casual cop-shop clothing, pinning a badge and firearm to her side. She's supposed to be heading out for the Watchtower.

Unfortunately, that is not what's happening.

Far too early in the morning

She's had no sleep all night. And it looks it. Elisabeth's expression is exhausted, but there's a kind of exhilaration too as Kaylee opens the apartment door. Alia located the source of the phone call last night, and that alone was enough to keep the audiokinetic on edge. But there's something else in her voice when she says, "He's okay."

Joy. Pure, unmitigated relief. That's what's lighting the blue eyes that meet Kaylee's.

When the door opens, Kaylee looks at Elisabeth perplexed. The telepath hasn’t even started getting dressed for the day. Hair and makeup are done, but she’s answered the door in a robe. “Who’s okay?”

Then she can see it click, maybe Kaylee saw Richard in Liz’s mind, but that isn’t important. “Richard?!?!” The exhaustion and pain of her ability burnout fadeaway almost instantly. The door is opened even further for the other woman. “How-” did she know?

"He called." Those two words hold a wealth of emotion, caught in Elisabeth's throat. And then she pulls in a quick breath and wraps her arms around Kaylee tightly. "He's okay."

Her arms squeeze Aurora protectively as she sucks in a breath — the shadowmorph is in full human form, his arms full of his mother. For this one moment, all she can do is drink in the sight of him. Just past the greying-blonde hair of his mother, Richard's gaze meets hers, able to see her finally with the adjusting of his eyes, tears beginning to well up there. It is a moment Kaylee didn't see in that chaos, the first moment when they laid eyes on one another. The wave of emotions is indescribable. Just like now.

It's the first time she's let go of the tight control she's had wrapped around herself for two weeks, and it's the first time she's ever really and truly dropped all her mental reserve as she sobs on Kaylee's shoulder. The toll these two weeks have taken is not insignificant, and with her emotions a tangled mess of relief and terror, images of moments that anchor Elisabeth to this world flash against the telepath's mind.

There’s a moment’s surprise as Aurora hurls herself at him, and then Richard wraps his arms around her tightly, pulling her against him. “Yeah, kiddo,” he murmurs in a voice suddenly thick with tears, eyes closing, “Totally primal.” The little girl's hug remains tight for a lot longer than he might have expected, and when he does finally loosen his arms, she draws back just a little and looks him in the face. Eyes far older than they should be take in his face, and her small hand comes up to wipe tears from his face where a couple escaped. She pats his face tenderly. "It's okay, daddy… I'm not mad no more." She gives him a soft kiss on the cheek and then slides out of his arms, bounding toward the breakfast tray to see what's there.

Richard manages a smile when she leans back from the hug, when she looks at him like that, although the pat of her hand and the gentle reassurance nearly has him breaking down— fortunately, then she’s sliding away to get breakfast and Liz is there. He leans forward to rest his forehead on her stomach, drawing in a shaky breath and exhaling it again. After a few long moments he leans back, looking up to her and saying quietly even as he wipes tears away from his face, “It’s good to have you home. Both of you.”

The battering of thoughts and memories against a tired ability smarts, but Kaylee doesn’t show it. She can’t even share her own memories, but it wasn’t important. Liz was clearly in a mentally volatile state. The telepath can only hug her sister-in-law tight, practically clinging to the hope she brings, letting the other woman’s relief roll over her own. Teeth clench against her own emotions, but it doesn’t stop the gathering of moisture at the corners of her eyes.

So many people will be relieved to hear the news.

Over the other woman’s shoulder, Kaylee spies Bob coming to get her for her work day. He gets a warning look and a hand move to subtly wave him away from the door. This was not a moment for him. Bob gives her a worried look, but makes an about face and leaves again to wait down the hall.

Pulling away enough to grasp the other woman’s shoulders, there were so many questions rolling around in her head. She keeps it to only two. “Where is he? And when do we go get him?” Kaylee asks.

She doesn't mean to allow so much to bleed out, that much is clear. Elisabeth holds Kaylee tightly and then steps back, breathing out in soft, ragged gasps. She visibly works on reeling it back in. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to lose it." It's not going back in the box as easily as she'd like.

Wiping her face with trembling hands, she says, "Middle East." Way the hell out of reach of most. "Mazdak. He's…" There is so much that came out of such a short call. "He's not injured, but … I'm scared, Kaylee. They took both him and Nathalie. And if I understand what he said right, Nat's dead." Which might explain the shaking. The sheer horror and fear of what might have happened — because Liz knows Nathalie's secret. And God help her… it was the last thing she saw once before, the part that she couldn't face or remember for years.

Richard Cardinal explodes into a swirling storm of shadows in mid-step— The roiling mass of shadow and energy crumbles and churns like an ink black sea. The portal is collapsing as Gillian Childs dies, her arms crumbling away like fire-blackened pieces of wood, bone and flesh turning to windblown ash. Her eyes close, the wind of the growing storm overhead blows layers of dusty flesh from her body. The purple aura around her begins to flicker and fade, and the integrity of that doorway begins to falter. Tattered blackness rises from the roof of the Deveaux Building like a piece of cloth, and as it solidifies into the form of a person, there is nothing left to do but see the futility in this battle. Richard Cardinal stares back at Mateo and Magnes, brows furrowed and eyes an icy blue. His flesh is charred on one side, veins of scar tissue lace up along his brow and through where hair is missing, as if he had been exposed to an intense heat and light.

When the memory slams into the telepath’s mental wall, there is a sharp intake of air and she has to fight the emotions that go with it and the knowledge that a little girl she helped take care of in Canada had died.

“Hey,” Fingers squeeze Elisabeth’s shoulders gently in understanding, her voice straining at the seams. “You don’t have to apologize to me, sis. Even the strongest people in the world have the right to crumble.” Kaylee has seen her share of it over the years. The emotions are swallowed back in favor of the other woman’s needs. “You’ve been amazingly strong and I’m sorry I haven’t been able to be there more.”

Running a business was never easy.

Letting go of the other woman, Kaylee hurries over to a side table to snag a box of tissues offering them to Liz. “Don’t….” Her words are cut off, her chin trembling briefly. It takes her a moment to gather herself, clearing her throat of the knot in it. “Don’t jump to conclusions, yet.” Not that Kaylee knows about Nat’s condition. “Cause, just like you, my big brother is stronger then he looks.”

"You've been amazing," Elisabeth demurs, following Kaylee further into the living room and accepting the tissues. Her face won't stop leaking. "And I'm really trying not to," she adds, but it's hard. And the lump in her throat threatens to choke her. "He doesn't want to come back yet… he's going after the guy, Kaylee." She blows her nose in the tissues and pulls in a jagged breath.

"How the hell am I supposed to argue with that? He's not fucking wrong that there was a specific reason they took him. There had to be. But goddamn it…" She pauses and admits, "I feel so fucking helpless. Again. How many more times are we going to do this shit?" Part of her is so mad at Richard she can't see straight. But the horror of the other fear is drowning out some of the anger.

The news that Richard doesn’t want to come home, knots her stomach.

Of course, he doesn’t.

One of her brother’s biggest flaws was his narrowed vision when he gets his mind set on something. “Ezekial has always been there just under the surface,” Kaylee murmurs under her breath. “Just takes the right thing to trigger him and he forgets what he has to lose. Now he is potentially a walking international incident.” The looks she levels on Liz is a worried one.

“I know a thing or two about feeling helpless, so I’m right there with you” Kaylee comments with a humorless smile. The woman completely understands the position Liz is in. “I’m surprised you ain’t on a plane for Iraq already. I think you are the only person that could probably convince him what he’s doing is going to hurt more than just him.”

Mopping her face some — she's still not quite done leaking — Elisabeth shakes her head. "I'm going after Huruma. He asked about her contacts. I'll go one better and see if the woman herself can go." Sniffling and with a predatory grin despite the ravages of her tears, the blonde points out, "If she thinks he needs to come out, she'll pull a Kain." She mimes clunking someone on the head with a 'tock'ing sound of her tongue. "Plus, she's savvy as fuck. And Madagascar might be the only way out of there."

Her tissues are sodden and Elisabeth makes her way to the trash then fetches a few more. Sucking in a stabilizing breath, she says, "He asked me not to say anything about Nathalie… he wants to tell Avi in person about whatever happened." She swallows hard, though. "It's… God, Kaylee. She, uhm… I'm so sorry. I dropped that on you and I didn't even think to … find out how well you might know her before doing it." She's horrified by her own thoughtlessness.

“Sit, sit,” Kaylee motions her to the couch, though she doesn’t sit herself. Not yet. “It’s fine.” Was it? The telepath swallows and moves into the kitchen, while Liz situates herself. She should be able to see the other blonde over the back of the couch as she pulls a glass out of the cabinet and a bottle of whatever Luther’s left there.

The bottle is glass is set on the counter and the telepath starts to fill it. “Truth be told, I didn’t know her well,” Kaylee admits sadly. “My memories are of a little girl trying to fit in up in Canada.” Blue eye lift briefly to look at her sister-in-law. “A few times after that with Wolfhound.” There is a shaky breath, but somehow Kaylee still holds tight.

Her tears will come later, for now she brings the tumbler of amber liquid and holds it out for Liz, “Pretty sure, Luther won’t mind.” It sure wasn’t Kaylee’s bottle.

Lowering herself to sit on Kaylee's couch, Elisabeth grins a little. "6am is a little early, sweetness," she quips with a watery huff of almost-laughter. She does take the glass and set it on the coffee table, though, leaning forward to rest on her elbows, head down.

Her tears are at least dammed up again, though that maybe isn't the last time they'll show up. Elisabeth draws in a slow breath and then looks up, her tone edged with defeat. "Okay. Breakdown over." No. Not really. But what the hell good does crying about it do? "I know where he is. I know what the hell he's up to, although I'd really like to rip him a new fucking ass for it. He's out of my reach, so… I have to figure out what to do next. Do I let SESA know he's made contact?" Rue is the main suspect, charges of conspiracy a little hard to dismiss because the video tape seems to prove it.

“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” Kaylee counters, with a small smile, though the humor doesn’t quite reach her eyes. She may even be a little jealous that her sister-in-law can take that out, if she wanted. “Just something to calm the nerves a little, as Granny would say. Not that she was much of a drinker. But, if you’d rather, I’ve got coffee.” There wasn't a lot of liquor in the glass.

The telepath moves to seat herself on the edge of the coffee table, facing Liz. She did things like this a lot. Kaylee rests a hand on one of Liz’s arms. “If he starts an international incident, you will be the last thing he has to worry about.”

This is where she goes quiet for a moment, gaze dropping to the space between them, brows furrowed. After that time, Kaylee gives a resigned sigh. “I don’t see how we could avoid it.” Telling SESA, she means. “If it comes out we knew and didn’t tell them, could be our asses. Downside of our new jobs.” Looking up at her friend, there is a crooked smile attached to that.

“Otherwise, I’d be on that plane ready to drag his ass back,:” Kaylee adds with a bit of a flat tone. “He doesn’t want to be compared to Zeke, but… damn if he doesn’t get tunnel vision and without dad’s guidance…” Kaylee’s brows draw down into a frown. She can’t help but wonder if Lisa knew this would happen.

Shaking her head, Elisabeth looks down. "I'll report it… I just… I'm not sure I should tell them his location. Just for now that he called, he's free of his captors and evading recapture but I don't know where he is maybe?" She's worried about how much information needs to be handed to SESA. "They're searching in good faith here, and I don't want them to keep wasting manpower and resources. But … In and of itself, it creates an international incident as soon as they learn he was kidnapped across borders, right? Do we tell them that it's Mazdak?" She looks up at Kaylee. "Dad… might be the person to talk to about who to tell what."

There's a faint grimace. "But I'm going to Epstein first. If anyone can get him the fuck out of there, Huruma and Epstein would be topping the list."

Kaylee straightens, the hand slides away from Elisabeth’s arm. “Mazdak’s connection is just speculation at this point, even if Richard’s information is always good,” she offers, eyes unfocused as she thinks back on what her textbooks said about such things. “Let Richard offer that information when he gets back.” There is a small rueful tip at the corner of her lip.

“At least, they won’t believe us until they talk to him. People I try to talk to, just go to Richard anyhow,” she adds with an amused laugh… maybe a relieved one, laced with emotions she’s trying to keep tempered down.

“Still, I agree… talk to your dad first,” Kaylee says with a short confident nod. “He can help offer you direction or smack you upside your head for keeping anything from the government.” That last said with a cheeky grin.

"It's not speculation," Elisabeth murmurs. "He's been face to face with the man. It's why Richard's so sure he's got answers. He said the head of Mazdak also claimed responsibility for Hana's disappearance." A grimace crosses her face. "Something else I'm not sure telling Epstein is a good idea." She looks up at Kaylee. "But you're right that it's hearsay until SESA hears it from him."

Pulling in a long, shaky breath and then letting it out slowly, Elisabeth runs her hands up and down her thighs. She wishes she could take some time to swallow that whiskey, but she's not going to. She pushes to her feet and murmurs, "Okay then. First stop, Epstein. Second stop, SESA." After she checks with her father on how much to say.

“I’m not saying it’s speculation for him. It’s speculation for us going to them.’ Kaylee clarifies her statement with a small apologetic smile, moving to stand with her sister-in-law. “Much like we can’t arrest someone for blowing through a stop sign, just based on what someone else saw.” She knows Liz gets it.

There is a flash of concern as Liz starts laying out her plan. “Make sure to take care of yourself through all of that.” In fact, she’ll probably text Jared with her worries. If anyone could make her sit down and take a moment it was Jared. “And my door is always open, you know that.”

There is a hesitation, but Kaylee moves to hug the other woman again. On the edge of fiercely. “Aurora needs her mommy well and not stressed to hell, okay?”

Closing her eyes tightly, Elisabeth buries her face in Kaylee's shoulder to hide the new upwelling of tears. "I'm doing my best on that front. It'll be … a little easier now that I know he's alive and he's in contact." He's not safe and he's not okay, but… two steps forward is better than nothing. Pulling back, she smiles a little. "Now that I know how to breathe again, we'll be okay." Because this Elisabeth can do. It was the holy fuck, I got home in time to what? Watch him die? part that had her stomach in knots.

Reluctantly letting go of Liz, the telepath moves to grip the other woman’s arms. “You are amazingly strong and I’d be the same way if I was in that position.” Even though Richard was her brother, the things she had to do in the wake of his disappearance were different. To be fair, she wanted to take off after him and drag him home, but she’d have to leave it to Liz.

“Well, when you are done today, bring Aurora over,” Kaylee finally offers, “Carl’s staying for the weekend, we’ll have dinner. Luther might be there.” SHe did after all feed the former security lead. “Though I think Carl will rope Luther into watching River Styx with him.” Kaylee avoids the show herself. “He’s gotten obsessed by what Joseph and I used to do."

"I will," Elisabeth replies, forcing a smile as she pulls herself back together to face the world. "I'm sure she'll love to watch with him." She rolls her eyes. "That show is crazy." A brief nod, and then she heads toward the Bastion.

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