The Box Would Be Empty


ff_carina_icon.gif elisabeth_icon4.gif

Scene Title The Box Would Be Empty
Synopsis Elisabeth confronts Carina about the truth.
Date December 24, 2018

The Ark

Guest Quarters

Aurora had nightmares all night — when the child slept at all. Elisabeth hasn't had a night like that in quite a while. Usually the little girl sleeps the sleep of innocence even after all she's seen this year, children's resilience and physiology being what they are. But this was a horror that couldn't be simply fuzzed around the edges because her aunt is no longer traveling with the contingent. So late this afternoon, after a little pleading and begging and crying on Aura's part, the little girl was taken to Kain … where, much to Elisabeth's relief and breaking her heart to small pieces at the same time, her daughter clambered into Kain's lap and finally cried herself to utter, boneless exhaustion in the shelter of his arms. She left the little girl there, napping where she feels safest right now, probably with Kain napping right along with her, wondering if she's doing the right thing for either of them.

Alone in her quarters, a heavy sweatshirt wrapped around herself, Elisabeth sits at the small table and goes through the faces of the dead so she doesn't forget them, then turns her attention to tactics. How the fuck is she going to do what she needs to do to get us the hell out of here… especially now with Magnes in the fucking brig?!?!

Two soft clangs on the door rouse Elisabeth from her thoughts. “It's me,” has all of the weight and guilt on it that is befitting of Carina Harrison’s current state of mind.

She actually debates it — whether to open the door or not. But they are having this shit out. And it might as well be now rather than later. Who knows if they'll have later, with the crazy man at the helm around here? The door whips open and Elisabeth lets her mother in, but her expression is forbidding. She gestures the other woman in and closes the door behind her. "By all means… come in." A single brow quirks upward, and the younger audiokinetic is upset enough and worried enough and hurt enough to be brutal once the door is shut.

"If you're coming to make sure I'll toe the line the director has laid out, you can tell him that I will. Or are you coming to ask more questions so that you can convince yourself I'm not who I say I am?" It's not fair, but the fact that her mother doesn't believe her cuts deep even though it really shouldn't — this woman doesn't know her, after all.

In that moment, Carina can see the child Elisabeth once was — the jaw juts just so, and she kicks that metaphorical door in like a combat-booted soldier. Jared's mannerisms with Carina's mutinous expression, all rolled into one neat little package of extremely pissed-off genetics that clearly belongs to Carina and Jared Harrison.

“Neither,” is Carina’s softly spoken but terse rejoinder. She shuts the door to the hall behind herself as she comes in, at first unwinding her scarf but remembering how cold it is even in the rooms the moment she does. Instead, she keeps her winter jacket and gloves on, walking over to Elisabeth with her expression shifting from frustrated to apologetic.

“I didn't know,” Carina says softly, tears starting to form in her eyes. “That— isn't the man I left behind here. That's not the Donald I knew.” Her voice cracks, guilt hanging on every word. She doesn't invite herself to sit, doesn't presume she has that invitation. Instead she just stands there at conversational distance, picking at the wool pilling on her gloves.

The sorrow that flashes across Elisabeth's expression is bone deep, and she looks away trying to hide the flash of tears. "What he did isn't your fault," she replies with difficulty. Magnes' face is still floating in her mind. He poked that bear on purpose, though for what reason she cannot comprehend. "It's good to know, I guess, that even though you didn't even want to be here, it wasn't because you were expecting this madness." Her words are soft.

When she turns her blue eyes back to her mother, she says baldly, "we need to talk. I need you to fill in the blanks. Because if I can't figure out what the fuck to do, we're all going to die here." She pauses and swallows hard. Despite her unease, she gestures toward the couch. "In my world, you were a lawyer… and no matter how much we both might want the other to be the person we knew… we're not. Who are you in this world, Mom? How the hell did you wind up here?"

Carina looks lost, standing as she is, shoulders slouched and hands tucked into the pockets of her coat. “Everything changed after the accident,” she admits, reluctantly. “For a while I was ok. Once I was out of the hospital, when there was still hope you and your father would turn up. But I wasn’t well. Physically, mentally.” Closing her eyes, exhales a burdened sigh. “I couldn’t work, your father’s insurance policy was cancelled. Without a body — without proof he’d died his life insurance didn’t kick in. I couldn’t make ends meet, went on welfare.” Then, quieter. “Pills.”

“Your aunt eventually scraped me off the sidewalk, made me move in with her in DC. This was… 97?” Carina starts to pace, awkwardly. “She got me help, got me on my feet. Put me in rehab, where I met Connie. Got me a job, too…” Carina grimaces. “Waitressing. Nice little place on L Street. That’s where I met Donald…” she says quietly, ashamed. “He worked for the government, tipped well, really nice. His wife would come by with him from time to time, sweetest woman I’d ever met.”

Carina draws in a deep breath, then exhales a sigh. “When your aunt got sick, Donald and Judy were there for me. They helped cover some of the expenses, helped me plan the funeral after that. Connie and I moved away not long after, up to New York. He’d gotten a job with Con Edison, asked me t’live with him…” There’s tears in her eyes, and it’s the last time she mentions Conrad.

“After the flood, after everything fell apart I had nothing. Of all things, I ran into Donald. This was… 2010, early. He’d been leading this… this pilgrimage of survivors in a dinged up old yacht.” Carina smiles, faintly. “He lost everything in the flood too. We commiserated.” Blue eyes open, fat tears dribbling down her cheeks. “He was a good man.”

"My… what?" The words are possibly lost under Carina's explanation, but the blanching of Elisabeth's face and the shock in her expression can't be faked. If she weren't already sitting down, she would have fallen. So many little things different… and some not so little ones, apparently.

And then the rest of the words roll over her… rehab, pills, those kinds of things she totally understands. She doesn't ask if her mother and Conrad Wozniak were a couple. In truth, Elisabeth isn't sure she could wrap her head around that idea even a little bit. So she leaves that one completely off to the side.

Blowing out a slow breath, Liz shoves a hand through her hair, dragging it back to the nape of her neck and holding it there for a long moment. The movement is eerily reminiscent of certain movements of Jared's when he's frustrated. "This world… is enough to drive anyone to the brink of madness," she comments quietly. "It seems that Director Kenner jumped right on off that ledge somewhere along the way. In my world, he was a good man — what I knew of him. Admittedly not much, but… I knew of him." She looks up at Carina. "Mom… I know you don't believe me. Or… maybe just don't want to believe me, I don't know." Her breath releases in a long sigh. "I need to go home. Aurora needs her father." Elisabeth perhaps needs the little girl's father too, though she's never said that aloud to Carina.

"Tell me about Michelle and her project?" she asks. Because her mother has to know… everyone in this damn place has to have known something was happening.

Carina grows silent for a time, troubled. With the tone of the conversation moving away from an argument, she feels comfortable about settling down on the old, threadbare couch beside her daughter. “When Donald and I first came to this place… we were desperate for normalcy. Michelle… she was ferociously intelligent, confident. She commanded authority, and we bought in to that.”

Clasping her gloved hands together Carina looks down, wringing them together. “We were fine for a long time. I knew Michelle was doing experiments, but I'm not a scientist. It wasn't my business what her interests were. We all knew the rumors, but they were just that. Rumors. Not the truth.” Sighing through her nose, she looks back up to Elisabeth.

“Seven or so years ago, she started working with the Ark’s electrician, Mateo Ruiz.” Carina’s jaw tenses as she says that. “Now, everyone said Mateo got killed in a collapse of a flooded spot of the Ark, trying to fix old wiring. But… Don told me it was something else. He told me she'd had Mateo try some experiment, and that he just disappeared afterward. She… I guess I assumed she killed him.”

Closing her eyes and shaking her head, Carina turns back to face her gloved hands. “One of the scientists left a few months later for a salvage trip. I left with him, and went awol.” Furrowing her brows together, Carina shakes her head and stares at the floor. “I stayed in the Pelago. Told people I was an ex-pirate. It made them think twice about screwing me over…”

Elisabeth isn't relaxing back on the couch, but she's not confronting Carina quite as hard anymore either. "Seven years ago… was when I was ripped out of what I had always believed was my world." Hesitating, she huffs a soft laugh. "November 8th. It's always November 8th." There's a bitterness to the words.

"I.. can't say for sure what happened to your Mateo. I hope for his sake that he just landed somewhere else… maybe somewhere better than here." Elisabeth isn't sure that they're that lucky, but.. who knows?

She goes quiet, unsure what to say, and it drags out a little as they both fidget. Finally she can't stand the silence anymore. "I get why you don't want to believe me." Elisabeth looks at Carina sadly, her hands clasped between her knees. "You still have the option of going with us, you know. Right up until that last minute." She bites her lip. "I worry… that you would have been better off if you'd never known." The admission is choked.

Carina doesn’t immediately refute that, but she comes around to it. “It’s not that I don’t believe you,” is a quiet admission, “it’s that I’m afraid to. I’m afraid what happens at the end of this, if you do make it home. I don’t… I don’t know how to function in a normal society. Your father— he’s mourned me and moved on, I— ” Swallowing back her tears, Carina wipes at her eyes with gloved fingertips and presses her lips together in a thin line.

“I want to believe I’ve got my baby girl back,” Carina’s voice is strangled with emotion, “but I’m terrified I’m going to lose her again.” She can’t hold back the tears now, dribbling down her cheeks. She’s red in the face, eyes watery, trembling with fear.

There is no right answer to that. Elisabeth reaches, aborts the movement, and then just sighs heavily and wraps her arm around Carina's shoulders, resting her head against the older woman's temple. "I'm afraid of what happens at the end too," she admits in a whisper. "I can't stay here. But I don't want to lose you again either. Mom…" She bites her lip.

Her words are a whisper, not because of her paranoia (although perhaps that should be the reason!) but maybe because admitting this aloud to anyone in this bunker scares her. "I'm scared that if Don finds out about her, he might kill me and take Aura." Elisabeth studies her mother's features and whispers, "Michelle was her grandmother too. He might think she's useful to him. Promise me that if something happens .. you'll help Kain her get her the hell out of here." This place is dangerous for her child.

“Next to you,” Carina says softly, “my granddaughter is the first person I'd move heaven and earth for.” There's an earnestness in her sentiment, just as emotional as the last words she'd spoken. “If it comes to that, I will. No matter what the future holds.”

That, at least, Elisabeth believes with her whole heart. Her mother can't be that different a person from the one she grew up with. Blowing out a breath, she nods. "All right." That one thing settled in her heart, knowing that her child is as protected as she can make her, now she can turn her attention to getting us out of here.

"These people that live here. You know them. Who are the ones I'm going to have to be most careful around? I don't want Don… feeling like I'm a threat to him, and I sure as hell don't want my people around the ones like West Rosen." Her tone is a little grim. Anyone who fired on unarmed people, who followed the orders of a man who'd allow that? She wants to know who they are. "I know you're not a scientist, but you lived here for a few years. I need to understand how things got so fractured down here."

Sighing, Carina deflates some. “I knew them, but I don’t know the people they’ve become. The last seven years… has changed people.” As she looks over to Elisabeth, Carina works to try and remember how they were, in the hopes that it’s at least some help.

“Don’s… security chief? Rosen? He’s ex-military, Marines I think. He was— heck, all of them were with Donald when we found this place. He looks up to Donald like a father-figure. The uh, the quiet one with the scarf? That’s Norton. I think he used to be NYPD, but he never talked much even back then. I know Norton can… stop people like us, just turn them off like a light-switch.” Carina shrugs, she isn’t sure how.

“Doctor Ford’s a fertility doctor, I think. We never spoke too much, he kept to himself. He’s the closest thing there is to a physician, though. I…” Carina shakes her head, slowly. “Like I said, I didn’t know them all very well. I spent most of my time with Donald or sometimes helping Michelle with odds and ends. I knew Mateo a little, but not well. Everyone else is dead, it seems. Rianna, Joy, Michelle… I’m sorry. They all seemed like fine people… back then.”

Rosen's name brings an expression of … disgust, though she covers it. Norton's name gets a faint nod, a momentary flash of something affectionate and wry. The last bit, though, makes her brows furrow. A fertility doctor? That alarms Elisabeth a little bit, if only because it makes her wonder what the man was doing here at the Institute before the flood. Maybe she's just a suspicious type. As she listens to Carina's information, Elisabeth realizes she's actually been cruel — this woman has lost so much more than even Liz herself has lost.

"No, I'm the one who is sorry … that so many of the people you knew have either changed or died," she tells her mother quietly. "I'm really sorry about Jimmy." It's perhaps belated… and something she should have said right from the start. If nothing else, her mother cared about that man, or she wouldn't have stuck with him. She lets her voice trail off, the silence elongating with so many unspoken things.

Finally, Elisabeth simply sighs and squeezes Carina's shoulders gently. "I'm sorry. I know I'm asking a lot more questions and demanding a lot more answers than maybe you actually have," she tells her quietly. "I'm … worried what he's going to ask of me." Swallowing, Elisabeth adds, "If he's been waiting for me and Magnes to get here because of the machine… I don't think things are going to go the way he hopes. And it scares me what he's going to do if it turns out that we can't do what he wants."

“He’ll do what every man does when afraid,” Carina says with her eyes downcast to the floor, “overreact.” There's a ghost of a smile on her lips, then just a sullen expression as she turns her attention down to her gloved hands. She's quiet for a long while, just staring and listening to the subtle hum of the walls.

“Woods was a good man,” Carina says quietly. “All he cared about is that girl. More than life itself. I never did learn how they came to be together, but in a world like this? You take what family you can get.” Closing her eyes, Carina slowly shakes her head and exhales a fatigued sigh.

“I'm afraid of what's going to happen if we succeed.” Carina adds as an afterthought. “But… I suppose there's no point in worrying about that right now. Not when it all feels so far away.”

"Does it?" Elisabeth's fear is that it's altogether too close now… if what Dessa told her several years ago is right, Christmastime is here. This is when Richard's attention will be fully on getting them home, assuming there's no time differential between the worlds, which she's not sure of. And if Don was telling the truth — that Michelle is dead — the only chance they might have is Lynette and Mateo. Which has served them pretty well, overall. But… how many more jumps can we make? And what if Edward was right and they are already doomed because Michelle is dead?

Reaching up to rub the side of her forehead, Elisabeth sighs softly and then — slowly — lowers her head to rest on Carina's shoulder. "You said you didn't know how to function in a 'normal' society. But home… is recovering from a massive Second American Civil War. So… 'normal' is relative. And … you're right, that daddy's mourned you. I don't… know that 'moved on' is exactly true." Her father has dated, but nothing seemed serious and Dessa had told her that much — that he wasn't seeing anyone these days. She bites her lip. "Think about it, Mom?" she asks. "I … hate the idea of you staying here just as much as you hate the idea of me and Aura going. You need to do what's best for you."

Her head presses a little harder into that shoulder, and Elisabeth realizes something. She was around 8 when their memories were adjusted to accommodate the new world. She'd sung to Aurora last night out of sheer habit and instinct… but the song is one of her favorite childhood memories with her mother. It had to have been one that her mother — this Carina — sang to her. She sings softly through tears, "If I had a box just for wishes… and dreams that had never come true…"

"The box would be empty…" Carina begins to sing back, wrapping an arm around Elisabeth and pulling her close. She doesn't respond to the speculation of what is to come, hoping for — even planning for — the future is hard after having lived so long in this world. Instead, she closes her eyes and sings along.

"Except for the memory…"

December 24th


The yellow glow of a streetlights filters dim through gauzy curtains.

Of how they were answered by you

Cradling a swaddled baby in her arms, Carina Harrison sings softly with a smile twisted across her lips. Tiny blue butterflies are stenciled on the walls of the baby's room, a mobile of airplanes and stars slowly spins over an empty crib. Gently rocking the baby in her arms, Carina smiles and brushes a lock of fine blonde hair from the child's brow, looking down on her with adoring eyes.

But there never seems to be enough time

As the baby's eyes slowly flutter shut, Carina makes the gentlest of expressions and brushes the knuckles of her free hand against the tiny girl's cheek. Then, easing forward, she lays the baby down in the crib and strokes a hand over the top of her head. As she bends forward, Carina does not realize that there is someone else in the room with her, standing in black silhouette behind her in the room.

To do the things you want to do

He stares over the top of Carina's bent frame, down into the crib, just inches behind her. Pale blue eyes scan the child, one white brow rising as he does.

Once you find them

"Goodnight, Lizzie," Carina whispers to her daughter.

I've looked around enough to know

The shadowed man's lips part, testing out the shape and texture of the name on them. "What a tapestry laid out for you, little Elisabeth," he whispers gently. "Stay strong. We'll meet soon enough."

That you're the one I want to go…

Carina doesn't hear it the whisper. But, how could she? Because when she turns around, there was no one there at all.

…through time with.


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