The Endless Circle Of Love And Tragedy


bf_cassandra_icon.gif elisabeth3_icon2.gif

Scene Title The Endless Circle of Love and Tragedy
Synopsis The many layers of a wedding ring.
Date September 16, 2014

Elisabeth and Ygraine's Apartment

In the year and a half since Aurora's birth, Cassandra has been a familiar face at Elisabeth and Ygraine's apartment. The baby squeals whenever the young woman turns up and is always thrilled to babble along and clap and generally just make happy with her babysitter. Today, however, Elisabeth asked Cassandra to meet her at the apartment not for a babysitting gig but for something a little more personal. When Cass arrives and lets herself in with the key — knowing she's expected — the apartment is quieter than its usual chaotic uproar. Ygraine and Aura aren't in the apartment.

"Hey, Cass," Liz greets from her perch at the counter, glancing over her shoulder. In the year since she began performing, the woman has religiously kept up the darker hair color that she adopted for her public persona. She looks good as a brunette, as Felix once predicted. But today, her blue eyes are a little clouded because there are things on her mind. And she worries… without knowing what, if anything, the postcog will take from the ring she's about to ask Cass to look at, Liz doesn't know how much she needs to tell the young woman.

Swinging about on the chair, she gestures toward the couch. "I'm glad you could make it… I need a favor, kiddo. And… I need you to not ask me any questions until this is over, okay?" Elisabeth grins just a little, though there's concern in her eyes. "You've been practicing honing in on time periods when it comes to objects, and based on what you said last week… I think you've progressed far enough that you should be able to possibly find out what I need. If you're still game."

Hesitantly, she removes a chain from around her neck. She's never spoken of the wedding ring that she wears there — it's clearly not her own, far too large for her slender fingers. But it's also never left her neck. "I need you … to trace this back to the point where the man who wore it got married… and then I need to see what, if anything, he and the woman he married talked about. I'm looking… for a particular topic or a particular person involved in the conversation. But … I'm not sure how to help you limit that."

Elisabeth’s place has become the home away from home for Cassie in her time here in New York. Ever since that chance meeting in the park in the middle of a cold winter’s day, followed by pizza and conversation, Cassie has been fairly inseparable from Elisabeth and Rory, spending almost as much time with the pair of them as she did in her own dorm. Study sessions were spent at the kitchen table while Rory toddled about, dinners were shared, conversations were had, and many, many bad movies were watched on the old TV that rarely showed anything besides children’s programming these days.

Mr. Rogers was a big hit with Rory. As he should be.

It was a big moment, too, when she was given a key to Elisabeth’s place, the little brunette moving into that circle of trust held by very few, from what she could tell. It was because here was closer to school than her dorm, and she could come here between classes to relieve Elisabeth, make something to eat, and be on the subway before the next class was due to start. A nice break in the monotony of college life.

The rattle of her key in the door heralds Cassie’s arrival, the heavy wooden door creaking on that one squeaky hinge as she slips inside, closing and locking it behind her. It is new york, after all, so you need to be careful as far as things go. “Hey Liz.” She shrugs her bag off to its usual spot on the chair next to the door, taking a few steps to perch on the corner of the couch where she can easily see Elisabeth.

“O…okay?” Cassie’s head tilts to the side, nodding. She has been practicing. Quite a bit, in fact, letting Elisabeth and Rory experience a few memories she had discovered - specifically a circus at Coney Island around 1850 or 1860, as near as they could tell. Elisabeth had never taken her up on her offer to show her things from her past, but it seems that this might be the time. She watches quietly as Elisabeth tugs the wedding ring from around her neck, the gold glinting in the dim light of the apartment as it spins on its little chain. “I’m still game, sure. That’s really specific but….” She rocks back and forth in her seat. “I think I could probably focus down on that. It’s probably going to be one of the more powerful echoes on there.”

She slips from her perch to her bag, unzipping it, withdrawing a familiar red bandanna and some cotton pads which are tucked into her breast pocket before she moves to sit in the crook of the couch nearest Elisabeth, preparing the blindfold by twisting the cotton into it, where her eyes would be. Once that’s done, she ties it smartly around her head, blocking her vision, taking a breath and nodding. “Whenever you’re ready, hand me the ring.” The usual warnings aren’t given, since Elisabeth has gone with her before. “And if you need me to stop….just say so.”

"I will," Elisabeth agrees. But she's more serious than usual. This is important to her. "Cassandra … I don't know what you're going to see here. And I'm going to tell you straight up that it could be totally mundane… it it could be something really strange. If it's the latter, I will answer all of your questions about what we see. The man whose ring it was is… unusual," she tells the girl, a faint smile quirking her lips. "And the woman he married was an outright genius."

Then she reaches out for Cassandra's hand and places the ring and its accompanying chain in the girl's palm, closing her fingers around it.

The ring has some surprising weight to it, the chain coiling around itself in the palm of Cassie’s hand as Liz places it there. She nods her head slightly and sits back, drawing the item close to her chest, closing her hands around it, cupping it, almost, near her heart as she takes in a soft, slow breath. “Let’s see what we can see…” she murmurs quietly, and then, with a snap, the room goes dark.

Swirls of images dance around the pair of women as Cassie delves into the memories of the ring - flashes of events past the wedding dance on the edge of their consciousness until she reaches the beginning. Rubbing her thumb over the gold she sits up straighter, the scene coming into focus slowly, like a person’s view while rising from a still pool of water.

A wedding ring carries significant emotional weight. But what Cassandra finds on here isn’t anything to do with love, isn’t much to do with the betrothal is signifies.The man that carried this ring — his life viewed backwards from the moment it passed hands to Elisabeth — lived a life that was a chain of suffering and loss.

He looks down for a moment, breathes in deeply, and just passes off the ring and chain to her. “You’ve got a reason to get to him. I… I’m a stranger there. As much as I’d like to get out of here, I know deep down inside my heart’s not in the same place as yours. My son’s here, and I’m not going to abandon him. If… it comes down to leaving him here, or going with you?” David shakes his head and lets the end of the chain slip from his fingers. “I’ll feel safer with it in your hands. Maybe… maybe someday it’ll find its way home.”

But David remembers Liz asked him something else, a different kind of question and one that he’d pushed aside for the sake of the ring. His wedding band, one he couldn’t bring himself to wear after emerging into a dead world. “I don’t even know if I’d recognize what that looks like when I see it. I don’t know. If he has he hasn’t ever told me, but… he only tells me what I need to know.”

Managing a weary smile, David eyes the ring one more time, then folds his hands in his lap. “For what it’s worth, I really hope you find a way for all of us to get out of here. But I’m — I’m a realistic man. Nothing ever goes just the way we want it to.”

Instead of carrying memories of a marriage of love, the ring is an emblem of death and suffering. Upon the ring she witnesses vestigial glimpses of a nightmarish world where the sick are executed for the safety of the well, where those who succumb to disease gain uncontrollable abilities and then dissolve into bubbling heaps of protoplasmic flesh.

One memory pops vividly into the forefront.

A dusty envelops is forced open, letting light inside for the first time in many years. From within, three quarters dated 1982 tumble into an open palm along with a barely worn gold wedding band. David Cardinal, dark circles around his eyes and expression haunted by a life lost in prison, stares down at the ring with tears in his eyes. Around him, the prison he stands in is empty and desolate. No electric lights, just a dusky gray light spilling in from outside.

And then there is a massive gap in the ring’s history, followed by an emotional punctuation mark.

David Cardinal lays on a gurney in street clothes — a flannel shirt, loose jeans, and brown work boots. A young man with short blonde hair dressed in a lab coat is taking off his personal possessions. The wedding ring wiggles off his finger, change is fished out of his pocket. A wallet is taken from his back pocket, identification flipped through. David Cardinal, it says in clear text in a Kansas driver’s license.

”Have him put down in detention level 4,” a voice calls from behind the doctor. The young man turns, still holding the personal effects in one hand. Behind him stands a tall, dour man with dark hair just starting to go gray at the temples. Cassandra recognizes Arthur Petrelli, many years younger. “Make sure he stays down there until I say otherwise, and…” Arthur looks at the wallet, taking it out of the doctor’s hand. “You won’t need that. Just list him as John Doe.”

The doctor tenses, brows furrowed, and nods. Reaching to a table nearby, he withdraws a yellow envelope. “His sedation will wear off in a couple hours,” the young man informs Arthur, who nods in one slow motion, already turning for the double doors. “We’ll have him down there right away.” And he deposits the ring and change into the envelope.

But before that, there’s a glimpse of fear and a punctuation of anger.

Three men in black suits with crisp white undershirts and skinny black neckties surround David in the alley, guns drawn. One of them fires, but it isn’t a bullet. The thwip of a dart hits David in the back by the kidney, a tassled dart protruding from his side. He stumbles, takes a wild swing at one of the agents who sidesteps the punch. David’s eyes roll back in his head, he sways to one side, manages to stay up for a few more moments, then collapses to the ground.

So much tragedy.

Pacing back and forth as far as the stretched cord will allow him, David might as well soon wear a hole in the kitchen’s linoleum floor. Listening to the ringing on the other end, he looks out the partly closed blinds of the kitchen window, then circles back around the old wooden table. The cord, now tangled around the back of one of the chairs, is as taut as it can be. There’s no response. “Chelle, where are you?”

So much loss.

“But… I got opening night tickets.” Standing in the middle of the living room, shoes on and ready to go, David holds a pair of movie tickets in one hand. Seated on the sofa, a blonde woman in her early twenties is pulling on a pair of dark sneakers. “It’s E.T.,” David exasperatedly explains, “I know you love that alien stuff, Chelle!”

Michelle smiles, awkwardly, and stands once her shoes are laced. “I wish you’d asked me first,” she says in an apologetic voice, stepping over to David and placing a hand on his cheek. “Rich said he wants me to run a few more tests on the Looking Glass before we do the trial run. He’s worried we haven’t calibrated enough and…” she looks away, teeth toying at her bottom lip.

”Babe,” David says softly, placing one hand on her cheek, “let Rich and Ed handle it. They’re both eggheads too, and they can do without you for one night, right?” He smiles, and she leans her face against his palm. “Come with me, watch an alien eat candy, and then tomorrow you can do whatever science stuff you’ve gotta do, right?”

Michelle breathes in deeply, then exhales a slow sigh and blinks a look up to David. “I should say no,” she chides, reaching up to pluck one of the tickets from his other hand. “But you’re right, Rich and Ed will be fine without me. They can calibrate the Looking Glass and we can enjoy some time together. After all… we didn’t really get much of a honeymoon.” One corner of Michelle’s mouth lifts in a smirk.

David grins, leaning in to kiss her. Then, belatedly, “That— reminds me I need to remember to file those papers.” He eyes envelopes on the table in the kitchen. “Anyway,” he looks back to her, cupping her cheek in his hand one last time. “C’mon, it starts in 20 minutes!”

But there’s also love. If you go back far enough, behind the pain, behind the sadness.

Elisabeth watches the most recent things with an expression of regret. So many things she would have liked to learn about the man himself — if it's the only thing Richard ever has of his parents, she hopes she can find a postcog back home to show him what David had said of him. How much he wanted a connection with his son. The doctors and prison are a more grim set of images and she has to admit that seeing Arthur Petrelli specifically surprises her … and makes her look toward Cassandra worriedly. But she remains silent for now, watching to learn all she can.

The project name …. is going to be of great use. "Shit," she breathes softly. The timelines still don't track for her… if Michelle went missing and David was picked up in June 1982, Richard was not born until at minimum 7 months later. Assuming Edward fudged the birthdate in order to hide him. But she'll keep working on that one. Backward, backward, to the sweetness of the earliest memory there. That… is something she can show Richard too, someday, she hopes.

"Thank you, Cass. Very much," she says quietly.

The images shown were really not the thing Cassie was expecting when Elisabeth asked to show her the past of this simple-looking wedding ring. The past is almost always more complicated than it seems, but this is….something else entirely. The glimpses she’s given of a world wrapped in death, in mutation, in the horror of a disease ravaging the world has Cassie pulling her knees to her chest, her lips hidden, her masked eyes barely peeking over the denim of her jeans. The scenes track backwards, moving from one major event to the previous one, playing through, then skipping back again. A living backspace button on a DVD player.

The appearance of a younger-looking Arthur Petrelli does get Cassie to straighten a little, watching the man’s deft movements as Cardinal is processed for level four, whatever that is, and the appearance of a married couple, of Project Looking Glass, of everything that she sees…

Well, it leaves more questions than answers, all things being equal. She started the book in the middle of chapter six and only got to see a few pages from each chapter, without context.

“I…um…” Cassie says softly, the vision fading, the darkness remaining, her eyes covered. “I don’t know what a lot of that was, but…was it what you were looking for?”

"It was… perhaps not what I was looking for but definitely something I needed to see," Elisabeth tells the younger woman in a soft tone. She reaches out and retrieves the ring from Cassandra's hand, slipping the chain that holds it back over her head. "I'm sorry you had to see so much to show it to me, though."

There are so many questions bubbling around in Cassandra’s head that she can barely keep from asking them. Mr. Petrelli is the major one - since she kind of knows who that is, what with working for his company, but the other stuff? That’s just a giant unknown, and chances are that, even if she did ask, Elisabeth wouldn’t, or couldn’t, tell her what it was.

She has a sense about that sort of thing. Call it being raised in the south and knowing when not to ask the question you’re desperately wanting to ask, because it’s rude. She lifts her hands to the blindfold and eases off her ability, the world surrounding them coming back into focus, her blindfold coming off a few moments later, the girl blinking away the tears as she wipes them away with the corner of the bandanna.

“I’ve got a lot of questions, but I know better than to ask them.” Cassie states as a fact, looking to Elisabeth. “I’m glad you got what you needed out of that, though.”

The audiokinetic smiles faintly. "I bet you do," Elisabeth sighs. "If you think you can trust me a little longer… I need to sort through what I just learned and figure out what it means." Her blue eyes on Cassandra are very serious, however. "Especially now, however… I need you to keep what you saw and most especially the name of that project Michelle was working on out of your own head. If anyone at your office has even a hint of the Looking Glass in your head… I'm genuinely afraid of what might happen to you. Can you keep it between us for now? I promise you that someday… I will explain everything."

It’s hard, sometimes, leaving things well enough alone. It’s a talent Cassie picked up in her years in the Parish down ‘round the swamps where she grew up. She nods, tucking the bandanna in her breast pocket where it pokes out like a little flag. “I’ll get it out of my head after a bit. Replace it with dinner or a movie or something. I will take you up on that explanation, though. You know what I saw….there’s a million answers in that ring that I’d love to have a little context for the right questions.” The worry in Liz’s voice is something she does pick up on, though, so it might be something more than what it seems.

“Listen…let’s go get some dinner. Big girls’ night out, yeah?” Something to take the mind off of things.

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