The Ruin Of Many A Poor Boy


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Scene Title The Ruin Of Many A Poor Boy
Synopsis Elisabeth tries to reach out to Kain as he sinks deeper into the past.
Date September 30, 2020

People have constants.

Not just consistency, but constants in the mathematical sense. Elisabeth Harrison spent seven years traversing time and space and was confronted by these common threads all along her journey. There are certain people who will always come together, certain places people gravitate toward, certain paths in life that feel simply inexorable. It’s like Richard said to her once, history has inertia. Edward called it the river’s flow. Events that felt predestined to happen, milestones that could — save for in the most extenuating of circumstances — not be averted.

Elisabeth’s seen enough of these signposts to know that not all of them are good. Especially when the signposts are so literal.

New Chinatown
Staten Island

September 30th
7:12 pm

The sign for New Chinatown that was put up just a few months ago has already been defaced several times. The green and white highway sign reads ROOKERY in vibrant red paint. Residents of Staten Island have been slow to accept their rebranding, no matter how hard it is pushed. Coming back out here though, to this neighborhood, to this island, isn’t easy for Elisabeth.

In one timeline, this whole island belonged to Kain Zarek. A man who’d turned himself into a kingpin and had the kingdom to show for it. In another, this all sat beneath the dome of the Outer District, a machine-infested hellhole where the Department of Evolved Affairs held court. But here, it just looks like a slice pulled out of a third-world nation like the rest of post-war America.

As Elisabeth pulls off the freeway into New Chinatown, the landmarks are vaguely familiar to her. The Happy Dagger burned down a long time ago, there’s a bakery where it stood though its windows are boarded up. The presence of Military Police on the street corner is unsettling, raising her hackles in the way their presence did back before she disappeared into the wending winds of history. Back when Martial Law was declared across the country under Nathan Petrelli’s cruel orders.

The GPS in Elisabeth’s car stopped working on the way to Staten Island. There’s no cell towers out here yet, no GhostNet to piggyback off of. But it’s memory that leads her down these streets now, because she knows precisely where she’s going, she knows this city well after so many iterations. The tenement building at 36 Hamilton Avenue isn’t remarkable under any stretch of the imagination, but it has abundant parking.

The sun is set by the time Elisabeth gets out of her car. She can see firelight burning across the island, small and controlled; bonfires likely. There is a small group of people smoking cigarettes and playing a dice game out front of the apartment. Two teens drink beer openly on the sidewalk. Elisabeth’s badge has no weight here, though she can’t help but feel it heavily in her pocket.

Apartment 522 resides on the floor that smells the least like urine so far. There’s a couple having an argument across the hall, Elisabeth can’t help but overhear them arguing. But she’s not here for them.

She’s here to find a man who is caught in the currents of his own choices.

She’s here to find Kain Zarek.

And she's not entirely sure of her reception, despite their history.

She made a point of changing into jeans, hiking boots, and long-sleeved black shirt that camouflages the pistol in her front waistband slightly. It's second nature again to carry at all times when she's not home and she'd really rather not stand out too much around here.

She pauses momentarily, slanting a sideways look at the door across the hall, and then resolutely turns her back on that to knock on the door. And definitely not the 'open up, police!' knock. When the door opens, she's wearing a look that he recognizes well — one eyebrow quirked, mouth slightly purses in a sardonic expression that says really?

Kain’s expression is instead one of guilt and discomfort. He looks like he was expecting someone else, and the regard of his blue eyes over the chain binding door to wall tells as much to her. Kain’s apartment is dimly lit on the inside, candles and maybe a portable lamp. His building doesn’t even have electricity.

“Ain’t time fer mah parole check-in, is it, officer?” Kain says with a hint of sarcasm, though there’s an edge of something less teasing about it. It’s like he’s reverted some, backslid to that bitter man she first met below Consolidated Edison a universe ago.

Or four.

Elisabeth retorts lazily, "As if." The toe of her boot kicks lightly at the bottom of the door, and she holds up a bottle of real nice whiskey to show him. "Open up, Cajun. Don't care what under the radar shit you're playing at. I'm not a cop tonight." Just the mom of a little girl who loves him. And his friend, whether he likes it or not.

She tried texting him and he blew her off. She tried catching up with him through the construction company he'd been working for. And the more he dodged, the more concerned for him she's gotten. So … here she is. "Her Royal Highness had a lot to say," she murmurs quietly.

Kain makes a noise in the back of his throat and closes the door enough to undo the chain, then just lets the door swing open as he turns his back to it and walks into the apartment. “Ah’ ain’t consentin’ t’no search an’ seizure, officer.” He says with a wave of one hand over his shoulder as he walks.

The apartment isn’t nice. It isn’t dirty, but that’s the only kind thing to say about it. The building looks like it was built in the 70’s and the interior looks like it hasn’t been renovated since. There’s a nearly threadbare wall-to-wall carpet on the floor that’s been trampled so flat over the years that it might as well be beige cardboard. All of the furniture looks like third or fourth-hand things salvaged from abandoned homes that sat partly exposed to the elements for years.

As Kain walks in, he turns toward a small kitchenette and partly disappears behind rows of empty brown glass bottles laid out on the countertop. There’s a space where a refrigerator was, but without electricity the appliance would’ve been a vestigial limb. Instead, Kain has an old fashioned icebox full of actual ice. “You want a beer? Folks brew a good porter out here, ain’t Izzy’s toilet moonshine, so you ain’t gotta worry about goin’ blind.”

Following him into the apartment, Liz shuts the door behind her. Glancing around the place, she does quirk an eyebrow, but…. they've lived in worse. Why he'd choose to live in a place like this instead of something a little nicer when they were all given money to help get them settled and he — at least for a while — had been working a good-paying construction job is somewhat beyond her. But she's not judging him, either.

"Sure. Always did like a good home brew," she tells him easily, leaving the bottle of good bourbon on the counter. Leaning her hip against the counter as she reaches to take the beer. Her blue eyes on him are concerned. "You've been dodgin' me, Cajun. You doing okay?"

“Maybe,” is Kain’s half-hearted admission of guilt. He retrieves two recycled bottles from the icebox, shaking melted ice off of them, then turns around and sets them on the small kitchen counter between he and Elisabeth.

“Look, Uncle Sam gave me a new life an’ a new name… it ain’t easy t’adapt t’all that when y’keep gettin’ pulled back by the weight of everybody who knows yer’ past.” Kain picks up his bottle, knocking the cap off on the edge of the counter before taking a swig. “Ah’ wanted a fresh start, an’ that’s hard when y’keep bein’ reminded of who y’were.”

Kain rests his hip against the counter. “M’tryin’ t’actually… Ah’ dunno, see what comes,” he says with a hint of distraction in his eyes. “What’s new with you, officer? Y’get any good kickbacks lately?”

A single brow rises on her forehead and Elisabeth takes a long swallow from the beer before she answers. "You know," she observes, "personally I would think it's a hell of a lot harder to leave all that behind when you're in your old stomping grounds and living in territory where d'Sarthe is laying out feelers." There's no censure in her tone, it's simply observation. She points a finger at him with the hand holding the bottle. "Seems to me, that's kind of a step backward."

As she sets the beer down, though, she leans onto both hands to study him across the small expanse. "Are you trying to tell me you want me to lose your number, Kain?" It will gut her to do it, and she notes the pang of distress it brings absently. It's not in her to just leave him flailing — even if all she can really do is make sure he knows she's here. She owes him more than she will ever repay, and she genuinely cares about him besides.

The long silence from Kain feels painful, but judging from his own pinched expression the feeling might be mutual. “No,” Kain finally says, blinking a look up to Elisabeth that carries with it the weight of guilt. “Ah’ ain’t sayin’ y’should just…” He sighs, pacing.

“All m’sayin’ is that maybe you ain’t gotta worry ‘bout me.” Kain says with a grumble, swirling his beer around by a grip at the neck. “Ah’m tryin’ t’get past everythin’ that happened t’us since we left the Hub. You an’ me left some ghosts back there, Lizzie.” Richard, Peyton, so many others who didn’t make it to the roof. “It’s hard t’put them behind me when Ah’ keep rememberin’ everythin’ that happened when Ah’ see you’r someone else.”

Kain furrows his brows, having gone long on his pacing, he turns at one end of the small living room and looks back to Elisabeth. “It ain’t the Kain Zarek of this world Ah’m runnin’ from. It’s the Kain Zarek who lived in the Hub.” There’s visible pain in his eyes when he admits that. “The man here’s just a story, he can’t hurt me. But the man Ah’ was there?” His jaw trembles for a moment. “He haunts me every night.”

Yeah. Elisabeth can understand being haunted. Kain's world and the things she did in the Hub and out of it haunt her too, in different ways. Burning children still haunt her own nights. Change in geography (or temporospatial coordinates) doesn't fix what's broken. That's a harder road.

"I'm always going to worry about you, idiot," she chides quietly. "I'm your friend. I'm not giving up on you, Cajun. Not ever. You and I both know running isn't going to help." She knows that he knows it all too well. "That man? He fucked it all up royally."

She sets her beer on his counter with a sharp sound of glass hitting Formica.

"But no one fuckup or set of bad decisions defines a person, Kain. Every damn day is a new day to be better. I keep in touch with you because you matter. To me, to Aura, to Ling if she's out there. Not to remind you of who you were but to remind you that you're not alone. Even when you fuck up royally. This door is never closed, no matter how hard you try to chase me off."

“Smokey’s on the wind,” Kain says in small confirmation, “doin’ her own thing.” It’s easier to talk about his longtime friend rather than himself. But the amount of topical ground he has with which to discuss Ling is threadbare at best. It leaves him once more trapped by his own existence.

“Ah’ know,” is Kain’s belated response to Elisabeth. “Ah’ know you ain’t gonna just dump me like the hot bag a’trash that is me.” He says with a motion of his beer toward himself. “But it don’t stop me none from wishin’ y’all had the common sense t’do it.” He takes a sip of his beer, swishing it around in his mouth before swallowing, giving him time to think.

Kain finally looks back at Elisabeth, one brow raised. “Honestly, Ah’ figured it might be too dangerous for a fancy front-page cop t’come out here. Guess you proved me wrong. Should’a known better, what with your ability to stick your head in the lion’s mouth at any an’ all hour of the day.”

She can't help snorting out a laugh, relaxing fractionally when he acknowledges that she's not letting him just disappear. Elisabeth picks up her beer again and eyes him. "That's funny," she muses drily. "You walked into the lion's den alone and thought I wouldn't follow you here?" A beat. "Have we met?" Genuine amusement lightens her eyes. "Hot bag of trash or not, you're my hot bag of trash. You're family."

Silly ass.

She savors a swallow of the beer — it's really not bad at all — but then she asks, "I'm sure you're going to tell me to fuck off and it's not my business, but since I'm here…" Elisabeth smiles slightly at him, just a hint of mischief in her features. There are shades of Aurora in that look. "Why don't you just go ahead and tell me what fresh new pile of shit you've located and thrown yourself head first into out here to punish yourself so that my imagination doesn't conjure up something truly horrifying."

She points at him again. "You know my imagination is going to be far worse than whatever you're really doing. This way, I just know what to worry about when I don't hear from you." Or where to start tearing shit apart to find him. Perfectly reasonable, right? Right!

“Y’know, a little’f this an’ a little a’that.” Kain says noncommittally. “It ain’t none of your business,” he adds with a sly smile. “But Ah’ ain’t born yesterday, so you don’t gotta worry your blonde little head about it none. Ah’m just tryin’ t’figure out who Ah’ am in this world now that it ain’t on fire twenty-four fuckin’ hours a day.”

Kain takes a long swig from his beer. “Ah’ ain’t good with construction,” he says with a shrug. “The gig was good, and Magnes ain’t terrible t’work with, but it weren’t what Ah’ needed. So here’s me figurin’ mahself out.” Kain takes another sip from his beer, pacing the small floor of the living room/kitchenette space.

“How’s tricks up with the police?” Kain asks, slanting a look over at Liz. “Y’all still top shit there?”

His answer is expected and the sly smile actually makes her grin in return. This is Kain as he ought to be — sassy and full of himself. Elisabeth shrugs slightly in answer to his question. "I guess," is the reply to being 'top shit.' "Job's going okay. Same old shit, different decade." There's a little bit of bitterness to her words.

"Oh!" She halts the bottle of beer halfway to her lips and digs in her pocket, coming out with several sheets of paper, folded rather inexpertly. "Aura sent these for you," she holds them out to him with a grin. "Careful — there's glitter all over the bottom one and that shit never goes away." Craft herpes.

She pauses and says softly, "Thank you. For taking care of her like that when they called you." When Aurora was losing her shit during the thing in the summer. She wishes they hadn't had to make the call, but she's glad her daughter had him.

Kain looks down at the flowers, some of the color draining from his face. When he looks up at Elisabeth, there’s a moment of uncomfortable tension before he takes them from her. Kain holds the paper flowers in his hand, swallowing tightly. He sets his beer down on the counter.

“Weren’t nothin’,” Kain says with a tightness in his voice, putting the origami flowers down on the countertop beside his beer. Glitter covers one hand and he tries to scrub it off onto his pants to no avail. “She’s— she’s a good kid. Probably better off with me only in her life a little bit here an’ there, but…” Kain passes off his comment as a joke with an inscrutable smile.

Uncertain of what to do with his hands and visibly awkward, Kain looks up at the crooked clock on his wall and says, “It’s uh… it’s gettin’ late. Y’don’t wanna’ be a cop here after 8:00 pm.” He flounders a little, glances back at the flowers, then back to Liz. “Ah’ promise Ah’ won’t be such a stranger, s’just… Ah’ need some time.”

Having assured herself that he's at least all in one piece, Elisabeth nods slightly and moves to set the beer bottle down on his counter. "Good," she says softly. "Told you before, time is fine… Just drop a text sometimes so I know you're in one piece." Whatever she thinks of his comment about what Aurora is better off with, she keeps to herself.

There's a hesitation as she studies him for a long moment. He's giving reactions that aren't merely his own awkwardness. He's being cagey — not that he's ever not been cagey. But he's definitely got things going he doesn't want her to see or know about. But that's just Kain, and she doesn't keep at him. She simply takes the hint that he wants her to go — he's never exactly sociable.

She looks momentarily torn about something during that long moment and then mentally seems to say 'fuck it', reaching out to hug him in a brief, hard hug. "Take care, Cajun," she murmurs as she draws back. His usual awkwardness about being hugged is simply ignored, and she smiles slightly. "Door will always be open — holler if you need anything."

Kain is a little stiff in the hug at first, but slowly relaxes in it. There’s a moment where he feels like he might say something while they’re still in the embrace, but it never comes. Instead, he slowly disentangles himself and moves to the apartment door, undoing the lock and opening it for Elisabeth.

“Ah’ll holler nice’n loud,” Kain says with a lopsided smile. It’s his usual charming deference, the kind of smile he gives when he’s hiding something. But that’s, like Liz figured, just who Kain is on a long enough time table. But this one, at least, feels different. Maybe she’d gotten through to him? It feels like, in some way, she had.

“Y’all be safe out there, Goldilocks.” Kain says with a nod to the door.

"Because I'm so good at that," Elisabeth retorts drily, a wry half-smile quirking her lips. She jerks her chin at him slightly as she heads out, shoving her hands in her pockets. "See you around, darlin."

As Kain shuts his door behind Elisabeth, there’s a moment of stillness that comes over him. After a beat he slides the deadbolt shut and puts the chain back on the door. Kain leans forward and rests his head against the door with a soft thunk, eyes falling shut. He waits just a little while longer, until he’s certain Elisabeth isn’t still out in the hall to lean away from the door.

“Nice job,” calls the man stepping out from around the corner leading toward the bathroom. “Mr. d’Sarthe appreciates your discretion.”


Kain turns, looking over his shoulder at the man no longer hiding in earshot. His lips downturn into a frown, brows knit. “Where were we?” Kain asks, before finishing his beer.

“Familiar territory,” Mines says with an angle of his head to the side. Kain stares vacantly at Mines, but with what comes next, he can’t help but turn sheet white.

“How well do you know Kaydence Damaris?”

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