The Smallest Blessing


elisabeth_icon4.gif wf_lance_icon.gif

Scene Title The Smallest Blessing
Synopsis … is sometimes the most important one.
Date October 25, 2018

Cat's Crash Pad

She hasn't wanted to really get into it just yet… they've been here several days now, and Elisabeth has been keeping an eye on the situation with Lance, Lucy, and Lene. When things have looked a little bit awkward, she's unobtrusively lent a hand or handed them a bottle or what have you. The baby, thank God, has perhaps been overwhelmed enough to be somewhat stunned by all the changes and movement and near-drowning, so there's mostly apparently just been a lot of cuddling her. Which she needs anyway.

Today, however, Lene's squalls have been near-constant. And Liz keeps an eye on it until the point where she simply can't stand the sound anymore — to her, having had an infant, the crying doesn't sound like just fussy. It's the inconsolable 'something is wrong' cry and the maternal instincts within her cannot stand it.

The apartment they're all using is not huge, but it's roomy enough to allow for some movement and people are in and out looking around. Having Cassandra take Aurora on walkabout, Liz makes her way to Lance where he's pacing with the baby and holds out her hands questioningly, "May I?"

Back and forth, back and forth, the baby cradled in Lance’s arms as he tries to get her to calm down. He hasn’t been sleeping great because, well, he’s not used to taking care of a baby! As she appears, he winces a little.

“Sorry, I should’ve put up a silence field so she didn’t disturb anyone,” he admits, and he has been when he can’t get the baby to stop squalling usually. He’s just too tired to have remembered tonight. At the request, he reaches back out to offer ‘Lene over, cradling her carefully as she’s handed to Liz, “I just— I don’t know what she wants.”

Elisabeth takes the baby girl with gentle, competent hands. Curling the infant up under her chin and rearranging her blankets so the baby is covered securely while she holds her, the blonde rests her head on top of the baby's head and bounces a little on the balls of her feet. "Sometimes they really don't know what they need either," she tells him with a sympathetic smile. "Sometimes, once you've changed the diaper, fed them, made sure they're not being stuck by a pin, and otherwise made sure they're not hurting or sick, there's really nothing else to do but exactly what you're doing. But it's hard to be a single parent." Her lips on Lene's forehead test for temperature, and she tilts her head as she watches the teenager. She's been watching him… and occasionally she can see the panic that crosses his face or Lucy's.

As she jostles ‘Lene gently, snugging her tight in so the baby feels safe and can hear her heartbeat, Elisabeth chooses her words thoughtfully. "So… at the risk of you taking it the wrong way, Lance… wanna tell me how you managed to get hold of Gillian's daughter and then wind up with us instead of elsewhere when we left?"

As she takes the infant, Lance steps over— hovering nearby protectively, and to observe as well. “Yeah, I know it is,” he says quietly, and there’s something more meaningful to those words to him than she perhaps knows. He watches ‘Lene for a moment, and then the last question has him blinking back to her in confusion, brow knitting deeply.

“Huh? Gillian— no, this isn’t Gillian’s daughter,” he chuckles, shaking his head as he looks back to the baby, “Gillian’s only got a son, ‘far as I know. Nate.”

Whoa. Elisabeth's blue eyes snap back down to the baby in her hands and then return to Lance sharply. "What?" That's not…. What she knows. But then again, that Wasteland wasn't the one she knew either. Not exactly. "Then…." Her brain has to realign. "Is she your daughter, Lance?" That'd definitely be a twist. But he can easily see where she's got practice soothing a fractious infant — even as she is startled, her tone never raises from the softer, gentler cadence laced with soothing undercurrents that she's using and there's almost a sing-song quality to the low hum that surrounds her and the baby now.

“What? Oh, no— no, no,” Lance quickly corrects her with a shake of his head, a hand coming up to ward off that idea. “No, she’s not mine.” He reaches out a hand, a finger brushing the baby’s cheek as he explains quietly, “This is my niece. Darlene Gerken.”

His gaze sweeps back up to her face, “They didn’t give us reproductive rights in the Outer District without permission. Hailey had to— that’s why she was doing the broadcasts.” He looks back down to the child, breathing out a sigh, “She did it for ‘Lene here.”

Oh God. Elisabeth blanches at the information — because she has some notion of what Hailey Gerken would have had to do. And what it cost. Sadness crosses her features, and she nuzzles the little girl under her chin. "I'm so sorry, Lance. I'm glad that you figured out why she was doing what she was doing, though." Because at least that had to be some relief to the young man.

The soft, fuzzy head of the infant still carries the baby smell that Aurora outgrew a little while ago. It's a scent that is soothing, at least to Liz. She hums a lullaby in low notes as she sways with Darlene, and then she looks up again. "In my world… Gillian's daughter's name was Jolene. You threw me… and I think Walter too." She grins a little. "He was friends with Jolene in his world." Though Lene is still crying, it's a less strident sound, more of a fussy kind of exhaustion — after all, she too was awake and keeping Lance awake. Liz pats her on the back, adding that sensation to the movement and low sounds to soothe her.

"So you got her out of the District… just in time for all hell to break loose in there?" she asks quietly.

“I went back to get Hailey and her, after the Dome went down…” Lance looks away, staring at the wall for a moment with tired eyes although what he’s seeing is a world away, “…I heard Hailey on the radio. She was telling everyone the Dome was down, that it was all a lie. Then— “

He cuts off abruptly, silent for a moment before he turns back to Liz, “I was gonna bring her to Gillian, after, but— you saw it. They nuked the District. There wasn’t anywhere else to bring her.” He wasn’t planning on coming. He sounds a bit lost, uncertain, and for once— closer to his actual age.

She did see it — and she knew that Lance wasn't of the intent to come with us when we left, that it had been only because of what happened that he did. Death was not a preferable outcome. As Lene starts to finally settle a little, tiny hands scrubbing at her face where it's buried against Liz's chest under her chin, there's a subtle shift in the hum that is buzzing gently around the audiokinetic and the baby. Elisabeth keeps on shifting her weight from foot to foot — the Parent Sway is a real thing.

"What do you think you want to do now?" she asks him quietly. "She's your niece… obviously none of us are going to want to step on your toes here. You are her blood." Liz waits until she has his eyes before saying to him quietly, "But if you'd rather remain her uncle and let one of us handle a little more of the weight of this until she's a little older… and you're a little older too… we can do it. You're all mine to protect, Lance… family. You don't have to try to do this alone." In some ways, holding Lene as she is, this is perhaps the most at peace he's seen her in the time he's known her — the only close comparison is when she's doing almost the same thing with Aurora.

“I don’t know. We’ll figure it out…” Lance’s lips twitch in a faint smile, a brow lifting, “And I’m not doing it alone. I’ve got Squeaks here, and Lucy— the Lighthouse still burns. We take care of our own.” He watches the baby’s face as she starts to settle down, expression softer. “You worry about your whole… getting home thing. We’ll work out what we’re doing.”

He chuckles, if mirthlessly, “We all had to grow up pretty fast, you know.”

Elisabeth smiles at him, the expression softening her features into something far less… soldier. "I know you did." The acknowledgement is easy — it's a simple fact. She can't change what happened to these kids. "Will you mind much if I bogart the baby once in a while for cuddles like this?" she asks him, amusement lingering in her blue eyes. "I kinda miss this part. When they're so little and all they really want is warmth and safety and a bit of attention. I can do this while you catch a nap, if you want," she offers with a grin.

Darlene is finally beginning to doze off, and Elisabeth looks down and then back up at him to observe gently, "I think she's just feeling the stress that you're under… wondering how you're going to make it all okay. They're ridiculously sensitive to the stress levels of the people they're closest attached to." She doesn't say 'and she's missing her mother' because it's both obvious and hurtful. "Just… try, and believe me I know exactly how hard it is, to not let your body tense up when she gets going. When your muscles start winding up, it'll wind her up further too." It's a hard-won bit of knowledge — Liz struggled with depression and panic when Aurora was first born.

“Hey, you want to babysit some times, I’m not going to complain,” replies Lance with a hint of tired humor to the words. The advice he listens to, nodding slightly before looking back to Darlene. “I’m usually better about that,” he admits quietly, “Just been hard to meditate and center lately, for— obvious reasons.”

There's a grimace from Liz on that one. "Yeah." Her tone holds a wealth of understanding. Drawing in a long breath and letting it out slowly, she reaches up one hand to gently brush the baby-soft down on Lene's head. Now that the infant has crashed out and is boneless weight, there's a comfort all its own to the feeling of having the baby curled against her chest. "We'll find you a piece of material long enough for a sling for her — it'll keep your hands free when you're puttering around, let her still look around when she's awake. But she'll feel safer bundled up like that against you," she murmurs quietly to him, her head tipped so she can look down at the baby with a soft expression. "It's going to take her a little while to adjust to the missing people in her life… " She looks up at him, her sadness evident. "Even this small, they recognize when someone's not there and they miss them. You're doing a really good job being patient with her, for what my opinion on it's worth to you."

“Thanks.” Lance offers, a faint smile as he watches the baby, and then up to her with sadness in his eyes, “Yeah. She… I’m sure she can tell Hailey’s gone. And Gillian, and Nate…” A hand comes up to rub at his face, and he looks away before admitting quieter, “She’s probably handling it better than I am.”

The opening offered, Elisabeth pulls in a quiet breath and asks, "How are you holding up? Stepping through a wormhole and leaving home isn't the easiest thing to do even when you chose it. Since you more or less got blindly shoved through, I haven't been sure exactly what to do for you except… make sure you and Lene and Lucy have what you need." She hasn't stopped the gentle rocking on the balls of her feet that seems as natural as breathing to her. She hesitates and says softly, "I'm sorry." For the loss. For the fact he's stuck here now. For whatever the hell actually happened back there.

“We’ll get by. We always do.” A slow breath’s drawn in, and Lance looks back at her with the tired eyes of someone much older than he is, “We dealt with losing Gillian and Brian once. We can do it again. This place can’t be worse than home, and— there’s me, and there’s Lucy and Squeaks, and ‘Lene. So. We’ve got each other.” He nods, “And that’s what matters.”

Her regret is patent on her features. But Elisabeth nods slightly. "No place is perfect… but you're right that home isn't really a place." She strokes Lene's back and says softly, "I don't know what this world holds… and I'm going to tell you straight that I think the anti-Evo crowd here is potentially still dangerous. Walter and Cat told us to lay very low here… that the Vanguard remnants sort of drifted off, haven't been seen in a few years, but they aren't destroyed. I don't know what you may choose to do about staying here or continuing on with us if we find the way home." Her blue eyes are turbulent as they meet his gaze. "I'd very much like it if you continued on with us. I do know that whatever else my world has suffered in the interim, it's better for those of us with abilities. Still not perfect, I assume. But… not actively being hunted and not having to hide. It's only my opinion, but I think it would be better for all of you." She has to believe it — otherwise everything she's done for the past few years has been for nothing.

"In the meantime," she looks down at Lene with soft eyes, her smile reappearing and easing her expression back to the gentleness that he's seen with Aurora too. "Anytime you want an extra set of hands, mine are definitely available." She rests her lips and nose against the crown of the baby's head. Her smile at him retains the gentleness. "Go get some sleep. You've been up a long time. I've got this."

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