The Way Back Is...


ff_carina_icon.gif elisabeth_icon4.gif ff_else_icon.gif bf_lynette_icon4.gif vf_ruiz_icon4.gif ff_woods_icon.gif

Scene Title The Way Back Is…
Synopsis Elisabeth, Mateo, and Lynette make a discovery.
Date November 25, 2018

It's been nearly a month.

In the last three weeks since their arrival to a world drowned in a flood, the wayward travelers from across timelines have grown to find this wet world an unusually welcoming one. Old grudges and divides have been supplanted by a desire for survival, and while that pushes some people to do unspeakable things, the settlement of the Pelago is a defiant and resolute one with a strongly knit community. One that won't let the children of newcomers go hungry, regardless of their situations.

For Mateo Ruiz, some of this world feels more familiar than he'd like, especially today. The Church of the Ascension hosts a weekly community dinner at its space on the 65th floor of One World Trade Center. It was strange enough to see the twin towers looming over the coastal waters of New York City, stranger still to be dining in a galley-style pot luck in a gutted office building with panoramic views of the sea. This world — the flood — was so much stranger than they'd ever imagined. But meals like this? They reminded Mateo of the Hub.

Some two-hundred people gather for these community dinners, at the sundown hour, filed in at long tables with bench seats. Soups and stews co skating primarily of fish and scant vegetables harvested from rooftop gardens. For Mateo, as well as his wife, and their daughter Evie these meals are literal life-savers. Often times, much as it is today, they're joined by Elisabeth and Aurora. Days like this are both a reminder of how divergent this timeline is, and how familiarly reassuring the human capacity for generosity can be.

Church of the Ascension

7:13 pm

November 19th

Under the strung up net of electric lights overhead, the spacious mess hall takes up nearly the entirety of the floor, with tables placed toward the center of the building away from the blown-out windows covered in mismatched tarps. There's no sign of Lance and Lene today, they must not have been able to make the dinner. Likely they're with Walter, Lene’s doting not-brother, who has done his level best to insinuate himself into her life as well-meaning as is possible.

Peaceful as this is, welcoming as this is, it isn't home. But, with no prospects on the horizon or a goal in mind… it might become home.

For Lynette, there is one thing that keeps it from feeling like a potential home. The hole Manuel has left never leaves her, even in moments like this one where the people are welcoming and warm. Her family is four pieces; nothing will feel like home while they’re only three. The past few weeks have seen Lynette’s demeanor hardening, her expression flattening. Only her daughter and husband see any life out of her, but in places like this with the crowds and the community, she is generally quiet and distant.

Evie is the opposite, seeming to brighten up as her mother dims, as if her instincts are to make up for the loss. She talks to everyone who sits near them, she drags the other kids off to teach them how to sword fight (in case of pirates) and has them teach her how to catch fish. But today she hasn’t left her parents yet, because there is still food in front of her, since Lynette has been sharing her meal with the girl to make certain she has all she wants.

It kills Elisabeth to see Lynette hurting like this, just as it kills her to see Elaine's grief. She's doing the only things she can do — and in truth, it's little to absolutely nothing. What few leads they may have gleaned from Edward's predictions are pretty much exhausted at this point if only for lack of any way to even verify or work through them. Grateful unto death for the fact that the Virus survivors have a lot of experience living in basically what amounted to similarly difficult conditions and that Kain and Ling are phenomenal scroungers and barterers, Liz is struggling not to lose hope that something will give and a hint will fall into their lap somehow. Because her only real idea had been to attempt to head west toward Kansas and see if Michelle Cardinal was perhaps by some stroke of ridiculous serendipity out there where all of this apparently started. But it's winter and going out that way with winter coming doesn't seem to be an option short of hijacking someone. Which seems a stupid idea given that locals would sail much better than her own rudimentary skills would allow… but she did consider it. Briefly. For like a millisecond of insanity.

Like Lynette, Elisabeth is a decent bit thinner than she was a month ago, her food rations and such squirreled away where possible against the chance that they run low in the cold… Aurora's well-being takes precedence. Her blue eyes flicker to the cheerful girls, and she can't help the wistful smile as she watches Evie's exuberance and chatter lighten the mood of most around us. Aurora's become her faithful sidekick in all adventures. "If we're not careful," she observes in an undertone to Mateo and Lynette, "they'll be the new Dread Pirate Roberts. Can you see it? Kain and Shaw yar-ing with the best of them, looking like the grizzled first mates with those two leading?"

Hey. You gotta find your amusements where you can!

It did feel like home. And in many ways even the mood that his wife has taken on remind him of home as well. Things had been different back in his world, but every tiny source of joy was pulled upon, everything that could possibly give a hint of togetherness, of family, was clinged to. Ruiz could have probably named every single person in the Hub, because they were the entire world for a while. He’s taken to helping out, subtly charging batteries when he needed to release the energy he’d learned better control over in the almost year that he had spent with it. It rarely sparks up unless he wishes it to, controlling when it happens.

This was almost a proper Thanksgiving, in a way. They’d had proper ones in the world where he met his current wife, where his children had been born. In some ways this feels ever more so, cause it’s community. It’s a group of strangers, in a manner. And while his smile is soft, barely touching his eyes, it’s definitely there as he straightens the shirt that they’d bartered for. A knitted sweater of angora wool. Rabbits were smaller and required much less room than sheep, and bred quickly.

“Evie would be more likely to go hunting the pirates,” he notes, as he tilts his head watching the little girl with her older companion, and all the other kids. That too, reminded him of home. The kids in the Hub had been one of the only joys. He was grateful that he knew most of them had made it and were living happily in the best world they’ve seen so far.

The tenor of the room changes as Elisabeth, Lynette, and Mateo talk. There's a wave of hushed voices that moves from one side of the room to the next, and yet feels like it parts around the travelers as though they were a stone amid the waves. It doesn't take long for Elisabeth to pick up the word prophet in the murmuring and for the others to follow eyelines to one of the side entrances to the mess hall.

There's a few people there in the open double doorways. Most of them are cooks and volunteers that run the kitchen. One man, in a beaten black frock, is the pastor they recognized from occasional and mostly harmless sermonizing about the “power of community” during some dinners. Tonight feels different.

James Woods is here. He's a far cry from the grizzled shotgun-toting Woods that helped pull them out of their arrival in the wasteland. Further even from the Woods that Ruiz knew so well and called friend. He's skittish, hair frazzled in unkempt waves, wearing pajama pants tucked into rubber boots and a patched up parka. He looks awkward, disinterested. The woman beside him is anything but.

She's Else Kjelstrom.

Ruiz never met her in his home time, and Lynette knew her as a pop star in her home time. Elisabeth knee her by reputation as one of Richard’s “seers”, a woman with the gift of precognition. A woman who — in Elisabeth’s time — nearly died from a drug addiction. Here, she's stripped of the glamour of the most recent timeline they'd seen her in. Her linen clothes are off-white, but clean enough for this rough world. The book she carries, a battered journal, is pressed against the Pastor’s shoulder as though it were a baton, urging him aside.

“There is a storm coming,” Else proclaims to the room as she leaves Woods fidgeting by the doorway with the frustrated pastor. “I've seen it,” is said with a brandishing of her book. “We sit here in our shelters, ignorant of the coming onslaught from the sea. We forget that we did not defeat the darkness at our doorstep, it defeated us and crawled back into its cave like a dragon.”

Else begins to walk among the tables, and roughly half of the room pays her much heed. “The Sentinel are going to return. We have grown tired, and complacent, and they are going to burn everything we have left to the ground!

Prophet brings Elisabeth's attention fully toward the newcomers. She's half-expecting Eve … Walter did say she was out there. Else, however, is a surprise. Perhaps she shouldn't be.

Brows furrowing together in thought, Elisabeth makes sure the girls can't hear her and murmurs to Mateo and Lynette, "Uhm…. guys? This might be at least somewhat legit." Her facility with her power, subtle as it is, also keeps those seated nearby from hearing her — no need to draw attention. She glances at her companions, her eyes shaded darker with concern. "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," yes, Edward Fucking Ray has taken on the mien of Voldemort in her mind, "did tell us fire and screaming and assorted horribleness. No one ever did tell us what the fuck the Sentinel was."

Her gaze on the singer is assessing. "She could be batshit too, but…" Biting her lip, she admits, "her songs were right about a lot of things."

Lynette glances over when Woods and Else make their entrance. Her hand moves protectively around Evie, pulling the girl up into her lap while Else speaks. She remembers the star from her time, her songs stick in the mind even now, but this is no place to get star struck.

“Walter told me,” Lynette says in a lower voice as she answers Liz, “they’re what’s left of the Vanguard. Supposed to be making sure the cleansing worked, but haven’t been here in ages. If enough Evolved have gathered here… they could turn their attention here.” The world they just came from with its detection technology is enough to make her worry about what this world might have. She looks toward her husband, her frown deepening but her thoughts saved for a more private moment. If they ever get one.

While it’s true that Ruiz did not recognize the woman preaching from his own world, he spent the better part of the last few years in Lynette— and he had listened to her music and seen the same shows she had. And he knew what concert had been going on the night that they had left, as well. They’d hoped that the concert would keep most eyes elsewhere, after all.

But at the same time he did not know her as a prophet. The remainder of the Vanguard. The Sentinel.

As always, the mention of Vanguard darkens his mood, and for a moment there’s the softest buzz of energy that happens to shiver the air around him. There was reason that Walter had warned them to be subtle with their abilities, after all. And while he has used his ability to charge batteries and such, he mostly did it under the guise of his electrician training. It was his wire work that he’d traded, not his ability. Even if his ability certainly was being used. He could dismiss it as making their generators briefly more efficient.

And the like.

“Do you think they’ll listen to her?”

Else,” Woods finally pulls himself away from the door, hustling over to her and reaching out to take her by the arm. “Else you're acting like a bloody lunatic, nobody’s gonna take this street preacher nonsense well.”

In return, Else levels a look at Woods, then moves her arm out of his hand. “You are gathered here,” she raises her voice to the crowd, ignoring Woods’ plea, “in what you call a house of God without the fear and reverence needed to hear her!” Else raises the book again and Woods just claps one hand over his face.

“God is in all of us!” Else shouts. “But will only help those who help themselves. A time of testing is upon us, people of the Empire State! The shadow grows, reaches out its blackened hand, and grabs at our throat!” Some of the children around the mess hall are beginning to look troubled, parents with them are trying to settle their nerves. “Death will come for us! I have seen it!”

Again, Woods tries to take Else by the arm, but she wrests herself free with a sharp and leaves him standing alone in front of a now staring crowd. “I ask that you join me in prayer! Prayer for forgiveness of our ignorance, forgiveness of our trespass, forgiveness of our collective guilt! Only by accepting God into our hearts and listening to her message will we find the strength within ourselves to drive back the storm!”

Helplessly, Woods begins to retreat to the back of the room, wringing his hands together and murmuring to himself. He looks like he hasn't been sleeping well, or eating, or a lot of things.

"Not when she phrases it like that," Elisabeth observes quietly. "No one listens to street corner apocalypse preachers." However, one bit of phrasing raises the hair on the back of her neck — shadow grows, reaching out its blackened hand … the flash in her head is a juxtaposition of Richard, a blackened hand marking where Peter held him to rip him back into being… and the billowing of shadows that engulfed Kazimir Volken, which Elisabeth only learned after the fact didn't kill him. Abject terror makes a cold sweat break out on her skin, though she murmurs shakily to the other two, "She…. she can't be talking about shadow Volken or anything, could she?"

Her arm slips around Aurora when the little girl looks up at her and stage whispers, "Mummy, why does she keep calling God a she?"

The description makes Lynette freeze up as well, although for a different reason from Liz. For her, it’s frightening similar to something she’s been seeing in her dreams. In visions that drag her out of the here and now and into the garden. Her breathing goes shallow and her hand grips tight around the mug in front of her. Outside of Ruiz, she hasn’t talked much about her odd experiences since carrying Mateo’s ability. But she knows something is there. That something is coming. “I doubt,” she eventually gets around to saying to Liz, “that she’s being that literal.”

Even though it is far from impossible.

“We’re going to have to warn Dessy,” Ruiz mutters quietly as he glances toward Woods again, because he knows that while she had handled the previous Woods okay enough, he wouldn’t want her to get surprised by him, either. It’s a soft sound and he glances down toward the young girl. Why would someone call God a she? That question, so innocent, just makes him shake his head. Though really, maybe God was she. Though his dead Catholic mother would been horrified at the idea.

But he wasn’t Catholic anymore and doesn’t really remember having been so.

Once he had thought those noises in his head might have been God, but they were gone now. It sometimes seemed too quiet. It always seemed too quiet.

“As for if people would believe a street preacher— have you seen this place?” The world had already ended. “But this isn’t the best place for it, either…” Could she mean Shadow Volken? He doesn’t know. He’s not a prophet, and he’s not a good interpreter. But he also didn’t think there was any way Shadow Volken could transport between worlds. The ability that had been used was no longer there. But with the auroras in the sky, who really knew anymore.

As Woods starts to move away, he moves after him, “Woods, wait,” he calls out, familiarity in his voice. But he doesn’t know if this Woods would even know him.

Woods jerks to a stop, eyes wide and wheeling around when he hears someone call his name. Except that when Woods’ eyes lock on Mateo Ruiz there’s recognition on his face, not expectance one might expect from being hailed by a stranger. Woods does a double take, lurches and then stumbles, ducks down and squints and then creeps up on Ruiz as though a cat stalking a mouse — a very obvious cat.

Mateo?” Woods says with an exasperated exhalation of breath. “Mmm— Mateo bloody Ruiz!” Then, like a cat stalking a mouse, Woods pounces on Ruiz in a wild-armed embrace. “Bloody hell, you’re alive! Is Des here? Did she find you? Did you two make it out okay?” He’s frantic, wide eyed and red-faced with surprise.

Behind him, Else continues her doomsaying. “You know I speak the Word of Truth!” The book is held high in the air. “The Beaches of 34th Street! You all heard my song, you heard my warnings before the flood came and you ignored them!” She slaps the book into her open palm. “Your salvation lies in God’s arms! She will bring salvation from this watery tomb to us all, to all who have ever lived or died, if you just believe! If you spread the words of God, she will hear you! If you teach her teachings, she will reward you! Only in her salvation will you be able to survive the coming inquisition!”

Though Elisabeth is keeping one eye on Else and her hand on Aurora's shoulder as she whispers, "Shh, baby… God is neither male nor female… or depending on how you want to think about it, God is both. So some people use 'him' and some use 'her.' It's okay." Yeah, yeah… she's a terrible Catholic. She still has subtle tremors of fear down the back of her neck. The more Else says, the more Liz is reading into the words. 'Salvation from the watery tomb' — Good grief, hasn't she been ruminating on whether there's an Arcology in Boston down under the water since they got here? Though she's pretty sure that Else's just calling this world itself a watery tomb, so jumping to wild conclusions here is not going to be good for her. But when has anything ever been a fucking coincidence on this entire voyage of horrific experiences?? Paranoia could be a thing.

Flickering a glance toward Woods and Mateo, both Liz's eyebrows shoot up and she murmurs to Lynette, "He knows this world's Odessa!" That is important too. As is the implication that the local analog of Odessa is stuck somewhere.

Aurora looks up at her mother with furrowed brows and whispers, "I don't like watching her talk." She curls backward into her mother's side a little bit, apparently disliking the fire and brimstone.

Lynette sits up straight when Woods recognizes Mateo. He is so right about warning Dess, which becomes clearer the more the man talks.

“Come on, baby,” she says to Evie before she scoops her up onto her hip, bringing along what little food the girl had left. She comes up beside Mateo, her head tilting curiously. “James, you know him?” Which— is an odd question, since she’s standing there addressing him like a friend. “We need to talk.” Obviously. “Somewhere private.” She glances back to Liz, eyebrows lifting. Because it’s possible they just got a new lead.

“Señor Bosque,” Evie says, reaching a hand out toward the man’s beard, “your face needs a haircut.” She remembers Woods, too, of course. His penchant for bad words made him a favorite of the little girl.

Ruiz can’t help but feel a stab in his chest at the idea of another Des and the way the man spoke on it. “Yeah, we need to find somewhere private,” he agrees, looking back regretfully at his wife for a long moment. There’s going to be a lot they needed to talk about. As he reaches up to scratch at the back of his neck, he forgets that he’s still wearing his Odessa’s red wristwatch on his wrist and his sleeve drops enough to reveal it. Very worn with age and time. Though it stopped working a few worlds back and no longer keeps time.

He doesn’t wear it for practical purposes, anymore than he wears the rings around his neck for practical. He’s just glad that Eve had had him secure all his most precious things in a water proof bag, latched into his life jacket. He could not have handled losing it to the ocean like Evie had lost both her shoes and her favorite hair-tie.

And he doesn’t think the girls need to listen to the fear-mongering anymore, either.

Woods shoots a glance back at Else, who is continuing to prosthelytize to the crowd, then flings a wild-eyed look down to Evie. “Excuse me,” Woods directs to the child rather than the adults, “but do I look like Eric bloody Doyle?” He takes a step back away from Evie and makes a shooing motion with two hands, then looks up to Liz with a squint, and then over to Mateo, but then past him to Lynette. Woods blinks, twice, and then just stands there in slack-jawed uncertainty.

A worried look grows in the unkempt sailor’s eyes, and Woods is quick to cover his mouth with one hand and drum his fingers at his cheek. “Okay,” is a little breathlessly said, blue eyes flicking back to Else, then back to the others. “Okay this— ” he points at Lynette, hang waggling, then claps one hand around his extended finger as if to control it from gesturing anymore.

“My— ” Woods jerks a thumb over his shoulder, then pivots on one heel and points in a different direction. “Boat.” He stammers. “I own a boat.” It’s like he’s seen a ghost. “I own a bloody boat.

And he just starts walking.

The Featherweight

Church of the Ascension Docks

Who the bloody fuck are you!?

Woods didn’t waste a second once he brought the others aboard his rusty tugboat, moored to the wooden scaffolding docks floating at sea level outside of the skyscraper home of the Church of Ascension. “Because Mateo Ruiz probably bloody well got scienced to death or something, and you— ” Woods stands on the middle of the deck, pointing accusingly at Lynette. “Have some fucking nerve.” Then, to Elisabeth. “And you’re not even trying!

Then, squinting at Evie and Aurora, Woods asks. “And what’s this then, wee-little telepaths meant to drill into my brain!?” He taps one finger rapidly on the side of his head. “Hmm?” Wild-eyed and obviously paranoid, Woods sweeps his arms around as though he were an umpire calling a stolen base safe. “Which one of you dollar-store shapeshifters is gonna confess first!?”

This may require some finesse.

Whisking Aurora up as well and following the others when Woods basically shoves them out of the main dining area, the blonde now finds herself in the corner near the wall watching Woods with narrowed blue eyes. "Not even trying?" she repeats back, puzzled by the reference. Ooooo-kay.

"Neither of them are telepaths," she informs him drily. Well… that we know of. And given that James Woods is always kind of off-kilter in all the places she's known him, she's not entirely sure how to really finesse any of this for him. But the boat's name definitely caught her attention BUT GOOD. The Featherweight is safe. That's what Magnes was told — and they'd theorized after arriving that it might be a boat, but they've not ever seen it until now. How to talk to him is a challenge.

Hesitantly she comments, "I take it Eve didn't give you a heads-up that we'd be coming." Because he'll either be calmer at the idea that Eve knew… or it'll give us a read on where in this Woods kind of fits — does he even have contact with Eve? Because none of us know where she is currently, either.

Aurora stage-whispers across to Evie, "He hasn't said Jesus Christ on a something yet — do you think he'll say bicycle?"

“Señor Bosque está malhumorado,” Evie says to Lynette and Ruiz as Woods rants at them all. Lynette hasn’t let her go, her hold has gotten tighter since they stepped aboard.

“Yes, my little darling, but it’s okay,” she says to her girl, her tone gentle. But when she looks at Woods, her expression is flatter. Her voice, too, when she speaks. “We’re not them, not the version you knew. We came from another time. We’re trying to get back to where we came from and we’re very tired and also very cranky,” she says with a glance toward Evie, “and we would appreciate it if you would not raise your voice to the girls.” Lynette’s temper, wherever she has been, comes in hot but this version is trying to also not raise her voice in front of the children.

“What do you mean he was scienced to death?” She doesn’t really want to know— one version of him dying was enough for her, too much— but they need to know all they can about it. Evie looks at Woods and her mother like they’re both crazy. She looks over to Ruiz, and he is still there, so she reaches her arms out for him.

During the whole trip to the Featherweight, Mateo Ruiz has been anxious. There’s even this sharp popping sound like static every time he touches something. Which probably kept his wife from offering him a hand of comfort and unfortunately kept him from offering a hand to his little girl. He doesn’t say that Eve doesn’t see everything, nor that their children may or may not be telepaths. Children do seem to notice things adults don’t, but he doesn’t think that qualifies. “I’m not dead, scienced or otherwise,” he responds, forceful and honest, but with some edge to his voice.

Or spark?

Finesse is hard when he’s concerned about other things. While Lynette wanted to learn what happened to him, he wants to learn something else entirely. “Where’s Des?” He hadn’t asked there in the middle of a Thanksgiving dinner of sorts because he didn’t want to make a scene. And he might, if he can’t keep this energy contained for the most part.

Woods is slack-jawed in silence, one shaky hand covering his mouth and tears in his eyes. His reaction is like that of a trauma victim reliving a vivid moment of pain. His eyes are unfocused and yet at the same time erratic in movement. He trembles, sucks in a few sharp breaths, and then when he finally can make himself move again all he does is pace the deck of the ship back and forth with fingers wound tightly in his hair.

Oh my God,” Woods finally cries, looking back to Mateo pointedly, then Lynette, then back again with that hand still clapped over his mouth. “Oh… my God,” he whispers into his palm, slowly approaching Mateo and gingerly pressing his fingertips in his direction without really making contact. There's a brief glance down to the kids, confused and emotional, then back up.

“Oh my god it's all true.” Woods stammers, tears streaming down his cheeks. “All the crazy shit Des said happened in the Ark, all the— all’ve what— I— ” All Woods can do is hiccup back a sob and turn away for a moment, brief and pointed, before wheeling back around and looking at Mateo with mournful eyes.

“Des— Des is here. She went to shore,” such as shore is in the Pelago. Woods can't quite move his hand from his mouth, still shaking from head to toe. “Oh my God it's all real. The machine, the broadcasts, all the stories I— I pretended t’believe but— But Else came back wrong from that place an’— an’ I just— I…”

Swallowing loudly, it's clear Woods only heard some of what was asked of him. “You're from an Elsewhere, aren't you? The other side of the bloody rainbow, the people from the bloody radio! You're— oh my God it's all fucking real.” He can't believe it.

Lynette watches Woods as he works his way through it. She hasn’t gotten her own answer yet, but there’s enough in what he says for her to make some guesses. Coupled with memories from The Garden, she’s even sure she has it right.

“Three different Elsewheres, as it turns out.” Her and Liz and Ruiz, each from their own. “Elisabeth fell through a hole in the universe and wants to go home. Our son—“ she says, voice hitching as her hold on Evie tightens, “was taken through a machine and we’re trying to get to him. So please. What Ark?”

"He's talking about the Commonwealth," Elisabeth whispers, suddenly pale as Aurora leans on her leg. "In my world… the Ark was the Commonwealth Arcology, built under MIT… to survive … time distortions." It's the most succinct, albeit slightly wrong in the details that really aren't that important in this moment, way to put it to keep from derailing this conversation. "Cat said the Ark here has always been a myth. She's been researching it for weeks, ever since we got here, trying to figure out if anyone's actually got actionable information. You … You know that it's a place? Do you know where it is?" She glances at Lynette and Mateo as she asks Woods that, her expression suddenly blazing with fierce determination. "If it's real… that's the place to start looking for Michelle too." And Michelle is who they need to go home.

The relief on Ruiz’s face is plain for all. The way the man had spoke back at the group meal, he had been afraid she had been missing or dead. But if she’s just ‘to shore’ then she’s alive. Whole. He knew she wasn’t his Des, but that didn’t change his worry one lick. Even if he’d almost wish it had. Sometimes he wished he remembered what time they had spent together, but that hadn’t mattered in the end. It seemed their relationship had been the same here.

At least he was no longer sparking. “Let the man breathe on one fantasy becoming reality at a time. He just found out other worlds are real,” he shakes his head, as he looks back at the man who had once been a friend of sorts. Not super close, but definitely friends. If his wife hadn’t died on the exact same mission, he would have spent more time mourning him.

He did mourn the one that had been married to the sister that was travelling with them. Even though another stood right in front of him in the next world. “Liz showed up in my world, dying of a plague back in 2011. We escaped that world to Lynette’s, a rather nice world. We spent more than five years there. Then our son was taken and…” other things. But it had been their son that had led the two of them to agree to go. “And we went to another. Robot apocalypse wasteland. And now we’re here. Hopefully, we can figure out how to leave again. And Liz here believes that the Ark is the place to go.”

It was more complicated than that, but he couldn’t help but think of this man as a near brother-in-law.

Stop, stop, stop!” Woods shouts with his hands over his ears. “Enough with all of this Doctor Who Nonsense!” He swings his hands down to his side, eyes still clenched shut and nostrils flaring. When he finally opens his eyes — one eye, squinting — he seems frustrated that they're all still there and not some sort of near-holiday phantom.

Making a noise in the back of his throat, Woods smooths a hand over his wild beard. “Yes,” he abruptly says. “Yes, yes I know where it bloody-well is. Or— most of the way. Des went out to that damnable place with Else and Edward a long time ago looking for you!” Woods points at Mateo, then calms some.

“It went to shit. Edward’s— dead? Maybe? Else’s brain is scrambled by god-knows-what they did to her, and Des has barely wanted to talk about it all.” Wringing his hands together, Woods looks aside, then back to the others. “I had t’go up there an’ bloody rescue them after they fled the place!”

Then, looking at Mateo Woods shakily says, “Des said you were gone. She went looking for you at that nightmare science den and— I just assume she meant they killed you with science.” His erratic stare flicks to Lynette, then back to Elisabeth.

How is any of this happening!?” Woods isn't handling it well.

Elisabeth is biting back a barrage of questions, trying to let Mateo and Lynette manage Woods. She's never been very close to the man and he clearly has no idea who she is, which is not going to make it easier for him. She … almost wishes they had their Odessa here to talk to him, but … maybe not yet. They need to warn her about running into herself here! Christ. Seeing Woods here was going to be hard enough on Odessa — seeing this world's version of herself, Liz can't even. Well, she can, actually. And it's not easy, and it's not the same as mentally trading places, either!

She nibbles her lip and sidles backward a little just to lean against the wall with Aurora while Mateo and Lynette sort this out. The questions she's has — Mateo's right. They need to get Woods soothed first.

Lynette reminds herself to stop and breathe. Not everyone has been dealing with this craziness like they have. Eve spoiled her, knowing they were coming and preparing her people. “Alright. Let’s step back a moment. Maybe we should go find Des, I think she would be able to explain better.” His Des, not their Odessa. Lynette doesn’t want to subject her sister to the pain of seeing Woods again until she’s ready to.

“James, I’m sorry. I know this is a lot. We’re just about as lost as you are. All we want is to find our families and go home. I don’t know how or why it happened, why it’s happening. But time has some cracks in it. We’re slipping through them. I don’t know how else to explain it to you.”

Ruiz stood there shaking his head for a moment. They definitely went too fast for poor Woods. Definitely. But at least they found out what they wanted to know. The Ark existed. And he knew where it was and possibly how to get back there. And it was a horrible and dangerous place.

But that’s been pretty much the same in every world they have been to. Do something stupid and hope it worked. Sometimes it did, sometimes it left someone riddled with bullets because of world-jumping robots and then turned into a life sucking monster who steals children. But if Liz and Lynette wanted to go to the Ark, Ruiz intended to support them on it. He did want to find their son.

“Lynette’s right. We should go find Des. Even if she can’t explain things, I have a feeling she’ll be glad to see me.” And he’ll be glad to see her. “I’m not yours or hers, but I am a Mateo Ruiz. And if the same thing happened to him that happened to us, it might explain to her where he went.”

The words where he went has Woods pausing in his neurotic fidgeting. He flicks a look at Mateo, silent and still like a startled rabbit, then slouches down from that tension, lacing his fingers across the back of his neck. “This is all just… it’s all a little much. It’s all a little… it’s mad, clearly. All of this.” Brows furrowed, Woods paces back and forth like a caged tiger before turning his attention over to Lynette.

“D’you’ve any idea what losing you— ” Woods cuts himself off, scrunching his face up and unlacing his fingers, dragging his palms across his neck. “No, no… it’s— different you, different— like the radio. Right.” A worried look alights to Lynette, and then his attention slowly shifts down to the floor.

“Y’can’t get back there.” Is how Woods chooses to try and let them all down. “There’s more’n a hundred miles of ocean between here an’ there, mostly controlled by a fleet of bloody pirates, not t’mention if you haven’t heard about it already— a fucking hurricane tha’s been sitting in the same spot for a few years now.” Woods jabs an index finger into his palm, as if pointing to a spot on a map. “The place you wanna go? It’s nearly in the eye of that storm. You’ve have t’be mad t’go.”

Elisabeth feels someone else, a displacement in the echo of the ship, a figure lingering on the stairs. She’d just picked it out from the other background noise, finally discerned that it wasn’t part of the ship. But in that same moment, the interloper is coming up above decks. “What’s this about the Stormfront?” An older woman’s voice calls, sending a chill down Elisabeth’s spine.

“If these folks are willing to pay, I might know a few ship captains who…” Carina Harrison comes to stop at the top of the stairs, dressed in a thick green jacket with a matted fur trim, zipped all the way up for warmth against the chill air. While the woman in front of her bears only a passing resemblance to the foggy memory of a child, she cannot deny how much she looks like herself as a young woman. To Elisabeth, though, Carina’s image is burned into her mind from family photographs.

“Do I… know you?” Carina asks, brow tensed and wary. Woods looks at Carina, then slides a look over to Elisabeth. His eyes dart back and forth, and even he seems to piece a connection together. “Have— Have we…” Carina’s heart knows, but the head refuses.

Listening to Woods, Elisabeth considers and murmurs, "Wonder if that fu… freaking hurricane is sitting right over top of it because of the crap they were working on." The thought is not really meant to be said aloud… but Lynette and Mateo have to know that's where her head went. A tip of her head as she senses the footsteps just because it's instinct for her now to keep a mental tab on the sound waves in her vicinity is the only thing that was going to happen.

Until the voice sends the hair on the back of her neck standing straight up, and Elisabeth whips around with wide eyes to look at the figure in the doorway. Her mother died in 2006, in the Midtown bomb. This woman looks… older. Harder. Life has definitely not been as kind to her. "M… Oh god." This… this she was not prepared for, and the feeling of being poleaxed jacks her into a state of shock. The subtle buzz that springs to life has Aurora stepping sideways to Lynette — she knows the hum. Mummy's upset, which means there might be trouble.

Letting the little girl take the sideways step, Liz puts herself between the child and the door protectively, swallowing hard. "Mom, I…" She's at a loss for words, simply staring at the woman she never expected to be able to lay eyes on again.

"I'm sorry, James," Lynette repeats, with more sympathy in the words this time. She knows how crazy it all sounds, how hard it is to accept. And she has a decent idea about what losing her did to the people in their lives. Because she knows what Ruiz did when he lost his wife. She knows what she is doing now, to find her son.

She doesn't seem to be deterred by the let down, she's not even surprise to hear that it's all but impossible. Before she can comment on it, though, Liz's mother makes her appearance. She turns to look at Carina, then to Liz— even if Liz didn't say so, the resemblance is impossible to ignore. And she should be glad for her, that someone's getting to connect with family here. Just like she should be happy that Ruiz will have his sister here, too. But she can't shake the disappointment, both that her son is not here and that all she has of her own loved ones is another dead husband.

She glances away, over to Ruiz and Evie, as she often does when she needs to remind herself that all isn't lost.

"We need to get down there, James," she says as she looks back to Woods, "We don't have any other choice."

“I can imagine,” Ruiz responds simply to Woods’s half spoken statement. He can imagine how it might have been on her to lose one of him, cause he had lost one of her. As if to punctuate that, he raised his arm for a moment to let his sleeve fall once again, showing that red-band wrist watch. Even if he has no idea if this Des ever wore one. Once it ran slow. Then it ran normal speed on his wrist. Then it didn’t run at all.

As another woman enters, he glances toward her, not recognizing, but recognizing the tension that followed. As the young girl moves closer to Lynette, he too takes kind of a protective stance between the three of them, his daughter, Liz’s and his wife. He’s the one with lightning now, after all. If it’s needed. A spark jumps between his thumb and his forefinger for a moment, unbidden.

But then Liz says Mom and his hands lower in surprise. A mom who doesn’t seem to recognize her daughter completely.

Woods likewise doesn’t know what to do with that information. He stares at Elisabeth for a moment, then looks down accusingly to Aurora like the child had been holding out somehow. But then, as he looks up to Carina, she’s moving steadily but slowly across the deck toward Elisabeth. None of them make a sound, there’s just the crash of the sea and the call of gulls circling overhead.

Woods flicks a look to Mateo and Lynette, then jerks his head toward the gangplank off of the ship. Carina doesn’t seem to notice the gesture, or Woods, or the others. All she sees is her lost baby standing before her as an adult. An impossible dream that elicits the wary, stone-faced tension that Woods has come to expect from her.

It’s only when Carina’s eyes settle on Aurora, hidden in Elisabeth’s shadow, that the stony mask breaks. Blue eyes flush with tears, and she looks up helplessly at Elisabeth.

My baby girl.

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