Two Weary Souls, One Inescapable Truth


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Scene Title Two Weary Souls, One Inescapable Truth
Synopsis It doesn't matter how weary you get when there are people counting on you.
Date October 24, 2018

Cat's Crash Pad

Their landing was rough, and docking even rougher. Seeing the crumbling towers of steel and broken glass that are all that remain of the sprawling metropolis that was once New York is both heartbreaking and overwhelming. It's not that they haven't seen it before — it was no picnic in their last world or in the Virus world before that either. But to see waves lapping at what used to be the 30th floors of some of the tallest buildings in the world is jarring. The shores of the Empire State have never had more meaning.

The apartment they're all using in the first few days as a squat is somewhat crowded, but everyone they've met so far seems willing to help them find space. With everyone scattered to do a little bit of recon (and see if they spot anyone they know — which seems like it should be a long shot, but weirder things keep happening on this trip), Elisabeth takes the opportunity to go through the backpacks that they brought through the rift and take stock of what survived and what didn't. A small pile of laundry sits next to some other bits and bobs. "I think most of this just needs to hang and air out. I can't imagine they're using fresh water for laundry here…"

But it's the the worn, floppy, brown-and-black stuffed dog that has seen better days, fished unexpectedly out of Aurora's backpack, that makes her finally sit down and let all of the crushing disappointment hit her. The gasp is nearly silent, the dog suddenly clenched in tight fists under her chin.

It’s almost as if seeing Liz’s disappointment lets Lynette breathe again. She looks over at the woman next to her and reaches over to squeeze her arm. It’s brief, because Lynette turns her attention to the growing laundry pile. “We’ll ask them how they handle it. They have to have some kind of set up.” Her hands run back through her hair, tangled and coated in sea salt as it is.

“I don’t know if I can do this again,” she says, glancing out a window at the endless sea just below them. “Evie thinks she’s on the water park adventure of her dreams,” she says. She’s grateful; it’s much better than her being scared or depressed about where they’ve landed this time. But she can’t match her daughter’s attitude.

She doesn't let them see very often — the wear and tear of this life, of being trapped so far from home, of losing everything …. they can all understand it. But Elisabeth always figures they don't need to see it from her. That she doesn't really have the right to hurt as much as everyone else. After all, they didn't ask to get hauled along on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

The squeeze of her arm makes her lean just a little into the touch, the comfort welcome. "Aurora asked this morning if they could see real life pirates… and if Kain would wear an eyepatch," she replies, her words a little choked with both a rush of tears and the laughter such an image truly deserves. "And say 'Argh, matey.'"

Her hands loosen a little and she looks down. She doesn't know if she can do it again either. "Felix gave this to her," she murmurs softly, gently stroking its fur. "Does Evie ever ask to go home?"

Lynette doesn't seem easily diverted by the image, looking mostly tired rather than amused. Maybe in another world she would laugh. Here, she can't. So she focuses on the parts she can manage.

"She asks when we're going to find Manuel. And if she'll see her grandfather again." Leaving her father had been… difficult. But there was no other choice for her to make. At the time, she'd thought about asking him to join them, but after the worlds they've seen, she's glad he stayed home. Even though she misses him. And Evie misses him. The little girl's questions are a twisting knife, although there's no way that she could know they would be.

Reaching over, Lynette taps the stuffed animal on the nose. "It's survived a lot," she says, "I think we can patch it up eventually. Scarred, but not lost."

Elisabeth huffs out a soft sound, struggling to swallow the lump in her throat. "Sounds sorta like the rest of us, I guess." She buries her face in the little woeful stuffed dog and breathes for a moment. And then she gently sets it aside to be mended a bit and perhaps stuffed with something if they can find a little more stuffing to add. She looks up and says softly, "I won't give up if you don't give up. Right? We can do this. For them, we can move mountains."

Moving to pick up the backpack that she was emptying to finish the job, she too keeps her hands busy. "How are you and Mateo?" she asks softly. She worries about the two couples, Magnes and Elaine, Mateo and Lynette. Perhaps even more than she worries about the others in some ways.

"Hopefully," Lynette says, tipping her head toward Liz. "We won't give up. Whatever the end of this is, none of us get to give up until it's over." She's not wrong— the list of things Lynette would do for her children is long. And extreme. "Whatever it takes."

She lets out something like a laugh that is more mirthless than not. "We're as good as we can be, all things considered. But we are good," she says, the distinction clear— at least to her, "I lost him once. I won't let it happen again. In the bad times, we lean harder on each other. But we'll both be grateful when we can hold our boy again."

When she raises her eyes to the other woman, there's a wistful relief to her expression — to have what 'Nette and Mateo have, it's a blessing the likes of which Elisabeth has not been so lucky as to be in possession. "You guys… amaze me," she admits softly. Though she worries for Lynette's state of mind the longer it takes to try to reach Manuel, the strength of the bond the couple shares leaves her in awe. And in envy. To have someone to really share the hardest moments is something she's never experienced, for all that the people they travel with have all become family. She'd turn to any of them if she needed something and would trust them at her back always; she'd do anything they needed. But it's not the same thing at all.

As she sorts out several ruined bits pieces of clothing that will be salvaged for patches for other pieces that survived in better condition, the blonde is quiet for a bit. Then she asks softly, "Why don't you hate me?" She doesn't look up, but her hands move slower. "You've never come at me." Liz's actions that set the kidnapper on that path — she knows it, everyone knows it. And her own daughter wasn't the target. Instead Lynette, Mateo, Elaine, and Magnes paid for the mistake. "I wouldn't blame you," she adds, "but… through all of it, you've never seemed to put blame." She looks up and asks, "How do you do it? Especially now?" When they've failed, again, to land where they were trying to aim.

Lynette smiles, gently but genuinely. “He’s the love of my life, Liz. Of several of them, it seems. Things happen around us, but he is how I survive them. My first husband, he used to say that his power felt like having a Point A without a Point B. That his life felt that way. Before.” Before her, that is. “Always reaching for something, never finding it. But I remember what it was like to be Point B without a Point A. Always waiting. Fading. There isn’t a force in any world that I would let drive a wedge between us. And neither would he.”

She knows Liz understands. She’s reaching for someone, too.

The next question gets a sharp turn in Liz’s direction. For a moment, it might seem like she’s taking the opening to do just that. Come at her. But she doesn’t.

“Hating you won’t bring me any closer to Manuel. I could trace the trail of blame back as far as I like, but it wouldn’t help any of us. You’re helping us set this as right as we can make it, that’s all I could ask of you either way. It was a mistake. You know that already. You didn’t set out to hurt my family, and I know that.” She reaches over to take one of Liz’s hands between hers. “We’re all in this together. I know how desperate you are to get home, because I am, too. There’s no time to blame, alright? No room for hate.”

She was braced for the worst, truth be told. She was inviting it, if Lynette could find a way to release some of the pent-up rage at her. She wasn't ready for either of those answers… or for the realization that of all the people in their group, Lynette probably knows more about Liz's heart than most anyone. She grips the offered hand tightly, and when she looks up to meet the other woman's gaze it's with tears she rarely allows. Elisabeth's nod is brief, her hold on Lynette perhaps even a little desperate. "Thank you for that," she whispers. "I have this horrible hard lump lodged in my chest than never goes away. It's always there. And even knowing before we stepped through that we weren't going to land where we wanted to go… that it was another step but not the destination… it's happened so many times." This is only the second time for Lynette. It's Elisabeth's fourth landing. "It's hitting so much harder this time."

“We’re all tired, I think. Ready for this to be over.” Lynette can definitely understand that. “I’m sorry I haven’t been able to get us there. I was hoping, but… I can’t get back to a place I’ve never been. I feel like I’m throwing darts blindfolded.” She lets out a heavy sigh, because she can’t shake that feeling of failure. “But I have an idea. I’m not sure it’s even entirely sane. But I know one place In your time. One person. I’ve been trying to reach him,” she says, a bit sheepishly because she knows how it sounds. “The ability, it’s connected to him. But I’m blocked off from wherever he is. If I can find a way to him, if he and I can work together, I know we could make this work.”

"Don't think for even a second that I blame you in any way for not being able to get us there," Elisabeth says a little wetly. "You are throwing darts blindfolded, literally." She tilts her head, though, startled out of the feeling of sorrow by the words. "What? Wait…. What?"

Okay, that's confusing. "You mean… like Mateo of my world?" Even before Lynette can answer, Elisabeth is quirking a brow. "You're trying through the power itself? I…" Now… now she asks Lynette — something she's never brought up before — "Do you know about what happened to Odessa back in 2013?" Because it's suddenly perhaps relevant.

“She exchanged places with herself from your time. She is connected to her otherselves. So is Mateo. But he has a block keeping all the hims separate. There’s a maze, I’ve been trying to learn it, to find the right him. But it’s endless. I find him sometimes, but not the right one. Not yet.” Lynette lets go of Liz in favor of rubbing her hands over her face. To wake herself up. To keep herself together. “I tried this time. To aim for him. But it wasn’t the right him.” Her hands spread apart, gesturing toward the endless ocean. “We seem farther away than ever.”

A sigh follows. She’s grateful Liz isn’t blaming her, but she can’t help blaming herself.

“I don’t know why their powers are like this, but I know it’s the key to getting there.”

Elisabeth is flabbergasted. "Jesus, Lynette," she breathes out. Now she's the one who reaches out, tears and the lump in her chest forgotten for the moment in the sudden upsurge of… dare she say it, hope? "Exactly," she says with regard to Odessa's adventure. "I sent word back through Odessa about some of the stuff that we'd learned at that point. And I know they're working on figuring out and replicating what happened." Because he would not be Richard if he weren't. "We may not be as far off as you think," she offers thoughtfully.

She struggles to work through the thought that's half-formed in her head and she really doesn't have all the physics to back up the idea she's wrestling with. "Bear with me. The idea of parallel timelines sort implies that at SOME point, each of these timelines that we've bounced into were actually one line, right? And I've been kind of thinking we've been working our way chronologically through timelines that split from mine at various points. The virus world split in what would have been, from the perspective of my world … somewhere around 2008-ish. Arthur's world, the split would have been around 2009, which is the timeframe when people broke out of Moab and all hell broke loose. And then the wasteland world, whose split from my world would have been in early 2010 or so… when the head of the Institute set shit in motion, which actually altered in the wasteland we landed in because he was KILLED due to the horror he saw himself perpetrating in my world because of whatever it was that we fucked up in 2011. So… I think… that when you tried to aim us this time… you were maybe on the right track and overshot home? Taking us to a timeline that split off much farther back. Basically… landing us in the timeline that my world was an offshoot of."

She shrugs just a little, looking kind of uncertain about her own conclusion. "It's… a working theory?" Elisabeth offers with a rather hesitant lift of both hands into a kind of helpless shruggyhands movement. "But it does make me think Voldemort," Edward Fucking Ray, "may have actually been onto something… we need Michelle Cardinal. The first rip in the spacetime, as it were, it was her doing. She's a hypercognitive — like literally the smartest person on the planet, right? So … even if she doesn't know exactly how she did it — which she could after all these years — maybe she can help us with the science answers about how to aim it as we try again." Elisabeth pauses. "Magnes is pretty convinced of what he was told on that front — that if we don't find her before something really bad happens to her… we're not going to get home." A long pause and she says. "I don't think we can take the chance of that being true. We've got to get home. That's where Addie and Manuel are. So… we're definitely going to have to locate her."

When Liz reaches for her, it pulls a shaky breath out of Lynette. “I should have said something sooner, but by the time I was satisfied that I wasn’t just crazy, your team was already gone. As for your theory… I mean, it makes sense. As much sense as the fact that we’re traveling between worlds at all.” The rules are elusive.

She shakes her head a little at them mention of their very own boogeyman. Half amused, half annoyed. “Well,” she says, after hearing the explanation, “I agree that we shouldn’t ignore it.” She’s making herself be sensible in this moment. “And that we shouldn’t let something bad happen when we’re reasonably sure we can do something about it. But where do we even begin looking for her? How? Any sort of records are all but sunken treasure to us and not very helpful treasure even if we could look her up. This world… they’re just here, lingering until the end. There’s no rebuilding from this. Even the last world had hope for a future.”

"Yeah." That sense — that this world, so much like the Virus world in some ways with almost nothing left of the old world remaining, has no real hope of ever rebuilding, ever becoming any better off than it is now — is really what created the crushing feeling of failure and defeat that sparked this conversation in the first place. For all that through the worlds Elisabeth has done her best to maintain the outward appearance, at least, of certainty that somehow they would figure this out, she's just as deeply damaged by all they've been through as everyone else. And the despair is an old companion that reared its head on her here.

Blowing out a slow breath, though, she picks up the tatters of her certainty and pulls them around her like a cloak against the cold. "I don't know the how. Not yet. But I will find it." She will not allow her mistake to steal Lynette's and Elaine's hearts forever. "I think what you're doing, that idea of trying to link to Mateo's alternate selves, is a good one. Mateo, as far as I know, never really knew how his power worked either. And the fact that you have that sense of his alternates and that Odessa has already exhibited the ability to swap places with hers… makes me think that if you and Odessa explore the powers, we might be on the right track. And in the meantime… you let me and Magnes have to worry about Voldemort and finding Michelle." Elisabeth looks up at Lynette and says softly, "It always seems to come back to Eve and Edward Fucking Ray in the end. So… pulling those threads is where he and I will start. Okay?"

"Alright, that's a good start," Lynette says with a nod, "Investigating both, higher chances of success. I can get with Dessa, see if we can figure out how to tap into the others on purpose." Maybe not… switching places. Although, she can't deny that it's a possibility. "Dig till we hit daylight. I can do that. We'll have to put our heads together when we have this all worked out— we'll find the way home, Liz." She isn't exactly confident that she's telling the truth, but she knows she won't stop until she sees her son. And she knows Liz won't stop, either.

She turns her attention back out to the ocean, to the endless waters, trying to see beauty in them as she has in the past. But it's harder now, when there's no escape from them. "At least I won't be wasting my boating skills," she says, more wry now, "my father would be happy." He loved it more than she ever did.

Unable to stop a wry smile, Elisabeth looks back down to the laundry they're sorting through, her hands moving once more so as to finish the task. "I didn't even know that I knew how to sail until a year or so before I got sucked into that black hole. I am told that I learned in the last couple of years of high school and into college… a friend's parents had a house and yacht out in the Hamptons. He apparently taught me to sail pretty well. Muscle memory's an interesting thing," she comments quietly. Although it perhaps sounds odd that she doesn't know when she learned to sail. "It'll come in handy here, I guess."

She glances up and catches the flash of curiosity. "I, uhm… well, at one point, I got held by Humanis First. Long story much less long, I took a bullet to the head that destroyed some things in there. I'm missing a few years of time… best I can figure, about 10." She shrugs a little. "It turns up in strange moments. Like… instinctively knowing a song on the piano I don't remember learning to play but that my fingers know all the notes to, and knowing when to pull a line on a sail when I couldn't remember why or how I'd even know to do it."

Lynette listens to this explanation with lifted eyebrows. It's a hell of a thing, that's for sure. Once upon a time, Lynette got into her fair share of scrapes, but nothing like that. And now, those days seem like another life entirely.

"Your life has just always been interesting, hasn't it?" Interesting in perhaps a bad way. Sometimes. Hopefully not most times— give or take the last several years. "When we get you home, I want to be bored for at least six months."

"It definitely feels like a Chinese curse," Elisabeth agrees softly. "Six months is the minimum I want to be bored," she retorts.

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