Walk It Off


elisabeth_icon.gif everleigh_icon.gif

Scene Title Walk It Off
Synopsis How many more times will they do it? As many as it takes.
Date May 25, 2021

Everleigh's Office

While Everleigh often travels to the Raytech offices for those who need therapy in their work environment, there are times when her own office is preferable. Sometimes escaping to somewhere different was something to create perspective and create a place of safety outside of a normal environment. With the afternoon sun managing to peek through the window and warm some of the office, it's somewhat inviting when Liz makes her way in.

"There's tea and scones over there if you'd like it," she offers, gesturing to the side table as she moves to take a more comfortable chair for herself, her own teacup and scone balanced carefully on its saucer as she settles down. "I thought it might be nice to have something a little more relaxed, less formal."

Elisabeth's been, for the past months, mostly calm and far less twitchy than she was just after Detroit. But today's visit seems to have brought with it a sense of strain — she has fine lines around her eyes that hint that she's not sleeping well just now. She smiles for Everleigh, but it's tighter around the edges than it has been. "Informal is always nice," the blonde agrees as she moves, closing the door behind her. As is usual, she doesn't bring her service weapon to her session but she's dressed in what Everleigh has come to know as her 'uniform' for work: a pair of sturdy but nice business slacks, ankle boots with tread on them for in case she has to run, a blouse tucked into her slacks — this one a soft peach color that looks lovely with the gray of her slacks. The front of her blonde hair is caught back from her face but she makes no effort to really make herself look stern. The style softens her features, actually, makes her approachable.

As she moves toward the side table, though, Elisabeth's blue eyes make an automatic skim of the room as if she's verifying there is no one else present. She fixes a cup of tea before joining Everleigh at the chairs. "I'm sorry it's been a few weeks since I popped in. Does it sound ridiculous to say that I feel like I'm wasting your time when things are going well?" The question is asked in a rueful tone.

"It's never a waste of time," Everleigh notes. "Therapy isn't just for when you're not doing well. Sometimes it's just a time to unwind, to discuss things you might want for the future, to think out loud. Just speaking and having someone listen is an incredible way to re-energize yourself." She offers a wry smile as she crosses her legs, taking a slow sip of her cup before leveling her gaze on Liz.

"Besides, when people feel like things are going well is often when they might not notice what's really going wrong with them. It means you have to dig a little deeper."

"Mmm," Elisabeth replies, acknowledging the sentiment without actually agreeing. "Truth be told, I don't like to look the gift horse in the mouth when things are quiet," she admits, fixing her cup of tea and bringing it over to the seats. Lowering herself into one of the chairs, both hands cradling the cup, the blonde seems pensive.

As is her wont when she comes to Everleigh with things on her mind, Elisabeth takes the first few minutes just to breathe, to let the quiet of the room settle into her mind. It helps her put her thoughts into some semblance of order, allows her to really prioritize what she may want to bring up. Not that she needs that today — one thing and one thing only has consumed her recently.

"My husband is going 'out of town' on 'business' soon," Elisabeth begins quietly. "That's how we explain it to the kids. But… it implies that it's nothing to worry about and he'll be back." Her blue eyes wander from her tea mug to the window of the office. "In this case, I have very real concerns that we're lying to them. He's going to that last place I escaped from." Her tone is devoid of emotion right now, despite the fact that of all the people Liz has talked to Everleigh is probably the one best suited to and skilled at spotting just how close to the razor's edge of screaming panic her client is. The details of those years are still being processed even now, and each fresh set of details Everleigh gets to hear comes with a set of horrors the likes of which few people will ever live.

"I'm struggling every goddamn minute of the day to not beg him to let someone else do this job," she offers in a voice so low it's barely audible. "But this…. this is what we do. We walk into the black hole with little more than hope and a half-formed plan on the off chance we can save the world. Again." Elisabeth bites one side of her lower lip, keeping her roiling emotions under control. Her final confession, though, has a weary, plaintive hint to the tone. "It's just that I don't want it to be what we do anymore."

“I can tell you from my own experience, Richard’s mind is hard to change,” Everleigh starts, offering as comforting a smile as she can given the situation. “I know what you went through was hard. How much of your concerns have you voiced to him? This doesn’t sound as if it’s a new thought. Have you told him any of this, or has it just been threatening to boil over in your head?”

There is a soft laugh at the assertion that Richard's mind is hard to change. A laugh that is actually truly amused, though Liz is pretty sure that Everleigh doesn't really get the half of it. "He changes his mind," she replies with laughter in her tone. "Although to be fair, it usually requires some amount of chasing him around with a shoe and whapping him on the head with it whilst telling him to quit thinking like Ezekiel." Not that she's ever done that — it's just the sort of thing she imagines doing when she is perturbed at her husband.

In this case, though, she's not so much perturbed as she is… lost. "I think… he understands the things I'm keeping locked down," Elisabeth says slowly. "We talk. At least, I think we talk. But harping and worrying aloud about it constantly just creates more stress between us when we both know he has to go." She toys with the teacup, still not looking at Everleigh. "It makes him feel like he has to take care of my feelings — and I won't have him going back to the old ways, where he did everything, absolutely everything, to keep me from worrying about shit."

Pulling in a slow breath, the blonde pensively worries at her lip. "He's so sure he's coming home, Everleigh. He has so much faith in that fucker Edward, even in another world or when he's fucking comatose…" Because that doesn't sound crazy at all, right? Except in Elisabeth's world, it is very much the reality that a comatose Edward Ray is probably pulling strings from another fucking dimension. "I just need him to acknowledge that the odds are low. I don't want him to reassure me, I don't want him to protect me, I don't want him to put a brave face on it. I just… want him to say 'I know I might not come home and I'm sorry and I love you.'"

For the first time since she started coming to the counselor, Elisabeth abruptly shoves her cup onto the low table in front of her and pushes out of her chair to walk to the window, crossing her arms over her stomach tightly as she tries to hide a flood of tears — tears that have only ever appeared in a glimmer that requires a momentary pause so she can swallow them down and not allow them to fully appear but this time are a welling she cannot put a stopper in and they flood unexpectedly down her cheeks. Raising the back of her hand to cover her mouth, she clenches her jaw tight against any further words. Or sounds. It might not register on Everleigh immediately that there is a silence field around her client, a way to keep her terror and grief mostly private even here.

Even if Elisabeth is attempting to hide her tears and emotion and close herself off to the window, Everleigh remains. She watches, concern visible in her eyes, then leans forward a bit. Liz might be silent, but the other woman won't be. "It sounds like you are talking at each other and not to each other. You've expressed you're frustrated with the experience, he's talked about how convinced he is about coming home, but neither of you have gotten down to the real emotions. What you said just now is something he needs to know he's not doing. You need to know you're loved and that your love is important to him."

While she doesn't rise from her chair, she shifts her weight a bit, then continues to watch. "I think you need to find a way to tell him those things. Tell him you need him to hold you and for both of you to be vulnerable about the situation. To be honest. No masks, no pretending to the outside world, just honest and plain and vulnerable. If you don't feel like you can do that on your own, I'm happy to mediate if it's needed, but I think it's important he understands that he both can and needs to open up and be vulnerable with you."

It takes her a long moment to feel in control, and Elisabeth wipes at her wet cheeks. Pulling in a shaky breath, she turns back to Everleigh with her arms still crossed over her stomach. "Yeah… we're not so good at that kind of thing. I mean… we are sometimes. But when you're talking about the world-ending shit that we seem to keep finding ourselves dealing with, we always… just pull up our big-kid drawers and get on with it. Usually we don't have this much downtime before all hell breaks loose — it's easier like that in some ways. You don't have time to think of all the shit that's likely to go wrong. You just hurtle into the situation, deal with it, and comfort each other later."

There's a weariness to Elisabeth's voice, a resignation that comes from having seen too much too often to believe that this time will be any different. "I know he'll do everything in his power to come home. And probably a lot of things no one would ever believe are in his power too." A rueful half-smile quirks her lips. "I think I'm just fucking tired of us both feeling … like we have to step up. It's encoded in me down to the bones… and somehow he got infected with it too."

Moving restlessly around the office, Elisabeth still can't unfold her arms. As if somehow doing it would let all this too close to her heart. "I want to be selfish as fuck and tell him not to go. I want him to be selfish as fuck and tell them all to go to hell." The blonde head shakes negatively. "But if I did that…" What tiny chance there is to find the tech we need to save the fucking planet again disappears. Right? Or does it? She has never believed that the two of them were the reason things succeeded. They were just parts of a whole. Would the others pick up the slack if he didn't go?

Liz laughs softly. "He used to be a thief. A really good one." With his ability, how could he not be? "He told me once he did things because he was looking out for number one — if it didn't benefit him, he didn't see the point. I knew he was lying — a man who was genuinely that selfish would never have stepped up just because a few kids committed suicide." She swallows hard again. "He's been stepping up ever since. I both love and hate that part of both of us."

Everleigh seems unconcerned by the restlessness, but lets her gaze casually follow Elisabeth as she moves about the room. "Stepping up like that is certainly an admirable quality you both have, but I don't think it's something that you should hate. It's not the quality that you hate, it's more likely the application of it."

She shifts her weight so she can face Elisabeth more fully. "Everyone has to rest every once in a while. Taking a break to recharge is incredibly important, especially for a healthy mental state and in a relationship. What I'm hearing is that you're needing a break from the intensity of stepping up and you aren't sure that he wants the same because he's continuing on as normal. Is that correct?"

"We'll rest when we're done," Elisabeth replies softly. "It's just… that it's never done." She turns to look at Everleigh. "He stood down for a few years… and he thinks that was a mistake. And if weren't exactly who he is, I wouldn't be standing here now. I love him for exactly who he is, Everleigh. Good, bad, and fucking ugly. And believe me when I tell you, I've seen various versions of him at his absolute worst." She's even tried to kill one or two of those. "It isn't that he doesn't want the same. It's that we both know the job isn't done."

And there is a kind of resigned acceptance to that. This is her life. "Now that I've figured out what's been bugging me—" that he's still doing it. Putting a bold face on it and just moving forward at full speed, damn the torpedoes, pretending success is a foregone conclusion — "at least I can tell him what I need." Which is all anyone can do when their lives are as fraught with crazy as theirs is.

Elisabeth offers the counselor a smile and adds quietly, "I don't need to change him. I just need to hold on tight to the faith I have in him and hear him say he knows exactly what a long shot it is. We both know he has to do it anyway."

“The only person you can change is yourself,” Everleigh notes, offering a smile. “You know what you need more than he does. Ask for it. Even if he’s always going to do what he does, it doesn’t mean you can’t take a second to breathe and enjoy what you have.”

There’s a long pause, as if Doctor Madison was unsure about asking the question she poses. “Do you honestly think there’ll ever really be an end to this?"

Elisabeth pauses. She wants to reassure the good doctor — the woman is young and should have that. But as her blue eyes meet Everleigh's, the truth is reflected there and Liz does her the courtesy of not lying. "No." Her tone is very soft, regretful even, but firm. "Human nature being what it is, Everleigh, no. I don't believe there will ever be an end to any of this. So much of what I've lived and dealt with has been simple human reactions to change or crisis — some of the worst outcomes are from people trying to make things better, whether for their own sake or for more altruistic reasons."

How can she explain? "I've come to believe that some things have to happen. They don't happen the same way in each universe, the timing or circumstances or the specific outcome may be different, but there are certain kinds of broad results that happen no matter what you do. Fear and love are the two biggest motivators of humanity, and whether changes are man-made or nature itself… we are driven by those two emotions to try and survive and protect ourselves by whatever means necessary." Rubbing her hands up and down over her upper arms, Elisabeth shakes her head. "Time is a river that never stops flowing. From the moment every person is born, all they can do is ride that river forward. You can ride your boat on the left bank or the right or take a smaller stream to cut across the whitewater or even get out of the boat altogether and walk around obstacles. If you're someone who has an extraordinary ability to travel through time, you can jump around on that river and change things, but all you're really doing is creating more tributaries. It is impossible to stop the flow of the river. All paths have obstacles and rough terrain. And all paths lead to the sea." Her daughter lived a movie that said that once… it stuck with the blond.

A faint smile quirks her lips. "My husband moves mountains into the path of that river when the whitewater ahead threatens to destroy the boats we're all on, but he's figured out that he can't stop its flow. All he can do is try to divert the path it takes… and hopefully the new path into the future is a little less rough and horrible for humanity." In point of fact, the trip he's heading on now? What is that but an attempt to literally build a dam and divert the solar flare around instead of destroying us? There will still be repercussions, both good and horrible.

"No," Elisabeth says again softly, meeting the therapist's eyes. "I don't think it will ever end… although maybe someday we'll retire and let the younger people move those mountains. I feel very old some days, Everleigh."

Everleigh laughs. "Now it sounds like you're trying to teach me the ways of the world," she says, her smile reaching to her eyes. "I think you're right about letting younger people move mountains. At a certain point you have to learn how to let go and let someone else take over. Perhaps Richard's not at that point, but you may be. And it means you're stuck trying to figure out how to feel and react to that… you'll never stop worrying either way. Even if he's entirely fine, you'll still find some way to fuss over him. That's who you are. You just get to choose now how to react to these circumstances and move forward."

There's a startled expression on her face and an incredulous snort of laughter. "Fuss. That's…. that's not a word I have ever thought of. That's… kind of exactly what I do, isn't it? I fuss and worry and stress it all." Elisabeth considers and then visibly pulls in a breath, letting it out slowly. "And then when the shit hits the fan, I pull on my combat boots and start kicking people's asses."

Blue eyes are amused now, and she seems to have calmed. If not completely settled, she's found that space inside her where she can manage her fears and keep moving forward. "Thank you for reminding me of an old acquaintance with that," she chuckles. "She used to call me Chicken Little until she realized my obsessive need to worry over every detail beforehand often meant far fewer unexpected messes in the middle of it." Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance. And then of course, there's the other end of that — which is no plan survives first contact with the enemy, so fuck it all and wing it. And if there's one thing Elisabeth does take pride in, it's her ability to do both.

"Being prepared is something that I cannot fault you for, but when it comes down to it, reality is unpredictable. Do you really think the things that you and Richard face on a daily basis are things you can really plan for?" Everleigh's smile turns bright, also amused. "I think you have planned for what you can, you've planned for emergencies, but this is something you have to take bit by bit. You have to be comfortable with that."

Wryly, Elisabeth comments, "Hi, doc. Have we met?" Because every time she's dared get comfortable, all hell has broken loose. "There was a line in a movie in one of the worlds — 'You get hurt, hurt 'em back. You get killed… walk it off.' That's what my life is like." Her grin widens just a bit and she winks as she heads toward the door, their time up. "I've actually done that before… walked it off. So I'm never comfortable. I'll get comfortable when the job's done." She pauses with her hand on the knob and adds over her shoulder, "See ya next week, lady."

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