What Determines Fate


cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title What Determines Fate
Synopsis On the anniversary of a shadow's death, two lovers talk of fate and fears.
Date Jan 16, 2011

Cardinal's Apartment, Redbird Security Solutions

Daddy's flown across the ocean / Leaving just a memory…

The keys rattle in the lock, and the bolt turns over with a thump back into the door's locking mechanism. As the door's pushed inward, though, the chain comes into play, and it comes to a jarring halt from the strain of that simple metal chain of links between door and wall.

Snapshot in the family album / Daddy, what else did you leave for me?

Richard Cardinal never really bothers to remember what's convenient for other people to go in and out of rooms.

Daddy, what'd you leave behind for me?

There's no light on in the apartment, but that doesn't mean he's not home. There's a feeling of habitation in the apartment, subtle cues that Elisabeth can sense subconsciously. After a moment or two with the door partly open, Richard's voice drifts out of the darkness - quiet, unreadable in its tone. "What is it?"

All in all it was just a brick in the wall.

All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.

There's a long moment of silence from the person at the door. Perhaps she's debating simply leaving him be without speaking — the chain is a pretty decent deterrent unless she wants to break it. But instead of demurring, she leans against the jamb and rests her head there. Her voice carries softly into the darkness beyond the chain. "Just…. needed to hear your voice," Elisabeth replies. She doesn't ask if he's okay. She remembers her own anniversary of dying. Was it only four months ago? Seems like forever.

There's silence for several long moments from the other side of the door, and then a pace of quiet footprints towards the entranceway. The weight of a body sinks against the door from the other side, not trying to push it closed but just leaning there, and Richard says quietly, "I'm fine, Liz. I'm just… I'm fine."

It might seem odd to other people that they'd stand resting on opposite sides of a barely open door…. but it just somehow seems to fit. "Yeah," Elisabeth murmurs softly. "I remember fine." She's not really amused, but if he doesn't want her company inside she'll just…. camp right here. "I remember fine real well." 'Fine' was getting very very very drunk and praying for oblivion. Not so different than tonight, in all honesty… though she's only had one good drink tonight, standing at the bottom of these very stairs before coming up.

A mirthless chuckle spills past Cardinal's lips, his head resting on the door's wood, eyes closing for a moment. "Yeah," he says quietly, "I'm sure you do. You're one've the few who would…" He doesn't sound drunk, and there's no smell of alcohol in the apartment, at least. "Just… a lot to deal with already, and the memories… the memories don't help, not today."

"Yeah," Elisabeth whispers. She adjusts her position so that her head is tipped forward. Her forehead rests on the door itself while her temple and her shoulder are on the jamb. "I figure what I remember is bad enough … what you remember must be a billion times worse. I… can listen. If you want." She sometimes has such a hard time discerning what he wants. "Or I can just … sit. Don't have to talk at all." She can't take it from him, she can only let him know she's here.

I don't need no arms around me, and I don't need no drugs to calm me…

"I doubt that," Cardinal says with a rough exhalation of a snort, "At least it was quick, on my part, you know?" A quick moment, and then months of disconnection from the physical world. "I'm fine. Really. I don't… need to talk, or anything."

I have seen the writing on the wall, don't think I need anything at all…

Despite his words, a moment later he admits quietly, "Sometimes I think it would've been better if I had died that night."

All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.

That brings a flood of tears to blue eyes, though he can't see that through the door. Elisabeth closes her eyes and says softly, "I know you do." If he thought she was blind to it, he was mistaken. She could offer platitudes or assurances. But instead what she offers is the stark, unvarnished truth. "And then there'd be no one to stop him."

"There wouldn't be a him," comes Richard's near-vicious reply, "He'd have died with me. He never would've lived long enough to drive everyone to turn on him. Never would've gone back in time. Never would've founded the Institute. All of this… insanity, Mallett's machine, the tubes and kidnappings, the fucked-up power switching, none of it— none of it would've happened."

"Bullshit," Elisabeth instantly retorts, her tone certain. "He was already here. He was here before that." She clenches her jaw and reaches up to dry her face. "Things were already changing, even then. Time doesn't work in that straightforward a fashion. And you know it."

"If I had died," Cardinal replies just as sharply, "Then it wouldn't've been." A moment's silence, and he exhales a sigh of breath that spills over the door's flat. Softer, "Doesn't matter. No point in arguing temporal physics. I lived, he lived. And he's always one damn step ahead of me. I don't even have that bastard I used to on my side… seems like all he fucking wants to do is play with my emotions now. Like I'm some fucking toy. I don't know why I'm bothering trying to rescue him at all."

"If you had died, Hiro Nakamura would have simply traveled backward a little bit and jumped you forward," Elisabeth says tiredly. "Because in one timeline, lover… you disappeared. And in this one, because you chose not to simply do that, you are pivotal. And quite frankly, no one else besides you yourself have the ability to thwart the man that Edward Ray made you." She reaches up and puts her hand on the door.

"I'm sorry," Elisabeth whispers, aching for him. "I'm sorry he lied to you. That he gave you sisters only to rip them from you. There are no words for that cruelty."

"They found a photo album," Cardinal says in quiet tones, the quiet voice he uses when he's trying to keep from letting emotion break into his voice, "On Christmas. Did I tell you that? It had… everybody's mother. Valerie's. Kaylee's. Warren's. There were some people— it might've been my parents, but I can't even believe that. How could I? Everything's just a fucking lie, after all, one lie on top of another…"

God, how she hurts for him. Elisabeth wants nothing more than to put her hands on him and stroke his hair. "I wish I had the answers for you," she tells him, her tone betraying the sadness she feels for him with a gentle tremor. "I would give anything to be able to get the answers you deserve, Richard."

"I don't think there are any, Elisabeth." A soft thump is heard through the door, felt in a gentle shockwave as Richard's head impacts his side, "I'm just a ghost now. All unsolveable enigmas and unanswerable questions. Maybe I did die that day."

There's a deep exhale of breath from Liz's side and she turns her face, resting her cheek on the door next to her open hand. As if she can convey any kind of comfort to him through the wood itself. Something to hold onto. "If any part of you died that day, as far as I'm concerned it's the part that became Ezekial," she tells him softly. Her tone is carefully controlled to keep from overwhelming him with her emotions while offering something for him to hold onto. "It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate*," she says softly. "You have learned of two aspects of yourself that you could become…. the one that retreats into the shadows to never care about anyone. And the one who goes to immense lengths to manipulate the world around him into the mirror of horror that he has already survived because he is afraid to change it again. He is the ghost, the shell of the man I love."

"Then what's left, Elisabeth? If you strip away too many layers… there's nothing left," Cardinal says quietly against the door, "I don't even know who I am, somedays. I barely know what I'm doing. I just… keep going, hoping to see a roadsign somewhere. But I never do." A hand lifts, rubbing at his eyes, and he murmurs, "Maybe they're right not to trust me. Knowing what I could be. Knowing what I've done."

"Well…. if they're right not to trust you, then they sure as hell better not trust me," Elisabeth says quietly. "You're constantly harping on them not trusting you because of what you could be. You could be anything — anyone. All of us, under the right conditions, are monsters. In a world that never happened, Richard…. you had a bullet put through my head. In a world that I hope will never happen, I will put a bullet in yours. Do you know why?"

"No," Richard says quietly, "Why?"

Elisabeth's eyes close and she smiles a little. Not really in humor. "Because in a world that I hope to God I never see, you will decide to cut your losses. The despair, the guilt over what Ezekial's doing… they'll overwhelm you and you'll decide that going after him yourself is the best option. And you'll kill him and decide to take his place…. thereby becoming him."

"That won't ever happen, Liz," says Cardinal in quiet tones, "You know that it won't. I'll never…" Vehement, "Never become him."

"Infinite possibilities, Richard," Elisabeth says softly. "The meeting of two eternities, the past and the future is precisely the present moment.* Every choice, every possibility of a choice, spawns a new, slightly different future reality. If you believe such things. So… yes. Somewhere, in some future… it could happen. But I don't believe that it will because you choose otherwise. And that is why I have faith in you."

"I just… hope that whatever I do become," Cardinal says quietly, "It isn't… I just hope I make things better, Liz, rather than worse. I guess we'll just have to see, you know?" He exhales a sigh, "Look, I'm— not in the right head-space tonight. You know that."

"Yeah, babe… I know that." Elisabeth moves, stepping back from the door. "I'll shut up now. Just…. let me sit out here?" she asks softly. "I won't….. I won't sleep tonight anyway. I keep hearing…" She trails off, unwilling to intrude on the space he needs but needing at least this much contact. "I won't come in, no matter what I hear. I just need to be… here."

"Okay." A breath's drawn in, then exhaled, and Richard says softly, "Thanks for… understanding, Liz. I love you."

At that, Elisabeth smiles. Leaning back against the wall in the hallway, she sinks down to take up residence right there outside the door. "I know," she tells him with certainty.

All alone, or in two's, the ones who really love you walk up and down outside the wall

Some hand in hand, and some gathered together in bands, the bleeding hearts and artists make their stand.

The door closes with a soft click, and Richard Cardinal slides down the wall on the other side from her until he's seated on the floor. Arms folding on his knees as he draws them in, he drops his head down to rest on them, shoulders shaking slightly as he hides his tears from the darkness.

"I do love you."

And when they've given you their all, some stagger and fall

After all, it's not easy banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall.

* — Henry David Thoreau.

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