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the house that fire built
:...:.::. ::. :::..::.

March 2007
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Liz Sherman-Townshend [userpic]
for the widower in paradise, for the motherless in ypsilanti

If she takes the time to think about it, which she might someday when she can form thoughts more structured than "Henry" and "sleep," Liz will realize she has spent almost 30 hours on planes in the last two days.  This coupled with a mercifully silent ride in one of the Bureau's cars to the helicopter lauchpad, to the base at the top of the mountain, have all brewed together into a cocktail guaranteed to knock out the most iron of constitutions.

Physical fortitude is not something Liz has ever been known for.  By the time she's deposited outside their front door (there's snow so it's winter...is it Christmas?  Did I miss Christmas? ...no, I definitely did not) all that's on her mind are the aforementioned singular nouns.  Lest her siblingchildren or the cat feel slighted, take heart.  She remembers Henry's name before she remembers her own.  

She came home without luggage; it seemed like just so much baggage to carry.  It's been months since a cigarette has touched her lips, but she'll slip quickly back into the habit as soon as she smells smoke - you're never a non-smoker, just an ex-smoker.  Her legs feel like lead and the steps to the front porch number in the thousands, but it's a clean, cool kind of tired, not the raging greasy exhaustion that had gripped her when she'd come out of the hospital.

Everything is just like it was.  Somehow she thought it would be different; like a library that was once a church.  The same sanctuary, just carried out in different shades of meaning.  Her fingers itch to run over those familiar surfaces, to touch everything in all of these worn rooms.  To the uniniated eye she must look like a wide-eyed seven year old, gawking with unabashed joy at something as silly and mundane as a living room.

She doesn't even make it to the bedroom.  Exactly nine seconds after sitting down on the couch, just to get her bearings, she's lost in white, dreamless sleep. 

Current Location: home

Henry hadn't been sleeping. He was trying to, but somehow it just wasn't happening. The bed didn't feel right, and the couch hadn't been right either, and...man, since when had he been so picky about where he was sleeping? Maybe he should've gotten a hotel. But even his money didn't feel like it was his- just like he'd look at the photographs on the wall in amazement, sure they couldn't possibly have come from him.

So he was sitting in the dark on the porch chair, watching his breath crystallize in the air, when he heard someone moving around in the house. He almost decided to stay out there- he didn't really belong here, anyway- but eventually something pulled him in to check on what it was. An odd feeling of responsibility, maybe.

He walked slowly and silently, but eventually found her on the couch. It would be difficult to mistake her for anyone other than the smiling (and occasionally annoyed) face in the photos. Under his breath, at almost a point even he couldn't hear, he said, "...Liz Sherman." He couldn't bring himself to say the last part.

He left and came back with a blanket, which he draped over her carefully.

Oh Henry, if you were going for stealth, you shouldn't havetalked to her. Or touched her, or looked at her, or...entered the room, really. Alas, it's too late for that sort of consideration now, she's awake and staring with wide golden eyes, rim still red from exhaustion. "Henry...oh, Jesus. I missed you."

It might be time for a long, flowery speech, but what would be the point of that when she can just fling herself upwards off of the couch and launch herself at him like a bullet in half-removed ski gear? One boot is still on, though unlaced, and she only got part of the way out of her jacket before collapsing, so if he lets her get that far, Henry is currently being embraced by the uh, abominable snow...Liz. Yes. SnowLiz.

Henry doesn't seem to have any choice but to hug her back- not that he's anywhere near complaining here. The next part of this conversation is going to be horribly awkward, and this small bit beforehand is actually pretty nice.

"Liz, I...." Wow, how was he going to get this out? He hugs her closer for a second before trying to push her back slightly, just enough so his hands are on her shoulders and he's looking into her eyes. God, she's pretty. "...Warren said you were in Tibet. I...I wasn't expecting...." His voice is quiet and terribly mumbled. He's about to continue, but decides to help her finish taking off her jacket and possibly then move onto the boot.

Something is...off. Terribly, terribly off. She almost laughs. Of course it is, what with this being a day ending in Y in the ridiculous tragicomedy that is her life. Still, one doesn't spend months at a mystical, technically nonexistent monastery and not learn something; she's able to maintain a certain sense of calm. However many months ago she'd have already been working herself into a fine lather of despair--not anger, she so rarely has the energy for that.

Now she just steps back a little, putting another step's worth of distance between them. She twists out of the jacket and sets it down on the couch, lips twisting in a little smile. One hand comes up hesitantly, hovering over the edge of the side of his face, not touching, just hovering. "Warren said? What do you mean, Warren said? You don't...Henry?"

He couldn't even go two seconds without messing this up, could he? He looks down at the ground, ashamed. "I'm...I'm sorry, I've...I'm not remembering things right. We're not sure what happened yet."

He brings his left hand up, running it through his hair, then becomes terribly aware of the ring on her finger that's not on his. He shoves his hand back down in his pocket.

He looks at her intently, trying to get his focus off of him somewhat. "Uh...are you okay?" He had no idea why she'd be off in Tibet, but he'd been watching helicopters take off and land all day from the building (military base?) above them. Most of the helicopters had guns attached to them somewhere.

"I'm much better. At peace, even. Sort of. As much as I ever am." Well, that was a whole shitload of qualifiers, Elizabeth. She sits down on the couch again, and if he thinks he's not coming with her, he has another few thousand things coming. "...I'm better."

Asking if she's all right seems perfectly reasonable to ask under the circumstances, she just still can't shake the feeling that something is--Henry is not the most demonstrative of people, but she expected...well. More than a one-armed hug. "Are...you all right?" She curls into his side, jaws opening in a little kitten-yawn.

He was glad he wasn't given a choice. Politeness would've kept him standing, but he'd much rather be sitting down with her anyway. He does, however, sit at a distance, not the 'glued to her' state that would always occasionally happen when they were in the same room together.

He nods slowly, taking in what she was saying. "Uh...that's good. I'm...uh....hmm. Sorry, I'm not that great at this. I'm fine, I just...I don't remember things. I remember other things....like, uh." He remembered how terrible he felt for Warren when he found out Henry didn't remember anything about them. However, it wasn't as if he could sidestep this issue. Best to be straightforward. "I fell asleep in my apartment in Pleasant River and...woke up at the laptop here. I don't remember much of anything." He scratched at his hand, looking embarassed. "I'm sorry..."

Liz's jaw drops several thousand feet, crashes through the floor, and surprises a poor little old shop owner in China into a heart attack. Bad, bad timing. Bad. She claps her right hands over her eyes, doing a very credible facepalm. It was bad enough John had been acting like a fucking loon before she left; now she's home and Henry apparently...has amenesia. How unbelievably perfect. How appropriate.

She rubs the bridge of her nose with one hand and stands up. "Well. I'm going back to Tibet." OBVIOUSLY she is not actually going to do this, but it seems worth making the gesture.

And of course, Henry takes this completely seriously. He stands up as well. He puts his hand out to touch her shoulder but doesn't quite have the courage to do it. "Liz...no, please. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to mess things up...I...uh." He has to stare at the floor for a second before getting the words together to form another sentence. "We'll find out what happened, okay? And fix it."

He looks worried, and it's amazing- it's the first actual expression he's had all day.

Ordinarily--although Henry won't remember this--her lack of, perhaps, setting the house on fire might be cause for concern. The pervasive numbness and refusal to deal with virtually anything had been driving what seemed like an insurrmountable wedge between them; it might have been the biggest reason she'd left. This is less numbness and more actual calm--although the air around them can probably actively be felt as a few degrees warmer, she just opens her mouth and closes it a few times, uselessly, and sits back down on the couch.

"Okay. Okay. Just like we've fixed everything else. You don't--you don't remember that, I guess, but...we do this a lot." She favors him with a crooked, wobbly smile. "What do you remember?"

A lot? His brow creases as he thinks about that. He sits as well, but gives her plenty of room- this is pretty awkward, and he knows that.

"I...uh. I'm not sure what it is. I remember...I remember working in Maine- Pleasant River. They have this photolab, and I work the nightshift, developing pictures and videos. I've done that for...almost three years now. Before that, I lived in Portland, and kind of jumping from job to job. I was thinking that maybe...I was thinking of moving. But still in Maine. I...uh...that's all I remember." He bites his lip- he knows that's not anything helpful.

This gets more jaw-droppage--surely you'd think a person would say 'well, I remember the hellish ordeal that changed my entire life and damaged me unbelievably badly both physically and mentally plus also it brought me to this crazy land of portals and people who can incincerate stuff with their brains and hey where are the kids anyway' ...but he hasn't.

"You don't remember living in a town called Ashfield? Do you remember anything about a man named W--Walter? Walter Sullivan?" She's able to get the name out with almost no trace of hesitation, although her stomach still shifts a little, just a quick wave of unsettled discomfort. He'll probably always have that affect on her. At least she's not screaming or punching anything. And nothing's on fire! So clearly they're doing well.

There's absolutely no recognition whatsoever. "Uh...no. I thought about moving out there, but I never did. Why? Before I came here, that's where I was? I-" He does notice her looking anxious- maybe that was something important. "Uh...Liz. If you don't want to go into it, that's fine. I just...that's not what I remember."

He stared down at his hands, thinking. Out of all of this, the name Walter Sullivan was one he thought he should know somehow. Maybe it was familiar someplace that wasn't the middle of Colorado (as he had found from Warren, eventually). But it wasn't the sort of thing he could pick up here. He blinks dull eyes a few times before admitting, "I don't know how this could happen, Liz. It doesn't make any sense. Warren said...this isn't unusual. Hey, you said that too, but...I don't see how that's possible."

"It's...this might be better." It is, she knows, probably better for him not to remember most of that. Or even large portions of the Nexus. Hell, most of them could probably do with forgetting large portions of the Nexus. "Maybe you should go back and read your journal. You started keeping an electronic one the same time you moved there."

Her hands flicker restlessly in her lap, a habit she still hasn't lost. "This is--very different from your old life. Even the job you have now is very different."

At this point it seems almost secondary to everything else he might have to readjust to, if he'll even want to do that, but keeping it from him would be intensely unfair at best, pointlessly cruel otherwise. "Did Warren tell you what we can do? He and John and I, I mean. Why we work here."

"Yeah, I...when I woke up here, that journal thing was up. I'll check it out. and see....uh, what I was doing." That should help. He feels bad enough for bothering Liz as much as he had now.

He watches her hands fidget, and he has a thought to reach out and put his over them. He wonders if he did that before. It would be awkward at best now, and maybe it was something that would really make her upset. He's not used to touching anyone anyway, so he's not certain why exactly he was thinking of that.

He nods at her question, then hesitates. "Uh...not the working part, but...the fire part. Yeah, he did tell me about that." He said I helped, and I don't see how that could happen. "He showed me, actually...he said you and John, that you-" Yeah, she said that already. "You can do that, too."