Summary: "Without my faith there is no glory/And without truth there is no story anymore..."
Spoilers: 10:00 AM-11:00 AM; 11:00 AM-12:00 AM
Recommended Listening: "Who Wants To Live Forever" by Queen
Elisabeth Karie Rycoff had barely been in the safe zone. She could not believe what was happening, and for the first time in a long time she was afraid. She had thought they had all been behind her, with her. Then she had seen Tony double back, who was he after? -- It was Paula, her charge, her responsibility, the one woman she now trusted! -- She turned and doubled back with him.
They yelled for her not to do it. It was suicide, Michelle had tried to say. Liz wouldn't listen, kept going, knowing it didn't matter, not to her. Thoughts through her head like rampant bullets:
Dead because Liz couldn't help her, couldn't protect her --
Gone because he'd paid the price for signs they had missed --
Fleeing because she couldn't convince him to stay --
The one man she could think straight about, risking his life --
Where the hell was Paula? It couldn't happen again --
The last words she heard were Tony's: "Liz, get the hell out of here, now!"
She hadn't listened, felt everything give way around her. She dove, hoping to close the distance and stay alive long enough to make a difference. She didn't know if she did.
"Did I hear it right, Tony? About Jack?" she had asked when she had heard.
He nodded. "They're I don't like it, but it's the right it's the right thing to do."
She had nodded. "I want to be there, then."
"Are you sure?" he'd asked. "I mean, he hasn't been very"
"Receptive, I know. He shut me out too, Tony. After all the things we'd done together, even me. But he's still my friend. I know you of all people understand that." Liz had taken his hand, given it a gentle reassuring squeeze. "I still believe in him, Tony. I don't know how, but I still believe in all of this."
Would she join them soon?
It was worth it.
They had intersected when she was coming back from Data Services. She had looked in his eyes and seen another man.
"George, where are you going?"
"We need you here."
"No, you don't."
"Fine, I need you here."
"You've got Tony. I don't know how you saved him from putting a bullet in his skull, but you did. The way you two look at each other is" He'd stopped. "It's the way he used to look at Nina. Back when we all trusted her. When he loved her."
And Mason had faced her directly. "You will never be Nina. You won't ever hurt him like she did. And I can never be Jack. I can't do this."
He'd walked away, and she, she had let him go
And punched a hole in the bathroom wall...
"Liz, can you hear me?" A pleading tone; she'd never known him to beg, not in the years they'd known each other. "Liz, damn it, don't die on me."
She forced her eyes open, saw Tony breathe a sigh of relief. He asked if she was hurt. She hurt. But she waved him off, pushed aside debris, clamored to her feet. They'd looked at each other for just a second, and he'd turned to go. Paula needed his help, now.
In his eyes she saw fear and pain and desperation all coming together. A look she hadn't seen in eighteen months. Although they didn't love each other, it broke her heart. A heart that was already broken, though no one would ever know it.
Liz soldiered on. Lives other than her own needed saving. For hers could no longer be saved.
"Is that George on the phone?"
Tony gave a slow nod. Liz put out her hand, sensing the fire in his heart. He didn't want to take the call. And that call, well, it could be all she had left. She hadn't heard about Jack. Her career was in the pieces on the floor. Tony was now a soldier to a cause, as she had once been. She had no one left to turn to except the voice on the phone.
"George, it's me," she whispered, turning her back on Tony and everything she now had or didn't really have that she didn't ever want.
"Elisabeth?" He sounded half-wounded.
"Put Tony back on the phone."
"I can't do that, George." She felt her hands shaking, a nervous mannerism she had been able to control with Jack's help after the Hotel Los Angeles mission. "This building is in ruins. Another of my programmers might be dead. God only knows about Jack. You're it, George. Without you, I've got nothing." It felt bizarre being so open to him, and yet, there it was.
There's no time for us...
He was silent for a moment. "What about Almeida?"
"What about him?" She dropped her voice, not wanting to be heard even by herself. "We're stuck with each other because we didn't know where else to go, George. I don't know where else to go."
"God, Elisabeth" Mason's voice wavered. He paused. More silence on the line. Her hands shaking so badly that she almost dropped the phone.
"I'm going to die, Elisabeth."
There's no place for us...
She'd choked back a half-sob, half-gasp, forced out denial: "No."
"I contracted fatal exposure to plutonium. I've got anywhere from a week to a day."
"George, you God, I " She couldn't even form sentences.
"You deserve to know. After all we've done together. But please don't tell anyone, not now." He had stopped after that, possibly hearing her start to collapse right then and there. "Give the phone back to Tony."
Liz had obeyed, ducking her head before Tony could see the first tears forming behind her eyes. That was all she needed to be seen doing by Michelle Dessler or any of these new kinds who didn't know the truth -- crying for a corrupt man. That was how Paula had been different. Underneath the rookie exterior she had a sense of the truth.
What is this thing that builds our dreams
Then slips away from us?
And the tears that Liz cried while no one was looking, while she dropped her shoulder and continued to try saving lives, were for Paula and for Jamey and for Jack and for Teri, and for the woman she had once been only eighteen months before who would give anything to go back but could do nothing except die along with the friends and comrades she had once known that were now but statistics of tragedy.
Voices in the distance: Mason, Tony, at odds with each other again.
Beaten, ruined, battered, she advanced: how symbolic could that be, the two of them fighting? Mason the constant from what now seemed like a past life where Jack had been happy and everyone had been safe and the well-deserved peace was a reality coming fast; Tony the variable of what now was, a good friend and nothing more, both of them needing saving from the harsh blow life had mutually dealt them, thinking, like her, that he knew what he had, only to realize at some point that it was much less than he ever presumed.
There's no chance for us...
Between them Paula: not unlike a young woman who had met Jack Bauer years ago and been inspired, illuminated by his hard-line ideals and his promise, who had followed him unflinchingly. A woman who had believed, and thought she knew how to fight, and had not realized what she was doing to herself because she was too busy saving the world. Paula wasn't to being jaded and hurt and scarred just yet. Jamey had lost that vulnerability a while back, but Paula still had it, and Liz couldn't believe she was praying for Paula to have the chance to lose it another day.
It's all decided for us...
She stood still just far enough back, caught in the web.
Locked eyes with Mason, knowing his unspoken secret, letting the years of support and alliance and trust and common ground flow out of her into the glance she gave him then. Letting him know that she would support him to the end, whenever that was, because they owed it to each other. They had changed, yes, but their promise never had.
This world has only one sweet moment
Set aside for us...
Her gaze shifted to Tony, who just briefly looked back at her. She felt sorry for them both, mistaking survival instincts for a half-hearted romance, trying together to make something of nothing. He thought he loved what he believed was the real her, but she knew that it was all a lie. Maybe in a different place it could have been the truth, but she could never give him what he deserved. She just thanked him for accepting what little she had left to give.
She had nothing left to give him, or anyone, this moment.
Liz stepped back and collapsed hard against a barely standing pylon, feeling the year and a half of betrayals, twisted motives, broken dreams and suffering weigh upon her heart and her mind. She had believed that she could come from loss into love and make one become the other if she tried. Jack, Jamey, Mason, they had given her this belief. But they were gone now. She was the last of them.
"Evil always lives, but love always prevails."
"I know, Jack."
She closed her eyes, shut out all the noise of a world she didn't know, and accepted that she never could know it. And feeling her legs go from under her, she also let go of what she had, she realized now, already lost. She let it all go.
"Get somebody over here now!"
"What's happened to her?"
Who wants to live forever?
Who dares to love forever
When love must die?