Hello! So this is random, and a bit angsty, and written quite fast so probably weird. Spoilers for season 3 episode 2, The Linchpin. Damn that episode was good. Hope this is vaguely enjoyable..? :)
She hadn't seen the drop before.
She had seen hanging bodies before, during that awful visit to Iran, hanging bodies lining the streets as she sat in her car with a bleeding wound on her back and without Fred Cole, but she had only seen the end result. She hadn't seen the bodies drop.
This time she did.
The memory of Professor Arkoun's little grunt of shock and the creak of the rope as his body dropped from the gallows keeps creeping up on her unannounced. She hears the noise inside her head and it makes her jolt and for a second there is nothing but desperate panic. She sees the drop of the man's body, the unnatural angle of his neck, his legs dangling in mid-air.
But she doesn't see his face.
We can get to your family any time.
She's back home from Algeria, safe in her house, but not. Because someone is stalking her kids.
Elizabeth sits in the armchair in the office, tilted forward to rest her forehead against Henry's, clutching onto him as though if she lets him go, someone is going to try to hurt him, too. She lets out a breath, feeling her lungs stutter with the stress. "Oh my God," she says, not for the first time.
There's a pause before Henry answers, the interrupted sound of him drawing in his own shaky breath. "Yeah," he agrees.
She opens her mouth to say something else, but there's nothing more that she can really say. Someone is stalking her kids, and it can only be because of her job, and there is no way to put into words the guilt and turmoil and terror churning in her gut. Instead she squeezes her eyes closed, hoping to block it all out for a moment.
She sees the sway of a hangman's noose, and a faceless body dropping through air.
Henry draws back and she holds onto him blindly, wanting to keep him with her, keep him close. Her eyes snap open and she looks at him. Luckily, he doesn't go far, resting his hands on her knees to keep the contact but drawing back enough that he can see her face.
"What happened in Algeria?" he asks.
Confusion flickers through her, because he knows what happened in Algeria. He said it himself when she arrived home. War averted. Nicely done. She had called him from the plane to tell him.
He must read the question on her face because he elaborates a moment later. "What else happened in Algeria?"
She reads between the lines to understand what he's really asking. Exactly how close was it this time? He wants to know how much danger she was in.
Elizabeth can't bring herself to care about those couple of tense minutes after Haddad ordered her arrested and the urgency of her DS agents and all the pointing of guns that followed. There's no point. It turned out fine and it's nothing compared to what they're facing now.
A faceless, nameless stalker who can get to her family any time they want, and who has already proved just what they're capable of doing.
But the expectation isn't leaving Henry's face and from long experience she knows that it's not going anywhere until he has an answer he's satisfied with. So she sighs and says, "Haddad made a last play for power. Tried to have me and General Cherat arrested. It didn't work." Ideally, she'd leave it there, because that's all it is, all that happened, but she knows it's not what Henry is waiting for. She doesn't have the energy to deflect his concern right now, and if worrying about her for a minute helps take his mind off the kids for even a second, she supposes that it's worth it. "It got a little tense for a second," she admits, knowing he'll read more on her face than she has admitted to with words.
The truth of it is that the most stressful part of her second trip to Algiers was the knowledge of what was going on back at home. The rest of it pales in comparison.
Henry lets out a breath and one of his hands finds its way into her hair, threading through the strands so he can cradle her skull in his palm as he leans in to press a kiss to her lips. Elizabeth captures his chin in her hands as he goes to pull back, keeping him close for another moment, deepening the kiss and feeling the knot of stress in her chest loosen a little. Then she lets her head drop to rest against his shoulder and closes her eyes against the tears that want to spill over.
The faceless hanging body is there again.
It's there again in bed that night, as she lies in the dark next to Henry, drifting around the edges of sleep.
She's almost asleep, finally relaxed by some time spent winding down with her husband, and by creeping into each one of her children's rooms to see them all safe and sound asleep in their beds before she eventually went to bed herself. She's almost asleep, but then out of nowhere she hears the grunt of surprise and the creak of rope and her eyes snap open before her brain can show her the image of the body and the drop and the stillness after.
She reaches blindly in the dark for Henry's hand and then rolls towards him as she curls her fingers around his, blinking rapidly until her eyes adjust to the darkness and she can just about make out his face and see him well enough to realise that he's not sleeping, either.
He's watching her, and she doesn't need to flick on the light to know that it will be an expression of worry he's wearing on his face.
She wonders which of their problems he's currently worrying about.
"Elizabeth?" he says, and at that moment at least, his worry is for her and not the kids. She hears it in his tone.
"It's OK," she tries to assure him. Then she says, "It wasn't Iran."
"No," Henry says, a little warily.
She hears what he doesn't say. No, it wasn't Iran. But it was similar. Similar enough to be a painful reminder, for both of them. And she has told him about watching Professor Arkoun be hanged. He has cause to be concerned, especially after the effect Iran had on her.
She hasn't told him that she keeps seeing it, hearing it. Hasn't said that she can't get the image of the man's hanging body out of her head. How can she tell him that, when their children are in trouble? An imagined threat against a real one. She can't make it match up. Instead she rests her head against his chest and wraps her arm across his torso, hoping to imbue him with a little comfort and reassure herself that they're all safe inside their house.
Henry brings his arms up around her, holds her close, holds his breath for a moment. She feels the suspension of it, the expectation, the anticipation like he's planning on saying something else, asking another question perhaps, or making a comment to let her know how he's feeling. But then he lets the breath out and she feels the release of it, almost cathartic, but a question still hanging unspoken in the air. Henry holds her a little tighter and not very long later, he's asleep, one hand in her hair, one around her waist and the thump of his heart strong and reassuring as her ear presses to his chest.
Eventually, her eyes slip closed and she's powerless to resist as sleep pulls her down, down. She hears the grunt of surprise and the creak of rope and she sees the drop and then the back of a faceless hanging body in front of her in the darkness. It spins to face her, slowly, and she isn't sure if the body is going to have Henry's face, or Jason's, or Stevie's or Alison's, but it doesn't matter, because it could be any of them, is definitely one of them and all of them, all at once.
The hanging body pauses in its rotation towards her and then stays there, suspended, like it's letting her decide whose face it is she wants to see.
She fights against sleep, feels herself losing. The hanging body vanishes.
Then she hears the groan again, and the creak. And then the drop.