Hello! Here is a random fic. I'm not sure what I think of the fic but I've had The Dreaded Block recently so mostly I'm just glad to have some words on the page and I hope that you like them a little bit... Thanks to Sage for reading this for me on such short notice :D x
Inspired partly by "You, Darkness" by RM Rilke. Also Frank Burns off MASH. If you're a MASH fan you might know which bit. Hope you enjoy and please let me know what you think!
Faith in Nights
The cabin isn't as quiet as it used to be.
She remembers back when they first used to visit and the only sounds at night would be the quiet snuffle of animals outside and their children whispering in their room when they were supposed to be asleep. Now the children are quiet, probably fast asleep with boredom by now, but the animals outside have been joined by the low rumble of Elizabeth's idling motorcade and the occasional conversation of her DS agents standing outside the window.
No wonder their neighbours in DC hate them.
She shifts in bed so she can stare up at the ceiling of the little room they're staying in, aware that the ceiling is only a couple of metres above her but feeling like she's staring into an endless black abyss.
At least there aren't currently any urgent fires burning after she put out the flames of the NATO near-disaster. She thinks that the dark is preferable to burning.
But it also gives her space to think; she hasn't had much of that over the past few days. This is the first time she's really stopped to take stock of everything that has happened recently, the first time she's had to dwell on the feeling of unease she'd been aware of all throughout the evening, even as she enjoyed playing ridiculous board games with her family and spending time with the children and sneaking kisses with Henry because he was right about them having a romantic weekend. She feels like there's a tipping point approaching.
She thinks it has something to do with the sense that her family is changing; the kids are almost old enough to fly the nest, wanting to do their own thing, and they might all be together now and she's sure they will be from time to time again, but it still feels like they're spinning away.
Elizabeth forces her eyes shut and reminds herself that they're together now, and that's something. And the world is safe for now. For now.
The flames of crisis might have been doused for now but as she stares up into the dark she fancies that she can practically feel the heat of the coals stoking gently, threatening to burst back into flame. There's always a fire to be put out somewhere in her job – and there's more of them now, she's sure of it. It has always been a challenge, her role as a professional firefighter, but she thinks that the slow splintering of her family makes it that much harder to deal with. The base she comes back to at the end of the day isn't quite as steadfast as it once was, the house is quieter than it used to be – and not just because she frequently comes home at midnight when all the kids are already asleep.
Things are changing.
The feeling of shifting sands reminds her a little of when she was younger, and her home base was ripped away from her completely in one fell swoop.
She still walks in the ashes of the fire that was the deaths of her parents. Sometimes the lingering heat of it catches her unaware.
Fumbling with the covers that surround her, she reaches out in the dark to take Henry's hand as he lies beside her, needing the anchor, taking comfort in the fact that he is the one fixed thing in her life, the one constant even as fires rage and her children grow up and she finds doubts in her faith that the world will be okay. She squeezes his hand gently, his skin warm against hers.
His voices rumbles through the dark. "Mm. What's wrong?" He sounds sleepy but like he has been awake for a while; she hasn't woken him up by reaching for him. "Babe?"
"Don't go anywhere, okay?" she says, holding tight to his hand like he might melt away from her at any moment, like he might be snatched by the flames. She doesn't think about him being shot by terrorists and how she could have lost him. She doesn't wait for him to answer. "Sometimes I feel like all I do is put out fires and yet the world keeps on burning."
Henry turns on his side and she can feel the warmth of his gaze on her as he seeks her out in the dark, his free hand sliding over her waist. "It's not all burning," he says. "I promise. It's okay for now, remember?"
She breathes for a moment. "Yeah." Her answer sounds a little unsure.
Lips brush against her hairline and Henry's breath washes over her face. "I told you before," he says, his tone soft and certain, "I'll keep the faith for both of us."
Elizabeth rolls onto her side to face her husband and can just about make out the angles of his face in the dark, the shape of his eyes as they focus on her. She feels his arm slide all the way round her. He's solid and warm and comforting, but she still thinks that she can feel the heat of flames, remember the smell of smoke from past fires she has had to put out and has the sense of them being reignited while she's tucked away here at the cabin, the world going on smouldering no matter what she does.
But it's dark now – and that should be where her focus is while it lasts. The dark may be a blank canvas but at least it isn't something burning. She thinks that sometimes she's so caught up in putting out the flames of various international crises that she forgets to look at what else is around her. "I need you, you know?" she says to Henry. "I need you to remind me."
His hand strokes over the back of her head. "Remind you of what?" he asks.
She thinks for a minute how to put it. "To look past the fires to what's beyond," she eventually replies. "But then sometimes I think…" She starts to put voice to a thought she wasn't even aware of before the words leave her mouth.
"Think what, babe?" Henry prompts.
She tucks her head beneath his chin, feeling a little embarrassed at what her brain has thrown up given a moment to stop to think. "At least when there are fires to put out, I know what I'm doing. I know how it works. There's light to see by… I'm not sure what I am without flames to put out. How to walk in the dark." Dealing with problems has been her purpose for so long now that even though she's exhausted, even though the thought of one more crisis in the world makes her sad and worried for her children's future, she's not sure what she'd do without them to focus on. Just like she's not entirely sure what to do now that her family is almost grown.
"There's nothing in the dark that isn't there in the light," Henry says, his arm holding her close and his leg against hers beneath the blankets. "Except possibility."
And the unknown, he doesn't say, although the word hangs there between them. She chooses to focus on the possibility for now. She clutches Henry a little tighter. Thinks about a time when the fires might stop burning. "And you?" She just has to make sure.
"And me," he agrees. "I'll be waiting for you there. Keeping the faith in the night."
She snuggles into Henry and soaks up the comfort of him beside her, willing herself to learn how to better look beyond the fires and enjoy the peace of the night for a while. There's a phantom lick of flames at her side.
She reassures herself that the faith of her husband will help to keep them at bay 'til morning.