That Which EnduresFandom:
Character Study, Episode Reaction FicPairings/Characters:
HG/Myka, Steve Jinks, Jane Lattimer, Sally Stukowski, Emily LakeRating:
Major spoilers for the season three finale and talk of character death.Notes:
Beta'd by fallon_ash
. Watched the finale and had ALL THESE EMOTIONS!Summary: "But sometimes sacrifices did need to be made by the people who had found something worth sacrificing themselves for."
There is this moment in that clearing in the woods. It's full of cortisol flooding through Myka's body, finding receptors, the tensing of muscles, the clenching of her stomach... it all makes sense, being prepared to run or fight. The part that she doesn't understand is the breath, why her chest feels tight, why it feels like it's hard to breathe. The resistance of her lungs is what makes her feel stuck in that moment. The person who knows you best.
It's a moment, the wide expanse of air, the way in which for that space of time everything is absolute. There are the trees around her, the wind, the sound of Pete's voice. Not real is the body of the woman she's loved in front of her. Helena's words, where do they come from? If her body is gone, but she's still here, does that make her infinite?
Here is some truth. The living things around her will all go. They will fade into the air, into the ground, and at some level they will stay, their atoms finding somewhere else to be, but what makes up Helena isn't Helena. Helena is Helena. Once the specific combination that comprises her falls apart, then she's gone. Myka doesn't want the air that refuses to find its way into her lungs. She doesn't want the trees or the ground beneath her feet. She doesn't want the body of some woman teaching high school in Wyoming.
She wants whatever is intangible in front of her, suddenly knows she doesn't believe that it's for the best, that someday she'll find it again. Suddenly knows that this is the end of some part of herself, here in this clearing in the forest, because once Helena goes, then some intangible part of herself breaks apart too.
Myka will still have the beating of her heart. She'll still have the neurons firing that make her remember the looks, the touches, that faint taste of betrayal with the faith that never went away, just got buried inside of herself, because no one she felt this way about could be only that woman that day in Yellowstone. No one who sees through her, who understands her, could only be that person.
And she wishes she had time to say it all. Wishes she were brave enough to stay and watch, but it's tearing her apart, cell by cell.
There's a moment when it has just started to register he's going to die that everything goes calm for Steve. He thinks about Claudia but underneath that he's at his sister's funeral. When it happened it seemed like an event, now it seems like a scene.
He's dipping his own fingers into something, he doesn't know if it is limitless or the very definition of a limit. There are things he feels he should regret, having only loved so much, not having ever bought a ticket to somewhere just to go. There are the days of going home and resting in front of the television by himself, spaces of time that might have been filled differently, all added up now into a portion of his life that was never what he wanted.
It's going to be a quick, peaceful death. His head gets pushed to the side, cold fingers on his throat as he watches the needle be prepared.
There's a story to this situation. It's a story about war heroes dying with the person they are trying to pull from the burning car, from the field, from the building, because they tell stories and give medals to the ones who manage it. He is not going to know if he is one of those people. If he really died saving someone else, or if he was just the idiot who died with the other soldiers in the line of fire.
His thoughts go back to his sister's funeral, and the breath, the breath that feels like his final breath, goes back to Claudia. She might get to have those moments, the ones where she falls in love, maybe more than once. Maybe the ones where she takes a trip to somewhere, just to take it. She won't be taken by the ground. He hopes she won't waste it on the moments he wasted it on, taking a drink from a beer and sitting in a dark room, wondering about the point of it all if it all could be cut short. He hopes if she does have those moments, it won't be over him. Because he's giving her what he always wanted his sister to have, the very thing he's giving up now.
In the last seconds of the inhale, he feels the prick of the needle. He's spent his life trying to give that to people. That was what the ATF was about. Because death is an empty room he's tried to keep people out of, tried to keep people from having to look at like he often did in his darkened living room.
Some people have to have that responsibility so that other people can have those moments, when they remember that it's important to just be alive.
In his last moment, like that one last spark in a fire that's quickly going out, Steve feels that desire, like all things have, to hold on, to live himself, but over that is the rushing black wave, the overwhelming need to close his eyes.
First, Emily Lake is a woman who loves literature. There's nothing underneath that. Her life is simple, maybe too simple, like it has never gotten over the shallowness of starting with a blank slate as late into life as she had to. All her memories are surface, but the words, the words always manage to build something inside of her, like a memory.
It's not until the coin is placed into her hand that she realizes she was an empty house. It sounds like a bad thing to be an empty house, but the truth is that it was liberating.
Memories are heavy things, and the more they hurt, the heavier they feel. Christina... she overshadows most of Helena's past, like her death was a mountain casting a shadow onto everything behind and in front of it.
Before the coin, Emily Lake got to live in the light. After the coin, she remembers who she is, and it's like stepping out into a cold wind that isn't going to stop again. She wants to say that Myka is worth it; Myka, who traces through her memories, carving out her own place like a river, the roar of which is the only thing to be heard in the shadows.
Then she remembers standing in the clearing. Helena knew she couldn't ever be happy, not like she used to, not anymore. She could have tastes of it, like the lingering sweetness of something she once knew that would occasionally still linger on her tongue, a dim imitation of what it had been. But somewhere out there would be part of her that didn't need to settle, who could still have experiences that were vivid and sharp, fresh and unhindered.
She wanted to stand in the sunlight, wanted to for a moment forget about the shadows, knowing it would all finally be over soon anyway. There would be no more remorse. No regret. Just the wind in her hair and the sunshine on her face, the promise of peace meaning her heart only fluttered slightly when faced with the black edge that was the end of her existence. That nothing, that not being, could be liberating was something she didn't try to wrap her mind around.
The only thing standing out from that was Myka, her devastated face, and Helena's last wish for her was that Myka remember her fondly, without any hurt, knowing that Helena had been as remorseful as she could, as remorseful as any person could be.
She'd do anything to protect her, to keep Myka from more pain than she had already caused her. Walk in the sunlight.
That would have been her last words.
Emily Lake wakes up as H.G. Wells. It's like breaking through the surface of dark waters and finding that the cold wind against her face doesn't stop. There were only the moments she could hear Myka over it, that made her wonder if maybe it could still be worth it.
It doesn't mean she isn't tired.
It doesn't work for her. Because if Jane walked out of that kitchen, on her son, on his feeble attempt to get her attention, and failed to get to that other little boy in time, then the way she's been telling herself it was worth it starts faltering.
They all knew that agents would be lost. She wants a metaphor, some name, some label, that captures the need for smaller players to lose out to the rest of the world, that makes their sacrifice palatable. Calling them pawns in some chess game makes them seem insignificant. Calling them heroes that won't be remembered seems too tragic.
Calling them collateral damage seems too apt at the same time that it sticks in her throat.
She's been at the job long enough to know people are lost. Sending them into battle, though, makes her have to define just what battle she is trying to fight.
Can she say she's protecting her son when he is now propping up the greater good? The greater good...
What defines who is part of it and who has to be sacrificed to save it? The regents have all known for most of their careers where they stood on that line. That personal feelings were to be set aside. That their utilitarianism was born out of a necessary apathy.
It works until she starts looking too hard at those who are burning in the flames of the greater good, logs tossed in to keep the fire going. Then she has to look away, because she can't afford to feel for them. Security isn't a gift; it is something that is bought at a cost.
There can't be a cost too high. One little boy, but a warehouse full of things that wouldn't hurt so many other little boys.
So why does she feel guilty then? About that boy? About never wanting Pete here, because self-sacrifice is something Jane can stand up to.
It's always facing up to the sacrificed that makes her flinch.
Someone has to make the decision, though, and she can't pretend she doesn't know what this all is for. That it isn't necessary.
It doesn't mean that she doesn't sometimes find herself looking back over the skeletons she's left behind her, wondering which could have been saved, trying not to calculate how high the cost was. Trying not to think about how much it has cost her. Trying to stop herself from asking just how much sacrifice is worth it, afraid her answer will be more limitless than she wants it to be.
There will be no one to think about Sally Stukowski. Her story was only important as part of the question mark behind Sykes, and with that mystery solved, she fades back into some article in a paper.
Died of a heart defect in her apartment. Leaving no one behind.
Sykes was just some tragic glitch. In the wrong place at the wrong time. Ended up with some bracelet on his wrist, a bracelet which made personal motive nothing more than a manifestation of a very real piece of evil in a very real twist of strings. Nothing more than a puppet, personality a question mark that never got answered. A vendetta with the hollowest of vendettist.
Sometimes the name of evil gets attached to a little boy watching his father die, clinging to a story about the people who took him, unaware of the destruction released by the horn he calls out with. Sometimes evil is a conscious choice, the bitterness of a woman who is having to realize that the future was never the brighter place it was supposed to be. That the human race does not ascend to greater and greater levels of self-awareness, instead the outward look of its prejudices simply changes.
It's a self-involved hacker. A cop with three bullets in his heart.
The millions of objects, tagged and sitting on shelves, were just vessels for someone's anger, for their hurt, for their imaginations. Vessels for the atrocities they watched. Sometimes more of a reflection of the person creating them or holding them than they ever were of the natural state of the universe. A curious mix of light and dark that is streaked throughout all of the human race.
Sometimes the name of evil doesn't get attached to the blade above the chess board or the man who puts it there. It doesn't get attached to the woman with the medal in her hand, the pain she inflicts for some grander picture than just the person in front of her.
The person in front of her usually has a story. A story about being a cop. A story about parents and friends and lovers that were had and not had. About anger, about pain, about the atrocities they have seen.
No one will think about the story behind Sally Stukowski. There will be the decisions she made. The unfortunate outcome she came to that will always feel faintly justified because of her part in what happened, the evil she participated in for whatever reasons she had. Her motivations end up left on the floor of her apartment with her body.
No one will talk about how the bigger picture was a story told by those telling the story. That panning out again leaves them with another story of people with human motivations becoming causalities of a campaign that has been given justifications.
Never considering what it meant that the people on both sides felt justified.
Myka has been away from the warehouse, and she has come back to the warehouse. She has thought about life outside the warehouse, then she has thought about what it has meant to be part of life inside of it.
This is what she comes to, that she doesn't believe in sacrifice. She does this job for the opposite of sacrifice, so that a little boy's father wakes up or a girl doesn't have to watch people die around her. So that people aren't at the mercy of someone with a power they shouldn't have.
There was a moment, the gun of the woman she trusted pointed at her head, that Myka was prepared to do what she had always done, take one for something more important than herself.
Her whole life she had been the one protecting something bigger than herself. More important than herself. Putting herself on the line to protect an idea she was supposed to believe in.
Stepping back had meant asking the big questions, finding answers that weren't necessarily the answers that she had expected.
Sometimes things do happen. Sometimes people get hurt, and sometimes someone has to step in the line of fire for their beliefs. It doesn't mean that she leaves people behind or uses them to promote some grander purpose.
It means she believes in what she's doing.
There's only one thing that ends up holding her together. Before, in the clearing, Myka knew that Helena was trying to do the whole noble sacrifice thing, out of remorse or some kind of self-punishment. She doesn't want a martyr. Myka doesn't need anyone to prove themselves to her with their lives. So it wasn't acceptable. It was never going to be acceptable to knowingly let one of their own be thrown to the wolves, like that was how it worked. Like they were all just collateral damage, their deaths written off to some idea about what constituted the greater good.
Myka believes in a greater good. She believes in fighting to protect it, in putting her life on the line to defend it. That's why she does this job.
What she doesn't believe in is sending people to die for it. Of talking them into dying for it or letting them do it just to be valiant.
If people die, it has to be something that happened because they were doing what they believed in, because they were fighting the fights that mattered to them. Because it was their truth. Nothing in the clearing was like that.
There is another moment, standing with Artie and Pete in that bubble, her chest filled with the hard reality that she was watching the woman she loved, who understood her better than anyone, dying to save everyone else. The only thing that made it even remotely okay is that she knew that Helena was only doing what she believed in. That Myka herself would have done the same in a heartbeat, but she wasn't the one who ended up being in that position.
She hoped she could say it all with her eyes, that she loved Helena. That she forgave her. That she understood what she was doing, even if it hurt. That she never wanted to be without her, but sometimes sacrifices did need to be made by the people who had found something worth sacrificing themselves for.
And for Helena, it was her. Myka knows it's the greatest expression of love she's ever been given.
She wanted her to know that she was glad they had found each other, even if it had made her question everything she believed in. Even if it had ended like this, in fire, with everything burning down around them.
Because what they had together had been worth them putting themselves on the front line for. She hadn't known it the whole time, but Myka knew it now, as surely as she had ever known anything.
As surely as she knew she had loved Helena. Would always love Helena.
As surely as she knew she'd never stop missing her.