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somewhere beyond the blue

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"Look," says Elizabeth. "Booker, look, it's Marianne."

He's not looking. If Elizabeth had to name a great defect in Booker DeWitt's character, it would be this: a propensity not to look.

(Not murdering? echoes his double, sardonic, in the confines of her mind. Brutality? A tendency to the shedding of human blood? You've lowered your standards, girl. But Booker's not dead or missing, he's alive and with her even now, so instead she has two of him--the man, and the echo. The echo says what he wouldn't when she says what she wouldn't.

The echo looks.)

Elizabeth glances over at him. Her third glance in three minutes: she measures them sometimes. She is nearly twenty, but keenly aware of being little more than a schoolgirl to him, if that--though the only girls still in school in Columbia at Elizabeth's age would be exceptions, like Madame Lutece, and only so many exceptions are blessed ones. In truth she can't fault his logic, if one could call it that: she can speak all she likes of the world she's seen through hundreds and hundreds of pages, but it was a lesson sharply and quickly learned that there's no actual such thing as seeing the world through a book.

At best she's heard it whispered-of, in hundreds and hundreds of whispers. Years of such whispering, of everything from the Colossus of Rhodes to the physics of the first steam engine, do not hold up to one minute of Booker DeWitt's life, truly lived. To him she may well be less than a schoolgirl. At least school is a place; in Monument Tower she hadn't even the privilege of a schoolteacher.

But the whispers have taught her one or two things. "Marianne?" Booker asks, just when she thinks he's not listening. The Place de la Nation shade they're standing in affords them a mediocre view, but it offers something better, which is cover. On the rare occasion that he assents to go sightseeing, they have to do it with care. On this they can both agree.

"Their lady," says Elizabeth. "France embodied. Liberty and brotherhood. Like Columbia was for America--before we split. They split," she corrects herself. Someone might always be listening--and besides. "It's a symbol for them. It means--"

She hesitates. She's not sure she can find a sincere articulation of Patrie within herself, not where she comes from, not after what she's seen. "It means France," she says. "Whatever that means to any Frenchman. I think he's meant to fill in the spaces by himself."

To her surprise, Booker repeats: "Marianne. Like Britannia too, I guess? Marianne." He makes a hnh sound, and again as though he's committing it to memory: "Marianne."

Elizabeth pulls her unkempt hair back with both hands and starts to braid it again, idly. Untrimmed, it's outgrown its pigtail. Time settles onto both of them, in its way--his hair is less 'greying' now, more grey with a clear predecessor.

"Marianne," murmurs Booker under his breath. When he's settled down his words tend to sink all the way to the bottom of his voice, down deep. Elizabeth could pronounce most words now the way Booker DeWitt says them, if she were called upon for it. He leans back on the wall. "Wouldn't make a very good name for a city."

"Not at all," she agrees with a faint smile and tips her head back on the wall, next to him. They stand there, tourists two hand-spans apart.

There is a hymn Elizabeth knows, a hymn in six-eighths time. In fact Elizabeth knows many hymns: they were the chiefest form of music approved for her by Father in Monument Tower, though she owned one or two songbooks of popular standards. Once or twice she even ventured to pluck out the chords to a song she heard through one of her rifts, but when she plays it later for Booker on the piano in a Parisian hotel lobby he shakes his head, troubled, and she stops.

(Later on her violin, on the veranda of their latest hotel, she plays 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee.' Booker's not there and she doesn't imagine it would interest him, but when he comes back he cocks his eyebrows up with a glimmer of--interest? Amusement? "'God Save the Queen' right in the heart of Paris? You are restless."

Elizabeth blinks at him.

"What you're playing," he indicates. "'God Save the Queen.' They're not too invested in the Queen's good health, around here."

"I believe you," she says, but adds, carefully, "It's just that I've been assured that the song was 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee.'"

Booker is smoking a cigar. She's not even sure that he likes them, but for all he accuses her, he has a true restlessness about him: like he's always waiting for something to happen. The cigar occupies him somewhat. It's better than drink. He takes a drag on it, with bare and grudging enough manners to stand down from her in the wind when he does: "It's also that," he says. The look he shoots her is traced still with that earlier flash, the amusement, but most of it's faded now into the lines around his eyes. "You've been assured of a lot of things.")

The hymn she thinks of now has three parts. She thinks of it because of all the hymns of her childhood, she's aware she doesn't know any of the words save the title, 'Nearer, My God, to Thee.' When she plays it she feels she knows where to slot those words into the melody, but none of the others.

So they just repeat themselves in her head when she plays-- nearer, my God, to thee. Nearer, my God. Nearer, my God, to thee. Nearer--she bows these last notes with a flourish, usually--my God.

She plays it sometimes when Booker's gone out: they can't be together always, even if they wanted to be, for it's not one American they're looking for, but two. He has no interest in music written for worship, at any rate. It discomfits her to play this one in his company, anyway, for reasons she can't entirely articulate. So she plays it alone for comfort when he's away: nearer, my God, over and over, a circle.

Here's how it happens: he reveals himself a liar and she abducts him. She hadn't really thought of it that way at the time. Logically, however, if you subdue a man within a moving vehicle and then move the vehicle in a direction he certainly didn't intend, you are abducting him. Elizabeth idly examines her conscience for feelings of remorse a bit later, when they're securing their first Parisian accommodations. Finding none, she looks back down at her almanack.

What sits more ill-at-ease in her is the sound it makes when she hits him. She knows enough of modern medical science to know that one blow over the head can easily kill a man; with Madame Lutece's witch-brew stitching him up from the inside and doing God-knows-what to his mind (sometimes she's seen him scratching at his hands, like he's trying to get something out), she knows it takes a lot more than that to kill Booker DeWitt. There was a time, brief, when she might've named him a common murderer; now, having seen as many common murderers fall to him as she has she knows that to be untrue. He's a very uncommon murderer.

Even so, he goes down like a dying man. She drops to her knees to check him, stricken. When she ascertains he's alive, though, and thanks to the undying genius of Rosalind Lutece, probably going to be all right, she turns her attention to the controls.

She reprograms the coordinates--to the best of her ability, from rote memory--and feels the First Lady lurch, stirring Booker on the floor.

She expects she should feel something more than she does.

The First Lady flies. Elizabeth goes to stand at the bow, and once they're far enough into the sky she reaches ahead of herself and rips the world open between her two hands--and finally, finally, at long last, she runs.

The trouble with sightseeing is that it's what Elizabeth's father could expect them to do. The trouble with practically anything is that it's what Elizabeth's father could expect them to do--as she argues, successfully, to Booker the third or fourth time he refuses to go to a museum.

Elizabeth has never seen the inside of a museum, unless she counts the Hall of Heroes, which she most certainly does not. For other reasons, she suspects Booker hasn't either. Only one of them sees this as a situation in need of immediate remedy.

"I'd like to go to the Musée du Louvre," Elizabeth tries.

"I'd like ten thousand dollars," says Booker with his feet up on the chaise in their room, "and Napoleon Bonaparte's own goddamned hat." He doesn't bother to articulate the 'no.'

Elizabeth almost rolls her eyes, then restrains herself--a schoolgirl, she reminds herself, and this is the beginnings of that train of thought. A schoolgirl is as a schoolgirl does. Elizabeth refuses to live the rest of her life a schoolgirl under Booker DeWitt's charge.

"Well, I'm going to the Musée du Louvre," she rephrases.

Booker heaves a deep, aggravated sigh.

She ignores him: "If I were my father--"

The half sentence strings itself taut in the air.

"If I were my father," she goes on regardless, "I'd look for us to be going to ground in places like this. --Frankly, we're two Americans in France, Mr. DeWitt. Booker. Neither of us is terribly exceptional visually--not unless we cause trouble," and this she punctuates with a meaningful glance in his direction, "and if they hear of our passing somehow then they're going to find us, no matter how deeply we lie. If. If they can get here. And if they don't--"

Elizabeth gestures. "There've got to be more interesting sights in France than there are hotels," she says, with a touch of wryness. "If I were to scour one, I know which I'd start with."

They do go to the Louvre. Maybe even Booker gets bored, boarding himself up at the back of a Parisian hotel that stinks of old perfume, with his arm thrown over the back of the chaise and his gun in his lap. She was already going to the Louvre, she notes; that part was no empty threat. He's free to go, the section of their particular adventure that involved kidnapping him is decidedly over: and so is the section that involved kidnapping her. Her small victory here is that he goes with her: shuffling his feet, doing his best to look removed and not merely awkward, she can tell, but out of the corner of her eye when she watches him she can see his attention snag on a Delacroix, on even the Pietà of Avignon.

Elizabeth smiles. There are some things you can't watch while letting them know you're watching them: cats are one, and Songbird, sort of, in his way, and Booker as well. He carries himself at a constant remove--'disaffected' is his intent, perhaps, but what she gets out of him is 'anxious.' He's a wary man, easy to startle, always with an eye to his exits and her whereabouts. It's not easy to catch him expressing something that's not some permutation of fear. Such is the burden and the responsibility of art, Elizabeth thinks she read somewhere: to take the man, even the reluctant, away from himself.

Elizabeth glances away from Booker before he sees her looking, and in doing so she thinks she spies a familiar head.

She freezes. It's impossible. But red hair is not so common on a man: and she thinks she knows the shape of the hand idly sketching a likeness of a Friedrich piece. But when Elizabeth snags Booker's sleeve and turns again the man isn't Robert Lutece, and his hair is red-gold, after all. "What?" says Booker under his breath and she recovers and tugs his sleeve away, to the Italian collection, lit through with reddening light.

They can't always be seeing sights. Many of the sights that they see are not on purpose. It's a careful and circuitous route they trace for themselves through France, which they intend to keep until they're certain of not being followed, then try their fortunes in Belgium or Switzerland. In the meantime Elizabeth sees the inside of a motorcar, several passenger coaches, a train-- the attic room of an old country couple that Elizabeth persuades, in broken French, to house them for the night, my father and I are American travelers-- Once they even pass an uncomfortable night in a hayloft, the barn's owner none the wiser.

Booker sits watch. As always, Elizabeth offers; as always, he turns her down. She curls up with her back to the barn wall, but the hay prickles her legs through her petticoat and her head sinks down too far when she tries to shift position.

She watches the outline of his back, the dusty frock coat he's adopted for this particular journey folded and set aside next to him in the hay with an absurd sort of tidiness. On the back of his sleeve, she can see a dusty handprint where she helped him up.

His silver-brown head jerks a little, then snaps up again. He clenches his fingers in the hay.

"You're falling asleep," she observes.

Booker rubs his eyes with the back of his hand. "Yeah," he eventually concedes this obvious point, grudging.

"Well, I'm not," says Elizabeth, not without rancor. "You should let me watch, Booker. I've as much a constitution for traveling without rest as you have, by now--if not more. I'm younger. It's not an insult, it's biological fact."

She sits up and picks a few strands of hay out of her hair. They've both now spent less collective time today eating than picking hay out of their hair. Outside it's drizzling, not enough for harm, but enough to deter sleeping under the stars: and he doesn't favor that, anyway, she's not entirely sure he's capable.

Elizabeth leans against the wall. There are mats in her hair. Would her own father recognize her? she wonders. Would Father Comstock recognize a girl with rope calluses on the palms of her hands?

"Why were you going to take me to New York?" she asks, not for the first time.

Booker doesn't answer. Not for the first time either.

"You still don't think I can be trusted with anything, do you," she muses. The barn is open and hollow, and makes everything sound just so, said within it. "Is that it?"

"You stole the First Lady," says Booker, but with a low amusement that makes her glance away, quickly.

"You stole me," says Elizabeth.

Booker laughs. "That's a point," he says, to her mild surprise--and then, to her greater surprise, he rolls his shoulders back with a pop and says, "All right. Don't let me die before I wake, Elizabeth."

When their wagon-wheel breaks on a stone (after they procure a wagon, anyway--well, after she procures a wagon--'procures') Booker swears and brings them up to a halt; "Steady now," he says, either to Elizabeth or the mule, she can't entirely tell, but she's already out of the wagon anyway, pulling her skirts up high enough not to snag.

She replaces the wheel herself with her sleeves rolled up while he watches; but it's not until he whistles under his breath and says, "I'll be damned" that she quite believes she's done it, either. She straightens back up and rests her dusty hands on her knees for a bit, trying not to look too pleased with herself.

Booker's not looking so pleased, actually: or there's some other expression fighting it for space, anyway. She stares at him curiously. Rueful, that's what he is.

"I underestimate you," he says. He holds out his hand to help her up--companionably, with a painful sort of straightforwardness in his grip when she takes it. "You know, I underestimate you all the damned time. You know," he says, "your father wasted a hell of a soldier locking up a girl like you. I guess it's not too late. But he did."

"I'm glad he did," says Elizabeth.

She's so certain of herself now, come so far from how she was before, that when she does run into her she's not looking for it at all. Elizabeth just about does run into her, in literal fact. She has Booker's arm in the streets of Nice and she wanders off to look at a storefront while he haggles with a vendor. In doing, she just about collides with (what she takes for) a Frenchwoman, whom she looks in the eye and offers an apology in now well-accented French, with a smile--and in looking Rosalind Lutece in the eye, it actually takes her the entirety of the "Excusez-moi" to recognize her.

Elizabeth stumbles.

"Don't you try to shoot me too," says a droll Rosalind Lutece. "I'm not here to turn you in, Miss Comstock."

Elizabeth turns to flee--back to Booker? Away from him?--but her arm's caught up in a light grip above the elbow, like her accoster is minding his manners. "I wouldn't do that," says Robert.

She wrenches her arm away from him without much effort. Whoever and whatever he really is, he's considerably weaker than Booker, and now probably also weaker than Elizabeth.

Robert Lutece holds up his hand, mildly affronted, but his sister rolls her eyes at him. Evidently genius isn't above all that. "We're here to make a request of Miss Comstock, Robert, not to re-enact the Perils of Pauline," Rosalind reminds him, cuffing him lightly on the arm. They share a look--a bit long--and Elizabeth looks away from them, filled with a sudden uncomfortable understanding. "Be a gentleman, would you?"

Anything Elizabeth can think of say to them sounds superfluous, least of all how in God's name did you come after me? "Leave me be," she says at the bottom of her voice.

"That," says Robert, rubbing his arm with a diffident look, "would be easy."

"Easier than anything in the world," agrees Rosalind. "In fact I'd say it's proving rather a difficulty to do anything but."

"Miss Comstock--" Rosalind begins and then goes on, faster and more urgent and for once out-of-breath as Elizabeth breaks away from them, "Miss Comstock, you're making a terrible mistake."

"There's nothing I regret," says Elizabeth through her teeth as she takes another step back. "Least of all to you--Madame."

"You would," Rosalind says, "if you could comprehend the magnitude of the mistake that you're making." As Elizabeth reaches for a seam in the world, though, they're gone again, and Frenchmen and Frenchwomen are staring.

Elizabeth's hair is growing out. She sweeps it up with her hands on a lark and holds it to her skull like that, like a Gibson girl.

She imagines pinning it up that way. How does it look? she calls out to Booker in the hall, in her imagination: and when her Booker-echo ducks in to see, he makes a wry face and says nothing, because there's nothing proper to say.

In fact Booker is muttering something out in the hall about the match he's trying to strike to light a cigarette--no, a lantern. He couldn't be any less fussed about Elizabeth's hair.

Elizabeth braids her hair instead and pins it up in a bun. It makes her look like a spinster, she thinks, critical. Well, so be it. Better at the front of a schoolroom than sitting in one of the middle rows.

The scissors are sitting on the vanity in front of her. Booker was using them to cut some of the dead skin off his feet, earlier, to her dismay and fascination. ("You don't have to look, sweetheart.")

Elizabeth cuts it all off. First to the ears; but that doesn't suit her, so she shears it higher, until she looks like a girl playing Viola in breeches. Then she shears it a cut higher than that. The Gibson girl fades.

In Marseilles, in breeches, Elizabeth's brought up short when she follows Booker to the shoreline and Battleship Bay and everything that transpired there slams back into her all at once. She still refuses a sidearm, but dressed the part of a young gentleman she can afford to carry more, so she carries a knife. She feels the weight of it in her pocket now, boring a hole.

Out on the pier, children are dancing.

They sit together on the sand as it darkens, then as the daylight leaves entirely.

Childhood-- Childhood is honesty. Childhood is the state of not having anything to lie about. She realizes that now: it is the widest gulf that's separated her and Booker DeWitt for this long, wider than travels or mastery of arms or any of those worldly markers. She was always candid. It nearly passed her by when she first took up the practice of lying to herself.


She builds a campfire on the sand for them. There are regulations against this sort of thing at Battleship Bay. Business hours. To her satisfaction, the vaster part of the Mediterranean lacks any manner of business hours; the beaches that have them aren't the sorts of places where the likes of them would want to rear their disheveled heads, anyway.

Disheveled is a word for it. Booker's gone two or three days without shaving, like he sometimes does. He has something in between stubble and a beard, which shades in the planes of his face darker. The silver in it catches the light when he turns his head; she finds herself looking more than once.

Elizabeth goes about the fire and Booker watches her without comment. Not so long ago he hardly trusted her with the use of a hatchet.

Sand is dusted all along the backs of her trousers when she sits down next to him; it's gritty under her dirty fingernails, too, and crusted all along the soles of her shoes now. She can't much imagine an Olivia taking her for a Cesario. Her face wasn't built along the lines of handsomeness as a boy: at best, she looks an urchin now, dirty and nondescript.

Telling herself--the herself who talks to the Booker who doesn't exist, and he answers back--the whole of the honest truth, she's envisioned this moment multiple times before. In several of them she was a Gibson girl. In none was she dirty and nondescript.

But he knows her, she would say to him: he knows her dolled up like the Prophet's Lamb, and every state in between. What does it matter how she comes to him now? Doesn't he know her?

The Booker she speaks to offers no answer; she only has the one that exists in the flesh, sitting next to her. Childhood, she muses, is also the state of having nothing to be honest about.

Elizabeth hums. Nearer, my God, to thee. Nearer, my God. Nearer, my God, to thee-- she still doesn't know the real words.

"What are you humming?" Booker startles her by speaking up. His eyes settle on her, pinpricks in the light of the fire.

She hesitates. "A hymn." To prove it she hums louder, in her clearest range, as bright as she can manage: nearer, my God.

"I don't know it," says Booker, to her honest surprise.

Elizabeth dirties the knees of her trousers with sand again when she kneels and crawls forward, like a supplicant. She kisses him before he can react. Before his fear comes back. So that she might take him, the reluctant, away from himself.

She doesn't know if she succeeds. Not right away.

He's very still and then he places both his hands on either of her narrow shoulders. He moves her back, just short of a shove, just to arm's length. "No," he says.

"I love you," says Elizabeth. "I'm ready."

"No," says Booker again.

"I do," she says. "I am."

"No," he says, one more time, a third time; "God, Elizabeth, no."

After he rejects her, they take their Switzerland train, because their tickets are already reserved, after all. Elizabeth doesn't understand.

No pursuers have come for them. She remembers a time when that would've been occasion for joy, and hesitation and suspicion, for the two of them. They just pack their bags and board for Zurich together. You and your niece? the man at the ticket counter inquires of Booker, and perhaps what grates on the new rawness of her nerves the most is that Booker still doesn't even hesitate with a mumbled, thickly American Yes. Oui. Just us.

He leaves her alone in their compartment to cry. That's not his express purpose, but it may well be his design, for all she knows. He's deceived her to worse ends.

Even her crying doesn't come out the same any more. Elizabeth wills it not to come out at all, if anything, but her body has other plans. She shudders, not evenly but every so often, like the locomotive's clattering gait is dislodging something deep in her lungs every time it bumps. Like an engine belching out its last. Maybe soon it will break down entirely, she thinks from some point detached from her crying self, a place she goes sometimes when she's lost her handle on everything else. Maybe soon she won't be able to force any out at all, and she'll be like him.

"Oh, darling," says a man across from her. "Oh, my dear, I'm sorry."

Elizabeth hasn't even the presence of mind to startle, at this point. "You needn't be," she says hoarsely after a moment; in no mood for Robert Lutece's crocodile sympathies, she goes on, "Are you here to convince me to go back?"

The handsome red-haired man (or she supposes he is; she has little sense of these things) leans back in Booker's seat with his legs crossed primly one over the other in a manner that Booker would never adopt. His elbow is resting on the sill. He looks agelessly starched, she thinks. Always dressed to some moderately fine occasion, always dressed to match his sister. Rosalind's not making herself evident, anyway; certainly she's somewhere.

Robert says, "Not exactly."

Elizabeth watches him.

Robert looks out the compartment door, or rather to the wall a tad to the front of that. Elizabeth has to think to realize he's looking in the direction Booker went. Of course he'd know. "I see you've made another mistake," he says.

Elizabeth says nothing, and after a moment, shuts her eyes. They're reddening, she can feel it. Soon they'll puff.

"Well, if it's any consolation, Miss Comstock." Robert Lutece's voice has a funny quality to it she can't quite identify. "I believe that this one's also mine."

She's of only half a heart to ask him what he means. Before she can, she feels the faint pressure of his hand on her shoulder again and wonders if he's going to try to manhandle her again. But all he does is give it a peculiar, awkward pat; he leaves the seat cold when he's gone again, and Elizabeth waits for Booker to come back.