1963-11-23 - Bad Weeks
Summary: Liv and Betty meet and commiserate.
Related: NA
Theme Song: None
liv betty 


To say that SHIELD was in a state of chaos this morning might be an understatement, though it is not necessarily the chaos that one would expect. In the wake of President Kennedy's assassination the day before, the United States government was understandably circling the wagons.

And SHIELD is not one of their wagons.

One of the only people being relatively quiet in the office today is Liv Sigrunsdottir, who has not left her desk since arriving at work in the wee hours of the morning. The rumors from Dallas have left her inclined to keep her head down, and that's just what she's doing, quietly hammering out a report on her typewriter. It makes it easier to ignore the occasional look or comment thrown her way.

Honestly. Liv stepped in front of an assassin's gun for the Director the other day. When were these people going to knock it off?

*

Elizabeth Ross has been ignoring phone calls from General Ross all morning. Between the suicide note left for her by Banner, the assassination of the President, and the anniversary of her mother's desk, it seemed that he was reaching out again. In order to duck out of such conversations, Betty had come to work last night, and worked SHIELD Med Bay despite not being 'on' shift.

She'd slept in the bay's version of an 'on-call' room, and had expended exorbitant energy avoiding her desk, the phone, and meetings where she would have to converse like a real person.

There is, of course, one advantage to being medical staff rather than a regular agent: avoiding is par the course. It isn't often that she's asked to come into other areas of the organization or building. But today is an exception.

Today is an exception.

The President was assassinated yesterday. A medical explanation for what had happened is needed. And while the government doesn't want to share its toys, Betty, unfortunately, could be an easy link.

She pads out of one of the senior agents' offices looking increasingly dejected as her hands trail into the pockets of her lab coat. Her throat clears, and she manages a tired, but present smile that never meets her eyes as she mills about the bullpen, giving herself some semblance of piece.

As her fingers find their way into her pocket, however, she finds the single piece of paper, and once more, the numb wears away.

There, in the middle of SHIELD and its hustle and bustle, Doctor Betty Ross begins to sob.

*

It's a sound that could be easily lost under the rush of conversation in the SHIELD bullpen, especially since most women — even here — are often all but invisible. Right up until they're not.

There is someone in a suit at Betty's side in the blink of an eye, one hand coming to her shoulder as another offers a tissue. Given their height, the fact that it's a female voice that says "Here, come sit for a moment," might be surprising.

With a worried frown, Liv tries to guide Betty towards her work station, gesturing towards her chair. "Can I get you a glass of water or anything?"

*

The hand at her shoulder causes any remote barrier keeping even the faintest emotion at bay to collapse. While Betty had been sobbing before, her hands press into her face to stifle the bubbling crocodile tears. Her shoulders bob underneath the support, and it's easy enough to guide the sobbing doctor to the work station.

Try as she may to bottle her tears, it feels fruitless, yet sitting somehow does help. Her hands fall to her sides, and black streaks from her now-running mascara trails down her cheeks. She sniffles loudly, "A… tissue.. would… be good…" she hiccoughs between the words and forces her feelings back down into Pandora's box for later consideration.

"Th-th-thank you…"

*

Liv gently steers Betty over to her station and into her chair, watching her a moment to make sure she's steady. Okay, good. A tissue? "Let me get you a couple," she says thoughtfully, giving her shoulder a quick squeeze before she withdraws.

Hunting down a full package of tissues doesn't take long, and Liv has soon returned to set it into Betty's lap. There. "Take as much time as you need. And let me know if you need anything else, alright?"

*

Betty grasps the tissues in her hand and uses one to dry her eyes and attempt to catch the running mess that has become her face. With a loud sniffle she shakes her head. "S-sorry." She sniffles again and attempts to conceal her feelings. "It's… been a trying few days," to say the least.

She sighs heavily and slumps further in Liv's chair. "This… is… incredibly…" she sniffles again and chokes on the word: "embarrassing." There's irony in even discussing it.

*

"No, no, you have nothing to apologize for." Liv offers a small, sympathetic smile as she moves to sit on the edge of her desk, folding her hands in her lap. "This week as a whole has just been… a re-do would be nice," she says with a sigh.

Alas. She doesn't have re-do powers, and she is fairly sure this young lady doesn't either. So Liv just watches her with a slight, concerned tilt of her head. "Would talking about it help?"

*

The question earns a mirthless laugh and a broken smile. Betty's chin drops and her eyes train on the floor. "Well. Maybe." She swallows hard and emits a soft sigh. "I… I…" her lips twitch lightly and her eyebrows draw together sharply. "It'd be easy to say this is because of the President. But…" her head shakes. "It's not even the whole alien thing…"

Her hands lift and she shakes her head. "To be honest…" she sniffles and dabs her eyes with the tissue, "…any scientist worth their mettle had to believe there was more out there. If there weren't… well.. that'd be an awful waste of space."

She sniffles again. "…No. This is… personal." Her lips draw down into a frown. "Someone I love took their life a few days ago." Or, at least, left every indication they did.

*

Even with news so grim, that small, sympathetic smile remains on Liv's face. But now it's joined by a low, understanding hum. "Everything is piling up all at once for you, isn't it," she murmurs, slowly shaking her head.

Liv reaches out to give Betty's shoulder another light pat, then just leaves her hand there afterwards. "I'm very sorry for your loss. Are you sure you shouldn't be taking some personal days?" she asks gently, her brow furrowing. "I'm certain the Director would understand if you needed some time."

*

Betty inhales a sharp breath, "I don't want to be home." And therein is the truth. "Home is actually worse than here." For so many reasons. She emits a soft sigh, "The man in my life who has all semblances of a parent without being one has been attempting to reconnect with me." She swallows hard. "At least on some level. Probably because of what happened. The General, that man, he works for the Department of Defence." She forces a tight smile.

"It's complicated," she finally offers and then manages a sad kind of shrug. "Personal days would be fine if I felt they would help. As it stands," her head shakes lightly. "I'm not sure it's wise anyways. I mean, being alone with my thoughts about this — " she doesn't finish the sentence. "I could've helped, you know? I could've been… something.. if he'd reached out before…" she doesn't finish the sentence.

*

"I know all about people trying to reconnect with you whether you like it or not," Liv says, and now it's her turn to let out a humorless, bitter-sounding laugh. She studies Betty thoughtfully for a moment, running a hand back over her braided hair. "…I could rant at you about it, if you like," she offers, an odd smile coming to her face. "Distract you from your own thoughts with mine." And she does enjoy a good rant. Especially lately.

*

Consideration of someone else warrants a softening of Betty's features. Her expression smooths, and she stares up at Liv with unabashed wonder. She nods faintly, and, with a twitch of a smile, sad from its inception to execution, offers in return, "I could use a distraction."

*

Liv casts a quick look around the bullpen, considering for a moment whether to do this here, or suggest they take a walk. …no. Here is good.

"I just realized I didn't introduce myself yet. I apologize," she begins, offering Betty a sheepish smile. "So. My name is Liv, Daughter of Sigrun," she says, inclining her head politely as she pointedly ignores the rest of the room. "And I was born on Asgard."

*

The sheepish smile earns one in turn. "Ooooh," the doctor offers lowly in turn, only to shake her head in vague distraction. "Uh… I'm Elizabeth, er… Betty," because no one calls her Elizabeth, "Ross. Daughter of General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross." Her eyebrows tick upwards. "You may have been born on Asgard, but, while it may not be obvious, I was raised in hell." Her fingers lift, "Not Hell proper, just… figurative hell." She manages a chuckle. "Is suspect this has been quite the terrible week for you too… Liv."

*

"It's been a bad month and a half, but this last week has certainly been the most dramatic," Liv admits, a bit of a twinkle coming to her eye. "Nice to meet you, Betty. Military families always seem to be… trying." Is that the word she wants? No, but she's at work, so she should at least make a token effort not to use language that would cause the paint to peel off the walls.

*

Betty hums quietly. She shakes her head lightly. "They are shit shows," she replies flatly, not so concerned with her language, it seems. She grew up around Thunderbolt Ross; no one will judge her the phrase. "What made the month and a half trying?" Her lips purse lightly.

*

Oh, yes. Liv likes her. She clasps her hands in her lap again, a lopsided smile crossing her face. "Oh, lord. Where to begin..?" She glances up at the ceiling, brow furrowing. "One of my roommates was kidnapped and nearly turned into a vampire," she says slowly, beginning to tick items off on her fingers. "But we fixed that — reminds me, I need to make sure medical knows to take me to Duke's if I'm ever seriously injured here, he can fix anything they can't."

Liv waves the thought away. Focus, focus. Another finger gets ticked: "After I've spent two hundred someodd years on Earth being a good citizen, it seems as if half of Asgard's royal family has just decided to show up and make things… difficult. And I've tried talking sense into them, but I'm nobody, they're not going to listen to me."

*

A long inhale of breath follows the description of Liv's recent past. Betty leans back in the chair and issues Liv a thoughtful look followed by a single-dimpled smile. "Well. I'll have to write that down in your file… I am one of those people in medical. All the blood, none of the glory." She chuckles following the thought. "And, we're making strides in medicine we didn't think possible, yet there's so much we don't know. If this Duke could fix you, and I have an address, I can add it to your file?"

She nods meaningfully at the last. "Well. That feels like life with the General if it's any comfort. I…" it's really complicated. "…I think anyone deemed 'small' doesn't get the attention they need or deserve. I don't work in the Department of Defence for many reasons. Including the fact I don't agree with the General's ethics." Her eyes focus pointedly at Liv. "And, like you, it would be challenging to change perspective. So, if it's solace, in one strange way while our problems are entirely different, with yours much larger in scope, they're also… kind of similar. In their own strange way."

*

Pausing, Liv drops her eyes from the ceiling to regard Betty, her expression brightening noticably. "Oh, you are? Yes, please. He's been worried about me since all of this bullshit with Loki started happening," she says with an expansive wave of one hand, then she's turning to grab a scrap of paper and a pen. "Which is… odd. I've never had someone worry about me before, not here. I'm always the one who worries."

She offers the paper across to Betty. Raphael Duke, Dio's Scrap Yard. There's a phone number and an address. "It is a little comforting," Liv admits, smiling. "If nothing else, I know you're here if I need someone to commiserate with, and you know the same about me."

*

Betty cracks a smile, "Sounds like you have a good friend there… in this Raphael Duke." The smile softens and turns sad again as her eyebrows draw together once again. "Well, I'm glad I can offer some comfort in a small way." And then, she suggests, "I'm sure…" her eyes roll lightly. "A few days ago a large green…" her eyes blink hard at a loss to describe Banner's alter-ego "… Hulk lost it in Central Park."

And then, like one in confession, she offers, "He was my friend. He didn't normally look large or green. He wasn't imposing. He was kind. Soft. Brilliant." Her lips curve downwards. "He couldn't handle the thought of becoming the green fellow anymore. And, while it may not be fair, I blame General for all of it. From start to finish."

*

"Ahhh. I'd heard about that." Liv sighs quietly and runs a hand over her face, her own expression sobering. "I'm sorry. It's never easy, being afraid of yourself," she murmurs, folding her hands in her lap. "Especially if there's… you know. Actual, tangible reason to be." She makes a face, glancing down at her hands.

*

Betty hums softly. "I've been trying to help him for years… even before I knew what was wrong, I tried to help. I didn't know we were looking at his samples at the time." She manages a flicker of a smile. "The General pursued him, aiming to turn my friend into something… disastrous. Or to create something disastrous from him. So, my friend went on the lam." She shrugs. "He received a pardon some months ago, and we started to communicate again, but… evidently I did too little too late," no matter what Bruce's letter said.

"He was a good man. The best," she manages with another sad smile. "I… want to memorialize him somehow, but he was painfully private. I don't even know…" her eyes turn downwards. "Well."

*

That gets a soft 'tut' from Liv. The Asgardian leans forward, reaching out with both hands to grasp Betty's shoulders, her grip gentle but firm. "Do I detect a hint of blaming yourself?" she asks, dropping her head to try and get a look at Betty's eyes. "Don't do that, Betty. It isn't your fault. With limited contact and help, you can only do so much," she notes, with a sharp raise of both eyebrows. "And the decision was ultimately his. Not yours."

*

"I'm not sure that anyone in these situations does differently," Betty returns. "We do our best, but it's a struggle to let it go. I loved him. I love him," even though he's gone. Wistfully she sighs and then clears her throat. "And not in that faultless way. I knew his faults. I knew the landmines were — where they'd always been, but it didn't matter. It didn't change anything. But, I guess there are some circumstances we can't possibly negotiate. And maybe Bruce's condition was one of them."

*

"Oh, no. The people left behind always blame themselves," Liv replies easily, leaving her hands on Betty's shoulders. "You can see things with sudden clarity when there's nothing left to do. It's a terrible burden. But," she adds, nodding her head from side to side, "You still need to be told not to blame yourself. If someone else doesn't encourage you to believe it yourself, you never will," she notes, with a very small smile.

*

"And I appreciate that. Bruce even said it in his letter. He told me I had no chance and no choice to do more for him. But it doesn't change the way I feel about it all. Every time. I just… I wanted…" Betty swallows hard to choke back the tears that threaten to fall behind her eyes. "It's done. I just… it's done," she affirms softly. "Thank you. Genuinely. Liv, if there's anything I can do besides get you to your friend should you be gravely injured, please tell me."

*

"Likewise. Would you like me to introduce you to him?" Liv offers, giving one of Betty's shoulders a light, supportive squeeze. "Just so you know who you're dealing with. Duke's a sweet man as well as a talented healer, I imagine you'd like him." And maybe he could help her cope with the loss of her friend, but she's not going to say that part out loud.

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