2010-07-24: The Twin Dilemma



Date: July 24, 2010


George learns the truth.

"The Twin Dilemma"

New York City

The pair of men currently facing off at a busy street corner are a study in opposites. While George is dressed in the same plain navy-blue suit and tie that's appeared in all his campaign ads, the other - Robert Goldsmith, a balding nebbish in his fifties - is wearing a plaid polyester jacket that must have been a seat cover in its previous life. (It looks even worse on television, which is why Goldsmith works for the Post instead.) One is asking the inevitable question; the other is just now echoing it, in simultaneous acknowledgment, assurance that everyone nearby heard it clearly… and buying of time. This moment could determine the spin of the entire campaign. For at least a week or two.

"What do I think of Denny Crane."

"Well, I think he has the district's best interests in mind, and if he's elected, he'll do a good job. Obviously I think I'd do a better job, otherwise I wouldn't still be running—"

And that will have to do for the moment. The impromptu crowd clearly feels they've heard enough, at any rate, as they erupt in a babble of a hundred different followup questions (and comments, and jeers) all at once.

Harrowing ordeal isn't quite the words that Lizzie would use to describe her life right now. Right now those two words are really just the tip of the iceberg. She'd visited a few pawn shops over the last few days, flipping merchandise for profit. Nothing too large that would cause any suspicion but enough to get by. Living large is no longer an option.

Like many other New Yorker's, she is perusing the streetside vendors. The commotion on the corner is enough to raise her head and look that way but when she recognizes the men (well, at least one of them) she quickly turns her head and places a pair of sunglasses on her face.

The frames instantly turn to a bright, sun catching gold.

Near the middle of the throng, George is working his way through the questioners a few at a time, focusing on the topics that seem most common rather than just the people that happen to be closest. Does the recent string of arrested rioters call for more or less funding for the NYPD? Are you overly influenced by your working relationship with the mayor? Until—

A couple of bored teenagers waiting on the periphery take a look around, then a double-take as they notice the blonde who's trying not to be noticed. "Oh my God, I know her!" "No you don't, stop lying." "No, seriously, she's on that TV show— my mom watches it all the time!" At that, a couple more people turn and look and comment… and then a couple more. Slowly but surely, the crowd's attention is starting to divert.

When suddenly faced with Hallis' fans, Lizzie turns her attention to the teenagers and gives them a wary smile. It's not the first time she's been faced with having to deal with unwanted attention, but this is much different. Her clothes are ill fitting, something she threw on at the last minute when she left the condo in the morning. Half of them belong to the resident that went missing, the rest are a mish mash belonging to those who used to live there. All incorporated into her own particular style.

"Sorry?" she responds quickly, answering the first one as she peels the sunglasses off and folding them up. Tucking them away so that no one else can see their hue or composition, she finds her focus and raises her eyebrows. "You must have me mistaken with someone else." They're not to be dissuaded though and they press in a little more, getting closer to their subject. Suddenly, Lizzie feels a little claustrophibic and afraid.

It doesn't take long for George to notice that attention is peeling away faster than he expected. He could make it happen, given a little push from his ability - now that it's back in working order - but he didn't. Did he? And then someone speaks up loudly enough that he can hear it, and he turns his head—

Oh, now there's a familiar face. And a golden opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. "No further questions," he declares, proceeding to shoulder his way through the crowd in a beeline toward her. What's with the outfit? he wonders as he gets close enough to see it. Yet another industrial-sized dose of the unexpected!

And there he is, George. Lizzie hasn't seen him in months and with the way she's looking right now, she's internally debating a cut and run. Unfortunately the crowd has her blocked in and some of the people are even jostling her to see what's in her bag or even go so far as to snag a souvenir for themselves. "Hey!" The young woman shouts as a particularly grabby set of hands paws at her rear, grabbing the scarf she's been using as a belt.


"Leave me alone! I'm not who you think I am!!" The ex-socialite is bordering on frantic now. She's never received this much attention. Whatever it is that Sierra's been doing to her life, it's made her more popular and much more vulnerable while out and about. Tucking into herself, Lizzie curls her body around her large woven purse and tries to escape. "Leave me alone! Someone help!"

There are lots of someones around. A few of them are even inclined to help— but George, who was thinking it even before she said it, gets there just a little bit ahead of anyone else. "C'mon, let's try this way—" Taking hold of her arm, he bulls forward once again, this time aiming for the sidewalk off in the distance. And they do make some progress; he's not exactly intimidating, but he's taller than her - than most of the people around - plus there's a sort of strength in numbers. A few journalists try to ask questions anyway, to no avail.

The hand that grabs her arm is at first wrenched as Lizzie, in her bid to get away, tries to run. Being sheltered almost all of her life has left her useless in these types of situations, she's always had someone to protect her from these things. Now she's alone. The hand remains though, and when George's familiar voice rings in her ears, she looks up at him with a rather grateful expression. "Thanks," she utters before following his lead and allowing him to act as the lineman to her quarterback.

A few blocks further down, the couple finally manages to lose the crowd and slow their pace. Lizzie is exhausted, this isn't something that she bargained for when she ventured out of the condo this morning. "Thanks for the help, George." She manages with a weak smile. "How've you been? It's uhm… been a while." A long while, and for Lizzie it's been a literal lifetime ago.

"I know, I know…." From George's perspective, it's been about a week - since the drive down to Pennsylvania that wound up nowhere, then he had to go back to Washington - he was only back in New York City for about half an hour before the reporters spotted him. "What about you, Hallie? I thought they'd stopped mobbing you quite so bad— maybe because they saw us together again?"

That, at least, hasn't really happened since way back in April. Since then, only a handful have been crass enough to bring up the more lurid stories about Paris, only to be silently ignored for their trouble.

Shrugging her thin shoulders, Lizzie looks down at the ground and clenches her jaw. "Maybe, it's not something I've had to deal with for a few months. I guess I'm a little out of practice." Being unrecognized in Europe had its advantages, she could go anywhere and do anything without having to worry about this sort of thing.

Hallis has certainly changed in the week that he's not seen her. She's a little darker in color, a light golden and flawless tan covers her skin. Her face is a little less round and a little more chiseled from all of her exercise, and her body is a little more muscled as well. As they walk along the sidewalk, she spots a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant and points toward it. "Let's grab something to eat, your treat."

And all of those changes strike George's attention all the more clearly, because the last he saw of her, she looked basically the same as she did early in the year. "I could go for that," he muses, "the sandwiches on the train were awful today. Have to rib Crane about that, next chance I get." Once they've been shown to a table, he gives Hallis another once-over. "What about you, though? New physical therapist, I'm guessing— they're a keeper, seriously."

"Who's Crane? The train owner?" Lizzie quips as they make their way inside and shown to a table. She didn't even notice what sort of place this is and after a quick peek, she eyes the menu with interest. Pizza and not just any pizza, margarita pizza. "Well pizza is better than sandwiches anyway. You should have seen the ones in Italy. I was there about a week ago and, you know, I didn't think they actually had pizza there."

THe comment about the physical therapist gets a little quirk of the young woman's eyebrow and she shakes her head just a little. "Uh, no… but I'm looking for Sydney, have you seen her?"

George laughs, shaking his head. "No, but they're probably good friends— Dennis Crane, he's running for my job." Hallis's relative disinterest in politics, apart from rooting for those she knows personally, comes as little surprise to him. Neither does the comment about restaurants, which he assumes is short for Little Italy. "They didn't close Florio's, did they—?"

The question about Sydney is what finally grabs his attention beyond the point of mere small talk. "I… haven't, no. Last I heard, Jamie had lost track of her too, she was staying with her old guardian or something."

It might have something to do with the eclipse, he thinks to himself; he kind of suspected that Sydney had an ability, or at least knew about them too. But he doesn't say that. The question is, why didn't she say that? As worried as she was about Sierra, the last few times he saw her…

"I don't know, if I ever get enough money to make it back there I'll let you know." Hallis, short on cash? She probably isn't but Lizzie certainly is. Not short enough to have trouble getting to Little Italy but enough that she can't make it back to the bigger one any time soon. After pointing out the items (yes itemS) she wants to the waiter, she focues back on George.

"Jamie's not with her either? Wow… I should have called or written or something, I guess." Her eyebrows knit together in a somewhat worried fashion and she lets loose a deep sigh. "Well, I guess she'll show up at her house eventually. I'll just wait until she does."

Slowly, Lizzie's thumbs wind around each other as she looks around the restaurant. She avoids looking at George for a few long moments and then takes a lerge breath before finally biting the bullet. "I— " She's a coward, always has been. "Uhm— I need to say sorry. Last time I saw you… and.."

…and George stops her there, putting a hand up. Is he still angry about it? No, it doesn't look that way… if anything, he seems increasingly confused. The part about not being able to afford 'Italy' is hard to ignore.

"Hallie? Something's off here, I'm not sure what, but I know something is. So please, don't leave anything out just because you assume I already know about it." He waves the waiter off: not now, come back in a few minutes, we're busy. "When was the last time you saw me? What did we talk about?"

"Uhhh…." Lizzie's very long and drawn out utterance of confusion is shooed away by a small shake of her head and she wrinkles her nose. "When you came into my dressing room? On the set? We broke up?" How he could forget that illustrious moment in their shared history is beyond her. Maybe he's just been working too hard.

Then it all clicks into place for her. George. Of course. "George, when was the last time you saw me and what happened?" Before he has the chance to respond, she holds up on slim finger. "And before you start, no, I'm not using." The last addendum is made with a rather liberal roll of her eyes.

Well, that confirms that something is wrong. Now to get to the bottom of what exactly that something is. "About a week ago, before I left for Washington. We were trying to track down Sierra, we drove down to Allentown but there was nothing there, just a gas station that'd been closed for—"

And then it all clicks into place for him. Sierra. Of course. The question is, which one of them is pretending? And why? Hopefully Sierra will be un-stuck by now, but— He leaves off again, watching closely.

Lizzie's jaw drops and she just stares at George, her blue eyes wider than they should ever be. "You've got to… Seriously?… I'm gonna.. I just can't…" With every unfinished statement, Lizzie or Hallis, is getting angrier and more and more like her old self. "Are you kidding me?! Looking for Sierra? That b—… I'm gonna.." Letting loose a strangled scream, Lizzie feigns choking the air.

Saved by the pizza is exactly what George is right now. When the waiter comes by with their orders, Lizzie's a little more substantial than his, she immediately switches tracks. Her hands make a dive for the little pizza and she lifts a slice up and then finally turns her head to glare in George's direction. "I can't believe you— And… You didn't… If I wasn't so hungry, I'd be so pissed off."

It'd be nice if George could just tuck into the pepperoni and forget everything he just heard. It'd be so much simpler. Instead, he pushes it to the side so he can slump forward, burying his face in his arms. "I didn't know," he mumbles, convinced that the Hallis sitting across from him is the one that's been telling the truth. "I barely got to see y— to see her anyway, and… you know. I figured you'd had a change of heart. You've had them before!" He looks up again, gesturing with his hands. Hell, she - the real one - did have a change of heart, at least far enough to apologize for her side of the fight at the TV studio.

"Why'd she make herself look like you, anyway? Did you know she was doing it before?" Past that point, he can at least make an educated guess: she got stuck, she panicked, she clung to the identity whose appearance she matched. Apparently to the point of obsession.

"Long story." Lizzie mumbles between bites of her pizza, her appetite certainly isn't any worse for the wear. "It as just supposed to be until my face healed up… but then…" Then. "My holiday took a little longer than I thought, which wouldn't have been a big deal except she cancelled all my credit cards, drained my bank accounts, and blocked all my numbers while I was gone."

Lizzie takes a deep breath and shrugs her shoulders, finally putting down the small slice. Reaching for a napkin, she rubs the grease from her fingers and shakes her head. "Now she's got my life, my money, everything. It wouldn't be so bad except she didn't even give me a place to live."

As she explains, George's expression slips into the carefully composed stance best described as 'oh, good, they're mad at someone else'. He's gotten plenty of use out of it in the course of his career… not so much in his personal life, though. But boy, does this day ever qualify.

"Healed up from what?" he asks, leaning over for a closer look even as he reaches for what's left of the pizza. "Looks like it's okay now—"

Wow. Maybe obsessive wasn't a strong enough word. "You're kidding. Well, you can stay with me until— until we go over there and fix this. She's not stuck any more, she's got no excuse." Wait, does Hallis know about the getting-stuck part? Depends how thoroughly she was out of touch while she was away.

The young woman snorts, "Yeah, whatever." Her voice is bland with a slight touch of angry. "She says she's stuck, says that she lost her ability. All I know is that I'm stuck. She stole my whole life and I can't even do anything about it or prove that she's not me." She doesn't know exactly how Sierra's power works, or worked. Whether or not the woman is her exact DNA replica might come in handy if she ever needs an organ… then again… Sierra has all of the power, it's likely Lizzie would be the one harvested.

A quick shake of the head has Lizzie pushing the thought away, "I don't care if she stays that way, she can have the job and the so called friends and the high life. I just want some things. Like my grandmother."

"Well, she probably was. Maybe still is. My own ability stopped working right for a few weeks… I think a lot of people's did. At least in New York." He doesn't have a lot of relevant contacts anywhere else. Note to self, get back in touch with Tracy - which he was going to do anyway, for another reason.

George falls quiet again, studying her expression. Not because he's watching for a reaction, but because he's trying to figure out his own. "You've… changed, Hallie. Again. I mean, you've got good reason to be in shock, but… giving up all that? You shouldn't have to, even if you're willing to. Let me see what I can do, all right?"

Without his ability to fall back on, he'd been taking things slower than usual - and maybe he'd unconsciously sensed that something was off kilter, too? No, Sierra really had fooled him, at least for that long. Now, though— Without warning, he reaches across the table and impulsively takes her hand in his own, squeezing.

Lizzie's hand is limp in George's. In answer to his offer(s), she just shakes her head. "I probably deserve it, you know? I just wish she'd give me enough to live on or something… she stole millions she could afford to just give me enough to live on until I find a job or something." Not that she's been doing poorly, it's more the thought that counts.

Slowly, she pulls her hand from George's and looks out the window toward the sidewalk. The people milling around have gotten a little more sparse, a clear indication that shopping time is nearly over. It's Saturday, after all, and the good places close up earlier than on a weekday. "I don't know what you think you can do… I don't know what she's going to do… She might have a good reason for all this, I don't know…"

"I don't know, either…" There's no handbook for what to do in a situation like this. But then George has dealt with issues like that before. "That can wait a bit, though— what about you, what else did you do in Italy? France?" Presumably that was the real her who was helping Jaden with his overseas shopping. "You sneak a beach in there somewhere?"

The turn in conversation brightens up Lizzie's mood substantially. "I stayed at my grandmother's old apartment in Paris," she begins with a big smile. "I met this guy, Gabriel, and we went all over the place. We went to Monkey Mountain, and drove pretty much all over France." Her smile falters a little and she shakes her head, causing her hair to bounce a litte and waves her hand. "It was fun, I met one of my relatives. He was this crazy old man that tried to feed us bread that rats had been eating. It was so gross."

Aha, now this is a little more like the young woman he remembers. If he'd been a little less distracted, the word he might have used to describe Sierra is… 'Stepford'. Which could have been the real Hallis overreacting, but still wouldn't have been a good thing.

"Where's Monkey Mountain? I went to Europe once, years ago— there was a group that went to Paris for the day but I missed it. Stupid." Relaxing a little, George leans back in his seat. "And let me guess— the rats were eating this side and he cut you a slice from that side, so he thought it was okay?"

Wrinkling her nose, Lizzie mimics George's position and leans back in her own chair. "It was just disgusting, I have no idea what part of the bread he got it from, I didn't really pay attention. All I know is that he put bread in front of me and I was all eeewwwww."

Her thin legs kick under her chair as she talks a little more about herself and her vacation. "Monkey Mountain is this nature preserve or something, they have a bunch of monkeys living there and you can walk through and feed them popcorn. Gabriel had this little baby monkey that he let me hold. It was cute."

"Huh. The Bronx has lots of monkeys, but I don't think they could ever pull that off— either someone would stub a toe and sue, or some so-called animal rights group would stomp in and maybe hurt some people while they were at it." Despite his apparent comfort, George holds off on asking about Gabriel - it's not at all clear what sort of dynamic was going on there. Instead, he prods at a more familiar - if uncomfortable - name. "Hey, much as I hate bringing him up, does Jaden know you're back yet? Guy seems crazy enough to believe you even if he doesn't know anything." Which he does, but George doesn't know that he knows.

At the mention of Jaden's name, Lizzie's mood goes a little sour again. "Uh.. no, he doesn't. I don't really care if he ever finds out, not after what happened." Something that hasn't been published in the press or even on the internet, the whole reason why Lizzie left in the first place. "His girlfriend punched me in the facein the middle of the street…" The rest of the story goes unexplained.

"What about you then? Are you and Sierra.. well me.. I guess.. back together?" It would explain to Lizzie why Sierra was so adamant about staying in her current form.

George makes a sour face, instinctively reaching a hand forward before catching himself, despite how long it must've been since it happened. He starts to say something… but then just nods quietly. Those few words really do say everything that needs to be said, don't they?

"She and I were… getting back together. A step at a time." The money, she said she didn't care about; her grandmother, being cut off seems like it would evoke more despair than anything else. But that? That makes the angry outburst make perfect sense. "Not any more, not after she lied to me about something as big as this." His anger is more restrained, but just as evident.

A little huff of laughter bubbles up from Lizzie as George explains what was or was not happening between him and his ex-girlfriend who he thought was the most recent of the exes. "Well, I guess that's why she didn't want to let me through the door of my apartment and cut me off completely. Dumb though, she probably could have pretended to be me for the rest of her life if she'd just asked." Not that Lizzie was asking for her life back, just a few pieces of it. The family, enough to live on…

George sighs. "She said she loved me. I suppose that much was the truth, at least. And I told her—" Well, no, he leans forward to meet her gaze, the right her this time. The one who deserves credit for it.

"I want you back, Hallie."

Ball's in your court, Hallis. Lizzie. Whatever. It's not the name that he's attached to, except by force of habit.

Taking in a rather large gulp of air, Lizzie's eyes shift over to the side, maybe to check on whoever might be watching the scene. Then she looks back to George and pastes on a stiff smile. "Uhm, I really don't know what to say George. I mean, you're great and everything but I don't want to be Mrs. Bush. I'm not even sure I'm Hallis anymore. I'm definitely not Hallis anymore, someone else is." Reaching up, she scratches the back of her neck and heaves a very long sigh.

"Truth is, we were sort of crap together. You know? I mean, sure when it was great it was great, but I'm sort of special needs. Like one of those dogs you get from the pound that's really hard to take care of." Comparing herself to a dog, Lizzie has certainly veered off the path of what she was before she left. "By the way… I'm Lizette now, Gabriel calls me Lizzie and I don't know too many other people."

"Lizette," George echoes, considering. After the grandmother, no doubt. They were always so close, it makes sense as an alternate name.

He leans back again, glancing around: at least the place is pretty quiet, otherwise the waiter would probably be bugging them to free up the table. "Well, I don't agree with that, but if you're convinced…"

Is she? Will she still be, in a month or two? The down side of someone who changes every other week.

"Let me at least take care of a hotel room," he offers, starting to get up, "until you finish getting back on your feet. However that works out. And… I hope you and Gabriel make it work, okay?" That's what it's sounding like, anyway. The guy even has his own pet name for her new name, sheesh.

Lizzie nearly chokes when George gives his well wishes for a relationship that isn't. It takes her at least a half a minute before she stops coughing up the little bit of cheese that she inhaled and when she finally does, she's still emiting tiny snorts to keep from laughing. "Gabriel?! Are you serious?!"

Then she gives off a rather loud bit of laughter, something that would certainly have her grandmother scolding her for being obnoxious. "Oh god no, he's cool and everything but he's too old. I'm done looking for daddy, as Sydney called it. He's my neighbor in Paris… was my neighbor in Paris. We had dinner sometimes, I coooked, and he dusted my mantle but that's about it."

There's a second's hesitation, after which the temperature of George's voice drops a few degrees. "I see." Suddenly, he's all too aware of their own difference in ages— and maybe she's right about it being destined not to work out. Still doesn't mean he has to like it.

"I'll— make some calls," he continues, "have them contact you? I assume you've got a working phone by now?" Hungry and dressed down is one thing, begging for change would be another.

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