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When the cage is open

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The end of Jack’s mutual story with Rapture was near, he could feel it in his bones. There was one thing left for him to do, namely killing Fontaine. Jack had no idea whether he’ll succeed or die trying and rot in this underwater hell, but one thing was sure – he had to do it.
It was the only way to be sure that the girls will be truly safe and free. And there were other victims of Fontaine’s doings. Dozens of civilians dead and others who were pulled into the civil war, more or less consciously, like poor Diane McClintock and Jasmine Jolene whose only fault was being naive or in love. And finally, Andrew Ryan, who in the face of failure died on his own terms. Ryan’s deeds were no better than Fontaine’s, but Jack admired his dignity and how he valued his freedom. Maybe because Jack never had his own. Not to mention that Andrew and Jasmine were his real parents, even thought he had never known them.
It wasn’t rational, but somehow Jack felt that he owned something to all of them. He wanted to fight Fontaine in their name, to be sure that their suffering wasn’t in vain. But primarily, Jack wanted to do it for the girls. They were the ones who Rapture hurt the most and Jack was willing to do everything he could to repay them.

Rapture tainted and corrupted Jack, he felt all its sins crawling along his skin. After all, he was inseparable part of it. When he first got out of the bathysphere, the city seemed like a nightmare from which Jack couldn’t wake up, but the thought that above him there is a normal world waiting for him gave him hope. Later it turned out, that apart from Rapture, there was no other home for Jack.
Although everything was leading to it, at the thought of confronting Fontaine Jack was shaking out of fear and anger. He could still feel the burning despair in his heart, when the thought of Atlas being Fontaine came back to his head. Jack truly believed him, gave his life into Atlas’ hands willingly. Not that it wasn’t already there all this time.
He was Frank’s puppet and he had no free will, but even without enslaving phrase “would you kindly” Jack was sure he’d trust Atlas with all his heart. His voice was the only reassuring thing in the hell he’s been through, the only light in the darkness. Maybe he and Diane McClintock weren’t so different after all.
But now Jack knew the truth and was left all alone. Sure, there was Tenenbaum who helped him, but Jack was aware that alike Fontaine, she saw him only as a tool. In her case, she wanted to use him for more noble reasons, but what was the difference for Jack? He had nothing. No memories, no family, no past nor future. Just another freak of nature, in which Rapture was abounding. His whole life has been a whim of a man, who valued power high above human life.
Jack didn’t even own himself. At this thought he shuddered. Tears started to well in his eyes, but were wiped away quickly. There was no time for this and he needed all strength he had right now.

Jack was deep in his thoughts while wandering about Apollo Square. He needed to get second dose of Lot 192. He had already taken the first, to cure himself out of Code Yellow and other remaining trigger phrases. Since then, dancing to Frank’s tune has come to an end. Fontaine had nothing on him, no more dirty tricks. Now it was just old fashion guns against guns. And well, not so old fashion giant amount of ADAM. But first, he needed to regain control over his plasmids before even thinking about getting Fontaine. To do that, he needed another dose of Lot, which was in Suchong’s private clinic. Jack was desperate to get there as fast as possible, but on the other hand he was also afraid of going to the lab where his creator used to work.
He got there by accident, while exploring the second floor of Artemis Suites. As always, Jack was going through all the rooms in search of anything that could become handy. While doing that, he noticed entrance to Suchong clinic in the east wing of the building.
After a while of searching, he finally got the Lot. Jack sighed with a relief. Plasmids changing every 30 seconds were driving him crazy, not to mention he couldn’t properly fight. He went further into clinic, hoping to find some more of Suchong’s notes. Jack was still terrified, but wanted to learn all he could about himself, about the precious “ace in the hole”, since all of his previous life was just a crop of lies.
He found Suchong’s recorded diary, the last one, which was very obvious since it was lying next to his massacred body. Jack’s first impulse was feeling horrified and sorry for him, even taking into account all what Suchong did to him. Being drilled to a table by a Big Daddy was a horrible way to die. But when Jack listened to the record, he couldn’t help but to smile viciously. Suchong’s death pretty much summarized all his deeds.
There was nothing more for Jack to do, so he should get back to finding Fontaine, but he felt a sudden need to go further into clinic. He found a breach in a wall, behind which there was another room. Led by curiosity, Jack proceeded.

In the darkness something white loomed before his eyes. It was a shirt on a young woman’s body lying on the floor. Thinking, it’s just another rotting corpse, Jack approached. Maybe she had some EVE with her, it was worth checking. But when he got closer, he saw a barely noticeable movement. Her chest was rising and falling, so lightly and slowly, that she could be easily mistaken for dead. Jack was surprised and felt a glimmer of hope that he may help her.
“Hey, do you hear me?” he touched gently her shoulder. Surrounding darkness was so deep that he could hardly see her face. Jack snapped his fingers using Incinerate as a lighter. Finally, he could see the girl better. First thing he noticed was a horrible injury on the left side of her head and a grimace of pain. It took a moment for Jack to realize how pretty she was, under all those bruises and scabs. He shook her shoulder, in the most gentle way he could.
At Jack’s touch and mild lighting, the girl frowned and slowly opened her eyes with noticeable difficulties. She tried to say something, but only a stertorous sound came out of her chapped mouth. Jack reached for a bottle of water he had with him and helped her with drinking it. When finished, the girl gasped.
“Thanks,” she whispered. Jack didn’t know what to do. It was not safe around here and he didn’t have anything to make her a proper dressing. His first aid kits seemed not to be enough.
“Answer me only if you feel strong enough. Do you know what are your injuries except your head?”
“I… probably have a concussion... but nothing else,” she answered quietly. Jack leaned closer to see her wound. Only then the girl saw him better.
“Oh God… It’s you. It is really you...” She closed her eyes and slowly a smile spread on her face. Few tears ran down her cheek. Jack didn’t pay attention to that since she was probably just splattering, not being fully conscious. He’s heard a lot of strange things said by citizens of Rapture. He thought that the best option will be taking her to Tenenbaum since seemingly her knowledge on medicine was far wider then Jack’s.
“I will take you somewhere safe,” he said and took her in his arms, lifting her up. She was so light and petite that the injury seemed much more serious to Jack now. She nestled against Jack’s sweater like a little girl.
“I saw you... in my vision… I saw you saving Sally… I can’t believe you’re here,” the girl sighed, sounding both exhausted and delighted. Jack frowned, starting to be little bit irritated. He didn’t want to lose her, to have another life on his conscience.
“Hush! You’re very weak, you must save your strength.”
“You just have no idea how important you are, do you?” she chuckled lightly. “That you’re the only person that can end this spinning wheel of madness and pain? Oh Jack...” She smiled and tears run down her cheek. Jack forgot about her state and stopped, being shock and slightly scared. How this girl knew his name? Who was she? She seemed little bit out of this place, just like him. And what was she doing here, half dead, but still conscious enough to say such bizarre things. He looked down on her.
“How… how do you know my name?”
“It’s a very long and complex story. I doubt…. you’ll believe it,” she snorted, but there was sadness in it.
“After arriving to this city nothing ever will be the same. I think you can’t surprise me in any way. But now, please say nothing. You must rest. I’ll get you to someone who will patch you up.”
“Mhm, okay,” she sighed.
“Just, one last thing. There is no need to tell you my name, since somehow you know it, but what’s yours?”
“It’s Elizabeth.” She closed her eyes, making a quiet whining sound, when she felt a vertigo. A moment later she passed out. Jack thought that it was better for her, while being unconscious she couldn’t feel the pain. He stopped for a moment to firm his grip and make carrying more comfortable.

Jack tried to let his thought wander aimlessly for a while, to rest a little bit after all that he’s heard, but one thing kept on occupying his mind. A nagging feeling that he has already heard the name “Elizabeth” in his rather short life before. Though he had no idea when and why.

* * *

Everything hurt, even breathing. The slowest movement made a wave of pain go through Elizabeth’s head and when she tried opening her eyes, the world whirled around her. But she was alive. Suffering, both physically and mentally, but alive.
How was it even possible? She remembered a slowly dying light, her last vision of Jack arriving to Rapture, Sally singing “La vie en rose” and then everything gone. Her death was sudden and violent but also essential in some way, so her being alive made no sense.
Since Jack was here, some time must have passed. What was it, weeks? Months? Hard to measure and even harder to understand. The only reasonable explanation were the Luteces, but what was the point of brining her back to life? Her part in the story was over, she was the mean to an end, leading to the big final with Jack playing the main role. Her and Booker’s sins were redeemed, there was nothing more for her to do.
And her happiness? Never mattered, so why should it be important now? The Luteces weren’t the type of people who felt compassion or did things in sake of one’s happiness. But on the other hand, only thanks to them Elizabeth could ever meet her father and spend some time with him, even if it was just a few days. And they gave opportunity for Booker to pay the debt he had to Elizabeth. So maybe after all they did care, in their very specific way.

Or was it something bigger? It could be just another whim of the Luteces. But could be also fate as well. Elizabeth was always sentimental, so she knew her judgment wasn’t clear, but she couldn’t get rid of the feeling that it was written for her and Jack to meet.

She had the strangest feeling that she had known him all her life. Of course it was impossible, but some kind of bond could’ve been created between them when Jack’s memories mixed with hers. But Elizabeth knew it wasn’t all that was there.
Vision of Jack was the last thing she had seen before her death, the only consolation in it. Now, he was the first person for Elizabeth to see after her revival. It was a strange coincidence and Elizabeth has noticed that in her life there was no place for fortuity.

Her thoughts came back to Jack. Not constant and variables, infinite amount of universes or fate. Simply Jack. How she could feel an emanating willpower and determination from him. How he managed to preserve his innocence and kindness after all he’s been through. How he seemed to be glowing in the ubiquitous darkness of Rapture.
He was filling all her senses, which were still dimmed by pain and confusion, but by this maybe more sensitive. She felt him all over her heart, her thoughts, her soul. She felt him everywhere.
At this thoughts something rolled in Elizabeth’s stomach. This feeling, so simple yet so overwhelming, was completely new to her. How could she know it, since most of her life she spent being isolated from other people? It was probably the first time since meeting Booker when she started to feel something close to happiness. But a moment later her thoughts darkened after realizing something.
She was not the type of a person who could just sit down for a moment and fall in love. She was out of time, out of place, always. A part of two, three, a hundred, millions of millions worlds, thus not truly a part of any world. She didn’t truly have anything.
But was Jack any different? A man without a past nor future. Bereft of free will, created only to serve and obey. They both didn’t have anything. Not until now.

When Elizabeth thought about their lives, she found one thing pretty ironic. How was it possible that Jack, who was enslaved by Fontaine, could make more changes and do more good than she and Booker together? Booker, his own master, making decisions good and bad, but his own. Who’s life was painful, but he lived it fully. And who in the end had no choice, trapped in a circle of his own guilt and redemption.
And what about her? A woman for whom time and space had no meaning. Who could crush and create new worlds with an eye-blink, but was too proud and blinded by revenge to save one little girl.
Jack had more strength and humanity in him than they ever had, even though he wasn’t even born to be man, but a slave. He embodied everything Elizabeth and Booker tried to be and failed. Their fate was every man's fate: to try and fail, over and over again, but to never give up.
But Jack was different. He somehow managed to break the circle. Something Elizabeth and Booker could only dream of.

All those thoughts were rolling in Elizabeth’s head, while she was still hang between being conscious and asleep. After a while of struggle she opened her eyes, everything blurred with pain. She tried to sit halfway up, when a woman’s voice, with a thick German accent, came to her from nearby.
“Lie down, child. You’re still very weak.”
“Where is Jack?” Elizabeth murmured, trying not to sound obviously concerned.
“He brought you here few hours ago and left. I don’t know where he is now, the beacon of the radio is very weak.”
“But why did he left?”
“You don’t know? He’s gone to kill Fontaine.”
“Fontaine?! This bastard is still alive?” Elizabeth was really hoping, that after a sudden success this psychopath will quickly die in the civil war he had induced, maybe even killed by one of his supporters.
The woman chuckled.
“So, I assume you had the pleasure to meet him in person, right? And yes, unfortunately he’s alive and well, but with some luck it may be changed. And oh, I forgot, you can call me Brigid.” Elizabeth in her first reaction wanted to answer “Yeah, Tenenbaum. ‘Mother’ of the Little Sisters, I know you.” but in the last moment she bit her tongue. Maybe telling people things that she shouldn’t be aware of, wasn’t the best idea.
“I’m Elizabeth.”
Tenenbaum knelt down next to her and slowly started to change Elizabeth’s dressing.
“Your wound is serious, but it should heal without any complications if you’ll be careful.
“Is my wound… fresh?” Tenenbaum gave her a surprised look.
“Yes darling. Do you remember how you got it?”
You bet I do, Elizabeth thought.
“No, I don’t. Tell me one thing… When did Atlas attack Rapture?” Tenenbaum looked even more bewildered.
“Something more than a year ago. Why are you asking? It’s commonly known.” Elizabeth brooded. How was it possible? Even if the wound wouldn’t be serious enough to kill her, she still got it a year ago. She should have died out of dehydration or simply anything!
For the first time in her life Elizabeth would be glad if the Luteces appeared out of nowhere like they always did, babbling about universes and physics, only to understand what the hell was going on. But they didn’t. She was left here all alone, with no answers.
Maybe it was better this way? Did knowing the answers were ever good for her? Probably not. Could she simply think of it as an occasion to start a new life? Were Luteces really this kind? After all, she wasn’t this important, to break the rules of the universe over and over for again, just for her.
Was she?
Elizabeth smiled sadly. She wasn’t even sure if it was possible for her to move on, after all she’s been through.

She was burst out of her thoughts by a childish squeak. In the corner of her eye she saw a little girl running to her. A child approached her and grabbed her hand, cuddling it.
“Sally, leave this miss alone! She’s very sick.” Tenenbaum scolded the girl, but she didn’t pay attention. All she cared about now was Elizabeth.
“Mommy! Mommy, I knew you’ll be back, I knew it! I was waiting for you for so long, but I always knew you’ll come back for me!”
“Oh Sally...” Elizabeth felt tears running down her cheeks. First it was single drops, but a moment later she started sobbing. With difficulties she lift herself up and embraced the girl.
“You will never be alone again, I promise you that. I will never leave you.” She stroke Sally’s hair and wept. It was impossible to be real, just too good.
“You’re... this girl’s mother?” Tenenbaum’s eyebrows couldn’t get any higher.
“No, but I am the closest thing to it.”
Now there was no question if Elizabeth could move on, or not. She simply had to, for Sally. Elizabeth embraced her tighter, still crying and smiling.

* * *

“I remember when me and the Kraut put you in that sub. You were no more than two. You were my ace in the hole, but you were also the closest thing I ever had to a son. And that’s why this hurts.”
Jack was going up in an elevator while Fontaine tantalized him via radio. Jack kept on clenching his fists, with Electro Bolt dancing between his fingertips. He felt like he could kill Fontaine with his bare hands. “Pulling the ‘dad card’ just before the end, are you Fontaine? You must be insane to think this’ll work. Now you have nowhere to run. Fight me you cowardly fuck.”
Jack wasn’t the avenger type. He didn’t want to spill more blood and if he’d got a chance to spare Fontaine, he would do it without hesitation, despite the fact how much he’d suffered because of him. But Jack also wasn’t a fool. He knew that sparing Fontaine would only made things worse, since he wasn’t the type of man who can repentance. There was no other way but killing him.
Jack closed his eyes and trembled out of fear and disgust. “There is no mercy for the wicked.”
Jack didn’t have strength to care. Not anymore. He only wanted Fontaine dead and he could even die trying. His life had no value to him.
No, it wasn’t completely true. It looked like that few hours ago, but right now Jack was afraid of dying. Maybe not dying itself, but dying before seeing Elizabeth again.
He sighed and leaned his forehead against cool wall of the elevator. He slowly opened his eyes, suddenly feeling very tired.
“I just want to see her one more time.”

* * *

When Jack came back to a hideout, he looked completely exhausted. He was smiling, but it only reached his lips. All girls ran towards him, jumping, shouting and cheering. Fontaine was dead and they were finally free.
Jack took them into his arms, stroking them and laughing, but he only did it to make them happy, since he wasn’t feeling joyful at all. Tenenbaum also approached him, shook his hand and kissed him in both cheek. Everybody were safe and blithe. Everybody but Jack.
He lift his eyes from the girls and looked above them. Back behind of the crowd, Jack saw Elizabeth standing alone. It was like seeing the first signs of dawn after hours of a terrible sleepless night. Jack exhaled slowly, feeling how calmness was filing all his bones.
She came closer and lightly spread her arms. It was something for what Jack was waiting, although he didn’t know that. He almost ran to her and closed her in a tight embrace.
Elizabeth smiled involuntarily, feeling his palm on her shoulder-blade.
“Welcome home,” she murmured. Jack wanted to make an ironic remark about her just being corny, but he couldn’t say anything since he started to cry.

* * *

Elizabeth felt Jack’s breath on her cheek. She lift her gaze and looked into his eyes. He answered with a shy smile.
“You’re not sleeping,” she said.
“No, I can’t. For the first time in my life I have a chance to sleep soundly and I just can’t.”
“I know what you mean. All of this seems like short break between one horror and another.” Jack snorted quietly. “Right? But from what you’ve told me, it must be an end. At least for us.”
Elizabeth smiled sadly. “I really hope so, Jack.”
He sunk into his thoughts.

For the last few hours they were talking. Elizabeth told him everything. About Columbia and Luteces, about Booker and Comstock. About constant and variables. How she arrived to Rapture and how Atlas killed her. To Elizabeth great astonishment, Jack believed her. They talked to Sally and she told Jack that Elizabeth was an angel the last time she saw her. But did the word of a girl, who was brainwashed for almost all her life had any meaning? For Jack it had.
And it mattered very much to Elizabeth, not only because she simply wanted him to believe her. She could see herself in Little Sisters. Isolated, brainwashed and being perceived not as humans but an objects. Very valuable and desired, but still an object. And Jack could see beyond that. He could see the real girls in them, not only monsters that can be killed for ADAM. It was the same with her. He didn’t saw her as a freak, but as a person who had suffered way too much in her life. In this way he saved her just like Booker once did.
When she finished her story, Jack was completely overwhelmed and tired. He asked if he could sleep next to her this night. After the events of the last few hours he was devastated and didn’t want to be left alone in this terrible darkness, bereft of the moonlight. Elizabeth felt exactly the same.

 

“Elizabeth?” Jack said after a short moment of silence.
“Yes?”
“Tell me...” He looked at her cage pendant. “Now, since your cage is open and you’re finally free…What will you choose? All possibilities are right in front of you… Everything you could never do, now is within your reach. You can finally go to Paris. There is a whole new life ahead of you.” Elizabeth silenced for a while and looked at him from under her lashes. She got a little bit closer and sighed quietly.
“My life… never belonged to me and the only thing I used to have were dreams. I had so many plans... Now I can hardly remember most of them. But now, when I have the choice, for the first time in my life, I…” Elizabeth hesitated, but then looked him in the eyes one more time, and she was sure.
“I choose you, Jack,” she said quietly and brushed her lips against his. After a moment of shock Jack started to respond, thought his movements were slow. He cupped her face and gently deepened the kiss, but not making it harsh. They were both really careful and tender, like it was the first and the last time they could ever see each other.
Something rolled in Elizabeth’s stomach. It was like a wave coming through her body, feeling Jack’s hands on her, lips brushing against lips. She had never felt anything like that in her life, to touch, to feel, someone this important to her. They hardly knew each other, but she couldn’t get rid of the feeling, that all her life, all her suffering was leading to this moment, to meeting Jack.
For Jack she was an echo of the life he was robbed from, but also an announcement of the life that was about to come. A warm voice in the darkness, a lighthouse on the raging sea.

Jack kept his palm on Elizabeth’s cheek, stroking it with his thumb. He gave her a thankful smile. Elizabeth grinned cheekily.
“And what about you, Jack Wynand? After breaking your chains, do you also have some particular plan?” Jack snorted.
“I might have something on my mind,” he said, reached for her right hand, and kissed it. Then he started to play involuntarily with her fingers, especially with a pinky.
Elizabeth looked at it. Now she remembered, that this finger wasn’t entirely hers. That she wasn’t this Elizabeth from Columbia, unstoppable, with endless chances for a life. Her finger was now normal, and so was she. This world was the last shore she had landed on.
But even after realizing that, Jack seemed the only option for her to choose. Now, she was sure even more.

“Elizabeth, I think that… when it comes to what you’ve told me… about constants and variables...you and I, we may be constants. It may sound stupid, but when you look at our lives, it’s like, we are the two sides of the same coin.” Jack said, still holding her hand.

“Heads or tails. You are right, Jack.” Elizabeth thought.

“You mean… fuck despotic dads?” She answered instead. Jack burst out laughing.
“I was trying to be poetic, but yeah, it was my point. But now it’s over. Tomorrow, we will all go back to the surface. The girls probably have never seen the sky before, I can’t wait to see their delight.” The thought of seeing the sky again moved Elizabeth so much that she felt tears welling in her eyes. She have never thought of having a chance to see it again.
“Now go to sleep,” Jack said and kissed her on the forehead. She snuggled against his sweater. It smelled of salt, blood and the faintest scent of cologne. This mixture was rather odd, but pleasant. It was a masculine fragrance, which she involuntarily linked with Booker. Oh God, Booker.

 

* * *

Elizabeth was lying still, waiting for Jack to fall asleep. She didn’t have to wait long, after a while his breath was calm. Now she could try talking to Booker.
“Booker...? Dad?” She murmured very quietly. Silence. No more voices in her head. She didn’t need his help anymore, so it was obvious that the hallucinations will disappear. But she couldn't stop hoping to hear his voice one more time. Tears ran down her face. It was her last goodbye with him.
“Booker, I miss you. I miss you so much I thought I was going insane. Those few days we’ve spent together in Columbia… It was the best time of my life.” Elizabeth sobbed quietly, not wanting to wake up Jack. The only answer was still silence, pulsing in the thick air. Elizabeth felt overwhelming loneliness, running through her body and clenching on her throat.
“One day, when I die… We’ll meet again, won’t we?” No response, only surrounding darkness. Elizabeth bit her lip not to weep aloud.

After a moment her breath started to calm down. She lift her gaze, looking at sleeping Jack and wiped tears from her face. Then she found his hand, closing it in hers.
“I miss you, Booker, and I’ll never stop. But right now… I think… I hope... It’s gonna be alright.” She closed her eyes. “Thank you... for everything. I… I love you dad. Please, rest in peace.”
She exhaled and inhaled deeply for a few moments. She nestled against Jack’s chest, feeling how her sadness was mixing with hope and love.
And then she fell asleep.