Big Shoes To Fill


claire2_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif

Scene Title Big Shoes To Fill
Synopsis Claire and Liz talk about the size of the task before them. Richard Cardinal left some big shoes to fill.
Date January 20, 2010

New York Public Library

Stepping into the library is strange for Elisabeth. So very much is different now. Standing in the main foyer, she flashes back to the day Alec was working on the security system. A faint smile quirks her lips. If he sets bombs, I blame you. She can still hear the amusement in that tone. "God, babe… I don't know if I can do this without you," Elisabeth whispers, looking around. "I'm not the brains of this outfit, Richard." Her voice remains a mere thread of sound as she talks to herself, not expecting anyone to actually answer. "I don't even know what to do. I just know I gotta keep 'em safe." Sucking in a deep breath and letting it out in a long sigh, Liz turns and heads for the room that held all the files, next to the string map room. It's time to start digging through the intel that Cardinal had to see what might come next.

As she walks past the main room, Liz backpedals a bit and peers inside with a frown. There's a generator in there. And lights. What the fuck are Mack and Peyton up to, putting LIGHTS on the main level of this goddamn building? Shit. She walks in and notes blueprints of the library and assorted other things including a coffee maker. And then she turns and walks out, her steps purposeful as she heads toward the room that was her original goal. Her thoughts are full of concern.

The older blonde will find that the younger one is already in there, sitting cross legged on the floor, hunched over some papers on her lap a box near her. The sound of footsteps makes Claire freeze, her head lifting from it's task and turning slightly to , while a free hand wipes quickly at her eyes, dashing away the gathered moisture in her eyes. Last thing she needs is someone to see that.

By time Elisabeth steps into the room, Claire has a small smile. "Hey Liz." She offer softly. "I see your mind is about where mine is." Her head jerking to the boxes.

Nodding slightly, Elisabeth's eyes skim over the boxes. "You didnt' try the cabinet, did you? It's rigged to incinerate the information." She grins slightly at the younger woman and walks toward the file cabinet in question and punches in the code to open the lock. "Reading that will catch you up on the less-sensitive material. What the hell are Mack and Peyton doing up in the reading room?" she demands softly, worry clear as she speaks.

"No.. I hadn't, just been skimming this stuff.. looking for anything that points to what the government might be up too. We sure had a lot on the Vangaurd plan though.. " Claire takes a moment to look at the cabinet, watching Liz with it. "I had a interesting meeting with Eileen and Cat…. upstairs?" It takes her a moment and she ooooohs softly. "That isn't Mack and Peyton.. Bones is working up there." Mentioning the guy that waltzed into the group's life while the others were gone.

"Believe it or not.. he's doing it to cover our asses." Claire sounds a touch amused by that. "I guess as long as he's working on the place anyone official that comes in probably won't be to suspicious of people coming in and out. We're all just workers." A smile tugs at the corner of her mouth. "You ever heard of a Sandhog? I sure haven't, but they seem to be real."

There's a frown as Elisabeth turns to look at Claire after opening the top drawer. "A what?" She considers. She is — or was — a city employee, after all. "Wait… you mean the tunnel rats? The guys who keep the subways and underground structurally sound? I've heard of them — never met one." She pauses and considers. "So….. Mack and Peyton were recruiting?" She seems thoughtful about that. "All right. Guess I better meet him pretty much immediately. What kind of a meeting?"

"Don't think they had much of a choice with this guy." Claire says sounding amused. "He found us while working. Mack seemed to have told him some stuff. He was curious. I gave him just enough he seems to believe me.. and he's interested in what we do." Having been filled in on a little bit of the basics. "Seems alright… though looking at some of my past impressions of people." A smile tugs at the corner of her mouth.

It fades though when she states talking about the meeting. "You know Eileen and I were on the same Team in Madagascar. There… was a lot of disturbing things that came out of that part of our mission." Setting the files back in their box, Claire looks haunted, as she's being forced to remember. "She's right. I don't think Madagascar was really about the nukes there. It was about what Rasoul was developing."

"The government is up to something. Even though all the groups within the city.. all us end gamers included.. are different in what we do and the people within it." She make a little circling encompassing motion with her hand. "We all need to watch each other. We need to start a network between all of us groups. We need to prepare for the worse."

Leaning back against the filing cabinet looking for all the world like she's working in her own office as she props an elbow on top of the thing, Elisabeth frowns slightly. "Do we know how much Mack told him?" she queries regarding Bones's knowledge. "I trust Mack's judgement of people in general — he's got a serious bullshit meter on him."

And then the conversation with Cat and Eileen comes up. Elisabeth listens closely. "I think you're right — it's sort of what Richard was doing to start with, and one of the reasons that I took the FRONTLINE offer. I'm selfish in that it gives me the chance to keep doing what we're doing out here under a legal umbrella — catching Moab escapees who are actually dangerous like Norman White. But also because…. Kershner's a shark, but she has an agenda. She told Richard she was planning on deposing Nathan Petrelli *and* Mitchell. She seems to think the future-Nathan that's in office now is better than the present-Nathan that Richard found in Argentina, but…. all the way around, it SOUNDS like she was a Rickham supporter. And although it doesn't mean her agenda's the same as ours, it's worth watching and being on the inside for." She pauses. "One of the things Richard was so damn good at was the contacts. I mean…. you and I've got Phoenix and Ferry contacts, I've got street contacts…. but I don't have the kind of Linderman contacts that Richard did. Xiulan can cover the Triad contact part, but …. dealing with them is dangerous, and I'm honestly not sure I'm …. capable of stepping into the mediator's role. That what he did."

"It was somewhat vague.. He told Bones about the fucked up system and that we're some of the people trying to balance the scales." Eyes Roll skyward as she tries to remember everything the big guy told her, "Told him about people taking evolved against their will and all that. I filled him in a bit more telling him we deal with things that threaten our future and that we take the visions of the Precogs seriously." Claire shrugs a shoulder and leans back against some boxes slumping a little. "I didn't tell him details.. but I told him straight up what we just did was driven by the visions of the seers and we saved the world.

"Anyhow… Speaking of you and FRONTLINE.. I think we can expect at least Pheonix to more then likely keep us in the dark." Claire face, twists into a look of disgust. "They dont want you to know things that could get to Kershner.. cause.. you know your her minion now." The bitterness of her words speak her opinion in that manner. I hope at least the Vanguard remnant will at least treat us like allies and not like we'll ruin everything. After Madagascar.. I trust Eileen to know we're no joke, so we'll see."

Hand lifting to rub across her forehead. "Anyhow.. I was hoping there was something in all this that would give us a hint of what to come so we know how to prepare." Claire glances at Liz. "I am a bit nervous about you being in FRONTLINE.. but not cause I think you'll turncoat. Cause I'm worried about your safety."

Her body language goes taut and there is a not-quite-audible roll of sound through the room that scatters the loose papers. "What did you say?" Elisabeth asks in a dangerously soft voice. Setting the file folder on top of the now-unlocked cabinet, those blue eyes may as well be glaciers for all the warmth in them at this moment. "Catherine said that to you?" In a tone of oh REALLY. It takes a visible effort for Elisabeth swallow the rage that roars through her — she should have seen it coming. Cat's reactions on board were not positive, but she had thought the woman knew her better than that. Clearly not.

"My position on FRONTLINE is no worse than being a cop in this town," Elisabeth bites out tightly. There is still a subaudible hum in the air around her, but she's squelching it. "I need to sit down and basically type out everything that we know. I'll do that on the laptop tonight and bring it to you tomorrow. It may do us good, it may not. I don't know." She slams the file cabinet shut.

"She told me you'd agree with her, since you use to not want to know some things.. but I didn't believe it.. I mean. You already know what I know about Madagascar." Claire reasons out with a small smile, though it doesn't reach her eyes. "Your smarter then I am on things.. so I think having you to discuss things is important." There is a soft sigh and she lets her head drop back to rest against a box. "Eileen might know more on the Team Bravo stuff, but sadly anything super important was lost with Noriko's mind wipe and the shot to my head. Which I think Noriko's mind wipe was probably for that exact reason."

Her head rolls to the side to look at Liz, "When your on the laptop, you might go out and see if there are any new visions out there on the net." Claire offers helpfully, "Not sure if there are any specific places that gathers those visions." She chuckles. "There needs to be.. like a online network that Precogs got too."

After a moment of silence, Claire adds, "You might talk to Cat about the fact you don't want to be in the dark."

"I have, in the past, asked not to be kept in the loop on certain things," Elisabeth replies tightly. "Not to worry, Claire. Catherine and I will certainly have words." More about the fact that she is apparently viewed as a fucking minion than anything else. How dare she? Focusing her attention on the important bits, Liz quirks a faint smile. "I don't think there's a bulletin board out there for PrecogsRUs, Claire," she chides gently in amusement. "And I can't exactly say that I think you're wrong about why Noriko was wiped. We're just going to have to rebuild what intel we can."

"Yeah I know.. I feel like we're trying to fill some really big fucking shoes." Claire says blandly, head lifting to look at the boxes. "I don't know what Bones does.. but he mentioned being unregistered, that means he's scared of the government and registration… that could play into our hands and give us another ally. He lives here now, since Mack let him, as long as he promised not to go down into the 'secret lair' " She actually does air quote that, cause in a way it is. "I'm curious to see what you think of him. He seems open minded.. and willing to listen and take what is said seriously. I'd be curious to see what he thinks of our 'intel'." Her head nodding to some of the paintings. "And the string room… which is really interesting." Obviously she had a peek.

There's a faint shiver through Liz's body at the matter-of-fact nature of Claire's comment about Richard's shoes. And the gentle hum fades as the older woman turns back to pick up the file she had pulled out of the drawer, hiding the sadness from Claire as well as she can. "I'll make a point of trying to stick close until I have to ship out. Kershner gave me up to two weeks if I need them before I need to be in Annapolis. That should be plenty of time to pull us together. And it's only four hours away, so I can be back and forth in a night if I have to." It would be a hellacious night, but it's not the first set of all-nighters Elisabeth's pulled. "Father Wilder at St. Paul's said if he can locate Richard's baptismal certificate, he can do funeral services," she tells Claire quietly. "If he can't locate it in the archdiocese records," which shouldn't be a problem since Cardinal was in the foster system and went to Catholic school, "I've got someone else in mind — hoping he'll do the memorial for Francois. I left Abby a text that we're back in town, so hopefully she'll be able to get back from Mexico in time to help set those things up."

"Sorry Liz… I've been trying to avoid mentioning.. he's… just everywhere." Claire's voice hitches some and she has to swallow. She told herself not around Elisabeth, so she makes the effort to keep the emotions away.. "But yeah… once we pull the pieces together again, I'll do my best to keep the ship afloat. Not sure how good I'll be at it, but I promise to do my best."

"You know one thing that goes through my mind… just before it all happened. Sylar and I talked." Claire says softly, as as she pushes herself up to her feet. "It was the first step I think to fixing things between us.. maybe not to the point of friendship.. Or even trust, but it was something." Leaning down she picks up the box and puts it back in its place. "I actually….. understand what happened between us in Madagascar."

"Don't avoid," Elisabeth tells the girl quietly. She turns to look at Claire. "Avoiding the conversation actually makes it worse. I don't need people to pretend Richard didn't exist. I don't need them to feel like they can't talk about him or mention him in front of me. This group is his brainchild. I told him as recently as a couple days before the run…. I'm no good at the chess game that this situation is. I'm a soldier. Point me in a direction, give me a straightforward goal. I don't like politics, I don't like to play politics. And I'm not sure that I can do what needs doing. But I'm going to give it a goddamn good try… because he trusted me to watch out for our people." She pauses and says quietly, "He's not the first man I've buried, Claire. I loved him. And I'll mourn him. I still to this day miss Conrad. But life moves on… and we've still got work to do." She smiles a little. "We'll rest when we're through, right?"

Tilting her head, Elisabeth considers the Sylar situation. "I'm glad one of us does," she finally says. "I'd like to know why he thought attempting to kill you was a good plan. I still don't trust him. But…. I'm told that in a future that doesnt' happen, he and I were friends." She shrugs a hint and says flatly, "The only person down there who died that I'm not sorry about in some form or another is Danko. I'm even sorry, even if it's only for Eileen's sake, that Sylar died."

"I know.. it's been hard.. he's the one and only friend I remembered from recently… So I think it's hitting me harder then it should, since I wasn't sleeping with him." Claire is still fighting those emotions as she shoves the box into place, her back to the audiokinetic. "A part of me feels like I don't have a right to mourn cause so much was blown out of my head by a damn shot gun… and maybe that's part of what I'm mourning.. I don't have all that many memories anymore of him.. or anyone." The blonde regenerator has to take a deep breath as she stops herself from rambling on, the things that have been haunting and bothering her tumbling out.

"And Gabriel…" She starts while she gathers her emotions back together, wiping hands frantically at her cheeks. "He only attacked me in fear… a precog painted his death." She gives a sad shirt chuckle. "Go figure. Anyhow..that was when he came after me." She finally turns back to Liz, a bit more composed. "He and I fought side by side.. he stood guard while I slept many nights. At time he could have killed me and taken my ability. But he did." She shrugs a bit. "I still don't feel I can trust him wholly but I understand."

Elisabeth moves now, leaving the file on the cabinet to wrap her arms around the near-teen tightly. "Don't," she whispers. "Don't ever feel that you don't have the right to mourn, Claire. Richard adored you. You have every right to feel sad that he's gone, to feel sad that you can't remember more. There is no monopoly on grief related to whether you sleep with a person or not, kiddo." She turns Claire around listening as the girl speaks of Gabriel, then pulls Claire into a tight hug. "And that's all that matters, ultimately. That you have peace with it."

Arms wrap around the older woman, face hidden against her shoulder as emotions Claire held back slap her in the face, making her choke up. Her arms tighten, "I hate that I can't remember more about him Liz. I know what I felt about him.. the trust and the friendship… but nothing to back it up." Tears she's been trying not to show wet Liz's shoulder. "I'm sorry I couldn't get him out of there Liz…Magnes pulled me up.. I could have helped." She cries out her guilt and sorrow over it all, her words gasped through it all.

"Oh god, Liz… I still can't believe it's all over." Two months of hell over, it is finally hitting her.

Oh God…. Oh, God, she can do this. She can be strong for Claire. But she can't…. not really. Elisabeth holds the girl tightly, letting her cry even as the tears well up in her own eyes and slide down her cheeks silently. "This is not. your. fault. There is … nothing, nothing you could have done, Claire. He put his hands on that bomb and he pulled it into the shadows to make it incorporeal, and it shredded him. He knew what he was doing. He planned for it." Burying her lips against the side of the younger girl's head, holding her so tightly, Elisabeth speaks around the lump in her throat. "We knew, he and I, that it might be the end of the road… even if the rest of you didn't. We're realists, Claire. I will miss him the rest of my life, but nothing you did was the wrong thing. You are not to blame for this, baby."

"It feels like it.. I feel… guilty that I got my uncle back… that I focused everything on saving Peter cause of some damn vision, but then we lost all those others." Claire's fingers grip at the back of Liz's shirt as if there is a need to hold on. "I am so sorry, Liz. Richard shouldn't have had to die.. we still need him."

Loosing up the death grip she has she starts to pull away, wiping at her tears, with one hand. "I'm just so afraid of… I don't know.." She turns a little to wave at the stacks of boxes. "There is so… much of it. I'm overwhelmed. I want to keep going, he'd want that… but there is so much, I don't know how he did it. Just like you.. I'm just a soldier. I'm good at it. I learned that from Madagascar. Being smart not so much."

As she rocks Claire gently back and forth, Elisabeth's face crumples into a mask of grief. She quickly smooths it back out by the time Claire pulls away and looks up so that there are only the tears that she can't quite get rid of. She, too, wipes at her face when she's released, and she looks at the tiny blonde. "For now, kiddo…. don't do anything. Take a couple days, okay? Walk around, revisit your mom, do some things that aren't sitting in this library searching papers. You need it. You need the fresh air and sunshine, you need no war zone." She reaches out and brushes a lock of Claire's hair back off her forehead. "Leave this to me for a couple of days. I'll deal with it, sort through some of it, and have a better focus on what we need to be doing in a couple days."

"God.. my mom. She wants to lock me away. Not that I blame her." Claire grumbles, even as she sniffles. "It's hard not to want to slip back into the war zone. At least I knew what the hell I was going and what needed to be done." She rubs at her eyes that are now red rimmed from all that crying. "And I can't tell my mom any of it.. and not cause it's a hush hush mission… Cause she doesn't need to know what I have nightmares of."

" All those pregnant woman…" Claire's voice sounds strained, her expression haunted. "The tiny bodies falling from a shoot to be burns to a crisp for being different.. for being evolved… Dixon burning alive while I held on to him.. to try and pull him out.." The tears threaten again, as she's not numb anymore more.. a crack has broken the dam she had it all pushed behind. "Laying open on a table watching my organs regrow…." Her head slowly shakes. "Looking at the barrel of that shotgun… and waking up to some one putting my head back together."

Turning those blue eyes to Liz, wide as if it is hard for her to even believe it was all real, Claire murmurs . "I can't talk to my mom about that."

Shaking her head, Elisabeth says softly, "No… you can't. But you can talk to me. And I can listen." There is pain and sympathy in her face, reflected horror of the situation. But she's a fighter, and she'll sit and listen to Claire for as long as the girl needs. She can't fix it. She can only offer comfort.

"Thank Liz.." Claire murmurs sheepishly, hugging the woman briefly again. "I'm here for you too, you know that." She glances down at the floor and back up again with a small smile. I'm will not turn my back on all this.. it's just going to take time to adjust." She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, to calm herself.

Nodding slightly, Elisabeth reaches up one more time to wipe her face, pushing her grief down deep where it can be dealt with when she's alone. "Time is something we have, kiddo." She turns back to pick up the file and says, "Why don't you get out of here. Go do something fun. Spa day next week, okay?"

Starting to say something, Claire stops herself and then nods. "Alright. I need to go get a new phone anyhow." She smiles a bit, "Spa day would be nice." She brush a hand down the other blonde's arm as she moves past her, "Don't work too hard, Liz." She tries to joke.. "And if a big guy with dreadlocks shows up.. don't shoot him, that is Bones."

One eyebrow shoots up. "A big guy with dreadlocks…. check," Liz replies on a smirk. Christ.

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