A Matchbook Play


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Scene Title A Matchbook Play
Synopsis Following strange events at the Nite Owl Diner, Elisabeth Harrison corners Noah Bennet to ask a few questions, and finds herself with entirely new ones.
Date October 29, 2020

Red and yellow lights flash against the windows of the Nite Owl Diner.

Seated in the back of an ambulance, thermal blanket draped over his shoulder, Noah Bennet has a thousand yard stare on his face as he watches NYPD officers across the parking lot talking to Isaac. But he isn’t really looking at them, isn’t really looking at anything at the moment. Noah’s mind is elsewhere. Tom, having survived his ordeal, sits in the back of a second ambulance, attended to by an EMT while giving an official statement to Robyn.

The chaos of the last half hour has finally begun to die down. Paramedics that arrived on the scene are mostly waiting to make sure nothing unusual happens before concluding their work. It leaves Elisabeth Harrison to pick up the pieces she specifically cares about. On parting from Asi, Elliot, and Wright she spies Noah sitting in the back of the ambulance, waiting to be given an all-clear.

It isn’t often Noah Bennet is a captive audience for anyone. Opportunities like this don’t come often.

Outside the Nite Owl Diner
Bay Ridge, NYC Safe Zone

October 29th
8:15 am

Elisabeth's been back and forth talking to the Hounds and Robyn and just generally keeping an eye (and ear) on matters. As she makes her way toward the ambulance, she shoves her hands into her pockets, giving Noah Bennet a pensive expression as she comes to a stop in front of him. A glance at the paramedic and a jerk of her chin sends him on his way and she wraps the two of them in a field that will keep their conversation from traveling.

"Are we having fun yet?" The attempt at humor falls a little flat, but Liz does try. Her gaze slips from him back toward the rest of the people milling about before they come back. "They've got Tom already listed as SLC-U, so I gather someone's likely to be keeping an eye on him for a while." She tips her head. "But that doesn't explain you." She hasn't missed that the non-Evo are the ones who weren't affected. "Are you having any aftereffects?"

Her tone is casual, as if finding out that he was likely impacted in Detroit this way isn't even a thing. Hell, maybe it's actually not to her. But there is genuine concern for whatever aftereffects he may be suffering. "My head still feels like I'm going to need some ibuprofen."

“Ah, I’ll be fine. I’m no stranger to getting my bell rung by someone with an ability.” Bennet says with a genial smile. He sheds the thermal blanket, letting it fall off of his shoulders. He looks over at Elisabeth, silent for just long enough to make it clear he’s scrutinizing her. It’s a careful, measured thing.

“How’re you feeling, Detective Harrison?” Noah asks with a lift of one brow. “I imagine someone who has been through all that you have is pretty resilient to these sorts of things. I mean, I’d wager you might have more experience than I do at this point.” He says with a measured laugh and a practiced smile.

Her return smile at him is accompanied by a knowing glint — Elisabeth never underestimated what the hell Noah Bennet knows about anything. And given that he's SESA, well… she presumes his 'expertise' would be invaluable to them.

"Yep" is the slightly cheeky response. "I'm good, aside from still feeling like my ears are a bit stuffed up. Got plenty of experience with lots of these sorts of strange things, Agent Bennet. Even manifestations of new abilities. Saw a couple of those back when I was teaching, you know," Elisabeth comments. "Nothing like this, though," she adds thoughtfully. "If what happened was Tom's ability manifesting, I would have thought it would affect everyone, even the non-SLC in close enough proximity."

Slanting a glance back toward the group, she observes, "Seems to back up the tests on at least one of the crash survivors." That they're testing out Non-SLC, that is. She shrugs a little. "Not my department, though." NYPD isn't investigating the crash; she just has people personally involved so she's keeping informed.

Elisabeth tips her head slightly. "You'd been about to ask me something before you decided to make like you stuck your tongue on a live wire … do you remember what it was?"

Noah’s stare had grown distant while Elisabeth talked, watching Tom at a distance. He blinks a look back over to her once she grows silent and takes a moment to reply. “I was going to ask you for your phone,” he finally says. “I’d left mine in my car. I wanted to call in what happened.”

“I was surprised to see you with Wolfhound.” Noah redirects the conversation. “I know the NYPD has a contract with them, but this didn’t look like a business meeting.” His attention wanders down to the asphalt, then back up to her. “Anything interesting?”

"Didn't start out that way," Liz replies wryly. "We've got a couple of cases running that they're assisting with. Mostly it was just a way for me to get better acquainted. My squad is running a little short of boots on the ground with two of my officers tied up in the plane crash investigation and on desk detail."

Shaking her head slightly, her fists balling up inside her pockets briefly, Liz makes a point of taking a slow breath to release her tension. It's been a lot of years since they've spoken, and yet sometimes it seems like nothing has changed. Pure Earth and the Entity now, Humanis First and Kazimir Volken then… "How's Claire doing?" The question is asked casually but her blue eyes come back to the man.

“Safe.” Is Noah’s cagey answer at first. It takes him a moment to realize he doesn’t have to guard that answer around Elisabeth. “She’s back west,” he clarifies after a moment of consideration. “Her choice, not mine. She’s gone back to the settlement we were living in. She’s earned it… with whatever time she has left.”

There’s a weight that Elisabeth can see in Noah. An understandable one. Here he is, a parent with one surviving child, and he knows her life is literally on a timer. He doesn’t know when, but he knows that it’s finite. Like living with a terminal illness. Noah is quiet in contemplation of that very fate. Though he offers a smile to Elisabeth in thanks. “She might like to hear from you. A letter. There’s couriers who do the trek. Takes months, but…”

There's compassion and acknowledgement in Elisabeth's expression as Noah mentions the time Claire has left. More of her 'kids' have been buried than she can bear to remember. "I've sent her a couple of letters, but yeah… they take for-friggin-ever," she agrees quietly. "I didn't realize after the Detroit thing you were back in the City." She pauses and then smiles just a little. "It's good to see you still keeping people safe." She has significant respect for him, and she remembers well that he helped her and Felix disappear all those years ago. We all have checkered pasts.

Shifting her weight slightly with her hands still in her pockets, Elisabeth asks him bluntly, "Is it possible that what happened is related to you manifesting?" He was at Ground Zero in Detroit when that blast went off. She jerks her head toward the people around them, the habit to keep a silence field around her own conversations so ingrained by now that it requires almost no thought. "No one will hear it — but we need to be able to rule it out."

“I didn’t,” Noah says plainly, without looking at Elisabeth. “Every SESA agent was required to take a new blood test to ensure that we weren’t changed by the event. No blue-spot scares for me.” Only then does Noah look over at Elisabeth.

“You seem to be driving at something.” Noah says, probingly. “But if I’d gained the ability to fly or shoot lasers I’m sure half the city would know by now. Does this have to do with what happened with our waiter?” Noah asks, looking across the parking lot to Tom.

Tipping her head, Elisabeth looks thoughtful. "Yeah," she replies to the query, "although maybe not in the way I was originally thinking." She looks toward the group again. "If Tom was manifesting and the people it didn't affect all seem to have in common that they're SLC-negative," she looks at Noah, "then you're the outlier. So either there's something different about you or there's some else the non-affected have in common."

Though she has her suspicions, given what's happened to Kaylee, Gillian, Jac, and Abby. "Were any of them part of the crash?" She pauses and admits, "That wouldn't explain Alessandro, though." He certainly wasn't involved in that. It still lends itself to something being different about Noah himself.

“Looking for patterns is a natural reaction to the unpredictable,” Noah says with a hesitant smile. “But there’s one that I’m fond of,” he admits while finally peeling his eyes away from Tom. “Everyone affected is a regular.”

Noah slowly slides off the thermal blanket and stands up from the back of the ambulance, stretching his legs. “The only people not affected in the slightest don’t come to the diner regularly, Tom didn’t know them. So from where I’m standing, it might have a little more to do with familiarity. Attenuation, maybe?” He slides a conspiratorial look over to Tom, then back to Elisabeth. “Either way, depending on the citation he’s given he may need to undergo mandatory registration given that he unwittingly injured bystanders.”

Noah wobbles his head from side to side, then manages a crooked smile. “You have a keen eye for this sort of thing, Harrison. You must be a favorite back at the precinct.”

Noah makes a good point, and Elisabeth looks subtly relieved at the thought that the explanation may be familiarity. She keeps a sharp eye on his balance as he stands up so that if he's still unsteady she can help without making it obvious she's helping. "Just a lot of experience with abilities and training them," she demurs with a bit of a shrug. Not that she's licensed for that here. There's a weight to the words, despite the fact that she smiles slightly. More and more, she's finding she misses that.

"I doubt it'll be too much a problem." Tom already said he was listed, its simply a matter of updating the registry. "The citation should be relatively minimal — no permanent damage done." The headache she's sporting isn't the first such she's had and probably won't be the last either. "He's just glad everyone is all right." They all are.

Elisabeth studies Noah Bennet for a long moment. "It's really good to see you again, Agent Bennet," she says finally. There's plenty going on behind those blue eyes, but she leaves it at that.

“Same,” Noah says with a look angled back at Elisabeth. “I mean to ask — when we were talking about Claire — how’s your little one doing? I heard she had quite the adventure for a trooper her age.” There’s a hint of paternal wonder in Noah’s voice. “Can’t imagine what her perspective on the world must be, growing up in so many of them.”

Immediately Elisabeth's face softens into a smile. "She's doing well. Some rough spots here and there, but … she's definitely got a unique outlook on things." A flash of conflicted emotion passes briefly across her expression — pride, regret, parental worry. The child is clearly her joy. "She… I mean, she knows things for a fact that other people only dream of… and to her it's" It still blows Liz's mind, and she lived it too! " well, it's not commonplace exactly, but to her, it's just normal. She will always know that there's so much more out there."

There's a pause as she once more marvels over the idea itself, but she shakes her head. "She amazes me every day."

Folding his hands in front of himself, Bennet looks down at the ground and considers what Elisabeth said carefully. “How do you think that’s going to change how she grows up?” He asks. When Bennet meets Elisabeth’s gaze, there’s a seriousness in his expression that wasn’t there before. “Knowing the secrets of the universe, so to speak? The kids who founded the Company were presented with the same kinds of unknowable secrets in their era — that people with abilities existed — and it changed them.”

“I suppose what I’m asking is…” Bennet reaches up to scuff one hand at the back of his neck. “What do you think she’ll be like when she grows up? Living so deeply in our world for so much of her life. Because, no matter how insulated she might be right now, one of these days she’s going to be old enough to start voting with her feet, and when she does…” Bennet laughs softly, “knowing who her parents are? She’s going to be a handful.”

Blowing out a slow breath, Elisabeth offers a rueful smile at Noah. "Wellllll…." she drawls out. "Richard once told me," and she makes her voice a perfect imitation of Cardinal, "~No kid of ours is gonna go jumping through time. We'll teach 'em if Hiro shows up to tell him fuck off.~"

She can't help but shrug and add in a wry tone, "Worked so well with Joshua, I must say." There is a wealth of sadness and regret in her voice for the son whose life was so terribly hard.

Blue eyes are pensive as Elisabeth watches the situation around them. "I don't know what to expect of her when she gets older. Her perspective is unique even among our own kind." Living in four separate timelines will definitely expand one's horizons.

When she looks at Noah again, she gives him honesty. "She's going to be a handful," Elisabeth agrees quietly. "But I don't guess any parent has any way to anticipate what their child will be when they are grown. She came to me with all the seeds of her personality in place. My job in this world is to help her become who she's supposed to be. I just have to hope that in the end I'll have given her the best foundation and moral compass that I can and pray that whatever else she does with her life, she can look herself in the mirror and honestly say she made the best choices she could."

For those who know her father, Jared's fingerprints are all over that philosophy. And for those who know where Elisabeth has found herself in the decade or so… it perhaps speaks to the scars on her own soul. She pulls in a breath and then smiles again. "Nobody gives parents a roadmap, right?"

Noah is quiet for a moment, looking down at the ground. He laughs, a soft and rueful thing, but still he finds the grace to smile. “We’d be lucky if we got a compass,” he says with a shake of his head, looking back up to Elisabeth.

“I know a dozen other people probably told you this already, but don’t hold yourself too accountable for what happened with those kids who came from…” Noah glances around and then looks back to Liz. “Out of state,” is the euphemism he chooses. “They lived different lives, in different times. That any of them turned out even halfway okay is a miracle, all things considered. But I don’t need to tell you that… you saw their playground.”

Noah starts to pace, looking anxious. He looks at the ambulance, then across the street, then finally back to Elisabeth. “I should probably talk to the other agents on this, see what they got from Tom. Can you do a favor for me, Harrison?”

She shoots him a small smile tinged with that same regret. "I know," she tells him quietly. "But it doesn't stop me wishing it was otherwise." And Elisabeth figures Noah, of all people, understands that too. She pulls in a breath, readying herself to go back out there, and nods. She's curious about what he needs from her. "Sure. What can I do for you?"

Noah shifts his weight to one foot, looking over at Tom, then back to Elisabeth. “SESA has something called the Off Board Asset program. Volunteers, so to speak, that the agency can call on for specific services. The majority of them came over during the Crossing.” He keeps his voice low, retrieving a matchbook for the Nite Owl Diner from his pocket and discreetly slips it to Elisabeth. “They’re monitored. Not bugged, but surveilled for their security.”

Noah puts his hands back in his pockets, shifting a look to the ambulance, then back to Elisabeth. “There’s a young woman at that address, Lisa Bradbury. I think you might know her.” And Elisabeth does, she was at the wedding after all. “Get her a photograph of our friend Tom here, see what she thinks.”

What Noah isn’t saying is clear enough for Elisabeth. He’s asking her to do it so no one knows he went to see Lisa, which implies a certain level of distrust in the agency. But he’s also counting on Elisabeth visiting one of the Flood Timeline’s survivors as not being unusual at all. “Don’t go today. Don’t even go next week. Let it sit… and go talk to her when the timing feels right.”

The passing of the matchbook is handled with a deftness that shouldn't surprise either of them. It disappears into her own pocket with a casual movement. Her lips quirk in a faint, rueful smile. She never had a doubt they were being kept under watch.

"I know her," she agrees thoughtfully. Although Lisa keeps a really low profile. "Catch you coffee sometime?" The casual question leaves them easy, friendly avenues to meet up — despite the technopath in her back pocket, she won't simply send him his answer. Not after the care he's taking to keep it off the books.

“Absolutely,” Noah says with a flash of a toothy smile. “But maybe…” His eyes track to the diner, then back to Elisabeth, “…somewhere else next time?”

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