A Personal Cold War


elisabeth_icon.gif francois_icon.gif lancaster_icon.gif

Scene Title A Personal Cold War
Synopsis Post-mortem, Francois meets up with Elisabeth to give her a warning, and someone else takes an opportunity to add her 2 c.
Date February 12, 2010

Central Park

It hasn't been raining too recently for the pavement to become slick with the dangerous kind of frost, but bicycle wheels are still a risk against the concrete as they bumping and spin against it. Francois' dismounted by the time he's gotten into the thick of Central Park, the air growing rapidly colder and colder as evening encroaches in hazy twilight above them, snow laying its claim on benches, on tree branches, in the slow process of melting. Stars begin to spangle the dimming sky, an earlier sunset during this season, and the people moving around him are headed out of the park rather than in.

The bicycle is rested, lever kicked down so and partially rested against wooden benching. This place is cold like Russia, but not like Antarctica, and for that, Francois welcomes it. Both hands gloved and otherwise bundled into newly bought winter clothes, the only thing about him indicative of the past few months would be the small bite taken out of his left ear, the cold stinging at scar tissue enough for him to bring up a hand and rub the apparently old wound.

As she walks down the path, Elisabeth's boots crunch on the ground. The blonde is carrying a duffel bag, her hair loose and covered by a fleece headband to keep her ears warm. She's wearing a pair of jeans tucked into snow boots and a heavy black jacket, her hands tucked into the pockets. She just got off the plane from DC and she looks a bit wiped out. That's about the norm these days. When she comes into view of the location Francois said he'd meet her, Elisabeth slows and looks about warily. Only when she decides he's actually alone does she finally approach a bit closer and smiles a sincerely glad smile at him. "It's damn good to see you, Francois. I can't even tell you."

He turns around when the sound of foot steps seem like direct approach, in the way they slow, pick up speed, his hand dropping to his side as he turns to face her, his own smile mirroring her's. Everyone in this city is tired, and Francois is no exception, wanness clear in his own demeanor if not quite verging on the genuine exhaustion that Elisabeth carries with her. He has done nothing all day, except sleep late enough for his breakfast to be lunch, consider picking up a smoking habit, and then take his bike out.

And make contact with those who thought he was dead. "It is good to see you too," he says, taking a step forward — doesn't offer for them to sit down, with ice gathered on the nearby wooden slats. Still, with the air as crisp as it is and the space free of rhyme and rhythm and no social obligations and rules, it's probably more comfortable for the Frenchman than anywhere else. "I'm sorry I never contacted any of you when I first came back."

When he steps forward further, Elisabeth laughs softly and moves into his space to hug him tightly. "From the way that I understand you returned, I'm not entirely sure I blame you much," she tells him quietly. "How're you doing? Holding up all right?" she asks as she steps back from him, shifting her duffel a bit to redistribute the weight on her shoulder. It's not terribly heavy.

The hug is welcomed, embrace returned comfortably enough if ended with a shuffle backwards, gloved hands seeking out the pockets of his coat. Resigned surprise shows in green eyes, the lift of an eyebrow following before Francois' expression is neutral again, back to tiredness. "I feel a bit like when I was brought forward the first time," he admits in an honesty that evades smalltalk niceties. "Like I should not be here at all, but I am. So. There is that. Which one of them told?" He smiles, slightly forced and unable to veil the honest inquiry — to clarify, he adds, "Teo or Abigail?"

"Abby of course," Elisabeth says with a small smile. "Considering I'm the one who told her you were dead, she wanted to make sure I knew otherwise." She studies him quietly and simply nods. "You look good, Francois. Are you…. are you certain that it's done? Over with?" She steps back from him and jams her own hands back into her pockets as well. Winter this year is being very harsh and she's starting to feel the cold.

His shoulders hike up in a punctuating shrug, breathing in cold air only to let it out as dispersing steam. "Merci, et tu. Over?" Francois smile is wide, rueful, not quite reaching his eyes before he shakes his head. "I'm starting to think nothing is over — I've used up three lives, I think, and here I am. Russia doesn't even seem to be over," and he tilts his head up at the miserable sky, "as I think even the weather has followed us back."

A pause, and he adds, "But Volken? Oui. As is the healing."

There's a bit of a nod because Elisabeth knows what he means. "Some things," she tells him softly, "aren't ever quite over, are they?" The faint smile that curls the corner of her lips is a hair on the bitter side. "Russia is one of them… Kozlow is apparently here in town stalking our dear healer." She shakes her head. "And somehow, I have a feeling it's not just because she's lovely and he wants her. There's always a deeper agenda. Although perhaps that's just paranoia talking." Is it really paranoia when they're actually out to get you? "So… I doubt you asked me to Central Park in the middle of a dark, snowy night to shoot the breeze, Francois. What's on your mind?"

There's silence, for a moment. Maybe it would be nice to just chat. It would have been nice to just enjoy Ryazan, also. Francois ruefully glances at the snow lined pavement between them, toes already chilled in thick woolen socks and boots, but before Elisabeth can think that he really did just bring her out here to chat, he says; "I will not keep you long, but I wanted to make sure— " And he could ask Teo about this. He could talk to Teo about a lot of things in fact. But he's not going to.

So Elisabeth gets the question instead; "Dreyfus' son. Tell me how he died. What happened that day."

The blonde's smile fades entirely and she looks away from him. "It was my fault," she says softly. "We… " She jams her hands deeper into her pockets. "We got a call, and it… was Abby. Trying to get help. So we went to the apartment, and … Abby was barricaded in there. Only it wasn't Abby. Teo… tricked her into revealing that whoever it was, it wasn't Abby." Only now do Elisabeth's blue eyes come back to Francois, haunted with the knowledge of what she did. "We… Teo got close, he tried to take the not-Abby…. Dreyfus's son, we later learned… down by knocking him out. He missed." The words are stark, pain-filled. "He had a gun to Teo's head. And I pulled the trigger. We… " She bites her lip and trails off. "He was just a kid. I don't know if he was even involved in the Vanguard — he was hanging with some questionable people, but we never got close enough to determine. He might have been a volunteer, or… he might have been entirely innocent in it all, just a puppet taken over and used." There is a wealth of regret in her tone. "He had a gun, and I… killed him. To save Teo's life."

He listens with all the silent patience of a priest regarding the sins of another, but there's no judgment in the way Francois watches her, and when he does speak, it's a delicate side stepping around sympathy, absolving, remorse. "I think that Carlisle Dreyfus is working with Kozlow," he says, voice quiet and careful. "There was a woman murdered, some several days ago. A woman I knew, before, that only Dreyfus would have known about. Perhaps it is a coincidence, entirely unrelated, but the timing is suspicious, non? If I am right— I wanted you to know. To be careful."

Alarm now colors Elisabeth's features. "What?? But…. why? Because of his son?" She's confused, it shows clearly. "Even after his son was killed, he helped us, though. In Russia."

"After?" Francois inquires, almost politely. "After his son was killed, Carlisle Dreyfus disappeared. Before, oui, he helped us. I cannot guess his level of involvement. Perhaps it is but this one murder. Perhaps he did it himself. Perhaps not at all, and he is still in Russia — I would like to be wrong, I've been so enough times."

Elisabeth had thought that Dreyfus helped after, and a frown furrows her brows. So much has happened in so few months that she has trouble keeping it straight. "I thought he …" She bites her lip again. "Shit, Francois." She reaches up in an aborted move to shove her hand through her hair. "Yeah," she says on a soft sigh. "Great… " There's nothing she can say to this — she did it. It was a split-second choice, and she made the only choice that she felt she could at the time. "I have to admit that two murders and an attempted murder of people close to those of us who were in Russia now strains my credulity regarding the possibility of a coincidence." She shakes her head. "I love being the reason an ally turns into an enemy," she murmurs.

"He was always my enemy," Francois offers, hands going out in something of a shrug. Then, a hand drifts to touch her arm, above the elbow, an unobstrusive grip before he's stepping away and turning towards his bike, gripping the handles. "Vanguard is Vanguard. I don't ask you to take responsibility, for we cannot make Dreyfus and Kozlow human — I only ask that you take care of yourself. And hope that I am incorrect." He kicks off the stand of the bike, but doesn't mount it, looking back at her as if to check all is well. Ish.

Elisabeth grimaces. "Yeah…. well, I forgot for a moment. In the wishful thinking that perhaps old men mellow and learn better with time," she admits to him. "I'll be careful. Thank you for the warning, Francois." She sighs heavily. "Be safe, okay?"

That gets a smile, green eyes bright with honest mirth before Francois is kicking a leg over his bicycle. "Very wishful thinking. We never do." And with that, he's pushing off, wheeling around her without slipping on the slick pavement, his pace cautious. No glance back as he rides, concentrating on not ramming into the woman coming on down the pavement, who smiles obligingly and steps aside for the cyclist, before continuing on her way.

Which is where the scene should end, leaving Elisabeth free to find her own way out of the park. Except—

"Hey, Harrison."

The woman that Francois managed to avoid now casts her gaze towards the FRONTLINE officer. Blue eyes, blonde hair in cropped sweeps above her shoulders, and lines at her eyes, bracketing her mouth, that mark her in the over-40s range. Her navy coat is woolen and bulky, opened enough to show the white collar of her blouse. It's not one Elisabeth will recognise, but there's recognition for her. She glances back towards where Francois is making ground, leaving them alone, then juts her chin up Liz. "Got a minute?"

Blue eyes follow Francois as he rides off, and Elisabeth tenses when her name is called. She studies the woman and says warily, "Depends on who's asking." She doesn't like the fact that this person came out of nowhere and simply called her name like that. Too much has happened recently for Liz to think that it's going to be a good thing.

"Adrianne Lancaster," she says, taking a hand out of her pocket with a wallet in her gloved grip, flipping the identification for Elisabeth to hazily glance at for as much as Lancaster isn't holding it very still for study. "I'm with the CIA — a colleague of Agent Kershner's. I heard you and your little friends have got something of your own personal Cold War going. Wanna walk and talk?"

There is a frown visible even in the darkness. "Not sure what you're talking about, Agent Lancaster," Elisabeth replies mildly. She pulls her phone out and waggles it, what with the texting thing that can be done. "I don't mind walking if you don't mind me verifying your identity with my superiors."

"Take your time, kiddo," Lancaster says, identification still held as she watches Elisabeth go about checking. "As long as I can talk while you do that." She doesn't wait for permission — just continues to speak. "I'm talking about some unfinished business in Russia dogging your steps all the way over to American soil, and I'm taking a peeksee into it seeing as— well. You got Kershner on your side, but I'm not going to hold that against you."

The fact that the woman will allow for checking? That tends to make Liz believe her, but she at least makes it look like she's sending a text out. Then she tucks the phone into her pocket. "Let's walk," she says mildly. And she pivots on her heel with her duffel still on her shoulder, to walk on the crunchy path. "Unfinished business, huh? And what is it that the CIA knows about this that requires someone other than Kershner or Homeland Security to be nosing around?"

It's beginning to snow, fine fallings of ice that begin to dot in blonde hair, Lancaster pushing a few errant locks out of her eyes as they begin to walk — if not for the sake of feeling something again in their feet. "We're still working on what we know," she answers, breezily enough, her words curt and sharp. "Beauchamp got in contact with someone in Homeland Security and he kicked this to my doorstep, and I have a vested interest in Kershner's failures. And keeping people alive. Did you know that Beauchamp's employee and Laudani's mom got attacked in basically the same week? How crazy is that?"

She glances at Elisabeth's profile. "Then there's this report about a dead woman in Mississippi that Allegre's gone and admitted to have relations with— no doubt he was just coming to tell you all about that. What I want to know is who in your life we should be watching."

Elisabeth's eyes narrow on the blonde agent. "Well, now," she drawls mildly. "Seems to me that if you know so much about me that you know what Allegre was coming to talk to me about, you wouldn't need to actually ask me that question, would you?" It's not as if Elisabeth's history shouldn't be already known to Homeland Security. One of the nice things about having met Matthew Parkman is the fact that she can call and verify this woman's identity through that channel as well. Though he's far harder to reach these days than your average agent. Still… he does just live upstairs. "Don't you worry about who in my life needs to be covered. I'm pretty sure I can manage."

Lancaster comes to a halt, an eyebrow raising up as she looks at Elisabeth, allowing a chill silence to settle between them. "With all due respect," she starts, "even New York's finest can't be everywhere all the time. We wouldn't have been able to anticipate Allegre's little girlfriend. We probably wouldn't have known to protect Beauchamp's employees. Laudani's mom might be an obvious one, but they're not striking at only obvious targets, Harrison.

"Are you seriously declining to help me protect your loved ones and gathering the necessary intel we need to deal with this? Am I coming off a little strong to you? I've been told I have an aggressive demeanor, but don't shell up now."

Elisabeth stops in the path and turns to look at her. "Let me put it to you this way… I don't know you from the man in the moon, Agent Lancaster. And considering that in the past six months, I have dealt with Humanis First, the Vanguard, and pretty much everyone who comes near me having some agenda that requires lying to me, you'll have to forgive me for being a little…. skeptical… that you'd know enough about me to … what, follow Allegre to me? And then approach me in the middle of Central Park in the middle of the night in a snowstorm, but you wouldn't already have people watching out for the people closest to me. Because I'm pretty sure that my life before about two years ago is an open book as far as Homeland Security is concerned — I had a security clearance done in college as part of my degree program. Or so the paperwork I have in my possession tells me."

She studies Lancaster. "I want all the help I can get for the people that I love most. But at the same time? This approach does sort of lend itself to some questions in my mind. You can chalk my reaction up to paranoia if you like. Vanguard illusionists and such have made me wary of believing anything I see. Give me some reason to believe you."

"I didn't follow Allegre to you," Lancaster corrects, giving a small shake of her head. "I followed Allegre and then took an opportunity. It's cute, this little thing you Charlie girls and boys have got going — teamwork. No wonder Kershner put you on Unit-2, she loves that shit."

She pauses, hawkish assessment in her eyes. "Like I said, these aren't obvious targets. We can watch your parents 'til the cows come home, but don't come crying to me when your lipstick lesbian of two months winds up with her brains spattered across the floor of her luxurious middle-income apartment because you didn't want to give me names. Or whatever. But you're right, you have every reason to be paranoid — so why don't you talk to Kershner, talk to Parkman, talk to God himself if you have him on a hotline, and get back to me when you feel like blabbing."

Her wallet is turned to take out a business card, her name and contact details printed there.

Elisabeth's blue eyes watch the woman closely. She reaches out to take the card. "Tell me something?" she asks quietly. "What's this thing you have against Kershner?" She's willing to entertain the notion that Parkman would send this woman — which is scary in and of itself. She's never been entirely sure of Parkman. "And just for the record… I don't bat for that team. But again, I figure you'd already know that. Most of my friends are already involved in all this, so they know to watch their backs. The only people close enough to me anymore to still be targets would be… my father. Maybe Ivanov. If they're going after casual acquaintances though — which is all Tanya was to Abigail — the list is too damn long to even think about protecting, so we're screwed either way."

The card is given, and wallet is pocketed again. "You remember in highschool— 2002 maybe— when there was that one kid in class who just sat at the back of the classroom and didn't do anything. Didn't talk to anyone, probably got bullied, sort of a biter when she got into fights. Got okay grades, read books all through lunch, wore long sleeves in the summertime. I hated that kid, and I hate Sarisa Kershner." Lancaster looks Elisabeth up and down, as if comparing her to that kid too, but makes no visible assessment.

"All she was, huh?" Lancaster considers that for a moment, mouth pursing and the lines at her eyes deepening, before nodding. "Watch your back, Harrison, and call me if you know anything. Or don't, I mean, that's your choice. Later." And she's stepping back, pivoting on a heel and headed the way she and Francois both came.

There's a faint smirk. Elisabeth can't remember high school. Not much of it anyway. Not that Lancaster needs to know that at all. "Unfortunately, I really don't know anything to tell you right now. Your best bet's going to be to watch the bar — Kozlow's already made a move there. If he's as obssessed as he seems, he'll move on her again. Stalker-types always do." She pauses and calls after the retreating woman, "Thanks." Her expression is pensive as she watches the agent leave.

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