Asking For It


elisabeth_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Asking For It
Synopsis There's disaster on the horizon— or you know, way closer than that— and so two friends reconnect.
Date July 23, 2010

Generic Student Bar in Morningside Heights

The place is packed mainly with students — granted, it's the kind that range up into middling adulthood, with a teaching hospital about a block away, but as it's Friday night on a summer evening, there's something of a crowd. Not an uncomfortable one, enough voices to saturate out the quiet that might have otherwise been, with the rowdier types having scouted out a cooler location than this place, with its high bar, panelled wood, low key music from the speakers and distinct lack of live band. The drinks are expensive but expansive in selection, even if Francois is only contenting himself with a fat glass of white wine he hasn't yet sipped.

Tired. Is what he is, and its detectable in the posture his spine has taken on in his lean against the bar, hand splayed next to wine glass and gaze a little distant and a little thoughtful as he non-reads the chalkboard cocktail menu, as if he might step out of his box of fine wines and into the land of cosmos. Little chance of this happening. He's dressed from work, which is a significant step up from when he was unemployed, all jeans and sweaters and sneakers.

Now, sensible shoes creak a little as he shifts his weight, buttondown shirt stretched a little across his shoulders and tucked into gunmetal grey slacks. His hands, too, are both free of scars, quite remarkably — his left had been a twisted version of a functioning limb, but now matches his right in dexterity, straight fingers and smooth skin.

It's been quite some time since she heard from Francois — not that it surprises Elisabeth all that much. She sucks at being a good friend sometimes, too caught up in the job and the end of the world lately to make the calls that she should. That he's taken the time himself to do so is both terrific…. and maybe a little worrisome. They seem only to catch up as Bad Things <tm> are happening. As she slips into the bar, the blond too looks weary. A pair of chocolate brown slacks and a cream and tan-toned tanktop are her clothing of choice this evening, as if perhaps she might be taking an evening off. Or maybe that she feels like being herself for a while instead of a FRONTLINE officer and whatever the hell else it is that she is. She glances around the bar area, taking note of people, exits, traffic patterns at this moment… and then she spots Francois's head.

A faint smile quirks the corner of her mouth, easing the fine lines around her eyes into a softer fan of laugh lines instead of stress. She makes her way through the dining area and moves to slide up onto the stool next to him. "Hey stranger," Liz greets in a soft, husky tone. "Long time, Francois." He didn't sound like it was an urgent message; she is treating it as if it is more casual than that though her blue eyes on him are … worried. Watchful.

He's been getting a few looks like that recently — Melissa's sneakier eyeing across the expanse of her home's rooms, and Abby's more frequent check-ins both face to face and over the phonelines, and so when Francois glances his new arrival's way, he has to smile a little, crooked, to see that same kind of concern reflected there is Elisabeth's features too. And he was the one that called. In all fairness, there is that constant setting of near disaster, and when random meetings are concerned—

"Bonsoir," he greets, lifting his drink in greeting rather than attempting touch across the small divide of space between them. "It has been, that. Can I get you a drink?"

Relief brings a soft smile to her face at his greeting and Elisabeth slips a hand to his shoulder lightly before removing it to settle comfortably into the stool and cross her legs. "I would love that. Whatever you're having, thank you," she replies. She draws a quiet breath in and lets it out slowly. "I think perhaps I'm starting to turn into one of the paranoid crazy people," she tells him mildly. "Every time a friend calls me, I automatically assume all hell's about to break loose and ohmygodwegottablowsomethingup!" She keeps her tone low, the amusement in it not feigned, but also not entirely sincere. Things kind of have been that hard lately. "You look…. good. Tired, but…" She tilts her head, studying him. "Things going all right?"

A second glass of white it set down in front of Elisabeth, a dry savignon blanc that Francois slips several bank notes over to pay for, waving away the offer of change back as Elisabeth talks. The lines at his eyes deepen too, some kind of rueful amusement as he counts money and hands it over, looking back towards her once done and lifting a shoulder in a sheepish shrug. "Ask me that a week ago, and I would have said oui, very much. I work in the emergency room at St. Luke's, now — I found something of a cure for my hand," and his lack of modern day knowledge, but it's a little more complicated to explain than it is to lay his left hand down on the bar for viewing, as if showing off a ring.

Nothing adorns it, just a normal hand off the end of his wrist, no trace of Sasha's scarring for all that he still has a piece taken out of his ear, still has some scars obscured by the collar of his navy shirt. "Tired because I've been working close shifts for the past couple of days. It is, ah," and his smile grows a little crooked, a little genuine, "nothing I am used to. Et toi?"

She missed it at first, so concerned with what might be coming down on their heads. Now that he draws attention to his hand, Elisabeth is chagrined that she missed it. Because it's more than a detail, after all! "That's…. that's amazing!" she compliments, reaching around her glass to touch his hand, lightly stroking her fingertips over the supple skin on the back of the appendage. She looks up, her smile genuinely happy for him. "I'm glad," she adds, wrapping her hand around his and squeezing tightly. It's good to see good things happening to people. As she releases him once more, Liz picks up the glass and takes a sip, choosing her words a bit more carefully.

"Busy, definitely," she finally says. "We're short-staffed at the best of times, down a few members of squads lately. Retaking Staten is like… what I imagine walking into a warzone would be like." She shoves a hand through her blonde hair, its length once more brushing her shoulders after having lost a few inches of its mass to the head wound of last fall. Resting the stem of the glass on the bar, she comments quietly, "Kershner tapped Ivanov to come onto the teams; we leave for DC for his orientation soon. And, uhm… there's a lot of … " She pauses and looks up at him with a shrug. "There's a lot of personal drama going on that seems small in comparison to all else, you know?"

That probably won't get old — people being happy for him. At a guess, he adds, "It took Teo nearly five minutes to notice," with a slight wink along with the comment, as Elisabeth touches and inspects, fingers curling and splaying straight beneath her hand as if to show off the simple gestures that he couldn't do before without a fair amount of pain. Once she retracts, he's picking up his glass to sip from, eyes partially closing as he drinks and she talks, listening.

An eyebrow goes up at the news of Felix's— promotion? Change of career paths, maybe. "I know," he agrees, with a rueful twist of a smile that indicates his sympathy is a lot like the traditional interpretation of the word. Less pity, more understanding. "And to others, that is true, but to yourself, it is every day. If you would like to talk, I can listen.

"I admit that I have things to say also, which will— ah, do very little to prove you wrong, about social meetings that happen only in times of emergency."

Anxiety for him — for all their friends — springs to life in her again, and the blue eyes that flicker up to his face reflect the sense of alarm. Her hand tightens on the wine glass unconsciously as she responds in a tone curiously flat in spite of the stutter that makes a discreet appearance. "The v-v-vision… I th-th-think I'm supposed to die that day," she admits softly. "And I th-th-think someone I love s-s-saw it." She shrugs a bit. "Now… t-t-tell me the b-b-bad news?" Because getting sidetracked by her own issues is more selfish than she's willing to be if Francois needs her.

Worry mirrors back at her, briefly — for her stutter. For news of what she saw, and that last one comes with a flare of irritation, if not for her, but the ever looming anxiety of the future that's been shoved their way. Francois touches her wrist, gently, but lays that hand flat on the bar between them rather than linger. There's a moment where he seems keen to delve into what has her wound up, rather than add to the burden, but he lets out a sigh and tries to make it quick.

"Teo has been missing since the 19th," he says, watching the spirit bottles on the wall instead of her, now. "One of Eileen's people witnessed it. It was the Institute. I'm sorry," is— he's not really sure, but feels moved to add it.

Elisabeth goes visibly pale. It's Friday… he's been gone since Monday, and no information's gone out on it? Abby didn't even call her? "Fuck," she swears softly. There's a movement, as if she's going to slide out of her chair and immediately go….. to do what? The motion is aborted almost as soon as it begins, and instead she slides her hand into the one he laid on the bar between them, twining her fingers into his. Hurt and fear war for dominance, but she is also not unaware of the relationship between the missing man and the one in front of her. "So am I," she finally says quietly. "I'll pass the word discreetly." To other people who might be able to find more intel. "What c-c-can I do for you, Francois?" Because right here and now, he is the one who needs the friend. Her anxiety is subverted in this moment by terror for Teo's predicament, …. at least it mitigates the stammer.

Her hand lays on his, and his captures her hand in turn, as if to gently prevent her from walking out with the hooking and knotting of digits, and he's gone back to looking at her — a very even look, the kind of eye contact that takes practice. "You will pass the word," Francois agrees, as if citing an inevitability as opposed to consent, exactly. That part's not up to him. "But you cannot set me aside in this. I do not know how I proved my worth, when we were in Russia, or dealing with Dreyfus, and if I did, but I must know what goes on, what you discover. If only because there are others who have promised to help get him back, and I believe them."

A last squeeze to her hand before Francois feels as though he's said whatever critical thing moved him to tighten his grip, loosening it now with a fraction of retracting, though lets her let go as she wishes. "That is what you can do for me. Perhaps you can also finish your wine," is accompanied with a brief flicker of a smile.

Her eyes never drop from his and Elisabeth slides a bubble around them that mutes their conversation from prying ears, though there are few near enough to listen. "Believe me, you will be the first person to know anything at all that we can find out," she vows softly. "Teo going missing is likely to activate a host of other people, so I won't allow the network I have to step on toes that are already in motion. I'll just set them to trying to find him." Now is about when she wants a damn telepath on their payroll, though, that's for damn sure. She holds onto Francois's hand not only because he needs the contact but because she does, though she also picks up the wine glass in her free hand and takes a long swallow.

There is silence for a long few moments and she doesn't pull away from his hand, though her eyes skim over to the back of the bar while she tries to sort through. "Christ…. we really are cursed, aren't we?"

That gets a soft snort of laughter, breathy sound amplified due to him finishing a sip of wine as he does so, as if drinking in unison with her. "I've believed that for a long time," Francois notes wryly. "Although it feels selfish to be self-pitying when he is— je ne sais pait, I can't say what he is going through. From what I gathered of this organisation, it sounds so similar to things I have seen also."

Probably for the first time since Monday, aside from his silence that Melissa had to deal with, that worry manifests in something visible — mostly Francois shutting up and eyeing his glass of wine with disconnected distrust, before he declines a sip and slides it aside. Hrrgh.

"Teo saw blackness, when he had his vision. Only dark. I saw myself gathering letters and preparing to leave a house I don't recognise — I also looked as if I'd aged by a few decades. Abby saw Delilah giving birth," he adds, as if to add in some optimism, or detract from the bizarreness of prior words.

Elisabeth says quietly, "I saw riots. Fire. Mass hysteria." She pauses and shakes her head. "It took me a few moments to realize it wasn't the last three times I've been on the streets in the same circumstances. But I was in FRONTLINE gear." It's a sad commentary, perhaps, on all that Liz has done in the past two years that she for a moment couldn't tell one riot from another. She takes a long swallow from the wine glass in her hand, her other one still in contact with his — giving or taking comfort is anyone's guess at this moment. "I'm pretty sure Richard saw me die in the mess," she tells him quietly. "We've been … trying to gather information. We think we know why they did it, and there are several key dates coming up." She seems to feel… bad… speaking of her own issues when everyone else maybe has it so much rougher. And there's so much to do. She observes softly, "You know…. you'd think the world could just stay saved for a tiny little while. Long enough maybe that we could…. I don't know… breathe? Have a night at the theater perhaps?"

"I have had a reasonably good run, up until the visions. Between Dreyfus and them," Francois admits, voice dry. As if maybe he should be grateful for some weeks reprieve before the next disaster strikes. "But then, I think, we could go anywhere, if we chose. The world is large. Even America is large, and there are a lot of places that aren't New York City. Even places that aren't in New York City that are not Frontline's front line, or an emergency room in Manhattan."

A brief smile. They kind of ask for it. His hand squeezes her's, releases it. "I'm adopting the school of thought that knowledge of the future helps prevent it. At least we know how not to die. I do not exactly know how not to age. But so far so good?" And he finishes his wine, and sets the glass down with a click. "You will let me know how I can assist you in turn, oui?"

Propping chin on the hand that he frees so that her other can continue to toy with the wineglass, Elisabeth considers. "Stopping the world so I could get off for a couple of weeks and have a real vacation would be nice," she admits with a rueful grin. They really do ask for it. They're all gluttons for punishment. What can he do to assist her? She seems to seriously consider that question for a long moment. "You could do something for me," she admits. Her smile is faint but there. "Drop me a text sometimes and remind me that … we've done some good. It's not all doom and gloom and horribleness? I'm starting to … lose sight of why I do this." It doesn't help that her lover is …. sort of the King of Doomed Futures.

"That should be easy," Francois says swiftly, without a beat of hesitation or a bat of an eyelash, and an easier smile comes with it. "There is a lot of good done. Even if, in the end, we all must pack our things and go before the city burns, or find a way to put out those fires. Or rescue our friends — I think that would be a very good thing. And perhaps," and his back straightens out from weary slouch, rolling his shoulders of their tension, "I should call instead of text. Often when I do, it puts in words I don't mean to."

Now she can't help but laugh. "It puts in words you don't mean?" Elisabeth asks, eyeing him in true amusement. "Is this a case of your phone being haunted or operator error, Francois?" she teases. "But a call would definitely not go amiss," she admits. Scrubbing her hand over her face, she sighs. "I should be better about calling my friends just because they're my friends, dammit." Maybe she would have known sooner that Teo was missing. Good Christ. It twists her heart into a pretzel that the little flappy Italian boy is in trouble. She doesn't feed him enough anymore. She should. That resolution made, she seems to calm.

A hand goes out to briefly squeeze her arm. "If you were not a good friend, I probably would have kept this to myself," Francois notes, with a wry smile. "You are the first I've told, myself — Abby was there when I learned of it, as was Eileen and Melissa." As if noting that silent decision she's made, he lets his own point lie there, turning his attention to his emptied glass, considering it and what it might look like with a fresh helping of wine. Not that rocking up to work with a hangover is much fun, apparently, but life is hard.

May as well not make it harder. "I should try and capture what sleep I can," Francois says, pushing aside the emptied glass and moving to stand up. "I do not get many guarantees that I will get any, now."

"Mmm," Elisabeth replies mildly. She swallows the last of the wine in her own glass and slides off the stool as well. "I know the feeling," she commisserates softly. The weariness shows in her features again, and the usual grace of her movements is weighed down a little as she leans up to kiss him on the cheek. "Let me know if there's anything, okay?" Anything she can do for him. Anything he hears that could help. Anything at all. There's a gentle pat of his cheek and she says softly, "Thanks for the drink, handsome." She's already making a mental list of what she needs at the apartment to begin yet another marathon baking session — it's what she does when she's stressed. "The cell's always on now, so… feel free to call it anytime."

That gets a faint smile, and Francois responds in kind; "De rien, belle. And oui, I'll remember that." Picking up his jacket to fold over an arm, he moves to walk her out, quiet and allowing the conversation and the anxiety that goes with it to remain at the bar for as long as either of them will let it.

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