At the Bottom of the Mountain


cardinal_icon.gif matt_icon.gif

Scene Title At the Bottom of the Mountain
Synopsis Cardinal pays a visit to Matt to check in and hint at a favor.
Date January 3, 2011

Matt's Apartment

At this point, Richard Cardinal has so many associates that he can't safely walk up to the door and greet that he doesn't even bother with doors most of the time.

So far, he hasn't walked into anything really embarassing so far, fortunately, and he figures that the most embarassing thing Matt might be doing is watching cartoons in his boxers. Not exactly the scandal-prone sort've fellow, Parkman.

The shadow slips in sometime after dinner, when he figures the man will be home but not yet in bed, slithering beneath the door like a two-dimensional wraith to visit a man that might be called a friend.

Dinner for Matt Parkman and Molly Walker consisted of something more than reheated pizza. Even in the aftermath of the news, the "off-duty" cabinet member actually cooked with his adoptive daughter, reveling in what family he had available. A light pasta with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella and some ginger ale rounded out a relatively healthy meal, but it wouldn't be dinner with Molly if there wasn't some sort of sweet.

So, with the hour late enough to warrant sending Molly to bed, Matt settles in on the couch with a second slice of cheesecake and the news, the volumed turned down low. It's good cheesecake, even if all the ingredients came from a box.

Fatigue has him off his game, and so Matt doesn't notice the sudden presence of an additional mind in his apartment. He's only half-watching the news, and when the ticker at the bottom of the screen starts to rattle off the same information regarding Janice and Matt Jr. that's been scrolling all day, soon followed by shots of Janice's ranch home in L.A., he promptly picks up the remote and starts flipping channels.

"So… so…"

An echoing whisper stirs just behind the telepath, a whisper belonging to a rather familiar mind, as the channels are flipped. "Given that you're not panicking right now, I'm guessing this is related to your deal with Bennett, and not something I need to go murder someone over, Matthew? …Matthew…"

There is a moment when Matt tenses, his thumb poised over the channel up button, the television stuck on two blown-out Jersey girls screaming at each other like braying donkeys. He doesn't move, but he looks sideways, reaching out with his mind to confirm the owner of the whisper.

"No," is the answer, followed by silence while Matt watches the television with brows that furrow more and more over the course of a few seconds before he finally switches the whole thing off. "But if you want to find out where he put them, I wouldn't stop you."

"It's better that I don't, and you know that, Matt…" Cardinal's shadow washes over the side of the couch, darkening the upholstry with his presence, "…the less people that know, the better… the better…"

After the darkness settles in, he murmurs, "For what it's worth, I'm sorry… this whole situation sucks for everyone, and it's only going to get worse before it gets better. How're you holding up? …holding up…"

The shadow earns a scrutinizing glare that's more wary than judgmental, and Matt takes a moment to lean forward and set the half-eaten plate of cheesecake on the coffee table. "Better than you," he chides, the humor in his words dry and brittle, like it's been left out in the Californian sun too long.

"It was gunna happen sooner or later," he says with a sigh as he leans back into the cushion of the couch. "He's growing up." There's more to be said on that count, but Matt keeps it back, held behind an iron curtain in his own mind.

"To what do I owe the almost-pleasure of your company?"

"Can't a man stop by to visit a friend after news like that goes over the air…? …the air

"Can't a man stop by to visit a friend after news like that goes over the air…? …the air…" A little chuckle stirs humorless in the shadow's voice, and then Richard asks seriously, "Do you ever think of what could happen if one of us went bad, Matt? I mean, just… threw out all the ethics, the morals, all of it and just forced the world to conform? …through a mirror darkly…"

"If I've learned anything on the Hill," Matt says slowly, lifting a hand to rub at his brow, "it's that tyranny is tyranny, no matter how good the intentions are. I also know that if Mitchell puts in another bid for president, we might as well throw in the towel." It's not the first time Matt's alluded to using Cardinal to dig up political dirt to ruin somoene's career.

But that wasn't Richard's question. Matt is quiet as he thinks, the turning of gears and tuning of static - whatever metaphor you prefer - almost audible as he sits there pondering. "Like making kid eat their vegetables," he finally says, his voice barely louder than a whisper.

Tell me where the bodies are buried, and I'll dig them up. A thought, strong enough to pick up, as the silhouette of Cardinal settles across the couch as if he were sitting there beside the man, watching a television that isn't even on. After a few silent moments, he speaks again, although the subject seems to have changed.

It hasn't, of course, but he's taking time to get around to the point.

"I know what the Institute is doing, Matt. It was founded by someone from a possible future… a very— a very bad one. I don't know the details, but I know it's bad. And he's trying to force it to stay that way, out of some— fucking insane idea that he can make it turn out right in the end if he knows what's going to happen," whispers the Red King, "Rather than try and change it… change it…"

What information Matt has on what the Institute is really up to is scattered at best, even moreso after a less than ideal 8th of November and holiday season. But what he does remember is the stuff of B-rated horror movies plots blessed with the coupling of better than average special effects. Matt glances over at the shadow on the couch before he settles his dark eyes back on the blank, black television.

"You going to keep me in suspense, Richard, or are you going to spill it? What kind of nutjob doesn't change the past to make the future better? I mean, I figure you've read a few more sci-fi novels than I have, but last I checked, time-travel doesn't work that way."

There's a hint of dark humor to Cardinal's words. "It's easier to manipulate the future if you know what's going to happen. And there is… inertia. Events that are going to happen have a way of occuring anyway, even if you stop them the way they happened the first time. My files are full of examples… failures…"

Silence, for a moment. "Me, of course. Who else? …Only me…"

"You know what I mean, Richard," Matt counters with only the barest hint of annoyance leaking through his dry tone. "Is it Broome? Or one of his clones? Who is it, and what's the game?" He turns his head to look at the shadow again, and his eyes narrow - a crack splitting across the mask of professionalism.

"People who didn't know you so well might take your inability to be in a place the wrong way." Matt looks from the shadow to his plaid pajama pants and then raises his eyebrows. "It's because I didn't dress up for you, isn't it?"

"You aren't listening, damn it," Cardinal replies tiredly, "It's me. Some fucked up, desperate, insane future iteration of me founded the damn Institute, Parkman. It was always me…"

It wasn't the answer Matt expected, and he cringes from it slightly before his eyebrows narrow anew. "Okay…" he says with a slow nod. "So what are you up to that involves dead people's brains and Frankenstein-monsters?"

"A lot of things. None of them… none of them are good. He's forgotten who he is, forgotten what he used to believe in…" There's a silence for a few moments, "…he had Liz killed. His Liz. There's no way I could ever be— I don't know what happened, but he's not me anymore…"

Richard falls silent for a few moments, and it's hard to tell if he's even there. "We need to move a mountain, Matt. We need to… change the world so much that his future will never, can never happen… never."

"You're him," Matt says with a shake of his head, "if only a little." He's not about to judge a version of Cardinal's future self. Not when he isn't who he thought he'd be two, even three years ago. "And as much as I'd like to know just how bad this future of yours, of his, is…well, if you tell me what rocks to move, and they look like they need moving, I'll do my best."

That's all Matt can ever promise.

He pauses, his eyes moving from the shadow to the middle-distance. "But I may not be able to do much."

"I've never asked you to do more than you were willing, Matt." It's a quiet whisper, from the shadow, "And you'll probably think what I'm planning is… insanely dangerous. It is. But I think it may be the only way… the only way…"

Richard asks then, quietly, "There is one… problem. Liz made a mistake. There's some internal affairs type that might be… poking around her, and Redbird. I know you can't do anything officially…"

It doesn't take a telepath to know what he's asking.

Matt arches one brow and turns his head ever so slightly before he huffs out a sharp, snort of a laugh. "Internal affairs turned their bloodhounds on me, Richard. I don't have any leashes I can pull for you, or Liz. And if she screwed up, well…" Maybe there's a reason why Future-Richard Cardinal put her feet in the fire.

"I wasn't in L.A. just because of the holidays. I don't get to take vacations like that." Or, he does, but he doesn't. "I don't go back until they're done sticking their noses into everything having to do with that office and the eighth." And the two men who lost their lives thanks to the very thing Richard is asking him to do.

"I didn't realize things were so bad…" There's a quiet moment, and then Richard allows quietly, "I'm sorry, Matt. I won't ask anything more of you than I already have…"

"You didn't realize for a very good reason," Matt says with a slight incline of his head, but he leaves it at that. High-level internal affairs investigations stay internal for very good reasons. With a sigh, Matt throws his weight forward, catching his elbows on his thighs and his face in his hands.

"It'll be over soon," he says on the edge of the exhale of air. "And when it is, I'll do what I can to paint you a pretty picture that doesn't include either of us as corpses."

"Just… deal with what you have to deal with, Matt," Cardinal's shadow withdraws, sweeping back over the couch's edge, "Give Molly my best, even if she isn't too fond of me… hates me…"

Matt still isn't sure why Molly doesn't like Richard Cardinal. Maybe it has to do with his likeness to the boogeyman and other shadowy things that go bump in the night. "Keep me posted," he says as he rubs his hands over his face, looking back toward Richard's shadow just in time to see it slip over the pale cream leather of the cushion and onto the breve-colored carpet.

It's in silence that Richard slips away, leaving Matt and Molly Parkman to their privacy and their home.

He finds himself rapidly running out of places to turn to for help. He'll have to hope that what he has on his own… will be enough.

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