Courting Trouble


niki_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Courting Trouble
Synopsis Niki needs a friend, Liz provides an ear… but she learns far more than she might have wanted to.
Date November 20, 2008

Wong's Chinese Restaurant, Chinatown


Elisabeth picks up the phone. "Hello?"

Niki's voice is on the other end. "Elisabeth? It's me, Niki."

"Well hello." She doesn't sound terribly surprised. Caller ID is a wonderful thing. "How's it going?"

Niki sounds…a little rattled. "I've been better. Hey, do you want to meet up tonight? Maybe dinner or something? I could use an ear."

"Yeah, sure. How do you feel about Chinese?" Liz asks easily.

Niki replies, "Chinese sounds great. Where should I meet you?"

Elisabeth says, "Do you know Wong's in Chinatown? They do a pretty phenomenal sesame beef that I'm partial to."

"I'm sure I can find it. Give me a few minutes, and I'll head down and meet you there," Niki answers.

"All right, see you there." *click*

Elisabeth's already sitting in Wong's with a cup of tea when Niki arrives. The pot sits on the table with an empty cup awaiting the other woman's arrival.

Niki shows up about a half-hour after the call. She's in jeans and sweater, and her accessory of the moment is a troubled expression. She sees Elisabeth and starts across the restaurant towards her. "Hey. How's it going?"

Elisabeth looks up at Niki, not really wary but a little cautious. "Not bad. You didn't sound so good, though," she says as she gestures to the seat across from her. "C'mon, have some tea. It's relaxing." She too is dressed pretty casually in a similar outfit - jeans and a cardigan outfit. Resting her elbows on the table, she asks, "What happened?"

Niki sits and pours a little tea. She doesn't dip it yet…that stuff is served one degree shy of nuclear. "It was…a rough night last night."

Elisabeth nods and looks sympathetic. "I'm sorry," she offers softly, and then invites, "Tell me. You clearly need to get it off your chest." She holds up a hand and smiles a bit. "You can keep in really general terms if it's work-related and you can't talk about the specifics."

Niki says "There's a guy. He's…probably the closest person I have to a friend, except for you. He helped me…stuck up for me when no one else believed in me. And he's having problems. A lot of problems. And…I'm sort of caught in the middle. Between him and the people I work for. And I can't even say he's right. I think he needs help,, and I don't know how to help him."

Elisabeth ughs softly. "That's touch place to be," she comments. "Is he …. is there any way to get him to someone who would know how to help?"

Niki looks to Elisabeth. "Yeah. But it would take force. He's not going to want to go to the people who could help. And…I'm not sure if I should. I'm not sure if I -could-."

Elisabeth blows out a breath and nods slowly. "Yeah…. sounds like a really tough place. I'm sorry, Niki." She pauses and then says quietly, "Sometimes you can't help people. It goes against the grain for me to say that, mind you. But sometimes you have to just… be their friend the best that you can in spite of the problems." She smiles a little, thinkin maybe the advice hits a bit close to home.

Niki frowns. "I have to, Elisabeth. Peter's my friend. I owe him my life. Literally. I just…I don't know what to do."

Elisabeth picks up her tea and sips from it carefully. When she puts it down, she asks Niki gently, "What do you *want* to do? You've said he's in trouble, and that you don't know how to help him, and that he won't let the people who COULD help him do it. Have you told him that you think he's in trouble?"

Niki sighs, in frustration. "He isn't listening to me. And…god, Elisabeth. I don't know what to do. Someone's going to get hurt, no matter what I do. I'm not cut out for this."

Elisabeth smiles just a little. "I don't know that ANY of us are really cut out for things these days, Niki." She looks a little sad. "I wish I could make a useful suggestion here. But … without knowing what kind of trouble your friend is in, the only real suggestion I can make here is…. be his friend. However you can that doesn't compromise your own safety."

She considers that as she looks over at Elisabeth. "I don't…It would sound pretty bizarre, Elisabeth." She WANTS to share with someone.

Elisabeth tilts her head and asks bluntly, "As bizarre as me meeting Jessica? I don't know that it gets that much more bizarre." She smiles slightly. "C'mon, tell me. You called me because you needed to talk, Niki. I'll keep your confidence."

And see, she hadn't realized that. "You what?" Niki pales. "You…I should go." She immediately goes tense. "It isn't safe. She'll -hurt- you, Elisabeth."

Elisabeth nods slowly. "I'll be careful with her. *You*, however, need a friend. And I'm willing to take the risk, Niki. Because alternate personalities exist to protect you… and I'm not a threat to you, or to her. So tell me about the rest of this. Tell me about your friend. And *relax* a little, okay?" She laces the word 'relax' with a strong subsonic wave. "Just take a couple of deep breaths, and let's leave that particular problem for another time."

Niki takes a deep breath, one than another. Finally she nods. "His name is Peter Petrelli." she says, more relaxed now. "He was the one who convinced them not to kill me despite Jessica being a liability. And now…it's gotten really complicated."

Well, the name alone catches her attention. It's the second time in two days that she's heard it. What the…? She has to choose her words carefully here. "It's going to get a lot more complicated if he's out there attacking people…. they're not going to be able to keep him out of the news if this keeps up." She nibbles her lip and comments softly, "I don't know him, and I don't need to know more about him than I already do… but I can tell you he's definitely in trouble. He attacked a cop the other day."

The tall blonde looks back, exasperated. "It's not him. Well, not exactly. It's…" Niki sighs. "I can't tell you without telling you everything. I…" She's torn. "I'm not -supposed- to tell you." she admits. Even though she wants to.

Elisabeth nods slightly and says, "I'm not going to push for additional information. I can tell you *want* to talk… that you need someone to listen. But I can also tell that you're worried about it. And I don't want *you* to get into trouble either."

Niki sighs. "And I don't want to either. God. This is all so much bigger than I am." She leans forward. "I'm not cut out for all this."

Elisabeth grimaces a little. "If this weren't so damn scary, I'd laugh." She sighs softly, and then says, "There's a lot going on in this town, Niki. A lot of different people involved in the Evolved scene. So I can understand feeling overwhelmed. Hell, I'm overwhelmed constantly by all of this. You're stressing yourself out over this, and I understand why. If this guy helped you so very much, I understand needing to help him too. Are there options out there for him? I mean, you have your shrink. Is there someone out there who CAN help him?"

Niki sighs. "There's a duplicate of Peter. And both of them have abilities. A lot of abilities. And if I don't figure out something to do, there's going to be a fight, and I suspect there's going to be a big mess."

Elisabeth groans. "Oh Christ, Niki. And if my friend the cop is to be believed… he's not really stoppable?"

Niki sighs. "I don't know. He's just human…admittedly with a lot of abilities. I could -maybe- stop him physically…but I can't access my own ability reliably."

Elisabeth nods a little bit. "I'm assuming one duplicate helped you and the other is the one causing the trouble." It's not a question. "Are we talking actual duplicates — like there are two of them running around?"

She nods. "Yes. We're talking actual duplicates. It's not like my situation. And yes, one works with me, and the other one is the one out there doing all the trouble. Myself and my partner are the ones assigned to it…and I have no idea how to do this. I'm not even a police officer, Elisabeth. I'm so new to all this it hurts."

Elisabeth blows out a breath. She seems to be thinking pretty hard. "Well, I'm not entirely sure a cop would be what you need either. But the crash course on tracking down any person is to start with what you know about them — in the case of Petrelli, start with what you know of the duplicate's personality, and with what you know of your Petrelli's favorite places. There are certain things in behavior that are ingrained so far as to be nearly impossible to eradicate — places a person goes to think, a friend they can't leave behind, someone they love that they visit. That's how most criminals are caught."

Niki nods. "Which we're trying. I ust don't know that it's going to work." A wry smile crosses her lips. "Don't suppose you want a consulting job? Right now I could use an expert on this stuff."

Elisabeth chuckles softly. "Well…. I never made detective. I went from the streets to hostage negotiation, Niki. I can give you the basics. But you do realize that if I start nosing around Peter Petrelli, things are going to get dicey, right? Hell… if anyone outside the inner sanctum starts looking… it could get Petrelli killed."

Niki sighs. "I just don't know what to do, Elisabeth. You've had police training. I never have. Nothing remotely like this."

Elisabeth runs a hand through her hair. "It sounds right now like you're pretty much doing all you can, Niki. Unless you want to turn him in, which it sounds like you don't. If you already have people trying to track him down so you can try to get through to him, you're doing all that I can think to do." She pauses. "Give it a little time, okay? See what shakes out over the next couple of days. If you really think he's in danger and nothing's turned up…. I'd be willing to start doing some digging. But I'm a stranger to him — I think he'd be better off if you were the one who found him. If people he knows and trusts find him. Unless he becomes a danger to other people. And then I think you should turn him in."

Niki laughs. "And who am I going to turn him into? There's not an authority that can deal with things like this. The closest thing that's out there that DOES are the people I work for. I -am- the person to turn him into."

Okay…. now that's kind of a scary bit of information there. "Oh," Liz says lamely. And then she sighs a little. "So you're not just looking for the Petrelli duplicate because you have some kind of sense of loyalty to him; you're doing it because it's your job. You'd think they'd train you in basic investigative procedures if you're going to be tracking down troublemakers." She shakes her head.

Niki laughs. "No. That would be the other half. Always partners. One of us, one of them. They want me for what I can do, not what I know, Elisabeth. And I'm a mom from California."

Elisabeth grimaces. "Sounds like a shitty kind of job, lady," she offers, sipping her tea. She looks at Niki and admits quietly, "I'm not real sure I want to wind up on the radar of the people you work for. I quit the force for a lot of reasons… some of them I'm currently reconsidering. But the one that keeps me from going back is called "due process". If you work for a branch attempting to do Evolved containment without due process, I'm not real sure I want to consult for them. Philosophical differences and all."

Niki looks back, seriously. "Then you don't know what they can do. It's that serious. You said you met Jessica, Elisabeth. How do you hold her, if you're the police? She can't be held. She can't be stopped. They -tried-."

Elisabeth shakes her head. "I don't suggest that such a group isn't necessary, Niki…. only that due process should also be observed."

Niki looks back. "And I'll ask again…how? They tried to stop her, Elisabeth. How do you serve due process on a person you can't hold in any jail? People who can teleport. Go immaterial."

Elisabeth grimaces. "Yeah… I know." She sighs. "Again… I'm not blind to the problems, just …." She sighs. "I guess I'm still something of an idealist at heart." She smiles a little. "Sorry. Crazy thing to be in this day and age, I sometimes thing."

Niki shakes her head. "No. It's nice to be. But it's nor practical. I used to be. Until everything went wrong." A deep sigh. "I don't know what to do. I don't really know what to do about anything. I'm sorry. This is my problem, not yours."

Elisabeth shakes her head and says quietly, "It's starting to be everyone's problem. Which is why I'm even giving thought to going back on the force. It's just…. complicated. For me to do so. But the Evolved attacking innocents? That's not acceptable. Under any circumstances. So… give me a couple of days to think about it, okay? I might be willing to help out, I just need to…. weigh the consequences."

Niki nods. "Assuming I'm still intact in a couple days." A wry smile. "I'll talk to you soon then?"

Elisabeth grins a bit. "For heaven's sake, don't pin your hopes on staying intact on ME… I'm sure to disappoint you. But yes… I'll call you over the weekend, okay?"

Niki nods. "Sounds good. I'll talk to you soon, then." A smile, if a little forced. "Take care."

Elisabeth nods, wishing she could give the other woman a better answer. "You too. I think you've got far more chance of being in trouble than I," she offers a small smile around her worried expression.

Any additional notes fall to the bottom.

November 20: Vehicular Manslaughter for the Win

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

November 21st: Pulse
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