Flailing Blindly In The Dark


elisabeth_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Flailing Blindly In The Dark
Synopsis Hey, it's better than doing nothing.
Date September 10, 2010

Suresh Center: Cafeteria

It's about as clean in here as the surgery wards a couple of levels up, which is testament to people like the middle-aged man wth prematurely silvered hair wheeling a cleaning tray towards the kitchens just as the day begins to level towards lunch hour. One long set of tables is already occupied by a group of tourists, here to be shown around as if the Suresh Centre were a museum. Others are an assortment of students for the free workshops, employers, some of which are even doctors, but not all. Two men in security uniforms chat over sandwiches, and though it's warm outside, the air conditioning and the hazy cloud paints a different idea as to what the weather is doing.

Francois is a little late, but not awfully. He's abandoned white coat in favour of a cotton shirt, sleeves partially rolled, slate-grey slacks, comfortable shoes. By the time he's coming to join Elisabeth, he has a tray between his unscarred hands, on which sits twin plates bearing cake slices, spongey chocolate, coffee cream. Unwilling to touch the meat the cafeteria puts out, Francois doesn't mind the baked goods.

It's kind of nice to be working a schedule that is flexible. Elisabeth managed to finagle time off the base, carrying a pager of course, to meet Francois for lunch. She's holding their table, and when he slips into the seat carrying the tray her smile blossoms. "You do know the way to a woman's heart," she says on a grin. Chocolate? Oh assuredly! Especially this woman.

Once they're both in seats and able to converse easily, the external sounds fade away. It's become habit if she meets with anyone in public to assure the privacy of the conversation whether it's simply two people being social or business related. "How're you holding up, handsome?" she asks him mildly as she helps herself to one of the cups of coffee. She worries about him, though she doesn't get to see him as often as she'd like. She doesn't consider herself a terribly good friend most of the time — she'd give him the shirt off her back or her life for his, though. So who's to say what makes a 'good' friend?

"I was surprised when you came by the other day," Elisabeth admits. "But glad to see you. Glad that…." She pauses and shrugs. "I don't know. Maybe it sounds stupid, but glad to have you in the group?"

Half-watching the group across the cafeteria, Francois blinks as their conversation dims, along with the rest of it, although it's been a while since he's felt uneasy about Elisabeth's habit of privacy. He instead focuses on piercing off a piece of cake, being sure to load fork with icing for the first bite, and smiles a little at her assessment. "I don't think it sounds stupid," he offers. "Although I shall admit that I am unfamiliar with the practicalities behind changing futures, for all that I can understand the mechanics. I liked the sentiment, when Richard described it to me."

That bite of cake is taken, Francois folding elbows against the edge of the table. "There is no one else I know, however, that is in this group, oui? I wouldn't want to surprise them too."

Considering the nature of what they've been doing, Elisabeth is not terribly surprised that the practicalities aren't exactly clear. "You may know a few, I'm not honestly sure. Abby helps out from time to time." God knows, Abigail of all people picked up a gun to help this time. It still scares the hell out of Liz. "Uhm… Niki Sanders, also known as Jessica sometimes." She's not sure if Francois knows anyone, but she reels off the names so that he has them in the back of his head. "Jaiden Mortlock, Monica Dawson," both of whom are names that have been or are familiar in the Ferry and Phoenix. "Uhm… Aric Gibbs and Peyton Whitney, who you met. Rebecca Nakano, a contact of mine from the NYPD. That's … probably the core of the group." She leaves Claire off the list if only because she's uncertain of the younger woman's status right now. "There are some others who show up here and there. Devi, Alia, Kain Zarek — but I wouldn't talk to him about any of that. Richard deals with him. Niklaus Zimmerman." Which is a name that may or may not ring alarm bells for Francois.

Elisabeth looks at him over the rim of the cup and says quietly, "And the practicalities are… pretty terrifyingly vague at times, admittedly."

Tension makes slightly steelier lines in Francois' expression when Abby's name is the first one to crop up, but by then, he's listening to her and only halfly committing names to memory — they'll crystalise as he meets them, more than likely. "For something vague, it is quite a group," he notes, a hand holding his jaw at a lean, fingertips absently feeling along the ridge of scarring at his ear, where Kozlow had torn it what will be almost a year ago not so long from now. "But for now, it seems as if my intentions align.

"We had been speaking about Teo, and the aftermath, when Richard told me of the group. I had been reluctant to make the situation very known, up until recently. You have not seen him? Teo." Another stab at cake, another flash of white teeth to nip cream off silver prongs.

Elisabeth looks down at the tray and takes up a fork to slide it into the soft cake. She's more toying with it than eating it. "No," she says quietly. "He hasn't contacted me." There is hurt there, buried for the most part but it flashes across her face briefly. "But … based on what you said, it's possible the one that we freed… doesn't even know who I am, Francois." She's known Teodoro several years, but the first year or so was simply as another teacher at Washington Irving. "I'm not sure what memories he even has or anything," says as she tries to nibble on the confection that he brought to the table.

There's a heavy sigh released as Elisabeth adds quietly, "I'd have to say that while it's something of a vague group in some ways, it's not so much in others. We've had the benefit of… information. Precognitive information as well as time-travelers information, among others. To try to build a roadmap of sorts. That's what the strings in the basement were all about."

A blink in favour of a nod communicates that makes sense, being someone who values information, trades it with when he has to or otherwise trades for it. "I think I mostly only have history to share.

"He remembers everything," he adds. Francois fork makes a waving gesture, like there you go. "This Teo. Even me. But he only relates to it closely, I think, if it came before Ghost and— before any of this happened, he described to me how everyone knew him before. He just seems not to be making very much of himself now." And there is irritation in the movement of the next cake piece removed from the slice, fork scraping plate. "But oui, it is not memory. It is probably not even personal. He is living amongst the Ferry, now.

"Perhaps waiting to see who will come to him instead, ah?" And of that, Francois isn't very much aware, it seems, as he shrugs along with his comment.

A wash of shame slips over her features and Elisabeth says softly, "I'll make a point of sending a message through, then." She smiles a little. "Before Ghost, before… all this… he was …." How to describe Teodoro the teacher? She can't help a small chuckle. "He has always been sort of like this gawky teenaged boy in a man's body," she says finally. "I think maybe…. before Ghost he was not as …. focused? Maybe? That's probably not the right word for it. Not as… hard, perhaps." She sets the fork back down and toys with her coffee instead. "I don't know. I'm not articulating it well. When I first met Teo, I had no real idea what he was involved in. And even after I did, I had a rather hard time believing it sometimes. He has changed so much in the past couple of years. Not in the ways that matter. At least, I wouldn't have said so before this. But…"

She shakes her head and looks up. "As to what you have to share, we are at a point in time where no one has anything more than their experiences and insights to try to piece it all together, Francois. We've been given a few roadsigns, but… no one else knows any more than you do. Not really. We're all just flailing blindly in the dark."

"Ah," he says, without particular judgment, a small smile curling the corners of his mouth and warming his voice, "then I feel at home already." For all that the topic of Teo is one that seems inevitable, Francois mostly gives Elisabeth's word quiet scrutiny, listening, as opposed to contributing — in this, he is flailing blindly in the dark more so than most, by virtue of what year he started existing again. Fork scrapes his plate as he collects up the bitter-sweet cream.

He shakes his head as if to clear it. "I did only say mostly history," is added, a little slyly worded, but inevitably serious as he continues. "Kershner told me of the facility in Massachusetts, on the campus of MIT. The security is supposed to have surpassed anything any of us would have tried to infiltrate before. So I thought I should write them instead."

There's a pause, and Elisabeth quirks a brow. "Write them?" she asks mildly. "Like…. a letter?" She looks …. concerned. "Saying what?"

The blonde picks at the dessert in front of her with her fork, though she doesn't really eat it. "I believe Richard's spoken of going up there to speak with someone who used to work with Edward Ray, but I don't believe he's gone yet. I think he was trying to decide whether it was a target to destroy or one to simply infiltrate in some fashion." A faint smile quirks the corners of Elisabeth's mouth upward. "Unless of course that's what he's out there doing now when he's supposed to be working on something else upstate." One can never tell with Cardinal. "What is it that you think they'll tell you?"

"He has?" isn't spoken like true query, more repeated, contemplated, and ultimately set to one side for later consideration. "I am using some of the credibility I have gained here at the Suresh Centre as well as my work at St. Luke's to come across as an interested researcher of medicine pertaining to Evolved. Specifically, the use of Evolved ability in surgery. A ruse, one that should work until those who know better are able to see through it.

"So much of the Institute research has come from the works Kazimir Volken did both in Germany and later in America — I was involved both times. But if my name does not catch their attention, than there is plenty of implication to go with also. Perhaps they will find me an interesting asset who can provide better knowledge than Volken's journals."

Another bite of cake— the last bite— is consumed, and Francois shrugs. "His hand writing is difficult to read."

"Doctors' handwriting usually is," Elisabeth replies drily. "Can I help?" She asks in that tone of one who rather doubts it, aside from simply being a friendly ear when he wants to talk. "I think your outreach attempt may yield better results than just going in and attempting rifle through their things. Especially with Richard's amusing Luddite tendencies," she says with a bit of a grin and a glance up at him from under her lashes. She licks her fork and sets it down, considering what he's saying. "Have you already told them you're a time-displaced person or … am I misunderstanding what you're offering them?" she asks quietly.

Francois shakes his head, glancing off past her shoulder as he considers whether he should have or not, but the thought doesn't linger long, some stubborn confidence showing past his green eyes. "Only who I am, and that I have very interested in the work they are doing," he says, wryness lining the definition of his voice, which is probably better than bitterness. "Researchers not involved in the things Endgame are focused on would probably dismiss my letter, but those who know better, I am confident they will take some notice.

"And perhaps we can exchange research for research, or at the very least, we can take note of who responds. If I get more than that, I will consider myself fortunate. I think you are understanding correctly."

"It's a dangerous game you're playing, Francois," Elisabeth says softly. "If you were to be able to see them, do you think you'll glean anything more from the journals than we've already learned really?" She pauses and then sighs quietly. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you to be careful… you've been doing this dance with them for far longer than I. And since the stakes appear to be getting higher, I can't even begin to weigh in on whether this is a good or bad move, really." She props her elbows on the table and she informs him softly, "Someone's manipulating the timeline again I fear. Jaiden's been approached for something that I haven't quite decided whether to tear my hair out over or not."

Unencouragingly, he shrugs at her — Francois has no idea what he'd be able to glean, what new information is possibly available, but that his mind is already made probably implies that he doesn't much mind taking the risk for the tenuous promise of return. When storming the fort didn't work, and no one has the numbers to try again—

He blinks, some measure of familiarity in Elisabeth's words making him hesitate. And maybe not just because someone manipulated the timeline for his sake, once. Or twice. Three times. Plate of ex-cake shifted aside, his hands fold together beneath his chin, a thumb absently drawing a path along the scarring at his throat that Dreyfus had left behind so many months ago. "Approached?"

"Yeah…. I'm not entirely clear on the circumstances, but…." Elisabeth nibbles the edge of her lip. Normally she would not divulge even this much to anyone but Cardinal, but her sounding board — the man nominally in charge of all this bullshit — is well beyond reach at the moment. "He was sent a message that I needed him. That I would need him and had needed him for something, and a newspaper clipping. Something that happened like ten years ago. They told him to come to a place and time." She grimaces. "I've got a request in for the case file and notes, but I don't have any recollection of being involved in the particular case. There's that whole decade or so gap in my memories, you know?" Her fingertips play along the table. "But he's going. And ….. I don't know how I feel about the idea that we've already had people tamper into the future, now they're tampering with the past too? Time travel sucks and I keep thinking 'shouldn't we have already torn ourselves apart with paradox already?'"

That gets a whisper of uneasy laughter, and the anxiety that flickers in his eyes seems more about her than it is about September, 2010, and the shaky foundations on which is stands being prodded and poked at by god knows what. Francois is silent in his thoughts, before taking a breath, easing it out again. "I spent a long time, trusting the time traveler, Nakamura, in these matters. He changed the course of my existence to better solidify the future— or his present, my future. He believed that the world could be undone through the tampering of history.

"And so I kept my distance from Volken, so that Abby would get my ability, some day, and finish things. Save the world. In that time, he did a lot of damage. I dislike time travel also, but— I'm glad he is going. I would not like you to not exist any more, mon ami," is added with a smile.

"Let me guess. Jittetsu Arms, four o'clock?"

Her brows shoot to her hairline. "You received one as well?" Elisabeth demands. And then she looks uneasy. "Yeah… well, I'm pretty sure I don't want to just cease to exist either, so… there's no hand-flailing or gnashing of teeth yet." Her tone is wry. "I'll leave that to Richard, who has the potential to go ballistic if he thinks there's a serious threat. I'm …. somewhat glad he's out of town this week." She shrugs a little. "Well, here's hoping that for whatever reason, Jaiden is the right man for the job, yeah?"

"Eileen received a message, slipped into a journal of Volken's that she received," Francois denies, with a shake of his head. "But she has invited me along — I am sure Monsieur Mortlock and myself will be able to relay what happens back to the group, or to you and Richard at least." He pauses, considers the windows shining in the gritty light of day.

She sucks in a slow breath and nods slightly. "Well… I can't decide if that makes me feel better or worse, Francois," Elisabeth says on a soft exhale of a chuckle. "That Eileen and Jaiden and God only knows who else are being approached by persons unknown with threats against their friends that seem genuine on the surface to be wanting to help, but…. how do we know that?" She rubs a hand along her cheek and down the side of her neck, leaving it propped there. "'Be careful' doesn't seem adequate advice, but that's all I can give." She looks at him and murmurs, "I'd be terribly sad to lose you."

"Et toi. But try not to worry — for now, let us consider ourselves fortunate that whatever might be going on, we have opportunity to learn of it," Francois suggests, and scrapes his chair back from the table, hands going out to gently stack plate on plate to go slot the tray with the other dishes to be cleaned up en masse. "I must complete my hour and then go and meet Eileen, but I will be in touch soon — tonight, perhaps, whenever this meeting concludes."

Moving to stand up, all Elisabeth can do is sigh. She helps stack the plates as well, and then leans over to kiss his cheek. "For God's sake, Francois, don't get dead," she says in a resigned tone. "And do try not to get mortally wounded or otherwise maimed too, okay? I'm just sayin'!" She throws up her hands, and then adds under her breath, "I'm becoming my mother."

The kiss is returned in the same movement of receiving it, barely even a touch to her cheek, and by the time they're leaning back again, she gets a grin, genuinely bright, and very rare since Teo went missing one day. "I will do my best, mon cheri," Francois says, allowing rich sincerity to coat his voice as he picks up the tray. "But no promises."

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