Game, Set, Match


elle_icon.gif harper_icon.gif

Scene Title Game, Set, Match
Synopsis Elle Bishop comes to Desmond Harper for answers, and finds more than she asked for…
Date August 16, 2010


"…want to know why he's on the list. You know he's one of the most dangerous threats to Institute security, so I want to know what reasoning you have to putting him on the protected list."

Desmond Harper wasn't expecting to be entertaining a phone call when the door to his apartment on the ground floor of the Octagon opened. Pacing back and forth in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows that show a sunset dappled tennis court outside, Harper directs his attention towards the blonde coming in from the hall, lifting one hand up in both greeting and then a demonstrative point to the bluetooth headset plugged into one of his ears.

"No, sir, I don't mean any disrespect by it. I just would like to know the reasoning behind— " Harper cuts himself off, or likely is cut off by whomever is on the other end of that conversation. "N— No, sir, I just— " there's a pinch of how brows together, and Desmond rolls his eyes to the ceiling and scrubs one hand over his forehead. "Yes, I trust you sir, of course." A brief pause comes as Harper turns, motioning to the white leather sofa in the middle of the open-concept living room that near identically matches Elle's apartment.

"Knutson's still here, how do you want to arrange the meeting with her?" Blue eyes shift to look at Harper's muted reflection in the glass of the windows, nodding in slow and unseen response to the person on the phone. "Of course, yes that— that works. I'll be sure to let Bishop know."

It seems like today's been a busy day for Desmond Harper.

It was such a pleasant surprise to Elle to find herself in the Octagon, and on her own floor, no less. It makes things so much easier to know that Harper is literally a hop, skip, and a jump away if she needs him. This is quite a good thing. She can also keep tabs on him this way, if she likes. Coincidence is such a truly wonderful thing, really, and it can work in such strange ways.

The little blonde is dressed casually today, wearing a pair of black bermuda shorts coupled with a teal and white-striped tank top, complete with her matching sling. She's still on the flip flops kick, the simple shoes being much more practical when the pain medication is still being taken. Luckily, her wound has gone down to a dull throb, and she's almost out of both the pain pills and the sling. A smile forms on her face as she enters, closing the door behind herself.

The flip flops are removed, and the barefoot blonde makes her way over to the couch, seating herself and listening to the one-sided conversation between Harper and whoever it is he's on the phone with. Her blue eyes trail around the apartment as she waits, tapping her fingers against the strap of her sling.

"Alright, sir. I will. I have a meeting that just came up, but I'll let them know you're expecting an answer." Harper slouches forward and bobs his head in a nod, wanting desperately to get off of the phone. "Right, I'll make sure. You have a good afternoon too, sir." Then comes the merciful release of one finger tapping at the side of the ear-clipped headset, and Harper is tugging it off and tossing it onto the seat of a white leather armchair nearby.

"So sorry about that. last-minute administrative issues," Harper offers in an apologetic tone with a grimace. Tucking his hands into the pockets of his gray slacks, the agent takes a few more steps across the hardwood floor over to the sofa, then settles down to sit on the arm, hands moving to fold in his lap in this position.

"You had some things you wanted to talk about?" Harper asks with one brow lifted slowly. "I'm all ears, Bishop. Whatever you need."

Elle smiles as the conversation comes to a close, leaning back against the couch and crossing her legs, her pedicured toes pointing toward Harper. "That's quite alright, Agent I understand completely." She smiles softly, her head tilted toward him.

"Ohh, there's a lot to talk about." Where to start? There's so much to say. Well…she'll start with the first assignment he gave her. "We'll start with Warren first. I've done as you asked, kept an eye on him, and gotten close to him. I'm pretty sure you'll like what I have to say about him." She offers a soft giggle.

"First of all, he's informed me that I have his undying loyalty, no matter what I do. He adores me." She grins. "I'll be sure he keeps in line for you." This also means that they should treat Elle really nicely, because she's got their inventor wrapped around her little finger. Elle knows this, and isn't afraid to point this out. She likes job security, and Harper afforded her the opportunity by assigning her to keep an eye on the man. "I've also apparently come into the leadership of the female division of his gang, the Crazy Eights."

The second that the word gang slips past Elle's lips, Harper breathes deeply and exhales a sharp sigh, rubbing his hands up and down his face. "Okay… well, this is why we out-sourced Warren and didn't bring him on full-time I guess." There's a furrow of Harper's brows as he looks askance to Elle. "You should be careful how openly you involve yourself with Warren. Keeping him tied around your finger is one thing, getting yourself killed or worse…" there's a wave of one hand absently in the air at that sentiment.

"Right now the main thing I want to know is who Warren has dealings with. The moment it seems that he's trying to become a security risk to the Institute or work against us, I have authorization to lock him up and throw away the key. There's no screwing around with this, not after what happened to one of our satellite facilities. We simply can't risk getting tangled up in a madman's agenda again unknowingly."

Smoothing his hands down his thighs, Harper creases his brows and looks towards the windows, then back to Elle. "Oh, before you continue I wanted to offer something to you and Knutson. We have a psychologist working for us, Doctor Bella Sheridan. Ex-Company, very good-natured and highly intelligent. I wanted to extend the offer of her services to both you and Odessa."

There's a pinch of Harper's brows into a furrow right after he offers that. "It's— not to say you need therapy, but given everything you've been through it— might be helpful for you to have someone to talk to. I mean it only as a way to help, not as an insult."

The blonde tilts her head to one side, watching his reaction with a thoughtful expression on her face. She nods slowly along with his words, showing that she is listening and taking those words to heart. "I'll be careful, Harper, don't worry about that." She inclines her head toward him, smiling. "I have cause to believe that he isn't going to be hurting me, and I do not plan on handling this poorly." The two are quite perfect for each other, in ways that are probably a bit on the unsavory side. She wouldn't be hurt if he got locked up, though. That's fickle Elle for you.

She runs a hand through her hair, breathing softly. "He recently recruited Zachery Miller to assist in building him a new arm, as a personal venture, more efficient. Apparently, he's been keeping an eye on the fellow. I think that if Warren has cause to be interested in him, perhaps you might."

The suggestion of meeting with a psychologist prompts raised brows, and if it weren't for the immediate explanation, she would probably get pretty angry. Instead, she nods slowly to him. "I'll certainly think about it, at least…" Maybe it would be good for her, to talk to someone trained in talking to people.

"I've also spoken to Assistant Director Ryans, and taken steps to gain his trust. However, to do so, I'll be needing a little help from you guys." She smiles.

"Zachary Miller?" There's a furrow of Harper's brows when he latches onto that point. "Be careful with him, Bishop. Crowley and Thompson picked up Miller months ago to join the Company. I don't know if he ever took the offer or not, but they had their eyes on him. He might be some sort of observational agent or a spy. Do with that intelligence whatever you feel necessary." Wringing his hands together in his lap, Harper looks down to the floor and stares vacantly for a moment.

"I'm also not worried about you getting hurt by Warren, but getting hurt in his proximity. Warren leads an unnecessarially dangerous life, and you might find yourself in a dangerous situation you didn't knowingly enter. I just want you to be aware of his— choices and your own. You're an important person to us, Elle, and I'd hate to see you get hurt."

Lifting his hands from his lap to slap onto his thighs, Harper turns to face Elle more thouroughly. "As for Ryans, what… kind of help were you thinking of? Because there's something rather specific that I'd like to have you handle with him, but it may have to wait a little bit. For now, though, why don't you fill me in on your own agenda."

Elle frowns at the revelation of Zachery's involvement with the Company. Well, that's a little bit of a wrench in her plans. She'll have to discuss this with Warren. He needn't know that Harper told her about this, just that she's done some digging. She offers a slow nod. "I'll certainly be careful about it…thank you for letting me know about this."

His sentiments prompt an almost amazed look from Elle. Oh, if only Harper knew how much that means to her…but then, he probably already does know what that means. She offers a bright smile, one of the few that really reaches her eyes. "…Thank you, Harper. I'll definitely watch myself more carefully." She nods slowly.

"I hope you don't object that I've used your recent incident at the meeting earlier to fuel my momentum. It worked well, I think. He had already spoken to me, worried about whether or not you had come to me asking for a job." A small smile creeps over her lips as she speaks. "So I went and told him that you DID ask me to join up with the Institute, and that I told you maybe. Long story short…Ryans is under the impression that I am coming to you to get information for him." She tilts her head. "This is where you come in."

"Ryans isn't an idiot," Harper has to admit quietly, "he's been doing his job longer than I've been doing mine, and I know how dangerous an old-hat agent can be. He's also a loose-cannon at times, which is why he was put where he is. The problem with this being, he might go out of his way to find out just how disingenuous you might be about this. It's a dangerous game to be playing, but it could give us a good idea about what the Company's up to under the table right now. Dalton is getting on my nerves, and this may be a way of getting around that."

Stroking his chin, Harper shifts his weight forward and leans off of the sofa, rising up to stand straight, smoothing down the front of his shirt as he turns slowly turns around to face Elle again. "If you're sure on following through with this, I can try and arrange for something to deal with Ryans, but I'm not entirely certain of how best to go about it. I'm sure I'll think of something though if you give me a few days."

"Yeah, I'm going to need some information that can at the very least be made to look real, if he decides to double check on it. If I feed him anything, I want it to be secure, so I don't compromise the line I have on the Company. So…let me know when you think of something, Harper." She offers a small smile. "I'm sure on following through on it. I can deliver whatever you want to give me easily enough, I just need it to be air-tight so he doesn't catch me in the act."

She pulls her other leg up, now sitting Indian-style on the man's couch. "Let's see…oh, Odessa. I've had a nice discussion with her. She and I…well, we're gonna try doing this whole being friends thing. Oh, you'll be pleased to know that she also told me, after our conversation yesterday, that so long as the Institute is the best offer on the table, she'll stick around." She raises her eyebrows, smiling brightly to Harper.

"Oh, I think the Institute is going to be the only offer on the table," Harper explains with a fond smile. "Simon himself wants to talk to her, but about God-only-knows what. He doesn't make many personal trips from our main office, but usually it's important when he does. I figure he'll be here sometime in the next few days to talk to her."

Harper paces in front of the sofa, hands folded behind his back and brows creased into a furrow. "How're you feeling so far, about integration on things? I know we haven't given you much in the way of assignments, but that's going to change come September when things become more, ah… busy. There's a big operation for us at the end of the month, and we're going to be having you in on it. I just can't talk details right yet."

The blonde nods, smiling. "I'm sure that will be interesting. I wouldn't mind meeting him, myself, one of these days…" She inclines her head toward Harper. "Glad we could get her on with us, though…it's kind of nice to think that I might have a chance to make things right with Odessa after all." She scratches at the bandage, wishing to herself that she had gotten Darren to heal her gunshot wound while he was around.

"I feel kind of out of the loop, to be fairly honest. I can do the double agent thing easily…but I don't really like it that much. That and…well, you know my feelings on the Company as a whole." She shrugs her good shoulder, her blue eyes following Harper as he paces in front of her.

"Oh yeah…one last thing, before I forget. As a side project, I've been speaking to a man. Richard Cardinal." She produces a business card from her pocket, offering it out to Harper. "I have interest in finding the whereabouts of one April Silver for him. Also…I don't know about Cardinal himself. He's…difficult to read. What can you tell me?"

Harper goes pale.

"You— " there's an huff of breath and Harper looks to the door to his apartment, as if half expecting any moment for someone to come exploding through the door. When nothing does happen, Harper's blue eyes snap back to Elle anxiously. "Richard Cardinal is an extremely dangerous man," Harper explains to the exclusion of all other topics. "You cannot, under any circumstances, let Richard Cardinal know you're working for the Institute. There is no telling what he would do to you, but I have it on good account that he is extremely dangerous and very well connected."

Moving over to the couch again, Harper opts to sit down on the coffee table in front of Elle, hands folded between his knees. "Cardinal is also on the Institute's protected list, for whatever reason." Which implies not even Harper knows why. "He's not to be captured, obstructed or interfered with. Your best bet is to give him a wide berth and leave him be. But— " there's a furrow of Harper's brows.

Something about the who of who Cardinal is looking for makes Harper look pale in the face again. "Ease back on Silver for now. I'm going to try and turn the entire Company after her, but I want you to stay out of that assignment when it comes. When the COmpany comes knocking on her door, she'll rabbit. That's when I want you to pitch the Institute offer to her, if we can find her."

Sliding his tongue over his lips, Harper looks down to the floor, then back up to Elle. "Do you understand me, about Cardinal? I need to hear it directly from you."

Well, then. That was an unexpected reaction. Elle blinks a few times, peering up at Harper with raised eyebrows. He looks like he's terrified of just the mention of the seemingly harmless man. Her brows raise just about as high as they can as he tells her not to let Cardinal know about her connections to the Institute, nodding slowly.

"I give you my word that I understand you about Richard Cardinal. I'll give him a wide birth and do my best to avoid him." And to the best of her ability, she will do just as she says. But she's like a kid in one aspect. Harper, of all people, telling her to pretty much stay the fuck away from him has her curiousity. She certainly won't avoid him, if she spots him out and about. That would be pretty obvious, anyhow. "And I certainly won't let him know that I work for the Institute. Don't worry about that…right now, the only people who know of my ties to you are the Institute, Warren, and Odessa." Why would she even want to tell anyone that right now, when secrecy is her best friend?

She does lean forward a bit at the information on Silver, raising her brows. She grins softly, nodding. "I think I can do that. I will let you know that I've already spotted her. She rabbited when she saw me and fled. Bought us time, in any case." It keeps Cardinal from talking to her about whatever he wants to talk to her about.

"You saw her?" Both of Harper's brows raise at that, chin tilting up slowly. "Okay, I need you to tell me when it was and where it was and if you have any idea of where she went. Silver has been off the grid for a year or so now and…" Harper's eyes narrow, "outside of her identity as a Company agent, do… you actually know who she really is? Where she's from?"

Both of Harper's brows raise at that question, and the agent leans forward, resting a hand on Elle's knee. "Trust me when I say you've found yourself in several dangerous situations, because April Silver? Her ability is one of the more dangerous ones I've ever heard of, and I don't think even the Company wasn't even sure of her full capabilities when they hired her on board."

Elle blinks at the questioning, peering up at Harper with a curious expression twinkling in those big blue eyes. "Nite Owl, noon, yesterday. I was getting some food for Odessa, and I saw her and greeted her. She promptly threw up a forcefield and ran. I didn't chase her." Elle Bishop shrugs quietly. "I don't know much about her. Just what I could find in public records. The Company has gotten pretty strict about their files nowadays." She doesn't sound like she likes that fact. She used to be able to waltz in and read any file she wanted, really.

The hand on her knee prompts her eyebrows to raise. She stares at that hand for a long moment. If her eyebrows could, they'd probably be in outer space by now. He's touching her. Harper is touching her knee. She really isn't sure if she should think of this as 'bad touch', or if it should be more of a swoon moment. She chooses a mixture of the two, swooning and staring at the hand for a long moment with an intrigued expression on her face.

Then, his words pull her from her touch-inflicted daze, the blue-eyed blonde peering back up at Harper and nodding slowly. "Glad I didn't chase her, then…"

Just as quickly as it was put there, Harper's hand disappears from Elle's knee and rests back on his own. "Okay, that's… alright, so she's on Manhattan somewhere, good." Dark brows furrow as Harper sits up straight, his hands moving to rest on his legs with elbows bent. "I'm glad you didn't give chase, or you'd probably be in pieces right now. Silver's dangerous, but Simon has his eye on her for some very specific reasons. You see, the Company agent April Bradley died last year."

Harper moves to stand up, between the coffee table and the sofa. "The woman who saw at the diner? That is April Silver, but it's the April Silver who arrived here from the year 2019, right around the same time you were arriving in her era." With that, Harper reveals that he's aware of Elle's very unusual journey.

"I think you can see why the Institute would want her around," the agent explains quietly, "and why it's important that no one else get their hands on her."

Aww. That's not fair of him to do that so quickly. That leaves her wondering the real meaning of that hand on her knee! She peers at the spot on her knee where his hand was for a moment, then up at Harper as he speaks once more. She nods slowly, her eyes on him as he speaks.

Then, surprise rolls over her features as he not only announces that the woman he saw was from 2019, but that he knows that she went to the future, as well. Her brows raise higher and higher, until they can get no further up her forehead.

"I…completely see what you mean. That's worrisome, because Cardinal saw her, too." She frowns. "Might want to expedite that whole thing with the Company hunting for her, just a bit." Well, that's interesting.

She's reminded, for some reason, of something. "Brief change of subject…it's pretty obvious that I'm on you guys' side and not going anywhere, right?" She has, after all, done everything asked of her to the best of her ability, and she doesn't intend on stopping. Thanks to Harper, the Institute has gained her loyalty. "I want my file from Pinehearst."

"I'll see what I can do," Harper deferentially states, "it's not my choice whether sensative information gets handed out. I can't reassure you that what you get won't be terribly redacted too. There's a lot in there that pertains to current Institute research, so… I hope you understand that it might take a while. But I think you've earned enough trust from us to have at least that much."

Resting his hands on his hips, Harper looks down to Elle with a faint smile. "You look good," he admits in a measured and calculated manner, "I mean— you know, happy? I think this space away from the Company has been good for you. Don't worry about Silver for now, when we have proper intel for you to use, we'll send you after her followng the Company screwing things up on schedule."

There's a look out to Harper's window, then back to Elle. "You— should probably get going. I have to take off to catch a plane for a security council meeting in D.C. in a couple hours. Was there anything else before you go?"

The little blonde nods slowly to his response, offering a small smile. "I can understand that. Just so long as I can have it. I want to know if I'm living any more lies, you know? I feel like, if I can clear out the lies and figure out what's real and what's not real, I can really get a fresh start." She nods as she speaks, running a hand through her hair, she peers up at him.

His next words catch her completely off guard. The first statement prompts a reaction that not many people can prompt from Elle Bishop, the typically hardass blonde who likes to shock people. Now it's her turn to be shocked. A heavy blush colors her cheeks as she peers up at him, her jaw working for a moment. Then, he clarifies, and her jaw stops moving. "Th-thanks, Harper. I feel better since I got away from the base." She offers a long pause, peering down to the ground for a moment as she tries to quell the burning in her still-red cheeks.

He doesn't think that way about you, Elle, stop trying to read into things and put things that aren't there into the picture. This is a professional relationship.

As he makes the suggestion, the blonde abruptly stands, nodding. "Yeah, I'd better go get 'Dessa some food. Think the Institute has any hookups to a cooking class? I burn macaroni and cheese, last I checked." This is said half jokingly, the blonde offering Desmond a charming smile.

"You've never had the cafeteria food at the central offices," Harper admits with a grimace, "trust me if there's one critical weakness the Institute has, it's shit cooks." Cracking a smile, Harper shifts his weight to one foot and folds his arms across his chest. "Might do you some good to take a trip down to the Suresh Center. Might be able to catch a cooking class there, and it's as safe as safe can get in most respects, some good people work there too."

Considering Elle for another moment, Harper offers a thoughtful smile. "Oh, there is one thing…" Harper notes with an arch of one brow, "from your Pinehearst file, something I'm not sure you ever knew or— remembered?" The agent's head quirks to the side, and with the subtlest control of information, offers up a part of Elle's identity she never knew she was missing.

"September 17th," Harper explains quietly, "it's your Birthday. Your real birthday. I just thought, you know, you might like to know since you get to celebrate it this year. Wouldn't want you to miss it."

A small laugh escapes Elle's lips, and she nods. "Right. I'll see if I can find a cooking class there. Thanks, I at least have a place to look now." She smiles warmly to the man, brushing her hair away from her face.

She's about to turn and walk away when he mentions another thing from her file. The petite woman turns, peering at him with raised eyebrows. Something she never knew or remembered? She leans forward…then blinks a few times as he proceeds to tell her her real birthday. It takes a few moments for that tidbit of knowledge to sink in. Really? He even lied about her birthday?

Another strange array of emotions passes over her face as she takes in that news. On one hand, it's a reason to celebrate. She knows her true birthday. Another lie has been scraped away. On the other hand…she almost wants to scream, to go and punch her father.

Perhaps the reaction that Elle displays next is exactly the opposite of what he was intending. Suddenly, the little blonde's head hangs down…and she begins to cry.

Game, set, match.

Harper is silent, at least for a little while, before he takes a step over to Elle and crouches down on the floor in front of her, resting one hand on her shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze. "Hey," Harper notes in a hushed tone of voice, "easy kid, it'll be alright. I'm sure they had their reasons, you know?" It's entirely more sympathetic than Harper even cares to be. "You just take your time… I won't kick out a pretty girl who's crying, yeah?"

Letting that hand fall away from her shoulder, Harper stands up straight slowly, then jerks his head towards the door. "How about you hang out here for a little bit, I've got a carton of cookie-dough ice cream in the freezer and no slightly crazy blonde room-mate you'd have to deal with. You can stay here till you get this outta' your system. I've gotta take off though so I don't miss my flight but…"

There's a measured smile on Harper's lips. "Mi-casa su casa, or however that goes."

The fact that her arm is in a sling doesn't seem to matter to the petite girl, both hands lifting up to cover her face as she sheds tears for the discovery of yet another lie. Another changed memory, she's sure, without even so much as an explanation needed. When will the constant stream of lies, deciet, and memory manipulation stop? For just a moment, Elle's world feels dark, hopeless.

His hand on her shoulder, the squeeze, pulls her out of that place, prompts her to lower her hands and stare at him with tear-stained eyes. "It's…it's just…" She doesn't finish her statement, her cheeks burning red as the tears flow, rather uncontrollably. She's calmed slighty, at least, no more sobbing, but she can't seem to turn off the tears.

Instead, she just nods a few times, offering a small smile despite the mess that she's made of her makeup. "Thanks…thank you." She nods slowly.

"Don't mention it," Harper quietly offers to Elle, turning his back on her as he walks away from the sofa across the living room, towards the door to the apartment where he retrieves his suit jacket and slings it over one shoulder. "It gets easier," Harper explains thoughtfully, offering a shrug of one shoulder before pressing his hand down on the doorknob nearby.

"But you're on the road to starting a better life now, right? There's a saying, one my old SAC used to tell me…" there's a smirk playing at the corner of Harper's lips. "Nothing worth doing is ever easy. Maybe that helps you out a little, maybe not. But regardless, you're part of the Institute now, and we look out for our own."

Just don't ask Bao-Wei Cong or Dmitri Gregor.

"Get some rest, take the day off," all of those are Harper's last instructions to Elle as he pulls the door to his apartment open and steps out into the hall. He never says goodbye, maybe it's because he always plans on coming back, or maybe he just doesn't care to.

Maybe that's all part of the plan.

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