I Will Not Let You Become A Monster


cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title I Will Not Let You Become A Monster
Synopsis Cardinal gives out way more information than he may have intended.
Date Oct 29, 2010

Elisabeth and Cardinal's Apartment, Dorchester Towers

As she lets herself in the front door, Elisabeth is pulling the elastic out of her blonde hair. Turning to lock the door behind her, she then runs both hands through the light-colored mass, loosening it from the ponytail that's confined it all day. The automatic nightlight is burning, but the fact that there are no other lights on in the apartment leads her to believe that Richard is once again not home. Dropping the keys and her elastic ponytail holder on the breakfast bar, she pauses in the silent apartment to look around. Putting her elbows on the countertop, she drops her head wearily onto her forearms with a heavy sigh. Her weight shifts from one foot to the other, stretching the muscles of her lower back.

When she shoves off the counter, Elisabeth still doesn't turn on additional lights. Instead she pads in the semi-dark to the master bathroom and starts water running in the tub for the hottest bath she can stand. It's a nice way to relax after a trying day.

The door doesn't open again, but the quiest sound of a foot on the floor before it twigs her off that there's someone else in the apartment. It's Cardinal, of course. The jacket's shrugged off with a rustling of fabric and leather, and he walks along over to the living room, tossing it over the back of the couch.

"Hey, Liz," he calls out tiredly, "Long day?"

"Yeah… something like that," Elisabeth replies, stepping back out into the main bedroom. She's yanking her overshirt off over her head as she sits on the edge of the bed, listening to him walk through the living room. "You could join me for a long soak. It's not a hot tub, but….." She trails off, the faint smile clear in her tone. "It's a nice place to talk," she offers softly as he appears in the doorway.

"Tempting." Cardinal leans against the couch's edge, and he lifts one foot up to unlace his boot, "We don't exactly have…an enormous tub, though. Speaking of tubs…" He glances over to her, "…you seen the news? The Locos' video?"

There's a sigh from the bedroom. Her own boots hit the floor and there's a long moment of silence. Then the bed springs squeak and her footsteps carry her into the bathroom again where the water turns off. She steps out into the hallway to lean on the jamb of the door with one shoulder, crossing her arms over the black long-sleeved shirt she still wears, though it's now untucked from her black pants, as she watches him. "Yeah." Her tone is … not exactly angry, but definitely tight. "Are we planning on moving on it?" she asks him quietly.

At the question, he shakes his head slowly, boots off and bare-socked feet hitting the floor before Cardinal leans back against the couch, both hands resting to either side of him. "I'm letting the law handle this one," he says simply, "I'll get the location of his base from Lola and we'll pass it on to whoever's dealing with the Loco investigation. We gave Warren his chance to deal with them. He only had the one."

There's a slow nod and a pursing of her lips. "Find out where they are first," she comments quietly. "I'm going to likely wind up called out on it. I'd like to know that ahead of time," Elisabeth replies. She pushes off the door frame and walks to him, slipping her arms around him as she slides herself into the cradle between his thighs. "Talk to me, babe. Something's eating at you besides the fact that Elle's a natural blonde." Who needs to be smacked until she finds some common sense.

"I'm not sure where it is… I think it's somewhere down under Midtown," Cardinal admits, "That's where Mortimer had me meet him at some point. I just don't know if that's actually near where his hideout was or not…" As she approaches, he reaches out to drape his arms around her neck, head dropping down to rest brow to brow, "…Parkman's trying to convince his daughter to move in here so the Ferry can evac her if things go south. Warren's just about got the jammers ready, I'm calling on that speedster that was at the hospital attack - Daphne - to distribute them…"

Great. Elisabeth grimaces. "That'll be entertaining," she murmurs sardonically, closing her eyes and soaking in his presence. "Report it," she tells him quietly. "It needs to be handled." She sighs quietly, her body relaxing into his. "It wouldn't hurt my feelings to see Molly Walker get evacuated," she says, uncertain why he's concerned about that thought. "I'm glad the jammers are about done…. Claire's concerned about being one of the triggered," she says softly.

"Molly's not having any of it. She's pretty pissed at Matt right now. I'm not sure if he'll be able to pull her out've Angela's house. If she does, we'll need to watch her carefully…" Cardinal sighs softly, falling silent for long moments as he relaxes against her, his eyes closing. Just remembering the sound of her breath, the warm feel of her against him, shutting out the rest of the world for a few heartbeats. Finally, he asks quietly, "Do you ever wonder if we're doing the right thing?"

Heh. Usually it's Liz asking that question. She could make a quip, turn it into something else. Dismiss it. But instead, Elisabeth admits simply, "Every minute of the day. We're playing with forces we barely comprehend. Hoping that we're not making things worse every step of the way." She tips her head, pulling back just a little to look up at him. "Sometimes the abyss looks back," she murmurs. "What's making you doubt?"

"I mean… we're just bulldozing down the futures that we see, just hoping something better'll be on the other side," Cardinal says quietly, his eyes still closed, "Did you ever think that maybe… it'd be better if we just let it happen, and did what we could to ease the damage?"

Wow… something's really got him worried and doubting. When she brought up that question herself, he commented that it was bullshit. Elisabeth reaches up and cradles his cheek, her eyes searching his face for answers that can't be read in his expression. "I could say a lot of things here. And part of me …. part of me wants to offer you the same kind of reassurance that you gave me when I asked that question, Richard," she says softly. "I want to tell you that it's bullshit. That letting something bad happen is always the wrong thing. But… I'm not sure that it is."

Elisabeth pauses for a long moment and says softly, "Do you think Hiro Nakamura doesn't want to go back and stop the Midtown blast? And for all we know, perhaps he actually did stop it… and then watched the world die a far more horrible death because … I don't know. Evos remained hidden and were ultimately needed. I wondered when I met him… how many timelines he'd truly seen. How many times he might have tried to fix things." She shrugs a little. "I don't have the answer for you. I can… tell you what I think. If you want to hear it."

There's definately something bothering him, because Richard doesn't quite meet her gaze for a few moments. When he finally looks up to her eyes, there's a shadow behind them, haunted and uncertain. "I wouldn't ask," he says in quiet tones, "If I didn't want to hear what you had to say. Do you think I'm… wrong, then? Should we've just let the riots happen?"

"It's not wrong to want to save the world from itself," Elisabeth says softly. "I wouldn't even be here if I thought that. We'd have never gone to Antarctica or stopped the Vanguard on the Narrows or… Christ, any of a hundred smaller things we've done the past couple of years. But … there's something to be said for understanding that you can't have light without darkness. There is no good in the world without bad. Perhaps … eradicating the bad isn't the answer. I don't know," she admits. "I've often wondered if we should take a lesson from those damn Terminator movies, honestly."

Liz clarifies that statement, or tries to. "In all that we've seen over the past couple of years… are we simply postponing an inevitable outcome because human nature is what it is and too many circumstances have already led us to the tipping point where there's going to have to be a period of bloodshed before everyone settles down?"

"That's what I was afraid you were going to say." Cardinal leans back a little, letting his head fall back so he's looking at the ceiling, fingers sliding back until they're resting on her shoulders. "That's… what the Institute's doing. It's just letting everything happen and doing its best to make sure that there's a humanity left to rebuild from the ruins. Broome thinks he's playing Noah before the flood."

Both her brows shoot up. "Seriously?" Elisabeth is quiet for a long moment and then asks, "And you bought that line?" Her tone is … not quite incredulous, but it's close. "Aaaaaannnnnddddd they justify experimentation on people like Gillian how exactly in this whole Noah and the flood thing?" she asks.

"They 'misinterpreted' the control that Luis had over Gregor, supposedly. I don't know, I…" Cardinal's head ducks a little, his eyes closing again as he grimaces downwards, "…I think he means it. I just don't… know if he's right… or wrong. If I believe them, then I'm the one that's completely wrong."

Elisabeth's arms around him never slip away. Perhaps she needs the contact as much as he seems to. She sighs heavily. "Well, babe…. here's the thing. It's the same problem we always face with this job. There is no right answer. There's a bunch of people's opinions on what a 'good' outcome entails. And we're all — well, most of us I think — are in agreement only about some of the aspects. You can't make all the people happy all the time." She pauses and asks him quietly, "Tell me what's happening. It's not like you to second-guess yourself this hard, especially not with concrete evidence to back it up." He's usually pretty self-assured that we're doing the right thing.

"That's… that's exactly what I'm doing, lover." Richard looks back up again, meeting her gaze with his own haunted eyes, "I'm second guessing myself. I'm Broome's boss, Liz. I started the Institute to begin with. Not… me me, another me, an alternate me. Like the other Edward."

Of all the things he could have said to her, that one was not even on the radar. Elisabeth's blue eyes land on his face and he gets the blank look of utter shock. She's speechless.

"Yeah." Cardinal's hands drop down off her shoulders, falling to rest against the couch's back, his eyes closing again, "That's what I said. Guess I shouldn't be surprised… if things really— really went south, that's exactly the sort've thing I'd do."

Elisabeth sucks in a breath and blows it out, her hand coming up to rub her forehead. "Holy shit," she murmurs. "That's one hell of a bombshell, love." She doesn't pull back from where she leans against the curve of his body, though. "I have about a million questions I'd like to ask and a whole host of emotions I can't exactly identify at this moment," she admits. For him to be driven to do this — Dear God, just how far wrong did everything go? Christ. Her hand slides to his chest and she says quietly, "So… basically what we're fighting right now is an alternate timeline version of you? Jesus fuckin' Christ." She's hard put to articulate what she's thinking. "Do we…. I don't even know where to start. Are you … well, clearly you're not convinced that his way is the way to go in spite of the fact that he's you. So…. what do you want to do?"

"I don't know. I just… don't know." The Red King's jaw tenses, and he does pull away slowly, stepping away from her and pacing over towards the kitchen, hand raising to rub at the nape of his neck, "He refused to give me any details. Listening to him, though, he's… he's not all there, I don't think. And I think it's even worse than that. He talked about what the Institute did if Munin exploded and flooded the planet… and he said that my current plan won't work either. I think…"

"Liz, I think I did this more than once."

She lets him go; when he needs space to pace, Elisabeth isn't one to be in his way. She turns, her hips leaning back against the back of the couch herself now. She rests her hands near her hips and frowns at that bit of intel. "Good," she murmurs in a sardonic tone. "Just what we need. Insane future versions of you doing exactly what we've always said was a bad idea and would drive you batshit." She looks at the ceiling of the apartment. "You always did love making life harder on yourself than it needs to be," she comments on a sigh.

After a moment's thought, though, Elisabeth thinks to ask, "You know… he says your current plan won't work. To stop the riots. Does he mean that we can't stop the riots, or that even if we do, we can't stop the overarching slide into nastiness?"

"I don't think it's the riots that he's talking about," admits Cardinal quietly, stepping into the kitchen area and pulling the door open; crouching down a bit to search for a beer on the floor of it, his voice drifting back in tight, worried tones, "It's more— longer term. He doesn't seem to think taking down the Linderman Group was a good idea, but he's right, it's too late now. He wasn't very— specific. I don't know."

Elisabeth waits in the living room for him. There's always beer in the fridge nowadays, unless he forgot to pick some up after finishing it. It's as much his refrigerator as hers. She's quiet for a long while, until he finds his drink and reappears in the living room. "So… what you're telling me is that you think somewhere along the way you teamed up with someone who could help you travel back and continue changing time in the hopes of making it better…. and you keep failing," she says somberly.

"He's insane." A beer bottle's taken from the fridge, and Cardinal pushes himself up to him feet again, twisting the cap off and tossing it in the garbage. He walks slowly back out into the living room, leaning against the door's frame, his head falling back against the wall, "I know— I mean— what I'm like. And I could see that in him. But it was— just wrong. I don't know if anyone that didn't know me as well as I do would've picked it up, he's gone over the edge. I don't know if I blame him."

A rough snort, "He's even made sure I can't just shoot him. He claims it was an accident."

Elisabeth looks puzzled. "Okay…. because of the fact that I still to this day have nightmares about putting a bullet in a friend's chest," she says softly referring to the illusion of Abby that she killed in Russia, "let's not talk about me having to imagine putting a bullet in an older you's chest. Kay? Kay. That said…. what was an accident, and why can't we take him out of the equation?" She doesn't sound like she's going to do so, just wondering why he can't.

"Because," Cardinal says quietly, "He took over Tyler's body."

Her fingertips come up to rub the side of her forehead as if she's getting a headache, absently stroking the place she took the bullet last year. Elisabeth sighs heavily. "I see."

"Which means he has Tyler's ability too…" Cardinal's lips purse in a grimace, "…it's all a big… fucked up… fuckstorm." He tilts the beer back to his lips, eyes closing as he swallows. "So I need to figure out what to do without following my own instincts."

Elisabeth remains leaning on the couch's back, watching him quietly. "Now that right there's a great fucking way to emasculate a cause, lover. Send the time-traveling version of yourself back to totally fuck with your head and make you second-guess everything you're doing." There's a long pause as she considers the matter.

"I know. I've thought of that, too…" A sigh whispers past Cardinal's lips, "…we're just… once the eighth is past, we need to do some serious work on our planning. I want to make sure we've thought everything through."

"Christ… we've been thinking everything through for months," Liz sighs, finally pushing off the couch. She paces a bit, crossing her arms as she thinks. "If he's actually you, Richard… he's got reasons why he thinks certain things won't work. Either because he's already tried them or because he knows more than we do. For Christ's sake…. " She runs a hand through her long hair, holding the mass at the crown of her head distractedly. "For all we fucking know, he came back from 2019 with the others and has been fucking with us from the start."

"No. He was dead." Cardinal gestures vaguely with the beer bottle, his head resting against the wall, "Samson killed him… in seventy-seven. His brain was preserved in one of Samson's jars… and then the Institute recovered it from the Company… and brought him back to life."

Elisabeth goes utterly still in shock. The blood drains out of her face. "Wh.. what?" She stares at him horrified.

Cardinal turns his head to look at her seriously, "That's why Samson recognized me… thought he'd killed me. It just— wasn't me. It was another me. And he did."

Elisabeth's expression shifts from horror to abject grief, the memory of his last death in perfect focus in her mind's eye. She turns her back to him, walking toward the balcony. Shoving the door open so that she can look outside, she wraps her arms around her middle and leans one shoulder on the sliding glass door letting the cold night air surround her.

Cardinal watches her walk away… and he grimaces, his head dropping forward, staring down at the beer bottle cradled in his hands. He turns it around a few times, then takes another long swallow from the brown glass. A sigh whispers against the mouth of the bottle, but he drops silent as well.

After a time, when she's sure her voice isn't going to break and give away just how much that information makes her want to throw up, Elisabeth takes in a deep breath and turns back around to face him. "It's pretty much too late to do anything about all of this now. We have two options — try to stop the broadcast or don't. If we don't, the only action we can take is what we're already doing… mitigate the damage as much as we can. Try to get people to stay at home, not be on the streets. I can go to Kershner with a credible threat, and we might be able to lock the town down. Impose a complete curfew on people." She pauses and considers. "Hell, Richard, if we can black out the city, take out the power plant…. it'd keep it from being broadcast too. Or at least keep MOST people from hearing it."

"That's not a solution. It'd just… create more rioting," Cardinal says in quiet tones, "A total city blackout would be disastrous. We'll continue as planned, but after… after, we'll need to figure things out."

Elisabeth considers and says quietly, "A citywide blackout may create rioting, but it's not the kind of rioting that we've seen — the deliberate 'kill your neighbor, kill everyone in sight, enjoy it' kind of shit that Claire and others have seen." She pauses and adds, "I've seen riots in this city. Dealing with those is doable. I'm not entirely sure dealing with an Evo-driven posthypnotic suggestion really is. But if you think the course needs to be kept to and that the thing we should be most worried about is whether to actually take down Linderman or not, then I'm okay with that choice." She moves to walk back over to him, standing in front of him once more. "You told me once that I might not like where you led me. My faith in you isn't blind, Richard. We're going to make mistakes. We're imperfect to start with and dealing with intel that is, at best, patchy. So we'll just do the best we can and hope to God it's enough."

There's a faint smile that doesn't touch sad blue eyes. "And if the day comes that the future you is just too insane to be borne…. if you can't pull the trigger, I sure as hell will," Elisabeth informs him gently.

A breath's drawn in slowly and exhaled in a slow sigh, the beer bottle resting against his forehead. Cardinal's eyes are still closed as he murmurs before the glass, "…yeah. I know. All we can do is… what we can do. I just don't— I don't want to turn into him, Liz. I don't want to be so focused on the ends that I don't care what the means are."

"I won't let that happen," Elisabeth says quietly. Reaching up to take the bottle from him, her free hand cradles his cheek and she stands on her toes to rub her lips along his jaw in a soft caress. "I will not let you become a monster," she insists. When her mouth reaches the soft hollow beneath his ear, she leaves a gentle kiss there willing him to believe her. To believe in her.

The beer's surrendered, and Cardinal leans back in against her, arms loosely curling about her waist. He tilts his face into hers, exhaling a slow sigh of breath across her cheek. "I know you won't," he says quietly, "I just have to believe that I don't need to be a monster… to make the world better."

Easier said than done, Elisabeth admits silently to herself. She holds him, offering the only support she can. "If he's so damn smart and has seen so many things… when this is over, perhaps we can get him to lay out what he's already seen and we can come up with an alternative plan." Somehow in the middle of it all, she still manages to find a silver lining.

With a heavy sigh, she nuzzles his cheek and murmurs quietly, "There are plenty of times that I've wondered if we're better off letting the bad things happen and instead of trying to change them altogether just try to minimize the damage. A quarter million people would have been changed into Evos if we hadn't stopped that…. was that the wrong thing? Even now in hindsight, you and I've both asked ourselves that question. Some things we've done I'm sure of — the flooding. The virus. But others…?" Elisabeth shakes her head. "I don't have those answers. Every change we make leads to other things happening, for good or bad."

"I know. If he'd just told us his plans… I would've been less uncertain about it," Cardinal admits quietly, his cheek rubbing back against hers in a brief nuzzling for reassurance, "Guess he had his reasons not to. I think…" He trails off, head shaking ever so slightly as he dismisses whatever thought he'd had. No, there are things he doesn't need to tell Liz about Edward's plans, and about some of the possibilities of his future self's past.

It won't happen now. So it doesn't matter.

"We're locked into a course now," he admits, leaning back a little to look down to her, "So we'll do it as best we can. And we'll see what's… coming next around the corner."

Elisabeth offers him a small smile. "I'd say that's pretty much status quo for us." For a long moment, she studies his face. Something is playing about behind those eyes, the wheels in her head are turning. She seems to come to a decision as she watches him, and says quietly, "I'm going to be in and out of town a good bit this week. Training a new officer on the armor. The one Elle brought to Redbird. Somewhere in there…. I think I need to go to Massachusetts, Richard. It may bring us some answers, or it may just put some personal ghosts to rest, I don't know. But either way, I need to deal with it."

"Massachusetts?" Well, that was out of nowhere. Cardinal's brow furrows a bit as he looks up to her, "Why?"

"Because if he's on an operation and he knows anything that we need to know, he'll tell me," Elisabeth replies calmly. "And I'll know whether he's telling the truth or not." The very idea of Norton Trask working for a future version of Richard Cardinal? Something about that is definitely pinging Liz's radar. "If Trask went to work up there just because there was a job opening and he applied, that's one thing. But if he was recruited, Richard? That means future you or alternate you or whatever the fuck, he's got an agenda. And I'll be goddamned if I'm going to let him play us against one another."

"Oh." Trask. Cardinal seems somewhat ill-at-ease about that, nodding slightly, "Well… we need to get up to Cambridge at some point anyway, to visit Edward's old friend. You can take a side trip when we head up there."

That's the second time he's done that. Elisabeth's blue eyes narrow slightly and she murmurs, "Okay, you… spit it out." She takes a swallow out of the bottle that she took from him, draining the last of the beer out of it and leaning sideways to set it on the breakfast bar around him. Then she gives him the firm Eye. "You made that face when you told me the man was up there. And you made that face again just now. Is there a problem you're not telling me about, or … what? Do you think he has any way to sway me over to the Dark Side or something?"

Ah, hell. Caught. "No," Cardinal says with a roll of hie eyes, head shaking a little bit, "Don't worry about it. Let's… weren't you talking about a bath when I walked in?"

Oh, forget that shit. Both brows shoot upward and Liz says, "I was. And I will be again. As soon as you tell me what's sticking in your craw."

"It's nothing," Richard insists, pushing against her hips lightly as he tries to step away from the wall, "Seriously."

Elisabeth plants her hand on the wall next to his head. "Now, see, if it were 'nothing,' you'd definitely have already told me and not made such a big thing about not telling me," she informs him mildly. Same as whatever it was he saw in his flash. "You're worried enough that your face wrinkles up." She stands on her toes to kiss him softly and murmurs against his skin, "Whatever it is, if you want to talk…. I'm here." Then she lets him nudge her away.

Cardinal's head drops down to brush a kiss back against her lips, forehead resting to hers. "God, I hope not," he mutters, "I'd look terrible with my face all wrinkled up. Like some kind've mummy. Can you imagine it?"

She laughs softly. "I can! It happens every time that name pops up," Elisabeth retorts on a chuckle. "Of course… it could just be plain old-fashioned jealousy." She pauses and considers. Then shrugs. "Nah." She grins cheekily, taking his hand and drawing him back toward the bathroom for that bath in the garden tub. "Nobody whose woman just said 'I want to have a baby and I want it to be yours' has a goddamn thing to be jealous about," she comments.

"Hush." Cardinal rolls his eyes, fingers curling with hers in a clasp as she pulls him towards the bathroom, "Shut your mouth and just run that tub, woman…"

Elisabeth stops dead and turns to look at him. It never occured to her that he'd be jealous of anything to do with one of her ex-lovers. And she twines her arms around his neck right there in the hallway. "I love you, Richard Cardinal," she says with a soft smile.

Cardinal takes a step in closer to her in the bathroom's doorway, hands resting on her hips and head tilting in to rest against hers. "I love you too," he murmurs quietly, "Even if you are nosy as hell sometimes."

"Moi?" Elisabeth retorts, mock-affronted. "Hello, pot. This is kettle calling!" She giggles.

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