Life Itself Is A Gamble


cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Life Itself Is A Gamble
Synopsis … sometimes you win and sometimes you don't. All gamblers know the House usually wins.
Date Apr 7, 2011

Skinny Brickfront, Endgame Safehouse

The strap of a laptop case stretches across Cardinal's chest, the case itself hanging down against his hip as he steps from the shadows and into the safehouse — notable primarily because the prime strategist of Endgame has always been something of a technophobe. He brings a hand up to adjust it, glancing down the hall for a moment before moving to mount the stairs to the second floor, hand resting lightly against the rail.

His expression is weary, resigned. He has work to do, and a lot of it.

The blonde working in the makeshift kitchen over the camp stove has her long hair held in a clip at the nape of her neck. It looks like she may have been reheating soup before he came in, but Elisabeth is not doing that now. She looks… strained. Worried. And in spite of a pair of scuffed, ripped blue jeans and an orange and pink fleece that may combine to make her look something like a college student, there is nothing childish about the weapon pointed at the door as he rounds the jamb. The hammer's pulled back and her finger's on the trigger guard, not the trigger. Perhaps because she still has a case of the shakes, the very slight tremor matching the almost soundless vibration around her. And there's a long moment where she stares at him over those sights before she sucks in a breath and lets it out slowly, lowering the cocked weapon and safetying it.

There's a gun pointed at him. It's a gun held by Elisabeth. It's stared at for a long moment, and then Cardinal's gaze lifts from behind his shades to her face. "…jumpy?" A quiet, simple question, his hand raising to rest against the door's frame. After another moment, he clears his throat, "I— didn't think you'd be here."

Elisabeth's mouth twitches into a semblance of a faint smile. "Jumpy… doesn't quite cover it," she admits softly. She turns off the stove, abandoning the pot of soup there. She tucks the gun into the holster at the back of her jeans and removes her hands from its vicinity entirely. There are several responses she'd like to make. Some of them angry, some of them not. She brings a hand up to rub her forehead absently and settles on, "It seemed easiest if we were all in one place for coordination purposes. And safer, perhaps…. Trask is able to keep me negated from the next room while I catch sleep here and there." It means she's not shattering glass anywhere in town, a sure giveaway of her mental state. Something also given away by the fact that the gentle hum around her is actually audible, if at a very low, subtle volume at the moment. "Do you want me… to go?" she asks, her blue eyes direct.

"Trask is here?" It's said in the sort of tone of — someone who's not quite sure how to take something, his gaze lifting to the ceiling as if to look for the negator, then back to her. The faintest of smiles crooks to his lips, shoulder coming to rest on the doorframe as both arms fold across his chest. "At least there's that. And don't be ridiculous, Liz." The smile fades, his head shaking, "I'm just — surprised. Is all. Take it that you aren't as cool about all this as you thought you were."

"You said you wanted him brought in," Elisabeth points out. She shoves her hands into the back pockets of her jeans, rocking on her heels. If he remembers dreams in her head, it's a very teenaged Liz thing to do, that movement. She nibbles her lip. "I wasn't as cool about all this as you seemed to think I was from the start," she admits. "Christ, Richard… " She blows out a breath and looks away, pacing a little to try and keep her anxiety from overwhelming her. "I'm the one who had to be shoved over this line for Apollo, remember? The one who has spent the past two years continuing to try to make a career while I played both sides? I knew it couldn't last, but… knowing is not the same as living it." She glances toward him. "I've always been a coward. So… no. I'm not cool with it. And considering it was all for nothing anyway…." She trails off, a bitter tone to her voice. "I'd been expecting them to at least use live bait," she admits. "But you're welcome to say 'I told you so' and rub a little salt in on that accusation of betrayal and stupidity if you like."

"You may be a lot of things, Elisabeth," Richard replies quietly, "You're not a coward, though, and you never have been. You'd hardly've made it as a cop - let alone a terrorist - if you were. You'd have run for the hills ages ago." His head drops forward, his head shaking a little, "I'm not going to say 'I told you so'. I didn't think it was the right thing to do. You did. You made that call. It was a gamble, you lost." Wry, "Not like I haven't lost any gambles in the past."

It surprises her. That he says that. And it shows in Elisabeth's expression. Some of the defensiveness in her posture eases and she turns more fully to face him, tilting her head. "I heard the news," she says quietly. "About Redbird being targeted for investigation." She pulls her hands out of her pockets and rubs them down her hips anxiously. "How bad is it?" she asks.

"I'm blowing up the building tomorrow," Cardinal admits, glancing back up to her over the edge of his shades, "Plan on stopping by Warren's factory tonight… signing some papers to give him co-ownership of the company. Maybe he'll be able to keep part of it running while we're in hiding." He sounds almost wistful, "I was starting to get used to it."

Elisabeth moves toward him to stop just at arm's length. "I'm sorry," she whispers. "I encouraged that. You always told me it was a front, not to get attached… and I'm the one who pushed you into looking at it as a true business. And I yanked the rug out." This close, the hum is something that buzzes along his skin. There's a springing of tears, ones she refuses to let fall. "There are just not words for how sorry I am at the cost."

"Hey." A raise of his head again, Richard's hand reaching out to brush against her cheek. "It's alright," he says quietly, "We'll get through this… yeah, I'm pissed at you, and… this has wrecked a lot. But we've weathered worse before, y'know? Guess I'll just have to take over the Institute."

That makes her laugh. Elisabeth can't help it. At least part of the stress of the situation is in the fact that he accused her of betrayal. And she moves those last steps to rest her forehead against his chin. "Pissed I can handle, love," she tells him, gentle tremors shaking her. "The fear that in taking the gamble I set you on the road to Zeke's life? That part not so much. You can be pissed for as long as you want." She grins a little a looks up. "You don't think I was pretty pissed when you ate a nuke?" she tries to tease.

A slide of his fingers through her hair pulls her head in against him, Cardinal's lips brushing against her hair as he leans in with a faint sigh of breath. "I won't repeat his mistakes," he says quietly, "It's okay. And yeah, yeah, I know… and I was pretty pissed when you got shot, too, so let's call us even there."

She leans into him, her arms sliding around his waist. Home. Elisabeth can finally breathe again. There's a faint nod against his lips and she remains there for as long as he holds her letting silent tears fall where he can't see them. When she thinks she has her voice under control, she says without drawing back, "Alia says you have the trail in place to frame HF for Redbird?"

"Yeah. It won't stop them, but it should… slow them down a little," Cardinal says quietly, "It should confuse the issue in the eyes of the public, at least, in combination with a few other things that I've put into motion. If we're lucky, anyway. It all comes down to luck, sometimes."

Elisabeth nods once more. "Maybe it always has," she observes softly. "We've always done a little better flying by the seat of our pants than any other way." She considers. And then looks up. "Jaiden and I are working on a script. I'm thinking about using older ideas. Going back to the grassroots. I'm not…. clean enough to be the martyr for the cause. But I think I'm high profile enough to make them start talking. To start questioning. And with Alia's help, we may be able to make it go viral." She shrugs a little. "It's worth a shot."

"I've got some recordings myself," says Cardinal with a slight nod, his eyes closing, "Dean had the right idea, way back then. Go to the public. They're the ones who matter here, and people keep forgetting that. We're fighting for hearts and minds. It doesn't matter who's in the government if they don't have the support of the people."

"Okay…. nice to know we're on the same page," Elisabeth replies. And then she reaches up to wipe her face beneath his chin. When she draws back, her eyes are red(der) and her skin a bit blotchy but she seems a little steadier. Not as close to breaking. "If you're blowing it tomorrow, what do you need put in place before that?" she asks. "Are you pulling everyone including Aric and Graeme and them underground? I got a text from Aric that said he's got his ability back, so I assume Elle and Harm do as well, right?"

"They do. I sent Harmony to talk to Brennan, just in case… you know. She's pretty sure that her power won't affect the kids, but…" Cardinal's head drops back with a sigh of breath, "…Aric, it's up to him. Graeme?" He looks back to her, frowning, "Why would we need to put Graeme underground?"

"Because Aric's sleeping with him?" Elisabeth retorts drily. "And I kind of figure in light of the fact that Jaiden was raided and Ygraine disappeared after talking to Homeland about the benefit and Aric is Graeme's boyfriend? Could complicate matters," she observes.

"Oh." Cardinal blinks. Twice. Then he brings one hand up to rub beneath his shades against his eyes, "Well, how the hell was I supposed to know that? I don't keep track of who my agents are all fucking."

Elisabeth snickers softly with laughter. "You should when one of them is being vetted for full disclosure," she returns mildly. "In any case… if you're pulling everyone underground, you might consider that situation. Aric's already been cleared by Jane Pak, who has zero connection to us and frankly doesn't want connection with us except… insofar as I've passed on to her where to go fishing for Humanis First intel," she tells him softly. "And she wants them bad. She hates them and hates what they're making of the government. To my mind, Aric and Graeme should stay out there as long as they can — but I'm not entirely sure whether they're going to be able to play the double-agent game at. all."

"They're not exactly subtle," says Cardinal with a slight shake of his head, "So it might be for the best if they did. Talk to them, you get along with them better." He closes his eyes, admitting quietly, "I've already put a contingency plan into motion to deal with the big four, so Pak may have to move fast."

Elisabeth hesitates. "Shit… cross purposes," she murmurs. "What're you doing with them?" she asks.

"Killing them," Cardinal replies, flatly, "And framing Humanis for it. And Heller."


She's silent for a long moment, processing that. "I …. okay. Is that something that's going to play out at the same time?" Elisabeth asks curiously. "Or are you planning on waiting to see the reaction to the Redbird frame-up?"

"I've asked Alia to work up a false paper-trail and communications regarding a possible Humanis infiltration of the government, implicating Heller…" Cardinal's voice is quiet, serious, "…and we have them taken out. Sniper rifles and explosives, no powers, just mundane methods. I put Alia and Monica on it." He brings a hand up, scratching at the side of his neck, "We can't afford to let them — continue this shit."

Elisabeth nods slightly. "Okay," she says finally. "Well, I'm a fair shot with a good rifle," she says. "Not as good as Lola or Jessica, but… not bad. If you want to hit all four at once, which may be the only way to really take them by surprise, let me know. Felix is a pretty damn good shot, and I think both Jaiden and Trask are not half bad."

Cardinal's chin dips in a slight nod, "I told Monica to try and find Jessica… I haven't heard from Lola in awhile." He pushes his fingers back through his hair, murmuring, "That was the plan. Talk to her if you want in on that."

"What've I got to lose at this point?" Elisabeth asks sofly. She sighs heavily and then murmurs, "All right… I assume you're goign to ground here after the building goes up?" She sounds… a little worried.

"I'm going to ground," admits Cardinal, "Not… here, at least not all the time. Better to keep things a little spread out. I've got a lot of planning and thinking to do." A lean in, and he brushes a kiss to her brow, "Don't worry. I'm not disappearing."

Elisabeth nods a little. "All right," she says softly. "As things come down, we'll sort out additional havens." She closes her eyes at the kiss and smiles just a little. "I worry all the time, it's what I do. But it's okay," she tells him. And then smirks. "Just don't run off to Tahiti without me," she teases softly.

Cardinal chuckles quietly. "Maybe I will. I'm still pissed, you know," he teases, giving her shoulder a little push, "Don't think you're off the hook on that one."

"Fft," Elisabeth retorts. "As if I could forget. Fifty years from now, you're going to be standing there and I'm gonna do something you don't like and you're gonna say, "Dammit, Liz, you remember that time when you didn't listen to me and you blew everything to hell? When're you gonna learn that I'm always right?" and I'm going to be forced to hit you in the shin with my cane," she informs him, sort of chuckling. "It's okay that you're pissed," she adds softly, looking up at him. "You're right to be pissed. I can live with pissed. I can't live with you thinking I turned on you."

"Well," Cardinal replies smugly, "I am always right, after all." A lean down, the tip of his nose bumping to hers as he murmurs, "Just try and listen a little better, alright? I need everyone with me on this."

The blonde gives a soft, theatrical sigh and murmurs, "I just knew your ego would inflate to ridiculous proportions." She tips her head up rubbing her nose lightly to his. "I'll do what I can." Her hands slip up behind his neck to draw him down for a soft kiss, an apology in and of itself. Her anxiety levels are still obviously high, the buzz still singing across his skin gently, but it has a lesser pitch to it at least.

The kiss is returned, softly, lingering a moment before Cardinal draws back with a sigh of breath. "I've got some things I need to do," he says quietly, "You should get back to - uh - cooking, or whatever it is you were doing in here. I'll talk to you later."

Elisabeth nods slightly. "Go," she murmurs. Glancing back at the pot. With a faint grimace, she admits, "Not much appetite." She looks back up at him, her worry still in place. "Be careful, Richard."

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