Mixing Business And Family


elisabeth2_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Mixing Business and Family
Synopsis You want the bad news or the good news?
Date August 8, 2019

The Bastion

Donovan hadn't been kidding. Although Elisabeth hits the streets periodically for bigger things, most of what she's doing is coordinating. And paperwork. Because the world would stop turning if they didn't drown in paperwork. Today brings her to the Safe Zone Wolfhound headquarters — the Bastion makes the blonde smile. Just the name is a reassurance. A light tap on Francois's door is accompanied by a bright smile as the audiokinetic peeks in. "I see you in here pretending to work," she teases lightly as she enters. "Good to see some things haven't changed — neverending paperwork!" The feature to his desk is amused. "I come to bring you more slips of the stuff."

She appears at home in the slacks and blazer, her pistol and badge visible at her waist. Truth be told, she looks much the same as she did when he first met her as a cop, though there are fine lines in her face that speak to the hardship of the intervening years. "And of course to pick your brain." She grins.

It's an unfortunate series of familiar indicators — not very long ago, Kaylee had arrived knocking at his door in her police-best, paperwork in hand, with an idea to tap into his mind with more blunt force than Francois is sure Elisabeth intends, and of course: bad news. Still, as Francois looks up and zigzags his eyeline over Elisabeth's person, there is a certain sunniness about her that he avoids meaningfully bracing for the worst.

Everyone only has bad news for Wolfhound, these days.

He does not resemble the cop he is only contracted to stand in for, with hair beyond regulation and choice of clothing the kind you might wear after the gym, his hair still slightly damp and combed back. His office has little in the way of personal items, but Elisabeth might note the framed picture sitting beside a small stack of books — none of them he wrote, for the record.

"Then take a seat," Francois says, pushing aside aforementioned paperwork, his cellphone flat on top of it. "You seem like you're in good spirits."

The scan of her person is noted with a kind of amusement he can appreciate. Elisabeth understands the subtle wariness of 'oh god what now??' in his features. But the observation of her good spirits brings a momentarily startled expression to her face as she comes farther into the room. And then she wrinkles her nose a bit. "I'm not sure that's a good thing in this moment, actually… since it's rather incongruous with the topic that I was bringing today," she admits candidly. As she drops into the proffered seat, she pulls in a breath and considers her mood thoughtfully.

"Business or pleasure, handsome?" That hadn't been her intended opener, if the sudden pensive expression that passes across her face is an indicator. Still, she doesn't look strained, which is probably an indicator that it's at least not world-ending peril she's bringing to his attention this time.

"I have it on good authority it is wise to mix these things," Francois says, implying: it's him, he's the good authority. The offered smile comes and goes, though, as if uncertain as to how to read her signals.

And he is trying, in his unobtrusive way. Sitting on the other side of the desk with his elbows against the edge, hands folded, he parts his palms in a gesture. A buck being passed. "Most people say, 'good news, bad news'. I normally prefer the bad first, if that makes any difference."

Her smile crinkles her eyes at the corners and Elisabeth nods. "A man after my own heart. I'd much rather hear the bad and then get happier."

She pauses a moment, her demeanor definitely more somber, and then sighs. "SCOUT and SESA have a joint investigation running looking into the new drug on the street. Zeitgeist." Usually she'd be telling him this because they're going to be needing more combat boots to kick in doors. She doesn't draw out the suspense on this, though. "One of the Hounds was identified as having used the substance." Her blue eyes flicker briefly — she doesn't like giving him this news, but it's maybe not nearly as bad as it could be. "We're going to question her. The plan right now is that if she cooperates, there won't be charges filed. But you may also need to watch her — we don't know what any of the aftereffects may be. And if it comes time for Zeitgeist raids, I would rather she's not assigned to that detail."

It's clear from his expression — subtle though it is, she can tell the nuances — that this is Unexpected. As a person, Francois does not like surprises, even of the good kind, because in all situations that demand some kind of emotional response, thought, or answer, he'd rather have maintained control. So he is silent, immediately, hands clasping again and getting his study as she speaks, nodding to plans of cooperation, of requests to redirect focus.

Any other compounding interior concerns that immediately make this problem worse are— kept locked down. No doubt, Epstein will swear up a storm about it later.

"Who is it?" he asks, without feeling.

She clearly expects his calm reaction — perhaps brought it to him because he can always be counted on to not immediately explode. Elisabeth grimaces slightly. "Rue Lancaster," she tells him. Her blue eyes flicker over his face and she says, "The fact that no seems aware of a problem with her gives me some hope that the aftereffects aren't too bad, but it's a Refrain derivative of some kind, and that shit was both lethal and highly addictive." Her regret at being the bearer of bad news, well… that's a given. "I'm … sorry, Francois. I'll do all I can for her within the lines. But SESA are the ones who identified her, so it's already kind of out there."

She pauses a moment, suddenly aware of the turn of phrase there, the implication that she might have covered it if SESA didn't know already. Would she, in the old days, have overlooked the drugs? A thought for another time. In this case, it's both professional and personal courtesy to warn him what's already in motion, now that she knows.

Francois does not seem to notice this as a tell, but then, he would make a terrible cop. His first instinct has always been towards transgression, in favour of helping others and then himself. When he had told Nathalie, then Berlin, to make her own code, he had meant it. So he only nods a little, assurance he understands, when Elisabeth points out the limits of her powers.

"No, thank you for— telling me," he says. "It is news. Obviously. I don't really, ah."

And what are the limits of his powers? Francois wants to go immediately find Lancaster, shake her, instruct her to comply with the police and consult a lawyer, as if maybe she is a child who doesn't know to do these things herself, and also maybe not tell Epstein until Francois has determined what the most likely outcome will be. He wants to find out why she has done this stupid thing before anyone else finds out. He doesn't do these things, mind racing ahead to them, but pulls that back too.

Sits back in his chair. It could all, also, be far too late. "When is she going to be questioned? I could speak to her— I could accompany, perhaps."

"Detective Demsky is going to interview her, not at the precinct. Right now, it's off the record, she's not being Mirandized. " Elisabeth pauses and props her cheek against her fingertips, her elbow on the arm of the chair. "Honestly, I was shocked as hell and I'm hoping she just tells us what we need to know. We're all very much more interested in how she was approached and why, because this? This was invitation-only and expensive to participate." A moment's pause and she adds, "And at this point, with three of your Hounds compromised, I can't help but think someone is targeting Wolfhound."

Francois allows Detective Demsky to be a piece of reassuring news, along with the rest that goes attached. The threat shifts from police action — somewhat — to this new, unstable factor being presented. He makes eye contact at Elisabeth's last statement, and says, plainly, "Someone is."

He doesn't sound paranoid, which may or may not be reassuring. But he shakes his head against rattling off more details than might concrete this claim, arms folding.

"I will be interested to know the findings of the investigation, obviously. And if there is anything we can do to help in it. I'm sure Rue will comply."

Of course she'll keep him in the loop — as if! A single brow quirks upward and a flicker of alarm crosses her face when he asserts the organization is, in fact, being targeted. It's not hard to see that she's probably assuming the worst. "Is that investigation something that I can offer official NYPD resources to assist with? Or is it an investigation that more … privatized forms of investigation are better suited to?" Obviously, in either case she is offering her help. She just wants to know from which side of the line the help will come.

There is a little relief to Elisabeth's offer of help, something like gratitude, enough to bring about a quick, crooked smile out of Francois. "I meant," he says, "I would like to know the outcomes of the Zeitgeist investigation. It may give us answers, if it is tied in.

"Our own investigations, such as they are— we are working on it quietly. But you can anticipate me calling in some favours — soon, I hope."

"Oh!" Elisabeth flushes a rather deep rose color in embarrassment. "Yes, of course I will." Her mind jumped immediately to the wary suspicion of siege mentality. She's perhaps still not quite as steady on the ground sometimes when it comes to trust of the Establishment. "The Zeitgeist investigation is just beginning, but I suspect at some point there will be some kicking in of doors." She sighs. "I remember when Refrain hit the streets," she admits quietly. "That was a damned nightmare. And if it's coming in off Staten, well that's just going to be a train wreck."

Slanting a look at him from beneath her lashes for a moment, she adds, "You need me, all you have to do is say the word." Elisabeth is worried for him. Is Wolfhound a target as an organization? The answer to that has already appeared. But it's the target painted on the people's backs — many of whom she has ties to, it seems — that worries her most. "I'm… concerned. Knowing where Devon wound up, if they are related… " She lets the thought trail off, visibly trying not to jump to conclusions.

In times of extreme and immediate crisis, there are two responses. One is irrationality and impulse, and the other is the drive to make things calm and act with certainty. Frequently, the latter impulse is emboldened by the presence of someone succumbing to the former. That is, a little, how Francois sometimes views his partnership with Epstein. Of course, when there is no one around to rein in the impulses of the other, it's down to a coin toss.

Which is to say: Francois sees paranoia, the attempt not to dive headfirst into it, and empathises.

"Sometimes assuming the worst has a way of discounting the less bad but still terrible reality," he says, very wry, but switches to a more thoughtful tone as he explains, "Perhaps we are not being targeted, and we are just a collection of individuals who are later to adapt to peacetime than most. Perhaps someone wished to exploit Rue, but she has allowed it to happen, one way or another."

And Devon, who is only just realising he might have a future, and Curtis, whose strategies to cope with war have apparently mutated into something new and terrible. Epstein, who feels as though he has transformed rather than healed. And himself.

"Silver lining," he adds, "if it is something external, it's something we can shoot."

"Yeah," Elisabeth snickers a soft laugh behind her hand. "I like it when the enemy is clear and the job is simple point and shoot." Rolling her eyes, her body relaxes a bit. She's not so different from most of the Wolfhound members — still on edge, still watchful, never really quite came home from the battlefield. But she's working on it! "Those kinda problems are the ones I thought I was signing on to handle!"

No. She's lying. Even as she says it, she's kind of shaking her head. "Never mind. I can't even say that out loud with a straight face," she sighs. "I don't know if I'm ever going to walk out of this mindset, so… best I can do with it right now is use it. Which… hey, I like the job of watching your back." A flicker of a grin at him and she winks. "It's a cute back."

Gotta find your humor somewhere. Teasing Francois is as good a place as any.

She earns a smile for that one, and Francois puts hand on his chest as if her winks had heart-piercing capability. Such flattery. "If only everyone who brought trouble to my office could do so with such grace," he says. Humour reflected back at her, but still dimmed. A segment of his mind elsewhere.

Her smiley optimism and can-do attitude is a little irresistible anyway. Some instinct suspects: she hasn't yet confessed to the good/personal news just yet, and perhaps it is having an influence. He wonders, a little, ahead of time, already aware as he is of her engagement. Maybe she is pregnant. Maybe Richard declared early retirement from [CLASSIFIED]. Maybe Teo has commissioned her with delivering unto him the message that he would like to get re-married, actually, not divorced.

Anything is possible!!

"That was the only trouble, right? Anything else I should know?" He has half a mind to ask after Devon, knowing how close he is with the Rays, respectively, but Francois is not sure as to the lines of confidentiality, and ultimately does not.

"Yes, that's all the trouble I bring you," Elisabeth replies, grateful that it's not worse news. It's bad enough, but given the givens? It's pretty tame. Without being queried on it, she volunteers, "Everything else seems to be going all right. Dev's… quiet, but he seems to be recovering." A faint grimace accompanies the words as she admits, "He's probably doing better than I am with the fact that we're working together." Glancing up at him, the blonde reaches up to absently push a wayward strand of hair out of her face, her tone rueful. As if it embarrasses her a little to still think of him as hers that way. "I have to be careful not to treat him like he's still the boy to protect, especially when it comes to having to send him in first for dangerous calls."

Clearing her throat, Elisabeth considers whether to add something else, and then looks up to meet his eyes. "Need to know, no. But that I'd like you to, yes. I … sort of started to freak out a little that too many good things were happening and everything was going to vanish on me. So… We sort of kidnapped the parents and siblings and eloped."

It sounds really foolish when you say it aloud, at least to her, and her body language gives away sheepish apology. "I'm… maybe not doing as well controlling the aftereffects of so many years of waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Francois ducks his head in closer, as if trying to catch that in all the sort ofs and ellipses, even if Elisabeth never lowers her voice, and then blinks at the news. "Oh," he says, before he can think of something else to say. There are several things to unpack, but he manages to zero in on—

"Congratulations," is still taken aback, feelings hovering on the edges in which he has to select which one applies — but 'happy for her' is a safe bet. His smile returns, a little more crooked than before. Steps around this last thing she says, to ask, "What does 'kidnapped' mean?"

"Uhm," Elisabeth fidgets just a little. "You know… throw them on an airplane without telling them why until we're airborne and getting back before," interdimensional entities decide tomorrow is the day they're gonna take over the world "whatever is about to kill one of us this time decides it's time?"

It is hard to continue 'happy for her' when she is acting this strangely. Francois' expression shifts quizzical at her fidgety manner, this framing of the necessariness of a vacation wedding due to unnamed imminent disaster — as if she and Richard were so uniquely and constantly in danger that a lightning strike in the shape of Adam Monroe might wipe them off the earth if they didn't stop moving. He's not sure it equates to a Wolfhound officer using drugs to cope with trauma.

"Right, obviously," he says, managing to lean into humour while he tries to locate the source of her apology. "I mean, you should marry how you wish to. You have, I mean. You remember mine, it was a small affair too. No immediate family, maybe, but we made our own." Daphne through video, Eileen unaccompanied, Liz herself. The picture on his desk is not of the actual ceremony — someone's sneaky picture during what counted as a 'reception' after, when neither of them had been paying much attention to anyone else but one another.

It's an easy loop to get caught in, and he doesn't want to. He stops short of asking her how it was, just yet.

Now there's a sigh and Elisabeth admits, "That's pretty much what Kaylee said too, but as strange as you may find it, I feel just a little guilty about it." She offers him a small smile. "So I'm both happy and nervous about telling anyone. But I wanted you to hear it from me before rumors started flying." The law enforcement circle they run in and the circle of friends they have is pretty small and many are common to both of them.

She pauses and laughs softly, rolling her eyes at his quizzical expression. "Honestly, I am ridiculously paranoid some days; I'm fully aware of it. The therapist has a field day whenever I get hung up on myself and the certainty of impending disaster."

As she studies his expression, she might not find reassurance immediately, preoccupied as he is with studying her back. Listening. It's when she says this thing, of rumours, that uncertain doubt crystallises, and he steers a look away, all at once annoyed — perhaps unfairly, he's not sure yet — at talk, again, of therapy and disaster. There is apology in her body language and no apology forthcoming, and it is very much like she is not being very honest with him. Or, even worse, herself.

Traitorously, he thinks: people who cheat on their spouses make terrible wedding guests. Or family.

"Where did you go?" Francois asks, then, looking back up. His tone is politely puzzled, like he is seeking understanding about what she's talking about, but she's a decent enough read to know that something in what she has said has locked something down within.

As usual, she's managed to stick her foot in it. Elisabeth isn't certain how or what, but she's not so clueless as to not realize it. Instead of digging the hole deeper, she says simply, "Flew to the Caribbean overnight." She pauses. "And I'm pretty sure I've managed to do the one thing I wanted to avoid, which is to hurt your feelings, because I'm an abject klutz when I'm skirting things," she sighs. "I'm sorry." This is why she tends to tackle things head on instead of going around them.

"No," Francois says, a little overlapping with the apology, maybe too quick to say so, maybe too quick to not let Liz's sorry stand. It is very easy for that same annoyance to reflect inwards back at himself as soon as it goes noticed by Elisabeth, and he pulls himself out of his lean back into his chair to fold his arms against the desk. "Don't be sorry to me. Weddings— marriage, it's for yourself. And Richard, and your family. I mean that. If this is how you wished to do it…"

Dot dot dot. "Then you— don't have to explain it in those terms," he adds, a little stilted in delivery, like the effort of making this not about himself is a lot like a kid eating his vegetables. "It is enough to know you are happy." Hmm. Not bad, only a little shaky on the dismount. Maybe a joke—

"I mean, you've missed out on an elegant, yet tasteful wedding gift of some kind, sure. I will get you a card, at most."

"The only gift I need from you is a dance at the reception when we have it," Elisabeth replies softly. "It is the only important thing that was missing on the beach." She allows the simple statement to hang there for a long moment before allowing them both the retreat of gentle teasing. "But you can't complain when I step on your toes because I'm pretty sure you're a much better dancer than I am."

If it weren't for the fact that his personal life is a catastrophic garbage fire and his professional life is certainly headed in that direction, Francois might respond differently to news of a reception and his expected participation. Like with gratitude? He's not sure. As it stands, he doesn't really react, internally speaking, and the things he immediately wants to say feel variously too sarcastic or too self-interested to masquerade as humour. He laughs a little at this last bit, about dancing. Good word play.

"I hope you are able to enjoy it all, soon, without fear of it being taken away," is where he lands. At some stage, he'd picked up the pen sitting next to his hand, twirling it between his fingers. Some subliminal message that he has things to do, now.

Taking the hint, Elisabeth stands to let him get back to work. "Well, that's what therapy's for, hmm?" She shakes her head, and then says, "I'll let you know when Colette goes over ahead of time if I can." It's just about when Colette can make contact. She pauses on her way out his door, her mind still turning over the idea that Wolfhound itself may be someone's target. "Let me know if I can help your investigation. Whatever resources I can pull, you'll have." She taps the doorframe lightly with her fist a couple of times, thoughtful. "I hope it turns out to be coincidence." But she's not much of a believer in that anymore.

The reminder about why she came here in the first place does something to halt the weirdly depressive spiral about weddings, of all the petty bullshit he could have hurt feelings about, that's happening internally; Francois' relaxes a little out of his lean as she pauses at the door. "I appreciate it," he says, and it's easy to say, deference in the tip of his head. "I hope that—"

Pauses. Offers; "Well, that it is coincidence, yes. But I wouldn't mind if it made sense too, you know." That they're not all randomly imploding is another silvery lining to the prospect of malicious intent from an external source.

He shakes his head at himself. "I'll keep you informed too," he returns.

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