Not So Black And White


claire2_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif

Scene Title Not So Black and White
Synopsis Liz runs back to New York to confront Claire on what happened while she was gone.
Date February 02, 2010

New York Public Library

Once upon a time, the New York Public Library was one of the most important libraries in America. The system, of which this branch was the center, was among the foremost lending libraries /and/ research libraries in the world.

The bomb changed that, as it changed so much else.

By virtue of distance, the library building was not demolished entirely, like so many others north of it; however, the walls on its northern side have been badly damaged, and their stability is suspect. The interior is a shambles, tattered books strewn about the chambers and halls, many shelves pulled over. Some have even been pulled apart; piles of char in some corners suggest some of their pieces, as well as some of the books, have been used to fuel fires for people who sought shelter here in the past.

In the two years since the bomb, the library — despite being one of the icons of New York City — has been left to decay. The wind whistles through shattered windows, broken by either the blast-front or subsequent vandals, carrying dust and debris in with it. Rats, cats, and stray dogs often seek shelter within its walls, especially on cold nights. Between the fear of radiation and the lack of funds, recovery of the library is on indefinite hiatus; this place, too, has been forgotten.

Two days into urban combat training, her brain crammed full of information already and her body sore from levels of PT she has never indulged in, and Elisabeth is back on a plane and back in New York … a little bit worse for wear. She had planned on mostly coming back on the weekends, but between a text from Mack on the first day that she was in Annapolis and a text from Claire that says basically the same thing — 'need to talk to you' — Liz decided it was better just to come home and figure out what the hell could have blown up so damn fast.

Her sneakers are soft-soled enough not to click, click, click on the marble floors of the library, but the pace at which Elisabeth moves through the rooms is enough to make those footfalls potentially audible. And it's not like she's trying to sneak in. She hits the office door first, and without finding Bones or Claire or Peyton in there, she makes her way down the stairs with a purposeful stride, merely calling, "CLAIRE!" from the bottom of the stairs. She's not exactly in the calmest frame of mind.

"Liz?" Claire sounds surprised that Liz is back already. She had sent the text, but she didn't think she'd be speeding down like that. Her head pokes out to confirm, before she disappears again, with the sound of rustling. Then the tiny regenerator pops out of her room with a notebook held against her chest, with her arms wrapped around it. "I'd say welcome home, but I doubt this will be a good visit." She says softly with a sigh. "I'm sorry you had to rush home, Liz."

"Yeah, me too. The more often I have to do it when it's not the weekend, the more they may look at what I'm doing when I'm here." Elisabeth studies the girl. "You wanna fill me in on what the fuck-all is going on around here? Cuz then I need to go around and check on Abby too — caught the newspaper on the way in and happened to notice that Tanya got killed outside the bar the other night." She shakes her head. "You make sure you're keeping an eye on the place, will you? And send Mack to do the same in his spare time if I don't catch him tonight."

"I don't think Gabe, will want to even acknowledge my existence." Claire states blandly, this sigh is heavier. "Here by the way, before I start trying to explain… Peyton found Cardinal's journal." She hands over the notebook with the words 'Why I'm Doing This.' Scrawled in black marker across the front. "I held on to it so you could read it… I figure.. you'd… liked to know his reasoning."

Taking a breath, Claire closes her eyes and tries to get her thoughts together. "Gabe and I are not seeing eye to eye.. Bones, Peyton and he were together with me one night.. so I told them about my run in with West and Knox and the others talking about PARIAH. Told them what I was thinking on the whole situation… how I want to not close the door on them, because of Rebel.. Something I was going to talk to you about." She gives Liz a pained look, "He reacted really badly… for obvious reasons. But he wouldn't see reason.. He pretty much said.. We either not consider them at all, or he walks…. Rebel or no."

"I'm sorry it caused trouble, but the whole reason I joined Cardinal was that he didn't hide too much from me.. h told me the low down truth.. So I told them and my thought of choice in the situation." Claire spreads her hands before her, "Maybe cause I was PARIAH… I'm a bit more lenient.. not… that I want to get that close to them again… but we need Rebel to talk to us."

Okay… that's a slew of information to take in. A frown beetles her brows together as she Claire says she and Gabe are having trouble, and her blue eyes fall to the notebook in the tinyblonde's hands as it's proffered. Elisabeth reaches out slowly to take the book, the fingertips of her free hand tracing the letters on the cover as she struggles with her emotions. "Thank you," she says quietly. "I … appreciate that." She pulls the book tight to her chest and turns her gaze back to the younger woman, returning to business.

As she listens to Claire, Elisabeth purses her lips. "Really?" she asks dryly of Gabe's reaction. She sighs heavily. "If I hadn't been planning on at least keeping loose ties to the group, I would have told you to return the laptop to them immediately. But Rebel, I believe, is important in this. And while I cannot and will never condone PARIAH's actions — " her blue eyes cut to Claire, " — even yours — I also know that the world's not as black and white as Gabriel might want it to be. Ultimately… if he walks, that's his call. I trust him to keep his mouth shut either way, unless or until we cross his line in the sand." She smiles a little, remembering the day she basically told Richard the same thing — that she'd keep her mouth shut unless or until he started killing innocents and then she'd use everything she knew about his operation to take him down. Strange to be the person on the other side of that.

"I'm not proud of what I did back then, Liz." Claire states firmly, nor do I plan to take that route again. "But if we can maybe.. keep loose ties.. Not only will Rebel maybe keep us in the loop… but maybe we can keep them from being overly stupid." A small smile touches her lips, and there is something in her tone, as she "Or as Bones suggests… Show Rebel we're the better choice to work with."

Glancing down at the ground the smile fades, "Gabe said he's tired of selling his soul, but… Unlike Cardinal…" She motions to the book, obviously she read it too. "..he's not interested in hearing about predictions… which is kind of our modus operandus… and he didn't seem interested in the book.. which really put things into perspective."

There's a long pause. "Gabe's… a wild card," Elisabeth says finally, softly. Her eyes skim around the room and she sighs. "He was undercover out on Staten for far too long. I think the Captain forgot he was out there or something. Months, Claire. And when he got back, it was to find that his partner was dead, and SCOUT was being disbanded around us." She looks at the blonde. "And in the middle of all this, his fiancee — who he thought was dead in the Bomb — turned up alive and really pissed off apparently at him while we were off on our jaunt. He's… in a tough place. But I trust him. If he wants out, I'm going to let him walk. I … can't afford to keep him here if he can't understand that … something bad is coming. But let me talk to him about it first, okay? I need to know what his arguments are." She smiles faintly. "If it's just about the fact that PARIAH's a terrorist organization? Well…. got news for him. I'm not lily-white either. Pinehearst. Sea View. I wasn't on the Narrows, but … I condoned those actions too. So… " She shrugs a little. "I'd like to not lose the man's respect. He's got a place in all this. But it's up to him if he wants in. It's always been up to him."

"Just know.. I didn't kick him out.. he said if I wasn't going to give up the idea he would leave… but I wasn't going to back down." Claire's blue eyes lift from the floor. "I put a lot into this… and I'm not going to ruin the progress we've already made. I'm not going in blindly Liz.. but these are people I spent time with.. so I know them to a point. I know what PARIAH was." Lips press together. "they said they don't plan any action yet.. but they are building an Army."

"When it comes right down to it, Claire, we may need one," Elisabeth says grimly. She looks at the ex-cheerleader. "I want you to pull together all the intel Rebel's gotten for us regarding the camps. Cat's pulled together reports on some things that are tied into it — reports from the CDC and from newspapers and police files. I'm going to take that to Gabe tonight and talk to him before I fly back." Her smile is bitter. "Kershner and Lazzarro wanted me for my contacts — they want to know if I hear of a credible threat out there. Well, it's not credible enough for them yet…. but we'll get there. Eventually. And another old Phoenix member is also part of FRONTLINE. So I think… if the time comes… what Richard hoped for may actually come to bear — that we'll be in a position to present information in a legitimate forum and force them to act on what's going on. But it'll have to be airtight. I'm hoping I don't need an airtight argument to convince Gabe."

"I showed him the photos from the last image.. All he'd concentrate on is PARIAH." Claire ducks back into her room and brings out the laptop, offering it to her. "Since it's Rebel stuff.. everything will be on this." Giving her a tight lipped smile. "Good luck with him.. I think there will always be that PARIAH vs SCOUT thing with him, which I can understand." Sighing softly… "I'm not that person anymore Liz.. though if it's the only way.. I might.. but only if there is n other way."

There's a slight nod. "I'm not…. there comes a time in a war where the question always comes up. Is it okay to sacrifice a few to save so many more. And I… don't know the answer to that, Claire. It's one thing for… a bunch of us to volunteer our lives to save others. But… to choose to take other people's lives in the hopes of saving the rest?" Elisabeth looks… sad. "Richard and I've gone rounds over that. And in some ways, kiddo? In some situations, in some cases… the answer has to be yes. But I don't know where that tipping point is."

"Me either, Liz.. Me either."Claire says softly. "I… are you sure about leaving me here in charge?" The confrontation having really shaken her. "Peter told me I'm a sucky leader when I was left in charge of PARIAH…. I just…. I'm worried I'm going to royally fuck up." Both hands lift to comb fingers through her hair. "I'm doubting myself… even if I know I'm doing the right thing."

As she reaches out to take the laptop with the same arm that cradles the notebook, Elisabeth asks with a faint smile, "And who would you suggest I ask to take your place, Claire? Bones, who we hardly know? Peyton, who is near to the breaking point? Mack, who is too black and white and likely to fall off the grid on us?" She reaches out with her free hand and ruffles Claire. "Hold it together. You're doing all right. It's not so much about leading right now as it is about being in contact with everyone. Keep in close touch with Gilly — she can help."

Giving a short nod of her head, Claire tries to relax some, "I just wanted them to know the truth of the situation." Taking a deep breath she sighs softly. "And I'll keep in touch with Gillian." taking a step back her room, Claire smiles softly. "Good luck with Gabe…."

"I'm gonna need it," Liz mutters darkly.

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