One Foot In Front Of The Other


cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title One Foot In Front Of The Other
Synopsis Getting back to real life is going to be a long road.
Date Aug 28, 2009

Safehouse, then car.

The presence of Richard Cardinal at the safehouse has been consistent, if not constant; he has things to attend to, meetings to arrange, the occasional shady dealing or small crime to carry out to keep his accounts in the green. And, of course, a certain racist organization to begin plotting against.

There needs to be planning for this. Death is, after all, too good for them.

"Hey," he calls gently, knocking on the door's frame and leaning in, "You awake, Liz?"

She's perched on the armchair that has been sitting back in that one corner of the room ever since she was well enough to get out of bed, literally sitting on her hands. Her bag, the one he packed just those few days ago, is sitting on the cot. And Elisabeth herself looks entirely healed and back in one piece, although they had to cut her hair — where it fell to the middle of her back before all this, it's barely shoulder-length now where they had to cut out bloodied mats that just could not be untangled with shampoo and conditioner. Still, it looks good on her, gently waving around her shoulders. Those wary blue eyes warm visibly when he pokes his head around the corner, though her uneasiness is still evident. "Yep," she says quietly. "I'm… girding myself. Lila's…. willing to let me stay in the room another day or so, but… she needs the space. So, uhm…. I'm …." She trails off and admits quietly, "I'm scared to death to walk out the front door." As stupid as that may sound.

A step in, and Cardinal closes the door carefully behind him. "I'm not surprised, really…" The door's left behind, and he approaches at a slow walk, managing a slight and rueful smile for her. He drops down to a crouch before the armchair, hands resting on the chair's arms as he looks up to her, "After what you've been through, well— hell, babe, you'n I both know you're gonna be messed up for awhile. But you'll pull through."

She watches him move, even now struggling not to treat him like a threat. Everyone's a threat. Elisabeth bites her lower lip. "So…. I guess you're my ride, hmm?" She forces a grin for him, sucking in a deep breath. "Let's get to it. The sooner I step outside, the sooner the panic attack will hit and be over." Because oh yes… it's likely to happen. "Are we … going back to my place, or somewhere else?" She tenses slightly, bracing herself for the answer — she hadn't thought to ask before now because… well… she has to go back to her life, right?

"That's up to you, Liz," Cardinal replies gently, looking at her over the edge of his shades with concern behind hazel iris, "You could go back to your place… or the library, if that's where you want… or, hell, Tahiti. I've got a plane. I don't think I have the gas to go that far, but I could give it a try— " A bit of humor in the last, if forced.

There's a clench of her jaw. And Liz says quietly, "I… think it might be best if I … don't go back to the apartment yet. Until I know…. what I'm going to tell people." Her hands slide out from under her legs and start rubbing up and down from the knee to the top of her thighs restlessly. Her eyes flicker away from him, around the room. "M.. maybe Alec could… double check the security of the apartment before I go back, too," she suggests softly. "If… if they find out that I survived before I'm… ready for them… " Oh yes… the paranoia is rampant as she fights to be ready to leave the safety of complete anonymity.

"Okay." A hand slides from the chair's arm, and rests atop hers carefully if she allows it, Cardinal's head dipping in a slight nod, "The library, then. I'm gonna have Bonder set up more security there, and anyone who tries to muscle in is going to have to get through Jessica." He knows that he wouldn't want to go through her. "Okay?"

Elisabeth turns her hand in his instantly and looks up at him. She holds tightly to his hand and sucks in a deep breath. "Let's do this," she says softly. He called her stubborn when she woke… and maybe she is. Some part of her brain, analyzing this scene in front of her, is almost proud of herself… because damn it, she's down, but she is not out. She is not going to hide in this room, no matter how utterly terrified she is to be anywhere else. She quirks a faint smile as she moves to stand with him. "The thought of Jessica is…. comforting."

As her fingers clasp his, Cardinal pushes himself up from his crouch, and steps back carefully to help her up from the chair— she may be well physically, but he's still treating her as gingerly as a treasured glass heirloom. "She's got her own problems, maybe you can… talk to her?" A pause, then he adds a bit more wryly, "…well, to Niki, at least."

"Do I dare ask?" Elisabeth asks wryly. "Usually, Jessica's problems come with lots of gunfire and Company agents hot on her heels and stuff." But the topic shift does seem to alter her reactions to a somewhat more normal mein. "I'm sure I'd love to spend some time with her." She looks up at him and comments quietly, "Maybe between the lot of us… we can figure out whether I should… report this or not." She looks at the door and literally squares her shoulders. "Okay…."

"You know about her… issues, right?" A twitch of Cardinal's brow upwards, not recalling whether or not he's ever heard her mention that particularly disassociative problem of the woman's. One hand in hers, he reaches over to grab hold of her packed bag with the other, his head shaking, "I don't know. We can talk to O'Shea, see what the force has assumed so far…"

She lets him handle the bag and then walks with him toward the door. "Uhm…. depends on which issues. The death of her son, Linderman's part in it, the fact that she's got at least three people in her own head plus a twin and possibly a triplet out there? She's got a lot of them, handsome," Elisabeth fires back with a quick grin. Even as they reach the door and she reaches for the handle with her free hand, as natural as breathing, to precede him out, her hand starts to shake visibly.

"Yeah, okay, you've got it then." As she reaches for the door, Cardinal keeps there close by her side; fingers lacing through hers slowly to clasp her hand warmly and reassuringly, he keeps up a general chatter to keep her distracted from her thoughts, "Varlane ran into her last week. He thought that she was Tracy… and when she didn't remember him, she assumed he was mindwiped. She threw a dumpster at him."

"oh… brilliant…" Liz breathes out. Both hands clench, her free one into a fist, the one he has just clamps tighter on him. But she forces herself to open the door and then firmly, in spite of the fact that she quite literally can't breathe right now, walks through the house with him. Bidding Lila a brief, very quiet farewell, she manages to hold it together until the hit the sidewalk. And by that point, her whole body has broken out in a sweat. Every instinct she has is screaming that she should be hiding, and the battle against that — the fight for the strength to take back her life is on. "Did she damage him?" she finally manages to squeak out. Varlane, she means.

It's a battle, but it's not one she's fighting alone. Cardinal's there beside her the entire time, his hand on hers in a warm clasp, his body warmth close beside hers and his voice there quiet, reassuring every time she tenses up overmuch or pauses. "I don't think so," he admits, leading her towards the car parked not too far away that he'd stolen that evening and switched the plates on already, "Claire would've been bitching about it by now, if she had."

The faint smile is more a grimace. The car looks a welcome refuge at this point, and she doesn't even think to ask him where he got it. One of these days that will likely occur to her. Cuz you know…. cop fingerprints in stolen vehicle and all! Elisabeth's entire focus is on getting into that car, though, and slumping down down down into the seat. Her heartbeat is far too fast and she takes deep breaths. "Oh, god… this is RIDICULOUS." Her anxiety ratchets down just a hair once they're moving and she puts a shaking hand to her forehead. Blowing out a breath, she looks at him as he drives and says, "You've got to think I'm insane."

Hey, it's okay. Cardinal has some very good buyers for his stolen vehicles. Only the best fences for the best thief (self-declared) in New York City, after all. Even if he has gone into semi-retirement in order to focus on… whatever it is he actually does these days. He helps her into the car, tosses the bag in the back, and circles around to the driver's seat to pull out. "No," he says quietly once she asks that, "I think you're traumatized. Big difference, lover."

Elisabeth tilts her head, pondering. "That's not the first time you've called me that," she comments mildly as she slouches in her seat so that she's barely peering out the windshield. On the move, she seems to be relaxing at least. It's far easier to ponder this than the other things in her head. "Why?"

"What?" A sidelong look out of the corner of Cardinal's eye, then he focuses back upon the street ahead of him as he drives. "I've called you that before. It's a descriptive term. We fuck. Ergo. You know."

There's a nod and she looks out the window. "That we do," she replies quietly. "I like that you're not calling me fucker," she merely observes as she looks out.

"You'd punch me," notes Cardinal. The car drives for a bit, and he slants a look back over, "Why?"

Elisabeth shakes her head at him and smiles, her reflection in the darkening glass of the car's windows faint. "No reason. It just struck me. Usually you don't bother with affectionate terms… if we can call it that… when we're not in bed, that's all." There's a long pause and she says quietly, "I need to go back to work, Richard. The fucking serial killer…. knew where I was. He came to visit me. Possessed one of the guards." She continues to look out the window at the streets they drive. "He's killed… a laundry list of women. And I don't know how to stop him. But I want him dead," she says quietly. "I want them all dead."

"I don't… know what's going on with that son of a bitch," Cardinal says more quietly, only this time his undertone's flat, cold, and dark, "But the rest… oh yeah. I'm turning to Humanis next." He drives for another few minutes, then asks hesitantly, "Do you— know any names?"

Elisabeth shrugs a little. "The one who …. came to see me most often. His name was Doug. He's… psychotic. I'm pretty sure of it. No one else." Her tone is bleak. "He never once told me he'd do something to me that he didn't do." A trembling hand comes up to wipe at her face, and she looks down at it, surprised to find it soaking wet with her tears. Again. She shakes her head slightly and looks at him. "What if I… freak out at the library? You… maybe you should take me home," she says softly. "That way I can't expose all of you if I lose it there. My abilities aren't suppressed anymore… I could … rattle the place down around your ears if I wake up in a nightmare, Richard."

As her voice grows unsteady, bleak, Cardinal's hand slides over from the steering wheel to lay atop hers; fingers curling around them in a firm squeeze. "I'm pretty sure the library's a little steadier than some apartment building," he says quietly, "I'm not leaving you alone."

As she curls her fingers into his, Elisabeth merely nods slightly. "Any thoughts on how best to manage this? I can't go back to work like this. And I need to go back Monday. Cassidy and Coren put the word out that I'm undercover, following a lead on Azrael," she says quietly. "But …. I think I'm going to have to report it. At the very least…. " She bites her lip. "When they find out they failed… they could just go for the sniper shot this time."

"I think you should." Cardinal gives his head a tight shake, gaze on the road but hand in hers, "Just say that they jumped you when— you were following up that lead. An evolved healer found you left for dead, wasn't registered so didn't give his name or identity…"

Elisabeth considers that angle. "Denton offered me the use of a shrink when I called," she tells him, looking back out her window. "I'm a fucking head case now." She sighs, her other arm going up to rest her elbow on the window where her hand can then rest in her shorter hair. "I'm missing time," she admits softly. "I think a lot of it."

"Damn." It's a quiet murmur, Cardinal's head shaking ever so slightly, "Deckard said that— look, I, I didn't want to suggest this, but…" He glances over to her, lips twitching in a brief grimace, "Maybe Parkman, or another telepath, could… help?"

She turns her head to look at him with a frown. "Help? Like…. help what? Mindwipe me?" Elisabeth actually snorts at that. "Oh good… I'll just tell Denton that's what I want from him, right? I'm sure he'll be THRILLED to oblige." She doesn't mean to sound the way she does. She really doesn't. And in point of fact, she's probably not even mad, because thus far she has still not pulled away from the hand holding hers.

At that, Cardinal gives his head a tight shake. "No. No, but maybe they could help you… work through it better? I don't know, I'm just… just trying tot hink of ways to help, Liz." A grimace twists his lips, falling silent once more as he goes back to driving.

"I'm sorry…. " Did she mention she was a head case? No? Maybe she should. Elisabeth sighs quietly. "I'm so far beyond fucked up, babe. I feel stupid about the shit that's causing me panic attacks right now. I can't sleep in the dark, I can't wake up in the silence, when I do sleep, I hear them… whispering in my ear." She grimaces faintly. "I'm afraid to step outside, I'm less than a step from a panic attack even right this minute. Part of me wants to take Teo up on that offer now…. to change my face, to run and hide. And I hate that part of me. I'm up to my eyeballs in guilt for the people who fucking died at that safehouse. And I'm so goddamn mad under it all…. "

"One step at a time, Liz." The pad of his thumb brushes over the side of her hand, Cardinal's head tilting a little to look at her as the car stops at a light, his expression serious, "If you start running, you won't ever stop. You know that. You need to stand, instead. And then we'll get these sons of bitches." The last said with a fierce heat to it, his jaw tensing briefly and fingers pressing against hers.

Elisabeth blows out a breath and nods. "Yeah… I know I won't. And I'll be damned if they'll take everything and make me run." She runs her hand through her hair, absently once more running her fingers over the spot where she was shot on her forehead. "So…. one step at a time. Get to the library. Have Alec… make sure the apartment's secure. Work up… a statement for work." She hesitates. "The logistics of this are going to need some thinking through. Like… if they grabbed me off the street and I was undercover, I didn't have my badge on me… but why do I still have my service weapon? I may just have to ditch my backup piece or something," she comments.

"Oh no," Cardinal drawls, "You'll need to leave your gun at my place. I can get you another gun you picked up as an 'undercover' weapon or something that you can use, babe." An approving nod as he turns a corner, heading towards the darker, less frequented depths of the city nearer to Midtown, "We'll work it out."

There's a nod and Elisabeth says quietly, "That'll work. They picked me up near the docks. Someplace we know there are no cameras, where they won't get anything even if they look." She rubs her forehead. "The rest… they wanted names of any place that I might know where Evos congregated. I'll just flat out give the cops Beach Street. Tell 'em I knew that it was a place that Evos who were scared went, and I didn't turn it in. I'll get my ass swatted for that, but… spin it so that… maybe I'd had some useful intel come out of cultivating it before."

"You won't need to spin it too badly," notes Cardinal with a slight shake of his head, "You're a cop, Liz. Maybe you forgot, but… racism aside… the Blue look out for each other. Just finding out what happened to you…"

"Yeah… well, that right there is what I'm afraid of," Elisabeth admits softly. "Because if I come out with this… it's a political hot potato to start with." She hasn't even heard they're discussing disbanding her squad. "It suddenly becomes Evo versus human on the force, even more than it's been… and I want to be able to say 'oh, there's no WAY those fuckers have people on the PD,' but…. you and I both know it's altogether too easy. Certain mindsets come with the uniform… certain kinds of prejudices. And even though we try to cull them out… there's a longstanding tradition of bigotry in one form or another. Women, fags, Evos…." She smiles a bit. "Why do you think Felix and I hit it off at first?"

"That's what they want," Cardinal says with a slight shake of his head, "They want evo against human… figuring that since they outnumber us, they'll be the ones who win out. Well, you know what, Harrison?" His gaze straight forward as they delve into the ruins, slowing a bit to avoid debris still in the streets, "I'm inclined to give it to them."

Elisabeth's free hand wipes across her mouth in a nervous gesture, then those fingers curl and prop themselves against her chin and she says quietly, "One step at a time, Richard. One shitstorm at a time." She offers him a faint smile. She strokes the back of his hand with her thumb, taking comfort in the twined fingers on the console between them.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License