One Step At A Time


elisabeth_icon.gif niki_icon.gif

Scene Title One Step At A Time
Synopsis An unexpected visit before work. Liz thought Jessica was still in jail.
Date January 22, 2009

Dorchester Towers, Elisabeth's Apartment

The encounter starts simply enough. Elisabeth's address, knockknocking at her door.

It's a ridiculously girly thing to do — painting your face for a big meeting. But well… Liz has a very big meeting today, and looking professional and good is a necessity. It's part of girl-armor. She was brushing just a bit of color along her cheekbones when the knock sounded. It makes her pause and frown. Because the only person she can figure it would be is her partner — and that doesn't bode well. She heads for the door, dressed in a pair of sleek black suit pants, ankle boots with heels, and a soft blue silk blouse. When she opens the door, the expression on her face is going to be one of slack-jawed shock for just a moment….

Sure enough, it's a very familiar blonde. More specifically, it's a familiar blonde with a bag in her hand. She gives a somewhat sheepish smile, as if she's not certain how she's going to be received. "Hey there, stranger."

When she recovers her wits enough, Elisabeth says mildly, "Well…. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised, given who the two of you are indentured to." She moves to step backward, her expression wary. "Come in… I was just getting ready for work." Her heart rate has spiked into the stratosphere — she doesn't need that blusher she was toying with a couple of minutes ago, she thinks to herself rather randomly. "Coffee?" she offers. Mainly because she's not sure what else to do.

She looks a bit stung at the "indentured" comment. "I brought breakfast." she offers, lifting the bag. "If you were hungry. And I'd love some coffee, thank you."

Elisabeth waves her to the kitchen, taking the bag as she closes the door behind Niki. "Sorry," she offers quietly. "Frankly, the way Jessica made the Company sound, indentured sounds pretty much like the situation you're stuck in. It wasn't a snipe at you." She heads toward the kitchen with the other blonde to pull down a mug for Niki — her own is still sitting there, like she'd poured it not too long ago. "On the up side, it means you're out and about, though. The meeting with the psychiatrist went all right?" It's somewhat surreal to be having this conversation in the same place this woman — or at least her body — came close to killing Liz not too long ago. But then again… her life is somewhat surreal lately.

Niki nods. "I'm not indentured. In fact, I find out I'm a surprisingly wealthy woman." That part surprised her. "And the meeting went…as well as it could go, I think." The bag holds breakfast bagels from one of the New York delis. "And yes, I'm out and about. As of this morning, point of fact."

With a slow nod, Elisabeth studies Niki. "Good," she says quietly. "So long as you know what you're getting yourself into, I'm fine with that." There's a hesitation, and then she admits softly, "Mostly." It's why she didn't press personal charges, somewhat tying the DA's hands. She knew it could come to this, and leaving personal assault charges out of it was her compromise for Niki's sake.

Niki says "I knew more than I did. And…we're just going to have to learn how to strike a balance. Rather than fighting."

Elisabeth mmms quietly. "Well, that'd be a new state of affairs for Jessica, I think," she observes as she pours coffee for Niki and holds the mug out to her. Sugar and milk are still on the counter, where Liz had been using them. She picks up her own mug of coffee and sips from it. "I'm somewhat shocked that it's you and not her at my door…. I rather figured she'd be pretty damn pissed."

Niki seems amused. "She's…pretty pissed at you. But more pissed at other people. See, it turns out the last information that Jessica had was that the people you work with were terrorists." A more serious look. "I guess she figured that plowing her way through to stop the real badguys was okay."

Elisabeth grunts a 'hmmph' sound. "Yeah, well… the feeling's pretty mutual. If she'd called me up and ASKED me some of what she wanted to know, like a NORMAL person, I'd have told her enough to allay those concerns and PROBABLY been willing to act as a liaison for her. Which would have saved everyone a whole lot of trouble." She looks at Niki steadily. "For what it's worth, though, none of that is your issue. I don't have an issue with you. And in spite of the fact that your alter ego is a pure sociopath, the one thing I do respect is that she makes sure you're okay. That hasn't changed from the first time I met you."

Niki nods once. "Anyhow…it's kind of weird, being more in the know about all this weird stuff. But…I wanted to make sure that we're good. And now that I know I'm not some penniless bar waitress, offer to help out, if I can."

Elisabeth blinks and looks curious. "Help out… with what?" And she grins. "Yeah, that was another point of contention… I would have liked to have made it financially easier for you. But she had a point when she said you'd ask a bunch of questions, and…. well, ultimately, you have to share the body. I hope you understand why I tried to defer to her wishes with you, where I could." She feels weird having this conversation.

The other blonde nods. "I know. Honestly…we're on better terms now. Me screaming at her nonstop for about a week really helps work out the frustrations." A vague grin is offered over. "And help with anything. You've always been there to help me out, it only seems fair that I return the favor some. There's got to be something a superstrong woman can come in handy for, even if it's just helping you move furniture." she quips.

Elisabeth finally laughs, her body language easing from the tense, wary watchfulness into a more relaxed kind of 'okay, well, I'm not gonna get dead today and this part of her is my friend' caution. "That's a possibility," she acknowledges. "I was just doing the best I could to be your friend under some pretty unique conditions," she says with a faint grimace. "You don't owe me anything, Niki." Then she pauses. "Out of curiosity… I heard through the grapevine that some of your people are helping out with some of my people. Are you in on any of that?"

And this is more likely to be eerie for Elisabeth, just -because- she's seen both of them and seen the transition. "Not directly. Homeland Security is working with both groups, and I know there's something going on at the Company level, but I don't have that level of clearance." No obvious transition, no pause. Just one sentence as Niki, and now this one as Jessica. And honestly, if she didn't know them both so well, and it weren't implied in the statement…it might be hard to tell there was a shift.

Jessica's emergence — the specific Company information makes it clear, along with the tone it's delivered om — tightens up Liz's body language significantly again. She nods slightly, though, choosing to take a sip of her coffee before answering. "I was just curious." She and Jessica have this mutual angry thing right now, so she leaves it at that. "I will definitely let Niki know if she can help… but in all honesty, I'd rather she stay out of the line of fire on this one. From what I've heard, strength isn't going to get Volken for us. I've heard he doesn't even die when decapitated."

Jessica nods. "Well, the offer stands." Perhaps surprisingly, from her as well. "Having a trained assassin who also happens to be superstrong can be an advantage." And then, just like that, Niki's back. "Not that that's something I WANT us to do. But he sounds like he's an exception to the rule. He's got it coming."

Elisabeth is a bit surprised that Jessica would leave the offer standing, and she nods slowly. "Thank you," she says simply. And then Niki pops back in, and Liz is forced to smile. "Yeah… I think a lot of us feel that way." She pauses. "he's got the bridges into the city rigged to blow." She's not sure why she's telling Niki, but… well, whatever. "Homeland's dealing with Volken, and I'm dealing with the bomb situation… but I'll tell you something… it's a bitch and a half to know what we know."

Niki nods. "I know. Right now I feel…" She considers. "I've seen the man behind the curtain, so it's kind of hard to pretend he's the Great and Powerful Oz, if that makes any sense. I don't know if I can go back to just…working an ordinary job and ignoring the world when I've got freaking superpowers."

"Yeah… it makes a ton of sense," Elisabeth says to her, setting her cup down. "It's why I went back to the force. I wasn't doing any damn good where I was. And it's why I joined the group that I work with on the side. Because they do what they can to keep people safe, even if it means the occasional raid on a government facility to let loose Evolved people who're being held without due process."

Jessica again. "I remember. That was how I got out." Her tone is dry. And then, just as quick again, back to Niki. The rapid, smooth shifts are definitely something new. "So…this is kind of awkward…but I'm trying to get used to…well, all of this. I'd like to not be on the outside of things so much. I've missed enough already."

The transitions are a little dizzying, actually. Elisabeth says, "You two are getting better at that. Nice." And then she tilts her head. "So…. does that mean you want to keep working with the Company?"

Niki frowns. "Maybe? I don't know. I'm not thrilled with some of what they do. And some of what they'd want Jessica to do. I mean, finding out that I moonlight as a hitwoman was sort of radical, you know? But I just…feel like I need to do something."

Elisabeth snickers with laughter. "No…. c'mon! Finding out that you moonlight as a hit woman couldn't have been all THAT strange," she teases. "I mean, really.. it's sort of like moonlighting as a stripper back when, right? It's just sort of…. you know…. all Mr. & Mrs. Smith and stuff."

THAT gets a wide-eyed look. Jessica hadn't bothered to re-share that particular salient piece of Niki's life yet. "As a what?" she asks, looking at Elisabeth with the kind of expression that shows up in text as O.O

Elisabeth blinks and erks. "Oh shit…. that was Jessica?" She facepalms. "Oh double shit." She looks appalled. "Damn, Niki… I'm so sorry." She grimaces. "From what I understand, there was a period where you needed money bad… Micah and everything. So apparently, Jessica was moonlighting as a dancer or something. She didnt' give me any details, though."

She looks over to the mirror. "Stripper?!" she demands, and then is silent as she apparently gets an answer back, and then begrudgingly nods to it. "It apparently was me. Just in those missing two years. Jessica's been telling me about it, but she'd neglected to mention THAT part."

Elisabeth watches the interaction thoughtfully. "Okay…. yeah, I'm kinda confused about what you'll remember and what you won't." She grimaces. "The *first* time we met, you told me about it, and I'd *thought* it was you. But … well, anyway, okay." She grins a little. "Damn, this was a lot simpler when you knew everything….. or when I couldn't tell you anything."

Niki chuckles. "Well, you can tell me anything now. Some of it just might surprise me. There's apparently not any way to get the lost two years back." She sounds annoyed at that. "But, we're moving past that."

Elisabeth nods. "Well…. as much as Jessica and I have this strange 'we'll get along cuz we have to but I'll take you out - or in my case run her in - if it suits my purposes or keeps Niki safe' relationship going on… I will say this much. She did what she did to protect you. It sounded like the Company was pulling some things she wanted you out of. Even when you talked to me a lot of the time, you sounded…. way out of your depth and completely lost about how to get the hell out, Niki." Her tone is gentle. "The two years while you were away, coming out of it to learn about Micah and DL… it was rough on you. Even harder than it was this time around. You were pretty mired in grief and overwhelmed by the life you'd led in those two years." She tilts her head. "You seem to be handling it far better this time around. Although… maybe being pissed at Jessica's giving you a good buffer to work with," she grins.

Niki can't help but grin a bit at the latter part. "Well, I'm just not taking any more shit. She's going to work with me or I swear to god I'll haunt her ass and never let her have a minute's peace."

"You go, girl!" Elisabeth cheers with a laugh. "I always told her she was underestimating you. She just needed to piss you off enough to fight back, instead of drowning in the bad."

An amused smile is the return. "Yeah, well. I was plenty pissed off. But…anyhow, you might be dealing with either one of us from here on in. But she's promised to behave, so hopefully we won't have trouble."

Elisabeth nods a bit. "Here's hoping…" Cuz I'd really like not to have the upper part of my torso caved in again, she doesn't say aloud. "You going to keep working at Old Lucy's?"

Niki looks more serious at that. "I don't know. It turns out I have more money than I thought, plus…I haven't gone to see Abby yet. So I don't know how any of that is going to go over. I'm just trying to take it one step at a time. Right now, I'm learning what I can do, and how this whole thing works."

Sipping the last of her coffee, Liz again nods. "Yeah…. take some time. And… don't be surprised if some folks aren't as forgiving." She wrinkles her nose. "I'm pretty sure I'm gonna take hell from some quarters for not pressing charges, if it gets out." She shrugs, though, seeming at ease with that choice. Maybe she shouldn't be, but…. what're you gonna do?

Niki looks thankful. "I'm glad you didn't, all things told. And you know I'd never hurt you." Well, SHE wouldn't. "And Jessica's promised to behave."

"I know that, Niki," Elisabeth answers quietly. "Believe me, I *never* held any of it against you. Jessica, on the other hand…. well, so long as she behaves, I will." She smiles faintly. "Turns out we're on the same side after all, and that… I can live with. We dont' have to be best friends to be able to make it work."

Niki smiles. "Anyway. Hopefully, we can get together sometime soon, and do something? It would be nice to try and get back to…well, normal. Or at least whatever the new normal is going to be."

That gives Elisabeth a small burst of sardonic chuckles. "Well…. assuming I don't get my ass thrown in jail this morning at the meeting with the police commissioner, sure. I'd like that."

Niki frowns. "For what?" she asks, looking concerned on Elisabeth's behalf.

Elisabeth rests her hands on the counter. "I have a lot of intel on the bridges and the bombs on them. To get them out of there before Volken realizes we're doing it is going to require speed and silence. And Lau's first response is going to be the same as mine — public safety trumps busting a terrorist. We know the bombs don't have remote detonators, which is good. But… to do it the way it *should* be done, the way protocol demands, would require shutting down the city for nine or ten days. My plan doesn't call for any of that — maybe a half hour to an hour per bridge, at most, *if* she insists on doing it that way. It'd still alert Volken, though. And she's probably going to be really really curious about where the information comes from. My captain's backing me on it, but that's still not necessarily going to make my case with her. She may decide I've got too MUCH information, and I'm back to square one."

Niki thinks about it, and nods. "Sorry…you're out of my depth there." she admits. "I'd be lost."

Elisabeth grins. "Hell, *I'm* lost. Thank God my partner's a bomb guy."

Niki smiles. "I'll have to settle for wishing you good luck. I don't think there's anything about that that either side of us could help with." Us.

The integration that Niki's working on perhaps isn't QUITE the way Jessica wanted it to be handled, but… it seems to be working to a degree. For now. "It'll work out, Niki…. or it won't. If it doesn't, I'm not sure any of us will be around long enough to worry about it much," she sighs quietly. "Go, you two… get outta here. Let me go beard the lioness in her den."

Niki nods, and stands. "Call me later. Let me know how it went." And with that, she heads out, leaving Liz mercifully unbroken. This time.

This follows a somewhat casual phone call, similar to Abby's phone call from Niki, the log of which is not posted as of yet.

January 22nd: Unpardoned
January 22nd: The Queens English
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