Queen's Gambit


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Scene Title Queen's Gambit
Synopsis With Cardinal out of the picture, Elisabeth is the new "boss" of a certain group of activists. Her first order of business is to break the news of their former "King's" demise.
Date January 20, 2010

New York Public Library

With a brand spanking new cell phone in her possession that sends texts, Elisabeth sent messages today. Redbird's Nest, whenever you have time. It's cryptic, but you know…. she doesn't want to be bothered with the whole 'who the hell is this?' bullshit when she calls. The blonde is sitting down in the file room reading through stacks of paper as evening falls. The small generator down here has been fired up so that she has lights, and she helped herself to the Mr. Coffee upstairs in the main reading room where some giant with dreadlocks named Bones is apparently staying. She hasn't met him yet, but that's on her agenda for tonight too. Sitting on the floor, her legs out in front of her and crossed at the ankle, Elisabeth looks like she's setting up for the long haul. She's wearing the clothes for it, anyway — assassin chic. Black wool slacks, black heavy-treaded boots, a V-necked black sweater, and a heavy coat laying over in the corner. Coffee sitting beside her. Papers scattered around.

Worried it might be a trap, Peyton tried to see from Cardinal's perspective before heading to the library, but all she got was blackness. A frightening image, and one she shoved away as quickly as she could. He could be sleeping. He could be in a dark room. He could be any number of things. Tamara said they were returning — yesterday in fact — so she expected someone to call.

When the former socialite shows up, she's a burst color (at least compared to Liz) in a bright green overcoat. One foot is still in a soft black walking cast; the other is in a black knee-high boot.

"Hello? It's me, Peyton," she calls, waving at the cameras as she makes her way through the rooms, seeking signs of life, and finally coming upon Elisabeth. "Liz! You're back!" she says — she knows Liz only slightly, but that doesn't stop her from rushing forward to hug the blonde if the former cop will allow it.

Mack enter's Liz's playroom just as Peyton crushes her in a hug, himself in possession of a mocha and smelling faintly of cologne and cigarette smoke. No booze smell! Not even an Irish coffee, Mack? He's back in his 'professional' attire as well, white button-up shirt, nice jeans, nice jacket. Who is this man? In any case he leans on the doorway as he watches the two women make their hello's, dropping the over-the-shoulder backpack he's carrying against the wall. He says nothing, though, just watching them from behind those damnable sunglasses.

Looking up from her seat on the floor at the sound of the voice, Elisabeth sets aside the papers she's reading and climbs to her feet. "In here, Peyton." And then she's engulfed in the young woman's hug, holding Peyton tightly. "Yeah… we're back." Those of us who remain. She draws in a quick breath and steps back from Peyton. "I hear we've got a new squatter. What the hell's up with that?" She doesn't sound upset, merely curious. And then Mack walks in the room, bringing Liz's blue eyes to the door once more. "Hey, stranger," she offers with a smile that is strained by weariness but no less sincere for it.

Glancing up at the scent of coffee and cologne Mack carries with him, Peyton's brows knit a bit at Mack's arrival, but she just gives a nod. She moves back from Liz, reaching up to wipe away tears — happy ones! — from her dark eyes. One day she will stop impersonating Niagara Falls, but today is not it. "Hey. Tamara said you guys would come home — I wasn't that worried. Where are the others?" she asks — in her heart, she believes they all made it home, despite the strange blackness she saw when trying to see Cardinal's surroundings.

"Hey." Mack offers. Yes, these two, they just can't stop talking to one another. He pushes off the wall and approaches the other two though he convienently finds a place somewhat apart to lean. He ignores the elephant in the room, the recently returned children of the End Game, the 'disagreement' between him and Peyton. He chooses an easier subject all around. "The squatter, at least, I can help with. I told him he could stay here, 'cause he works for the city. He was supposed to come in and look for, ironically enough, squatters, kick 'em out, and then do a structural assessment of the library. Instead, he's decided to help us."

Nodding to Mack, Elisabeth says, "I gathered you gave permission. Claire ran into him last night, I guess. I'll need to meet him." She moves to walk over and stand in front of the man, tipping her head slightly. Then she smiles and reaches up to hug his usually crotchety self, assuming he allows it. "But I trust your judgment, Gabe." Then she steps back and looks between them. "So… you didn't burn the place down. No one incinerated the intel. And the world didn't end. Onward and upward, people. Tell me what's been going on back here since we left?" she asks.

Peyton moves to a chair and sits in it. She knows Liz but only through Cardinal, and it's awkward without the man there. "Bones is all right. He's coming to grips with being Evolved, still, gave me a spiel about those 'freaks' and shit, until it was obvious that I wasn't going to burn him at the stake if he was one," she says, a slight smirk curving her lips, despite the fact she and Bones had a disagreement as well. Peyton liked the giant with dreadlocks, even if she's angry at him. "What's been going on…" she says, glancing down at her walking cast, then tilting her head at Mack, chin lifted slightly. "Mack got abducted, but all's well that end's well, right?"

"I'm not arguing about it again, Peyton." No outburst? No self-important speech? W-T-F, over? Mack does elaborate, however. "Giselle. Apparently she's alive. Its a long story, but she's living in my apartment, now." Yes, thats all that need be said. Nevermind… oh, nevermind. Mack takes a sip of his coffee, pulls out a cigarette, sticks it behind his ear. "Otherwise, not much going on. I was tracking some people down, tried to find out who's picking up the pieces on the fractured Refrain market- you know, just for shits and giggles -but haven't come up with much, yet."

There's a long moment where Elisabeth has to struggle to place the name, but she does and blue eyes go very wide. "Well…… shit." She has no clue what to say to all that, but has a whole new insight into why Mack is very very far from okay. She looks between the two of them, noting the tension. As she steps away from Mack with a brief pat on his arm, she says calmly, "Well, now's the time to decide if you're still all-in or not. I don't know if I can run this group, but I'm willing to give it the college try if you folks are willing to still work with me." She looks between them and drops the bomb. "Richard's dead. And there's still a lot more work to be done, so if you're willing to do it, I'm willing to have you. But I'm not going to put up with drama or bullshit between you two — whatever it is, it ends here and now." She can't handle dealing with that. Not right now. There is a brittleness to the matter-of-fact words as she speaks them, as if with too much pressure she might not be so calm and collected anymore.

"I wasn't —" Peyton protests, then just closes her mouth and looks away, like a petulant child. Her attention returns to Elisabeth, and her brows knit together when the woman starts talking about running what Peyton sees as Cardinal's group. Finally the bomb drops. "What…" Peyton says, going pale, gripping the chair's back for support. "No… He can't be…" Mack and his situation are forgotten and her eyes fill with tears, shaking her head in silent protest. "He can't be. Tamara said you were all coming back, she said it twice, he can't be…" The tears stream down her face as she shakes her head in a mournful denial.

Mack moves over, fighting the urge to light that cigarette, and puts an arm around Peyton's shoulders. Unless she stops him, anyway. Poor girl just keeps getting shit on. No time to say nice things, though. All he can offer in that regard is a shoulder to cry on, or a shoulder to punch the fuck out of if she's not having the first option. To Liz, he says, "You know how I work, Liz. I'll frustrate you, annoy you, and I will piss you off. But I'll always either come through for you or die trying." He shrugs, as if this were a normal thing to say. "I was that way with Will, and with Cardinal. I can give you that, if you want it. If you don't." Another shrug. There is no pain left in hearing about people dying. Its just.. burnt out of him already. Sorry, Dickie.

Elisabeth's jaw clenches tightly at Peyton's grief, her expression going blank. She unfocuses her eyes from Peyton's grief — frankly, she can't deal with it on top of her own. Her eyes seek and find Mack's, or at least his glasses, and she nods tightly. "I want it," she tells him quietly. "A lot happened out there. The nuke is no longer a concern, but there are other concerns that need to be addressed. And I've got two weeks' leave to get us in shape before I have to report for a month's training in Annapolis." Her voice is very carefully neutral. "Richard learned some things while we were out there that it's going to take a little time to coalate data on. The first order of business is to go back through his files and basically sort it. Anythign related to the flood and to the earthquakes, we need to put in one section, anything ELSE needs a different pile. And then we need to see if anything we have is relevant beyond this point. For all I know, Edward Ray's intel stopped at this point for us. I don't think that's the case, but… it means time sifting through paper."

She looks at Mack. "I also need ears on the ground to find out if there's anything new from precogs out there. While I'm in Annapolis, I can be back and forth in one night, and I can be here on the weekends, but we need to have you guys running as efficiently as possible by then. We believe the nuke was the least of the worries. One of the Vanguard bases we hit was essentially a baby farm. They were impregnating every woman they could get their hands on and incinerating any fetus or infant that tested positive for the SLC. The other base, they were working on an aerosol form of negation gas for powers. We have to assume the US government now has its hands on all research at those facilities."

The clairvoyant doesn't pull away from Mack, though she doesn't lean into it or offer him the same. She bites down on her own lip, when she sees Elisabeth being strong, chastising herself for being selfish in her grief when the older woman knew Cardinal so much better, so much more intimately than she did. He was just some sort of big brother slash boss to Peyton, but one of the few people she feels utterly safe with in the world. Peyton wipes her eyes and nods.

"God, that's awful," she says with a shudder at the mention of the breeding facility. "I'm not as much of a help like … weapon wise and fighting wise and all that, not like Mack and Bones and the others can be but I can do file stuff," she offers. "I don't have a job, so … I can make that my focus, if you want," she offers.

Mack steps away from the other two, distancing himself so that its marginally less offensive when he lights that damn cigarette. "I don't like relying on precogs. Precogs can be wrong too often." He grabs his backpack and pulls out his planner. He starts scribbling notes furiously. "What, by the way, is 'the SLC'?"

"The Suresh Linkage Complex, Gabe," Elisabeth replies with a faint, forced smile. "The genetic marker that makes you Evo, the one they test you for." She shoves a hand into her hair and considers. "Precogs can be wrong," she agrees. Though only now does something hit her that Peyton said. Tamara is one of the few she's never known to be wrong. And that brings a furrow to her brows. Tamara said they were all coming back? It's something to contemplate later. "The reason I don't think Ray's little string map of probabilities stops here is because he set Cardinal up with a CIA identity that has links to my new boss. And if that's the case, Ray was definitely predicting that somewhere along the way we'd all meet up with her. And she apparently has some kind of agenda to overthrow the wrongfully sitting time-displaced president *and* the Linderman puppet Veep. So… my career track, thanks to getting pegged as a member of Phoenix, has jumped the tracks and I'll be our eyes and ears in FRONTLINE from here out to see if we can keep them aboveboard while we continue to work the intel angles under the table."

About ninety-five percent of that goes over Peyton's head. She just chews her lower lip, her dark eyes on Liz. The tears are held at bay, but the streaked cheeks and wet lashes remain. "Just… tell me what to file and how, I guess," she says, her voice a touch tremulous, but she's trying to keep it together. "What about the others — Gillian? Cat? Claire? That Darth Vader kid?"

Mack just puffs away on his cigarette, literally and symbolically a step removed from the true End Gamers. "So, basically, same shit different day? You'd think there would at least be a second to catch your breath after saving the world from nuclear halocaust. But hey." The smoke gets extinguished against the sole of his shoe. "I'll put my ear to the ground and see what there is to hear, but my CI's were generally a little lower on the totem pole. It'll take time to build up some in roads with the power set, and money. Which, since I haven't had a job in forever, I'll have to start hustling to make enough to run in their circles. Its what I do, no worries, but… just don't be surprised if the last time you bailed me outta jail wasn't the last time."

There is another faint smile at Mack. "Well, I might be able to help you out with that part, at least," Elisabeth says quietly. "I'll put out some feelers for job with flexibility, if you want it." Before today, she would have actually automatically assumed that Cat would be on board for helping Mack, but now she's not so sure. Meanwhile, she turns to look at Peyton. "They're all here. Gilly is at St. Luke's recovering from some damage taken. Cat's fine. Claire…. took a head shot and she's missing about the last five months of her life. She's got memories here and there, but take it easy on her when you see her, she may not recognize you immediately. She didn't know me, but she did have some scattered memories of Cardinal." She shrugs a little and looks between them. "What else can I tell you for tonight?"

Peyton's hand moves to wipe her cheeks and she shakes her head. "I don't understand most of this stuff, Liz, so I don't know how much help I'll be. I think… Cardinal knew I'm just good for my eyes, you know? Tell him what I see, and he'd figure it out. He's the one who figured out what that guy was planning at Liberty Island. I wouldn't have figured that out. But I'm willing to try, to help you with what I can." She gets up from the chair she sat in. "Contact me if you need anything. I'll help if I can, but I'm not strong like you all are." Her eyes well with tears again but she blinks them back and lifts her chin, almost defiantly.

"I'm good." Mack says, simply enough. Sunglasses guarded eyes turn to Peyton, but he doesn't say anything, his face expressionless.

There is sympathy in Elisabeth's expression, and gratitude. "Peyton, if you're willing to sit and go through all this paper with me and Claire, that'd be perfect. Even if you don't know a lot, it'll serve the purpose of bringing you up to speed as well as helping me immensely. Go ahead and take whatever time you need to pull it together. It's not going anywhere yet." She pauses and says, "I'll let you know about funeral arrangements." Then she lets Peyton leave, giving Mack a bit of a jerk of her chin to silently ask him to stay put.

There is sympathy in Elisabeth's expression, and gratitude. "Peyton, if you're willing to sit and go through all this paper with me and Claire, that'd be perfect. Even if you don't know a lot, it'll serve the purpose of bringing you up to speed as well as helping me immensely. Go ahead and take whatever time you need to pull it together. It's not going anywhere yet." She pauses and says, "I'll let you know about funeral arrangements." Then she lets Peyton leave, giving Mack a bit of a jerk of her chin to silently ask him to stay put.

"I have to go to the doctor in," she glances at a Tiffany watch on her wrist, "an hour. I get to be cast free again, yay." That's perhaps a not-so-gentle reminder to Mack that she was hurt because of his new roommate. "But I will come back tomorrow." She leans to give Elisabeth another hug, then gives a wave to Mack, showing she's not as angry at him as the last time they spoke, then heads out of the library and out into the snow.

Elisabeth returns the hug briefly, nodding to the information that the girl will be back tomorrow. When Peyton is gone, Liz turns those blue eyes onto the man remaining. "Giselle, huh?" She moves to lean on the edge of the desk. "Soooo…. wanna tell me what happened?" she asks quietly.

Elisabeth returns the hug briefly, nodding to the information that the girl will be back tomorrow. When Peyton is gone, Liz turns those blue eyes onto the man remaining. "Giselle, huh?" She moves to lean on the edge of the desk. "Soooo…. wanna tell me what happened?" she asks quietly.
"Its a long story, Liz. And I… I don't really understand any of it. I didn't when it happened and I don't now." Mack walks over to the desk Liz is leaning on, leaning on it next to her. He doesn't put an arm around her shoulders, but his is there if she needs it. Wants it. "Peyton's pissed that I'm not, that I forgave her for it, which I guess I get. She doesn't… can't… understand the guilt when I thought she was dead, which is almost worse now that I know she's alive and the way she was living all this time. I don't know what we are, now. She is crazy, a little. More than before. I don't see any way we could be together like we were before, but. I really didn't understand how bad I needed something to hold onto. Anything."

Though she doesn't slide sideways into him, Elisabeth does drop her head sideways onto his shoulder. "Yeah," she says on a sigh. "I get it." She is silent, sorting through her thoughts. "I'm sorry," she finally tells him quietly, lifting her head to look at him. "It's woefully inadequate, but I am."

Mack laughs. Yep. Its a quiet, reserved thing, but its a laugh nonetheless. Now his arm does wrap around her, if she lets it, giving her shoulder a squeeze. "What the hell are you sorry for, hmm?"

Elisabeth chuckles quietly, sliding her arm around his waist and settling in against his side. "Uhm… mostly that you found out years too late to help that the woman you loved was still alive all this time?" She looks up at him. "And that I used you. I didn't really mean to, but I did. And it's a shitty thing to do to a friend."

Mack laughs again, but this time it doesn't make it out. Its just air moving around inside his lungs. "I've been through worse, trust me." Smirky bastard. "It hurt a little, but honestly? I knew what I was getting into. I should've just told you no, other than Giselle thats what I've been to every girl I've ever been with, and I'm sick of it. But I didn't. So you have nothing to apologize for."

She elbows him gently. "I hope you mean that you've been a friend to every girl you've ever been with, Gabriel," Elisabeth chides softly. "Because you've been my friend and more. I was just…." She shrugs slightly beneath his arm. "Lost, I guess. I don't do relationship shit well, and I thought it'd be … uncomplicated. No one would get hurt." Her faint smile is wry. "I'm a dumbass, what can I say?" She doesn't bother to remove herself from his vicinity, though, as she asks softly, "What're you going to do about your crazy girl?"

"Careful," Mack chides, "I'm delicate." As to her other question? He breathes in deep and exhales long, the universal gesture of being in over one's head. "I've got no fucking idea, really. I know at some point reality is going to come crashing down on us, and once the shit hits the fan, it'll be all over both of us. But… its nice to be loved, god damn it. From somebody that isn't asking me to be a human shield for them, investigate this for them, do that for them. Who isn't just looking for an uncomplicated fuck," He gives her a sideways look, here, "but wants to stick around and cuddle afterwards. Oh, yes, I fucking said 'cuddle', and if you like being healthy that'll stay in this room." His threat is half-joke. But maybe only half. "So, don't know. I was going to introduce her to Cardinal, she wanted to meet him. Guess not much point in introducing anyone to him now…"

There's a visible wince when he says that, and Liz bites back the retort that quickly springs to her lips in favor of merely leaning up to kiss him on the cheek. "It'd be goddamn easy to get way in over my head with you, Gabe Macnamara. Far, far too easy. Especially when I'm hurting this bad. And then I'd just hurt you again. Don't let me do it, okay?" She pushes up off the desk, sliding out from under his arm reluctantly. "No matter what, though… I got your back. If you want to bring her in, we can work out the logistics."

"Hurting is kind of my specialty, miss Elizabeth. If you hadn't noticed." Mack would probably wink at this point- maybe he does, who knows? -but for those glasses. "And I'll promise no such thing. I'm not your babysitter. Anyway, maybe… but, really, that seems like making things entirely too complicated for my tastes right now. She's a little jealous, sometimes, and I really have no desire to answer the inevitable questions when she meets you. And yes, she'd ask. She asked if I fucked Peyton, right before she shot me. Or right after… I can't remember. Things were a little hazey at that point."

Elisabeth squinches her eyes shut in a grimace of 'aw hell'. "Yeah… okay, don't bring your crazy girlfriend here if she's going to ask if we fucked, okay?" She slants a glance at him and grins, the first real smile she's had since he came in. "Cuz I'm not remotely ashamed of that part — only of the hurting you part. And if she's a smart woman, she'll see it all over my face or something and just know, and then she'll… I don't know. Shoot you again or something." She rolls her eyes. "I don't wanna be in the middle of that shit, cuz then I'll have to hurt her or something, and it'll just get all messy and…." She trails off, deliberately lightening the mood with her ramble. Or trying, anyway.

"I think we should settle it with mud wrestling. No powers. Then we can all take a shower, and it'll be refreshing and symbolic and beautiful in so many ways…" Mack (le) sighs before lighting another cigarette as if he'd just fucked one of them then and there. This is how he gets himself into sticky situations.

There's a snort of laughter from the blonde. "You're a dick, and I adore you," Liz admits on a chuckle. "Go do something useful with your night. I gotta lotta reading to catch up on if I'm going to make some attempt to run this fucking outfit." She sounds befuddled at the prospect, truth be told.
"And, or is that why you adore me? Aww, shit, I can't help myself. I'm going home. I'm blown. But Liz, seriously, anything you need while you're trying to learn how to lead… just ask, okay? I've been around a lot of really good leaders. Some of it has to have rubbed off on me." With that, he snatches up his backpack and makes to go, enough having been said apparently.

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