Roundabout, Tangled


cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Roundabout, Tangled
Synopsis In the wake of Francois' return to 2011, no one has anything good to say about time travel. Or the present, for that matter.
Date January 24, 2011

Redbird Security

It is so cold. It is so cold to Francois, anyway, who has spent the last month in balmy south French spring, the sun of which has gifted him with a healthy glow to his skin instead of the waxy pale he can take on during extended winters or time inside. Even inside the warmed lobby of the security firm, he keeps his woolen coat clutched around himself, hands latched onto the thick hems and regretting having not thought to bring scarf and gloves when he stepped out into the environment after a couple of days of—

Staying inside. For reasons that only have something to do with Teo. The world's changed, since he was last here. It is way too deep into winter for comfort, and he missed Christmas.

Despite this, he is in reasonable form, talking to a partially distracted receptionist who is paid to do more than chatter to Frenchman. Not like the fifties, really. His hands are folded together, arms rested against the tall edge of the desk that dominates this end of the room, keeping a partial eye on the door as much as Jo keeps her attention on her job.

The little electronic tone that sounds when the front door's opened sounds as it swings open once more, a whisper of winter's chill spilling through the lobby to battle with the warmth of central heating. "…seeing Abigail tomorrow, hopefully I can clear some things up," Cardinal's saying to the woman right behind him as he steps into the lobby dressed in his usual street clothes, turning back towards the desk as he holds the door and starting to say something to the receptionist.

"Hey Jo, is— " A beat passes, "Francois!"

The blonde walking behind the man who owns Redbird is huddled into her leather jacket in spite of the fact that the walk from the parking structure to the building isn't that long. Elisabeth nods slightly to him and murmurs, "Tell Abby I said hi." And then she stops short behind the shadowmorph, blue eyes darting up and to the visitor. "Oh thank God," she breathes. Pure relief rolls through her, affection for the Frenchman abjectly apparent in her expression.

Francois cuts himself off mid-sentence at the sound of people arriving, posture going automatically rigid at the sight of familiar silhouettes and the faces attached. That won't get old too soon, he doesn't think, smile alighting for both of them and moving forward in brisk steps, greatcoat winging open with momentum. "Bonsoir," is a little breathless, before his arms sling around Elisabeth's waist in tight embrace, her feet coming off the ground by half an inch before she's dropped back down.

In an effort to not break her ribs or something. "How is everything?" is a broad question, a strange frission of apology in his tone, stifled mainly with warmth.

"Better now that you're back," Cardinal replies with a broad smile, letting the door swing closed behind him, "I tried to knock Hiro's fucking head off for what he did… I take it Teodoro managed to get someone to retrieve you? We've been worried as hell…" A step over to the pair, and he reaches a hand to clap Francois's shoulder before telling Jo, "Hold my calls."

Elisabeth is swept up in that hug and wraps her arms around his shoulders so tightly. There's a girly little squee! as she starts to laugh in the air. When he sets her back on her feet, her blue eyes are wet. "Oh God, Francois. I was starting to think…." She waves that off. "Welcome home." She cradles his cheek and then steps just a bit sideways to give Richard room with a radiant grin, and then laughs once more reaching up to wipe a silly tear that escapes. "Good grief, sorry. Being ridiculous."

This is nice. Not nicer than his rescue mission itself, but certainly more so than the fucking weather, and the army tank grumbling south of West Village, and the newspapers. He manages a kiss at Elisabeth's temple in silent reply to tear and 'sorry' both, dismissive and accepting and in his own way, mutual. "Teo found someone," he agrees, peeling his embrace back off Elisabeth, a hand moving to grip Cardinal's wrist in brief clasp. "Someone who wants to keep his own secret, and for what he did for me, I will honour it." In that tone of voice that as ever suggests for as long as it's smart to do so.

"Teo said you helped me," he adds, swiftly. "With the— papers, in California. You would be surprised how roundabout that was but— merci. Thank you."

"As far as I'm concerned, I owe them a favor," Cardinal says with a shake of his head, flashing a tight smile, "If they want anonymity, they can have it." Until he really needs a time traveller for some reason, of course. Then he might push a little more. "Welcome home, Francois."

With a glance at Jo, Elisabeth grins a bit. "C'mon… let's go somewhere more comfortable. When did you get back?" she asks the Frenchman casually. As if he's just been on a trip, right? But the undercurrents are easily discernable — you know, all the usual. Are you okay? What happened? Anything you need to tell??

"Oui," is swift agreement. Away from the doors. Away from the winter outside. He allows for a smile at the sentiment of home — Francois had called it that himself, even standing in the foyer of his old family house. Bundling arms back around him, he moves with the two to step further inside the building, willingly following. "I got back a couple of days ago. More time has, ah, passed here than it did for me. I spent an April in France — Hiro took me to Paris, and I went south, to the region I grew up in. I thought if there was any one place to be found, it would be there."

Story time. He has had a lot of time to practice it, but now it falls out in curt sentences instead of his practiced elaborate narrative; avoidant, easier demeanor waning some. A sunny month-long vacation could have stood to be less cosmically stressful. "When Teo went to California, he— ran into the me that is of that time." A shrug. Hilarious, bewildering, something. "And from there he located my home. Roundabout, oui?"

As the explaination's given, Cardinal just shakes his head slowly from side to side. "I hate time travel," he mutters under his breath as he heads down the hallway towards the stairs, "It's always so fucking… circular. I don't know what the hell possessed Ezekiel. Seriously."

"It's starting to become a mantra around here," Elisabeth murmurs under her breath in amusement. As to what possessed the possibly insane future version of the man at the front of this group, well…. she shan't be speculating about things too horrible to mention. Her own imagination gives her nightmares enough. "Roundabout, but I'm grateful. And I'm sure Teo's thrilled to have you home, Francois." She pauses and comments casually, "I'm pretty sure a few other people will be glad to know you're back too."

"Oh, they had better be," is primly facetious, Francois smiling at Elisabeth enough to show teeth, hands coming to fold behind his back as he moves for the staircase. "I see you are all handling things very well while I have been gone. You would think I could have a vacation without the city being put under martial law, non? Besides that— how is, ah. Business?" That seems like a relatively safe word to use, considering the circumstances.

"Troubled," Cardinal admits with a slow shake of his head as he makes his way to the back, opening the door up for the pair, "There's been a lot going on… a lot to catch up with. Things're getting pretty dangerous in the city, and even our… protection might not last forever." His tone's a bit dire, "Still. I think we're getting close to being able to make some moves of our own."

Elisabeth snickers a soft laugh in reply to Francois's foray into Home Alone territory. And just before she can follow the men through the door, the pager on her hip vibrates. She pulls it off, looks at it, and looks back at both men regretfully. "Shit," she sighs. "Woman's work is never done, boys." She offers Francois a smile and moves to hug him once more, then pauses to kiss Richard as well. "Gotta go blow something up," she remarks somewhat cheerfully. "Call me later." Blue eyes shift between them. "That means both of you." She gives them the 'I'm watchin' you!' hand gesture, clearly joking, but her posture is already shifting into soldier mode. A bluetooth is already making its appearance from her pocket — apparently she'll be coordinating on the drive back.

Hug is returned likewise, a last wave as the woman in the group departs, before Francois steps into the back space of the security firm, eyes absently scanning what is still familiar, what is not. The insides of buildings seem largely the same, even if the streets are a little bit different. "Teo has told me some of it. Reluctantly," he says over his shoulder, digging his hands into the pockets of his coat as he moves. "And makes me feel very bad for pressing him further, but I gathered from what I hear of the Ferry, that the 8th was all it promised to be."

It was for him, after all, in a surreal sort of way Francois doesn't want to entertain. "Is there anything I can assist with? I do not think it is long enough for the Institute to forget who I was, but…" Little joke, his brief brush with Unit Zero more prominant and recent in his mind than for others.

"They were hurt badly…" A chair's taken, and Cardinal drops himself down into it, sprawling back and rubbing a hand over his face; the motion pushing up his shades, lifting them away from his eyes before he tosses them over onto the table with a clatter. "The Institute… once we locate one of their projects, we're going to have to hit it. The crazy bastard…"

There's a moment's silence, and his hand drops, gaze lifting to the other man's face. "You weren't here when Liz told them about the head've the Institute, were you?"

Francois opts to stand — not out of rudeness, particularly, only comfort, and at a fair enough distance that there isn't much of a height vantage going on. He isn't exactly the tallest of men in the first place. "Oui, Simon Broome," he says with the immediacy of a student who knows the answer, and then his brow wrinkles when he realises that that was far too easy for Cardinal to lead the question, and to look at him quite like that. Rather than ask in words, he tips his head leftwards and waits to be corrected.

Cardinal's head is already shaking by the time the words are finished. "No," he says quietly, looking up to meet the frenchman's gaze, "Broome has a… superior. The man who inspired him to create the Commonwealth Institute in the first place, the man that he gets his orders from." There's a beat, and he confesses quietly, "It's me."

There's a moment to let that sink in, then he quickly adds, "Not— not me me, an alternate me, from the future. That went back to the past. It's all a fucking— tangle, really."

Fotunately, Francois is submerged enough in Evo culture to not immediately have a heart attack before Cardinal's rushed clarification — clones, insanity, time travel, whatever, his reaction decidedly pending and still as he allows it to sink as permitted. It is, at least, a faith in both logic and Cardinal's character that he does wait, before huffing out a somewhat bemused exhale, the corner of his mouth turning up. "Well, merde, Richard. 'Know your enemy' is usually not so literal, ah?"

He sits, then, scuffing his fingers through dark hair that's had time to dry from the occasional flaky drifts of snow outside. "When Hiro told me what the next fifty years of my life would be like— the first time I had ever known him, I mean, when he said I would not ever kill Volken as Abigail did— I obeyed him. I saw the path of time to be a thing you do not deviate from. But I think if nothing else, we all know much better."

"Unfortunately so…" Cardinal grimaces, his head turning away to look across the room. "The… other me, Ezekiel. He killed Elisabeth. I get the feeling that eventually, you all turned on him, because he'd just— gone too far, I don't know. The world kept getting darker, and he just kept throwing himself against it without much luck." A silent moment, then, "It broke him."

Francois' eyes hood a little at the news of this version of Cardinal's supposed history, hands tucking under chin to rest his head on his knuckles, elbows on knees. He shines a rueful smile, one that doesn't have much in the way of mirth. "If he killed Elisabeth, than forgive me, but I do not think he is you at all. And one supposes he did not have the information then that he does now?" Time can't surely be that circular. Except that the time wars of a few months ago proved it could be.

Still. He twitches his head towards where the string map would be. "I did not promise this group myself only for Teo and his rescue. I do not join causes lightly. It has a purpose."

There's a few moments of silence to that, Cardinal nodding his agreement with the other man's take on the situation. "Thank you," he says quietly, "For having that kind've faith in me. Some've the others didn't take it… quite as well." He shakes his head, "Peyton's gone on— vacation, I think I pushed her too far, too fast. Niki's left to deal with her own issues. I still have agents in the field, but we're going to need to recruit some more people in the days to come."

A quick, sharp smile then. "It does. And we might've taken a lot of hits in the past few months… but we can still accomplish what we set out to do."

There is some clear surprise reflected in green eyes at the news of both ladies' departure. He remembers them both as active participants in Teo's rescue — Peyton and her eyes, giving herself a migraine over finding Teo, and Niki's presence as well on the day he disappeared. Francois schools it away, though, as it's difficult to be seventy-something without a certain amount of expectation that people will disappoint you, even as he says what he does of Cardinal's future.

"Oui," he agrees, brusquely, and with a broader smile. "Besides, I have returned, you must tell everyone to no longer panic and we can resume the resistance." Self-deprecating humour, as heard in his dry-as-bone tone of voice — it is nice to have an outlet for the vaguely motherhen aspect of his worry for being trapped in the past. Did he leave the stove on? and such forth. Not to make light of the mess the city is in, but it's either that or—

Exit stage left. He stands, then. "I should go before it is properly dark — I do not know how good my Registration card is any more, after everything. I should also think about giving Sarisa my love," is a little wry.

"Of course." Cardinal pushes himself up to his feet, offering a hand and a warm, genuine smile, "It's damn good to have you back, Francois. Pass on my thanks to Teodoro, as well…"

"And remind Sarisa we've got a date." That? Has less warmth to it.

Nodding once and clasping Cardinal's hand in a shake of departure, Francois pauses and raises his eyebrows at that last part, before retracting. His mouth shapes itself into a half-smile, as he rocks back a step, hands working to fasten closed his coat before thinking about heading for the great outdoors. "Ah, by that tone, I would say she will be thrilled to hear it. Take care, Richard."

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