Skirting The Edges Of Normal


cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Skirting the Edges of Normal
Synopsis Just a walk in the park.
Date October 4, 2010

Central Park

Autumn seems to have well and truly arrived. The scent is sharp in the cool air, that somewhat dusty odor of crushed, crunchy dead leaves. It's early in the evening. Although sunset is still technically an hour away the overcast sky has dimmed the dusk to a deepening violet-gray, turning the park into nearly monochromatic tones aside from red, yellow, and orange leaves that still retain their color (albeit in less vibrant shades) even in the gathering darkness.

As they walk along the path together, Elisabeth's hands are tucked into the pockets of her brown leather jacket. Her sneakers and jeans are warm enough in the chill of the evening — it's not THAT cold. She smiles a little, pausing at the edge of the water to look out. "Nights like tonight, it almost seems like things are back to normal," she comments quietly to her companion.

"What's normal?" A wryly spoken question from Cardinal as he slants a sidelong look to Elisabeth; he's out of the suit for the first time in awhile, dressed in denim jeans and with his flight jacket zipped up to the neck, hands tucked into leather-edged pockets. "What's normal for me isn't… what's normal for you."

He stops next to her, gaze drifting over the waters as he asks curiously, "You know, I never did ask… how'd you get involved with Phoenix?"

Elisabeth laughs quietly and looks at him. "Wow… you never heard that story?" she asks, amused that they've gone through so much and they're still learning such basic things. Tilting her head and looking back over the water, she considers. "You know that after Midtown… after the announcement about Evos… things were wierd. Cops and EMTs and such were supposed to voluntarily Register there and then. And I was trying to decide whether to do it; wasn't sure how I felt about it. But of course, I'd just lost my mom… and I'm one of the ones who was on the ground in 2001 too. I was having a lot of trouble coping." Her voice trails off and she shrugs. "I met Norton Trask in a support group for cops. He was one of the first ones I'd ever met who was Evolved. And he said he'd gone in for the Registration process and essentially been tortured. Scared the shit out of me. So I took a leave of absence from the PD. Picked up my teaching certificate lateral entry and went to work at Washington Irving."

Her smile is faint. "I knew Norton was into some shit. Over time, I pretty much put it together, what he was doing. And I kept my mouth shut."

Cardinal's shoulder bumps into hers lightly, and he admits, "I haven't heard a lot've stories. We're always dealing with business shit, after all, we never have time to just sit'n chat." As she starts the story, he drops silent, listening with a faint smile curving to his lips. "Tortured? Christ…" A sidelong look to her, "…so why'd you come back?"

She shoots him a grin as he jostles her, nudging back lightly. She steps a bit closer, close enough to rest her head against his shoulder. "I spent two years substitute teaching and earning a fulltime position in music. And just about the time I was ready to step into it, the Vanguard hit the scene," Elisabeth says softly. "Their first big target was Irving. I was in one of the classrooms with about a half dozen kids when the windows imploded at us." Her tone remains neutral but he's known her too long to think she actually feels that way. "We climbed out of the rubble and helped … as many people as we could get out. We'd made it as far as the fire doors and I was holding them open when the upper three floors collapsed above us." Her jaw clenches. There's a hard swallow and she says quietly, "There were at least sixty kids in that hall behind me. I was blown clear with just… minor injuries. A broken arm, some cracked ribs. Things like that." It's always been about her kids, at the bottom of it. And perhaps just a little about her mom.

"They tried to blame it on Phoenix," Liz says, looking out over the water. "So I marched straight up to Norton and demanded that he lay it out. Did they do it? And he said no. So I made him prove it. He introduced me to Helena and Cat."

The tighter tone of her voice is noticable, and Cardinal reaches an arm out to slip about her waist — fingers curling into her belt at her opposite hip to pull her in closer against his side. She'd mentioned Irving before, but not in such visceral detail. "Christ," he murmurs under his breath, "And you— on Apollo we had to work with Kazimir, with Ethan…"

"Yeah," Elisabeth says quietly. "It pretty much bit the big one." She'd told him that at the time, too, though she didn't elaborate on it. She slides into the curve of him easily; it's a place she's become used to being, tucked in against him like that.

"I'd been approached several times to come back to my job on the PD. My old Lieutenant called me pretty regularly, among others. I was a pretty damn good hostage negotiator once upon a time," Elisabeth adds with a rueful grin. "And I'd also met a guy named Will Harvard. He was the Captain of the SCOUT squad. He courted me for that a couple of times, and after Irving… I needed justice for them. So I told Helena I'd be her ears in the SCOUT team the same way Norton was their ears in the precinct he was in."

She pauses and looks up at him. "And two years, almost to the day later, here I am."

"You're still doing the same job, too." Cardinal's chin dips a bit as he looks to her, a faint smile crooking up at one corner of his lips, "It's FRONTLINE now, maybe, and you're reporting to me rather than Helena… but the more things change, the more things stay the same."

His gaze skims back out to the water, and he muses, "You know how I got involved in all of this? I forget if I ever told you."

"You didn't," Elisabeth replies mildly, sharing that smile. "The only things I know about how you got involved are that you worked for Fedor, and that you somehow knew Abby, really. I mean… I arrested you, which was kinda fun and all, and next thing I knew we were on a rooftop. And then I arrested Isabelle and you were pissed at me for a bit." And how they got here from there? The world spins in mysterious ways.

"I walked into the wrong bar." Cardinal gives his head a slow shake in amusement at the situation, "Teodoro was standing at the bar… Deckard came up and put a gun to his head. I guess Teo used to have a plate in his head, and he'd seen a healer… Flint used his x-ray eyes on Teo, or whatever. Figured he was a shapeshifter. Then Felix comes in, disarms him, drags Teo back to the Happy Dagger."

A sidelong look, "So I got curious, and followed Deckard home."

There's a soft chuckle at all of that, because….. she knows those three men awfully well and Elisabeth can literally picture that moment. "Wow," she comments in amusement. "You're right… the more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?"

"I ended up getting hired by Deckard to find a periwinkle van… and then to find Abigail, and, well…" One shoulder lifts up in a shrug, and then Cardinal gives her an amused look, "…the first time I met Helena didn't go very well. If she'd been a little more welcoming, maybe I would've ended up with Phoenix…"

He looks back out across the river, his lips pursing thoughtfully, "I wonder what would've happened, if I didn't feel the need to build my own group."

"You don't think we already have enough 'I wonder what would have happened if' going on in our lives?" Elisabeth asks dryly, laying her head against his shoulder again. "I mean, really… " She pauses and admits, "The hardest thing about what we're doing right now is knowing that… no one can do for me what you did for Nikki and Niklaus." She hasn't brought it up a single time since she found out about it. Until now. "Even if the opportunity were offered… it couldn't happen," Liz says softly. "Because my mother's death informed so damn many of my choices over these past two years." There's a sadness to that knowledge… but an acceptance to. If she was angry over the unfairness of that, it has already run it's course.

At the mention of her mother, Cardinal closes his eyes. "I'm sorry," he says quietly, "You're right… but… that doesn't make it any easier." He turns his head, a kiss brushed against her hair and the side of her temple, "All we can do is what we can do, and hope that we make a difference in the end, I guess."

She turns her face into that gesture of affection, and Elisabeth smiles faintly. "I wondered if you thought I might be… upset or something. About what happened." She looks up at him. "I want you to know something, Richard. What you did?" Her smile turns into a self-conscious, almost silly grin. "Damn, Richard…. and you wonder why I fell in love with you? You may not be a good man by whatever standard you're holding yourself to? But you're one of the most amazing people I've ever met in my life," she says softly.

"Hey." Cardinal wrinkles his nose up a little, though he can't help a grin, "Don't keep feeding my ego like that, woman…" He pulls back a little from her to turn to face her head-on, hands clasping with her own as he looks to her with a crooked little smile, "…it's already big enough."

Elisabeth rolls her eyes dramatically, turning toward him to look up, her hands squeezing his. "Eh, what the hell, Nerfherder. Every so often you deserve to know that whatever it is you think you're doing wrong?" She shrugs. "You're doing a shit-ton right too. And God knows, no one else is going to say thank you or say 'hey, good job.'" She tilts her head and studies his face, the day's light mostly gone. Freeing one hand to reach up and slip those glasses off, she says with a smirk, "Much as I really do hate to feed your ego and all." Her fingertip strokes his cheek lightly. "You're positively insufferable when you're smug," she asserts.

"I know I am. It's part've my charm…" A tip of Cardinal's head rests his brow against hers, lips curving in a wider smile, "…you should've seen how annoyed I made Harper. I can be a real obnoxious bastard when I try."

Elisabeth laughs. She can't help it. "You know…. I should deny that because it's the polite thing to do, but I've seen firsthand what an obnoxious bastard you are at times so I refuse to perjure myself." Her whole body is shaking with laughter, and she slips her arms around his waist. "Apparently you scare the shit out of him, too, if Elle's information is to be trusted. I don't know what exactly you did or are going to do that Simon Broome knows about or what the fuck, but it's actually goddamn amusing," she admits. "We've talked about the idea of mutually assured destruction before… sometimes I wonder if in the case of us versus the Institute it could be worth it." She's not necessarily seriously considering it, merely mulling aloud.

"It wouldn't work." Cardinal shakes his head slowly, his eyes closing as he rests his brow against hers, "I think I know what Broome's doing… he gave me a clue, or two, and I'm starting to put them together. I can respect the goal, but not his methods." A sigh whispers past his lips, and he draws back with a smirk, "You know, Harper was instructed to ask me what color tie I was wearing when Simon's mother died?"

Elisabeth leans up to kiss him softly as he pulls away, just to linger a moment longer there face to face with him like they are. And then when he mentions the tie, she pulls back and looks puzzled. "Becaaaaauuuuuuse," she draws out, "he's…. looking for a particular moment in time. To know when you've gone back to it?" It's a question, but only just.

"Yeah…" Cardinal gives his head a little shake, "…I think so." He turns his head a bit to look over towards the river, his lips pursing in a frown, "I just wish I knew what I did. How I know him. I hate all this wondering…"

"Yeah, that part is driving me batshit," Elisabeth agrees. She moves then, so that one arm stays around his waist and can tug him into motion. It's getting chillier, and in spite of his body heat she's starting to shiver. "C'mon, walk with me, handsome. We'll get some coffee on the way." She looks up at the sky and adds in a murmur, "I shudder to realize winter is already coming again. Much as I love the fall, I've seen enough snow to last me forever."

"I'm looking at it differently…" Cardinal steps back to let her move beside him, arm curling about her in return, and he starts back along the path they were walking, his chin tilting back to look up to the skies with a smile curving to his lips, "…if we make it to snow, then we've changed the future. And I'll be happy to let the ice cool the coals that are starting to smolder…"

"Heh… that's not exactly true," Elisabeth points out pragmatically. "Snow doesn't care about riots in November," she points out as she matches her steps to his with the ease of familiarity. "How's your practice with the armor going, anyway?" Because the comment brought it to mind.

"Pretty good. I think I've gotten it down," admits Cardinal, "I'm just about ready to hand it over to R&D to see if they can reproduce it - or something close enough for government work. Then we'll have an armored unit of our own."

Shaking her head, Elisabeth just snickers softly. "Christ…. Kershner's gonna shit a brick. Seriously." Not that Liz is going to tell her. But the image of that — of a whole team of our people in uniforms? It makes her giggle.

"Hell." A slow shake of Cardinal's head, and he grins as he walks slowly along beside her, "What she doesn't know won't hurt her… we're all but official anyway. We've all but turned into a black ops division for the Agency…"

"Yeah…." Elisabeth sounds pensive over that idea, as if it's not the best idea ever. But it is what it is. "I still wonder if we're in over our heads with her," she admits. "Her little side team worries me."

"She'll be the death of us," Cardinal muses, "Or the salvation. Anyway…" A sidelong look, "…let's hit a coffee house, Liz, and try to be normal for a little while."

"What's normal?" Elisabeth retorts with a laugh.

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