Something, Anything


elisabeth_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title Something, Anything
Synopsis Francois and Elisabeth discuss living with certain regrets, and what to do next.
Date March 22, 2010

Dorchester Towers: Elisabeth's Apartment

This is a pretty standard two-bedroom apartment, although the occupant has gone to some effort to make it her own. Although the carpet is the ubiquitous beige, the walls are painted a soft rose-gray mauve shade, giving the main living space warmth. A dark gray sectional sofa sits in the living room facing an entertainment center that contains a state-of-the-art stereo system and a less upscale television setup. A coffee table sits in the curve of the sectional, and floor lamps bracket the ends of the furniture. The dining area hosts a four-seater square oak table and chairs, with the table generally host to a slew of mail and papers. An oak sideboard against the wall has candles on either end of it and a glass bowl with a fake arrangement of flowers. A small wine rack sits next to the sideboard, home to no more than nine bottles. The kitchen is small, but functional, painted a soft yellow color with a transparent blue glass backsplash. Off the living room are two bedrooms, one of which has the door closed and the other appears to be a home office. Its walls are a soft shade of green, and it contains a desk with a high-end computer setup and a bookcase stocked with textbooks.

When she opens the front door to allow him entry, Elisabeth's apartment is redolent with the scent of cooking. In this case not because she's stressed (any more than usual), but more because there are people she cares about living in places that don't get enough warmth or food. And since she's at her apartment, where she has free access to her kitchen and all its amenities, she might as well take the opportunity to cook like mad. She smiles a bit and gestures him in. "Go ahead into the kitchen. I've got coffee and some muffins on the breakfast bar. If you'd like something more substantial… well, I can manage that too."

She locks the door behind him and ushers him in, gesturing to one of the bar stools. There are not one but three crockpots — she raided one from somewhere — simmering on the countertops, there's a cauldron of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, and two equally large cauldron-type pans of what might be a minestrone soup and what may be a potato or some similar soup. Four pans are cooling on a rack on the dining room table with loaves of fresh bread. And several printer-paper boxes stand ready to recieve whatever else might be in the oven baking. "Seriously…. can I get you anything at all?" She waves a hand sheepishly at the kitchen. "I have a tendency lately to cook for an army."

By the time afternoon has turned the clock over from its halfway point, snow has started to dust down on New York in ways that would be sparkling and romantic but currently is just— cold and wet and overstaying its welcome. Francois manages not to trail most of it into Elisabeth's apartment — his shoes get wiped off outside her door, his coat shed and shaken out to hang nearby, and the warmth of the interior saturated with cooking smells is as nice a retreat from the blizzard outside as he could hope for.

Up onto a bar stool, dressed in greens and blues of jeans and a zippered sweater with the hood left to fall down his back, Francois briskly warms his hands palm to palm and gives her a warm smile at that comment. "I can see that," he says, with a roaming look over the kitchen. "Just coffee would be fine. I'm glad to see you have some time to yourself now."

There's a bit of a shrug. It's warm enough in the kitchen that Liz is wearing short sleeves with her jeans, and her feet are bare. Sure, she has to be ready to run at a moment's notice, but hey… there's something to be said for being at home. "Not much," she admits easily, bringing down a coffee mug to pour him a cup — her own is on the counter half empty — and set it in front of him next to the plate of muffins. "When you called, I asked for the afternoon off, but 'off' means 'on-call at a moment's notice' for us right now. And I'm not kidding when I say they're running us ragged. We're on standby for the National Guard units. Things are getting pretty damn desperate out there."

She gives the pots on the stove each a quick stir, eyes the one of cream-based soup and tosses in a few spices before stirring it again briefly, then turns back around to face him. Propping her elbows on the counter across from him, she tilts her head. "How're you holding up? Seems like I don't hear from you except in crises." She smiles for him, but the worry she can't quite hide darkens the blue of her eyes. She's sort of expecting bad news in spite of his easygoing demeanor.

Unzipping his sweater enough that a grey T-shirt beneath shows through, the warmth of the building slowly unraveling at the winter-armor one feels required to wear when going back and forth in this city, Francois then cups his hands around the mug of coffee to enjoy the sharp warmth through the porcelain. "I hope that my calls will be more social when things are better," he says, a note of apology in his voice in confirmation that yes, he's here on business, which can never be strictly pleasant. "But I am well, actually. The American government has been more than generous since— "

A shrug, designed to communicate: since Antarctica and holes in it filled with nuclear warheads. Since helping save the world with however other many people. He doesn't mention that it helps to supposedly be the great-grandfather of someone with significant pull. He takes a sip of coffee.

"But lately we have discussed a little about Dreyfus. I do not know if you had heard, but he sent someone to murder a friend of Abigail's, someone named Hokuto Ichihara. Not long before that, he sent me a message of kinds. Some of the— of Team Charlie discussed what we should do next."

Elisabeth smiles a little at the hope, but acceptance is what her expression conveys. Somehow things don't quite work out to being 'better' even after you save the world. "I'm glad that you're doing all right," she says quietly. When he mentions Dreyfus, she grimaces. And then goes visibly pale. "He hit Hokuto? Oh… God." Pushing herself upright off her leaning stance, Liz shoves both hands into her blonde hair and holds it at the nape of her neck. Sorrow along with a deep, burning rage — quickly smothered — crosses her features. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath before looking at him. "He's killing kids that Teo and I used to teach — at the high school that the Vanguard destroyed a year and a half ago." She shakes her head. "I don't understand the motivations for that — trying to make me feel responsible for other parents suffering the same pain he suffers because of me?" She shakes her head. "Did anyone have a better idea than 'sit and wait'? Because quite frankly, the only idea I came up with is to ask my father to do something ridiculously stupid like act as bait. Which is moot because he insisted on moving back to his brownstone anyway."

Francois sets his coffee aside like he might reach to touch her, but pauses, and instead settles by placing his right hand down on the counter somewhere in between them. Rather than mouth assurances, the Frenchman goes with pragmatism. "There were a few ideas," he says, voice gentle, which might be out of some need to reassure after all, or keeping his own coarseness for the subject matter in check.

"There was a sighting the other day — we know now that Feng Daiyu is among their ranks, and Eileen Ruskin spied him very recently at the offices around Eagle Electric, an old Vanguard stronghold? I imagine you know of it. My notion had been to take a look at these places anyway, but it seems like we have a place to start, oui? If it is possible for you to take more time off, you are— more than welcome to come along." A rueful smile communicates that someone who can handle a gun would be more than more than welcome.

His fingers curl against the counter a little. "As for using your father as bait— I am reluctant to lay something out and simply wait for them to strike again. They've been, ah, creative with who they mark, you know? I think we should go the opposite direction — instead of guess who they will attack, we can have an easier time of it guessing who they would recruit, and ask our former Vanguard allies to approach them. Odessa Knutson has also come forward, and confessed to us she has been a spy for Dreyfus. Short of lynching her, we all collectively knew it would be in our best interest to use her as an in.

"I don't know if I trust her, and so I would ask Eileen and her companions also. But Catherine and Teo believe we can exploit her connections and her power and ambush them."

Elisabeth sucks in a deep breath and releases it — and her hair — slowly, her hands sliding back down to rest on her hips. She looks like an immensely frustrated woman. "I can take specific times off if you let me know ahead of time that we're planning a run. If I ask for blanket time, Kershner's going to twig onto what we're up to — and I'm pretty sure that is the last thing we want." She purses her lips. "There's also Agent Lancaster, who seems to have a serious hard-on for showing up Kershner, and she's got people guarding my father. If we can come up with some solid evidence of where they are…. we might be able to get some backup in that form."

She sends a wry look toward Francois. "Not that Teo or Cat would in any way endorse such backup — so far as they're concerned, every single person in the system's chain is corrupt, I think." Elisabeth nibbles her lip and looks around. "Ambush certainly sounds like a good plan to me. And now that you're mentioning places like Eagle Electric….." She pauses to consider. "Has anyone checked out the old hospital? Sea View. That was one of the places they were using to launch. And though ConEd is a crater, there are also still tunnels under there that they may have been using to stockpile things."

Francois is nodding, retracting his hands to pick up his coffee once more, and take a long sip. For all that a warm and cosy apartment room is quick to stave off winter chill, a hot drink does it from the inside out. "Catherine gave me a list of the prior Vanguard strongholds, although I haven't seen them myself yet, nor know what would be of value to them. I'll try to get you dates and times soon — I don't want to go in blind or lacking a capable shooter. As far as I know, Odessa isn't privvy to static locations, but if we can lure them with herself, or Eileen and Raith— " A vague handwave. The Remnant generally. "Hopefully they can help and we can have such evidence."

Sitting his chin into his hand, he lets out a sigh as if he's been holding onto it, then gives her a wan smile. "It is strange, to me, that I was considering staying in Ryazan to clean out whatever Vanguard might be left there, and here they are after all."

"Not so strange," Elisabeth murmurs softly, absently turning to stir the soups again. Whether she's referring to his desire to stay and clean out the rats' nest or to their arrival back in Manhattan is somewhat up in the air. When she turns again to face him, she leans back against the counter behind her with her hands braced on it.

"Yvette believes Abby killed her father. She never knew .. that he'd changed his mind. That he was, in fact, alive and helping us stop Munin. We never told her that, and the way it all came down….. she never learned of it by herself, so far as I'm aware." Liz pauses, deep regret coloring her features as her eyes shift slightly and look over Francois's shoulder, seeing nothing. "And to this day, to this very moment…. I cannot tell you for sure that the boy, the child, behind the illusion…. was ever actually carrying a gun. I've gone over and over that moment in my head. I would still make the same choice because I couldn't afford to hesitate. Teo's life hung in the balance. But I still, even now… I don't know know if that kid had a gun, and I don't know if he was actually involved or just a puppet." She focuses on him once more.

It's not exactly a deep embrace of shared sympathy, but Francois does move a hand to pattern his fingers across where her hand is braced against the counter. Sasha's work is there to see, from the deeper knit of his bones to the more superficial pale scarring lacing across the back of his hand, but it doesn't prevent the touch from being warm, tentative, as if he could read her through tactile contact instead of studying her blue eyes with his green. "For what it is worth, we are more or less certain that he was involved, and certainly old enough to defy his father when it came to working for Grigori," he notes, gently. "Young, yes, but to me, all of you are young.

"You did the correct thing. I'm glad you know that. Perhaps Yvette will get a chance to know the truth as well, about her father." Those last few words fall a little monotone from Francois' mouth, as if not quite convinced of the worth of the relationship between the Vanguard's princess and Kazimir's ability to have such feelings.

Turning her hand to slip it into his, Elisabeth smiles just a hint. "I don't know if she'd have believed even had he told her himself. He spent a lot of time basically brainwashing a lot of people. So I don't expect that it will make a difference now, when he really is dead." She shrugs. "I know I did the only thing I could do. And I can live with my regrets, Francois. It's part of the job — every time I go out on the streets, I could be killing someone's kid because they're doing something that requires me to make that choice." She squeezes his hand gently. "It is worth something, though, to hear you say you're certain that he was not entirely an innocent. That part does weigh on me a bit."

Shaking her head, Elisabeth looks at their hands and then back up. "When you're ready to move, let me know. I'll be there." Her tone is quiet, but firm. Determined. The momentary flashback — those same words spoken to Teo when he asked for her help against humanis First now echo through her head for a long moment — makes her flinch a tiny bit instinctively, something she simply hides behind another light squeeze of his hand before she releases him.

"Merci." Hand drawing back when her's releases his, Francois takes a mostly finishing sip of coffee before levering himself up to stand, hands pulling his sweater zipper up close to his throat once more after he glances out the window. Talk of how Kazimir really is dead this time has him clamming up, but not impolitely — he too can live with regrets, even ones as baffling as these. "Good luck with your army," he adds, with a quick smile and a tip of his head towards the multitude of things cooking and cooling in her kitchen, before he's pushing off for the door and the coat hanging up beside it.

"Ffffft," Elisabeth snickers. "Mostly it's feeding the homeless. Some of it's going to Richard and Claire's place, and some… I was planning on sending through the Ferry to the Den," she admits quietly. "The crockpots are simmering chicken soup." She shrugs. "It's lame, but …." It makes her feel a little like she's doing something. Anything.

"The Den?" Repeating the part of that most familiar to him, Francois pauses as he goes to drag on his coat, a slightly oversized thing of navy wool and wooden buttons, fidgeting with the toggles of his cuffs as he tilts his head at her. "I've been visiting the Den myself as well — Doctor Allegre signing in. Save a serving for me next time, oui?" And with a parting wave, he's gone.

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