Something To Fight For


cardinal_icon.gif veronica4_icon.gif

Scene Title Something to Fight For
Synopsis Veronica and Cardinal catch up after November 8. Neither are sure where their futures will take them.
Date November 16, 2011

A motel in Washington and a motel in Wyoming, respectively.

"Hey Shade, it's Vee, call me if you need me."

As the voicemails were picked through one a time, and most of them discarded, Richard Cardinal decided that with what limited time he has one of the calls that he would make would be to this number.

It takes a few hours before he gets up the nerve to talk to someone else today, but finally he's settled at the small table in his hotel room, nursing a cup of coffee as he dials the number.

Ring. Ring. Maybe I shouldn't-

When her phone lights up, Veronica glances at it, then at Brian, who's sleeping on the bed in their most recent in a string of motel rooms. They all look alike, though once in a while the local color shows up in the decor. Above the bed, for instance, is a soft water color of buffalo and mountainside in soft, pastel purples and blues.

The number is a familiar one, otherwise she might ignore it, but she grabs the phone and then slips out onto the balcony so her soft voice doesn't wake the man on the bed. She's barefoot and in jeans and a t-shirt, and while there's snow on the ground below, their second floor balcony is at least covered so she isn't walking in snow. Vee pushes the talk button and brings the phone to her ear. "Shade," she says, her voice rough for want of use. She waits for the confirmation before saying anything more.

Too late. Richard's silent on the other end of the line for a few moments before he clears his throat briefly. "Vee," he greets in quiet, muted tones, "I got your message. You all good? The many let you know what— happened up north, I assume?"

The coffee cup's lifted up, and he takes a careful sip of it, eyes closing as the heat spills down his throat and he waits for a reply.

She leans her back against the railing, the cold bar pressing into her spine. She stares through the sliding door at the interior of her room, watching for signs of wakefulness from Brian. She's quiet for a too-long moment too, before she nods, which he of course can't see, and finally she speaks.

"I'm so sorry," Veronica manages to say finally, her voice a little thicker, deeper than usual. "Are you…" it's a stupid start to a stupid question. No, he's not okay. Who could be okay after that? She settles instead on, "coping?"

"I…" Richard draws in a breath, his head falling back and eyes closing before he continues, "I'm doing about as well as can be expected. We had— we had a lot of time to get used to the idea. A lot of talks. But it doesn't— it didn't…" He trails off, silent for several heart beats, "It sounds like it went pretty bad over there too."

Veronica doesn't hurry him in those silences, letting him put his words together. Taking the time to find her own. She shakes her head and wipes a tear that slides down one cheek. "It's never enough time, though," she says quietly. "Is it?"

As for how bad it was over 'there,' she shrugs. Another gesture he can't see. "It was hard. I didn't lose anyone personally, but others did. I wish I could have done more. Done better." Her voice cracks on the last word. "The Ferry's hurting, I know." Brian's hurting. Lynette. People that matter to her. "Not sure where I go from here," she adds, uncertainty in her voice. "You?"

"No," Richard admits quietly, something off in his tone as he tries to keep his voice steady, "It's not."

He swallows hard, once, then leans forward and reaches out for the coffee cup again. "The Ferry's going down, Vee. They made too many mistakes. Centralized themselves too much. I hope you're far away from them right now. As for me— " Silence for a few long moments, "I don't know. Back to see my family I guess."

The waver in his voice makes her eyes well up with tears. She lets them fall this time, not bothering to chase them away with fingertips. "We are. But… help them if you can, yeah? I don't think I can go near there, unless we know any face changers in the network. We decided it was easier to… split up."

She could have gone back to Bannerman after they escaped Cambridge. She turns to look out at the snow-covered parking lot below, studying it for any new vehicles since the night before, any of the nondescript and thus suspicious dark sedans so often used by agents like her.

"Family's good," she murmurs, not aware of what he means — it's been so long since she's seen him. "I can still hear her singing that Hallelujah song on the USS George Washington," is a bit of a non sequitur. But surely one he can follow, knowing Liz's penchant for singing. "I always think of her when I hear that song."

The ghost of a smile curves to his lips at her words. "A part of me misses Apollo," he admits, "We knew there were good guys, we knew there were bad guys, and we did what we had to…" A bitter chuckle, "We were wrong, but God, it was good to pretend for a little while. And she sang beautifully. I don't know if I can ever listen to some songs ever again… you know?"

He's starting to ramble, and he knows, it, so he catches himself with a slow breath. "And… I don't know what I can do to help, Vee. Shade isn't even a good name for me anymore."

"It was good to feel like I was on the right side for once," Veronica agrees about Apollo. "Even now… I tried to help but it wasn't enough for so many people." She said she didn't lose anyone, but he can hear the pain in her voice.

His revelation about his ability — or lack of one — is met by silence for a moment, before she speaks again. "You're more than your ability, Shade. You can help people without it. That's an excuse. And it's okay if you let it be one. No one deserves more than you do to take a fucking break. So if you walk away, I won't judge you. I'm not going to be a hypocrite."

She huffs a small laugh. She's not quite as far from New York as she could possibly get because they've broken the trip up, spent a day or two in one spot, just a few hours in another, to make it less predictable. "But if you can find a way to help, I know you will." She turns back to peer through the glass door at Brian's still-sleeping form. "It's who you are."

Richard exhales a long, ragged sigh, coffee set down and hand coming up to rub against his face again. "…and what good have I done? How many people have I gotten hurt, gotten killed, Vee? I don't know. I don't— I don't even know. We'll see. Someone told me recently that I was done. That Richard Cardinal should just step aside, take care of his family, and let the people stepping in to mop up the mess take over. Maybe they were right."

Veronica is quiet another moment, aside from a quick shivering breath as the chill outside starts to settle in. "You and me both," Vee murmurs, regarding how many people she's gotten killed or hurt. "There were people in the Ark that I put there, you know? Before I got my shit together. Even after. I couldn't save them all."

She reaches up to shove her blond hair out of her face, catching it behind an ear. "You know I was the one they made recruit Mags to the Company? Would he have been somewhere else, somewhere safe, if I hadn't? I don't know, but I'm asking myself that." She sighs. "Elisabeth believed you've done good or she wouldn't have been with you. Trust in her if you don't believe me or yourself, Richard. But if you step aside, no one will blame you."

A few second ticks by, before she asks, "Family?"

There's a long moment as Cardinal considers the question, and how best - how safest - to answer it, before finally deciding to go a bit vague about it all. "Yeah. I have two sisters. A brother. And— " He hesitates, unsure about saying the next part over the line. "Kids. Born in September."

Kids. Plural. Veronica's brows lift. "Shit. Congrats. I had no idea."

She's quiet for a moment. "The other one… other ones… have a kid. Not sure if I'll go that route or not. I can't really see it, not in this world, not in this moment, you know?" She pauses. "How is it? Something to…" live for? She doesn't say that. "Fight for?" she says instead, knowing that in his grief, there might not be, otherwise.

"Thanks. And.., I'm not going to lie," Richard admits in quiet tones into the phone, closing his eyes, "If it wasn't for them, I… shit. I'd probably be on a yacht right now. Just sailing around somewhere tropical with an old friend and finding out what it's like to get a tan." His power kind of prevented that, previously.

"That's something good, then, at least. Your something good," Veronica says quietly. He said to name one good thing he'd done. He has two. "Their, um, mother?" she asks, tentatively. She's pretty sure she'd have heard if Liz had been pregnant, but she's been in Massachusetts for six months, with a few jaunts back to New York City on the weekends now and then. "I hope she's okay?" There were many people killed, in both Alaska and in Cambridge, after all. Endgame had people in both places.

"She's well. We got her out before the government came down like a hammer…" Richard breathes out a quiet chuckle, "She's handling shit better than most of the rest of us. Must be because she's got all those motherly instincts to keep her busy and all, she's focused on then one hundred percent."

Inside the room, Brian moves, looking around for Veronica. She taps the glass, smiling softly when he looks her way. She watches as he gets up to head toward the restroom. "Good to hear. Keep them safe, yeah?" she says quietly. "I miss you. You need me, call, all right?"

She's quiet another moment, before she adds, "If not, maybe we'll see each other sometime on the other side of all of this." Is there another side to all of this? Can they possibly change the world?

There is, at least, as light smile to Cardinal's lips. Talking about his kids awoke that, at least. "Thanks, Vee. For reaching out. I… I'll call you if I need you. And I'll see you on the other side."

At least there is a touch more optimism in his answer, if possibly feigned for her benefit. "Be safe, Shade," Veronica says quietly, before pressing the end call button. She opens the slider to step into the warm room, closing the door to the wintry world behind her.

The call's disconnected, and Cardinal lowers it down to the table, regarding it for a long moment. Then he breathes out a sigh, reaching for his coffee and muttering to himself, "Help them, but no pressure if you decide to ditch, really, we'll get along, it's just that this is your entire purpose in life. Jesus, Vee, you're as bad as the nuns." There's affection in it alongside the exasperation, though.

He called her, after all.

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