The Queen Of Hearts


cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title The Queen of Hearts
Synopsis What happens when you fall into a relationship without even knowing it.
Date Oct 22, 2009

Elisabeth's Apartment

The living room is entirely lit by the soft glow of candles — a set of five on the mantel, three more on the breakfast bar, one on each of the end tables by the couch, and a large three-wick in the center of the coffee table. The gentle light is enough to allow Elisabeth to see in the room without being so bright as to actually illuminate. The door is secured against the world, a quick glance at the locks would show all of them securely engaged. An open bottle of wine, mostly empty, sits on the counter near the candles, a half-empty glass also sitting there. Strains of piano music come from the office, and at first it might give the shadow pause… but there is no sense of anyone else in the apartment, as if Liz might be entertaining. The office door is open and there's a glow of candlelight in there as well — whatever she might be doing in there seems not to require much in the way of light. It might become evident as to why…

Against the rear wall, where her back is to the office door, is a piece of equipment that is usually both hidden by a cover and generally out of sight behind the bed and desk that dominate the rest of the space — a spinet. A full-fledged piano. The candlelight in that room comes from a large pillar candle sitting atop the thing while Elisabeth plays. (For those interested, borrowed this:

The shadow is given pause by the soft, flickering candlelight and the gentle song of the piano's music, uncertain if he's interrupting some romantic rendezvous - and suppressing any hint of jealousy he might feel there - but as he hears no-one else, he slides across the floor, whispering into the living room, and then into the office.

As she plays, the shadows cast by the pillar candle spread up across the wall, widening and spreading its wings like a great shadow-crow upon the wall. No words, yet, perhaps not wishing to interrupt even as he announces his presence without speech.

As her hands move across the keyboard, Elisabeth's attention is mostly on them with a soft expression that she rarely has in the past weeks, a kind of peace. It takes her far longer than it perhaps ought to notice something amiss in the flickering light of the candle. It's only as she glances up that she realizes the shadows in her periphery aren't dancing anymore. She stumbles over the notes that she plays but a moment is all she needs to determine what's happening. She looks down again, bringing the stanza she's playing to a close without jarring the piece of music, and then she takes her hands from the keys and looks back up. "Hi," she offers a bit lamely, the blush climbing her cheeks in the near-dark probably as easy for him to see as it would be in bright daylight for anyone else. "I, uhm…. " And then she trails off, uncertain what to say.

"Don't let me interrupt."

A quiet murmur of voice from the bird's shadow, cast as if it were perched upon the piano, head cocking a little to one side, "That was lovely. I didn't know you played." A pause, moments linger, "I suppose I don't know a lot about you."

There's a long pause, and Elisabeth looks thoughtful. "You never asked," she says simply in a soft voice. And a faint smile quirks her lips. "And some things…. I probably won't be able to tell you if you do ask. I don't remember learning to play that piece, but… my fingers seem to know it really well." She looks up to the shadow on the wall. "I apparently had a minor in music in college. I used it to get a job when I quit the force in '08."

"It's not like we've had a lot of chances to just… talk about normal things." The shadow spills down the wall, and Richard steps out of it beside the piano, a wry smile curving to his lips as colour returns to him. He moves over to sit on its bench beside her, head tilting to look at her with a furrowed brow, "You don't remember?"

"Never thought you were interested in that kind of thing," Elisabeth admits with a smile. "It's …. not exactly like we were dating, you know," she teases, even as she reaches out and touches him lightly. It's an automatic movement nowadays, to touch him when he's in reach even if it's merely a brush of a hand as she walks by. "No… I don't remember. The last clear memory I have…. is gettin dressed for my junior prom? Maybe my senior prom. I'm not sure which it is. And then there's…. nothing after that until…. it must be no more than three or four days after the Towers came down. Digging in the rubble." She reaches up absently to scratch her head, her expression disconcerted. "As far as I can tell, it's…. somewhere around eight or nine years of time," she admits with a bit of a shrug.

"What…" Oh. Right. The bullet. Cardinal clearly didn't realize; there's a moment's shock as he looks at her, lips parted as if to say something, and then he gives his head a shake, reaching out to curl his hand against hers. "I didn't… think," he murmurs, glancing back to the keys, "I was just so glad you were alive, y'know, I… never asked."

Looking surprised, Liz asks, "Why would you?" She twines her fingers into his, assuring him softly, "I wouldn't have expected you to think to ask, Richard. Hell…. I didn't even really think much about it until the day of the dream thing," she comments. "And really… the only part that bothers me about the whole thing is the memories of my mother. College? Eh, you know. There are things you want to remember, but they're not really all that important. The ones of my mom … I wonder what conversations we had in those years — between when I was a snotty, bitchy teenager and a grown woman." She grins a bit. "But I'm okay. It's not…. well, I guess it is a little major, but you know what? I'm alive. That's sort of the more important bit, right?"

"That it is," admits Cardinal, fingers tightening against hers in a brief, warm squeeze. He tilts his head back to watch her, listening to her, a wistful smile curving faint to his lips. "At least you have… some memories. I never had parents at all."

It seems an odd conversation to be having on some levels. They're sort of coming at this whole thing bass-ackward. Elisabeth considers what she knows of him and then smiles slightly. "Did you ever…. want to do something… be something besides a thief?" she asks curiously. "I mean…. I know it's got to be hard to have dreams when you're scrabbling through a system that treats you like a number and foster families who just care about the paycheck — and if you're lucky they leave you alone." If you're not… well, she's dealt with the kids who get beat or raped by the people supposed to protect them, and now she wonders…. "Did you ever have a big dream?"

"Like what?" Cardinal's wistfulness lingers as he looks back over the piano, gaze trailing across the room, "All I had were the nuns telling me I was worthless, a bad seed, and foster parents sending me back… then they kicked me out on the street. I never had a chance to be anything else, Liz." One shoulder lifts in a shrug, "I had enough money to get an apartment— what was I gonna do, work as a stockboy? That lasted a week." He snorts, "Then they tossed me in jail."

"It's a pretty shitty childhood," Elisabeth observes quietly. There no pity in her tone, only… a kind of regret. "They were wrong, though. No one is without worth." She reaches up with her free hand, almost absently picking out a simple melody line that he might or might not recognize as belonging to "Bohemian Rhapsody." And then she grins at him a bit. "I wanted to be a singer," she admits in an abashed tone. "Before I wanted to be cop, I thought I could be the next Madonna or something."

"I don't think you could've pulled off that cone bra," Cardinal replies solemnly, nudging his knee to hers, a smile quirking to his lips, "Your ability probably could've helped there too. Who needs microphones?" One shoulder rolls in an easy shrug, fingers splaying vaguely through the air before he taps out a few keys tunelessly, "Mm. I'm not a thief anymore, though. Don't know what I am really."

There's a snort at the cone bra. Elisabeth chuckles and then answers the latter part. "A guy?" she ventures. "Looking for where he belongs in the world? Same as everyone else, really." She pauses and smiles. "Ask me something you want to know," she invites him. "You said you don't know a lot about me. So ask me something you want to know."

Cardinal cocks his head, regarding her with a slight smile for a few moments before admitting, "I don't really know what to ask. I mean, I…" A pause, and he brings that hand up to rub against the side of his neck, "I'm not really good at this social shit."

"No, really?" Liz retorts with a grin. "It's not a pop quiz, Richard. You're not being graded. Don't look so worried." She nudges him with her shoulder. "It's an open offer." She glances at the piano and tilts her head. "I didn't really realize you didn't know my mother was in Midtown. I'm sorry to have dumped that on you the other night."

"I don't… think about shit like that," Richard admits ruefully, leaning back a bit to look at the ceiling, grimacing, "I don't have a family, so I forget other people do. Mm. You grew up here in the City, then?"

Oh wow. Elisabeth's expression is actually startled for a moment. And then she chuckles softly. "I did. My parents are lawyers. Real estate, in my dad's case. Family law in my mom's. Grew up just a few blocks from here, really. Paid off the apartment with my mom's life insurance after the Bomb." She considers and says, "I wasn't a huge fan of the nuns either. Went to Catholic school until high school."

"All a matter've perspective, I guess…" Cardinal looks back over, twitching a faint smile, "Rulers, huh? Hate 'em. I never liked being told what I could believe, what I couldn't…"

Elisabeth just smiles at him. "Yeah…. I don't know when I made that break exactly myself, but … seems like it was the same issue for me." She looks at the piano again and says, "After the Bomb, I was a teacher at Washington Irving. I was working on a master's degree in music." There's a hint of wistful in her tone as she says it. "It was…. a simpler job in so many ways. Music is always where I go when I'm…. anything, actually. Happy, sad, lost. Or I cook." She smirks. "I think you figured that one out already," she comments as she glances at him, remembering the night he showed up and found the whole place crammed with food.

Cardinal chuckles ever so softly, "Yeah, we didn't have any problems eating that week… I didn't think any human could cook that much food." A teasing note, his head shaking, before he grows more serious, "So why didn't you stick with it?"

Her laughter is soft as he teases, and then Elisabeth sobers, looks at him, and says honestly, "Because the Vanguard attacked a school full of kids — my kids — and they needed justice." It really is that simple. "I was standing in the hall when the place came down. There were….. Christ, sixty kids and teachers in that hall behind me. The explosion blew me clear, but the ceiling collapsed in on the rest of them."

"Christ." Cardinal closes his eyes, his head shaking slowly as he murmurs, "And look at us now, occasionally working with some of them… hell, half the people I wanted to kill a few months ago I'm using as pieces on my board."

Elisabeth's expression takes on a pained grimace and she sighs heavily at that, her thumb brushing across the back of his hand absently. "Yeah. Well… not exactly the first time I've worked with some of those fuckers," she says softly. She just shakes her head. "No one said this job was going to be simple." She looks at him and seems to consider something. Then she asks, perhaps apropos of nothing, "Do you play baseball? Watch baseball? Bowl? Dance?"

Cardinal's eyes open once more, and he looks over with a rueful expression. "Maybe I'm a politician," he jokes, before shaking his head, "Not really big on sports. I like to fly, don't really get to anymore since I left Chicago Air… I garden."

Both eyebrows shoot up. "You fly?" Elisabeth asks, intrigued. "What do you fly?" The gardening makes her smile, though. "Do you grow veggies or flowers? That's a hobby I have to admit I wouldn't have expected at all," she admits. "You know, sunlight and all."

"You didn't know?" Cardinal arches a brow, shrugging a bit, "I was with Fedor, after all — we all learned to fly. Planes, 'course. Mostly smaller cargo planes, I don't know if I could handle a 747 or anything — same theory, I guess. 'Course, I'm useless turning the day…" A faint smile, then, "Yeah, well, they eat sunlight. I don't. I've got some hydro going up on the library's roof."

Elisabeth chuckles softly. "I knew you worked with Chicago Air, I didn't realize you actually FLEW for them. There's probably just as much I don't know about you as you don't know about me, you know." She shrugs and offers, "I'd love to see your garden. If you want to share, of course."

Cardinal quirks a faint smile, "Not a lot, but I did. I own a plane, actually, just don't have anywhere to fly it — store it over in Jersey." He looks back over the piano, "It's not much, but, it's starting to grow. Might need to bring it inside and get some sun lamps, though, with the weather…"

Pursing her lips, Elisabeth watches him thoughtfully. And then she asks softly, "You wanna learn to play?" The offer is made in a tone of uncertainty, as if she's not sure whether or exactly how he'll rebuff the offer. "It's …. it takes some practice, but you've got the manual dexterity for it. It's not so hard."

"The piano?" Cardinal looks surprised, blinking down at the keys, "I don't have a musical bone in my body, Liz." A grin over, faint, "I mean, I could give it a try, but…"

She leans over and kisses him almost shyly. Then she laughs. "I have one for you." Her fingers resume their position on the keys and she skillfully plays a piece for him, chuckling as she sings… the Eagles's "Desperado" seems singularly appropriate to his life, after all. When that's done, she nudges him with an elbow to trade places with her, not making a big deal of the choice of song — it was merely good for the piano and something he'd probably know, right? And it's perhaps the most lighthearted bit of fun the two of them have ever had together — Elisabeth shows him the basics of playing the piano, laughingly fending off his hands once or twice when he decides he's had enough of that entertainment before giving in and turning to more adult kinds of entertainment for the remainder of the night.

Don't you draw the queen of diamonds, boy, she'll beat you if she's able. You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet.

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