Tooth & Nail


donovan_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif

Scene Title Tooth & Nail
Synopsis Elisabeth brings concerns about the NYPD to Marcus Donovan and steps into a much larger conversation about the future…
Date February 13, 2020

The Watchtower

Red Hook

It's close enough to the close of business for the day that it might be annoying to have a last-minute request for a meeting, but well — Marcus Donovan's life is as a public servant, so he's just going to have to deal with it. Elisabeth arrives just on time for the requested meeting — right as his admin assistant should be leaving for the day. She waves to the assistant and just waves her off, simply knocking at the door. "He knows I'm coming, it's good."

It shouldn't be that strange to see one of the SCOUT team here. Although Elisabeth can't help wondering if tongues will wag — Donovan has a reputation.

It is stranger to see Wolfhound.

“That’s fine, just make sure everyone knows,” Elisabeth can hear Donovan saying as she approaches his office, in spite of the closed door. Through the glass wall into the commissioner’s office, she can see a blonde man with a crew cut dressed in street clothes standing on the opposite side of Donovan’s desk. It takes a moment for Elisabeth to recognize James Dearing out of uniform, having only met him on a handful of occasions in a professional capacity.

“No problem,” Dearing says, following Donovan’s line of sight past him. He turns, looking at Elisabeth through the glass wall. “Looks like your next meeting’s here, I’m gonna go tell the boss-man what’s what.”

Donovan nods, slouching back into his chair and steepling his hands in front of his mouth. Dearing shows himself out, offering a polite but largely indifferent smile to Elisabeth along with a nod on his way past her. Donovan waves Elisabeth in, then sits forward and folds his hands on the desk in front of him.

Liz,” Donovan says with a broad smile. No title, no surname, not even her full name. There’s a casual demeanor between these two, and Donovan hasn’t ever seen fit to change that. “I heard you wanted a piece of my time. How can I help?”

Offering Dearing a brief, impersonal smile — only recognizing him as he's past her in the doorway, really — Elisabeth hesitates in the door. She watches the Wolfhound operative leave, but then shakes it off and returns her attention to the man she's come to see.

She shakes her head slightly and takes the same liberty with greetings; they have enough history that she is perfectly comfortable with it. "Marcus." Her tone is amused. Even as she comes through and pushes the door closed behind her, the blonde drops her own kind of field in place to have this conversation. She's never pulled punches with the man before, and she's definitely not going to start now. "It's good to see you. Thanks for sticking around to talk tonight." As she walks to the chair in front of his desk and lowers herself into it, she sighs quietly. "I need an off-the-books conversation with you. I don't think either of us want SCOUT to implode, and well… I'm already hip-deep in some shit."

“Implode?” Donovan’s parroting of that word lacks the immediate concern others might have. He motions with one hand for Elisabeth to shut the door and slowly rises from his seat. “I like to think most meetings with me are off-the-books unless we need to pencil something in. It works better that way for everyone.”

Rather than move to greet Elisabeth, Donovan gets up and walks across his office to the window where a low cabinet is arranged with glasses and decanters. “It’s a little late for happy hour, but…” he says with a laugh, overturning two glasses before looking back over his shoulder to Elisabeth. “Thirsty?”

"Sure," is the reply, Elisabeth's tone drained as she slumps a little in her chair. She absently runs her fingers through her shoulder-length hair, unconsciously trying to stop the stress reaction to her own thoughts. "Whatever you've got is fine," she offers.

There's a moment where she puts her head back and closes her eyes to let out a long, slow breath. When she opens them again, they find him. "Marcus, do you ever get tired of the fucking red tape?" It's not a complaint she's voicing, it's a genuine question. The bureaucracy always seems to get in the way of doing the right thing.

“Of course, but…” Donovan cracks a smile and looks up from the glasses, “I’m the Commissioner, so I’ve got the biggest fucking pair of scissors in the city.” He finishes pouring two glasses with a finger of whiskey in each, then brings them back to his desk. He offers one out to Elisabeth, then sits down on the edge of his desk, taking a sip from his glass. “But you know, we have to color in the lines every now and then. It isn’t all that different from how it used t’be, y’know?”

Donovan looks down into his glass. “I mean, other than all the bigots being run out on a rail.” He adds with a crooked smile. “What’s got your cat up a tree?” He asks, taking another sip from his Whiskey. “I gotta fire somebody?”

Taking the glass from him, Elisabeth is quiet as she sips from it. Not all that different is maybe the biggest part of her problem. "Maybe." The reply is quiet. How to explain.

She looks up at him. "I used to use my ability to talk down hostage takers and jumpers, Marcus. I can't make anyone do something, but I can … convince them to do things if they're already inclined that way. Technically, if I pull that shit now, a defense attorney is going to have a fucking field day getting confessions thrown out. Or, as an example, what happens if the resident telepath 'hears' someone standing outside a gas station going over their plan to rob the place? She can't arrest him. It's not illegal to think about shit. She has to wait and hope no one gets hurt — so we have the 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' argument. She could have stopped the manager from getting killed by this asshole, but if she does, the arrest is invalid. He didn't do anything wrong yet. And because she didn't step up then and had no opening before it happened, the owner dies."

She sighs heavily. "I don't want to build this kind of police department, where our hands are tied like this still. Where you have information but it's not legally actionable and we have to make the choice between what's legal for us to do and what's right. So…" she rubs her temple. "Yeah. Maybe you do need to fire someone." Because he has to know which way she's going to jump, always. She swallows the rest of her drink, letting the mouthful burn its way down.

Marcus laughed to himself, taking another sip of his drink and leaning off of his desk to circle around it, pausing briefly at the window. “Burden of proof,” is his simple answer. “It’s not all that different from the old days, when we’d get tips from CIs that weren’t on the books. We’d have to…” he wobbles a hand in the air, “pad the books.” Marcus offers Elisabeth a look, then returns to his chair behind his desk and sits down.

“So you use your trick to talk someone off a ledge, that’s hard as fuck to prove you did. Sure, you’re capable, but unless you sign an affidavit saying you did?” Marcus shrugs. “That’s up to an attorney to decide, and honestly? It’d never stick unless they find a way to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, and since telepathy is inadmissible…” he shrugs and finishes his drink with a swallow and sets the empty glass down in front of him, “nothing comes of it.”

Donovan sits forward, folding his hands in front of himself beside the empty glass. “Our job’s never been black and white, Lizzie. ‘Specially not these days. Sure, we can be more progressive, we can be a gentler law enforcement. But we’re still gonna have to play the game, same as it’s always been.” It’s clear that little has changed in Donovan, always willing to bend the rules to suit himself.

“You have a psychic who hears some shit? You follow your gut. If we’ve gotta…” Donovan makes a vague gesture, “make it fit afterwards? Shit, we were doing that long before we knew about people who could fly. Sometimes in order to do what’s right, you’ve gotta be willing to get your hands dirty and I know you have dirty hands.” Which isn’t an admonition, but rather admiration.

“I think the only person I need to fire is that wet blanket on your shoulder,” Donovan says with a smirk. “Yeah, it might not be the bright and shining example of morality we paint the department as, but… until the laws catch up to the world, we do what we gotta do. I trust you to do that, and I need you to trust me,” he says with a motion to himself, “to cover your ass — and the rest of SCOUT’s — when you do.”

"I never fucking liked the game." She wrinkles her nose slightly at his admiration. And can't help the faint smirk that follows it. "I trust you," she admits, but laments wearily, "I just fucking wanted to build something better. I don't want these damn kids stuck walking the same goddamn tightrope that I did." And will continue to. Elisabeth turns the empty glass in her hand, studying it. And she smiles faintly, remembering a flash of a world where she ditched her gun in the Hudson and was getting handed a new one for a gift.

The thought that occurs to her immediately following that memory makes her jerk upright a little more, a sudden frown creasing her brow. None of the worlds have been so far apart, really… what's the likelihood that one was also so close? Fuuuuuuuck. The moment of epiphany isn't one she shares just now, smoothing out her expression.

"And here I thought I was going to actually make it different," Elisabeth acknowledges her own arrogance in a mild voice. Dragging her free hand down her face, she props her head with her fingertips near her temple. There's no rancor in her tone, just rueful amusement. "You know, it didn't occur to me at the time how weird it was that you'd ask me of all people to keep you on the straight and narrow." She salutes him with the empty glass. "Nice pandering to my ego."

“You’re welcome?” Donovan says with a lopsided smile. “But truth be told, I know you. I know what you’re capable of, and if I wanted a straight-shooter I’d hire off of a federal recommendation. I need someone whose gut is in the right place, not someone who knows every regulation and every code. This isn’t the old world, Liz. I think that’s where our heads are at in different places.”

Donovan makes a gesture, separating his hands across the desk. “On one end of the spectrum,” he raises one hand, “there’s the old way of thinking. Laws, regulations, oversight. All of it makes sense in a world without people who can bend sound or see through walls,” to call himself and Elisabeth out. “That world’s dead and gone, but it’s just that the lawmakers and the layperson don’t get that yet.”

Raising his other hand, Donovan looks up to Liz. “On this side, we have a world where the laws are built to accommodate our existence, y’know? Where everyone’s on the same fucking page and we can have some real progress and accountability.”

Then, Donovan sweeps his hands across the desk. “We’re somewhere in here. The messy, gray area. Just because the war’s over doesn’t mean the world is alright. We can’t build a new system on day one, we have to give lip service to the dead world so as to not ruffle feathers, and start building the one we want from the ground up. Ain’t gonna be done at the end of a gun this time, either.”

Reaching inside his desk, Donovan pulls out — of all things — a red, white, and blue pin. It’s old, faded from the sun, but the block red font that says HARDING 06 on it is legible. He slides it across the table to Elisabeth.

“That’s our future.” Donovan says thoughtfully. “I got that button two months before the bomb. I was at a Democratic party mixer in DC, met a man by the name of Joshua Harding, he was running for governor of Florida. You want the straight shooter? The man who will build things the right way?” He taps the pin.

“Two years later Harding was running for president, but he dropped out of the primaries when Rickham pulled ahead. Harding was vocally pro-Evolved back in a day when it wasn’t fashionable for a black man to say he had super powers on the campaign trail. Rickham kept his closeted, and…” Donovan shrugs. Everyone knows how that wound up.

“All these years, that stuck with me. When he ran for mayor, Harding was one of my biggest supporters. Now, he’s still down in the swamp, still the governor after a fucking Civil War. I’m trying t’get him to run.” Donovan says pointedly. “For President.”

Elisabeth leans forward and takes the pin, studying it. She barely remembers Harding from the primaries. The only reason he stuck out to her was because of those pro-Evolved stances at a time when she herself was still in the closet so deep she'd quit her job on the police force. She's only seen one world that was what the man hopes for. She sets the pin back on his desk and slumps back in her chair again, her expression thoughtful.

She lets out a long breath and meets his gaze. Her tone is low and though there is no urgency, there's an undercurrent of certainty. "You need to be careful. Someone's making a move on your little chessboard here in the Zone. I highly recommend you contact Richard about a bodyguard. RayTech Security has a good reputation." Hell, she herself has a shadow most of the time — Alessandro is down in the lobby right now. The smile she offers him doesn't quite reach her eyes and she tilts the empty glass in her hand absently. "And do it soon."

This time when she leans forward it's to put her glass on his desk as she stands. Her gaze lingers on his face. "I have a lead I'm chasing down." Her blue eyes come back up to him and she tells him quietly, "You'll know if we need you." It'll be brutally obvious.

“Everybody’s a player, on a long enough time-table.” Donovan says confidently. “And don’t you worry, I’ve got plenty of protection. If the Commissioner of the NYPD can’t have a drink in his office without some ex-military friend looming in a corner, is it really America?” The last part, judging from the way he talks out of the side of his mouth, is intended as a joke.

“I didn’t bring up Harding as a conversation point, Liz.” Donovan says, gesturing to the button again. He leans back in his seat and folds his hands in his lap.

“Harding’s on the fence, he doesn’t want to run, but look at the candidates we’ve got.” Donovan says with a frustrated gesture. “Medina would just as soon see us all put back in fucking cages, but he’s saying all the right, pretty words to get the bigots support while not appearing like he’s going to goose-step through France.”

“And Praeger?” Donovan’s mouth droops into a frown. “He was a fine wartime President, but Medina’s gonna come after him for his time as the head of the DoEA. Everybody loves Praeger for pulling us through the war, he won that landslide election on feel-good oo-rah and that voluntary step down as interim president so we could have a real election in ‘16.”

Spreading his hands, Donovan fixes Liz with a serious look. “Harding’s popular, a war hero, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He could use someone to give him that last push he needs to throw his hat in the ring again.”

Crossing her arms, Elisabeth walks toward the window he was looking out a bit ago. "What the hell are you up to, Marcus?" she asks in amusement. She glances toward him, shaking her head. "And for God's sake, don't you have people?" She's mostly teasing him, but seriously sometimes the things he asks of her are completely unexpected.

Her eyes go back to the view out the window. "You should get my father in here to go down there," she opines mildly. "He helped Cat draft the newer legislation. As far as most people are concerned, I sat out the Civil War." She didn't — her body language and the way she carries herself told him from the start that whatever she was doing in those years, sitting out wasn't exactly part of it.

She's genuinely curious though. "Why do you think he'll listen to me, if he's not listening to you?"

“I have plenty of people,” Donovan says with a slow wave of his hands. “But I only have one person who can talk a suicidal man off a ledge. One person who can convince a gunman to lower his gun when it’s in his heart but he’s all up in his head.”

Donovan’s chair creaks as he rests his full weight back against it. “Everyone’s a player, Liz, on a long enough timetable. I need you in this game too.”

Son of a bitch. She was really hoping that was not why he was asking. Elisabeth's faint half-smile still quirks her lips. "So this is where it begins," she murmurs. Looking back at him, she shakes her head. Does she trust herself enough to stay on the right side of the line? Does she trust that Marcus Donovan has the best interests of all at heart? Once again, the worlds aren't so far apart.

"Fine. Get him to visit or something, and I'll ask a few questions and see if I can see where his heart really is and why he's unwilling," she concedes quietly. "I'm not going to Florida. I have shit that needs doing here." And since she can't convince people of things they don't want to do, she's willing to make this compromise. Just like she's willing to make the compromises she's about to make to keep Short from being framed.

She wonders if she'll recognize the one compromise too far when it bites her in the ass.

"One question, though. Why him and not Hesser?"

Donovan smiles, laughing to himself. “Hesser’s a Libertarian,” is almost all Donovan has to say about why not. But he does quietly add, “and for all he might say about having our interests at heart? Harding is the only one who is one of us.”

Spreading his hands, Donovan has made his point. “I’ll invite Harding up for a walk-through of the Safe Zone, there’s talk about building one in Florida in a few years time, so it’ll seem natural.”

“Trust me,” Donovan says. “If we don’t fight tooth and nail to build a new world, using whatever tactics we can, someone else is going to do it for us.”

And judging from the lessons of history…

…that doesn’t end well.

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