Whose Side Are You On?


veronica3_icon.gif gael2_icon.gif

Scene Title Whose Side Are You On?
Synopsis Veronica spills the beans about her status with the Institute.
Date October 23, 2010

Deli King and Grocery, The Bronx

As the clock ticks past 8:30, Veronica finds herself in the Bronx, having done some following up on leads for the handful of cases the Institute is working on. Curfew means little to the agent, who certainly has the clearance to be out past 9 p.m. with the DHS badge in her pocket to say so. What it does mean is that if she doesn't grab something to eat before heading to her apartment in the Octagon on Roosevelt, she's limited to whatever's in her refrigerator or pantry to eat for dinner — without a Brian cooking pasta for her, the choices are few: cereal with expired milk, a Slimfast shake, Mac and Cheese, or a pint of Ben and Jerry's.

Aside from that, there's some condiments and a six pack of beer.

So Veronica steps into the small market in the Bronx, since once she passes the bridge patrol, anything on Roosevelt will be closed, unless she heads to the Suresh Center and the vending machines. Not a particularly appetizing idea, and she wants to go home. The agent looks weary as she picks up a small hand basket from where they are stacked in the corner, and she heads toward the produce section to find some fresh fruits and vegetables.

A few months ago, Gael would have been out here for similar reasons; Bianca was a decent cook, but she was typically as busy as he was, to the point that food tended to be an afterthought. He remembers when it wasn't like that… before the bomb, mostly. Nowadays, he's here because it's small and crowded with other people doing their own last-minute rush, and thus easy to blend in.

He's at the other end of the aisle, loading up a bag with bread and cold cuts, and a head of lettuce as an afterthought. Spotting Veronica, he freezes for half a second - then quickly turns his head, buying some time to think. So she made it out, after all. What's she been up to? Is anyone tailing her? Does she want any part of her old life? Even a few minutes would be enough to gather some amount of context.

The brunette agent is dressed like she did in her old life — not like someone on the run. Slim fitting black pinstriped trousers, black boots beneath, a matte black leather jacket on top of a royal blue blouse. She doesn't notice him — she notices a man in her periphery, but not that it's Cruz, and she continues to make her way down the same aisle, reaching for an item now and then. A bag of Ready Mix lettuce. A bottle of salad dressing. A box of tomatoes.

She scans the area for something — what, is unclear — and her eyes fall on his form a little more directly than before, and she too stops moving for a moment. You can't work with someone day in and day out and not recognize the shape of their shoulders, the angle of their jaw. She swallows, tense as she reaches finally for whatever's in front of her, even if it's not what she wants: in this case, a canteloupe.

Just as she turns her head away, Gael turns his back, stealing another quick look. It's a familiar rhythm - hardly the first time either of them has tried to avoid notice while out in public - just the first time they've tried to avoid being spotted by each other.

Veronica's poker face is good, but she still turns a little red just below her ear: nothing that would attract notice unless you knew what to look for. So much for not being spotted. "That one looks a little green," he says, quietly. "Planning to hang on to it for a while?" Yes, I see you too.

Her eyes drop to the fruit in her hands, and she blinks, a twitch in her jaw that is another tell in her poker face. She sets the melon back on the pile and shakes her head. "Can't stand cantaloupe, to be honest," she says, her voice husky as usual, and as neutral as she can make it. She wasn't sure when the Company was falling how much she could trust Gael — she wasn't sure if he was one of Harper's men or not, or one of the devoted faithful to the Company; neither were people she was willing to trust, then. Now that she knows he wasn't in bed with Harper so to speak, she feels guilty, for not being on the run while he is, even if it's to try to bring down the Institute.

"I'm glad to see you got out," she adds in a more hushed voice, though her eyes move to the corners of the room near the ceilings, looking for cameras and not finding any. Good.

"You too. Speaking of— are we both about done here?" There may not be cameras, but there's a clerk and a bunch of customers who would overhear if they draw too much attention to themselves. And it's not long before they'll be replaced by the police.

While Gael is good at reading people, he's not that good; the precise nature of Veronica's inner conflict is lost on him. It's not unlikely that the Institute had subverted a few agents, but if she were one of them, wouldn't she have pulled a gun on him by now?

Veronica nods slowly. "Listen," she says softly, moving closer to him, but not close enough to be a threat, her hands staying clear away from anywhere that might hold a gun, fingers wrapped tightly around the basket she holds.

"I don't know where you're staying — don't tell me. They can't read my mind, but that doesn't mean they can't negate me. You see Lupinetti, Dawson, Knutson or Price, they're all with the Institute. Goodman is alive and with the Institute. Darren Stevens, Harve Brennan. Eldridge." She rattles off names. "See any of them, and get the hell out of there, Cruz. Our priority case is tracking you down." She grabs a jar of olives from the shelf near his shoulder, slipping it into her basket and then moving past him, apparently trusting him enough to show him her back.

At first, Gael's expression is as tightly controlled as he can manage. Before Veronica is halfway through the list, he's taken out his grocery list and started penciling down initials; time later to work through his anger at knowing whose fingerprints were on the knife in the back.

Until she gets to the parting comment. Our. A double agent? Or a triple— but no, that would be too complicated. Occam's razor says go with the simplest theory that still fits the evidence. Stuffing the paper back in his pocket, he lingers till it's nearly time for the shop to kick everyone out, well after she's disappeared from sight.

It's only on his way back to the apartment that the other ambiguity in her words occurs to him. Are they focused on tracking down the Company loyalists in general, or him in particular? Lock him up with a telepath, and they wouldn't need a negator. He'd better set up a counter-strategy, and soon.

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