Right Beside You

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linderman_icon.gif nicole2_icon.gif

Scene Title Right Beside You
Synopsis Nicole Nichols pays a long overdue visit to Daniel Linderman, and determines concretely that ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away, or diminish it.
Date January 18, 2011

Upstate New York


The drive upstate is a long one, and not a road trip Nicole Nichols has made in a long, long time. She made one stop, to fill up her tank and buy a can of Redbull. It isn't the same without a shot of J├Ągermeister, but she's looking for energy and not inebriation.

The sun has already begun to dip below the horizon and leaves the countryside bathed in a chilly sort of twilight when she arrives at her destination, the estate Daniel Linderman calls home (just for now, she keeps telling herself). Her legs are stiff when she steps out of the car and crunches packed snow beneath the treads of her red sneakers.

The colour matches the poppies that dot her cream coloured skirt, and the lacquer on her nails, even though the shoes don't go with the outfit. A short-sleeved mohair sweater shouldn't be enough to ward off the chill, but Nicole doesn't shiver at the change in the air temperature outside compared to that of her car.

The last drag is taken from the menthol cigarette between the electrokinetic's lips and then dropped into the snow, stepped on as she heads toward the entrance. When she's let in, she keeps her voice low, conversation hushed as she asks about her employer, and where he can be found. She had been headed for a sitting room, decorated with rich cherry wood accents - some she picked out herself - and rich Persian rugs. When she's told he won't (can't) join her there, Nicole's breath hitches in her throat.

The fear starts to edge its way in.

Moisture on the soles of her shoes make them squeak quietly over hard wood about every third step, just about when she forgets to step just so to avoid the sound, as she approaches the bedroom she's told Daniel Linderman occupies.

It's comfortable, which is probably to be expected, but sparsely furnished; the furniture in the room includes an old dresser with masculine brass handles, a wool throw rug in a neutral off-white to contrast with the dark wood floors, and a four poster bed with heavy linens draped from the canopy to provide the man under the covers with privacy he does not need.

There are only three people who live here: Linderman, his personal physician and the physician's nurse, and his condition requires that he see them both multiple times on a daily basis. He has nothing to hide behind, not his power, not cotton.

The first thing Nicole will notice is that he's lost a considerable amount of weight. Fifty or sixty pounds, if she had to make an estimate, which she doesn't, though her mind automatically goes there anyway. Tubing connects him to bulky medical equipment she cannot identify, and the brand name etched into the plastic and painted black does not tell her anything about what the machine does.

Presumably, it's keeping him alive.

"Oh, God." Nicole chokes out before she can stop herself. Tears well up in her eyes and spill down her cheeks, despite all that she swore up and down the whole drive up that she would not cry. A chair is dragged away from the wall, over wood and wool, set at the man's bedside.

She doesn't sit down in it.

Instead, she reaches out to take the man's hand, and lean down to brush her lips over the back of it. Nicole curses herself a billion times over for not making the drive up here sooner. She should have done it. Should have come to see him. "Danny," she rasps. It's been a long time since she's used the affectionate name. Shaking, she finally settles down onto the chair she pulled up.

Not because she particularly felt like sitting, but because she correctly anticipated her knees giving out on her under the weight of her own emotion. She doesn't relinquish her hold on his hand, praying to a God she doesn't always believe in that she can give some of her strength to him, like he gave his strength to her so many times over the years.

He opens his eyes, bloodshot and blue. Hazy. Unfocused. The man downstairs warned her that he might not completely lucid, but that he'd respond to his name and another presence in the room, which is what this is.

A response. His hand squeezes Nicole's, but that is all. He does not make any effort to speak, perhaps because he's already beyond that point. The nurse did not specify.

"I'm sorry," Nicole tells the man. "I'm crying like a fucking weakling. You deserve better." She sniffles and lifts one hand to wipe at her eyes with the pad of her thumb. "You made me better." Dark hair is brushed out of her face. Words are mulled over.

"I didn't think… I shouldn't have waited so long. I was just trying to keep on top of things back home." In her personal life, and her professional life. Nicole doesn't even know if he's understanding her, but she needs to believe that he is. "I… I wanted you- I need you to know that… I love you. You were the first person that ever gave a damn about me, and where I was going in my life." In spite of the tears, she manages to smile at him for that. "When I was still in school, and you gave me that promotion and I told you I didn't think I could handle it… You told me I could. You said I just had to want it badly enough."

Nicole's gaze, darker blue than what's been usual for her in the past few months, darts down to the floor, and where her shoes absently brush over the rug beneath her feet. She stops herself, conscious of how a build up of static electricity in herself isn't the same as it is for others. "I never wanted anything more badly than to make you proud of me." She lifts her head again, watching for any sign of recognition. "I can't thank you enough for everything you've done for me."

The corners of Linderman's mouth crinkle around something like a smile, but not quite, and although his eyelids droop in response, they do not close. There's a fractional tightening of his fingers around Nicole's hand, and he curves his thumb along the inside of her palm in a feeble attempt to reassure her.

It's recognition, physical if not spoken. A breath rattles out of his lungs and he turns his head to rest his cheek on his pillow, gaze turning toward the open doorway behind her. His eyes seem to strain as if he can't focus on anything more than a few feet away, but he's alert enough to realize that whatever he's looking for isn't there.

Nicole wasn't the only woman in his life. It's possible that he's searching out Angela.

Zoe.

One of those he'll be seeing sooner rather than later. "I came up to surprise you," Nicole tries to make her voice cheerful. Make it sound like she doesn't expect she'll be sitting here with him until he breathes his last. She was spared having to go through this with her own mother's cancer by living an alternate life. When she came to, her mother was dead, and her sister was alive.

An agreeable arrangement, in her eyes.

She rests her other hand, warm and slightly damp from tears, over the top of his. "I don't know what I'm going to do without you," Nicole admits. Then, she corrects herself. "No, I take it back. I just don't want to think about life without you. You're the first man I ever trusted. That's a high honour, mister." Her attempt at laughter is a little too wet and ragged to sound properly convincing.

The lump in her throat is swallowed back down, but not banished. "I'm going to stay the night here," Nicole informs her friend and employer. She rises to her feet to press a kiss to is cheek, at the corner of his mouth. "I'm not going anywhere," she murmurs softly. "I'll be right beside you. Just where I belong." She settles back into her chair, to keep talking to the man, intent on keeping him company.

"I'm engaged," she tells him, holding up her hand to show off her shiny new ring. "To Bradley Russo. But I'm sure someone already told you about all that…" Nicole's version of the tale focuses on the romance the audience was meant to perceive. The romance her life has sorely lacked from the men most important in it.

Nicole keeps talking until she's certain Daniel has finally drifted to sleep. She'll wake up the next morning with her hand still in his, and an aching back from the way she leaned over to rest her head against the edge of the mattress. And she'll repeat the process until the weekend's out.


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