All the Same Rules


sf_faulkner2_icon.gif sf_nicole2_icon.gif

Scene Title All the Same Rules
Synopsis After years of secrets and lies, Nicole Miller finally confronts Isaac Faulkner about the night she nearly died.
Date March 18, 2021

Petrelli Mansion
Upper East Side

In a dimly lit library, Isaac Faulkner sits in silence, punctuated only by the steady scratching sound of pencil on paper.

On a table in front of him sits an old 1984 road atlas, currently opened to the state of Nevada; to the side are multiple sheets of paper with prospective routes lined out — estimated travel times, gasoline expenditure, predicted arrival times. It's been a long time since he's invested his attention so fully in such a minor project, but here and now he's hard pressed to think of much better to do.

So, here he is. Even if this elaborately choreographed procession collapses right out of the gate (which it will; no plan of travel survives contact with the road), it won't be because he half-assed it.

Cradling a great transparent globe of a stemmed wine glass that absolutely was never meant to serve as home to rosé, Nicole Miller leans against the frame of the door leading to the library. “For a moment there,” comes her husky voice, low and conspiratorial in the way it so often used to be when it was just the two of them and the occasional thought of mischief, “I could almost see Danny hunched over his desk, looking over the accounts.” She takes a drink and lets one corner of her mouth hook upward in a half-smile at her own expense. The humor is drained from that tenor now, but there’s still plenty of wine left. “Checking for mistakes I may have made.”

And if anyone thinks all of this is a mistake, it has to be Isaac Faulkner, doesn’t it?

“I wanna talk to you.” This is at least her third glass, but the first two can’t have been as large as this one. She’s apparently going for efficiency, while trying to maintain the illusion of having too much class to drink from a bottle. She’s not quite drunk, but she’s headed in that direction. The shadow and liner smudged around her reddened eyes speak to the tears she’s been shedding recently.

Isaac doesn't glance up immediately; it's only after a moment that he looks up to take in the sight of Nicole. His lips curl up faintly, but it's more a polite acknowledgement of the conversational opener than anything else. He studies her for a moment, assessing her state, and she can probably see the wheels turning behind his eyes… but he keeps his own counsel, only nodding. "I'm glad you're here; I was hoping you'd turn up. One of us will need to make a phone call in short order… but you may as well have a seat in the meantime." Isaac takes a moment to draw some of his papers in, to clear a space at the table.

There’s a twist of resentment in Nicole’s gut that accompanies the tone and manner in which Isaac commands the room, and in turn her. Stepping inside, she closes the room up behind her before moving to take the suggested seat. “I already called Dixie about the payload, if that’s what you’re working on.” He did task her with something, after all. They may be strained, having their differences, but she’s committed to doing what has to be done in order to keep every one of them safe.

Faulkner blinks. Then he nods. "Good. Excellent. No, I'm mostly plotting routes at the moment. It's a small thing, but…" he trails off, shaking his head; they'd already had a whole discussion about control, and they've both got better things than to revisit old discussions and accusations now. "I did have some thoughts for the payload — I think something in anti-materiel would do wonders for bringing out Mrs. Petrelli's eyes if we could get it in short notice, and I was hoping to request a number of small caliber weapons for Nova…"

He shakes his head again. "But that's… not what I was concerned about, though. I spoke with Detective Muldoon. One: she's expressed an intent to remain here, and would not be dissuaded. Two…" and here, Isaac Faulkner hesitates.

Nothing to do but get on with it, though. "Two, she still has Harvey and Avery. She plans to take them to protective services unless other measures are made. I was planning to tell her you'd been injured or something if I'd had to make the call, but happily you've turned up." He assesses her again, considering. "So. Will you call her, or shall I?"

To the ordinance Isaac’s looking for, Nicole only nods her head. Yes, she agrees, and she’s thought of most of that already, but she’ll let him call those shots. It’s the very least of what she owes him anyway.

In response to the revelation that Abby’s elected to stay behind, Nicole straightens up in her seat. Long spine, chin up, looking down the length of her nose as she considers what that turn of events means. Her gaze snaps back up when the topic of the twins comes up.

Nicole’s gaze drops again just as quickly and instead what’s raised this time is her glass, facilitating a long sip.

No. A long drink.

“Those things are not my children,” she insists with a conviction that sounds unshakeable. Turning her face away, she sets her jaw tight. She’s ready for a fight she doesn’t want to have. More than that, she’s steeling herself for disapproval from someone whose opinions she actually cares about.

There is no response for a moment. Two moments. Three.

When Isaac finally does speak, his voice is quiet; at the back of it, behind all the layers of careful control, there's a hint of some species of sorrow that even he can't manage to bury entirely. "I see," is all he says, his own gaze slipping off somewhere just a few millimeters to the side of Nicole's face. "I'll handle the calls, then."

There's another moment of silence that stretches on just a moment too long as he does his best to staunch the metaphorical bleeding, then he looks to Nicole. "So what did you want to talk about?"

The silence doesn’t bother her. She needs it. There’s no relief in his lack of pursuit in her decision to separate herself from what she’s had to decide are facsimiles of her real daughter. Her real children, if the twins even—

She can’t think about that. Can’t even think about that. It makes her want to resign herself to this place. That can’t happen. That can’t happen.

Instead, Nicole’s face scrunches up in that way it does when she’s really fighting with her misery, and she’s about to lose. She sniffles audibly just once before her mouth curves into a smile born of emotional pain. “Do you know my husband thinks he’s entitled to me?” she asks of Faulkner, turning to look at him then, letting him see the confusion that comes along with that pain.

The metaphorical hard left turn there sees Isaac's expression go blank — not with artifice, for once, but genuine confusion. "Entitled?" he ventures after a moment. "How so?"

Her laughter is a thing like broken glass, fragile and dangerous if not handled carefully. “Because he saved my life like he’s supposed to fucking do.” The globe of wine in her hand is gestured with as she speaks. “Because he did the bare minimum required of him as a surgeon, it means he deserves to get the princess or whatever.”

There’s a roll of her eyes that accompanies a scoffing sound from the back of her throat. “I’m not a princess, for starters.” One corner of her mouth turns downward in a frown, her shoulders straighten.

Isaac regards Nicole for a moment, lips curving into a frown. "No. Not a princess, nor a damsel in distress, nor a prize to be won," Isaac says, regarding her. "One would have to be a fool to think that you were."

Shifting her gaze toward him in short increments, Nicole gives Isaac a wary once-over like she’s trying to ascertain the veracity of his statement.

“It’s all because he ignored a fucking text message.” An ironic breath of laughter disrupts the surface of the wine in her glass with little ripples as she takes a sip. Then a longer drink.

Isaac is silent for a moment, considering. "I remember your wedding day," he muses. "And I remember… you seemed happy, then. Not smile for the cameras happy, and not bide time until we're behind allied lines happy, either. Actually happy."

He considers for a moment. "I think that might've actually been the first time I saw you happy since Dad died," he adds, glancing downward for a moment.

Nicole smiles. It’s just more pain. “Yeah,” she agrees in a low vocal fry. “Getting together with Zachery was the first time I felt like things could be alright again after your father’s will was read.” She lifts her glass a fraction in a toast. “To Danny.” While she’s sounded sad before, certainly, bereaved and angry with the world for taking him away from them, this is the first time Isaac’s ever heard the years-long personal assistant sound bitter. “And the legacy of pain he left us.” Another drink.

Blue eyes lock on Isaac’s brown. “Don’t think that just because you played matchmaker that gets you off the hook.” Those eyes narrow. “How much did it cost, anyway, given my high profile? Did you get a discount because it was a failed assassination attempt?”

Isaac Faulkner stares for a long moment in silence. This is this conversation, then. It would be easy to deny it, to talk her out of it… and he could do it. Even now, he thinks he could do it.

But he's tired of living this damnable lie.

"Not as much as you might think. You had no shortage of enemies. Dad had no shortage of enemies, either. There was a modicum of money required, of course, but it wasn't as much as you might think; I'd been stockpiling for a while, siphoning tiny amounts from off-the-books cashflows. After that, it was just a matter of… putting the right whispers in the right ears…"

Unbelievable,” Nicole whispers under her breath, head tilting down and away.

"All done carefully, of course. Catspaws and proxies. Lining up the pieces. Laying false trails, obscuring real ones, laying plans to sever every link that might lead back to me, lining it up with legitimate business. Or 'legitimate' business," Isaac says, the air quotes around that audible in his voice. "If you'd dug deep enough, you might have found traces pointing at Zarek. No smoking guns, nothing conclusive — that'd have been too obvious for you. Too obvious for her, for that matter — she didn't get where she is by being sloppy. Just… subtle things. Shadows among the ashes."

Isaac sighs, shaking his head. "You know… I spent… years. Asking myself why. Why would Dad do this to me? Why would he give me the world, then say that you could take it away with… the snap of your fingers? With a word? It wasn't a matter of incompetence," Isaac spits, eyes fixed in the distance. "No… there were mechanisms in place for that. The board, for instance, which, as we have recently seen, can be most effectively leveraged to depose even the CEO," he says, and for a moment there's a ghost of dry humor in his eyes.

"No. It was a test," Faulkner says, his voice dull and tired. "He wanted to see if I had what it took to remove an obstacle… even if it was… someone close," Isaac says, his jaw tight.

"But… I could… I could never quite bring myself to pull the trigger," he admits, and now it's his turn to sound bitter. "Not until that night. That argument we had. Do you remember?"

She feels sick. And the more he talks, the worse it gets. It wasn’t done easily, she knows. He managed to hide it all from her. She’d suspected the widow Zarek for years, but never found enough conclusive proof to make her feel justified in having her removed.

There’s a fire in her eyes when she meets his. “I told you if he’d wanted you to have everything, he’d have given you his name.” Yes, of course she recalls it perfectly. She can remember how annoyed she was with him. “I said you were shortsighted and petty. That you needed more patience and vision.”

Her next exhale is audible and bitter. “More the fool me, huh?”

"Yes," Isaac agrees, his lips tightening; he doesn't have Nicole's gift, but that particular memory feels as etched into his brain as if it'd been scarred in by an acid burn. Hearing those words again is enough to bring up ghostly echoes of what he'd felt that night. Shock. Pain. Fear.

Betrayal. Grief.


For a moment he feels the ghost of that volatile cocktail of emotion… and then it's gone, replaced by what had come after.

Regret. Resolve.

"And more the fool I," Isaac says quietly, his dark eyes, opaque as stones, meeting hers of burning blue. He holds her gaze for a long moment. "I regret that you suffered, for what that's worth." What that's worth, of course, is nothing; regretting something doesn't change it. "I regret a lot of things." Which is also worth nothing.

Isaac's gaze slips off into the distance for a moment before coming back to Nicole. "Of course, if what Asami's said is true, as you seem to believe… how much of that even happened?"

“I remember it all. If it wasn’t for this power of mine, I don’t think I ever would have put it together.” The glass in her hand is set down on the desk finally, bringing her to lean in just a little. “I remember everything. Driving you to school. To this practice or that one. How you once complained that I was too good. Straight-laced. Although the words you used were stick up your ass.” There’s a flash of fang as she continues. “You thought I was going to admonish you for your language. But instead, I threw a grin at you in the passenger seat when I showed you I could break the rules just a little.”

Biting down on that grin, she shakes her head. “It was brilliant, honestly. Telling the driver my route from the office. Explaining how I’d speed right through that stop sign. How I wouldn’t expect anyone at that hour… You had it calculated down to the minute.” She brings her hands together five times in applause. “Bravo, Isaac.”

Nicole leans back in her seat and chuckles, a dark and rich sound. “Of course, none of it really happened. Not where we’re going, anyway.” Blue eyes narrow faintly. “In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m the best version of myself here. Not a version of me that’s good , but perhaps the one that most took what makes me and honed it into something that I could use to carve my path through life.” And anyone who stood in her way. “What I’m trying to say is that I think all that — that cunning, conniving, Machiavellian mien of yours — means you’re capable of it.” It’s both praise and not.

With a sigh that borders on dramatic — likely thanks to the drink, which she reclaims — she deflates a bit. Softens. “I don’t know if things will ever be properly okay with us,” Nicole admits. “I want them to be. We’re good when we work together. Unfuckingstoppable.”

They’ve made more enemies than they’ve eliminated, but those eliminations have kept the remainder at bay.

“But you…” She shakes her head. “You have to be willing to trust me again. Like I trusted you. I never once acted against you. For all our disagreements, all I have ever done is love you and look out for you.” She looks down at the dwindling supply wine she swirls.

Not the reaction he'd been expecting. Faulkner's eyes close and he lets out a slow breath. It's not relief that he feels, but something heavier.

"I want things to be okay between us, too," he says quietly; that's the best place to start. The thing they share in common.

"As to trust… I trust you more than most, Nicole," Faulkner says, leaning forward in turn, mirroring her. "Which is not to say that I always agree with you. Obviously," he says, a flicker of sardonic amusement showing through even now, before his expression grows serious again. "But I do listen to what you have to say."

He mirrors her and she can’t keep one corner of her mouth from tugging upward. That’s her right there. She taught him that. Pride in the man she helped to mold — however to her own detriment that may have turned out — douses the flames of her wounded anger. “Good,” Nicole pronounces simply.

“Then let’s figure out how we’re going to get everybody the fuck out of this nightmare.”

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