Ben Who?


nicole3_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Scene Title Ben Who?
Synopsis Chance facilitates the (awkward) first meeting of a man and a woman who will be husband and wife.
Date April 14, 2011

Grand Central Terminal

With the topside of the iconic Grand Central Terminal in ruins, it's its basement level that sees most activity, as covert as such activity may be. Entrances are sealed (at least, to those who don't know any better) to the upper levels leading above ground, whether with rubble, or with manmade additions of gates and blockades, and so most will find their way to this place via the countless tunnels that run like arteries in what could appropriately be termed the heart of Manhattan's train system.

Electric lights shine pallid white in the arching ceilings of the basement concourses and foyers, running off their own generators and so power is only used conservatively. Here, the wide open spaces are used for storage that is destined to be moved either towards the arching doorways opening to platforms and subways for shipping out, or waiting to be dragged down to the subbasements for longer term storage. The floors, the walls, the ceilings are differing kinds of tile and vary in cleanliness.

Tables have also been set up so that supplies can be sorted, shifted, packed properly. Folded cardboard boxes awaiting use can be discovered in most corners. Signs on the walls in the form of crude spray paint indicate where things might go, from food, to clothing, to medical supplies, and some things even more exotic. This is a place of motion and organization.

Last but not least, a makeshift recreation room has been set up for the workers of the Grand Central Station, and this can be found within what used to be known as the Whispering Walls. Famously, this interstitial space was known for its strange acoustics, wherein one could whisper to a companion from one far side of the corner to the other by talking directing into the curving corner, where sound would travel along the curve of the arcing ceiling. This, of course, still works, but now the space is no longer simply a foyer - there's a semi-portable kitchen area offering simple food and beverages, a television (which gets no reception, but is hooked into a VCR and a DVD player, with a modest library for both), a card table, a few comforts such as couches and armchairs.

Upon one of the walls, is a rough but well-meaning mural, a mock up of an aquarium - an addition that came after the Ferrymen claimed this space as theirs. It seems to grow in size every several days, with new aquatic characters added each time.

When in the city, there is only one place for someone like Benjamin Ryans to stay — if you don't stay with the woman you're dating at her cheap hotel room. That place is Grand Central Terminal, the Ferry's main hub within the city limits. Or at least it's importance as a hub starts around the time of riots.

He's only just really arrived there that afternoon, his small back pack of clothing is resting in the corner of one of the terminal's ratty couches. It must not have been all that long ago, since as he talks softly with one of the Milburn brothers, Ben is still wearing his brown duster and fedora.

"She's on the road to recovery at least." News is being passed it seems. His voice though he talks softly carries, tone deep and gruff.

A second trip to the Terminal in as many days, Nicole has come hoping to run into Tasha again - she should call ahead, but she shares her sister's paranoia about cell phone calls and how easily they can be monitored and traced. The faces of the Ferry wards aren't as familiar as they could be, though she remembers some from her stint here following the riots. While she doesn't recognise Benjamin Ryans - the irony she can't appreciate just yet - she does recognise the man he's talking to, and so she approaches the pair without hesitation, a ready smile on her tired face.

She's gone another night without sleep. That makes roughly sixty hours without sleep now, give or take a few. Though it can't be told for the energy Nicole possesses. All artificial, of course. In so far as she tends to cheat by soaking up an electrical current to supplement for sleep. And eating, too. She's lost more weight, and Tasha would have been liable to call her on it had she not being wearing a jacket yesterday. Today, Nicole wears a sleeveless dress, a mod thing that may actually be proper vintage, divided into quarters by white lines, and filled in alternatively in black and red patches. Black knee-high leather boots are at least flat, rather than heeled, to make walking through the ruined tunnels less of a hazard.

The ensemble marks her as out of place among the refugees, but she didn't have time to dress down to sneak around today. She has a lunch - even though it won't happen until closer to dinner it's still called a lunch. Nicole taps a plain white envelope in her hands somewhat anxiously. "Hi there. Sorry to interrupt. Have either of you seen Tasha around?"

Turning at the sound of a voice, he studies the young woman from under the shadow of the hat's brim. The coat has been left to hang open, so she can see the hint of a white buttoned shirt under it, to go with the worn jeans and brown hiking boots. Just beyond his turned shoulder Neil only shakes his head and claps Ben on the shoulder. He needs to be back to work. Though he seems to hesitate for a moment, in case there was anything else.

"I haven't seen her, no." Is the tall man's response, his eyes traveling down to the rather loud dress. It makes his brows tick up a little. "Only just got here myself." His head dips down, hand moving to grip the fedora and pull it off his head. Leaving his hair disheveled and adding to that scruffy look. He casts a look around the terminal, as if she might suddenly turn up. "So that doesn't mean she isn't."

Then blue eyes — now no longer shadowed — turn back to her. There is no doubt Russo got his eyes from his father. Of course, it had been mentioned before that they had the same eyes. Then again he also looks about the same age as Bradley.

And that's where he knows her. Brows shoot upwards, but that is the only hint of the surprise that shows. "Well…" it's rumbled out softly after a moment, his larger hand moving to take hers. Fingers gently tighten around hers. "It's a pleasure to meet you." Benjamin offers a slight smile, a twitch at the corner of his mouth.

"Benjamin Ryans, your future father in law." He offers, amusement starting to leak into his voice. "Or at least from what I saw around Christmas time?" The smile falters some as he adds, "Not that I think Bradley wants to claim any kinship with me. Still it's a pleasure to meet you."

Wait. Wait. Hang the fuck on. Nicole blinks rapidly, her mouth hanging open dumbly for a moment or two in clear confusion. She isn't sure how to process the pair of bombs that have just been dropped on her. "O- Oh!" She recovers finally with a genuine smile, her grip firm. Strong handshakes are important in her line of work.

"Wow. Sorry. I just… didn't expect that I would meet you here. Like this. Here." She winces and sighs. "I said that already. I haven't been sleeping well lately." When she bothers sleeping at all. "It's really nice to meet you. Regardless of Brad's feelings of kinship, I've met both your daughters, and they are lovely. It's a pleasure to meet you." Her smile slants into something of a smirk. "You actually look way younger than I expected. What is your secret? Is it bottled? Can I get some?"

He watches the play of emotions over the younger woman's features, with amusement. Maybe because he knows that he doesn't look old enough to have three grown children. Now that he's use to it, he does find he has some weird sense of humor about it, especially when meeting people that have met his children.

"On the job accident," Ben states letting his hand slide from hers. He moves to set the fedora on his bag, to seem be joined by the duster. "My former line of work, was rather dangerous. I was lucky that this happens. The man who did it was capable of sucking the life right out of you. But I assure you, I am old enough to be Bradley's father." Eyes narrow thoughtful, while he rests the coat across the back of the couch. The weapons he carries a bit more visible. "Couple more years and I'll be sixty."

Dark brows lift at the explanation. Sure, the experience was not actually a good one, but he seems good-humoured enough about it, and so too is Nicole. "Sixty?" Unabashedly, she gives Benjamin another once over, head to toe. "Well, colour me impressed."

Nicole glances around quickly and then asks, "Would you like to grab some coffee?" She doesn't mean Starbucks or anything, but rather gestures in the direction of the kitchen area. "I mean, if you have time to talk."

"Yes, ma'am." Benjamin confirms with a slow incline of his head. "Downside is… I know all too well what is waiting for me down the line." Mainly, back and joint pain… frequent trips to the rest room in the middle of the night. Things he was just starting experience when he had twenty years shaved off.

The scrutiny, get a touch of wary amusement. It's still not something he's used to, being looked at by woman in that way. Getting comments on his appearance. Eyes shift to the small kitchen, the smell of coffee reaching out this far.

"I was actually, thinking how nice a cup would be when Neil," who seems to have taken the opportunity to flee. A glance confirms his absence, "cornered me for any news I've heard." He makes a motion for her to proceed him, almost courtly in the way he dips his head down a little along with it. "Ladies first, of course."

Nicole thinks maybe she sees where Bradley gets some of his mannerisms. There's something to be said about nature versus nurture after all. She smiles with a gracious nod of her own head in return and heads to the kitchen, where she hunts down two mugs, gesturing for him to sit down while she does the prep. "Cream or sugar?" As much as it's a gender role, the kitchen is her domain because she likes it, not because she's expected to be good there.

"Not… necessarily trying to pry, but I'm curious. What's the deal with you and Brad? If you'd rather not say, that's fine, I just…" Nicole takes a moment to focus on pouring her coffee, which she's taking black, and make sure she doesn't spill it or overfill the cup. "I know a thing or two about family strife. Your daughters adore you. But Brad… Is there something I should know?"

"It's… rather complicated." Benjamin starts gruffly, voice flat as if he stripped the words of all emotions. "I only found out about him recently." Nothing like a surprise kid to shake things up. He hesitates at the edge of the kitchen, but after a moment takes the few steps back to settle himself in one of the chairs surrounding the large heavy dining table. "And I take both. Little heavier on the sugar then the cream."

Settling into the chair with a sigh, he takes a moment to collect his thoughts when it comes to him and his son. "His mother and I met when we were young. I met her during a short time I was stationed shore side with the Navy. We got engaged when I finally left the service, my job ended up getting into the way of things."

The way he says it, she might be getting the cliff notes of the whole situation. "I never even knew she was pregnant." He's not even sure that would have changed what happened, but… "But I think that's only part of the issue. We also don't exactly see eye to eye on many things, coming from two different worlds."

"I know what that's like," Nicole offers solemnly, voice soft. "And I'm sorry, that you two never had the opportunity… To be a part of his life. That must have been difficult to know you missed out on." Coffee prepared, more sugar than cream in his, she settles down at the table, sliding Ryans' mug over to him.

"My sister and I are a little like that. From two different worlds. Or at least two different schools of thought. Have you met Colette?" She smiles fondly, but it's sad. "We've got a decade of age difference between us. I left home when she was only seven, but was raising her on my own and trying to juggle school and a job when she was fourteen. I wasn't there for her near as often as I should have been." Long, slender fingers wrap around the coffee mug, not that she needs the warmth. Her skin radiates plenty of it from her ability. "We don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, either. But… that's why I'm here."

The mug is received with a soft thank you. Watching the contents swirl as Ben turns a spoon in it to make sure it's well blended, while listening to Nicole. "I've seen her in passing, but… she tends to avoid me." It's hard to know what he's really thinking when he's all stony faced like that. Unreadable when it comes to facial cues. "I think it's who I used to work for.

"Your boss, Daniel? Daniel Linderman was my boss — well one of them — when I worked for the Company." Ryans' gaze ticks up to see if there is any recognition there, even as the spoon continues with is slow turn. "I heard Colette was captured by one of my former co-workers and… not treated well." It's an understatement really. But tortured seems rather harsh for this conversation.

It's a fact Nicole suspected, but one that Daniel would never confirm for her. She looks even more sad at the mention of his name. Her sister is missing, and Daniel Linderman is dying. It makes her heart feel heavy in her chest. "She… never would tell me what happened to her. Never, ever talk about it." The betrayal in her eyes isn't meant for him, and it isn't meant for Colette.

"I've known Danny for over ten years now… I thought I had everything figured out. Knew about every skeleton in every closet. When the government revealed the existence of the Company… I recognised a lot of the faces of people suspected to be involved. I have no idea how we've managed to…" Avoid prosecution. While the sins of the Company aren't her sins, those of the Linderman Group are. "Between the Group, and Colette, I feel like I'm just waiting for the guillotine to drop.

"That's why Brad proposed to me. He's been protecting me."

"I've known him since I was about sixteen. Met him in the jungles of Vietnam, with Arthur Petrelli." It says how long Benjamin's been around, even if he did already say. But also how deep his own associations go. "I guess I made some sort of impression then…" He ended up hired and all down the line.

Ryans doesn't touch on what happened to Colette, "It's not my place to say what happened, though I believe I was still retired at the time. So I only know the rumors about the situation. Second hand." There is an apologetic quality to his tone.

Though he seems interested in that last, head cants just enough to be noticeable as he considers those words. "Really?" A part of him smiles at that. As much as his son looks down on his ways, there is a part of himself shining through in his oldest.

He said he was pushing sixty, but to hear that he served in Vietnam… And with Danny. Nicole rests her elbows on the table, leaning forward slightly. He's more than captured her interest now. She wants to ask what their employer (former for him) was like all those years ago. But she refrains, for now.

"Colette will open up to me when she's ready. She always does." And she talks like it might be any day now. There's a strong current of denial about the likelihood that Nicole will ever see her sister again. But it's that denial that keeps her strong. She's lost too much, too many lately to begin to think about accepting Colette as another one of those losses.

When he smiles at her, she smiles back. "Really. Brad is a good man. A government pawn for the time being, but a well-intentioned one." If she only knew… "I should be honest," Nicole begins after a soft sigh. "Your son and I have no intention to marry at this point. I care deeply for him, but we are not in love. I haven't told the girls yet, though I think Delia suspects." Nicole has stopped wearing her ring, after all. Though if Russo never asks for it back, she may switch it to her right hand eventually. It is very pretty. "But I thank you all the same for the warm welcome into the family. I only wish I were actually joining it."

There is softly like a 'hmm' from him at that admission, not really saying anything to giving any indication he feels one way or the other about it. Ben takes a testing sip of his coffee, before taking a deeper drink.

"That's too bad." The mug settles on the table again, fingers bracketing it there. "You seem like a nice young woman. Of all my kids, I think Russo has the best bet at a life that isn't on the run." His girls not so much. "Unlike the girls, he hasn't been drug down by my associations to things like this." He motions to where they are. The words are calm, if sad. Guilt clings to his stomach, making it turn unhappily.

"But it sounds like Delia might have found a way out of the hole I have dug." He still doesn't like it, but Benjamin doesn't let it show.

"Delia's a smart girl," Nicole concurs. "And Brad… You're right. He won't do anything to jeopardise himself if he can help it. He and I are… a like-minded in our methods, I think. We both hope we can use politics to our advantage. To change things from within the system." Though the fact that she's here shows she understands the value of what the Ferry is accomplishing.

"And thank you, for the compliment." Nicole peers down at the envelope that she came here to deliver. She slides it across the table to the former Company man. "Here. I'm sure you'll know how to make the best use of this, Ben."

The name leaves her lips easily, but her tongue sticks on the ending, making it into more of an nnnn, in its own soundless way. Nicole looks down at her coffee for a moment, then up again to find Ryans' eyes. "Have you been having strange dreams lately? Like some of the others?"

"I know who's hands this should go into." The envelope is slid towards himself, the thickness impressive. He picks it up and sets it next to him. He'll make sure it gets into the hands of the council one way or another.

When the subject shifts to the talk of dreams, he seems quiet for a moment, thoughtful. New people tend to get the more guarded version of Ryans, seemingly emotionless. "Yes." It's a single word, but there is meaning behind it.

The envelope is forgotten for the moment as he looks at the woman across the table, unknowing of the connection they have. "Seems to be the theme around here," he grouses softly. "Some of the Ferry are trying to piece together the events. What I have heard of, makes things look rather bleak."

"It does…" The woman agrees somewhat numbly. It's then that she seems to remember her coffee, finally lifting it to her lips for a drink. "But there were… good things, too. Bright spots." Nicole takes a moment to study Ryans' passive expression before continuing. "The visions I've had, if that's what they really are, seemed to show a world at war." That's the bleak part.

"But I had a daughter." That's the bright. "And she was beautiful. I'm almost thirty, and I've been married to my career for so long, that I never really thought about stopping long enough to have children… But this felt so right. I'm sure that's something you know well." The joys of parenthood.

Nicole finds a smile for him, but it's brief. Her next question is cautious. "What have you seen?"

"I do know." There is something that softens a bit at the thought of his girls. Benjamin's voice also carries that tone that parents get. "You never really forget the first time you hold a tiny infant in your arms and you know that… she'll depend on you protecting her." A smile manages to make it through that stoic mask. "That she's a little miracle. A piece of you to carry on when you can't."

He takes a deep breath and lets it out in a heavy sigh. "It's one of the few good moments in a long life of subterfuge and danger.

He could carry on about his girls. Even though he missed so much of their lives, he has a lot of good memories too. "In contrast… my dreams are about death. Mainly the death of friends. Sitting on the edge of a hospital bed as one of my best friends withers away, ravaged by an incurable disease." A drink is taken before he adds, "And the other a good man's funeral. His daughter screaming at me, blaming me and my fellow co-head for her father's death."

He looks grim, as he describes those. The tension of the retelling has him sitting a little straighter, stiff backed.

"In the second dream I had like this… There was death, and I know that I was part of the cause. But it was to protect myself, and my friends. And I know that they were Ferrymen. Some of them were people I don't know yet. Others I've come to know since, and I hope I will be able to meet them all…" Nicole presses her lips together, watching the man's familiar eyes.

"On Monday night, I dreamt of death again… I dreamt of the death of my husband. A man named Ben." Nicole goes very still then, obvious confusion in her expression. And a bit of something else maybe he can't discern. Or maybe he can. Years in his profession may leave Ryans able to recognise when someone's trying to mask their fear. In this case, Nicole is afraid of being laughed at or dismissed. Or of what it all means.

He doesn't laugh. Ryans looks much like the statues he tends to get compared too. He's still, unreadable… well except to the likes of Huruma. Fingers tighten around the mug, knuckles turning white with his tension.

"Ben?" The word seems guarded and uncertain. A part of him probably would like to laugh it off, to say she's joking, but… But there have been so many dreams. Glimpses at a possible future. "Ben… who?" He asks carefully, voice low and deep. It is spoken rather slowly, stretching out the words some. He isn't sure he wants to know the answer. To know what his future is.

Even with some possible doubt as to which Ben, he seems to be really watching her now. Studying her as if trying to figure her out. If it was him, what makes her so special?

"I don't know," Nicole admits. "Ben… is a common enough name. But the people who came to tell me… They were Ferry. All of them. In every one of my dreams, I've been the only odd one out of your little club. I…" Her chest feels tight, and her mouth has gone dry. "Our daughter - mine and my Ben's… Her name was Ingrid." Her lashes flutter as her gaze keeps shifting around the lines of Ryans' face, focus changing between chin, the end of his nose, somewhere above his left brow, before she finally drags back to his eyes. Looking for some sign of that name having any significance to him.

The name doesn't ring a bell for him, only helps to draw brows down lower in his confusion. It also means another one of those long awkward silences. "I know of a couple of Ben's," he admits. Though he doesn't really picture Benji or Amato as marrying types. It's simple mathematics, but his brain won't seize on the possibility.

The fact that the lovely young woman sitting before him, might very well be a part of his future literally makes his mind want to shut down there. He hadn't even thought about moving on like that. His times with Lynette were great, but he wasn't even considering that type of thing. Then he thinks of the redheaded nurse that he's found himself thinking about.

Now… Nicole.

He almost seems to pale. Oh hell… when did his life become so complicated. He really can't think of anything much to say at this moment. "I —" His mouth opens and then shuts again. "I should get moving." Yeah, this is about how he dealt with Huruma too. Flee. "I came to the city to do a few things. Mainly to get seeds for gardens."

Then he realizes what he's doing. "Look…" Hand move to press flat on the table's surface, voice gentle. "I… need to process this… news." There is an apology there on Ben's features. "I'm going to go to one of the open markets for gardening supplies." He feels a touch odd saying this, but…"I wouldn't mind the company. Maybe by then I can…" hell he might as well just say it, "think."

"I'm sorry. I don't know if it's you. I…" Gardening supplies. In her (dream) home, there's a photograph of her Ingrid in the dirt of a garden, grinning ear to ear. But things are confusing enough right now as it is. And many people have gardens.

Like many people are named Ben. Nicole smiles and rises from her seat. "Sure. I'd… I'd be happy to come with you. If that's really what you want." She hopes it is. She doesn't know if talking to him more will provide either of them with answers, but what could it possibly hurt?

"The extra set of arms will be welcome," Ben offers politely, giving her a small if strained smile. His brain is still refusing to process it. When she rises from her seat, he follows, hands pressed to the table to lever himself up. "And whether it's me or not, I don't think I can ignore it til I know otherwise."

It's going to be right there at the forefront of his mind. "Though the idea of having another child at my age… it's rather surreal." Not impossible, but mind boggling. "Especially with three other grown children." One being thirty something, Bradley.

Despite the turmoil of emotions within him, Benjamin offers Nicole a gentle smile and offers his hand again — this time palm up for a brief clasp of farewell.

Nicole self-consciously slides her hands into the pockets sewn into her dress, surreptitiously wiping sweat from her too-warm palms. Only once that's done does she take Ben's hand, gaze lowered to the way her smaller hand disappears into his palm and the curve of his fingers, then back up. Before she turns to depart the Terminal and give him his space, a small smile touches her lips, a nod of her head offered as her own farewell.

And the business card she's left in his palm.

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