Best Laid Schemes


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Scene Title Best Laid Schemes
Synopsis The election results are disappointing for one would-be Congressman, his team, and friends — but other problems continue to plague Faulkner, Nicole, and Kaylee.
Date November 3, 2020

Greenpoint, Brooklyn

The private party at La Luz, a small, family-owned restaurant in Greenpoint, seemed like a good idea — when Isaac Faulkner was expected to win. But now, with the numbers coming in and the clock ticking on his decision to call it a night and make a concession speech, it seems a less than ideal choice.

It’s a small venue, just large enough for the campaign team, some reporters and cameramen, and the few invited to be with him in the moment of victory or defeat. It would photograph well, with its natural woods and Edison lights, their glow reflecting in the mirrors that flank the wall behind the antique bar. The television over the bar shows the polls being updated, but someone’s turned down the sound some time ago.

It was supposed to be a victory party.

The polls were good — great, even — and the party has gone from optimistic to denial to dejected and angry. All of the stages of grief are represented, with a few extras that come with political loss.

“This is a disaster!” Isaac’s campaign manager hisses under her breath to her aide, careful to keep her voice down. Nicole Miller is painfully aware of the presence of every camera in the room, and it’s the only thing that’s kept her from stalking around the space and eviscerating her team for having allowed this to happen. Instead, she winds up placing the blame squarely where it belongs:

With herself.

“This is supposed to be champagne.” The wine glass in her hand is held a little higher in demonstration, as if perhaps it might not have been apparent what she meant. “Instead, I’m drinking rosé, like I should be wearing a tee shirt that says Messy Bun, Getting Things Done or Live, Laugh, Love on it!” Nicole is positively seething, for all that it doesn’t show on her face without close inspection. It does show in the tightness at the corners of her mouth when she smiles, the too-perfect poise of her posture, the set of her shoulders, and the barely restrained murder in her blue eyes.

Swallowing down some of her desire to start screaming, Nicole turns to the brunette woman at her elbow, and smiles, the edges of it sharp. “Get James on the phone. Tell him I want him turning up every fucking stone. I want to know that Jenn earned this.”

“He’ll be in bed at this hour,” her assistant reminds in a gentle voice.

Nicole lets out a breath of laughter and shakes her head. “Do I look like I give a fuck, Doris?” Asked with all the sweetness that disguises the venom laced with her words. “You give him his marching orders and you tell him I want some goddamn answers by the end of the week. I don’t care if he doesn’t get to tuck his kids into bed at night or make them banana fucking pancakes in the morning because of it. This should not have blindsided us.”

In her heart, she knows this election wasn’t stolen from them by any means other than they were outmaneuvered. Nicole underestimated the voter base, Jennifer Chesterfield saw that gap and pushed through. She rallied her staff, canvassed the areas Nicole had written off, and got people motivated to vote where they historically have not. It was so well executed. Beautiful, really.

Nicole absolutely hates it.

“You’re going to give yourself an aneurysm, Mrs. Miller,” comes a calm response from a woman who has… been there, done that. “You might consider something a little stronger,” drink-wise she means, “It’s going to be a long night.”

Kaylee Petrelli watches the ticker tape flow across the bottom of the tv screen, from her spot at one of the tables, with no real emotions and a martini in her hand. The woman had been here at this moment over ten years ago, when her husband lost his election. The poles had been beautiful then too.

Of course, that loss had been the best thing that had happened to them.

Canting a look towards Faulkner, there is concern for her young friend. He wasn’t Nathan after all. “Honestly, I say concede,” Kaylee says to him, “Before the media can start branding you a sore loser, she ran an honest campaign. A very rare thing for a politician and it worked this time. She rallied the silent majority.” Whether Nicole believes it or not.

“Going out graciously, gives you a chance to run for the next office that fancies you and not have a dark cloud hanging above your head.” Studying his reaction, Kaylee adds a soft, “This is far from the end of your political career.”

At the center of this sordid affair that was supposed to be a victory party, Senator Isaac Faulkner stands in silence, studying the television screen. There is a sense of stillness about him; the usual fidgets and extraneous motions that people tend to make in a relaxed state simply aren't there at the moment. Every motion is smooth, deliberate, controlled

…because Nicole isn't the only one seething here. Oh no.

But Isaac Faulkner long ago learned a lesson on the nature of fury, from a man who didn't live long enough to learn that lesson himself: fury without control is a sure recipe for destruction. So he stands in silence in front of the TV, his expression grim, and only the darkness in his eyes gives away the icy fury that seethes just beneath his skin.

For a few seconds, Faulkner doesn't react to Kaylee's words… but then, he lets out a slow exhalation. His eyes move away from the screen, finding Kaylee. He holds her gaze for a moment, and then gives a small nod; the movement is slow, as though he's having to fight to give it. "Soon," he says quietly.

Then, slowly, his eyes move to Nicole. He waits for a moment, for her to catch his gaze. "I trust we have keynotes prepared for both possible outcomes?" For a concession speech, as well as a victory speech.

A couple of the campaign workers come up to Isaac laying a hand on Isaac’s shoulder with murmured consolations. “Good effort,” says the first, Braedan. His partner Aidan, nods in agreement. “We’ll get them next time,” he supplies, before the two men make their way to the bartender to order what they imagine is their last round. They can see the politician is near action, about to close the book on this particular unhappy chapter.

Isaac’s phone chirps in his pocket — not for the first time tonight, and it won’t be the last — with the latest of a long string of ‘good lucks’ that have turned into condolences.

This one is from Nova.

Just got out of rehearsal and saw the news 😞 💔 Call me when you can. I’ll be up. I’m so sorry. ❤️

Beyond Nicole, the mirrored wall behind her reflects every disappointed face in the room — except his own. The face of Daniel LInderman stares back at him, as unhappy as Isaac feels.

At Kaylee’s suggestion, Nicole hands off her rosé to Doris before dismissing her with a wave of her hand that may as well be accompanied by an utterance of get out of my sight. Heading to the bar herself with a short nod to her staffers, she orders something that will better reflect the flavor of this mood of hers. “Gin martini, very dirty. Three olives.” If they just put a splash of vermouth in a glass that’s 50/50 gin and olive juice, she’d probably be happy.

She allows Mrs. Petrelli to attempt some soothing, knowing full well that she’s not up to that task. Not just yet, anyway. Nicole gives Faulkner the space of time it takes to receive her drink to simmer on his own before turns, meeting that gaze he’s seeking, and she makes her way to him. “You were only supposed to have to deliver one of these,” she murmurs quietly. “Walk with me,” is not a request as she slips her arm around his so they can move to a quieter corner of the space to talk.

Nicole takes a long drink from her glass before setting it down and reaching into the inside pocket of her blazer and leaving through three folded sheets of paper, each in a different color. Green, yellow, pink. “I failed you,” she admits openly. “This… This should have turned out differently. But it didn’t, and…”

It’s rare that Isaac gets to see his assistant and campaign manager so contrite. She’s always been quick to take responsibility for her own actions and mistakes — it’s one of the qualities his father had admired about her — but it’s rare that she shoulders a burden solely. She’ll readily accept blame, but not what belongs to someone else. “Isaac, I’m sorry.” It’s that last folded page, the pink one, that she holds up between two fingers for him to accept. The one that will show him further accepting this loss with grace, but with a message hope. Confidence in himself to return to his fight for the people of New York.

“We’ll take this step back, set new goals and make new strides.” Nicole doesn’t try to sugarcoat this setback by offering any sort of smile that she doesn’t truly feel. “This isn’t the end for us.”

And there’s that word again.

Faulkner tenses slightly at the hand on his shoulder, glancing to the worker… then he forces a rictus of a smile. "Yes," he agrees, nodding as the two head for the bar. That his campaign staff still affords him goodwill isn't something he takes for granted; it's a scant silver lining, perhaps, but it's something.

The buzzing of his phone distracts him, though. As he sees who the text is from, he grimaces. Not that he's not glad for the consolation — or that he won't be glad for the consolation, later, once fury has faded and left him with only the cold ashes of defeat — but he'd hoped that tonight's outcome wouldn't be an occasion for consolation.

His mouth draws tight into a grim slash; he looks up, his gaze slipping across the mirrored wall… and once again, the face of Daniel Linderman stares back at him.

Oh. This shit again.

It's still unnerving, but… a bit less so than it was the first time. He's been through this once before, now, and came out on top of it then without anyone being much the wiser; he should be able to do it again. And… oddly, this isn't entirely unwelcome. It's a distraction, and normally Faulkner isn't keen on those… but now? Now, having something to distract him from stewing in his own fury might not be the worst thing in the world.

And the face of Daniel Linderman in the mirror serves as a reminder, too. The steely-eyed glare, the tightly compressed lips, the red mottling his face — Isaac has seen those before, yes. Daniel Linderman had reigned from on high for years, but even he had met with defeat now and again. Yet even when something had gone well and truly awry, Linderman had come out on top. Right up until the cancer, at least, but there are some things nobody can win against; the important thing is that he'd beaten everything else.

So. What, now, facing a loss like this, would Daniel Linderman have done?

It's something Isaac is still thinking about when Nicole approaches.

His gaze flickers to her when she speaks, but he follows after her — she has his arm, and he's quite attached to it. He regards her impassively as she produces the papers — for a moment, there's a faint twitch at one corner of his mouth as she passes him the concession keynotes; Nicole handing him a pink slip provokes a tangle of emotions, ranging from sardonic amusement to… a number of things less pleasant. He doesn't let himself think about it too long, though; there's work to do.

"By all accounts, yes. You're correct. It should have turned out differently. But it didn't," he agrees quietly, a hint of sternness in his voice. And for once, that infernal first-person plural doesn't seem to bother him. He starts to tell Nicole to find out how this had happened, but… that's not right, is it? Linderman wouldn't have said that.

Why not?

Because he wouldn't have had to, would he? She'd already have jumped on it. Linderman had trusted Nicole. Okay then. What would he have said, if he'd been in Isaac's position? He takes a deep breath, working to smooth away the grimace on his face, to try to shove down the fury still roiling in his guts as best he can. "I trust you'll let me know as you find out the details of how this happened," he says, taking the pink slip and opening it up, frowning as he studies the words within. Defeat leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, but… showing himself to be a graceful loser is the best play he's got left at this point.

There is amusement that pulls at Kaylee’s lips as she watches the pair move away to talk ‘privately.’ However, she knows better than to take it personally, since this is after all politics. Instead, she busies herself texting a few choice people, one being Eve. Who would be dying to know about what’s going on in that privileged gathering.

The television screen, set up for the event, returns to the race that the party has gathered to watch, showing the stock photos of Faulkner and Chesterfield side by side, along with the newest count. It’s not yet mathematically impossible for Isaac to win, but it’s very, very unlikely, both historically and probability wise.

As the candidate’s eyes find the screen, the image there isn’t his own face, but his father’s — intense eyes and white hair, a toothy smile in place of the grim expression Isaac saw in his own reflection a moment before.

Nearby, a camera flash flares white, as one of the invited photographers from the Times takes the photo — a tête-à-tête between Nicole and Isaac with the disappointing graph on the TV nearby.

The picture on the screen to Isaac’s own youthful countenance.

The other two notes are slipped back into the campaign manager’s jacket. The one he received was only pink because red is so hard to read from, and she’s not a twelve-year-old writing with white gel pens anymore. All the same, she can’t help but scold herself for the choice. He was never supposed to find himself held up by a red light.

“I will,” Nicole assures her charge quietly. “As soon as I turn up anything, you’ll know.” That he hasn’t turned the anger both of them feel now on her directly is something of a pleasant surprise. She knows well what his temper is like and how poorly he deals with disappointment. She rarely holds his outbursts against him — she’d much rather he lose his cool with her than allow anyone else that specific brand of insight into his personality — but she can’t say it never hurts. “Here…”

Placing her hands on his shoulders a moment to square him in her sigh, Nicole distracts herself by looking after him, as she so often has since he was placed in front of her and she was informed that he was her responsibility. Carefully, she adjusts his tie and straightens both his tie tack and lapel pin so they’re just so. Her hands brush down his shoulders to make sure nothing’s settled there.

“That’s better,” Nicole pronounces with a smile that’s small, but genuine. The sight of him, even in this moment of setback, stirs good feelings inside of her. “Isaac…” The smile grows and it gives over to some of that emotion in her chest. It’s on the edge of tearful, bittersweet, and overwhelmed. “I am so proud of you. This was always going to be a harder battle for us,” she confides, though it’s no revelation. “But you met every challenge beautifully.” Her hands come back up, this time to rest on his biceps, fingers curling loosely to hold him.

In this moment, she looks the part of a supportive mother.

“Danny would be, too. You did well. This was an incredible amount of hard work, and you cleared every single hurdle. Focus on that. You have victories here.” In this, the achievement is his alone. Nicole can only take credit for them to a certain point. He had to take the foundations she gave him and build his own supports. With a thoughtful frown, she reaches up to smooth and shape a strand of his blonde hair so it falls in a way she finds softens his countenance without making him look youthful in a way that evokes the notion of inexperience. Appearances, as she’s taught him well, are everything.

“Now. I want you to go out there and show them what dignity looks like. Show them an aplomb like they’ve never seen before.” Nicole brings her hands back to herself so she can dab at the starts of tears with the pads of her fingers. “You’re going to keep your head held high, you’re going to speak from the heart, and you’re going to thank your supporters. And you’re going to thank Jenn’s supporters for getting out there and using their voices. For doing their civic duty. You’re going to praise everyone involved for their hard work.”

Dark brows lift, “Make sure you mention Darcy at the coffee counter. They’ll eat that up.” How many times had Nicole insisted he go get his own coffee when they could easily have sent runners? For every little seemingly demeaning thing she made him do along this road, everything — everything — had a reason. “You’re going to show your gratitude for having had this opportunity to meet so many voters and wax about how this experience has caused you to grow closer to your community.”

With the traces of her own pain in the face of this defeat carefully hidden again, Nicole fixes Isaac with a wide smile of encouragement. “When all that’s finished, they are going to be eager to welcome you back with open arms for the next cycle.” All is not yet lost. “Let’s get you in a better position for those cameras to see you. I’m going to get Chesterfield’s manager on the phone so we can connect the two of you.” He knows how this process goes. He’s been on the other side of it. “Then…” Fingers spider over the lower half of her face, obscuring her mouth from sight of colleague and camera alike.

“You are going to show that bitch the toughest act she’s ever had to follow in her life.”

Nicole bites back her grin. It’s an expression that’s always been for him alone. Whether it was pilfering snacks from the kitchens, playing a prank on one of the staff, or skipping off to do some activity other than the one laid out for them that day in favor of sneaking in a day at the park or the beach instead. She wasn’t always firm with him. Oftentimes, Nicole Nichols showed the Linderman heir apparent the importance of misbehaving every once in a while and having fun.

Looping an arm around behind Isaac’s back, she leads him back toward the room at large. “Thank the staff first,” she murmurs under her breath. “Then make sure you’re seen smiling at Mrs. Petrelli.” All the while, she’s slipping her phone out of her pocket and thumbing through her contacts. She has the number she needs on speed dial, but this buys them another moment or two of time.

“The first step on our path to your next victory starts here, Senator.”

Faulkner doesn't roll his eyes at any of Nicole's advice, though he does give her a hint of faintly amused side-eye. None of the advice she's giving is bad; it is, in fact, what he'd been planning to do anyway. For the most part, at least. Mentioning Darcy at the coffee counter is a good touch.

"Yes," he agrees evenly once she's finished, mustering a smile of his own; for a wonder, it isn't entirely forced. They used to get along, now and again. Before the reading of the will.

He doesn't let himself dwell on that. That is a viper's nest he can shove his hand into on his own time, thank you very much, sometime when he doesn't have a call to handle and an important speech to attend to.

He takes a breath. Gives himself time to consider. Time to renew his grip on his anger, make sure he's got it as firmly under control as possible. This is an occasion he needs to handle at his best; graciousness is not his forte, but here and now he needs to try for it.

He asks himself again: how would Daniel Linderman have handled this?

Isaac steps forward, clearing his throat. "Alright," he repeats, this time pitched for the entire room. "Your attention, please." He smiles, his gaze moving to encompass everyone in the room. "First and foremost — I want to thank everyone here. Thank you for standing with me; thank you for all of the hard work you've put in. I want all of you to know that your efforts are appreciated. But… sometimes even the best laid plans can fall short." He takes a deep breath, straightening. "I am about to call Mrs. Chesterfield, and congratulate her on her victory. Shortly thereafter, I will make my formal concession speech. Thank you, everyone," he says, giving a final nod.

He closes his eyes for a moment; saying it out loud hurts a bit, but better to face that now than when he's giving the actual concession speech. Then Faulkner opens his eyes and glances over to Nicole; seems Chesterfield's campaign manager isn't being particularly quick to pick up. That's fine; it gives him a moment, now that he's cooled down a bit, to take care of something. He slides his own phone out and taps in a quick message for Nova.

Will call soon. And thanks. ❤️

He slips his phone back in his pocket, looking back over to Nicole. Graciousness. He needs to try for graciousness.

Faulkner closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. It's going to be a very long hour.

The phone Kaylee’s been scrolling through is set face down on the table so that she can listen to the speech. There is a look of approval from the heiress as Issac gives his thanks to those attending.

Lifting her glass, Kaylee speaks up, “And thank you Senator for running an amazing race. The voters will realize soon enough the mistake they made.”

Kaylee looks to the people around her, “A toast to the Senator for his perseverance and steadfast dedication to the people of New York. Next time you’ll slaughter her… and then skys the limit.” There is no doubt where her support will remain in the years to come.

The cameras move in, capturing the bitter moment of a campaign’s death bed, zooming in on the faces of those they know will catch their audience’s attention — Faulkner, Kaylee, Nicole, as each of them faces the loss in their own way.

On the other end of Nicole’s phone, the other manager picks up, and then there’s a moment’s pause for the handoff. Nicole presses the phone into Isaac’s hand, then pats his arm lightly, moving away to give him space for the conversation neither of them wanted him to have — at least not from this perspective.

As Faulkner is greeted by Jennifer Chesterfield through the speaker of the phone, he catches another glimpse of the television screen just as the graphic changes to another race. His father’s face smiles brightly in the photograph, but in the mirrored wall, reflects Isaac’s feelings of disappointment, hurt, anger.

“Mrs. Petrelli, good evening. What do you think he could have done differently, if anything?” a reporter asks, suddenly at Kaylee’s elbow with her cameraman beside her filming.

Kaylee's toast brings a hint of something genuine to Faulkner's smile; he gives a slight nod in appreciation. It's good to know you have support.

Ah, but the moment of truth is at hand. Faulkner nods and accepts the phone, summoning a politician's smile. "Mrs. Chesterfield. I'll keep this brief; both of us have speeches we'll soon have to give. I'm calling to extend to you my congratulations on your victory." There's a fleeting impulse to mention that his campaign manager is beside herself, but he quickly decides against it; for one thing, his campaign manager is also beside him at the moment, for another, it doesn't fit the tone he needs to be aiming for.

He takes a deep breath instead. "I intend to give my formal concession speech shortly. Again, congratulations."

As much as Kaylee dislikes the camera, she’s learned how to survive with having cameras turned on her. The smile that the reporter gets is bright and confident, ensuring to set the glass down before, before she speaks.

“I honestly don’t know what he could have done differently,” Kaylee offers confidently. “Both candidates brought their A-Game to the table and the numbers favored him, but the silent majority has spoken.” Bracelets clink as she gives a gesture of resignation. “But I certainly think that the Senator will come back even stronger next time, which is why the Petrelli Foundation will continue our support of the Senator.”

Kaylee throws a proud smile towards Faulkner, even though he’s busy on the phone… it’s more for the camera anyhow, “We see the potential in the Senator and I know my husband Nathan, if he were still with us, would agree.” Turning back to the reporter. “Keep your eyes on this one, he’s going far.”

On the other end of the line, Chesterfield thanks and compliments Isaac for his own race; on the screen, the live footage of her own campaign party — a celebration — shows her in the background speaking on the phone, smiling and nodding. The reporter in the foreground says they believe the phone call is Senator Faulkner giving his congratulations — the delay isn’t much, a few seconds at most.

“We intend to,” the reporter interviewing Kaylee says, and it seems she might even mean it literally as she watches Faulkner out of the corner of her eye, ready to focus on him once the phone call is ended and he’s ready to give his speech. “Thank you, Mrs. Petrelli. I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way you had hoped,” the reporter says warmly but quickly as her cameraman begins to move in the direction of the senator.

The others are also edging that way, like a flock of vultures circling its prey, sensing the time has come, now that Isaac’s phone call is over, the cheerfully sympathetic voice of Jennifer Chesterfield’s ‘Good Night’ still ringing in his ears.

Isaac manages to keep himself from grimacing as he snaps his phone shut. He takes a moment to stow the phone in his pocket, a moment more to glance over the pink sheet of paper in his hand… and that's all the time he has. The media is upon him, already starting their thousand-voiced chorus of questions. He folds the paper up and slides it into a pocket, then raises a hand to forestall them. "I've just gotten off the phone with Jennifer Chesterfield; it was my honor to congratulate on her victory tonight."

The fact that God does not strike him dead for that lie emboldens Faulkner to continue. Graciously. "The people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly. I am grateful that I had an opportunity to run in this race, and I am grateful for everyone who has helped me, at every step of the way…"

Thankful to have the cameras turn from her, Kaylee settles back in with her drink to listen to her friend. When he thanks everyone she raises her glass again, but does say anything.

As Faulkner speaks, he can be grateful that at least he’s not facing any of the mirrors this time — his stance gives him a look toward the front of the venue. He looks out at the small crowd of supporters, reporters, photographers and camera men and women, presenting the persona that he’s polished and honed with Nicole’s help over the years — the perfect candidate, making the perfect concession speech that will mark him as someone with dignity and honor, a good sport and a better man that they should want to see lead them in the future.

Toward the front of the restaurant, he sees someone turn to walk out. His back is to Isaac by the time his eyes catch the movement, but everything about the man — posture and form, the bright-white hair, the tailored suit and coat — he knows and knows well. The door closes behind the man almost as quickly as Isaac had noticed him, but he can see him through the windows for a few more moments, and Daniel Linderman’s profile is one that cannot be mistaken for another.

As Kaylee listens to the speech, she suddenly hears the giggle of a child. When she looks in the direction it came from, there’s nothing but a cluster of Isaac’s hardworking staff, watching with a spectrum of emotions on their faces; one idealistic intern can’t help but sniffle now and then as the others console him. There are no children anywhere in sight.

For a moment — just a moment — that familiar profile gives Isaac pause. The pace of his speech slows, his words taking on an almost questioning tone…

… but no.

No. This — what he just thought he saw — it can't have been real. The newshounds have sharp noses; there'd be more of an uproar if Daniel Linderman, a man now five years gone, had just walked through. And then there's Nicole. He hasn't heard any screaming from her, which means for damn sure that it's not real. That it can't be real.

Faulkner closes his eyes, lowering his head slightly — careful signs of sorrow borne with dignity — then breathes deep and continues. "But the time has now come, when we must put aside our differences and unite," he says, launching back into his rhetoric. His gaze flickers over to Nicole to see what her reaction had been… none. She seems to be about as happy as Faulkner is about all of this, and definitely not kicking her way through the crowd to chase Linderman off into the night. Yep. Linderman had definitely been a hallucination, then.


Faulkner's gaze returns to the reporters; he's got a speech to finish.

No. Not again. Kaylee thinks to herself sitting up straight in her seat. The heiress searches the entire room with worried eyes, before she finishes her martini quickly. Last thing she needed was to have another episode here in front of the cameras.

A look of guilt is cast Issac’s way, before Kaylee stands and moves to go pick up her coat. She’ll make her apologies later. Moving through the small crowd, she quickly dials the number for her assistant. “Corbin,” she starts and stops as voicemail picks up. Dammit.

Handing over her ticket to the coat check in, Kaylee waits for the beep.

“Corbin, it’s Kaylee.” He’ll probably notice the tremble of worry in her voice, when he listens later, “Hey, sorry to contact you so late, but I need you to clear my calendar and get me in with the family physician.” It felt weird putting that on someone else’s shoulders, but Corbin knew her schedule backwards and forward.

At Isaac’s side, Nicole Miller is still and serene as a statue. Behind her eyes, however, there’s a panic happening.

We must put aside our differences and unite.

That’s the end of what his speech should be, and Nicole knows raised him, trained him to know better than to lead with that. He shouldn’t be giving this speech at all yet. He should be talking to Chesterfield first. But there’s no phone in her hand, held up to her ear. She hasn’t made smalltalk with her counterpart in the enemy camp. None of the things they needed to do to lead them up to this moment have happened.

Except that they had to have done. Because here they stand, and he knows better than to deviate from script when she’s right there to drag him back on track. There are a great number of comparisons that can be made of Isaac Faulkner, but unruly stallion isn’t among them.

Loosening the clasp of her hands where they’d been joined together in front of her, she motions low for her assistant to join her at her side without lifting her hand from where it now rests comfortably against her leg. She eases back from where the speech is being given, working her way at least partially out of camera frame as Doris Anderson calmly comes to stand where she’s been directed, leaning in close without asking the question herself. Whatever Nicole needs, Doris is there.

“Get my husband on the phone.” Nicole conducts this consultation in a hush, her mouth barely moving. Her gaze stays forward, on the action and the observers. “Tell him the elevator’s stuck and to meet me at my office.” Hopefully he’ll recognize what that means.

The pretty brunette, who honestly doesn’t look so dissimilar to her boss, nods her head and begins to step away. Until Nicole’s hand catches her wrist. Doris looks down to the contact briefly, then back up to wait for whatever instruction comes next.

“I don’t leave this place with anyone but the senator or yourself.” When she says this, Nicole actually turns to meet eyes with Doris. Blue holds green, and something awkward flutters in Nicole’s chest, but she doesn’t have words or a context for it. It’s not like when she locks eyes with Yi-Min, so it isn’t that… “Do you understand me?”

The tone is firm, but Doris knows her boss well enough by now to recognize a request when she hears it. “I do,” she promises in her own whisper. “I’ll get Dr. Miller on the phone now.”

With a curt nod, Nicole dismisses her assistant and turns attention back to the senator she failed to turn congressman.

As Kaylee waits for the woman at the coat check to grab her coat, she hears that little titter again — as real, as solid as a sound can be, as if it were made by one of her daughters when they were younger. As if they were standing right beside her.

But when she looks, no one’s there at all, and that laugh was distinctively neither Brynn’s nor Jac’s, each a sound she knows by heart.

“Ma’am?” the young woman murmurs, holding out the coat to Kaylee, her brows lifting in solicitous query.

On the other end of the line, she hears Corbin’s voice assuring her he’s on it. “Anything else?” There’s worry in his voice, too, and she can imagine his earnest face waiting for her reply.

Unaware of the drama unfolding both behind and in front of them, the cameras continue to film or snap, depending on their medium. The reporters are ready to pounce with more questions once Isaac wraps the speech. The television, muted, shows a split screen between his speech, a few seconds behind, and the celebration party at the Chesterfield venue, with Jennifer clearly waiting to give her victory speech as soon as the state senator is through.

Faulkner notices Kaylee leaving as she heads for the door. He feels a surge of startlement, rapidly segueing into alarm, but he stamps it out viciously. The cameras are on him now; if he flinches now, the whole damn world is going to see it.

That's not going to happen. Handling this well is the only victory he's got tonight, and be damned if he's going to give it up. Luckily, he's finally at the end of his speech; while he knows it had been only a few minutes long, it feels like he's been up here getting grilled for hours. "…for doing their civic duty. Thank you, and good night," he says, nodding graciously — to the cameras and the reporters, and to the Americans watching on television.

Then he steps away, glancing to Nicole briefly. You're up.

Kaylee takes the coat and folds it over her arm, though she doesn’t leave just yet. Mouthing a thank you to the woman, she turns her attention back to the phone.. Ignoring the happy sounds of a phantom child. “Nothing else, just… enjoy your evening, Corbin. I’ll give you an update tomorrow.”

Turning back to the speech giving Issac, Kaylee just manages to catch the look, but he probably doesn’t get to see the look of apology. Turning for the door, Kaylee taps out a message with the last shreds of her sanity.

Sorry. Had to go. Not feeling well. :X One too many cocktails. Ugh.
Lunch soon, bring the GF. Leave the extra baggage. ;)

Kaylee’s departure is noted by Isaac’s manager without any particular outward expression of whatever emotion might go along with it. Nicole turns her attention back to the senator when he finishes his speech, making sure to pause him before he can retreat with a hand on his arm, a warm smile for him.

One that doesn’t reach her eyes.

“I need you to take me to the office after we wrap up here.” There’s a beat where her fingers tighten around his forearm slightly. She continues in that hushed tone, the barest movement of her lips to form the words. “Please.” The plan was always to be in no condition to drive home tonight, but now she’s concerned about taking a cab. Her voice lifted again, she releases him to pat his shoulder just once instead. “You did great,” Nicole assures her protégé, without any room for doubt that she means it, whether or not the volume it was spoken at was for the press.

Stepping aside to let Isaac past, Nicole steps up for her turn with the reporters and the cameras. “First and foremost, I want to congratulate Mrs. Chesterfield and her campaign manager for a race well run. They earned this.” Credit is given where it’s grudgingly due. The senator’s efforts praised highly for having such a love for his city, his state, and its people, his constituents…

Please, just let lightning strike her now.

And like that, the election effort creaks to its anticlimactic stop, like a rollercoaster pulling into the unloading dock. But there’s none of the lingering excitement or energy here, as the campaign team begins to filter out after murmured well wishes to one another, to Nicole, to Isaac. The restaurant manager approaches Doris for a closing payment of the bar tab; the servers begin to gather abandoned glasses so they too can call an end to their night.

They will probably sleep more easily than Nicole, fretting about how she lost crucial minutes without remembering even blinking, or Isaac who will avoid mirrors and television sets the rest of the night, or Kaylee who will look for the owner of a laugh only she can hear.

It’s going to be a long night.

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