Black Tie


nicole_icon.gif noah2_icon.gif

Scene Title Black Tie
Synopsis Shouldering the burden of dangerous information, Nicole reaches out to the last member of her task force, Noah Bennet.
Date January 15, 2020

NV: We need to talk.
Message Sent: December 10 9:57 PM

NV: Pick up your phone.
Message Sent: December 19 12:14 PM

NV: Call me back, Noah.
Message Sent: December 28 2:26 PM

NV: Bennet. I have a lead.
Message Sent: January 1 3:18 AM

NV: You had better be fucking dead or captured. Call me.
Message Sent: January 13 4:47 AM

NV: Meet me tonight in Williamsburg at South 64th and Berry Street. 10 PM. If you don’t show, I’m telling Choi and Voss you’re MIA.
Message Sent: January 15 7:02 AM


Alley Garage

January 15, 2020

9:53 PM

The door to the white garage is left open, light spilling out onto the worn asphalt of the alleyway in a soft orange glow. Nicole sits on the truck-bench-come-sofa, scrolling anxiously through her phone. There’s been no contact from Noah Bennet for weeks now. She doesn’t expect her ultimatum to work. Doesn’t expect her remaining partner on this case to show up.

She hopes she’s wrong.

One booted foot taps restlessly on the concrete floor of the garage. She’s been sitting on this information for more than a month now. If she doesn’t act on it soon, the lead may be lost. Or worse.

“I would've expected a condo at least,” is the way Noah Bennet chooses to break expectations. He hasn’t lost his storied edge of Company mystique, leaning against the garage bay door, arms crossed over his chest as he regards Nicole over the frames of his horn-rimmed glasses. She hadn't so much as heard his approach until he'd talked. For a man pushing sixty he’s surprisingly light on his feet.

The phone in Nicole’s hands seems to jump from her fingers and into the air of its own accord. She fumbles it once, twice, then catches it on its way to the floor at about the vicinity of her mid-shins. The look she gives Noah is accusatory at first, then relieved. Her shoulders sag as she straightens up in her seat again.

She doesn’t need to tell him he startled her.

“Solstice is kind of a mess these days,” she responds with a shrug. As though that notion doesn’t still pain her in at least some small fashion. “Good of you to make it.” And if Nicole’s bitter, she’s doing a hell of a job hiding it from her tone and her posture. Pushing to her feet, she slides her phone into her pocket.

“How are things going on your end?” That’s not a pleasantry. Nicole is genuinely interested to hear what Noah’s managed to uncover, considering he’s been so damned hard to get ahold of.

“Busy,” Noah replies. It isn't so much of a lie, as it is a gross avoidance of the truth. “I have some information on Monroe’s activities but I've been trying to put it together into something I can share with upper management. Right now it's just leads and… hearsay.”

Sliding further into the garage, Noah tucks his hands into his pockets and looks around at the tools hanging on a nearby pegboard, then down to the engine grease stains on the floor. “Why'd you call me here, Nicole?” Noah asks, looking over the frames of his horn-rimmed glasses. It isn't the why he stresses in that question, but the here.

For that, Nicole doesn't have the best answer. "I wanted neutral ground." If they can call a space owned by her sister neutral. "Didn't want you to be seen coming and going from my house." Noah Bennet may be good, but he's only human, after all.

The why is still relevant, of course. "I'll tell you what I've got if you'll let me in on what you've uncovered. We need to put our heads together on this," Nicole reasons. Tucking her right arm against her midsection, she causally drapes the left arm over the top, holding it in place like the sling she's not wearing currently would do. "Otherwise, what's the point?"

Noah’s eyes narrow and he makes a meandering path back to the garage door. “That’s unlike you,” he notes with a brow raised. “If Fort Jay isn’t a neutral ground, then it means whatever you’re going to tell me is something you don’t want SESA brass finding out…” he rests his shoulder against the inside of the door frame, crossing his arms.

“We’ve had our heads together since we were assigned to this with Ben,” Noah says with a rise of his brows, “and now that’s rolled completely inside out, and now you’re calling me into a clandestine meeting like the old days?” He shakes his head, leaning away from the garage door frame to walk inside a step. “I need the why before I spill the what.”

Nicole watches Noah move about the space with a neutral expression that neither confirms nor denies his suppositions about her motivations. She’ll do that verbally, thank you. She’d forgotten how infuriating he could be. “Really? Is that why you’re impossible to get ahold of?” But it’s hard to argue with Bennet’s results. Always has been.

She sighs heavily, dropping any hints of combativeness. “Have we? I feel like you’ve been mum on what you’re up to and what you’ve found.” Maybe not all of it. “Look. We did good work in the old days,” Nicole tells him. “We rustled up our own intel, and we acted on it. Without cutting through miles of red tape.” That’s her explanation as to why they’re here, instead of a conference room or Choi’s office.

“I’m on to something delicate. I want your opinion before I do anything with the information.”

Noah glances out into the alley beyond the garage door, then paces a few steps closer to Nicole. “You know how it is,” he says in response to almost everything, as if that somehow excuses the difficulty had in finding him, as if that somehow absolves him of communication deficiencies. But here he is, squaring an inspecting look at her with one brow raised in quiet judgment.

“I’m listening,” Bennet says, as if what Nicole is about to say carries the weight of an atom bomb.


A heavy exhale leaves her lungs in a sigh. There’s no better way to do this than to rip the bandage off. “I know where to find Gorgon.” It’s the most succinct an explanation as she can give. She’s fully aware of how damning that statement is, given how long she’s spent attempting to get in touch. She’s braced for the verbal dressing down that’s likely to follow. “My intel tells me it’s safe and under wraps. Nobody’s looking to release it.” Suggesting she would have moved on the information sooner if that hadn’t been the case, at the least.

“For now.”

Noah’s eyes narrow slowly, watching Nicole with all the attentive uncertainty of a father whose daughter just told him she’s on drugs. Slowly, Noah reaches out and presses his thumb to the garage door button eliciting a sudden, mechanical chk-whirr from the mechanism near the ceiling. At his back, the garage door slowly begins to come down, and Bennet takes a few steps forward toward Nicole.

“That wasn’t what I expected you to say,” Noah says as he removes his horn-rimmed glasses with one hand and retrieves a small glasses cleaner with the other. He regards Nicole with a stern, parental look, cleaning the right lens as he does. “Where would that be?” Suddenly, the entire tone of the conversation has shifted.

Nicole knows better than to take her eyes off of Noah Bennet. Even as he reaches toward the wall and the door begins to come down, she keeps her gaze fixed on him and his movements.

This isn’t how someone’s meant to feel among their allies. When did she become this paranoid? Is it him that inspires it in her or the subject matter?

“What did you expect me to say?” Nicole quirks one brow and one corner of her mouth upward, curious and seemingly amused.

“Why is this conversation happening in a garage, Nicole?” Noah asks from the now narrow gap between them. Cleaning his glasses, he moves from one lens to the next. “You know where a missing biological weapon is, you haven’t shared that with Choi or Voss, and you’re choosing to call me in the middle of the night like it’s two thosuand and ten over here.” Finished cleaning, Noah puts his glasses back on.

“So I expect you to say,” Noah finally gets around to answering her question, “why we’re having this meeting,” and gestures around himself, “in a garage.”

Lips part and tongue feels out one canine tooth as the explanation is mulled over. “Because I think I can turn the person who has it. And I don’t think brass would let me give it a shot.” Probably rightfully, but there’s also the fact that it’s a personal fucking embarrassment to Nicole to admit her boyfriend has been working with the enemy under her damn nose.

After Ryans’ betrayal, she isn’t sure her ego can take it.

“But I wanted… I wanted you to know what I’m on to, in case something happens to me and I don’t report in.”

Noah’s brows come together. In any other situation, Noah Bennet would press about why Nicole thinks she could turn the target, why she thinks SESA leadership wouldn’t want that, he’d go down a laundry list of reasons why any of that is a bad plan and how they should bring him in and then come up with a plan.

But this isn’t Noah Bennet.

“Go on,” is the leading sentiment given to Nicole instead.

When the arguments, the litany of reasons why this is a bad idea don’t come, Nicole relaxes visibly, but it creates a new kind of tension. There’s an alarm bell going off inside her mind, but it’s one that she’s writing off as a false alarm.

“I’m worried if I bring them in, they’ll be compromised. Won’t be any good to us at all.” Unconsciously, she reaches up with her left hand to ease the ache in her right shoulder. On the mend, but not yet healed. “But I have an in I can pursue. It won’t be out of place for me to be seen around. I can find exactly where it’s being kept and what’s being done with it. If I can find out something useful, maybe we can turn the tables on Monroe’s organization.”

It’s now that Noah crosses his arms, regarding Nicole with his head tilted to the side. “And you don’t think SESA’s capable of seeing that thread and following it, and you’re willing to risk your career on that — if not your freedom and your daughter’s future?” He raises one brow slowly. “Because if this blows up in your face, it’ll be your head that rolls, and there’s only one person vulnerable enough to suffer from that right now… other than you.”

It’s like Noah to play children against someone, but it seems overly cautious even for him. “Why don’t we start with a name? I’ve been working Monroe’s associates for a while, leveraging names and dates, building up a case to bring to Choi. Maybe we’re thinking of the same people.”

“I know. I know. I’m risking… I’m risking everything for this.” This case could be Nicole’s big break, as if she really needs one. She should be playing by the book, but. But. “Leave my kid out of this.” Her gaze falls about to the level of the man’s chest, but not away. As if he might blink out of existence if she didn’t maintain eye contact.

Nicole shakes her head. “You’re not,” she says with certainty. “If you were, you’d have been barking up my tree a long time ago.” Clenching her fist at her side indicates that she feels that was saying too much already. She brings her eyes back up to his face, frowning and looking resigned. “Got anything on Charles Sharrow?”

“Vanguard,” Noah says, slipping past the previous part of the conversation. “Or used to be, anyway. Moneylender or moneyhandler, far as I know. Believed dead in Apollo back in the day, but he’s alive as far as I’m aware. Last I heard he might be haunting somewhere in the US around these parts, his name comes up in Providence from time to time.” Unlike the name Noah Bennet, because Nicole sure as hell didn’t see him there. Yet somehow he knows this?

“What’s Sharrow got to do with this?” Noah asks, chin up.

She meets that chin up with a tilt of her own head to one side. “I picked him up in Providence,” is part confirmation, part explanation. “Had some real Evo-supremacist sentiments. Thought there might be a connection, given Monroe’s proclivity toward believing the SLC-Expressive are the master race.”

Nicole’s posture shifts. She stands a little taller, takes a half step closer. “Where the hell have you been, Noah? Providence was my beat. Why are you turning over my rocks?”

“Providence,” is Noah’s answer, brows furrowed. “I know that Charles Sharrow was near to that explosion that rattled windows up here in the city. I know he barely survived and is being kept somewhere in the town surrounded by his mercenaries.” Noah takes another step toward Nicole, angling his head to the side again like a dog listening to a weird sound.

“What aren’t you telling me, Nicole?” Noah asks, practically looming over Nicole now thanks to his height. “What do you know?” That’s a classic pang of Bennet paranoia.

“Why do you know all that?” Nicole counters, narrowing her eyes even as she looks up at him, unintimidated. She can posture just as well as he can. “I was there. Why didn’t you make contact?”

Her brows lift, giving him her best mom is unimpressed face. “You’re on to something you aren’t sharing with me. You know how it works, Bennet. I show you mine if you show me yours.”

“Do you remember Daniel Linderman?” Noah asks her, taking a step away as he does. “There was this dinner party he was at, probably… 2005 or maybe 6?” He looks back at Nicole, starting to wander the garage. “It was at the Petrelli’s place, they had this… I don’t know, stupid elaborate dinner planned. Arthur and Angela were fighting, but they were pretending they weren’t.”

Noah stops by a workbench on the opposite side of the garage. “The dinner was black tie,” he says with a laugh, “but there you were, in this forest green dress while everyone else wore black. You looked so embarrassed, but Daniel played it off like it was intentional. Somehow you didn’t get the memo, but he didn’t embarrass you. What was it he said?” Slowly, Noah turns around and looks to Nicole. The question isn’t rhetorical.

“Do I remember Daniel Linderman.” Nicole shakes her head. He knows she does, so what’s he playing at?

It becomes apparent what he’s angling for as he goes on, but all the more confusing. Slowly, she tilts her head back and narrows her eyes further at Noah as he continues describing the scenario. “I don’t remember,” is a lie. She remembers vividly exactly what Daniel Linderman said to her. “It was a long time ago. I hadn’t been his assistant for very long.”

Tension winds its way through her shoulders as she flexes her fingers at her sides, focusing on her power, the feeling of it coursing through her. “You weren’t there. What the hell is this?”

“I need you to keep a secret, Nicole.” Noah asks as he levels those expressionless eyes on her. “Because it sounds like you and I are both willing to operate off of SESA’s playbook, and I think… I think I can’t do this alone.” Can’t isn’t something she’s ever heard of being in Bennet’s vocabulary.

“But I need you to promise,” Noah says again. “I need you to promise to keep my secret, and I’ll keep yours. Then, maybe together… we can stop Adam Monroe.”

Nicole swallows uneasily. “How do you know about the dinner? How do you know about my dress?” Finally, she looks down at the floor, taking a deep breath. “He said… Danny said I brought color into his life.” Fingers move to her arm, to the diamond tennis bracelet around her right wrist.

Slowly, she lifts her eyes back to the man, almost expecting to find him to have vanished.

Noah doesn’t say anything, he just stares at Nicole. Through Nicole. “I need you to swear to me.”

Uncertainty clouds Nicole’s features, but she relents. With a nod, she tells him, “I swear. A secret for a secret. We’re in this together.”

And for her promise, Noah Bennet disappears before her eyes like a blown out candle flame.

Some ten feet away, leaning against the wall where he’d depressed the garage door button earlier, is a man that Nicole Varlane hasn’t seen in person in years. A man that, as far as history is concerned, is dead.



When Noah simply disappears, Nicole is left gaping. They’d always joked he could do that, but no one ever believed he could actually—


She gasps sharply and staggers back a step at the sight of Peter fucking Petrelli standing at the garage door. A man she hasn’t seen since… A hard lump in her throat is swallowed down. “But you’re— Holy shit.”

Dead? I get that a lot.” Peter leans away from the wall, running a hand over his beard as he glances to the door. “Bennet’s still in Washington State, he’s retired. I’ve been hunting Adam down for years, ever since…” he trails off, getting a distant look in his eyes. “Adam’s got a terrorist group under his arm, Shedda Dinu. You might remember the name from the Rupert Carmichael stuff back before the war.”

Peter starts pacing the floor, jumping straight into things as though this isn’t an un-fucking-believable paradigm shift for Nicole. “I infiltrated Shedda Dinu under the guise of a couple of people who’re actually dead, but I can’t get close to their leadership. They’re planning something, big, and SESA’s caught on the edges of it. I don’t have the ability to take them all on myself, and if I just start fires they’ll go to ground and we’ll lose Adam probably forever.”

Motioning with his chin to Nicole and a quick raise of his brows, Peter asks, “How do you feel about getting a career-defining win?”

While Peter speaks, Nicole lifts a hand, loosely curled, and starts to extend her index finger as if to call for one second, please, but curls it back in with the others. Then repeats the process about three or four times, ultimately holding her silence as he explains the situation.

She’s positively bewildered by the time he gets to the end of it and she just blinks, pressing her knuckle to her parted lips. Possibly contemplating if this is what going mad feels like.

Finally, she lets out a huff of laughter and shakes her head. “Yeah. Yeah, I would feel pretty damn good about that.” Nicole backs up and drops back onto the couch, taking it all in. “My… source is working on Gorgon. I believe he’s in direct possession of it. I can either get my hands on it, or… we can possibly convince him to skew the results Monroe’s looking for. Neutralize it or something.” Nicole’s not a fucking scientist. “I’m almost certain he’ll do it,” she begins to explain.

“Because he’s my boyfriend.”

Peter pauses immediately, turning to angle a side-long look at Nicole. Then, with a smirk and a laugh he comments, “We have the same taste in partners: Trouble.” He steps away for a moment, wandering over to the workbench across the garage that Noah had been at, or the illusion of Noah had been at in any case.

“Shedda Dinu is operating upstate out of Rochester. A banking firm, Coldbridge Financial Solutions, covers for them. It’s a front for Shedda Dinu’s money, everything. There’s a dozen or so operatives, I’ve been able to pin down the names of a couple. Their ringleader is Antonio Garza, I wager he has a chip on his shoulder about the Company from the way he talks. Then there’s a former Ferrymen, Jaiden Mortlock. Humanis First came after his kids, I think Adam or Garza got to him and protected his family. In exchange he’s become an enforcer for Shedda Dinu. Beyond that I only know people by first names.” Peter says, coming to stop nearby to Nicole on the couch.

“The minute anyone hits that building, Adam will know. He’s never there, but I’m willing to bet some of his operatives know where he’s hiding. Know all sorts of things that I haven’t been able to figure out.” Peter tucks his hands into his pockets, glancing to the dim glow of streetlights through the grimy windows on the garage doors. “But you take down a terrorist cell? You’ll be a hero. I don’t want that kind of attention. I can’t maintain the kind of scrutiny that could put on me. It’s been a risk ever since I started masquerading as Noah, it’ll be worse once the shit hits the fan. I need… I need to be gone by then.”

Nicole runs a hand through her hair and sighs heavily. “Yeah, that makes sense.” Reconciling that she’s been working with Petrelli all this time and not Bennet is going to take some time, but the pieces come together the more she thinks about it. “Thought Mortlock was dead. That figures too, I guess.”

Drumming her fingers on one knee, Nicole worries at her lower lip as she thinks. “I imagine Monroe will want the finished Gorgon manipulation close to him. I would if I was him. I’d want to keep tabs on it. Maybe I can slip a tracker in to the case or…” She has doubts about how well that plan would hold up.

“We sure know how to pick ‘em, huh?” There’s a snort of laughter at her own expense. Pushing to her feet again she meets Peter’s gaze. “What do you want me to do? If we play this completely by the book, we’re going to be wrapped up in miles of red tape. If you couldn’t crack his org…” Nicole crosses her arms under her chest. “This fucking piece of shit.”

“Wait,” Peter says with a quirk of his head to the side, “if we can lead in on the handoff, I could replace someone expected to be there. We wouldn’t need a tracker, I could just go back with them to wherever it is they’re going and get directly inside. I’ve never been able to get close to Adam since he slipped through my fingers a few years ago. But this…”

Peter nods a few times, mulling over options. “Your contact doesn’t even need to be aware of what’s going on. You just need to get me the date, time, and location of the handoff of the virus and… make sure it’s sabotaged somehow. As long as he doesn’t have his hands on Gorgon, we’ll be fine. I go back with him, you help SESA take out Shedda Dinu, and we bring everything he’s made crashing down around him.”

A slow smile spreads across Nicole’s face as Peter lays out his plan. “That’s good,” she commends. “I think I can arrange that. I’ll get him to give me the details and I’ll get them to you. Won’t even tell him there’s anyone else involved. He’ll be too worried about saving my skin to question that there’s something else cooking.”

She feels a little bad manipulating Zachery like that, but… He is working for the wrong people. They can sort out everything else once they aren’t worried about facing armageddon.

“If you happen to run into Ryans out there, you make sure to give him my best, won’t you?”

Slowly, Peter’s appearance shifts with a ripple back to that of Noah Bennet. His brows kick up over the frames of his horn-rimmed glasses. The only answer he can give is, “I’ll give him something.” Then, in a mirage of soft rainbow-hued light, he’s gone…

…leaving Nicole with more questions than answers.

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