huruma3_icon.gif nicole4_icon.gif

Scene Title Boarder
Synopsis Huruma confronts Nicole about the secret she harbors within herself.
Date November 23, 2011

Bannerman's Castle

Pollepel in the fall smells of rain and leaves more than ever. Halls are dried by kerosene and fire, with battery and solar power doing a great deal of lighting up and down the corridors otherwise. Huruma stalks silently down one of these corridors towards some of the quarters, an electric lantern in one hand and the other slung up in a strappy sling to keep it from rubbing against fresh bandages. For all the autumn air that creeps in, she wears only a tank and trousers, the former allowing a steady stream of cool to her skin as she moves from place to place. She gets where she is going soon enough.

Huruma stands on the other side of a door, considering it like a coyote considers a snare, pale eyes flicking to nothing in the air, tilted towards the room beyond. When Huruma knocks, it is a guileless staccato, light and to the point. Anyone in?

Even on the road to Yukon, Nicole wasn't used to this sort of roughing it. There are certainly worse places and situations she could be in, but Miss Nichols is used to a certain degree of comfort, and she finds she sorely misses it. But she promised her sister once that when she was ready to run, she would go anywhere with her. Well, here is anywhere. Here is where family is.

The knock at the door startles Nicole out of her reverie. She'd been staring at the same page of an old book for half an hour now without reading and retaining a single word of it. Taking a mental note of which page she's on, she shuts the paperback novel and calls out, "Come in!"

Her attire isn't much warmer than Huruma's, but Nicole has been running even warmer than usual of late, thanks to the extra passenger she carries. And that's not referring to the baby growing in her belly. A simple oversized tanktop hangs loose over her thin frame, draped over a pair of comfortable yoga pants.

Huruma already knows she's in there— manners matter. She waits for a response, briefly entertaining the thought of sidling on in even if Nicole fails to answer. It is probably for the best that there is a reply, sending said thoughts popping out of Huruma's mind.

Huruma keeps the lantern hung at her side after turning the door open, elbowing it the rest of the way; it only opens halfway before she sidesteps her way inside, feet quiet as she melts out of the corridor. Her boots come to a near rest and then break apart again, her stance slowly bleeding of its tension.

"Nicole." Huruma greets, eyes half lidded. No pretense of a 'Ms. Nichols' this time.

From her seat on the bed, Nicole nods her head in greeting. There's apprehension coming off of her in waves, but she has a hell of a poker face. For all the good it does her in the other woman's presence. "Huruma," she murmurs politely.

One bare foot is lifted from the floor and tucked under herself. It's a conscious move to display that she has no intention of going anywhere. "Make yourself comfortable."

At least Nicole doesn't seem to want to stage left once she sees who comes in; Huruma's tension eases a little more once it's clear she won't need to do more than settle in. She turns to prop the little lantern on something, clicking it off and tipping her head to the other woman. "I thought that we ought to speak." It is as much an invitation as is Nicole's offer to sit, which she takes.

Pulling up the lone chair, Huruma does just that, her side stiffened as she moves around. There's still something dignified about it. Like an animal who is trying not to call attention to the fact there's a cone around its neck. No shame held here.

"Of course." Naturally, Huruma would want to speak to her. Though that doesn't put Nicole at any sort of ease. She takes in a deep breath, settling one hand on her stomach - something that's becoming a habit now that she can't hide her condition anymore - and slowly exhales. She flickers a smile, genuine, but not strong enough to linger. "What would you like to discuss?" She has a couple notions.

Huruma's gaze does not travel far once it finds Nicole's, peripheral vision noting the hand to her belly, and the whispery shift that comes with her exhale. Once she has the woman's undivided attention, Huruma leans back in the chair, a hand on her knee flexing tenderly in thought. There are a few more things that she could say, aside from what she came to do. Temptation flickers on her face, but she forces her hand to stay simple, smooth voice taking on a darker intonation. "I would like to discuss your boarder."

The silence stretches uncomfortably, for Nicole, and she wonders if her uneasiness is a side effect of hormones or exhaustion or both. She's dealth with tougher negotiations. She's faced down mobsters. She's looked presidents in the eye and told them hard truths they didn't want to hear. But this gentle woman in front of her frays at Nicole's composure.

Glowing blue eyes snap up once she realizes why. In the back of her mind, something sparks, invisible to the other woman except as flicker of that gaze. "You mean my daughter?" They both know that's not who Huruma is referring to.

Huruma gives a look to the wall behind Nicole's head, lips pursing tightly and cheeks pulling inward as she sucks on her teeth. The signatures in the room shift with Nicole's own gaze, and Huruma gives a lazy, "No."

"Though once this is addressed, we may. If you wish." Huruma's eyes find Nicole's once more, the blue facing ivory whites, pupils dilated in the light. Her lips turn to a small smile, curved and a little mischievious. "No. Your other boarder, darling. Howard."

Nicole can't hold Huruma's gaze after she says his name out loud. Downcast, her eyes roam the lines in the stone floor. "What about him?" she sighs out, defeated. There's another slight wince that follows, annoyance (not Nicole's) mixing with that dejection.

Huruma is more stony when she feels them out, at least in the space of her eyes. They observe, and her mind listens. "How?"

"My ability," Nicole answers shortly, but not terse. She takes a moment to gather her thoughts before continuing. "I absorb electricity. Howard mimicks it. I… absorbed him. Somehow." She shakes her head quickly, looking up again finally. "I panicked. He was dying and I couldn't just let him." There's regret, such strong regret. Not for having saved his life, but for having stolen it.

Huruma's disbelief doesn't quite make itself known. But, in the end, it's not the strangest thing to have ever happened, is it? She doesn't ask for a reason, and Nicole gives it regardless. "Equal parts selfless and selfish." Her reply is soft, despite her choice of phrasing. "I can understand that." She pointedly does not look down at her injuries, ignoring their presence best she can even when she unhinges arm from sling to stretch it out to her lap. "You faced a difficult crossroads. It …will only be a matter of time before I am not the only one asking questions, you realize?" What next?

"Yes." Nicole knows she's going to have to explain the truth of her situation sooner or later. If only because she can't keep having these conversations in her own head that leave her distracted without someone getting concerned about her. "I don't know what to do. Neither of us does."

"So he has never done it before, either. I'm not surprised. It is too particular of a circumstance…" Huruma murmurs, still watchful of Nicole. For a few longer moments, Huruma is silent, head tipped. "I did not want to ask while we were on the road. It would have outed the issue …prematurely. I suppose that is fortunate."

There's only a numb nod of that dark head at first. There's a feeling of conflict that radiates from her, however. From Nicole and Howard alike. After several long moments, she looks up again. "You won't tell anyone, will you?"

"Should I be?" The dark woman questions. "Unless it proves unsafe, you and I have a secret. I did not tell Ben that you were upstairs, either." Huruma notes, legs moving to cross but abandoning partway in favor of crossing at the ankle instead; her features betray the twinging of stitches at her side, a lift of lip and a narrowing at her eyes.

There's a sheepishness at that. Nicole hadn't realized she had a signature that Huruma - unfamiliar as the two women are - could pick up on like that. "I'm… Thanks. For both of those." She's going to have to tell Ben next. She owes that to him. "I don't want to hurt him, Huruma. I care about Ben a lot." Something inside of her says she needs to affirm that.

Huruma's lips twitch into a faint smile for the sheepish reaction. She may have been waiting to whip that one out, it's true. But so is her word. They have a secret, for the time being. The thanks is given a nod, the rest a weighted, half-lidded look.

"I know that you don't. I have felt your anguish." Huruma's chin tucks somewhat, gaze travelling away, then slowly back again. One hand moves to thumb idly past where denim meets cotton layers. "So do I."

Huruma exhales, words momentarily caught on the tip of her tongue. "I trust that you will tell him sooner, rather than later. Perhaps a way to help you will reveal itself."

"I will," Nicole insists softly, followed by a momentary wince and another flash of annoyance. "I promise." A deep sigh signals relief. Apparently whatever quarrel was brewing has been quelled for now. "Thank you, Huruma. I hope you're right…" Neither she nor Howard wants this arrangement for the rest of her life, however long that might be.

For all that she brought her concerns here, Huruma still holds a curious look when conflict brews, head tilted slightly as if that might help her to listen. It's a little like some other instances she's encountered, but in this case— it's far more intimate. Electrical signals control the brain, anyhow. That's pretty near and dear.

With the electric elephant in the room addressed, Huruma doesn't yet move from her seat. Instead, she finally looks to where Nicole's hand likely still rests at the curve of her belly. "Is this your first?" Hopefully Nicole doesn't mind a little more grilling.

The question immediately unsettles her. "Yes," is the admission, voice still quiet, but not entirely timid. The other presence inside of her seems to be silent now. "I've… It's not my first time. I've never—" She swallows a lump in her throat, brows furrowing as she looks down to her hands. "I've never carried to term." She's also never wanted to be pregnant before.

Guilt washes over her, causes Nicole's head to droop, because she isn't sure she wants to be now. "I lied to Ben to try and spare him, in case… I didn't want him to—" She swallows again, decides on her words. "He doesn't deserve my burdens."

For whatever it may be worth to Nicole, the inital quiet and the soon to come admission of first termed do not seem to stir Huruma from her thoughts; she appears to accept it without another word, lacking in judgment of Nicole's choices. She is not one to do so.

Uncertainty and guilt are powerful, when they come. A profound power behind them, rather than force. Huruma's lips close tightly as she listens, the light of lamps reflecting off of her eyes. "I felt something from him that first night. Elisabeth— she blotted out the argument, but I felt it. So you lied? How so?" There is one more pause, punctuated by the movement of tongue behind teeth.

"There is no reason that you and he could not discuss what 'burdens' means to you." Huruma has a fair idea.

A tear slides down Nicole's cheek. She wondered why no one seemed to question her about the things they had shouted at one another. Now she understands. "I told him it wasn't his baby." Her eyes squeeze shut tightly, shame welling up in addition to that sickening guilt. "I didn't want him to grieve if I lost her. Wanted him to be mad at me. I wanted him to blame me."

Huruma is right. Nicole needs to put more faith in the man who she seems destined to be bonded to, one way or another. But Nicole's never been good at trusting anyone. Especially when it comes to matters of her heart.

Guilt and shame and anguish, flowing up like a steady little fountain. Huruma reads the scrolls of Nicole's emotions as they become unburied, the water in those bright blue eyes drawing the older woman's gaze. She remains silent through the tightness of frame and the stilted explanations.

"I cannot say he would be able to blame anyone but himself. Even if it weren't his." Huruma tests her words at first, before the rest come out at a steady pace, her voice low but measured. Careful. "Regardless of what happened, or what you have already said— he is worth taking the time to trust."

Trembling hands wipe at those leaking eyes, furious with herself for the display of emotion. But maybe it's because Huruma can read her like a book that she lets down her guards. "I'm going to try," she promises. "It's just… hard for me. I don't have a great track record." The men in her life have always seemed to let her down.

"I'm sorry," Nicole's voice comes out raspy, she clears her throat. "I don't mean to cry. I think it's the hormones." Whether it is or isn't, it makes for a convenient excuse. "You care about Ben a lot," isn't a question. "Why aren't you telling me to stay the hell away from him?" Because she's let down the men in her life quite a bit too.

Nicole may not have a great track record with partners, but Huruma is the least likely to judge over that. She used to have a bad record with most everyone. The thought tickles amusement in her mind, but soon she is back to Earth and watching the shimmery bulbs of tears form at the younger woman's eyes. What to do?

When Nicole apologizes for them, Huruma turns her palm out on her knee, fingers folded in indecision. She can help, but…

"Because I trust slowly too. Because I needed second chances. We are not dissimilar in that. I will not lie. I considered it—" Huruma's mouth firms, paling against dark skin. "Once or twice."

It stings to hear, but Nicole was prepared for it. Know she deserves it. "I wouldn't have blamed you," is the honest truth. She'd have tucked her proverbial tail between her legs and kept her distance from Ben Ryans. Hid from him for his own good. But Huruma talks about second chances, and seems to think Nicole deserves one.

Untucking that leg from beneath her, Nicole reaches out to take one of Huruma's hands in her paler one. "You saved his life," she murmurs, emotion thick in her voice again, but this time it's gratitude. "I can't begin to repay that."

Huruma's hand is longer, darker, stronger in its leanness, but when Nicole's hand comes to hers, there is a decided delicacy to her grasp; their hands are warm, and it seems to extend into Huruma's posture, her manner as she sits there and accepts.

You saved his life. The words sit like embers behind her eyes and behind her heart, coals of heat in her chest. The stitches at her side feel like a million tiny threads. "I did it for him," Huruma's words are placid, for what they are. "And his family. You included. And for me." She shows her teeth in a mellowed smile, sharing a moment of chagrin. "It was foolish. But I do not regret the outcome."

"I'm glad you're…" All right? No, that's not it. No lasting harm done? That she knows of… "Alive." More accurate. "I know it would have destroyed him if you had been killed." Nicole's seen the way those two interact. She knows that they have some sort of bond that she can never comprehend. A bond she's never had with another human being before. There's a small pang of jealousy, but it's bittersweet. She's glad that they have each other.

"Thank you. I should say the same to you." 'Alive' works. Huruma's brow creases faintly. "That is the same thing Megan said." And as it turns out, happens to be true. Her mind skirts the memory of a dream, and she knows it to be. "As I said… foolish. But clearly I live for spontaneity, hm?" Her free hand lifts, brushing at the air. Play it off. Rather than dwell, Huruma focuses on Nicole.

"If you desire calm, I can give it to you." Huruma's offer comes without strings, an echo of what she once tried to give to Howard. "With your sister, and your boarders" A tease, plural "Is rest difficult? I remember that I had trouble, the later months. Unrest."

Calm. Yes, Nicole could do with some calm. Her chin bobs up and down twice to convey her assent. "That would be nice… I don't sleep easily." She makes a nebulous gesture with her free hand. It the difficulties raised by her pregnancy as well as running on a full charge constantly. Because with her boarder, Nicole hasn't had need to draw more electricity into herself.

"I would be grateful."

Already dilated and reflective, the pools of inky black in Huruma's eyes deepen a touch more as Nicole gives her consent. In the castle and its waves of contrasts against her senses, focusing on one person is something Huruma has craved. The facets of calmness come with more moving parts to be able to hone in on a happy sort of serenity; to avoid a rush, the positive, passive feelings trickle from Huruma, honed by the touch of hands. There is an unspoken compassion in the way that she lays Nicole's mind into contentment. Perhaps her name means something after all.

It's quite remarkable how simple it seems for Huruma to set Nicole's troubled mind at ease. The happiness is conjured in memories of trick or treating with her little sister, sharing birthday cake and dividing their sugary plunder.

Those too-bright blue eyes lid and a small smile plays over Nicole's lips. It figures that her happiness comes from her sister's. The back of one hand presses up against her mouth to hide a yawn. "Amazing," she whispers.

Huruma's side aches some as she lifts her other hand, fingertips brushing back strands of Nicole's dark hair, tucking behind her ear and offering one more warm touch. "You deserve your rest too." She went in that place too. She fought. She walked. They won and lost all the same. Nicole held herself. "Go on. I will wait until you are out." To be sure.

There's no arguments from the younger woman. She's grateful to be the protected for once, so used to being the protector. The presence in her mind has quieted as well, it seems, so Nicole stands up from the bed long enough to pull back the covers and crawl in. "Good night, Huruma. Thank you."

Within minutes, she finds the refuge of rest she so desperately needs.

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