Breaking the Ice


byrne_icon.gif cooper6_icon.gif emily_icon.gif lance_icon.gif nicole3_icon.gif robyn6_icon.gif voss_icon.gif

Scene Title Breaking the Ice
Synopsis SESA NY's newest agent is on site and has the chance to make a few introductions.
Date January 25, 2021

“Look. You survived the shark tank that was DC, and then KC?” Nicole Miller grins to the taller man with silvering hair as they step out of her office. “You’re going to be fine.”

She, however, doesn’t look the part. Worse for wear, eyes hidden behind a pair of sunglasses so dark it’s a wonder she can see through them. It’s not unusual for him to see her wearing shades, given how the glow of her eyes can be intimidating, but he hadn’t observed it earlier when she’d taken them off briefly to wipe them with a cloth. And usually she goes in for something tinted blue and mirror finish on the lenses. While designer has always been Nicole’s thing, the rest of the styling just doesn’t feel right.

“Come on.” She nudges his arm with her elbow, pleasantly enthusiastic in spite of her migraine. While she’s put together sartorially, she physically looks like she needs about a month to convalesce. “Let’s see who’s in. I’ll introduce you around and then show you to your desk.

Governor's Island
Fort Jay
January 25, 2021
9:42 AM

Surveying the bullpen, Nicole is derailed from whatever thought process she may have been in the midst of when a slender blonde strides into the office with a cup of coffee in hand. “There she is!” The cheerfulness in her tone at least doesn’t suggest that the junior agent is in any trouble. “May I borrow you for a moment? There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

Not waiting for that answer of the affirmative, Nicole converges on the younger woman’s location. “Emily Epstein, I’d like you to meet Zachariah Byrne. He’s an old friend of mine, and,” she adds, “the latest addition to our little slice of paradise.” That’s sarcasm, however effervescently delivered. “Emily here is my assistant. At least for a few more days, I hope.”

It’s been a minute since Emily’s seen Nicole in a good mood. It’s almost unnerving.

The young woman in particular is used to being immediately on-guard whenever attention is called to her, especially if it's done in a pleasant tone of voice. The microexpressions visible in her eyes and brow is masked by the aviator sunglasses she wears perched over her face, only the tilt of her head visible toward them. "Yeah, just a sec." She heads for her own desk, slips off her bag and jacket after setting aside her coffee, and hangs everything where it needs to go.

After that's done, she slips off her sunglasses and turns to Nicole and Zachariah's approach, one that's right on top of her now. Okay, then. No personal space this morning.

The young woman fixes a thin, tight smile for the stranger. Not that he knows, but this is the first occasion for her to show her face unobscured in some time, having looked more along the lines of Nicole with her shades for the last month and change. Peacoat shed, she wears a baby blue blouse with a wide white collar, paired with a beige knee-length skirt and thick black leggings finished by auburn flats. Her pale hair is long, kept off at least one side of her face with a clip that pushes it back, though the other side hangs freely off her shoulder. She offers her hand out for a shake.

"At least for a few more days," Emily elucidates with a flat humor. "After that, I've done such a shit-tier job of things that they're shipping me out of the country for a while."

"Oh, and— should anyone ask— no, I don't have green blood." With a momentary flash of teeth to her smile, she adds, "But if you hear anyone mention something along the lines of making like a tree in reference to me while I'm gone, you'd do me a favor by letting me know."

“What? You mean like… You’re leaf’ing me for another country, Junior Agent Epstien?” comes a mock whine from behind Emily. Wheeling up from behind, Cooper stops next to Emily and gives her a soulful look. “But who is going to give me a leg up and keep me organized?” There is a cage on his lap with… a guinea pig in it. “Al will miss you a lot. He expects carrots when you get back.”

It gives a soft whek as if knowing what Thomas is saying… (Hint: it doesn’t)

Flipping the wheel chair around, Cooper rolls backward with a wink to Emily. “Seriously, tho… careful over there.”

Look up at Nicole and Byrne as he rolls back past them, he gives a small wave. “Hey new guy, whatever they tell you about me ignore it, Gerken on the other hand…” Cooper offers a cheeky grin before, before whipping the chair back around properly and wheeling off towards his desk and leaving them to tour… or whatever. “Careful of that one.”

“That is the only thing you’ve said that’s worth listening to, Thomas Cooper,” Nicole retorts, but with not bite to it. For all that his jokes to Emily might get under her skin, he means well, and Nicole can’t help but be fond of him.

Looking back to to Byrne, Nicole imparts her own warning, “Gerken’s a menace.” That too is said fondly.

Byrne lets his smirk relax into a professional smile as Nicole leads him into the main office. He takes in the chaotic decor with a slight quirk of his eyebrow. It’s certainly homey.

He smiles when he accepts Emily’s handshake, and lets her contextless comments roll off of him. He’ll let someone else explain the plant references whenever that happens. Phytokinetic, maybe? “Pleasure to meet you. I’ll keep you up to date on the office chatter,” he offers.

Agent Cooper’s driveby—and another tree reference—don’t give Byrne much time to properly introduce himself to the man. He’s familiar enough with people who say Don’t believe what anyone says about me. “I’ll take that under advisement,” he says cheerfully.

He turns back to Emily. “I can’t remember the last time I got out of the country,” he admits. “Somewhere warm, I hope?”

Emily turns to meet Cooper's look with a flat one of her own, incapable of finding humor in the topic. For all his attempts to help it roll off her shoulder better, her dip in mood doesn't lift back. Her hands clasp together before her, and once Cooper's gone, she looks back to Byrne with a cooled disposition that could certainly benefit from somewhere warm.

"South of the equator, so I should hope," she answers without looking directly at Byrne, though her eyes lift to his immediately after. Like at the last moment she decides to let him in on something after all. Whatever it is goes unclear before she asks, "What about you? What warmer place are you joining us from?"

"Out of the country?" This voice comes from someone leaning against a pillar just up ahead. Robyn Roux looks a little more haggard than usual, but despite that she has an almost polarizingly bright smile as she sips on a hot cup of something. "That sounds like quite the assignment, Emily."

Not Epstein, this time. It seems the Junior Agent has finally gotten her to shake that habit.

Looking past Emily, Robyn's green eyes settle on Byrne, head angled in a way that reveals slightly dark rings under her eyes. "Haven't seen you before," she states rather obviously, pushing off the wall and closing the gap. "Special Agent Roux," she offers with an extension of her hand.

“The balmy climes of Washington, KC,” Byrne says to Emily with an easy chuckle that covers most of an involuntary twinge in the corner of his eye. “Though I’ve been all over the country with Secret Service details. Thankfully I can keep warm at the expense of my surroundings, so winter usually isn’t too bad.”

He keeps the smile as he turns his attention to Robyn. “Special Agent Roux,” he says as he accepts the handshake. “Pleasure to meet you; regular Agent Zachariah Byrne. I’ll admit I’m probably going to take a while to stop occasionally introducing myself as Special Agent Byrne. The Secret Service spoiled me in that.”

Nicole regards Byrne with a tilt of her head, something thoughtful in the lines of her expression, but no creases that seem to belie anything critical. “Once you get a feel for the dynamic, you’ll find your fit. We’ve lost some members due to restructuring and relocation, so you’re a very welcome infusion here, Za—”

She catches herself, a tight smile. “Agent Byrne.” Smoothly carrying on past that little blip, Nicole turns to Robyn to provide further context. “Special Agent Roux is one of mine,” she states with a small amount of pride. Whether that’s in Robyn or in the fact that she actually has agents who answer to her is really anyone’s guess. “She’s our liaison with Raytech Industries. They’re a bit of a handful, but they genuinely want to do good things, so the headache is quite often worth it.”

Whatever Emily sees in Byrne's reply brings a flicker in her eyes, a slight narrow to them, one she plays off much better than she did Cooper's joke. Robyn's appearance helps, bringing her to look away while she quietly turns over the sensations she'd drawn from him in her mind.

Loss, and anger. Redirection. Frustration. Acceptance. This is just the way it is now.

Loss, though, makes her wonder. It felt familiar. Grief, but not the kind that renders you unable to move. One where you'd want… justice…?

Emily smiles to Robyn as she's addressed, turning to the desk beside her to pick up her own up she brought in. It comes up light— so light it's empty. A moment of silence is given for the empty cup before she lobs it into the trash-can between her desk and Geneva's.

"I don't envy your new post, Robyn," she notes wryly as she looks back. Shifting to titles has always been a harder thing for the younger woman when it's not in an overtly formal setting. "I'd lose my patience over there pretty quick, I think."

"Oh trust me, Byrne, there's no such thing as a regular agent around here." Robyn is quick to drop formal titles once introductions are made, something that's still a stark contrast from the rigid, strictly professional woman of a few years ago. Nicole's moment of pride gets a smile from Robyn as she takes a sip of her drink.

It doesn't smell like alcohol, at least, which is probably a relief to people who know her even almost a year after her near death. If anything, it smells floral.

"Raytech is…" Robyn pauses, eyes tilting upwards as she searches for the right words. "Interesting, to be sure. A part of me misses liaisoning for Wolfhound, but for everything Raytech lacks in action it makes up for with fascinating science." She sniffles as she pushes off the pillar, raising an eyebrow to Nicole.

"Which reminds me, I should check in with Dana. Has anyone seen her?"

“Zach’s fine,” Byrne says, waving off Nicole’s formal address. They’ve known each other long enough for it not to matter, and he’s never been so uptight to demand formality at a meet and greet. “Or Byrne,” he adds, motioning to Robyn.

“I met a Wolfhound officer recently,” he says. “Had to leave in a hurry though what with all the panicking guests and gunfire. You certainly know how to throw a Halloween party in this town.”

There’s a young man about two feet behind Nicole, dressed in a clearly off-the-rack grey suit with a tie that has smiley faces all down it tucked in neatly. He’s got a cup of coffee in hand, his approach made literally no sound whatsoever, and he’s moving behind her when she does to keep out of her field of view but not completely fall behind. Neither is he going to get too close.

Lance tries to keep out of arm’s reach of Nicole when he can. He does flash Byrne a grin, raising his coffee cup in a playful salute to the man. Then he takes a sip. Similarly without making a sound.

Byrne tracks Lance’s movement around the room with a slight hitch of an eyebrow. He nods in return. “I didn’t realize we had a mime in the Department,” he quips.

Emily's blue eyes track behind Nicole to find Lance, giving him a slight shake of her head when she sees he means to keep standing there in his bubble of silence. There's an edge of warning to it. Nicole's been on edge lately, and her realizing someone is lurking behind her without her knowing likely won't help.

But Byrne broaches that topic more gracefully than she might. The corner of her mouth ticks back in a rueful, momentary smirk, her right hand lifting in a subtle gesture. Busted, she laments as much as teases. Then her hands come back before her in a polite clasp while the group continues to linger behind her desk.

"Lance here," Robyn starts with a very particular emphasis, "is our resident class clown." Taking a sip of her drink, an almost unnerving smile forms on her face as she turns to face Lance. "But he's taking some time off from that right now. Aren't you, Lance?" Another sip and a contented sigh follow.

"Has Nicole given you a full tour yet, or is that what's happening now? I don't have a River Styx poster to assault anyone with this time, so I have to find another way to make myself unwelcome." There's a small laugh and an apologetic look over to her superior at that, though the way she raises her eyebrow indicates the question might have been genuine.

“A mime?” Why is everyone staring at her like that? Wait, not at her… Lance? Nicole turns around and—

“What the cinnamon toast crunch is wrong with you, Gerken?!” Nicole shouts in alarm — and using her Mommy Vocabulary — startled to find she has a shadow dressed in grey. It’s a disproportionate reaction on the surface to someone who just happened to be standing closer than expected. Even with the way he sneaks up like that.

He may be standing out of range, but it only takes a full stride and a lean forward to put her into it. “You have got to stop doing that,” she tells him in a softer voice, but one that’s no less serious even though it’s much warmer in tone. See? She’s being nice about it, but seriously, Lance. Please. Help a bitch out. Reaching up, she gives him a playful shove like siblings or friends would do. Or someone’s dorky mom, Nicole.

Except that shove puts Lance flat on his ass, his coffee spilling everywhere, leaving Nicole aghast, her hand clamped over her mouth briefly in horror. “Oh my gosh. I— I don’t know what happened.” Behind her darkened lenses, Nicole’s eyes squeeze shut and she groans. She’s going to get a reputation for assaulting co-workers at this rate. “Are you okay?” She’s quick to offer a hand out to him if he wants her help back to his feet.

As he’s called out, Lance lets the silence bubble drop. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Agent Roux,” he replies in all innocence, offering Byrne a conspiratorial wink, “I was just coming over to meet the new guy, is all.”

Then Nicole’s turning on him, and he jumps just a little but then grins as she approaches, eyebrows going up, “I have to keep in practice, you know, Agent Mill— ooofph— “

Upright to on his ass in the hallway in one motion, the hot coffee going all over his suit. At least it’s off the rack, although it’s his only one - not that he’d admit it at work. “Oh shitshitshit— “ The hand’s accepted, but he’s more concerned with, “Anyone got a towel? Shit, Nicole, you’re stronger than you look— “

Emily's eyes flash in shock, the fold of her hands collapsing. Two paths unfold before her eyes: swap tour guide positions with Nicole, or help Lance to the kitchenette. She re-examines those options through the optics of others, decides firmly on the second. Separating Nicole from Byrne won't help as much as getting Lance out of line of sight.

But really, what the hell had happened there just now?

"Let's go raid a cabinet for some towels." Paper or cloth? They'll find out on the way. Emily waves a hand to Lance to begin ushering him away.

Byrne’s too far away to grab Lance as Nicole sends him to the ground, though he lurches slightly as his body tries anyway. He stands in confused silence as the situation is resolved.

Then he steps forward with his hand out, not to offer a handshake, but to quickly sap the heat from the steaming coffee saturating Lance’s suit. Not enough to bring it below room temperature, or to create any visible effect as he conducts the heat through his other hand into the office. He leaves the hand available for a shake just in case. “Pleasure to meet you, Junior Agent Gerken,” he says, to offer something to the bizarre interaction.

He then looks to Nicole with an eyebrow raised just enough to ask What just happened while actually meaning Are you okay.

“I’m so sorry,” Nicole says to Lance as she helps him up, rather effortlessly at that, stepping back quickly as if she’s afraid to cause more damage. “I’m so, so sorry.” Pressing her lips together, she gives Emily a little nod. “Thank you.”

“I’m okay I’m okay, seriously, I just must’ve slipped,” Lance protests at all the concern, waving his hands around vaguely. At least the coffee isn’t burning! He takes the offered hand aimed down at him to clasp and pull himself up with Nicole and Byrne’s help - not realizing what Byrne did - and then he’s flashing a grin, “Good to meet you, uh, I’m usually not that clumsy.”

Towels, yes— he moves away after Emily quickly, muttering something about a laundromat.

Emily turns back to offer a thin smile to the other agents as Lance does, then she's shepherding her fellow junior agent away. "Jesus Christ," she only mutters once she's a good distance away, putting herself out of earshot and eyeshot of her desk.

Once they’re on their way to the supply closet, Nicole finally looks over to meet Byrne’s gaze. The way she lifts her hands over her mouth to whisper a series of muffled fuckfuckfuckfuckfucks under her breath indicates that she’s not okay even before she shakes her head. It’s at odds with what she says after she drops her arms to her sides again. “Yeah. He just must’ve already been off balance. I didn’t think I pushed that hard. It was just supposed to be a nudge.”

He’s seen this look, this reaction on her before. Many vets don’t deal well with being sneaked up on. Nicole snorts out a little half-hearted laugh. “You still want me to lead your tour?”

Byrne watches the junior agents go before turning back to Nicole. “Lead the way,” he says, though he’s not sure which way this tour was headed. “Unless you need a minute. I’ll keep an eye out for any more lurking Gerkens either way.”

“You joke,” Nicole says with a short breath of a chuckle, “but he has a sister. With the NYPD, though, not with us.” Chances of running into Hailey Gerken are considerably lower.

Nicole takes a deep breath and a moment to seem to recenter herself. “Let’s get you over to meet the bosses, huh? You’ll have more opportunity to mingle with the bullpen once you get settled at your desk.” She offers Byrne a sly grin. “And trust me, they won’t give you a choice in the matter.”

The reach for his arm is out of some old habit, but she turns it into a light tap, as if to both catch his attention and seal the intent of their next steps. “This way.” Seeming at first to lead him back toward her own office, Nicole takes a turn down the offshoot hallway and to the first of two heavy wood doors. The placard identifies the office as belonging to Kristopher Voss. Lifting her hand, she raps on the door quietly, but not hesitantly.

Byrne smiles as he follows Nicole’s lead back toward the offices. “Sounds like a good crowd. If it gets to be too much I’ll just make it unbearably cold near my desk.” As they stop before the office of Kristopher Voss, he wonders idly how prepared the deputy director is for his arrival. He isn’t worried about something being leveraged against him, so he doesn’t spend too long on it.

“Come in,” calls a flat if somewhat nasally voice from the other side of the door.

Deputy-Director Voss is at his desk when Nicole opens it, a meticulous space set in one corner of Fort Jay that primarily views the somber outline of the Manhattan Exclusion Zone across the river. The jagged, broken skyline of Manhattan’s fire-bombed ruins surrounded by a high concrete wall set a tone for the meeting.

Voss doesn’t get up from his desk when Nicole and Byrne come in, folding his hands in front of himself. “Agent Byrne, it’s good to see Special Agent Miller showing you around. I’d invite you to meet with Director Nazan, but she’s otherwise occupied with our UN Observer at present.”

“Good morning, sir,” Nicole greets in a far warmer fashion than she has in months, almost edging on cheerful. “I intercepted the new blood on his way in and figured I may as well show him around.” The jitters of the altercation in the bullpen are forgotten for now. She’ll remember just as soon as they’re out the door again.

For now, Byrne earns himself a fond smile from his old friend. “You’ll be reporting to Special Agent Ayers, who’s Deputy-Director Voss’ assistant.” Her shoulders shrug lightly. “Corbin’s likely squaring away your welcome packet with HR and getting your logins from IT as we speak. He’ll introduce himself as soon as he’s available.” Nicole lifts her gaze to the window, eyeing the ruins with a quiet solemnity.

“Deputy Director Voss, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Byrne says with a nod of his head to the boss’s boss. He doesn’t extend a hand to shake; Voss’s decision to remain seated with his hands folded says a lot. Not actually greeting him in any way says more.

“I’m sure I’ll run into the director eventually, though in my experience UN observers like to take their time observing.” It’s said affably, not a slight against the global alliance. Just a way to acknowledge familiarity with the day to day of government work without saying, Mondays, am I right?

“Just be careful what you say in an empty room, you never know when the director’s running on private mode.” Voss remarks with a crooked smile, somewhat distracted by something he sees on his phone. He turns the device face down onto his desk, then looks up to Byrne. “She turns invisible,” he adds rather bluntly.

“It’s good to see you, though,” Voss uses as an excuse to sweep aside the previous comment. “Your reputation speaks well of you, and so does the Vice President. We’d have been out of our minds not to take the recommendation. But I will warn you, this posting is…” Voss makes a noise in the back of his throat and settles back against his chair, “it’s a lot to handle. New York has always been a hotbed of activity, and it’s only gotten worse since the war.”

The sight out the window has long since ceased its hold on Nicole’s attention, but she folds her hands together in front of herself with a polite smile. Byrne’s reputation is plenty impressive without her needing to talk him up. This isn’t a fledgling agent, a nobody with no record, save accounts from the warfield.

Lowering her head, she reflects on just how she got to where she is, corner of her mouth turning up in an unconscious and rueful smirk. It hasn’t gone by the time Nicole looks up again, her attention given squarely to her old friend. “Most people around here are polite enough to stab you in the chest, rather than sneaking up from behind, though.” Nothing like their time in KC and DC before it. “There’s that at least.”

Byrne nods thoughtfully. “I greatly appreciate the Vice President’s recommendation. I’m accustomed to quick priority changes, and I don’t mind keeping busy,” he tells the deputy director. “I have been teaching on and off for the last couple of years, so I’m happy to provide that service for agents here as well. I feel that some of the less commonly thought of responsibilities of a Secret Service agent can lend a lot of utility in other roles. Firearms, driving, counter surveillance.”

“Though come to think of it, I haven’t had much opportunity to test that last one against invisibility yet,” he admits, turning to Nicole to ask as an aside. “What’s the office’s stance on pocket glitter?”

Voss laughs, an almost spiteful and yet self-satisfied cackle of a thing that Nicole has never heard erupt from him in such a fashion. “Miller,” Voss says with a motion to his door. “Make sure to introduce Agent Byrne and Agent-Trainee Gerken. I think we can confidently say that’ll be a learning experience for Gerken and… honestly, probably you as well Byrne.”

“Gerken’s home-grown ability makes him a potentially invaluable counter-surveillance officer, but his hard and soft skills aren’t there yet. If you’re willing to take on a protege, I think you’d have a lot to teach him. He may be young, but he’s been though a lot.”

Then, Voss smiles and motions to the door with his chin. “Be sure to ask him about the glitter, too.”

Hiding her surprise behind a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes, Nicole is grateful for the way her shades obfuscate her expression, masking just how bewildered she actually feels. “I’d recommend practicing on Agent Taylor first,” she asides in a stage murmur. “Becky also possesses invisibility, along with a mischievous streak.”

Nodding her head to Voss, Nicole gestures toward the door. “We won’t take up any more of your time, sir. I’ll make sure to approach Lance with the mentorship opportunity.” Letting Byrne step into the hallway first, she murmurs quietly to him as she shuts the door behind her, “Come on. Let’s find Ayres so we can get you a permanent badge and log-in. I’m not escorting you into the office every morning.”

Nicole flashes a grin as the door closes with a quiet click.

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