Cake and Counsel


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Scene Title Cake and Counsel
Synopsis In a state, Nicole reaches out to Kaylee for a safe haven and an ear when she's reeling from the results of her investigation into the mysterious circumstances of Erica Kravid.
Date January 23, 2021

Raytech Industries Corporate Housing

It was frankly a surprise when Nicole had called her, more so when she asked for a plane and a meeting. However, it wasn’t Kaylee who met her at the airport… it was Raytech’s Security Chief, Babar Barazani… most fondly known as Bob.

“Mrs. Miller, I am Bob. Ms. Thatcher has asked me to bring you back to Raytech safely,” said the Middle Eastern man. While Nicole had hoped for Kaylee herself, the former telepath had warned her that she might be held up. “If you will come with me, she will be waiting for you at her home.”

For all his politeness, the Security Chief had a natural intimidation about him.

Luckily, it isn’t that long before she’s delivered safely and seated at Thatcher’s dining room table with a glass of iced tea sitting in front of her. The dining room had an open feel, helped by a variety of plants and an arching glass ceiling. From within the plants a pair of drooping, cloudy amber eyes watch her from within the greenery.

Willy had his eyes on you.

View of the cat is cut off as Kaylee settles into a chair across from Nicole. There was no hiding the concern Kaylee had for her fellow Sundered. “If I may be blunt, Nicole… you look like hell.” It’s not an insult, mostly an observation of the poor woman’s state. “You get any rest on the way back?” Look at the pair of glasses between them, she asks, ”You want me to get you some coffee instead?”

“That’s just great,” Nicole responds easily. “I feel like hell.”

The escort from the airport hadn’t been a shock. As paranoid as Nicole is, she at least can reason out that she was speaking on a secure line from Raytech and that there shouldn’t have been anyone else expecting her on that flight. So, her reception had been polite. He’d been met with a handshake and given a sincere thanks when he left her in Kaylee’s care. She’s glad to know her cohort in all of this has someone like him to watch out for her. It’s one less thing for Nicole to worry about.

And she has so much to worry about.

“Coffee would be lovely.” Nicole looks around the apartment in the way that someone does when they aren’t really looking, but are feeling overwhelmed and can’t focus on any one thing. “I don’t sleep if I can help it,” she admits. “It doesn’t help anyway. Nothing helps.”

She hasn’t been the same since her electroshock experiment went so horribly wrong. “If you wanted to make it Irish, I wouldn’t complain.” Nicole takes off her sunglasses to scrub her hand over her face, rubbing the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. She’s starting to get marks from wearing those designer shades so often.

Her eyes are bloodshot, with puffiness and dark circles that tell the tale of someone who really doesn’t get enough rest. And it’s been documented in their portal that her migraines are constant and unresponsive to medication of any sort. That must be exhausting too. Perfectly Composed Nicole has been coming apart at the seams for months now.

“I can understand not sleeping,” Kaylee says sympathetically, watching the woman across from her suffering. There isn’t an offer for pain meds, because Nicole’s condition means she’s pretty hopped up already. “Too many nightmares waiting for me.” The deaths of hundreds of people waits for her in the shadows of her mind, the loss of her ability didn’t relieve her of that.

Rising to her feet and moving to the kitchen, she takes a moment to hook the thin curtain into a hook, allowing Nicole to see her as she works on that coffee. “I’m actually surprised y’all contacted me,” Kaylee calls back to the woman at the table, offering up some of her confusion over the sudden visit. Pausing mid pour, she looks back over her shoulder. “I’m used to people going to my brother.” That bit has an edge of amusement.

“Not complaining mind you, I’m here to listen,” Kaylee adds quickly, not wanting Nicole to think she’s not glad to have her there. “Cream or sugar?”

“Richard has enough on his mind.” Which isn’t to say Kaylee doesn’t. But that maybe this is more in the same vein of what already weighs on her? Nicole shakes her head to the question posed to her, grateful for the curtained window as she looks up to make eye contact. “Black, please.”

There’s a full body cringe, Nicole pressing her palm to her forehead. The sharp intake of breath between her teeth suggests it’s less about the pain — although it’s ever-present, so it must be somewhat of a factor. It’s the prelude to hard crying, but Nicole keeps it inside. How often does she do that?

She sighs heavily, another smaller cringe follows, then she’s no different than she was when she walked in the door and took her seat. The sunglasses are settled back on her face before she tips her head back and exhales hard.

Nicole comes back to center. “Maybe I shouldn’t be here. Bothering you, I mean. I know it’s… I know you don’t mind company.” She offers a smile that’s shaky at best. Though Kaylee can’t see her eyes through the dark lenses, the slant of Nicole’s dark brows speaks to some kind of fear.

“Plain ol’ bean water it is,” Kaylee teases lightly, to cover the concern over the woman’s demeanor. “You’re right though, Richard tends to have a ton on his plate.” Kaylee isn’t over her head in Raytech things, giving her a chance to focus on the Sundered’s dilemma. Not that they have gotten much.

After a few more moments, the coffee is set before the woman. Though it’s followed by a piece of chocolate cake on a floral patterned plate and a simple fork. “Figured you might need a bit of comfort food, too.”

Sitting down again, Kaylee assures the other woman, “And I absolutely don’t mind the company.” The concern is back, reflected back at her in those lenses. Still she manages a bit of a smile, leaning on the table with folded arms. “I’m also notorious for being a listener. No shrink, but I am here to listen. So what’s on your mind?”

“You’re an angel, Kaylee.” Nicole picks up the fork and immediately digs into a corner of the slice of cake, savoring it with a silent sigh. The little moment of bliss is short-lived, of course. Not all ills can be cured by chocolate.

There’s no easy way to approach this subject, so Nicole just dives right into it. “My actions caused a man to kill himself today.” There’s a tremor in her voice when she admits it. “I didn’t— It wasn’t— It wasn’t supposed to work that way. I begged him not to before I left. But he did it. And I ran instead of going back to see if he was still alive. If I could have saved him.”

Nicole has killed people before, but it was during the war. It was different. It wasn’t this. “I may as well have pulled that trigger myself. I— Jesus Christ.

“I dunno about Angel, but…you’re welcome,” Kaylee offers with a touch of amusement.

There is a grimace at the rundown of events that landed Nicole at Kaylee’s dining room table. What Nicole will find absent from the former telepath’s face is judgement or disgust, only understanding and sympathy. “Sometimes, we can’t escape our demons, but… what separates them and like… us… is we’re stronger than that,” says the woman who went catatonic when she lost her ability.

“You can’t blame yourself for his weakness, Nicole,” Kaylee says matter of factly. “If there is one thing I understand it’s the things that drive people too far.” She’s literally done that on purpose, not that anyone knew that. “For all you know, he’s been contemplating it for sometime.” Might not be the most reassuring, but it’s the truth.

“What happened to drive him to that decision?” Kaylee asks curiously. “I mean, if whatever he told you has been haunting him, it may simply be that now he’s told someone he feels he can finally rest.” Again… not overly reassuring.

Nicole inhales sharply and wipes away a tear as soon as it falls beneath the level of her frames. “I don’t know… It seems like something he’d managed to lock away and… He’d made something of his life. He was more than one awful circumstance he was put through by people who’re paid enough money to stuff their mattresses with so they can sleep at night.”

The coffee is picked up and sipped from to test the temperature. Finding it acceptable, she takes a larger drink. It doesn’t steady her the way she hoped it would. Setting the cup back down in front of her, she pulls the sunglasses off next and sets them aside. There are more tears where that first one came from, so she may as well just get them out of the way.

“Imagine knowing something so awful that just gnaws at your insides and tries to work its way out of you.” Again, Nicole wipes at her face. Irwin Croft’s secret is now her secret to bear. “I was trying to find information about us. About what happened, but… I’ve stumbled on something else entirely. Government conspiracies that go so deep…”

The laughter is a helpless thing, the kind born of nerves rather than amusement. “You can’t tell Richard. He’ll try to dig and… he can’t. Not this one.” Nicole presses a trembling hand to her mouth, her chin cradled by the curl of her fingers, the heel of her palm and her thumb.

“Have you met my family?” Kaylee asks Nicole with a matter of fact look and a small smile. “Our life is full of awful things, some pretty bad.” Like the fact that the world they lived in was the fault of their father and his desire to protect his kids. It was a closely guarded secret and their cross to bear. “Not to mention as a telepath, I’ve been privy to some pretty horrible stuff. Yet, here I am.” It hadn’t torn her up yet.

Noting the tears with a press of lips, Kaylee gets up and moves to another curtain, brushing it aside. “Don’t blame yourself for his choices and don’t think of his secrets as your burden,” she continues from what looked like the living room. “Now that you have this information, you need to decide if you were guided to it for a reason. Is it some skeleton to be shoved into the back of a closet and forgotten? Or is it potentially something that could eventually affect us all now.”

“Look at the Company or even the Institute,” Kaylee sweeps back in with a box of kleenex that she places on the table as she sits. “What they did is still coming up even years later. “ Kaylee gives a wrinkle of her nose. “And we all have to fix it.”

Nicole listens to Kaylee’s words, her kept silence only interrupted by the sounds of her sniffles. When the tissues are placed on the table, she takes one just to mop her face, then a second to blow her nose. “That’s… That’s just the thing, right? Someone I trust has been dodging me for almost a year now. He asked me to consider why that might be, then gave me just enough information to lead me to this awful thing. He said he was protecting me, but from what? From this? If that was his aim…”

Noah Bennet’s a far better shot than that.

“He led me right into a wolf’s den, and that wasn’t the part he was protecting me from.” Nicole lowers her face into her hands, elbows propped up on the table. “I just wanted to find my children. Now, I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, whoever sent you wanted you to find this person and their secret… whatever it is,” Kaylee says watching the woman across from her suffer, only able to imagine what she’s feeling but having never stood in her shoes. Still, that sharp twinge of fear of losing Carl… allows her to sympathize. “I know I’ve never said anything… honestly, I don’t know what to say other than, I’m sorry you’re going through this… but maybe I’m also holding out hope for you.” No parent should feel that.

Which after that, the next thing coming out of her mouth might sound weird.

“But… after the shot, did you go back in?” Kaylee asks the question as if it was the logical next step, but then one just has to realize who all she is related to. “He might have been driven to suicide by guilt, but someone like that, almost always has stuff tucked away. Like it’s their penance to hold on to their shame.”

There’s a nod of Nicole’s head. “Thank you… I know it’s… This is unimaginable. No one knows what to say. I wouldn’t have known what to say. I still don’t.” She sighs and scrubs her hands over her face, kneading the heels of her palms against her eyes.

The hands come down and her head lifts again when Kaylee asks her question. Grimly, Nicole fixes her with a stare, a mirthless smile touching her lips. “I was afraid to. I thought about the things I’d touched in that house and how I thought I’d left the scene clean, and it needed to stay that way, but…”

Her eyes get wide in that way that people do when they’re both manic and paranoid simultaneously. “I should have, though. I should have confirmed he’d done it to himself. I have a horrible fear that someone did it to him. That someone shut him up.” Frustrated, mad with herself, Nicole clutches at her coffee to keep herself from slamming a hand down on the table in her anger. “I should have gone back.”

“Emotions will do that,” Kaylee says with understanding. Turning thoughtful, fingers tap on her glass of ice tea. “Make you not think clearly in the moment and if this trip you thought you’d find an answer I can only imagine what his death did in that moment.”

After a sip of her tea, Kaylee offers a thought, “So go back. You’re SESA, which means your lead doesn’t have to end there.” She says it like her job solves everything. “You have jurisdiction and if there is anyone there, well… you can tell them you were following a lead on a case. Which technically you are.”

Of course, it could be considered an abuse of her authority, but… who had to know?

This was coming from an NYPD Scout Detective, too. “If you need support, I’m willing to come along. Not like our two agencies haven’t worked together before,” Kaylee offers with a small crooked smile.

Nicole shakes her head slowly. “CIA’s going to take point on this one, given that he used to work for them. I don’t have enough pull to insert myself into that situation. I might ask Nick Ruskin if he can run some interference or try to give me some kind of heads up if someone figures out I was out there.”

She smiles tightly. “I hate to admit it, but if there is some kind of shrine to his shame there, they need to find it. They need a readily apparent reason for his suicide. You know how these investigations go, after all. If there’s a simple solution left out in the open, then that’s that one that will be latched onto. I need this case to shut and be buried as quickly as possible. If I take an interest, someone’s going to want to know why.

There’s a quiet breath of laughter, the kind that’s made to manifest easier by frayed nerves. “You know, you would have done well with the Linderman Group.” Terrifyingly so, giving what Kaylee was capable of before the crash in Manitoba. Nicole sighs heavily. “We won this war so we could have a government we trusted. Why are people like you and I and your brother still trying to keep everything running smoothly ourselves?”

The former telepath glances down at the table, before looking off into the apartment thoughtfully. It was a good question. Her mouth tugs up at the corner, ruefully. “Sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness?”

But then, Kaylee huffs out a self-deprecating laugh. “Or we just have a really hard time giving up control and letting others handle the heavy lifting, while we stand back.” Though after a moment, she had to add rather matter of factly, “Though let's be real… there is a part of us deep down that just loves being deep in the thick of it.”

Hands curl around her glass, fidgeting… tracing her thumb through the condensation. “And… just so you know, I worked with Adam when I was young and stupid. That’s just as bad.” It wasn’t something she admitted a lot. Kaylee’s giving Nicole a level of trust.

“I mean, it did lead to where I needed to be,” Kaylee says after a moment. “So can’t complain too much.”

Nicole sucks in a breath and stares down into her coffee. “You’re not wrong.” They don’t let go. “It’s like an addiction, isn’t it?” She smiles wryly, lifting her gaze to Kaylee without lifting her head. “I’m honestly not one to judge you for your past affiliations. You were… You were a kid, basically. And I’ve seen firsthand how Adam Monroe can get someone all twisted and abandon everything. Principles. Morals… Family. You wouldn’t be the first. You won’t be the last… And I’m no angel either.”

Falling silent, the rattled SESA agent seems content to sit for a time, quietly sipping her coffee. “I suppose I just have to figure out my next move,” Nicole reasons with more calm than she actually feels. It’s exhaustion rather than any sense of clarity.

“I doubt there are many left that are innocent anymore,” Kaylee says quietly with a slow nod, “Which means we all get a second chance.” To do better, she doesn’t say, because they were skirting on the edge of that everyday.

Kaylee falls silent when Nicole does, allowing the woman her moment of peace serenaded by the rough gravel of Willy’s purr.

A small smile touched her lips when the other woman spoke up again, admiring her determination. “Well, if you need any help again, Nicole, you know where to find me,” Kaylee offers with no hesitation. “All this shit has kind of thrown us into a weird fellowship, where before the most we connected was through Colette.” Picking up her empty glass and the cake plate, she rises to her feet.

“Don’t tell ‘Lette though. She might get jealous,” Kaylee teases with a wink, clearly joking.

“Anyhow,” Kaylee steps around the table towards the kitchen, her tone friendly and welcoming, “I have more cake, a spare room, and quiet if you need it.” Placing the plate on the counter, she adds, “Or Bob can drive you home.”

Nicole looks somewhat surprised by the offer of further hospitality. Then, she eases, smiles faintly. “A place to sleep and regroup would be nice. My husband isn’t expecting me home until tomorrow anyway.” She looks troubled again, but only briefly. The look is hidden away again, if not the feeling. Kaylee knows better. She knows people, knows herself too well not to know a good front when it’s been put up.

“For now… Maybe another slice of cake?”

It’s not okay, but maybe, eventually, it will be.

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