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Scene Title Face
Synopsis Nicole Nichols is treated to a strong sense of deja-vu when Allen Rickham shows up to say goodbye for what he believes to be the last time. She's heard that line before.
Date October 3, 2010

Solstice Condominiums - Nicole Nichols' Home

The clunk of a car door slams shut, though the sound is drowned out by the rush of traffic at this early evening hour. Most people are returning from work, and for the woman stepping out of the black sedan parked streetside in front of a row of brownstones, that's entirely the same. Few people in the city — knowingly, anyway — work for Daniel Linderman, especially to the extent that Nicole Nichols does. Up and off of the street she makes her way across the sidewalk, hair caught in the gust of cool breeze that carries with it fallen leaves the shade of fire across the sidewalk.

Up the concrete slab steps to the apartment door, fingers fumbling with keys and one arm balancing a purse, she makes the assessment that Colette hasn't stopped by from the lack of dirtbike parked out front hogging an entire car's parking space.

But something is immediately wrong when the keys hit the doorknob. Instead of sliding into the lock and rolling the tumblers, the key missed the mark by a centimeter, striking the doorknob, which pushes the unlocked front door out into the apartment, swinging wide before being caught on the wind to strike at the wall with a loud clunk. The door casing has been splintered, signs of a forced entry apparent even from the chain jingling on the door that swings loose, like someone just pushed the door in with one simple nudge.

Dread fills Nicole, settles into a cold, hard knot in the pit of her stomach and leaves her wanting to vomit.

Hasn't she been here before?

Deja-vu is a powerful sensation. Especially when she can put an exact date to the notion. Nicole reaches into the pocket of her slacks and tugs out her BlackBerry, pulling up the contact information for Manny Calavera. She dashes off a message in seconds. The Grand Mistress of the BlackBerry Text Message.

I may be in trouble. Come by my place if you hear nothing in 5.

This time, Nicole doesn't reach for her gun after tucking away her phone. She has better ways to protect herself these days. She pushes open the door with one hand crackling at her side, casting a blue glow.

Creeping into the apartment, it's like playing a match game — what's different from the picture in her head from earlier? A pair of nylons with a tear in them tossed over the arm of the sofa, a nearly empty glass of red wine left on the coffee table, a photograph of Jennifer Chesterfield clipped from a magazine. Nothing seems terribly out of place, and the electronics are all intact, everything in the apartment seems to line up properly with what lingers in the back of Nicole's mind. Even as she moves across the hardwood floor, her mind races to pick up a detail — any detail — that might stand out.

Sound, as it seems, is one of those details. "If you want to kill me, that would be the one way to do it." The voice is unmistakable, even when it sounds like it's being spoken into a tin-can by a man who smoked all of his life. The throaty rasp of Allen Rickham echoes with a hollow, metallic quality from the kitchen. Standing behind the island, shouldered up against the refrigerator, a tall man in a brown trench coat and gray hooded sweatshirt stand motionlessly, the hood pulled up over his head to shadow his features in the dimly lit apartment, trench coat pulled tightly with a belt around the waist.

"Why'd you change the locks?"

"Allen?" The electricity dancing between Nicole's fingers is seemingly absorbed by her skin before she pushes the door shut behind her, for all the good it does with the busted lock. "Jesus fucking Christ, can't you call ahead like a normal person?" She jerks her thumb toward the door, "Because you busted the fucking lock last year."

Rubbing a hand over her face, Nicole raises her index finger on the opposite hand. "One… Just one minute. Or my goon squad's going to show up." The phone is retrieved. False alarm. Call you later. Message sent. Shoving the BlackBerry back into her pocket, Nicole crosses her arms over her chest and gives an exhausted sort of look to the intruder in her kitchen. "Which of you am I even talking to?"

Now it's Allen's turn to look surprised, confused. "I don't use phones anymore," is a worrying sentiment. He's fallen, hard, since Jennifer's death. His voice is different, she'd heard him speak in that hollow and metallic tone when he revealed to her the 'monster' that he was inside, but that still couldn't possibly account for the roughness and broken tones it has. It does, however, sound like the Allen she had met over a year ago in this very apartment. But, why not come in the flesh, instead of — "I came to say goodbye." Moving deeper into the kitchen as Nicole looks at him, Rickham lowers his head and shadows himself more with the hood, only the gleam of light reflecting off of his hematite eyes meets hers, and the faint suggestion of the pitted iron that makes up his transformed body.

Though as coal black eyes regard Nicole through the shadows of his hood, Rickham's situation begins to reveal itself to her. "It's good to see you…" his words trail off, and then return with a more bitter edge, "even if it has to be like this." When he moves out of the line of the shadows cast by the setting sun that filters into the apartment, Allen's face becomes partially illuminated; a scatted and pitted iron thing that looks to have seen so much damage, traced with paper-thin cuts, and some deeper grooves.

It both is and isn't the Allen who came to visit her in the summer of 2009.

Same horrible damage, but different locations.

"Are you seriously doing this to me?" Nicole sucks in a deep breath, unpinning her hair from the tight bun she had wound it in for her television appearance. Fingers bury into the dark chocolate locks streaked with electric blue, ruffling them and scratching nails over her scalp to try and make her brain work. "This is not acceptable. At all." Her lower jaw juts out defiantly, annoyed. "I am not doing this. I am not saying goodbye to you. Not again."

Black heels click audibly over the hardwood floor as Nicole purposefully strides to bridge the distance between herself and the man made of metal. She pulls away his hood and reaches up to trace the pitted lines of his face with a serious expression. In many ways, she's become much harder than he remembers her. Especially with how soft and vulnerable she had been after Jenn's death. It's clear it impacted them both a great deal. "I've missed you, too," she admits.

"I've been thinking about you a lot lately." The adoration that seemed to eternally be held in Nicole's gaze whenever she would look at Allen Rickham is still there in spades. Some things never change. "I didn't know how to find you. I didn't know who I trusted to ask to try and find you." Her brows lift, and furrow. "I'm not happy here, Allen." It's a heavier admission than a simple I miss you. "I'm not okay with the way things are. I want to make a difference. I want to do it with you." And there's that hardness to her voice. An edge so rarely heard by anyone. Determination is never lacking when Nicole makes up her mind, but this is something more than that. Something absolute.

It's hard to judge Rickham's reaction, even when he was a man of flesh and bone there was little reactive expression in his face. He was wearing a metal mask long before he was ever possessed of the iron body he has now. His silence has always been suffocating, now it's just debilitating. "I think about you too," he admits int he same breath as, "my family too. They're in Oregon, I wrote the address on the notepad on your refrigerator. A technopath named Rebel assures me they're safe. I need you to make sure of that, and if they're not, make it so."

Looking down to the floor, Rickham's neck creaks metallicly. "I'm going to do something about this city, this country, but I can't be the hero everyone wanted me to be." When he looks back up, there's a noisy groan of the metal again. "I can't change back, St— Nicole." Stephanie was almost on his lips.

"I'm stuck like this. If I change back… I'll die before anyone can do anything for me. I just…" Rickham's brows furrow together with a squeak of scraping metal. "I wanted to see you one last time. Soldiers don't often come back from wars."

"Your family," Nicole repeats flatly. "You want me to look after your family. Is that your way of trying to get me to back off?" Her frown is deep, unamused. "Not happening. I don't care if you can't change back. I don't care if you're stuck this way forever. I'm not bothered."

Lips curl back into a sneer subconsciously mimicked from John Logan. She points toward the door, anger building in her in a way he's never seen. "You wanna go play solider and walk the fuck out on me again? Fine. But you be fucking honest with me for once in your life." Nicole's finger jabs into his chest. To her credit, she hides the wince when it doesn't yield in the way that sensory memory told her it would. "I want to hear you say it. If you can't manage three fucking words, then you sure as fuck aren't ready to go to war."

Once more, Rickham's face is just as stoic as it was before, his hematite eyes staring down at her. There are no tear ducts to work, no visible tell to say he is upset, or that this hurts him as much as it hurts her. "I didn't love you," those are four words, and not the ones she wanted to hear. Turning slowly from Nicole, Allen Rickham moves with a heavy step across the living room, "not like that." It's a lie, but one he has to profess in order for this to hurt less for them in the future.

"But if you cared about me, even a little," and there lies the pause, as Allen turns to look back at Nicole, his brows furrowed and lips pressed together in a razor-sharp line. "Then you'll make sure my family stays safe. That my son knows his father was a hero. Nothing less." There's a weariness, even in his metallic voice. When was the last time he slept?

"I'm sorry," is something Nicole hears too much in her life.

"Why do you keep doing this?" Nicole asks in a voice ragged from the way emotion grips her throat. The tears glisten in her eyes but don't fall yet. "Sorry, I'm going to Alaska and I'm never coming back. Sorry, I'm from the future and if you loved me you'd go to me. Sorry, Jenn's dead and I've lost all hope and heaven forbid I put any faith in you." A shrill, frustrated whine pierces the air as she backpedals two steps and winds her fingers in her hair, tugging at it for lack of anything better to do with her hands.

"You keep coming here and you keep saying these things to me and do you even have any fucking clue how that makes me feel?!" It's a slow thing, the way that Nicole's hair begins to stand on end, and the way that her eyes don't just shine with tears, but with barely restrained energy. "Do you even care?" Her arms snap down, bent at the elbow with her hands facing palm up, fingers curled partway inward like claws. "Do you just come here because I'll look at you and tell you I love you and tell you how important you are to me and you think that gives you what you need so you—"

Fingers grasp at hair again, dragging up the back and leaving it mussed and looking distinctly as though someone's been rubbing a balloon over her head. "You are the most frustrating man I have ever met in my entire life. I am not your fucking pep talk that you can just waltz in and take advantage of when you're feeling low." Now her arms fall to her sides, her head drooping, and Nicole looks defeated. "You were my whole world. Everything I have ever wanted in a person. In a partner. And I was… too stupid to see you've just been taking advantage of me. I don't know what to do with you anymore."

Her hands come halfway up as if to move to cover her face before they drop back again. "I want to tell you to get the hell out and never come back. And I want to tell you that I want to spend the rest of my life with you." When Nicole lifts her head again, the tears have finally spilt down her cheeks and her normally dark blue eyes are bright, glowing.

"It wouldn't be very a very long one," is Rickham's answer, its likeness to his exterior's temperature and texture unsurprising. "I failed you and this country because I was a coward. I failed Jennifer when she needed me the most, I have failed my family to be a father to my son. I am nothing, if not this nation's largest and glaring mistake." Allen turns again, walking to the door before coming to a stop by it, the electricity — even at a distance — palpable enough to send a chill down his spine.

"I've been asked to do something," Allen states flatly, his tone of voice one of measured guilt, "if you see me in the papers, try and remember that man that was your world, and not the monster that ruined it. I…" Allen's eyes shut with a scrape of metal on metal. "I tried for years to hide what I am inside from the world, and now that I can't change back… the Allen you knew is gone. I wanted to say goodbye, because you deserved to know I'm not the monster they'll say I am… I'm the monster you know."

Nicole sniffles loudly, her hands coming up to cup over her mouth and her nose. "I love you," she insists for what feels like the thousandth time. She wants to run after him, pursue him, but it's… oddly fitting, somehow, that her ability is his foil. A poetic parallel to their situation.

She wipes a hand under her nose and crosses her arms again. Her expression is pained, showing her breaking heart in her face. "I will continue to do what I've done all along, and tell everyone you're my hero. And that I believe in you. Because I always have, and I always will. Allen… Please let me help you."

There's no answer as he lingers by the door, one hand on the broken knob, he hadn't even meant to break the lock, it just happened by accident. There's a guilty curl of metal fingers against his palm, hematite eyes focused down on the floor, then back over his shoulder to Nicole. "I know you do," isn't quite confirmation enough, but if Nicole Nichols has ever been able to read anyone, even just a little, Allen Rickham's moments of emotional distress in his voice are tells she does recall.

"There's no helping me, Nicole. Not for you, not now. You have a future to look forward to and a family that loves you." His neck creaks metallic as he strains to look at her just a little more. "You were always the one with the good ideas. The brains. I was just the face, Nicole…" Were there ever an apology he could give, it would be accrediting his Presidential Victory to Nicole Nichols.

"Find your face," Rickham offers as a piece of parting advice, "and the world is yours."

"Allen," Nicole calls out firmly. "Let me be the face. I can do it." There's conviction in her voice. She believes it. "I can pick up where Jenn left off. You believed in her." She presses a hand to her chest. "Believe in me. I can do it. The right way. I can be the face. You be my foundation. We can do it."

He'd just pushed the door open, fingers lingering on the doorknob, head shaking slowly with a creak each time. "You can stand without me," Allen offers with regret in his voice. "I had my chance, to be the man this country needed. But all the times they were cheering?" Allen turns, his eyes puts of black against a cold steel exterior.

"They were cheering for you."

If ever there were words he was willing to leave on, it's those. That he leaves now, is because it will be better for the future, her future, the more distance is put between them both. With what he has to do, she can't be connected to him anymore.

She's the one with a future now.

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