Favor For Favor


nicole_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif

Scene Title Favor For Favor
Synopsis Two associates meet to discuss matters of quid pro quo.
Date December 6, 2018

Bay Ridge: Nicole's Brownstone

It isn’t often that Nicole Varlane entertains guests in her home that aren’t on her short list of friends, but Richard Ray is beginning to edge his way onto that roster. The living space is mostly devoid of signs of a six-year-old’s presence. There’s a booster seat on its side in the kitchen by the fridge, which has a couple drawings held to it by magnets advertising local businesses. The toys have been picked up and hidden away in the little girl’s bedroom. Nicole expects Richard will be forgiving for the small indicators that her child could potentially get underfoot.

The table is set for two, with a small pot pie on each plate, but the hostess stands next to a liquor cabinet with a lowball glass in one hand and a quirked brow. “What’ll you take?” she asks her guest with the faintest hint of conspiracy. The inclusion of drinks means this is either business or scandal.

With the kind of dealings they have, it could be both.

She isn’t the only one with kids, after all; Richard’s used to those little signs and hazards, even if he doesn’t live with the twins. He came dressed casually but not in his old, dirty clothes to blend in down in the streets of the Zone - just a simple long-sleeved shirt and jeans, and a jacket that he’s hung up.

“That depends,” he replies with a wry smile over, a brow lifting a bit, “How drunk am I going to want to be tonight?”

Nicole grins at that, but with a touch of wryness to temper. She pours her own gin on the heavy side as if to give him an indication of how drunk she wants to be for their discussion. Tonic is splashed in on top over rocks.

“How drunk do you want to be when you look out the window and get a good look at that light show out there?”

“Pretty drunk,” admits Richard with a shake of his head, “I was hoping this sort of thing would stay a… historical footnote, at least on this scale. So, hey, pour me another of those.”

He pauses a moment, “Have you seen something, then?”

With a gracious nod, Nicole sets about fixing Richard’s drink just as strong as her own. She practically glides back to the table where she sets his in front of him first before settling into her seat across from him. Even though he can see something’s bothering her, she retains her poise.

She wouldn’t have gotten this far if she couldn’t. “A life without my sister.” Which sounds as if to say no life at all. Even with a fuller life than what she presumably had before the war, Nicole’s devotion hasn’t waned in the face of other priorities.

“I want to know what the hell it all means. I just get this feeling like you know more than the average bear.”

“Don’t I always,” Richard asks wryly, picking up the glass and looking at it; at the ice, at the play of light through the liquid within it. He takes a sip then, his eyes closing.

“This is a Coronal Overlay Event,” he explains quietly, “It’s an overlap between— different timelines, although that’s an inaccurate word. Different possibilities. Worlds where we turned left instead of right. Where Phoenix never stopped the plague. Where we never stopped the bomb in Antarctica. Where Arthur Petrelli took over the world. Where Georgia Mayes and Richard Ezekiel Cardinal left nothing but a wasteland behind.”

Hazel eyes open, “People are seeing glimpses of possibilities, of ways their lives could have gone— and did, somewhere else. Out there in the never-was.”

“Where there was a bigger war than this one,” Nicole surmises, drawing the parallel between her more recent vision and what brought her to Benjamin Ryans and the life she has now. She frowns and taps one blue-painted nail against her glass quietly.

“So what the hell do we do with this? It’s not even looks at our futures. Just sideways steps?” She’d seen grey in her hair before. Years in the lines on her skin. What she saw the other night… That inspires another drink, longer this time.

“Honestly? You’d do best to forget it…” Richard’s nose wrinkles a bit, “Past the point of deviation, it’s just— no different than wondering how things would have gone while you’re in the shower. You might learn something useful, but that’s a— crap shoot.”

He leans back in the chair with a sigh, wood creaking quietly, “I’ve seen a world where me, Kaylee, her husband— “ Not naming them, “— and Edward were living a happy life. She was vice-president. I’ve seen a world where Kazimir took my body. You— well. There are five major superstrings near us, if there was a war, that was probably the wasteland. Where the kids came from, approximately.”

Nicole shakes her head and presses her lips together. “That’s… not what I saw.” Picking up her fork, she cuts into her dinner and watches the steam rise from the fissure she’s made in the crust. “And it’s not all I saw. I…”

A frown forms on her face and too-bright eyes blink a few times as she tries to decide how she wants to phrase what’s on her mind. “Are— Is Raytech doing any research into ability expansion?”

“Ability expansion…? No, the closest we have to any ability research right now is for repairing damaged abilities from burn-out and the like,” Richard admits, head cocking a bit to one side as he regards her curiously, “What do you mean by ‘expansion’.”

He hasn’t started eating yet himself.

She may not get beyond attacking the pastry with her fork, but at least she’s going through some of the motions. “In this… vision I had, I used my ability in a way I’ve never used it before. And it’s got me curious.”

Which, admittedly, is a dangerous thing. “I thought I’d figured out everything I was capable of during the war. I explored the limits of my powers. But this… was a use I’d never considered before.” Leaning forward in her seat, she explains, “I travelled through electrical conduits.

“You probably went through different experiences, learned different applications…” Richard’s brows lift a little at the explanation, “That’s interesting… I’d expect maybe an electromorph to be able to do that, but as far as I knew, that wasn’t your ability. Hell, I’ve only known of one before…”

He gestures with the drink in his hand, “Have you tried it out?”

“I don’t even know where to begin with something like that,” Nicole admits. “My ability came to me in a freak accident. I only figured out I could do what I do because it was life-or-death.” She closes her eyes against a vivid memory of jolting Kain Zarek to restart his heart.

Fork abandoned on the plate, Nicole once again lifts her drink. “I guess I was kind of hoping we could set up some kind of… controlled setting.”

“We could,” Richard admits with a little tip of his head in a nod, reaching over to set his drink down and lift his fork - finally, “It wouldn’t be too hard to set up a testing room and try a few things, although— there’s always danger in something like that.”

The fork carefully digs through the crust with a whisper of escaping steam, and he offers a wry smile across the table, “You’ve never been one to shy away from danger, though.”

“I’ve… tempered a little since the war,” Nicole admits almost sheepishly. Sure, she had a daughter the entire time the war raged on, but she wasn’t reunited with her until it was over. It had been easy enough to fool herself into feeling like Pippa was better off without her. Now? That’s not the case.

Still, she shrugs. “You’re not wrong, though.” The contents of her glass are swirled around, the ice clinking against the sides almost merrily, in spite of the stormy expression on Nicole’s face. “I might have more to say, but… What did you want to meet for?” It had been coincidence that they both seemed to need a moment of each other’s time. Or as much as either of them believes in coincidence these days.

“Oh, I’ve been meaning to let you know something,” says Richard, finally scooping up a bit of pot pie on his fork and leaning forward to take a bite of it; chewing happily, swallowing, his brows raise up a little as he looks across the table.

“Liz and Magnes are alive.”

Nicole takes a drink and sets her glass down again, sliding it away slightly as if to say enough for now. Then she retrieves her fork and is about to dig in to her dinner when Richard tells her what he’s been meaning to tell her.

Sparks arc between tines of the fork.

“I’m sorry, what?”

Richard’s fork is buried in the crust, tilted to hold it up as he rests both hands on the table. “You remember the… black hole, of course you do,” he says with a wrinkle of his nose at the abortive question, shaking it off, “It didn’t kill them. It pulled them into another timeline, and they’ve been— circling through the others to try and find home.”

He’s used to being electrocuted, Elle’s his sister-in-law.


The light on the end of the fork grows in intensity then, with a pop!, fades out entirely. Nicole has better control of her ability than that. Which might lead one to wonder if that was a display, rather than an accident.

“Well. That’s awkward.” For her, specifically. For him? It’s good news, presumably.

“A little. Also his father’s alive,” admits Richard, “Pretty sure he’s a pretty high target on Wolfhound’s list, so— I assume your sister’s already told you that one.”

He reaches over for the glass, adding dryly, “So, uh, there’s going to be a… small complication in a few weeks that we may need the government’s help to clean up.”

That one I’m aware of.” Whether or not she heard it from her sister or her own research into what’s left of the Institute. “Wouldn’t be the first time someone’s had to be brought back from the dead in a legal sense,” Nicole points out. She doesn’t realize the exact scope of what’s being implied.

“And what the fuck?” Because, really. “How long have you known?”

“A little less than a year,” Richard admits, pausing to take a sip of liquor before shaking his head, “It’s, uh… a little more than just changing some people from ‘dead’ to ‘alive’, actually. We estimate they might be bringing some, uh, tentotwentypeoplefromothertimelineswiththem.”

That’s followed by a longer swallow of booze.

Nicole groans. There’s a clink of her fork against the plate as she stabs it through the pie and leaves it standing up there while she buries her face in one hand. “I was supposed to take the family name of a dead hero. This is a disaster.”

Okay, so that’s not the only thing that’s bringing on a headache.

“You mean there are going to be more travelers?” She looks up, peeking at Richard through the gap between two fingers, “Like when the kids came back?”

“Yeah,” Richard admits, clearing his throat as he sets the glass down, looking across to her ruefully, “Except probably adults, and— a lot of them are probably still alive here, so a bunch of people might be developing twins. Shit, maybe even triplets, I have no idea how many people Liz has been dragging around the multiverse.”

“I’m not, uh— I’m not sure if we have policies for interdimensional immigration, but I figured that we’d try and go through this legit rather than start pulling out the Ferry playbook.”

“So I don’t need to call up my daughter the forger,” Nicole quips dryly. She rubs her face with her hand and sighs. Her appetite is waning more and more the longer this conversation continues.

“I’m sure there’s something that can be arranged. Eventually. You know how government is - shit takes time.” And that’s putting it politely from someone who plays the game. The bridge of her nose is pinched a moment before her hand finally falls back to rest on the table and Nicole lifts her head. “I can’t believe I live a life where I’m not batting an eye at this conversation.”

“Lynette went directly there too,” Richard chuckles, shaking his head, “I had to remind her that wasn’t necessary anymore… I know you can talk to the right people. The government should be aware. If not, people aren’t fucking reporting things to their superiors.”

He gestures a bit, “I could write up an explanation of the aurora effect for the government if you want. Anyway. Sorry. I know our lives are weird as shit.”

Nicole sighs. “I don’t even know how I would begin to present this.” She turns to an invisible person next to her and queries, “Excuse me, Don. Do you have a moment? I need to talk to you about interdimensional travel and immigration policies.”

Blue eyes roll and settle back on Richard. “My boss will think I’m insane. You’d better write a proposal for me.”

“I’ll be happy to,” Richard allows dryly, “I’ll get it sent over to your office. But really, sorry, I know you were…” His nose wrinkles, “Hoping to settle away from all this— weird bullshit in our lives. Things are… well.”

He shrugs one shoulder, “Getting back to the ‘usual madness’ I guess.”

“I gave up my right to normal a long time ago.” When she gave up her idealism and threw in with Daniel Linderman. After she realized what that really entailed. “So, I had one more thing I needed to discuss with you.”

And for this, she retrieve her drink again, draining the last of it and immediately climbing to her feet to get a refill. She holds up the bottle of gin and shoots a glance to his own glass. Top off?

The glass is lifted up wordlessly in her direction as he agrees to the suggestion, and Richard lifts a single brow upwards. “Suddenly,” he quips, “I’m worried, if now is when you need more liquor.”

“I’d say you should be, but I think you’re just going to feel sorry for me when this is over.” Which is not something Nicole likes, but sometimes a person needs a little pity. Gin in one hand and tonic in the other, she returns to the table to splash more of each into Richard’s drink, then sets both bottles down in the middle of the table like decor. She moves back to the cabinet and her own refilled glass, frowning for a long moment.

“You remember what… what happened in Alaska.” That’s not a question. “Afterward, when my power went haywire and I asked you not to tell anyone.” Nicole turns back to look at him, guilt in her expression. “I tried to save Howard Phillips.” She pauses, waiting for his reaction before she continues.

“I remember. Nearly fried me,” Richard teases a little, taking a sip of the topped-off drink before setting it down, arms folding atop the table as he leans forward, eyebrows drawing together a little. “My nephew from the future,” he affirms with a frown, “Edward was— regretful about that. He couldn’t find a way to save him that wouldn’t kill one of his kids in the process…”

Brows raise, then, “Is that why your power went haywire? Your powers interacted somehow?”

“I absorbed him,” Nicole explains, if only just barely. “He… He would react to things. So while nearly frying you wasn’t my intention, it may well have been his.” Her failed attempt to save the young man is something she hasn’t talked about before. Others may have known what happened, or suspected, but she never gave it her voice.

“For almost three months, he was a presence in my mind, slowly growing weaker. Until he was just… gone.” Now, she turns and shifts her focus, looking down the hallway off her living room as she falls silent.

There’s silence from Richard for a few long moments too, his eyes widened with horror at the realization. “Oh… Christ,” he breathes out finally, “No wonder, he— well. He only knew me as a monster, really.” His shoulders slump a bit, and then he’s reaching across the table to touch her arm.

“I’m sorry. God. It must’ve been like sitting by someone’s deathbed for three months…”

“I saw images, glimpses of what happened to him.” There’s a note of apology in her tone as she admits, “I don’t blame him for hating you.” It would have been hard to separate the monster from the man if she’d lived through that, she imagines.

“He was mad at me for not leaving him there to die. I can’t blame him for that either. It must have been a horrible way to go, stuck inside someone else’s consciousness. I always hoped I’d find some way to save him, but… I didn’t have the time. And with the war looming… No resources.”

Nicole takes another long drink from her glass before moving back toward the table, stopping next to her chair and running her fingers over the back of it absently. “But I don’t think he died. Not really. I—” Her throat feels tight suddenly, and she has to swallow back a wave of emotion. “I need your sister’s help.”

“I don’t either,” admits Richard, fingers rubbing between his eyes, “The things he did to him, I… well, I would too, if I were him.”

He leans back, frowning, “Okay. Do you— think he’s still in there, somewhere, in your— mind?”

“No,” Nicole admits, catching Richard’s gaze and holding it. “He’s in Phillipa’s.”

There’s again a long silence as Richard stares back at her… and then he brings that hand back up to cover his face, letting fingers slowly slide down. “Fuck,” he breathes out, leaning back, “Okay. I’ll talk to her and see what… we can do. How bad is it?”

He looks across the room, in the general idea of where he’s fairly sure the kid’s room is.

Nicole drops into her seat heavily, looking defeated. Like she’s failed her daughter. “She has nightmares about the things that happened to Howard. It’s like a part of him is with her. His memories… I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what the best thing is for either of them.”

Her head tips back as she throws back her drink in one smooth motion. She can keep up with the best of them, or she can set the pace. “I don’t regret what I did. I only regret that I couldn’t… spare them both from the consequences.” If she hadn’t tried, she’d still be beating herself up for letting that young man die in her arms.

“Maybe just… residual memories,” Richard says, a bit hopefully, “Kaylee’s— well. I think she can lock those away if needed. We can take a look at her.” He motions with his own glass, brows raising, “You did what you thought was right, what was the right thing to do at the time. And it was.”

He shakes his head, “We’ll do what we can. I think she can help.”

“Thank you,” is emphatic. Relief sees a sag in Nicole’s shoulders. Her gaze is a little bleary now as she stares across the table. “She doesn’t deserve this. I should be the one who’s haunted, not her.” And that poor boy deserves his rest, if this is more than just residual memories, as Richard posits.

She looks down at her plate and pushes it away. “Don’t think I’m very hungry.” The kitchen is squinted at, like she might be contemplating how handy it would be to have telekinesis to bring her the Tupperware right about now. Won’t be the first time she’s made leftovers of a perfectly good meal.

“Just like old times, everything crazy and nobody deserving the suffering they get…” A sigh, Richard’s hand sweeping vaguely over the table before he sinks back in his chair again, “We’ll do what we can. I’m sure that Kaylee will be happy to help…”

Nicole doesn’t quite meet his eyes in her brooding. “To the new times, just like the old times.” The empty glass is raised in cynical toast.

“You know,” Richard offers as he raises his own glass back, a smile tugging back up to the corner of his lips, “Donovan’s hiring, I understand…”

Nicole’s mouth curls around a grin. “Cheers.”

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