Four Difficult Words


lynette4_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif

Scene Title Four Difficult Words
Synopsis Best friends are there for you in good times and bad.
Date February 19, 2020

Safe Zone

The moment Nicole pushes open the door to the busy Italian restaurant, she already knows Lynette has beaten her there. She looks down at her shoes a moment, a rueful smile on her face and a breath of laughter exhaled through her nose.

The air is practically humming. It’s a harmony. It feels good. It feels right.

Nicole lifts her head again and flashes a smile to the host at the podium. “No, it’s okay. My party is already here,” she assures before he can offer to seat her or escort her to the proper table. She waves him off, adjusting the straps of her shoulder bag briefly to make sure the designer purse isn’t sticking out too far before she makes her way into the dining area proper, weaving her way through tables until she reaches the booth at the back, where her best friend is already waiting.

Sliding into the bench across from her, she smiles wide, showing her teeth even. “Nice to see you, Sturm.”

"Drang," Lynette greets with a grin as her friend finally makes it. "I ordered drinks." Non-alcoholic, one is forced to assume. Menus sit on the table, too, although it seems like she hasn't touched those. Perhaps she hasn't been here too terribly long. Her hand reaches over the table to squeeze Nicole's hand, a warmer greeting, more familiar. "I'm glad you could get away from work," she says and, with a dramatic sigh, adds, "and that I could."

No one could accuse either of them of lacking a work ethic.

"I sent Pippa a birthday present," she says, family stuff being her traditional opener for their dinners, "I thought she might like to get some mail with her name on it. But Evie and Manuel want to come see her. Evie's been working on some kind of art project for her, but she won't let me see what it is. I can only warn you that there has been a lot of glitter involved."

The offered hand is taken and squeezed tightly, as though it could convey all the fondness Nicole feels for Lynette with that simple gesture. Maybe it does at least a little bit. “Sorry,” she murmurs for her tardiness. “You know how hectic things are.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.

That Pippa is going to be receiving mail lights up Nicole’s face. “Oh, she will absolutely love that. And whatever Evie has for her, I’m certain. She’s still staying with Ingrid for now, but I’m sure they’d be just fine with having the kids over to see her.” That might be a little presumptuous on her part to speak for her elder daughter, but isn’t that a mother’s right?

“Hopefully she’ll be able to come home with me soon. I’ve told her she can come visit for her birthday, before she goes to Jonah’s party. She’s excited about that.” Family’s generally the easier part of their conversations. Easier yet when she dances around the reasons for hers being separate from her. “We’ve got an op coming up. If we do it right… The danger will be over and we can move on with our lives.”

Nicole smiles at that, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. She should be excited by that, and part of her even is, but it’s all tempered with concern that it might not go as hoped. “It should be a career maker for me.” She sighs and shakes her head. “I didn’t want the field position when they offered it to me, you know. It felt too much like…” She fixes Lynette with a gaze, like she might expect her best friend to know what she means without having to use the words. The war.

"I'll give Ingrid a call," Lynette says, accepting the situation with a nod. "Perhaps to warn her about the glitter situation." She knows too well how difficult it is to deal with the stuff. Her home seems to be a lost cause.

She looks up at those last words, at how they trail off, her gaze lingering for a long moment. She managed to get herself a safe life, a good life, but there will always be that part of her that knows she could be helping. That wants to see her friend through the conflict safely. She has to remind herself… she fought hard to be able to have some peace.

"Well," she says, reaching for the menu, "hopefully your career maker makes your career into something behind a desk again. Something less… disruptive." Maybe something that lets her keep her daughter close.

Lynette’s reach serves as a reminder to Nicole for why they’re meeting here of all places. She stretches her arm out and pulls the menu toward her, folding it open in front of her flat on the table. One of Pippa’s colorful unicorn bandaids is wrapped around the fourth finger of her left hand near its base. “I’m not sure I want to take a desk job again,” she admits, as though ashamed of it.

Her chin stays up and she looks down at the menu with just her eyes, scanning over the offerings. It isn’t as though she doesn’t know what’s available. “What did you order for me anyway?” The presumption is easy enough to make, but it isn’t as though Lynette doesn’t tolerate Nicole’s proclivity for tequila and gin. For a given definition of tolerate.

Ultimately, the question is cursory. The answer will earn a nod, no matter what it is. “I feel like it’s been forever since we met up. This one’s on me this time, because… Because I really need you right now.” There’s regret in that too. Nicole doesn’t like having to rely on others. Even the one person she knows she can trust more than anybody. Lynette’s got enough of the world on her shoulders, by Nicole’s estimations. She doesn’t need her own woes adding to that load.

"Tea," Lynette answers, because coffee isn't a suitable dinner drink, typically. She folds her arms on the table, though, studying Nicole as she talks. "Why don't you want a desk job? What's going on?" Her questions are asked with worry, and that only deepens the more Nicole talks.

"I'm here," she says, "What do you need?" There are some woes she doesn't mind taking on. Certainly those of her closest friend. "Do we need somewhere more private?" The restaurant is nice, but not always good for a heart-to-heart. But she is leaving it up to Nicole to dictate what she needs.

“I don’t know,” Nicole responds, like she does actually know, but it’s easier to say that she doesn’t. But taking the easy way out has never been the Olympian way. “I’ve always been the person who does all the work on group projects. I guess this is much the same. I feel like if I’m not out there doing it, then how can I trust it’s being done?”

Too-bright blue eyes roll at her own ridiculousness. It’s not the most flattering brush to paint her fellow agents with, and it isn’t what she means to do. “Here is fine,” Nicole assures. She reaches up with one hand to pinch the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, then slide it down on either side of it. “It’ll help me keep my shit together.”

Flipping a page on the menu for something to do with her hands, she sighs softly. “I told you last time we hung out that I’ve been seeing somebody,” she recaps briefly. “Well…” Nicole holds up her left hand with the bandaid on it. “He didn’t have a ring, but he proposed and I said yes.” The smile she has on her face after that is genuine, but a tenuous thing.

"Alright, I guess I understand that," Lynette says with a crooked smile. "But I'll still be sitting back here hoping you'll be safe and you're just going to have to deal with that," she adds, lifting her chin in the air to exaggerate her point. She won't hold the assessment against the other SESA agents if her indulgent expression is anything to judge by.

Lynette's eyebrow lifts when Nicole gets around to the news. Not having a ring gets no judgement, just a smirk as she takes in the bandaid. However, her head tilts a little before she actually responds.

"Are you happy?" It's a multi-faceted question. Is she happy? What's the hesitation? Does she have to kill somebody? "You seem a little conflicted about it," she remarks, but gently.

“Honestly?” Nicole stops short of shaking her head, because that implies an answer she doesn’t mean to give. Instead, she turns and looks at the wall the booth is set against, like she might be studying the still life hanging there. “I’m not sure I know what happiness feels like, ‘Nette.”

Her mouth pulls into a bit of a frown then, but a thoughtful one. “I guess it feels a lot like coming home to someone every night. Someone who keeps telling me not to settle. Who tells me that I’m meant for something so much bigger than what I’ve been given. That I’m beautiful. Amazing.” Nicole looks back to Lynette, mouth now hooked upward in a lopsided sort of bewildered grin. “I mean, shit. That sounds like Tomato, right?”

She means Lynette’s husband.

“And we know he’s literally the most perfect man to ever exist, so.” Even though that… does not even remotely describe Zachery Miller. Her gaze lifts toward the ceiling then, and it’s becoming apparent why she felt she might need help keeping her shit together. “It feels good to be with him.” It doesn’t always, but more often than it doesn’t. “It’s not like… Not like Logan. Not like—” She can’t bring herself to say Ben’s name. “It’s different, is all I’m saying. Like he wants this to work as badly as I do. Maybe more even.”

"Hmm. Sounds like something to work on in therapy," Lynette says to that first confession. It comes as a tease, but Nicole knows there's a real offer behind it, even if she knows her friend will have to come to it when she decides to for herself. Still. She can remind.

"All of that is nice," she says, her head tilting, "but there's more to it. For one, you have to support him the same way. Believe in him the same way. But also, you have to be able to tell each other when you're wrong. You both have to be able to set ego aside— to want to set ego aside, because you're stronger together. It can't just feel good. It has to be a choice you're willing to make even when it's not good. And he has to make that choice, too." Her hands spread, a helpless gesture. "If that's what you have, or what you believe you have, you know I support you. I want you to know what happiness feels like. If this is the one to do that for you, then good.

"And I will be the first in line to kick his ass if it becomes necessary."

Not an intimidating threat from the owner of a rehab center, but from a war vet and ferocious warrior.

“I’m good at that,” Nicole insists, regarding setting her own ego aside to support him. She’s basically made a career of setting her own ego aside to help various men. While that does not necessarily translate to a healthy relationship, she can at least say she has plenty of practice at it. “He’s seen me when I’m…” She winces and glances away, afraid to admit to anything else that signals that dire need for therapy that she’s been shrugging off all these years.

“I think it could work,” is what she decides on finally, as some way to confirm that the things Lynette says Nicole and her fiance will need to be willing to do are attainable goals. “And if it doesn’t… Divorce is always an option.” Ever the pragmatist.

Now, she thinks to list off the other ways in which he’s proven himself an acceptable partner. “He knows mostly about Ingrid. I haven’t explained the whole future thing, but… He accepts that she’s my daughter, and I think that’s a good start.” Like she may never actually explain the full reality of that situation. She may never need to. “He makes a genuine effort to connect with Pippa. She likes him, even if she doesn’t always know how to talk to him either.”

There’s a sliver of a smile then, for the threat. Because she knows that Lynette would absolutely make good on it, given sufficient reason to. Nicole reaches across the table and clutches her hand tightly, feeling the electrical hum that passes between them and feeling the sense of serenity that comes from it. “You might want to kick his ass right out of the gate,” she admits sheepishly.

“He knocked me up.”

"Pretty sure both of you had to be there for the knocking up to happen," Lynette says with a gentle, playful chide in her tone. "How long do I have to collect new baby things?" She doesn't care about details like… what gender the baby might be assigned or whether or not Nicole still has Pippa's baby things, she's going to start the spoiling right away. As is her right, she will forever claim.

She returns the squeeze and gives Nicole a smile. "Congratulations. For all your news. I suppose you can tell Zachery, too," she adds with a smirk. "Does this all mean you're dropping Varlane finally?"

Even if it would mean that Lynette can't give her any more shit over that choice, it would be a good change. In her opinion.

"Or is he taking Varlane?" They could be going against convention after all. Or maybe Lynette's getting her teasing in while she still can.

“You know, I keep telling people that when they say I got pregnant,” Nicole chuckles ruefully. “I was kind of hoping the man could wear all the blame for once.” Alas. “Well, I’m only…” She squints a moment, clearly doing some math in her head. “Six weeks in? I mean, a billion things could go wrong still between now and then. But Zachery’s ability… He told me I was pregnant.”

There’s another laugh when Lynette asks about what surname she’s going to take, this one with a snort. “Oh, I am dumping Varlane like a hot potato,” Nicole assures with a grin. “Oh my gawd, I didn’t tell you.” Her head tips baaaaack and then forward again like she might like to thunk it down right on the table. “Magnes ran into me at the bar last month. Jesus Christ.”

Her breath catches in her throat as she recounts the painful portion of that tale first. “He called me Steve and asked me if I knew Nicole Varlane.” Lynette can already tell where that’s headed. She knows Magnes well enough to expect how that went. “He told me he’d thought that I was Mrs. Rickham.

Her jaw sets tight while her fingers loosen for a moment. “Isn’t that a kick in the fucking teeth?” Blinking quickly, she keeps the threat of tears at bay. “I’m going to be Mrs. Miller instead.” Nicole smiles again and tightens her grip on Lynette again.

To derail the almost certainly impending concern about how she handled the news that she had found the love of her life in a parallel timeline, Nicole leans forward a big conspiratorially. “We’re having twins, ‘Nette.”

"Not this time. He can take the blame for everything else, though." Lynette doesn't mean it. Only kind of. It's one of those jokes with just a kernel of truth. Her head tilts when Nicole explains about Zachery's ability. "Useful skill to have. Especially if he makes a habit of knocking people up," she says with a chuckle. "I assume you've been to a doctor and started getting actual care though, right? Do you need a recommendation?" Her children were born in another timeline, of course, but she did look up her doctors here in this one and was not surprised to find her working at the same profession with a similar reputation.

When she mentions Magnes, Lynette can't help rolling her eyes. He did not make a good first impression. Or tenth. Or hundredth. Nicole is already aware how often Lynette contemplated murdering him during their trip through the timelines. "Mateo could tell you about Steve," she says, more gently instead of dwelling on Magnes. "She was best friends with his first wife. His first… me. If you ever want to know. I wasn't sure you'd… want to know. And I don't know many of the details. Except, that Lynette could turn into electricity and Steve and her went on some mission together, to help them all escape that timeline. And Lynette got hit. She was dying. Steve… carried her home so she could… say goodbye." She clears her throat some and shakes her hair out of her face. "So she has my vote for being pretty awesome. Not that I expect any less from any version of you."

Leaning in when Nicole does, Lynette lets out a chuckle at the news. "Twins? Well. I guess he can take the blame for that."

“Gosh, I… I don’t think he does.” Make a habit of knocking people up. “He’s just got some like… anatomical intuition? I don’t know how it works.” Some color flushes into her cheeks as she bites her lip with a brief lift of her brows. “But it comes in handy.”

Clearing her throat, she lets that implication slide. If you can’t talk about that stuff with your best friend, though, who can you?

She hadn’t been prepared to hear more about her other self, and it becomes apparent very quickly in the way Nicole diverts her gaze. To the untrained eye, she’s simply listening in silence. Lynette, however, recognizes the breathing exercises for what they are. “I…” Her focus shifts back with some effort, because that’s just how conversations are meant to work between people who aren’t utterly fucking traumatized. “I suppose I’ll have to take him out to dinner next time.” Her smile is small, but no less real for it.

Some of the blues are shaken away by nervous laughter then. “Yeah. Twins. I mean, he could be having me on, but… I don’t think so. He seemed pretty freaked out about it, and he knows I’ll give him a nasty shock if this is a practical joke.” Nicole sighs heavily and shakes her head. “No, I haven’t seen a doctor yet. I’m afraid if I go, it’ll get back around to work somehow. But I’ll get an appointment set for March. I’ll happily take your recommendation. I… Shit, I did it all on my fucking own with Pippa.” She makes a face then. “I don’t recommend that.” Nor does she have any intention of repeating it.

“I’m really struggling, though.” Nicole finally admits. “Before I knew I was pregnant, Zachery cleared out my stash. Said we should go sober for a month, just to prove we could do it, you know?” She closes her eyes heavily, the weight of the situation apparent now. “When I was pregnant with Pippa… It was easy. I was on the run. Crossing unfamiliar country, just trying to survive. I didn’t have time for vices.” Now… In the comforts of her own home, she does.

“Every day, I come home from work, and I find myself walking toward the liquor cabinet to fix myself a drink. And every day, I remember about halfway there that I can’t.” Concern and shame crease Nicole’s forehead as she details her struggle. “That I shouldn’t.” It’s an important distinction. Because Nicole very much could have that drink, and she wants to. “I just want to sit down and drink straight from a bottle of tequila.”

The next four words out of her mouth are the most difficult.

“I need help, Lynette.”

Lynette smirks at Nicole's explanation, particularly when she has to clear her throat. But she can see how such an ability would be… handy. She lets her friend process the information about her alternate self, only to nod at the mention of dinner. "He probably would enjoy not having to cook his own meal at least once," she says, rather than lingering on why she might need to take Mateo out for dinner. Lynette's terrible cooking is enough of a reason for anyone, really. Some day she'll learn, when she's old and grey and has nothing else better to do.

Her expression grows more serious, though, and she nods along as Nicole speaks, if only to prove that she's listening. "Come back home with me. Not to check in— " she knows how that would go over at SESA. "But to come meet some of the people there. And go over your options. We can adapt around your lifestyle, be as inconspicuous as you need it to be." It's especially easy given that the whole world knows they're friends who have been through hell together. What's suspicious about coming to visit her friend? "I know that feeling. I can help you fight it."

It's a very different type of fight than they're used to, but Lynette has no doubt Nicole can take it.

Nicole nods her head slowly and clutches tightly at Lynette’s hand. She needs their bond now more than ever. “Okay,” she relents, voice quiet. “I can do that.” Exploring options feels like a much less drastic step than checking into rehab. Though sometimes, that’s just the sort of action a person needs to take. It’s likely Nicole is well beyond that point.

“You must think I’m such a fool.” Blue eyes find green. The brunette shakes her head with a sigh. “I thought I had all of this under control, but… How could I think I did, when you…”

When Lynette didn’t. Not until she took control. How many evenings did they drink themselves into oblivion under the stars? And wake up feeling like death, only to repeat the process the next night, or maybe the night after?

Nicole smiles wryly. “You know, I was so mad when you gave it up. When you went dry. It felt like you were getting righteous on me. Because I didn’t feel like there was anything wrong with the way we were, but… But you did. I felt judged.” It’s complicated. Dependencies always are. “But there you were, still. Watching me drown my feelings in gin. Holding my hair when they’d come back to haunt me.”

By all rights, Nicole is one of those friends that recovering alcoholics are told to distance themselves from. And Lynette never did.

“I guess you’ve been waiting for this for a while now, huh?”

"Not waiting," Lynette says with a shake of her head, "but I know what to do." She might have hoped that Nicole really would get it under control on her own— some people do. But she was always ready if her friend needed her.

She doesn't seem hurt by the confession that Nicole felt judged, she understands— she was there, too. And with more than just alcohol. Hell, when Eve Mas is stopping you from your habit, you know you've got a problem. "We've been through about the worst things people can go through. And we did it together. I wasn't going to leave you behind just because I made a choice for myself." If anyone had dared to suggest she distance herself, well… chances are that person is the one who has been given distance, not Nicole. "Plus, I couldn't let your hair get messed up, that's not polite at all."

A smile rises then, and she squeezes Nicole's hands.

Nicole’s smile gets a little watery, and so do her eyes. “Oh no,” she moans, even as she’s laughing at the comment about what is or isn’t polite. “The pregnancy hormones are making me cry.” Yes, that is definitely it, and not because she’s at all prone to being emotional in general.

Lynette’s hands are squeezed back just as tight, then Nicole extracts one so she can fan at her face, eyes rolled toward the ceiling as if that has ever helped anyone in the history of ever stop from tearing up. “I’m so scared, ‘Nette.” It’s a tough admission, and yet the easiest thing in the world, because of who she’s making his admission to. There’s never been a point in putting on a brave face for her commanding officer, her best agent, or her best friend. Her… “Will you be my Matron of Honor?” Not to change the subject, but, let’s just change the subject.

Lynette lets go of Nicole while she fans her face and moves over to the other side of the table so she can hug her instead. "You know I will be," she says, flowing right along into that subject change. "If you'd picked someone else, I would have had to kill them."

She understands the fear, and her answer to that comes without words. She knows she doesn't have to tell Nicole she'll be there with her. Through war or weddings or rehab, they'll handle it the same way they always do.


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