Giving Off Sparks


nicole4_icon.gif ryans5_icon.gif

Scene Title Giving Off Sparks
Synopsis Ryans and Nicole finally confront each other. The sparks ignite a flame that leaves them both burned.
Date November 6, 2011

Fitzroy Cabin, Good Hope Lake, British Columbia, Canada

You don't own me
I'm not just one of your many toys
You don't own me
Don't say I can't go with other boys

People decompress in different ways. Nicole Nichols might like to be doing a little target practice on one of the flocks of water fowl on Good Hope Lake, but the electric charge she carries is a precious commodity. Out here, in the middle of nowhere, tapping into an electric grid to refuel isn't the sure bet that it is in New York. ConEd can handle the strain; Hollis Fitzroy's generator is another story.

And don't tell me what to do
Don't tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don't put me on display

Instead, she's listening to records. The great room is empty, except for Nicole's slender figure seated on the couch in front of the fire with her knees pulled up to her chest; or as close to it as she can manage with the gentle swell of her stomach interfering. The pop and hiss of the vinyl can be heard like a current running under the music.

You don't own me
Don't try to change me in any way
You don't own me
Don't tie me down 'cause I'll never stay

Her eyes are shut as she listens to Lesley Gore sing the anthem of every independent woman who's ever been frustrated in a relationship. The album of classic hit songs was chosen for this song, but not because of any feelings of estrangement between herself and the man she had intended to marry. It's because when she gets too melancholy around the Fitzroy cabin, Hollis would put on the record and make her sing along into their hairbrush microphones, working out their haphazard dance routines through the spacious room. It makes her smile to think of.

I don't tell you what to say
I don't tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That's all I ask of you

But the semi-rhythmic sound of an axe splitting wood for the fire has stopped, and the inevitable can't be delayed much longer. She wonders for a moment if she can avoid this confrontation by simply keeping her eyes closed and pretending that she hasn't heard a thing. It would be cowardly; they can't do this if they aren't speaking. He has to be able to trust her, and while she trusts him to protect her, she needs to be able to trust him to let her to protect herself. She's heard the front door open, and heard his footsteps on the hardwood floorboards.

I'm young and I love to be young
I'm free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please

That head of short dark hair lifts and turns so too-bright blue eyes can fix on Ryans. And she has no idea where to begin. There is no good place to start, is there? So, she'll let him decide where they begin, while Lesley-on-vinyl croons on oblivious to the fact that her audience has stopped listening.

Blue meets blue over the back of that couch; his expression is completely unreadable, flat and emotionless. He doesn't move as time uncomfortable stretches on. He is still clad in the white coat, the fur lined hood, left unused in favor of his grey beanie. The snow that clung to him, from the short scruff of his beard to his boots, is slowly melting but he still looks the part of a scruffy mountain man.

Finally, he blinks, and for a moment there is a haunted look in his eyes, but then he is looking away. Shifting the wood in his arm, he moves towards the fire and takes a knee near the shrinking pile. He takes a few moments to lace the wood, his expression lost in thought. Maybe he is trying to decide where to start. Every movement is slow and precise, with a sort of grace to it.

His silence will stretch on until the wood is settled; but, Ryans doesn't move to rise. His head tilts down a little as if examining the grains of the wood in the floor, one arm rests on his knee, his hastily wrapped hand lightly grips it at the wrist. This close to the fire, it throws his features into sharp contrast and highlights the strain that the man is under.

"Why didn't you tell me?" The words are strained, as if he is still fighting emotions. His head shifts a little her way, so that his gaze can focus on her, moving down to rest on the swell of her stomach.

Nicole is patient as Ryans works through his own thoughts; she knows it when she sees it. Anyway, she deserves to squirm under the oppressive silence. What she did to him - to all of them - was terrible. It feels like the only thing she's good at is doing terrible things to the people she cares about. Her time away, the silence in the mountains, has given her a lot of time to reflect on that. She isn't done yet.

It's a relief when he finally speaks, even though she knows now it's time for things to get worse. "It was safer if you didn't know," Nicole responds in a quiet voice. Correcting herself, she adds: "I thought." Because she doesn't know what would have been safest. Letting her head dip down again to rest her chin on her knees, she sighs heavily. "An old friend in the White House tipped me off about what was coming. I knew I had to get the hell out of the whole damn country before the order was signed. I was being monitored and—"

Fat tears feel too warm in the wells of her eyes and spill hot down her cheeks. "If I had told you, you would have wanted to take me into the network in New York. I could have led them right to you all, and I couldn't let that happen. If I'd taken the time to tell anyone I was leaving, Heller could have pieced my plan together." She stares into the fire, the light of it reflects and dances in her wet eyes. "It's what Sissy would have done."

"Safer," he huffs out in a bland chuckle. The fingers of his injured hand tap lightly on the wrist of the other. The floor pattern is examined again, when he looks away. Tears can be a weakness for him and he does not want to have his thoughts scrambled by the sight of them, so he doesn't look. Now is the time of hard truths and he might not be able to say what needs to be said.

"You're right," Ryans sighs out, unable to deny her assessment of her sister. Pushing his hand against his knee, he stands to his full height. "It would have been," his voice softly rumbles, only to start developing an edge as he continues, "And look where it lands her. Almost. Every. Time." He is not stupid, as Special Activities he hears things, he knows things. He cannot hide the irritation and disappointment as he continues. "If she would have only trust us. If you had only trusted me.." His voice starts to rise, but he stops himself, eyes lifting to look at the ceiling.

He turns away from her, hand reaching up to pull of his beanie in a quick motion, before turning back to her suddenly. "Do you have any idea… Any idea" He growls out in an angry whisper, pointing at her with that gray cap still clutched in his hand. The mask he was trying to hold on to break a little and she can see that pain. "What it feels like to find out that someone you care about is gone?" He has. Too many times, but one especially stands out in his mind. "You should have trusted me, Nicole."

As the edge creeps into his tone, fear starts to alter her posture, causing Nicole to curl in on herself. Her arms wrap around her tucked-up legs and she tries to make herself very small. Give her blonde hair and the temporally displaced children could mistake her for Ingrid. She listens to his assessment of her sister, and shrinks in further. She can't stand and make him apologize for it, because it's all true. And she's doing the same thing.

But then he asks a very pointed question that injects steel into her spine. She goes very still and contemplates her next actions very carefully. He's going to hate her, but right now that's what she needs.

One bare foot touches down on the hard floor, the other bracing against the edge of the couch along with her hands so she can lever herself into a standing position. There are no more tears now. "I have lost my mother," she begins, the list ready in her mind. "My best friends," she takes a step toward him. "Kain. Jenn. Danny. My sister more times than I can recount." This next one requires resolve, it needs to hurt at least a little, and she doesn't hesitate. "The man I loved, twice."

Her chest is heaving and the nervous energy causes little blue arcs to jump between her knuckles when she flexes them. "Don't talk to me about loss like you're some expert."

There is no backing down as the woman advances, he is not one to easily give any ground in a situation like this. So Ryans is an unmovable rock, even as she sparks, he is unmovable. That is until something in her words makes him break, pain and anger flash in his eyes. "I lost my wife," he snaps out, words loud with the deep bass of his voice. Something dammed up inside him finally, has suddenly been let loose.

He steps sideways, away from her, clearly needing to put distance between them. "I lost her, because I couldn't protect her." He is yelling now, in anger and pain that has been tamped down and buried for years. It did it for his girls. "I lost the woman I loved because I couldn't stop a mad man from blowing her up and thousands of other innocent souls." So many people within the Company tried to stop that and failed, but he only sees the failure as his own. The blood was on his hands in his mind.

He seems like a wild animal as he paces across the floor, stopping only to shoot her an accusing look, "Then you disappear… and… th-then your things, " his voice actually cracks with emotion, but he swipes it away a hand run down his face.

"Dammit, Nicole," Benjamin spits out at her, before turning his back on her. Damn her for making him feel this.

They all lost people in the explosion. She and Colette both thought they'd lost each other when the bomb destroyed Midtown. They had been lucky that they were both moved out of harm's way. Daniel Linderman's mercy saved them both, even if it left them estranged for far too long. Mary Ryans wasn't lucky. Ben was not lucky. She can't poke at that wound. Won't. Ultimately, she doesn't need to. He's the powder keg and she's giving off sparks.

His emotion nearly causes her to crack. She's seen that look before. When she returned to Allen Rickham after he had been afraid Sylar had killed her to take her identity. She wants to let Ryans wrap her in his powerful arms now the way that Allen had held Steve then.

But he isn't Allen. He doesn't have a family he would need to leave in order to give himself to her. He doesn't have a dark secret weighing him down like iron. He only has that intensity and that strong heart that drew her to him in the first place. This is her chance to do something right for once.

Today is the day she understands the tough, terrible choices the people in her life have had to make, she supposes.

"I am nothing," is asserted in direct opposition to the assurances she received from Howard Phillips outside about twenty minutes before. "You lose me, you lose nothing at all." There's no self-hatred in her voice, only a cold, hard edge, like she's delivering a factual report. She's leading him somewhere, and she knows there's no coming back from the edge she's about to leap from. He needs to watch her make this jump of her own will. It will make all of this easier for him in the end.

There is a sharp, short bark of a laugh. Not mocking, but more of a 'I cannot believe I am hearing this' kind of way. Fingers run through Ryans hair - leaving it a little messier then before - while he can only shake his head. He turns towards her, a slow lazy turn on the heel of his foot, his arms going out a little in a gesture of helplessness, and he states simply, accusing, "You are a damned fool, Nicole Nichols, if you really think that." The words are husky with emotions that he is trying not to express. It leaves him sounding a little like a man defeated.

"Do you think for a moment, that I would have said 'yes' when you asked me to marry you, if you were nothing," his voice softens a little, "Do you?"

His eyes drop down, again, and there is a motion in the vague direction of her mid-section. "I didn't even know about…" the baby. He doesn't say it, just lets the absence of the word hang there. His eyes flicker with anger at the thought that she hadn't told him. There had been plenty of times. He felt like a fool himself.

His fingers curl in as he steels himself for what he is going to say next. "You know what… Fine," his words are filled with a sort of pain. "You want to storm into that facility and risk not just yourself, but that baby as well…" He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Unable to look at her, he focuses on the beanie and preparing it to be stuck on his head. "Then… you do that. I can't stop you. Hell, I'd be doing the same thing." What did he say? The grey beanie is pulled over his hair, with a few strands of grey dappled brown hair sticking out. "But, Nicole…" he says softly, not saying anything more until she is looking him in the eye, "don't expect me to be able to stand aside and let you get yourself killed."

He's right. He wouldn't have said yes to her. He wouldn't have pledged himself to her. She would not have disappeared and let him think she was dead if she thought she really meant nothing to him. That's what makes all of this so sad.

He's followed the breadcrumbs she's set out for him so beautifully, and God she wishes she hadn't. Nicole wishes so desperately that she weren't so good at what she does. Now they're talking about the forbidden subject. The elephant in the womb, if you will. The powder lays in a messy pile at her feet, draws a line between her and this man and the possibilities that they can make this right and salvage what they have. This should be what saves them. Nicole's eyes shut heavily before she ignites the spark that will send everything up in flames; before she falls slowly backwards off this precipice and into the darkness to watch it all burn.

Ryans looks her in the eye and Nicole opens her own to stare right back. And she laughs in his face, bitter and cruel. Her expression contorts with confusion, then dawning realization. "Oh God. You actually think…?" Her full lips curl into a sneer. "Don't worry, Ben. It's not your baby to lose."

She hopes she never returns from this mission.

The emotions bleed out of his eyes; as, his whole body feels like it had been hit by a cold bucket of water and the world has gone still around him. "Wh - ?" Ben starts and then stops. Lips press tight-line, as he finally lets his gaze drop away, lest she see the blow she caused him - and probably his ego too.

Completely unmanned, Ryans doesn't have anything to say to that - at least not right away. Instead, he moves towards the door of the cabin, his mind telling him he needs to get out of there. Fingers find the door handle easily and with a jerk that is a little harder then he meant, Ben gets it open. Snow drifts in on a stiff breeze, chilling the air around him, immediately clearing his mind.

Maybe, just maybe, this is why he doesn't walk out immediately, fingers move to grip the handle on the outside of the door. "I've lived a lot longer then you have been alive, Nicole," his words are thick with whatever this was that was hurting him so deeply. "I've been married, I've raised two girls, who are not much older then you…"

His back is to her all this time, his words carried back on the cold breeze. However, he does cast a look over his shoulder, his expression is a mix of betrayal, hurt, and… pity(?) "What I said still stands."

In other words, …you're lying and he knows it.

He won't give her a chance to retaliate. The door slams behind him, hard enough to rattle windows and earn him a scolding later — no doubt — from their host.

The door slams and Nicole wants to give a voice to her anguish, but no scream follows in Ryans' wake. She sinks to the floor and lays there on a rug in front of the fire, the music finally catching her attention again.

Once upon a time I was falling in love
Now I'm only falling apart
There's nothing I can say
A total eclip—

The lights flicker a moment, return. The music does not.

Previously in this storyline…
Chopping Wood

Next in this storyline…

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