Hardly Broken


nicole_icon.gif shane2_icon.gif

Scene Title Hardly Broken
Synopsis An early Sunday morning finds two colleagues swapping stories.
Date February 16, 2020

Fort Jay

Shane Bishop's office has been dark for weeks. While locked, various items were slid under the door, making a little patch of white envelopes and items. Some of them were 'get well' sorts of wishes, others were case notes before Bishop was removed from his current cases. Deputy Director Voss gave him time to recover.

Shane had been injured in an attempted rescue from a car back on January 31st; it had exploded, and he was in the hospital for the burns and other injuries he'd sustained. The severity wasn't really talked about, but then he ended up being gone longer than expected, and office rumor was that during the stress of the situation, he had finally Expressed. A few bets were probably placed on what exactly it was; maybe the slim, short agent had become a telepath, and couldn't be around people yet. Maybe he kept exploding. Shane's SESA case worker kept mum about it: privacy, after all.

Without warning anybody, Shane showed up painfully early on a Sunday morning: perhaps to avoid most people. It's likely successful. Shane looks extremely different, and there's some discomfort and weirdness about the whole situation for him.

So far, he's gotten inside his office (a use for all that stealth training), and has picked up the piles of papers on his floor. Distracted, he sifted through it, sinking into his chair, sorting piles. It's comforting busywork. ….And then CRACK. He broke his plastic chair by leaning backwards. And then mashed it more by jerking and twisting to catch himself, the desk got kicked forward against the wall and door. Well. THAT was not stealth, or subtle.

And so it is that the newly monstrously tall and broad man is now carefully cradling the wrecked chair pieces in one arm, and the other smaller pieces in a trash bin hooked in his other hand, carrying it all out towards the hall. His jaw is tight and hard, masking embarrassment under something clenched, like a held breath. This makes his overall appearance, in the combination of expression and physical scale, a bit of a slow juggernaut in the hallway.

It's not so unusual for someone to be in the office on a Sunday. Nicole Varlane is, as a matter of fact. When she heard doors and papers shuffling and the like, she didn't think anything of it. The light in her own office is dim. Being provided by a desk lamp, it doesn't manage to reach under the door with the motion-triggered overhead light in the bullpen on.

What is unusual is the sound of a commotion from one of the other offices. Nicole rises from her desk, rubbing her eyes as they readjust to distance vision from staring at files so long. Steps made toward the door are quiet thanks to the carpet in her space. The door slides open soundlessly on well-oiled hinges and she cautiously pokes her head out to see what the fuss is about. It's highly unlikely someone's broken in to Fort Jay with security as tight as it is, but security can only account for so many evolved abilities. She makes her way to the hall, careful not to let the heels of her shoes sound on the harder floor now.

Shane's silhouette is unfamiliar to her, especially from the back. Nicole steps out, “Hey!” When he turns around, she has one hand stretched out before her, fingertips splayed and palm toward the floor, like she would be pointing if not for the fact that none of her other fingers are curled inward. It's an ultimately nonthreatening posture, if not for the blazing blue of her eyes that her co-workers have come to expect.

Shane turned quickly. Head at first, taking her in with the snap of a very aware agent and operative that has had to react like that many times in the past. The trash can makes a little groan noise as he grips the edge of it a bit tighter automatically, which is accidentally aggressive, as if he'd throw it.

He doesn't throw the trash can, though, he turns fully around, stopped. "Agent Varlane," Shane greets. He sounds mostly the same, at least. "Broke my chair." He just drops that information like he dropped his chair not long before. Just…. Thud.

And there's a sense, in Shane, of needing to explain. The report of the broken chair isn't enough. "It's Bishop. I know. It's weird." Shane lifts the chair bits a little as if they could speak up and chime in on the weirdness level. He really does know that it is really damn strange, and that an explanation is warranted. He glances aside, revealing a quiet, awkward humility facing this situation. This isn't something he was entirely prepared to deal with.

Confusion sets in to Nicole's features immediately. She recognizes a non-aggressive stance first, so she isn't about to lash out, and the voice comes second. The further explanation sees her hand lowering slowly. “Bishop?” She lets out a whoosh of breath and doesn't bother to hide the way she looks him up and down.

“Welcome to the club, I guess.” For him, Nicole manages to a thin smile. It's not unkind or patronizing, just… a bit delicate. She hasn't known many people who manifested later than she did. “Would you like any help with that?” It isn't so much that he doesn't look like he can handle it, but that it's an awkward load.

Shane watches her without distrust; he understands her position and her needing to identify him. He's done it to the mirror repeatedly. It's startling and he's not used to it: and he wouldn't expect others to be either. So he stands there during the look, with an aware, quiet acceptance of all of it.

"The club of finally answered questions," Shane agrees with a flick of hooked smile. He extends the trash can when she offers to help. "Please; easier to open doors with a spare hand, if you have a minute." There's no show of musclehead pride over such a thing, and he didn't take it as an affront to his ability to handle it. "I'm hunting a dumpster; I think there's one to the back side of the side entrance," Shane says, in a way that questions if she knows. He hasn't been to the office for a while, but his memory for details is quite decent.

"This wasn't quite how I pictured returning to work, but in hindsight, it probably should have been," Shane jokes calmly.

“Yeah,” Nicole confirms regarding the location of the dumpster, and her willingness to help him carry the broken pieces there. Hustling down the hallway the rest of the way to him, she reaches out to transfer part of his load to herself, tucking a broken armrest against her hip on her left side.

Leading the way now, since she still has her right hand free, she scans her badge to let them through the hallways and out the back exit and around the side of the building, chatting as she goes. “I can imagine. Happened during that explosion I heard about, right?” Presuming the rumor mill holds a grain of truth. “I got struck by lightning.”

"Yes. I've gotten injured before, but this was… I think more to do with getting crushed under something heavy. It's a bit of a blur," Shane answers, trooping along in her wake as she leads through the hallways and down to the outside.

"You were hit by lightning?" Shane repeats, as they reach the large dumpster, freeing his left hand to flip open and hold the big lid up. He's stupidly tall; it's easy, and that shows; he almost flung it because he expected it to be heavier than it was. There's some issues with bodily awareness that will be clear even in the short time in his company.

"The odds of that are remote; how did it happen, if you don't mind my asking?" Shane asks, thoughtfully, waiting for her to toss in the items he'd handed before he lifts the bulk of the seat and backrest into the dumpster - overly gingerly.

“I'm sure you read my file.” There's no accusation or sourness in that supposition. They're agents and it's good to know who you're working with. Bishop seems the thorough sort. All that said, there's a lot that isn't contained there. Not for his level of clearance, and not at any level of clearance. This is one of those details. “I was in Las Vegas,” Nicole begins to explain, “when there was a freak storm. A bolt of lightning just—”

She pantomimes tossing down something from over her head. “Came straight down onto me.” After all these years, the story is easier to tell. Even the details have started to get fuzzy. “Turns out, I absorb electricity.” Nicole gestures toward her face after she's hefted and dropped the armrests over the side of the dumpster while he holds the lid. “Hence the eyes.”

So, that's not an intimidation measure, just a side effect.

“I'm like a living lightning rod. If I stand outside during a thunderstorm, you don't want to be standing near me.”

Bishop is the thorough sort. There's a difference between reading a quick item about it on a dossier and getting the impression of the story, though. And Shane is definitely an interviewer: to hear the intuitive side of the story along with just the facts. Both together are important: at least in how he's always worked.

"A good safety precaution; should we work a case together, I'll remember," Shane says, glancing down into the dumpster, emptying the last of the smaller broken pieces from his trash can, and then finally lowers the lid.

"You mention the eyes: can you run 'out' of electricity, then? If you absorb it, do you also generate? I'm only curious if the eyes is …all the time. I suspect this," there's a quirk of wrist towards himself with his hand that he was rubbing on his pants since the trash lid was dirty, "is my 'all the time', now." At least he's stabilized, that was a scary two weeks of not knowing.

Nicole shakes her head. “No to generation.” She dusts her hands off unnecessarily and slides one hand halfway into the pocket of her jeans. “Yes to running out. I can only store so much, and since I can’t make more, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Until I find something else to draw from. That said, I can draw from just about anything.”

There’s an apologetic smile then. “I know the eyes are a bit unnerving. I’m told people get used to it. I’m not doing it to freak anybody. I just…” She shrugs helplessly. “Can’t help it!” Turning on her heel, Nicole starts back toward the building. It’s a bit cold, but it doesn’t seem to bother her. He almost never sees her with a coat outside, now that he thinks about it. “Your all the time is at least marginally less startling than mine is.”

"Maybe so, but I suspect my days of undercover are also at an end," Shane laughs softly. It's rueful, some uncertainty on the underbelly of the comment, as if he hadn't decided how exactly he felt about that. "I wouldn't have said unnerving, necessarily, as a descriptor, to the electricity."

Shane lacks a coat, but does suffer from the cold a little: but in that area he'll posture, and pretend not to. He doesn't possess a work-appropriate coat that currently fits him. That's not as high as some things on his list of problems, really, though. "I grew up being the scrawny little guy with everything to prove. I hardly judge people by the things about themselves they have no control over," Shane says, simply. "I save that for being critical of myself," he teases, as they head towards the interior. Shane examines the emptied trash can briefly as he comes in.

“Oh, you’d be surprised. Agent Diaz manages to pull it off.” And there are so many people who find it nearly impossible to keep their eyes off that man, from where Nicole’s sitting. Herself possibly included. She’ll never admit either way.

Once Shane is inside, Nicole steps in after him and lets the door shut behind them both. “I know what it’s like to fight for everything you have. Every shred of respect.” Little wonder, a woman in her line of work. And politics before this. “I used to run political campaigns. It’s a miracle I never stabbed anyone for calling me little lady.

Shane returns to the stairway; there's a lot of self-awareness present, evident care as he climbs the stairs; he's being overly watchful of where he's placing his feet and hands: keeping track of his coordination. Which means he's doing well, though some of his attention is on that, in addition to their conversation.

As Diaz is brought up, Shane's expression turns to a squinted, focused one, as he evaluates his memory of Cesar; they've not had extensive contact at all, but Shane does know who Nicole means. "That's true; he'd be memorable for other reasons, I'd expect," Shane laughs, relaxed about it. Shane's used to being an underdog in most ways, and that's still present: his current state hasn't infected his thinking or caused any arrogance. Not yet, anyway.

"Politics, oof. Not my bag, but I can respect the motive to make things better as a leader. What made you quit?" Shane asks.

There’s a quiet chuckle in the wake of Shane’s question. “Well, Praeger secured office and I didn’t get appointed to anything…” Nicole’s not bitter, honest. “So my services weren’t really needed there anymore. Instead, it was requested that I liaise between the newly formed agency and the Oval Office, so that’s what I did. Sort of like having a foot in both arenas.”

Nicole emerges into the bullpen again, gesturing with an open hand in a sort of there you have it gesture as she says, “Then they eliminated my position, so now I have Agent in my name, instead of Liaison.” That she is bitter about, and it’s apparent in her tone, incongruous with the easy smile on her face as she tilts her head toward the kitchenette. “I put a pot of coffee on,” she explains, inviting him to join her. “If I thought any of the current candidates were worth a damn,” she circles back to the topic, “I’d be considering getting back into it.”

Her voice lowers to a conspiratorial whisper, in spite of the fact that they’re the only two in the office. “Though if I’m being honest, I’d rather just throw my own hat into the ring.”

As they return upstairs to the main office area, Shane performs a slightly self-conscious look around, as if checking to see who else might be around to give him a confused stare. Fortunately (though not so much for band-aid ripping), they're still alone. "Well, I understand the need to follow your…. Ambition," Shane chuckles with a hooked grin, as if he'd been about to say she should follow her heart. He's chuckling but not really joking: he gets it.

"I'll have a cup," Shane agrees, coming along to the break room, and selecting one of the common-use mugs; his own is off in his office and he doesn't need to go fetch it at present.

"Well, if you throw your hat in….." There's a curious pause, "What pieces are you missing right now, compared to the others already active as candidates?" Shane inquires. There's a focused quality to it. Shane is a troubleshooter, a problem solver, and while he isn't actively trying to fix the thing put in front of him, he is, absolutely, doing a bit of an analysis to help her work through it, if she wants that.

Nicole takes the empty mug from Shane and fills it first, sliding it over on the counter for him to take when she’s done. There’s room for cream and sugar, since she isn’t sure how he takes it. Not yet, anyway. She’ll be noting that as they go here. Her own coffee mug was already set out, likely when she started brewing the pot. It’s a colorful thing with rainbows and storm clouds and blue lightning bolts. The art was clearly drawn by a child.

Incidentally, she takes her coffee black. “Oh, I don’t have nearly the deep pockets that the current candidates have. That’s my biggest stumbling block for starters.” Turning her back to the counter, she leans back against it, cradling her mug in her hands. “I’m amazing at a fundraiser, but the pool is wide right now. There’s less cash to go around for everyone.” Being a latecomer to that party isn’t going to do her any favors.

“Sure, being Ferry is now considered a good thing, but there’s a lot of baggage that comes with that. I know I can field whatever crap people want to throw at me, but it’s going to be a lot of the same shit, different day,” Nicole reasons, tone a little flat. She’s given this a lot of thought. “Breaking through to actually address the issues will be key.” Her mouth quirks up into a wry smile, “There’s also the fact that I’m a woman.” In case he hadn’t noticed. “And that pool is deep with testosterone.”

Shane is very careful with the mug: when she slides it, he uses the side of his hand to slow it and then draw it in gently with his other palm as if it were made of brittle porcelain. It is an ever-present fear he'll forget himself and use too much strength, and really harm something more important than a chair, but he can at least take care with mugs and small objects. He ends up putting just cream in it, and cradles his own mug one-handed. It's a little awkward, from feeling weirdly oversized compared to how things were. Like the world around him got oddly small and delicate.

"I can empathize with the Ferry. It can create opportunities…" Shane gestures around them a little, indicating how his ferry background probably landed him this current job, among other factors. "But there's a breed of heroic expectation." He give Nicole a kind smile, brown eyes quietly empathetic, which is probably unusual on a big tank of a man like this one.

"Would running now put you in a better position for running in the next cycle?" Shane queries. "Forgive me, I'm no politician."

Sipping at her coffee, Nicole takes in how Shane is careful with his movements. There’s no overt judgement or pity in the observation, however. It’s simply something worth noting. If anything, she’s impressed with his mindfulness. His smile shifts, softening and warming in response to the one he gives her.

“It could,” the former liaison posits. “Get my name out there, let people figure out that I’m serious, give them time to do research into my record…” She makes a sound of laughter that’s somewhere between a sniff and a snort. “But that’s a double-edged sword, too. The more time you give your opponents to dig up dirt, the more ammunition they’ll have.”

Which is to say, “There is dirt to be found. Do I think it should disqualify me? No. But there are a lot of heavy hitters that will see it that way. Or at least convince the voting populace to.” For Nicole, this is an uphill battle. One she seems willing to fight, but if her reputation is anything to go by, she’s a strategist at heart, and she needs to think it through.

“Or,” she grants, with a wave of her hand to indicate the space around them, “I stay here and try to find contentedness with my place in the system.”

Shane drinks his coffee, and only spills a little. He's trying, but it isn't perfect. His caution is keeping the slight clumsiness in check for the most part, though. He takes it in stride - he has to - and uses a paper napkin to wipe away the bit of coffee spill. His cheeks flame just a little, but he carries on. He used to be so precise; this is quietly frustrating.

"I would encourage you to try. The system and this place will still be here, won't they?" Shane asks. "But then, I'm usually an encourager of taking an opportunity, and having that story to tell, even if things turned inside out." Shane smiles again, more broadly this time, and shrugs. He jerks his eyes back to the coffee mug, but he's okay, there wasn't a second spill. He rolls his eyes, able to laugh at himself ruefully, and takes a big drink of it to help lower the level of liquid.

There’s a tenor of approval in the quiet hum Nicole responds with. “I’ll think about it,” she resolves. “You’re right, it’s not as if SESA is going anywhere. Though, if I leave and try to come back, they may question my commitment to sticking with the position come next cycle.” Which wouldn’t be entirely unfair, in her eyes.

“You’re doing really well,” she commends him, unprompted. “I was shorting things out left and right after I manifested. I was afraid to touch anything that had a battery or a circuit board.” There’s sympathy in her gaze. “I get it. The adjustment is rough. But you’ve got this.”

"Maybe. Were I your superior I'd rather you do the job that you're most passionate about, particularly if it's going to benefit the city as a whole more than what you can do here," Shane answers thoughtfully. He doesn't press on any of it, though, gives that measure of his opinion without weight.

Shane lifts one hand, with a sort of skeptical dismissive gesture, "You haven't seen the dishes in my apartment, or the coffee table. The chair was the most recent casualty, but not the last. I know it will take time to figure it out. So long as I don't harm anyone, I consider that yes, I'm doing okay," Shane says, his faded smile returning, though it's more subdued. He is worried about it. "I'll be starting back with just investigative duty, unless there's an immediate emergency in the field that needs all hands on deck."

Her head tips to one side, granting that he could be right about the opinions of her superiors. If she has her doubts, she doesn’t give them voice or real estate of her expression. “Small steps are good,” she segues instead. “It’s better to start slow and work back into it, rather than expect yourself to return at full capacity or not at all.”

Nicole sighs quietly. “Dirk’s got an extra chair at his desk, by the way. I’ll tell him I hid it somewhere in the building. It’ll be hilarious.” They do seem to like their pranks around the office. Although, she doesn’t have the reputation for participating in them. She’s much too serious for that, by all accounts. But there’s a marked difference between her behavior today and the woman he met on his first day in the office. Maybe it’s because there are fewer people? Or maybe she’s just in a better mood.

Or it could just be that some people aren't instantly warm to strangers. Shane isn't as much of a stranger now: at least in personality. Physically, he's a stranger to himself. Whichever way it is that has caused the shift in Nicole's outlook, Shane doesn't worry too much about it, at least for now. He's a collector of evidence and facts, and should it be useful later, he'll remember the shift.

"Dirk does? All right. I'll see if I can't find something suitable to replace it, to add another layer of confusion. Or perhaps a chalk outline where it was?" Shane suggests with a quick grin, looking towards the direction of the offices.

Now that… That is a fantastic idea. A slow grin spreads across Nicole’s face to match Shane’s as he proposes his suggestion for making this devised prank even better. “I’ll go find some evidence markers.”

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