Know Best


nicole2_icon.gif ryans2_icon.gif

Scene Title Know Best
Synopsis Ryans and Nicole both think they do.
Date July 24, 2011

Solstice Condominiums: Nicole Nichols' Home

For once, Benjamin Ryans finds himself waking up before the young lady he's been staying with. Woken by the streams of bright morning light sneaking in. He's even able to slide out from under the covers and tug on a pair of pants, without any real movement.

Sneaking out of the room, he eases the door shut a little, not closing it completely. It allows the typical scents of breakfast cooking to filter into the bedroom. The sharp salty scent of cooking bacon and the earthy inviting scent of coffee brewing.

In the kitchen, Ryans is hovering around the stove. A mug of coffee resting on the counter, near plates of bacon and… pancakes? His hand wanders over to snag the handle of his morning java and sips at it while he holds the handle of the pan in the other. Eyes are narrowed at the pancake currently cooking, watching as he suddenly give the pan a jerk to send it into the air.

The man can flip pancakes. The girls loved it when they were younger. Those rare times he was home.

Something about the scent of coffee always seems to pull Nicole from her sleep. In the foggy recesses of her mind, the fact that there's actually the scent of a full breakfast cues the woman in to who's behind this.

Wrapped in a white silk robe decorated with an oriental dragon in blue, Nicole pads into the kitchen in her bare feet, carefully rubbing sleep (and eyeliner that didn't quite wash away) from the corners of her eyes. "Morning, Ben," she greets with a lazy smile. "Smells delicious. I wish I could get used to having you here all the time." The smile fades slowly. Their situation is not ideal.

"Morning." Is the gruff response, followed by a glance over his shoulder to offer her a smile that manages to crease the lines at the corner of his eyes. It fades a touch as her own falls. There is a twitch of brows, before he turns back to the food, as he uses a spatula to put the pancake with the rest.

"I wish I could get used to being here," Ben admits himself, sounding a little more subdued. "Maybe one day…" He trails off with a sign… Another glance is spared to her before, he pours what seems like the last of the batter into the pan. "For now… I'll cook the lady of the house breakfast when I am able to stay over."

"I'm a master of taking my victories where I can get them," Nicole muses, sidling up to wrap her arms around Ryans' waist from behind, cheek pressed to his back. "I'm glad you sleep here between trips to… Wherever it is that you go."

She doesn't ask questions. There's a patience to it, knowing that if she needs to know, she'll know. And Nicole's always been good at playing wilfully ignorant. It comes with the territory of her line of work. It comes from knowing if the police (or God forbid, the military) knock on her door and ask questions, she won't have any answers to give. "Maybe one day," she agrees.

"Mmm." The sound rumbles deep against her ear, where it presses against his back. She can't see his eyes shut against the sensation of her close like that, the warmth of her there. "As long as I'm welcome," he'll be there. He hasn't even been over every time he's been in town, fearing what would happen if Heller's attention shifts her way. He hasn't told her about what the man did to Griffin's sister.

"And as long as it's safe," Ben is forced to amend after that thought, a small chill putting that sinking feeling in his stomach. One of her smaller hands is lifted so that he can press a light kiss to give his own show of affection.

"I'm a big girl." And she lied about exactly what she's capable of on her registration. "Don't ever make the mistake of thinking I don't know how to look after myself." He can hear the grin that her lips tug into. "You're too smart for that."

Nicole withdraws after the kiss to her hand only so she can pull herself up to sit on an empty portion of counter top. She wears an easy smile, but there's something about the look in her eyes. "You know, I still haven't gotten up the nerve to talk to Kincaid? I'm just… Embarrassed. I know I shouldn't be, but… But I am. About… That whole thing. With Brad."

"I don't doubt that you're a capable woman." Which isn't a lie, per say. There is a lot he doesn't say, letting her go. He watches her hike herself on the counter and she might see his eyes follow the fall of silk over her form.

"Should have seen the look on Delia's face when I told her about us." There is some amusement there, but only a touch. "So I think I can understand a little. Kincaid is a good kid. I don't think it'll be as bad as you might think." Of course, he hasn't seen his future grandson since shortly after the dome. "Despite the tension between Bradley and I, 'Caid doesn't seem to be effected by it."

The final pancake is added to a fresh plate, another follows before he offers it to her. "Gives me hope that maybe his father and I might patch things up." Though what he's read about Bradley's political future, he doesn't believe it. "Butter and syrup is near you there."

Nicole gasps softly, a hand coming up to cover the surprised little 'o' shape her mouth forms. "You told Delia? And she didn't faint? She's probably going to punch me in the arm." She reaches out to take the plate offered to her then, a grateful thank you murmured.

"Kincaid's bright," Nicole agrees as she twists to reach for the syrup. Normally she'd add butter, but that would require balancing the plate and that just sounds like too much work too early in the morning. And heaven forbid she move to the kitchen island to sit at one of the chairs like a normal person. "He must get it from me." She, who has donated no genetics to the cause. "Nurture over nature, you know." Giggles, nose and corners of dark blue eyes crinkling with amusement.

"Who knows. You might have been some influence in his life. Maybe both of us." Tho' Ryans sounds more like he's 'playing along'. "And no she didn't. She looked more like a fish out of water. Jaw on the ground."

Ben busies himself with pancakes, taking a moment to add a couple of pieces of bacon to the edge of Nicole's plate. He doesn't move to the island. Content to hover where she sits on the counter top, he waits for his turn at syrup while taking a bite of bacon. Though he watches her, he seems almost distracted, lips pressed into a line. "Not sure what Delia would do to you over that. She is rather protective of Bradley, but I don't think she'd get that upset. Except maybe over the fact that I am seeing someone that isn't her mother, over who you were dating before."

A small smile tugs at the corner of his mouth as he adds softly, "Not to mention if… Ingrid happens that means she's not the baby of the family anymore."

And while Ben's playing along, Nicole is only joking anyway. "I can't really imagine that… Never mind." She's seen what her influence turned Ingrid into. She feels this is evidence enough that she had nothing to do with Kincaid's upbringing. "I'm glad Delia is taking it well. She knew that there… wasn't really anything between her brother and I. So I guess at least that isn't terribly awkward for her?"

Her fork clatters against her plate with a sudden start, timed well with the mention of Delia no longer being the baby of the family. Nicole laughs, seemingly embarrassed by her clumsiness. "Well, I think things have been going rather well. So…" Colour creeps into her face and she suddenly realises she's supposed to pass the syrup. "Oh! Here. Sorry."

The clatter of the fork gets a rather alert glance, body tensing for only a moment. He has to remind himself to relax, before taking the bottle from her, with a soft smile of thanks. He works on his prep, while rumbling on. "They have," he admits about the state of things, but doesn't elaborate and his feelings there.

"I think the real test hasn't started yet." There is a glance, while he sets the bottle down and picks up his fork. "Things… such as… would you follow me if I had to leave the country to get away. Could you really be happy living on the run?" Dreams have shown it could happen after all.

While Nicole has the answer immediately, she does Ryans the courtesy of meeting his eyes and studying his expression before she gives it to him. "Yes, I could be. I've been ready to pack up and go for… months. Or just go if there's no time to pack. It's just an idea I got used to with… everything going on." She was ready to get Daniel Linderman out of the country. Or follow her beloved Sissy wherever she decided they needed to go. This isn't so different. "I don't want you to feel like you'd have to leave me behind for my sake. I don't do anything I don't want to do."

The plate is set aside in favour of gesticulation. "I like having you here, Ben." The L sound on that word almost lingered a second too long to avoid suspicion. "I want you to be around as often as you want to be around. I want you here. Or I want to be where you are." Her eyes plead, and she reaches for him, but aborts the attempt. "I just…"

He listens to her quietly, brows slightly furrowed. Almost seeming worried. "I wasn't pushing you for an answer now… or today. I just… wanted you to think about what you'd be losing." He makes a gesture with his free hand, before it comes to rests on the slick silk resting over the top of her thigh, fingers tightening there briefly, more a comforting gesture than something intimate.

"I'm a traitor, a hunted man. Fugitive with a kill on sight order." It's harsh, but the truth. "Just being here, I am risking your life." Something that does keep him up, if they haven't had a few drinks that night. His own food abandoned, he studies her.

"Our future isn't written in stone, Nicky." Using a less formal version of her name, rather then the Nicole he usually calls her. His palm is warm against her cheek, before it drops to rest against her neck. "You don't have to follow what has been laid out, but I admit I don't mind being around you. So I won't stop you either way. I want to give you a chance to be safe and happy, avoiding some of what I read." He has peeked at what dreams have revealed about her future after he dies.

"I've seen what a future with you gives me." Nicole rests a hand on either side of her lover's face, thumbs gently brushing over his cheekbones. Her hands are warm, as is the skin under his palms, indicative of the lingering charge that isn't tell-tale in the shade of her eyes yet. "I know what the risks are. I know what happens to… us. But it doesn't have to happen that way." She smiles then, a little bittersweet, "It's just like you said. The future isn't set in stone. It's… It's already… changing."

A little hesitant, and uncertain. But there's hope. "It doesn't have to turn out sad."

His blue eyes shift back and forth as Ryans watches her features, possibly trying to see if there is any doubt there. Something. Maybe it's his own issues making him look for these things. Fear of taking this trip again for the third time in his long life, even though he recognizes the signs and how it feels to have her hands touching him.

His own fingers slide along silk, threads catching on the rough callused skin of his palms. "I… am certain it's changed." His voice is gruff and soft. It is hard to know where the old man's thoughts are in that moment. His head tilts down a little, eyes shifting down, but he's not really seeing the detailed blue embroidery.

What he doesn't say is that he can't see anything but a dark future for them with the way things are. Ben isn't sure he should even say it. Instead, he schools his features, forcing a small smile. "Maybe you are right," he finally concedes, watching his hand move over the robe. It's hard not to feel the slickness of the fabric. "Maybe if all works out again this time it'll be happy this time."

"Ben…" Nicole sighs heavily and tips forward so she can rest her forehead against his. "You silly man. I'm always right. I thought you had picked up on that by now." Sitting back again, she watches his own face, serious expression at war with the hint of a smile on her lips. "The world probably isn't going to get better for a long time. But we shouldn't put our lives on hold for that.

"Some things don't wait for socio-political change."

There is a deep chuckle at her comment, fingers tightening their grip. "I guess I've forgotten that the woman is always right." Words spoken to keep the peace with the female gender. He glances up at her, with a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "I'm sure you will make sure I remember."

Hands cradle her face, so that he can place a kiss on her forehead. An affectionate thing, linger for a moment. "Okay…." He murmurs against her forehead. Leaning back a little so he can focus on her, he says, "I'll stop trying to push you in a different direction and just…. focus on making this work." He brushes a thumb across her bottom lip. He still feels that cold brick of worry in his stomach. If something happens to her, because of him?

He'd never forgive himself. A third time would destroy him.

Nicole finally slides off the counter and wraps her arms around Ryans, head to his shoulder for the space of several seconds. It's indulgent on her part, needing him to feel close to her, her to him.

Finally she pulls away and picks up her plate again. "Pancakes are getting cold," she reminds in a soft voice. She can't dismiss his fears, as much as she would like to. She might actually like to shout at him. Do you think I can't take care of myself? You don't have to protect me, I protect me! But she might make him cry (stop laughing, Reader) or feel bad or something. And that seems counterproductive to what Nicole's trying to achieve.

"You don't need to push me away. I know full well what I'm doing, okay? It feels like you cheapen my decisions, acting like you think you know what's best." Diplomacy. Tact. Those things Nicole is supposed to be stellar at. The things that helped her climb the ladder of success, as the saying goes. "I know you don't mean to. I know you're just trying to look out for me, but… I'm not blind. I know things are dangerous. Scary. Things won't be easy for us. I know that. But I think it's worth it." She walks past him to set her plate on the island and finally begin cutting up her pancakes, her back to him as she does.

"Think I know what's best?" The words come out even, flat. Nicole can't see the way Ben's lips flatten into a line. He turns and rests back against the counter she just left, hands perches on the edge. It's a casual pose, but there is a touch of irritation there.

"I'll give you that I haven't seen what you can do to protect yourself," he rumbles, watching the play of silk across her back. "But it isn't acting… I have seen things. I. Have seen what can happen to families that get caught up in my life." He doesn't elaborate on that. Won't if asked. "Not saying you haven't… I just… want you to understand where I am coming from.

"This relationship is new and I am running on what I know… and what I have experienced in my lifetime." Ryans pushes away from the counter, taking those few steps that will bring him up behind her. Almost looming over her in with his height. She feel the gentle weight of his hands on her hips, before she hears him softly say near her ear, "I joined the Company to protect what I cared most about. I am not attempting to cheapen anything, Nicky. It's a part of who I am."

"I have mother bear instincts that you can't even begin to understand, babe. I am the protector." She looks over her shoulder, a soft glow to her eyes that might as well serve as a warning flash. "And those instincts of mine… They extend to you. And they extend to Delia, and Luce. And they extend to Ingrid. To Kincaid, and Benji…"

Nicole turns away again, her face tipping downward and hiding in one hand. "I just need to know you aren't going to walk away in a week, or a month, or six months because you think that's what you must do to protect us." She winces, grateful that he can't see it. "If it has to come to that… I want that to be our decision, not just yours."

There is no flinching away at that look, holding his ground like the stubborn old man he is. Or maybe showing that he isn't afraid per say. "I never left Mary." Is the soft, yet hard response. "I was married to her for nearly twenty years. If she truly knew what happened around her, I am not sure we would have lasted even that long, but I never left her. Even when people…"

Ben stops abruptly and then sighs heavily. "Even when people encouraged me to leave. For their safety."

There is a hesitation that keeps him from wraps arms around her waist and holding her. Instead he presses a small kiss to her shoulder. The silk feeling odd against his lips. "As long as we're together. As… long as you continue to want me in your life, you don't have to worry about me leaving for that reason."

"Good." The response is short, matter of fact. Nicole feels rigid. Looks it. She swallows down the lump forming in her dry throat. "I'd hate to have to train someone else to make breakfast," is a deflection. A poor attempt at humour.

A few seconds pass in silence, tense and charged (on her end). "I'm sorry," she finally says. Because it needed saying. "I'm… very alpha female. I don't like feeling like decisions are being made for me. And I'm just…" Nicole pauses to take in a breath that hedges on exasperated. "Hormonal. I didn't mean to… Okay, I did mean to snap at you. But I'm sorry I did it."

It may be a poor attempt at humor or maybe it's the Alpha female comment, but there is a smile that she doesn't see. "And I am, I guess, an Alpha male. I foresee some rather heated fights in the future." Ben almost sounds a bit amused.

His hands slide away, with the intention of giving her personal space back. "That said, I am sorry as well. Not for being protective mind you," like Ben said it's a part of him, "but for making you feel like I might take that control away. That wasn't my intention."

"It's all right," Nicole assures in a quiet voice, finally letting her hand fall back to the counter. "Let's just eat our breakfast, huh? I'll get dressed and pick up a copy of the Times while you shower." She drags one of the chairs in front of the island over toward herself and braces one bare foot on the rung to lever herself up into the seat.

And she murmurs something that's covered by the clink and clack of her fork against her plate.

What she says is pretty much missed in the scrape of metal on ceramic, but he doesn't push to find out what it was. Ben glances at his own half eaten plate of food, but doesn't go to pick it up. "I think I may go get that shower now, actually." A hand rubs at the side of his neck and scratches at the back of it in thought. "Standing over a stove in the summertime tends to make a person sweat."

He does, however, snag the last piece of bacon on his plate. It's bitten in half as he exits the kitchen, but not before stopping near the island and Nicole. He sneaks a kiss to her temple. "Don't bother with the dishes, I'll take care of them when I get out. In the meantime, eat your fill and get the Times."

Nicole tilts her head to one side to accommodate the kiss and nods, taking the time to finish chewing and swallowing a bite of pancake before responding with a simple, "Okay, dear." When did this strange arrangement of theirs get so incredibly domestic? It's not all together bad, or even troubling. Just… slightly baffling.

She watches Ben disappear down the hall, then turns her gaze out the living room window across from her, and the sun shining in direct opposition to the climate of New York.

It's only going to get worse.

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