Nothing More to Be Done


wf_barbara2_icon.gif wf_nadira2_icon.gif wf_nicole2_icon.gif wf_raith2_icon.gif wf_tasha2_icon.gif

Also featuring:

wf_francois2_icon.gif wf_unknown12_icon.gif

Scene Title Nothing More to Be Done
Synopsis Bearers of bad news descend on Nicole's home.
Date April 11, 2011

In Dreams

Nicole has been in her bedroom for hours even though the only clock she has to go by is the old grandfather in the townhouse's living room, and that runs several minutes fast — something her husband has been saying he'll fix for the past several years but has never gotten around to, and maybe she could blame him if his responsibilities outside the home didn't occupy the time most men spend with their families.

It isn't uncommon for him to be gone for days at a stretch, and although he's only been gone since sundown, she can feel in her bones that this time it's different. It's why she asked him not to go. Why she stopped in the middle of cooking dinner and left knife on chopping block, carrots and parsnips in pieces, and a pot of chicken stock boiling until the stove burned off all the water, leaving only a fatty film on the bottom of the pot that eventually began to ripple and blacken but did not disintegrate because small hands have already learned how to work knobs.

Outside, there is no rain coming down against the building's scorched brickfront or flooding the abandoned construction site out back, abandoned for seven years and counting, which is exactly how long the brownstone has been the only building still standing on its block, its neighbors reduced to heaps of rubble that grow flowering weeds in the spring and the children scour for frogs and lizards in the summer.

The knock that eventually comes at the door is heavy. But it's also expected.

In the hours since she abandoned dinner, Nicole has made the bed, then spent several minutes staring at it until she tore the comforter, and the flat, and fitted sheet off to crumple in a heap in the corner of the room, joined by cases after the pillows are shaken out. She redresses the bed again with new sheets, folding and refolding until the lines are perfect.

Her throat is tight, she can barely breathe. She knows. But if she just doesn't… think about it… He's come back. Every time, Nicole's husband has come back to her.

Maybe she should sweep. Or go back to finishing dinner. Or maybe she should take a shower. Destr—

The knock on the door is punctuated by a sharp gasp. Nicole turns and looks at her bedroom door, seeing beyond it (metaphorically) to the front entrance. She straightens her posture, brushing her fingers through her hair before she moves for the front of the house. She rests her hand on the knob for a moment, another deep breath before she lifts her chin and twists, drawing open the door.

Shoulders back, spine straight, she tries to look composed, and imperious. Prepared. The mask she wore for so many years when she fancied that she was queen of the political court.

There are several awaiting on the otherside of the door. The knocking hand is still raised, ready to knock again when the door finally swings open. Her gaze isn't turned directly ahead, instead angled back at one of the others who has come with her today.

But when the door opens, her gaze quickly sweeps back towards the woman answering it, offering a bit of a small smile the blies the otherwise weary look on her face. "Hello Nicole," Barbara Zimmerman remarks quietly as she offers a nod to the woman. A brief moment of silence as she glances back, and then to Nicole. "Do you mind if we come in?" She doesn't really wait for a response, though, slipping in the space between Nicoe and the door frame, plenty of room for the others to follow behind her. It's a few paces in that she stops, and turns, looking around the room. "Is your daughter around?" is asked hesitantly, before she looks back. "We have news."

Of the group at the door, it might figure that one of the oldest among them is Jensen Raith. At this point, there aren't many in this company that are older than he is. Even if he wasn't one of the oldest, it might be hard to tell: Every time someone sees him anymore, he always looks just a little bit worse for wear. He looks tired, and there's a slight strain in his breathing, although it lacks the rasp of bronchitis or the urgency of asthma.

Much as Barbara brings herself inside without really waiting for an invitation, he does the same, not really giving Nicole a greeting or even much acknowledgement. What he does do almost immediately is ask of her, "May I have some water, please?" His breathing may have a strain, but his voice sounds okay. Chest cold, probably, and with how hard he pushes himself, is it any surprise? They tell Raith to take it easy, but the Raith does not abide.

The small and familiar brunette is less formal than Barbara, dark eyes seeking Nicole's blue. Sympathy and worry are obvious, as Tasha has always been an open-book in regards to her emotions. She moves to Nicole's side, curling an arm around the other's waist. "Let's go inside," she says quietly, leading Nicole away from the door.

"Where's the pixie?" she asks quietly, looking around the room for signs of the child, her concern and compassion for that member of the household evident in the search of the room.

The dark-haired Egyptian woman is shortly behind, and Nadira offers Nicole one of her typical sweet-but-serious smiles as she moves towards Nicole's other side as she moves inside. "If she is not in bed," she adds, "I demand a hug, at least. My day is always brighter with a hug from that one." Her eyes also scan, but her gaze is serious. Perhaps she hopes that the girl is in bed.

She isn't. She watches the gathering by the doorway from the archway that separates the living room from the dining room, which houses a tall table of made of heavy wood with six chairs placed around it. Six because it's twice the number of people who live here, and Nicole fills the void that her husband's absences leave open with the presence of friends and extended family.

It's empty now.

Although Nadira is demanding hugs and she can clearly hear her from her vantage point, she does not budge from the archway, concealing herself behind the molding, its pristine white paint flaking. She's too young to remember her mother and father taking fat, sloppy brushes to the house after claiming it for their own. Too young to remember Nicole's sister-in-law and step-daughter smearing paint on one another. What she remembers is a boy and his lap, skinny arms looped around her waist, watching the adults work. What she remembers is a robin's egg blue dress not entirely unlike the one she is wearing now over a pair of white leggings with grass stains on the knee and how upset her mother got when she discovered the fingerprints of paint on it.

She wishes the boy was here now.

An average-sized man with a Grecian profile that has not grown any less arresting with age hangs back in the doorway as the others move inside. Fingers hook around the door's handle and pull it shut behind him with a gentle click much quieter than the initial knock had been, but with a greater sense of finality to it. Francois says nothing.

"No," Nicole says firmly, her lips quivering. "Get out of my house!" A finger points at the door even as it's pulled shut behind her visitor. For all that she pulled herself together, she's falling apart twice as quickly.

If they don't tell her, then it can't have happened.

She wrenches herself free of Tasha's embrace and retreats further into the house. "Please, please," Nicole begs, "just leave." Her voice pitches up, almost a squeak for how tight her throat is.

They won't, of course. Leave. And so she forces calm, though there's no apology there for any of them. Trembling, Nicole turns on her heel and moves into the kitchen to fetch that glass of water for Raith. "Go give Mrs. Mihangle a hug," she tells the young girl standing by, tone gentle. "Then… Then go play in your room, honey." For her daughter's sake, she isn't sure she should stay in the room for the duration of the conversation that follows, that she should see her mother completely crumble.

Accusing looks are sent around the room in turn. She'll regret it later. But not for now.

Sending her daughter to another room was exactly what Barbara was going to recommend. Maybe even sending Tasha or Nadira to play with the child while the rest of them talked, to distract her from might become a rather harried discussion. Particularly after that reception. It wasn't what Babara was expecting, but she's not surprised. Despite that, shes till winces at the forceful no. This is never easy, and the best she can do is offer a false smile towards the child, and a sympathetic one to Nicole. She doesn't speak again yet, however, instead turning her gaze towards Raith.

When the glass of water is surrendered to him, Raith nods a thanks and then begins to drink, stopping almost immediately with a moderately irritated look as he swallows, before going back for another drink. Went down a little rough, looks like.

Although he waits a moment to see if the youngest in the room does depart, he continues with what he has to say whether or not she does. And whether or not Nicole wants him to. "I think you've got it, already," he says plainly. Time drag on, and as it did, Jensen Raith lost more and more of his feeling inside.

"We're here about Ben."

"Nic," Tasha murmurs, though she lets the other woman step away from her. Tasha goes down to her knees to grab a hug from the little girl, a nose to the girl's cheek, and a smoothing of the girl's hair from her face. "I'll come read to you in a little bit," she whispers. "You can pick the book, and we'll make up a better ending, all right, Ingrid?"

She stands once more, her eyes seeking Nicole's, more worry in her dark eyes before they return to Raith. "We should all sit down," she repeats.

Nadira stoops down, her eyes focusing on Ingrid with a warm smile before she kisses the blonde's forehead. "Always good to see you, little one. Now you'd better go on up like mama says." Her voice is tender, slowly returning to her full height once she's done with the gentle greeting. The tender voice and eyes settle back on the girl's mother after a moment.

"I am going to politely decline your request to leave, Nicole, but thank you so much for the offer. Tasha is right. We should all sit down," the Egyptian says, smile gentle but still steadfast. She moves towards a chair with an air that seems to expect the suggestion to be taken.

The adults are moving away, including her aunt, whose sleeve thin fingers made an attempt to clasp before Tasha drew herself upright. She makes a noise at the back of her throat that sounds like no, not because she wants to disobey, but because she doesn't want to be alone. It's why she does not go any further than the top of the stairs.

"There was an ambush," Francois explains, his voice strong and clear without needing to raise it. "Your husband and Lashirah Lee provided the cover fire that allowed the scavenging party to escape. Lee was mortally wounded as they were falling back — Benjamin would not leave her.

"There was nothing more to be done."

Nicole does not sit down. She doesn't make it to the table before she crumples on herself, one hand still clutching the edge of the sink as she ends up on the floor in a heap. "No," she wails. "No." Her shoulders hunch up toward her ears, like trying to make herself smaller. Like she might disappear.

"Ben, you stupid fuck!" the grieving widow screams, because she's angry. Because she's in pain. Because her husband is gone and there's nothing she can do about it. Because he did the noble thing, and maybe that will bring a bit of solace to the people Lashirah Lee leaves behind…

But all Nicole can think about is that maybe her husband didn't have to die. Maybe he could have gotten away with the others. He could be home now, with her. And her daughter. She screams and wraps the fingers of her free hand around the handle of one of the cupboard doors under the sink, pulling it open and then slamming it shut. "No! No! No!" Each shout is punctuated by another loud bang.

Barbara's hands fold in front of her, trying her best to remain looking like the councilwoman she is, her head hanging just a bit as Francois relates how tonight's events came to be. She can't help but wince with each cry, each slam, again angling a look back towards Ingrid's room, a frown on her face. It can't be helped, and she offers no blame towards the other woman. And with Nicole still in the kitchen, it's too hard to move to offer a comforting hand without risking receiving shouting in her face as she has before. So, instead, she moves to sit.

"If there was more that could've been done… I promise you, it would've been, Nicole. But from what I heard, they were caught off guard. Benjamin, he did a great service in his sacrifice," she says softly. eyes turning in the other woman's direction. "Your sister, among others, is alive because of his actions. Nothing can make up for the fact that it came to that, but… so many people will be forever greatful for what he did." Hopefully, that helps ease some of the pain. Barbara can hope, at least. "I'm sorry, Nicole."

Even so far into the game, Raith is a soldier. Without a doubt, he's a great many other things, but he will always be a soldier before the rest. This is why doesn't say anything at this moment, leaving it instead to Barbara, who says everything that can be said. The most he can hope to do is make a heart-felt toast to Benjamin Ryan's memory later, and who can say how long it will be until the time is appropriate for that? For the moment, Nicole will have to get by without Jensen.

The slamming cupboard makes Tasha wince each time, and empathetic tears are pulled from her like the tide is pulled by the moon, though she bites her lower lip. The mention of Nicole's sister twists her mouth with worry; it's not news to her that Colette was hurt, but that she's here rather than at Colette's side shows how much Nicole means to her as well.

Dark eyes dart up to the top of the stairs, and Tasha chooses to move that way rather than to Nicole, to help Nicole by doing what is impossible at the moment. Tasha sits on the top step next to Ingrid, wrapping an arm around the small girl and bending to press lips against fair hair. She doesn't ask how much Ingrid understands or doesn't. She's a bright little girl, and they're all too well acquainted with death — even the small ones who would — should — be sheltered from it, in a better world.

Nadira turns to face Nicole, her eyes shooting to Tasha first as she moves to be with Ingrid before she moves towards the woman. As angry as she is, she's not afraid of the shouting or the yelling or the screaming. She knows someone's pain when she sees it. The Egyptian has seen enough pain from loss in her time. She moves near the woman, but she stands there, her presence simply there for whatever Nicole needs—a tight hug, someone to fight against, a shoulder to cry on, or simply someone to stand there so she isn't alone.

"He has been, and always will be, a hero," Nadira says. It's the same thing she told Griffin when Owain died.

Nicole relinquishes her hold on both countertop and cupboard when Nadira crouches to her level and wraps her up in a hug. She holds tightly to her friend and sobs into her shoulder for several moments. Mournfully, she murmurs her husband's name against Nadira's shoulder, "Oh, Ben."

And she knows that she isn't alone. Not just in the sense that she's surrounded by friends, and family. People that care about her, and that wanted to be here for her when she was given the news.

Nicole Ryans slowly extracts herself from the embrace and pulls herself to her feet, moving to the stairwell swiftly, a look of thanks to Tasha. She climbs the stairs and then holds out her arms to Ingrid. "Come here, my little princess," she whispers through the vise-like grip sorrow holds on her throat, then scoops up her daughter. She presses a kiss into her cheek and then guides her head to rest on her shoulder, a hand stroking over her hair. She doesn't say it's okay. Because it isn't.

Not now.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License