Shake It Off


nicole3_icon.gif noah_icon.gif voss_icon.gif

Also Featuring:


Scene Title Shake It Off
Synopsis The clash was inevitable.
Date July 31, 2020

Fort Jay

By this point, Nicole Miller has given up trying to catch Noah Bennet for lunches. He’s used every single trick in the book to dodge her. Sometimes more than once. And even though they’re both aware of what he’s doing, it doesn’t stop. She’s tried waiting him out at the ferry. She’s tried catching him in the morning. It’s been months. Nothing has panned out.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Agent Bennet has just entered the restroom when the door bangs open behind him. In storms the assistant to the director, and if he didn’t know better, he’d swear the air smells of ozone just to get a look at the expression on Nicole’s face. Her eyes may not glow anymore, but that doesn’t mean he can’t see embers in them.

“Shake it and get out, Sandoval,” Nicole snaps to the agent at the urinal. She at least gives him the courtesy of not glaring directly at him until after she’s heard his zipper and he’s hustling past the door she holds open.

And then shoves shut again, turning the deadbolt on it with a click that could just as well have been a bang.

Taking up position with her back against the door then, Nicole folds her arms, stares expectantly at Noah, and waits.

Noah squares a look at Nicole from the middle of the restroom, stationary and implacable. He adjusts his glasses, then walks over to the mirrors by the sink and checks his hair in it, then looks up at Nicole in reflection. Putting a finger to his lips, Noah makes a purposeful eye contact to Nicole, then turns on the faucet, then another, and another.

Slowly, stands up straight and beckons her deeper into the bathroom as he backs his way up toward one of the stalls, opens the door and— goes in and shuts it behind himself.

Nicole breathes in sharply through her nose, the flattest of expressions fixed on him while he turns on the taps. And then…

Well, she supposes she deserves it if he’s going to make this awkward, but absolutely fuck him with a chainsaw anyway.

“Fucking talk to me, Bennet.” She keeps her voice down, though her tone is terse enough that he can tell she’d rather be doing some of that yelling she’s been known to indulge in since she got back from her sabbatical. (And if she sees one more look of horror or pity from another person, she might start in again.) “You can’t keep doing this.”

“You’re right, but I wish you’d take into consideration why I’d been avoiding you.” Noah says quietly, just enough that she can hear him through the stall. “Now we have a witness, probably two more at their desks who saw you come in here to talk to me. In the back of your mind, I need you to be thinking of an explanation.”

Nicole can hear the toilet paper rattling on its roller. Noah continues, undeterred. “I know you want answers, but I don’t have anything for you. I’m looking out for myself, just like you should be. But you need to ask yourself a question.”

A rolled up bundle of toilet paper drops to the floor, pushed out by the side of Noah’s shoe. “Who is looking out for you?”

“We shared an office for months,” Nicole counters in a hiss. “Why the fuck wouldn’t we have lunch together, you paranoid son of a bitch?” But she is thinking of an explanation. Had been before she ever came in here. Because she knew there was a not-slim chance this wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Her eyes drop to the paper on the floor. She presses her lips together for a moment before stepping forward and snatching up the bundle in her hand. Now, or later? She stares down at it and contemplates.

“No one, obviously.” Just look at the state of her. If someone were looking out for her, she wouldn’t be fitting in her old clothes right now.

“Wrong.” Noah says flatly, followed by a noisy flush. He stands up, belt buckle jingling sounds and all. When he opens the door, Bennet looks back to himself in the mirror and squints, walking right past Nicole to stand up beside it. He looks at her in the reflection, then turns slowly.

Noah breathes in through his nose, then closes his eyes and takes off his glasses. He walks a few paces toward Nicole, then says, “Punch me in the face. As hard as you can.”

Nicole rolls her tongue over her teeth and turns from her lean against the sink to face him. “You took off your glasses. No one will believe I sucker punched you,” she points out.

“My idea is better.” She arches a brow.

“I take off my glasses when I wash my face,” Noah says plainly. “Just hurry up.”

“Always has to be your way, doesn't it, Bennet?” She doesn't give him time to rebut that before she hauls her fist back and punches him right in the nose with the force of all the barely restrained rage she's been holding back since she woke up in the middle of a plane crash in Manitoba.

This way — his way — protects her reputation in a way her way absolutely would not.

So. He's looking out for her.

“Hard enough for you?” she growls, jaw tight and lips pursed.

Moments Later

Noah Bennet emerges from the bathroom with a hand over the bridge of his nose, blood on his shirt and staining his upper lip. Several field agents slowly rise from their desks as they notice his condition when he walks out of the bathroom, shooting nervous glances between one-another. Among them, Donald Kenner looks particularly uncertain of what to do, especially because of the looming figure in the hallway just off the office floor.


Noah turns, looking squarely at Kristopher Voss. Voss’ expression shifts when he sees Bennet’s face, then looks to watch Nicole as she exits the bathroom. Sandoval must have said something, or someone else did. Voss looks from Bennet to Nicole, then breathes in deeply and exhales a sharp sigh.

“My office,” Voss says starting to turn, “both of you. Now.”

Noah looks up to Nicole, exchanging a silent look, then slides his tongue over his teeth and starts after Voss.

Well, she supposes that was inevitable. Nicole sighs, slipping a hand under the collar of her blouse to discreetly adjust the strap at her shoulder as she sends a quick look around at the gawkers. Then she lifts her chin and gestures for Noah to march on ahead of her.

This should be fun. When she steps inside, it’s with her head high, a haughty expression, and her mouth firmly shut. Bennet can do the talking.

As they approach the office, Noah has blood dripping off his fingers which causes Voss to hesitate. He takes a step back and holds a hand out, warding Noah away from the door. “Jesus Christ, just go clean yourself off first. Try not to get into another fight in the process?”

Noah nods, glancing inside at Nicole, then steps away to the break room to quickly clean his face up. Voss exhales a frustrated sigh and steps inside the office, shooting a look over at Nicole. “Tell me he fell,” he says through his teeth, looking at her with a stern expression over the frames of his glasses. “Tell me that the only thing I have to talk to you about is barging into the men’s room and verbally accosting Sandoval.”

“Right into the sink, sir.” Nicole responds, surreptitiously snaking her right hand behind her back to make sure she’s got the blood wiped off her knuckles on the inside of the waistband of her skirt. “Damnedest thing. Never took Bennet for a klutz.”

She sighs and has the grace to look ashamed of herself. “I… I’ll apologize to Sandoval.” That weasel. “And I apologize to you. This shouldn’t have to be a conversation you’re having at all. I’m sorry.” Humble pie is her least favorite flavor, for the record.

Noah comes back into the office a moment later, blood cleaned up from his mouth and at least dabbed off of his shirt. He’s pinching his nose with a tissue, head tilted back. Voss looks him up and down, one brow raised.

“She break it?” Voss asks and Nicole immediately realizes what he’s doing. But Noah answers too quickly.

“No.” He says. “She knows how to throw a punch, though.”

Voss immediately looks at Nicole and presses his tongue against the inside of his cheek as he sits back in his chair. “Shut the door.” He instructs Noah, who quietly closes the door and lowers the blinds. Voss scrubs one hand over his mouth, shaking his head.

Nicole closes her eyes heavily as if absorbing a return volley from Noah. “In my defense,” she begins confidently enough, but still with her eyes closed, “you asked me to tell you he fell. I was just following a direct order.”

When she opens her eyes again, it's not anger there but pain and sadness. “He asked me this morning if I'd lost weight recently, Kristopher. I stewed about it all day until I just…” Nicole presses her lips together and clasps her hands in front of her, lowering her head remorsefully. She darts a glance to Noah from the corner of her eye. “I know you were just trying to pay me a compliment. It just… struck a nerve. I'm sorry, Noah.”

Can we just hug it out and go now?

Voss looks up to Noah, who shrugs helplessly. “I’ve got a mouth on me,” Noah says with a sort of keening grimace as he slouches down into his seat. But judging from how poorly Noah sells the lie and the look on Voss’ face, the deputy-director isn’t buying any of it.

“I do not know what the fuck is going on with you two,” Voss says slowly and flatly, gesturing between Noah and Nicole, “but whatever it is, I need it to stay out of this office.” He fixes Noah with a pointed look, hesitating from saying something before he looks back to Nicole.

“Director Nazan had asked me to put you on sabbatical after the plane crash,” Voss says in a quiet tone of voice, “but I told her you insisted on coming back to field work. I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt here, but this…” he looks from Noah to Nicole then back again.

“Noah, you can go. But you are on fucking notice, do I make myself clear?” Voss says through his teeth as Noah slowly rises up from his chair.

“Abundantly, sir.” Noah answers, offering an apologetic look to Nicole.

Nicole’s face falls. Think of a story, he said, then has the audacity to be the worst liar she’s ever seen? Is he even—

Miller closes her eyes and sags down into a seat. That would figure, wouldn’t it? She angles a look up and back to Noah then, questioning. Why did he suggest this? Why did he put her in this position? (Well, why did he pour fuel on the fire she already started, maybe?)

No. No. Nononono.

Her jaw sets against the instinct to start begging. She never did it in front of Linderman, so Nicole isn’t about to start now. The worst they’ll do here is fire her. Comparatively speaking, that’s not so bad.

She doesn’t wait for Noah to make his exit before she does speak up in her defense. “I need this job.” Even, measured. “I can’t go back to my house and sit around and walk past that—” Her voice hitches, but she recovers smoothly. “That nursery, all day long. I need to be here. I need to be working.”

Nicole doesn’t bother to hide how rattled the prospect of being placed on sabbatical or suspension has her. Voss needs to know he’s gotten through to her, and that she understands the severity of her mistake. “Please. This will never happen again.”

“Well, I’m counting on it that it won’t, but this building isn’t your therapist’s office.” Voss says in a matter-of-fact tone. It only dawns on Nicole as Noah has left the office that Voss isn’t even her superior in this instance, she reports directly to Farah. Which means…

“I’m asking you to take this time off.” Voss says as plainly as he can, resting his elbows on the desk and clasping his hands together in front of his face. “God knows the department knows you’ve been through a lot. No one is going to blame you for it, and if this proves anything it’s that you’re a powder keg and need some time away to think.”

Voss shifts in his seat, looking down at his desk, then back up to Nicole. “I’m suggesting two months. Three would be ideal, but I know you won’t listen to me. But if you don’t take this, I’m going to have to bring it up to Farah and with everything else going on I don’t know how she’ll react.”

“Please don’t—” Say anything? Hold this over her head? Be mad at her? Nicole isn’t even sure how she wants to finish that sentence. Instead, she sighs. “One month,” she counter offers. “I will check in at Benchmark. I’ll get my shit together.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Nicole’s lips press into a thin line while she thinks. Her gaze, flat and dull blue, meets his again. “Is there… anything to go on? Does anybody have a lead on… what happened to me?”

“No,” Voss says to it all, unilaterally.

“No, you’ll take two months and if you push me again you’ll regret it.” Voss adds quietly and without force. It is a matter of fact. “No, we don’t know what happened. The entire fucking alphabet is on this, Nicole.” He looks up at her from the surface of his desk. “The CIA is pursuing the manufacturer of the aircraft in Brazil, but it was an after-market cash sale from what we can tell.”

Voss shifts his weight to one elbow rather than the other, looking back down to his desk as he squares a cup of pencils to a shot glass full of paperclips. “Psychometry on the wreckage has fielded almost nothing of value that we couldn’t tell from a forensic analysis. The one corpse we found has no identification. We don’t know what country he’s from. We’re running DNA, but America’s records are spotty and international cooperation isn’t what it used to be.”

Voss spreads his hands, slouching back into his seat. He squares a firm look at Nicole, slowly shaking his head. “There was no black box recorder. No flight plan. The aircraft was flying below radar, we don’t even know if it was originally flying in a westerly direction or if it turned around and crashed on a return flight. We know less than nothing.”

None of that is comforting, and Voss knows it. “Take two months, go home.”

Nicole covers her mouth with her hand while she listens, processes how precious fucking little they have. It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s so obvious that she doesn’t even bother to vocalize it. An operation of this scale had to have been noticed by someone.

“You promise you’ll call me if you hear anything, right?” That is a bit of a beg, but one she’s not ashamed of. “I don’t care if it’s rumor or speculation. I can’t take not knowing.”

But she doesn’t make him swear to it or anything. Either he’ll call her, or he won’t. No verbal contract is going to hold him to anything. Instead, Nicole pushes to her feet. “Do you want me to leave my service weapon with you, or…?”

Two months. It’s going to be hell.

“It’s a vacation,” Voss says without answering her other requests, “you’re not fired.” Then with a sigh he adds. “And I hate to say it, but that gun is the only protection you have right now.”

It’s a cold, sobering truth.

But it’s all she has.

A Short Time Later

Outside of Voss’ office, Nicole is spared the sensation of everyone’s eyes on her. The short corridor connecting Voss’ office to the open floor is a privacy barrier, especially with his blinds drawn along the glass walls of hsi office. It gives Nicole a time to consider her next move, to compose herself, to figure out what comes next.

Leaning against the door she’s just closed behind her, Nicole draws in a steadying breath. Just a short walk down the hall, a right turn, and then her own office door. She can manage that. And probably without shooting a dirty look at anyone in the process.

Palms press flat against the door at her back and she pushes off from there, letting momentum put her into autopilot. She can’t help but feel betrayed. Since when is Noah Bennet such a terrible fucking liar? And she didn’t get the chance to ask him the question that’s burning her the most.

Is he him?

Rounding the corner, and then pushing past her own office door, Nicole shuts it behind her quietly, drawing the blinds on her window out to the bullpen first, then the ones to the outside.

Tugging the collar of her blouse away from her and to the left, she reaches into her bra to find whatever it is that Noah thought was so damned important to slip to her.

Scribbled in ballpoint pen on a wad of toilet paper from the men’s room is a message:

Manhattan Mini-Storage Unit #26
220 South St
Now you have time to investigate

Nicole scrubs a hand over her face and sighs heavily. “You son of a bitch.

Lifting the receiver from the phone on her desk, Nicole dials a number from memory. She waits for the connection to ring through. It only has to ring once before it’s answered. “Heeey. Uhm, something came up at work and I’m going to need you to pick up Pip tonight. I know it’s super short notice—”

Tipping her head back as she listens to the argument on the other end of the line, she just focuses on breathing evenly. “I know. I know. Just… do this for me, okay? Take her to the park, buy her some fucking ice cream. I’ll be home when I get home. Don’t wait up.”

There’s a moment of hesitation where she nearly sets the receiver back on the cradle. Instead, she intones with a heavy exhale. “I love you.”

Click goes the receiver and Nicole starts gathering things from her desk into a box. Nothing major, but she’d rather not come back to moldy snack food. First stop home, for supplies. Next stop, the Exclusion Zone.

“Hell of a place for a vacation,” Nicole mutters to herself as she shuts the light off to the office and locks the door behind her.

Good thing she’s keeping her weapon.

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