So, You're Dating a Bad Guy


nicole_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title So, You're Dating a Bad Guy
Synopsis Richard is the bearer of bad news. Nicole takes it about as well as can be expected.
Date December 10, 2019

Bay Ridge: Nicole's Home

The sleek black car that parks outside is of Yamagato make, but there’s a Raytech logo airbrushed along the side of it in a way that makes it seem oddly cyberpunkish in comparison to most of the Safe Zone. A symbol of a future promised that may yet come. Or perhaps not.

Richard’s dressed in ‘business casual’ as he hits the doorbell outside the house, which is to say in black slacks and a black polo shirt, with a light jacket in synthetic materials falling to his hips - black with red edging.

Dark sunglasses perch upon his face to hide his eyes, and his expression is strained; not quite a grimace, but he’s clearly not happy to be here, despite his friendly relationship with the woman who claims this address as hers.

There’s no answer at first. Then, there’s a static crackle from the doorbell, which clearly serves as a camera and intercom system. «Hey, Richard,» comes Nicole’s voice from the little box. «I’m just stepping out of the shower. Give me a sec and I’ll be right with you.»

An audible click! indicates the door has been unlocked electronically. Her house may not look cyberpunk, but it’s definitely got foundations in the future of tech. Judging by the shiny housing of the system, it’s a recent addition. Given what she’s been through the past few months, it’s probably an overdue precaution.

True to her word, Nicole emerges from the hallway leading to her bedroom, a towel draped over her shoulders to protect her simple maxi dress from the moisture not yet wrung out from her long, dark hair. “I suppose I could have just let you ghost your way in. Probably should have,” she reasons with a shrug that’s followed by an immediate hiss and a wince.

A dark blue sling is sitting on the coffee table in the living room. “You mind helping me put that thing on?” Nicole requests with a small smile. “Not supposed to move the shoulder much.” The bandages have been removed, but it’s hard to miss the line of stitches along her collar. Small, but visible.

“I try not to do that when i don’t have to,” Richard admits as he steps within, glancing to her arm with a worried frown, “Kaylee and I stopped by the hospital but you’d already been released— how’s the arm doing?”

Stepping over to collect the sling, he moves back to assist her with it, “Alright, how does this go…?”

“Yeah. They say that I didn’t hurt my head too bad. Just happened to get a glass shard nasty enough to do some damage. Avoided a brick to the head.” Nicole picks up the sling in her left hand and slides her right arm into the sleeve of it. “If you can just carefully pull the strap around and adjust the pad so it’s sitting in the right spot?”

She slides the towel off her shoulders and holds still while he follows her instructions, a small smile on her face. Having his help is a small blessing. It means she doesn’t have to jostle herself trying to get everything into place. “Thanks. I have to wear this thing for a couple weeks, then I can start going without it a couple hours at a time. Get it used to movement again, little by little.”

Dark brows lift and Nicole fixes Richard with a look. “But you didn’t come here to ask about my arm. You could have done that with a text. What’s on fire this time?”

The sling’s strap is pulled slowly around, and with her assistance the pad’s nestled where it should be. Richard steps back once it’s in place, nodding once she’s settled in with it. “Good. Follow instructions, I don’t want to have to call a healer for you,” he mock-threatens.

One hand comes up then, fingers rubbing at the nape of his neck as he glances away, “Well… like I said, we stopped by the hospital. It wasn’t— entirely to see you, though. We were actually there to see Miller.” Stressing we.

“Ah.” Nicole nods her head slowly. “How sober am I going to want to be for this conversation?” Padding on bare feet over to her kitchen, she grabs an orange bottle of pills. Holding it steady in her right hand, she pushes down on the cap with her left and twists. There’s only the barest hint at how much effort it took to handle a child safety cap visible in the way her eyes blink shut just a moment longer than they ought to.

Shaking two pills out onto the counter, she sets the bottle and cap aside. There’s no seven-year-old about to get into the fun drugs at the moment, so she’s fine leaving the damn thing open. “You want a beer? Whiskey? I’ve got gin…?” She’s going for the latter herself, splashing it into a lowball glass with a sphere of ice and some tonic.

“You may want to be a little less sober than you are right now, but I’d save the stronger liquor for afterwards,” Richard admits, a grimace twisting its way across his expression. “I’ll take the gin too,” he offers, if just to make it easier for her.

He steps along over to lean on the counter, starting, “So, some time ago I was contacted by a Praxis Heavy Industries insider.” That’s a hell of a way to start a conversation on this topic, and says a lot already.

Nicole pauses a moment, assessing Richard’s comment about her sobriety. She slides the drink she just fixed for herself across the counter to him and nods. She fixes a second one, this one with a considerably lower gin-to-tonic ratio. It’s a compromise.

“Jesus,” she huffs out with a breath of laughter. “Wouldn’t think they’d be looking to play nice with the competition.” But they both know that Praxis is a loaded topic of conversation. It has much more implication than just what sort of tech they work on. It’s who they work with that’s the real interesting tidbit. “I’m listening.”

“Surprisingly, we have a fairly decent professional relationship,” Richard admits, leaning over to pluck the glass off the counter and motioning with it, “But that’s neither here nor there. This particular insider had been asked to work on a very specific project by our favorite British asshole.”

There’s a lengthy pause, and then he admits, “Their partner in this project being Miller.”

Silence hangs in the air between them for a moment. Nicole keeps her unwavering stare on Richard even as the fingers of her good hand curl around her glass. She’s processing what this means.

“But Zachery works for you,” Nicole’s gaze shifts subtly from Richard’s eyes to the shape of his mouth, unfocuses slightly, then lifts back up. “You’re saying he had a… What? A side hustle? Other than being Providence’s GP?”

“Does the word Gorgon mean anything to you?” Richard looks back at her with an apologetic expression, “Because I think it probably does, given your job and all. That’s what he’s been working on.”

Time seems to stop. Nicole’s mouth drops open in a soundless gasp. Her focus slides to one side and a thousand miles away. Yes, that definitely means something to her. Tongue darts out between lips gone dry.

Blazing blue eyes snap up again. “What the fuck are you talking about?” Dancing on the razor’s edge between incredulous and furious. “Have you met that walking disaster? How could he possibly be—”

But she knows. Richard wouldn’t lie about something like this. Not to her. “Are you absolutely certain?”

“We had enough evidence that I let Kaylee go for a walk through his brain,” says Richard with a tight shake of his head, “Yeah. I’m absolutely certain. We’re still working on figuring out exactly what he’s doing with it, and the mole asked us to give them time and be patient, but…”

He looks down at the glass, “Now that we have certainty I couldn’t not tell you, Nic.”

Fuck.” Nicole lets go of her glass and reaches up to the ceiling-mounted cupboard above the counter, opening the door and then slamming it several times, all while repeating the expletive. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!

She’s left breathing hard after her little outburst. She picks up her glass and throws back a swallow of the alcohol, along with her pills. “I should have known better. Fuck. No wonder he was so upset when he found out I’m still working for SESA.”

Richard briefly considers asking if taking painkillers with alcohol is a good idea, but he thinks better of it after a moment. “I’m sorry, Nicole,” he says quietly, “To be fair— in his defense— they’re telling him that it’s important to save the world.”

A heavy sigh, “Given what we know of Monroe’s current plans, he may even be right. We don’t know.”

It’s definitely a terrible idea. But if he hasn’t figured out that Nicole is full of those by now, he hasn’t been paying attention. It’s not quite as bad an idea as storming the Mount Natazhat facility while visibly pregnant.

“So, what are you going to do with that information?” she asks. “Are you just giving me a courtesy heads up before you turn him in, or…?” Nicole sweeps him up and down with a look, as if she could discern his intent with a glance. “Are you going to let me decide what to do?”

“Right now?” Richard lifts the glass in a slight tip towards her, “Nothing. He doesn’t know I’m on to him, and I don’t want to blow the insider’s cover. They’re not going to let the project get completed, and… until then, I want to monitor him. See if I can use him to catch bigger fish.”

He grimaces, “Maybe figure out what the hell Monroe’s doing.”

“You put him in a room with your telepathic sister, and you think he doesn’t know you’re on to him?” Nicole lifts her brows and fixes Richard with a skeptical look. Ultimately, he’s probably right. If no one lets on they know what they know, why would Miller be the wiser?

Nicole takes another sip of her drink and taps her fingernails against the glass. “I would like to know the name of your source, but I understand if you’re not willing to give me that information.” Keeping informants safe in situations like these is paramount. “I do want you to share what you learn, however. I’m going to take Monroe down,” she promises. “For now, I want Zachery to stay uncompromised. I might be able to leverage something.”

Then she asks the most dangerous question: “Do you trust me?”

“Nicole.” Richard’s eyebrows both raise a little as he looks to her, “Do you think I’d be here if I didn’t?”

His hands spread, one with the glass in them, “Of course I do.”

Then he brings it back up, because as much as he trusts her, statements like that need to be followed by a bit of alcohol.

She nods her head, pressing her lips together as she considers. “Great. Then I need you to trust that I have a plan. A method and a reason.” Which means she’s definitely thinking of something that’s not going to go over well. The sort of thing that Ben would likely have yelled at her for even considering.

But Ben isn’t here.

“I should probably go see him. After I’ve given things a few days to cool.” Nicole is still recovering from the accident, after all. It’d be unbecoming of her to just race to Providence to try and insinuate herself into Zachery’s good graces again. Especially given that it should absolutely be the other way around.

“Yeah.” Richard looks at his drink for a long moment, a frown creasing his expression, swirling the liquor about in his glass, “Something just… isn’t adding up, though, Nicole. I look over everything we have to work with, everything we’re doing, and I just…”

He grimaces, “I can’t shake that feeling. Something is wrong.”

Nicole’s brows furrow, her too-bright eyes look stormy. “What do you mean, something is wrong, Richard?” Her boyfriend is working for Shedda Dinu, presumably, and he’s got his hands on Gorgon of all fucking things. How can things feel more wrong?

“What do you know that I don’t?” There’s another swig of her cocktail taken as she eyes Richard up and down, as if that might reveal anything at all about what he’s alluding to.

“I don’t… know what I don’t know,” Richard says in frustration, his head tilting back to look at the ceiling, “Too many people aren’t talking to each other. Too many buried secrets we haven’t dug up yet. And this came out… oddly easily, it basically fell into my lap. I feel like someone’s pulling strings to a pattern I don’t know, and I don’t like it.”

“You could be right,” Nicole grants. “But I’m not about to let good information slide just because it came too easily.” She sighs heavily. “Shit. I really thought…” The news affects her deeply, and she makes no attempt to hide it from him. He knows her too well by now. He’d be suspicious if it didn’t visibly bother her.

“I’ll take care of it. If I need your help, I’ll call you in. Zachery’ll… He’ll listen to me.” At least, Nicole hopes that’s true. Maybe she doesn’t really know him at all.

“It’s not just this, but… you’re right,” Richard grimaces, one hand coming to rub against the nape of his neck, “And I’m sorry, Nic. This is— yeah. I know it’s not what you wanted to hear, and it’s bad news, but I wanted to tell you directly. You deserved that at least.”

“I appreciate it.” Nicole leaves her empty glass to sit on the counter and comes around the other side of it to rest a hand on Richard’s arm. Her eyes are so very sad when she looks up at him to meet his gaze.

The moment lingers in uncertainty. It feels like she should say something, fill the silence that’s taken up the space between them, but she doesn’t. Maybe she’s waiting for him.

That silence lingers for a moment, Richard’s hand lifting to rest over hers for a moment… and he offers her a faint, sad smile. “You deserve a break for once,” he finally says, softly, “Hopefully it comes soon.”

Nicole smiles in spite of herself, eyes closing and chin dipping toward her chest as she sighs heavily. “Thanks. For that, and for letting me know about…” He can see the tension that winds through her muscles as she pushes down whatever swell of emotions threatens to make its way to her surface.

“Just, thank you.”

“Hey.” Richard lifts his arm upwards, offering an embrace he doesn’t reach for until she consents to it, eyebrows raising a little, “What’re friends for, huh? Aside from accidental electrocution, that is…”

A quiet chuckle serves as prelude to Nicole accepting the embrace, wrapping her good arm around Richard’s back while being careful not to jostle the healing one too much. “I suppose you’re right about that.”

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