Sowing Seeds


ingrid_icon.gif nicole2_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Scene Title Sowing Seeds
Synopsis A chance meeting between Mr. and Would-Be Mrs. Ryans with their daughter doesn't go as anyone envisioned it might. Not that anyone envisioned it at all.
Date April 27, 2011

Farmer's Market

Farmer's markets can be a rather busy place, more so with the economy in shambles. A lot of this is better quality and sold at cheaper prices than the store. With a variety of of colorful canopys of the break down-able type and a few fixed stalls by the larger farms., they line the area in several rows, offering a variety of things. People of all walks of life line the tables, looking over the offerings. Testing this tomato or that avocado. This person offers organic dried goods, while this other sells canned goods. It's almost like a street fair in some ways, but mainly focused on farming and food.

Like he promised, Benjamin Ryans has invited along Nicole Nichols for the trip. He's finally gotten up the nerve to face her again finally. Having met her there only a handful of minutes before, he's already been distracted by a booth of fresh vegetables. Gotten his hands on a few packets of seeds of various vine plants, one farmer swore would give him a good yield.

Now he seems to be checking over a rather large tomato plant, the owner of the booth not far away talking to another customer. "…has at least one good size tomato growing already." Ben's been avoiding talking about futures yet really. Pots of plants running from waist high to knee high surround them on pallets. "Could use a few of those," his voice rumbles deeply as he moves to another tomato plant running hands over leaves and noting how many flowers they have.

He looks rather at home there in his solid dark red flannel shirt with rolled sleeves, with a long sleeved dark gray henley under it. With the worn jeans and scruffy jaw, he might even look the part.

Nicole Nichols has never kept a garden in her life, so all of this trying to pick the right seeds or the right plants or the right yield or knowing what's in season or when it will be in season is rather lost on her. She's at least dressed sensibly, in a pair of comfortable white Chucks for walking around. The laces match the tomato red of her sundress. It may be just a bit too early in the seasons for the dress, for anyone else. Especially considering the rain they've been having recently.

"I am totally out of my element," the politico laments. "Toss me into a board meeting or city council discussion, and I'm your woman, but this…" Nicole shakes her head, peering dubiously at a small… Is that a cucumber plant? Is that one one of those looks like? Or… maybe it's strawberries?

Tilting a look up at Nicole, Benjamin for the most part isn't easily readable. Brows tip up a little and he looks around him. "A few years back… I might have really thought something similar." He picks up a pot small enough that his hand about wraps around it with fingers touching. The leaves of the plant it holds are greyish green and rather… prehistoric looking and unfriendly with thorny like ends.

"Artichoke." He offers the name of the plant in his hand before continuing. "Growing up, I did spend some summers on my grandparent's farm, but for the most part I was a Navy brat and later a soldier. No time for gardening." He considers the plant with vague interest, before putting it down in favor of looking over a flat of strawberry plants with their white flowers. "Took it up again when I retired, found I enjoyed it. Started out tending Mary's roses and soon found myself digging up the backyard for vegetables and putting up a small greenhouse."

"I haven't had a yard since I was a kid," Nicole murmurs, curiously brushing her fingers against the leaves of the artichoke plant, then suddenly wondering if fondling the foliage is frowned upon. She retracts her hand and slides it into the pocket of her dress, fingers wrapping around the familiar weight of her BlackBerry.

"Been thinking of maybe growing my own herbs, though." A hopeful smile. Common ground? There's an elephant in the room (in the market?) that neither party is discussing. Nicole knows, rationally, that they should. She isn't going to be the one to open that door however. It's his move. "I could probably handle parsley and mint. Oregano. Things like that."

"I enjoy the smell of thyme, when you crush the leaves. Oregano as well." Benjamin gives her a bit of a crooked smile, faint but noticeable. It fades though, maybe he thought of that elephant, stubbed his mental toe on it.

Either way, Ryans is leading her out of the stall without buying anything. He's quiet suddenly for a long moment, letting his eyes rove over the offered fare of food. He can't avoid the subject for long before his deep voice softly says, "Delia pointed out to me… that… I am not the sort of man or father that wins awards." Being told he cares more for others is a blow to the man's confidence.

Drifting towards a long stall stacked with globes of various fruit. From tangerines to large watermelons. "A part of me thinks that maybe that 'Ben' in your dreams might be me… yet I look at my children and I wonder if I'm capable of being any sort of father to another child."

That's an awkward sort of admission. Nicole resists the urge to let her eyes wander their surroundings. She's long since trained herself to look someone in the eye, regardless of how difficult the topic conversation. So long as it isn't intensely personal for her. She, like most other human beings, is selfish in that way. "The man in my… dreams," sounds terribly like a stupid romantic notion that would otherwise make her roll her eyes or gag, "seemed to be a good father, and a good husband."

Her gaze drifts only in so far as her focus moves from eyes to the top of the man's nose, to his mouth. Always on his face. "I felt what she… I was feeling." Will feel? Nicole pulls a bit of a face at the uncertainty of her words, but she trusts he understands the notion. "Losing that man was devastating. If he's you, well… You must have done something right."

The struggle for the right wording gets an amused look from Benjamin. He can't help it. "It is a rather odd situation isn't it?" He picks up a cantaloupe, the sweet smell appealing to him. "Memories of moments you haven't even experienced. The woman you are in that dream is you and isn't all at once.

"Mine had a familiarity to it, only cause I remembering those aches. From the first time I was physically that old." He watches her, even as he feels the cantaloupe and checks it for ripeness. After a moment he pays the woman for it and tucks it into the bag he's been carrying.

"It's a nice thought though. The idea that maybe in my next marriage," the idea of him replacing Mary is an odd one, "things turn out better. There wouldn't have to be those lies and secrets that went along with being a Company agent. The need for mind wipes if something happened to them." He trails off there, lips pressing into a line. Maybe he hadn't intended to say that much.

Nicole flushes faintly in response to amusement at her expense. She doesn't feel offended by it in the least, but it still causes her to blush. "Yes. It is." An odd situation.

"You don't have to worry about me… I'm good with secrets." Nicole offers with a smile. "Keeping them, anyway. I don't like having things kept from me. I mean, who does? But I like to think I'm… fairly understanding." A little sigh passes her lips as she scuffs her shoe on the pavement beneath. "If only I could have convinced my sister of this."

The thought is banished almost as quickly as it comes over Nicole. Dwelling on Colette won't bring her back. "Your daughters love you, you know. They're not always the best at showing it, I'm sure, but… I just don't think they realise how lucky they are. I didn't have a father." She had a monster. "Not really. They'll come around eventually, I think."

He studies the young woman with mild curiosity. "Delia and Lucille might argue that at times they didn't feel like they had one either. My job sent me our a lot. Days, weeks at a time. Maybe longer, depending on the case. Much like my father was gone on the boats for a long period of time."

There is a soft sigh. "I tried to be there as often as I could manage." Still he seemed to take after his own father. "I don't doubt their love. Even when they use to stomp a foot and screamed that they hated me cause I wouldn't let them go to this party or buy that pair of hundred dollar jeans for them."

"You still made an effort. They'll come to appreciate it one day." Nicole pulls her phone out of her pocket and takes a moment to look over whatever notification she just received. Whatever it is, it's dismissed without comment. "Sorry," she murmurs as she tucks the CrackBerry out of sight again. "Believe me. I understand what it's like to be married to your work first."

A few stalls down, oblivious to the conversation happening twenty or thirty feet away, is a young woman bundled up in a sweater but no coat — in between sporadic April rainshowers, sunlight occasionally burns white through the overcast sky and gleams in the residual droplets of water clinging to fresh green leaves and on surfaces of the city's streets, including the one that Nicole and Ryans are standing on.

Ingrid Raines— Ryans (because they're supposed to be honest now) is presently turning an aster flower between her fingers and wondering whether or not it would be appropriate to buy one for her friend whose name is only one vowel away. It's traditional for men to buy blooms for women rather than the other way around, she decides, and although she doesn't consider herself a very conventional lady, she's conventional enough that she worries that it might send the wrong message.

She places the flower back in the bouquet she drew it from and exchanges her cash for a bundle of jasmine instead because Benji is the last person to misinterpret her intentions.

A glance goes to the phone, but not much thought goes towards it really. Ben's getting use to things like that, he even texts… sort of. It's really sad to watch when he does.

"By the way." Shifting his bag to his other hand, Ryans reaches back to his back pocket and pulls out a sheet of paper and offers it to Nicole. Inside a rubbing of a grave stone. "I had that delivered to me before Delia contacted me. It's her daughter, according to her. Told me about a son she has and mentioned Russo having one as well." That's right Nicole. Marry him and you'll be a grandma.

"What's a bit confusing is… in one of my dreams, Delia is holding a little girl. Long after that one." Benjamin's head nods at the paper. "Course, it might be another child of hers." How many kids does she have?!

Nicole unfolds the piece of paper carefully and peers at the rubbing of the stone. Those dates haven't even happened yet. That should really take her aback more than it actually does. "Where did you get thi-" Her words are cut off by a sharp inhale, just this side of a gasp.

When she lifts her gaze again, Nicole spots a familiar head of blonde hair. "There she is," she whispers urgently, reaching out to grab Ben's sleeve. "Behind you. Little thing. Has… flowers. In her hands." Fuck if she knows what kind they are. They've already established she's not good with identifying plants.

Not only flowers, but a small plastic container of gooseberries for Joshua and peaches for Jolene, fresh flatbread from one of the local bakeries, assorted vegetables for the curry she plans on slopping together in the kitchen tonight — she came across a stall selling quartered chickens at bargain price but decided that it would do them good if they made a conscious decision to eat more greens and had at least one vegetarian meal a week.

She carries it all in a large cloth shoulder bag bulging around the edges, though it can't weigh more than a few pounds altogether. Ingrid places the jasmine on the very top so the heavier items don't crush it.

Ryans is already preparing to explain the where and the how, but Nicole's sudden reaction as his freezing and going still. "She?" Yeah, it hasn't clicked what she is being talked about. Still he pivots slowly on the ball of his foot to look behind him. Blue eyes squinting slightly in the light, as he focuses further down.

"The blonde?" Ben asks softly, glancing at his companion for confirmation. "I met her once. In the park" Brows furrow a little. "Wouldn't tell me her name." Which had been suspicious at the time, making sense now. Which has a cold brick of realization and nerves settling in his stomach. Holy shit…

On the outside, he looks mildly interested.

"She's sort of the reason I'm looking at a garden. She asked about mine. Asked to see it." There is wonder that, his voice soft, while Ben watches Ingrid.

"That's Ingrid," the stunned woman confirms. "Should… Should we talk to her?" Does the young girl's indecision come from the Nichols side of the family? Surely not. Nicole shakes her head and then lifts her chin to look up at Ben. "We should talk to her." More assertive. The indecision must be a Ryans thing.

Nicole makes to step forward but then she stops, swivelling her attention back and forth between the girl, and the man. Her mouth hangs open juuuust a bit in surprise at the observation she's just made. "Oh God. She looks like you." She's not just imagining that, is she? No. Can't be. "Does she look like me to you?" Okay, maybe it is a Nichols thing.

While Nicole is moving forward, Ryans is staying rooted right in place. He doesn't answer right away, he's a little shocked over here. He needs a moment. Finally, he just says… "She does." There is a moment more before he adds. "More you then me." Thank goodness doesn't get said out loud.

There is a blink, before Ben looks at Nicole again. Then he motions her to go ahead and talk to their future daughter with a jerk of his chin towards Ingrid. Go head. He'll be right behind her.

Nicole does take another somewhat tentative step forward, but she turns and holds up one finger to deliver a warning to Ben before she does, "If you ditch me, so help me God, I will taze you." She forces the fierceness to melt away from her expression again before she actually gathers her nerve and starts forward again. This time with no intention of stopping until she's actually close enough to address—

Their daughter. Ohhhh, she really should have though this through better. But it wasn't supposed to… happen before she was ready? Would she ever be ready? Oh Jesus Christ, Nicole!

A smile finds its way onto the dark-haired woman's face, but her eyes are just a little too wide. Like a deer whose been trapped in the hi-beams of an oncoming truck. "Ingrid! Hi! It's so good to see you!" Nicole reaches up and appears to be brushing hair away from her forehead, but it's just a cover for how she's remembering the last time she saw the blonde. And the resulting… Let's call it a headache. "I~ still have your shoes. You should come by sometime. And get them."

The look Ryans sends after Nicole clearly says he would never do such a thing, even if a part of him is wanting to. Of course, it also is part amusement at the threat as well. Still, it seems wrong to meet a child he won't father for years yet, but a part of him wants to face her again, especially knowing what he does.

What Benjamin does do is hang back a little until Nicole has given her greeting. Then slowly he moves through the people, probably looking more like a predator moving through a sea of grass. He might be old, but he still moves like a man who makes a living out of moving faster then the other man.

He stops a few steps back from the mother and future daughter, not saying anything, but if Ingrid looks his way… well he'll give her a small nod of his head in greeting and a faint smile to hopefully put her at ease. He hopes.

Unfortunately, what you hope for is not always what you get; Ingrid's head snaps up at the familiar sound of Nicole's voice, and in the instant she forgets that tempting fate is never a good idea (especially for an optimist) and she tells herself that the situation she's abruptly found herself in can't possibly get any worse — she sees him.

This feels a little like the time she accidentally locked herself out of the house after sneaking out with Jolene to go stargazing and passed out outside the front door, only to wake up early the next morning sprawled sleepily across the entryway with her mother standing solemnly over her, doorknob clutched in white-knuckled fingers — but only a little. For one thing, Nicole isn't angry.

For another, her father is still alive and she does not have to imagine what he might look like standing behind her.

Because he is.

"Oh," says Ingrid, blue eyes darting back to Nicole. "That's— okay. I. I have lots of shoes. I have" And she wracks her brain for an exact number. Decides instead to choose a higher one to emphasize the unimportance of her plight. "One hundred. One hundred shoes. That's a lot of shoes, so. I don't need I don't need them. Those shoes specifically, I mean. Because I have a hundred other ones. Pairs. Pairs of shoes."

(She has five.)

Nicole presses her lips together and turns her head like she might look over her shoulder to her companion. But there’s a fear that if she blinks, Ingrid might take that moment of unobserved to disappear. Like a Weeping Angel. She wonders for a moment if she passed on her love of a certain science fiction show to her daughter or not. Will pass on? Jesus.

"It’s… It’s okay, Ingrid. We…" Intent to look at Ben aborted, Nicole lets her posture shift so she's giving Ingrid her full attention again. "We know." She does, however, reach back and grasp Ben's sleeve, dragging him forward so he’s standing next to her, rather than this imposing sentinel in her shadow. "Could we go somewhere and talk? I think we should probably talk.

"I'd like to talk."


A single brow ticks up on the former agent's face. Benjamin will never understand women and their shoes. He's wearing his only pair. When he was an agent he had two, because and agent needs a nice pair of dress shoes. Oh wait. Three… those sandal things he use to wear that Lucille use to whine about him wearing socks with.

Still hundreds? Really?

Brows fall into a furrow then. He doesn't believe that one. Much like he wouldn't believe the girls when they were going to 'sleep over at a friends house to study.' There was a party there in the background. Benjamin doesn't say anything just stands there and give a small nod of agreement to what Nicole says. Maybe this is why they worked so well.

Walter, you can appear anytime now.

Really, anytime now.

Ingrid stands there, vaguely aware of the weight in her shoulder bag, blue eyes glossing over as she waits for the temporal manipulator to blink into existence and whisk her away. When that yields no results, her gaze slips past her parents, searching the crowd for a head of coal-black hair in the event Astor has foreseen this and chosen to rescue her from it.

That doesn't work either. Ingrid is on her own, and the realization chills her blood to icewater.

"I don't see what there is to talk about," she says finally, taking a single step backwards. "Technically, I don't even exist so really— you should forget you ever saw me."

Blue eyes - naturally darker than Ingrid’s, and supernaturally brighter - widen when Ingrid informs her — them that there’s nothing to talk about. Nicole’s lips part into a shocked little 'o' and her chest rises and falls with one breath.

Tears well up in her eyes and spill hot down her cheeks before Nicole ever realises the threat of them. "Oh…" She swallows and quickly reaches up to start wiping at the unbidden moisture with the pad of one thumb. Her bracelet slides toward her forearm, and its presence - everpresence - suddenly feels heavy. "I don’t understand."

Yeah… just like his other girls. She's his alright. There is a heavy sigh from the oldest of them, Ryans lips falling into a disapproving line. The girl who may or may not end up his daughter gets a look that says, 'See what you did? You made your future mother cry.' A hand moves to rest on Nicole's shoulder in support. "Ingrid." It's softly spoken, yet sharp. "Just because you don't exist yet… doesn't mean you won't." Even if the chances are slimmer now. "And as my mother would say… You are not too old for discipline." It was that and 'I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it.'

That one would hit a little too close to home.

His voice rumbles soft, like a gentle growl. "I know about you. Benji, Kincaid… Howard, Nora and Hannah. Let's not forget Reynard… or should I say Walter?" Ingrid was right to keep her father from asking questions. Ben has never been a dumb one. "From what I hear… Benji is going to be talking to my people, Delia asked me to support him." Fingers tighten ever so slightly on Nicole's shoulder as he adds, to a girl that isn't even his yet. "It would make my decision to back him easier if you talk to us…"

"About what you all are doing. Or what you can." Note… he didn't ask about things one might. Like if Ryans was a good dad, or how him and Nicole met.

Guilt feels like a ball of cold steel forming in Ingrid's gut. Her grip tightens around the bag's strap, and now more than ever she wishes she had a gift like everybody else — there is almost nothing she would not give to be able to just disappear. "Don't cry," she whispers hoarsely, and her vision is blurring around the edges too. "Please don't cry."

She remembers a time when Nicole's face was wet more often than it wasn't, and the sight of tears shining on her transports her right back to it — she'd run if Ryans had invoked any other name but that one. Against her instinct, for Benji's sake more than anyone else's (especially her own), she says, "They brought me with because I'm good with inks. And because I got on my knees and begged when I found out that everybody else was going. Because I didn't want to be left behind—

"Whatever it is you wanna know, you're talking to the wrong person. I don't make the decisions; that's Bid— that's Benji. All I do is what I'm told."

Nicole's throat feels tight, like she might just asphyxiate. But then Ryans is dropping like fifty names and it causes future wife to look to future husband with an incredulous look. "Just how many of them are there?" Nobody tells her anything! One has to wonder how often Ben got that look from Nicole during their marriage. "Who is-"

Lips purse and a deep breath cuts off her questions. "She's a grown woman, Ben. She does just fine on her own, without either of us to guide her." Prolonged inhales and exhales to nothing to quell the tears, however. At least she isn't sobbing. It's emotion that has nothing else to do but manifest this way. "I've already seen what kind of mother I was. Am. Will be. I don't blame you for wanting me to… fuck off." Nicole shakes her head slowly. She isn't this girl's mother. She doesn't have to watch her language. "Jesus Christ. Ingrid, I am so sorry." It's then that she seems to wilt like a flower, turning her face into her shoulder, and subsequently Ryans' hand, squeezing reassurance.

Benjamin considers the young woman standing there, blue eyes narrowing in thought. Ingrid can probably see the wheels turning in his head, even as Nicole is saying what she has too. What he's seen of her, he can imagine why she had to beg.

He finally glances down when he feels Nicole's head rest on his hand, feels the warmth of tears. He's never done well with crying. Mary has won argument that way. Ben's features soften a little, hand extracted from her shoulder gently and moved to her other shoulder to allow her use him to cry on so to speak.

Attention, however, shifts back to Ingrid. If he had been an Agent still he might have :| at the idea of his future little girl criminal? being into fraud…. but a part of him feels a touch of pride over her having such a useful skill. “I believe you, but not that you don't know,” Ryans says softly. For one, she's a Ryans. He doesn't push it either way. “I can't believe that you don't have a reason beyond that for being here… something more personal. ” She did after all follow him into the park that night.

Ingrid lowers her eyes to the ground. "My reasons are my reasons," she says. "If I told everybody else what they were, they wouldn't be personal anymore. It's— personal. Mine." And she does not have the courage or the confidence to meet the gaze of either of her parents again. She turns with a mumbled "I'm sorry," and skirts between two stalls, startling one of the vendors into knocking over a crate of apples that goes spilling, bouncing, tumbling across the pavement.

This is not the way she envisioned it happening — if she envisioned it at all.

That they came to her together in spite of not having supposed to have even met yet is something she can meditate on when she can see clearly again and she isn't preoccupied with wiping a wet nose and cheeks.

It's when Ingrid turns to flee that Nicole finally crumbles entirely, burying against Benjamin's torso as silent sobs cause her body to quake. After hearing of Delia's union with her child-yet-to-be, she expected a similar sort of enthusiasm. In the woman's mind, she clearly failed her daughter so badly that she doesn't care to know her.

Long fingers curl around the fabric of Ryans' shirt, holding tight to flannel as though she needs to be grounded. – Hopefully not the type of grounded that one wants to be in a lightning storm.

There is no moving to follow, cause despite the fact she may one day be his daughter. At this moment she isn't. Just a complete stranger he shares genetics with. Maybe he's also a little stretched thin with stubborn and overemotional girls.

So Benjamin just stands there and watches the girl leave, stiff backed and an arm curled around Nicole as she cries. He might have used the other arm too if he wasn't holding a bag in the other.

Once Ingrid is gone, Ben huffs out a frustrated sigh and glances down at Nicole, maybe feeling a bit uncertain standing in the middle of the market with a crying woman. "Shhh." Gently he speaks, words probably felt in his chest by her. "Don't let it tear you up too much. She might not be ready to talk yet." He looks back to where the younger girl disappeared to.

"Give her some time to get up the courage."

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