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Scene Title Together
Synopsis While spite can carry a woman a long way, Howard provides Nicole with something even better: Hope.
Date November 6, 2011

Outside the Fitzroy Cabin, Good Hope Lake, British Columbia, Canada

This wasn't supposed to happen. Certainly she can't be the only one to be having that thought right now. She was supposed to make a clean escape from New York – from the whole damned country – and make her way out north and west to…

To what? Something. She would figure it out by the time she got there. Nicole is good at plans, it's what she does. And there would be plenty of time to think of something as she traveled with the supply caravans. The road to Yukon Territory is not a short one. And still, she could come up with nothing. She's a woman alone—

Well. Not alone.

There's a life growing inside of her, unexpected. Unintentional. Unplanned for. Nicole has been down this road more than twice, and she refuses to acknowledge it for what it is. She refuses to accept it. She can't, or she'd lose her nerve. This thing inside of her may never come to be, isn't real. Her sister is.

She will be damned if Benjamin Ryans stops her from finding Colette and bringing her home finally.

With Hollis Fitzroy having ushered everyone upstairs, and the man representing the roadblock in her path out front of the house, Nicole slips into the mudroom, slips into a pair of walking shoes, and slips out the back door to suck in the cold air that doesn't feel cold on the bare skin of her arms, neck and face. "Fuck."

Nicole isn't alone in the cold for long. The door behind her squeaks open and creaks shut, followed by the crunch of shoes in snow. Behind her, the ragged silhouette of Howard Phillips looks worn thin. In spite of how cold it is, all he wears arena ratty pair of torn jeans and an olive-drab jacket riddled with bullet holes and stained with blood. Below the jacket he's shirtless.

“Ey,” Howard grumbles, hands tucked into his pockets and shoulders slouched. “Fuckin’ people, right?” He's young, early twenties at most. Scarred, too, though the silvery scars on his chest look like very precise surgical scars that healed poorly. “Fuckin’ people.”

Fuckin’ people,” Nicole agrees readily. She gives him a look over without trying to hide it. It’s not judgemental, no hint of horror or pity in her expression. This is who he is, physically, and it’s noted and filed away in her memory.

She watches her warm breath turn into white vapor on the air in front of her and it makes her miss cigarettes. Giving those up after the stick turned blue was not easy, but she has to admit that her lungs are much happier this way. Even if the rest of her isn’t. “Not cold, are you?” It’s as good an icebreaker as any. “Looks like we have something in common.

“What’re you called?” It’s a distinction. There’s a difference between what a person is named and what they are called. Ever since she left New York, she’s been called the name on an old ID she hasn’t used for more than two years. Charlotte Stephanie Caiati, Steve. A woman who would have made the trip out to Alaska herself, but for someone else. She drowned the last souvenir of those feelings in the Hudson River.

“Howard,” he offers, true to Nicole’s question. Then, about as casually as anyone can, he lifts and hand and lets electricity dance between his scarred fingertips. “Oh, we got loads in common,” though he doesn't seem all that happy to bond. Howard walks over to Nicole, starts to ask a question, then looks down to Nicole’s pregnant belly and realizes it's moot.

“What's her name?” Howard asks of the baby, thinking he's being clever about it.

“Ah.” Like the name and the ability aren’t a complete surprise to her. She was close to Kincaid before she disappeared, so maybe it isn’t. He’s bitter, angry like she feels inside, and something about that is comforting.

There’s no instinctive flutter of hands to her swollen belly at his gaze or his words. “It sure isn’t called Ingrid,” she tells him, tone lacking venom. If anything, it’s bland. She knows what he’s getting at, and that is less comforting. Her relationship with Ingrid is non-existent and there is nothing that will change that now. Not unless she manages to come back from all of this alive, and maybe not even then.

“Oh,” Howard mutters, scrubbing a hand over his mouth with one hand. “Guess somebody spoiled the surprise.” Disappointed, Howard takes a few scuffing footsteps away, kicking at the snow. “Guess that ‘splains why you're here then, makes sense.” He eyes her pregnant stomach and furrows his brows. “I guess.”

Looking up to Nicole, Howard stares for a moment, then looks back to the cabin and purses his lips to the side. He considers something, but then looks off into the nearby woods. “Figures we’re both out here — two big pieces of shit goin’ t’rescue family.”

“Sorry,” Nicole murmurs. She knows how much she hates it when someone spoils a good surprise. And this should have been a good one. Instead, it’s just… It just is whatever the fuck any of this is. Her thin arms cross under her chest for lack of anything better to do with her hands. (She misses cigarettes for that, too.)

He gives his assessment, and who is she to argue? “That’s me.” One corner of her mouth ticks upward in a smirk at her own expense. What she’s proposing is reckless and she is a monster for her own disregard, she knows, but she’s sat on the sidelines every time. Nicole can’t take waiting by the phone for news of her sister anymore. If she loses Colette, she may as well die, too.

“How’s this going to work?”

“Fuck’f I know,” is not comforting coming from a time-Traveler stepping roughshod all over the past. “We never really had a solid leader. Walter maybe? But he's gone an’ done who the fuck knows what. Benji — “ Howard’a brows furrow, head shakes. “Is Benji an’ obviously not here where she could be helpful,” or someone to lean on. “Everyone else is up their own asses in their own ways. I don't know if anybody’s seen Rhys in a good long age.”

Trailing off some, Howard stalks ahead through the snow, looking down all the while. “Rescuin’ a mum I hardly even know. Never knew as a boy.” He looks to Nicole, then away. “Don't know how t’process that shit.”

With a shrug, Howard paces his way back. “Ingrid’s a good girl,” is very pointedly delivered. “Brave as fuckin’ anything and an all around fuckin’ Primal lady.” It isn't bluster, isn't for Nicole. Howard genuinely admires her. “Only one’f us without a power who was willing t’come back. She's got your eyes, an’ your fuckin’ heart.”

Snorting, Howard looks away to the tree line again. “Never let anyone sell short how much of a fuckin’ influence you were t’her. Everyone’s all ooh big dick Ben Ryans is so fuckin’ howling,” Howard makes air quotes and rankles his nose. “He ain't all that.”

It’s precisely what she’s wanted — needed — to hear. That Ingrid, this young woman who’s life she thought she had made miserable, ruined, actually got something of value from her. It makes her less terrified of the future. A tear slides down her cheek, cooling in the breeze against her skin. It surprises her, and she’s quick to wipe it away. “I know.” Because she does. Nicole has known since the day she met Ingrid Raines that she was a remarkable young woman. “I’m so proud of who she is. I just hope she knows that.” She’s sick with guilt about the fact that her daughter thinks she’s dead, and wonders if Colette ever felt the same way any of those times she’d up and gone without a word. But the Nichols women both know it’s safer for the ones they love not to leave any clues behind.

“Thank you.” Nicole reaches out a hand, waiting a second for tacit permission before she takes a gentle hold of his. “I’m glad you’re here, Howard. We’ll do this together.” Her brows knit, scrutinizing something in her memory for all that it looks like it’s he who’s earned that scrutiny. “Did you know me? Kincaid said he barely knew me and… I wasn’t really me.” The dream-memory of being told her husband had died is still vivid. She can imagine how that would have destroyed her.

“No,” Howard answers, looking at the hand holding his like it's an alien gesture. “Not directly,” he amends, giving the hand a squeeze as Lene would often do to him when we was frightened or sad. “But, your sister? Talked about you constantly.” At that, Howard looks up from the hand to Nicole, showing something in his eyes other than contempt or discomfort. “She trained a lot of us, showed us how to control what we do. She'd talk about you all the time, even if we didn't want to hear it.”

Then, smirking, Howard releases a brief spark of electricity that dances through Nicole’s hand, up her wrist, and through her bones harmlessly. He smirks, ever so faintly at that. “You ground me out,” he explains. “My ability… doesn't hurt to use when someone with a similar one is in contact.” His blue eyes lift to meet Nicole’s. “You underestimate your value.”

There’s a tremor to Nicole’s smile. She doesn’t hear that often. And it’s no wonder, when one considers the sorts of people she surrounds herself with. There are certain things she knows she is good at - she helped a man get elected president, after all - but supporting the people in her life has never been her forte. To know that her sister spoke fondly of her, if perhaps incessantly, means the world. That those stories gave this young man a favorable opinion of her…

The electricity crawls up her arm painlessly. It feels good, actually. She always feels better after she’s absorbed more energy. Sometimes she wonders how she ever managed without her ability. “Good,” she tells him with warmth in her voice, but firmly. “Then you stick close to me, and we will make every last motherfucker who gets in our way sorry that they messed with our families.”

“As’a fuckin’ spirit,” Howard notes with a genuine enthusiasm. “An’ that,” he instructs as his hand releases from Nicole’s, fingers extending a snap-pop of electricity as he does, “is why you're gonna be a good mum.” He smiles, fondly.

“All good mothers are dangerous.”

Previously in this storyline…
Oregon's Nice

Next in this storyline…
Chopping Wood

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