Winnings and Injuries


nicole4_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Scene Title Winnings and Injuries
Synopsis Nicole apologizes for her cruel words to Ryans before the Natazhat mission.
Date November 10, 2011

Somewhere outside Jade City, British Columbia, Canada

There has been a lot of pacing lately.

Ben Ryans feels a lot like a caged animal, even though it has only been less then a handful of days, he's ready to get on the road back to the States. Finding that Richard Cardinal had already taken off had not helped his mood, but he was forced to wait… He just wanted to get back…

Back to the Ferrymen.

Back into the fray.

Just… back, but he was ordered to wait till he had more time to rest… for the rest to recover, because… someone had to drive. He had some adjusting to do. Ben could almost swear the hand was still there, prickly and asleep, however, a glance would tell him otherwise. This was why he had gone out to walk… To think… To stare at that axe, stuck in the stump, and realizing he had lost an avenue to relieve his frustration.

He is only just returning from the walk, a heavy snow to blame. It peppers his shaggy hair and alights on the shoulder of his jacket. Thoughtful, he moves to drop to the steps… Gingerly avoiding the injured arm. Once settled, the arm is cradled against his stomach.

As if on cue, Nicole comes around the corner of the house from out back - she went for a walk around the lake - just as he's settling down on the steps. She'd been avoiding him now. Suspects he was avoiding her as well, and she couldn't blame him. But now? Now she's glad to have found him here. And alone. — Although… She's reasonably sure she just saw Hollis shut the curtains in the front window, making a shooing motion to whoever may have been watching out.

"Ben…" Nicole makes her winding way around, not coming to sit on the stairs with him just yet, but to stand in front of him. The distance she puts between them is meant to be respectful, rather than avoidant. I fucked up, she tells herself. (And Howard, as a side effect of having a listener in on her internal monologue.)

The cold never seems to bother her, despite her sleeveless dress, a shade of blue that matches the streaks she used to have in her hair before she cut it. Feet are tucked into haphazardly laced boots with no socks peeking out above them. He's always known her to be warm to his touch, unless she's just gone and discharged fully to avoid any static mishaps. But this? This is different. Her eyes glow brighter than he's ever seen them, and she looks almost too warm even in the fall chill of the mountains. "Am I interrupting?"

Upon spotting her out of the corner of his eye, Benjamin's form goes perfectly still, but sharp blue eyes watch her and follow her progress… maybe even a bit warily. One would think he was afraid to move, for fear of scaring her off. Or maybe… just maybe… he just wanted to avoid another argument. That would be the best bet. His gaze dropping to her clothing and then the swell of her stomach.

Finally, he looks down and away, giving a heavy sigh. "No," he murmurs softly, shifting his weight over to give her plenty of room to sit, if she would like. "Just watching the snow." Which isn't a lie in any way. He idly rubs at his injured arm, rubbing at the ache. "Welcome to join me."

At his invitation, Nicole moves forward just a few steps, her boots crunching in the snow as she brings herself to a more companionable, conversational distance. She tips her chin down toward her chest so she can look down at him with those far-too-bright blue eyes of hers. For a moment, she's at a loss for words.

This woman, who has been the confidant of presidents. This woman who has faced down mobsters and not blinked. This woman who has looked death straight in the eye and said not today, fucker. This woman is too afraid to speak to this man.

Her eyes shut, and the quick sniffle that penetrates the silence between them has nothing to do with the effect of cold air on her physiology.

"I'm sorry."

The gaze of the man stays down, even though he can practically feel her moving closer, the warmth of her. He could be a statue sitting here, but… then he hears a sound. A sniffle. Slowly, his head lifts and tilts back slightly, allowing him to finally look her in the eye. There is a flicker of the hurt that she had inflicted on him the last time they talked, but quickly it is hidden behind that mask he wears.

Studying her for a long moment, he doesn't speak right away.

Fingers uncurl from around his injured arm, reaching out to attempt to hook his fingers with her, in an attempt to capture her hand. "I understand." Maybe not completely, but he gets it. "I'm sorry, as well… For…" overreacting? Yelling? Breaking Hollis' glass… "acting poorly."

That hand is captured readily, hot even through the fabric of his glove, soft against his rougher palm. "No, you… You reacted exactly the way I wanted you to." Nicole's a negotiator. A manipulator. She knows how to play people, even when they know they're being played. "I wanted you to be so mad at me that you didn't care if I died." Her free hand slides down to rest on her belly, leaving the implication there.

That she didn't want him to care if their baby died.

"I… care about you so much," Nicole admits, like it's difficult for her. It is, despite the fact that she had asked him to marry her. Despite that this whole relationship was almost entirely her idea. It's one hell of a losing streak that she's been on when it comes to men. Agreeing to give her heart to someone is an exercise in bravery. "I thought if I hurt you then… it would hurt you less if something happened to me later. I didn't want you to mourn me."

Brows lower, amusement touching his lips. "Then you do not know me very well," the words hold no edge, just a simple fact, that Benjamin Ryans is not so easily manipulated into… not caring. If his actions a few days ago, proving that she had not… actually… driven him away. In fact, he put himself in danger for her.

He starts to reach out to touch her stomach with his other hand, but - Ben did not have another hand to spare. The action is aborted, and his arm is brought to rest against his stomach again.

"I care for you, too… and that baby, mine or not," Ben's voice remains soft and thoughtful, eyes lifting to look into her's again. His thumb, brushing lightly across the back of her knuckles. "I can't even begin to explain how hard it was to watch you walk through that door." He sighs, eyes closing a moment against relived emotions, "Or how relieved I was to see you after it was all over." Even though he had kept it bottled up and had stayed away.

Nicole winces, first at the aborted motion to touch her stomach, and then again when he says he'll care for her baby whether it's his or not. "It's… She's your daughter, Ben." The inside of her lower lip is pinched between her teeth just enough to hurt, because she feels like she deserves to hurt a little bit.

She brings the hand that holds hers to her stomach, leaving it to rest there, letting him explore as he desires. "I was just… glad I could—" Return the favor of him saving her by saving him right back. "I'm so glad you're alive." Okay is relative, and neither of them is quite okay.

"I want to call her Annie."

There's some hesitation and a little resistance, but then he relaxes, letting her place his hand on her rounding abdomen. It has been a long time, since he had done something like this. Fingers spread out over the shape of her, the pressure gentle of his hand is light. His expression softens almost immediately, as the mask falls away little by little. Ben remembers this feeling, the sensation of movement under his palm. It takes him back to a time, when his girls were this little. A gentle smile touches his lips, wistful.

"You're absolutely certain?" Ryans finally manages to ask, voice thick with an emotion that he hasn't shown outside of his girls. That it is a girl? That it is his? "Never mind… That isn't important." He swallows the emotions that are actually threatening his demeanor.

"Annie is a lovely name," is rumbles out, as Benjamin glances up at the woman carrying the tiny life.

Lips part and tremble around the effort it takes not to cry. Nicole's chest feels to tight, like heart is constricted. She takes the half step forward. "Yes," she confirms, because she needs him to know that she is certain. "There's no doubt at all. She's yours."

Slender hands rest on his shoulders, then slide toward each other until she can tangle her fingers in the hair at the back of his neck. "I'm such a bitch. I'm so, so sorry." The first tears slide down her cheeks, her lips press together as if she could close the flood gates that way.

Suddenly, Benjamin can't look at her, but not for the reason one would think. His hand slides over the swell of her stomach and catches at the fabric of her hip; digits curling for the briefest moment, before his hand continues its journey around to her back. The action pulls her in close, his forehead pressed to her stomach, chin brushing the swollen belly.

The embrace awkward for him, injured as he is, but his fingers spread to hold her there for a long moment. Though the words are muffled, he says, "I'm so glad your alive… I - I don't think I could have handled…" There are no tears, but the emotions are there, the weight of it in his words. He had lost his wife on a November day… to lose the woman, who might one day be his wife on the same day… and the child she carries.

In his embrace, Nicole trembles, the silent tears causing the tremors in her body. She pulls away only so she can brace one foot on the bottom step, giving her the leverage to pivot with her hands back on his shoulders. She settles herself down on his lap and and holds his face in her hands, staring into his eyes.

"I know. Me either," she whispers before pressing her lips to his firmly, but chastely. She leaves her forehead against his when their lips part. "I can't imagine facing this without you." The rest of her pregnancy. Motherhood. Facing all of that alone scares her more than the thought of dying in that battle had done.

The injured arm moves so that she can settle in, settling again to rest lightly against her lower back. If Ben's hand was still there, it would probably grip the opposite side of her hip. However, she'll have to settle for whatever comforting presence it can be, as is. The one hand he does have, resting against her neck when she kisses him, stays there when they end up with foreheads together, his thumb brushing lightly against her jaw.

He allows them to sit there for a long moment, but then with a light sigh, he leans back enough to look into her eyes again. The unnatural glow of her eyes is really noticed for the first time, his own blue flits between hers, studying them. Hard to miss it being so close. "You won't be." Ryans finally offers the reassurance. Hand shifting, he brushes the back of his fingers along her cheekbone and back to tangle into her shorter hair.

"I'll be there as much as I can." It is all that he can promise, just like he promised Mary once. "But, you, Miss Nichols, are one of the stronger women I know…."

Leaning into his touch, Nicole smiles and chuckles in spite of herself. "I know," she murmurs. She knows she's strong, and takes it for granted that she's stronger than most people, not just most women. She's had to be strong. To survive her childhood, for her sister, for her career, to survive in this brave new world.

There's more she should tell him. More he deserves to know, but she can't bring herself to tell him just yet. Things are going so well now. The truth that she's carrying two lives inside her by very different means can wait. "All I can ask is your best effort. I'm a realist. I know you won't be there for everything." She couldn't be when she was raising Colette. She missed important events because she worked. That's just life for people like them.

Her thumb brushes over his cheek in a mimic of his own gesture. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me, yet," Ben teases gently, a deep chuckle accompanying the words. Arms wind around her waist, to keep her there a little longer. Presses a kiss to her jaw, he lets his lips linger there along the curve of it, but only for only a moment. Enjoying the closeness, he hasn't had for some time and had thought he lost when they found her things by the river.

Though he might want to continue, he doesn't. The heat of her skin becomes noticeable under the sensitive touch of skin. Leaning away from her a little, his fingers brush along her exposed skin, testing it. "Are you feeling alright?" Ben is asking suddenly, as his fingers brush along her forehead. "I don't remember you being this warm."

In fact, he reaches up to unzip his jacket. Having her sitting there is like having an electric blanket on high.

Nicole relaxes noticeably as he tightens his embrace and his lips find her jaw. She'd like him to continue, but she can't hide that there's something off. This isn't normal. "I'm running on a full charge," she explains with confidence. "I can't afford to drain the grid here to recharge, so I'm not discharging regularly." She smiles reassuringly, kissing the corner of his mouth.

Cardinal's kept her secret. No one knows her ability went absolutely haywire just hours before. And she remembers it now, sitting as close to him as she is. She had touched Richard's hand and started sparking out of control. She doesn't have the same problem now. Doesn't understand why, and doesn't question her good fortune. "I'm fine."

"Just - just be careful," is all he can think to say to that, since he knows so little about her ability. Unlike Huruma, he doesn't have a handy dandy file about the woman in his lap. The palm of Ben's hand rests against her face, cupping it, for a long moment, feeling the warmth seep into his colder joints. He isn't completely convinced, but he allows himself to believe her or he just desperately wants to in that moment.

Eyes drop down to her lips, as he decides to believe… "Stay with me tonight?" The question is asked at a near whisper, fingers slide into her short, dark hair, to hook behind her neck - Only, so that he can let baser instincts take over, and pull Nicole into another kiss. This one hungrier, in the way that a man needs a woman like her.

"I will…" A smile tugs at the corner of her mouth at his question, the only response she's able to give before he moves in to kiss her again. She sighs against his mouth and kisses him back, meeting his hunger with her own.

One hand snakes itself between their bodies so she can grasp the hand at the back of her neck and slide it down to her shoulder, over her collarbone, down… Hips shift, changing angle and inviting friction. It's been just as long for her as it has for him.

All intelligent thought flies out the window, like most men, he has allowed himself to be enveloped by the sensations of touch. The invitation, is met with a sound at the back of Ryans throat — which ends up sounding more like a growl — his arm tightens pulling her against him a little rougher than he probably intended… it ends up being a little awkward of an angle, with her stomach in the way. Something, that in itself was the result of poor decisions like this, but damn… if he could get a responsible thought in right now.

Encouraged by her actions, his hands explore the soft curves of her body, fingers a combination of rough and gentle.

The sensation of her overheated skin under his lips, is scalding, but it doesn't stop him from caressing his way down her neck with kisses, even nipping here and there… until his lips press against that spot where her shoulder meets her slender neck, finally his brain trying to fight what his body is telling him to do.

"Yes." Nicole responds to the touch of his hand with an arching of her back that is made slightly awkward by the interference of her belly. Her breath is as hot as her skin against him, slightly ragged. Fingers curl against his jacket, holding tightly to him as desire coils low in her stomach. Where could they move to? The camper? The shed out back? They can't stay here, and the bunk house upstairs — Her sister is there.

But even though they're alone here on the front steps, Nicole is never alone now. The air smells of the aftermath of an electrical storm, and even though there's no prickling of current transferring between her skin and his, there's suddenly the sensation of hair starting to stand on end. The others experienced it in the chamber that housed the Mallett Device. Now Ryans is starting to experience it.

Like a shot, Nicole shoves away from Ryans and stumbles back into the snow a few steps until she finally loses her balance and falls over onto her back, gasping for air. Before he can react, her hand shoots out in front of her - but no sparks. "I'm fine!"

Just like that, Benjamin doesn't have to worry about fighting himself, he leans back as he is shoved away, hand going back to steady him. After having all that heat pressed up against, him the cold air slaps him, bringing him fully back to his senses. He's half on his feet, one propped on the stairs behind him still, ready to move to assist her, when her hands come up. Standing completely still, concern and confusion openly showing on his features. What the hell was going on?

There is a moment of hesitation, before he stands up fully. "You don't seem okay," Ben says warily, eyes checking her over for… something. He debates whether to move closer, finally noticing the change in the air around them. "Nicole —" He starts then trails off… he debates what he wants to ask, but then just comes out and ask, "What's going on?"

"I'm afraid of hurting you," is the excuse that passes from Nicole's lips. What she means is she accidentally opened her thoughts up to her captive passenger. That one hand stays up in the air in front of her, continuing to ward him off and beg for a minute of indulgence — wait — as she lies there in the snow. The other hand comes to her brow and pinches the bridge of her nose as if fighting off a headache.

Fuck, I am so sorry, is what Ryans doesn't hear her say to the voice inside of her head.

The snow is beginning to melt under the heat of her skin, and her dress is slightly damp when she pulls herself back to her feet, pulling it away from her back and shaking it out to loose some of the caked on fluff before it can make it worse. "That… That was not about you." Her face is flushed with embarrassment, and something less girlish. "I… I really want to— Really."

Blue eyes screw shut tightly as she struggles to shut the door that exists between herself and Howard, being wholly unfamiliar with the edges where her thoughts end and their communication begins. "Please. I'm sorry."

The answers presented him do nothing to cure the confusion that clouds Benjamin's face. In fact, he isn't satisfied with that answer, but he is not in the mood to argue, so he forces his body to relax. "Okay…" He finally says, running his hand down his face, almost making it both until he remembers the missing limb. Of course, with the adrenaline of the moment fading, the stump begins to ache. "Okay," is repeated.

When his hand drops away from his face, Ben gives her a small smile. "No need to be sorry." He half glances over his shoulder and the smile becomes a bit of a grimace. "The timing is all wrong." At least in his mind. A step is taken towards her, the hand lifted, but only in an attempt to press it along her cheek. "Don't fret over it, you should probably be resting anyhow. Plenty of time for… " The smile pulls to one side, the heat of the moment lingers in his gaze, as he murmurs, "… the rest of it."

When he touches her cheek, Nicole leans into his palm. The lidding of her eyes and the deep sigh that slips past parted lips signify just how badly she did not want to push him away. "I'm going to hold you to that," she muses, a smirk playing on her lips that matches the darker promise in her tone.

It fades, because it has to. They can't keep up this proximity and still keep their distance. Nicole's expression softens, the grin transitioning into a smile. "Thank you, though. It's nice to know I'm still attractive, considering." Her hand finds her stomach again. It's not a gesture she indulged in much before his team's arrival at Hollis' cabin. There was a contentment in just ignoring the whole thing, stupid as it was. Now, she acknowledges that life that they've created together. Cares about it. About him, about the baby.

"Are we going back to New York?"

The hand lingers on her cheek for a few moments longer, before dropping away. "Yes. As soon as everyone is ready to go. Richard has already disappeared." Not that Ryans really blames the guy, after what happened. "I can only assume he is headed that direction already." If it had been Nicole or even his own daughter… he might have done the same thing.

His hand presses gently over her own on the swell of her stomach. "What we won here was only a small victory." There were many more miles to go, as he told the leader of Endgame. "There are people counting on me to protect them back in New York." His fingers capture hers, bringing her hand up, head turning slightly, so that he can press a gentle kiss against her palm. "What will you do when we get back? There is room for you on the island, but it won't be like the world you are used too."

Nicole nods once. "I understand." Her smile grows a little, from the kiss and from his words. "I'm not as delicate as I look, Ben." It's all about image, and Nicole's image is that of someone who's a lot less tough than she actually is. Underestimating her is how she gets precisely what she wants.

If only it were so simple in this world that she's been drawn into. The political battlefield is a much different plane than the things they face now. Still, she isn't about to give up. She has power and ability, and she isn't about to walk away now.

In this, Ryans and Nichols are equally matched. "I'll do whatever you need me to do. I'm with you."

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