You Are My Face


nicole2_icon.gif russo_icon.gif

Scene Title You Are My Face
Synopsis I have no idea how this happens. All of my maps have been overthrown. Happenstance has changed my plans.
Russo and Nicole discuss their political ambitions in earnest, as well as the state of their relationship.
Date January 7, 2011

Dorchester Towers - Russo's Apartment

Is it too early to drop in on one's fiancé? Nicole really isn't sure of the rules of engagement, especially given the unique situation she has with Brad. Hopefully bearing gifts in the form of Egg McMuffins from McDonald's will get her in the door without too much growling. She didn't bring scotch this time. That has to be an improvement. And only one photographer met her near the front door of Dorchester Towers. She even smiled sweetly for the bastard waiting out in the cold to snap a photo he can sell to a tabloid.

It's like charity, supporting someone's livelihood.

The doorman knows her face now, and allows her into the building with a polite smile and a nod of his head. A finger to Nicole's lips tells him sssshhhhh. It's a surprise visit! So she stands outside the door and taps her knuckles against it without an intercom warning.

Who on earth is at the door? It's a quiet Friday morning, and Russo is working from home. No suits today. No blue jeans. Just male style Lululemon Yoga pants. Black. Comfortable. No shirt. Not yet, anyways. With Delia tucked away in bed, it hadn't occurred to Brad to even throw one on. He doesn't think about his lack of shirt before unbolting the door.

The door opens allowing Nicole inside. "Heeeeey~" he greets only to have his chin drop and realize he's not wearing a shirt. Dropping his chin, he steps back into the apartment and holds up a single finger. Universal sign for one moment.

He disappears down the hall for a few moments only to return in a white tank. Wife beater style. "Sorry about that— I…" wait he doesn't need to apologize for roaming shirtless around his own house and so he just shrugs. "Sorry about that." Overall.

Nicole holds up her bag of breakfast and tilts her head to one side when Brad returns, an amused smile on her face. "You should be sorry you put the shirt on," she teases. "I brought breakfast. Not as good as what you'd make, but… At least it's one less thing you have to, right? Brought some for Delia, too, if she wants it. Can I come in?"

An awkward chuckle escapes the back of Brad's throat accompanied with a swift shake of his head. His eyes shift downwards, trailing to the bag of breakfast which is met with curled lips and an easy smile. "Course you can come in," he has nothing to hide aside from the redhead in the guest room which Nicole already knows.

He shuffles towards one of his armchairs and allows himself to sit down, "So. What brings you here other than breakfast?"

Nicole nudges the door shut behind her and bolts it again before she comes to join Russo, setting their breakfast on the coffee table before she drops a kiss onto his cheek. "I'm glad you didn't get killed, for starters." Then the top of the bag is uncrumpled, releasing the smell of fastfood breakfast into the space. She takes out a hashbrown and comes to sit in another chair adjacent from her fiancé.

"And we should talk," Nicole admits. "I… haven't really told you about my situation, before you asked me to marry you. I think I probably should." Her lower lip is taken between her teeth in lieu of nibbling on her paper-wrapped potatoes.

There's a tightness to Russo's smile as he leans forward and plucks one of the breakfast sandwiches and unwraps it, shaking it slightly to make a point, "I love these things. Just don't let K catch you sneaking them to me. She seems to think I'm going turn into a chub. Which is ridiculous because I run everyday and do weights. And stuff." That's how you get the body, right?

He takes a bite of the sandwich while his eyebrows knit together slightly, "Please don't tell me you're actually— " no, he doesn't finish that thought. Never mind, Nicole. "Alright, let's pretend we do things in the order people are supposed to. Tell me about your situation."

There's a quiet laugh, a bit more bubbly and nervous than Nicole would like. "I think I can safely say you won't turn into a chub. Can you imagine the ratings spike if you did a show shirtless?" A solemn nod, like this is a wholly serious suggestion and fantastic idea. "Maybe a fitness special? — Kidding. Don't give me that look."

Bradley receives a dubious look in response to his aborted question. "Don't tell you I'm actually what?" There's no accusation there, but a bit of curiosity with a hint of amusement. Nicole won't let him out of that one so easily.

But Brad won't be trapped easily either, knowing the five D's of dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge. He pats his stomach, "Well I think the moment I take my shirt off on-air I can kiss any political aspirations goodbye, can't I?" He flashes her a bright smile. "No one wants a good-looking president, anyways."

He glances at the television, which is currently off, "Been watching C-SPAN lately?" Nope. Not finishing that thought; won't do it, Nicole…

Nicole's head swivels to peer at the blank television screen. "I fall asleep in front of the TV with it on at least once a week." When she actually bothers to sleep, that is. "And I would argue that Petrelli's not a bad-looking president, you know. Why? You wanting to run in 2012?" Her gaze sweeps Russo up and down once, as if sizing him up for the position is a visual process. "Might want to start smaller. Senate. Congress. Mayor. Governor?"

There's a slight wave of his hand, "We'll see. I'll run someday." Maybe sooner than later. "I had actually considered Mayor. Lockheart shouldn't get in again, even if she runs. Her anti-evolved sentiments should eliminate her chances." Russo's lips curl tighter as he sighs, "I'm not sure I'd have a hope of getting in anyways. Even if Lockheart shouldn't."

Find your face, a good friend had told her once. And what a face Bradley Russo has.

Darker blue eyes find brighter blue and hold contact. "You should run against her." Nicole leans forward in her seat, a (metaphorical) spark of excitement in her eyes. "I can make you mayor, no problem. I will not let Lockheart defeat me again. Over my dead body." That's pretty serious.

He leans forward in his seat at the eye contact. "Do you think I have the ability? Like a shot in hell against her? She's a powerful woman. Lots to offer. Lots to gain. And history has that same effect— " Russo's hands grasp the arms of his chair as he leans forward more, "What will it take to win?"

"We can do it. You just have to be honest with me about every skeleton in your closet." There's a shrug of Nicole's shoulders, like winning an election is the most casual thing. "If I know what might get dredged up during an election, I can spin it to work. Jenn— " Her breath hitches on the name a moment, "— wasn't completely forthcoming with me. So when the eleventh hour mudslinging began, there wasn't a whole lot I could do about it." Elbows rest on knees, breakfast ignored and held loosely in one hand in favour of political conspiring.

"Skeletons in my closet… well," Russo chuckles lightly as his head shakes a little, "I have a laundry list of issues. Some of which you're more than aware— " His eyebrows tick upwards with expectation as his posture matches hers. "And my father? He's a wanted terrorist. If someone digs deep enough maybe they'll find it, but I only just found out. My half-sister? Yeah, she's wanted. My other half-sister probably is too. My mother died in the November 8th bomb along with my fiancée… my last fiancée." There's a brief pause as he swallows hard, "And… I…" his cheeks flush a little as his gaze turns downwards.

"We can work with that," Nicole dismisses easily. "Disavow all knowledge of your father, play dumb about your sisters… We can work the bomb angle easily. The public are suckers for a story of rising above tragedy like that." It's probably easier for her to talk so flippantly about Brad's situation, than if it were her own, but this is the nature of the political arena.

"Out with it," she demands, an insistent look in the face of his blush.

His blue eyes tick upwards back to hers as his smile turns somewhat sad and mildly reminiscent. "I've been in love with my producer for ten years." Russo runs an uncomfortable hand through his hair and shrugs slightly. "I get accused of it all of the time. It's true. I don't even think she knows."

"She's in love with you, too, you idiot." Nicole shakes her head and sits back in her chair, finally starting to munch on her cooling hashbrown. "I don't know how you don't see it. Why do you think she stormed out like that when you asked me to marry you?" Her lips quirk up in her own little sad smirk.

"You're going to have to make a decision about who you really want, Brad." And Nicole isn't about to admit to herself that his decision will affect her one way or another. "You can either marry me, and we'll be the best power couple that New York has ever seen, and spend the nights in our separate beds…" She takes a bite of potato and lets Brad think on that option for a moment, chewing and swallowing before presenting the second. "Or we can break up, tell the press that we just got carried away by infatuation and realised it's much smarter of us to remain good friends, and then in a year or so, enough time to make it appear that you aren't terribly impulsive, you can pursue Kristen in the public eye."

It's followed up with a very apologetic look from Nicole. "It's not an easy decision, but it's one you're going to have to make. I'm… not going to cry about not being the one you want to spend your life with." Not in front of him, at any rate. "Marriage is a big deal. We won't be able to postpone our engagement indefinitely, even in the face of a political campaign. People will doubt our sincerity. And you need to look sincere if you're going to win the family values vote."

With a heavy sigh, a sardonic smile overtakes Russo's features. It's practiced. Rehearsed. And could pass for something genuine with a less lying crowd. He sniffs and then swallows audible as his knuckles whiten around the arms of the chair. "It can't happen. Me and her." Absently, he sucks the inside of his cheek inwards, making an odd fishy face as he thinks about this simple fact. His blue eyes turn to the floor again, avoiding eye contact with the woman he'd proposed to.

The why is left to Nicole's imagination as he just swallows. Some moments words fail him, his thoughts don't operate fast enough, and the only ones that come at all are those of others. Like St. Augustine, "Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being "in love" which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident."

His eyes flit up to meet hers again, "Passion. Butterflies. We mistake these. I mistook these. More than once." His eyebrows knit together, "I love her. But some friendships would be destroyed under such a guise." His lips tighten into a small smile.

Nicole listens to her fiancé be a total sap about another woman with an eternity of patience. It's also a very convenient space of time to finish her meagre breakfast side. "Are you willing to marry someone else while you still love her?" There's a small huff of laughter as Nicole looks down at her lap and the paper she crumples in her fist. "She doesn't like me very much right now. It may ruin your friendship if you marry me instead."

There's a twitch of Russo's lips, a nearly villainous smile, "I've loved her for nearly ten years. We keep each other at arm's length. It's better for her this way." The question actually has him quirking an eyebrow at Nicole, a curious pull of his face as his hands lace together on his lap, nearly defensively.

"Miss Nichols," last names are reserved for detached conversations. "I make no presumptions that you and I will have some enigmatic passion for one another." He swallows hard, "Selfishness and self-seeking in love aren't love at all, begging questions as to whether some of us are even capable." His smile tightens more, turning it into a near grimace rather than an actual smile. "Others of us crush that which we love, like a bird between our palms. It dies. And in this, it's better for us not to love at all." He clears his throat, pulling himself out of this semi-philosophical trance, "Sorry. I digress."

"Better for her? Or better for you?" Nicole's question is pointed, if not a little unkind. "You're afraid of your own demons, right? Afraid of pulling her into a situation where she's going to deal with them more than she already has? Brad… Kristen loves you. I can tell that just from spending a little time around the both of you the past few months. She's willing to be there through all of that for you."

When he starts to tell her the nature of their relationship, Nicole actually has to resist the urge to roll her eyes. "You think you can spare me pain by vowing never to love me? Mister Russo, I am a big girl. I'm no stranger to heartbreak and you aren't going to do anything worse to me than has already been done previously." Her own smile becomes something made at her own expense. "You aren't the only one in love with someone else."

"For her." Russo straightens in his seat, that same smile playing on his lips. "Clearly." He presses his hands to his thighs and draws himself to a standing position. "I'm not vowing never to love you, I'm vowing never to love." Anyone. Ever. "Not openly. Not freely. Not passionately." His chin cants forward, bringing his pale blue eyes level with hers, "I suck the life out of everything I touch." Which doesn't bode well for Delia, but God-willing everyone else around will keep her spark alight.

"And I didn't presume to be the only one loving someone else." His tongue clucks matter of factly as he tugs on his tank. "You wanted the skeletons. Between the crack, the alcohol, and the women, Kristen Reynolds is my biggest skeleton." He pauses. "Aside from the Refrain."

Nicole opens her mouth to say something, but all that tumbles out is, "Oh my God, Refrain?" She rises to her feet and paces away with her eyes squeezed tightly shut. "How often? When was the last time you used? Who else knows?" She's detaching easily from the emotional and shifting gears to work mode. It's a defense mechanism as much as it is a marketable skill.

"Months ago." Brad swallows hard. The Refrain isn't even really the worst of it. "I'm SLC Expressive, but registered non-evolved. I can't do anything. I have no extraordinary" he makes jazz fingers in the air, "exceptional superhuman powers. I just have the gene. There's nothing I can do. I probably will never do anything either."

"Brad!" Nicole throws her hands up and fixes him with a wide-eyed look. "Are you crazy? Your registration will come into question if you run against Lockheart. You need to register properly. Tell me you registered before there were blood tests." The bridge of her nose is pinched between two fingers. "And believe me, you may think you're never going to start displaying anything, but then one day, you're in Vegas, and you're struck by a freak bolt of lightning, and suddenly you're a live wire."

Blue bolts and sparks dance between the fingers of Nicole's splayed hands, demonstratively.

"I registered when I registered," Russo counters quietly with another deep breath. He doesn't actually provide the when, just the fact that he did it. Oy. He paces the floor slowly, "Do you know how impossible it would be to get someone like Lockheart on my show if I was registered SLC-Expressive. Not everyone has admiration or respect for human life being what it is." And he could've registered before the blood tests. His registration says he did, anyways.

He sighs heavily as his palm presses tightly to his forehead. "And believe me, I carried some less than pleasant sentiments for years. I've gotten myself straightened out since then." Because of people like Delia, but that goes without saying.

Nicole nods her head very slowly as she listens, the sparks disappearing, calming down. "We can work with all of that. I can make all of that work for you. We'll keep the registration under wraps, and act surprised when it comes time for you to renew and they blood test you. With any luck, that won't happen until after you're in office. Then we can run your re-election campaign based on your record, and not your genetics."

Arms fold over chest almost challengingly. Nicole tilts her head to one side and asks point blank, "Is Kristen going to be a problem?"

"Good. I'm glad it can be worked around," Brad counters with a soft sigh as he lowers himself back to his seat. "And I'm thirty-two. I'm nearly middle aged" hardly "there's no way I'm going to manifest now. If it was going to happen, it'd have happened already."

There's a decisive shake of his head, "No. Kristen won't be an issue. She may be angry with me, but she's still my closest friend. She doesn't talk to reporters. And I am her cash cow. Her golden boy. Our fates are too entwined now."

"Middle—" An accusing finger is jutted in Brad's direction. "Watch it, mister. I'm only three years behind you." Brows furrow as she switches gears. "And read your fuckin' history. People have manifested later than middle aged. It could happen."

To Russo's assurances, Nicole remains sceptical. "You become mayor, you no longer have a show. You no longer are her cash cow. If you're convinced your friendship will stand up to that, then good. But if you have doubts, I need to know."

"I don't have doubts," Brad states simply. "We're in syndication. We're producing DVDs. I am her eternal cash cow." There's another twitch of his lips, "And it's always been the goal. Ultimately. Politics." Hence the terribly painful neutrality he attempts to maintain. With a tighter smile he nods, "Don't be concerned about K. She knows my skeletons, but she's stuck by me more than once despite them. She is my friend. Even if she gets angry with me."

"Good. We'll be sure to keep her funded as much as we can." Only she doesn't mean Brad and herself. "If you're not concerned, then I'm not concerned." Nicole nods her head and then approaches her fiance, a look of determination on her features. "Now, your next test." She squares her shoulders and takes in a deep breath.

"Kiss me."

The square expression and the two words, actually earn Nicole a flicker of a smile, "You've got to be kidding me." But there's no hints to that effect. With a deep breath and a sigh all his own, he grimaces slightly, shaking off any apprehension before moving his hands to her waist. First kisses are meant to be soft, tender, sweet. And Bradley Russo is familiar with first kisses. He's also familiar with last kisses and their apparent unpredictability.

He swallows hard, his smile only curling at the edge of his lips. Where he'd kept his palms along her waist, he removes his hands, his fingertips gently graze her cheeks. If he's feigning affection, he's an expert. Again he swallows. With a soft breath, he leans forward, and his smooth lips softly brush against hers. It's sweet in a way. Nearly innocent.

"Terribly serious, I'm afraid." Nicole was fine there, with his hands at her waist. A pantomime of attachment and intimacy that would fool most onlookers. But his hands touching her face almost fool her. "We have to make this…" She pauses, a space of time that she uses to draw in another breath, too shallow for her tastes. "…look good."

Her eyes fall shut just before the point of no return, hoping that by not seeing it coming, it will make it more difficult to avoid. But when his lips find hers, Nicole finds her arms coming up to wrap around his shoulders, a deep breath drawn in through her nose as she comes up on tiptoe to press in a little closer. Nearly intimate.

When the soft kiss finally breaks, Brad finds himself placing a softer one at the edge of her lips, a quiet punctuation mark to their first. His hands linger likely longer than they ought as he tucks several loose hairs behind her ears in an unusual measure of affection. He clears his throat, pulling himself out of this façade, and allowing himself some measure of distance again. Finally, his hands drop, fingers trailing her cheeks with the action as he slides away from her, moving towards the abandoned Egg McMuffin on the coffee table.

He grasps it and awkwardly opens his mouth letting his breath hang in the quiet of the air, before forcing a flicker of a smile, "I was born to act, baby." He clucks his tongue, points his finger at her, and winks, all trying to up the sleaze factor rather purposefully before sliding down towards the hall. "I need to check in on Dels. I'll— I'll be back later." He smiles a little broader before turning on his heel and disappearing down the hall.

Nicole is left standing in the living room with a lot of colour to her cheeks, and a lot of questions about what she actually feels for the man she's agreed to marry as a matter of convenience. Despite him having already tucked her hair back, she's going through the motions of doing it herself, swallowing a little uncomfortably.

"I wasn't fooled," she insists. A quick shake of her head to punctuate the point. "It'll fool the paparazzi though, I'm sure." A breathy laugh escapes Nicole's lips as she sighs. "Jester. Go on. Get outta here. Check on Carrots." And when he's gone, she sinks heavily into the chair she formerly occupied, cheeks puffed out and eyes large as she exhales a heavy breath. Oh, fuck.

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