2007-06-01: Awkwaaaard!

Starring:

Niki_icon.gif Heidi_icon.gif

Summary: Niki and Heidi meet at their kids' school. As usual, Heidi is mostly oblivious, and way too nice, apparently.

Date It Happened: 1 JUNE 2007

Awkwaaaard!


Expensive Private School, NYC

Inside one of the city's finest private schools for numerous grade levels, the halls are all but empty. Although the school has summer programs, camps, and events that go year-round, today falls on no such day. However, one of the administrators is in her office, and as such, so are some parents. It's the summer programs and events that draws a certain parent here — all the way out of the house, would you look at that? Niki Sanders has not been back in the city long. Everything is still a little surreal. Micah needs something to keep his mind occupied - and so here she is.

The blonde woman is sitting in a chair, one of several metal-legged and entirely typical seats that line the wall beside the office door, which is closed. The frosted glass boasts vague shadows, muffled voices; someone is still in an appointment. Niki is staring down at her hands in her lap, loosely tangled together. The recently single mom looks slightly out of place in the hallowed halls in her jeans and loose, hooded sweater in a drab shade of mauve overtop a white and frilly tanktop, but— they're nice jeans?

—-

It's rare when Heidi doesn't look at her best. Scratch that; it's become a bit more common recently, with Nathan's issues and other things involving spending most of the night awake with her youngest son, who rapidly discovered that his parents would wait on him hand and foot for whatever he happened to need or want. Heidi did draw the line at a pony, though, because it wouldn't fit in the basement.

So she's here now, hair back in a ponytail, looking otherwise decent except for the fact that she just looks /tired./ Her poor kid. Accidents happen, but they're not supposed to happen right at the beginning of summer, which already has Monty complaining that he won't be able to swim for /forever./ Translation: Six weeks. In any case, she's here to unsign him from activities that would possibly aggravate the injury, and put him into a few things that, well, he'll probably find boring, but at least he'll have something to do.

A glance is given to the closed office door, before she turns to the chairs, offers a polite smile to Niki, and settles herself down for the wait. Hopefully it's not too long - not that Heidi's impatient, but if she has to sit here for more than a few minutes, she'll fall asleep.

—-

It's hard to ignore footsteps when the empty halls carry their echoes so easily, and though Niki glances the other woman's way once at first, it's not until Heidi actually approaches that she really looks up in earnest. She has a weak smile for her out of politeness in return. She sits up a bit straighter in her seat, as if someone else's presence reminds her that she had started to lean over her knees. "They've been in there forever," she breaks the silence softly, indicating the office door with her eyes. "… well, it just feels like it."

—-

"Here? It doesn't surprise me." She likes the school. Likes the education that the children get here. Isn't always thrilled about the entitlement complexes that some of the other parents have. Heidi leans back in her chair, crossing her legs, fidgeting just a little too much as she already feels hints of sleep tugging at her eyelids. So, talking? Probably a good idea. "How long do you think?" Heidi can't imagine herself taking too long in there. All she has to do is take Monty out of basketball and the like and put him in, say, arts and crafts. Or not, because he might never forgive her for that.

—-

"I'm not sure," the blonde admits. "It's been about ten minutes?" Alright, so not 'forever'. Niki looks about as tired as Heidi. Ten minutes of sitting and doing nothing, with no distractions, seems like an eternity. "I guess it depends what the meeting's for." You know that feeling you get when you think you might have seen a person before, but you're not sure where? That nagging little bit of familiarity that makes you want to stare until it clicks? Niki doesn't stare at Heidi, but the other woman stirs up that same kind of feeling. She brushes it off easily enough and just gives her another vague little smile.

—-

That's true. It could be something unrelated to the reason Heidi's here. Like, arguing over grades, or something like that. Thankfully, Simon and Monty are decent students - so far - so she hasn't had to worry too much about their grades. "So, what are you here for?" she asks, still keeping up the conversation, because when they hit the first silence, she is /so/ falling asleep. "One of my sons broke his arm yesterday. He can't really do anything… Kind of shook him up a bit, but I think he's learning that mom and dad'll do just about anything for him now." Again, Heidi can't help thinking 'poor kid' as soon as she imagines that cast on Monty's arm. "At least he's excited about getting people to sign his cast."

—-

The other mom can't help but give a knowing laugh, subdued though it is, when Heidi describes how her son is monopolizing his broken arm. She ducks her head down afterward, though; it's an effort to keep smiling. "I think it's one of those things, you know. Boys'll make the best of it. I'm here to see if I can get my son into one of the summer programs. He just-he needs something to keep him occupied."

—-

Hm. Something's not quite right here. Heidi can sense it, and it isn't just because they're both here, inside a school, on the first day of June. The question is, is it okay to ask a complete stranger what's wrong, when you have no idea who they are or how they could react to such a question? Niki seems nice enough. Hm.

Standing, Heidi moves to a chair closer to Niki. "He's certainly milking it. And he probably will be for the next month and a half." Maybe not, though. That's more Simon's style, though he wouldn't be surprised if Simon's at home right now, giving his brother some pointers. "I'm Heidi Petrelli," she says, holding out her hand.

—-

Niki is in the midst of moving her purse from one seat to the opposite, side incase Heidi would like to sit there, when the woman introduces herself. She lowers her purse in slow motion and, for an instant, has the look of a gaping deer in the headlights. Blue eyes stare at the brighter blues of Mrs. Petrelli. "…Niki," she says experimentally, forcing a sweet smile as she reaches out to take the woman's hand in hers and shake it. Oh God… "Niki Sanders."

—-

That look she's given causes a somewhat confused smile. She should be used to it by now, between the 'Hey, your husband's an ass,' and 'didn't I see you on TV?' that she's heard before. Despite the fact that she's been married to Nathan for years, she's never quite gotten used to it. Admittedly, this isn't the life she wanted, really, but she's adapted. At least this gives her the perfect opportunity to inquire about Niki's well-being. "Is something wrong? I noticed you looked a little…" Pause. "Tired, you look tired. It's nice to meet you." Awkward question out of the way!

—-

She isn't that person. It's not her. It wasn't. Niki tells herself that, silently, as she lets go of Heidi's hand. "Oh, it's…" she trails off quietly with an ill at ease smile that bears little mirth. She looks down at her lap, her mouth opening to answer, but the simple question is difficult to answer - even if the answer is simple enough in and of itself. 'My husband died.' Good enough reason to be tired, right? The reality of saying it is a little bit harder. Heidi being who she is doesn't help the awkwardness. "There was…" The woman's brow furrows, knits, and she chances a look up. "…an accident. Not long ago. My husband."

—-

If only Heidi could read minds, she'd know so much more about /everything./ That would be true for everyone, of course, but there are so many things being hidden from her that she probably doesn't need to know about… So maybe it's good that she has no idea why Niki is so uncomfortable. She can draw conclusions, especially after she mentioned the very idea of a father doting on his son, and considering everything that's remaining unsaid, Heidi can guess. She can see it without asking for clarification, without asking for the specifics, and suddenly, she's at a loss about what to say. The awkward question suddenly seems a lot more awkward; briefly, one of Heidi's hands raises, meant to be laid on Niki's shoulder, but it withdraws. "I'm… I didn't know, I'm sorry." Maybe it's not as bad as she thinks it is, but… "Are you all right?"

—-

"No, it's— there's nothing for you to be sorry about." Niki shakes her head and brushes the strands of blonde hair behind her ears with both hands, running her fingers through the faint waves. She manages an encouraging smile, friendly, even if it is strained to the max. "Yeah, I mean—I will be." She has to be. "Thanks." Stiffly, with her shoulders inching up toward her ears, she folds her arms across her body, pulling the zippered edges of her sweater and maybe subconsciously hiding the scarcer shirt underneath.

—-

Heidi leans back in her own chair for awhile, staring straight ahead and listening to the unintelligable muffled voices coming from the office. Wow. /Wow./ What can she even say that'll salvage this conversation, like, at all? Unable to help it, than hand raises again to rest on the other woman's hunched shoulder. Either she offers what comfort she can, or she pretends the entire conversation just didn't happen. The former choice seems like the best one from her standpoint. Heidi can't identify at all, having never really lost anyone close to her. Even if she was scared for her son, husband, and brother-in-law, all at different times, they're all still /alive./ "So… You have a son." Safer topic of conversation, hopefully.

—-

The silence is not doing wonders for Niki, either. Heidi's question is welcome - for about two seconds. "Yeah." Normally, she'd light up at the chance to talk about Micah. But as she sits there with Heidi, Niki starts to wonder how much the woman knows. Memories flood her memory, some hers, some questionably so.

'Still married?' 'Yeah, I am.' 'Happy?' 'Very.'

And Peter— did she know what happened to her brother-in-law, the one who let Niki borrow Heidi's housecoat? That Jessica tore his insides out and left him for dead? Niki's record with the Petrellis consists blackmail and blood on her hands, and all of a sudden, she looks sick. Blue eyes flash toward Heidi, haunted. "I have to… I have to go to the bathroom." She takes her purse and a flurry and practically jogs down the hall.

—-

What—

God, she shouldn't have said anything else, that would have been safer. Except that just ignoring things really isn't in Heidi's nature, and she had to at least try to make the other woman feel a little better. How would she feel of Nathan died? She, despite their current rocky relationship, would be devastated. The boys would be torn apart. Their family…

Heidi stands as Niki runs off toward the bathroom, she looks at the office door, which is just opening, and… Decides she should follow. After all, even if she misses an appointment today, she'll always be able to come back later in the week. So before anyone can call the next person in for an awesome one-on-one with the school staff, the blue-eyed Petrelli heads off down the hall, and pushes open the door to the ladies' room.

And as soon as she's inside, she doesn't know what to say. Honesty, probably. "I know I just— I know we don't know each other, but if there's something I can do, please, tell me."

—-

Inside the otherwise empty ladies' room, Niki is leaning heavily over the second sink from the far wall, her hands pressed hard into the counter and her purse falling down her arm. The lines of stress in her face may as well be there permanently. She looks at Heidi in the bathroom mirror, surprised to see her there. "It's fine," she says with a sniff. There is no sign of tears, however. She still looks green around the gills, so to speak. "I'm just… I'm going through a lot right now, you know, and—" She runs a hand through her hair in a nervous habit, "Sorry, I must look like a mess. You should go. Get to the office."

—-

It doesn't even cross her mind to leave, though maybe she should, considering her questioning is what prompted all this in the first place. Hey, their kids go to the same school… That's kind of like family, right? A little? Maybe? Close enough. Though she doesn't throw her arms around Niki - that'd be weird - Heidi does take a few steps closer. "It's okay. Look, Monty won't mind if I have to wait another day to tell him I signed him up for knitting instead of softball." She smiles; despite no intention of signing her son up for knitting, Heidi's making a weak attempt at a joke here. "At least tell me if there's someone I can call for you."

—-

The small joke does cause Niki to laugh, just a little bit. In part, it's just because Heidi is so /nice/. It's surreal that she's even here. She was /followed to the bathroom/ out of concern? The blonde steps back from the counter and watches Heidi in the mirror with a conflicted but notably sympathetic expression, of all things. As she turns around, to better face the other woman, she smiles gratefully, tipping her head to one side. It's tired, it's strained, but it touches her eyes. "Thank you. You're too nice. Seriously." /Seriously/. "I'm just gonna wait for my turn at the office. …in here. Maybe with some cold water," she trails a finger along a faucet.

—-

There is such a thing as wearing out your welcome, and Heidi is coming dangerously close to that point now. Maybe if she knew Niki a little better, it wouldn't be such a stretch to insist on staying until the other woman feels better. At least she laughed a little, which means things aren't too far gone. Maybe they don't look so great right now, but at least this isn't one of those situations where Niki can't smile at all. Shaking her head, she says, "There's no such thing as 'too nice.'" This is basic human compassion. Turning, Heidi heads back toward the door. "Take care, all right? Hope you feel better. I'll see you around."

—-

"Thanks… Heidi. Yeah. See you around!" Or not. /Not/ would be just great, too, as nice as Heidi is. Niki is doing a decent job of being casual by this point - she smiles her well-meaning smile until the friendly woman is out the door. Then? Then she resumes leaning over the counter. What's she going to do, hide in here? No. She's going to splash some cool water on her face, get herself together, and walk back out there in a few minutes to pass Heidi on her own way into the office like nothing happened. Keep on keeping on.

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