2008-02-23: Caught Underground

Starring:

Niki_icon.gif Church_icon.gif Benjamin_icon.gif

Summary: Church and Benjamin catch up with Niki to talk to her about her relationship to Pinehearst, but she doesn't take well to the questions.

Date It Happened: February 23rd, 2008

Caught Underground


Under Canal Street

New York City

Unaware that she's being followed just yet, Niki descends into the subway station, keeping a close hold on her bag and not slowing her pace in the slightest once her feet hit the floor, making a beeline down a crowded corridor.

Just short of dragging Benji along like an unwitting sidekick, Church files down the escalators doubletime to catch up with Niki's blonde tail. She's not slowing down, which may be bad luck for them. He only lets go of Ben when they get down to the floor, looking around like something might come to him at any moment. "What do you think- drastic measures or not?" POP QUIZ. Smile, Ben.

Want Ben to drop Niki? Sure could make this a lot easier, but has the unfortunate side effect of raising questions and people calling 9-1-1. Ben's relieved when Church finally lets go of his hand. It felt too much like the buddy system from school. "Sure, we can go to drastic measures, then let Noah have our hearts for breakfast because we caused a scene." There's a brief pause as he scans the crowd, trying to keep Niki in sight. "What do you have in mind?"

It's crowded, it's hectic; Niki is moving as fast even so, as if she knows she's being followed. Or maybe she's just that focused on her destination. Pulling a MetroCard out of her coat pocket, she's forced to wait in line before she can slip through onto the platforms. As she stands still, Church and Benjamin run the risk of being glimpsed — she starts to glance around at the myriad of other people down here, watchful.

"Not all drastic measures are so drastic." Lawrence gives Ben a tiny scoff and an almost playful glare. All of a sudden, there he goes- running across the subway platform after Niki while she's held up at the line, arms in the air and his coat flapping just behind him. Yelling obnoxiously loud.

"You can't go! Please! I swear to god that the peanut butter wasn't my idea! I'll never do it again!" Of course, everyone is looking. "I'll wash it out of the pillowcases and everything!"

See? Totally Un-Drastic attention-grabber.

"Think fast, we're gonna lose her… /that's/ your drastic measure?" Benjamin of course is now left standing there, talking to himself as Church goes off. Creative, different, not what he was thinking, but whatever works, right? Taking his fellow agent's lead, he runs after and yells, "She's not worth it man! If she can't take a joke, it's her loss!"

Niki whips around fast, her long ponytail swinging at breakneck speeds. Not only is she now held up in the line, she's holding up the line, staring in flat-out disbelief at Church, then Benjamin in turn. Incredulous, agape, and increasingly kind of angry, it takes her a second to respond. When she does, it's in a hiss. "What's your problem." She glances from side to side, shifting her bag on her shoulder. People are staring. "If this is some kind of joke, it's not funny. I'm in a hurry."

Niki only gets a big, stupid smile in return from Lawrence, who stops at her side, palms up in front of him and everyone on the platform watching. "I don't have a problem, but you might. I wanted to ask you some- personal questions." He pauses to hide his mouth behind the back of one hand, in a mockery of making the conversation more private. "Questions which hopefully can be answered not on a subway platform."

Catching up, Benjamin pants, "See, told you, no sense of humor!" The growing annoyance in the queue is ignored, "Hey lady, I tried to talk him out of this, but he's that determined it ain't over and he wants to talk to you." After that, and Ben gets closer to the pair, moving in to try and block Niki, he drops the act. "There's a hallway over there we can move to, out of the way but still public." If that was a concern.

The man gets a blank stare fringed with annoyance for his performance. Benjamin earns another, even more incredulous. He's acting less like himself. Niki tightens her jaw and glances away again before pinning him with a sharp look, her lifted brows forcing furrows into her forehead. "Well — can it wait?" Another pause, another chary glance about, and says to the both of them, "I'll give you five minutes." If it'll stop them from getting in her way and making a scene any longer. What could they even want?

"Well, you see- It's gonna take more than five. Probably." Church says thoughtfully, glancing aside to Ben. That's right- Ben's acting less like him, and more like Church. Isn't that weird? Maybe he's just a bad influence. "We just… want to speak with you about where you've been." The smile stays on Lawrence's face, and he is obviously trying to stay reasonable. When push comes to shove, and there is more than one Petrelli in the midst of a cyclone- his more slow method of questioning can be forgiven.

"No. It can't wait," Benjamin states, ready to grab Niki, or incapacitate her. Should the need arise. If his behavior is raising a red flag for Niki, the lack of recognition in his eyes probably isn't helping. "Just a few questions, it'll go faster if we quit stalling." See, he's smiling too. It's very cordial. Just a friendly chat, that's all they're after. "You worried a lot of people with your recent disappearance."

Where she's been

Niki immediately takes on a suspicious demeanour, head tilting a touch as she narrows her eyes at Church; Benjamin gets an even more cautious look. She backs up, though there's little fear to her retreat — she's shuffling out of the way of the subway patrons, blocked from behind by the wall next to the MetroCard machines. "Why," she demands flatly, "Who wants to know?" These two are smiling, but they're not exactly acting like concerned friends or acquaintances. What she asks next is a sign of the times. "Who do you work for?" 'Cause seriously, if the school board gets this up in arms…

Church is certainly concerned. With a few things that do include Niki's well-being. Plus, she owes them at least a short overview. "Personally, I've been concerned since you fell off the radar." Radar. Literally? "We certainly don't work for Pinehearst, I can tell you that much…"

BEEEEP. BEEEEP. Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! -If you look at it from a rogue point of view. There's not much actual danger Here, but as soon as Church lets out that key detail- there's an element of it floating into the equation. Niki has nothing to fear from them, if she cooperates.

It's tempting for Benjamin to reply with, 'If we told you, we'd have to kill you.' Somehow, he refrains from making that statement. He glances briefly at Church, then puts his attention back onto Niki. "You get dragged out of a lab, disappear for weeks without a trace. You suddenly turn back up in public. It's troubling to people who know you, not to mention your family."

Oh, but Church said a danger word. Pinehearst. Immediate recognition sparks on the blonde's face and she all but bristles. Confusion hits as she tries to figure out how they're involved in any of this, how they know about any of it — especially Benjamin — but she doesn't honour her confusion with a lot of time. Or words. Crowded subway station? Yeah, but she's backed into a corner, and she does what she has to. Niki's tight grip on the strap of her bag releases and she suddenly swinging a punch at one of the men: her friend. And Church? She kicks out at his shin.

And here it comes. And there Ben is going to go. Church skips aside just in time to dodge a swift kick at his leg, and around him springs a hotter aura. It is only a few degrees, so it just makes her uncomfortably warm in her coat for now; he had too much concentration put into not getting his leg smashed in. "Niki! You don't need to do this- We just want to talk!" He even puts his hands up. For effect. Ben is probably nowhere near anymore, so there goes Plan B. Plan C will probably work out in the next few seconds. Hopefully.

Benjamin is of a mindset now to let his training take over, rather than guessing or playing it soft around someone like Niki. Still, when she strikes out, it doesn't exactly catch him off guard. It's just a bit like getting hit by a truck. He winds up flying back, and his trajectory is halted by a friendly column there on the subway platform. What a lovely commotion they've provoked. As much as he wants to put Plan B into place, he's too busy wondering what the hell just happened. Aside from the obvious. Give him a moment to recover enough to focus.

Niki actually looks surprised at how far Benjamin flies, a pang of guilt flashing in eyes otherwise hardened by determination. "I don't have to explain myself to you," she forces ire into her words at Church, hard-set. If she notices the heat — and she must, perspiration is beginning to slowly spring up on her face and neck — she doesn't seem to attribute it to him. She swiftly steps into the space now unoccupied by Benjamin in a half-circle around the man she knows as a school guidance counsellor and teacher, a perception that's starting to change, and tries to grab one of Church's arms by the wrist roughly, her own arm twisting. She doesn't know quite how dangerous those hands of Church's are, but she knows how dangerous hers are.

Niki might be able to grab onto him, but once she does, she might want to let go again. Lawrence's skin is scalding hot, and so is the air around them now. Suddenly, Sahara! "You do if you're putting people in danger, Niki. Including your boys." All three of them. "What you know matters." Church reaches out himself to grab onto that hand that had been grabbing at him, whether or not it has let go again.

Give him another moment, better make that longer. Benjamin is still laying in a heap against the column in a pained haze. He's just going to lay here, stay down, and fight for consciousness. There's also the thought rolling through his mind that, 'Why am I always the punching bag??' Moving his head hurts, hell, moving anything hurts, so he stays still, trying to turn to look in Niki and Church's direction. Giving himself a mental pep-talk that consists of 'please don't pass out yet, please don't pass out yet,' he focuses on the blonde.

With a cry, Niki certainly starts to let go. "You don't know what you're talking about," she replies harshly with a strong undertone of JUST TRUST ME but, well, she's not even close to explaining herself. She lashes her hand back away from Church, skin grazing hot skin. She reels on her feet a little, the duffel bag, by this point, sliding down her arm. "Leave me alone," she says lowly, backpedaling the way she came, hesitant to turn her back on them.

Church isn't about to leave her to go and steps after Niki. At least his face is honest again. "I know exactly what I'm talking about. And I also know you know too much for Pinehearst to ignore. Which means you're putting yourself in danger too. Ol'Artie's a bad man." He puts it all in as simple terms as he can. As Church follows, she is getting unbearably hotter- not in the stripper way. Getting hit with an attempted nap and heat exhaustion like this at the same time? Oh boy.

Benjamin smirks just a little to himself in a satisfied manner. Niki hasn't dropped yet, but he just /knows/ it's coming. Taking mental stock of his physical state, he waves off assistance from any brave gawkers still in the area. Things are in hand, even with one man more or less down.

"You don't. Know what. You're talking about." Niki forces out adamantly, with mounting effort, as she backs away. Her loyalties are complex. Complicated. Her backward steps become a little less coordinated, and she stumbles; her face is flushed, glistening. Desperately defiant, she clings onto consciousness as hard as she can — it's a fight, obviously, teeth clenching, body wavering. She collapses right in the main thoroughfare to the platforms, half in the corridor.

Luckily, there is an agent to catch her. Church clips his heat lower, catching Niki in his arms as she collapses in front of the filtering crowd. Sure, this was a weird interaction- but it is New York. "Ben, are you alright?" Aka, do I need to call a car?

Every inch of Benjamin's body hurts. This is gonna leave a mark come morning, and he's going to need a mess of painkillers. But Niki brought this all on herself. Gritting his teeth, he pushes to his feet. A hand is thrust out to brace against the column for support as he waits a moment to make sure he's steady. Once that's been confirmed, he sort of lurches away from the column and heads towards Church and the fallen Niki. "I think I'll make it." He's been carried out of places one too many times.

"It's okay, she just has a peanut butter condition!" Church announces this suddenly and heroically to the subway entrance, looping his arms completely under Niki to pick her the whole way up. "Get her bag, will you, Ben?" Next time he can carry the pretty lady, if he does a good job this time.

"One of those allergies," Benjamin says, wincing at the loud announcement by Church. "I think I'm seeing some of Meryl's ponies and aliens right now." He scoops the bag up and follows after Church. "You're driving. I'll keep her out." If he can stay awake.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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