2007-06-23: Friends That Emo Together..

Starring:

Niki_icon.gif Benjamin_icon.gif

Summary: Benji runs into Niki.. who has a sketchy favor and sad news.

Date It Happened: June 23rd, 2007

Friends That Emo Together..


Greenwich Village

It's a day off for Benji. Another mental health day so to speak. There's been no complaints at the office about this. He's the kind of guy to never take vacation, so it's a bit of a relief to hear he's taking time off. Of course he has his laptop so is still taking care of a few things from home, but in general? He's playing the lay low and wait game while trying not to stress as he wars with himself. Not that the war still wages. He's already made up his mind. He just can't bring himself to pick up the phone and dial the number given to him by Dr. Eames. Fraidy cat. Yup. That's him. So today.. he's trying to relax, even if that means taking a little walk through his neighborhood. It's less stressing than sitting around and pacing in his apartment, that's for sure.

As Niki steps out of a subway station, bringing her to Greenwich Village, she pauses on the sidewalk - just out of the way of the human traffic behind her - with a hand shading her eyes from the sun. Familiar buildings. She almost forgot that she knew this place. The High Rise Apartment Building, one such recognizable spot - even if it's only vaguely recognizable - isn't her destination today, however. The woman's high-heeled boots - worn overtop of tight-fitting black jeans with a long white tanktop - take her across the street when the 'walk' sign flashes, and incidentally, she happens to cross right in front of Benjamin's path. Niki comes to a surprised halt - even if she shouldn't be surprised by this point. "Benjamin!"

Benjamin darn near collides with Niki. Not for the fact he's not paying attention, well, he's not, he's just surprised to run into the woman.. Here.. and after awhile of not seeing her and.. well just surprise. He pulls up short, just short of running her down, "Niki! Hi! It's ..been awhile. Sorry… how're you and Micah doing?" Foot in mouth disease manifesting, oh about now.

Stepping back to give Benjamin space after he almost runs into her, the blonde has a smile for him, even though it's a bit distracted, a bit toned down from its bright potential. It fades, in fact, after his well-meaning question - but she holds it up, just barely. Which is exactly what her answer is: "We're, um we're holding up. I was just— " Niki gestures down the street in the direction Benjamin was walking, nodding that way more with her head than her hands, which fidget absently with her purse. "I was just going to pick up something for Micah at an electronics store. I guess he found it on the internet, or— " She shakes her head, forces up her smile. "How've you been?"

If Benjamin notices anything amiss about Niki's behavior, well, he just kinda writes it off. Not to mention he's too polite to say anything about it. "Mind if I walk with you? I'm kinda taking the day off. It's been awhile since I saw you. I.. I've been myself lately. So.. nothing really out of the ordinary." He slips his hands into his pockets and rocks back on his heels once, twice, then, "Well.. I kinda fudged a little.. My ex-wife showed up and I actually told her off. It was pretty funny to see the look on her face when she came in and saw Rose's things. I was hoping Rose would come home while she was there. Her expression was priceless. But other than that? No. NOthing. Nothing weird or anything at all." Horrid liar.

"No, I- I could use the company," Niki says with a more sincere smile as she starts wandering down the sidewalk alongside Benjamin to his left. Bad choice of words, maybe, company. Benjamin, her fellow patient, as it were. She lifts one brow just a touch as he talks about his ex-wife and daughter. "She didn't know about Rose?" The woman hitches her purse over her shoulder and tips her head as she walks. She does notice something unusual about his behaviour and her concern trumps politeness. "Are you sure you've been alright, Benjamin?"

Benjamin tries to not flinch visibly at the usage of the word company, poor choice indeed Niki. Thanks. Trying to shake off the involuntary reaction, he latches onto the topic of his ex-wife. "No.. I haven't actually spoken to my ex-wife since the divorce got finalized. She showed up to get something she had left behind. So.. it was amusing.. Angie left one of her corset thingies too.. so that added to the amusement." TMI Ben, TMI. "Huh? Yeah! Just fine! Never been better!" He tries to smile, in an attempt to cover up and show that he's just hunky dory! "Just doing the usual and all! Work! Uh.. and more work."

Even though Niki can tell something's amiss (because Benjamin is a terrible liar), she can't help but laugh - part with just genuine amusement and part with flat-out surprise that at the man's TMI ramble. "… I can imagine." As her grin starts to fade and she watches the sidewalk in front of their feet, she says in a quieter and more serious tone, "Hey, do you know anything about— " She promptly cuts herself off, giving her head a shake. It jars her hair and she tucks a gently curling blonde strand behind one ear. " —never mind, forget it."

"Know anything about what?" Benjamin is glad to talk about anything other than himself. Really. Because he generally rambles and says things he shouldn't say out of sheer nerves. "Yeah, it was priceless. I could have sold tickets. But anyway.. what were you asking about?"

"I … shouldn't," Niki replies, on the defensive; her regret at bringing up the subject, whatever it is, is obvious. There's another shake of her head and she holds more tightly onto the strap of her purse with one hand. "It's nothing you should get caught up in, I could get you in a lotta trouble. I shouldn't've said anything."

Benjamin glances sidelong at Niki and is quiet for a few moments before he responds. "Oh.. What is it anyway? Not like I can get into anymore trouble than I'm already in." Wait? Crud. Admittance. Oh well. He continues walking alongside Niki, lapsing into a sort of awkward silence as he's reluctant to add to his statement. He's genuinely curious as to what's got Niki a little upset.

The silence pushes on, tense; throughout it, Niki is on the verge of saying something, conflicted. After a few more moments pass, she looks sidelong at Benjamin with a creased brow. Worry? Concern? Fear? Please check all of the above and add a side of 'struggle'. She comes to a complete halt and touches Benjamin lightly on the back of his shoulder. They've been through a lot together, right? Maybe they don't know each other that well, but more than some. Definitely more than some. "If I tell you… then…" One shoulder creeps up in a nervous sort of shrug. "You hafta promise to keep it…" ON THE D.L.? Waitasec. "It's a secret. And it's— it's sort of big. And by 'sort of' I mean seriously and by 'big' I mean… illegal. I know you're an honest guy. I don't wanna make you uncomfortable."

Benjamin stops when Niki taps him on the shoulder. He turns and looks at the woman, meeting her gaze before nodding his head once. "It's not bad illegal like killing anyone or something right?" There's a small smile that's slow to appear then it's gone, "I promise." What could this nice woman have to say that would make him more uncomfortable than he's already feeling?

Killing anyone? Not this time. Niki glances uneasily around the street and, taking Benjamin's arm (gently!), she walks into a small, short alleyway between two residences for some privacy. More than likely, no one cared enough to listen, but it's best not to talk about things like this in the middle of the sidewalk just incase, right? It's with hesitation that she makes the dive into the danger zone of this conversation, and her voice is hushed, her tone important. "You know a lot about… money. Because of what you do, right? I mean… if someone had… a lot of cash, I mean like, a serious amount— and it wasn't technically theirs… theoretically, you'd know what to do with it. How to get it clean?" Well, there it is, Benjamin. Your "nice woman" is, apparently, a criminal. "It's complicated," she tags on with a half-hearted, fleeting smile… which is just a bit sheepish.

Benjamin follows after Niki as she takes his arm. No fuss, no protest. He listens without giving interruption as she speaks. Oddly enough, there's not much of a surprise on his face. Even when inside, he is. Niki's a nice lady, kind, loving of her son. "Sure.. Cause we have to know how to trace paper trails and theoretically I could explain how to hide cash.." He doesn't ask how she came into an illicit amount of cash. It's best he doesn't know that part. "So.. you 'inherited' a lot of cash and you want to hide it. Right?"

If by 'inherited' you mean the other person I turn into from time to time lifted it from a casino, yeah, inherited. Niki doesn't voice that answer; at first, she only says, "Yeah," and wraps her arms about herself. A moment later, she squares her shoulders back and regards Benjamin. "Look, I'm… I'm not some kinda criminal, I mean, I try my best to do the right thing," she has to get that off her chest, apparently. "Sometimes… the rules get broken and… I'm having a hard time. I have this money and I need it to support Micah and but I can't unless it's… hidden. Laundered, or whatever."

Benjamin nods his head, and doesn't seem to be judging Niki at all for this. "I understand. Bad things happen to good people and you have to make the best of it and do what you have to do." His smile is forced and a little sad as he looks at Niki. "I'll give you some tips on how to hide it from the IRS.. because this is inherited money.. It was left to you to help take care of Micah." That's the rationale so no arguing!

For a brief flash, an enormous weight is lifted off of the shoulders of the woman standing in front of Benjamin in the alley in Greenwich Village. Relief. A moment later, it's back on, weighing her down again, but her tenuous smile of gratitude is there as proof. "Thank you, Benjamin. I mean it."

"You're welcome Niki. I know you just want to take care of Micah." While Niki may feel a weight lifting, Benjamin just feels even more weighed down as he thinks of his own child. Who may or may not ever admit to how she really feels about him. Regardless, Rose is his daughter, his only child, and he's adament on keeping her safe.

"It was always for Micah," Niki says quietly - hardly even to Benjamin, looking down at the ground as she speaks, momentarily pained by some inner thought. "And thank you for looking after him that time. I know it was short notice and I was probably-I wasn't myself." Understatement. She starts to head out of the small alley and back onto the street. "Maybe… we can go somewhere to talk later."

"It's alright. I didn't mind at all. He's.. a very intelligent boy." Smarter than any kid has a right to be, not that Benjamin would think that, let alone say it. "Sure. I won't mind that at all. I'll also tell you how you can start handling your new situation."

"Yeah, you can say that again," Niki says with a fond laugh finding its way into her voice - even though she, herself, is still looking pretty downcast. She turns down the sidewalk to resume the trek from before at a slightly slower pace. "The worst part about this thing with the money is … I dunno how to explain where it came from 'cause he's just gonna figure it out. He's smart. He picks up on things, you know? Besides, it's an easy guess. It was all over the…" News. Niki pointedly trails off and her voice becomes ever-so-slightly cynical. "No way anyone's gonna believe D.L. had life insurance like that."

"I'm sure you'll think of something to tell him.. or maybe he'll accept the tr.. what?" Benjamin halts in his tracks at the life insurance comment. ".. Niki.. what happened?" He jogs ahead to catch up and tries to put a hand on the woman's shoulder. "D.L. is your husband, right? What happened?" Cause life insurance only really comes up in the event of.. ohsh..

Niki doesn't stop right away; she folds her arms tightly across her stomach. When she turns around to face the concerned Benjamin, it's delayed - a slow motion whirl. "There was… an accident." She does a fair job of keeping the anguish in her eyes at bay, but the effort makes her expression cold and hard, almost distant. At odds, her voice is much gentler and more vulnerable. "It happened… God, I can't believe it's been over a month ago."

Benjamin blinks.. and his own internal struggle of the past few days is forgotten. When Niki stops and looks at him, then speaks, he doesn't think, he just reaches to pull her into a fierce hug. "I'm so sorry to hear that something happened to him. Is there anything else I can do to help you and Micah out?"

The hug comes as a surprise, physically jarring Niki a little, super strength be damned. After a few seconds, though, she gives Benjamin a short but solid hug in return and steps back, smiling a sad but appreciative smile. "You'll do enough if you can help me out with this thing."

Benjamin lets go when Niki does as well. "Sorry.. you.. it just seemed like the thing to do." If he overstepped his bounds, that's what the apology was for. He nods once, "Alright. I'll help you best I can with that. Here.. I'll still walk with you to the store." He doesn't want to leave the woman alone, not after digging at an ugly scab like this.

"Has anyone ever told you that you're too nice?" Niki says in what is an attempt at a light-hearted comment — a true one nevertheless.

"Yeaaaah… I get that a lot.. Angie seemed to like it though." Benjamin admits as he walks off with Niki.

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