2007-02-20: One Big Happy Family


Niki_icon.gif Angie_icon.gif Identity_icon.gif Ed_icon.gif

Summary: Snark, sharing, debts, and endorphins.

Date It Happened: February 20th, 2007

One Big Happy Family

Exercise room - private hospital outside NYC

It's a gradual process. It takes time. She's heard all these things before, and she has to believe them, because what other option is there? Bit by bit, Niki's treatment progresses here at the makeshift hospital of the Company, and every day - or at least every other day - they give her a bit more leeway. She's doing well, all things considered, because of the staff here. And so, today, as evening is just settling in at this tucked-away hospital outside the city, in this segregated wind, Niki Sanders is in a small exercise room with no one but a singular guard outside the door. She's… not doing much of anything, however, save for leaning against a random piece of exercise equipment and staring at the floor, dressed in a drab grey tank-top and blue pyjama bottoms.

Angie enters not too long after. She's gone Goth for her exercise outfit with a black shirt that has a cartoonish white skull right about breast-height. She has on some regular looking yoga-style athletic pants though. No skulls. Smirking as she sights Niki, she turns to one of the torso machines and takes a seat. It's only then that she opens her mouth, "You look incredibly happy. Sunshine and puppies. Sugar and spice and all that bullshit. Don't mistake this for me being nice, but why don't you pop on one of these machines here and get some endorphins going, it'll do you some good."

Into the hospital walks Identity. Identity does not look particularly amused to be in the hospital wing, but here she is, nonetheless. She wanders past the exercise room, with the heavy, annoyed bootfalls of someone on their way to go wrest painkillers from the clutches of annoyingly stingy medical staff.

The patient looks up with a glance of her blue eyes, first, before her head follows suit to regard Angie. "What?" The soft sound of someone being jarred from their thoughts, right there. "Oh— no, that's okay, I was using one of those other machines earlier - while hooked up to wires, no less." Considerably earlier, it would seem, since there's hardy a sign of breaking a sweat on her body. Niki glances to the entranceway as she hears bootfalls going by, then looks over at the equipment Angie is sitting on, considering blandly for a few moments. "You know what, it beats going back to my room," she decides, pushing away to move toward an elliptical.

"Endorphins are the way to go. So, its either exercise or sex and… well, I don't swing that way. And uh, neither does the guard," Angie says with just a little snark. She looks up, eyeing Niki and then beyond her, for a second, Identity. "You look like hell!" she calls. Just to be nice.

Identity shoots back, "You look like a Hot Topic ad." And continues on past. Boy, she's friendly.

Niki, in the midst of situating herself on the elliptical, can't help but glance the guard's way when Angie points him out and smirk and quirk of an eyebrow, bordering on vague amusement. Just a little. Mostly because of Angie's snark. Starting the exercise at a low speed, her hands loosely gripping the bars, she says with a touch of sarcasm, "Are all of the inter-employee relations around here so friendly? Because I've been noticing a theme."

"That's the point…" Angie calls back at Identity, "Anyway. Your face!" Then to Niki she grins and says, "We enjoy a casual work atmosphere. It's a perk. Besides, she kind of a jerk."

"I guess it's just not what I expected," Niki replies and shrugs one half-bare shoulder, looking straight ahead now as she speeds up the pace of the machine. She does glance down what sliver of hallway she can see from here, however, although Identity seems to be long gone. She's quiet for a moment, the elliptical making its steady rhythmical noise as she steps. "Do you like working for them?" You know, the elusive /them/. That them. Small talk?… she must really have her reasons for asking.

Angie starts doing some torso rotations, first in one direction and then in the other direction. She goes slowly, getting her workout from the resisting the weight like she's supposed to. At the question, she says, "They do good work. Most of the time. We screwed up with you and with Benjamin. You were supposed to be safe at that facility too… I'm sorry for that not being the case." She pulls in a breath, continuing her slow purposeful motions: "As for liking it? I like feeling that what I do is important… Bigger than myself." Then she notes: "They offered me a chance to start over. And when my powers manifested? When I was horrified at what I was? They taught me a different way. So, yes. I like working for the Company."

Niki seems to just mull over Angie's answer for awhile; her only reply is the continued steady rhythm of the exercise machine, no faster, no slower. "I'm still trying to make sense of… how it's all connected. How this Company works," she admits, looking over at the other woman; her thoughts manifest as thin lines on her face, on her forehead. "All I know is, they're the only ones who can help me. No one else understands. I'm going to owe them for helping me. I'm in their debt."

"I don't think of it that way, to be honest. I owe them a lot, but I'm not in the Company's debt. I'm here because I want to be. I do what they ask of me because it takes me closer to finding the person who murdered my father." There. Angie's opened up. She doesn't look in Niki's direction, focussing on her workout. "They offered me that chance. One day I'm going to find that son of a bitch and I'm going to say to him… my name is Angela Alvarez. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Okay, that last bit is her attempting to make light of seriousness to which she's sunk. She looks over at Niki now and says, "Just focus on learning to hone your abilities. To learn control. Take what you will from this time. And don't feel like you owe anyone anything in return. A good deed is its own reward." Pause. "And if you tell anybody I told you that, I'll kill you."

Niki's steps on the exercise machine slow down ever-so-slightly; her focus seems to be on Angie more than her workout as the Company gal unexpectedly opens up. Her expression is one of empathy, more than anything, even though she cracks a quick smile when Angie's seriousness takes a momentary backseat to make way for the Princess Bride. "I won't tell anyone. Cross my heart. Your good deeds are safe with me." She glances down, watching her feet move, her smile eventually fading before she responds. "I don't want control of my 'abilities', I'd rather not use them at all. I just want control of my life. Of… my/self/." You know, to only have /one/ self. "I'd be more than happy to just learn and get better and be thankful, then go home to my kid at the end of the day… but those words, about owing and debt? They're not mine. One way or another, it always winds up that way. Bob said as much before I came here, but if I can get better so I can be with my family without being… a /threat/ to them, I don't really mind, you know? I'll do what it takes." On that note, the woman amps up the speed and resistance of the machine.

"If that's what you want? Then all you need to do is do it. You're halfway there," Angie says, not QUITE smiling at Niki, but looking like she almost might. "This is about as cheerful as I get, so you better enjoy it." She lets the sounds of the machines fill the void for a few seconds before she asks, "Tell me about your family?"

Angie is being pretty nice in Niki's book - she's not paralyzing her, for one, and that's a start. Even though she doesn't look /particularly/ encouraged, Niki has already made her decision regardless, and gives the other woman a small smile. Working up a sweat that coats her fair skin in a light sheen during the exercise-filled silence, her smile eventually returns on Angie's question - but this one is much wider and brighter. "I have a husband, D.L. - he just became a fireman not long ago, which… is weird to say after calling him an ex-con for so long," she even laughs a bit, tinged with a little scoff. "We have a boy, Micah. He's eleven." Niki slows down the elliptical until she stops and hops off onto the floor. Go endorphins! "What about you, do you have any family…?" The unspoken part is, of course, 'other than your father', so the query is poised gently.

"My mom… and I've sort of lost count of siblings and nieces and nephews," is Angie's reply. If there's any awkwardness shown over her father not being in that list, it doesn't show. "I can't hardy go into the city without bumping into one of them on occasion." She finishes with the machine she's using and gets to her feet slowly. "It sounds like you have a good life to go back to. I mostly just… work. And then there's Anders. Sometimes."

While she stands near the elliptical she just departed, listening to the Company agent, Niki pulls her hair back into a slender ponytail, tugging it away from her face, then twirls it over her shoulder in lieu of an elastic. "Big family, huh? I'm not really in touch with mine outside of D.L. and Micah. D.L. has a big family though." She starts to head over to another corner of the room, then stops and levels a sideways glance at Angie, her eyes narrowed and her brows starting to rise quizzically. Skeptically. "Wait. You and… Anders…?"

"What can I say?… He likes the abuse." That's about all the explanation Angie sees fit to give for the moment. She settles into the next machine, adjusting the weights and starts exercising for a few seconds before she adds, "Someone's gotta work on that vindictive streak he has going, right? Might as well be me. I get my kicks and he learns to be human instead of a storm trooper."

Niki just gapes at Angie for a span of several moments that… probably go for longer than they should, a smile on the verge at any second. One part amused, one part horrified, it eventually breaks through and she laughs lightly, shaking her head. "He's… something." She walks over to the small row of weight machines and sits on the edge of one beside Angie, though she makes no move to use it herself. "Who was that girl that escaped the other facility? Is she still… out?"

"Unfortunately. I only got Kellie as a name. Need to know, apparently. She's a firestarter. Pyrokinetic. Not in control of her faculties, obviously," is Angie's response. "And yes, unfortunately. I helped recapture her a few days ago, but some … I don't know what you'd call them. Terrorists? That's probably too strong a word. Misguided individuals is probably better. They freed her again. So now she's out there. Another Sylar, waiting to happen."

"Hm," Niki replies softly at first, frowning. "Why would someone want to free her? She was obviously going to cause crazy destruction." Thoughtful, her brow knits faintly as she finds herself idly watching Angie and the weights. However, she doesn't dwell on the subject much longer, save to add quietly: "I hope she's caught again soon." There's a brief pause before she stands up promptly, looking around the small exercise room. "Do you want me to… spot you or whatever? Apparently I'm good at that. Who knew."

"Probably the superstrength, right?" Angie says with a smirk. "That's an ability I'd like to trade you for. For serious." She waves the woman off though and says, "I'm good. Not really pushing myself… this is just for maintenance." Then she says, "I think they thought she was a victim, instead of an insane flame-lobbing murderer… That'd be my guess, anyway. Having a power doesn't make someone a murderer. Using it to kill other people does."

"Yeah, well, you can have it." Pause. "…Okay, I guess it has its uses." Niki's whole mien darkens after that bit of light-hearted banter, though, and she adds quietly: "It's still new to me. It wasn't always mine." The patient strolls away from the weight area slowly, halting affront the small, square window that looks out onto the hospital grounds. She tucks a strand of blonde hair (currently rather lifeless) behind her ear, falling silent.

Angie is quiet for a few, silently pumping iron and watching Niki at the window. "I was thinking… do you want to get a real New York sub tomorrow for lunch? I mean, you've got to be going bonkers cooped up in here all day, right?" She's quick to add, "Not a date or anything. And I've got to clear it with my superiors first."

Niki, having crossed her arms in a light hugging pose, looks over her shoulder at Angie with mild surprise written on her features - and concern. Ultimately, it makes for a good deal of hesitation. "I don't know how comfortable I am with that idea… as much as I'd like some fresh air, and a New York sub sounds great, I…" she starts to smile, but looks away, gazing out the window. "… well, as long as you're careful. Sure. That'd be nice."

"New York has better things to offer than crappy dance clubs and drugs, Ms. Sanders, I promise." The Company agent finishes with the machine she's on and gets to her feet, taking a few long, slow breaths. "I should probably get cleaned up. I think I may have to work tonight." Angie notes, just for clarification, "Also I'm totally -not- the nice one around here. No matter what anyone says."

"I don't want any of those things," Niki interjects quietly before turning around and leaning lightly against the wall, blocking out half of the window with her silhouette. Angie prompts another light smile from the woman, tugging at one side of her mouth this time. "O-kaay. Thanks for … tomorrow, if it's cleared. That was really not-nice of you to offer."

"Don't doubt it," says — someone. In a wife-beater and sweatpants, a third man strides over from a different part of the gymnasium. If they're stuck in this gross-smelling hospital, he may as well put in a few reps, here and there. "She's not the nice one. That's the trick, see. There's not really a nice one."

The new voice from the other room of the gymnasium comes as a surprise to Niki - she really wasn't expecting anyone else to be around. Nonetheless, only a faint, sudden widening of her eyes registers her shock. She gives the man an indistinct smile. So far. "Mister… Boone, right?" The woman's smile brightens enough to be polite, by most standards. "I hope I'm getting that right. I've met so many people here."

"Yeah. It's Boone," says the man, who immediately climbs onto a treadmill and starts running. He keeps talking all the same, his voice keeping surprisingly steady. "I'm sure you've been having a regular party," he says. "Everyone loves being checked in to a hospital."

"I'm Niki… but… you probably know that already, huh?" The blonde woman glances over her shoulder out the window, shifting her shoulders about slightly before she tilts her head downward toward the blue mat-covered floor. "I've been in worse places." Her optimistic reply is tinged with markedly less upbeat undertones.

"Fair enough," Ed says, picking up the speed after he warms up a little bit. He starts padding along at a good pace. "There's no other place in the world that can treat you, that much is true enough," he says. "But I don't figure most of our patients buy into the 'one big happy family' routine," he says. One could imagine, if he's so freely breaking the 'tone' he's supposed to adhere to in dealing with Powered patients.

"One big happy family? Is that the routine?" While there is some sarcasm to that question, there's sincere curiosity too. Big happy family, huh? Niki just shrugs lightly, though; unfolding her arms, she pushes away from the wall and walks slowly across the small gym to lean on the side of a treadmill, a few down from Ed. "I don't know, but I don't think I'm much like the other patients, Mr. Boone."

"Sure enough," Ed says, still jogging along. "We've got to do the PR job to convince people this is the place they want to be," he explains. "Most of the time people aren't dangerous enough that we have to reel them in, but it's still hard to tell them that they need to check in to a tiny hospital cell for their own good," he adds. "Most people are pretty grateful when push comes to shove. Hell, if they haven't asked you to sign on after you're treated, they will."

"Are you this honest with all the patients?" Niki asks Ed with a sincere, if brief, smile. It's transient because she dips her head, thinking; she gives it a shake, just a subtle little movement. Still, her pale hair sways. "I was just telling Miss Alvarez that I owe the Company for their help— but I've been so focused on just getting better that I haven't asked what that means. How long will it be before I can go back to my family?"

"You'll never know," he says, in response to Niki's question concerning his honesty. She won't, really. This could very well be some sort of good cop, bad cop kind of game. He keeps jogging. The speed gets subtly faster as he starts to roll along. "And it depends, on how well you behave. I don't mean like getting out of jail for good behavior — but treating a mental disorder is give and take. You've got to pull your weight as much as us. Hell, you ask me, you've got the hard part. We just give you the drugs and the fancy shrinks," he adds, with a note of distaste. "Some people don't ever get cut loose. Some people, they just get worse. Some people were probably born bad," he says.

"Dr. Eames thinks I'm making progress," Niki tells Ed. "I don't really know what that means— I just go along with it and try my hardest, and I haven't had any… incidents. Not since coming in. That's all I could ask for. But…" The woman looks down at the treadmill she lingers by, toying a hand along one of the handles at random. "When I'm healthy - however long it takes, I'll stay, I hafta do it, but /after/ that. What do you want from me?"

"Me? I don't want a damn thing from you. I think the people with a double-dose of mental problems and abilities should be treated, given a lifetime supply of drugs, and kept out of the way," Ed says, still running along. He's probably doing a couple of miles, or something along those lines. "When you try to join the FBI, they put through all kinds of tests to determine you're sane, and that you've been sane all your life. If you were schizophrenic once, and never again? You're bounced. Same deal for the meat-and-potatoes guys like me. I don't have a problem with mixing you abilities with us norms on the job, but I don't believe in exceptions to the rules."

Niki's formerly casual pose tenses, her shoulders stiffening; she takes a step back, regarding Ed levelly with a new and unsure criticism. She squares her jaw a little as she listens to him and continues to simply eye him carefully for a few moments after he's given his opinion. "Hey, I'd be just fine with going home and living my life normally and never have to bother with a debt, because I have had /enough/ of those, but your superiors seem to have a different opinion on me than you do. All I know is, I owe them," Niki says, an edge to her voice. Touchy subject, maybe? She laughs quietly, dryly, with little humour. "Just like I always owe /someone/."

"Then do me a favor," Ed says, completely unaffected as he continues to go for his run. "When they give you the chance, go home. Get out of here. You want to pay back your debt? Don't let the brass put you — and whoever else you've got in there — on field duty and get a good agent killed. And if you don't get that opportunity, maybe you didn't make as good a deal as you thought."

Resentfulness glints in the woman's eyes. She almost looks defiant as she stares down Ed darkly, her mouth slightly agape. "…Yeah," Niki says, although there's hardly any measure of agreement in that word today. "Thanks for the advice," she snaps quietly as she turns to away from Ed, sauntering toward the exit door.

"Anytime," Ed says, plainly, and doesn't seem affected in the least — maybe he's just that much of a dirtbag. He hits the crescendo of his pace just as Niki starts to leave; by the time she hits the door, he's in a full on sprint.

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