2007-09-22: Switch to Decaf


Felix_icon.gif Joule_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif Benjamin_icon.gif Mariska_icon.gif

Summary: Joule and Niki handle an entitlement person at Common Grounds with a little help from Felix. Niki and Benjamin reunite, Benjamin and Felix talk outside of work.

Date It Happened: September 22, 2007

Switch to Decaf

Common Grounds

It's been a long day of photographing bratty prep school children for proud, entitled parents. Joule is not in a good mood, and she's seriously in need for a cup of coffee while she goes through the proof shots. "Bloody hell," she mutters to herself as she straight-arms the door open. "I need an assistant." She glances at the menu, then simply gets in line, waiting impatiently for her turn to order a coffee that costs way too much.

Faced with an empty house and the torture brought on by waiting, Niki decided to grab a change of scenery. The decision apparently took her to midtown. Here at Common Grounds, the woman sits at a table near the window, alone, reading a random magazine, a cup — an empty cup — nearby. A few bags are strewn about but kept close, hinting that she's gotten some errands or shopping out of the way, too. The toe of a heeled boot hits the leg of the table restlessly until she tosses the aforementioned random magazine on the table and gets up. She gathers her various belongings, taking them with her on the way to the line.

A couple of people are in front Joule in the line. The first is a college kid who appears to be paying in dollars to feed his caffeine addiction. By the look, it's because he has a crush on the cute, tattooed barista serving him. "Here ya go," he says, and it's as if he handed the other guy a bottle of miracle elixir. Joule smiles, fingering her camera thoughtfully. They're photogenic, both of them.

The person between Joule and her caffeine, however, is one of Those Customers.

"Skinny soy latte, with four squirts of caramel, one of hazelnut, one of vanilla, two shakes of cinnamon, vente." Joule shakes her head that someone can remember all those details, but she holds her tongue.

Niki is more patient with the fancy coffee addicts and college kids, but only because she has nowhere to be. Well, that's not entirely true— she finds herself glancing down at the purse that's slung over her shoulder, reaching inside for a cell phone… but she's waylaid. A folded newspaper catches Niki's eye as she waits for the line to move; it sits, abandoned, on a nearby table beside the photographer. It's today's date, but already looks well-worn. It's probably one of several copies being handed around Common Grounds — an event in one of the articles happened here, after all. "Excuse me," the blonde murmurs quietly, reaching past Joule to tug the paper closer with a few tentative fingers, turning it and flipping it open delicately. Peter Petrelli Arrested, it reads.

"Hmm?" Joule glances down as Niki reaches for the abandoned paper. She's about to reach for it herself when That Customer in front of her blows his stack at the other barista, a skinny, freckled little Asian kid with blond spikes atop his dark hair.

"Are you some kind of fucking moron? Do you not speak ENGLISH? I said a SKINNY. Soy. Latte. With Four. FOUR! Squirts of caramel. One! of Hazelnut. And two shakes of cinnamon, vente!" The woman looks away from the paper, and back at the person in front of her. The other barista steps forward, about to say something, when That Customer points a meaty finger at him. "You stay outta this! I bet you couldn't fix it right either. Goddamn foreigners."
Joule raises a hand and begins counting down from five with her fingers.

Niki draws the paper off the table to read the article more closely, stepping out of Joule's invisible bubble of personal space after the fact. She's pretty damn intent on reading that paper, but the escalating anger at the counter distracts her, at least for a few seconds, and she looks that way with mild concern (and disbelief, because jeez, it's just a coffee). No one's killing anyone yet, right? She can read the newspaper for a minute? Assuming so (maybe unwisely!), blue eyes skim the text and blurry photographs in haste, as if she can't quite read it fast enough; the jist of the article prompts a furrowed brow of worry, stuck gaping in surprise.

Five. Joule drops one finger. The barista with the crush attempts a "Sir—" but is cut off by That Customer. "I told you to shut it." Four. "Get me a manager." Nobody else says anything, though it's not terribly crowded at the moment. "I'm not paying for this crap! And I'm not drinking it!" Three. The Asian teenager looks near tears, face flushing with embarrassment. "You're gonna make me another!" Two. "And you're gonna fucking make it RIGHT this time!" One.

"Hey, luv, hold this a second for me, would ya?" Joule shoves her camera bag at Niki, and steps up to the man, fearlessly. "Oi. Blowhard. Mind dialing it down a bit? It's a bloody coffee, he's just a kid, and the yelling is not necessary."

That Customer, a linebacker-gone-to-seed type turns and glowers down at the little woman daring to interrupt his tirade.

Wh- whoa, what? That's that's the summation of the blonde's expression as she's jarred out of her distressed newspaper reading escapade. "I— okay," she manages, taking the camera bag from Joule. Purse, about three shopping bags, a newspaper, now this, it's a bit awkward. Folding the newspaper against her chest, Niki sidesteps, looking past the Indian woman. "Hey, what she said," she adds to That Customer, trying to be helpful. She sounds reasonable and easygoing, at least, even throwing in gentle smile. "You're making all these nice people wait. Over what, some coffee that doesn't have cinnamon in it?"

Felix is ….so not bohemian. Being a stuffed suit, he sticks out among the general clientele of Common Grounds like a sore thumb, but honestly doesn't seem to much notice, or care, for that matter. He's got his laptop bag over one shoulder, and his glasses on, for once - though that prescription may need changing, by the way he's sort of squinting at the menu. He insinuates himself in the line patiently.

The linebacker looks taken aback for a moment. Little Indian woman — another damn foreigner — and a hot blonde both telling him to back down. He seems to consider it for a moment, before growling. "Buncha fuckin' skirts think they can tell me what to do? I'm a payin' customer just the same as you are."

"Nah, you're not," Joule replies, stepping past the man. "I'm buyin' your coffee, 'cause it sounds lovely to me. You can go down the street to the spread eagle mermaid place. Maybe they can get your cryptic order right, hmm?"

The big dude seems astonished a woman is not backing down from him, and reaches for her with an epithet on his lips. "I wouldn't," Joule suggests, glancing at him. "This coffee is bloody hot. Says so right on the little cardboard wrappy thing."

Is there something about Common Grounds that inspires violence? The newspaper in Niki's hands and the attitude of that linebacker say yes. And didn't a van crash into this place last winter, on fire? "I wouldn't push her if I were you," Niki says to the big guy in that easygoing voice, but it's a touch more transparent than the last time, not disguising her actual threat as well. She smiles at Joule, as if sharing a secret with the stranger, and eyes the man, gaze hardening ever-so-slightly.

Felix leans out of the line, blue eyes going hard and cold. He blithely stretches the truth a bit, and says, calmly, "I'm a cop. Is there a problem here?" Because he's really happy to solve things by threatening to arrest some chump.

Joule raises a brow and smiles back at Niki, pleased that somebody else is helping stand up to the bully. She hands over a $10. "Keep the change."

The two baristas are looking deer-in-headlights and apologetic, respectively. The one whose error started this thing is so shaken up, his hands are trembling slightly as he tries to encourage the line to keep moving. "C-Can I help you, sir?" he calls to Felix.

Big burly glowers at Felix, obviously considering whether he can take the smaller man, and whether it's worth it to salve his ego.

"No problem here," Joule calls cheerfully, taking a sip of coffee. "It's *perfect*," she chirps at the barista, much to the ire of the increasingly red-faced bully man.

Niki turns to catch sight of the "cop" that speaks up. If he hadn't said that word, if he hadn't stood out in his suit, it would have taken just a bit longer for the flip in her mind to be switched. He's familiar. Yeah, in that 'didn't I run into you in an alley?' kind of way, and more importantly, the 'aren't you FBI? kind of way. Her stare lingers for a few seconds, momentarily stricken, before she moves along closer to the counter to the other barista. "New Yorkers, huh?," she murmurs tolerantly under her breath to Joule with a little one-shouldered shrug. Quietly.

Felix just arches his brows at at the big guy, letting his face settle into that coolly disdainful cop's mask. Don't even try it, buddy. Assaulting a federal officer is more trouble than a botched cup of coffee is worth. To the barista, he notes calmly, "Decaf white mocha, please."

The big burly man clenches and unclenches his fists, muttering about yuppie scum and uppity women, before he steps out of line and lumbers toward the door. Joule turns a long gaze on him, before moving from the counter and back toward Niki. "Thanks for holding my bag. Owe you a coffee for the trouble." Felix gets a wink, a tacit indication she approves of him, even if the legal status isn't immediately available.

"It's no problem. He was being a jerk," Niki replies easily, smiling, although the burly man earns a quick glower. She hands the camera bag back to Joule and addresses the barista. "What I had last time," she tells the young woman, finding herself distracted by glancing intermittently at the FBI agent. Then, with a little shake of her head, clarifies. "Um, just— a mocha, thanks. Medium." The order prompts an off-kilter smile on the word 'mocha', distantly amusing for some reason she doesn't share.

Those little surreptitious glances catch Fel's attention, and he glances over at Niki for a little before recognition dawns, and he inclines his head to her politely, while stepping aside to await his mocha.

"He was. Let him bully some other coffee shoppe." Joule shoulders the bag, easily, and slides another ten across to the now much-relieved Barista. "And toss me in a slice of that lemon poppy coffee cake, hmm?" She makes a wry face at having just spent twenty bucks in a coffee shop, but the gesture needed making. The backup needed acknowledging. And she's hungry. It might spoil her dinner, but the 21st century is a culture of instant gratification. "Good on ya, stepping in, by the way. Joule." She extends her right hand toward Niki.

"Joule," the blonde comments with a lift of brows while getting some cash out to pay for her coffee. "You don't hear that name much. I'm Niki," she counters, friendly, if slightly distracted by Felix. Paranoid? Yep. Coffee house rules deem that she's forced to stand over near the agent to wait for her order as well, but she keeps a more-than-polite distance away, lingering by a table under the guise of returning the newspaper detailing Peter Petrelli's arrest for assault and battery to where she got it.

Guilty conscience? Felix looks bleakly amused, not bothering to conceal his scrutiny of the blonde. "Still have my card?" he wonders, voice dry.

"Dad was a scientist,. Wanted me to have a unique name," Joule shrugs, with a smile that indicates there's an affection in under the wryness. "Nice to meet you, Niki." She smiles at Felix, then turns to accept her slice of cake, before getting out of the way of the two who seem to be acquaintances.

Joule's father's love of science and how it's tied to the woman's name goes over Niki's head, but she smiles pleasantly, all the same. "You, too. You really showed that guy what he deserved." A lingering smile still exists for Felix, twisting here and there and threatening to disappear. "…Actually, I lost it."

HE hands her another one, proffering it held between the first two fingers of his right hand, still wearing that faint smile, having pulled a plain business card case out of an inner pocket of the suit jacket.

"Yeah, well, we English have no patience for blokes what dicksling like that, just 'cos they can. Somebody had to. Coffee lad there's just a kid, probably tryin'a make enough just to stay in X-Box games." Joule rolls her eyes skyward. "Plus, used to be a waitress." She flashes a grin at the baristas, cameraderie building amongst them. Felix gets another polite smile before Joule turns and finally goes searching for a table. The small row seems to have improved her mood some.

"… Hopefully I won't need it," Niki says, trying on a bright smile; her look is searching, calculating beyond the friendly visage she's putting on to hide her paranoia. She takes the card regardless, plucking it delicately from Felix's fingers. At least the row improved somebody's mood; when her order's up, along with Felix's, she makes sure to be extra appreciative to the barista.

Felix's expression is bland, really. Save for that almost wintry amusement in the blue eyes. Funny how people react to you, when you're law enforcement. HE sticks a fairly generous tip in the jar after retrieving his mocha. "Indeed. We're like doctors - we long for the day there's no need for us," he points out, taking a tentative sip.

"Yeah, that'll be nice," Joule comments, seemingly in response to Felix's remark. She takes another sip of the coffee she bought out from under the bully. "Who knew getting a coffee was almost enough to start a riot…?"

Right. Niki starts to turn away, cup in hand, but she stops haltingly and hitches her purse over her shoulder more tightly with a rustle of the shopping bags she holds. "Mister… Ivanov," she finds herself saying unsurely, but with an increasing need-to-know. "What— what were you doing? That day. Beside the Den." What is coincidence anymore?

"Walking home from getting a drink," he says, quietly, eyeing her over the edge of his cup. "I used to drink there a lot when I was NYPD, so I still visit from timeto time. I heard the sounds of the scuffle and went to see what was happening," He seems to be telling the truth.

Joule gets a wry grin. "Welcome to life in New York," he says, amused.

"Yeah, thanks," Joule says, humor darkened. "Seems I'm a bleeding crime magnet is what." She sighs. "But nothin' to go back to, so I might as well stay here. At least makin' a decent livin', and I know the law's on the ball. Little too well, is all." She takes a sip of coffee, follows it with a bite of cake, eyes unfocusing. Whatever distant thing has caught her vision has saddened her to go by her expression.

"… Right," the blonde woman answers, as if reassuring herself, a barely there laugh rustling her breath as she smiles and tucks smooth, straightened hair behind one ear. Not looking at anyone anymore, Niki slides past and takes a seat nearby; not at the table she claimed before, but the one with that damn newspaper which she finds herself eyeing again.

"Seems that way," Joule says, shaking herself out of her reverie at Felix's question. "Fare jumpers, this lovely arse here, and …well, shortly after I first got here, something more significant. Not as if London nor New Delhi were the safest cities either. Just luck of the draw, I s'pose."

On his way home from work, Benjamin slips on into Common Grounds to get a little pick-me-up. He's drinking more and more coffee lately as his work hours become increasingly irregular. More alert nowadays, a sweeping glance is made around the shop. A few months before, he wouldn't have bothered. There's Felix, and.. Niki.. and other faces he's not familiar with. Not sure who to say hi to first, he cants a nod towards Felix but beelines towards Niki. (But not for the same reasons most men would.) "Hi Niki, it's been awhile." Since he last saw her when his jaw was messed up.

"Like?" Fel persists, curiosity clearly sparked. He lifts a hand to Benji in lazy greeting, but blinks. Wait. The accountant knows Niki? Benj gets a pointed look. Questions for you later.

Niki sits in silence, sipping her coffee. Her distant expression suggests that she's not eavesdropping, but she can see Felix out of the corner of her eye… just in case he's not a victim of coincidence. Her fingers curl around a corner of the newspaper; she's just started to shoulder her purse onto the table when, suddenly— "Benjamin! You're— looking better," she says, thrown off-guard, but managing a friendly smile. Even so, she regards Benjamin rather… carefully, turning her head a touch and eyeing him some more. "Have you been… alright?" A split second later, she has the same realization as Felix, just, you know, switch some names around. "You know that guy?" she asks Benjamin quietly.

Joule gulps the rest of her coffee, as if it were something stronger, before answering Felix's question. "Like a bloody sodding addict bastard in my apartment a few weeks after we got here…" She trails off, as Benjamin seems to have a connection with those she's already acquainted. A brow goes up, bemused and amused at the synchronicity that seems to center over a coffee house.

Benjamin slips his hands into his pockets as he walks up to Niki's table. He doesn't have a seat yet, and is fine with standing to speak with her. A shy bit of a grin is made at her, "Yeah, and feeling better, thanks. All healed up and glad for it. Hoping I never have to go through that again." Joule gets another glance from the corner of his eyes before his attention centers back on Niki and he lowers his voice, "Hmm? The Russian guy? Yeah. I've.. run into him a time or too. He seems pretty nice." Just a little white… well not lie exactly.

Felix pulls a wry face. "I'm sorry to hear it," he says, shaking his head. He doesn't watch Benjamin and Niki. Not at the moment. Because honestly, he can't account for that acquaintance, not in public.

If only Benjamin was flat-out lying. Niki knows him to be a terrible liar, he's too nice — unless he's changed. However, mostly clueless to that possibility, she keeps her voice low to tell him, "He's FBI…" with some measure of uneasiness. Folding her arms over her purse, Niki leans ahead and looks up at Benjamin. "The last time we talked…" she trails off meaningfully. "I know we can't talk about it here. I just have to know if I can trust you."

Well the mood had been improved. But it's diminished again. "Nnngh. Thanks. For all the trouble I get into, like bloody Lois Lane, be nice if there were a Superman to go with it." Joule isn't so much as cracking a smile as she makes the remark. She gets up, and hoists her camera bag back onto her shoulder. "Nice meeting you lot," she calls to Niki and Felix.

"Take care. I hope you have better luck here," Fel wishes, wryly, before looking for a seat of his own.

"Really?" Of course Benjamin had to know that Felix is FBI, along with other things. He settles down into a chair so that Niki doesn't have to keep craning her neck up to talk to him. "Yeah, about that, sorry, you know I get a little paranoid and with good reason," he tries to give her a smile, one that's partly embarrassed, part ingratiating. "How have you been?" As for the can Niki trust him, that's up in the air and it hurts the man to think that no, she can't. "You can trust me. I still want to help you, and I have been helping you. What's wrong?"

Niki flashes a sincere smile to Joule as the other woman leaves, lifting a few fingers in a wave without moving her arms from their criss-cross. But when she looks back to Benjamin, it's all dire from hereon out. He says she can trust him, but does she? Her expression gives away little. "I didn't say anything was wrong…" she looks down and toys with her purse. "Things are actually— they could be good."

Benjamin smiles across at Niki, "I just got the impression something might have been wrong. I'm glad to hear that things could be good. Everything going better than expected with your 'business' then?" Oh clueless man, he still has little clue about most of the shenanigans Niki gets herself into.

"Yeah," Niki answers hesitantly. "I'm just not sure it's enough, you know? Like— I wanna help out D.L. and Monica's family back in New Orleans, you know, 'cause God knows I can…" But that would draw questions like where did that come from? Niki shakes her head and starts gathering her purse up and taking her coffee and various bags. "I should get going."

Felix is off at a table of his own, only now and then glancing up at Benjamin and Niki.

Benjamin listens to Niki and nods, "Call me. We'll get together for some creative accounting. It's not exactly ethical, but it can be legal." He looks a little disappointed to see Niki packing up her things to split, but he rises to his feet. "Just call if you want some help with the money situation. Funneling it, investing. I'm all ears. It was nice seeing you again."

Niki glances around somewhat warily, all this talk of illegal accounting in a public place with an FBI agent right there, way to go, Benjamin. She moves around the table in a whirlwind hurry, but stops to touch the man's arm and smile. "Thank you, Benjamin. It was nice seeing you, too. I'm glad you're okay." And she's off.

Benjamin was keeping quiet! But yeah, point taken. The guy's still naive. It's how he is. Some things don't change. "Anytime Niki." Once she departs, instead of going straight to Felix's table, he heads for the counter to get his coffee.. and to give the woman time to leave the block.

Felix watches Niki go, expression drily amused. Gotta love how people react to the badge. And then he looks expectantly at Benjamin.

At the counter, Benjamin gets his half and half with a little shot of vanilla and milk to lighten up the bitterness. Cup in hand, money exchanged, he heads for Felix's table.. then thinks better of sitting down there and chooses a neighboring one. What's the policy on meeting in public? Especially if Felix is a known Fed? He's no good at playing secret agent!

"We've got to stop meeting like this," Felix says, glancing at him sidelong, and grinning to himself.

Benjamin nearly chokes on his coffee at the greeting. "How else are we supposed to meet? You never call, you never email. You ignore my faxes."

Felix deadpans, raising one brow, "I did send flowers to your office."

This time, Benjamin does choke on his coffee. Thankfully, not spraying the liquid down his front. "Meryl must have eaten them.. or something."

"Does she make a habit of grazing on the plants in your office?" Fel wonders, putting down his cup.

"With her? I have no idea, but I pretty much expect the unexpected with her." Like Benjamin's pencil cup over turned with the pencils and pens spelling out rude words on his desk. There's no telling what she'll do next. "You make a habit of scaring people in public?"

Felix just shakes his head. "Not generally, no, why?" he wonders, mildly.

"I think you're getting a bad rap then," Benjamin says as he sets his mug down and reaches for a copy of the Times that was left behind by a previous patron. "How's life on the 'outside'?"

"From the blonde?" Fel wonders, lips thinning out into one of those rather lupine grins. "All right. I still have a job, happily."

"That is good. Things worked out pretty well, huh?" Benjamin says as he leans back a little in his seat, positioning his chair some so that he can converse.. but not be sitting with Felix.

Felix shrugs, gracefully. "I think so. The CIA now owes me individually and the Bureau collectively a number of favors."

"That's got to chafe a few hides," Benjamin says, continuing to skirt the topic of Niki. She was spooked by Felix for a reason. Fed employees can be a little intimidating. "But good for you."

And speaking of Felix's so-called life on the outside, there's a familiar (bruised) face that's just arrived — Mariska. She's dressed casual - jeans and an off-the-shoulder t-shirt - and heading to the counter, momentarily oblivious to Felix and Benjamin.

"Oh, yes. Egg on their faces," Fel says, casting a glance at the door. "I wonder what's on her conscience?" he says, musingly.

Benjamin glances at the female celeb on front of his paper, thinking that Felix is referring to her because.. who else would he be talking about? "Her? Another drug arrest probably." Mariska's entrance for the moment goes missed.

Felix glances at the paper. "No. The woman you were just speaking to," Fel says, patiently. "Listen. I want you do to something for me. If I ask you a question you can't or don't want to answer, say so. But don't evade me. It's like dangling string in front of a cat - it sets off certain reflexes." He glances up, and blinks. "Mariska," he says, quietly.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License