2008-04-24: The Sum of Their Parts

Starring:

Nathan_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif

Summary: Nathan's next visitor goes a little more easy on him. Niki and Nathan … compare notes, as it were, until someone makes a mistake.

Date It Happened: April 24th, 2008

The Sum of Their Parts


259 West Broadway

Think of it like a forced vacation.

Somehow this doesn't invoke a miraculous amount of comfort, but it's a way to try and stop fretting about a career that isn't his anyway. His back is rested against the head of the bed, an arm stretched out like an examined wing, wrist dangling from the metal cuff and mostly neglected, ignored. What his attention is focused on is his leg freed hand smoothing up the thigh, gentler when it gets to the knee, attempting to see how far he can bend it before white-hot pain shoots up muscle and bone.

Moderately far, Nathan flinching when it makes a perfect triangle in tandem with the surface of the mattress, and slowly, he eases it back to straightness, hand still working muscle. Pointedly not looking at the figment of imagination in the mirror of the wardrobe door just to his left, even as the figment watches him. Even speaks. "He did it on purpose."

"What, shot me? You think?" Nathan mutters, before he can completely stop himself. In this sparse apartment bedroom, where time crawls, sometimes yourself is your best company.

"No. Healed us wrong," Logan says, adopting a more relaxed sprawl in his duplicate mirror-world, all radiation burns and otherwise symmetrical surroundings. "Or at least not completely. Spiteful son of a bitch. I guess that means he hates me more than he loves you."

You develop an immunity, after a while, and Nathan rolls his eyes at the caustic comment. "Give it a rest already." From the rest of the apartment, gentle one-sided conversation isn't quite soundproofed within the bedroom, drifting through the slightly parted doorway.

Footsteps. They're not Heidi's, and they're not Peter's, inasmuch as he enters inasmuch as mysteriously appears — but they're not the assured, sharp and sauntering steps of the woman Logan came to know as Jessica, either.

Niki quiets the jingling of her keys with the clench of a fist and, having made her way to the bedroom door, stops and listens. She lays a few fingertips against it before gently nudging it further open — just enough to slip herself inside the room. In tight, fraying jeans and a blue zip-up sweater with darker silkscreened designs up one side that looks like it cost about $11, she strikes a much more casual image than when she was supposedly working for Logan.

"Nathan…?" She looks at him, careful, studying, but mostly, she looks this way and that, as if expecting to see a boogeyman in the corner. She doesn't look particularly convinced that there's not.

He's spent a lot of time in this room. The movement of the door catches out the corner of his periphery, halting a one-sided conversation and making both men, real and imagined, snap their heads towards it even if Niki can only see one. Self-conscious and guarded, Nathan tries to lose some of that tension in the time it takes for the blonde woman to glance around.

"Niki." The mattress creaks a little as Nathan attempts to sit up a little more, as if maybe he can summon up some dignity despite being chained to a bed and wearing grey sweatpants and a faded sweater of some variety, comfortable things for a man who doesn't need to leave his home for who knows how long.

Niki shuts the door behind her, clutching onto the canvas strap of a blue-and-green bag. The woman is more than a little tense as she makes her way to the side of the bed, sparing an instinctive glance to the closet mirror in passing, looking at Nathan's reflection in it. "I wish…" she starts, quiet and ill at ease. She sets the bag down and sits on the edge of a chair that's been brought in. "I wish— that there was somewhere better for you to go."

His gaze goes towards the bag, but his focus is mainly on her, watching her journey through the room and noting the glance towards the mirror. His bound hand flexes within its restraint, agreeing not really with words by with body language, unconsciously so. "It's a nice apartment," Nathan assures her, unable not to completely remove the traces of irony and sarcasm in his voice. "If you want somewhere more secluded, I don't think anyone's using the house anymore." House, mansion, estate, castle, whatever you want to call it. "Otherwise I can think of a few places that might be better equipped."

"People… know your house. They might think to look for you." What Niki is saying between the lines is that Nathan has basically been kidnapped to a place no one else knows exists. Comforting, huh? She looks down at her lap, a very nearly guilty look — stormy, at least — flashing across her face before blonde hair falls in front of it.

A raised eyebrow indicates that the Senator is well-versed at reading between the lines - or he at least got lucky this time. His head rests back against the upper most bar of the bed head, watching her with all the distance of someone being watched. "You could have me arrested," he suggests, as if maybe they were debating something else entirely. Perhaps prodding at her verbally to see what happens. "Institutionalised. Committed." And other neutral words that amounts to the same. He gives her a twist of a rueful smile. "I still see him, Niki. I feel like I'm only talking to you because he's letting me."

Niki tucks a length of faintly curling blonde hair an ear, but doesn't look up straight away. By the time she does, Nathan has stirred up a slew of emotions: this is a topic that's close to home for her, after all. "It's up to you if you want to be committed. I was prepared to spend the rest of my life behind bars. Or…" Another glance down; this one is short-lived, paired with a frown. "…padded walls." She bends to rummage through the bag. "Do you want more pills?" She interrupts her search to look up with a brow furrowed by question. "They're… sort off hit or miss. You know, since they're not … your prescription> But after awhile they start to push everything away."

Want is such a strong word. There's nothing Nathan wants less, but the doors are closing, so to speak. More and more. His gaze swivels up towards the ceiling as she speaks, but then back down towards where her hands have disappeared into the bag. Lazily, he extends his free hand out for them, fingers lax. If he notices Logan watching from some corner of his subconscious like a ready snake, he doesn't acknowledge it.

"I… hate them, but…" Desperate measures and all that. Everyone's gone a little beyond a few pills in the 'desperate times for desperate measures' department when it came to getting Nathan here. Niki sets a bottle of water on the bedside table before the telltale rattling of a bottle precedes her shaking a few red-and-white pills into her hand, which she offers to Nathan.

There's a shimmer of hesitation between the divide of two consciouses, as if maybe he might do more than simply accept medication, but even Logan can plan better than that. For someone not so strong as a woman who can flip steel tables on their edges or throw men through windows. The pills drop into the center of his hand and it doesn't close like a steel trap. They're knocked back into his mouth, same hand then moving for the bottle of water, clear liquid swilling behind plastic as he downs a mouthful.

"When you found out what was wrong with you," no soft language needed for this conversation, it seems, Nathan glancing at her as he sets aside the water, "did you ever wonder if maybe it was too easy? An excuse, I mean, to pin all these terrible things on something separate."

Niki sits back, a disconcerted expression taking over her features, drawing her blonde brows close together. She thinks long and hard before answering, finally shaking her head. "No," she admits with a disturbed, tremulous little current under her voice, and she watches Nathan closely. "But— sometimes it was too easy. To just think 'to hell with it', you know, to let her do those terrible things and just make all my problems go away."

No. His gaze disconnects from hers, briefly, down towards the comforter of the bed and wondering what he should be feeling, if anything, of the drug dispersing in his system. Her next words, however, ring accurate, although there is a difference. "He made more've 'em," he says, looking back up at her. "Problems. As if trying to make sure that whatever I woke up to, it'd make me just want to go back to sleep."

"If everything went according to Jessica's plans, I'd be living somewhere faraway with Micah and enough money to last me 'til I was in an old folks home," Niki answers with a flash of a smile that seems out of place, after the fact — it dies quickly. "But the price was… a trail of bodies." She swallows a bit dryly and glances off to the side — to the mirror, incidentally, although it's her own self who looks back at her and Nathan, her own familiar expression of anxiety. "They're different. Logan and Jessica." Her gaze doesn't move from the mirror. "It was… easy to think of her as selfish. She ruined my life thinking she was making it better. But everything she did— in her own horrible, twisted way, she was protecting me. I think… maybe my whole life."

"Some guardian angel," Nathan observes, with equal parts sarcasm and sincerity. He spares a glance to the mirror, but no in depth soul searching for him, knowing full well what he'll see and not really wanting to meet its eyes. "We hate each other. He and I, and that's fine. What scares me more is that I can understand it, some of what he does. He'd see me in the White House, ultimately, but the cost is too high. I'm not sure if he's protecting me from anything except what might stand in the way of that."

"That's what you wanted… right?" She looks back to Nathan — the Nathan on the real world bed, rather than the person in the mirror world. "You can't go farther than the President." She offers a one-shouldered shrug. "And… I always pegged you for a 'aim for the sky' kind of guy. No pun intended." Her tone is dismal, but she manages a faint smile all the same — and suddenly gets to her feet, a restless air about her. "Hang on. I'll be right back," the woman says and abruptly leaves the room. Past the door she left ajar, she's still in earshot, creaks and bumps and scrapes indicating the opening and closing of drawers and cupboards.

Her faint smiles gets one in kind. The answer being yes, Nathan wants that. Dreamed of it, and some small part of him still does. The same way she wanted money and security for her family. Both of them standing at the precipice and apparently needing an alter ego to shove them the rest of the reluctant way.

As Niki excuses herself, he does nothing to stop her, just nods once, then finds himself leaning as if to see what she's doing past the door, but the angle yields nothing, pulling the chain taut. Settles back once more and tries to shake his arm free of stiffness in one brisk movement, clatter of chain matching the distant echoes of the woman rifling through the apartment.

It doesn't take too long for Niki to find what she's looking for. She's gone for a minute before she heads back into the room, although she doesn't appear to have brought anything whatsoever back with her… But she's walking with purpose back to the bedside. The reason? An itsy-bitsy silver key. It's touched to the matching slick metal of the handcuffs attaching Nathan's wrist to the bed. Just a twist of the key will unlock them. "He can't go anywhere," she says, matter-of-fact but meant to be reassuring, too. "You should get up. Move around." Niki tries to catch his eyes, her own bearing a look of determination and imploring. "Just… try to stay with me. If he comes out, I can deal with him. Just… try. Okay?"

He can't quite bring himself to stop the woman undoing the cuffs. They have to come free sometime, but usually with purpose. A change of clothing. The bathroom. Not to just walk around, and so it's with a guarded silence that Nathan regards her and her actions before slowly drawing his arm in on himself, other hand circling the wrist previously encased in metal.

"Okay." Enough people fear him that Nathan shouldn't have to join in. He slides against the bed towards the edge, casting a nervous glance towards the mirror. The fact that he doesn't immediately see Logan does little to reassure him, but it doesn't stop him from standing up. Taking a step, a faulty one that has his hand flying out to grip the edge of the other end of the bed. "Leg's still fucked," is the simple explanation. "Stiff, it's fine," is the subsequent dismissal of a true problem.

And onto a new topic, as he rubs feeling back into the side of his leg, Nathan casts a slant of a glance towards her and says, "Peter wouldn't tell me, if you're Niki or if— if this is something else. He said to ask you."

Click, twist, free. Niki tucks the key in a back pocket of her jeans and cautiously watches Nathan — and his struggle, as it turns out. Instinctively, she stays in reaching distance; although she doesn't help him (yet), the 'are you sure you're fine?' is barely held back. "It's me. Niki." But another look down, and the hint of a laugh under her breath — a tiny bit cynical, but mostly in good nature — might lead one to believe that there's more to the story. There usually is. "I'm probably what the shrinks'd call 'integrated'. All I know is, when Peter healed me after my memory got screwed up? I remembered more than I did before. I'm…" Niki hunts for a word and, after a moment, comes up with a few that she likes. "The sum of my parts." She smiles — the sincere, warm, bright smile that can belong only to Niki, even if it is a little bittersweet given who she's talking to.

"Integrated," Nathan repeats, somewhat bitterly, before he straightens his back. Rests some weight on his unused leg. Better. He starts to make for the bedroom door, with a limp, certainly, but enough of a walk that he's not clinging onto various structures and surfaces as he goes. "I'm glad you found yourself a solution. Means maybe I have a shot in hell." Where's he going? Not towards the bathroom as one might expect, but out towards the kitchen. She did say to walk around. He takes a pause, though, a hand drifting towards the counter to throw his weight onto his good look, casting an apologetic look her way. Recognising some of the selfishness in his words, but he doesn't put a voice to the apology. There are bigger things to think about, like, "I'm sorry he used you, like he did."

Niki trails along behind, although she gives him space. She shrugs half-heartedly. "I used him right back." …And Jessica used Nathan before that— it's a complicated circle that keeps going around. Maybe now it's stopped. Her arms come to fold and she leans against the end of the kitchen counter nearest the bedroom, resting her head against the white cupboard. "I was actually kind of happy for awhile. When I didn't know who I was. Or… who… he was." The reflective moment is turned around with a smirk. "That's not to say I wasn't pissed when I remembered…"

He doesn't offer Niki a glass when he seeks one out, as if perhaps to avoid any illusion that he's in a position to offer her such things, like a drink. Like he has authority here, or as if it were appropriate. It's not. "I don't remember," Nathan admits to her, taking down a bottle of amber coloured, caustic tasting liquid. Twisting off the cap, letting it come rolling down to fill a neat amount into the glass, caught up watching it for a moment before he changes his mind.

A second glass set down, a small dash poured out before any protest can be made. "I'm not sure I want to. If integrating means I have to become the other person as well as myself, how am I meant to know when one starts and the other ends?" He picks up the second drink, offers it out. "I guess that's kind of the point. That you're not."

"Well… I know I'm way more me than the others." Hello, plural, where did you come from? "It's … hard to figure out," Niki says slowly; she's barely given herself time to stop and figure herself out these days. "There's… a lot of things I wish I could forget sometimes," Niki admits, reaching out for the glass and staring down at it like the poison it is. "…Everything, actually. I get— flashes sometimes. Places I didn't realize I'd ever been, things I…"

"I think I'm stronger for it," Niki says, decisive, after all. "You know, Peter — the future one — has… the power with the memory. The erasing thing. I don't know if…"

Poison that certainly isn't the cure, or even a solution, temporary or not. But it helps, sometimes. The glass Nathan had poured for himself is knocked back swiftly, the bottle gripped tight around the neck in order to pour a second dose that hopefully will go down a little slower, if at all.

"We all have things we'd sooner forget," he points out. "We're not that special, in the end. I guess what it comes down to on— which one of us is more of a person."

He takes his weight off the counter, picks up his glass, the bottle in his other hand. A limping step closer. "I'll be honest with you, I'm scared I'll become him." The admission doesn't come across so heartfelt, as honest as it is. Just stated, flatly.

"That's why you have to hang onto… you. Everything that matters." Niki spares a glance down at the drink she was given and seems distracted for a second or two until she just sets it aside on the counter instead of drinking it. "I know you've probably heard that a million times by now. I want to say we had some kind of master plan to make you better, but we just have a lot of maybes and… I'm not even 'supposed' to be here right now," she says, letting an ounce of bitterness sneak into her voice. "But I thought…" The blonde shakes her head, cutting herself off with a dismissive smile.

"I've heard it less than you think." His head tilts a little, as if to make eye contact. "People don't thrive in cages, Jessica. But it was a nice try." That's really the only cue she'll get, Jessica, because there's no signal. Muscles tense under the mask of bulky clothing and fabric, upper body winding up in anticipation in the last few seconds before Logan is bringing his arm around in an arc, the squarish whiskey bottle heading into a determined trajectory towards the blonde woman's temple.

(cut to black)

TO BE CONTINUED…

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