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[Milliways] OOM: Sometimes it's hard to tell who's being played
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Nikola always strives to use every weapon in his arsenal whenever needed.

Generally speaking, his two most effective weapons are his intellect and his inventions, but he doesn’t shy away from using others when appropriate.

Before the Source, he would never have considered seduction to be amongst his arsenal at all. He was…shy. Nervous around women and defensive around men.

Not that he remembers this, of course. He fully believes he has always been, personality-wise at least, exactly as he is now. Things before the Source don’t bear thinking on anyway. He didn’t know what he was then, so it follows that what and who he was before the Source are not important, and on some levels, not even real.

Regardless, seduction is now part of his arsenal, and he uses it as a tool as often as he uses it as a toy.

There’s a woman in New York he’s been vaguely sort of seeing for several months now.

(He’s not often in New York. It’s not prudent. There’s a Cabal office there, and he’d rather not be seen, but he’s fond of the city. He lived there for much of his ‘life’ after all.)

She’s interesting enough, he supposes, and not entirely unattractive, but the real reason he’s been seeing her is her job.

She works for the Cabal.

He’d spent two weeks in New York once just observing, and she was the one who’d first caught his eye. He supposes it was probably the red hair. Anything unusual in a person’s appearance has always appealed to him. From her work schedule, how often she came in early or stayed late, and how often she was asked to travel for the company, Nikola deduced she was middle-management of a sort. Not important enough to be dangerous, but high enough up to have access to information Nikola might find useful.

Approaching her had been a definite risk, but it wouldn’t be the first time Nikola was accused of being reckless.

She always went to the same bar after work on Fridays, and one Friday, there was Nikola, sitting at the bar by himself, doing his best to look pitiful and lonely. She glanced over at him, and he caught her eye and smiled in as melancholy a way as he could pull off convincingly.

She’d smiled back and come over to him to introduce herself.

“Diane Wilson,” she said, with just enough hesitancy that Nikola believed she was not generally the sort of woman to make the first move.

“Nik,” he said in response. “Nik Thompson. It’s nice to meet you, Diane.”

And so it began.

***

Nik Thompson was a businessman. He traveled a lot, but he often spent time in New York, where he was lonely and bored when not in meetings.

Diane helped with that.

“You always brighten my day, Diane. I don’t know what I’d do without you. Go mad from loneliness, probably.”

Whatever else he really thought of her, she always blushed in such a gratifying manner when he said things like that.

They took things slowly. Half because Nikola needed them to, needed time to establish that rapport, to make certain she really trusted him, and half because Diane was shy, wary, and looking for something real.

So they talked and had dinner together sometimes, or a drink after work or went to a movie. He never took her to shows or concerts or museums or anywhere out in the open like that, and she never asked why, seemingly content to be somewhere quiet and semi-private with him.

He discovered she was not unintelligent. She was also quick, ambitious, and well-placed to move up in the company given time.

He waited three months before ‘accidentally’ shocking her as they kissed.

“Oh, Diane,” Nik said. “What must you think of me? I didn’t mean to…I’m so sorry. I never would have…it’s just…. You make me feel so…it’s hard to control myself around you.”

It took her a moment to compose herself, and then she said softly, “You’re one of them, aren’t you? An…Abnormal.” She whispered the word like it was a state secret.

Nik nodded in shame. “I should have told you sooner,” he said. “I just…I didn’t want to frighten you. I know what they say about us, but you must believe me. I’m no monster.”

She reached out for him, enfolded him in her arms, pulled his head down to her chest. “I know. Oh, Nik, I could never think that about you.”

Nik nodded and whispered, “I’m so sorry,” and Nikola crowed inside.

***

A week later, she confessed that she worked for the Cabal.

Two weeks after that, Nik had a heartfelt confession of his own to make.

“My name isn’t really Nik Thompson,” he said, in a dark corner booth in a Chinese restaurant well beyond the nice part of town. “It’s Nikola. Nikola Tesla.”

She was suitably shocked.

“I couldn’t tell you before. I wanted to, but I had to be certain I could trust you, and when you told me you work for the Cabal…” He took her hand, holding it firmly. “Diane, they’re looking for me. That’s why I can’t stay in the city very long. They have agents following me.”

Diane nodded fervently, squeezing his hand, and asked if there was anything she could do to help.

***

She calls him Nikky, now, and he supposes she picked that up from a history book or a biography. And she says she knows now why they always have to eat in dark, little restaurants and why they can never go to parks or concerts.

They haven’t slept together, which Nikola finds both an annoyance and a relief.

She isn’t unpleasant to look at, certainly, but touching her always leaves him itching to reach for his handkerchief to wipe the stench of Cabal from his skin.

On the other hand, he’s certain if they had slept together, she’d be that much easier to manipulate.

It hardly matters now. He’s asked her for the information Yrael requested on the top executives, and though she was hesitant at first, it seems she can’t deny him anything, really.

When she hands over the disk, she says, “You won’t…hurt them, will you, Nikky?”

“Of course not, darling. How could you ask such a thing?”

“I know…I know, I’m sorry,” she murmurs.

And she lets him take her up to his hotel room for the first time.

***

He’s gentle with her, very gentle. That’s the role he’s playing, after all. She has to believe he would never hurt her or anyone else, and though he’s positive she’d enjoy it, he doesn’t even use his gifts on her. It’s essential she believe him to be just like any normal human being.

(Of course, to keep up the illusion that he has strong, undeniable feelings for her, he allows himself one quick, soft current at the crucial moment.)

When all is said and done and at least one of them is satisfied, she curls into him, tucking her head under his chin, and he fights the desire to snarl. Cuddling is for those times when he’s sated beyond all measure, exhausted and tingling and warm and content, or when he’s drowsy and comfortable enough to drift off into sleep, and this is neither of those times.

“I love you, Nikky,” she whispers, and he kisses her hair and strokes her back and murmurs, “Hush, darling. Go to sleep.”

When he’s finally convinced she’s asleep, he disentangles himself from her arms and leaves the bed. He’s in desperate need of a shower, but he has more important business to attend to first. He pulls on his trousers, slips the disk from his jacket pocket, and moves to the other room to start up his laptop, wishing it didn’t whir quite so much. It would be unfortunate for her to wake up before he verified if the disk contained the information he needs.

She’s still in bed, however, when he finally pulls up the files. Everything he needs is there. Names, contact numbers, addresses, foreign holdings, families, pay scales, even favorite foods and music. Diane has done very well, which is why, when she stumbles sleepily over to him, wearing his half-buttoned shirt, sliding her arms around his shoulders and kissing his neck, murmuring, “Come back to bed, Nikky,” he does.

It won’t be the most satisfying encounter he’s had recently, but she deserves a little thanks for a job well done.
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