The day had started with rain and Dr. Elsie Chapman sighed deeply as she watched the strings of rain drops continue to fall. It was like a heavy, gray curtain coming out a slate-colored sky where clouds obscured whatever sunlight might have fallen on the city. The bay was covered by a fine mist and the wind was pushing it to the shore. The weather reports had announced a period of rain and sadly enough, they had been right. Since early last evening the rain was all there seemed to be. You could believe it was late afternoon but it was just after one p.m..
Elsie dropped a microwave dinner container into the trash and cleaned away the fork and knife. The little dishwasher was nearly full and she decided to let it run, even though she knew that there would be few volunteers to clean out the dishes and stock them into the cupboards. She grinned. Craven would suddenly develop an allergy to the detergent, Monique would have something important to check and Randy would most likely develop an interest in a new computer program. And Nick... The grin disappeared and she sighed.
Worry replaced the moment of good-natured recollection and she pushed the 'on' button. The dishwasher started its preprogrammed cleaning of the dirty dishes.
Three months ago, Nick's life had changed profoundly. Three months ago the subconscious link he had always had with Godzilla had been activated by a designer drug called Rush and from then on, the instinct and gut-feeling had transformed into an empathic link to the giant creature. As fantastic as it sounded, it had had terrifying results. Nick was now a first-row spectator when it came to emotional feedback from Godzilla, he lived it live and in Dolby-surround, and he suffered with the great lizard when it came to injuries sustained in battle. Monique had helped him train a kind of empathic shield, but it only worked if he had enough time to prepare. Usually, he didn't have it.
Everyone had helped Nick, had supported him, and Elsie believed it was what kept the young biologist sane. She couldn't even start to imagine what it meant to feel alien, reptilian emotions, and whenever she witnessed what it was to Nick in the extreme, she felt pity and sadness battle scientific interest. Of course, there were also the moments of happiness, of pure and undiguised joy. Nick had a bond with the reptile, had always had it, and Godzilla saw his parent in him. Their relationship was a strange and beautiful one, seeing this gigantic creature become gentle and careful around the tiny human figure, trusting Nick implicitly. Fear and awe warred inside her when she watched Nick touch the behemoth, and there was a kind of jealously that always rose when she witnessed the expression on his face.
Not human love. A parental love. Nick would do everything in his power to protect Godzilla and Godzilla returned the favor. No hesitation. Trust and protection.
Elsie sighed and watched the rain fall, then gazed at the stairs leading to the first floor. She was alone in the building, except Nick, while Monique, Randy and Craven had decided to go out and test something or other on Nigel and the Heatseeker. Nothing spectacular.
She walked downstairs and looked around, discovering Nick at the great hangar doors. They were open, Nick leaning against the wall and staring out into the rain. He was clad in his usual outfit and had wrapped his coat around him. In a way Elsie was surprised that he was already back again. He and Audrey had had a date last night and she had expected him to spend the night and also today with his girl-friend. Maybe the reporter had had a call to go somewhere. Wouldn't be a surprise. Audrey was a bloodhound when it came to a good story.
"Hey, Nicky!" she called and walked over to him.
The rain was splashing down outside, obscuring the sight, and the bay was nothing but a hazy darkness.
Nick turned slightly and looked at her, smiling briefly. Elsie winced at the expression in his eyes. Something had happened. She knew it. Female instinct. Then again, when it came to Nick, she always knew when something had happened. He seemed to radiate it like a beacon.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"Yeah," was the sighed answer.
Okay, not okay, she translated. He was bothered and it wasn't Godzilla. Nick's moods when it came to his protégé were different. Three months had given her enough training to immediately see what she was facing.
"Want to talk about it?" Elsie asked.
Nick hunched his shoulders more, arms wrapped around his body as if to keep warm.
"Do you think I'm a freak?" he suddenly asked.
Oh, no. Not that again. Elsie steeled herself against the discussion that would follow. It wouldn't be the first since the Rush incident.
"No, I don't think you're a freak. You know that. I clearly remember beating it into your thick skull, Nick."
He smiled wryly.
"What brought that on?" Elsie stopped and frowned. "Audrey?" she hazarded a guess.
Okay, she was getting closer. "You and her had date last night. What happened?"
"We broke up," Nick mumbled, eyes on the rainy outside again.
Elsie held back a comment about how that was the best thing for Nick. Instead she tried to see past her not-so-friendly feelings for the reporter. In her eyes, Audrey Timmonds was a part-time airhead and major pain in the butt. She showed up where no one wanted her and she left a trail of emotional destruction behind. Especially in Nick.
"We had trouble already," the biologist now mumbled. "Always apart, running around in different parts of the world, never staying in one place long enough to work on their relationship. A little kiss here, holding hands there, sharing a few hours of closeness the next time." He rested his head against the cold metal frame. "It was nothing that could last forever. In the end, she was right."
Elsie felt something inside of her contract. As much as she disliked Audrey, she considered Nick amongst the best friends she had.
"Audrey said I had changed. I was no longer the Nick she knew." Nick laughed dryly. "Right! I stopped being the Nick she knew the day she dumped me when I proposed." Bitterness swung in his voice. "She said I had changed and she is right. I can't tell her what changed me. I can't tell her what I feel because sometimes I can't tell the difference between what I feel and what he feels!"
Elsie knew that. But she also knew that Nick was working on telling his own emotions and those of Godzilla apart. It worked nine times out of ten.
"She suspected another woman, then accused me of being married to my work in the end."
"Well, you are," she teased him lightly.
Nick chuckled sadly. "I've known Audrey for a long, long time, Elsie. Ever since college. I haven't changed in that regard. She can't understand my dedication to H.E.A.T. though. I told her that she's dedicated to her work as well, but she argues that it's in her job description. And what is mine? Sitting in a lab and counting cells?" Anger swung in his voice.
"So she dumped you again last night?"
He nodded slowly. "In a way we agreed on ending our relationship. At least the one on a personal basis. We are still friends." He trailed off, sighing.
"And now you feel bad?"
"I don't know what I feel, Elsie. That's the problem. I should be sad or disturbed or... or... heart-broken, but I'm not! It makes me wonder how much of him influences me, how much I become like him..."
Elsie touched his arm, squeezing it gently. "You are still the Nicky Tatopoulos we all love to tease. Godzilla might share part of you, but he isn't changing the other part, the Nick that makes you into who you are. You and Audrey... you shared something intense throughout the hunt for the first Godzilla. It was a reborn relationship out of danger and adventure. Now... I won't say things have evened out or have become routine, but it's not like before."
"Thank you, Dr. Chapman. You might consider counseling when the paleontology business runs slow." He grinned.
Elsie shared the grin, taking delight in the sparkle in his eyes. "We all do what we do best," she chuckled.
"Maybe you're right," Nick then sighed.
"Maybe? When have I ever been wrong?"
He raised an eyebrow. "You want a list?"
She gave him a soft blow to the upper arm. "Oh, shut up!"
Nick leaned against the wall again, gazing flitting over the rain-soaked concrete outside. "You are right," he then said softly. "I had tried to forget her, even if I carried her picture with me, and then she was back. She stole from me, but still... she saved me as well. She helped me save a whole city. And destroy Godzilla." He swallowed once. "Maybe I thought I owed her something."
Elsie listened to the soft, even words, aware that Nick was opening just a little bit and might shut up any second now.
"We had problems for a while now, never seeing each other, only when monsters popped up and she managed to get to where we were. It couldn't last." Nick scrubbed a hand over his eyes and released his pent-up tension in a gusting breath. "Damn!" he whispered. Hooded eyes closed briefly. "It's so easy to blame this bond for it... but maybe it wasn't that at all. Still, how would I explain this to Audrey? 'Honey, I'm prone to suffering aggressive bouts and breakdowns, which is nothing to be alarmed about. Might just be Godzilla fighting off an intruder. Oh, did I mention I'm empathetically linked to a mutated lizard?'." Nick snorted.
Elsie sighed. Audrey wouldn't understand. Heck, what woman would? She did because she knew about it all, had seen it coming and had been around Nick before the Rush had activated the empathic link. Elsie had witnessed the link blossom; she thought she understood. Especially since she had been with Nick several times throughout the earlier, quite massive breakdowns. She had been frightened, but that had made way to acceptance. As long as Nick kept on training the shields, he would get better at handling Godzilla.
And what if Audrey found out? Would she make a story out of it?
"I should have seen it coming," Nick now said in a low voice. "Maybe I did and tried not to see it."
Elsie became aware that she was rubbing his back in a comforting way. Nick shivered a bit and hugged himself tighter.
"C'mon," Elsie said softly. "I'll make some coffee or tea, and we can sit down where it isn't wet and cold."
He gave her a weak smile, but he followed.
"Thanks for listening, Elsie," Nick said as he sat down on the couch.
"Hey, that's what friends are for. Something I told you before as well. If you need an open ear, come to me."
"Thanks," he said quietly.
Elsie smiled warmly.
Suddenly he winced and grimaced, briefly screwing his eyes shut. "Damn," Nick hissed softly and buried his head in his hands.
Elsie put down the mugs and wrapped her hand around Nick's wrist. "Bad?" she asked.
"Okay... just... something must have irked him," Nick breathed, not looking up.
Elsie kept her contact to him. It was something they had discovered after a while. If someone touched Nick and Nick registered the touch, he would snap out of whatever Godzilla had dragged him in. If he was alone when it happened, he would need much longer.
After a minute, Nick exhaled slowly, then raised his head, smiling dimly. "Thanks," he murmured.
Elsie gave his wrist another squeeze, smiling. This hadn't been such a big attack, just a brief encounter with Godzilla's rampaging emotions - and Nick was getting much better at shielding.
He nodded slowly, rubbing the back of his neck. "Yeah."
Elsie placed a mug of steaming hot tea in front of him and Nick grimaced. "No coffee in your condition. Don't need you hyped and on a caffeine trip." She smiled.
Nick muttered something under his breath and stared sullenly at the tea. He hated the stuff. Okay, so he drank it if there was nothing else, but that didn't mean he had to like it. Elsie patted his back and smiled at his dark look. She sat down beside him and searched through the old throw pillows.
"Aha!" Elsie triumphed and held up the remote.
Nick chuckled, sliding deeper into couch. Elsie switched on the TV and flipped through the channels, finally coming up with an old black-and-white monster movie. 'Panic in New York'. Very old, with good animation and a plot that had holes the size of Godzilla's footprint. Still, it was good entertainment. They both sipped their tea, snickered over some of the plot, and generally had a good time. By the end of the movie, Elsie found that Nick had nodded off.
She smiled softly and took the empty mug from his hand, then draped a blanket over him. Nick mumbled and buried himself in the blanket, but he didn't wake. Elsie settled back and watched TV, sitting by Nick's side.
He would get over Audrey in time. She knew he would. In a way, Nick already had, but his mind and his emotions were not agreeing on it yet. Audrey would still be around, still hunt her exclusives and try to catch monster sightings as well. Nick was stronger than that, though. And he had enough to worry about, among it a giant lizard, to be held down by petty problems like Audrey.
Jealousy speaking? she thought.
She chuckled softly. Nick was a colleague and a good friend. She'd do everything to help and protect him.
Elsie yawned and snuggled into the couch as well. Outside the rain beat against the windows, a perfect weather for watching old movies and drinking tea.