2007-08-28: DF: A Conscience Pause


DFNathanReal_icon.gif DFUnknown_icon.gif


Nathan has an attack of conscience. Though, not so much an attack as a talk with.

August 28th, 2009: Very early in the morning

A Conscience Pause

President Suite - Hotel

Odd how time seems to pitch forward when you most want it to slow right, right down. Nathan sits at the writing desk, not looking at the open laptop which provides the only glow of light, save for a smaller lamp across the room that casts its own shadows. A word document is opened up, and plenty is typed, it seems, but whatever it is, it's coming slowly as time approaches 3 AM. He sits back in his chair, picks up the lowball glass of scotch, and presses down backspace, watching the words disappear out the corner of his eye as he drains the glass. Around him, the hotel suite is empty, eerily quiet, and expansive as ever.

The quiet is not to last for long. Suddenly, the TV turns on.

Last week, on One Life to Live…!

One Life to Live? Wasn't that cancelled? And what the hell is it doing on at 3AM? When Nathan investigates, or even if he looks up to see what's going on, he'll spot Cass. Not Cass as he saw her last, but the Cass of at least two years ago. Her hair is only shoulder length, though still curly. She looks much younger and is wearing a long skirt that has been stylistically wrinkled to match her white peasant top. Currently, she's sprawled out on the bed, back resting against the wall. In her hand is the remote. "Man, I miss this show. Don't you?"

The glass drops softly down onto thick carper, Nathan twisting in his chair, first spying the source of the noise and light. It's easy to recognise the characters, hell, even the fuzzy daytime TV-like cinematography, the electronic sappy music. It's been a long time but the aesthetics are unmistakable. It takes Cass speaking up for her to gain his attention, and Nathan remains frozen for a few seconds before pushing himself up to stand, movements halting. He resists saying the stupid things, like, 'I thought you were dead' or 'what are you doing here'. "It had it's moments," he says instead, voice deceptively casual and posture and stance anything but.

Oh, questions such as those would be quite cliche, though not completely unwarranted. Cass is, indeed, quite dead. And she, by all rights, shouldn't be here. Upon closer look will show that she has a circle of silver pipe-cleaners attached to her head. "There's nothing quite like fake sentiment and bad acting." A bit of a smirk and the former bookstore owner tosses the remote down on the bed in front of her. Picking herself up a little, she plucks that silver circle off of her head. "Like my halo? Made it myself." Wriggling a bit so that her skirt doesn't hike up, she moves so that she can sit on the edge of the bed. "I even had paper wings, but I thought that'd be a bit too much, you know? Too much in one go. Went for the more subtle approach." After spinning her halo in her hands a few times, she attaches it and shakes her head just a bit to make sure it's in place. "You've got some nice digs here, Petrelli. Gotta say, being President has it's perks."

What is this? It has to be— he's losing it. Clearly the one sane half of him is losing it. Great. He's not quite willing to come closer, but he forces himself to anyway, moving past the TV, almost circling the room, as if debating approaching but not quite making it. "It's a nice touch," he says, of the halo, voice oddly hollow before he steadies himself against the wall, hand reaching out to do so. Can't maintain the mask, and it falls. "Cass. What're you— how are you here?"

Is Nathan losing it? Is this all just some strange mirage? Cass gives Nathan a kindly and apologetic smile. Standing up, Cass she approaches Nathan slowly, hands up, as if to show that she's not hostile. "Sorry. I always wanted to make a great entrance. Can't help myself sometimes." As soon as she's close enough, she reaches out a hand and puts it on Nathan's shoulder. She's solid. Not a ghost. Or, she's at least a solid ghost. "I'm the ghost of Christmas Past." Her lopsided smile is back. "Or, well, it's 3? I guess that makes me the Ghost of Christmas Future. Or just very late." Maybe this isn't the time for jokes, but this is just the way Cass has been. The smile turns into something a bit more genuine as she continues. "I'm here as the angel on your shoulder, Nathan. Your very own Jiminy Cricket. Seems like the Devil's been getting all the radio time. Figure it's time to even the score."

"It's not Christmas," Nathan points out, but manages not to step away when she approaches, or flinch away when she touches him. The fact that he can feel warm palms bracing against his shoulders relaxes him, just a fraction, even if she's not meant to be here. But it's a mirage different to that of Logan, is what the touch indicates, and he finds himself raising a hand to cover one of hers. "You sure that's what you want to do?" he asks. "I didn't think you intended to ever speak to me again."

"I told myself that as long as I lived, I'd never forgive you." Cass doesn't pull the punches. Even if she's dead, she's still honest. But, there's a key figure of speech in that statement. One that she's not about to spell out for him. "And even now I don't forgive him. But, there's the guy I used to watch One Life to Live with and then there's the guy who got elected President." There's a bit of a shrug of her shoulders, but she doesn't pull her hand away. It's driving home the point that she's there and not just some Scotch addled illusion. What she said in the past doesn't matter so much, so she changes the subject. "They're going to try and crucify you, Nathan. For what he did. And it's not going to be the uncomfortably painful Jesus crucifixion. It's going to be the agonizing St. Peter upside down crucifixion."

After a moment, his hand falls away, both of them bunching into fists at his sides as he fairly forgets that he's clearly gone crazy or Cass has developed time travel powers too or any other logical reason that explains why he and this woman could possibly be talking right now. In the end, it doesn't seem to matter much. Nathan gives Cass a small, strained smile that seems out of place in response to what she has to say to him. "Except I'm not gonna be a messiah or a saint after all this is said and done," he adds. "I know, Cass. Guess you'd reckon I'd have taken off by now if I knew, huh?"

"You know, you never gave yourself enough credit." Cass sighs and moves to sit on the closer bed. It's better to not try and think about any of this logically. It'll just hurt brains. Just go with the flow. "That's always been your problem, Nathan. It's kind of weird. You're so sure of so many other things. I think that's why you were never comfortable with your abilities. It was strange, different, something you couldn't quantify. Rationalize. Plus, it's flying. Which is terrifying." For her, at least. An angel that's still afraid of heights? Now that's an interesting thought. "No, I knew you'd never run. I know you, Nathan. Better now than I ever did before. But, you could, you know. You could tell everyone what happened to you."

After a moment's hesitation, Nathan moves to sit down beside her, picking up the TV remote and switching it to mute. Which works. The images of Dr. Pryce and Morgan dance silently on the screen, but he has his own bizarre situation to deal with. "I could," he says, resting his elbows on his knees, bent forward as if studying the carpet. "Might gain some sympathy, land me in a comfortable kind of psych ward for the rest of my life, and people will have an answer as to what went wrong. I get the feeling it won't be that easy." He casts her a wry sort of smile. "It wasn't that easy with you."

"I hear the padded cell thing can be quite calming." Cass gives Nathan a smile, folding her arms on her own knees. They kind of look like two people sitting at the end of a dock with their feet in the water rather than sitting on the edge of a bed. "Get your thoughts in order." They're close now, so she doesn't feel the need to raise her voice much. "They also might not believe it." Even if she's playing the angel on the shoulder, she's also the devil's advocate. "Well, nothing between the two of us was ever easy. We had a very odd friendship, Nathan. One I still don't think I understand." There's a bit of a laugh. "But one that I was very grateful to have back in the day. You've got to remember that you're a good person when you let yourself."

"It's only fair," Nathan says, with his own slight laugh. "Can't be inherently good without a whole lot of guilt to go with." Pause. "God, I sound like Peter." The past one… not the the present one. Although who knows? He rubs his face wearily with his hands, glad to feel at least that familiar reaction of disdain towards his brother, even if it is surrounded and cushioned with love. "You're right. It wouldn't be a completely acceptable explanation, most would probably paint it up as an excuse. See, it's not an odd friendship, we're just… two adults in a comic book."

"Nah, Peter just feels guilty for things he feels like he couldn't change." Cass gives a slight shrug of her shoulders. A bit of a feat since most of her weight is resting on her elbows. "I like those few times when you sound like Peter, though. Especially now." This world could use a few more of the Past Peters. "I know. Most people don't actually know you. Logan is all they've known. But, if you go through with this whole plan, this bloody revolution…it's going to be another Nuremberg Trial. But less organized. You have to tell Jack that he can try and make a coup, but you can't violently take over a democracy. The next leader has to be elected, too. Just because you do this…it shouldn't lead to a death sentence." There's a pause and Cass tilts her head a bit so that she can look up at Nathan. "Well, you're an adult in a comic book. I'm a ghost in one. Now tell me that's not odd."

Nathan reaches over to patpat her knee. "I'm insane, it's allowed to be odd," he tells her, before resuming his slouched position, shoulder leaning slightly against hers. "I'm not hoping for a death sentence, I'm not that…" Emo? Guilty? Deserving? Brave? "I'm just not that. But I'm letting it go. There won't be enough of a government to fight back in the first place if Jack stages a coup but I'll do whatever I can to make sure it goes smoothly. Even if Jack's not gonna be the one destined to be the leader, he can clear the path for the people to elect a new one, fairly." He speaks with a tone of defeat, as if he has little control over the situation. He reinforces this by adding, "I'm not the President, and the real President can't be allowed to see the light of day ever again. It's not up to me anymore."

The smirk is back, just the slight pulling up of one side of her lips. "Well, I'll give you that." The being insane part. "Well. When you actively hope for a coup, well. You never know. The government really is in dire straights that we need someone to violently take over. Geez. We had three branches of power and all those checks and balances to keep something like this from happening. I love Jack, but he can't be president, anyway. Wasn't born here. Not like the Constitution means much these days. I remember when we used to worry about Arnold the Governator being president, you know?" Well, maybe he does. Straightening, she leans her hands back on the bed and distributes her weight that way. "Maybe you're not the elected President, but that doesn't mean you don't have a choice. It's your name he used to get this far. You know what he said to me? Nathan Petrelli is the only name that matters." There's a pause so that sinks in. "Now, I think that means something, don't you?"

"I was kept in the dark, but it seems to me like Logan was content in damaging things from the inside out, not just from the outside in," Nathan states, a little bitterly. "The government has changed. Either he was building it to be a dictatorship, or collapsible should everything go wrong. Maybe both. When Ramon was talking to him, he didn't sound like he just wanted to lead the country effectively, not even the government effectively. All he knows is damaging things." But it's that last statement that carries its weight, and he actually takes her hand in his - the whole one of his, the four-fingered one remaining resting on his knee - in a gesture of… well maybe nothing. An echo of friendship, appreciation. "Maybe I do have a choice," Nathan says, gravely, almost at a whisper. "But I'm scared of making more mistakes." Far more open and honest than he would have been two years ago, but everyone's changed - including himself, apart from Logan.

"Logan was a textbook case of a sociopath. With no care or idea of the consequences of his actions. Entirely self centered, the list goes on." There's a soft sigh, because Logan came from Nathan. No matter how, all those feelings came from somewhere, even if they aren't actually Nathan himself. Cass allows Nathan to take her hand, she even puts her free one on top of it and gives a small squeeze. All that baggage from the past doesn't seem to matter much to this Cass for some reason. "I hate to say it, Nathan, but you're going to make a mistake. Many of them. Maybe even catastrophic ones. It's part of the human condition. I hope you do - well, not catastrophic ones, but smaller sized ones - and realize that you can and will. Own up to them and, while it may really suck, you'll know they're your mistakes and not his that you're paying for. Not really much of a pep talk, but I hate to tell you this, but there's no grand prize for being alive and conscious."

"Then I'll just try to avoid the catastrophic ones," Nathan says, clearing his throat a little, as if trying to dismiss his own confession of fear. "It's okay, I wouldn't expect you to come back from the dead just to make me feel better." He loosens his grip on her hand, almost awkwardly, clasping his own together. "I think the grand prize itself is being alive and conscious," he adds. "Can't expect much more beyond that." A sidelong glance. "I'm sure you'd agree. What's being dead like?"

"Nah, it's okay. What else is the angel on your shoulder supposed to do if not make you feel better?" Cass folds her hands in her lap, not minding when Nathan pulls his hand away. "Somehow I think I kind of failed in that mission, though. You know, all of what you're feeling right now? That fear, the shame, the guilt…that's what makes you different. Makes you Nathan. It's your own little Pandora's box. Being alive was itself amazing. Being a daughter, having a daughter, being in love, hating, to feel things so strongly. I'm not sure I'd say I wouldn't do things differently, but I'd never wish away a second of it." The last question marks the return of the smirk. "That's something you get to find out on your own." There's a pause. "You know, if Peter gets his way, none of this may matter. Your sacrifices, your decisions, your trials. No one but he will remember it. And even then, he may not want to."

He hadn't quite thought of it that way. Nathan frowns, not quite seeing the television set that his gaze falls on. There's a long bout of silence before he speaks again. "I can't say that I wouldn't wish away the past year or more," he says, a little roughly. "For all the good things that have happened to some of us, I could live with all of this just erased." Pause. "But, jeeze, this is all too much to just have disappear over night." So much for redemption. He shakes his head, trying to clear away that confusion. "Jack and I are working like this is the only future we have. I have to believe some of this would matter." He makes a vague gesture. "I guess you can afford to view all of this slightly more existentially right now than I can." Now, he looks at her, which he has done since they sat down. "You didn't fail. Least I know now there's some light at the end of the tunnel, even if it's hard to get there."

"Well. I can't say I wouldn't like some things changed." Cass has her own version of a wry grin at that. "But, I don't think this will just disappear, even if we succeed in the past. Peter's here. He experienced it. It happened. Some part of it will always be there. I think just knowing that no matter how bad things get…that they're fixable…that a life can be made here…that's something." A soft and short-lived laugh. "Oh, Nathan. There's so much more I wanted to do. To live through, to see. Of course I failed. I've known for two years how I was supposed to die and I walked right into it, thinking I was saving my daughter. And instead, I've burdened Lachlan, Abigail, Peter….everyone…with my death. I know I'd go back into that crowd to save her again, but I should have stayed with them."

Nathan watches her as she speaks, and again, his gaze drifts away eventually. "This… might be by far the strangest conversation in the strangest circumstance we've had, and that is saying a lot, especially considering I could in fact actually just be talking to myself here, but… in life, you've given your daughter a lot to live up to. She'll know her mom was ultimately a good person, and there will be no question. You gave Lachlan something he probably wouldn't have had otherwise and yeah, there was more to do, but… there'll always be more to do, no matter when it ends." A glance. "I'm just sorry that I made your world harder. Everyone's, but yours. You won't get to see what it could become."

Tilting her head up a bit, Cass gives Nathan another smile. "I'll give you that. I guess that's saying something for a friend I met while drunk at a bar. And they always tell you that you can't meet good men that way." Her smile fades a little when he talks about her daughter and Lachlan. Even with his words, the thought of them is sad for her. "I know you are. Just, make things better for my daughter. She's really the one I did it all for. Her and Lachlan." Pushing herself up off the bed, she looks down a moment at Nathan and reaches out a hand to put a hand on his cheek. It's reassuring, very much like that first night they met and she was trying to comfort him about Heidi. "I'm sorry, but I'm not the one to forgive you." She leans over and presses a kiss against his forehead.

Nathan shuts his eyes for the moment while she leans in, looks back at her when she draws away. "I know," he says, with a faint smile. "I'll see if I can't make it so your daughter doesn't have to." If those words are heard - by anyone, anywhere, unless they're maybe just inside his own head - it's hard to tell. Nathan opens his eyes sharply to a screensaver and an empty liquor glass on the floor, seated at his desk, and for a moment, he has to pause and simply breathe, for the lingering feeling of regret and peace is claustrophobic. It's 3: 43 AM, and he still has a speech to write… but now he knows what to say, and the gentle typing of keys soon fills the room.

There's no hint that Cass was ever in the room. The TV isn't on, the remote is on the bedside table, there isn't even glitter left anywhere from her pipecleaner halo. There's no message left over to prove to him that what he thought he saw was true, nothing different from before he drifted off other than the time.

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