2010-01-06: A Text Message Away



Date: January 6, 2010


A late evening-early morning text by a hotel side gets Lena some company. And an unknowing birthday present.

"A Text Message Away"

Highway Side Motel

There's only so long that a person can sleep before their mind and body simply refuse to allow it any longer. That fact has left Lena restless in the motel room she's sharing with Jade. The other girl dropped off over an hour ago. It's dark, and late, and the walls are closing in. So Lena, in a bid to avoid laying in bed staring at the ceiling and thinking horrible thoughts, steals Jade's small pink cellphone from her bag. Then she bundles up in many, many layers and slips out into the night.

The motel has a small pool. It's closed for the winter, but the fence is only waist-high and easy enough to hop over. The building's walls protect it from the worst of the wind and there are chairs. Lena dusts the snow from one of these after dragging it into a shadowed corner, flips the phone open and begins pushing buttons. Her breath fogs in front of her face, steam and snowflakes mingling.

Seconds later, the number she'd been given all of those weeks ago by one amnesiac Peter Petrelli would receive a text message. It reads, simply, <u there pete? its lena. im @ teh NYC motel by the hwy, poolside. u free?>

For a few minutes, there's silence. Not even a response on the cellphone. The biting cold might be even more bothersome than watching the ceiling, but at least she isn't alone nearly as long as she might think. There's a click on the phone, a ping, followed by a short message: <I'll be right there.>

And by 'right there', he apparently meant seconds after sending the message. She may not even have enough time to open it before he suddenly appears to fill the air directly behind her. "There's a lot of motel's by the highway, but sometimes I can manage to teleport right too someone. Not always."

Peter'd tried it when she was captured and it didn't work. It seems to work less often when he's stressed, or worried. Or when he needs it to happen.

"I was glad to hear you got out. Are you doing all right?"

The cold isn't a bother so much, really. Her hood is up, gloves are on and really, what's a little cold compared to electroshock "therapy"? Lena would have been content to wait there for far longer, peaceful as the setting is, but she's hardly even managed to flip the phone open again in response to the ping before the man himself is standing there.

The reception he receives is a startled one: she squeaks, drops Jade's poor phone into the snow and leaps to her feet. The breath the young woman releases, somewhat shakily, is practically a fog bank.

"Jesus Christ, I think maybe my heart stopped. You're…I forgot you could do that. You're…you didn't have to come out here, I mean…" She means, she only hinted at her general location to reassure the dream-walker that she was alright. Really. Lena tilts her head back and peers up at him beneath the fur of her hood, fighting to keep a smile on. "I'm…not so much, no. Gene got us out and no one else got grabbed. 'Cause of you. That really was you, right?"

"I need to remember that appearing behind someone startles them," Peter says, frowning a bit. The last few months, he couldn't teleport very well, and before that most of the time people were used to it. Now he starts doing it again and it's with people who aren't. "Sorry. I'll warn you in text next time. Unless it's an emergency." Then he won't give a warning and she'll just have to deal with him appearing out of nowhere to … do something heroic. "Gene's a good guy. He's better at this stuff than I am. But yeah— that was me. Dreamwalking is one of the abilities I was pretty good at before I lost my memory."

Bending down, he picks up the phone from the snow and flips it open to check and make sure it still works, before he holds it out. Like her, he doesn't seem bothered by the cold. His black coat is long and heavy. And he's lived in New York his whole life. Cold is something he's probably used to. "If you run out of money, I have a house you and your friends can stay at. It has a couple free rooms. I paid for it mostly with cash, and it's under a new name. It should be safe from the government for a while."

"No…no, I'm just…a little jumpy. That's all. I thought maybe you'd fly in. Or…I dunno. Call me back. Like we were normal or something." Lame. So lame, Lena. Her face twists in a grimace as she reaches out to accept the phone, sliding it without looking at it into the pocket of her Salvation Army cast-off coat. Not so fashionable, but it's stuffed with down and she is from Miami. Warm is better.

A moment of silence follows while Lena studies Peter. Uncertain, though not wary. As he'd said in her dream, this is technically their first real meeting. "I don't think Gene would believe you, if he heard you say that." For just that instant, her smile gains a touch of the genuine, lopsided though it is. "Everyone thinks they're messing up. Not good enough. It's…"

She trails off after the offer of help, ducking her head to hide the look on her face. "Shit. I didn't…I mean. That's…jesus. I just wanted to say thank you. 'Cause I did mess up, and you did so much for me. Gene's doing so much. Syd, Jade…Chi. I can't…it's…just saying thank you isn't enough. God! I can't even fucking talk right!"

"You didn't mess up. This isn't your fault, it's their faults. The Government, the people who took you and broke the law torturing you. Don't blame yourself," Peter says, though deep down he sees himself in her. He'd blame himself if he were in her place. If he'd gotten captured. If he'd been tortured into giving away names. They aren't so different, even if they are. A hand goes to her shoulder squeezing through the thick down stuffing to let her feel his touch some.

"You're welcome," he adds on in a serious toned voice, smiling lopsidedly, even if she forgot to actually say thank you without the qualifiers. And her own self-blame.

"We're all in this together. We're all being attacked and hurt— and we have to work together. We have to help each other. What they're doing is wrong, and they need to be stopped." His voice might be more confident and firm than before, but not too much has changed. Other than he knows so much more about his powers, about himself, about what's going on… It's been three years, after all.

She wasn't looking, to see that hand coming for the shoulder. That means he earns the second squeak of the night, and Lena startles, stiffening at the touch until enough self-control is found to will herself into relaxing. Still, time must be spent scrubbing her hand over her face, before her expression can be brought back into line. Something a little less obviously anguished, though not much can be done for the deep circles under her eyes, or the hollows in her cheeks. "It isn't that. It isn't. I know that what they did was wrong. It's…since all this started, since the guys in the convenience store, I've…I hurt a lot of people. Taken a lot of help."

As explanations go, it isn't the best, but it's what Lena can manage right now. Her head and heart are a tangle and she was never the most eloquent of street kids to begin with. A smile is fought for, clung to and then she's able to look up at him again.

"I hurt more than I help, you know? Like…like a magnet for shi- um. Stuff. Trouble. I don't know how to help, right now I just want to…" Lena pauses, hitches in a breath. "You…you can't die, can you? Like ever. But I got ready for that, in there. And it's…like I cut everything away that'd keep me here. Now I'm back, I'm out, and…and Tiago's gone. He left. I can't really do much to help. I could just crawl into a hole. But…but I owe you, and Gene. Jade. I owe so much. It hurts. I don't know if that makes sense but…"

But that's enough of gloomy talk. Lena is trying, she really is. Having tipped out some of poison that's been working on her for the past forty-eight hours, she's able to push it aside. For now. "You're…kind of different. Now. Like…I don't think I could see you giggling about shoes, or…or knocking over an old guy's paper."

Tiago left? Peter blinks a bit at that mention, but he never met the young man. He just got an implication of what he meant to her from her dream. And how much it hurt her to see something bad happen to him. "That's kind of our curse. Once you're pulled into this, you can't really ever go back to the way it was." Some people do, though. There are ways to leave it all behind. But Niki and DL aren't the best examples of people who found normal amongst the abnormal. Not anymore…

"I was drugged when I was giggling like that," he adds, with a lopsides smile, as he reaches up to touch her hair, just briefly. He can't help his instinctual touching to comfort. It was something he was raised around, and he seems to think she needs it.

"I've been through a lot that I didn't remember. I can't die, not permenantly— at least I haven't yet. But that doesn't mean I don't feel pain. I've died more times than anyone should have to, and it hurts every single time. I'm actually kind of a baby when it comes to pain. There were times when I couldn't regenerate and I had to be a lot more careful."

The comfort might be sincerely meant but its reflex that has Lena ducking her head. Her hair, freshly dyed a lighter chestnut shade, lays against a forehead, a temple, a cheek that are all dangerous to touch. As amusing as it had been then to see Peter giggling, she tries to avoid inflicting that on him now. "I'm sorry. I…I shouldn't have done that to you. That's what I mean. About hurting people."

It's harder to hold onto her own smile now. Lena stops trying, looking down and scuffing her boot through the accumulated snow, sending it puffing away.

"I don't know what'd be worse. It always hurting like that, or…or figuring out how to make it stop hurting but…but being like…tied down. You can't off yourself and neither can I." That's actually kind of funny, in a gallows humor sort of way. Lena has to laugh, hard as the sound is to force past the knot in her throat. "So you remember everything now, huh? You're like…the guy you were before the helicopter. I don't think you're a baby. But…this is kind of weird. Like I know you. But I don't." She pauses a beat. "You're trying to stop them. What are you…what are you doing, to do that? Are you working with Gene?"

"You didn't mean to, and you fixed it," Peter says, looking up at the cloudy night sky. If only they could see stars. All the powers he has and he can't make the clouds move. It's a shame, in some ways. When he looks back he adds on, "and when you fixed it, it made me question the people I was working for. If they would have kept me working for them, who knows what damage I would have done. And we couldn't have gotten Tracy out of that situation, either. So in the end it was a good thing." It just doesn't seem to be good.

"I'm not working with Gene, technically, but we have a common goal. I'll help him whenever I can. Give him whatever information I can— and send people to him I think he's more equipt to handle than I am."

Between Gene and Rebel, he's pretty sure there's many places to go to for help. He's gotten far to adept at working alone. Which is how he got hit by a helicopter in the first place.

"I still remember the time when I didn't have my memory, so I do know you. But I figure it's still confusing." It was confusing for him, when he didn't know so much about himself. "Is there anything you need? It's pretty late. You should probably be sleeping."

While he's looking, Lena steals a look of her own at Peter's profile. It seems safer that way, without the risk of eye-contact that might invoke a hug or further touching. She's hurting but doesn't want to allow the chance of causing the havok usually spread in her wake. Accidents, she used to call them. Carelessness, now.

"That one thing I can do maybe is good. There's a lot more I can do, and it's all bad. Drugs are illegal for a reason," she points out, unable to prevent a faint curling of her lips. If certain others could only hear her now. "I'm glad. I'm glad we're…we're working the same way. Chi, he…he hurts so much. He wants to start a war. The war. Take them all out, hurt them the same way. I can't…I can't hurt anyone else. Make them need me. What I do. It's why he left, he…" No. Not right now, and not right here. The young woman gulps of breath of frigid air and releases it slowly.

Very slowly, uncertain of whether it'll be accepted due to her previous reactions, Lena reaches out to set her gloved hand against Peter's similarly covered forearm. "Yeah. I mean, no, I…maybe. If you meant it. About a room. We can pay for it. Rent." She pauses again, steeling herself, searching for the words before they're spoken so as not to garble the message. "Mostly, I just want you to know that I…really don't know how to say thank you for…for being a good guy. For…not freaking out. And letting me sound dumb, just to get it out."

Starting a war wouldn't be good. "You made the right decision. Starting a war would only make things worse in the end. I've seen what happens in a future where it becomes us versus them. It's not pretty. No matter who wins," Peter says, looking away for a moment, toward the covered pool. It's not going to be open for a while. But… He looks down at his forarm, and moves his bare hand over her gloved one, to hold on for a moment.

"Rent wouldn't be necessary, but it won't hurt. I still have to pay the house off." He doesn't own it outright, yet. He just made a downpayment and a couple months worth. And there's utilities.

Suddenly there's a card in his hand, seemingly pulled out of nowhere, and he's holding it out. "Here's an address. It's of a warehouse. When you and your friend get there, call and I'll teleport in and take you to my house. I'm just being extra careful at first. Once you're there it should be okay to move around. There's parks, and convience stores— you won't be boxed in."

He can see the future too? It figures. Lena snorts in mild amusement, and allows herself the luxury (for luxury it is) of giving Peter's hand a squeeze. It's almost convulsive, that movement, before the brunette forces her fingers to loosen. Gratitude can have that effect. "We'd pay," she assures him. "We don't want to be…just leeches. Not anymore. We want to throw in. And…and help."

Now, the card trick, that's one she's seen before. Its appearance is accepted with nary a blink, the item itself taken and studied before its placed away in the same pocket the phone had disappeared into. When Lena looks up at him again, there is a suspicious tremble to her lip. She masks it poorly with a smile. He's offering freedom. And not one mention of having to do laundry.

"I didn't do one goddamn thing to deserve meeting you but this is like…the best fucking birthday present I could have gotten. Except for getting sprung out of that cell. You're…okay. You should…you should go now, Pete, I'm gonna get messy in a minute and…and thank you. Thank you so much."

"It's your birthday? Happy birthday. Mine was a few weeks ago, too," Peter admits with a hint of a grin. It's not as wide as when he was drugged, but it's there. Though they'd been touching more than a few times, he moves forward suddenly and is hugging her. It's brief, but it seems the right thing to do. Getting sprung from a cell, and being given a place to stay, if she wanted it. It's why he bought a house on Staten Island, where there are actually houses. Extra room. Places for people to stay. Luckily he's added more furnature since he settled there.

"I'm glad I could help. You saved me from possibly being sent after my own friends, from being forced to work with someone I wanted to fight against. I should get going, though. Do you need anything to help you sleep?" She didn't have to say it, but he knows… she's probably not sleeping well.

There's no rejection this time; maybe she's so touched by his kindness that Lena finds the hug fitting, or considers it a suitable cap to a birthday that hasn't even quite happened yet. More likely, she'd been prepared for it, having instigated her own brief moment of contact. She even hugs the man back, since everything's covered. It's very possible that actual laughter is muffled against his chest, but it's soft and hard to tell, the moment passes so quickly.

"Yeah…well. Tomorrow. Happy birthday too, Pete. You're old and I'm…I feel like I'm turning sixty," Lena confesses as she releases him. A faint snuffle helps ward off the immediate threat of tears, as does the almost-joke. She grows more serious at the offer. "I…yeah. Yeah. If you can do that. I'd…totally owe you more but if it's sleep, real sleep, and no dreams…"

"Real sleep includes dreams," Peter says, but there's a way he can help with that, too. Putting a hand against her back, he begins to lead her toward the motel. "You need to lay down inside first, though. I don't want to knock you out in the middle of a frozen courtyard."

It would probably not make for real sleep. But once they get to her room, once she's comfortable and laid down, he can touch her forehead, and send her into a deep sleep, thanks to his partner's husband's power.

And then he can go home, find her dream, and make it a good one. A good one fitting for a birthday party.

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