2008-06-29: Carrying On


Sophie_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif Lee_icon.gif Randall_icon.gif Gabriel_icon.gif Kory_icon.gif

Summary: Roused from slumber by dream visions, five heroes converge to help Kory through the trauma of Future Peter's death, and learn about his final moments and messages.

Date It Happened: June 29, 2008

Carrying On

Kory's apartment

Creeping down the hallway, Gabriel slows to a stop as he gets closer to Kory's apartment. Her keening wail of grief pulled him from his sleep— awakening in the dead of night, the only sound through his own apartment the slow, rhythmic ticking of clocks. An omen, it almost was… time was wasting. Now that he's near the apartment, he takes a few steps towards the door, quiet as a cat. He's had experience in this, sneaking up on someone or something without making a sound. Albeit, the circumstances have changed in this situation.

The hushed voices fall on his ears, magnified a thousand times by his ability. Being careful not to touch any of the damage outside of the apartment, he shimmers and disappears from view as he steps over the splintered door into the apartment.

Sophie has made it back to Kory's apartment. The phone is a loss. She is now looking for a copy of Kory's phone bill to try and see how she can check the phone record. "Maybe we can find out who called her. Maybe she went to meet someone."

Footsteps pace around Kory's apartment. They belong to Niki who, arms crossed, finds herself unable to keep still and wait when they don't know if there's anything to wait for. "Don't you think that sounds like kind of a longshot?" she says to Sophie, clueless of the fact that there's been a silent, invisible addition to the room. "Kory doesn't strike me as the type of girl to meet someone by an alley in the middle of the night."

Lee's rattletrap Volvo arrives downstairs of Kory's apartment a few minutes after everyone else. He clomps up the stairs, not two at a time, more cautious than that. When he espies that the door has been forced open, he pauses, descends, picks up an aluminum baseball bat from the back of the Volvo, and returns. "Hey jerkoffs! I already called the cops, and…oh, it's you. Hey Sophie. Uh, hey. Ms. Sanders." Lee looks like he just pulled on the same clothes he was wearing before he went to bed - a wrinkledy pair of black suit pants, suspenders and a white shirt. Someone smeared lipstick on the collar and he smells vaguely of cigarette smoke. Yeah. Lee was 'out' before he went to bed and did his dream work for the night. As a result he looks exhausted. "Uh, what are you all doing here?"

It's a good thing Randall drifted away from evening shifts again, the week before - otherwise, he may not have been asleep to receive the imagery. A cup of gas station coffee in hand to keep himself going, he walks up to the open door— wait, those marks around the door frame weren't there last time. He runs inside, looking around quickly, then stops just as quickly as he spots familiar faces… but not the one he hoped would be here. "Oh, man. Wide-broadcast signal, huh? Anyone found anything yet?"

This seems a time as good as any for Gabriel to reveal his presence. Which, considering everyone who is here, is probably a bad idea, but what else is he going to do? A shimmer, and suddenly he's there, eyes moving around the room as he looks at the various people who've accumulated. "What the hell is going on?"

Sophie is actually in the middle of saying, "I know, I know. But what else can we.." then, well, everyone just starts busting in. She makes an eep sound, and her eyes dart around, looking for, well, more clothing, oddly enough.

Niki suddenly whirls and backpedals into Kory's kitchen, bumping into a kitchen chair and making it screech slightly along the floor. "L-Lee," she says, bewildered to see the teacher there despite knowing he's Kory's friend. Could be the baseball bat. When Randall appears, she starts to nod, wide eyes ringed with tiredness and anxiety. Just as she's poised to speak, she sharply looks to the sound of the new voice, instantly on edge, instantly suspicious. How did he get— never mind. Good thing she's not the one with the bat or Gabriel may have gotten it. "Kory. Something— happened," the blonde says slowly, raising a hand. "We're just trying to figure this all out."

Lee says, "Signal? What the…" He is about to explain that since Calvin Hall's cognitive process model for dream interpretation replaced Jung's in 1951 that blah blah blah nobody cares when Gabriel appears out of nowhere and Lee leaps with surprise. He does not have the combat instincts to whop people who appear out of nowhere. That's not to say he doesn't have sharp instincts that spring into action. He just goes a different route. He complains. "…oh man, another time traveller? The town is lousy with them these days! There oughta be a law…" Lee trails off into muttering before returning to the subject. "So you all had the dream interrupt thing happen too? Well, that's a real kick in the pants! I thought it was a metaphorical image relating to guilt and…well, never mind what I thought it was a metaphor for." He shakes the baseball bat for emphasis, holding it more or less in the middle. "She's not actually here, so…wait, you're here, Randall? If she was out at two in the morning, and she wasn't with you…" What a classy way of suggesting she might be cheating on him.

Metaphorical images? Lee's known Kory longer than Randall has, and known about her ability for at least a good while; doesn't he know one of her images when he sees it? He must have, to show up here armed with a blunt heavy object. "…wherever she was, or is, she's gotta be in serious trouble." The suggestion of cheating escapes him completely, which is good because otherwise he might need to steal some of Anzeti's brawling moves, baseball bat be damned. "I already tried calling her, went straight to voicemail, which could just mean her battery died…" But he's not counting on it.

It was not a short drive to the place that ended up being the pyre for a fallen hero. And so it is not a short drive back. For Kory, the ride is interminable, an eternity of time in which she can only try to internalize her grief, her guilt, and steel her determination to complete the mission he has given her. With her powers at their peak of performance, the chance of a kiss from Morpheus bringng blessed respite from the grief forming a cold, hard knot in her belly is so small as to be not worth considering.

She stared into the flames until they went out, and would not be moved until she could approach the embers and capture some. Tearing off a long square piece of her dress, she bent, unmindful of the burns her hands received, and scooped several handfuls of ash into the cloth, before tying it closed like a hobo bundle. She held it in her hands, and let Angela and the Haitian lead her back to the van. She seatbelted in, and stared out the window at the landscape blurring by — first too dark to see, then semi-lit by the eldritch light of false dawn.

Angela, ever motherly, took pity on the dreamwalker, and dabbed at some of the worst of the blood, dirt, salt, and soot on Kory's face. Kory made neither move to stop her, nor made any indication she was aware of the woman's gentle ministrations to at least scrub away the worst visual indications of the ordeal.

The others are already gathered upstairs by the time the van pulls up a few blocks away. Only when she recognizes the neighborhood does Kory stir. "Th-thank you," she murmurs, voice ravaged by the crying and screaming. "For everything." She gets out when the van stops and permits her to depart . And then she walks in, past a doorman who stares — how can he not? She looks a sight and a fright: hair caked with dirt and blood, sticking out every which way, dress torn and stained with blood and dirt, knees skinned and bandaged, heels of her shoes caked in mud and scuffed to hell and gone, only her face clean, but eyes red-rimmed and haunted over a blankly traumatized expression — and asks if she needs help, or if he should call the police. She gives him a silent shake of her head, then steps into the elevator and presses her floor. The tears begin to run again, but silently, as the car rises toward her floor.

The elevator, state of the art thanks to Hiro, makes a polite, computerized tone to announce its arrival. *Ding!* But Kory can't bring herself to step out onto the floor. The last time she set foot in the Batcave, Peter was there. Alive and well. With a rare smile on his lips. *Ding!* goes the elevator. And now, she has to face the fact that she holds in her hands a tiny memento that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's gone. *Ding!* She sinks to her knees in the door of the elevator, and hunches over the little keepsake. *Ding!*

"I'm not a time traveler," Gabriel responds to Lee, shaking his head slightly. He recognizes Niki, and he looks to her, about to open his mouth and say something— when all of a sudden, his ears pick up the distant *ding!* of the elevator doors. More than once, in fact. Shaking his head at, well, everyone, he retreats into the hallway, staring down it towards the elevator.

That's when he spots Kory. "Here!" he shouts to the others in the room, quickly moving down the hallway towards the elevator. "Kory?" he says, once he's close enough to her. "What happened? What's going on?"

Sophie gives up on finding gloves when she hears Gabriel's shout. She rushes out, easily figuring out which way to go in the hallway. There's a gasp as she sees Kory, saying, "Thank God, we were so worried. What happened?"

Lee is still shaking his head and muttering something like "teleportation, then" but he goes along with everyone else, at least to help Kory get out of the hallway where the neighbors can stare.

Niki slips through the dim apartment right behind Sophie, following Gabriel's sudden lead. When the bedraggled form of Kory is in sight, her jogging staggers to a halt only to pick up again at a run. She falls to a kneel beside the woman, taking in the details that summarize nothing good. "You're okay," she says — relief as much as comfort — with a quiet voice, not wanting to overwhelm her. A hand touches to Kory's shoulder. "Hey. Let's go inside. Everyone's here, it's alright." But Niki can tell that it's not. Her own expression is growing more and more dire by the second.

Randall squirms, first bobbing his head up from behind Lee, then casting aside his own social niceties and pushing past him to go over and bracket Kory on the other side. With Niki already starting on the talking, he doesn't add anything himself, just maintains a presence.

Kory doesn't even look up at the concerned call of Gabriel. She just kneels limply in the threshold of the dinging lift, clutching the little bundle to her heart, tears streaming down her chin to leave damp spots on the shredded mess that was once a stylish and fetching blue dress.

Sophie's voice doesn't get her to lift her head either. In fact, her shoulders begin shaking with soundless sobs. Relief that people who care are around her? Grief at having to relive the nightmare awake in words to explain? Peter deserves that much, he does. He sacrificed so much. And his last one was for her. Perhaps it's both and more.

She flinches, cringes, and whimpers as Niki touches her. There are bruises, too, yeah, now that they're close enough to see her in the light spilling from the 'vator. Fingermarks. Someone held her too tightly at her wrists. And at the Standard Female Grab Area. She bites her lip, trying to stop the tears, because somewhere in a dim dark recess where her mind is trying to retreat, she's hearing them. Their concern. A lone sniffle and a quick little juddering motion of her chin is all she can manage just yet. She clutches her little bundle close with her left hand and reaches out toward the edge of the elevator doorframe with her trembling, blistered, bloodied right.

Since Randall doesn't speak, she isn't aware he's there. Just another concerned form helping her to her feet. "S-sorry…" she manages, in a broken whisper, realization dawning on her what must have brought this diverse and disparate group together. "…I…I didn't …didn't mean to." She swallows hard and straightens a little, looking at her ruined shoes, trying to force herself to take a step toward the place she's taken to calling home.

Sophie takes a breath, unable to really help much, she feels. She kneels, carefully touching where the shirt is. She says, softly, "Let's get her inside."

Niki's eyes rove over the myriad bruises in the light from the elevator, and her touch instantly becomes even more gentle. Even so, she can tell that Kory's not just crying because of pain; not physical pain, anyway. As she stands, an arm wraps gingerly around the woman's back, urging her ahead toward Randall and lending her strength along the way. Everyone else is asking enough: the what happendeds, the what's going ons. There's a more specific question on Niki's mind, but it never makes it to air. Dry-mouthed, she just waits.

Lee says, "You don't have to apologize, you didn't do anything wrong. C'mon." quietly enough, while providing long-armed assistance. This is better than the 'you don't have to apologize, you never asked for your DNA to be retarded' statement he usually makes. He's not completely heartless.

Apart from getting Kory the rest of the way to her apartment, there doesn't appear to be much else to do but wait for her to collect the strength to answer those questions hanging in the air. Randall clenches his other hand in frustration, looking around for a stranger to glare at, finding none.

Kory can't even wipe at her eyes at the moment. The burns on her hand plus the salt water of tears? No, bad idea. She nods dimly to Lee's words, and finally summons enough inner fortitude to lift her face enough to look around at the assemblage. Looming, lurking, darkly worried Gabriel; silent Niki; gentle Sophie; subdued Lee whose affection always takes the strangest shapes; and yes, oh, thank God, Randall…just like that, laying her eyes on him, the man with kaleidoscope eyes, a little light comes back into her expression. "Oh, god…" Her free arm goes around him as if he were a lifeline and she buries her face in his shoulder.

Sophie goes to find something to help with the injuries. She grabs a bowl of warm water, the softest cloths she can find, and whatever first aid supplies are around.

Lee helps Sophie out, but is slowly starting to guess, due to the group, and the lack of furniture, that this must be something power-related, so his uncomfortableness and awkwardness is growing. He looks like he's biting down on a lemon peel in the middle of his merengue.

Once Kory is off to Randall's arms, Niki hangs back. By Gabriel, as it turns out, her body catapulted into even more tension than it's already in. She folds her arms, hugging herself rigidly over the pale purple tank top she wore to bed. "…Let's get you outta the hall," she tells Kory, though it's more of an urge to Randall to head down the hall into the apartment where the others have some form of first aid.

Randall promptly shifts position to better support Kory's weight, nodding to Niki and continuing the slow procession. Walking backward, he bumbles his way over by memory to a couch and guides her to lay down there.

Wouldn't Lee be just delighted to know the truth — that powers weren't involved, really. That powers might have saved the day. Kory does sink into the sofa with a sort of resigned, exhausted gratitude. But still her mind won't sleep. The free hand gestures the others to make themselves comfortable in the rest of the chairs strewn haphazardly about the apartment. Kory hasn't really done much decorating yet, but at least the chairs are comfy.

She glances down the hall once, toward the guest room, and her chest hitches twice, as she swallows the urge to sob again. She can't keep grieving; she has work to do. Peter's work. Kory sets her jaw, bites her lower lip, and squares her shoulders. Best treat it like pulling off a bandage from a wound. Quick and sharp, a brief, intense pain rather than a long, drawn out one.

"Peter with the scar is dead." Her voice isn't shaking anymore, though it is hoarse, barely more than a whisper.

It is like a light suddenly comes on in Sophie's eyes, a switch was flipped. She leans over where she was sitting, grabbing her head with both hands. She mutters, "Messages, so many. So many people.." then she looks up, saying softly, "He knew. He knew, one way or another, something like this would happen. He left.. He left notes, for everyone. But he didn't write them down."

Lee has to think about the fact of scar-Peter's death a minute. Is he sad about that, or thrilled? He opens his mouth, before realizing 'Weren't we trying to kill him anyway?' is probably not the best thing to say in front of a lot of strangers. Besides, is erasing the same as killing? Or maybe worse? He bites down on his tongue before he can say 'why, did he not know how to write?' and settles for looking baffled. Kory being vulnerable just kills all his best lines.

Having followed Randall, and shut the door, as much good as it does now, the many locks rendered useless, broken — Niki stands at the head of the couch, quietly watching over Kory. The news doesn't come as the sudden shock of a ripped band-aid for Niki; she's been wondering, all this time, where Peter was. In ways, the whole night has been building up to the words that are forced out of Kory's mouth.

Niki's first reaction is to shake her head, slow, and manic, pale hair that's been pulled into a messy ponytail moving to-and-fro. "No." It's barely audible, that hushed, squelched word barely a word at all until it repeats itself over and over. "No… no, no, no." She doesn't hear Sophie for all her own incoherent rambling. "He was— supposed— to go back." Ahead. Whatever. Freaking time travel. She starts to back up, not paying any mind to whatever's in her way, jostling past Lee on her way. When reality hits, it hits hard. She presses her knuckles to her mouth. The choked whine, sob, whatever you want to call it, makes her whole body shudder, and the woman with enough strength to just walk into Kory's fortified apartment just goes staggering to the side without any strength at all.

Randall winces, nodding to Kory at the news, before looking up and finding himself face-to-face with Lee - the same words nearly on his lips, not from snarkiness but from his tendency to think of things in abstract terms: wasn't he supposed to change things so there wasn't a 'there' for him to go back to? Especially since his own mysterious role in that 'there' was enough to cause Future Peter to keep his distance? He's only knocked off this train of thought by what Sophie says, turning to face her next. "Did he leave them with you? Or can you get to them? …and I thought Peter could heal himself, I guess that got burnt out somehow?"

"No. He wasn't." Kory rasps in response to Niki, gaze drifting sidelong to Niki. She hasn't got the emotional bandwidth to spare to comfort the other woman just yet. She's still processing the fact that Peter died in her arms, and his blood covers her dress.

Once she has started talking, however, the words begin to come easier for the woman who reached through dreams to call the core List group to her. She goes on, no longer halting, truth wearing a cheap rationalization suit. "He knew his time was borrowed. He didn't…didn't expect to go … the way he did. But he expected that his days were numbered. Just…his number came up sooner than expected. We're at a significant point in the timeline. It wouldn't uphold two of him. So it took him out. His abilities …they were gone. He was just plain old ordinary human again." An explanation a comic book girl would know and understand.

"He …he took my hand and he smiled. He…" and wonder blooms in her expression. "He was at peace with it." Dying in a nicer world, in the arms of a friend.

Sophie nods to Randall, eyes tearing. "Yes, he did. So many, and I never really knew. Not until now. I guess.. this was a trigger." her voice catching in a sob. "I am.. I have the messages here." she taps her temple.

Lee really doesn't get what Niki is saying, and, unlike Kory, he doesn't give a damn about her, so he actually says, sidelong, to Randall, "Go back where?" since Randall is looking at him as if he is thinking the same thing. Kory's explanation is satisfying to him on a literary level, but he seems more concerned that Kory appears to be working through it a bit. He approaches her, gives her a kiss on the top of the head. "Just call me if you need anything, all right? On the phone." he clarifies belatedly, and tenderly. "Glad you're all right."

Lee makes his exit. Down at the Volvo, he opens the back hatch. "The future." he mutters in a who-needs-it way. He flips the bat once, the handle flopping naturally into his hand, then tosses it in, where it lands on a cardboard box full of pamphlet versions of the Federalist Papers he got for next year's class. Slams the car shut.

Niki braces herself against one of the scattered chairs with one hand. The tears have started to fall and she forcefully knuckles them away, blinking hotly. It doesn't help. "I know," she manages to get out with misplaced impatience. She nods more rationally. "I know." And she did know; she knew from the beginning that his days were numbered, that it was impossible for him to stay; that somehow, he was going to essentially cease to exist. "But— " she chokes, "Damnit, Peter." She looks up at the ceiling, face twisting into something like anger or frustration; pressing her lips together, she forces herself to the door. She doesn't get far— down the hall, around the corner, she slides down the wall, away from anyone else and their words.

Reaching for one of the damp washcloths, Randall dabs at what's left of the blood, heedless of whether any of it gets on him in the process; it can be washed out later, or else he can just save this outfit for painting walls and such. It's all a lot less traumatic when the person who gets it on you is still alive, and at least has hopes of getting well. Eventually. But for now: "Sleep," he murmurs. "The list will keep till morning." Nodding to the others in turn as they make their way out, he settles in for the night shift.

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