2008-05-12: Closure


Elle_icon.gif FuturePeter_icon.gif

Summary: At the end of the day, people often need to find a sense of closure before they can step into tomorrow.

Date It Happened: May 12, 2008


Elle's Apartment

The room shouldn't have anyone inside. The doors are locked, the person who rents the apartment hasn't returned from a long day of work yet. But what should be isn't always what is. The apartment does have someone inside, seated in a chair in general view of the door, though that person isn't entirely visible. Not invisible, which he easily could be, just difficult to see in the lack of light. Peter doesn't need much light to see by, if at all. Shadows cross his face, making him a shadowy form in a room where there should be no one. A few objects sit in shadow on the table near him as well. Objects that shouldn't be there, but that are anyway.

Today has been one of those days when Elle really, sincerely misses parts of her old life. Not all of it, just— just the part where her job didn't require her to wait on people who are unnecessarily impatient and rude. Or, at least, when she could take out her frustration with said people in a physical manner. She is wound up tight by the time she reaches her apartment door, still dressed in her work clothes, hair still tied up in a messy knot, strands falling loose around her face, tucked behind her ears. Turning the key in the lock, she has no idea that anyone might be inside. She lives alone, she has no family— so she doesn't hesitate to throw the door open and step inside with a grateful sigh, her shoes kicked off her feet before she's even nudged the door closed behind her.

A hard day's work often garners grateful sighs. But coming home to no one usually means that there's… no one there. Not the case today, but she has a few seconds of silence to close the door behind her, lock it again, and even move for a moment. Peter's not going to wait til she spots his shadowy form to the side, though, because the chances of going unmolested are small. The sound of electricity thrown across the room could hopefully be avoided by a few simple worlds. "Elle?" Or maybe just a name. The voice carries a deeper tone than she might have been used to hearing from him, raspier, but still sounds very much like the man she'd met over a year ago, and one she hasn't seen in a few months.

As she steps away from the door, the lock turned behind her, the waitress pulls the elastic from her hair to let it fall loose around her shoulders. En route to the kitchen, caught off-guard by the voice, Elle whirls in the direction of the voice, her palm glowing blue as a reactionary charge pulses to life. Luckily for Peter, however, the familiarity of his voice strikes her before instinct drives her to lash out int he darkness. Pulling in a sharp breath, she takes a lurching step backward, closing her hand into a fist as the charge dies. "… Peter?"

There's a hand raised in the shadows, as if Peter expected the bolt of electricity to fly. When it doesn't, he lowers his hand, a relieved sound coming out in an exhale. "Yeah— it's me." …Sort of. "Sorry, I know it's impolite to let yourself in, but I— I wasn't sure when you would be home and I didn't want to approach you while you were working." The longer he speaks, the more the raspy quality stands out, making him sound different from the man she knew the longest. It still has similarities, but there's many details that make this man a little different. Just from voice alone.

As a frown materializes on her face, Elle searches the dark room for the voice, finding only the vague outline in the shadows. She can't even be certain this is Peter, but the voice is his. Undeniably his, even if something about it is setting her on edge - not in an anxious way, but a concerned one. "Peter, are you okay? You sound…" What is it about his voice that has her so worried about him? "…different." She navigates the room expertly, only once bumping her toe on the sofa, until she finds the light switch on the wall and flips it on.

The light washes away many of the shadows, bringing Peter's face and form more fully into view. Still seated, the height and build gets some mask to it, shirt form fitting enough that muscles stand out, showing that he's been keeping in better shape than he had been the last time she saw him. Dark hair is slicked back out of his face, rather than cut short or hanging into his eyes. The face itself holds the biggest change. The Peter she'd last seen had been overly tense, even with darkness under the surface of his eyes, but that has been magnified even more, especially with the lessening of one important emotional response. Hope. The old scar that cuts through his face, mostly healed over, would just be one of many differences. "That's because I am different, Elle. But it's still me. I just— I'm from the future." The world hasn't imploded yet. One more person knowing won't destroy it.

Ultimately, it's the scar which draws Elle's attention first - and if she notices the rest of him, it's only in the most fleeting way as her eyes return again and again to the imperfection on his face. "Jesus, Peter," she says breathlessly, instinctively moving towards him. Her frown is lingering, deepening the closer she gets. It doesn't occur to her to question the plausibility of what he says. "When in the future? What happened to you?"

The objects on the table might well go unnoticed for now. There are not that many. Small things of importance to him, but the more her eyes stay on the scar, the less likely she'll notice. Peter moves to stand, touching the table as he pushes back the chair. Height is the same as always, not tall and imposing as some people in her life, but the additional muscle build might make him look a little bigger than she remembers. "Four years," he responds quietly, glancing away from her, down and to the side, for a short moment. It's as if he's trying to think of how to respond to the second question. "A lot happened. Four years happened."

When he stands, for just a moment, Elle has to fight the urge to intercept him and wrap her arms around him in an embrace. There is something so offputting, so unfamiliar, about this particular Peter that she feels a strange need to comfort him somehow. It's a similar feeling to the one she's had the last few times she's encountered his present self, only magnified. "You…" Appraising his current figure, her eyes passing from head to toe to head again, Elle searches for the appropriate word. "You look good." Aside from the scar, that is. Or maybe because of the scar. It isn't clear. As she speaks, her eyes drop away from him, discomfited - and it's this action which brings her attention to the objects on the table.

He looks— Peter blinks a few times at that response, as if it came out of left field, taking him by surprise. There's a moment when he looks about to say something, but the words don't quite come out. The tension lessens. Few people have probably told him he looks good these days… The objects on the table are small things. A tiny statuette of a white kitten sleeping, a small lamp that has unicorns on the shade, and a book. The book she'd recognize as one he bought her before their first date, along with the locket. How To Live With A Unicorn. A cute little guide to the care of mythological animals, including, but not limited to, the unicorn. Something far more suited for a younger person than she'd been, but… "I'm used to people saying I look like hell," he finally gets out.

"Sometimes people surprise you," Elle replies with a faint, tentative smile flashing across her face for just an instant before it's gone. "You're the one who taught me that." She leans over the table, lightly tracing her fingers over the objects as if they were relics from a distant past, one not her own. "Did you…" When she looks back up to Peter, her expression is a questioning one. These don't belong here, after all. One hand toys with something at her neck, hidden by the collar of her shirt.

"You always were good for that too," Peter says, voice softening quite a bit as he watches her get closer to the table. It takes a moment for him to look away to the objects placed there, part of the reason he visited in the first place… "This is something that I wasn't… all of these belong to you. Or should have. But I never really had the nerve to explain all of that…" Nerve— practically insulting himself there. But there's reasons he's able to now when he couldn't have before… "I guess only one of them was ever really given to you— the others… I gave them to the other you. The one who I thought was you." A slow inhale, before he looks back up at her. "I should have realized sooner that something was wrong, that she wasn't really… I'm sorry."

In an instant, Elle has circled around the table and is standing before him, reaching both hands up to his face— and then drawing them back before they get there. "Hey," she says quietly, her hands caught in mid-air as if frozen in time. "Don't apologize, Peter. You weren't supposed to know. It… all worked out." Except it didn't. Not for her. But these are things for her to know and not him, things she never means for him to know. She fakes it reasonably well. Stepping back, aware of the space between them now, Elle drops her hands back to her sides. "Thanks." It's clear that there is something she wants to say as she rocks back on the heels of her feet for a second or two. Finally, she asks, "What made you come here?" Or maybe that should be 'now'.

At the touch of fingers against skin, however brief, Peter holds his breath a moment. It all worked out. It takes a few moments before he can breathe again, and she's already moving on, putting some space between them again. A few blinks follow her question, before he glances away to the table. "I came here— because it didn't all work out, Elle." When he looks back, there's that tension again, a new kind of it. A flash of anger follows. "Because of what they did I never even— do you have any idea how confusing it was? How long I spent picking apart my memories trying to figure out which one I was with— which one I said something to— It took me a long time to realize that… you weren't you when I was finally able to say that I…" As emotion creeps into his voice, emotion and uncertainty, he sounds far more like the man she knew. "I don't even know if you knew I loved you."

That same urgency to comfort him rises again, and Elle is having a much harder time trying to fight it back this time. It's reflected in her face when she looks at him, and the way she takes a step forward before pausing. In her lamenting voice, too, as she shakes her head and tells him, "I knew. I always knew, Peter." She hadn't realized until this very second how profoundly he had been affected by the deception, and now that she understands, she feels guilty in a strange way. It's absurd, really; she had nothing to do with it, yet here she stands, meek and apologetic, fidgeting with the hem of her shirt. "I… kept a journal. You can have it, if you want. So you can remember which ones were me." Why does she suddenly feel like a teenager?

There's a hint of relief in his eyes when Peter gets reassurance. She knew— always knew. That settles some questions, but not all of them. With the closing of distance, the offer of a journal, he shakes his head, "No— I don't need that. I've had a lot of years to think about things and… I have a lot more control over my memories than I did before. He might, though. The other me…" Hands reach up at the distance between them, mindful of the toying at her shirt, but he's reaching up to mimic exactly what she'd done to him. Fingers touch her face, slide toward her neck, thumbs on her jaw line. "I wanted to save you… But you saved yourself, Elle." Unlike the touch she started with, his hands don't pull away.

What has happened to this Peter in his last four years to turn him into the man standing in her apartment now? It is simultaneously frightening and fascinating to Elle, for someone to be so familiar but so alien. To be so different from his present self, who is somewhere in the city right now. Her eyes close when his hands come to rest on her face, the corner of her mouth quirking upward in a curious little smile. "No, I didn't." When she looks up to him, it's with a pointed look. "It was you. You just couldn't see it. That's why I still wear this." Looping one finger around the chain clasped around her neck, Elle tugs the locket from beneath her shirt. "I wouldn't have done any of it without you."

It was him, he just couldn't see it. Peter blinks quite a few times, but doesn't pull his hands away until she tugs at the chain, pulling the locket from under her shirt. A locket that he went to see her father, despite possibility of a death threat, to try and retrieve. For a woman that hadn't ever lost it, because she wasn't really her. One of his hands slides down to touch the small silver piece of jewelry, with a unicorn on it. Chosen due to the drawings of unicorns in the margin of the book she gave him to read. The only book he had the first time he was locked away by the Company. "I… I did save you?" he asks, voice suddenly sounding confused, surprised, and years younger as he looks back up at her face, still touching it. "I thought I failed you…"

This time, Elle's smile is quicker to appear. "Don't be silly," she says softly, as if this were the most absurd thing he could have said. "You never failed me, Peter." This is a conversation she almost wishes she was having with the Peter from her time. She loops her arms around his neck in a sudden embrace, standing on the tips of her toes. "I don't think you ever could," comes her quiet voice, partially muffled by his shoulder as she rests her head there for just a few seconds. A scent of coffee and pastry clings to her, apparent only when she is this close, from her hours spent in the cafe. She doesn't notice, but he might. "Whatever's happening where you're from, Peter… just…" She draws away, pulling her hands from around his neck and lowering them once more. "You do good things for people. Even when you don't see it."

With her face muffled against his shoulder, she doesn't see his eyes close. The scar distorts his expressions, but there's something there that makes some of the hopelessness fade away. Some of the pain. Maybe this is exactly what he came for. A forgiveness he couldn't give to himself. As she holds him, a lot of the tension drains from his neck, lowering his head down towards hers. One hand remains touching the locket, while the other moves a bit to rest on her neck. Peter doesn't open his eyes until she starts to pull back. "Not— not everything I do is good, Elle…" he confesses in a softened voice. "But I'm… I'm relieved that you weren't something I messed up. I came because I wanted you to forgive me. Because I needed you to forgive me…" For failing. For moving on. For not being there when she came back. For not realizing it had never been her. "I don't know much longer I have left and… I needed you to know. I needed to know…"

"Everything you do doesn't have to be good. You're still good - you, Peter." Brushing her hands lightly over his shirt, smoothing out a few wrinkles in a familiar way, Elle looks up to him with a reassuring smile. "Your heart's always in the right place." And she, for one, does not subscribe to that old belief: the road to Hell, for Elle Bishop, is not paved with good intentions. Silent for a moment, she regards him with a look that is both touched and solemn, her right hand raised to settle against his face. "So I forgive you, Peter. For everything you think you did wrong," she replies, her gaze steady and unblinking. The corner of her mouth quirks upward in a half-smile. "I loved you, too, you know." And she might still, she thinks, but doesn't say aloud.

At the words of forgiveness, Peter's eyes slide closed. There's few times he shows his Catholic side quite as much as when he needs to be forgiven, for wrongs he thinks he did to others, for things he felt he failed at doing. The forgiveness in her words, and in her voice, makes some of the tension drain out of his muscles as he exhales slowly. And then she goes even further to say that. Eyes open. "I know you did… even though you spent a lot less time with me than I thought I spent with you— I knew you loved me." One of his hands raises up so he can take the hand she has on his face down, clasping it in his own, wrapping his fingers around her smaller hand. "I want you to know that… you're stronger now than you were when I first met you. And you'll keep getting stronger. I know you will."

Ducking her head at his words as if she were suddenly bashful, her eyes dropping to the floor, Elle shakes her head with a smile. It's fleeting, partially obscured by her hair… but it's there. There's a light in her eyes when she finally looks back to Peter - eagerness, in a sense, to believe what he says. She desperately wants to think she's gotten stronger. "I hope you're right," she says, her tone reflecting a genuine wish, free of pessimism. "I have you to thank for that." In the moment of silence following her words, Elle suddenly realizes their proximity, that her hands still rest on his chest and face. With a quiet sound, she closes her eyes in a sheepish way, pulling her hands away haltingly.

For an instant, it looks as if Peter's about to shake his head, perhaps to dismiss his part in everything that she became, and will continued to change into. But then her hands start to pull away from him. "Wait," he suddenly says, before he can stop himself, hands moving to take her wrists, pulling both her hands against his chest and holding them there. This isn't what he came here for. This isn't what he intended to do. But he's already gotten far more than he expected. Already found out that he needed far more than just to tell her things he hadn't been able to… He needed this. A connection to his past, a connection to something he lost… and that human connection. The warmth of hands under his. Is this a mistake? He doesn't even know for sure. But suddenly he's leaning down, covering the distance between them to touch his nose lightly against her own. A motion that shifts, as his eyes close, so that he can attempt to kiss a woman he had only really been with for less than a month… five years ago.

She almost stops him. Almost. For a split second, Elle resists, every muscle in her body tensing as their lips meet. This is fundamentally wrong, isn't it? To be kissing a time traveler from the future with whom you may still be in love? It's been years, for him, but for her it's only been weeks since she last saw him— but this isn't the same man, really, and… and this is all too confusing. And really, Elle isn't sure she cares. She gives in, sinking against him with a soft murmur of surprise, allowing passion to overtake reason. Rising to her toes, she laces an arm around his neck, twining her fingers into his hair.

All it took was hint that she would return it for Peter's hands shifting to her waist, pulling her up against his body. The more she returns it, the move he gives, losing breath and reason and everything else for more than a few moments. There's even a moment where his hands start to feel out her clothing before he finally breaks away to breath warmly against her lips, pressing his forehead against her own. He's a different man than he was five years ago, a month ago for her. A very different man. "Elle… I'm sorry. I shouldn't be…" Even as he says it, though, their lips reconnect, briefly, before he pulls back again. It's almost as if he's asking her to tell him to stop. Or perhaps waiting for her to tell him it's okay…

"Stop, Peter." One hand curled around his neck, the other gripping his shirt just below his collarbone, Elle pulls him in for another kiss. "Stop apologizing," she whispers, only breaking their embrace long enough to speak the words before she leans in once more. "Stop saying," comes her voice again, canting her head to press her lips to the underside of his jaw, "you're sorry, or you shouldn't." Now his neck, just to the side of his adam's apple, with a tiny hint of hint. She lays a trail to his ear, where her breath brushes against his skin when she asks, "Do you want to?" As her tender kisses lead back along the length of his jaw to his lips, Elle takes his face in both of her hands. "That's all that matters."

The longer the kissing lasts, the more Peter feels as if he must apologize. He could sink through her body and disappear from the room. There could be teleporting, or any other number of ways to escape. If he weren't irrevocably trapped. "Not the only thing that matters…" he does manage to whisper, when his eyes open as her hands rest of his. "Not the only thing… What you want… it matters too." But the movements of the last few seconds might be answer enough for him. "I'm not staying here. When this is over— I won't be back. The me that's here… The one you'll see again… He won't even know this happened." No apologies, not anymore, but apparently, he wants to make this clear.

"I know, Peter." Tipping her chin down, Elle fixes her eyes on his in a moment of clarity. She is neither punchdrunk nor delusional. Hers are not the actions of a woman clinging to some lingering hope that this will magically reverse the last year. This is closure, in a sense. And if he was doubting at all whether this was what she wanted, those doubts can be dispelled as she leans in to kiss him again briefly, pulling away only so her hands can slip beneath the hem of his shirt and pull it up over his head.

Moving his arms to allow his shirt to come off, Peter moves his hands back to her as soon as the shirt drops for the floor. Closure is what this is, and they both know it. For her, who spent months separated from him, unaware of the ruse her father had done to protect her life. For him, who believes, quite soon, that he won't have a future to live in.

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