2008-03-20: Every Second Counts


FuturePeter_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif

Summary: Morning. A complicated time traveller needs someone to ground him.

Date It Happened: March 20th, 2008

Every Second Counts

"Jessica's" Apartment


This apartment has the bare bones of living, but there's nothing about it that makes it look like a home, or a place people should live for long periods of time. It even lacks many of the necessary things to make it a suitable shelter. A bed, a shower, it has those things. It also has people, but people can be anywhere. In some respects it might as well be a hotel room. Sitting against the wall near the bed, Peter hasn't left yet this morning. He's not asleep, either, but he's not gone. Before he'd slip out without a word, leaving behind a card with contact information. This time…

He hasn't bothered to get all the way dressed. He sits with a white undershirt and black jeans. Floating in the air around him, are small objects, gears. The hand resting on his knee has that silver pocket watch he carries around most the time, case popped open, the insides gutted. Most of which seem to be floating around. One piece moves down to rejoin the machine. A second, a third. Rearranging, rebuilding, reconfiguring.

There's also the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen area. Coffee and a basket of fresh bagels. This time he even went out and got breakfast, apparently.

As such a bare bones space, it's very rarely slept in; curious, given the fact that the bedroom has the most character of the place, otherwise cold and empty. Today really is a veer from the norm, in more regards than one.

There's a stirring underneath blankets of dark reds and violets, a rustle of fabric. It stops, a quiet sound of a female voice not saying a word but a soft "mnh" filling the space instead. A few moments later, an arm is thrown over the outer edge of the blankets, pushing them down enough to let the world in, and Niki turns onto her side to witness the unfamiliar sights, sounds and scents. She seems confused, at first — surprised, maybe, as her mind starts to clear and settles on Peter.

The movement of tiny gears and screws halts, but doesn't drop. They float in midair as if held up by tiny invisible strings. Eyes shift away from the work to look at the moving blankets. There's enough light to see by, for both of them, whether or not he needs much is up for debate. "Morning," Peter speaks in whispered, rasped tones. A voice that carries enough to be heard by her, but not loud, either. "There's coffee in the kitchen." The harshness that had been in his voice before remains, but it's softened quite a few degrees. Even some of the tension has left his eyes. Serious still, he's less closed off, less walled up. A shift of his eyes back to the gears get them moving again, returning into the case.

A hand is run through tousled hair in a variety of shades of blonde and Niki crawls up to sit against the wall behind the bed — there's no headboard - holding onto the blanket under the line of her collarbone. All the while, eyes on Peter. "…Morning," comes her delayed response in a voice that would be neutral, if it weren't for a ghost of wonder. She doesn't move for that coffee yet — instead, the shape of her knees draws up under the blankets, and she looks around the sparse room, eyes landing back on the mechanics Peter works on in such a strange way. "What time is it?" The question of someone who might have somewhere to be.

There's a fraction of a smile tugging on the corner of his mouth. Asking the guy who has his entire watch gutted and floating around in front of him what time it is? "Just a minute," Peter says, that smile actually audible in his voice for a split second. The gears move down, clicking into place, screws follow. There's a ticking sound that starts up again as everything gets put back into place finally. It's not the pocket watch where he checks the time, though. Once everything is back in place, the casing, he shifts to pull a cellphone out of his pant's pocket. A flip phone. To avoid buttdialing? It flips open, checking the time kept by a real-time system. Best way to keep time in this world. "It's six thirty." The sun isn't even up yet.

A flicker of a smile is mirrored on Niki's face as she realizes her timing, and she watches Peter put the pieces of the watch back together with a sort of distant, curious intrigue. Even so, she doesn't ask what the pocketwatch is all about. Comfort — the bed, this visiting Peter being here, the shifted atmosphere in the apartment, the coffee in the air — collides, clashes with a feeling of ill at ease. The conflict is written all over Niki's face even this early in the morning. And boy, is it early. A fact that serves to actually make her less tense, sinking down into the bed a bit. "Does saving the world always require getting up before the sun?"

"Not always," Peter says, turning the fixed pocket watch. A tilt of his head, and some of the dials are changed, likely to reflect the current time, before he begins to move to stand up. "But I don't sleep much. Usually up before dawn if I woke up at all." Moving quietly across the room, he gets to his long black coat, dropping the two items into one of the side pockets. He doesn't reach to pull it from where it hangs, though. He's not leaving. Instead he moves over to the bed, face serious as he looks at her, examining her. The conflict is visible, even in the low light. "Are you okay?"

"Am I ever?" Past, present— future? He'd know. With just a hint of irony in her lowlight features, Niki smiles up at the serious face looking down on her, lingering, for a moment, before suddenly tipping her head down without a smile at all. "This seems easy for you," she says — accusing, sure, but lacking aggression. "That you can just— walk back in time to me and change everything."

For a moment, Peter's still just looking at her… and then the walls start to come back up. His expression hardens, becomes more tense, but he doesn't immediately stand up and leave the bed. "It's not easy, but I don't have a choice. I have to try." There's a moment where he can't help but plead with her to understand. It's in his eyes. It doesn't last very long, because he looks away. The visible muscles in his arms, in his back, along his chest. They're all tight, any relaxation he might have had moments ago seems to have been pushed away. "I don't want to change everything."

"What is it?" Niki counters, leaning ahead in a forceful burst of energy; by contrast, though, her eyes, as they search out this darker version of Peter, are more imploring than anything. "What is it that you're not trying to change?" The blanket starts to fall away, and she pulls a black lace strap up over her shoulder without missing a beat, her voice pressing on demandingly. "'Cause you came into my world all of a sudden and— I dunno what happens in the future, but here, and now, I have … a life. I have a family. It's not perfect but I was … trying, you know. I'm not saying— "

Now, Peter does stand up, retreating physically as he has been emotionally. The walls that had been coming up get solidified more and more as she presses on them with her demands, her accusaitions. Pacing away a few steps, it might seem as if he'll choose to retreat entirely. It wouldn't be difficult for him to just disappear. Not in terms of ability. There's other kinds of difficult, though. And maybe that makes him stay. "You know what I don't want to change. You're right. You don't know what these last four years have been like for me." Or what they would have been like for her. That's one change he can't cause, but at the very least… There's a moment where it seems like he's wanting to tell her things, explain his reason for coming to her. Instead… "Maybe you should go back to your family. Quit Pinehearst and go back to them."

"I'm not— " Niki starts off strong, arguing, but quiets not a second after. Just long enough to glance away and gather up even more tenseness. "I'm not … not," she says on a lower note. "I can't be two places at once, but I'm pretty damn good at trying now. I'm doing what I'm doing at Pinehearst so that my son never has to see whatever future you're from," she says, her brow lined with conviction. Throwing aside the covers, she moves on her knees close to the edge of the bed, closest to Peter. "But this— " she starts with a tight smile on her lips that does nothing to lessen all the fractures of stress as she throws a sweeping glance and gesture around the room. At themselves. "Us. I don't even… know…"

At the covers getting tossed away, Peter turns to face her again. The shirt he wears, which doesn't cover much really, looks even tighter than it was before. Likely due to all his muscles tensing up. "You don't know what, Niki?" he asks, a harshness starting to boil to the surface, breaking past some of the walls. There's other emotions beginning to rise up too. "I can fight to save the future, Niki. We all can. But I can't save myself." It's said with conviction, but at the same time frustration. As if he wishes he could change something that he can't. Maybe he tried to. Who knows how many times he's jumped around before he settled on this time. "I need you for that." His voice has raised, strong emphasis on two words. Hopefully whoever lives in the closest apartments doesn't start banging things against the walls telling them to shut up.

The response Niki gets, the words … she may not have known what she was expecting to hear, but it comes as a surprise, Maybe it shouldn't have, given the things he'd said before. Just as she starts to put up a wall — a harder, edgier expression growing to match his, her mouth poised to snap back — she suddenly seems a little more fragile. But when Niki steps off the edge of the bed and takes her underwear-and-bra-clad self to Peter, she's strong as she wraps her arms around him, not fragile. And not just because of her physical strength. She slips her arms under his, around, holding on. "I want you here." She just stands close, suddenly supportive. "It's just not fair."

"No, it's not fair," Peter admits softly, closing his eyes and leaning in closer. The fact that they're very close to each other in height allows him to press his forehead against hers, his own arms moving up around her. There's a long pause as he just holds on, even if the tension hasn't drained out at all. "I absorbed an ability. It helps me… understand things. Figure things out. But it also… It caused someone's death. It made me a murderer. That's why Bennet locked me away. That's why I can't really blame him for locking me away." He's stealing something from his younger self now. Something important. But at the same time he knows just how long it would have taken him to give his confession. Exactly how long.

"Every single second is difficult. It's still there. Waiting. And if I stop fighting it, even for a moment…" Four years of struggling with something. "You're one of the few people who can understand." Because she's been there. Blood on her hands not entirely her fault, but something she most certainly blamed herself for. Just like him. "You… were the one who held me back. You make it just a little bit… easier. You help remind me exactly what I am fighting for."

The confession is not received with surprise. No, something just clicks into place thanks to something HRG said which, for Niki, was barely over a week ago. She leans her head back just enough to look at Peter. Understanding. That's what he'll see in her eyes, just like he said. A frees up a hand to splay it against his jaw, the side that the scar inches toward. "You're not a murderer. It's not what you are, Peter," she says, pressing her forehead back against his. "It's just something you did. I'm still figuring that out. But— I'll keep reminding you. Long as you need me to."

Understanding. Peter's eyes open to get a good look at her as she speaks those words of understanding, sees it in her eyes. For a moment, there's a reddish tinge to his eyelids, just along the edge. While they're not visibly filling, that's a hint. That's why he said thank you the other night. That's why he came to her specifically. "I always try to do everything by myself," he admits quietly, well aware that the whole thing is still true. There's always going to be times when he runs off foolheartedly to do something on his own, without telling anyone. One might wonder if he mentioned to anyone that he was coming back at all. "But I don't… handle well when I'm alone." He needs other people, people close to him. Family, friends, lovers. Other people always have, and always will, bring something out in him. Whether good or bad. Eyes slide shut again as he tilts his head, breaking forehead contact in favor of kissing her.

Fierce, Niki kisses back and holds on tighter, stronger. There's something reassuring about her moves. Even despite her earlier confusion, the conflict. She's reassuring, like Peter was for her when he found her at the bar. "Then, you won't be alone either," she breaks away for a second to say.

Strength. Fierceness. Peter's definitely tense and stern, but his hold isn't strong, and his kiss doesn't have the same feral nature to it. It's something else, but that gets lost in her reassurances. Cause that's what he needs. After a few moments, the assurance that he won't be alone, the intensity shifts. His hands move until he's holding her face. There were words he'd like to say, things he'd like to tell her. But he's already been unfair enough. This is unfair too.

The coffee is getting cold.

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