2008-02-15: Everything Changes

Starring:

Niki_icon.gif Peter_icon.gif

Summary: Everything changes. It always does.

Date It Happened: February 15, 2008

Everything Changes


Outside Pinehearst

A four hour nap helped. Peter managed to get everything together and do a few things he needed to do, with the rediscovery of his ability to teleport. That doesn't mean he wasn't tired once again when he finally got back. That four hour nap feels a lot shorter now that he's done more. In fact, that's why he laid back down again, for a shorter timeframe. Two hours instead of four. He's still yawning as he stands outside of Pinehearst. As far away from the building as he can be and still see the main doors, the cars people would need to walk to. He's going to hope she doesn't always use her roommate to get home…

The invisibility wraps around him, hiding him from eyes, but he can't help but look toward a mirror in a parked car every few minutes just to make sure he's still invisible.

Sleet takes this moment to come down from the grey skies in sheets.

The woman Peter is looking for never emerges from the Pinehearst Research building — she's on her way there. Turning a corner into the parking lot alongside the building itself is a car in a shade of shimmery dark blue, otherwise nondescript. NY plates. The door opens once it parks, a black high-heeled boot preceding Niki emerging and pathetically triying to shield herself against the weather, arms criss-crossing across her chest in an effort to hold her cream-coloured trenchcoat snug. Already, her hair — a low-slung ponytail slung in front of one shoulder — is getting soaked.

A week ago, Peter wouldn't have been too concerned with sleet. But right now it's freezing. And he didn't bring an umbrella. A week ago, he actually had a kind of kinship with the cold. That's gone now too. Along with so much else. Now he pulls the coat tighter around him and continues to wait. He'll have to leave soon, most likely, he can't stay out in this too long. She's out of her car and by the time he notices her. This is not how he intended to catch her— he wanted to catch her going home, not going in, but he's already soaked and risking illness, so he takes quick steps toward the building. Steps he didn't really want to take. "Niki," he says, voice shaking a little once he's close enough. The invisibility droped somewhere in his trek over. He honestly couldn't even say when. Soaked and cold, his hair hangs down, nearly hanging into his eyes.

There's already something stormy about Niki's expression before she's even approached by Peter, making her away from the car. Click, click, click on the increasingly wet and slippery pavement — as fast as she can go without risking slipping. Her moue doesn't quite match the skies that are insistent on raining down ice on her and making her wish she wasn't in Jersey (she has no kinship with the cold either, freaking cold…), but she seems decidedly distracted and lost in thought. Not lost enough to miss the man's presence altogether, though. "Peter." Her steps come to an abrupt halt and she eyes him with wary scorn. How things change. "What are you doing here again?"

The stormy expression doesn't make anything about this situation easier on him. Peter grimaces at the sight of her eyes, the way she looks at him. Hands deep in his pockets, he looks away for a moment. This could've gone better. Besides being cold and shivery, he also looks wounded, emotionally more than physically. "I need to talk to you, Niki. I want to help you…" Help her. There's a twinge of guilt in his voice as he glances down and away again. When he looks back, he adds, "Your terms. It doesn't have to be now… I can give you a number to call." He glances over at the building. Somehow the betrayed look actually increases as he looks up at it. "I won't meet you in there, though." He won't step inside that building again for a while. Not until he has a plan. Getting this close is dangerous as it is.

Niki squints through the sleet as bits of ice catch on her lashes. Her eyes don't leave Peter, even as he looks away. She's locked on his every move, tense in the cold. She's considering. Trying, and failing, to figure him out. She trusted him once. From the mouths of babes. She might not have believed it completely coming from Peter himself, but Cam… "Get in the car," she says suddenly. Orders is more like. She marches back the way she came, the chirrup of the car alarm and lock sounding as she reaches in a deep pocket to her keys.

That's better than inside the building. Peter's expression doesn't change much as he moves around to get into the passanger seat and out of the sleet. His hair is freezing to his forehead, and he's shaking quite a bit. He's starting to really hate winter right now. The inside of the car is still warm from the drive, at least, but he huddles into his coat to try and find some warmth, while he waits for her to get inside too. "I'm sorry, Niki." Though his teeth chatter a bit, he's able to get the words out. More or less. "You may not believe me, but I wasn't in Pinehearst for you the other day… I was following Cass— the doctor that you spoke to. She used to be my boss, you know. Both our bosses actually. I… I took over your job when you quit. When Jessica quit for you."

Niki follows her own orders, getting in the driver's seat and slamming the door shut. She sits still, suppressing shivers despite the ice in her hair, the raw pink of her cheeks. Conflicted, she stares ahead into the parking lot while she listens to Peter, a strange contrast from not taking her eyes off him ten seconds ago. She doesn't know what to think. She thought she knew who to believe. As an afterthought, she turns the car on to switch the heat on. "Keep talking."

Freezing. Peter reaches to pull the belt across his chest and buckle himself in, but he spends a few moments trying to decide where to start. "We met over a year ago, in a place called Kirby Plaza— but even before that I saw you in a dream. You, your husband, your son… A year ago I nearly destroyed New York City, because of what I can do. Because of my ability. I was trying to stop it— I wasn't sure it would be me who would do it, so I tried to fight the man I thought it was. He was winning, he was beating me. And you walked over, took a parking meter he was hitting me with right out of his hands… and hit him with it. Your strength passed to me. It helped me fight him."

There's a grateful tone in his voice, but it trails off as he continues. "It wasn't him who was going to blow up the city, though… it was me." Just like she's avoiding eye contact, so is he. It's not the normal kind of story. "I was a walking nuclear bomb. And if it wasn't for Nathan, you… and probably millions of people would have been killed by me." It's a confession of sorts, one that comes out in a grimace. His teeth chatter until he forces it to stop. "He flew me above the city— he was the only one who got hurt. My brother saved the world. Saved me."

Not a normal story? You can say that again. Keeping stoic, although lines gradually etch their way into her forehead, Niki doesn't seem blown away by any particular point — until the end. It's the last revelation that finally prompts her to look at Peter. "Nathan … saved everyone," she says with a surprised sort of reverance. "And now— what, you're just going to— " Niki looks away, grabbing the steering wheel forcefully. " —to turn on him. This is where you're gonna tell me again that something happened to him, right? That he's crazy now. Well, you were right." She looks sharply at Peter, trying to meet his gaze. "But it doesn't change anything."

"I'm not turning on Nathan," Peter says, voice patient, but there's pain there. The cold keeps any heat from rising up in his voice. Keeps the anger down. It makes talking to her just a little bit easier. Still, there's force in his voice, as he does his best to get the words out without stuttering or chattering. "Niki that is what happened to him. That's where it started." He looks over at her, making an attempt to see her face. He admited to it, then… She said he was right. But that it doesn't change anything…

This is where he should say more on the subject to prove himself, to prove his brother wrong, but instead he looks out the windshield and takes in a slow breath. "After Kirby Plaza, I didn't see you for months. I let myself get locked up so I wouldn't hurt anyone like I hurt Nathan. Because I didn't believe I could control it. My brother risked everything to break me out of the place I let myself get locked in. A place very much like Pinehearst, actually. I escaped, I learned I could control it. And a few weeks after I got out… you fell out of a building. I don't even know everything that happened up there. But I flew up and caught you."

Niki is listening. She's willing to do that; listen. Blue eyes stay on Peter's dark ones. The car remains on a road to nowhere for the time being — parked with the engine running. Warmth gradually starts to melt the ice collecting on the windows. It's slower to warm the persons inside, but it tries. "You saved me." Momentarily guilty, she presses her lips together, fighting the urge to glance away. "I trusted you. I know … that I did. But now— " Her defenses are falling down and emotion is free to choke her voice Cold hands fall away from the wheel and she twists in her seat to face him. "I don't know what you want from me, Peter."

"I want to help you," Peter says softly, continuing to meet her eyes, especially since they aren't moving. His fingers are still cold, but he does look away to his hands. "Nathan was healed. You had to have seen how fast he recovered from the attack on the two of you— from what Pinehearst rescued you from. I found him here, after spending days looking… The first time I came to Pinehearst… It was… last month. Middle of the month sometime. Maybe they had security cameras in the room he was in, I don't know." He shakes his head. There's a pause. He actually knows exactly what day it was. It's the same day he commited murder… He's read the article about Kaito Nakamura a dozen times.

"I healed him. I have— had— dozens of abilities. And one of them… was to heal. Those brainscans you were looking at. You said… the doctors told you it would take a miracle. I can try to give you that miracle."

Not just then — Nathan always heals, Niki thinks; she's starting to think that's his ability. But these thoughts go unannounced, evidenced just as a distant look in her eye. A look that is completely and utterly overshadowed a beat later. Her eyes widen in fright — panic. That is, at least, what it looks like. It's hope, so unbelievable that she doesn't know if she should cling to it. "You can make me remember." Part of that fear is real. The things she's lived through; does she want to know?

"I can try," Peter says, seeing the panic and looking away to grimace. It's one of those things… when he met Charlotte and got told what happened, he'd wondered if maybe she'd be better off not knowing everything she did, but at the same time… He had a girlfriend once. Who lost all memory of him. Little did he know she wasn't the one he was supposed to be with at all, she was a decoy, a stand-by, a copy. He didn't know that… "It's your choice. They're your memories. And it may not even work. But you have the option." Which is all he can really offer. "I want to be able to keep my promise to help you…"

Even the possibility of regaining her memories is more concrete than she's been given so far from any of the doctors she's seen; it was always 'we'll do what we can,' 'if there's a way, we'll find it'. Pinehearst's miracles are kept close to their vest, it would seem, when it comes to this. Niki squeezes her eyes shut and faces the steering wheel, fighting with herself. "Everything's going to change, isn't it," she manages to get out, overcome with emotion, even tears, at what should be an amazing chance in a perfect world. But in this world…

"It's gonna be like— none of this ever happened. Like it wasn't real, I was just playing somebody else." She presses a few knuckles against her mouth, under her nose, and wipes at her cheek. She sniffs and takes in a sharp breath. The blonde starts the car moving. Pinehearst parking lot, probably not the best place for a miracle on somebody else's terms. "Do it."

Everything changes. It always does. That's the only way things will ever happen, in any world, or this one. Peter just nods, slowly, watching her, trying to keep from shivering under his drenched clothes as he lets he think about it. The tears tempt him to reach into his coat to find a handkerchief. If he had all his abilities, he could pull one out of the air without even thinking too much about it. He's not sure if he still has that one or not. "I don't know how it will be for you," he says honestly, not willing to sugar coat everything and pretend it will all be okay. He's starting to lose that optimistic side, or at least… he doesn't assume it will be okay. "If it works… I'll do whatever I can to help you." It's a promise he gave many times already. For other reasons. Each time he failed. Or didn't suceed near as much as he'd hoped. Can't save everyone. Can't do everything. Can't be everywhere.

And what if it isn't Niki who opens her eyes when this is done? "Once you find somewhere to park… I'll try it." Cause he's not about to do this while driving… "I already caused you to have a car accident once," he says, looking over at her. He learns from his mistakes! …Sometimes.

Niki doesn't know where she's going. In more ways than one — in this case, literally. She pulls away from Pinehearst, and it's not long before they're passing the wrong side of the sign that says 'WELCOME TO FORT LEE'. She's quiet. Focused. The windshield wipers bat back and forth, battling the weather. By the time Niki turns the car into the lot of a small park — a walking trail, pine trees galore — the sleet has turned into a dull rain. The car stops. Niki doesn't move; she just looks cautiously at Peter out of the corner of her eye. "What now?"

The drive is silent, more or less, listening to the freezing rain fall. It's hazardeous driving conditions in some ways, but Peter keeps an eye on the road and hopes everything goes okay— at least he isn't shivering anymore. He's warmed up. Once she's parked, he begins to rub his hands together, as if to make sure they're warm, before he turns to face her. "Now… we get to see if I can heal this…" Or if he can heal anything at all. He met Bekah again recently, after he crash landed into an IHOP after the incident with his father. All he can really do at this point is hope that it actually helps. "I'll need to touch you, and it may take a few minutes… And I might pass out afterwards." He's taking a risk. Even if he manages to fix it, he has no idea what effect it will have on him so soon after… everything else that's happened to him. He reaches forward and touches her face. There's a mild flash of memory. He's not trying to do anything besides touch her, though. Eyes close, and he concentrates, thinking of the woman who healed him, trying to recall the feelings he had. Everything.

This is it. It all comes down to this. If it works, it's this moment right here. Niki could back out now, keep hanging on to that new beginning, but there are some things she just needs to know; important things she needs to remember. Like her son. Taking in a sharp little gasp like his touch might burn her in some way — hopefully, he's telling the truth about all of this, hopefully it's not a trick — she nevertheless lets Peter's hand meet her face, turning in her seat to face him. Her eyes flutter shut and press shut tightly.

Something is happening to Niki. As Peter's healing ability works its way into her mind, shifting neurons, reversing the damage, the broken connections, she sways ever-so-slightly in her seat. There's a lot to heal. A hand reaches out to clamp down over the top of the steering wheel … and she hangs on for dear life. Overwhelmed doesn't cut it. It's a tidal wave. A rollercoaster.

Well, that's working. Or at least, Peter's pretty sure it is. He starts to look pale as it continues. Even the reddish tinge from the cold disappears drastically. He takes in slow breaths, trying to keep steady, to continue to heal. He doesn't know how long this will take, or how well it will work. The breath comes unsteady, his hand wants to slip, but he tightens his jaw and keeps working. If this is going to work, he doesn't want to do it half way. Not if he can avoid it. Remember, Niki. And please don't turn Jessica and rip his guts out. He can't heal right now.

The woman leans ahead as if she was kicked in the gut until the wind was knocked out of her straight through her mouth. Some part of her is still present and conscientious of being here with Peter in the car; she reaches up, holding his hand secure to her face so the touch doesn't slip. She stays that way, for a time, every muscle in her body tense with years and years of rushing memory. At last, she takes in a deep and sudden breath, curving back up, pulling Peter's hand down.

Everything changes.

Niki opens her eyes. Her gaze is hard. Clear. "Peter." She grabs onto the pale man's shoulder with her other hand.

The hand falls away. Peter's still quite a few shades lighter than he should be, even in the cold of winter where he couldn't have gotten much of a tan. The breathing remains off, and his arm slackens in her grip. The hand that grabs onto his shoulder might be the only thing keeping him from falling forward all together. Eyes don't open, head lulling forward. For a moment, it seems as if he's gone and fainted on her, as he warned. A slow inhale, and the hand on his shoulder helps. "Niki?" he asks in a whispered tone, tired, almost forced. Rarely has he looked this worn after ability usage. And she's seen him use more than a couple. Eyes open as he makes himself look up at her, exhausted, but hopeful.

Not letting him crumple, Niki supports Peter — the more he lolls about, the more she holds him up. She leans down into his forehead with hers for a moment, breaking their hands apart to hold his head up, trying to make sure he stays awake. "I remember." Coping with hew newfound revelations, she shuts her eyes, waiting out a surge of memory. She better batten down the hatches, 'cause they'll keep coming. Yet when she opens her eyes again, they're still focused. Intense. "I remember…" Another wave. "…everything."

It worked. Peter closes his eyes again, leaning into her forehead and letting that support him more. It's a rather intimate positioning. And considering the last time he saw her before finding her in Pinehearst… "Guess now I… owe you an apology. I didn't keep my promise." He sort of gave a partial one before, but now she'll know why. He promised to help her, vanished for months into the future, and everything he intended to do to help her unravelled a little. Half because she sought help elsewhere for fear of hurting someone after she injured a telepath, but he's prone to self-blame. She should know that. He could really use a long sleep once he manages to get back to the apartment. "Are you… okay?"

"Getting tired of needing help. I'm done with it. It's my turn." Niki's demeanour altogether different in the presence of Peter than it was before the touch of healing hands. She hauls him in for a hug, her thank-you for the miracle, head over his shoulder instead of quite so close. Her arms wrap tight. "Now let me help you."

The hug catches him by surprise but Peter probably wouldn't have fought it even if he had the energy. "I'm glad you're back. I missed you." He'd been getting tired of having people he cared about pointing weapons at him. He doesn't expect everything to be perfect now, or everything to be fixed, but at least she knows who he is… knows he's not just some crazy younger brother of a Senator who happens to break into biotech firms. "You can… help me get home. I'll be fine after a few hours of sleep… or the whole night." It's going to be night soon enough, so that should work. "You remember where my apartment is?" he asks in a softened tone. That could be humor in his tone. Maybe a very dry amount of it. Not his terrible drunk puns from just before Christmas, at least.

The joke (if it was that) earns a flicker of a smirk as Niki pulls away in order to hastily, Niki starts the car, revving it beyond its functionality for an instant there. "I remember." Gravel and ice crunch under the tires as she gets moving. Her driving skills have suddenly become more adventurous. "I'm sorry I didn't believe you. Before. I wanted to." They hit the road. "I just … at the time, I wanted to believe Nathan more." Niki looks sidelong at Peter and her voice quiets, thickens. "How bad is it?" Nathan…

How bad is it? There's a grimace. Peter leans back into his chair and closes his eyes a hand drifting up to touch the back of his neck. "After I confronted him about being Logan… he shot me. An inch difference and… we wouldn't be talking." He lets the hand drop away, keeping his eyes closed. "He crashed the car and tried to kill Heidi, too. She got… upset. She didn't like being a victim." And it doesn't sound like he completely blames her, but… "He also… has one of my friends… I thought he was a friend… he tried to kill me too. Twice. And Heidi…" he trails off, shaking his head. "It's pretty bad. But Nathan's fighting it. I know he can beat him." Just a matter of if he will beat him in time? "I'm sure our dad isn't helping with this, either." That last part actually seems more bitter than being shot at.

"Logan." Niki tries out the name, keeping her eyes on the road, jaw clenching. "He's good." And she doesn't mean 'pure'. "Look, I dunno everything he has planned, but if what you're saying is true— " She spares a glance to Peter with a short-lived smile, " —don't worry, I believe you now —someone like that can't be … he can't be where he is. The position he's in…" A Senator. Then throw Pinehearst into the mix. "I can help. We're…" Pause. "Close."

Close. Peter can't help but open his eyes long enough to look over at her. That one word already makes him draw a conclusion he thinks he can make. He made it as soon as he heard Logan was going to Las Vegas on "business" with her. "Close… I'll bet. You slept together." There's something in that tone, but it's covered up by some of the tiredness. "He is good. He knows how to manipulate people. You had no reason not to believe him… and if you looked up anything in public record about me… vanishing for months at a time, getting arrested, attempted suicide…" Even dating someone nine years younger than him whose father just became chairman of a major corporation and donated money to his brother's campaign… there's all kinds of stuff she could have. He looks away and says. "I don't blame you." And she wants to help… "If you want to help… you have to be careful, Niki…"

Niki closes her eyes at the wheel for a few seconds. Maybe driving after getting back a lifetime of memories in one sitting isn't the best idea. Peter should come with a Do Not Drive or Operate Heavy Machinery After Use warning. "It's like I went to sleep and woke up and everything is backwards." Yeah, Peter's assumption is right. Niki just looks stern-faced at the road, trying to split her focus between driving and talking and leaving no room for any kind of breakdown. She's done with those, too, thanks. "I think I know how to get him to talk." While there's a good deal of suggestion in her tone, it's unrelated to— okay, it's half unrelated to sex. "I meant it when I said I remembered everything. I remember … everything, Peter. Jessica. How she thought. What she … done."

It doesn't look like Peter likes her plan, but he can't really do more than grimace. If it makes Logan talk, tell what he plans… It might work. But the idea of her using sex to get him to talk seems to have touched a few nerves. Maybe he doesn't care for her exploiting herself in such a way… It's not waking him up too much, though. He looks back at her when she mentions everything. "Maybe that's a good thing?" he says, not completely sure how it works. He's not a well versed in psychology. Kory would be able to tell him more. Maybe he can ask her… He needs to check on her again soon— she wasn't there when he stopped by this morning. "Maybe it means you're… you won't have that problem anymore. Maybe Mohinder's drug worked… even if it had to take your memory at first to do it."

"It didn't… take her away," Niki says, still working it out for herself, sifting through this heavy mind of hers; but she seems pretty sure, all the same. "It took away the … I don't know, the connection. And then— your healing opened the floodgates. She's not just some…. part of me now, she is me." Another glance is shifted from the road to Peter, this one intent and sincere. "I'm still me." She wants to make sure he knows that. Now, of all times.

Petrellis are hazardous for the road. And labs. And… yes. Everything else. Peter looks over at Niki when she says that she is her. And it seems to have him visibly worried. But her reassurance comes in time to keep him from getting too disheartened. Good. "I— I'm glad. I… I always liked you. I don't think I could handle someone else I… care about… trying to murder me." His brother and Jack are more than enough. And he's not even sure where his father falls into this…

Those words — ' I don't think I could handle someone else I… care about… trying to murder me' — Niki doubles over the steering wheel with a sudden "unhh," turning her face away from Peter, memories hitting her at a visceral level. Vivid and brutal recollections of doing the very thing Peter said he couldn't stand. Niki has a good constitution, by now — especially now — and she just needs a second to breathe.

"God. Sorry." Flashes of her own hand tearing through Peter in the back of the bookstore plague her mind in more detail than she ever knew before. Her shoulders shift back, working out tension. "…really… really sorry." The familiar buildings of NYC have since sprung up around them in the rain. Niki turns onto Canal Street. Just a few minutes now.

It strikes him what memory he must have dredged up and Peter flinches. His hand reaches over to touch her on the shoulder, as she leans back. They're going to his apartment building, but he keeps his hand on her shoulder for the moment. He's got enough energy for that. "It's okay… I didn't mean then. It's just a lot of it is happening now. All the worst things I'd been trying to stop." People he cared about pointing guns at him, shooting him, stabbing their husbands, getting kidnapped by the Company, looking at him as if they don't even know him… "You didn't hurt me… Not intentionally." She remembers it as if she did, though. "I forgave you for that a long time ago."

The car comes to a stop outside Peter's apartment building — or as close as they can get, anyway, without blocking traffic. "I know." Niki smiles — tense and taut, but real. "Can you make it inside okay?"

"Yeah— I can make it that far," Peter says, unbuckling his seatbelt and reaching for the door. There's a hesitant pause before he adds, "I've been in contact with your roommate for a while. She tried to call me after Micah or Cam mentioned me to her— told her I might be able to help. She might be able to assist you in what you're doing. She doesn't know everything, but… I told her a lot because I needed to earn her trust. I tried to tell you a lot too… but I was trying to be vague, to protect you. Sorry about that." He looks out to his building, before opening the door and stepping out. He should be able to make it up stairs.

The news regarding Charlotte doesn't seem to surprise her, knowing the girl's nature; Niki just nods at Peter as he gets out. She presses a button to make his window lower. "It's okay," she says dismissively. "I'll see you soon. Really soon." She waits until he's at least made it inside the building without keeling over before pulling away.

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