2007-08-21: DF: Fuel To The Fire


DFElena_icon.gif DFPeter_icon.gif

Summary: Piecing together what happened using his precognitive abilities, Peter tells Elena what he managed to find out about Nathan's breakout and Jack's….disappearance? He didn't feel him die, and that's enough for the Saints' de facto commander.

Dark Future Date: August 21st, 2009

Fuel To The Fire

Basement Levels, Phoenix Rising Penthouses

Do your job. Find out what happened, no matter what.

That'd been the plan. Peter didn't imagine it would involve quite as much pain as it had. Five hours after he'd been left alone to deal with the visions, he radioed in. Voice shaky, Peter doesn't say much besides, "I'm done. Got enough." Once a tentative time for arrival was given, he put down the radio, stripped the sheets off his bed for cleaning— scrubed down the floor, and stripped off soaked through clothes, discarding them into a pile, and disappearing into the bathroom in his room, to attempt to wash away some of his reaction. He needs to be stronger or they'll leave him behind.

The shower itself… takes longer than anticipated. The warm water washes away the sweat and vomit and the invisible blood that feels like it's caking his whole body. It hadn't been the cleanest vision ever. That's for sure. The room doesn't get as much cleaning, the smell lingering, with vents opened and a scented candle that he's lit to help push away some of the smell.

When he steps out of the shower, he works to find a couple more to light, to avoid a repeat performance.

She had been getting sleep, as ordered. In fact while she was making sure the rest of their network hasn't been compromised, Elena managed to receive a quick message from Peter letting her know that he got what they needed. And he sounded ill. Despite the fact that she promised not to coddle him, she was a little concerned. Ali had been right the other day. They can't risk him too much. Otherwise he won't be able to go back and change anything. And that was the only hope, or one of the few, that they had left in this cursed city.

At the comm station, she exhales a breath, taptaptapping on the console absently as she waits for word. There was none, it's been dead silent this evening. She's getting a little jittery, but it could be good news. Or it could be the most awful news imaginable. Maybe after the massacre of Flock members, they were deserting. She needed more hands now than ever. It was the reason why she kept Jack's death under wraps, but how? That goddamned Donovan issued a press release that said they got the President back, and everyone KNOWS the only way they did that was to pry the keys out of Jack's cold, dead fingers.

Sonuvabitch. Elena buries her head in her hands. She could feel the loss of morale without even hearing anything. She just knew. "God, Jack…how am I going to do this without you…?" she whispers against her palms.

Shaking her head, she forces herself off the chair, and grabs a med kit. She moves over out and towards the living quarters where she'll knock on Peter's door. Clad in dark jeans, and a button-down blouse, the fact that she was in bare feet suggests she didn't leave the base at all today. Part of the entire lying low thing.

When she knocks, Peter's only had time to find a second candle. Then again, it could be the only other one in his room. Lighting it, he lays the match box down when he hears the knock on the door and glances down at his state of undress and pauses. He could put a shirt on before stepping over to the door, but then he decides not to. At least he put jeans on. No answering the door in a towel. Now's not the time.

The door opens after a minute. Two candles do their job of trying to cover up the smell, but the fact that he lit them at all might be a give away. It hadn't been for romantic reasons— and if the bed being stripped down and all the bedding piled into a sealed hamper for transportation later isn't another clue… than maybe the look on his face will be.

He still looks sick. Anything that he'd ate the last day is wiped up in towels and sheets buried in said hamper. Even the shower couldn't wash away all of it. The pain still lingers. He doesn't even waste time with hellos. He hadn't wanted to say it over the radio.

"It was Donovan. Him and two others. Caught them by surprise."

His biochemistry was actually more telling than what she sees. He's ill. He's not well. Despite appearances, she knows all the candles and stuff isn't to….

Elena closes her eyes, and rubs her face. "I thought as much," she remarks, narrowing her eyes a bit as she looks to the side. Her jaw sets a little bit. "He issued a press release stating that the President has been recovered within hours after we found out they got him. If he's just a fucking spin doctor, he wouldn't have that information until later." No no. Donovan can't JUST be a spin doctor. He's been running around too damned much just to be propaganda control. She knows he's a little higher up than a press monkey.

"Just two?" She wished there was a way for him to print out these images too, expel them from his brain. It was almost unfair this ability, while helpful, had the price of letting everything linger when they should be gone. Especially when it's for a good cause.

Her head tilts to the side, to spy the sheets. Yeah. Management's got a lot to do with this room later today. But he's going to be uncomfortable with the smell, and the lack of sheets. He was ill. "I'll get you some sheets," is all she says, turning around to stride down the hall to the small closet there, yanking it open and rifling through it. She's still within hearing range, so… "Alright, we've got Donovan, two of his goons. What happened? Did Jack…? I know hope's all but gone, but Ali and Gene were right the other day when I talked to them. If they bothered dragging off the rest of the body, why did they leave the leg? And if they killed him, why didn't they just leave the body and the leg? It doesn't make any sense. What purpose does it serve aside from piss us the hell off?"

Well, that's not all. There was grieving, sadness, she closes her eyes at the memory of having to put Trina down the other day. She pulls out spare sheets and a comforter, and a spray bottle of Febreeze.

Sheets will certainly be needed if he intends to stay in the room for the night. Luckily none of it seemed to seep through into the matress. Five times over, though— it's a wonder that he still found something to throw up the last time. When she steps out, Peter follows, just enough to keep her in sight. A hand remains on the doorframe, as if he needs it for support. "Nathan— there were wide shots— Jack protected Nathan." Better than the people who worked for him. He saved his brother's life, probably. That makes him far more indebted to the now older man than he'd ever admit— and if there's any chance he's alive…

He gets that's what she's grasping for. A hint of hope. And at least he can give that— to an extent. "I didn't feel him die— but the vision cut off when the evac showed up— Nathan… and it was Nathan… asked for medics— he wasn't hurt, they were for— for Jack." That's a hint of hope. More than they had before. But…

"If he did die…" And he can't say for sure he didn't… "He died heroicly— protecting one of his best friends…" There's a quiver in his voice and he disappears back inside the room, hand going to his face to rub at his eyes.

"That's good. Whatever Papa has been doing to help him worked," Elena says softly. "I don't know what they discussed, in their sessions. But I can understand Papa's reasons. And he's a discreet man, most of the time, unless he's upset." She carries the folded sheets to the bedroom, tucking the bottle of Febreeze under her arm. But the fact that Nathan called for medics was relieving. They would have a chopper ready with those supplies. This was the President they were recovering, after all, they wouldn't be so stupid to go in and risk not bringing anything that might save him from grievous injury. There is hope. Now that she hears all of that…

She eases through the door. If she notices Peter's expression, she doesn't show it. But he knows she does, because she's too perceptive not to. Because she's proven since he's arrived there that she still knew him well. She doesn't even wrinkle her nose at the smell - she's smelled worse, and after placing the comforter carefully on a table, she unfolds the bedsheet and tosses it over the mattress, and starts tucking in the edges.

"We're getting him back no matter what. Dead or alive. I'm not burying my nuncle in this tainted earth." It sounds remarkably old fashioned saying it, but she means it. There's no way. No how.

She smoothes the sheets over, and she sighs. Curling one leg, she sits on the edge of the bed, looking at him. "Peter, you don't have to hide," she says. "Not over this." Oh yeah. Pot calling the kettle black. She knows she's being a hypocrite - hell she's closer to Jack than Peter is. But her position requires her to be strong and stable so everyone else can grieve. She isn't discounting Ali's words about how they needed her, but they need her for this. Right now, they can afford to breathe. There was nothing left to do but wait until she parsed out the information she had just received. There was half-cocked, and there was doing it right, and she had people to protect, no matter how badly she wants to issue a kill order and make a happy fun competition out of it for mercenaries and hired guns in the city. "We all feel it. I know…you keep what I say to heart, about getting stronger." She rubs her face. "But this is Jack. As much as I hate to say it, there'll always be a few exceptions to the rule."

Always a few exceptions to the rule.

Except for her, it would seem. Peter can't really watch her while she's arranging the sheets on his bed, even when she says he doesn't need to hide. There's definitely a few tears that needed to get mopped up, but even when his hand drops… he doesn't let them fall as much as he probably wants to. It's what she said that reins him in, actually. "What about you? When will it be your turn to grieve? After he's back or…" His body is returned. He imagines she wants to burn the body, keep the ashes. Catholic and all. And the comment on the tainted earth.

But still… she's not allowing herself to grieve due to her duty, but she's giving him the opportunity to break down, allow himself to weaken… is it because she can't afford to? Does she want to mourn by allowing other people to do what she can't?

Running a hand through still damp hair, it sticks back, with the exception of that one stray lock that dangles in the middle of his forehead, curled under naturally.

"If he survived, Nathan will keep him alive as long as he's in control. Can't say the same for Logan." Hopefully whatever her father did is enough. "I should have told Logan to stay buried forever when I had the chance," he says, shaking his head. He thought they had time— thought they could deal with it. But there's… so much. So very much…

"We can throw the cards away, but keep Cup." … "The cup. It's… important to them." It sounds weird, okay? But it is true.

She doesn't know anymore. Her father, who knew her more than anyone else, wanted her to cry, but all she did was shed a tear or two. Elena had her own fit against the Battle Shell, but it had more to do with having to tell his fucking maybe widow that she just lost her husband within a few goddamned hours of marrying him than actually mourning the loss of Jack. She doesn't say anything when Peter asks. She just unfolds the comforter and spreads it over the mattress after a practiced toss. She fluffs his pillows even. But she keeps her back to him.

"I am grieving," Elena says simply, straightening up from the side of the bed and sliding her hands in her pockets. "I just do it differently than most these days. I give people the day off. I sit at a silent console. I think about everything that's been said, and not been said. The reason why tears don't fall much is because it's as if my heart knows it's too early. I have his leg. But I don't see his eyes closed eternally, no matter what any logical processes of the mind are telling me and despite the medical and scientific knowledge of the human body I've accumulated in the past two years. I still hope, Peter. Despite it all. It's the one thing maybe I didn't lose about myself that I feel comfortable showing to others regularly."

She is about to open her mouth when he starts to blame himself. But he cuts himself off. It was amazing, how much he's learned. How much he's changed. He might still feel it, but he knows better than to say it out loud. It's a start. A good start. And then maybe he'll be able to learn when to blame himself and when to realize that there was really nothing anyone could do.

She walks over to the drawers in the room, and pulls open a box of kleenex. She walks over to him then, and offers it to him with one hand. "The curse of a hero is to endure the mistakes he's made," she tells him simply. "And to make the sort of decisions no one could. On the flip side, the curse of a protector is to do any and all that's necessary, even at the expense of one's principles to do the duty he's sworn to do, and to make the sort of decisions no one should. I always wanted to tell you that despite our similarities two years ago, it has always been our fundamental difference. No matter how innocent I was, I knew in the end I wasn't going to hesitate to kill anyone who touched me and mine."

She shakes her head. "In the end, in that regard, you walk a higher path than me. I can't begrudge you a few tears, no matter what I say."

Grieving, just in her own way. Peter can't really argue with that, because part of him knows… that's probably how she's always been. He held her when she saw the painting of Cass. There's a lot she tried to fight off— but it was one of those moments. Same as when he held her against the door after she made comment about her siblings— buring them alongside Jack. In many ways… that conversation strikes deep now. How much that man meant to her. Means to her. "Nathan will keep him alive," he gives a small assurance, whether it means anything or not. "Just like Jack kept him alive." It's not about payback, it's about affection and friendship. Brothers in arms.

When she approaches with the box, he glances down at it, then back up into her eyes. There's still moisture lingering, moisture that gets worse as she speaks. Not because what she says alone upsets him, but it starts to tear at the walls he's trying to put up against it. He let the tears flow in this room once with her aread… Now he wants to stop it, and she's not letting him.

Protector or hero. Could he ever truly be both?

There's a slow breath, and he takes the box. Not to wipe his eyes, but to set it down against the bed he'd approached, but not sat on. Could be refusing her offer— but that isn't the case. He just has other ways to deal with it than wipe his eyes with a tissue. Namely wrapping his arms around her and holding on.

He smells of soap, shampoo, aftershave, toothpaste and mouthwash. He's still damp, too, having not toweled off as much as he probably should have. Air drying hasn't taken care of everything. "You're the stronger of us." And he loves her for it. He's drawing on her strength so much since he got here, because he had nothing else to cling to. It doesn't really make him much of a hero… but he's always needed others. He had a moment when he drew on the strength of his brother, but now that's gone, and he has to rely on her again. "Heroes… need protectors too," he adds softly, a hint that he doesn't mind the fact that she's willing to do things that he can't. And also… there's something subtle added on, based on what she said.

Her and hers.

The tears do fall, if slowly.

In a way he can't be both. At the same time a hero IS both….but not at the expense, usually, of his own principles. In a way, Peter will always refuse to kill. She knows that, taking a life would probably destroy him more than a few moments of grief would. Still, when he takes the box, Elena lets go of it easily, but she blinks a little bit when he wraps his arms around her. At least he doesn't sob, and doesn't break down as hard as he could. And she's seen him bad off. This was nothing for him. This isn't the first time she's wondered whether she's been too damned harsh. But she knows she can't falter in that now. Peter may be gentle, but he was just like his brother in the fact that they were so damned stubborn and set in their ways that they needed swift kicks in the asses to move them into the right direction.

The effort to stop is noted. He's learning slowly but surely, but she doesn't want his humanity stripped away either. He can grieve. It's healthy to grieve. What right does she to dispense that sort of advice anyway when her current position dictates her to be more tyrannical than diplomatic? So when he puts his arms around her, she curls her arms loosely around his shoulders. She could feel some moisture, warm, soaking against the side of her neck.

She sighs, her lungs depressing as air is let out. Her fingertips rub absent circles at the back of his head, where the shorter-cropped hairs curl in just a bit. "I am," she says. No use fudging about that, she's always known she's a strong person. She had to be, it was more out of necessity than an actual desire to be. It denied her the excuse to fall in someone's arms and bask at the idea of being kept safe for a change, but that, while nice, was less fulfilling to her in the long run. "But you'll get there even if I have to drain myself to prove a point. I refuse to be held by a limp noodle. Might as well rip my -own- leg off and try to dance the can-can."

The message is discerned and rather quickly. He didn't really hide much, about what he felt for her, and how he regarded her as a person. She knew that he needed her, perhaps needed her in more ways than she was prepared or willing to give. But give too much and he'll never learn. He needs to learn how to be more self-reliant now than ever. And she knows….that she can't be there all the time. She can't. But he surprised her in ways she didn't think possible already. He was learning. And he will continue to learn. And when he goes back, he'll be prepared to do what's necessary. And that's all she wants. Vindication that he wasn't worthless or helpless is what he needs, but from his own hands, and no one else's.

She sighs quietly, and closes her eyes. She tempers his headache, and does away with his nausea, settling his stomach. "You've changed," is all she says after a while.

Unfortunately true self-relience is against his nature. Part of him will always need to draw on the strength of others, it's the fundamental nature of his ability, even. The strength of another. The power of someone else. The emotional connection that draws on that power, carrying it with him forever once it's forged. In that way… he'll always let her down, never able to rely completely on his own strength and power… because all of his power, almost everything he is, comes from someone else. From how he interacted with another.

Peter continues to hold onto her, head knelt against her shoulder, eyes clothes, arms wrapped around her body. In many ways, he'll always be as strong as the people who believe in him. Right now that's her. And Jack. And Nathan. And the others who are counting on him to fix this world that's been created. As they grew stronger with time, he did too— even if it nearly broke him at first. Limp noodle… He's not sure how to respond to that, but something whispers in the back of his mind. A thought he might not have intended to catch at all. "You are with me all the time, Elena," he says softly, eyes still closed. "Just like my brother is always with me… and Jack… and my niece…" Even less nice additions like Sylar. A piece of them, a part of their strength… will always belong to him now. He can always draw on it— as long as he can find the connection.

"I haven't changed, really… just… the people around me have." And as they changed, he changes too. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll change back when all is said and done. When he goes back and stands in a different world that didn't have to become as strong and hard as this one. When the people who love and believe in him are softer. Some things can't change back…

"Even when you're not here… you give me strength," he explains softly, pulling back from the hug to try and look into her eyes, even with tears streaking his cheeks. "Wish… you could rely on me… as much as I rely on you." He's hers. There's no question about that. But what… is he to her? That's still a question. One he's not sure he'll ever have the answer to here. One he's not sure he even deserves and answer to.

"Maybe," Elena says simply, in regards to what he says, about her being with him all the time. "But not in the way you want." Want. Not need. He already has her power, that fulfills the need part in most cases. She's a little older, a little wiser. She's spent the last two years thinking about how she might've done differently, what hints or bits she's missed, and she regretted seeing just how many signs she dodged and tossed aside as nothing. She could be so perceptive in other things, but in this… but no more. This world, people can't afford to be naive, and certainly not the de facto commander of the Saints. "And part of me regrets not being able to give that to you - you know I can't. A girl never forgets her first love, Peter. I think there are a few songs that illustrate that regard."

She closes her eyes. He smelled so clean. And his skin was cool from the evaporation of moisture from the lingering drops he failed to towel off himself. It was almost comforting. But comfort for her wasn't easy to come by. Most days, she found it in the graveyard. Even now despite having been dead for so long, the sight of her mother's name calmed her like nothing else. Her ghosts. How fucked up did she become when she could only be comforted by the dead?

"No, you have. Doesn't matter if you're just trying to fit in the mold, or if you're just sponging off the rest, what you learn here will stay with you. At least, I hope it stays with you, because what you learn here, the new skills, the braver face, you're going to need them all when you get back. Some things can't be undone, and you've seen too much here to go back to what you were when you left."

When he pulls back a little, she meets his eyes easily. It was hard to know she was grieving, just by looking at her. In fact, while people could only guess because of her connection to Jack, the only person who really, truly knew was her father. But that was expected. Ramon knew her the best. It wasn't going to change any time soon. Hell, it would probably never change. "I know." She disentangles one arm from his neck, touching the corner of his mouth lightly with his fingers. "But that requires giving you something you can't take back with you, because I need it here." She closes her eyes. "I was never…much of a romantic. I couldn't afford it when younger. It was never my way. I don't ask for much because I don't need much."

There's a lot said, and Peter can't help but listen. There's fresh tears, now for a different reason, and while he can— he clings to her. Only when he pulls back to look at her, listen to the rest of what she has to say, does he start formulating a spoken response. "You're wrong…" he says softly, voice tight. "You've given me a lot of what I want… trust… faith… hope. Of course I want more— it's a human desire— there's no way I couldn't want something more." There's always something more— no desire can ever truly be satisfied— and the moment it is the fire would have gone out anyway.

"You give me enough. I wouldn't ask for more than that."

She's allowed him on missions, trusted him to find out information for her, held him when he tried to refuse to show his grief, much like she is. In many ways she's given him love in every way… except saying it in the present tense. How could he possibly ask for anything more than that? Want it, true. But ask for it? Never. The only thing he did ask for… is that he wished she would rely on him. But just as it's against his nature to completely rely on himself, maybe it's against hers to rely on someone else. Still… she keeps talking about what she's giving him— what she can't affoard to give him.

"This isn't… about me." Not about what she has to give to him, but what he wants to give to her. Not for his sake… for hers. But… He lets out a slow breath and pulls back a little more, reaching up to wipe his tearstreaks off. "Guess I should let you go— you have a lot of work to do now."

"I know." Elena hesitates, her eyes lowering a bit and glancing off to the side. "I know." Her fingers slide away from him to rest on her side, and the arm around his shoulder, the other one, loosens a bit so the palm slides to curl her fingers over his shoulder. She sighs and rakes her fingers through her hair. "You make it so difficult sometimes, you know?" she tells him. "Hard to think. Hard to breathe. Hard to remember why you're here doing the things you do and why I'm helping you. It's like the past two years didn't exist. I don't know how I can still…" She takes a step back, and slides her hands in her pockets. "I have….it feels like a dream. But all dreams end eventually. That doesn't mean I don't…regret a little bit, Peter. I regret plenty, when I think of you and the past. I'm not made of stone, as much as I wish I could be sometimes."

But she's relieved he wouldn't ask for more than that. Because if he asked she didn't think she'd be able to handle it at the moment. She'd probably get angry. So angry. And despite everything including residual traces of bitterness about the last time they parted, even now she couldn't hurt him deliberately.

She gives him a small smile when he reiterates. It wasn't about him. She knows that, but it was easier for her to make it about him than to make it about herself. Even now she endeavored to be selfless even if he wants to return the favor. But he has enough to worry about. His mission, to change an entire course in history, is massive, different and more sensitive than a breakout, or a kidnapping, or a crazy wedding. Ali had told her they can't risk him too much, and she was right. "Peter, just because I don't usually come to you for comfort doesn't mean I don't need you. I do. I hold onto the memory of you because I needed you, still need you, that much. If anything my past with you has made me more intune with what I am. And that's important to me."

She gives him a small smile, and she turns on her heel to walk to the door. "Get some rest," she tells him quietly. "I'll see you around."

Whether she knows it or not… she just gave him more. The last piece he could bring himself to ask for. Another piece of fresh kindling to add to the fire. Fire that only grows, creating more desire— more everything. Peter even blinks a few more tears out of his eyes that he has to wipe away— these far different from the breakdown-related tears of before— or the tears of grief for a man he didn't— no— doesn't know nearly as well as she does. "With me— those two years haven't happened," he says softly, a ghost of the past that lives in the past. True, the bitter sting of that last encounter still exists, but now he can make up for it, much as he's been trying to.

The most fragile thing about him… is his heart, his confidence. Those are the things most likely to be broken. But she's already done as much as she can to steel him to protect that— whether it will be enough is an issue… He managed the visions fairly well. Despite the fact he got sick more times than he could count, despite losing his leg five times. She needs him.

That's more than he could ever hope for righ there. "You carry me with you— just the same as I carry you with me. Just the same as I'll still carry you… when I go back." Even if he's going back to a younger version of herself, this one will live on in him, through him… a ghost of the future. One he needs… for similar reasons. To turn him into what he needs to be.

There's a hint of hesitation, as if he wants to follow her, stop her— hold onto her desperately and let go only when he has to. But… he lets her go. "I'll see you."

But before she goes… one last tidbit of information. The missions are more important sometimes. "I think Donovan has an ability similar to yours. I'm pretty sure he was the one making Jack sick to his stomach."

Her hand rests gently on the doorframe, Elena looking over her shoulder and her faint smile taking on a slightly more impish twist. "Yeah, well. We're never gonna agree on that one," she says regarding how the two years happened for her, and how the two years never happened for him. She can't help the crack, as always when she's in an emotionally tense situation. She knows that about him. Hell, everyone knew that about him - at the very least her father demonstrated his knowledge of it, how fragile his heart was and it was because of that fragility that they can't place any hopes on him.

She turns her head, her eyes closing a bit. "Part of me feels really sorry for her," she says with a chuckle. "Teenagers are confusing, but when you come across someone as bullheaded as she is…" Not like that's changed any. "…sometimes you just can't anticipate the right move. I honestly don't know how she'll react, seeing you again. But I think she'll at least give you a listen. Part of me envies her, too." She inclines her head a bit at him.

And that last one, she purses her lips. "Huh," she says, not saying anything for a bit. And then, she smirks. "Similar, huh? Fitting, in case I ever see him on the other side of my line. That ought to be interesting. I've been wanting to get a crack at him anyway." She presses her lips gently on her fingertips, blowing the gentle gesture towards him before turning around and leaving. Her dark hair wisps around the doorframe as she goes, leaving him to his rest.

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