2007-09-01: DF: Here I Am


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Summary: After the disastrous conclusion of Operation: Rescue Delphi, Elena leaves the Saints' headquarters to mourn alone. Unfortunately, someone's not letting her.

Dark Future Date: September 1st, 2009

Here I Am

Now I'm standing in the cold
(Everything is said and done)
Atomic winter in my soul
(From the absence of the sun)
The only remedy I know
Is I gotta let you go

Here I am
Here I am

— Here I Am, Marion Raven (Evelyn's PB, to those of you who are wondering)

Abandoned Graveyard Chapel, Somewhere in New York

The weather outside reflected the dismal mood that she had felt all through the day. It had been around three hours since their run-down party had arrived back into the Phoenix Penthouses building thanks to a concorde jet that Eric had in his disposal. Elena had barely said a word to anyone upon arriving, having spent her energies asking Gene for updates, and then putting Desiree in the cooler along with Cass's body. Last rites would have to be performed later. She wondered when this would be over. There had been no word after Nathan's attempt to step down as President.

The transmission from Jack followed later, a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark few weeks. He was alive. It would help with the morale, or so she thought. It was up to them now. Nathan was dead. Sylar was still alive, and the Peter that had been roaming around had been him all along. With Cass dead, Desiree dead, Nathan dead, on top of everything else she finds out the man she loved and hated hadn't been him at all. He had died, at some point, before she returned to New York in an effort to retrieve her siblings. The Peter Petrelli she knew and loved as a younger girl had been dead for two years.

Lightning sears across the sky, breaking the heavens apart with blue-white light as sheets of rain stormed down from the dark clouds that forever seemed to be part of New York now. The storm had been too bad to linger outside and commune with her ghosts, which were multiplying by the day. Drenched to the bone, she manages to dig out a thick blanket from the trunk stowed at the back of the abandoned, graveyard chapel, watching pools of water splash and trickle down on the marble floor in where the roof was leaking, and where the stained glass windows have been cracked or shattered. She pulls this around her shoulders, leaning on the wall where the tabernacle rested, and digs out a flask. Trina might have been controlling her alcohol intake, but that didn't mean Elena didn't have spares.

She uncaps it and takes a swig…but surprisingly she returns the flask there after and shuts the trunk. She leans her head on the corner. She felt like five years old, running away into the dark petulantly because she couldn't deal with her problems. But she needed to breathe. She had been, however, careful to keep her father under suicide watch. Her mother's crucific was in her hand - she's never really worn it for two years, but she still has it, absently rolling and rolling and rolling it around her fingertips.

The transmission didn't seem to surprise Peter as much as it should have. He hadn't revealed what he learned a few days ago to anyone yet— even if he really should have. Part of him just couldn't admit to it. Only the murder of his brother struck as a shock, a terrible one. A blow that hurt far more even than losing Cass, or Desiree— or even Jack. His brother. The most important person in his entire life. Did he even know that the man who killed him wasn't him? He can hope— he can spend the rest of his life hoping that his brother knew, somehow— that that wasn't him.

Whenever people left, it sometimes seemed the proper response to let them leave— let them mourn in private— but he's not quite like that. He'd followed at a distance, far behind, having learned enough about her ping ability in the last month to understand it's range— how far he'd need to lag behind— Keeping invisibility up hadn't been difficult, either, even in the rain. But he almost lost her.

And even when he did manage to keep up— he let her have her time to herself. Until the rain started to get to him. Only then did he slip inside the chapel.

The invisibility slips off, and he raises his hands, so as not to startle her too much. He's soaked through, his hair plastered against his scalp in dark locks that curl slightly. The white shirt sticks to him, revealing a second shirt underneath easily.

"Elena," he says softly, hesitantly. "I— you shouldn't be drinking when you're upset." Isn't that what she told him once? "And it— doesn't really work on you." He'd like to drink, honestly, because he just lost his brother. The most important person in his life. And he might think that he killed him.

The tears came in a little while, flowing silent as her gaze fixed on the wall. Peter had been clever, he stayed beyond her 20 feet mark so she couldn't have detected him invisible. Oh god. What the hell was he doing here? He shouldn't be here. This was her space. When his life sign suddenly appears, to her credit she doesn't jump. Her hand did instinctively reach for the pistol lying on the floor next to her though - but hearing his distinct voice stayed her hand. Her fingers leave it, and instead move to wipe her eyes defiantly with the back of her hand, before he could see.

"It was just to keep warm. I put it back. What are you doing here?" To her credit, in that she was telling the truth. As always, Elena was blunt - he might be who he was, but that didn't stop her from being a little obstinate when she wanted to be left alone. Her face is turned away from him, rolling the crucifix around her fingers and her eyes upon it to keep herself focused on something. The news on Nathan's death probably hit Peter hard - after all, what do you do when you find out the most important person in your life had been killed by your worst enemy? But after the last twenty-four hours, she couldn't anymore. She knows after watching her own father pull a gun on himself after his second wife died in his arms that she was utterly incapable of holding anyone up until she pulled herself together.

She pulls one knee up, resting her elbow on it so she could bury her face in one hand. Her head was splitting something fierce, she hasn't eaten and on top of everything else she felt lightheaded, from the blood loss and the lack of glucose in her system - chronically underweight, the constant use of her powers put a toll in her metabolism, speeding it up. But while she could dampen the pain, she doesn't do it. It was the only thing that was reminding her that she was still alive. She was grateful for it, anyone in her position would've been numb.

Though he's not warm, or dry enough, to really be of much comfort, Peter moves further into the ruined chapel, stepping around the puddles until he ean reach her. Times like this, he wishes he knew some way to heat the room, even light a fire— the closest he can get is electricity from his fingers, which can do the job, but is dangerous in this dampness. "I followed you," he answers truthfully, once he's close enough to sit down nearby. "I know— you prefer to be alone in times like this… but… I want to be here for you." It's not the easiest thing to admit to, but— she knows this already. She knows it well.

Settling in beside her, he wishes he were dry, but he still reaches out to touch her hand, trying to give her some form of physical relief to what's happened. It won't change anything. It won't stop the pain she's going through. But she'll know he's there— that he's here for her.

He's going to fix this. Stop the storm and change everything. Kill Sylar before he kills him. All of it. He has to stop it. That's why he's here.

But even if everything is fixed, the pain this one has felt is real, fresh— and he wants to take it away as much as he can. Even if all he can do is take her hand and hold onto it.

Her hand is devoid of much of the strength that it had exhibited in the past. Elena's face is still turned away from him while he takes it, cold and somewhat damp. And even if it was cold, with the blanket draped around her shoulders, it doesn't really reach her skin, though the drenched clothes certainly don't help. She doesn't say anything, and all she can do now is remember the images that those words call up inside her head. He had told her that before. Many times. Even before anything happened between them, he said it. She should've expected he'd find a way. Still, she doesn't respond to him, despite her silent permission for him to take her hand.

"Cass is dead," she tells him. Like he didn't know. Her voice was hollow. "Nathan's dead. Dezi's dead. Parker, Luis, Juanita. Papa tried to kill himself when life left her in Alaska. I come back to find Jack alive, and to find out you're dead, too. You died before all of them. You died while I was gone. Maybe even while I was graduating. Back then, when something was wrong…..with you. I knew it. I felt it. But there wasn't any of that. I didn't feel anything."

She pulls her head from the wall, turning her bloodshot eyes to him. "When did I become…..so disconnected to you that I didn't even realize you were gone?"

All those people dead— and him on top of it. It's when she looks at him that Peter can't handle not acting anymore. A hand isn't enough. Even if his clothes are soaked, and hers as well… he needs to hold her right now. Shifting so that he pulls her away from the wall fully, he wraps his arms around her, eyes closing, mouth against her temple. He kisses her only once. Just once. He needs to talk to her. "You knew— you… didn't want to believe it, but you knew. You'd said it changed me— that it felt like you didn't know me anymore after that."

It's not much of a condolense, but… she knew. When he'd spoken to her about his future self, the man she described sounded so foreign that… she's right. He'd died that day. Just in a more literal sense than she ever knew. "He probably avoided you— you said you'd never seen— him again— except on television, in newspapers. If you had… you'd have known. I know you would have." Because she knows him— she knows what his body feels like— not just physically, but with her abilities.

She knew. She just wanted to believe the illusion. Sometimes lies are easier to believe than the truth.

"At least you know… it wasn't me that changed so much— at least I know that." It makes him angry. Furious even. But it also gives some relief. It wasn't him that so many of his friends ended up disliking, hating even.

She's dragged away from the wall that's been anchoring her body to sit upwards, Elena's fingers balling against his shoulders when he pulls her in. He was soaked, and he was cold - human bodies warm up with prolonged contact though so it wouldn't be long until heat suffuses back in his bones again. But she doesn't say anything. Her eyes are fixed in a point beyond his shoulders when he keeps her against him, the blanket tangling somewhere against their bodies and on her legs. He smelled like salt and rain water, and the damp earth from the outside.

And while Peter might be relieved that it wasn't him, that he preferred perhaps to be dead than do the things he did, it provided little comfort. He was dead. Dead. Sylar probably made him suffer. She didn't even want to think about how the bastard defiled his body afterwards. She didn't even know where his remains were. She closes her eyes, another clear drop of moisture trickling from the corner of one eye to slip along the contour of one cheek and falling on his shoulder somewhere.

"…I…" Her voice is a barely audible whisper. "When you go back….I don't care. I don't care if you find me again. I don't care if things remain the way they were. I don't care if we never figure things out so long as you just stop this. Stop everything. It might be too late for us now but maybe if you go back and end it this entire thing'll be erased. It hurts too much. I don't mind being a ghost myself, so long as this ends." Her fingers tighten over the fabric of his overshirt. "Promise me."

Peter's also had quite a few days longer than her to cope with the news of his death. He'd found out earlier— even if he kept the news to himself, even if he hadn't intended to tell anyone. How could he, really? She'd been the only one he might have told— and she found out before he could do it. There'd been no desire to really tell her when she'd just brought the body of her step mom back from Alaska, when she put her own father on a suicide watch to make sure he didn't just end it…

Pulling out of the hug enough to look at her face, to see the tears mingling with rain, he leans in to kiss her cheeks. "I promise— I'll fix this— I'll stop the storm and… everything will change. The world will be different— things will be different." She'll still exist— in some form or another. Even if the timeline just vanishes, ceases to exist, she'll be carried within him— a memory more precious than she may ever realize. Painful— heartbreaking— but precious. One of the few rays of sunshine in this clouded world.

"But— I'll fix things with us too." After his time here— he knows he couldn't live without her. That's only been proven by this information of his death. Had she been with him— maybe she could have stopped it from happening, maybe she could have helped him, maybe… "Because that matters to me." It may not matter to her, she may not be the one who can benifit from it, but… "I'm going back to you, remember? I can't stop this alone— Can't do this without you."

There's a long pause. He wants to catch her eyes, but he's not sure she'll let him. "I need you, Elena." And his time here… has only made him need her more.

If he had told her, it would've been too much. It was bad enough to hear it from Jack, but to look him right in the eye, right in the face, while the words that came out of his mouth was to herald his own death two years ago? Elena would've lost it. She probably would've even punched him before running off to try and deal with the shortage of breath. Right now she's not even as bad as she could be, even now that endless reservoir of strength was tenuously holding her up and working hard to keep her functioning, to keep her remembering what was important. When she breathes against him, it's a little ragged. She didn't want to be hysterical. There was no room for it.

She closes her eyes when he pulls away, feeling his lips roam over her cheeks in that soft, tender way of his. It was almost enough to get her to crumble, to bury herself onto him and not emerge till the next year. But he can't stay that long, and she was needed elsewhere. Hiding wasn't an option - a few hours away from everyone (well, almost everyone) will have to suffice.

She wasn't a mindreader, she doesn't hear the thoughts running through his head. "I know," is all she says about that, her eyes opening to look at him once his mouth's moved away from her face. "You've said it so many times. You're like me, Peter….you can't just….you can't just cut people out of your life like that. It's not you. Was never you."

He could probably live without her. Deep in her heart of hearts, she had to believe he was that strong. He had a long life ahead of him, God-willing anyway. And if he could stop this, he could keep on living. She didn't know how long his lifespan is now - it could be forever, or his abilities' constant changing of his body could eat him alive. She didn't know. But when he looks her in the eye and says what he does, she looks at him. She saw the sincerity there, the certainty, the almost painful honesty and no small amount of desperation. She can't help but swallow. His quiet intensity always caused her chest to tighten.

She closes her eyes after, and instead of opening her mouth to respond, she just buries her head back into his shoulder, her grip on him tightening. "Make sure….you pin me down before you tell me that." Her voice is quiet, it struggled around the edges, but it was a crack. She can't help it.

That's not completely accurate. Peter cut his father out of his life— the two of them did it to each other, for various reasons. Disappointment being the main one. They were both disappointed with the other, and it never repaired itself. His father did commit suicide, or that's the story he'd been told. But even then he still worried about his father, still cared, and it bothered him for most of his adult life— even when he pretended it didn't. And it's very possible he can live without her now— now that he knows how she feels, now that they've had the moments. It'd count more with her past self, but not knowing… that's always far more painful than losing something that's wonderful.

Loving and losing is better than not loving at all, right?

He needs her— and that's not something he's going to get over right away. Not right away. Not when it's still fresh, not when he hasn't fixed things.

The hint of a thought brushes past his mind, whispering in tones no human ear can hear— and his grip tightens, pulling her in closer. The warmth of their bodies have helped things a bit, even if it's still cool and wet. Warmer now, less shivering. He holds her, just like that, for some time.

"I know— I paid attention, Elena… I know. You're stubborn— you cheat— and now I know I might have to cheat too." And not in a bad way that includes something he'd feel guilty over. He already learned when he pinned her against the door briefly to keep her from leaving that one night. He'll do it again if he has to.

Hands shift, to move from around her, to touch her face instead, pulling back enough that he has room to kiss her, not just her cheeks this time, but her lips. "I won't make the same mistake twice…" There's a break, so that he can kiss her again. "Won't let you— or make you— walk out again." He learns. Even if it had to be a painful lesson.

When thoughts lingered on one person that didn't really mean a cutting off entirely, did it? Truth be told, Elena doesn't know much about Arthur Petrelli, only the fact that he had been a good man in Heidi's eyes, and that he and Peter didn't get along, and that it had been Nathan who held his regard. When he pulls her in a little tighter, she closes her eyes again, and she sags just a bit onto him, though her viselike grip on the back of his shirt remains. She was tired. She should eat, but she didn't want to. And the warmth slowly returning to his skin was lulling her senses into something a little fuzzier.

"Yeah….sorry." About the cheating thing. Elena played to win these days, she was starting to be the same at some point back then. But when he calls her on it, he'll probably feel the slightest semblance of a smile pressed against his shoulder. " 'm not perfect, you know. I know I….can be very difficult. Dealing with me even here couldn't have been easy."

Her face is pulled away from him, his lips move over her own, parting only to let her know what he does before returning again. Instead of responding verbally, her fingers drift to touch the corner of his mouth where the dead nerves are, and the edges of her mouth quirk upwards - just a bit. Her eyes are on her fingers, toying with that one side of his face. "I think…I have it in me to admit I've driven you a little insane."

"Not easy— but worth it," Peter admits, giving her one more kiss on the lips, before his arms wrap around her and just hold on again. There's a good chance he could keep kissing her for he whole night if she let him— but they're both in mourning, and the tears are starting to form in his own eyes. They've both lost so much in this world. He lost his life. His brother. Her, in many ways. But she's still alive— and somehow that has to be enough. She'll live on. She'll carry on— she'll survive. And if Eric doesn't take care of her, he'll be very disappointed. He believes that the other man will, though. And that's enough.

"Just a little…" He's crazy about her. There's no real denying that. He'd been that way before this happened, and it's just getting worse— he's almost afraid that the her that he really belongs to… won't be able to deal with how much he's changed in the last month. But if this one could care for him, surely she can too. He'll just have to… avoid the same mistakes. No telling her to leave— no letting her leave.

Pressing his cheek against hers, his eyes close, her hand trailing along the dead nerves. He can still feel it— somewhat, but there'd be a distinct difference there.

…I wish I could stay.

He thinks it. He wants to say it. But he can't. Fate gave them this time— and this time is all they get. It's more than most people get, when one of them die. A true ghost from the past.

"I promise… that I'll make things better…"

"Mmhm. Too early to tell, I think." But her quiet words are a bit lighter than the heavy ones she'd been saying all night. She was bouncing back, slowly, but surely - not fully. Grief weighed heavily in her mind, but that didn't mean it would weigh her down to the point that she couldn't function. Couldn't do what needs to be done. Elena will keep moving forward, no matter what, but the care helps. As much as she hated to admit it, she was glad, on some level, that he followed her. "And I know. Just a little." She's not a mind reader, so she doesn't know what's on his mind. That he wished he could stay. Thankfully he doesn't say it, because she'd probably eviscerate him verbally despite everything that's been said. No matter what, he has to go back.

Her arms curl around his shoulders again, feeling his cheek pressing into hers. "….haven't shaved in a couple of days huh…?" is said absently, pulling back a bit so her hands can cup his face on either side, wiping the moisture forming in his own eyes. She leans in, her lips brushing over his mouth gently and resting her forehead against his. "I'm sorry….about Nathan," she murmurs quietly. "If….if Jack could've done something, you know he would've." She keeps her hands on his face, her thumbs absently rubbing gently over his cheekbones.

One hand detaches after that, dragging the blanket that had been draped over her lap. Removing it from her person, she pulls away from him after a few moments so she could drape it on his shoulders. He was cold, after all - she didn't know how long he had been trailing her, or how long he had been standing on the outside watching her. But her hands maneuver outside of the fabric, rubbing up and down his upper arms to try and warm him up. She wasn't lying when she said she just needed some time to collect herself, before she could get going again. She was trying to take care of him even now. She just didn't want him to see her the way she was earlier - she had her pride after all. And if he kissed her all night, like he had been wanting to do for the past…..she didn't know how many months for him, she would let him. For all she knows, she could wake up the next morning and he'd be gone, nothing but a memory, vanishing with the rest of his remains….wherever they ended up.

She doesn't say anything for a while. Her eyes are on her work, rubbing gently to try and get some more heat into his skin and bones, through the chorded muscles. As compact as he was, he had always been remarkably well-built for his height.

"No— not too early to tell," Peter disagrees with her. It's been worth it. They've made some wonderful memories. It's like his time with Simone. It may not have been completely worth it— he has regrets— he wishes he knew how she felt, and that they could have had their moments without the shade of Isaac hanging nearby. But— he wouldn't get rid of those memories unless it would mean she lived and could be happy with the one she really loved. That's the only thing he would ever trade those for. Even Elle— though they had terrible moments, especially near the end, they had good ones too. Ones he wouldn't give up. Ones he doesn't want to lose.

And with her— they're even more important. Compressed time— inevitable tragic ending— but sweet, and nice, and warm… just as she's trying to comfort and warm him now.

The mention of his brother actually causes more of those tears to form— and even fall, but he tries to ignore it. There's a sharper inhale than normal, a sniff, and he leans into the blanket that she wraps around him, feels her arms running over his body, warming him. In more ways than one.

"I know— Jack would've saved him if he could… he lost his leg— let himself be shot— trying to protect him… he'd have done it again." He's a good man, and cared for his brother. Death… he'd had to learn to accept it pretty fast when he took up hospice care. It's never easy, though, especially not when it's someone so important. He takes in a slow breath, shaking a little. All of a sudden, he's shivering. Not from the cold, but from something else all together. He has to stay strong— he came here to help her—

He's trying to tell himself that, when he finally just leans against her, holding onto her almost desperately, clinging to her. He lost his brother. His brother's waiting for him back home. He never even told him he was leaving. He failed Cass. She'll never get to see her baby grow up. So many people failed— so many lost… And they may never have known that the man who did all those horrible things wasn't really him.

He failed her too. But if a different way.

And he can't fail them all again. He won't. Unlike almost everyone else in the world… he really does get a second chance. A do over. And he'll just have to make the most of it.

The shaking doesn't stop, the desperation hangs— and finally he pulls back and pushes it into something else all together. He's kissing her. As if she's the only thing left to keep him breathing right now.

When he clings to her finally, desperately, Elena's left hanging onto him, the folds of the blanket tangling between them as he drags her back in and feels his forehead buried into her own shoulder. He's not sobbing, though she could feel hot tears soak through the damp fabric of what she's wearing. She can't help but lean back slowly, rest her shoulderblades against the wall behind her, legs curled underneath her. Fingertips bury themselves into the damp locks of hair at the back of his head - they tended to curl when wet and she absently traces comforting circles over his scalp. She doesn't say much of anything in reply.

She sighs quietly. She was done crying today. If she had ever caught Gene shedding tears, she would realize she and him have grown closer in their similarities. There was a limit to the pain they would show to anyone, even those closest to them. So all she does now is tug him closer, gathering him up with the blanket strewn mostly on him, and half on her, looking up at the leaking ceiling and stroking back his wet hair.

And when he pushes away, Elena extends her arms, wondering where he's going. The inquiry is there but he doesn't stay away from her for long. She sensed the desperation there, but she can feel it now with the way he was kissing her, like a drowning man clamoring for air even though the activity isn't exactly conducive to bringing any oxygen into his lungs. Pressed up against the wall, she can't help but be a little startled by the intensity. Her hand comes up, to the side of his face, pushing him back a little bit while leaning her own head back. "Peter…" she begins, but his mouth finds hers again.

And as always she didn't have the heart to refuse him.

Passions ruled her life. Even in their quieter moments. Her arms curl around tightly around his shoulders, her mouth parting to make room for him. Fingers tangle into the wet, curling locks on his head, and once tongues touch, it was all over. She could only cling tighter and tighter onto him.

The tears still fall, tainting the kiss that passes between them. They may all be his, but Peter's more open with that, even if he's trying to hide it, trying to do something other than… just cry. An affirmation of life, actually— as much as they can affirm a life that's dead, not buried, and shouldn't even exist in this time. So many dead. A young girl he only saw once, cute and innocent. A young boy he'd seen at the same time, distracted by his games. A woman who he gave a balloon flower bracelet to. His brother.

The only person he could share something with— They only got to spend one night together, talking, sharing. Sports talk, movie talk, women talk. One piece of advice his brother gave him— he'll have to make sure to follow it now.

His brother.

The hands that touch her face are shaking, but he tries desperately to still them, deepening the kiss, hoping to continue this until they're both to exhausted to do anything. Exhaust the tears— exhaust the pain. At least for now.

His brother is waiting for him when he gets back. He can change everything, fix this— stop the storm— kill Sylar before any of this ever happens. Kill him before he hurts anyone else here.

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