2008-05-06: Open Wounds (Dark Future)

Starring:

FutureNiki_icon.gif FuturePeter_icon.gif

Summary: After Thanatos, Peter teleports home with newly reopened wounds.

Future Date: Early 2012

Open Wounds


Niki and Peter's Room

The door to a small room at the top of a narrow concrete stairwell is open a crack, no light filtering in nor out. The light bulb above the stairs is dim and prone to bouts of flickering. Ploughing her way up the stairs is a woman in black jeans and tank top emblazoned with an old school tattoo-style rose, blonde-and-black hair straight and long tied back. She's struggling to carry two hefty cardboard boxes, one stacked on top of the other, scrawled in black marker with 'SHELTER SUPPLY'. Niki twists at the top to push her way inside backwards. It's not a storage room, it's rather a bedroom — hers, though not hers alone … but the shelter is running out of space.

Niki doesn't let herself drop the boxes until she gets where she's going, which is the closet — but they almost slip out of her grasp as she bends to deposit them on the floor, clattering before they're set down on in front of the closet door. She scowls in frustration. There's a sheen of sweat on her skin from hard work.

A small bedroom that's shared with someone. Empty while she sets the box down, but not empty a second later. The frame-jumping teleportation used makes no dramatic sound, but the groan of pain and the sudden thud of knees and a bracing hand hitting the floor gives an indication that she's no longer alone.

Always dressed darkly, there's something distinctly different about the man kneeling on the floor of their bedroom. Blood drips down from his face, the long healed over scar reopened and split. There's blood leaking through his clothes, though the clothes themselves seem to be undamaged. Peter gasps for breath, as he keeps his head mostly bowed. Pained eyes don't seem to focus on anything just yet. Not the first time he's come home damaged, but the lack of any damage to his clothes, other than blood soiling, would be uncommon.

Niki is just turning to head for the switch by the door when she hears the thud, the groan of pain. In alarm, she twirls back around with a swing of her ponytail over her shoulder. Why is— ? She jogs to the lightswitch and flicks it upward, the light overhead shuddering to life as she does so, dimly illuminating the mishmash of things in the not-so-organized bedroom… including Peter.

While Peter returning from God-knows-where after one battle or another has become almost old hat, the instant Niki sees him, this time, something screams of wrongness. She's falling down to one knee by his side in an instant, still slightly out of breath. "What the hell happened?" Without qualms over getting her hand sullied by blood, she reaches for his face, trying to tilt it up, get it a good look.

Skin red, from more than just blood, Peter's eyes shift up when they're forced to, making him look her in the face for a few seconds. Mouth twisted in a grimace, he hisses air through his teeth before he can answer, "I was trying to— get information— This woman— she— she brings death." There's a hint of a laugh in his voice, humorless though it may be, because he probably thinks he sounds crazy. "It was almost like… she was reversing my regeneration. Old wounds opened up." The scar on his face especially. It might even heal deeper than it'd been before. "I'll probably be able to heal in a few minutes… When the effect has time to fade." But that doesn't change the fact he's in pain now.

Brings death? The explanation that follows clears things up, but Niki gives the bleeding man a perplexed look of 'seriously?' all the same. It's rapidly overshadowed by concern as, planting her hands on either side of his face, she looks into his eyes — and into the wound torn open across his face. "Okay," she says under her breath. "People can do some really screwed up things in this world," she mutters cynically, but her next words of comfort are untouched by the same hostility. She shuffles closer on her knees 'til she's against Peter's side, hugging an arm tight around his shoulders. "Just breathe it out, baby."

Pain and suffering. Death and enthropy. "It hurts," Peter says quietly, leaning against her as his eyes close. There's meaning in those words. The woman thinks she's ending suffering and, at least for him, she caused some. "But there's so much more to… everything than pain and suffering." For example, a bloody hand reaches up and touches the sweat along her brow. "You know, I don't think I could keep doing this… if I didn't have you to come back to," he admits the pain just beginning to work out of his voice. Breathe it out.

Pain and suffering. The observations come across as a little disjointed to Niki — no less true, but she has to wonder what kind of monster he ran into out there. And what happened to her. But she doesn't ask. Sometimes it's better that way. "Then for your sake, you better hope I don't go anywhere," she says quietly, an otherwise serious voice touched by just enough lightness to let him know that she's not planning on it. She curls a hand up to run through his hair, drawing his head close to her — all the while, watching closely for the telltale, familiar self-stitching of tissue that should have already happened.

For his sake… "I hope it's for your sake as well," Peter whispers quietly, as the pain sets back in. For a different reason. The wound is repairing itself, skin crawling as it knits back together. The redness around his face starts to fade, as the flaring infection gets removed. Blood will need to be washed off, but once it's finished, shoulders relax and he lets out another long breath. The wounds that opened under his clothes must have closed as well, leaving him, more or less, whole again. The length of delay in healing really does seem to have made the scar deeper than it'd been before. "I really don't deserve you," he adds, that guilt streaming into his voice.

"Don't say that," Niki says, insistent, the words 'don't deserve you' grating to her, aggravating. With concern, but relieved that he's healed, she takes particular note of the deeper scar after it's reformed, blue eyes made dark and vivid by the sparkle of kohl liner and mascara. After a tight frown, she presses a kiss to Peter's hairline. "You're covered in blood." She tugs the collar of his coat down off his shoulder. "Clean up before someone starts asking questions." Old habits die hard.

Don't say it or not, Peter can't help but think it as he looks at her, pressing kisses against him and practically mothering him. Sure, she's older than him by about five years, and he can't help but smile faintly again. Only she, and those closest to him, could be able to recognize it as a smile at all. "I know— I'll go clean up," he says, dropping the conversation about what he does or doesn't deserve. And then, he glances at her cheek, and the small amounts of blood that got on her while he leaned against her. Blood on her hands, on her clothes, on her face. Leaning in closer, he nudges his nose against hers, briefly kisses her with bloodstained lips. It only adds to the fact that… "It looks like we both need to clean up."

A similar barely there smile — granted, brighter then Peter's — ghosts over Niki's face, toughened by a few years, but if anything, more striking. If blood-smeared. "What else is new," she murmurs. It would be a sardonic barb, in any other circumstances, but right this second … not so much. She gives a second brief and bloody kiss and, since she's still grabbing the collar of Peter's coat, she grabs the other side, too, and peels it off.

This couple has the strangest habits. With her help, Peter helps peel his coat off, the blood staining through his shirt much more visible. It looks as if bullet holes got opened up under his skin. Multiple spots of blood visible, but no damage to the shirt itself. As long as they can get the blood stains out, he won't need new clothes this time. It also helps they're black. It may not be as noticable if some of the stain remains. He might have to go back out after they're cleaned up and rested, find the woman and then do what is necessary for the greater good of this world… but right now he can't think of anything more than… now. Which is often the case when she's around.

"You look tired," he suddenly says, concern in his voice, even as he moves to pull the shirts over his head.

Niki lifts both brows at Peter skeptically for a second, as if to say 'smooth timing' — but in reality, she knows what he means. She just offers a shake of her head and a quick, dismissive shrug. She works hard. There's rarely a day that she isn't tired. "Had to move some boxes from the shelter." Plucking Peter's clothes from his hands, she tosses them into a corner… an oddly practiced throw, but, well, they do have the strangest habits.

The longer he's settled after healing, the more Peter can feel her. The inticate levels of her body chemistry singing out. Often tired, always tired… There's never a day that isn't a struggle for everyone. But that's the point of living, isn't it? Life is life, in all it's negatives and positives. Without the pain and struggle, the good times wouldn't seem as good. The world would just end. "I can help with that," he says quietly, reaching out to touch her neck, concentrating on everything that makes her… her. Pain should fade away, healing the tension in her muscles, the damage from exertion. There's a way to fix suffering without just covering it up— without ending everything. Healing and repairing always takes time. And there will be new pains tomorrow.

Tension-wracked shoulders start to drop and her lips part further — even healing away the stress from a day's work is something like bliss. Niki lets her eyes close, leaning her head with a stretch of her neck. She needed that recharge, and she needs to bask in it, just for a few more seconds. And think. When her eyes open again, though, they bear a worried expression that's far from relaxed. "This woman that hurt you," she starts, thoughtfully splaying a hand against Peter's chest and the blood from wounds that aren't there. She wasn't going to talk about it, but her mind is going down a dark path. "…you have more invisible scars than anyone. She could actually kill you." Maybe, maybe not, but it sure seems possible to Niki.

It's not so much out of left field as it could be, but Peter is surprised by her actually bringing it up at this point. Usually so much goes unsaid, while still hanging as a legitimate concern. This time, it gets voiced. Standing shirtless in the small room that he shares with her, he lets his hand drop away from her face to clasp over her own, closing the fingers and taking her hand in his, still holding it against his chest. There's no getting cleaned up the longer that they stand here like this, but… "Maybe— " Not maybe, because he's died more times than he can count. Even at her own hands, technically. "But I can get away. She won't catch me by surprise next time, either."

Niki looks down at their hands as she stands in front of him, her face dark. Maybe that bit of relaxation cleared her head, too. "Yeah. Maybe. It's always maybe. You're not invincible, Peter." She untangles her hand only to drape both arms over his shoulders, around his neck. The eyes that stare into his, imploring, are tired for reasons that have nothing to do with physical wear and tear. "You should just come work with me at the shelter. We could use your help."

"No one's invincible," Peter says, voice far more accepting of the critism than he might have been before. There's always been knowledge of his mortality, and sometimes… occassionally… it's comforting to know it will end eventually. But that doesn't mean he wants everything to end. There's always going to be something left behind, and if no life at all exists, what would be the point of having lived at all? Work with her… Even if there's a tinge of longing in his eyes, he shakes his head, letting his hand drop to her waist while she wraps her arms around him. "I have too much to do. Too many people I need to help. There's so much out there that…" And there's the research. The discoveries. That watch she's caught him building and working on. Little notes he's made with dates and times and people's names…

"Did you ever stop and think," Niki says with persistence, a faintly fiery edge to her words, "That maybe you could help more people at the shelter than could when you're off…" She shakes her head, jostling blonde hair over the dyed black, and glances to the room's window. "Out there, trying to save everything at once?"

"Of course I've thought about it," Peter says, starting to move as if he might untangle himself. There's plenty of ways he could get out of her grasp, power wise, but none of them are being used, just the small hint that he's pulling away. "I can't save everyone at once, but I do think I'm making a difference out there, Niki. I'm— I'm trying to fix this. The whole thing. Not just… I used to think that one person at a time was good enough, but it's not. You've seen this world and you know what— I can fix this."

Niki holds on, at first, even though she doesn't have the strength it would take to stop him. Not anymore. Not for what seems like a long time. A stubborn set to her jaw, she lets her arms drop to her sides. "I know that you think you can," she says with an edge, "And— I would like to think that too, I really would. It wasn't so long ago that I used to." Someone's showing her jaded side. "How do you expect to change the whole world at once?" It's impossible. Niki's not getting it. Just how he can fix things. She offers up another shake of her head and steps away toward the window, bare arms crossing over her body. "I'm just worried that one day you're not gonna come back."

At first, Peter looks as if he might try to explain exactly how he's going to fix everything, allowing her to hold onto him. That could have been all he really needed… her desire to hold onto him despite pulling away. Either way, the words never come out— because of the last thing she said. She's worried one day he won't come back. And the way he could fix things… he's not completely sure he could ever come back. She would be alone, and he would be…

But maybe the world, in the grand scheme of things, would be better for it. Maybe.

Instead of speaking truthfully on her concerns and explaining his plan, he shifts so that he can touch her face again, leaning in and kissing her rather heavily. How much time til he has to go? How much longer til he's going to leave her? The clock's ticking on, and once he turns it back, it will never be able to tick the same way again… "I love you," he suddenly says against her lips. "If you want me to work at the shelter with you… I will."

For a time.

It's not that she's not grateful, even cheered by Peter's confirmation, but Niki is left looking a little … suspicious. First he was all 'no, I have to save everyone' and now he's saying yes, just like that? It isn't the first detail she's noticed that's made her wonder, in recent times, what he's planning. Not imperceptive, she eyes him in their close quarters.

Maybe it's best she doesn't ask. She'll ask next time.

"Perfect." Niki starts to smile, broader and broader. There's a hint of question to her voice, if only because of Peter's sudden declaration. "I love you too." She's not completely jaded. Not yet. She still has her warmth, shared now with the man who's seen as so harsh and unstoppable outside of these walls; she angles in for another kiss.

Kisses can be very distracting, especially with mutual confessions of love. Peter makes a gesture with one hand, the door closes. A second gesture locks the door. The shelter will be there in a couple of hours, and right now… Right now he just wants to be with her, behind closed doors. He can be cold and unstoppable anywhere else, but right here… right now… he's vulnerable. And he can be that way with her. As long as she's the only one who sees it. "We were going to clean up…" Blood is still smeared across them, mostly him, in various places… And there are some advantages to cleaning up.

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