2008-03-04: Self-Control is a Lie

Starring:

Erin_icon.gif Peter_icon.gif

Summary: Peter tries to make amends with Erin. Truth happens.

Date It Happened: 4 MARCH 2008

Self-Control is a Lie


ABC Studio, New York

The watchshop has been swept. That's one crime he made some kind of amends for. There are many, many time… And after leaving the shop in Brooklyn, Peter pulls out his phone and a card that he was handed and walks for a while, just looking at the two of them. Erin McCarty. Followed by her phone number. He could find her in the set again, like he did that day, but catching her alone, cornering her, walking up on her… that wouldn't be a way to make up for anything.

McAlister's words. What you do after… that's what matters. What was done is done. That can't be changed.

He makes it a few blocks before he finally plugs the number in with his phone and hits send.

—-

It's late again at the set. Erin ends up working into the night, though, especially on days that she's been in front of the camera. There's only so much you can do on prep work when you have to be reciting lines. When her phone rings, though, she drops what she's working on - almost literally, as a rock crashes to the set floor with a dull thud - and takes a break.

The phone rings four times before she answers. "Hello," she says tiredly, waiting for a response on the other side.

—-

There's a long silence from the other end. It's a difficult phone conversation to start. Peter recalls the words of McAlister when he chooses how to open it. "I might be able to help you with the trees," he begins, getting that out there immediately. "I know you don't trust me, I know you have every right to hate me for what I did to you… but I never wanted to hurt you. I never… Is there any chance we can meet? It may be too late to help the trees, but you deserve an explaination."

And he knows he's risking the chance she'll pay him back in kind for everything that he did to her. The phone would be so much safer.

—-

Fear is not an emotion that Erin feels often. It's not that she's fearless, but more that she's likely to get angry quicker that she is likely to get scared. The voice on the other end of the line makes her shiver, though, even if he says that he'll possible help with the trees.

Her first reaction is to just hang up. Run for someone nearby. She's never totally alone on set anymore because of the first incident with Peter, but there aren't a lot of people here. "How do you know about the trees?" she asks, voice weak. Shakey. He could have probably put two and two together easily enough, really.

"You're right, I don't trust you," Erin eventually continues, checking down the hall to make sure there are people there if she ends up hurt again. She can hear them, which means they'd be able to hear her.

—-

Fear is something Peter would never want someone to feel about him… but she's one person he'll understand feeling it. He feels it for himself sometimes, and this is one of them. There's a pause. How can he explain how he knows about the trees without getting her roommate in trouble? There's a few steps down the street, taxis can be heard honking nearby. He must be outside. The city in motion around him. Finally, he opts for the simpliest of answers.

"Your roomate met me. She wanted to punch me, but if anyone deserves to hit me for what I did, it's you. But she told me about the trees… and she told me I had to talk to you."

It's the truth. The simpliest of answers. The easiest of things to give, and the hardest at the same time.

"I'm sorry that I hurt you." He'd said it right after he hurt her as badly as he did, but it sounds more genuine now, even with just his voice to speak for him right now.

—-

The memory kills her. She'd never been in so much pain or so afraid, and despite the fact that he healed her right after, she never stopped feeling it. Her first instinct is to run away and never let him in, shut him out, always stay in a crowd where he can't find her. But that would mean living with the fear that he's always looking for her.

"I'm at the set," she says. There's no acceptance of the apology or anything of the sort. She'll hear him out, but reserve judgement on whether or not she'll give him anything for it. "There's a door at the back that says 'crew only.' I'll let you in." Erin already knows that Peter can easily get past the guards.

—-

"Thank you," Peter says, glancing around him with the phone near his ear. He ducks into an alley. It'll be quicker if he takes the Nakamura Express. To the crew only door that she mentioned, not the set itself. "I'll be there soon…" And when he says soon… he could be there within minutes, but he'll delay a little longer to give her more time to settle to the idea. Is this how Gabriel felt trying to go see Claire? It could be…

He doesn't wait for more than a single response before he hangs up the phone and closes his eyes. How is he ever going to do this? Believe in yourself before anyone else can believe in you… Advice he'd given. Not in those exact words. If only it were so easy to follow his own advice.

Minutes later he'll be out by the building he went to before, so he can walk the rest of the way to the door in the dark. To wait.

—-

"Yeah," is Erin's response. And when she hangs up the phone, she rubs her face with her hands, before allowing her fingers to trail through her hair. She's careful. Should have been more careful with this, even. Have him meet her in a much more public place than the back of a set.

But it's too late now. He knows where she is.

It takes time for Erin to finally decide to open the door, and when she does, it's just a tiny crack. Looking out into the dark, she watches Peter carefully, as if he's suddenly going to decide to jump after her and finish what he started before. Eventually, though, she pushes the door open farther to let him in.

"I hurt the trees because I needed to do something," she says. It's a threat more than anything else, and also the revelation that she did it on purpose. She could hurt him, too, is the implication behind her words. "It wasn't supposed to go that far."

—-

The man in the dark alley doesn't look like the type to jump on someone and intentionally hurt them. If anything he looks tired. And guilty. Peter's dark eyes drop away as she looks at him finally, his hair pushed further onto his forehead by the wind that rustles his clothes as it comes down the alley itself. Her words make him nod, but he's hesitating a moment before he even steps closer to go in the open door. Even avoiding eye contact as he gets inside out of the cold wind.

How does someone face a crime?

"I understand what you mean," he says softly, still avoiding direct eye contact for a few moments before he chances a look at her. He's keeping a distance. "I never meant to… I needed to know how your ability worked. I needed it…" And there's some kind of emphasis to need, as if it's a truly important word. Who needs such a thing?

"I never intended to hurt you to figure it out. But I never should have tried to find out like that in the first place, and I'm sorry for what I did to you." Eyes drop down again, toward the floor. It takes another moment. "I don't know if it's possible to reverse it… not with the burning and the fact that the trees are mostly dead already. But… maybe I can give you some kind of closure…" So she doesn't have to do it again.

—-

"Closure." Erin says quietly. There's a lot she'd could do to get closure on the situation, like paying him back tenfold for the experience she had to go through just because he needed to understand something. Her ability could have been better used through her. After all, all those animal rights groups were exactly right when they say that fur looks better on the animal. Peoples' powers work better with the people that own them, as far as Erin's concerned.

"If you needed to know how it worked, you could have helped me. But no, you took, didn't you?" There's a hitch in her voice, though she valiantly controls it for the moment. "You know what I needed? You know what I felt after that? The worst part of all of this is that after you did what you did to me, I wanted to walk through a hospital and just— " She pauses, turning away from him and clenching her hands into fists. "You know what it's like to want to hurt someone?"

She's quiet for awhile after that. Eyes staring straight ahead, afraid of the memory because she came very damn near to becoming a monster, just like Peter. And if she went down that road, there wouldn't have been any coming back.

"You want me to make you sick?" she asks quietly. "Eye for an eye?" Turning around, she faces Peter again. "When I needed a punching bag, I went out to the park, and I found something with no family, no friends, no career, no nerve endings, no sense of self or pain, and I beat the shit out of that. So, what. People don't get maple syrup on their waffles for awhile. At least they don't wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares so real they can't tell the difference for the first few minutes."

There was a point where she had to make a choice. Had to get out the aggression, and she could have easily done it to people. Instead, she researched a plant virus. "I tell everyone I know that I didn't mean for it to get this far. Well, you know what? I did. I couldn't be happier. Hell, I hope they can't stop it. I'm an actor, Peter. Cass, Ali… They bought it. And you know what? I'm glad, because I don't want them to think badly of me."

Her jaw tenses and she bites her lip. "Now I need to live with knowing that I have no idea when I'm going to snap."

—-

Some of it Peter understands. Some of it he doesn't. What she says makes him avoid eye contact completely, looking down at the floor even longer. The determination has drained out of his shoulders, taken over fully by a guilt he can't deny or shake off. Maybe he can't give her anything. What he did to her is just as bad, if not worse, than what Sylar had done to his niece. Will there ever be any way for them to make up for it? Could they even if they tried?

"I know what that's like," he finally says, after a long silence following her last words. Now he looks up. Pain, distraught… all this and more in his eyes, watching her, but not judging what she's said about herself. She may have been honest with her intention to hurt the trees and her lies she told everyone else, but he doesn't blame her. At least she found something that really didn't hurt anyone. There's other kinds of maples, and other kinds of maple syrup.

"When I… did what I did… I had just absored an ability… one that was supposed to make me understand everything." Supposed to. He does glance away at this point. What understanding he got came with a double edge, a triple edge. Edges that are invisible and unseen. "I had to understand things, and I had to understand them right then. It couldn't wait. It wouldn't let me wait…"

There's no way to know if what happened to her could have been caused by her ability, or just… her. She didn't hurt anyone, though. He did. And he hadn't wanted to. He had to.

"Since what I did to you… I've been fighting it every day. Because I never want to hurt anyone like that again."

—-

These abilities people have aren't always fair. Erin knows that. Logically? She's aware that she can't blame Peter for losing control of one of his, because she's lost control of hers, too. In her mind, though, there's a crowbar separation between what she did to Taine… To Ali… To Caleb and Mikayla… And what Peter did to her.

And he wants forgiveness. He wants her to tell him that it's all okay. The real world doesn't work like that, though - at best, the only thing Erin can do is not dig the knife deeper into Peter's back. She knows he's sorry. She genuinely believes he's sincere.

And she understands when an ability goes haywire, and you hurt the people around you, and you can't stop it. "All I wanted to do was get away," she says. "The next day… I had to come back to work and explain to the set director why the set wasn't finished yet. I had to answer to the producer. I had to apologise and tell them it wouldn't happen again, that I'd work harder next time to make sure I got my work done on time."

And she still hurt. Peter healed her. Cured the illness. That didn't matter, though, because she still felt it, maybe not physically, but it might as well have been.

"I'm glad you came to apologise. And because you did, knowing what I could do to you…" She's sure the thought must have crossed his mind "I'm going to be completely honest with you. I think you really want to try. I think you mean what you're saying. But you scare the shit out of me, Peter. I mean, I scare me, too, but you… Terrify me."

—-

It isn't forgiveness he's looking for, really. Peter would have to forgive himself before he could expect anyone to forgive him, and he doesn't. There'd even been some wish for punishment for what he did, if only to make her feel better. Same reason he offered to let McAlister punch him in the face. No different really. He'd not expected she'd actually kill him. The pain he can handle. The pain he deserves.

There's a small nod to the first part that she says, understanding that she had to suffer consequences for what he'd done to her, and couldn't even explain why, or how it happened. It's the last that makes his eyes drift up to meet her. He terrifies her.

"What I became with you terrifies me too," he simply says, a redness around his eyes. There's nothing he can do to make what he did to her go away. Short of making her forget it, if he knew how to use those abilities. "I won't let it happen again," he finally says. "I can't let it happen again." If it does, there may not be any coming back from it. There may not be any way he'd ever begin to forgive himself if he hurt anyone like he hurt her, Kaito, Hiro… Even Gabriel. Gabriel may have forgiven him for impaling him on a broken pipe in his own watchshop, but there had been no real excuse for that either.

"Is there anything I can do… to make you feel safer?"

—-

Since Peter made her as sick as he did, Erin hasn't been as reluctant to use her ability. She's made people sick on purpose, just to show off. The scare them, maybe. It makes her feel good to have that power over people, despite the fact that she hated it so much before. She still thinks she's a freak, she still considers herself an okay person - though she wouldn't go so far as to say 'nice' - but something changed, subtle, but prominant.

There's nothing for him in her eyes. No pity, no hesitation or unease or even the vague wish that she could help him improve. He'll have to do that on his own. And really, as long as he's alive, there's nothing he can do to make her feel safer. Ali might have been able to forgive him, but Ali wasn't bleeding internally.

Erin shakes her head. Her own eyes are a little glassy now… Those tears won't be held back forever. He seems contrite. It seems like encouraging words might do him a world of good at this point, but they'd be a lie, and despite the fact that Erin lies for a living, she just can't do it right now. Not for Peter Petrelli. So instead, she says, "I hate you."

—-

Hate.

There's a twitch of one of his eyebrows as she says that, plain and clear as day. Peter looks away from her again, to the door. A slow step back is all he can really do. "I don't blame you," he says softly, shaking his head in a mild kind of defeat. It won't really help matters at all. It wasn't as if he expected her to tell him that everything would be okay. She barely knew him, and she has no reason to say such a thing. The world doesn't work like that. Not every heart is as forgiving as his own. He knew this.

Eyes go back up to her as he shifts to move closer to the door, side stepping in that direction. It's almost as if he's trying to memorise her face. In a way he is. It's a face that he's going to have to remember the next time the hunger eats away at him. This is how people look at him when he loses control. This is what he becomes.

A monster.

Someone to be feared and hated.

"I'll let you get back to your work. If you change your mind about the trees… or if you… I'm listed in the phone book."

—-

He hates him because she feels hate. It's a kind of circle she can't get out of. Sure, before she was unbearable, insufferable, and mildly egocentric, but the searing anger that came after the whole ordeal was something she'd never experienced before. And so while she's hated before - it's a natural human response to things you don't like - she's never experienced it like this.

"You called my phone. I have your number in my phone," she says flatly. That she'd say that at all kind of surprises her, because when the raw feeling of grating sandpaper goes away, Erin might actually consider calling him. Maybe. At the moment, though, she has nothing else to say, and it's taking all her self control not to hurt him with one of the many nasty tools she currently has at her disposal. Like those bags of ballast that are hanging precariously above their heads, or the X-acto knife she's been using to cut with. Or the welding torch. Or, hell, even the mop handle if she was really desperate for a weapon.

But she's afraid. And if she hurts him now, even makes him a little sick, she might pay for it in the future tenfold.

Her reaction is to just sort of ignore that Peter's there anymore. There's no goodbye or even a wave of her hand or a look at the door. Erin just turns away and heads back to her work, as if the man had never been there at all.

—-

From the fact the door doesn't even open to deposit him into the alley, it could be easy to imagine he'd never been there at all.

Peter's eyes close, and after a second, he's just gone. If anyone had been looking in the direction he'd been, they would have seen it. Nakamura's ability is easy to access right now, easier than ever. Guilt is an emotion he now associates with the Japanese man, and it's all he's feeling right now. Guilt and acceptance that it's how he should be feeling right now.

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