2009-11-21: Step Back From The Ledge



Date: November 21, 2009


Anais and Brayden/Nathan work at building a house.

"Step Back From The Ledge"

Habitat for Humanity Building Project New York

The forecasters have stated that this November weekend is to be a fine one and for once they didn't lie: the morning broke clear and golden, sharp blue skies cut with the angelic white of drifting clouds. Even the temperature has cooperated, and it's almost warm enough to go about in short sleeves. Many of the volunteers on the site of Habitat's latest build are doing just that, their activity enough to make up for any lingering chilliness in the air. The home they're working on is close to being finished, its framework hidden behind unpainted walls, the windows and door all empty holes that still need to be filled. On the roof, men are laying out bundles of shingles.

Below, in the dusty yard that will one day boast a rich lawn, stand a small group of people. Lenore, looking out of place in a sharp jacket, skirt and pumps combo with a hard hat perched on her head. Anais is more casual, wearing heavy jeans, a Habitat for Humanity t-shirt, with her head similarly protected. Her fiery hair has been caught in a simple ponytail. She's in the process of wrapping a tool-belt around her hips and speaking to a third woman, this one older, with long grey hair and sharp blue eyes. Her mouth has a no nonsense set to it, and her tone is brisk, even curt. When she turns to walk away, Anais and Lenore exchange a look and smiles.

"I'll speak with her. Again," Lenore offers.

"Would you? I have to keep an eye out for the press. God willing, they haven't caught wind of this."

On top of the roof, the men seem to be having a good time, all things considered. In fact, they're … singing. YES. They are singing as they shingle, hammers in hand. "Lean on me! When you're not strong! I'll be your friend! I'll help you carr-y oooon!"

And among the singing men is former Senator Nathan Petrelli, shingling the roof, grinning all the while, leading his comrades in song. Brayden's dressed in clothes he's generally very comfortable (even if Nathan wouldn't be): a red plaid shirt over a white t-shirt, heavy blue jeans, steel-toed boots, and a hard hat that matches Anais'. After the song wraps up, Brayden looks up from his work to see Anais in the yard. He strolls to the edge of the roof, and calls towards Anais, "Hey! Gonna come up here and help?!"

Hands are placed on hips as Anais tilts a glance roofwards. It would not be difficult to see the amusement sketched over her features, shadowed though they are under the brim of her headgear. Less easily heard would be her murmured remark of, "God help me." A wave is tipped towards the man before she sets off for the steel ladder that tilts against what will eventually become the gutter under the edge of the shingles. The metal shudders and taps against the wood as she climbs carefully up.

"I see you're keeping morale up," Anais comments, once she's stepped from ladder to roof. One hand rests against the hammer dangling from her belt. "I don't believe I've heard these gentlemen singing before."

"I just think we should enjoy what we do," Brayden smiles easily at Anais as he maintains his position towards the edge of the roof and bends down to do some shingling. "Besides, the guys have great singing voices, don't you guys?!" There are several emphatic yeahs that are called from different areas of the roof which only causes Brayden to snicker slightly as he hammers in the shingle.

"So, as you can see, there isn't a single media figure here," he glances up from his work to wink at her before standing to his feet again, still lingering near the edge.

Shaking her head, just to hide the smile that blossoms, Anais makes her way with care to the stack of shingles before easing past Nathan. It's not easy moving around up on the roof, at the angle it's pitched at. Everything goes slowly. But once she's a few feet down the way, she sinks to a knee and arranges the squares of material beside her before reaching for the hammer at her hip. "You are a man of your word," she observes. "I hadn't expected anything else of you." Is she lying? It's difficult to say; her expression is obscured as her head bows over the work before her. The woman's voice is warm, sincere. "It's the press I don't trust."

"You and me both, Ana," Brayden quips with a smirk. Yes, he's calling her Ana. Is he allowed? Well, depends on how she reacts. "I am a man of my word. Always try to follow through." He removes his helmet for a moment to scratch his head, still standing near the ledge.

Seconds later a younger male volunteer (in his late teens or early 20s) also near the edge of the roof (and consequently near Brayden) loses his footing on the rooftop, "Ahh!"

Instinctively, Brayden reaches out for the young man, and essentially leans away from the roof (the physics are moderately impossible, but in this second, Brayden doesn't think about it) to catch the young man by his shirt. "I gotcha." He pulls the younger man onto the rooftop once again, leaning unnaturally towards the ground in doing so. His ability is keeping him up. "Watch out, that step's a doozey…" The young man nods slightly, still in shock.

"Anais," she corrects him, not without some humor and a brief but warm glance. "Ana is for my sist—"

Shock. Horror. The realization of utter helplessness. Anais gets to suffer through all of these, as well as the uncomprehending relief of seeing one of the cherished volunteers rescued. Loose shingles spray off of the edge of the roof and the hammer drops heavily to the wood as she forgets everything in order to scramble towards them. Why? It isn't as if she could have done anything but peer at the sprawled body of the young man on the ground below.

Except it doesn't happen that way. With her heart pounding in her throat, she skids to a stop beside the two males and sets a hand on each of their arms. "Josh…oh, Josh, you're alright?" In truth, the redhead looks more shaken by the volunteer (no red-blooded young man is going to admit he almost wet his pants). When she gets an affirmative, and Josh hastens away to pretend nothing happened, Anais is left staring at the ex-Senator. Her hand moves from his arm and presses to her throat, where the pulse is still leaping.

"How did you do that?"

This is definitely not flying under the radar. In fact, this is so not what Brayden had in mind today. Fortunately no one was around to photograph it. His cheeks flush slightly as he shoots Anais his million dollar smile, "Adrenaline. Instinct." He shrugs a bit as he notes, "All very normal. Anyone would've done the same." Casually, he bends down to go back to his work, drawing a nail out of his belt. But he glances at Anais again before he goes back to work. "At least he's okay, right? No harm, no foul?" Smirk. Amazing how a person can act guilty when they just saved another's life…

"Anyone." It's a flat and faint response, the woman's eyes tracking Brayden on his path back to work. Disbelieving and still in shock, herself. And not a little weak in the knees (though perhaps not for the reasons the good Senator might usually hope for), she sinks shakily down to sit and lets her head droop towards raised knees. Mother always said, if you feel faint…
"Yes. Yes, he's alright. That's the important thing." Even to her own ears, the murmur hardly sounds convincing. But what else is she to believe? People don't…float at bizarre angles.

After hammering in another shingle, Brayden turns to face Anais, "Woah, woah, woah, I think… I think we need to get you off of this roof." He shoots her a comforting smile this time. "Josh is okay. It's scary, but he'll be okay." He offers her his hand to help her up, "Let's get you off this roof." He attempts to lead her to the ladder, "Don't worry, if something happens, I got you…" He smiles.

Anais tilts her head to study that offered hand. The hesitation before she accepts it is noticeable. But eventually she sets hers in his and eases to her feet, reaching with the other hand for the ladder. "I think you would, at that. You're…I…" But perhaps it's best to climb down before embarking on any line of questioning. Climb down and fetch a bottle of water. Yes. Anais will do just that, moving so slowly her progress is almost glacial; she doesn't wish to tempt fate and force a repeat performance.

Once on the ground, she is less slow in going to the table where rows of plastic water bottles have been arranged for the volunteers. One is taken, its cap twisted off and lifted for a long, unladylike swallow that lasts long enough to require a gasp for breath afterwards.

Nerves? Somewhat steadier.

Brayden follows Anais down the ladder, and down to the water bottles. He picks a single bottle up and unscrews the cap, but he watches as Anais takes a long gulp, "Careful there! It's strong stuff, you wouldn't want to fall under the influence." He grins as he takes an even longer gulp, managing to finish off the bottle before removing the plastic from his lips. He smirks and shakes his head a bit. He jokes "I am so wasted right now. That water just put me over the edge… see you need to be careful. It could do the same thing for you." He shoots her his million dollar landslide winning politico smile.

The look he earns for the attempt at schmoozing is guarded, to say the least. Anais is a political creature herself, her smile practiced and polished, but it rests uneasily on her lips as she turns to regard the man. "Mister Petrelli." So they're back to the formal use of names, again. "I would appreciate it if you did not patronize me as if I were…as if I were a twenty year old volunteer with more enthusiasm than good sense." The lecture is followed by a soft, reluctant sigh, and Anais closes her eyes as she presses the cool, damp plastic to her temple.

"I don't know what I saw up there. But it was…abnormal."

There's a momentary frown as Brayden's lips curl downwards. "It's Nathan. Mister Petrelli was my late father." He crosses his arms over his chest defiantly as he studies her intently. "Did you want me to let Josh fall?" he quirks an eyebrow. "It'd just be good to know if there's a next time." He raises his hand to the air and fluidly motions it across the air, "I'm sure that would look good on Habitat for Humanity… I can see it in the press now: TEEN KILLED AT HABITAT FOR HUMANITY SITE, PROJECTS HALT FOR SAFETY INQUIRY. I'm sure that would do great things for the organization." He shakes his head and reaches for another water, and quickly twists off the cap. Yes, he's nervous.

That was probably the most effective tactic he could have turned to. Anais' lips press firmly together, expressing displeasure and defeat in one simple expression. "That is not fair," she informs him in low tones. But as a protest, it's subpar. Nathan wins the day.

Still, he's going to have to suffer receiving a cold shoulder while she lifts the water up for another swallow, her gaze turning to the workers still on the roof. She's silent for a time, still suffering the shakiness of adrenaline leaving her bloodstream. When Anais speaks again, she's found a more civil voice. "Perhaps it's best we forget this happened. Nathan. I'm sure Josh is grateful but I don't imagine he'll bring it up again. Young men and their pride." Her brown eyes cut towards the man. "And I'm sure you would rather it were dropped."

Quickly downing another bottle of water, Brayden swallows and then nods at Anais, "That sounds fair to me." He presses his lips into an equally thin line. "I'm not being unfair, I'm being honest."

"I don't see why I'd want it dropped, other then the fact I want good things for Habitat for Humanity," he recrosses his arms over his chest. "Saving a young man off a roof certainly would do nice things for my image." He smirks. "But I'd rather the press didn't know for the sake of this organization. I've enjoyed my day here, and I like giving back…"

"I suppose you're right. After all, no one had a clear view of what happened, except for myself. And I'm not certain I saw what I saw either." Anais has stiffened, all too aware that she is on the losing end of this particular conversation. "If you've finished re-hydrating, Mister…Nathan, we should return to the work we both find so rewarding. Starting with the shingles I dropped."

Thank goodness no one was standing directly below when those fell from the roof. Tossing her one empty water bottle into the large recycling bin set out for that purpose, Anais sets out for that dusty patch of ground, leaving this one behind.

Brayden traipses after Anais haphazardly after tossing his own bottles into the recycling bin, "So… who was the older lady with you earlier?" Uh-huh. "She didn't look impressed. Not a fan of the project itself?" He removes his helmet again and runs a hand through his hair, which only increases his present condition of: helmet hair. As he reaches the house, he bends down to collect the shingles on the ground.

Anais is on one knee, collecting shingles from the ground and transferring them to the crook of her other arm. They're heavier than they look, and their texture is rough on the hands, meaning she's only gathered a few so far. "That was Annabeth Collins, the volunteer coordinator and site manager." The woman looks up briefly, finally finding another genuine (but mildly amused) smile for him. "She isn't your biggest fan. Something about wasting her vote? You may wish to watch your step around her, she's quite…certain of her opinions." Ahh, diplomacy.

Once she's tucked as many shingles as can be comfortably carried under her arm, Anais rises to brave the ladder again. And again, she goes slowly. Up, this time. "Are you intending on running again, Nathan?" It's a question of pure and simple curiosity.

"Hmmm, thanks for the head's up. I seem to have a lot of people who either didn't vote for me, or are disappointed by disappearance. I have to say that I seemed to have little control over my disappearance. Waking up in Ireland doesn't exactly trigger memory to a homegrown US citizen," Brayden offers Anais a smirk and a shoulder shrug as he collects many of the other shingles.

He follows her up the ladder, confidently. Fearlessly either. Heights don't scare him in the least. As he reaches the top, he stares at her for a few moments and arches his eyebrows, "I'm considering running for office. There are some things a person is just meant to do." Beat. "But I first need to try to remember my life before the last year and a half." He sighs, "People need hope. I feel like under the current administration they can't find it. I want to push for hope. For joy. For compassion."

"Can you blame them? I believe the circumstances of your first departure were somewhat different?" A concerted effort is made to not look at the fellow as Anais once more arranges herself for tapping shingles into place. The hammer is where she left it, the nails are in a pouch at her hip. She settles herself, one leg bent and crossed beneath the other for steadied balance, and bends to the task at hand. Her ponytail snakes over her shoulder, swinging in time with the hammer she's wielding. "Your optimism that the voters might find hope in someone who has left his seat twice is…well." Adjectives fail. "But I can understand your wishing to try. It's something I've considered, myself."

"I can't remember," Brayden admits as he bends down to nail the shingles to the roof. "And unfortunately this is one of my biggest problems." He pauses and then adds, "I've been told I stepped down from my position as Congressman for family reasons. Something about my brother…" His lips twitch with concern before he shakes his head. "I don't know about either time though. And while I may have been unable to complete my duties twice now, I was Senator for a time and I imagine I gave it my best effort."

"And you give me too much credit. I wouldn't call it optimism, I would call it… naivety. I don't remember my former life and the ills of politics. Unfortunately, my naivety comes at a price, I haven't my former experience either…"

The hammer's steady rapping is interrupted when Anais draws it back in order to straighten and turn a thoughtful look back towards Brayden. "It's true then? The report that you've suffered some form of amnesia…I wasn't certain if that was just the official excuse, or…" Ah, but she's bordering on rude now, and has the grace to recognize it. The redhead tucks her chin and murmurs an apology. But afterwards, her eyes lift to try to catch his. A light frown has replaced the cultured smile.

"I can't even imagine how difficult that must be for you, Nathan. Trying to reclaim your life, and not even knowing the details of it." She pauses. "Are you…have you been receiving any sort of treatment? Has a doctor seen you?"

Brayden nails several shingles in place as a frown of his own plays on his lips. "No, it's not a line, I'm afraid. In many ways I wish it was." He shrugs a bit as he nails in another shingle. "I didn't even know my own name," he chuckles, but it's a humourless chuckle, devoid of good feeling. Empty, really.

"I've been going by Brayden Calvert this last year and a half." He pauses. "I've been going by Nathan to try to remember. It's familiar, but foreign. Everyone says I'm Nathan Petrelli, including his own mother. The dates match up." He kneels on the roof as he turns to face Anais, "It's been a very frustrating process. I don't remember my own family. And yes, I saw a doctor. They suggested I just needed to be in a familiar environment getting back to my old routine." He frowns, "It feels borrowed. Like I'm using someone else's routine…"

"Brayden Calvert." Anais tests the sound of it, lips pursed in a deeper frown. The explanation of his situation is as difficult to digest as the earlier rescue had been, although it is somewhat less terrifying. Unless she pictures herself in the same situation. Or worse, a member of her family returning with a blank slate in place of memories. Almost absently she turns back to continue placing the shingles, tacking them in place.

After a moment of that, the repeated sound of hammering and some careful shifting of position, Anais speaks up again. "You may not believe me, but I have heard of stranger things. My father…when I was girl, he used to take me on his trips. All over the world. We visited places that hadn't ever seen people like us," she says, in the somewhat distracted tone of someone telling a story while focused on another task. "There were people who thought I was a witch, simply because of the color of my hair, or believed one person could slip into another's body and control it, if they threw certain herbs on a fire. The world is an odd place at times." Pause. "Do you want to remember?"

The question is considered, as Brayden hrms, "There's something eerie about not remembering anything before a year and a half ago. I feel like this last year and half has been my first on earth. Like I experienced everything for the first time," he tacks another shingle in place. "And I feel bad for Nathan's— my —family. And I hate that I can't remember what I was like with them or around them…" He frowns slightly. "And if I remember… if I was a real jerk, how do I combat that? As it stands I'm me. I like helping people, I'm well-intentioned. But I don't know who he was." He tacks another shingle in place.

But I don't want them to have their questions unanswered. It's like I died to them. I'm such a different person… it's hard." His lips twitch a bit as they curl into a grin, "There are odd things in this world. But I like to believe in the good… Hard to imagine anyone controlling anyone else's body…"

"You know," Anais says slowly, unable to resist a smile that seems to spread in mirrored response to his grin. "You are somewhat more likeable this way. Speaking as you, Brayden, and not the politician, Nathan. Until this moment, I felt as if you were feeding me soundbites, and on the verge of asking if I had a baby for you to kiss. You may have more success for being yourself…with the voters, at least."

When the last shingle in her pile is placed, she slides back down towards the original stack, using an odd and angled scoot to get there. It isn't attractive but it prevents any accidents. "It is hard to imagine, isn't it? Sometimes I wonder what my Father was thinking, taking me to places like that. But he's always meant well," she remarks, pulling more of the shingles from the pile.

"I think I'm trying too hard to be Nathan that I'm missing the point and forgetting myself," Brayden admits with a sigh as he tacks on yet another shingle. "And thanks for the tip. I'm trying my best to just fit somewhere." He smirks as he adds, "I like motorcycling, and helping people, compassion… but all I know about Nathan involved his political career. I'm at a loss when it comes to my former life, it seems." He pauses, "Do I seem more human?"

He chuckles warmly at the comment and nods in response, "Experiences are always good, even if they're odd. I lived at a Buddhist monastery for awhile over the last year and half. And while it's not a place that really suits me, I learned a lot." His cheeks redden a bit, "I'm not much for the whole Nirvana/Zen thing, I'm afraid. A bit of a monk-drop-out."

Anais transfers the shingles into her lap, using her thumb to count the number in the smaller pile; it ticks over each corner, her lips moving silently with the numbers. "It was inconsiderate of him, to not leave you private papers or journals that might give you some insight in how best to be Nathan Petrelli. All of I know of the man is what I saw of him, during the campaigns. The political creature." She hesitates, glancing up as the question is considered. "I…yes. You do seem more human. You needn't pretend around me, you know. I would never speak of shared confidences, and if I were going to be truthful, I'd say I prefer the human to the politician."

Assurances delivered, Anais works to transfer the fresh supply of shingles back to the part of the roof where she'd left off. A look is spared the ground below, where volunteers are coming and going. Now and again, the site manager can be seen, frowning her gimlet stare up at the ex-Senator labors. But for the most part, the pair are left alone.

"You lasted longer than Father did. I think he stayed at one for four months?" Anais' laughter is sudden, and light. "He's too fond of adventure and excitement to have much of a taste for Nirvana."

"Well that is actually… comforting. Thank you. I've had a hard time adjusting to things, trying to be who everyone wants me to be rather than who I am," Brayden offers Anais a warm smile. "I'm determined to help people, although over the last while I haven't exactly had real responsibilities. When you're not connected to anyone, it's almost impossible." He takes another shingle from the pile and puts it in place.

Brayden chuckles again at the notion of her father. "Him and I both." He grins warmly at Anais. "So what's your story? Why are you involved in all of this?"

"You don't have to believe me but that is certainly a feeling I can empathize with. Being what is needed, rather than who you are. You, at least, have the advantage of knowing who you are," Anais says with a soft chuckle, her chin once more finding a nest against her throat. As if that sound of expressed amusement were something better hidden. "I don't know that I have a story, per se. Beyond familial obligations. I am involved in all of this because…"

But she doesn't complete the answer, not immediately. Suddenly it's imperative that the new shingles are laid just so to overlap those already nailed in place. Anais busies herself with that for a time before resuming the hammering. With that noise as a background rhythm, she finally says, "I suppose it's the guilt of the wealthy. Some of the wealthy. And if I had free time on my hands, I'm not sure of what I'd do with it…between our business, this and going to the gym…there isn't a great deal left."

"It's true, I'm fortunate to have had that time to figure out what I like versus who Nathan was," Brayden smiles easily as he follows Anais' lead and lays the shingles in a similar fashion. He smirks a bit at her schedule, "It seems that you at least have some of your priorities straight." As he attaches several more shingles, he smirks at her again, "Helping people is important… and working I suppose is necessity." His eyes twinkle at the notion of work being important. "And the gym arguably is good in its own right… but… what about fun? What do you do for fun, Anais?" He casts her a side glance. "You must have something you like to do. I like to ride on motorcycles and sing…" his cheeks flush slightly. "And laugh. And eat pizza. And waffles. I LOVE waffles." His grin broadens, "And what about you? What do you like to do for fun?"

"I had heard about the singing." As a casual remark, it's innocent, harmless. But combined with a brief glance and a faint, not entirely straight smile, it tells that Anais has seen certain headlines. "The gym counts as fun, doesn't it? I've been studying yoga, and jiu-jitsu. I've a sparring partner who challenges me to improve. And I enjoy listening to music while I'm reading reports. It sounds dry, I know, but it's fun of a sort." But under the force and persuasion of that grin, she finally sighs and sets the hammer aside.

Taking a seat again, Anais settles her weight back against one supporting hand and tilts a look towards the clear sky. "Fun…I can't remember the last time I had pizza, but I'm fond of crepes. I do enjoy food and keep meaning to learn how to cook. But you should know, yourself, that there just aren't hours enough in the day."

"Yeah, the whole world heard about the singing," Brayden stifles a chuckle as he fastens another shingle. "I actually like yoga, although I'm sure you have more skill than I ever attained. Or could ever attain. Some people just aren't meant to stretch." His smile broadens as he stares at her intently. "It's important to make sure that you schedule time for yourself though. We're designed for breaks. For fun."

He offers her a broad grin and nods. "Then you have to let me take you for breakfast sometime. I haven't spent much time being me lately… I find this very… freeing." He grins at her.

The study of the clouds is put on pause so that Anais can reward him with raised eyebrows. Intent looks? She doesn't seem to know what to make of that. "This is time for myself, though. Fun doesn't have to involve speeding on curvy roads, or sky-diving," she points out reasonably enough. "Fun can be quiet." Like breakfast? That gives the redhead pause. She frowns, more thoughtful than disapproving, and transfers the brunt of her attention to the ground below. "I don't know…my days start early, usually I just take coffee and a muffin in the office."

"I'm up early. Not really a sleep-in-kind of guy, too much to do in a day," Brayden quips as he finishes up with a last shingle. "I think that looks good." He smiles as he stands to his feet. "You said you like crepes, I know somewhere that makes good crepes, and it's off the beaten path." He grins as he pads to the ladders, "I'm done for today, but… you have my number." After he climbs to the bottom of the ladder he offers her a shrug as he calls, "If you change your mind…" That said, he turns on his heel to head back to his hotel.

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