2008-03-28: Still There

Starring:

Elena_icon.gif FuturePeter_icon.gif

Summary: A young woman gets a birthday present, two technically. From the same man. From a different time.

Date It Happened: March 28th, 2008

Still There


Elena's Apartment

It's extremely late in the evening of March 28th, but at the very least a weekend. Not 21 yet, but certainly out of her teens now. A myriad of friends had decided to drag her out of her apartment on her birthday, to break her from the cycle of work, studying, sleeping, dance. She kept herself busy to keep herself out of the loop entirely, no matter how much she wanted to break away and -find- a certain someone who had been missing for a while. She had her depressive states, much like any young woman in her position, all the more pronounced by the lack of ideas as to how to fix things.

Elena opens the door, dressed in a fitted coat, and a pair of jeans. Toes peek out from the strappy heels she wore today, and her hair is curled. Depressed or not, she isn't one to show it to the world, making the conscious effort to live a normal life despite the undercurrents of the abnormal. Hanging up her coat, the top revealed - something simple with a V-neck, her favored bright colors, and flowing sleeves with a tapered waist, she sets her keys on the counter and moves to the kitchen to get something to drink. It was her birthday, the requisite taste of alcohol had been apparent at the party - a few glasses of orange juice and vodka, but even with the momentary buzz it was now gone. Her abilities just didn't enable her to get drunk. At all.

It was both a blessing and a curse these days.

The refrigerator door is pulled back, retrieving a bottle of orange juice and… just that. The box of flatbread, Hawaiian pizza she kept there was tempting, but she gave up pizza for Lent. Her mother's crucifix seemed to weigh heavy at the momentary trace of temptation, but she closes the door, as strong willed as ever, even when it comes to a midnight snack.

—-

The apartment she enters, possibly unknown to her, isn't exactly empty. There's no one visibly in the room, but there's a hint of an indent in the corner of the couch in the living room. Only someone really perceptive would notice it. The most visible change since she departed is a wrapped box sitting on the table, dull silver paper, black ribbons, and red roses laying on top of it. A card is nestled on top of the roses. It's something he'd imagined doing for her every day he'd been locked away, every moment they were seperated until he realized what day it was. Keeping track of days had been difficult in Level 5. Peter lost track of time, he couldn't tell when things happened. But there are exactly twenty one roses.

No, he didn't get her age wrong. He had been taken on the evening of the 6th. One for each night he's been gone.

There's nothing else different in the apartment, but someone who doesn't sleep, someone who carefully maintains his own body chemistry, is sitting on her couch, watching and waiting.

—-

Someone was in her apartment. Elena's eyes narrow, sliding to the side and her grip on the orange juice bottle tightening in her grip. She hadn't been idle in her days of relative obscurity, one who had been painstakingly honoring Peter's efforts to keep her safe. But that didn't mean she was angry, and she's tired of people barging into her apartment unannounced. The last people who did that took her and attempted to blackmail Peter into doing…. -something-. And they had spent a week together, maybe a little more, before he was taken again. She was tired of it. She was pissed. Latin tempers aside in the first few weeks of his absence, she. Had. Been. FURIOUS.

Her grip on the bottle reverses, shattering it on the kitchen counter. The violent gesture is enough to send the shards flying, the wicked, jagged edges gleaming under the light. When she turns around to face the interloper she could sense - oh yes, she can tell, she had taken it upon herself to refine her training in the last month or so - on the couch, her eyes are gold, and out of everyone else in the world, -he- would know what that meant. Stronger, faster, her ability to hurt that much more pronounced. Overall, last year, before, she feared being dangerous.

Not anymore.

"Who are you?" It is a blunt query. She doesn't see the roses yet, nor the gift left for her - her apartment is too dark to see all of it and even her enhanced eyesight can't detect that much more when it's so dark inside her house.

—-

Well. That didn't go well. There's a shift on the couch. Feet move against the floor. The sound is noticable, as the figure dissolves into form. Visible form. There's something definitely Peter about the face, the jaw, the set of his shoulders, but at the same time there's something very different about him. His hair is slicked back off of his forehead, out of his face. It had been getting long the last time she saw him, nearly to the point it fell to his eyes. Cut off just as his forehead. He hasn't shaven much either, uneven stubble darkens his chin and cheeks and above his lip.

The eyes are the same color, just a little darker than normal, pinkish edge around his eyelids, giving the illusion that he doesn't get much sleep. The biggest difference, though… would be his forehead, and one side of his cheek. A deep slash crosses his face, digging a ravine of a scar from one side to the other. Forehead to cheek. The line breaks where forehead meets nose, where his skull dips inward.

"It's okay, Elena." The voice isn't even the same. Not really. Deeper raspier, but there's a similar tone to it, something that's very much him. The whispery way he talks. "I— I wanted to give you a birthday present. That's all."

—-

It was as if her nerve endings have died, that feeling of numbness that shoots up from her fingertips and up her wrist, her hold on the broken bottle going lax as it drops onto the ground in a thud, shattering further. The look on Elena's face is almost heartbreaking, shock and surprise and God knows whatever else filtering over the earlier determined expression. "….Peter…." She hadn't seen him for so long, the wind knocked out of her and pain so acute throbbing at her chest. For a moment there are no words, the young Gomez just staring at him the way she was.

But something shifts. Something clicks. While the expression in her eyes doesn't fade, her look comes away from its more shell-shocked expression from earlier. "….you're not Peter," is the conclusion, her voice a touch breathless and whatever glimmer of hope that had been there fading. "….well, you are." Her eyes move over to the roses and the present on the table, her lips pressing together. "…clearly. But at the same time…" It's not.

She'll clean up the orange juice later, but she walks towards him. There's no hesitation there, so she could look him in the eye, and the scar that lances diagonally across his features. "Thank you," is said simply, for the gifts - sincerely meant, because it had always been sincere whenever he gave her something. "I take it you came a long way. Peter told me about you, granted… obviously you're not the one he's heard about the last time he came to the future. I find it curious in a way that despite being a different version that the description didn't change." She gestures for him to retake his seat.

—-

The closer she gets, the more difficult to seems to be for him to breathe. There's no real retreat. No where to go. He'd have to walk through the couch, and the wall to get further away. While he could do that, it's not quite an option right now. Peter stands his ground, watching her, glad she's maintaining some of the distance at least. It makes it easier. "I'm different. And… don't worry. You'll see me again. It will just take a while longer. I just… always regretted not being here for your birthday. For missing it a second time." He missed it the first year he knew her. He missed it again the second.

"The present on the outside is actually from… … your me." Him. He glances to the box that's still wrapped up. "I bought it a while ago, waiting for your birthday. It was sitting in my apartment. The rest is… from me."

He has a distance about him that's unlike the Peter she knows. A control. A quiet sternness. There are walls up. Emotional guards against… something. Against her? Against the emotions she causes. Considering…

Even with all those emotional walls, he can't take his eyes off her, even as if he's afraid to blink. He'd avoided seeing her so long for a reason.

—-

"My you?" There's a strange twist to her mouth. This can get confusing really fast. He might remember the same expression from when she was trying to reiterate what he said about the future when he went to 2009.

"…..you and I didn't really start getting to know one another until after my nineteenth birthday." This is said absently, an inward tone, more for contemplation than one genuinely directed at him. The fix of his gaze on her face is noted - at the very least, she wasn't the only one being affected. Elena knew, because she knew him, and no matter how this one has changed, the core of him was still the Peter she knew. Otherwise he wouldn't take such meticulous care in selecting the roses, to make up for the days missing and in those days where he couldn't give her one himself. And as tempting as it is to touch him, brush her fingertips over a well-loved face no matter the scarring, she doesn't.

It wouldn't be right.

Peter might not have had any trouble doing so when he met Future-Her, but those circumstances had been different. He thought he had lost her, she thought she was never going to see him again. This meeting didn't really lend itself to those justifications. In many ways, Elena was very much Ramon's daughter, the one-eyed Mexican with that uncommon sense of honor that was almost archaic in today's society. "I never knew why he keeps buying me gifts in advance… it's not like I'm going anywhere," is said softly, and despite herself, a small smile, tugging up the corners of her mouth as she glances over at the box, the gesture forcing a honey-and-chocolate curl to brush over the gentle slope of her cheekbone.

—-

It's not like I'm going anywhere.

There's a shift as she says that, a step backwards that knocks the couch faintly. That reddish tinge around the eyes seems to increase, a shift in body chemistry as Peter makes a rather forceful change. She's the only one who would get that about him. With her ability, he's constantly drugging himself, constantly making his body pretend that all the things going on are okay. It helps. It doesn't help as much as some things might, but… it helps. It's not the peaceful release… there's pain in his eyes as he keeps not looking away, watching each movement carefully, each breath she takes.

"I— I bought them in advance when I had the money to. And the time to look. I liked… being prepared. In case anything came up." And it did come up. It always seemed to. So many times they couldn't spend any time at all together. The world to save, the Company to dodge. Always something. And those somethings don't just go away.

"You look nice," he finally says, voice deep and raspy, walls still slammed into place. Not just because time travel makes things complicated. Time travel always has. But there's… so much more going on. He wouldn't travel back in time just to give her a birthday present.

—-

"Thank you…" This is said softly, Elena's eyes moving to look at him at his sudden jolt, that brief emotion, those walls coming down before whatever had been knocks him back into the couch and crumble whatever it was he was trying to hide. But she doesn't press, not yet, when the curtain of silence descends. But it wasn't awkward, not in the least - perhaps for him, but not for her. Even with this different Peter she could find some way to be comfortable, and the fact that he isn't there to harm her helps. Her hands slide in her pockets, standing a foot or two away from him, but facing him still, meeting his eyes and noting the reddish tinge around the edges.

"That's not healthy. I don't know if you could still regenerate….I don't know if you managed to get Claire's power back from where you came from, but even then you shouldn't take cracks at your body that way." Her words, while chastizing, are gently made. Even now she was trying to take care of him, no matter how distant he was trying to be.

"What are you trying to do, here?" she asks. "Peter went to the future to try and get information as to how to stop what's going on here now. Are you trying to do the same?" To stop what's happening.

—-

"I regenerate," Peter explains, even with the scar visible across his face. She knows he lost that ability, and many others, cause he'd told her, confided in her. While she worked so hard during the day, they had nights together. Many nights. Between her return from Level 5, and his subsequent imprisoning. "I'm fine," he insists, even though his hand twitchs. Almost as if he wants to reach up and touch her, but he's stopping himself. Those eyes continue to trace the lines of her face, her lips, the beauty mark that she had tried to keep covered and he admited to liking. The way her nose moves when she inhales, the way her eyes shift, the way her lashes meet. Each detail, almost as if he's trying to remember it, to keep it.

"I— I'm trying to stop my father. To fix the things that went wrong while I— while I couldn't help." While locked in Level 5. He hasn't tried to get himself released, he's actually recommended against a breakout attempt. "Things get pretty bad, where I come from. And I'm working with people to make sure it never happens. So that there will be a better future."

Will a better future ever be possible?

—-

There's a nod, her hair swirling gently against her shoulders at the gesture, and much like him, her eyes hadn't strayed from his features in the slightest, taking in the look. It is familiar, one that causes her heart to ache and the urge to be angry all over again as to why the universe insists on adding so many things in between despite the desire to just be. But in between the lines, she could read it, Elena's lips pressing together in a line and her lashes lowering slightly over her gold-flecked eyes. "Where from? What year?" she asks. "And what's going on, from where you are? I always….you told me a long time ago your father was dead. How is he still alive?"

That's a question for the masses. Would it be possible?

She had to believe it - otherwise what was the point? Hope still springs eternal, even in the face of this darker shadow of Peter.

—-

"2012," Peter responds simply, watching the way her mouth moves when she asks the questions, the way it stops moving when she's done so that he can answer. Using that year, it makes him thirty-two, possibly thirty-three if he's from after his birthday. But likely earlier than that. And just as he would be thirty-two, she would be twenty-three to twenty-four. The years have added something to his face, though he's not graying, or looking really older. The age is mostly in his eyes, in the set of his jaw. A lot has happened.

"My father faked his own death, after my mother tried to kill him. To stop him." Details he never explained before, but already knew by this point. "He nearly did die. It took Claire's blood to fix him. Now that I know what he's capable of, I don't blame her for doing what she had to do." He'd been angry at the time, though. Now he understands that some things are necessary. Some things have to be done.

"His company is working on a formula that gives people abilities. A project that has been done before— likely will be tried again. But this time things go terribly wrong."

Or he wouldn't be here.

—-

"2012…" Elena repeats this to herself, softly and absently and her eyes finally wandering away from him to look at the scarlet blossoms resting on top of the gift. She shifts, finally, moving to the couch and stepping around him so that she could perch on the edge. Her back is straight - for once she isn't slouching, her attention rapt and focused at every word he utters. Angling her face upwards, he could see every shift in her expression, puzzled and curious…though with the revelation that they've found a formula that could grant people abilities, her lips press together yet again. "Sounds familiar," is said dryly.

The darker side of the Petrelli family history is absorbed with that same, studious determination. While last year she would've been appalled about hearing a wife do that to a husband, there's nothing like that now, shades of innocence lost with a few, scant traces remaining. "I take it they're more successful this time around and you're trying to stop them?" she asks. "Is this…Pinehearst?" She had seen it before, Gene had showed it to her when she visited with Peter that day.

The unspoken question is there, lingering, but she doesn't ask. Part of her is afraid to, but this was Elena. No matter how scared, if she wanted something done, something asked, she'd do it.

—-

It does sound familiar. Peter had been part of the attempts to hunt down Carter, and apparently, according to his mother, this had happened before. Maybe Carter, or whoever was on the other side of the phone in that vision, had also been working with his parents. They had to have doctors and scientists helping out back then, just as they do now.

"Successful enough to be a problem," he explains as he watches her. When she sat down, his eyes followed her, he turned to keep her from getting out of his sight. "But yes, Pinehearst." So many people he knew are helping Pinehearst, in some form or another. Helping, and many trying to stop them at the same time. Gene. Cass. Niki. Nathan.

"There's a lot involved besides…" he trails off, hesitating visibly. For a moment he just stands there, with his mouth partially opened. When he closes it again, his jaw tightens, tensing. A slow inhale later and he says, "Jack's helping me. So are a couple other people." Yet he's tried not to involve her.

—-

"Peter managed to get through to Jack, before I could," Elena tells him softly. "I would've been willing, but he didn't want me hurt. Jack was unstable. I haven't really seen him since…." There's a profound note of regret, in a way she had been trying to fulfill Peter's wishes to stay out of it. To be safe. But how long is that going to hold? She was stubborn, she could get extremely reckless, and doing nothing is clearly taking a toll from her stunt with the bottle earlier. She hunches forward, forearms resting on her knees, linking her fingers together. "In the end this'll all blow up pretty drastically. It always does. You know that, right?"

She looks up to meet Peter's eyes then. She knows. Peter had been reluctant to involve her. She has no trouble believing this future self would be the same. She could tell, but she also knew, inherently, the reasons why from his end. It didn't take much guesswork, it didn't take a genius, and she had always been sharp. Deep down, she knew.

"I was lost somehow, wasn't I?" she asks, but no matter what had happened, whether she perished or otherwise, her gaze is steady. She never feared dying, Death to her was merely a tool to go back to the presence of a God she believed in.

—-

It'll all blow up. There's someone who said something similar to him, when Peter decided to make the change, to go back. Someone who had been against it, who would said he'd just mess everything up, destroy what he's trying to save.

There's a stubborn set to his jaw for a moment, a narrowing of his eyes— and then she says what she does. Lost. Somehow. For the first time since fleeting glances at the birthday present, he looks away. Turns away. Takes a step away from where she's seated. "You were taken," he answers quietly. The look away had been answer enough. His voice drops to a whisper, trying to sound cold and emotionless, but failing. There's a shake in his voice, in his breath.

"I searched for you— tried to find you. But you… I couldn't find you anymore. Not with any of my…" He has so many abilities. So many things that he's capable of. She dropped off the grid. Disappeared completely. And the only reason that would happen, with all his many powers. The only reason he could think of… "The you that… you're gone. I lost you. And I couldn't get you back." For some time, from the look of things. The start of what turned him into what he is now, most likely. "I never even found your body."

—-

"Then I'm not dead."

This is spoken so succinctly, perhaps even innocently. Perhaps she was naive, still, regarding such things. That people COULD die, and leave the ones they love behind. But there's a certainty there, spoken by one who knows herself better than anyone in the world, save, perhaps, her father, who knew her better than herself. Elena watches him turn away, change his voice into something more formal and detached - but it's hard to hide when a connection of this type had been shared by two people who had been linked for a while, perhaps since the beginning.

"Come on, Peter, you know how these things go," is said, some semblance of a quip underscoring her words. "When there's no body, the person's probably not dead. Especially since this is me. But you needn't go looking for me. You never do. I'll find you eventually, if I loved you enough."

—-

The insistance makes Peter's shoulders lower. "I could feel you… for the first few weeks. I knew they were doing things to you," he explains softly, still looking away. "And then you disappeared. I couldn't feel you anymore. I couldn't find you." Also when the dreams started, and when he stopped sleeping. So much happened, so much he can't even begin to explain, but the thought that she might be alive, that she might somehow come back and find him… On the one hand he would like to believe it. On the other…

Finally he looks back at her. "You disappeared over two years ago." That's a long time, but it also implies they'd been together for two more years too. Also a long time. "When I lost you… when I couldn't— I lost control." There's something that happened there, something very bad. "And I needed someone to… to hold me back." There's a pause. Something he's not quite saying. Someone to hold him back. Two years is a long time. And she should know that he's always been in need of emotional support. And that was even before he became a murderer.

"I'm changing the future so that this never happens. So that… I don't— So that none of this will have ever happened."

—-

"Aaah. I get it," Elena says, simply, though there's no anger in her tone at the possibility that he might have found someone else in the time she had been missing. "It's alright. Even then, I would've wanted you to grab whatever you had to in order to be happy. Otherwise, what else is there, really? All of us need -something- to make all the pain worth it. None of us were made perfect, and we were all created to be with our fellow human beings to offset each individual flaw we may have." She leans back against her couch, having kicked off her shoes so she could drag a pillow over and cradle it in between her arms.

She doesn't press what happened that made him this way, or who had managed to hold him back from self-destructing further. She doesn't ask… just because the future had decided to appear in her apartment didn't mean she was about to take advantage of catching a glimpse of something that may not happen. It's a small mercy, perhaps. Mercy, she had in spades. It was just the way she was, at the very least despite everything that's happened, that hasn't changed.

"I know," she tells him quietly. "It's not like you didn't do this before, right? Just….remember there are no quick fixes. Everyone dreams about going back to try and do things differently in hopes of a brighter outcome. But no one's really ever sure if it'll work. I'm willing to believe it can… not just because of what happened between you and me, but because when you say things are bad, I believe you, and they can stand fixing. I just hope you also trust the You in this time to be able to help, in his own way."

—-

…The hugging of a pillow. Peter is watching her when she makes this gesture, he opens his mouth as she speaks, and especially at the pillow hugging. There is something so very important in that. Something… familiar. He takes in a slow breath. "Elena. I still… I never stopped loving you." It's a confession, but with him, it's as truthful as they get. He might have sought comfort in another woman's arms, he may even love that woman too, but in many ways his heart still belongs in the past, to this woman right in front of him. There's guilt in his eyes. Guilt for her. Guilt for the other woman he loves and needs. Guilt for the selfishness of his mission in the past…

He takes a step closer, that twitch in his hand again. His hands stay down, away from her. "There's nothing quick about this— nothing easy. But I can… I didn't have a choice. What's happened— what I've seen— what I've done… I'm not even sure you would love me anymore if you were alive— if you found me."

Maybe he doesn't want her to in that case.

—-

Her smile, directed at him, is achingly sad, the expressive features gentle even now despite Not-Peter standing in front of her, confessing, where large portions of his heart is still rooted. It wasn't pity in any means, though parts of the expression are certainly apologetic. "Loving is kinda what you do, Peter," Elena reminds him gently. "It's the one thing that won't change about you ever and it's the thing I always loved the most about you. Even when pulled in so many directions…you can't help it. It's just the way you are. I've known that for a really long time. It's not as if I don't know what it's like." Loving Eric and Peter both had been difficult, but she had to choose one eventually no matter what she felt or what she still may feel.

She shakes her head. "I wouldn't know anything about that," she tells him, gently, but firmly. "I don't know how much of what has happened changed me. I'm not a stationary creature, Peter. I can change like everyone else, affected by whatever's going on at the time. Even now…I think you can see it." Long lashes screen her eyes momentarily, feathery crescents dusting the golden tone of her skin before her eyes open again to look at him. "But I'm not fickle. Even then…. if you're happy, you know even if I found you eventually I wouldn't get in the way."

She gives him a small, rueful smile. "I'm a Gomez," she reminds him, her tone light though it doesn't quite reach her eyes. "It's kind of how we roll."

—-

There's that redness around his eyes again, and it's pretty clear what's causing it now— there's moisture. Peter blinks a few times and looks away, eyes on the roses, the present that he left for her. "The other present… I saved money for a year to buy it. I was going to give it to you on your twenty-second birthday." He hadn't meant to explain that to her, but she likely would have figured it out, as she noticed little things about it. How expensive it is. The engraving on the inside. The music box was from one of them, the other thing from another. It had been just before she disappeared. He never was able to give it to her.

The eyes drift back to her, but don't stay. For some reason he's having a difficult time looking at her now. Happy wouldn't necessarily be the word to describe him. He hasn't been happy in a very long time.

The green in his eyes is barely visible as he moves closer, the light just catching it. A arm shifts as his hand finally comes up, finally touching her in some way. A light against a lock of her hair. "Happy birthday."

The rest touches on subjects he may not be willing to deal with right now, or is unable to address. It's hard to believe that she might be alive, when he's spent so long believing she was not.

—-

She'll take a look at it later, but it would be rude to ignore a guest. Even now, Elena was polite - raised the way she was by her father, who was by far, and still, the most important person in the world to her. Her gaze doesn't stray away from him, even as he moves closer, gravitated towards her direction, finally, by emotions long suppressed and the inability to say what he truly means to say, though he certainly got the most important parts out of the way. When he reaches up to touch a lock of her hair, it glints a hint of gold from the predominantly dark mass, a silken curl over a battle-worn digit.

She smelled like apples, this time.

"Thank you," she tells him sincerely. "I'm glad you came to see me. You have to know….that I miss you." There's a watery edge to that smile, but her tears don't fall. She never could cry easily in front of anyone, and the one she -could- do that with is locked up somewhere. She's all too aware as to who this one actually is. "I miss you so much. And even now I wish I could actually tell My-You that in person, but right now… well, you know me. I'm not one to bemoan something good."

She stands up then, perhaps nudging her hair away from him. She reaches out, however, to wrap her arms around him. Warm, gentle but secure. "Take care of yourself, okay?"

—-

This one is still him. Still hers, in many ways. Add on four years of hardship, and it's still him. The same way he loved the other her. It had still been her. Peter almost looks as if he may try to pull away when she stands up and moves to hug him. Like so many times since he came here, people have moved in close, and he's always tensed up. The tension happens again, for a moment, almost a surprised locking of his arms, of his knees. A shuddered inhale.

The smell of cigarettes lingers on his coat. A hint of alcohol as well. Fire. Smoke.

But his skin smells like rain and snow.

Arms go up around her. The tension fades as he pulls her against him, and seems to nearly melt there, trying to sink into her, hold close.

"I will," he says thickly.

He didn't come to this place to go back. He never intended to go back. He doesn't expect to have anything to go back to. But…

Eyes close, he continues to hold onto her. "I miss you too…" he adds on, some of the gruff quality fading from his voice for a moment, making him sound younger, closer to the one she knows. The one she's known for over a year now. "But you'll see me again soon." Not him, him. Her him. But it's the same thing, really. Just with less— or at least different— baggage.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License