2007-10-12: Surrounded By Walls


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Summary: Two people in quarantine meet over a bowl of soup. A conversation followers where Peter learns quite a bit more about the innocent girl who would have become the tornado. Or will become the tornado? Have the changed the future for the better?

Date It Happened: October 12th, 2007

Surrounded By Walls

Bat Country Labs

Even with no real appetite, food is an necessity. If only the place really had a kitchen. A microwave seems to be the most that he'll be able to find. Peter's standing in one of the back areas, heating up some soup. The soup may or may not have come from one of the supply cabinets, as he has other ways to grab small objects from afar. It smells good, one of those Cream of… soups, and he waits for it to finish heating up. There's a small table and a couple chairs in the sitting room, and he has a glass of water, a napkin and a spoon and a small stack of crackers in individual packages sitting there waiting for him. Likely he'd be bringing soup to everyone if he wasn't having trouble standing steady as it is. His hand is braced on the countertop. He's dressed in loose pants, a white shirt, and his skin is both pale and flushed in places. Hair's cropped short, almost close to an army cut, and it looks as if he's lost some weight in the last week. He'd already been compact and skinny to start, so additional weight loss is really noticable. The microwave beeps and he opens the door, looking at the bowl as if trying to figure out how to get it to the table without spilling it with his shaky hands.

There's this underground room. And that underground room. Windows? None, much less openable ones. Evelyn has been quieter than a mouse in her two previous days here, usually with her nose in one book or another, trying to pretend she isn't where she's staying. Trying not to debate if the decision to trust these people isn't a big mistake.

The noise from the sitting room presents a welcome distraction, and the teen slips out, leaving the door open behind her. It doesn't make any difference. "Peter," she greets quietly. Her walk across the room is a stiff one, and a bit slower than normal pace; the air also becomes noticeably stiff with Evelyn's entrance, still and seemingly thick, its tension mirroring her own. She looks at how he's standing, and at the bowl still sitting in the microwave. "Can I help?"

Looking over at the voice, Peter doesn't exactly smile, but there's a hint of it tugging on the corner of his mouth, "Hey, Evelyn— I knew you were here but… Sorry I've been asleep most of the time." A legitimate apology, as if he should be able to stay awake even when the illness that's hitting him worse than everyone else is making him weak and tired. Not to mention feverish and cold chills and other such things. There's a glance back at the microwave. "Yeah. Could use some help. It's like the worst flu I've ever had— but I know it's not the flu and that kind of makes it worse."

He moves away so she can actually help, since hovering in front of the microwave isn't going to allow her much access to it. The chair isn't too far away, already pulled out, and he can make it the few steps over and hold onto the chairback instead of dropping straight into it. "How're you holding up?"

"That's okay," she replies, in the same quiet tone. "I've been… sleeping, too. Or reading." Once Peter steps aside, Evelyn carefully picks up the bowl and brings it over to the table, not speaking while she does so — the better not to spill it herself. She steps around to the other side of the table and sits down as well, looking more at the table than Peter. "I…" How to put this? "I've been better." That's a start. The teen scratches idly at one arm, then shakes the hand and deliberately refolds her hands on the table, as though that action is something she's trying not to do.

Once the bowl is on the table and she's seated herself, Peter moves to fall into his chair as well. It's more falling than sitting, for the moment. Controlled falling, just like walking. Looking down at his 'Cream Of…' soup, he picks up the spoon and stares at it for quite some time, before she answers his question and he looks up. Not even a spoonfull makes it into his mouth yet. Loss of appetite being one of the symptoms, he might have to force himself to eat. And that's difficult when he's getting a guilty look on his face. "When I came to see you that day with Gene… this was the last thing I wanted to happen. Not just getting sick, but… you having to leave your home and your normal life and… I don't even know for sure what I did to change this and make everything… different." And making everything different is what he wanted, wasn't it? So why does he look guilty?

In response to that, the girl shrugs. "It's all right. I… wish I hadn't… … but I'll be fine." Obviously on the very uncomfortable side of 'fine', above and beyond the effects of her 'flu', but she'll live. Probably. Evelyn lifts her gaze to Peter, and offers him a rather weak smile. "We'll just… figure something out." Hopefully soon, she doesn't say, but Peter can probably fill it in. She closes her eyes and rubs at her forehead briefly, then draws her arms up across her chest. The untouched soup is nonetheless given a glance. But Evelyn doesn't say anything about it not being eaten yet.

"Cass is working on it," Peter says with a nod, his voice a little hoarse. "I can't help her as much as I'd like— I could at least be taking blood or helping run some of the tests while she sleeps but… can't really do that when I'm one of the people relying on her to find a way to fix this." There's a hint of frustration in his voice, and he actually does stick the spoon into his soup. Just that. No drawing it to his mouth. "I hope it happens soon. My brother's already getting antsy. I think he took over one of the offices just so he could use the landline almost nonstop— he's got a campaign to run. And there's other things going on that I should be out there helping with and… And you and Elena should be in school." It's affecting a lot of people negatively, the longer it lasts. "But she's got a few leads, and… it'll be all right." Somehow.

Evelyn nods slowly. She's quiet for a bit, looking down at the tabletop; her arms unfold again, one hand rubbing over the other forearm. "I'd just be happy to sleep somewhere with windows," she comments, violet eyes glancing up to Peter. The girl tries for a joking tone, but… it really isn't funny to her, and the smile dies almost before it starts to form, gaze quickly falling again. And she shakes her head. "Sorry. It… kinda…" Sounded funnier in her head? Yeah… Never mind.

An attempt at a joke, but Peter doesn't seem to get that, at least not until she tries to smile and apologizes and— this is when he gets the idea of what she was trying for and he actually does smile. Just a little. More of a quirk of a smile tugging on one corner of his mouth. The fumble, in general, is more funny than the attempt. "No, it's okay. I understand. I'm— really missing my own apartment and bed." So he can understand feeling homesick, but… "Why windows? You can't sleep without a window open?" After asking the question he finally puts a spoonful of soup into his mouth. About time.

There's a riffle in the air of the room as Evelyn closes her eyes. "I… don't even like walls, really," she admits very quietly, licking her lips briefly. "Ever since I got… here. New York, that is." Not here here. "I don't usually… spend so much time inside at a stretch." She glances over at Peter. "Not when I'm awake. And I always leave the window open at night." A thin but real smile — the first one of this conversation. "Drives Mom up the wall, but I'd rather let it get cold." And instead, she's… still here. Trusting that these virtual strangers know what they're about. She looks down at her hands, folded again on the edge of the table, and leans back in her chair.

Even with being sick, Peter can still look interested in what she says, because it's more interesting than the soup that his stomach doesn't even seem to want. One spoonful down, and many more to go, but he's putting the spoon back into the bowl and pausing to look across at her. "Hopefully we'll know for sure how this thing spreads, or if it's even contagious at all anymore— once we know that we can at least go home and wait for medicine." With the spoon left behind in his soup, he takes a drink of water before asking, "How long have you been in New York?"

Evelyn looks back at Peter as he asks a question neither related to here and the illness nor her discomfort. "Um." She gives it a second's thought. Several seconds, actually, since counting around the headache takes some effort. "A bit over a year. Like, a year ago August. We moved just before school started then."

In a way it is related, because it gives him a timeframe. "So for the last year and a couple months you don't like being inside? And you prefer sleeping with the window open in one of the the most dangerous cities in the country," Peter asks, trying to think this through, even through the feverish haze and the headaches that presist thanks to it. "What about where you used to live? I mean— most people who move here would be kind of the opposite, I'd think."

Evelyn blinks at Peter, and shrugs. "I guess I don't think about it that way," she replies, mulling over his remarks. Somewhat belatedly, her attention returns to the present and his follow-up query. "Um… I'm from Oregon. Southern Oregon. Grants Pass, technically, but that probably doesn't mean anything," the girl concludes with a brief, wry smile. "It's like… a much smaller city. Town, really. Right on the Rogue River, and in the middle of mountains." Not so urbanized as here. "My dad has a place in Sunny Valley," she continues, glad for the different topic, "which is just over the mountains but pretty hard to get to. His nearest neighbor is, like, three miles down the road, not counting the mile of driveway. He likes it that way."

"At least you're used to the cold," Peter says, leaning forward a bit, even if he's no longer even attempting to make much headway on his soup. It's not like he can't just reheat it if his stomach suddenly decides it's going to feel as empty as it really is. "I've lived in the city most my life, cause this is where my father's business was, but we had a home upstate too— spent quite a lot of time there growing up. Sometimes I miss winters up there. Get snowed in, occassionally lose power, but it's… different." He takes a drink from his glass of water, before he sets it down. "If you can't go home soon— I can talk to Cass— see if we can get you a room upstairs in the medical center instead. That way you can have a window at least."

At mention of being snowed in, Evelyn smiles crookedly. "There was one time, we went up to see my dad… there were eleven inches of snow on the ground where he was, and the car only had ten inches of clearance. We wound up walking the last couple of miles." The smile slips as Peter brings the conversation back around full-circle, and the teen just nods in response.

"That's a lot of snow. We'd get that upstate every so often," Peter says, a hint of a smile even through his fever. As she just nods, he actually makes an attempt to down another spoonful of the cooling soup, but at least he's trying again. It won't be completely cold by the time he finishes— maybe. But with talking while trying to eat, it may happen that way anyway. "What does your dad do if he leaves so far from everyone?"

"It sure felt like a lot when I was walking through it," Evelyn agrees. Having the different subject of conversation seems to be helping; not only has she started to look more relaxed, but the atmosphere, the weight of the air, has lightened. "He used to be a mechanic, and he still does odd jobs for people — he can fix pretty much anything, and sometimes he does work with a friend in salvage — but really, he just doesn't."

The teen shrugs. "He's so far off the grid he couldn't see it from the top of the mountain on a really clear day. And since my grandpa hoarded everything up until the day he died, Dad's got about enough money to keep him there for the rest of his life without working. It's not like he's rich," Evelyn points out, for clarity's sake, "but he doesn't need anything, either. Not the way he lives."

"So he's a mountain man who lives on his own terms," Peter says, seeming to think on this. "Sounds like a very interesting man. But not one I'm likely to meet if he lives in the middle of nowhere. Sounds like he avoids people too." Doesn't sound like the type of man who'd come visit, either. "When's the last time you saw him?"

Evelyn nods. "Pretty much, yeah." She shrugs as Peter brings up another question. "I went back for a little while in the summer. Couple weeks. Which is really only about half as much as I was visiting him before we moved, too." The girl rubs a hand over her face, then props an elbow on the table and rests her chin in her hand. "I like civilization a little more than he does, it turns out."

Evelyn looks over at Peter and blinks, exactly as if she hadn't ever really given that question much thought. "Well… I figured…" She pauses, regroups mentally, and starts over. "I didn't like the planes at all," the girl points out. "But I never have. And… well, we weren't inside so much, anyway. I mean, there's acres and acres of places to go. And it was summer, so the windows were just open all the time." But she frowns, straightening and sitting back in the chair.

There's a long pause as she's allowed to mull over things. Peter actually tries to down another spoonful or two of his soup before he takes another break. It's almost as if it's physically exhausting to try to eat. Maybe it really is. "Did something happen before you moved out here? I mean— besides moving that is. Though I guess moving itself, especially away from somewhere you'd lived your whole life, and your father, could be difficult enough on it's own."

Brought out of her reflections by Peter's continued questions, Evelyn looks over at him and spends another couple of moments considering that, brow creasing in thought. "Um… not that I can think of," she replies in the end. "Just the move, and that's really it."

"Any kind of major change can be pretty traumatizing," Peter says softly, looking at her even as he's pale and sickly looking. It's quite obvious that he's taking this conversation seriously. "I mean— probably one of the biggest changes in my life growing up involved my brother— there's such a big age difference between us that I'd gotten used to having him around all the time and then he went off to the naval academy and then overseas… and…" He trails off, shaking his head. "How does it feel when you're inside?"

"I guess I know what you mean. My mom's the only close family I have." Because she isn't close to her father. As Peter comes back to the subject of her psychological issues again, Evelyn gives him a rather flat look. She really doesn't want to dwell on it; closing her eyes, the girl sits silent for quite some time.

"It's… it feels…" Her voice is quiet, brows drawing together as she tries to pick the proper words. "Close. Tight. Like trying on clothing that's half a size too small." As she says it, she rubs at her arms again. "And… I don't know. It's kinda… like being smothered in cotton. Or out in a heavy snowfall. Except… it also feels wrong," Evelyn concludes with a shiver.

"I remember how you were in Sinai," Peter says softly, looking back down at his soup for a bit. "You were really quiet— stayed near the edge of the room. Almost everyone was a little scared, because there's— I mean being locked down with a potentially deadly virus is scary— but some people talk when they're scared or nervous, or demand to be let out, or… That's why I wasn't sure where I recognized you from. A couple people in a small room together for an entire night— you'd think we'd all recognize one another immediately by the time it ended. And it's weird since we… that seems to be the one connection we all have, even if they tested our blood and cleared us when it was all said and done." Half a year ago, almost exactly, and that one day comes back to bite them all. "And you didn't even discover your abilities until… the incident in East Village? Or had you known about them before that?"

Evelyn's lips twitch in an almost-smile. "I… I would've rather taken my chances, I think. With the virus." She lifts her gaze and actually looks around the room, for the first time in this little chat. "It… there aren't so many people, and there's more room, so that helps. And I'm not… it's not like I'm scared of being inside, like some people are scared of… spiders or stuff," she continues a bit slowly, working her way through the idea. "It just doesn't feel right."

Still, her attention quickly snaps back to Peter — or more precisely, the table, since she can look at that without seeing a wall. "Um. No. I hadn't had any idea, before. But it's… I think I wouldn't even have known then, if I hadn't been shot at." A shrug of one shoulder — and then she eyes Peter from the edge of her vision. "So, what. You think we caught this in the quarantine? Like, exactly what that's supposed to stop?"

Doesn't feel right. There's a lot of pondering over that one statement, and Peter looks over his bowl of soup at her, obviously giving it more than a few thoughts. There's so many possibilities for what she's saying, but it's difficult to jump to conclusions when his head is rattled by fever and pains. During the silence, he downs a few more spoonfuls, even if it's starting to get room temperature instead of nice and warm. "Yeah, abilities seem to appear when we least expect them to. I mean— I think I had mine for six months before I ever actually figured it out. You could've had your abilities for a while and it never kicked in knowingly until then. Someone actually shot at you?"

But the virus. The quarantine. "That's the thing I really don't understand. In the future I went to— yeah— you might've actually been sick. But everyone else who's showing signs, even me? I don't— I figure I would have heard one of them mention it if we all got sick, or if there'd been an outbreak. It could be no one noticed and just dismissed it as a flu and this hole thing will pass. But it still just— I must have changed something to make it activate like this. But the quaratine is one of the only things the four of us have in common. Except me. But if everyone I've interacted with got this, there'd be a lot more people in here."

Evelyn looks at the bowl of soup, not really seeing it. "I don't… I think I was just in the line of fire," she says, as a ribbon of wind ripples Peter's soup and ruffles her hair. The girl pushes it back behind her ears out of long habit. She shivers again, and casts about for a different topic. But when she finds one, Evelyn is quiet for a period before finally speaking up again. "I think it was you who said it first — that it might've been a… a virus of some kind that made… the other me… lose her power. Is… Do you think… As weird as this is, is it related?" Because that was a pretty weird idea, too. She looks up at Peter, visibly hoping he'll say 'no'.

The ripple of wind catches his eyes and Peter looks up to meet her gaze. He's still looking pretty weak, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise that when he raises his hand— that nothing happens. Even before he was sick it took him a while to get his abilities to work sometimes. This might just have made things more difficult for him. He reaches over and picks up the glass instead, taking a drink. "I don't know for sure, but the virus we're comparing this too— it has taken away someone's abilities in the past. I'm not sure it's exactly the same thing, and all of us can still use our abilities at the moment, I think. This doesn't mean you're going to be the tornado still… But it doesn't mean it's stopped yet either."

They're comparing it to that one? Evelyn nods slowly, and as she turns over the thought in her mind, the air in the room acquires a hint of agitation — formless motion more sensed than truly felt, as there's precious little force behind it. Not a strong pulse of emotion, but unease; she's thinking, and she's not liking where the thoughts are heading.

"But it could be the same," she states quietly. "I… I don't really get sick, much. My mom can get something that puts her out for a week, and when I catch it from her, I'll just have a day of sniffles. I wouldn't have given this —" She waves a hand down the front of her face and torso. " —a second thought, if not for Cass." A moment's silence. "She didn't know Cass, then. In that… timeline. She didn't know you. Maybe that time, it… it only activated —" She uses his word, not liking the implications at all. " —for me. Maybe it's activating for you and the rest because you came looking for me." Evelyn looks over at Peter, waiting for his reply.

Neither of them like where the train of thought is headed on this. Peter leans forward a bit, resting his elbows on the table and then his head in his hands, pressing his forehead against the heel of his palm. Could just be a headache, but the tension mounting in his jaw, making him paler at his cheekbones, has other causes entirely. "It could be. In trying to change the future I ended up making things… worse." There's a grimace. He looks up at her again. "At the beginning of this month I had a dream— it wasn't just me either, but that's another story. My dreams sometimes tell the future— it's how I knew I was going to be the bomb that would've destroyed New York if they hadn't— if it wasn't stopped. But in this dream… things that never happened in the future I went to— they happened. And near the end I saw you and my brother both in a… thicker quarantine than this. Plastic tents around your beds, the works. But in this dream I wasn't sick. I saw myself and… and my— someone told me that this was my fault. If this all goes away in a few days and we all lose our abilities and…"

Evelyn sits back as Peter explains — and no, the statements aren't reassuring at all. The restless air picks at the girl's dark hair, tossing it aimlessly; her companion probably gets treated to its touch as well. Not to mention his soup being cooled further still. Her skin pales beyond its natural wont, and her gaze drops to her hands for a little while. Then it lifts back up to Peter. "But there's no tornado. Or… the rest of it. Are… are you sure this is worse?" Because she isn't so certain of that.

"If this stopped the tornado— then yeah, it's a better future. As long as this doesn't spread much beyond here, and as long as the tornado, what happened then, wasn't just another symptom. Cause if it is, we have more than tornados to worry about," Peter rubs his hands over his face for a moment. He probably realizes he's not being reassuring, wallowing in self blame. There's a slow inhale of air and he adds, "At least we got a chance to fix it before it gets worse. You'd said there was a decent amount of time between losing your abilities and suddenly getting them back with a tornado. So we got time, and people who are working really hard to make sure all of us are okay when this is over."

Here, Evelyn nods again. She can agree with that — no tornado is definitely better. Even if a mysterious illness is not good. "Yeah. We can at least keep that from happening." She'd rather lose her powers altogether than get them back disastrously. After a moment more of thought, Evelyn shakes her head, rubbing at her temple. "Well… I guess we'll just see what happens. And I think… I think I'm going to go sit outside for a while. It's… I've been in here too long."

If that's the case— then it won't be so bad. Peter can't help but try and see the worse side of things, even if one bad thing makes something else that was bad never happen. As she says she's leaving, he nods, "All right. I'd offer to go with you, but I don't think I'll make it that far." His hands are still shaking a little, and he looks pale and flushed all at once. "And I still have to try and stomach the rest of this." He sticks his spoon back in and sturs it around. Probably will have to reheat it before he makes another go at it. It's probably okay to step outside— if it were contagious to the general populace, more people would have it— like Heidi and the boys. It's just a precaution until they're sure, really. "Be safe, Evelyn."

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