2007-08-05: DF: The Ghost of You

Starring:

DFElena_icon.gif DFPeter_icon.gif

Summary: There's a chance run in at the Zoo when Peter realizes he really needs to do certain things like change clothes, bathe, eat and sleep… While he should be very concerned about the state of the whole world, there's some personal sides to this particular conversation. Sometimes the little things matter too.

Dark Future Date: August 5th, 2009

The Ghost of You


Bronx Zoo

The Bengals were looking a little thin.

Elena's eyes close, hunched over the railing that separated spectators from the dangerous beasts…when they were caged. Now they were loping free on the grounds and she can't help but extend her Ping ability out to her maximum range. In a 20 feet, 360-degree bubble, life signs winked in the darkness of her mind like stars spangled over the horizon. This was her vigil lately, something to help calm her down and think - because thinking was what she did in abundance these days. It reminded her that people, -things-, are still alive. Still living and breathing.

Her black, beat-up, fitted leather jacket's collar is turned up. It was somewhat chilly despite the summer, the meteorological disasters which swept the city a couple of years ago changed the weather patterns around the states slightly. Ripped jeans that hugged her hips are held in place by a belt, and down to the tops of her steel-toed boots. Fingerless gloves encased her hands.

One of the Bengals come up to her, growling low in its throat. Her fingertips stretch out absently. She sensed it approach, she didn't need to see it, running them over the fine hairs on its brow. It looked ready to snap her hand off, but it doesn't. In fact, the low, rumbling sound later would indicate that the thing was actually purring into the touch.

Then again she also cheated. That tiger was looking -very- relaxed.

Eric was somewhere securing the two of them rooms to spend the night in. The walk did her some good, it cleared her mind to think further into the next steps. Saints business. It consumed her more than her faith these days.

—-

The animals remember him from his first night's stay in the Zoo, and the nights afterwards which he called the place home. But they seem on edge due to the smell of blood on him. Peter's not looking his best when he finally makes it through the pigs and the Meerkats and into the Zoo proper. A place to stay might be a good thing to look into, as well as some much needed food— he hasn't eaten much since before he left the Saints— his stomach is growling. Not only that, he didn't sleep much, either— even after he'd been shot. The only thing he has managed to find on his own would be water. He's nots not built for survival in this city… not in the state it's in.

Blood still stains his clothes, holes in the drab shirt he borrowed from Jack, blood dried in thick quantities around all three places where the bullets impacted his chest. He hasn't found anything to change into yet. He's also not shaved— which creates a dark cloud of stubble along his chin and cheeks.

On top of all this… he also has dried blood on his hands, not his own, these. Some was wiped off onto his pants. The goal of the moment… find a place he can clean up in private. Somehow, it lead him towards the tiger enclosures. Those old commercials are recalled. Lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo. Certainly didn't lie.

Travelling invisible is something he does too often these days— and he's doing it again. Not that it matters where most of the animals are concerned… or a young woman with ping. Sadly, she may actually notice him first because of it.

—-

Someone was approaching. Male. By the lack of any sort of degenerative biochemicals that denoted some sort of accelerated age, she could deduce that whoever he was, he was young. Elena's dark, gold-speckled eyes open slowly, but remain halflid. Her hand lazily drops, sliding over the small of her back and pulling out a simple, 9mm Glock from the waistband of her jeans, and with a flick of her thumb, undoes the safety. While the Bronx Zoo is safe, perhaps one of the safest places in New York if you were on Daphne's good side, Elena erred in the side of caution.

She looks over her shoulder gradually - a lethargic gesture, as if tilting her head to the side to loosen her muscles there. But in her periphery, she sees nothing, despite the knowledge that someone is there. Male. Invisible. She only knows one guy who had the ability.

Chuffing a quiet breath, she shoves the Glock back to its hiding place and turns around. Her posture is relaxed, her hands sliding into the pockets of her leather jacket as she waits. Should he look up to finally see her in his state of transparency, he'd find…that she's looking -right at him-.

She knows -exactly- where he is.

She doesn't say anything though - at least not yet. Not while he's invisible. Her expression is serious, almost gentle. Because the way her face is built, with such a fragility that christened to her battle moniker, she could never look hard…but there's no affection. Not the way she looked at him when she had been a teenager.

—-

Times like this, Peter wishes his clothes would regenerate too. And clean themselves. Or that he had some other ability to cover it up besides… this. He catches sight of her as she's staring right at him, enough light to make out her shape, and then a few moments later her face. And she can see him. Portia might be able to see him, but he's met her in this day and age, and he knows the woman looking at him isn't the younger girl who could turn invisible.

Forgetting his current state, he allows the invisibility to drop away, the dark stains clearly visible on pale brown drab shirt that he'd worn the night of the rescue. At least it's not the other Peter, though, right?

"I didn't know you were here," he says after hesitating a moment, looking back the way he came. "I just— needed to— I'll go." She threatened him the first time they saw each other, and Eric told him she needed her friends… which no longer includes him.

There's a grimace. The lack of affection is a little painful, but the fact she isn't pointing a weapon at him, or— her expression isn't quite as bad. At least there's that.

—-

She doesn't say much as he stutters. Who he really was had sunk in before she blacked out in the Pearl, so as Peter stammers, her dark eyes train steadily on him. Elena was just -watching- him, even as he gestures and talks. The pale face, the wide eyes, the fact that he just looked so goddamned miserable. Bloodied too. All these were familiar, the colors as sharp as if they had been viewed yesterday. And he talked so quietly….that husky, unassuming tone. She couldn't help but feel a forgotten pang throb somewhere in her chest.

This was the Peter she knew.
This was the Peter she loved.

It almost hurt to look at him, seeing in the flesh how he had been, and knowing how he was now. The contrast was startling. Amazing. Like two different people with the same face. She felt like she was in some twisted, post-apocalyptic version of A Christmas Carol, except it wasn't Christmas and there were no other ghosts. Just the ghost of her past, and what she hated the most about it was that this ghost is real. If she reached out, she could touch him, feel how warm he was. How he breathed.

And the way he was looking at her.

No. She closes her eyes, slamming the heavy internal doors down. Pushing off the rails, she turns on her heel to walk towards him. Standing directly across from him, just a foot away, she speaks up. "What have they told you?" It's a straightforward inquiry. "Jack and the rest of the people you've met. What did they tell you about all this?"

—-

There's definitely a look in his eyes when he finds the nerve to glance at her— it's actually pretty rare. Just like he's stammering and unassuming, there's also the sudden inability to make eye-contact that's making that look more rare than it might have been. It's insecurity, something this Peter had been long known for. Often he needs people to believe in him, trust in him, care about him. The strength of others keeps him moving. And right now, he's finding that strength, that connection, to be lacking. In more ways than one.

When he's not told to leave, he lingers, still looking back the way he came for a moment, before his eyes drift back over, sticking towards the ground near her feet, and then the area a little to the left of her shoulder— a few times he does look right at her— but he can't keep it up long.

"Just— the storms happened. People found out about us— and wars started— us against them. It got really bad and… they said I…" There's a grimace, and his eyes slide even lower, voice dropping, "…said I killed Sylar. Nathan told them about him— ran for President— still got elected even if— everything. And then he— made those rules, detention camps. To protect them." There's something like sarcasm in his voice.

"Know that most everyone seems to… dislike me… and I know there's reasons why so…" He trails off, shaking his head.

—-

"You didn't just kill Sylar."

Elena's intonation of the serial killer's name is flat. There had been a time where her voice quavered at the idea that he could be around, slicing people's heads off and maybe eating their brains. But as he glances at everywhere but her, she's looking straight at him. There was only one thing in this world that she feared now, a glaring contrast from the girl she was two years ago.

"You died then too. When you killed him, you killed yourself, too. All I know was…when you came back from it, you weren't the same. The people who knew you didn't know you anymore."

She doesn't mean to be mean, but if Peter came to the future to find out what happened, then by God she would tell him the honest truth. It would only hurt ALL OF THEM, if he could go back and change everything, to lie. To sugar coat all the crap that happened. To hide details that seemed so small but might have such great bearing over everything.

"It's not just dislike either. Some people really hate what you've become." Her included, but she spares him that pain….even now she was at the very least capable of little acts of mercy. "Your present self killed three hundred people the other day. The weather isn't the same. Most of us have lost important things. People." She turns around after a pause. "You need to clean up. And you need to eat. The lactic acid in your stomach's already starting to eat at the lining, you're going to get an ulcer if you keep going on the way you are. If you're here to figure out how to stop this, you're gonna need everything you can pull out of your body. This isn't back then. Nobody's going to coddle you here. For the most part, you're going to have to rely on your own strength."

She looks over her shoulder at him. "It's been a long time…" she begins, pausing for a moment, before continuing. "…since I've seen this side of you. I hate myself a little bit for daring to hope, still, that you're capable. There was a time when…I knew you. Really knew you."

She turns back around and starts walking. "Daphne's emergency stores are this way."

—-

"Even after all he— did… I still can't imagine… Can understand what you'd mean about not being the same again." Peter says softly, looking away from her again, mildly ashamed that he's… weak enough that killing someone who's a murderer and a person undeserving of life in most everyone's eyes… would end up destroying him so completely. The others seem to be able to kill without the same kind of problems. They're different, but they don't seem quite as terrible because of it.

Three hundred people. Just the other day. He flinches again. That's not something easy to hear, even after he watched the Saints kill a couple people on their own. Killing that he'd participated in, if not directly enough that he's too devestated— but enough that he blames himself.

"Don't think I could get an ulcer," he does say absently, trying to avoid the sensetive topics— and the questions of what all she lost… for the moment. "It'd probably heal itself." He's not even sure he can starve to death— or catch a cold. Or anything like that anymore. Not a theory he's willing to rest. He is hungry, though. But he has to rely on himself… There's a hint of tension along his jaw, but all he can do is nod. Again.

There's a quiet moment, before he moves to follow in the direction of the store room. So many things he wants to ask— so many questions he should address— and many more he shouldn't. "What happened with us?" is the question that ends up popping out. Not one of those he probably should ask at all. What happened between them couldn't have much to do with what destroyed the future, right?

—-

Right. He regenerated.

It had been so long that she did any sort of looking after him that Elena completely forgot about it. But when he tells her about not being the same again, she nods. "Not exactly a new story for most of us, changing so much that we could never go back to the way we were. It's par the course here." She doesn't look at him as she keeps moving, leading him down the path. "Daphne got some new baby snakes. Watch where you're stepping." Might as well warn him, despite the fact that poison probably can't kill him either. Still, she can't think of anyone on the planet who'd actually enjoy getting a snakebite.

At the final question, she actually stops in her tracks, her back to him. She doesn't say anything….this was one of those very rare moments, at least these days, where she found herself unable to decide. Earlier she had pledged that she would answer his questions honestly if he was so adamant about fighting the future, no matter how painful or brutal it was. But ….she didn't expect him to get to the personal so quickly. Then again, she knew this Peter. It would've eaten away at him if he didn't ask.

She was torn. Tell him. Or give him a look that could freeze ice, and tell him to concentrate on his mission.

So she keeps walking. She doesn't say anything for a while. And then…

"I left."

It was that simple. "Papa got married. His life was getting in order. Even Manny was getting better, pulled out of a gang, talked about starting his own body shop. Portia was going to make it big, and Parker would always look out for her. I wasn't getting anywhere with the entire…save the world bit. I just kept running into walls, I tried so hard. And then I started to doubt. I started to doubt the visions. I started to doubt everything. When I started doubting you, that's when…"

There is a pause. And then she continues on. "The more I felt it was stonewalling my life, the more I resented it, the knowledge and the responsibility that came with it. So I left. I thought it was time to get on with my life. I went to MIT, and I finished there. I came back to New York on occasion, of course. I graduated early, Summa Cum Laude. I had my pick of doctoral programs all over the world. And then before I knew it I was back, trying to evacuate my siblings. My family. It went poorly. I never saw you again. These days, when I see you, it's your mug shot all over the news."

She stops at a building, opening the doorknob and flicking on the light. She heads inside, looking through its contents - spare clothes, canned food, emergency stores, just like she said. She also makes a count on the mattresses there….Daphne was right, they needed more, the rack they usually were in was empty.

—-

Yes, he regenerates. Good thing too, considering the bullet holes in his clothes and the blood stains that have dried. Peter's starting to get a little too used to dying— though it's hard to say he got used to certain people shooting him. She left. They don't even see each other anymore. Did he even try? Did she not get his messages? Did her actually leaving… He shakes his head. "I'm sorry." It's hard to apologize for things that haven't quite happened yet. Was MIT better for her? Did she get a better education? Did she enjoy it more? Or… it's hard to make judgments on something without asking.

"I didn't…" He made it pretty clear he didn't want her to go when he'd outright said she wasn't going the last time they spoke— before the time travelling. Two years, and so much has changed… Stepping into the store room, he starts to look for somewhere to wash up first. He shouldn't be handling anything with blood on his hands. There's something to clean up with, luckily, and he does that, running some water over his hands, and then drying them off. The rest— well— the only way he could change in front of her would be invisible, and even if she still senses him, it's rude, so he glances towards the clothes piles, and hesitates.

"I didn't want you to leave," he finally finishes what he started, looking down towards his hands for a moment. "If… if I can make it back…" There's that head shaking again. "I don't even have the right to tell you not to go— I know. Guess I can just… make sure you don't have to come back to this." Her decision, not his— but he can make this better. Maybe.

"I am sorry, though…"

—-

"You really need to quit apologizing for everything."

Elena stops her count of Daphne's inventory, quitting the mental checklist so she wouldn't dwell on past heartache. Heartache, really, of her own doing. Like she knew any better - there were no excuses, but she was right, those words she had told Heidi. She had been too young. Too stupid. She didn't know enough about what went on between a guy and a girl to make the right decisions. And she knew herself. She was a hothead, passionate and reckless and look at how she is now. THOSE certainly never changed.

"In the end the decision had been mine." The answer was frank. She isn't even afraid to look at him as she says it. In the Dark Future, Elena Gomez had a spine of reinforced titanium - even when it came to her own mistakes. "I could've seen beyond the literal. I could've just looked at you and saw what was really there. What you really meant. I was stubborn." She hesitates - but only for a second or two. "And I was scared. I was so young, but I affected people so strongly by just being the way I was, and I was so used to…not….talking about anything. I was used to being my own person. I didn't know…how to share me. Share this." Her fingertips brush over her chest. "To anyone. You. Eric. Even now I'm stunted in that regard. So yeah. It wasn't you."

Her jaw sets stubbornly. "I've wondered for a long time if this psychological complex had been grafted into me. I was never meant to be a person, remember? I was a product. I was meant to march on someone else's beat." She smirks. "It's stupid though, to think that. It comes up occasionally but luckily I've got too much to do to worry about the past."

Glancing at the shelf next to her, she rests her fingertips lightly on the shelf. She doesn't say anything for a while, but then she turns for the door. "Get changed," she tells him. "And eat. You should get some sleep too. God knows what's going to happen tomorrow."

—-

It's difficult to stop apologizing, but Peter doesn't give another one. Not that he isn't tempted, but at least he can look towards the stacks of clothes for a moment and try to come up with one he might want to wear. None of them are his style at all— but they'll do well enough. Work clothes a lot of them, and that will probably end up being what he wears. But right now…

When she explains how things had been for her, he does look back, finally keeping eye contact in her basic direction for a extended period of time. Him. Eric. And it had been partially her fault. But not entirely. "And I was too much of a coward to chase after you when I should have." So… not entirely her fault. At least the other boys who loved her made efforts to persue her— he didn't even think he deserved her. Still doesn't. Even if Ramon thought it was silly of him. Maybe it really was.

She thinks of herself as a product. That… How can he really argue that, especially when she claims she can't worry too much about the past. He is the past. The past standing in the present. Trying to find a way to return and make this world a better place…

"Thanks…" he finally says, looking back towards the clothes again, hesitating on saying more. Until… He just can't help it. "Elena. If I make it back, I hope I still have a chance to tell you everything that I should have…" Selfish to want to fix something like that. Especially if— it sounds like she hadn't been ready for it two years ago— may not even be ready now. But at least he'd have the chance to say it.

—-

"You need to quit that too," Elena says, pausing at the doorframe, though her back is still to him. "Being a coward." Again she's not trying to be mean, but if he's going to fight all of this, he would need all the cohones he was capable of possessing. She wasn't talking about what happened to them anymore - he knew her well enough to know that she was looking at the big picture, again. To press forward. To do what needs to be done. That, at the very least, hasn't changed.

He was the past. Breathing, living, existing right in the present, with those damned eyes and the wounded puppy expression on his face. Again, it almost hurt to see him the way he used to be, knowing how much she loved the way he used to be. It only drove home how much things back then were so much better than how things were now.

But there was no time to regret.

When he says what he does, she remains silent, but she steps towards the door and turns sideways so she could look at him. She doesn't really address the words coming out of his mouth - what could she say to that? She didn't even know if he could go back. All she knows is that he has to. And for the first time since seeing him again, her expression softens. Just a touch.

"Maybe. But that's not why you're here. You're here so we all have a chance in the past to prevent this from happening." She slides her hands in her pockets. "I'm going to be around, there's no doubt about it. If there's a chance this could all be reversed because of your presence here, I'm willing to bleed blue for it. But you have to focus. You have to get stronger. Otherwise you'll only be a liability to those around you. You have to understand that while you can regenerate, the rest of us aren't so lucky. We don't look it, not with all the blood and the bullets, but some of us are still clinging onto some bit of hope. Tenuous at best, but that's the way it is."

She meets his eyes. "You can't afford to blow this, Peter." His name. It sounds so foreign, it's been so long since she said it.

And with that, she steps back out, into the dark. Unlike those past summer days, she looks more suited to it now than the daylight hours.

—-

In some ways, the summer is gone. Peter can't help but feel a little darker just realizing that it disappeared. The bigger picture makes sense, but there's just some things he needs in order to do that— someone he doesn't have here, and something that's slowly eating away at him. Or… not so slowly. Reaching into his pants pockets, he pulls out a bullet. It's not completely whole anymore, as it'd been fired, and impacted something— but he's not keeping it to use again. It's a reminder.

There's a nod, and he glances towards the door she's leaving through, only choosing to respond to one of the many things she'd said, "No— no I can't." Can't blow this. Can't fail. But he doesn't know if he can do all the things that she said he needs to do in order to succeed. There's just so much he doesn't believe he's capable of— but that doesn't mean he won't want to.

Putting the bullet down on the shelf, so he doesn't lose it, he searches for clothes. Clothes first, food second… and as soon as he finds clothes, the bullet is returned to his pocket. A reminder. Something he doesn't want to lose if he can avoid it.

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