2008-06-29: The Guardians Of Forever

Starring:

Angela_icon.gif Kory_icon.gif FuturePeter_icon.gif

Summary: Sometimes forever is too long, and sometimes not nearly long enough.

Date It Happened: June 29, 2008

The Guardians of Forever


Nightclub

It's been a series of days designed to do for the time-tossed Peter what he did not allow himself; to show him what the world is — a world he's sacrificed everything to save. The zoo, in sunny weather. Where he could see not only the sun, but mothers and children, people learning.

And then the amusement park. Letting him remember thrills and chills at a purely human level. Water in his face, purely for fun's sake. Churros. Balloons. Video games. Giant teddy bears. And the laughter of children.

Followed by a trip to the San Gennaro feast. Delicious, homemade Italian food, in prodigious quantities, and inexpensive.

And anywhere else he wanted to go. Kory insisted their bounce around the city end in her demesne — a nightclub where she spins as Iah — pulsing with light and sound; full of people dancing and flirting — the human condition, primal and with inhibitions diminished to the pursuit of pleasure and a release of stress. Exactly like the Muse hopes Peter will.

Even at the amusement park, when they had to wait in lines for some of the rides, Peter'd not been in a crowd quite as large as the nightclub. Black seems to be his dressing theme, even for a night at the club.

A black button up shirt would at least be better than some of the other things he'd worn out, a nice shirt, even. Even the jeans are dyed black. As the people dance, he fiddles mildly with something under his cuff, a thin bracelet, apparently made of rubber or plastic. Once he'd had two, now he just has one.

The noise reminds him of how loud it had been in his head— though it's a very different kind of loud. This size crowd would have been quite uncomfortable for him in the past— or the future— but right now…

"I did tell you I'm not much of a dancer, right?" he leans over so the likelyhood she'll hear him is better.

Lip reading is among Kory's book skills. It's a bit of a survival trait in this line of work, her mundane one. "Yes. But that's okay. Rhythm is built into us. We breathe in rhythm. Our hearts beat. You're better, as always, than you give yourself credit for." She leans close to say this in his ear, voice pitched carefully so she's not shouting directly against his timpani. "It'll come naturally if you let it."

For an instant, Peter's eyes slide shut— not out of tiredness, but for another reason all together. What comes naturally may not always be what's best, but he nods, pulling away just a bit from her breath playing with his ear as she speaks, a slow inhale. The scarred face casts one more glance around, before he starts to do as instructed and just move. There really isn't that much to it, though unlike most the other men on the dance floor, he's more or less keeping his hands to himself. Even it the point where he appears to be fidgeting with that bracelet more.

Kory watches him for a moment. He's spent his life being so very careful. So controlled. Restrained. Restricted. Conflicted. Repressed. Distressed. She knows this now. And she wishes that her dreamwalk power could grant him amnesia for only a blessed day or so, to give him surcease from the tribulations he's endured.

But seeing him dance…at least try to dance…that brings a smile to her lips. "See. I knew you could," she says, not leaning close to him, because the words are more a confirmation of what she already believed. She steps in to sway gently across from him, giving him a dance partner so no one else will feel the urge to move in on him. "Good," she does call louder, to encourage him.

The fact she's dancing with him might be both a relief, and not. It keeps some of the skantly clad women from trying to get close to him — though the scar might forestall a few too — but at the same time… It's Kory. Peter continues to look tense, though for reasons completely different from what she might think. "It's difficult to hear anything in here," he says, in a way that she'll have to read his lips more than hear him. "But everyone seems to be having fun." There's a hint of a question in his gaze, the way he looks at the smile as he does his best to move similar to some of the people nearby.

She's unaware of certain things, yeah. Because she's still a naif in so many ways, and because her experience of letting people close has turned out so strange that she has no clue of how close she and this Peter were once/will be. "Silly," she calls over the music, pitching her voice just so. "You hear the music! That's what you're supposed to hear!" But if it's bugging him that much, she can take him back beyond where the primal bass and techno beats can reach. "You're not supposed to talk here! You're supposed to let yourself relax!" Which she's sure is difficult for him. But maybe the distraction will help him keep his mind off the loss of his powers, which he seems to dwell and brood upon any moment she isn't actively trying to get his mind on some other, happier subject.

Most of what she says, Peter can't make out over the music, but he hears enough to do something rare, even on these trips, and smile at her, breaking his fidgeting to reach up and touch her hair and push a stray lock behind her ear. Just that much, before he lets himself settle into the music and the dance. Let go of things. Some tension remains, as it's likely to be there forever, but at the same time surface tension settles.

Kory wasn't expecting him to do that, but it's a pleasant surprise. At least, to her. It's a sign that he's starting to relax a little. And as he does, she can as well. She closes her eyes and lets the rhythm take her. She usually is spinning on a night like this, so it's rare she gets to dance for fun. So she lets herself, now. Those who see her at the Lair? They'd think she was skinny and graceless, but when the music has her — it's something different. She's lithe and graceful. She spins and twirls aroud Peter, smiling at him. Seeing his smile, her own brightens and widens. "It's good to see you smile," she tells him, leaning in close and curling an arm across his shoulders so he can hear her say it. Some things she means him to hear — a gift in the form of a memory for him to take with him into the empty nothingness he'll vanish into when his future unravels into a more hopeful world.

As far as he's concerned, the world he came from already disappeared. The present has changed enough that Peter's not sure what will happen next. Some things remain the same, that's always true of anything, but so much else has changed. The dancing continues for quite some time, a good couple of songs, before there's a fine layer of sweat collected on his brow, making his hair stand out. He still keeps his hands, more or less, to himself, until he reaches out and stops her dancing— which he seemed to be enjoying, and nods away from the dance floor, "I think I need a breather."

Kory reacts to the touch instantly. Her eyes open, and she follows his gaze. She nods at him in return, and takes him by the wrist. A quick flick of motion — a signal to the DJ spinning tonight, and the music changes to something a little smoother and softer — something the crowd can still groove to, but less energetically. There's enough room for her to thread their way through the crowd to one of the back rooms where the music recedes to background sound, and the air is free enough of colliding notes that they can converse in normal tones again if they like.

As they get further away from most of the noise, Peter stays close so he can comment, "I probably shouldn't drink. I haven't been able to get drunk for years, so I have a feeling it'd not take much now." Everything else seems to be more heightened in some ways, so that could be too. It may not be worth the risk, considering. "I'm glad you've been doing this for me. It's been a nice week or so." He's thanked her before, each day, but there's something different right now. "I'm thinking of leaving New York— finding a way to start a life somewhere else. If everything hasn't come back yet— I don't think it's ever going to, and I'll just be in the way if I stay here."

"Hey, this is about you doing what makes you happy. What makes you feel good," Kory says, shaking her head. "If you don't want to drink, that's cool." She flushes slightly at his statement of gratitude, then her eyes widen as he describes his plans. "I wouldn't think you were in the way," she assures him, dashing her hair out of her eyes again. She worked up a sweat dancing as well, and the curls are a bit droopy. "But if that's what you think is best. You'll stay in touch, though." It isn't really a request. Now that he has no abilities — if they won't come back — he might need his friends.

"I meant more in my own way— if I stay here the me who should be here…" Peter shrugs, but she can probably get the idea. Only really room for one of them offically. "I was planning to talk to Micah. Get him to set me up somewhere else. A small town, I think." Less likely to try to get involved in stopping bad things in a small town where bad things don't happen often. "Maybe I can even go back to being a nurse." Even after all that, the very idea makes his mouth move toward a smile. "I'll call. Email too, if you want."

"I know what you meant," Kory gives him a nod, another assurance. "And that sounds …nice." She has to chuckle. She's way too much the urban girl to fathom the idea of some small town. But for Peter, whose life has been war-torn and full of strife, that's like a vacation. "Really…?" she breathes, as he muses over going back to nursing. A circle closing, perhaps. "I'd like it if you did. I'll miss you, you know." Even if she will be glad for the return of the Peter she knows best. "But it sounds like you're starting to get comfortable." Written all over her face, in her amber-brown eyes, is the hope that he's moving toward being happy if he has to live out his days marooned in this world.

"Working on it— it's not easy going from what I was to what I am again," Peter says, reaching up to touch the sweat on his brow, feel the ridge of the scar cutting his face. A strange thing, really, getting used to having little things back. Like feeling tired when he can actually do something about it— sweating too. Heat rarely got to him before. Only when he used too many abilities did things like this occur. "It might be cooler outside," he adds, looking at her own forehead.

Kory grins. "Yeah. It might be." June in New York? At this hour, maybe it will be cooler. If not, they can find someplace cool to put the night to bed, or Peter himself if his endurance winds down. "C'mon. There's a good diner not far. Great pie." As opposed to the one she jokingly calls the Diner of Destiny. "It's probably easier than you think it is, Peter. Just you're a bit out of practice."

"Pie sounds good," Peter says, keeping close to her as they step outside. Inside the temperature had climbed quite a bit, mostly due to the people crowded inside, and the relative heat of many of them dancing until sweating. Once they make it outside, the cooler air hits them, not quite as cool feeling as it could be. The humidity keeps it from being a comfortable cool, but the dark of the streets with the sun well set, and the hint of rain threatening the near future, it does what is needed. The breeze helps, especially. "I'm proud of you, Kory— that's one of the reasons I feel like I can leave now. Because I know that you and everyone else will take up the guardian role I'm no longer needed for." Something he's done quite a bit.

Kory ducks her head as Peter tells her he's proud of her. "Aw, well, you know…" she trails off. He knows the end of the sentence. She promised she'd do her best to help him, to not let him down. "We will." They are, already. It's almost a miracle that there have been no fires to put out over the past few days. Kory knows better than to give it voice, though. That way lies tempting Fate.

But Fate doesn't always need tempting. A trio of young men, race made indeterminate by uncertain light, swagger up the street. They're muttering to each other in some broken Spanish-English pidgin. The leader of the trio looks up and smirks, seeing the pair walking in front of them as just another spoiled yuppie couple. "<Hey, boys. Looks like we gonna be able to afford to party tonight after all,>" he tells them. They laugh along with him, and pick up their pace.

Fate is rarely kind, especially to this particular man. Peter nods to the simple sentance. He knows. Trusts that they'll do what needs to be done, just as he always tried to do. And maybe they'll manage better than he ever did. A hand reaches up to touch her shoulder, a friendly gesture as they walk down the alley in the direction of the cafe of destiny with the pies, unaware of the muttering and the Spanish. What little he catches doesn't immediately translate in his head. Alarm bells don't go off.

Kory has a little Spanish. But her mind just isn't there. Sure it's late. It's New York. But the 'horrible things happen to people at night' has always been just a big, mean urban legend to her with one or two unfortunate exceptions. So she isn't picking up the muttering either. At least, not at first. She glances over her shoulder as the skinny, bare-armed member of the trio makes his presence known by whistling and catcalling loudly at her.

"Heyyyy, mamacita! Wha' chu doin' with scarface?!"

Kory responds by pinching the bridge of her nose and turning back to look up the street, keeping her pace steady rather than rabbiting like a frightened gazelle from a bigger, stronger predator.

Unfortunately, this serves only to irritate the other two. "<Bitch thinks she's too good to party with us?! We show her.>" The burly one, the leader, flips out a butterfly knife. "<And her yuppie prettyboy date, too.>"

A month ago, he could've just told them to walk away and rethink their life. Peter can't do such a thing anymore. Not even if he waves his hand. Instead his hand tightens around her shoulder, until it finally lets go. She's walking away from them, at a steady pace, and he's at least able to keep himself between them. Only small portions of the Spanish could possibly be picked up by him, and only what little he learned from Elena before he got omni-linguistics. "Put that away before you hurt yourself," he says, voice thick and stern. Without his powers it won't be as simple as waving his hands, but he's fought for four years— it isn't like he doesn't know how to throw punches when it's necessary.

Kory gives Peter an urgent shake of the head as he squeezes her shoulder and lets go. "It's okay, Peter…we're almost to the diner." She makes a show of seeking out her cellphone and flipping it open. Even if it is a futile gesture and Peter is determined to try to scare them off.

Of course it doesn't work. They're younger. And they outnumber him. "'Ey, vato, you stay out of this. We take your wallet to party with the chica." And now there is a switchblade out to join the butterfly knife. "Once we cut the haughty off her."

Kory catches her breath at the threats, and reaches for Peter's arm, eyes pleading. While she's distracted, the skinny guy who first spoke darts forward like a striking snake. He grabs her wrist and gives it a sharp twist, forcing her to let go of her phone. It bounces along the pavement and into a puddle where it promptly goes dark and sinks.

They're almost there, but the men are already grabbing for her. Peter doesn't even think before he swings a fist, right at the man's nose. It doesn't have more than his actual muscle strength behind it, and from the way his jaw sets painfully, he probably broke his hand punching him in the face like that. But the way they're speaking pisses him off too much to restrain himself. This is why he needs to live somewhere small. "Don't touch her," he growls, the scar standing out. More of them. Younger. They have knives. He's unarmed and depowered.

"PETER!" Kory can't help but scream as he swings on the guy with the switchblade. The injured one swears a blue streak in Spanish and English, going down on one knee, flailing with the knife, blind.

The other two, seeing him hit their friend, move in, the other one pulling Kory close, and the other moving in to gutpunch Peter.

Healing may not be happening, but there's other ways to ignore pain. Peter's been used to it for quite some time, in more ways than anyone could possibly imagine, and adrenaline acts as a natural painkiller. Seeing Kory get pulled close certainly does that. His hand hurts, but the gut punch doesn't hit as it should. Even without powers, he'd been beat up enough times by Jack trying to teach him that powers aren't everything. That gives him skills that help him move out of the brunt of the hit, so he doesn't end up gasping for air and leaning over his fist. The twist also sends an elbow at his face. "Leave her alone before I break all of your faces."

Kory struggles in the grip of the guy who is holding her and sniffing her hair, flittering his tongue out along her neck. She is making little inarticulate sounds of anger and fear, yanking her arms, trying to free herself.

The one who gutpunched him smiles, taking the chance to use that elbow. The one getting up off the dirty sidewalk, though, takes a shot at hamstringing Peter by slashing at the back of his legs. "NO! LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Kory shouts, half-sobbing until the guy holding her puts a dirty hand over her mouth to muffle her. His free hand begins to travel down her belly. She struggles.

The elbow impacts, the slash on his leg does as well. But Peter doesn't go down as he should, even with blood freely flowing out of the slash, and from his nose and lip. In fact he looks angry. Getting beat up is something he's been used to, but he had always been better at beating back. Not until he sees the hand on her stomach does he really seem to lose it. "Let go of her now." Moving again, despite the pain, he kicks out at the one with the knife, with the leg that'd been slashed, even. There's nothing stylized about it, but he's kicking and throwing punches. It's liable to get him hurt, but liable to hurt him too.

The foot connects and the one who slashed him is still slow from the broken nose that sent him to the ground in the first place. So there goes his jaw, to join it. He grunts and falls to the ground, making no further moves. The one with the butterfly knife dances back away from the punch, and goes to join his friend, using a meaty hand to grope clumsily at Kory's thigh.

"Get off me!" Kory's retort is muffled with a hand over her mouth, but she uses the fact that she's being held by both arms to her advantage. She rears up with both legs and kicks the other man in the chest. "Let me go!" She bites at the fingers of her would-be assailant, who swears and lets go.

Seeing their friend down, and the odds more even, they decide they don't care for how the fight is going.

"Another time, linda," says the one who'd been holding her. He takes a shot of his own, kicking Peter in his bloodied leg, hard enough to pop the cap. "And you too." He takes off at a run, leaving his friend to keep throwing punches at Peter — the third man is forgotten. His fault for being dumb enough to get knocked unconscious by a yuppie.

The kick finally makes Peter cry out in pain, stumble down to the alley floor. Blood drains from the cut there. Not the terrible ones they always show in movies, but one that's dangerous in it's own way. It sends him down to the ground, with only one hand holding himself up. A few more kicks and that won't even keep him up, making him roll over onto the alley floor, still conscious, but not getting up for the moment. Regeneration would be handy right now— so would just about any of his abilities. Instead the most that seems to be happening is a paleness coming to his face that makes his scar — and the blood — stand out even more.

"Leave him ALONE!" Kory, now free, is hopping on the back of the man attacking her friend. She's throwing garbage. Cans. Bottles.

"Crazy bitch!" he growls, but he takes the hint and leaves. "Another time, then."

"Another time," Kory rejoins in an icy voice. Pity that man when he sleeps. But not now. Now, Kory flings herself to the ground and at Peter's side. "Oh my God, Peter. We have to get you to …" to where? Not the hospital. The clinic? Cass' clinic? That won't work. The bad guys have her! Kory's all wide-eyed and trembly on the verge of panic. What now? "We'll get a cab." Take him home. Work something out. Somehow…

Rolled onto his back, Peter moves a hand down to his leg, feeling into the cut in his pants— the slick of blood getting onto his fingers. There's ways to slow it, stop it— buy some time, but he settles back and looks up at her instead, withdrawing his hand and laying back. "Cellphone in my pocket." It's not much of an offer, voice already sounding tired, but he looks up at her rather than trying to help himself. "Are you okay?"

"I'm okay, don't worry about me," Kory whispers, voice shaking. She can freak out about it later. But Peter's hurt. On her watch. When she was just trying to remind him how good the world could be. And now it's just spat in their faces with ugliness. She pats down with shaking fingers, reaching for the cellphone. She looks at him with overbright eyes. Does she call 9-1-1 or what? She glances down at his pant leg. The blood pooling over him, spilling red-black over his fingers in the dim alley light. She plucks the sash off her dress to tie as a makeshift tourniquet.

As she reaches for his leg, the sticky hand actually moves to take hers before she can get the tourniquet tied all the way. Peter may not be aware what he's doing— perhaps he just wants to take her hand, but something about the way he leans his head back, he may not be caring one way or the other. "Call my mother," he says, that pain in his voice, even as the air hisses oddly through a broken nose. In some ways, this could be destiny's way of telling him that— there's no way he could stay out of things. Only one way at all he'd ever be able to stop fighting for those around him. "It's okay," he adds on, voice already weakening. He'd had a good week.

"…" Kory can see him turning shocky. See his face paling, even in this light. "Oh, no. No, no, no…" Peter was going to move away to some little cozy town where nobody knew him. Have a long and happy life knowing he left the world in good hands. "Peter, stay with me. Hang on. Stay with me." Her fingers fumble, leaving bloody prints on his dialpad even as she finds the number for Angela Petrelli. "You have …you have a lot to do still. A good future." Tears are welling in her eyes, streaming down her face. "Please…"

No more words. The bloody hand stops trying to hold on as Peter's eyes shift upwards to the sky. For the moment, he almost seems to be hanging in a place between being asleep and being awake, almost as if he's going into a dream, rather than anything else. A long time ago, for him, he'd been drawn into the dreamworld, walking to find her when her dream screamed out to him. She'd been dying— this time it's not her. There's a hint of words in the air, as something reaches out to brush her face. Not cold, but pleasantly warm. Almost as if hands touching her cheeks, a kiss against her lips.

"The rest of you can guard forever in my place." A voice whispers, though not from any lips. Maybe a hint of power allowing him to do one last thing, before everything else fades away.

Kory's crying openly now, tears streaming down her dirty face. She can see him slipping away, and she's powerless to stop it. She catches her breath as there's the feeling of a kiss against her lips. She responds, leaning into it, as if by doing so she can help him. Give him the strength. Hold him here. For a minute longer. Long enough for help to arrive.

But no.

She can feel the weight of him change in her arms. What muscle was holding him there diminishes to nothing, and he's all dead weight in her arms. "Oh, no, Peter…no…"

One might expect Angela to be asleep at this hour, but all bets are off when it comes to Mrs. Petrelli. Besides, this is the City That Never Sleeps. In the glow of a bedside lamp, the woman, wrapped in a robe and with a book down-turned on her blanket-covered lap, picks up the cell phone to which Kory calls. She holds it to her ear; she listens; and she seems to know. All she can hear is the muffled street noise that, in some way, is always present in the city — but most of all, she hears the crying, the too familiar sounds of grief. Angela closes her eyes. Stony-faced, eyes remaining shut, made tired by the late hour and the very nature of her life, she waits.

It's several moments before Kory collects herself enough to remember she dialed the phone. Fingers numbed by the weight of Peter's body and the breadth of her grief at losing her friend — this man, this future shadow of the Peter she knows is still alive and well somewhere else — and she manages to pull herself together enough to pick up Peter's fallen cell. She sniffles, drags a bloodied hand across her face, smearing Peter's blood over her cheeks and nose as she tries to clear her eyes enough to see. Then, taking a shaking breath, she speaks. "M-muh-Missus P-Pet-trelli…?"

Silence on the other line, but only for a few moments as, somewhere in the city, Angela calmly opens her too-knowing eyes to the bedroom around her; comfortable and homey in comparison to where Kory has found herself, although the tension and weighty gravity in the air gives the room a surreal air. It's eerily quiet. She says only: "Has it happened?"

Kory sniffles again, and hugs Peter's body close to her. The streets are empty and lonely at this hour, only the occasional car passing unknowingly by the alley. "Y-yes. M-M-M-…" Kory stamers, unable to give voice to what she thinks, believes. My fault. Maybe later she'll find comfort as her geeky mind reasserts and reminds her the timeline couldn't support two Peter Petrellis indefinitely. But right now, guilt and grief are warring in her psyche and she can barely find words at all.

Kory has called the right person, for despite the fact that she has no words, the woman on the other end of the line understands. She has but one other question, which she presents calmly in grounding contrast to Kory's current state. "Where are you?"

Kory manages, after a couple of attempts, to give the street they're on. And what the last intersection she remembers. "I'm so sorry," she manages, voice barely over a whisper. "It happened so…so fast. I tried…" The sash is bloodied and only barely tied around Peter's leg. Too little, too late. "I couldn't…I'm so sorry…" before she dissolves into breathless sobbing once again.

Angela patiently waits for the appropriate moment to speak — a window where she won't interrupt Kory and her anguished words, when Kory is more breath and less sob. "Stay where you are," she instructs, still the pillar of calm strength. Would this be her reaction if the man lying bloody there with Kory was her son from the current year? No, history says; with any luck, and boy, do the Petrellis need it, we won't have to find out if it still holds true. "Make sure no one sees you… either of you. Stay out of sight however you must. I'm on my way. I'll take care of this."

"I..I…yes, ma'am," she says quietly. Angela can hear the quiet scuffling as Kory drags herself and the body back into the shadows, hiding behind a dumpster. "I'm…I'm sorry." He was her son, but not her son. It seems, somehow, the right thing to say.

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