2008-05-28: The Myth of Us

Starring:

Niki_icon.gif FuturePeter_icon.gif

Summary: "But somehow it all makes sense / Like I've done this before in the past tense / And I know I'll see you again / Cause the myth of us never ends / So it's always you / Yea, it's always you."

Date It Happened: May 28th, 2008

The Myth of Us


Deveaux Building

Upper West Side, New York City

It's late enough that the kids are in bed (an increasingly late hour, since they're both practically teenagers now), but early enough that Niki is still awake — and wandering about the apartment that's not hers. Pacing seems like a fitting pastime for a refugee, but it also feels like something a crazy person would do, at this hour, in a mostly empty, mostly quiet apartment. Eventually, Niki realizes this and makes herself stop, shoving a laptop aside on the couch and falling on the cushions with a hand going to her head.

She's not tired — she's even well-rested, clear-headed — but it seems like there's something she should be doing. After awhile, she jams a hand into the pocket of her dusty-grey jeans; she draws out a fistful of things. A crumpled paper with Gene's writing on it, a lengthy receipt, a ring. A black rubber bracelet. Okay. Maybe not so clear-headed.

Though he's not been non-existent, visits have been few and far between. Many reasons for this. Likely due to lack of comfort in the situation, or other such things. This would be one of those few nights, and fitting with the pattern, it's been a while since she's seen him. A shifting in the air suddenly displaces as the person this apartment may or may not belong to appears in the room. Dark hair, dark eyes, tense expression accented by a scar slashing across his face.

Of all the things one could say about him, he looks tired. Peter looked tired the first time she met the one from this time, and the tiredness seems to have gone back to the beginning. Each breath slow, his eyes settle on her. A silent pause fills in space before he speaks, "Hi."

On Peter's arrival, Niki's hand clamps around the odds and ends — some more meaningful than others — that she found herself staring at, drifting off into her head. If that's more productive than pacing, who knows. She sits up more than she had been. "…Hey," she says quietly, caught slightly off-guard, but not surprised. "…you look…" She studies him before looking away. "Tired." A familiar look, for this version of the man, but she knows the different levels of exhaustion. The different types, for different reasons, both from experience… and from knowing Peter. "For someone who doesn't sleep."

"Some people would say I do better than sleep," Peter says in a whispered voice, before he walks over to one of the other chairs and settles down into it. A glance toward the room the boys should be sleeping. If he didn't usually talk in a rough whisper, he might even be trying to keep his voice down. "I don't know how we're going to get Cass out of there, yet." We. "I might be able to go in and get her by myself, but if she developed the same ability as she did in the future I'm from— my being around her if she's panicked…"

Niki curls her legs up closer to her, bare feet on the couch. She watches Peter with some hesitation, almost reluctant to talk — when she does, however, her voice is, in contrast, decisive. "I know how." But with a twinge of worry, she wonders how blind any plan might be. She has no real idea what Cass might be able to do now. "…if it is the same," she tags on, questioning, "If— what happened to Cass is the same as what you saw in the future…" Time travel never fails to be confusing. God. "What happened to her?"

"She was injected with an ability," Peter explains, not really looking at her as he speaks. There's a haunted look in his eyes, but it matches the tired that he already had. Bad memories. The introduction of abilities in normal people is exactly what he came back to stop, in a way. If this happened to his former boss and mentor and friend… "My ability is based on emotions. I access people's powers based on how they made me feel, or how I felt about them, or how I felt while using it. The ability Cass gained gave her the power to project emotions on people. If she makes me panic… what happened the first time we met could easily happen again. Only this time no one's there to fly me away."

"…o-oh," Niki voices quietly, casting her head down as she imagines just how disastrous that could be. She looks grave. "Damnit," she says under her breath, clenching her hands tight on the couch cushions. "Why did it have to be Cass?" She lets out a frustrated sigh, with no shortage of guilt, either. "Then… It's probably best… that you don't go after her at all," Niki ventures. "…but I know someone who can get in and out without anyone noticing." A darkened, pointed look shifts up to Peter. "And he wants to do it."

Get in and out without anyone noticing. There are a few people who could do such a thing, but how many of them would cause a dark and pointed look to be leveled on him— especially from this woman. Peter returns the look, the same haunted expression, growing even more tired if that's possible. Eyes slide shut and he tilts his head back against the seat, a slow intake of air… and a whispered response, "Sending someone to extract her would work best— but there would need to be a diversion of some kind, to keep my father from noticing."

There's something vaguely like regret in Niki's eyes; mostly, though, she starts to look a little haunted herself. Not so much as Peter, and not so tired, but troubled, all the same. "…Yeah." They thought along the same lines. "I— " That's not exactly on point. "…we… talked to Kory," she says slowly. "I think she's going to get some people together."

..IMM

"We…" Peter repeats, before opening his eyes and forcing himself to his feet. Movement is necessary right now, for some reason or another. At least he's pacing away from her for a few moments, putting some additional distance between them as he puts his back to her. "The only people strong enough to fight my father are me and Gabriel. There are others who could assist us, but we're the only ones who could do it. I'll have to talk to him about it, but… I'm sure Kory knows this already." He shakes his head. He'd given Kory everyone's names for a reason. Everything's moving along fine without him. "I was going to dreamwalk into Cass' dreams to get her exact position in the building, it might give… him a better idea of where to go."

Niki swings her legs over the side of the couch as Peter goes on the move, feeling that itch to pace building up again herself — but she stays put, blue eyes tracking his path. She squints somewhere around the name "Gabriel," but doesn't bring it up. "That would make me feel a little better and less like it's a suicide mission." She gets to her feet, tucking the bits of paper and mementos a bit awkwardly into the pocket of her jeans.

"I wouldn't send anyone on a suicide mission," Peter says in the same whispered voice, but there's a hint to a piece of a sentence left out at the end. He'd send himself on one. But that's not the same at all. He's the only one who needs to be on a suicide mission here as far as he's concerned. After a few moments, he turns back and asks, "Is he staying here?"

"No." Niki slides her hands into her back pockets and turns, too, facing Peter with the distance in-between them. "No, I don't know where he is." There's a silence from the blonde, but she pipes back up after a few moments as if she feels like she has to. "I just… I needed to know he was okay."

"I could have found him for you," Peter responds, looking tense even as he makes the suggestion. "I could have told you he was all right." There's many reasons this topic would cause tension, and they're all probably accurate. A tightening shows in his jaw. "I still can find him, though I guess you did that on your own." The tension in his voice seems to be masking something else entirely. "Did he leave you a way to contact him? For when you're ready? Or is he planning on breaking in there without checking back?"

"I know you would have." And she sounds thankful for that, even if she didn't ask him to. It's a kind of… Respect, evident in her voice. Niki shakes her head lightly, drifting a few barefooted steps across the apartment floor. Yes, she has a way to reach D.L., no, he won't run off without checking in. Well, she can only hope. "It'll just take a phone call." Tension skirts along the woman's forehead. Worry. "Peter— "

The closing distance increases tension along his shoulders, but Peter doesn't move away at least. He even turns to face her a little more as she says his name, as her forehead creases with worry— and the respect in her voice. This would be a time to read her mind and spare her having to finish saying what she hesitates on, but after a moment of silence he asks, "What?"

If Peter were to read Niki's mind at this point in time, he'd probably find about five different sentiments and tangled words. Granted, what actually comes out after that hesitation might not be what she was going to say in the first place. Tilting her head an inch to one side, she looks at him — really looks at him. "…Are you okay?" The tension she holds isn't of the harsher variety that seems to haunt Peter; those searching eyes are gentle, full of concern.

There isn't harshness in him right now, either. The tension all has to do with other kinds of things. Pain, hurt, haunting, exhaustion… all together it makes a nice mix that… Peter's response is simple and sincere as he looks right back, "No, I'm not." Honest answer, rather than a little lie that might make things easier in the end. "But it'll be over soon," he adds, still breathing, but the rest doesn't matter. There's a sudden add on of, "I'll help distract my father after I fix Nathan."

Honesty sucks sometimes, but Niki appreciates it anyway. She seems to accept what Peter says — "fix" Nathan, distract his father — with the tiniest of nods. The look in her eye only becomes more acute, more concerned, more searching of the scar-faced Peter's expression. "You think… it'll all really end soon?" Mixed emotions? Check. There's a hint of urgency to her voice. Might have something to do with her last question. "When … you first came to me… it was because we both needed each other." Niki steps closer and closer, with some reluctance, the way someone approaches an animal slowly for fear of making it run away before you get to pet it. "I know what we said in the old apartment after the thing with Logan— but I'm still … here, Peter. I still want to help you."

The closer she gets, the more it looks as if he might pull away. Peter shifts his foot a bit, stepping back slightly— and then stopping as he catches himself, and as she speaks. The old apartment. Still here. Him. "What if I was never worth saving?" he simply asks, that same look in his eyes as he looks back at her. He'd told her that first time that he couldn't save himself. That he needed her for that. And it's not just that. "You're here— but I'm not supposed to be." There's a hopeless sound in his voice for a moment. "Maybe what you needed was never me."

"Christ— " Niki says under her breath with a bit of a laugh, shining a bit of light on the heavy subject with her smile, or at least trying to. "I'm not a psychologist." The smile slowly turns upside down, the seriousness moving back to the fore. Her hands finally pull away from her pockets, hands gesturing in front of her. "I don't know what we're doing here," she admits honestly (since she's not a psychologist). "The hell with … time travel and should be's and— shouldn't be's. The fact is, you are here, and I— " Niki's jaw tenses and, blinking, she looks away sharply, but just for a second or so. Blue eyes, guileless, watch him as she steps in. "You're worth saving, Peter."

In the light of everything else, she might not catch his own hands moving up to take the ones she raised to gesture with. Frustrations that Peter can't really blame her for. Of course she's not a psychologist, and she's had enough problems of her own that him giving her more would of course bring conflict. "Even if I left you? And her? Even if there's… nothing I can do in the end except leave you?"

"Then I guess it sucks to be me. I'll get over it. …All of… me's." Niki flashes another short-lived, gentle smile, not meaning her words quite as blunt as she meant them. She looks down at her hand that was caught — just looks, doesn't pull away. She stops gesturing and grows still. "You had to leave to come back…" she says, her voice is all the more quiet, struck with sort of realization as she does so. "You gotta leave to go back. You said it yourself, there's nothing you can do. It's not like you don't have good reasons … that're a little bigger than…" Niki curls her hand over Peter's fingers. "Than me 'n' you."

Leave to go back… Something about that catches on an old memory that makes Peter's eyes fall away from her face, down to where their hands touch. Shifting, he curls his own fingers to hold her back, eyes closing. A step closer makes some of the distance between them vanish, as his face moves in closer. They're pretty much the same height, though with him in shoes and her bare foot, he's actually a little taller. For a change. He's just pressing his forehead lightly against hers, his nose pressing nearby. "Almost everything is bigger," he whispers, breath warm against her with the additional closeness. "And almost nothing is harder…" There's a slow inhale before he moves back again, opening his eyes. "I know you needed me at the time— What do you need now?"

It's been awhile since they've been this close, and Niki's reaction is to shut her eyes; she can't do anything but that at first, parted lips falling further open as she just tries to think rationally. Her eyes shut tighter. Another installation of honesty being hard to hear. And at the moment, it's even harder to give. A serious expression meets Peter's eyes when hers open, needy for him to listen to her.

"I need…" Niki leans her head against his and takes his other hand, grasping both tight. "…for you to know… that I think I maybe loved you." A quick, but bright, smile passes with no evidence of ever being there. "And that… it's okay. You have to do what you have to do." She pauses, nearly frowning. Hands still held, she takes a distinct step back. "We both do."

This would be a situation that Peter knows far too well. Important words that let someone know of feeling that had been there— but little things sting in small ways. Small and big ways all at once. It's the distinct step back that finally makes him close his eyes again. A mask comes over his expression. Understanding had been there. Gratitude, as well. But her smile, however quick, isn't returned. There's a sharp sense of that pain, hopelessness and regret lingering, even augmented for a moment. "I'm sorry," he finally manages to say, before releasing her hands. There's a question he probably doesn't ant to ask, but maybe he needs to hear her say it. "And what do you have to do, Niki?"

"I have to straighten things out. I have to— figure out my life after Pinehearst. After you. And I have to start now, before … it's too late." Niki's arms fold over the pastel shade of her shirt, a distinctly cut off pose. She studies the floor between her and Peter. She's thinking troubled thoughts, lips pursing together and brows coming close. "…Hey," she calls his attention quietly.

Start now. Before it's too late. Peter takes in a slow breath, even though she calls on his attention, he shifts his hand around until a key appears, which he moves far enough away to set down on a nearby table. Not that he ever needed a key… "This apartment is yours. I wasn't even paying rent for it, it was just a place to stay for now… you can keep it until Hiro comes back— or until it's safe to go back to your own home."

Thrown by the key and the— the apartment which is now apparently hers, Niki looks down at the key of the table in shock. "I— thank you." Determined, however, she marches toward Peter again; she has something else to say, and she's going to try to say it before he up and disappears. "Peter. Look at me." Niki moves in close enough to plant her hands on either side of his face. She has a demand. "Don't be sorry." With no more warning than that, she kisses him. Just as intense as her demand. "Promise me that you will stop being sorry. You don't have to be sorry. Not for me."

In truth, he could get away when she approaches. Peter could even escape her grasp. He doesn't even attempt it, doesn't try to get away. The kiss even brings his hands right back up to touch her face almost as if he might try to keep her right there. Even as she intensely demands things of him. Things that may well be impossible. There's so much he could argue there. He has so much to be sorry for. Not just for her. Recent things as well as distant past— or distant future. One hand stays against her neck, fingers in her hair, thumb up on her cheek. "Niki…" He pauses to breathe for a second, sounding breathless even with just one kiss. "Is there… any chance… that you can start tomorrow?" It doesn't sound like he expects her to say yes, considering everything.

Niki was dedicated to being there for this time-misplaced Peter when he needed her. She said, even today, that she was still here for him. Even in the suddenly heated moment, she can look at him and know that she's thinking clearly, because she makes herself take a little mental timeout to make sure. It's a decision that she makes. "Whatever you need," she murmurs, calm and certain as can be. She moves to kiss him again, lightly here and there, before just quietly taking Peter's hands and slowly stepping backwards, leading him towards… elsewhere.

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