Date: June 5, 2010
The identity crisis of Morgan Starr and Erin McCarty gets fixed in a classic soap opera style.
"The Role of Morgan Will Now Be Played By…"
Erin McCarty's Dressing Room
It's been a while since Peter Petrelli last saw Erin. Last time they spoke, it was in her dressing room, pulled aside after an onset accident. This is exactly where he's waiting for her, invisible to the eyes. Aware that they're filming, he patiently waits for a break, glancing at his watch as he does. The timing of this will need to be perfect— he just hopes the shoot doesn't take too long.
It's in the room that he paces, as soon as the door opens, he looks toward it, stopping in his invisible walk, to see who it is. Only when it's the right person, alone, does he drop the invisibility, allowing it to ripple up his body as he solidifies, showing him standing there in dark clothes.
"Morgan? Are you still in there?"
Morgan's fingers run through her hair as she enters Erin's dressing room. The connection between the two of them has made things a little easier, but it's a constant reminder that she's stolen someone's body. How do you make the most of a life you have left when you know that your days are numbered?
«It'll be okay,» Erin says. Unsure how, she can't elaborate on that point, but she knows that somehow, it'll be okay.
Or maybe it won't be. She's kind of grown attached to Morgan on an emotional level, honestly, and she can't think of any way to take her own life back without destroying Morgan.
«Do you think there's a— » Morgan starts, but she's cut off as Peter appears in front of her, eyes flaring to brightness as she flattens herself back against the closed door.
Erin doesn't seem to be able to calm her down. It could be that she's so damned nervous with Peter around that she just can't. Luckily, Morgan thinks he's kind of nice, just… Weird. She breathes, and the light in her eyes dims. "What else can you do?" she asks as she relaxes, doubling over and resting her hands on her knees. "Yeah, it's still Morgan."
Morgan adds to Erin, «You're going to have to tell me what he did to you one day.»
«Are you sure you want to know?»
"What're you doing in my dressing room?"
"I didn't know where else to catch you in private. I'll give you enough time to change, but then we have to go," Peter says, looking at the watch on his wrist, a watch which is turned toward the inside rather than the outside.
"I have an idea to help you without getting rid of you. There's a young woman, she's brain dead. I've tried to fix her, but nothing I did would do anything— as far as I can tell, even with my abilities, she has no brain activity at all. I convinced them to keep her on life support for this, but they change shifts in an hour and after that… There's no telling how long I can convince each shift to allow it. She had no ID, no one's claimed her. Finger prints didn't come up, but she's clean physically, now."
It's likely she hadn't been before, but— with all his abilities, he could make sure she's a suitable body.
"I can set you up with some fake papers once we get you in there, but we have to go soon. You said you didn't want to die, this is the best way I can think of. This woman's going to die no matter what. At least this way you'll live."
This isn't quite what she expected. It's not really a stretch from what she's used to, but it's… Well, it's certainly a different solution.
«What, did you want to share my body your whole life?» Erin asks rhetorically.
"You can do that?" she asks incredulously. "Like, take me, and put me in a— What's …" Morgan bites her tongue before she asks what this girl looks like. Does it really matter, though? Living is so much better than vanishing into oblivion, isn't it? But to look in the mirror every day and see someone else…
Morgan doesn't realise she's scowling until she realises how quasi-ridiculous all this sounds. This prompts the smallest of smiles. "Sorry, it's just… It's not quite what I was expecting. It's…"
«Should I do it, Erin?»
Erin's quiet for awhile. As Morgan looks at Peter, Erin studies him carefully, looking for any sign that this guy isn't quite on the level. Maybe what he did to her really all was just an accident.
«Yeah. Yeah, you should go for it, Morgan. Heh. You can be my sister or something. You know. If you want.»
Eventually, Morgan nods. "Yeah, just… Turn around. Gimme a sec."
Not an accident, but certainly a terrible mistake. This is not a mistake, though. "Okay," Peter says, turning around and even stepping up against the wall and closing his eyes, so there's no chance of seeing anything— not that he doesn't see naked people all the time in his career. They have a pair if scissors in their paramedics bag for a reason, after all. "We won't have to drive there, so that will save us time in transportation. I can just teleport us." Like— the aliens on the show! Oh, aliens.
His life might be easier if he were an alien. Like superman.
"I've been keeping an eye out for paramedic cases like this, but we got lucky, with her being a Jane Doe, even. Once you wake up, you can choose your own name and I can get paper work together for you. I recommend not using Morgan Starr, though. Morgan's probably okay, but a different last name is a good idea."
Once Morgan is sure Peter isn't looking (And she checks by waving her hand behind his head - who knows? Maybe he has eyes back there!) she quickly gets changed, while keeping her back to him, just in case he gets any ideas. Or goes invisible and watches her or something. It's like every man's dream!
Once she's wearing street clothes again, and wardrobe she was wearing is frustratingly piled on her vanity, she turns back around. "Okay, done," she says as she pulls on a shoe. "Is this going to, you know, hurt or anything? 'cuz Erin seems to be really against you touching her. And she won't tell me what you did, so you're gonna have to do it."
«Morgan, it's not— »
"No, I have to know," she interrupts Erin out loud. "I want to know what you did to her, because I don't want to end up going somewhere with you only to end up… I don't know. I've been through a lot, so I can take it. Just tell me."
"I nearly killed her," Peter admits quietly, as he turns around to face her quietly, holding a hand out in offer, but making no move to touch her other than that. "I have the power to absorb other powers, just by meeting people and getting to know them a little. Some powers more than others, some I never get the hang of, but— there's a lot of abilities out there, and one… it was supposed to help me understand how other abilities work, but it came with a side effect. A… hunger. I guess kind of like a power vampire. I'd seen what Erin could do, and with the possibility of a plague that might be released…"
His eyes slide down to his offered hand, and he doesn't look back up at her again. "I went to see her to try and learn how to use her ability— and I used her ability on her, and I didn't use it gently. I hurt her and…" I hurt you, he spends telepathically to her. "And she wasn't the only one. I killed a man too, I allowed myself to be locked up for a few months until I could get it under control. I know it won't make up for what I did, but you said you didn't want to die— and I can do this."
Erin inwardly shudders. Morgan can't quite understand what she went through, because she has only scratched the surface of what Erin's ability can do. All she knows is that it's dangerous. Very dangerous. No wonder Erin's scared.
«I'm sorry,» she says to Erin.
Erin remains silent for awhile. «I don't think he meant to do it,» she admits. «…And I've been through worse.»
Morgan looks at Peter's hand. This is the best chance she has of actually living, but she hesitates. «Go on, Morgan. Trust me, I won't be mad,» Erin encourages. She kind of wants her own body back. And with that said, Morgan's hand rests in Peter's.
"No, I don't want to die. Let's give it a go, huh?"
When their hands connect, Peter looks at his watch to check the time. The plan has been in the works for a week, he just needed to find the right body… working double shifts isn't even the end of it. To be honest, he's working right now. Or one of him is, at the very least. "Okay, close your eyes," he warns, and then does so himself. Within a moment, the air pressure changes. The smell changes. Not the friendly warm dressing room, but something colder. Squeaky clean floors, instead of carpet, florecent lights and beeping machines.
The woman in the bed is young, younger than Erin, but in her mid to late twenties, still. Blonde hair stringy, needing some care, and a tube sticking into her neck, to keep her breathing. The machine keeping her lungs working can even be heard.
"We have a little while. Now you won't be able to talk when you first wake up, but don't panic. I'll remove the respirator and heal you, and then we'll get you out of here. I'll make the staff think the last shift took care of— of her. And then you can get set up with a new identity once you're settled. It may take a little while to get used to the body, but she's as healthy as I could make her."
Morgan has teleported before. She doesn't really remember the feeling of it, though, because it had no feeling. There are some things that just can't be duplicated. It's a little disorienting, even with her eyes closed, because when they make it to the hospital and she opens them, there's something entirely different in front of her. Squeezing her eyes shut, she rubs them, opens them again, and looks at the woman lying in the bed.
She steps over to the bed until she's next to the blonde woman. Her eyes take in the features, the tube sticking out of her neck… The scent of death being just held at bay by the machines. There's no one in there. Whoever was there has moved on, the soul departed.
«You're religious?» Erin asks.
«I don't know,» Morgan responds. Reaching out, she takes the woman's hand. If she waits any longer, she's going to lose her nerve. God, she wants this. She wants to be her own person, no strings attached, a mind of her own. Someone who can live without boundaries, learn about the real world. Maybe even love…
«You're doing it again,» Erin says of the dramatic internal voice.
Morgan dabs at her eyes. Erin's eyes, really. She's not sure why she's crying, but it just seems right. Squeezing the hand in hers, she mutters, "Thank you," to the Jane Doe, looks over her shoulder, and gives Peter a nod. "Yeah. No guarantees. But thanks for the warning."
And to Erin, «See you soon, I guess.»
With one hand still holding Erin's, Peter reaches over to touch the hand of the woman, feeling the IV and the monitors, and closing his eyes. A few minutes is all he knows he has, but he can run interference if needed… he needs everything he has to do this. Finding the imprint on one side and transferring it— not something he's ever done before, but he knows one person, a doctor, who could do this. Take one person and switch them into another body. It was used on him, he knew her… he couldn't find her for advice, but the memory may be enough.
There's a groan of pain, and as the switch happens, a trinkle of blood begins to come down from his nose. This isn't something he's going to be doing a lot at all. Two mental imprints sharing a body, now sharing seperate ones. When his eyes open, he takes his hand back from Erin and wipes his nose, as he looks from one to the other. Did it work?
Erin hasn't actually stood on her own feet in a couple weeks. Or longer, it's hard to keep track of time when you're reduced to a passenger in your own body. She hasn't used her voice, she hasn't turned her own head, or coughed or blinked or slept or anything. So when Morgan is gone…
She stares blankly ahead as her legs sort of give out under her, and lands on her knees on the hospital floor. For a few more seconds, it's as if she's completely gone - soulless, as Morgan had put it. Then she blinks, and slowly reaches a hand up to push her hair back. Her eyes find Peter's.
Her mouth moves, then closes. Being able to move actually feels strange. Not right. Still, she pushes herself to her feet, and that's when what just happened catches up to her. "M— Mh— " Pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes, she tries to recall how to use her voice. "Yeah… Think— Think so. Gimme minute." It's slurred, but obviously coming back to her.
Now all they have to worry about is… "Mor— Morg— "
She takes a couple wobbly steps and leans her hands against the hospital bed. "You okay??"
The transition from clinically brain dead to vitality takes a few moments — slow and painful moments where the two other souls in the room may have thought they failed, except that Erin is clearly her own woman once more. Success is clear in that aspect, at least. But the pale and wan face of Jane Doe on the bed, now Morgan Starr, remains impassive for several forced breaths of the respirator.
But finally, there is a twitch of the brows and then a fluttering of dark lashes against pale cheeks. The hand with the IV curls and uncurls its fingers. Then lips part, then close again. Finally, as if they are the hardest part to move, the woman's eyelids lift, dilated pupils in dark green eyes constricting beneath the sudden glare of fluorescent lights. Her eyes grow wider as she looks from Peter to Erin, and her hand comes to her throat, touching the tube that has kept that body alive yet keeps her from speaking.
The brain monitors begin to show immediate activity, and Peter moves to turn off the alarms and unplug them. It worked. "I need to wash my hands. Close the door, Erin, there's a couple clothes under the bed in a dufflebag that should fit her. Once I get the respirator removed, I'll step outside and make them forget about her." She would have been cremated on the state's dollar, so he's actually saving them a couple bucks— even if he's cost them extra energy keeping her alive…
Hands washed, gloves on, there's some quick motions as he leans down and offers a smile, "You're going to be fine," he assures. He even makes sure it doesn't hurt. One of his abilities can numb pain, and that goes first, as he pulls it out, and then reaches to switch to healing. The pain will return briefly, before everything seals up, and she can breathe on her own again.
"There…" One life for another.
Giving Morgan a smile as her eyes open, Erin hurries… Well, kind of half-stumbles, as it were… Toward the door to close it. As she does so, the ability to walk properly and speak quickly return. After all, a few weeks of doing neither can't just erase a lifetime of know-how. After the door is closed, she kneels so she can pull the duffle bag out from under the bed.
Giving a sort of careful look to Peter, she pulls the clothes out and sets them on the night table before looking to Morgan. Morgan Starr. It's actually kind of cool. Leaning over the newly whole person, she grins. "So, hey, happy birthday," she says. "I mean, you look a little old for your age…"
Erin's not sure if she's happier for Morgan - that she didn't have to die - or happier for herself - because she's got her life back. Maybe both are equal.
Looking over at Peter, she asks an important question. "How long has she been out? D'you know? Are her muscles still… I mean, will she still be able to walk and stuff?"
The lack of pain doesn't take away the fact that a tube's been in her throat, and Morgan turns away to cover her mouth and she coughs, swallowing hard when tears spring to her eyes as the body takes its first breath in who knows how long and she takes her first real breath in … well, ever. She's a person.
The blonde gives a shaky smile to the woman whose body she has been residing in, the woman she thought she was, and she glances down at her own body, covered by sheet as it is. The legs are ridiculously long compared to Erin's, the arms and hands and fingers, all longer. "Am I an Amazon?" she asks, the unfamiliar voice croaking, rusty from want of use though Peter took care of the pain and any damage. "Can I have water?" she adds, licking her lips with a dry tongue, before slowly sitting up and reaching for the duffle bag. Her eyes narrow as she glances at Peter, waiting for him to leave the room before she changes.
"Probably not an Amazon, but maybe a model— some of the agencies recruit in foreign countries— could be why she didn't come up on it," Peter says as he pulls off the gloves and smiles at her, glad that it worked. And relieved. But he can't let them see that he had doubts it would work. Though they may see it in his lopsided smile, or the way his eyes look.
"You should be able to move just fine, but getting used to your body may take a while. Probably avoid wearing heels until you can walk in flats."
As he says this, he heads toward the door and touches it. "I'll be back in a minute. Get her dressed and I'll— take you to your apartment or the dressing room, if you'd rather. Start thinking of your new name," he says, as he opens the door and disappears outside. To go and brainwash the staff.
There will be a huge crash tonight when he finally gets home…
Also looking down at Morgan's legs, she realises, "Yeah… I think you're a little taller than you're used to." Erin's actually really short at just over five feet. "Hang on, I'll see if there's a glass in the bathroom."
She's only gone for a few seconds. When she returns, she does, indeed have a glass filled with water. "Sorry, it's not very cold. You can have something else when we get to my place." Sitting on the bed, Erin takes a few deep breaths of her own, before looking over her shoulder at Morgan.
"Bet it's weird, huh?" She pauses, and shrugs. "Look, while you're getting used to things…" Usually, Erin's not so charitable, but they have shared brainspace, and they're essentially the same person. "If you need to talk, then do it, okay? I'm here. And I kind of know how you think, anyway. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry you had to go through all this, but I'm not sorry you're here." Taking the shirt out of the duffle bag, she holds it up. "…He doesn't have very good taste in clothing, does he?"
"Thanks," Morgan says, voice still husky as she takes the cup, draining, then clearing her throat. She's starting to feel more human, or what she assumes is more human, anyway. "It is weird, but then, my whole life as I know it — even if it wasn't real — has been weird, so I guess it's just more of the same, right?"
She pulls out the underwear and the pants inside of the duffel, awkwardly tugging them up her too-long legs beneath the gown, then takes the shirt. "Yeah, it's pretty ugly, but I guess beggars can't be choosers, right?" she asks, voice muffled as she pulls the garment over her head. Finally shoes, and she's ready to go. "I'm sorry for hijacking your body… thanks for helping me find a way out," she says quietly, almost shyly glancing at Erin — it's like looking at herself, except now they look nothing alike, from what she can tell.
Suddenly, she's dashing for the bathroom without a word, where she takes a glance into the mirror. She's pale and her hair is stringy. There are dark circles under her eyes and she's too thin by far, but the basic foundation is … not unattractive. She smiles at her reflection to test out her smile, and then suddenly …
Suddenly, Morgan is on her knees vomiting into the toilet. She's a real person and she finds that the prospect of living, no matter how much she wanted it, is overwhelming, and if all the world is a stage… Well, Morgan Starr has stage fright.
"It's not like you had much of a choice," Erin says, remembering very clearly the circumstances that brought Morgan into existence. Closing her eyes, she can still see that woman who called her Morgan. For some reason, she knows it was her that did this… Or at least she has a very strong instinct about it. Reaching for her elbow, she rubs at the spot where she felt the cool touch, at which point her life temporarily stopped.
Erin smiles, though. It's a serene expression, and almost a tired one. "Like looking in a mirror, I— "
"Morgan!?" she asks as the woman runs to the bathroom. Erin's quick to follow, standing in the doorway as Morgan looks at herself in an actual mirror. Remaining quiet, Erin allows her to look. It's got to be tough, seeing yourself one way for your whole life - even if it was imaginary - and then having an entirely new appearance. It's enough to make anyone sick, which is exactly what happens.
Wincing, curling her nose, Erin calmly reaches for Morgan's hair and pulls it back, laying her other hand on a shoulder. "Yeah, that's good. Do that here, and not in my apartment." Comforting? Not really. "It's okay, really. Look, it's cool. You have a family already, right? And… You don't have to worry about money. Me and Janny can get you set up. I don't…" Quieting, Erin bites her lips. "…You want a hug?"
A family. Morgan's brow furrows. It will be strange, to be "family" or even friends with someone whose body she thought was her own, whose body looks like the one she inhabited for her entire (fictional) life. "I'm okay," she mutters, wiping her mouth and standing, then turning to the sink to splash water on her face and rinse her mouth. "I'm… I'll be fine. I always am, right?" Except that was when she had writers dictating her life and making sure she made the right decisions.
She swallows and reaches for a paper towel to dry her face off. "Let's get out of here. This place is creepy," she suggests.
The door opens and closes, and it's still Peter, not one of the nurses in scrubs. "All right. They think she's already been taken care of, and that this shift just has to clean up the room for the next patient. Did you think of a name yet?" He asks, looking at the taller blonde woman, who actually is the same height as him— he's not a tall man. Maybe she is an Amazon!
"And do you want to go back to the dressing room, or an apartment?" It's really up to them on this case. I'll need a phone number so I can call once I have you set up— I'll even sneak in a little money, to get you started."
Taken care of. Erin looks sideways at Morgan and the body she now has. It's hers, but who did it belong to before? It might never be answered. Should they even worry about it? All Erin can do, though, is nod. Morgan is always fine, the writers make sure of it. Or else how would they get their ratings?
When Peter returns, Erin ponders for a moment. Back to the warehouse apartment, or back to the dressing room? "Why don't you take us back to the set?" she finally says. She's just not all that comfortable with Peter yet. In fact, she's actually shaking again, minor as it is. Some things can't change overnight. Even so, she's not yelling and screaming, and her eyes aren't glowing.
It's a start, right? Reaching out her hand she lays her other one on Morgan's shoulder. "So. Can I call you Mo?"
A name. He warned them but she hadn't had time to think of one yet, given the fact she was throwing up the little bit of water in her stomach, since there was nothing else in there. Jane Doe hadn't eaten anything besides glucose via an IV for some time, clearly. Her eyes fall on the paper towel dispenser, which reads Gale Paper Company. "Gale. Morgan Gale," she says. There's something about the name that seems to fit. It sounds like it could be a name in her old life — that is, a name in a soap opera script.
Seeing the shaking, Morgan's brow creases, and she reaches up to touch Erin's hand lightly for a moment. "If I can call you 'Err,' why not," she says, a slight smile on her lips before dropping the hand. "Thank you," she finally says to Peter, tears shimmering in her dark green eyes when she looks at him. "For everything."
"Gale, huh— like Dorothy," Peter says with a grin, not seeming insulted by the shaking and the wanting to go back to the studio instead. There's a reason he made that alternative offer. As long as she gives him a number… "It's fitting, cause you're definitely not in Kansas anymore— or Llanview," he adds, as he takes a hand from each of them. No place like home.
Luckily he doesn't have to click his heels and repeat it multiple times, they just disappear from the room and are back in the dressing room, still locked and unoccupied. Again, he lets go of Erin quickly, so as not to bother her too much. Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out his phone and goes to phone book, and hands it out to Erin. "For your number. So I can let you know when her papers are here, and so I don't have to pop back into your dressing room and hide again."
It's fitting. Not only Morgan realises that, either. Erin does, too. Definitely a soap opera name. And it's nice.
To one, Peter is terrifying. To the other, he's a savior. It's kind of strange that a single person can be on opposite ends of the spectrum at the same time, but just as Morgan looks at him with something like adoration, Erin's stare is something entirely different. It remains on him until just before they teleport, when her eyes close. They open again in her dressing room.
Hesitantly, she takes Peter's phone, holding it for a moment, staring at the screen, before she - against her better judgement - enters in her name and phone number. Her jaw work silently as she fights back tears of her own. It's one thing to take a back seat and let Morgan deal with him. It's another now that the two women are separate people again.
She holds onto it for another moment before handing it back. "You still have a lot to make up for," she says. "C'mon, Morgan. Let's go home."