2009-10-07: Watch Out



Date: October 7th, 2009


Watch out! In this case, the meaning is broad. Peter pays Tracy a visit for the second time, this time minus the pretenses.

"Watch Out"

Tracy's Apartment

Washington, D.C.

It's early. Really early. That doesn't mean much of D.C. isn't already getting ready for the day, though, if not already on their way to work. Tracy is among those preparing for a day of business on Capitol Hill, but she's taken a break. As soft early morning sunlight filters in through the largest window of her apartment, with a view of parts of the building's roof and some of the city, she sits at the table in front of it. Wearing a cream-coloured, simple, and decidedly silky robe, she has one foot perched up on the seat and one long leg stretched down. She's holding a cup of something warm — for now. It might not be if she stares at it thoughtfully much longer.

It's early morning, but there really is always business to be done. Phones ring all over the city, people mill about to get ready for the daily grind. A lot of talking and schmoozing. One of the many phones that start to ring this very moment belongs to Tracy Strauss. Downstairs, in the lobby of her apartment, a dark clad man paces back and forth, waiting for the rings to stop and a voice to answer. Caller ID would recognize the phone as belong to one Peter Petrelli.

Tracy is just beginning to lean her chin into her hand for another stint of pensive and slightly troubled staring when the phone prompts her to sit up straight. Letting her head fall back, eyes closing and lengthy blonde hair spilling further down her spine, she lets the caller wait a few moments. It's not long before she leaves the cup lightly steaming and abandons the table, taking several long strides to where her phone sits on a glass table behind the couch. When she spies the Caller ID, it's grabbed fast. "Mr. Petrelli."

"I'm glad you're home, Ms. Strauss," Peter says into the phone, finally slowing in his pace. He sounds tired, even a little winded, though the tired isn't physical so much as— everything else. "I was hoping you would be able to offer me some advice, like we talked about. I'm down in the lobby of your apartment, but I didn't want to come up unannounced this time." It's less that he doesn't wish to, and more that he thinks she'll be more open if she's less surprised by his sudden arrival.

"Come up," Tracy answers. No hesitation. Something's changed. There's actually a hint of urgency in her tone, almost as though she's ordering the man upstairs rather than granting him access. "Hit the buzzer, I'll let you in."

"Thank you. I'll be right up," Peter says, ending the call, but knowing his number will get left behind for her to call him back if she needs to later. They should be face to face again soon enough. Despite the fact he could bypass most of these procedures, he does buzz and then take the route to her apartment that every other person would take. He even knocks when he gets to the top. Much like before, he's clean cut, shaved this morning, but his hair hangs loose, falling over his eyebrows and almost into his eyes on one side. He doesn't bother to push it away just yet. The dark coat covers up a darker set of clothes. No suit under it today.

Tracy lets Peter up by simply pressing a button on her phone. It could be a race to see how quickly she can get dressed before her visitor knocks on the door, but she has no intentions of doing so, it would seem. No, Peter's going to get the advisor in a robe, because she doesn't plan on giving him any professional advice today. Thus, instead of racing to the closet, she races to the door. One hand on the doorknob, she waits a moment after the knock before swinging it open. On seeing the guest, she steps aside this time — come in, in other words. Her expression is less welcoming and more serious, however. "I was wondering when you'd call. I was almost about to track you down myself."

The door opens to a woman in a robe. Peter's mouth comes open almost immediately, eyes drifting down to confirm what he saw at the edge of his vision, and then quickly moving back up to her face. He's seen someone with her face naked once. In the past— that was once the future. It's not the same, though. She looks so much like… he doesn't seem to hear what she says at first. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize you wouldn't be— I didn't intend to intrude, that's why I— " Called first. And… That's when he realizes what she said, blinking suddenly, "What? Oh— why were you about to track me down?" He'd meant to be ready to read her mind, but she pretty much just fired that fish out of the barrel.

"Sorry," Tracy offers, wrapping an arm around herself to tug at the collar of her robe; it's modest from the bottom hem up, anyway. "Your… family name came up recently." The same day she saw Peter last, as a matter of fact. There's a difference in the woman since that day, however, at least in the way she addresses him; some of her strict professionalism seems to have fallen to the wayside. She seems a little more sincere. "I have some questions." Looks like she's planning to switch the advisor-advised role today. So get inside already, Petrelli.

Modest or not, it's still quite the surprise for the moment. Peter doesn't quite get over the stun even when he quietly steps inside, takes a few steps into her apartment and looks at the floor, the art. Well decorated, and normally he would compliment such an apartment, but he turns to face her again instead. "What do you mean my family name came up recently?" She has questions, but he seems to be interested in explanations for why.

Tracy closes the door behind Peter in something of a hurry. Sincere, yes. Guarded, totally. As he faces her, she eyes him almost suspiciously. After all, the reason his family name came up doesn't exactly put him in the best of lights. Instead of giving him an immediate answer, she whisks past him. "I was speaking with a doctor. A scientist," she explains vaguely as she does so, taking a seat at the table with the cup she abandoned before focusing intently on Peter. "I know, there's probably a lot of Petrellis out there, but I figure it's not a coincidence." Now she leaps right to the point. Accusingly, Tracy asks: "Who's Arthur?"

"Arthur Petrelli was my father," Peter says after a long pause of just looking back at her face. Only once it's said does he look away, glancing around the room to find a mirror, or something else to look at for a moment. "He died a while ago. But there could be more than one Arthur Petrelli in the world." A scientist. A doctor. Someone who looks so much like a woman who was connected to Pinehearst and his father for a time. A sister— Niki's sister

"What scientist brought him up? And why? My father was a lawyer."

It rings some vague bell, once Peter clarifies. Politicians talk about the rich, successful, and influential, the fathers of Congressmen and Senators. Tracy's face falls, but not out of sympathy because the man is dead — just out of irritation that he is. Not helpful! "…I'm sorry," she apologizes after a moment, frowning and furrowing her brow at Peter. "His name is— " She's hesitant, attempting to play it safe. "Dr. Zimmerman. I'm … trying to find out about his work. His research. He knew your father."

"I'm not sure I know of a Dr. Zimmerman," Peter says quietly, but the frown has begun to form, the furrowed brow. The longer that he's in the room with her and her robe, the less that he notices this fact and the easier it is to return to his original emotions. His head tilts toward the side, a flinch that could be taken as pain, and he turns away a bit. He doesn't exactly need eye contact for this kind of thing. "What was Dr. Zimmerman involved in?" If she doesn't answer outloud, what's going on in her head might clue him in.

If Peter doesn't know about Dr. Zimmerman, that pretty much shuts down this line of thought in trying to learn more, as far as Tracy's concerned. Still, after regarding him for a long and silent moment, studying him — his reactions — she answers: "…Genetics. Genetic research." Experiments— he ruined my life, he had no right, I was just a baby— "But!" Tracy actually smiles, the first instance throughout Peter's visit. It's an obvious move for a subject change. "This seems to be a dead end. Sooo."

Genetic Research. Experiments. Ruined her life. Just a baby. Peter doesn't have to be a genius to draw the lines. Pinehearst was involved in the creation of a formula that would give people abilities. Created or recreated? There had been pieces involved, that were put together. It'd been incomplete… "Maybe it's not a dead end," he says in a whispered voice, still looking away. "My father could have funded something like that. I can look through his records and see what I can find." There's a hesitation, before he turns back to face her. For a second his eyes are lower than hers, and then zip back up. "I— What's happening— what happened to you?"

Funding… for a moment, Tracy has hope, a subtle flicker in the light blue of her eyes, but it's tempered by suspicion. Her gaze on Peter turns narrowed and she turns her head slightly to one side as she studies him even more critically. There's an unsure, guarded smile on her face and a scoffing laugh under her breath as she answers. "What… do you mean, what happened to me, Mr. Petrelli?"

"You can call me Peter," he says after a moment, looking over toward the things on her table and looking hesitant again. "It just— it seems like a personal question is all. Not something to do with business or politics— So I thought that you might have had a reason to see a doctor." The one problem with being a Company agent, there are times when he's not very good at lying. Then again, he doesn't have to lie all the time to get what he wants. He glances back at her again, staying quiet for the moment.

The blonde woman sits up straighter, tossing her hair slightly and glancing out the window to her left. Away from Peter. Her smile tightens, purses. "He said," she looks back at the man again, a fierceness in her eyes. "Your father might be able to change— " A shake of Tracy's head and an open-palmed gesture of her hand through the air cut her off. "It doesn't matter." Alright, it does, but Tracy is far less than willing to delve into what's happening to her. She starts to change the subject again, but — after a glance to the nearest clock — she falters a couple of times, blinking tiredly as if she can't focus. "You said— you needed my advice on your brother's estates."

"I wasn't even here to talk about my brother's estates," Peter says, moving closer to where she's sitting and frowning a bit. The whole subterfuge has fallen apart, and he's no longer wondering if she's involved. There's something else going on here. Something else a little closer to home than he thought. Something that his family did in the past, one of the many mistakes that… "You're different. You don't— you're not like other people." She's like her— like Niki— did his family mess with Niki too? Was Niki's whole life ruined by his family and the Company? She's dead because of him— she left New York because of him… "What happened?"

This isn't the best venue for consulting professionally, in the advisor's own home while she's not even ready to be working, but Peter's admission of having another reason for being here anyway sets her on guard. His words throw her even closer to the edge. The legs of her chair scrape as Tracy suddenly gets to her feet, glowering at Peter and guardedly hovering closer. Forget curiosity, she looks angry. "What're you talking about." Peter has obviously hit some truth, given her reaction, but there's a strong force of denial in her adamant inquiry.

Just like Niki'd been, she's tall. Luckily he's just a little bit taller, but not by much. Peter looks down at her, surprised as she stands up, and at her angry. "I mean— you're different," he says, not quite sure how to explain it without… his hand goes up, like he's making a gesture to pause or wait. It doesn't come off as much more than… his hand being raised. "You can do something that other people can't do. Like— super strength, or speed, or healing. That's why you went looking for my father, isn't it?"

Tracy saw it coming, but surprise still widens her eyes. Her anger, figuratively, hits a wall — or rather, it gets redirected. It still lingers, a coldness to the people who done this to her instead of Peter. Then again, he's connected to them… "Something like that," she says lowly, bitterly. Not super strength or speed, and sure as hell not healing… "Dr. Zimmerman said your father might've known how to… change it," she says through a clenched jaw. "To take it away."

"Listen, Tracy," Peter says, dropping the formality as he steps a little closer, holding out his hand. She wants to get rid of it— he remembers that desire, something that locked him up in a room taking drugs. The promise of a cure that would never come. "I understand what you're going through, I do. It's— I know what it's like to want to just get rid of it, to lose it. But there's— my father can't help you. He's dead. And there's no… you can learn to control it. Whatever it is. You can."

"No, I don't want to." The words may sound childish out of context, but coming from the woman in front of Peter, they're nothing but solid and resolute. Edged, she looks like she may force Peter and his outstretched hand further away, but she steps back instead, gaze fixed intensely on him. A laugh courses through Tracy's voice, lacking warmth or humour. "Why would I want this?" She shakes her head, brow furrowing again. "No, we're gonna find a way to fix it."

They're not the same woman, but something in her voice comes off as similar. Peter knows that she's not Niki, but that doesn't change the fact that— just as he had with her— he wants to help her. The similarities in appearance and voice might even influence why he steps closer even as she retreats, reaches out even when she looks on edge and might slap his hand away. "I don't think there is a way to fix it. But you can learn to control it. I can help you."

It's not that Tracy doesn't want help — to understand her ability enough not to use it by accident — it's that she thinks she's going to get help somewhere else. Better help. Ivory's help. It's that persistent thought that throws her into defiance. "No," she snaps in response, reaching out to grab Peter's wrist as it nears, clamping over his watch. "No, I don't need your help! I need it to GO AWAY— "

The familiar-looking blonde may not have the super strength to keep ahold of the man, but she can certainly freeze it there for a time. Heat seeps from Peter's wrist, from his hand, his arm, a bluish haze of icy cold developing from Tracy's grasp and spreading its frosty bite. Her eyes widen in surprise — regret and apology along with that cold anger… and the freezing slows. Maybe she's already learning some control.

Funny thing, though. She doesn't let go.

The icecrystals form within his watch, slowing the gears and making the ticking die out from his ear. Peter's always well aware of the ticking of his own watch, something he's never quite been able to lose even after he was released from Level 5. It stops, though, and another tick begins instead. A glance down at his hand watches the progress. Ice is an ability he never did learn, though he's been around people who use it. The numbness grows, the strangness of the sensation that creeps up his wrist and down his hand. The watch isn't the only thing stopping.

"What— Tracy," he starts, voice twisted with the sudden pain as he starts to try to pull away.

This isn't the first time this hand's been frozen. It's not the first time this has happened. He's experienced much more since then, but that doesn't change the sudden panic that begins to come over him. Suddenly scars are visible on his face, like they'd just suddenly appeared there. In many ways they did, though they'd been there the whole time.

Pressing questions like what just happened to your face?, a question written all over Tracy's face as she stares in confusion at Peter's, will have to wait. Her grip fumbles, not to let go, but to stay holding on, as if she's forcing herself to keep doing this even though she doesn't want to; and to stop herself from letting the freezing go too far. It's not an easy job. Too much and… he'll wind up slush on the floor like one of her last visitors instead of just deeply chilled and frosted over. "You can keep this a secret, right?" she says before finally letting go with a sudden unfurling of her fingers. She steps back. Her hand returns to a normal, hot-blooded skin tone. "I can't have anyone else knowing I'm some kind of freak."

Of course Peter has no idea she can reverse what she's doing. Even if he knows that he can survive it, she's also bringing up something in him that… he doesn't want to entertain. "I— I can keep a secret," he says thickly, even as he looks at what she's doing to his hand. He wants to understand what she's doing. A temptation that comes forward sometimes is taken down with a slow breath, letting it fade away like the ticking of his wristwatch. Eyes slide back up to her own, even as he's gritted his teeth against the pain. "I won't tell anyone. I promise." It's firm and sincere.

A little worked up, naturally, Tracy steps even further back until she can grab the glass edge of the table behind her. and lean against it. Breathing more rapidly, heavier, she takes a moment to regain her poise. It's a fast journey, all told, at least as far as outward appearances go. Still, the ice queen's hostility hasn't entirely been banished. She purses her lips, eyeing Peter, and stands up straighter, squaring her shoulders back easily. "Okay." Now that the Petrelli is sworn to secrecy… "What are you really doing here?" Tracy is guessing it wasn't to become an ice cube, but then, you never know.

As she steps back, Peter staggers back as well, looking down at his hand, looking down at his hand. For a moment, he's expecting it to be frozen solid, but within moments he's able to move his fingers, and even the frost damage fades away. But his watch is broken. The glass face shattered. No, he didn't come here to become an ice cube. Or lose his watch. He glances up at her face again, her eyes especially. She wants to keep what she does secret… It takes a moment, but the scars vanish again, somehow just… sealing up right in front of her eyes, skin smoothing out, becoming a normal texture. "I came here— because the government is doing something and I thought maybe you'd know about it."

Did his face just— yes, it changed again. Such sights are entirely new to Tracy and she flickers a confused (and mildly alarmed, honestly — because who does that) look at Peter. "The government is always doing something," she says dismissively with the beginnings of a smile. At least now they'll be talking about something she knows more about than crazy genetic abilities. Maybe. "You'll have to be a little more specific, and— " She finally holds her hands up in front of her, palms together, pointing at Peter. "What keeps happening to your face?"

"You're not the only one who can do things," Peter says, rubbing at his wrist and the watch as he looks down again. It takes a moment, but he's able to pull it off, holding it up in front of him, and then he lets it go. And it hovers in place, like there's a string in her apartment hanging from the ceiling that he stuck it on. This is her apartment. He can't possibly have set up a trick like that. "The government is looking for people like us. People with abilities. People who can do things that normal people can't. And they're taking them, locking them away."

Tracy hones in on the hovering watch, agape. Studying it, trying to comprehend it. She moves in to pluck it from the air, or at least try to, looking down at the broken timepiece in apprehensive wonder. She's quick to accept it for what it is, there's no denying that this man has a power too. "What?" she says skeptically, gaze moving from the watch to Peter, watch to Peter, watch to Peter. "Locking them away, how? Who would do something like that?"

At first touch, it doesn't budge, but then it looses and falls into her hand, gravity taking it naturally as it should have when he let go. Peter steps closer again, since he has her attention, "That's what I was hoping you could tell me… But you didn't know about it. And— if they find out what you can do…" he trails off. There's worry rather than threat in his voice. Another person might try to blackmail, but instead he's genuinely worried about the woman, and what could happen to her. Then— it reminds him of Niki. And how he tried to get her to work against Pinehearst. And his eyes slide back up. "You shouldn't get involved in this."

"'They'…" Verging on a suspicion-edged smile, Tracy dangles the watch back to Peter, cringing faintly as she does. Sorry about that. More important matters, though. "I work in the government every day," she announces slowly as if Peter doesn't already know that obvious fact. The last thing she wants it to be kept in the dark. "If you know something, you have to tell me so I can … do something. Avoid it."

It wouldn't be the first watch he's broken. Peter takes it, stuffing it into his coat pocket as he stays close to her. She works with the government. "Just— be careful. Don't let anyone know what you can do— it'd be better if you…" Leave. He almost says it, but he can't finish, cause his mind reminds him. Niki left, because of him, and it got her killed. His eyes slide away, a furrow in his brow, a clutching of the watch in his pocket. Stepping back, he puts some distance between them again. "Just be careful. Those 'terrorists' that they're talking about right now— that's us. We're who they're looking for."

It's at this point that Tracy looks at Peter as if he's crazy. Or stupid. Perhaps both. She smiles confidently past her instinct to be rattled and just shakes her head. "No, that can't be. That's… that's just outlandish," she laughs quietly under her breath. "Mm. No," she repeats. "It's impossible. If… you're talking about the newest anti-terrorism operation set forth by the President, Senator Wynn is involved. He wouldn't do something like that. I should know." Silly Petrelli.

Oh that's not an expression that Peter likes anyone giving him. Ever. His brother gave it to him all the time, and more than just him, too. Sinking away, his eyes cast down toward the floor again, and his jaw tightens. "It's not outlandish. It's truth." But she's practically snarking at him. And it's insulting. "Just don't trust anyone, Tracy." Especially the President and Senators— or anyone in black body armor and face masks with weapons. "But if you need anything, you can call me," he adds, perhaps making himself an exception to the not trusting anyone. Though she may not trust him, either.

Tracy isn't entirely sure what Peter's offer of "anything" means, at this point in time. Maybe she'll find out down the road. Then again, maybe not. She might not believe him; that much is obvious. But he's certainly got her thinking; that part is less obvious in her cool visage, now quite recovered from the little incident earlier. She narrows her eyes for an innumerable time at her visitor. "I'll keep that in mind," she says diplomatically.

"Please do," Peter says, that genuine concern coming back, even if he'd been insulted for a moment. Then he starts to step away again, "I'll show myself out." But how he shows himself out may come as a surprise. One moment he's standing there, the next his eyes slide shut— and he's not standing there anymore. The space he occupied is empty.

He's not even in the same area code anymore.

"I— " Bam! He's gone before her eyes like a magic vanishing act and Tracy blinks and stares at empty air. That came as even more of a surprise as Charlotte's mysterious appearance. Placing a hand to her head, she tries to dismiss … that and focus on getting ready for the day.

She has some questions for the Senator.

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