2010-07-02: Worth The Trouble



Date: July 2, 2010


Some relationships are worth it.

"Worth The Trouble"

Lawrence, Kansas

The directions sit on the dashboard of a rental car, drawing out the farm roads, and the turns, the amount of farms between the stretch of road and the one he wants. As he looks out at the field, Peter knows it's the same place. The angle of view is different, from the road instead of the air, but the cornfield, the white house, the scarecrow— all of it looks the same, and he knows this had been where he was before.

The car is turned off, pulled up the gravel driveway toward the house, but with enough distant. The tires make noise on the rocks, the engine continues to hum a bit, as it settles down. The door clicks and closes, as he steps out, leaving the map inside, fluttering down to the floor of the dark colored car that he leaves behind.

The house is old, and ricketty, but he steps up onto the porch. It's been so long since it took time to do things— travel the old fashioned way. And from the phonecalls exchanged with his niece, it's not a limited condition. "Hello?" he calls out, as he knocks— this is one time he has to knock. There's no other option.

It takes more of that time for there to be a response to Peter's knocking. But eventually, the creak of old wooden floors betrays movement inside before the sturdy click of a lock. For the weather, a screen door's been installed in front of the hardened wood one, and it's through this mesh that a soft and weathered old man's face greets the unexpected visitor. His hands rub together against the towel between them, but it's a habitual motion rather than a nervous one; the dampness from his fingers transfers to the material. "Can I help you?"

"Oh— hello, sorry, I'm looking for— the mailbox said this is the Millbrook farm," Peter says, gesturing out toward the mailbox, before he looks back at the man inside. Old, but gentle looking, even if nervous— very different from the way his own father had looked. "I'm Peter Petrelli, I'm looking for Daphne— I'm not sure if she's here, but…" He trails off, unable to explain that he couldn't think of very many places that she could go in the direction that he last saw her— a quick blur of motion disappearing across the horizon. And if he's right about what's happened, she would be stuck wherever she ended up. "Is she here?"

Gentle, and clearly unused to any sort of deception; debate displays across his face as he shifts weight there behind the screen. "No, we— " A glance over his shoulder as if for confirmation betrays him further, but he plows forward, beady eyes now narrowing further on this Peter Petrelli in the suspicion of his ignorance. "This isn't a good time," he finally settles on, releasing the towel with one hand to grasp the door, "I think it's best if there just wasn't any bothering right now." And he begins to motivate the door shut.

"Wait," Peter says, reaching closer to put his hand against the door. He may no longer have super strength, but he can hold a door open. "If she's here, I need to see her. I'm not here to cause any trouble or hurt her, I'm worried about her." He steps into the door, so it can't be closed even more and he might even be trying to force his way back in, at least a little. "Daphne? Are you here?" he raises his voice, trying to say that more loudly so it can carry further into the house. He looks different than the last time she saw him. When he lost all his abilities, it had an averse effect on certain things, one of them being his hair. But on the bright side, it's just short and not gone.

"Now, hold on— " Daddy Millbrook was and still is a venerable farmer, and he makes a worthy barrier between Peter and his goal when his arm starts to come up. "See here, I'm looking out for her." It's a tired, tell-tale face that lets the unpowered former mind-reader know that guilt motivates his determination now. Still, his expression determined, he might have quite succeeded at turning this young man out — but for a voice further inside.

"You can let him in. It's not like he's going to just give up." Not snarky enough to be a direct insult, but the admiration within is too weary for that, too. Daphne's resignation trembles as much as she does: only noticeable when farmer Millbrook side-steps very cautiously to let Peter through, revealing behind him — underneath a doorway between two rooms — the eclipsed speedster.

She looks just like Peter last saw her. But now, instead of a shiny new watch, the grip of a crutch clasps her wrisst, as well as upper arms. Similarly trapped on both legs, it takes considerable effort for her to take that step forward.

"… Hi, Peter."

Giving up isn't something Peter's very good at sometimes, except when he gives up on himself. Then it happens pretty fast, and it usually leads to him getting locked up in a cell away from everyone else. But that's not what the problems are now— he's not dangerous. He's safe. Part of him misses the many abilities that helped him save lives and help people. The normalacy means he can't do those things anymore, he has to save people like a normal paramedic— he has to go through every day just— him. And he's not sure he has much to offer without his abilities.

But part of him is relieved.

And if the whole world is free of abilities, then maybe the things he had to save people from won't happen as often anymore. Maybe the world will be safer…

And maybe his girlfriend will be in crutches. "What— Daphne— are…" he moves closer, swirving around the old man, and while he's moving at normal speed, he's not slowed down by new burdens or slowed nerve impulses. But… "What happened? Were you hurt?"

Clear cut shame motivates Daphne's gaze away from Peter, even as all he shows is surprise and concern. They almost hurt more because — because now she gets to shatter this working image he has of her. As she inwardly struggles with her words, and outwardly struggles with walking, her father passes by, consistently kneading that towel now that his hands are buried in it again. The motion seems to help him not reach out to his laboring daughter. "If you need anything— I'll just…" Heavy footsteps send him away, to some other room where, eventually, the sound of running water places him.

"I'm not hurt," Daphne finally says, a touch of exasperated duh to cover for her own embarrassment. "I'm just… me. Normal again." Bitterness sneaks in; shaking arms force themselves forward, bringing crutches with them till she can lean her weight forward and basically drag one foot than the other. "Turns out, for some of us… 'normal' is just a little more broken than everybody else."

"You need leg braces…" Peter repeats quietly, surprised and shocked at this new change to the way he always pictured her being, but dawning toward understanding. Just like him, who desired the chance to be better, to be special, she no doubt had a strong desire and need to be free and able to move more quickly. And she got it.

And now it'd been taken away from her.

"I think it was the eclipse. It started while we were running. I lost my abilities, too. And I know at least one other who did, too. There was an eclipse the first time I flew, too," he adds, voice quieter due to the topic, even if Papa Milbrook has left the room. "We'll figure things out— it'll be okay," he says, taking a few more steps closer to her. The closer he gets, the easier it is to see the changes in his face and hair. His hair is short, like he'd gotten a buzz cut in the last few days, and his face has a few scars— he also didn't shave, the dark stubble standing out on his cheeks.

Speculation on the cause does little to take her surprise or curiosity, Daphne only lifting her head sharply, flipping her hair out of her face while her hands are occupied keeping her upright. "And now here I am, wearing the latest in eclipse-styled fashion, right? Wrong." A sigh escapes, perhaps some recognition from her that she knows she's being too harsh, but her tone barely lessens, "There was… there was this one the first time I — that I ran, too. I remember I saw— anyway."

Shaky step by shaky step, she navigates towards an easy chair. With the continuous effort of moving, her face shows the strain; her now unreliable muscles having become unused to the burden of even her small body. Flimsy knees sink even before she gets fully to the seat, dropping her carelessly onto the edge of the chair, but she keeps herself steady with some remembered strategy with the crutches. This was her life before, after all. Could be now. "Maybe we won't," she pipes up, not blaming nor accusing Peter. Being realistic. "Maybe this event comes along and gives us abilities to do things and then— bam. Time's up. If we didn't get done what we should've, you know, time's up. We can only blame ourselves."

"I don't think that's how the abilities work," Peter says, moving closer to her chair that she's planted herself in, and moving to find a seat nearby, even scooting it over so they're closer together. "My parents both had abilities, and the Company has been tracking people with powers for a long time— maybe there's something specific about this situation… we don't know." Until he saw what happened to her, he hadn't thought it would be a totally bad thing, to live in a world without powers— But seeing her like this…

"I don't think we failed, Daphne— we did a lot of good things. I don't think this is our fault." But then whose fault is it? What if it is his fault? "The future me still had his abilities," he says, trying to use that as an example… But that future changed already, didn't it?

"You don't think," Daphne challenged matter-of-factly, "But that doesn't mean you can't be wrong." There's no blame in her voice for him; there isn't even as much bite as there could be. More like she's pressing logical thinking onto an emotional situation, attempting to barrier up for the long haul this could be. "We — you — did a lot. But maybe it's not enough. I mean, maybe some jackass played Red Dead Redemption all day instead of helping the homeless and now we're all suffering for it! There's no way to know except that— here we are."

What animated hand-gestures, pacing — anything — that might've accompanied her rousing speech are limited by her need to clutch to crutches. The fact that her body doesn't always respond quite the way she wants. Her eyes dart here and there where she cannot, finding the passage down which her father disappeared. Some emotion lowers her voice, even if it doesn't make it into those tones. "I wouldn't blame you," she's eyeing his knees more than his eyes at first, but eventually raises her gaze to look at him, "If you left. I'm pretty aware that I'm more shortbus than party bus like this. And it wouldn't have to be forever. If you're right and all…"

The offer to leave is heard, but Peter just looks at her face for a time, as she returns her eyes to his. It's a slow look, one that lingers for a long time, but it doesn't seem as long as it would before— it's different. "I'm not leaving— if someone messed things up, then it probably was me." Self-blame, his defining characteristic.

"There was— I did something. Back when we stopped Alpha Protocol, when I didn't come home right away— when… something bad happened on Governor's Island, when I was trying to stop them from destroying it. I promised a man that I would save a girl— a young woman, and I didn't. I failed to save her. She died. Her body disintigrated in front of me. She turned her power inward, onto herself, and it destroyed her, instead of destroying me and so many others… In the future the other me came from— she'd been alive. I know, because I have some or his memories, and that had been one of his regrets. That he'd tried to murder her— and he couldn't, he failed. And maybe I was supposed to save her…"

He takes in a slow breath, before he reaches out to touch her hand. "I'm not leaving you… If anything, we're both pretty damaged, and maybe we always will be, whether we have an ability or not."

It's all given a long thought— throughout which Daphne's eyebrows drop more and more skeptically, her mouth twitching to one side to match. A little shake of her head displaces hair. "What, so. That means he saved her, but later he regretted that she was alive, so that makes you think that— you should have saved her?" Some effort is involved, but Daphne feel it's worth it to unwrap her hand from one of the crutches to lean forward and give Peter a, not too solid, but determined slap to the side of the head. "If she died and saved others… that sounds pretty good." Despite the initial callousness of the statement, her voice is soft, understanding that she's talking about a human life — but focused big picture.

"Anyway, if you came here to mope, you really can leave, cause I got this covered…" it's mostly a joke now, though with a thread of sincerity that contradicts the way she lets him touch her, leans a little bit towards him. "Yeah, okay. Maybe we always will be," is accepted quietly for what he says, her glance turning away to the side as she gives a hesitant bite to her lip. "… but I still prefer to run really fast."

"I didn't come here to mope," Peter says quietly, rubbing the side of his head, with the short cropped hair as he leans back away. "I didn't remember what'd happened til we stopped running— til I stopped running from it. Because I'd— done something to try and fix it. I recreated her, so that she could go home, I hid what happened, a part of me became her— and when my powers stopped, it stopped, and I remembered everything. I was hiding from what happened. From myself, from the man I promised… You're right, though— she died well, and what I did— it didn't bring her back, and it didn't let anyone know what she did. I didn't even know what she did." Cause some part of him just didn't want to remember.

But now he does. "The eclipse made me remember. Maybe it's… making us see what— what we're using our abilities to hide from— to run away from. This isn't who you are anymore… but it's who you were. And… and maybe you needed to show that to me."

She tries, she really does. Daphne pays honest attention to everything Peter says, with that look of concentration still molded into her eyebrows. But it finally has to be admitted: "I… don't understand." One more shot at thinking earns him: "You're also a girl?" Nearly absurd enough to laugh, the notion blurted out instead encourages Daphne to wobble into a better seated position, huffing down with a kind of acceptance that she will never, ever, ever really know what the hell it is Peter does all the time. "Someone needs to write a manual on you, for you — I don't know."

It's in the midst of pondering his next point, though, and the deeper notion causes her to immediately look away in denial. "This," her legs, the crutches she wavers about in lackluster demonstration, "is what waits for me. It's not just were, it's am — look at me, Peter. It's right now. And showing you? Is the last thing I ever wanted to happen ever because then I knew you'd look at me, like— like you are right now."

"Maybe they won't need to anymore— one thing's for sure, I'm a lot more simple, now…" Peter says quietly, well aware he's suddenly not nearly as complicated as he was a week ago, living multiple lives. "But no, I'm not a girl." No matter what his brother might have said about him in the past…

"I'm not— I don't even know how I'm looking at you," and as he says that, he looks down for a moment, before stubbornly looking back at her, "But I don't think less of you cause you're in this situation… You may think there's something wrong with you, because of your health, because when you have something wrong with your body— it's only natural to think it's you… but you're— you're beautiful, and you're funny, and… and I don't think a… an eclipse could take that away from you."

"That's sweet," and she means it, honest, but she's also talking down as though to a child learning a lesson, "But it already has. I'm everything I was because I could run, be free, whatever. I was even a few things I'm not so proud of." Daphne might have dwelled on them longer earlier, too, but now it seems moot. Now she can't even cross one leg over the other, but has to drop one hand from a crutch and nudge her knee where she wants it to try and be more comfortable from the constant affliction.

"But, like this. Back here. Face it, I'm a dud. And a sullen child at that." Guilt flashes through her eyes, "And you don't think less of me, but— but you do feel bad for me. That pity. I love it about you, how you care," her hand tries to dart out like it used to, to touch his face, but she falters, elbow crooking oddly. A passionate head-shake. "But in a tiny, tiny, even unconscious way— that feeling makes you— everybody— look down on the person with the 'problem'. I've seen it a thousand times."

In a lot of ways, Peter relates to what she's saying— without the abilities he leeched off of others, he doesn't see much worth in himself as a person. He never felt like anyone. He wasn't special… But he wasn't half crippled, either. So it's not something he can relate to. Hands go up to his face as he settles down into the nearby chair deeper and heavier. Of all the things he thought they would have to talk about, this wasn't one of them.

"Daphne— I don't want to look down on you. I was looked down on for less than that my whole life, until…" By his brother, his father, even his mother, despite her assurances he was her favorite. He'd never be… enough.

"Yes, I want to help, but it's not just because I want something to fix— it's because it's you… I don't— I can stay the night. Sleep on the floor or the couch, or even the barn or in my car if you'd prefer— until… I'm not going to leave you here alone, unless— unless that's what you want." It's not what he wants, but that doesn't change he'll add that clause.

"I'm sorry." Daphne tries to equally relax, but her body won't allow. Can't. There's something permanently wrong with the way it functions. But she manages a softer tone, and not even a dismissing one. "It seems like every time we're gonna be okay, some issue of mine throws it all off again. I know you didn't come here to be lectured… you came because you care." For the first time, a genuine smile creeps in, cautiously, unsure of its surroundings. "Of course you can stay." A pause, her head tipping almost mischievously. "Bet it sucked getting all the way out here like a normal person."

It may be a joke, a rib against his constant teleportation, but it smacks a bit of left-over hurt. All that distance to which she mockingly refers is only more and more of a hurdle versus her ever leaving. All this space around them… there's never been a smaller cage.

But, at the end of it, she wields a steadier grip on her crutches and forces herself back onto unwilling feet. "My dad's probably washed the same dish fifty times by now. I'd better let him know you aren't just a bunch of trouble."

"It was really difficult— I actually had to hitchhike, and then get a rental car. Luckily I remembered where I took you that one time, so I… found the town and looked for a Millbrook farm," Peter says, sounding a little amused at his inability to instantly go from one place to the next. It's a strange turn of events for him, though moreso for her. He doesn't comment further, though, beyond getting to his feet and reaching a hand to help her, or at least walk beside her into the kitchen.

"Well, I am a bunch of trouble, but I hope that I'm worth the trouble— I know you are." Because— she's trouble in her own right.

Daphne's undignified snort tells of her amusement towards the hitchhiking, a soft repetition of the noise heralding his reminisce. "That seems like a lifetime ago. I— didn't think I'd be back here after that… probably." Then again, the once speedster's always held that good things come to an end. You just take your fair due while you can. Before this.
She skirts away from his hand as best she can, but in a way so as to ignore that he even made the gesture, rather than bumping him aside. It's one laborious steps after another, but she makes them each on her own — well, as much as one is on her own with braces and crutches.

"Fine, you're trouble, Petrelli," she dryly teases in light of the revelation, "You're going to toss me over your hog, next, and make my dad come after you with his shotgun while I fling myself like a big damseling idiot in the way all 'run joey'." A beat. "He's got one, you know. Farmer. Comes with the territory."

There's a longer pause, though, and she stops her special brand of walking long enough to angle at Peter before they're not alone anymore. "Let's be honest," she says, sounding entirely so, "If you weren't— ? I would've been gone a long time ago." Not exactly sentimental, but gosh darn meaningful to her personally.

Even as she skirts away from his hand, Peter keeps himself close so that he can follow close beside her without touching— at least she didn't bump him, even if he wanted to touch her— touch is one of the ways he expresses himself… even if he can't help but understand her jitters.

"I actually bought a motorcycle once, but I forgot to pick it up." Literally forgot, he had amnesia for a while! "But it wasn't one of those big ones…" The lady had even called it a crotch rocket, of all things. Light and fast. Just like she used to be…

"And I wouldn't have blamed you if you had left, after all that happened… but I'm glad you didn't." Even if he thought she had, once.

"Plus. You could fly." Duh. That's the note Daphne prefers to end things on. Though her lips work against each other pensively for the rest, they only end up tipping upwards to a brief, reassuring smile. There's no sighing or rolling her eyes or trudging off ahead — if she could. In a way, it speaks for itself: she's glad he's here.

Or, as she crooks a crutch finally into the kitchen, staggering to where her father has been kneading his towel and pretending not to want to eavesdrop — she just wants somebody to finish the dishes.

Fly, teleport, run at high speeds. There's so many ways to travel that he didn't need a motorcycle. Now he probably wishes he'd had one. Peter smiles a bit, as he moves up behind her, and looks toward the older man who answered the door— and who has a shotgun. "Sorry I pushed my way in earlier, sir. I— I'm Peter Petrelli, as I said before, and— I'm a close friend of your daughter's." There's a pause, as if he's unsure exactly how to say this. Meeting the girlfriend's dad is never easy…

"We've been seeing each other." That's the politest way he can think to say it, leaving out the fact they'd been living together— sort of. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Millbrook."

It'd be nice to say that daddy Millbrook looks upon Peter with kindness and hearty acceptance, but he hasn't gotten over being slightly suspicious yet — even if only because his eyes are crinkled with constant concern. The territorial narrowing of his gaze can only be overcompensation in the heart of a man full of guilt for doing less before. "Well, Daphne said you could," he starts carefully, glancing at her as she pointedly ignores them, "So I— glad to hear. She's got friends." With the pause, the second sentence almost sits on its own: a somewhat surprised observation.

There couldn't be a more awkward stare down between two people, such that Daphne, unable to even pretend she's rummaging through cupboards too high for her to get to in braces, glances over with a sigh. "Hey. He's my boyfriend. And he's staying here. Okay?" But she never really looks him in the eye, and he never really makes a full response besides shifting uncomfortably, unable to refuse.

Boyfriend. Despite himself, there's a small smile that appears on the corner of his mouth. Peter's happy that she's saying that about him, and he can't keep it in. Even considering the circumstances. "If there's anything I can do to help out, just tell me. I'm not great with farms, but I can probably do most things." Even if not as well as he could a few days ago, when he could lift hay bails without breaking a sweat— or even touching them.

Millbrook is preparing an answer, when his daughter whirls…. — okay, step by step by step angles herself towards Peter — with a deviant's smirk. "I think Peter doing some work is a great idea. You know, get your hands dirty. Guys' stuff." She may also be thinking about how it won't be as easy. And enjoying it somewhat more.

"Well, this… the place isn't what it used to be," the old farmer mutters, finding it hard to keep up despite everyone moving at the same speed, "But there's a guest room you can use and I— I'll have to go buy some more groceries— why don't I just go… set the room up for you now."

"I'll do it." The pipe up from Daphne is clearly unexpected, especially how cheerfully said. But, indeed, there she goes, working past the boys to get herself walking out into the foyer with the stairs.

"I'm sure you can find something for me to do," Peter says with that grin remaining a bit, as he watches her move away. Despite the fact he should feel bad seeing her move so slowly, he's happy that she's being cheerful despite everything. There's both pleasant and unpleasant things about this moment— awkward and comfortable. Nothing is ever easy in his life— even meeting the parents.

"She means a lot to me." But no promises that he won't hurt her— he's hurt her enough already to know he can never keep such a promise. "I can help with the groceries, though. I have a rental car that I can use, just give me a shopping list."

It's quiet on Millbrook's side of things until his daughter appears to be well on her way out of sight — and hearing range. Then he levels something quite serious in Peter's direction. "Honest, mister Peter Petrelli, I don't know what it is brought my daughter back to me, or what'll help or hurt at this point. If you know any better, God bless you. Otherwise, you think about if you should really be here real hard."

It isn't a threat. He's too tired, too unsure for that. Too full of the past when it was his own fault. "… Cause if she had any choice in the matter… she wouldn't be."

"Maybe I need to stay here so that she knows she does have a choice," Peter says quietly, voice softening a little as he keeps looking toward the direction that she left. The good thing is, he'll hear her before she can make her way back. It's an advantage, one he'll be grateful for, while he's talking about her quietly. Even if he doesn't think he's saying anything wrong. "Cause even if things don't change… she'll still have a choice. She doesn't have to stay anywhere— no matter what's wrong with her."

Quality of life is one of the many tenants of a hospice nurse, even if they only meet their patients when they have very little life left… She's not that bad off, so he's sure there's options.

"You can call me Peter, sir."

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