Not Much of a Gift

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Scene Title Not Much of a Gift
Synopsis Ready to paint a gift for a friend, Peter encounters a member of PARIAH, and catches an unfortunate glimpse into the future.
Date September 12, 2008

Condemned Tenement

Once home to dozens of working-class families, this building has long ago been officially evacuated and condemned after it was partially gutted by a fire. The brick exterior is covered with layer upon layer of graffiti, the windows are boarded, and some sections of the roof are less than sound. The fire took hold on the fourth floor and expanded upward. Below that, many of the apartments are still intact.


Midnight at the tenement is always a quiet time, few members of the group are night-owls, and those that are tend to stick to their rooms for the late hours of the evening. However, there is usually one staple to the wee morning hours here, and that is Peter Petrelli. For the amount of time he spends here, he isn't often seen out and about with the other members, occasionally in the basement or up on the rooftop. Word was trickling down through the ranks that a meeting of the tenured members and Peter was held a few days ago, rumors that Cameron didn't even show up for the meeting, rumors of an argument between Peter and Cameron's second-in-command Claire. Rumors flow through this place as easily as its transient members do.

People say a lot of things about Peter, about his turbulent moods, about his powers — everyone seems to say he has something different than the other person. Few members have actually spoken with and met him though. But at this hour of the night, when the gossiping ones are asleep, Peter is up and awake. Coming up from the basement, Peter carries two paint cans — one in each hand — hauling them across the foyer of the tenement building, looking like he has a purpose and direction. There was a lot of activity here, earlier, word that a group was going to go out and vandalize a large billboard with the PARIAH slogan, but it seems to not have happened. But it pulled many fringe members out of the woodwork, though for little in the end.

The foyer is only dimly lit. But there's a man perched on the steps up, in the midst of the process of rolling himself a cigarette. He's pale as milk, coppercolored hair cropped nearly to the skull, and humming to himself contentedly. Not exactly on guard duty. "Whatcha doin'?" he wonders of Peter. "Little late for home maintenance, ain't it, Bob Vila?"

Peter arches a brow, pausing on the stairs, one boot coming to rest on the same step the man sits on. For a moment, Peter strains, looking like he's trying to remember something, then gives up and looks back down where he had come from. "Gotta work on something," He says with a determined look in his eyes, then back to the pale man, "I ah," He sets down one of th epaint cans with a soft thump on the steps. "Sorry, I really haven't gotten to learn everyone's name around here," He offers one hand, "Peter." As if he needed to introduce himself, but he was trying with all his might to be polite. Even with the hand offered, the black-clad man's brow furrowed, creasing the scar across his face, making it look even more prominent.

"Boy, you been to the wars, aintcha?" Al says, rolling the unlit cigarette to the corner of his mouth, and taking that offered hand in his, clasping it firmly. "You been to Eye-Rack? Or did you just git that in the local war zone? I'm Alexander. You c'n call me Al, and I won't call you Eddie. This is a mighty late hour - whatchoo doin', paintin' us up a Bat signal?" he wonders, arching a brow. "You need some he'p?"

Peter cracks a smile, shaking his head, "This?" He motions up to the scar, a thoughtful look on his face for a moment, "Something like that," He says with a dismissive tone of voice. "Nah, I don't need any he — " Peter hesitates, hearing himself say those words, and looks to deeply consider something. "Actually," He motions to the untended paint bucket, "If you want to carry that one, you can come and watch." It was an odd offer, as close to an open invitation as Peter is likely to make, and he watches Alex with a curious expression.

"New York. Ain't nowhere rougher. Baghdad's like an Orlando theme park by comparison," Alex says, companionably, as he pulls himself up, picking up the bucket. "Watch? YOu gonna do some puhfohmance art?"

Peter hesitates for a moment, then laughs as a smile creeps across his lips, "Something like that, actually." He quirks his head to the side as he says that, then proceeds up the steps, "So, you been with PARIAH a while?" He tries his best to maintain conversation, circling up the steps slowly. "I think I might've seen you around here once or twice, I've been kinda' anti-social since I joined." And what a transition it's been since then, ever since Peter's arrival, Cameron had made a declaration about stoping the bombings of civilian targets throughout the city, everything but the graffiti had ground to a halt, and now the feeling in the air was like everyone is bracing for something.

"Few months," he says, amiably, trailing behind. "I been aroun'. And I ain't much of a social buttuhfly m'self, so you won't hear any complaints from me." He shows no sign of strain - he's got the wiry build of someone used to hard physical work.

Peter nods, rounding the stairs and heading up the next flight past several of the occupied apartments, he's quite clearly moving towards the roof now, "So, are you…" How to brooch the subject, "Do you have a gift? I don't know if it's a prerequisite for joining or anything," Rolling one shoulder in a shrug, Peter stops at the door for the roof, hesitating before he reaches for the doorknob, looking back at Alex as he waits for his answer.

There's a rusty chuckle at that. "Gif'. You soun' like mah grandmotha. I do." With that, the paintbucket is left hovering in mid-air, and then begins to drift after him, as if he were the sorcerer's apprentice. "What about you, Peter?"


Condemned Tenement: Rooftop

While some parts of the roof are less structurally sound then others, someone seems to have sorted out which areas are dangerous and blocked them off. Some overhangs have been jury-rigged up to block a direct aerial view that gives definite indication of the presence of squatters - a rooftop garden, clearly meant to provide sustenance rather than aesthetic. Tubs full of dirt are situated to take best advantage of the light despite the overhangs meant to keep them from prying eyes. Tomatoes, beans, carrots, even potatoes and onions and chili peppers are carefully tended, little laminated labels indicating what each row of planting is. There's a seperate section for a small variety of herbs, and a sole small window sill style planter that houses the one concession to beauty; a row of sunflowers, and even these can be harvested for their seeds. Here and there decrepit lawn furniture has been scattered to give the illusion of abandonment; a stone bench here, an ironwork table with chairs there, one of those latticed metal fold-up chairs leaned at an awkward angle in a corner. Aside from the overhangs, the rest of the roof is open to the sky, providing a view of the city and the span of rooftops surrounding the tenement.


Peter watches for a moment with an amused smile, slowly opening the door as he steps out onto the roof, looking back over his shoulder, "Actually," Peter notes as he walks past some of the open gardens, moonlight spilling down on them, "Kind've a jack of all trades, I guess." Added to the scenic rooftop is an unusual sight, an easel and canvas set up with a view of the city skyline. Some other buckets of paint have been left around it, along with a wooden plank and a series of paintbrushes. "It's kind've hard to explain," He says with a tilt of his head, "I can do what other people do." A sigh, "It's not quite as simple as it sounds, but," He motions towards the easel, and the paintbucket he carries drifts from his hand, floating languidly through the air to settle down by the rest. The top pops off next, then rests by the other open lids, "I'm up here to use another one, actually… If you want to hang around."

"Jack of all trades is master of none," Alex points out, amiably, turning his face to the moonlight. "You a mirror? You reflect the gifts of others aroun you?" he wonders. "Sure, PT Barnum. Put on a show fo' me." From anyone else, that might sound almost salacious. Alex merely sounds like he's perfectly willing to indulge Peter's whim.

Cracking a smile, Peter nods to the assessment, "That's actually pretty spot-on," There's a sense of honesty in his tone of voice, despite the joking way in which is regards it. Picking up one of the paint brushes, Peter circles around the buckets, considering each of them as he leans forward and picks them up one by one, pouring a few base colors onto the plank in small dollops. The only colors he has to work with are white, black and red, house-paint used for the tenement building. Getting the brush wetted with the black, Peter looks back up to the canvas, "I used to think it was just the ones around me…" He says distractedly, tilting his head to the side as if he spots something out of place on the canvas, "Someone taught me, later, that I still had them — memories of the people and their powers." Peter raises the paint brush to the canvas, starting to paint black across it, "…and I just… needed to recall them…" His words falter, wavering as he grows silent. From Alex's angle, he can see Peter's eyes cloud over into a purely blank white.

"Damn," Alex says. And then he's gone still, almost breathless, watching. It's a hunter's patience, blue eyes narrowed, as he perches himself on the wreck of a chaise. "What trick is this?" he wonders, but it's almost more to himself than Petrelli.

Peter paints like a man possessed, scrapes of black showing up hard on the canvas, moving in long and dark strokes. He leaves portions of the black open, suggesting values of light in the dark, using the white of the canvas to detail it. As he moves, the picture at first looks unfinished, difficult to discern save for the suggestion of shapes and hard lines. The longer Peter works, the more the picture begins to come into focus. It begins with the background, an alleyway with a single shaft of light descending down on the prominent figure at the center, a stylized depiction of a woman with wavy hair, brandishing a cherry red guitar over her shoulder as if it were a baseball bat. In the foreground, figures are silhouetted in black, one carrying a knife, left mostly white to emphasize the gleam, the other toting a gun, leveled at her. As Peter works, his head lols to the side, and he cranes his neck, detailing more of the woman, her style of dress in snug fitting pants and a tanktop, the curls in her hair, a familiar level of detail. The assailants, though, remain unseen and shadowy.

After a long while, Peter lets out a gasp of breath, as if he had been holding it in all that time, closing his eyes and holding the side of his head, paint covering his hands where he chose to use his fingers to detail some of the painting. As he surveys his work, there's a discernable look of confusion, and horror that comes over him.

"What's that look fo'?" Alex wonders. He's got his hands cupped around a cheap lighter, finally attending to that cigarette. "IT took like you like a vision, like you were in the presence of the Holy Spirit." Dollars to dimes he attended oneof those snake-handling Baptist churches as a kid. "Only, that don' look too holy to me."

"It's… oh God." Peter covers his mouth with one hand, approaching the painting, almost touching it with his bare hand before backing a step away. "I…" He swallows, dryly, "This is a gift, from… from a painter I knew," Peter tenses for a moment, "He could paint what was happening in the future, I… I wanted to paint something for a friend, something meaningful…" Shaking his head from side to side, Peter's brow lowers and he looks to Alex, "That's her."

"Not much of a gift, doll. Better to try a box of candy, or a bottle of perfume, I'm thinkin'," he says, rising up to wander over and eye the painting. "This is a vision of her future?"

Peter keewps one hand over his mouth, marking a little paint across his cheeks as he does. Watching Alex as he moves over to the easel, he nods slowly, "Yeah, yeah it is… I can see it, sometimes, colors and shapes, and when I start painting, it just… happens." Peter shakes his head in slow disbelief, "That's her, that's Cat." Looking at Alex again, Peter tilts his head to the side, regarding his reactions curiously, then looks back to the painted image. "Yeah, it's the future… I just, I don't know how soon of a futute."

Alexander squints at it, thoughtfully. And then backs off, lest the end of the cig set all that fresh paint alight. 'cauase man, that they don't need, for certain. "She better not go out alone at night, anymore," he finally decides.

There a decided look of discontent in Peter's expression, upset not only at what he sees painted, but the implications it makes. He tenses his brows, looking over to Alex, "You got that right." Then, dawning on Peter is a gradual realization, and he looks to the picture, then back to Alex, "Sorry I… Didn't mean for it to be like this." Peter looks at the painting, nervously, then turns his back on it, one hand massaging his forehead and invariably smearing paint into his skin. "Hey," He stops, looking over his shoulder, "Are you going to be going out with us tomorrow?" He arches one brow, not sure if Alex knows exactly what's being referred to.

"You don't look like my type, and that don't soun' like a pass, so I'd have to ask just what it is you mean by that?" Alex says, lazily, flicking the cigarette to the other corner of his mouth.

Peter manages an awkward laugh, trying to distance his thoughts from the painting, "Tomorrow night," He hesitates, looking up at the night sky, "Tonight?" Dithering he shakes his head, "Sometime around eleven, a bunch of us are going out, making a 'propaganda run',' He looks at the painting, his eyes keep getting drawn to it before focusing back on Alex, "Spraypainting, marking up things, making people aware that we're still around. It's Helena's idea, she wants to foster some unity between us all. Have us go out, work as a team…" Peter tenses, "There's something, a job, something big coming, and she wants to make sure everyone knows how to work together for it."

Alexander nods once, solemnly, and ashes delicately to one side. "Sounds like all kinds of fun to me," he says, grinning suddenly, blue eyes alight. "Little juvenile, but tha's okay. What kinna job you thinkin' of?"

Peter looks across the rooftop, then back to Alex, "It is, and that's my problem with it. But, Helena's set on it, and I want to give her the chance to make some decisions, see how she handles it." He talks like he's in charge, like Cameron just up and stepped down. Given how sparse the leader's presence has been lately, it makes rumors like that all the more fiery, "The job…" He eyes Alexander for a moment, tilting his head to the side, as if listening for something. After a while, Peter relaxes, breathing out a sigh, as if a worry was aleviated. "We're going to hit a holding facility, a secret containment block for Evolved." Peter's words strike with the heaviness of a hammer hitting nails. "Infiltration and extraction," This sounds more like a military operation than some civil unrest, "It's strictly volunteer, I'm not kidding anyone about the risk involved. But, it's too important not to do."

He takes another deep, thoughtful drag on his cigarette, the coffin nail pinched between thumb and forefinger. "Well, count me in," he says, as matter of fact as if this were a trip to the grocery store. "I've risked more for less worthy causes."

Peter laughs nervously, shaking his head, "Take some time to think on it, not going to be for a while." He looks back at the painting, "But know that we can use the help." He offers Alex a nod at that, walking over to the painting and resting his hand on the side. Looking back over his shoulder, Peter tenses his brows and looks deep in thought. "I've gotta go check on someone," His tone of voice becomes somewhat more gentle, "Thanks for helping me with the paints, and, thanks for listening." He looks back to the painting, running his thumb down the side of the canvas.

"Don't need to think on it. I got no one to provide for," Alex says, returning to that chaise he was lazing on earlier. "You just let me know what needs to be done. IF we gotta train, then we train,"

Moving his hand away from the painting, Peter looks towards Alex and nods slowly, "Alright." He doesn't offer more room to budge from his affirmation, "Tomorrow, then, if you're around. We'll all be heading out together, you're more than welcome to join in." Peter looks back to the painting then, removing it from the easel as he holds it by the sides. "Shut the door when you head back downstairs." Peter adds, lowering his head, before there is the sound of rushing air moving towards Peter, and both he and the painting vanish from sight, leaving nothing where he was standing.


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September 11th: There's No Goodbye
Previously in this storyline…
Wish to Forget, Remember to Learn

Next in this storyline…
Legwork

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September 12th: Action and Reaction
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