What Time They Had


helena_icon.gif peter5_icon.gif

Scene Title What Time They Had
Synopsis Helena and Peter share their final truths to each other through the vents of Red Level. Or so they think.
Date April 7, 2009

Moab Federal Penitentiary - Red Level

Take them to Red, and sort them out later.

That was what the guards elected to do after pulling the women apart. A few of them were surprised, even as they clubbed Helena to insure her docility - she'd never, ever been a problem since her arrival. There's no denying that the beating hurts, and Helena doesn't try to play stoic. She's bruised and banged up, but not severely damaged when they drag her into her accomodation for the rest of her day and into the evening.

For a few moments, all Helena can do is rest. Everything aches. She coughs, finally opening her eyes and looking around. The vent. Where is it? Desperately, her eyes draw around until she sees it, a small recess in the wall. Picking herself up, she stumbles to corner closes to it, lets herself slide against it until she's seated again, presses a hand to it that's trembling. This may have been all for nothing. But she knew it was just a chance.


He just can't find any peace, not down here, not ever.

This is the second unwelcomed visit in as many days, the second voice from his past come to haunt him. But in this place, in the prison of concrete and steel built on the back of his own deranged ideas on how to better capture and imprison during his tenure with the Company, Peter can't trust the voices he hears. He can't trust that they are who they are, and that the voices he hears, aren't just the sounds of him slowly losing what little sanity he has left.

Roles are reversed this time, from the first day Helena spent here, when it was Peter's voice that came over the vents, and she was delayed in her response. Now, the distant, far-removed sound of his weary voice is weighed down so much more by his weeks locked away in Red-Level. He's at least two rooms away, or he can't be bothered to raise his voice, the sound of his crushed spirits nearly drowned out by whatever mitigating factors are in effect.

"Who is it?" The irony of the question is unspoken, but drips from his words, "Who cares?" It is only matched by the bitterness and resentment in the latter ones. All the time he has spent down here in isolation, all of the torment inflicted upon him by agent Verse and his visitor from last night has broken the voice of a man who may have been regaining his fighting spirit.

"Helena." she says. "I…" she trails off. "I started a fight. I needed to talk to you. I don't even know if you'll believe me." She lets her forehead press against the wall. "I don't even know if you'll think I'm real. I've had times, these moments - I'm not even sure of what's real, or I wanted something that was a lie to be real, because of what Verse was doing to me." Something trembles in her voice without her wanting it to, she cuts off and swallows. "Please listen to me. Please. You don't have to say anything except to let me know you're listening, if you don't want. I won't be able to come down here again, so these might be the last things I can ever say to you."

The shoe is on the other foot, roles reversed, the one who was once the target of confession now the confessor. In a way, these dark, concrete booths are so much like the confessionals in an old Catholic church. Save that there is no impartial voice on the other end of these grates, there is no absolution to be had from the madmen and the wrongfully imprisoned, and there is no acceptance to be had. There is only the cold, isolated notion that these may be how the end of days are seen — through bars.

"I'm listening." Everything has come full-circle tonight, one ending leading into another beginning.

Helena presses a hand to her heart, like it hurts her. And it does. "When we discovered that we were next to each other, I heard a voice in my head." she says. "It sounded - God, you'd been in my head enough times, it sounded like you. It said it was you. And it told me to say things - it told me to say things. To say things that made it sound like we weren't really communicating, that we meant nothing - that you meant nothing to me anymore. It made sense, it would fool anyone who might be listening." As she speaks, yet again her eyes are wet, and she breathes to try and keep calm. "I wanted it to be you so badly! There was no reason for me to think it wasn't you, and I did what I was told."

"But then you - no, Verse, he started trying to get me to give up Phoenix safehouses, and I wouldn't. So he kept you in place, and kept telling me to keep up the act. Eventually I gave up a false location because something made me doubt…I thought maybe you were being controlled, it didn't make sense - and, oh god." Her fingers curling into a fist against the wall. "Do you understand what I'm saying? None of it was true. None of those horrible things I said. I thought I was helping us. He sounded just like you. I would never - I could never…" She sounds so despairing. And it's now, after nearly two months of being incarcerated, that she starts to really cry since she was first forced into this place. And Verse isn't even here to have the satisfaction of hearing it.

"You were right." To get everything off of her chest, only to have it thrown back at her like that; the ache gets worse. "You were right about everything you said, whether you meant it or not…" There's a drugged, drowsy quality to Peter's voice, like someone speaking halfway between sleeping and awake. "I turned on you, I tried to kill Brian… I joined the Company… I…" Peter's voice dips too low to be heard, just the humming of air forced through the ventillation ducts to keep Helena company in light of whatever shame he is trying to expound upon.

"I betrayed you — everyone. It's over… everything's— it's all over. The war is over, Helena, and we lost. This is how it all ends, we— even with all the power we had, this is where we ended up. This is the reward for trying to be a hero."

A rough, growling tone of frustration laces in Peter's voice. "You don't… need to apologize for what you said, because it's all true. Everything is true, everything bad people have said about me, it's— you shouldn't have come down here to say that."

What he's saying could be so much worse. To be honest, Helena entertained several scenarios when she planned this whole thing out, and this is a surprising middle ground in the extremes that she dreaded or hoped for. Her breath is let out, slow and low. "I'm going to be twenty in a few days." she says after a few moments. "Did you know that? I don't remember if you ever knew my birthday. Maybe I'll die in here. When I'm eighty and old and have only ever seen the sun when I'm out in the yard. Or maybe tomorrow, if I get shanked by one of Tabitha's girls in retribution." Retribution for what? It may not matter. "But regardless of the war and anything else Peter, I will be damned if you think for all your sins and flaws and horrible choices, I would let you go one more minute in this shithole thinking I didn't love you."

And then, seeming to completely change the subject she remarks, "I saw a bird in the yard yesterday."

A bird, freedom symbolized. It, like much everything else here, is something more bitter than bittersweet.

The jarring change of topic gives Peter the opportunity to hide behind it instead of formulating a response, instead of saying what he wants to, what his battered heart urges him to. She doesn't get the response she deserves, doesn't get the reassurance of his reciprocated feelings, all she gets is his abject and hollow silence accompanied by the hum of the vents. Then, after her words have died off in his ears, his response is quiet on the vent. "Did it fly free?"

Helena takes a deep breath. "Yes." she says. "You see," she smiles, a touch bitter. "You've been out there. You know the benches by the fence? Every day I sit there. I watch for faces, and sometimes it's out of impossible hope," That would be his, "And sometimes out of dread. But the other day I was sitting there, and this little bird flew onto one of the yardposts. It made me think of absent friends. It was like it was talking to me. Telling me we weren't forgotten. Know what I mean?" Does he know what she means?

It's hard to say if he does. "When I first came here… I used to watch the desert birds that would circle the prison…" his tone changes, equally drugged sounding, but far more distant — almost dream-like. "I used to dream about them, wonder what it would be like, if everything changed, if everyone were different, if everybody cared." There's one rough, weak laugh to punctuate his musing, "I used to dream about the people I missed — I used to dream about you." Peter's voice grows soft, though still audible over the low hum of the vent. "Sometimes I still do, but I— all it feels like is a dream, all everything feels like now is a dream. I'm tired of fighting, Helena. I'm tired of running." His sigh is as clear as crystal.

"I know what you mean," though it's hard to say if he truly does, "Did you know… you can hear people talking in the halls, if you sit and listen long enough? You were right." At first, Peter doesn't explain right about what. "McIntyre, you were right. He works for Verse, he works for the Warden. He was a plant, he— you always were right, you always were the better one."

"Not for everything." she says with a sigh. For a long time she's silent. "Please don't make me leave here without you ever saying it, though. So I know." (Give me some part of yourself, says the poem, I'm only asking for the tiniest part.) So I can have it when I'm twenty, or knifed at thirty, or sigh in my sleep when I'm eighty. Because if this is the end, then I want something to hold. Because it's the last time." "And if it isn't…in some crazy last chance of the universe, it isn't, then we both know, and there's no doubt." (Just enough to get me from here to there.)

"When… I was split into two people," Peter's voice chimes in, struggling to retain to coherency that drugs try so hard to deprive him of. "When my mind wasn't— when I was wrong. I was divided on the things I wanted, the people I cared about, and the things I wanted to change in the world. It— it was like every unreconcilable emotion I had was— it was like every conflicting emotion got its say…"

Struggling against the tide of sedatives and fatigue, Peter's voice wavers in and out between strong and weak, "Company, PARIAH… it didn't matter what side I was on, nothing seemed to make sense. Now— now that he's— that that we're— " It's too complicated to explain exactly how the mechanics of it work. "Now— now that it's just me, I— I have all of those emotions, memories and it— " Peter snorts out a drugged slur of a laugh, sounding as if drunk more than anything. "Do you know what was funny… about all of that?"

(Could you give me something, says the poem, Anything at all.) "What?" she asks, almost as if she were afraid to. (I'll accept whatever it is.)

"When— When all the jumbled bits came together…" Peter's voice grows soft against the hum of the vents, "the only thing that overlapped— was how much I loved you."

Oh. She curls up against the wall, wedged into the corner. And she's silent for a long time. A silly girl, with near a score of years, somehow finds that the walls around her don't mean a thing at all, and for a single moment she is free.

But the moment doesn't last.

"Thank you." she breathes. "They're going to take me back to Green in the morning." It's both apologetic, and a warning - what time is had, is limited.

"Then… I guess this is g- " The lights in Peter and Helena's cells flicker briefly, accompanied by a rumble that shudders the whole building, causing stone dust to settle from the concrete ceiling. Immediatly thereafter, all of the lights in the cells shut down, and then return with a deep, red emergency lightning as klaxons begin blaring through the facility.

What time they had, is limited.

Could you give me a small part of yourself

I'm only asking for the tiniest part

Just enough to get me from here to there

Could you give me something

Anything at all

I'll accept whatever it is

Could you just put your hand on my head

Could you brush against my arm

Could you just come near enough

So I could feel as though you might be able to hold me

Could you touch me with your voice

Blow your breath in my direction

- Savage/Love, by Sam Shepard

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