A Long Road Left To Go


cardinal_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Scene Title A Long Road Left To Go
Synopsis In the early hours of a new day, Ryans brings Cardinal some whiskey and a little advice.
Date November 09, 2011

Somewhere outside Jade City, British Columbia, Canada

In the hours, just before the sun rises, the world is at its quietest; like the world is poised waiting, holding its breath as it waits for that first touch of light. It is amplified by the crisp white snow that surrounds the cabin, soaking up the sound. This is also when it is at its coldest; that point where the sun has been absent the longest.

There is only the barest hint of blue on the horizon, making the outlines of the trees and mountains stand out black against a deep sapphire blue background. It would not be too much longer before the wildlife and cabin start to stir.

This was also the perfect time for a man who would want to be left alone to his thoughts.

The front of the Hollis’ cabin had a great view of the east, allowing one to sit and watch the world awaken into a new day. The porch steps make the best seating…. And this is where a single solitary man sits…. Alone.

That is…

There is a telling squeak to the front door, which means the end of his lonely vigil. The heavy steps will warn him of the approach ll him it's Benjamin Ryans, even before Benjamin Ryans comes up alongside him, taking a few steps down.

A pair of shot glasses are set on the steps next to Cardinal, followed by a bottle of Jack. Only then, can Ryans settle himself. First giving a grunt of pain; but, then he exhales a sigh — once he is seated — a plume of white left to drift away on the morning air.

Boot heels scrape on the worn wood, as he brings up his knees enough to rest his arms on them. The left sleeve of his white jacket just seems to end, having lost that hand at the wrist. It was surreal for him and would take time getting use, too. Of course, that loss is nothing compared to the man next to him. Ben squints out at the slowly brightening morning sky, before turning his head enough to look at Cardinal out of the corner of his eye. The older man’s face, is a mess of healing cuts. Some probably needed stitches, but he had waved them off when they tried.

There are many ways that one could start a conversation, especially after a tragedy like they had witnessed. There are standard ones like ‘Are you okay?’ or ‘How are you holding up?’ Ryans doesn’t use any of these, he has — in the past — had those questions asked of him. Instead he simply states:

“You look like shit, Richard.”

The words are actually gentle coming from the old man, despite the bass in them.

There's no response from the Red King, not for several long moments. It might even be a minute before he so much as responds to the other man, Richard Cardinal's hands resting on the porch behind him in a slight lean as - without sunglasses for the first time in a very long time - he watches the morning sky slowly brighten as the sun inches its way up above the horizon in a beautiful dawn.

It seems to him, somehow, that it shouldn't be so beautiful. Like the sky should recognize everything that had happened and reflect the tragedies of the Mount Nazahat mission. And yet, the world ever uncaring rolls on, and its natural beauty ignores such petty human events.

There are bandages wrapped around his fingers, and stitches on his lower lip where the cold hand split them dangerously, but other than bruises and aches he seems to have gotten out of things in passable physical condition at least. The shadows beneath his eyes and the pain that lurks behind them speak of deeper, less easily treatable injuries.

Finally he shifts, reaching over for that bottle and lifting it up, the cap unscrewed from it. "You should talk, Ryans," he replies, though the usual banter and wit from the man falls flat as he tilts the Jack Daniels, filling each of the shot glasses before settling the bottle back down.

“Yeah..” Ryans grunts out, watching the other man pour, “well….” The shot glass isn’t taken yet, instead his hand rubs gently at the sleeve of the injured one, the bandaged wrist peeking out for just a moment. It is twisted this way and that, as he eyes it, eyes narrowing a little against the pain. “I’ll work it out.” He always does.

Once the arm is resettled on his knees, his good hand reaches out to pick up one of the shot glasses. “I admit I’m more worried about you.” Ryans starts, not being the type to really beat around the bushes. “I’ve been where you are, Richard, and while I know alone is preferable… it is not what you need.” The glass gripped in his finger shakes a little, he watches the liquid quiver in the glass. His arm should really be in the sling still.

In a quick motion, the old Company agent down the shot, grimacing against the taste; but, savoring the burn. “Liz was a pretty amazing woman.” He gently sets the shot glass down on the stairs, only to refill it again.

"My brother can make you a new hand," Cardinal offers absently, his gaze fixed on the shot glass and the way the morning's light filters golden colours through it as the subtle shaking of his own hand makes the liquid tremble. He doesn't know if Ryans is aware of his extended family at all - he knows he's certainly never mentioned it to the man.

"And you're right, there. She was," he admits, and then downs the shot with a jerk of his head, eyes closing and jaw tightening as it burns down. Slowly he sets the glass down beside the other. Clearing his throat, "Not sure if you've been where I am before, though, Ryans. Not sure if anyone has."

Not that he’s refuting the man’s assertion that being alone isn’t what he needs, but he’s not overtly agreeing either.

Glass taps against glass, as Ryans refills Cardinal’s glass as well, “Maybe not in the exact same ways — No,” he agrees, giving a little gesture toward the younger man, with the neck of the bottle. “Such as, I’m not evolved. Though… “ He holds up his dismembered limb, while setting down the bottle, “I can only imagine it is a lot like losing a part of yourself.

“However,” He starts before downing the amber liquid. “That’s not what I am talking about.” The tiny glass is set down and left empty this time. “I lost my wife when Sylar exploded in Midtown,” his voice is controlled and measured. This is something he had said many times. He runs his hand over his injured arm, again, the deep ache a little distracting. ”About destroyed me when they found her.” He sighs softly out of his nose.

The refilled shot glass is picked up again, brought up to Cardinal's lips and knocked back, his head tilting back a bit and eyes closed as the Jack spills down the back of his throat. It's only once the burn has passed that he speaks again.

"Arthur Petrelli took off my hand, once," he says quietly, raising his hand as if to show it off; a strange black stain marks the flesh in the perfect outline of another hand clasping his, a scar that marks him forever with Peter's touch. "He took my ability, too, at the same time. I'm used to being maimed, Ryans. I could live with that. That…"

His hand drops back down, resting on his knee as his gaze drops to the dark scar where he was pulled from the precipice of oblivion, "…that I could live with."

He reaches up again, this time to rub at his face, thumb and forefinger pressing at the corner of his eyes on either side of his nose's bridge. "This… all of this was me, Ryans. Not… not me, me. But it was still me. He was still me."

Guilt, sharp as a blade, buried into a man's heart with the name of his lover engraved on it.

A long silence drifts between the two men, while the world around them starts to wake. Birds start their morning salutations to the sun, flitting from tree to tree. The horizon in bleeding from blue to a brilliant gold. In this time, Ryans watches the young man beside him. “Hmmm.” The sound is a deep rumble at the back of his throat. “So. What are you going to do about that?” It is a simple question really. “Now that you know that you could be that….”

Stretching out one of his legs, the ankle of it resting on the snowy ground, Ryans shifts a little – turning to face Cardinal and resting his back against one of the porch uprights. He continues, “Letting what it is your feeling – what you are thinking, right now,” his finger taps the board next to him as emphasis, “will only send you down that same path to damnation.” He doesn’t know how Cardinal became that man, but he has his own experiences.

He holds up his hand to stave off any words from Cardinal. “When Mary died, I was ready to tear apart the world, take out everyone who was – different.” What he was telling Cardinal, was something he hadn’t told others. A secret he kept to himself. “Save others from this…” His fingers claw at his chest, hidden beneath the jacket, but he can’t really find the words, so he waves it off.

“My old mentor, Ivan, was the one who…. sat I am with you; and, reminded me that letting this kind of thing,” he indicates the man in front of him, “tear you apart, will make you no better than they were. Your sitting at a very delicate cross-roads, my friend.”

Richard's shot glass isn't refilled after that second drink, but held loosely in his hand, turned 'round and 'round in his fingers as the silence continues on. Eyes of hazel watching the sun rise, the spill of gold into the air bringing the ghost of a smile to his lips but no more than that.

"I know that path like the back of my hand, Ryans," he says with a slight shake of his head, "I sat in his office in the year twenty… forty… something, I forget the exact year, and I went through his personal records. I know every step he took."

A heavy sigh whispers past his lips, and he stares at the shot glass he's holding.

"I don't have anyone else to be angry at. Nobody to go after, nobody to fight… it feels more like an end to the road than a crossroads," he admits, "If it wasn't for… well. If it wasn't for my kids I'd probably just start— "

He gestures to the treeline, "— start walking. Disappear. Maybe go spend some time in Argentina. Go look up Bebe, see if she still has that yacht… heh."

“That…” Ryans sounds almost relieved, “is the right attitude. Family will, almost always, be the thing that helps ground you during the worst of times. My girls have always been my saving grace.” It is probably why he does what he does, too. He offers Cardinal a small, weary smile, “Though, I had to have someone remind me of that.” An unusual admission for him.

Blue-eyes narrow against the bright light of the sun, glancing briefly that direction, as it finally peeks above the new ridgeline. A new day has started for them all, but…. “However, you are only partly right. Going to need to keep your focus, Richard.” He lifts the bottle and fills the glasses again. Maybe it is the buzz from the whiskey, but the former agent is rarely this talkative without cause. “It’s a new world, but we still have a long road to go; before our kids can be safe in it,” he points out blandly, “…and to make all these sacrifices mean something.

The bottle replaced, his fingers seek out the shot glass itself, only having the one hand was going to be annoying. “And I can’t do that on my own.” It is hard to admit it, but there it is.
The shot glass is held up toward Richard, Ryans face solemn. “To Liz?” A questioning brow lifts a little as he speaks, eyes on the man across from him.

Wordlessly, Cardinal raises his shot glass in return, lightly clicking it together with the older man's before knocking it back. A breath drawn in, exhaled, and he looks down again.

"I don't know what I have left to offer the fight anymore, Ryan," he admits, his voice… strained, swallowing once, "I don't have my ability, I don't— I lost my partner in this. Monica lost an arm. I don't even know if Liz's— if certain of our people are going to stay with us, I think most of the reason they were here was for her."

"I wouldn't blame them."

There is a tightening in Ryans jaw after the whiskey is consumed. Consideration is given to the inside of the shot glass, before he slowly turns it over in his fingers, and gently sets the glass down. “That is something I can’t give you advice on, though…. All of us have lost something; many, more than others.” He lets the glass go and rests his hand on his knee. “Each man…. And woman,” it is after all a new world after all, “must find that new cause — That new purpose, on their own. Mine came from my girls, I guarantee… One look into your kid’s eyes and you may find yours, too.”

Placing his hand on his knee, Ryans moves to stand, there is the typical pop of joints as they are straightening… He might be younger, but he won’t stay like that forever.

Leaning down, Ryans doesn’t take the bottle, instead he gripes the younger name shoulder briefly, giving it a brief squeeze. “Liz was a hell of a woman, but you are a good man and leader, Richard.” There is a rough pat on that shoulder, before he straightens. “I think your people will surprise you, if you give them a chance.”

"Am I, Ryans? A good man, a good leader…?"

Cardinal reaches down to lift the bottle, regarding the label without really reading it and suggesting quietly, "Why don't you ask Peyton if I am? I'm not so sure that she'd agree."

A glance up, then, over that hand and to the man, "But— thanks. For trying. I've just…" A faint smile, forced, "I've just got a lot to think about."

“Indeed, you do,” Ryans rumbles in agreement.

His boots scrape lightly as he makes his way to the door, but he does not open the door just yet. Richard can hear the old man turn back, twisting on one heel. “But some advice from a man who has been around for awhile… Every leader is faced with a moment like this, when they question themselves and their purpose. When they wonder how they can continue on leading good people into danger.” The younger man won’t be able to the see the small smile on Benjamin’s face — one of understanding. Fingers find the doorknob behind him, it rattles as he gives it a turn.
Squeaking, the door is opened, foot placed to keep it from closing again; the action sends a wave of warm air after it. “A leader takes people where they want to go, but a great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” Ryans lets that sink in for a moment, before he adds, “Peyton might not like you for what happened, but even I know… You brought her where she needs to be. I hope you realize that and… I hold hope she will too.”

With that, the old man takes his leave, letting the door swing closed behind him and leaving Cardinal to watch the new day brighten.

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