A Memory Like an Elephant


niki_icon.gif peter_icon.gif

Scene Title A Memory Like an Elephant
Synopsis Peter and Niki meet by chance over drinks, culminating the former going back with the latter to her apartment.
Date September 24, 2010

The Surly Wench

A punk rock pub through and through, The Surly Wench is dim, cramped, and incredibly popular. It's a small, rectangular venue with a bar bordering one entire wall. Despite this, ordering a drink on a weekend can be an exercise in line-waiting and rib-elbowing. There are a few small tables ringed with high stools for seating, but these are prime real estate. The majority of the patrons are forced to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on any given night. Almost half of the cramped interior is devoted to a low stage for live music. There's no dance floor. If you feel the need, you'll have to thrash in place.

Loud music and cheap beer are a magnificent combination.

Beneath the dim sconce lighting in the ceiling, the roaring wail of guitar throbbing through the brick walled interior of the Surly Wench is like the embrace of an old, familiar friend. Seated at the bar at six in the evening on a Friday night, Peter Petrelli is the picture of disappointment. Hunched over the bar, hands cradled around his beer and stools empty to either side of him, his thousand-yard stare into the mirror behind the bar is well practiced.

The Guinness in front of Peter hasn't hardly been touched, while it's his third beer he isn't feeling it. The unfortunate side effect of Claire Bennet's regenerative metabolism is an inability to get drunk in any real noticeable fashion, at least not within the limitations of any amount of drinking Peter has exposed himself to.

Up on the stage, a Ramones cover band is jabbing their heart out, harkening back to the days when Peter first met Catherine Chesterfield at this very establishment, setting off a series of events that helped shape the present they're living in today. It was in this bar where Phoenix, in spirit, was born. It was in this bar that Peter thought he could make a difference in the world.

The sullen expression on his unshaven face indicates that he may not believe that any longer.

A blonde woman parks herself to Peter's right and orders a shot of tequila. The Surly Wench seems to be a home for those who live in the past (the faded glory of the days of punk), or those running from it. Niki Sanders swallows down her shot and orders a second before she lifts her head to stare into the mirror behind the bar. Her reflection — Jessica is reproachful. Grey-blue gaze narrowed.

Jessica can protect Niki from just about anyone.

Anyone except herself.

The liquor burns in her throat as it goes down. Rail tequila never tastes good on the tongue. It's appropriate punishment for the act. Niki's eyes lid heavily for a moment, hoping her thoughts wash away sooner rather than later. She wonders if Gina may be waiting in the wings, another segment of mirror. Isn't sure she cares.

One of Jessica's brows arches, drawing Niki's attention when she's opening her eyes again. Her protector tilts her head to her right and nods to the man she sits next to. Niki looks to her left.

"Well I'll be damned."

The sound of a familiar voice at the bar over the music stirs Peter from his slouched state, looking up with one brow raised and head tilted to the side in surprise, almost like a puppy that heard a curious sound. "Nik— " hesitation, "Jessica?" It's a bit awkward, never knowing which of the Sanders' you're addressing. He doesn't even really know about Gina, truth be told.

There's a smile, crooked by default, forming on Peter's lips as he grabs his glass and lifts it up in feigned toast to the blonde. "Didn't expect to see you out here," Peter is forced to project his voice with a shout, due to the noise of the music playing, awkwardly twisting his smile and creasing his brows a bit self-consciously.

"We have a habit of running into each other here, don't we?" Third times the charm, isn't it?

Niki plants on foot on the floor to leverage herself and drag her stool closer to Peter's, leaning in so she can hear him better. "Niki," she confirms over the noise. Jessica is watching with an amused smirk, however. "Yeah, this is beginning to look like it might be our place or something."

She laughs, but it doesn't hold a whole lot of mirth. Despite that, Niki does look at least genuinely pleased to find herself seated next to Peter, even if she looks entirely too tired and run down to actually look happy about anything.

"It doesn't work," Peter admits as he lifts the glass of Guinness up with one hand, shrugging as he sets it back down and pushes it forward across the bar, "drinking doesn't work," he clarifies, as if he were some sort of two-legged AA billboard. "I picked up a regeneration ability," he explains, leaning closer to the blonde so as to not need to shout. "Screws up having a good time," he admits with a laugh and a slow shake of his head.

"What're you doing out here?" Peter asks with a quirk of one brow, "I figured Richard didn't give his employees any time off." That much is offered a little wryly, one brow quirked in query. It isn't a night unless he can get even one subtle jab in at Cardinal, even if the two seem to have put aside their differences for the time being.

"Well it does for me," Niki reasons as she reaches out to pull his Guinness toward her instead. "You mind?" When he leans closer, she lowers her voice to a more conversational level, though they still have to speak up over the music a bit.

"Richard's out of town," Niki responds. It's even kind of the truth. You know, in a roundabout sort of way. He's not in New York 2010 anyway, so that's just as good as being out of town. "But keep that between us, okay?" Though the way she says it, it seems she doesn't think Peter would let that word get around anyway.

"I'm drinking to forget." It's a surprisingly honest answer. And it's one that seems to banish Jessica from the mirror for the time being. When Niki glances up, it's only her reflection. She doesn't let it bother her. "What are you doing out here if you can't do that?"

There's a dry laugh from Peter as he shakes his head, "You know I'm not really sure. Probably trying to do the same thing?" One of his brows kicks up at that, his smile a self-deprecating one as his shoulders rise and fall slowly. "I think I'm just a little lost right now," he admits with a snorted laugh, waving off his Guinness towards Niki. "I've… got a lot on my mind right now, and I just found out that my roommate is getting married."

There's a roll of Peter's eyes, then a brown-eyed stare down to the bartop. "Actually, they've probably already tied the knot by now, but it means I need to find a new place to stay. I guess I knew it was coming, preparing myself for it, you know?" Peter manages a huffed breath of laughter. "I did like it there though, having… I dunno, someone who wanted to just be my friend around, no ulterior motives?"

Peter folds his hands in front of himself, shrugging slightly. "I've got an apartment on the east side, probably just go back to that I guess. It's hard though, you know?" There's a look over to Niki, "living alone after having someone around for so long. I think I actually got used to Abby. I— think I'm probably going to miss her."

Niki listens to Peter unburden himself. She's patient, and even interested in hearing what he has to say. She doesn't sip at his beer after he's given her leave, but rather takes a large gulp of it, leaving the fingers of one hand curled around the glass, held close to her body at the edge of the bar.

Other hand reaches out to rest on Peter's. "I know how that is," she murmurs sympathetically. Sincerely. "When… After…" She can't quite find the words she wants to say at first. "After Midtown," she ultimately decides upon, "I was alone for a long time. Even when I tried to surround myself with people, I felt alone. There's no substitute for friends and family." Niki smiles gently and squeezes Peter's hand.


A haunted look flashes across Peter's face as he looks away from Niki, his fingers curling against his palm as eyes close and a deep breath is drawn in through his nose. She'd never have mentioned it if she knew, never have said it the way she did. It's a secret that Peter hates having to keep, but given the alternative there's not really much of a choice.

"Yeah," is his breathy and belated answer, jaw set and teeth clenched together as his eyes open and stare across the divide of the bar to the mirror. There's no alternate version of himself there, just the bearded man and his haunted eyes, his own troubles reflecting back.

"I've burned a lot of bridges," Peter admits with a dip of his head down into either a slouch or a nod, it's hard to differentiate. "Abby was one of the last real friends I have left, and she's trying to live her life, trying to do what most people in this city want to do." His smile is a touch sarcastic. "Be happy, I guess."

"I've done terrible things to people," Niki admits in a hushed voice, leaning close enough so her breath washes over his ear. It looks intimate, maybe even feels it in a way, but it's necessity so she can keep her voice down but still be heard over the cries of Lobo-to-my! on the stage.

"I've crossed and burned a lot of bridges in my wake. You aren't alone." Niki leans to the side so she can get a better look at Peter's face, concern etched in her features. Her blonde hair slips away from where she left it tucked behind her ear, leaving it to curtain the side of her face. "You know… I have some space in my apartment. And… it would be kind of nice to have…" Niki lets the thought trail off, pulling a face.

Regarding Niki's reflection in the mirror, Peter can't see Jessica, only the person offering him her hand. There's a smile in that, a look askance to the blonde and a snorted laugh. "You have an apartment?" It's sort of a childish thing to say and it comes with a teasing laugh and a shake of Peter's head as his head dips down into a series of shallow, bobbing nods. "You know, for some reason I always pictured you just sleeping in a closet full of guns, knives and blunt instruments." Peter can hardly finish the sentence before he cracks the first honest smile of the night and laughs.

"You're sort've a hard woman," Peter notes with all good humor implied by the upturn of his brows. "But you know, I mean… I'd appreciate the space. It's probably just be temporary, until I get things sorted out. My life's— well, I don't really need to tell you what a complicated life is like, really…"

Looking down to Niki's hand on his with brows furrowing, then back up to the blonde, Peter manages something of a half smile. "If the offer still stands, sure. I don't really think it'd be a good idea for me to really be alone right now… not with everything going on."

Niki nods her head, "It stands." She leans back so she can take another long drink from the glass of Guinness, leaving it half empty. "I thought maybe I was being too presumptuous, about our being friends. I'm glad I wasn't."

A genuine laugh slips past her own lips, her head dipping down and her eyes closing, corners crinkling. "I do maybe have a closet like that, but I don't sleep in it. Jessica's the har-" Niki stops short and shakes her head. "No, you're right. I am a hard woman." She and Jessica both. Maybe it's where the line between them blurs. Maybe it's just her next evolution. "But I wasn't always." She offers a smile, polishes off the stout. "I think we maybe need each other right now. Someone who understands."

One brow kicks up as Peter looks down to that empty glass of Guinness, snorting out a laugh and shaking his head. "I'm not really sure we are friends," Peter admits with a slide of his eyes down to the bar, slowly angling his head away from Niki as he says that. But there's that wry smile again, a crease of brows and a look back to the blonde. "But you know, you've always gotta' start somewhere, right?"

Sheepish and a bit hesitant, Peter creases his brows and offers a crooked smile to Niki, his head quirking to the side and hands folding in front of himself on the bar. "I really appreciate this, even if it only lasts a couple days…" There's a tilt of Peter's head to the side, a smile spread across his lips.

"Really, it means a lot to me."

"Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that you're… not at all the same person that…" Niki shakes her head and rolls her eyes. "I guess I've got that feeling that everyone else gets around me." Personalities just get in the way. And Peter's didn't have the benefit of having their own names attached to them.

"It's loud and the tequila is awful," Niki grunts. "Why don't we share a cab back to my place so you can check it out?" Her brows lift, a look of curiosity. "I mean, unless you'd rather sit here." And she's doubting he does.

The last time Peter followed a woman back to her apartment from this bar, it wound up being a wholly awkward experience. Admittedly, that was then, this is now, and as Niki so clearly pointed out — he isn't the same Peter Petrelli that was here back then, no matter how hard he tries to convince himself otherwise. Looking down to the bar, then back up to Niki, Peter flashes a smile as he slides off of his stool and sets both feet flat on the floor, offering out an arm cordially for the blonde to take.

"On one condition," Peter notes with the raise of one brow, lips crooking into a pre-emptive smirk, "you don't try to run me over with the cab."

A Petrelli Never Forgets.

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