A Place


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Scene Title A Place
Synopsis On the steps of her mother's home in Cape Cod, Peyton Whitney is surprised by the arrival of an unexpected man with an offer for both her mother, and her…
Date February 8, 2011


"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

White spreads as far as the eye can see in every direction. Wet snow clings to the sides of leafless trees and decorates their branches like a picturesque diorama of winter loving crafted by skilled hands. The sky is an uneventful slate gray and the thinnest of morning fog clings to the horizon in ways that evokes memories of a worse, more harsh winter gone by.

With tiny snowflakes drifting weightlessly on frigid wind, the sting of winter can be felt the moment Peyton Whitney steps outside of her mother's Cape Cod residence. One arm jerks out straight as the leash in her hand pulls taut, a sudden deluge of barking from the modest sized brown dog collared at her feet. Von pops up on his hind legs, front legs windmilling as he yaps noisily again, ears perked up and breath visible as a puff of steam between each bark. His tail wags rapidly from left to right, and the bold, deaf dog squares his sights on something.

Down the walkway fron the front door of Faye Crawford's Cape Cod home, a black Lincoln idles at the curb. Exhaust is visible as heated steam out the rear tailpipe, tinted windows hide the interior of the car, save for a partial view through the windshield of a driver sitting quietly and reading a newspaper.

Already out of the car and on his way towards the house, a tall and broad-shouldered gentleman in a long, black wool coat steps up onto the curb the moment that Peyton Whitney's eyes happen to lay on him. Square jawed, high cheekbones, short, chocolate brown hair and darker eyes. He's older than he looks, in more ways than one. Peyton recognizes his face from the files at Redbird Security, the face of one man who carries with him a legend and a legacy both tragic and terrible.

"Peyton?" Comes with evident surprise and a halt of Tyler Case's forward momentum, followed by a look down to Von with one brow raised in curious suspicion that he might recognize that dog as a much smaller version of a more familiar canine companion to the young Miss Whitney.

The black towncar has Peyton backing up a step, fingers tightening around Von's lead. She's not officially in hiding, and in sleepy spots (especially in the winter) like Cape Cod, news travels fast. It wouldn't take long for someone to find her.

If anyone were looking.

That she's not being sought is evident due to the surprise in the unfamiliar voice, the precise pitch and timbre not that of the mind behind it, but the tone somehow familiar. Her breath catches when she recognizes that face, and she stands still, a colorful statue of a bright green snow parka with a bright blue beret covering her thick dark hair.

Her eyes narrow against the sting of the snow on her face and she tips her head curiously, lips pressing together as she tries to find her voice.

"I— " The voice hitches, and the man wearing Tyler Case's face offers a lopsided and awkward smile. "Would I'm here to see your mom come off as a bit crass?" He can't be certain that Peyton knows who he is, it's one of those awkward bits about time-traveling the way he has, he knows plenty of things about himself, but this situation never happened before. He has no idea just how freely his younger self had disseminated information about this.

"You know, all meetings aside…" Cardinal notes with a tip of his head forward into a reluctant nod, gloved hands coming out of his pockets and spreading apart in a helpless gesture. "I think I can take some time out of my day to… to talk." Dark brows furrow, the corner of his mouth creeps up into a smile, and Peyton can see Richard Cardinal's mannerisms in even the slightest gesture with Tyler's body.

Von continues his yapping, bouncing on his hind legs, forelegs waggling up and down as he pulls against his leash. The deaf dog's tail wags from side to side, another shrill bark cutting the silence between Cardinal and Peyton before Von drops down onto all fours and turns around to look at Peyton, all big eyes and perked up ears. He wants to sniff the stranger.

Peyton's brows knit together fiercely, her mouth parting to argue, to protect Faye from anything this man might want from her. But it closes again as her dark eyes study his face. The mannerisms. The tics and movements that make Cardinal Cardinal, even in an unfamiliar body.

She swallows, something welling up in her. It's been more than a month since she left New York, more than a month since she's seen Cardinal or heard his voice.

Though she considers the house at her back her new home, Peyton suddenly feels homesick.

Chewing her lip, she moves a step closer, giving Von all the invitation he seeks, and suddenly the foxish dog is lurching forward; he only weighs 40 pounds, but the abrupt motion puts Peyton into motion. The dog makes it to the man's legs, jumping up with snowy cold feet on pant legs, before Peyton tugs back on the leash. Two sets of dark eyes stare into Cardinal's — no, Tyler Case's, Peyton tells herself — face.

Dropping to Von-level, Cardinal lifts gloved hands to rake through the foxish dog's fur at his neck, running a hand under his chin and over the backs of his ears. "You're so small," he whispers, cracking a smile that seems bittersweet. "Just look at you. Look at you." Even the mighty manipulator is broken down to baby-talk in the presence of Peyton's adorable dog, gloved fingers snagging Von by the sides of his face by the fur and gently waggling his cheeks from side to side.

Von leaps up, lapping his tongue across Cardinal's borrowed jaw and chin, eliciting a splutter of laughter and a gloved hand wardint the excitable dog off. Moving to stand, Cardinal's eyes rise to meet Peyton's, far more difficult to read than Von's, and far more emotional to settle on. Dark brows furrow, silence hangs in the air, and as a car passes by on the street, the noise of its tires running thorugh slushy snow drowns out the sound of a murmured word slipping past Cardinal's lips.

He clears his throat, one gloved hand curled at his mouth. Only when it lowers, does Cardinal attempt to talk again. This time his words aren't lost behind the splash of tires. "Do you… Do you know who I am?"

A shuddery breath whispers through Peyton's lips as the stranger shows such gentleness to the deaf dog that can't hear his words, and her eyes begin to fill with tears, much as they did on a nearly-daily basis back when she first knew Cardinal. She'd grown stronger, under his wing, so to speak, stronger and braver. And yet here she is. Crying again.

At his question, her brows knit and she nods slowly. "Card," she whispers. She shakes her head. "I thought," she begins, voice raw before swallowing and trying again. "I thought you looked like… like yourself now. They said…?" They. There's a reason she's still several feet back from him. There's a reason she's afraid.

"I wish," is a muttered response as Cardinal offers an askance look down to Von, then back up to Peyton, nervous about closing the distance between them any further than it already is. Clearing his throat again, Cardinal's dark eyes square on his feet, then back up to Peyton. "I… never meant for this to happen," is explained with a motion towards himself with one gloved hand. "It— it was an accident. Tyler was helping to put me back together, and he had some sort of reaction to the augmentation drug. It— everything went out of control. I was supposed to be me…"

Lips sagging into a frown, Cardinal looks over his shoulder to the car idling behind him, then back up and over to Peyton. "It's… been a really long time, Pey." There's wistfulness in his tone of voice, emotion too, if only just. "I can't— " he laughs, bitterly, "I can't really believe I'm seeing you here, standing in front of me like this. Not after…" trailing off, Cardinal closes his eyes and breathes in deeply, then exhales a sigh and slowly shakes his head.

"I didn't intend for us to meet like this," sounds like an apology given the tone he has, but Cardinal always has a way of saying things with a double meaning. What he meant to say was I had no intention of meeting you at all. Because that would have been easier.

"Me neither," is admitted in a small voice, and the clairvoyant frowns, glancing back at her house and then to him. "Faye's not here, but … what do you want with her? I don't… I don't want her involved in anything dangerous. She's done enough of that. My brother needs her, you know? I don't want him to lose his parents so young." She'd lost her adopted parents at his age, and then lost one birth parent twice at just the age of 21.

Despite the fear that encapsulates that request, Peyton moves a step closer, eyes lifting to study his face. "It's so bizarre. You look so different but you still feel like you."

Cardinal visibly tenses in a squaring of his shoulders as Peyton draws near, but he doesn't take the easy way out and step back either, nor does he look away from those intense eyes. Brows twitch, and Cardinal swallows down a lump in his throat. "I'm here to offer your mother a job…" It's delicately worded, carefully chosen. "She's an exceptionally talented individual, bright, powerful. There's been an opening in the Institute's private security force for some many months now… and… I know Faye turned her back on FRONTLINE, but we could use someone like her. Someone with heart."

It's hard to compel someone to believe that their mother would be safe being a part of Unit Zero, and so Cardinal doesn't even make the attempt. "Your brother would be taken care of if anything happened to your mother. Beyond that, the Institute has some of the most advanced medically applicable Evolved in the world. Think about it, Peyton… I was dead for however many years?" Cardinal's borrowed brows crease together. "Think of it like the offer of life insurance to your mother."

Then, with a moment's hesitation, the cunning side of his personality latches on to an opportunity. "To you, too, if you'd have it…" his voice goes low and quiet to make that suggestion. "Why are you all the way out here, Peyton. Why aren't you with— "

With me sounds both conceited and confusing.

Her eyes widen and she shakes her head, dark hair tumbling about her cheeks that pale but for the spots of pink in the center caused by the chilly air. "I saw what they were doing in there, Ca-" the syllable cuts off, as if she's not sure if that name applies to him, not really. "I saw the things they did in there. Medicine — it's not medicine."

She swallows and arms wrap around herself, shoulders hunching. "My brother needs a mother, not money." Her words break with a sob and she shakes her head again. "I have money, and I'm not okay. I want better for him."

Peyton's gaze drops as she regards the last question. "I couldn't cut it. He was gone, and I couldn't handle it all, after the 8th, and after you…" He and you are two different people in her mind. "I'm not cut out for it. I'm not strong enough." Her eyes lift and she shrugs. "I don't think it matters much. New York doesn't need me."

Regret crosses Cardinal's unfamiliar features as he realizes what it is that colored Peyton's judgement so. "What happened at the Staten Island Hospital was unforgivable, Peyton. Mistakes were made, terrible ones, and were I around then that never would have happened. Too many people got hurt, people important to me, people on a list of individuals that were never to come to harm. They underestimated Gregor and Cong, they didn't know them…"

"I'm sorry that you had to endure that, Pey. I never meant for you to come to harm, you've always been on their list. You're one of the untouchables. They're not allowed to hurt you." But they also weren't allowed to harm Gillian, and look what happened during the time between moments.

Offering out a gloved hand, Cardinal's expression sags into a frown. "I know things are hard right now, back there. I konw what he— " dissonance reigns for a moment, "I know what I'm going through back there. I know how hard it was, but I know what surviving that turned me into. I know the kind of man I became after enduring those hardships, but I did it with you at my side, Peyton."

Dark eyes look the young woman up and down, his throat tightening as his fingers curl towards his palm and leather creaks. "You can always stay here… come back with me to Cambridge. But you can't stay here… you can't hide. You have to make a choice, and that choice will affect the rest of your life. I can't make you choose anything, just like I can't make your mother even consider my offer if she doesn't want to."

Cardinal's brows furrow together again, and his fingers uncurl to offer out that hand again. "But if you feel like there isn't a place for you in New York… there'll always be a place for you with me. I just should have recognized that sooner."

She shakes her head. More time travel; it hurts her head. "I don't… I don't belong anywhere," she murmurs, and the tears threatening to spill finally do. "If I wasn't cut out for you at Redbird, how could I possibly do you any good at something bigger? I'm not cut out for anything you do there. You know I'm not. I have an ability that's a useful tool, but that's all." Her nose wrinkles at the word, Magnes' word from a few days ago.

"But a tool's only as strong or as useful as the person using it," she whispers. "My mother — she's capable. She's strong. I'm not her."

"You forget," Cardinal takes a step forward, and Von steps out of the way with eyes wide and earks perked up, repeatedly jumping up and down on Peyton's leg because momma's sad. "I've seen the future, Peyton. I know what kind of person you become, I know how strong you really are. When you stop doubting yourself, when you stop letting other people make your decisions for you, you're incredible." That leather-gloved hand reaches out, taking one of Peyton's hands and squeezing it gently.

"You're only as weak as you make yourself…" Slowly shaking his head, Cardinal's brows crease at the middle, showing signs of Tyler's youth slipping away. "I've seen you grow up into a woman… who was able to stare down a Messiah terrorist without fear in her eyes." Cardinal's throat works up and down into a slow, steady swallow. "I know you better than you think…" Cardinal's other hand comes up, to brush gloved knuckles over Peyton's cheek.

"I know what you're capable of," when said by a man like Cardinal, always has a double meaning.

Peyton stares at her gloved hand in Cardinal's and fingers slowly curl around as her brows knit together. "You know time travel confuses me," she whispers, the slightest hint of a smile hiding in one corner of her mouth.

When his hand brushes her cheek, dark eyes lift, the tears sparkling on dark lashes as she looks into his eyes, her own flicking left to right as if trying to read them. "I want to believe," she whispers. But the knowledge that the Cardinal she left back in New York wants to stop this man makes her hesitate. That they feel the same to her is confusing — as confusing as time travel.

Lowering his hand from Peyton's cheek, Cardinal takes a step back and away from her, reluctantly allowing his fingers to slide away from hers and his hand to fall down to his side. Von takes a step towards Cardinal, ears perked up, then looks up expectantly to Peyton as if wondering what exactly she's going to do.

Cardinal remains silent, offering a fleeting look back at the building behind Peyton, then back to her. "I can't say that I wouldn't lie to you, because I have. But when I say I've seen what you become, when I say I've seen what you're capable of… there's a part of you that knows I'm telling the truth, bexause you already do believe me. You just need to start believing in yourself." Dark eyes sweep down to Von, eliciting the faintest hint of a fond smile, before those dark eyes square back up on Peyton.

"I'll come back, to talk to your mother another time…" It's like saying goodbye, but it's easier. He's already said goodbye to Peyton once before, and he has no intention of doing it again any time soon.

The words echo those that other Cardinal has told her so many times in her past and she bites her lip, taking a step forward when he steps back. "I believe you," she says abruptly, as if to keep him from leaving her, to keep him from disappearing from her life again, or her from his. "I trust you. You're the same person. I can feel it."

She lifts a hand to touch his chest, fingers in gloved hand trembling slightly as she lays her palm against his coat. She stares at her hand there for a moment before lifting her eyes to meet his. "I just don't understand why you had to do what you did… at Redbird. I don't understand." She swallows. "But I want to."

Cardinal's expression tenses up, his jaw sets, and his eyes angle to the side as he looks over his shoulder to the car. There's a telltale sign of something in his expression, maybe hope, maybe surprise, maybe something else. But as he reaches out his hand towards Peyton, Cardinal expresses something that is unusual amongst his peers in the Institute. As his expression softens, Cardinal expresses trust.

"Come with me…" He curls his fingers towards Peyton, beckoning her to follow to the car. His words hang there in the air, and as the snow falls steadily around the two, the wind picks up and drives white flurries thorugh the air in tiny currents and eddies. "Come with me, Peyton…"

"…and I'll tell you everything."

Twisting to cast a glance at her home, nearly invisible now between them and the snow that now frosts her hair and coat, Peyton turns back. Finally, after a long moment of indecision, she nods, reaching with her free hand to put it back into his, boots stepping through the thick snow accumulated on the curb toward the Lincoln.

Von bounds toward the car with a young dog's excitement. Meanwhile, one thought skates through Peyton's turbulent mind and heart: Does it count as betrayal, when it's the same man on both sides of the war?

Leather glad fingers grip Peyton's hand gently, and with a furrow of his brows, the time-spanned Cardinal offers a look back over his shoulder to the car, then turns fully towards it with Peyton's hand in his. Dark eyes betray nothing; neither emotion nor deception, if either are present. As his back settles on the home of Peyton's mother, Cardinal has come away from this meeting with something far more valuable than a soldier in his war, something more valuable than a weapon in his arsenal.

"I should start from the beginning…"

He's claimed the red bishop.

And the game continues.

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