Ashen Skies


b_peyton_icon.gif young-winslow2_icon.gif

Scene Title Ashen Skies
Synopsis Prisoner at the hands of Thomas Zarek in the midst of a pitched battle in World War I, Peyton Whitney finds herself unexpectedly reunited with a man she thought she'd lost forever.
Date May 23, 1915

Time travel is giving her a headache — that and hitting her skull on cobblestone streets coupled with smoke inhalation.

Taking a deep breath of sooty air, Peyton darts in the same diagonal path laid a moment before by Thomas, keeping her head ducked in case anyone shoots at her slim frame.

When Peyton emerges into the alleyway that Thomas had ducked into, the narrow space between a large, stone-walled building and a smaller brick one is a soupy mess of shallow water and mud ina low-lying spot between two higher dirt roads. When Peyton steps into the alley, there's a rifle-butt waiting for her, hitting her crooked against her temple, blossoming spots in her vision and sending her sprawling backwards down to the water, her handgun thrown from her hand as she strikes the ground with a wet splash and a spray of brown mud everywhere.

Pain lances thorugh Peyton's head as she unfortunately remains conscious on the ground, blood warm on her skin where the impact split her open. Though when Peyton's vision squares on the rain-dappled attacker waiting for her in the alleyway, that it is Thomas Zarek pointing his rifle down at her comes as something of a small surprise.

"«Now I think would be a good time…»" he snarls in French, brows knit together and rain running in rivulets down his forehead, matting his dark hair to his brow. A droplet of water rolls off of the end of the barrel of his rifle.

"«…for you to tell me who the hell you really are.»"

Ypres, Belgium

May 23, 1915

The nausea roils through her body as Peyton brings a trembling hand to her temple, staring at the fingers when they come away wet with blood. She blinks up at Thomas with tearful eyes, her lips parting and trembling as she tries to speak. Nothing comes out, and she swallows hard, then pushes with her feet to scramble away from him and that gun, until her shoulders back up against the wall of one of the two buildings that border the alley.

The bag that she brought with her drags along the cobblestones along with her, and she puts a hand on it. Somehow she managed to hold on to a little bit of sense despite the hard blow to the head, and doesn't reach into it. "«I'm Peyton Whitney. I'm American. I was told to protect you, that someone would be coming to hurt you,»" Peyton finally manages, her low voice trembling as she speaks, her eyes never leaving his face. "«My … the people who brought me here, they gave me conflicting information, so I was confused. I thought I was looking for Winslow, and when I was given your name, I thought it was just a name he was using. I … the person who was helping me, he disappeared, and I didn't get all the information…»"

Her hand goes back to her head, her lashes dipping as another wave of nausea cuts through the pain. "«I didn't mean to scare you, I'm sorry.»"

American explains a lot to Thomas, though as he remembers to chamber a round into the bolt-action rifle with a clack-chack of the slide, it drives a point home to Peyton, amidst the rain and the fire in this dirty alleyway: Thomas Zarek isn't done asking questions yet."«Who?» is sharply demanded as he motions towards Peyton with the rifle, demonstratively, or perhaps urging an answer from her. "«Who told you I was here? Who— what American even knows who I am, or cares!?»

Thomas' dark hair is platered to the sides of his face and his forehead as the rain picks up, a peal of thunder rumbling through dark clouds overhead. "«Who are they protecting me from?» comes a little belatedly, but never the less, Thomas' tone of voice implies that both questions hold equal importance in his eyes.

The distant rippling shake of an explosion averts his attention into the window of an adjacent building, where the burned out shell affords no obstructions to the street beyond, or the orange glow of encroaching flames. He hadn't picked a good place to interrogate someone.

"I don't know!" Peyton exclaims in English, realizing it belatedly and shakes her head, adding more softly, "«I don't know who is after you — the person who was telling me to find you didn't give me a lot of details and he got… he … I don't know where he is!»" The clairvoyant doesn't want to dwell on that — just where Hiro went and how he'll get back, she isn't sure.

"«I … do you believe in powers — special powers, like… like healing or flying, like miracles?»" she says suddenly, touching her bag that she's pulled upon her lap. Her dark eyes dart away at the sound of explosions, and she looks back to him pleadingly. "«We're not safe here! You have to trust me… Look in my bag. I'm from the future. Someone else is here to screw up the past, to keep things that happen in the future from happening, and I was told they were going to kill Winslow and to stop that from happening by one person, and then another person, the person who brought me here, he told me to find you."

She gasps for breath, the effort of telling him so much truth in one breath leaving her without any, and then she adds, "«Please don't shoot me. Look in my bag — you'll see a card with Winslow's face on it in a wallet — and pictures of me with … with things that don't exist yet." Pictures of New York City, full of cabs and buses and skyscrapers that make the Cloth Hall look like a cottage.

Silence, for a long time silence; stony and unflinching. Finally, without another word, Thomas jerks the barrel of his gun upwards and takes a step back. "«Get up, pick up your bag,»" the instructions are shortly clipped out in his impatient tongue, even as he lowers one hand from the rifle and crouches down, retrieving Peyton's pistol from the puddle it had fallen into, looking down at the firearm with an uncertain expression. Turning it over in his hands, he considers the gun carefully, then wedges it between the straps across the front of the small backpack he wears.

"«Get up and go out that way,»" Thomas instructs, nodding his head to further down the alley, continuing their double-backed loop. "«I don't know who you are, but I'm taking you to Captain Winslow. He can figure out what to do with you, and you can explain to him your tall tale.»" Of course, he didn't believe her. Though admittedly he hasn't taken the initiative to check her evidence either.

Get up! Move!»" He also doesn't seem to have the patience to.

More tears stream down her face, mascara tinging it and mingling with the soot and mud and blood across her face. Peyton pulls the strap of her bag back up, ducking her head so the courier bag crosses her chest so it won't be easy to grab. Pulling her feet beneath her, she manages to stand precariously, wavering for a moment as her equilibrium struggles to level.

Somehow, she doesn't think this is what Hiro had in mind when he told her to keep Thomas safe — Peyton, Zarek's hostage, heads down the alley in the direction he indicated. "«But he was in the Cloth Hall,»" she says a moment belatedly. Does she dare check in on Winslow's locale with a man holding a gun at her back? Will he burn her as a witch if he knows what she can do? Peyton swallows and wraps her arms around herself, shivering from the chill that permeates her body, now that she's soaking wet from falling in puddles, and the fear that her bad choices and the miscommunications will be her undoing, in a very literal sense of the word.

"«You don't know your way 'round this city as good as I do,»" Thomas notes with a coarse tone of voice, directing Peyton around the corner, then down another dirt and mud sidestreet as the rain begins to abate, turning once more to a light mist. Marching behind her, his brows lower and shoulders square, only the sound of his boots squelching in the mud reminding her that he's there over the popping sound of gunfire and the noise of explosions south of the city.

It's only when Peyton emerges through the next alley that she realizes what Thomas' path through the labyrinthine streets has done, when the flame-engulfed clock tower of the Cloth Hall comes into view. Bright coiling plumes of flames rise up through holes in the masonry, the roof ablaze and clock face shattered by heat. Bodies lay strewn in the street all around the building and shouting fills the air.

Across the wide, dirt street there are some fifteen men in gray uniforms, long oiled wool cloaks draped over their shoulders to keep off the rain, one among them in an entirely different uniform has much of his attire covered by a belted greatcoat, his brown hair matter down to his face, thick brows furrowed and one hand waving directions towards the men standing huddled together.

"We're goin' t'head up to th' trenches! The German's 'ave pulled back outside the town, we're goin' to give 'em bloody hell out there! You can't let the Canadians make you look like scared little kids! We'll regroup an' we'll take back the advantage!" //English especially spoken with the stilting of a Yorkshire accent sounds refreshing amidst all of the French and Dutch of Belgium.

The man standing in the middle of the street in the rain is a ghost of something far more than just the past ti Peyton Whitney. Albert Winslow's prominent nose, thick brows and dark hair look just as she remembers him from their first and last meeting, though there's even less wrinkles in his countenance now. Whatever his situation is, he has his youth about him.

"Captain Winslow!" Zarek shouts from across the street, Peyton ahead of him, one hand raised with a white kerchief clutched in his gloves. "«I have a spy, she says she is an American!»" Spy is a bit of a heavy word, but when Albert Winslow's eyes square on Peyton, it's almost like he recognizes her, as impossible as that sounds.

"«Bring her over»," in a French less fluent than Peyton's comes with a wave of Winslow's hand, "«and put your gun down she's just a girl.»"

Seeing her father outside of the inferno that is the Cloth Hall, Peyton exhales with some relief, though her heart begins pounding all the harder. The worry that Zarek being near him will endanger him, if he was never in any peril before, manifests itself as a furrowed brow and trembling lips.

"I'm not a spy!" she says immediately, giving Zarek a dirty look for the word, before bringing her gaze back to her father's face. That visage blurs with her tears as she tries to drink it in, tries to make this moment matter. It will be, she is sure, the last chance she has to know Albert Winslow — and once again, it is with peril on their heels. "I'm not a spy. He misunderstood me. I'm here to try to keep him safe, but things got confused," Peyton says earnestly, her voice dropping, unsure of how many of his men speak English. "Do you believe in people who can do tremendous things, superhuman things? I … I know you in the future. In my bag, there's a wallet — can I show you?"

Even as she tries to be logical, to show evidence of the future she came from, her heart is breaking, more tears streaming down her face as she stares up at him.

Winslow is stopped dead in his tracks by those words, eyes wide and shocked at the things coming out of the girl's mouth. "«Shut up!»" is Thomas' incensed shout, raising the but of his rifle up in the air behind Peyton in ready to bring it crashing down on the back of her head, only to have Winslow shout out across the street.

Stop!»" French cuts thorugh the damp air like a knife, and Thomas hesitates before following through with the blow, looking at Winslow with furrowed brows and a confused stare. "«I know her,»" is an impossible thing for Albert to say, but yet there it is. "«Let her go, she is working for British intelligence! Why do you think I was even here?»" Striding across the street, Winslow sweeps back his hair from his face with one hand, then shakes the rainwater off down at his side with a spatter in a nearby puddle.

"«Take these men and go meet the Canadians in the north, I will take care of this one, are we clear?»" It isn't that Winslow has the authority to order Thomas around, but there's a truth in his words, if she is a contact of British intelligence as Winslow says, then it matters not what happens to her from here on out.

Apologetically, Thomas flashes Peyton an askance look as he steps around her, the guilt in his eyes looking remarkably reminiscent of the haunted look that Kain Zarek at times has in his own, before like a dog with his tail between his legs, Thomas Zarek is passing by Albert Winslow and moving to meet the Belgian soldiers.

Her eyes widen when her father says he knows her — does he? Or is he simply saying it to keep her safe? She whirls around to see that raised rifle and she skitters away a few feet, one arm coming up to guard her already injured head. Her head whirls back when she hears Winslow tell Thomas to go to the north, and she shakes her head. "No — no, he can't, people are coming for him, I'm supposed to keep him safe," she whispers, reaching to grab Winslow by the arm, to tug his jacket sleeve imploringly.

"I don't know what to do," she confesses, dark eyes peering into his. "I'm supposed to keep him safe, but I don't know from who or when or where. And I'm supposed to keep you safe — unless they lied to me, and told me that just to get me here, I don't know. I don't know."

With her father — whether he knows he is or not — standing before her, Peyton begins to lose her tenuous hold on reason. She just wants him to tell her it'll be all right.

Lifting one hand up to his lips, Winslow makes a shh motion, looking over his shoulder to Zarek and letting the soldier rayyl together the Belgian soldiers, then start leading them off down the street towards what must be the north side of the city. The sounds of gunfire have died down, a lull in the conflict, but with the burning building still creaking, groaning and cracking across the street, Peyton and Winslow cannot possibly forget that they are in the middle of a firefight.

"Easy," Winslow whispers, shaking his head as he takes a step over to Peyton and lays a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. There's a splitting sound from inside of the burning Cloth Hall's stone walls, then a riotous crash as a wooden floor collapses inward, spewing cinders, smoke and ash out the dilapidated holes in the walls. The heat radiating from the fire is almost too much, even with the rain and the distance.

"No American in their right mind is in Belgium right now, let alone a young woman like yourself," Winslow explains with a lift of both of his thick brows. "I don't know what it is you're getting on about, with that Frenchman, but there is no safe place here, this is a war zone, and I'm afraid the same goes for you. There's no safe way out of here, or safe place to be. Now…" Lifting up a gloved hand to tap up Peyton's chin with one knuckle, Winslow calmly asks — despite the chaos of a burning city around him — "why don't you start from the beginning, tell me what's going on. You— said something earlier that— it got m'attention."

All the while, Thomas Zarek is leading the Belgian forces further and further away down the road.

"You believe me," she whispers, though she glances down the road, clearly caught between where she wants to be and where she was told to be. She reaches into her bag, pulling out the wallet that is how he last left it in 2010. She pulls out the driver's license with his picture on it, and presses it into his hands.

"I'm from … I'm from 2010. My name is Peyton. I was told to come keep you safe, that someone else from the future is going to try to kill you, and that… that if that happened, I'd never be born," Peyton whispers, tears beginning anew, even as she glances down the street again, her brows furrowing together in a deeper scowl. "But when the time traveler came to bring me here, he … he gave me a different name to protect. I was confused — I thought maybe it was just the name you're using here, until he," and she nods toward the retreating troops, "said he was looking for you, too. I … I'm supposed to keep both of you safe, or …"

Her chin trembles as something clicks, and she feels betrayed by what she thought was a kindred spirit. "Or someone lied to me to trick me to come." Dark eyes peer up at him, then back to Zarek as he marches farther away, and she grabs his arm again. "I'm not a spy. I don't know how to do this."

Staring down at his own picture, there's a certain look of pale-faced confusion on Winslow's face, recognition of the name and identity, then a dark-eyed stare back up to Peyton with little recognition of what that shiny card even means. Blinking repeatedly, Winslow lowers his hand from Peyton's chin, then steps towards her then pushes her ahead and away from the brunign remnants of the clocktower behind him.

"This way," he explains quietly, turning Peyton around with an arm draped over her shoulders, "out of the rain before your teeth chatter out of your head…" With a motion of one hand, Winslow gestures to a building that has ceased burning, half of its roof eaten away by fire and windows blown out by heat, but still something of a makeshift shelter and nowhere near where the current burn zone is spreading. "There's time enough to talk," he adds in a hushed tone of ovice, "time enough to… try and— figure this all out."

"Maybe," she murmurs, glancing back at the ever-shrinking figures now as small as toy soldiers marching farther and farther away from her. But she gives a nod — Zarek isn't going to let her rescue him, and Winslow is her own chance, especially now that her gun's been taken from the Belgian.

Peyton moves into the building, picking her way over debris carefully, glancing back at her father, feeling a little calmer just being in his presence, which seems strange, given their only meeting ended in his death. Her arms wrap around herself and she finds a spot out of the rain.

"I know it's crazy, but it's true," she whispers. "You know — you have an ability, right? You're not as young as you look, right? I won't tell anyone — you're supposed to … you're supposed to live past this, into 2010—" the tears start again. She can't tell him he dies in 2010. Hopefully he mistakes the tears for exhaustion, pain and fear. She presses her lips together to keep them from trembling. "If you die I won't be born — and… and I know someone he's related to, I think, that Zarek guy, I have a friend with the same last name. I guess if he dies, my friend won't be born either. And I'm afraid by bringing you two together I've screwed it all up, and I don't know how to save you both."

Leading Peyton into the shadow of that building, Winslow closes his eyes and shakes his head slowly. Halting in the fire blackened doorway, the smell of soot clings to the air, and Winslow allows Peyton to go ahead into the building. "He said you'd know about me…" is a hushed thing that Winslow says, his voice as low as the distant crackling of the fire. "No one's going to kill me, not here, certainly not now… and if I can do anything about it, not then either."

Letting the corners of his mouth sag down, Winslow closes his eyes and slowly shakes his head. "I can't… let you do what you're doing here, but I don't want to kill you either. You see I…" rainwater drips down onto Winslow's shoulder. "I'm just going to keep you here for a little while, we're going to talk, and then when he comes looking for me I'll explain t'him your situation, an' I'm sure he'll send you back wherever it is you belong."

With that, Albert Winslow dips his head down and furrows his brows. "We're jus' going t'wait here for them to get Thomas, then… then we'll figure out th' rest." As Winslow levels brown eyes up on Peyton, there's a resignation and a sadness in his expression. "Are you really…" he doesn't ask it, just looks away and shakes his head.

"M'sorry for puttin' you through this. I figure it'll all be over soon 'nough. I didn't think it'd take this long for you t'show up though."

Leaning against the wall in the slim amount of shelter from the rain that the burnt out roof provides, Peyton shoves her hands into her pockets as he speaks, waiting for the fatherly wisdom that even horrible parents like Polonius in Hamlet manage to impart in times of need.

What comes isn't it.

"Wait…" she whispers, sickening understanding creeping into her face slowly. "You… who are we going to explain this to? You know about why I'm here, you know… you know what they're going to do to him, and you're going to let them?"

That nausea swells again, rising in her throat, but she manages to swallow down the bile.

She pushes off from the wall, dark eyes flashing with anger. "I can't let them kill him. I don't know who is doing it or why — but I'm not going to let them wipe out someone's existence. You can't just screw with the past — you don't know what it's going to do!"

She moves toward the doorway, glancing back at him, a confused mix of contrition and regret and betrayal in her face.

"It's going to prevent my death," Winslow says flatly, brows furrowed and jaw squared. "I know why they sent you back, if you're really— " he pauses, just watching Peyton for a moment. "If you're really who you say you are, because they thought you'd be able to plead with me or… I— I don't know. But he promised me, he told me that if I helped him change this one little thing, let this one soldier go… that they'd make sure I don't die, make sure I live that— that I get to be a father to my little girl when she grows up into a beautiful young woman."

Swallowing tightly, Winslow's eyes well up with tears as he stares at Peyton, his jaw tensing and throat tightening, "you're— you're her, aren't you? I mean you're… you're really her?" The disbelief is palpable in his voice, in the way his breath hitches inthe back of his throat and brows furrow together as if to implore please don't hate me.

"He— he never told me you looked so beautiful." Winslow's jaw trembles, throat works up and down in a dry swallow as he takes a step towards Peyton. "How— how could they make you do this?"

Peyton stops, closing her eyes as the implications of what he says become clear. She brings her hands to her eyes, pressing the palms in, but the tears still stream down her cheeks. "Who? Who is doing this? Who promised you this?" she demands, turning back to stare at him, seeking his gaze with her brown eyes so very like his.

She shakes her head, incredulous, torn. She thought Hiro was good, that Rhys was good, but for them to put her in this situation, for them to manipulate her, for them to leave her here — the doubts begin to eat away the little bit she felt she could believe in, and there is very little left. That whoever it is who wants to undo the past would promise her father his life…

"You didn't have to die!" Peyton suddenly yells, all the fury of that wintery night finally being voiced, loudly, after being shoved away to freeze like the rest of Manhattan in the storm. "You chose to give up your life that night, you chose to give up! You chose to only come into my life when you planned to give yours up. You'd already decided. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair, but you did it!"

Her face grows flushed from the exertion of her anger as she stares at him. "So they came to you some time before that, sometime before you chose to die — how do you know you won't regret living when the time comes? Did they tell you how you died? That you killed yourself? Did they tell you that?"

Peyton crumples to her knees, averting her face from his as sobs wrack her body.

Judging from Winslow's expression: no. No they didn't tell him that.

Staring down at his hands, Winslow lets out a small, soft sound of protest as he lurches forward towards Peyton, reaching out in her direction, then curls his calloused hands against his palms and clenches his jaw shut, looking away from her. There is something instinctually wrong about her crying, about allowing her to be upset. It will be generations before Albert Winslow fathers Peyton Whitney, but still a father's instinct seems to flutter at his breastbone.

Wiping one hand over his mouth, Winslow finally speaks, though his voice is a halting cadence. "It— n— no. No, he— he said I was killed. He said… he told me a man named Benjamin Ryans murdered me." Jaw set square, Winslow slowly shakes his head and closes his eyes, taking one step back from the young girl, as if she were somehow threatening him.

"I don't— why— why would I…" Wide eyes regard Peyton, confusion sinks in to Winslow as he wipes at his eyes with one hand, and murmurs, "why am I crying?"

The name Ryans is a pang in her chest — she treated him as if he'd killed Winslow, of course. She lifts her face, tear stains running through the dirt and blood. "It's… God, it's complicated," she whispers, her tantrum done. There is a weariness about her, as if she had spent all of her energy in that outburst, much like a toddler having a fit.

"There's this agency that … like police, but for people like you. And me. People with abilities. They were on your trail, and … you … there was something about a deal. He let you have time to watch me grow up." She trembles and looks away, fresh tears streaming from her eyes like a never-ending font.

"You… you made him younger, and you died. You said it was your time, that you lived long enough." Her brows furrow again, and she shakes her head. "But I didn't get to know you," is her final lament.

A little more fiercely, more to Rhys Bluthner than herself or him, "And this doesn't count."

The gift of time Rhys promised her is a dual-edged sword — every moment with her father, Zarek gets further away and closer to danger she has no idea how to stop.

Scraping her teeth over her lower lip, Peyton takes a deep breath, and lifts her eyes again. "I'm sorry," she whispers, her voice barely louder than a breath, "I didn't mean — thank you for wanting to —" she shakes her head. The words won't come. She stands, slowly and reaches for his hand, squeezing it, trying to say a lifetime of words in the gesture when her words fail.

Live as long as Albert Winslow already has, and you learn a few things, learn to tell when someone is lying, when they're telling the teuth, when they're being evasive. Already over one hundred years old, Albert Winslow has seen and lived too long to think that any of this is some sort of elaborate ruse. The only ruse he has fallen for is theo ne that he too greedily accepted, an offer of eternal life from a forked-tongue soothsayer.

"Peyton" comes out in a hushed, strained tone, coming to crouch down by her side and rest a hand on her cheek, one thumb brushing gently across her face, the soft suede underside of his gloves damp against her skin, but dry enough to wipe tears from her eyes. "You… came this far back, you— " Winslow's brows furrow, a worried look crossing his face. "You're— you're like me?" It sounds like it hurts him, as though a man with a mental disability realized that his child too would be handicapped. "I'm— I'm so sorry, I never knew that I'd… I never…"

Moving his hand up into Peyton's hair, Winslow shakes his head again and closes his eyes, exhaling a ragged sigh as his tongue sweeps over his lips. "Peyton, I don't— I don't know why I did what I did, I can't explain that to you. I'm— I'm so sorry. This is… this is all so hard for me to understand, to— to believe. But you're— "

Winslow's throat tightens, his voice hitching in his throat. "If I passed away, leaving you as my legacy to the world, then my life was one worth living. A thousand paintings I could make would never compare to— to having a beautiful daughter, one who loves me, despite— " despite his mistakes.

The notion suddenly has Winslow remembering just how perilous a moment they're in.

His words are the balm of Gilead that a daughter's broken and grieving heart has pined for, even while in denial. Peyton sobs once and throws her arms around him, weeping into the wool of his uniform. "It's okay. You did the best that you could, and you tried to protect me," she whispers. "I'm not … I don't have the same ability you do. I can see things. I can see through people's eyes, if I know them. I saw… I thought I was here for you, and I saw you in the fire," she whispers, shivering a little at the memory, before letting him go once more.

She raises her eyes to his once more, now that there is space between them, though one hand still holds his, none too willing to let him go for the short time she might have with him.

"I do. I … I love you." The words are shaky and awkward, something she has so little experience in saying to anyone in her life. "I'm sorry for … I'm sorry," she whispers, knowing her tantrum moments ago hurt him, had to hurt him. "And I … I forgive you."

Silent save for the falling rain above them and through the hole in the burned out ceiling, the demolished building offers no judgement to their time-spanned relationship. Winslow's jacketed arms wrap around Peyton's shoulders, his gloved fingers curl into her peacoat, and with a solemn nod of his head he exhales a breathy sigh against the top of her head. "I've— I've made a terrible mistake here," is a shaky admittance from Winslow, "Peyton, I— I'm sorry." For more than just being sucked in by the wiles of a temporal Devil, for more than words can convey. Right now, at any rate.

"Peyton," Winslow exhales the words in a soft, breathy manner, "Peyton I need you to tell me if it's too late to save the man you came here for. If you have this— if you have this ability than you have it for a reason. A purpose." Gloved hands squeeze Peyton's shoulders, gently.

"Let— let me help you," he implores in a whisper, "let me make this right again."

She stares at him, knowing that to save Zarek means this is their only time together, that she won't see him in her own time, that he will really be dead. It feels like a loss, though it's something she'd never have dreamed to have gained, and the wound it rakes in her feels new and palpable. "Maybe…" she begins, but she swallows the words, knowing there is no maybe.

There's also the very likely possibility that the devil in question lied to Winslow — he lied once, why would he make good on his promise?

Peyton nods, and her fingers curl tighter around Winslow's hand. Her stare into his face before the black pupils overtake the mahogany-hued iris as she focuses on the blue-eyed man Hiro had brought her here to save. If it's not too late.

The sound of an explosion is deafening, loud enough that all Peyton can hear in its aftermath is a whining ring of tinnitus in Thomas' ears. Laying on the ground, he stares up at a plume of dust and dirt flying up in the air and into the face of a Belgian soldier rushing over to him, yanking him up off of his back and onto his feet. Dutch words are nly muffled, shouting sounds like it's too far away and too watery. There's a slap on the side of his shoulder, Thomas is pushed ahead towards a fiery orange glow in fog and smoke.

Muzzle flash flickers like lightning through the smoke and fog, following the movement of Thomas as he charges down a muddy embankment, sliding into a five foot deep trench. Landing on his knees, Thomas is joined by a corpse falling forward into the trench with him, landing face down in the dirt. Fingers fumble to pry a rifle from the fallen Canadian soldier's corpse, hoisting the weapon up and sliding open the bolt and back down with a click-chack to chamber a round.

Through the fog, there's a brighter, hotter orange glow. It's coming from above the trenches. As Thomas rises up to one knee, dark silhouettes move along the periphery of the trench, heads tucked into cloth sacks with round goggled lenses over their faces, tiny circular respirators in the brown flannel sacks, fire reflecting in their eyes. On these soldiers backs are carried heavy tanks of flammable liquid, sprayed in cones of blazing fire into the trenches from their flamethrowers.

Scrambling on wet soil, Thomas turns around as fast as he can, sprinting away from the flames as they roar into the trenches, tyring to get ahead of the German soldiers.

"Peyton," a shake from Winslow jostles her from the vision, his hands still at her shoulders, "Peyton, do we have time?" It's more important now to know if they can make it if they run, than letting Peyton become trapped in a series of nightmarish visions of the war. He can only imagine what she's seen.

"I … I don't know where they are — he's alive, he's in the trenches, the … the Germans are setting them on fire, and he's running," she explains, blinking as her pupils constrict again, the effort of using her power when her head already hurts making her squint when she comes out of the vision. "It's all smoke and fire — I didn't see anything that looked out of the ordinary, just… I don't know how to help him," she whispers.

She manages to rise the rest of the way. The strangeness of her apparel is now no longer so obvious, now that she is covered in mud and some of her own blood, the grime camouflaging the modern lines of her garments. "Where did you send him? Do you know where he is? Can we get to him?"

"I sent him to the trenches," Winslow said with an exasperated tone of voice, reaching down to his side and withdrawing a small, boxy handgun with a long, thin barrel, distinctively a German firearm. "I did— I did not know better, I was following orders. Come," youthful and full of life, Winslow takes a step back and offers out a hand to Peyton. "If we run we can make it to my horse and get out there, maybe in time to set this right…"

Offering his gloved hand out to Peyton, Winslow's expression shifts to a guarded but honest smile, "I will protect you, and you will— you will help me find him. But I presume that it may be as simple as…" Winslow offers an awkward smile, "watching for the fire."

Her own hand, dirty and smeared with blood, falls into his, and Peyton nods, trying to be brave knowing she is running toward danger, toward the fire, toward a battleground. "You have to be careful, though, too. Don't… don't get yourself killed trying to protect me or we're both done for anyway." She isn't sure what would happen to herself here in 1915 if her father were killed before she can be born in 1988. Does she just vanish? She doesn't want to find out.

Daughter squeezes father's hand and gives him a nod, then takes a deep breath to bolster her courage and her resolution to save Thomas Zarek. "Thank you," she adds softly. "I don't know what will happen if we don't stop this, but … but people can't play God and change what's been. It isn't right." Another tear slides down her face, as she hates the words coming out of her mouth — she knows if she could keep him alive, she would.

With Peyton's hand in his, Winslow breaks out into the alleyway beside the burned out building, rushing with splashing and sloshing footfalls through the rainy streets, turning at the smoking and still burning remains of the Cloth Hall, turning past a pile of stone debris from a collapsed building, then heading further down the street, past the intense heat of a wooden building completely consumed by fire, screaming citizens of Ypres vainly trying to put out the blaze with buckets of water.

Making his way down to the edge of the street, the sight of a horse tied off past where the buildings born on the other side of the street becomes the destination of the fleeing father and daughter. Gun drawn, eyes wide and lungs burning from the flat out run he's been maintaining, Winslow's hasty approach to the horse comes with a skidding halt across a muddy, packed dirt street. Holstering his sidearm, the distant sounds of explosions do little to quell Winslow's jittery nerves.

Grabbing a hold of the saddle and hauling himself up onto the horse, Winslow turns and offers a hand down to Peyton, taking hers again, "Foot in the stirrup, push yourself up, I'll pull you the rest of the way. Then— hang on right."

He said they'd take his horse, but it isn't until Peyton sees the horse that it registers, and she hangs back when he climbs on, taking a wayward step back, her eyes as wide as the beast's. It's not a rational fear — she's never been bitten or thrown, stepped on or bucked. It was, in the beginning, just the fear of a little city girl facing a creature bigger and more powerful than she was.

"I guess asking if we can just take a cab is out of the question," she quips, trying to earn herself a moment of time she simply doesn't have. She closes her eyes, taking a deep breath, before moving toward the beast, taking Winslow's hand and swinging her long leg over the horse's back to settle herself in the saddle behind her father.

'Hold on tight' is the most unnecessary thing he has probably ever said. Her arms encircle his waist with a vise-like grip.

Apologies will have to wait for a later day as Winslow reaches down into his boot and withdraws a long knife, swiftly slicing thorugh the rope tying off his horse to a post, then tucks it back into the book, tugging the reins back and marshaling the beast into movement. The clomp of hooves down on wet soil slings mud upwards towards the pair while light rain pelts their hair and jackets. Winslow brings the horse around, turning from a trot into a full gallop in nearly no time, sending the powerful animal they're both mounted upon barreling towards the sound of automatic gunfire and the flames of a war in full burn.

From high above, the city of Ypres looks like a gray smudge on a brown landscape, a city awash in its own burnt ashes, streets soaked in rainwater and buildings crumbling as they are consumed by fire. From high up enough, Peyton Whitney and Albert Winslow on their horse look like a dark speck on a yellow-brown river, for the muddied dirt roads have yet to be clogged with blood as they are in the northern trenches.

On that north horizon, fog and smoke join together in black and gray whorl, flecked with flashes of yellow and orange, a conflagration to which they are riding headlong into.

To set things right, or die trying.

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