Because He Cares


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Scene Title Because He Cares
Synopsis In which Aaron confesses to Peyton that he's seeing a shrink he can't afford and the two discuss how they will take care of each other.
Date September 2, 2009

Aaron and Peyton's Apartment - Upper West Side

It might come as a surprise to Peyton to find herself sleeping in her own bed, since she didn't fall asleep that way. To make things more odd there's a little brown teddy bear sitting on her other pillow with a little card tucked between its paws.

Went out, back soon. Don't worry.

- Aaron

Why a card? Well, text messages between the two have rarely ever been of the garden variety. Based on the fact that there's this sudden appearance of a little brown teddy bear with a red plaid ribbon around its neck, it would seem Aaron has actually been out more than once. As far as Peyton knows, that should be quite surprising since he's lingered around more than he should since he lost his day job. The fact that Peyton's apartment is far away from Old Lucy's has made him even more reluctant to put face time in there, either, so he's been more or less content just sitting around moping half the time. This should be a good sign.

What's more surprising is that she didn't wake, that she felt, apparently, secure enough in her sleep not to freak out at being picked up or tucked into bed. Unless she's sleep walking. Peyton rubs her eyes and looks at the card, picking it up and bringing it closer to read with bleary eyes. She's not sure what to make of it. She sets it on the end table. Her room looks like something out of a magazine — though the mirror at the vanity has photos and postcards stuck between the glass and the frame, and the table of the vanity is covered with jewelry and makeup and the like. Other than that corner of the room and the messy closet, the place was obviously designed by an interior decorator. Her parents' taste, not hers.

Peyton slips out of the bed, wearing what she fell asleep in — short girly boxers in pink and green stripes with the word PINK on the butt and a green tank top. She pads out to the living room, to cross into the kitchen, intent on making coffee.

Either he really meant he'd be back soon or Peyton slept longer than Aaron expected her to. Either way, it's not too long after she starts making coffee that he slips himself back into the apartment. Once he has his shoes and jacket off, he can't help but notice that her bedroom door is no longer closed and so finds his way into the kitchen. "Good morning, or close to afternoon. It's like five minutes to twelve. Did you just get up?"

"Hey," she murmurs, voice a little husky from want of use. "Yeah. I think I fell asleep at like three?" she asks. They were watching movies and television on the couch as usual — her normal M.O. is to keep herself busy until she's so tired she can't lay awake thinking of frightening things; she usually falls asleep in the middle of some movie or another. "Thanks for the bear," she adds, as if off hand. Coffee's done! As it quits dripping, she reaches up and grabs a mug. "Where'd you go?"

What little vestige of anything remotely resembling a smile upon Aaron's face vanishes at the question, innocent however it was. Granted, it's not like he's trying to hide where he went — not entirely, anyway — but that does not preclude him from having some level of shame surrounding it. After all, how many people are proud that they're seeing a psychiatrist? He can't be mad at her for asking the question. He gives a bit of a shrug. "I had to talk to someone," he says. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm not exactly a bright ray of sunshine. Not to make your problems seem any less important." Dolt. "Not that I'm saying you have any problems. Er." He drops himself into a chair at the kitchen table. "Yeah. I saw a shrink."

She smiles at his fumbling, trying to hide it in a sip of coffee. "It's nothing to be ashamed of," she tells him. "I see one, too." She makes a face. "Well, I have to see one. It's in the trust fund rules set up. My dad, he put into the estate or whatever that I have see a shrink in order to get my money every six months. So… you know, someone makes you do something, you really don't like it, right? Especially me. Miss Rebel without a clue." She snorts. "But I can see why it might help. And I think that's good, that you're going."

Peyton heads to the refrigerator, peering inside. "I went to that Suresh Center yesterday. I didn't really do anything there. I met Abby from Old Lucy's, actually." She forgot to tell him this last night. "But I went to see if I could get some help for my power, maybe even talk to a shrink."

And Aaron can't imagine what Peyton must feel like half the time. Well, he can imagine, since he's always there for her. He gets up from the table and helps himself to a cup of coffee, even though tea is more his thing. "Yeah, well if you find one that charges less than a hundred and eighty bucks an hour, let me know. Old bastard's gonna bleed me dry." Very quickly. "How was Abby?"

"Someone at that Center maybe, I don't know if it's free or what, but they might have some counseling available," Peyton points out, carrying her mug with her to the living room and sitting on the sofa. "Abby was nice. She made me eat with her and the security guard." She takes a sip of coffee and frowns. "That FBI agent, the one who was there the night Wendy and I got kidnapped? He's missing. So she's worried about him." Peyton takes another swallow of the coffee, her hand shaking a tad. "He's hurt, a lot. I should be … grateful. They didn't hurt us like they hurt him."

And Aaron follows with his own mug, taking a seat close to her. "Abby's always nice," he says with a bit of a smirk. "Ivanov? … Shit. How the hell does an FBI agent go missing?" The look on Peyton's face, the shaking hand. It sends a chill right down Aaron's spine, and he can't help but reach out and touch his hand to her slightly shaking one. "Maybe that's not a bad idea, trying the Center, even if it is a tad farther away." Time for a subject change, clearly.

"I think it was at that gala thing, the thing for Frontline. I heard something about it on the news the other night, but they didn't give names," Peyton says, curling her long bare legs up on the sofa. "If you need some money though, I can help you." She knows that is probably the wrong thing to say, to someone who once had dreams of fame and grandeur and now barely scrapes by. "But I bet they have something that's free, there. Wendy might know - she gives art lessons I guess. I can ask her."

Aaron rubs his eyes. Federal agent abducted at the FRONTLINE gala. Yeah, everything's under control. He shifts to accommodate Peyton's legs and sort of stares when she offers to help him pay off the psychiatric fees. Smooth. Granted, with him is was more of living comfortably than in fame and grandeur, but still, shattered dreams and all. The shift back to the topic of shrinks is welcome, but the mention of Wendy makes him look guilty. Again. "How's she doing?"

Peyton yawns, still groggy. "She was at that movie set when things went all nutty. The girl is a magnet for trouble." Hello, Pot? This is Kettle. You're Black! "But she said she was okay. I don't know. I think that she's still mad at me a little for the whole kidnapping thing, though she says she's all right." Peyton sounds a little sad at that, but gives a stoic shrug.

"Oh geeze," Aaron says, shaking his head. "She does get into a lot of trouble." Of course, he'd never think Peyton gets herself into trouble, oh no. She's perfect. "Mad at you? Because you go around flaunting your ability and telling everyone what their ability is?" Almost as soon as he said it he covers his mouth and goes rather pink in the face. Why yes, yes he does blame Wendy a bit for Peyton's abduction, even beyond his guilt from assaulting her.

Peyton looks up with surprise at the outburst, eyes wide. She knows Aaron has a barbed tongue, but the words surprise her nonetheless. She shakes her head. There's so much she hasn't told him about the kidnapping. Her eyes slide away, staring at the television that's turned off. "The thing is… they asked me what she could do. They had a gun." He saw the gun, of course he knows they had a gun. "I told them she could tell if someone was Evo. But I tried to downplay it. I said she's sometimes wrong, and I didn't say she could tell what they could do." A tear slides down her cheek. "She told them the details, that she can tell their power." She takes a shaky breath. "But still. I know… I mean, I'd probably be mad too. But I thought they knew what she could do from what she said in the bar, that they'd know if I was lying, if I made something up."

Aaron didn't used to have a barbed tongue. Had Peyton even known him a few months back, before the emotional roller coaster dragged him so far beyond the point of no return, she'd have known only a kind Aaron. And no, he doesn't know much about the kidnapping beyond her frantic text messages, the utterly horrifying video that made him glad he hadn't eaten much that day, and that look she had in her eyes when she came home. He never asked about it. Maybe he should have. He reaches up to brush away the tear. "I'm sorry," he says. "I didn't think. This is all so much, I can't … I can't imagine what this has been like for you." Save that she can barely sleep alone and does all she can to not sleep or have time alone to think.

Peyton closes her eyes when he brushes the tear away. She hasn't said it, but she's glad he's moved in, without either of them actually having a conversation about it being more than a few days. "I didn't mean to tell them what she could do. I thought they knew. I thought… it was a test, and if I lied, they'd shoot me or something." She opens her eyes again. "I'll be okay. They've done so much worse to these other people they've kidnapped. I was lucky, and I can't forget that. And maybe for a reason. Maybe I can help stop people like them." She lifts her chin a touch, almost defiantly.

No. It was supposed to be just until he found another place to live. Turns out he found home instead. It's a somewhat baffled and horrified look on his face at the mention of the possible test. It's what he would think, especially given how Wendy uses her ability. The mere thought sends another shiver down his spine. But then she goes talking all about helping to stop them. But he's not going to argue. He reaches for his coffee and looks into it to try not to say anything stupid. All that gets out is, "Just don't get yourself into trouble."

Peyton stares into her coffee and chuckles a little at the last comment. "I'm not sure that's an option. People are asking for my help… how do I say no? If I can help find someone who's in trouble, I'm not going to say no." It's a different Peyton, this Peyton who cares about helping her fellow man, rather than about getting a good price on a Gucci purse or finding a way into the hottest club in town on opening night. "I… did you hear about that rapper on the evening news?" she asks, glancing at him. "I helped with that."

Aaron blushes again. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I leave the room whenever you turn it to the news." Because he doesn't watch the news. He can't. Ever since he saw Peyton's face on it. "Makes me cringe." He downs some coffee. It makes him more than cringe, but he's admitted enough weaknesses and insecurities today to add another to it. "I mean, I guess it's cool that you're helping people."

She reaches to set down her coffee on the table, and then stretches to put her arms around him. "It's okay. I'm okay. I'm sorry for making you worry," she says softly. She rests her head on his shoulder, but her intent is to comfort him, as much as he has sought to comfort her over the past couple of weeks. "I'll be careful. And we'll look after each other, okay?" How strange, for her to look after anyone when she has never even taken care of herself.

Aaron puts an arm around Peyton's waist to hold onto her while he leans forward to set his own coffee down. It's amazing how he found a use for the coasters that were sitting in a nice little centrepiece. His coffee arm comes around Peyton's head to stroke her hair. Because he's been looking after her this whole time, from the first night she came back to him, it isn't something he has to stretch to do. "You don't have to be sorry for making me worry. I make myself worry about you." Because he cares.

Her eyes close, and she simply rests on him, head on his shoulder, body nestled against his, feet curled beneath her own thighs. People need people. And neither of them have had enough in their lives in the past few years — not ones that matter. "It's nice to have someone care, to be honest. My parents worried, but I didn't appreciate it for what it really was until it was too late."

"It's hard to appreciate something you've never been without until it's gone," Aaron says. People take so many things for granted. It's only the people who know loss who understand just how precious even the simplest things are. He lets his hand drop from her waist, seeking out her precious little feet. "I thought I had everything until I had nothing save my guitar and a few items I happened to keep with me. I haven't had anyone to care about in a long time, but I'll do right by you." And to punctuate that, he reaches that hand to start tickling Peyton's feet.

Tickling! Not fair! Peyton's feet try to pull back under her body to protect them, and instead of getting maudlin at his words, she shrieks, giggling, rolling on the couch to escape those tickling fingers. She picks up a throw pillow and tosses it at him. "Stop, stop, stop!" she gasps.

Oof. Pillow in the face! While Peyton tries to pull back, Aaron tries to pull her closer to continue the tickle assault. But once she starts gasping out stop, he complies, and slowly just settles her back against him, gently turning her face towards his, though she's upside down to him, or him to her. "Are you sure you want me to stop? I could tickle you all day. Laughter is the best medicine, after all."

Peyton's out of breath and laughs, shaking her head, her face a healthy rosy pink for once, rather than swollen red from tears or pale from fear and lack of sleep. "No, please, no more tickling. I can't breathe. It may be good medicine, but only until I pass out from lack of oxygen," she points out. She heaves a sigh, now that the laughter has subsided. "Want to get some lunch or something?" she asks. It's time to get back to real life.

And look at that, there's a smile. Hell must have frozen over or something. Or thawed out, depending upon how one views Hell. Aaron uses an arm to raise Peyton back up into a sitting position, rather than lying on his legs. "Lunch would be great," he says.

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