Connecting The Ever Thinning Thread


colette_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif

Scene Title Connecting the Ever Thinning Thread
Synopsis Peyton Whitney tracks down Colette following Cardinal's orders.
Date February 16, 2010

Ruins of Midtown

Hotel California's Ground Floor

The ruins of Midtown are a treacherous place to navigate. Half of the buildings that remain in the desolate fringes of this devastated city center are so severely damaged that the wrong shift of rubble can send entire buildings crumbling down to street level. Just this summer, an entire office building that once belonged to the Chase Manhattan Bank toppled down in the middle of the ruins, crushing adjacent structures and blocking off what was once a functional foot-path through the ruins.

It's among these precariously balanced tombstone-like buildings in the ruins where Peyton Whitney's senses— and orders— have brought her. Particularly, an eviscerated office building just two blocks from ground zero, a skeletal concrete structure that's entire north face had been scoured away by the shockwave that toppled so many other buildings. Exposed floors sixty stories tall rise up from the snow-crusted ground below, exposed to the elements.

The ground floor of the building isn't any better, a collapsed lobby with a demolished front entrance that is completely closed off from the rest of the building. Large slabs of broken concrete and drifts of snow cover what was once a front desk and reception area. Escalators are piled with debris and rubble that block off anything above the ground floor, and perhaps unthinkably, footprints in freshly fallen snow seem to track inside this darkened ruin.

Just after sunset, this place is hauntingly unlit. There is no power running through what was once Midtown's electrical grid, and this desolate ground floor is devoid of any source of electric lighting. The moon is hidden behind a patchwork of thick clouds, ones that dispense a light flurry of snow down to the ruins in some serene and hauntingly silent winter wonderland.

Just inside of the ground floor of this building, there's the sound of crunching snow and a frustrated breathing mixed with the sounds of metal clunking and clattering, like someone hammering on something solid. This is where the footsteps go, where Peyton's remote viewing had shown her that the target of her search had headed… in the middle of the ruins, in the dark, alone.

Shadowed with a bodyguard at Cardinal's and Liz's request, Peyton approaches the building, pausing at the entrance to ensure that the noises from within are in fact her target and not coming from some deranged transient armed with a blunt object to murder her with. She at least hopes that Colette won't attack her — she's not certain that her presence will be that welcome when the teenager is obviously trying to get away from people fussing over her and her recent misadventures. Satisfied that it's Colette, she turns to smile at Mack, the pupils of her eyes shrinking back as her surrounding return to focus. She hands him one of the bags of McDonalds clutched in her hands. "I've got it from here. Thanks."

The clairvoyant then turns a flashlight to the floor to help guide her across the snowy and broken flooring of the lobby toward the noise of the hammering. Peyton has already broken one ankle due to Midtown's treacherous terrain — she certainly doesn't want another. As she gets closer, she calls ahead to ensure that she doesn't startle Colette too badly: "Cole? Colette, it's just me, Peyton." Perhaps an unlikely visitor, but at least Peyton Whitney is not a frightening drop-in guest.

There's a clatter and a smash not far away from Peyton, the sound of something metal breaking followed by a hiss of breath. Peyton's flashlight dims like the battery is dying, and then immediately after from the dark recesses of the lobby, a sudden — though dim — light shines out much like her own flashlight. The pale shaft of light wavers across Peyton's form, glaring from a narrow central point in a cone of illumination. A noise in the dark, confused sounding, and then a rough rolling noise like a cabinet drawer being pulled open, a click of something metallic, and then the crunch of feet in a frozen snow drift.

"Peyton?" The beam of light dissipates and instead turns into an ambient glow that sheds a radius of candle light on the ground floor, revealing the shattered concrete columns that are barely holding up the ceiling. From the source of the voice, Colette Nichols' darkly dressed form is descending from a pile of rubble that contains a battered filing cabinet with one drawer forced open.

"What— " Colette stops, booted feet slipping a little on the snow as she looks down to her right hand, where a pistol is held. Colette's brows furrow, and she tucks the gun into the back of her jeans and flicks green eyes up to the brunette, continuing to advance ahead again once the gun is tucked away. "What're you doing out here?"

Peyton's eyes widen at the sight of Colette with a pistol in her hand, though she offers a shaky smile when it's tucked into the girl's waistband. Her eyes flicker to the sight she already saw in her vision — the file cabinet, the broken columns, the ceiling that looks like it's about to collapse any minute. "This doesn't look like a really safe place, Colette," she says with a frown, but she holds up the bag of McDonalds and then tosses it to the girl to catch. She wasn't sure what the girl would like, so there's a motley array of food inside: McNuggets, cheeseburger, Big Mac, fries, and even chocolate chip cookies.

"I came to find you. I heard a little about what happened, and I was worried about you — and then found out you weren't with Ferry so I thought I'd come check on you," Peyton begins, moving to lean against a desk. "Look, I know you probably don't want me to fuss over you — I know kind of what that's like," she says, not elaborating, but her own ordeals, both prior to the Bomb and more recent — are none too secret. "I just wanted to make sure you were warm and safe and … if you want, you can come stay with us at the library, if you don't want to be around all the Ferry people for a bit. We'd leave you alone. Or you can come stay at my apartment, if you can put up with Aaron and Gillian."

The sound of paper crinkling comes when Colette catches the bag in both hands. There's a look of confusion on her face— it's the second time someone tried to give her fast food and Brennan keeps talking about how skinny she is and god damn that!. Dark brows furrow, and Colette unrolls the top of the bag, looks inside, and the minute the scent of the fries hit her nose she realizes just how hungry she is. "It's not safe anywhere," Colette corrects Peyton, moving across the crunching snow towards the front desk of the lobby. She plants the paper bag on top of it, then boosts herself up to sit, dark and tight denim pants now a little damp from the frost atop it. She plants the paper bag in her lap, reaching down inside for that box of fries.

"Nothing happened…" Colette adds, starting to eat quietly, and a bit hastily too, like an animal that's not sure where it's next meal will come from, or perhaps expecting something to take it away. "I don't need your help and I don't need your— " she waggles a fry in one hand towards the brunette, "fucking pity or sympathy either." But she will eat the food that was offered ungratefully. This is so completely unlike the girl Peyton's met before.

"I don't wanna' be around anyone right now, least of all some str— " Gillian? No, that has to be a coincidence. "S— Some stranger's apartment. Thanks for the food, saves me a trip." There's a look of green eyes down to the red cardboard carton as she takes another pinch of french fries and stuffs them in her face.

"You're right. It's not safe anywhere. Believe me, I know." She was abducted in a taxi from Old Lucy's of all places. "And it's not pity, or even sympathy, Colette. It's empathy. I've been there." Kind of. The circumstances are different: Colette was trying to help a friend — she was more noble than Peyton, and Peyton knows it. "Just… realize people care about you and they show it by checking on you and feeding you and maybe even nagging you but it's all because you're loved. Don't be angry at them for loving you. You might regret that one day." There is a bitter tone as if she speaks from experience.

"I'll leave you alone, if you want to be left alone. Is it okay if I bring you food tomorrow, though? I won't make you talk to me but I'd like to at least make sure you aren't starving to death." Her eyes skim the area and she shakes her head. "Where are you going to sleep, though?"

The teen stops eating long enough to look up to Peyton, give her a more assessing look before putting the fries back in the bag and rolling the top shut and settling it down on the desk at her side. Coeltte slides off of the front desk and lets her boots crunch down on the snow and ice. Head quirking to the side, she narrows her eyes and watches Peyton quietly for a moment. "How'd you know I was skipping out on the people down in Grand Central? You weren't down there, and I don't think you even know Andy…"

She can't put her finger on why this feels wrong, and she refuses to just connect the dots because she knows she's being super-paranoid lately. "Look, I appreciate the pep-talk, but— " Colette waves one hand in the air, clearing the distance between herself and Peyton. "Don't… try to talk about me like you know me. I've met you— twice?" There's a squint of green eyes, a scrutinizing look offered to Peyton again. "It's cool that you're one of Brian's friends, he's a good guy, but that doesn't give you the right to pretend like you know what I went through." Even though she said nothing happened.

Breathing in a deep breath, COlette holds up a hand and closes her eyes, taking a step back and looking a bit apologetic. "I— I'm sorry." That much comes a bit more mumbled than her other words. "I've— It's been a really long… it…" green eyes close and Colette just ahakes her head, turning her back on Peyton and running fingers thorugh her dark hair. "I'm headed to my sister's place, s'not like I'm homeless…"

The older of the two just gives a wry chuckle and shakes her head. "I don't have to know you that well to see it, Colette. You're obviously skipping out on people, and I get it. They weren't there, and they didn't go through what you did, and they can't possibly understand, and you don't want them to know how bad it really was, because if you do that… well. Then it's too real."

She chews her lower lip for a moment, dark eyes fixed on the back of Colette's head as the teen turns her back on Peyton. "I don't know what you went through, but I know it was hard. That's all." She sighs and gives a shrug. "I'm glad you're going somewhere safe. Do you… you want a walk out of Midtown? I have kind of a bodyguard. Cardinal's orders. You don't have to talk to him or even me — we can walk twenty feet behind you if you want, but you know, safety in numbers and all."

"C— Cardinal?" Colette stops just shy of picking up the bag of food again, glancing over her shoulder to look at Peyton. "I… I didn't know you knew him." And apparently she didn't hear that he was dead. "Guess he sort'a knows everyone doesn't he?" Reaching out to take the McDonald's bag, Colette turns back for Peyton, using her free hand to pull the back of her jacket down over that hastily holstered gun. There's a shake of her head, a furrow of her brows, and then a tired sigh.

"I can walk you out…" Colette admits with another shake of her head, "Aside from leaving footprints, nobody'd know I was out here. I— I can take care of myself." The last part comes out as a bit defensive, and Peyton knows right where that's coming from, that sense of helplessness after being held captive.

"C'mon, I'm headed out towards 1st street." Unrolling the top of the bag, Colette reaches for the burger inside as she walks out from the lobby, letting that candle-light glow dim back down, returning the brightness to Peyton's flashlight. Then, after a moment, Colette just stops, halfway having unwrapped her burger to look back over her shoulder at Peyton.

We can walk twenty feet behind you if you want "We?" One dark brow kicks up, and her green eyes dart around the ruined street.

"Yeah, I think he does know everybody. I sort of work for… with?… him," Peyton says with a shrug. "It helped me feel useful after everything happened. And I know you can take care of yourself. You got here by yourself, you can get yourself out by yourself, but we're," and here, Peyton turns to gesture Mack out of the shadows, "going to head out anyway, since I have to be babysat by this oaf, and we might as well all walk together." Peyton glances down at her flashlight. "That's really handy." She never really knew what Colette could do, but now she does.

Green eyes squint in the dark, and Colette slowly nods her head before turning back around and slowly headed away from the eviscerated building at a slow pace, bringing up the burger to take a bite. In the dark of night in these ruins, Colette seems to be navigating fine without following Peyton's flashlight, stepping over rubble in the dark while distractedly chewing on the first solid meal she's had in days.

It's only after Colette's halfway done with the thing does she pause, a twang of stomach pains making her reconsider the voracious rate at which she was eating; It gives time to talk at least. "I can't believe you heard about what happened…" Colette grouses in an embarrassed tone of voice, staring down at her muted shadow on the snow. "Fuck, that's— "

Colette exhales a sharp sigh, taking a smaller bite of the burger before stepping up onto an angled piece of broken concrete that leads her up onto the hood of a burned out car. The metal underfoot clunks with each booted footfall, and she carefully steps up onto the car's roof, then down onto the trunk and along an ice-crusted snow drift off of the back of the car and back down onto the street, all of that to avoid a two foot deep hole in the pavement.

Stopping there and waiting for Peyton to catch up, Colette turns around and offers a look back at the older brunette. "Hh— " Colette almost doesn't want to ask the question, and she's keeping her voice down to try and share her insecurities just with Peyton. It's easier— in a way— with someone she doesn't know well. "H— How'd you deal with it?" Colette asks nervously. It, being a very pointed, and very obvious question. The one thing they share in common, genetic abnormalities aside.

Peyton doesn't know this area as well and follows Colette's monkeyish climbing with a bit more trepidation. Mack seems to know to hang back, giving the two young women their space. "I didn't hear anything bad, Colette. Just that someone had you and Joseph and some other people," Peyton says softly, to assure the girl there was nothing to be ashamed of. "And you're the only one I really knew, so you were the one I was most worried about." She hops down from the car, and considers the more difficult question, quiet as they trudge in the snow.

"I'm still dealing with it. Probably some of this stuff — Ferry and the work with Cardinal — that helps, because I don't feel like I'm so helpless. Like I'm doing something good instead of just thinking about myself, like I used to. Not that you were ever like me — I mean, at your age —" At Colette's age, Peyton had been to Rehab and had just lost her family, something she considers her own fault — something her grandmother has told her was her fault.

"You were brave and trying to help someone — that's something to be proud of, Colette. Build on that. You're brave, and you're strong, and you'll get through this because of those things. And most importantly…"

Peyton sneaks a glance from their path to the teen, then back to the snow. "It's okay to be afraid sometimes. It doesn't make you weak. It makes you human."

Swallowing awkwardly, Colette turns her attention back to the burger and finishes the rest of it off, just tossing the wrapper behind her into the snow because— really— littering in the ruins of Midtown is like spitting in a toilet. "I wasn't strong enough…" Colette admits with a shake of her head when Peyton catches up, turning to walk at her side, fishing around in the bag and then just rolling the top shut, the cookies aren't going to need to be re-heated, they can stay as they are.

"I— I couldn't do anything, I couldn't save anyone I just— all I did was worry everyone and just— fuck up everything." Closing her eyes and swallowing noisily, the teen huffs out a breath and wrings her hands around the topof the bag. "Sorry. You— totally didn't come all the way out here to hear me bitch about my problems."

Scuffing her foot in the snow, Colette kicks a piece of rubble away from herself as she walks that goes bouncing across the frozen pavement in front of her. "I ah… So… you just came out here 'cause you were worried about me?" One dark brow lifts, and Colette angles a side-long look to Peyton, then stares back down at her feet again quierly as she walks. "You— really didn't have to. We hardly know each other… I mean— " It's hard to say that without sounding like a jerk.

"You shouldn't be ashamed of that. The important thing is you tried and also that they got you and the others out eventually, Colette. No one is going to blame you for worrying them. If they do … I'll send Mack to kick their ass, all right?" It's an attempt at a joke, but not a good one, and Peyton's half smirk is half hearted as well.

The next question is more difficult. Peyton liked the teen the first time she met her, but it isn't like they're close. She shrugs. "Want honesty? Because I think you deserve it. Yes, I was worried about you and also I know we have things in common that not a lot of people will understand. They can't, unless they've been in the same situation. They can try, and I know that's frustrating — that all they can do is try and put themselves in your place, but they can't ever really know what it's like."

She keeps walking, eyes down. "You know Cardinal? He was worried about you and wanted me to check on you when he found out I knew you. Wanted me to make sure you were okay, and to eventually set up a meeting with him. I know they're also working on trying to find the person who did this to you, make her pay."

Jaw tense, Colette offers a side-long and silent look to Peyton, something the brunette said put her on edge, but she doesn't bother to explain what. Breathing in a deep breath, the teen just nods her head, coming to a stop once she sees the twelve foot high concrete barricades around the roads leading into Midtown. Her brows crease, and she leads Peyton across the street, beneath the wilted arch of a melted street lamp, and into the blown out facade of a looted store.

"Well, you can tell him I'm fine now… I dunno why he was worried about me, I only met the guy once." Snow and glass crunch under Colette's feet as she goes through the blown open storefront and inside, passing by emty shelves and freezer units that one held beer and soda, now just shattered doors left to hang open.

"Wait…" Colette stops as she approaches the back door to the store, angling a look over to Peyton over her shoulder in the dark. "Why's he want to meet me?" It never occured to Colette that it seemed a bit odd. "This got something t'do with Devi?"

Peyton follows, Mack shadowing both, as Colette leads them into a store. "Liz just gave him the rundown of the raid and what happened, and when I mentioned you, he wanted me to check on you, Colette. I don't really know what it's about." In truth, she knows that Cardinal wants to win Colette to their cause and get her to turn Nicole, but Peyton isn't really even sure what that means, and she certainly doesn't know the details on Nicole and why she's important to them. "No, I don't think it has anything to do with Devi… That's that chick in Staten, right?" She sighs and trudges through the store, not used to this route at all. "I don't know. Maybe he wants your help with the stuff we do. I don't really know a lot about it yet. I just kind of … file."

That makes Colette pause when she pushes the employees' only door open, "You're his secretary?" There's a quirk of one dark brow, and somewhere behind Peyton she thinks she might have heard a snorted laugh. "Huh," Colette adds without giving time for peyton to clarify before slipping into the back stockroom of the convenience store. Sheleaves the door open, leading Kaylee through the long since looted storage area and into a brick hallway that is only lit by the glow of Peyton's flashlight.

"I need a few days to sort some stuff out, but… I guess it might not hurt to talk to him." Colette's tone of voice is strange, speculative and contemplative, as if she's putting together something in her head as she walks. But it's halfway through those thoughts that Colette stops at another door marked Emergency Exit and turns her back on it, inspecting Peyton carefully in the dark.

"You're saying stuff we do like Cardinal's not a member of the Ferrymen…" Which he isn't, but Colette expects she can't know every single member of the organization. "Exactly what is it you do that I could help with, aside from fucking things up and getting caught?"

"We're sorting through files left by someone else… It's hard to explain. I'm not really his secretary, but… I mean, I can't do the stuff the others can. I'm not …" Peyton frowns and feels her own inadequacy. She's not tough like Claire or Liz or Mack or Bones. "I think really he just wants me to meet certain important people so I can tell him what they're up to in the long run." She shrugs. "I'm not sure what he thinks you can do, Colette. Or really what he wants at all. He just got back from a long trip, and they have plans I am not really in on."

"And you know I'm not really a Ferryman, either, right? I mean, I help out with stuff but they don't trust me completely," she adds.

"You're good enough in my book…" Colette adds with a hesitant smile, "any friend of Brian's pretty much got a free pass with me in terms've trust." There's a click as Colette turns around and unlocks the door, and when she pushes it out and open it's to the sounds of traffic. The teen walks out, holding the door to the convenience store's back entrance open, emptying into a narrow alleyway. "We're just a block from First street…" She motions through the wall behind her, as if to indicate direction.

"If you go out the alley that way," she points down one end, "You'll come out just outside of the Homeland checkpoint for the main road into the ruins, that'll take you to the upper east side." Colette motions the opposite direction with a jerk of her thumb, "I'm headed this way a couple blocks to my sister's place."

"Huh. I never came this way before. Nice shortcut," Peyton says, peering out into the alley, and then turning to look down the direction that Colette points. "All right. Brian has my number, okay? Since I don't have a pen or anything. Gimme a call when you want to meet with Cardinal, or just give me a call if you want to hang out, all right? Even if it's not with Cardinal. I can promise you a day of shopping and food and not talking about Ferry or raids or any of that bullshit. Or movies or whatever you want, okay?"

Peyton gives a wave and begins to head down the path indicated, though at some point she'll tell Mack to double back and make sure that Colette makes it to her destination safely.

Colette doesnt' say anything, to the comment about the number, or Peyton's offer of help. Then teen just lets the door stay out for a moment longer, until she hears the touch of a hand on the other side, knowing that Peyton's stalker bodyguard is just on the other side. The teen watches her company for a moment, head crooked and eyes focused on Peyton, before she just smiles faintly, and her body begins to disappear in dapples of desaturated black and white before finally peeling away into full invisibility. Her footprints in the alley's wet snow are the only signs that she's even still there as she turns, scuffing heels on the ice, and walks in the opposite direction from Peyton's disappearance.

For all that she doesn't want to like the brunette, for all that she doesn't want company or friends or people to disappoint in her life, she can't help but feel partly like Peyton is one of the few people she can relate to right now, and one of the few people who can relate to her.

And unlike Joseph, she never let Peyton down.

Not yet, anyway.

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