Don't Hold Your Breath


melissa5_icon.gif peter_icon.gif

Scene Title Don't Hold Your Breath
Synopsis Peter tells Melissa about her first Messiah assignment, and breaks her heart a little.
Date June 28, 2010

Little Green House

Though it's been several days since Melissa last saw Peter, he may very well have seen her the night before when she passed out, drunk, at the apartment. Alcohol was how she dealt with the fact that Abby wanted her to be around a baby, it seems. And last night? She was still a blonde, with some white and some black mixed in. Not so anymore.

Mel took care of some work at both the Suresh Center and Tartarus while she was out getting her dyed a brown so dark it was nearly black. It looks odd on her, at least at first, but that black skirt and corset definitely belong to Mel. Right now she has part of it pulled back to keep it out of her face, probably because she was doing some cleaning. The girl has issues, really, though at least she's not the type to run around with hand sanitizer, using it after touching anything.

Now, not too long before sunset, Melissa is in the house, though the front door is open, and her German Shepherd is curled up on the porch. From inside music is playing, loud enough to hear, but not entirely blaring. There's also the sound of…someone cursing? Unfortunately, there's also the smell of something burning coming from within the house. Specifically the kitchen.

Melissa is trying to cook.

The smell goes unnoticed by Melissa's approaching guest, just as much as he goes unnoticed by her dog when he passes just in front of its nose. Slithering into the house in silence, only to rise up as an ephemeral mote of shadow that soon takes on a human visage behind Melissa. The clunk of Peter's boots right behind her is the only warning she gets to his presence before he speaks.

"What is it?" sounds coarse and terse, "I— don't have a lot of time to talk. But you said it was important… so…" Peter's dark eyes cast askance in the direction of her dark hair, squinting at it as if trying to define her from her environment, then looks past the brunette deeper into the house.

"What'd you do to your hair?" Peter asks a bit awkwardly, hands tucking into the pockets of his slacks as he leans his weight back onto one foot more so than another. Not, your hair looks nice but what did you do to your hair.

The sudden and unexpected sound has Melissa letting out a yelp and whirling around, brandishing a wooden spoon like a knife. When she realizes that it's Peter she sighs and slumps back against the counter. "Jesus Peter. No sneaking up on me like that," she mumbles. The stove is turned off, the food ruined in any case, and she dumps the pan, food and all, into the sink to be dealt with later.

"And yes, I'm doing well, so nice of you to ask. I'm happy to see you too." She eyes him for a moment, uncertain about his mood, but if he wants to be terse, she won't press him. Too much. Her phones are pulled out of her pocket, both her personal phone and the one Peter gave me, and they're set on the counter before she nods towards the back door. "Let's step outside. This is important, yes, but private." It's a clear message that she wants no techno-eavesdroppers. Not for this conversation.

Peter offers a look down to the phones taken out, but just tracks his attention back to Melissa, brows furrowed slightly as he watches her head towards the back door. It takes him a moment to agree to follow, boots clunking on the floor behind her. He seems slower than usual today, sluggish and exhausted. Through the narrow hall towards the back door, Peter glances around at the interior of the house, then continues to dog Melissa's heels as she pushes the back door open and emerges out into the hazy late afternoon sunlight.

Wincing against the heat and humidity, Peter's footsteps abruptly disappear from behind Melissa once he steps out the door, and the long shadow cast across the patchy brown lawn isn't actually cast by anything, but Peter's own unique way of beating the heat by not being in it. "What happened?" Happened. Whispers the disconnected voice from the shadow spread out across the grass.

Melissa frowns when he goes all shadowy. "Why are you a shadow? Peter, I'm not sure how I feel about talking to a shadow…" She watches the shadow for a moment, chewing lightly on her lower lip. "Never mind. Since you don't wanna be here I'll just get it all out at once," she murmurs, shaking her head.

She moves a little further from the house, looking out over the harbor and the sun that's lowering itself towards the horizon, watching the play of colors. "Abby knows about Messiah. Asked me how long I'd been in it. I played dumb. She told me she knew about it. Figured that we were only on good terms again because of it for some reason. I managed to use that to turn the conversation off of Messiah and onto you, but I don't want Abby getting hurt or drawn into this. This isn't…She shouldn't be involved. But if she knows, someone told her."

There's a brief glance back towards the shadow. "That was all that was important that I needed to tell you," she says, though it very obviously implies that there was more she'd intended to talk about, but Peter's attitude has her keeping it short. Or trying to. But the look she gives him, though it only lasts for a second or two, is wistful and a little hurt.

"It's hot out," is Peter's immediate answer as the shadow creeps along the ground, "and I don't feel the difference between hot and cold like this…" like this. As the shadow circles Melissa it changes angles, impossible against the glow of the sun from a single direction, then snakes into tall grass where it nearly disappears before coming back out and tracking behind Melissa. It is like the effect of what Peter's shadow would do were he standing here and pacing in a circle, largely.

"I know that Abby knows, she confronted me about it. She won't get involved unless you make her involved. She's not a threat, and if she decides to make herself one, then… well, we'll cross that bridge if we come to it. Rebel must already know, but he hasn't said anything to Rupert or I, as far as I know, which means there's nothing to worry about" nothing to worry about.

Stilling in his circling, Peter's shadowy figure grows silent in the few moments that come next, before he quietly adds, "It looks good…" good.

That news is considered for a long moment, but before Melissa can decide what she thinks about it, he makes the last comment and confuses her. "Huh? What does? And if Rebel knows, then we can go back inside. I just wanted away from the phones, since I can't take the battery out of my phone to just make it useless." She got used to avoiding electronics when she was visiting Brennan and Liette, it seems.

"But speaking of the shadow…How is it possible? When we first met, you told me you could only have one ability at a time, now you have two. Abby said something about two hands, but it didn't make any sense," she says, giving one last look towards the harbor before turning to start back towards the cooler house.

"Your hair," Peter whispers in the darkness, "your hair looks good." That whispery conversation comes with Peter's shadow moving up the steps to the tiny back porch, as if interposing himself with Melissa, even though he's only a shadow on the ground at her feet. "I've been practicing… learning by necessity to control more than one power at a time. I've got a mental system to help me control two at once, I think of each hand as a seperate conduit, and then… it makes it easier to hold onto more than one at a time."

Near about to drift into the back door, Peter's shadow hesitates. "Do you have someone to look after Kendall if you're not around?" Not around. It's a worried question whispered up from the shady porch by the shadow, one that likely has a context to it.

Reaching up to toy with a lock of dark hair, Melissa smiles. "Thanks. Not sure yet if it's me or not. And that's handy. That mean you'll be able to learn to control more than two eventually? Just collect powers, one at a time?" she asks, stepping into the house and out of the heat, then moving straight for the fridge and a soda, giving him - or his shadow, rather - a questioning look to see if he wants one.

"Well, depends on how long. A night or two, he could stay by himself. But he could stay at Magnes's place, or maybe at yours. Not sure. Why? Am I going somewhere?" she asks, leaning up against the counter.

That she reminds Peter of Gillian now is probably the last thing Melissa wants to hear, so that thought is kept quiet. Slowly, Peter rises up from his own shadow in the doorway of Melissa's house, leaning against the frame and holding his cell phone in one hand, brows furrowed before he tucks it into his back pocket again. "You are," Peter finally answers, arms crossed over his chest as he pushes in the screen door a little further, motioning for Melissa to take a walk inside.

"You, me, and Harrison are meeting up with a guy named Riggs in Yonkers before flying out to Billings Montana on Wednesday. Flight's already set up, half the reason I came out here was to deliver the good news." Which is to say, from the somewhat serious tone of Peter's voice, "it's our first assignment together."

"Montana? What's in Montana?" Melissa asks, head tilting, studying him now that he has form again. "And I'll make arrangements for Kendall. How long do you expect we'll be gone?" she asks, mind already working ahead to deal with some of those pesky details. Including the most important one: what she's going to wear.

"There's a Pharmatech production plant," Peter explains quietly, letting the screen door clack shut behind himself after he lets Melissa inside. "They're the manufacturers of isotope tracking injection guns, the kind the Company uses to track and tag Evolved. Looks like a little pair of dark green or black hatch marks, usually on the back of the neck." Peter doesn't bother showing his marks to Melissa, the description is enough.

Following her down the corridor and back into the kitchen, Peter seems quiet for a moment. He glances to the stove, sniffing at the air, then looks back to Melissa again. "Company, Institute, it doesn't matter. That's the only factory where these guns are produced. We're going to demolish the whole building. Briggs is our explosives expert, and we'll be meeting another Messiah operative who'se scouted the building out when we touch down in Montana."

Stepping over to the stove, Peter's brows furrow, dark eyes moving from it to Melissa. "We're going to need to force our way inside, neutralize the security detail, plant the explosives and then get out and pull the building. Rebel will be handling the electronic countermeasures as much as he can. You'll… probably be out of state most of Wednesday and probably until Thursday afternoon or evening."

The description has Melissa grimacing and rubbing at the back of her neck absently. "Yeah…I know," she murmurs with a nod. "Neutralizing the security detail…I can certainly help with that. I don't imagine it'll be too hard to work up a good mad to help either, given what the plant makes." Not that she's explained to him yet why it matters.

"I'll make arrangements," she says again, opening her drink and taking a swallow, before offering it to Peter. "Anything else Messiah-y? Or should I move onto the next item on my agenda? I've got a few of them. Only one other that's really any kind of important, though."

Resting his hip against the ocuntertop, Peter furrows his brows and looks over to the stove, then closes his eyes and shakes his head slowly. "Nothing else Messiah, no." Despite the conversation not having been upsetting, Peter still seems to be largely in a terrible mood as he looks down to the floor and then leans away from the counter.

"I won't be at Abby's tonight, if you look for me. I've…" he trails off, looking up from the floor and over Melissa's shoulder to the front door, then back again. "I have some things to do. What was it that you wanted to tell me?" It's an afterthought, those last few words, as if he'd forgotten exactly what context the other items on her agenda had even been given.

When he looks at the door Melissa sighs and sets the drink down. "Peter…What's the deal with you tonight? You're not regretting the other night, are you? Because you seem…distant. If it's just you're really that busy, then that's fine, but…You didn't say hello, you haven't smiled at me, nothing."

She runs a hand through her hair, pushing away from the counter to move a few feet away, then stop and half turn to look back at him. "You need to delegate more. With Messiah, I mean. Between your job as a paramedic and trying to run everything yourself, you're gonna crash." She moves towards him, a hand lifting to brush a lock of hair back from his face, her fingers gentle. "I promised you I wouldn't let you crash. You need to just…pick someone in Messiah you trust, someone to be an intermediary between the rest of Messiah and you. Let them handle what they can, so you only get the really important stuff."

Her expression softens and she lets her fingers settle on his cheek lightly for a moment. "I'm worried about you, and I'm not the only one. I can understand the drive to do what you're doing, but no one can stand alone. More importantly, I won't let you," she says quietly.

"I'm fine," is dismissive Petrelli-speak for I don't want to talk about it. Stepping aruond Melissa, Peter tucks his hands into the pockets of his slacks, head bowed and brows creased together as he wanders across the kitchen floor. "It's not about you, or— what happened." He turns, slowly, first just looking over his shoulder to Melissa then finally settling his stare on her, distant and unfocused as it is. "I just had a bad day, I'm not… going to talk about it, and if I trusted anyone in Messiah enough to do what I do, there'd already be someone doing it."

Peter's steps take him to the kitchen door, considering the hall that leads out into the foyer, then looks back to Melissa with furrowed brows. "Don't worry about me," Peter says in a hushed tone of voice, "all that ever got anyone was hurt."

His words seem to hit Melissa as hard as him moving away from her does. If he trusts no one in Messiah that much, it means he doesn't trust her that much. She closes her eyes for a moment, then follows him to the doorway. "Peter, I'm not going to stop worrying about you. It won't happen. I remember what you told me before, and I'm willing to take that risk. If I get hurt, then it's on me, not you. You've warned me."

She doesn't touch him this time, though she's close enough to. She just looks at him steadily, affection naked in her gaze. "Like I told you before…if you're not ready to be with anyone, I won't push…much…but I'm not looking for promises of forever. With what we do, Peter, we may only have today. I want to enjoy every day as much as I can, for as long as I can. And I want you to be able to do the same."

There's a faint smile now. "You remember the first day we met, Peter? At the Corinthian? I asked you to dance, and got you out of talking to one of your brother's business associates. You told me that you owed me for saving you. Well, here's what I want in return. I want you to not push me away because of what might happen. Not saying you have to promise to do anything, just promise not to focus on vague possibilities. Just enjoy yourself when it's just us. I won't do anything to hurt you, and I won't ever betray you. And I care about you."

"Can you give me that much?"

Hesitating in hearing her following him, Peter turns to look back at Melissa only after she's done speaking. One brow lifts, then lowers quickly, and his eyes track back to the hall. "Someone reminded me today of the person I am," and there's no happiness in Peter's tone of voice at that, "the kinds of things I'm responsible for, and ultimately what kind of life I lead because of it." Swallowing tightly, Peter looks back to Melissa, shaking his head slowly.

"I'm not ready," he admits, with a heavy heart. "Maybe I'm just not now, maybe I won't ever be. I don't know…" Lifting up a hand to scratch a finger at the side of his beard, Peter shakes his head and looks back to Melissa again. "I don't want anyone near me, not— like we were. I'm sorry but it was a mistake."

Taking a step into the hall, Peter close shis eyes and shakes his head, almost ready to correct himself but not quite mustering up the words for it. "I'm sorry, Melissa I just… I need some space to think. You're sweet… you really are I just— " Peter's mind tracks back to the flash-forward he experienced, then closes his eyes and starts walking towards the front door. "I can't."

Melissa frowns a little when he first starts talking, but when he calls what she considered the best night she's had in this godforsaken city a mistake, she looks as though he slapped her. She has to avert her face for a moment, her eyes closed as she takes a few deep breaths, then she shakes her head. "No, Peter. It may have been bad timing, but it was not a mistake. And I know the kind of things you're responsible for. And I don't care."

Slowly Melissa looks towards him as he walks away. "I'll give you space though. I told you I would. But I'm not going anywhere. When you realize that, and realize that you deserve happiness as much as anyone else, I'll be here. And that is something that I promise," she says, voice just loud enough to carry to him.

Lingering at the front door when Melissa calls out to him, Peter's brows furrow and he looks back over his shoulder to her. There's nothing said, just the groan and creak of the screen door opening and then slamming shut as he walks out onto the front porch. Peter's body turns dark, sinks down into blackness and melts away into a shadow that disappears through the cracks in Melissa's porch, gone without even so much as a goodbye.

It's hard to say when the next time Melissa will see him might be, but that they have an assignment together in just two days time gives the duration an outside distance of time apart. Maybe between now and then, something will change. The words Peter almost said to Melissa before leaving though, seems like a more likely outcome.

Don't hold your breath.

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