Eye Of The Sandstorm


cardinal_icon.gif claire_icon.gif matt_icon.gif bennet_icon.gif

Scene Title Eye of the Sandstorm
Synopsis Cardinal brings Noah and Matt together to pay a visit to Claire. While they are successful in their agenda, the aftermath is bittersweet.
Date October 25, 2010

Redbird Security: Upstairs

Above the ground floor that houses the lobby and office spaces, each of the upper floors can be accessed from the stairwell's landings. Wooden floors and pale cream walls keep the hallways modest and open - the rare window reinforced to prevent easy break-ins.

Each floor contains four small to moderate sized apartments, their doors painted a reddish umber hue and marked with a peephole above a black iron plaque with the apartment number on it. The lighting is soft and indirect in the halls, automatically turning on after six pm.

He's here for the girl's sake. Not Bennet's.

At least, that's what Matt Parkman has been telling himself from the moment he left the DHS Facility for Redbird Security, which is just a convenient little jaunt down the block. Still, it's plenty of time to cement a mantra into place.

Standing outside the door to one of the second floor apartments, Parkman rolls his shoulders back and adjusts his tie a little looser. It's a dark blue one today, with small slate dots that almost match the gray-blue of his shirt. As always, an American Flag pin gleams on the lapel of his charcoal suit. His coat adds weight to his already wide shoulders, making the iron-gray haired man a much more imposing figure than he was four years ago.

"How's she doing?" he asks the security contractor on the other side of the doorframe in a somber tone not far from a whisper. He could see for himself, sure - but even if she's as bad as Cardinal let on, he isn't sure he wants to dip his toes in the water before he's had a chance to peer into the depths.

"Some days are worse than others," Cardinal says with a slow shake of his head as he stands on the other side of the door, the keys gathered in his hand and his thumb brushing against the serrated edge of the key that goes to the door's lock. His voice is quiet and more than a little flat, "We've managed to keep anything sharp away from her, so the place isn't soaked in blood or anything… but we've had to tie her again once or twice when she's gotten violent."

With no elevators in the Redbird Security building, it is the click of a door to the stairwell opening that precedes the arrival of the third party to this conspiracy. Noah Bennet looks much as he did the last time Matthew Parkman saw him nearly four years ago now. Both men wear badges of age with more obvious gallantry these days. The wisps of gray now dusting the sides of Noah's head seeming less prominent than Matthew Parkman's graying beginning to silver its way through his dark hair.

Horn-rimmed glasses face a face creased with more wrinkles than Matt remembers, a tense stare and psychic silence implies that most of Bennet's tricks are still firmly secured up his sleeve. Thinking in Japenese might not save him these days, however.

"Mister Secretary," seems sarcastically formal coming from Bennet, followed by the faintest hint of a smile. Noah Bennet's name is on a wanted list for the first time in his life, now that the Company has been cracked wide open. Wanted for questioning in connection to the Company, charges that Bennet has — evidently — not put much stock in the authority of.

"Richard," is a greeting far less tense but equally terse. "Are we ready to get on with this?"

For a man who wants a favor, Bennet isn't doing much to get on Parkman's good side. While he looks over his shoulder at the sound of the door, Parkman takes his time in turning to face the fugitive, his expression on the tense side of flat.

"With what, Bennet?" he asks, eyebrows arching just a little as pettiness wins out over reason, if only for a moment. He tilts his head back, eyes widening in mock realization. "Oh, that. Sure. You bring the shotgun, or are we going to put her sleep instead?"

"Jesus Christ," Cardinal steps back from the door, glancing between the pair angrily, "What the fuck are you two, twelve? This isn't goddamn elementary school, children. Do you think you can keep it in your pants long enough to try and save a girl's sanity?" His hands spread to either side, keys clattering in his hand, "Seriously?"

Silent as he stands opposite of Matthew, with Cardinal beteween, Noah raises one brow slowly as he watches the DHS secretary in momentary silence. Tucking his hands into the pockets of his slacks, Noah's brows furrow and his lips curve into a disapproving frown before he looks to the door, then back to Matthew again.

"I'm here for Claire, and if I'm not mistaken Secretary Parkman is here for something of his own. I think the sooner we get the mutual back scratching out of the way the better." Noah looks in Cardinal's direction before nodding towards the door, "But I'm not agreeing to anything until I'm sure Claire is safe and sound."

Noah's expectant look turns to Parkman at that point, one brow rising slowly.

There is that, of course.

Parkman meets Noah's frown with a wry smirk, nodding his head to the side to indicate the door. "Be my guest," he says with a slight shrug before he glances to their de facto host. His eyes narrow slightly as he takes a moment to tune into Cardinal's specific frequency, to transfer one hopefully reassuring thought.

Don't worry.

Don't worry.

As if Richard Cardinal could possibly ever stop worrying in his line of work.

A rather dry look is slanted to Matt, and then he steps forward, keys rattling in his hand as he leans forward to unlock the door before stepping back, gesturing with one hand towards the door in offering.

He's sure as hell not going in there first.

Exhaling a sharp sigh, Noah pushes past Cardinal and rests his hand on the doorknob, looking over to matt over his shoulder, brows furrowed.

I wouldn't try anything while you're in there, Parkman.

Punctuated mental contact is just as terse and derisive as his verbal communication, perhaps more so in the tinny way it echoes around. As the doorknob turns and the door is slowly pushes open, Noah's tone and focus changes entirely as he calls out into the room.

As the door swings open, there is at first no one there, the room looks empty really. First thing daddy would notice is that Claire hasn't been making her bed! *tsk* Sandra would be so very disappointed in her daughter. She was taught much better then that. Of course, her father is observant enough to get heads up when he sees the remains of a chair on it's side, one leg is missing.

That's about the time, that missing leg comes swinging from behind the door, with his daughter attached to it.

With a wild cry, Claire Bennet launches herself at the horned-rimmed man, from where she was sitting quietly crouched behind the door waiting. It was hard waiting there while they argued among themselves, but she knew she couldn't blow her cover. She had to get out of there! Rupert is waiting for her.

Blue eyes don't really seem to see her father, wide with anger, dark hair not even really combed, lengths of it fan over her face. Her clothing at least is decent, if a bit rumpled. Claire looks like a wild child.

The seem to have caught the ex-cheerleader on a bad day.

A single shocked breath slips out of Noah the moment that chair leg comes swinging towards him. Stepping just back far enough to get out of swinging range, his long arms give him the reach that Claire's short stature can't. Grasped at the wrist and pulled forward, Noah's movements are as much reflexive as they are trained, and the sound of pop-snap that comes with the dislocation of Claire's wrist and knee happens in the blink of an eye.

When Noah's foot connected to Claire's leg in a kick is hard to judge, but somewhere in that single, fluid motion that has sent her crumpling down on that knee, chair leg clattering to the floor from her limp hand. "Parkman," Bennet urges as he turns to the side, twisting Claire's arm behind her back while grabbing at her other wrist, trying to manhandle her into a stationary position.

"A— " Bennet's breath hitches in the back of his throat, voice strained as he struggles with his daughter, "a hand, here?"

"Yeah," Cardinal observes, craning his head to one side as he observes the little melee in the doorway, "She does that sometimes."

Apparently, he's going to let his two guests deal with the situation. He's already got enough bruises from the last time.

As soon as Parkman hears the cry and sees the blur of girl on the other side of Bennet, he leans forward and narrows his eyes - but then he pauses, in a momentary deference to a father's wishes. Straightening, he watches the melee from a newly taken position in the doorway, putting him in a strategic position when his help is called for.

It doesn't take him long to focus in and, for lack of a better word, input the directive.

Put down the chair leg and go sit on the bed.

The firm command is dry - void of any parental permutations as Parkman delivers it, his hands in the pockets of his coat and his lips held in a tight line, eyes locked on Claire.

The command is obeyed, to a point. The chair leg is gone so no worries about that. That familiar figure has her head snapping up despite her being pinned. There is a small shriek of fear at the sight of Matt Parkman, she remembers him alright, and Claire is moving to obey. Even if her leg and hand is hanging funny at first, she's trying to make sure she's gets as far away from him as she can.

Hopping up to her foot, she drags the leg a bit til she can maneuver it with a sickening pop, then she's hurrying to the bed, crawling on it until she reaches the head board and then drops to sit there, back pressed tightly against it, blue eyes wide as locked on Parkman. "Not him.. not him…." She sounds like she's on the edge of panic as she whispers those words.

Heels dig into the comforter and try to push her further against the wall, even as she huddles there, eyes watching from behind that curtain of hair. She looks at her father now and pleads with him. "No.. nonono. Please daddy. Not him!"

Claire remembers Matt Parkman very well and she's very scared.

Swallowing tensely, Noah shoots a briefly accusing look to Matt in the way any protective parent would when something actually threatens their child. For all that it's taken Noah years to realize that his little girl has little to fear from physical trauma, the psychological kind is more than enough. With a nervous twitch of his brows, Bennet rises up to stand straight, never quite looking directly at Claire.

"Get this over with," is Noah's tense instruction to Matt as he moves out of the way of Claire, looking worriedly to Cardinal before indirectly taking in Claire. "Everything… everything will be over shortly, sweetie. It'll be okay." When Bennet's eyes flick back to Matthew, however, there's a hidden implication in his pleading look, one unsaid, but not unvoiced.

Be careful, please.

Gone is any bitter rivalry, instead — for the time being — there is just a father's concern.

"Just relax, Claire…" Cardinal steps towards the door, walking into the room after the others; reaching back to close the door behind him, turning to offer a faint, reassuring smile that's full of concern to the regenerator, "…Matt's not going to hurt you. We're just here to help you, alright?"

"You trusted me before, Red," he says more quietly, "Trust me now."

There's no reason to voice, or even project the subtle exchange of favors that takes place as Parkman moves toward the bed. There's a brief glance to Noah before his eyes are back on the terrified girl. On the way, he pulls off his coat, tossing it on top of the rumpled bedclothes. He doesn't take his eyes off of Claire, trying to separate the young woman from the brainwashed tool of murderous terror.

A heavy sigh eases out of Matt as he sinks onto the foot of the bed, as if Claire were some terminal patient instead of a cowering crazy. Lifting a hand, he flicks the buttons his suit jacket to make himself more comfortable for the work ahead. It's not his place to offer her any sort of assurances, or kind words of any sort. He's here to fix her.

Eyes narrowing, he turns his head to both concentrate a little better. "Richard," he says before he edges his way into the mind he's already dominated with a simple command, "I don't know if you've seen this done before, and I want to make sure you're as on your toes as Bennet here. When I go in? It's sort of…like a meditation. A trance."

Subtext? Don't let that bastard shoot me in the back.

Without waiting for a confirmation from Cardinal, Matt takes another deep breath and furrows his brows before starts to sift through Claire's mind, looking, feeling for that familiar texture that marks Carmichael's unwanted leavings.

All Claire can do is huddle on that bed, knees drawn up and her body hunched over as if she can hide there. Arms wrapped around her body, face buried against her knees. It's like, maybe if she doesn't move he won't see her.

There is a scared sound from her when she feels him settle on the bed, but Claire doesn't dare look.

There's a consideration of the door in Noah's periphery, a moment of honest cowardice in his eyes at having to witness his daughter go through what she's about to. But it's only that, a moment of fear that is swallowed down like all of the other pain in Bennet's life. Clearing his throat, Noah turns to face his little girl, but keeps a good, long distance from her, arms slack at his side but hands curled into tightly clenched fists.

For all that Noah Bennet wants nothing but the best for his little girl, it pains him to watch her in the state she's in now, and pains him to put her through what he had done when he was still an agent of the Company. But Matthew Parkman is not the Haitian, this isn't going to be clean like hospital surgery, this is going to be messy like battlefield triage.

Scars will be left.

Cardinal merely nods… and he leans back against the wall, his gaze pained behind the shades he's wearing although he's schooled his expression into one of sober grimness. There's nothing he can do now either. Just watch.

It doesn't take long for Matt to find something inside Claire's mind that shouldn't be there. The whirlwind of emotions and memories is like blinding sand, turning the landscape into a dangerous storm. Matt closes his eyes against the onslaught, screwing the lids rightly shut.

But in the middle of all that turmoil, the sound of soothing music stands out as a blaring incongruity. A thing not like the others. A thing that definitely doesn't belong.

Inside Claire's mind, squinting and holding his arms up to brace himself against the dust kicked up by the ragey savagery of insanity, Matt propels himself toward that siren song, focusing on it like a beacon to guide him through the storm.

The songs of sirens are dangerous things, though, compelling sailors to crash their ships on jagged rocks only to be feasted upon by the sirens themselves. Much in the way Rupert's compulsions manifest as their wailing in the midst of the driving desert winds. Obscured by the blowing sand inside of Claire's mindscape, Matt finds that he is not alone within the churning clouds of infinite tan.

A silhouette moves in the darkness, slouched and tired. Sunken cheeks and windblown blonde hair in tightly coiled ringlets make Sandra Bennet's appearance distinctive, though the corpse pallor she bears resembles that of a body left out to bake in the sun; skin cracked and split, blistered in places.

In the midst of the sandstorm, Matt can see she is carrying a glass ball in her hands, a snowglobe containing the likeness of a wooden raft being plied by a tiny boatman of the styx.

In this emotional maelstrom, Matt can make out the presence of one of Rupert's triggers, left untouched thus far, a ghost in the distant sandstorm on the way to the lair of the sirens.

Such ghosts have the dangerous quality of being infectious and fascinating, and it takes a great deal of willpower on Matt's part not to immediately approach the figure shrouded by the tumultuous veil of sand.

At the same time, leaving the trigger alone is like leaving an armed bomb in the care of a child. It's pride perhaps - ego that urges Matt to believe that whatever it is, whatever life-endangering command is wrapped up inside the spectre, he is better suited to deal with it than Claire. Claire who can't die. Claire who could be one of those others envisioned running about with entrails exposed and still trying to end the lives of others.

"Mrs. Bennet!" he calls out, his words punching through the wall of wind. It isn't really her, of course, but if this is the shape Claire's subconscious have given to contextualize the intrusion, it might be less traumatic for her if he approaches it in such a way.

The sound of the sirens' song dies down as Matt addresses Sanda, and the sandstorm parts to reveal the desert-baked old woman, her eyes a milky cataract white, sand clinging to her hair and thin, wrinkled lips parched and split like salted leather. Taking shuffling steps forward through the sand, the dessiccated corpse of Sandra Bennet lifts both hands up, cradling the snowglobe between her leathery palms.

Twinkling flecks of plastic inside the globe are disturbed by the motion, swirling like a miniaturization of the sandstorm roaring around them both, and inside of the snowglobe, Matt can hear a cacophony of whispers all talking at once. These sibilant tones hiss against the back of Matt's mind, contained withint he fragile glass casing of the snowglobe's shell.

In the sandstorm beyond, at the sound of the whispering, ghost-like images flash like silhouettes in clouds lit by lightning, brief images of a laboratory table and Claire strapped down with a white-masked doctor with gleaming, round glasses hunched over her with a scalpel. That image cracks and fades away, quickly changing to a nightmarish vision of Peter Petrelli, hands clenched into fists, jaws open in a silent scream, nuclear fire spilling out of his eyes in white-hot beams as his skin radiates heat and light.

Claire's mind is fraught with more dangers than Melissa Pierce's.

There's only one parallel that Matt can think to draw between the two images - resentment, and possibly revenge to some extent. He doesn't remember what exactly he faced in Melissa's mind - only that there was something, and that interacting with those somethings made them disappear from the girl's mind and burrow into his own.

Tearing his eyes from the globe to look at the corpse of Sandra Bennet again with a frown, he holds out his hand to accept the proffered object from her.

The difference is that this time, he knows potentially what the action - the tugging and tearing of the thing from Claire's psyche, no matter how subtle it is - will mean. But it doesn't change the need to fix the girl to the best of his ability.

And Matt has more than enough reason to want to do that.

In one moment the snowglobe is there, swirling and churning with internal movement all its own, but as Sandra's dessiccated hands lift to offer it up to Matt, there's a disconnected cut of reality that begins with the snow globe showing Matt's reflection, and beyond that muted image of Matthew's own countenance, there is a lone figure of plastic in the snowglobe, a tiny faux Claire alone in a desert wasteland. Then in the next moment, Sandra's body lays down on the ground as though she had fallen over, all bony arms and legs tangled where she collapsed.

The snowglobe is broken at Matt's feet, water sunken into the soil and the plastic figurine of Claire is missing. The storm has shifted directions, the siren's song is howling again on the winds. It's like a moment in time was clipped out of Matt's memory and somewhere in the back of his subconscious he can feel something missing, feel an absence where there should be something.

But he can't remember what it was…

Offering no obstacle to the sand that shifts like waves, Sandra's body is slowly buried with each slice of the wind. Matt stands dumbfounded for a second, his outstretched hand moving to shield his eyes once more even as he looks down at the corpse. He blinks against the flecks that fly through the air before he focuses in on the song again, trudging toward it once more.

His jacket whips around him as he moves doggedly forward. As strange as it seems, the jolt from one moment within the mindscape to another is familiar enough for Matt to know he's on the right track, even if it's not the method Cardinal would have preferred him to use. But it's unfortunately the only one he can think of that leaves Claire a semi-normal, conscious girl. He could treat the symptoms, as it were, but in the end that would only mask the disease.

Through the biting sandstorm, wind whips and howls, that wailing sound joining the haunting song of the sirens that guide Matt through the treacherous storm of Claire's subconscious. Flashes of light and dark behind the sandstorm show ghostly images projected in the billowing clouds. Images of Noah Bennet trying on different frames of glasses while sitting at some sort of counter or table. A view of the ground rushing up towards Matt's point of view as if he had just jumped off of somewhere high. He's getting towards the recesses of her more true memories, less of Rupert's programming.

But then, once more, there is a figure standing in the sandstorm. He is skinny, dressed in white, his jacket tattered and hands bloodstained. Peter Petrelli's long hair is swept over one eye, undisturbed by the wind in impossible stillness. He radiates light from his skin, burning a sickly yellow-white, his bones irridescent beneath transparent flesh, flares of nuclear fire rising up and off of his body.

Lifting out glowing hands with radiant bones, Peter holds up a snowglobe towards Matt, blackened and charred on the surface.

If it weren't for the fact that he's done this before, Matt might have landed face first after the sudden shift in perspective. But not giving in to relative reality is the key, and even if this is only the second subconscious he's ever trekked through, it's a pretty basic concept. The storm, the dunes, Sandra, even radioactive Peter and the trinket he carries…

…none of it is real.

Still, Matt walks toward Peter all the same, and it's hard for him to keep the look of utter disgust off his face. The symbolism, the reason Peter is here and looking that way is clear enough. But rather than lift a hand to take the snowglobe, Matt brushes a thumb across it's surface to peer inside.

A glow spreads out from Peter, his wide-open eyes burning with atomic fire as he holds out the smoking, boiling snowglove to Matt and the wind of the sandstorm picks up as a flare of nuclear energy washes off of his outstretched arms, a scream of pain rising up in the back of his throat as—

— Peter lays on his side, flattened to the shifting sands in blackened, burned quality. He resembles a charred corpse, hair burned off, clothing flaking away like baked parchment, a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead having demolished the back of his head. Nearby to Matt's feet on the sandy ground, a shattered snowglobe lies warped by heat and flame, inside a miniature replica of New York City is molten and slagged; a mockery of midtown.

Through the sand, the sirens' song begins its haunting call once more, and in the distance of the whirling storm, a large but obscured structure lies silhouette with the sun muted behind it.

There's a similar hitch in memory, that changing of channels or advancing of chapters that snaps Matt from one image to the next without any transition. No fade to black. No gentle musical segue. And while he can't remember what he missed, he knows he's missed something. Two somethings. And if what Carmichael put into Claire is anything like what he put into Melissa, there may just be a third.

The sirens picking up their song again is proof enough of that for Matt. After all, why would sirens exist in a calm desert? Why would Claire consider her mind a desert in the first place? The entire overlay is odd, considering what Matt knows about Claire and her father.

So rather than continue on toward the sirens or even toward the shadowed obelisk in the distance, rather than guard his face against the biting sand, Matt stands resolute. Slowly, he lifts a hand into the whirlwind, letting the grains hit the back of it before he turns his open palm toward the wind, closing it around what specks of sand slam against his skin in those few moments.

The sandstorm rages, a blistering wind of scraping granules that threatens to flay Matt alive. What it represents though, is more harrowing than just its physical presence. It represents the state of Claire Bennet's mind, represents her sanity and its state of constant flux, constant war. Her own mind has become inhospitable, her very psyche a tumultuous terrain of broken rocks, shifting sands and blossoming memories that highlight her guilt over the world they all now share.

The world Matt helped create, no matter how peripherally.

That looming shadow in the distance is the source of the Sirens' calling, their song singing across the shifting sand and the howling wind— perhaps is the howling wind — and within those billowing clouds of sand there lies difficult to see memories blooming. Someone holding a shotgun down to Claire's head, from her vision she stares up into the barrel and the gunshot rings like a peal of thunder across the wasteland.

She has suffered through what no child her age should have had to endure. Not even death could release her from it.

Sweat gathers into beads on Matt Parkman's brow as he sits with his eyes closed on the foot of the bed where Claire has curled, his jaw his tight, and his hands are curled into fists at his thighs. Claire is unique in more ways than one, but such uniqueness makes her mind a strange and dangerous place.

Gritting his teeth and gathering his resolve, Matt presses on toward the dark monument. Whatever it is - whatever is in it - he's sure it has to hold the end of at least this chapter of suffering in Claire's life.

The storm picks up the closer that Matt gets to the structure, and the closer he gets the larger it seems to become. Soon, the building is more than just a narrow shadow of some distant obelisk, but a towering building that rises four stories above the desert floor, casting a long, dark and cold shadow on the telepath. In the roaring storm, Matt is blinded by the scourging sand, even as images within show a wiry, bearded man holding a lowball glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other. A quick flash of Huruma is seen leaning over a piano, her hands folding together. Memories of something— some time— Rupert, Huruma, a well-appointed lounge.

The sirens' call begins to level out, becoming a single wailing cry of many voices together. Approaching the building, Matt can see the angle of a roof, gabled windows, granite steps leading up to double-hinged doors — a manor.

At the top of the stairs, a small figure stands in wait of Matt, one hand held out with a snowglobe clutched in thin fingers. Short hair blows in the wind, sightless white eyes stare down from an ashen corpse's complexion. The call of the sirens changes, as Matt bears witness to the bars on the windows, the bull-horns perched on the concrete corners of the building's roof, screaming their song.

The Sirens have become sirens.

There, in the shadow of a manor that resembles a prison, a familiar boy of now cadaverous appearance stands. In his hand, he holds a snow globe swirling with embers instead of snow, showing a city on fire and clouded with smoke where there should be water.

The same boy from Melissa's mind.

The same boy from Matt's.

Even if he doesn't remember encountering the boy in Melissa's mind, that dusty hair that should be a vibrant red, and those white eyes that should be blue are a thing pulled from the man's own subconscious mind, and the intrusion is just as chilling as it was before. It isn't someone that Claire should know - no one she could know.

How can you know someone who has never actually existed?


But Matt's question, asked with furrowed brows and a skeptical expression from the bottom of the stairs is lost in the blare of the siren. With slightly widened eyes, Matt takes a deep breath to re-center himself as he looks from the ghastly face to the snowglobe. Claire and her mother. Peter and a devastated New York. And now Reuben with…

There's only one way to deal with it.

Matt pulls himself from the sand and up the stairs, each step coming with concentrated effort as he shifts his dark gaze between the devastated city in the glass and the face of the re-animated boy.

On his way up the stairs, Reuben remains motionless, holding that snowglobe alofe. The smoke within parts, revealing a city on fire. Screams not drowned out by the wail of the sirens in the concrete walls of the barred manor seem to emanate from the snowglobe's interior, muffled screams trapped behind the glassy dome. Reuben says nothing as he watches Matt, save for lifting his other hand to beckon the former police officer closer.

Beyond the bars on the windows, Matt can hear a faint hammering, a pounding sound of fists on glass that refuse to break. Trapped behind one ground floor window, slamming her bloodied knuckles against the glass, Claire Bennet can barely be made out in the dark, trying to beat her way out of the prison her mind has created for her. A prison build on the foundations of guilt, with brick and mortar made from self-loathing, and guarded by the impressions left in Claire's mind by Rupert Carmichael's insidious power.

As soon as he sees her, Matt pulls himself away from the track leading him toward Reuben, sweeping diagonally across the stairs to go to the window where Claire is. He puts his hands against the glass and looks in, trying to make out the girl trapped beyond it.

Claire! Just hold on a little longer - you're going to be okay.

Keeping on hand against the glass, Matt turns to look at Reuben again, glaring down at the little form that seems so innocent. "Go ahead and drop it," he says before he swallows. "She doesn't want it anymore.

"She never wanted it."

Beyond the glass, Claire stands in silence when Matt approaches, this figment of her internal consciousness not the dark, brooding young woman than he knows now, but instead the hopeful blonde teenager in her cheerleader's uniform. Blue eyes stay wide as she watches Matt through the glass, and it becomes obvious that this psychic prison isn't something Rupert Carmichael made.

This is a punishment Claire has been putting on herself.

The fire inside of the snowglobe is reflected in Reuben's glassy eyes, the flames and embers dancing back and forth in hypnotic fashion. With one hand holding out the snow globe, Reuben's other hand is free to lift up to his lips, index finger raised and lips pursed as he offers a shushing noise, as if about to impart some great secret.


Matt's eyes snap open, his body tensing and back rigid, sewat trickling down his brow in thick beads that roll down his cheeks. The sandstorm is gone, the boy is gone, and for all that Matt has a lingering sense of Deja-Vu as he looks down to Claire Bennet's prone body laying now slouched on the bed, her back partly up against the wall and eyes shut in unconsciousness, it is more the fleeting memory of that child that haunts Matt.

Richard Cardinal is nowhere to be seen, time looks to have passed in longer spans than Matt recalls having transpired. Noah has had the time to procure a folding chair, seated in it across from where Claire is slouched up against the wall and where Matt is coming back to reality.

"Is it done?" Noah asks with one brow raised over the frames of his horn-rimmed glasses, throat tight and voice tense with a father's worry.

The door creaks open, and Cardinal steps back inside with a water bottle cradled in his hand. "Hey…" A quiet, uncertain greeting as he looks between the others here, "…figured you might need some water… uh. How is she?"

Matt forces himself to swallow, his eyes darting this way and that as he reorients himself. One hand goes to the bed to press against the rumpled blankets and sheets. After a moment to ensure his stability, he pushes himself to his feet and turns to look first to where he left Cardinal - then the door when Cardinal comes back in, and then he looks to Noah. "No," he says with a shake of his head, his brows furrowing with his own brand of worry.

"Claire needs help, Bennet. I'm no shrink, but it's pretty clear she's got some issues she's got to deal with. Even if that's just her having someone she can be honest with." With a controlled breath, he reaches down to gather his coat, but instead of putting it on, he pulls a handkerchief from a pocket and dabs at his brow, his hand shaking slightly.

"But Carmichael is gone." He thinks. And he has no excuse to ignore what that means if he's right. But the man seems to have a pretty standard M.O. "You could have someone else poke around if you want. I wouldn't blame you if you did." Tucking the kerchief into his pocket, Matt rests a leveling gaze on the man that's been his enemy for years.

"You still part of that Ferrymen group?" The question comes as drying as as if Matt were confirming the other man's preferential lunch order, and with no indication that he has any official reason to be asking it.

Bristling when the name of his network comes up from Matt's mouth, Bennet rises from his chair, a judgmental silhouette of a man. Turning to look over his shoulder at Cardinal, Bennet offers a slow nod and looks back to Claire. Distantly focused for a moment, Bennet looks up to Matt, "I know what you might think, Matt… but my people aren't the problem." There's a tension in Bennet's brows, it's what he'd feared the entire time on coming here, what Matt would ask for in return for what's been done and the things he's saved Claire from.

"What's my daughter's safety going to cost?" Bennet's attention levels on Matt again, this time with all of the predatory stare of a mother wolf watching over a pup, though with the desperation of a wounded animal atop all of this. Bennet is an old coyote, gray in the snout in more ways than one, and this whole exercise has taken a few years off his life.

Having seen the Spektor Collection, that may not be too harsh of an estimate either.
Bennet pages: Matt's probably getting something from Bennet now too, a smattering of worried notions that Matt's going to ask him for a safehouse or two
to sell out, names to offer up, etc.

Well, if nobody else wants the bottle of water…

Cardinal twists the cap off as the two verbally circle one another, tilting the bottle back to his lips and taking a swallow thereof. As he lowers it, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he says quietly, "We're all on the same side here, boys… just remember that, will you? Even if you don't think so, you are."

That said, he lets the two negotiate, stepping around them to check on Claire, reaching down to gently brush the hair from her face, checking her pulse with the back of his fingers.

"In three weeks, it won't matter that she's the one who killed Hicks and Autumn, or even that she tried to kill Mayes." For a negotiator, Matt doesn't seem to be too focused on getting what he wants. At least not in the moment that he looks to Cardinal again to both confirm his statement and attempt to assure the other man he fully intents to play as nice as he can.

He folds his coat over his arm and buttons his jacket, rolling his shoulders back in a further attempt to ease the tension in his muscles and shake that lingering feeling of uneasiness. "If we can't stop what's coming, it's not going to matter who she is or what she's done. All that's going to matter is that when they test her blood, it turns red." Matt's brows furrow anew, and he pauses, his lips pressed into a tight, hesitant line. "I need to be able to call in a favor, if that happens." Call it Plan B.

"We aren't talking about Claire anymore, are we Matt?" Bennet's arms cross over his chest, a peripheral look offered to Cardinal, suspicion in his eyes as if perhaps Richard had known how this was going to go down all along. By the time he's settled on Matt again, the look in Noah's eyes has changed from that of a worried father and alpha of his pack, to that of a hunter again, full of steely resolve and silence.

"What is it you're asking of me, of my people?" One of Noah's brows lift slowly. Impartiality should be Noah's strong suit, but there's a certain amount of bittersweet pride taken in seeing Matthew Parkman turn to the Ferrymen for assistance. It helps, in no small amount, swallow the jagged little pill that was Noah's own need to turn to Matt for help for Claire.

Funny how these things work out.

Once Cardinal's content that Claire seems to be in good shape - at least physically - he looks up from where she's laying, both brows raising slightly at Noah in a 'who… me?' sort of expression.

It would be naive to think that should Plan B need to go into effect, that Matt would have any time to get in touch with Cardinal and then Noah to put hash out the details and put it into action, or that either of them would be available to do the same. No - Plan B is throwing the bolt across the cellar door and holding onto your neck until the storm has passed.

Still, it isn't easy for Matt to admit the weakness - for him to turn to Noah for help. But he also knows it's one of the few options he has, should things go south. "I'm not planning on needing it, but I'd rather be prepared, just in case. If we can't stop Carmichael's hijack, all those visions people had of the eighth are going to happen. And people like us," and Matt nods from Claire to Cardinal, his eyes narrowing slightly, "people like Molly and my son are going to be blamed for what people like Petrelli and Carmichael and Sylar have done. And the politics won't matter anymore. It'll be just like it was four years go. I want your people to be ready, but I also know you know the difference between people like Claire and people like…"

Matt's voice trails off, and he bites a little at his bottom lip as he drags his gaze back to Noah's, his head tilted just slightly.

"People like Peter Petrelli."

"The dangerous ones," is Noah's agreement, there's no love lost between he and Petrelli either— all of them. "I know the difference, I think it's the people you work for who seem to have lost sight of that. But I can tell you this, if that's what you want, if things do take a turn for the worse come November 8th, I can have people in wait to pick up Molly and pick up your son."

To wit, Noah lifts one brow up slowly. "I'll need to know where they both are, now, so that I can get people in position in time to act before anyone else can. If things go sour on the 8th, I want people ready to take them sooner rather than later. If we do this, if I'm your backup, Parkman… than we need to do this my way. If you intend on keeping your position in the government, you don't get to have contact with them. With your son, with Molly… we make it look like a kidnapping, and you let them go knowing they're safe."

Noah looks down to Claire, his throat tightening as he explains, "Sometimes you have to know when to let go…" It's with that Noah's cold stare squares on Matt again, as if to wordlessly ask is that all?

Cardinal's argued the pointlessness of using Peter as a scapegoat once today; he rolls his eyes behind the shades he's wearing, but he doesn't push the subject again. The man watches the pair in silence, fingers resting over the water bottle as he regards the pair in silence for a long moment as they plan.

"As much as I hate to interrupt the moment," he says quietly, "Molly is our best chance of finding Carmichael now that he's gone to ground, Matt. I wouldn't ask if there weren't so many lives at stake…"

"And I wouldn't ask her," is Matt's sharp retort to Cardinal's gentle intrusion. But he's silent again as soon as the words leave him his hands curling into fists once again as he watches Noah. "But I will." Because there are so many lives, and so much more at stake. The right to live those lives as ideally as possible.

Matt takes a single step closer to Noah and narrows his eyes. "Your people don't move until you hear from either me or Richard." Since Cardinal is the only other person in the room who knows just how bad it is - unless he's already shared that information with the Ferrymen. "And I can only do my job and if you help me give them what they really want. What we all need."

Noah tenses when he hears that suggestion made, and warily does he look askance to Cardinal. Silence hangs in the room, in Claire's presence, before Noah is able to look back to Matt. "I'll think about it, but I think I know what it is you want and there've been some situations inside of the Ferry that could've been better solved by cutting the problem out. Something in my position I can't do… but sometimes there's bad eggs, ones that need to be thrown out."

It's as close to agreeing with Parkman as Bennet can, but it isn't yet implicit compliance. "Pinning down Carmichael from Molly's power alone isn't going to be easy. One of her viewings will just give us a general area to canvas, but we'd need to be able to pin him down on multiple occasions to get a pattern of activity. If you can give us Molly earlier, Matt, my network could… work with her," careful wording there, "to pin down Carmichael and keep her safe in the event the riots do happen. If not, she can always be returned to your care…"

Matt has spent the last four years keeping Molly as safe as he can. Safe from people who would misuse her power. Safe from people like Noah Bennet. But there's a greater dangers looming, casting a dark shadow over them all. "If she says yes," he says after a moment, his voice significantly more subdued as the strain he's been trying to desperately to hide ever since he stood up from the bed starts to crack his carefully constructed mask.

He looks to Cardinal then and nods. "Here. You can do it here, if she agrees." Redbird Security is safe enough, and it's proximity to the DHS Facility is some degree of comfort. Molly won't be spirited away to some dark corner of God-only-knows-where. She might even make a good roommate and potential confidant for Claire.

"If you'll excuse me gentlemen," Matt says with a brief nod toward their host before he heads toward the door, effectively ending the meeting with his departure. But the headache that's pounding away at his temples is only getting worse, and focusing on the worse case scenario in regard to the next few weeks isn't helping.

No matter the multitude of factors circumstances, the countless possibilities, or even the known threats that will come with failure, Matt Parkman isn't done trying yet.

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