Far To Fall


rickham_icon.gif steve_icon.gif

Scene Title Far to Fall
Synopsis There are consequences for every action you make.
Date January 25, 2009

Rickham Estate, Concord New Hampshire

"No — "

Traveling forward in time isn't a problem; you travel from A to B.

"No — Look, I don't — I can't tell you what's going on. I need you to look after my dogs, I'm — " Pacing past his desk, Allen Rickham looks more drawn out, more hollow than he has in several months. "For fuck's sake will you just listen to me for five minutes?" He never swears, never raises his voice, never loses his cool. All of that has changed, all of that has become something entirely different since something was weighed down upon him.

Typically this presents you with a view into what will become an unrealized reality.

"I'm sorry." His voice lowers, eyes cast out to the lightly falling snow through the tall windows behind his desk. Exhaling a heavy sigh, Allen shifts his weight and sits down on the corner of the desk, cell phone pressed to one ear. "Look, you know I want to be straight with you, but I can't right now. I just need you to look after my dogs, you can stay here." He pauses, green eyes distant on the falling white hanging heavy on pine trees. "No, no we're not coming back. We — No I can't tell you where we're going."

Allowing you to see how time would have progressed had you not leapt into the future. This, of course, creates a problem. You can never return to this new future if you depart it, because the after-effects of your disappearance from the past will create a wholly new future based on your absence.

"Yes, I — I know how this looks." Calm once more, Allen covers his eyes with his free hand, working forefingers and thumb against his temples to soothe the pounding migraine in the back of his head. "Jamie, just — please, just tell me you'll look after them. I can't take them with me. I just — I can't handle it right now. Vince and Marie can't handle it. They don't need any more stress." As he listens to the long, drawn-out response on the other end, Allen slowly lowers his hand to look at the decanters on his sideboard, considering the way a half glass of scotch can take the edge off — it gets him back up to his feet.

Travel from A to B, now attempt to travel back. Without the proper frame of reference or guidance, you could arrive at point A before you left, or a year earlier, or a year later, or ten, or ten thousand, or millions of permutations.

Ice clinks as it's dropped down into the glass, followed by soft creaking and popping as warm scotch is cooled against the cubes. "No, I won't be able to call you once I leave. We're — yeah, we'll be stopping to see Ada before we go, then — yeah, yeah, Manchester airport." Rickham lifts the glass up, staring at the amber colored alcohol inside, then lifts the glass just a bit more to stare through it at a photograph of himself and his wife Marie through the distortions of alcohol and the glass. "No, we'll be gone before you get up here."

This is doubly so for those traveling from their native time to a prior one. They could potentially unwrite their own future, creating disastrous consequences when they attempt to return to where they came. A **rift as it were.**

"Thanks…" Rickham says after a swallow of the drink, turning to walk away from the antique sideboard back to his desk, eyes glancing across paperwork that will never be finished, having sat half filled-out for weeks now under the glow of his desk lamp. "I really — this is a big load off of my mind — Really." Even if he says it is, there's no relief showing on his face. There's just this stoic visage of uncertainty and dread that hasn't let go.

But the caveat is such; Should a traveler appear earlier in a timeline of his own existance, he would be as a pebble, cast upon still waters.

"Look I… I've got to go. I still have some things to do here before Marie and I go." There's a brief pause, followed by a ghost of a smile more out of reflex than true emotion. "No, really, I appreciate all of this. We're just — you know it's rough right now, for all of us." Allen's eyes divert back to the fallen snow, undisturbed in the dimming light of late afternoon. "Once things settle down, I might be able to give you a call, but… don't expect to hear from me any time soon. I'm — I know, I'm sorry."

But the ripples he creates would in time radiate upon far distant shores. Geometricly altering events in its path.

"I will, you tell Bill that I'm still going to get him for that seventy-five he owes me." Feigning a laugh, it's nothing but a nervous jitter compared to what was once his rather trademarked dry laughter. "Yeah, yeah I know. I love you too, tell the kids I — " He cuts himself off, eyes closing. "I — I'm sorry. I know, it's just — yeah, I forget, you know?" Allen's eyes close, one foot in his mouth before another it seems to be these days. "It has been a long time. I'm sorry, I — I really have to go."

Meaning, getting you back to the appropriate time where you could do the most good is the most dangerous. Sending you days, weeks, even months ahead is safer, but ultimately puts you in a difficult situation. Trying to send you back to the moment after you left…

"Goodbye." Even once he's off of the phone, the tension doesn't drain away from Allen. It just builds up until he slams the phone down on his desk, fingers curling around it as his hand shakes angrily. He stares, blankly, at the crushed piece of plastic and metal beneath an iron hand as his skin begins to fade back to its normal hues. He tries to exhale slowly, tries to calm himself down.

Your place of origin is where you can do the most damage.

Steve Caiati has stayed silent for the duration of her employer's phone call, sitting in an overstuffed leather chair with her eyes fixed to stare out the window. Polite indifference to the topic of discussion, a well-practiced technique. Once he's finished, however, she rises from her seat and crosses the room.

"You're really leaving for good," she breathes out in disbelief. "I never thought you would… We worked so hard. We made you president." She's still so full of confusion and hurt. How could it all have fallen apart so quickly? But none of her feelings are held against the man whose office she occupies. "I feel as though I've failed you. If I'd just been able to stop him…" The woman hangs her head, unable to meet the former President-elect's eyes.

He didn't want her to see him lose his temper, but ever since everything went down, Allen has been fighting a losing battle with the bottle and his demons. "It's not your fault, you did everything you could. I… wasn't straightforward with you, and I wasn't — " Allen shakes his head slowly, rubbing his face with one hand. "Marie's sister is going to come and take care of the dogs. God, I can't believe I fucking said that…" He's lost almost all semblance of his professional decorum, swearing never used to be in Allen's vocabulary, not even in his same language.

Moving to sit back down on the corner of the desk, he takes a long drink from his glass, spitting a chunk of an ice-cube back in once he lowers it. "Her boys, they were in Manhattan, when — you know." His green eyes trace across the line where the carpet beneath his desk meets the mahogony floor. "I haven't seen her in almost four years. I… forgot." cradling his glass in one hand, Allen looks everywhere but at Stephanie. "You did your best." He murmurs again, maybe it's to himself, maybe it's to her.

"You have no intention of ever coming back." It's not a question. Steve figured out a while ago that he'd already decided he wouldn't return. "I don't know where I'm going to go from here. We worked so hard for this. And I thought, even if we didn't win, it would be okay, because we'd still continue to work together for the next big thing." Steve lifts her head, a hint of fear in her wide, blue eyes. "I don't care if you can't tell me what's going on. I trust you to do what's best for yourself and your family, like I've always trusted you to do what's best for the country." But it isn't about that. It never has been. "Allen…"

"I'm probably not, no." He cuts her off before she can say anything that will change things, make this harder. "The less you know, the safer you are in the end. I'm just — " One ice cube in his glass melts enough to settle down with a clink from atop the others. "I'm going away with Marie and Vincent, and I'm not going to be coming back to New Hampshire, Washington — anywhere." Green eyes track up from the glass, to Stephanie with a crooked, rueful smile.

"It's funny," his voice is low and hushed, "A few days before the election results, I — I met Nathan Petrelli's brother. He just — right up out of the blue came up to me and asked if he could shake my hand." There's a smile that creeps up his lips. "He's a good kid, nothing like his brother really." There's no love-lost there, not after the machinations on Capitol Hill have been laid bare to Allen, not after he's seen how his cabinet selections have become something Shakespearian.

"He told me I was going to win, that he knew I was going to win." His head crooks to the side, "There was this look of hops in his eyes, just… really something genuine about it, like he was putting his faith in me." Smiling faintly, Allen looks away and down to his glass at his reflection. "He wanted me to know that he thought I was a good man, and that I'd do great things if I just… believed in myself, and had faith that I could make anything work."

Raising the glass, the admiring tone of voice turns to something bitter. Even if he doesn't like the topic of conversation, it keeps him from having to face what he doesn't want to think about at the moment. "If it wasn't for his words, I probably wouldn't have had the courage to talk to Marie and Vincent about…" Allen closes his eyes, shaking his head slowly, "It doesn't matter now."

"You're never coming back," Steve repeats numbly. The first hints of emotion start to show in the form of a heavy gasp of air. "I have to know…" She takes a step back, pressing her lips together in a thin line. "Did you ever… feel anything? Between us? Or… Or was I the only one? I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't ask." She pauses, stammering for a moment, "But I couldn't take wondering forever." This isn't the woman who came to work for him so long ago. That woman was shy, yes, but confident. Strong. This is a girl, vulnerable and uncertain.

Exactly what he wanted to avoid.

"I'm married, Stephanie. I — I have a son, I… love my wife." That momentary hitch of hesitation may not be confirmation of what Steve is asking, but on the same token he hasn't outright denied anything either. "It doesn't matter what could have been," he says quietly, sliding off of the corner of the desk, leaving his drained glass of scotch behind where he was. "It doesn't matter what could havee been, only what's going to happen now."

But that isn't the answer she's looking for, and it isn't the answer he wants to tell her. But standing there in his office, looking around at the life he's lived up until this point for what will likely be the last time, he gives her an answer, "No, Stephanie. I…" His eyes close, "I never felt anything that… wasn't professional." It's not the answer he wants to give her. But it's the answer he gives.

The nervous girl nods her head quickly, eyes roaming the expanse of the room, at about the same height as the man's chest, unable to raise her gaze any higher than his shoulders. "That's good. It is. I just… Thank you for being honest with me. I always suspected. I'm glad it never got in the way of what we were accomplishing. But I'm glad you know. I'm glad you know now how much I care for you." Steve takes a step back, wiping the back of one hand under her nose. "I'm so proud of you, Allen. Of everything you've accomplished. We worked together, but it's all because of you. Maybe this is for the best for you. You can focus on your… On your family." She closes her eyes, heaving a heavy sigh before turning not quite away, but to the side so her face is at least halfway hidden from him.

He's quiet for too long, head hung low and eyes partly closed. There's nothing he can say right now that he wants to, everything he could say is swallowed up by the void he's prepared to throw himself into. "I'd do it differently," Allen says quietly, his voice lower than his usual confident pitch, "if I was given the chance to." His eyes look away from Stephanie, and he starts to walk for the doors to the office. "I wouldn't lie down, roll over, and play dead."

He stops a few feet from the door, one hand raising to brace himself against the door frame. "Not just them… you, Marie, that whole — " His words end with an abrupt shaking of his head, hand turned to fist thumping against the wooden frame of the door. "We don't get second chances," he says in a hushed tone of voice, that hand moving to rub against his mouth. "You're… you'll go far still, I know you will." Those still aren't the words he wants to say, turning to look over his shoulder at the defenseless young woman standing in his office. "I needed you," he says even quieter than before, "I always did."

"You never needed me. Any secretary with a date book could have handled your affairs, Allen. You're a great man. I'm just so fortunate I was along for the ride." Steve keeps her eyes glued to the ground, working on keeping her breathing deep and even so she doesn't start to become overwhelmed by the swelling of her emotions. "I wouldn't change a single thing." A hand is dragged through her dark bob of hair.

"You didn't need me," she reiterates, "I needed you. You made my career. You made me. Sometimes, I feel like I was born for this. For you." She winces, realising the weight of what she's just implied. "For your campaign," she corrects. "Shit. Shit." She paces back over and sits down in the overstuffed chair again, resting her elbows on her knees and then burying her face in her hands. "Shit. You can't go. You can't leave. What am I gonna do without you? This campaign was my whole life. This is how I— I don't know what to do now, Allen!"

"Do you think I want to go!?" These aren't the words of the man she's known for so long, and as Allen Rickham whirls around, his voice changes to a hollow and metallic shriek more so than the voice of a man. "Do you think this is what I wanted to do with my life!? I don't know what to do!" His skin has taken on the hue of rough iron, eyes simply darkened spheres of hematite. He seethes, shoulders rising, one hand that grips the door frame crushing the wood to splinters.

One vestigial breath later, and Rickham has himself under control again, and the strange living-metal quality of his flesh begins to dissolve away, as if it were evaporating to reveal his normal complexion beneath. "I — " How exactly do you speak about something like that, what are the words? Allen Rickham doesn't know, he doesn't have them.

Steve flinches, but there's no fear in her eyes as her head snaps up and she watches the politician lose his temper. "I'm sorry. You're right. I'm sure this is difficult for you…" And she could leave it at that. She should leave it at that. But she just can't. "I don't have a family. All I have is my career. Nobody's going to hire me now. I can't go back to working on the city level. I can't—" Her head lowers to her hands again, succumbing to the utter despair that's threatened to consume her for weeks. "I'm sorry. None of this is your fault."

One hand rubs across Allen's brow and he leans away from the door frame, rubbing splinters away from his palm with a circular motion of his forefingers and thumb. "I don't know what to tell you, Stephanie, but — " Allen's eyes close, and he looks back over at the sideboard again, exhaling a heavy sigh. "I don't have the answers you — " He can't seem to finish a sentence with his head screwed on crooked like it is. "I don't have any answers, not anymore." There's a momentary look in her direction eyes once hematite, now green. "You were always the one that gave me the answers to the tough questions, prodded me along when I was stuck."

It's inappropriate, he knows it, and that much causes him to look away. "You should go. Marie…" There's a tired sigh with her name, "Marie will be here soon, and she'll want to double-check everything I packed. You… should go. Take what you got from all of this, whatever it is you've learned… and just — " Another sigh, "I don't know."

There's a long, agonized moment of silence from Miss Caiati before she finds her voice once more. "Could I convince you to write a letter of recommendation? I, ah… I was approached by a member of the Linderman Group. If you think it's worth persuing, I'll give it a try. It's just not my arena. I'm used to politics." She pulls herself to her feet and starts moving toward the door. "I'm sorry. It isn't my place to ask. You've got enough to worry about right now. I'll be fine. Just… take care of your family." Steve stops at the door, not quite able to leave. Not just yet.

"My recommendation," Rickham says with a dry tone of voice, "Won't get you a free hamburger these days." Shifting his eyes to look at the liquor again, he begins to walk in that direction slowly. "Daniel Linderman is the scum of the earth, and I'd no sooner scrape him off of the bottom of my boot than see you go crawling to him." Reaching for the bottle of scotch again, Allen's gaze shifts to settle on Steve, looking at her over his shoulder.

"You should get out of politics, get away from the mess. Go persue a career in political journalism, that's where the real power is, the press." His lips purse, looking as if he's going to just spit, and then only shakes his head. He wanders over to the desk, picking up the glass with half-melted icecubes in it. "You will be fine." He finally agrees, looking up to Stephanie with tired, weary eyes. He could approach her for a hug, he could do a thousand things, say all of what he wants to. But his goodbye is far simpler. It is the hollow plunk of a scotch bottle being opened.

"This is how it ends, then?" Steve swallows uneasily, a numb expression settling over her. "All this time together, and we end on a sour note?" She sighs and drags a hand down her face. "My career is over, Allen. You're kind of ruined once Sylar's stolen your face to do his dirty work. I have to pay my bills somehow." She crosses her arms under her chest and frowns thoughtfully. "Linderman is a mobster. Everybody knows this." She shrugs one narrow shoulder. "It's not really your place to worry anymore, is it?"

"I don't know what you want me to say," It's all boiling to his head, the weight of everything being forced on him, and now this at the worst possible time. Turning green eyes towards his former assistant, Allen Rickham truly does look like the shell of the man he once was, pouring himself another glass of scotch. "Just go, Stephanie, and don't look back. Even if you don't have a career…" There's a faint shake of his head as he lowers the decanter, settling the stopper back into it. "At least you still have your life."

"I don't know what I want you to say, either." She shakes her head helplessly now. "You always were the only one who'd call me Stephanie," she muses absently, forcing herself to smile. "You have a family. As long as you have a family, you will always have a life - even if you're rebuilding." Steve puts a hand on the door knob. "Good luck, Allen. Send me a postcard or something. If you're ever south of Canada, give me a call."

Green eyes raise up to look at the woman with a ghost of a smile lingering on his lips. But once he raises the glass to them, shoulders slouching, he knows that every sip won't help to take away the hurt of letting one of the few good things in his life go. But where he's going, and what the world has in store for him, there's no point in having good things to remember. Because in the end, it will just be a reminder of how high Allen Rickham had risen.

And how low he has to fall.

January 25th: Early Evening At Headquarters
January 25th: Compare And Contrast
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