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Scene Title Gratitude
Synopsis Wes stops off at his apartment for a bit of shut-eye before making the return trip to Bannerman Island and encounters Peyton. Both are grateful to see one another, among other things.
Date November 18, 2010

Redbird Security - Wes Smedley’s Apartment

There’s a certain level of risk in getting from Red Hook in Brooklyn to Battery Park City in Manhattan, especially when you’re travelling under an assumed identity and a good hour before curfew lifts to allow working stiffs to return to the rat race. But some might presume Wes Smedley’s middle name to be risk. They’d be wrong, but he’d never tell them. Risk is a better middle name than Harold.

It’s far too early in the morning to suspect that Peyton will be awake, even if she is in his apartment at Redbird. But Wes moves as quietly as he can as he turns his key in the lock and swings the door open. Carson, still walking somewhat stiffly after his brief swim in the Hudson, slips into the apartment ahead of his master, immediately seeking the register so as to warm himself.

She is asleep — though not in the bed. The clairvoyant is curled up on a chair, Von at her feet, though he scrabbles up to go greet first Wes with licks and tail wags before his nails tick tick tick on the floorboards to follow Carson and reacquaint himself with his best friend.

On Peyton’s lap is a notebook full of dates and times and notes — initials and descriptions of those she’s checking in on — apparently she fell asleep in the middle of one — time is listed as 1:33 a.m. but there is nothing after. Peyton is still dressed in jeans and boots and a hoodie, her head resting on her own shoulder as she rests — eyes moving behind her lids to suggest she is mid-dream.

When Wes sees her, he has all the more reason to move stealthily as he locks the door and steps across the apartment, hanging his oilskin and holster in the hall closet. Once he’s rid of his outer wear and weaponry, he tip-toes across the hardwood floor to the chair. He is still for a moment, simply watching the young woman as she sleeps and not envying the crick she’s sure to have in her neck when she wakes.

Slowly, carefully, Smedley bends to slip one arm under Peyton’s knees and curl the other around her back, lifting her into his arms and off the chair while trying not to wake her up. But with the limited number of showers he’s taken over the last ten days coupled with rudimentary laundry facilities and his most recent trip down the Hudson means that all the gentleness and silence in the world can’t keep Peyton from smelling the robust bouquet of man, beast, autumn air, and saltwater.

Her arms immediately move around his neck and she presses her lips against his neck. “Wes,” Peyton breathes out, the single syllable one of relief. Against his skin, he can feel the sudden rush of warm salt tears as she hugs him tightly; she also tries to right herself, to stand on her own two feet, despite her exhausted form.

“Are you okay?” she asks, lips brushing his softly before she looks up into his eyes. Hers are still bloodshot, though less so than in prior days — not that he’ll know that — and the dark circles beneath them like bruises on her too-pale face.

He lets her stand, but he doesn’t let go of her by any means. A shuddering sigh escapes him, and his hold tightens, leaving most of that gentleness by the wayside. “I’m fine,” he says, his voice hoarse from the night air and the evening’s activities. But the answer is a brush, meant to sweep away her worries. “Can’t stay long, though,” he murmurs, turning his face into her hair and falling silent soon after.

A significant span of time passes before he speaks again, and when he does, he moves slightly away from Peyton in order to catch her face between his hands - to look at her. “What about you?” he asks in a whisper. “Fort looks intact, so that’s gotta be good.” Right?

But he barely gets the questions out before he leans to kiss her, sighing once again as if it were the first time this year he’d tasted egg nog or a McRib.

She drops her eyes at the question, but leans into the kiss — willing to forget the stress and fear of the past few days in a few moments of physical pleasure. “I’m okay. We’re missing a few but no deaths for Redbird — that I know of, anyway.”

The tears are gone from her eyes except where they linger on long lashes. She can be brave. “It’s bad out there,” she says, glancing to the window. “I don’t know how we can recover.”

Of course, she’s actually still alive — it’s one milestone she wasn’t sure she’d make.

“Cant’ be that bad,” he murmurs, a smile briefly twisting the corner of his mouth as he makes the reference to the very fact that Peyton is still alive. “C’mon,” he says, dropping his hands to her shoulders and pulling her close again. “Y’look like a zombie - and both’uh us’ll be useless t’anyone if we don’t get some shut-eye while the gettin’s good.”

Slipping away from her, he drops one hand to hers in an effort to lead her to the bedroom, but he doesn’t pull her along. Instead, he stands there looking at her, his brow furrowed to create that look of rapt contemplation. “I’d bring y’long t’morrow, but…well, I think you’d be better off sittin’ tight here.” He gives her hand a gentle squeeze. “But I’ll be back ‘round Sunday. We can go snag us a bird ‘fore there all gone.” It’s been years since Wes had a real Thanksgiving dinner - years since he even thought to want one.

Then again, for the first time in a long time, he’s extremely grateful for things.

“I can’t anyway,” Peyton says, shaking her head as she moves toward the bedroom, her brows furrowing with the thought of the weight on her shoulders. “Card’s not around — he’s okay, don’t worry — so Redbird is my responsibility right now.”

She frowns and looks at him trying to figure out what he means by getting a bird before they’re gone, and she finally laughs. “Oh, a turkey,” she says. “Uh. Okay, but I can’t cook something like that. I usually just get shit catered if I have anyone over. But maybe that’d be nice — to have something here for all the people in Redbird who … who are here, who might have no where else to go.”

“Got a feelin’ findin’ a caterin’ place ain’t gonna be easy or wise,” Wes says with his usual lilt, Peyton’s laughter reflecting in his face. He tugs at her then, pulling her along with him as he moves down the hall toward the bedroom. He’s not about to spend his first night back at his own place sleeping on the couch, even if he only manages to snag a few hours before he starts his errands.

Once she starts moving with him, Wes sidles up to wrap an arm around Peyton’s shoulders. “You make up uh’list uh’what you normally get from wherever, and I’ll see what I can rustle up for you. Don’t worry about the bird though - even with a house full’uh sisters, I still got t’learn how t’roast a turkey.” He can’t say the same for side-dishes, but Peyton should be able to scrounge up enough help among those in Redbird to get casseroles and the like whipped up.

“I don’t even know how many will make it, but I guess we can do something,” she says quietly, stifling a yawn — it’s clear she is as exhausted as he is, despite the few hours of sleep she managed to catch before he came in.

And with him here, to make her feel safe, the hours she will get with his arms wrapped around her will be more restful than any she’s had in the past week — one more thing to be thankful for.

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