gillian2_icon.gif lance_icon.gif lene2_icon.gif peter_icon.gif

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Scene Title Hearts
Synopsis Bad ones, good ones, lost ones. No matter what, they're family.
Date September 3, 2020

The past week has not been kind to Lance Gerken.

It started on Monday with a headache that wouldn’t go away. It persisted into Tuesday, during his shift at WSZR, becoming a dull throb behind his eyes and the building pressure that felt like a migraine. On Wednesday it still hadn’t abated, and even Voss noticed how unwell Lance was. He sent him home for the day to recuperate, for all the good it did.

Come Thursday morning, Lance’s headache hadn’t abated. It was about then that he decided to take a trip to the Emergency Room at the Fournier-Bianco Memorial Hospital and take advantage of his new VITAL Health Insurance supplied by SESA. As it turned out, Lance’s blood pressure was spiked, and a few pills later the pain subsided, but he was told to take a few days off from work. Hypertension in a man his age was a sure sign of a more serious underlying condition, and a follow-up was scheduled at the hospital for the next week.

By the time Lance returned home on Thursday, the headache had returned. Every attempt at getting peace and quiet, every attempt at seeking serenity within a blanket of silence, provided no comfort. Each time Lance came out of his cocoon of silence, he felt worse than before. By Thursday night, the headache was a steady static in the back of his mind that left him unable to concentrate. Just after sunset he started to notice his hands shaking when he tried to hold them still, and noticed how his vision would get blurry when he moved too fast. No vertigo, but, none of it felt right.

Of all days for Lance to be alone.

The Lanthorn
Lance’s Room

NYC Safe Zone

September 3rd
7:12 pm


The diagnosis rang in his ears ever since he heard it. Hypertension meant that he had a heart condition, at his age. As far as he knew, most of those were incurable, and could only be lived with. The pain of the headaches was almost, almost secondary to the dread hanging over him that he’d never be able to make full agent with a bad heart, at least not if he wanted to work in the field. A desk job was the probably best he could hope for at SESA, if he could even get that.

After all these years not knowing what he wanted to do, who he wanted to be, he’d finally found a path - and now it seemed like nature had conspired to take it away.

It just added to the misery of the headache as he tried to escape the pain any way he could think of. He’d even withdrawn from his Lighthouse-siblings, trying to downplay the severity of what had been happening as best he could.

Then things took that turn for the worse.

“Fuck,” he whispers, staring at his hands for a moment as he noticed them shaking. He tried to will them to stop. They wouldn’t. He turns his head to look across the room from the bed he’s sitting on, grimacing as everything seemed to blur. Unsteady he leaned over, trembling fingers reaching for the phone sitting on the desk. This wasn’t good. He needed to get to the hospital, probably…

Was this what a heart attack was like? He’d always heard they hurt more.

Lance knows the number he’s dialing by heart. Even though his hand is shaking and fingers tremble with each button press. His throat is tight as he hears the ringing; once, twice, thrice.

«We’re all full up on pickles here,» is Jolene’s voice answering Gillian’s phone. «What do you need Sir Lancelot?»

It’s a voice that Lance is normally happy to hear, but right now, he’s too afraid to be happy about anything.

“Hey— ‘lene— I, um.” A slow breath is drawn into his lungs, exhaled, “I just got out of the hospital, I know, I’m sorry, I didn’t want to worry you and mom, but… they gave me some pills, but everything’s just getting worse and nobody’s home and I think I— I think I need to go back, I didn’t know— “

Unsteady fingers drop the phone, swearing loudly enough that she surely hears him, dropping down to the ground - grimacing as the headache swells, the edges of his vision blurring. He snatches the phone back up, fumbling with it, “Sorry, I dropped— I can’t— is there someone who can come get me?”

Even to himself, he sounds very young at this moment. Like the frightened child he is.


Childs Residence

Jolene pulls the phone away from her ear and looks down at the number, then puts it back to her ear. “Hold on,” she says quickly, then swiftly moves out of the kitchen and into the dining room. There, Lene presses the end of the phone to her shoulder to muffle it on her end.

“No, it’s fine. I like pasta, and it’ll be easier to— ” Peter Petrelli looks up from his seat at the dining room table, dark brown eyes alight to Jolene with a smile at first, then a worried look of something more serious. Gillian is nearby, they’d been discussing what to have for a late dinner. When Peter notices the look in Lene’s eyes, he looks to Gillian and then back again.

“Everything alright?” Peter asks, to which Jolene shows uncertainty.

“It’s Lance,” she says with a motion of her chin to the phone. “He says he was at the hospital and— I can’t tell if he’s fucking with me, but he’s— he sounds scared.” Normally Lance doesn’t feign fear.

Peter looks back to Gillian, one of his hands on hers, then moves to retrieve his crutches from beside his chair, as if he’s going to get up and solve this somehow.

The amused, and warm smile that Gillian has fades when Lene returns from the kitchen with her phone— mostly because even before her daughter speaks there’s something wrong with her expression. She doesn’t immediately get up, though, not until Peter starts to, then she does as well, reaching over to grab his arm, “That doesn’t sound like one of his pranks. Let me talk to him,” she says, reaching out for the phone and taking it as she gestures with her other hand for Peter to sit down.

She doesn’t really expect him to— he’s too much Peter still. But she trusts he won’t get very far very fast, even if he does try to go all on his own.

“Lance? Are you at home?” That was the most important question— they could go get him if he couldn’t answer anything else.


The Lanthorn
Lance’s Room

“H-hey Mo— Gillian,” Lance corrects himself quickly. She’s not really his mother, after all, and he tries not to call her that, even if he always thinks of her as Mom. Sometimes he slips.

He pulls in a shaky breath, and then it all comes out in a rush, “I’m— yeah, I’m at home, I don’t think anyone else is. Maybe Brynn but you know how hard it is to get her attention, and even if Joe’s here he’s bad at emergencies and I think I need to get to the hospital again.”

A quiet moment follows, a pause to catch his breath, before he blurts out, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t want to scare anybody, but now I’m scared, and they said I had a bad heart and I don’t want to die— ”


Childs Residence

Jolene is already moving back into the kitchen, fishing the keys to Gillian’s car out of the bowl on the counter. In the dining room, Peter offers a look up to Gillian and mouths what’s going on? to her. He relents from getting up out of his chair, but it’s clear there’s concern in his eyes.

From the look on her face, Gillian is taking Lance’s words very seriously. “We’ll be there as soon as possible. It sounds like a panic attack right now, too— I still have those sometimes, since the war,” she says, trying to sound as if it were nothing at all he should be ashamed of. “Focus on breathing and— I find it helpful to find a… focus object. Something to anchor myself to. Like a clock or music or something. Find something that you can look at or focus on and if you can’t, just focus on your breathing and my voice.”

She gestures to Lene and nods at Peter, for a moment she pulls the phone back, clicking the button to mute it for a few seconds before she puts it back to her ear so she doesn’t miss any response that he might make as she says to the room. “Lene, help him get in the car. You’re going to drive. I want to stay on the phone with him.”

She’s definitely worried, and ready to ride over to Williamsburg and take both Peter and Jolene with her. “Peter, I want you to come. He said he went to the hospital and… he’s afraid he might be dying or something and— “ He knew more about medical stuff than her, what to say to patients who were actually dying. He might recognize whatever it is the doctors had actually told him, or what medicines they had given, be able to explain things better so he was less scared—

“Okay,” Peter says without hesitation, grabbing his crutches and rising up to stand. As he does, and while Lene is helping him up, he looks over to his daughter. “Lance Gerken?” Lene grimaces.

It’s going to be a long story.


The Lanthorn
Lance’s Room

“O-okay.” Lance draws in a long, shaky breath, exhaling it slowly… one hand coming up, trembling fingers rubbing at the back of his neck, the base of his skull, as that headache just throbs like a filter of pure static between him and his ability to think clearly.

“I’ll just sit here and— hah, I guess I shouldn’t, I shouldn’t try and go down the firepole right now, should I? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t’ve bothered you either but I didn’t know who to call, and… shit I should’ve just called nine-one-one, fuck— “

Oh no he swore in front of Gillian. Kind of in front of her anyway!

He stays on the line with her, rambling a bit to try and keep himself from freaking out. Because the more he talks, the less he has to think about what’s happening.


Childs Residence

“C’mon,” Lene says, “I’ll explain in the car.”

Unmuting the phone, Gillian tries her best to give reassuring sounds as she moves about the house, doing a few quick things before she follows them out to the car, leaving a little note for Squeaks on a whiteboard in the kitchen and making sure everything is turned off before they leave. Instead of hopping into the front seat, she slides into the back next to Peter and continues to talk, “No, you were right to call me. I’m glad you did.” She doesn’t say a word about how he shouldn’t have cursed.

She may have stopped cursing herself most of the time, but it doesn’t seem like she pushes that on others at least. Or maybe she’s just that worried herself. “We’re on our way. Don’t worry. Just stay on the phone and keep talking. Tell me about your classes.” Anything to keep him talking, take his mind off what was scaring him. She expected him to be rambling soon, but it really didn’t matter what he told her right now.

She just needed him to keep talking while Jolene drove.

A Short Time Later

Metropolitan Ave

7:38 pm

A black sedan zips through the outskirts of Williamsburg going well over the posted speed limit.

Traffic is light at this hour of day, but the dark car still needs to weave in and out of slower traffic in order to maintain its speed. With salvage yards stacked with wrecked cars on either side, this section of Williamsburg is a far cry from the posh surroundings of the downtown area close to the coast.

Inside the car, Jolene has a death grip on the steering wheel and shoulders locked and tense. Beside her in the passenger seat, Peter has a hand on her shoulder and dark eyes fixed on the road ahead. “Ok, look you’ve gotta slow down some. Those tail lights up ahead? That’s a traffic jam. You’re doing fine but we can’t stay on this road.”

Jolene Chevalier still does not have her license and her only driving experience is in an environment that has more in common with Mad Max than the present day. Peter, looking over his shoulder, focuses on Gillian in the back seat on the phone with Lance. He doesn’t say anything, but he gives her a supportive look and a lopsided smile. It’s been an agonizing few minutes on the phone as Lance’s condition deteriorates. It shows on Gillian’s face.

“Did he find the bottle of aspirin? It’ll be better than nothing. Remind him: two tablets.” Peter says with a calm urgency. The aspirin won’t do much for Lance’s blood pressure, but the placebo effect might calm him down, which Peter hopes buys them the time they need.

“Take a right up here,” Peter says, looking back to the front seat as he squeezes Lene’s shoulder.


The Lanthorn

Scattered across the bathroom sink is a bottle of generic brand acetaminophen, packaged bandages, spare toothpaste, floss, allergy medication, three old packages of Alka-seltzer, and a two-inch tall pink rubber monster-faced wrestler flexing angrily. The latter of which is a weird scavenger hunt item that apparently nobody found from last year when they moved in.

Lance looks at himself in the mirror, vision tunneled on the edges. His reflection — the whole room’s reflection — looks blurry. But the room doesn’t, which means it isn’t his eyes but something wrong with the bathroom mirror. His heart is pounding, there is a pressure building behind his eyes that makes them feel like they’re going to pop square out of his head. The tinnitus ringing in his ears that started a few minutes ago sounds like amplifier feedback now.

Okay. Okay, he can do this. Lance squints at the mirror, the blurriness of it making that headache only worse; a turn of his head, then back to the mirror before he stops trying to figure it out. His head hurts too much to make sense of it.

“It hurts,” he mumbles into the phone, trying to brace it to his shoulder as he struggles with the cap to the generic acetaminophen, “Okay, I got— I got the— “

The phone goes clattering to the floor of the bathroom at the same time he loses his grip on the now-open bottle, the plastic tumbling into the sink and the small white pills scattering everywhere, swirling over the ceramic, some of them tumbling down the drain. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he hisses out, shaky fingers grabbing for the pills. He squeezes his eyes shut, giving up after a moment and grabbing the edge of the sink, just trying to brace himself against the roar in his head.


Metropolitan Ave

“Take two o— Lance? Lance?” Gillian sounds startled on the phone as she looks up at the road, meeting Peter’s eyes for a moment again— yeah, she’s worried about the boy, because, like the rest of the kids, he was family in a way that she couldn’t really explain. He had been in the Wasteland too. Gillian, or Gwen as she had gone by most of the time there, had stayed close to those kids. Not all of them still lived in this world, and there were more in this world too— but every time she had come back east, she had stayed with them. She had been a part of their family.

“I think he dropped the phone. Lance?” She repeats again, hoping he’ll pick it up again. Hoping he didn’t just pass out or something when he dropped it.

She closed her eyes for a moment and, like she had been telling him for the last few minutes, focused on her breathing. She wouldn’t do him any good if she went into a panic right now too.

We’re almost there!” Jolene shouts, stepping down on the gas and swerving in front of an SUV. The tires skid across the rainslicked road, rear end of the car fishtailing back and forth as she works the steering wheel hand-over-hand to rein it back in.

Please don’t crash!” Peter shouts, slapping a hand against the roof of the car and the other braced against Jolene’s shoulder. There’s just panicked breathing on the other side of Lance’s line, a noise that grows steady like a racing heartbeat into hyperventilation.

Jolene recognizes where she is after cutting onto the side street, swerves around two more cars and runs a red light. There’s a blaring sound of horns fading off behind them as she shouts. “There!” The blocky, tall silhouette of the Lanthorn comes into view against the rainy night cityscape. Jolene doesn’t even so much as park the car as she does mount the curb in front of the Lanthorn and throw the driver’s side door open.

Stopping dead in her tracks as she hits the curb, Jolene’s nose wrinkles up and she brings one hand to her ear. “What the fuck is that noise?”

Peter exhales a sharp gasp, looking trapped as he realizes he can’t leap out after his daughter. He twists around, reaching for his crutches in the back seat when

Ten Years Earlier

The Ruins of Midtown
New York City

March 4th

Snow has a purifying effect on a cityscape.

This even holds true in the ruins of Midtown. The black and charred scars of the explosion now years past are covered by a blanket of pure white snow. The dirty and broken sidewalks are hidden from view, and even the crooked, crumbling buildings that usually loom, burnt and broken, seem more friendly somehow, with their broken jagged edges smoothed by the expanse of white. Unlike the rest of the city the snow has mostly been left untouched in the ruins. Here, no snow plows clear the streets of the excess white powder.

The snow has piled high, in clean pure drifts, with no traffic to flatten or sully its stark whiteness. Three-foot-long icicles hang from awnings, railings and balconies. And above all is the stillness. The snow muffles everything. It is easy to deny that anyone lives here, but for footprints in the snow or the tracks of a cart here and there.

That is, it was still and quiet until today.

Due to the inclement weather, most of the city’s schools have set their children free for the day — not to enjoy the weather, of course, but that is what the children have in mind. When the announcement was made early in the morning, a group of enterprising junior high age kids began to spread word: Ditch the parks; this time, we’re going sledding in the urban jungle of the Midtown Ruins.

This section of Broadway has been turned into some sort of a snow park: the long, ornate rails and the steep steps of one theater provide the apparatus for three dozen kids — and no adult supervision. Someone has brought a portable stereo, punk music pouring out and into the previously quiet street. The noise of children laughing is a strange one here in Midtown — but for at least one homeless man, it’s a welcome one. He watches the children jumping off the rails and sliding down the steps while warming weathered, calloused hands in fingerless gloves over a trash-can fire.

Among the preteens playing in the snow there's a few stragglers, brought along in a van that's dragged it's way through the snow as much as possible. It's still quite a distance away, barely visible from the sledding. Two of the kids brought along, preteens too, have joined in, smiling and waving. Another stands back, looking on, a shy girl wrapped tightly in a coat. One of the ones sledding, oddly enough, doesn't happen to be wearing very heavy clothes, nor is she shivering at all. A young hispanic girl, in fact.

"You should have worn a scarf, Denisa!" one of the older people who attended the small group of kids yells. Gillian Childs is not participating in the sledding, or the fun, but she's enjoying the watching; bundled up, complete with a fuzzy hood.

Gillian casts a glance to a woman around her age at her side. "They seem to be having fun. Kinda wish I could have brought all of them." But the small handful she dragged out to go sledding is about as much as she can handle, without numerous Brians lingering in the distance. "I hope the others aren't too jealous."

Jenny Childs stands beside her sister, shivering beneath her bulky sweater which sparkles with scattered snow caught up in the loose, grey knit. Bright red mittens cover her hands, her duller red hair bound into a ponytail with errant strands peeking from a knit cap which matches her mittens, and has Christmas like snowflakes patterned into them despite it being two months and change since the holiday season.

"Maybe we can bring the others out ourselves before all the snow melts," Jenny says, voice partially muffled by her scarf. Her arms are wrapped around what seems to be a plastic dinner tray, already showing the scrapes and wear and tear of sledding. "Hokay. I'm going again."

And with that, Jenny hops forward to take her turn — she's a girl over twenty, maybe, but seems happy to join in when one of the kids beckons at the Childs sisters. She draws off her scarf and loops it around Denisa's shoulders as she makes her way up the stairs, boots sinking into loose snow as she goes.

"We should definitely bring the others before it all melts," Gillian says, mostly to herself as she watches Jenny leave. Denisa makes a shruggy motion, says something about not really even needing it, but wraps it tighter around anyway and goes with the sledding. But it's the snowballs getting thrown around that seem to make the dimples vanish.

"Oh great, snowball fights— Lance is going to…" almost as soon as Gillian says it, one of the lighthouse kids, with dark hair, picks up a snowball and throws it right at one of the other kids, a blonde girl. The one too shy to go sledding.

They get lost in the play, laughing and packing snowballs, ducking behind people… The final of the handful of lighthouse kids runs behind Gillian, just in time for her to get a face full of snow, thanks to Lance.

"Lance you are so grounded for that," Gillian says, wiping her face off, before grabbing some snow of her own and launching it back at him.

Present Day

Outside the Lanthorn

Jolene’s ears are ringing when her vision clears. Car alarms are going off down the street and something is— fluttering nearby. Unable to hear anything, Jolene rolls onto her side, coughing and struggling to stand. Her head swims, and she can hear the muffled sound of someone shouting. Looking up, her vision focuses on the sight of her father and Gillian. The former of the two leaning over her on his crutches.

Jolens sees a piece of paper land flat on the sidewalk; shredded notebook paper, loose leaf. There’s math homework scrawled on it. She doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on, until she sees the look on her mother’s face when Gillian rushes past her. Lene coughs again, rolling onto her side as she turns to look up at the Lanthorn and it all comes flooding back to her.

All of the second-story windows are blown out. Glass litters the street and loose sheafs of paper flutter in the air out front of the building, mixed with the padding from furniture demolished in some sort of explosion.

“Oh god,” Lene gasps, suddenly scanning her surroundings. The windshield of Gillian’s car is smashed from a lamp that was blown out of the windows, driven through the glass. People have come out of adjacent buildings to see what’s happened. Peter, staying by Jolene’s side, watches Gillian running to the Lanthorn helplessly.

It looks like a bomb went off.

There’s not even time to think as Gillian runs into the building. All she can picture is that very clear, very vivid memory of that young boy that she had watched grow up. That child that had caused so many smiles and laughs and such joy and frustrations and fears. That boy whom she had only really seen scared a few times. He’d usually been fearless and brave and like the whole world was just too small for him. And all she had ever wanted to do had been to make a world where him and his family would be safe. Where they wouldn’t have to go through the things they had had to as children.

She plays out the layout of the Lanthorn in her head, remembering every time she’d ever been over in the last few months— when she’d help Brynn secure the financing to purchase it. She bounded up the stairs multiple steps at a time, ignoring the destruction around her, ignoring the glass that crunched under her shoes, ignoring the blood that rose on her hands from small cuts as she accidentally touched glass as she pushed the doors open and moved closer to the bedroom she knew was Lance’s. All the while, yelling his name. “Lance! Lance!”

She could barely hear her own raspy voice, but knew where she was going, and the destruction seemed worse the closer she got to where he should have been, the worry rising with each step.

Gillian finds the ground floor undisturbed in her hasty pass through it, up the narrow staircase that leads to the second floor. It’s here that she finds signs of an explosion. The living room is in shambles. The couch looks shredded by a blast, stuffing covers the floor. There are scraps of paper everywhere, the television is destroyed, pictures and posters torn off the wall. There is glass everywhere.

For a moment Gillian is frozen in panc, trying to figure out where Lance is. If anyone else was home. The door to Brynn’s room is nearly blown off of its hinges, but she can see the light is off inside and Brynn doesn’t appear to be home. No sounds of Joe either, and he’s the one person she’s sure would be fine right now. And loud.

Eventually she pieces together the source of the blast. The door to the bathroom is in the middle of the living room, broken into four pieces. There’s shattered ceramic tile everywhere, the wall of the bathroom is bowed outward into the living room and split with cracks. Stepping over demolished furniture, Gillian enters the bathroom to find all of the tile shattered, the ceiling torn open, the sink shattered and the mirror blown apart.

But then… she finds him.


Two Years Earlier

The Childs’ Residence

“Could I— I mean, could I ask some advice? About life. And stuff. I mean,” Lance shifts around awkwardly, looking up at Gillian with a sheepish expression. He pauses, clears his throat, “Sorry, I’m not good at asking for advice.”

“I’ll help in any way I can,” Gillian says, sitting down next to Lance, “but I understand. I’m not good at asking for advice either.” Most of the time people just offered it, whether she wanted it or not. Though she’s gotten better at that.

“Yeah. I mean… in some ways that’s the problem,” Lance admits, leaning back a bit to look up at the ceiling, “Most’ve our lives we’ve just kind of — had everything decided for us, you know? Stay at the Lighthouse, go to this or that safehouse, go to Canada, go to the Safe Zone. We should do this, shouldn’t do that. So we’re all still trying to… figure out where to go now that we’re on our own.”

He re-settles back straight, a hand resting on his knee as he offers her a rueful smile, “It’s why we haven’t really asked for help or anything, except for the big stuff, even though we know we can get it. I mean, we want to make lives of our own, on our own terms. Only…”

Chewing the inside of his cheek for a moment, he admits, “We don’t know how. I mean, I was talking to Brynn on the beach last week, and she pointed out that everyone’s trying to make their lives like they were before. Only it’s not before, it’s after. And we never had a before. Not really. So I’ve been trying to get into college, only that’s not working ‘cause I didn’t exactly have a traditional education…” They tried, especially her, but there’s only so much one can learn in between the racist attacks, disasters, governmental oppression, and warfare going on. He’s good at infiltration though!

“So—. Robyn had an idea, and I guess I wanted to know your thoughts on it?”

In some ways, the fact that he lacks a proper education felt in part her fault. Gillian should have made sure they got more studying, made sure they had a proper homeschooling. If she would have stayed, she probably could have made sure that happened, but she had not. There’s a sad glint to her eyes as she nods slowly.

“Well, what’s Robyn’s plan?” If there was one person she trusted to do something good for the kids, it would be Robyn. They’d stayed in touch over the years. They shared a daughter, even.

“So, we… kind of stumbled into a few SESA investigations,” Lance admits sheepishly, “I guess we’re on some kind of board, I guess they have it on their wall? Probably all strings and pins and photos, totally chalk— anyway, I guess she saw us on there.”

“So…” He glances down at the water, frowning, “I know you kinda work with the government and all, and I guess I wanted your opinion on her suggestion of maybe training to be a SESA agent.”

Oh, she knew about the investigation. For some reason, she’s grinning as he confesses to that. Because it had been brought up. “I think you must have impressed the Agent if they put you on a ‘chalk board’.” Yes, she just joked about their slang. Maybe that had been where that term had come from in the future? Now she’s picturing a bunch of people using chalkboards for theories and strategies and— yeah. It amuses her.

But if he had expected her to discourage this, well—

Elmhurst Hospital
Elmhurst, NYCSZ

September 4th

“…should be able to clear everything up later. The only damaged property was yours, so this is an in and out situation. I just didn’t want to leave you wondering all morning.”

Everything is blurry, the world slowly spins.

“Let him rest, though. We can schedule an interview whenever is convenient.”

Dark shapes begin to take the form of people, the tinnitus ringing in Lance’s ears subsides as he picks out speech. His entire body aches, a dull and throbbing ache like a stubbed toe. Like he stubbed his entire body.

A hospital room comes into focus, he’s in a bed, covered in a blanket. The soft beep of a heart-rate monitor chirps at his side. Well past the foot of the bed, in the doorway to the hospital room, Gillian stands in conversation with Agent Kenner. Donald looks tired, offering Gillian a lopsided smile as he motions over to Lance, then rests a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

As his focus swims around the room, Lance sees Jolene curled up in a chair beside his bed, covered with a blue denim jacket that’s too large for her like a blanket.

He’s alive.

A weak cough leaves him - Lance hasn’t talked or drank through his mouth for a bit, so his throat is dry - and he runs the tip of his tongue over chapped lips.

Everything hurts, which isn’t good. He’s in the hospital, which isn’t good. But his not-quite-mom and his not-quite-little-sister-who’s-older-than-him are here, and that’s good? But then there’s a ranking senior agent from work here, which isn’t good.

His head hurts too much to figure out the balance there, though.

“Hey,” he says, voice a little hoarse.

“Lance!” Gillian exclaims at the sound of his voice, her own voice sounding similar to his, just— hers is always hoarse. That’s her normal voice. She can’t help but move away from Kenner and actually lean over Lance and put her weight on him awkwardly to hug him, beaming with happiness and worry and tugging on those IV-cords in a way that’s probably a little painful before she pulls back.

“I was so worried.” Her hands touch his face on either side, as if she’s checking his eyes for sleep or something, “But you’re okay. You’re going to be okay. It wasn’t really you’re heart— you were having some kind of ability overload.” Her voice tightens the longer she talks, even though she’s smiling and obviously joyful at him being okay she’s also crying. And then she’s leaning forward and kissing his forehead.

Like he’s ten all over again.

“I was so worried about you. But you’re okay. You really are. Your boss was really worried about you too.” She lets go to wipe the tears. Yes, she knows Kenner’s not technically his boss anymore— but his bosses were probably worried about him anyway.

From the doorway, Kenner lifts one hand in a silent wave and an incline of his head. When he notices Jolene stirring from Gillian’s shout, he ducks out of the room into the hall and shuts the door behind himself.

A half-conscious noise rumbles up from Jolene as she stirs, shedding the denim jacket as she sits up straight and looks around. When she notices Lance is awake she slides out of the chair, letting the jacket hit the floor, and moves immediately to his bedside.

You jerk!” Jolene whisper-shouts as she comes to an abrupt stop, gripping the bedside rail with both hands, tears welled up in her eyes. “I was so worried about you!” She’s not mad, in spite of her tone. There’s emotion, relief, and needless guilt all rolled into one.

Lance brings up one arm weakly to return the embrace, the wires leading to the heart rate monitor and the IV tubes dangling with the motion as he does so; burying his face briefly against her shoulder as best he can before she draws back. There’s some pain from the tubes tugging, but he doesn’t care. Everything else already hurts, so…

“Sorry,” he murmurs as he leans back, looking between the two as Jolene comes to the edge of the bed, “Sorry, ‘lene. I didn’t want to scare you, I… what happened? My ability… what? It’s never done that before, I— is that why it was making me feel worse?”

Confused, still not entirely awake, and the pain and probable medication are absolutely not helping his focus right now as he tries to figure out just what happened to him.

“It’s not your fault. You don’t have anything to be sorry about,” Gillian says, looking at him with dampness in her eyes, even if she was still so worried. All she could think about was how he had been this tiny little man who she had watched grow up from a chubby cheeked little trouble maker to a tall, handsome little gentleman who she couldn’t help but be proud of. She had regretted missing a few years while leaving for the war and helping get the Safe Zone started up, but she had been grateful when he came to live here too.

Sitting back, she nodded a little, “It seems your ability changed a little bit. Grew. You kind of blew up your house a little. Don’t worry, none of the damage is permanent, and since no one else was home, thankfully, no one was hurt. We’ll get everything fixed. It will just take some time. It reminds me of the old days, when the Lighthouse used to get blown up left and right.” She couldn’t help but laugh.

They had fixed up that old house so many times.

Lene smiles, a little emotionally overwrought, and leans in to press a kiss to Lance’s forehead. “You seriously blew up like the whole living room, and… “ she looks over her shoulder to make sure the door to the room is closed, then back to Lance, “future you? He couldn’t do that.” In spite of her worry, there’s a hint of her being impressed.

Lene brushes Lance’s hair back from his face and smiles supportively. “SESA says it might have been some kind of feedback or buildup, like you were holding in some kind of massive sonic fart.” She cracks a smile. “We’ll figure out what it is, and… how to control it. Together. I used to be pretty good at leaning abilities, back in the day. I’ll be there for you.”

“I— wow. I did that? That’s like— dad, a little, um. Shit, that’s gonna be a mess— thanks, ‘lene. I appreciate it. But… don’t… just don’t tell Joe that it was a sonic fart,” Lance clears his throat a little to speak more clearly, managing to smile a bit himself at the comment, looking back up to Jolene, “He would never— in his life— let me forget that I blew up the Lanthorn with a— sonic fart.”

His gaze sweeps back to Gillian, then, and he moistens cracked lips before asking uncertainly, “So I— don’t have a bad heart?” Yes, yes, he heard them explain about the power, but he has to make sure. “I was worried I’d have to get a desk job.” Silly as it sounds, he says it with a little bit of dread.

He sucks in a slow breath, then breathes it out, saying in quieter tones, “Thank you. For— for coming.”

“Things are definitely different,” Gillian says with the smallest hint of a smile, even if it’s fond, it’s still a little sad. Some were good, of course. A lot were good. “I think you’ll be a good teacher with your current ability. You can probably stop him before it gets that far too— but yeah, it looks like you were overloading yourself. Kind of like how a lot of people’s noses bleed when they use their abilities too much. Or they pass out. You were doing something without realizing it. You just need to figure out what and not get to that point.”

And hopefully not blow up the living room next time.

But there were definite possibilities to that, anyway. If he could control it, there could be a lot of ways it could help make his career in SESA even better, really, giving him a way to fight back.

“Of course we came. We’re family.”

“No bad heart, either.” Jolene adds, squeezing Lance’s hand. “Not a single one.”

“Not in this family.”


The Lanthorn

Sometimes there's curiosity that's insatiable.

A question that demands an answer.

The clack-chak of metal crutches coming up a flight of stairs makes Peter Petrelli's return to the Lanthorn an obvious one. Glass crunches underfoot as he makes his way in through the wide open door into the now abandoned apartment level on the second floor. Tarps have been hung over the windows that Lance blew out with his sonic detonation. No one is here now, not since the explosion. It's a temporary absence until repairs could be completed, but it provides Peter with a moment to assuage his own curiosities about something.

He moves through the Lanthorn's apartment not like a stranger, but like someone who has been here before. Lance wouldn't remember him, wouldn't know he'd been up here when Gillian and Jolene carried him out. As he navigates around the sofa, making his way toward the epicenter of the blast — the bathroom — Peter catches sight of the shattered mirror through the gaping hole in the south wall, looking at the exposed wiring, pipes, and wooden frame. He shoulders his way through the bathroom door, sweeping drywall debris from his path with the rubber foot of one crutch.

Peter offers an askance look to the mirror, then looks away as he makes his way over to a cleft in the wall. The drywall is split open, powdery residue from it covered everything along with glittering shards of broken glass and bits of shredded shower curtain. His brows knit together, studying the damage with visible uncertainty and worry. When Peter reaches the crack in the wall, he sits down on the side of the tub and rests one crutch against it, then uses the other one like a cudgel and smashes out the hole in the wall wider. Drywall crashes to the floor and something metal clanks behind it.

Slowly rising to stand, Peter leans back on his crutches and goes over to the wall, reaching down and inside up to his shoulder. There, his hand finds purchase on something cold and metal. He'd seen it when they were dragging Lance out, poking from behind a piece of battered drywall, but he wasn't sure what he was looking at. It's stuck between wooden supports, but with a few twists Peter is able to pull it free. It's an old lockbox made of dented and scuffed metal with an extremely old looking padlock keeping it shut. He leans against the wall for support, tucking his crutches in his armpits ad he turns the box over, hearing something rattle around inside.

Peter's brows furrow as he lifts the lock, smudging flakes of rust off of it. "The kids are gonna go nuts over this."

Sometimes, even the smallest of choices can have unintended consequences.

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