How This Ends


gillian2_icon.gif niki_icon.gif

Scene Title How This Ends
Synopsis Nobody really knows how it will go, but there can be only one way.
Date February 19, 2020

California Safe Zone

The sound of the ocean is almost peaceful. Like the earth breathing. It lingers in the air with the smell of salt and sand as it beats against the edge of the bay. The cool dusk wind plays against their skin as they sit on the chilled rocks, looking out at the ocean. It’s probably not what Niki had expected when Gillian asked if she wanted to stretch her legs.

The walk over was all talk about the past, about the Council, about wondering how the others were managing without them. Nothing that would be sensitive or secretive. Every so often, the darker haired woman would touch something under her shirt. A necklace. It’s not a gesture she would do before. It was something new, and she wasn’t even conscious she was doing it most of the time.

But now they were at the beach, sitting on cool rocks and watching the sun set over the ocean.

As the sky turns colors, she finally approaches the topic that she had been holding in until now.

“I was wrong before,” she doesn’t wait to be asked what she was wrong about. The wind catches her hair and pulls it behind her a little, as she looks out into that sunset, squinting a little, “Peter did die in that explosion.”

The walk had been pleasant enough, but the view here is even more so. With the sun starting to kiss the horizon goodnight, making the sky flush pink and red, Niki lets her hand slide across the flat face of the rock and settle over the top of Gillian’s, wordless.

When the topic shifts to something less inconsequential, the real need for getting beyond the walls of the Ziggurat, Niki’s features cloud with uncertainty. She’d been about to say something about how the evening is beautiful, but that’s derailed entirely by the new subject of conversation.

“What…?” Niki turns away from that sunset to fully face Gillian now, scooting closer on the rock as though maybe if she had fewer inches of distance between the two of them, she’d discover she heard that incorrectly. “How— What made you suddenly—” Frustrated, she presses her lips together and takes a breath while she tries to decide what she means to ask.

“How did you figure this out all of a sudden?” Good enough.

Fidgeting with that something under her shirt again, Gillian looks off into the distance for a moment before she answers, her voice raspy as usual, and also tight with emotion, “Because Peter is here.” She had warned that they might run into him, cause this was the kind of stuff that he would get involved in. And that she had been right about. “But he’s not the… Peter from… that explosion. It seems like he’s a Peter from another… future.”

It might sound insane to say it directly like that, but she figured it was the easiest way to explain it. “He doesn’t have a lot of memories of things, but from what I understand… he’s Jolene’s father.”

That was a difficult subject too, but— Niki was one of the few who hadn’t been directly involved in the kids from the future who she had told about Jolene. There were reasons why. And Niki had known at least one of the kids who had come back, it just wasn’t hers.

“But that doesn’t make sense. ‘Caid told me there was no going back. And that Peter was gone.” There’s a moment where it’s clear Niki’s doing some mental math, trying to decide how plausible it is that Peter is in Praxia, but that he’s not their Peter. And how could a Peter from the future—

Niki’s thumb brushes absently across the back of Gillian’s fingers for lack of another way to fidget. “So, that’s what Bluthner saw, then.” It takes a lot of jumping through hoops, but Niki can see a way in which he is Peter, but not her Peter. He’s… Gillian’s Peter. And that stings more than she expected it to.

“I suppose that tracks then, with what my mother told me.” It’s no secret at this point that Claudia Zimmerman has joined the denizenry of the Ziggurat. “She said she’d seen his body. I… I guess I hoped she was lying to me.”

She was, of course, but not about that.

“It’s strange,” Gillian starts, picking up a small rock near where she’s sitting and tossing it towards the waves. It doesn’t even hit the water, though, thrown short and rolling a little in the sand until it comes to a stop. “He remembered being injured— dying after saving Walter— Delilah’s son— That’s when he was supposed to have died a few years from now in that… timeline.” Fuck time travel made so many conversations very difficult. She glances back, a hint of a grimace on her expression. “He doesn’t know how he got here, or why, but he arrived during the war it sounded like. Or at least the start of it. And he’d been— being Peter for a few years.”

Nearly a decade. And he hadn’t made himself known in all that time. Not that she really blamed him. “Jolene didn’t even know him growing up. All she’d heard about him were stories— he’d left not long after she was born, apparently, and then he died. Or I guess— didn’t die? I don’t really know. Walter isn’t around to ask anymore.” As far as she knew. Walter and Kincaid had both vanished at some point during the war. Some of the others did as well. But she knew a few were still around, including Lene.

“I’m sorry.” For multiple reasons.

“Yeah,” Niki replies with a sense of vacancy, her gaze having followed the rock Gillian cast toward the water. It stays fixed where it landed. “I don’t know what I expected,” she admits. “I don’t know… I spent all these years thinking he was dead.” Her soul feels so heavy. The air inside the Ziggurat has been nothing short of oppressive of late. The tension is terrible. The storm is coming and there’s a pressure that just won’t be released until it hits landfall.

“It’s okay.” The older of the two women lifts her head and smiles sadly. “I don’t blame you. I’d have done the exact same thing in your shoes. I would have told you.” And if it had been the Peter of their timeline, maybe this conversation would be happening in reverse. Maybe it would be Niki who’d be telling Gillian that he was here, and that he wasn’t the Peter who had built a life with her.

In summary, Niki would feel pretty shitty if she were in Gillian’s place right now. “Don’t blame yourself, huh? You can’t help what is.

“Yeah, I know,” Gillian says quietly, looking off into the distance again. But she didn’t sound happy really. “I’m glad he’s here for Jolene. She never got to meet him. She actually tried to, once. Spent a year back before the first bomb due to a time-traveling snafu, but Hiro Nakamura didn’t let her actually meet him. Probably thought she’d change things. But he could have just— let her meet him?” She sounds like she might be pissed at Hiro Nakamura for taking that meeting from her daughter. But it helped that she had now. She’d gotten that meeting.

Just not under the circumstances where they could enjoy it.

“He’s not mine, you know. He’s— got all these memories of someone who I became in a completely different world than this.” She shakes her head and lets the hand drop away from her shirt that she hadn’t realized was there. She probably will need to stop doing that at some point, but part of her just wants that reminder. “And I already know how that story ended anyway.”

This time, when she plucks up a rock, she chucks it far enough to hit the incoming tide and it disappears into the depths.

“Well, Hiro Nakamura was a son of a bitch,” Niki asserts flatly, “so.” You know, figures that he wouldn’t let Gillian’s daughter meet up with her father in the past. Even if the whole butterfly effect makes sense, Niki still hates it and hates all the times Hiro managed to dangle the carrot in front of her, only for it to get snatched away.

A you, then,” she concedes. “End result’s the same. You get a second chance. Or third. Whatever number it is Peter’s on now.” Niki snorts, finally lifting her hand from Gillian’s so she can retrieve a rock for herself. She may not have had super strength for years, but she hasn’t let herself get lax in that department. She winds up, and pitches the stone with the force of her frustration, watching as it crashes through a cresting wave, disrupting its path to shore and sending ripples through the water.

“I miss that stupid ape.”

With a small nod, Gillian seems to accept that possibility, because if any of them could have another chance, it might be her— maybe. Another chance for him to leave her again. But maybe this time she’ll actually have him for a moment before he does. “I know. I missed him too.” She still does, in a way, because a Peter did die. Probably alone. Fighting to help the world in his own little way. The way he probably would always have died, in any timeline. Cause that’s who he was.

And that was probably why they loved him. She knew it was one of the reasons she had loved him, and one of the reasons she had done everything that she could to keep fighting for the future. It allowed her to love herself more, knowing that she was doing something she should and could be proud of.

After a second, she changes the subject rather abruptly, “How much do you trust Adam? I know he’s technically your father— but you don’t seem to hold him on the pedestal that Jac does.”

The subject change is a welcome one. Dwelling on Peter doesn’t do either of them any good. That situation simply is what it is. Niki’s acknowledged it, and she’ll process it later. Right now, she’s grateful to talk about anything else.

Even that.

“Jessica was locked up with him on Level 5,” Niki offers, as though that had all happened to some other person. In a lot of ways, it did. While she’s integrated Jessica back into her personality over the years, she still hasn’t managed to reclaim the memories of those times when she was not in control. All that lost time.

There’s a derisive snort regarding the pedestal she has decidedly not placed Adam upon. “Considering he doesn’t have any interest in being my father because too much time is lost…” Niki doesn’t bother to hide how much that hurts her. “Like the amount of time isn’t a drop in the bucket to someone like him.”

Niki picks up another rock and whips it at the water, watching it skip once, twice, and drop into the waves. “I know he and my mother were in love once, and that’s how me and my sisters came about. I know he seems to worry about what happens to me. He said he didn’t want me to become a solider here. He just… wanted me to help teach Jac how to be a survivor.” That’s a mixed bag of emotions on its own, it seems. “But do I trust him?” That is the real question.

“Only to protect his own interests.”

“I hate what he’s pushed on Jac’s shoulders,” Gillian murmurs under her breath, before shaking her head again. No, she hated a lot more than that. Pushing all that onto Jac’s shoulders, basically putting the world there. It was too much like what had happened with Peter, so much put onto his shoulders, by himself, by his family, by his friends. Even if it didn’t break her eventually, it still led to terrible things. “I went to war to keep children like her from having to fight these battles, and now I couldn’t take her out of here if I had a whole army.” The girl would just teleport back because her father told her she was the only one who could do what needed to be done.

It was difficult to compete with a father figure that the girl had never had before. Especially when he seemed to put so much onto her.

“Peter says that Adam’s got another weapon, besides a little girl who shouldn’t have been involved in this in the first place. I don’t know if it’s to use against the creature, or if he has an alternative agenda we just don’t know about…”

She picks up another small rock, but this time she just toys with it. It keeps her from touching that thing around her neck at least. “Have you heard of Gorgon? It was used by the US government during the war, against our kind.”

Against Jolene, the lone survivor of the incident.

Niki turns slowly as Gillian speaks, expression grim. She knows all about having a child drawn into a conflict against their will. Her boy was used for his ability, too. But the mention of Gorgon is what really gets her attention. She’s heard about it from her mother, and it makes her blood run cold.

“Yeah. Yeah, I know about it.” And about how only one person was known to survive. Niki walks the few steps back to the rock the two of them were seated on. “What… does that have to do with—”

In her heart, she already knows.

There’s a sympathetic look in Gillian’s eyes as she understands that Niki can see where this was going to go. “Peter says that Adam got a bunch of scientists together to modify it, make it so it targeted… the non-expressives instead.” It had already been horribly dangerous and deadly, but it had targeted Expressives. Evolved. People with abilities. Gillian knew that Niki no longer had her ability— did she count as one of that, or did she still technically have the gene that would protect her?

“Peter had disguised himself as one of the scientists. The work was sabotaged, but Adam doesn’t know it.” Which is why she made sure to get as far from any form of technology that might be listening as possible. She didn’t know how far he could listen, or how far his eyes extended. But she hoped this was safe. “But he didn’t know how well it was altered. It could still be deadly. But since Adam is being so secretive about every fucking thing it’s hard to know when or how he intends to use it. Or if he just wants it for… after.”

Cause she doesn’t see how this virus could work in his fight against the Entity. It targeted everything that it wasn’t. “The fight we have is important, but if we can, we can’t let something like that get used against people. Against anyone. I just— need someone else that will be there who knows about it. Someone I trust.”

And that was hard to find in this fight.

Niki reaches out to take the other woman’s hands in her own. “Gillian…” She squeezes gently once and brushes her thumbs over the backs of her knuckles. “Of course I’m on your side. You know I have your back. We won’t let this happen. We can’t.

Whether or not she’s susceptible to it is irrelevant to Niki. It’s wrong, and she won’t see so much of the population wiped out. The Civil War had been bad enough. A chemical agent… A virus? No. It’s unfathomable. “Whatever we have to do, we’ll stop it.”

“I know. I’m just not sure we will be in any position to stop it,” Gillian admits with a sigh, looking down at where their hands connect and squeezing back with her fingers. She wishes they had more say in whatever this plan was. She wishes she felt like she could tell Squeaks without her just— running straight to Adam to find out the truth. Cause it seemed like something the teenager would do. Cause it was probably something Gillian would have done when she was younger.

She hoped that what she knew of Chess and Ryans and Joy would mean they would never have gone along with this and, if revealed suddenly, they would do whatever it took to stop it. She had to hope. “We have to play along with his plans as much as we have to.”

There’s a small laugh, as she looks back at the woman’s face with a grin. “I’d hoped the walk would settle me down a little. It’s been a long few months.”

“I know.” There’s a grim reality to all of that. The two of them may not be able to do anything about whatever Adam has planned for that virus. He’s kept everything so segmented… But there’s nothing they can do in the here and now to change it.

Instead, Niki smiles affectionately when Gillian grins. “Yeah,” she agrees with a breathy laugh of her own. “Yeah, I’d hoped so too, but…” With their hands still linked, Niki brings up the other one to cup Gillian’s cheek before she leans in to kiss her, softly at first, her eyes falling shut while her fingers slide into her wavy blonde hair.

For a moment, the sound of the waves just stops. Gillian can’t even hear it over the sudden humming in her head as the knot unravels with the sudden surge of emotions. It’s odd, she hadn’t really noticed it before, how Niki had felt differently since she had lost her ability. It wasn’t really there anymore, her ability had nothing to seek out, so she just relaxed and let it happen. It was one of the first times she could just let go in— so long. The kiss had been a surprise— but a welcome one. It had been too long since she had anyone she could kiss. She had someone she wanted to close by, but she couldn’t.

Suddenly, she has someone she can, and the want follows immediately after. Hazel eyes, with a tinge of violet, slide shut as she breaths in the subtle smells that made Niki, Niki. Her fingers tighten, and she leans up into it, meeting the kiss with an almost desperate desire for intimacy, even as she can taste the other woman’s lipstick for a moment. It doesn’t give her pause. She needed something, and Niki had offered it.

And perhaps had needed it just as much.

It’s been so unbearably long since Niki’s indulged this particular urge. It had been awkward enough during the war, locked away in the bunker with her family. After the war, she at least hadn’t been starved for touch for all that she and Tuck had inadvertently convinced people they were a couple. But after he had left… There’d been no one else. That need had gone unfulfilled and ignored.

Now, it isn’t, and Gillian doesn’t shy away from it. Niki deepens the kiss, letting her hand slip further into the other woman’s hair so she can cradle the back of her head. The hand laced with hers slips away and to Gillian’s side, sliding under the hem of her shirt and along the side of her ribcage.

With everything unravelling in a circus of feelings, Gillian doesn’t have time to think about the complex things, about why she had tears forming in her eyes moments ago, about why she wanted to go for this walk in the first place. This wasn’t the ending she had expected, but perhaps, right this moment, it was the ending they both needed. Walking back to one of their rooms would take longer than they both probably wanted to wait, so for the moment, the location is ignored.

The moment may never happen again, but it would happen.

“Thank you, Niki,” she rasps breathlessly against the blonde’s mouth, a quiet indication of gratitude, before she loses herself in the extended moment.

“Thank you,” she responds. Then, she lets her hand trail under Gillian’s shirt until she finds her chest, then the chain hanging there in the center. Her fingers close around the drive. “You need to stop touching this,” she warns quietly. “It needs to be a part of you. You don’t touch your elbow to make sure it’s still there.” Whatever it is, she doesn’t try to take it, but she knows it’s important and needs to stay hidden.

The secret is released and she grasps at Gillian instead, moving her mouth to her neck. They don’t need to talk anymore.

Really, sometimes, words were unnecessary.

Gillian manages a small sound of agreement, but other than that, there’s no real spoken acknowledgement of Niki’s advice. That small husky sound, and the hint of a nod, shifting hair and moving the skin of her neck under those soft, kisses moving down her neck. She does not reach to check the object again for the rest of the night— she somehow knows it’s there in a way she hadn’t been comfortable with before.

She no longer needed the reminder.

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