If Ever


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Scene Title If Ever
Synopsis Richard skips out of Quarantine to visit Peyton after the disastrous expedition and the two make very tentative plans for a life in another universe.
Date January 14, 2012

The Hub, Peyton's subway car

The subway car that Peyton's claimed for herself is darker than usual; the lantern that usually illuminates the car is off, as are the strands of Christmas lights that she's strung along the ceiling. Whether the batteries are simply dead or whether Peyton simply hasn't turned the lights on, the darkness isn't as welcoming as the little residence usually is if Peyton's inside. It might seem like she's not "home," such as it is.

A look inside, visible through one of the windows that hasn't been covered with old posters or pictures from magazines, reveals that the former socialite is inside the dimly lit train car. She sits, curled up, in the corner, a bottle of whiskey beside her. The clairvoyant's eyes are open, but unfocused — the pupils aren't blown out like they are when she's using her power, but simply gazing off somewhere past her surroundings — the proverbial thousand yard stare.

"A penny for your thoughts…" …for your thoughts…

The darkness that is Richard Cardinal slides silently along the floor of the train car and up her leg, moving across half her body like a blanket of tenebrous contact, unfelt but present nonetheless. Perhaps an attempt from the scoundrel to offer comfort. He hasn't taken human form since the raid, instead lingering about the fringes of the returning survivors and refugees as they returned, making certain they got back safe and no Vanguard followed them.

Close now, he can see she's been crying — a rare thing for her. She hasn't witnessed anyone's death so "close" before — only by word of mouth, and for Peyton, it seems like it's first-hand, not second, but for the knowledge that she's safe and not in danger like he was when he saw what he saw. Her eyes are dry now, but red-rimmed, tear stains dried on her cheeks.

When he speaks, she gasps, hands twitching into a half-rise to throw around his neck, before they catch up to her mind's message that's a futile endeavor, and fall back into her lap. "Card," she whispers, a hand coming to her mouth. "Nothing worth a penny," she adds, one hand rising to shove her fuchsia-hued hair out of her eyes. "Are you cleared? I was so worried."

"The benefit of not having a body," Richard murmurs, "Means that I can't catch the virus… I never take physical shape outside here." …outside here…

There's a long, silent pause before he admits, "Pretty sure I'm hurt, though." …hurt…

"That's a good benefit," Peyton says quietly. She watches the shadowy form, fingers curling against an edge of where the darkness that is Richard ends, and the darkness that's simply their surroundings begins. It's not satisfying, but she doesn't ask him to shift into his corporeal self. When he speaks, it gives her an idea of why he hasn't yet.

"Hurt," she repeats, her brows drawing together.

"In your shadow form? I didn't think you could be… because of the rifle or…" oh. "The light?" Her eyes, dark as they are, glisten a little in the small amounts of ambient light there is, threatening to spill over. "You… what happens if you become you?" she asks, her voice small. Afraid. She means corporeal, of course.

"I keep seeing it all. When I sleep," she adds. "I can't imagine…" being there. Except she can. She was, in her way, though safe and yet not safe, here in the Hub.

"I don't think that I got a direct hit, but…" An undulation of wispy shadow is almost a shrug, "..it's not going to be comfortable, I can tell you that."

There's a few moments, "Okay. I'm going to solidify, okay? I don't think I'm that badly hurt…"

"Wait," Peyton says suddenly, sitting a little more upright. "Maybe you should do it with a medic or something around. I … I don't know how that shit works. I don't know how to help if it's bad." For once, she seems upset with herself for not being much of use — maybe because people who went out into the world died while she hasn't left the safety of the Hub in months. Years.

She sniffles. "I don't want to lose you," she whispers. "You and Kain, you're the only people…" she shakes her head, hands coming up to cover her mouth.

She takes a deep breath and lets it out, laughing weakly. "Shit. Sorry. I just… I don't know. The scav trips I've watched, nothing got that bad before. I didn't realize how bad it was. How bad it is."

"It… can get pretty bad out there, yes…" …pretty bad..

The sniper that he and Hana dealt with had more than a few proverbial notches in that barrel, and quite a few of them were scavengers from the Hub, after all. There are reasons that Cardinal just doesn't shift out of his morphed form when he's beyond the walls, and they're more than just the virus.

"I'll be fine. I'm sure, just… hold on a moment," he whispers, spilling off her, pooling on the floor of the subway car and spreading out like a fathomless abyss. It bulges upwards suddenly, a hand emerging from the dark and grasping the floor, followed by the rest of him. He's not - as he thought - too badly injured, but there's clearly what looks like a sunburn over half of his body, skin reddish and peeling in spots. "Ow," he hisses, rolling to his back, "Ow. Okay. Ow."

Peyton reaches for the lantern that she's had off, but thinks to drape something — a t-shirt, maybe — over it, before turning it on, giving the interior of the subway car a little more light — more for her sake than his, of course. It gives the little car a blue glow, the shirt being blue. She moves off the bench to sit beside him on the floor, wincing as he does, and reaching to take his hand. "Weird," she says. "I have some tylenol with codeine I claimed from one of the scavs. Not sure if it works for…" she gestures. "Sunburns, I guess?"

"If that Vanguard bitch'd hit me straight on, I'd've worse than a sunburn to deal with… looks like it was close enough," Richard breathes out slowly, and then he reaches up to clasp her hand, using it to slowly pushup to a seated position, "Ffffuck. I'll take it." A pained grimace on his face, nose wrinkling unpleasantly, "Goddamn photokinetics."

Once he's sitting, she leans forward to kiss him, a little more gently, a little more sweetly, than she normally would. "I'm glad it wasn't worse," she says. It's an understatement.

Standing, Peyton steps carefully over him, to go to the opposite side of the car where her stuff is kept, rummaging through a few bags and boxes until she gets a small metal tin and a bottle. These she brings back to him, sliding down next to him again before handing him each in turn. The little Altoids tin holds the pills; the bottle's another half-empty bottle of alcohol — this time, vodka.

She leans in, and he leans back in towards her - a gentle kiss, one hand raising to brush against her cheek. His eyes meeting hers as he says softly, "So am I."

Then he draws back to let her move past, reaching over to lift the tin, popping open the thin metal lid to claim a pill. The bottle's lifted, and both go down the hatch, his eyes closing as the vodka burns its way down and carries the painkiller with it.

"Thanks, beautiful," he breathes out, "I got out a lot easier than some of the others, at least."

She sits back down beside him, back against the bench. She reaches for the bottle of vodka to take a swallow as well, wincing at the burn of the cheap alcohol. This is not top shelf, by any means.

"Yeah," she says, quietly. "I haven't seen the others go before," she says quietly. It's just luck that she hasn't, or those who have died weren't people she was asked to look in on. "It was awful. And…" she shivers, pulling her knees up. "I was happy it wasn't you." She sniffles again, her hand finding his again, interlacing her fingers with his. "I'm a fucked up person."

"No more'n the rest of us are," replies Cardinal, his fingers sliding between hers to press against them warmly; more physical contact would probably be relatively painful in his current state of being. He shakes his head slowly, "Nothing wrong with being happy someone you're close to didn't get hurt or killed — even if other people did."

He offers her a wan smile, "That's just called caring about someone. Don't worry— " He winks, "I won't tell anyone."

His smile draws one from Peyton, the first of the night. "Ugh, gross," she says teasingly, but then she laughs softly, shaking her head. "I mean, I'm kidding, but kind of not. Because it sucked, worrying about you. I don't like the feeling at all."

Her hand squeezes his back, and she looks at their entwined fingers for a moment. "I wasn't ever afraid in here until now. I mean… yeah, we're surrounded by terrible things and people die, but I wasn't going out and you're safe in shadow form. It didn't seem real, you know? Even if everything sort of sucks — it's life. But now I'm afraid." She lifts a shoulder. "Denial, I guess. Do you really think we can get out of this mess?"

"I hope so." The pad of Richard's thumb brushes over the side of her hand for a moment as he watches them… and then he looks up, the faintest of smiles on his lips. "I know the feeling, though. I'm not supposed to be caring about anyone either, it's just easier— I mean— I was expecting for everyone here to die. Just be a shadow in the ruins forever. Now…"

He shakes his head, "I just hope we can all pull this off. Somehow."

"I won't tell anyone, either," she says, quietly, secretively, but a small, real smile curves her lips.

"Me, too," she adds to his wish.

"I wonder," she says quietly, bringing his hand up to her mouth to kiss his knuckles, "if we would've met if the world didn't go to hell like this. What we would've thought of each other. If we would have thought anything at all. It's weird, you know? So many of us in here… we wouldn't have even talked to each other in a normal world. School teachers and scientists and socialites and burglars. I mean I lived on Park Avenue, you know?"

"I probably would've tried to rob you blind," he admits, cracking a grin, "Slipped in and then out again with all your valuables… not that any of them are really valuable anymore." The grin fades, and he shakes his head slowly, "Who knows? I mean, there's some other world where I'm that Harrison woman's lover and you're her best friend or something, so…"

Peyton gives Richard a skeptical look at the last, but laughs, sliding a little lower to rest her head on his shoulder. "So you're a cad in all possible worlds," she says with a smirk. "It makes my head hurt, thinking about bizarro universes. I guess I'll just be glad I know you in this one. And hope we can get to the next one… whatever problems that brings. Though if I'm still rich I can probably get into her bank and clear out her accounts, yeah?" She lifts her brows as she tips her head to look at him. "Then we can go on a vacation or something somewhere that isn't a shell of its former self."

Cardinal shifts slightly as she leans against his shoulder, but he doesn't complain overly about the pain. "Oh, don't worry," he teases, looking back at her with a gentle smile, "Wherever we go, I'll just knock over a museum or something, make us rich, we can go somewhere tropical and shit. Just enjoy our lives." It sounds nice. If impossible.

"So romantic. No one's ever offered to rob a museum for me before," Peyton murmurs, tipping her head up to kiss his jaw lightly, mindful of the burn. She begins to hum the song "Kokomo," eyes closing sleeping before she opens them again. "After your burn heals," she adds with a smirk. Not that she really anticipates it would be so soon.

If ever.

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