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Scene Title Indebted
Synopsis It's too early in the morning for such serious conversation. Peyton and Wes discuss their mutual endangerment to one another and their debts to others that keep them here.
Date October 16, 2010

Redbird Security Wes' Apartment

The jangle and clank of keys and the thump of a rolled up newspaper being tossed onto the small wooden table and the heavy drawing in and blowing out of breath from canine mouths follow the sound of the door to Wes Smedley's apartment being opened at about 6:30 AM. It had opened before that - closer to a quarter till, and with similar noises of excited dogs and jingling keys.

You can take the cowboy out of the ranch, but you can't take the ranch out of the cowboy.

When he's sober, at least. The coffee that he put on before he left the first time gurgles as it nears the end, desperately siphoning the last of the water from the reservoir to drip through the basket of grounds. Carson follows him into the kitchen to lap at the water in his bowl, and Von is close behind him with the same goal in mind. But the younger dog only serves to be underfoot while Wes fixes himself a cup of coffee and moves to the living room.

The morning news isn't official on for another fifteen minutes or so, but that doesn't mean the news media channels aren't being filled with the repeated and rehashed stories of last night. He flicks the television on with a thumb across the remote and settles into the couch, kicking his boots up onto the coffee table as he sips his coffee.

After the slobbery drink of water, Carson leads the other dog back toward the bedroom where they realize a veritable vacancy sign has all been but hung thanks to Smedley's early hours, and both dogs leap up to curl against the sleeping beauty who would, if she had her druthers, not be up for another three hours minimum.

Fresh from the water bowl, unfortunately, Von slobbers a wet tongue against Peyton's shoulder and she yelps, jumping out of the bed, bare feet slapping the floor as she scrubs at the now-wet skin. "Gross," she mutters, voice raspy with sleep, but she ruffles both dogs as she stands, disappearing into the bathroom for a few moments. After the sound of water running and teeth brushing and toilets flushing, she emerges, wearing one of Wes' t-shirts as a night shirt as she pads out into the living room.

Not wanting to be alone, the dogs are quick on Peyton's heels, though they don't linger long outside the bathroom door. Instead, they move on down the hall to the living room to join Wes on the couch - Carson curling up under the shadow of his master's elevated legs and Von jumping onto the cushions to curl up beside the man. What's the point of sleeping in a pile when the pile is a meager two?

When Peyton emerges, Wes gives her a smile and nods toward the kitchen. "Mornin' Sunshine," he says. "S'coffee. Sorry if I banged about too much an woke you up." But when a dog's gotta go, a dog's gotta go.

"Mm," Peyton murmurs groggily but with a smile, and heads to the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee, adding the frufru creamers she's brought to his place — this one is "creme brulee" flavored — and Splenda. She stirs the sweeteners and cream into the cup and returns to sit on the other side of Von.

"You didn't wake me. The drool monster did," she says with a chuckle, ruffling Von's ears with her free hand as she brings the cup to her lips to sip from. She looks tired and worried, dark circles beneath her eyes despite several hours of sleep. "It's too early for sane people to be up, though. I'll have you know. I don't even get up this early for work."

But the perfectly polished news anchor has started the rehashed coverage of the Messiah attack on the New York DHS Facility and Secretary Praeger. Wes tenses, his own hand on Von moving from idly stroking the red-furred beastie to being stock still as he watches the same clips and photos flash across the scene that have been airing since that day. When Edgar Smythe's photo appears to the left of the anchor, he winces. But since there isn't anything new for the media to report concerning the government's continued hunt for the terrorists, and nothing concerning the one man they have in custody has been released to the public, the anchor moves on to speculative commentary, assisted by various talking heads pulled in from across the country.

"Mm," is the noncommittal answer that Wes finally grunts after his long period of inattention, but it comes as he sips his coffee. "Sorry about that," he adds when he turns his head, lifting his hand from Von to tuck a lock of Peyton's hair behind her ear.

Peyton frowns and pushes Von gently off the couch. The pup sighs and curls up next to Carson, lying his head on Carson's back. The older dog lifts a brow as if to say, 'Why me,' but lets the pup have his way.

Meanwhile on the couch, the clairvoyant curls closer to Wes, resting her head on his shoulder in somewhat of a mirroring of the dogs below. "We're trying to stop whatever Carmichael's trying to do. He has them brainwashed. If they can catch Carmichael — they'll probably drop the charges against the others, right? They're not acting of their free will," she says quietly, brows furrowed. Too many people she knows or knows of have been brainwashed by the man. "Maybe if they can clear his mind of whatever Carmichael's told him — maybe they can see he shouldn't be blamed for what he did."

"Maybe," Wes says before he moves his arm to drape around Peyton's shoulders, hugging her close at the same time he rubs her upper arm. "How do they even handle shit like that, though? I mean, they could just be sayin' that stuff about Carmichael, right? 'The Devil made me do it' ain't the best defense." Especially against charges like these.

He turns his head to place a kiss on Peyton's forehead, doing his best to ignore the sampling of extreme American politics that start duking it out on the screen. "So long's your fearless leader keeps you off the news," he murmurs, but he doesn't finish the thought out loud, and after a moment, the gears in his head switch back to thoughts of Messiah and Edgar. "Hell," he sighs, "gettin' off for somethin' like that ain't like erasin' the fact it never happened. He's still gonna be that guy, y'know? And everyone around him's gonna feel the same crunch."

"I don't know," Peyton admits, shrugging with a worried expression marring her delicate features, though she smiles at that kiss upon her forehead. "I mean, they have people who can look in their brains and find the truth. They have telepaths. They have lie detectors — the breathing, walking talking type, not electronic. I don't know how it works or what's admissible in court or whatever. But… if he needs a lawyer, I can help, okay? Don't let him just take the court appointed. I have money. I'll help. A good lawyer — if he really is brainwashed — a good lawyer should be able to prove it."

She sighs. "I'll let Card know he's a friend of yours — if he hears anything, he'll let me know," she adds, tipping her head to kiss his jaw lightly before lifting her cup to her lips again for another sip of coffee.

Friend. Yes, Edgar is a friend, helped to that position a great deal by Peyton's absence. "Employee," he adds, the words muffled by another sip of coffee. "He's a good guy, though," he murmurs after he swallows it. "But… shit, Pey. I can't risk that sort of thing." It's possible that not even ties to the Linderman Group through Kain Zarek could help a man wanted for the attempted murder of a government official.

Besides all that, what would Edgar do if his boss were in a similar situation?

The only one Wes can dream of has many of his friends turning their backs on him.

"Risk what sort of thing?" she asks, leaning forward to set her mug down on the coffee table before curling closer to him, bare legs curling beneath her as she wraps her arms around him. "Just knowing him? I mean — you're a smuggler. It's not like people are gonna worry about your reputation just because someone you work with went all terrorist, right? I don't know how all it works, but smugglers seem like they shouldn't be throwing stones about people breaking the law, and I don't think anyone you'd be working with or dealing with is going to be heartbroken or upset he tried to kill a government type."

Her eyes seek his. "I'm a little innocent in that kind of thing, still, so maybe I'm wrong and don't understand how it works."

Resting his mug against his leg, Wes turns his face again to look at Peyton, the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth exaggerated with a frown. "Sure, but we're all pretty damned good about keeping the law off our backs. That ain't to say the ATF wouldn't love to have Wesley Smedley locked away, but I keep my self out'uh their special brand'uh cuffs by not bein' too big'uh fish and not leavin' a trail'uh shit they can actually use." All tricks learned early on from the man who brought him into the game.

"Havin' someone like Edgar around's a liability now. People'll see him, or know he's mine, and they'll get scared thinkin' if we run afowl'uh the Coast Guard or some other shit, his face'll make people think we ain't out fishin'. Scares off business, and no amount'uh charm can fix that." He sighs, then breaks Peyton's gaze to take another sip of coffee. "Bein' recognizable like that ain't good."

Peyton nods slowly — she hadn't thought of it like that, clearly, but his last words bring a furrow to her forehead as she sits back up, reaching for her own mug. "Is it," she says slowly, bringing the mug to her lips to buy time as she blows first then sips the hot liquid, "a problem being with me? I mean… I'm recognizable, too. And I'm connected to a security firm, and to people who are known for working with the government."

Wes just laughs at that, but it's a slow, easy sort of chuckle that comes as he leans forward to grab the remote and mute the television shortly after Peyton moves away from him. "You don't see me galavantin' around Staten with you, d'you, Pey? I ain't got your picture in my wallet, or even on the dash'uh my boat. I love you, babe, but I ain't about to put you in any danger any more'n I'll invite it in by wearin' you on my sleeve."

He pauses long enough to polish off his coffee and rest his arm over the back of the couch, looking thoughtfully at the now muted debate raging on the television. "Truth be told, if your papa'razzie friends got wind'uh you 'n me on a slow news day, I ain't sure the business would be the least'uh my problems."

The brunette clearly misses the little hint in his words, shaking her head and leaning her head back on his shoulder. "The paparazzi really doesn't give a shit about me these days, Wes, and I'm pretty happy about that. I'll tell you a secret."

She averts her own eyes, turning to stare at the television, though she may as well be looking through it. "When I first was trying to get into the scene? I used to call them to tell them where I'd be with whatever super cool star I was hanging out with. That way I'd be in the pictures when they showed up to get pictures of Paris or Lindsay or Justin or whoever. I fucking invited them into my life, you know? Because I wanted to be … I don't know. Someone important."

She chuckles, though there's little humor in it. "They're not that interested now, and I certainly don't invite them, now. The people who care about that stuff — they don't care about things like what we're trying to do with Endgame, or what Ferry was trying to do. They don't care about DHS and Evolved Affairs. They want to open up People magazine and see who wore the same stupid gown to the red carpet or who slept with who or who named their baby Cantaloupe."

But even out of the limelight, the name Peyton Whitney is synonymous with a whole new set of ideas and topics, none of which have anything to do with clubbing or oddly named babies. Wes lets his arm fall from the back of the couch to wrap lazily around her once more when she leans against him. It's natural enough to do so, without any reason or implication other than it's the best place for his arm to be.

"I ain't gonna hold that to you," he says with a sly sort of smile, looking down at her face without moving his head much. "But even if the people who do care about the sort of shit Redbird's involved in, even with your government contracts or whatever, with you bein' part owner… well, I ain't gonna risk the debate on whether or not it's a good idea to be close to the thing that hunts'yuh or the other way around."

With a quizzical look back at him, she shakes her head. "Not sure I understand. Are we talking about … you and Edgar now, or you and me?" she says softly, moving away to set that cup of coffee back down, and straightening to look at him without having to peer up from her place on his shoulder. "Am I … endangering you?" she says, voice soft, eyes narrowed not with anger but worry.

Wes blinks, then turns his head slightly so that his view of Peyton is more sidelong than straight on. "Other way around, Pey," he murmurs, his eyes slightly narrowed. "Job goes south, and I can't make a drop? I don't get what's expected where it needs to be on time, or at all? And someone gets a little angry and loses their grip?

"I don't want someone comin' after you lookin' t'get to me. So I ain't broadcastin' that you're part'uh my life, but that's for your safety. Remember, there're plenty'uh folks in my line'uh work that'd rather shoot a man cold than try't come t'uh compromise." And Wes is clearly in the latter category.

"Okay," she says softly, though her eyes drop to the mug of coffee on the table. "You know I'm not worried about that," she adds, with a shrug, "but I'm okay with not advertising stuff, too. I mean…" She pauses, reaching with one foot to pet Von's back for a moment, pedicured pink toes digging into the thick fur.

She shrugs, not sure how to explain what she means. "Look what happened with Rhys. He was able to manipulate me. I don't know what would have happened if I just got the crane like everyone else. I mean Zarek — I wouldn't want him not to be born, so I probably would've gone, but maybe not, not like… not like worrying about myself or my father. And my power —" she shakes her head. So far, she's never been forced to use her power; she's only used it willingly or accidentally, but if someone found out what she could do, to what extent she could do it…

She shivers slightly and shakes her head. "It's probably for the best. You're right."

How practical — and unromantic, to agree not to shout their relationship from the rooftops. She stands, picking up her own mug for a refill and holding her hand out for his. "Refill?"

Wes doesn't have to be an empath or even a telepath to be able to read Peyton's thoughts. They're plain as day on her face, especially given his experience growing up with four sisters.

So when Peyton reaches for his mug, he gives her his hand instead and pulls her back down toward his lap even as he rests his empty mug on the cushion beside him. His own expression is still one of wrinkled worry, and it stays there when he cradles her face in his weathered hands in an attempt to smooth her own frown away. "Hell, Pey," he breathes, studying her individual features for a moment before he's able to lock his gaze with hers, his hooded eyes narrowed slightly.

"If I could ranch again? If I could get out of the game and just live quiet like someplace? I would. And you bet your britches I'd drag your ass with me and teach you how to milk a cow and keep chickens. But I'm…" he pauses, pressing his lips tightly together as he looks at her, "I'm in too deep. Zarek offered me a deal to make…things go away. Make it so I didn't have to worry about shit. S'all fine and dandy, but now I got a debt to him. He can call it a partnership till he's blue in the face, but who's to say if I cut ties and go legit he won't decide to un-pull whatever strings he's got access too? I can't risk that, but I also can't be any help t'you and t'Endgame if I'm not in the position to bring in supplies."

When she lands in his lap, she laughs softly, setting her own mug beside his and bringing her arms to rest on his shoulders. "I'm not mad at you, Wes," she murmurs softly. "It's not your fault things are the way they are, and I get it. And I'm probably as dangerous to you as the other way around. Maybe even more so — if people figure out what I can do. They don't really know — only a handful of people do."

She leans her forehead against his. "I understand about paying debts. I know you think maybe Card puts me in too deep too, but I wouldn't do it if I weren't willing. I owe him a lot. I'm repaying debts that I know he wouldn't hold me to, he's not that kind of person, but I owe him a lot." She swallows and tips her head to brush her lips across his. "Kain — I donno. He's on our side right now, but I don't know how much on our side, and he doesn't know you're on our side. That's all over my head."

She leans back, dark eyes peering into his blue. "I'm never milking a cow, for the record."

Wes's hands slip easily around Peyton's waist, and he's more than willing to be kissed and held in turn, despite the heavy subject matter of their conversation. But with the scale balanced, he seems to relax some. She knows where he's coming from, because she's been there, even if the circumstances weren't exactly the same. But the mention of Cardinal makes him hold his breath back for a moment, even if it does come out in another lazy chuckle at her declaration.

He turns her, laying her against the couch and quickly twisting to hover over her and then slowing placing a line of kisses down her neck. "Maybe not," he murmurs with a grin easily felt by it's proximity to skin.

"They get up awful early."

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