It Isn't About Winning


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Scene Title It Isn't About Winning
Synopsis Peter demands answers from his mother following her liberation from the prison convoy on Breakneck Road.
Date November 21, 2010

Pollepel Island

Beyond the wood-shuttered windows, night has come to Pollepel Island.

In the stone halls of Bannerman Castle, a frigid draft chills unoccupied spaces, where each private living quarters is shut off behind closed doors to keep the marginal heat available in each room as high as possible. While he should be sleeping in the infirmary, there is little to keep the mind of Peter Petrelli at ease enough to rest. A dull ache throbs in his right arm, bound in a sling and braced in an air cast as best as possible. Without proper medical facilities, it is the best treatment for a broken limb possible and one that may never quite heal right. Painkillers make Peter's head swim, stomach churn and temperment waver between muddled and morose.

Five doors down the arched hall, Peter stops and slouches up against one cold, stone wall. His eyes shut, breathing becomes uneven and a cold sweat slicks his scarred brow. When he pushes off of the wall it isn't to continue walking down the corridor, but rather to turn and face the door he'd stopped nearby to.

The rattle of metal hinges is subtle when Peter knocks on the door with his left hand as courtesy. It resonates inside and beyond the door, to the small and largely empty room beyond. The door creaks open on worn, old hinges and affords Peter a widening view of a makeshift living space, hastily furnished for the increased number of guests now residing here. The bed is little more than a folding cot laden with extra blankets, the top-most a gray woolen thermal blanket, wrapped around the frame of a dark-haired woman seated on the bed.

Light is spared by a single oil lantern set on a short and scuffed old table beneath a shuttered window, anachronistically placed beside a portable kerosine heated shedding a modest warmth into the old stone room. Peter's silhouette is backlit by the dim lights in the hall, but it does little to disguise him from the one person in this world that would know him before ever laying eyes on him.


She's alone in the room unless Peter counts shadows for company. A fur coat of mink, singed along the collar, sits on her shoulders for additional warmth, worn over the clothes she put on in the morning of the eighth, but Angela's son will have to guess at their make; she has on too many layers for him to get a good look at anything other than the tarnished pearls winking in her ears. She had a matching necklace earlier, when she was liberated from the prison convoy, but that has since been sacrificed, donated to the network so its field operatives will have something to trade for supplies in lieu of cash, which has itself become a commodity.

"Peter." There's relief in her voice, but no expectation. Although Angela has lived a significant portion of her life without having to want anything except a better world for her children to live in, she also spent enough time a camp called Coyote Sands, and Coyote Sands makes Pollepel Island feel like a five star resort.

It's even on the water.

Abruptly she rises, too fast, and catches herself with a brittle hand pressed hard against the cold stone wall to her left.

"Ma, what— " Peter hesitates in the doorway, lurches forward when Angela falters, but stops mid-stride when she catches herself. In the light of the lantern, its clear the damage done to Peter during the riots, expressing its way across his face as is destined to have happened one way or another, Hiro Nakamura and Formulas be damned. With his jaw set and throat tightening, Peter offers an askance look to the lantern, as if it reveals too much.

"What are you doing?" It's an exasperated, desperate question. "Ma, what were you doing on that truck?" That she was trapped there with Samson Gray is something that is secondary on his mind. Smoke and ash and too much hate take a second seat to something that hurts worse than the pain in his wrist, and that would be closer to his heart.

"Ma, where's Robert? Why— what were you doing there?" He can't believe that she was among the prisoners. That logical step is an implausible one to him, his mother is always one step ahead of everyone. The infallibility of parents, a childhood delusion that Peter is afraid to disprove a second time.

"He needed to find his wife," is all Angela has to say on the subject of Robert. Whether this means she told him to go or he took off regardless of what she might've otherwise demanded isn't clear, but there's no anger in her tone, only quiet, crackling remorse. "I needed to find Daniel, and the Financial District didn't seem that far away." Her hand drops, coming to settle beneath the one she has clasped at her front, blankets clutched between her bent fingers.

"A man took my purse. My passport, registration card, check book, everything—" A rickety breath of laughter interrupts her story, sad and harsh. That Peter stopped has her refusing to close what distance remains between them out of a misplaced sense of pride, though she does not sit back down again. If she wants to hug him, hold him, she isn't allowing herself. "They established a checkpoint a few blocks from the building. Everyone who had their identification with them was put in one line, and everyone who didn't was put in another. Soldiers checked our coats for weapons, and I'd taken your father's pistol with me. The one he used to keep in his desk at the office. You remember."

"And no one happened to recognize the President's mother?" Peter's tone is sharp, caustic and accusing. Too many times now has he been willed into a false sense of security by feigned weakness of his parents. He knows too well that they've survived too much, endured too much, for it to be that simple. "You're not that careless, mom. You don't— " Peter's throat tightens, emotion wanting to bubble up, the Peter she knows struggling to surface inside of the man she hardly recognizes as her own son.

"I remember the gun," Peter affirms, too much the memories of Arthur flooding back, too much the sensation of betrayal flooding back. "You're saying they put you on a prison convoy because you forgot your ID? When— when did they pick you up? The eighth? Later?" The accusing tone bubbles back to the surface, drowning the emotion out.

"Tell me what happened."

"It was the gun, Peter. Not the ID, but they wouldn't have checked if I'd had my card, would have believed me when I told them who I was, but everything was chaos. You have to understand the world we're living in now isn't the world we were living in a year ago." Angela's voice is quieter now, but also more insistent, and with none of the panic she must have experienced when what she described was still happening. "For God's sake," she hisses, terse. "Shut the door behind you. Someone is going to hear."

But she doesn't stop, regardless of if they do. "I saw a woman with a red scarf dragged behind a car by soldiers. Screaming. Gunshots. I don't know what happened to her, but I know why. What were you thinking?"

Silence comes over Peter for a long time, but it isn't a still silence. His eyes flick side to side as if trying to puzzle out the mystery of Angela Petrelli, one written some sixty years long and in a language he can only half understand. No combination of powers will ever afford Peter further insight into his mother, nor will they ever allow him to fully love her the way he did before Midtown was destroyed.

Slowly, reluctantly, he might at least find space in his heart to forgive her. Not today, however.

Brown eyes wander to the door, then back to Angela. "What was I thinking?" Peter's grates out those words as he takes a step back to the door, slams it shut, then wheels around to face Angela in the dim lantern light. "What was I thinking— ma I wasn't the one who made the city this way, made everyone afraid of us." Fingers wind up into fists, brown eyes grow wide and then slowly narrow and Peter's shoulders rise and fall with each rapidly taken breath.

"What were you thinking?" is his mirrored question.

"No, but you contributed." It's only a half-accusation, if such a thing exists, and lacks real heat. She does not engage Peter. Skirts along the edge of his fury instead, just out of arm's reach — both figuratively and not.

Angela is getting old, and she lacks the energy required to really argue. There are threads of silver in her hair that Peter doesn't remember seeing there the last time they were alone in a room together, and there are tremors in her hands that have nothing to do with adrenaline or emotional upset. There's no brand of make-up that will cover the dark circles under her eyes or make their sunken appear less noticeable, and without blush on her cheeks or lipstick on her mouth, she looks grayer than ever before: a corpse before being dressed for the wake.

"If you're here only to fight with me, then you should leave, because I won't. I'm finished with that."

"You don't get to start a fight and then say you don't want to anymore," is Peter's too-weak assertion, throwing back words his father used on him when he was a boy. Angela's sorry state is enough to keep Peter from pushing too much harder though, keeps his demeanor from burning as hot as the kerosene heater is trying to. Whether by coincidence or by Angela's own precognitive design, it's the perfect storm of conditions to get him to calm in her presence.

He also doesn't argue the point of Messiah, lest he ruin that calm.

"I've gotta' get you out of here," is Peter's next impulsive reaction. "There's enough people here that word's probably already gotten around that we picked you up. I can't— There's people from the Company here. I don't know who, but I heard there's former agents hiding out. They might not be too happy to see you, given that the country didn't come knocking on your door when everything fell apart."

Peter's throat tightens some, brown eyes dip down, and as Peter slowly approaches Angela his next demand is far less caustic. "C'mon," he offers out a hand, "sit down."

There's a moment where it looks like she might not, but Angela was not lying when she told him she was finished. She sits again, and the cot gives gently beneath her frail weight. A suitcase that does not belong to her has been tucked hastily under it, and a stuffed frog with too-long legs dangles in the corner of the window where its owner left it while she and her mother went to visit a sick friend in the infirmary, a reminder that although the castle often seems large and empty, there are not enough rooms to allow for the degree of privacy that most of Pollepel's refugees are used to.

"I won't go back to that city," she tells Peter. "What's left of the Company can do to me whatever it likes. You can do whatever you like, but you can't make me set foot in New York ever again.

"It's still burning, and it will continue to burn until there's nothing left."

"I'm tired, ma." Peter admits as he lifts a hand up to his face, palm resting against his brow with eyes shut. "I'm tired of… all of this," he gestures around the room with that same hand. "I'm tired of running, and hiding, and being used by everyone who knows my name because I happen to have something they want, or something they can use to make the world how they want it to be."

Dark brows furrow together, creasing that scar on Peter's forehead. "I'm tired of you telling me something, and expecting me to just… eat it up off of a spoon. I'm tired of all of the lies, mom." Rubbing his hand across his brow, Peter turns his back on Angela and paces across the floor. He's silent, there, staring down into the rippling waves of heat emanating off of the top of the metal heater, feeling the warmth on the front of his jeans.

"What aren't you telling me?" Peter turns to look back over his shoulder. "What did you see?"

Brown eyes meet brown and the expression on Angela's face is suddenly very wan, frightened, but before it can take hold and cement her mouth, she forces it into something more neutral. Children should not see their fathers cry, and while there's no rule about mothers, she doesn't want to show him her fear any more than she does her tears.

"I told you what I saw," she says then. "That fire is going to take everything. Ash will come down like rain, smother the remains in a dusty white blanket. You're sick in my dreams, Peter. It's a poison, and when you die, you leave behind—"

Whatever the end of that sentence, she can't quite bring herself to finish it.

Were Peter more versed on the specifics of one Doctor Darren Stevens ability, those words out of Angela's mouth might have terrified him. But Peter's ignorance only breeds an unhealthy mixture of resentment and curiosity. The former, rather than the latter, colors Peter's words. "When I die, the only thing I'm going to leave behind is that crater in Midtown…" Peter's brows furrow, head shaking as he slowly turns away from Angela again, rubbing one hand at the back of his neck. "There's nothing left for me here, in New York… anywhere."

Swallowing tensely, Peter's lips sag down into a frown and his eyes slowly fall shut. "I don't know why you did it. Why you made me do what I did to this city, and I know enough now to never expect to be able to get a straight answer out of you about it. I don't know what you were hoping to make, but this…" Peter gestures around himself, vaguely. "This, and whatever's coming… you helped paved the way for."

Drawing his teeth over his lower lip, Peter's eyes shut slowly. "You paved the way, and I helped finish it. The only poison in this room, is us."

Angela turns her head away, unable to look at her son any longer even with his shut. Her gaze steers toward the window and out it, past the ice on the pane, past the shadows of the trees and the vague shape of the Hudson River snaking through the dark beyond it. Whatever she's left unsaid is more painful than Peter's damning of them both, and that cuts deep enough that he's rewarded with an interruption in her breathing as the world around her goes blurry and wetness streaks down her cheeks, carves a hot, sticky path down the throat and makes damp the collar of her coat and what looks her a silk blouse beneath it.

"All a mother should want for her children is happiness," she says finally. "The only thing keeping me alive is the knowledge that you're going to find it, if only for a little while. I want to still be here when you do."

Peter can hear the emotion in Angela's voice, and that's the only reason he doesn't turn around to look at her. He's trying to be dismissive of her, trying to be his own person, but no matter how many scars he gets — inside or out — Peter will never be able to be anything other than a momma's boy, in the kindest sense of the word.

Angela wins this round of conversation, and Peter isn't petty enough to want to get the last word in either. All he does is find the willpower to make one foot move in front of the other, rather than gape in silence at the wall nearby. He moves; short, hesitant strides. By the time he's at the door though, some words — kinder words — do come to mind.

"Gillian's here…" seems like an odd thing to say, but Angela — for whatever inscrutable reason — seems to have looked out for her in the past. "Do you want her to know you're here?" He doesn't look back over his shoulder, doesn't say or do anything other than linger unwantedly at the door.

His mother won the argument, now he's just cleaning up in the aftermath.

"Tell her I'd like to speak with her," says Angela, and that is all. A hollow quality has entered her voice, and although Peter can't see it, she's using the edge of her blanket to mop at her eyes, her nose. It gets the job done well enough. Her face may even be dry by the time the mother and daughter who have, at least for now, welcomed her into her lives return.

It isn't about winning. Angela doesn't feel like she's won when every day is a reminder of what she's lost.

Her husband. The love of her children. Her life's work.

In that order.

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