Moments In Time


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Scene Title Moments in Time
Synopsis This is the one way, and the other/Is the same, not in movement/But abstention from movement; while the world moves/In appetency, on its metalled ways/Of time past and time future.
Date September 29, 2010

Upper West Side - Peyton's Apartment

The evening sun floods the city with liquid gold as it melts across the darkening sky, sliding toward the horizon. Light splashes against skyscrapers on one side to throw the opposite into shadow. It bathes the streets to make commuters curse and use their visors like ineffective shields to hold off the assault. There are clouds on the horizon, but they have yet to crowd out the sun's dying glow. A few of the trees in Central Park have started to don their flavescent shawls in preparation for colder weather, but the others are still proudly wearing their verdant summer attire.

Autumn, a somber time, paints the slow death of the world with ochre blood in a wide range of hues. But like so many things, it is just one season, one step in a life cycle dictated by time.

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

The shadows of buildings stretch behind the light before the sweep of the night that ushers the sun below the skyline tucks them away, leaving only their night-lights, alive in so many windows, to break up the blackness. Wes Smedley stands as a silhouette against one of these squares of light, his figure bent over a balcony railing. When he's at his own place, all he can think of is Peyton. The building is her workplace. She is the one who brought him there, who showed him the apartment. Thinking of her, remembering her, is as painful as it is necessary. For as long as Wes can remember Peyton, he can take some small amount of solace in the idea that she's not failed to protect her father in the past.

But no matter how tightly he clings to this, there is still the needling possibility that she has slipped away and the odd conjecture of what his life would be like if he had never known the young woman. She had to go. If she hadn't, and her father had died, then she wouldn't have ever existed and Wes's life would be remarkably different despite how subtle her influence may have been on his day-to-day dealings. Even without the memory of Peyton to haunt him, Wes isn't comfortable with the man he'd be if she didn't exist. A man without a purpose. A man possibly in jail for fraud and false registration. A man being questioned in a murder case. He wrings his hands as he stares out across the park into the transitioning sky, looking east into the shadows. A light breeze plays with his tousled hair and makes him narrow his eyes.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Here, in her apartment, Wes is surrounded and immersed in all things Peyton. Even if the space hasn't changed much since her parents owned it, in his mind, every detail screams of her. Here he can lose himself in her smell, in the inconsequential things that made up her everyday life. It's something Wes is conscious of as he walked through her rooms earlier, letting his eyes fall on objects that remain where she left them - the magazines strewn across the coffee table, the remote control resting on the arm of the couch, a pair of shoes kicked off to one side - and the nostalgia burns in his throat. It's irrational. It's unnecessary. It's bothersome. It's why he had to get some fresh air.

The balcony, for all the distraction the city has to offer, doesn't help much. He'd shared moments with her here, too, watching the stars and sharing snippets of their pasts and foggy, hinted out futures. But at least here, he can face the sky and the wind and at least try to pretend he’s someplace else.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose-garden.-

A few stars peek their way through the cloudy blackness of the New York night - angelic flashlights set against a thick cosmic fog. Inside the apartment, Von and Carson lie curled up with one another at one end of the couch, a strange parody of their owners. Von springs to life, rolling with a grunt onto his back and leaning his head against the older dog's side, his mouth open and ears flopping. Carson doesn't lift his head, but opens his eyes to look sidelong at his rambunctious friend before he lets out an exasperated sounding sigh. On the chair closest to the dogs hangs Wes's jacket, along with the leather holster with his twin revolvers.

He's spent so much time worrying about her, waiting for her, thinking about her. Thinking about what she is to him. But even knowing resolutely doesn't help to bring her back any faster. Knowing certainly doesn't help him feel like he's standing on solid ground without her here, and that thought alone is unsettling enough by itself.

He has half the mind to haul her off to some remote location as soon as - whenever - she returns. Somewhere in the Smokies maybe. Just so he can block out the city’s demands on his attentions and focus on her for a spell. But that wouldn’t be fair to Peyton and the other people who depend on her for more than just an eight hour workday.

-My words echo

Thus, in your mind.

But to what purpose

Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves

I do not know.

Of course, Peyton has more important things to worry about than what is happening in her own time, and Wes isn't about to begrudge her the right to be selfish. She has a lot on her mind right now. Going to not only save her birth father, but also get to know him - saving herself from non-existence while she stares a looming death that's just over a month away in the face with austere dignity that puzzles Wes - juggling obvious affections for one man while she still (perhaps?) longs for the attention of another, getting a fledgling business off the ground, and doing her part to make sure the future that comes to pass is as benign as it can possibly be.

Wes lifts a hand to scratch at his jaw, still peppered with a slow growth left unchecked by a razor, then lowers it to rub the heel of his hand against his chest, dragging the thinning fabric of his t-shirt with the motion. The circles under his eyes have reached some sort of critical mass since a few nights ago, but at least he's showered recently enough for his hair not to be sticking out at odd angles due to a build up of oil.

Lowering his hand and readjusting the other, he grips the railing of the balcony and leans back, bending at the waist once again to stretch the muscles in his upper back and arms. It's a good stretch, given the amount of tension that he's built up since two Tuesdays ago due to worry on top of work, but the relief it brings is short lived.

It's been a long week and a half, and it's shaping up to be a long night.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

It is unlikely Wes can see from his viewpoint the forlorn figure that passes beneath his balcony. Peyton is not wearing the clothes she left in, but instead a sweater and jeans and boots that didn’t come from her own closet. The messenger bag that carries her gun and photo album is splattered with mud, and a coat too heavy for the still-warm but cooling weather of autumn is slung over the top of that bag. She turns into the lobby of her building, smiling wearily at the doorman who greets her, but knows well enough not to ask her how she is; the swollen and red eyes of the girl he’s watched grow up are enough to answer that question.

The elevator carries her to her floor, and she has the keys out to unlock her door by the time she arrives on her doorstep, eager to get into the apartment and lock out everything in the world beyond it. That the door is already locked, she doesn’t notice, the key easily turning in the slot and the door swinging open. The welcome wagon of the two dogs, one larger and older and one juvenile and smaller, alerts her to Wes’ presence.

Peyton lets the courier bag slide from her shoulder to the ground as she shuts the door behind her. She does not seek Wes but slides down the length of the door to sit on the ground, knees drawing to her chest as she leans her head on her hands, her elbows on her knees.

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

Once both dogs are over their momentary jubilation at Peyton’s arrival, their sixth sense of sorts kicks in. Something is wrong. Von whimpers and moves to lick at Peyton’s tear-stained face while Carson curls up at her side, leaning against her and laying his head on his paws. There are few things in the world as unconditional as canine comfort.

This is how Wes finds them, and either his footfalls are soft despite his boots, or else Peyton’s thoughts are loud enough that she can’t hear them. He lingers in the hallway for as much time as it takes him to fill his lungs with air. Seeing her her is enough to rob him of that breath, let alone seeing her like this. In three more strides he’s in front of her and sinking to his knees. He starts to reach for her, but he hesitates. Instead, he cuts it across to grab Von by the extra skin of his neck and gently pull him away, forcing the pup to sit at his side.

He swallows, taking in her tragic posture one piece at a time. For once, he actually wants to look into Peyton’s eyes and cannot, not because of some mental block but because she is hiding them. A smile for the small irony flickers in one side of his face.

“Hello there, pretty lady,” he murmurs, his words half-choked, as if he were trying to dislodge something from his throat at the same time he forces them out.

She drops her hands, but her eyes are still downcast, shielded by her long dark lashes. Red and swollen as they are, it’s easy for him to see that the crying has been going on for some time. The rest of her face is pale but for a healing laceration to her temple surrounded by the strange motley colors of healing bruises, blue and purple and even a touch of yellow.

Her forehead furrowed in a deep scowl, Peyton doesn’t say anything but simply grabs Wes by the shoulders, moving up off her rear and onto her knees so that she can cling to him. Her wet cheeks turn to the warm comfort of his neck, and she holds him tightly, her own need to be held in return practically screamed out in her silent body language.

Yet the enchainment of past and future

Woven in the weakness of the changing body,

Protects mankind from heaven and damnation

Which flesh cannot endure.

The weight of her rocks Wes back onto his heels, but his arms come up to wrap around her almost instantly. The breath he’d paused to take is squeezed from his lungs as she clings to him, but it comes out in a staccato rhythm at first before the rest is expelled in a heavy sigh. One hand cradles the back of her head, his fingers curling into her hair. There’s a pressure there, but he’s conscious enough to be careful of her wound and the headache it must be giving her. He wraps the other arm across her back and his opposite arm to grip her shoulder, dragging the loose fabric of the borrowed sweater with each hook like finger.

And he doesn’t move. He simply holds her with his chin resting against her head, his own face exposed to the air of the apartment, held in a grimace as he fights to stay as strong as she needs him to be. At least on the outside, anyway.

Carson repositions himself after a few moments so that his warm, solid weight is pressed up against Peyton’s leg. Released from Wes’s grip, Von is free to sniff at his mistress, his face taut with concern and interest over the smells she’s carried home.

Letting herself be held, letting herself be reassured that she’s in the present, that she’s safe, that she’s alive, Peyton breathes deeply. Nothing has changed — her father is still dead, not newly lost. Wendy is still dead. She didn’t abandon her to be murdered — she’d already been murdered. Peyton swallows hard, her throat making a soft, stifled sound as she tries to hold back the grief — the grief is new, renewed, reborn. All of the pain of losing her father and her best friend last spring is a fresh wound on top of an old scar.

Finally she lifts her head enough to speak, taking a deep breath and exhaling again, her breath warm on his neck. “Thank you,” she whispers. Whether for taking care of Von or holding her or just being here — it is unclear. For all three. For something else altogether.

Wes tilts and dips his head in an attempt to look at her, his eyes lingering over her wound before he moves his hand to brush her hair away from her face with his fingers. Through the tumult of raw emotion that creases his face around his mouth and eyes, making tiny furrows for tears to trickle through, a gracious, triumphant glimmer shines. It makes his eyes twinkle, and his lips twitch.

Swallowing, he leans forward just enough to press a kiss to her forehead. A silent acceptance of her unnecessary appreciation inherent in the gesture. He could say ‘thank you’ just as well, but he knows it wouldn’t be fair. Not now, not when heaven only knows what is weighing on her mind. “Let’s get you cleaned up,” Wes says in that same strained whisper after a moment, moving his other hand to rub at her upper arm. “You’ll feel better after somethin’ hot to drink and a bath.”

She seems surprised that she needs “cleaned up,” looking down at herself — by the tick of her internal clock, it hasn’t been so very long since she left Wendy’s apartment out the fire escape, even if by “real” time it’s been months. But there is blood on her coat from where she’d clung to Winslow, grass stains on the knees of the brand-new jeans from falling to the ground in anguish.

“I’m…” She’s what? Okay? Because she’s not. She shrugs, letting him lead her where he wll, perhaps sensing that he needs to take care of her. The pain in his face is not unnoticed, and she brings a hand up to touch his face lightly. “Is everything okay here?” she murmurs, afraid to know if she’s somehow caused some horrible chain of events to happen, if she stepped on the butterflies in the past that might have caused pain for someone she cares about in her present.

After that small amount of affection given to him, she finally stoops to pet the dogs, frowning a little at Von. “I swear, he got bigger in just… how long have I been gone?” she says, staring at the dog — he’s probably just a little wider because Wes spoiled him in her absence.

Wes is reluctant to let Peyton slip too far away from him, but it’s clear poor Von is starved for Peyton’s attentions. He practically jumps into her arms when she stoops to pet him, lifting up on his hind legs to place his paws on her shoulders and continue with the thorough snuffle and lick-fest that is centered on her face. Carson stands to, but after giving Peyton’s legs a sniff, moves off down the hall to reclaim his spot on the sofa.

“Shy’uh two weeks,” Wes answers, lifting a hand to rub at the back of his neck, then his scruffier-than-usual jaw. “Everythin’s fine,” he says, looking back down the hall before he steps to lock the door once again. There’s more to that statement, and the emptiness that remains unfilled hangs heavy in the air. Wes bends to duck beneath the cloud of it and press his palm to Peyton’s back. “Go on,” he says, nodding down the hall to the bathroom. “I’ll bring y’somethin’ when it’s done.” What, he doesn’t say.

Her eyes widen at the fact she’s been gone over a week — and he knows her fears well enough to know how dear her time is, when she thinks it is so very limited. “God. I’m sorry — I didn’t… I didn’t even ask you to take care of him… I thought I’d be back the same day,” Peyton murmurs ruefully, guilty at not having ensured the small soul entrusted to her keeping was taken care of.

“I’m lucky to have you,” she adds, stepping closer to him again to brush her lips across his cheek, the soft skin of her lips making a gentle scrape against that bristle. She leans her head against his for a moment, as if wearily resting, before she nods and moves toward the hallway to her bedroom to seek the solace of steam and soap and hot water.

He closes his eyes at the kiss and breathes with a contented, elongated sort of grunt. He doesn’t move when Peyton starts her way down the hall - not until she’s turned the corner toward the bathroom. He can’t let her vanish again.

It’s for that very reason that he works as quickly as he can in the kitchen. Wes finds the biggest mug he can lay his hands on and fills it with milk, heating it in the microwave and then adding a spoonful of sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract he’s dug out of some long forgotten cabinet. But the most important ingredient is rum. Halfway through the process he slows, wanting to bring her the warm drink once she’s settled. Not wanting to see just how many bruises have marred her otherwise perfect skin.

The nightcap is warm against his calloused hands as he carries it through the apartment toward the bathroom. Hopefully she took his advice and isn’t in the shower. Hopefully she’s already slipped into the water and is letting it soak away the aches and pains that are the souvenirs of her journey.

Standing at the bathroom door, he leans his forehead against it and knocks.

The luxury apartment that Peyton calls home includes a whirlpool bathtub, which she doesn’t usually make use of. But the sound of the water rushing from a shower is different from that of a filling tub, and it’s the latter that greets Smedley’s ears as he leans against the door.

“Come in,” she calls, her voice a little stronger than it was in the other room. When he enters, the tub is half full with water and bubbles, the faucet still filling its depths. The steam is redolent with the scent of pomegranate and spice. Peyton’s already within the bath, knees still visible above the water line, due to the low slouching posture she’s taken, head on the little neck rest at the back of the tub. Her eyes are closed, but they open a moment after the door opens. For now they are dry.

She offers a smile, looking a little chagrined at the fuss he is making over her. “I’m sorry to worry you,” she tells him, low voice husky from crying, soft with solemnity.

Wes doesn’t speak until he’s settled down next to the tub, but he does take the time to close the door behind him on his way there. He rests the mug on the side of the fixture, taking advantage of the place where the edge widens before it meets the wall. With a sigh, he leans his head back against the wall, resting his arms on his knees.

In another moment, he turns his head to look at her, his smile lazy yet content. “I’m just glad you’re safe,” he murmurs back at her. “Worryin’ helped me stay sane, if y’can believe that.” He lifts a hand to reach across the span of water between the edge of the tub and her knee in order to touch her. It’s like a pinch - to make sure he’s awake, and to make sure she’s really here.

Her eyes half closed — it’s clear she’s exhausted, though more from emotional turmoil than a lack of sleep. “It might sound silly, but knowing someone was here and now thinking about me — I don’t know. It feels like it somehow might have kept me safe. Like I couldn’t be hurt because someone’s expecting me back.” She gives a small huff of a laugh. “I mean — I don’t even know how I’m still here. Not because Winslow was in danger — I mean, he was, but he wasn’t, like, why I was really there…” She reaches up to rub her eyes. “It’s complicated.”

Her hand moves to the mug, lifting it and smelling it with curiosity, before finally bringing it to her lips and sipping. She savors the taste for a moment, then closes her eyes. “I feel like I lost them all over again. But really — nothing’s different.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Wes says with a breathy chuckle as his own eyes close a little and his thumb sweeps over the bend of her knee. “You’re different. S’clear enough.” Is it even possible that his focus on Peyton’s memory did keep her out of harm’s way? She certainly didn’t escape unscathed.

He’s different, anyway. Or maybe he isn’t. Maybe he’s the same as he was before she left, but just has a name for it now, as hesitant as he may be to speak it. It’s one thing to be aware of a series of moments, but quite another entirely to be able to look at them and pronounce them the consolidation of a state of mind. Such a feat takes time - time Peyton gave Smedley by going away.

Time past and time future

Allow but a little consciousness.

To be conscious is not to be in time

But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,

The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,

The moment in the draughty church at smokefall

Be remembered; involved with past and future.

Only through time time is conquered.

“I’m glad you’re back,” he echoes again. His smile fades for a moment as he thinks, forcing the weary cogs of his brain to churn around just a few more times before he’ll allow them to slip into blissful, unerring routine. “I know it’s gotta hurt, jumpin’ like that. Seein’ people like that. But…well, it’ll pass. You had good times with ‘em, right? Mud and blood aside? More mem’ries to look back on. That’s gotta be a good thing.”

Good times. Nothing — not a moment — of her time with Winslow could she call good. And all of the giggles while movie watching and pedicuring with Wendy are now tainted by the look of betrayal her friend had thrown her.

If looks could kill, Wendy might be alive, and Peyton would be dead.

Peyton turns her head away to stare at the tiled wall of the bathroom rather than look in his eyes. She doesn’t shake her head. She doesn’t say no. She doesn’t lie.

“Nothing’s different,” she repeats. That’s what’s important, right? That they kept the present in the status quo, that they kept the path of time the way it’s meant to go. Her eyes close tiredly. “It was just the same thing all over again. Not enough time, and him thanking someone for giving him all this time to see me grow up. He keeps getting the time that I don’t,” Peyton says, a little bitterly and irrationally. “I never have more than a few minutes with him — maybe a couple of hours this time — it’s not enough to know a person.”

It’s enough to know he loved her — but is it enough to love him in turn? Peyton is still conflicted about her feelings for Albert Winslow — he sacrificed for her; he risked everything for her. But she can’t truly know him based on the short amount of time spent with him. The fact that he loved her despite seeing her grow up to be a drunken socialite seeking fame for all the wrong reasons is perhaps enough for her to love him back. Unconditional love is a rare thing — the genetic bond shared is enough for her to feel like she loves him. She certainly feels the loss of him deeply, despite not having him in her life until this past year.

Whoever the other person is — for Wes doesn’t know where Peyton was brought after 1915 — she doesn’t choose to elaborate on that. The look of Wendy’s face when she raged at her friend, the last memory of Wendy in Peyton’s anachronistic friendship with her — it’s too painful. She feels like she lost her best friend in more ways than to death.

Were they on the couch rather than the bathroom, Wes would waste no time in gathering Peyton into his arms in some futile attempt to console her. Instead, he slowly withdraws his hand from her knee when she turns away, resting it instead on the edge of the tub as he looks at her slightly angled profile.

He knows that Albert Winslow - Peyton’s biological father - didn’t have a hand in raising her as a child. But still. “You know who you are,” he says in that same soft, half-awake sort of voice. “An’I can’t help but think that there’s gotta be some stuff passed on by blood alone. Nature rather’n nurture.” His eyebrows furrow upward slightly, knowing his argument is weak.

With a breath, he pushes himself up to his feet and heads toward the medicine cabinet. He wipes the hand that’s slightly damp from being on Peyton’s knee against his thigh before he lifts it to start rummaging through the cabinet, looking for basic first aid. Antiseptic and a bandage for that wound on her head, primarily.

“I have his eyes,” Peyton murmurs, though she is sure that’s not what he means. She reaches forward to turn off the faucet that’s still running, even as she’s about to get out, then pushes herself up, careful not to knock over the milk and rum concoction that Wes brought her. She picks up the towel from where’s folded over the rack, wrapping herself in the fluffy burgundy cloth. She reaches for the mug once more, then tilts her head at his rummaging.

“The Xanax and Valium are in my parents’ bathroom,” she says, a playful tone in her voice as she watches him through the mirror reflecting his face back at her.

The detail of the pattern is movement,

As in the figure of the ten stairs.

Desire itself is movement

Not in itself desirable;

“See,” Wes says with a laugh that shakes his shoulders just enough to be visible. He turns, his eyes meeting hers for a moment before he drags his gaze up to the wound, squinting slightly at it. His hands deftly open a large Band-Aid, peeling it away from the paper wrapping. He’s no field medic, but he’s dressed enough of his own nicks and scrapes to have some idea of what he’s doing.

It doesn’t look too bad, but the the scab is still relatively new. “Your eyes’r one’uh the things I love about you, Pey,” he says idly, as he works, smoothing away her hair and bracing the side of his hand against her head so he can free up his fingers to peel away the last bits of packaging and stick the bandage to cover the scab.

Tipping her head to let him apply the bandaid, even though she’s fairly sure it won’t last past this night, Peyton arches a brow up at him. Those dark eyes that are the topic of conversation sparkle with a touch of merriment and something else. “Boring and brown, very plain jane. Nothing compared to yours, but we all can’t be Wes Smedleys and Paul Newmans and Mel Gibsons, right?” She brings one hand up, her fingertips brushing his scruffy jawline.

Those fingertips move to the bandaid once it’s been flattened against her temple, and she gives a rueful shake of her head. “They call it pistol whipped, right? Except it was a rifle. Whatever Belgian soldiers carried in World War I.” Peyton offers up that small detail of where she’s been, of when she’s been. “Let me go get some pajamas on and maybe we can Netflix on demand that movie you were telling me about,” she adds. The one she teased him about — It’s a Wonderful Life.

Of course, she won’t say it’s because she doubts she’ll make it to Christmas — despite Cardinal’s words insisting they will change that future, despite Wes’ every move made with the intent to keep her here, Peyton has her doubts.

“Rich’s molassess and just as sweet,” Wes counters with his characteristic half-grin before he kisses her forehead again, running his hands through her hair for a moment. A father in World War I doesn’t seem plausible, but crazier things have happened, Wes is sure, and he’s smart enough not to ruin the moment with questions.

There will be other times for him to ask Peyton about her father, to help her remember him and what times they did share, good or bad, as well as get a sense for the man himself. He gives her another kiss, this time nuzzling his way in to press his lips against hers. The scruff is bothersome enough that he breaks it with a slight chuckle and a promise to himself to shave in the morning. The subconsciously-imposed hiatus on the finer points of self-grooming is over. There’s someone to shave for again. There’s someone to do a lot of things for again.

Love is itself unmoving,

Only the cause and end of movement,

Timeless, and undesiring

Except in the aspect of time

Caught in the form of limitation

Between un-being and being.

He furrows his brows at her though, and shakes his head. “That movie is for Christmas, and you’ll ruin it if y’watch it at any point’n the year you ain’t got a tree up and there ain’t snow outside.” He gives her backside a slight thwack to send her out of the bathroom, following after her with a slight swagger. “Pick somethin’ lighter.”

Not that either of them will be doing more than using it as a distraction - something to fill the air to make talking an unnecessary task. Lying close, arms wrapped about each other while the lights of the television flicker across faces, with dogs slumbering nearby may be the best prescription for wounds such as these.

If life is made up of moments, then so many of those moments are filled with cloud-like fluff, or else layered in it to keep the darker, stronger, richer tenors and themes from rising through - like whipped cream over devil’s food cake. But it is those seemingly inconsequential moments that one dwells. How someone’s hair smelled as they lay next to you. The crunch of popcorn. The strength of a bracing arm and the idle sweep of a calloused fingertip.

Sudden in a shaft of sunlight

Even while the dust moves

There rises the hidden laughter

Of children in the foliage

Quick now, here, now, always—

Ridiculous the waste sad time

Stretching before and after.

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