Never Supposed To Be


peyton2_icon.gif smedley_icon.gif

Scene Title Never Supposed To Be
Synopsis A chance meeting serves to open wounds rather than close them.
Date February 18, 2011


The streets of the Upper East Side may not be as busy as they would be were the city not under the grip of martial law, but assistants still scramble with phones pressed tightly to their ears, dilettantes still juggle shopping bags with colorful tissue paper peeking out from the tops, and cars still race to hurry up and wait. What passes for nearly spring weather a few days ago is still sticking around, prompting many to shed their heavier coats in favor of sweaters or more stylish jackets.

So it's not his clothing that makes Wes Smedley stick out like a sore thumb.

He's far from the only person with a smattering of dogs on leather leads, but he's easily the only one who doesn't look like he's getting paid to wrangle them as he makes his way back to Battery Park City. When you have this much cargo, options like a cab, the bus, or even the subway are right out. You have to hoof it. And oddly enough, if it weren't for the fact that he knew about this vet's location because of a certain fluffy orange beast, he probably would have foregone getting his right-hand-dog arthritis medication.

Carson's gait is stiff and slowed, especially compared to the two younger dogs who keep what little slack that Wes has given them pulled tight. Each surveys the world with bright eyes and tongues lolling, while their older companion is more stoic as he plods along at his master's side, nearly inside the oilskin coat that the man wears open over a dark red dress shirt. The vet is an important place - important enough to warrant the tucking in of shirts and the wearing of jeans that aren't that worn out.

A door to the elegant gray office building on the corner is opened by a doorman, and out steps a young woman — she's dressed for business, in a no-doubt designer dress, accessories to match — all in varying shades of gray and blue. Her hair is pinned in a loose chignon, her peacock tattoo a surprise contrast to the rest of her appearance as she turns her head to peer down the street in the opposite direction of the dogs and Smedley coming up the street.

She murmurs her thanks to the doorman before starting the short walk across the pavement to the car waiting for her. Today there is no cab, but instead a Rolls Royce, parked just a few yards up the street rather than directly outside, thanks to a Sparkletts truck taking up residence outside the front door to the law firm.

Tattoos are odd things. When they come out of a book - like a crouching panther on an arm, or a butterfly with it's wings spread on an ankle, or a dolphin leaping over a moon surrounding a belly button - they're easy to forget. But when they are unique, and reside in a relatively unique place, they might as well be tattooed on one's memory.

With much of his attention taken up by the dogs in his care, Wes might not have noticed Peyton. But when that tattoo flashes across his eyes, his fingers loosen their grip on the leads, giving the two dogs the opening they've been looking for. There's just far too much to smell and see, and Wes isn't going close to fast enough for their tastes.

"Franklin you goddamned mutt of a -" but Wes's vulgar outcry is stifled by his own grunting frustration that turns into a stream of colorful curses as he tears off after the more dominant of the two dogs, scrambling to try and snatch up the lead once more. Of course, both Franklin and Clay see it as a game, barking their glee as they turn their run into a 'catch me catch me' sort of dance - but not before they run past Peyton and the Rolls.

The two dogs running by her register before the sounds of Smedley's curses, and Peyton laughs before reaching down quickly to catch the leash of one of the two dogs, the other unfortunately slipping through her grasp. There's something familiar that tugs at her mind — they are almost full grown and she hasn't seen them since they were tiny puppies, but these are the brothers of her own dog. "Whoa," she tells the dog, then whistles to try to curb the other dog's escape.

She turns back to look for their owner, dark eyes falling on Wes and Carson. Her lips part and she takes a step backward, bumping into the parking meter with a slight wince.

Franklin stops at Peyton's whistle and doubles back to see who has caught up his brother. Clay sniffs at the hem of Peyton's skirt, but soon decides that the nice lady is nice, even if she's a bit clumsy. Franklin has to do his own investigation, though, and when Wes keeps coming closer, the more inquisitive of the pair keeps Peyton between them. You never know when the game will start again.

Wes's eagerness to catch Franklin before he gets himself in trouble meets with a speed bump when Peyton catches Clay. He hadn't expected her to come to his aid. Then again, when she turns and sees him, her reaction is more than enough to explain why. He swallows, his eyes darting from her shoulder to the dog at her feet, and then finally to Franklin's trailing leash. Moving slowly, he crouches and snatches it up again, giving it a quick tug to staunch any bright ideas the mutt may have before looping the end around his wrist.

"Careful," he says gruffly, still unable to meet Peyton's eyes. "There's a thing there." Hair. Collar. Wrist. His brows furrow and his jaw tightens before he lifts the hand holding Carson's leash to his mouth and coughs. The old dog has no such qualms, stepping forward with his tail wagging stiffly to present himself for attention.

Her eyes drop and she nods, stepping forward carefully to hold Clay's leash out for Smedley to take, fingers lightly holding it a few inches from the top so he can slip his hand through the handle and she can let go without touching.

"Whose are they?" she asks, trying to keep her voice neutral, trying to keep the topic neutral, as she bends down to reach for Carson. Tears are already welling up in her dark eyes, though the redness around their edges suggest that it's not the first time she's cried today. Not even the first time in the last hour. Some things don't seem to change, even after almost two months.

Wes takes the leash rather than pass his hand through the loop, but his fingers linger on the leather before he slips it from her grasp. "Client's," is the short answer from Wes, grunted as opposed to spoken, but in the way that men force out words to avoid exposing their hand. When Peyton bends and Carson licks at her face, Wes's mask slips for a moment. His neck and jaw tighten as he chokes back his breath. The subject could easily stay on the dogs that sniff around Peyton and the surrounding sidewalk. The entire conversation could just as easily end, with the two parting as quickly as they met.

But Wes makes the mistake of looking toward the grey door and squinting to read the plaque on the side. There are any number of reasons why Peyton would be running an errand needing clothes like that in a place like this, and Wes is in no state of mind to chose any of the rational options. He has enough self-control to push such dangerous imaginings to the back of his mind with another swallow and look instead at Peyton and the old cow dog.

The faintest hint of a smile tugs at one corner of his mouth, and his grey eyes gain a sparkling sheen. "He missed you."

Stating the obvious couldn't get much more painful.

At the wet wash of dog tongue across salty cheeks, Peyton laughs, though it's rough and raw around the edges, almost a sob. "I missed him," she murmurs, her head bowed against Carson's for a long moment as she hugs around his neck — a rather odd sight, for a girl dressed as she is. She reaches back for the parking meter to pull herself up, and her eyes don't meet Smedley's face when she takes a shaky breath.

She swallows and brushes off the skirt of her dress, now speckled with dog fur, and chuckles again, a low and humorless sound. "I should go," Peyton murmurs, turning to nod toward the car a few steps away. Her driver hasn't noticed her yet, to get out of the car and come to assist her into the back seat. "I'm just here on business," she adds, suddenly in a burst of breath. "I'm living… out of town now."

When Peyton stands, Carson lets out a small whine that is quickly met and stopped by Clay's inquisitive nose. Smedley clears his throat again, averting his own eyes so that he's looking at her shoulder rather than her face. "Reckoned," he says with a slight nod. How could she be blamed for such a choice? He takes a deep breath then, followed by a shake of his head. Slowly, he brings his eyes to her ear, and the curl of hair around it. It's a quick glance from there to the car just down the street, and he narrows his eyes slightly at it. "Hope it's got sky."

Her nods, slowly to the question. "Near a beach," she murmurs — it's about as much as she's willing to offer him, though the car has Massachusetts plates. "Von likes to chase sandpipers," is added with a soft smile, and she glances at Carson when she mentions Von — the older dog's ears piquing with interest. 'Carson and Von' or 'Von and Carson' had been called so many times, the syllable may as well be a part of the other dog's name.

"He misses you," she says with a nod to Carson, her lips curving into a smile of fondness for the old dog, before her face contorts and she ducks away. "Good to see you," comes too quick and through mostly clenched teeth for it to be true. The tears belie the words.

Like a man diving for a life preserver, Wes plunges through the sea of dogs to trap Peyton by the arm, his calloused fingers curling over the fabric of her jacket. His grip is firm at first, but it soon softens, crippled in part by a sudden rush of fear. His eyes flit to her face, and Wes blinks. But now that he has her - there's nothing really to be said. Nothing that can be said here, or even now. The where and when are wrong, but that doesn't change the need.

His teeth click, and his thumb brushes over her arm, as if the small action would make the words - any words - come easier. "I-" he starts, then stops himself and squares his jaw with a tight swallow. "Pey, I-…" It wasn't supposed to be that way. If he knew her time-traveling friend, he'd want to erase the last two months to make it right. Hell, the last three years if it didn't mean potentially never-

"Don't." he finally says, retracting his hand and curling his fingers around Carson's lead instead. He frowns, his stoic mask slipping further despite his best efforts. "Please, Pey. Just-… Let it come from me."

Her breath catches in her throat when her arm is grab; her fingers curl into a fist at the other end, and she freezes, half turned from him but without quite the guts to rip from his grasp or turn and slap him. She simply stills.

She doesn't breathe for the moment that he stammers out his words, as he falters on words unspoken. Her jaw tenses and her eyes narrow, studying something down and away before he finally lets go.

She stays in that posture for another moment. Her chest rises very slightly. A tear rolls down her cheek. It seems as if the world is in slow motion, though the onslaught of traffic continues to roll past, the noise of the city around them continues to buzz.

"Let what come from you?" she finally whispers.

He hesitates again, fearing the fragility of the moment while simultaenously recognizing the urgency that comes with it. "Who I am," he finally says, the pitch of the words lifting toward the end, spinning it toward a question rather than a statement. "Who I was," is said with a quieter, somber tone filled with as much regret as it is supplication. "It… It wasn't supposed to happen this way."

The hand still curled into a fist comes up protectively against her throat, and her eyes, glassy with tears, finally move to his face. "We were never supposed to happen anyway," Peyton murmurs. The words are intended to be cold and cruel, but the huskiness and rawness that curl around their consonants and vowels soften the would-be cutting edges.

"I loved you," she murmurs, another tear sliding over her lower lashes to roll down her cheek and off, splashing the pavement.

She reaches up to wipe her eyes and takes a step back. "I have to-" Go is unsaid as she shakes her head and turns away, a sob racking her shoulders. She had come to this corner to say goodbye to one part of her life — she hadn't intended on having to say goodbye to another.

The bittersweetness of the two statements leave Wes's mask in shambles, his raw, twisted grimace exposed to the crisp air. It doesn't matter how gentle the blade is delivered, or how sweet the balm is that follows - it still shoots straight to Wes's core.

By the time he passes where the Rolls Royce was resting on the street, the car has already turned a corner. He walks with his head bowed, keeping his eyes on the backs of his canine companions. The long trek, and the home he's headed too, will only serve to stir up memories and regrets that will all too willingly be drowned at the soonest opportunity.

While no one is really the victor, it's little comfort to know that the other party is wounded as well.

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