Not Indelible


cardinal_icon.gif peyton2_icon.gif

Scene Title Not Indelible
Synopsis The past can be changed by heroes as well as villains, Peyton learns with mixed feelings when reunited with Cardinal after two weeks away from work.
Date October 4, 2010

Redbird Security

It's morning, or at least as close to morning as it gets when Cardinal gets into work. Which is to say it's closer to noon when he comes along over towards the office door that reads 'Peyton Whitney' on the outside, and raps his knuckles against it. The receptionist said that she was in.

He hasn't come in wearing the suit, today. Maybe it's in the cleaners. He's just in his usual casual outfit.

"Come in," Peyton's voice calls, sounding no different than any other day. When the door opens and Cardinal steps in, she's sitting at her desk, computer on, newspapers from the past week spread across her desk for the usual archiving tasks — made simpler now that she has a Xerox machine to simplify cross referencing. She's dressed in her typical professional attire — after days in jeans and lounge pants, it actually feels good — normal — to put on a skirt and a blouse and high heels.

What isn't like every other day is the still healing cut and bruising on her temple, though she's changed her part to try to hide it from view. She's a touch pale, dark circles beneath her eyes suggesting a weariness that goes deeper than just a lack of sleep.

When Cardinal enters, she looks up and a slow smile spreads on her face, the relief of seeing him alive after his own time travel evident. "Hey," she say softly.

A pair of black jeans, a t-shirt, the flight jacket thrown over the entire outfit for measure - Cardinal looks more like the street criminal he used to be than whatever he is these days, a look he's far more comfortable with than the MIB outfit that he's been sporting since Charles Deveaux outfitted him with one some twenty years - or a week - ago.

A smile tugs up at one corner of his lips as he steps in through the door, open relief briefly skimming over his features at the sight of her. "Hey," he returns, pulling the door closed behind him and approaching the desk where she's seated, "How're you doing?"

It's always the hardest question to answer. Fine is a lie. The truth is too much to foist upon someone else, even if they're asking out of sincere desire to know. Her smile shifts into a wry half smirk, and she lifts one shoulder.

"I'm here." It's about as honest of an answer as she can give. "I know the name of the time traveler, I think, the bad guy, his name's Arnold. I don't know the other's names, but I know what they look like. I'm going to try to find them when they're here and now, and maybe we can stop them. I want to do more gun training. The woman, she's like super agile or something, and you can only probably kill her if you have the element of surprise, or more than one angle of attack." The long ramble of words bubbles out in sharp contrast to the short two-word answer to his question — and is probably a better indication of how Peyton actually is.

"Arnold…? I know the name of his boss," Cardinal says, his head shaking slowly as he approaches her at the desk, "Samuel Sullivan." One hand drops down against the edge of the desk, his lips twitching in a faint almost-smile, "Kira St. Croix. I met her. Ironically, it was… Ichihara that took her down in the end. She survived, though, I should've just killed her…"

He trails off, then, one hand lifting to sweep his shades off and meet her gaze. "Winslow?"

"Those are probably the other two I saw, then. St. Croix look like a pirate, Sullivan look like a geriatric goth kid?" Peyton mutters, her eyes narrowing despite the humor in her words. But when he mentions her father, she shakes her head and looks away.

"They were using him. The other time travelers, they lied to him, and he was… he was helping them, but he switched sides to help me. It was … close." She reaches up to touch her head gingerly. "They were trying to kill Thomas Zarek."

It feels so long ago. It was so long ago, in the chronology of history, but it was just a week ago in her memory. She swallows hard and looks back at him. "They went after Wendy, Card. They told her she was going to die to get her to come to the future, and… and we had to make sure she didn't stay."

"I don't know what Sullivan looks like," Cardinal admits with a slow shake of his head, "Kira… yeah. All she was missing was the parrot."

Then he frowns at the mention of what their real target was - and their secondary target - and the colour bleeds away from his face at the second. "Oh.. god, Pey." She doesn't need to answer 'how are you' anymore. He can only imagine the answer to it now. A step forward's taken, his shades dropped to the desk's edge, one hand lifting up to her shoulder as if to offer a hug.

Standing suddenly, her eyes still downcast, Peyton steps into the offered hug, wrapping her arms around him and taking a deep breath. She rests her cheek against his shoulder, her fingers splayed against his back as if to hold as much of him as possible, as if to be sure he's here and real, not just a shadow and not lost in time like she was afraid she would be.

"Nothing's different," she whispers, her mantra to assure herself that she didn't ruin the fabric of their reality with her missteps and to assure herself that her real life, her real past, is no different than when she leaped through time. Wendy in the past didn't know she would die — Hiro promised she wouldn't remember. But Peyton does.

"And you're here. You did go back?" she asks — he hadn't wanted to; he had been afraid, one of the few times she'd ever seen Cardinal afraid of anything.

Cardinal's other arm circles around her waist, drawing her into his embrace and turning his face into her hair as he hugs her fiercely against his chest - wordless empathy, but empathy all the same, fingers rubbing against the small of her back. "I'm sorry," he murmurs in quiet tones, "When I get my hands on Sullivan…"

He leans back a little bit, looking down to her and nodding a little, "I did. It wasn't to 'seventy-seven… I guess that trip's still in my future. Kira was coming after the Zimmermans."

Peyton draws back to look up with tearful eyes, clearly unhappy with this news. He'd been back and was back in the present — she thought that was all she had to worry about. "Don't go. It's tempting fate too many times. I'm waiting for the shoe to drop on some horrible thing that's been changed because of something I did — but I guess I won't know if I changed it. I guess I was never actually in danger of never being born — they lied to Albert, but just me being there to try to stop him? That could have gotten all of us killed, Card. Me, Albert, Zarek…" she swallows hard as the ramifications of those changes whirl in her head.

"Someone else could go for you. You've risked things too many times."

She runs a hand across her eyes, staring at her wet hand as if amazed she can still shed tears. "I still remember Niklaus, so I'm guessing it all worked out, though?"

"Peyton." Cardinal can't help but smile, ever so faintly, and he brings one hand up to cup the side of her face, "You know me… you know how I think, you know what I do…"

"Do you really think I resisted the urge to meddle when I was back there?"

Her eyes widen. For all of the anger at the lies Rhys told her, she believes that going back to keep things from changing was the right thing to do. That the past shouldn't be fluid. She had to leave Wendy in the past. They could have saved her, but it would have changed God knows what — Peyton had thrown Wendy a hypothetical of Logan dying, but what else could have changed? If Wendy hadn't fallen to Samuel Gray, someone else might have that same night.

"You — but we were there to stop — what did you do?"

"We were there to keep the timeline of events intact," admits Cardinal with a tight little shake of his head, a subtle difference between that and what she was saying, but he's always been one to dance the edge of semantics, "If there was something that… wasn't certain, or that could be covered up… Hiro's own logic, after all, that was the point of whatever memory-tweaker he was using."

He purses his lips, admitting, "We managed to save Niki and Niklaus's mother's life, by faking it so everyone believed she was dead. It wouldn't have— worked— with Wendy, since her death was a major event, and Samson's been running around with her ability…"

His logic gets a mere nod from her. Of course, it couldn't have worked with Wendy. But what about Winslow? Except for the fact that a Company agent and her own mother are running around looking like younger versions of themselves … what difference would his being alive make? Her eyes fill with tears once more at the losses that feel so raw and open, and a little bit of self pity — Niki and Niklaus' mother can be saved, but her father and her friend are still gone, the last memories in her lifetime of two of the most important people in her life full of pain and heartache.

Peyton pulls away, moving to sit back down, blinking the tears away as she reaches for the mouse to her computer. "Do we have any new work I should know about?"

As she pulls away, Cardinal's lips purse in a brief grimace… watching her sit back down in front of the computer, watching her reach for the mouse. He lifts a hand half-way, and then he lets it fall back, dropping back a step. "No," he says quietly, looking away and across the office, "We've got a meeting on Wednesday…"

She reaches for the Starbucks cup, lifting it for a swallow of the Cinnamon Dolce Latte within, then returns her sad dark eyes to his face. A smile curves her lips. "A Redbird meeting or chess club?" she says lightly, setting the cup down. "I should be able to make it, either way."

"Chess club." Cardinal looks back over with a faint smile that he forces to his lips at her light quip, his hand brushing to the desk's edge before he steps back, "Anyway… good to have you back."

She smiles, turning back to the computer, reading something on the screen before her eyes turn back to his. "Good to be back. If I can help it, I won't be leaving the present any time soon," Peyton murmurs — at least not for time travel.

That Cardinal saved Niklaus' and Niki's mother, however, has her thinking about her own future, her own precarious life she feels is so sure to be cut short. If Cardinal was able to save someone from years in the past, perhaps her own death isn't carved in stone. The future isn't written — and the past is not indelible, after all.

She winks at him, forcing another smile his way. "Now get back to work, or I'll dock both our pay."

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