Once Upon A Time, Part I


gillian2_icon.gif lene2_icon.gif

Scene Title Once Upon a Time, Part I
Synopsis All fairy tales have a beginning, middle, and end.
Date February 9, 2020

“So then he just picks up the radio and runs like a thousand volts through it!”

Days like this are the easy ones. Seated at a picnic table surrounded by rolling grass and adjacent to crashing waves, it feels like nothing ever went wrong. If Gillian Childs squints just right, everything is fine. Across the table, her daughter is animatedly telling a story with a beaming smile spread ear to ear. Wrappers from takeout burgers sit on the table between them, fries scattered across them.

“So Noa, she turns and looks at Howard and is like, everyone’s a critic!” Lene exhales a wheezing laugh, turning to a fitful giggle at the end as she slaps the table with her palm, nose wrinkled up and eyes scrunched shut. It’s moments like this where she reminds Gillian of the man who — in another timeline — would be her father. In those moments of vulnerable intimacy, where he’d just burst out laughing. When his heart showed through. She barely remembers what his laugh sounds like now.

Even then, she can’t be sure it’s a memory of this world or another.

Presidido Park
California Safe Zone

February 9th
4:13 pm

There’s a small smile pulling on Gillian’s mouth, small because she can’t help but feel sad at the lack of clarity toward her own memories sometimes. What was and wasn’t her own. What had been a flash of a moment in another world. What had been a dream. But that laugh, that smile. It pulled on her enough to make the dimple in her cheeks show even if she felt something heavier than just the joy of hearing a story from her daughter’s youth. Reaching to grab another fry, she can’t help but marvel at how this felt like the world before in a lot of ways. Not the world after.

“Sounds like something my sister would say. Jenny. She was always in theater growing up, so she could be very dramatic about everything.” She often wondered what Jenny would have been like now. Or where Victor had gotten off to. She hoped he was alive somewhere, keeping ahead of whatever trouble he might get into. But she knew Jenny was gone, for the most part. Except the part of her that lived on in Gabriel.

At least she knew Brian was okay, even if she didn’t know where any of him were right now. She was sure Vee was keeping a close eye on at least one of him.

The sun is warm, the wind refreshingly cool, and for February it feels wonderful. San Francisco always had that reputation for beautiful weather. No amount of war or bombs could take that away from it. Lene grows quiet for a moment, excusing it by taking a big bite of her burger while she watches sea birds come in off the water. Her eyes wander to the memorial wall nearby, unable to read the tens of thousands of names etched in its surface from here. She sets down the burger, looking over to Gillian, then down and away as a thought crosses her mind.

“You…” Lene says as she looks down at her fries, “you never mention Jenny.” There’s an obvious tension in the air when she says that. “I’m— you know I’m not even sure I know what she looks like. I know there’s all sorts of pictures around the house but, I don’t know if I’d know her by looking at her.” She idly paints a line on her burger wrapped using a french fry as a brush and ketchup as paint. “What was she like?”

For a long moment after that question, Gillian hesitates, toying with a fry in her hand, breaking it between two fingers before deciding to pop one in her mouth, using the time needed to chew to keep her pause from being more awkward. “I do have a few pictures of her. Ones I got from my parents after the war started and before…” Before they died. “The parents who raised me, I mean, the Childs.” She had once considered legally changing her name, but then the Childs had died, and she suddenly realized just how much they had actually meant to her, so she couldn’t do it. They had been a part of her. “A few old family pictures, but there might be some online, too. She was in a few plays down in Boston before…”

Before she came up to check on her missing sister and got grabbed by Vanguard. And Sylar. Where she was murdered, her ability copied, and some piece of her absorbed into the man who had murdered her. The man her big sister had been sleeping with.

“She was the favorite. She had good grades, was super popular, dressed nicely, all that stuff. We clashed a little, as big and little sisters can sometimes.” Gillian had been a little rebellious at times, her parents hadn’t really treated her like she was adopted or unwanted, but she had made life difficult for them in her teenage years. “She was also kind of wonderful, but I didn’t really appreciate that at the time. She treated everyone well, she wasn’t intentionally mean to anyone. Even when she was being overdramatic.” Not like Gillian had been sometimes growing up. “And it’s weird— but you sometimes remind me of her. When your hair was red— you reminded me of her a little.” With a grin, she adds, pointing another fry at her in an accusation, “And you’re tall. It had always irked me that she was so much taller than me, even when I was older.”

“Must’ve gotten the tall gene from here,” Lene says with a tender smile, “sure wasn’t my parents.” That smile becomes a bit more wry, and she turns her attention back down to her food. “I know it’s— not easy to talk about her. About family you’ve lost. I feel the same way. I can’t remember the last time I talked about Howard or…” her eyes track the patterns in the ketchup. Gillian recognizes the troubled furrow of her brows, the tension at the corners of her eyes.

Suddenly, Lene slaps her palm down on the table and fixes her mother with an intense look. “I saw dad.” It sounds like she’s talking crazy for a moment, until she stumbles over her words to correct herself. “It— a while ago. Right before the war. When— when we were cornered in the garage by Heller.” Lene looks back down to her half-finished food. Then, as she looks back up to Gillian there’s a hint of tears in her eyes. “I needed help. I… I wanted help. So— so I went back.”

Lene swallows down a lump in her throat. “Back in time. To find him.”

How?” is Gillian’s immediate question, but it doesn’t need to be answered before she remembers, “Oh, right. Walter.” The time travelling friend who had brought the kids back in the first place. Of course she would be able to copy his ability when he was within proximity. It half sounded like she hadn’t even meant to. She knew that Jolene had escaped the island in an odd way, and so had she. The river hadn’t been the plan, and if Eve hadn’t dragged her out again… she may have died then and there.

But she had never found out what happened. Everything had been so difficult then, with what was going on, that she was just glad that Jolene was alive and safe, that she was alive and safe. “When— when did you go to? When did you see him?” There were so many questions she wanted to ask. She’d known Peter for a while, but he had changed in many ways over that time that she had known him. Some things he had done, she didn’t really want Jolene to know about.

Including some things he had done to her. Especially if the girl didn’t understand why those things had happened, the circumstances.

And then another question comes to her that she can’t think of the answer to right away. “How did you get back?”

“I didn’t mean to go back anywhere,” Lene says in a small voice. “I— I was panicked and, and I forgot that Walter wasn’t just travel through space and I… I bounced around.” There’s an awkward, uneasy expression that crosses her face. “The first jump was more like a stumble, I wound up… I don’t know when. A street.” She looks up at her mother. “You were there, with…” she shakes her head, “and there were… there was two of dad. But there were lasers and I…” she closes her eyes and shakes her head.

Gillian remembers that day well.

She remembers—

"You lied," Sylar snarls, more to himself. Kill. Fast. What's fast. The lasers, green and blue, dance out from his localised little jungle rain, cutting through the air almost with a hiss and raking with medical carelessness through Wood's body, with all the power he has behind it. It only stops when a slash suddenly appears across his chest, ripping fabric and flesh, thanks to Grant, but by then…

There is a thunderclap of light and energy when the lasers strike Woods, followed by the blur of a humanoid shape that could be his own shadow burned into the ground, except for the tangle of auburn locks following it. When the blaze of light is gone, there's nothing left of Woods but a smoking mark on the ground and clean spots where his shoes touched the asphalt.

“I wound up somewhen else, on…” Lene looks around at her unfinished meal, “on coney island.” She looks up to Gillian, a hopeful expression in her eyes. “I didn’t know how to find dad. I walked up to Kingsboro college and…”

Gillian Childs looks somewhat different than she did the last and first times that her daughter had seen her. Hair dyed black, for one, bright red lipstick and thick eyeliner. She looked so much younger, too. The years between nineteen and twenty-five had changed her quite a bit, aging her eyes even more than the rest of her. There are definitely signs of the same woman inside this teen’s body. The dimpled cheek stood out as she pursed her lips together over a particularly annoying sentence on library classification systems, most of which were no longer even used so she didn’t understand why she needed to learn them.

“…I didn’t know where else to go…”

But she’d had trouble with programming too, she doesn’t even know what had made her decide it had been a good idea to switch. Even if, unlike most people, she actually did like the library.

“…except, I wasn’t alone…”

When she raised her hand to push back a lock of dark hair, one of her many tattoos became visible. Tattoos she no longer had in the future. She still had a few tattoos, but they were in far more discrete areas in the time period that Jolene had known her. Where that one on her wrist happened to be, she would sport a black handprint later on. Not a tattoo, but something that looked very similar to one.

“…because when I needed someone to guide me…”

Leaning over, she wrote down a final few notes from the book in her notepad and closed it, standing to put it away when she saw that she was no longer alone in the library. The surprised and relieved look is misunderstood. “You lost?” she asks in a raspy voice. Apparently, even at nineteen, she still had that same voice.

“…there you were.”

Lene’s voice hitches in the back of her throat. “Really lost.”

At first when Coney Island was mentioned, Gillian grimaces a little. There were two events she can think of that happened there, one was a sweet memory, a nice one, one she held onto and cherished. The other… she remembered vividly, but it made her shake when she thought about it too much. But no, neither were what Jolene had been dropped there to see. She may not have been dropped to see anything there. It takes a few moments for her to realize.

“Oh.” she responds after a moment. “You went to the library.” She had gone to see her, there in the library. She couldn’t remember, but she also didn’t know if anything about that meeting would have stuck out to her at the time. She had helped so many people find books, or maps, or— whatever it was they had been looking for, she couldn’t expect herself to remember one girl…

But she wishes she had.

After a sheepish moment she asks, “I hope I was helpful. I could be a bit of a bitch sometimes.”

“You were a huge nerd,” Lene admits with a warm smile and an awkward laugh. “A big, huge… helpful nerd. “ Lene folds her hands in front of herself, letting go of the pretenses of finishing her meal for now. “You told me exactly what I needed to hear, and… and you gave me the confidence to…” she swallows, audibly.

“I was there a year,” Lene finally admits. “I was stranded. I didn’t have any ability to travel time on my own and I just… I got by. I got to live in New York before the bomb. I had coffee at a Starbucks, I worked under the table as a dishwasher at a Persian cafe.” There’s a small, simple smile that replaces the more emotional one from earlier.

“I thought… if I ran away and never came back, I’d have years to go before history caught up. I thought…” Lene doesn’t look up from her hands. “Maybe I could make it all right this time. Go further back, make— make more of a change. But I was just… I was so afraid. The Company could’ve found me and had me locked up, anything. Then one day I…” a bubble of laughter intersperses her words, “I found myself walking by the Deveaux Building and…”

Lene looks up to her mother. “There he was. He was walking right inside, he— he worked there, as a hospice nurse for… for Charles Deveaux.” There’s a hitch of disbelief in Lene’s voice. “I snuck in and went to the roof to… to eavesdrop. That’s when Hiro Nakamura found me. He… I guess he noticed the ripples I was making somehow, and he came back to get me. To stop me from making a mistake.”

Lene shakes her head, looking down again. “He told me the only way through was forward,” she says, looking to the side. “He said to let the past die.

At the mention of being a nerd, Gillian looks down and breaks another fry in half, stuffing one end into her mouth to keep from protesting or saying anything she would regret. That had been even further back than she thought it was. There for a whole year, before the bomb. As she continues on the subject of Peter, she looks up in interest, curiosity peeked as soon as the Deveaux building was mentioned. She knew little of its importance, but it had some importance to her anyway. Had that been why one of the Peters had taken her there once? It had always had a meaning to her since then, but she didn’t know why it had been chosen out of all the destroyed rooftops in downtown.

She wondered if it was still standing out there. That she had experienced life before the bomb makes her heartache a little, but she stays quiet— that is until Hiro is mentioned. There’s an audible snort. “I don’t think I have to tell you how much I disagree with that.” She wrote a whole book using time travel as a plot device, and she had done so in a way that showed she thought it opened up so many possibilities for growth and change and relationships. “Asshole could have at least let you meet him. You meeting me didn’t change anything!” that she knew of. “And even if you did change something, who knows if it wouldn’t be for the best. The whole world survived a fucking plague because of time travel.”

If Gabriel hadn’t travelled to the future in that exact same scene that Lene witnessed what would have happened? The same things that Gabriel had seen in that future.

She could have met him.

Before everything tore him down. Before the whole world got put upon his shoulders. Gillian had gotten to meet him once, way back before all that. He had been a teenager, but she still had gotten to see his smile before it had been beaten down by life.

Was that the part of Peter she had seen earlier?

There’s a hesitation, then she puts the remaining half of the fry down. “There’s something I should have told you a while ago…”

Lene is quiet, watching Gillian thoughtfully across the table. She reaches out, laying a hand on her mother’s to squeeze reassuringly. Her brows knit together, teeth toying with her bottom lip. There’s worry, disagreement, and uncertainty in her eyes, making them a complex cornucopia of emotion. “What is i— ”

Gillian sees her daughter’s eyes focus past her, on something behind her.

Doctor Allen?” Lene quickly withdraws her hand from Gillian’s.


Adrienne Allen looks to have come out of nowhere, standing in an open field of green in her loose red sweater and a light gray jacket. She threads a lock of curly blonde hair behind one ear, and remains absolutely silent.

Gillian lifts the released hand to rub at her face when it seems they suddenly have a surprise guest. And not one she has seen before. It is an interruption that keeps her from continuing, though, so she can’t help but feel a little exacerbated at the situation. It’s waited so long that it can wait another day or two. “I’ll explain later,” she says, with a small shake of her head. Her gaze then follows Jolene’s and she gives the woman a once over. She’s pretty sure she would have remembered meeting her. But it seems that Jolene recognizes her at least.

“A friend?” she asks Jolene, before wrapping what was left of her cooling fries up and gets ready to toss them away when they were ready to leave.

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” she says after she can get to her feet, holding out a hand in greeting. “I’m Gillian.” She can sense that little pulse of something in the woman, but she was so used to sensing it now that it doesn’t register much. It’s just a nagging reminder that she’s surrounded by people who carry within them some sort of ability.

Lene shakes her head. “We bumped into each other in the cafeteria once,” she admits quietly, watching as Doctor Allen just stands there in silence. Lene suddenly recalls more of their brief encounter and rises from her seat. “You were staring at me.” She looks around, trying to see if anyone else is nearby, but the three are alone. “What do you want with— ”

Adrienne vanishes like a heat mirage, leaving behind only a ghost.



“Sorry,” is the first thing Gillian Childs has heard Peter Petrelli say in a decade.

Any words that Gillian might have said in return just— get stuck somewhere in her throat. There’s a small sound that could be a gasp, or a caught breath, or even a hint of a surprised sob, and then she is just staring at him. She had told herself over and over that she would be ready if this ever happened, but she quickly found she was not. Everything in the world just seemed to fall away and go dark, that small hint of light within him the one thing she could focus on. She could feel the hold on her ability start to loosen, before she pushed it all back together with a slow inhale. She hadn’t even realized she was holding her breath for a moment.

Blinking a few times, as if to try and restore her vision, or to make sure he doesn’t just disappear in two blinks, she doesn’t even notice the moisture building on her eyelashes.

A decade ago, Gillian Childs probably would have slapped him. Kicked him. Thrown something at him. But a decade is a long time.

After a few slow breaths, she manages to speak, voice tight and even hoarser than it ever was before

“What took you so long?”

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