Once Upon A Time, Part II


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Once Upon a Time, Part II
Synopsis The truth, at last.
Date February 9, 2020

Gunfire rails in the distance, a thousand thousand tracer rounds zip through the air.

Get behind me!

It was a complete and total disaster. A cloying yellow gas billows through the air, spewing from canisters still spinning on the broken asphalt. Striding through the smoke, running one hand down the slide of a battered AK-47, Peter Petrelli forces out a jammed round, old boots treading through a slick of oil underfoot. He turns, tracking a dark shape through the negation gas, and fires.

There’s a sputtering spark, a howl of strained metal and Peter knows he’s hit home. A pair of red eyes gleam through the gas, low to the ground like a dog’s. He fires again, unloads the entire magazine as it charges forward toward him and leaps through the air. Peter falls backwards, the skeletal visage of a steel hound’s face biting down on the half of his assault rifle. He can’t see where his charge has gone, the gas is too thick. Hopefully away — hopefully home.

Peter feels the bite of the hound’s claws in his legs. It rears back, jaws opening with a whine of hydraulics until —

A tire iron smashes in one of its eyes. The machine reels backwards, turns, and stares down with its one remaining eye the defiant young redhead standing with the tire iron in both hands. Walter Trafford may only be twelve years old, but he knows a thing of two about heroism. His mentor taught him that. Peter takes the opening, lunges up and smashes the damaged machine in the side of the head with the butt of his rifle. He forces it down to the ground and Walter jams one end of the tire iron into its eye socket with a shower of sparks. The two pulverize the machine until it ceases moving, leaving both exhausted and panting for breath.

“I told you to run!” Peter snaps at Walter once he’s caught his breath, the smoke beginning to clear around them.

“I wasn’t gonna’ leave you!” Young Walter snaps back, throwing the tire iron down to the ground in a show of frustration. “You coulda’ died!” He says, tears welling up in his eyes. He pretends its just the smoke.

Peter considers pressing the matter, but as the smoke finishes clearing from the Queens side of the Queensboro Bridge, they can both see the eviscerated ruins of Manhattan on the other side. They can see home, through a field of demolished robots. Peter exhales a sigh, standing up and putting a hand on Walter’s shoulder. “I’m gonna have to tell your mother, y’know.”

Peteeeer!” Walter whines, face scrunching up. Peter smiles, giving the boy a pat on his shoulder.

“Maybe if you’re really well-behaved all the way back — because until this wears off we’re gonna have to walk — I’ll forget all about it.” Peter says with a motion to the bridge and a smile. Walter sheepishly look at his feet, then back up to Peter. “C’mon, let’s get out of here before more come.”

Walter nods, turning around to run over to the demolished robot and wrench the tire iron he’d used out of its head. When he turns back, Peter has collapsed to his knees on the street. “P-Peter?” Walter drops the tire iron with a noisy clang, running over to Peter’s side. “Hey, are you ok? Did it get you?”

Peter is short of breath, sweat blossoming on his brow. His eyes are ringed with red, soon blossoming to bruises. Walter, seeing this sudden change, looks confused. “P-Peter what’s— ” that’s when he notices cuts starting to form on Peter’s face, blood blooming beneath his shirt. “Peter!” Walter screams as Peter collapses onto his side. The boy kneels down beside him, hands on his chest, tears welling up in his eyes.

“Peter what’s wrong?! Talk to me!” Walter screams, shaking Peter by the shoulder. He considers crying for help, but they’re so far away from a safehouse. Peter, trembling and bleeding from wounds beneath his clothes, reaches out and cups a hand against Walter’s cheek.

A mote of green light dances around Peter’s hand, then another, a few wisps of lime-green energy seep from his wounds. “Thought I… had more time,” he manages to say. “You gotta— you gotta find— Gill… Gil…”

Then, the light completely leaves his eyes.

Walter kneels beside Peter’s body, not understanding what happened.

But that was the day he learned all heroes can die.

Two Years Earlier…

…And a Timeline Apart

Presidido Park
California Safe Zone

February 9th
4:27 pm

“I thought I had more time…” is how Peter Petrelli answers Gillian’s question. There’s an earnest sadness to his voice, hands raised in helpless gesture of surrender and shoulders hunched forward.

Jolene is silent, one hand over her mouth, tears rolling down her cheeks in black streaks of her eyeliner. She swallows raggedly, struggling to hold in a sob as she sees a man who has only ever existed in photographs and half-remembered dreams. She is at a loss for words, and Peter struggles to look either woman in the eye.

“I wish we had more time…” Peter says quietly, hands in his pockets. He looks heavier than Gillian remembers, thicker neck, broader face, a little thicker in the middle too. He hasn’t let himself go, but he’s gotten older and clearly hasn’t had regeneration in several years. His scar is missing, though he’d healed that old wound away long ago.

Changed, different, but it’s him.

For a long moment, Gillian is entranced by just looking at him through the moisture that threatens to blur her vision. It’s been so long, but she still remembers, better than she had thought she would. That scar. It was gone again. She wouldn’t say how glad she was to see that. He had needed it for too long. With a sudden start, she snaps out of it, remembering that her daughter— their daughter— was standing right there. “There’s never enough time, is there?”

They don’t have long. No. They never did. “We have now, though…” she whispers half to herself, before reaching up to wipe at her eyes, composing herself with a breath. “Jolene…” She steps back just a little, before putting a hand on the young woman’s arm and motioning her forward a little.

“If you had been staring at her, then that means you know…” She hadn’t known if the kids had given him any of the dreams like she had gotten Or if any of them had dropped in on him. If any of them were able to. She knew this one hadn’t. “If there’s not much time…” The one who had the most right of anyone to have that moment.

Even if he’s not entirely the father she had never even known anyway. He had been up to a point.

You died.” Isn’t what Jolene wanted her first, strained words with her father to be. But that’s what comes tumbling out of her mouth in the moment. Peter looks away, out toward the Ziggurat, then back again.

“Yeah,” Peter says in a hushed tone of voice, not moving from the spot he’d come to a stop in. It’s hard to tell if it’s a response to Gillian or Jolene, or both. Jolene, too, is frozen in mid-stride. “I’m pretty sure I did,” Peter finally clarifies. None of that helps Jolene process this any better. She keeps that hand over her mouth, as if to remove it would be to let a lifetime of questions spill out.

With one more furtive glance back to the Ziggurat, Peter asks, “I know this is… sudden. If I’d had it my way I…” he stops himself from saying any more. Instead, he looks up awkwardly to a daughter he’d never known, then over to Gillian. “We need to talk, but not here.” He searches the two women with a tense look. “How long can you be gone before Adam notices?”

Sudden was one way to describe it. Gillian follows his eyes toward the Ziggurat, a hint of worry on her forehead. So much of her family was already roped into Adam’s mess and there was nothing she could do about it other than try to support the girl she promised as much of forever as she could offer. And she didn’t want Peter pulled into it, too. “I don’t know. He knew Jac was gone pretty quickly, but she didn’t try to hide her… excursion.” She had come to tell her mother, after all, which was good cause she might have thrown things at Adam or something if she had just vanished again.

“I don’t know how far his influence extends from there,” but she had hoped places outside the Ziggurat were at least somewhat safer for sensitive conversations. There was a reason she’d taken Niki to a boba cafe before they had their little talk. It was safer than any of their rooms, with their weird robots.

“Probably not long, though. What all can you do right now besides look like a damn attractive lady?”

Peter smiles, it would be a laugh but he can’t quite find the will for humor in the moment. “Enough things,” he admits, “teleportation and illusions are the best I can do. I haven’t fully tested the range of— ”

“Stop.” Lene finds herself barely able to say. “Just— Just stop!” That, louder, surprises her. Peter turns to look at her, wide-eyed. “You— you can’t— you come back from the dead and— and you just…” her hands are shaking. “What the fuck is going on!?” Lene’s voice cracks as she asks. “How is this real? I— y-you’re gone.” She hadn’t known what Gillian knew, what Rhys had seen, she had no way of preparing for this.

Peter’s smile fades, the weight of the situation presses down on him. He looks at Gillian, now unsure of himself.

The first thing Gillian can think is that— this is how she would have responded if she hadn’t had over a year to prepare for the possibility. She should have told Lene, she knows it— she just didn’t want to give her hope until just now, hearing that the girl had tried to meet her father, but hadn’t been allowed to. But she couldn’t fix that now.

“November eight, two thousand and eleven,” she says, instead, as her hand touches Lene’s arm again, trying to soothe her. “All three of us died that day, Lene. You were saved by Claire suddenly being there— I was saved by LeRoux.” Peter didn’t know any of this, probably. It hadn’t been detailed too deeply in the Albany Trials. And Gillian hadn’t even known she had died until LeRoux showed up at their house to offer Jolene healing.

“I know it’s strange, and— let’s hear what happened, okay?” Death was strange, in their world. So many died, yet some seemed to defy it, through some slip of fate.

There’s a wariness in Peter’s eyes, hurt in Lene’s. She looks down at her feet and pushes down the feelings of betrayal and abandonment that have haunted her since she left 2041 to make that future an impossibility. She breathes in sharply, exhales a slower and shuddering breath. Then, with all the strength she can muster, Lene looks up to the father she never knew and nods. She can’t speak, she’ll break if she does. But she can, if nothing else, give him a chance to explain. After all, in spite of what she feels, she doesn’t want him to leave again.

Peter steps forward, giving one more wary look to the Ziggurat. “I won’t take you far,” he says, offering out a hand to both Gillian and Jolene. He isn’t surprised when Gillian takes his hand, but it takes Jolene a long, struggling moment to do the same. He squeezes her hand when she does.

And that about breaks her heart into pieces.

Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, California

The world bled away into a haze of rainbow-colored light just as fast as it reformed. Teleportation is no real surprise to either Jolene or her mother, nor is the momentary sensation of falling that usually accompanies it. Where they reappear, though, is another story.

Towering redwood trees loom hundreds of feet overhead amid a verdant evergreen canopy. Lush foliage covers the ground here, where dirt trails winding between the towering trees aren’t partly visible. Old wooden fences are mostly collapsed now, but that once partitioned off hiking trails from the wilder woods. Peter had the decency to bring them into the trails, rather than the dense forest beyond.

“San Francisco,” such as it is, “is that way,” Peter says with a point through the trees. “About eight miles.” He uses that gesture as an opportunity to release Jolene’s hand, which she quickly retracts to her chest protectively. Peter steps away from Gillian, then looks up to the trees and exhales a slow sigh through his nose.

“I don’t think I belong here,” Peter says in a hushed tone of voice. He doesn’t explain further.

For teleportation, that particular experience was rather pleasant. Gillian gives her head a small shake and tries to orient herself as she runs fingers through her hair, still feeling where his hand had held hers for a time. A touch that almost seemed to linger, even when it didn’t. Maybe it was just because she wanted it to. The further they were from Monroe, the better, she doesn’t say as her eyes follow the direction that Peter indicates. Far from sight, but not out of mind. Adam had a hold on her daughter that she didn’t thinks he could ever wrench away.

Adam was the cool dad. The one who gave the girl a mission and a purpose and told her she was the only one who could do it.

Gillian hated him for all of that. Not because she didn’t believe in the girl, but because putting that big of a burden on one tiny person… her eyes follow to Peter again, then to Jolene. The world had been placed on both their shoulders at one point or another.

He doesn’t think he belongs.

She knows that feeling. But she also knows enough to understand, there was probably more to it than self-doubt.

“If not here, then where?”

Peter looks at Lene for a moment, then away. “It’s hard to explain.”

Try,” Lene asserts, her voice tight with emotion.

Sighing, Peter nods and paces away from Lene and Gillian, running his hands through his hair. “I’m not from now,” he says quietly. “I don’t… think, anyway.” Peter looks back, uncertain of himself. “I feel like I’m… losing my mind, most of the time. I’m…” he shakes his head, then leans his back up against one of the redwood trees, rubbing the heels of his palms against his eyes.

“I need to back up…” Peter says, struggling with explaining this more than he thought he would. “I need to tell you how this all started.”

Eight Years Ago…

The Deveaux Building
Ruins of Manhattan


Peter Petrelli sucks in a sharp breath, eyes snapping open to a sky filled with clouds. Drizzling rain gently strikes his face, soaks his tattered clothes through and makes his already fragile body feel heavier. His first breath is a wheezing, rasping one, legs kicking to knock old boards from a collapsed pigeon coop aside.

Violently coughing, Peter rolls onto his side and curls into a small ball. Wisps of green light dance off of his body, burn lime green into the dark, flickering with vibrant yellow at the center; embers of time stretched thin. Peter lets out a scream, jolting upright and pawing at his face, his chest. He looks around with wide, frantic eyes and sees — cherubs.

Two stone cherubs flank a circle of stone, through the eye of which the ruins of Midtown Manhattan and plumes of smoke spread out. Peter staggers to his feet, looking at the holes in his clothes, like he had been through a fire. He knows this place.

Slowly, Peter approaches the right cherub, brushing his thumb across the pock mark at the cherub’s chest. A mark from a bullet impact, a shot fired by —

Gillian,” Peter whispers to himself, looking out over a city engulfed in the flames of riots. But he sees Central Park, green, trees still set and grass overgrown. The metropolitan museum is still there, intact. Northern Manhattan isn’t in ruins.

What year is it?” Peter asks himself, looking down at his hands. He wheels around, eyes wide. “Hiro!” He shouts. “Hiro, if this is your idea of a joke!” But there is no reply. Peter looks down at his hands, exhaling a deep breath. When he looks back out to the vista, a dread tension grips his chest.

“Walter,” Peter whispers.

Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, California


“Seeing Walter holding me was the last clear thing I remembered…” Peter says with his eyes averted to the ground, “…before I woke up in Manhattan.” He closes his eyes and shakes his head in doubt of his own recollection. “Thinking back further than that is hard, and I’m— there’s a jumble of memories that aren’t mine. Or shouldn’t be. Memories of things that happened here, in this timeline.”

This timeline.

When Peter looks back up, it’s squarely at Jolene. “When I got my bearings, I realized what had happened. Or what I think might have happened. The Peter of this world died in a fiery explosion in Midtown fighting Sylar. But somehow I…” he looks at his hands, “I wound up here. The dark future had already been averted, and I… “

Peter looks away again, ashamed. “I pieced things together over the years. What happened at the Institute, you kids who came back. I kept myself hidden with my abilities, hid myself from the world. By the time I realized who you were…” he says with a look to Jolene, “it had already been six years.”

Jolene is crying; has been since she realized the implication of Peter’s story. Her hand covers her mouth, shoulders trembling, tears streaking down her cheeks. “Dad,” she says in a tiny, weak voice. This wasn’t just a Peter Petrelli, this wasn’t just a past version of her father.

Somehow, against all odds.

This was her father. The Peter who fell in love with Gillian, the Peter who had a daughter with her. The Peter who died protecting Walter Trafford.

The Peter who Never Was.

“So Peter really did die fighting Sylar,” is the first thing Gillian manages after everything sinks in, the whole story. She blinks tears out of her eyes, because the man she had been mourning for years really had been gone. It wasn’t like with Gabriel or Eileen or the others who defied death. He was gone.

Poor Niki.

She was going to have to tell her, after allowing her some false hope. She reaches up and wipes her eyes, even if it does nothing to really stop it. This man was still the Peter she knew, in most the ways, and one that knew her in ways she would never probably remember.

“One of the dreams that I got, showing me that future, was when they called to tell me that… that you died.” Her daughter hadn’t even known him. She’d been too young to understand what the call meant. He’s been fighting the war so long, so far away. Nate had been old enough to understand. The boy she only ever got to see in dreams.

“I.” She doesn’t finish as she continues to cry, hating every second of it. She had never prepared herself for this being another Peter all together. She keeps trying to wipe the tears away, but they don’t seem to want to agree with that decision. “Fuck, stop crying,” she curses to herself.

She didn’t know if the tears were happiness for Lene and the Peter that was there, or sadness for the Peter that was gone.

Maybe it was both.

“I’m sorry,” Peter says softly, wearily. He doesn’t even notice when Lene approaches, for how quick she is. But Lene throws her arms around her father and buries her face in his chest, eyes wrenched shut, bawling. Her words are unintelligible, face pressed against the fabric of his brick red sweater. She curls her fingers into the fabric, shoulders heaving. At first he doesn’t know what to do, stunned by the proximity, by the emotion.

But then, slowly, Peter encircles the daughter he never knew in his arms and holds her close. It takes a few moments before he looks up to Gillian and offers out one hand from around Lene. Offering his hand to her. To join them.

With a hand damp with tears, Gillian steps forward, lacing her fingers against his as she pulls her other arm around the tall woman that was their daughter and leans her face into his back.

His daughter and a her that she could have been. She suddenly wanted to know so much more. Everything.

What she knew of her was so limited, so small. But that woman hadn’t lived to see the beautiful woman that her daughter would grow up to be. She couldn’t be that. Too much had changed in the years since she had last seen this Peter. That hadn’t mattered for Jolene. Love doesn’t change that much.

That was enough.

“Don’t be sorry,” is what she chokes out softly. “I’m glad you’re here now, Peter.”

Not all tears were tears of sadness. But they could still be both.

And for a time, even if an instant…

…that could be enough.

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