Past Is Past


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Special Appearance:


Scene Title Past Is Past
Synopsis But that doesn't stop Gillian from getting a few mementos to take home.
Date April 1989

Winters' Townhouse

Gillian awakens too early. It might be a stress nightmare, or it might have been something more, an intrusion of forces greater than the Winters family tasers and a pistol or two are built to handle. Impossible to tell when she breaches the veil back to full consciousness, and all that's left is the impression of cold fingers, the wispy, shredding conviction of a second presence in the chamber of her room or, worse, in her head, a voice that had spoken in images.

Her fingers are twisted into sheets when she arrives, finger nails bitten crescent-shapes into the creamy fabric. Someone is walking around outside, a gait light so as not to wake the children but not light enough to confer tactical stealth. Her father's voice reverberates through the panelled wood of the doorway. "—get the Monday off, I'd really appreciate it," he's saying. They are in the living room, the curtains half-drawn to limit the crush of early sunshine. "Family time. Brian and Stef really helped me out last night, and we're already ahead of schedule as far as the modelling goes…"

He shoots his wife an optimistic thumbs-up to where she's seated on the couch with a certain dress splayed over her lap.

One thing that keeps playing in her head, even as she walks these halls quietly to avoid making too much noise would be a few simple words. You don't belong here. Maybe once, in a tiny form, when she was curled up in blankets and saw fairies dancing through the sky, then she'd belonged here. But Gillian Childs never did.

And maybe that's what has her putting shoes on, and running a hand over red hair, as she walks over to the door to look out into the living room.

The phone earns a quiet glance, but she keeps her mouth closed, only raising a hand in acknowledgement at the two. She's here— she's awake… And she looks as if she's seen better nights, and the raised hand conveys what she doesn't say outloud. It looks like both an acknowledgement, and a farewell.

The dress on Alison's lap is gazed at — in part, with love for her husband for splurging on such an extravagant dress, a surprise that she shouldn't have been surprised at since that's always been his way to get her unexpected treasures, thought not all as luxurious as this. In part wonder, for it is the gown in the picture that hadn't been taken yet. She glances up when her husband makes that gesture, smiling and nodding her understanding, before the fiery red of Gillian's hair catches her eye and she turns to look at her daughter.

Ali's brows knit together, and she rises to move away from the phone conversation so her voice won't be heard. "Hi," she says softly. "Didn't you sleep well, hon? Do you want some coffee? how do you take it?" It seems odd to be offering her daughter coffee, when little Stephanie is so small, so young, in this timeline.

"Bob," Jeff's head hikes up, dark eyes going to Gillian quick as a cricket. It's unmistakable when the man's olive-toned features light up: like Christmas. "Bob, I'm gonna have to call you back. Kid just crawled in. If you figure out you can spare me tomorrow, let me know? Like I said, I'll put in an extra Sunday. All right— all right, buh-bye." A deft thumb-press cuts the line short, and there's a (perhaps premature) triumphant clack as the man puts his handset down.

He presides with hands on his hips for a moment, beaming at Gillian, clearly rather pleased with himself, before retroactively catching up with the girl's state of disarray and the soft note of concern in his wife's voice. Blinking, his right arm jolts out, pointing toward the kitchen. "We have a French press," he says. "And the good stuff, some farm outside Chicago…" He slants a glance down the hallway, perhaps noticing the same strangeness that gives Ali momentary pause. Stephanie's still asleep in there. Was, last he checked, pulling her blankets back up from where she'd kicked them.

Always a kicker, but Gillian doesn't know that's the state her younger self had been in. She didn't want to look in on the bedroom they were sleeping in. "Crawled in, huh?" she says with a joking tone to her soft voice, before she nods, "Thanks, if you have it ready, sure, but… I can't stay much longer. The longer I stay the harder it is to leave…" It's already difficult. As she looks from one to the other.

"I didn't want to leave without at least saying goodbye, and without…" How to say twenty years worth of things in a short amount of time? This is why she thought about just leaving a really long note… But even that wouldn't get across everything she wants… "I'm glad I came back and got to meet you. It even seems like… maybe I was supposed to…"

The brunette woman brings a hand to her lips, blue eyes filling with tears at the thought that Gillian is leaving so soon — and yet she has Stephanie in the other room, a whole lifetime ahead of her. It's a strange paradox, to feel like you'll miss a daughter once she walks out the door, when the same person, the same bundle of DNA and personality, lies asleep just down the hall.

"So soon?" Alison manages, her voice a little tremulous but mostly clear, glancing at her husband as if to ask him to get the grown woman in their living room to stay — even though she knows Gillian can't. "Is there — is there anything we can do, that would make your life better? I mean — I don't know. Not the stuff with growing up and all, because … because I'll try my hardest, but anything I can do now for you, not for Stephanie — money? We have some money…"

They do, at that. Have money. The dress had come signifying a pay-raise along with a wider variety of schooling options for the children, though the public institutions aren't bad around here. Jeff opens his mouth, but his jaw merely hangs there unhinged for a few awkward seconds.

"You only stayed a night," he points out, incredibly obviously, as if this is going to change the girl's mind. "I— the future— you know what happens. Or at least you know what might happen. I'm only passingly acquainted with string theory and the linear time paradigm and," he gesticulates pointlessly, looks back at his wife like he expects her to translate his rambling into something digestable, somehow, the way she does when they are at the bank, or with the kindergarden teacher. "The future isn't something we should hedge our bets against, I mean, but… but— Stephanie, please."

"I don't belong here, dad…" Gillian says with a pained tone to her voice. "I got the butterfly tattoo to remind me of what I'm doing, and now that— I don't want you to die, I want you to be here. I want you to see Brian all grown up, and… I want you to be proud of us. But… Maybe my life wasn't as bad as I thought it was when I made the decision… I wouldn't change meeting you two for anything, though."

If nothing else comes out of that, she has this— this moment, and last night. Her parents. More than she had when she was given the offer. More than she would have ever had. "Maybe if the two of you fake your deaths and— come back in twenty years. I don't know if it'll work, but…" It's something? "I wish I knew more about how… I know it was a fire, and I know the date— it's on the back of that picture." And she knows the people they worked for killed them… "If you can find a way to survive and come back in twenty years— That would be better than money. When I said I helped at an orphanage, I wasn't lying. Brian started one on Staten Island. It's pretty famous, called the Lighthouse. But if you do think money would be best— you could put a bond or something in my name, one of my names. Gwen Chevalier, that's the one I'm using now… or when I left. In twenty-one years." Is that cheating?

Alison takes Jeff's hand, squeezing it tightly. Their daughter knows about the scientific jargon he is speaking of, that much is clear, as she talks of the butterfly and its symbolism. "I don't… I don't want you to have such a horrible life, and I want to be able to see you grow up — though this is something, better than nothing," Alison says softly, her blue eyes so like Brian's shimmering with tears. "I also don't want to change something on accident that would make your life worse somehow. We'll have to talk about it — see if it's plausible, what you're suggesting. I don't know how anyone can live twenty years without affecting something, but — but maybe…"

The alternative is dying, losing everything they've worked for, their children, each other, their very lives. She swallows and reaches for her daughter to hug her tightly with one arm, the other still gripping Jeff's hand for all the strength he can give.

"How — is someone coming to get you?"

Unease twitches and knots in the line of Jeff's spine, but he puts his arm around Alison's shoulders. Rubs gently at her shoulder, a wordless gesture. It's a good question. Makes him wonder: if someone's coming to get Gillian, who else out there knows, might try to undo what she's done? He's under few illusions about the kinds of characters that the Company obligates them to associate with. "Don't worry about that," seems counterintuitive at best. Impossible at worst. "We're your parents. We'll figure something… we'll figure something out."

He drifts his eyes to the right, scouting along the wall, and back again. Lets go of his wife, an act of will, and then reaches out to squeeze Gillian's wrist, neatly, around the rose. He refuses, for now, to acknowledge the butterfly. "I'll get the coffee," he says. "I don't know how fast time-travel works these days, but you look like you could use it."

"I'll have someone take me back, don't worry about that," Gillian says, though there's a hint of doubt in her voice, as if she's not quite sure if she can meet up with that person after all. Or if they'll take her back. She didn't do all of what she agreed to do, but…

Luckily there are other people watching.

"I take cream and sugar in my coffee," she adds after her dad, smiling a bit, with a hint of the dimples her tiny counterpart is so good at flashing about. "My life's already been changed a few times because of time travel, so what's one more wrinkle, right?" And saving her parents… that's something that would be cruel to ask her not to try. At least a little. "Mom, do— do you have any pictures I could take with me? We don't really— that picture I copied, that's the only one I have of you two, of the four of us."

it's a small thing to ask and something Ali has in her power to do, so she's immediately thrown into motion to move to a chest near the entry way, opening drawers and pulling out photos for her daughter to take. A wedding picture. Her pregnant. The parents holding the children at varying ages, the children together. She finds a large envelope, the kind that studio portraits come in, sliding in a couple of dozen photos, candids and studio shots mixed together. "They're not organized — I've been meaning to organize them, but we just… you know. Never have time, between work and taking care of twins," she says ruefully — she figured there'd be time some day, after all.

Alison brings the envelope to her daughter, and then reaches around her own neck to remove a locket. She flips it open to show Gillian: on the left, Jeffrey and Ali in wedding garb; on the right, Stephanie and Brian, faces squished together in a gleeful hug.

"The locket was my grandmother's," she says softly, pressing it into Gillian's hand. "I was going to give it to you someday anyway." Her eyes shine as she stares into Gillian's face, lifting a hand to push a strand of red hair out of her eyes, brushing the little birthmark she kisses each night on Stephanie's tiny face. She leans to kiss the same spot, sighing softly. "I hope that your life is better than it has been, when you return."

A locket. That was meant to be handed down to her one day… It doesn't take long, a few blinks, and tears start falling as Gillian moves closer and wraps her arms around her mother, trying her best not to squish the envelope, or the locket, but wanting to hold onto her tightly, as if it's the last time she ever will. It probably will be.

"I love you, mom. This already— I'm leaving with so much more than I came here with, and…" As she pulls back out of the tight hug, she touches the locket and nods. She'll accept it. She doesn't even know if her parents got a proper burial, if their belongings were recovered. It's not cheating if she'd intended to give it to her—

And this way she knows she'll have it.

"Thank you. I'll do whatever I can to make my life better." Whether life wants it to be or not.

"Here, let me put it on you," Ali says, her voice quavery with emotion. It's either make herself useful or dissolve into tears, so she makes a task out of pulling Gillian's fiery hair out of the way, then assuring the locket is facing the correct direction, her fingers slowly finding the clasp and pinching the tiny mechanism, slowly linking the hook to the ring before releasing it, then turning Gillian to face her once more, as if to study the effect of the simple piece of jewelry on her daughter's neck.

She swallows, and lifts her eyes to her daughter's, her smile that is so very like Gillian's blooming on her face. "You are so beautiful. I knew you would be. We'll … is it weird to say we'll miss you, when you're just down the hall?"

A step on bright kitchen floor tiles, and Jeff reappears in the doorway with a mug in his hand. It steams gently, dark liquid, the scent of clean herbal coffee. Undoctored, but then there's a sugar cup in his other hand and a few plastic-topped lots of creamer snugged up in the hollow of his hand. He stares at the two women of his life and whatever silly easy thing he'd been about to say dies in his throat. He pads almost soundlessly across the carpet, and stoops to set the mug on the corner of a magazine, the sugars and creamer with it.

"Looks good on you," he roughs out, straightening again. "I'm glad you have it. Gwen Chavalier. I'll keep that in mind. When you get back home, maybe there will be something for you— which year do you come from again, exactly? Have to m—" He cuts off rather suddenly, black brows in a furrow, his lean shoulders in a twist, satellite dishing toward the garden despite that there's a wall and half-drawn blinds, unmistakable tension drawn out in sharp angles around his shoulders. "Did you hear that?"

Doubtless, Alison had. She'd been halfway across the house when she'd picked it up the night before: the sound of a garden gnome kicked tactlessly aside.

"Jennifer Chesterfield said that I looked like you," Gillian says with a smile as she looks across at her mom, trying to hide the tears in that touched grin as the locket is put around her neck. Where it was supposed to be. Where it is now. The envelope of pictures is pressed against her chest and she looks over at her dad.

"Early October, 2010. I'm about to turn twenty-four." Despite a prediction that she would die before she turned twenty-three. She's been known to cheat the odds, and…

The mention of a sound draws her eyes, following to where her dad looked. "What is it?" She didn't hear it, but she'd been trying to remember to breathe at the time, so it's no doubt she's missing some things.

Alison is moving already toward the window closest to the garden, her face pale. "Perhaps it's your transportation. What does he or she look like?" she asks softly, but there is a tension that suggests she is not so sure. If they are meant to die, if someone else knew what Gillian was here to do, to warn them of, what ends would someone go to, to keep the future the same?

Standing in the corner, she peers through the closed blinds, trying to see through a centimeter of space and not draw attention to herself — opening the blinds even a half of an inch might catch the eye of the trespasser.

Blurred by the letterbox frame of the blinds, Alison sees a man in a suit walking slow along the sidewalk, features turned toward the road. Not altogether out-of-place, here in suburbia, except that Alison can't recognize him as any neighbor and there's a diminutive girl near him, approaching the lawn, who's dressed wrong for a companion. Blue jeans, white turtleneck, tiny blue boots. Little discrepancies that a Company scientist would recognize where any other laboratory technician or talented experimenter might not. They don't go together, as civilians.

They're working together.

False laughter creases around the eyes of the woman in jeans. She shakes her head, picks up her gait into a jog, stepping around sprinklers and wetly beaded grass. Car keys jingle in the fingers of one hand, an eerily familiar newspaper scrolled in the other.

The silhouette the woman draws is dim, and there is no way Jeff can make out the details of her costume, or that of her companion further by the ribbon of asphalt that runs by their home. Still, it's instinct, with a hand stretched out toward his daughter. "Come on," he says. "You should— why don't you sit with the kids a little while? It's probably just a telemarketer, but better safe than sorry."

"I— alright, I did want to say goodbye to them before I left too," Gillian says, looking toward the door with worry, takes her small tokens of the past along with her, quiet stepping through the hall, towards the kid's room. "And for the record— I'll miss you too." But now she knows she'll always have the two of them with her, in some form or another.

Around her neck, on a locket that belonged to her grandmother, and mother. And maybe someday she'll have a daughter to pass it on to.

Maybe someday.

As the bedroom door opens, she makes a gesture with her fingers, whether the kids are awake or not, a 'shhhh' gesture. Universal. Everyone can get what that means.

She left her coffee behind, though.

Alison turns away from the door to go to a cabinet, unlocking it quickly and pulling from it a gun and then its ammunition, loading it quickly. She glances at Jeff. "Something's not right," she whispers. "Any ideas?" She moves to the hallway, pulling closed the door to put another barrier between and the children — all three of them.

Jeff's mouth is a severe line on his vulpine features. "See what they want," he says, and the 'remote control' is already in his hand, flipping with ludicrously casual grace to and fro in his grasp. "I'll get the door. If something happens, you'll have to decide whether you come for me or go to the kids." But, there's an unspoken but on the end of that line there. But I trust you. He's already stepping toward the door, glancing out the window to mark the same observations that his wife had made, clearing his throat, forcing his shoulders loose. He isn't the best liar at the Company's disposal, but he wouldn't be at the Company's disposal if he weren't at least passable.

The door clicks open. Drops a wide rectangle of brilliant sunlight in. "Hi," is the second last thing Gillian hears as the bedroom doorway shuts behind her.

The last is in a female voice that does not belong to Alison. "Hello? I'm here answering the ad for a babysitter. May I speak to… Alison? I would've called ahead, but the line was tied up and I just happened to be in the area.

"Are you alone?"

When the augmentor shuts herself in with them, the twins are already awake. Very much so, all big eyes and bushy tails, but instead of dragging tiny robes, slippers, or a new day's change of clothes on and beelining for the bathroom, they're camped out on the floor with milk in glasses identical to those in the cabinets— no matter none of the Winters had seen them claimed, and French toast from the diner down the street set out on paper plates. Between them, Hiro's crouching figure is not one you would have expected.

The black leather of his trenchcoat is flared out to lip over a prone teddy-bear, and his sword remains sheathed. Yet there's unmistakable tension rife in his broad frame. "Gillian," he says. "I think it's time for us to go."

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