Puppies and Politics


peyton2_icon.gif smedley_icon.gif

Scene Title Puppies and Politics
Synopsis A chance encounter is not as awkward as it might have been for Peyton and Smedley.
Date August 14, 2010

Central Park

Leash laws require all dogs in city parks to be, well, leashed. For once, Wes Smedley is obeying the law. Carson's leather lead is looped around the toe of his boot as he sits beneath a tree, his guitar in his lap. He isn't playing anything in particular, but Carson, lying near his feet, sees it fit to sing along with the wandering melody regardless.

It's cooler today than it has been, giving Smedley an excuse to wear his light brown leather jacket (and subsequently, an easy way to hide the six shooter resting in his shoulder holster). Otherwise, his jeans, boots, and v-necked t-shirt are of his regular fare. He smiles idly at Carson as he strums and plucks out the lazy tune, and between his mournful howls, the dog grins back at his master.

Peyton's finally left her apartment after spending the last couple of days holed up, watching through the eyes and listening through the ears of most of her friends and more of her allies. She couldn't see most of their battles, due to the blackness of the hospital, but it didn't keep her from trying, and what she saw kept her awake when she had tried to sleep. She's peeked in on them since for fleeting moments, just to make sure all of them lived. There were obviously losses, but none that she knew — or at least, that she can tell.

The exertion of overusing her power and a lack of sleep has made for a headache, and rather than try to sleep it off (since sleep isn't coming), Peyton has decided fresh air is in order. In a way, it's fitting, as a celebration of life and freedom (such as it is, here in NYC in 2010), since one year ago she was holed up in a cemetery mausoleum by Humanis First. Definitely not free.

Peyton doesn't see Smedley or his dog as she comes around the bend, eyes being Jackie-O-style Ray Bans. She's dressed for summer in a bright green sundress, flip flops on her feet to match, her coloring complementing that of her very red little pup, Von the foxy mutt who scampers about happily on his lead.

The little dog sees Carson, and lurches suddenly forward; he only weighs 25 pounds, but the sudden pull has Peyton stumbling a couple of steps until she reasserts her balance and looks straight at Smedley to see what the excitement is over. Meanwhile, Von is just a few inches shy of reaching his target, and whines, nails scrabbling on the ground. He wants to make friends.

Carson is just as interested in Von as the smaller dog is in him, but Smedley is at least aware of his mutt's intentions soon enough to make a grab for the leash as Carson rises and starts to bark happily, his tail wagging furiously behind him. A dog! A dog a dog a dog a SMALLER dog! Smedley is able to trade his instrument for the leash just as Carson starts the canine greeting circling of who-gets-to-sniff-whom-first, thereby preventing any tangling of himself in such a dance.

It's only once both he and the guitar are securely out of harm's way that Smedley follows the line of Von's leash to his owner, and the jovial smile he'd been wearing fades to astonishment. Even with those glasses, he doesn't have any trouble recognizing her. Then again, he's not looking solely at her face either. "Hey you," he finally chokes out after a quick swallow.

Peyton's eyes are shielded, but her head is tipped down slightly, the smile on her face suggesting it's actually the dogs' antics she's laughing at. Once it's clear the elderly dog isn't going to chomp off one of Von's fuzzy fox ears, she lets up a little on his lead, letting him investigate the larger dog.

But Smedley needs addressed, so she glances to him, giving him a nod. "Hi," she murmurs, a little subdued. "Sorry for interrupting your … song…" she says, gesturing to the guitar as she changes the lead from her right hand to her left to allow Von more lead. "I swear I'm not stalking you," she adds as a joke. Did she tell him what she could do? She doesnt' remember, since they've been drunk both times she's seen him, but she'd make a pretty good stalker if she wanted to.

Due to his advanced years, Carson soon finds it necessary to lie down again, but he's still tolerant of the puppy's antics. He playfully chomps and paws at the younger dog, his tail sweeping the grass behind him.

"Can't say I'd mind it if you did," Smedley says with a tired sort of smile. He folds his arms across his chest, the lead hanging limply from two fingers, and leans back against the trunk of the tree. "And if you interrupted anybody, it'd be Carson here." He glances toward the dogs, and his smile gains strength. "But I don't think he minds much either."

The smaller dog tackles Carson as he lies down, then rolls off in a bundle of plump red fur. "Your dog is very tolerant of the upstart," Peyton says with a smirk, bending to hold out a hand to Carson for him to sniff before petting him, then rising again to let the two dogs frolic. Or rather, the puppy to frolic while Carson puts up with it.

She looks back up to him, pushing her sunglasses to the top of her head. Dark circles under her eyes suggest a lack of sleep and a lot of worry. "I haven't had a chance to give Cardinal the pictures yet, but I'll probably see him tomorrow," she offers. Back to business.

Carson is content to sniff Peyton's hand and even licks it before his attention is robbed away by the pup once more. But the sight of Peyton's tired face, even if Smedley can't look her in the eye, smacks him bolt upright. He unfolds his arms and draws a little closer to her. "No rush," he lies, scanning her face. "Are you okay?"

With that, he extends a hand and jerks his head toward the tree in a subtle offer for her to sit. The dogs are entranced with each other anyway. There's no reason not to be comfortable.

Peyton snorts a touch at the instant are you okay that taking off her sunglasses brings about, but she shrugs one shoulder, moving to the bench to sit. "Just tired. Not even hungover, if you can believe that," she says with a smirk. "Just a little over-exerted. Using my ability gives me migraines, and also I haven't been able to sleep much. So between the two?" She raises her brows for him to fill the blanks.

She glances back at the dogs, finding it easier to watch them than him. "Did I tell you what I can do? I don't… remember."

Smedley only found out that Peyton had an ability by reading it in a magazine. Still, he shakes his head, either in disbelief or to indicate a negative answer to her question. She either has a really strong soap/mouthwash, or hasn't touched a drop. Still, knowing what little he does about Peyton, it could be the former. He sits beside her, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his thighs as he watches the dogs.

"Does it really matter?" The question is as much for himself as it is for her.

"You should probably know. I mean, it's … it's not something I tell people, but if you know Cardinal and you're friends, it'll probably come out at some point. But I promise you I'll only use it on you if it was for an emergency," she prefaces, which is probably not the best way to put someone at ease. She brings a hand to her dark-circled eyes. "Clairvoyant. I can see what someone is looking at, or hear what they hear, if I focus on them. Has to be someone I've seen in person or through my vision — I can't see, like, what Oprah Winfrey's doing right now." She offers a tired smile.

"It doesn't matter but it explains why I can't sleep, maybe. I've seen a lot of horrible things. Enough to give most people nightmares, and I've always had nightmares, even before I had the power, so." She shrugs again. "And I've been using my power a lot because of … " oops, too far… "checking in on things."

Smedley is silent as Peyton speaks, and for a few heartbeats after. The muscles in his neck visibly tighten and relax, and he rubs his palms together, the calloused skin rasping. "Enough to drive you mad," he muses with a shake of his head. With a sigh, he reaches over to place a hand on Peyton's knee, giving it the smallest of squeezes. It's meant as reassuring, but something in him makes him pull away almost as soon as the gesture is done.

"I couldn't do it," he says with another shake of his head, drawing himself up to lean against the back of the bench and once again folding his arms across his chest. He breathes deeply and closes his eyes, imagining the ramifications of such a power.

"Well, I didn't have much of a choice at first. The visions hit me, I didn't look for them. But I guess after being kidnapped… when the people asked me to help find other victims of Humanis First… What, I was going to say no, and let them stay wherever they were, and not help them if I could?" she says quietly.

Her voice is neutral, but a single tear does slip down one cheek; it's been a year. She's seen so many horrible things in that year. And she knows she'll see more yet. "It doesn't do me any good to have it if I don't try to help people with it… I mean, I guess I could spy on my next door neighbor while he's in the shower but that seems like a waste of responsibility, yeah?" she smiles a little, offering an attempt at humor.

"You make lemonade," Smedley says with a brief nod, his eyes still closed. "S'good. Adapt. Roll with it." He opens his eyes and turns his head just enough to look at Peyton in his peripheral vision. The lines on his face look a little deeper than usual, his expression worried. "It's just a talent. That's all. A sort of comic-book-superhero like talent. It makes sense to use it for, well…good things. 'stead of tryin' to be a super villain or something." But Smedley doesn't laugh at his own joke. Maybe he doesn't think it's funny.

"You gonna get registered?" he asks in a much quieter voice, looking to the ground again and scuffing one booted foot against the grass.

"I don't really like lemonade," Peyton says with a little smile, tapping her foot on the ground when the puppy suddenly gets too rough on old Carson, and the deaf dog looks up at the vibrations from the ground, then scampers back for more play, a little gentler this time. "Yeah, I don't think I'd do very well as a villain. Kinda hard to clairvoyant someone to death."

She tucks a strand of dark hair behind one ear, glancing from the dogs to his profile. "I'm already registered." she says quietly. "I had a public manifestation. It was on the fucking news. Can't really hide that, and I didn't want to go into actual hiding, though now it's looking like that wouldn't have been a bad idea. You hear the curfew's knocked down to nine? Anyway, luckily the police don't really know what I can do. They know I get visions and such, but I tried to make it all nonsensical, like I didn't know what I was seeing. I mean, in the beginning it pretty much was, but now…" she pauses and shakes her head. For some reason, maybe because she feels so alone, all of her friends miles away in Staten, she's confiding more in him than she has in anyone. "I mean, I've seen the president and Frontline captains and I don't know who else. I could read their emails and files. If they knew that…"

Smedley nods appreciatively. "Don't worry," he says with a strained smirk. "I won't tell." But he furrows his brows once more as soon as the words escape his lips. Steadying himself with another deep breath, he twists his neck to relieve some of the tension there. "You're lucky, in a way. I mean, not that what happened to'y was a good thing, but… there are people who're, well, they aren't the best people, but they're countin' the days until their lives are effectively over. I don't see why it matters that everyone fits in a fuckin' box on a form." One day, long ago, a different man named Wesley Smedley would have disagreed with the one sitting on the bench in Central Park, and that's enough to make Wes swallow once again. "Ain't gonna be good for people," he says again.

"Includin' me."

Peyton shakes her head, a rueful smile curving her lips upward. "I'm not lucky, but I guess it'll be easier for me for the transition than people who hadn't registered. Also I'm tier 1, so I'm not exactly rawr dangerous, at least that they know of. And it just wouldn't work any other way unless I got a face change or moved to Paris or something, once they started cracking down," she says with a shrug, then tilts her head to peer into his face. "The registration stuff's going to affect you? I mean… you know, more than the average joe, so to speak?" she asks, curiosity filling her voice. "Are you Evolved, then? I'm sure we can get you fake papers if you need them. I have friends in low places," she adds with a wink.

"Nah, I ain't special like that," Smedley answers in a breathy chuckle and with a shake of his head. "But… I ain't exactly keen on lettin' the government know where I am." There isn't much they can pin on him in regards to his smuggling of various items or even the human trafficking, but those are the least of the skeletons in his closet.

"S'invasion of privacy. A damn shame the fuckin' thing even got passed." Those words are almost snarled, and are followed by a reluctant sigh. "Thanks, though. I could probably dig some up. Ain't like I'm livin' on the grid as it is, but still. When a comrade asks me for papers, I gotta have a better response th'n high-tailin' it in the other direction."

The evasive answer gives her an idea of why, perhaps, he doesn't want to have his name on a card, though not the details. She gives a nod of understanding. "It's starting to feel like what I'd guess Europe felt like in 1940 or so," she says with a shake of her head. "And this curfew — it's not us that's the problem, it's the government, and I'm pretty sure this Institute is allowed to be open past 9 p.m. or have its members out on the streets. They're at fault, but they make it look like it's us."

Peyton gives an angry shake of her head that flips her dark hair side to side. "I'd leave the country but it's just not worth it," she mutters, more to herself than him, then gives a wry chuckle. "You're probably wishing you hadn't asked me to sit. I can get out of your hair."

Smedley expells a puff of air and looks at Peyton with a one-sided, lazy grin that makes the skin at the corner of his eyes wrinkle again. "And deprive ol' Carson of invigorating youth? How cruel of you, Pey." He tsks at her, unfolding his arms to lay one across his lap and let the other rest on the back of the bench in subtle invitation. "Stay. Ain't nothin' better for a bad day than watchin' a couple'uh pups go at it." He winks a tired eye at her, then cocks his head. Scooch over, silly girl. "Promise. You'll go home tonight and sleep like a baby, and if you don't, I'll show up and sing y'a lullaby." It's either a guarantee or a threat, but regardless it is offered with kindness.

One corner of her mouth quirks up in a surprised smile, and she nods at the invitation to stay. "All right," she agrees, chuckling as Von lolls over on his back, little paws waving as if begging the more mild-mannered Carson to nip his pink belly. "Ludwig Von doesn't get a lot of play dates, so I suppose it would be mean to make it a short one."

She gives a nod to his guitar. "If you want, you can play me that lullaby now — just make sure I don't fall asleep and make a fool of myself snoring while my dog wreaks havoc all over the park, got it?" She won't actually fall asleep, but puppies and a guitar-playing cowboy go a long way toward chasing away the ghosts within.

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