Save the World


nicole_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif richard4_icon.gif

Scene Title Save the World
Synopsis Save the Cheerleader… Richard and Nicole turn to Peyton for help finding those who are lost.
Date February 18, 2020

Safe Zone

This could easily be considered officially business, Nicole knows the kind of paperwork and red tape that would be required in order to start digging into this case she’s taken on. And as much as Nicole swears up and down that she lives for paperwork, there’s times when it’s just cumbersome. Where it causes too much time to be lost.

Sometimes, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

It’s with this in mind that Nicole Varlane has disguised her visit to Peyton Whitney as a social call. It’s Jonah’s birthday on Friday, and with that in mind, there’s a flat square box wrapped in paper decorated with colorful dinosaurs in Nicole’s hand as she rings the bell. There’s just also a manilla folder under that, held to the bottom of the box with her splayed fingers.

At Nicole’s left shoulder is Richard Ray, who she’d argued with only days before. She offers him the briefest of smiles that doesn’t reach her eyes. One of yours is missing and we need to find her, was a quick way to douse the flames before the bridge between them could burn.

They may have had an argument, but there was still business to take care of.

And a cheerleader to rescue.

If there’s one thing Richard has become aware of in the past few years, however, it’s the importance of birthdays to small human beings. Which is why there’s also a box tucked under one arm wrapped in a different wrapping paper. But it’s still dinosaurs. These are clearly two people who know Jonah well.

He’s otherwise dressed nicely, business casual. No tie.

“I got it.” Peyton’s voice can be heard behind the door before the click of heels on the hardwood floors. There’s no sound of puppy barks or Jonah squeals, which means the boy and his dog are either out or upstairs.

When the door opens, Peyton appears in a silk mandarin-collar dress in jade green, dark hair pinned up in a chiffon. She’s not dressed for work nor home but for a very posh evening out.

“Hey!” she says, and sounds still very much like the younger Peyton of earlier times, rather than the academy school mistress she is today. “Jonah’s spending the week with Faye, actually, ski trip.” The confusing President’s Day holiday dilemma is solved by giving the students at Winslow-Crawford a few extra days off in the affectionately-dubbed ‘ski week’ so popular at many affluent schools across the country. “But he’ll love these, I am sure.”

Peyton finishes putting in an earring she’s been holding onto, before reaching for the presents and giving Nicole a kiss on the cheek. “We have a dinner to go to, but come in for a minute. Brad’s slower than I am when it comes to getting ready.” She rolls her eyes but steps out of the doorway so they can enter, and she gestures to the living room to the right. “I have Pippa’s presents but they’re not wrapped yet,” she adds to Nicole apologetically.

Her gaze flits from Nicole to Richard and back. Obviously it’s not a purely social call, but she doesn’t ask why they’re here. “Would you like something to drink?” she asks, instead.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Nicole, after a reciprocal peck of her own to Peyton’s cheek, waves off the mention of being concerned about Pippa’s gifts. “She picked these out, by the way. Some coloring books and stickers. Sorry if any of it ends up on your walls, but she insisted that’s what her birthday twin would love.” And as close as Pippa and Jonah are, the girl is probably right.

Wandering into the space she knows quite well from playdates and social calls, Nicole gives a smile in return for the offer of something to drink. “Just water for me.” When was the last time she said that? “You know I’m not… That we’re not just here to drop off gifts.” For one thing, Nicole and Richard aren’t exactly attached to one another, professionally or otherwise. And there’s apology in her tone. She hates when she has to show up asking for favors.

Because they have a dinner to go to, Nicole isn’t shedding her coat. She does dart a furtive glance in the direction of the room where she knows Brad must be. Only the worst of that awkwardness has long since passed. But what Nicole doesn’t do is make Peyton wait or put the onus on Richard to explain why they’re here. She’s never needed a man to conduct her business for her anyway. “Claire Bennet has gone missing. Kidnapped by agents of Adam Monroe or Mazdak. I need to find her.”

“Hey. Sorry for interrupting like this…” Richard steps in, and doesn’t for once go for a hug or anything like that. His body language is a bit stiff and standoffish, and the gloves are new. A rueful smile, handing over the gift, “— but as a note, don’t worry, I intercepted Warren’s gifts as usual.”

They tend to be dangerous.

He tilts his head to Nicole, “I know this is— well.” He wrinkles his nose, “A bad time, but, Claire was one of us. I wouldn’t ask otherwise, you know that.”

“He’ll love them,” says Peyton with a smile, setting the presents down and ushering the guests into the living room.

“I figured,” is her soft comment when Nicole admits it’s not a social visit. There’s usually a phone call and a calendar involved in those, or at least a few texts before settling on a date. Still, the words are understanding; there’s no disappointment or anger that they’re here for a favor. She owes both of them more than that.

Her brow lifts at Claire’s name, brows drawing together in worry. Peyton hasn’t seen Claire for years, but they were friends once. Or at least friendly collaborators.

“Shit,” she says, simply, before going to the nearby kitchen to get water, two bottles from the refrigerator. She might have brought them glasses and ice, but it’s not a social visit, after all.

“Monroe’s with Mazdak now?” she asks, looking from one to the other as she sits on the arm of one of the chairs. Cardinal’s words evoke a shake of her head.

“You can always ask.” Peyton’s voice is low, apologetic. “I know if you do, it’s important.”

Her dark eyes sweep over both of them. “I can share what I see and hear with one of you. Not for as long as I can see if it’s just me. Maybe thirty seconds or so.” The tacit question is which?

Uncapping the bottle of water, Nicole takes a drink, then nods her head. It isn’t as though she constantly asks for her friend to make use of her ability for her. She didn’t even ask her to use it to find Ben after he left her for the enemy, no matter how badly she wanted to find him so she could wring his neck. But permission or no, she still feels some sense of guilt.

“I don’t know for sure,” she says of the connection between Monroe and Mazdak, “We have reason to believe they’re at least allied. Makes sense, given their penchants for Expressive supremacy.” With a shrug, she puts the cap back on the water and sets it aside.

Nicole doesn’t even so much as glance at Richard before she answers Peyton’s unspoken question: “Me.”

It has nothing to do with whatever trust she has or doesn’t for him. Noah’s her partner, and she feels she owes it to him to be the one who does everything in their power to bring his daughter home. “If you’re going to show someone, it’s going to be me.”

Finally, she looks over to the friend she brought with her, feeling she owes him a qualification for her assertion. “I’ve looked over every file, every dossier. I’ve seen so many faces and names.” Not that he hasn’t, but Nicole is — perhaps mistakenly — under the impression that Raytech’s breadth of knowledge is not as extensive as the Endgame of old. “And if you don’t see it, you can’t be held responsible for what I do with the information.”

Because this is where Nicole is willing to break ranks, and after the conversation between Richard and Rhys the other day, she won’t have him blamed for her flouting of the rules, the chain of command, and her insubordination.

As Nicole speaks up, Richard glances to her— then nods a bit. “Alright.”

His lips twitch in a slight smile, then, as he notes, “You can’t be held responsible for what I do with this information either. It’s wonderful being a private citizen sometimes.”

He rubs a gloved hand against his forehead, explaining, “Adam’s been working with Mazdak for some time, but— Mazdak’s the one playing him. He just doesn’t know it yet. They kidnapped me, they kidnapped Nathalie, it…”

A grimace twists across his lips, “It’s just a huge mess, Pey.”

The clairvoyant lets the explanation and justification take place without interrupting, glancing in the direction of the upstairs bedroom when the shower can be heard coming on. The old brownstone might be costly, but it has old pipes. She rolls her eyes slightly that the man is just now getting into the shower, when she’s already ready to go.

When Richard speaks, her brows draw together at the last bit of information. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” she says quietly, regarding his own kidnapping. “Nathalie… Berlin. I couldn’t find her.” Her expression is somber. She looked too often for it to be anything but what it was, and her dark eyes fill with tears for the girl she only met once.

“I didn’t know you knew her. Lucille came to me for help,” she says quietly.

She presses her lips together and takes a long breath through her nostrils, before exhaling.

“I can watch longer but you’ll cut out after about thirty seconds, give or take,” she tells Nicole.

Nicole comes to stand in front of Peyton before she slips into her vision state ready to be pulled in when the time comes. Her expression is grim when the topic turns to the kidnapping, and Nathalie. There’s nothing more Nicole can say on the subject. Nothing she can do will change anything. Nothing will make any of it better.

Still, Richard earns a sympathetic look. Maybe they can do something to prevent this from happening to anyone else, and maybe that can provide some solace.

“She was my cousin. Once— once removed, I think,” says Richard quietly, turning his head to look away as she’s brought up, “Don’t feel bad, not even you can see beyond that veil. You did everything you could.”

He wants to reach out, it’s clear, but he can’t - so he steps aside, instead, to watch them go through the process he once was so familiar with.

Peyton’s eyes widen a little when Richard reveals the family connection. “I’m so sorry. I wish I’d known earlier, to help both of you.” She watches him step aside, brows drawing together before she turns her gaze back to Nicole.

“It can be disorienting a bit. You won’t be able to hear or see anything here — sort of like having on a virtual-reality headset. I’ll start and bring you in if I get anything,” Peyton warns, offering Nicole her hand to keep the other woman steady and grounded in this reality.

Her eyes, still brimming with tears, go dark; the black pupils swallow up the irises, and the living room’s sounds and images slip away.

Nicole’s pupils also dilate, leaving Richard to watch the two women as Peyton’s clairvoyance takes them elsewhere.

Somewhere, Far Away

The ceiling is bare, painted white and only just visible for all that it is pitch black elsewhere. A dim glow of a waning crescent moon spilling through a tall window is all the light by which there is to see. The window, partially visible from Claire Bennet’s perspective, views the clear and starlight sky within which that moon hangs. Wherever she is, it’s night.There’s a moment when the perspective shifts, viewing not the window but a mostly dark room. Some ambiguous shapes line the walls that may be furniture, but the illumination is so low as to make it impossible to discern. What is clearly in view, closest to Peyton’s perspective, is the puffed up edge of a pillow. Claire is in a bed and presumably unable to sleep.

But unfortunately, that provides no other useful context as she stares vacantly into the darkness of her room, sighing softly one moment, and then

Peyton’s Residence

Roughly thirty seconds of nothing.

Richard just waits; arms folded over his chest, he rocks back and forth on his heels a bit anxiously as he looks between the pair. The waiting is always the hardest part.

Peyton frowns as she watches, trying to discern any details from the vague darkness that Claire sits in.

“She’s there,” she says quickly, for Richard’s sake. “But it’s dark.” Her head shakes, her voice apologetic. “She’s in bed, I think.”

Eventually, her irises bloom as the pupils shrink back to normal size, and she winces, bringing her hand up to her eyes to rub them a little. When she turns to look up at Richard, her eyes are watery — not with tears, but strain.

“It’s just a dark room. She was awake. Nothing I could really grab onto, though. I can try again if you want, maybe in a few hours.” Peyton looks to her own window, squinting at the sky. “It was clear, and the moon was high. Already risen,” she offers. It’s not much to go on — but Claire is obviously not in their timezone. It’s a slim needle of information.

Nicole gives Peyton’s hand a small squeeze as she starts to withdraw. It takes her a moment to reorient herself to the room, letting her eyes roam to bring familiar walls and surfaces back into focus. Finally, she looks up to Richard. “She’s almost certainly overseas.” Which means she can’t claim jurisdiction. She can’t just fuck off on a wild cheerleader chase either. “If I had to hazard a guess as to where…” That’s left to hang between them. He can fill in the blank of where she might be guessing.

With regret, she looks back to Peyton. “I think we might need to try again later, if you’re… up for it.” She can see the pain her friend is enduring for this. For her. “But only if you’re able to. You can call me when you’re ready, I can meet you here, we can… We can try this again.” Even if she can’t play the federal agent card on this one, the more information she can gather, the better armed she can make those who can do something about this.

“At least we know she’s alive. And yeah, you’re right, Nicole - she’s probably somewhere in the Middle East, like I was when they captured me… but in a bed is better than chained to a wall,” Richard says, offering a faint smile back to Peyton, “So I appreciate that much information at least. We know there’s a chance.”

A glance at Nicole, and back, “Yeah, we’ll… probably need to figure out a time of day that’s daytime in that part of the world to try again.”

A breath’s drawn in, “How about Niki? She’s been missing too, for months…” An apologetic look at Peyton, and a bit of a grimace. He hates asking her to help like this, for reasons she knows well.

“It’s okay,” murmurs Peyton to Nicole. “It’s just this new aspect… getting used to it. It’ll pass. And I can try again, sure. I can try on my own, and if I see anything, I’ll give you a call and loop you in.” Like a conference call.

Richard’s words draw her watery eyes that way, and she frowns again. “I wish someone had told me,” she says softly, regretfully. Now that she knows Nathalie died at the hands of the same people, she can’t help but wonder what would have happened if she’d looked earlier.

“I know how hard that is,” she adds, having been a kidnap victim herself, not long before she’d met Niki and Richard. “I still have nightmares sometimes,” she confesses. “Let me know if you need someone to talk to.”

The request to look for Niki is met with a nod. The clairvoyant looks up to Nicole to check if the other woman is ready for another dip into another person’s perspective, then lets her own surroundings fall away once more. As her eyes become black again, a tear slips down one cheek.

Somewhere, Far Away

“ — undercompensating.”

It’s the first thing Peyton hears, the end of a sentence spoken by a woman with a flinty voice and a British accent. She sees someone she hasn’t seen in years through the eyes of Niki Zimmerman. A woman that once worked for Richard at Redbird Security Solutions — Sabine Hazel.

Sabine looks hardened by the years that have passed since the war, leaner and more tired. Her hair is tied back in a ponytail, dressed in sportswear with padded gloves, the kind boxers use when training. She’s facing down Niki and they’re in a roped-in ring, like a boxing ring at a gym, though there’s no one else around.

“Your body is still used to being superhuman,” Sabine says, scratching at the bridge of her nose with one gloved hand. “Every time you take a swing you’re holding back in your shoulders, like you’re afraid you’re gonna’ knock my head clean off my neck. You haven’t had that strength in years, but your body remembers it. You’re holding back even when you don’t want to.”

Sabine knocks her gloves together and shifts her weight to the balls of her feet. “Try again, but follow through this time. Really give me a wallop.”

Niki rolls her shoulders and slaps her taped hands together twice. “Haven’t really had any trouble holding my own,” she offers her own defense. “But… Maybe there’s something to that.” There’s still a note of doubt in her tone, but it’s unclear if it’s because she doesn’t subscribe to Sabine’s theory, or if she’s simply afraid that if she stops holding back, she will hurt Sabine badly.

Raising her fists once more, she squares up and throws a punch at her sparring partner, this time pivoting on her foot and really letting her momentum carry her. She’s almost certainly overcorrecting, but it might help her find the middle ground.

“You’ve got a lot of anger bottled up in there,” Sabine says without a hint of irony as she blocks the incoming blow with raised gloves, because she couldn’t know how right she is. “There’s a way you position yourself, that extension, it’s frustration. The deep kind.” She takes a swing at Niki, and the blonde likewise is able to block the hook.

“Solid reflexes, good form, I think the only enemy here really is — you.” Sabine says casually. “I like to think of boxing as cathartic, really allows me to get things out. It was easier before Gemini,” she admits with a grin, keeping a bouncing rhythm to her steps as she and Niki circle each other. “Harder now, for all the same reasons you probably didn’t go slapping people across the face very often.” Then, with a smirk. “Or did you slap a mouth or two off someone who deserved it?”

The enemy really is within, even if neither of them know it yet.

Niki smirks faintly. “Once or twice.” The banter is taking the edge off, putting her more at ease and unwinding some of the frustration Sabine correctly pegged. “It was worse when my ability got swapped with the Campbell kid.” She takes another swing, rolling with it easily when her partner blocks it. It’s getting easier. There’s less tension in her shoulders holding her back when she extends her arm.

“I could look sideways at someone and really mess them up if they got too close.” Which was definitely a problem. “I did a lot of meditation.” Gloves up, she blocks the next strike traded with her, then corrects herself: “Do. Do a lot of meditation.”

“Probably for the bes— ”

Peyton’s Residence

Peyton’s perception reels back into herself, memories of the interior space clinging to the corners of her mind. The sights and sounds of that training floor, like a gym but more spartan. Windows to the outside had showed too much concrete and glass to pin down a horizon line. But there were smoke stacks and one of the walls was at a sharp angle.

She had murmured, “She’s okay,” for Cardinal’s benefit during the vision, knowing that it’s hard to watch and wait while she gathers the intelligence. When Peyton comes back to her own surroundings, she drops Nicole’s hand to press her fingers against her watering eyes, hard enough to bring spirals and stars behind her closed lids. Her brows draw together in pain as the headache she’s invited in makes itself at home.

“She was sparring with Sabine. Friendly, Practice,” she murmurs, opening her eyes again to look at Cardinal. Her makeup smudged, she’ll have to tidy up again and make Russo wait after all.

“Sabine mentioned fighting being easy before Gemini. I’m not sure where they were. There were smoke stacks, concrete.” Peyton shakes her head. It’s not a place she recognizes. “Sharp angles on the building.”

“Industrial. Could be anywhere that survived the war…” Richard breathes out a heavy sigh, fingers raking back through his hair, “At least they’re both alive, and safe. And Claire is. That’s— something, at least.”

He grimaces, “If I could get in touch with Sabine— but. Anyway. Pey, thank you, we’ve— I owe you more than I can say, but I always have, and I just keep adding more debts to that. Thank you.”

Nicole rests a hand on Peyton’s shoulder after the vision fades for her. She looks up to Richard, nodding her head briefly to confirm that she saw it too. That the visual cues don’t necessarily mean anything to her, but maybe they can puzzle it out together. Later.

Her fingers squeeze Peyton’s shoulder lightly. “Thank you. If you decide to try again with Claire, and you want me here, just let me know. Otherwise, I’ll wait to hear from you about what you found out.” Nicole smiles encouragingly. “And we’ll see you on Friday for Jonah’s party. Pippa can hardly wait.”

Leveling a look at Cardinal’s words about debts, she shakes her head sharply, despite the waves of pain the movement causes. “Please,” she says quietly. “It’s the least I can do.”

She doesn’t say more — they’ve said it a few times over.

Her hand comes up to squeeze Nicole’s. “Can’t wait to see her when I don’t have to be prim and proper headmistress,” she says with a smirk. Not that Peyton is ever all that prim and proper, even now.

“I’ll let you know. You’re busy. I can look and if there’s anything I need you to see, I can dial you in.” There’s a flash of a smile. “Can’t get away from conference calls, am I right?”

Standing, she takes a second to make sure she has her balance. “Whatever’s going on, please stay safe?” Her dark eyes sweep over the pair of them. “Or as safe as possible.”

Her eyes find Richard’s. “Try to share the burden of saving the world if you decide to do that again,” Peyton says lightly, but there’s worry behind the smile.

It’s an old argument. Old wounds, that perhaps will never fully heal. Richard manages a faint smile there.

“I’ve already failed on the staying safe part,” he admits quietly, “But I’ll try. And I’m doing my best to share that burden, but everyone just looks at me and sees him, so…”

He shrugs one shoulder, “I’ll do my best. Let us know if you find anything out, but— “ A finger’s waggled at her, a smile, “Don’t push yourself. The kids are always excited for school, and they’d be upset if their favorite teacher had to take more sick days.”

“Not everyone,” Nicole reminds Richard gently. She’s not looking to dig into an old argument either. Leaning in, she drops a kiss on Peyton’s cheek. “Take it easy, okay? I hope you manage to enjoy your dinner.”

Her posture slants to one side, eyeing the direction Peyton’s partner off in. There’s a moment of something akin to conflict that plays out on her face, but it’s brief. “Tell Brad I said hello, please?” She’s decided against doing it herself.

Then, she slides an arm around her companion, gently starting to move the pair of them toward the door. “C’mon, Rich. I’ll drop you home.” Nicole needs to get in touch with Noah as soon as she can.

Peyton’s eyes are solemn as she meets Richard’s, and she shakes her head slightly. “Not me.”

For her, the two Richard Cardinals are distinctly different people, and she knows she betrayed the one before her by choosing the other, so long ago.

“I’m glad to hear that. Though no one’s ever excited to see me. It usually means they’re in trouble,” she adds more lightly — it’s not strictly true, but she doesn’t have her own classroom to helm.

Peyton moves to the door to open it, leaning to give Nicole a quick kiss on the cheek. “Will do. Now go be heroes. Just come back home.”


There is a light snow falling outside when the front door to Peyton’s home opens. Across the street from the brownstone, a few cars are parked on the street under the leafless boughs of snow-laden trees. A car rumbles up the street as Richard Ray and Nicole Varlane step out onto the street.

What is said in parting to Peyton Whitney can’t be heard by the person across the street, watching their departure down snowy concrete steps to the sidewalk. But there’s none the less a vigilance in her pale eyes. She adjusts the hood of her jacket, turns away from the departing pair and continues down the street.

“I have eyes on him,” she says in the softest of whispers to what seems like herself.

And just another face in the crowd fades into the backdrop of the city.

“Herr Volken’s vessel is back in the city.”


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License