Scene Title Shattered
Synopsis Everyone has a cracking point. Peyton finds hers in a four-year-old news article.
Date December 23, 2010

Redbird Security Smedley's Apartment

The last of Wes' presents wrapped and placed beneath the homey little tree, Peyton stands and looks pleased with herself. A pile of presents, wrapped in reds and greens and golds and silvers, make the festive little scene look complete finally. The table on the other hand is a riotous mess of wrapping paper rolls, tape, scissors tissue paper and bags. That can wait.

Heading back to the living room, Peyton sits on the couch beside Von, who is curled up snoozing. His tail thumps once as he feels his mistress sit beside him, and Carson comes from his spot by the hearth to rest at Peyton's feet as she picks up the laptop. The screen alights, and she begins to type — inspiration has struck, and she wants to be sure to follow through before the muse leaves her.

It'll just take a little research, but she's used to that now. A few keystrokes, a few Google searches, maybe a public records site query or two, and she'll find out the names of his sisters, and a few more, and they'll each have a gift basket and flowers delivered to them just in time for Christmas.

Most of the inquiries are the standard sort that comes with googling a name — some helpful, some not. She's pretty sure that he's not on Facebook or Linked-in or, and quickly discounts those as ads. The Cody Cowboy catches her attention. She smiles as she clicks that link, expecting a football hero story or perhaps an Eagle Scout award story.

Five minutes of searching. One second to click the link.

Four months destroyed in the thirty seconds it takes to scan the article.

Peyton's eyes blur with hot tears and cold shock spreads through her body as she reads the words: wanted for questioninghate crimeEvolved womanbranding …. murder or manslaughter
That it was a long time ago doesn't matter, not at this moment.

That she has done things she isn't proud doesn't matter.

Everyone has a cracking point. Everyone — every thing — has a point at which it can bear no more.

Peyton's ignored the cracks feathering through her for some time now — from the things she's Seen, from the pains she's borne, from the pressures and responsibilities she's undertaken despite the ever-present fear and self doubt that have plagued her for so long.

The one thing that has held her together throughout the fall and into the winter stripped from her, she can bear no more.

A shaking hand wipes the tears away and sets the laptop on the table. Peyton moves through the rooms like an automaton, her belongings shoved in a duffel bag with no rhyme or reason. It's amazing how much stuff one can bring into such a small apartment over just a matter of weeks.

The tree and presents are left — the one present with her name on it left as well. The laptop is left, open to the Cody Cowboy archive, so there is no doubt at all as to why the apartment will be empty when Wes returns home, why her clothing is gone from where it's overtaken his closet. Why Carson is alone.

There will still be hints of her presence in the apartment. The coffee pot half full with gourmet flavored coffee. Lipgloss on the coffee cup left in the sink. Half-empty bottles of shampoos and shower gels and conditioners in his shower. A pair of slippers she'd missed when packing left by the bed.

A strand of long dark hair on the couch.

The scent of her perfume on the pillowcases.

But the strongest sense when Wes returns home will be of her absence.

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