The Nightmare Duet


s_aaron_icon.gif nightmare_icon.gif s_peyton_icon.gif

Scene Title The Nightmare Duet
Synopsis Aaron and Peyton are both victims of terrifying dreams.
Date December 2, 2009

Aaron and Peyton's Apartment — Upper West Side

Long days usually end with long nights. In Aaron's case, that's not generally how things go, given his propensity to panic himself into waking. At any rate, he's tightly curled himself up in bed holding onto the plush tiger that Gillian bought him. Next to an actual warm body beside him, it's the most effective thing in getting him to fall asleep. If it worked half as well keeping him asleep, he'd definitely wake up more refreshed than he does. But for now, at any rate, it's off to dreamland.

But Dreamland will not be restful, not tonight. There are other things in store for the sleeping Aaron.

After watching a late-night movie, Peyton turns off the television and living room lights, then heads down the hallway. Aaron's already in bed, his door ajar, so she moves quietly into her room. She likes to curl up with lots of blankets, in her flannel pj bottoms and baseball shirt, rather than run the heat too warm, so it's a little chilly as she climbs into bed, pulling her down comforter up around herself.

Her head hits the pillow and her eyes close. As usual, she goes to bed only when utterly tired so that she will fall asleep easily rather than toss and turn thinking of all of the things she's seen in the past few months — nightmarish things that make it difficult to sleep.

Tonight, she falls asleep quickly, slumber pulling her down within ten minutes of her climbing into her warm bed.

The phone rings. The sound is shrill, like a shriek carried on the wind, not the normal ring. When Aaron sits up to answer it, his room is familiar and yet not quite his own — the blackness is darker, deeper — there is no light, none gleaming from the hallway as usual, though his door is ajar; none flickering from the street below, though the blinds were left cracked. While the room seems swallowed by that blackness so dark Aaron can't see his hand in front of his face, the phone gleams, a silvery white, seeming to float on the bedside table that is hidden in shadow.

It's definitely the lack of light that makes Aaron shoot upright in bed. At first, he thinks he's gone blind and gropes through the darkness for something — anything — that will prove to the contrary. Which, of course, when the silvery gleam of his phone catches his eye. It's the only thing that he can see in the darkness, and he very nearly crashes out of bed in his haste to grab it to silence the piercing ring. "He-hello?"

"She needs your help," croaks a gravelly voice on the other end. "You need to find her before midnight."

And that is all. There is a click and then a dial tone.

Suddenly, on the far end of the room — though in this reality where time and space are warped and undefined, it looks like it's at the other end of a football field with nothing but the inkiest shade of black stretching between — gleams a clock in the same silvery light, as if bathed in moonlight.

The time? 11:15.

"Come on, rise and shine." The voice comes from a petite British woman with blond hair. She draws the shades open to let the bright sun shine into the room, illuminating the intensely strange situation that is Peyton's bedroom and the unfamiliar blonde in her pink and white floral get-up. At least she's not wearing a dress— actually, her pants seem rather scrub-like, as does her v-neck t-shirt. Amongst the oddities Peyton might notice are the more homey quality of her room, as though it's been more lived in; somewhat different furniture and decor, all in her tastes; and her hair is cut shorter.

But she just closed her eyes. Or so it feels. Peyton squints, throwing an arm up to block her eyes from the garish sunlight that floods her room. She stares at the chipper British stranger in her cheerful clothes. "Wha… who are you… why are you in my house?" she protests, looking around and trying to make sense of her surroundings. It's so familiar and yet not quite right.

"Oh," the other woman says with a noticeable frown and general look of concern. She tweaks the blinds to reduce the brightness. "It's happened again, has it?" It's more of an acknowledgement than a question, and there's a brief glance upwards, as though the woman is cursing or at least glaring at the heavens. "I'm Marianne. I… I should take you to the doctor so he can explain things. I can if you like, but it's probably best you hear it from him." She looks incredibly put off by this apparently sudden development.

"Doctor? This is my room… my apartment…" Peyton says, pushing off the covers to get out of the bedroom, to head over to the window so she can point out the landmarks of her particular view. "What do you mean, 'it's happened again'? What's happened? Why are you looking at me that way?" She makes it to the window, pulling the blinds so that she can see out, so that she can look down through the trees of Central Park across the way.

The skyline has changed noticeably. It also appears to be summer, or maybe late spring. Everything's green and there are still leaves on pretty much every tree visible from the window. Buildings that were under construction the last time Peyton can recall looking out that window have apparently long since finished. If she were to look in a mirror, she'd notice she's changed a bit too.

While it would appear that Marianne wants to stop Peyton from looking out the window, she stands aside so Peyton can look through it. Then she reaches a hand to place upon her shoulder, "I need you to try to stay calm." She knows she won't. She never does. "You're experiencing some memory loss right now. What is the last thing you remember?"

Peyton frowns at the sunny spring or summer day. "It was fall — almost winter. And I just went to sleep. I was watching television, and I went to sleep, about an hour after Aaron did. Memory loss? What happened to me? Did I hit my head?" she asks, her eyes wide as one hand goes to her head, feeling for a bump or cut or anything of the like. She feels her shorter hair and turns to look in the mirrored doors of her closet, her face pale and distraught.

"What the fuck?" Aaron stares long and hard at the phone, not entirely sure what to make of it. Who? Peyton? Gillian? Another silvery gleam and he stares long and hard at the numbers. It's dark, so there's no hoping it's only 11:15 in the morning, which only gives him forty-five minutes. "Shit." He scrambles to get out of his bed, tripping on the bedding and crashing to the floor. The carpet doesn't feel as soft as it once did, but it still takes him a moment to get up and try to orient himself in the dark lighting. He needs to find the door and get to Peyton's room to check on her. He prays she's not the one the voice spoke of, though he doesn't really want it to be Gillian, either.

The trip to the door should only be a few feet — but soon instead of carpet, Aaron's bare feet will find a floor that seems to be made up of something moving, something that crunches when he steps upon it, something that has many legs and antennae. The room is silent at first, but soon three noises begin to grow louder, louder, LOUDER: the clicking of tiny mandibles and feet on the floor, the ticking of the clock on the wall, and the booming pound of his own heart.

As soon as there's the first crunch, Aaron stops dead in his tracks, a chill running down his spine. Goosebumps. Please, please let that not be what it sounded like. Of course, the clicking sound getting louder and louder, a cacophony to the drumming of his heart — an already unhealthy tremelo in this dark and eerie symphony. With a harsh swallow, he decides it's probably best to run. He figures shoes and socks are a lost cause at this rate.

Maybe he shouldn't have watched Indiana Jones as a child and had that scene with the bugs embedded in his subconscious. But of course, though he can't see it, when he puts his hand on the door knob, it is covered with insects. One skitters across the top of his hand, another begin to inch its way up his wrist, clicking as it goes.

There's that concerned frown again. "A complication of your ability," Marianne says. "There was severe hemorrhaging in your brain. The doctors did everything they could, but it seems that every four to six months or so your new memories slip away. Last time you could remember Christmas. We should get you to Doctor Nielson." The tone she uses is the deadpan of frequent rehearsal.

"Dr. Brennan was right," Peyton whispers, her fingers rubbing one temple as she stares at herself in the mirror. "But … but I was helping people, with my power. I can't help anyone without it," she stammers a bit. "I don't … I'm not a good person without my ability," she protests, and her eyes begin to well up with tears. "When did I cut my hair?" she says, idly, fingers running through the shorter locks.

"You were, and you did," Marianne says. She comes over and puts a hand on one of Peyton's arms. "A few weeks ago. You thought it was time for a change." There's some awkward silence. "Your ability…. that's sort of why I'm here. To make sure you don't use it. It could do worse than it did. And of course, to make sure you have someone here in case you lose your memory again." Unlike the cheerful rise and shine or the deadpan explanation of what happened, her last words actually sound quite sad. She tries to change the subject as much as possible, but it's not easy. "You're a fine person without your ability. What you can or cannot do isn't who you are. It's what you choose to do with what you have."

"But if I don't even have a memory… what have I forgotten? What's happened to me since… " Peyton looks around the room, trying to get a feel for how long it's been. "I mean, if I don't even remember you or that this happened, what the hell can I do?" She whirls out of the room to move toward the doorway, to head out to living room.

Marianne follows, though silent, clearly trying to formulate just what to say. The living room has changed a lot, too. It's more decorated to Peyton's taste now, rather than her parents'. The television's new, too. Larger and thinner. An organic LED television. "A lot, I'm afraid. You've forgotten a lot. It really shouldn't be me telling you this," he says, biting her lip. She hates this. She never agrees to go see the doctor, it always ends up being her. "Mostly, once you get over it, you just kinda have fun?" She doesn't sound entirely convinced, probably because she never was convinced Peyton was actually having fun partying.

"I 'get over' it?" Peyton echoes, frowning and turning to look at Marianne. "What do you mean have fun?" She picks up a magazine, frowning at the date. That can't be right. She throws it down without really considering it could be real. This is some elaborate hoax. Is Ashton punking her? "Who redecorated? I … where are my parents' things? Where's Aaron? I don't … the doctor can't help me, can he? If he could I'd fucking remember something!"

Suddenly, Marianne remembers why this job sucks. She tears up just slightly from a lot of things, really. Clearly, she should have chosen another way to word it. "I'm sorry," she says, "Please, don't get mad at me, OK? I wish I could do more to help you, I really do. It's just, this always catches me off guard, and I never know what to say." She comes closer, try to grab Peyton's hands to try and slow her down and make her focus on her and what she's saying. "You redecorated. You wanted the place to be more yours. It was Aaron's idea. He wanted you to feel as at home as he did." She's a bit shorter than Peyton, so she has to look up at her. "We can go see him, if you like? You haven't really spoken to him in a while."

"He moved out? Doesn't… isn't he my friend anymore?" Peyton says, her brows knitting together. "I … I wouldn't redecorate. It's my parent's stuff, I wouldn't just throw it away. It's all I had of them. I must… god, I must have no brain at all, no mind of my own," she says, running a hand through her shorter hair. "I go out? Like, without you? With friends? What do I do?" she asks, clearly unable to fathom how she can even walk down the street with her inability to think or remember anything.

Marianne frowns. "You didn't throw it away, you just moved it into storage. And no, you don't usually go places without me. You've gotten past some of it, but never the fear of what might happen if you have an episode, even if they are months apart. You don't have too much trouble beyond that and a few other issues. You really should be seeing the doctor about this, he can explain everything to you and you should see your therapist, too…" God, there's so much to do. "Maybe before you see Aaron. That would probably be best."

"I don't go to a therapist." Not willingly. Once every six months for her trust fund check, and no more. "But fine. Take me to the fucking doctor who apparently doesn't do anything to help me because I'm still losing my fucking memory and my fucking mind," Peyton snaps. She storms into her room to change out of her pajamas and then reappears.

Of all the fears to have manifest in any way, shape, or form, why BUGS? As soon as he feels something crawling on his hand, he tries to shake it off. There's no freakin' way he's going to do the whole death-by-bug thing, even if he has to dance a jig to get them off. "Get off me, fucking bugs," he mutters, reaching again to wrestle with the door handle. He'd kick at it to try and get more bugs off, but his feet are already being slithered around.

The door opens and Aaron spills into a hallway that seems to stretch and warp like a clock in a Dali painting. Far, far down the length of black ribbon is another door, a crack of that same silvery white light spilling out like a beacon. It's silent again, but for the ticking of the clock that seems to follow him like the famed Crocodile in Peter Pan, and the pounding of his heart. That is, until the scream comes.

Pain and fear mingle together in that sound; it is clearly human and yet sounds like no sound a human should ever make. And part of him is sure he knows who the owner of that voice is.

While Peyton's dressing after her tantrum, Marianne collects her purse and keys, and two little pill bottles, which she holds out to Peyton once she reappears. Citalopram and alprazolam. "Celexa and Xanax. From your psychiatrist, Doctor Jarod Walker. I know it's a lot to take in all at once, Peyton, and it seems so unbelievable. Believe me, I know. I've been there five times for it. Each time is just as hard." For whatever reason, she tucks the pill bottles back into her purse rather than letting Peyton keep them. "My car's in the parkade."

It's too much to take in. Too much to comprehend. She squints at the bottles and shakes her head. Those aren't hers. She doesn't take pills except cute little ones with happy faces and teddy bears and hearts imprinted on them that melt on your tongue. And not even those for quite some time. She stops asking questions and just follows Marianne, subdued but not at all content.

The drive to the Walker Clinic is not long, and Marianne drives the little silver sedan into one of the parking stalls before getting out of the vehicle. Beyond the occasional sad look Peyton's way, she kept her eyes on the road, even during a little traffic jam. She's always at a loss for this, never prepared for it at all, even though timing has proven time and time again that it's coming. "Come on, Pey," she says as she gets out of the car. "I think you'll like him."

The clinic itself isn't really much to gawk about. It's just a small office with a cozy brown waiting room and two doors. One leading to the psychiatrist's office and the other to the lavatory. A little old lady is seated at the reception desk, towered over by a tall man with short-cropped brown hair and a slightly pointy nose, a mole below his right eye. He seems to be in a slightly animated discussion with the receptionist until he spots Peyton and Marianne entering. A single quirked brow to Marianne — responded to by a nod — is all he needs to end that discussion. He proceeds to the single person seated in the waiting area. A young redhead.

"Ophelia, can I ask you to come back this evening? I have someone I really need to speak with." The redhead nods and gets up from her seat, giving Peyton a shy and somewhat understanding look of sadness as she passes by. Then she scurries out the door.

"Peyton," the man says in greeting, his voice a deep bass. "Won't you come in?"

Peyton picks up on the nonverbal communication and frowns, her arms wrapping protectively around herself. She gives the doctor a searching glance — surely, if she's met him before, there should be something familiar about him. She enters the little office, but doesn't sit, standing in the center of the room and looking around, looking at the certificates on the wall, looking for anything to jog her apparently broken memory. One tear slides down her cheek, but she doesn't let go of her self-hug to wipe it away.

When Jarod enters the small and cozy office, which features both a soft chair and couch along with his own swivelling office chair and his desk, he leaves the door open. Marianne sits down and stays quiet in the waiting area. "My name's Jarod," he says, offering his hand. "Right now you're trying to find something familiar, and I'm sorry if there's nothing here like that. There's nothing really I can say or do to make things better, but if you want me to explain your condition to you, I can save you a trip to the neurologist."

"It's like that movie where that crazy guy tattoos stuff all over himself, isn't it." It isn't really a question. Her voice is flat, her eyes not meeting his. "Is it completely in my head? Is that why Marianne has pills for me, or am I'm depressed and crazy because of whatever happened to my brain?" She still doesn't sit, and she just glances down at his hand when he offers it, but opts to keep her arms crossed in front of herself.

"Partially, yet not exactly," Jarod says, slowly retracting his hand. It's not the first time she's been reluctant to shake it. "Anterograde amnesia usually presents itself as an inability for form new memories. You're quite capable of doing that. Normally, long-term memories are stored after creation, or that's the theory anyway. Memories are created in the hippocampus and consolidated in the neocortex, two separate structures in the brain. Our best guess is that when you overused your ability, you damaged the pathways that allowed that process to occur.

"There are some questions we haven't been able to answer about precisely how it happens, but every four to six months or so, it seems that all of your new memories fail. The last few times, some of the old ones have gone with them. Last time you could remember up to December of two thousand and nine. I won't lie. This new issue concerns us a great deal. As for your medications, the Celexa is because this whole issue is stressful and you often experience depression from it. It's a very mild dose, just maintenance, though we might want to increase your dosage for a month or two. The Xanax is for panic attacks. They're not uncommon."

As Jarod explains, he goes about retrieving a small flat television and DVD player on a stand, which he wheels in front of the couch. "The last time this happened, you insisted on recording a video, to help update you on a few things, but mostly just to insist that you can get through it."

She's trying to follow what he says, but there are all those science and medical words and she just shakes her head at him. "So like, if it keeps happening, eventually I won't remember anything," Peyton sums up rather cynically. She eyes the television set and sighs, heading to the couch. Sitting means she's a patient, and she doesn't want to accept that, but that's apparently the only way she'll get to see what's on the DVD. Her arms wrap around herself once more.

Jarod shakes his head. "If the progression stays as it is, it would take you until you're twenty-eight or twenty-nine before you'd only remember up to the beginning of two thousand and nine. Then four to six years again before you'd only remember up until two thousand and eight. If it doesn't get any worse, you could pull through it. Preparations such as these videos would be advised to explain things, such as the bomb, but you could keep going." On that note, he presses play.

It's a very similar Peyton as appeared in the mirror, only her hair is still as long as she usually keeps it. "Is it on?" Jarod's voice can be heard in the background confirming that it's recording.

"Um, hi. God this is so awkward. So, I… you… we? We have this amnesia thing, like that movie with the crazy guy who tattoos stuff all over his body, only not as bad. You can go months without forgetting things, or so I'm told. I woke up a few months ago and the last thing I remember it was Christmas, just after…" At this point, Peyton in the video begins to cry and the video cuts to once she's recomposed herself. "There are a lot of things you need to know and a whole lot of things you probably don't want to know. None of it's going to be easy.

"It's important that you go talk to Aaron, but make sure you bring Marianne with you. She's pretty much the only person we have anymore and she can calm anyone down with just a touch of her hand. I don't think I've ever taken a single one of those Xanax Jarod prescribed thanks to her. Once you've gone back home, there are more videos. I'll try to explain everything." The screen goes black.

Though the hallway's warped surrealism already has him on edge beyond the encounter with insectus maximus, it's the scream that triggers the panic that grips Aaron. His breath catches in his throat as his eyes widen, barely capable of perceiving the hallway but for that sliver of light in the distance. With little consideration for the landscape, he proceeds at a run, not that he's sure he wants to find out what lies behind door number one.

All seems well for a moment or two — there doesn't seem to be any insects on this floor, just hard wood floors and a long runner like in the real apartment. But suddenly, a cool blue light begins to glow and on either side of the hallway hands begin to reach out. The light grows brighter until Aaron can see, as only he and his power can, a score of people on each side of the corridor, each reaching out to him in need.

They all have pain, regret, sorrow deeply embedded in their souls and psyches, so that they seem to be as dark as the room he just came from. Tears stream down faces, moans of unhappiness block out the ticking of the clock for a moment — though the silvery white clock suddenly appears above the far-off door: 11:30 and the minute hand seems to be moving faster, keeping time with his rushing heart beat.

Aaron comes to a very hesitant stop at the sign of all of the people. He has a bit of a weakness for people hurting that bad, he'll admit it. He once spent days off searching for the redhead who he saw with the black hole of bad emotion, more for her than anything. Not that he succeeded, though she did show up to that one concert he did….

He looks at the figures and then to the faraway door and it's ominous clock. Torn. He can't figure out whether or not he should help them or proceed. Part of him doesn't want to see what's beyond the door, while the other part insists he MOVE HIS SEDENTARY ASS. One part coward, one tiny part hero.

In the end, Aaron decides to leave it. He can come back for them. Right now, he has to make sure Peyton's all right. Because if it wasn't her screaming…. The alternative really sucks just as much.

Peyton stares at herself on the video — she never liked video of herself; photos yes, video, no. She finds her voice and movements annoying, foreign, not at all how she thinks of herself. She tears up just watching the Peyton on the television screen tear up. When the screen goes black, she turns to look at Jarod with a shake of her head. "What… what happened at Christmas?" she stammers, turning to look at Marianne in the waiting area. She must be Evolved.

"I think best you find out when you meet up with Aaron. Marianne can explain better than I, and can help you better than I can. But if you need someone else to talk to, your cell phone has my number in it. Or it did last time I heard." Jarod produces a card, "Emergency number's on the back."

Marianne wants her to talk to Jarod, Jarod says talk to Aaron. Apparently no one really wants to talk to her about anything, or so Peyton surmises. "Why she couldn't have just shown me the video at home, I don't know," she snaps a bit, hand reaching out to take the card. She stalks from the room out to the waiting room, out to Marianne who is apparently hired not for her loving and caring nature but because she's some sort of Empath. She recalls Wendy's words: How many fucking empaths are there in this city. "Apparently the doctor can't tell me anything that you, Aaron or even me on a video can't," she snaps.

Marianne blushes at Peyton's outburst, slightly more so when Jarod hands her a DVD case with the recently ejected video. Clearly they're still learning the intricacies of dealing with the whole matter. "Come on," she says, reaching out a hand to Peyton, hoping she'll take it. One way or the other, they'll proceed to the car.

"Don't touch me," Peyton snaps at Marianne, recoiling as they walk. "I don't want you to take away what I'm feeling. If I want to be upset and angry and scared, I will be. It's better than pretending this is all okay because it's not okay."

There's a faintly frightened expression on Marianne's face for just a moment before she unlocks the car doors and gets into the driver side, starting the car up to take them to their next destination. Awkward silence ensues, although it's sure to be broken or turned into shock as the car pulls up to a small community cemetery. Marianne pulls the keys from the ignition. She'll leave it up to Peyton to break the silence.

"Jarod said I should… I should m-meet up with… you said it was Aaron's idea to change the apartment," Peyton says accusingly, staring at the cemetery. "And you both thought bringing me to a cemetery is the best way to explain things?" Holy shit, she's not the crazy person here. These people are certifiable. She pushes open the door and stumbles out, though she has no idea where she's going. Which way Aaron's grave lies.

"You have a hard time accepting what is real, Peyton, it was the only way you'd accept it!" Marianne says, though at the rate Peyton movies out of the car, she has to shout it.

It's not a particularly large cemetery, and not a Catholic cemetery, either. No part of the graveyard will help lead her, nor will Marianne. Rather, a lone figure in the distance will. Somebody familiar to Peyton, though her hair is longer. Gillian. For whatever reason, when Marianne spots her, she leaves the car in an awful hurry to follow Peyton and try to bring her back, "We should do this another time. Come one, let's go home, Peyton."

"No — Gill, she's my friend," Peyton says, shaking her Marianne, before moving toward the distant figure. "Gillian! You're okay!" Peyton cries out, running toward the woman — part of her realizes that the statement sounds stupid, but the last she knew, Gillian was in jail, arrested for some pointlesss thing. Tears are streaming down her face and she stumbles a few times on the way.

"Peyton, no!" Marianne tries to reach after her, but unfortunately, she's not as fast on her feet as Peyton is and so is easily evaded.

Gillian doesn't at all respond to Peyton, or not apparently anyway, instead staring down with eyes tearful at a grave stone. She shakes slightly where she stands and doesn't even try to look the other woman in the eye, all the while Marianne tries to catch up.

Here lies
Aaron Ray Michaels
July 25, 1984 - December 24, 2009

"Peyton, you don't understand," Marianne says.

"Gillian…?" Peyton's voice quivers as she looks from the woman to the tombstone. "Christmas… but what… what happened?" She falls down to her knees in front of Aaron's grave, then lifts her tear stained face up to Marianne. "Obviously I don't. I'm supposed to come 'see Aaron' and get some sort of epiphany from this, but I don't remember!" The final word is screamed, out of frustration, anger, fear.

"He killed himself."

Marianne shoots Gillian a harsh look. Obviously, she wouldn't have chosen to word it quite the same way, or with the same accusatory tone that the once-friend of Peyton does. But it's nothing that Gillian says that has Marianne gasping. "Gillian, don't!"

There's a click. An ominous one that Peyton might recognize. Though once her friend, there's apparently a chip on her shoulder now that changes everything. A simple 9mm glock is levelled behind Peyton's head. "He loved you, you know. He fucking loved you. Nobody should feel alone on Christmas when they're with the person they love." Tears drip down Gillian's face. A folded up news clipping is tossed down on the green grass in front of the grave stone. Its headline reads, Rising Star Takes Own Life. "He was finally getting his life back together, and you failed him. You may as well have fucking killed him yourself."

The crying becomes louder as he leaves those poor unfortunate souls behind; one redheaded woman with dark, teary eyes reaches out, crying his name. But the light, the silvery light at the end of the corridor turns red, redder than that woman's hair, red as blood, yet still bright against the black floor of the hallway. The door finally seems to be in reach.

She is crying on the other side. The person he is meant to help, he knows it. The cries behind him are louder than hers, calling his name, sobbing for him to sing.

Again, Aaron stops with hesitation, looking back to the crying figures. The blood red of the light through the door, however, prompt him to leave them for now. He must keep focus if he's not to to panic. Not that he's NOT panicking right now, because he totally is. He can feel the sweat running down his back and the trembling of his hands as he reaches to open the door that he doesn't want to open. He doesn't want to see the horror that could be present in the room beyond. His hand shakingly touches the doorknob.

Peyton's breath catches in her throat when she hears the gun's click but she doesn't move, staring down instead at the newspaper. She gives a shake of her head. "I didn't…" she tries to speak but shakes her head again, tears splashing onto the newspaper. "I'm sorry," she whispers — whether to Gillian or Aaron, it isn't clear.

"Gillian, stop this. She's been through enough. It's bad enough she has to relive this twice a year, but you can't hold her accountable. She can't even remember that Christmas." Apparently it's only Marianne who will speak up in Peyton's defense. She inches closer, slowly sliding her hand onto the gun, and then Gillian's hand. "Don't give them a reason to lock you up again."

Gillian's voice becomes deadpan. "You're the most shallow and worthless friend a person could possibly have. But certainly you already know that, since you don't have any." Then she collapses, the gun secure in Marianne's hand.

Marianne lets out a sigh, "I'm sorry. We should have been more up front with you… avoided all of this mess." She makes quick and professional work of unloading the gun, emptying the chamber, and scattering all of the bullets from the gun's magazine around the grave. Clearly there's more to her than meets the eye, beyond her evolved talent.

Peyton manages to get to her feet, her eyes blurry with tears. She picks up the newspaper, holding it to her chest, and begins to walk back to the car, head hanging down with no glance back toward Gillian. She walks back to the car, confident that Marianne is following her. She gets into the car, looking down at the newspaper, at a picture of Aaron that's been blurred by her damp tears. He looks happy and healthy in the picture — one taken before the bomb. She leans her head against the window, closing her eyes as she waits Marianne to get in and drive her home.

Once Marianne has put a few finishing touches on Gillian, she does indeed follow Peyton and drives her home. Once they arrive back at the apartment, she breaks the silence. "The rest of the videos are in your closet." She sounds ashamed to admit it, and it's clear she's hiding something else from her, something she'd rather not have to ever tell her, but which she fears she must. "There are some things I should tell you first, but I want you to sit down on the couch first."

The clairvoyant lets herself be led in and directed to the couch, her eyes on the ground rather than on Marianne or anything else. She sits on the couch, hands slack at her sides. Her face is blank, but for a slight knitting of her brows as she stares at her feet on the carpet in front of her. She waits for Marianne to continue.

Marianne reaches out her hands, hoping Peyton will take them but not forcing her to. There's no point in forcing her to do anything at this point. Action and inaction have clearly done enough damage. Regretfully. "The incident that caused the brain damage… You helped to hunt down every last member of Humanis First, including Danko. Well, he was first, actually. He escaped and … killed Wendy, and several others. You saw that he was watching you, and figured out from where, and he was taken down."

"But not quick enough," Peyton whispers. Wendy's gone too? The only person who cares about her is this woman who's obviously been paid to care for her. She curls her fingers into fists, digging her nails into her palms. If Marianne can make her feel better, she won't take those hands — she doesn't deserve to feel better. "And he still managed to ruin my life," she adds.

"Peyton, you need to rest. You need to sleep and process this. I can help you do that. I promise I won't do anything else to you but that. Just a few hours of sleep," Marianne says, sounding for once, completely genuine, like she was when she first woke Peyton up in the morning.

"I'll go nap." Her voice is flat. She stands, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "Sorry you had to deal with this again. I know it's not your fault." She gives the living room another glance, wondering how exactly it was Aaron's idea that she change it. Peyton moves toward her bedroom.

"It's all right, Peyton," Marianne says. Again, she sounds genuine. "I'll be here if you need me. Don't be afraid to ask for help or comfort."

Above his head, the clock clicks closer to the twelve, only a few seconds away now. The door swings open, as if of its own merit, just at the touch of his fingers to the icy cold doorknob. Peyton's bed glows in the same moon-washed hue as the phone and the clock, her skin as pale as the sheets, where she kneels upon it, dressed in a lacy white baby-doll.

For a moment the nightmare seems to have been held at bay, until there is the flash of something silver held in one hand, against the opposite wrist. Her head comes up at that moment, her eyes wide and her mouth opening into a surprised and silent 'O.'

Peyton nods, and heads into her room. There is a dull thud as the door shuts behind her. Within closed doors, she searches her bathroom and drawers while risking the use of her ability now and then — if she strokes out again, it's not like it matters — to keep an eye on Marianne. That way, when she sees the nurse coming down the hall, she hops onto her bed and closes her eyes. Bed check comes and goes — a few moments later, Peyton uses the power again to peek in and finds Marianne in the restroom. Now or never. She wraps herself in a fuzzy bath towel with big pockets in case she runs into the nurse. She heads down the hallway and into the kitchen to get what she's looking for.

A few moments later she is back in her room. She hesitates for a moment. So many people consider suicide at some point in their life, but she has never been one of those people. Nothing has ever seemed so horrible that death was the only way out. But this? She has no friends. She's disabled, due to her memory, and her one talent, the one gift she had, is like a time bomb in her brain. And Gillian's words come back, in an echo: shallow and pointless. That's what this life would be. Shallow and worthless.

She kneels in her bed, her hand shaking a bit as she brings the blade to her wrist.

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