The Odd Couple


aaron_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif

Scene Title The Odd Couple
Synopsis Aaron and Peyton get some things off their chests. Other things stay buried.
Date November 1, 2009

Aaron and Peyton's Apartment - Upper West Side

There was a note — a rare occurrence, since usually Peyton doesn't know when she's going to be gone for a long stretch — that she would be at Wendy's for the evening and not to worry, and to call if Aaron wanted to join them. The truce between Wendy and Aaron was tenuous and neither girl expected Aaron to join their little slumber party, but it was the polite thing to add to the note. It's now about noon on All Saints Day. The door rattles as Peyton unlocks it. She's bundled against the chilly fall weather in a gray peacoat, jeans and boots, a large overnight bag carrying DVDs and her change of clothes and overnight necessities over her shoulder.

While she's still not looking as carefree as she once did, the dark circles have faded and her complexion is no longer as pale and sallow. She tosses the bag on a chair near the door and begins to take off her coat, her dark eyes scanning the apartment.

No, Aaron certainly didn't care to join. While there may be a truce, he still feels totally awkward and guilty around Wendy and opted to stay home on Halloween. Besides, he has a list to try and write. Try is definitely the operative word, as he has found himself in his spare time — which he as a great deal of these days — staring at a blank page. Well, not completely blank. There are a few small items, but he otherwise feels completely stuck. That list is tucked away amongst his things. At present, he lies on the couch, lazing about as exhausted as always. He offers Peyton a hand-covered yawn and a somewhat muted, "'morning."

Peyton sees the hand pop up over the back of the couch that alerts her to his presence, and moves that way. "Hey," she says, quiet as well, moving to one of the big armchairs that face the couch and sinking down into it. She looks tired, but no longer about to collapse, an improvement most likely since the last time he saw her. "What's up?" she asks, curling one foot beneath her and pulling a throw pillow onto her lap.

He could say what's really on his mind, but that would be so unlike him. Aaron gives a shrug, "Same old, same old." The television's off, there's no book, no guitar, nor any other sign that he was doing anything other than lying there. Well, the keyboard's on the coffee table, but when isn't it? "Have fun at Wendy's?"

"Fun is relative I guess," Peyton says with a shrug. "She needs someone to take her mind off things and she needs a break from her family, and it's not like I was going to go party somewhere anyway." Her partying days seem to be over — she can't trust her power yet not to flip out if she over indulges, and then there's the fact that she's been followed that gives her a pretty strong incentive to stay coherent. She doesn't share that bit with Aaron, of course. If he knew that someone high in the ranks of Humanis First knew Peyton's comings and goings… best not to go there. "Did I wake you?" she asks, frowning a bit.

No, best not. "No, wasn't sleeping." Aaron shakes his head, as though to reaffirm his statement. Unlike Peyton, he looks completely exhausted, not that that's anything new. "I'd have come over and entertained … or something, but well, you know? Kinda awkward and all, I thought I'd best stay home and not make things awkward for the two of you. Thought you might be able to have a bit of fun without me."

Her lip juts out in a bit of a pout at his words. It hurts her that he doesn't think he can be 'fun.' "It was fun enough, I guess. Making fun of stupid horror movies and stuff. They all seem so … ridiculous, when you've been through scary shit in real life, you know? I used to be afraid of those movies, but now I just laugh." She nods toward him. "You okay? Not sleeping well?" She gets off the chair and moves over to the sofa to sit by him. "I'm sorry if I'm stressing you out, being gone and stuff. We haven't talked, really, in a while. What happened at Staten… that's not how it normally is, I swear. I would never have brought you if I thought it was going to be dangerous. I'm really sorry. I feel like crap about it." Her eyes sparkle full of tears as she stares at him, one hand reaching out to touch his shoulder. "Are you mad at me?"

Aaron gives a bit of a snort when Peyton asks him if he hasn't been sleeping well. "I … don't regret going there." Because he found out that Gillian was going to live, though at the expense of her clone. And Peyton still doesn't know about this. His own eyes begin to sparkle and he shakes his head, "I'm not mad at you, I'm not," he says, grabbing at Peyton's hand, "But do you really think I can look this dead and actually be getting any sleep? I can't help but think you're killing yourself doing all of this stuff."

Peyton's eyes drop at the first hint at tears in his own. "I know. It's not … easy. It isn't, but now that I know how much people hate the Evolved… hate us, just because we are Evolved, I feel like I need to help. However I can." She shakes her head. "It is terrifying, and I'm a total wreck, but I'd be worse if I wasn't helping, you know what I mean? At least I know there are people trying to fight and who are willing to help me if I need it now." She squeezes his hand. "I'm not going to overuse my power like I was before, if I can help it, now that I know the risk. Now that Wendy's found, I don't have to use it that often."

Terrifying. Total understatement. Aaron doesn't look away from Peyton when she looks down. He shakes his own head. "No, I don't know what you mean. I'm stuck here all the time doing nothing. Remember? Oh, sorry, save making you feel better after you've had a long day but won't talk about it." He doesn't squeeze Peyton's hand back. He pulls his away. "You ever notice Gillian staying here more often? Ever notice that she doesn't sleep in your parents' room, or on the couch? That's because she sleeps in my room, beside me, so that I can get just a few nights of actual sleep. So before you go calling yourself a total wreck, remember the crazy, overemotional roommate you never talk to."

The clairvoyant blinks at the unexpected outburst. "Oh, so this is you not being mad," she says quietly, pulling her own hand away and getting up off the couch to let him have the space he shows he wants by pulling away. "I didn't realize when I gave you two a place to live that it was my job to make sure you slept well at night. She walks a few steps toward the kitchen, brows knit together in a scowl. "It's not like you don't get anything out of trying to make me feel better. It's not like I ask you to do it or like you don't benefit. You don't have to use your power on me, and the reason I don't tell you is because it would freak you out more to know than not to."

There's a pause, before she adds, "I guarantee it."

OK, so apparently he was mad. Even Aaron looks slightly shocked at his outburst, but is still all teary. "Oh yeah, I just get so much out of it. I get to not have a headache all day, only I'm so tired all the time I still have one anyway." While Peyton retreats towards the kitchen, Aaron retreats towards the bedrooms. "No, I don't have to use my power on you, but I do that because I care, not because I have to. I can use it on anyone. And believe me, I've got my own secrets."

"Don't, then," Peyton says shortly. "Don't use it on me, if you're going to turn around and act like I ask for it and selfishly take it." She slams the refrigerator door she just opened, and the items in the shelves rattle with the force of it. "You don't want to know. You don't want to know that someone from HF held me at gunpoint a few days ago, demanding I get her someone who could help save her daughter. You don't want to know that I had to meet with her again, bring her the people that said they'd help. You don't want to know that a doctor told me I could have a fucking stroke because of my power. You can't handle that, and that's why I keep it to myself, not because I'm trying to worry you or make you feel bad but because I'm trying not to worry you and trying not to make you feel bad."

Shit. She hadn't meant to say all of that.

Which is totally not what he meant when he was talking about his ability. And then she… She is right, of course. Aaron totally did not want to know any of that. He doesn't want to process the idea of Peyton being held at gunpoint, worse still that Humanis First and still messing around with her. Worse still, the idea that they probably know where she lives, which means they know where he lives. Not that that matters, since they could know from the registry. The sheer horror of hearing any of it drains the last of the colour from his face and he actually just stares, because he can't handle that. She's totally right to leave him in the dark. The tears that had collected in his eyes tumble out and he just slowly slumps down from wall to floor.

Peyton's emotions, which he certainly can feel, are a convoluted tangle of anger, regret, fear, and sympathy when she sees his reaction. She closes her eyes and just breathes for a moment, trying to push away the guilt and sorrow, trying to let anger reign superior because it's easier that way. She's given more of herself in the last month than she has in her entire life, and he's making her feel guilty?

So she breathes, in from the nose, out through the mouth, counting to ten… twenty… thirty… a minute. Finally she steps out of the kitchen to find him leaning on the wall near the hallway. She moves toward him and slowly sinks to sit on the ground beside him. She doesn't say anything for a moment, just hugs her knees to her chest. "I don't tell you because if you feel sorry for me, then I won't be brave enough to do the things they need me to," she whispers.

Breathing is something Aaron tries to do as well as he sits there against the wall. His eyes are nearly unblinking, which makes them water. It's only when Peyton whispers to him that he blinks, and then he turns his head to face her, his focus shifting from nothing to his roommate. His friend. The friend he has such a hard time telling when he's hurting that they always seem to end up in these awkward situations. Because like her, he tries to protect her from it. He doesn't want her to worry. After all, if she knew, how could she go out and risk herself? "I'm sorry," his whispers back.

More tears roll down his cheek as he looks at her. He doesn't know if he'd feel sorry for her. Sorry she goes through what she does? She goes out and risks her life. He's more terrified for her than sorry.

She shakes her head. "God, we're dysfunctional," she says with an attempt at a laugh. "Look. Don't lose sleep over me. And don't use your ability on me, so you know that I'm your friend because I want to be, not just because you can sing away my sadness. I'll tell you where I'm going, what I'm doing, what's going on, if you really want to know. But I didn't because I cared. If I screwed up, I'm sorry." She reaches over to touch his hand again, lightly, so he can pull away if he still wants to.

Aaron lets out a snort of laughter in agreement with her comment. Dysfunctional is right. He sniffles and shakes his head. "I can't not use it on you. I can't stand to see you hurting." He takes the hand, unwilling to pull away. "And I want to know, but I'm not strong enough to. I just… I can barely handle the crap in my own life…. I don't even think I can handle that…."

Her slim fingers curl around his hand, squeezing. "You're stronger than you think you are, Aaron. You've been through a lot and you're still here. A lot of people wouldn't have made it this far. Not after losing what you have. You had a real life, something to miss," she points out. "So … what do you want to do… I don't tell you because I don't want to make you feel bad, but not telling you… well, that makes you feel bad. What do I do? How do I fix it?"

He can't ask her to stop doing it because she wants to do it and because it would be selfish of him to ask. So Aaron holds his tongue and ponders that question, his hand shaking a bit with the emotion. Then he shakes his head. "Don't tell me. I mean, I already know you're out there risking your life and I can barely deal with that. I don't think I need the details. But I guess knowing where might help me. That way I'll at least know where you are."

She tilts her head. "I don't want you to worry. But you know I have to help, with people like Wendy and stuff. It would be selfish of me not to use my power, if I can try to help someone with it, wouldn't it? I mean, that's why you use yours, right? Because you can help people." She looks at him with earnest eyes, apparently forgetting that she accused him of using his power it for the fringe benefits just a few moments ago. She reaches up with a hand to brush away some of his tears. "So are you and Gillian, like, dating?"

If by fringe benefits, she meant the lack of withdrawal symptoms, her earlier accusation was actually spot on, as sad as that is. As he works on thinking before saying, trying to come up with something that doesn't make him sound like a total ass, there comes that great big record scratch. He jerks back a bit from the hand that's brushing away his tears, mainly because he's startled by the question, and bumps his head against the wall as a result. After the slightest wince and shakes his head, "What? No." Though he and Stef did have sex…. and the mere thought makes him blush so hard that his ears glow. "No." Unfortunately, he can't elaborate without embarrassing himself further, so he slumps back against the wall with a sigh of frustration.

"Oh. Sorry. I didn't mean to pry. You said she was sleeping in your bed, so…" she shrugs, her cheeks coloring just a touch. She lets go and stands, somehow managing to do so in one fluid motion. "If you're worried I'd be mad, or something, I wouldn't be," she says quietly, trying not to further embarrass him. "I just would be careful. She's hung up on that one guy." She shivers a little at the thought of Peter, his cursed power that made her put her own into perspective.

"I said she slept beside me, like I slept beside you that one night," when he snuck into her bedroom. He doesn't stop blushing. Aaron nods at the warning. He doesn't know the details of what Peter can do, but he does know about him, and how much she was or still is hung up on him. "I know. She talked to me about it." Or was it Stef he talked to? Speaking of which. He lets out a sigh and covers his mouth a bit, not sure if he should mention it or not.

"Okay. Fair enough. I didn't mean to … it's no big deal if you are or aren't." Well, obviously it is, and would be if he was. "Just curious. I've not really seen either of you when we're all awake, so it's hard to tell, you know? And yeah, i know it's my fault, not yours, so that's why I'm asking." She shrugs and heads back to the couch, curling up in the corner that she always sits in.

Aaron remains seated against the wall for a bit while he decides whether or not to tell Peyton the bad news. After a few minutes, he gets up off the floor and climbs over the couch, sitting down next to Peyton. As much as he wants to, he can't quite bring himself to let her know about Stef just yet. He sighs and leans just slightly towards Peyton. "Why is life so fucking complicated?"

"I have no idea," Peyton says with a sigh. She kicks off her boots and brings her socked feet up to tuck under Aaron's legs, as if for warmth. She leans her head back on the arm of the sofa and yawns a bit. "How's your music coming? You try for any auditions lately? Also… just a question. Can you sing, without doing the thing you do?" His ability, she means.

Aaron shakes his head to the first two questions, blushing all the while— though whether from having Peyton's feet tucked under his legs or from having to answer in the negative to the questions is uncertain. "I can, or I could. I don't really try anymore. It was the only control I could muster over it. Kinda wish I could do it without singing or playing music, or whistling…. but I haven't figured out how, just how to turn it off. Given the damage not using it does, pretty lame control."

She nods, her eyes closing. "I think maybe … you know, most of the time you should probably only use it a little if you can, so you don't get so bad off when you don't have it. If you can do that. Just use it a little, and then turn it off? I don't know. I would guess if my overusing my power is bad, so is you overusing yours." She pulls one of the throw pillows on top of her chest, her arms crossing it.

"I didn't used to, that's the thing," Aaron says. "I used to be able to go days without using my ability. And I did, because I didn't have a steady job playing music and the landlord liked his beauty sleep, so I couldn't exactly play it there. Hell, I didn't even know I was evolved then. But now, I have to get a fix every day," and he abhors using addiction terminology. "And you're not enough, by the way. I go down to the lobby and the street corners. I whistle while at the store."

"That's good to know my life doesn't suck enough to fulfill you completely," she says with a bitter little laugh. "Maybe we should work on weaning you a little though. Not judging. But because you're in so much pain when you go too long. I … I mean, I could give up using mine and not feel anything bad. Hell, I'd physically feel better if I didn't use it. Maybe you should go see Doctor Brennan, see what he says, Aaron. He might be able to help. Physically, not just mentally."

"Somehow I doubt it's that easy, but I suppose I could. What can it hurt, right?" Aaron still shakes his head. "You remember Abby? The girl who works at Old Lucy's? Healer. She tried to fix one of my headaches. It didn't last more than a couple of minutes. Hell, she's how I figured it all out; of course, she had to yell at me and had a hell of a time convincing me, but when I was finally willing to listen… it made sense. If a healer can't fix, though, what hope does modern medicine have? I'm not saying I don't want to stop, but given my many attempts…."

Peyton nods when asked about Abby, then gives a shrug. "I don't … well, I don't know. Maybe he can give you some suggestions. Not heal it, but help it. I mean, that's why they're there, right?" She chews her lower lip though, knowing that Belinda Aniston is being kept not far from where Brennan talked to her about her 'power outage.' "You could be doing something bad to yourself every time you use it - just like drugs, you know? I mean… you don't know. It might be good to check it out. I don't want you to get sick, or worse." Her eyes open again, full of worry for him. If he thought she didn't care, the look in her eyes should suggest otherwise.

He would be ashamed to admit that the thought that she didn't care had crossed his mind a few times. It just seems so inconsistent to him and thus gets confusing. Aaron nods, "I just don't want to find out that my ability can kill me — if I don't use it — the hard way, you know? I was seriously fucked up the last time I tried to not use it. But I guess I can see this guy if you think it's worth a shot."

"Isn't it better to know it so you can avoid dying, than not? I mean… yeah, it wasn't good news to be told I could stroke out if I kept using my power like I was… every 30 minutes, every hour… but now I know, I plan on not doing that." She flashes a rare grin. "You might find that you could kill yourself using it too much… or not using it at all… it's better to know, I think. Like if you were a diabetic or something, the most important thing you can do is educate yourself." Her eyes are earnest, and she nudged upward with one of her feet. "He's a nice guy. He won't hurt you."

Aaron nods. "I know. It's always better to know than not." Even if he's keeping the news that Stef is dying to himself. He needs to check with Gillian to see if he can say anything. He's screwed up enough with people in the past, that he's not about to make a mistake by betraying a friend's trust. Hurts either way, though. "I said I'd do see him," he says, and much like one of their previous emotional conversations in which he said he'd do right by her, he tickles the feet that found their way under his legs.

She squeals, and tries to recover her feet, tucking them back under herself and away from his hands. "Stop," she gasps, pushing his hands away and hitting him with a pillow. "Okay, okay."

"Oh, is that what you want?" Aaron says playfully, grabbing up a pillow from the other side of the couch and taking a very soft hit at Peyton. Well he's certainly not going to hit her hard. "I think tickling is more fun, though."

"You hit like a girl," Peyton teases, throwing the pillow at him all the harder. "No tickling, or I'll probably kick you somewhere you don't want kicked, and then I'd really feel bad."

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