The Rift, Part I


athan_icon.gif gillian_icon.gif lene2_icon.gif peter_icon.gif

Scene Title The Rift, Part I
Synopsis At Richard Ray's suggestion, Gillian, Peter, and Jolene travel to Kansas City to meet a long-lost family member.
Date January 15, 2021

Truth is a hard thing.

For the eight miles, Jolene Chevalier has said nothing. She has stared out the passenger-side window of a rental car while the Missouri countryside rolls by. It’s not unlike the road trip she took with her mother to the dead zone. Both began with a flight to Kansas City. But this one has taken on a decidedly different tone.

In the bar seat of the rental car, Peter Petrelli sits in solitary silence, crutches taking up the seat next to him. He can feel the simmering resentment from his daughter, the frustration not directed at any member of her family in the car, but the one who has been eluding her for over a decade since she arrived in this timeline.

For Gillian, her focus remains on the road. A stretch of rural back road just outside of Kansas City proper, where Kittyhawk Ranch can be found. A ranch owned by the charitable organization called the Petros Foundation. An organization run by Athan Petros. Better known as Nate Petrelli.

Her son.

Kittyhawk Ranch
Kansas City, Missouri

January 15th
1:11 pm Local Time

When Gillian drives up to the gates of the property, where the ranch is still out of sight beyond a rambling lawn and sparse trees, she comes to a stop at a call box. Rolling down her window, Gillian leans out of her car and presses the button, cueing a soft buzz from the speaker. A moment later, a voice crackles to life.

«Kittyhawk Ranch, what’s your invitation code?»

Looking away from the speaker, Gillian casts a look at Lene and Peter both, as if to silently say ‘if this doesn’t work we are breaking in damnit’. Cause she didn’t come all this way to get turned away because she doesn’t have a code. Grasping the wheel, she leans closer and says firmly, “My name is Gillian Childs and I am here to see Athan Stone. Richard Ray referred us.” She wanted so badly to just go ‘we’re his family, let us in’ but she didn’t know exactly who was on the other side of the speaker or what knowledge they had.

The silence on the other end isn’t reassuring. Jolene looks past her mother to the box, then ahead to the gates. Before she can chime in one way or another, a tinny voice crackles over the intercom to cut the tension.

«Please drive through.»

A buzzing sound accompanies the voice as the iron gates to the compound grounds swing inward. Peter sits forward, a hand on the back of each seat. He doesn’t realize he’s holding his breath in anticipation.

Once the way forward opens, Jolene relaxes and looks nervously back at her father, then ahead. Beyond the fence, the grounds of this estate are patrolled by four armed security officers in plain clothes. They belong to Malachite, a small private military company that is discreetly owned by the Petros Foundation.

It’s only 200 feet from the fence to the grounds of a three-story mansion tucked back from the road and nestled in a dense forest of ash and elm trees. Peter looks out the back window to watch the gates close behind them, then glances over at Gillian. “If anything goes wrong, I’ll get us out of there.” He says with an attempt at confidence, but the shake of his voice belies his nerves.

Gillian pulls up to the front of the mansion and is greeted by a smartly-dressed man in a crisp suit stepping out of the mansion’s front doors. Gillian recognizes him from the research she did on the Petros Foundation before leaving. Those high cheekbones, the long knife-like face, that swoosh of gray hair.

Athan Stone waits on the front steps of the mansion with his hands in his pockets, brows kicked up in a mixed expression of eagerness and nerves that match Peter’s. Jolene can’t tear her eyes away from him and fumbles with her seatbelt trying to get out of the car.

Gillian blinked. For a moment, she wasn’t even Gillian. For a moment, she was Gwen— Gwen who was also Gillian.

Scraped knees and a child's tears have been a part of Gwen's life for as long as she can remember.

Growing up, her brother was constantly getting himself injured. As the eldest sibling, it was Gillian's responsibility to take care of her family members. As an adult, after having learned full well that the family that raised her was connected not by blood, Gwen's life was still filled with skinned knees and tears.

Children of the Lighthouse looked up to her as a mother, as went to her for help, considered her as much family as she'd considered her adoptive parents. It's no surprise that now, years later, children still look up to Gillian for help and parental guidance. Much like the one sitting on the kitchen table in front of her, crying his eyes out because he's skinned his knee. Some things never change.

He's a boy of maybe ten years, dark hair and eyes and so much a mother's-boy that it's embarrassing. One leg of his loosely-fitting jeans are rolled up over his knee, revealing the scraped and bloody skin only just washed clean by Gwen's tender care.

The water wrung out of the cloth turns pink in the ceramic basin, cold too since it would be a waste to burn firewood to heat up a kettle of water for this. It's nearly spring though and the weather has taken a turn for the better. Outside of the trailer, the sounds of children laughing and playing fill the air. This clumsy boy rarely plays with the other kids, rarely gets to see them with how much Gwen moves around these days. But he's here for a purpose today, and the skinned knee wasn't because of play.

Sniffling back a whimper, the boy's wide eyes stare up at Gwen as she lays the wrung-out cloth beside the washbasin, catching a glimpse of herself in a small decorative mirror beside the trailer's broken sink. She's aged gracefully over these last few years. She's never worn her hair this long before, never had reason to. She's starting to look like a wild woman, with unkempt locks of dark hair down to her waist and the militant-chic attire of urban camouflage BDUs and a black tank top. That her bolt-action rifle isn't far away on one of the kitchenette's bench seats adds to this theme of appearance.

But she had never really been Gwen. That had been a dream. A memory or a dream that she wasn’t even sure how she could possibly have had. But somehow she could see that little boy in this man’s face, just as she could see hints of her own face there— hints of Peter’s. Even more, hints of Lene. She doesn’t even notice as she goes through the motions of undoing the seatbelt and opening the door, on autopilot as she opens the car door and stands. She needs to keep her hand on the door because she doesn’t feel as if she could stand very well suddenly.

And not just because of the stroke.

…he had named his daughter after her…

She’d had so much she had planned to say, had thought about them the entire drive. How she wished he would have contacted them. There were so many words she had thought of, some of them she had dismissed as being too potentially hurtful and mean— and what came out when she opened her mouth was probably on the extreme lower end of the list of things she had thought of to say, “Why are both my kids so tall?”

Athan can’t help but laugh at that, but in a way that shows he is disarmed. His smile is easy, much like his father’s were it not so straight. He looks at Gillian with tear-misted eyes and past her to Jolene, and that’s when his smile starts to falter.

Lene brushes past Gillian, hustles across the driveway to Athan and punches him square in the jaw. He wasn’t prepared for it, falls back onto the stairs and has to yelp out something to the guards starting to step out of the front door. He raises a flailing hand into the air, calling them off. Those men in dark suits remove their hands from inside their jackets and step back into the mansion. Lene doesn’t break eye contact from her brother.

Peter is struggling to get out of the car, tangled in the seatbelt and grasping at his crutches. He finally gets out of the back seat in time to hear his daughter’s voice split the silence.

Why?!” Lene screams, her voice cracking and throat raw.

The laugh broke so much of the tension, and her face just relaxed for a moment. That didn’t last long. Unable to move nearly as fast, Gillian can only watch as Lene charges and punches her now much older brother. With a sigh, she glances back at Peter as she closes the door, “I’m afraid she got that from me,” she says, almost apologetic, and perhaps unaware of how certain Petrelli relationships with their siblings had been and only seeing how she had been in the past when her emotions had been more volatile. She had settled down a lot over the last decade, but a lot had happened—

“Lene, your brother can’t explain much if you break his jaw,” she says a little more loudly, both to remind her who she was punching, and the potential consequences of punching him. But mostly because there was no way she could physically make it over there quickly, not in her condition. Her gait wasn’t as bad as it had been just after the stroke, but it was still unsteady, awkward, and slow.

And she wanted to be able to help Peter if he asked.

“It’s alright,” Athan says with a hand at his jaw, “I—deserve that.”

Lene looms over him, fuming, shoulders rising and falling with each heavy breath she’s taking. Her face is flushed red with anger.

Peter, once at the car, disappears in a rippling flash of rainbow-hued light and reappears beside Lene, facing her. She looks away from him, down to the ground, then blinks a fierce look over at Athan.

“Answers. Now.” Lene says through her clenched teeth.

A Short Time Later

Kittyhawk Ranch
Guest Lounge

Peter reaches out and takes Gillian’s hand, squeezing it firmly. There’s a calmness in his eyes, a steadiness, but also a barely restrained fear. He sits with her on a low-set sofa beside a crackling fireplace that fills the modestly-appointed lounge with a rich warmth. Lene cannot sit, choosing to stand beside the fireplace on the hearth, arms crossed over her chest and eyes fixed on her brother.

Athan stands by the lounge windows, looking out at the grounds as a light winter flurry begins to dust the grounds with snow. He sighs, turning to look back at the family he has been so long separated from.

“First of all, I need to apologize.” Athan says quietly. Jolene snorts derisively at the notion, clenching her jaw to keep harsh words behind her teeth. “I… I never intended on revealing myself to you all. I never wanted to open this wound, I…”

“How’re you here?” Peter asks with disbelief. “Alive.”

Athan looks down to the floor, wringing his hands together. “It’s a long story, but one that circles back to an old friend of yours…” he says with a look at his father. “Hiro Nakamura.”

“There were so many times when Hiro Nakamura could have helped that he didn’t— but times that I am grateful he did,” Gillian says quietly, as she can’t help but finger the necklace she still wears around her neck. Part of her knows that the reason her meeting with her parents had only garnered this necklace was that Hiro had fixed what she had tried to change, even slightly, but she also knew that, maybe, it was for the best. There was another trip that had followed that one, an apology to the universe for her attempt to break it— and because she was probably one of the few people that could be counted on for that mission at the time…

And she had been grateful for that too.

So she will forgive the times he hadn’t been able to help or had chosen not to, for whatever reason he might have had.

But there was one question she wanted to ask, and it was a little more— hard-hitting than the how— “Why didn’t you want to reveal yourself? Was it for us— or for you?” Cause one answer she can understand— the other she may not forgive as easily.

Lene’s eyes are locked on Athan. She wants this answer more than anything.

Athan sighs, scrubbing his hands over his face. “You—” he starts to say to Gillian, then corrects himself, “my mother and I were stranded here so far in the past. Decades. Hiro had… chosen us to come back so that we could try and make things better. Change things for the better. Subtly.” He looks down at the floor. “The Paper Crane Socie—”

Fuck Nakamura,” Lene blurts out. “Why did you hide?!

Athan flinches at the raised voice. He grimaces, then rubs a hand at the back of his neck. “By the time Gillian was born I was already an adult. I couldn’t tell her right away or risk causing a rift…

Rift. The word sits weird in Peter’s mind. It’s… familiar.

The subway car has fallen silent. The few passengers that were on it have stopped talking. Stopped moving.

Peter looks around, eyes wide, and startles when a man in black with a ponytail and a sword over his shoulder abruptly appears in front of him. “Peter Petrelli,” the stranger says with certainty.

“What?” Peter barks in disbelief. Then, on considering that no one else is moving thinks to ask: “Are you doing this?”

“You look different without the scar,” the man with the ponytail says, squinting at Peter and both answering and not answering his question.

“I don't know you.” Peter says as he takes a step back.

“Not yet.” The stranger says in a way that makes Peter’s blood run cold. “My name is Hiro Nakamura. I'm from the future. And I have a message for you. I don't have much time. I'm risking a rift just by coming here. The girl—you have to save her.”

Peter’s mind reels. “What girl?

“The cheerleader.” Hiro explains with a furrow of his brows. “It's the only way to prevent it.” Peter can sense the urgency and frustration in his tone.

Prevent what?

“Save the cheerleader…” Peter whispers to himself, lost in the memory. He looks up to Athan, finishing the mantra. “…save the world.”

Athan furrows his brows at Peter, but lets the odd note pass unremarked upon. Lene’s demanding stare is more pressing. “By the time it was safe to reveal myself… mom had passed away, my—adoptive father was long-dead, and I—” He looks at his hands. “I’m an old man.” He says with a croak in his voice.

“You’d mourned me and moved on.” Athan says to Lene, and as much as she wants to fight the notion that she moved on from Nate’s death, it kills her inside to recognize that she had. And that’s why this hurts so much.

Jolene covers her face with one hand, shoulders trembling. It’s like it happened yesterday now.

“I was given a new life here.” Athan says softly, clearly having been torn up about this choice himself. “Who am I to take away yours?

If Gillian recognizes the term, she doesn’t really show it, because, like Lene, she’s suddenly a little furious at this fully grown man who could have been her son. “It only would have mattered up to a point— once I knew who Lene was it wasn’t— or you could have found us when the war broke out— or immediately after. I would have understood if you said it was too painful for you, but— I couldn’t mourn someone I never even met.” She never really got to even know who he was, or had been. She had wanted to ask about him often, but it had been difficult because the only person who even remembered him really had been young when it had happened.

And all she’d had was dreams. Dreams that she couldn’t even be sure were completely accurate. How much of them were pieced together from fantasies? How much of it had been hallucination when she had been suffering from the virus that had swept through the Ferry at the time. She had been seeing things, even when awake— how much had she been seeing in her dreams that were not really real?

She looks at Lene, realizing that she’s being selfish, that— no, this wasn’t about her— and her anger fades away with a sigh. Maybe Lene had moved on. Maybe Lene had built a life and started to grow in this world. But even then… “I still would have wanted to meet you.” Which was obvious, because here she was.

Meeting him.

“I suppose that’s the problem with choices,” Athan opines, eyes still focused on the floor. “Just because you choose, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice.” He smiles, faintly.

“When the Civil War started I was almost 60 years old.” Athan explains with a frown. “I’d had an entire life without either of you, I… didn’t know how to reconnect. I’m sorry that I didn’t, but…” he shakes his head, finally looking up to Lene and Gillian. “I wouldn’t change my choices.”

Jolene scowls, wrapping her arms tighter around herself. She starts to say something, but Athan interrupts her.

“I’m not the boy you remember.” Athan says to Lene, and that notion makes her rankle but also stays her tongue.

“I…” Peter stammers in. “I need to—I can’t wrap my head around this. How did you and—and your mother,” he can’t say her name, “how did you stay hidden? How did the Company not find you?”

Athan shifts his weight from one foot to another and starts to pace. It’s a very Lene mannerism. “We weren’t alone,” he admits reluctantly. “We—eventually found someone in a similar predicament to us.”

Peter looks confused, exchange a glance with Lene and then Gillian. “Who?” He asks, fixing Athan with an intense stare.

“Richard Cardinal.” Athan says, bracing for the reaction. “The one you know better as Ezekiel.

The small anger had passed— it was done. There was nothing they could do to change what had happened, even with time travel being a real thing. Now Gillian and Lene and even Peter deserved the only thing he could give them right now— Answers. “Had that been part of Nakamura’s plan, then? To try and drop the two of you where he could find you?” she speculates. “I know the kids when they sent you back— “ she looks at Lene, speaking to and about her, “They put you with our Richard. I’m not sure if it was just to keep an eye on him…”

Or if it had been a way to find her too, possibly. She had been staying with Redbird for a while after the Institute had taken her— the Institute that was run by Ezekiel?

That— she rubbed her forehead a little. This made things very complicated. The Institute had hurt her a lot, and she never blamed their Richard for it, but it caused some— even more complicated feelings now. “You didn’t— work with him though, I hope.”

Athan slowly shakes his head. “Richard died a long time ago. My… perspective on the world was different back then. I wasn’t a conspirator to him, he—I was his son. He raised me, made sure I never wanted for anything, and…” Athan sighs through his nose. “I never knew the man he was going to become. The world I left was one from long before he became the man you hated, and what little I knew of it only came from…” He smiles, faintly, looking to Gillian. “From you.”

“Wait.” Lene says with a hitch in her voice. “He—He raised you?” She lurches, as if in disgust. “He—yes they sent me back to keep an eye on him!” She finally thinks to answer her mother. “We knew it was only a matter of time before he went off the fucking deep end, my orders were to make sure he didn’t. We had no idea a version of him landed in the 60s until right before we hit Cambridge.”

Peter has grown silent amid all of this, watching and listening with a mixture of confusion and compassion. “But he didn’t.” Is Peter’s first contribution, drawing both Athan and Lene’s attention. “Richard didn’t go bad. I mean—I’ve met him, here and now. He seems fine.”

Lene looks down to her feet, wrapping her arms tightly around herself. Peter’s right, but it doesn’t comfort her at all.

“For what it’s worth, the Richard I knew wasn’t a monster either. He was… a good man, who wanted to do good things. I know it’s—colored by a lot of things I didn’t experience. But my ending up with Richard wasn’t a part of Nakamura’s plan. I don’t—know what Hiro was thinking. When he grabbed us he was in a hurry. He told us when we were and how to lay low, so to speak, and we never saw him again.” Athan explains, frowning.

“Everything I’ve built up was from my Gillian’s perspective of history,” Athan explains. “The Petros Foundation—using money left to me by Richard, secretly funding the nascent Ferrymen at the right time. Simon Broome helped us, let us live our lives in peace. He only approached me once to see if we wanted to live in the security of the Ark when things were starting to get bad…” Athan admits. “Mom was gone by then,” he notes quietly, “so—I didn’t see any reason to.”

“What about Richard?” Lene asks through her teeth. “When they—when they brought him back from the dead. Did he come for you?”

Athan nods. “He did. I was nearly sixty when he finally tracked me down. I didn’t know it was him, though. He had a… different face.” Tyler Case’s. “He pretended to be the son of someone mom had befriended, asked me how I was doing, if I was happy… and he seemed satisfied with the answers and left. It wasn’t until later, during the war, that I even found out who he was.”

“It seems like he was good at getting people to help him without them knowing what they were working toward,” Gillian says quietly, not wanting to accuse her ‘not-son’ of anything he couldn’t have possibly had any knowledge of. She herself had once supported people who had nefarious designs herself. She never would be where she was today if she hadn’t have ran off with Gabriel thinking he was going to protect her and teach her how to use her ability, after all.

So she didn’t really blame him. But at the same time… “I didn’t— I thought we— they were there longer. In the future. I didn’t know we… disappeared…” died “…that early.” She had a different set of dreams and memories. She could have sworn it had gone differently. But she had been feverish and even dying at one point. And it had been difficult for Lene to talk about every time it was brought up.

“But since Hiro did pull us out that early— it was probably before Richard did most of the things in your future. So— I— she— she wouldn’t have known.” The other Gillian. The one who had died of old age, the one who had— “Were they— were they together? Her and the other Richard? Ezekiel? I had thought that Richard was acting a little odd when he came to tell us about it but— “

Yeah, that would explain that part.

She had moved on.

Athan looks down at his feet and his response sounds like a gunshot. “They were.”

Athan swallows audibly, then sighs. “Right up until Samson Gray murdered him in ‘77. Then we moved on, but she never really did. I think—I think too much loss just—” He cuts himself off and scrubs a hand over his mouth. “He was like a father to me.”

Peter exhales a slow, weary sigh into his hand and looks wide-eyed at Gillian. Lene paces across the room, scrubbing her hands at her eyes. She sucks back a sob, strangled and confused, and wheels around at her brother.

“He tortured and mutilated my friend!” Lene screams at the top of her lungs, even the indirect mention of Howard makes her break down. Peter struggles to get up and reassure her, and instead looks to Gillian with a helpless stare. But it’s Athan that closes the distance first, envelops Lene in his arms even as she struggles against him and tries to push away. Eventually her shouts turn into sobs, and she collapses against Athan, fingers curled in the fabric of his jacket as she cries into his shoulder.

Athan turns and looks over at Gillian with sorrowful eyes. It’s all so, so much.

“He did a lot more than that,” Gillian murmurs quietly, thinking of the few crimes they even knew about. Most of them weren’t even committed directly by “Ezekiel”, but they had been committed by people in his name, or under his instruction, or with his resources. It wasn’t Richard, but— “The Richard I knew wasn’t like that. The Richard we know isn’t like that.” She adds for Lene’s sake, but it doesn’t change all of that pain, and all the crimes that that man had committed over the years.

“I have to believe we didn’t know about all of that.”

That it didn’t become like that until later. But at the same time, part of her also knew— maybe she had known. Maybe she had thought she could fix him. She had always thought that that Gillian might have been the best version of herself, but maybe she had been wrong about that.

With a shake of her head, she moved close, closing the distance to the older man, and the grown woman. Both her children, whether she bore them or not, and wraps her arms around them. “It’s okay to be hurt, Lene. We’re here.” As she says that, she unfolds one hand and holds it out toward Peter.

All of them.

Peter takes Gillian’s hand in his, though Lene seems content to stew in her anger and frustration. “I need a minute,” she says sharply, scrubbing tears out of her eyes as she storms for the door out of the lounge. Peter doesn’t say anything as she leaves, just watches as she slams the door open and then throws it shut just as loudly.

An awkward silence falls over the lounge, and Athan settles into an armchair across from his parents and sits forward, folding his hands between his knees. “I’m sorry, about all of this.”

Peter says nothing, squeezing Gillian’s hand tightly in the silence. When he relaxes it, he looks up to Athan with a furrow of his brows. “What was Hiro talking about when he mentioned a rift?” There’s something itching in the back of Peter’s mind about that, something he can’t shake.

Then question, as much unexpected as it is a welcomed change of topic, draws Athan’s eyes up from the floor. “I’m not sure,” he says in a hushed exhalation. “Hiro says a lot of things that don’t always make sense. But I can tell you what he told me.”

Peter glances at Gillian, then nods to Athan.

“Hiro established a… a group, or sorts. Not through association, but through causal connections. People who unknowingly were working together for a greater purpose.” Athan explains, smoothing his hands together as he does. “He called them the Paper Crane society. Something about a memorial to someone very special to him.” He looks back to the floor, eyes unfocused.

“When Hiro dropped us off, he gave Gillian explicit instructions that she passed on to me when I was old enough to understand them. Philanthropic acts, charities we needed to form, specific people we had to nudge in specific directions. It wasn’t an exhaustive list, and we didn’t have any context to who these people were or why. Not until we saw the repercussions of our work.” Athan notes, spreading his hands a little to indicate the ranch as a whole. “Some of the people we were benefactor to wound up being three of the foundational members of the Ferrymen: Scott Harkness, Grace Matheson, and Alistair McKeon. We provided discreet financial and material assistance under assumed names and through shell companies.”

“Hiro.” Peter mumbles, shaking his head. “Why?” He asks, meeting Athan’s stare. “Why do it that way, why not stop all the problems before they started? Hiro was obsessed with stopping the—the bomb. Why would he…”

“He didn’t say.” Athan admits. “But he knew time better than anyone, I like to think. I want to believe he had a plan. But…” Even Athan sounds like he has doubts. “I can’t see it.”

“From my experiences with Hiro Nakamura and time travel, he wasn’t interested in changing things,” Gillian says quietly, reaching up self consciously to touch the pendant she still wears most days around her neck. A less timeworn version of the same one that Lene wears around hers, but no less as precious. “I don’t even know if we’re talking about the same one, but— yeah, no. The one I knew of was more interested in maintaining the way things went. I tried to save my birth parents, warn them what was going to happen, but… he cleaned up whatever changes I had tried to make to the timeline.”

She looks back down at the pendant again. “All I got was this and the chance to actually meet my mom and dad, I guess. Which I am grateful for.” Even if she didn’t save them, at least she got to meet them. To know that they had loved her would have taken care of her and Brian. “Afterward, I decided to actually help him. Preserve things. When others were trying to make changes.”

There’s a glance toward Peter as she says this before she looks back at Athan. “But now it seems like time travel itself was already making those changes… I wrote two books using time travel, and this plot is even more complicated than what I came up with…”

She had used time travel for romance. Including featuring a story about how the heroine had rescued a young version of the hero by taking him to an amusement park. Almost no one knew how much of that story had been based on real life.

“Hiro Nakamura probably had a plan, but unless you know a way to ask him, we probably won’t find out what it was.”

And what the consequences would have been if they had changed Richard from the path he had been on.

“I didn’t bring an ouija board,” Peter says out of the corner of his mouth, trying to lighten the mood with a joke. Athan looks, momentarily, aghast but it passes.

“I think,” Athan says diplomatically, lifting his hands and spreading them in a gesture of defeat, “gallows humor is a sign we all need to take a step back and breathe. Lene… probably needs someone to talk to that isn’t me, right now.” He tries to smile, but it comes off as forced. “Why don’t we take a break, I can get some lunch put together, and we can talk more with full stomachs and clearer heads soon after.”

Peter gently takes Gillian’s hand and squeezes it, looking in the direction of the door Lene left through. “She probably needs you more than me right now,” he says quietly, then looks at Athan. There’s a moment of silence that hangs between the two before Peter exhales a sigh and nods in tired agreement.

“Yeah,” Peter says in a hushed tone of voice, “a break sounds good.”

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