Waiting for the Sky to Fall


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Scene Title Waiting for the Sky to Fall
Synopsis Peyton asks Wes' opinion about taking the time to get to know someone in the past, and for him, the consequences of what might happen if she fails in the task are unbearable.
Date September 16, 2010

Upper East Side Peyton's Apartment

After the unexpected visit and the unexpected task set upon her shoulders, Peyton sits curled up on the couch, staring out at the gray, rainy evening that is slipping into a black, rainy night outside of her window. The wet pavement reflects back the headlights of the cars trying to make it home before curfew. On her coffee table is a scrapbook of photographs that belonged to her father but each is of her at varying ages, all taken from a distance that is, or was, un-breachable for both photographer and subject.

Peyton in a stroller as an infant, barely visible beneath bundles of pink blankets, pushed by a nanny through Central Park. Peyton as a toddler with hair in two pig-tails, clutching a Winnie the Pooh plush, a different nanny playing with her near the Alice in Wonderland statue. Peyton at five, in a parochial school uniform. All the way up to adulthood.

She had been given the photographs but refused to look at them for some time, putting them away with the rest of the things she hasn't felt mature enough to deal with. After Rhys left, she pulled it out, looking at the photos and wondering what it would be like, what the world would be like, if she didn't exist. How many lives would be affected for the worse? That self-deprecating, self-doubting part of her tells her that more people would be better off if she were never born.

Luckily (or maybe not), she's just a little too selfish that she isn't planning on finding out. She's accepted the task that Rhys assigned to her — not so much to save the world or save her father's life; for, after all, he'd lived many lifetimes before she was born. But to accept that rare gift of time.

There's no reason not to think that Peyton won't be home an hour away from curfew on a Thursday night. So when he finds himself nearer to her apartment than his own as he walks Carson through town in a desperate attempt to get the old dog to do his business in a timely manner while affectionately affording him the right to sniff various street lamp posts, bushes, caged trees, and hydrants, Wes ducks into a pizza parlor to pick up one of their end-of-the-night discounted pies.

So it is with pizza and a canine long out of puppyhood that Wes strolls into Peyton's building and up to her door. There's some muffled cursing as he fumbles the mutt's leather leash and the cardboard box to fish out the spare key he has. Carson is too intent on getting a bit of the pizza to be much help, keeping underfoot rather than sitting patiently at the end of the lead.

The key scuffs in the lock as he tries to balance the pizza on his wrist, but he ends up making more noise than progress.

Peyton unfolds herself from her perch on the couch — she'd slipped out of her business attire and into lounge clothes appropriate for a rainy night in alone: pink and gray striped pajama bottoms and a gray and pink raglan tee. A quick glance through the peephole brings a smile to her face, and she reaches to unlock the door, swinging it open and reaching down to catch Von as he is already on his way to greet Carson in the hall, having no doubt smelled the older dog and the pizza.

"Well, this is a surprise. Did you know I get free pizza for life from Panucci's, by the way?" Peyton greets conversationally, standing on tiptoe to press a soft kiss into his cheek and reaching for the pizza so he can manage Carson. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

Wes lets out a happy sort of grunt at the kiss and is gratefully relieved of the pizza. "No, I didn't," he says with a slight pout. "I mean, I can't stand by the quality of this'n, but it was on the way and I haven't had anythin' for dinner yet."

He follows Carson, who is still intent on the food, into the apartment. Once inside, he lets go of the lead in order to curl an arm around Peyton's waist and give her a more proper greeting. "You don't mind, do'yuh?"

"I've never made good on the offer for the free pizza," Peyton says with a grin. "I just think it's funny I have it." Her arms go around Wes' shoulders and she leans up into the kiss before shaking her head and heading toward the kitchen to get plates and beers.

"No, I don't mind. Just a quiet evening, listening to the rain." Pizza is doled out onto plates and beer bottles are opened. She hands him a plate and a bottle, taking one of each for herself, and leads him toward the living room to curl back onto her couch, leaning to rest the pizza and beer on the coffee table. She flips the scrapbook closed and pushes it out of harm's way. The dogs of course come crawling, lying at their feet and peering up in hopes of dropped pepperoni.

"Thatta girl," Wes says with a slow-growing grin as he takes the plate and beer and follows Peyton into the living room. For being out in the rain, he isn't too horribly soaked thanks to the brown leather coat he wears. Setting down his dinner, he works to remove it, draping it over the back of an armchair and staring at the dogs in the process. The look is a simple assertion of alpha-status in order to ensure the safety of the two slices on his plate. Process of elimination would imply that since he isn't wearing the revolvers, his weaponry is on his ankles for the evening.

He glances to the closed scrapbook as he sits back down again and collects the pizza to take a bite. He chews and swallows quickly before he gestures toward the table with the wedge. "You don't strike me as the Martha Stewart type, Pey," he says with an eyebrow arched in suspicion. "You hidin' somethin' from me? Got some insider trading game you're pullin' to back Redbird?"

"Martha Stewart wha?" Peyton says, brows rising to disappear beneath her bangs, and she glances at the scrapbook — more of a black photo album than anything — no stickers, no die cuts, no borders or cutesy cut and paste artwork. "Insider trading game? I have no idea what that even means, Wes. Come on," she says, a little exasperation creeping into her voice at the suspicion she sees on his face.

"It's just a photo album. Someone came by earlier and had me… nostalgic, I guess you could say," she says softly. Nostalgic is the wrong word — she has no sentimental longing for the past with Albert Winslow, since it's a past she never had.

It's rare that Wes makes a comment that soars above Peyton's head, but every time it's a little jarring. He smirks, then shakes his head as he chews another piece of pizza. "Nevermind," he grunts, reaching for the beer to wash down what he's eaten so far. He watches her for a moment before he leans back and rests the plate on his lap.

"Not in a good way, I'm thinkin'?" he asks, narrowing his eyes slightly in concern as he tears off another bit of the relatively thin crusted pizza.

She curls into the corner of the sofa, not touching the food, staring at the book on the table. "It's complicated, but when isn't it, right?" the clairvoyant says softly, then turns her dark eyes to his face, studying him for a moment. "If you could go back in time and get to know someone that you didn't have the chance to in this lifetime, because you just … didn't know how important they were, or didn't know they were there at all, or whatever reason — would you?" she asks, the question seemingly a non-sequitur.

There are few people Wes can think of on the spur of the moment that he would want to go back in time to visit, let alone get to know. He frowns at Peyton, obviously uncomfortable with such a philosophical question. Still, there is a thoughtfulness to the way he looks at her from his side of the couch. “That all depends on who it is I get to go ‘n see,” he answers gravely, his eyes still narrowed as he studies her face, though he is distracted for a moment by the line of her leg.

“But I’m gettin’ the feelin’ you ain’t talkin’ about a historical figure or somethin’ like that.” That wouldn’t tie in with the nostalgia or the photo album, unless the Whitney’s have quiet ties to more (in)famous names than Wes was aware. Not that he is aware of much when it comes to Peyton’s family.

He takes another few bites of pizza, reducing the slice to the crust before he tears it in half and holds the pieces up in one hand, lifting his chin as he looks at the patiently begging dogs. Carson immediately sit down, his eyes glued to the scrap of deliciousness. Von is a little slower to make the connection, but he soon joins the older dog. As soon as both canine butts are on the floor, Wes tosses the crusts to the dogs who greedily wolf them down.

“I don’t know if you knew I was adopted?” Peyton asks, quietly, reaching for her own plate but still not managing to take a bite, just picking at a string of mozzarella, peeling it from the ceramic plate and then flinging it at whichever dog is luckiest to catch the bit of cheese. Apparently she’s not as interested in teaching them good manners as the cowboy.

She nods to the pictures on the mantle of herself with very fair parents, redheaded and blond. “I never tried to find my birth parents when I was a kid. All I knew was my mother was a teenager, and that she gave me up for adoption. Didn’t feel bad about it or anything — I mean, I would have done the same thing,” she explains. “But after the bomb — my own parents, my adopted parents, they died, and I guess after finding out I was evolved, I was curious if they were, too.”

Setting the plate down on the coffee table again, she curls her legs up beneath her. “I hired a PI to find my mom. We’re friends now. But she didn’t tell me about my father, just that he was older and kind, but she had never told him about me and she didn’t feel comfortable with that, I guess. Somehow, though, he knew. And he had watched me grow up my whole life, and I never knew it.” She nods to the photo album. “I met him — but only for a few minutes. He’d… he was wanted by the Company, and they came for him, and he …” Died? It’s hard to explain exactly what happened. Her brows knit and she swallows hard as she looks away.

“Someone’s going back to the past to try to kill him, and I have to warn him,” Peyton adds in a sudden rush of words, her eyes averted from Wes’ face.

With a clink, Wes replaces his now empty plate and his beer bottle on the coffee table, careful to make sure it’s central enough not to tempt the dogs. He slowly eases himself over to Peyton’s side of the couch, but he doesn’t crowd her. Instead, he reaches with one calloused hand to extract a foot from her curled up position and pull it gently to his lap. For a moment, he just folds his hands around it, warming the skin. It’s not that Peyton’s apartment is cold, but women have weird feet. Then, turning his own eyes away from the segment of face that he can see with little effort to Peyton’s foot, he begins to massage it in an attempt to be comforting without overwhelming her.

“And you know this because someone visited you today,” he muses, his voice distant and slightly deeper than normal. It’s not hard to put two and two together, after all. “This part of what you do regularly? To keep the future on th’relative up ‘n up?”

She stretches her other leg to join the first and shakes her head, those dark brows contorting as she considers all the ramifications of what she’s agreed to do — and if she fails. “No,” she murmurs, the quiet sound intent and earnest for all its lack of noise. “No, I’ve never gone to the past before. But if I don’t —” she shakes her head and brings her hands to her face.

“I might not even be born. I don’t know when or where it is, but it’s before I’m born. If he dies, then… then I don’t even know what happens, Wes. Do I just stop being? Does everything I ever did just disappear?” There are events in her past she’d be happy to have disappear from the pages of history (or more likely, US magazine), but perhaps her adopted parents would still be alive if she were never born. Perhaps they’d have a daughter who would have made them proud, rather than end up in rehab. “This kid came and told me,” she adds, dropping her hands finally, getting a hold of herself. “He told me to go and take the opportunity to know my father, but that feels … selfish.”

Those rough hands don’t stop while Peyton speaks, even if Wes steals glances at her out of the corner of his eye. When she finishes, he exhales a quiet sigh that carries a weighted breath to it that skims across his vocal chords in something between a grunt and a hum. It is altogether contemplative and speculative. Pursing his lips in a frown, Wes shakes his head and slides the hand resting on top of Peyton’s foot near her ankle up to her calf. “But you know he’s going to die if you don’t do somethin’,” he says as he turns his head just enough to look at her. Despite the strong front, there is considerable tension in the skin around his eyes and in the way his brows furrow together.

“You ain’t wrong t’want to know ‘im,” he adds, giving her leg a squeeze. “And you ain’t wrong t’take the opportunity to do it. I don’t know much when it comes t’….time travel, but I figure whoever’s actin’ as your time machine’s gotta know enough to not blow everything up.” With the hand that remains on her foot, Wes starts up the massage again, hampered though it is by the loss of a stabilizing force. “Figure it must be like that Christmas movie where the guy wants to jump off the bridge, but-” And Wes grunts, putting a little extra, unintentional force behind his thumb as he drags it up the sole of her foot. “Dammit, that just ain’t gonna happen,” he grumbles, his face twisting into an angry grimace.

Peyton seems to have spent all her tears, for her eyes are dry for the moment. “It’s not bad enough someone’s supposed to kill me in my future, right? Better to just wipe me out from ever existing. Not that it’s the same person,” she says a little wryly.

His angry grimace pulls a sad-eyed glance from her, and she kicks his hand lightly. “What kinda screwed up Christmas movie has someone trying to off themselves in it? That is fucked up,” Peyton says with a shake of her head, a slight smirk curving her lips as she tries to get him to smile, knowing she is burdening him once more with woes that he shouldn’t have to bear.

Like many families across middle America and the plains states, the Smedleys were one that watched It’s a Wonderful Life as part of their annual observance of the holiday. “He doesn’t do it, Pey,” Wes says defensively, sliding his hand back down to encase her foot once more and keep it from kicking again.

“This angel shows up and walks him about a world where he didn’t exist. S’sad ass movie, but in the end he decides he shouldn’t jump, goes home, and the angel gets promoted or some shit. It’s the bell-ringy movie.” He lifts his eyes to her face and frowns, but there’s only a marginal loss of actual anger in the expression. “This Christmas, I’ll find it and make you watch it.”

Because she will survive that long. His eyes meet hers, but this time the gray-blue irises hold that sharp glint of determination, like the sheen of a knife’s edge.

“Bell-ringy movie,” Peyton echoes, grinning despite the somber mood the day has set. Her dark eyes peer into his, the amusement fading and something more serious and yet not sad filling them. They grow softer and she suddenly swings her legs out of his lap, crawling over to him and sliding her arms around his shoulders.

Her forehead bumps his lightly, and just a breath away from his, her lips curve into a smile. “Thank you,” she whispers, then brushes his lips with hers, her fingers curling around the angle of his jaw. “I understand what you’re trying to say, and I love ya for it.”

For once, Wes’s eyes actually stay with Peyton’s darker counterparts until their foreheads meet. His eyelids drop at the same time his hands fall into the subtle curve of her waist into her hip, fingers spreading over the edges of her back.

The “don’t mention it” he had planned in response to her thank you is stopped in his throat when Peyton makes her secondary remark. He opens one eye halfway, his grip on her tightening slightly before he moves his hands to her wrists, rubbing the inside of her arms with his thumbs.

There’s not even a way for Peyton to get a message to him if things go south while she’s on this strange errand - if she never existed, how could she go back time? If she never existed, Wes would have no idea who she was. He opens his other eye, but focuses them both on the curve of Peyton’s lips rather than look at her properly. “You’re…” he murmurs, but he only gets the one word out before his jaw tightens and his throat clamps up. He clears it with a grunt and gives Peyton’s arms another sweep with his thumbs before he continues.

“I ain’t gonna lie to you, Pey. You’re…important t’me.” he says slowly, choosing the words as if he were picking out stones to step on to cross a wide, wild stream. “I don’t want to see nothin’ bad happen t’you. And I especially don’t want to see you get swalluh’d up by…” whatever it is about time that corrects paradoxes. He shakes his head, the gesture tight due to Peyton’s hands at his jaw. “But you not bein’ here at all’somethin’ I just can’t handle, even if I wouldn’t know t’care.”

Her playful smile of a moment before is swept away by his words, replaced by a softer look of surprise and affection, her eyes starting to fill with those tears she’d kept at bay for a few moments. Her brows knit and she gives him a crooked smile that is sad and sweet, and once more she hugs him tightly, this time her face burrowing against his neck, breathing in the scent and warmth of his skin.

“You’re important to me, too,” Peyton murmurs softly, hands moving up to run through his hair. “It will be okay. I’m sure I’ll be back. Don’t worry, Wes.” Her words are more sure than she feels, but if she is sure her vision on June 10th will come true, then she has to come back for it to become true — she isn’t going to offer that bit of reasoning to him, knowing it’d be just as likely to upset him. But for her, it’s actually the only thing reassuring about the vision.

While they don’t exactly fall on deaf ears, her words don’t do much to assuage his own fears. His arms easily move to embrace her, holding her tightly in turn as he rubs his face in her hair, mussing it without any thought or concern for her appearance at the moment. Like everything in life, they were aware of an expiration date to whatever they set out to forge, and while Peyton may take comfort in the fact that the vision of her death means she isn’t wiped from existence entirely, for Wes it only serves as a looming reminder that his time with her is limited.

Don't the hours go shorter as the days go by?

We never get to stop and open our eyes.

One minute your waiting for the sky to fall,

The next you're dazzled by the beauty of it all.

He lifts a hand to stroke at her hair before he settles it against her head, his fingers twining themselves in the locks. “You’d better come back,” he murmurs against her temple before he presses his lips against the same spot. “You still got’uh lifetime uh’pizza to eat.” He smiles, but the expression is weak. Still, it’s a step in the right direction - away from dwelling on dangers and toward an appreciation of the moment.

These fragile bodies of touch and taste,

This fragrant skin, this hair like lace

Spirits open to a thrust of grace

Never a breath you can afford to waste.

The pizza on the kitchen counter can wait until morning, and the dogs will more than likely snipe what pieces remain on the plates in the living room in the middle of the night. None of that matters right now. With a grunt of effort, Wes hitches Peyton into his arms so that he can stand and lift her off the couch, trying not to further from her than is absolutely necessary in the process. While not that long ago he gave her space, now it would seem he is afraid to put too much air between them. But he isn’t pushy or demanding - rather, he moves with a simple, raw force of will.

As if loving her would keep her here against all odds.

When you're lovers in a dangerous time,

Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime.

Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight -

Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight.

We were lovers in a dangerous time.

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