What Rarely Is


niki_icon.gif peter_icon.gif

Scene Title What Rarely Is
Synopsis In the aftermath of tragedy, Peter Petrelli and Niki Sanders agree to a fresh start, and seem to have very little trouble reconnecting.
Date August 13, 2010

The Greenbelt - Nature Center

What was once the Staten Island Nature Center has been converted into a makeshift field hospital with rows of cots separated by white linens to provide patients with the illusion or privacy. Medical supplies, along with extra ammunition, firearms and other provisions, are kept under guard in the basement. There is enough space on the ground floor to (uncomfortably) accommodate up to twenty patients and a small number of rotating volunteers.

Only a few vestiges of the Time Before the Bomb remain, including a taxidermy collection in one unused wing that was too cumbersome to move and colourful murals splashed across the walls that illustrate the diversity of the island's wildlife and include a plethora of birds, animals, plants and even fish.

Before the bomb, the Staten Island Nature Center was a tourist attraction.

Now, peeling paint curls like parchment paper away from warped wood, floor tiles are cracked and grass bristles up between the fissures, windows devoid of grass have crawling ivy twisting through them, and holes in the ceiling give way to deadfall branches from storm-downed trees that serve as makeshift homes for tiny birds.

Against this reclamation of nature there is a juxtaposition of a near militaristic triage center. Folding cots, bedrolls and makeshift surgery tents have been set up within the spacious and empty floors of the crumbling old wooden building. The cries of pain from the injured, sobs of fright from the terrified and the silence of the dead makes for an auspicious backdrop. It's only been a day since the conclusion of activities against the Staten Island Hospital, and the cloudy gray skies have not let up with the rain that was brought to bear against the defenses of the hospital.

Drizzle trickles down through holes in the ceiling, feet scuff across the floor and medical personnel from three different organizations do their best to tend to the wounded that can be saved. With the ground wet and soft, the process of digging graves has already begun, and through a glassless bay window overlooking the overgrown front of the Nature Center, Niki Sanders can see the grim task being carried out.

It gives her something to focus on other than the bruises and cuts on her body and how her bandages itch.

Standing in the doorway of the triage wing, Peter Petrelli is a familiar ghost around these parts. Scruffed with a beard and disheveled hair, he looks more the part of some Indie band frontman than the leader of a paramilitary terrorist organization. The black of his tanktop is stained dark in spots with blood, toned arms spotted with brown crust from injuries partly his own and partly not, though the injuries themselves long since faded.

He's been standing there for a few minutes now, arms folded across his chest, red fabric of a scarf loosely draped over the back of his neck and down his chest. Helping out as much as he can here has taken a significant toll on him, and orders to take some time off have done little to actually make him do just that. Right now, at least, he's spending his time trying to put a name to a face.

Peter Petrelli and Niki Sanders are more connected than he realizes, and unfortunately in many ways he'll never want to realize.

She should go out there and help dig graves. With her limbs that don't tire so easily, her extra strength to spur her on. Instead, Niki stands and watches, still haunted by the things she saw in the basement level of the Staten Island Hospital. Shaking herself out of her reverie, Niki turns to look when she feels eyes on her. "Peter Petrelli." Her smile is somewhat hesitant. She quirks a brow, and that smile becomes more of a smirk. "Didn't I hit you with a car?" She eyes the man's face for a moment, eyes narrowing, "And didn't you have one hell of a scar?"

"Yeah," is a deferential answer to everything Niki has to ask. Leaning away from the door frame, keeping his arms folded as he walks, Peter seems to be more intently inspecting the blonde. "It's… been a while. I didn't think I'd ever see you again, actually. You probably would've liked to keep it that way." Brown eyes avert to the floor as Peter approaches, boots clunking on the concrete and broken tile underfoot as he walks, treading over grass growing up between the cracks.

Looking at a bruise on Niki's shoulder, Peter's brows crease and he takes a step to the side, inspecting a deep cut on her forearm caused by the forcible ejection from the tunnels beneath the hospital, likely jagged concrete or twisted rebar to blame. The bandage on it is seeping through dark red, and while it's been disinfected and cleaned, Peter can tell untrained hands and eyes tended the injury.

"I should sew that up," Peter offers to Niki with a nod to her arm. "You… wanna sit down," he motions with his head to one of the unoccupied cots. "It'll only take a second." His mannerisms seem both similar and different from what Niki last recalls of him. He's partly the sheepish Company agent with a heart of gold that promised that he'd never let anything bad happen to her, but also partly the violent psychopath that divided from him by way of Brian Fulk's replication ability.

It's confusing.

Niki is a little sceptical of Peter at first, but she takes a seat on the cot and holds her arm out to her side loosely. "You don't think very highly of yourself, do you? We were friends once, after all." At least, part of him was a friend to her. She starts unwrapping her own bandage carefully, wincing at the way it shifts against the open wound. She should probably make sure she gets a tetanus shot. "They were going to have one of the Ferry doctors look it over, but… She's apparently gone missing."

"She's dead," Peter explains in a hushed tone of voice, moving to drag a folding chair over to the side of the bed. "Doctor Price, I just… found out a little while ago." At the moment, Peter isn't aware of Doctor Price's other identity, only that a Ferrymen doctor was found dead. "We weren't friends either," he feels the need to reinforce as he settles down in the chair, leaning over to a stack of milk crates where a first aid kit has been left open by whatever medical help had been working on this bed earlier.

"You were friends with the wrong half of me, and he's gone…" Picking up the box, Peter brings it over to rest in his lap. "I don't really… remember everything from him clearly. Bits and pieces? I remember you hitting me with a car more clearly, and… I don't konw, I guess before the split, maybe we were friends?" Rummaging thorugh the tun, Peter pulls out a pair of scissors. "It feels like somebody else's life that I read a story about."

Folding the tin closed, Peter holds out one hand for Niki's arm. "Going to cut off your bandages, disinfect the wound and get this cleaned up." Does Peter think highly of himself?

No, not really.

Niki watches Peter's movements. She doesn't have much understanding of what goes into medicine, aside from basic Mom First Aid. "Dead?" She shakes her head, a quiet lamentation for a woman she didn't know. At least, a woman she doesn't think she knew. She may say good riddance if she knew that truth. She blinks twice, and moves on. "The wrong half… Yeah, that's something I can understand." She smiles somewhat reassuringly, but it's short-lived as she prepares for Peter to start his work.

"I don't always remember the things Jessica does, either." That clears up which one he's talking to. She remembers even less about what Gina does. "You want to start over? I imagine we've both had a few revelations since we last saw each other…" She certainly thinks she has, anyway.

There's a dry laugh from Peter, somewhat exasperatedly as he offers a slow shake of his head, cutting through the bloodied bandage on Niki's arm. "Not many people willing to give me a fresh start," he admits a little wryly, peeling the bandage away gently so as to not upset the injury. "The people that have a problem with me, most've them are more than willing to hold onto whatever grudges they have. Not that I blame them, I've done plenty wrong in the past to warrant being disliked."

Throwing the dirty bandage aside and peeling off the gauze pad, Peter looks down at the tender wound and shakes his head. "Well, at least whoever handled it cleaned it right. I'm going to clean it out again before I sew her up, this is gonna' sting." Putting the scissors aside on his lap and opening the first aid kit again, Peter pulls out a bottle of disinfectant and a cotton swab, dampening the swab and capping the bottle before reaching out to take Niki's arm again.

"So, I take it you don't work for the Company anymore?" Brown eyes alight to the blonde as he brings the cotton ball down onto her arm without warning, swabbing at the wound firmly while trying to keep her distracted with conversation. "How'd you get caught up in this?"

"Yeah…" is quietly agreed by Peter as he pulls the cotton swab away, setting it down beside the used bandage. "Yeah, ther'es a lot worth fighting for, I think that's why I finally realized what Messiah does is… really necessary." Reaching down into the medical kit, Peter pulls out a needle and thread, looking up to Niki as he starts to thread the needle, brows furrowed together. He's pensive, hesitating on asking something, about discussing something.

"Micah helped us out there," is a hushed thing when finally spoken, and Peter's digging up of that one thing Niki had shared with him about her life seems cruel, though in a way he means well. "I've… been working with him for a while. I guess, in a sorts. I don't know if you two talk much… at all or— " Peter lifts up one hadn and rubs his fingers over his forehead slowly. "I'm sorry, I didn't really think that through before I brought it up."

Niki has been repeatedly warned against talking to Micah much. He's not… necessarily on her side, to hear others tell it. "It's fine," she murmurs quickly. "There's no good way to approach…" She shakes her head. "It's okay. Micah and I… I'm grateful for what I have." Most of the time. "Micah's…" There's a faint smile. "He's always been ready to do what he thinks is right." A proud mother hides under Niki's broken exterior.

"He's a good kid, from… what little I know of him," Peter admits as he finishes threading the needle. Though the cigarette lighter he removes from the first aid kit was an after-market addition. Running one end of the needle under the lighter, Peter heats it up and sterilizes the metal, brown eyes reflecting the glow of the fire from the lighter.

He's silent for a time, scooting in as the lighter is flicked off and dropped into the box, motionign for Nick to rest her palm down on her knee so she can keep her arm steady while he sews it shut. "You know, it's funny how we keep running into each other. I remember… one of the first times we really talked, I told you about this dream I had that you were in, you and— you and your family." The needle slides through flesh, but it's only the pain that Niki feels, she doesn't have to watch it, so all she can tell is the sharp pierce and the tugging sensation of the thread.

Peter's doing her best to try and keep her mind distracted. "I never really… learned what the significance of you being in it was. I always wondered, though. I had a friend once, he used to say everyone was connected, that we all… that everyone had a reason for meeting, a purpose?" Brown eyes look up to meet Niki's. "I don't really know how much I buy into that."

For a moment, Niki forgets to feel sullen and bothered by the things she's seen, and she beams. That's her boy. "I don't know… I don't know that everything happens for a specific reason, but…"

Niki bites her lip, taking in a long, slow breath through the pain. "There's a lot of coincidence out there. A lot of connection."

Smiling ruefully, Peter dips his head into a nod and continues the suturing, even while making certain to maintain some eye contact on the blonde when he can. "Coincidence," he admits a little quietly, "yeah, maybe something like that. I don't really know if I buy into the whole idea of fate… or— I don't know, maybe I do." It's hard to understand where Peter is coming from, until he looks back down to Niki's arm. "I knew an artist, named Isaac. Back before the bomb he… painted it, painted what was going to happen, and I swore I was going to stop it." He's told Niki this much before, and only this much, though Isaac's name had never come up directly.

"Maybe it was something unavoidable, maybe it couldn't ever actually be stopped." Dark eyes cast askance to the empty bed nearby, then back to Niki. "Part of me wonders where I'd even be if it never happened how different my life would be… how much different the world would be." Eyes only briefly up on Niki, Peter stops what he's doing and reaches down for the scissors, bringing them up with a snip.

"All better," or at least the wound will be, "just wish they made sutures for emotional scars, yeah?" One corner of Peter's mouth upturns in a lopsided smile at that. "Sutures for souls or something… it'd be a big seller."

Niki has to resist the urge to reach across and run a finger over Peter's handiwork, or scratch around it. "Sutures for emotional scars… I don't know. Some wounds just weren't meant to heal." The wounds of a guilty mother, for example. "Some scars shouldn't disappear. It's how we learn the hardest lessons." She leaves her hand resting on Peter's knee, lingering a moment.

"Would you change it all now? Midtown. It… set in motion a lot of things that would have happened sooner or later. The world would have found out about us one way or another. In a way… I'm glad I don't have to hide who I am. Well… Not all of it." The Dissociative Identity Disorder is something she tries to keep quiet around people that wouldn't understand her unique situation.

"I don't know," Peter is reluctant to admit after all of that, "maybe? It'd give you back your son, your husband…" brown eyes dip down to the first-aid kit as Peter slides it closed with a click of the metal, his brows furrowed and head shaking slowly. "It'd give me back my life, my family… maybe my brother wouldn't have turned into the person he became, maybe…" Peter's voice trails off and his head shakes slowly, "I don't know."

It's not really a fair answer, but presented with the possibility of actually changing the future, could Peter do it, especially knowing what it would mean for this future. He'd heard that the Bright Future had been destroyed by time travelers, that history had been rewritten. In changing the past, in stepping on so many butterflies, would he even exist anymore?

"Would you?" Turning the question around, Peter looks up from the closed metal tin to Niki, both brows lifting slowly. "Would you do it, if you could?"

Niki squeezes Peter's knee gently, a reassuring gesture as she waits for him to finish speaking. She brings her eyes up to meet his hesitantly, apprehension there in that grey-blue gaze. "To save D.L. and Micah? Yeah, I probably would. All I can do now is take revenge."

She shakes her head. "I don't know. Maybe it had to happen. To force me into action. To make me stop running. I don't know." A tear rolls down her cheek.

There's a subtle smile playing on the corner of Peter's lips — one corner more so than the other — at Niki's admission, though it's short-lived when he realizes where this line of conversation has gotten her. "Hey," is breathily offered as Peter moves to get up, the old bandage and gauze pad falling out of his lap and to the floor, while the first-aid box is gathered up and sat down on the now unoccupied folding chair. "Hey I'm… sorry, I didn't mean to…" there's an unbecoming noise in the back of Peter's throat that turns into a resigned sigh.

Moving to sit down on the corner of the cot beside Niki, Peter lifts a hand to rest on her shoulder, brows furrowed. "It doesn't really matter, there isn't any changing it. Someone tried, failed, and now we're stuck like this. There isn't any going back to undo it, or it already would've happened. We're… we're stuck living with our choices, and this world." But moving his hand from Niki's shoulder, Peter offers her the faintest of sympathetic smiles.

"Hopefully we're both fighting for the right kind of future." Peter adds quietly, "Hopefully we're both on the right side to make a difference."

The blonde is quick to lift her hand to brush the errant tears away from her face when Peter starts moving. "No, no," she offers quickly, "it's fine. It's not your fault. I'm just over emotional after…" Niki makes a vague gesture toward the direction of the ruined hospital. "It's nothing you said. I'm fine."

All the same, Niki tips her head to rest her cheek against the backs of Peter's fingers briefly when he touches her shoulder. "We aren't stuck. We keep moving forward. Being stuck is reliving moments of regret and never learning, never moving past." She's done her fair share of that. "We make a difference, or we die trying, right?" She brings her hand back up to rub under her nose, sniffling quietly. Further tears seem to be kept at bay, at least.

"Die trying," Peter echoes in rueful fashion, "some times I wonder if that's really what it'd take." Folding his hands in his lap, Peter looks down squarely, slouching his shoulders forward and growing silent for a long while before wordlessly rising up off of the corner of the cot, turning around to look back at Niki after he's up. "Where are you hiding out these days? If you're not with the Company any more, I mean. I… I know a lot of people who could really use your help."

Brows furrowed, Peter offers the blonde a fond smile. "I also know I can trust you to watch my back, you were a good agent, for as long as it lasted I mean." Though the memories of being an agent for the Company are foggy, there's some measure of familiarity here and now, and while it isn't a fluorescent lit cafeteria, it has all the charms of one.

"I mean, I don't know who got you out here to fight, but… Messiah could really use someone like you, Niki, especially if you're looking to get revenge. It's what we do best, it's what helped bring down that hospital, it's what will probably win the war we're in. Even if no one else wants to admit it's a war yet."

"We've been at war for a while now," Niki agrees. She rises a little slower than Peter, feeling worn down but not defeated. "I'm signing a lease on a place in Harlem. At Hamilton Heights. You're more than welcome to stop by any time." She turns her head one way and the other, checking for prying eyes or eavesdropping ears. Satisfied that they're as alone as they can be in this age, she confesses, "My loyalties lie with the people at Redbird Security." She expects the significance will not be lost on Peter.

"Just until we… Just until I can pay Linderman back a thousand fold for what he did to my family." Blue gaze shifts from Peter for a moment, focusing on something over his shoulder before returning to his face for his reaction. "I know it won't bring my son or my husband back, but it should go a long way to making me feel better."

Redbird. For the barest of moments Peter can't connect the dots, but once he finally realizes the meaning, there's a slow narrowing of his eyes and a steady nod of his head in thanks. "Right, I guess that makes sense all of the sudden," Peter admits in a quiet tone of voice. "Hamilton Heights isn't too far away from somewhere I visit," he admits afterward, leaving the conversation of Cardinal's company to the wayside for later consideration.

"What name are you going to be renting under? I mean," Peter's brown eyes move to the visible scar under the right side of Niki's jaw, brown eyes widening for a moment before he makes eye contact again. "If you were in Moab like I was, then…" then they just missed each other, "then you must be hiding somehow."

"Right." Niki closes her eyes for a moment and shakes her head, internally rolling her eyes at herself. "Uhm, Lorine Hawk. S'the name on my ID. I still don't remember I'm supposed to answer to it. Even at work, they just call me by my stage name." Another wince. "And I work at the Red Room. If I'm not home and not answering my cell, that's usually where I am." She reaches into her pocket and pulls out her phone. She'd been smart enough to leave it at base camp, saving her the trouble of having a fancy-looking brick.

"Have you met my sisters yet?" Niki's gaze lowers to her phone as she pulls up the likely outdated entry for Peter, holding out the phone to him so he can update his own information as he pleases.

"You mean… Jessica and Gina?" Peter offers a crooked smile, thinking she's making a cute joke. "Yeah, yeah I have. Ah, not for nothing, but Jessica and I don't really get along very well, and I think Gina wants us to get along better than I'm comfortable with." Being able to make a joke to lighten the mood in somewhere as tragic as a triage center is from living around death much of his life. It isn't out of disrespect, but the capacity to understand that sometimes laughter and a smile is all it takes to make someone feel even a little bit better.

Sometimes that also makes all the difference.

"Thanks," Peter offers quietly as he looks down to the phone, and there's a chirp from Niki's as Peter's number is added without even so much as him having touched a single button. "Rebel— Micah," that's a hard distinction to be able to make, "keeps tabs on us, for security reasons. I guess he's been watching your phone and mine."

Niki frowns faintly. "I have… Real sisters that don't just live in my head," she explains. She pinches the bridge of her nose with a faint hint of annoyance. "I wake up in more strange bedrooms than I've ever wanted because of Gina. She seems to think we're twenty-one instead of thirty-five. At least she has the brains not to bring anyone back to my place. I don't know what I'd do." Dropping her hand again, she hooks her thumb through her belt loop. "Jessica is… Well, I think her opinion of you will change." That may have been said more to the woman who waits on the other side of the mirror than to Peter. "I wouldn't worry about her."

When her phone chirps, it derails Niki's train of thought. "Oh, Micah. He leaves me messages now and again. Not… like he used to, though." Before he became a part of Rebel. She reaches out to take back her phone and before pocketing it once more, brings it up to plant a brief kiss to the screen as if it might somehow reach her beloved son.

Silent for a moment, there's a brief contentment in knowing that Niki still has some family left. "Cherish them," is his advice, "if you really do love them, because losing family— especially a brother or a sister?" Brown eyes close and Peter shakes his head, "you know how hard that can be to ever replace." Which is to say, they can't be, only mourned.

"I'm going to go out, help whoever's out front dig some of the graves," Peter offers in the most charming way of inviting someone along. Only a Petrelli would ask a woman to go dig graves with them. Angela certainly did it at Coyote Sands with those who'd gone out there. Clearly it's genetic. "If… you want to help, we should do it while the ground's soft."

Peter takes one step aside, brows furrowed as he makes room for Niki to walk past if that's not really her cup of tea. "Oh and," it's something of an afterthought, "if Jessica does change her opinion of me, I'll feel a lot safer coming to visit if I ever put aside this regeneration of mine." Power jokes, cute.

Niki is somber for a moment to reflect on Peter's words. He's absolutely right. She isn't sure if she could handle losing more family. And she conveniently forgets to mention that she has a brother, knowing Messiah might actually be interested. But… it's Peter.

At his request, her brows furrow in confusion, but her eyes twinkle with amusement. Who asks a question like that? Only a Petrelli. "You're right, of course. Something like this needs to be done while it's easiest." Though such things are never actually easy. She doesn't walk past. Digging graves would be more welcome than sitting on a cot alone with her thoughts. When Peter cracks a joke, it catches her off her guard.

Niki laughs. She doesn't just laugh politely, she laughs hard. Disrespectful, maybe, but it's nerves. And it's a release of pent up emotions that she desperately needed. She's left catching her breath after a few moments and shaking her head at Peter. "Come on," she grabs his arm and starts pulling him along. "Let's go."

Dark brows raise when Peter's arm is taken, brief surprise flashing across his features as Niki drags him with her having found renewed enthusiasm and strength. It's been a long time since the two of them had seen each other, nearly two years this fall, but in the time between the ghosts of memory belonging to the Company and the life he's lived now, they've grown into two wholly different people, and yet somehow managed to reconnect in the face of tragedy.

When something is broken, the jagged edges rarely ever meet just right with something else. But maybe two broken things can fit together in their own way. It certainly can't ever be perfect.

But what rarely is?

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