When I Was You


delilah_icon.gif niel_icon.gif walter_icon.gif

Scene Title When I Was You
Synopsis An unexpected Trafford family reunion turns into a nightmare.
Date February 8, 2020

“And this card?”

“Th— that’s a— a— man in a red hat.”

Excellent job Daniel.”

For more than a year now, Daniel Trafford has spent the majority of his days and nights under the care and supervision of the caring staff of the Benchmark Recovery and Counseling Center. Days like today are common, where Niel — as he much prefers to be called — enjoys the company of Benchmark staff in games of memory and strategy. Playing checkers is becoming easier and games like Guess Who? that requires him to remember which cards are what person has immensely helped his slowly recuperating cognitive functions.

“Five for five t— today,” Niel says with a warm, gentle smile as he looks back down to the card laid face-down on the table in front of him. The woman helping him with his card game offers a smile back, they’ve cooperated together for over nine months now on working to rebuild Niel’s memory and help him build systems that work with his disability.

The door to the recreation room opens and while Niel doesn’t realize that anyone has arrived, his caregiver Mathilda does. Tapping the table, Mathilda gets Niel’s attention, who looks over his shoulder to see Delilah and Walter coming in with their visitor’s badges on. Immediately, Niel’s face lights up.

Today is his favorite day.

The Benchmark Center
Red Hook, NYC Safe Zone
February 8th
10:06 am

It's one of Walter's too, in the way that children look forward to Fridays and Weekends, and birthdays, and snow days, and sleepovers. A camping trip, a day at the park, a new place to explore. Going to the radio station. Book club at the library. Movie night on a projector, surrounded by other kids. Seeing his family, adopted and blood alike, are adventures themselves too.

The world is big and bold for a kid. Even one with weight on his shoulders and a chip on the edge of one. Since his birthday he's been a little more subdued all around. Since Delilah sat him down to talk, a little more self… conscious. But there aren’t doubts he is loved, and it's this that makes the difference.

"Hey granpa," With Delilah waving a hand at Niel and Mathilda behind him, Walter scampers over to give Niel a gentle hug, though his voice is just as engaging as ever. "Are you beating her? I bet you're beating her."

A hand rests briefly on her father's hair when Delilah comes up alongside and plants a kiss on his cheek. "Hey pops. Hello, Hilda. How's everything today? Looking bright-eyed, the two of you."

“It's going very good, Delilah.” Mathilda offers with a broad smile. “I think this means me and you are done with the memory exercises for now. I'm gonna go check on Eric and let you have fun.” As Mathilda boxes up the game, Niel turns to his family and scoops up little Walter in his arms, quickly rising to his feet.

Hah!” Niel exclaims cheerfully, “We we're playing a memory game, Walter. Helps me remember where I put my socks,” he jokes, being very careful and deliberate when he speaks to avoid his stutter. He sounds so much better now, less confused, less muddled. Niel sets Walter down and looks to Delilah, ruffling one hand through Walter’s coopery hair.

“How’ve you been, Lilah?” Niel asks with an eager anticipation of the answer, adopting a movie theater usher’s stance as he directs everyone over to the couches while Mathilda cleans up. “How’s work been?”

There is a little squirming, as nine year olds do, when picked up or dandled by cooing relatives. Still, Walter bears it, squawking only after, from the hand in his hair.

"My socks are always disappearing too." The boy confides, a glance to his mother as if she would be cross over it. Maybe a little. She, like anyone, hates the Sock Abyss.

"Eh, it's work." Delilah laughs, bumping her chin against Niel's shoulder as she takes her turn for a tight hug as Niel herds them along. "Mostly sewing uniforms up these days. Courier company put in an order this week. Nothing fun like gowns lately… the NYPD stuff keeps me busy, but I'm only one contractor." It's not much, but it's an honest earning; there might be other options on the horizon, though right now her only goal is keeping her tiny family comfortable.

Niel’s smile is a steadier one than he’s had in the past, a smile of certainty rather than nervousness. It is a smile of genuine appreciation for his daughter’s lot in life — a peaceful life — and for his privilege in being able to share in it. He had been back for so long and yet, to Niel, it felt like they still had catching up to do.

“Always lost my socks too,” Niel belatedly notes to Walter, keeping a hand on his shoulder. “Lilah’s mum— your grandmother— she always would fuss over that. Couldn’t imagine what in the world I’d be doing with them.” His smile grows, an earnest and self-conscious one, but a smile nevertheless. As Niel turns his attention up to Delilah, Mathilda has finished picking up and discreetly shows herself out of the small lounge to give the family some privacy.

Niel lets his hand slip away from Walter’s shoulder, motioning to one of the couches, “Why don’t we go and sit d-d-d— ” Suddenly, all the smoothness in Niel Trafford has faded. His stare is locked past Delilah, past Walter, over to where he was going to recommend they sit. The fact that his eyes have immediately welled up with tears sends a chill down Delilah’s spine, only worsened by his trembling whisper of, “I’m not crazy, I’m not crazy.”

Niel’s assertion is accurate, because what has him so shaken stands plainly for Delilah and Walter to see, beside the sofa in a crisp suit of black. His white hair swept away from his face, squinting just-so as he considers the young redhead scion of the Trafford line.


Walter’s namesake.

A peaceful life, to him. A quietly stormy one, for her. In the way that some people still love the thunder and rain despite the flood and wind.

Something in the back of Delilah's head stirs quizzically just before her father fixates on elsewhere. That incoming sense that someone is going to turn around and talk to you, or knowing that someone is going to hum along to the radio. Small things. He's going to speak- - and in a way, Niel does, by stammering to a halt. Welling with tears. Whispering in fear.

It is defensive, when she turns around; subconscious habits formed over years pivots her in front of Niel.

Whatever gleeful, rampant words had been flying around in the little boy's head have been tossed every which way in a splash, and Walter- - the smallest- - half-hides behind Niel as soon as his mother goes on edge.

Her habits are his too, even if he doesn't know it.

Delilah, knowing full well the manner of her grandfather's ability, holds a large breath in her chest, brown eyes wet and waiting, fixed. She can't know when this shade came from. Or for what. Walter Sr. has been pieces of sand for a long time. Stirred up in tides and kicked up onto the beach.

"Is this… where you wanted to…?" is her hushed, unfinished question, quite the puzzling one for her son and her father. Dee's eyes plead, just enough. Please say 'yes'. It would make all of this so much easier, from top-to-fucking-bottom.

My boy,” Mr. Renautas says with all of the long-lost love of a father for a son. There’s no absence of shock in his eyes when he sees Daniel Trafford, no absence of love, as if both a day and an eternity had passed since he last laid eyes on him. Delilah and her son are put to the wayside for a moment as Renautas moves over to Niel, and the latter is practically frozen in place by uncertainty and confusion. He only looks at Delilah once, eyes wide, before fixing his long dead father with a steadier stare.

Renautas says nothing at first, merely brings a hand up to cup Niel’s cheek, then draws him into an embrace that seems at first tender. But when Niel throws his arms around his elderly father to return the hug, there is simply nothing. His arms pass through Walter Sr. as though he were a ghost, to which the elder of the family smiles sadly and pulls an ephemeral hand away from his son’s cheek.

“Your eyes are not deceiving you,” Renautas says, “but neither is your memory. Not of me, at least.” He adds as an aside. “I passed away in a world you knew as mundane, without knowledge of my gifts. I am detached from myself, Daniel, not a ghost but…”

Mrs Whatsit,” Niel says in a whisper, naming one of the main characters from A Wrinkle in Time. His father smiles at that, wanting nothing more than to lay a reassuring hand on his son’s shoulder, but tempering that desire behind a supportive smile.

“Truer than you know,” Renautas says while Niel wipes tears from his eyes. Turning to Delilah, Niel is red-eyed and swallowing down a tumult of emotions. But he can realize how traumatic this might be for young Walter, and even in his confusion he has the frame of mind so be reassuring.

“It’s okay,” Niel says shakily, “it’s… it’s m’dad,” comes with a brief look back to the old man, “your great granddad,” he explains to Walter.

Except Walter is no stranger to the old man. He has seen him before, out of the corner of his eye, in dreams, everywhere he could easily dismiss as a figment of his imagination. Except now, the man in the black suit is real. As real as he was the day he loomed over baby Walter’s crib the day after he was born.

“We should all talk,” Renautas says, his smile becoming more serious.

There is a soft sound of palpable relief when it appears that, yes, her grandfather is where he wanted to be. Delilah stifles a second sound as Niel's own touch moves through Renautas'; her arms find his, hands warm, supporting as always. Her lack of surprise is startling, but her heart floats the same as it did before. Dee's fingers touch Niel's hair as he turns to Walter, who remains wide-eyed between all of them. Like they have two heads each. And one is- -

"I know." The nine year old bleats back at Niel, still half-hiding, exhaling at the same time as he speaks up. Rushed and breathless, itchy and awkward, teeth grinding in his own ears as that lizard brain comes screeching to a halt. Laudani things. Then it's time for Lilah's version of a lizard brain to slap into the back end of Walter's, in a sense, and for a moment she forgets whatever composure is there. It will come back, but right now- -

"What?!" She tugs him out from behind Niel, hands on his shoulders and face white- -

"Mom, stoppit," Walter tenses up again, not out of fright, just confusion. "You're freakin' me out."

Just like that, Mom's blanching patches with red, and she lifts doe eyes to her father and grandfather, feeling the heat of her son's shoulders under her palms. Maybe she is the crazy one.

"Talk. Talk?" Dee lets go, hands spread in front of her and features momentarily contorted into an absurd cross between mania and joy.

Oh, God. She knew this would happen, it had to, sooner or later, right? This is not the weirdest thing she's seen. Is it? It's so personal now. So maybe it is? How did they get here? Why does Walter know. Careful planning never ends well in Her current life or her next. Dee should know that by now. Thoughts flicker by in just a couple of seconds, before she chokes out a, "Fuck, of course we need to talk."

Someone else tell her how she feels right now.


“It’s alright, love,” Daniel to the rescue. “It— it is alright, right?” Mostly.

“I wish I had the time to explain my situation to you more, Daniel,” Renautas says with a slow shake of his head, “but the world moves around me even when I stay still. Time is a window on a train and I a passenger watching the city disappear beyond the horizon.” His pale eyes avert to the floor for a moment, then rise back to his son. “I came here because, first and foremost, I need your help.”

Niel covers his mouth with one hand, slowly scrubbing it down over his stubbled chin. “I buried you,” he says in a clear and steady voice, “an’… an’ you come back like the ghost of Christmas past, and ask for help?” He looks at his hands, then lowers them to his side. “Da’, I can barely tie my shoes on some days.”

That admission has Renautas’ expression sagging into a deeply sunken frown. “I know,” is something he admits with great regret. “Sometimes the train passes by you, but you never notice.” Renautas takes a step toward his son. “Daniel, I have never left you. I watched you grow into a loving husband, a caring father, and a proud grandfather. But I was helpless to protect you when you needed me.”

At that, Renautas’ eyes wander to young Walter. “I will not be that man again.” Blue eyes track over to Delilah. “Do you remember the task Richard Ray set me upon? To track down a secret history shared across our families?” It is a largely rhetorical question, though one that opens up a Pandora’s box of questioning looks from Niel. “I am so close to the answer, to the truth, and I have every reason to believe that you, young Walter, and Daniel are keys to the final steps of this puzzle.”

Renautas looks back to Daniel. “You are special, my boy. A truth that I hid from you in a lie of omission, then a promise of secrecy, on the day I failed you as a father.” His voice nearly cracks there at the end.

“I don’t understand,” Niel says in a whisper. Renautas’ response is only a sad smile and a nod.

“You will,” Renautas replies, before looking back to Delilah. “I would like to take you all on a journey through memory…” and by the way he gestures to young Walter, he means the entire family.

Even with years and distance there are a few things for each person that can pierce veils; with Delilah, it's choking back more words and sinking under the blanket of her father telling her 'it's alright'. The wind moves out of her just enough that she puts her hand back to Walter's shoulder and the other around Niel's hand at her side.

Even the littlest seems to understand the gravity of things needing to be alright. Walter's mouth pulls in with uncertainty, teeth grazing his lip as he stands with his mother and grandfather, eyes not quite able to look the phantom in the face. Despite his taste for adventure, he's still just a boy.

Delilah knows that too. Her head moves to rest against Daniel's shoulder, warming there as she listens. Sometimes it feels like she's riding a train too, wheeled around on a track and expected to be there. It's not that she doesn't want to be. Being there is her strong suit.

"I remember." She answers Renautas with a soft confirmation, just as affirming to Niel that she does, in fact, understand what is happening even if he doesn't. 'I buried you' may as well be on the Trafford coat of arms, with the way things always go. "It's alright, da'." Lilah returns his words, cheek lifting from Niel's shoulder, a sad smile that only seems to match her grandfather's.

"Are you sure?" Nerves get the better of Delilah when the aforementioned gestures to her son, worry shadowing over her. "I'm not. Only if it's safe." She looks from a still quieted Walter to his namesake, not so much thinking that he would put them in danger- - just that caution has always been the way of things.

"You sound like the Jurassic Park guy that does the animal programs." is Walter's fine observation, a chime amidst much more serious matters. He is trying to focus in his own way. Freckled nose wrinkles up, brows furrowing when he asks, faintly accusatory, "Why'd you never talk before?" In a way, letting Walter think he was crazy for seeing things. That's not what family is supposed to do, is it?

“I didn’t realize you could see me,” Renautas says with a hitch in his voice, followed up by a more somber,

“and I wouldn’t know what to say had I believed you could.”

Primatech Paper
The Pas, Manitoba

March 28th

past-angela_icon.gif past-arthur_icon.gif past-bob_icon.gif past-charles_icon.gif past-niel_icon.gif past-renautas_icon.gif

The desks in a briefing room have been pushed to the walls. Dim rays of goldenrod sunlight spill through partly drawn horizontal blinds, casting long shadows across the room. Four founding members of the Company stand in a semi-circle at the front of the room, facing a Walter Renautas who looks not a day older than the man who had brought observers to this memory of history. At his side, however, Daniel Trafford looks like a child, with his mop of red hair and braces on his teeth. He is as wiry as young Walter is, tall and lanky. Delilah remembers seeing pictures of him at this age.

“Is this what we’ve become?” Angela Petrelli asks as she looks over to her husband, while making a sharp gesture toward Daniel. “This is a boy, Arthur. If we can’t be entrusted to protect the lives of the people we’ve sworn to protect and instead foist our responsibilities off on children, what business do we have being here?”

Bob Bishop joins in with reluctant agreement. “I was impressed with what Daniel, Miguel, and Cindy have shown in their early training but I’m with Angela on this one. I can’t in good conscience put a child’s life in danger because we’re afraid.”

“If you think this is about fear you’re incredibly mistaken,” is what Arthur Petrelli says, leaning in front of Angela to fire a look of dissatisfaction at Bob. “We’re talking about the end of the human race here, Bob. Don’t you think that includes Daniel here?”

“Why don’t we at least listen to what the young man has to offer,” comes from Charles Deveaux as he raises both of his hands slowly, trying to cool the tense conversation. The voices of dissent grow softer even as Charles directs the conversation to Walter Renautas. “Walter, what’re you thinking here?”

Walter offers a look at Daniel, who nods to his father, and the senior of them steps forward. “Angela and I know the course of history,” he says with the confidence of someone who has spent his life advocating in public. “The threat we’re facing is nothing short of the end of the world. Neither Angela nor I are prone to hyperbole, and I would ask you all to remember the past calamities she and I have accurately foreseen and allowed the Company to forestall.”

“That doesn’t explain this,” Angela says with a motion to Daniel.

Walter closes his eyes and takes in a slow, patient breath. “My son Daniel has manifested an ability,” he says with a look to his son, then back to the others, “one not entirely dissimilar to Arthur’.” This elicits a sharp rise of Arthur’s brow, “But focused outwardly instead of inwardly. Daniel is able to augment our abilities, make us stronger, and also… change the ways in which our abilities function.” That explanation elicits a look from the others, and Walter can see the curiosity.

“Bob, if you would be so kind,” Walter says, retrieving a quarter from his pocket to flip with a flick of his thumb at the bespectacled man. Bob catches it out of the air. “Please, turn that quarter to gold.” Bob looks at the quarter, then to Walter, then back to the quarter and closes his hand. When his fingers uncurl, the quarter’s entire composition has turned to solid gold. In this, Walter presses a gentle hand at the small of Daniel’s back, urging him forward.

Daniel, humbly, approaches Bob with an apologetic smile and closes his eyes. A moment later an aura of shifting, opalescent light unfolds from him and envelopes Bob. It’s clear that Bob feels something, a palpable change, but the quarter remains gold. Though Walter has a new suggestion. “Try changing the quarter to water.

Bob’s brows furrow, his attention darts around the room and fixes back on Walter again. “You know I can’t do that, I can convert solids to solids and liquids to liquids, but I can’t change matter states.” The confident smile that crosses Walter’s face elicits a curious look from Arthur to Daniel.

“Try anyway,” Walter says, and Bob — reluctantly — closes his fingers around the penny again. But before he can speak another word of protest, droplets of water starts to leak out from between his fingers. Sucking in a sharp gasp, Bob opens his hand and the water rolls off of his palm and onto the floor. Now, the Founders are silent.

For whatever reason it might be, Delilah can see in her son's face that he believes the answer he gets. And, he does. Walter's hand moves to renew a grip around Delilah's arm, faith exponentially more in her than anyone else. It is not a conscious choice, it is just fact.

His mother has barely time to assess the answer, her own question answered in action; instinct tenses her up, even if her head tries to combat that lizard brain response best it can.

Delilah sees the uncanny mirror of Daniel first, memories of photographs flickering past before she angles her eyes to her grandfather's shade as he speaks. It is to the one that's brought them here that she glances to then, having passively taken in the rest of the faces, familiar and not. Some of them, a burning coal still has hate for.

As the last of the scene reaches her ears she tamps the confusion and unease back down, brow knit deeply. Brown eyes rest on the older Niel once Bob Bishop does precisely what is asked of him.

He changed it.

He also forgot what he can do.

It's so much more dangerous than she imagined it was.

Augmentation was one thing- - but this- - her subconscious pulls her shoulders back, hands drawing Walter with her. Just a couple of inches. But, it's enough.

Niel doesn't see it, the subtle withdrawal of young Walter away from him. He's transfixed on the mirror of himself, of the young man he remembers being in a world that was stripped from him. Hand over his mouth, Niel takes one step forward and then stops as if afraid that the figments of the past will notice him. He turns, looking to his father, the version of him that brought them here, then back to the historic tableau.

“Why’re they all so scared?” Niel asks, to which the time-spanned Renautas answers by approaching his son's side. He had not missed Delilah’s protective gesture and briefly makes eye contact with her to affirm his observation and to affirm that she knows that he knows. But it goes unsaid.

“They found an enemy greater than all of them, and now they know what it means to be powerless.” Renautas says as he looks back for a moment to Delilah. “This isn't the moment I was looking for, however. There's a moment in time that is… more critical. An event where all of this,” he motions with one hand to the gathered founders, “comes together.”

Even as Renautas speaks, history continues to play out around them. “This could change things,” Angela admits reluctantly, eliciting a nod from Bob and a more reluctant look from Charles.

“I still say it's too early,” Charles insists. “We know where it is, we have a team in place. Kaito’s gone over the numbers, we have a real chance to put an end to this once and for all here in Canada.”

“…and if we fail?” Arthur asks, pointedly. Charles doesn't fail to hear the challenge in that tone.

“If we fail, we reconsider our options,” Charles concedes. “But for now, Walter,” he says with a look to Mr. Renautas, “I appreciate you bringing Niel in, but this is just too much too soon.”

The Renautas that doesn't not belong in this moment mirrors his subtly younger self's disappointment. “We don't need to see where this goes,” he says quietly. “Ms Gitelman and I already did and…” he looks to Niel, “it didn't end well.”

Fort Hero
Montauk Point, Long Island
New York

November 7th

past-miguel_icon.gif past-niel_icon.gif past-valerie_icon.gif

“How’s she doing?”

Daniel Trafford doesn't look like he's slept in days. The fluorescent lights of a small, linoleum-floored workplace cafeteria. A boxy CRT television is mounted to the ceiling near the door above the counter space where an ancient-looking microwave with faux wood paneling acts as an excellent temporal landmark. It's practically screams this is the 80s.

“Hasn't changed,” is the sullen response from a man Delilah is unfamiliar with. Her grandfather, however, is quick to clue her in.

“That is Miguel Cambria,” he says with a motion to the young Hispanic man standing with arms crossed and back leaned up against the counter. “The woman with the green hair,” he adds, motioning to a woman that screams 80’s punk rock sensibilities, sitting at a folding table smoking a cigarette, “is Valerie Mas.”



It can't be a coincidence.

“This is bullshit,” Valerie says before taking a drag off of her cigarette. “Cindy’s the whole reason this shit is working and they aren't doing fuck all for her now.”

“When all this is over they will,” young Niel says with a shake of his head, “Mister Deveaux said so.”

Mister Deveaux,” Valerie says with a click of her tongue and a roll of her eyes.

Why are they all so scared?

Delilah realizes then that her father may not have noticed, but her grandfather did. She keeps her arms draped light over her boy's shoulders, and the boy himself is also rather fixed on the visions being played out. He only knows two(?) of these people, but somehow- - his feelings become all mixed up when he looks at the others.

Should he be remembering them too? Why does he feel like he ought to? These questions and more go unvoiced, trepidation winning out.

He can't make himself ask questions right now. Be quiet.

The next piece of time is just as foreign to Delilah as the first, and before she can ask she earns some answers from Walter Sr.; she looks to him as he starts, expression widening only partway in. Dee jerks her head away to look to the strangers, perhaps not as strange as before. Maybe more?

Where does she even start with this?

"You've got to be shitting me…" Well, that's a good place. Delilah loosens her grasp on Walter. Motionless as he is, she's not worried at this second. Her voice stays low, but keeps its insistence. "Cambria and Mas…? Coincidences mean fuckall these days, Granda'…are those their parents?" Niel never met either Raquelle or Eve, as far as she knows.

Walter, however, knows both, and in a bout of childlike observation, chimes in with an abrupt, "She definitely looks like she's probably related to Eve, mom, come on." Yeah, come on. The hair, the smoking, the face, the attitude. Duh.

“My namesake is quite astute,” Mr. Renautas admits with a rise of his eyes, “though he could respect his elders a touch more,” comes in a gently chiding tone after and the soft touch of a hand at young Walter’s back. “But yes, this is your friend Raquelle’s father and Eve’s mother.”

“An’ me,” Niel says in a whisper, gently touching a hand to his face before slowly walking toward the mirror of himself. Except he hits something, stumbles, and there’s the scuffing sound of a chair’s legs on a wood floor.

“Be mindful,” Renautas says, “we’re still where we were. Nothing has changed, just our perceptions. We can see people from the present, but not things without minds.” That much has Niel looking back to his father, reaching out to feel the back of the chair, then looking over to his younger self.

The younger Daniel paces back and forth through the cafeteria. “She saw that thing,” he says to Miguel, “she saw it’s face. It’s real face. Whatever’s inside the skin it wears. Whatever’s— whatever it is inside. That’s the last thing she said to me,” Niel says with a quaver in his voice, “she said— I saw its face.”

Valerie shakes her head and angrily snuffs out her cigarette on the counter. “Did the doctors say if we could visit?” She asks Miguel, who slowly shakes his head and looks down to the floor.

“No they— they said she’s catatonic. Until Mr. Deveaux is free they won’t be able to do anything. Mr. Parkman’s keeping an eye on her though. They… they said we should wait here. Apparently Arthur’s going to be— ” Before Miguel can finish his sentence, the door to the cafeteria opens behind him and in walks a phantom from Delilah Trafford’s nightmares.


“Arthur’s going to be along,” Mr. Petrelli says as he invites himself in to the cafeteria. “You know, superhuman hearing,” he says with a finger to one ear, “I could hear you all down the hall.” His demeanor is so genial, so casual, as though he were one of their parents coming to bring down snacks into the basement of a sleepover. Except he isn’t, because Delilah knows his sins. She watched him die for them.

“It’s all coming together now,” Renautas says in a low whisper, patron to his own theater.

Delilah feels just a touch more validated when she frowns deeply at her son, at the same time oh-so-passively scolded by the spirit showing them all of this. He immediately shrinks, biting his lip to keep from bleating out something else. Just as well. His eyes follow Niel, and then so do Delilah's. Though hesitant, she lets go completely of Walter and pauses, as if placing a vase and making sure it's not going to pitch over.

He's not one, though. He's not as fragile as that.

She keeps her eyes on the memory playing out as she moves closer to her father, a hand held in front of herself to catch any errant obstacles she can't see. All to make it to his side. There are the beginnings of a word that sputter out like a candle; how she didn't think she'd ever see him, she suddenly doesn't know. That's what the others think, when they hear the word Company. Pinehearst.

"Hh- -" Air constricts in her chest, fleeting, a lead ball settling in her stomach. "That- - bloody monster- -", Delilah hisses through her teeth. Maybe a tiny bit more mindful of her mouth now too, it seems. A hand reaches out to rest against Niel's arm, face still blanched at the ghost of Arthur Petrelli standing there. "That one is full of lies." Just so her father knows- - because he cannot remember for himself.

“Sorry Mr. Petrelli,” the young Daniel says with a shrug of his shoulders. Valerie and Miguel seem less apologetic, though. Their age emboldening their square-shouldered stances. Valerie’s temerity brings her voice to the forefront, though.

“What the fuck is going on with Cindy?” Valerie asks, storming past Miguel with heavy-heeled strides. “Why’re we just sitting here? There’s got to— ”

“Cindy is recovering,” Arthur says with a raise of both hands in feigned surrender. “But right now I need you three. Miguel,” he says with a motion past Valerie, “I need you, Ayers, and Smith to head uptown and meet with Kaito. He has something he needs you to do.” Just like that, Arthur is snapping to command, taking charge of the room. “Valerie,” he says, refusing to call her by her nickname, “I want you with Ryans, he’s going to go over the next step of the plan.”

“What about me, Mr. Petrelli?” Daniel asks, smiling sheepishly.

“Charles and Nia are going to need your help,” Arthur explains, and Daniel offers a broad-mouthed smile. It’s that assertion that has Renautas’ back straightening and a hand coming to his mouth, like the pieces of a puzzle are slowly falling into place.

“Nia…” Niel whispers, looking back to Delilah. “That’s— the nice woman from the Deveaux Society that helped me.”

“One in the same,” Renautas says with a hand at his chin. “She is a part of this too. But it seems your role in this was indeed with Charles.” Renautas looks back to Niel. “There’s two pieces to this puzzle I’m missing,” Renautas says, dismissing the vision of the past with a wave of his hand. “Two critical keystones. One, what it was that you did on the night of November 8th, 1984. The day after this meeting.”

“November eighth,” Niel whispers, looking back to Delilah.

Delilah listens, rather than keeping her eyes glued. While seeing Niel as a young, whole person is a gift, it's stained with the presence of his employer- - or whoever Arthur was in this equation. She doesn't want to linger on it longer than she needs to; what Richard told her long ago was hard enough to wrap her head around. But her father's not been a part of all this for years on years. It's a different kid that seems to think that he's doing something good.

Even if Arthur sounds more like a commanding officer rather than a boss.

"Yeah…" Delilah whispers back at her father's open observation, mouth caught just before the line of a smile. Not there yet. Her hand remains resting on his arm, a dabble of comfort taken from his unprompted recollection. "Yeah, it is."

"Just two?" The prodigal daughter, while just as astute, always shaped it differently. This time with a tiny snort. He says two now. Somehow that seems. Unlikely. Dee looks between Niel and her grandfather, mouth pressed when she addresses the former's whispering again. Her expression does soften. "Seems like just about everything happens then, donnit?"

The junior of them is still exactly where he was left, at this point chewing the edge of his hoodie sleeve, eyes on the adults; maybe a touch more entranced now that he's standing back, watching instead of inserting himself. Walter catches a small look from his mother as she stands hushed against Niel.

Just about everything, yeah.

“It does,” Renautas says with a slow look to Delilah, “doesn’t it?” He raises a hand and the vision freezes in place. Turning to his son, Renautas puts a hand on his shoulder that looks as though it truly touches him, though there’s subtle hints of irregularity where the hand passes through Niel’s shirt. “I want to help you remember, for all our sakes. But there’s one other point of information we need before we go to the 8th…”

Renautas’ hand lifts off of Niel’s shoulder, and the world changes with a snap of a finger.

Primatech Paper
The Bronx, Manhattan

August 23rd


The concrete feels much the same as it did inside of Fort Hero, but it all looks newer and smoother. The brutalist architecture on display here are studies in bare concrete, metal, and glass. Delilah, Niel, and Walter find themselves in a corridor some ten feet wide with twenty foot high ceilings. A black stripe is painted along the left wall, along with a block-print stencil that reads 5. Delilah was never here, but she has absorbed enough through her time with the Ferrymen and through cultural osmosis to know where she is. This is Level-5, the notorious Company prison for the most dangerous of the Company’s enemies.

Rows of glass walls line the hall at Delilah’s back, and it stretches into darkness beyond lit at its end by a single red EXIT sign. But up ahead, there is a glass wall at the t-junction in the hall, viewing into a 10-by-10 containment cell. Inside, a dark-haired and tanned young woman sits curled up in a ball on a small bench. Two men in suits stand silhouette on the other side of the glass with a thirteen-year-old Daniel Trafford between them.

past-arthur_icon.gif past-linderman_icon.gif past-unknown_icon.gif

Daniel Linderman is a ghost Delilah has not seen or heard of since his death in prison before the Civil War. He looks much younger than she ever knew him, but just as put upon by the burdens of the world. Niel creases his brows, lips parting and stare angling toward his father and then back to his past self. Then, beyond him, to the young woman curled up in the glass cage.

“Here we are,” Renautas says with a tension in his voice that Delilah has never heard before.

In the quiet moment between father and son, Delilah extends a hand for Walter, who of course steps up by her side and the weight of her arm; under her wing, she makes herself a cautious barrier between her son and the mystery of what her father actually does.

It's the ceilings and walls that draw her in, looming and gray, judging in a way only stone can be. Her eyes fall on the stenciling, expression hardening and hand absentmindedly kneading at the side of her neck. Life would have been a lot different if she'd been deemed dangerous. The tattoo on her nape may hide the tick marks, but she knows exactly where they are.

"…Where's here?" Walter's quavering whisper tugs her back from the clouds, his question posed to anyone that might answer. With the warmth of him at her side, Delilah can feel the shiver of intimidation he tries to mask- - but she gives no immediate answer. For Walter, he knows that the silence is a learned- - and necessary, despite his age- - cue to wait, hush, stay.

The tension in Renautas' voice doesn't escape her, only mounting onto her fear of this becoming Too Much Too Quickly. Especially when Dee peers behind the glass- - to that girl gathered to herself inside the cell.

“A prison, of sorts,” Renautas says to Walter without looking away from the tableau. “Much like a real prison, not everyone belonged here.” Which is perhaps too heavy of a concept for a boy Walter’s age. Though he does not correct Walter’s inquisitive mind. He is both the best and worst kind of grandfather.

“You’re sure she can’t escape?” Linderman asks with an askance look to Arthur, who with his arms crossed over his chest simply shakes his head.

“If you’d come down here more often you’d know she’s tried.” Is Arthur’s snapping retort. “Where’s Adam?” He asks with a raise of one brow. Linderman looks down to the ground, brows furrowed, then back up to Arthur with a slow shake of his head and a shrug. “Probably with Joy,” Arthur says flatly and disappointedly. “Fine. We’ll do this ourselves.”

Arthur turns to young Niel, resting a hand on his shoulder. “Just like we practiced, alright?” Arthur says with a warm smile. Though Niel seems anxious, hands clenched into tight fists. After a moment, he unwinds his fingers and grips one of Arthur’s arms as the older man uncrosses them. A shimmering aura of rainbow-colored light wafts like a mirage around Niel, then flows over Arthur.

The girl suddenly sits up straight, unwinding her legs and pressing her feet flat to the floor. “…iie,” she says. It’s only when she talks and stands up that Delilah recognizes her from the Yamagato gala. Her name doesn’t come to mind, but she was there, or someone that looked remarkably like her. “Iie!” She screams, then grabs her head as Arthur raises one hand and points it toward her.

“What is she saying?” Niel whispers, clearly uncomfortable. Linderman looks to Arthur, who is too focused to answer, then back down to Niel.

“Nothing important,” Linderman says with a feigned smile. “You’re doing well, focus.”

Iie!” The girl screams, rocking back and forth on her heels while clutching her head. Arthur makes an exasperated noise.

“She’s fighting me,” he says with his teeth clenched. “I’ve almost got it.”

“I thought you said you’d be able to read her past,” Linderman says, brows furrowed in frustration. “Not torture the girl.” When the word torture slips out of Linderman’s mouth, young Niel releases his grip on Arthur’s arm and Arthur recoils and clutches his head with one hand.

I didn’t tell you to stop!” Arthur snaps back at Niel, and both the younger and older Niel’s jerk away from the rebuke in the exact same motions. Renautas watches that moment of synchronicity with curiosity, then turns his attention back to the scene at hand.

Walter might not yet understand the nuances of the prison system, but he knows that sometimes people are innocent. Extended found family have been in jails too. And they weren't bad. Not that he knows. Delilah keeps her arm around his shoulders, hand resting in ginger hair.

He presses his head against her, caught between wanting to see what happens and wanting to bury his eyes and not watch at all.

With her son debating whether or not he wants to see, Delilah chooses to openly do just that. She stifles a stinging at her eyes when things start to tumble forward, expression severe despite the recognisant light in her eyes. Hesitation tenses her shoulders, and an absentminded answer comes in the shape of a, "No."

It was important.

Niel knew it was, back then, but he was just a kid. Who listened. Who was manipulated through his goodness. It feels right, his recoil, and somewhere in the back of Lilah's head it backs up her instinct; all the while she keeps a hand under her father's very real arm, prepared should he feel overwhelmed. Firsthand experience tells her that abuse makes such a thing as easy as a knife on butter. "…I'm here, da'. I'm here."

I remember this,” Niel whispers in hushed horror a moment before the true horror begins. A scream, one of otherworldly and nightmarish quality reverberates through the cell. It is muted by the six inch thick reinforced glass, but it is nonetheless a high-pitched and keening cry. In that same moment, the girl on the other side of the glass starts to flicker. She disappears and reappears rapidly, each time her body is smoking and reddened like a sunburn.

Call Charles!” Arthur shouts to Linderman, blue light reflecting on his face as the screaming girl begins to flash like a strobe light. Her skin lets off a vibrant blue phosphorescence and her skin vanishes, then her muscles, then there is merely a human circulatory system of veins and a spinal column leading up to a free-floating brain and disembodied eyes and teeth. That nightmare screams again, briefly blinking out of existence, blinking around the cell, trying to find a way out like a panicked animal.

Linderman turns, shoes slipping on the smooth concrete, scrambling for the elevator while Arthur steps in front of young Niel. “Go, go!” Arthur shouts, and as he pushes Niel toward the hallway the being inside the concrete and glass enclosure explodes with the fury of a dying star. There is a massive explosion, launching Arthur off of his feet and detonating the entire cell. Niel is thrown down the hall toward Linderman, who skids to a stop and doubles back for the boy. Arthur pushes himself up, lightning crackling around his hands as the dark-haired young woman steps out through the demolished cell and the billowing smoke, steam rising off of her bare shoulders and gold eyes glowing vibrantly.

“What are you?” Arthur asks, though he knows the answer to this all too well. He’s seen those eyes before. It’s only now when faced with their rage he recalls the horrifying voice that Charlotte Roux used before trying to turn Adam into a pile of cooked meat. Arthur suddenly feels vulnerable, relaxes his hands, and lets the lightning ebb away. While he has her distracted, Linderman scoops up Niel and places a hand to a bleeding wound on his brow, instantly mending the split flesh before scooping the boy up and backing down the hall.

The girl strides through the rubble, then in the blink of an eye erupts in a flurry of movement and grasps Arthur by the throat and lifts him off of the ground with one hand. Her golden eyes narrow as she squeezes his throat, lips pulled back into a snarl. Arthur exhales a choking breath, grasps her wrist with both hands, and

Oh no,” Niel whispers, grabbing Delilah’s hand as his memory of that moment comes blossoming back with full force.

Arthur screams as he tries to steal her power. Light erupts around his palms, erupts around her arm, and there is a feedback loop that ends in a thunderclap as both Arthur and the girl are launched across the concrete hall from one-another. A terrifying, shrieking scream tears through the air in the same instant, and between where Arthur and the girl had been in contact there is an afterimage burned into the sky like a sunspot in someone’s vision. It looks, briefly, like a silhouette of a person, but it moves like smoke on the wind.

As Arthur rolls onto his back and exhales a ragged gasp of breath the red smoke drifts upwards through the ceiling and his eyes track its movement with bleary perplexion. But then his head falls to the concrete floor with a soft thud, unconscious. The girl, however, pushes to her hands and knees and looks up at the ceiling with wide, horrified eyes. She screams, a mournful wailing cry and slams her fists into the ground before disappearing in a thunderclap, leaving a smoking mark on the ground in her wake.

Niel's whisper reaches Delilah just as she feels Walter wrap his arms around her waist and press his face to her hip. He doesn't want to watch anymore. It's a moment after that her ears are jarred with the shriek. Pain? Rage? Both, it seems. She doesn't have time to stop and console, nor could she, with what happens next.

A breath goes in and freezes there in her chest; it seems like an eternity, squinting and ducking her face against the light and refusing to give up either grip she has just to shield her eyes from it. The sound of concrete, glass, and force blasting into the corridor elicits a hiccup of noise from the little boy who is set on hiding himself from it; Delilah manages just barely to be unflinching. It's not real. It's not, anymore.

Those eyes seem that way, once the woman comes into focus through rubble and noise. Molten gold and beautiful. Terrifying, once Delilah forces the air from her lungs and looks on wide-eyed. Word travels and so do stories and sights. Seeing is absolutely believing.

Delilah blinks hard against the afterimage stamped into existence, apparently by something not unlike a transformer exploding atop a power line. Electric. Drifting. Smokey and burnt into the eye. Fight or flight flickers just like that shock, caught in indecision until that cry. Blinking once more to try and move that silhouette from her vision, opening them again wets her cheeks. She's not exactly sure why, except for the familiarity and innate understanding of the woman's wail of torment.

"I'm here." Red hair tickles the frame of Dee's face when she looks down to her fingers still in ginger fluff, then to her father and his fear, the latter settling finally into her own features around the damp lines of her eyes. Here, even if she's finally become rightly terrified.

Figuring out what it all means isn't the first thing on her mind.

"Please tell me that was everything." Delilah Trafford lifts her chin to the imprint of her grandfather, neck tight and words pleading. A touch incensed.

Niel wraps one arm around her, protectively, then turns a look up to his father. “T-this is enough.” He doesn’t care if it’s everything, he feels right now like he did in that moment next to Arthur, a moment he has no interstitial context for. A snip of a frame plucked out of a lifetime of memories on the cutting-room floor. The elation on Renautas’ face bleeds away when he sees his son and his granddaughter, and with a raise of two fingers the scene stops.

“I…” Renautas’ voice hangs in the air, followed by a low exhalation of breath. “Yes, perhaps… perhaps that is enough for one day.” For all his worth he looks like someone who allowed the event to get the better of him, to be caught up in the moments of the past and not see the present for what it is. For a moment there is shame in his face, then apology, and then

Present Day


Niel straightens when the world returns to the comfortable surroundings of the Benchmark Center in an instant. His father, a literal ghost, is gone with the visions of the past. He is quick to run one hand over Delilah’s head, raking fingers through her hair, then wraps his free arm around young Walter. His gaze flicks out to that space where his younger self was standing a moment prior, eyes distant and unfocused.

“It wasn’t any easier when I was you,” Niel whispers to the air, as if his past self might hear him. He can’t. Niel’s eyes avert to his feet, then sweep back to Delilah as he reaffirms his embrace. There is confusion in his eyes, want for discovery, answers, explanation. But there’s also concern.

Grave concern.

She isn't the little girl that sat quiet at a funeral. She's different, and angry, and sad, so disappointed, and a million other things. Renautas' expression shifting is answered in silence and at the very least, a look of acknowledgement from his granddaughter. He sees it in himself now, and she can see that, in those drug out seconds

before nothing.


"I didn't think it'd be like that." Delilah is apologetic, in her own way, with a murmur into her father's shoulder as they pull together. A whole. If she'd known where this would lead, she would have put it on pause before it began. "It'll be alright." As much for Niel as Walter, who she gathers as close as possible, with just enough space to see the uncertainty in the boy's own teary-eyed face, to press a kiss to his forehead, to pull the three of them together, Delilah's forehead against her father's. "I'm here. I love you."

“I love you too, Lilah,” he says back with his head against hers, looking over her shoulder to the point in space where his younger self was. Where his memories of the past had somehow intersected with the present. Traumatic as that experience was, it was something else to Niel as well. It was a spark; Memory, recollection, himself. Niel had felt for just a moment what it would be like to be whole again.

Igniting that desire may not have been his father’s intention.

But it was his consequence.

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