Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. R/R because it's probably my last fic of 2007.
Peter hears the loud crack of thunder only a second before he realizes he is in pain. A jagged arc of lightning splits open the sky as the rain pours forth like blood from an open wound. As his mind stays on the subject of open wounds, Peter realizes he's bleeding somewhere on his body. Something's digging into his skin, multiple somethings in fact. Peter's sleepy and sluggish mind is dragged back to awareness by the pain. Another round of thunder booms overhead, rattling the walls of his apartment. Peter hears the rain pelt anything and everything with unrelenting mercy.
"Elle?" asks Peter, his mind registering another body next to him in his bed. The sharp objects digging into Peter's skin happen to be Elle's fingernails. She's glued herself to him so tightly that Peter thinks he'll need a crowbar to get free and even that may not be enough. Peter listens to Elle as she makes whimpering, mewling sounds akin to something a tiny, frightened animal might produce.
"Elle," says Peter as he attempts to extricate himself from her grip, "Elle."
"Peter?" asks Elle sleepily as her grip loosens. Peter realizes she was probably having a nightmare and needed something to cuddle, or in this case cling to with unrelenting tightness. A flash of lightning illuminates the room and Peter sees her for a split-second. Elle shudders and curls herself up under the blankets.
"What's wrong?" asks Peter.
"Nothing," mumbles Elle as she turns away from him.
"You're scared of something," says Peter, "The thunder?"
"No," says Elle as she keeps her back to him, "Just go back to bed."
"Please tell me you're not scared of the lightning," says Peter, "Nightmare?"
"No," replies Elle with a frustrated sigh, "I'm sorry if I hurt you, okay? Just go back to sleep." Elle feels Peter press up against her back and sighs at the warmth created from their two bodies. It almost shakes the apprehension from her mind. She's never liked the rain, never liked water period. She tolerates its presence in the world and uses it when necessary but Elle has always been secretly terrified of water. It's an instinct burned into her brain and she can't help herself sometimes.
"C'mon," whispers Peter as he gently runs his fingers through her hair, "Tell me."
"It's the rain," explains Elle as she lies on her back and looks up at Peter, "I'm . . . afraid of water." It feels good to say it to someone even though she feels like a little girl who needs her hand held every time the big, scary storm clouds roll in. She doesn't want to be a little girl anymore and she's tired of living in a world where it always rains. Peter makes the rain go away and she likes living in the sunshine where everything is so much brighter than it once was.
"It's just water, Elle," reminds Peter, "It won't . . ."
"Yes, Peter, it will hurt me," replies Elle sharply, "Look, I don't mind it if it's just sitting there. It's just . . . I don't want it touching me."
"You take showers all the time," counters Peter.
"It took me months before I could do that without shocking myself out of anxiety," explains Elle, "I had a panic attack every time I got into the tub and turned the water on. Daddy had to be in the room with me for everything to be okay and that got really weird when I became a teenager and started, you know . . . developing." She knows her fear is irrational. She knows that her body is mostly made up of water so really she's already screwed. She's heard all the logical reasons why she shouldn't be afraid of water but it never helps. She always gets nervous when she's standing too close to a pool or a lake. She always shivers when she feels a raindrop hit her skin. She remembers that night she was in Ireland looking for Peter. She remembers how she was more concerned with the fact that it was raining than she was with the fact that she had just killed a man.
"Nothing's gonna hurt you," assures Peter with a smile.
"You're a little late for that," admits Elle, "Thanks anyway." She sees something in Peter's eyes and tries to place what it is. Guilt perhaps? Elle's only recently acquainted herself with guilt. She doesn't fully understand it yet but she at least knows that Peter is full of it. Peter likes it when he's in pain, likes it when he's living in a world full of storms and emotional turmoil. Elle remembers some episode of an old cartoon show that involved a character who had a rain cloud over his head following him wherever he went. She thinks about that character whenever she sees Peter while he's in one of his moods. He always wonders why she can't stop giggling at him but she never explains it to him. The image is just too funny for her to be sad about anything and Peter can never keep a straight, serious face when he sees her smiling at him. It never rains for very long in their apartment, not anymore. One of them always manages to make the clouds part and the sun come out.
"I remember one time," says Peter absently as he rolls onto his back, "I was a little kid and my dad took me fishing with him because he and Nathan used to do that a lot. I remember getting out on the lake and then the sky just opens up right above us."
"Poor kid," says Elle with a giggle, the image of that cartoon character once again in her mind.
"We stayed out there though," continues Peter, "Dad started going on about how we were Petrelli men and Petrelli men were tough. We just stayed out there in the rain forever until finally Dad took me home. Only thing I caught was a cold. It kept me out of school for a week and Mom almost took Dad's head off for it."
"That's cute," admits Elle.
"I guess," says Peter in a sort of hollow tone as his thoughts drift towards ideas of survival and fortitude. Peter knows Petrelli men aren't very tough because now he's the only one of them left and even he admits he never imagined things turning out that way. Toughness has never been one of Peter's strong points. Nathan was better at weathering storms and handling damage control. Peter lets his thoughts of his brother take him to darker, stormier places in his mind. He thinks about his father, Nathan, Simone, even Caitlin. Peter has never had a survivor's mentality because it requires a loss of emotional attachment, something that in Peter's eyes means a loss of humanity. Surviving storms is something Elle seems to excel at although never without a cost. She's only now learning to feel guilty for paying those costs. Sometimes she feels as if she's spent her whole life standing in the rain waiting for some sort of shelter or savior. It's no huge surprise that she now uses Peter as an umbrella of sorts to keep her safe from the cold rain that life seems to always pour straight down onto her. Elle likes to think she is returning the favor by chasing away that storm cloud that is always over Peter's head.
"You saved me," assures Elle softly as she touches Peter's cheek, "I may not be a cheerleader, Peter, but you did save me and I think it should count for something."
"It does," replies Peter as he kisses her hand, "A very big, very nice something." He quietly listens to the rain as Elle snuggles closer to him and rests her head on his chest. Peter lets his fingers weave their way through her hair as he thinks about storms and the damage they can do to people. He looks at Elle and watches her eyes start to blink. Peter wonders what it was like for Elle living in a world full of rain and lightning. He wonders about living in the dark, stormy corners of life where the sun never shines and there are no rainbows because the rain never stops. He feels like he's always drifting into that space but something yanks him back into the sunlight. Peter feels Elle's body relax against his as she drops into sleep. She feels happy and warm despite the storm outside because she's with him and he has always been her shelter from such unpleasant things. Peter smiles at her, knowing that happiness and warmth are things she was deprived of for too long. Storms never last forever. They pass on eventually and those that survive manage to pick up the pieces and continue living as best they can despite what they may have lost. Peter always takes comfort in the fact that it can't rain all the time.