cassandra

Cassandra




She stands on the dock, watching as the blue-brown waves slap gently against the stone—to and fro, to and fro—the motion is hypnotic and timeless, as if the world had always been this, would always be this.

It’s a beautiful day with a clear blue sky and a hint of the newly-planted roses in the air. If it weren't for the boys sitting on the long slope of grass behind her, she'd be almost happy.

Today they're arguing about a baseball cap. Nathan is insisting that Peter ruined the cap the weekend before. Peter insists, just as strongly, that he didn't touch it and it didn't fit him anyway.

She sighs, not worried. They hardly ever disagree and when they do, their disputes are over quickly, like a summer squall.

Only…

It’s coming.

She hears the words and her heart jolts. She doesn't want to, but she turns her face to the sky. It's no longer pastoral blue, but a sickly shade of pink. As if it reflected a world on fire and…

“Mom.”

…the wind sharpens. It should be cold, coming off the Atlantic as it is, but it’s not—it burns cinder hot and she looks at her arm, thinking to see the skin scorched. But no, her flesh is smooth and whole, and…

"Mom."

…she strokes her arm from elbow to wrist with a helpless gratitude that makes her stomach clench and her heart ache. It’s all right. There’s still time, there’s still time to stop this—

“Mom!”

She turns, furious because what she is dreaming is important, is vital, and she has no time for—

—Peter, at the top of the marble steps. 

Nathan’s vanished, probably off to his room to pack for college or hide away in the conservatory as he’s been doing lately.

“Mom?” Peter is barefoot, wearing jeans and a striped t-shirt that’s too big and clearly Nathan’s. He looks lost, completely incongruous, standing between the two rampant stone lions and that only makes her anger grow. He’s so much work, this one—weak and needy, his neediness somehow weakening her.

But something is wrong, something new and she watches as he takes the first step, holding his own wrist. He raises his hand as if it were a chalice, as if it were a gift and takes two more steps. “Mom, I cut myself,” he says unnecessarily because she can see the blood, see that his starfish hand is filled with a tiny lake of red.

She starts to reach for him, but it’s as if his words are a signal and with a roar, the heat at her back becomes an inferno. Her robe begins to flutter and snap as the convection winds rise and she throws her arms out to keep her balance. She wants to turn and face the maelstrom, but Peter is stumbling towards her, face pale, eyes wide. He’s trying to hold onto the blood, she sees, trying to stop it from falling. It’s no use—a drop slips and slithers through his fingers. She watches as it hits the white marble with a silent splash and wants to cry in grief.

But Peter isn’t paying attention. He’s still gazing up at her, desperate, as if she can fix this nightmare he’s created. He comes closer, his cheek and temple casting back the firestorm and suddenly she’s frightened of the terrible need in his eyes, frightened of him.

She turns, tripping as she tries to run to the water and she’s down, on her knees, palms on thighs. The ocean before her splits apart, spewing fire and ash in a column that meets the sky and this is something she has known for (…don’t…) so long. That this future has always been (…sweetheart…) on the horizon and (…I’m here…) she would give anything to stop it. Even the sacrifice (…stop…) of her own son.

She closes her eyes, unable to watch any longer as the world burns and she hears—

It’s coming…

It’s—

***

She woke with a gasp and a start, lashing out, hitting warm muscle before she could stop herself. 

"Easy. Easy… I’ve got you.”

She heard Charles's voice before she felt his arms and she gasped again, her breath caught in her throat. When Charles hummed and pulled her in, she resisted for a moment, then let herself be enfolded. He kissed her forehead and at his touch, the dream sloughed off like a second skin and the now returned. She took a deep breath and shivered. She was cold and her face was wet. She touched her cheek—she'd been crying.

She never cried. Not last month when her doctor told her that another baby was out of the question, that the little girl she’d longed for would most likely kill her. Not when she realized that Arthur was cheating on her with a string of secretaries, the last prettier than the rest. 

She took another deep, steady breath.

Charles didn’t say anything for a moment. He stroked the damp hair from her forehead, carefully, as if she were made of glass. “Do I need to ask?”

She wrapped her arms around his waist. “No.”

“Was it different?”

“Yes.”

He stilled, then said, “You can tell me about it tomorrow.”

“Yes,” she said, even though she wouldn’t tell him tomorrow. She needed time to think about what the dream meant, about what her next steps would be. Besides, by the time 'tomorrow' happened, she'd be gone.

“Just remember what I always tell you.”

She tried to smile. “That it’s a dream and up to interpretation?”

Charles nodded. “And that the future is never written in stone.”

“Sometimes it is.”

“No, that’s just hindsight.”

They’d had this argument too many times and she was tired of it. “And that’s just hedging your bets.”

“Hope is not a defect, honey.”

She pulled free and sat up. She scrapped her hair back impatiently but it slipped back as if it had a mind of its own. Peter had her hair, she thought inconsequentially. Always falling in his eyes at his slightest movement. And he moved so much—forever running or hopping or jumping.

The memory of her youngest slid back, the dream slid back and she wrapped her arms around her knees to stop her hands from shaking. “Hope is a crutch.”

He shrugged and didn’t bother hiding his smile. “That sounds like Arthur.”

“Don’t.” She hated being reminded of Arthur when she was with Charles.

“I’m sorry.”

She nodded and rested her head on her arms, staring down at him. It was almost four—she had three more hours before she had to be at the apartment. She'd taken a risk, arriving in the city a day before the others, but she needed to sleep, needed to dream, and the only place she could dream these days was in this bed, with this man. “Charles?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you.”

He turned on his side. “For the dream?”

She nodded. His interference at the end had been a balm. Even now, she could feel the reassurance of his invisible presence like a wall against her back. Normally, that would give her pause—rescue wasn't anything she'd needed in a very long time. 

But things had changed. She had changed. 

“Angie.” Charles held out his hand. “You know I’ll always be there.”

He didn’t add, ‘If I can,’ because it was implicit in all they did, all they were to each other. He, of all people knew what was coming.

The thought threatened her control and she slipped into his arms again, almost clutching. 

It was the one thing she’d never asked him, his future. Whether or not they’d be together, whether or not he’d live to see the journey to the end. She thought probably not. Thought that by the time Peter’s nightmare came true, Charles would be long dead. 

And even though it was silly and pointless, she couldn’t bear it and the tears began to fall again. She hid her face against his chest, not caring that he knew she was crying.

She wanted to tell him that she loved him; that the days and weeks and months spent apart were lived as if her senses were covered with cotton wool. That it was only with him that she felt truly normal, truly free.

She said nothing, of course. They didn’t say things like that to each other. Not since his own wedding, not since the birth of his beautiful daughter.

And anyway, he’d just respond with a gentle, ‘Things are as they are meant to be.’ An answer that used to calm her, but now only frightened and angered her.

He stroked the back of her head as if he knew what she was thinking. “Can you sleep?” he murmured.

She shook her head. “Not yet.”

“Then I’ll wait up with you.”

He tipped her chin so he could kiss her mouth and then just held her. And soon, sooner than she would’ve thought, she was on the verge of sleep. Reluctantly, knowingly, she relaxed and…

***

She stands on the dock under a pale pink sky. A hot wind strokes her cheek and the earth shudders. When the voice comes, she’s ready. She gathers her robe about her and doesn’t flinch when she hears…

It's coming. It's coming.

It’s here.



fin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Story notes:
Angela Petrelli/Charles Deveaux
1,540+ words
This backstory is thanks to "How to Stop an Exploding Man." In it, Peter visits the past and sees his mother with Charles Deveaux. It's obvious that Angela and Charles are friends and they have a mild argument about which Petrelli son will save the world. When Angela leaves, she kisses Charles on the head and says, "Goodbye, my dear, dear friend." That got me thinking about their past friendship and what form that friendship would take.
All characters belong to people and organizations that are not me.