Fandom: Heroes/Buffy the Vampire Slayer (crossover)
Spoilers/Setting: 1x20 "Five Years Gone" (Heroes) and 3x9 "The Wish" (Buffy)-- 5!AU meshed with Wishverse, with some artistic license taken
Pairings: Sylar/Mohinder, Peter/Niki, Tara/Claire gen, Tara/Dawn gen, Larry/Oz, future!Hiro/Ando, Peter/Buffy, Peter/Claire, Nathan!Sylar/Claire, Master/Willow/Xander, Willow/Tara, other minor references
Notes: Heroes and Buffy both belong to the respective creators, and various quotations belong to the stated author. Only the writing itself is mine. This idea randomly hit me one fine day-- I figured that since I love alternate universes in canon on established shows, why not combine two of them and make everyone go nuts? Here goes. Warnings include (take a breath before reading all these) violence, character death, sexual situations, some disturbing imagery, some language, some incest, some attempted non-con/abuse, and angst. It's pathos. It's very hopeless and dark. Thank you infinitely to my beta lunais_cross. Dedicated to skillfulway for the immediate encouragement when I first considered this idea. And, finally, dedicated to thelost_one, just to irk her. In a loving way.
madness, starving hysterical naked...
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in
Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares...
incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and
lightning in the mind...
until the noise of wheels and children brought
them down shuddering mouth-wracked and
battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance
in the drear light...
and trembling before the machinery of other
skeletons, who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight...
walked all night with their shoes full of blood...
--- Howl, Allen Ginsberg
Paralysed force, gesture without motion...
Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
--- "The Hollow Men", T.S. Eliot
It's always been like this.
It's never been any different, or that's what it feels like by now, wearing shades of gray except when there's one leg around a metal pole, lukewarm and sticking to skin with excess friction, clothing sparkling and flashing on all the wrong parts, a tiny bottle of holy water around her neck, hanging between her breasts, weighted down so it doesn't spin and smash and break if her moves are too sudden. It's only a reminder, a look and don't touch, and they need the warning. The strip club has to have a permit, for those mentally unstable (not brave) enough to wander out in the late hours of the night, past sundown, and even more insane to bear flesh while doing it. Nevada's no California, but it's swarming anyway. Humans make up less than a quarter of her customers. Her job pays good money, though. She's not really terrified for her life anymore, either. And her strength has nothing to do with it, because using it on an attacker is almost as dangerous as glittering like a piece of sparkling prey-- she wouldn't get bitten for it, but she would almost certainly get taken away.
Niki has a cross tattooed on the place where her neck meets the curve of her shoulder. It's yet to be determined whether or not it'd actually work, but Peter likes kissing it. When he does, she can feel the rough edges of his scar rubbing against the bottom of her jawbone. She's not sure why he kisses it like anyone else would a scar-- although she's never kissed his scars like that-- because it's just a tattoo, Peter, it's just a tattoo. He kisses it like he worships that cross, that symbol, not her. And it's hardly a symbol of Christianity anymore, not in this world, especially not in Las Vegas. It's the symbol of defense and fighting back, not hiding, what she wants him to get away from. And he worships it. She can't judge him for it exactly, because it's not like she worships him.
She keeps a picture of Micah taped to her dressing room mirror. Only Micah, because Peter got angry when she tried to put a picture of all three of them-- her and Micah, and DL-- and usually she wouldn't give a damn what anyone thought, but she's gotten a little apathetic by now. She's testing out appeasement. Even if he does have a picture of his dead niece in his top dresser drawer.
She thinks Peter should probably get angry at her career choice-- if only a little. She thinks that having a stripper for a girlfriend should be tough on a guy. But he never, never gets angry. He sometimes watches-- she doesn't exactly like him to-- but he doesn't say a word. She's not sure what that means, either. Peter's never been rational, so she wonders sometimes.
But it's better for all of them not to wonder.
She wipes off her lipstick with a couple of tissues, and kisses Micah on the forehead. No, not Micah-- Micah's picture. She has to remember that. She's moving on. She wipes the top of the picture with her thumb, and pulls on some jeans, a black top, pulls down her hair to cover her neck, grabs the cross from the nail above the mirror. She's turning out of the dressing room when one of them rounds the corner. It's a girl-- that's new. Most of them around here are big, sweaty guys, not redheads. But she knows the teeth-- those are all the same.
"Cute puppy," it says, and it's looking straight at Micah's picture. "Is he waitin' all sleepy at home?" It's one of those perky ones, the ones that make her sick.
"He's dead," Niki says. "Do you want to be next, too?" She forces the cross out in front of her, and the vampire recoils a little, and pouts. God, she hates them.
"Not fun," it says. "You have such pretty hair. Oh well." Her voice is sing-songy. "I have a job to do!"
Niki starts to reach in her drawer. "And I can stop you real easy--"
"Fine. Fine." The redhead backtracks, and slides away. Niki grabs the rest of her stuff, and follows. The stage and front rooms are all empty, now, but a crinkled dollar bill hits the back of her hand. She throws out the arm with the cross, but glances around. "Peter?"
He appears, walks towards her. "You dropped it," Peter says, and kisses her neck.
She rolls her eyes, and pushes him away. "Will you stop doing that? Just come see me like a goddamn normal person. It's dangerous--"
"Sorry." He wraps his arm around her waist, and she puts hers around his shoulder, plucking at the hair at the nape of his neck with her nails. "I have to talk to you," Peter says. "I'm taking a quick trip to Cleveland, okay?"
Her hand freezes. "Why?"
"There's somebody I've gotta talk to."
They all still have homes, but that's not what it feels like anymore, and they're never there.
Sometimes they're at Giles' with stockpiled weapons and fugitives hiding in the basement or crouched behind the kitchen counter when it gets desperate, but most often it's the three of them, Oz and Larry and Nancy, in Oz's van, cramming themselves in the back, leaning against each other. Their parents are all dead-- Larry had a grandmother he would sometimes visit, sometimes with Oz, which Oz figures made Larry Little Red Riding Hood, but she died, too-- of natural causes, in her sleep, which is almost unheard of these days, especially in Sunnydale.
Nancy had a mother, until recently-- her mother'd been out after curfew and could absorb kinetic forces enough to shove a lunging vamp back with its own force-- but not enough power to save her from troupes of Homeland Security agents. It would've been detainment, probably prison, but they said she'd gotten too riled up; they had to drug and put down, they said; put down, like a dog. Nancy almost never cries-- not even when they watch sappy movies from the 1950s on the little, grainy TV in the back of Oz's van.
She couldn't stop sobbing, clutching to both Larry's and Oz's shoulders with faltering, shaking fingers, that night, with Giles standing mournful in the background, like a remorseful god.
Their whole lives are streaks of paranoia, now, dye strips for testing and droppers and stakes and holy water in their pockets, sleeping in a group of warm bodies tightly packed in the library or the van, away from windows. They don't look at the windows; it's too dangerous for their sanity. Most can't get in, anyway, so the group of them just hold on to weapons and each other. They don't look when they don't have to, and they fight when they do. It's all they can do.
Larry and Oz, they have a thing going. Oz still remembers when the man was all brawn and buff, when Oz'd shrug him off because Larry'd be picking on some girl with a skirt too short for her self-conscious expression. Oz remembers the first time he spoke to Larry-- it was a quick sentence, annoyance slipping through the stoic. "Hey, man, want to leave her alone?" he thinks he said. Larry had gotten in his face, Oz had stood his ground, Larry had walked away.
But not now. Now it's different. A lot of things are, and this is pretty much the only difference Oz actually appreciates. They don't hold their faces inches apart anymore. There's no apart.
They're not furtive about it anymore, they don't give glances in between getting the weapons together, cleaning out the crossbows, patrolling. They're not worried about getting caught in their relationship-- there are better things to worry about, like getting caught in a pack of vampires, and this, this is ordinary. They're all business. They have to pay attention. It's their lives and others'.
Giles has never said anything, but they're pretty sure he knows. He wouldn't say anything.
It's never to the point of distraction, Larry and Oz, because paying attention's the only thing that keeps you alive. But sometimes, when Giles is giving especially gruesome news to Oz, Larry will stray over to them and come close behind Oz, a support, and a warmth, or if Larry's washing his hands of a body they couldn't save, Oz will clap him on the back and his hand will stay there.
If Giles sees, notices, he'll nod grimly, some sort of sad approval in his eyes. Ties cause pain, but ties cause life, too. They'd be dead by now without them.
Nancy knew, too.
But Nancy's dead now.
It's a quick fight, and so Nancy's death is quick, too, but they can't say it was painless. It was hardly painless. They burst in on Giles with his own dead body to tend to, Cordelia. They always knew she was dumb, and here's the not-so-living proof, decked in bright colors. It doesn't make it any easier.
Giles looks them, and then nods. "Take her to the incinerator."
They move to take carry Cordelia up off the table, a necklace falling to the side of her neck as they shift her weight, and Giles suddenly says, "Hold on."
They stop, and he takes the necklace off her body, glances at it, and then nods again. "This may not burn." He drops it in the wastebasket.
They take both the bodies to the crematory at the back of the school, a built-in one in the boiler room that Giles discovered a while back-- apparently the administration prepared for something like this, because the incinerator's too big to be built for anything but this.
It's such a goddamn waste. A waste of a person, a waste of a life. They pick up the bodies together, and don't say any goodbyes to them, because now they're just bodies, they're not anything else. They can't hear them.
Giles comes in when they're done, and stands, holding a heavy-looking book in his hands. He nods. "Get some sleep. I'm going home to research a bit more; I won't disturb you tonight." Giles leaves.
Oz's brain feels clouded, and he's placing some odd amount of significance on the observation that Giles says "research" like he's only saying "search". That kind of emphasis. Maybe he should be placing significance in Giles considerate exit, leaving them alone together, but it's not his first thought.
"He drops the 're'," Oz says. He knows he's mumbling. "What's up with that?"
Larry shudders a little, wipes his hands on his slacks. "I don't think I'll ever get used to touching a dead body."
Oz looks at him a little, sideways, and swallows. They head out of the room, back to the library. "You might have to."
"Well, here's Mr. Optimistic."
They stop in the empty hallway. It's dark outside, and even the paint on the walls looks grim. Oz reaches up, and touches Larry's face, giving him a grim smile. "Hey, man."
"Hey yourself," Larry says, looking at Oz, voice hoarser now, and quieter. He leans down and Oz meets him in the middle and kisses him.
"That better?" Oz asks.
The three empty cots in Giles' office would be more unnerving if they had actually been used, sheets wrinkled, unmade, but only one shows any signs of someone having inhabited it the night (or morning, as it is) before. Nancy usually takes-- well, took-- her pillow and blanket to the bookshelves upstairs, in the literature section, the Ts through the Ws. The poetry books abounded right next to her curled-up knees, and her favorite was Walt Whitman. She said he made her feel safe, since he looked like God with his long, white beard, and he had "hit man" in his name. She said stuff like that a lot. But sometimes she'd grin shyly at them, too, and they knew she was giving them space. They always appreciated it, but also always checked on her before and after, too. She'd be sleeping with one hand on the spines of the books, and the other draped over her head, a tazer and a crossbow propped up next to her. Larry would look fondly, and Oz would sometimes lean over and gently tweak a piece of her hair, and they'd go back. Larry and Oz don't always sleep in the same bed-- sometimes they'll just squeeze hands across the divide and then sleep. But sometimes they'd leave one of their mattresses untouched, and Nancy would wake them up with the scent of coffee on her and a Giles warning for their bare skin in the mornings. She sat with Larry, too, he used to tell Oz, when Oz was transforming. She used to tell Oz that Larry always looked so worried, not for himself, and she'd have to reassure and remind him that Oz wasn't in pain, that it was just a thing. Oz liked that-- it was more compact than Giles' discussions of lycanthropy-- "just a thing". Larry was always alone in the mornings, waiting for Oz, but sometimes there was hot chocolate that Nancy had left.
But, now-- well, now.
Nobody comes to the library, if they ever did. Lame for the book lovers, but it serves a purpose for them, at least. They're still signed up for school, but they rarely, if ever, go to classes, and even Giles has little to say about it. To their credit, they are in the actual Sunnydale High building almost constantly. Oz is, according to a half-hearted study by Principal Jackson, a top-ranking student in testing, but also failing dramatically. Of course, Jackson lasted even less time than Snyder did, and the other principals haven't cared much about their students. The track record of school administrator success is dead. There's no football team, so Larry doesn't care much about what else he's missing academically. Oz tries to picture him on a team, and fails. Larry's so solemn, now, so concentrated-- and Oz worries he's rubbing off on Larry a little, as Larry's not nearly as talkative as before, as years back, before things got so bad. But then again, things have never been great. And they're only getting worse.
Larry sits down heavily on Oz's cot mattress as Oz closes and locks the door. The locking's a habit, probably a good one. Oz sits down next to Larry.
He shakes his head, eyes dry, but solemn, a little overwhelmed. Larry looks at him.
"I know," Larry says, even though Oz hasn't said anything. "Nancy."
"She was doing what she loved." His voice is more than a little sarcastic, though-- the intonation was all wrong. Bad articulation on that one.
Larry laughs humorlessly. "Right." But he leans in on Oz and kisses him, and Oz's hands and wrists, go up behind Larry's head, gripping him closer.
He's sitting in his chair, and it's a throne. His legs crossed, ever decadent-- he's an Elder, after all, allowed simple comforts-- and, with a snapping head tilt, he looks up when they walk in. Xander stays near the doorway, posture aloof but not dangerously arrogant, because everyone knows that'll just get them a hard look at the sunlight and the other side of death. Willow, eager as ever, approaches and then straddles the Master, writhing in his lap while announcing, "I did my job just like you asked." Her voice is a strange combination of excitement contained in a slow, drawn-out drawl.
He waves a hand at her, motioning away, and she slinks off of him, and stands. He stands, too, casually stretching himself out to his full height. "Very good. And what did you see?"
"Peter Rabbit with his girlfriend. Are we setting a trap and catching his little foot in it and killing him soon?"
"Soon, Wil, soon," Xander says, and steps forward, closer. "He doesn't seem like a threat, from what she's told me."
The Master sucks in an unnecessary breath. "I see. Well, we'll keep an eye on that one. Now, I'm sure you'll have more tasks soon-- whatever our generous benefactor needs in exchange for his funds, so we can make sure this dream of ours gets built."
Willow pouts. "Why do we need money? Can't we just steal it all? Or--" She smiles, smoothly but excitedly, and wraps her limbs around Xander. "We could kill people. It's not stealing if there's no owner, because I played with him." She giggles.
"Willow, Willow." The Master puts a hand on her hair, and she leans into the clawed, stained touch like a cat, full of purring and sharp, bloody teeth. "We're in a brave new world, and we work with a magnificent idea called economics. For now, at least. It is our glorious progression, far ahead of the rest of our kind. You should follow it, too, or I'm afraid you'll simply be ashes. But I have faith in your abilities."
Her eyes are bright and filled with wonder. She detangles herself from Xander and slides in close to the Master, running a black fingernail against the rough skin and pink bloodstains around his mouth. "Hm." She giggles again, tracing his skin. "Bumpy." She blinks at him. "I did a good job," she says. "Didn't I? Can I have a present?" Hands on his chest, she slides down to her knees, arms stretched then bending again. She nuzzles her face against him, tugging at his pants with impatient fingers. Xander grips her hair in his fist and tugs her head back roughly.
She grins breathlessly, looking at him upside down. "Huh?"
"I though today was gonna be about me, Wil, and how you missed me."
"While I appreciate the gesture, and the enthusiasm of youth," the Master says, and steps away from her greedy touches, "I'm old, and tired today. Another time, another time. Instead, what if the both of you unlock the filth in the basement and test him out a little, hm?" He reaches over to a box on the table beside them, and dangles a key in front of the kneeling Willow.
"Oh-kay," she says, and slowly gets to her feet again. She's a little pouty, again. "Can I have one little kiss, though?"
"Well, why not." The Master leans down to her chastely, like soothing a petulant child, but mouth bared, and she giddily licks his canine teeth with her proffered tongue, before standing on her tiptoes and grabbing at his face, furiously kissing him. Xander tugs her away by the hips, and she stumbles back, laughing. She tilts her head back and kisses him, too.
"You don't have to be left out," she says to Xander. "You can get a kiss from us, too."
"Maybe next time," Xander says. "Let's go check in on our buddy in the basement." He has a dour expression on his pale face. He drags her away.
"Delightful girl," the Master says, stretching his arms out at his sides.
He's been set up in an agency office at East Ninth Street for the day. He is only half-heartedly enjoying the federal building's magnitude-- Mohinder's never been one for skyscrapers-- when he's informed through a page that there's trouble up front. He stops wondering why the Slayer is ten minutes late for her appointment, and takes the elevator down to the entrance hall, claustrophobically staring at the sterile walls and the beeping numbers along the front panel, wondering if Nathan will call him, or if he'll give the updates in person when he gets back. At the entrance are several armed security guards with their weapons out, pointed at a very small woman, what he thinks he could call a girl, with blonde hair done up in a tight, militaristic bun, clothes completely unsuited to an appointment with the government, and weapons dangling from all sides and peeking through the opening of a dark green tote bag she has across one shoulder.
"Buffy Summers?" Mohinder says quickly, and she raises her eyebrows, barely glancing at him. She says, "That's me," before returning her attention to surveying the men around her. Mohinder notices of all the names for the expression on her face, intimidation is not one of them.
"Er, at ease," he says. "Uh, I mean, just leave her be, will you?"
One of the officers glances at Mohinder's security badge before saying, "She's carrying weapons, Professor."
"I see," Mohinder says, and waves the guns away more annoyedly. "She has special authorization."
"We can't let her come inside," the man continues.
"Well, we'll take a walk, then, as this is a special circumstance." Mohinder attempts a smile at her, but her face, battle-torn as it looks, is still grudging and unimpressed. He thinks she should appreciate his gesture of good faith, but, in any case-- the men back away, and she heads back down the steps, eyeing Mohinder, who follows.
"I coulda killed all of them," Ms. Summers says to him.
He's not sure what to say to that, so he begins his speech instead. "My name is Professor Mohinder Suresh, as you know. I asked you here to be questioned regarding your powers, and of course, not under stipulations that you be quarantined or tested, per se, as your powers aren't quite like the ones of those with genetic defects, I'm told."
Her expression is so malevolent that he decides to wait for a response before continuing. People pass them on the sidewalks, some giving double takes at the strange sight. She says nothing, however, and he prompts a little. "You were born with your powers, however?"
"It's a magic thing, Gandhi. I wouldn't expect you to get it."
He stares at her, tripping a little to keep up with her walking pace, and clears his throat uncomfortably. "You can't have just--" He shakes his head. "Well, there's really no such-- I mean, there are scientific causes. Well. What are your powers, specifically? And if I may, I'd like to do some testing so that--"
"So you can get my DNA and screw with it and then tag me, track me, control my life? I'd have to go with a giant no there." She stops, arms crossed, in the space between two buildings, and backs up, so people can still get by around them. He's not sure what to say. She can tell. She tilts her head defensively at him. "I'm the Slayer, okay? I slay things. It's a prophetic thing. It doesn't kick in until the other Slayer's dead, and then I'm strong, quick, I have the duties the government should have and doesn't do anything about. Protecting the people and all. It's my birthright. And you're not going to stop me. If you try, I'll kill you, too."
"Now, that could be considered a threat," he begins, but she rolls her eyes, and walks away from him, quickly. He claps his hands together and taps them against his forehead in frustration, then jogs back to the office.
Mohinder thinks he's going just a little bit insane, and he's almost too weary by now to be altogether worried by it. It might be problematic since he has a flight back to D.C. in the morning. It might be generally problematic.
It starts when he's at his laptop, at one of the provided desks.
It's behind him, it's beside him. Mohinder rounds on the figure, backs up a pace. "Who are you?" he says, and grapples for his phone, ready to call for help. The figure, however, is mournful if anything, and only blinks at him, face pale, hair light and blond-reddish.
"You don't recognize me? I guess you knew my name but that's it, huh? You never loved me, never respected me. Nobody ever really did. It's sort of twisted." He looks down at his shirt, and Mohinder follows his gaze. It's black with white lettering, bearing the words "The Ramones". "How about now?" he asks, sadly, with a little head-tilt.
"Zane?" Mohinder asks, backing up another pace, horrified. "You're-- you passed away quite some time ago--"
Zane nods. "Dr. Suresh," he says. "He killed me, Dr. Suresh. You promised me you'd take care of me, over the phone, you said you'd take a look at my powers, help me control them, but instead you just let him kill me. You couldn't stop him, instead you welcomed him. Into your--" His stare bores into Mohinder's skull, "-- home."
"I-I'm sorry," Mohinder stutters out, glancing wildly around.
"There's nothing you can do to make up for it. You might as well stop trying."
"I understand that I--" Mohinder begins, but is thrown off again. The figure isn't Zane anymore. It's Dale. That mechanic with the enhanced hearing, from years ago. "What?"
"I made a decent living, I liked my music," she's saying, wiping grease from her hands on to her pants while pacing. She looks up at him. "I appreciate you throwing up over my death. It was thoughtful of you. I know it was pretty gruesome. Before he took my powers, I could hear my own screaming, and it upped the torture that much more. But you know, Doctor, you might as well have killed me yourself, so I don't know why you were so offended by it."
He's trying to speak, but it's only coming out in hyperventilative breaths.
"There are some things not even a well-educated, intelligent man like yourself can come back from." Dale now almost looks pitying. "You may feel human right now, but remember, you're not. When even one bolt on an engine is shot and it goes on for too long, I don't care how good the other parts worked before. The whole thing'll crash and burn unless it's shut down completely."
"You're shutting down, Mohinder," Chandra Suresh says, shaking his head.
"Father?" Mohinder breathes out. He feels to his side and grips the edge of the desk there, to steady himself, and then he shakes his head slowly, feeling tears clogging his throat. "It's not. Really you."
"I forgive you, Mohinder," his father says calmly, "Because what else is there for you to do? You tried to avenge my death, I understand it's your duty, but you failed. Of course you did. And you will continue to fail, because anyone knows, my son, that people with even the best of intentions become. I met Gabriel Gray and gave him information and led him, too, remember; I slipped into the places you live right now, although--" Chandra looks sharply at him, "not so deeply as you have. I loved your mother, you see, not--"
"Stop," Mohinder gasps out, a hand gnawing at his face.
Chandra sighs, straightens his shoulders. "I wouldn't say I approve, but clearly, it's what you have to do. There's nothing else for you. This has to be the best path."
"What has to be?" Mohinder says. He wants to add something more incriminating, like Sylar is dead, but refrains from it. "Are you suggesting I-- I-- murder people, now, purely because--"
"I never got around to telling you that we made you for a purpose, Mohinder, and that was truly your only purpose. You were Shanti's cure, a living Petri dish of antibodies. She died; you'd already failed, the moment you'd been born. And now you're living on the outside, with no possible way of stumbling back to the inside, to the rest of humanity--"
"You are not my father, and why do all of you keep saying this? I'm making reparations! I'm working, I'm helping--"
Chandra Suresh laughs. "Why wouldn't I be your father? Don't you believe in extraordinary things anymore, Mohinder? And I've said nothing about your lack of duty. You do have a duty to humanity, but it can never be the same as what everyone else will expect. You fall outside of the moral code, now, with your mistakes, your very purpose-driven mistakes, and you will keep committing these mistakes, until you realize they're the truth. And you will never make me proud. There is nothing you can do now, Mohinder, to change that. There is nothing you can do. Do you understand me?"
But Mohinder backs up, and rips the lamp plug out of the socket. He picks up the lamp and throws it straight at Chandra, rasping out a yell of, "Leave me be!"
The lamp goes right through a sobbing little girl's stomach. She has long, perfectly straight brown hair with plastic barrettes in the shape of little bows, and she has big white teeth, and big eyes, quivering little red lips, and peeling, festering red patches of what looks like bed sores all over her skin. She cries and cries, saying nothing, blood starting to dribble out of her mouth. The image suddenly disappears. He's left alone in a hotel room with a broken light bulb scattering glass across the floor, and a bent wire lampshade lying lamely underneath a chair.
Mohinder removes his glasses so his vision is blurred. His head is still pounding as he lays in bed, a sheet around him to ward off the air conditioning and his own mind. He's beginning to breathe a little easier, but is somehow reminded of his childhood, the Chief Medical Advisor still wrapped in a thin sheet to be guarded from the nightmares of the vengeance of Kali, sharp teeth and too many arms, unaware then, the little boy, that a white sheet over the face and mouth is even more frighteningly significant of death than braving out the night with a sheet draped only up the shoulders. His mind is running like madness or the instants before sleep, but he hears a voice, and jerks to a sitting position, turning his head abruptly. An apparition of Nathan, sitting on the side of the bed, head turned so Mohinder can see the profile of his face, is waiting there for him, a streak of blood, like an unfinished, dark blessing, horizontal across his forehead.
Mohinder's mind is spinning too much to think about the implications in the lack of feeling that this Nathan's eyes bring to Mohinder's body. No pulling, no edged chemistry. The apparition Nathan's suit is well-cut and tailored-- even without glasses, Mohinder can see it.
"Mohinder Suresh," not the President, not the real Nathan, just a mind trick, says. "Decay's following you everywhere, and for some very good reasons. But you're still not smart enough to figure it out, yet, are you?" He arches around a little more, puts both hands on Mohinder's mattress. "When you do, Suresh," (It's certainly a trick, Nathan always calls him Mohinder, he thinks wildly), "remember you piled up the consequences already. It's too late to go back now. Definitely too late for me, and too late for you. You're going to get a roadblock on the road not taken, and then there's only one place you can go." Nathan nods, mock-empowering, and claps him on the shoulder. It doesn't quite feel like anything, it doesn't really have form. "You're there already, Suresh," he says, lightly. "And you'll give into it. You'll see your options soon. There was no turning back a long time ago."
Very unlike the jerky, hunched, awkward grace, masked by the smooth political, of the Nathan Mohinder knows, this one climbs over to him on the bed, all smooth angles. Mohinder's pressing the back of his head, hard, against the headboard, and Nathan leans in a little bit. "Leave me," Mohinder whispers, squinting, trying to back away. Nathan's face comes closer to his, and in focus without lenses, says in his face, "See how it'd never work like this, Suresh? This isn't what's really going on. At all, I'd say."
Mohinder, breathing and sweaty and panicked, sits up in his hotel bed, and stares into the dark, shaking.
Hiro's not really surprised-- he's been travelling, he knows his ability by now. He didn't expect it, but he's seen things like it. It's not special anymore. But Ando's in front of him, alive, and that never gets old. Ando leaving, dying-- that's what's getting hard by now. That's what he's sick of, not surprised by, but still affected by.
Ando waves, and steps forward towards him, ducking beneath intricately placed strings, only glancing around a little. Hiro doesn't move.
"Hiro found a letter saying he should transport only me to the future. Not him, too. He trusts it because it's in his handwriting. So--" Ando grins a little, and it's a silly grin, too silly, Hiro thinks. "Here I am! Where's future-me?"
"Not here," Hiro says.
Ando makes a casual nod of attempted-understanding. When Hiro is still silent, he goes on. "So, why just me, Future Hiro?" he asks cheerfully. But Ando's smile slowly flickers away as Hiro looks at him, hard, then paces the area, ducking beneath the strings tied along the walls, glancing at the scraps of paper, the shapes and blurs that suddenly seem pointless. One more wrong turn in the timeline.
Hiro turns back to Ando, but tries not to look at him so much, take in his image-- present, here, now-- so much. Hiro shakes his head.
"I don't know," he says.
Mohinder, with shaking hands, looking furtively around in the airport, dials a number from a paper folded neatly in his pocket. The line rings three times, and he's ready to hang up, before a man answers. "Yes?" The accent is unmistakable.
"Hello," Mohinder says. "Is this Rupert Giles?"
"Yes, it is."
"I--I was hoping you could answer a question for me, Mr. Giles-- you worked with my father. Chandra Suresh."
"Doctor Suresh?" The other man breathes out into the line. "Yes, yes, of course I did. A very long time ago. You're his son?"
"Professor Mohinder Suresh. President Petrelli's Chief Medical Advisor, but this is... not exactly a business call. I-- I know that while he dealt mostly in genetics, you focused on the-- demonology. Within the subject of extraordinary occurrences."
"Yes, I did." He sounds curt, now, and Mohinder understands the touchy subject, in these times. He wishes he could reassure him further, but he's desperate; he spills right into his question.
"I hoped you could tell me if I'm experiencing mental illness, or-- or something you once studied."
"I'm no longer involved in anything of the sort--"
"I understand. I just-- from past experience. Please."
There is a pause, and a sigh. "Yes, well, all right. What have you been-- er, what is it that--"
"Figures," Mohinder says, slowly, "have been-- appearing to me. N-not solid people, exactly, but not plainly ghosts, or translucent, or, well-- close enough to be frightening. Mostly acquaintances, people I've been connected to in the past, some five years ago, or so. And one-- was my father."
Another breath out. "Yes, I see. But he was just one?"
"Yes. They're-- they're various--"
Mr. Giles sounds as though he's beginning to get excited: "Where are you calling from? And have these apparitions attempted to harm you?"
"Cleveland, Ohio? A business trip. And-- mentally only," Mohinder says. "They've told me certain things-- terrible things that-- might be a little too true."
"Omniscient, would you say?"
"Yes." He laughs slightly, a little bitterly. "Very. Although I didn't quite understand everything-- so there is a solution here? I'm not--"
"I wouldn't say solution," Giles says. "I wouldn't say solution at all. But I'm fairly certain I know what's occurring here. There have been precedents, and Cleveland is over a Hellmouth, though not as large as Sunnydale's. The Slayer, I believe--"
"I had an appointment with her a few hours before all of this started."
Silence again. Then: "You certainly have no solutions, but an explanation. A definite explanation, and this would especially be induced by contact with the Slayer. There is a force-- The First is a power greater than that of any demon-- it can take the form of anyone who's passed away. It's believed to be the incarnation of Evil itself. It has been known to come and torment certain individuals, indeed that is its main ability, to deceive in this way, and--"
"Anyone who's died? One of the forms-- he's still alive. Yes, most of them have died, but not one."
There's silence for a few more moments. "That-- doesn't fit," Giles says slowly. "You said the rest of them were dead?"
"Yes. But not-- not the last one who came to me. He's very much alive."
"You know this for certain?"
"I work with him nearly every day, I should know if he's alive or dead!"
"Of course." But Giles sounds unconvinced. "And not-- not living dead, by any chance? He's not--"
"N-no. Of course not."
Mohinder hears a sigh on the other end. "If it's not The First, your job, my job, what have you, will be considerably easier. Assuming it is indeed a demon, which--"
"I may just be--"
"Potentially," Giles says curtly. "But if you'd like me to research further. I-- if it is The First--"
"I thought you said it wasn't. That it couldn't be."
"If it is The First, there is nothing that can be done to defeat it. It will have some sort of purpose, something it wants from you, and all you can do is to attempt to not allow it to succeed. Does it appear to have been trying to manipulate you in any way?"
"No, not particularly," Mohinder says quickly. "And he's not-- you said it couldn't be The First."
"Yes, well, call again, and I'll try to provide you with more information."
"Thank you, Mr. Giles."
"Mr. Suresh-- rather, you said, professor? Professor Suresh."
Mohinder swallows and nods, even though he knows the man on the other line cannot see the response, and hangs up the phone. He turns away and glances at the flight callboard's neon lights.
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star
Claire can't believe this is the same person in front of her, not after everything that's happened, but she guesses it shouldn't surprise her, she never really knew him anyway. Nathan Petrelli's not her father, her real father hasn't seen her in years, because he's kept her safe. He's accepted telling the world she's dead. That even a girl who can heal can get killed in a blast as big as the one in New York. Practically accepted her actually being dead to him. She wants to see him again, but she can't. And, of course, fate is that lame. She can meet this "father" again, and he's just some clump of DNA in her bloodstream-- he didn't do anything for America, for the world, and definitely not for her. That propaganda he used to suit up and display to the public is all a lie. He murdered the citizens, instead. Nathan betrayed them. He betrayed Peter. She can't forgive him for that. He's just a manipulative jerk.
She had a fiancé, and she loves him, and she thinks he can probably give her a new life, as long as she can get away from this house. But she's not really thinking of Andy right now. She's thinking of everything that happened.
She's not supposed to have a past. She's supposed to be a young waitress, she's supposed to remember teenage heartbreak, or something, and nothing else. But her memory's clogged with images of Peter with his hands glowing, and watching on a grand scale hotel television as every channel showed clips of the explosion, over and over. She remembers her biological father standing in front of red, white, and blue, with a smug smile on his face. She remembers hating him, for how he changed, for what he did. She still does. She knows Peter hates him, too. Peter thinks she's dead. She hasn't seen him in so long.
"You're hurting my arm," Claire says, more annoyed than anything, staring at Nathan. He's just finished his greetings, his fake concern, and she really wants this to be over with.
"Now, Claire, you can't get hurt," he says vaguely, and she jerks her arm away, crossing her arms over her chest. "You know, we were all very worried about you."
She rolls her eyes roughly, and sniffs. "Yeah. Right."
Nathan's hand is on her again, squeezing her shoulder, rubbing his thumb right beneath her collarbone. She frowns a little and looks down at his hand.
"I'm your father and I love you very much," he continues, and his earnest inflections sound so, so fake to her.
"You're not my father," she says, and pulls away again, but almost as quick, he pushes Claire against the mantle. One of the picture frames on top of the fireplace topples to the floor. She struggles, but he presses himself against her. "What are you doing?" She's thrashing, now, eyes wild. What--?
"You said I wasn't your father. And you do have a point, Claire." His hand is pressing down on her chest, restricting her breathing, and sliding roughly across her breasts. Mind scrambled, spinning, screaming, "Get off me!", she kicks as hard she can and twists away from his grasp. She's only vaguely feeling the shooting pain beneath the nausea and disgust, and though she's pretty sure she hears a snap from her arm where she yanks it away from his grasp, she's used to it by now.
"Get away from me! I don't-- I don't know who--"
He makes another lunge for her as she trips away, but she grabs the picture frame of the Petrelli family, toppled from the mantle, and smashes it through the window. Knocking over a chair, nearly tripping over the coffee table, jerking away from his grasp again, she jumps through the broken glass, and falls on to the sidewalk of the street below, then pulls herself up, running as fast as she can. She shoots a frantic glance backwards, once, and sees her fath-- Nathan-- standing and looking out the window through the shattered edges. He's unmoving, like he doesn't care, like he'll find her again, later. She weaves and runs, choking on dry heaves and wet tears and mascara, vision rippling, oh god, oh god.
Claire finds herself running in the near-empty streets, the sun beginning to set, running as fast as she can, tearing pieces of glass out of her skin, and she can't think straight, she feels the swelling tug of vertigo making her head spin and her vision feel small and enclosed, and she has to force herself not to pass out, but she can't think too hard about that, either, because then she panics and thinks she might. It's a fine line. And the sky's darkening. She sees a doorway, and stumbles over to it, knocking loudly, muttering under her breath, "Come on, come on. Please." She glances around frantically. "Please!" she shouts, and pounds harder.
The door opens. There's a woman there, who looks startled, and then fixed, determined, in the span of an instant. Claire almost falls into the space opened up in front of her.
"My n-name's Tara," the woman says as she helps her into the house.
"Uh, I'm Sandra," Claire says, choked-sounding.
"Oh," Tara says, and pushes her gently towards the hallway, while bolting the door. "You aren't wearing any crosses. I'll have to get you some, it's r-really dangerous. Were you attacked?"
"Uh, not by vampires," Claire says, and then starts crying. Just standing, covered with drying blood, crying in a stranger's hallway. She wishes she wouldn't, but she can't help it. The woman looks at her helplessly for a moment, and she quiets her sobs a little, sniffs wetly. "Sorry."
Tara shakes her head. "No, no, sweetie. Don't apologize." But she's frowning a little, glancing over Claire, as though she's trying to put two and two together. She looks carefully at Claire, and says, "Can I take a look at your arm?"
Claire shies away a little. "I'm fine. Don't worry." Tara doesn't touch her, doesn't try to grab at her wrist without her permission, but she looks carefully at Claire's arm anyway.
"That's a l-lot of blood."
"I'm fine," Claire repeats.
"I can see that, but--" A pause, and then, "Sweetie, did you just-- are you--?" Claire's eyes must have given it away, because realization seems to cross Tara's face, and she says, "Oh. You can--"
"Yeah, I can heal. But it's not a dangerous power. I'm not a threat to society. Don't turn me in, please," Claire says. Her world feels like its collapsing around her-- now this. She knew she was stupid to trust a stranger, she should have just gone off on her own, by herself. Somewhere, away from everyone. She should know better by now. She should never turn to people.
But Tara has a comforting, empathetic look on her face. "No, look, it's okay. I know what it's l-like, all right?"
"You-- you have powers?" Claire says reluctantly, warily.
"Not exactly. But I'm a witch." Tara spreads her palm, and a little beam of golden light showers out of it, before Tara closes her fist again. She gives Claire a small smile, and Claire finds herself returning one.
"That's... kind of cool," Claire admits.
"Thanks. But, hey, sit down, okay? You can stay here for as long as you want."
"Okay." She pauses. "My real name's actually Claire," she says.
"Oh, well, hi, Claire. I'm still Tara." Another reassuring smile, a little shrug.
She gives a weak smile back. "Okay. I'm just-- where's the bathroom? In case I have to-- I might throw up--" Claire says, and Tara looks concerned.
"Sure, honey, it's right down the hallway to the left. First door. Are you okay f-for now?"
"Yeah, I think so," she says, and sits down shakily on the couch. It's a run-down place, not anything like the comforts of her old home, or the stuffiness of the Petrelli family, but she doesn't want to think about the Petrelli family right now. Tara sits down across from her.
"Sweetie, who did this to you? We n-need to call the police, and--"
"No, you can't! I mean, I'm not trying to protect anyone. It's just-- it wouldn't help. He's-- he's the President."
Tara stares at her, and Claire knows she sounds insane. "The... President?"
"I know you probably don't believe me, but it's true. I-- Nathan Petrelli's my biological father. Oh god." Claire laughs, without humor. "I sound completely crazy. Like when I go on to explain that nobody knows about me, because he had me with some woman in the backwoods, and he thought I was dead for a while because my dad was hiding me, and then he found me and brought me to the family house, and then he grabbed my arm and tried to-- tried to-- uh, and then he attacked me. And I got away and ran. Here, give me something sharp, I'll prove to you that I have powers, and--"
"No, no, you don't need to do that."
"You don't believe me, do you?" Claire says, in a small voice.
Tara's looking at a tiny bulb of light hovering just above her palm, glowing white. She looks up, and gives Claire a little half-smile, more an apology than anything. "You're telling the truth. I guess I've seen crazier things. I'm glad you got to me before curfew, though. You know I won't let him hurt you, okay?"
"He can't," Claire says, frustratedly. "No one can. I heal, remember?" She scrapes her arm with a fingernail before Tara can stop her, and they both watch the line disappear almost instantly, get swallowed into the skin.
Tara shakes her head. "You can get hurt, don't think that you can't, just b-because scrapes and bruises go away quicker. You already have gotten hurt. And I'm n-not going to let it happen again." She pauses, and goes on, more softly. "Did he try to-- to touch you?"
Claire stares at Tara's eyes, hard, and feels herself starting to cry. She sits there for while, unable to speak, feeling like she's about to gag if she opens her mouth. She finally says, soft but angry, "I feel so disgusting." She gets a little louder. "It doesn't feel like this is actually happening, but it is, and I feel so dirty. I feel so sick."
"Oh. Sh. No, no. It h-has nothing to do with you." Tara kneels in front of her, and spreads out her arms, taking Claire into a hug. "That man already hurt you. But he's not going to again."
Nathan's in Manhattan, Mohinder's not sure why, and wishes people would stop asking him-- it's not as though he knows all of the President's business. They're not so infallibly close, so attached.
Mohinder's in the laboratory, testing some more saliva and blood samples from another subject-- he prefers to think of them as subjects, not as people getting led out of their houses in handcuffs, women pregnant and fighting viciously, men swearing and screaming they're normal, just like the rest. He cannot think of them that way.
He's bent over his microscope, focusing the lenses, and raises his head to make a few notes, but jumps when he looks up. A woman, late twenties at most, is across the table from him, leaning in a low-cut shirt, brown hair cropped at the shoulders. Her voice's intonations sound like a shrug. "From beneath you it devours," she says, all carelessness. She tilts her head, an annoying, slightly malicious, confident smile on her face.
She shakes her head at him. "You oughta know better," she says, and vanishes.
Mohinder slams his hand against the table, hard.
"Why are you so nice to me?" Claire asks, holding a mug of hot chocolate between her palms. The ceramic's plastered with the picture of a typical Halloween witch, green face and all. She presses the tips of her cold fingers against the warmth. "You don't even know me."
"It's the least I can do," Tara says, with another apologetic smile. She pauses, and then goes on. "I h-had a little sister once. Her n-name was Dawn."
"What happened to her?"
"She died," Tara says, plainly, and begins to speak with more force than Claire's heard yet. "They told me she wasn't real-- that h-her having a sort of power meant she was just here for safekeeping, and then disposable. Necessary, but disposable. I tried to stop them from--" She gets a look in her eyes, like she's imagining something Claire can't, and then shakes her head a little. "It didn't work. I wasn't strong enough to reach her in t-time."
"I'm so sorry."
Tara smiles. "She saved the world. I just didn't get around to saving her."
They have a solemn moment, until a cat, dark gray, with black markings, pads across the floor in front of Claire. She sets her mug down and reaches out to pet it. "Look at you," she says, and then looks up at Tara. "She's yours?"
Claire's reminded, with a pang, of her own mother and Mr. Muggles. She doesn't know if Mr. Muggles is still alive. She doesn't know if her Mom is still alive.
Tara nods, and looks fondly at the cat. "She's mine. I f-found her on the streets one day, and she was kind of lonely, and I was, too, so we've been good together."
Claire smiles, and gently scratches it behind the ears with her nails. "What's her name?"
"I call her Cat-- I know it's not a v-very good name. Um, repetitive. But she hasn't given me a real name for her yet. I thought she would by now. I think I should worry."
Claire frowns a little, and looks back at Tara, opening her mouth to ask what she means, but Tara stands up abruptly. "Finish your drink, and then we should g-get you to bed. You've had a r-really long day."
Claire swipes under her nose with a finger, sniffs to try to clear the congested feeling, and shakes her head. "No kidding." Tara's giving her a look of complete, unadulterated sadness, so she looks away again.
"I made up the guest room for you. Whenever you're ready."
Tara gives her a little side-of-the-mouth smile and nods at her. "We'll stay safe together, okay?"
Claire nods. "Okay."
Tara can't really get to sleep, so she decides she'll get out of bed instead, and do something productive-- make pancakes. They'll be cold and straight out of the fridge in the morning, instead of hot off the frying pan, but she thinks productive activities are the best option right now, and she does have a microwave for a reason. Claire will probably be hungry when she wakes up, despite her ordeal, and Tara'd like to have food ready. She doesn't have that much in the house, living alone and all. She's figured out by now that the stuff her dad used to tell her about her mom was probably all lies, but Tara's never wanted to take her chances, never sought out company, especially not after Dawn's death. But she's got someone else in the house now. Time to brush up on her cooking skills.
She's pouring the batter for a second batch, the first cooling on a rack on the stove in the dim light of the kitchen, when a figure comes around the corner, partially shaded by the shadows of the surrounding furniture.
"Oh, hey, Claire. I'm sorry, d-did I wake you up?" Tara turns, sucking some batter off her thumb, and then drops the spatula to the ground with a clatter, backing up. "Get out of my house." There's a vampire, making no effort to hide it, in front of her. "How d-did you get in here? Y-you can't. I didn't invite you."
It's a girl, red hair looking greasy and thick in clumps around her contorted face, and her eyes are black and dilated, crackling with electrical energy. Her voice comes out sweet and innocent. "There's a welcome mat out. It's really... cheery." She sounds delighted about it. "What else was I supposed to think? Are you uninviting me? That's kinda mean."
Tara backs up to the drawers of the counter, feeling them blindly, and pulls her cross necklace out from under her shirt with her other hand. She smells the pancakes burning, hears them hissing on the stove. She shakes her head. She can feel the obtrusive energy around her home. "Th-that's not how you got in. You have magic on you. Just g-get out."
"Ooh, sc-sc-scary," the vampire mocks back, slinking closer. It smiles with sharp teeth, sinister but girlish. "Kinda sensitive to the magic, though, aren't ya? You can feel me? I like that trick. You have power, too. We could play together if he said it was okay. It'd be fun." Her voice went childishly high with the emphasis. "But--" she continues, "I'm looking for the other pretty. Little blonde pretty, but she dyed her hair all up, and it's gone all brown. I saw the pictures. Clairey-Claire. He wants her. He says alive. But I can do whatever I want to anybody in my way. Anything."
"You n-need to leave us alone," Tara says, and jerks open the drawer behind her.
The vampire swings an arm at her and hits her painfully in the jaw, and then grapples at her with sharp nails, but Tara pulls out a stake and plunges it clumsily into the girl's chest. The vampire's eyes widen, and her mouth opens-- but she, suddenly as any explosion, turns to dust and falls to the floor.
Tara breathes out, and stares at the pile, then waves her hand over the floor. The dust clears.
Drained, suddenly exhausted, she turns off the stove and takes a spatula to the black pancake remains. She lets the frying pan soak in the sink. She goes back to bed.
That night, Tara dreams of a bed with red sheets and a girl with red hair, a feeling of complete, and her warm hand running across a cool, white arm.
She wakes alone and hollowed-out feeling, but it was just a dream.