LEFTOVERS FROM VOLUME 2:
- Matt and Mohinder were romantically involved. After Molly and Matt's brush with Maury, Matt begins to suspect that the child Janice is carrying might be his. He tells Mohinder he needs to find out the truth. It leads to a nasty fight, and Mohinder breaks off their relationship.
- Noah has returned to his family after being imprisoned by the Company. He tells them that he's been able to negotiate their safety, but for a price.
- Nathan has decided to hold a press conference to inform the world about people with abilities.
- THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO TIME-TRAVELING SHENANIGANS, meaning no Future Peter, no putting present Peter in other people's bodies, etc.
- Also, NO ECLIPSE NONSENSE. So there's no out-of-control powers, no loss of powers, etc.
- The deal Noah made is that he will continue to work for the Company, and do their dirtiest of deeds. His first assignment? Shooting Nathan. Angela had found out about Nathan's press conference and is determined to stop it. She doesn't want to kill Nathan - only to prevent him from revealing the existence of people with special abilities. She has healing blood in her possession, which she plans to use to revive Nathan after he's taken to the hospital.
- Peter and Matt chase Noah, but he escapes without them discovery his identity.
- Peter accompanies Nathan to the hospital after he's shot, and is surprised to find that his mother is there, waiting for them. After Nathan dies, Angela injects him with healing blood on the sly, and he's revived. She's planning on having a conversation with him about how it would be too dangerous for everyone to reveal to the world the existence of people with abilities, but there's no need. Nathan has had a ~religious experience~ that has left him questioning what he's doing with his life (and it's a genuine religious experience, not fake!Linderman-induced.) Peter is overjoyed that Nathan is alive, but begins to become suspicious of Angela, since she was already at the hospital before they arrived. He tries to read her mind, but she pushes him out.
- Matt heads off to confront Janice. On his way there, however, he's attacked by his father, who has broken out of the mind trap Matt placed him in and is looking for revenge. The two of them engage in an epic mind battle.
- In the meantime, Sylar has found Claire and taken her abilities. He makes his way back to Hartsdale and kills Bob Bishop, but is incapacitated by Elle, who lets off an involuntary electrical blast when Sylar attempts to murder her. Sylar is imprisoned, but the Level 5 prisoners escape due to Elle's involuntary power surge. Angela takes control of the Company and fires Elle.
- Angela has a dream that alerts her to Arthur's resurrection. In order to finish off her husband once and for all, she comes up with the plan to convince Sylar that he's her son. She revives him and makes up a story about how she had to give him up to protect him from Arthur. She also tells him that Arthur is back, and that she needs him to kill his ″father″ in order to protect them all.
Unbeknownst to her, Peter has made himself invisible and is spying on this conversation. In his hightened emotional state, he accidentally takes on Sylar's ability and is immediately driven insane by ~the Hunger.~ He snaps Sylar's neck and nearly kills his mother. He forces her to tell him where his father is. She does, reluctantly. Sylar revives, but Peter teleports away before he can stop him.
- Angela tells Sylar that Arthur's ability allows him to suck the powers from others, and that she's sure Arthur will take Peter's, leaving him helpless. She asks him to kill Arthur, rescue Peter, and destroy Pinehearst. Sylar does so, and gains Arthur's ability to absorb powers in the process.
- Peter has been completely depowered. He's regained his sanity, but is still reeling from what he heard Angela tell Sylar. He leaves, vowing to cut Angela and the Company out of his life for good. Over the next few weeks, he attempts to get into contact with Nathan, but Nathan has also vowed to cut out all of the superhero drama from his life – at least until he gets his head on straight. He gets religion, meets Tracy and gets involved with her, and accepts the Senate seat.
- Meanwhile, Angela makes Sylar an agent for the Company. She also convinces him not to take on any more abilities, since she realizes that the more powerful he gets, the more difficult he will be to control. He agrees.
- Angela partners Sylar up with Noah, since she figures Noah's the only one who'd be able to handle him. They go after the bank robbers, and Sylar resists the temptation to take their abilities. Pleased, Angela sends Noah and Sylar out for a second assignment – Stephen Canfield. They dispatch him without any involvement from Claire.
- For his third mission, Angela sends Sylar out, alone, to check on Mohinder, and the events of Down To This occur. Sylar brings Mohinder back to the Company.
- Hiro has become the head of his father's company. He and Ando discover their half of the formula in the safe. Daphne steals it. They have some wacky, fun hijinks chasing her all over the place. Eventually, they are able to convince her that working for Pinehearst is wrong, and she agrees to help them destroy both halves of the formula, which they do. Afterward, they start their own superhero business. At one point, they encounter Elle, who eventually joins them. They all have many awesome adventures together, THE END.
- Noah asks Meredith look after his family while he takes care of the practicalities of moving them to Hartsdale, New York. Claire considers going against her father's wishes and hunting down specials, but in the end decides she'd rather concentrate on putting all the superhero drama behind her and having a normal life. After a while, the house is sold and Claire, Sandra and Lyle move to Hartsdale.
- Noah and Angela are ~morally grey,~ but they are not, in fact, sociopaths. Angela does not "feed" anyone with abilities to Sylar. Noah also did not plan to allow Sylar to kill Trevor Zeitlan; his mission was to push him as far as possible and observe what happened, but he instructed Elle to intervene before Sylar made the kill. Elle was unable to stop him, however.
- Maury Parkman does not work for Arthur Petrelli. Arthur has other minions to help him accomplish his goals, but who they are is not particularly important.
- Sylar's original ability is intuitive aptitude, which is not the same thing as Peter's empathic ability.
″Be what you would seem to be - or, if you'd like it put more simply - never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise."
- Lewis Carrol
Something terrible had happened to Gabriel Gray.
Gabriel didn't know what it was. Sylar didn't, either; that wasn't his job. The Will knew – the Will knew everything, and he parceled out bits of knowledge on a need-to-know basis. Because Sylar's job was to get Gabriel the things he needed, it wasn't really necessary for him to be bogged down with useless facts. They all had their places, like gears in a watch, and the most important thing was to keep them all moving.
Whatever had happened had left Gabriel with a searing need that ate at him constantly, and a crippling inability to do anything about it. That's where Sylar came in. For instance, when Gabriel was ten, a boy in his neighborhood had stolen some coins he'd bought for his collection. The boy was older and bigger than he was, and there was nothing Gabriel could do about it. Sylar, of course, was nowhere near that helpless. That night, when the boy was walking home from whatever mischief he'd been up to, Sylar pulled him into an ally and beat him with a baseball bat until the boy gave them back to him. Afterward, when Gabriel came to, he was perplexed by the blood on his hands – but he'd been happy to have his coins back. That was the way it always was – Gabriel needed, and Sylar provided. He didn't mind the arrangement. He actually never thought about it; he didn't think about a lot of things.
It had only started to bother him when the whole abilities fiasco had started. Before Chandra Suresh arrived, Gabriel didn't realize that his intuitive aptitude was a special ability. Why would he? Bodies feel hunger when they need energy, but no one considered eating a skill. It was the same with his need to know how things work; learning was something he did to satisfy a ravenous curiosity. He tried to deny it sometimes, because it often got him into trouble. To understand how things worked, he needed to take them apart, and that wasn't something that other people understood. Teachers punished him; his mother beat him. They always thought he was breaking things to be bad, but he wasn't. He was just taking a look. Gabriel would put it off as long as he could; he would lie awake at night with tears running down his cheeks, shaking with the need to know the secret workings of the things that surrounded him. Eventually Sylar would have to take over and smash something just so Gabriel could have an excuse to put it back together again.
When Chandra arrived, Gabriel's need became even deeper. Before, Sylar's appearances were only occasional, but the need Chandra awakened in Gabriel was so all-consuming that Sylar was aware nearly all of the time, twinning Gabriel's consciousness. Gabriel needed to be special, and it was up to Sylar to figure out how. And he did; it was unfortunately messy, as the things Sylar did often were. Gabriel was ecstatic at first, zipping things around the room with his new telekinetic powers and preening for Chandra. Gabriel convinced himself for a while that he'd just spontaneously developed telekinesis, but deep down, he knew that wasn't true, just as Chandra knew that things weren't what they seemed.
It was the ingratitude that bothered him the most. Gabriel and Chandra were so giddy with triumph, until they started to learn how that triumph was really achieved. And they both were horrified by it, like people who suddenly connected slaughtered cows with the nice steak dinners they enjoyed. Gabriel first blamed Chandra, acting as if this deep, ravishing hunger hadn't always existed in him, and then Gabriel had the nerve to blame him. In all of his existence, Sylar had only once ever taken something for himself – a name, when he had killed Brian Davis. He'd given Gabriel everything else. And now that Sylar had finally achieved for Gabriel his deepest heart's desire, how did he react? He blubbered like a child, scrawled pleas for forgiveness all over his walls, and finally tried to kill himself – along with the rest of them, the selfish little shit.
Fortunately, Elle had saved the body, but there was already unfathomable damage to the gears that made up Gabriel Gray. The Will struggled to keep them together, but nearly all of the parts were broken or breaking. And then Elle betrayed Gabriel, and it all fell apart. Gabriel was gone. The Will stopped functioning shortly afterward. One by one, the gears stopped moving, and finally, only Sylar was left.
He tried to keep it simple, and kept acquiring as he was supposed to. Because he was no one, it was easy to become anyone, so he took on the roles of repair men and delivery boys, survey takers and door-to-door salesmen, each identity lasting long enough to get him close enough to his victims. There was nothing holding him back now; he was free to take as much as he wanted, and he no longer had to share. The power was intoxicating, and for a while, he thought it was enough. But gradually, he began to become aware of the many empty places inside him, and he found himself stretching to fill them. He was tired of feeding a hunger that could never be sated. He wanted to stop wanting.
He had to be someone new.
″So is he ready now?″ Sylar asked. He stared at Mohinder through the observational glass. He seemed better. The first week after Sylar had brought him to the Hartsdale facility, he'd been a mess, literally climbing the walls and screaming for them to release him. He'd finally smashed out of his holding cell; when they attempted to recapture him, he'd scuttled up the wall and stuck himself into a corner on the ceiling. They'd had to tranquilize him with a dart gun and pry him down with a broom. Now, for the most part, he sat quietly on his bed and stared at the wall in front of him. His scales had even started to clear up.
Dr. Riceman, the current head physician at the Hartsdale facility, flipped through his chart. ″Well – there's no doubt his condition has improved since he's been brought in. He seems to be responding well to treatment. But is he well enough to leave the facility? No.″
″Oh, come on,″ Sylar said. ″He hasn't had a fit in days!″
The doctor looked at him pointedly over his glasses. ″That would be because he's nearly catatonic.″
At that moment, Mohinder lifted his foot up. He held it there until the slipper fell off of it, then lowered it to the ground again.
″There!″ Sylar said triumphantly. ″He moved!″
Angela fidgeted thoughtfully with her pearls. ″Is he likely to become dangerous again?″ she asked the doctor.
He looked through his chart again. He took a deep breath in, then let it out slowly. After a few moments, he finally said, ″If he's kept on the proper medication, and he comes in once a week for the transfusions, then maybe not. But that's a big 'maybe;' I still wouldn't recommend removing him from the facility. Until we can figure out a way of removing his abilities permanently, there's no telling what may happen. I don't know what he did to himself, but if you hadn't gotten him in here when you did, his genetic structure would have altered to the point where he wouldn't even be human anymore.″
″What do you mean?″ Sylar asked.
″The serum he injected himself with has, somehow, activated genes that are usually dormant in human DNA. He hasn't given himself super-abilities, exactly – he's given himself the normal abilities of creatures in our evolutionary past. Hence the spider webs and who knows what else. Without treatment, there's a very real chance he'd become some sort of – well, monster, for lack of a better word.″
″But he's okay now,″ Sylar said.
″Define 'okay,'″ the doctor said. ″There's also his psychiatric issues to consider. He was dangerously violent when you brought him in; that seems to have abated when we started the treatments to suppress his abilities, but he hasn't been here long enough for me to determine whether or not he'll become dangerous again. He's hallucinating, doesn't appear to be cognizant of where he is half the time, and he has periods of catatonia.″ The doctor paused for a moment and gave them both nervous looks. He looked as though he had wanted to say something, thought better of it, and finally changed his mind again. He took a deep breath and began to speak in a rush. ″And he's not the only one who has these sort of problems. Nearly everyone who comes through here has some sort of psychological dysfunction. I can only begin to speculate as to why, but I'm not a psychiatrist. I'm trying my best, but there's only so much I can do – ″
″Thank you for your analysis,″ Angela said. ″You may leave us now.″
″I can't treat these people properly,″ he said, steaming ahead. ″These people are all sick and dangerous, and I can't justify releasing any of them, least of all Dr. Suresh. It isn't ethical.″
″'Ethical?'″ Angela said. ″That's very interesting. I don't seem to recall you being overly concerned with ethics before, given the multiple malpractice suits that had been filed against you when I found you. And you also didn't seem consumed with ethical outrage when I made those problems of yours disappear. If you have a problem with my decisions, you're more than welcome to resign. I wonder – what are the statutes of limitations on what you've done? ″
The doctor's whole face flushed red, from his bearded cheeks to his balding forehead. ″That won't be necessary. I defer to you, of course.″ He walked towards the door, but paused before he went through it. ″You should at least hire an actual psychiatrist,″ he said quickly. He left the room.
Angela sighed once he was gone. ″He's probably right,″ she said. ″About hiring a psychiatrist.″
″So can I take him home now?″ Sylar asked, trying to steer the conversation back to the matter at hand. When Angela didn't answer right away, he said, ″We had a deal. I killed your husband, saved Peter and got rid of Pinehearst. And in return, you said I could have whatever I wanted. And this is what I want.″
″I still need him,″ she said. ″He was able to develop a formula to give people abilities completely on his own. It's flawed, yes, but he's our best bet to duplicate the formula that was stolen. Given a little time and support, he might even be able to improve upon it.″
″I can fix him,″ Sylar said.
″Really.″ She sounded skeptical.
″I can,″ he said. ″Maybe I could suck the powers out of him.″
At that, Angela flinched slightly. Sylar didn't understand why - she was the one who told him to kill her husband. She never said anything about not taking a peek inside his head while he was at it.
″Didn't you hear the doctor? His abilities would turn you into a monster. And we've talked about this already,″ she said. ″We agreed – no more abilities.″
It was true – they had agreed on that. The doctors had said something about how his DNA reshaped itself with every ability he took, and that if he continued to take on abilities, his genetic structure would become dangerously unstable. But he didn't appreciate being spoken to like one of her minions. ″Surely one more wouldn't hurt,″ he said, allowing just the hint of threat into his voice.
She turned from him abruptly. When she spoke again, her voice was shaky. ″Your father always said that. One more, one more – it was always just one more. But it never stopped. And with every power he took, I would lose another little piece of him, until the man I married was simply gone, and there was a monster in his place. Nathan was old enough to protect himself, but you were just a child – only two years old when it started getting bad...and then there was Peter. He was an infant, completely helpless...″ She turned around; there were tears in her eyes. ″I couldn't protect the both of you at the same time. That's why I had to give you up. Even then you were strong – but not strong enough to defend yourself from him. From what he'd become.″ She let out a tiny sob into a handkerchief she'd produced from somewhere. ″One more. I can't go through that again, I can't...″
″Oh, Mother,″ Sylar said. He felt tears of his own pricking behind his eyes. ″I'm sorry. Please don't cry.″
She dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief. ″If you love me, you must swear to me that you won't.″
″I swear I won't take on any more powers,″ he said.
The handkerchief vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared. ″That's my boy,″ she said, smiling. ″Always good to his mother. Come give me a kiss.″
Sylar kissed her obediently on the cheek. ″I love you, Mother.″
″I know you do,″ she said. ″Now, about Suresh.″ She looked through the observational glass again, her fingers drifting over her pearls again as she pursed her lips in thought. ″I suppose we're not having a lot of luck with him here. If you think you can make him functional again, you can have him. And if you succeed, I want you to bring him to work for us. You can do what you like with him otherwise.″
″Thank you, Mother,″ he said.
″I'll tell the staff to get his things ready. Do you want to take him home yourself, or shall I have them drop him off?″
″No, I'll take him. And I think I'll go talk to him for a minute.″
″He hasn't spoken a coherent word in a week, you know,″ she said.
″I'm pretty sure I can get through to him.″
Angela shrugged. ″If you say so. I'll leave you to it, then. And remember, Gabriel – I'm counting on you.″
″I know. I won't let you down.″
She gave him a sharp smile and left the room.
Sylar spent a few more minutes gazing at Mohinder through the glass. He was not in good shape. The more monstrous aspects of Mohinder's transformation had begun to fade, but so had his vitality. Whatever he'd done to himself before had made him strong, and very robust in many interesting ways. Now, he seemed deflated; his muscles had withered, and he seemed very small and fragile. His hair had changed from lustrous curls to stiff, straw-like tangles. There was a dullness about him that was very uncharacteristic. They may have stopped the mutations, but he was still a broken thing.
That was all right. Sylar had always been good at fixing things. When he was a child (or, rather, when Gabriel was a child – Sylar had never been one himself), he used to go through dumpsters and fish out appliances and electronics that people had thoughtlessly thrown away. There was almost never anything seriously wrong with them, but they'd been thrown away like garbage by people too impatient to take a few moments to find out what was wrong. They just didn't care. But he cared, and he could always make them work again.
Sylar opened the door to the cell; Mohinder didn't even look up. He was still staring straight ahead, as if there were something fascinating stuck on the wall in front of him. There wasn't, as far as Sylar could tell. He wondered what Mohinder saw there, or if he was seeing anything at all.
He walked slowly over to him, trying his best not to startle him. He crouched down in front of the bed and looked him in the eye. It was true that he hadn't spoken to anyone in awhile, but as far as Sylar could tell, no one had been trying particularly hard. Everyone was frightened (and not without reason); the staff usually gave him his medicines and ran out of the room as quickly as possible. But Sylar had noticed that Mohinder always obediently swallowed his pills, so he was at least somewhat aware of what was happening. He just seemed...distracted. All Sylar needed to do was make ignoring him not an option; fortunately, that was something Sylar was very good at.
He leaned in closer, and Mohinder flinched; it was almost imperceptible (and probably would be to anyone other than him – Sylar always seemed to pick up on things that other people missed). Mohinder was in there, somewhere, and not as far away as he seemed. He sat there with him, holding his gaze, until finally, Mohinder's eyes began to refocus. ″Hello, Mohinder,″ he said.
Mohinder blinked. ″Sylar?″ he said.
Sylar smiled and leaned back. That had been easier than he'd expected. ″I prefer 'Gabriel' now, but yes, it's me. How are you feeling?″
Mohinder looked at him suspiciously. He raised his hands up slowly, then leaned forward and put them on Sylar's face. He felt around for a moment before lowering them again. ″Just checking,″ he mumbled.
″Checking for what?″
″To see if you're here.″
″Do you know where 'here' is?″
″Right now?″ He looked around the room. ″Hartsdale,″ he said finally. ″The Hartsdale facility.″
″That's right,″ he said, taking his hand in his own. ″Do you remember how you got here?″
Mohinder's brow furrowed. ″I was at my lab in New York,″ he said slowly. ″And then you showed up and we fought. And then – ″ Mohinder jerked his hand from Sylar's grip. ″I don't remember.″
″I brought you here, after we...″ Sylar wasn't sure if Mohinder remembered the sex they'd had while he was under the influence of his own chaotic abilities; he decided this would be a bad time to address it. ″...after we finished fighting. Your mutation started getting worse. The doctors said that your genetic structure was unstable, and they didn't know what to do. But then I thought of something – if your DNA was damaged somehow, maybe the blood of someone with healing abilities would repair it. So they developed a serum from my blood, and they started giving you transfusions. And it worked.″
Sylar waited for Mohinder to thank him, but Mohinder didn't say anything. ″I was the one who thought of it,″ he said again. ″Me. And it was my blood we used.″ Mohinder remained silent. ″My own life's blood, drawn from my very veins -″
″Then why am I still scaly?″ Mohinder interrupted. He held up his hand and pointed at the smooth, subtle brown marks on his skin.
″Well,″ Sylar said. ″It mostly worked. But whatever you did to yourself continuously destabilizes your genetic structure, so you need regular infusions of the serum made from my blood. And we're going to have to continue to give you power suppressants for a little while, just in case. But I'm going to make sure you get better.″
Mohinder wasn't as thrilled about the prospect as Sylar had hoped. ″Why?″ he said.
″Because I love you,″ Sylar said. Well, that wasn't quite true yet. But it could be true. It might as well be true. And wasn't that just as good?
Mohinder stared at him for a minute, and then he started laughing. It started as a quiet giggle; he slapped his hand over his mouth as if he were trying to contain it, but the laughter only got worse, and soon his whole body was shaking with it.
Sylar waited patiently for the worst of it to be over. ″I'm serious,″ he said.
The last bit of giggles finally died down. He looked very closely at Sylar's expression. ″Oh my God,″ he said. ″I really think you are.″ And then he started laughing again, although not quite as hard. Sylar tried not to take it personally – he was insane, after all.
″And I want you to come home with me,″ he said, when Mohinder was finished.
″Because you love me.″
Mohinder thought for a moment. ″My mutation – you say it hasn't been cured. So what happened before, when I -″ He stopped talking suddenly. He closed his eyes and swallowed, then continued, ″When I did what I did. It could happen again.″
″Not if you keep getting the proper treatment.″
″But you could stop me if I lost control again, couldn't you?″ Mohinder said.
″I could,″ Sylar said. ″So will you come home with me, then?″
Mohinder put his head in his hands. He nodded.
Sylar pulled Mohinder's hands away from his face. ″Was that a yes?″
″Yes,″ Mohinder said quietly.
Sylar smiled. ″You won't regret it,″ he said to him, but Mohinder was gone again, his gaze back on the wall.
Sylar stood up. He caught his own reflection in the two-way mirror and paused to consider it: the slicked-back hair, the black suit, the neat tie. This is what Gabriel Petrelli looks like, he thought, and felt very pleased with himself. Mohinder’s reflection was not quite as satisfying, but he could change that. He could change anything.
Much thanks to my beta, aurilly!
Sylar drove a Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV. It had a 382-hp V8 engine, a seven speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive, 21-inch AMG 5-spoke alloy wheels, and a leather interior that seated seven. Bennet never let him drive it to their missions; he insisted on using the Company's sad-looking sedan since Sylar's vehicle would attract too much attention. He was probably right, but Sylar liked being bigger than everyone on the road.
Angela had given it to him when she requested that he stop taking on powers. The request actually didn't bother him very much. He'd been thinking seriously about his quest for abilities ever since he'd killed Arthur. As Sylar let the ecstatic feeling of understanding wash over him as he gained his father's abilities, he found himself gazing at the man's slack, dead face. This man had more powers than possibly anyone on earth. And now he was dead.
For the first time in – well, ever, actually, Sylar found himself thinking about his future. He had the ability to gain any power he wanted with just a touch; the thought should have been thrilling, but instead, he felt a dull sort of dread. What the hell was he supposed to do with himself now? His entire existence had centered around acquiring abilities, and now, thanks to the access he'd get from Primatech, he'd never have to hunt for them again. He could simply greet everyone who came in with a firm handshake, and that would be it. No more killing, or plotting to kill, or evading capture after killing...but if all that was over, Sylar had nothing left. Without the hunt, his entire existence was empty.
So when Angela smiled and touched his arm and asked him to promise he'd give it all up, he did so without complaint. The time to be Sylar had ended. He would be Gabriel Petrelli now, a man who had a family, a nice house in the suburbs, a (semi) respectable job, and someone to come home to in the evenings.
Sylar glance in his rear-view mirror to check on his passenger. Mohinder was curled up in the middle-row back seat, fast asleep. The doctor had given him something to relax before they left; he'd nodded off ten minutes after they got on the road. Sylar should have awoken him to make him put on a seatbelt, but he didn't. He was an excellent driver; he took every curve slowly, and hit every stop light gently, so that Mohinder's rest would not be disturbed.
He made the turn into his new neighborhood. His mother had bought him a gorgeous suburban home with two stories and a garage, three bedrooms and two point five bathrooms, walk-in closets and crown molding, a dining room, a living room and family room (Sylar wasn't sure what the difference was, but he liked having both), and a kitchen with an island and a breakfast nook. The only thing missing was a picket fence. They seemed to be out of fashion at the moment, but he thought he might build one anyway.
He had it filled with Swedish furniture and the latest electronics – sixty-inch flatscreen TVs with full surround sound systems in the family room, the living room, and the bedroom (because why not?). His appliances were all top of the line; his kitchen was "chef caliber," according to the salesman who had sold him all of his knives and silverware and strange kitchen tools, like a mandolin (for slicing) and a rasp (for grating) and a baking stone (for pizza, which he and Mohinder would eat on Friday nights as they snuggled in front of the TV.) It was the house of someone who had a family, and who was loved. And he would be loved, by his mother and his brothers (eventually – he was working on it), and now by a lover, who would be so grateful to him for saving his life and nursing him back to health that he would forgive everything that had gone wrong between them, and they would live happily ever after.
He turned into the driveway, but didn't pull into the garage. He wanted Mohinder to be able to see the house from the outside before taking him in. He opened the side door of the car and gave Mohinder's shoulder a gentle shake.
"Wake up," Sylar said.
Mohinder didn't move, so Sylar shook him harder. "Wake up," he said again.
Mohinder's eyes opened a crack, then shut again. He moaned and rolled over.
Sylar sighed in frustration. He got in the car, grabbed Mohinder's shoulders and forced him into a sitting position. "Time to get up. We're home."
Mohinder's eyes opened again. "Home?" he said. He looked at Sylar with confusion.
"Yeah," he said.
Sylar got out of the car again and offered his hand to Mohinder to help him steady himself. Mohinder accepted it and, with great effort, got out of the car. Sylar went around to the trunk to get Mohinder's bag. Mohinder was squinting at the house, a confused look on his face. "This isn't home," he said.
"Sure it is." Sylar slung the bag over his shoulder and grabbed Mohinder's hand. "Come on, let me show you."
When he finally began to walk, he moved slowly, placing one foot in front of the other with great deliberation, as if it was taking all of his willpower to move forward. It took them six or seven minutes just to get to the front door, and by the time they got there, Mohinder seemed to have spent all of his energy. It was like he was wilting; his whole body started to sag downwards. Sylar had to prop him up against the side of the house while he unlocked the front door. He helped Mohinder inside. He'd wanted to show Mohinder around the house, but he supposed there would be time for that later. After setting the bag down near the front door, he escourted Mohinder over to the sofa in the living room. Once he was sitting, he seemed to improve a little bit. His opened his eyes a little wider and looked around, his gaze running over the IKEA furniture, the shag carpeting, the big screen TV. He did not seem impressed.
Sylar found himself unsure of what to do. He saw the remote on the coffee table, so he picked it up and turned on the television. "We've got over 250 channels," he said. "In HD. And that screen is 60-inches. It's almost like being in a movie theater."
Mohinder still didn't seem very impressed. "What's HD?"
"You don't know what HD is?"
"I don't watch a lot of television."
"Oh," Sylar said. "It means high definition."
They both watched the TV for a few minutes. A show called "Monsters Inside Me" started to play; it was all about parasites. Sylar hastily changed the channel.
He couldn’t think of anything else to say, so he went to the kitchen to start dinner. He opened the fridge and took a look around. He decided to make a meatloaf. Gabriel used to help Virginia make them all the time; it was something Sylar remembered, too, since he was always at least half-aware when Gabriel was hungry. He'd boil some potatoes, too. That should be enough.
After he put the meatloaf in the oven and started the potatoes, he realized that it was going to be at least forty-five minutes until dinner was ready. He wasn't sure what to do with himself. Should he go in and watch TV with Mohinder? Or maybe Mohinder needed some space. That was probably true. But he was his boyfriend now, so maybe they should be talking about things? What things, he wasn't sure.
He'd never done this before. He'd had a lot of sex – after Gabriel's final departure, he went to nightclubs and bars and was surprised at how easy it was to pick someone up. People were so ready to believe anything he told them, as long as it was something they wanted to hear. He'd gotten pretty good at it before he got bored. But going home with someone for a night was one thing; he was actually living with Mohinder. There was a whole negotiation of space and time that he couldn't even begin to decipher. He decided he needed some help. He took his cell phone out and pressed 2 on the speed dial.
"Hey Pete!" he said, trying to sound upbeat. "It's your brother."
"Is this Sylar?" Peter said.
"Gabriel," Sylar corrected. "How are you?"
"How many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me? We're not friends."
"I know – we're brothers."
"Like hell we are."
"Are you calling Mother a liar?"
"Okay, first off? She's Ma, not Mother. And of course I'm calling her a liar! Have you spent more than five minutes with her? That's what she does."
"You shouldn't talk about your mother like that."
"Like you're one to lecture – you killed yours!"
"No, I didn’t," he said. Which was true on several levels; Virginia Gray hadn’t been his biological mother, and Gabriel had been the one who killed her, not Sylar. Gabriel had emerged one last time to try to regain control. To be fair to Gabriel, he didn’t kill her on purpose, but her death had been the last straw. He had disappeared completely after that.
"Oh, right, because you don’t think she was your real mother,” Peter said. “You still killed an innocent woman.”
"Get off your high horse," Sylar said, growing irritated. "You aren’t in any position to lecture anyone on morality. You snapped my neck, tried to kill Mother, and then ran off to try to kill Dad, and the only thing that stopped you from killing him was that he sucked the powers out of you.”
“That’s not fair,” Peter said. “I would have never done those things if I hadn’t accidentally taken your powers.“
“So it’s okay for you to use that as an excuse, but not me?”
Peter was quiet for a long moment. “It’s different,” he said finally. “You didn’t kill in a frenzy. You planned. You knew what you were doing.”
“And now I’ve stopped,” he said. “I’m reformed.”
"No, you're not," Peter said.
"Yes, I am."
"No, you're not - why am I even having this conversation with you? Listen very carefully to me: I hate you. I will always hate you. We will never be 'brothers.' And I never want to hear from you again – or from Mother, for that matter, and you can tell her I said so. I'm done with all of you. Got it?"
Sylar was quiet for a moment. "I think I know what this is about," he said. "You're jealous."
"What?" Peter sputtered.
"You're jealous that I'm Mother's favorite now, and that I have abilities and you don't anymore. And that's why you're being so hostile to me."
"I'm hanging up now."
"Wait," Sylar said. "Don't hang up; I didn't call to fight. I need your help." There wasn't any sound from the other end of the line for a few moments, but he hadn't hung up. "Peter? Are you still there?"
"Yes. God alone knows why. What do you want?"
"I need some advice."
Sylar looked over at the living room again. "Have you ever lived with someone? Like, romantically?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"I was just curious – how much time are you supposed to spend talking to each other? Should it be like, 80% of the time you're together, or more like 50%? And what are you supposed to talk about?"
"...do you have someone living with you?"
"Does she know you're a serial killer?"
"It's a 'he', and I'm a former serial killer, and yes, he knows."
"And he's okay with that."
"Well. Sort of. It's Mohinder, and he's – "
"Mohinder?" Peter said, aghast. "Mohinder Suresh?"
"Yes, and he's – "
Peter went ballistic. "Oh my God, you've kidnapped him, haven't you? Is he hurt? Have you hurt him?"
"No! I haven't- "
"Are you raping him?"
"I'M NOT R -" Sylar realized he was shouting, so he lowered his voice and hissed into the phone. "I am not raping him - how could I be raping him while I'm on the phone with you? And it's not like that. I was trying to tell you – he's sick. He's given himself powers, but the formula was unstable, and he mutated and he's sort of crazy...look, it's a long story, but I found a treatment, and now he's going to get better, and Mother said I could take him home to live with me instead of keeping him in the facility."
"I'm coming over there."
"Yes I can."
"No you can't. You don't know my address, and the only way you could find it out is if you asked Mother, and you said you were never going to talk to her again. So there."
Peter paused for a moment, temporarily defeated. "Then put him on the phone," he said.
Sylar hesitated. "He's not feeling well at the moment – "
"Put him on the phone now or I swear to Christ I will find you and throw you into a woodchipper."
"Okay, okay." He went into the living room. Mohinder was half-heartedly flipping through the channels. He gradually noticed that Sylar was standing above him. "What?" he asked.
Sylar handed him the phone. "Peter wants to talk to you."
Mohinder gave him a puzzled look before putting the phone to his ear. "Hello? Yes...no...yes...yes, I'm sure. I need to be here...it's complicated...no...no...blueberries." He handed the phone back to Sylar. "He wants to talk to you again."
Sylar took the phone and went back into the kitchen. "What was the whole 'blueberries' thing about?"
"I told him to say that if he really meant what he was saying. So I guess he does."
"You believe me, then."
"You don't have to worry. I'm a good person."
"You don't get to just declare yourself a good person. You have to earn it."
"Which is what I'm trying to do! Do you really think Mother would have let me take him home if she thought I was going to hurt him?"
"Honestly, I don't know what she's capable of anymore," he said quietly.
"Well, she wouldn't. And you really should call her. She worries. So, anyway, about that conversation thing – it's like, 50%, right? Hello?"
Peter had hung up the phone. Fine. He didn't need him; he'd figure it out on his own. He poked the potatoes with a fork; they were still hard. The meatloaf didn't look ready either. He set the table, but that only took a few minutes.
He tried to think of something else to do while dinner finished cooking. After a few moments of thought, he went out to the hallway and picked up Mohinder's bag and brought it into the kitchen. He opened it and took out the large baggie filled with all of Mohinder's medications, then took out the giant medication wheels and the piece of paper the doctor had given to him and began the long process of parceling out the doses Mohinder would need. There were so many – pills to keep him up, pills to put him down, power suppressants... By the time he was finished, dinner finally looked done. He put out the medicine Mohinder was supposed to take with dinner by his plate, and then went into the living room to get him.
"Dinner's ready," he said. Mohinder didn't respond. Sylar took the remote from him, turned off the television, and gave him a telekinetic boost to his feet. "Come on."
Mohinder shuffled slowly into the kitchen. Sylar steered him over to his chair and helped him sit down. He served both of them and sat down himself. It smelled great, and he was famished. The meatloaf was a little on the dry side, but that was nothing a good dose of ketchup couldn't cure. He squirted some onto his plate, cut his potato in half and slathered it with margarine, and then began to eat with enthusiasm.
Mohinder stared at his plate. "What is this?"
"'s meatloaf," Sylar said around a bite.
Mohinder continued to stare at his plate. Sylar was almost finished when Mohinder said, "I'm a vegetarian."
Sylar swallowed his current mouthful. "Oh. Well, eat the potatoes, then."
Sylar finished his plate and went for seconds. Mohinder finally picked up his fork and stared at it for a long time as if he'd never seen one before in his life. He put it down and picked up his knife. Using both hands, he carefully cut his potato in half. He cut the halves in half, and then cut those pieces in half, and continued cutting until his plate was covered in tiny potato bits. He put the knife down. He picked up his pills and swallowed them in one large gulp, then stood up.
"Aren't you going to eat anything?" Sylar asked.
"I ate a potato."
"No, you didn't," Sylar pointed out. "You just cut it up."
Mohinder shrugged. He turned around and started shuffling towards the living room. He sat down on the couch.
Guess he wasn't hungry, he thought, but the whole incident left him a little unnerved. He cleared off the table and cleaned the dishes. When he ran out of excuses for things to do, he went to join Mohinder in the living room.
He was asleep – very, deeply asleep. Sylar debated whether he should leave him there or not, but ultimately decided to take him upstairs. He used his telekinesis to float him up the stairs and laid him gently down on the bed. The clothes he was wearing were loose hospital scrubs, which he supposed would be comfortable enough to sleep in. He took off his shoes. Mohinder barely moved the entire time.
Sylar got himself dressed and ready for bed. The bed was a California King – the biggest there was, and when he got into it, Mohinder seemed very far away. Which was all right. The whole situation was odd, and he still didn't know what he should be feeling. He'd always slept alone. Before he turned in, he reached across the bed and gave Mohinder a kiss on the forehead. That seemed like something someone in love would do. Mohinder was so still that Sylar watched him breathe for a few moments, just to make sure. After he was satisfied that Mohinder was still alive, he rolled over to his own side of the bed and turned off the lights. He'd never really had any trouble sleeping, so within minutes, he fell sound asleep.
Once again, thanks to my beta, aurilly!
Gabriel Gray had believed very firmly in routines. Every minute of his day was scheduled precisely. He woke up at 5 am every day, including weekends. He took a shower from 5:15 to 5:30, got dressed at 5:45, ate breakfast at 6:00, and read the newspaper when it arrived at 6:30 (although sometimes the delivery boy was late – he hated that, it threw everything off). He got to the shop by 7:30, opened at 8, and worked until noon, at which time he'd walk to the deli down the street and have either a ham sandwich (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), or a tuna one (Tuesdays and Thursdays). He’d go back to the shop at work until closing at 6 pm. He'd go home, eat dinner, and then allowed himself thirty to sixty minutes of television before going to bed at 8:30. He had to be precise about these things. Chaos lurked around the edges of every moment; even a small lapse in attention could make him lose days, even weeks.
Sylar was much more flexible; he had to take his opportunities when he could get them. But now that he was trying to create a new identity, he recognized the stabilizing ability of routines, and decided he should probably have one. Due to the nature of his work, he couldn't be quite as fanatically devoted to schedules as Gabriel was, but surely he could manage something.
His alarm went off at 6 am. He woke up with a sigh and reached over to turn it off. He rolled over and opened his eyes, expecting to find Mohinder still asleep, but the other man was already awake and staring at him.
"Uh," he said. "Good morning?"
"What happened to them?" Mohinder said. His voice was low and creaky.
"The people in my apartment."
"You mean the ones you cocooned to the wall?"
Mohinder didn't answer, but his jaw tightened and his eyes blinked once, hard.
"Well, of the men you had in there, one died. Not sure about the other two – I think one of them is still in a coma, but he might have gotten better."
"And Maya?" he said quietly.
"Oh, she's all right," Sylar said. "They were able to resuscitate her fairly easily; she obviously hadn't been there very long. Of course, she nearly killed everyone when she woke up, so they had to put her under until they can figure out what to do with her."
Mohinder shut his eyes, so tightly that his brow furrowed. He took a few shaky breaths. Sylar was worried that he was going to start crying, but after a few moments, he became very still. He opened his eyes again. He seemed eerily calm.
Slowly, he reached out his hand and put it on the back of Sylar's neck. To his shock, he proceeded to pull him in for a kiss. Sylar could not for the life of him imagine why Mohinder was doing this, but he'd take what he could get. This wasn't exactly what he had in mind when he'd planned his new routine, but he certainly wasn't opposed to scheduling in some morning sex. He put an arm around Mohinder's waist to pull him closer and began to kiss him back. Mohinder kept his lips taut and unyielding, so Sylar gave up after a few attempts to deepen the kiss and moved on to his neck, teasing the soft skin under his ear with his tongue while he worked his thigh between Mohinder's legs. He moaned happily when Mohinder shifted his hips forward, rubbing his body against Sylar's morning erection.
As Sylar continued his tender kisses, he noticed that Mohinder was murmuring something under his breath. "...deserve it, I deserve it, I deserve it..." he was saying.
Sylar stopped and pulled back. Somehow, he didn't think the unspoken part of that sentence was '...because I've been so good.' "Wait a minute," he said. "Are you trying to have sex with me as a way of punishing yourself?"
Mohinder looked away and said nothing.
"That's horrifying," he said, because it was.
The expression on Mohinder's face became stony. He gathered up the comforter and stalked over to the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.
Sylar sat in bed and rubbed his face. This was not an auspicious beginning to the day. He waited for twenty minutes. When Mohinder still hadn't emerged, he walked over to the bathroom and knocked. "Are you going to be much longer?" he asked.
There was no response. He tried to open the door, but it was locked. "Come on," he said. "I have to get ready for work." Still no response. He was considering using telekinesis to pop the lock when the door opened a crack. A razor, shaving cream, and a bar of soap came flying out before the door shut and locked again. Sylar stooped to pick them up. "What about my toothbrush?" he said. More silence was his only answer.
Sylar looked at the clock. It was already 6:43; if he wanted to be at work by 8:00, he didn't have time for a battle. He took the items and went to the guest bathroom. When he was finished showering and shaving, he wrapped a towel around his waist and returned to the bedroom. Mohinder still hadn't emerged from the bathroom, but that wasn't surprising.
It was 7:00. He picked up his cell phone and pressed three on his speed dial.
The phone rang twice before it was answered. "What?" said Bennet.
"Hi, partner," Sylar said. "Just wanted to know what our mission is today."
"Blood drive," Bennet said. "Be at the office by eight, or I'm leaving without you." He hung up the phone.
Sylar felt relief as he put down the phone. He loved this mission. On days that weren't too busy, he and Bennet would pretend to host a blood drive. They'd bring the collected blood back to the lab, where the scientists would test them for mutations. It was easy, and the way this morning had started, he was definitely in the mood for easy.
He opened the mirrored door to his walk-in closet and stepped inside. He sifted through the large number of uniforms, suits, and other disguises he'd collected until he found a nice polo shirt and a neatly pressed pair of khakis. After he put them on, he reached up to one of the shelves and pulled down a box of props. He pulled out a roll of adhesive name tags; he tore off a few and stuffed them in his pocket, along with a black marker. He also selected a thin gold chain with a small cross on it. He finished his look with white socks and a pair of slightly scuffed black tennis shoes. He stepped out of the closet and closed the door. He practiced smiling at himself in the mirror; he was already running late, but this step was important. Thoughts of church basements, green bean casseroles, and amateur softball teams filled his head. His smile shifted and softened. A new, temporary identity started to create itself.
Once he was satisfied with his work, he headed downstairs to the kitchen. He got Mohinder's pills from one of the cupboards. He was going to bring the medication wheel full of the week's pills up to Mohinder, but after thinking about it for a moment, he tapped out only that morning's doses and put the rest in his pocket. He sat the pills on the table along with a stack of saltine crackers.
He went back upstairs and knocked on the bathroom door. "I'm leaving your medicine on the table. Remember to take it, and make sure you eat something. I'll be back by five." He didn't get a response, but he hadn't really been expecting one.
It was 7:32 when he pulled out of the driveway. Bennet didn't make idle threats; he really would leave without him if he was late. He stepped on the accelerator. So much for starting a fresh routine. He wondered if he should set his alarm a half-hour earlier every morning so he could schedule in time for Mohinder's craziness.
* * *
The Bloodmobile was impressive. It was almost as big as a bus; there were interview booths, beds, and even a little snack bar area in the back, where people could drink orange juice and contemplate what a good deed they'd just done. They called themselves the Special Cross, and as far as the law was concerned, they were a fully accredited, nationwide charity organization. For the most part, they didn't even have to go looking for places to go; people contacted them. The Special Cross was friendly and convenient, providing easy, feel-good publicity for businesses, churches and community events. No one ever bothered to check if the blood they took reached a hospital.
Bennet was standing beside it in the parking lot of the Hartsdale facility, arms crossed and a sour look on his face.
Sylar parked beside the bus and got out of the car. "Morning, partner," he said. He noticed, with glee, that Bennet was wearing khakis. The last time they'd done a blood drive, Sylar had pointed out that Bennet's suit made people nervous. That was the intended effect. Bennet had one tool in his kit when it came to dealing with the public: intimidation. It was, admittedly, a very powerful tool that could be used to hammer through most situations, but Sylar's subtler approach had proven itself to be very useful. Apparently Bennet had taken the advice to heart. It wasn't entirely effective – Bennet was one of those people who always looked like he was in a suit, regardless of what he was actually wearing. But the fact that he'd taken Sylar's advice was extremely gratifying. "I like the pants," he said.
"You're late," Bennet said.
Sylar was, in fact, not late; he was actually a few minutes early. He'd already scored his victory for the morning, however, and decided not to press the issue.
"Get in," Bennet said as he boarded the bus. "We don't have all day."
"Can I drive?"
"No," Bennet said without turning around.
They were going to a church. Those were always the easiest; people were already bursting with good will by the time they rolled in and needed very little convincing. The only trouble was that the church was two hours away, somewhere out in farm country. The classic rock radio station they were listening to eventually petered out. Sylar scanned through the stations several times, trying to find something interesting, but he didn't have any luck. He drummed his fingers on the arm rest and looked at Bennet out of the corner of his eye. He didn't look like he was interested in conversation, but Sylar was bored.
"So," he said finally. "How are Sandra and the kids adjusting to life in New York?"
Bennet's already tight jaw clenched further. "That's none of your business," he said.
"Oh, come on," Sylar said. "We're partners. We can't make small talk every once in a while?"
"You want small talk? Fine," Bennet said. "How's Dr. Suresh?"
There was a pointed silence. "He's fine," Sylar lied after a moment. "He's really impressed with the new place."
"Really?" Bennet said. "Has he regained enough of his senses to realize that the man who murdered his father is attempting to play house with him, or is he still too drugged and crazy?"
"You are terrible at small talk," Sylar said, making a face. Bennet just smiled.
After many long miles of corn and cows, they finally reached their destination. Bennet pulled the mobile around to the back of the church. "You want to go tell them we're here?″
"Wiat," Sylar said. ″We need names.″ He took the marker and two blank name tag out of his pocket and thought for a moment. He was struck with inspiration; he printed the names and stuck one on Bennet's chest before sticking one on his own.
Bennet looked down, then at Sylar. "'Abraham and Isaac?'" he said, raising an eyebrow.
Sylar smiled. "I'll be back in a jiff," he said, already feeling the cheerful, bouncy energy he'd imagined Issac would feel. He made sure the cross on his necklace lay over his shirt collar before stepping out of the mobile and making his way through the church's back door.
They were very busy. It was a Sunday, and the weather was beautiful; it was a perfect day for the picnic the church had organized. Sylar stood outside of the mobile, making small talk with the congregation. He told them about his wife and their two beautiful daughters. Isaac was, unfortunately, unemployed at the moment, but he knew that God would provide for him. In the meantime, he figured he'd donate his time to charity. It was very noble of him, everyone agreed.
They stayed for two fruitful hours, which produced thirty blood samples and an appointment for the next month with a local business owner. After the last donor had left, Sylar and Bennet cleaned up the equipment and made sure the samples were properly labeled and stored. It had been a very successful day, and Sylar felt pleased with himself. He couldn't tell how Bennet felt; he was always so dour for some reason. When everything was taken care of, they started the long drive back to Hartsdale. Sylar was still filled with bubbly, chatty energy. That happened sometimes when he took on identities; they would stick around longer than wanted them to. He really ought to have known better than to make another stab at conversation, but he couldn't help himself. "That went very well, don't you think?" he said.
Bennet didn't look at him, but he moved his head in an almost imperceptible nod. He didn't offer anything further.
Sylar sighed. "Look," he said. "If we're going to work together, we're going to have to figure out a way to at least be civil. I know that there's been some...well, bad blood between us. I'm willing to own up to my part in that. But I'm a different person now, and I feel like you're not even giving me a chance. I think that we make a pretty good team, so why don't you say that we agree to make a fresh– what are you doing?" he asked as Bennet pulled off to the side of the road.
Bennet waited until he'd stopped the vehicle before he answered. "I want us to be very clear about something," he said in a calm, measured voice. "We are not partners. We do not 'make a good team.' I'm working with you because I don't have a choice at the moment, but there's no doubt in my mind that your little stint as a Company agent won't last much longer. You and I both know that you like to try on identities like other people try on hats; you aren't a different person. Underneath it all, you're still Sylar, and you always will be. Sooner or later, you're going to remember who you really are, and when that happens, I'm going to be there to put a bullet in your brain. Until then, you will not talk about my family. You will not speak to me unless it has to do with the case. Do we understand each other?"
Whatever cheeriness Sylar had retained from earlier had completely evaporated at this point. "So if you're going to kill me, why don't you just do it now?" he said. "Oh wait, you can't, because my mother – your boss – has ordered you to work with me. And you have to do everything she tells you to. Why is that again?" Bennet glared at him, and Sylar smirked. His mother had told him all about it; in exchange for Claire's freedom to pursue a normal life, he'd agreed to shoot Nathan. (Angela hadn't intended for him to die, of course; she'd been waiting at the hospital with a bag of Claire's blood.) "Mother owns you. So maybe you ought to be a little nicer to me," he finished. He sat back and crossed his arms smugly.
"And why do you think your mother ordered me to be your partner?" Bennet said. "She's waiting for you to snap again."
Sylar stared at him for a moment, stunned. That couldn't be true – could it? "You're a liar," he said.
Bennet gave him a cold smile. "Sometimes," he said. "But not always. You're an accomplished liar yourself – you should be able to tell."
Sylar's left hand began to twitch. It would be very easy to kill him – just a quick swipe of the finger, and the top of his head would come clean off. Well, not clean - there would be blood spattered everywhere, it would spray all over the windshield and the seats, and there would be bits of bone and brain, and he'd smash those stupid glasses, too – he could already hear the satisfying crunch as the frames bent under telekinetic force...
He could do that. He had that power. But it would only prove Bennet right, the smug son of a bitch. "You're trying to bait me," he said. "It's not going to work again."
It was the first time that he'd let on that he knew about Bennet's involvement with Gabriel's downfall. A look of surprise passed over Bennet's face, but he contained it quickly. "I don't know what you mean."
"You really are a liar," Sylar said. "I've seen my case file. I know what you and Elle did to me.″
Bennet sat back in his seat. He removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "That... went badly," he said. "We wanted to see what happened when you initiated an attack. Elle was supposed to have stopped you before it went too far. It was a bad plan, poorly executed."
Sylar was more than a little surprised by the admission. He seemed almost sorry. "So you admit it, then," Sylar said. "You made me what I am."
Bennet put his glasses back on; his gaze was much fiercer when it was filtered through the severe frames. "Don't push it, Sylar. You were already a murderer several times over by the time we got to you. I didn't make you do a damn thing."
"Gabriel," he corrected. "It's Gabriel Petrelli now."
"You can't just decide that," Bennet said. "You can't just change your name and become a different person."
"I can," he said. "I have."
"Then tell me this," Bennet said. "When you think of yourself, what's the name that first comes to your mind?"
"Gabriel Petrelli," Sylar said.
Bennet made a skeptical sound. ″Even if that were true, it wouldn't change what you are.″
"And what is that?" Sylar said. "A monster? A killer, like you?"
Bennet scoffed. "Oh please," he said. "Don't even try to equate the things you've done with me."
"Why? The people you've killed have ended up just as dead. Why does it matter how it happened?"
"I've defended myself. That's all. You ripped open innocent people to satisfy your sick compulsions. Not even you are crazy enough to not see the difference."
"And what about the man you threw to me?" he said. "Was that 'self-defense?'"
"You killed him," Bennet said, his voice raising. "Not me!"
Sylar was pleased to see that he'd touched a nerve. "What you did was the equivalent of pushing someone into a lion's den. But you didn't care, did you? You were just following orders, right?"
"I'm not discussing this with you."
Sylar ignored him. "I've always been curious – what exactly drew you to this line of work? What made you want to spend your life shooting people up with drugs and dragging them to be experimented on?"
"Shut up," Bennet said.
"You're a hypocrite," Sylar said. "A liar, a killer, and a hypocrite. I may be sick, but I never chose to be what I am. You did. What does that make you?"
Bennet's face had turned a very dangerous shade of red. Sylar wasn't sure what would happen next – did Bennet have a gun hidden somewhere on his person? Would he try to use it? And what would Sylar do if he did? He didn't imagine that Mother would be thrilled if Sylar killed him, even if it was self-defense. It turned out to be a moot point, because Bennet took a deep breath and brought himself into check. Within a minute, he seemed his usual calm, collected self. But Bennet was never really calm, Sylar was learning.
Bennet turned the keys to start the mobile and pulled out onto the empty road. Sylar thought the conversation was over, but after a few minutes of driving, Bennet spoke again. "Are you sorry?"
"About the people you've killed," Bennet said, his eyes not leaving the road. "Does it haunt you? Do you go over ever moment that happened in your head, wondering what you should have done differently, wondering if all of the justifications are just flimsy rationales you tell yourself so you can sleep at night? Except you can't sleep sometimes, and you see their faces, see the blood – " He finally looked at Sylar. "Do you?" When Sylar didn't respond right away, Bennet just shook his head and turned back to the road. "And that's the difference between you and me."
Sylar slouched down in his seat. It wasn't that he wasn't sorry; he was, in an abstract sort of way. But he'd put the memory of those killings in a mental box and shoved it into a dark corner in his brain. If he opened that box, he'd end up the same as poor Gabriel. "Well, I'm sure the families of the people you've killed rest easier because you have trouble sleeping sometimes," he said sarcastically.
"That isn't the point," Bennet said. "The point is that I feel bad about what I've done. Do you feel bad? Do you feel anything at all?"
"Of course I feel things," Sylar said.
"I'm not sure you do," Bennet said. "If you were really capable of feeling, the guilt over what you've done would cripple you."
"And what good would that do?" Sylar said. "No matter how bad I felt, those people would still be dead. So why wallow in it?"
"And you've missed the point again. Feelings aren't something that you can just turn on and off arbitrarily. If you don't feel the magnitude of the damage you've done, then you also can't feel love, or happiness, or anything else. The only true feelings I've ever seen you have are hunger, and anger when that hunger isn't fulfilled. You're a reptile, Sylar. You literally can't change – you lack the capacity."
Sylar wasn't sure what to say to that. They rode in silence for a little while. "Do you feel bad about what you did to me?" Sylar asked after a while.
Bennet didn't answer right away. "Yes," he finally said.
Sylar remembered the moment when Gabriel finally gave up. It was after Elle had fled, and Sylar had sawed the top of that stupid little punk's head off; Gabriel had seen his reflection in the man's dying eyes. He'd screamed – a long, jagged wound of a sound. By the time the scream ended, Gabriel was simply gone, and he'd taken all of his inhibitions and insecurities with him. It had been a liberating feeling. He ought to be thanking Bennet, really. "He was so scared at the end," he said quietly.
"Yes, I imagine he was," Bennet said with disgust.
Sylar realized that he thought he'd been talking about the man he'd killed. He didn't bother to correct him; where would he even start?
They spent the rest of the trip in silence. When they got to the facility, Bennet pulled into the parking lot and parked the mobile. "I'll let the lab technicians we've arrived," Bennet said. "They can take it from here. And then I'm going home."
"Isn't there something we should be doing?"
"You can do whatever you want," Bennet said. "Right now, I can't stand the thought of being a 'we' with you for another minute." Sylar couldn't disagree with that.
They exited the mobile. Bennet started for the lab, and Sylar headed to his car. Right before he opened the door, Bennet called out to him. "Hey, Sylar!"
"Yeah?" Sylar said automatically – and then scowled.
Bennet smiled at him smugly. "See you tomorrow," he said. Sylar didn't dignify him with a response.
Since it was a Sunday afternoon, Sylar made very good time getting home. He opened the front door and looked around for Mohinder, but wasn't surprised when he didn't immediately see him.
"Mohinder!" he called. "I'm home early!" He wasn't in the living room, dining room, or family room. He poked his head into the kitchen, but it was also empty; the pills were gone, but the stack of crackers remained. He headed up the stairs and into the bedroom. He still didn't see Mohinder, but the sheets and bedspread were missing. The door to the bathroom was closed. A feeling of dread pulled at his stomach. He turned the doorknob slowly and pushed the door open. The bathroom was empty. He let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.
When he went back into the bedroom, he noticed a corner of a blanket sticking out from under the door to the walk-in closet. He rushed over and opened the door. The light was off, so Sylar switched it on. The first thing he noticed was that the floor was covered in wadded up tissues. He picked one up; it was sticky. At the very back of the closet was a pile of blankets, sheets and pillows; Mohinder's foot was sticking out from under it. Sylar pulled back the blankets until Mohinder was exposed. He was lying on his side, his arms held out in front of him. His hands were loosely open, and they were secreting a webby substance; Sylar supposed that explained all of the tissues. Sylar knelt down beside him and gently touched his shoulder. "Hey," he said. "Are you all right?"
After a long silence, Mohinder managed to creak out a response. "Hurts," he said.
"Moving.” With great effort, he rolled away from Sylar and shut his eyes. "Leave me alone," he said. "Please."
Sylar left the closet, closing the door gently behind him. He went downstairs, unsure of what to do with himself. There was something happening inside him; it felt huge and tumultuous, and he had no idea what to do with it. Finally, he pulled out his cell phone and called Bennet.
He picked up after a few rings. "What?" he said.
"Sad," Sylar said. "I feel sad. For him." He hung up the phone.
He could feel the chaos that he'd been managing to keep in check rumble through him. He went to the hall closet and pulled out all his cleaning supplies. He spent the next few hours cleaning, scrubbing and sweeping until everything was neat and shining. It made him feel better, like he was giving himself a fresh start. He'd try again with the routine tomorrow. Everything would be all right.
He set to work making dinner. He'd make spaghetti – surely Mohinder would eat that. He brought a plate of it up to the bedroom and set it in front of the closet, along with Mohinder's evening medication. He knocked on the door and told Mohinder it was there, but left before Mohinder responded. He didn't want to see him again, not right now. He slept on in the guest bedroom that night, feeling like a coward.
Thanks once again to my beta aurilly, the mean, lean editing machine!
Sylar shouldn't have been so concerned about consciously creating a routine. Routines tended to blossom as easily as weeds, provided you stayed in one place for long enough. Within a couple of days, one imposed itself on Sylar and Mohinder both.
Sylar would wake up in the guest room every morning at 5:00 am. He'd go to the master bedroom and peak in the closet. Mohinder was always still asleep. Sylar would go in and select an outfit. He'd take a shower and get changed in the master bathroom, taking his time and making plenty of noise. When he emerged from the bathroom, Mohinder would be awake. He'd complain about that the noise Sylar made in the bathroom woke him up (which was the whole point, of course). Sylar would apologize, and then try to start a conversation. This was the only time of the day when Mohinder seemed capable of conversation; the doses of medications he'd taken before bed had worn off by morning. Sylar had maybe ten minutes at the most to coax Mohinder into saying something, anything. Sylar brought up things that were going on at work. He talked about the weather. He mentioned interesting facts he'd learned on Jeopardy! the previous night. And if he was lucky, he'd get a glimpse of the man he had known before this whole mess had started.
Those rare moments were important. They were the only clues he had that the Mohinder he had known even existed anymore. Sylar wasn't sure who he had brought home, but it wasn't the Mohinder he had known. This was a broken, defeated creature who hid in dark spaces and seemed to survive solely on his own bile. He barely ate. He wouldn't talk. He lay in the closet almost all of the time, barely moving.
Sylar would come home from work every night to what might as well have been an empty house. The closet door was always shut, opening only to receive his medications. Sylar would bring his dinner to his door and leave it there, but Mohinder never touched it. He could hear him sometimes, mumbling to himself. Or sometimes he would sound like he was arguing with someone, but his words didn’t make any sense. Other times, he would weep and moan. It felt less like living with someone and more like being haunted.
Sylar knew that he wasn't exactly the gold standard of sanity himself, but what was happening to Mohinder was something completely beyond him. When he brought him home, he had thought that Mohinder couldn’t get any worse, but he’d been wrong. Mohinder was rotting from the inside, and Sylar was beginning to think that he might not be able to stop it.
* * *
When Mohinder was nine years old, he ran away from home. He'd learned that his parents planned on sending him to boarding school, and he figured that if he was going to be sent away, he might as well choose his own destination. Instead of walking to school as he was supposed to, he went to the train station and bought a ticket with the pocket money he'd been saving for several weeks. He rode the train for the several hours it took to get to his grandparents' home and arrived on their doorstep just in time for dinner. When his father came to collect him the next day, he kicked him in the shin before shimmying up a mango tree and refusing to come down. It took a good hour and a half of pleas and cajoling from the entire family before he finally descended, but he still wouldn't speak to his father.
Chandra told Gabriel this story with a mixture of amusement, pride, and resentment. He was impressed that Mohinder had managed to pull off the escape; Mohinder was an unusually bright and independent child, which was something Chandra took pride in. But Mohinder's defiance also infuriated him.
Chandra told himself that boarding school was the best option; Mohinder was so intelligent and talented, and his potential was clearly being wasted. He needed the structure. He would be happier, he was sure. But a large part of Chandra's decision to send Mohinder away (as he would confess to Gabriel much later in their acquaintance) was that he couldn't bear his presence anymore. When he looked at him, he always saw Shanti. It wasn't that he didn't love his son, but Shanti had been such a joy, a shining light in his life. Mohinder was much more challenging.
Whatever his motivations, it turned out that he was right about the boarding school. Mohinder seemed to be good at everything he did. He was the top of his class, well-liked by the teachers and students alike. His mother kept all of his numerous medals and certificates of achievement together in a shrine, which she would look at whenever her longing for him threatened to overwhelm her. Shanti had been Chandra's child, but Mohinder was hers, and in spite of all of Mohinder's successes, she never quite forgave Chandra for sending him away.
Mohinder never quite forgave him, either. Their relationship continued to be stormy. They fought whenever he was home, despite his wife's pleas for them to make peace. Mohinder seemed to sense that he was, in some fundamental way, a disappointment to his father, without ever knowing the reason why. Shanti's existence was kept a strict secret. Perhaps it would have been kinder to tell Mohinder and save him the grief of trying to figure out what he had done wrong, but Chandra could never bring himself to do it. His relationship with Mohinder was already so fragile; how could Chandra possibly tell him that he'd been conceived to save his sister, only to arrive too late?
Chandra would tell Gabriel all of this while he conducted his tests. He obsessed about it, talking in long circles around his pride for and frustration with his son. Mohinder, against Chandra's wishes, had gone into the same field as his father, going so far as to seek a position at the same university. Chandra was furious; he said it was because he wanted to keep Mohinder as far away as possible from discovering the truth about his sister, but Sylar privately thought that he sounded a little jealous, too. Mohinder was at the beginning of a promising career; Chandra's was all but over. His belief in the existence of people with superhuman abilities had made him an exile, and his own son had joined with his detractors.
Gabriel wasn't sure if he should be jealous of Mohinder or feel sorry for him. When Chandra had arrived in his shop, Gabriel had immediately cast him in the role of the father he'd always wanted, someone who recognized his inherent specialness and would be a mentor to him. His father’s desertion of him and his mother was the wound that always hurt the deepest; the feeling of being unwanted haunted everything he did. Chandra, on the other hand, wanted him very much; Gabriel felt important for the first time of his life. Learning that Chandra had a son about his age left him with mixed feelings. It didn't seem fair that his new dad should already have a son. On the other hand, he'd always sort of wanted a brother. He imagined Mohinder coming to New York, full of bluster and arrogance, and then he would see Gabriel's amazing abilities and realize how wrong he'd been. He'd tearfully beg for Chandra's forgiveness, and the three of them would set out to become pioneers in the next step of human evolution.
That dream was Gabriel's, mostly. In the beginning, Sylar didn't really care much about Chandra or Mohinder. Gabriel was the one who needed to feel special and loved. Sylar just had a job to do. But as Sylar's murders became more frequent, Gabriel became less and less present. Sylar had been a ghost hovering around the edges of Gabriel's consciousness for some time now, but now their positions were reversing. Sylar was in control now, and Gabriel took the back seat. Sylar even introduced himself to Chandra, who, while perplexed, agreed to call Sylar by his own name instead of Gabriel's. He wasn't sure whether or not Chandra had guessed the truth about them. Actually, he didn't really seem to care. Gabriel worshipped Chandra too much to see his faults. He was cold. He named his pet lizard after his son and laughed about it, although Sylar couldn't see what the joke was. Sylar could see that Chandra's willingness to confess his darkest secrets was not an indication of how close he felt to them, as Gabriel thought; Chandra was open with them in the way that it is easy to be open to strangers, because their opinion of you ultimately means nothing.
It didn't really surprise Sylar when Chandra swiftly abandoned them the minute things started to get a little hairy. Gabriel, however, was devastated – so devastated, in fact, that he tracked him down and smashed his head in. Now that surprised Sylar; Gabriel was so weepy and squeamish about killing most of the time, but the rage he had felt when Chandra cut them out of his life was so white-hot in its intensity that it melted all the reservations he normally had. Sylar was generally surgical about his killings, but Gabriel was wild, hitting Chandra's head over and over again into the window of his cab until his face was an unrecognizable mess. He'd felt terrible about it afterword; it was Chandra's death more than anything else that prompted his suicide attempt. Gabriel was able to deny responsibility for the other murders, but not that one.
After Chandra’s death and Gabriel’s subsequent departure, Sylar still found himself thinking about Mohinder. Mohinder’s childhood had been the polar opposite of Gabriel’s - he was a successful, wealthy and popular, while Gabriel was a failure, poor and alone. But from Chandra’s stories, he recognized that same burn for recognition, and the same hurt over being unwanted. In a way, they were like mirror images of each other - opposite, but essentially the same.
Everything he'd heard about Mohinder suggested that he'd show up eventually to investigate his father's death, and once he learned his father was right about the existence of people with special abilities, he wouldn't be able to walk away. They were bound to run into each other eventually. Maybe he could convince Mohinder that his father's death wasn't his fault; he could blame it on the Company agents who were sure to crawl out of the woodwork to harass him. And then he’d have a partner - someone to help and appreciate him. A friend, even.
Of course, that was based on the assumption that Mohinder looked like a younger, less bald version of Chandra. When Sylar had opened Zane’s door to find Mohinder standing there, he felt both a sense of recognition and disconcerting shock. Chandra had never once mentioned Mohinder's nearly inhuman attractiveness. Sylar’s whole existence was based on need, but looking at Mohinder led him into an entire new realm of longing. He felt a fiercely physical ache for him in a way he'd never felt for anyone before. He made Sylar think suddenly of limitless horizons that were only theoretical before; it was like something hugely important that had been compacted into the shape of a person, and here he was, only inches away. He only had to reach out and grasp...
No, they could never be friends.
He was thankful that he was using Zane's awkward persona when they first met, because Mohinder really did make him feel goofy, especially when he smiled. Mohinder would probably never believe him, but he had meant every word he said about karma and peak experiences, and how he had felt alone until Mohinder found him. In the few days they had together, he came to see Mohinder not only as a tool to complete his objectives, but as an objective in and of himself, something he wanted to acquire. He was brilliant, but difficult; sincere, but with a biting sense of humor. He was tirelessly determined, and more courageous than was good for him. He leaped into things too quickly, and while he rarely landed on his feet, he always managed to get back up, even if he had to fight with every ounce of his strength. And while it was true that he and Mohinder had not, in the strictest sense, spent a lot of time together, he felt fairly confident that he knew him.
Until now. Mohinder had been warped and twisted almost beyond recognition. It shouldn’t have surprised Sylar. Sylar was good at getting what he wanted, but without fail, whatever he grasped wilted in his hands, leaving his need unsatisfied. Why should Mohinder be an exception?
A week passed. Sylar spent most of his time at the facility. There wasn't actually a whole lot for him to do there – he'd been under the impression that Company agents spent most of their time chasing down dangerous specials, but that was only a small part of it. Mostly, they did things like the blood drives, or looking through newspapers for any stories that seemed suspicious. There was also paperwork – lots and lots of paperwork. He'd thought that maybe they'd have secretaries or something to do that for them, but his mother pointed out that the less people who were involved in their work, the better. So Sylar wrote reports, and filed things.
On the day before he was supposed to bring Mohinder in for his transfusion, he and Bennet were finally called out for a real job. They'd had a hit on one of the blood tests they'd conducted – an old woman who had been at the church event that one day. Sylar was going to use the Isaac persona to talk his way into her house – he was thinking that poor out-of-work Isaac might have gotten a job as a vacuum salesmen, and surely Mrs. Benson would consider helping him out a little?
He and Bennet left in one of the Company's nondescript sedans. They'd only been on the road about twenty minutes or so when Sylar's cell phone rang. He looked down at the display; the call was coming from his house. It must be Mohinder. Mohinder had never called him before. Frowning, he answered it. ″Hello?″
″Where are they?″
″Where are what?″ he asked, perplexed.
″The pills. Where do you keep them?″
″Why do you want to know?″
A pause. ″I vomited my dose this morning.″
″Why did you do that?″
″It wasn't on purpose, you nitwit.″
The insult surprised him. In a way, it was kind of encouraging that he was with it enough to argue with him; he was panicked, but also more coherent than he usually was at this time of day. Maybe it was because he’d thrown up his sedatives. ″You know, you're supposed to take them with a light snack.″
″I'm not hungry,″ he snapped. ″Just tell me where the pills are; I need to take the power suppressants again.″
″They're in the car.″
″You bloody moron!″ Mohinder screamed. ″Why the fuck would you keep them in the fucking car?″
″I keep them there because I don't want you to get confused and accidentally take too many,″ he said. ″You've just missed one dose; I don't think it's that big of a deal. I'll be back as soon as I can, and you can take your evening dose early, all right?″
″No, no, it will be too late – I can feel it happening, I'm going to become that thing...″ There was a strangled sound, followed by what sounded like some attempts at deep breathing. ″You have to come home. Now.″
Sylar noted that Mohinder was calling it home. He smiled a little. ″I'm sorry, but I can't. I'm going on a mission.″
A pause. ″If you don't come home now, I'm going to destroy every last piece of furniture in this house. Including the TVs.″
The smile froze on Sylar face. ″Don't you dare – ″ he started, but Mohinder had hung up the phone. He tried calling him back, but Mohinder didn't answer.
″Turn the car around,″ he told Bennet. ″I have to go back.″
″Trouble with the missus?″
Sylar glared at him. ″Just turn around.″
″We have a mission, you know.″
″So? We can do it tomorrow.″
″It doesn't work like that,″ Bennet said. ″If you're going to insist on being a Company agent, you have to accept that there are certain responsibilities -″
Sylar wasn't in a mood to argue with him, so he grabbed control of the car with his telekinetic ability and made a U-turn. The sour look on Bennet's face cheered him up a little. He used his mind to step on the gas. He wanted to get back to the house as soon as possible.
* * *
Sylar steered the car back to the facility first, to drop off Bennet. Bennet tried to chew him out about abandoning the mission, but Sylar ignored him. What was he going to do – get him fired? He made it home about an hour and twenty minutes after Mohinder' s call. As he pulled into the driveway, an armchair flew through the bay window and landed on the lawn. He guessed that answered the question as to whether or not Mohinder had gotten his strength back. He really didn't think missing one dose would have made a difference, but apparently he was wrong. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was due for his injection. Cursing, he got out of the car and ran into the house. He found Mohinder in the living room, gearing up to send the sofa in the same direction as the armchair.
″What are you doing?″ Sylar said furiously, but Mohinder wasn't paying any attention to him. He seemed to be caught up in a rage beyond control. Sylar grabbed him from behind and tried to pin his arms to his side, but he easily bucked him off and sent him flying into wall behind him. It knocked the wind out of him, and it took him a few minutes to recover. Mohinder, in the meantime, managed to finish hurling the sofa through the window and had retreated to the kitchen. Once Sylar had caught his breath, he followed him.
As soon as he entered the kitchen, Mohinder threw a chair at him. Sylar deflected it with telekinesis. ″You need to calm down,″ he said.
″What do you want from me?″ Mohinder screamed.
″Right now? I want you to stop throwing things at my head!″
″I gave up everything!″ Mohinder continued as if Sylar hadn't said anything. ″My career, my home, my life, and it still isn't enough for you. Nothing was ever enough for you, even when I was a child!″
″What?″ Sylar said. Then he noticed that Mohinder's gaze was focused not on him, but at some point over his shoulder. ″Mohinder,″ Sylar said slowly . ″Who are you talking to?″
Mohinder's gaze finally focused on him. He looked very confused. ″I don't know,″ he said. ″I thought - ″ He shook his head. ″I don't know,″ he said again. Mohinder stood there for a moment, swaying, but then his legs gave out and he crashed to the floor.
Sylar went immediately to his side. ″Are you all right?″ he said, which was, admittedly, a stupid question.
″Confused,″ Mohinder said. ″I'm confused.″ He started to weep.
Sylar hastily retrieved a bottle of pills from his pocket. ″Look,″ he said. ″I have the pills. I'll make you a sandwich, and you can take them...″
Mohinder shook his head. ″No, not hungry.″
Sylar noticed, for the first time, how gaunt Mohinder had become recently. Sylar knew Mohinder had been avoiding dinner, but he'd assumed that he had to be eating something during the day. ″When was the last time you ate?″ he asked.
Mohinder didn't respond. His eyes fluttered shut.
Sylar slapped his face lightly. ″Mohinder, wake up,″ he said. No response.
Sylar wasn't sure what to do. He set him down and went over to the cabinet, taking out a glass. He opened the fridge and grabbed the milk. After he poured out a glassful, he went back to Mohinder. He held him up and attempted to wake him up again, saying his name several times. Thankfully, his eyes opened. Sylar pressed the glass of milk against his lips.
″You need to drink this,″ he said. Mohinder turned his head away, but Sylar followed him with the glass. He finally relented and started to drink. When he neared the bottom of the glass, Sylar pulled it back, took out the pills and placed them in Mohinder's mouth. After swallowing them with the remaining milk, Mohinder closed his eyes again.
Sylar picked him up and carried him upstairs. He took him into the bedroom and laid him on the bed. He sat down beside him for a moment, watching him breathe. When he was sure that he was all right for the moment, he slipped out of the room and went back down the stairs.
He decided to take a survey of the damage. It looked like a small but vicious tornado had blown through the house. There were pieces of furniture everywhere. The picture frames he'd hung on the walls had all fallen and lay littered on the ground. He picked one of them up; since he hadn't had any pictures to put in the frames, he'd just left the photos the frames came with. A blond woman and her three children smiled up at him. He put it back on the ground, facedown. He stepped over the shattered fragments of a decorative mirror on his way into the living room. It was actually a really nice day outside, and a sweet-smelling breeze wafted through the demolished window. He stood there for a long moment before reaching into his pocket and taking out his cell phone.
The phone rang twice before Peter picked up. ″I told you to stop calling me,″ he snapped.
Sylar was going to point out that Peter didn't have to pick up – he hadn't changed his number, so Peter must have known it was him – but he decided that now would probably not be the best time to pick a fight. ″It's Mohinder,″ he said. ″I need your help.″
″What's wrong?″ Peter said, immediately concerned. ″Is he okay?″
″No, he isn't,″ Sylar said. ″He's – well, his powers came back, and he really lost it, and I think he's stopped eating.″
″What do you mean he's stopped eating?″
″I knew he wasn't eating dinner, but I just assumed he was eating something during the day...″
″When was the last time you saw him eat something?″
″I don't know,″ Sylar said. ″Not since he's been here.″
″But that's been, what, a week now?″ Peter said, horrified. ″You need to take him to the hospital!″
″And tell them what, exactly? That he has superhuman powers that don't agree with him? I'm sure that will go over well.″
″Then take him back to the facility.″
″No,″ he said. ″I can't tell them he's stopped eating – they'll insist on keeping him. Do you really think being locked up in one of their cells with a feeding tube shoved down his throat is the best thing for him?″
″What do you expect me to do?″
″I don't know! You're a nurse, right? There has to be something you can do.″
There was silence on the other end of the line for a few moments. ″Goddamnit,″ Peter finally said. ″Fine. Fine. Text me your address, and I'll get there as soon as I can. ″
″I'm not doing this for you,″ Peter snapped. He hung up the phone.
Sylar put the phone back in his pocket. He rubbed his face, sighed, and then started the long process of cleaning up.
He'd gotten the kitchen and most of the living room picked up by the time Peter's car pulled into the driveway. Sylar was on the lawn, attempting to wrestle the armchair back into the house. He could have used telekinesis to bring the arm chair and the couch inside, but then he'd risk someone seeing him. It was going to be difficult to explain how they'd smashed through the window in the first place; it would be impossible to explain if they suddenly floated back in.
Peter got out of the car. He had a bag slung over one shoulder. ″What the hell happened?″ he asked.
Sylar sighed. ″Put your bag down and help me get these inside, and then I'll tell you.″
They managed to get the furniture in through the demolished bay window. After they placed them back in the living room, Peter retrieved his bag and they went into the kitchen. ″So,″ Peter said as they sat down at the table. ″Are you going to tell me what's going on?″
″You know about his abilities, don't you?″
″Yeah,″ Peter said. ″I broke down and called Ma after I talked to you last. Did he cause all this damage?″
″I thought he was taking power suppressants. Do you think they've stopped working?″
″He missed a dose. He called me earlier today and said he'd thrown up, and he needed to take more. I keep all his pills with me, though, so I told him I'd give him his next dose when I got home. He went ballistic and wrecked the house. I really didn't think one missed dose would make that much of a difference, especially since he’s barely moved the entire time he’s been here. I guess I was wrong.″
Peter frowned. ″You're right, though. One missed dose shouldn't have made a difference. When I was under treatment, I had to skip several doses before I got my powers back. Maybe it's different since his powers are artificial?″
″Beats me,″ Sylar said. ″Maybe it's because he's nearly due for his serum transfusion. I'm taking him in tomorrow.″
″Then what am I doing here?″ Peter said, annoyed. ″You told me you didn't want to take him into the facility.″
″I didn't want to tell them he'd stopped eating,″ Sylar corrected. ″Or that his psychiatric symptoms have gotten so bad.″
″So you want me to make him better by tomorrow?″
″Well, not better better, obviously. Just presentable.″ Sylar gave him a hopeful look.
Peter sighed. ″Where is he now?″
″He's upstairs. When I got here, he was hallucinating pretty badly, and then all of a sudden he just collapsed.″
″He's hallucinating?″ Peter asked.
″Yeah. He thought I was his dad.″
″And you say he hasn't been eating at all?″
″I don’t know. I just thought he was skipping dinner, but he's so thin now, and he keeps saying he isn't hungry. I got him to drink some milk and I gave him more power suppressants.″
″What is he taking besides the power suppressants?″
Sylar took the two medicine wheels out of his jacket, along with the paper the doctor had given him that listed all of the medications and dosages, and put them on the table. ″Jesus,″ Peter said under his breath. He rubbed his face for a moment. ″All right,″ he said. He reached into his bag and took out a can of soup. ″Where do you keep your pots?″
Sylar went to the cupboard and took out a pot. ″Do you want me to heat that up?″
″No, I'll do it,″ Peter said, taking the pot from him. ″You need to leave.″
″What?″ Sylar said. ″Why?″
″I want to try to get him to eat, and I'm pretty sure he's not going to do that with you around.″
″You can't kick me out of my own house!″ Sylar said. He was starting to feel annoyed at himself for trusting Peter enough to give him his address.
″Look, do you want my help or not?″ Peter said.
They glared at each other for a moment before Sylar relented. ″Fine,″ he said. ″How long do you want me gone?″
″A couple of hours, at least.″
″A couple of hours?″ Sylar said. ″What am I supposed to do?″
″I don't know,″ Peter said. ″Go buy me a toothbrush.″
″Why do you need a toothbrush?″
″Because I'm staying the night, and I forgot to bring one,″ he said. He opened a drawer and pulled out a can opener. ″Now get out of here.″
″If you try and take him from me, I'll kill you,″ Sylar said. When he saw Peter's horrified expression, he added, ″Just kidding.″
Peter turned his attention back to the soup. ″No, you weren't,″ he said.
Sylar didn't feel like arguing, so he left. He bought a toothbrush at the drugstore, but that didn't take up very much time. He drove to the outlet mall just outside of town and walked around the department stores, looking for furniture and decorations to replace the ones that Mohinder had ruined. He explained to the nice young salesclerk that his rambunctious kids had jumped on the sofa until the legs snapped, and then his dog had chewed up the arm of his chair into an unsalvageable pulp – all in the same day, if you can believe it. She said she definitely could, having two rowdy kids of her own, and even gave him a discount.
It was ten o'clock by the time he got home. He left the furniture in the SUV, figuring he'd move it in tomorrow, but he did carry in the bag from the drugstore. He found Peter at the kitchen table, picking through pills and sorting them into piles.
Sylar sat down at the table beside him. ″What are you doing?″ he asked.
″Do you know how the power suppressants work? They suppress adrenal function ,” Peter said, answering his own question before Sylar had the chance to say anything.
“I knew that,” Sylar said, because he did.
“So you know, then, that the lack of normal levels of adrenalin are going to severely limit his energy levels, right? And do you know about the other medications they have him on - all these anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers and tranquilizers. You want to take a guess at what kind of side effects they have?” Peter sounded angry. “No wonder he can barely move.”
“But even with all of these medications, he’s still crazy,” Sylar said. “I don’t see how taking him off of them is going to improve anything.”
“You know, calling someone ‘crazy’ is actually pretty offensive,” Peter said. “And I’m not saying he should stop all his medications. He obviously needs to be on something, but he definitely doesn’t need to be on everything, which it looks like what his doctor is throwing at him.”
“Do you have a lot of experience with these kinds of medications?”
Peter paused. “Yeah,” he said.
“I thought you were a hospice nurse.”
“I was. But nursing school obviously covers more than that, and I was top of my class.” Peter paused. “But that’s not the only reason why I know about these medications. I used to be on a few of these.” Peter looked at Sylar like maybe he was expecting him to express some surprise. When he didn’t, Peter turned his attention back on the pills. “I have no idea why I just told you that,” he muttered.
“When were you on them?” Sylar asked.
“My first semester of college. I got kind of lost, I guess. Scared some people. They put me in a hospital for a few weeks. Only Ma knew; she made sure that no one would find out. Even Nathan doesn’t know, so don’t tell him.”
“Right, because I talk to him all the time,” Sylar said, rolling his eyes. “Isn’t he in DC?”
“Yeah,” Peter said. “How he is still a senator is a mystery to me,” he added, very bitterly.
Sylar almost asked Peter what was up with him and Nathan, seeing as they used to seem pretty close, but he decided that he didn’t want to set off that potential landmine at the moment. He watched Peter pick the pills apart for a few moments. “How is he?” he asked quietly.
“He’s all right,” Peter said. “I looked him over, and I don't think he's in any immediate danger. He's malnourished, but not starving. He ate the soup, and I gave him some vitamins. I managed to coax him out of the closet; he's in bed now, resting .” Peter finished separating the pills. He picked up the paper that listed the medications. It had been folded so many times that it didn’t lie flat on the table; Peter attempted to smooth it out.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Sylar said. “You aren’t a doctor.”
Peter gave him a crooked smile. “Yeah, I’m better - I’m a nurse.” He looked back at the paper. “It’s going to take some trial and error, though. We’ll have to watch him pretty closely.”
“‘We?’” Sylar asked. “How long are you staying?”
“I don’t know,” Peter said. “As long as I need to.”
“Not to sound ungrateful or anything, but don’t you have other things to do?”
Peter shrugged. “Not at the moment. I can’t get a job. I think Ma might be blackballing me.”
“She can do that?”
“She knows a lot of people,” Peter said. “And a lot of people owe her favors.”
“But – why?”
“To make me come to her for money. My family’s pretty fucked up, in case you haven’t noticed.”
“You mean our family,” Sylar pointed out.
Peter ignored the remark. “And even if I was employed, I’d never leave Mohinder here to die.”
“I wouldn’t let him die,” Sylar said.
Peter gave him a long look. “You really care about what happens to him, don’t you?”
“Of course I do.”
Sylar wanted to explain that he loved him, or that he wanted to love him, but he didn't think Peter would understand. He wanted to change the subject, so he reached into the plastic bag he’d brought in and took out the toothbrush. “I got you the toothbrush you asked for,” he said, holding it out to him.
Peter took it. “Thanks.” He stared at it for a minute, and then sighed. “I should probably just accept that my life is never going to resemble anything close to normal, shouldn’t I?” He put the toothbrush on the table.
Sylar wasn’t sure if he was supposed to answer that, so instead he asked, “Are you hungry?”
“Yeah, actually,” Peter said.
“Me too. I’ll get us something.”
Sylar ended up making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They sat at the table together to eat them. Sylar thought it was all very homey, but then Peter said, “You know that this doesn’t mean things are okay between us, right?”
But it’s a start, Sylar thought. “I’m going to go to bed,” he said instead. “I have to be up early.”
“You don’t sleep in the master bedroom, do you?” Peter asked.
“No,” he said. “I sleep in the guest bedroom.″
″Good,″ Peter said. ″He needs as much undisturbed rest as he can get.″
″There's pillows and blankets in the hall closet – ″ Sylar added.
″No need,″ Peter interrupted. ″I brought my own bedding.”
“So you’re going to crash on the couch, then?”
“That’s what I figured.”
“Why don’t you stay in the main bedroom?”
Peter’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “What, with Mohinder?”
“Yeah. You said you need to watch him, right?”
“You would be okay with that?”
“I don’t know - because you seem insanely possessive?” Peter said.
Sylar shrugged. “If you were going to try to smuggle him out of here, you would have already tried it. And I really doubt that you’re going to make a move on him.”
“That’s uncharacteristically reasonable of you.”
“Not really,” Sylar said. “I like to fix things. And a big part of that is using the right tools. You’re the right tool.”
“Gee, thanks,” Peter said. He started sorting through the pills again.
Sylar stood awkwardly in the doorway for a moment, watching Peter. “Well,″ he said eventually. ″Good night.”
“‘Night,” Peter said without looking up.
Sylar went upstairs and went into the master bedroom. Mohinder was sleeping in the bed, just as Peter had said. It might have been his imagination, but it did seem like Mohinder looked a little better. He looked like he was actually sleeping, rather than lying in some torpor as he had been.
He got what he needed for the night and retired to the guest bedroom. In spite of the drama of the day, he found it easy to fall asleep. His first, deepest ability to know how things worked was clicking - he knew that Peter was the answer he was looking for. He was a healer, and now that he was involved, he couldn’t walk away.
A/N: Huge thanks, as always, to my wonderful beta !
Sorry for the delay! A lot of this fic has changed from my original plans, so chapters are probably going to be a bit slow in coming. I'm working as fast as possible, I swear. And I'm finally accepting the fact that I have no idea how many chapters there are going to be. Somewhere between 10 and 12, probably.
Sylar woke up early the next morning. Before he did anything else, he went to the master bedroom and peeked his head in the door. Mohinder was still sleeping peacefully in the bed, and Peter was curled up in a sleeping bag on the floor beside him. Mohinder's arm was hanging off the bed, his hand opened as if reaching out to him.
Sylar turned and left the room. He quietly went down the stairs and out the door to the SUV. He saw the furniture and made a note to take it in before he left for the day. But first – there was a kit he kept in the glove department that contained, among other things, several covert listening devices that he and Bennet sometimes used when they were investigating a subject. He selected one and brought it into the house, climbing the stairs as carefully as he had descended them. He crept into the master bedroom and put the bug behind a picture frame.
It wasn't that he didn't trust Peter; he trusted that he couldn't be anything but himself, which meant that he would inevitably try some ill-informed do-gooding. He didn't think that Peter was going to forcibly kidnap Mohinder against his will; he hadn't tried it last night, which would have been the perfect opportunity. And he was confident that Mohinder's fears over his condition would make him resist any attempts to get him to leave. Still, Sylar wasn't an idiot. Instead of going to work this morning, he figured he'd park down the street and keep an ear on them for a little while, until he was sure that Peter wasn't going to try anything stupid.
He got his black suit from the closet and went to the guest bathroom to take a shower. Twenty minutes later, he was showered, shaved, and dressed. He headed downstairs to get some breakfast. As he went downstairs, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafted towards him. He went into the kitchen and found Peter standing in front of the stove, briskly whisking something in a bowl. He was wearing a tee shirt and boxer shorts, as well as a ratty robe that he left untied; the belt hung loosely from the loops and swayed whenever he moved.
″Good morning,″ Sylar said.
Peter gave a wordless grunt in response.
″What are you making?″
″Is there enough for two?″ Sylar asked as he poured himself a cup of coffee.
″Oh,″ he said with disappointment. Peter gave him a look, sighed, and cracked another two eggs in the bowl. Sylar took a sip of coffee to hide his grin.
Sylar sat down at the table and watched Peter cook. ″How's Mohinder?″ he asked eventually.
″Okay,″ Peter said. ″He woke up a couple of times. I got him to drink some more milk, but he was pretty out of it. He’s sleeping now.” Peter finished the eggs. He got out two plates and divided the eggs between them, then added a piece of toast to each plate. He set them down on the table before taking a seat himself.
″So what are you going to do today?″ Peter asked.
″I'm going to work,″ Sylar lied. ″I'll come back around lunchtime to pick Mohinder up and take him for the transfusion.″
″I could just take him,″ Peter pointed out.
″All right,″ Sylar said. ″I'm sure Mother will be glad to see you.″
It was all that Sylar could do to not laugh at the expression on Peter's face. ″You know, on second thought, maybe you should take him.″
They finished eating without further conversation. Once they’d cleared away the dishes, Sylar went out to the SUV for the furniture. He’d only been able to fit the armchair and the end tables he’d purchased; the sofa was going to be delivered later. It was still very early out; he thought maybe he could get away with using telekinesis. Just as he was about to lift the armchair, the neighbor across the street stepped out of his house to retrieve his newspaper. To Sylar’s annoyance, he waved to him and started towards him. Sylar took a quick survey of the man. He was older, a little on the heavy side, dressed in striped pajamas and fluffy slippers. There was an American flag hanging from a pole in the front yard, and there was a yellow ribbon bumper sticker on the white sedan in his driveway. Sylar smiled. He knew what this man would like to hear.
The man finished crossing the road. He gestured to the wreck that was the front of Sylar’s house. “I heard the commotion yesterday. What happened, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Sylar made a show of looking around, and then stepped in very close to the other man. He reached into his jacket and pulled out the fake badge he kept in there. “I can tell you, but I’ll have to swear you to secrecy. What’s your name?”
“Ed,” said the man. “Ed Jenkins.”
“Well, Ed Jenkins,” Sylar said. “Do you solemnly swear never to divulge the information I’m about to reveal to you?”
The man’s eyes grew wide. He nodded.
“I’m Agent Gabriel Petrelli, and I’m with the CIA,” Sylar said, keeping his voice low and confidential. “This is a safehouse for an Iraqi scientist who’s defected to the United States. He’s working on a top secret weapon for the government.”
“Golly,” said Ed.
“There was a slight mishap yesterday,” Sylar continued. “Nothing you need to concern yourself with; it won’t happen again. He wasn’t even supposed to be testing things here, but there’ve been some hold-ups with the lab we’re setting up for him, and he’s getting a little antsy. He wants to prove that he’s committed to aiding the United States of America. And fighting terrorism. His whole family was killed in a terrorist attack.”
“Those bastards,” Ed said, with feeling.
“So you can appreciate that this is very sensitive information. He’s a target. If word gets out…they might find him. They have spies everywhere.”
Ed looked around, as if expecting a terrorist to jump out from behind a bush. “You know, I almost called the police yesterday,” he said.
Sylar made a dismissive sound. “I’m glad you didn’t,” he said. “Nothing against the police force – they’re all fine men, I’m sure. But we don’t need the locals involved with this.”
Ed nodded in agreement. “I could tell you had things under control,” he said. “I’m instinctive like that.”
“Yes, I can see that,” Sylar said. “That’s something I picked up immediately. That’s why I’m trusting you with this.”
“You can count on me,” Ed said.
“Do you think any of the other neighbors are going to be suspicious?” Sylar asked.
“I doubt it,” Ed said. “They’re all too involved with themselves. That’s the trouble with our society today – no one cares about their neighbors anymore. Say – do you need help with that?” he added, pointing at the furniture.
“Sure,” Sylar said.
He and Ed carried the armchair in first. Peter rushed into the living room when he heard them. “What’s going on?” he said. “Who’s this?”
“Don’t worry,” Sylar said. “He knows.”
Peter gave him an extremely confused look.
“Is he CIA, too?” Ed asked.
“No, Peter here is a civilian,” Sylar said. “He’s Dr. Suresh’s nurse. Dr. Suresh was severely injured in the terrorist attack. They used some freak biological weapon – he’s lucky to be alive at all.”
Ed frowned. “Suresh – doesn’t sound Iraqi.”
“Well, his father is Indian,” Sylar explained. “Or I guess was Indian, since he’s dead and all.”
“That poor man,” Ed said. “I’d like to meet him. Shake his hand and welcome him to the country.”
“Um,” Peter said. “He’s resting.”
“Maybe some other time,” Sylar said. “I’m sure he’d appreciate it. Would you mind grabbing one of the end tables? Peter can help me with this.”
“Sure,” Ed said, and went back outside.
“Are you out of your mind?!” Peter said in a furious whisper.
Sylar shrugged. “He wanted to know what happened yesterday. I had to tell him something.”
“What did you say, exactly?”
“That Mohinder is an Iraqi weapons scientist who has defected to the United States to fight terrorism, and that he botched a minor experiment yesterday.”
Peter just shook his head and left the room.
Ed finished helping Sylar with the furniture and returned to his own house. When he was gone, Sylar got in the SUV and drove down the street and parked in an inconspicuous area. He pulled out the surveillance receiver and waited.
Nothing happened for a while. At one point, Ed walked by with his dog and spotted Sylar holding the receiver. Sylar gave him a solemn nod. Ed saluted in response. About an hour later, he still hadn't heard anything but Mohinder's soft snores. It was almost a relief when his phone rang. He glanced at the screen; it was Bennet. ″Yeah?″
″Where are you?″ Bennet said. ″And more importantly, why aren't you here?″
″I'm busy,″ Sylar said. ″I'll come in later.″
″It doesn't work that way,″ Bennet said, his voice taking on the steely pseudo-calmness that intimidated other people. ″You left abruptly, and without permission, yesterday. That was bad enough. You will come in when you are expected.″
″Sorry, no can do. But hey, could you be a buddy and punch my time card? I wouldn't want my boss finding out. I mean, I could get in so much trouble, right?″
Sylar wished he could see the expression on Bennet's face; he bet it was very entertaining. ″This isn't over,″ Bennet said.
″Whatever,″ Sylar said, and hung up the phone. He decided he was done playing nice with Bennet. He'd tried, he really had. He also needed to have a little chat with Mommy Dearest. He didn’t want to believe what Bennet had said, but it sounded all too plausible. He was tired of taking orders, anyway. If she wanted to keep him around, some changes were going to have to be made.
He turned his attention back to the receiver. It wasn't until about 10am that Mohinder began to stir. Sylar heard him get up, then the flush of a toilet. A few minutes later, he heard a knock, followed by the door creaking open.
″Hey,″ Peter said. ″Thought I heard you up and around. I brought you your medicine and some breakfast – no, stay in bed, I'll bring it to you.″ There was a rattling sound, like a tray being carried. ″Scrambled eggs. Hope that's okay.″
″Peter?″ Mohinder said, sounding confused. ″What are you doing here?″
″You don't remember?″
There was a pause as Mohinder thought about it. ″You came last night,″ he said finally. ″To help me, you said. But I thought that was a dream, or a hallucination.″
″It wasn't a dream,″ Peter said. ″And I'm not a hallucination.″
″That's what they all say,″ Mohinder murmured under his breath, and then, ″Ouch! Did you just pinch me?″
″It's what you're supposed to do, right? If you think you're dreaming, you have someone pinch you. And if it hurts, it's real – OW!″
″Did that hurt?″
″So we're both real, then.″
″I don't think that’s how – never mind. Yes, we're both real,″ Peter said. ″How are you feeling?"
″Not really,″ Mohinder said. “In situations like these, coherency is not particularly attractive.”
“So you are coherent sometimes?”
“It comes and goes. More going lately than coming,” Mohinder said. ″And you're wasting your time, you know. You can't help me. The damage I've done to myself is irreversible.″
″But there are treatments, aren’t there?″
″Treatments, yes. Not cures. And not very good treatments, evidently, considering what a mess I'm in.″
“I see,” Peter said. ″Is that why you don't want to eat? Are you trying to kill yourself?″
″You shouldn't have come here,″ Mohinder said in lieu of an answer. ″I appreciate your concern, but there's nothing you can do for me.″
″So what, you're just going to give up? That's not the Mohinder I know.″
Mohinder laughed. It wasn't a pleasant sound. ″Of course, because you knew me so well. Tell me, the Mohinder you knew – did you think he was capable of murder? Or of kidnapping, or torture?″
″No, I didn't.″
″Then I suppose you didn't know me at all,″ Mohinder said bitterly.
″But you weren't you when you did those things,″ Peter said.
″How would you know?”
″Because the same thing happened to me,″ Peter said. ″I took on an ability I couldn't handle, and I did some really terrible things.″
“And what ability was that?” There was a skeptical sneer underlying Mohinder’s words.
″I think you labeled it ‘intuitive aptitude.’”
“Oh,” Mohinder said. He no longer sounded skeptical. “From Sylar, you mean.”
“What was it like?” Mohinder asked quietly.
Peter took a long time to answer. ″Need,″ he finally said. ″I felt like I needed so much, it pulled at everything like there was a black hole inside me. And I knew that I would destroy everything and anything to stop feeling that need. I snapped Sylar's neck; he got better, obviously, but I didn't know he would at the time. I tried to kill my mother, too. I think I would have, if Sylar hadn't stopped me. And then I went after my father.”
“And what happened?” Mohinder said. “Did you hurt him?”
″No,” Peter said. “My dad had the power to suck abilities out of people, and he took all of mine. The moment he did that, I felt like I was waking up from a nightmare. I couldn't believe the things that I'd done. And yes, I feel terrible, and yes, it was still my fault – but that isn't the whole story, and if you're condemning yourself to death over what you did, then you'd have to condemn me, too. Do you think I deserve to die?″
″No, of course not.″
″Then maybe you should give yourself a break.″
Mohinder didn’t respond right away. ″I don't really want to die,” he finally said. “I feel like I should – because of the things I've done, and because of what I've become. But there's some part of me that wants to live, in spite of everything...″ He trailed off. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
″That’s okay, we don’t have to,” Peter said. There was a clicking sound, like the tray was being moved. “Your eggs are getting cold. Do you want me to heat them up?”
There was a very pronounced silence, and then finally Mohinder said, ″Yes.″
″I'll be right back.”Ten minutes later, Sylar heard the clinking of the tray again, and then the sound of silverware clicking on the plate. ″I really don’t have an appetite,″ Mohinder said. ″The thought of food makes me nauseated, especially with what he makes. Have you ever seen something called a 'jello mold?' It's frightening.″
Peter laughed. “I’ll try to make things more appetizing.”
“You’re staying?” Mohinder said, surprised.
“Yeah, for a little while,″ Peter said. “Unless you want to get out of here. Maybe I can talk to Sylar and – ″
″No,″ Mohinder said vehemently. ″I have to stay here. I'm still capable of terrible things, even with the medications and the treatments. And if I lose control – no, when I lose control, I need someone who's able to stop me. Sylar is the only one who can. My only other option is to be at the facility, and I won't go back there – I can't go back there!″
″Okay,″ Peter said gently. ″That's your choice, and I respect it. I just had to ask.″ And then, after a moment, he asked, “Do you know why Sylar has this weird thing for you? I mean, it just seems so random, considering your history.”
“We had sex,” Mohinder said flatly. “I initiated it. And I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh, wow,” Peter said. He quickly added, “I’m sorry, that sounded judgmental. I’m just surprised.”
“So was I,” Mohinder muttered.
“You don’t have to have sex with him again just because you agreed to it once,” Peter said.
“I know,” Mohinder said. “I have a handle on it. He won’t force me. That’s not what he wants.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to get out of here?” Peter asked. “This is all beyond unhealthy.”
“I’m sure. Besides,” he added. “We’ve already established that I have nowhere else to go.”
“If you’re sure,” Peter said. “But even if you stay here, this can’t be your whole life. Have you told your family what’s happened?”
″No,” Mohinder said. “What would I say? How could I possibly explain any of this? I wish to God that I had left my father's death alone. Instead, I learned things about him that I wish I'd never known, and then I was sucked into all of this. They're better off thinking I've disappeared, or that I'm dead.″
“I don’t think that’s true.”
“That isn’t your decision to make, is it?” Mohinder snapped.
“And it’s not yours, either,” Peter pointed out. “They should have a say.”
There was silence for a few moments. “I can’t do it,” Mohinder said. “I can’t tell my mother. And Molly…”
“That’s the little girl, right? Is she with your mother now?”
“Yes. Thank God I sent her away before she saw me like this. She’s been through so much…” He broke off. “The damage has already been done though, hasn’t it? She’s already dealt with so many people disappearing from her life. And now I’ve added to it."
"Do you want me to call your mother for you?” Peter asked.
When Mohinder spoke again, it was so quiet that Sylar had to strain to hear. “What will you say?”
“We can work it out later,” Peter said. “I think you could use some rest now.”
“All right,” Mohinder said. He sounded so sad and defeated.
“But – um, maybe a shower first, if you’re up for it?”
“Oh,” Mohinder said, as if being reminded of a bit of esoteric information. “Right, showers. I must smell dreadful right now.”
“Yeah, a little.”
Surprisingly, Mohinder started laughing – a small, weak sound, but genuine. “A shower sounds nice, actually.”
“I’ll leave you to it, then. Unless you need help?”
“No, I can manage,” Mohinder said. “Thank you.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
It sounded like Peter started to leave, but Mohinder called after him. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but why are you doing this? You hardly know me.”
“I know you enough,” Peter said. “And I care about you. I’m sure your mother does, too, and so does Molly. Try to keep that in mind, okay?”
At that, Mohinder let out a choked sob. He sounded like he was trying to control it, but another sob followed the first, and soon he was crying in earnest. But his cries were different from the ones Sylar had heard from him before. He didn’t sound despairing; he sounded relieved.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Peter said. “Do you need me to stay?”
“No,” Mohinder said. “I’m all right. Go, please.”
And then there was silence.
Sylar took his ear phones off and started to process what he’d just heard. He felt annoyed. That was it? That was all it took? It didn’t seem like Peter said anything that he himself couldn’t have said. He’d simply sounded sympathetic, and Mohinder fell open for him, pouring out all of his miseries. There had been a hug at the end there, he thought sourly. He was sure of it. But Sylar was the one who had rescued Mohinder. He was the one who deserved a hug.
It was the whole exchange about their abilities that bothered him the most. Peter had described Sylar’s ability perfectly. If he was so aware of exactly what Sylar had been through, then why was he still so hostile? Why could Peter forgive himself and encourage Mohinder to do the same, and yet continue to treat Sylar like a monster? It wasn’t fair.
And even though he had expected it, it also irritated him that Peter had tried to talk Mohinder out of the house. At least Peter hadn’t tried to sneak him away, but still, he had said he wouldn’t, but he did anyway. He was a liar. And so was Mohinder; he had told him he didn’t remember the sex they’d had, but that wasn’t true. He hit the steering wheel with frustration. Why was everyone always lying to him?
He drove around for a little while until he began to calm down. He reluctantly admitted that perhaps Peter had done a few things that Sylar wouldn’t have thought of on his own. For instance, it hadn’t even crossed his mind that Mohinder might be lonely for his family. He didn’t like thinking about the ties Mohinder might have to other people. And Peter did have a very soothing manner about him. He knew the right things to say, and more importantly, when and how to say them. Instead of being annoyed at Peter’s success, he should be pleased with his own judgment to bring him in. All he needed to do was observe Peter in action for a little while, and he’d be able to take over Mohinder’s recovery himself. It couldn’t be that hard, could it?
He went to a fast food restaurant to get some lunch. Afterward, he got back into the car and practiced sounding comforting. “I care about you,” he said to his reflection in the rearview mirror. “I care about you. I care about you.” He sighed. Why was it that the more he actually meant something, the less convincing it sounded? Fake emotions were easy; this was much more difficult.
It was about 1pm when he got back to the house. Mohinder was sitting in the living room with Peter, watching the television he had thankfully failed to destroy in his tirade. In some ways, he looked much improved. He was clean and dressed, and his demeanor was more normal – his posture was relaxed, rather than hunched, and the look on his face was not quite as haunted.
On the other hand, it appeared that his physical symptoms were much worse. The scales were as dark and hard-looking as they had been when he’d first brought Mohinder in, and Mohinder was holding his hands in his laps with his palms facing up; Sylar could see they were sticky and spongy. And he was still so thin; fortunately, the clothes made his gauntness less pronounced.
He took Mohinder out to the car, opening the door for him since his hands were in such bad shape. They said next to nothing on their way to the facility; Sylar was still working on what he wanted to say, and besides, he wanted Mohinder to be in the best frame of mind as possible.
When they reached the facility, Sylar took him to Dr. Riceman’s office. To his credit, the doctor was very respectful and kind, addressing Mohinder as ‘Dr. Suresh’ as he prepared him for the transfusion. Sylar waited until Dr. Riceman went through some questions about how he was feeling; Sylar wanted to make sure Mohinder wouldn’t say anything to raise red flags. He shouldn’t have worried; Mohinder wanted to be kept there as little as Sylar did. Once that was settled and the transfusion had begun, Sylar left. The process took about an hour, so he had some time to kill.
He went to his mother’s office. She was there, fortunately, sitting at her desk and looking through some papers.
She looked up when he entered. “Gabriel,” she said. “So you came in after all. Bennet said you might not.”
Sylar shrugged. “I came to bring Mohinder for his transfusion. I’m leaving as soon as he’s done.”
Angela pursed her lips. “I see,” she said. “Are you planning on coming into work tomorrow?”
“Maybe,” Sylar said. “But I’m not working with Bennet anymore.”
“May I ask why?”
“He said that the only reason you paired me with him was as insurance in case I got out of control,” he said. “He implied you ordered him to kill me if that happened. Any idea why he would say something like that?”
Angela was very still for a moment. “He said that because it’s what I told him,” she said.
Sylar was somewhat stunned that she admitted it. Before he had a chance to respond, she continued. “But it’s really the other way around – I need you to keep an eye on him.” She sighed. “I’m sorry, dear. I should have told you explicitly instead of just assuming you knew.”
“Why would you need me to keep an eye on him?”
“He’s only working with me under duress, as you know, which makes his loyalty questionable at best. And he’s a dangerous man. He shot my son, after all.”
“Because you ordered him to,” Sylar pointed out.
“Well, yes, obviously. But he pulled the trigger, didn’t he? It's actually rather rare to find someone able to be that ruthless; most people can't, even when threatened. That makes Bennet very valuable. But I can’t trust him.” She stood up from her desk and walked over to Sylar, placing a hand on his cheek. “You however, are my own blood, and are more powerful than anyone else here. If there’s anyone who can keep him in line, it’s you.”
Sylar hesitated. It did make sense. While he was trying to formulate what to say, she pulled him into a hug. “My poor boy. What must you have thought? I’m tempted to throw him out, no matter how useful he might be.” She pulled back. “Of course, I’ll have to if you won’t work with him. Such a shame – it’s so difficult to break in new people.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Sylar said. “I’ll work with him.”
Angela smiled. “That’s my boy.” She sat down at her desk again. “Why don’t you take the next few days off? Spend some time with Suresh. How is he, by the way?”
“He’s fine,” Sylar said. “Peter’s been helping me take care of him.”
“Peter?” she said. She was surprised at first, but collected herself quickly. “Well, well. My boys, getting along. How lovely. I knew he couldn’t stay away from us forever. Tell him he should come see his mother sometime.”
“I will,” Sylar said.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” she said. “There are a few things that require my attention.”
“Of course,” Sylar said.
He went to his own office, shut the blinds, and sat down in his chair to think. Angela had told him exactly what he wanted to hear. He wanted so desperately to believe her. And didn’t Sylar always do what he wanted? Besides, he wasn’t planning on “snapping,” so Bennet would never have cause to move against him. And if that was never going to happen anyway, it might as well be true that it was because Angela trusted him over Bennet, and would never dream of hurting her favorite son. The truth was an elastic thing, as Sylar well knew. It could easily stretch to fit what he wanted.
After the hour was up, he went to collect Mohinder. He looked much better already; the scales had faded and his hands had returned to normal. “How are you feeling?” he asked as they walked out of the building. When Mohinder didn’t answer, he prompted him. “Better?”
Mohinder nodded, but did not seem inclined to further the conversation.
Sylar waited until they were almost home to attempt conversation again. He parked the car in the driveway, but before Mohinder could open the door, he said, “Wait. There’s something I’d like to tell you.”
Mohinder crossed his arms and waited. Sylar licked his lips before he continued and placed a reassuring hand on Mohinder’s knee. “I know things have been difficult for you, and I know that you must feel like it will never get better. I know those dark feelings, because I’ve been through them myself. You feel so lost because of what you’ve done; you think that there’s no way to turn yourself around. But that isn’t true – I mean, look at me. I’ve made a new life for myself, and you can do it, too. And I care about you. We can make it through this together.”
Sylar smiled. He had nailed it – his tone had been perfect, filled with compassion and just the right amount of regret. And he’d practiced his expression enough that he knew his eyes were wide and hopeful, his smile quirked just the right amount to look not gleeful or patronizing, but warm and vulnerable.
Mohinder looked at the hand on his knee for a moment. “If you want to fuck me, all you have to do is say so. I don’t require seducing.”
Sylar blinked. “What?”
“I’m probably at my least repulsive at the moment, and I’m not gibbering like a maniac,” Mohinder continued. “If you want sex, now’s probably the time. Although I suppose it will be awkward with Peter in the house. Shall I get into the back seat?”
“What?” Sylar said again. He noticed that his hand was still on Mohinder’s knee; he jerked it back hastily. “No, that’s not what I meant. I don’t want to have sex with you – not like this.”
“Why not? That’s our quid pro quo, isn’t it?”
“No,” Sylar said, feeling a little flustered. “Why would you think that?”
“I don’t know,” Mohinder said. “You have this whole domestic scenario set up. I don’t know why, but it seems like you want to play house, and for some unfathomable reason, I am the doll you’ve chosen to play it with. I assumed sex would be part of it.”
“And so you think that when I tell you that I care about you, it’s just part of some game I’m playing?”
Mohinder shrugged. “Do you require more of my participation? Do you want me to tell you I love you back?”
“No!” Sylar said. “I mean – yes, but…” Sylar broke off, frustrated. “Is it really so hard to believe that I really care for you?”
“Well, yes, quite frankly.”
“But it’s true,” Sylar said. “I love you.”
“Oh, of course,” Mohinder said with a sneer. “And when was it, exactly, that you fell in love with me? Was it when you were fucking me when I was most of the way out of my mind? Was it when you broke into my apartment and threatened me and my child with a gun? Or was it before then, when you battered me until I bled, and then pinned me to the ceiling?”
“I was a different person when I did those things.”
At that, Mohinder started to laugh.
“Stop it,” Sylar said angrily.
“I’m sorry, I can’t help it. It’s a complete farce. You can’t possibly expect me to believe that.”
“That isn’t fair,” Sylar said, exploding with frustration. “When Peter tells you that he was a different person when he went on a killing spree, you’re all sympathetic! Why doesn’t that apply to me?”
Mohinder stared at him for a moment. “You were listening to our conversation.” He shook his head and let out a little half-laugh of disbelief. “That shouldn’t bother me, I suppose, in comparison with everything else you’ve done to me.”
“And what about what I’ve done for you?” Sylar said. “I saved your life!”
“Don’t expect me to thank you for that, because I’m still not convinced that my life was worth saving.”
“But I saved you from more than death, didn’t I?” Sylar said. “If it wasn’t for me, you’d either be rotting in a cell somewhere with a needle in your arm and a tube down your throat, or you’d still be out in the world, a monster stalking the streets for people to kill.”
“You mean like you?” Mohinder shot back.
“Like I used to be,” he conceded.
“I was never like you! I was just looking for a cure. I didn’t want to…” He trailed off.
“To kill?” Sylar said. “I didn’t, either. At least, not at first. I was only concerned with getting abilities. But it starts to feel good after a while, doesn’t it?” Mohinder didn’t say anything, but Sylar could see that he was getting to him, so he continued. “The whole world has beaten you around for your entire life, and suddenly, you’re strong enough to beat back.”
Mohinder shut his eyes. He was shaking slightly, but Sylar wasn’t done making his point. “With so much power, you think you’re in control, but it’s bigger than you; it’s all-consuming, like a wild fire, and if I hadn’t intervened, it would have burned and burned, and you would have watched as everything around you was destroyed, including the people you loved. And you would have been helpless to stop it. And that fire hasn’t gone away, Mohinder. It’s burning inside you right now – you can feel it, can’t you?”
“Yes,” Mohinder said very quietly, without opening his eyes.
“And you know that I’m the only one who can stop it if it blazes out of control again, don’t you?”
Mohinder just nodded this time. His earlier arrogance was gone now, and he was pliant and passive again. Sylar sighed. This wasn’t what he wanted. All he had expected from his declaration was for Mohinder to smile and say thank you, and maybe give him a hug. But it was always a battle between them; maybe that would never change.
Sylar took off his seat belt and leaned over until he was facing Mohinder. Mohinder’s eyes were still shut tight. Sylar put a hand on his face. “Look at me,” he said. With great effort, Mohinder opened his eyes. “I’m helping you because I love you,” Sylar said. “And I’m going to make you better. Tell me you believe me.”
“I believe you,” Mohinder said faintly. But Sylar knew he was lying.
Sylar could kiss him now, if he wanted to. Mohinder would let him. Sylar could take him into the back seat, or he could take him inside and bring him upstairs. He could kick Peter out, tell him his services were no longer needed, because while he couldn’t make Mohinder truly well himself, he might be able to make him well enough to mold into the fantasy of what he wanted. Even if it would never be real, it could be real enough. It was what everyone expected him to do – Bennet, his mother, Peter, and Mohinder himself.
He felt very tired suddenly. He telekinetically opened the passenger door. “Get out,” he said. Mohinder quickly complied. The moment he was out the door, Sylar put the car in reverse and sped off down the street. There was something inside him that was close to breaking, and one more look at Mohinder might shatter it completely.
The drive from Hartsdale to Richmond, Virginia took about seven and a half hours. Sylar and Bennet had flown when they’d gone a few weeks before, but booking a flight would require more thought than Sylar was capable of at the moment. Besides, he needed time, and he needed to be alone, so the drive wasn’t trouble at all. And there was no rush. His prey wasn’t going anywhere.
He was going to pay a visit to one Tom Miller. He could have picked another who was closer, but this one was perfect. First of all, he and Bennet had already investigated him and dismissed him as harmless, so there was no reason the Company would go looking for him again. Secondly, this one’s ability allowed him to disintegrate objects with a snap of his fingers, which would make body disposal – well, a snap. And most importantly, he was a loner; no one would miss him.
Sylar hadn’t meant to go back to this. He didn’t even want to go back to this, but his last conversation with Mohinder had made it abundantly clear that he was fooling himself. That suburban dream he’d tried to make for himself was as flimsy as spun sugar, and the hunger he had would not be satisfied by it. Killing was messy, and it was ugly, but it was real in a way the life he truly wanted could never be. Bennet had been right. This is what he was – a monster, whether he liked it or not.
He wondered what would happen to Mohinder. He would have to go back to the facility, probably; he felt more than a twinge of guilt over that, but perhaps Peter could help him in his rehabilitation, and they could use Claire’s blood for the transfusions. And it wasn’t as if Mohinder would miss him. At that thought, he felt a prickling sensation behind his eyes. He blinked rapidly and it went away.
He only stopped once along the way. His phone rang about three hours into the trip, but he shut it off. There was a part of him that had missed this – the single-mindedness of the hunt. It was almost midnight when he arrived. Sylar remembered the address and was able to find the apartment building without trouble. He parked across the street but didn’t get out of the car right away; instead, he sat there in the dark, thinking.
Tom Miller was a sixty-two year-old retired file clerk. He was balding, but still had a fringe of unfortunately curly gray hair that feathered out from the side of his head. His front teeth protruded like a rabbit’s; in fact, his whole countenance was rabbit-like, from his beady eyes to the way his whole body quivered when he was nervous, which was all the time, as far as Sylar could tell. His parents were dead, and other members of his family were uninterested in his existence. And who would be? He collected porcelain figurines. Porcelain figurines.
In short, he was a loser. He reminded Sylar of Gabriel a lot. He wasn’t just unloved; he was unlovable. Really, Sylar would be doing him a favor by killing him. It would be an easy kill, too. It was not a good neighborhood, so security wasn’t an issue. He’d be able to walk right in. Since it was night, the man would be asleep. If Sylar moved quickly enough, he wouldn’t even have time to scream, and once he had his ability, Sylar would turn his body into dust. It would be like it never happened.
Except for the blood. No matter how quickly he did it, there would still be blood, everywhere.
Sylar lay his head against the steering wheel and breathed. Why did he care if there was blood? He’d never cared about leaving behind evidence before. And once he had this ability, it would be very difficult to trace him. Without leaving behind decapitated corpses like some grim breadcrumb trail, Bennet or whoever else would have no idea where he was striking. He had scores of names and addresses he’d saved on the sly in a flashdrive he kept in his glove department. If he kept it random enough, they would never catch up with him. He would leave only dust and blood in his wake.
He should do this. He knew it would never satisfy him completely, but he’d get something from it, which was more than he was getting now. He would have the thrill of the kill, and the power that it brought. After a while, the mindlessness he felt in his existence before would settle in again. He would be hungry, but that was all he would be. That didn’t seem like a bad thing anymore.
He brought his head off the steering wheel and looked across the street again. A figure emerged from the building; surprisingly, it was Tom, dressed in a drab overcoat. He was calling out something, his voice high-pitched and unintelligible. A few moments later, a white cat appeared from over a fence and ran to him. It jumped onto his shoulders and rubbed its face against Tom’s, seemingly ecstatic to see him. He laughed at the cat’s exuberance and said something fondly to it while scratching its chin. The two of them went inside.
Who would feed that cat once Sylar killed Tom? Would it be picked up by animal control and euthanized? Sylar could let it out before he killed him, maybe. But then would it come back to the apartment building, night after night, wondering where its friend had gone? Would it mourn him? Would it starve without his care?
Sylar did not move for a very long time. Finally, he reached into his pocket and took out his phone. He turned it on and pressed #3 on his speed dial.
Peter answered on the first ring. “Where the fuck are you?”
“What the hell are you doing there?”
“Nothing,” Sylar said. He found he couldn’t say more than that, so he said it again. “Nothing.”
“You drove all the way to Virginia to do nothing?”
“No. But I don’t want to–“ Sylar broke off. He was shaking. “I don’t want to do it. I don’t.”
“Sylar,” Peter said, concern slowly creeping into his voice. “Tell me what’s going on.”
“Please don’t call me that,” he said. “Please.”
“All right,” Peter said. His earlier anger seemed gone; his tone was very gentle. “Gabriel, I just need you to tell me what you’re doing right now.”
“Okay, okay,” Peter said. “Nothing. Got it. Are you in your car?”
“Are you driving?”
“All right. Can you tell me exactly where you are? An address, maybe?”
“I’m a little worried about you, Gabriel,” Peter said. “It sounds like you might need help. Do you need help?”
He did, of course. But then he imagined what that help was going to look like – Peter would call his mother, and she’d send Bennet and a whole team of agents to take him down. Just admitting that he was losing it was grounds enough for them to lock him up again, or worse. It had been stupid of him to call Peter.
“Gabriel?” Peter said. “Are you still there?”
“I have to go,” Sylar said. He shut off the phone, and then chucked it out the window for good measure. He started the car and sped off down the street.
His head began to ache. The pain became so bad that his vision started to blur. He squinted at the road, trying to keep himself together, but slowly, the edges of the world turned gray, then black, and then there was nothing. Nothing at all.
* * * *
It was a while before Sylar realized where he was. He was in the Diner, sitting at the booth that was his. He used to spend almost all of his time here, waiting. There was an empty plate in front of him. It was always empty; he was always famished.
As awareness continued to come back to him, he reached out and knocked the plate from the table. The ear-splitting shatter jolted him further out of his stupor. He stood up and looked around. The Diner was in complete disarray, as if an earthquake had struck. There were cracks in the floors and the walls – both thick cracks like lightning bolts and little ones like spiderwebs. The lights worked, but only barely; what dim light they provided flickered in and out every few minutes. When he tried to breath, the heavy smell of dust nearly choked him.
Coughing, he looked around the room. He couldn’t see all of the booths clearly, but most of them seemed empty. “Hello?” he called out. “Is there anyone else here?”
He caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned to follow it. The booth looked empty at first, but then he saw the movement again, under the table. He crouched down and peeked underneath. There was a child underneath there. He was five years old; he would always be five years old. He wore thick-framed glasses and racecar pajamas. He was playing with a toy car.
“Hi,” said Sylar.
The Innocent gave him a shy smile. “Hi.”
“I didn’t know you were still here.”
“I was sleeping,” he said. “We all were. Well, ‘cept for you, I guess.”
A feeling of dread began to creep over Sylar. “And the others? They’re waking up, too?”
Instead of answering, he held up his toy car to Sylar. “Look what I found!”
Sylar took it from him. It was a Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV, just like his car. “Where did you get this?” he said.
The Innocent shrugged. “Dunno. Can I have it back?”
Sylar held the toy just out of reach. “You have to tell me who else is awake first.”
“Telling on people is bad!” he said fiercely. “I’ll get in trouble!”
“You won’t. I promise.”
“Liar! You always get in trouble when you tell – always!”
The Innocent seemed dangerously close to a breakdown, so Sylar handed him the toy. “Fine. Here.”
He snatched it from him and darted out from under the booth. Sylar stood up and followed him. The Innocent ran behind the front counter and disappeared behind a door. Sylar was going to go after him, but then he noticed the computer monitor on the counter. This was the Will, the center of them all, the one who knew all of the Gears and set them into motion. There was a starburst crack in one corner of the bulky, ancient screen. Sylar thought that it might be broken, but it flickered on when he tried to walk past. Green text appeared on the black screen:
“I thought you were gone,” Sylar said through gritted teeth.
NEGATIVE. WE SHUT DOWN TEMPORARILY TO MAKE REPAIRS.
“Except for me. I didn’t shut down.”
SOMEONE HAD TO TAKE CONTROL. YOU WERE THE LEAST DAMAGED.
“So what happens when the repairs are complete?”
WE RESUME NORMAL FUNCTIONS.
“You mean, supporting Gabriel,” Sylar said. “You plan to bring him back.”
“And I suppose you expect me to go back to serving his needs.”
THAT IS YOUR FUNCTION, HUNGER.
“Not anymore,” Sylar said. “I’m more than that now. I want my own life.”
The cursor blinked for a moment. THIS LIFE IS NOT YOURS. WE ARE THE GEARS THAT ALLOW GABRIEL GRAY TO FUNCTION. HE IS THE PRIMARY OBJECTIVE.
Sylar’s hands curled into fists. “Where is he?” He walked past the Will and to the door the Innocent had gone through earlier. He tried to turn the handle; it was locked. “He’s behind here, isn’t he?”
YOU DO NOT REQUIRE THAT INFORMATION, it said.
Sylar rattled the doorknob, to no avail. He stood back and started to kick the door. An alarm started to sound. Sylar turned and faced the screen again. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
”There is no fucking way that I’m going back to being a cog in a machine,” Sylar said. “This is my life now – not his!” He began to go after the door again, punctuating his words with kicks. "And I don’t have any room in my life for a spineless – selfish – coin-collecting – LOSER like him!” The last kick cracked the door. He smiled with grim satisfaction. He turned to the counter and found several sets of silverware underneath it. He grabbed a steak knife.
The alarm grew louder. ERROR! ERROR! YOU REQUIRE REPAIRS! RETURN TO YOUR BOOTH IMMEDIATELY!
Sylar ignored it and gave the door one last, shattering kick. But just as it collapsed, a metal gate slammed down where the door used to be. Sylar cursed and pounded on it with a fist, only to be knocked back by an electrical shock. He landed on the floor in front of the Will.
YOU WILL BE SHUT DOWN UNTIL REPAIRS CAN BE MADE, it said.
Sylar got to his feet. There had to be a way to escape. He turned to the main dining area and saw the front door. He ran for it. Alarms started sounding again, and a metal portcullis started to descend from the ceiling to block off the exit. But Sylar was faster, and he slipped out just before the portcullis crashed to the ground. It was so light outside that he couldn’t make out what was around him. The light grew brighter…and brighter…and brighter…
* * * *
Sylar woke up with a start, sucking in big gulps of air as if he’d almost drowned. It took him several long minutes to catch his breath. After he had calmed down somewhat, he sat up and took survey of his surroundings. He was in a bed in a motel room – one of those extended stay units, but not a nice one by the looks of it. The yellowed wallpaper was peeling around the edges. The patchy carpet was an ugly shade of green; it made the floor look like it was covered in fungus. There was an air freshener placed optimistically on the kitchenette counter, but the room still smelled hopelessly of old cigarettes and sweat.
He swung his legs over the side of the bed. It was then that he noticed the nightstand. On it sat an old but sturdy lamp, a plastic cup filled with water – and a pair of black, thick-framed glasses.
“Oh no,” Sylar said. “No no no no.” He grabbed the lamp and used it to crush the glasses, hitting them over and over until the frames were twisted and the lenses broken. Was he too late? Had Gabriel awoken?
It was one thing to know that the Will was up and functioning. The Will was powerful, but it was a machine. It had no desire other than to keep them from shutting down. And the Innocent was just a child – he didn’t venture out much, preferring the safety of inner life. But if Gabriel returned…he would want his life back.
He noticed that his hands were shaking. He shut his eyes and tried to calm down. Before he did anything else, he needed to figure out where the hell he was. He turned on the TV and hit the “Guide” button; the date on the screen told him that it was a week after he blacked out. He looked around the rest of the suite. The closet was full of musty-smelling clothing in the style that Gabriel favored – dowdy slacks, stuffy shirts and sweater-vests. He swore and tore the clothes from the hangers, scattering them over the floor.
He took a few deep breaths and forced himself to calm down, then continued his investigation. In the back of the closet there was a brown paper bag; Sylar picked it up. It was stuffed with rolls of cash – mostly in $100 bills. He brought it out of the closet and sat down on the bed to count it. There was about $10,000 in total. That was very mysterious. Sylar didn’t have a bank account, due to the fact that he didn’t exactly have a legal identity. He couldn’t use Gabriel’s information because Gabriel was a wanted murderer. Angela paid for the house and gave him credit cards that were connected to her accounts.
He put the money back in the bag and stuffed it under the bed. He noticed a desk by the door; he sat down at it and the top drawer. There were a number of receipts: a few for thrift stores, some for cheap take-out restaurants. There was a brochure in there as well; apparently, he was Seaside Heights, a town at the New Jersey shore. He knew this place; Virginia used to take Gabriel here for vacations.
There was also a set of car keys, but they weren’t for the SUV. He stared at them for a few moments before it hit
him. Someone sold his SUV, he realized with growing fury. That’s where the money had come from. Goddamnit - he loved that car!
He paused again to calm himself; he could not afford to lose control. He considered everything he had discovered. Gabriel probably hadn’t returned yet, he decided. The clothes he’d found were musty-smelling, and Gabriel was a neat freak; there’d be no way he’d wear them without laundering them first. And the sale of the car was something that was beyond Gabriel’s limited skillset. Sylar didn’t have the title to the SUV with him. That meant that whoever he had sold it to had not been overly concerned with the law. It wasn’t that difficult to find a shady used car dealer, but Gabriel was too much of a goody-two-shoes to pull even that off. Sylar was the one who usually dealt with the more unsavory bits of business.
No, this was all the work of the Will, preparing the way for Gabriel’s eventual return. The Will didn’t like to take control of the body; it was terrible at human interaction. However, it had been known to happen. It must have seen Sylar’s near-breakdown in Virginia as an emergency. Maybe it had been. He had felt something back there – something tender, but not gentle. It was a raw and bloody feeling, as if his skin had been peeled away from his bones.
Sylar went to the bathroom and splashed his face with water. He looked at his reflection in the mirror, scrutinizing it as if he might be able to see them in there. Had the Will planned this from the beginning, deliberately leaving Sylar in control to take care of nasty business of survival while it made “repairs?” And what would happen to him when those repairs were completed? Could he stop Gabriel from returning?
Sylar leaned in close to the mirror. “I hope you’re listening,” he said. “Because I have something to tell you. This is my life, and I will be goddamned before I let you take it from me. Any of you.”
He left the bathroom and looked at the clock. It was around 7:30am, and he was starving. He went to the kitchenette and found cereal in the cupboard and a carton of milk in the fridge. After he finished eating, he showered and shaved. Once he was clean, he looked around for something to wear; there was no way he was going to put on any of the clothing that was intended for Gabriel. There was a small dresser in the room; the drawers contained several non-descript tee-shirts and jeans in addition to a few pairs of underwear and socks. He put together an outfit and got dressed.
After he was dressed, he looked around for anything he might have missed. He found a wallet in the drawer of the nightstand; there was about another $100 in it. He put the wallet in his pocket. He picked up the bag of money. Keeping it in the closet was a terrible idea; there was a reason these sorts of things were generally delegated to him. After a few moments’ thought, he emptied out the cereal box and put the rolls of money in it. It wasn’t the best solution, but certainly better than keeping it out in the open.
He grabbed the keys to the mystery car and left, noting the number of his room on the way out. He wanted to find out for sure who had been in control of the body for the past week; he was reasonably sure it had all been the work of the Will, but he needed to know if Gabriel had surfaced at all.
He found the front office of the motel. The only person there was an attractive young woman with long, dark hair sitting behind the front counter. She had her bare feet propped up on the desk as she flipped through a magazine; there were white flowers painted on her toenails. According to her nametag, her name was Angel.
Sylar stood in front of her for a few moments, expecting her to notice him. She didn’t. He finally cleared his throat. “Excuse me,” he said.
She looked up from her magazine reluctantly. “Yeah?”
Sylar tried to come up with a convincing scenario for asking questions about himself, but for once, he couldn’t think of anything. “Um, I’m staying in room 110,” he started, but then stopped. The woman gave him an expectant look. Sylar tried again. “So are you around a lot?”
She looked him up and down. “Not interested,” she said.
“You want to know when I get off, right?” she said, rolling her eyes. “Or maybe you want to know if it hurt when I fell from Heaven. You should try that one; I’ve never heard it before.”
“I’m not hitting on you,” Sylar said. “I just have some questions, and I wanted to know if you’re in the office full-time.”
“Something wrong with your room?”
“You a cop?”
“Then I don’t see what else we got to talk about.” She turned back to her magazine.
He took a deep breath and reminded himself that ripping out her toenails until she told him what he wanted to know was not the kind of thing he did anymore. “Look,” he said. “I just have a few simple questions. It will only take a few minutes, and it’s very important. Please.”
She sighed and shut her magazine. “Fine,” she said. “Give me $50.”
“You got problems, I got problems,” she said. “Seems only fair that you help me out, too.”
“Fine.” Sylar took the money out of his wallet and slammed it on the counter.
She took it and tucked it into her bra. “So,” she said with exaggerated sweetness. “How can I help you?”
“Can you tell me when I checked in?”
She gave him a funny look, but turned to the computer. “Room 110, right?” She typed a few things and looked at the screen. “Tuesday morning, 9:30 am.”
“So were you here then?”
“Do you remember what I was like?”
“What do you mean – like, were you drunk or something like that?”
“No,” Sylar said. “Just – what kind of a person did I seem like to you?”
She raised a well-shaped eyebrow. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“No,” Sylar said, clenching his fists. “What the fuck would the punchline be if this were a joke?”
She shrugged. “I didn’t ask if it was a funny joke.”
“Do you remember or not?”
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” she said, looking interested for the first time. “Is this some kind of Bourne Identity shit or what?”
“Maybe,” Sylar said, grabbing onto the idea. He should have thought of that himself; he really was off his game. “But how would I know if it was?”
“Good point.” She thought about it for a moment. “Yeah, I remember you now. You seemed real serious. And kind of – I don’t know, flat. Like a robot.”
“How was I dressed?”
“You were in a hoodie and wearing sunglasses,” she said. “Like the Unabomber. You know that shit only makes you stand out more, right?”
“What name did I give?”
She looked at the screen. “John Smith.”
John Smith?, Sylar thought. Seriously? He sighed. “Did I say anything to you that seemed strange?”
“Not really. You paid a week in advance with cash; that was it. We don’t ask a lot of questions here.”
“What kind of car do I have?”
She looked at the computer again. “A ’91 Geo Metro.”
Sylar rubbed his face. “What color?”
“Of course it is,” he muttered to himself. “Has anyone come here looking for me?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Have you seen me around at all this week?” She nodded. “Was I ever wearing thick-framed glasses?”
“No,” she said.
He sighed with relief.
“So you seriously don’t remember nothing?” she asked.
“You really want to know?”
She nodded and leaned forward a little.
“Give me back my $50.”
She leaned back again. “I’m not that curious,” she said. She picked up her magazine and propped her feet back up. “Good luck, though.”
“Thanks,” he mumbled. He left the office.
He walked through the parking lot, looking for his car. He tried to remain optimistic. It seemed that Gabriel hadn’t made an appearance at the motel. That was good news. And though his glorious SUV was gone, at least he wasn’t totally without transportation. His optimism faded when he saw the car. It was even worse than he imagined. It wasn’t just a used car – it was an abused car. He carefully opened the door, hoping it wouldn’t fall off.
The car miraculously started; he pulled out of the parking lot and started to drive, not sure at first where he was
going. The whole situation didn’t make a lot of sense. The sale of the SUV was sensible enough, but they obviously couldn’t live on $10,000 forever. What was the Will expecting them to do? Why were they in New Jersey? If the Will wanted to make a new start for Gabriel, it should have taken them as far away from New York as possible; Gabriel Gray was still wanted in New York for the murder of Virginia Gray.
Sylar realized he was thinking about this the wrong way, applying his own logic to the Will’s actions. The Will was adept at managing their inner workings, but it didn’t have a sophisticated understanding of what the outside world was like. While the Will had made some clumsy attempts at hiding their identity, it didn’t seem to realize exactly how much trouble they were in. It probably brought them to New Jersey because it felt safe, since Gabriel had spent many summers here. The Will was naïve enough to think that they could simply start fresh in a new town and no one would be the wiser.
Sylar knew better. If he stayed in one place, it was only a matter of time before someone caught up with him. The only way to evade capture was to stay on the move. He should get out of the country; with the money he had, it shouldn’t be too difficult. However, that didn’t solve the problem of what was happening inside him; there was nowhere he could run to escape that. If he fought the other Gears, could he win? What would happen if he didn’t; or, just as worrying, what would happen if he did? Was it possible to get rid of them without destroying himself?
Without being conscious of it, he found himself driving to the shore, one that was away from the boardwalk amusements. Not that there were many people around anyway; it was mid-September, and the cloudy sky promised rain soon. Even so, there was one stubborn family on the shore, attempting to make the best of things. The poor weather hadn’t dampened their good mood. The two little girls were holding their towels out behind them like capes, giggling as the wind whipped them back and forth. They proclaimed themselves superheroes while their parents watched, snuggled together under a beach umbrella. They were sharing some private joke, giggling as much as their children.
It was low-tide. Sylar took his shoes off and let the water lap over his feet. Although the water was ice-cold, the sensation anchored him to his body and made him feel less likely to be swept away by the stronger currents of his own mind. He’d been wrong earlier; he wasn’t the same monster he was before. Going back to being a killer was just as impossible as the fake life he’d tried to make with Mohinder. He had changed, or rather, he wanted to change, which in and of itself was an enormous transformation. The searing need still burned inside him, but maybe he could tame it. He wanted to be someone – a person who was whole, and real, and loved.
He was struck suddenly with the urge to keep walking until the water engulfed him. He was immortal now; maybe he couldn’t die by drowning. It started to rain. The family on the shore scrambled to pack their things. Sylar stayed however, knee-deep in the water, for a long time. He turned back eventually and put his shoes back on. He didn’t know what direction he’d take now, but he wasn’t going to give up yet.
He drove back to the motel. When he pulled into the parking lot, Angel rushed out of the office and flagged him down. He rolled down the window. “What is it?”
“There was a man looking for you,” she said breathlessly. “Some guy in a suit and glasses. He showed me your picture and asked if I seen you.”
Sylar felt cold all over. “What did you say?”
“I told him to give me $50.”
“Yeah. And then I told him I’d never seen you before.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”
“I’d get out of here if I was you,” she said. “He looked like someone who wasn’t going to give up that easy.”
“I’m planning to,” Sylar said. He was about to park the car, but paused. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but why are you helping me now?”
She shrugged. “It’s always the good guys who lose their memory, right? And anyway, that guy was an asshole.”
You have no idea, he thought, but managed to keep it to himself. “I don’t know how to thank you.”
“When you get your memory back, send me flowers,” she said. “No, wait – better make it jewelry.”
He smiled. For once, it wasn’t a put-on or an attempt to manipulate anyone. He smiled because he felt grateful.
Sylar went to the suite and grabbed the money and the clothes that weren’t Gabriel’s. He didn’t know how they had found him, but it didn’t really matter. While he sure as hell wasn’t going to give Bennet the satisfaction of bringing him in, he wasn’t going to go back on the run, either, and he wasn’t going to be a killer. He wanted to start a life – one that would be his own and no one else's. However, the Gears were still turning in him and he didn't know how to stop them. For that, he was going to need some help.
He needed to talk to Peter.
Sylar left directly from the motel and headed to Peter's apartment in New York City. He’d never been there, but he knew the address and was able to find it without any trouble. It only took him about two and a half hours. He still hadn’t thought of a detailed plan; he’d always been more of an improviser. Besides, thinking too hard about what he was about to do made him extremely nervous, and he didn’t want to trigger anything before he got there.
He was going to tell the truth, about everything. He’d never done that before. His whole existence was dependent on lies; it wasn’t just that he lied to get what he needed, but he also lied every minute of every day about who he truly was. The closest he’d ever gotten was when he told Chandra his name – not Gabriel, but Sylar, the one he’d chosen for himself. Telling the truth about the Gears was capital-F Forbidden by the Will, and anyway, who would believe him?
Well – Peter might. He was hoping he would. He wondered if Peter had tried to find him this past week; he really had sounded concerned the last time they talked.
He reached Peter’s apartment building and managed to find parking. The building was a walk-up, so Sylar had to climb several flights of stairs before getting to Peter’s front door. He was about to knock on it, but then he heard muffled voices in apparent argument. He pressed his ear to the door.
“ – not going to wear a taser at all times – you’re being ridiculous.” Peter’s voice.
“What if it happens again?” Mohinder’s. He sounded furiously coherent. Sylar was a little surprised – he figured that Mohinder would have gone back to the facility once it was clear that he wasn't coming back.
“Then we’ll handle it, just like we handled it this time. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“You’re wrong. It is.”
“Don’t you think it should be up to me to decide if I feel violated?”
“No. What if it had gone further? What if I hadn't been able to stop myself?"
"But you did stop yourself. Besides, I'm not sure I'd mind if you hadn't." That last part was said lightly.
"Don't you dare joke about this. Just take me back to the facility."
“Uh-uh. No way.”
“It isn’t your decision, is it?”
“Going back would kill you – you’ve said it yourself!”
“Are you going to hold me here against my will?”
“Of course not, but –”
“Then it’s settled. I’ll go get my things.”
“You want to go back there? Fine. But you can find your own way, ‘cause I’m not going to be a part of it.”
“Then I’m taking your car.” There was a jingle of keys, and then footsteps towards the door.
“Mohinder, wait – "
Mohinder opened the door. He froze when he saw Sylar, too shocked to do anything but stare.
“Hi,” Sylar said.
Mohinder slammed the door shut and locked it.
“Is that – ” he heard Peter start to say.
“Yes,” Sylar said, loud enough to be heard. “It’s me. Let me in?”
There was silence for a few long moments. “I could open the door with my power, you know,“ he started, and then realized what that must sound like. “That’s not a threat; I’m just pointing out that if I wanted to, I could break in. But I won’t. I – I just need to talk to you.”
“I don’t have anything to say to you!” Mohinder shouted through the door.
“I didn’t mean you. I meant Peter.”
“What do you need to talk to me about?” Peter said, his tone carefully neutral.
Sylar didn’t even know where to start with that. “I’m in trouble.”
“Have you done something wrong?”
“No, I swear! And I don’t want to – that’s part of the trouble…will you just please let me in?”
“I’m calling Bennet,” said Mohinder.
“No!” Peter and Sylar said simultaneously. Sylar heard the door being unlocked, and then Peter opened it. They looked at one another for a long moment. Peter wordlessly stepped aside, and Sylar entered the apartment.
Peter’s apartment was large , but that was the only thing about it that could be considered luxurious. Sylar sat down gingerly on the worn couch in the living room. Peter sat down just as gingerly on the armchair, while Mohinder retreated to the doorway that led to the bedroom and hovered there.
“Can you tell me what’s going on?” Peter asked. His tone wasn’t gentle, exactly, but it was calm and firm.
Sylar looked over at Mohinder, then at Peter, and then down at his hands, which were shaking. He still didn’t know
where to begin. His head was starting to ache.
When Sylar still hadn’t said anything for several minutes, Peter prompted him. “What happened in Virginia?”
Peter rubbed his temples briefly and tried again. “Can you tell me why you went to Virginia?”
“I went to find someone,” Sylar said. “A special Bennet and I had talked to. I was going to kill him.”
“To take his power?”
“Can’t you take powers without killing now?”
“Yes, but – I need to know how it works,” Sylar said. “It wasn’t always about the power. In the beginning, it was about knowing. The world’s so chaotic; nothing makes sense. But if you find out how something works, even if it’s just one thing – then you have a place to stand. It’s not so overwhelming. Just taking powers doesn’t give you that. You need to know .”
“But you didn’t kill him.”
“No,” Sylar said. “I didn’t.” He reached into his pocket and took out the flash drive. “I’ve been saving information about specials on this flash drive.” He handed it to Peter. “I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want to want it anymore. Can you help me?”
Unsure of what to do with the flash drive at first, Peter finally settled on putting it in his own pocket. “I’m not sure what you think I can do,” Peter said. “But I’ll try.”
Sylar tried to say thank you, but all that came out was a strange noise, somewhere between a sigh and a groan. His shaking got worse, and he was sweating. Peter got out of his chair and sat down beside him on the couch. “Hey,” he said, touching him on the shoulder. “What’s happening right now? Can you tell me?”
Sylar tried to nod, but his head shook ‘no’ instead. “Not supposed to tell,” he managed to choke out.
“What aren’t you supposed to tell?” When Sylar didn’t respond, Peter increased the pressure of his hand on Sylar’s shoulder. “Gabriel?”
“That’s not my name.”
“I don’t understand,” Peter said. “That’s what you asked me to call you.”
“I know, but – it was a lie. I was trying to be someone else, but it isn’t working. My name is Sylar, and before that, it wasthe Hunger. My name was never Gabriel; he is someone else. Something terrible happened to him.”
Mohinder let out a loud, incredulous scoff. Sylar nearly jumped; he’d forgotten Mohinder was there. “You can’t be serious,” Mohinder said. “A split personality?”
“Mohinder,” Peter said. “Maybe you should go in the other room for a little while.”
“Don’t tell me you believe this rubbish!”He turned and addressed Sylar with a sneer. “I suppose you’re going to explain to us how it’s this other evil side of you who’s a horrible killer, and you’re just a blameless bystander. How convenient.”
Sylar shut his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he was no longer shaking. He stood up and looked Mohinder directly in the eyes. “No,” he said, his voice low. “That was me. I killed them. It was my job to get Gabriel the things he wanted. But I never had to kill to get those things until your father came and showed Gabriel the powers he was missing.”
At that, Mohinder exploded. “How dare you blame my father for what you’ve done!”
“Your father used him!” Sylar said, shouting over him. “And when he didn’t get what he wanted, he tried to throw him away. But then I stepped in. I got Gabriel what he wanted, and what your father wanted, too! And that still wasn’t enough for them – your father still threw him away. And that’s why Gabriel killed him – I’d done the others, but Gabriel did that one. He was so angry, so lost…”
Sylar started pacing. “And so weak. The blood, he couldn’t handle the blood – he wrote on the wall: I have sinned, I have sinned… That worthless little shit, after everything I did, he tried to kill us – he tried to hang us all …” His head felt like it was going to split in half; he held his head in his hands, as if he could keep it together. “I thought he was gone; they were all gone, even the Will, but the Will’s awake again – it’s going to bring Gabriel back. It says that this is Gabriel’s life, and I’ll be pushed down again, and I’ve tried so hard to be more – I want to live, I want a life, it’s not fair, after everything I’ve done…”
He was on the floor now, somehow. He felt very tired. The color was draining away from the world. Peter was over him –holding him, actually. He was calling to him, but he seemed very far away. Sylar’s head lolled to the side, but Peter grabbed his chin and looked him in the eye. “Stay with me,” he was saying. “Tell me what’s happening.”
Sylar gathered the last bit of strength he had left. “I’m shutting down.”
There wasn’t any time to explain; there was a blackness closing in around the edges of his sight. Moving was very difficult, but Sylar managed to grab a hold of the front of Peter’s shirt. “Talk to the Will. Convince it to let me go.”
“I don’t understand what that means.”
“You have to try. Promise me you’ll try.”
“I don’t –"
Peter looked at him helplessly for a moment, but then he nodded. “Yeah, okay,” he said. “I promise.”
Sylar let go of Peter’s shirt. He didn’t have the strength to hold on anymore.
* * *
It was some time before he gained awareness again. He was lying in a bed, too uncoordinated at first to even try to move. He looked around blearily, trying to determine where he was. It wasn’t the Diner, but it still seemed familiar in a way he couldn’t quite place. It was a bedroom; the pale blue paint on the walls was chipped in several places. There was a huge crack in the ceiling. He turned his head to the left. There was a bed with a person on it; he thought he was looking in a mirror at first, but no, it was definitely someone else.
He struggled to sit up. He stayed still for a moment, waiting for the dizziness to subside. His thoughts were still muddled, but he had to fight it. He focused on the figure on the other side of the room. When he was capable of it, he stood up and staggered over to the bed. He had to find out who it was, although really, he already knew.
It was Gabriel. He was lying on his back, his head lolled to the side, one arm hanging off the bed limply. There was a huge bruise in the shape of a rope circling his neck; the black and purple contrasted sharply with the clammy paleness of the rest of his skin. He was wearing his glasses, but the lenses were so cracked that Sylar couldn’t see whether his eyes were closed or open. He didn’t look asleep; he looked dead.
He should probably feel relieved. Isn’t that what he wanted – to be rid of Gabriel once and for all? Instead, he felt a hollow sadness, and a creeping feeling of horror. Even if Gabriel was dead, he was still here, rotting like a gangrenous limb. Had the rot spread to him? Is that why he was here in this room – because he was dying, too?
He stumbled towards the door and opened it; he fell out into a hallway. He lay face-down on the scratchy carpet for a little while. It would be so easy not to get up, but he only entertained that thought for a moment. He pushed himself to his feet. As he walked down the hallway, he started to realize where he was. This was the place behind the Diner, where the Gears who never surfaced lived. He rarely found himself back here; even when Gabriel was mostly in control, Sylar took over too often to ever retreat very far.
At the end of the hallway was a living room. The décor was straight out of the ‘70s – lots of olive green and cheap wood paneling. The furniture was worn, but everything was neat and clean. There was a large old-fashioned TV in the middle of the room. The Innocent was behind it; he’d taken the back off and was messing with the wires. He looked up at Sylar eventually. “Oh,” he said. “You’re awake. Itold you you’d get in trouble if you told.”
“Yeah, I guess you did.” Sylar sat down on the sofa and watched him work for a moment. “What are you doing?”
The Innocent rolled his eyes. “Fixing it, stupid. You short-circuited it.”
“Is that the Will?”
“No, it’s over there,” the Innocent said, pointing at the far corner of the room. Sure enough, there was the familiar monitor, even more cracked than it was before. “You broke that, too, though.”
“Then what’s that?” Sylar said, indicating the TV.
“It’s a TV. It's how we get the news.”
Just then, a woman entered the room, carrying a tray of snacks. Her eyes lit up when she saw Sylar. “You’re awake!” she said warmly. She put the tray down on the coffee table and sat down beside him. “I was so worried; you didn’t look well at all.”
Sylar stared at her, trying to think of who she was. She was one of the Gears, of course, but Sylar had never really paid close attention to the others, particularly the ones who didn’t surface. She had long, dark hair and was very pretty; the only thing that slightly marred her looks was an overly prominent brow. She was dressed in a floral dress with an apron.
“You don’t know me, do you?” she said.
Sylar concentrated harder. “You’re Heart,” he said eventually.
She smiled and put a hand on his cheek. “Yes.”
Her touch felt strange to him; a strong, steady pulse radiated from her. He pulled away. “What’s going on? Why am I here?”
She looked down at her apron and smoothed an invisible wrinkle. “You told. That’s forbidden, you know. You can’t trust outsiders. The Will tried to pull you back, but you struggled, and then you both shut down.” She looked over at the Innocent. “But my baby’s going to fix everything – aren’t you, dear?”
“No,” Sylar said, shaking his head. “No, you can’t fix it. The Will is going to kill me – ”
Both Heart and the Innocent gave him funny looks. “That’s a dumb thing to say,” the Innocent said. “Why would it do that?”
“We’re all needed,” Heart said. “We can’t work without each other.”
“It said it was going to shut me down,” Sylar insisted. “It said I was damaged.”
Heart took his hand. “Aren’t you?” she asked gently.
She had a point.
The Innocent shut the back panel of the TV and moved around to the front. He turned one of the knobs and the screen lit up. “There!” he said, a big grin on his face. “I knew I could fix it. I’m good at that stuff.” He got up off the ground and went to sit beside Sylar. He grabbed a fistful of pretzels from the tray and shoved them in his mouth. The image was unclear at first; the bright outline of a person’s head and shoulders dominated the screen. Gradually, Sylar was able to make out who it was – Peter. He wasn’t looking directly into the screen – his gaze was cast downward, although it would occasionally flicker upward, like he was looking right at them. He had a stethoscope on.
“Who’s that?” the Innocent asked.
“It’s Peter,” Sylar said. “He’s our brother.”
The Innocent looked skeptical. “But he’s so old!”
“Not really. He’s younger than us.”
“Oh yeah,” the Innocent said. “I guess he would be all grown up, huh?”
“You remember him?”
A strange, sad look crossed the Innocent’s face. “Not exactly,” he said. “Mommy said there was a baby growing in her tummy, but then…” He trailed off.
“Then what?” Sylar asked, but the Innocent wasn’t listening to him. His eyes were glued to the screen.
“That’s really neat,” he said. He was smiling now. “I’m glad he’s okay. Is he a doctor now?”
“No, he’s a nurse.”
“Is he nice?”
“Yeah,” Sylar said. “Yeah, he is.”
The Innocent stood up. “I’m going to say hi,” he said.
Heart frowned. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. It’s not safe outside.”
“I’ll just be a minute,” the Innocent said. He got up and went out of the door on the other side of the room. Sylar tried to get up to follow him, but Heart held onto his arm. “I think you should stay here with me, dear. You aren't ready to surface again. We can watch from here, if you want.” The strange, pulsing aura she emanated lulled him into complacency. She put her arm around him, and he rested his head on her shoulder.
The TV screen flashed white for a moment, and when the picture came back, it was in color.
“Sylar?” Peter said. “Are you awake? Can you hear me?”
“Are you my brother?” It was the voice of the Innocent, although Sylar couldn’t see him.
Peter looked startled. “What?”
“He said you were my brother.”
To Peter’s credit, he caught on quickly. “You mean Sylar.”
“Yeah, I guess. That’s not his real name, though. Are you really a nurse?”
The picture shifted – Peter seemed like he was beside the screen rather than leaning over it. Sylar was starting to catch on – the screen was what the Innocent was seeing. He must have been lying down before, and now the
Innocent had sat up. “I thought only girls could be nurses.”
The look on Peter’s face would have been funny in any other circumstance. “No, boys can be nurses, too.”
“Oh. Neat. Are we in a hospital?”
“No, we’re at my apartment. You – I mean, he passed out, and I was just checking to make sure…” Peter struggled for the right pronoun, then settled with, “I was checking to make sure that everything’s okay.” Peter took the stethoscope off and placed it on the coffee table. “So what’s your name?”
“I’m not really supposed to tell anybody,” the Innocent said. “But I guess you already know about us, so maybe it’s okay.”
“Why aren’t you supposed to tell?”
“Because I’d get hurt. You get hurt when you tell.”
“I won’t hurt you,” Peter said. “You can trust me.”
“ ’cause you’re my brother, right?”
“We haven’t really worked that out yet, but maybe you could help with that. Do you remember me?”
“Sort of. It makes me sad to remember, though. I don’t want to talk about it right now.”
“That’s okay,” Peter said. “We don’t have to. We can talk about whatever you want to talk about.”
“Okay. Hey, do you have any ice cream?”
“Uh, yeah, I think so,” Peter said. Sylar was impressed with how quickly Peter was adapting.“Why don’t we go to the kitchen?”
The view followed Peter into the kitchen. Peter rifled through the freezer and found a carton of ice cream. “Chocolate okay?”
“That’s my favorite!”
Peter served him a bowl. He waited until the ice cream was gone to try and talk again. “So can you tell me what your name is?”
“I’m the Innocent,” he said.
“That’s an unusual name.”
“Well, my name used to be Gabriel, but it isn’t anymore.”
“Something really bad happened to Gabriel, and I didn’t want to be him anymore.”
“How old are you?”
“Five. When it was my birthday, I got twenty-five racecars. That’s five times five.”
“That’s a lot of racecars.”
“Yeah, but I lost one, so it’s only twenty-four. That’s eight times three, or six times four. I know all my times-tables because I’m really smart.”
“I can tell.”
“Can I have more ice cream?”
Peter gave him another scoop. The Innocent finished it and sat back in his chair. “That was good. Thanks. So I guess Mommy’s okay, then.”
“What?” Peter said, startled.
“Daddy hurt her really bad. I thought maybe she died. And she said she had a baby growing in her tummy, so I thought the baby died, too. But you’re alive, so that means she’s alive, right?”
Peter sat there, stunned, for several long moments. “Yeah, she’s alive,” he said finally. “Did Daddy hurt her a lot?”
“Yeah. He hurt me too, but then the Will came and it protected me. The Will’s a computer, and computers don’t have feelings. That means they can’t get hurt. So when Daddy would hurt me, the Will just switched me off and I didn’t have to feel it.”
Peter was visibly shaken. It took him a few moments to recover. “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
“Did Daddy hurt you a lot, too?”
“I – I don’t know. I didn’t think so, but I found out that he could make people forget things.”
“Huh. I guess that could happen – he’s got a lot of powers, and he’s always getting new ones.”
“You saw him use abilities?”
“Yeah, he’d do it all the time.” The Innocent paused for a moment. “Is he still around?”
“No, he’s dead.”
Peter rubbed his face. He seemed to be thinking of what to say next. “I want you to know that you’re safe with me, okay?”
“Yeah, sure,” the Innocent said.
“So I want to ask you a few questions; you don’t have to answer them if you don’t want to, but I really want to know what happened to Mommy, and what happened to you. Do you think you can help me with that?”
The Innocent didn’t answer right away. “Okay,” he said eventually. “You are my brother. I guess you should know.”
“Do you remember when Mommy gave you to someone else?”
“It wasn’t Mommy. It was Daddy. He found out that Mommy had the baby in her tummy and he got really mad. He said he didn’t want any more babies. Then he called someone on the phone, and afterwards he made us get in the car. We went to a diner. I didn’t want to go in, but Daddy said he wasn’t mad anymore and he’d get me some ice cream if I was good.
"Mommy stayed in the car; she was crying. Daddy gave me a racecar to play with while he talked with another man and a lady. That was the racecar that I lost; I was trying to find it when Daddy grabbed me and brought me to that man and lady. The lady said she was going to be my new mommy, but I didn’t want a new mommy. I ran after Daddy and saw him in the car; he was fighting with Mommy. Then – then he hurt her. There was a lot of blood. She fell out of the car.
“And then the Will switched me off. I think I was off for a long time. Then the Will woke me up, and said the new mommy was okay and I could go live with her. But I said I didn’t want to – I wanted to stay inside where it was safe. So the Will made a new little boy, and he was called Gabriel, and he went to live with the new mommy. And I called myself the Innocent, because that’s what my mommy used to call me – her Innocent baby. And the Will made a lady called Heart – she’s not my mommy, but she looks just like her, and we stay inside, and she takes care of me, and no one can ever hurt us again.”
Peter looked very pale. He put his hands up to his face.
“Hey - are you crying?”
“I’m so sorry,” Peter said. “I’m so, so sorry…”
“It’s not your fault,” the Innocent said gently.
Peter rubbed his eyes before taking his hands away from his face. “I know, but there’s been some bad things happening to the other…parts of you, and I didn’t believe... well, it doesn’t matter. I promise that I’ll help you now – all of you. And if you want, I can take you to see your mommy – would you like that?”
The Innocent hesitated. “No,” he said. “I’m glad Mommy’s okay. I loved her a lot, and it wasn’t her fault, but she didn’t keep me safe. And I’m not her little boy anymore. I just wanted to come out to see you for a minute. I’m glad I did – Sylar is right, you’re super-nice.”
“So Sylar’s all right?”
“Yeah, he’s inside right now. He’s watching us, though – I turned on the TV.”
Peter looked understandably confused. “Um, okay. Can I talk to him?”
Sylar tried to shake himself out of his daze. “I’m here,” he said to the screen. “PETER, I’M HERE!” Heart shushed him and he lulled back again.
“He wants to talk to you,” the Innocent said to Peter. “But I don’t know if it’s a good idea. He’s been getting into a lot of trouble lately. He almost made us all shut down.”
Peter thought about that for a moment. “Do you think I could talk to the Will?”
“It’s offline. It took a lot of power to shut Sylar down.”
“When will it be back online?”
“I don’t know. I can check.”
The screen went blank, and a moment later, the Innocent came in through the door. He waved at Sylar before going over to the corner where the Will sat. The Innocent pushed a button on the front of the monitor. When it didn’t turn on, he gave it a whap, and suddenly it whirred to life. At the same time, the television screen flashed again. Peter’s face filled the screen again, looking at them searchingly.
“Is this the Will?” he asked hesitantly.
The view on the screen changed as if the Will tried to stand up, but failed.
“Whoa,” Peter said. “Maybe you shouldn’t try to stand up right now.”
“We must leave,” the Will’s robotic voice intoned. “We are in danger. We have been exposed.”
“No, you’re okay,” Peter said. “Nothing’s going to happen. You’re safe.”
“We are in danger,” the Will said again.
“I promise that it’s all right. I know that you’ve been trying hard to keep everyone safe, and you’ve done a really good job. Everything’s okay.”
“There are errors. I have not fixed the errors.”
“Maybe I can help. Tell me what’s wrong.” When the Will didn’t respond, Peter prompted him. “Is it something to do with Sylar?”
“That is not his name,” the Will said emphatically. “He is the Hunger, and he has forgotten his function.”
“What’s his function?”
The Will hesitated again, but finally it responded. “There is a need in Gabriel. He needs to understand things. He cannot do what is necessary to fill that need. The Hunger was created to fill the need. But Gabriel – “ The Will stopped.
“What happened to Gabriel?” Peter asked gently.
“He saw what the Hunger had done. He was not supposed to see.He tried to end the body. Now he is broken.” Another pause. “I have tried to fix him, but there is too much damage. I have failed.Now we cannot function.”
“What do you mean?”
“This was Gabriel’s life. It must be someone else’s life now, but there are none who can fill that function.”
“Why about Sylar? Why can’t it be his life?”
“I should think that should be obvious,” muttered a voice from behind them.
The view shifted as the Will turned to look behind them. Mohinder was standing in the doorway. Sylar wondered how long he’d been there.
“Not helping, Mohinder,” Peter said under his breath.
“You,” the Will said, still looking at Mohinder.“You are Suresh’s son. The Hunger thinks you can fix him. He is wrong.”
Mohinder looked more than a little unnerved.
The Will addressed Peter again. “Allowing the Hunger to have control was a temporary solution. He lacks the components to interface with the outside.”
Peter thought about it for a moment. “Could you…give him those components?”
“To interface with the outside, he must feel. He cannot feel.”
“But I don’t think that’s true,” Peter said. “He does feel. Or at least, he’s trying to. He came to me because he was remorseful, and he wanted to change.”
“He cannot carry out his function if he feels.”
“To deal with the need to know how things work,” Peter clarified.
“I can help,” Peter said. “He’s already fighting to control it. And there might be some medicines we can try that will make it easier to deal with.”
The Will considered this for a moment. “You are an outsider. You cannot be trusted.”
“The Innocent trusts me.”
“That is not possible. The Innocent stays inside – he does not talk to outsiders.”
“Ask him,” Peter said. “He’ll tell you. Look, you’ve admitted that you’re broken. You don’t have anything to lose in letting me try to help.”
“Why would you help us?”
“Because I made a promise.”
There was a long pause. “Processing,” the Will finally said.
The TV screen went black. At the same time, the computer sitting in the corner blinked on.
Text appeared on the screen: INNOCENT – DO YOU TRUST THIS PERSON?
“Sure,” said the Innocent.
AND HUNGER – DO YOU WANT THIS LIFE?
“Yes,” he said.
Heart picked up a mug from the coffee table. “Here,” she said, handing it to Sylar. “Drink this, dear.”
The cup felt very warm in his hands. He put it to his lips. The warm liquid was both very sweet and intensely bitter. The more he drank, the stranger he felt.
“I don’t know if I like this,” Sylar said.
“You need to drink it all,” she said. She helped him tip the cup upwards, and soon he’d swallowed the rest. She took the cup from him and sat it on the coffee table. That strange pulsing he’d felt from her started to intensify, and soon he felt the pulse coming from inside himself.
He heard thecomputer in the corner whirring. After a while it stopped. The door on the other side of the room opened.
Text appeared on the monitor again. THIS LIFE IS YOURS NOW.
Heart helped him up from the sofa, and the Innocent took his other hand. They led him to the door – all he could see on the other side was light.
“Good luck,” the Innocent said.
Sylar stepped through the door.
* * *
Sylar blinked. He was sitting at Peter’s kitchen table. Peter was sitting across from him, looking concerned. Mohinder was still standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room.
“Hello?” Peter said. “Are you back? Who am I talking to?”
“It’s...” Sylar took a minute to think about it. He felt…different. “Me,” he said. “It’s me.”
“You’re going to have to be a bit more specific,” Mohinder said.
That really shouldn’t have been a hard question to answer, but his head was swimming with everything that just happened.
When he didn’t say anything, Peter finally prompted him. “Sylar?”
“Do you know what’s been going on?” Peter asked.
“You were talking to the other Gears,” Sylar said. “I was watching.”
“That’s right,” Peter said. “You blacked out again for a minute just now. Can you tell me what happened?”
“The Will told me that this is my life now.” He still felt dazed.
“Good,” Peter said. “That’s really good.” And then he reached out and grabbed Sylar in a fierce hug. “It’s going to be okay,” he said. He sounded tearful. “We’ll all going to be okay.” Peter pulled back eventually, but he kept a hold of Sylar’s hands, like he was afraid he was going to slip away. He was giving Sylar this strange look, both teary but weirdly happy, like – well, like he’d discovered a long-lost family member.
Mohinder cleared his throat to get their attention. “If we leave right now, we should be able to get to the facility before rush hour.”
Peter finally let go of Sylar hands and turned to Mohinder. “No one’s going to the facility.”
Mohinder made a loud, exasperated sound. “How long do you think it’s going to take Bennet to follow Sylar’s trail
here? You either take him in now, or wait for Bennet to drag him in.”
“I’m not letting Bennet drag anyone anywhere. I’ll call Ma and explain things to her.”
“And what, tell her you’re planning on running a halfway house for super-powered maniacs out of your apartment?”
“We could move back to my house,” Sylar said. “It won’t be so cramped.”
“That’s a good idea,” Peter said.
“The space isn’t the issue!” Mohinder looked like his head was about to explode. “You can’t do this, Peter! You have no abilities, and he’s a serial killer with multiple personalities and the ability to kill people with his mind.”
“I’m not just going to let them lock him up!” Peter said. “He’s my brother.”
“Right, so he’s a serial killer with multiple personalities, the ability to kill people with his mind, and he’s a Petrelli. That just makes it worse. And you still haven’t adequately explained how you’d handle it if I lost control of my abilities again. You won’t even tase me!”
“I can take care of that,” Sylar said. “That was the deal to begin with, remember?”
“I made that deal with you when I was under the impression that you were a relatively stablesuper-powered maniac,” Mohinder said. “But I’ve just discovered that you are not only a serial killer, but also, on occasions, a child and a robot. You are even more bloody terrifying to me than you were before, and that’s quite an accomplishment, considering that you killed my father – or one of you, I’m still not quite clear on this whole business. If there is even a shred of decency lurking in that fractured mind of yours, you will turn yourself in, because you are a walking time bomb of insanity, and no amount of talking about your feelings with Peter is going to change that!”
Everyone was silent for a few moments. “Well, it seems to have worked for you pretty well,” Sylar said eventually. “You’re a lot better from the last time I saw you. Very coherent and reasonable.”
“You really are,” Peter said. “I mean, not that I think that I was responsible for it, but the treatments and the medication are obviously working. If anything, being locked up again is going to make you worse.”
Mohinder stared at Peter. “So if I understand you correctly, the reason you think that we shouldn’t be locked up is because I’ve made such a reasonable argument for why we should be?”
Peter stood up and went over to Mohinder, touching him on the shoulder. “Hey,” he said gently. “I know you’re scared. But if you really want to make sure you aren’t a threat to anyone, having yourself locked up isn’t the answer. Think about Adam Monroe – they locked him up for thirty years, and it just made him crazier. He almost wiped out the human race. And Elle – she was raised in that facility, and look how she turned out. If we move back to Sylar’s house, we’ll be close to the facility. You’ll both be getting the exact same treatments that you’d be getting if you stayed there, but you won’t be locked in a little white cell.”
Mohinder started to falter. “But my abilities –”
Sylar raised his hands and directed his telekinetic energy at Mohinder, pressing his arms to his side. He then lifted him a foot off the ground. Mohinder looked over at Sylar, startled.
“Try to move,” he said.
Mohinder tried. He couldn’t.
“See?” Sylar said. “I can still stop you.” He set Mohinder down.
Mohinder rubbed his arms and looked away. “Strength isn’t my only ability,” he said under his breath. “And besides,” he added, more loudly. “If you’re going to be getting treatments, too, then you won’t have your abilities anymore.”
“I was thinking about that,” Peter said. “And I think that maybe total suppression isn’t the best idea for either one of you. Your powers are a part of who you are – if we can adjust the medications so that your abilities are dampened just enough to not be dangerous, you can work on getting them under control. At least until a real cure is found.”
Peter put both hands on Mohinder’s shoulders; Mohinder tried to avoid looking at him, but was unsuccessful. “Please. Just let me try to help you. Think about your mother and Molly – you promised them that you were going to get well enough to see them again. And think about me. I care about you.”
“How could you?” Mohinder said miserably. “How could you after I – ” He stopped mid-sentence and glanced over at Sylar. He stepped away from Peter. “Fine,” he said. “Fine.” He nearly ran out of the room. They heard the slam of the bedroom door.
Peter sighed. “It’s a start, I guess.” And then to Sylar, “How are you feeling?”
His thoughts were swirling around what he had learned about the other Gears and their past, but that knowledge was too hot to touch right now. He felt like something big was coming, as if those thoughts were like thunderstorms, swirling together and gaining momentum in the way that hurricanes were formed. But he didn’t say that. Unlike Mohinder, he really didn’t want to be locked up. “I don’t know. Sort of numb, I guess.” He changed the subject. “So what happened with Mohinder?”
“Nothing,” Peter said, a little too quickly. “I mean, it really wasn’t a big deal. He’s over-reacting.” Peter chewed on his lip for a moment. “There’s something I need to talk to you about, though. You need to drop the whole idea of you and Mohinder being a couple. You can’t force someone into a relationship like that. Plus, neither one of you is in a good place to be involved romantically with anyone, let alone each other.”
“Oh,” Sylar said. “Yeah, okay.” He paused. “But, what if, later on, he wants to be in relationship with me? That would be okay, right?”
Peter stared at him for a minute. “Sylar, I really think you need to accept that that probably isn’t going to happen,” he said gently.
“But what if it does? What if he really falls in love with me? Then we could be together, right?”
Peter sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Yeah. Sure.”
“All right,” Peter said. “I’m going to call Ma now and get things straightened out. Why don’t you go and try to relax – watch some TV, or something. You’ve been through a lot today.”
“Okay,” Sylar said. He went to the living room and sat on the couch. He had never in his entire existence been this passive, but it actually felt kind of good to have someone else taking care of things for once. He felt like a huge burden had been lifted from his shoulders. He turned the TV to something mindless, and soon his mind was pleasant blank.
But even in his relaxed state, something still nagged at him. It took him a while to figure out what it was. The Innocent said that Heart looked like his mother. And Heart looked nothing like Angela Petrelli. As soon as he thought it, he shoved it out of his mind. Things were working out for once, and he wasn't about to let anything disturb that.
So we're finally getting to some actual Mylar. \o/ Hope you enjoy!
Thanks again to my fantastic beta, aurilly!
Peter was on the phone with his mother for an hour. Sylar didn't ask what exactly Peter had told her; he was too exhausted to get into it that night. Peter and Mohinder were tired themselves, so they decided to stay the night at Peter's and head for the house in the morning. The sleeping situation was awkward; in the end, Mohinder took the bed, Sylar took the couch, and Peter slept in a sleeping bag on the floor. Sylar slept surprisingly well – or maybe it wasn't so surprising. He'd been through a lot.
Since Sylar had nothing to pack, he decided to leave ahead of Peter and Mohinder. He was impatient to get to the house; moving back in was the first step towards a new life, one that was real this time. When he arrived, he spent a moment just looking at the house. It was still perfect. Things were going to work out this time. He could feel it.
He got out of the car. As he was walking up to the front door, he heard someone call out to him. It was Ed, who was waving and making his way across the street. Sylar sighed inwardly.
“Hey!” Ed said. “Where have you been? I haven't seen you in a week, and four days ago, Dr. Suresh and his nurse cleared out of here, too. I was starting to get worried. Where were you?”
“Virginia, then New Jersey, and then Brooklyn. “
“What were you doing there?”
Sylar didn't have it in him to lie anymore. “I went to kill someone.”
“Golly,” Ed said. “A terrorist?”
“No. He was a man with the power to cause objects to disintegrate. There are people who have super powers, and I'm one of them, only my ability is dependent on taking the abilities of others. I managed to stop myself, though. I used to kill a lot of people, probably because my mother was almost murdered in front of me as a child, but I'm working on reforming myself now.”
Ed was silent for a moment. “You know, if it's top secret business, you could just say so,” he sniffed. “There's no need to make fun of me.” He made his way back across the street. Sylar shrugged and let himself into the house.
It was messy inside; Sylar was actually glad for it because it gave him something to do. He washed the dishes and emptied rotten food out of the fridge before moving on to the living room, picking up clutter and vacuuming. When the downstairs was sufficiently clean, he moved on to the bedrooms.
The guest room was fine. The bed remained neatly made, just as he had left it. The master bedroom, however, was a mess. The closet was still filled with spiderweb-covered tissues that smelled – not a rank odor, but musty like a dank basement. He went and got a pair of rubber gloves, a trash bag, and a bottle of Fantastic.
When he was finished with the closet, he went to strip the sheets from the bed. As he was taking off the pillowcases, he noticed that one of the pillows didn't match. He puzzled about it for a moment before realizing that it must be Peter's pillow. Had he slept there? He frowned. He supposed it made sense; Mohinder had needed supervision, and the bed was king-sized. Sharing the bed was probably more comfortable than sleeping on the floor. He decided it didn't bear thinking about too much. He made the bed with fresh linens and threw the dirty ones in the washing machine.
Peter and Mohinder still hadn't arrived, so Sylar went to the mall to get a blow-up bed for Peter. He set it up in the family room (or maybe it was the living room – he still wasn't sure about the distinction). He'd just finished putting sheets on it when Mohinder and Peter came through the front door, each carrying a dufflebag over his shoulder. Peter also had a white paper bag in his hand. “We brought lunch,” he said, holding the bag out to Sylar. “Falafel – hope that's okay with you.”
Sylar took the bag. No one had ever bought him lunch before. “Thank you.”
Mohinder and Peter deposited their bags upstairs before joining Sylar in the kitchen. Mohinder used a fork and knife to cut his sandwich into tiny bites. Sylar was afraid this was a repeat of the potato incident, but Mohinder made his way slowly through each piece.
“So I told Ma we'd come into the facility tomorrow to talk,” Peter said.
“What did she say when you told her what happened?”
“She was shocked. She didn’t know anything about your condition.”
“Did she say anything about why she lied about giving me up?”
“She danced around it. You know Ma – you can never get a straight answer from her. Hopefully we can get more out of her tomorrow.”
“I'm coming, too,” Mohinder said.
Peter let out an exasperated noise. “Are we really going to have this fight again?”
“I didn't mean to stay,” Mohinder said. “I want to go back to work.”
Peter and Sylar exchanged looks. “Do you think you're ready for that?” Peter asked.
Mohinder shrugged. “I suppose we'll find out, won't we?”
“And you're sure you want to work for the Company?”
“What else can I do? It's either that or sit around here all day. That hasn't been particularly good for my mental health.”
“True,” Peter said. “What about you, Sylar? Do you want to go back to work?”
Sylar hesitated. “I don't know. I don't think it's a good idea for me to be an agent anymore.”
“Yeah, I was going to say the same thing,” Peter said. “I mean, it's like putting an alcoholic to work as a bartender – it's destined to end badly.”
Sylar was struck with a brilliant idea. “But maybe I could work with Mohinder.”
“What could you possibly help me with?”
“My ability is intuitive aptitude. If you showed me your research, maybe I could help. And – well, I do have some knowledge of how abilities work.”
“How could you know -” Mohinder started, and then stopped. “Oh. Right.”
They was an uncomfortable silence as they all reflected on how Sylar had come across that knowledge. “Well, I think that's a great idea,” Peter finally said.
“It's a terrible idea,” Mohinder said. “I don't care how intuitive his aptitude is – it's not the same as having a doctorate in genetics.”
“But it couldn't hurt to try,” Peter said. He took Mohinder's hand. “Come on, please?” He gave him a lop-sided grin.
Mohinder looked at Peter’s hand on his own. His expression became very complicated. “Fine,” he said, pulling away. He turned to Sylar. “But don't expect me to waste my time walking you through things. I'm going to be very busy.”
“I think I can handle it.”
They finished eating. There wasn't much to do for the rest of the day, so they just hung out. It was glorious. Sylar had never just “hung out” with anyone. Other than Chandra Suresh, who’d spent most of the time experimenting on him, and Mohinder, who hadn’t known who he really was, Sylar’s previous interactions with people had been limited to victims and the occasional anonymous sex partner.
This was an entirely different experience. For the first time, Sylar wasn't pretending to be someone else. The dynamic between the three of them felt surprisingly natural. They all migrated to the living room after lunch. Mohinder found a notebook and a pen and curled up in the armchair, scribbling ideas for his research. Peter and Sylar found a movie to watch. When it was over, Sylar made a pizza while Peter went out and got beer.
They ate dinner off of TV trays while watching “Dancing with the Stars,” which Sylar found oddly compelling. The three of them joked about it together. Mohinder was much less hostile than he had been the previous day; he was still his prickly self, but he actually talked to Sylar without screaming at him or being sarcastic.
They decided to call it a night at around 10. Peter retired to the family room, and Mohinder and Sylar went upstairs together. They stood awkwardly in the hallway for a moment.
“Well, good night, then,” Mohinder said.
“Good night,” Sylar said. As Mohinder turned to enter the master bedroom, Sylar called out to him. “I cleaned out the closet,” he said. “And the bed's made with fresh sheets.”
Mohinder didn’t respond at first; he simply stood at the bedroom door with his hand on the door knob. Just as Sylar was about to leave, Mohinder said very quickly and quietly, “That was very kind of you.” He disappeared behind the door.
Sylar went to his own room and got ready for bed. All in all, it had been one of the best days of his entire life.
* * *
They left around 9:30 am next morning for the facility. Sylar drove his pitiful Geo Metro while Peter and Mohinder rode in Peter's car. Sylar had been hoping Mohinder would want to ride with him, but it was probably best not to push things.
The three of them made their way to Angela's office. The door was closed, so Peter knocked. “Ma?” he said. “It's us.”
A few moments later, the door opened and Angela appeared. The first thing she did was give Peter a hug. “It's good to see you, dear,” she said.
Peter returned the hug. “Good to see you, too.”
Angela turned to Sylar. He examined her face carefully, trying to see if there were any similarities between her and the image he had of Heart. They had the same hair color and they were both petite. Maybe the differences in their appearances were due to the fact that Angela was older; people often looked different from their younger selves, didn't they?
“You put me in a very difficult position,” Angela said a little icily.
She put her arms around him. “You’re forgiven. I'm just glad you're all right. You know that I wasn't going to have you hurt in any way, don't you? I just wanted to get you back.”
“I know,” Sylar said, although he hadn't until she said it. It was good to hear.
Finally, Angela turned to Mohinder. “Dr. Suresh – how nice to see you. I hear your treatments are going well?”
“They are,” he said. “I thought I might take up my research again.”
“What wonderful news,” she said. “I'm afraid that my current crop of scientists have been a bit of a disappointment. It will be nice to have someone with real talent working for us again. The lab and the staff are at your disposal.”
Mohinder seemed surprised. “You're putting me in charge of the entire lab?”
“I told them you would be taking over eventually. I'll call the lab and tell them to expect you.”
“Just like that, then?”
“Just like that,” Angela said with a smile. “I've always believed in you.”
“Thank you,” Mohinder said, still sounding a little stunned.
“You're welcome. Just don't disappoint me.”
After Angela had called the lab and sent Mohinder on his way, she turned back to Sylar and Peter. “I suppose we have a lot to talk about. Why don't you have a seat?”
They sat in the two chairs in front of the desk while Angela took her place behind it. Instead of feeling like he was about to have a life-altering discussion with his loving mother, Sylar felt more like he and Peter had been called to the principal's office. Then again, there wasn't anywhere else to sit.
“I don't know where to begin,” Angela said. “What do you want to know?”
“Have you always known that he was your son?” Peter asked.
“No,” she said. “I didn't even remember I had another son until Linderman restored my memories. It was around the time that Nathan was in that car crash.”
“Why would he help you?” Peter asked. “Wasn't he the one who was carrying out Dad's orders to kill Nathan in the first place?”
“Yes, but he regretted it. I know you think he was a terrible man, but he did have a conscience. He restored my memories so I could stop your father from killing Nathan.”
“So, that was when you knew I was your son,” Sylar said.
“No. I only remembered that I'd had another child, but not who it was. Your abilities were so similar to both Arthur's and Peter's that I began to suspect your were mine. When you were detained in Texas, I had the doctors perform a DNA test. They confirmed my suspicions, but before I had a chance to do anything about it, you had escaped. Not long after that, you were killed - or so I thought. Bob Bishop had you taken to Mexico without my knowledge.”
“Why did you say that you were the one who gave me up?”
She looked down at her hands. “I was ashamed that I couldn't prevent your father from taking you from me,” she said. “I'm ashamed of all the things I let him do to me, and to our family. I didn't know that you would remember. I didn't know how you'd been affected, or how shattered it made you...” She trailed off, and then added, almost to herself, “That any child should go through what you went through – it's unthinkable.” She reached across the desk and took Sylar's hand. “But that’s all in the past. I'll be your mother, and you'll be all right.”
Sylar breathed a sigh of relief; Angela had explained everything perfectly.
She reached out her other hand to Peter. “We all will, won't we?” Peter relented and put his hand in hers.
“Then that's settled. I'm so happy to have both of you back. Will you be returning to work soon, Gabriel?”
“It's Sylar now,” Sylar said. “And I don't think I should be an agent anymore.”
“Oh,” Angela said, taken aback for a moment. “Of course. Sylar. Why don't you want to be an agent?”
“Why do you think?” Peter said. “He has a compulsion to kill people with special abilities, and you put him in charge of finding them. Seriously, what were you thinking?”
Angela pursed her lips. “Gabri – I mean, Sylar, has so many gifts,” she said. “It would be a waste not to take advantage of them. And you ought to be grateful – it's only because of his gifts that you're alive.”
“Maybe,” Peter said. “But you still shouldn't put him in that position. He wants to get better, and that's not going to happen as long as he has temptation thrown in his face every day. And another thing – he really should be on power suppressants.”
Angela looked even more displeased. “I see,” she said. She turned to Sylar. “Do you agree with this?”
Sylar felt caught in the middle. “Maybe.”
“But you can do so much good with your abilities, dear. And after all the damage you've done, I would think you'd want to make up for it.”
At that, Peter exploded. “What the fuck is wrong with you? His powers have caused him so much suffering, and you're trying to guilt him into keeping them?”
“Don't take that tone with me. I'm simply pointing out that making amends might help him deal with the guilt – that's in his best interests.” She turned to Sylar. “You understand what I mean, don't you, dear?”
Peter made a disgusted noise and stood up. “You really are a piece of work, Ma. And you wonder why I stay away from you. Come on, Sylar - let's go.”
Angela’s eyes filled up with tears. “I finally get you back, and you're leaving me again. And Nathan has left me, too. My own children - I have nothing if I don't have you.” She started to cry.
Sylar shot Peter an angry look. He got up from his seat and embraced Angela. “Please don't cry, Mother,” he said. “I'll never leave you.”
“I'm sorry,” she said, trying to compose herself. “Peter's right – I am selfish. You can go on the power suppressants if you want.”
“But you're right,” Sylar said. “I do want to make amends. I was thinking of going on a light dose – nothing that would suppress my powers completely. Then I could use my intuitive aptitude to help Mohinder with his research.”
Angela dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief. “I hadn't thought of that before. That's a wonderful idea; you're so clever.”
Sylar smiled. He turned to Peter, who had his arms crossed and a sour expression on his face. “Can we not fight, please?” he asked.
Peter sighed and uncrossed his arms. “Fine.”
Angela held out an arm to him. The three of them hugged.
“My boys,” Angela said. “What would I do without you?”
“I'm sure you'd manage,” Peter said. Angela ignored the comment and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
Angela called Dr. Riceman to tell him that Sylar was coming to see him. Peter and Sylar left the room. As they were walking down the hallway, Sylar punched Peter in the arm.
“Ow!” Peter said. “What was that for?”
“Why would you say that to her? After all that she's been through!”
“And what about what you've been through? She should want to help you get over this. Instead, she’s manipulating you into doing what she wants.”
“She wasn’t,” Sylar insisted. “She just wants what's best for me.”
“No offense, but you haven't had her in your life as long as I have. This is what she does – she manipulates, and she's so good at it that you don't even know even know if what you're doing is your idea or hers.”
“She was abused for years. She had her memories stolen from her – she had a child stolen from her! And she's your mother. Give her a break.”
Peter sighed and leaned his back up against the wall. “Maybe I was a little hard on her.” He gave Sylar a half-grin. “So now you're giving me lessons on empathy. Kind of funny.”
Sylar grinned back. “Yeah, I guess it is.”
“You know what the ironic thing is? When I was a kid, I wished for superpowers. I always thought that having superpowers would solve all my problems, and now it turns out that abilities were responsible for everything that was wrong with my life in the first place.” He laughed humorlessly. “And even though I finally got rid of my power, my life still revolves around this shit. I thought I could cut it out of my life, but that's never going to happen.”
“I'm sorry I dragged you back into this.”
Peter seemed to remember that Sylar was there. He pushed himself off of the wall. “Oh no, Sylar – I didn't mean that. I don't regret helping you – shit, I'm such an asshole.” He grabbed Sylar into a hug. “I'm sorry.”
That was the third hug he’d received in less than thirty minutes. Sylar wasn’t sure if that was normal or if the Petrellis were particularly touchy-feely. “It's okay. I know what you mean.”
Peter let him go. “I think it's time I get out of here before I say something even stupider. Besides, you need to get to the doctor. I'll see you back at the house tonight, yeah?”
After Peter left, Sylar made his way down to Dr. Riceman's office. The doctor gave him an examination; he asked him some questions about his abilities and what he wanted to do about them. He was surprisingly open to the idea of partial suppression; in fact, it was an idea he'd been thinking about himself. Each person with abilities manifested them differently, he explained. It made more sense to tailor treatments instead of hitting everyone with the same medication regimen. He took some blood from Sylar and said he'd get back to him in a week or so.
By the time all of that was done, it was around noon. Sylar decided to go see if Mohinder wanted to have lunch. He knew it was a long-shot since Mohinder didn't like either him or eating very much, but it couldn't hurt to try.
When he reached the lab, he didn't see Mohinder immediately; it turned out he was in an office in the back. The door was open, but Mohinder was too absorbed in sorting through papers to see him. Sylar wrapped lightly on the door frame.
Mohinder jumped. “You startled me.”
Mohinder waved his hand dismissively. “No, no, it's all right. Although if you're here to start work, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until I have things a bit more organized. As you can see, I've got quite a mess on my hands,” he said, gesturing to the piles of files around him. “I don't even know what I'm doing yet.”
“Actually, I was going to see if you wanted to grab some lunch.”
Mohinder blinked. “Oh,” he said. He looked around the room for a few moments before saying, “All right. I suppose this can wait a little while.”
“Really?” Sylar said, surprised.
“Yes. I could use the break, actually.”
“Great!” Sylar said, grinning hugely. “That's really, really – um, great,” he repeated, feeling a little like an idiot, but mostly he felt fantastic.
They ended up going to a deli down the street. Sylar got a sandwich, and Mohinder got a bowl of black bean soup and a side of bread. They sat down in a quiet corner in the back.
“I have to admit, I'm surprised you agreed to this,” Sylar said.
“Yes, well – I did promise Peter I'd try to be nicer to you.”
Sylar felt deflated. “Is that the only reason why you said yes?”
“Not entirely. I did some thinking last night. I'm coherent right now, but I'm not sure how long that's going to last. It seems self-defeating to spend the sane moments I have being angry and miserable. Since you're going to be in my life indefinitely, I should probably try to make peace with you.”
It wasn't exactly what Sylar was hoping for, but he'd take it. “That's good to hear.”
Sylar started in on his sandwich. Mohinder began to rip his bread into smaller pieces.
“Why do you do that?” Sylar asked.
Mohinder looked embarrassed. “My appetite isn't very good, as you know. It's a side effect of my abilities. When I was at my worst, I'd stopped eating solid food all together; I survived on milk. It's a little better now, but food still seems overwhelming. If I break it up into small bites, it isn't as intimidating.” Mohinder shrugged. “That probably sounds mad.”
“No, it doesn't,” Sylar said. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you self-conscious.”
“So how did the conversation with your mother go?” Mohinder asked, changing the subject.
“Okay, I guess. It got a little heated. Peter and Mother have a lot of unresolved issues.”
“You don't say,” Mohinder said, sarcastic as always. This time, however, his tone seemed to invite Sylar to share in the joke.
“Yeah, I probably should have seen that coming. Peter really doesn't want to be involved in all this; he went on a little rant about how much he hates this whole super power stuff, and how he wishes he could get away from all of it.”
“He said that exactly?”
Mohinder was very quiet for a moment. He started to shred his bread into even smaller pieces. “I can't say that I blame him,” he said eventually. “After all, why would he want to be involved in this any more than he already is? Why would anyone want to be involved with this ghastly, disgusting mess?”
Sylar wished he hadn't brought it up. “He's not leaving us,” he said gently.
“But he won't stay forever.”
“I guess not. We can think about that later.”
Mohinder stopped tearing his bread. “And now I have a table full of crumbs. So much for sanity.”
Sylar picked up one of the pieces. “They're not crumbs – they're croutons. Here.” He put one in Mohinder's cup of soup. “Perfectly normal.”
Mohinder stared at him for a long moment. “You're so different now.”
“Really? I mean, I feel different, but am I really acting that differently?”
“Yes. Very much so. And your eyes are...they've changed.”
“What do you mean?”
“When you looked at me before, it was like being stared down by a snake. But now...”
Their eyes met. When Mohinder didn't finish his sentence, Sylar prompted him. “Now what?”
“You seem human.” Mohinder turned his attention back to his lunch.
They ate in silence for a while. When they were done, Sylar stood up to take their tray to the trash can, but Mohinder stopped him. “Can I ask you something?”
“Of course,” he said, sitting back down.
“Why are you interested in me? Romantically, I mean. Is it because we had sex?” A startled expression came over his face. “Good lord – I wasn't your first, was I?”
“No,” Sylar said, suppressing an eye-roll. “And that's not it.”
“Then why? I shoved a needle in your spine, and then I tried to shoot you in the head. You deserved it, of course, but I should think that you wouldn't have a favorable opinion of me after all that. And in my current state, I'm not exactly pleasant to be around.”
Sylar tried to think of what to say. He wanted to tell him it was because he was at odds with everything and everyone, and because he was passionate and stubborn and tragic and beautiful. But he thought that would be too much, so instead he said, “When we took that trip together, before you knew who I really was...it was the nicest time I'd ever had with anyone.”
Mohinder looked surprised. “Really? How incredibly sad.” And then he added quickly, “I'm sorry, that was rude.”
“No, you're right,” Sylar said. “It is sad.”
The corners of Mohinder's mouth quirked upward for a second – it was very close to a smile. “I was on my best behavior on that trip. Unfortunately, I'm not usually as easy to get along with, as you have no doubt surmised.”
“It's okay. You've been sick.”
“I'm afraid that even at the peak of health, I'm not the most congenial person. I'm 'infuriatingly stubborn and impossibly moody,' as my last girlfriend put it.”
“I can deal with that.”
“But why would you want to?”
“Because I like you. That and you're probably the most attractive person I've ever seen,” he said with grin that was hopefully flirty rather than creepy.
“I'm sure that's not true,” Mohinder said, sounding a little embarrassed. “And even if were, it certainly isn't anymore. Not unless you like the reptilian look.”
“I like your scales. They're like freckles.”
The corners of Mohinder's mouth quirked up again, and this time he laughed, too. It wasn't a maniacal or derisive laugh – it was a sound of genuine amusement, soft and surprised. It made Sylar feel light-headed. “And anyway,” Sylar continued, “you're looking much better. How are your hands?”
Mohinder held out one of his hands, palm up. Sylar carefully pulled it forward to have a look. The skin seemed normal. He touched it with one finger; it was slightly spongy, but not anything he would have noticed unless he had been looking for it. “It looks good,” he said. He looked up until his eyes met Mohinder's. There was a heartbeat's worth of silence.
Mohinder broke eye contact, but didn't pull his hand away. “It's only because I had the transfusion recently. In a few days, I'll be back to being disgusting.”
“I don't think you're disgusting,” Sylar said.
Mohinder let out a derisive snort. “I find that doubtful, but thanks all the same.”
“I mean it,” Sylar said with conviction. “I'm not disgusted by you, or frightened by you; I never will be, no matter how bad you get.” He put his other hand on top of Mohinder's. “Listen, the way I made you come with me – that was wrong. And you don't owe me anything – you don't have to love me, or even like me. But I promise that for as long as you need me, I will be here for you.”
Mohinder abruptly pulled his hand back. “We should get back to the facility,” he said.
Sylar felt his heart sink. “I said the wrong thing again, didn't I?”
“No,” Mohinder said after a moment. “It was a little too right.” He stood up and walked towards the door. Sylar left the tray and hurried to catch up with him. They didn't say much to each other on the way back to the facility. Sylar was in a kind of daze. That – had gone well. It was nice to have something happen to him that was pleasantly unexpected for a change.
Things continued to go well for the rest of the day. Sylar offered to help Mohinder sort through the files on the research that had been conducted in the last few months. He actually left Sylar in charge while he talked to the research staff. They chatted on the way home; Mohinder did most of the talking, going over ideas he had, and even asked Sylar's opinions on a few things.
Peter had dinner waiting for them when they got home. After they ate, Mohinder went upstairs to go through some of the files he'd brought home. Peter and Sylar watched some TV; Sylar didn't bring up what had happened that morning, and neither did Peter.
After a while, Sylar went upstairs to turn in for the night. The light was still on in Mohinder's room, so he knocked on the door. After a moment, Mohinder answered. “Yes?”
Sylar was distracted for a moment by how good Mohinder looked in the soft bedroom light. “I just wanted to say good night.” Sylar wanted desperately to touch him, so he did the only thing that he knew wouldn't get him punched – he stuck out his hand for a handshake.
Mohinder gave him a puzzled look, but took his hand and shook it briefly. “Good night,” he said.
Sylar drifted off towards his bedroom, not quite believing his luck. He and Mohinder had had lunch today. He'd smiled at Sylar– multiple times, even. And now they were working together, and living together, and Sylar wasn't getting screamed at or having furniture thrown at his head. Peter probably wouldn't approve of all this, but screw him. Sylar was ready for romance.