Chapter 1: Brave
Gabriel was working on a beautiful white gold lady’s watch in his work room when he heard the doorbell and looked up. It was mid-morning, an odd time for guests, and it certainly couldn’t be Peter who had merely forgotten his key; after all, he could have gotten in with the blink of an eye. Literally.
He put the watch back into the safe and left his work room. “Just a minute,” he called.
It wasn’t like they never got any guests, he and Peter, it was just that usually, they were announced beforehand. Usually. The first time Matt Parkman had stood in front of the door and had responded to “Peter’s not home, yet” with an uncomfortable “I wanted to talk to you,” Gabriel was pretty sure he would have had a heart attack, had he been capable of it.
So he wasn’t necessarily worried when he went to open the door. There wasn’t a thing that could have actually hurt him, after all…
That, however, didn’t stop him from reacting with at least some trepidation when he was faced with his visitor. He startled.
“Uh. Noah. Hi.” He stepped to the side to let the man enter. Rationally, he knew that Bennet couldn’t kill him, even if he might have wanted to, but he still made Gabriel nervous. A bit like Angela, who made him instinctively look around the room for someone to drug him and make him wake up as somebody else if at all and that only after she made him believe in her and do her bidding. And that trepidation would remain where it was for a while yet, no matter how often Peter might have told him that Angela wouldn’t be of any danger to him, anymore.
When Noah didn’t say anything right away, Gabriel was catapulted back to the days when he and Peter had first bought a house together and moved out of Peter’s apartment, since neither of them could imagine living and feeling at home anywhere without the other right there. Not after their joint years of solitude.
“Peter’s not home, yet,” he caught himself saying, as he had so often and not only to Matt Parkman when people had actually come to see him, or at least him and Peter.
“I’m not here for Peter,” Noah answered.
For some reason, this didn’t reassure Gabriel as it had when Matt had said it. He blinked. “… Okay…” He turned around to the open kitchen to the side of the living room. “Drink?”
Noah followed him, his steps slow. “You’re not afraid to turn your back on me?” Noah wanted to know. He didn’t sound pleased in a way that would imply that he was happy that Gabriel trusted him; it instead sounded like he very much thought Gabriel to be an idiot.
Gabriel half turned to look over his shoulder. “If you think I would turn my back on you without putting up a telekinetic shield, you are very much mistaken, Noah.”
“You think I have a reason to come after you then?”
Gabriel snorted and took out two glasses. “No. But I’m sure that you think you do.” He put the glasses on the counter between them with a little more force than necessary and made a satisfying thump, though without breaking them.
“And after what you did for years, I am more than justified to think so.”
Gabriel laughed a cynical little laugh and opened the fridge to take out a jug of iced tea. “You know the difference between you and me?” he asked in a deceptively light tone.
“Enlighten me,” said, sounding thoroughly sarcastic and not at all believing that Gabriel had anything substantial to say.
“I know that what I did was wrong.”
Noah waited for something more to follow that statement. It didn’t.
Gabriel poured two glasses of his tea, put away the jug, closed the fridge, leaned with both hands on the counter and looked at Noah, expectantly.
“What I did…” Noah started after a long pause, “… was to protect people from people like you.”
Gabriel looked down, a painful smile twitching at his lip. “After creating people like me?” He lifted his head, and the honesty in his dark eyes hit Noah like a bullet in the chest.
“This has nothing to do with protecting people, anymore,” Gabriel continued, pushing one glass closer to Noah, even though he knew neither of them would be touching his drink. “You let my monster out of its cage, and now you can’t make yourself stop at anything to kill it.”
Noah’s jaw set.
“The thing I really think you don’t understand, though…” Gabriel added, slowly, deliberately, “… is that I already killed it. You’re too late, and it’s not in your hands anymore.” His eyes bore into Noah’s. “Deal with it.”
Noah faltered for a moment. “It’s not like I don’t want to believe you, but…”
“But it is,” Gabriel interrupted, quietly. “You are emotionally invested. If you let yourself believe that there is good in me, that the real me is good, you would have to admit that you’ve done me wrong. That you could have saved dozens of people by helping me instead of pushing me over the abyss.”
Noah’s eyes hardened. “I did not cut open the skulls of countless victims, Sylar.”
Gabriel just rolled his eyes. “You used to call me Gabriel back when I was Sylar, and now you call me Sylar when I’m Gabriel.” He huffed. “Seriously? I have worse things to regret than a name. Call me whatever you want.”
“You’re damn right you have worse things to regret,” Noah bit out.
Gabriel nodded. “I do. And after…” he sighed deeply, “… endless hours, days, months…” he thought about his shared prison with Peter, “… years of talks with Peter, and later some even with Matt, Janice… Claire...” He added the last name with not a little hesitation, but he knew that he had to. “I’ve come to realise that I’ve done terrible things, but that they have made me into who I am, and that I couldn’t have saved Emma and all those people at the carnival, I couldn’t have done what I did a month ago…”
“And you think that justifies killing dozens?” Noah interrupted him, angrily.
“It doesn’t,” Gabriel replied promptly. “Nothing justifies killing a single person, no matter how many could be saved by doing it. I know that.” He breathed deeply. “Do you?”
Noah didn’t answer, but, apparently, even deadly looks couldn’t kill Gabriel.
“But you’re not here to talk about ethics and morality, are you?” By now, Gabriel was pretty sure he knew why Noah was there. He still kind of hoped that he was wrong, but that was becoming more and more unlikely the longer he watched Noah’s boiling rage.
Noah’s expression darkened even more, if that was possible, and he swallowed hard, as if he had to keep himself from throwing up. “What are you doing to my daughter?”
‘Sometimes it sucks to be right,’ Gabriel thought. “Are you having me monitored? Or her?” He added the last part with no little accusation in his voice.
“I don’t have to justify myself to you.”
Gabriel shook his head and looked absentmindedly into his iced tea. “No, you don’t. I mean, even I have Matt scan me every now and then, just to make sure that nothing of my former self gradually creeps back without me noticing. I don’t blame you for monitoring me; I expect it.” He lifted his head. “But something in the tone of your voice just told me that it’s not me you were monitoring.”
“I was worried, okay?!” Noah yelled, the boiling rage now finally surfacing. “What was I supposed to think?”
Gabriel sat down heavily on one of the bar stools that were placed around the counter separating the kitchen and the living room. “You could have just asked her…” He propped his face up on one hand and rubbed over it.
“She said she didn’t want to talk about what she needed to tell me on the phone.”
“And yet she would have talked about it on the phone, had you told her that you’re that worried.” Gabriel sent him a ‘duh’ look that looked kind of silly on him. “What you did instead was have her followed and…”
“And have my worst fear confirmed!”
Gabriel nodded, crookedly. “So you did see it coming, after all. I was worried about your observation skills for a moment there…”
Noah was about ready to spit nails, but before he could voice it, Gabriel held up a hand.
“Seriously, Noah. What do you want from me here?” he asked as reasonably as he could, despite of what he had just learned, and that even though he and Claire had at least tried to not expect the worst from Noah, he did still spy on her at the first sign of something he potentially didn’t agree with.
“I want you,” Noah began, slowly and very deliberately, “away from her.”
There really was only one answer. “No.”
“I have ways to make you.”
Gabriel nodded, slowly. “You could probably find one, yes.” He tilted his head. “Or we could just hide for thirty years or so and wait until you kick the bucket…”
“You will not take her from me.”
Gabriel just smiled. “You think you’re the only parent thinking like that? It’s not a you-or-me question, unless you make it into one.”
“I think most parents don’t have to watch their daughter fall for a serial killer.”
“I don’t know what this is,” Noah spat, “some sort of Stockholm’s Syndrome, a weirdly twisted Florence Nightingale Syndrome, or plain manipulation on your part, but it’s not her, it’s the situation,” he concluded, firmly.
“We are not born the way we are. We are made, Noah.” Settling into explaining, understanding and trying to empathise with people, Gabriel managed to remain mostly calm and collected, despite his anger. “Of course our relationship is situational, every relationship is. A series of circumstances. On top of that…” he smiled sadly, “you forgot one possibility on your list. I think it’s much more a matter of me being the only one who can give her eternity.”
He had a point there, even Noah had to admit it. “Peter…“ he said, grasping for straws.
“Who is her uncle,” Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Thanks for that mental image.”
Before Noah could say that even incest would preferable to what Claire had chosen for herself, Gabriel continued.
“And Peter could stay eternally, that is true. Should he wish to,” he added the last part after a moment’s hesitation.
“Why wouldn’t he?” Noah wanted to know.
“I know Peter better than anyone. At one point he… might think that he was happy enough to let go.” His voice was soft and sad, a tiny smile playing around his lips, his affection clearly visible.
Noah could see the love in Gabriel’s expression. Love for both Claire and Peter. It didn’t help ease his mind, though. He couldn’t let it.
“How that man can call you his brother after what you did and what you are still doing…” he had to stop. Images clustered his mind, images that he would kill to forget. “I couldn’t bear to look,” he blurted out without wanting to.
Gabriel narrowed his eyes. This could have been something he really, really didn’t want to have confirmed. Something even worse than some PI or agent on Claire’s trail, and Gabriel didn’t know if he could patch up that one. At several points these last few months, the irony of him being the one to defend Noah’s actions to Claire had hit him, and it was the reason Claire kept listening to him.
Noah spying on Claire was more than bad enough, but… if Noah did what Gabriel now suspected him of doing on top of that… “So is there surveillance in my bedroom or hers?” he asked in a chatty tone, steel underlying every syllable.
Noah’s eyes shot up to Gabriel’s, his expression one that tried very hard to be of justification and not guilt. And the disappointment he got in return made his stomach churn. Sylar. Disappointed. In him.
He didn’t even want to think about how deserved that disappointment was.
“Surveillance?” a small voice asked from the front door, and Noah swivelled around, while Gabriel walked out of the kitchen so that the cupboards above the counter wouldn’t block his view from where Claire stood next to Peter, both of them carrying grocery bags.
Noah looked panicked, Gabriel sad, Claire betrayed, and Peter – surprisingly – slightly murderous.
“… Dad?” Claire asked, clasping her bag closer to herself.
Noah held up a placating hand. “Claire, let me…”
“Let you what?” she interrupted him, quickly becoming more and more angry instead of lost. “Explain?” she spat the word as if it had personally insulted her. And, given her life, it often had.
Peter and Gabriel shared a quick look, and Peter’s eyes flickered towards Claire. Gabriel nodded.
“Here,” Peter said and took Claire’s bag from her. “Gabriel will take you to get some air.”
Claire wanted to shake her head for the briefest moment, until her groceries were in Peter’s hands, and Gabriel was standing right in front of her, kissing her forehead.
“Let’s just get some air, and we’ll get right back here. Okay?” he said softly.
Noah was about to protest very loudly, but one dark look from Peter stopped him in his tracks.
“Give me your hand,” Gabriel said, and Claire took it.
Then they were gone.
Noah flinched as if it had been him who had been teleported.
Peter rushed past him and dumped his bags in the kitchen, before turning back around, staring at him. “You had better have a damn good explanation for what I just heard, Noah.”
Claire wasn’t sure if she wanted to open her eyes and see where Gabriel had taken them. She wasn’t even sure if she wanted to open her eyes for quite some time, years probably.
The unfamiliar sounds and scents made her frown and tilt away from his chest anyway, only to notice that it wasn’t late morning, but probably early evening…
“Where are we?” she looked up at him, thankful for the change of scenery.
Gabriel grinned. “Venice.”
Claire gave him an incredulous look. “Venice. As in, Italy, Venice.”
“Yep. Espresso?” He tilted his head and led her out of the corner they had appeared in. “I thought my personality wouldn’t be enough to distract you, this time…”
The anger returned to Claire’s face. “Can’t really avoid talking about what I heard.”
He steered her right to a close by restaurant, where they found a small table for the two of them outside. A waiter approached them after only a short moment.
“Buonasera signori, volete ordinare?"
“Buonasera. Vorremmo solo due espressi, grazie," Gabriel said.
Claire blinked. “When did you learn how to speak Italian?” she asked when the waiter had wandered off.
“I was gonna take you here for a holiday. Granted, the circumstances are less than ideal, right now, but…” He shrugged.
“That’s one way of putting it.” She didn’t know where to look and finally settled for her clasped hands on the table. “He had me followed.” It wasn’t a question.
Gabriel sighed. “He freaked out when you said you had something to tell him but didn’t want to do it over the phone. Especially since he suspected, well, the obvious.”
Claire’s jaw set. “And that gave him the right to react the way he always did? The way he said was behind him? The way he promised he would never react again?” Her voice rose steadily, until Gabriel laid one warm hand over her tense ones.
“No. But you do know he’s just afraid, don’t you?”
Claire huffed. “He’s much more afraid of what he did or didn’t do and what that might cause.”
Gabriel nodded. He had, after all, said something similar to Noah, himself. “Does it matter?”
Claire’s anger deflated, but not entirely. “He installed a camera in my bedroom,” she said, flatly.
“Actually, I don’t know if it was yours or mine. We didn’t get to that.”
Claire rolled her eyes. “I don’t care! He can’t keep doing this!”
“No, you’re right. He went too far.” Having someone spy on him, Gabriel didn’t have a problem with. Having someone spy on Claire, he did. Having a damn security camera watching them in their bedroom was pretty much… yeah. He really hoped Noah had to puke his guts out for at least half an hour after seeing the feed.
Claire threw up her hands. “How come you’re so calm about this?”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m pissed off. But mostly on your behalf.” He smiled ruefully. “Noah always did have a knack for catching me at my most… private. I’m kind of used to it.”
Claire snorted, and Gabriel caught her hand, again and kissed it.
“We’ll be okay.” He smiled. “But, Claire, you have forever with me; you don’t have forever with him.”
Claire returned the pensive look.
Noah knocked back his third Whiskey (or was it the fourth?), since Peter pretty much noticed right away that Noah would need something a little more potent than iced tea.
“Feeling better yet?” Peter asked, sitting across from him.
“Not really, no.”
Peter was tempted to have a go at the bottle, as well, but he also had a feeling that he might need his wits about him for this. So far, he had tried unsuccessfully to reassure Noah, but he really wanted to push another thought or two before the other two came back.
Noah stared into his empty glass. “How can you call that man your brother, after he killed Nathan?”
The mention of his dead brother didn’t sting as much anymore as it used to. Right after the fall of the carnival, everybody had made pretty damn sure to mention him in every other sentence, just because Peter firmly stood by Gabriel’s side. After a while, he very slowly stopped being all that alone on that side… and by now, Noah was the only one who would mention Nathan with that intention.
He shrugged, nonchalantly. “Well, first my parents made him my brother by lying to him; then mom, Matt and you literally made him my brother; so it’s not exactly like I came up with the idea.”
“Very funny,” Noah grumbled.
“I’m serious.” Well, he was at least partially. “Everybody kept pushing him at me, and every now and then, we actually helped each other.” He shrugged again. “Power, insanity and manipulation aside, we actually could have gotten along.”
“And I guess after a couple of years alone, most people would take his company before the solitude,” Noah was forced to admit. Even he had actually gotten along with the man, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t (and did try to) have him killed the first chance given. But then again, he did have a distressing track record of being able to separate business and feelings at the drop of a hat.
“You know,” Peter began, now remembering the nightmare and deciding to add a personal angle, “at first, it really sucked that he had all those memories that weren’t his, because he kept mixing them up and forgot which were which and then talked to me as if he’d been there with me and not Nathan.” He huffed a small laugh. “I beat him up for that more than once, even though that particular thing wasn’t even his fault.” He directed an accusing stare at Noah.
“Not a mistake I’d ever make again.”
“Well, good. After he got his body back, Sylar told mom that she’d ‘raised the evil incarnate bar’ with that stunt, and he was right.”
Noah rubbed his face.
“By now… his memories feel like… like it has been the three of us. Like Gabriel was there all along.” He had a far-off look in his eyes. “Another brother, just like mom made him believe, only this time he earned it himself.”
“And because of him, it’s now only the two of you,” Noah added, deadpan. “Lovely.”
Peter rolled his eyes. “To be fair, Nathan and I attacked him. What was he supposed to do?” Sure, Sylar could have just not tried to plan on replacing the president, but that wasn’t really anything worse than what every group or sub-group or even just ambitious person involved with some Special or other had planned at some point.
“Not to mention that Nathan and I tried to kill each other more than once. My future self shot him at that press conference, and I myself actually killed the future Nathan with the power I got from Gabriel. Oh, and did mom ever mention that I tried to kill her with it too, and that Gabriel stopped me?” He slumped in his seat. “Some family.”
Noah narrowed his eyes. No, he hadn’t been aware of quite that much… “What you did in a future that’s never gonna happen doesn’t count,” Noah protested, gruffly.
Peter held Noah’s eyes firmly with his wide ones and pointed towards his own chest with his right hand. “I,” he began, “killed my brother,” he held up his finger that had been pointing at himself before, “with this hand.” He paused and let that sink in. “Just because the situation now won’t happen doesn’t mean that I didn’t do it.”
He took a deep breath. “You gonna hunt me down, now, too?”
Noah shook his head, sharply. “No. You’re a good person. You got a power you couldn’t control and…” he stopped, his eyes widening.
“Exactly,” Peter said, calmly. “Gabriel knows now how to control it. Or, actually, he just realised that he doesn’t have to, that he just didn’t understand.”
Noah wasn’t sure if he was sober enough to understand, himself. “What do you mean?”
Peter tried to remember how Gabriel had put it. “He used to think that his hunger was about killing, then Arthur told him that it was about power.” He slowly shook his head and lifted it to look at Noah. “Gabriel told me… that neither is right, that it’s about knowledge and understanding. Basically, he just wanted to learn because understanding things is what’s in his nature, and once he realised and understood that – and I was there when that happened, by the way – everything fell into place. His abilities, his mind, his feelings.”
“As simple as that?” Noah asked dubiously.
“It wasn’t simple. But he is a good person, and he wanted to.” He pondered that for a moment. “Also, he could have done it a lot earlier, if people just would have stopped using and manipulating him and had instead helped.”
“You’re blaming me for that one?” Noah sounded beat.
“Partially,” Peter confirmed. “I also blame Elle, the Company, my parents… and, well, Gabriel. It’s not like I’m deluded enough to think he’s not to blame.”
“Looks to me like you’re all deluded.”
“Everyone but you?”
Noah didn’t answer that.
“I think,” Peter continued, “now it’s you who needs help.”
“I can take care of myself.” Noah contemplated another drink.
“And alienate everyone in your life? To a point where you’d rather hire someone to spy on your daughter instead of just talking to her? You need to stop this, Noah. You’re losing yourself; you have to start talking to people. We’d all help you. We’re there for our own.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not one of you, am I?”
Peter looked at him incredulously. “You’re kidding, right?”
Noah suddenly had the memory of Sylar’s voice in his head, telling Claire that Noah would never see their humanity. He also spent a terrifying few seconds thinking that Sylar hadn’t been completely wrong. Except that Noah did love Claire, and did believe many Specials to be his friends, and he couldn’t prove Sylar right.
“You’re family, Noah. And with the things you know, you could still help. It’s not like we’re not still facing threats.”
Noah held back a snort. “One big happy family.”
Peter pursed his lips. “I’m pretty sure you’re the only one of our friends who’s miserable and alone.” He remembered something. “Even Sandra and Lyle came by, last week. We had a good time. Some rough talks, but in the end… we’re doing well.” It was interesting how the we just left his mouth, nowadays. It never even occurred to him anymore to not include himself whenever someone questioned Gabriel.
Brothers look out for each other.
Noah straightened in his seat. “You can’t tell me that everyone trusts him, now. Come on!”
“Matt and Janice let him babysit the other day,” Peter said, having waited for an opening to say that for a while now.
“What?” Noah all but choked.
Before Peter could add that Matt was the telepath (not that Noah didn’t know that, but in this case, it would have been worth repeating), Gabriel and Claire reappeared in the living room. Peter tilted his head to look around Noah. “Where the hell have you been? You’ve been gone nearly an hour.”
They were both smiling and looked a lot more relaxed than they had been when they left. Gabriel held up a placating hand. “We come bearing a peace offering,” he said, holding out the box in his other hand.
Peter took it and tilted it to read the print. “Ice cream?” He squinted. “From Venice?” He looked up. “You went to Venice?”
“And we were very tempted to just stay there, too.” Gabriel smirked. “Mean espresso, over there.”
Peter snorted. “Show off.” He put the box in the freezer.
Claire couldn’t help but giggle for a moment, before the smile slowly faltered again, and she looked at her father. She unconsciously moved closer to Gabriel who put a supporting hand on her shoulder that made her breathe a little easier.
“You realise that this is your last chance, don’t you?”
Noah returned the hard gaze, understanding perfectly. He knew he couldn’t keep going like this. He knew that. But could he change it?
“If you betray me in such a way one more time,” Claire had to stop and swallow, painfully, “you won’t see me again. One more time, and that’s it.”
Noah saw Gabriel’s fingers rub circles on Claire’s shoulder, never looking up from her face, his expression one of concern and… love. Noah had to avert his eyes. How could… how could he possibly believe this to be true?
“Dad?” Claire asked, her voice wavering, pleading.
“I don’t… I don’t understand.” He lifted his head. “I don’t want to lose you, Claire, but how can I trust him?”
Claire bit her lips, leaning into Gabriel more. “I could tell you about how I learned to trust him…” she offered cautiously.
Noah had had people tell him stories like that, before. Mostly, they never really tried, anymore, though, and just told him that he should just ‘give the man a chance’, as if he deserved it. As if… Noah deserved it.
“I’ve heard some of those stories before,” he began, but Claire interrupted him.
“I know. But will you listen?”
Not sure how to listen anymore, Noah started with looking. Looking at Claire’s pleading face; looking at the face of the man by her side, a face that held none of the malice it used to… but that didn’t have to mean that none of it was left, did it?
Then again… he hadn’t been there. He had pulled back, hoping that Claire would sooner rather than later understand that her trust had been misplaced in one Gabriel Gray. His hopes were never answered and more than likely never would be.
“Alright. I’ll listen.”
He received a different kind of hope in the form of two smiles.
Chapter 2: Brave New World
Claire’s POV. Claire’s first step into trusting the enemy.
Chronologically set before the first chapter. (Can be viewed as part of the stories Noah is being told.)
I stood in front of Peter’s apartment door, carrying a box of cookies I knew I probably liked more than he did, but he wouldn’t mind sharing them with me, if I knew him at all, and I liked to think that I did.
Our meetings had become a more regular thing than they’d been before my… admittedly a little rash decision to just jump off a Ferris wheel with the whole world watching, but thankfully, the aftermath wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been (at least so far, nothing terribly bad had happened). Politicians and scientists had pretty much fallen over themselves and each other, which had had the advantage that the actual Specials weren’t all that interesting, apparently. Well, apart from those who liked running up and down talkshows, either with a talent or by claiming to know someone who had one.
The “indestructible girl” had become somewhat of an icon… Claire Bennet, on the other hand, hadn’t. Whenever I pulled back my hair and dressed less like a teenager, I hardly even got recognised these days.
But opening up to the world made me want to connect more to the people in my world, the people who had become part of my journey.
One of them was of course my personal hero.
I smiled and rang the bell, noticing that I was a little early, not that Peter would mind.
However, half a second before the door opened, I remembered one tiny little complication in me being early, and I froze.
All those times I had visited Peter, I’d never seen so much as a hair of… him. Sure, in theory, I knew that he lived here with my uncle, but… I’d kind of… forgotten. Or maybe I just didn’t let myself think about it.
Well, I had to think about it now. Sylar was opening the door, looking kind of hassled and surprised.
“Claire? I… you’re early.” Which confirmed my theory that he actively kept out of my way. How… considerate of him.
Sy- “Gabriel,” I said and nodded curtly, proud that I only hesitated for a second and didn’t say the other name out loud. I had started to force myself to do that, because whenever I said Sylar when talking to Peter, he got that sad, hurt and maybe a bit disappointed look on his face. And I really didn’t want to hurt Peter.
He stepped to the side, unsure where he should direct his gaze and cleared his throat. “Look, I, uh. Just help yourself to anything in the kitchen, I was about to leave, and…”
Oh, God. I didn’t know what surprised me more, him trying to be tactful or me saying what I was about to say.
“I’m not gonna kick you out of your own home… Gabriel.” Damn. I hesitated, this time.
He obviously noticed my hesitating and smiled a bit, closing the door behind me.
“Sorry for being a lousy host, but I have something I need to finish, so… you know where the drinks are,” he said, walking to the other side of the big room where he’d had a table set up with utensils on it. Apparently, he’d been working on a watch. I had seen that table, before, just not with him sitting behind it.
I wondered if he really had to work on it or just assumed that I’d rather drink fire than something he handed to me. The obvious changes in him and Peter’s absolute trust aside, he wasn’t entirely wrong about that, so I got myself my own drink.
When I left the kitchen, I stayed close to the door and watched S- Gabriel work. He was wearing a calm and concentrated look, never once looking up to where I was sure he must have known I was standing. Then, after a long while of my watching and his working, he closed the back of the watch, held it up to his ear with his eyes closed and… a tiny, serene smile grew on his face. It looked as if, for him, all was well in the world in that one moment the watch was ticking the way it was supposed to.
Peter had once told me that he had refused to talk to Sylar in that nightmare of his for an entire month. Right now, I couldn’t for the life of me imagine how he possibly could have managed that, when I, after only a few minutes with him in the same room, now slowly walked up to him, saying with a voice that was hopefully less hesitant than I feared:
“Does it work, again?”
His smile didn’t falter as he lifted his head. “It was running slow. Should be fine, now.” He laid it on the table almost tenderly to where I could now see other watches waiting to be tended to.
Great. Now what? Now I was standing there like an idiot, naturally having no clue at all what I could say to that guy. But since I was now standing next to him, maybe I should make myself say… something. Anything.
He looked at me patiently, which should have made me nervous but somehow didn’t.
“So, uh, I hear your name’s been cleared.” Okay, that was admittedly maybe not the best thing to say.
He took the opportunity for a dialogue, anyway and shrugged. “The only thing Gabriel Gray was ever persecuted for was… the death of my mother.” He averted his eyes, and I wasn’t sure whether he hesitated because the woman wasn’t really his mother or because she was dead. “And I have two eye witnesses that that one at least was an accident.”
He didn’t even try to hide his emphasis on ‘that one’, not that he could have hidden its meaning from me, since I’d known about most of his ‘other ones’ – some of them painfully personally – but still… somehow it meant something to me.
He continued: “And Micah owed me a favour. So it really was only a matter of changing the data,” he rushed out.
I gingerly sat down on a chair around the corner to his left and tried to convince myself that there was not a knot in my stomach the size of Manhattan because of it.
“Favour?” I asked.
He blinked and looked at me again. “He never mentioned it?”
I’d seen Micah every now and again, and, yes, he had shown a disturbing amount of trust in Sylar, but, no… he hadn’t. I frowned. “No, I just know that he trusts you.” I swallowed the ‘for some reason’ that I really wanted to add to that sentence.
He cleared his throat again. “I changed into him the one time Danko went after him. Took a bullet and went for a dive.” He smirked, hinting at the fact that the all-powerful man was still there, even if he spent his days fixing watches and convincing my uncle that he was right up there with Ghandi and mother Theresa.
But then what he said hit me. “You saved his life?”
That made him lean back in his seat and cross his arms. “I actually did a good thing or two in my life, you know. Including saving you.” He raised an eyebrow.
Oh. That. At the time, I’d been so scared and angry that I never saw what he did as what it was. He… had saved me, hadn’t he?
“Yeah…” I started grudgingly, staring at my lap. “Thanks for that, by the way.”
He stifled a laugh.
“You would find that funny,” I grumbled, and he laughed out loud. My lip twitched completely against my will.
“You know…” he started, “… that day, it felt… so good that Noah actually came to me, saying that he needed my help with that target. I remember thinking that I’d be the best agent ever, just so he’d see that I could.” He snorted. “Irony is a funny thing, isn’t it?” He smirked at me. “And you know why he wanted me to go along, now, don’t you?”
I smirked right back. “Well, you kind of deserved it.”
His smirk widened. “I kind of did,” he agreed, and I had to laugh.
This felt ridiculously liberating. The two of us laughing over my dad trying to kill him. Then I remembered that someone had died that day.
“What he did was still messed up,” I said, my smile faltering. I did understand on some level why dad had done it, but…
“Hmm,” he hummed in agreement, apparently feeling that this was not a topic to stay on. “Your watch is off,” he said, instead. “Lemme see.” He held out his hand.
“My watch is fine,” I protested.
“No, it’s not.”
I rolled my eyes and took it off with a long suffering sigh.
He grinned at my theatrics and took it, holding it to his ear, concentrating. He shook it slightly and frowned.
“Did this suffer any blows or something?” he asked, sounding almost accusing.
I shifted in my seat, as if it was a capital offense to not take proper care of a watch. “It… uh… may or may not have been in my back pocket when I went off the Ferris wheel?” I sort of admitted.
He sent me a look. “Really?”
This time it was me who crossed her arms, and I huffed.
He chuckled. “Relax. I’m just messing with you.”
I sent him a dark look. “Maybe that’s not the thing you should be doing,” I said, making clear that I expected better behaviour if he ever wanted me to not completely distrust him.
He just smiled and went to open the back of the watch, neither seeing nor returning my stare. “You’re tough, Claire. I wouldn’t joke around with you if I thought you couldn’t take it.”
Was that a compliment? “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” He turned the head of his desk lamp to light the whirring insides of my watch. “Should you ever be ready to hear my apologies, by the way, let me know,” he said, casually.
I did a double take. “What?” I stared at him incredulously. “You think apologies are going to make things better?”
He sighed. “Of course not,” he said. “But maybe… that I mean them? Maybe that you know I won’t ever do something like that again?”
I was going to answer that I didn’t actually know that, but then again, that was probably what he meant by me not being ready to hear his apologies.
He looked up at me. “Maybe that you played a large part in my wanting to change?”
I tilted my head, surprised, and I thought about that for a moment. “Well, it might make me feel a little better, but…”
“Then I got what I wanted.” He smiled benignly. “Apologies aren’t supposed to make oneself feel better, after all.”
I actually held his gaze for a long moment, and it didn’t feel frightening or invading or something. We were kind of on the same page of a painful book. But at least it was a new page.
“Maybe someday I’ll be ready for some of those apologies of yours,” I allowed. I hoped.
He smiled for a bit and then pushed my watch towards me, making the lamp follow the movement telekinetically.
I blinked. “What?”
He nodded towards the watch. “Have a look.”
I stared into the machinery. “What am I looking for?”
“You tell me.”
I rolled my eyes but kept looking. Then I blinked. “Is that one wheel supposed to do that?”
“What’s it doing?” he asked calmly.
I tilted my head. “It’s… kind of moving sideways. Just a little.” I looked up at him in askance.
He smiled widely. “No, it’s not supposed to do that.”
I stared back into the watch.
“You found it,” he stated, sounding almost proud, and I wasn’t quite sure if he was making fun of me, but when I looked at him again, his smile looked sincere. “So, now what would you do to fix it?” he asked.
“I guess… if it’s just loose, I’d tighten it, but there might be something broken.” I suddenly felt bad again for taking the poor thing down with me.
He held his hand over the watch but not so that I wouldn’t be able to see anymore. “It’s just loose,” he assured me. And, as I watched, the wonky sideways movement stopped.
“There,” he said, leaning back. “You fixed it.”
I couldn’t have stopped the beaming smile breaking free had I wanted to.
He held out the back of the watch. “Go on.”
I took it, hesitantly. “I don’t want to mess…”
“You won’t.” He nodded, once. “Close it.”
I bit my lip and put the lid back on, and with a wave of his hand, I could feel and hear it snap tightly back into place.
When I looked from the watch to him, the serene smile was back, and I could really, really relate. That felt… good.
He pointed at the watch. “Listen to it.”
Doubtful that I would even hear a difference, even though I’d been wearing it all this time, I held it up to my ear. It was ticking happily, and while I might not have heard a difference, all was well in the world in that one moment. I smiled at him, again.
The moment ended, but didn’t make way for a less nice one.
“Claire!” Peter suddenly said into the silence of the room. “I’m so sorry I’m late.” He stood there by the entrance, taking in the view of… Gabriel and me sitting here, probably still smiling, and he very much looked like he didn’t dare to hope, but had to anyway.
“We fixed my watch,” I stated, proudly, grinning and putting it back on.
Peter smiled, his eyes flickering from me to Gabriel and back. “Good,” he said, and it really was. “Ready to grab some lunch?”
Oh, right. We had planned to go out.
I stood. Then hesitated. Then turned to the table again.
I took a breath that I didn’t want to let sound as deep as it actually was and looked at Gabriel. “Would you like to join us?”
The slow but liberating smile lit up his dark eyes, and I smiled back before turning to Peter to ask if that was okay.
Never before in my life had anyone looked at me with as much pride as Peter in that moment, and I decided that it was time for me to take my first steps in that new world of ours, too.
Chapter 3: Growing Strong
Set after chapter 2.
Janice opened the front door with an elbow, one hand carrying a shopping bag, the other holding one of two-year-old Mattie trotting next to her happily.
The first thing she noticed when the door was open, was that Matt apparently wasn’t alone. She froze for a second. Matt had promised her up and down when he had agreed to ‘scan’ Sylar every now and then that he would schedule the meetings carefully, making sure she never ran into him before or after or during a session.
Of course, that was before Matt had started to become less and less afraid and angry and more and more amused and comfortable with that man. She had been able to tell the different stages of that change, easily.
At first, whenever Matt had talked about meeting with him, he had sounded mostly detached and cold, as if he did what he did because he wanted to make sure that he could personally take the necessary steps if the hunger for power – or worse, blood – so much as peeked from under what appeared to be in control in Sylar’s twisted mind at that moment.
Then after a while, he’d had a somewhat confused expression when musing about him, marvelling at how all Sylar had really been after was and had always been understanding, not power or blood, he just didn’t know, and that drove him insane.
She’d known it was only a matter of time that the anger would dissolve entirely when Matt had started calling him Gabriel. A change that she tried very hard not to be hurt or feel betrayed over, or at least not visibly.
It looked like this was the next step in that transformation. The two men were laughing in the living room.
She bit her lip. “Matt, honey! We’re home!”
The laughter stopped immediately when she rounded the corner.
Matt checked his watch. “Janice! Hey. Sorry, we kind of lost track of time.” He came towards her, kissing her cheek, apologetically and took her bag, whispering, “But you do know I wouldn’t let him come here if I thought he would harm either of you, right?”
Janice nodded, jerkily. She didn’t even have that much reason to hate Sylar, really. She hardly knew the man, only ever heard stories, apart from the one time he’d held her pinned to the wall. But there was one story that had cut her deeply. A story that she could have gone without ever hearing. She almost wished Matt had never told her about the time when Sylar had taken over his body… but Matt had been so angry that he’d told her anyway – after a bottle of wine, since Janice had refused to listen to more evasive tactics and decided that it was time for drastic measures. Now she could have kicked herself for doing that. She didn’t have to hear that, and she never would have known the difference…
Now she did anyway. And she had to watch her husband become friends with the man who…
They both startled and swivelled around when they heard a happy giggle and a “Hello!” of their little boy from the living room.
Janice blanched. She hadn’t even noticed Mattie letting go of her hand. Now the boy was standing next to the couch where Sylar was sitting, was patting both his hands on the cushion, demanding, “Up!”
Janice would have leaped into action, if Matt hadn’t kept her steady with a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t panic. He’s fine.” But even he sounded nervous, and they both slowly walked closer.
Gabriel looked as startled as the boy’s parents, if not more so. “Hey, buddy,” he said, carefully.
“Want up!” Mattie was in the process of climbing up on his own, since he wasn’t getting any help.
“Uh…” Gabriel’s eyes flickered to Matt and Janice – the latter of which looking like she might go into cardiac arrest – and kept his hands away from the boy and his voice calm. “Mattie, you should go back to mummy.”
Mattie didn’t seem in the least impressed by that statement and continued to beam at Gabriel. “Mattie play colours!” he demanded.
Gabriel blinked at him. “You want to draw a picture?”
“No,” Matt said, now standing next to them. “He has a thing for colours. We’ve been thinking that maybe he has synesthesia.”
Janice sat down behind Mattie, more or less inconspicuously trying to coax him away from Sylar. Mattie continued to ignore her and looked at their guest with wide eyes and a wide smile.
“Angel play colours!” he giggled.
Gabriel furrowed his brows, amused. “Not even close, kiddo. I’m Gabriel.”
Gabriel couldn’t help but smile back.
Janice took gentle hold of the boy. “I don’t think Gabriel wants to play right now, he’s been working with daddy…”
Mattie made a step away from her, stumbled on the soft couch, and Gabriel, out of reflex, telekinetically caught him.
“Red!” squeaked Mattie and waved his arms, his face practically glowing with joy.
Gabriel blinked at him. “I’m red?”
Matt sat on the coffee table, facing them and blinking curiously; Janice appeared the tiniest bit relieved that Mattie was now happy enough to just beam at Gabriel while sitting on the couch without making a further move towards him.
“He calls me blue, sometimes…” Matt mused. “Maybe it’s the tone of my voice.”
Gabriel, however, followed his own hunch, held out a hand towards the table and used his power to lift a glass.
As he expected, Mattie bounced up and down, excitedly. “Red! Red! Red!”
Gabriel’s dark eyes lit up, and he looked at Mattie. “I don’t think it’s sounds he can see…” To test his theory – and because he couldn’t have stopped himself from understanding better – he used his telekinesis (making Mattie squee in joy) to cut into his arm, careful not to let the boy see the injury, and asked him, “What colour is that, Mattie?” when the healing immediately started.
“Hello!” Mattie declared.
Mattie clapped his hands, grinning.
Gabriel stared at him in amazement. “That’s… incredible!” He turned to Matt, excited like a kid at Christmas. “Read my mind,” he demanded, “come on, do it now.”
Matt, fully understanding what this was about but still apprehensive, hesitated for a second, then focused on Gabriel’s thoughts, finding nothing but sheer delight.
Mattie bounced again. “Daddy play too!”
Gabriel’s grin lit up his entire face as he studied Mattie. “That’s how you jumpstart powers, you smart little boy! You can see them!”
In that moment, when everyone stared at Mattie, the boy made one leap forwards at Gabriel, tapping into… something…
And Gabriel gasped and shot to his feet, his eyes darting around, wildly.
Janice took a hold of Mattie and Matt stood a foot away from Gabriel, holding up a calming hand (though he knew better than to touch the man, not after something had apparently been “jumpstarted”, a something that could do pretty much anything when it came to him).
Gabriel shook his head, once. “Oh, wow.” He looked from Matt, who asked a nervous, “You okay?” to little Mattie who grinned at him from his mother’s arms.
Gabriel stared at the boy as if he was a miracle. “What colour is Mattie?” he asked.
Gabriel nodded. “Yes, you are.”
Matt grabbed his arm. “You can see it?”
Gabriel looked sheepish. “He… amplified my knack for understanding, I guess, and I… picked it up without even trying.” He lowered his head and froze. Slowly, he lifted his hands, staring at them.
“Oh, my God,” he breathed.
He turned around and walked to stand in front of the large window. Since the outside was in the shade, it served well enough as a mirror to show him… “Oh. My. God,” he said, again.
“What? What do you see?” Matt wanted to know, coming to stand beside him.
Gabriel stared ahead, taking in his own appearance with watery eyes. “This is… it’s… beautiful.”
Matt lifted an eyebrow. “I knew there was a narcissistic streak in you, but that’s pushing it.” He smirked.
Gabriel chuckled, but the amusement faded back into amazement fast. “No wonder Mattie likes me.”
“Lots of colours, huh?” Matt guessed and surprised himself at the lack of accusation in his voice. He couldn’t quite keep the discomfort out of it, though.
Gabriel shook his head. “No, I mean, yes, but…” He tilted his head. “I guess I… do kind of look like an angel like this. All white and glowing and… Wow,” he said, as if he couldn’t believe that it was really him he was looking at. “There are flecks of colours flashing through all over,” he added, now sounding more analytical, “but mostly it’s just white.” He blinked, letting that sink in. “Probably all the abilities overlapping.”
Matt nodded slowly. “Makes sense.” Then he snorted. “Angel?”
Gabriel laughed and kind of helplessly waved at his reflection. “You should see this. All that’s missing are the wings.”
“Just don’t start wearing white robes, that’d be overkill.”
Gabriel pulled a face. “I have better taste than that.”
When they turned back around, they saw Janice had gone quite pale, still holding Mattie close to her who was grinning at his angel.
“Janice? You okay, honey?”
Janice nodded, though mostly because she couldn’t put her finger on exactly what was wrong with her amongst the number of choices.
Gabriel very slowly inched closer, but no farther than the other side of the table. “It’s alright. The colours are just a visualisation of his ability. He’s not in danger.” He pondered that for a second. “You might want to keep it a secret, though. Somebody could try to use him to hunt Specials at some point.”
Janice held the boy closer and Matt nodded. “We’ll make sure of that,” he said.
She wasn’t happy with either of those suggestions. “Not dangerous? What if he jumpstarts your… electrocution, next time?” she waved a panicked arm in Gabriel’s direction. “Your or anyone else’s fire, energy, earthquakes? What then?”
Gabriel pondered that, then nodded slowly. “You’re right. That could be dangerous. You should…” He paused. “No, I will make a list of colours. Things that he should avoid. Since he already likes colours a lot, it shouldn’t be a problem to make him learn more of them.”
It was in that moment that Janice very firmly came to a decision. The unease was still at the forefront of her mind, but she forced it back, telling it that her husband was a telepath and had sworn that she and Mattie would be safe. And right now, she was a mother first. The mother of a child with an extraordinary ability that she did not understand. She had hoped that Matt could maybe in time help their son deal with whatever it was he had. But that wouldn’t be the best option, would it? And there wasn’t exactly a long list of Specials who could come even close to knowing what Mattie had. Theoretically, there might have been Peter, but even though Peter was a trained paramedic, he was ultimately very wary of children. And he mimicked abilities… he didn’t understand.
She directed decisive eyes to Gabriel. “You’ll do it,” she said.
Gabriel returned her look. “I’ll… what?”
“You’ll teach him,” she clarified, firmly. She flickered her gaze to Matt for a brief second, taking in his surprised and even a bit halting expression, before returning it to Gabriel. “I think you owe me,” she added, trying very hard to appear unwavering.
Gabriel smiled. “I do owe you, much more than I can hope to repay.” He grinned at Mattie and waved a little at him. “But you don’t have to haul out the big guns for this. Of course I’ll help him.”
Janice had been prepared to even offer forgiveness in return. His kind phrasing startled her. She fully intended to keep an eye on him whenever he was near her son, though, but she might as well use the opportunity to listen to some more kind words to see if she had it in her to believe them.
Which was the reason why the next time Gabriel dropped by, he was carrying a large box that he impishly described as his syllabus. In reality, it contained colourful building bricks. A huge number of different colours even, to ensure they could cover all the bases that he had so far discovered (most of them on himself).
Unsurprisingly, Mattie had been mostly interested in playing “Red!” and Gabriel more often than not humoured him by letting some of the bricks fly, encouraging his little student to actually pay attention to other colours as well.
Janice never moved from the couch when the ‘boys’ were playing on the living room floor. Matt also stayed around to reassure his wife and to learn with his son. He figured he needed to be able to answer questions the boy would most likely have sooner rather than later.
Sometimes, the demonstrating got confusing, as it did when they discovered that while the electrical surges might have been blue, the colour the power visualised in was a bright red. ‘Candy Apple Red’ Gabriel called it, and Mattie obediently repeated it, after pointing out the building block of the same colour. They put that one with some others in a small, black box, Gabriel stating seriously that Mattie was to leave ‘Candy Apple Red’ alone because it would hurt.
Mattie pushed the black box away, declaring that it was holding “bad colours”, and Gabriel smiled and played with ‘Crimson’ (the shade they had agreed on his telekinesis manifested in) for the boy, making the remaining ones dance before them.
When Gabriel arrived for the fourth session, one afternoon, Mattie already greeted him at the door, proudly showing a stuffed, cushiony doll with angel’s wings and dark hair.
“Gabel!” he called it.
Gabriel had to bite his lips, and Matt stood there with his arms crossed and an expression that was somewhere between annoyed and amused.
“Don’t say it. He saw that at some store and… Just don’t say it.”
Gabriel chuckled, warmly and bent to greet Mattie. “That’s a very nice doll.”
Mattie grinned and clutched it tightly.
“Ready to play, buddy?”
Mattie ran off to the living room where his mother was already seated and yelled, “Gabel play ceemson!”
Gabriel walked after him. “Yes, we can play crimson for a bit, but first we play with the blocks. Hey, Janice,” he added the greeting when he met her eyes.
Her eyes sparkled, and she was obviously really amused by something. “Hi.” She nodded towards Mattie. “What do you think of his new friend?”
“An astonishingly handsome fellow.”
Janice couldn’t help it, she spluttered a small laugh. “He’s been role-playing all morning with the doll and the blocks.” She held up a list. “And he got all the colours right, too.”
Matt snorted from where he stood, watching them. “He even mimicked your voice.”
Gabriel laughed. “You’re kidding.”
“Oh, no,” Matt shook his head. “We’ve had quite the performance, today, already.”
Gabriel grinned widely and slumped on the floor next to Mattie and the blocks. “Well now… let’s see it then,” he declared, strewing all the blocks on the floor and leaving the Bad Black Box (as it said on its side in bold while letters, by now) open next to them. He looked at Mattie expectantly, not saying anything else.
Mattie looked like he didn’t want to let go of his doll to complete the task before him, so Gabriel took it and put it in his own lap. “He’s watching over you, too. Just like me.”
Mattie giggled at the two Gabriels and started to pick out the ‘safe’ colours, putting them in random patterns next to where he was seated. He easily avoided the ‘bad’ ones, never so much as brushing a single one. When he was done he pulled the first group closer to himself, grinning. “Mine. Play now.”
Without another word, Gabriel lifted the remaining blocks telekinetically and let them drop into the black box. Mattie squealed at the crimson light surrounding Gabriel and the blocks, and when Gabriel was done, he clapped for the boy. “That was really, really good, Mattie,” he praised. “Really good.”
Mattie beamed and jumped up to clap with him. “Mattie do good!”
“Mattie did great!” Gabriel rectified and held out both his palms for Mattie to slap against in victory.
Mattie ran up and down the room, featuring various renditions of “Yaaaaay!”
The joy to go around didn’t last long, when Janice got a phone call, blanched and excused herself from the room, Matt on her heels.
Mattie didn’t appear to notice, and after a worried glance to where his parents had disappeared to, Gabriel set out to distract him further by a new ‘game’ he had come up with, sorting the colours according to types of abilities.
Matt and Janice returned to the room, just when Gabriel was surprised that Mattie would sort ‘Emerald’ and ‘Azure’ into the green group, but finding it a surprisingly fitting decision, when he looked at the abilities and not the colours. ‘Teal’ on the other hand went with the blues.
“Clever,” he murmured and let the boy continue uninterrupted.
Janice just headed straight for the door, looking white as a sheet. Matt came to Gabriel and asked in a hushed voice, “Could you watch him for a few hours?”
“Sure. No problem,” Gabriel immediately agreed.
Matt hesitated. “It’s her mom. She’s in hospital. We have to get there.”
“Don’t worry. Just take care.”
Matt bit his lip. Then nodded, sharply, waved at Mattie with a strained smile. “We’ll be home, soon, okay?”
Mattie waved, but went right back to his blocks.
Matt took a deep breath and rushed after his wife.
The door closed, and Gabriel brushed a gentle hand over Mattie’s hair. “Mummy’s not going to be happy once she stops to think,” he said, smiling at the boy. “We’re just going to have to be very good, you and me.”
“Mattie and Gabel good.”
Gabriel nodded in confirmation. “Yes, we are.” He pointed towards ‘Pine’ (breathing under water), and Mattie put it with ‘Amber’ (rapid cellular regeneration).
It was dark out when Matt and Janice returned, and Gabriel was seated on the couch, reading a book. He looked up when they entered.
“Hey. How is your mother?” According to the partial relief, he hoped she was fine. The other part was probably because they by now had stopped to think and remembered that maybe he wasn’t the most trustworthy of babysitters.
Janice nodded, quickly. “She needs to stay overnight, but she should be fine.” Her eyes darted around.
Before she could ask, though, Gabriel pointed at the baby monitor next to him. “He’s in bed.”
Janice forced herself not to dart through the house, making sure that Mattie was safe and well asleep. “Things went well?”
Gabriel nodded. “We made dinner and cleaned up. He was pretty tired, after, so we got his teeth cleaned and a new diaper on him, then I sung him a few songs until he fell asleep. No problem.”
Matt looked amused. “No problem with the diaper?”
Gabriel snorted. “I’m the king of understanding. I get how to put on a damn diaper.”
As they bickered some more, Janice felt it was safe to check on her boy… who was deeply asleep – the pacifier making small movements when the light from the door hit him – tightly holding his angel.
She remained by the door for a long, relieved moment. Maybe… maybe it was time to believe.
Chapter 4: Settling In
Peter and Gabriel stacked more moving boxes near the entrance to Peter’s apartment (well, for all intents and purposes it was their apartment, really), getting ready to move somewhere where it would officially be their own. A house, their own. Courtesy of Gabriel’s golden touch.
They talked amicably, laughed and joked between boxes and were just taking a break to drink something, when they heard the knock on the door.
Peter finished his sentence walking backwards, making Gabriel laugh and opened the door.
Claire stood there, grinning. “Hey!” She waved with one hand, the other holding a covered dish. “Lunch for the moving crew?” She held up the plate.
Then she gave the two men in their tank tops a once-over. “Nice view, by the way, boys.” She walked past Peter and into the apartment.
“Claire, hey,” Gabriel greeted her.
Peter leaned closer to the plate. “Smells good.”
“I could eat,” Gabriel agreed.
“I was in the mood for pie,” Claire explained. “And I felt like peaches, probably because of that shampoo I discovered yesterday, so I got one with peaches, and...”
Peter froze when he saw Gabriel’s face lose some of its colour and the man walk out of the room, calling, “We forgot to pack the things from the bathroom.”
Claire blinked at his retreating back. “What did I say?” she asked Peter.
Peter bit his lip. He hadn’t been sure if Gabriel would actually react to Claire bringing that particular pie, but one look at his friend confirmed that this was one of the things that very much still haunted him.
“Uh...” he tried to play it down. Had Gabriel wanted to talk about that, he would have done so. He did usually prefer to keep to himself. “It’s nothing, Claire. He’ll be fine.”
Claire stared at him incredulously. “Nothing? What did I say?”
Peter shifted uncomfortably. “It’s just the pie. Probably triggered a... loaded memory.”
Claire shoved the pie into Peter’s hands. “And what if I say something else at some point? I mean, I’m trying my best here to get along with the guy... for you,” she quickly added the last two words and continued, “and you won’t tell me what I did?”
“Claire...” he began carefully. “There are bound to be things that will remind him of what he did or... what was done to him. He needs to deal with that, and he actually does that quite well...”
“By walking out when someone brings him a pie?” Her tone and expression made very clear what she thought of Peter’s therapeutic assessment.
Peter sighed. “Claire...”
“No. I’m going in there.” She turned around, not letting Peter’s hand on her arm stop her.
She found Gabriel furiously shoving bathroom utensils into a box.
“Hey...” she slowly walked inside.
He startled, obviously caught in his little world, or rather nightmare. “Claire. Uhm. Sorry. I’d rather finish this first and eat later.” He remained crouched next to the box.
Claire leaned against the doorframe. “What happened in there? Peter wouldn’t tell me.”
“It’s nothing. I’ll be fine in a bit. Just let me finish this...” He rubbed his forehead with the back of his hand.
Claire stepped closer. “Gabriel.”
He flinched, then sighed. “It’s about Elle,” he said, unable to resist hearing his name from her lips. He straightened and stood to look at her.
Claire bit her lip. “I know some of that story. Peter told me... what Elle and... my dad did to you.” She averted her eyes. “It’s really no better than what Angela did when she... gave you the power of that agent.”
Gabriel leaned against the sink. “Doesn’t change the fact that I took both... offers. Eventually.”
Claire gritted her teeth. “This sucks.” She didn’t know who to blame more for this. But had her father and Elle not done what they did, Sylar never would have come to be. On the other hand, Gabriel wouldn’t be here, now, either.
She cleared her throat. “Can you at least tell me what I did or said, so I can not do it again?”
Gabriel smiled weakly at her. “Elle brought me peach pie, once. They must have figured out somehow that it was my favourite,” he rushed out.
“They, as in, Elle and my dad?”
Claire frowned. That meant that peach pie pretty much equalled betrayal and the birth of a monster for Gabriel.
“I sure know how to pick ‘em,” she grumbled.
Gabriel took a deep breath, and it became obvious pretty quickly that there was more.
“Need to get it off your chest?” she asked.
Gabriel’s lip twitched. “Not sure that’s such a good idea.”
Claire remembered that there had to have been... something about Elle, but whatever she had managed to catch was sketchy at best.
“What happened with her?”
“Yes, you definitely know how to pick ‘em,” Gabriel said ruefully.
“So there was something between you,” she said, trying to keep her voice even.
Gabriel nodded. “Yes, for... a couple of hours. For as long as our little foray into a life we weren’t meant to have lasted.”
“When you lost your powers,” Claire realised.
Gabriel nodded, once more. “Yes.” He tried to remember, it had been such a surreal, short time... “I thought that we had a chance. A possibility. Without our powers, we wouldn’t be of any use to people like her father or the Petrellis, and there was nothing that would force me to seek for something I didn’t understand. I’d been at peace for the first time in ages, and I thought I could take the risk. We could have been ourselves, figured out who we were in the first place.”
Claire nodded slowly. “And then the powers came back and you... well, I guess you effectively lost what you thought was your family.”
Gabriel stared into the middle distance. “Your dad killed me, back then, did you know?” he asked rhetorically, not waiting for an answer. “I felt... relieved. It would have been over, and I could have saved Elle and died as a human being.”
Claire tilted her head against the doorframe. “Did you know that we died at the same time, you and me?” she asked, quietly.
Gabriel smiled, weakly. “And I bet we breathed again at the same time, too.”
Claire lifted her head and smiled back. “I bet we did.”
For a long moment, Gabriel did nothing but return the warm look. “I killed her,” he suddenly said into the silence.
“To take her power,” Claire guessed.
Gabriel shook his head. “No, I’d already had it. Through empathy. I...” His throat constricted, and his vision blurred. “I don’t even know...” He could still smell the pie, could see Elle’s unresisting expression when she knew that she would die, and both memories now intermingled with the image of Claire smiling and holding up the plate...
Gabriel stumbled and fell to his knees in front of the toilet and threw up what felt like it had been clinging to his stomach ever since he set the body of the love that could have been on fire.
He knew that there was a hand on his back and a soothing voice in his ear, but he felt Claire’s presence as such much more. He retched and heaved for way too long, and broke down in a way he hadn’t ever dared again since he and Peter had left their mind prison.
When his stomach had nothing more to give, he slumped and let the sobs shake his body, clinging to the white porcelain.
Claire pulled him into her arms, held him and never moved an inch. She just cradled Gabriel’s head in the crook of her neck, rocking him gently and murmuring mostly meaningless reassurances.
“She... didn’t even fight back,” Gabriel sobbed into her neck. “She could have. Why didn’t she?”
Claire ran her hand over Gabriel’s hair. “I don’t know.”
“She could have,” he repeated. “She did it before.”
Claire let some of her own tears fall at the sheer heartbreak she was allowed to witness.
“Why did she let me kill her when I was the one who couldn’t deal?”
Claire didn’t even notice how she pressed her lips to Gabriel’s temple. “Maybe you weren’t the only one.”
Gabriel trembled at the truth of that statement. He stopped asking questions after that and just cried and sobbed and grieved, and Claire continued to sit with him and hold him.
Claire only looked up for a moment when Peter peeked inside (and she thought that he’d probably done that before, without either of them noticing), a worried expression etched deeply into his features.
Claire shook her head so lightly that Gabriel didn’t notice and kept up her caressing movements. Peter understood and nodded once, before he left again.
After half an eternity, Gabriel’s breathing slowed and he found his voice again. “Why are you still here?” he asked. “Why would you even give me the time of the day?”
Claire leaned her head against the dark hair of the man in her arms. “Because Peter told me a thousand times that you’re a good guy, and you actually behaved like a good guy the whole time, too.” She smiled a bit when she heard Gabriel huff a small laugh.
He shook his head and his hair tickled her nose. “I still don’t understand...” his voice broke and stopped.
“But I do. That’s the point.” She took his head into both her hands and lifted his face to make him look at her. “When I didn’t know what was going on with me, right at the beginning, when this all started...” She bit her lip and lowered her head before she forced herself to return his desperate look, again. “It drove me crazy. I kept coming up with new ways to kill myself to watch my body knit itself together again.”
Gabriel stared at her, incredulously. “Why would you do that?”
“Because I was looking for answers,” she whispered. “And I was lucky enough that my answers were only inside of me.”
Gabriel’s breath hitched. She did understand. She did.
When Peter returned to see if they were alright, Gabriel and Claire were sitting on the floor, leaning against opposite sides of the wall, talking quietly and laughing a bit.
“I’m done packing. How’re things?”
“We’re doing good,” Claire said.
Gabriel smiled at her and then moved to stand, groaning. “I could do with a bit of that pie, now, actually.”
“Yes!” Claire agreed with feel and bounced to her feet, too. She grinned at Gabriel, took his hand and pulled him out of the room.
Gabriel looked over his shoulder at Peter, smiling. Peter just shook his head and grinned, following them.
“I can’t wait until you’re settled in in your new house. Having you guys so close will be a good excuse to drop by more often.”
And she intended to do that, too. Both for Peter and for Gabriel. She was surprised at how much she liked the thought of seeing more of Gabriel. The throwing up and breaking down notwithstanding, she liked talking to someone who would just understand.
Peter looked up from the couch in their new living room when Gabriel returned home looking content but maybe just the tiniest bit knackered.
“How was your day?” Peter asked, hiding a smirk.
Gabriel flopped down next to him and leaned his head back on the headrest with his eyes closed. “One of these days, I’m going to do something stupid,” he groaned.
Peter bit his lip. “Like what?” He could imagine that Gabriel was maybe just a tad frustrated after having gone to the water park with Claire and Gretchen for the day. He knew that Gabriel liked Gretchen just fine (and Gretchen in return seemed to think that Gabriel was an incredibly fascinating specimen to scrutinise in his natural habitat), but seeing Claire running around in a swim suit was probably both a very bad and a very good idea.
“Like kiss her,” he stated, matter-of-factly.
The laughs were getting harder and harder to contain. “Again?” Peter asked, innocently.
Gabriel peeked open one eye and turned his head enough to stare at him. “Screw you.”
Peter burst out laughing. “You deserved it.”
Gabriel snorted, but couldn’t help but agree silently. What he said instead, was, “Out of all the things I ever did to her, that one doesn’t even get close to the top ten of the worst.”
Peter mentally compared both Gabriel and Claire’s account of what had happened the day Gabriel had kissed her and thereby read her. Interestingly enough, they had both come to the same conclusion. They had learned something that day. Certainly, Gabriel hadn’t learned what he at first thought he did, and neither of them had intended to educate Claire in anything… but that was still what had happened to both.
“She needed that one,” Peter said, not really talking about the kiss, per se.
Gabriel nodded. So had he. Claire had been the one he needed, she had pointed him in the direction he had to go, he had eventually found what he had been looking for… and for some reason (that he knew damn well, thanks ever so much) the tattoo was still on his arm, refusing to leave.
“It was nice,” Gabriel said, not talking about the kiss, either – well, not entirely, “having her talk to me like that, even if she didn’t know I was me.”
Peter smiled. “Well, she’s talking to you, again, now.”
Gabriel tilted his head in Peter’s direction again, returning the smile. “She does.”
After the first few tentative steps where both Gabriel and Claire treaded as if on a very, very thin layer of ice, Peter thought it was heart-warming to see that even though they were still sometimes unsure as to what topics should remain untouched, and which tones of voice were best left avoided, they now both actively sought out each other’s company.
“You’ve come a long way,” Peter allowed.
Gabriel contemplated that for a second. “You too.”
Which was true. Peter was more… settled than he used to be. Less rash. One the whole happier. Emma might have had something to do with that, though. He still didn’t breach the subject of her moving in, but while living in different cities would have made things tricky for most other people, Peter had kept the particularly helpful power that would solve the distance problem for them.
Peter smirked. “What would I do without you?” His tone was joking; he wasn’t.
Gabriel snorted. “Work yourself to death looking for meaning, even though it’s perfectly fine to just be you?”
Peter’s smirk toned down to a content smile, and he let the calm and steady companionship surround him. “That’s pretty much it, I guess.”
Gabriel nodded and spread his arms in a ‘so there’ gesture. “Since I am so damn good at everything, I might as well be useful.” He smirked at Peter.
Peter laughed. “You’re insufferable.”
The phone rang and Peter reached for it.
“You love me anyway,” Gabriel said, sounding very sure of himself.
“Damned if I don’t,” Peter answered and picked up. “Hello? Oh, hey, Matt.” He turned his head towards Gabriel. “Yeah, he just got in.” He held out the phone to Gabriel, who was too lazy to actually move the two feet separating them and just summoned it into his hand.
“Hey, Matt.” He listened carefully for a long moment. “And... Janice is okay with this?” His face lit up, and he grinned at Peter.
“What?” Peter mouthed.
“Oh, I can deal with the little one for three days. If you’re sure, it’s no problem. I’d love to.”
Peter straightened. They asked Gabriel, specifically asked him, to babysit Mattie for three days? He held up three fingers and mouthed, “Three?”
“Sure. You guys go ahead and plan your weekend.” He finished his call and saw Peter wear his content and maybe a bit proud look, again.
They remained seated side by side, enjoying how everything was in order and kept getting better.
“Huh,” Gabriel breathed, sounding surprised.
Peter grinned. “I think we’re settling in just fine,” he agreed with the unspoken sentiment, talking about their lives more than about the house.
Chapter 5: Courage
Gabriel rubbed his face and blindly reached for the ringing phone, when his hand didn’t reach it, it telekinetically zapped into his hand.
He blinked at the number on the display. Nobody really called during the night, unless somebody forgot about the vagaries of time difference again (yes, that somebody usually was Hiro). It didn’t look like a number from the hospital Peter worked in, either. A cell.
Well, he wasn’t awake enough to go through all of the numbers he knew, just now. He picked up.
“Hello?” he rasped, rolling back onto his back. He blinked. “Madeline?” He listened to the upset voice for a moment. The woman was crying.
He sat up, his expression turning into one of worry. “Don’t apologise,” he said, finally. “It’s alright,” he assured her, not really feeling the words, even though he wanted to. “What hospital?” He took a shuddering breath. “I’ll…” he hesitated, “… I’ll be there, just give me a minute.”
He hung up and squeezed his eyes shut for a second before getting out of bed and into the bathroom.
Doctor Madeline Gibson had been a kind of constant in his life for a while now. It had been Peter’s idea, really. Gabriel had told him about the vague and distorted memory of a police psychologist who had helped him, and Peter had (rightfully) thought that maybe a therapist wouldn’t be a bad idea. It was after all one thing to turn over a new leaf and truly living it, but another thing entirely to live with what one had done before that.
Gabriel was still surprised that even after hearing the full story, she was prepared to take on his ‘case’. Even though his memory was hazy, he knew he must have left quite the impression on her. Or, rather, memory-less Nathan had, but that didn’t seem to change her decision.
And now she had called, in the middle of the night, in tears… because her niece had just fallen into a coma. Brain aneurism.
Gabriel stood in front of the mirror in his bathroom and splashed his face with cold water. He knew that technically, he had helped someone with an aneurism before, but he never dared to consider repeating something like that. Back then, he couldn’t have cared less and believed in his absolute power. Now, he did care, and knew that despite his power, he wasn’t absolute. He wouldn’t have known what to do if such a procedure were to go wrong.
He just… didn’t have it in him to not react to a call like that. He would… go to the hospital and look at the girl. Madeline had said that was all she wanted him to do, and that he shouldn’t feel pressured.
Gabriel took a deep breath. No pressure, huh? He almost snorted, but the knot in his stomach kept too tight a grasp on him, so he got dressed instead, and before he could panic completely, he closed his eyes and used the gift that Hiro Nakamura had presented him with on one of his visits. He disappeared.
… And reappeared in a corner in the hospital he knew well by now. He always teleported there if he wanted or needed to get to Peter fast.
For a second he considered finding Peter before he went to Madeline, but then changed his mind. He told himself that it wasn’t because some part of his mind still insisted that Peter would show nothing but disappointment when Gabriel had to tell Madeline that he couldn’t help her little girl.
His steps faltered and he headed towards the paediatric ICU, busy telling his stupid overactive brain that Peter wouldn’t ever be disappointed in him. His steps halted entirely when he rounded a corner, finding Madeline sitting in a chair, crying.
“Madeline?” he asked, slowly closing in on her like he would on a frightened animal.
She looked up from her chair, immediately rubbing her eyes. “Gabriel. I must apologise…”
“No, you don’t,” he interrupted her and sat in a chair next to hers. “I mean, of course you would call me.” He helplessly ran a hand through his hair and leaned back. “Who else would you call? I would call me in that situation.”
Madeline swallowed hard and forced her tears back. “I don’t want you to think that I would use you or your... ability.” She was his therapist as well as his friend, after all. Of course she knew well just how often somebody tried to use him, and the last thing he needed was somebody he had to implicitly trust do the same.
Gabriel shook his head.
“Even if it is what I’m doing.” She couldn’t hold back a sob. “I just...”
“You didn’t know what else to do,” Gabriel finished for her, reaching for her hand. “You’re not... using me by asking me to come here. I’m your friend, and you know I...” He averted his eyes. “But you also know that I can’t...” He looked at her, again, his eyes begging her to understand.
“Will you look at her? Just look?”
Gabriel smiled, sadly. “And what if I find something? I can’t risk doing anything about it, Madeline.”
Madeline choked another sob. “I know.” And she did. “She fell into a coma a few hours ago. Her doctors said when that happens, she has days, maybe a week.”
Gabriel’s throat constricted. “Let’s just... look at her.” He needed to be able to look anywhere but at her and get this over with. Being there for her he could do.
She nodded, jerkily, and he had to take her hand and help her up. Then she pulled him into the room two doors down.
A little girl of maybe eight years old was lying in the bed, a woman with her head resting next to the small body was sleeping as well.
Gabriel looked at Madeline. “Your sister?” he whispered.
Gabriel didn’t want to wake the little girl’s mother, so he silently closed in on the bed, looking at the girl intently. “Same spot,” he whispered, barely audible.
Madeline heard him. “Like the other one? The waitress?”
Gabriel didn’t answer, he only looked at the girl. Looked deep. His eyes flickered to the machinery hooked up to her, then back to her. His eyes lost focus for a second, then he jerked back one step.
Madeline put her hand on his shoulder, looking worried at his suddenly shell shocked expression. “Gabriel?”
“Not days,” Gabriel rasped, looking at the still sleeping form of the exhausted mother, hoping he didn’t wake her. “An hour, maybe two.” He returned his stare to the girl where he kept it.
A new wave of tears escaped Madeline.
Gabriel remained unmoving for a long moment, never taking his eyes off the girl. “I’ll do it,” he finally said. He took a breath, shaking himself awake and turned to look at Madeline. “Make her leave,” he said, nodding towards the sleeping woman, “to get a coffee or something.” With that he vanished from sight.
Startled, Madeline took several shaky breaths, before stepping up to her sister, lightly brushing a hand over her head, rousing her. “Patricia?”
“Madeline...” she blinked.
Madeline cleared her throat. “You’re exhausted,” she declared, trying to force a sympathetic smile. “Why don’t you... get a coffee? Something to eat?” Then she remembered that it would have been her usual request that Patricia get some rest. “Since I can’t get you to try and sleep properly,” she added.
Patricia held onto her daughter’s hand, tightening her fingers.
“I will stay right here with her,” Madeline assured her.
Patricia bit her lips, nodded hesitantly, kissed the girl’s forehead... and dragged herself out of the room. “I will be quick.”
Madeline pressed her fist to her lips and squeezed her eyes shut, guilt clawing its way through her insides at the deception.
The air seemed to shift, and she saw Gabriel appearing right next to the bed.
“She’s dying,” Gabriel said. “I…” he his breath hitched, “… don’t think she would make it through the hour,” he forced out.
The unspoken ‘nothing to lose’ rang between them, and Madeline hoped with all her might that it would be enough to make him go through with it.
Gabriel raised his hand.
“Gabriel…” she stopped him, her voice shaking. “You have to know that I am aware of what it must cost you to do this, and no matter what happens, I will forever be in your debt for your courage.”
He couldn’t bear turning to look at her and just nodded, once, and then raised his hand again, concentrating.
Peter was about to wrap up his night shift when his phone rang. He blinked when Gabriel’s cell phone number was glowing on his display.
“Hey,” he greeted, slightly worried. “Everything okay?” Gabriel wasn’t really someone to get up this early unless he had to.
“Peter!” Gabriel all but burst out. “You have to come to the paediatric ICU, room 401. Right now!”
Peter startled when the line went dead. That didn’t sound worrisome, it sounded ecstatic. So he really just grabbed his phone and ran off, trying to remember who was in that room. He was unwilling to wait for an elevator and just darted for the stairs.
He almost stumbled on his way up when he remembered. Little girl. Aneurism. He burst through the door and into the hallway towards the room Gabriel had told him… then he saw him standing right outside the room, biting on a thumbnail and looking around nervously.
When Gabriel noticed Peter, his entire face lit up, he rushed towards the man he considered his brother and crushed him to himself.
“She’s fine, she’s okay,” he repeated again and again.
Peter returned the hug and could see doctors and nurses bustling inside through the blinds of the girl’s room, the girl sitting in her bed, smiling.
A wide grin split his face, and tears glistened in his eyes. He tightened the hug, listening to Gabriel’s excited and not really coherent ramblings.
Peter had never doubted that Gabriel was capable of doing something like this again, but he also understood why he never even touched the subject that he could possibly so much as consider it ever again. Gabriel knew the dangers of his multitudes of powers all too well to just use them on someone’s brain, again. That he had done it anyway…
“You’re amazing,” Peter choked out. “Simply amazing.”
Gabriel laughed a teary laugh into Peter’s shoulder as an answer.
“Worth every single ounce of trust you ever got from me,” Peter added.
Gabriel shivered at those words. “Love you, Peter.”
“Love you, too. You did great.”
Then, almost inaudibly, Gabriel added, “Thank you for believing in me.”
It took them a while to get out of the hospital, and that was only because Gabriel promised up and down that Madeline knew how to contact him, and after they had made the little girl and her mother assure them not to mention Gabriel when it came to the miraculous healing.
They returned home with a happy warmth spreading throughout them and were welcomed by the inviting scent of fresh waffles from the kitchen.
Peter blinked from the doorway. “Is it Saturday?” They always had a special breakfast on Saturdays…
“Oh, hey, guys!” Claire greeted them. “You were both out?” She pointedly looked at Gabriel. “I thought you were still asleep and would get up soon enough once you got hungry.”
Gabriel froze for a second, then his face split in a beaming smile, and he rushed towards her. He grabbed her, hugged her and spun her around, laughing.
“So good to see you,” he said, once he stopped and just stood there holding her.
She laughed with him. “What did I miss?”
Gabriel put her down again and just grinned while Peter walked closer and pulled a picture out of his jacket pocket, holding it out to her.
“This is Lucia,” he said.
Claire looked at the Polaroid with Gabriel and a little girl on it, both of them smiling into the camera.
“A few hours ago,” Peter added, “she was still in a coma and going to die. Brain aneurism.”
Claire’s eyes widened and shot first to Peter and then to Gabriel. Her jaw dropped. “Oh, my God,” she whispered. “Oh, my God,” louder, this time. Then she all but squealed, “Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God!” and slung her arms around Gabriel, crushing him to her. “This is so great!”
When Gabriel had thought before that this day couldn’t possibly get any better, Claire’s sheer joy at something he had accomplished very much proved him wrong. Unable to say anything, he just returned the hug and smiled into her hair.
After a moment, she pushed back and grinned at him. “You,” she pointed at him, “so deserve your breakfast, now.” She bounced once, kissing his cheek and then went back to finish preparing their meal.
Peter smirked and leaned into him. “Don’t do anything stupid,” he whispered.
Gabriel’s dark eyes twinkled and he growled: “One day, I’m so going to get back at you for all the teasing.”
“Bring it on.”
Gabriel snorted and couldn’t hold back his smile, anymore. He didn’t care, either, he was just too happy.
They devoured their breakfast, sitting on the barstools around the counter between kitchen and living room, Gabriel and Peter apparently starving after the last night, while Claire just enjoyed looking at both of their glowing faces (and the sugar didn’t hurt, either).
She finished her helping and finally said, “So, you’re still going to babysit in a week?”
Gabriel grinned and nodded. “I’m sitting Mattie over here, it’s easier.” His grin turned mischievous. “Wanna help me buy some stuff to get this place more kid friendly?”
Claire immediately returned the grin. “You planning on spoiling the kid rotten or something?”
Gabriel licked his fork clean. “Never had siblings or other kids around. Might be fun.”
Claire chuckled at the image of Gabriel raiding a toy store. “I’m game,” she declared. “I’m also available if you need a co-babysitter, by the way.”
“That would be great,” Gabriel smiled widely at her. “And Peter promised he wouldn’t run for the hills with a child in the house.”
Peter just rolled his eyes. “I’m not actually that bad. And you know it,” he added the last part sounding a bit insulted, making the other two laugh, again.
But there was also something else hidden in his expression. He remembered the one time he had seen Gabriel Gray with a little boy, only maybe a year or two older than Mattie now…
“Remembering your future trip?” Gabriel asked, sounding as if he carefully weighed his words.
Peter nodded. He had never gone into great detail of what had happened there. And now… well, he just didn’t have it in him to tell Claire just how low she’d fallen, how she had made possible that Gabriel’s little boy had been killed, and he couldn’t tell Gabriel how the love he felt for his son had made him lose control in such a devastating way. None of that could happen, anymore; too many factors were gone. Gabriel didn’t have to suppress his ability, and Claire was happy, strong and protected. Little Noah hadn’t even been born. Sometimes, Peter wondered who Noah’s mother had been…
And Nathan… would never become President, and Peter wouldn’t kill him. Sometimes, Peter still missed him terribly. He just knew that he’d miss Gabriel, too, and he had never found a compelling reason to make himself miss both.
“You were really a great dad,” Peter said, instead. “And you’ll be great with Mattie, too.” He huffed a small laugh. “Heck, you’ve been great with him all this time, already.”
The smile became more honest, and his personal demon clouds lifted. The future was safe. And it would be safe for both Gabriel and Claire. He would make sure of it.
“Of course he’ll do great,” Claire agreed, dismissively. “I really just wanna go shopping.” She grinned. “And I haven’t done any babysitting in ages. It’ll be fun.”
Peter’s phone rang, and he just let Claire and Gabriel smile at each other, again. God, he really hoped this wouldn’t take them much longer. As much fun as it was, watching their careful steps, their feelings were painfully obvious. Then again, they probably both needed the time.
“Hello? Hey, mom.” He looked at his watch and rubbed his face. “Right now? I just had night shift, and we’re kind of celebrating…”
Gabriel sent him a worried look. “Something wrong?”
Peter just waved him off and shook his head. “Yeah, sure,” he said to Angela. “I’ll be right there.” He ended the call and stood. “Just mom being mom,” he assured the others.
Gabriel smirked. “Since you’re heading east, you might pop by Emma’s…”
Peter just looked at him, unimpressed. “Is that all the payback you’ve got? I’m disappointed.” And before Gabriel could retort, he disappeared.
“One day, Peter…”
Claire laughed. “Are you ever going to tell me what this little game of yours is about?”
“Not anytime soon.” Gabriel grinned, finished his plate and started cleaning up the table. “Stay put,” he said when Claire was about to help him. “You cooked, I clean up.”
Claire, who had sat with her back to the kitchen, spun around on her barstool, watching Gabriel work. “Not gonna argue with you on that. I hate doing dishes.”
Gabriel grinned unseen, bent over the sink. “Only fair. Peter and I love our waffle Saturdays.”
There wasn’t that much to clean up, and Claire let Gabriel work in silence. It only took her a moment until she turned pensive.
A while back, Gabriel had decided that Claire was ready to hear his apologies, but he had followed it up by immediately saying that she didn’t need to answer or even accept them, that he really just wanted her to know.
The topic hadn’t come up since then, but that didn’t mean that Claire never thought about it. On the contrary, it felt like a constant presence in her mind, pushing her to complete the circle. Gabriel had taken a step, now it was up to her to take hers.
One thing that had occurred to her quite some time ago was the fact that Gabriel hadn’t apologised for her, he had done so for himself, because it was something that he needed to do. In return, she now realised, her accepting the apologies wasn’t for him; it was for her.
She blinked… She hadn’t been waiting for herself to be ready. She had waited for him to be ready.
She lifted her eyes to his back when he stopped the water and turned to lean against the sink and look at her, smiling.
Gabriel noticed the change of the mood, and he didn’t even need his empathy for that. Heck, a blind man would have noticed. He couldn’t stop his heart rate from elevating, but he managed to just smile at her, calmly.
She averted her eyes for a second. “Those apologies of yours…” Her head remained slightly downturned, but her eyes peeked up at him.
He didn’t answer, just gave her the time she needed to gather the words.
“I accept all of them.”
His shoulders relaxed slightly.
She bit her lips. “All except for one.” She held his eyes with hers, hoping that her honesty was visible and would convey that it wasn’t something bad she was about to tell him.
He looked confused and tilted his head. “Which one?” he asked, barely even a whisper.
She swallowed, blinked slowly, took a deep breath and then resumed the look again. “The one where you apologised for taking my power.”
“Because…” she continued, though haltingly, “yes, it terrified me, and, yes, it hurt like crazy…” She took a shuddering breath. “But I want to have you around, and if that was the price I had to pay for that to happen, so be it. No need to apologise.”
Gabriel’s throat constricted. He hadn’t expected that… it was… “You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Yes, I do,” she contradicted, her voice now very strong and certain. “It’s my ability. My gift.” Again, she held his gaze for long enough to make sure that she had all of his attention. “My gift to you.”
Gabriel hadn’t cried since that one time in the bathroom, months back, but he couldn’t have stopped the two tears escaping him, now. Not for anything.
“I…” What to say? What could he possibly say to something like that?
Claire smiled ruefully. “I think the commonly accepted response to receiving a gift would be ‘thank you’,” she informed him.
Gabriel just wordlessly shook his head. How could a mere thank you come even close to expressing what he wanted to say? Never in a million years would he have dared hoping for something like that. He would have considered himself to be undeservedly lucky to ever receive forgiveness. But this?
Before he knew what he was doing, he stepped up to her, framed her face and pressed his lips against hers for a brief, intense moment. Then, without opening his eyes, he brought their foreheads together, whispering, “Thank you,” with as much gratitude as he could lay into his voice.
He let his hands drop to her shoulders and took a step back, opening his eyes to startling green ones fixed on him. He hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect in her expression. Recognition, probably. It would have taken a complete dunderhead not to see just how deep his feelings ran for her. Especially after this.
He hadn’t let himself hope to see that much warmth and… want.
Claire raised a hand to his cheek and pulled him back, this time returning the kiss, moving her lips against his, slowly, hesitantly… curiously; sending surges of (metaphorical) electricity through both of them.
They parted and found each other in a number of small kisses, neither really certain if they were even awake, both fearing that wanting too much and surging too fast would break the gossamer of the dream and wake them.
Surprising himself, Gabriel was the one to take it further by running his tongue over her lips, making her shudder…
… And the dam broke. They both deepened the kiss at the same time, desperately, Claire wrapping her arms around Gabriel’s neck, while his hands went from her shoulders towards and around her waist. She parted her legs enough to pull him in even more, the sudden contact startling them closer and not apart, both moaning into the kiss.
When she sobbed onto his lips, threading her fingers through his hair, unwilling to break the kiss, he finally slowed and ended it, keeping her close to himself and looking into her eyes, both breathing heavily.
He ran his hands over her back, marvelling at her glistening lips and darkened green orbs. He raised one hand to her face, caressing it gently, trying to give them both a second to process what was happening.
She was having none of that, she couldn’t, she needed… “Gabriel,” she whispered, knowing what it would do to his defences and pulling him back, their tongues touching even before their lips.
And Gabriel finally stopped thinking and melted into the kiss, right along with her. At that moment, he didn’t need to understand anything else anymore, his mind asking for something that needed to be experienced rather than understood, felt rather than thought. And above all loved.
Claire shifted forwards in her seat, slung her legs around his thighs and urged him even closer.
He jolted and gasped, and then kissed and bit a trail down her neck. “What you are doing to me…” he mumbled between nips.
She was about to say something along the lines of ‘You seem to like it’ – and he did, she could feel the evidence pressing against her – but her mind wouldn’t let her form a single, coherent sentence. She moaned instead when he and his talent that obviously included the understanding of her body found a spot on her neck and sucked.
When she trembled almost uncontrollably, Gabriel realised he had to do something to keep her from falling apart and letting her emotions pull her under completely. He wanted this, wanted it more than he could say, but he needed her to know what was happening; he needed to be sure that she was in a state to even give her consent and understand what it meant.
He nipped more softly at her skin and murmured: “Should have shaved, earlier.”
This made her laugh and some of the tension leave her body, Gabriel noticed, satisfied.
“No,” she said and turned her head to press a kiss to his neck, as well. “Feels amazing,” she gasped. “You feel amazing.”
He pulled back a bit to kiss her softly on the lips. This time, neither tried to deepen it, right away, and Gabriel took advantage of the changed pace. Another small kiss; a deep breath.
“Are we really going to do this?”
Claire didn’t answer, she just held his gaze and started unbuttoning his dark shirt. After the first few buttons were out of the way, she leaned in to kiss the patches of skin that were being revealed, while her fingers blindly continued downwards.
Gabriel closed his eyes and tilted back his head, allowing himself to just feel and savour. He felt his shirt fall open and finally dared to do the same to the buttons of her blouse, making Claire hum against his skin appreciatively.
When he was done, Claire first shrugged out of her blouse and then pushed Gabriel’s shirt over his shoulders. She pulled him into another kiss, feeling the heat radiate off his bare skin. His arms went around her, wandering up and down her back and up again, until they stopped at the hook of her bra, opening it. Claire released her hold on him to take the garment off, keeping her eyes on him and watching him watch her breasts being uncovered for him.
His hand reverently cupped one of her breasts, before he pulled her to himself again, kissing her, enjoying the skin to skin contact with nothing in between them anymore. Once more, his mouth found a trail down her neck. He gently pushed her backwards against the counter, his kissing lips wandering lower still until they reached her other breast this time, his tongue drawing curious patterns over the taut skin and hardening nipple, before he opened his mouth and sucked with a growl.
Claire gasped, held onto his head with both hands, keeping him close while wanting to pull him closer still, even though that wasn’t physically possible.
Before he could move to the other side, she took hold of his face with both hands and made him look at her.
“Take me upstairs?” Her voice was wavering, and she somewhat hoped that she didn’t sound as inexperienced as she actually was. She didn’t want him to suddenly change his mind when he found out that she’d never gotten anywhere near as close to sleeping with a man since… since she’d almost been forced.
Gabriel just nodded and kissed her deeply. Then he pulled her completely out of her seat, and she slung her legs around his hips, letting him hold her securely.
One of his hands left her hip and went to her ass, dipping into the cleft, grabbing her hard through her jeans. He smirked into the kiss when she moaned loudly at the contact.
“Hold on tight,” he murmured.
The room spun for the briefest moment, and when Claire opened her eyes, Gabriel had transported them right into his bedroom, still smirking smugly.
“Creative use of powers in the bedroom?” she asked, answering his smirk, making him chuckle.
“Want me to?”
Despite her efforts, he did notice her hesitating, and his smirk toned down into a warm smile.
“Claire,” he began softly, carrying her to the bed. “We can do whatever you’re comfortable with. No more,” he promised. “And if you would like us to… uh… sustain our current state of dress, we can do that, too.”
Claire laughed a shuddering laugh. “Are you kidding? I’m about to explode.” She let herself be laid back and pulled Gabriel on top of her. “I’m just nervous.” To hell with it. He either already knew that she’d never done this before, or he’d know later.
Gabriel kissed her and lightly traced her parted lips with his tongue before he broke it. “I would tell you that we can take things slowly, but I have the feeling we’re messing ‘taking slowly’ up.”
Claire giggled, her hand tracing his face, lovingly. “I think this was a while in the making,” she admitted, making his smile widen, and he leaned into her touch. “And I was never really very patient.”
Gabriel caught her hand and kissed the palm. “You effectively knocked out my patience with that kiss downstairs.” His lips and tongue wandered from her palm down her arm, slowly. It was almost slowly enough that Claire felt tempted to point out that he was still being way too patient for her tastes.
When he reached her torso, he teasingly ignored her breasts and went lower, instead. He pressed a kiss to her lower stomach.
“And when you told me to take you up here, I think it just dropped dead.” He chuckled.
It took Claire a moment to realise that he was still talking about his patience, then she laughed, making her tummy jump under his lips.
He grinned and nipped at the skin right above her jeans while his hands ran up and down her sides. “If you want me to stop, please tell me now. Not sure I still can later.”
Claire’s head was spinning. His upper body was pressed tightly to her sex, his hands and lips driving her to madness, the stubbly chin only adding to the sensations.
He didn’t. And because he didn’t want to let go of her even for a second, he used his telekinesis to undress them both, making it a matter of seconds.
Claire giggled when he pushed himself up to cover her body and kiss her neck.
“Where is your patience, again?” she asked.
“Lying on the kitchen floor next to your bra.” He grinned against her lips and dove in for another kiss, swallowing her answering laugh.
For a long time, they did nothing but kiss, his body covering hers, and their hands keeping up their slow and gentle caressing. And had time stood still, they could have gone on indefinitely, but at least for their bodies, time did not stand still.
His reaction became harder to ignore, and her reaction to it was more than what could have been called inviting. His kisses grew more insistent, his body moved against hers, making both of them moan and their hands pull tighter, Claire’s fingernails on Gabriel’s back making him growl and bite her lip.
Claire whimpered, the sensations making her dizzy, but she had to admit that her shivering wasn’t only from lust.
Gabriel broke the kiss, breathing heavily only half an inch from her face. “Slow down?” he asked, assuring himself silently that he could, should she ask him to.
Claire blushed. Again, it was not entirely because she was aroused. “Don’t know why I’m so nervous,” she admitted, biting her lip. “It’s not like I’ll even feel the pain.”
He kissed her gently. “You know it’s more than that,” he said, quietly.
Claire nodded. “But I want to.” Boy, did she want to. Her entire body was screaming for him.
Gabriel smiled. “Good to know,” he said, smiling benignly. “But, Claire…” He looked pensive. “About that other thing… Give me your arm.”
Claire frowned but lifted her arm.
“I’m not sure, but…” he started, laying his finger against her arm. “Sorry,” he said, concentrating…
… And Claire flinched in pain as he activated his telekinesis to puncture her skin. Flinched in…
Her eyes widened, and she stared at his hovering face.
“Gabriel,” she breathed.
He smiled at her, if a bit haltingly. “I thought I noticed something different, earlier. I think it was... because you forgave me.”
Her breath hitched.
“I guess…” he averted his eyes for a second before finding hers again, “… your mind tried to protect you from pain and linked some sort of mental block to your gift.” He smiled ruefully. “Looks like you trust me not to hurt you, anymore.”
Of course she did! How could she not? Despite their loaded past, there had never been and never would be a single person whom she would wish to be with her right now. She had all she wanted.
Her eyes became misty, clouding her vision, and she swallowed.
“I love you,” she blurted out, nothing else in her head making sense, right then.
This time, it was his breath that stopped. “Claire…”
She laughed through her tears. “Of course I trust you.” She pulled him into a kiss before she would burst, wishing she could just melt into him.
“God, Claire,” he gasped into the kiss, letting her pull him back, before he broke it for just long enough to add, “I love you, too.”
When his lips found her neck, again, and her fingers threaded through his thick, dark hair, mussing it into complete disarray, she suddenly grinned.
“I knew that. You were being painfully obvious.”
He chuckled into her neck, biting her skin just enough to make her flinch, again. “Cheeky…”
Apparently, not cheeky enough, she decided and moved her hips up into his, making him break his assault on her neck for a second.
A second generally doesn’t last long, and that one might even have been a bit faster, as he recaptured her lips and took her eagerness as an invitation to move against her sweat-slicked body, the friction making them both tremble and moan.
She whimpered and slung her legs around his hips, pulling him in, wanting more, needing more, hungry for… “Gabriel,” she gasped, urgently.
He chuckled darkly, his bangs falling around his face like a curtain. “Not that much creativity, yet,” he noted regretfully. He had waited for this so long that he had a list a mile long with things he wanted to do to and with her, and he wished he could have stopped time enough to live through all of them in one moment, wanting to let her know now just how much he wanted, loved, needed, desired and craved her.
She pressed her lips to his before answering, “We have nothing but time. You can show me everything you ever dreamed of, later.” She leaned up to lick his lips. “And I will show you everything I ever dreamed of.”
He smirked. “And after that, we still have much to learn, I imagine.”
“All the time the stars have to offer, Gabriel,” she whispered, making it sound like a vow.
“It’s ours,” he agreed.
Though, right at that moment, there was a more… pressing matter to address.
They resumed their kiss, Gabriel letting one hand steadily drift lower than he had before, moving his body slightly to the side to grant his hand access to the wet heat between her legs, dipping one finger into her folds and making her gasp and arch her back.
He caught her gasps and whimpers with his lips, keeping up a steady movement with his hand, until all she could do was cling to him for fear of drowning.
He broke the kiss to look at her passion filled face. “You are so ready for me,” he said, which she answered with a gasp and darkened green eyes. “I want to watch you lose it,” he whispered straight into her ear, making her sob and squeeze her eyes shut. “Claire…”
She whimpered, her legs fell open even more and she trembled. “Please,” she forced out.
“Yes,” he growled and quickened the pace of his hands, feeling her slicken more by the second, listening to her harsh gasps and sobs, the tenseness of her body radiating off her in waves. “Claire,” this time it sounded like an order.
And she answered it, her body convulsing, her arms clinging to him, her moans turning into a drawn-out scream in her completion.
He kissed her slack lips until her trembling subsided slightly and she was able to answer the kisses. It took her a surprisingly short time until she apparently got tired of waiting and moved below him, again, trying to manoeuvre him to where she wanted him.
He groaned into the kiss when his dick was moved from her belly and lower, and he broke the kiss.
“Nuh-uh,” he shuddered and moved away slightly. With a flick of his hand, something from inside the bedside table flew out of the drawer and into his hand.
Claire raised an eyebrow. “You realise that neither of us can get sick, right?”
Gabriel smirked at her. “True. But you can get pregnant. As much as I’m looking forward to babysitting with you, it’s maybe a bit early for that.” She giggled. “And your dad will try to kill me as it is. When I knock you up on the first try, he’ll probably find a way to actually do it, too.”
She rolled her eyes and took the packet from him, ripping it open and taking out a condom. “As long as this gets you in me,” she said huskily, enjoying his reaction to her tone of voice.
He shuddered. “God, baby…” He hadn’t meant to use that endearment. He’d always thought that it was ridiculous, but now that he was in a situation where he was hopelessly in love himself, it had kind of just slipped out. Maybe it wasn’t all that ridiculous, after all. Claire, at least, didn’t seem to mind it.
When he tried to take the condom from her, she refused to give it to him.
“Let me…” she said, opening it.
It took a little fidgeting to get her into a position where she could reach and put it on him, but, so Gabriel decided, the view was entirely worth it.
“Enough playing,” he purred, rolling back onto her.
She opened her legs widely for him, returning his intense stare with all the trust she had for him, and when he used his hand to guide himself into her slowly, the startling sensations and the burning emotions almost made her miss the tiny burst of pain that made her smile into his kiss.
Hours and hours later found them in the early evening sitting on the couch in the living room. Claire was leaning her head on Gabriel’s shoulder, while he had his arm securely around hers.
Gabriel wore nothing but a pair of sweatpants, while Claire was happily wrapped up in a pair of his shorts and one of his dark shirts. When they were getting dressed – after quite some use of creativity during the course of the day – they had remembered that half of Claire’s clothes were still in the kitchen and neither was inclined to actually go and get it. And now… Claire was way too smug and content with wearing Gabriel’s things.
They were talking quietly, kissing every now and then.
“I wonder where Peter is…” Claire suddenly said.
Gabriel smirked. He had an idea, and surprisingly, it didn’t even involve Emma, this time. “My guess would be, and that’s just my opinion, that Angela called him to get him out of the house.”
Claire snorted a laugh. “You’re kidding.”
Gabriel shrugged, amused. “She can’t see everything. But I’m sure that if she has seen this coming, she either would have tried preventing my deflowering her granddaughter; or – if, by some weird circumstances I’m not sure I even want to know, she approved – she would have… assisted by making sure we were alone.”
Claire’s shoulder shook under his hand when she laughed. “Not sure I want her to have visions of my… deflowering.”
Gabriel chuckled with her and then turned his head to whisper in her ear. “You know what?”
She tilted her head to grant him better access as an encouragement.
He lowered his voice even more, mischievously. “I could feel you heal around me.”
A shudder ran through her body, and she closed her eyes, only opening them when she heard his smug chuckle. She raised an eyebrow.
“What? I’m custom tailored to your dick, now?”
Gabriel’s dark and seductive air fell from him, and he threw his head back, laughing out loud.
She squealed when he attacked her lips in a kiss, both laughing into it for quite some time before the amusement slowly ebbed away and made room for more love and passion, instead.
“Took you long enough,” came an unexpected third voice.
It made Claire jump out of the kiss and stare at Peter who stood by the doorway. “Peter!” she admonished. “You’re not supposed to teleport into the house!” It was a standing rule, after all.
Peter held up his hands – or, rather, the one hand that wasn’t holding pizza boxes – in defence. “I didn’t! I actually came in through the door.”
As if on cue, both Claire and Gabriel’s stomach grumbled at the delicious scent of the pizza.
Peter smirked. “Didn’t get to eat much since breakfast, huh?”
Claire self-consciously cleared her throat, while Gabriel just grinned widely like the metaphorical cat that had eaten the canary and drunk a bowl of cream and was now getting its stomach scratched.
“Mom said you might get… busy, once I was out of the house,” Peter added and snorted.
Gabriel grinned at Claire. “Told you so.”
Claire just spluttered and shook her head, but she didn’t refuse the small kiss he gave her.
Peter rolled his eyes at them. “I’m not interrupting, am I?”
Gabriel made a grand gesture with his hand. “Not right now.”
Claire giggled and Peter put the boxes on the table.
“You’re going to be insufferable, now, aren’t you?” Peter accused him.
Gabriel smirked. “Payback.”
Chapter 6: Passion
Mohinder Suresh’s finger hovered over the doorbell that had ‘Gray & Petrelli’ written below it in clear black on white letters. When he had heard of Peter moving from one coast to the other, he had hoped… well… he had at least thought that it was a possibility that Peter had left that questionable part of his life behind him.
It would appear that he had not. After the happenings at the carnival, Mohinder had thrown himself into work, had accepted far too many queries of assistance of all kinds of geneticists all over the world, helping with the practical knowledge he had of Specials, always holding back on the possibly horribly damaging information of artificially creating such abilities. That was one thing at least that he had managed to hide. It was too dangerous a path (at least at this time in history), and there were thankfully quite a lot of people strewn across the world who would quench attempts in the earliest possible stages, were they to appear.
After more than a year of intensive work, he had on the one hand indeed missed some of the friends he had made, and on the other hand had a few questions regarding empathic mimicry. Which was what led him to Peter Petrelli, first.
And while he had known that Peter apparently had had reasons to share his apartment in New York with someone he swore on his brother’s grave was different, for a brief moment Mohinder had entertained the thought that maybe that had changed.
On his way here, Mohinder had tried to make himself believe that he could trust himself with… Gray.
Now, he was not so sure anymore. What would he do if Peter was not at home but instead only…
“Mohinder?” a voice asked from behind him and he turned around.
“Peter!” he greeted the man with a smile and a fair amount of relief, taking his hand.
Peter grinned. “You in the country, again?”
“I’ve been… around.”
“Yeah, we heard. You still talk to my mom, after all.” He frowned at him a bit, only partly playful.
Mohinder looked taken aback. “Yes… and I must apologise. I have let work take me over by quite a bit, I’m afraid.” He had forced himself to call Molly regularly and even visit every now and then, though ‘now and then’ had amounted to exactly three visits in one year.
Peter clapped his shoulder. “Not a problem. Wanna come in for a moment? I’m about to head out, though. You’re welcome to join me if you like,” he rambled off, opening the door and walking ahead.
Mohinder followed him and closed the door. “I don’t mean to intrude…” His eyes darted around the welcoming view of the very homey living room, nervously.
“Don’t worry, man.” He headed towards the stairs. “Be right back. Help yourself to a drink in the kitchen,” he called over his shoulder.
Mohinder walked further into the house. To his utmost surprise, he found a large… toy castle standing in the corner, one of the size that a small child could easily fit in. A stuffed plush dragon sat on top of it. Some colourful blocks were strewn around it on the floor.
There was… a child living here?
He was still standing there, frozen in place when Peter returned from upstairs, now only wearing swimming shorts and an open button-down shirt.
Peter grinned at Mohinder’s expression. “Oh, that,” he chuckled. “Gabriel is babysitting Mattie this weekend, so he and Claire got the castle last week. Mattie could only be coaxed out of it with promises of going swimming.” He looked pointedly down himself. “Which is where I’m heading, too, actually.”
He held out a second pair of shorts and threw it to Mohinder. “Tag along?”
If Mohinder had thought before that he’d been frozen in place because of the castle, it was nothing compared to how he felt now. “Gabriel… is…” He shook himself. “What?”
Peter’s smile made way to a weary sigh. “I guess it’s going to take a while until we get out of here…”
That reaction startled Mohinder awake at least a little. “I’m sorry,” he said. He was, after all, in the other man’s home, a home he shared with Gabriel. “Your mother mentioned… Gabriel, of course. As did Molly. But…” No matter how hard he tried, he was still at a loss for words.
“You still hate him because he killed your father, and my mother is known to vouch for psychopaths if they suit her purpose,” Peter finished for him. He left out Molly on purpose. She was… a different story entirely.
“Not quite how I would have…” He stopped and cleared his throat, uncomfortably. “Essentially,” he conceded.
Peter couldn’t help but snort in amusement. “And I’m a hopeless idealist who wants to believe in the good of people at all costs, right?” he added, walking towards the kitchen. If he was going to be late, he might as well have a coffee, first.
“No!” Mohinder immediately insisted. “I very much value your opinion, Peter.”
Peter turned on the coffee maker. “But it doesn’t change what he did,” he said, quietly. “Coffee?”
Mohinder shook his head and took a seat on one of the barstools. “No, thank you.”
“We can’t undo what Sylar did,” Peter said, absently reaching for his favourite cup. “But I can guarantee you that the part of him that made him do these things is gone. He is a good man.” He pushed the button.
“Believe it or not, I wouldn’t mind it at all if you were right, but he has deceived people before.”
“Ah.” Peter nodded, adding some sugar to his coffee. “You… Maya.”
“And Elle I would imagine…”
“No,” Peter interrupted coldly. At Mohinder’s shocked face, he took a deep breath. “That is not my story to tell, but no. He didn’t deceive her.” He laughed, cynically. “He was deceived a lot more than the other way around.”
Mohinder knew enough to be unable to argue with that. He nodded, slowly.
“I know… literally everything that is to know about him,” Peter said. “Good and bad. And make no mistake, I know just how bad he could get. In detail. Some of that I remember myself quite vividly. And yet…” his dark expression lightened, “… I love him. I would trust him with my life. I…” he laughed, “… I trust him with Claire and Mattie Parkman’s lives.” He symbolically pointed towards the front door. “And I am absolutely certain that neither of them could possibly be any safer right now than with him.”
Mohinder had almost considered that the Mattie Peter had mentioned before was the Parkman boy, but had then dismissed it as ridiculous. Matt Parkman wouldn’t… “Matt and Janice asked Gabriel to babysit?” he spluttered. The words felt a lot more ridiculous when spoken out loud. “I mean, no matter how nice a guy you all claim he is now, having him… babysit is…”
Peter couldn’t help it. He had to laugh. “You never went to a future where he was a father…”
“He’s… going to be a father?”
Peter’s smile vanished. “Not… that one. That future’s not going to happen.” Then his lip twitched. “I’m seeing possibilities again, these days, though.” He grinned impishly into his cup.
Mohinder blinked for a few seconds, until all of the names that had been mentioned in the brief time he had been there aligned themselves into a worrying order, and his eyes widened. “You cannot be serious.”
Peter took a swallow. “Don’t tell Noah. Claire wants to do that herself.”
Mohinder rubbed his face. “I realise that I’ve been out of touch for a while, but not that long.” He shook his head, incredulously. “At least I didn’t think so.”
Peter tilted his head. “Well, to be fair, he was trapped for five years right before the fall of the carnival.”
“Yes! But with you! Not with Claire, and not with Matt and Janice Parkman!”
“He helps teaching Mattie to deal with his ability, so he’s at an advantage there, and Claire…” He paused. “I guess they both needed someone.”
Mohinder was still pondering the first part of that information. “Teaching? What do you mean he’s teaching the boy?”
“Oh.” Peter perked up. That was actually a really good opening to convince the scientist in Mohinder… “Matt and Janice were worried that Mattie could tap into a dangerous ability at some point, amplifying it without knowing he was doing it. So Gabriel helps him with that.”
“You don’t know about Mattie’s ability?”
Mohinder shook his head. “I thought it was mostly just based on his mood…”
“It was that when he was smaller,” Peter agreed. “We figured out by now that he can see abilities as colours. Gabriel acquired the ability from him and now teaches him which colours are dangerous and which are safe.” He grinned. “Mattie can try those out on Gabriel and me.”
Peter had been right, the scientist in Mohinder couldn’t possibly have resisted that. “That is…”
“Intriguing?” Peter smiled benignly.
Mohinder just nodded.
“You know… Gabriel would help you with your research if you asked him. He’s as curious as you are.”
Mohinder averted his eyes. He had known that. Had seen firsthand just what Sylar’s unquenchable curiosity could do.
When he lifted his head to look at Peter again, he was met with a gaze full of understanding for Mohinder. It was also a gaze full of trust and affection for Gabriel. Feelings that he appeared certain Gabriel could induce again. Would induce in Mohinder.
“It… doesn’t surprise me,” he finally said, diplomatically.
“Which is why he’s going back to College this fall with Claire.”
Mohinder blinked. “College?”
Peter just shrugged. “Limitless time and funds and a brain that is made for understanding.” He smirked. “He might as well make use of it.”
Mohinder couldn’t help but agree. From a subjective viewpoint, the situation appeared to be quite clear. After all, Peter did have insights nobody else could possibly ever gain. From a personal viewpoint… the memories were still haunting him.
“So,” Peter declared, stopping Mohinder’s train of thought and knocked back the rest of his coffee. “Ready to go out?”
Mohinder looked at the swimming shorts he was still holding in his hand and… nodded.
Peter led them through the area surrounding the outdoor pools, searching for familiar faces. The cheerful sounds from the water didn’t help ease Mohinder’s trepidation any, though.
Once Peter found a satisfying vantage point, he stopped and looked around.
“Stop worrying, already and trust me,” he said when he saw Mohinder’s eyes dart around nervously. “I trust him, Claire trusts him, Matt trusts him with his kid…” He sent Mohinder a pointed look. “And his therapist agrees that he’s stable.”
Mohinder startled. “Therapist?”
“Oh, right, I didn’t mention that,” he answered, still looking around and finally heading in another direction once he couldn’t find anyone. “It’s not because he might be dangerous,” he assured the other man quickly. “It’s because he really needed to learn to deal with what he did.”
“And how does that work for him?” Mohinder asked, coldly, not convinced at all that Sylar deserved dealing with his atrocities.
“You should ask him sometime,” Peter suggested, calmly. He turned to look at Mohinder face to face. “I know you hate Sylar, but you might surprise yourself with actually liking Gabriel.” He held his gaze for a moment before walking off again, hearing the other man follow.
After another couple of minutes, Peter suddenly froze. “Oh…” he chuckled and rummaged in his bag for his camera. “Oh, this is too good.” He put his finger to his lips to sign Mohinder to stay silent, before walking decisively towards his goal, again.
Mohinder followed his line of sight… and it took several heartbeats long for him to convince his feet to do the same after what he saw.
The three were under a tree in their swim wear (Mattie wearing swimming diapers). Gabriel was on his back, Claire by his side with her head on his shoulder and his arm around her, and Mattie on Gabriel’s chest, held securely by the other arm. All of them were asleep.
Peter sneaked closer to take some pictures, the last one only a few metres from the sleeping group. Mohinder came to a standstill right behind him, staring wide-eyed.
“More blackmail material?” Gabriel asked without opening his eyes, making Peter chuckle again.
“Nope. Not blackmail. Bribery. You’ll so want a copy of that.”
Gabriel smirked and opened his eyes. He blinked when he noticed that Peter wasn’t alone. “Hello, Mohinder.”
Mohinder nodded, once. “Gabriel.” Despite the picture that was presented to him and that couldn’t possibly have been any more harmless, his voice was cold.
Gabriel didn’t seem fazed and tilted his head down to look at his young charge sleeping on his torso. He smiled when the boy sighed in his sleep, but didn’t wake just then.
“So, what brings you to our parts, doctor?” Gabriel asked.
Mohinder shook himself mentally out of his stupor. “I needed some time off.”
“And some answers?” Peter asked, smirking. At Mohinder’s caught look, he chuckled. “Come on, you wouldn’t just drop by my place for a social call.”
Mohinder’s eyes flickered to Gabriel and back to Peter.
“And at my place,” Peter continued, “you have two people who can acquire abilities.”
Gabriel couldn’t help but smirk and added, “And I’ve figured out a little something that might keep the scientist in you from trying to stare me to death right away.”
Mohinder looked in equal parts worried and intrigued, and Peter snickered and let himself fall to the ground, sitting cross-legged next to the group.
“He can make them up,” Peter said, looking up at Mohinder.
Mohinder blinked. “Make up what?”
“Abilities,” Peter continued. “Well, I guess so far he only acquired some existing ones that he knew of, but he never had to meet any of the people carrying them.” His eyes gleamed. “Based on abilities he has and understands, he can figure out how others should work and…” He snapped his fingers.
Gabriel snorted. “You make it sound like magic or something. It’s not like that is a novelty. People create new theories based on existing facts all the time.”
Mohinder on the other hand very much stared at Gabriel as if maybe the man could perform miraculous tasks. Finally, he had to give in and let himself flop down too.
“You… can…” he stuttered.
Before either Peter or Gabriel could answer the non-question, Claire interrupted them.
“Why am I awake?” she mumbled into Gabriel’s neck. “I don’t want to be awake.”
Gabriel chuckled and kissed the top of her head. “We have a visitor.”
“I heard, you boys were bragging again,” she said, making the ‘boys’ chuckle. She turned her head and gave Mohinder a little wave. “Hey.”
For her, Mohinder actually managed a smile and wave too. “Hello.”
“Look who else is awake!” Gabriel said, returning the wide grin that was directed at him from the little boy on his chest.
Mattie, like most children of that age, went from asleep to awake in something like two seconds flat and already climbed off his makeshift, human bed and tried to run off for “more swim now!” as he declared.
“Nu-uh.” Gabriel stopped him mid-skip, turned him around and made him skip back, to make it appear as if he was jumping himself, in case any on-lookers caught them.
Mattie squealed in delight and giggled when he came to a standstill right next to Gabriel.
Gabriel leaned closer conspiratorially. “Go find the cookie box,” he whispered, pointing at the baby buggy.
Momentarily distracted from wanting to go swimming some more, Mattie raced to his buggy and started digging through the toys in the storage under the seat.
Peter cleared his throat. “Those wouldn’t happen to be the cookies we ate two boxes of, yesterday…?”
Gabriel grinned, and Claire looked at them oddly.
“You guys ate two boxes of baby crackers?”
“Don’t knock it till you tried it,” Gabriel said, waving a finger at her and making her snort in amusement.
Mattie had by now apparently found his tea and held it up triumphantly, but not the cookies.
“The cookies are in the blue box, Mattie,” Peter helped him.
After another moment, Mattie found the box, too. “Ultameen!” he said, brought the box to Gabriel and plopped down in his lap.
“That’s right, Mattie,” Gabriel agreed. “Ultramarine.” He looked at Peter, mock-admonishingly. “Not just blue. Peter, what were you thinking?”
Peter flipped him off when he was sure Mattie wasn’t looking. Claire laughed out loud, and Gabriel bit his lip. Even Mohinder couldn’t hold back a twitch of lips.
Mattie looked at Gabriel expectantly, and Gabriel opened the box for him.
“You need to eat and drink a little first, then you can go swimming,” he told the boy, not that Mattie complained with the cookies in front of him.
Claire sent him a look. “Aren’t you supposed to wait after eating?”
“Not unless you pass out regularly after eating when you’re trying to walk.” Gabriel snorted. “No idea who came up with that wait-half-an-hour rule, but it’s ridiculous. Maybe if you stuff yourself to the brink of throwing up and then jump in, it might be a bad idea, but only because you might throw up and not because you’d pass out in the water for whatever reason.”
“Are you kidding me?” Claire asked. “My parents told me that all my life!”
Gabriel snickered. “Most parents do. Doesn’t make it any less silly. Plus...” he kissed Mattie on the head, “... he’ll wear his swimmies and won’t be alone.” He pondered that. “Swimming alone is actually a whole lot more dangerous. Parents should warn of that.”
Claire still looked as if her world had effectively spun out of its axis and she was at the same time incredibly glad that it was over something silly like that for a change.
Gabriel nodded towards Peter and Mohinder. “Ask the medical crew there if you don’t believe me.”
Claire laughed and snatched a cookie out of the box. “I believe you.” She took a bite and... “Okay, I believe you about the crackers, too.”
Claire got a laugh and a kiss on cheek for that comment, the latter of which she answered with a small one on his lips that maybe didn’t end quite as quickly as it should have.
“Hey!” Gabriel suddenly yelled, turning his head when Peter levitated the box of cookies out of his grasp and into his own hand. Mattie giggled and ran after it.
“You have to be on your guard,” Peter told him, biting a cookie and handing one to Mohinder. “Tell you what,” he told Gabriel, “Claire and I will take this little monster for his swim, and you can talk to Mohinder. Sound good?”
Mohinder made a strange face, but Peter didn’t let him say anything and stopped whatever thought he might have had with, “You know you need to.”
That may have been, Mohinder was sure, but... “You are having a family afternoon, I don’t want to impose...”
Gabriel gave him a weird look. “After all I’ve done, you’re worried about spoiling my afternoon?” He snorted incredulously. “This is going to be easy.”
Peter was putting the swimmies on Mattie and rolled his eyes. “Stop being so melodramatic.”
Gabriel accepted that with a sour look. He was being melodramatic, but Mohinder worrying about a simple ruined afternoon was... He sighed.
When he looked up, Claire was standing next to him, bending down. She smiled, slowly leaned in and kissed him softly.
“Love you,” she said, caressing his cheek.
He laid a hand on the back of her neck, not wanting the moment to end just now. “Love you too,” he mouthed, before brushing his lips over hers again for a second.
Claire straightened. “Let’s go,” she said decisively, jerking her head to the side for Peter to follow her. Peter lifted Mattie to sit on his hip.
Mattie protested when he noticed that Gabriel wasn’t about to get up too. “Gabiel come too!”
Gabriel smiled at him. “Oh, but it’s Peter’s turn now,” he explained. “I’ll watch from here.” He pointed to the ground. “Right here. I’m not going away.”
That seemed to mollify Mattie enough, and he demanded, “swim, swim, swim!” from Peter.
“Yes, swim, swim, swim,” Peter agreed.
Gabriel looked after them, his head leaning against the tree.
Mohinder cleared his throat and kept his eyes on his feet. “I hear your therapy is going well...”
Gabriel turned his head and stared at Mohinder. “Is this really what you want to talk about?” he asked.
Mohinder fidgeted, never looking at Gabriel. He was angry, though he didn’t even really know if he was angry at Gabriel or angry at himself. “Yes,” he said, steadily. “That is, in the end, what matters, isn’t it?”
“Mohinder, I killed-“
“I know!” Mohinder interrupted him, now sounding angry as well as looking it, dark eyes finally staring at Gabriel. “I am well aware of what you’ve done.”
Gabriel lowered his eyes to his bent knees and slung his arms around his legs.
“It can’t be changed,” Mohinder said, his voice hard. “So now it is up to you to honour their memory and use their abilities for something good.” He waited for Gabriel to look him in the eyes again. “You owe at least that to them.”
Gabriel didn’t answer.
“And I...” Mohinder sighed, averting his eyes, once more. “I hear that is what you are doing.”
For a brief moment, Mohinder looked like he had swallowed sand. “I hear you do more than that,” he forced himself to admit.
Gabriel couldn’t hold back a small smile. His eyes roamed to the pool, watching his three companions. He knew that Mohinder probably wasn’t talking about Gabriel teaching the boy; but to Gabriel, it was something he could use his powers for without feeling their possible dangers. And to Mattie, he was something else entirely than for everyone else. Even the people who had forgiven him had things they had to forgive him for. Mattie was different. He only knew Gabriel and loved him for who he was now, and Gabriel was glad for it.
“So, yes,” Mohinder concluded firmly. “I guess the most important question is whether or not you’re stable.”
“Even if you don’t like it?” Gabriel remembered well how Mohinder had wanted revenge, and he was sure that the thought hadn’t completely left Mohinder’s mind. Unfortunately for Mohinder – and for everyone else harbouring such plans – killing Gabriel was proving to be tricky nowadays.
Mohinder rubbed his face. “I had my chance at killing you. I didn’t take it.”
“I didn’t let you take it.”
Mohinder huffed in amusement. “You taunted me, and I fell for it. Maybe you were not meant to die.”
“Maybe,” Gabriel considered. This wasn’t the first time someone told him that. He could have died so many times; yet, he never did. Something or someone always saved him. “My life is certainly worth living these days.”
“So are you? Stable?”
Gabriel took a deep breath. “Yes.” At Mohinder’s sceptical look he elaborated. “I might have had doubts every now and then, even though I could feel that I was different, and that it wasn’t the same as before when I tried to be... a good person.” He swallowed. “And I did try, more than once.” He looked steadily at Mohinder, deeply, not allowing him to avoid his stare. “I can understand my ability, now, and I trust Peter and Matt, and I trust Madeline,” he listed the three people whom he trusted to keep a close and deep look at who he was beneath. “And more importantly, they trust me.” He bit his lips. “And even if Matt and Peter didn’t have the abilities to read my mind and my emotions, their trust means enough to me to not disappoint it.” He sighed. “And Mattie... I don’t want him to ever know me as anything other than what I am now. I don’t ever want to be anything other than I am now.”
When he finally stopped, Mohinder asked, “And Claire?”
“Claire...” He said the name as if it was his answer to impossible questions, his eyes on the pool, again. “Claire loves me despite of what I did, and she trusts me in spite of her own better judgement. If not for myself, then I was meant to live for her. To end her nightmare.”
Mohinder was unsure as to what that nightmare was, but he could imagine that immortals shared the same fear. “To not be alone.”
Gabriel nodded, smiling slightly when he saw Mattie splash happily around Claire in the water. “I don’t know if I deserve this much happiness. I’m sure you would say that I don’t, and you wouldn’t be wrong.” His eyes remained on Claire, his voice sounding as if the thoughts that formed the words came from another world before they could exit his lips. “But then again, I am loved, so maybe I do deserve it, after all.” His head lolled to the side to look at Mohinder again. “They wouldn’t love me if I didn’t. Would they?”
Mohinder swallowed against the lump in his throat. “They wouldn’t love you if they thought you didn’t deserve it, no,” he said, carefully avoiding his own opinion on the matter. He didn’t know why he did that, it just seemed the right thing to do. Gabriel was in a position of power to do so much good, but he could have used that power to do as much evil just as easily.
It appeared as if Gabriel had chosen what to do with it... Who was Mohinder to judge the man now? Not to mention that he knew perfectly well what powers could do to a person.
“I believe,” Mohinder started after a while, “that I am not in a position to judge.”
“You have every right...” Gabriel interrupted.
“Yes,” Mohinder interrupted in return. “I do have the right, but I am still not in a position to... rationally decide.”
Gabriel smiled at him. “I guess you’re the scientist in the end after all.”
Mohinder snorted, and briefly wondered if he had performed his duty as a son. “In part.” He found it was easier to find the words he needed to say when he avoided direct eye contact. Instead, his gaze fell on their friends in the water.
He huffed, ruefully. “I may have reasons to try and punish you for what you did, but by doing that, I would take from other people what you took from me.” He shook his head. “I don’t have that in me.”
Gabriel’s smile that had been slowly disappearing returned again, now. “And they save me again...”
“It’s not like I could actually kill you, anyway.” Mohinder smiled sardonically. “And if what you say is true, and you are of no danger, and it was your ability that made you into Sylar, then...” He was at loss for words.
“I am not asking your forgiveness, Mohinder. I will give you the same choice I have given everyone else. If you want my sincere apologies, you can have them. If you want me to stay the hell away from you, I will. If you ever need help with anything, I will help you if I can.”
“Can you help others?” His father had probably been right. Mohinder had always been too emotional for a scientist.
Gabriel nodded towards the water. “Maybe help others with their powers to prevent things from going wrong?” He smiled. “I can do that.”
Mohinder wondered if Gabriel even realised just how much he helped Claire and Peter as well. “You’re good for them. Claire and Peter, I mean.”
“That’s mutual.” And it very much was. Peter, who had believed that he would save Emma, had believed in him, for... no reason at all, other than the fact that it was what Peter did. He believed. And Claire, who had given him a chance, who understood, who was so very similar to him, who loved him, who stood by his side, even though...
“Noah is going to blow a casket.” He sighed.
Mohinder snorted. “There was a time when that prospect would have amused you...”
Gabriel had to chuckle at that. “I guess it still does, in a way. But...” He turned his head to look at the other man. “I have the feeling that he’ll do something stupid when he finds out. Something...” he tried to find the right words. “Something that will make Claire decide or just break her trust in him.”
Mohinder didn’t answer. He could easily imagine Noah reacting with something like that.
“Claire loves her dad,” Gabriel added, “I don’t want her to lose him. And, yes,” he added, quickly, “there was a time when I would have welcomed that.” He shook his head. “It kind of lost its appeal.”
“Because you love her.”
Gabriel sent him an accusing look. “Do you even believe that?”
Mohinder was quiet for a long time. “A part of me doesn’t want to,” he admitted. “Doesn’t want to accept that you’ve changed.”
The wording softened Gabriel’s expression. Did another part do want to?
“But every telepath, empath or other Special who has access to some extra sensory information and knows you seems to just... be so certain of you.” Mohinder shook his head, as if he couldn’t quite process that. “Even Molly.”
Ah. Molly he could explain. “She sees Micah a lot, and I kind of have an advantage on the Micah front.” He grinned a bit. “I did get to be a little hero every now and again, back in the old days.”
“Yes, but Molly saw what you can do, saw it firsthand even, and when she first mentioned you again to me after the fall of the carnival, I was startled how she just said,” and then he added in a particularly off-handed way, “well, I can feel he’s not the bogeyman, anymore, of course it’s not the same.”
Gabriel had to laugh.
“Like I’m an idiot to even think it.” Mohinder smiled ruefully.
“She is awfully pragmatic for a little girl.”
Mohinder felt a pang at the fond tone of voice, and it took him entirely too long to figure out why. “Do you see her often?”
Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “More often than you.”
Mohinder stayed silent for a long moment. “I’m not cut out for working like that. I need to see the people in my life.” He sighed when his mind made the same turn it had before, unsurprisingly, given the company. “My father was right,” he said out loud this time, “I am too emotional to be a scientist.”
Gabriel burst out laughing. “He told you that?”
Mohinder startled, somewhat hurt, angry and indignant on his father’s behalf. Gabriel’s following words took the bite immediately off, though.
“Mohinder, that man was at least as emotional, even passionate, as you.” The amusement faded into a gentle smile. “He was also terrified of losing you the way he lost your sister. He never wanted you to follow in his footsteps, because on the way to find a cure, you always have to find the disease, first.”
Mohinder stared at him. Gabriel hadn’t been lying, all that time ago. His father had confided in him. “He actually did like you,” he blurted out.
Gabriel gave a half nod. “I was nothing if not curious and passionate, myself. Of course he liked me. For a while...” He snorted. “I’ll leave it up to you to figure out why that changed.”
Mohinder considered the man in front of him for a while. No, Gabriel didn’t feel the same. He didn’t sound the same. He appeared settled, content, balanced... almost serene. A man who had lost everything and then found even more. A man with the will to do good and with the power and mind to realise it.
A man with an eternity ahead of him and unafraid to face it.
And Mohinder could be part of that world of possibilities, all he had to do was take one step...
“What can you tell me about my sister?” Mohinder leaped.
Chapter 7: Bonds
Angela ties up loose ends.
Gabriel stood in his workroom, staring at the phone in his hand for a long time, before he managed to go and find Peter who was waiting for him on the couch in the living room.
Peter didn’t look up from the book he was reading. “What did mom want to talk to you about?” he asked. When he didn’t get an answer he turned around and… “So it was that talk, was it?” The expression on Gabriel’s face answering his question.
Gabriel, phone still in hand, was searching for the right words, then he said, “You knew about this?” Peter nodded. “And you’re okay with it?” Gabriel asked, incredulously.
Peter smiled. “You seem surprised.”
Gabriel relaxed somewhat, smiling ruefully. “I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised that you would think that way.”
Peter smirked and stood. “No, you shouldn’t.”
Gabriel sighed, deeply and put the phone down.
“What was your answer?” Peter wanted to know.
Gabriel shrugged. “None, yet. I need to talk to her, first. And I…” He stood there, grasping for the right words and feeling as lost as he had when Angela had told him something quite similar. “I need to know what you and Claire think about it,” he concluded, firmly.
“We knew about her plans for a while,” Peter admitted. “And we’re both fine with it.”
Gabriel narrowed his eyes. “How long is a while?”
“Couple of weeks? I don’t remember. She just said she wanted to wait for the right moment to ask you.” He grinned. “I guess the moment was you and Claire finally getting over yourselves and together.”
“Very funny.” He averted his eyes. “And Claire is really okay with it?”
“Yeah, we talked about it. She didn’t seem to care either way.”
“And what about you?”
Peter snorted. “Oh, no. I’m not making that decision for you.”
“I’m not…” Gabriel ran his hand through his hair, frustrated. “I’m not asking you to, but this is… I need to know what you want.”
Peter looked like he wasn’t too happy to be asked his own preference, but eventually relented, anyway.
“Yes. I want you to accept her offer.” He put a steady hand on Gabriel’s shoulder. “But I also want you to promise me that you’ll decide for yourself, not for me.”
After a moment, Gabriel nodded. “I will.”
Peter nodded back and pulled Gabriel into a hug. After a short clap on his back, he let go of him. “Now go talk to her, you know you won’t stop thinking about this until you did.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I guess,” he agreed, anyway.
“Claire should be here when you get back.”
Gabriel disappeared, and Peter took a deep breath.
“What do you think, Nathan?” he said into thin air, smiling slightly. “Is he going to say yes?” He chuckled. “Yeah… I think so, too.”
Gabriel re-appeared in the Petrelli study where he found Angela and young Molly reading.
They both looked up at the sudden visitor, but neither seemed particularly surprised.
Angela closed her book and tilted her head at Molly. “We had an agreement.”
Molly sighed, sounding vaguely annoyed. “I know. I can stay up until Gabriel gets here,” she repeated the earlier words. She stood, her book in hand and gave a little wave at him. “Good night.”
“Good night, Molly,” he wished before she could close the door behind her. He turned his head to Angela. “How is she doing?” he asked, walking towards where she was sitting.
Angela laid her book on the coffee table and folded her hands in her lap. “Her tutors are very happy with her progress.”
“Good,” Gabriel said, sitting down across from her. He mirrored her relaxed stance, even though he knew very well that neither of them was particularly relaxed.
“Have you come to a decision?”
“Not yet.” He looked at her intently. “I need to know why you are doing this. I need to…” He sighed.
“You need to understand,” she finished for him.
He smiled weakly. “I can’t replace Nathan.”
“I know that,” she agreed, waving off his concern. “You’re nothing like him, anyway. You’re much more like Peter.”
Gabriel had to laugh a bit. “Can’t argue with that.”
“And some of his optimism rubbed off on you, while he in turn got some of your patience.” She gave him a small smirk. “Something nobody managed before you.”
Gabriel’s fingers pulled at a tiny thread on his jeans. “He’s a good guy.”
“He is,” Angela agreed. “Always following his heart.”
They were quiet for a long time. Gabriel focused on his nervous fingers and Angela watched him with a pensive look.
“I should have done that more often,” she said into the silence.
Gabriel lifted his head and returned her intense look. “Is that what you’re doing? Is that what your offer means?”
“I…” her eyes wandered to the side, “… have hopes that I am still capable of that, yes.”
“But why? Why me? Why not… Molly?”
Her lips twitched. “What makes you think I didn’t make her the same offer?”
His head perked up and he blinked. “You did? What did she say?”
She laughed. “You are doing exactly what Peter said you would do. Making this decision about others instead of you.”
Gabriel couldn’t hold back a grin and crossed his arms. “He said that, did he?”
She shrugged, clearly amused. “He did.” She leaned forward. “Well, this isn’t about Peter or Molly. I’m asking you.”
Gabriel nodded slowly. “And I still need to know why.” The confused look returned. “After everything I’ve done. Done to you.” He held her gaze with his dark eyes. He slowly appeared more and more lost and less confused. “And now you want to accept me as a son, even though I took one from you? Why would you want to do that?”
Angela didn’t answer him right away, she just studied him. “I don’t think I’ve seen that look on your face since you asked me if I was really your mother, back when you still believed it.”
Gabriel swallowed hard and broke the eye contact.
“I don’t want you to replace Nathan. I thought we’ve established that,” she admonished and waited until he looked at her again. “Peter already views you as his brother,” she said wistfully. Her eyes watered but she didn’t let the tears fall. “He introduces you to people as his brother, Gabriel. He stands by your side, and calls you his brother with so much pride…” She couldn’t finish the sentence.
Gabriel rubbed his own wet eyes and sniffed once. “I can assure you, I feel as much pride for him.”
“I would very much,” she had to stop again and swallow, before she finished decisively, “I would very much like to call you my son, because I am very proud of you, too.”
And Gabriel knew that she was telling the truth. Her words flowed over him like a stream, no ripples, no waves, no tingles. Not one.
“You were never far from either my thoughts or my premonitions,” she admitted. “You were a… turning point in time, hard to follow.”
“What do you mean?”
She smiled sadly. “It means that the future always depended on your actions. You were the one to decide which way it would go. Apocalypse or salvation.” At his widened and shocked eyes, she elaborated. “And I thought for a brief time that I could control those turning points by controlling you.” She bit her lips. “I was very wrong, and I nearly destroyed the path you’re on now because of it.”
Gabriel shook his head in denial. “But that’s the butterfly effect. Everyone’s actions make the future.”
“They do,” she agreed. “But you are not like everyone. You are somehow rooted in time itself.” She smiled calmly at him, trying to make him see that it wasn’t a bad thing. “Just like Claire.”
His eyes darted to hers.
“’Save the cheerleader, save the world’, wasn’t it?” She smiled benignly. “Claire was never meant to take direct action in what was happening back then, but it was absolutely imperative that she was brought into play.”
“For me?” The words were out before he could stop them. He wasn’t even really sure why he said it, it just seemed to… make sense.
“Your paths have always been aligned. I’m sure that if we were to track both your lives, we would find several instances of almost encounters.”
Gabriel rubbed his forehead against the buzz the thoughts were causing. “And you knew about this?”
She huffed. “Oh, I knew. I just didn’t understand.” She pondered that for a moment. “If you had seen her walk some… paths of destiny,” her tone very clearly conveyed what she thought of concepts like destiny, “alongside the man you once were, what would you have done?”
Gabriel snorted. “I’d have packed her bags and shipped her out of the country.”
Angela smirked. “I did try to take her to Paris.”
“I guess that didn’t go over well with her.”
“Not at all.”
Her smile faded. “I did see… flashes of what you are now, but I didn’t believe them.”
Gabriel laughed sardonically. “Oh, trust me. I wouldn’t have believed any of that, either.”
She nodded. “All the more reason to be proud that you managed it anyway, against all odds.”
“Those odds including…” Gabriel sighed. “The death of Nathan.” He tilted his head. “And Arthur, but I’m not going to apologise to you for that.”
Angela huffed. “I will thank you for the second, if only because you prevented Peter from having to do it. As for Nathan…” She took a deep breath, calling up the words she had been preparing for this day for a long time.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about my sons. About the sacrifices I was ready to have them make for the sakes of plans that I believed in. In the end I always knew… that Nathan would abide to such plans while Peter wouldn’t.” She locked her eyes with Gabriel’s. “In this reality, a future Peter shot Nathan; in a prevented future, Peter again killed him. And those are only the possibilities that you know about.” She swallowed. “Trust me, there were more. Not all of my dreams come true, but that doesn’t mean that they were not a hair’s breadth from happening. It always came down to Peter being the only sacrifice that Nathan would never make, and Nathan being the one that Peter had to.”
This time, two tears did fall, and she brushed them away, quickly, breathing to regain her composure.
“What are you saying?”
“That it was you who took his life was… a mere coincidence. One that I added to by panicking and not allowing destiny to take its course. The chances that it would have been Peter at some point were a lot higher.”
Gabriel still didn’t know what to say.
“I am not going to thank you for being the one to do it and yet again preventing Peter from becoming a killer,” Angela said, a flash in her eyes clearly stating that she more than likely would never be able to completely forget. “But I am going to forgive you for it, as you have at least as much to forgive me for.”
Gabriel just smiled. He had forgiven her a long time ago, he just hadn’t thought that it was his place to say it out loud and somehow appearing as if he expected the same courtesy in return.
“So I am offering to do it right, this time,” she concluded, firmly. “I am offering to adopt you because I owe you a family and because you earned one.”
Gabriel took a shuddering breath against the knot in his stomach. It wasn’t a bad knot, it was just… persistent.
“It means a lot to me, you saying that,” he said, honestly. “Thank you.”
She didn’t answer that directly. “You asked me once if there was any good in this world.”
He smiled ruefully and rubbed his face. “I seem to recall something like that, yes.”
“There is,” she said, firmly. “You are creating it.”
Gabriel wasn’t entirely sure what she meant by that, at least not in detail, but the fact that she was telling the truth made him smile. Then he cleared his throat. “Yes, well, if you want something done…”
That startled a laugh out of her. “You certainly have the Petrelli ego.”
He chuckled. “You realise… that I have my part already. I will be there for Peter and Claire. Molly. Even you. You don’t have to go through with your offer.”
Angela pursed her lips. “I like things clear cut.”
Gabriel grinned, then sighed. “I accept.” He raised an eyebrow. “As I’m sure you knew I would.”
“I had my suspicions,” she said, making Gabriel smirk. “But fortunately, like you said, you already found your part. As far as the workings of time are concerned, this is merely a formality.”
“Hm. A formality that will lure the press out of their hidey-hole. Since you’re a Petrelli and I’m… on records because of my mother.”
“You have been cleared of the charges. So unless you’re planning to go into politics…”
“… We should be fine,” she finished.
Gabriel shifted in his seat. “So, uh. What do I have to do?”
“It’s quite simple,” Angela assured him, her poise now firmly back in place. “Be present at the civil court to sign some papers. I will let you know the time and place.”
“Okay,” he breathed, thinking to himself, ‘Did I really just agree to be adopted? Take the Petrelli name?' He stood, not really looking anywhere. “I, uh, should head back. Peter must be worried.”
“Gabriel,” she stopped his musings and stood as well. She walked to him and laid her hand on his chest. “I thought about this a great deal, and it was the right thing for me to do.”
Gabriel reached for her hand and held it, smiling. “Thank you,” he said, again, and kissed her cheek. He straightened. “Call me with the details when you have them.” He nodded once and let go of her hand.
“I will,” she confirmed. “And could you stop by Molly’s room before you leave? She’ll be waiting for your answer.” Her lip twitched. “She said she would only accept an adoption if you did.”
Gabriel snickered, his eyes twinkling. “Will do.” He opened the door. “Good night, Angela.”
“Good night, Gabriel.”
Gabriel knocked softly on Molly’s door and peeked in, finding the girl lying on her bed with her book, trying to stay awake. He smiled. “Hey.”
She put the book on her bedside table, rubbed her eyes and pushed herself in a seating position. “Hey. What did you tell her?”
Gabriel walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. He shrugged his shoulders. “I always wanted a little sister,” he said, nonchalantly.
She slung her arms around his neck before he could do so much as blink.
He returned her hug. “Even though I don’t deserve you.” If it hadn’t been for him, Molly would not be in need of adoption at all. He was enormously glad that she never actually saw what had happened, or it wouldn’t have been quite as easy for her – if possible at all – to forgive him.
Then again, he had long since accepted that Molly didn’t look at people with her eyes, at least not primarily. Her gift allowed her to connect differently, and to her, Sylar and Gabriel weren’t even the same person. Or… How had she put it? The same person, but inside out.
Molly smacked his arm. “Sylar doesn’t. You do,” she informed him, sternly. “And nobody talks shit about my brother, not even you.”
Gabriel smiled into her hair, then he pushed her back to look at her. “Did Mohinder come by, yet?”
He had better, Gabriel added in his thoughts, silently. It had been a week since the man had returned to the country, after all.
She beamed, immediately. “He did! And he brought be a sari! And he promised that he’d stay around, this time.”
“That’s good,” Gabriel said, relieved. “How did he take the news of you becoming a Petrelli?”
Molly grinned. “He got that guilty look on his face, and I made him promise to come to the party when you say yes.”
“Ooh! Smart move.” Gabriel chuckled. “So there’s going to be a party, huh?”
She shrugged, making the answer seem self-evident. “We don’t get adopted every day.”
Gabriel snorted. “I think I’ve had enough of that to last me a lifetime. I’m so not doing it again after this one.”
Gabriel appeared right outside their house in a nook next to the garage and found that he was being expected when he entered through the front door.
Claire and Peter got up from the couch as if someone had pulled both their strings, both looking somewhat apprehensive, smiling tentatively.
Claire was the one to break the silence first, rubbing her hands on her jeans. “Hey. You... okay?”
It made Gabriel chuckle. “You can stop walking on eggshells already. I said yes.”
“Yes!” Peter made a fist pump. He then let Claire hug Gabriel and hurried into the kitchen. “Where’s the champagne?”
Claire pulled Gabriel into a soft embrace, running the fingers of one hand through his hair. “You made the right choice,” she whispered to him.
“Thank you.” He kissed the top of her head, then smirked. “Hey, does that make me your uncle?” he asked loudly enough for Peter to hear him too.
Peter laughed, and Claire snorted.
“For a smart man, you can be an idiot,” she said but pulled the idiot into a kiss anyway.
“Did you speak with Molly?” Peter wanted to know while handling the champagne bottle.
Claire pulled out of the kiss. “What about Molly?”
Peter grinned. “Mom offered to adopt her, too. She said Molly would only agree if Gabriel did.”
Gabriel just shook his head, amused. “She would have accepted it anyway. Connecting to people is in her nature.” He kept his arms around Claire, his fingers drawing unconscious patterns over her back and shoulders, just feeling her presence.
“Interesting way of putting it,” Claire said, tilting her head.
Gabriel half shrugged. “We all feel a... connection between Specials. It’s of course stronger for her.” He nodded towards Peter. “And it would have to be stronger in her yet again for you and me, because we’re empaths.”
Claire leaned back against him, looking at Peter. “She’s in the right family then.” Molly could feel a familial connection to her soon-to-be brothers just by way of their abilities, hers being the receiver for theirs.
Peter snickered and poured the champagne into three glasses. “If she ever wants to date, the poor guy has to get by the two of us...”
Claire rolled her eyes.
Gabriel grinned and considered that. “She can have Micah.”
“Yes, we approve of Micah,” Peter agreed.
Claire laughed. “Oh, God, that poor girl! She’s not going to get to make a single decision, is she?”
Gabriel kissed her temple, knowing that she was at least partially serious... She knew all to well what could happen when somebody wanted to have a say in your every move. “We’re only joking,” he assured her, quietly.
“You’d better be,” she grumbled.
Peter came over to them with the glasses. “Say... if mom adopts you at the same time, does that make you twins?”
Claire burst out laughing and Gabriel snorted, shaking his head.
“Tell the truth,” Gabriel demanded, “you already had a bottle of that.”
Peter mock scowled at him and thrust two glasses in Gabriel and Claire’s hands. “Let me be happy. I quite liked having you as my brother for as long as it lasted, and now I get you back.” He nodded, once.
“You didn’t like it the whole time...” Gabriel raised an eyebrow at him.
Claire leaned into Gabriel a bit and cleared her throat. “He did have a little wine, earlier. And he wanted to feel the effects, so...”
Gabriel shook his head, grinning widely. “So...” He raised his glass. “To...? Family?”
“Family,” Claire agreed.
Peter raised his glass a little higher than necessary, almost spilling some of the content. “To the Petrelli twins!”
Gabriel might not have had any alcohol just then, nor would he have noticed the effects... but he felt quite happily drunk anyway, laughing heartily.
Chapter 8: Present Day
This chapter closes the frame that was opened in the first part. We're back in the present with Noah being told everything that has happened.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Noah Bennet still sat on the very same barstool he had taken residence on hours back. In front of him were no more empty Whiskey glasses, but only a half-empty ice tea (of which he and Claire had emptied two jugs during the course of the afternoon).
He stared into the coral red liquid. He knew it was coral red, from when… Gabriel had popped into the kitchen to make a second jug, just when they were about to finish the first one, and Claire had reacted to the tea grinning and calling it that colour, making Gabriel chuckle. (Noah had been told by Claire that the tea before was much more like goldenrod.)
Noah imagined that they would have to be very fine tuned to different shades of colours, nowadays.
Other than in that instance, they hadn’t seen hide nor hair from either Gabriel or Peter, who were sitting in the garden behind the house, only their pleasant voices drifting inside every now and then, accompanied by shared laughter.
Noah sighed. Claire had been right, he had never before actually listened, and now he wasn’t at all sure if he was glad or not that he had this time. During the past hours, it had become harder almost by the minute to cling to his previously unwavering opinion of Gabriel Gray. And as Gabriel had told him earlier, his emotional investment made sure that his own guilt rose exponentially in return.
No matter how he turned and twisted it, had he not blindly followed orders, he could have prevented Sylar from coming into existence.
For a few moments he had almost convinced himself that the company man, mister bag-and-tag, was in the past. Until he remembered why he was here talking to Claire in the first place. No, the company man was still there, even if he didn’t work for the current version of it, and he would stay there unless Noah would finally allow himself to let go of him.
Claire was still oblivious to his musings, to how close he was to admitting that he was not the better man, after all, that he had done things as horrible as Sylar had. She was talking animatedly about shared, happy memories, currently explaining their plans for the “birthday party” Molly had insisted on.
Noah cleared his throat. “So, uh, when’s the big day, then?” he asked, trying to get back into the conversation.
Claire blinked at him. “The adoption is on Thursday, the party on Saturday.” She smiled a bit until she now noticed too that her father’s thoughts were miles away (or perhaps years gone). “Dad?”
Noah couldn’t look her in the eyes. He gripped his glass tightly and took a shuddering breath. “It’s my fault, isn’t it?”
Claire remained silent for a long, painful moment. She had expected that part in her father to break free eventually. He wasn’t stupid, after all; he was just… wilfully blind if he wanted to. And for very good reasons.
“I’m not going to lie to you and say you had no part in it, because you did,” she finally said and sighed. “But you were part of a machinery, and Gabriel knows that.” She smiled ruefully. “He also carries enough guilt around to never blame anyone else for what they did.” Her eyes flickered to Noah’s. “Just don’t lie to yourself by telling everyone that you were the good guy and only protected your family. That’s the one thing he won’t stand for.”
Noah’s eyes watered. “I did try to protect you,” he said, his voice low, nearly breaking.
“I believe you,” Claire answered honestly, taking one of his hands. “But, dad, sometimes, the price of being protected isn’t worth paying. Not for me.” She bit her lips. “Like Stephen Canfield? I don’t want you to do things like that in my name. I don’t want that on my conscience.”
He stared at her in recognition. “No, Claire. That’s not… No. Don’t do that. Don’t blame yourself for what I did.”
“Look, rationally, I know it’s stupid. I could never stop you from doing things. Emotionally…”
“No,” Noah interrupted and pointed towards the back door. “I’m getting the guys in here to back me up on that one if I have to, but stop it.”
She snorted in amusement at her father getting Gabriel as a back-up for anything. “Please,” she waved him off. “I’ve heard it all before, there’s no need.” She grinned, but that quickly faded. “But I want you to know that it did take quite some talks to get that idea out of my head.”
Noah breathed a sigh that turned into a groan. So now he actually needed Gabriel (and probably Peter) to undo the damage he had done on his own daughter he was trying to protect? Marvellous. Just… marvellous.
When he looked up, his eyes went behind Claire and to the pictures on the fridge. Pictures he had tried his damndest to ignore before. Now that he let himself look at them he… wasn’t so sure if the man he had hunted for years was even on them. He wasn’t sure, but neither was he convinced of the contrary. Leaps of faith were, and never had been, his forte.
When his eyes fell on the picture that Peter had taken of a sleeping trio on their swimming day out, his lips formed a smile involuntarily.
Claire didn’t have to follow his line of sight to know what he was looking at (if not the exact picture) and just smiled at him.
“Did you ever see it?” she finally asked.
He blinked and returned his attention to her. “See what?”
She half-shrugged. “Gabriel under your assignment.”
Noah shook his head. “Never let myself.” He considered that. “In retrospect… maybe. I don’t know.”
Claire looked at him, curiously. “What was he like? When you first met him?”
Noah cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. “I didn’t… meet him, per se.” He squinted at her, knowing damn well that she had ample reasons to not react well to any mentions of surveillance cameras.
Claire rolled her eyes. “I know. But you saw him, right?”
Noah tried to recall the image of a timid, introverted, confused young man. A man who would have killed himself after his first victim, because he couldn’t live with the guilt.
“He was… shy.” That was the first word that came to his mind. “Scared, lonely. Desperate for contact. Terribly confused.” He swallowed. “Betrayed,” he added the last word with a breaking voice, because he had to.
Claire couldn’t answer that, so Noah continued.
“Elle didn’t want to go through with it, you know,” he added.
This made Claire look up. That was news to her… and, so she assumed, it would have been to Gabriel as well.
“She said that the suicide attempt had been a cry for help, and that we should give him that.” He looked straight at Claire. “I guess she was right.”
He had to take off his glasses to rub his eyes; they were dry, but stung something fierce. “But that wasn’t my job.”
Noah nodded. “I guess once he knew we betrayed him, all bets were off, and Sylar had no more reasons to stop searching for power.” He put his glasses back on. “And then he went after you…”
“And it got personal.”
Noah nodded, once more and huffed. “I don’t think I could by any stretch of the imagination claim that I was rational when it came to him, after that,” he admitted, ruefully. It wasn’t like that was surprising to him, he had just never felt like he was in the wrong with it.
Claire grinned, lopsidedly. “Yeah. Me neither.” She thought back and slowly shook her head. “I was so mad at him after he got to me, a lot more than I was scared.” Suddenly, she snickered. “Well, except for when he wanted me to help him figure out what was wrong with him. I mean, I was angry at him, but that was just weird.”
Noah huffed. “You were also pretty mad when I showed up with him as my partner…” he noted.
Claire pondered that for a second, then smirked directly at him. “Payback.”
It took Noah a moment to realise what she meant by that. “That is not the same thing.”
Claire snorted. “I would hope not.” She tilted her head. “How was he at that time? As your partner? He didn’t seem to me like you described him back from your first encounter…” Shy was not something Sylar ever appeared to be, no matter what he did.
“Not really, no,” Noah agreed. “Still confused and… lost, I guess. Very much seeking for approval.” He smirked. “But he would have made a good agent,” he admitted. “I think he liked that.”
Claire nodded, grinning. “He did. He said you were fun to work with when you weren’t trying to kill him.”
Noah huffed. “Which I was trying to do from the beginning.” His thoughts went some time ahead, to the eclipse, to the day Claire had died… “It was his urge to belong that made it so easy to manipulate him,” he said, his voice sounding far off. “When I told him that the Petrellis weren’t his parents, I knew I was planting a seed. I knew that he would crash from it.” He stared at his hands. “And from the looks of it, when Elle’s body was found the next day… I guess he…” He breathed.
“I pretty much lost it,” Gabriel said from behind them. When both Claire and Noah turned to look at him, he averted his eyes. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, I only just came in.”
“It’s okay,” Claire assured him, looking at him with pain filled eyes, holding out a hand to take his. He took her hand and she interlaced their fingers.
The pain wasn’t only in Claire and Gabriel’s eyes. It was in Noah’s, as well. Pain from knowing that these two had to heal wounds in the other that he had caused. Pain from knowing that he had taken a confused man and turned him into a killing machine. Pain from knowing that he took the weaknesses of an unstable woman who had been used and manipulated all her life, used them against her, and as a result had her killed.
And when he saw Claire and Gabriel timidly smile at each other, he just didn’t have it in him to continue condemning the man. He didn’t trust Gabriel, but if he was entirely honest with himself, Noah himself wasn’t really to be trusted, either, was he? He had just proven that when deceiving his daughter. Gabriel on his part hadn’t done anything causing alarm, not for a long time…
No. No matter who had done what, Noah had done his fair share, and it was up to him to answer for it, now.
When Gabriel raised his head to look at Noah and say something, Noah didn’t let him.
“I’m so sorry,” Noah said, meaning every syllable, knowing it wouldn’t change a thing.
Claire almost gasped.
Gabriel just returned Noah’s agonised gaze with one just as tortured, but unflinching. “So am I,” he finally said, his voice a little more than a whisper.
Noah didn’t want to know just how often Gabriel had tried to utter those words, saying them with as much feel as he did, maybe, feeling helpless because they were only words, words that could be rejected as fast as they had been said.
“It’s never quite enough, is it?” he asked, the realisation startling, not accusing.
Gabriel shook his head, slowly. “No.” He smiled, slightly. “You just have to keep going.”
For a long, loaded moment, nobody said a word.
The Gabriel cleared his throat. “But that’s not why I came inside,” he said, changing the topic. “It’s getting late, almost dinner time.” He smiled at Claire. “What would be your opinion on an impromptu barbecue?”
Claire groaned in relief. “Oh, yes, please. I’m starving.”
Gabriel’s smile widened. “Peter’s heating up the grill, so I’m gonna work my magic in here.” He pecked her on the lips and opened the fridge. “So if you want to continue your talk, you might want to take it outside,” he said absently, and then suddenly peeked around the fridge door, looking at Noah. “You’re staying for dinner, right?”
Noah stared at him. That was it? Just like that?
“Sure he is,” Claire said. “I’m not done with him yet.”
Gabriel chuckled into the fridge then came back out, frowning and holding a nearly empty glass of mayonnaise.
Claire snorted. “I’m shocked. Really, I am,” she said, deadpan.
Gabriel took a step out of the kitchen and yelled outside. “Peter! You’re a mess!”
Peter poked his head in. “What’d I do now?”
Gabriel showed him the glass.
Peter pulled a face and ducked back outside. “Oops.”
Claire and Gabriel laughed, while Noah watched the interaction like a tennis match, feeling horribly out of place. The three of them had created a home here that he was not a part of, and right now it didn’t feel like he ever would be.
Claire slapped her thighs and hopped off the barstool. “I’ll get one,” she declared. “You just,” she wiggled her fingers at Gabriel, “work your magic.” Then she looked at her father. “The store’s just down the street. I’ll be back in ten. No trying to kill each other while I’m gone.”
Gabriel went back to taking salads and various other items out of the fridge and onto the counter while Noah watched him for a while. When Gabriel started washing the green leafs, Noah cleared his throat.
“Something I can do?” he asked, not really knowing why. He supposed he was trying to give himself a break, some time to breathe the information he had gotten in and out of his system to make it get used to it. Years of conditioning or not, he had no choice but to acclimatise if he didn’t want to lose Claire – or any human contact, really, since all the accusations today hadn’t been wrong… he did close himself off.
Gabriel turned enough to look over his shoulder, as startled as Noah felt. “Uh…” Then his eyes fell on the fruit bowl. “You could… make a fruit salad for later? We don’t have any dessert yet.”
Noah slid off his seat and to the spot next to Gabriel, suddenly feeling every year of his age. “So, I just…”
Gabriel smirked at him. “Wash, cut, put in bowl,” he said, levitating a knife, a chopping board and a bowl out of their respective drawers and cupboards, since his hands were busy.
Noah worked silently for long minutes, wondering if he would ever be able to see the future Claire had spoken about the day of the carnival...
What was it that people did in socially uncomfortable (to put it mildly) situations? Oh, right. Smalltalk.
“So. College, huh?” Noah said into the silence.
Gabriel started mixing a marinade. “Yep.”
Noah nodded. “And thanks for… talking Claire into going back, too.”
Gabriel tilted his head and looked at Noah. “I didn’t. I just said that I wanted to go, and she needed a reason, a purpose.” He smiled a bit. “She found one, and that isn’t me.” The smile turned into another smirk. “Though that probably didn’t hurt.”
Noah shifted uncomfortably. “She never did tell me why she wanted to go into psychology…” Not that he was surprised. Whenever they had been talking in the last year, it was because he wanted to remind her to keep the hell away from Sylar and even Peter if necessary.
“She wants to help Specials. You know, to deal with abilities, counsel their families, help them cope. That kind of thing. Maybe teach, too.”
“That’s quite a goal,” Noah said, nodding impressed.
“It is,” Gabriel agreed. “It’s also imperative.”
Noah sighed; his jaw tightened. “Yeah,” he grudgingly forced out. He should have known how important counselling Specials was. He had known. He just… didn’t want to deal, he wanted to solve. Bag, tag, forget. It was so much easier, more clear-cut. Final.
He shook himself out of his reveries. “What about you then? Any preference for a field?”
“Some psychology, too, probably, but mostly medicine.”
Noah stopped his chopping and stared at him. The image of the other man with a scalpel was not in the very least appealing… “Medicine?”
Gabriel’s hand stilled, too, his expression guarded. He nodded towards the fridge, or more precisely, the pictures on it. “You know about Lucia Morgan?”
Noah followed his line of sight. “The girl with the brain aneurism?”
Gabriel smiled, ruefully. He wasn’t surprised that Noah knew all about that. He had probably investigated himself, on top of having been told about it.
“I could… help more,” Gabriel explained. “But to be quite honest, it scares the shit out of me.” He worked furiously on his marinade, again.
“So you thought, if you learn all there is to know about it, you’ll be able to do it, again.”
Gabriel half shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know. Worth a try, I guess.” He took a shuddering breath. “Or I end up doing something else entirely, who knows.” A tentative smile returned. “I’m just going to pick the courses that look interesting. I’m not going for a degree, I’m going to learn.”
Noah considered that. “It’s not like you have to do it yourself. You could advise others.”
Gabriel grinned, catching the undertone in Noah’s voice quite clearly. “Thinking about yourself?”
Noah grinned at his fruit, refusing to direct it at Gabriel. “Maybe.”
Gabriel continued preparing some potatoes, leaving it at that. But he felt pretty satisfied with how things were going. He had expected it to be a lot worse when Noah had first showed up on his doorstep that same morning.
After a long moment, Noah put down his knife and sighed, then looked directly at Gabriel. “I really hope she’s not wrong about you,” he said, and Gabriel knew that it was the truth.
Gabriel returned the look, gratefully, then waved him off, breaking the tension. “Naw. She hates being wrong.” He smirked. “I’d never hear the end of it.” He tilted his head, pondering that. “Literally.”
Noah couldn’t help it; he chuckled at that.
“Wow. The not killing each other worked better than I expected…” Claire said behind them, smiling benignly when they both turned to look at her. She held out the mayonnaise to Gabriel, who took it with a smile and a kiss.
“Thank you.” The brief look her gave her seemed to say something along the lines of ‘don’t expect miracles’, but Claire was already more than happy at having found the two men working side by side and in good enough spirits to actually laugh, if only a bit.
Noah kept one hand on the counter and returned her grateful gaze. “Just don’t expect me to walk you down the aisle any time soon. I don’t think my heart could take it.” As it was, even the small kisses he had seen were making his stomach clench and his hand itch for his gun. The only thing keeping him back was the happiness radiating off his Claire-Bear in almost palpable waves.
Claire rolled her eyes. “Jesus, dad, we’ve only been together a month.”
“And two days,” Gabriel added, helpfully, now making the salad dressing.
That made Claire snort a laugh. “And two days,” she confirmed. “Besides… it’s not like he asked me.” She grinned, cheekily.
“You are a strong, independent woman,” Gabriel explained and turned to look over his shoulder. “Why don’t you ask me?”
Claire shrugged. “Cool. Marry me?”
“Sure thing, gorgeous. Any time and any place,” he replied promptly. “But maybe we should wait until your dad here recovers from the heart attack you’re currently causing.”
Claire’s straight face crumbled, and she burst out laughing. Noah did indeed look a bit worse for the wear.
“Easy, dad, we’re not quite there yet,” she assured him, and Gabriel snickered.
Noah gave her a suspicious look. “Sounds like you have been thinking about it, though.” After only a month! he wanted to add but didn’t.
Claire shrugged, and Gabriel nodded at her encouragingly over his shoulder. “Well… Angela’s been throwing hints…” she said, tentatively.
Gabriel snorted. “If by ‘hints’ you mean that she keeps saying that we should tell her the moment we so much as think about considering it because she wants to plan a full-on Petrelli wedding… then yes.”
The two smiled at each other, for a few seconds forgetting the world around them.
Then Claire took a deep breath and directed her soft smile at her father. “I kind of… knew this would eventually happen, even before we got together.” Her eyes flickered to Gabriel for a second, then back to Noah. “It’s going to happen, and it’s going to be okay.”
Gabriel finished his work and turned around to face the other two. “When we’re ready.”
Claire drowned in his captivating brown eyes again, letting herself breathe nothing but security and love. “No hurries,” she said quietly.
Gabriel slowly shook his head. “None whatsoever.”
And Noah could see the future, now. He could see the patient pace in which his Claire would walk the days to come alongside Gabriel. Discovering in their own time.
He might not have truly believed in Gabriel – and he knew himself well enough to realise that this would take quite some time – and he certainly didn’t trust him… but there was one thing he did have.
Okay... That's that :)
It turned out that my pièce de resistence (Noah) was resisting quite a bit XD Until I realised that I don't need acceptance and trust from him just now... :)