Teaser: There was Sylar, sprawled out in the form of everything he had poured his life into for the past six months. His research, his father’s list, the fold-up travel map from the car, --the broken tea cup on the floor. There was Sylar, burned forever into his memory; perpetually smoldering at the heart of his existence. A disaster left to waste.
There are some days that you take a deep breath, glance behind you, and realize all at once that the world is bigger than yourself. That just when you thought it was all on your shoulders, just when you thought the fate of every dot on the map rest solely in your hands, that the world would have kept on turning, in spite of what you did or didn’t do. Perhaps it would not have been a better place, after you were finished, but the world would have continued to spin to an indifferent and self-concerned pattern that turned a cold shoulder to your efforts.
In the aftermath of that New York City night, it became quite obvious to each and every one of us that the world- our world- was larger than we imagined. Las Vegas, Odessa, New York— None of us could have known until we were drawn together. None of us could have realized that every thread in this tapestry eventually formed a pattern in which each of us was irrevocably tangled. The artist was simply something greater than any of us. We could have never known, until the pivotal moment fell and the puzzle was complete.
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to take his daughter somewhere else. Please go to the waiting room!” the strained voice of a dark-haired nurse had instructed when they first came in. Nurses were used to this sort of thing- worried family and friends, tears and panic thick in the air. They were used to telling people to get the hell out of the way in the most polite of manners and taking authority in a place where order was necessary but eternally difficult to find.
“Molly, please. We can wait for Officer Parkman with the others. He won’t be able to see us for some time,” Mohinder Suresh said gently, taking her up into his arms. It was so easy to pretend to be strong, to act the part of a father, the part of a friend, even if a sense of awkwardness lingered from his inexperience. Mohinder had never served as a father, a brother. And even though he’d been a son, a friend, and for a scarce lucky few, a lover, he had failed quite miserably at most of them. Only the undying and unconditional love of a child that Molly carried so calmly was able to instill in him the natural instincts to lift her in his arms and pet her hair while he carried her towards the waiting room, away from the emergency room hall where many an injured soul was being rapidly wheeled away to surgery. Was it five? Six bullets? All there was to do was pray and wait.
The gentle push of Mohinder’s hip opened the door into an already crowded room. The walls were white and the faces the same. There were strangers lined in chairs against the far left and back wall, but the right side held the familiar ones Mohinder sought: the people whose drawn and worn expressions mirrored his own. Niki Sanders was in a seat nearest to end of the row, legs turned to the side to better hold her young son Micah, whose face pressed eagerly to her throat much like Molly’s against his own. She was whispering some motherly reassurance that Mohinder had no clue how to mimic to Molly. She spoke those secret words that made tears stop and eyes droop into the kind of peaceful sleep only children could know in times of panic.
To her right with a seat between them was Claire Bennet, hands full of tissues that dared to crumble and join the rest of the white army on the floor at her feet. She sobbed quietly into her crowded hands. Her father, Noah Bennet, had injuries that were clearly less serious than the others, like D.L. Hawkins and Matt Parkman, both still in intensive surgery. Although he had made promises to take her home to some refuge of safety, the threat of injury (and avoidance of police questioning) made him return with the rest of them for x-rays. Now that Bennet was no longer at Claire’s side, the weight of the evening appeared to have finally hit her. Mohinder knew the tears were not for Bennet, Hawkins, or even Parkman. Miles and miles into the atmosphere, Nathan Petrelli, the father she had never known, and Peter Petrelli, the only man whose trust she had ever treasured, had become nothing but a spark in the sky for children to wish upon. A noble sacrifice for the sake of mankind, but a nightmare in the eyes of a young girl’s dream for years to come. Had they made it? Had Peter found the ability to return from the dead within his power again? Mohinder would like to think so- would like to, but lately optimism had ended him up in some rather precarious positions. He decided not to hold his breath.
Mohinder surveyed the seats with a certain hesitancy before he finally took the empty one in between Niki and Claire. They were all wanted for police questioning now, as was standard procedure, but Niki Sanders had managed with a few sharp words to make any curious officers take second and third thoughts about disturbing them right away. The police now hovered outside the waiting room, milling about like wolves waiting for the kill. Mohinder adjusted Molly in his lap, her fidgeting and personal adjustments placing the girl with her back against his chest and legs dangling over his knees. Finally he glanced to either side of him.
A crying teenager to his right. An intimidating mother to his left.
He swallowed and wrapped his arms comfortably around Molly Walker, feeling her head tilt to the side against his left shoulder to look over at Micah. As though they exchanged something, some knowledge of each other’s presence, Micah turned his face in the other direction to look her way as well. Their hands met and held each other.
Mohinder watched the two, a soft smile touching his lips. He lifted his dark eyes to the blonde woman who rubbed her son’s back. “Umm… excuse me, Mrs. …?”
“Sanders. Niki Sanders,” she replied, voice carrying a certain stone, a consciousness that every person she ever introduced herself to was quite possibly the enemy.
“I wish we could have met under better circumstances… my name is Mohinder Suresh.” He introduced himself, looking awkwardly for a moment like he was going to shift and shake hands, but finding they both had their arms fully occupied. “Ah-. …I’m a geneticist. I research people like yourself… -I… that is, I assume you…”
“Have a special ability?” she interjected.
“This may be New York City, but I haven’t seen many women who can wield a parking meter quite like that,” he smiled in return. She returned his humor with a soft breath and a wry smile. Her fingertips absently touched Micah’s curls, smoothing them against his head in a sign of her protective motherhood.
“Yeah, well… there’s a whole lot this city hasn’t seen.”
“I’d be inclined to agree… I do hope your husband pulls through. I couldn’t do much on-site… but Mercy General is a good hospital, I hear,” Mohinder tried to reassure her. He wasn’t positive who was better off- D.L., with his long-untreated gunshot wound to the stomach, or Officer Parkman, victim of multiple gunshot wounds to the torso. Both were most likely in critical condition. Niki did not seem too comforted by the hospital service. “I… was thinking. The police will be wanting a story… a plausible one,” Mohinder began. “And I’m not sure that we have one to give.”
“I hear that…” she agreed. “Once they realize Linderman’s dead… And then that other guy, the one who attacked…”
“Peter. Peter Petrelli,” Mohinder provided the name for her. Claire looked up for a brief moment, a soft sniffle sounding. “And the man, his name is Sylar. We told police it was him- and the FBI apparently is looking for him- but we have a lot to explain and little we’re actually able to tell.” Mohinder sighed softly. “Two gunshot victims… one gun, assuming Mr. Bennet got rid of his. Your husband may be able to make up a plausible story… but Officer Parkman was struck with bullets from his own weapon, fired by him, Mr. Bennet said. We would be hard-pressed to explain that.”
Niki gave a slight shrug, the corner of her mouth tugging up a little. Then she looked down at Micah as an afterthought, tucking away a lock of her blonde hair. “We could just say he grabbed it from him. They can’t prove otherwise. And this Sylar guy’s probably long gone from here now… if he survived it that far.”
An uncomfortable feeling settled in Mohinder’s stomach. “Yes… if he made it that far.”
He couldn’t feel at ease, could he? Not when Sylar was out there still, not when Molly had nowhere safe to be. It made Mohinder feel weary, suddenly. He hadn’t been sleeping, not while he was taking care of Molly and watching over her condition day and night. And before that it had been research, and before that… traveling… He absently rubbed the side of his face, and for the first time noticed the stubble of many long nights awake resting there. He could really use a shower.
“Look, I…” Mohinder glanced down at Molly, who was now resting quite soundly asleep in his lap, hand still clutching Micah’s. “Would you mind… if I left Molly here in your care? Just for a little while? I’ll give the police my statement, tell them it was Sylar who grabbed Officer Parkman’s gun…” And the blood marks on the ground where Sylar rested? How had that been caused? “…that he was injured already… or something to that effect. I would really like to shower and find some pajamas for Molly, since she insists on staying until Officer Parkman is awake… I think here with you and your son would be the safest place for her,” he admitted, a hesitant smile on his lips.
There was a brief pause in which Niki looked down at Molly, then at Micah, and even to Claire. “Yeah… shouldn’t be a problem.”
“W-We’ll keep an eye on her too…” Claire interrupted in a small voice. “My father should be out soon, and…” she trailed off.
How safe had Molly felt around Mr. Bennet after he pulled that gun on her the first time they met? But Claire at least was a girl. It would be nice for Molly to have that comfort.
Mohinder smiled again and nodded. “Thank you. I would greatly appreciate your help… I don’t expect to be terribly long.” The man carefully sat up and stood with the utmost care, turning and resting the child in his seat. He positioned her head against Niki’s shoulder with an awkward look that requested her understanding and then he stripped off his dark brown jacket, draping it over Molly for warmth. “I’ll be back as quickly as I can,” he promised the women, then turned and jogged quickly out of the waiting room.
The rest had been mechanical: police asking his name, his address, his purpose in this country. Visa? (Blasted immigration services.) Explaining what had happened, whom he saw, describing the man named ‘Sylar’ and what he knew- as much as they would believe. Mohinder thought he might die of frustration when he crossed paths with a young FBI agent, a girl with an overly serious expression and short blonde hair cropped close to her chin. A woman aggravated by her failed work and even more upset by the fact that Matt Parkman had been a near casualty of the situation. After several tense exchanges and the sacrifice of all his personal contact information, Mohinder finally freed himself of the frenzy of law enforcement, only to find himself at the mercy of finding a taxi to his father’s apartment.
It was perhaps the last place he wanted to be; the vision of his father’s death was always fresh in his mind, especially now that he had returned to New York. Even as the passenger he still saw it, still watched the face of the disgruntled Italian driver, cigar dangling from his thick lips, as though when Mohinder blinked the wrong way that face might change. As if he might see Sylar turning the wheel and smiling back at him, that expression sinister, but devilishly endearing. Mohinder rubbed his tired eyes between his index finger and thumb. No. Sylar was gone. Possibly dead. He was not in this taxi, and most certainly would not be in his room when he got there.
But Sylar was. Mohinder had only to open his door and feel it hit the toppled wooden board, the map askew and pushpins scattered… There was Sylar, sprawled out in the form of everything he had poured his life into for the past months. His research, his father’s list, the fold-up travel map from the car, —the broken tea cup on the floor. There was Sylar, burned forever into his memory, perpetually smoldering at the heart of his existence. A disaster left to waste.
It would be foolish to think he might have brought Molly here, to this place. In a way, it might tarnish his memory of it, as sick as that sounded. There was something dark and elusive here, an inner thought, a path he had never quite developed, never fully indulged in, for fear of where it might take him. Mohinder took in a slow breath and closed the door, not bothering with the lock. As he side-stepped the wreckage of what had once been his life, Mohinder avoided looking at the chair, the IV, the crushed laptop. He headed for the bathroom and stripped his clothing away slowly as he went.
Mohinder was slightly more careful than the typical person with his clothing. He had once been a man of order before all this. Perhaps negligent of his desk space, when it was scattered with data and he was engrossed in a project, but in all other things a man of order. The scientist folded his clothes neatly and set them at the bedside, deep in thought concerning the night’s proceedings. For a moment, he was once again a machine- enter the bathroom, turn on the water, let it heat, set out a towel, razor, shaving lotion- and then, without warning, he thought about the last time the pitter-patter of water on tile had caught his attention.
“They’re out there. I can feel them. So innocent. So unaware of what’s happening to them. We’ll find them, Mohinder. All of them. Together, the two of us. It’s our destiny.” A speechless second of hesitation. “ –I’m gonna call it a night.” A friendly strike on the arm to take away the edge of seriousness.
And Mohinder’s lingering gaze. An early suspicion, suffocated by pain. The pain of feeling alone, and it never having been so keen as that moment. When Mohinder dropped his bag and his jacket onto the bed, he heard the shower go off beyond the thin wall of Zane Taylor’s adjoining motel room. It seemed only natural to follow in suit. The darker man had stripped his clothing away unhurriedly, folded it neatly as he set it against the bed, and found himself following that noise into the bathroom. The design of the rooms must have mirrored one another, so loud was the noise of the old water pipes from next one over.
Cold tiles, small quarters, the buzzing and flickering of seedy motel room fluorescents. Mohinder gazed at himself in the mirror, imagining Zane must have done the same on the other side while his water heated, while the droplets pelted the tub mercilessly. He braced his palms on either side of the sink and leaned forward slowly. Dark eyes met dark eyes, but Mohinder knew there was only his own to be found this time. Zane wouldn’t be there to tilt his head like a curious puppy and give a hesitant smile like he usually did when Mohinder was caught staring.
Mohinder turned on the water and waited. As he finally stepped inside and pulled the plastic curtain to a close, he looked up to see his shower head trembled when both faucets on either side were on. They must have shared a line. Mohinder reached out to touch the wall in front of him with his palm while the water poured over his curls and down his face. Then he slowly brought his forehead against the tiles as well, closing his eyes.
“Together, the two of us.” On the other side, Zane’s voice sounded as the loud hum of a musician, happy and carefree. A reluctant smile through the rivulets- Mohinder longed for someone to believe in again. Zane had captured him all too easily, a moth to flame. Was Zane just a few inches away, palm to palm with Mohinder on the other side, sharing his dream? Sharing his desire…?
A moth with no idea how badly he was to be burned. Mohinder showered in silence. When he exited and dried off, leaving his towel about his waist, he stood before the mirror in silence too, doing his best to put razor to flesh without looking himself in the eyes. Zane had been a killer. Zane had been Sylar. Sylar did not share his dream, or even his humanity. As Mohinder set down his razor, the phone rang.
“Mohinder. I need your help, I think I’m going to do something bad.” As though he hadn’t already.
Mohinder swallowed softly and gripped his towel, lean body letting it slip a little when he hurried to the living room. A sharp pain in the bottom of his foot and unexpected cursing in Tamil brought to his attention that he should pick up the map and its tacks when he was done. Mohinder stumbled to the desk with his heart beating rapidly in his ears, hand slamming down onto the phone, third ring bringing it to his hand.
“Yes? Yes who is it?” he said abruptly when the receiver hit his face, accented voice sounding almost alarmed.
The person on the other end sounded alarmed by his alarm too. “U-um… hello, this is Mercy General calling,” said a woman’s voice on the other end.
Mohinder’s shoulders slumped a little, and he breathed out a sigh. Of relief? Or was it disappointment. “Yes… this is Mohinder Suresh. Thank you for calling. How is Officer Parkman?”
Silence on the other end. “Mo-hin-der Sur-esh,” the woman repeated carefully, the sound of computer keys typing on the other end. “Parkman? Is he a friend of yours, Sir? We have a stab-wound victim admitted to Mercy General a couple of hours ago, and this number was the only information we found on his person. We were hoping you could identify this victim. Caucasian male, approximately 6’2”, dark hair, brown eyes. Is this a Mr. Parkman?”
A chill ran down Mohinder’s spine. Time stopped. His memory had called, and Sylar had come. “N…-” There was his heartbeat again, deafening and painfully fast. He was alive? And of all places, the same hospital as all the others? As Molly?
“N-No, you have the wrong man. I… may I come to the hospital?” he asked, voice quavering in the smallest way.
“Certainly, sir. Please report to the ER desk when you arrive and we will send you for identification accordingly.”
“Thank you.” Mohinder pushed the ‘talk’ button and set the phone against the desk. Water dripped down to his elbow and then the floor, matching the trickle of his own blood from days before. The little comfort he had was now ripped from beneath him, but he wasn’t down yet. He would simply have to finish the job when he arrived at Mercy.