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Amongst The Rubble

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He looked around at the carnage that surrounded him. Dead...most of the city was dead. He had thought that when Nathan took him away, when he exploded and they both plummeted back to Earth, that it was all over. He had considered them so lucky, so lucky to have survived and save the world just like he'd saved Claire.

He was wrong. Dead wrong, as it turned out.

He walked around the rubble, stepping around dead bodies. So far, he hadn't seen anyone he recognized, but that didn't mean they weren't there, burnt beyond recognition. It didn't matter, though. There were hundreds of thousands of people dead. Maybe millions; he had no access to TV or radio to find out. For all he knew, the city of New York as it stood now was not the only city like that. He was betting that most other cities were like this, considering that the cavalry wasn't riding in.

He hadn't been surprised, though. That was the worst part. No matter how much they had fought, they had known towards the end that they were going to lose.

"Creepy," a woman said from his left. He turned and looked at Claire, Hiro and Ando. In the years since they'd met, the confident girl had become a disillusioned woman. She hadn't been the only one, he realized as he saw Niki and her family coming towards them. Micah was the same way. It was worse to see the disillusionment in him, mostly because he was so young.

They had only survived because Nathan had known that when this was over, they would be needed. He had made sure they were protected. Kept them safe. Most of them had had to leave their families behind, though, and he could see the looks on their faces as they realized exactly what they had lost.

They were a small group now: Peter, Nathan and his family, Noah and Claire, DL, Micah and Niki, Hiro and Ando, Molly and Mohinder, Matt and his family...that was it. Any other hero who was not with them in the bunker...well, their fate was unknown. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what their fate was.

"This looks worse than the painting," Peter said. "I thought we'd stopped the destruction."

"I guess we didn't," Claire said. She stopped near him, not making a move to physically comfort him, but her presence was enough. If she could stay strong then so could he. "But we tried. Sylar..."

Sylar. The only real comfort Peter took in any of this was that Sylar was now dead. Claire had said that since Sylar's head had been cut off and then burned, there was no way he'd come back; if it had happened to her she'd have died. And Peter had thought that that would stop the destruction, but once again he was wrong.

His being wrong wasn't just a little thing. His being wrong meant what looked like the end of the world.

There was a cough to his right, followed by a weak voice crying out for help. "Niki!" Peter yelled. "Come here!"

Claire and Peter began pulling away the rubble until Niki got there. She began pulling up the larger rock, tossing it to the side, being careful not to hit her family. Finally, they got the last of it up and saw a little girl, lying on her stomach with a teddy bear clutched to her side. Peter knelt down close to her.

"Where's my mommy?" she said, her voice weak.

"I don't know," Peter said quietly. "Can you feel your legs?"

The little girl nodded. "I want my mommy."

DL moved in and picked the little girl up while Peter stood, looking at her. "What's your name?" Peter asked, his voice still quiet and gentle.

"Tina," she said, tears sliding down her face.

"Tina. That's a pretty name," Claire said, coming up to her. "And who's your bear?"

"Mr. Wilkins," she said. "I want my mommy!"

Niki moved over and took the little girl from DL's arms, holding her gently and stroking back her hair. "We'll look for your mommy," she said, her voice strained as she held back tears.

Peter watched Niki and her family walk away, the sight choking him up. The chances were good that her mother was dead, that she was going to spend the rest of her life, however long that was, with no one except a group of strangers. But to find a girl in all this rubble gave him hope. He ran back over to Niki. "I need to ask you something," Peter asked.

Tina sniffed a little. "Okay."

"How did you...what did you do to make sure you were okay?"

"I curled up into a ball and got smaller."

"Can you show me how?" The little girl nodded and he watched in amazement as she began to shrink in size as Niki held her.

"She's one of us," Claire said, her eyes wide.

The little girl began to grow again. "I...I used to do that when I played hide and seek. I was good at hide and seek."

"Can you get any bigger?" Niki asked, and the girl shook her head.

"I just go back to my size." She rested her head on Niki's shoulder and the woman went back to stroking her hair.

"Maybe...maybe some of the others survived," Claire said quietly as the four people walked away.

"We need to find out what happened before we can go looking," Peter said. "If we want to start looking."

"If there's a place that wasn't touched," Claire said, "shouldn't we go? Maybe try and survive somewhere that isn't here?" The volume of her voice was rising.

"Maybe," Peter replied.

"You can stay here in New York if you want, but I want to look for them," she said, a tear slipping down her face. "I want to know if there's anyone else out there."

Peter watched as more tears slipped down her face and he moved to hold her but stopped. "We need to find the others. We can't just make this decision on our own."

"Why should I ask anyone else if I should leave?" Claire asked. "I want to go. I don't want to stay here anymore!"

Niki and her family stopped and turned around to look at Claire. "I don't want to stay either," DL said after a moment. "If there's a better place..."

Peter hung his head. "Then I guess we should go. See if there's that better place somewhere."

"If there is," Claire said, wiping away her tears with the back of her hand, "we can start over, Peter. We can survive."

He turned to look at her and saw the others emerging from the shelter, looking around the city with looks of horror and shock on their faces. "We've survived this much," he finally said in a quiet voice. "We should try and keep surviving." Claire reached over and took his hand, squeezing it gently and he looked at her, her face losing the cynical veneer it had developed over the years, and he realized that she was right. They needed to survive, and New York City was not going to be where it happened.

They were going to have to move on.