Rating: PG-13 by default
Spoilers: Speculation on future events.
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Summary: Matt Parkman walked out of his life one day and became a ghost.
Ghost by SLynn
It had been seventeen months.
Seventeen months had passed from the time Audrey Hanson had last seen Matt Parkman until he showed up one night inexplicably in her bedroom.
Seventeen months without a phone call, an email, not so much as a note dropped on her desk. One day he had just told her that there was something he had to take care of, something she was better off not being involved in, and that was it.
He was gone.
Matt Parkman had effectively walked away from her life and his.
At first she'd been in denial about it. She'd assumed he wasn't serious, or at least he wasn't that serious. But after the first month had passed and still there was no word from him, she grew worried.
Thousands of possibilities raced through her head. Thousands of outcomes, each one worse than the next.
Audrey had called his precinct only to be told he had quit. She had called his wife only to be hung up on. She even went so far as to file a missing persons report only to have it rejected.
There was nothing left for her to do but scan the newspapers, the Internet, anything and everything she could think of. Occasionally she'd hear something promising, something that seemed to point towards him, but nothing concrete. Nothing solid.
Audrey had nearly given up.
And then he was there, just there. Back in her life like he'd never left.
One night she had gotten home late, her home locked up as usual and as she went to the bedroom to change there he was. Matt was just lying on her bed, arm draped across his face as if it was exactly where he belonged.
"Don't turn on the light."
Audrey had nearly screamed.
"Sorry," Matt said, still not moving. "The light makes it worse."
"What are you doing here?" Audrey asked quickly, moving across the room but still wary. Still not entirely believing what she saw. That he was there.
"I needed a place to stay. I hope you don't mind."
"Don't mind? Matt, I haven't heard from you…"
"I know," he said sounding seriously exhausted. "I know you haven't. I was afraid… I was afraid of a lot of things."
Audrey sat down next to him and gently moved his arm, taking his hand into her lap in order to get a good look at him. To be certain he was real. That it all wasn't some massive delusion.
"I'm really here," he answered her internal struggle. "For now. I'm here for now."
That night they slept side-by-side without touching and without talking. It was strange and familiar all at once.
The next morning he was gone. Matt had left before she'd even awoken. The word 'thanks' handwritten on a scrap of paper was the only proof she had that it hadn't all been some surreal dream.
Even with that bit of evidence, Audrey had her moments of doubt.
Until he came back.
Two weeks later he returned, but not like before. This time she was home when he showed up. This time she let him in the back door herself. Audrey knew now it was true. That Matt was alive and well and living somewhere, doing who knew what and somehow surviving.
That night they had sat in her kitchen and talked like old friends.
They talked about sports and politics, movies she'd seen and he'd only heard about. Everything but what was really on her mind.
Questions about where he had been and why he was so secretive. Questions about why he looked so tired, so defeated. Questions she'd give anything to have answered, but couldn't bring herself to voice.
They weren't the kinds of questions you could ask.
"How are your headaches?" she said instead as she made a fresh pot of coffee.
"Some days are better than others."
"Today was a good day," he said with a smile.
He stayed over again that night but this time he slept on the couch. Audrey had wanted to protest, to insist otherwise, but what could she say? How would she even begin to say it?
The next morning she expected him to be gone and wasn't disappointed.
Matt had left her another note, another word of 'thanks' and nothing more.
For some time Audrey thought she must have done something wrong because after that Matt seemed to have disappeared again. Every day for the next month she had expected him, had wanted him to stop by, to return and talk and prove again he was real, but he never did. After a month she began to lose hope. She began to doubt and wonder. To despair.
And then he was back.
Six weeks after his last visit, he was back.
It had rained that whole day and into the night. Audrey had worked late, a Friday, and had gone for a drink or two with some colleagues. When she did finally arrive home, it was much later than her usual time.
She hadn't even seen him there on the porch, dripping wet and sitting patiently.
"I was beginning to worry."
Audrey was only momentarily startled before she rolled her eyes at him and opened the front door letting them both inside.
"You're one to talk," she mumbled as she stripped out of her coat and shoes. "Where have you been?"
Audrey gave him one hard stare before moving towards the kitchen.
"So that's all I get?" she asked, fueled by the alcohol, by neglect, and by other things. Things she wasn't ready to admit. "That's all I get to know? You've been around. You've been gone for a year and a half."
"I'll come back later."
Audrey didn't say no, she only thought it. She didn't want him to leave. She was angry but that wasn't what she wanted. Audrey just wanted the truth. She wanted to know what had happened to him, why he had changed.
What was he so afraid of?
Matt had stopped and waited with his back to her, but she wouldn't say it. Audrey just couldn't bring herself to say it.
He left that night and Audrey was sure she wouldn't see him again. That that was it, but she was wrong.
Three nights later when the storm had passed he came back again like he'd promised.
She was home that night and once more he appeared on her back porch. This time she was determined to have her say. Audrey couldn't pretend that this was normal anymore and Matt wasn't going to tell her anything unless she asked. Really asked.
"I have to know," Audrey said as soon as he was seated, cup of coffee in hand. "I have to know where you've been. Where you keep going. I can't not know any longer. What's happened?"
To her surprise, he smiled.
"I was wondering how long it would take."
Matt seemed relieved, easier after that night. Like telling her had lifted a weight off his chest.
He told her all about the group of others he'd found, that he was a part of now. How he and his friends, more like family, were working together to help people, averting catastrophe. That how for the first time in his life he felt like he was somebody important.
That what he was doing was important.
Audrey and Matt had talked the entire night again. He answered anything she asked, but she made certain to ask him only about his new life. She wasn't ready to touch on the life he'd left behind. She knew he wasn't either.
When they finally lay down beside one another the sun was just starting to rise.
It was the first time he'd kissed her.
Matt had just casually leaned in and pressed his lips to hers as if he'd done it a thousand times before. As if it was the most natural thing in the world to do.
"Get some sleep," he told her and she shut her eyes.
Opening them, several hours later, she was sad to find herself alone.
Sad but not surprised.
He didn't come back for a month.
Back in her room, sitting at the foot of her bed, she found him once more with his head in his hands.
Audrey didn't say anything, wasn't even surprised this time. She just sat beside him and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him to her.
"I shouldn't have come here," he told her. "If they ever find out I'll have no one left. You're the only one. You're the only one they haven't erased me out of. Not yet. Not yet."
"No," he said pulling out of her grasp and standing abruptly. "I shouldn't have… I just, I needed someone, someone from before all this… I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"I don't understand."
But he wouldn't stay to explain.
The next day Audrey redid all her research.
She called all her leads again starting with Matt's old supervisor. He didn't know who she was talking about and transferred her to personnel who in turn informed her that no one named Matthew Parkman had ever worked in that precinct or in that district.
After that she tried his wife, she called Janice's number and a man's voice answered instead. She wasn't home, so Audrey left her name and number and the man assured her that his wife would get in touch with her as soon as she could.
Everyone she talked to, everyone from his life prior to his disappearance just didn't seem to remember him. It was almost as if he'd never existed.
And for another three months he didn't.
It took him three months to work up the nerve to come back the next time and Audrey thought she finally knew why.
Whoever it was out there, Matt was afraid they'd find out about her. That they'd find her next and take her away too.
It's why he stayed away.
But it was also why he couldn't stay away for long.
Matt had to know. He had to keep checking, to keep coming by and making sure Audrey still knew.
Matt came to her to prove he was real, to her and to himself.
She let him in the house without hesitation and only one question on her lips.
"It's their way of getting even with me I guess," Matt answered honestly. "Of making sure there's no where left for me to go. No one left to help me."
"But you waited so long," Audrey said. "A year and a half. Why…"
"I didn't know it was happening," he said, looking down at his hands that were clasped tightly together. "I did quit, I did leave my job. I tried to get Janice to come with me, to understand what I could do… what I had to do, but she wouldn't. She just wouldn't or couldn't, I don't know which. We stopped the explosion but that wasn't the end of it."
Audrey waited patiently for him to continue. Knowing there was more.
"All of this was some massive experiment that got out of hand," he finally said. "They thought they could keep us in check, monitor us and just see what happened…"
Matt trailed off momentarily, seemingly lost in thought.
"I called her," he continued. "I called her every week and when she stopped answering I just thought she was angry. And then one time she did and… I went to see her after that and she called me crazy and slammed the door in my face."
Audrey put her hands over his and squeezed them gently.
"It wasn't just me. All of us, one by one, we found out. We'd all just been taken out of our own lives. Erased."
Matt stopped and smiled at her sadly, briefly.
"I thought they'd gotten to you too. I wanted to be sure but... I came by your house a hundred times trying to work up the nerve, never sure how you'd take it. That even if you did remember me you might be too mad…"
"I was never mad at you, not for this. For not telling me… yeah," Audrey admitted. "But not…not for what you can do. For what you had to do."
Matt held her gaze for a moment, his eyes dark and intense, before leaning in and kissing her hard. It wasn't the same as their first kiss. It wasn't easy, it was urgent.
That was the first time they'd made love.
It was the first time she'd woken up the next morning and he was still beside her, but it didn't last.
Matt had places to go, things to do and could never stay long. However, from that day on, he made sure to come by at least once a week if for only a few minutes. He had to see her, he had to keep seeing her. She was keeping him sane.
It was the best time they'd had, the briefest. It only lasted a few months.
"I'm going away for awhile," he said to her one night as they lay in bed together.
"For how long?" she asked. She never asked where or why. Just for how long.
"A few months."
"I wouldn't go if…"
"I know," she interrupted. "I know you wouldn't go unless you had to."
Matt smiled at her, kissed her and it was alright. Audrey knew it would be alright.
Except it wasn't.
Four months passed and she had heard nothing. No calls, no notes, nothing but silence.
Audrey didn't know what to do until one night she got a visitor on her back porch.
"Do you remember me?"
"Petrelli, right?" Audrey said as she opened the door. "Peter. The guy who fell off that school."
Peter gave her a weak smile.
"They really did just miss you entirely, didn't they?"
"Looks like it," Audrey said, trying not to be frightened. Trying not to think about why Peter would be here instead of Matt. Of what that could mean.
"Listen," he said with a short nod, "I need you to come with me. To trust me."
"Is it… what's happened to him?" she asked quickly.
"He's going to be fine," Peter assured her, "but he's been asking for you. He wanted me to see…"
Audrey didn't hesitate; she grabbed her coat and was ready to go.
The drive took just over an hour.
Peter led her up the stairs of what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. There were a few people milling about, each of them casting her odd looks. She was an outsider. They knew she wasn't one of them.
Audrey didn't care.
She only cared about seeing Matt.
"How is he?" Peter stopped to ask a man Audrey recognized from a wanted poster in her office.
"Better. He's talking more, sounding more like himself. Is this…"
"Audrey," she provided with a crisp nod.
"You're sure it's her?" the man directed back to Peter.
"We've met before," he said before gently taking Audrey by the elbow and leading her further into the building.
He stopped right outside the door.
"Matt was hurt pretty bad," Peter said quietly. "He was poisoned, by another… that's not important. He's not contagious and I wasn't lying when I said he's going to be fine. Just don't go in there expecting him…"
"I'll be fine," assured Audrey.
Peter nodded and then gave her another more serious look.
"Does he know?"
"You should tell him," Peter said firmly. "He'd want to know. It might even do him some good."
Audrey nodded as a familiar sense of unease washed over her. The same one she got whenever Matt read her thoughts.
"I'll leave you two alone," Peter said, pushing open the door for her before turning to go.
Audrey took a deep breath and made her way inside.
Matt was lying in bed, pale and sweating. He looked awful. He looked like he might be dying.
Still, he smiled when he saw her, and that smile made all the difference.
"Sorry I didn't…"
Audrey dismissed him quickly with a wave of her hand, tears coming unexpectedly to her eyes as she sat down beside him.
"What happened?" she asked.
"I should be asking you that," he said, his voice full of surprise. "How long?"
"Five months," she answered.
For a moment neither of them spoke.
"Are you…" Audrey started to ask.
"I'm thrilled," he finished for her. "I really am. I just, I can't believe…"
"Are you happy?" he asked tentatively.
"I will be if once you're okay again."
Eventually he was.
Whatever poison had entered his system, it hadn't kept him down for long. Peter had been right, having Audrey there and knowing he was going to be a father went a long way towards that, towards Matt's recovery. It gave him renewed focus and energy.
It was that way for Audrey as well.
His visits to her were now almost daily. Matt couldn't stay away. He had to be there for her as much as was possible.
And with each day that passed, Matt knew he had to ask. He had to somehow ask Audrey to come with him the next time he went away. To leave her life and join him, really join him in his.
It was the only way.
Matt couldn't go back into regular society and he wanted them to be together, but it felt so selfish. He'd be asking Audrey to give up any chance she and their baby might have at a normal life.
But he had to know.
"What should we name her?" Audrey said one evening they were together.
"I already know you have a name picked out."
Audrey smiled at him. It was true.
"So what's on your mind?" she asked, more seriously. "You seem…"
"I want you to come with me," he blurted out. "I want you to be with me. All the time. Not just whenever we can…"
"You don't have to," he said quickly. "I understand why…"
"No, I want to," she returned. "I want to be with you. All the time. I just couldn't figure out why you'd waited so long…"
"I was never sure how to say it aloud."
Audrey nodded, and smiled, and kissed him.
Together they made their plans. Disappearing wasn't easy work.
Audrey was going to put in for early maternity leave, make excuses to her few friends and family. Matt set them up a place of their own. Something secluded. Something safe.
It took a few weeks, a few weeks apart, and when Matt did show up for the last time at her door he was happy that it really was for the last time.
Until she met him there and greeted him with a blank look he remembered too well.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"Audrey don't you…"
"How do you know my name?" she said warily, her knuckles growing white as she gripped the door.
"I'm sorry," Matt said slowly. "I must have the wrong house. My mistake."
Audrey stayed in the doorway, watching as he retreated down the front steps and back into the night, thinking he had one of those faces that everyone found familiar.
That was it.
She didn't really know him. She couldn't have.
Matt knew it was over.
Audrey Hanson sat in the park, years later, watching her daughter play as she glanced over the newspaper.
She was a happy woman.
Audrey had a good job, an amazing daughter and couldn't imagine wanting more from life.
"Is this spot taken?"
She looked up at the man who had asked and shook her head slightly, making room on the bench beside her.
He was tall with dark hair and eyes. Familiar in that way most people look familiar.
Audrey gave him another brief glance, just catching his eye.
"Is she yours?" he asked, pointing to her daughter as if he knew the answer already.
"Yeah," Audrey said, not unable to smile. "She's nearly four."
"She's tall for her age."
"She is," Audrey agreed with a laugh.
The girl they were discussing looked up from her sandcastle; smiled and waved.
"Are any of these yours?" she asked good-naturedly, but it seemed like the wrong question.
The man just looked down and shook his head.
"Mom," her daughter said, coming over and taking her by the hand. "I want to show you what I've made."
"Okay," Audrey said, putting down her paper.
And then the strangest thing happened.
"That man knows my name."
Audrey gave her a funny smile.
"Honey," she said, "don't be silly. That man doesn't know you."
"He does," she repeated. "I heard him. He said my name."
"I'm sorry," Audrey said, somewhat embarrassed. "Sometimes she gets it in her head that…"
"It's fine," he said, waving her off before turning his attention to the girl. "I'm sorry, I don't know your name, but I bet I could guess it."
She smiled at him and nodded as Audrey watched somewhat transfixed.
"Is it Hannah?"
"See," she said, squeezing her mom's hand tightly. "I told you he knew my name."
Audrey looked at him uneasily and he knew it was time to go.
He watched as Hannah led Audrey off to the sandbox, off to show her the castle she'd built, before he stood and left.
He didn't get far before he felt a familiar presence fall in step beside him.
"Why do you keep doing this to yourself?"
"I keep hoping that maybe she'll remember."
"Matt," Peter said, "it's time to let go. Our old lives aren't…"
"I can't let go," he said, picking up his pace and heading out of the park.
It had been five and a half years since Matt Parkman had first walked out of his life.
It had been five and a half years since he became a ghost.