AN: Spoilers up to "Parasite". Warnings for implied slash, implied incest, and mentions of physical abuse and gore.


Netherworld Shade

When Peter wakes up, it's dark and he feels a cool cloth brush over his forehead. There is blood caked in his eyes, and when he opens them, he blinks to see the image of his brother, towering over him in a dark room.

"Pete…" Nathan's words are strangled in his throat, and there is a look of worry on his face. The blood is almost washed away, but Peter can still feel it there.

Peter's eyes are heavy; he knows where he is and whom he's with, so he allows himself to sleep.

He doesn't know how he did it, but he barely escaped that madman with his life. Now, as his brother's caresses over his forehead lull him to sleep, he feels that he is safe – at least for now.

--

Peter is ten years old, and he's hiding in Nathan's closet, crying himself to sleep. The door opens, and he wakes up, and his brother is surprised he's there.

"Pete," says his brother, his eyes widening. He looks down at Peter's face, moist from tears. "What are you doing in here?"

"I…" Peter stutters, not sure what his brother is doing here either. His room is essentially vacant, only in use when Nathan comes home from college for family visits.

Nathan bends down, gently tracing a finger down Peter's jaw line, inspecting the red and purple bruises on his cheek. His deep brown eyes peer at his baby brother with concern. "What happened do you?" But Nathan already knows what has happened. His father has struck Peter, but for what, he doesn't know.

Peter avoids the subject. He's just glad to see Nathan. Maybe he can understand. "I had a dream, Nate. I had a horrible dream about our father, and…" His voice trails off, and he looks away from his brother's piercing gaze. "He didn't believe me. He hit me."

"What didn't he believe?" Nathan asks logically. He's inching closer to his brother, bringing him slowly into a warm, protective embrace.

"My dream…" Peter looks up at Nathan, eyes shining with fortitude and hope that he's never seen before. "I told Daddy that I saw him die in a dream. I told him to be careful." Peter bends in closer to Nathan, pleading with him. His voice is raw and urgent, "Nathan, it wasn't a dream. It felt so… real."

Nathan shakes his head, his hands gripping Peter's shoulders. "Pete… it's just a dream. You had a very lucid dream; that's all. Our father is alive, so it can't be real."

Peter eyes him angrily and breaks from his grasps. "You don't…you don't believe me either?" His lip curls in a pout, and he seems betrayed. Nathan's mouth gapes, and Peter inches away, turning his head and leaning into the wall of the closet. He says in a ragged breath, "It was real."

"Pete…" Nathan pleads with him.

"Go away…" Peter says. Nathan doesn't move, and he stares at him, hoping he'll eventually come to his senses.

Peter turns his head and stares at him squarely. "Go away."

His look is fierce, and there's a dark energy swirling in his eyes that turns Nathan's blood cold. Slowly, Nathan gets up, moving away from his brother and sighing. Peter continues to glare at him. His small hand reaches for the door handle, and with one last piercing stare, he slams the closet door shut.

Nathan stares at the door for a while, hoping that Peter will come out. He remembers the look in his eyes, the betrayal in his expression. Disappointing that little boy, his brother, has to be the worst feeling in the world.

Even if he still didn't believe him about the dream.

--

Peter can't stay mad at him. Nathan is jarred awake, and when he looks up, Peter is towering over his bed. He's holding his teddy bear limply in his hand. He stares at Nathan and sniffles.

"Pete… what's wrong?" Nathan gives him a lazy grin. "Are you still carrying that bear with you? I think you're too old for such things…"

"Can I stay with you?" Peter asks, interrupting him. Nathan seems stunned, and he nods once before feeling Peter's weight tumble onto his bed.

"Peter, why are you…Look…" Nathan's voice is soft, but tense with a commanding tone. "I know you're scared about the dream, but it's alright. Everyone has dreams like that…"

"Shut up, Nate," Peter says, and Nathan stops, pursing his lips at his brother's defiance. He's ready to say something, but then Peter inches toward him, and cuddles within the crook of Nathan's arm. He wraps his arm around Nathan's, and Nathan can feel his soft hair brush against his bicep. Nathan freezes, not entirely comfortable with Peter's bouts of physical closeness. Finally, as Peter relaxes against him, Nathan sighs, and leans his head closer to Peter.

"I don't want to be alone when I have the dreams, Nate," Peter replies through the silence. "I don't want to be alone. I'm scared of them."

"Peter… tell me about your dreams," Nathan almost hesitates to say. He's not usually in such a caring mood, but he wants his brother to relax. Maybe then he can finally get to sleep.

Peter is quiet momentarily, and he stares at Nathan's rising and falling chest. "People die in them. People I've never met. People like Mom and Dad and Dad's friends. I see you too." He sits up, arching his face toward Nathan. He looks at him desperately, and Nathan sees real fear in the young boy's eyes. "You're older, and I'm older, and we're fighting…There are guns, blood, and people who are lying on the floor, dead… with their heads cut off…" Peter looks away, settling back down against Nathan's warmth once again. He looks to the ceiling, hazed by the unsaturated colors of the night. Peter sighs. "I don't know what's going on. I'm so scared. I don't want to dream anymore."

Suddenly, Nathan takes him into a quick embrace, and Peter molds perfectly against his frame. They settle into one another, Nathan's head resting against Peter's as his younger brother cries tearlessly in his chest.

"It's okay, Pete. I'm here for you. Just go to sleep," Nathan says.

"But the dreams…" Peter protests.

"Shh…" Nathan stills him. He turns his brother's face toward him and looks into his eyes. "I'll protect you from the dreams."

Peter shivers in his arms, muffling a sob as he closes his eyes, soaking in his brother's warmth. Nathan closes his eyes, relaxing into the soft bed within Peter's embrace. He takes one last look at the dark ceiling, and then soon, with Peter's soft breath against him, he falls into slumber.

--

Peter dreams of Sylar, his hands waving methodically in the air, commanding invisible knives to cut at his flesh and tear at his bone. He screams with Sylar's cavorting laughter drowning in his ears.

He's going to take him, suck out his powers and use them for his own gain. And then everything Peter has worked so hard for, everyone he has saved would waste away. It wouldn't matter anymore.

At least the bomb would be stopped, but then another problem would be loose.

Peter couldn't even fathom what the world would be like with Sylar in control of his powers.

And then he wouldn't be around to stop him. Peter wouldn't be there to do what he's supposed to do. What is it all worth then? The dreams, the nightmares, the visions, the powers… the people he's learned to care about – the brother he's trying to protect just underneath his towering shadow.

He couldn't let him win, despite his weaknesses – despite the broken boy his mentor has left behind.

And he could feel it, Sylar's invisible mania tearing into him and cutting at his skull. He feels the pain, but the madman has left him alive.

"You don't deserve this power, Peter. You don't even know how to use it." Sylar laughs at him, and he holds the top of his head in his hands. Peter can't speak, and blood pours down his face, obstructing his vision. He can't see. Sylar laughs again and says, "You failed, Peter."

He can't even die. He can't even see. He's lost in an otherworldly darkness, tiptoeing in limbo between life and impending death.

But something pulls him back…

--

Peter gasps for air, sitting up rigidly and convulsing in Nathan's strong arms.

"Peter!" Nathan yells for him, but Peter can only hear the buzzing and feel the pain that was meant for a circle around his skull.

Peter pants and sucks the loose phlegm back into his nose. Scared, he pulls from Nathan's embrace and traces eager fingers over a well-intact skull. Not even a scar is left on his forehead, and his powers have allowed him to heal.

But the cheerleader's power can only do so much. They can't even begin to mend his fractured mind.

"Pete… Pete…" His brother is next to him, singing his name like an anguished mantra. Peter turns to him frantically, seeing worry in his eyes.

"I had a dream…" Tears ebb in the corners of his eyes. He looks away from Nathan's gaze and stares at his shivering hands. "He almost got me, Nathan. He almost…"

"You're safe now, Pete," he responds. Nathan's voice is soft yet rigid as usual. Peter watches him adjust his suit jacket lightly and then lean into him. He places a kiss on Peter's forehead, and then pats the back of his neck.

Peter looks up at him, and those surfacing memories come to the forefront of his mind. He remembers the first time Nathan was with him when he had a vision, treating it as a child's bad dream. But Peter remembers that Nathan was there… no matter how crazy it sounded or how scared Peter felt. Nathan was there.

Peter doesn't smile, but he looks at his brother with appreciation. He inches closer, and Nathan leans into him for a tight, longing embrace.

"Don't scare me like that again, Pete. Don't disappear on me anymore. You worried our mother… you worried me." His tone emphasizes the last phrase, and Peter could feel his touch getting tighter.

"I can't promise anything, Nathan. You know what I must do."

"Yes," Nathan says, releasing him and then staring into his face. "That's why, from now on, I'm in this with you."

Peter seems shocked, unsure how to react to Nathan's sudden change of heart.

Peter shakes his head and looks skeptical. "Why?"

Nathan drops his arms, and Peter is sad for the loss of touch. Nathan looks away, pacing his bedside and scratching the back of his head. "It's complicated, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do just yet… but some things have come up that I can't avoid." Nathan stops pacing, and then he turns to Peter again. He sits on the side of his bed and grabs his arms. "And I can't let you keep doing this to yourself, Pete."

"Doing what?" Peter says, almost scoffing.

"Leaving you to do this all alone."

Peter's eyes are still wide from shock, but a small smile appears on his face. Nathan can't help but feel a warmth stir in his icy core at such a sight. Peter grins boyishly at him.

"I won't leave you, Pete."

Peter nods, leaning his head against his brother's forehead. He sighs, and then his voice rings with an abounding sense of hope. He touches Nathan's hands lightly, and their fingers entwine. "I know, Nate…I know…

"You always have to be here…to chase the bad dreams away."

END