"Through A Father's Eyes"
Title: "Through A Father's Eyes" Feedback is love!
Rating: PG-13 (Discussion of incest)
Characters: Peter/Claire, Nathan, Heidi, Angela Petrelli
Summary: Peter and Claire's increasingly intimate interactions as seen through Nathan's eyes.
Spoilers: General spoilers to 1.18 Parasite.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, just borrowing. All NBC's and Tim Kring's. Please don't sue!
Author's Notes: Crackfic. I'm kind of stuck on my other fic and I was having trouble sleeping. So I wrote this. It's sort of semi-serious, semi ... not. Take it as you will. ;-)
Feedback is love!
Nathan Petrelli couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was definitely something strange going on between his brother and his daughter. Call it fatherly instinct or politician's intuition, there was something going on. And he was determined to find out what it was.
He'd first noticed it a few weeks after Claire had settled into his home. At first he hadn't noticed much – and Nathan would have defied anyone to have spotted it more quickly than he did. Everyone had banded together to make Claire not feel out of place after Nathan had invited her to stay with them. Even Heidi had welcomed her when it came right down to it, although she had understandable misgivings.
Peter had thrown his heart and soul – so very typical of his younger brother, Nathan had thought fondly – to embrace his little blonde haired daughter into their family, made her feel welcome. Made sure her room was to her liking, scoured shops that he normally wouldn't have been caught dead in to make sure she'd have everything she needed, showed her around New York like an aspiring tour guide. Nathan had smiled on fondly, glad and at peace with Claire's smooth transition into the family.
Except Nathan hadn't known Peter had meant "embrace" in the really literal sense of the word.
He first thought something was up by the amount of time they spent together. Peter was – if he had to admit it, not that he would ever let his little brother know – quite a handsome man, well spoken, clean cut (although prone to flights of insanity, but that's another story altogether) – who had been somewhat of a babe magnet prior to meeting his little blonde niece. All Nathan's interns during the congressional campaign – male and female, which Nathan had fond odd but eye opening – had not-so-subtly inquired as to Peter's marital status ("single, very, very single") and sexual orientation ("Not sure about that one. He's dated women before. Guys … I'll have to get back to you on that."). Which forced Nathan to conclude that Peter was a draw at a certain level, especially given that there was always a 50/50 chance that anyone talking to him was actually doing so to perform aforementioned inquiries which, needless to say, irked Nathan quite a bit.
But Peter – slightly vague kid that he was – couldn't have cared less. Which, god bless him, Nathan found endearing, in an oddly dreamy, reserved, introverted kind of way. The kid went around with his head stuck in the clouds so much, Nathan was frankly surprised Peter didn't trip over more often.
Which was beside the point. The point being that a few weeks after he'd accepted Claire into his life, Nathan had started noticing odd things about Peter's interaction with his niece. Strange, odd things that his mind hadn't quite pieced together, until now.
For one thing, they were close. Not just emotionally 'we're family now' close, but physically 'we're almost sitting in each other's lap' close, which Nathan had merely attributed to Peter's natural warmth and Claire's need to feel anchored to someone who wasn't scary (say, like Nathan). Which Nathan completely understood, as the top three words used to describe him was 'shark', 'sarcastic' and 'scary', and that was just from his wife. It made sense that Claire would gravitate to his younger brother, especially given his heroics the first time they'd met, was completely understandable (which by the way, how could Nathan possibly ever compete with? How was he a) ever going to fly almost half way across the country to rescue a complete stranger who just turned out to be his niece/family and b) why in god's name would he ever do so? What was he, crazy?)
What hadn't made sense was their intimacy. Nathan couldn't believe it'd taken him this long to figure the damn thing out. They were forever doing things together, things that seemed perfectly innocent on the surface, but in retrospect a father could not but find deeply and morally disturbing.
Case in point: One day he'd come home earlier than expected from the office to find Peter and Claire snuggled – yes, snuggled, although it makes his stomach churn to think of it that way now – on the couch in the rec room. Heidi and the boys had obviously retreated to another part of the house – not that Nathan really blamed them, as it turned out – and were watching some semi-weepy flick that obviously had made Claire cry bucket loads of tears.
"Oh, it's you." Peter had turned, blinking owlishly at him. Nathan had smirked at the suspicious wetness around his brother's eyes, not really noticing Peter's arms around Claire's shoulders. It seemed like such an innocent, uncle-ish gesture at the time. "You're home early." Claire had sniffled a few times before turning around and giving Nathan a wane smile.
Her weepiness – for want of a better word – had concerned Nathan for a second. "You okay, Claire?"
He had been relieved to see her break into a fit of giggles. "Yeah." She had giggled again, mischievous eyes meeting Peter's playful ones. "I just wanted to watch something that –" And here she'd said a whole bunch of things that didn't make much sense to Nathan, but which had resulted in Peter and Claire trading secretive little smiles. The only thing Nathan had been sure of was that nothing had really been wrong with his daughter, which was his primary concern. They had both stared back at Nathan then, as if he'd interrupted something vastly important. In his own rec room.
God damn those two for making him feel like an intruder in his own house.
And then there was that ridiculous charity ball that Heidi had signed him on for a couple of months later. Being crippled – physically incapacitated, if he had to be politically correct, which he guessed he should be – didn't prevent his darling, vindictive wife from signing him up to attend a benefit for some fatal disease or other. Don't get him wrong, Nathan was all for charities and raising money to fight old age or whatever – but not when the cost was so steep. The cost being that the damn thing was predictably fancy dress and Nathan hated dressing up of any sort. The last time he had been forced to attend a fancy dress ball had been two Christmases ago, at their neighbour's party and Heidi had made him – emotionally blackmailed him, god bless his darling wife – into wearing a Robin Hood costume. Which was okay, except for the tights, which had itched like hell.
As per usual, Heidi had wheedled, cajoled, then finally, emotionally blackmailed him into going. So what else could Nathan have done but drag his unsuspecting brother and daughter down into the boring abyss with him?
The upshot of his impending death by fancy dress was that Claire – who had been feeling like a fish out of water for months – had inexplicably brightened at the idea (teenage girls were so strange sometimes). Nathan swore that her green eyes had brightened triple-fold at the words "ball" and "fancy dress" (which technically could have been two words, but who was really counting inside his brain) and had immediately become his co-conspirator in entrapping Peter to said ball. Peter had, to Nathan's chagrin, reacted to the news calmly and not at all like he usually did when forced to dress up in anything other than a pair of jeans or nice pants, and had even enthusiastically taken Claire out to try on costumes. Which had taken a hell of a lot of enjoyment out of it for Nathan already.
Nathan should have known then how very wrong all this was. But he had been stupid, and blind, and oh – had never thought in a million years that anything like that could really go on in his own family.
They had gone to the damn ball, with Nathan regretting having been blackmailed into it every second. Trapped between Senators that looked like wax impersonations of themselves and matrons so botoxed up it was hard to tell whether they were, in fact, dead or alive, Nathan had considered several avenues of escape from the ball, including but not limited to a) handing his resignation in as Congressman, b) killing Heidi for making him go to this thing or c) gouging his eyes out with the nearest spork.
None of the possibilities seemed quite that doable at that point. Unfortunately.
One thing he did notice was Claire (his daughter, damn it!) leading a very reluctant Peter to the dance floor. Nathan had looked on, preparing to be amused, knowing how retarded his little brother was at dancing, particularly when said dancing involved bouncing around to the crap that passed as music these days (and yes, that wasn't politically correct but god damn it, if he couldn't be honest and scathing inside his own head where else could he be).
But Peter, as if turned out, was the luckiest son-of-a-not quite a bitch there was, because no sooner had Claire pulled him onto the dance floor, the music had changed from disco to slow. It was now Claire's turn to look uncomfortable, but what did his semi-suave, able to slow dance brother do? Peter had promptly wrapped his arms around Claire (his daughter!), pressed her against him and lead her around the dance floor, making her give him that dazzling smile that Nathan had always thought of as sunshine on a clear summer's day.
And there they had stayed. All night. Just twirling around. And looking into each other's eyes. And Nathan still – insert required expletives – had not noticed anything was wrong!
What the hell was the matter with him? Had his mother dropped him on his head as a baby? Was this why he had been so deficient, taking so long to see something that was right in front of him, plain as day?
There were, of course, other episodes of increasing intensity after that, each one requiring exponential denseness from Nathan to not see that anything was wrong. For one thing, Claire was forever going over to spend time with Peter at his apartment, which as a 16 year old seemed endearing and innocent enough, but as an 18 year old became slightly odd. Then there were the frequent walks and rambles in their mother's well-kept gardens, deep, intense conversations Nathan found himself forever interrupting or walking in at the tail end of, not to mention all the times he'd come home to find Peter – by then his 28 year old younger brother – mucking around in Claire's room, having said intense conversations. Nathan groaned. It just hadn't been normal, and it hadn't been normal that Nathan hadn't noticed.
Most telling of all, she had absolutely refused – point blank – to ever hearing Peter referred to as her uncle. The one time Nathan had needled her about it had been the only time he had seen his explosive temper mirrored in Claire. Her emerald eyes had flared, looking capable of shooting angry sparks. "Don't you ever say that again Nathan. I mean it." She had viciously stomped out of the kitchen, leaving Nathan crushed and completely confused.
But had Congressman Nathan Petrelli noticed? No. He was truly too stupid to live sometimes.
It had taken him 3 years to figure out the truth that had been staring him right in the face. It couldn't have been more obvious if it had slapped his balls and called him an economic girly man.
Instead, what had finally tipped him off was something so outrageous, so unequivocal, he'd actually needed to have been mentally deficient to not realise it any longer. Claire had just moved out to go to college at NYU and Nathan had decided to surprise her at her dorm with a little – well, surprise visit, the key word being surprise – and take her out to a little celebratory dinner, just the two of them.
Instead, the surprise had turned out to have been entirely reserved for him. The room was unlocked, he Nathan had gone in.
And had seen Peter (his brother!) sprawled on top of Claire (his daughter!), grappling with each other on the bed. And not even in an innocent 'he accidentally tripped over something large and invisible to land completely on top of his daughter' kind of way, but in a completely 'recognisable I want to totally bed that hot blonde' kind of way, which – he hadn't quite been able to think more about it at that point.
It had taken Nathan a full minute of watching – in curiosity and disbelief – to finally figure out what was up (no, wrong. Wrong damn it). And then as they say, the shit really hit the fan. Hit the fan so hard, Nathan wouldn't have trouble believing that the shit was still stuck on said fan, unable to be scraped off.
"Peter!" He had barked, propelling his brother off his – dear god – daughter.
Peter had stammered, stuttered and stumbled his way through his next words. "It's not what you think, Nathan, this is not what it looks like."
"Oh REALLY?" Nathan had looked askance at both of Peter and Claire, who – God – actually looked peaked and flustered. And she was blushing guiltily, which didn't help his crumbling nerves. "Cause this looks like my BROTHER kissing my DAUGHTER. God, I need a drink." They had both stared back in shock. "A god damn drink please! Don't tell me you don't have any booze stashed away, this is a dorm, isn't it?"
Predictably, Peter was the one trying to make the peace and smooth over the disturbance. Except this time he was the disturbance and boy, was his younger brother disturbed. "Nathan, you don't understand."
"The hell I don't!" Nathan had roared, making Peter back away so hard he bumped against the bed which then sent him reeling backwards onto the floor. "You – you – you –" Nathan couldn't even get the words out, they were so dirty and horrible and god, he wanted someone to gouge the image of Peter and Claire together out of his brain, stat. Preferably right the hell now.
He had turned to his daughter, blonde waves cascading down her bare (god!) shoulders, green eyes defiant but shaky. "And you! Put a top on or something. You do know he's your UNCLE, right? That little detail didn't escape you?"
Her chin had sprung up. "Of course I know. Don't be like this Nathan."
"Excuse me?! He's your uncle!"
"You need to lower your voice." Peter sprang to Claire's defence, incensing Nathan even more. "This isn't what it looks – oh screw it, it's completely what it looks like." Nathan's eyes had bulged, which led Peter to conclude hastily. "It feels wrong but it's not. Don't you see, Nathan? Claire and I, we – we didn't grow up knowing each other, about being family. We met before we knew we were related and it just happened, okay?"
"That doesn't change the fact that she's your NIECE Peter. Your niece! How many times can I say it to make sense to you?!"
"I KNOW what you're saying, all right! You don't have to SHOUT." Ironically, all three of them were shouting.
"And she's 19 years old!" Nathan continued as the interruption hadn't happened. "You're 29! It'd be strange even if you weren't – you know – RELATED!"
"For god's sakes, shut UP Nathan. I'm 19, so what, it doesn't make me a moron! I know what I'm doing, okay?"
"You're too young to know what you're really doing. And you –" He pointed to Peter dangerous. "You're old enough to know better."
"So I'm old enough to help save the world, but not old enough to know who I want to go out with?!" Claire had retorted furiously.
"You're 19 and I'm your father and I say you CANNOT sleep with your UNCLE. Got that?"
Needless to say, the conversation had degenerated into more shouting and name calling after that.
Unpredictably, the truth – when it finally dawned on him, and Nathan had always considered himself the very sharpest pencil in the box – wasn't quite as unsettling after his first furious explosion. Of course, the I-word wasn't something to be bandied about any time soon and his upcoming Vice-Presidential campaign sprang to mind really quickly – but as soon as he'd gotten over that initial bout of nausea (and shouting, and a whole lot of drinking), he began to think more clearly about it.
Sure, it was sick and wrong. No, he amended. Very sick, very wrong, and very not right and that was something he'd have to deal with himself. His mother could not in any way be involved, and involving Heidi would be out of the question. The poor woman had already had to deal with extra-marital affairs and being paralysed from the waist down, and adding a potentially burgeoning incestuous relationship between her step-daughter and brother-in-law really wouldn't be helpful to her health right now.
Nathan was at a loss at what to do. Rather than seeing the error of their ways – and boy was that error a whopper, in all senses – Peter and Claire had stubbornly stood their ground. Nathan cajoled his brother in vain, pointing out the necessary evils and sticky moral issue of them being related, making it technically incest (which was a rather obvious point from Nathan's perspective), a point which Peter had calmly acknowledged, but hadn't seemed to deter him in the slightest. Similarly, Claire was so caught up in everything that even Nathan's threat of disowning her had only prompted the slightest of reactions, which was to give him a frown and retort that she hoped he had a good life then.
Nathan groaned, downing yet another drink. It was completely justified at this point. No man would ever have a better excuse. The damn thing started to give him nightly headaches and who needs those when his brother was potentially sleeping with his daughter?
"Nathan, what on earth's going on with you lately?" Heidi peered at him curiously, noting the open bottle of scotch by his side. "You've been acting really odd."
Nathan was by now so drunk he'd forgotten his momentary resolve to not involve his wife in his sordid little family saga – emphasis on the word family. He slurred out stupidly. "Did you know Peter and Claire had a thing? For god's sakes, they're related. Uncle and niece. And they have a thing."
Heidi's eyes barely flickered as she leaned over to pry the decanter away from his fingers. "Did you only just find out?"
"What do you mean?" Nathan peered at her, shocked. "Are you saying you knew?"
"Oh Nathan." Her tone was exactly the one she used with the kids when they were being obtuse about something. "Don't tell me all these years, and you hadn't noticed?"
"Well I – it's not something a man usually – for god's sakes Heidi, they're related – and what? You can't be okay with this?" Nathan blurted.
"Of course not." She wheeled herself to the liquor cabinet and primly placed the scotch back. "But what can we do? Obviously no one can know. It'd be scandalous."
"Yes, it would." Nathan agreed drunkenly.
"But until they see sense, we really can't do anything about it, can we? I mean, it's completely taboo, but genetically it won't be much of an issue."
"It's – it's not?" Not that that should make a difference.
"No." Heidi's college biology degree was coming to the fore. "They're only uncle and niece." Nathan choked on the word 'only'. "The relationship isn't so close as to render genetic anomalies certain. In fact, it's not at all likely there will be genetic anomalies, if they breed that is."
Nathan spat out his last remaining mouthful of scotch. "Breed?" He asked weakly.
Before this ridiculous conversation with his wife could get any further, his mother walked in. As with Heidi before her, she was confused at Nathan's complete lack of composure.
"What's the matter with you Nathan? Are you …" She grimaced, as if the idea was distasteful. "Ill?"
"No. Nathan's just found out about Peter and Claire's … friendship."
"Oh that." That was the second inexplicably calm reaction of the night from his family. Nathan's nerves were now officially shot.
"What do you mean, 'oh that'? It's like it's not a big deal or something."
His mother shrugged. "Well, it is. It'd be scandalous if it got out. But then again, it wouldn't be the worst skeleton this family's ever had."
"But – but – but, Mom!" Nathan looked over at Heidi, whose dark eyes were at least serious enough to match the enormity of the situation. "They're – uncle – niece – why aren't you more upset about this?"
Angela Petrelli straightened. "I am upset. I've had three years to get used it. You on the other hand," She smacked him over the head lightly, just as she had done when he was a kid. "Should've known better. My god Nathan, three years. How could you have been so blind?"
Nathan stuttered, at a loss for words. Which, considering it was Nathan, was saying something profound. She continued as if she hadn't noticed. "Well, luckily for you there's a way out of this."
"Yes. This particular kind of relationship isn't outlawed in either France or Ohio, so I'd think about shipping them off to one of those places. If you felt particularly vindictive about it, I'd send them to Ohio."
"Mom, it's not as simple as that!" Nathan protested. He was doing a lot of protesting at the moment.
"Of course it's not. But it's better than nothing. Let those two work it out. Peter's got power, Nathan, more power than you and I can imagine. Do you really want him to be obsessing about this thing with Claire while the world needs saving? Do you want to be responsible for putting the world in jeopardy because we're the most dysfunctional family this side of the universe? Do you want to be worrying about this during your campaign? It's wrong and selfish of them, but do we have a choice?"
Oh God, his mother was right. Nathan deliberately stood up and walked gingerly to the liquor cabinet to retrieve another bottle, this time of whisky. The scotch was obviously not doing him as much good as he needed it to and was nowhere near strong enough to dull his nerves.
Nathan was going to drink himself into a stupor and then do it all over again. If ever a man had a good excuse to get himself roaring drunk, it was Nathan Petrelli – Congressman, father and evidently, patron saint of uncle/niece 'friendships'.