Disclaimer: All owned by NBC.
Spoilers: For the whole first season.
Author's note: This one is one would be me venting my twisted side and trying to find out how to screw up poor Peter even further after finale events. Consider yourselves warned.
Thanks to: WeeWarrior, this time, for temptation to write this.
When Niki Sanders punched her, Candice did the smart thing. Cursing whoever wrote the file on Sanders and swore she only had superstrength when believing herself to be her dead sister, she remained on the floor and didn't move. Candice did believe in Linderman's cause, and he paid her a nice amount of money, but Linderman's cause was better served with her alive, and so was her banking account. Besides, the kid had done what he was supposed to anyway. Let Sanders take him; what the hell.
Though she would miss talking to someone about comics.
Once Sanders and the kid were gone, Candice tried to reach Linderman, and found out he was dead. So was Thompson. Which meant no free ride out of New York City, which meant she'd fry if she remained here much longer. It also meant the only boss she'd ever actually liked to work for was gone and she hadn't taken the chance to take out the bitch who must have killed him, but right now, Candice didn't have time to think about that. She tried her best to convince the helicopter pilot who was supposed to be waiting for Linderman that what he heard about the Old Man being dead was premature because here she was, looking like him, and was still busy with that when the sky got bright for a moment.
Candice had a second of blind panic and conviction she was about to die. Then she realized she was safe. Far away, too far away to be dangerous. Whatever happened, it couldn't have been what the Old Man had planned upon, and right now, she couldn't feel regret about that.
Still. So he was dead, the world was the same shithole it had been yesterday, and she had no idea whether the Company would still sign her paychecks. She went to the person Linderman had said to contact in emergencies, figuring that if nothing else, Angela Petrelli would at least want her to keep quiet about the way her precious son had been elected into Congress. If there was no new job opportunity, Candice could use a retirement fund.
As it turned out, Mrs. Petrelli had other ideas. Which was just as well, because the blackmail scheme sort of depended on the Congressman being actually alive, which, as it turned out, he wasn't.
"But," said Mrs. Petrelli, who looked like something carved into ivory with a very sharp knife right then, "nobody knows that yet. And if you are a sensible girl, maybe they will not have to. Maybe it will be possible to salvage… something. And make a difference."
What she suggested was for Candice to play the role of Nathan Petrelli, Congressman.
Now Candice had actually practiced that a bit, because just as with Niki Sanders, Linderman had wanted an insurance policy in case Nathan Petrelli tried to double cross him again. So she had watched some footage of the man security cameras at the Corinthian had made, and she had gotten a file; it was enough to get by for a day or two. Long-term wise was another matter. If it ever had been necessary long-term wise, Linderman would have needed to coach her. Candice didn't possess any false modesty; she was bright and very good at improvising. But she knew jack about the law, and a daily routine talking with lobbyists and the like wasn't something she'd be up to without some serious back-up.
"I will advise you," said Mrs. Petrelli.
"What about the wife?" Candice asked. She was an illusionist, not a shapeshifter, which meant as soon as whats-her-name moved in for loving embraces, she'd figure out that what her eyes were telling her wasn't what she was feeling.
"Leave that to me," Mrs. Petrelli replied, and Candice started to see why Linderman had respected the hell out of this woman.
In the end, the wife wasn't the big stumbling stone. No, that one showed up one evening when Candice had just gotten comfortable flinging herself on what passed for a couch in Nathan Petrelli's oversized living room and eating chips. She'd have recognized him at once even if she hadn't been prepped by the files and then by Mrs. Petrelli. There were enough photos around in this house. The little brother. Looking seriously pissed off.
She wondered whether she'd be in for a repeat performance of the Sanders versus Sanders thing she had played with Niki S.; Mrs. Petrelli had said Peter would know for sure that Nathan was dead, but why give up a psychological advantage? Candice remained in her Nathan Petrelli shape, put the chips aside and smiled at him: "Peter," she said. Her illusions included soundwaves, and she had a good memory for voices, so she was certain her tone was perfect. The last soundclip she had studied, the speech from election night, that had included his name.
The two reactions she was expecting – either rage or tears – didn't come. Instead, the younger Petrelli looked at her, and there was a deadness in his eyes which she hadn't expected, either. He looked her up and down. And then he did something no one, ever, had done to her. He said her real name, which wasn't Candice, said it out loud as if he had pulled it out of her head, and then she looked at herself, standing right across the room, herself as she had been the last time she had accepted what a mirror showed her.
"Ooookay," Candice said, trying for bravado and unable to repress the slight tremor in her voice. "Kudos to you, and all that. You've made your point, power sponge. Got anything else in your repertoire? Because I've been at this longer than you have, and you don't want to see a demonstration."
Her old shape still looked at her with those stupid bulging eyes she used to hate even more than the rest of her body.
"Nathan would never say that," her old voice said. "You have the vocabulary all wrong."
Talk about unexpected. Candice reverted to her usual Catholic school girl look.
"So," she said. "No 'how dare you imitate my dead brother and stop it at once or I shall smite you speech'?"
He became Peter Petrelli again.
"No," he said harshly.
"What then?" Candice asked, genuinenly curious.
"I'm going to show you how to do it right," he said.
"Okay," she drawled again, slowly. "Care to explain why?"
"Because," Peter said, "I owe it to him. Because Monty and Simon need a father, and I guess my mother said you only need to meet them for photo ops, but you can forget that. I talked to Heidi. You're going to be there for them like a real dad should. And you're going to be the best congressman ever. You're going to lobby for good causes and take a stand."
"I take it you're going to define what a good cause is," Candice said. "Look, your mother is the one who's paying, so I guess that makes her the one who gets to do that, not you. And I'm not anyone's dad. Last time I was someone's babysitter, I got paid for that as well. What are you going to do if I say no anyway? Tell the world your mom employs a doppelganger who can't be Nathan Petrelli, which you just happen to know because…" she smiled her best and most malicious smile, which was a direct copy from the girl she had most hated in high school, "…you killed him?"
Candice might not be able to read thoughts, but between Mrs. Petrelli saying Peter would know Nathan was dead and the explosion occurring in the sky instead of in the middle of New York, she had made an educated guess.
There was still nothing of the expected fury in his brown eyes. They continued to be dead.
"No," he replied. "I guess I'd just be your mirror some more. All the time. When I'm not calling your mother and bring her here, with me. Well, with you."
She thought about this and decided he probably wasn't bluffing. Besides. Nathan Petrelli's life right now might offer a nice amount of luxuries, and she did like the thought of salvaging some of what other people in and out of this room had messed up, but she had no intention of remaining Nathan Petrelli for the rest of her life, and if she played the game by Mrs. Petrelli's rules, she just might have to. That woman was scary. If, on the other hand, she played along with Junior here, and became SuperNathan, she wouldn't last in Congress for more than a year, two at most, and would get soundly trounced in the next election. At which point it would be the perfect point to make a good getaway and become someone else.
"I think," Candice said, "we have a deal."
He regarded her, hands stuck in the coat he had never bothered to take of. "Then go back to looking like him again," Peter replied.
As it turned out, mother and son didn't just have different ideas about politics. They also had different ideas about how Nathan Petrelli behaved in private. Building train sets with the two kids wasn't that hard a chore, and honestly, going through some speech routines was far more boring. But Mrs Petrelli just expected politeness from Candice; Peter wanted both to be argued and agreed with. He said her sarcasm was the right track, but that she should go for sardonic rather than bitchy, and Candice, who wasn't used to performance reviews from people not Linderman, never could make up her mind whether she was insulted or amused. And then there was the whole shoulder grab routine. She knew politicians did the handshake thing; she could do it well enough. She had watched enough tapes, and not just of Nathan Petrelli. But Peter insisted she did it wrong, and made her practice. One time when she lost her patience because it had been a long day and she was freaking tired, she made him look at his brother's corpse. Not that she had any idea how the genuine article had looked like, but Candice had seen enough corpses in various stages of decay, and she had a very good memory.
He made her look at her mother as a payback, so she decided to call it quits. In other circumstances she might have relished the challenge, but she really was tired that night.
"Just let it go, Pete," she murmured, having changed back to regular Nathan. He stared at her with an expression that was disturbing on her mother's face and became less so once he looked like himself again. There was a spark of life, at last, in his eyes. In fact, he looked downright enraptured, and younger than the 26 years his file said he was. Like an eager puppy. Which was why it had been so disturbing on her mother.
"That's it," he said. "Just now. That was – wow. Perfect."
Candice decided he was as scary as his mother, in his own way.
After having rested and giving it some thought, she concluded she should move her plan to move out of Nathan Petrelli's life again ahead of schedule. She had seen enough people whose sanity had snapped when working with the Company, and had been responsible for some of them, so she recognized the symptoms. It occurred to her that if Peter found her convincing enough as Nathan, he might go for a repeat performance of his fratricide act. On the other hand, just vanishing into the night with a lot of cash and some of Nathan's nicer ties wouldn't do; there was a difference between sensible precaution and chickening out. She owed it to herself to play at least one mind game which left her the unquestioned victor before making her exit.
When Peter showed up the next time without any other witnesses around, she used her Candice shape, and he frowned. Before he could say anything, she said sweetly:
"You know, you really don't need me anymore. Seeing as you have absorbed my power. Why not play Nathan yourself?"
Score, Candice thought, because he looked stunned in a very satisfying way, and there were no images out of her own mind in retaliation.
"If you're on a guilt trip, I mean. That would be the perfect way to make up for it, don't you think? And you could be sure Nathan doesn't say or do anything you don't want him to. Guess that was never true when he was actually alive, was it? I can see just one drawback for you, but don't worry, I thought of that."
She changed her appearance again; building up this particular illusion was as easy as breathing, given all the proximity recently.
"If you are Nathan, I could be Peter."
As victories went, this one came without question indeed, because he made a step towards her, then another, and then he actually used her power to do what she had suggested. His Nathan illusion was surprisingly good, but then, he had had opportunities to practice, given all the images he had pulled out of her mind in recent weeks.
It was only when his hands started to glow that Candice realised she had made a mistake. It had never been Nathan he had been in danger of killing again, fake or otherwise. Types like Peter Petrelli needed to hate in order to kill.
And she should have known, really, that he didn't hate anyone more than himself.