Disclaimer: All owned by NBC.
Spoilers: Until Godsend, with some foreshadowing but no spoilers for later events.
Thanks to: Kathy, for beta-reading
If there was one place Nathan Petrelli had not planned to revisit again, it was Isaac Mendez' studio. But returning to the hospital only to find out one's comatose brother had finally woken up and promptly run away made for a change of plan. It seemed likely Peter would come here; either to find his girlfriend, or because of the paintings, those paintings which seemed to embody the madness Nathan found himself engulfed in these recent weeks.
Those paintings which had caused Peter's coma to begin with.
As it turned out, his guess was wrong. There was no sign of Peter, and upon hearing he had woken up, Simone Deveaux at once launched a series of whys and wherefores which Nathan had neither the ability nor the inclination to answer. He wasn't sure why Simone irritated him. All things considered, she was exactly the kind of girlfriend his mother always hoped Peter would have; beautiful, wealthy, with a father who was some sort of old acquaintance and the essence of respectability.
"Maybe he's waiting at my home," Simone said, and rushed out. Nathan wondered whether he should follow her, but on second thoughts decided it would probably be pointless. According to his mother, Peter had said he needed to "get away"; this sounded vague enough to include everybody and everyone in his life right now.
He almost hoped he would get another phonecall from a police station telling him his brother was under arrest. At least that would mean he knew where Peter was.
He wasn't the only visitor in Mendez' studio. Hiro Nakamura was still there, though it looked like he had been in the process of leaving when Nathan came back. During the terse exchange between Simone and Nathan, he had listened in silence. Now the small Japanese looked at Nathan, bit his lips and asked:
"You okay, Flying Man?"
They were alone, and Nathan didn't bother to correct him this time. It was odd, being asked a question like that. It was odder not to mind the implication; the idea that Nathan was at less than his usual confident and self assurance exuding level.
"Sure," he said automatically. "Where's your friend?"
Ando, he was told, had discovered their car had a flat tire, and was currently looking for a garage which could fix it or sell them a new one so they could be on their way again.
"In Manhattan? They'll let make you wait for a week at least. You should rent another car," Nathan said. Hiro looked somewhat disconcerted.
"But is car from Mr. Isaac's comics," he insisted. "Car of destiny."
Nathan thought, why the hell not? "On second thought, I haven't done nearly enough for the garage owner vote," he said, and made a phone call, only interrupting once to ask Hiro for the number of his friend's mobile. As a result, Ando something or the other was directed to the mechanic who guaranteed to fix the tire of a Nissan Versa within the hour, courtesy of a generous fee, and promised he'd vote Petrelli in the elections. Hiro beamed at Nathan. He really was the most enthusiastic person Nathan had ever met. If he ever encountered Peter, the two would…
If. If Peter was around to be encountered. If Peter was around and in one piece.
"Did you have lunch yet?" Nathan asked Hiro abruptly.
Apparently, Hiro and his friend had already sampled the delights of New York fast food. "But," Hiro said, "great responsibility requires great strength. You like waffles, Flying Man?"
"I wouldn't know," Nathan said, which was the truth, more or less. Waffles hadn't made it on the list of approved menus in the Petrelli home, and as opposed to pizza, they weren't used as campaign food, either. Hiro looked at him, pityingly, and apparently decided that Nathan needed to be educated in the ways of the waffle. They ended up at Max Brenner's on Broadway, a mixture between café and chocolate shop which had Hiro push up his glasses and go into yet another hyper stage of enthusiasm. Some inner voice asked Nathan what a man who had spent more time in the hospital than in his campaign office or, for that matter, with his wife and children at home in the last two weeks was doing playing truant with a Japanese boyscout instead of getting back to his normal life and try to catch up with fourteen days of neglect. Another voice answered that he was tired and exhausted and, right now, truly sick of being Nathan Petrelli. Especially since Nathan Petrelli had managed to miss the one moment where his brother had needed him to be there, and was still four points behind in the polls.
Being thought of as something out of a comic book might be embarrassing, but it had an oddly liberating charm to it.
Hiro bought chocolate waffle balls as a takeaway for his friend, and brought back a tray with dark chocolate granita, served in a plastic cone, and thick, fresh waffles with chocolate sauce.
"Well, you certainly don't believe in holding back. Enjoy your meal," Nathan said, amused. Hiro shook his head.
"Oh, no. These for you."
"Yes," Hiro said, and nodded. He looked at Nathan, and though the eager enthusiasm was still there, there was something very serious in his gaze. "I told you. Great responsibility requires great strength. Big responsibility for you, Na-than. Go eat!"
There was a lot he could have said to this, most, if not all of it sarcastic. But he found himself looking at Hiro Nakamura and his round face with the far too open eyes inadequately protected by his glasses, and realizing that it had been a while, truly, since he had eaten something. Hospital food just wasn't his style, and when he came home after checking up on the office before, it was usually too late for more than some yoghurt.
The taste of fresh waffles covered with chocolate should have been too sweet for him, but he found himself eating up every single bit while listening to Hiro's chatter. Steadily improving English with Japanese fragments in between. Maybe it wasn't Japanese, though. Maybe it was Klingon. Peter had gone through a Star Trek phase when he was 13 and 14 and had insisted on things like wishing Nathan "Qua'pla". To this day, Nathan pretended he did not know what it meant.
"Why New York?" he asked in between bites.
"Why New York what?" Hiro asked back, confused.
"Why does this bomb thing happen in New York? As opposed to any other place in this country, let alone the world, that is. Did your trip to the future tell you that?"
"New York is city of superheroes and supervillains," Hiro declared, not missing a beat. "Like Magneto, he destroy New York, though now is retconned. The Avengers, Spider-man, all live here. But not to worry. I save New York. You do, too."
I must be insane, Nathan decided. I'm not having this conversation. Maybe Peter never woke up, either. Maybe I'm still at the hospital, and just caught up on some sleep.
While he was dreaming, there was still some chocolate granita left to be consumed.
"….and after," Hiro said, gesticulating wildly, "after, we found league of superheroes. Have regular meetings to fight crime. New York best place for that, too."
"We can meet here," Hiro said, and looked around, taking in the orgies of chocolate decorations between creamy yellow walls and brown beams, eyes gleaming. "Best place for meeting."
"Tell you what," Nathan said, having finished the granita, too. "If you do save New York, and I do win the election, as you said, I'll invite you for brunch here, and we'll celebrate mutual victories."
"I will be there, Na-than," Hiro said earnestly. "I promise."
It had not been more than an idle remark, but as with everything else he said during his encounters with this most unlikely of acquaintances, Nathan strongly suspected he actually meant it. Why not, after all. After the election, there would be time, a small window of time before the preparation for Congress would start, the meetings with lobbyists and other interested parties, the planning for the new term. Time enough for a meeting with – he wasn't sure what to call Hiro Nakamura.
"Well," he said. "Your car's tire should be fixed by now, and your friend will be waiting. I'll give you a lift to the garage."
The driver of the taxi they took recognized Nathan and started into a rant on immigration laws, so Nathan made the appropriate non-committal and polite noises. Apparently, these weren't enough for the taxi driver who sniffed and said: "I'm so voting for the other guy. At least he doesn't hang out with Chinese business men even before the election. How many students do these guys have to shoot before losing the most favoured trade nation status anyway?"
"I am Japanese," Hiro said politely.
"I hated Letters from Iwo Jima!" the taxi driver yelled back. "No offense."
"Still want to save New York?" Nathan asked drily once they got out of the taxi.
"It is my destiny," Hiro said, slightly confused, spotted his friend and the waiting Nissan Versa and waved excitedly. Then he took Nathan's hand and shook it, a little longer and more enthusiastically than necessary, his other hand making an upwards motion.
"Thank you, Flying Man."
"Just keep it… enjoy the trip, Hiro."
Hiro walked towards his friend, then turned around again and held up the bag with the chocolate waffle balls.
"Brunch!" he called.
"The morning after", Nathan called back, feeling strangely light hearted. "I'll be there."