Peter was twelve when Superman died. He came back to life nine months later. Peter just figured that that's what superheroes do sometimes.
Nathan was home from college when Superman #75 hit the stands, but it's not like he offered any sympathy. Nathan, like their parents, saw Peter's comic book habit as a quirk unbefitting a Petrelli. Peter had picked it up when he was seven and he saw the new kid on the playground reading an old issue of Silver Age "World's Finest." The kid, Danny, preferred Batman, but the idea of Superman - an all-powerful man, an alien who somehow fit in - captured Peter's imagination.
After school, he began to take the six train to Midtown Comics on 45th and Lex, before he headed back uptown to the mansion. He talked for hours with the amiable, bearded man behind the counter, and he spent his lunch money on books like "Man of Steel" and "Crisis on Infinite Earths." Every so often, the guy would offer him something new, like "Justice League International" or "Watchmen," but Peter stuck to Superman. After Nathan left for Dartmouth, Clark Kent became Peter's surrogate brother, assuring him that one day his life would mean something more, that he would be able to offer hope to his grim parents and frigid brother. Peter also thought about what it would be like to have super strength.
When Peter started having the flying dream, he was wearing a red cape and his long bangs were formed in a spit curl. Nathan, staring up from the ground, held a camera and a signal watch, and he was smiling the toothy grin of a cub reporter. Peter shook off the dream, dismissing it as a fantasy brought on by bad nachos and too much "Birthright" before bed. But when the vision recurred, this time with Nathan in plainclothes and the cape reduced to a bandana, a voice inside him - perhaps the last remnant of his inner child left undestroyed by his occupation - told him to check for emerging alien powers. It would explain a lot, he thought to himself, if he were actually the last survivor of a dead civilization instead of just the Petrelli clan black sheep. But no dice - he couldn't lift the bed, not even with two hands.
The night before Peter had the dream for the last time, Nathan had come over to deliver a belated birthday gift. "Sorry it's late," Nathan said ruefully, pulling something out of his briefcase. "I didn't know how fast shipping from eBay would be." It was, to Peter's astonishment, a battered copy of Action #254, the first appearance of Bizarro. "I flipped through it a little. It's cute."
"Uh, thanks," Peter said, taking the book gently from Nathan's hands. Too embarrassed to say anything more, Nathan patted Peter on the arm, turned on his heel, and left.
That night, when Peter had the flying dream, the Superman details were gone entirely, and Peter saw himself soar. When he awoke and started to put his feet on the ground, they hovered slightly, just for a moment, and Peter finally got the confirmation he needed.
Nathan doesn't know it, but Peter learned everything he knows about being a hero from Superman. He learned that it isn't the powers that are important, but how you use them. He learned that sometimes the mild-mannered identity is just as important as the superheroic one. He learned that it's the people around you who define who you are. He learned that dying, if you do it right, is only temporary.
He also learned that flying is cool, but one day he hopes to pick up that super strength.