Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by NBC.

Spoilers: For the entire first season.

Thanks to: Kathy for beta-reading.


Mothers and Fathers

I.

After hoping for a child for so long, going through all kind of therapy and being disappointed again and again, the baby girl Noah comes home with is a miracle to Sandra. She loves Claire from the moment she touches the baby. Claire changes everything for Sandra and Noah. For the better, of course. Two years later, Sandra is pregnant, at last, another miracle, and if she can't remember the day or even the week of the conception, if she counts back and tries to think of a single thing she did on that day, or whether Noah was particularly tender during those days, if she comes up with nothing in her memory, nothing at all, well, that happens. Being a mother takes up all your time. It hardly lets you remember anything else.

II.

They are his dear old friends, but people less suited to being parents one can't imagine, thinks Charles when coming home from one of those visits with the Petrellis that are growing increasingly rare. Simone is waiting for him, with another needy boy at her side she wants to introduce him to, and he smiles at them both, benevolently. There is no sign of power in Simone's lovely brown eyes, and there never will be. Charles has given up looking for these signs in his daughter, though of course he never spoke to her about it; he would never be that inconsiderate. It seems only fair, though, to search for the signs in her boys.

III.

Shortly after Nathan is born, Angela's husband is sent to Vietnam. She is supposed to be proud of this; after all, her husband is rich enough to avoid such a fate, but instead of choosing the National Guard, he wants to prove something to himself. Angela isn't proud. Angela is furious. She is also scared, night after night, day after day, and that's another thing she won't ever forgive her husband for, but her husband isn't there. The baby is. She has made the mistake of falling in love and making herself vulnerable before, but she won't do it again; no, she'll do something far more sensible. She'll teach the baby that everyone leaves you if you do not make them stay, to push instead of yield, and to attach himself to goals, not people. She'll teach him to prioritize. That way, she's going to learn it herself.

IV.

"But this is amazing, Gabriel," Chandra Suresh says happily. It's been three days since Gabriel Gray returned to him, demonstrating telekinesis, and by now, he has graduated from simple pushs to precise movements; Gabriel can hold weights in the air, not just for seconds, not just for minutes, no, he has just proved he can do it for half an hour.

"That's good to know," Gabriel Gray says, smiling a little. "That you are proud, Dr. Suresh. I've been practicing hard."

Chandra goes to him and puts both his hands on Gabriel's shoulders. All the disappointments and frustrations of India, those endless arguments seem to be so far away. This is his life now, here, in New York.

"Gabriel," he replies, "I couldn't be prouder if you were my own son."

V.

When he's three, Micah can already spell, not always perfectly, but he can spell. Niki is immensely proud. She herself could only spell very badly when she was six, in part because she spent weeks of that year in her bed with a broken leg and later some more weeks keeping Jessica company when Jessica wasn't allowed out of the house for as long as people could see how battered her face was. Niki never got much of an education, not really, but Micah will have the best. She just needs to get the money to make that happen. Somehow.

VI.

After Claire manages to track down her biological mother with ridiculous ease, Noah Bennet has to face the realization he could and should have done the same, if only to make sure Claire never would, but he hasn't even tried. He has accepted the Company's word regarding Meredith Gordon because he hasn't wanted to find her; he doesn't even want to acknowledge her existence. Meredith Gordon proves there has been a time when Claire has not been his daughter. Meredith Gordon is a problem that solves itself, and in the middle of worrying about his wife and his increasing estrangement from his daughter, Noah is profoundly grateful. He can fight serial killers and other Company men threatening his daughter, but he feels strangely inhibited when confronted with the far more insidious threat of biology. Knowing this, knowing all too well he should, he still makes no effort to look up the name of Meredith Gordon's former lover. He doesn't want to acknowledge that man's existence, either.

VII.

Coming home from the hospital in a wheelchair, Heidi feels like everything has become a stranger to her; her house, her body with its useless legs she can no longer move, her husband with guilt in his eyes who walks behind her, hands on her shoulders so he doesn't have to face her. The very smell of her skin that seems to exude medications. Simon and Monty run towards her, and stop, and for a moment, she is afraid they, too, can sense it; that she's not their mother, but a stranger inhabiting her body, for what other explanation is there for this overwhelming alienation? Then Simon crawls on her lap and hugs her, hands slightly sticky with this morning's marmalade. His soft hair tickles under her chin, and the familiar scent of a child, her child, drowns out everything else. She's home. She's truly home.

VIII.

"I will not return to Japan with you," Kaito tells Kimiko. It is a father's duty to teach his children; a duty that never ends. Hiro has proven himself worthy of the quest he has undertaken, but he does not understand the cost yet; Kaito will have to be there once understanding is required. The lessons are different for Kimiko. Her outburst earlier has shown she is more than capable of doing what is necessary for Yamagato. But she might do so for the wrong reasons, and thus, Kaito is resolved to test her, too. He needs to know she will be a leader because there is a company to be lead, not because she wants him to see how well she does. He will be in New York when all things come to an end, and the visions and prophecies either fulfill themselves, or do not; he might be dead soon. He needs to know he can trust her. Half hoping, half fearing, he awaits his daughter's protests and enquiries, born of her disappointment at being second choice after Hiro. But Kimiko simply nods.

"I understand, Father," she says, inclines her head, and leaves. She never looks back.

IX.

After Claire's first visit, Meredith drives into the desert and unleashes fire on every unsuspecting bit of trash or plant she can find. She doesn't want this. She has resigned herself that her girl is gone, forever. A deal is a deal is a deal, and if you tell yourself that it's all for the best, especially for your child, that child coming back looking at you with sadness and hope in her eyes and not suspecting a thing is the worst of accusations. It's going to have to be another deal, enough money for years in Mexico, because if Meredith stays around, Claire is going to discover on her own just how flawed Meredith is. She'll come to the same conclusion Nathan did; two worlds, and the one Meredith inhabits is not hers. That expression of delight at finding her, that same expression he had, will change into disillusion. So Meredith is going to ask for money, take it, and get out. She'll leave first. It's easier that way.

It worked last time.

X.

Peter is sixteen when his father decides to make a last attempt at bonding with his younger son. They spend an uncomfortable weekend in Florida; Las Vegas, which would have been Mr. Petrelli's first choice, is impossible because Peter is currently brimming with adolescent righteousness and has declared he does not want to hobnob with mobsters. Alligators and the rest of the Everglades wildlife provide only mediocre distraction from the fact that Mr. Petrelli has no idea how to talk to a teenager who only seems to know what he doesn't want and not what he does. By Saturday evening, he can feel his irritation give way to depression, and for all his annoyance with Peter does not want to burden the boy with one of his… episodes, so he calls his older son and tells him to be there by Sunday morning. Nathan doesn't seem to need elaboration, and says he's on his way. It's something that Mr. Petrelli clings to; the prospect of his older son, the sensible one, being there to talk to and keep the irrationality in himself at bay.

But when Nathan arrives, first thing in the morning, it's Peter who gets up and embraces him, tightly, murmuring with a voice not much lowered "thank God you're here". Watching, Mr. Petrelli can't help but feel replaced, and the most eerie part of this sensation is that he doesn't know by which of them.