Matt can tell the precise moment when he first had suspicions.
"There's a call for you, sir," comes the voice over the intercom. "It's Mister Linderman."
Nathan looks with distaste at the phone.
It's always like this, thinks Matt. A call from Linderman, and Nathan drops everything. The President of the United States, in the pocket of a Las Vegas mobster.
"Tell him to wait," says Nathan. "I'm in a meeting."
Matt blinks, tapping fingers coming to a rest on the arm of his chair.
The secretary is silent for a moment. Matt can imagine her mouth opening in shock – much the way his own is, right now.
"Um, sir," ventures the woman, timidly, "you did hear me? It's Mister Linderman."
"I heard you fine." Nathan switches off the intercom. "Parkman, you were saying?"
Later, when Parkman stands to leave, he reaches out to Nathan Petrelli's mind. He expects a smooth surface, of cool blue, but that's not what he finds. Warm steel, pulsing with a hint of power – but, suppressed, contained.
That's not Nathan Petrelli.
"Thank you, Mr. President," says Matt, and he slips out of the office.
"We've tracked down our latest lead on Hiro Nakamura," explains Matt. "It seems that he has a kind of base, in northern Montana."
Nathan nods, attentively, and Matt reaches –
…threatening a veto, what was he thinking…
Matt frowns, and tries, just a little harder –
"Parkman?" asks Nathan.
"I must say, sir," he manages, "you've changed in the past few months."
Nathan raises an eyebrow. "Is that good or bad?" he asks.
Matt pauses, for a beat. Bad, of course, is the first thought that comes to mind. An imposter, instead of the President, that's bad.
…and yet, Matt hears the name 'Linderman' a lot less around the White House, these days. Best to be circumspect, in any case.
Matt shrugs. "Good."
"Well," and 'Nathan' claps him on the back. "That's good to hear."
"I'm sorry, the President is running late," apologizes the secretary, "he'll be a few minutes."
"No problem," Matt nods, and he waits, his hands clasped in front of him.
Eventually, Mohinder Suresh ducks out of the office. His shirt is ruffled; his hair untidy. And Matt can feel the flush on his skin, the restless euphoria, from all the way across the room.
Before he withdraws, he catches half an image – a feeling, really, of looking up at Nathan's face (eyes shut, mouth open, panting shallowly), hard heat in his mouth, his jaw stretched just so –
…in love with Nathan Petrelli, can't be in love with Nathan Petrelli, it's ridiculous, wrong, can't happen again…
Mohinder ducks past Matt too quickly, without ever meeting his eyes.
"Mohinder," begins Matt, toying with the moisture his drink left on the surface of the bar, "do you ever get the feeling that Nathan is…" but his voice trails off. He doesn't know how to finish, and Mohinder's nervous fingers, clenching too tight on the bar's surface—
…please don't say it, please don't let him know, oh god he has to know, please don't let him know…
"Is what?" asks Mohinder, casually.
Matt shrugs. "I don't know." He downs the rest of his drink. "Yeah, I don't know how I was going to finish that."
Mohinder's mouth twists. "All right.
"Did you ever imagine you'd be doing this?" asks Matt, the next week, in the same place. "Working for the President of the United States."
Mohinder laughs. "No, I didn't. I was going to live at a university my whole life."
Matt clinks their glasses together.
"I thought it was futile," says Mohinder, softly. "Trying to be what my father wasn't." He bites his lip. "It reminds me of something Peter said, about evolution. How we're all just – what was it, 'cheap knockoffs' of our fathers."
"Probably best not to talk about Peter, huh?" says Matt.
Mohinder nods. "I'm sorry."
"Hey," says Matt, nudging Mohinder's shoulder. "It's okay. Just, it's public, you know?"
The next week, they meet at Mohinder's apartment.
"So, what's weird about it?" asks Nathan Petrelli, leaning against the edge of his desk.
"It was the method of death," explains Matt. "The man's head was sawed open, and his brain was removed."
Nathan stills, and he regards Matt, very carefully. "Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?" he asks.
"Sir," says Matt, "if Sylar—"
"Sylar is dead," Nathan snaps. "It has to be a copycat."
"Sir," protests Matt.
"Sylar is dead." Nathan crosses his arms. "Now, who knew he was at the safe house?"
"Apart from us, Mr. President…" Matt shakes his head. "Just my team."
Nathan's mouth twists. "Keep looking."
…dangerous, but not expendable. Can't kill him, would raise too many questions…
"I'm sorry, sir?" asks Matt.
"I said keep looking," repeats Nathan.
"Do you ever wonder about your daughter?"
Matt takes the beer bottle from Mohinder's hand. "All the time," he says.
Mohinder looks away.
"How about you?" asks Matt. "Ever think about Molly?"
"All the time," echoes Mohinder, and he raises his glass to Matt in mockery of a toast.
"We've found a man we think may be responsible," Matt tells Nathan, over the phone. "He doesn't have an alibi, but he's a telekinetic, and he's –" Matt glances to the other side of the room. "He's psychotic enough to do it."
"Scan him," comes the cool, collected voice from the other side of the line. "If it was him, kill him."
"Yes, sir," says Matt.
He flips the phone closed, stepping towards the handcuffed, drugged figure. "Hold him," orders Matt, and he stretches out, towards the man's mind –
Innocent. Of course he's innocent. Not even a connection with Hiro Nakamura.
Matt understands, finally, who's in the Oval Office.
"He's guilty," he tells his team. "Kill him."
"So, he was guilty," says Nathan. "You're sure."
Matt nods, taking the proffered glass of water. "Yeah." He looks the President of the United States straight in the eye. "I'm sure. I saw it in his mind."
"And I must say, sir," says Matt, "it's been a real honor working with you."
"Thank you, Parkman."
As they shake hands, Matt knows – the time for action, if there was one, has passed.
Three weeks later, Linderman disappears, under mysterious circumstances. Matt smiles when he sees the report.
"It's odd," admits Mohinder. "I always remember Peter as the gentle one. Not a terrorist, by any means."
"I guess people change," says Matt.
"I guess," and Mohinder curls his knees up underneath himself. "Matt," he begins, and stops. "You know, don't you? About me and Nathan Petrelli."
Matt cocks an eyebrow. "I could hardly avoid figuring it out," he says.
"No, it's all right," Mohinder says, too quickly. "I mean, it's nice not to have to hide it from someone."
"Mohinder," says Matt, but he can't continue.
It takes a whole evening to work up the courage. "Mohinder, there's something I have to say," Matt tells him.
Mohinder freezes, and he sits back on the couch. "What is it?" he asks, warily.
"It's about Nathan," Matt begins, and he's surprised to see Mohinder relax, fractionally. He cocks his head to the side. "You already know what I'm going to say," he accuses.
Mohinder grimaces. "He's not Nathan Petrelli, is he?"
Matt shakes his head.
"Since before you two got together."
Mohinder looks relieved. "Good," he says, "I was afraid – " He looks to Matt. "There was just something about him that felt too familiar," he finishes.
…and if I fell in love with him that's all right, because I know he wants me, he can't fake that, not with all the illusions in the world…
"Who is it?" asks Mohinder.
Matt takes a breath. "I don't know for sure," he says, "but I think it's Sylar."
Mohinder laughs, low and bitter. "That makes sense," he mutters, draining the last of his glass. "Seeing as how the entire country has turned into some kind of science fiction soap opera these days."
"Are you all right, Mohinder?" asks Matt, after a long silence.
"I can't leave him." Mohinder looks so lost. "That's something I didn't think of, you know. I can't just walk away."
Matt settles next to Mohinder, on the couch. "Yeah," he says. "I know."
"I'm talking about men like you and Sylar ruining it for the rest of us!" snaps Matt. "Making us live in fear, captivity and hiding. Making us choose sides. Tearing families apart."
Hiro Nakamura, at the table in front of him, looks oddly defenseless. Oddly young.
"I would never tear a family apart," protests Hiro.
…I just want to be a hero…
"I don't know what kind of game you're playing, Nakamura, what you're hiding," says Matt, "but I'm gonna get it out of you."
"Haven't you ever wished you could change the past?" asks Mohinder. "Set your life down a different path?"
Matt examines the tangled threads, the outline of the past in the loft of a long-dead painter. "I used to be that guy," he admits. "Wishing it and making it happen are two different things."
"Not for Nakamura, it isn't," insists Mohinder. "Look here," and he leads Matt to one of the strings.
"So," says Matt, on the way to the airport, to fly back to Washington, DC, "if you could choose a moment in your past to change, what would you choose?"
Mohinder flattens his mouth. "There are far too many to choose from," he says.
"No, I'm serious," says Matt. "Would you believe Peter the first time he told you he was special? Kill Sylar? Never come to America?"
Mohinder pauses, for a long moment. "I suppose I wouldn't have let my father die." He turns to Matt. "And you?"
"I guess I'd be like Nakamura," says Matt. "Trying to find a way that the city doesn't explode."
Mohinder is silent, the rest of the way to the airport.
When Matt gets into the hallway, the fight is already over.
The floor is scorched in some places, cracked and frozen in others. Blood on the walls, on the ceiling. Peter Petrelli's corpse is sprawled, limbs askew, face nearly unrecognizable. His head – his head is crushed. The brains wouldn't be retrievable, not from that mess. Matt swallows the rush of nausea.
As he watches, a figure at the far end of the hall lifts a buckled metal door out of the way, picking Mohinder's crumpled form from the ground, cradling it in his arms.
"Mr. President?" calls Matt.
The figure doesn't turn, just sets Mohinder down, in a relatively untouched set of tiles. He strokes Mohinder's face, his arm, and Parkman sees a gash on Mohinder's neck slowly close, the edges of flesh sealing together.
Matt slips his gun back into its holster, and he steps closer, bit by bit.
"Sir, does he need a hospital?"
The man who turns back to look at him isn't Nathan Petrelli.
"So, you did know," murmurs Sylar, thoughtfully.
Mohinder moans weakly, from the pain, and Sylar, deftly and impersonally, sets Mohinder's broken arm, healing it together.
"I'm not an idiot, sir," says Matt. "I have a suggestion."
"A suggestion," echoes Sylar.
"Disappear for a few weeks," Matt says. "We can cover this up."
"How?" Sylar's attention is already back to Mohinder, his eyes softening to something tender.
"By telling the truth." Matt shifts closer. "Think about it – a story that we've been deceived, that you've been replaced with a double. And then we can find the real President, hidden in a basement somewhere – and you'll be a hero, again."
Sylar regards him, carefully. "Do it," he says.
Sylar soothes Mohinder, immediately, brushing his hair back from his face, murmuring to him so low that Matt can't hear the words. Mohinder curls towards Sylar's body, like the only warmth in the world comes from Sylar's skin.
"Does he know?" asks Sylar.
Matt nods. "We both knew."
Sylar closes his eyes.
Matt conducts the Homeland Security press conference, three days later. He releases to the public the name of renowned terrorists Hiro Nakamura and Peter Petrelli, killed in the fighting, and the news that the President, the real President, is missing.
All around him, the country unites.