Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by NBC.
Spoilers: For the pilot and Six Months Ago.
Thanks to: Wychwood, for beta-reading.
Dedicated to: 121212, for inspiration and picspams!
It's ridiculously easy to get on top of a building, whether or not you have any right to be there. It has occurred to Peter that he could have just returned to Charles; the view of the Deveaux building is as spectacular as they come, and Charles is his patient, he has every reason in the world to be there, day or night. But it's not what he wants.
What he wants: that's the question. He's up here, it's cold, early October in New York is way too late in the year to expect anything else, and there's no reason to wait, not really. He has seen Isaac Mendez' painting, it was the last thing he needed to make up his mind: he'll do it. He'll trust his dreams. He'll jump, he'll fly. No reason to wait, is there?
Of course there is.
At some point between high school and college, Peter decided to try therapy. The reason was less adolescent angst than rebellion, and his parents were properly scandalized. Well, his father was; for some reason, he hated even ordinary doctors, let alone psychiatrists, and the idea that a Petrelli would need therapy was something he took as a personal insult. Peter's mother said "don't be silly, dear", and nothing else, but after a month, the therapist in question took on a mysterious new client who turned out to be a mobster from New Jersey. Apparently, the mobster had insisted on an Italian psychiatrist, but nobody knew who had referred him to her. Since Peter had concluded that therapy was pointless in his case anyway, he didn't protest when she asked him whether he'd mind if she transferred him to a collegue; he just didn't go to the colleague and dropped therapy altogether. What Peter did retain from his sessions with Dr. Melfi were a couple of conclusions that first surprised him and then made complete sense. Sibling rivalry was normal, everyone said so, but he didn't feel like he was competing with Nathan. Too much of an age gap for them ever to be in the same field; Nathan was finishing high school before Peter got out of kindergarten. There was the matter of his parents' regard, but while Peter had the occasional moment of wondering what it would feel like if Dad would single him out for chess games, or talk in public about how proud he was, he was fairly certain it wasn't really what he wanted. Which didn't mean he didn't feel he was competing. Just not with Nathan.
For a while today, he had been considering the Brooklyn Bridge, just because. Chances are Nathan won't remember that particular gibe, though. No, actually he will, Nathan will remember, alright, and that's why Peter won't do it. He's angry, but not angry enough for that. And anyway, this isn't supposed to be about anger. This is supposed to be about finding his destiny. And about getting back what is his.
Their father had always assumed that Nathan would join the firm; that there would be Petrelli and Sons, Attorneys at Law. (Presumably, he thought Peter would join, too, once upon a time, but Peter had stopped speculating what his father thought about him years ago.) Nathan working for the District Attorney instead came as a surprise. Their mother pointed out that it was actually a better career move, as Nathan was Destined For Great Things, and a record of public service would be excellent background for this.
"Well, it is," Nathan said when Peter mentioned their parents' reaction to him. Nathan was helping him move into his dorm; Peter was starting college at NYU that fall.
"But that's not why you're doing it," Peter said, utterly convinced, and watched Nathan carry the box with Peter's favourite books. "Well, not the main reason anyway. You do it because that way, you won't defend people with a worse reputation than John Gotti. You'll prosecute murderers and rapists and drug dealers and people who employ murderers and rapists and drug dealers. Not keep them out of jail. You'll be doing the right thing."
"This isn't about Dad, Peter," Nathan said. "Or about being a hero. You know I want to run for public office one day."
"Which means you want to make things better for the public," Peter said, undeterred, and Nathan put the box down to ruffle Peter's hair.
"Can I have that in writing for the first time you call me a tool for fascism once the D.A. has me prosecute a murderer belonging to an ethnic minority?"
Peter ducked and joked back, and the afternoon passed with banter and making Peter's dorm room look mostly like he wanted it to, even if he could tell Nathan thought he was way too old for the Buffy poster. Their parents weren't mentioned again. All jokes aside, Peter was still convinced he was right about Nathan, even if Nathan himself didn't know it.
Mom and Dad being wrong about Nathan was just a side benefit.
Simone thinks Isaac is crazy; she'll probably think Peter is, too, if he tells her about his dreams. Which isn't why he hasn't told her; it's just that Simone, with her father dying and Isaac on heroin, has more than enough worries. Peter imagines Simone in the Deveaux building, like a princess in her ivory tower, and he wishes he hadn't have been so obvious about the way he feels about her; but then, hiding his feelings has never been his strong suit. Simone has been taking care of Charles and Isaac; she deserves someone to take care of her for a change. Maybe she'd let him, even; she seems to trust him not to take advantage, and he wouldn't.
Yet Peter is up on a roof, waiting for the rising sun, and for other things, and not with his patient, or with his patient's daughter, or her overdosed lover, all of whom could use both a nurse and a friend. He is aware that there is a certain contradiction here, but not really. It can't go on the way it has. He can't. He's been trying to figure it out for months, what to make of the dreams, of that sense of being just half alive, how to get back that sense of purpose and joy he had only six months ago, when he graduated, because this way, he really can't be of help to anyone, can he? He needs to come alive again. And there's really just one way.
Nathan's time in Bosnia was the worst; Peter was 13 and kept having nightmares in which his brother died. Not special dreams, just dreams; he figured out the difference early on, though he couldn't have put it in words. Still, he kept being worried until Nathan was discharged, at which point the worry became general again. Following the news about genocide and war crimes had Peter convinced they should do something to help these people, at once. He reread the Diary of Anne Frank, and asked his mother whether they shouldn't offer their Gramercy house as shelter to some Kosovan refugees, after organizing visas and Green cards for them.
"Darling, that's very sweet and very impractical," his mother said. His father just said no, and told him he shouldn't pester Nathan with those ideas once Nathan arrived home. Which showed you what his father knew. Peter didn't say anything about Kosovo refugees when Nathan got home. He was too happy to have him back. What he did was to ask Nathan to go to the summer house at Cape Cod despite it being too late in the year for that, because he knew Nathan liked it there but wouldn't suggest it on his own; Nathan didn't want to be thought of as someone needing to recover from doing his duty. Nathan needed excuses sometimes, and Peter provided them. Just as predictably, their mother was too bound up in her charities to leave New York, and their father, after one very uncomfortable day, left for business in Atlantic City. Which made for a week with just the two of them, and it was perfect.
Peter waited until the fourth day before he asked Nathan about the refugees.
Nathan being a jerk to Mom today hasn't been that surprising; he has this image of her as some Machiavellian clockwork figure, and things like the sock incident just don't fit, so he seems to suspect she did it solely to piss him off. Mom being catty about Nathan hasn't been unusual, either, though slapping Peter when Peter said Nathan loved him and talked about the night of the accident has been. Mom is extremely invested in Nathan's career, but she doesn't want to admit Nathan has feelings outside of it, just as Nathan seems to doubt Mom could be sincerely afflicted by her grief for Dad. Sometimes Peter feels like a translator between them. That hadn't been the case before their father died, but then, so many things haven't. They all keep changing.
Peter watches people die all the time, and he watches their grieving families. It makes him feel increasingly empty, because he can't help but compare. He doesn't miss his father. He should at least grieve for lost opportunities, but it's not really that, either; what he misses are things the way they used to be before Dad died.
The last time Peter talked to his father was during a cousin's wedding eight months before his father's death. His father probably still wasn't thrilled with the idea of his younger son becoming a nurse, but he didn't comment on it anymore; not that he would in something that could be qualified as public, wider family or not, in any case. They went through an exercise of mutual awkwardness, with his father asking about girlfriends and whether Peter still lived in his apartment in Queens, and Peter trying to ask about cases that didn't involve keeping certified criminals out of jail, and after five minutes went back to talking with either Peter's mother or Nathan; once they arrived at the wedding reception, they kept out of each other's way. There was one point when Peter was looking for Nathan and found him outside with their father, smoking. He would have turned away and gone back inside; neither of them had spotted him, and it wasn't like he couldn't talk to Nathan later. But then he heard his name, and couldn't help it; he remained rooted on the spot.
"You don't mean to tell me," his father said, "that the boy actually can pay for an apartment that size with hospital wages."
"He thinks he can," Nathan said, sounding carefully neutral. "And he is working, Pa. He clocks more hours than I do."
His father sighed. "Nathan," he said, "if you keep indulging your brother by paying for his expenses, and he doesn't even notice because he's still so damn unrealistic about everything, Peter will never learn to be self-sufficient."
"He's young," Nathan said.
"He's twenty-five," his father replied, and changed the subject to an impending decision by the Supreme Court. After a while, Peter managed to get away, unseen. He wondered whether he was ashamed or embarrassed to discover that what he had assumed was his rent, paid by his own work, was actually just a small percentage, and that Nathan was providing the rest, and decided he wasn't. He would have been mortified if it had been Dad or Mom, true. But not Nathan. Because Nathan doing it meant Nathan did it for him, not because a Petrelli shouldn't live sub-par.
Nathan feels guilty for having intended to go against their father - his father -; Peter has always understood that, has known Nathan would even before Nathan made the decision. What he hasn't been able to predict was that Dad dying would make Nathan try to atone by becoming Dad. Being in cahoots with Linderman, being solely focused on his career, being unable to talk about anything else; all check. And today he has even given Peter the "finally make something of your life" speech. Sometimes Peter wants to shake him and tell him "this isn't you, he's dead, stop doing this", and then he questions himself and wonders whether he's just tired of Nathan keeping him at arm's length ever since that awful day. Whether he's doing the same thing Dad always wanted to, make Nathan fit the image he has of him.
And then he talks to Nathan again, and Nathan is there and isn't, Nathan puts an arm around him like he used to but keeps up the Candidate Petrelli façade, and there is an invisible wall of glass between them. It has taken Peter until this night to figure out what to do about it.
"Do you miss flying sometimes?" Peter asked Nathan. Nathan being a pilot with the Navy wasn't that much different from Nathan working for the D.A., and sometimes Peter thought there should be a difference, because surely, being in an office day in, day out couldn't be as fulfilling as watching the earth from the sky.
"Sometimes," Nathan said. They were in his apartment – which might have been small if one was used to mansions but was luxurious if one compared it to other New York apartments, and that was one reason why Peter hadn't figured out the actual price/size relationship until it was pointed out to him -, and Nathan was going through legal paperwork while Peter was supposed to be studying as well. He had dropped out of college once he figured out that he really didn't want to be a lawyer, travelled around the world and then started to study again after deciding on nursing. It didn't leave for much spare time, but he didn't want to go through weeks without seeing Nathan, so he did some of his textbook preparation at Nathan's.
"Do you wish you'd stayed?"
"I don't think that has anything to do with," Nathan glanced at the book Peter was holding, "appendectomy."
"Yes, Mom," Peter said, and Nathan rolled his eyes. Peter grinned, but went back to studying. After a while, he noticed Nathan had stopped turning pages and was staring out of the window, with a somewhat wistful look at his face.
"You could still stop being a lawyer, you know," Peter said impulsively. "I mean, I'm sure you're good at it. You're good at everything. But, you know. If there are things you like better. You could still do those."
Nathan shook his head, and started reading again, making notes every now and then. But he never denied what Peter had said, and Peter never forgot the expression on Nathan's face.
Peter has never been into bungee jumping, or any comparable sport. Standing on the edge of a building alone is something that takes courage. Letting himself fall, well, that takes faith. Not just in his dreams. Or in the painting he has seen at Isaac's. No, it takes the belief that sometimes, you have to be ready to risk everything to save someone.
The sun has risen, and down there is Nathan, cell phone still in hand, sounding impatient, but he's there. Which means that this is the time. Peter is going to fall, he's going to fly, and by doing so, he's going to shatter that invisible wall between them, because he's going to shatter all of Nathan's certainties, all those rules inherited from their parents which Nathan uses to fence himself in. Nathan won't be able to go back to being someone else afterwards. He'll become himself again, just as Peter will be. They'll live again.
Nathan yells something at him, and Peter steps forward into empty air, eyes fixed on his brother, far below. The earth rushes towards him, and no matter what he tells his body, it doesn't slow down or do anything remotely like flying. There isn't much time to be scared, though, because there is Nathan, up there, with him, with him again, Nathan holds him, they're both caught up in air and flight and Peter knows that no matter what happens next, this was worth it.