IV. Decisions

Nathan Petrelli loved his brother Peter. This was a fact occasionally under debate, but it happened to be true. Nonetheless, there were moments, such as the current one, when he wished Peter would be a few years older. If Peter were, Nathan would have been able to shove him against the nearest wall and yell "what part of 'we're on the road to nowhere, my cash supply is running out, we already had one close call with a couple of goons and talking to strangers outside of shopping for supplies is just not on' do you not understand?"

Peter's age being what it was, Nathan's reaction took a different form. Some part of him considered this a pity. After going through what was either a hallucination or a revelation and various moral dilemmas, he could have used the opportunity to vent.

"Really," Nathan said, just the one word, in his most tight, clipped voice, while simultaneously putting his hands on Peter's shoulders, which was one way to ensure Peter wouldn't do something dramatic like declaring that if Jean-Pierre didn't come with them, neither would he, and running away. Peter's face fell; being 12 might protect him from more direct manifestations of his older brother's anger, but it was definitely old enough for him to have a lot of practice in interpreting Nathan. The others, who weren't used to the Petrelli form of communication, needed a bit longer to catch on, by which time Peter had already rallied for a counter attack. It started as it usually did; by Peter assuming his kicked puppy look and going for grandiose statements. Nathan had expected this and swore to himself he would not give in this time. This wasn't about taking Peter to the zoo, and he was the adult here.

"He's a refugee, Nathan," Peter said. "We said we'd carry on rescuing people, didn't we?"

They had done no such thing. At least Nathan hadn't. Peter might have. Which was why Peter wasn't in charge here, details like Peter being the second youngest one aside.

"And he doesn't have anyone here," Peter continued, building speed as he went on. "All kind of things could happen! And it would be our fault, because he asked to come with us, and we rejected him!"

"He could be caught and sent back to Haiti," Simone agreed eagerly. Apparently Peter taking the gun from her had made her into some kind of partisan, or maybe she just liked Jean-Pierre. Great. "Or he could get beaten up and lynched by the Ku Klux Klan!" With an accusatory voice, she swung to Nathan. "What are you, a racist? Do you think you only need one black member in the group and that's enough?"

Nathan wondered whether it would be worth pointing out they were not a group, fellowship, club or whatever else these children might imagine, and decided against it. He couldn't lose his focus. Which had to remain on Peter and the issue at hand, not comments from the sidelines."

"This must be how Dad started going evil," Simone said, her tone becoming less angry and more heartbroken. "He hung out with white people who patronized him and didn't even realize it for too long. He had to make them respect him, had to act out, and then…"

"You know," Nathan said before he could stop himself, "that argument would actually sound good in court."

"Do you have to be such a jerk, Petrelli, or is it optional?" Niki asked, while Peter exclaimed: "Nathan!" and Simone's lips trembled. For a moment, Nathan was afraid she might cry, but then she just gave him a look of utter loathing and sat down.

"I'm not moving unless Jean-Pierre comes with us," she said. Peter promptly sat down as well; Nathan could feel him slip away under his fingers. Looking somewhat confused, Hiro followed suit.

"Don't worry," Niki said to the boy from Haiti, who hadn't uttered a single word so far, sitting down herself, "you're coming with us."

"Oh, is he?" Nathan asked acidly. He was probably imagining things, but Claire grew heavier in his arms, as if she wanted to sit down as well.

"Sure," Niki said with a grin. "You can't drag us to the bus by force, especially not with a baby to carry, no way you're leaving your kid brother behind, and you need me for the baby because you still suck at this stuff. This is the safest civil rights protest ever."

"This is not about civil rights," Nathan said, disgusted with her, because she at least was old enough to have something of a clue, then gave up reasoning with the unreasonable and addressed Jean-Pierre directly.

"We're not the safest company," he said in French, as Nathan wanted to be sure the boy understood him. His mother's insistence on him taking not just Latin and Spanish but also French classes came in useful at the oddest moments. At the time, Nathan had assumed she was simply being prejudiced because her maternal grandfather had come from Corsica. "And we'll run out of money soon."

"I am used to travelling in danger," Jean-Pierre replied, with a strong accent, but in English.

"He's from Haiti, Nathan," Peter said from the ground in a tone of tried patience, as if pointing out the painfully obvious.

"Don't you ever watch news about black people?" Simone asked disdainfully. "Typical. My father watches the reports about Haiti all the time."

"And I do not need money," Jean-Pierre continued, and something in Nathan went instantly alert. Maybe it was inbred cynicism, maybe it was even racism, for all he knew, but a refugee from Haiti who was not in need of financial support was either Baby Doc Duvalier, or another war criminal, or, if a genuine refugee, was someone who already had found a good and safe source of income. But no refugee who was lucky enough to find a job and security would make trips on a Greyhound bus and just happened to come across their group.

Peter would probably say Nathan was paranoid. But it wasn't paranoia if they were really after you.

Nathan's father hated The Godfather, declaring it to be responsible for every prejudice against Italian-Americans, and wouldn't allow it to be watched in his house. As a consequence, it had the lure of the forbidden, and moreover, every third guy in high school, at college or in the Navy thought it was funny and original to quote it to Nathan. So he was more than familiar with the saying "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer". If this Jean-Pierre was a plant, it would be better to keep an eye on him, all the time, than to turn their backs for him to stab them. What's more, it would mean Nathan knew who was the enemy ahead of time, whereas the next pursuer might surprise him.

If, on the other hand, Jean-Pierre really was a harmless guy from Haiti who just wanted some company for the road, well. Taking him as far as Maine wouldn't hurt.

That, and Niki unfortunately happened to be right with her assessment. Though there was no way Nathan was going to admit that.

"Then I'm sorry for making such a fuss," Nathan said in his best soothing-the-waves manner. "Really. You can come with us."

"That's great – " Peter started, and got up again, but Nathan deliberately cut him off. Ignoring his brother, he continued to talk to the Haitian. "In fact, I want you to sit next to me. Please. Maybe that'll convince the others that I mean it."

Niki mimicked a throwing-up motion, then she grinned again and tried to high-five Simone, whose response to the gesture was the same look of utter disdain she had given Nathan earlier. With a shrug, Niki got up, and so did everyone else, grabbing what passed for their luggage as they made their way to the bus to Bangor. Peter looked dejected as Nathan continued to ignore him when Peter volunteered to take Claire, giving the child to Simone as a peace offering instead. Maybe still being pissed off at Peter when it was really the entire situation that threatened to overwhelm him was childish and immature of Nathan, but the alternative was giving in to that compelling, perverse impulse to just leave everything behind and fly away, and then he might have to accept that he hadn't hallucinated. Besides, it would mean leaving the others to this Jean-Pierre of unknown loyalties and whatever else would happen on the road. So staying pissed-off at Peter it was.

Once everyone had sat down inside the bus, Nathan got rid of his coat. He longed for a shower or a bath, but had to settle for rolling up his sleeves and using the little sanitary tissues they had bought at Woolworth's. His hair, short cut not withstanding, felt as if it had given in to sweat and humidity and started to curl as it did in the days before the Navy. Niki, who was sitting behind him with Simone, watched him with an odd expression. He was expecting another sarcastic comment about his personal hygiene, but instead she said thoughtfully, as the bus started to drive:

"You know, that being a jerk and a stick-in-the-mud thing kinda works for you."

If she had been a girl he met in a bar, or indeed in most other circumstances, he'd have interpreted the remark as a kind of come-on and had a smooth and witty repartee at hand. But the occasional aesthetic appreciation aside, he never forgot her age, and saw her as a part of the group that didn't exist, that rag tag band he somehow ended up being in charge of or being bossed around by, not as a woman. That was what he told himself. So he just muttered wearily: "If you say so."

"Like it would have hurt you to say you think I'm hot as well," Niki said, highly irritated, slumping back on her seat and crossing her arms.

"Are you flirting with him?" Simone asked. "That's disgusting. I thought you said he must have been a boy slut to get lots of illegimate children."

"You have more children?" Jean-Pierre asked, showing the first sign that Nathan had seen of an interest in the conversation. He would have shot down the talk about his personal life at this point, in a mixture of exhaustion, embarrassment and lingering anger, but something nagged at him, and after a few moments, he realized what it was.

"No," he said, and then switched again to French. "And I have not told you that this child is mine."

"Your brother did," Jean-Pierre said, unperturbed, but this time in French as well. He turned and looked at the two seats behind Niki, Claire and Simone, which were occupied by Hiro and Peter. "He is very concerned for you. Maybe this is why he is not looking well?"

As parries went, that one had been downright elegant, Nathan was forced to admit. At least the first part. The attempt at distraction at the end was a bit clumsy. He wasn't going to fall for that and look at Peter as well. A moment later, he heard Simone exclaim:

"He's right. Peter, are you okay?"

Peter muttered that he was, and Nathan involuntarily relaxed a bit. Not that he had been particularly tense. This was just Peter being Peter. Maybe he should stop with the cold shoulder treatment, though. They had all had yet another long day, and most of the things that went wrong in it really weren't Peter's fault. Except nearly getting himself shot by Simone. Yes, that had worked out, but it so easily could have gone wrong, and then Peter would have been dead or crippled. That was the kind of thing that Nathan should have been able to protect Peter from, as was befriending far too stoic strangers from Haiti with unknown intentions, because clearly Peter couldn't look after himself, and why should he? He was twelve.

"Peter?" Hiro's voice asked in alarm. "Peter? " Then he went into Star Wars quotes again. "That is no moon. I have a bad feeling about this."

Nathan was out of his seat in a heartbeat.

As it turned out, Peter was in the process of passing out two rows behind, and would have fallen from his seat to the bus floor if Hiro hadn't held on to his arm. It never occurred to Nathan that Peter was faking it as revenge; Nathan knew his brother. Projecting a cloud of unhappiness, sure, having a fit of temper the next time Nathan did talk to him, those would have been deliberate reactions, but not this. Peter's skin was clammy and paler than usual, and his wide, dark eyes stared sightlessly into Nathan's.

"….too much buzzing in my head," he whispered before shutting down entirely. By now, some of the other passengers were giving them curious looks, but nobody made any effort to help them as Nathan tried to revive Peter. Only when Niki and Jean-Pierre stood up and started join Nathan did the bus driver use his microphone to say: "Back into the seats, you lot."

"You need to take my brother to the next hospital," Nathan said, his own voice sounding alien in his ears. "You need to take him there now."

He put Peter's head into Niki's lap and made his way to the bus driver at the front of the coach.

"Look," the man said, "if the kid is ill, you really shouldn't have booked an interstate trip. I'll let you out at the next stop, but… what's this?"

It was Nathan's entire supply of cash, the money he had gotten from various ATMs in New York when they first started to go on the run.

"Now," Nathan said.

"His father will sue Greyhound so badly if you don't drive to the nearest hospital," Simone said unexpectedly. "His father is a lawyer."

Either the money or the threat worked. Some of the other passengers protested while others agreed the boy obviously needed medical attention, but the bus headed to the next hospital. Since they'd started in a small town somewhere in New York state, this meant another ten minutes, during which Peter didn't regain consciousness. Nathan tried every first aid method he remembered, in vain.

"That wasn't all your money, was it?" Niki said to him in a low voice. "When my sister… when something happened and she needed a doctor really badly, they didn't help us for ages, because we didn't have money."

"I'm a millionaire," Nathan replied automatically, though he didn't really register what she said. Then he did, and he let out a short, barking laugh. "I'm the son of a millionaire."

"You're going to call them," Niki stated. It wasn't a question, but Nathan nodded anyway, and kept trying to revive Peter.

"If you call your parents," Jean-Pierre said in French, "they will never let you go again. And you will lose your daughter forever."

Nathan had no room for either surprise or satisfaction that he had been right. He just looked up at the Haitian and said: "I don't care if they sent you or whether Charles Deveaux did, or any of the others. If you have a way of contacting them right now, do so. I'm not leaving my brother stranded in some waiting room."

"I am not a magician, Nathan Petrelli," Jean-Pierre replied with dignity. "I have to use the phone like everyone else."

Simone, who was still holding Claire and was sitting on the edge of her seat so she could see what was happening with Peter, let out a small wordless noise. Then she said, starting in clumsy, first-year French but switching to English mid-sentence:

"Did my dad send you?"

Jean-Pierre sighed. "No," he said.

"I thought that maybe…" Simone started, and then her voice trailed off, sounding very lost.

"Fathers suck," Niki commented. "Haven't seen mine for ages. He didn't even show up when I got put into juvenile detention. When someone bailed me out, I thought it was him, but no, it was that Linderman guy. So I figured he was either into jailbait or maybe I'm really his secret love child and that's why my dad has always been such a jerk to me and – anyway. Fathers suck. Also, could we stick with English? I don't speak foreign."

Because it was better than counting the seconds, Nathan tried to pay some attention to the conversation.

"Your ticket is still paid to Bangor," he said to Niki. "All of yours are."

"If that's your way of saying we can keep running, you won't sell the rest of us out for your kid brother once your super evil parents arrive, don't bother," Niki said. "I mean, sure, I could. And you bet I'd be better looking after Simone and Hiro, 'cause I'm not a patronizing tightass. But you guys – " she waved her hand to indicate Nathan, Peter and Claire – "no way you don't need someone with some sense around, too. And in case I haven't mentioned it, you suck at being a parent. But you should explain to Hiro what's up, because I'm not into movie tunes, and I never saw Star Wars, either."

Hiro had been alternating between worriedly watching Nathan's efforts with Peter and going through the comics version of the Rosetta Stone for useful phrases to say. At the mention of his name, he looked at Nathan and pointed to Peter.

"Luke on Hoth?" he asked, voice timid.

Because the mind was good at producing useless memories, Nathan did recall that Luke Skywalker had nearly been frozen to death on the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, and had needed first rescuing by Han Solo and then some kind of futuristic medical treatment that seemed to work via gigantic tubes, or something like that. He also remembered other details of the plot, and decided to cut to the chase.

"Lando Calrissian on Bespin," Nathan replied, pointing at himself. Hiro's eyes behind the glasses grew wide, and the look on his face was pure hurt disbelief.

"No, I am Lando," Jean-Pierre said unexpectedly.

"Who the hell is Lando?" Niki asked, but the bus had finally made it to the hospital, and so nobody gave her an explanation about Lando Calrissian and his decision to make a deal with the Empire to save his city by handing everyone over to Vader. Nathan carried Peter into the emergency room and rattled off social security numbers and addresses, trying his best not to shout. Jean-Pierre had disappeared as soon as the bus door had opened, which presumably meant he was on the phone somewhere, but just in case, Nathan asked the nurse who was busy noting down his data where the nearest phone was. Once they were done and Peter had been whisked out of his sight, he headed in that direction and was intercepted by Hiro. Hiro looked determined, and Nathan braced himself for another argument, but all Hiro said was:

"ET phone home?"

Hiro Nakamura, it seemed, was determined to see the best in people to a degree that made presidential spin-doctors look like amateurs. Being cast as a benevolent alien instead of a pragmatic sell-out was probably meant as a comfort. But all Nathan could think of was that if he had only behaved rationally from the moment he saw that security feed of Charles Deveaux' rooftop, if he hadn't continued with this insanity despite knowing how hopeless it was, then Peter wouldn't be stuck in the emergency room of some provincial hospital.

"No," he said tersely.

"Lando Return of the Jedi," Hiro said, unperturbed, which was when Nathan remembered that Lando Calrissian had redeemed himself.

"Look," he said, "Hiro…"

He blinked, and Hiro wasn't standing in front of him anymore. Instead, Nathan held a note in his hand, which in painstakingly written Latin letters copied from the Star Wars trade volumes said: "This boy is our last hope. No, there is another. I wanted to save you. You already have."

It wasn't the moment for it, anything but the moment, but something in Nathan clicked, and the puzzle he had been refusing to look at came together at last. Hiro and his ability. That brief experience of not being bound to the ground anymore. Niki and the way she had punched out a security guard older, heavier and far better muscled and trained. Perhaps even what had caused Peter to collapse like that.

His parents, their friends, and all the talk about "one of us", and changing the world.

"I called your mother," Jean-Pierre said in French, coming from the other side of the hall, and regarded him thoughtfully. "You could still get away," he continued. "But not if you wait here till she arrives. Why don't you go?" he ended with genuine curiosity.

"No," Nathan said. "No, I couldn't. None of us can, can we? Not that it matters. I'm not leaving Peter."

"But your daughter," the boy said, sounding far too old for his years again, and Nathan didn't reply. He thought about asking Niki to leave with Claire, again. He'd lose her either way, but at least that way she would remain free.

Then he considered the chances Niki had of remaining free without money, thought about how easily first Thompson and then Jean-Pierre had found them, and knew he was just fooling himself.

"I still have family on Haiti," Jean-Pierre said, "though my parents are dead. I left the others. I had to. They do not remember me, those who survived the soldiers. They do not remember my parents, or seeing most of our village butchered. You will not remember me, either, Nathan Petrelli. But as long as you do, I want you to know something. Your mother, she gave me a chance. To work for something greater. What we can do has to be used for good, or we spit in the face of God."

"God has nothing to do with it," Nathan said wearily. He looked at Hiro's note, those tidbits of cheesy dialogue from a couple of movies he had not seen since he was a child, and wondered why he held on to it like it was a lifeline. Folding it systematically, he put it in the pocket of his jeans. "Where are the others?"

"In the waiting room," Jean-Pierre said. "Sleeping. Do not wake them up. They will not remember you anymore when you do, and I will have to do it again if you explain anything to them. I am sorry. I like them. I did not think that I would, when your mother sent me. I thought you were just a group of ungrateful rich, spoiled children who lived all their lives in safety and wealth and did not know how lucky they were."

"Whereas we're really a bunch of spoiled brats who are brimming over with depth and likeability, I guess," Nathan said and headed to the waiting room.

"Well, not you," Jean-Pierre replied. Either he had a dead pan sense of humour, or the literal stoic thing came in really handy. Somewhat belatedly, the full implication of what the boy had said registered.

"You've taken away their memories? That's your…"

He stopped, not knowing how to call it, not sure he wanted to verbally acknowledge it existed, in him as well as the others. Talent? Curse?

"My gift, yes," Jean-Pierre said. "That is why your mother sent me. Also, your own gifts are useless against me."

Thanks, Ma , Nathan thought. The idea of that kind of violation, something taking away something as personal and precious as memories, repelled him, but at the same time, he couldn't help but see the potential usefulness, too. Glancing at Jean-Pierre, he wondered whether he should repeat what he had tried with Aaron only this morning. What would it take to make Jean-Pierre use this "gift" against Angela Petrelli instead of her sons and their… friends? Against Charles Deveaux? Against all of them?

Not money; Jean-Pierre was clear on how much Nathan did and didn't have. Something greater, the boy had said, but Nathan was fresh out of causes. That kind of thing was Peter's…

"Is that why Peter collapsed?" Nathan asked, voice very low and devoid of all expression. "Because you did something to his mind?"

"No," Jean-Pierre said quietly. "I have not done so yet; it will happen once your mother arrives. Some of us… they find it difficult to be together with that many others for too long. I know how this feels. All of you make my head buzz, too. I think this is what happened to your brother."

Maybe if there had been more of them, Jean-Pierre would not have been able to neutralize all their abilities at the same time. But such tactical deliberations were beside the point now. If there was a chance that Jean-Pierre was right, then Peter shouldn't be anywhere near people with abilities again. Starting with their group.

Nathan was at the point of telling himself to see the positive sides of having to surrender to their parents when he entered the waiting room and saw, as Jean-Pierre had said they would be, Niki, Simone and Hiro sleeping. Claire was sitting in a children's chair the waiting room must have been equipped with, not sleeping, but not crying, either. Her eyes opened wide when he came in.

Suddenly the last few days with these people, all of them, not only his daughter, for all their nerve-wracking insanity appeared to him as something precious, something he wanted to keep.

Nathan swallowed. "Will you take my memories, too?"

"There is no choice," Jean-Pierre replied. "That is what I promised. I keep my promises."

Hiro was clutching the three Star Wars trade collections in his arms while he slept. Simone had her head on Niki's shoulder, and on her lap was what had to be the only magazine in the room not devoted to gossip; trust Simone to pick up some high-minded art magazine rather than Vanity Fair. Niki wasn't reading anything; her head, leaning back on the wall, was turned into the direction of the entry, as if she had been waiting for him.

He would probably never see her again. Simone, that was likely, unless Charles Deveaux suddenly broke off all social contact with the Petrellis. Hiro, less likely, given that the Nakamuras lived in Japan, and Mr. Nakamura would think twice before taking his son on a business trip again. Still, it wasn't impossible. But Niki? Mr. Linderman would take her back to Las Vegas, and there she'd be entirely at the mercy of whatever he had planned for her. Her father was a guy who never saw her, according to what she had said, so there wouldn't be even that much help.

Nathan didn't have any cash left, and his credit card was useless right now. After some thought, he pulled out his pen, carefully took her left hand which was hanging down the side of the chair, opened it and as gently as he could, without awakening her, wrote inside: NEVER TRUST LINDERMAN.

She wouldn't remember who could have written it. But she already had a couple of suspicions about Mr. Linderman, and maybe this would be enough to make her run again, hopefully with more success. Challenging, he looked back to Jean-Pierre.

"Do your promises extend to wiping her hands as well as her mind?"

The Haitian shook his head.

Nathan took one of the gossip magazines, tore off a corner of a page, and stopped. For the life of him he couldn't remember any useful quotes from Star Wars for Hiro, not regarding what he wanted to say. Hiro would probably be allowed to keep the comics, but Nathan wouldn't put it past Mr. Nakamura to check them first, so the quote had to be inconspicuous in any case. Then something came to him, but from Star Trek, not Star Wars, from the only one of the Trek movies he had actually watched, a decade ago. Well, it was better than nothing. Nathan wrote: KIRK SPOCK END OF WRATH OF KHAN.

If anyone could see those few words in English and translate them correctly into the last words Spock said to Kirk in that movie, it would be Hiro Nakamura. Of course, chances were he'd simply throw away that bit of paper Nathan slipped into Return of the Jedi, figuring he must have used it as a reading mark, and it was that possibility as well as the hope for the opposite which allowed Nathan to go for a quote that was more emotional than anything he would have said otherwise.

I am, Spock had said to Kirk, in the sole scene Nathan still remembered all those years later, and always shall be your friend.

He hadn't explicitly thanked Simone for taking out Thompson this morning; he had just bought breakfast and as much toothpaste she wanted and let her have the choice of lunch, hoping that would do the trick, and now he felt as cheap as Niki had always accused him of being. Next time they saw each other, he wouldn't even remember there was a debt of gratitude, and would probably avoid her. He had never cared for the children of his parents' friends before, after all. So he pulled out the sketch Isaac Something-or-other had made of him earlier and wrote "you're my hero" on the backside, then put it inside the pocket of the jacket she was wearing. Simone and her father would probably assume the message was from Isaac, who had signed the sketch with his name, and so it wouldn't get censored. But someone should say it to her, Nathan thought, recalling that Charles Deveaux hadn't even asked how his daughter was doing during their telephone conversation, either far too confident she was well or not caring at all that she might get injured in whatever little test scenario he had in mind.

Claire was last, because Nathan couldn't think of anything to say, even knowing she couldn't yet understand him, that wasn't an insulting hypocrisy disguising the fact he was giving her up, yet again. To some stranger who worked for Dan Linderman.

"About Claire," Nathan said abruptly. Jean-Pierre just looked at him. "Since you're working for my mother, you'll probably know whom she's given to. I want you to promise me something."

"I am not working for you," Jean-Pierre pointed out. "And you do not serve any cause but your own, I think. You can care for a few people, but not many. Your mother, she might not be a loving woman, but she cares for the world. Why should I promise you anything?"

"Because," Nathan said, and this time, he didn't have to fake the passionate conviction he had reached for in vain earlier today on at least two occasions, "it isn't for me. It's for Claire. You're helping to decide her life by doing what you do to us, and so you owe her at least this. Promise me that you will keep an eye on her, that you'll find out whether the people she's given to are good people. If they're not, then try to make them that way, I don't care how. And promise me you'll never, ever take her memories. No matter what happens."

Jean-Pierre was silent for at least a minute. Then he said: "You ask a lot, Nathan Petrelli."

"Yes," Nathan said, nothing more than that. They looked at each other. Then the Haitian boy, who had made a vow never to tell his name to anyone who would keep remembering it, because he never wanted to be that close to another person again, stepped closer and stretched out his hand.

"You have my promise," he said, and Nathan took his hand to shake it.

"It's a pity you won't remember," Jean-Pierre said sadly as they touched, and darkness took Nathan's mind.


"Well," Kaito Nakamura said, "one thing is certain. This was the last favour I am going to do for you." He had just come from handing over Claire to Noah Bennet, and had kept his recovered son with him all the time. The boy had been busy with his video game non-stop though. The Haitian, thought Angela, really did excellent work. "From now on, our ways shall be separate," Kaito continued.

If Kaito didn't try to pose as something out of a Kurosawa movie all the time, he would be much easier to put up with, Angela concluded with a noticeable lack of charity. But really, it had been her son who had ended up in the hospital, not his, and she had been the one who had to cajole Dan into some of the instant healing he tried not to do anymore because she didn't want their social circle and Peter's teachers to ask more questions than they already did. Given all that, she couldn't understand why Kaito felt entitled to make such a fuss.

"That is of course your decision," she said sweetly, and looked down at Hiro, who was putting his video game into the rucksack he was carrying.

"Did you enjoy your time in America, Hiro?"

The boy looked at her uncomprehendingly.

"He doesn't speak English," Kaito said, glowering at her. Angela could have pointed out that this made the three comic trade volumes, all with English titles, that she could spot in the rucksack something of a strange choice of reading, but she didn't feel like doing Kaito any favours anymore, either.

"Of course," she said. "Of course."

All things considered, her damage control had worked supremely well. Admittedly, Dan didn't think so; he wasn't getting any younger, and healing Peter had made him fall asleep on the flight back to Las Vegas. When he had woken up, his less than grateful protegé, Niki Sanders, had vanished into thin air. Well, he would eventually find her again. And if not, well, it wasn't as though young Niki's talent had been that unusual and worth keeping. Besides, Angela made it a policy never to like trashy blondes.

Charles, too, was in less than high spirits these days. For one thing, Dan wasn't talking to him anymore. The circumstances were somewhat nebulous; neither man would elaborate when questioned. For another, whatever the purpose of his recent behaviour might have been, it didn't look like it had gotten him the definite results he had hoped for. He was carrying himself without that ever present sense of equanimity laced with smugness, which was otherwise so characteristic of him. And then his daughter, previously so obedient girl - except for her thankfully forgotten shooting talents - , had taken it into her head to look for a Hispanic artist living on the streets. Yes, dear Charles was quite the busy man these days. Fond as she was of him, Angela couldn't say she was sorry.

Maybe it had been time for their group to dissolve. Still, it shouldn't have happened in quite that way, and it was all due to the children, which meant, of course, that it was Kaito's fault. He had started everything by insisting on bringing his son along.

As her limousine stopped in front of the Gramercy house and the chauffeur opened the door for her, Angela stepped out and observed her older son in the process of saying goodbye to his brother. Nathan hadn't asked either her or his father anything about Claire; the Haitian had removed all relevant memories, just as requested. He was on his way to the airport now, leaving for Bosnia, and she smiled and opened her arms to bid him farewell. But Nathan, who had hugged Peter tightly only a second ago, just looked at her and in a very serious voice said: "Goodbye, Ma." Quickly, he got into the limousine she had just vacated without having touched her once.

"Nathan's just worried about Bosnia, Mom," Peter said to her comfortingly as the car left. "That's why he didn't hug you. Of course he'd never admit it. He won't be in real danger there, will he?" he finished, sounding very worried now himself.

"Of course not, darling," Angela said absently, thinking: He can't know. He can't remember anything.

Can he?

- The End -