Author's Note: Before you begin, I'd like to mention a few things, first being that this story was started back in June. It is an ironic, prophetic coincidence that I created a character named Elle, only to discover a few short months later, that there would actually be a cannon Elle. Even stranger, both my Elle and cannon Elle are tied in with Peter. I am curious as to see if they end up down the same path, as I wrote the ending of this story prior to hearing about cannon Elle. Just call me The Isaac Mendez of the Printed Page! Also, despite the fact that this is a completed story, I will be posting chapters as I find the time to finish editing, them. Another thing I like to point out beforehand is since this was written prior to the Comic Con Season 2 preview, my Sylar storyline obviously renders this AU immediately. Plus I tweaked the Season 1 finale slightly to better fit into this story, as you will see when you read. Lastly, I put a fair amount of inside things for Heroes fans to pick out as a game of sorts (the most obvious being Elle's Versa but there are others which will be less conspicuous). Fans of my other work will see another side of me in this story but I hope it is enjoyed by everyone. Above all, I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it! I'm surprisingly nervous about releasing this one to the public! Nevertheless, without further ado, I present the first chapter of My Brother's Keeper…
"We are not only our brother's keeper; in countless large and small ways, we are our brother's maker."
My Brother's Keeper
by: Infected with Lupinus
The director bellowed and instantly the stilled commotion surrounding him, the same tumult around Grace Moriarty, snapped back to life like a light bulb at the sound of a buzzer and brightened dim lights.
"We'll need to take it again from the top, Grace," Connor Fleming, the current hottest director in Hollywood – something he never let anyone within earshot forget – told his star. "It just wasn't right."
"Of course it wasn't right, Connor," Grace restively snarled, leaving her male co-star on the set to sit in her chair. "It's the fifteenth take, my patience is wearing thin today and nothing is going right because I'm running high on PMS. Let's get it right the next time or move on to another scene, please."
Her tone was intentionally snappy and she sensed the others around them cringing or ducking for cover. The haughty director and his refractory star were always engaged in bitter power struggles and this was one more brewing.
"You know I'm a perfectionist, Grace, so we'll take it from the top, even if it's for the thousandth time, is that clear?"
Grace seethed inwardly. Working with Fleming was not her favourite choice. After a recent and ugly fallout with her agent and the movie studio she was under contract with, other directors refused to touch her for fear of her wrath.
Fleming and I are too similar, that's the trouble, she thought. We both take no shit.
Her make-up artist fluttered towards her, as usual, to fuss over touch-ups but she was bitchily waved away; the woman kept walking as if she hadn't been thwarted. Then Grace's assistant, one of the few people the star ever paid attention to, addressed her.
"Miss Moriarty! Miss Moriarty! There's a phone call for you."
"Tell them I'm busy right now."
A second make-up artist was brave enough to approach and touch up her eye shadow.
"I think you might want to take this," the assistant persisted. Then in a near whisper: "It's a police detective!"
"Whatever it is, I didn't do it."
This grabbed Grace's interest like a sour note during a symphony.
"Manhattan?" she repeated, clearly concerned now. She reached out to take the mobile phone, demanding edgily, "Give it. I can only imagine what it could be."
Her assistant, a sweet young thing named Anna who was too tender for Tinseltown but too saavy to not be sought after, handed off the phone and walked away in one fluidic motion.
"Hello?" she spoke into the phone in a tight tone.
"Hello, is this Grace Moriarty?"
She listened with mounting curiosity as the police officer spoke to her. Quiet the entire time, she allowed the one-way conversation to sink in, absorbing each word like a sponge. She got so full from the words that were being relayed to her that she felt like vomiting. But the cop continued to tell her more of what she did not want to hear even after the sponge could hold nothing else.
"Are you still there?" the officer questioned on the other end of the line. "Hello? Miss Moriarty?"
"I'm still here. I'm listening. I will be there as soon as I possibly can."
Disconnecting the line, she sat motionless for a brief moment, shocked by the tale that was told to her. It couldn't be true. She refused it to be true.
The surrounding lights flashed a few times, prompting everyone to glance up and around them. When they settled calmly back to normal everyone simply returned to work as if nothing happened.
This can't be happening! thought Grace. This is a joke! It has to be! I'm far away so he's playing a prank on me because we've lost touch for a while! That's what it is! I'll give him a call and things will be fine…after I yell at him incessantly!
Convinced that her perception may be the answer, she rapidly dialled the number she wanted with shaky fingers.
The lights grew exceedingly bright as she waited and people around her complained. Fleming announced that it was probably a bad circuit, not to panic.
"Hello," a smooth male voice said on the other end of the phone.
"Hey, it's Grace!" she spoke rapidly. "I know it's been a long t-"
"I'm not at home at the time…"
Her heart sank when she realised that she was talking to a machine.
"Goddamn it!" she swore, heart sinking with an ill feeling and eyes welling up with tears. "This can't be happening. Please, God, don't let this be happening!"
The lights brightened further then the bulbs, too hot to contain the ample current, exploded. A rain of shattered glass fell upon the shrieking cast and crew as Grace choked back her surging emotions. She knew too well what was possible when she was upset. Anger coursed through her tingling body then she felt the tickle of the familiar electric charge as it passed over her eyes and hands, sending smoke spiralling from the hot mobile phone that she dropped smouldering to the floor. Melted indentations in the phone where her fingers had been reached the circuitry inside, ruining it entirely. Someone called for her out of the midst of the chaos, disrupting the power that threatened to unleash itself from within her. It was Anna who suddenly appeared at her side.
"Are you OK?" the girl inquired. "None of the glass cut you, did it?"
"No," Grace retorted in a calm voice that was as rigid as steel. "I'm fine."
"What's the matter? Is everything all right?"
"No. Tell Fleming that I needed to leave. I won't be back."
Anna grew frantic upon hearing this announcement.
"What?! He isn't going to be happy to hear that! You know how he gets…"
"I don't care. I have more important things to tend to."
"OK…then if you won't tell him what's going on, please tell me."
"My family…My brother…my mother…are dead."
"Oh my god, Miss Moriarty I'm so sorry!"
"Moriarty?" she repeated the name that sounded suddenly foreign as it rolled off of Anna's tongue. "No. It's Gray."
She left the set with determination in her step and lightning throughout her body.
"Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero."
At the beginning of time rebel angels fell out of the sky after Archangel Michael cast them from Heaven. Since then many things have followed their wake. A meteor fell and destroyed nearly all prehistoric life, bringing about an ice age. Stars collapsed from the sky and were the centre of many superstitious wishers' dreams. Ash rained from the sky in a sinister preface to the ruin of Pompeii.
Elle Miasnikov liked to sit or walk alone on the banks of Brighton Beach, thinking about everything and nothing simultaneously. She favoured walking as she faced Coney Island because the bright neon and the landmark Wonder Wheel were accentuated in the dark. Sometimes, particularly in the summer, scattered groups of older teens or young twenty-somethings held parties on the beach or she happened upon another lonesome soul trudging along the sand in the opposite direction she'd be going in. Often she would smile or give a friendly but curt nod in passing but nothing more than that. It was Brooklyn, after all.
Since it was cooler by the water she carried a practical blanket to stave off the chill. This was her quiet time and she did not want it disturbed by needing to fetch a jacket from the car. Her wandering thoughts contemplated why Superman would need his Fortress of Solitude when all he had to do was journey to the beach at night to find peace. The only sound at this point was the steady crash of waves bashing themselves against the sand, spraying up into white foam in some parts. Suicide was never more beautiful.
On a whim, she removed her trainers and allowed the ocean to rush upon her feet, ankle deep and soaking the edges of her jeans. It felt great, as if Neptune hid a worshipful foot fetish. Smiling, she stopped to squish her toes into the silt which felt even better than the water alone. Therapeutic, soothing. She smiled, closed her eyes and turned her face to the heavens, relishing in the cool, gentle breeze that carried the salty stink of the water.
That cool, gentle breeze inexplicably grew tepid and more forceful. Something tickled her face and she swiped at it, dismissing it as a gnat. Then the air became a hot, steady gust that caused her to at last open her eyes. Ash fluttered down like a hellish snowfall and she extended her hand inquisitively to capture some flakes which she smeared across her palm in a sooty streak.
"What the hell?"
She looked back towards the sky to find something emerging through the darkness. Bright but not twinkling, she knew it was no star. Nor was it a comet, unless there was some certain oblivion that was arriving unannounced to the world. More than likely it was a meteorite. And it seemed to be heading straight for Brighton Beach.
"What is that?" someone asked beside her.
A pair of kids no more than fifteen, a boy and a girl, stood beside her. The girl appeared terrified, the boy curious as if he was witnessing the best thing ever.
Elle shrugged, replying, "I don't know."
The atmosphere around them electrified, the gust transformed into a gale that was hotter still in temperature.
"Let's get out of here," the girl urged, trying to leave and tug the boy with her.
"She's right," Elle agreed. "Maybe you should leave."
"No way!" the boy defied, eyes as wide as saucers and focused on the approaching meteorite. "Let's go tell the others! That thing's headin' right for us! We can go take a look at it when it crashes!"
"No you're not, Tommy!" the girl protested but followed him as he broke into a run to retrieve their friends.
Elle's eyes never left the meteor. The temperature increased so that it burned her eyes but still they never strayed from the falling object. The ground rumbled and shook with its advancement, the air rippling. Seconds later with a swoosh that felt like a rocket racing by and an exploding boom that wobbled the ground beneath her feet and set off a bevy of car alarms, the object struck land.
Blazing fire and black smoke loomed at the point of impact but instead of retreating Elle found her legs taking her toward ground zero. She had no idea why, nor did she waste time questioning it. She decided to do what gut instinct dictated, her tightly clutched blanket streaming behind her like a superhero cape. There was no telling what awaited her once she reached her destination and she frantically hoped that whatever she was compelled to pursue wasn't dangerous.
She continued forward, the muscles in her legs burning from the ferocity of her effort. It felt as if she was running in slow motion but the ache in her legs contradicted that. An aeon later she reached the torrid, smouldering pit, the surrounding sand afire. Shiny patches scattered upon the sand drew her attention. Stooping down, she hesitantly touched one but the surface was so hot she withdrew her singed fingertips.
"Glass!" she muttered, astounded.
Whatever crashed was hot enough to produce glass out of the beach sand and this greatly captured her interest. It had to be a meteor; what else was capable of accomplishing such a task? Turning back toward the crater, her eyes found a blackened mass she originally mistook for a large clump of burnt seaweed. Upon closer scrutiny she realised that it wasn't seaweed but a human figure. Charred beyond recognition, it appeared to be nothing more than a husk in a crucified position, much like a martyr who had settled in a corner to await eminent death.
"Oh my god!" she exclaimed, rushing to the charcoaled bit of former humanity. "Oh no!"
The victim was obviously someone who'd been on the beach and couldn't escape the meteor's path quickly enough.
"Fuck! You poor thing!" she lamented, her heart low and voice oozing sympathy for this unlucky soul.
Then she noticed something peculiar. Parts of the corpse were gradually fleshing out with raw muscle and reddened tissue. The ruddiness brightened into scar-tissue pink as, suddenly, the man's chest heaved and he sputtered a cough. In horrified shock she stumbled backwards, toppling over herself but unable to stop watching as the corpse further transmogrified into a person. It was like watching the Rebirth of Frank scene in the first Hellraiser film and it nauseated her. Dumbfounded by what she was witnessing, she remained inert then realised hastily with an involuntary glance that the reforming man, whoever he may be, was completely nude and she had a blanket in her possession.
"What the fuck, you're alive!" she exclaimed breathlessly, fearfully approaching to shelter him with the blanket. "How the fuck are you alive?!"
The man gasped again, greedy for air, as clear hazel eyes alive with pain opened to gaze at her, silently pleading. Visibly in terrible agony and in need of emergency medical attention, she knew that he would certainly die if she didn't get immediate help. Others were racing toward them; not just Tommy and his buddies but residents who lived along the beach were coming in a large herd. With mere precious moments to hide this man from their prying eyesight, she knew all too well how callous a group of onlookers could be in this day and age and this man needed some dignity preserved.
"Are you able to walk?" she questioned him.
He didn't have to answer, she knew he couldn't; his lungs, vocal cords and tongue were too damaged. His melted ears, nose and lips were just beginning to slowly develop and hair soon sprouted all over the appropriate places. With his flesh still too raw, she was aware that the blanket was causing him a great deal of pain by touching him. Walking on flayed foot soles would be impossible for him. This man needed to be carried.
"What the hell is it?!" someone shouted.
"What the fuck is goin' on?" inquired another.
They were much closer and, well aware of it, she wrapped the reforming man completely from sight in the blanket to offer him a scrap of modesty.
"It's OK," she soothed. "They're coming. We'll take you to the emergency room."
"What is going on here?" a less frantic but course Russian voice asked from a few feet away.
"My boyfriend couldn't get out of the way fast enough!" storied Elle. "Please help me carry him to my car so I can take him to the hospital!"
The Russian wasn't enormous sized but he was toned enough to bear the burden of the withered man back to the car. Plainly by the wrinkled expression across his rugged face he smelt the nauseating stench of cooked flesh that she herself neglected to notice in her haste to arrive at the site.
"Pick him up," she instructed. "Help me, please, or he's going to die!"
A look of disdain on his scarred face, the Russian scooped the still blackened and badly damaged body into his arms.
"Where is car?" the Russian asked.
At this point the others finally managed to reach them but came to a dead halt when they saw hints of the badly damaged body bundled in the Russian's arms.
"Follow me," she told the Russian Samaritan who trailed after her without question.
Encumbered by the sand, they hurriedly trudged back to the boardwalk with the group on their coattails. Thankfully she wasn't far from where her silver Nissan Versa was parked, for she originally started her walk in the opposite direction. The burnt man in the Russian's arms made eye contact with her and the pain in the bloodshot, watery orbs seemed lessened with an abundance of gratitude. His facial features now started to refine themselves and bcame more recognisable as human albeit still unrecognisable as an individual person. Questions were thrown at her like rocks by the tag-along crowd, the boldest being Tommy who felt more comfortable with her due to their previous encounter. Reaching the Versa, she unlocked it and opened the back door for the Russian to deposit the body in the back seat.
"Thanks!" she called to the Samaritan as she trotted around to the driver's side of the car and climbed in.
The Versa roared to life then she reversed like a pro and they were off, swerving frantically through the moderate traffic. A slew of police cars, ambulances and fire engines screamed passed on the opposite side of the divide on their way toward the scene at the beach and she considered in hindsight that perhaps leaving him there was the better choice after all. But Elle was an impulsive creature and it was her instinct to react as quickly as possible. Not believing that the ambulance would arrive in time, she thus took matters into her own hands.
"Hold on, mister!" she called to the moaning tortured humanity writhing across her back seat. "I'll get you to the hospital! You'll be fine!"
His movement merited from her a peek back at him through the rear view mirror only to abruptly have her attention brought back to the front by the loud blaring of a horn. In that instant she'd erroneously went through a stop sign and the car, with its occupant shouting obscenities, narrowly missed hers.
"Great," she mumbled, "I'm going to put us both in the morgue at this rate."
An unforeseen, healthy gasp of breath from the back of the car distracted her again and again through the rear view mirror she saw the man in the back seat unexpectedly sit up. He appeared completely unscathed from his ordeal.
"…in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York tonight…"
"Strange, isn't it?"
Grace was unaware of what the bar tender was talking about. Blinking her eyes behind her dark sunglasses, she gazed at the middle aged man.
"I'm sorry?" she asked evenly.
The bar tender gestured toward the television mounted on the wall behind him.
"What happened in New York," he replied. "There was some sort of explosion over Manhattan then this thing fell out of the sky and landed on the shores of Brighton Beach. They're trying to figure out what it was."
"Probably terrorists," another man close by butted in. "Everything that happens in New York is terrorists fault. At least it has been."
"But nobody got hurt, that's the thing."
"Remember when that TWA jet exploded over there and it ended up being an American missile that shot it down? Maybe that's what happened again."
Grace swirled her vodka around in its glass, eyes trained on the set where NBC was issuing a special report about the events unfolding in Brooklyn. There was a chaotic scene of police and rescue vehicles with red and blue lights casting eerie glows across the faces of the surrounding spectators behind the reporter.
Gabriel is dead and all they care about is garbage falling out of the sky! Grace thought disdainfully then swallowed the last of her drink. They don't even mention what happened to him!
Then why would they? Gabriel had been murdered according to the detective who contacted her and they wouldn't release details on a pending murder investigation to the public.
Remorse wrecked her conscious; it was her fault that Gabriel was dead. It was her duty to protect him and she failed. She'd always been the most dynamic and aggressive of the sibling pair. Outgoing and popular, she easily overshadowed the mousey, hushed Gabriel. She sought to be a star, he just wanted to blend in. Virginia Gray urged Gabriel to aspire to be more than he was, more than a watchmaker. You could be something great, just like your sister if you applied yourself was what she used to tell him as he was obsessively bowed over something mechanical.
Looking back, Grace wished she would've told her mother to shut up and leave Gabe alone. She loved him and wanted him to be whatever he wanted to be rather than whatever their mother expected of him. While Grace did numerous school plays, drama clubs, and talent shows, Gabriel discreetly did his science fairs, robotics clubs and chess tournaments, all of which mom seemed too preoccupied in Grace's activities to attend most of. Her brother was justifiably lonely and felt left out of many things. Grace tried to make up for it by spending large amounts of her free time with him which, despite their sharing a deep bond, could not completely heal the rift their mother's favouritism formed between them.
An unspoken rivalry always lingered between Gabriel and Grace. He was never malignant towards his elder sister but nevertheless tried to vainly compete with her for their mother's attention. Grace grew tired of Virginia's neglect of Gabriel and went alone to support him at a science fair in which he won first prize. Their mother should've been there, she thought angrily the whole time. Saddened by Gabe's disappointment each time someone else's parents entered the room, she argued with their mother on the subject when they arrived back home. All she was told to do was focus on herself and forget Gabriel's affairs.
Her brother, unintentionally overhearing this, charged from the house. Giving chase, she caught him at the corner and clutched him as he sobbed against her neck. She tried to offer comfort by falsely assuring him that mom didn't mean what it sounded like. But he wasn't fooled by Virginia's callous remark. They knew she loved Gabriel, that was evident in subtle ways, but she blatantly loved Grace more.
"Another?" the bar tender offered.
She nodded and shoved the empty glass his way which he dutifully refilled.
"Aren't you Grace Moriarty?" he queried.
"No," she answered with finality. "My name's Gray."
Her interest went back to the television where fire fighters busied themselves with putting out a fire in a tangle of weeds and brush.
"Authorities are still baffled as to what it actually was that witnesses say fell out of the sky and crashed here on Brighton Beach, as nothing has been found except the gaping hole where the object appeared to have been."
The camera cut to a rowdy, anxious group of teens, one boy being the spokesperson.
"There was someone who got hurt!" the kid was informing. "But this girl took him to the hospital in her car. He was pretty messed up. Probably dead."
"Police are searching for this woman and are checking all hospitals in the area, hoping that she can provide some answers," the reporter continued. "However, some believe that this incident in Brooklyn may be the result of the mysterious explosion that occurred over Manhattan just a half hour ago. The constant vigilance of Homeland Security will continue monitoring the possibility that this was a thwarted terrorist attack."
"It's El Kay-der!" an intoxicated patron at the back of the bar shouted a mispronunciation. "Those goddamned sons of bitches! That damned Bin Lard-ass is always out to get those Yankee motherfuckers!"
The male friend beside the drunk, clearly embarrassed by his friend's outburst, slugged him in the arm.
"I wouldn't want to be in New York tonight," the bar tender said. "Those people must be sleeping with one eye open. What time is it over there now any way?"
"About midnight," the man near Grace answered.
"They'll shut down the airports till they can figure out what's going on. All hell is breaking loose for them."
The lights of the bar became bright, flickered then dimmed again.
"What the hell?" the bar tender exclaimed. "Looks like I'll have to call in an electrician. I don't need a fire catastrophe on this coast."
Grace reached into her purse and counted out the cash for her bill.
"Where're you heading, if you don't mind my asking?" the bar tender threw out one last attempt at conversation with her.
"Into the hellmouth," she replied. "LaGuardia."
Then she was gone.
"What the hell?!" shrieked Elle, slamming on the Versa's brakes to bring the car to a screeching halt.
"Don't stop," the man in her backseat hoarsely instructed, emphasised by an elongated honk from the car behind them.
Instinctively, she accelerated but could not keep her eyes completely off the rear passenger.
"What the fuck is going on?!" she demanded with tremor in her voice and hands, so shocked that she couldn't react any other way.
"I don't know," the man admitted, a hand streaked with ash held up to his throat which clearly bothered him. "I woke up and here I am. Pull over onto one of these cross streets."
Without further question, she did as he requested and parallel parked the car at the end of a row alongside a small community park. Safely off the road, she whirled around to face the stranger who himself appeared bewildered at the pending situation. Shaky and terrified, she backed up farther against the steering wheel and assaulted him with her verbal demand once again.
"Who the hell are you?!" she ordered him to tell. "What's going on?! Give me answers, damn you!"
"I don't have any to give," he insisted, his eyes large and doe-like.
The hand at his throat raised to his head as if it were pounding. Maybe it was; Elle didn't know how it felt to miraculously recuperate from being a burnt shell of a human being.
"Are you some goddamned Criss Angel or something?" she pursued. "Because, I must admit, that was one hell of a spectacular magic trick you've just pulled off!"
"I could be Criss Angel. I guess." But he saw her shake her head, indicating that she knew who Criss Angel was and he was not him. He retracted the statement by confessing, "I don't know who I am. I can't remember anything except intense pain and waking up on the beach with you. What happened?"
She gaped at the man in pure amazement for a few seconds and noticed how handsome he was beneath the dusting of ash and soot. He was thin and small of stature, his facial features were model pretty with a finely chiselled jaw, high cheekbones, and full lips. Yet his best feature was his eyes: large, hazel, dewy and doe-like, shadowed by thick low set brows. Losing herself in those eyes, she didn't notice as he grew self conscious of his nakedness and wrapped the blanket tighter around his wiry body which prompted her to divert her stare, taking a moment to gather herself and think of what to tell him.
"What happened. Right. I was walking along the beach," she started, recalling vividly, "and it started getting hotter. Something was in the sky, like a falling star, heading straight for the beach. It crashed and I ran to see what it was. There you were, as crisp as Cajun chicken and… You must've been on the beach already. You probably couldn't get out of the way fast enough. It must've hit you. Or hit close enough to you." She narrowed her eyes to slits and added, "That doesn't explain how you…rose from the dead."
Now he looked afraid and dumbfounded.
"You had to be! You were so badly burned there was nothing left of you. I was shocked that you were still alive…I don't know how you could be alive. You just started breathing. It's a miracle. Are you in pain?"
"Unfortunately, yes. A hell of a lot. It's like I'm being torn apart and put back together. But I suppose that's exactly what happened to me. My throat…"
As if on cue, his voice agonisingly died in his throat and he brought his hand up to cover his Adam's apple as his otherwise handsome face was marred with a grimace.
"Do you still need to go to the hospital?" she asked. "I think you should. I mean, maybe you should just to make sure you don't have any internal damage."
He waved off the suggestion with a motion of his hand and a shake of his head then after the pain subsided enough, retorted, "If I healed the way you said I did then I think I healed the same way internally. Besides, I don't think it's a good idea if I went to the hospital or to the police either. I'd have a lot of explaining to do and I'd probably end up as somebody's science experiment."
"Maybe you're already somebody's science experiment and you escaped." She smiled and he returned the gesture. "I suppose you would end up as one if you already weren't. But we can lie. We can say you fell and got hurt."
"I don't think I need to go at all, thanks. I think I'm fine." Another pain must've coursed through his head because he winced and brought his hand to his forehead again. "I just hurt so much."
"I have something you can take," she said. "Hold on."
Rummaging through the handbag she'd discarded in the passenger seat next to her until she found a small travel container of Advil, she spilt two capsules into her palm which she handed to him. To her disgust, he swallowed before she could offer him water from a bottle in the front cup holder. She gave it to him any way and he gluttonously finished it.
"I'm sorry," he apologized with a slightly improved, less raspy voice as he handed back the empty container. "I was thirsty. My throat hurt."
"That's OK, I have plenty more."
"Can I have another?" he asked sheepishly. "Please?"
"Of course. Wait here and I'll get some."
She got out of the car and he watched as she opened the trunk then a few seconds later returned with a trio of unopened water bottles in the crook of her arm. She handed him two and replaced the empty one with the third in the cup holder. He readily cracked open one of the bottles and in a single breath finished it off as well.
"Feels much better," he sighed. "Thanks."
He huddled deeper into the blanket, shivering.
"Are you cold?" she inquired.
"I'm just feeling…naked."
"Well, you are naked. I can get clothes from my brother for you. You look about his size except a little shorter…and…skinnier..." She paused, looking at him in an irresolute way that reflected her thoughts of if she should actually be aiding him or not. "He works the nightshift so he won't be home right now but I have a key."
"I would appreciate it." His face twisted in wonder then he asked, "I'm sorry, did you tell me your name? I can't give you mine but I'd like to know yours."
"Elle. Short for Eleanor." She uttered the full version of her name as if it were bile on her tongue. "I hate it: Eleanor. Sounds like an old lady name."
"Elle." He gave her a sweet, thoughtful smile. "I like it."
"Maybe we should give you one."
He laughed a little but briefly choked, his eyes tearing as he fought to regain control.
"What do you think it might be?" he asked in a gasp.
She shrugged. "I don't know. You look like a Dave."
His expression was priceless.
"Dave? I look like a Dave?"
"Everyone looks like a Dave. It's an unassuming, generic name."
"I suppose you're right. Dave it is, then." He peered out the rear window, an aura of nervousness enveloping him. "Maybe we should leave before we attract attention. We do look conspicuous sitting here, me naked."
It was her turn to laugh.
"Yeah, you're right. I don't need prostitution charges against me. Although I wonder who they would think the prostitute is."
He returned her laugh with a mischievous half-smile.
"I don't think it would look good on either of us," he admitted. "It doesn't help that I don't know who I am yet. I could be important or well-known."
"Wow. You don't even know your name and you've already got some ego."
He guessed by her tone that she was teasing so he laughed and dropped his head with humility, locks of his dark hair falling across his eyes.
"I somehow don't think I'm egotistical," he said. "I don't feel like I am."
"I call your bluff on that."
"My bluff? Or is it the fact that I'm in the buff and not in particularly bad shape?"
"There's that ego again and we've known each other for what? A total of thirty minutes?"
"If I was egotistical, I wouldn't be trying to hide inside this blanket, would I?"
"No, I suppose you wouldn't be. Tell you what. We'll go to Alex's apartment and talk there. I think we both can use a good cup of joe."
Raising his head, he brushed the dark tresses back from his face.
"That's coffee, right?" he asked meekly.
Turning around to face forward, she turned the key in the ignition and they were off.
Claire Bennet felt hollow inside when her dad Noah Bennet led her away from the chaotic scene of Kirby Plaza earlier that night. Throat too tight to spill a tear, she glanced mournfully over her shoulder, hoping desperately that Peter and her estranged father Nathan would either reappear or emerge from the dark street with bright smiles and proclamations that it was all a cruel prank.
But she knew it wasn't going to happen and the hurt swelled worse. Peter was not cruel and Nathan was not a comic. In one fell swoop she lost everything she had just recently gained. The uncle who selflessly rescued her from prophesied death before they so much as knew each other; an uncle with an innate desire to help others and possessed a heart of gold that was rare in today's world. The biological father with whom she'd just reunited, who she never truly had the opportunity to get to know; a father who at first was self-absorbed and careless but who chose to sacrifice himself so that his brother wouldn't have to bear the guilt of unintentionally murdering millions. While so many were saved, Claire was the one person who walked away with the greatest loss.
I should've stayed! she bashed herself as she lay in her bed back at the hotel she begged her dad to get for the night. Compelled to stay in Manhattan a while longer, she believed it insensitive to depart after the catastrophe that befell her biological family tonight. It was doubtful that Nathan would survive the explosion but the restorative power which Peter stole from her would allow her uncle to live. What if he needed her? Her dad insisted that if either of the Petrelli brothers survived there was still nothing she could do but that did not quell her culpable feelings of abandonment of the Petrelli brothers.
I can still be there for them, like I should be!
But she wasn't there for them; at least not in the way she wanted to be. Reluctant to leave Kirby Plaza, she'd absently allowed her dad to escort her away. Dead or alive, Peter and Nathan had to fall somewhere and Peter would most certainly regenerate wherever he ended up. He would need help, someone to care for him. No-one knew as she did how tormented and vulnerable her uncle would be and her heart broke that he would endure the torture of regeneration alone. It was as if she herself was experiencing that affliction right now, sending shudders through her body at the thought of Peter being critically wounded and alone.
That convinced her. Nestling further into the blankets, she finally released her tears, flinching when an errant sob was expelled louder than she expected. Peeking over the edge of the bed clothes, she saw her dad still asleep fitfully in the next bed over. His back was turned to her, his breathing still even so she took comfort with the discovery that he was deaf to her crying.
I love you, dad, but I lost something equally precious tonight!
Smearing her tears away with the back of her hand, she sat up, eyes fixated on the sleeping man. Torn between her daughterly duties for two families, she weighed the options: go back home to Odessa, Texas with Noah Bennet and endeavour to continue life as it always had been or stay and help Angela Petrelli search for her lost sons.
Life in Odessa would never again be what it once was. Normal was no longer a luxury for her or the Bennets. All of the proceedings that led up to this night's events removed her from reality and launched her into an impossible dream, a dream which was lived by Noah Bennet but shared with the Petrellis. It was Peter who protected her from eminent death, Peter who guided her and taught her what little he knew of their powers, their destinies. They were soul mates of sorts who shared an infrangible bond, she and the young nurse, and the deliberation that he was in dire consequences shattered her. Was it possible for one half of a whole to survive without the other? If something terrible happened to Peter, she would find out the hard way.
Whether anyone else liked it or not, she was a part of the Petrelli clan and she owed them loyalty as well, particularly Peter. He was the one who deserved her allegiance more than anyone else. Leaving him to fend for himself when he was defenceless and weak was unthinkable. He died for her once in Odessa. He died for her again tonight. The least she could do was stay. Dad wouldn't agree with that, she realised, and it frustrated her. She understood Noah Bennet's point of view; she just wished that her comprehension was reciprocated.
What am I supposed to do?
There was no contest as to who needed her the most at the moment. Taking another glance at her dad, she carefully slipped out of bed and made her choice.
Elle's brother Alex lived in an apartment complex somewhere in Sheepshead Bay and during their ride Elle occupied herself with singing along to a song by an artist named Fergie, something that sounded familiar to the young man Elle named Dave. He knew he heard that song before, that someone he knew liked it, but who that person was he had no clue. When he searched his blank mind all he could remember was waking up on the beach with Elle maniacally backing away from him. The harder he tried to remember the more difficult it became to stave off the recurring headache. The one thing that carried a blessing was that now his body was enigmatically healed the misery of regeneration left him.
Maybe he should just stop trying to remember so hard, he considered. He was certain that once in his life someone told him that the harder you tried to hold onto something the easier it was for it to slip away. If he stopped trying then maybe he would manage to regain at least a fraction of his lost memory. A name would due for now, as he was not particularly fond of being called Dave. It was too common for him; he knew that his name definitely was not Dave because something innate within him knew he was an uncommon man in an unexplainable way.
"He's on the third floor and the steps up are pretty narrow so you'll wanna watch your step, Dave," Elle suggested as they exited the car which she parked across the street from the building.
He responded with a nod and tracked behind her to the darkened building. Everything around him piqued his interest as he wondered whether or not he'd been there before or had seen this particular thing numerous times previously. Inchoate like a newborn with the awareness of an adult, he designated Elle as his dependable guide, for without her he had the sinking feeling that he would be in terrible trouble.
"Shhh!" the girl advised as she unlocked and opened the front door, ushering him inside first.
Though neither of them made a sound, the heavy security door shut behind them with a loud clunk that echoed in the empty antiseptic hallway. Dave flinched then ascended the stairs Elle was already half way up.
The apartment they stopped outside of was 4C and Elle made such a racket fumbling with the keys that Dave flinched, fraught by the fact that he'd been completely nude beneath the shielding blanket this entire time. She cursed under her breath when she got the wrong key; his eyes roamed the stark white hallway, scanning the rows of other closed doors on the level, praying that nobody was snooping. He wondered who lived behind each door, what they looked like, how their lives were, if there was a chance that he was included in their number and, most importantly, who was the one who'd left the pungent odour of atrocious cooking lingering in staleness throughout the hall.
At last Elle managed to open the door and she vanished inside to snap on a lamp. Beckoning him in, she disappeared into the depths of the apartment as he timidly stepped inside. He was uncomfortable being there while the resident was not at home despite the fact that he was accompanied by the man's sister. It felt wrong. Acquiescing that he had no real choice in the matter, he carefully shut the door behind him.
"Where are you?" he asked.
"In the kitchen!" she called back.
He ventured farther inside, noticing a light towards the back. Using it as a beacon, he made his way through the sparse apartment filled with ratty, second-hand furniture and into the tiny kitchen in the back. Elle was filling a tea kettle with water from the tap and she gestured for him to sit at the flimsy Formica table in one of the white plastic chairs tucked haphazardly beneath it. He sat and watched as she placed the tea kettle on the stove, turned on the burner then sat across from him.
"Y'know, Dave," she started, "I was thinking about who you might be."
"That makes two of us."
"You're hot. A real pretty boy. Maybe you're a model. Maybe you were out there hanging out on the beach, working on your tan…"
"Good point. Maybe you were smoking some pot and that's why you didn't see it coming. Maybe you thought it was a falling star and tried to make a wish or something."
The brunette male flashed her an incredulous look.
"I don't smoke," he responded curtly.
"Oh. Are you sure?"
"I'd be wanting a cigarette by now if I did, wouldn't I?"
"If ever there was a time for one I guess this would be it. Sorry if I offended you; it was a lame attempt at being funny. I was being serious about the modelling thing though. I mean, look at you."
"I'm not pretty."
She chuffed at his ignorance.
"Have you looked at yourself in a mirror?"
"Would I be egotistical if I did?"
Elle's expression proved that she wasn't certain whether or not he was being sarcastic or teasing her about the earlier remark. He smiled at her with mirth dancing in his puppyish eyes and she relaxed.
"See for yourself," she urged.
Grabbing the metallic silver toaster from the counter, she held the appliance up so he could see his comely reflection. He stared at his ashy, dirty face for a minute or two, soaking in his appearance and hoping that he could read a clue to his identity in his fine facial features. She probably thought him vain but all he wanted was answers, answers which still eluded him. Finally he shook his head and sat the toaster on the table.
"No," he said, "I'm not a model."
"Are you sure?" she asked, sliding the toaster back onto the counter.
"I just don't feel like one. I feel more important than that. Like I had a greater purpose in my life. I was somebody, Elle. I just don't know who it was."
"We're all somebody, Dave. You just forgot who you are."
But I'm not just anybody! I know I'm different! he wanted to tell her but bit his tongue to not impulsively spill it. I can feel it in the marrow of my bones!
His thoughts were disrupted by the whistle of the tea kettle piercing the room. Elle immediately shut off the burner then began to prepare their coffee.
"Alex doesn't make a lot of money," she explained, stirring the water into two mugs. "He can only afford cheapie instant crap."
"I'm not picky," he told her. "At least I don't think I am. I'm willing to try anything."
A steaming mug of hot instant coffee was placed before him and he simply stared at it as if afraid of it. Elle blew into her mug then sipped. He imitated her and found the rather sweet goop surprisingly favourable to his palate.
"It's good," he told her.
"No it's not, you can be honest. Personally I like real coffee brewed in a coffee maker, not this freeze-dried shit but beggars can't be choosers, can they?"
"No, I suppose not. But it'll due."
"Since you have no inkling of who you are, that means you also don't know where you come from either."
"Not one clue."
"You'll need a place to sleep. I would let you stay here but I think things would be awkward when Alex comes home. I would let you come back to my place but my roommate is a jealous skank and she'd be upset that I'm with a hottie. Hmm. Poor Amber. Guess she'll just have to live with it."
"If I'm going to be a nuisance for you I'll just stay…someplace else."
"Where? Park bench? Back on the beach? I don't think so. It's a dangerous world out there, even for men. Especially men with amnesia."
"I just don't want to cause any trouble."
"Consider making Amber jealous a payment."
"If she's a problem why don't you kick her out?"
Elle sighed doggedly.
"Ever try to make rent on your own around here? Probably have, but… Well, it's impossible. That's why Alex is living in this dump. And try to get another roommate? Just as difficult. Amber pays her rent faithfully on time. Can't get any better than that in a roommate."
"I'll owe you."
"No you don't. Trust me when I tell you that Amber's reaction will be enough."
"Umm, Elle? I don't mean to be a nag or anything, but I'm still naked."
Elle, who'd grown used to seeing him in his undressed state and was oblivious of his most immediate needs, looked as if the answer to a troublesome equation came to her out of the blue.
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "Yeah, clothes!"
She leapt from her chair and disappeared again. He sat alone, staring at the grimy hand he had wrapped around the mug and realised another issue. Sounds of Elle rummaging in closets and drawers somewhere ended abruptly before she returned with an assembly of clothing in her arms.
"Here ya go, Dave."
"Thanks. I need to shower too."
"Sure. Follow me."
She took him into a matchbox sized bathroom, reached up towards the ceiling to pull a string that snapped on the bare bulb overhead then placed the pile of clothes on the edge of the sink.
"You remember how to shower, don't you?" she questioned and he knew her ulterior motive for asking.
He gave a crooked smile that made him appear even more boyish and replied, "I think I can manage on my own, thanks."
"Can't blame a girl for trying. If you need me give a shout. Especially if it's for washing those hard-to-reach spots."
"Yeah, I'll do that. Thanks."
She left the room and he shut the door behind her. Dropping the blanket, he considered locking the door but decided against it in case his gracious host was insulted. Some trust needed to be shown and if she honestly was out to molest him she had plenty of previous opportunity to do so.
Turning on the water for the shower, he adjusted it before stepping in and, lathering up with the bar in the nook in the wall, wondered where this body acquired the ability to mend the way Elle said it did. It was an extraordinary accomplishment for a simple man named Dave. What else had this thin, wiry but lithe body capable of? His muscles were hard and sinewy despite the fact that he was a small person, his grip strong, his stomach taut. At the very least he was in excellent physical condition.
Regardless of the glorious sensation the water rained down over him, he was impatient to rejoin Elle in the kitchen before his much desired coffee became cold. He cleansed himself of the ash and soot, and quickly washed his hair before turning off the water and stepping back out. The room was sauna quality so he cracked open the door slightly to release some of the steam while he dressed in the white T-shirt and blue Bermuda shorts that were provided for him. On a whim, he wiped the condensation from the mirror with the palm of his hand, towelled his hair dry then stared long at his reflection for a second time that night.
Doing so was such a strange experience for his face was something he should've recognized. It was his own, after all, and he should've known it better than anyone else. Yet it was alien to him, as foreign as the name Dave sounded. If eyes were the mirrors to the soul then he was in deep shit because his weren't betraying any pertinent information. He moved closer to the mirror, searching his eyes deeper still, probing for something, anything…
"Yes!" a euphoric cry back in the kitchen shouted, startling him.
He rushed from the bathroom and returned to the kitchen where Elle was rising out of her chair.
"What's wrong?!" he asked, his eyes wide and roaming the room for signs of trouble.
"Not a damn thing, Dave! I forgot the best thing about living in a Russian community…" She reached inside the cabinet beneath the sink, stretched for something inside and placed a large bottle of imported vodka on the table between them. "…is they are renowned for their excellent vodka."
Dave smiled with relief as Elle poured a generous amount of the alcohol into her coffee. When she leaned over to add some to his he shook his head, he placed a newly cleaned hand over the top of the mug.
"No thanks," he said. "I think that under my given circumstances I need to keep a clear head."
"Fair enough," she conceded. "Wow. You cleaned up very well."
"Thanks." He blushed a little.
"Why don't you turn on the TV? Maybe there'll be some information as to who you are."
"Why didn't we think of that before?"
She shrugged, retorting, "We were a bit distracted. It isn't every day that some guy is resurrected from the dead."
"I suppose you're right."
Dave left the kitchen to stroll into the dark lounge where he snapped on the television. Checking to make sure he wasn't paying attention, Elle dumped a considerably large splash of vodka into his coffee then took both of their mugs and joined him in the other room.
"Thanks," he said, taking the mug from her.
As they sat together on the sofa, their eyes were focused on the television which was only a small thirteen-incher but it sufficed for their needs. As expected, a special report was broadcasting.
"…witnesses saw something falling from the sky but there was no debris found at the location where it came crashing down. The only thing that they saw on the scene was a young woman fleeing with a body barely recognizable as human."
The reporter's camera time was cut to show a young man Elle identified as Tommy.
"She said her boyfriend was hurt and needed to go the hospital," the young man was telling the camera. "But he looked dead. He was burned up like he was set on fire or somethin'. She said he couldn't move out of the way and whatever fell hit him. Looked like charcoal, man."
Dave gulped his coffee, held the liquor-laced drink in his mouth and turned to Elle with a scowl but decidedly swallowed it any way. The young woman was too engrossed with the news report to enjoy the results of her sneakiness.
"Police would like to question this young woman," the reporter continued. "She and the wounded boyfriend may have vital information as to what it was that actually happened out here on Brighton Beach. They are searching for a young woman in her early to mid-twenties, five foot six with blond shoulder length hair…"
A composite of Elle's face flashed across the screen and the young woman cursed. Dave forgot his ruined coffee.
"I guess it wouldn't be a good idea to go back to my place after all," she muttered, deflection in her voice.
"Does anybody know where this place is?"
Elle shook her head.
"No, thank god. Not even Amber. All she knows is that it's around here somewhere but she's never been here, thank god. Looks like we'll be staying for the night after all."
Without asking, she reached over, took Dave's cup and poured the rest of his coffee into her almost empty one.
"Sorry about that, Dave," she amended, still not looking at him.
"It's OK, I didn't want it any way."
"The incident on Brighton Beach wasn't the only strange thing that occurred tonight," the male anchor imparted. "A foiled attempted murder in Kirby Plaza that had been witnessed by several leaves behind the would-be assailant's body who police say was killed with a sword…"
"A sword?" he repeated. "What's this world coming to?"
"It's a sick world, Dave. He got his justice."
He yawned without warning and she cocked her eye brow at him.
"Getting sleepy there?" she asked.
"A little. I've had enough of this day and I don't even know what happened during it."
"It might not be a good idea for you to sleep. You could have a concussion. We don't know what happened to you. If you were on the beach and that thing fell on top of you then you could have some sort of head injury we're unaware of."
"I think I'm fine."
"How do you know?"
"If I was injured as badly as you say I was but healed then a concussion would've healed with no trouble."
"I suppose you're right. Well, sleeping arrangements are going to be reversed. Since I can't leave a total stranger sleeping out here in the open on the couch for my brother to come home and attack, then you'll have to take the bed. I'll sleep out here on the couch so that I'm the first thing Alex sees when he comes home."
"No," Dave insisted. "I can't do that to you. Not after all you've done for me."
"Sorry, Dave, I don't sleep with men I've just met. Especially hot, creepy ones." She sighed playful resignation when she noticed he wasn't consenting then said, "Fine. Then there's only one other solution. You sleep above the covers."
He nodded. "Agreed."
"I'll get you a blanket from the linen closet."
The couple rose from the couch, leaving behind the vodka-laced coffee and turned off the television. They'd found out all that was necessary and then some before he followed her to the bedroom. Here she didn't bother turning on a light because the street lamp outside provided enough striped bars of illumination through the opened blinds. He stood in place near one side of the bed as she rummaged through the closet to find a suitable blanket for him.
"Here ya go," was all she said in warning before tossing one over at him.
The blanket covered his head before he could catch it, making her chuckle.
"Thanks," he said flatly, pulling the blanket off his head, his long bangs falling into his eyes.
"Sorry," she laughed, sliding into the bed.
Dave swept his hair back from his face with his hand and unfurled the donated blanket then waited until Elle settled before lying down himself.
"Night," Elle muttered.
"Good night," he returned softly then, finally at peace, fell asleep straight away.