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Spoilers: up to 2.08 Four Months Ago

Thanks to: Kathy for beta-reading.


Penance

I.

Peter is a trained nurse. He has attended burned victims before; usually dying ones. If by some miracle Nathan survives, his brother won't ever be able to walk again, to move at all beyond minimal motor functions. Depending on how much of his lung is gone, he won't be able to speak at all or only with great effort, a few phrases. He won't be able to eat or drink, taste anything ever again, will only be kept alive through the wonders of modern technology. He'll barely be coherent, if he reaches consciousness at all, because the sedatives will have to be strong enough to dampen the pain that otherwise would drive what's left of his body to shut down entirely, technology or no technology.

The voice beyond the wall doesn't get it. Being locked up forever is what Peter wants, though it isn't nearly enough punishment for this. Nor are daily electroshocks. The drugs might reduce his powers to a minimum level, but he still heals. Whatever Elle does to him never lasts. Still, it's something to look forward to.

Sometimes he wonders if he could make her unleash her power completely. That would reduce him to a burnt cinder. It would probably not kill him, but the drugs do a good job, so it could take weeks for him to come back from that. He could feel a little of what Nathan must be feeling every second of every minute of every day. And it shouldn't be that hard. She's like an unstable mass waiting to go critical herself, Elle, and Peter is good at making people do things if he really wants to.

In the end, he doesn't. Because Elle might be many things, but as far as he knows, she's not a killer. Peter won't make her one.

He's done enough damage already.

II.

Having a brother more than a decade older meant there was always the threat of losing him. First to college, then to the navy, then to law school and his career. They weren't ever at the same stage of their lives; Peter had this image of Nathan ahead, nearly vanishing in the distance, which probably came from an actual memory, some walk during his childhood. So he came up with a method to counter the threat early on, too. He was a Petrelli, after all. In that image, that memory, Peter stops running after Nathan, falls and cries out, and Nathan turns back and comes to him. It became a template, of sorts.

When Peter started to dream about flying, about flying and Nathan, he thought this would change things. When Nathan flew up and caught him, he knew it would. Because this wasn't college, or the navy, or law school, or Nathan's career; this wasn't nursing and St. Vincent's, either. This wouldn't divide them, this wasn't something taking Nathan away, or something Peter felt he needed to do to justify that privileged, sheltered existence in the world while everyone suffered. This could be theirs. They were, at last, equal in this, and even better yet, it would mean all the other threats and divisions, especially the barriers that had come with Dad's death and Nathan starting his campaign, would never matter again.

Nathan refused to see it, at first. Nathan kept arguing and acting like Peter's discovery of the amazing gift fate gave them was just a plot to destroy his career, and though Peter thought that was just Nathan being a dick at the time, he came to wonder, later, whether it wasn't true, at least in parts. Because when it came down to it, Peter didn't see Nathan's career as anything but an obstacle.

Flying together, on the other hand: that was their destiny.

III.

Shortly after Peter has told him his name and has been told Adam's in return, Adam of the precise, English-accented voice starts to volunteer other tidbits of information. He claims to be old, centuries old. Once upon a time, the wonder of it would have delighted Peter: he'd have started to question Adam about every single epoch he could think of, and which movies came close to recreating them, and how things tasted that have vanished from the Earth since.

Now, his first reaction is to wonder about Claire. He imagines Claire having to watch everyone else die around her, starting with her family, and can't think of a worse fate. Suddenly he hopes that all of Adam's claims aren't justified, that these people here really will develop a cure, or that Adam simply is messing with his mind because he's bored, and there is no such thing as immortality.

He doesn't wonder about himself. If Sylar has proven one thing, then that a glass shard will do the trick. If Peter won't age, if it turns out there is such a thing as immortality for him, well. The glass they use here is the kind supposed to withstand bullets, but nobody said anything about electricity, and he has been around Elle long enough to have absorbed her power, even in this state.

But he can't die as long as Nathan is still alive. Which Bob and Elle insist he is, and even Adam doesn't dispute that, doesn't claim they're lying and that Nathan died long ago. Nathan is alive. Lately, Peter finds himself bargaining in his dreams. He doesn't dream of the truth, of managing to push Nathan away at the last moment and then coming back, catching him just before Nathan hit the water. No, he dreams his old vision, Nathan telling him "I won't leave you", Nathan burning entirely right then and there. Which is not what happened. If visions of the future can lie or mislead, then reality as experienced can, too. Maybe there is hope. Maybe he was wrong about the extent of Nathan's injuries.

And maybe he wasn't, and maybe his brother is screaming inside and hopes someone will kill him.

Either way, Peter cannot die yet. Taking the drugs Elle brings, he imagines the morphine injected in Nathan's veins, and when he breathes, it's for both them.

IV.

Claude was Peter's attempt to fix things once he had figured out the full horror of what was waiting. Granted, Claude behaved like some leftover from a film noir if he wasn't acting like Qui-Gon Jinn on acid, but he did offer some hope, because Peter could feel things changing; he was starting to get a grip at least on some of the things he absorbed.

Then Claire's father from Texas showed up with tranquilizer guns. Looking back, later, Peter wondered whether escaping was the worst mistake he ever made. Because if he and Claude i had /i been captured that night, he'd have ended up drugged in a safe cell a hell of a lot sooner, and Nathan would be in Washington, DC. Granted, Claude would be imprisoned, too, or maybe even dead, but the not so pretty truth was that Peter would be more than willing to trade Claude's freedom or life for Nathan. Which probably meant Claude was right to get out of Dodge, post haste.

That escape was the only time Peter flew after having it out with Nathan on the roof, weeks earlier, and before the explosion. He had dreamt about flying so often, had wanted it so much and had been happier than most other times when he found himself in the air, floating a few feet above the roof. But he still shied away from doing it on his own, even after the flight from the Company men proved to him he could. It felt wrong. Claude used to ridicule him about waiting for Nathan's permission, but it wasn't really that. He was waiting, though. Flying together, flying to save the world. It had to happen, Peter was convinced of it. It was their destiny.

V.

What Elle tells him about her background makes sense; Peter has expected something like that. She's Alice who never made it out of Wonderland but became the new Queen of Hearts instead, dressed up in model clothes that look like they are ordered from an internet catalogue but behaving like a child. Overexposed like an x-ray, Peter thinks, and can't remember where the phrase comes from.

Elle doesn't talk to Adam, which means she's either forbidden to or genuinely doesn't want to. Which means their voices never overlap for Peter; Adam's is a soft calm series of statements just beyond reach, Elle's is always rising in questions and jolting, like her power. He has an inner catalogue of the various degrees of electroshock now; it's something to pass away the time. Time is something he notices again, which probably means he should ask Elle for a higher dosage of drugs. Or not.

At this point, Bob refusing to let him out even for a few hours isn't a surprise anymore. Adam offering his blood to heal Nathan is. Because that means Adam has known this is a possibility all this time, and there has to be a reason why he hasn't brought it up earlier. The thing is, Peter doesn't care. If what Adam says is true, Nathan can be saved. If not, things can hardly get worse.

Except for Elle, maybe. There are three prisoners in this block, and though Elle is the one with the keys, she's the one who'll never, ever be able to be free. There is a part of him that feels sorry for her, and maybe that's one reason why he kisses her. Mostly, though, he wants one last measure of punishment. Miracles have to be paid for, Peter knows that now, and this time, he's determined to pay his miracle for Nathan in full.

The lightning springs out of her lips and into his throat, and for a moment, he's back in the air again, all that lethal energy inside lashing out, except that now, he can turn it away from Nathan and into himself.

Without realising it, he smiles.