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Spoilers: Up to 2.11, Powerless.


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I.

It wasn't the first crime scene Matt ever saw, but it remains the one he remembers best: the Walker residence, Mrs Walker's body hanging along the stairway banister, stabbed with utensils and other metal objects, her head cut open. James Walker sitting at the table, frozen solid, the top of his skull removed as well. And all the time, Molly's voice in his head, crying out.

Wen he goes up against Sylar at Kirby Plaza, despite knowing he doesn't have a chance against a man with multiple superpowers, it is that image that drove him.

"You could have died," Mohinder says later, when they start getting to know each other while Matt is recovering from four bullets and Molly insists on visiting him every day in the hospital.

"I'm a cop," Matt replies. Speaking is difficult at this point, but he gets the words out anyway.

Mohinder nods, and maybe he gets it and maybe he doesn't; Matt is too exhausted to read his thoughts.

Janice gets it. It's one of the reasons why she finally decides on divorce.

II.

After nearly getting strangled by Nathan Petrelli before Matt succeeds in freeing them both of his father's illusions, they find themselves sitting at a bar at the airport while waiting for their flight back to New York. This time, Matt doesn't ask Nathan to use his ability. He wouldn't trust either of them to drive a car right now, and nobody needs a superpower for that.

"You know what the worst thing is?" Matt asks bitterly. "I mean, Molly told me he was the Nightmare Man, but I still thought – I had this stupid fantasy. Coming here, saving his life from the killer. Guess that's why he was able to con me. He knew that. I was so angry at him, but I still had this image – look, Dad, I'm a cop. Let me save you. Pathetic."

Nathan doesn't reply immediately, but he's not ignoring Matt, either. He's looking at Matt, and there's a memory pushing out of him, an image of Angela Petrelli asking "Can you be the one we need?"

"He's good," Nathan says abruptly, and the memory disappears. "I've crossexamined both conmen and killers, Parkman, and I had no reason to believe anything he said, but he still made me wonder."

It's said in a matter-of-fact tone and comes with no intention of comfort, just as a statement of fact, which paradoxically helps. Matt turns the glass in his hand around, but he doesn't drink. He had known Nathan was a lawyer, of course – it had been mentioned back when they first met each other, when the older Petrelli came to retrieve his brother from custody in Odessa – but he had assumed that meant private practice, some rich lawfirm, not the District Attorney's office.

"Did you get them convicted?" he asks. "Those conmen and killers?"

"Most of them."

"And if you didn't?"

"Then I put a really good spin on it for the press release," Nathan says wryly, all detached cynism, but the hand holding his own glass is still trembling a bit, and though Matt doesn't intend to, he gets flashes of memories from the other man yet again; getting into Nathan's mind to end the nightmare probably left some echoes. This time, it's from some conversation with two guys that have FBI written all over them, about Linderman, and intermingled are images of Peter Petrelli literally materializing out of thin air, blood splattered on his face.

"No chances of a spin here," Matt says in the same matter-of-fact tone Nathan had employed earlier, and finally lets that whiskey burn his mouth, "so I guess that means we'll have to catch our bad guy."

"Guess it does," Nathan replies, and the silence they lapse into fills with a quiet sense of certainty.

III.

Shortly after Matt passes his detective exam, he's accosted by some freelance reporter who seems to be convinced that Sylar is the next Zodiac and even has a website devoted to the guy. He wants to interview Molly. Matt does what he can to keep his temper, but it's hard. When the reporter starts to babble about public interest, Matt loses it.

"You people make me sick," he says. "Know why serial killers have so many groupies these days? Because you turn them into some kind of icons. You make being a serial killer look like a cool career path. You want to know what Sylar is? A sick fuck. That's it. You get anywhere near Molly, and I'll file a restraining order."

"What about Isaac Mendez?" the reporter asks, smoothly switching tracks. "Wasn't he Sylar's last known victim?"

Matt doesn't say anything.

"Surely, that's a legitimate question, Detective."

"Yes, he was. In addition to getting his skull removed, he was crucified. And left to rot for several days. If you really want to do research, try visiting the morgue to check out how a body like that smells. And suggest that to your readers as well, the next time they want to get a kick out a serial killer."

"Well, if the police had done their work," the reporter says acidly, "he'd have been stopped early in his rampage and never become famous to begin with. Ever thought about that, Detective?"

IV.

Finding Victoria Pratt at the exact location he has forced out of Angela Petrelli comes with the sickening realisation of being too late, yet again. He looks at the dead body, the expression of determination and anger on the woman's face, her sightless eyes, and thinks that he should have forced Angela to tell him earlier. Maybe that does make him as bad as his father, and maybe it doesn't, but it would have saved Victoria Pratt's life.

Matt calls in the locals, and forensics take fingerprints, which turn out to belong to two different people in addition to Victoria herself. One set of fingerprints is actually available via the FBI database, because it was taken in connection to a confirmed Sylar killing, in Odessa, Texas: Peter Petrelli. The other hasn't been identified yet.

"So this guy Petrelli showed up in Odessa just when that cheerleader was killed, had blood all over him, and you guys let him go?" the local sheriff asks in disbelief when finding Matt's name together with Audrey Hanson's in the original report.

"It wasn't her blood, it was his," Matt says wearily. "He's wasn't Sylar. Trust me on that."

He calls Nathan, who has just returned from Ireland and still is at Kennedy Airport. There's no diplomatic way to state "your brother is a suspect in a murder, and this time I think he was at least an accessory," so Matt doesn't try.

"What about the other set of fingerprints?" Nathan asks, voice cold.

"Not on record so far," Matt replies. "Not on police records anyway. But I think I know who could identify them." He lowers his voice, which is probably superfluous, given that there is no one nearby to overhear him. "Can you meet me at Hartsdale?"

Nathan agrees, and Matt switches off his mobile. Victoria Pratt's body is either still with forensics or already undergoing an autopsy. Her house is a crime scene. Outside, in her garden, he finds some plants just recently unearthed.

Show a little respect, hisses Angela Petrelli's voice in his memory. He's not sure that what he feels is respect as much as anger and guilt, but he kneels down to finish the job with the plants, nonetheless.

V.

At Hartsdale, they're told that Mr. Bishop isn't back from his trip to California yet. At this point, Matt has no compunction about forcing the Company personnel to let them in, but unfortunately, they're telling nothing but the truth. Bob really isn't there. Matt tells the grey-haired woman who appears to be in charge while Bob is gone he wants them to run the set of fingerprints he obtained through their computers, looking for a match, and he also tells her to let them into Bob's office, pushing in the same way he did with his boss and with Angela Petrelli. She obeys, and he tries to ignore the numb, sick feeling this leaves him with.

Nathan doesn't say anything. In fact, he so studiously avoids commenting that Matt turns towards him as soon as they're alone in Bob's office and says:

"I had to. We can't run in circles anymore."

"No kidding," Nathan says grimly, and starts to pull out one of the Adam Monroe files.

"You're not…"

"Listen," Nathan says, "I'm not good at being anyone's conscience. I want my brother back. And I'm sick of being played. You cut through the obfuscating bullshit by doing what you had to, that's fine by me." He hands over another of the files to Matt. "Now start reading, because time is really running out on us, and we need all the knowledge we get can get."

Matt wonders whether Nathan would react differently if he knew Matt used his newly discovered talent on Angela Petrelli as well, but he doesn't ask. Instead, he says:

"You'll have to read for both of us if it has to be fast. I've got dyslexia."

It feels so strange, saying it out loud. Through most of his life, there were few things Matt was more ashamed of. He failed his detective's exam in Los Angeles again and again but couldn't bring himself to admit why, and he didn't even tell Janice until two years after they were married.

There is nothing like nearly losing your adopted daughter to a nightmare and seeing blood on the fingertips of a woman who could be his mother, blood he put there, to give you some perspective.

"Right," Nathan says, not looking up, and starts reading.

VI.

Kaito Nakamura's body had been transferred to Japan after the autopsy was done, in an expensive coffin. Daniel Linderman's body was cremated in New York, at the expense of Angela Petrelli, who received the urn. Isaac Mendez was also cremated, but nobody bothered to claim the urn, as Matt found out after becoming a full-fledged member of the NYPD and doing some research. Mendez' parents were both dead, his emergency contact was a woman named Simone Deveaux who was reported missing, and after four months of disappearance also assumed to be dead, and the only other interest in the Mendez case came from types like the reporter with his Sylar website, who wanted crime scene photos, but couldn't care less about the remains. Meanwhile, prices for Mendez' paintings went through the roof.

Finally, shortly after the Nakamura murder, two guys do show up for the urn; the copy boy and the editor of Ninth Wonders, the comics scrip Mendez had worked for. They have looked for Isaac Mendez' burial place for months, until someone bothered to tell them there wasn't one. Matt helps them with the formalities, and in return, they give him some copies of Ninth Wonders. He has always liked comics; they allow him to understand a story, at least for the most part, without making him feel stupid. Before, Isaac Mendez was a name, one more victim of a serial killer who made Matt feel guilty because they hadn't managed to catch Sylar in time; now, staring at the pictures of some woman in a cat burglar costume, he feels a sudden, sharp sense of loss.

He gives the comics to Molly, who is excited and tells him she could find St. Joan for him, if he wants her to, and then they could all fight crime together.

"Cops can't work with vigilantes," Matt says because he can't bring himself to tell her that St. Joan doesn't exist.

VII.

The finger prints are Adam Monroe's. They have more or less expected this, but they still needed to be sure, and now they are. There is an immortal killer on the loose, and for some reason, the bewildered young man Matt remembers from the Odessa police station who back then just radiated exhaustion and the desire to help has become his sidekick. On top of that, Nathan says that Adam's file contains confirmation of what Bob told him; Adam had wanted to wipe out most of humanity, save for a select few.

"What now?" Matt asks. "We can't sit around until Bob comes back, and nobody else here seems to know where they keep the damm virus."

Nathan leans back his head for a moment and closes his eyes. It occurs to Matt that since Nathan came here straight from the airport after a transatlantic flight, he probably hasn't slept for at least a night and a day by now. Then Nathan opens his eyes again and looks at him.

"We'll ask my mother," he says. "After you ensure her release. Given that another victim turned up while she was in custody, that shouldn't be too difficult."

In fact, Matt has already started proceedings to get Angela Petrelli released, both because he knows she didn't kill Kaito Nakamura and because the memory of their last confrontation plagues him, no matter how justified he still thinks he was.

"Right," he says, hesitates and then asks because he has to: "Do you think that was how it started for them? Our parents?" Trying to do the right thing, he means; using any method available because not doing so means worse things would happen.

Nathan gets up from behind Bob's desk.

"We're not our parents," he replies. "Maybe we'll be better, maybe we'll be worse, I don't know. But I've spent nearly all my life being some mixture of my father and my mother, and then I saw my daughter throw herself out of the window to get away from me, and I knew I had to be someone else. So trust me, I know the difference." In passing, he touches Matt's shoulder. "You're not your father, either."

There is a lot Matt could say in reply, but there really isn't time. He catches the memory a heartbeat before Nathan verbalizes it, though, Claire Bennet whispering in Nathan's ear, "I already have a family" and the window crashing, and then something Nathan doesn't mention out loud, her voice from another time, saying "I know why you're doing this; I miss him, too". All tied up in a sense of regret and pride. Matt thinks about Molly, about Janice and the child which she said wasn't his but which could be nonetheless, and understands all too well.

"Your daughter is a hell of a girl," he says out loud, and forebears mentioning he knows this because he shot her once. "Let's go find your brother."

VIII

The first time Matt visited Odessa, Texas, he had a serial killer to catch, and failed miserably. The second time, he came to get some answers from the guy who had kidnapped him, and in the process ended up as prisoner again. You could say Odessa, Texas, isn't exactly his lucky place, and for a moment, when confronting an increasingly desperate and angry Peter Petrelli, it looks like he's going to have to shoot someone again, but then the tide turns. The virus gets duly destroyed, it looks like the teleporter guy who was Kaito Nakamura's son dealt with their immortal killer, and Nathan has his brother back. There is a voice in Matt that whispers they should quit while they're ahead, but revisiting the same Primatech facility where he was imprisoned reminds him just how much the Company, that other offspring of their parents' generation, has messed with his life, and with so many others. And it would continue to do so, if they did nothing. So when Nathan makes his suggestion, he's all on board.

Maybe he has seen one crime scene to many. Or maybe this, too, is what being a cop means: exposing the truth.

"You realize," he says to Nathan before leaving the brothers to themselves in order to talk to the Odessa police force, "this means you get to do both this time, a spin for the press and going after the bad guys?"

Nathan, who for the first time since Matt has known him is radiating pure, unadulterated happiness, catches the allusion to their talk in Philadelphia and grins.

"Guess it does, Detective Parkman, for both of us. Guess it does."