Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. I'm trying to power through the break. R/R if you think it's working.
Peter Petrelli is a child. He's heard this statement often enough. He thinks it started with his mother. She was always quick to point out his childishness, usually in front of his brother or his father. Nathan was always the "cool", adult brother. Peter sometimes thinks Nathan was blessed with all the testosterone while he just got whatever was left over. Nathan got to grow up and fly jet fighters for his country. All Peter got to do was become a nurse. Peter still feels like he's just waiting to grow up. He's twenty-seven but he doesn't feel any closer to adulthood than he did five years ago or ten years ago.
His friends in college, and later medical school, continued the jokes his mother unwittingly started. Peter guesses he just has that type of face, that type that makes him look about five to ten years younger than he actually is. Peter was always a kid, a skinny, longhaired, awkward kid with his head in the clouds who spent more time reading comic books and watching cartoons than worrying about "serious", mature things like the future or what it might hold. Peter's seen the future and, frankly, he hates it. He's just never been a big fan of the future and this was before he kept seeing ones that were the result of one apocalypse or another. Thinking about the future often leads Peter to thinking about death because ultimately death is in everyone's future. Death honestly scares Peter Petrelli. He was only half-right when he told Simone that death could be beautiful. He's seen a lot of death and sometimes it's not beautiful at all. Sometimes death is ugly and nasty. Sometimes Peter just wants to run away from it the same way he wants to run away from a lot of other things.
After he buried Nathan, Peter went into the future to find Caitlin. He was still a child who still believed he could save the whole world and everyone he cared about. He thought he could lose himself in this new, perfect future he had created by saving the present. He wanted Caitlin to take away the pain of his loss and the pain of living in such a miserable, wretched world. Peter found Caitlin alive and well in this new future but there was one problem. Like a careless child with a new toy, Peter had broken the space/time continuum and created some alternate timeline.
In this brave, new world, Caitlin was married to Peter Petrelli albeit a different version than the one she had known in Ireland, the one who had accidentally stranded her in the future to begin with. She was an artist while Future Peter was a doctor, a real one and not some half-ass hospice nurse. They even had a happy, little brood of children. It was quite possibly the most beautiful yet frightening thing Peter had ever seen in his life. There was no bomb, no virus, no impending catastrophe whatsoever. There was no need for him to play superhero. Future Peter's only concerns were grown-up concerns like going to work, raising his children, and growing old with his lovely wife. Peter had lost Caitlin, lost her to a different version of himself who was apparently far more adept at taking care of her needs than he ever would be. It made him want to scream so Peter ran back to the present and ran as far away from that future as he could. Peter believes there's more to his story than just growing old and being normal. There just has to be more to it than that.
Peter Petrelli has always been a child. He thinks maybe it's the reason he ran into Elle's arms and away from his dream life that was neither his dream nor really his to live. Elle is a child too, a lost and lonely girl that Peter believes he can save because he has to have someone to save. Peter childishly believes he's just like his favorite comic book heroes. After all, if he already has the superpowers then why shouldn't he have a beautiful damsel to rescue and protect? It's not that Peter wants to continue with these naïve fantasies but rather that he needs to. He needs to think he's important. He needs to think he can be responsible for everything and that he can save the day. He needs to save Elle. If he can't think all these things, dream all these silly dreams, then Peter Petrelli is just a little boy trapped in a twenty-seven-year-old body who sticks his fingers in his ears so he can't hear how he failed the ones he loves. Peter's still a frightened child playing the hero because he has a hyperactive sense of self-importance and an inflated ego.
He wonders if Elle knows all this. He wonders if maybe it's the main reason she's so madly in love with him. How long can they continue to avoid adulthood? Elle thinks they're just a game, a very fun and lovely game but still a game. She plays the part of the broken girl while Peter plays the part of the knight in shining armor. They both act like immature, irresponsible brats because it's easier than facing cold, hard reality like adults. They fight over the TV remote like spoiled children and then make up over a big bowl of ice cream five minutes later. They find new and interesting public places to make out like a couple of horny, hormone-crazed teenagers. Peter feels like he's in third grade because every time Elle shocks him she giggles like a schoolgirl. On more than one occasion, he's left her little notes that read something akin to "Will you go out with me? Circle yes or no." and she always blushes like crazy when she finds them, circling "yes" and then grinning at him for the rest of the day. They've never once had a serious, adult conversation about their emotional needs or the future of their relationship. Peter dreads the day that occurs and he knows Elle does too. The day they have a conversation like that is the day the game comes screeching to a halt.
Peter often wonders when their game will end. At some point, one of them will grow up and get tired of the other one. They have always been children, silly and naïve children. They have always childishly thought they could stay that way forever like some demented version of Peter Pan and Tinkerbelle. Peter knows that one day one of them will grow up or maybe both of them will do it. They will have to face the cold, hard realities that all adults must face and they will have to bid childhood a final farewell. Peter knows this and hates it. He still wants to dream and laugh. He still wants to believe he is the hero and Elle is his fair damsel. Adulthood means nothing to Peter but the complete and utter realization that his dreams will never come true.
Peter often wonders what exactly he's saving Elle from. At first, it was The Company but she has long since cut all ties with them. Presently there are no external threats or prophecies of certain doom. Peter thinks maybe he's saving Elle, and consequently himself, from growing old and giving up. To Peter, childhood means never giving up on dreams or hopes. Childhood means believing in the impossible and having the guts to try turning it into reality. Being an adult means accepting how powerless you really are to the point where you simply give up on your hopes and dreams. If childhood means still believing that he can help create a happy life for the girl he loves then Peter Petrelli honestly doesn't mind it if he never grows up at all.