Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by NBC.

Spoilers: Until 2.10, Truths and Consequences

Thanks to: Kathy, for beta-reading; Cadesama, for discussions.

Author's note: I had to make an educated guess about the nature of Angela's power, based on the one power Peter displays we don't have a definite origin for and a Jeph Loeb & Jesse Alexander interview. The title references Agrippina the Younger, with whom Angela has much in common, though Nathan is hardly Nero.


Optima Mater

I.

On the day Angela Petrelli turns twenty, she opens her eyes and decides her life is over. She behaved like a dizzy idiot and married for love, without even knowing the man she fell in love with very well, and got pregnant before realising she doesn't have the first idea of how to be a mother. Now her husband is in Vietnam, which makes her seem like a widow though she isn't, with everyone looking at her either pityingly or telling her she must be so very proud. She writes him dutiful letters which he might never receive and doesn't mention once how very angry she is with him for volunteering, for not taking advantage of her money in his stupid male pride. She tries not to remember loving him at all, because that will make it easier once she gets the inevitable announcement.

But there is the child, living proof that she went through it all, the handholding, the gazing into each other's eyes, the memorizing of stupid song lyrics because the song played at some point in their ridiculously brief romance, the unprotected sex because she wanted him so much. All of this happened. If it hadn't, Angela would have finished college. She has a first class mind, and she would have defied gender expectations and gone to Washington, first as someone's aide, but then rising to the top in her own right, she's sure of it. And then, only then, when she was ready, she would have married, and he would have been quietly supportive.

None of this will ever happen, she thinks, and stares at the baby the nanny places in her arms. The baby's eyes don't have a trace of blue left in them now; they're hazel or a dark brown, depending on the light, like his father's. The hair is black, like Angela's own. It feels very soft under her finger tips.

"You shouldn't have happened," Angela says.

The nanny is shocked. "Now, now, Mrs. P," she tuts, with the mixture of disapproval, pity and condescension a woman of forty has for one of twenty, especially if the younger woman can be seen as a spoiled brat, "you mustn't say things like that."

"It was a statement of fact," Angela says coldly. "You're fired. This is also a statement of fact."

The nanny babbles on, but Angela ceases to listen. Instead, she looks at the baby. Her son. Arthur's son. Her future, all the future she's going to have now. The injustice of it makes her rage. And yet, and yet. He doesn't feel like a burden at all. The nanny probably hasn't fed him enough; yet another mark against that woman.

"You shouldn't have happened," Angela repeats, "but now that you have, you're going to be worth it."

II.

When Angela's oldest son is 20, he gets a girl in Texas pregnant, a girl who is unsuitable in every possible way, except one. She has an ability, and as opposed to Nathan, she has already manifested, at least that's what Daniel Linderman tells Angela. It doesn't soothe her in the least. For one thing, Nathan doesn't know, and so he doesn't even have that much of an excuse. For another, Angela doesn't need her gift to tell her that Nathan will never be more than yet another lawyer if he marries his trashy blonde. Even if he doesn't marry her but has an openly acknowledged illegitimate daughter.

You're not supposed to be like this, Angela thinks, while her husband verbalizes his anger and indignation, and resorts to silent icy stares instead. There he is, her son, going on about accidents and fate and maybe and what if, and she can imagine him in his Navy uniform, taking the girl dancing, holding hands, forgetting every bit of caution life as a Petrelli ever taught him. You're not supposed to be like this. Not you.

III.

Angela finds out about her ability and promptly wishes she hadn't. Her grandmother was convinced she had "the sight", as she called it, and happily conversed with prophets and angels about future events. In Italy, this might have made her either the town eccentric or the village saint. In America, it got her electroshock treatment, and decades spent drugged out of her mind in a tasteful, expensive and discreet sanatorium where the child Angela was taken to see her every second weekend, because Angela's father was a dutiful son. Angela has never forgotten any of those visits, or the lesson drawn from them. When she starts to dream of things that actually happen, she doesn't tell anyone. Anyone at all.

IV.

She knows about the first time Nathan manifests. There is the report from Linderman's henchmen he sends to her with a note that it is supposed to "distract her from her grief", something other than the loss of Arthur to think about. But she has, in fact, seen the event itself, years before, this and other things. What she is watching her son for aren't symptoms of his newly discovered ability; she is waiting for him to confess what happened.

He doesn't tell anyone. Anyone at all. This should make her happier than it does. He is, after all, her son.

V.

Arthur comes back from Vietnam and is a complete stranger. Maybe it's the war, maybe it's her, maybe it's him; Angela has no way of knowing, because he doesn't talk to her, and she has too much pride to beg, to confess her own fears, to tell him about the visions and how hard it is to separate them from hopes and nightmares, how she still wonders whether she's not simply going insane, just like her grandmother. Their two-years-old son demonstrates the amazing vocabulary he has by filling the silence between them with his chatter until he, too, falls silent. Then the miracle happens; Arthur's friend from the war, Daniel Linderman, shows up, and shortly after him a stranger to all of them, Adam Monroe, who breaks down the barriers and reveals them all to each other. Suddenly, Angela has a mission, a purpose that doesn't circle around being someone's mother and wife, and she has a new way of dealing with her husband who stops being a stranger and becomes a comrade. Her ability will not get her locked up, it lets her change the world, she is convinced of it.

She resolves to make a change in the way she deals with her child, too. Until now, she has demanded perfection, as much as one can from a toddler, because he was supposed to become the best, and her justification for living. He still is supposed to become the best, but she doesn't need him to justify her anymore, and so she decides to be more indulgent once in a while, and never mind that babytalk or presents that don't stimulate the childish imagination are silly. She thinks this until she finds her husband, that same man who hardly spoke a word after returning from Vietnam, and all but ignored his son, with Nathan, teddy bear in hand, of all things, and engaged in some imaginary hunting expedition.

"Who's daddy's boy?" Arthur crows, and Angela leaves the nursery, unnoticed. It doesn't matter, she tells herself. After all, she has other things to do.

VI.

Nathan exudes awkwardness whenever Claire is anywhere near him. It's startling to see, given that he's usually so good at projecting confidence. But there is nothing of the easy rapport he shares with Simon and Monty here; and Claire, in turn, is distrustful and disappointed. Watching them, Angela feels… something. Not repentance, because clearly her actions all those years ago were right and gave Claire a carefree childhood and adolescence she could not possibly have had as a Petrelli, not to mention that they gave Nathan a career. Nonetheless, it seems her more recent efforts to make sure Nathan won't throw everything away in a last minute grand gesture were redundant. He has no way of relating to the girl, or if he has, he is not able to take it.

It's the regret of seeing her firstborn clumsy and awkward at anything, Angela decides, that causes any sadness she feels. Nothing else. And it's not like it matters, in the long run; it's not like Nathan doesn't have plenty of others things to do, and he excels at all of them.

VII.

Victoria is angry with Angela about many things, and they disagree more often than not, but nonetheless, it's Angela she comes to with her discovery. After she has finished explaining and demonstrating what she has found out through her analysis of their genetic samples, crossreferenced with Adam's blood, Angela has to use all her self-discipline to keep her tone level. But she has an image to uphold, and so she manages.

"You're sure?"

The question alone, superfluous as it is, betrays how much what Victoria told her has disturbed Angela. Of course Victoria is sure. She wouldn't have brought it up otherwise; certainly not to Angela.

"We're all his descendants," Victoria says. "Every one of us. He must have been around for centuries. He bred us, Angela. Finding us, bringing us together, that was no accident. And you can bet he'll do it to our children, too."

In the end, that makes all the difference. After Linderman, Angela is probably Adam's most ardent disciple, but her admiration and belief has included the conviction that he would, eventually, age and die, and that the new world they are bulding towards would be inherited by the next generation. And not just any next generation; her son. This is no mere vanity on her part. She can, after all, see the future, even if it is in an impressionistic way that leaves some room for interpretation, but she did see Nathan as a leader before he even started high school. What she most definitely did not see was Adam Monroe pulling the strings.

For the first time in quite a while, she thinks of her grandmother again, her crazy grandmother who was quite convinced an angel had visited her, just like the Virgin Mary. She thinks of how much patience and planning it must have taken to keep an eye on families in many different nations, to disguise immortality. She still admires Adam, indeed admires him more than ever, but that doesn't change the fact he betrayed them all, and that she has to find a way to make him pay for it.

When Adam, who has grown impatient, enlists her help to get his hands on Victoria's most advanced mutation of the Shanti virus, she doesn't tell him anything, she just smiles and nods and helps, and then she makes sure Kaito catches him in the act. Adam, locked up, probably expects her or Daniel or both of them to let him go, but by this time, Angela has revealed the truth about his age and heritage to all of them.

She is reasonably sure that a bullet in the head would kill Adam, but she never suggests it. Nor does anyone else.

He's evil; he's family.

VIII.

When she comes to visit Nathan in his campaign office, he's surprised. She usually does that only when they need to talk about finances, unlike Peter, who shows up at all times and for no reason at all. She looks at him, her oldest son, who soon could achieve everything she ever hoped for, unless he falters. Again. So she tells him the truth, as much of it as matters; the explosion is inevitable, and what counts is what he does afterwards. Nathan has not even had a week to wrestle with this decision. Angela had years, ever since she first dreamed of her younger son exploding in light. They don't understand why she keeps her secrets, her sons, but would they really have prefered to know? Of course they wouldn't have. They're not strong enough; she is. So she helped them in the only way she could, through leaving them in ignorance, but now it's time to take the gloves off, literally.

"Mass murder," Nathan says, and she can feel his tense shoulders underneath her fingertips, as she once felt his hair. She focuses on getting the point across, the inevitability of fate, the need to draw strength from it, but she notices some things she only contemplates later. He's horrified to find out she knows about the explosion and agrees with Linderman, horrified, but not surprised.

Evil, he'll call her, much later. Of course she is; she's family.

IX.

Peter is different, from the start. Angela has passed 30; she knows who she is now, she knows what she's capable of and what her flaws are. The inherent irony of Peter is this: this time, they've known that a child of theirs will almost inevitably have an ability, but when he's born, her dreams show her this second child dying, in a variety of ways and at many different ages. She tells no one but Arthur. Arthur responds by shutting himself off from Peter completely. Why love a child who will die? Angela has counted on this reaction, because hers is quite different. Peter will never in a position to matter in the grand scheme of things, and therefore, she can let herself love him completely. Whatever mistakes she makes won't matter, either; he's doomed. She has no expectations, and therefore, he'll never disappoint her. He'll just be hers to love, especially since she made sure Arthur won't. He'll be hers.

At least, that is the plan. The reality turns out to be different. Twelve-years-old boys aren't supposed to be interested in babies, but Nathan is. Teenage boys are supposed to be interested only in their hormones, girls, cars, and their grades if their parents have made it very clear what they expect in this regard, and toddlers are supposed to be a burden to them. They're not supposed to show up in the nursery and play with them without having been told to. Graduates are supposed to use their money and new freedom for a wild trip; they're not supposed to call home on a regular basis to talk to their younger brother because said younger brother claims he can't sleep if they don't.

Angela tells herself she feels protective of Peter, and of Nathan, too, because surely, so much hero worship won't do either of them any good. Nathan already has an ego, and Peter has a doomed life, which shouldn't be spent following someone else. But the truth is something she realizes the day Nathan comes home from Bosnia, has an awkward conversation with his father who is proud but struggling to conceal the signs of depression, an awkard conversation with her who is also proud but quite convinced that telling him so is redundant, given that he is her son and knows his worth, and then gets nearly run over by Peter in his teenage enthusiasm, hugged and kissed and openly adored.

The truth is that no one has ever loved Nathan the way Peter does, unrestrained by any common sense or expectations. The truth is that no one has ever loved her that way, either.

X.

Nathan leaves her behind only minutes after Claire fled from both of them. The next time Angela sees him, he's lying in a hospital bed, and all the doctors tell her it is a not so minor miracle he is still alive. His skin looks like it's been grafted on him, inside out.

It's the one nightmare she has never had. When he wakes up, whispering his brother's name, she finds herself rushing towards the end of his bed to protect him from the sight he's about to see. It's the first time she has acted irrationally around Nathan, but then, he has put himself quite beyond any reason. Tears burn in her eyes. She hasn't known this; she has cried for Peter, twice so far, once after realising his ability had begun to manifest, because she knew it would only be a matter of weeks now, and once when that Indian brought her his corpse, tears of grief and gratitude both, because for a short while, she had to wonder whether they hadn't been wrong after all, and the explosion would not happen. But she had never cried for Nathan before; she had not known that she could. It was a power she had refused to give to the baby she was left alone with, back when she was twenty, and now he has taken it, nonetheless.

So she does what she has always done. She takes counter measures. She uses her mind, that well-trained, first class mind. It's only a matter of time before he tells Heidi, and Angela is prepared. She deals with Heidi. Nathan will die, sooner rather than later, the doctors give him half a year, maximum, or an unending coma, and then Heidi will be in a position to betray them all. This must not happen.

There is, of course, the off chance that Nathan survives and somehow gets healed, even though Daniel Linderman is gone. It's not like Angela hasn't thought of the possibility. In such a scenario, Heidi will probably still be gone. But Angela won't be.

They have both lost Peter, Nathan has destroyed all her hopes for him, and has made her realize she can be as weak and foolish as she ever was before her marriage. He owes her.

XI.

It's Christmas, and Angela is twenty; she has just woken up from a dream which wasn't quite a dream. Her heart is hammering, there is bile in her mouth, and she thinks she can smell cigarettes, even though she doesn't smoke, and Arthur, who does, is gone. It must be old smoke, then. Cold smoke. Can't be anything else. Still, just to make sure, she walks through the house, and ends up in the nursery. There is her baby, sleeping. She doesn't touch it. That would be idiotic; if you wake a baby up, it will be hours until it sleeps again, Angela knows this, and she has just fired the nanny without having a replacement yet.

But she stays in the nursery nonetheless, watching her child sleep. It's a better sight than her dreams.

XII.

It's Christmas, and the last of the Vote Petrelli posters from November are gone; Angela can't see them anywhere anymore. Heidi and the boys are with Heidi's parents. Angela was invited, but she declined, so she just talked with Monty and Simon on the phone. On the 23rd of December, Peter would have turned 27. Nathan insists he does turn 27 somewhere, but Nathan is on morphine, though she won't argue with him until he's better or dead. There will be time enough to point out the realities he created then.

Angela hasn't had a dream in quite a while, and looking at Nathan certainly isn't soothing these days. But she does. It's Christmas, and she's sitting in a hospital room, staring at her oldest son, and listens to his laboured, painful breathing.

Her life isn't over. She hasn't decided yet whether this is good or bad.