Tough Talk

By TheLostMaximoff

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. R/R.

I am a tough girl. It's apparently an acquired trait if I can trust anything that comes out of Noah Bennet's mouth. The trouble is that I think I believe him. Lately, I have been re-evaluating a lot of things. I saved Mohinder and the others from Sylar. That really pissed off Daddy but it also made him proud. I don't really know how I should take it. His pride made me happy but somehow it made me mad at the same time. He complimented me on being tough, a compliment I should have felt ecstatic about. Instead, it only leaves me with more paranoia and questions. Am I tough enough to find the truth?

I roll over in my bed and stare at the ceiling. I think about everything that happened to me lately. It feels like I'm changing, changing into something I fail to even recognize. I catch myself looking in the mirror and not knowing who exactly is staring back at me. I would try to find out the cause of this change but I already know what it is: Peter Petrelli and his naïve, pitiful ideas about hope and love. I know I'm too tough to fall for all that garbage. Well, at least I keep telling myself that. I still keep falling no matter what I tell myself.

"Stupid puppy," I mutter as I close my eyes and try to sleep. My thoughts slowly drift to Peter as I remember the kiss we shared. I should know better than to do this. Daddy wants me to be tough and I am but I just can't help myself. I feel myself fall into the fantasy and imagine what else I could have done with Peter. I feel his tender fingers slide ever so gently across my cheek and I want to collapse with weakness from his touch. It feels so wonderful to be weak even for just a moment.

"I need your help," whispers a voice in my ear. My eyes suddenly pop open and I let out a startled scream that is quickly muffled by something. I react out of instinct and let the lighting free, throwing something to the floor. I stand up and stare at the figure in the flickering blue light created by the electricity in my hands.

"I thought I was sick," I tell Peter as I stare at him and feel the ice water run through my veins, "What the hell are you doing here?" Any fantasies I had of him are gone now. I am too tough to be swayed by schoolgirl crushes or sad, brown eyes. I refuse to fall for it this time. This time I'm going to make sure he is the one left hurting instead of me.

"Wanted help," replies Peter weakly. I refuse to get sucked in again. We will play a game, Peter, but this time it will be my game and I'm going to win just like I always do. You no longer mean anything to me. All you are is a mistake, a moment of weakness that I won't let happen again.

"Not interested," I tell Peter as I shock him again. He refuses to scream and I have to admire him for that but it leaves me curious. It irritates me when my victims don't scream or cry. Maybe you are tougher than I thought, Peter Petrelli. It doesn't matter how many new teeth you may have grown though. I don't plan on letting my puppy bite me again and get away with it. I'm way too tough to fall for the same trick twice.

"Doesn't matter," says Peter as he takes a third shock. Why is he so slow to retaliate? I cautiously move closer to him, making sure to stay out of easy reach.

"Right," I retort bitterly, "Nothing ever matters to you. I don't matter to you."

"Never did," assures Peter and I give him another shock for his brutal honesty. Why hasn't he screamed yet? For that matter, why hasn't he healed? The only reason I shock him so hard is because I know he is definitely tough enough to take it. Is he like me, hard on the outside but fragile on the inside? What good would it do to just keep taking the shocks over and over again?

"You don't want to heal?" I ask him in a tone full of confusion, "You're just going to let me . . .?"

"Kill me," pleads Peter, "Just do it fast, Elle. I promise I won't heal." I stand there and stare into his eyes, searching them for some sign that this is another of his traps. It has to be a trick. He can't seriously think . . . that I would really do it. I stand there and feel a new kind of shock wash over my body. This is the chance I have wanted for so long but it's also what I have secretly been dreading. Peter is lying right here begging me to put him out of his misery. I'm tougher than him? I . . . I won? No, no I didn't win anything. Instead, I think I am the loser. I lost something so precious and vital that I try to cover up the hole with anger and manipulation. Daddy wants me to be tough. Am I tough enough to kill the only person in my life I have ever truly loved? The lightning strains and pulses against my skin. It begs me to be that tough but I stare into his eyes again and I see how broken and empty he is. Neither of us is strong enough to go through with this.

"I can't," I whisper as I feel my eyes start to water, "God I want to so much but I just can't." I can see the hurt in his eyes as if he's some wounded animal that needs to be put down. He expects me to hate him, hate him enough to unknowingly fulfill his greatest desire. He used to be so strong, so tough. He used to be so sure that he was doing the right thing but now he no longer looks sure of anything.

"They took my brother," says Peter in a weary, tired voice, "I don't have anything left." I wonder in that moment exactly how tough I have to be to forgive the one person who has quite possibly hurt me the most. Strength comes in all varieties. Being tough doesn't always mean being cold, hard, and unrelenting. Daddy wants me to be tough but the sad fact is that maybe I'm stronger than he will ever know because I choose to give in. I choose to be weak because I know that somehow, some way, Peter will hold me up. Maybe it's finally time I return that favor.

"You've got me," I assure Peter as I kneel down and cradle him, "You always did and you always will." He lets out a gut-wrenching sob. I can smell the scent of burnt flesh and I can literally feel his body try to sew itself back together. Peter wasn't born tough. He was born soft and fragile, born to love people instead of hate them the way I do. As much as I try to deny it, I was born the same as him but somewhere along the way both of us got screwed up and now the only thing we can do is deal with it. We chose different methods of survival. Peter chose to remain naively ignorant while I chose to let the harshness of the world cover me like a protective shell that would bury the weakness so deep no one would find it.

"I want to get you out of here," says Peter as his momentary grief subsides and he seems fully healed.

"I think I'd like that," I admit with a small smile, "Where should we go?"

"Somewhere where we can afford to be weak," says Peter as he slowly rises to his feet and helps me up. He is a tough one alright but his toughness is real strength, not the hollow and empty kind that Daddy wants me to have. Peter picks himself up when he falls down and honestly I think he is strong enough to yank me up from the abyss too. Daddy wants someone who can pull the trigger without asking questions. Maybe the real strength comes from deciding not to pull the trigger at all.

"Best idea I've ever heard," I tell Peter as I quickly kiss him on the cheek and then take his hand in mine, squeezing it gently. There has to be more out there. There has to be more out there than pain, lies, and a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that means my soul is slipping away piece by piece. I am stronger than that, stronger enough that I don't need Daddy's approval anymore. Daddy's little girl is a tough one alright, tough enough and strong enough to realize there is a better life out there. With Peter's help, I know I'm strong enough to go out and find it.