Pairing: Matt/Mohinder (pre-slash, implied)
Characters: Audrey, Matt/Mohinder, Molly, HRG (cameo)
Warnings: Only mentions of brain-eating and bad people.
Spoilers: 2x11, "Powerless," although I've done some tweaking, heh.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own them—if I did, you'd be seeing a vastly different show!
Teaser: An epic told in sixteen parts…
Written for nevermindirah at m3secretsanta!
Audrey Hanson would never admit it, but she had a soft spot for Matt Parkman.
He was a genuinely good guy, had the kind of instincts that made a good officer, was better than quite a few of the guys she was surrounded by in the FBI on a daily basis. He was dedicated to his work, had a good head on his shoulders and as undeniably creepy as the mind-reading thing was, she'd come to realize over the last months just how damn useful it had been.
Her name had been dragged through the mud with the Primatech nightmare, and in the aftermath of both that and the loss of Ted Sprague, her career had been essentially gutted. She was still who she had always been, the blonde bitch with a badge (as some of her co-workers had always laughed) but it didn't change the fact that, in all the ways that really mattered to her superiors, she had made a joke out of everyone involved.
Understandably, Audrey Hanson hadn't taken it well.
But when she'd got the news just a day after Ted Sprague's death, still in New York, that Parkman had apparently been on the wrong side of four bullets, she'd strapped some mental strength to her spine and gone to visit him. The sight of the big guy drugged up in a hospital bed had been borderline heartbreaking and she'd patted his hand awkwardly, finding that the bitter sting of the Primatech ordeal wasn't quite so sharp anymore.
Before she'd boarded the plane to go back to Los Angeles, she'd promised Parkman a dinner, left feeling good about it.
Audrey honestly had no idea where she was going now, was no longer sure even of where she had been.
So when she got called up nearly five months after that hospital visit by Parkman needing help, bluntly explaining what he'd been doing the last four months, she'd been shocked but fascinated, sat at her kitchen table and worked at her coffee as he shared four months of changes—recovering from his injuries, moving in with a geneticist, adopting little Molly Walker, and now Sylar had apparently popped up and was now missing.
And Parkman was scared shitless, something she could hear over the phone.
It was a lot to take in, but it was more than anyone had given her since her mistakes had destoyed her reputation.
There was probably something disturbing about the fact that she didn't say yes until the name Sylar popped up, and only a moment later think about how impossible it would be for her to actually go help him with her superiors so damn twitchy over everything she did. She highly doubted "that evil psychopath that stole brains is back and apparently has lots of superpowers" would be a believable excuse to help a NYPD detective across the country.
When she bought that little tidbit up, Parkman had actually laughed, promised her that he had everything under control and that a friend of his was already on his way over to help her make the temporary move. Which prompted her to demand to know why he had asked at all if he was so sure she'd be on her way soon enough, and if he had friends that powerful, why not just use one of them?
"I need someone I can trust," he said quietly, "someone who's really seen what Sylar can do, Audrey."
Needless to say, his little speech had ground down whatever was left of her willpower and she'd hung up to pack, oddly certain that Parkman's friends, whoever they were, would indeed cut all of the red tape for her. A handful of suits, jeans and shirts, sneakers, two jackets— and all were tucked away into one large rolling suitcase (who said women couldn't pack?) when she finally went to bed and dreamed of Hannibal Lector with disturbingly strong eyebrows feeding her bits of gray matter.
Got up before her alarm clock went off, showered fast and was waiting when Noah fucking Bennet himself showed up on her doorstep, looking as quietly intimidating as he had when she'd talked to him in Texas months before but somehow more tired, dark shadows visible through his horn-rimmed glasses.
"You're Parkman's friend?"
"Road trips have a tendency to change previously held misconceptions," he shrugged, reaching past her to grab the handle of her luggage and pull it towards him, spinning it as he headed down the walk. When he realized she wasn't following, he paused, glanced back at her to arch one eyebrow. "Are you coming, agent Hanson?"
Clearly, quite a lot had happened in four months.
The apartment where her old partner now lived was ridiculously tiny, scattered with books and toys and a few action figures that she felt sure were Parkman's.
Parkman opened the door and let her in with a vaguely relieved grin, looking far better than he had months before, as white as the hospital bed he'd been stretched out in. He'd trimmed a few of the extra pounds, but nothing could change his build and it was still big, heavy and solid in all the ways that made it impossible not to feel comfortable around him.
She had a second to give him an awkward but sincere greeting before a door slammed somewhere else and Molly Walker darted out, looking downright giddy. Audrey got a hard hug around her waist before the girl stepped back to beam up at her, still in her school clothes and with something that looked suspiciously like pizza at the corner of her mouth.
Molly Walker was as tiny and sweet-faced as she'd been the last time Audrey had seen her, but the keen shine of fear was gone from her eyes, leaving her looking healthier and stronger than the little girl Parkman had found tucked up in a little room so many months before, the girl that had been dragged down a halfway screaming.
Parkman wasn't the only one who was handling this new life well.
"Let me guess… Bennet dump you already?"
"Escorted me to the apartment complex and then ran off," she agreed, reaching out to set a palm on the girl's head, feeling oddly calmed by the sight of her, healthy and happy.
It was at least one life she'd managed to help save from Sylar.
"The apartment next door is yours," Parkman told her as he ushered her deeper into their little home, Molly taking her hand and dragging her along behind her. "Got the basics, but everything works," he continued, parking her luggage by the kitchen table and watching as the girl scrambled back into her chair in front of the half-empty pizza box and stared up at Audrey intensely, head cocked.
"Why do I get the feeling that you feed her pizza every night?"
"Because he does," somebody snorted in amusement behind her, causing her to glance back and take him in cautiously, lifting one eyebrow at how pretty he was. Slender and dark-eyed, with hair she'd kill for if she could get away with it, struggling to get a messenger bag off as he stared at her oddly. "You would be agent Hanson?"
"Hmm," she managed, still thrown by the sheer level of pretty suddenly in the room.
He had a pleasant if not slightly flat smile as he reached out and gave her hand a good shake, still staring at her as he finally set the bag on the table and started shrugging off his coat. It was… odd, and in a way she was confused at, stepping back to the side as he swung his gaze to Parkman. "Pizza again, Matthew…?"
"You said you'd be late."
"I thought I would be," and Audrey found herself once again being stared at quietly, eyes sliding up and down her form in an innocent enough way that still sent alarm bells going off in her head. "Mohinder Suresh," he finally said, and she nodded back when he nodded, smiling before she could stop herself. "Pleasure to meet you—"
"He keeps us healthy," Molly piped up, voice muffled around a piece of pepperoni pizza— and Audrey found herself almost ridiculously amused at the sudden flush that flared up the geneticist's neck and then traveled higher, lips twitching as he rolled his eyes slightly and moved past her to study the box.
"There's only half left."
"Matt had more than I did."
Dark eyes swung to Parkman again, and Audrey hurriedly reached up to rub to her mouth, downright fascinated by the looks that were exchanged over the table as she seemed to be forgotten— "This stuff isn't good for you," Suresh announced, flipping the box closed and plucking it from the table, jabbing Parkman in the gut with a smirk as he passed by. "You're up all night with heartburn."
"It's worth it."
"Not to the person who listens to you complain all night," Suresh retorted, and then shot her that same odd look again, a short quick glance from under disgustingly pretty lashes that she found herself envying.
Audrey had the sneaking suspicion he didn't really like her.
"I don't think he likes me."
"You're being ridiculous," Parkman snorted, passing her the first hot dog and then taking the second for himself, grabbing the mustard bottle and squeezing a disturbing amount onto the bun. "Mohinder likes everyone." He paused, grimaced slightly as he set the mustard aside and grabbed the ketchup, making the bottle wheeze as he all but emptied it. "Not always a good thing."
Audrey cocked an eyebrow and he squirmed slightly, making her relax a bit—at least she could still intimidate him.
Parkman reached for the horseradish, looking slightly jittery as he did, as if he expected Suresh to pop up and call him on it. "I told you about how Sylar got around, what he did to Suresh senior?" Off her nod— "He spent a few days with Mohinder, pretended he was that dead man, Taylor? He did a number on his head, still a bit off about the whole thing…"
"You mean, what, an attack?"
"No, I mean, he pretended he was a dead man, went on some happy little road trip with Mohinder and killed someone else before Mohinder figured it out." Audrey nearly dropped her hot dog, startled, and he winced again, now reaching for the onions, dishing a few onto hers, remembering that she liked them. "Stuck him to the ceiling before somebody came in…"
"And he didn't go to authorities?"
Parkman stopped, cocked an eyebrow at her in disbelief. "And say what, 'I was stuck to my ceiling by a psychopath with telekinetic powers? Oh, and by the way, I think he eats brains to steal powers'?"
And again, he just stared at her, leaving her uncomfortably aware of the fact that he could now intimidate her as well as she could him. That was something new, she realized, and she scowled slightly, not liking it. "Fine," she admitted slowly, trying to wrap her fingers around the now overstuffed dog, wondering how the hell Parkman could fit it all in his mouth. "Fine, but still, he should have told someone…"
"Yeah, and I shouldn't have gone with Ted and accidentally blown up a house, but, you know, things happen…"
"Nothing," he shrugged, taking a monster bite of his food and not meeting her eyes.
There was something nice about eating a real breakfast.
Most days when she woke up back in Los Angeles, Audrey had managed a cup of instant coffee and maybe, if she was lucky, a Pop-Tart. But Suresh cooked breakfast every day before they took Molly to school, and she got woken up her second morning in New York by Parkman banging on the door and wanting her to come over and eat her food before it got cold.
"You cook every morning?"
Molly's face was stuffed up like a chipmunk's with eggs and a slice of cantaloupe (Audrey hadn't thought any real person outside of the plastic-faced overly chipper mothers on the breakfast cereal commercials served a slice of cantaloupe for breakfast) and Parkman was eying the cereal on the shelf greedily as he poked at his own slice with a fork unhappily.
"Somebody has to feed them," and Suresh was eying her oddly again, not unfriendly but intensely.
Audrey had the feeling she was missing something.
After Parkman takes Molly to class, they all set up camp at the kitchen table and went through stacks of folders that got added to every day— people seemingly as normal as her that Suresh was sure would be in danger from a person like Sylar; anything they can find about Sylar himself; trying to find some kind of pattern in his movements other than his victims.
Suresh stared at Parkman— a lot, and when he wasn't staring at Parkman, he was staring at her.
And, she noticed, when Suresh was looking at her, Parkman was staring at Suresh.
It took a good two weeks to realize just how many aspirins Parkman was popping every hour.
Without Audrey realizing it, her life had fallen into an oddly comfortable schedule—breakfast every morning when she woke up, freshly made and always complete with some kind of gigglefest between Molly and Parkman, usually revolving around a morning cartoon; they split up for her to get a shower, and for Molly to be dropped off; and then her official day would start, generally working with Suresh in the apartment.
He was as focused as she was but in a quieter way, had an odd sense of humor that she only understood half of but still snickered at because his delivery was just that perfect, and they worked well together, at least considering she was just doing paperwork. She'd always hated paperwork, always been a woman of action, but it was soon sickeningly apparent just how little she had known about the murdering bastard that had devoured her every waking hour.
During her few trips to the station, she noticed that Parkman had an odd name at work, but still a good one.
Suresh and Parkman kept staring at each other, but only when the other wasn't staring back.
And Parkman took a lot of aspirin, she realized one morning when, as soon as Suresh had slipped out of the room to grab something for Molly, the psychic pulled the bottle from his pocket, dumped a few into his palm and swallowed them dry.
All in the space of a single heartbeat, with such ease that anybody not trained to pick up little things would never have possibly noticed.
The practiced ease was what made the hair on the back of her neck rise in disquiet, and she quickly thought of bad knock-knock jokes as she dropped her eyes back to the table and went back to helping Molly go over her homework one last time before school. Didn't look at him again and kept her shoulders loose, glancing up only when Suresh came back in and went about his fiddling, muttering to himself.
Audrey Hanson had a soft spot for Matt Parkman.
Completely natural that she worried.
Audrey peeked through the file Suresh had on Parkman, a large intimidating folder that was constantly fiddled with, added to, right along with Molly's. Suresh kept some pretty intense notes, she had learned quickly, but these were a bit more intense, even for what she had seen him capable of in the weeks since she had come to New York to help keep Molly safe.
It was how she found the one labeled Maury Parkman, and she wasn't stupid, had never been stupid.
Parkman Senior was a middle-aged balding fat guy with a thin folder but lots of angry red writing in some kind of Indian and the picture itself had been clipped on backwards, the image to the papers themselves. There was something vicious about that move and she stowed the knowledge away for later on, sure it was important.
Put the folders back exactly where she had found them, and didn't bat an eye when Mohinder asked her two days later if she'd been at his desk.
Something came up a week after she peeked into the files, and she found herself taking Molly to school as Parkman rushed off to work and Mohinder scrambled fast to meet up with Bennet for something that he refused to explain to her. It went well enough, though, and they ended up having an entire conversation about how to draw the perfect tree with crayons.
Then Molly called her aunt Audrey as she darted away and Audrey nearly walked into another woman's stroller because even though she had been obsessed with a serial killer for more than a year, she'd never been an aunt before.
Audrey had never been one for subtlety, at least not when it came to her partner's well-being.
So after three days spent dwelling on being called an aunt, she asked Parkman what the deal was with his father.
"I don't have a father," he stated flatly, not pausing in making up their weekly hot dogs at the corner vender by the apartment, laying out a good amount of shredded onions onto her hot dog. His was already done, loaded up with things that made her queasy, but he liked his food and she had learned that the hard way the first time she worked with him.
"His name isn't Maury?"
Parkman glanced at her then, but she didn't look away, didn't drop her gaze and he seemed to wilt in response, shoulders sagging with what seemed to be too much emotion. "He's out of the picture," he finally told her in a voice too blank to be truly emotionless as he grabbed the mustard bottle and shook it furiously, too hard.
"Did he do something to you?"
"Not to me," and she knew with complete certainty who Maury Balding Fat Guy hurt to piss off Parkman and Suresh.
"What did he do?"
"It doesn't matter anymore."
Suresh asked her one night when Parkman was out late how close they are.
His tone was innocent enough, light and downright friendly, but he was licking his lips slightly and gripping his pen just a little bit too tight as he wrote, jotting down something. There was a vague restless feeling at the base of her spine, an urge to do something more than this, but she wanted to be prepared the next time she faced Sylar and she knew she needed to know how he ticked to be able to handle him.
But she'd have Parkman on her side, and somehow it was a comfort she'd never admit to needing.
"He's got potential," she shrugged, and found him eying her from underneath those damn pretty eyelashes of his, tapping the end of his pen very softly against his notes, shifting the barest bit in his chair, taking her in—
Audrey suddenly understood, and felt like an idiot for not understanding sooner.
It had been two months since she came to New York and she'd become an aunt, not to mention a romantic rival.
And she worried quietly about Matt, who took too much aspirin and didn't sleep enough because he was busy sitting in the apartment and listening to his family sleep. When she asked, he shook his head and smiled with too much humor, poking and prodding at his hot dog and deftly side-stepping her real questions. She remembered a bloody nose in Odessa, and worried more because sometimes, in a crowd and with her beside him, he still couldn't find her.
One day, Audrey wondered just how powerful Parkman senior was, and Parkman didn't talk to her for four days.
So she finally went to Suresh, because you take care of your partner.
They waited until Parkman was gone for the day before they finally talked about it, pulled out every file they had on mind-reading (telepathy, Suresh corrected her constantly, and she started saying "mind-reading" just to make his eye twitch) and every theory the geneticist had come up with since starting his work.
"It's a basic power, so there's no telling how far he'll go in his life," he said every so often, and looked proud of it.
"You think he can see things?"
"He reads thoughts—"
"Maury would have had to see things to get you stuck in visions, right?" and Suresh stared at her and then blinked and she realized that he'd never actually thought about that. "I wonder how old Senior was when he started reading minds," she murmured absently, studying a scan Mohinder had of said mind-reader's (telepath's) brain, and it was proof that he was alive.
"Impossible to know…"
There were so many colors on the scan and even if Suresh didn't always seem so fascinated by it, she knew she'd still feel faintly awed by it, at what all she could imagine going on in Parkman senior's skull even now in what Suresh said was a vegetative state.
She wondered what would happen when his heart stopped beating, if all that activity would just stop, become nothing.
Audrey hated this man on principle, but the thought still felt like a kick in the gut.
"I don't think this work is good for him," Suresh stated some time later, and she hesitated, feeling suddenly wrung-out with emotion. She'd been thinking the same thing but she hadn't let herself speak the words but now they were out, settling on her shoulders as she shut the folder she was skimming and dropped it to the table.
"I feel dirty every night when I get home from working on a case, and I just talk to the victims, walk through the crime scenes," she admitted quietly, and she could talk to him because he wasn't in her line of work, because he wasn't just One Of The Guys. "He could be picking up on anything, and what if it just stays in his head, rots in there?"
"Matthew's a strong man," and she truly wasn't sure who he was trying to comfort, her or himself.
Parkman worked a double-shift one night as she and Suresh were working, and came home shaking.
Molly was already asleep and although he casted a long look in the direction of her bedroom, he stayed far away from it as if he was afraid he's going to contaminate it, skirted the edges of the living room and finally settled on the far end of the couch, head in his palms.
And just like that, Audrey knew she was right.
Working for the FBI had long since ground away any urge Audrey might have once had to make a family.
Horrible things happened in the world and the most despicable things, she'd come to realize, happened to children.
Children were helpless, depended on everyone around them for protection and it was the most nightmarish feeling in the world, walking into a crime scene and seeing what happened when the people they depended on couldn't (or more awful to her, wouldn't) protect them from the world.
It was bad enough just knowing the things she knew— she never, ever wanted to see into any of these monsters' heads.
And she wondered if this is another reason he brought her to New York, if he was searching for someone who would have an inkling of understanding should he ever want to come out and talk about it. If so, she didn't mind—
Parkman was the only person she'd ever been able to talk to about Sylar without having to hold herself back.
Audrey helped Parkman get a guy from Ohio, scrawny and dead-eyed, wanted in three states.
Parkman finally shooed her out of the interrogation room and she let him, resting a hip by the door and trying not to think so she wouldn't make it harder on him. They get what they need, and in frightening time, but Parkman looked ill as he exited the room, too pale.
It was as she was coming back from grabbing coffee for them that she caught sight of what her partner was doing.
Parkman sat at his desk and stared down at Suresh's number on his cell but didn't press SEND.
Audrey left him to drink his coffee and stare bleakly down at his phone, and called Suresh herself when she could.
She had never been one to beat around the bush.
Audrey got Molly the day Suresh came home early to meet (ambush) Parkman.
She took the girl out to a movie (a goofy little kid movie that was completely idiotic and achingly unrealistic but wonderful because of it) and then to dinner (corn dogs and fries and milk shakes, and Audrey hadn't been this stuffed in years) and the girl was asleep on her shoulder when she finally headed back to the apartment, grateful for the first time that the girl was so slight in build.
She hesitated in the hallway but then the door opened and Suresh allowed her to slip in, glance around and frown until she finally made out Parkman in a corner. He was out cold, the quiet sleep of someone who hadn't let himself in too long, and someone had already covered him up carefully with a comforter. Relieved, she helped Suresh tuck the girl in, finally following the scientist back out of the cramped but homey little room that Molly had made her own.
"He looks better."
"You were right," he said at the same time and they both stopped, glancing quickly back at the bear of a man conked out in the corner. But he didn't move so he continued as she shifted on her feet, fluttering her fingers in the pockets of her slacks awkwardly. "He's been seeing things the last few months, images… memories…" He grimaced, reaching up to tug absently at a button on his shirt. "You were right."
There was something helpless about his tone, and it left her to exhale slowly, shrugging. "You got him to talk," she told him a long moment later, eyes settling on the exhausted man nearby, breathing steadily, deeply. "I could have worked a bit out of him about his cases but he doesn't talk to me about his mind-reading—"
"He trusts you enough to tell you he's got monsters in his head, even if you had to ambush him to get him to do it," she assured him, and he still hadn't stopped staring at Parkman. They'd been through a lot together, an orphan and a mind-reader and a geneticist scrambling together and building a home from the ashes of their old lives, piecing together a foundation, an anchor against the world.
It was slow work, she decided as she left the apartment and rubbed her stomach, too much junk food filling it.
It was slow work, she decided as she rolled into her own bed and got what sleep she could before she got up and did it again, but it was going to be incredibly strong when it was finally done.
December 31, 2007