Disclaimer: Heroes and its characters do not belong to me, and I'm not making any profit from this fanfic.

Rating: R, for violence and some blood and gore.

- - -

In the scorching heat of the August day, Sylar could almost hear the drops of sweat trickling down his neck, trapped beneath the collar of his shirt.

He let his head roll back on his shoulders and glanced up at the sky, almost white with the brilliance of the sun. Squinting involuntarily, he made a mental note to pick up a pair of sunglasses as soon as he had completed his current task.

A barely perceptible smile tugged at one corner of his mouth, and he quickened his pace. He was in a small town in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas, where each successive day had been more dry, dusty and mercilessly hot than the last. But unlike the complaining tourists stopping at the tiny gas station and the meteorologists whose crackling voices issued from car radios, his mind was not on the weather.

He had more important things to consider.

Without breaking stride, he allowed his mind to return to when he'd last been in Texas, to thoughts of power and blood and dark high school locker rooms and dingy gray holding cells. His lips curled in a sneer. Even more than five years later his failure in Odessa still gnawed at him on occasion, but he'd survived—even thrived since then, and save for a few setbacks along the way, his power was continuing to build.

In the end, that was all that mattered.

He took a sharp turn to the right and cut through a small alley, the sound of his footsteps barely registering on the unpaved surface. His next victim's house was straight ahead, standing silent and unsuspecting among a dozen others just like it. The normally quiet afternoon was bombarded by the sounds of countless fans, buzzing away on their highest settings—in a neighborhood this poor, few could afford air conditioning—but he barely registered the noise. The familiar thirst for power crept over him, a heat more intense than any the Texas sun could manage, and he gave into it, letting his stomach tighten and his breathing quicken in anticipation.

The sudden tiny prick at the base of his neck was barely worth his notice, and he continued to stride forward as he raised a hand to brush the sensation away. Most likely it was one of those irritating little black bugs; the nasty critters were all over the place during this time of the year, and even all his powers couldn't prevent insects from viewing him as a tasty meal.

It was his last thought before his knees buckled and he fell heavily, slamming face-first into the dirt, a cloud of dust rising up around him.

- - -

Dragging his eyes open, he was met with darkness.

He blinked slowly, disoriented, waiting as his senses readjusted one by one and began to send him fragmented information. Buzzing in his ears, loud and demanding—blood on his tongue, metallic and bitter—pain in his chest and face, dull and throbbing—

He attempted to lift one hand, intending to gingerly check his face for broken bones, and felt a tug at his wrist. The last traces of darkness finally cleared from his eyes, and he looked down to see himself sitting upright, duct tape securely binding his wrists to the arms of a chair. A quick flex of his right foot confirmed his ankles were tied down as well.

Gritting his teeth involuntarily, he reached out with his mind, willing his telekinesis to rip off the tape.

No response.

A deep chill settled over him, tightening his chest and souring the back of his throat.

He straightened as best he could and scanned the room quickly, head twisting and jerking unsteadily from side to side as he took in every angle. The situation was eerily reminiscent of when he'd been drugged and nearly killed by Mohinder, but this time there was no IV, and the dimly lit room was sparse and barren compared to the clutter of Mohinder's apartment. There was no rug on the floor or paint on the walls, and the only furniture aside from his chair was a simple wooden desk situated a short distance in front of him.

His head whipped around too quickly and he felt a sudden rush of dizziness, traces of the tranquilizer still clogging his system. Darkness clouded at the corners of his eyes and he squeezed them shut, forcing himself to remain still as harsh breaths rattled in his throat.

"The effects of the drug should wear off in another minute or two."

His breath caught in his chest, and he raised his head slowly, squinting for several long seconds at the woman who had entered the room unannounced.

"Maya?"

She was perched on the edge of the desk, leaning back on her palms, legs crossed at the ankle. Her mouth quirked in a benign, barely discernable smile. "Hello, Gabriel."

He looked her up and down slowly. She appeared much the same as when he'd last seen her five years ago, though several changes were apparent. Her face was different—a little thinner, a lot harder—and her dark hair was pulled back sharply in a tight, no-nonsense ponytail rather than loosely framing her face like he remembered.

The most jarring discrepancy, however, was her voice. She had eliminated nearly all traces of her lilting accent, leaving her words sounding oddly flat and harsh. They grated in his ears and he shook his head slightly in a jerking motion, sitting back in his chair.

"Where am I?" His voice was thick with disuse, and he fleetingly wondered how long he'd been unconscious. He swallowed with difficulty, the dry walls of his throat sticking together.

"Still in Texas," she answered. Brief and to the point. "Beyond that, you don't need to know."

"My powers?" he rasped, fingers digging into the arms of the chair. A muscle twitched on one side of his face.

"Oh, that." She drew out the second word, and her smile might have been called sweet were it not for the slight gleam in her eyes. "I may have slipped you a little something while you were out. The most dangerous strains of the virus were destroyed long ago, but the Company always keeps vials of less-threatening strains on hand. One never knows when they might come in handy."

"So you're working for the Company now." His eyes narrowed to slits, mind racing. "Is this a Company facility?"

"Yes and no." She pulled her knees up against her chest and rested her chin on them. The smile had disappeared completely, the uncharacteristically emotionless gaze set firmly in place once more. "I have worked for the Company for a while now, but this isn't a Company assignment."

His lips twisted in something resembling a grin. "Personal, huh?"

She ignored his goading tone. "When I joined the Company, they promised me they would…deal with you, but that was years ago and I'm still waiting. They have—how did Bob put it? —'bigger fish to fry right now.'" She snorted. "Finally I grew tired of letting other people dictate my choices and actions." Her lips curled in a smile, but it was a vastly different expression from the playful, beaming grin she'd once possessed. "And so here we are."

He leaned forward slightly, tilting his head as his eyes bored into her. "Let me guess—you want answers. Why did I kill your brother? Why did I lie to you?"

She matched his head tilt, meeting his eyes squarely, coolly. "At first, yes. But in time, I realized it would be pointless, particularly as I learned of all the things you'd done before." Reaching down to the desk, she picked up a thick folder and smoothed its creased surface, brushing off invisible dust motes. "This is your Company file. I've read it front to back many times." She shook her head, and her lips thinned in disgust. "You're a lost cause, Gabriel. But in a way, despite all your deceptions, you did help me. Just like you promised."

She smoothly jumped down from the desk and leaned forward, her eyes holding genuine emotion for the first time. "Dr. Suresh and the others at the Company, they helped me learn to control my power, even more than you did. It's second nature to me now; I can turn it on and off whenever I want to, without even thinking about it, without having to cry. They helped me achieve my goal." Her eyes sparkled, and for a moment she was the old Maya again, her emotions bubbling to the surface. "Even better, I can control the range now. So if I want to, I can focus my power on just one person." She smiled and walked to one side of the room, resting her hand against the wall. "When I kill you, it'll be only you. No one outside these walls will be affected."

"So what are you waiting for?" he asked softly, eyes hooded as he watched her. "Sweet, innocent little Maya who never meant to hurt anyone—now look what you've become. You say I'm a lost cause, but I'm willing to bet you've been responsible for more deaths than I have. And now you're a remorseless killer, just like me."

She shook her head, her chin raised high, defiant. "You're wrong, Gabriel. I'm a killer, yes—I was a killer long before I met you. But I do have remorse." She let her head drop slightly, her eyes tracing the hairline cracks in the dull gray walls. "The ones I killed before I understood my power, before I knew what it was—there were so many. And I think about them every day. If I could go back and change what happened to them, I would do it."

Her body jerked suddenly and she straightened, all traces of softness vanishing, as if a switch had been flipped inside her. "But now? Now, I kill if and when I have to. But I'm still different from you in that way, Gabriel. I kill only those who deserve it. You take life casually, frivolously—like it's a game. You kill innocent, decent people without even a second thought."

Silence filled the room, sudden and unwieldy, before Sylar spoke.

"You're thinking of Alejandro, aren't you?"

Maya grew very, very still.

"I wasn't originally going to kill him, you know," Sylar said. "I was going to let him—"

He didn't see her booted foot until the instant before it smashed into his face. He toppled to the ground, still attached to the chair, and pain exploded through his head as it slammed into the concrete floor.

When his eyes and brain had resumed their proper functions, he saw Maya standing over him, radiating deadly calm. "You will never speak of my brother again," she said softly. "Ever."

He worked his jaw and spat blood on the ground near her foot.

Kneeling next to him, she pulled out his Company file and flipped through it casually, as if she were trying to find a favorite section in a novel. "The artist that you killed, Isaac Mendez…he could paint the future, yes? Ah, here we go." She ran her finger down the page, studying it intently. "It says here that you nailed Mr. Mendez to the floor with his own paintbrushes just before you killed him." She snapped the folder shut and smiled brightly. "I think a little reenactment is in order."

She hauled on the chair until he was once again sitting upright, then crossed the room quickly and pulled a power drill from the desk drawer.

He screamed when she drove the nails through bone, deep into the wood of the chair, and her face glowed like that of an angel.

- - -

She stood in front of his chair and rocked on the balls of her feet, hands clasped behind her back, waiting until he was fully lucid. Adrenaline coursed through her, and she shivered. So close…

Leaning forward, she grasped his jaw, forcing his head up until he met her eyes. "You remember what my power feels like, don't you, Gabriel?" She let herself slip back into her old accent as she pronounced his name, rolling it mockingly on her tongue.

He drew ragged breaths through clenched, bared teeth. "Killing me isn't going to bring Alejandro back."

"No, it won't," she agreed. "But justice will be served. And I and my brother will finally have peace."

His breathing quickened. "Maya—"

She knelt, staring directly into his eyes as hers darkened.

His mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. Through the viscous haze, she saw the muscles in his throat working, constricting, and the blackness began to stream from his eyes.

She concentrated, pressing harder, calling on the reserves of her power, feeling herself trembling with excitement and the beginnings of exertion. Focus, focus, focus…

Gabriel's body arched in the chair and began to convulse, his head falling back. She heard the sloshing in his lungs as she drenched them with black fluid, reveled in the desperate rattling in his throat and chest as he struggled to take in oxygen.

His whole body stiffened, and she held her breath. Jet-black fluid trickled from the corner of his mouth, then bubbled, then gushed, darkening his lips and trailing down his chin. A last futile, choked gasp became a harsh rattle, and then the convulsions stopped.

Maya let out her breath in a quick, sharp rush, falling forward onto her hands and knees. Her lips moved in a silent prayer.

A moment later she climbed to her feet, perfectly composed, and dusted off her jeans. Crossing the room to the desk, she opened the drawer and removed a Company-issued gun. Quietly she walked over to the chair, looking down on it as if contemplating a work of art, and placed the barrel of the gun between Gabriel's staring eyes.

He had ordered her to be brought back to life after she'd died. She would make sure he never received the same opportunity.

She squeezed the trigger once. Twice.

Again—again—again—

She wasn't sure when she registered the hollow clicking sounds. She blinked, looking down at the empty gun in her hand through eyelashes beaded with crimson. She touched her face, fingers coming away red and wet.

Hastily discarding the gun onto the desk, she reached into her pocket with trembling fingers and withdrew a worn, folded photograph of herself and Alejandro, its edges beginning to tatter. She unfolded it carefully, fingers gently smoothing the wrinkles, Gabriel's blood collecting in the creases.

She released a shaky breath and smiled at the image, whispering in Spanish. After a moment she refolded the picture and replaced it in her pocket. Without a backward glance at Gabriel's unrecognizable face, she strode to the door and disappeared into the night.