Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, and nor do I own the Game of Life book written by the wonderful Lou Harry. Thank you, Mr. Harry :D
Twenty-two year old Peter Petrelli observes himself in a spotty mirror.
He takes a small, unnoticeable step left. And then a little shuffle to the right. Very delicately, he smoothes out the wrinkles by his knees. With a satisfied smile Peter takes a step back and reaches for the final item on his bedspread to finish off this masterpiece.
Flourishing it, Peter places his graduation hat on his head. Beaming at his reflection, he inches his hat over a bit, so it's perched precariously on his head. The colorful tassels bounce merrily at the movement.
Nathan would be so proud of him.
The phone rings, disturbing the moment that Peter had been so deeply immersed in. The thick air of imperiousness that rarely ever is seen amiss Peter disperses slightly. He picks up the receiver.
"Hey Pete. How're you doing, buddy?" Nathan greets.
Peter gives a breathy sigh, "Hey. I'm doing fine."
"I'll see you in a couple hours. Ma's coming over so we can drive out together. Excited for the big night?"
"It's just graduation," Peter says, smoothing the bangs away from his forehead, "I wish I would have cut my hair for it."
"No one's going to care, Pete," Nathan sighs, "you already dressed?"
"Yeah," Peter shuffles his shiny shoes nervously, "I'm a bit nervous. Is Heidi coming?"
"No," Nathan answers, "she was busy at work tonight."
In the back of his mind, Peter is glad. It's not that he doesn't like Heidi. But he knows that Nathan isn't fond of Heidi, and that the situation is vice versa. What they find in one another is security, not love. Peter thinks this is ridiculous, but Nathan's priorities in a marriage and a relationship have always been different.
"Yeah, well, thanks a lot for checking in, Nathan."
"You're welcome. I'll talk to you later, Pete."
He hangs up, and Peter stares at the impassive receiver for a moment before he sets it down carefully.
Peter is almost done with school. He'll never have to open an arithmetic textbook again. He'll be done the moment his fingertips touch the smooth feel of a rolled-up diploma, closed with a perfect crimson ribbon. Technically, he was done when he took his last exam, but this will be final. He'll get to move his tassel from one side of the hat to the other (which way, exactly? Peter wasn't sure whether you started on the right or left).
He had been told by Nathan to expect seriously mixed emotions during this. And this could not have been truer.
Peter was sitting on the sheets now, thinking about all of the mistakes he did in college. Why did he waste time in that screenwriting course? Why didn't he play more? Why didn't he work harder? Why didn't he join a Greek House? Why did he cheat on that ludicrously easy English assessment last semester? Why didn't he be spontaneous and actually buy that mysterious unidentifiable item at every vending machine on campus?
"You'll be reminded in subtle yet obvious ways that you're not just graduating from college, you're graduating from the universe of people you've gotten to know. Chances are, all of your best friends now, you'll never speak to them in ten years." Nathan had told him strictly, "the real world awaits, Peter. You no longer have the cushion of friends to go to for help. You won't just be able to crash in the dorms after a rough night."
"Can I live with you, Nathan?" Peter had asked, smiling innocently.
"Oho ho no." Nathan had dejected immediately, chuckling at the thought. He had clapped Peter good-heartedly on the shoulder, "don't worry, Pete. You're going to be fine."
Still, even with all of these overwhelming emotions that had Peter feeling as though he was about to explode (AN: no pun intended :D), this was all still a cause for celebration.
Niki had never spent more than ten dollars for a book. She had never imagined that books could be this expensive. She couldn't even imagine a bible autographed by the original authors being this pricy. And she doesn't know what she's going to do to pay for these books.
The other week, she had decided to spend the little bit of extra money she had received on a bit more food, or buy Micah a new comic book. This week, she's saving up next month's paycheck for books.
For everything Niki has ever imagined saving up for, it's never been a textbook on global warming or the intricate study of biology and how it affects polar bears.
She's staring into the meticulously shiny window of Turn The Page, a reputable bookstore for students in private school.
Micah is standing next to her, not bothering to look at the books, but just her impassive face that's hiding her emotions underneath the surface.
"Well," she finally says, her eyes zipping around the display in the window. There's a table covered with a scarlet silk cloth, and upon that are multiple books that are probably heavier than Micah himself. All of the titles are bold as they try to divert you away from the price tag sticking out from the bottom of the book.
"What do you think, Mom?" Micah ventures tentatively.
Niki tucks a strand of hair behind her ears. "It's a bit expensive. But that's okay, Micah, because I want you to be in private school. It's where you deserve to be." She smiles faintly at her son, smoothing down his black locks before she pulls him into the shop and takes out the list of textbooks needed from her purse.
A few minutes later, both Micah and Niki are carrying a stack of books on their arms as they steer over to the cashiers. The lady behind the counter looks imperiously at them as they unceremoniously dump the pile of literature onto the table. She tuts disapprovingly at their manner of behavior.
Niki scowls at her. The woman is smug, and she's allowed to be because she's wealthy. That's why she works at this store. And she can tell from the type of clothes that Niki and Micah are wearing that this family is not worthy of being in such a classy, overpriced place.
The receipt gets longer and longer as the cashier types it in with two-inch long talons. Her lips purse to a thin white line, the wrinkles on her forehead creasing. She taps her fingernail on the screen visible to Niki.
"That's how much you owe." She says authoritatively, haughtily intertwining her bony hands together as Niki digs through her purse with a sigh.
Micah watches his mother carefully, and then switches his gaze over the cashier. She's not watching the sleek, shiny register at all, but her eyes are fixed on Niki's purse. She's waiting to see how much money her wallet really holds.
Slyly, Micah slips his hand up to touch the register faintly, and closes his eyes.
Lower the bill, he tells the cashier silently, lower the amount due. The neon numbers on the screen tick down in amounts of ten quietly until finally, by the time Niki has gotten out her bills, the amount on the screen is now a crisp and cheap fifteen dollars.
For a moment, Niki is stunned. She looks at Micah, who's standing innocently by the counter and staring imploringly up at his mother. She looks at the cashier lady, who still hasn't noticed the change in the bill.
"I – uhm." She says for a moment, before she perplexedly hands over the amount on the screen.
The cashier lady is puzzled. She looks at the screen, and then at the books, and then accusingly at Niki.
"I think the register must have messed up earlier." Micah pipes up innocuously, and gently takes the shopping bags from the counter, acting as he knew nothing about the change in money.
The cashier lady stares at them incredulously as they leave, arms full with shopping bags that hold books that are clearly more expensive than fifteen dollars.
And suddenly Nathan is completely responsible for a life that isn't even his. And he's responsible for a name that he won't be able to think of. And he's responsible for the diaper changing that he really doesn't want to be doing.
"So does he have a name?" Peter asks curiously in the emergency room, chatting quietly with Nathan.
Heidi has fallen asleep on the bed, so Nathan has been put in charge of taking care of the newborn baby boy. They're whispering not to wake up Heidi, except that no one is quieting the baby when he's screaming out at random moments like a broken jack-in-a-box that pops open even when no one winds it.
"No, he doesn't." Nathan whispers.
The brothers stare at the infant for a moment, before Peter puts a hand on Nathan's shoulder and whispers in his brother's ear, "He's adorable," and smiles when Nathan turns to face him, "he looks just like his father."
"That's nice, Pete."
"You could call him Nathan Jr." Peter supplies, smiling at the thought. He softly tickles the baby underneath his chin. It makes a noise, indescribable and undetectable whether it's a noise of irritation or an attempt of a giggle.
"Please, no," Nathan denies immediately, "would you like to name your son Peter?"
"Of course not," Peter says, "my first son's going to be named Nathan. I told you that years ago."
The older brother smiles, "Well, please don't expect me to name this one Peter."
Peter laughs, brushing his bangs behind his ear, "That's all right. But you really do need to think of some name. Just avoid really… eccentric names."
"Like what? This is New York, Pete."
"Like… Felix. Or any other name of a cartoon cat. Or Adolf, or any other name that used to belong to a dictator. Or Trunculo, and any other name from Shakespeare. Or Carol, and any other girl's name. Or Dick, and any other euphemism for a body part."
Nathan chuckles quietly, "Great advice, Peter," he grins over at his brother, "I think I'll just let Heidi decide the name."
"You let Heidi decide everything."
"Well, Heidi cares more about everything." Nathan says, sighing.
"Don't you want to decide anything? Like, the baby's room."
"We already said that blue for a boy and pink for a girl. Stereotypes never die."
Peter shrugs, "All right, but about the furniture? Top-of-the-line crib or antique rocking chair? Disney sheets or patterns without a copyrighted cartoon character?"
Nathan cringes, "Neither. I like things simple."
"I don't hear you saying that at your office."
"Well, I care a lot more about the office than what patterns my son's sheets will behold. I mean, anything we put in there is going to be spit on, drooled on, or otherwise dirtied. You know that. I remember from when you were a baby."
"Are you saying that babies are a hassle?" Peter says with a smile.
Nathan scowls a frown that clearly reads you're-just-happy-that-you-don't-have-to-deal-with-it, "Yes, Pete."
Peter puts a comforting arm around his brother, squeezing his arm. "At least Heidi didn't have twins."
The Bennets are taking a ski trip.
It is Claire's and Lyle's extensive winter break holiday, and as a result from the impromptu impulsive trip idea from Noah to relax and play with the snow, the family is sitting in a ski lodge in Colorado and packing themselves with winter gear.
Fourteen-year-old Claire snaps on her skis deftly and smiles as Lyle struggles to close his own.
Sandra hobbles over. "Ohh, I forgot how hard it is to walk in these," she mumbles, readjusting her hat. "You ready, Noah?"
Noah calls out a 'yes', joining the family at the benches. "Everyone ready for some skiing?"
"Of course!" Claire has never skied before, but she was sure that as long she would stay on the hills away from her family, she could have all of the accidents she wanted to and learn from the pain and mistakes.
"I'm starting out on the bunny hill." Noah declares, sliding over with his rusty skis. "What about you, Claire-bear?"
"Oh, I dunno," Claire murmurs innocently, twirling a strand of blonde hair in her fingers, "I thought I might want to start at the harder hills, so the smaller ones aren't that much of a challenge."
Noah looks at her peculiarly. "You sure?" he asks, receiving a nod from his daughter, "you might get hurt."
"I'll be careful." She promises him and shuffles over to the door.
As Claire stares up the variously sized mountains, she watches in fascination as little dots of color fly down the hills and shriek out. Some swerve right and left as naturally as one might wave hello, and some fall unceremoniously down the snowy hill.
She looks at the training center by the left. She's not going to start there. She's never skied before, but all of the fuss about training is to avoid an accident, and Claire is not even going to try to avoid plummeting to what may be an average person's loss of a limb or break of a bone.
She has the perseverance to.
With a smile, she waves goodbye to her family as they stagger down to the smaller hills and she heads towards the lifts. Hopping onto one as they ride swiftly up the hill, Claire readjusts her mittens and stares down the snowy mountain. There's a kid falling down it like it's a slippery slide, and as ungracefully as an eel. Claire grimaces.
She hops off, and takes a deep breath as she stares down the hill. Others take the leap. Some scream. Some fall. Some do a much better job than the amateurs.
Lots of people have drives to conquer mountains. Much less have the nerve or the resources to climb them. But Claire is convinced that it can't be that hard if some of the dunderheads she knows can pull it off, so she decides to take at least one crack at hitting the highest slope at the resort.
As she stares down the feathery abyss of blinding whiteness, the blanket of snow sparkles prettily. It's awe-inspiring. It urges you to jump, just so you can feel the snow underneath your feet. Or on your ass, for the not-so-experienced types.
But now that Claire watches three girls squeal, petrified, as they slide down the mountain, her first hint of trepidation crosses into her mind. But it's too late to turn around (Of course it's not really too late to turn around. People have done it. But Claire's ego is to invested in this and her sureness in her ability is as well).
So with one last breath, she pushes off and the wind blows the hat off of her head immediately. Her blonde curls bounce freely in the breeze, and Claire manages a silent scream as the real dip of the mountain kicks in and she accelerates.
For a moment it's almost as though she has it under control. But that's probably the feeling that everyone has right before they crash.
It's loud and messy. Claire's skis swerve unsteadily and kick up. She's thrown onto her back and dragged headfirst down the mountain until she crashes into the ski-stand, where a couple of rejected blue skis fall down from the pile and land on top of her in a large heap.
And then there's blood. It has a strange, almost nice pinkish tone on the snow.
"Oh my god! Claire! Are you all right?"
It's Lyle's voice, who has clearly come back to the large hill to prove that he can do it too, just like Claire.
Claire pushes herself up from the ground, where a Claire-shaped indentation has been pressed into the snow. A small crowd has gathered around her now, all staring impassively at her bloodied figure.
With a start she realizes that her wrist is flipped over, and before anybody can notice, she discreetly turns it back and bites back her groan. The mitten is soaked in blood; but it's dark blue so no one can detect it anyway.
Lyle kneels by her worriedly, his eyes wide in surprise.
"Oh my god, you're bleeding everywhere!"
"Lyle? What's going on?" Noah's voice booms, and he pushes his way roughly to through the throng of people that are started to murmur amongst themselves about this incident. Claire can faintly hear the phrases 'stupid girl' and 'probably suicide attempt'.
There's more blood.
And then there's not.
As they arrive at the nearby first aid center by the ski lodge, Claire is thrust into a bed of stiff white linens as Noah stands by her. She stares into the face of the nurse, while she asks herself what the hell she was doing shooting down a mountain to begin with? What purpose did it serve?
Oh right. Because she could and live to tell about it.
She bites her lip, staring at her father guiltily.
"I take it you lost control of the skis?" he asks quietly.
"Yes," Claire murmurs in a small voice, staring at her lap. She wrings her hands, "It's not bad, I just scratched myself on my arm!"
"It's not bad?!" Noah repeats, roaring with rage. He yanks up the sleeve of her arm, where a large gash used to rest painfully. It's gone now, the only souvenir a large puddle of blood dried into her skin.
"See?" says Claire, trying to cover up her arm again, "I told it's not that bad."
Noah folds his arms together strictly, giving one stern look at Claire. Silence. And then –
"I guess it just seemed like more before." It's a grave, serious tone, as though he's challenging Claire to correct him.
Noah stares as though he's trying to x-ray into Claire's head.
"Looks like she's fine, I don't see any gashes anymore. She can ski today if she wants to." The nurse informs cheerfully, marking a few insignificant things on a clipboard.
Noah doesn't give a glance to the nurse. He's still looking piercingly at Claire.
"Something wrong, Dad?" Claire finally ventures.
"No," he finally says, "just stay off the big hills, all right." It's not a question.
"Got it." Claire replies, hopping off the bed.
Why did she have to leap off of the mountain? Did she really think that she would have controlled the skis? Did she really think that her family wouldn't have found her? Did she really think she could get away with regenerating when the blood would have stained into her clothes?
These thoughts, of course, won't keep Claire from jumping from the big mountain again. Everyone accepts the risk in their lives, and especially Claire. If nobody did, then the passenger seats of cars would face the back, slicing a bagel with a knife would be illegal, and condom sales would be through the roof. People are just as daring as Claire. Claire just isn't afraid to make mistakes she's already made again. Everyone takes risks, some foolish, some life or death; it's part of the human law to take chances. That's what makes Noah Bennet the suspicious father he is.
The trick with Claire is, however, to pick and choose the risks to take.
And that's why she will stay off the big hills until the next ski trip.
She has to be somewhat subtle.
Mohinder is a scientist.
He would consider himself a smart, intellectual scientist. Others would disagree, but Mohinder stands firm in his opinion.
He knows the human genes and their limits. He knows all of the elements on the periodic table. He can state all of the parts of a cell in alphabetical order in thirty seconds.
However, he has never taken a second of his life to think about the chemistry of cars.
Mohinder has spent hours in a car, never having a real idea as to how it converts gas into movement. He just trusts that it works.
However, he can explain the process of germinating and reproduction in very scientific terms. And that makes up for all of the things he's clueless about when it comes to cars.
A couple of minutes ago, however, a simple thing that may have been a nail or even a small piece of misplaced metal on the road has brought his car to screeching halt.
He thanks god that the stop didn't happen when he was doing eighty on the highway.
He taps his fingers on the car door, breathing out boringly.
Perhaps he should look at the tire.
With a sigh, Mohinder gets out of the car and stares at the flat tire that has collapsed oh-so-conveniently on the road in the middle of… well, some unnamed location. He's not going to be dramatic and call it 'the middle of nowhere'. Because he is somewhere.
Mohinder doesn't even find the object that pierced his tire. He rakes a hand through his black locks and gets back into the car.
He hears a car rumble to a stop behind him, and footsteps traipse over to the side of the car door.
It's a police officer.
"Oh," Mohinder says, feeling a little vulnerable, but he's glad that someone has stopped to help him, "hello, officer…?"
"Parkman," the man says gruffly, furrowing his eyebrows together, "do you have a flat tire?"
Part of Mohinder wants to be sarcastic, but he's looking at an officer right now, and perhaps being sardonic is not the best idea right now. He still has a flat tire, after all.
"And you don't know how to fix it?"
"No." Mohinder answers truthfully, "I think they should make it part of the driving license test, don't you think?"
"I – uh, why not." The officer replies uninterestedly, staring at the tire in interest. "Well, I hope you don't have any place to be."
Mohinder sighs, "Sadly enough, I don't."
"Do you have a spare in the back?"
"No." he answers deplorably.
"You could patch it. I have some pretty sturdy duck tape until you find a replacement."
Mohinder stares into the face of the cop, who's now awkwardly rubbing his neck. And Mohinder thinks that this man has no better idea how to fix a flat tire than he does.
Perhaps they should put how to fix a flat tire in the cop test, too.
"I… yes. Good idea, officer."
The man walks off to retrieve the tape and the air blower.
Very crudely, the tire is fixed. It'll be fixed for about a minute before the pressure on the road will blow the tape off of the tire and Mohinder will remain stopped on the road.
Sadly, Mohinder is not thinking about cement friction on rubber tires.
Perhaps the other people were right when they said that Mohinder was not a very intellectual scientist.
"Well, you might want to stop at the nearest shop you can to get a tire replacement." Officer Parkman tells Mohinder, and holds out his hand for a shake, "welcome to be of service."
"Thank you, Officer Potman." Mohinder dismisses, and revs up his car.
Most people would think that Gabriel Gray's strike of greed and evilness began when he first killed a human. Some would disagree, saying that it entirely lays in the fault of the way Gabriel was raised. Therapists would blame it on 'long-lost issues in his soul'.
Gabriel Gray knows exactly were the wickedness began.
When he was in eighth grade.
He's walking home from a particularly rough day of school where James Walker told his history teacher that Gabriel had cheated off of him in the Civil War test. Gabriel had been given a detention, and as the boy thinks about his fate when he would share these news with his mother, he kicks a rock at the sidewalk. Broodingly, he sighs, counting the cracks in the cement.
A cockroach scuttles by. Gabriel stomps on it.
He keeps on walking until his eyes catch something generally murky but still noticeable on the sidewalk by the wilting grass.
It's brown. It has a flap. It's been forgotten.
It's a wallet.
Gabriel's eyes shift from left to right edgily. He stops dead in his tracks, as though listening for the sound of sirens and cop cars to arrest him on the spot.
He snatches up the wallet and opens it.
Gabriel gasps as he shuffles through the numerous bills of money stuck inside the wallet.
He thinks about what to do, thoughts zipping through his head in lightning speed. Gabriel closes his eyes shut tightly and contemplates.
His mother would be yelling about what a disgrace stealing is to God. It is a sin in the Gray household to disobey the bible. Gabriel is not sure what is in the bible, seeing as he had only pretended to read it once for the sake of his mother, but he is sure that taking wallets was not on the 'To-Do List' in the book.
It's right there in his hands.
It's not like Gabriel deliberately took it from its rightful owner. It just appeared.
Finders keepers, right?
Surely there is an I.D. inside that Gabriel could return the wallet too.
In one smooth, fast motion, Gabriel grabs the I.D. out of the wallet and flings it across the yard deftly. He smiles as it lands in the middle of the street.
It feels good doing the wrong thing, in a twisted, rebellious way. It feels good being able to disobey his mother's strict and sometimes absurd rules. It feels good to be the owner of what looks like a wealthy one hundred and fourteen dollars and twenty-eight cents.
Gabriel knows that right now his inner subconscious of his mother is ranting on about the 'big picture' here.
Should our actions be based on what is right in the short term of what is best in the long run? Is it better to hurt one person to ultimately save another? Would it be morally acceptable to go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler as a child?
Maybe the big picture has become a little bigger than it should have. But on a moral basis of principles, Gabriel has to go with the wrong answer. He would gladly go back in time and kill someone like Adolf Hitler. He would kill someone else to save himself with a second chance.
To him, it was an evolutionary imperative.
It was finally voting day.
Nathan and Peter had talked about this. A week ago when Peter had visited Monty and Simon, Nathan had sat down with his brother for a friendly chat during lunch to inquire about Peter's voting status.
"So," Nathan begins, stirring at his soup, "voting day is coming up." He's foreshadowing subtly.
"Who are you gonna vote for?"
Peter sighs, "Oh, I dunno, Nathan. I mean, why can't I just be impartial?"
"Because your brother is on the voting ballot."
"Yes, but why can't I just not vote? Then I'm not on anyone's side."
Nathan shakes his head, pointing his spoon at Peter sternly.
"Not voting is a form of voting. It puts you in the position of 'politically uneducated', and when people like you won't vote, it puts all of those incredibly popular guys into office." Nathan growls.
"Nathan," Peter begins, his voice reminiscent to a mother teaching her young child a lesson, "it may seem extremely hip and cool to vote, but we're never really above it."
"Yes that's right!" Nathan says, realizing that his brother has brought up a valuable point to his side of the debate, "you're just part of it! And the decision made will affect you even if you pretend they don't!"
Peter smiles at his soup. "All right," he says finally, "I'll vote."
"Of course for you," Peter leans across the table to kiss his brother on the forehead and give him a one-armed hug.
"I love you, Peter."
Peter laughs, "You only tell me that when I say I'll vote for you."
"Then I'll start saying it more. I really mean it, Pete."
"Well, then I love you too, Nathan."
It was Valentine's Day.
For Ando, everyday was Valentine's Day, but today was actually the official holiday. It was actually February fourteenth, and today will be the only day that he will not be the only one confessing his love and making a fool out of himself in front of a girl.
It feels good, knowing you're not alone.
Hiro never made a big deal out of Valentine's Day. Ando did. For him, not only was it a day of dread, but it was also a day of unexplainable hope and merriness.
In a nutshell, Valentine's Day differed vastly between Hiro and Ando.
When they were in grade school, the teachers always ordered the students to send Valentines to everyone. This way no one would be left out, and it also keeps any meaning to the confession dead. When "I love you" is followed by an "I love everybody" it's much more universal, but also much less romantic.
Hiro would follow the rules and give everyone a valentine, polite and sweet. Ando would not obey the rule. He instead, would only send valentines to the attractive girls in his class. But still, there was no meaning to any of the cards. Just as adults shouldn't go trick-or-treating, children shouldn't bother with Valentine's Day.
In high school, Ando realized that Valentine's Day actually meant something. It meant giving cards to the girls you actually wanted dates with, and to not give them valentines with the kiddy cartoons on them, or anything that came from Disney Incorporates.
But what he also realized that a card no longer made an impression on girls. What did were flowers and candies, but Ando also realized that chocolate that sells for forty-eight dollars on this grand holiday will sell for fourteen on February fifteenth.
He doesn't buy things for girls. He doesn't write cards for them. What he does do, is desperately ask them out and hope that one girl is hopeless enough to agree.
There never is.
Sandra Bennet wants a family portrait (AN: You know the one with Mr. Muggles that got burnt up in the explosion with Ted? That's the one we're talking about!)to adorn the kitchen wall.
Noah Bennet does not.
Whether snapped at the local discount store that makes the photo look shadowy and the people look like they're taking mugshots or at the big-budget pro photographer, and whether painted by the second cousin or by a gallery-showing artist, a family portrait was a moment frozen in time.
Noah Bennet doesn't want the time to be frozen in a picture. In the realistic and practical world, it's just a reason to dress up formally and become the idealized selves for the length of a blinding flash.
But the pictures are not pretty. They remind Noah of how much faster Claire and Lyle are growing up than he wants them to, how much more annoying Mr. Muggles is getting, and how is hair is getting grayer and grayer.
Sandra wants to wear coordinated shirts. Noah doesn't.
However, Sandra pleads with the family and since Claire and Lyle agree, it would be rude of Noah not to go along with the photo.
They're all sitting stiffly on the black stools as the photographer adjusts the lens.
"The dog – is he supposed to be in the shot?"
Sandra nods proudly, "Yes, aren't you, Mr. Muggles? Yes, you will!" she coos at the dog lovingly, fondly patting its head.
"All right then," the photographer looks shifty. Apparently he's never dealt with dogs before, especially ones that are small and sound like bothersome sirens when they bark.
There's a ticking noise and then the camera flashes. The whole room goes dark before the light flickers back and the picture is over.
So is Noah's eyesight.
"Does it have to be so bright?" he asks the man.
"Yes. I'm sorry, sir." Noah doesn't think he's sorry.
Nathan lies in his bed quietly, smoothing down the layers of sheets that cover him. He stares at the spot beside him.
Heidi has gone for a business meeting in Chicago. She won't be back for a few days, and normally Nathan would be fine with that. Heidi's company is poor. But it's just the principle about being so forlornly alone.
And for his birthday.
Nathan stares at the clock, neon numbers flashing at him impassively. It's eleven fifty-six. In four minutes, he'll be a year older.
Nathan never thinks of a birthday being much of a reason to celebrate. Yet another year older and another year less.
Peter thinks that the older you get, the better the birthdays should be. That it's a reason to celebrate because you got to stick around for another year. In a way, it should be a renewal of yourself.
Every year, the will to celebrate lessens. Every year, the gift pile lessens. And every year, one more person forgets Nathan's birthday.
Two minutes tick by the clock.
Nathan's considering going to the other room and waking up Simon just to have someone to celebrate the first minute of his new year with.
But he won't.
Nathan wonders that if his father would be here right now, if he would be proud of his firstborn. If what he's done with his life so far was productive and worthy of the Petrelli name.
There's one minute left in his countdown. Nathan watches the clock boringly as the neon seconds click by.
And just as the clock hits midnight and Nathan is about to whisper happy birthday to himself, the phone on the nightstand rings piercingly.
Nathan jumps in surprise. Hastily he regains his composure and picks up the receiver.
"Hello?" He greets cautiously.
"Happy birthday." A familiar voice congratulates.
"Thanks, Pete," Nathan says, smiling into the phone, "I thought you were Heidi."
"I hope I'm not a disappointment.
"You're not." Nathan confirms, grinning. "You called exactly at midnight. Impressive."
"Someone had to tell you happy birthday. You're not older, you're just wiser. Life's a gift!"
"Life is what happens when you make other plans." Nathan mentions gruffly.
"C'mon!" Peter encourages, "life's a game. Learn how to play! It's like a bowl of cherries!"
"If life's a bowl of cherries, Pete, then why am I in the pits?"
There's silence on Peter's end of the phone. "Should I come over?"
"…It'd be nice to have company." Nathan confesses sheepishly.
And the click on the other end sounds.
Three minutes later, there's a knock on the downstairs door, and in comparison to Nathan, Peter is well groomed and does not sport bed hair.
"C'min." Nathan offers, unenthusiastically waving his brother into the hall. "Nice to not be alone on your birthday."
Peter gives Nathan a brief hug. "I wouldn't miss calling you at midnight when I can only do it with a valid excuse once a year."
Nathan goodheartedly pats Peter on the back. "Glad you're here."
"So am I staying the night?"
"…If you want to," Nathan replies timidly, stuffing his hands into his bathrobe pockets, "the couch'll be free."
"What about the other side of the bed? I know it's huge, Nathan."
Nathan sighs, "I guess you're right. But… but stay on your side."
"You mean Heidi's side."
Nathan remains silent.
It's odd to see his brother and ultimately best friend lying next to him in bed where usually Heidi sleeps peacefully, but Nathan is thankful that at least someone cares that it's his birthday.
"Do I get a hug?" Peter's voice penetrates the silence.
Nathan chuckles, and leans over to kiss Peter's forehead and hug his shoulder.
"I love you, Nathan."
"I love you too, Pete."
Silence. And then –
"I love you more, Nathan."
And the two brothers break into suppressed, quiet laughter.
Retirement, Angela Petrelli muses, is a surprisingly good feeling. You're finally declaring that you're giving up on working.
It's like a confirmation of your not having to do anything anymore. From now on, Angela is going to do nothing.
It's like she's now a senior citizen, and senior citizens get all of the respect she needs from children and adults alike. If she wants to, she can hang one of those handicap signs in her car and park wherever she wanted to. She's retired now.
Angela doesn't think she has any faults. Other people might, and those people do have faults. They have not stepped into Angela's delicate shoes to see the life she living and seen how absolutely well she plays the game of life.
Others, meanwhile, need to learn how to play the game of life. Sometimes Angela thinks they don't have instructions, even, or they lost their manual and are now just aimlessly stumbling through the pits of problems and the holes of crisis.
Angela, however, probably has six manuals to life.
Her faults to others are strengths in her eyes. She bases this entirely on a very endearing quote she heard when she was young, a man must be strong enough to mold the peculiarity of his imperfections into the perfections of his impeculiarities.
She molded her imperfections into flawless perfections years ago.
This was back when she was breathing through an umbilical cord.
Angela Petrelli is one woman who knows life better than she does herself, and that is only because she is Angela Petrelli.
And because she has now retired, and doesn't have to be winning games and competitions anymore.
She's already won. She's made it this far. She's run through life with being the best, and she's finished with a shining gold trophy in her two-inch talons.
And the next time she'll retire, she'll be retiring from life, and that is called death.
She's won that game already, too.
AN: First of all, no, this is not a chapter story, it is a oneshot. Second of all, this was a request from a good friend of mine, MiloVentimigliaIsLove. I'm so very sorry that all of the Spring Break requests are taking this long when it's definitely not Spring Break anymore, but there were a lot of requests and forking them all out when I have school assessments has been a challenge! But I love you all anyway! And you can still request stories, because school is going to be taking a turn to the relaxing side soon :D.
Now, most of these plots were taken from the very handy Game of Life book written by Lou Harry. I got some sentences word by word from him and some not so much.