It was late at night, and for the first time in recent memory, Mohinder was home with Molly, while Matt was not. Mohinder was awake, under the pretext of having too much work to get down for sleep to be allowed. His ears strained, listening for footsteps in the hall outside, although why he even bothered was beyond his comprehension. The two men he was on the look out for would hear either his heartbeat or his worrying long before the sounds of their footfalls reached his ears.
He stared at the computer screen, watching listlessly as the data scrolled across the screen. If he hadn't known better, he'd say it was mocking him; he'd seen as these facts before. The Company had developed the virus from a deadly but contained sample to an apocalypse waiting to happen, under the guise of developing a cure for people with dangerous abilities. A cure they happened to give to Sylar, who they would have had to have saved from almost certain death at the hands of Hiro first. Nothing he hadn't already pieced together. The Company wasn't to be trusted. Nothing Matt's eyes hadn't accused him of missing as they compared the day's events over caffeinated beverages after Nathan's death and Sylar's resurrection.
There was a monster out on the streets again, saved by his employer and completely healed by himself. Hadn't it been bad enough that he'd befriended the man, lead him to his victims? Did fate really have to rub his utter uselessness in his face by having him be the one to restore power to his father's murderer?
Funny, that these days he seemed more inclined to believe that there was some sort of higher power out there, but he couldn't help but have the distinct feeling that he was simply a pawn in a much larger game. What was perhaps even worse, was that he couldn't even appeal directly to the grandmaster, whoever it might be. Confronting Bishop had made it plain that he was exactly that, a bishop, a more important piece than himself, but ultimately just as powerless.
Suddenly, Molly began to scream.
Mohinder pushed himself from the desk and ran to her room, nearly tripping over his own feet as he did so. Molly screamed again, twisted violently around on the bed before sitting bolt upright.
"Molly," Mohinder cried, pulling her into his arms. He rocked the back and forth, and Molly buried her head in his shirt and sobbed. "Molly, it's okay, it's alright, everything is fine, everything is fine…"
Molly's small frame shook against him, and he gave up lying to her. He switched instead to soothing, shushing noises, interspaced with the odd Tamil phrase, snatches of lullabies and nonsense words that somehow meant more than the empty words he had uttered a moment ago. He stroked her hair, waiting for her to calm down, standing sentinel as her breathing became less choked gasps and more even gulps.
"Mohinder?" Molly asked, her face still pressed into his chest so that her voice was muffled.
"Yes, Molly?" Mohinder replied.
"When is Matt coming home?"
And there was yet another problem. He could never fully forget that there was another man who was Molly's hero, another man who tried his best to protect her from all the demons in the world; one who succeeded more often, and more tangibly, than he did. Someone who appeared to have won their subtle, unspoken competition over who would be Molly's father when dust finally settled and it would be safe to try and be normal again.
"I don't know," Mohinder answered truthfully, swallowing his disappointment. "I could try and give him a call, if you like?"
But Molly had gone limp. Alarmed, Mohinder pulled her far enough away that he could see her face. Her eyes were closed, and she was unresponsive.
"What?" she asked opening her eyes. Color flooded back into her cheeks. "I'm just checking for Matt."
"Don't do that," he ordered, pulling her close again. "You scared me. Don't-"
"I'm fine. I was just telling Matt that I had a nightmare," Molly assured him. The thought of his return seemed to have buoyed her spirits somewhat. "He's already in the building. He'll be here in a minute."
And there was something else he couldn't forget; Matt didn't just protect her, he was connected to her in a way Mohinder simply wasn't evolved enough take part in. The communicated like this all the time now, smiling into their cereal bowls as they talked about their plans for the day while Mohinder frowned into his tea and did the best he could to ignore the fact that all he heard was silence.
Those footsteps he'd been searching for earlier were there now, pausing at the front door as the key was forced into the lock, before stumbling inside. Matt appeared in Molly's doorway, slightly out of breath and rosy-faced. He must have run the rest of the way once Molly had contacted him.
"Hey, Molly-doll," he greeted her, sitting down on the other side of the bed. "Bad dreams again?"
Molly nodded, and turned away from Mohinder so Matt could give her one of his famous bear hugs. That was another thing which Mohinder lacked; the sheer physical presence to make her feel safe. Molly disappeared inside Matt's arms, while when Mohinder hugged her, she was able to reach around his body with her own.
"You aren't going to leave, are you?" she asked.
"Of course not," Matt cooed. "I love you, I'd never leave."
As Mohinder rubbed the small of her back, trying to sooth away the hiccups that were just starting, he wondered if it might be better if he did.
It took them almost an hour to get Molly to go to sleep, her curled up in Matt's lap and using Mohinder's arm as a pillow. It was an awkward position to sleep in, but they managed it well enough that dark circles underneath their eyes were the only sign that they had all piled into a twin-sized bed.
The silence was uncharacteristic only because there were no private conversations going on. Matt nearly fell into his cereal bowl before the coffee kicked in, and Molly stared pensively into hers.
"Matt," she said suddenly. "Can I ask you something?"
"Go ahead Molls," Matt muttered tiredly.
"Can I call you Dad?"
Mohinder dropped his spoon; the noise was covered by the sound of Matt doing the exact same thing.
"Sure!" Matt answered, voice cracking a little. "Sure, of course! Yes!"
Mohinder bit his lip. So this was it; the winner of their little contest had finally been proclaimed. He supposed it should have been somewhat of a relief; at least he didn't have to contend with false hope anymore.
Somehow, that didn't change the fact that his heart felt like it had been shattered into a thousand pieces. It hurt so much he almost didn't hear what Molly said next.
"And Mohinder? Do you mind if I call you Appa?"
He stared at her numbly, trying to process the words.
"Appa? Am I pronouncing it right?" she asked.
"Yes," he managed. "Yes, you are."
"Oh good," she sighed, relieved. "I wasn't sure- I had to look it up on Google. I tried asking Viral, but his family speaks Marathi, not Tamil."
Mohinder nodded, still in shock. "I-I could teach you how to speak Tamil, if you like," he heard himself say.
"Really?" Molly squealed, brightening considerably. "Oh that would be so cool!"
It was perhaps a mark of how wonderful he felt, that he turned to Matt and said, "I could teach you too, you know."
"No thanks," Matt replied, laughing a little. His was still grinning hugely. "I think I'll try mastering my first language before I start on my second."
They both walked Molly down to the bus stop, just because they could. She kissed them both goodbye before running onto the bus. "Bye Dads!"
"Bye Molly!" the both replied, waving.
As the bus pulled away, Matt turned to Mohinder, grin relaxed into a smile. "So hey- we're parents. When did that happen?"
"I don't know," Mohinder answered. "A while ago, I think. Sometime between when you came home from the hospital and I left for Singapore."
"Really? That happened in twelve seconds?" Matt replied.
"It was longer than that!" Mohinder protested, infuriated. Really, they'd just managed have a nice family moment, did he have to bring this argument up now?
"Hey, I'm just teasing you," Matt said defensively. "She misses you when you're not around, you know."
No, actually. No he didn't. "Really?"
"Yep. I swear, it seems like you're all she can talk about when you're not here. When's Mohinder coming home? You can't sing like Mohinder. I want Mohinder, Mohinder cooks."
He snorted. "She was asking for you last night, you know," he said. "Your hugs are better than mine, it seems."
"It's murder trying to get her to do her homework when you're not around."
"She won't let me read to her at night, because I can't do the voices right."
"She won't let me make her lunch. No, more than that; she insists on making mine too."
Mohinder grinned. Why had he ever thought this was a competition? They weren't rivals, they were teammates. Molly needed both of them. "Well, maybe if you didn't think the four major food groups were pizza, KFC, Chinese, and Dunkin Donuts…"
"Dunkin Donuts aren't a food group! It's Krispy Kream's!"
Mohinder snorted, before catching sight of the time. "Oh God, I have to go work."
"Me too," Matt groaned. "See you home for dinner tonight? Or is saving the world going to get in the way?"
"I think I can wrangle on hour or so for a meal," Mohinder replied. "You?"
"You know me; I'm an underachiever. I just have to save the city, I think I can get away for a while."
"Shall we shoot for six-ish?"
"I think we shall. See you then, Mohinder."
"See you then, Matt."