I'm so glad to be back at writing Heroes! Hurray! This story will answer a few leftover questions from Home Fires Burning and present some new conflicts for our heroes. Once again, my parents helped me out quite a bit with ideas, so thanks to them. I always love good feedback, so if you enjoy a chapter let me know, and let me know why. I hope you do enjoy!
Returning to the Petrelli brothers and Phoebe and the others felt like reuniting with old friends...
Gosh, it's good to be back!
Nathan Petrelli leaned in the doorway and watched his wife put on her earrings. The deep sapphire blue of her dress accentuated the porcelain tone of her skin and the silky blackness of her hair. She was very beautiful. And very troubled.
"I'll stand by you tonight, Nathan," she said quietly to his reflection in the vanity mirror. "But that's all I can promise."
"I understand," said Nathan softly. He took a step forward into the room. "But I just want you to know that… I've changed."
She turned to look at him, blue eyes probing. "I know."
They faced each other for a moment in silence, then Heidi turned her back to him. "Will you--will you please help me with this necklace?" she asked, her voice controlled, polite... remote.
"Yes," said Nathan, nearing her.
She lifted up both ends of the necklace, holding them over her shoulders until Nathan took them. Her breath left her in a shaky sigh as he moved closer.
"I'm sorry, Heidi," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. His fingers shook as he attempted to fasten the clasp. "Everything that happened with Meredith…" His fingers slipped, and he swore. "That was before you."
"I know," said Heidi, her eyes blank in the mirror, her voice carefully modulated.
"And what happened in Vegas… I've told you so many times how sorry I am."
Finally, the clasp fastened, but Nathan gently rested his hands on his wife's shoulders. "Will sorry ever be enough?"
His words brought a silence then, and cold seemed to emanate from Heidi like an icy aura.
"You lied to me, Nathan," she said finally, her voice tight and sharp.
Nathan winced, dropped his head, dropped his hands. "I know."
She swept past him and moved toward the door, all beauty and anger and ice. She paused for a moment in the doorway and said quietly, "I'll stand by you tonight, when you introduce… your daughter… to the world. But please… Don't ask me for more than that."
He turned and looked up, meeting her eyes. "I won't."
"Claire, that dress is gorgeous on you," Sandra Bennett gushed as she stroked Mr. Muggles lovingly. "You look so grown-up." For a moment, her voice faltered and her eyes started to tear, but she managed to pull herself together. "You and that nice Phoebe girl are going to be the belles of the ball."
Twirling in the living room of her family's new home, Claire certainly hoped so. After all, she was going to be the guest of honor. That thought suddenly made her nervous, and she stopped twirling, purple silk rustling as it settled around her. "What will they all think of me?" she asked, looking at her adopted mother with wide, anxious eyes. "Do you think they'll… look down on me because of the way I was born?"
Sandra stood and crossed the carpet, carrying the little dog against her shoulder. She placed her free hand on Claire's shoulder and looked intently into her eyes. "Claire, no one who has ever met you--or who will ever meet you--looks down on you. You are a strong, smart, sweet young lady, and that means so much more than how you are born."
"Thanks, Mom." Claire's smile returned and she took her mother's hand. As she did so, the clock on the mantle caught her eye. "Hurry, Mom! Help me with my make-up! They'll be here in less than an hour!"
Phoebe Agnew stood staring at herself in the bathroom mirror of her new New York City apartment. She who had faced immense danger, had stood face to face with Sylar and lived--she, Phoebe Agnew, was terrified. Slowly, she reached a trembling hand up to touch her titian hair, which was piled on her head in elaborate loops and coils, with tendrils curling softly around her cheeks. "You can do this, Phoebe," she told her pale reflection. "Breathe."
She took a deep breath, slowly releasing it as she turned from the mirror and walked out of the bathroom, green satin swishing around her long legs.
"Are you okay?"
Peter Petrelli was standing in her living room, dressed in a very nice suit, hands in his pockets, eyes full of concern. Devastatingly handsome.
"I'll be fine. I'm fine. I'm… fine." She managed a weak smile. "I've done this before, remember. Twice or three times. I can't remember which. I'm babbling, but I'm fine. Just fine."
Peter moved quickly to her side. "You don't have to do this, Phoebe. Maybe I shouldn't have even suggested it." He took her hand and brushed his lips across her knuckles. "Just say the word, and I'll call a cab."
"Don't." Her smile broadened, and she leaned into him, savoring his warmth. "You're flying me to the banquet, and that's final. I have to get over my fear if I'm going to be hanging around you Petrellis."
"Hey, don't blame me!" Peter exclaimed, smiling crookedly. "It's Nathan's fault I can fly. Blame Nathan!"
Phoebe grinned wryly. "I'll be sure to do so--after we survive this banquet. You know… We might even enjoy it."
"Possibly." Peter's eyes suddenly went soft and bright, as they were wont to do. "You look so beautiful… I don't think it'll be possible notto be happy when I'm looking at you."
Phoebe's heart melted dramatically. She took Peter's face gently between her hands and stared intensely into his eyes. "Peter… I love you!" she said fiercely. Then she kissed him with a fervent passion. His arms came around her as he returned the kiss, and she murmured a sigh against his lips. "Can we do this while we fly?" she whispered, moving her lips close to his ear.
"Hmmm…" He laughed softly. "It looks like we've been doing that already…"
Phoebe looked down. Her feet were hovering a few inches off the ground. She met Peter's eyes and grinned. "Whoa."
"You're not scared I'll drop you?" he asked quietly, tightening his arms around her waist.
She shook her head, running a hand through his silky dark hair. "Not anymore."
Hiro Nakamura was standing at a door and holding a red rose. He lifted it to his nose to inhale its fragrance. It reminded him of the girl behind the door--delicate and sweet. "Sasha, I have come for you," he said quietly, raising his free hand to knock on the door.
But before he could knock, it opened, and there stood Sasha in a T-length red dress. Though she could not see him, she smiled. "Hiro."
"Hello, Sasha," said Hiro brightly. "I have come for you. I have rose and limousine."
Sasha's smile broadened, and she stretched out a fine-boned hand. "I'm ready."
Hiro took her hand and led her out of her apartment. "Here is rose," he said, handing her the long-stemmed flower.
Sasha took it and held it to her nose, inhaling deeply. "It's beautiful," she said.
Hiro grinned as he led her down the hall toward the elevator. "You are like the rose, Sasha Kent. You are beautiful in red dress, like red rose petals."
"And I'm sure you look handsome in a tuxedo," said Sasha, touching the soft rose petals to her cheek. "I cannot see you, but…" She bit her lip and blushed lightly, squeezing his hand. "I can feel you."
"I'm sorry. I didn't--I didn't think about your hair."
Standing in an alley across the street from the banquet hall, Phoebe laughed, reaching up to pat the wind-mussed coils of red-gold. "It's fine, Peter. I didn't think about that, either." The flight had been wonderful. Peter had flown slowly, holding her close. With the stars above her and the lights of the city below her, Phoebe had been in perfect bliss. Smiling at Peter, she reached up to pull the bobby pins out of her hair. "I think I'll just wear it down."
"Here. Let me help." He moved to stand behind her, then began to gently slip the pins out of her hair.
What on earth did I do to deserve this guy? she wondered, closing her eyes. Thank-you, God, for Peter.
"There." He shoved the pins into the pocket of his jacket and turned her to face him, smiling softly and crookedly. "I like your hair down." He reached to brush a strand back from her face.
"Thank-you." She reached to take his hand. "Shall we go?"
He nodded and took her hand, and they turned together to face the street.
Just before they reached the road, Peter stopped walking, eyes widening.
"What is it?" Phoebe asked, suddenly alert.
He did not answer, but turned to look back into the alley. Phoebe followed his line of vision. Standing in the shadows of the alley, barely visible, was what looked like a large dog.
"What's wrong, Peter?" Phoebe asked, frowning confusedly at him.
Peter tore his eyes from the dog and met her frown. "Remember how I said I would one day tell you where I was when I disappeared after the explosion?"
"Well, I think I'm going to tell you tonight, after the banquet." He looked deeply into her eyes for a moment, then abruptly released her hand. "Go on to the banquet. I'll be there in a minute." He turned and started walking back into the alley.
"Peter! What's going on?" Phoebe called after him, turning toward the alley. The dog had vanished, but Peter kept walking. A chill ran up Phoebe's spine.
"Find Nathan. Stay close to him," Peter called back to her, breaking into a jog.
"Peter! Wait!" Phoebe started to follow.
"No, Phoebe!" he exclaimed, spinning to face her. "I'll be right along. Go find Nathan. Stick close to him."
Phoebe sighed in frustration. She wanted desperately to know what was going on with Peter. "Peter, let me come with you!"
"I can't, Phoebe." He sounded as frustrated as she felt. "Just… Find Nathan and the others. Tell them I said to stay close together."
"Go." And then he vanished.
Phoebe pressed her lips tightly together, suddenly shaky inside. I thought we were safe. We were fine. Sylar is gone… So what's going on now? Squaring her shoulders, she turned to face the road. I hope Nathan can help me sort this out…
Nathan turned from one of the guests to face Wyatt. The troubled look on the gardener's face warned him that something was wrong. "What is it?"
"I need to speak with you privately," Wyatt said quietly.
Nathan flashed the guest an apologetic smile. "Excuse me." Then he followed Wyatt to a quieter corner of the steadily filling ballroom, casting an anxious glance to where Claire stood with Heidi. Both women were smiling at guests, but their smiles were tight, Nathan could tell.
"Mr. Petrelli, something has happened," Wyatt said, drawing his attention.
"What is it? What's going on?" Nathan asked, crossing his arms and feeling just a bit impatient.
"I'm not sure, but I think it has to do with Peter and Phoebe," said the gardener, frowning concernedly.
Nathan closed his eyes momentarily. Oh no.
"I got a very slight flash of the past," Wyatt explained. "Peter and Phoebe were flying--"
"Flying?" Nathan raised an eyebrow. "She's terrified of flying these days!"
"Well, they were flying," Wyatt continued. "They landed across the street from this very building, and then, there was darkness. I sensed something… dark."
Nathan could feel his heart beating in his chest--fast and hard. It was true that Peter and Phoebe had not shown up yet, but it was still early. He had not worried about them. Now he wondered if maybe he should… "We need to find them. Now."
"Yes, sir." Wyatt nodded slowly. "I'll go check the front door now." He moved past his boss, then made his way across the floor.
Nathan stood in the corner for a moment, steeling himself for trouble, then took a deep breath and started toward one of the doors of the ballroom. He made his way into the hall, then headed toward the exit, hoping no one had noticed his exit. Oddly, the hall lights were turned off, and there was no one in sight. That made him nervous.
The exclamation made him jump, then he sighed with relief when Phoebe burst into the hall from an obscure exit. "Phoebe, I was worried sick. What the--"
"Nathan, Peter just--just disappeared and told me to stick close to you, and there was this dog and it disappeared, and then Peter just left me and told me to find you, and--" She ran up to him and grabbed onto his shoulders, green eyes wide. "I don't know what to do!"
"Calm down," said Nathan, feeling hypocritical as he said the words. Well, it wouldn't be the first time. He gently patted Phoebe's arm and tried to affect an air of control. "Take a deep breath and tell me exactly what happened."
"Peter flew me here, and then we--"
"He flew you? You're over that now?"
Phoebe nodded. "Yes. It was fun. But anyway, we were walking toward this building, when suddenly he stopped, and he said for me to go ahead without him."
"And you refused," said Nathan.
"Yes. I did." Phoebe raised an eyebrow, seeming impatient.
"Sorry. Go on."
"There was this dog in the alley, and then it wasn't there. And I got a weird feeling. Then Peter disappeared--on purpose, I think, so I couldn't follow him."
"And he told me to stick close to you, for all of us to stick close," Phoebe finished. "Nathan, we have to find him."
"Again." He rolled his eyes.
"This is serious." Phoebe gave his shoulders a shake. "Stop pretending that you're not bothered by this. I know you are."
Nathan met her intense stare and sighed. "You're right. This bothers me." He took her hands from his shoulders and held them, looking sincerely into her eyes. "We'll find him, Phoebe. We'll get Wyatt and Hiro, and we'll go after him if we have to."
Phoebe managed a weak smile. "Thanks, Nathan. I was hoping you'd know what to do."
Nathan and Phoebe turned, the former wincing inwardly and quickly releasing Phoebe's hands when he saw who was standing in the hallway.
Angela Petrelli folded her arms over her chest, raising one eyebrow. It seemed that it was the night for eyebrow raising. "So. What are the two of you doing out here in this dark hallway while you should be in the ballroom? Especially you, Nathan."
"Ma, this isn't what you think," Nathan said quickly. "Phoebe had something important to tell me." He glanced at Phoebe, who was narrowing her eyes on him, lips pressed tightly together. He was sure he knew exactly what was on her mind. He needed no mind-reading power to guess that: Be a man, Nathan. Stand up to your mom. You've done it before. Do it again. Don't let her push you around.
"Phoebe, where's Peter?" Angela asked, ignoring Nathan's reply.
"That's just it, Mrs. Petrelli," said Phoebe, lifting her chin and smiling politely. "Nathan and I were discussing his whereabouts just as you entered the hallway."
Nathan had to fight to keep from smiling. Phoebe could certainly hold her own. She was just the sort of girl he would pick for Peter. And thinking of Peter… He sighed inwardly, his heart constricting with worry.
"And where is he?" Angela asked, her eyes narrowing.
"Nathan? Are you out here?"
Phoebe was saved from having to answer by the entrance of Heidi into the hallway. Nathan suddenly felt claustrophobic at being surrounded by the three women.
Heidi's eyes met his, then moved to take in Angela and Phoebe. "Senator Brewster is here. He's looking for you. You know how he is."
Nathan smiled tightly at her. "Alright. I'm coming. Mother, Phoebe, will you join us?"
Phoebe nodded, swallowing. "Sure."
"Of course," said Angela calmly.
The four of them entered the ballroom together, Nathan flanked by his mother and his wife, with Phoebe trailing behind. Before Senator Brewster could bear down on him, Nathan tossed Phoebe a furtive glance. She did not notice. She did not even seem to be aware of Claire, who was approaching her. Phoebe was standing there in the middle of the marble floor, hugging herself and looking over her shoulder. Of course. She was still looking for Peter.
"John? Is that you?" Peter stepped slowly through the opened door of the tiny townhouse. It was so dark inside. "John?" He reached out with his powers, sensing a familiar presence on the other side of the shadowy living room.
"I'm--I'm here," came an agonized voice. "Stop, Peter. Don't come any closer. You're my friend. I don't want to hurt you. It's not safe yet."
Peter stopped walking. "What happened, John? Are you okay?"
There was a dusky beam of light across the floor, coming from a streetlight just outside the window. Two slim, long-fingered hands reached into the light, toward Peter. "I still have my hands, you see. They are always the first and the last to change. Mostly, they never change."
"John, maybe I can help you," Peter said, taking a tentative step forward.
"No! Go back!" The hands made a frantic motion. "I just… I just wanted to check on you. I felt so bad for leaving you there all those weeks ago, after I found you. And you were like me. I'll never forget that. You were like me… Different."
"Special," Peter said quietly.
"Different," John countered. His voice was distant and sad. "I had to make sure you were alright. You were my friend."
"I still am, John," said Peter, shaken up inside at the state of the man who had aided him after the Kirby Plaza incident, the man who had vanished without a trace not long after saving Peter's life.
"I've met some--some people now. I think they're going to help me. They said they can. So… I'm glad you're alright. You were with a girl…" The voice was wistful now. "She was very beautiful. Such lovely hair."
"Yes." Peter could not help but smile. "That's Phoebe."
"And she loves you?"
"You love her. I don't have to ask that. I can tell."
"We're going to a banquet tonight. Well, she's already there." Peter took another step forward, his heart going out to the other man. "You can come with me. You can meet her there."
"No. No. Just… Leave me, Peter."
Peter frowned. "I don't want to, John. You saved my life. Let me help you."
The hands shrank back into the shadows. "Go to your banquet, Peter. Your lady is waiting."