Wow, another story, can you believe it? Thanks to everyone to cared enough to keep bugging me about new stories and updates. I love it! You know what really inspired me to finish this story though? Meeting Milo *freaking* Ventimiglia on Saturday. Yes. That's right. I finally met him and yes he is gorgeous. Oh yeah. Please enjoy.

Note: This is an AU story about the Petrelli family. If you're interested I have several back stories like 8th Grade History, Stupid Decisions, Complicated Consequences and Emergency. I think this still makes sense without having read those other stories, but of course it would make more sense if you've read those first. Basically, Adam Monroe came out about the whole abilities thing a long time ago and now all our heroes are growing up in a world where their abilities are accepted.

Christmas Gifts

The holiday season is well known for revealing the best, and the worst, in human nature. Something in the air amplifies these natural inclinations. Those who are generally easy going, pleasant and joyful tend to enjoy the holidays with childlike animation. Concurrently, harried, high-strung or snappish individuals are usually hard pressed to take pleasure in the season. At 11 years old Peter still adored Christmas, but, as every Tiny Tim requires his Scrooge, at 25 years old, Nathan didn't. Whether or not the young man had ever truly been possessed of the spirit of the season is hard to say. Where Peter saw the lights and cookies and warm glowing fires Nathan saw crowded shopping centers, whining brats and dead locked traffic. However, Nathan did love his brother and six year old daughter, so he merely bit his tongue and mustered the strength to go along with the so-called festivities though thankfully, between his busy law school schedule and internship with his father's firm, he didn't have much time for caroling or ice skating. The bulk of those tasks were relegated to the children's loving care-giver, Jen, who was a sweet young woman who doted upon Peter and Claire. Since the two were both on winter break Jen had planned a seemingly endless list of exciting winter activities to occupy their time.

Every evening at dinner the elder Petrellis were regaled with the adventures of the day. If Angela, Arthur or Nathan every felt any compulsion towards guilt at missing out on those precious childhood experiences it was never voiced or expressed in any manner. Actually, Angela had always rationalized that as her responsibilities often took her far beyond the confines of the family home, the bulk of her maternal duties were centralized in finding a capable replacement.

Jen was intelligent, respectful, strict, creative, moral; everything an absentee mother could ask for in her children's care giver. She had always been devoted to her job as well, often putting her obligations to the children before her social life and school work. She was quite the perfect employee really. That is, she was, until she abruptly quit.

"May I ask why?" Angela had asked calmly, putting her work aside and turning to face the young woman. Angela had been appalled to hear the girl's horribly cliché plan to move out west and strike it big in Hollywood. She found the girl's aspirations foolish and wasteful of her obvious talent with children, so while she couldn't wish her well she did excuse her with the promise that her last check would be ready be ready the next day.

Angela didn't exactly relish the idea of telling the two children that Jen would no longer be with them, but when she made her way to the breakfast table an hour or so later it was apparent that the girl had taken care of that for her. Claire was wailing in her father's arms while Peter sat sulkily poking at his eggs.

"There is no need for the theatrics, Claire," Angela snapped, taking hold of the small girl and forcing her into her own chair.

"But why, Gramma?" Claire asked, though it was clear from Nathan's aggravated expression that it wasn't the first time that question had been breached. Peter look up at his mother at the same time, hoping that his mother would be able to soothe the pain where his brother couldn't.

Angela wanted to tell the children that Jen had left because she was a silly twit with grandiose dreams devoid of any hope for fruition. However, she took her seat and explained that change is an inescapable part of life. "We couldn't very well expect Jen to stay with us forever, now could we? Everyone needs to grow, gain new experiences. You wouldn't want to stay exactly as you are now for the rest of your life, would you?"

"No," Peter and Claire conceded.

"Well, apparently Jen didn't either. Now what should a Petrelli do? Sit around moping or take action?"

"Take action," the two youngsters chorused.

"That's right. Tell me, what did you have planned for today?" she asked, unfolding her napkin with a sharp flick that clearly punctuated the end of that particular conversation.

"Claire wants to see Santa Clause…" Peter drawled in that voice peculiar to bored pre-teens who are well aware that Santa is just for kids.

"Jen promised I could," Claire said defensively, her eyes beginning to glisten once again. It was clear that this was an old debate between the two. "She even helped me make my list." Tears threatened to fall as she was reminded of her former friend and caregiver.

"Come on, Claire," Peter wheedled. "Wouldn't you rather go sledding in the park? Winter breaks almost over and we've only gone once."

"But its Santa, Peter. If I don't give him my list he'll never know what I want," she reasoned.

Peter shared an exasperated look with his brother, who merely shrugged.

"Never mind all that," Angela interjected before a fight could erupt. "You'll have plenty of time to do both today."

"And decorate the tree tonight," Peter reminded her. "Dad promised we could do it tonight. All of us."

"Of course, sweetheart," said said gently. "I'm sure he remembered." In actuality, she was almost positive that he hadn't. A quick glance at Nathan was enough to convince her that the young man shared her sentiment. Between work, community, looming political difficulties with AP rights and the added complication of Peter's unique situation, the past few years had been difficult for the Petrellis.

All of these factors were taking a particularly harsh toll on the patriarch. While he had always been a hard worker and strict disciplinarian, he was becoming increasingly distant with his family. No one felt his absence more keenly than Peter. Sweet, sensitive Peter who couldn't overlook the fact that the increase in late nights at the office, international business meetings and weekends spent locked in his study with nothing but a bottle of bourbon coincided precisely with the emergence of his ability. Granted Peter had been able to wrench the promise of tree trimming when their paths happened to cross at breakfast one morning in early November, which had been no small feat for the young boy. Yet the apathetic tone used to make that vow had been warning enough for Angela.

As always, she would make the necessary arrangements in her husband's stead, though, of course, never allowing Peter to discover that fact. Well, she could do so as soon as the children were out from underfoot.

"We'll all be here together tonight. All of us," she said pointedly, offering Nathan a stern look.

"Of course we are, ma," Nathan said in reply. "In fact, Heidi is going to be here tonight as well."

"Oh, goody!" Claire cheered. Ever since she had started kindergarten and realized, courtesy of her classmates, how special and important a mommy is she had been desperate to have one of her own. Heidi seemed like a nice candidate for the position.

Peter liked her because Nathan like her; that was reason enough for the young boy. Besides, she was pretty and nice and always smelled of flowers.

Angela wasn't similarly impressed. For once, Nathan didn't care.

"Left, I said left, Nathan," cried Angela, directing her grown son as he single handedly hefted the far too large Douglas Fir into its proper position, groaning and uttering muffled curses as fresh, sharp needles drove into his uncovered neck, ears and eyes.

"I am going left, ma!" He complained, straining to remain upright.

"I meant my left, of course, not your left," she continued. "Just a little bit more, it's almost there."

He complied, as a good son should, righting the tree exactly according to his mother's detailed specifications. "How is that?" he asked, both hands supporting his aching back.

"Lovely," Angela pronounced, though a suspiciously contemplative luster lingered in her sharp eyes. "Except for one thing…"

"Ma, you've got to be joking!" Nathan cried, fingerings already massaging his throbbing temples.

"If you would just move it a few inches to the right the window will fame it beautifully."

Angela pursed her lips and cocked an eyebrow at her son's explosive and vulgar reaction to her, in her opinion, sensible request. "Really, Nathan, we can do without the expletives, thank you. You're a healthy young man with a strong back, now get to it."

Telling himself that flying through the window was not an option because it would only ruin Christmas for his daughter and brother, further irritate his mother and cause Heidi to hate him for all eternity, he resolved to finish the stupid task at hand. With a loud grunt the tree was finally in an acceptable position. As he straightened his abused body, willing the kings out of his neck to no avail, he felt a soft hand pulling needles out of his thoroughly mussed hair. He turned to see Heidi standing behind him, biting her cheek in a valiant effort not to laugh at her boyfriend's predicament.

"I thought I hear your dulcet tones," she said, unable to prevent the amusement from seeping into her words. "Is everything okay?"

"Its fine," he said gruffly, joining in her efforts by running his fingers through his thick hair. "I thought you were baking cookies with the kids."

"All done," she said, sweeping his shoulders clean of his forest scented shower. "Peter's getting them out of the oven right now and then they just have to cool."

Angel looked up sharply from the chair in the corner where she had been attempting to rouse her dozing husband. "You left Peter to get the hot pan out of the 350 degree oven, unattended? Do you really think that was a wise decision, dear?"

Nathan saw traces of worry cloud Heidi's blue eyes. "I…I didn't think it was a problem," she explained, casting a beseeching look at the man beside her. "He said he knew how and he is 11 years old…"

"It's fine, Heidi," maintained Nathan solidly, and though he addressed the younger woman, his fierce gaze was upon the older. Angela, in turn, swept an undisguisedly cold and calculating look over her future daughter-in-law before returning her attention to her husband.

"It really was ok to leave then, wasn't it Nathan?" whispered Heidi in a hurried voice. "I mean, I don't really know much about kids and the last thing I want is for one of them to get hurt."

"Like I said before, it's perfectly alright. Peter's a big kid, my mother just has problems dealing with that fact sometimes."

Nathan's speech might have been more convincing if it hadn't been capped off with a brilliant scream from the kitchen. Unfortunately, it was.

The three conscious adults froze, eyes wide and staring at one another. "Claire!" they shouted simultaneously and Nathan led the mad dash through the too large house to the kitchen on the other side of the building. After what seemed like an eternity Nathan burst through the colonial style swinging door, expecting to find his daughter in the throes of agony and death, but instead happening upon two very guilty looking children. Heidi and Angela soon followed the young man, each with similarly confused looks upon their faces.

"Hi," said Peter and Claire, watching the adults with understandable trepidation. They suspected what had caused the trio to rush from their previous occupations, but after seeing the ferocity in Nathan's face they were hesitant to bring up the subject.

"What…happened?" asked Nathan, attempting to stay calm though he could feel the tell tale clenching in his jaw warning him that he was about to become very upset.

"Nothing," Claire chirped sweetly. Peter gulped.

"Nothing?" Nathan repeated.

"Uh huh," Claire confirmed with a sideways glance at her uncle, who was a terrible liar and was currently scuffing his toe against the floor in a very non-innocent fashion.

"Who screamed?" asked Angela directly.

"Well, me," the girl admitted.

"Why did you scream if you're not hurt or in danger?" asked the grandmother in a voice that warned the children to choose their words very carefully.

Peter watched his nieces eyes widen, she was clearly unsure how to continue. Ever the hero, he stepped forward and informed his mother that they had been engaged in a screaming contest. His words were met by blank looks from the elder people in the group, though Claire smiled encouragingly.

"A screaming…contest?" Nathan clarified.

"Uh huh," the two agreed.

"Do you realize," Nathan shouted, finally at the limit of his patience for the day, "what we thought? I thought you were hurt or dead or kidnapped. You can't just scream for stupid reasons like that! You should know better Peter. Am I wrong to expect more from you? I mean, dammit, you're not five years old anymore!"

"Nathan," Heidi interrupted, "that's enough. I think they understand."

Claire was looking up at her father through streaming eyes, the corners of her mouth drawn firmly downward. Nathan sighed and pulled the little girl into a tight hug. "I'm sorry Claire. I was just scared. It's ok, I'm not mad."

"I'm s-s-sorry," she hiccupped, clinging tightly to her father's neck.

"Alright now," commanded Angela as she moved in and took the girl into her arms. "You're fine, Claire, there's no cause for all this fuss. Dry your eyes. That's a good girl. Would you like to go trim the pretty tree your father put up for you?"

Claire nodded mutely, scrubbing at her eyes according to her grandmother's directions as Angela carried her from the room.

His daughter taken care of, Nathan focused on Peter, who still stood blinking back hurt tears. "Peter," Nathan said, walking towards the boy, who kept his gaze fixed resolutely on the uppers of his sneakers. "You know I expect you to take care of Claire when you're together."

Peter nodded.

"You know screaming for some stupid reason, or no reason at all, is really stupid, right?"

Peter nodded

"Are you gonna do it again?"

He shook his head.

"Good. C'mon, let's go," he said, ruffling his brother's hair and turning to wrap his arm around Heidi's waist, leading her back towards the tree. Heidi looked over her shoulder at Peter as he trailed behind them, offering him a consoling smile. He grinned back, wiping his nose with the back of his hand, eager to forget any unpleasantness and enjoy the evening with his family.

The three entered the room as Claire was rummaging through the Angela-approved ornaments; Peter joined her on the floor, searching for his favorite.

Nathan was glad to see that his father had been successfully stirred and that he now stood by the roaring fireplace with his mother. Yet while he was physically present, his expression remained vacant, a source of considerable worry for his son. "Hi pop," he said, wrapping an arm around the older man's shoulder. "How ya doing?"

Arthur started at his son's touch, then signed and rested his hand on the back of Nathan's neck. "I'm fine, Nathan."

Luckily Nathan was distracted from his anxieties concerning his father when Peter shouted that he had found it.

"Here she is," Peter ran to Heidi with a porcelain figurine held above his head. "Our tree angel. Isn't she pretty?"

"She looks exactly like you described her, Peter," Heidi agreed, taking the figure into her own hands. "She's truly lovely."

"I think she looks just like you, Heidi. Don'cha think so, Nate?" asked Peter cheekily.

Nathan rewarded the boy's teasing by pulling him into a headlock. While Peter howled, Claire laughing the entire time, Nathan whispered to Heidi, "I think you're far more beautiful than any porcelain doll," and he kissed her softly, to the unending delight of his daughter.

"That's enough, Nathan," barked Angela, though Nathan wasn't sure if she was referring to the headlock or to the kiss.

Once released Peter playfully punched his brother and regained possession of the dark haired angel. "I want to put the angel on the top this year," whined Claire as she watched Nathan and Peter drag a tall ladder out from the corner.

"You're too small," said Peter dismissively.

"Not if you or daddy fly me to the top," she argued.

"Duh, dummy, you know the tradition. We have to trim the tree like normal people."

"Peter," warned Nathan penetratingly. "Don't call Claire a dummy."

"Well, she is," he muttered in a small voice once his brother was a safe distance away.

"Claire, you know Peter is right about our tradition," reminded Angela. "Grandpa likes us to do things the old fashioned way." The pair glanced back at Arthur, who didn't look as if he was overly concerned about anything.

"Anyway," said Nathan, "I like it this way too. We have to remember that even with our abilities we're still people just like everyone else."

"I don't even have any 'bilities," Claire said dejectedly, her eyes trained on Peter as he carefully balanced the angel on his way up the ladder.

"That remains to be seen, dear," replied Angela distractedly, she too watched as her son climbed the old ladder. "You're still very young."

"Be careful, Pete," admonished Nathan when the boy and ladder rocked dangerously. "Watch your step."

"I know, I know," said Peter as he continued his ascent.

"Angela," Arthur spoke up suddenly and unexpectedly, "I think we should move the table."

"This table? The coffee table in front of the tree, Arthur?" his wife asked, bemused by the strange suggestion.

"Yes, I think it would be a good idea."

"But why?"

"I..I just do. Isn't that enough?"

"Well that's fine with me dear, but we'll do it later."

"Angela, I really think…"

"Peter, be careful!" shouted Angela, cutting off her husband. "Do not stand on the top rung of the ladder."

"I can't reach the top of the tree otherwise mom. It'll be ok."

"Peter, listen to me. It isn't safe."

Peter rolled his eyes. "I do this every year mom. Every year you say I'm gonna fall and I never have. Just let me do this."


He took the final step, both feet on the top rung of the ladder despite the warnings of his mother, brother and the makers of the ladders. He really had been able to balance himself at the top for at least the past three years. It was usually pretty easy for him. At least it always had been, but he must have had a large grown spurt or something during the past year because the ladder began to rock and he wasn't able to right himself.

His family watched in horror as he plummeted. It was a considerably short distance. It didn't compare to his dive off of the school roof at seven years old. He might have been fine, if only it hadn't been for that coffee table. The solidly constructed wooden coffee table. Made from oak or maybe walnut, a very hard, unforgiving wood nevertheless. This sturdy piece of furniture lay directly in the path of peter's unfortunate head as he descended. It all happened so quickly no one had time to react. If it had been a two story fall Nathan would have been able to catch him. Perhaps they would have been able to remove any obstructions from his path. But what could they do when one moment Peter was on his feet and the next he laid crumpled on the floor in a growing pool of blood? What can you do but scream when a mere second or two separates fall from impact?

Heidi shrieked and pulled Claire into her lap, burying the girl's face against her chest, trying to spare her from the images of her uncle's tragic death. The little that the girl had seen was still too much and she howled in horror against Heidi.

Angela and Nathan both rushed to the boy's side, any thoughts regarding appropriate handling of a severely injured person rushing from their minds as they turned Peter onto his back. Only seconds after impact they already knelt in a puddle of fresh blood. There was a deep, streaming abrasion across the back of his head and his neck was twisted at an odd, grotesque angle. The arm he had landed on was contorted into an unnatural position.

"Dear God," whispered Arthur as terror struck him just as it had his granddaughter. He flattened himself against the wall, hoping it would swallow him whole so that he might escape the revolting scene.

Nathan was weakly repeated his brother's name as he rock the broken body. "Peter…Peter. Peter."

Angela resolutely maintained the mantra "No, no no no no…"

It was tragic and unfair. An 11 year old boy dead in front of his family. They were soaked in his blood as they cradled the lifeless body. None of it made sense. How was it possible? What did they do now? How could they live without Peter? So many heart wrenching questions. Eleven years of precious memories. A beautiful soul snuffed out before its time.

And then Peter breathed. The breath became a cough and to Nathan's great surprise and the shock of every person in that room, Peter sat up out of his brother's arms, drawing in ragged breaths with great difficulty.

It was Nathan's turn to stop breathing as he saw the wound in the back of his brother's head rapidly heal and disappear. Peter lolled his head and neck from shoulder to shoulder, nudging it back in to place with experimental movements. Wiping his own blood out of his eyes, he looked at his bewildered mother before turning his perfectly in line neck to face his brother.

"Whoa," he exclaimed.

"Yeah," Nathan replied after a few awestruck moments. "Whoa is right."

"Peter," his mother swept in, enveloping him in the delightfully maternal hug only he was allowed. Looking over her shoulder, Peter could see that his father remained motionless against the wall, making no attempt to rush to his side. His mother broke his line of sight by gathering his face between her hands. "How?" she asked. "When? Who?"

He understood what she was asking, so did most of the others in the room. "I'm not sure," Peter claimed, wracking his brain for the answers they all sought.

"We've been so careful with your exposure to APs," Angela continued. "And Adam would never willingly share his ability. This must mean that there is another healer out there and we are unaware of his or her identity."

Angela may have been distracted by her curiosity, but Nathan watched, his stomach turning, as Peter discovered his mangled arm and wrenched it back in to place with a yelp. "Does it hurt?" Nathan asked quietly. "Those injuries looked pretty painful."

"It did at first, but now I don't have…any…" Peter's voice wandered off, his memory triggered by something that he had said. He whirled around to face a frightened Heidi and his still cowering niece. "Claire," he murmured. She looked up for the first time and, seeing her uncle whole and living though covered in blood, rushed into his arms with undiluted delight. Even as the pair fell back into a pile of squirming arms and legs, Nathan could discern the pensive set to Peter's face.

"Okay, okay Claire, I get it. You're glad I'm not dead, now get off me so I can breathe."

"Nope, I'm never letting go," Claire declared.

"Nathan," Peter continued despite the fact that Claire hung about his neck quite heavily, "I think it was Claire."

"Whattaya mean?"

"I think I absorbed this thing from Claire."

"What makes you think that?" asked Angela, tearing Claire from her uncle's arms despite her vehement protests and inspecting her, as if she could detect the presence of said ability from a visual perusal.

"We lied," Peter confessed bluntly, "about the screaming contest."

"Peter!" hissed Claire. "Don't! We'll get in trouble!"

He disregarded the girl and continued. "I told Claire not to touch the pan but I turned away for a second and she grabbed it. That's when she screamed. I looked at her hand and it was red and puffy and gross so we put it under cold water but a few seconds later she said it didn't hurt anymore. When I looked again it was just like normal." He looked around at the adults gaping at him, ignoring the pouting Claire. "It's the only time I can remember seeing anything like that."

Nathan considered his brother's words carefully. "Pete, didn't Claude teach you to recognize when your body absorbs an ability?"

"Well, yeah, but he always said it might be hard to recognize when I'm in situations where my adrenaline is pumping, like when I'm scared or worried or angry or happy. And I was really scarred, worried and angry when Claire did such a dumb thing." She stuck her tongue out, angry that her beloved companion had exposed her naughtiness.

Nathan looked to the wall where his father had been standing, hoping he might have valuable input, but when he glanced over he found only an empty stretch of wall. His father must have left the room when they were distracted. He sighed, recognizing that he would, once again, have to take charge.

"First things first, I think we all need to clean up. We can discuss whether or not Claire is the amazing regenerator tomorrow." Angela was, of course, in agreement as Nathan's suggestion was very sensible and adult, but Peter and Claire had other plans.

"But daddy, I really wanna know if I'm special like Peter," Claire fussed as she was marched up to her bed by her grandmother and father.

"Yeah Nate, we can like push her down the stairs or cut off her little toe! Then we'll really know!" suggested Peter, a devilish gleam in his eye. Surprisingly Claire was completely on board for outlandish experiments.

"Let me make myself very clear," Nathan said, a hand on each of their shoulders as he knelt by them in the hallway by their rooms while Angela prepared Claire's bath. "Under no circumstances are you to do anything stupid or dangerous. Especially not until we find out if Claire can heal." The young man caught a shared look between the two children after his last statement. "Even if we do find out that Claire can heal I don't want any experiments, got it?"

The pair muttered half hearted agreements.

"Okay then, go get ready for bed. It's been a long night." He watched them go off to their separate rooms, knowing full well that his direct order would in all likelihood be quickly ignored if Claire did turn out to be a healer. 'Oh well,' he thought, 'at least I tried.' Recalling that he had left his, likely very overwhelmed, girlfriend downstairs he rushed back down. He found Heidi on her hands and knees cleaning up the nearly dry blood that was the sole testament to Peter's very close brush with death. He hurried over to her saying, "Heidi, stop, really you don't have to do that."

"I don't mind, really," she smiled, "I'm sure you have enough on your mind without having to wipe up the floor."

"Yeah, well, as true as that may be it doesn't mean I want you doing it," he said, taking the soiled cloth out of her hand and reach up to stroke her face before realizing that his hands were still coated in congealed blood. "Sorry, that's disgusting."

"Hey," she said, her voice full and soft, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," he scoffed, wiping his hand against his jeans, secretly doubting he would ever be lucky enough to forget the sensation of having his hands soaked in his baby brother's blood.

"Nathan," she said, closing the distance between them with one step so that their noses were nearly touching, "Don't do that. Don't just brush me off like that. This was a scary night. It sucked. And I'm asking you for a genuine response. Are you okay?"

Such an intimate level of closeness wasn't conducive to lying. He tried to say those patented Petrelli words, the ones that flew out of his mouth with such regularity that when people asked how he was he didn't even stop to consider whether or not he really was fine. "I'm fine", he discovered, wasn't appropriate when he was nose to nose with the woman he hoped to one day marry. "No," he said, honestly. "I'm not okay. I'm…I dunno what I am. I'm terrified, I'm shaky, I feel nauseous. Whatever I am, I'm not okay."

"Good," she smiled again, "Welcome to your emotions, Mr. Petrelli."

"Hmmph," he grunted. "I don't like it."

"It suits you," she smiled. "Now what you do is you go and see your brother. Reassure yourself that he's ok. While you do that I'll walk myself to my car. And you will call me tomorrow."

"What did I ever do without you?" he asked as they walked towards the front door.

"Well," she smirked mischievously, "I believe you relied on your mother."

After seeing Heidi off safely Nathan got to the revolting business of cleaning the blood off of the floor. He knew that there would be a maid by in a few hours to clean, but, realizing that I was never easy to explain copious amounts of blood, he reckoned that he should take care of it. It was an ugly task, but he was glad to see the room back to its pre-violent death state. That just left one thing he had to take care of before he could allow himself to sink into that blissful oblivion known as sleep. He crept up the stairs and stopped in front of his brother's door. The colorful block PETER placard was long since replaced by posters of his favorite superheroes, much to his mother's chagrin. The race car bed he had adored had been replaced when he was nine. A well used skateboard sat in the corner. He had finally had book shelves installed and he was busy filling them with exactly the kind of books his father didn't want him reading. Little Petey was growing up. Yet above his desk there still remained old letters and photos that Nathan had sent him in his Air Force days. The picture next to his bed was just an updated version of the old 3x5 of the brothers. It was comforting to know that however much they grew Peter would always have a place for Nathan. The elder Petrelli sat on the edge of his brother's bed, glad to see him turn over and look at him, wide awake.

"Not sleepy?" he asked.

"Not really," Peter answered. "Lots to think about."

"It's been a wild day, huh?"

"Sure has."



"I'm sorry."

Quiet. "Why?"

Nathan bent over, resting his head in his hands. "For getting so upset in the kitchen. I was already pissed at ma and then I thought something really bad had happened. I shouldn't have taken in out on you."

"Hey," Peter said, sitting up to face Nathan. "I know you're grumpy sometimes. I'm your little brother, you're supposed to get annoyed with me, right?"

"Right," Nathan laughed. "But I know I hurt you. I said some mean stuff."

Peter didn't deny it.

"And I know it's not the first or only time, but…when I thought you were…you know…"

"Dead?" Peter volunteered.

"Yeah, that," Nathan winced at the thought. "All I could think is that the last time we really talked I told you that you were stupid and…other stuff. And how could I live with myself thinking that you…died…thinking that you were anything less than my favorite brother."

"Only brother," Peter reminded him, resting his head on Nathan's shoulder."


"I know you love me, Nate."

"'Course I do, Pete."

"But you don't have to worry about that now 'cause I guess I can't die, right? Or at least I can't get hurt."

Nathan cast a perturbed glance at his brother. "I guess, I dunno."

"Doesn't matter, right Nathan."

"Right, Pete." Nathan looked up when the door swung open, showing his mother in the door way. "Uh oh, caught by the warden."

"Don't mind me, I'm just sleeping," said Peter as he dove back on to his pillow. "Night, Nate."

"Night, Pete." He followed his beckoning mother into the hallway.

"I don't think we need to go see Dr. Suresh tomorrow," she informed him as she led her son to Claire's door, pausing with her hand on the knob. "She can heal."

"How did you figure that out?" asked Nathan, praying that his mother didn't subject his daughter to some frightful test, though recognizing that he unfortunately wouldn't be overly surprised to learn that she had. Abilities meant a lot to her.

"She was playing in the bath when she fell forward and bumped her forehead on the faucet. I saw it happen before my own eyes, Nathan. First there was a small cut and bump, a second later, nothing." Nathan could tell she was trying to show concern, but he could make out in her voice and eyes that same misplaced excitement that he had discerned in Dr. Suresh after he had first analyzed Peter.

"Well, isn't this something," he asked, looking in on his sleeping daughter. He was unsure about how he felt about having a daughter and brother who could heal themselves. It was unnatural, more so than flying or even becoming invisible. Very disconcerting.

There was nothing wrong with being normal, his parents had always taught him that. They had gone further, instructing him that all APs were normal, they just happened to have an extra talent. So why did that gleam in his mother's eye seem so intense when she looked at Claire? He always knew that there was a side to AP life that he had chosen to ignore. What if they tried to suck Peter and Claire into that life? The freak show. The notoriety. As it was, Peter rolled his eyes at the idea of being normal. 'I won't let it happened,' Nathan thought as he tucked the blankets around his daughter. 'I won't let them steal your humanity.' He stood up and faced his mother, both of them hiding secret agendas behind loving smiles. When Angela walked away he couldn't help adding, 'Even if I have to go against my own mother.'

Nathan leaned back over his daughter, kissing her on the crown of her head. "We're some kinda family, aren't we Claire. What the hell did I get you in to?"

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