AN: Written for the "Reset" theme at heroes_contest

Pairing: Sandra/Noah Bennet

Mercy of Responsibility

Noah hears the clang of Claire's fork, and he looks over and meets her troubled eyes. "Have you talked to Mom yet?" she asks. He dreads her bringing up this subject. He's skilled enough to avoid it, but for Claire, he won't. He can't.

He pushes his empty plate ahead. "I haven't had time." Claire glares at him. "She doesn't trust me anymore, and why would she?" he replies, his tone lighter.

Claire sighs. "I'll talk to her."

He snaps his eyes toward her. "No, leave it alone, Claire."

"But I want to go home," she retorts. "I want things to go back to normal."

He picks up his beer and sips the warm foam of the bottom. He winces a little and smacks his lips. "You and I both know things won't ever be normal again."

But Claire doesn't listen to him. She has a nasty habit of doing that, he thinks. He should have known better because two days later his wife shows up at his apartment door. He cracks the door open but Sandra doesn't come in.

Her face is hardened, composed, not the soft Sandra he's comfortable with. He wonders if she even wants to be here. He's worried that his wife doesn't love him anymore.

"Claire talked to you," he points out with a sigh. "I told her not to."

"I know," she says. "I didn't come to take you back, Noah," she adds sternly, but he doesn't fully believe her. The air is chilly between them, but at least she's here.

"Claire says that things are back to normal. No more secrets, no more intrigue. She says you now have a decent job in what you're good at, and you don't have to hide it," Sandra says. "Is this true?"

Noah nods. "Yeah, it's all over," he says, but he knows that's not completely true. There's still the issue with Nathan Petrelli.

Sandra lets out a deep breath. "Well, this might change things."

"Will it?" he asks. He's not convinced she'd repair things so easily. He meets her hardened eyes, struggling to hold back tears. She moves forward, but he doesn't open the door.

Can they really start over with the new secret he bears? Even Claire is out of the loop, and she shouldn't be, but as Angela says, it's for the best.

Yet, he doesn't want Sandra to go through it; she doesn't deserve it. He yearns to let her inside, but he doesn't want to risk losing her fragile trust again.

"Noah," she says softly. She rests her hand on the door, and he opens it more and looks away.

If she walks through that door and takes him back into her arms, he won't be responsible for it. He doesn't want to be accused of dragging her down the same jaded path once again.

Sandra alone will choose if she wants to take him back, all of him – secrets and gray lies, no matter how deep they run.