...okay, you can kill me now. I know I promised this would be updated sooner, but real life (namely UCAS forms and entrance exams) got in the way, and it ended up waiting until November before it finally got finished. I apologise sincerely.
I wasn't always like this. I didn't always wear this face. But I can't go back to where I came from, because there isn't a 'back' to go to, if I do this right.
There was a funeral: family and close friends only for Angela. Noah had recovered sufficiently to be able to come. Stony-faced, watching the coffin being lowered into the earth. Buried along with the Company.
"I'm sorry," Noah said quietly, and left.
There wasn't anybody he knew who'd come for Sylar's funeral; that person's body was cremated. Personally, in fact. He'd used Meredith's ability to burn the body somewhere private.
He kept the ashes.
Matt Parkman hesitated before knocking on the door. He couldn't hear anybody's thoughts, a surefire indicator that the Hatian was nearby.
He'd probably wake up in a back alley with no recollection of what he was doing. If he was lucky. This is for Peter, he reminded himself.
But on the bright side, he did at least manage to find the man.
He knocked, twice.
The door swung open of its own accord, as Matt stepped cautiously inside, eyes adjusting to the gloom.
"Matt Parkman," said the Hatian quietly, looking up at his visitor.
Matt took a deep breath. "I need your help."
Matt stared. "I'm sorry? I – you haven't even heard what I was about to say – "
"I apologise, but the monsters you create are your own responsibility. I cannot help you even if I wanted to." The Hatian stood up from his seat with an air of finality that suggested this conversation was over.
Peter slipped into a semi-routine that avoided sleeping for three, maybe four days consecutive, then semi-dozing for a few hours, never entering a state of true unconsciousness.
It couldn't last. Not like this.
He knocked on the door of a very familiar place.
In a way, it felt like going back to the beginning again at the end, where it all started.
Mohinder opened the door, and stared. "Peter?"
"Yeah. It's me." He slipped under Mohinder's arm into the laboratory.
"God, Pete. You look like shit."
"Thanks," he replied dryly.
"What do you want?" Mohinder asked, closing the door behind Peter.
He swallowed. "I've been having problems."
"Peter-san!" Hiro cried happily from his seat. He was currently strapped in with an IV stand next to him, the line running into his arm. Ando stood up from the chair next to him, nodding at him warily.
Peter frowned. "What're you doing here?" he asked, as he pulled over a spare chair and sat on it.
"Hiro has been having… problems with his ability. It seems that Arthur attempted to remove it, but he caused severe damage to Hiro's brain in the process." There was a quiet snicker in Peter's mind as Mohinder gestured at the machinery by the side. "I was running some samples to find out whether the damage is repairable or not, although it's not going very well right now." He gave Peter a calculating look. "Although the work may be faster now we have two subjects, since your father took your ability as well…"
Peter shifted uncomfortably at this point as Mohinder hastily corrected himself. "I was referring to blood tests. But… you didn't mention what kind of problems."
"You're aware I took Sylar's shapeshifting ability?"
"It's been getting out of control recently."
"By which you mean…"
"I do it unconsciously. In my sleep."
Mohinder stared. "When you're sleeping?"
He felt a twinge of irritation. "That's what I just said."
"People I know. Whoever I've dreamt about that night."
"So you haven't been sleeping because of that?"
Hiro spoke up. "But if your ability is working, you can undo it!"
"You don't understand… Those people are real. They're not me."
Mohinder frowned. "I'm not sure I understand."
He took a deep breath. "The last time I went to sleep, I dreamt of Sylar and Claire. The morning after, I woke up with dirt on my shoes and something red I'm pretty sure wasn't ketchup. Do you understand?"
"You wouldn't kill someone, Peter."
"No. I wouldn't. That's what I'm trying to say."
There was a pause.
"But he would." It wasn't a question, as Mohinder licked his lips. He swallowed visibly. "Right."
"You said you wanted a blood sample?" Peter proffered his arm, but Mohinder didn't move, staying stock still and watching Peter like –
Fear. He stinks of it. All of them do now. They're afraid of you. As they should be right now.
"It won't happen unless I lose consciousness," Peter said, answering the unspoken question.
Mohinder slumped slightly. "Then we won't know what's sparking the problem in the first place…"
His eyes drifted over the equipment in the laboratory as Peter tried to come up with a solution, something that would be viable…
"Do you have any restraint bands around?"
"Is he even going to be able to sleep like that?" Hiro asked Ando in Japanese, as he helped fasten Peter securely to the table.
Ando shrugged. "Maybe. I'm more worried about whether it happens again. I don't like the idea of facing Sylar, even if he is tied up."
"Hai." Hiro adjusted his spectacles grimly. "But we could stop him last time - we can do it again."
Mohinder glanced up from Peter's leg. "You're worried as well, I take it."
"You're not the only ones," Peter spoke up from the table. It was uncomfortable, but if this did anything to help he was willing to take that path.
Ando finished with his strap, stepping back as Mohinder finished, picking up a syringe and sterile needle. He clipped the two together.
"Hiro? Are you done?"
Mohinder stepped up to Peter, leaning over the man so he could see his face properly. "I'm just going to take a blood sample and run some tests on it. It might have some clues as to what is happening for you and Hiro…"
Peter felt a slight prick as the needle slid smoothly into a vein in his arm, then was removed. Mohinder reached for a tissue to wipe away the small drop of blood that had formed, then stopped.
The man stared at Peter's arm, then the half-full syringe.
"What is it?" asked Hiro.
"There's no scar."
"Claire's ability came back. Among other things."
Mohinder took a deep breath. "Okay. That complicates things."
"In case he comes back… there's something I need you to know." Peter closed his eyes shut. "There's a sweet spot on the brain. Centre of the forehead. If you put something through there and make it stick, I'll die… until it's removed."
Hiro looked horrified. "You want us to kill you?"
"Temporarily. If necessary."
"What if you don't come back?" Mohinder asked quietly.
"Then burn the body."
Ando struggled for words. "That seems… extreme."
Mohinder let out a breath. "Fine."
Hiro frowned, biting his lip. "Very well. But Ando and I will not let that happen! And neither will Mohinder," he added as an afterthought.
"Fine," Ando said reluctantly.
Peter could hear Mohinder working in the next room, working on a computer. From their breathing and heart rates, he could tell that Ando was anxious, awake and sitting down next to a sleeping Hiro, who was snoring gently.
"Are you afraid, Peter?" The man appeared out of nowhere, and sat down on the chair next to Hiro.
No. I'm not.
"Don't bother lying to me. The least you could do is admit it."
"You're not even real," he muttered. "How come I didn't get Claire instead?"
Hiro jerked awake at the sound of Peter's voice. "Peter?"
"It's nothing, Hiro."
Sylar laughed slightly. "If you say so."
He heard footsteps as Mohinder came into the room, heartbeat slightly faster than usual. Probably just tension, or maybe there was bad news as well... no. Definitely faster than before. He felt his heart speed up in response.
"It's not good news," the Indian man said grimly.
"What is it?" Ando asked, standing up.
"The problem is that Hiro's and Peter's genetic structures seem to be unravelling by themselves. The difference is that Peter still has Claire's ability, so the DNA can still restructure itself, although the process seems to be happening faster…"
"Oops. Guess I might have done more internal damage than I intended."
Hiro swallowed. "That doesn't sound good."
"It isn't. Hiro… I'm sorry. Maybe if you could find Claire, the damage could be fixed permanently with her blood – "
"It can't be fixed with her blood, the underlying problem's still there. You understand, don't you? The ability's killing him."
" – but Peter…" Mohinder trailed off.
"What is it?"
"It seems to be in equilibrium. Your DNA… it's like nothing I've seen before. Not even Sylar, although his was probably closest…"
"Is that good or bad?"
"…but it's unstable. Absorbing more abilities would probably throw the balance towards destruction. The shapeshifting probably isn't helping either, but I wouldn't know for certain yet."
"You're telling me I'm going to die if I use that ability again."
It wasn't a question.
Mohinder hesitated before answering. "It's probable."
Peter laughed bitterly. "Right. So I'm never allowed to sleep again?"
"I don't know to what extent the damage would be if you used it, but…"
"Ouch." Sylar let out a low whistle. "That's gotta hurt. Of course, you could always find somebody with an insomniac ability and take it… if it doesn't kill you."
"…the only other option I can think of is to lose that ability altogether."
"It wouldn't be pretty, though. You were a paramedic… ever seen somebody's body explode?"
"SHUT UP!" Peter yelled.
"Peter?" Mohinder sounded afraid as Hiro drew his sword.
Peter took a deep breath. "Sorry. He's not helping."
"You can actually hear him?" Mohinder asked, horrified.
"Peter… why didn't you tell someone before? We could have helped."
He stared silently at the ceiling, watching the fluorescent light above as it flickered slightly.
"Good." Mohinder drew a sharp breath. "Well, we'll just have to be careful."
"I shouldn't have come here," Peter muttered.
"You should have come earlier, but I think we might still be able to help you. I'll need to run further results, though…" His voice trailed off as he left the room.
Peter tried to relax, insofar as that was possible with a Japanese man holding a sword near his head and another with the ability to throw highly lethal crimson energy bolts around.
"It is alright, Peter Petrelli. Ando and Mohinder and I will not let you die because of Sylar," Hiro said quietly.
He wasn't entirely comforted by this, but nonetheless replied, "Thanks."
It took a long time to drift off, mainly because he didn't want to. Peter could still feel the predator there, waiting in the shadows for a gap, an opportunity to take over. And he couldn't let that happen…
"Sleep, Peter." Sylar stood up to stroke his forehead, humming an unfamiliar lullaby of some kind.
"Where are we this time?"
"Home." He laughed.
Hiro saw the split-second that Peter's eyelids drooped to slide shut. He tensed.
He relaxed slightly. Maybe Peter-san –
Peter's eyes flew open again, darker than before.
"Boo," he whispered.
Hiro's eyes widened, as he simultaneously stopped time and brought the sword, point down, hard, into the sweet spot, centre of the forehead –
And drove it into the pillow lying on the metal table.
He stared, then frantically tried to tug it out. It leapt out unexpectedly, causing him to fall over backwards with the blade.
"What was it you said?"
On the floor, he stared up at Peter's face, that lopsided smile on his face widening by the second.
"'I will tell you how you die.'"
Hiro's arm jerked up to attempt a desperate slash. Time wouldn't stop again for him, and he couldn't slow the man down any more. The sword's path was stopped by a single bare hand. He grabbed the blade, the smile turning into a smirk as blood ran down it. A shudder ran under the skin as Sylar discarded Peter's face for his own.
"'You die alone.'"
Sylar's grip tightened. The sword was yanked out of Hiro's hands as the man pulled, hard.
"'No-one will mourn your death.'"
He tossed the blade aside effortlessly, where it hung in the air, outside of his temporal influence.
"And do you know why, Hiro?" the man asked.
Hiro attempted to teleport. His body shuddered with the failed effort. He felt something wet, and lifting his hand back up to his face, found blood. He attempted to get up once more, only to be held down by an invisible pressure.
"Because it won't make any difference. They'll all die. And then we'll be the only ones left."
"No," Hiro whispered. "Peter is stronger than you."
The man cocked his head sideways. "Haven't you remembered?"
His fingers twitched. There was a crack.
"I am Peter. And that's why you can have a clean death."
Everything faded into darkness.
I'm sorry, Ando…
Ando and Mohinder started at the disappearance of Hiro, Ando quickly charging his fist with red lightning.
Mohinder was the first to see the slumped body on the floor, and the man standing in front of it, his back to the pair.
"No!" Ando yelled. The size of the energy sphere in his hand increased dramatically, as he lunged, his fist swinging towards the man's back.
One second his fist was about to connect and make a sizeable hole in Sylar's back, the next, he'd turned around to catch Ando's fist in his hand.
Ando stared in shock as the light was sucked out completely, to reappear as a condensed white sphere in Sylar's other hand. It contracted.
The lights went out as it expanded explosively, ripping the entire room apart and tearing the building open.
Matt heard the explosion, breaking into a sprint up the stairs as they shook violently. He had to get there before something worse happened.
Mohinder, he thought, Ando, Hiro, I hope you're still alive…
The stairs weren't blocked entirely by rubble, but the rubble on the previous floor was now explained by the gaping hole in the floor and walls.
He reached out mentally. Nothing, nobody alive.
No. That was a lie, wasn't it?
There was a slight cough, as Matt's head whipped around to pinpoint the source of the noise, under the debris.
And now he could hear, voices, all clamouring to be heard, Mohinder, Claire, Hiro, Micah, Molly, himself amongst others he couldn't recognise and who were probably dead.
You have to help him. Please.
- only a sixty-five per cent chance of success, but you don't have a choice.
This is why they should all die...
…Matt? Is that you?
Thank God, you're here!
"Daphne?" he asked incredulously. "Is that you?" He stepped closer, to the half-buried body, flesh growing back into place.
You have to tell him to go back before – Claire's mental voice was cut short.
Matt. You've got to kill me.
"Peter… what happened?"
I lost control.
Send him back! Claire yelled, anguished. You can't just let him die, it'll happen again!
I can show you where the pieces must go, came a quiet, almost toneless voice he didn't recognise.
Matt reached down to the temples of the other man, delving into the depths of his mind, setting instructions into place.
He was cut short when a hand clamped around his neck.
"You." Sylar growled, then stopped as he shuddered, muscles and bone moving under skin into new positions. "What did you do to us?"
"You won't exist any more," Matt gasped, as he dropped onto the rubble, the grip released. "You'll be dead. More or less."
Sylar stared at Matt, shocked. "But I can't – "
Matt let out a breath, and silently hoped that it had worked. He slumped, and prayed for the best.
Blink. Open your eyes.
A brick wall was visible.
She turned around to see the end of the alley in bright sunshine.
" – two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? – " A group of cheerleaders went past, practising some routine or other.
She looked down at her hands. For some reason, they were unfamiliar, and for a second an image flashed across her mind, larger hands glowing red with energy.
She shook her head to dispel the image.
Somebody tapped her on the shoulder. She turned.
"Hi. Are you lost?" asked the blonde – Claire, her name is Claire.
"Uh, I just got here," she replied, slightly confused.
Claire smiled. "That's okay. Where're you from?"
"New York," she replied uncertainly. She wasn't entirely sure about this right now, although the answer felt right. "Where is this?"
The other girl laughed. "Gee, did you really get that lost? This is Texas."
"Texas," she repeated. "And you're Claire, right?"
"Yeah." Claire frowned slightly. "Have I met you before or something? What's your name?"
She considered this for a few seconds.
What is my name? Words flickered to mind – Simone, Caitlin, Molly, Elle – but none of them seemed to fit, with the only two that did being wrong for her gender.
She realised that Claire was still waiting for an answer, and replied with the first appropriate one that came to mind.
Claire smiled again. "Nice to meet you, Gabrielle."
"Yeah," she replied absentmindedly.
There was something she had to do. Something about Homecoming Queen.