Disclaimer: I do not own Heroes or any associated characters.
For What It's Worth
Peter is eighty-eight when he discovers what war can be with human weapons. Men and women lock in intimate combat; gods slaughter each other with tools as delicate as their souls.
Four children are forced to stay conscious as their intestines snake through their abdomens. A thirty-year-old man is left to suffer as his skin turns to sand. Many, many more die by electrocution, third degree burns, or telekinetic strangulation. Many, many more die in more mundane ways.
In six months, four million people are dead. Peter, who for various reasons was reluctant to step in, finally does.
He hovers over one of many battlefields, assessing, calculating, praying he doesn't have to simply evaporate them all: he can do that, now.
A swash of forest has been leveled here. In the center of this clearing, a man and a woman aim to kill each other. Their comrades-in-arms fight off to one side. Peter can feel their abilities wafting up to him like secondhand smoke. Once, this onslaught would've overwhelmed him, but now he simply adds any new performances to his repertoire.
The man presses against the woman with a block carved from the air. She attempts to get close enough to touch - the moment she does, he will die, but he loses ground with every step she takes. She jerks to the side, ungracefully but with perfect timing: he stumbles, she clasps his neck. As Peter watches the man begins to sweat blood. He coughs and more drips from his lips.
Peter is too horrified to intervene.
The woman, he realizes, had been watching him throughout her fight with the dying man. She moves with assurance over towards another fighting pair, and her hand brushes the arm of another woman. It comes away stained with blood. She whispers into the woman's opponent's ear: Find out who he is.
Soon Peter isn't alone in the air. The flier floats twenty feet from him now, observing him intently. "Who are you?" he calls.
Peter's chest thrums. "Petrelli," he says, much more quietly. A command swells from his mind.
Suddenly the clearing is empty.
Peter is ninety when he decides to leave. Nathan is dead. Claire disappeared a number of years ago. The Suresh Foundation, good as it's always been to him, has become a prison: he is no longer a theoretical quantity, no longer a man in man's flesh. He has always been the twenty-first century version of the Bomb, and now he's exploded.
He lets them lock him away for two years, and then he leaves. It takes their computers precisely three milliseconds to notice. He is in the clearing when they do.
A large number people are very afraid after the War. Not of an alien clutch; that time has long since passed. They are afraid of themselves.
Peter retires to the ether. He has killed millions and millions of people, and it hurts. The atoms that made them up float in the air around him, and he can feel every one of them vibrate around him. They shudder inside his lungs and inevitably filter into his bloodstream and, eventually, into his cells. He is breathing the people he has killed. They are feeding his brain and every tiny microscopic part of him.
He consumes them. They consume him.
He is aware these atoms are still his to split.
Beneath him, the world changes. Technology develops, hierarchies shift, borders expand and contract. The global population has been sufficiently decimated to make the goal of equalizing conditions not only feasible but necessary. It was desperation that started the first War; there would not be a second.
Peter is one hundred fourteen when he leaves the sky. He no longer looks like himself. His new persona is not even Italian. He has become Daryl Pryor, an uncomfortably skinny blond man with pasty skin and badly defined cheekbones.
He decides Pryor will just be telekinetic - simple, practical, the sort of ability no one would ogle. He has killed millions of people, but he does not want to drive himself insane with the knowledge. He would only destroy them in madness. It is a wonder he has not done so in sanity.
Peter is confused by the new things. The modern computers are handheld and have no screen; he sees everything he needs to in his mind. The food tastes oddly. The people in New York are kind, courteous, and always just a little bit nervous. They don't recognize him.
He discovers they don't hate him. Peter Petrelli is remembered more as an idea than a person, and even as a blessing: he is responsible for the life of every individual currently living. In their minds, his was the murder only of savages.
Peter remembers the blood woman. Perhaps she was a savage, but she was aware of her every step.
He is one hundred nineteen when he finds Claire. She is in New York, and he is there with her. She recognizes him instantly as only the very old can.
"You're too young to look so old," she explains, almost nostalgically. He remembers her when she was barely an adult. She at least looks older than eighteen, but younger than his frozen thirty.
Peter shows her, and only her, his old face. No one around them sees anything but Daryl Pryor. She reaches up to touch him, and her fingers make his skin feel real.
Suddenly Peter realizes she is the only family he has left in the world. He brings his hand up to hers, and holds them together against his face. They will never be without each other, for the world is a very small place.
One day Peter will be ancient, but he isn't yet. A long time ago he was a beautiful person.
He was a prince, then, with a godly future. Now he is a god with a sinner's past.
Claire spends a month with him, but she enjoys traveling. She helped rebuild the world after the War, and now she finds comfort in reviewing her handy work. He is accustomed to thinking of her as younger, but he realizes that the twelve years between them have become insubstantial.
Soon after Claire leaves, Peter grows tired of Daryl Pryor.
Peter is not surprised that the Suresh Foundation is still in operation. They have a new building and a better grasp on the science of the situation (and Mohinder Suresh is dead), but the need that gets them their funding is the same. There are people with horrors inside them. Women that can make you bleed.
Peter drops Pryor's face the moment he steps through the doors. No one recognizes him immediately, and in fact the receptionist smiles blithely at him. "Do you have an appointment, sir?" she says. Before Peter can answer, she remembers something and twists around to yell, "Corell! Get the Lyndon file out of the lockbox, will you?"
She raises her hand, and the folder flies towards her. She sets it down on her desk and rejoins Peter smoothly. "Sorry. Can I help you now?" She squints at Peter, trying to place him. She knows he's familiar.
"I don't have an appointment," says Peter. "But I really don't think I need one."
"I can set you up with a consultant if you are aware of any immediate danger your ability or that of someone else might cause -" She pauses, and studies him further. "- but otherwise, sir, you need an appointment."
He leans in close. He knows there's no one in range with heightened hearing, and he would be able to tell - so he's safe in saying this. "My name is Peter Petrelli," he says, "and I don't need an appointment."
The receptionist's face goes pale, and her coffee sloshes despite the fact that the mug is perfectly immobile. "I see," she says. "I'll - I'll go speak to - who do you need to see?" she asks.
"Whoever's running this place."
The receptionist nods once, and inhales. The coffee stills. "The chairman. Of course. I'll be right back." She smiles at him again, not half so merrily.
Peter waits at the desk until she returns. A number of other people have decided he is familiar, but anyone who is here has more pressing things to worry about.
The chairman has a familiar last name. Dr. Bennet is flabbergasted to meet him, uncertain as to the terms, and entirely too nervous around Peter to be of any relation to the man he had known, but when he asks, the theory is confirmed. Sunder Bennet is Noah's great-grandson.
"What brings you back?" asks Bennet. He drums his fingers against the desk, and runs escapes through his head. Bennet is a speedster, Peter can feel; but Peter has had the ability longer.
"Have you found any more regenerators?" asks Peter. If he and Claire are truly alone, he would like to know it.
Bennet is uncomfortable, and his muscles twitch in anticipation of a run. This is all this man can do: run. It is disgusting that they would put him in charge of human lives.
"No," says Bennet.
"Then I'll leave." Peter stands up, a grim expression mounting on his face. He is feeling the deaths again. He is gone, although only Bennet is able to watch him leave.
It is hard to be weak, even if it's harder to be more powerful than anyone else. Peter can see the relationships building. Leagues and alliances and clubs form for people with less practical or less awe-inspiring abilities. Thoughtographers. People who can breathe water or who don't need to breathe at all. There are others.
Peter is one hundred fifty-three years old, and he has placed himself among them. He is Arthur McCall, twenty-nine, biracial, and can fall asleep at will. Even the breathers feel sorry for him.
Still, McCall's life is quiet and keeps Peter occupied. He makes friends, gets laid once or twice, and avoids petty rivalries. Occasionally someone will look him in the eye at the right moment, and they'll see every one of his years spread out in front of them.
There is no such thing as a small town anymore. Not because the population has risen back to previous levels, but because isolation makes people nervous. Instead there are large stretches of empty land. Trees are growing again, animals recovering.
The world is beautiful again. Peter keeps himself from it.
Arthur McCall ages for another fifty years. Peter conceals himself in the skin of a seventy-year-old man, although no time has touched his bones. He eats lunch with people he's known for decades. One friend's daughter looks much like he remembers Simone. Her younger brother looks like someone else he used to know, but the memory is no longer painful enough for him to remember the name.
Peter is now two hundred three years old, and this time Claire doesn't recognize him. She comes into the restaurant on the arm of a man he doesn't know, and she looks contented. She barely glances at the four seventy-somethings and their children. Peter doesn't pursue her.
The stars above this small city are bright, and the air is alive. It molds around Peter's body like latex, and in it he can still feel the people he massacred. It has been over one hundred years.
McCall dies an accidental death in his home, and the townspeople remember him as a kindly, generous man. Peter sits in the back wearing an unmemorable face, and feels a small swell of gratitude as he is eulogized.
He is alone again, he realizes.
He decides to find Claire.
She still looks twenty-five, and her husband is forty: this is not so unacceptable, now. Circumstances have become unpredictable.
Peter goes to her doorstep as himself, and she throws herself into his arms the moment she opens the door. He rubs the space between her shoulder blades, and wishes desperately that she were his daughter and not Nathan's. He wishes Nathan weren't dead.
"Peter," she says, and pulls away. "I've been wondering when you'd turn up again."
She is happier with her immortality. She is happy with the man inside the house.
"I saw you twenty-five years ago," says Peter.
She leads him into the house. "Oh?"
"In a restaurant. Corinthia."
Claire shrugs, smiles up at him; she remembers the place, but not him. "Javier," she calls. Javier emerges from a door to their left. He is, surprisingly, Japanese.
Javier adjusts the collar of his shirt. "We have a guest," he says. Peter holds out his hand.
"Peter," he says. Javier's grip is firm, but it slackens when he hears the name. Claire goes to stand beside him. She holds his forearm, and looks at Peter.
"That Peter?" asks Javier.
"Chances are good."
They don't hate him, it's true, but very few new children share his name.
Javier stares at him for a moment. "Claire's mentioned you," he says at last. Peter smiles Arthur McCall's smile, and he is invited for dinner.
He ends up staying with the Kimuras for three months. Javier's opinion of him is guided carefully by Claire, and it isn't long before the two are friendly. They are each other's only in-laws, after all, and that is not likely to change.
Claire and Javier have no children, because Claire does not want to outlive them. Peter thinks this is reasonable enough. Javier's ability is too dangerous to risk inheritance, anyway, and he has been formally discouraged from reproduction by the Suresh Foundation.
He can't hurt Claire; this is why he loves her. And their home is warm and happy, like Christmas by the fireside.
It is two months after Peter leaves that Javier is killed. He was a kind, good-hearted man, but there was a monster growing in his chest.
Peter's empathy for the situation goes far beyond any ability he may have.
Claire coaxes him into traveling with her for awhile. She is broken inside, and the shards leave holes in her heart. She chops away her hair as though the strands are dead branches, and her voice becomes as brittle as dried leaves. She knew Javier would die; she did not expect him to be murdered.
America is unrecognizable. China has contracted in on itself. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland - they still exist, some in altered forms, but the United Kingdom is gone. India stands alone, whole but irrevocably altered. Many lesser countries are gone from living memory.
Peter has not traveled in a hundred years; he finds that it truly is a new world to see.
Finally she takes him into the jungle, guiding his flight without speaking. Peter knows where they are going. He knows why.
They land in the clearing. And it is still a clearing, after all these years. From above, it's shaped like a fingerprint. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it's Peter's.
Peter can see where the blood woman walked, where she laid her hands, where the men and women she killed sank to the ground and died. He can see where she stood as every atom in her body detached from every other atom and he can see the trails those atoms made as they rocketed into the atmosphere. Faster than sound, faster than lightning, but never faster than Peter.
Claire stands in the center, breathing the sky. A few oddly shaded clouds hang over them, but the sun still leaves the jungle sweltering.
"Do it," says Claire.
Peter comes up behind her, rests his lips on her scraggly scalp. She is no longer beautiful, he realizes; she has aged and aged horribly, no matter how young she looks. He wraps his arms around her shoulders. She will never be his daughter, but she will always be his Claire.
"Do it," she repeats. Now she is crying, but her body remains stiff.
Peter squeezes tighter, just for a moment. "Shh," he whispers. In an instant, she is gone.
After Claire's death, Peter drifts into fantasy for the first time in years. He dreamt often when he was young. Now he is two hundred twenty-eight, and he can see the life he should've had playing very clearly against his eyelids.
It is difficult to picture a world without abilities, but he builds off of what he remembers. People were afraid of bombs and guns and poison, and it was easy fear to live with. Things too horrible to imagine weren't imagined at all. People were bastards, but they didn't tread around each other like china dolls, either.
Well, Peter did. He was always, as his mother dubbed him, a sensitive soul.
Peter spends nights building this alternate reality. He spends his days in the sky, looking for a place to land.
He is unsure how he still knows how many years have passed, since he no longer remembers all the lives he's led. Daryl Pryor and Arthur McCall are no longer alone in their empty graves, and he wonders if this adds to his body count.
He is three hundred sixty-nine years old. He is lonely.
Still, the world changes. The Suresh Foundation has metamorphosed into Ibada, the International Bureau for the Administration of Dangerous Abilities. A portrait of Mohinder Suresh still hangs behind the front desk of every division.
A quiet dislike of Ibada sifts through segments of the population like fog. The awareness of the threat to certain individuals is quiet and tittering. But the powerful have won out too hard too long, and there are other resentments far, far older. What is forgotten is that having an ability that only kills is almost the same as having no ability at all.
Peter realizes very suddenly that Claire is in his lungs. She will exist inside of him for as long as he lives. She will exist forever, and he will have to feel her.
Peter is three hundred seventy-six years old. There are conflicts simmering around him. Women and men born with demons at their command themselves are dragged into an unknowable hell. The weak are punishing the strong with their silence, and the strong punish the weak for it.
Both sides think the demon children belong to the gods; it is a conceit that Peter cannot explain. He is mythological himself. All he can understand is the plight of those being dragged away in the night.
He hopes this does not become a war. He hopes he will not have to intervene again.
It becomes very difficult for small people to get big jobs. The breathers and thoughtographers and psychometrists and animal whisperers are left to scramble for positions in a world without the concept of manual labor.
Peter himself is happy to live modestly. He keeps two of his neighbors from going hungry, and they appreciate him for it.
He understands, more clearly than them, the farce this is. Telekinesis has no more to do with business than falling asleep on command, but the dynamic has been established.
A fight breaks out on the street in front of Peter's apartment between a woman and a man. Peter thinks for a split second he is watching the blood woman, but the man rips open her belly with spikes in his palms and Peter knows. The blood woman is dead.
This new woman is dead, too.
This war will not be like the old one. The first War was a fight between equally matched entities, a conflict over resources that only later became a slaughter.
The hypothetical second will simply be a massacre. If one side must rely on knives and guns and while the other can choke with a thought, who would win? It's amazing things have dragged on as long as they have.
And if there is a third side, that can't heal wounds or levitate rocks, but can boil you in your own spinal fluid without ever touching you, who wins then? There is a gruesome truth, somewhere, and innocent people are drowning in it.
Ibada changes its policies, miraculously, suddenly, as desperate as the rest of the world. The number of people they release is staggering. Thousands of people locked away without trial, and without dignity. An indecent number were kept sedated for almost twenty-four hours a day, and now are barely aware of the world. Their abilities were monstrous; what was done to them, more so.
Peter remembers his two years in the basement of the Suresh Foundation, but he spent them aware his captivity was conditional on his consent. More pertinently, he remembers the days when it was "specials" (the label is several hundred years out of date) in general people wanted out of the light.
Human anger is old, dusty, nearly forgotten. So long as the War was in fresh memory, the threat of a second was enough. But perhaps, the public wonders, there are worse things.
Peter, with the sensibility of an old man, knows rage can be cathartic.
The streets are safe for Peter, although not many can make that claim. He is three hundred eighty years old, and he is in awe: there have been riots, and there is some ongoing violence, but there has been no War.
Stability is held in place only by the thinnest twine. The streets are clean, but this is a good day. Peter watches a woman walk into a store. He knows her, from somewhere. Her ability brushes at his DNA, and he can smell . . .
"Good god," he murmurs, and is in the store behind the woman before she reaches the counter. She reaches a hand towards the cashier, and Peter grabs it. She twists to stare at him.
"Who the hell are you?" she says, and Peter can feel her pushing at his blood. He looks at her grimly; he's far beyond such nuisances.
"That's a question people usually regret asking," Peter says softly, evenly. The blood woman looks at him.
"I'm not big on regret," she says, like a character from a long ago movie. She is a parody of herself, Peter realizes. This isn't the same woman.
He pulls her wrist down to her side. She allows her other hand to hang uselessly. The cashier stares at both of them weakly, unable to do anything else.
Peter leans into the simulacrum's ear, and throws his eyes towards the cashier's face. He mouths, Run. And the cashier runs.
"Who are you?" the woman repeats.
Peter tells her. And her eyes widen. The pressure against his blood vessels disappears, and Peter presses two fingers against her face. "Don't kill him," he says to her. "Don't kill anyone, ever again. Do you understand me?"
"You're not gonna be watching me all the time," she says.
"And you can't know that."
She pulls free from his grip, and stares at him. She is the same age Claire looked.
It is a rainy day, and the rain falls like an army. The clouds are rimmed with useless light, and the air is nearly as heavy as the water falling through it. Peter shimmers out of visibility and then corporeality. The riot runs its course.
These are the people who can do nothing more than run over each other in the streets. The shop windows are unbreakable, the buildings fireproof, the locked doors impenetrable. Anyone they might want to kill would kill them first.
Again Peter wonders how these people can still exist. He wonders if it's a sign that the human race has evolved.
Then they descend, the gods. They're angry too, but their anger is much more dangerous.
One man, gifted with mind control, simply orders people home, but others are not so humane. A teenage girl blindly attacks the man nearest her; she is left sparking and burnt on the ground. One middle-aged man attacks another. The first gets his neck snapped, while the second walks away with half his face colored purple.
Of course no one can recognize who's who. More people are dying than they have to.
Suddenly Peter realizes how passively he is watching. He inhales, and is in the air before another movement is made. He flickers into visibility, waves a hand, and suddenly the entire street is paralyzed. He guides their gazes towards him.
"What the hell are you doing?" he says loudly. No one says a word. The rain pelts Peter's face. He studies each of them, and suddenly he is angry himself.
In a moment he is aware of all the people he has killed. They are, after all this time, still in the air and in the ground. Claire is breathing inside his lungs.
He is very, very old. He is very, very powerful, and he is feverish with the knowledge that he can stop this.
He searches himself for an ability, something he can use, something that won't kill them. Below, they watch him, and say nothing. Their jaws are clamped shut.
Peter searches and searches, and finally the idea comes to him.
He puts them all to sleep.
Everyone on Earth falls unconscious. Peter floats above them all. All over the world, planes are guided gently to the ground and vehicles slow to a stop.
He is four hundred years old, and he is a god.
For days he steps among them. He travels slowly enough to be seen, although there is no one to see him. Inside one of them is what he needs.
And there it is: a six-year-old child, not yet manifested, in possession of more power than all of Peter's gifts combined. Well, until now. Now the ability is his.
He returns to the sky, and studies his sleeping planet. The cities have spread out across the globe again, and there are no more wide open spaces.
If he didn't step in, they'd do this forever. Wage wars and riots and carnage over the stupidest things. Peter has touched the ability of every so-called monster in the world. People with flesh-eating viruses in their hands, children who would grow up to boil blood.
He has touched the ability of everyone weak and everyone strong, and they are all his. Men who could sweat glue and women who could play with fire. They're all his, including the most important.
He concentrates, he calculates. He makes decisions only God has a right to.
Finally he finishes.
They will all wake up powerless. Peter will be gone.
Peter Petrelli is two thousand, three hundred, forty-two years old. He has decided, at last, to fix the world. Quietly he works on his plans. He hand selects presidents, prime ministers, and monarchs. He gives every person he has ever known the life they would've wanted, and regrets that he will never meet most of them.
Finally, he comes to the last: the blood woman. She slouches towards him, and wraps a hand around his neck. His blood boils as he leans in to kiss her forehead. She disappears. Some people should not exist.
Many years later, he is thirty.