Title: Enemy Within
Author: Del Rion
Era: Future (post-Heroes) and alternate 3x25: An Invisible Thread
Genre: AU, angst, drama
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Peter Petrelli, Sylar (, Claire Bennet, Noah Bennet, Matt Parkman, Angela Petrelli, Nathan Petrelli, various other Heroes characters mentioned)
Summary: Peter knows there is something wrong with the world, but with his memory gone, he isn't sure whether his nightmares are trying to send him a message or if he's just going insane. No truth can remain buried forever, though – not after what he has done to the world.
A sequel to "Deep Sleep" and "Sounds". Complete.
Written for: Heroes Big Boom's Round Three at LiveJournal.
Art: by the wonderfully talented Krystal (Chosenfire). Thank you so much, you sweet thing! I love each piece of art you contributed, and you better know it ;)
Warnings: Violence, language, (major) character death, murder, shape-shifting and stolen/fake identity, some gore and horror elements. Implied mass destruction, post-apocalypse. Spoilers for season 1-3, especially season 3.
Extra warning! One scene in particular may sound similar to the events of 9/11. I meant no such similarity, and the two are not connected, but anyone who might be disturbed by that kind of imagery: beware! (contains: buildings falling apart and burning, people dying)
Beta: Mythra (thank you so much, once again, for the fantastic job!)
Disclaimer: The show, its characters, its places, and everything else belong to Tim Kring and other respective creators and owners of 'Heroes'. I have made no profit by writing this story, and make no claim over the show.
Feedback: Much appreciated; con-crit, praise and general opinions.
About Enemy Within: After various people pleaded for a sequel to my story "Deep Sleep", a few ideas popped into my head. One of them was "Sounds", and this is the actual sequel.
Also, this was my first time partaking in a Big Boom, which makes things a little more interesting. The minimum word count was 10,000. I aimed for 20,000 words… and exceeded that mark. The writing process of this story was plagued by writer's block and looming deadlines, but in the end I hope it is a worthy sequel to "Deep Sleep".
Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
Art below by Krystal (Chosenfire)
(you can check it out on my website or LJ as well, among other places)
Author's Note: A sequel to my stories "Deep Sleep" and "Sounds".
Art of the story was made by Krystal (Chosenfire).
Written for Heroes Big Boom's Round Three at LiveJournal.
He feels the last few inches of the spike sliding out of his skull, and everything is silent. He blinks, slowly, eyes regenerating to restore his vision.
Nathan is standing next to him, a smile on his face, although it seems a little… off. Everything seems a little strange. "Come, Pete," Nathan urges. "Come give your big brother a hug."
Peter leans forward and sits up, then hugs him. Some part of his mind is trying to tell him this is illogical. "Nathan?" he murmurs, voice barely there yet. His eyes slide past his brother, noticing a few unmoving bodies on the floor. No blood. The lights are flickering irregularly, electricity cracking in the air. The smell of burnt flesh…
Nathan just smiles, sliding a hand through his hair, catching Peter's gaze again. "I've come to release you, Peter," he says and smiles.
Not his brother's smile.
Peter woke up with a start. He blinked once, then looked to the side – and jumped as he found Nathan beside his bed, head resting on his arms, brown eyes locked on Peter. Staring.
The younger man shifted uncomfortably, sitting up a little. His head was spinning, making him feel unsteady even while he wasn't standing.
"Nightmares?" Nathan asked.
"How long have you been sitting there?" Peter questioned in return. It was really making him nervous, because Nathan was still looking at him. Staring… because there was no way someone could call that 'looking' – there was too much weight in his stare, too much intent and focus. Peter wished he would look at something else.
Nathan smiled at him instead of giving him a response, then got up as if watching Peter hadn't been all that important. He moved to a table at the other end of the room, shifting some supply boxes, but when Peter looked up, he could still find the older man's eyes on him, watching him through a mirror hanging on the wall.
Peter wasn't sure what it was, but it made him uneasy. Nathan had never made him feel that way, really; not as far as Peter could remember, but then, his memory was acting up these days. It was like someone had put it all on film, then cut away a piece…
Nathan's brown eyes flickered, and Peter blinked, looking away. Sometimes he was certain something about Nathan had changed, but he just couldn't put his finger on it.
Ever since saving Peter, Sylar watched him carefully. When he was awake, he kept his eyes on him, making sure he was always aware of what Peter was doing. When Peter was asleep, Sylar would sit next to him, his mind embedded in Peter's dreams, making sure inappropriate visions stayed away. He had never met a person who dreamt so much and so vividly, and while most of Peter's dreams were nothing to be worried about, they made him frown a lot – not to mention questioning the younger man's sanity.
But he had decided to play this game as long as he could, which meant that instead of being annoyed by Peter's mind and its odd creations, he milked it for all its worth.
When he rescued Peter from his self-imposed imprisonment and waited for him to come back to life, it had taken him a few seconds to realize that someone had tampered with Peter's memories. Luck was with him, though; he had decided to wear Nathan's face to get a rise out of Peter, but instead he realized that even after all this time, Peter didn't question a single one of his brother's words. The suspicion lasted longer than Sylar would have liked, but it wasn't enough to alarm Peter. Not yet at least. Peter saw, heard, and touched Nathan, and that seemed to be enough to convince him that it was his brother although a small part of his mind remained in doubt.
Sylar was smart enough to see an opportunity when it was so openly offered to him: as long as Peter believed he was Nathan, however grudgingly, he would be much easier to handle. Even when Peter remembered that he was no longer confined to one power at a time… Sylar was still in the process of discovering how many memories Peter had lost, but it seemed he wasn't aware that his empathy was working, or that he had a wide arsenal of powers at his disposal.
So even when Peter was suffering from nagging doubts, they weren't enough to make him question what he clearly wanted to be the truth. Sylar knew it would not last forever – things like this never did – but until Peter discovered the truth, Sylar would wear Nathan's body; wear it and loathe every second of it because it reminded him of the time he had spent locked behind this false face that wasn't his. But he was patient. He had waited for years for Peter to come to his senses – and a few more after realizing it wasn't going to happen.
He could wait a little more until the truth was ready to come out of its cocoon, its once fragile wings strong and resilient against the changing wind.
Nathan never told him where exactly they were, but Peter could tell there was something seriously wrong with the world.
For one, he hadn't seen another human being for… he wasn't sure how long. That detail was kind of foggy.
Another thing was that there was nothing going on. The buildings were empty, most of them a little unkempt and worn out if not completely broken apart. Where Nathan found their supplies – food and such – was beyond Peter. There was no electricity, no stockpiles of food and supplies, or clean water in the pipes. It would have been wrong to say there was nothing alive because sometimes he saw animals in passing, but even those were few and far apart.
There were clues, though, like the one he stumbled upon that morning as he walked down to the beach; his leg got caught on something, and after several hours of digging, he had managed to uncover enough of it to tell it was a bent, rusty sign welcoming him to California. It was the closest to discovering their location that he had come to up to this point. He spent the next few hours uncovering the rest of the sign, then sat down beside it, staring at it as if he was expecting it to tell him its life story. It didn't, of course, and when Nathan came looking for him, it seemed his brother wasn't pleased.
"But, Nathan," Peter insisted, sitting in the dark sand. He always accepted that Nathan didn't want to talk about it, but today he was too curious. "Have you ever looked at the sea?" he pointed out, away from the shore. "I've even flown above the surface, and for miles and miles you can see random objects sticking out of the water. Some of them… well, they look like old structures, like buildings." He didn't dare go underwater because there were some strong currents, but by using Nathan's ability to fly he had been able to take a look further off shore than his eyes could see. It was mesmerizing – and frightening.
Nathan sighed and sat down beside him. "I know I've kept the truth from you, Pete," he said haltingly. "It's painful to remember it. Indeed, we are where the State of California used to be. There was an earthquake, many years ago. It was a terrible ordeal. Millions died. Cities were wiped out. The restless tectonic plates here caused enormous destruction, washing almost the entire state into the sea."
Peter gaped at him. "The whole state?"
"It was a huge disaster," Nathan pointed out, as if that explained all of it.
Peter looked towards the sea, suddenly apprehensive of what waited below the few peaks of stone and steel he could see protruding from the water. "When did that happen? What caused it? And how come I can't remember any of it? And… that doesn't explain why we're the only people living here," he added. Now that he had got Nathan talking, he wasn't going to stop.
The older man sighed, looking at the old, worn sign beside them. "What usually causes these things? It was a natural disaster of huge proportions. I wish I couldn't remember it most of the time, so you're lucky, Pete, not to recall it."
"There's a lot else I can't remember," Peter muttered, kicking the sand. "Like why we're here, just you and me?"
"I'm keeping you safe, Pete," Nathan said, placing his arm around Peter's shoulders, pulling him closer. "You have to trust me. Things got ugly back home, but we're safe here."
Peter nodded. He could remember some kind of interference by the government, but the details were hazy. Nathan was just trying to protect him, and he was glad. "I trust you, Nathan," he said with a smile, then looked at the sea again, although it was hard to forget that beneath the waves lay miles and miles of destroyed cities that used to be filled with life.
Peter walks on a dirt road. It makes a sound beneath his feet; with each step, small stones grind against each other beneath the soles of his shoes. On either side he can see trees, two neatly planted rows that follow the road – and all of them are dead. They are not burnt, and all of their limbs are intact, which makes Peter uneasy.
He keeps walking, and after a while comes to a house at the end of the road. There is a car parked outside, dented and a little rusty. One of its doors is ajar, and Peter cautiously peers in, but there's no one there. He takes a better look, finding some old papers, dated March 2014.
A sound comes from behind him, and Peter spins around, almost hitting his head on the roof of the car.
Behind him stands a little girl, dirty and pale. Her little fists are clenched, and she reeks of fear.
"Are you okay?" Peter asks kindly.
The girl doesn't say anything.
Peter looks towards the house, then at her again. "Where are your parents?"
"My family's sick," she says.
"Maybe I can help," Peter offers. He is a nurse, after all.
The girl leads him to the house and pushes the door open, but she doesn't enter. "Mommy said I shouldn't go in. Not before she said I could, because they are all sick."
Peter nods and steps inside. The stench is mind-blowing. He cringes, steps further – and sees the bodies. One of them is huddled on the floor, two on the beds, all of them clearly several days old. All of them are covered in boils, and Peter remembers a picture from their school book; radiation poisoning.
He goes back out, feeling sick. He looks around for the girl, but can't see her anywhere. There's only the sound of wind, swaying the overgrown weeds on the yard. Looking around some more, Peter wonders if she's afraid of him.
"Hello?" he calls out. "It's okay, I won't hurt you."
He rounds a corner of the house, then comes to a violent halt as he first sees the little girl's body lying on the ground, then looks up at the wall behind her and reads the words that are getting messier by the second as the red liquid slides down the wooden surface:
YOU KILLED EVERYONE.
He can smell the blood and see the rest of it soaking to the ground beneath the girl. Her face is now full of blisters too, and Peter is absolutely certain there weren't any before…
Cautiously he looks at the letters again, almost unreadable now as the blood is sliding and smearing the writing. The words are creeping him out almost as much as the dead family inside, and the dead girl who wasn't dead a minute ago. Who killed everyone? Peter doesn't understand, but somehow he feels like the message is meant for him, and he doesn't recall killing anyone, much less –
Nathan's voice dug through the haze of the dream, pulling Peter out of it.
"Peter, you're having nightmares again."
Of course Nathan was there, sitting on the side of his bed, one hand on his arm. Peter blinked rapidly, sweat sliding down the back of his neck, his hair stuck to his skin rather disgustingly. Eventually he nodded, wondering how Nathan knew. Had he been shouting out loud, or was it just so clear…?
Nathan smiled a little, smoothing his hair. "It's okay. I can tell, after all these years."
Peter guessed Nathan was right.
"Want to talk about it?"
Surprisingly, Peter did not. He usually told Nathan everything, but this… he didn't understand the dream, and until he did, he didn't feel like sharing.
It's silent. The wind sways the seat of a swing set, a sharp creak filling the air at each movement. The ground is littered with garbage: hats, papers, trash, clothes, toys.
Peter tries to step around them, but he's too busy looking at the unmoving rides of the amusement park. He has never thought a place dedicated to fun could be this… scary.
No lights are flashing. There's no laughter or screams. Nothing moves but a torn flag that has tangled around its pole, and still the wind is trying to tug at it.
He wonders for a moment if there should be a Ferris wheel somewhere; his mother likes them because they move so slowly, she says, and she has time to look around. Peter gazes around for one – which he shouldn't have to do. He walks on until there is an obstacle in his path. It takes him a moment to realize that it is a ride, but instead of towering above him, it has been smashed down to the ground. The asphalt is broken beneath it, and he is pretty certain that the dark brown stains are not candy…
Sidestepping, he moves on, more frantically now. Most structures seem almost whole, but every now and then he can see cracks in the cement and finds another fallen ride. And eventually he finds the Ferris wheel; he can't see all of it because the wheel continues so far out on each side that parts of it disappear beneath other destroyed rides and buildings…
He walks along it for a while, then away. He is feeling sick and cold. "What's going on?" he mutters to himself.
Passing a chair swing, he suddenly notices a little girl sitting in one of the chairs, moving slowly back and forth. Peter walks a little closer, watching her, making sure not to blink in case she might disappear or something. He stops once he's in front of the child, and she looks up at him, still swaying softly.
"Where is everyone?" Peter asks.
"You killed them," the girl says matter-of-factly.
"What?" Peter exclaims. He looks at the girl, and notices that a trail of blood is starting to make its way down from her hairline. Then another, and another…
"You killed everyone," the girl whispers.
"But, no, you don't understand –" Peter tries.
The girl sags in the chair, going limp. Peter moves towards her, reaching out, his heart beating hard –
Nathan shook him so violently he almost fell from the bed. His fingers that had been reaching for the dying girl now clasped his brother's shoulder, determined not to let go.
"Peter," Nathan said again, softer this time, almost whispering.
Peter just held onto him, shaking, trying to solve the puzzle tearing at his mind: why was he having these dreams?
Smoke is thick in the air. Glass… shards of glass are floating like snowflakes. It takes Peter a moment to realize that everything is moving in slow motion.
He looks around, moving faster than the world around him. There is a pressure in his head, as if he's just about to teleport…
Peter isn't certain where he is, but he is at once certain that he doesn't want to be here; buildings are coming down all around him. Shattered skyscraper windows fall like rain. Flames, looking strange while barely moving, are engulfing the ruins. He looks down, finding people. Some of them are running along the streets. Some are falling from the collapsing buildings, their fall no faster than the descending glass. It looks like they're trying to swim.
He can feel his heart beating frantically. He wants to scream. Wherever he looks, destruction spreads, and he doesn't even know where to start if he wanted to save someone…
Peter shouts in frustration, and as if spurred on by the sound, everything falls back to normal speed: glass rains down on him, making him crouch lower, hands on his head. A body hits a car parked next to him, a sickening sound of broken bones and bending metal make him retch.
Anxiously he looks around, hearing the collapsing buildings coming down around him. Smoke and debris mix in the air. Screams… screams are everywhere, pushing into Peter's head. He kneels down in the middle of the street, on top of broken glass, head bowed and panting hard. A high-rise crashes beside him, making the ground jump, and it almost touches his toes as it lands. Peter can feel the impact, and the whoosh of air, but it doesn't move him. As if he isn't really here at all…
A scream fills the air, and Peter looks up just in time to see a body being flung out through a building's window, flames and the sound of explosions following. She falls, landing ten feet from Peter, body twisted and unmoving, pieces of glass and metal sticking out of her flesh.
Peter sits still, shivering. He can't stop staring at the body – just a child, a little girl – even though everything is coming apart around him.
The girl moves suddenly, and Peter almost jumps out of his skin. She rolls over onto one broken arm so that he can see her face, and for one brief second he is certain he has seen her before, only he can't place her. Not with the torn, bloody skin and smashed bones.
"You killed everyone," the girl states, her jaw moving funnily, but the voice comes out clear. Blood drips from her lips, her eyes stare at Peter. Dead, bloody, broken – accusing.
A store across the street explodes into flames, and Peter closes his eyes against the flying debris. His skin burns, and the girl is screaming as if she is falling all over again.
Peter woke up with a gasp, and for a moment he just touched his face, certain that he could still smell the destruction if he just inhaled deep enough.
Part of him was glad to notice it had all been a dream.
A bigger part wondered if he was going insane.
He had hoped the dreams would be erratic and come at random, but after several months had passed and Peter saw them whenever he closed his eyes… Sylar knew his brain was trying to send him a message although it seemed Peter still wasn't convinced about that.
Most of the time Sylar caught the pattern and changed Peter's dreams into something more peaceful before they got out of hand, but there were times when he wasn't watching as attentively as he should have been, or he was gone from the other's immediate vicinity. Each time afterwards he could see the look on Peter's face, though, like he had been shot in the gut, and Sylar couldn't help but feel irritated.
Sometimes he was tempted to shove the truth down Peter's throat, but their current arrangement also had its rewards. For one, they weren't constantly arguing, and while Sylar sometimes missed a good fight that would bring the taste of blood to his mouth, he would have this instead – as long as it lasted.
It seemed Peter's guilt was so deep, though, that no amnesia could hold it at bay forever.
That the younger man hadn't told his brother about the nightmares was odd. Sylar tried to pry into his thoughts to figure out the reason for that. It seemed Peter was both afraid of and determined to find out the meaning of the message his dreams kept handing him; he didn't want to tell Nathan until he knew for sure. There was also shame, bitter and acidic, which made Sylar frown each time he encountered it. He couldn't believe that the main reason Peter didn't speak of his nightmares was that he felt like maybe he had done something terrible, and he didn't want to disappoint Nathan.
Sylar felt like gouging out his own brain at the uselessness of that thought.
The longer that went on, the better he understood why Peter had allowed men weaker than himself to kill him, then bring him back to life so that they could order him around to do their dirty work. Slavery was an old practice, but as long as men like Peter existed, it wouldn't disappear from the world.
Unless, of course, there was someone to set them free.
Nathan was out looking for food. Peter often volunteered to go with him, but his brother always told him it wasn't safe out there, and that Peter was out of harm's way when he stayed home. The word 'home' sounded strange because Peter still expected them to go back to New York. He trusted Nathan's judgment, though; he had kept them safe thus far.
Yet no matter how great his trust in his brother, the dreams he was having from time to time made Peter suspicious of the reasons for their hiding. Had he done something terrible, and now Nathan was forced to live out here with him, alone and away from all other people? He couldn't remember, which infuriated him. Peter knew he could have plainly asked Nathan for the truth, but he wasn't ready for it yet. Somewhere in his mind was the key to the answers, and he would find it.
In the meanwhile, he just had to go on dreading each time he closed his eyes and hope there would be no vision of terror and gore waiting for him. The girl that kept following him from one dream to the next had her voice haunting Peter's waking thoughts as it was, and he needed no more reminders of her creepy, pain-filled proclamations. The voice of someone who was already dead… It didn't make a whole lot of sense, but then, none of those dreams really did either.
Peter wished he knew what to do. Should he pursue the hidden meaning of these dreams like he first did with those of flying, or should he keep away from them? Had he killed everyone, or was it going to happen some time in the future? And if it hadn't come to pass yet… why was he feeling so strongly about it after each dream?
Agitation twisting his gut, he kicked a piece of metal lying on the ground. The impact made his toes hurt, and he grabbed at it instead, hurling it away. He watched it go, then looked down to his hand, noticing the burning pain. Blood was sliding down the side of his palm, a long cut parting his skin. Peter grimaced, holding his hand still, and for a brief moment he thought of Claire, and how he had often taken her ability to heal for granted; yet, she felt pain, but not for all that long… and he had an inkling of a memory that she had said the pain, too, disappeared at some point. It hadn't for Peter – not as far as he could remember. He had just learned to tune it out, to re-direct the information about pain away from his brain.
He frowned. Strange how he had no real memory of it. All he could remember clearly was feeling pain when he was shot, or stabbed. He couldn't remember the exact moment when he learned to block the pain from his brain. But he was certain he had done that.
Looking back down at his hand, he gasped out loud. Before his very eyes the wound was healing. Peter raised his hand, turned it around, watching the wound close, then fade completely. The pain was gone, too. "Oh my god…" he said very slowly, favoring each word.
He had Claire's power. He had Nathan's power. Or did he?
Carefully he jumped off the ground, and sure enough, he could still fly. How could it be he had not even realized he had two powers? He hadn't managed to make two powers stick at once since… not since his father took his original power away from him.
Peter landed again, and walked over to where he had tossed the piece of metal. He seized it, then held it with determination as he pushed it against his other hand. It cut to his skin, making him bleed and hurt. He concentrated, then braced his body and kicked himself off the ground.
He was flying – and his hand was already healing.
Peter threw aside the scrap of metal as he watched the regenerative power work, his eyes devouring the sight as he soared higher and higher in the air, joy filling him. He didn't know how it was possible, but it was working. "I have to tell Nathan," he muttered to himself, grinning – then stopped. His mind flipped back to the first moment he could clearly remember, which was Nathan saving him from that… place.
The thought came, unbidden and unexpected: did Nathan know?
But how could he, and why would he not tell Peter he could hold onto more than one power at once? Perhaps they had done tests, and altered Peter's DNA or something. Maybe Nathan was just as clueless as he was.
It had begun.
Sylar could tell something was off as soon as he flew in. Peter approached him, a look on his face; he had discovered something, and was bursting to tell his brother about it. Sylar's thoughts scanned the younger man's brain at once, and he saw, felt and tasted the news before Peter even got one word past his lips.
"Nathan, I can heal."
In his mind, Sylar swore.
Nathan's face didn't flinch, more than into some kind of a half-smile after a slight delay. He could feel Peter waiting for his response. "How do you know?"
"I cut myself, and thought of Claire. Next thing I know, I'm healing. I tried again, and I could fly and heal at the same time." Peter was excited, but there was also a hint of nervousness. Not knowing how this had happened was clearly upsetting Peter.
"Well…" Sylar said haltingly, "perhaps that power sticks? After all, you didn't have to really think about her to heal, right?" He was grasping at straws, but Peter swallowed the bait whole.
"Yeah, that could be it… After all, it brought me back from the dead a few times." Peter was a little disappointed, and Sylar put a big, nice smile on Nathan's face. It felt more and more like a lousy rubber mask these days.
"Don't worry about it. I know it's hard, not remembering everything you've been through," Sylar explained, resting a hand on Peter's shoulder as they returned to the abandoned building they had selected as their home.
"You could tell me about it." This time it wasn't a mere plea; Peter was probing, wanting to hear Nathan's response.
"I'm sorry, Pete, but I know less than you think I do."
Was it just Sylar, or did the lie come out of Nathan Petrelli's mouth a lot easier than it should have?
A few weeks later
Nathan had been gone more than usual. Peter didn't know why, his brother wasn't telling him, and something was clearly wrong because there was that look on Nathan's face every time he left. But then, there seemed to be a lot of things going on with his brother… Most of the time Peter felt confused when he was watching him; he had always been able to read Nathan, but these days it felt like he was watching a total stranger wearing his brother's skin.
Since he discovered he could heal, Peter had been flying around more than before. He felt more confident about his powers, somehow. The knowledge that he could heal was comforting, and gave him a sense of strength he had been missing lately.
The further he went, though, the worse he felt. Maybe there had been a childish hope in him to find people, but he just came across more destruction and more abandoned cities. It was a sad sight, and sometimes he would land and walk the streets, feeling the emptiness. His dreams came back to him strongly at such moments, and he wondered what he had forgotten. There was something significant, he knew, but he couldn't grasp it.
With Nathan gone most of the time, he was left to entertain himself. Peter knew brooding wasn't good for him, especially when he felt closed-off from the rest of the world, but the echo of his dreams lingered in his mind, forcing him to pay attention. Some days it got too intense.
Just like one morning when he was sitting near the shore, thinking about his dreams, watching as a random peak of some sunken structure was revealed by an occasional wave. He often thought of the myth of hidden Atlantis, and it was the only thing to cheer him up from the brutality of reality. Nathan always said he felt sorry for something he couldn't fix, or change. Peter often wondered if he was right saying that.
He sighed, then looked up to the sky, leaning his head further and further back until he turned around to keep from falling. The thought of sunken, broken cities and millions of lost lives was bothering him, as it did from time to time, and instead he looked towards the miles of deserted terrain stretching out in the other direction.
While ghost towns and cities were terrifying in their own way, it was still concrete evidence that the world Peter had known had been there, and was now merely broken. It was something he could touch – streets he could walk – instead of just watching it from a distance, a shadow beneath the water.
Peter got to his feet, brushed the sand off his clothes, then bounced off the ground. Air whirled past him as he zoomed into the sky, flying inland. He passed few familiar cities – he didn't know what they used to be on the map, but he had explored them often enough to recognize them – but today he wanted to go further still. So he flew and flew until he was afraid to go on without getting lost. He didn't want to explain to Nathan how he had lost his way and ended up flying blind for days.
He landed on a hill, looking around. The Rocky Mountains loomed in the horizon. A cracked highway ran into the distance, leading away from him until it disappeared from his view. Here and there rose an abandoned building; some of them stood broken and lonely while others had crumbled to the ground as if a huge fist had smashed them into pieces.
Peter looked around, his ears straining to hear something other than the sound of the wind or his own breathing. The silence bothered him sometimes; he had always lived in a world of noise, but these days there were more sounds in his dreams than when he was awake.
He gazed up at the sky, wondering how much noise there was that he simply didn't hear. Because he remembered… he had met a guy once, with an ability to hear frequencies like skipping between radio channels. Peter couldn't recall what he had looked like, or where they had met, but he was fairly certain he'd had that power. The power to listen to silence, and find noise in there…
Closing his eyes, he held his breath, trying to listen. He knew it was stupid, but there was nothing else for him to do so what did it matter? He could stand there all day, pretending that he could hear something others didn't. Maybe an old 80's song, or the scoop from last night's baseball game. Anything but the deep, oppressing silence he and Nathan lived in.
A scratchy noise filled his head suddenly, making him jump a little and lose his concentration. He blinked, staring at the dry, desolate land around him, and wondered if he had just imagined it. To be sure he closed his eyes again, forced his body to relax, and reached out. He tried to silence his mind because he wasn't sure if the mantra 'please be there' could be messing with the possible sound.
Please… he whined in his head, but there was nothing.
He opened his eyes and huffed –
"We have located the target."
A male voice said, scratchy as if coming through some kind of filter, but it was there.
Peter held his breath.
"Do we have the permission to engage?" The same man again.
"Do we have identification? How close is the target?" Another voice, coming through a filter too with much more authority; the way Nathan spoke sometimes.
"We have a visual, Sir. Sylar is moving close to the ravine."
Peter's brain came to a screeching halt. For some reason that didn't sound like it should, and he frowned until he remembered why: they had buried Sylar. Burned his body in Coyote Sands…
He focused again, wanting to hear more. He had no idea what the 'ravine' was, but it sounded like a landmark… Something significant. It took him a while to rediscover the transmissions, but he was unwilling to go without more information, and eventually heard the familiar voices run through his head again,
"Target has crossed the ravine. We are moving into position."
"Fire when you have a clear shot."
"Guns in position. Launching in… 3… 2… 1…"
Peter jumped when he heard an explosion in the distance. He looked up, again losing track of the transmission, and instead tried to find the source of the sound. He couldn't see anything, so he pushed off the ground and flew higher. Just before he reached the clouds, he thought he saw something briefly flashing in the east, but he wasn't sure. He couldn't find the voices again either, and knowing that he had already been gone longer than usual, he headed back towards California.
Their home was empty when he arrived there, and he stepped back outside, walking around restlessly until he heard the telltale sound of Nathan's approach. He had barely landed before Peter opened his mouth:
"Did you know Sylar is alive?"
The look he got in return was both secretive and confirming Peter's suspicion.
"Why can't I remember?" he finally sighed, kicking the sand in his feet. "And why didn't you tell me?"
"Would it have made a difference?" Nathan was acting reasonable, and it infuriated Peter even more.
"We should go after him."
"And do what? We don't even know where he is." Nathan was putting away bags of food. Since they had no electricity, a well they had found served as their cooler. Peter never dared to ask how far Nathan flew to get them food and other necessities, just like he knew it was smarter to hold back from asking why he couldn't join his brother.
"What is 'the ravine'?" Peter asked instead.
Nathan's hands stopped. He looked up at Peter, and not for the first time was the young man unsure of whom he was looking at. Because the expression wasn't Nathan's… and yet it was. "Where would you hear that name?" Nathan asked after a moment, trying to sound casual.
"Just… picked it up somewhere."
Peter knew that Nathan was aware he was avoiding the truth. But Nathan didn't press him for more, and Peter did the same.
The dream is different, somehow. Peter doesn't know how to describe it, but he can feel it.
For one, he isn't in the middle of some macabre scene of destruction; the world isn't falling apart around him. There are no screams, no dead or dying, no cities burning and skies turning black with smoke.
He recognizes the graveyard. This is where they buried their father – or thought they did. Peter never visited his grave unless he was told to.
There is nothing significant he can see, so he walks forward. It is eerie and silent, the sounds of the city muffled, and Peter feels uneasy. Anything could happen. Something always happens in his dreams these days.
Only… he has never known it's a dream this clearly.
He frowns, turns to take the path on the right – and stops.
There are people standing a few hundred yards from him. A man and a woman. At their feet is what looks likes a freshly covered grave, and slowly Peter moves forward. He stays behind trees and headstones, just in case, and is very glad he did so when he realizes that this dream is indeed different: once he is close enough, he can recognize himself standing there, Claire beside him.
He peers at the elegant headstone, but he is too far away to read the name engraved on it. But he can recognize the one beside it: it's the one his mother selected for their father after Sylar killed him for sure. Peter swallows, creeps a little closer, trying to listen.
The other Peter looks angry. He is dressed in black, but not in a suit. It seems odd since his mother and Nathan have always made sure he wore a suit for occasions like these. Even Claire is dressed smarter than him.
"It's okay to feel sad, Peter," Claire says. She lifts her gaze to look at her uncle. "She was your mother, after all."
Peter swallows, trying very hard to see the letters now. He doesn't want to believe it, but somehow… somehow this all seems kind of familiar.
His other self – past, he assumes – just tightens his fists and stares at the headstones and freshly dug ground. "I don't have to forgive her for the lies we had to pay for. She kept it from us that Nathan's dead. Lied to us, over and over."
"I know what she did –" Claire starts, trying to take Peter's hand.
"I was the one who had to find out!" Peter snaps, shrugging off her touch. His eyes are dark. "I was the one who walked into Nathan's office, and saw Sylar instead. I've had to deal with the taunts, while trying to accept the fact that my brother's been gone all this time!"
"Well, I lost a father," Claire snaps. "I lost someone who meant a lot to me."
"You still have another father; another family. I lost the person who meant most to me in the entire world. And now that mom's dead, I've lost everything. Everyone." Peter turns away, starts walking.
"I'm still here!" Claire screams. She is crying.
Peter doesn't turn, doesn't comfort her. Instead he simply disappears.
In his hiding-place, Peter kneels down. He can still hear Claire crying and aches to go and comfort her, but he can't. Is this part of the past he can't remember? And… if Nathan's dead, and Sylar is alive, and Angela lied to them… Peter feels his heart pumping harder and faster, his chest tight. He's going to be sick.
He woke up with a start. It was one of those painful ways to return from a very deep, ugly sleep. Blinking, Peter looked around. He was alone in the room. He listened for a while, then slowly sat up on his bed. Still no sound.
His legs were tired as he got up and walked to the door, then carefully opened it. He went and checked Nathan's room, but found it empty. He couldn't remember hearing him leave, but after he checked the entire house, he was certain he was alone.
Peter sighed, sat down beside their kitchen table, but got up again after a while, too restless to be still. The dream was clear in his head, his own words, rougher and darker…
"She kept it from us that Nathan's dead."
He shuddered, feeling sick again.
"…to accept the fact that my brother's been gone all this time!"
Each time he played the words over in his head, they sounded more and more like the truth; a long-forgotten, deeply buried truth. While he couldn't logically explain it, his dream seemed more real than anything he'd felt for a very long time.
As minutes passed, his frustration grew. He wished he could have gone back to sleep and see more, but his mind wouldn't slow down enough for him to even consider relaxing. If only Nathan had been here, he could have asked him…
Peter stopped pacing. His fists tightened.
In his dream, Peter had said Nathan was dead.
Just days ago, he had heard that Sylar was alive.
While he felt a little suspicious of his dream, he could also remember all those times when he had looked at his brother and felt something was terribly wrong.
Like the first moment he could recall after losing his memory… Being in that facility and Nathan smiling at him, saying he had come to release Peter. Only, it had not been Nathan's smile. Close, but still not his brother's smile.
His own words echoed in his head, but he couldn't remember uttering them, and that was tearing at his mind more and more each second. Peter fisted his hands in his hair, pulling, trying to remember, then stopped when he felt blood running down his fingers. His scalp ached, but the pain turned into a dull throb as his skin healed an instant later.
"I'm sorry, Pete, but I know less than you think I do." Nathan's words, just some weeks ago.
Peter decided it was time to stop thinking. He needed to know the truth.
He was flying before he could even think of it, faster and faster away from the sea. Miles flashed past him, wind beating at his face, but he pushed forward. Faster until he reached the Rocky Mountains and had to rise higher so that he wouldn't go splat into the mountainside. Then forward again, and although he couldn't see the coast anymore, he knew he was going to the right direction.
Hours must have passed and he began to doubt his own reasoning. There was nothing there but more abandoned land, rural landscape, and broken, long abandoned cities. It was the same world he had been looking at for over a year now.
What did I expect? he asked himself. A great vision? A sign?
He stopped, body aching as if he had run the entire way. Peter rarely felt this powerless and frustrated. Utterly, completely beaten and so tired…
He must have gazed at the shadow in the distance for several minutes before he suddenly realized it wasn't a shadow. Eyes narrowed, he flew forward, and with each mile he traveled, his heart seemed to get more and more uncomfortable in his chest.
A black chasm opened before him. Burned land began a hundred miles before it, and the tear in the ground spread to his left and right as far as he could see. And the tear… Peter instinctively knew that this must be the ravine. He was still floating high in the air, and the sheer size of the thing made shivers crawl under his skin. Dozens of miles… hundreds… He could barely see the other side of it!
Slowly he landed on the very edge of it, his entire body shaking. He looked down, swallowing, and saw nothing but darkness. Perhaps if the light had been right, he may have seen to the bottom of the gorge – or not. He had no real desire to find out what loomed down there.
As he stood there, feeling small and insignificant, all his dreams of blood and destruction began to make sense. Whatever had caused this… whoever had caused this…
Peter tensed. Nathan's voice was nothing he hadn't heard before; he used the same tone when he found Peter stealing liquor from their father's cabinet.
"Pete, what are you doing here?"
Peter could feel the hairs on the back of his neck rise. He felt cold. With the drop of several miles just a step away, the complete scene of destruction surrounding him, his past self's words rang suddenly clearer than before.
"You're not my brother." Peter's eyes still stared at the opposite side of the ravine, far in the distance. Actually, he wasn't certain if he even saw it, or if it was a mere shadow…
There was silence behind him, and Peter frowned, then turned to look. Nathan stood behind him, but his face was totally expressionless. No smile of a shark, no disapproving frown. Just… impassive, looking at him.
"I had a dream," Peter ventured. "I saw myself, at my mother's funeral. I said that Nathan's dead."
Still no real reaction. There was a flicker in Nathan's brown eyes, though. "And what made you think that dream was anything but your imagination playing tricks on you?"
Peter shrugged, although it was hard because his body was so tense he could hardly breathe without making a sound. "It felt more real than anything else has since you saved me."
A smile. Not his brother's smile.
Peter didn't know why he felt so certain about it all of a sudden; he had no recollection of it ever happening. Most of his dreams had made no sense recently. And yet…
"Sylar," he finally said, faintly. He could barely hear it himself.
"I can't hear you, Peter." Nathan's voice, but not his words.
"Sylar." Peter wanted to shout, but he felt such pressure coming from around him that he couldn't. He said it louder than before, though.
And there, right in front of his eyes, his brother's face melted away. His shoulders, his posture, his hair… it all shifted and disappeared, re-forming into a face he remembered almost just as vividly as Nathan's.
Sylar smirked at him, then laughed. "Took you long enough," he said, still chuckling. "I almost told you after I had to repress so many dreams in one night – and I knew some of them slipped from my grasp long enough for you to see enough. But you kept going, ignoring the message… What was the message again, Peter?"
His fists ached, Peter was squeezing them so hard. Before this he hadn't even really considered the possibility, but now… he just knew. "You killed Nathan!" he screamed, then lunged at Sylar.
The other laughed again, clearly amused, and an impact of telekinesis flung Peter back, over the edge of the gorge. With a shocked gasp Peter swiftly took flight, emerging from the darkness of the ravine. Sylar was waiting for him in the exact same spot as before. The only thing that had changed was that he wasn't smirking anymore. Not even a smile.
Peter landed again, his breaths loud in his own ears. All this time…
"You're wondering why I didn't tell you," Sylar stated. Simple and ruthless; a precise, surgical cut right to the point.
Peter halted. Although he didn't want to hear another word coming out of this man's mouth, it was kind of hard to dismiss the fact that Nathan – Sylar – had saved him, and kept him safe. Only… had any of that been true either? Was Peter really a fugitive with a shoot-on-sight note attached next to his image on some wall somewhere? "Maybe," Peter finally answered.
It seemed that either Sylar was reading his thoughts, or then he was just good at guessing. "How much of it was a lie? What if I told you that none of it was? Other than the part about me not knowing anything, of course." He huffed, looking past Peter. The younger man didn't have to turn; he knew that the ravine filled the entire horizon, nothing else.
Sylar took his time to return his attention to Peter; he seemed more thoughtful than Peter ever recalled seeing him. The dark eyes, while still filled with sinister intent, appeared to have less hatred in them than Peter currently felt for him in return.
"The year is 2070. Your world is long gone; your family is dead, your friends are dead… Things have changed," Sylar told him. "I'm all you have left."
"Why should I believe you?" Peter asked, furious – and scared. If Sylar was telling him the truth, then the loneliness of past months wasn't a lie. It was reality, harsh and unbearable.
Sylar shifted slightly, looking down at the black ground. "At first I pretended to be Nathan because I knew it would mess with your head," he went on conversationally, looking up slowly. Beneath the bushy eyebrows, his eyes were dark and ominous. "Then I realized you couldn't remember, so I continued to lie to you because it was easier that way. You were less troublesome when I was Nathan. Ever since I woke you up, though, you brain's been trying to tell you that everything is a lie – and you took your damn time to figure that out."
Peter frowned. It was almost as if Sylar was accusing him of being… stupid or something.
The man smiled – or rather, one side of his mouth twitched upwards. "Sure, I did my best to keep some of the most disturbing dreams at bay, but I couldn't watch you at all hours."
There were a lot of things he wanted to say, but none of them felt right all of a sudden. Peter still had a huge gap in his memory; he couldn't even remember for sure how he had found out the truth about Nathan in the first place. All he had, really, was the dream of his mother's burial, and Sylar's confession.
Feeling frustrated, he turned around to watch the ravine and the hopeless land of destruction spread around it. "What happened here?" he finally dared to ask. Part of him was prepared for another lie or dismissal.
Sylar took a step forward instead, looking around as well. "We did," he said slowly, gravely, then smiled again. "You and me, Peter."
Peter blinked, looking at the other man in confusion. His body was starting to shake.
"You killed everyone."
The words echoed in his head, over and over. Each dream he could remember. Every gruesome detail of death and destruction. Next to the gaping gorge, it was hard not to believe what Sylar was saying. "How?" Peter finally asked, faintly.
"At this pace, I would say it won't take long for you to remember it all," Sylar decided.
"You could tell me," Peter shot back, taking a step towards him.
Sylar raised one hand, electric sparks between his fingers. He observed the blue light, then glanced at Peter again. "You can't make me."
It sounded like a challenge. Peter felt more than ready to take it, although he wasn't sure what his opponent could do. He wished he could remember which powers Sylar had possessed the last time they fought, but what did it matter when years had passed in between? There was no damn way for him to know what abilities the serial killer had found in between.
Telepathy seemed to be one of Sylar's many abilities, though, because there was no other reason for him to grin like that after Peter finished his thought.
Determined to end this, Peter rushed the other man, but before he could even think of the most efficient way to hurt Sylar, an invisible force grabbed him, bringing him down to the ground with bone-jarring force. Peter struggled to get up, but a wave of pressure landed on him like a giant foot, squeezing the air out of him faster than Claire's power could heal him.
Sylar stepped over him, towering between him and the sun, making Peter's vision a little hazy on the edges. With an unholy halo around his face, Sylar regarded him. His scrutiny had never been easy to bear, and Peter tried to struggle, but each time the pressure increased, draining the air from his lungs, making him feel like he was suffocating.
"You were never strong enough to defeat me," Sylar said. "Just like you weren't strong enough to break the world on your own. But that's okay," he decided, moving down to one knee beside Peter. "You're amusing enough to be kept around." Then he got up and walked away, the pressure slowly fading, allowing Peter to cough and struggle up to his elbows.
"Why did you save me?" he shouted after the other man.
Sylar halted briefly, looking back. "I guess I overestimated my own tolerance for loneliness," he replied, then shrugged as if it wasn't important and took off. Peter's eyes followed his journey through the sky until he was certain that anything he saw was just a trick of his eyes.
Slowly he sat up, feeling drained. The sun was glaring down at him, but the ground was cold beneath him nonetheless. He thought of getting up and flying further east, to see cities and people, but at the same time he dared not to. What if there was nothing there?
"I'm all you have left."
Maybe Sylar had been telling him the truth. Or maybe this was just another cruel game to twist Peter's mind. After all, he had thought Nathan was alive all these months, and while learning the truth had been a relief, it was also painful. He had fallen for the act, his own hopes and desires making sure that each time his mind had screamed that something was wrong, he ignored it.
He had wanted Nathan to be alive so badly…
Instead of getting up, Peter just lay back down on the black rocks, feeling defeated and completely alone.
Sylar had envisioned the moment many times, and he felt slightly disappointed once it was over.
Peter knew, but instead of an outburst or a clash of the titans, Sylar had merely left him at the Ravine, conflicted and doubtful. Sooner or later Peter would come around, but for now he was too confused to believe anything he said. Not that belief was mandatory; Sylar's only concern was that Peter would decide to go out in search of civilization, and end up being captured once again. It would be aggravating after all the trouble Sylar had gone through to release and keep him sane while his mind tried to unlock itself.
Knowing he needed to keep an eye on Peter, Sylar didn't fly too far. That the empath hadn't re-discovered his abilities yet was a small victory, because it made it much easier to control him. Sylar was confident of his ability to keep a tight grip on Peter, but sometimes it was nice to see things go smoothly.
Night grew close, and the air got significantly cooler. While the regenerative power would keep him safe, it didn't mean Peter would feel comfortable once he got cold, and Sylar decided it was time to make his move. He kicked himself off into the air once more and silently soared through the darkening sky. It was easy to find Peter: he hadn't moved, he was the only living creature within thousands of miles, and Sylar had several powers that could locate him anyway.
Peter sat huddled by the edge of the Ravine, staring towards the opposite side which couldn't be seen with normal sight.
"Done brooding yet?" Sylar asked conversationally.
Peter didn't answer, but his shoulders tensed. He was listening.
"There is nothing for us out there," he added, his words coming out with a tenderness he hadn't felt for decades – except when he pretended to be Nathan. It was strange how softly the older Petrelli had always spoken to his brother, even when in anger.
Peter raised his head, but didn't get up yet. He was considering his words, and Sylar waited. He had the patience this would require; Peter had never been one to take his time when he made a decision. He was fool enough to follow his heart.
"Did you mean it?" Peter asked finally. "That you and me… that everyone else is gone?"
"You told me, a few years ago, that Mohinder is dead; had been dead for some time. He was the last one." Sylar had no reason to lie. The two of them were kindred spirits, their own race among the weak humanity, and after the lonely years he had spent here in isolation, Sylar was tired of pretending he was better off alone. If he had to suffer Peter's companionship… well, it could be worse.
While he came to that conclusion, Peter had stood up and was staring at him. The brown eyes were narrowed in suspicion. "I wish I could read your mind. There's… you're thinking about me, aren't you?" he demanded.
"Oh Peter," Sylar chuckled. "We really need to work on that memory of yours." The memory that was the only thing between Peter and his unlimited powers… "Let's go. I brought us some fresh bread for supper." With that he took off, Peter following him.
A bolt of electricity strikes him in the back, and he looks at Sylar who is hovering above him. "Stop!" Peter screams at him. "We have to stop this before it's too late!"
Sylar doesn't answer. He is looking at something, and Peter rises higher to see himself. A city up north trembles – then collapses and disappears. Explosions can be heard, and Peter tries to listen harder.
The screams begin. Beneath the deafening roar of shifting earth, he can hear thousands of voices crying out in several languages. Peter cries out in pain, trying to block it out, but it's all too loud. It's as if… everyone everywhere is screaming at the same time.
He doesn't even notice he is falling until Sylar grabs him and stops his uncontrolled fall. The thick eyebrows are drawn together in a frown, but instead of letting Peter go, he holds onto him as the tremors go on all around them.
The ground is being torn apart below them, molten rock sliding out through the rupture, spreading heat and smoke everywhere. Explosions echo in the distance, mingling with the sound of earth collapsing into the gaping wound in the ground.
"We have to stop it," Peter says weakly.
"I don't think we can," Sylar answers.
Peter is covered in blood. Not from head to toe like in some of those horror movies, because that would be absurd, but wherever he looks he can see torn skin, burn marks, and bruises forming. Part of him wishes he had Claire's ability to heal right now. A bigger, angrier part is glad that he is able to savor the pain.
"Peter!" His mother comes running down the hall. Her hair is a mess, and Peter wonders why that is the first thing he notices. Not the panic in her eyes. Not the unconscious clenching and unclenching of her fists.
"My god, Peter," Angela Petrelli goes on, halting before him.
Peter automatically stops, not wanting to collide with her. The pain he's in right now is enough.
Angela is still looking him over, then reaches out to touch, but Peter jerks away. Her look of mortification doesn't make him want to forgive her. Not this time.
"You lied, Mom," he says slowly. Talking hurts. Maybe his jaw is broken. Sylar threw a mean punch at him…
All these months.
All the discussions he had with Nathan – who wasn't Nathan at all.
The hugs, the embraces, the confidential whispers… the secrets; secrets he would have never told anyone but his brother. And now Sylar knows them, and knows exactly how much it will hurt Peter when they are used against him.
And most of all, the greatest pain – a loss that keeps eating at him more and more – is that Nathan is gone, and Peter could never properly say goodbye.
"Peter…" Angela is crying.
Peter doesn't care. "How could you do it? How could you lie to all of us like that!" He is shouting, but doesn't care. A little more pain doesn't really matter, does it? Peter is in a world of hurt, and he hopes he won't be leaving it for a while.
"He was my son, my first-born! Don't make it sound like it was an easy decision to make!" Angela screams back.
"He was my brother!" Peter answers in kind. "All these months I believed I had him by my side, but instead it was…" He can't say it. Not yet. Not out loud.
Angela knows, somehow, and steps forward again. She has a napkin in her hand, her body trembling. "Peter, let me help, you're bleeding." Her voice is shaking. The tears are still on her face.
"Go to hell," Peter snaps, and finally pushes past her. He is limping, one of his legs almost numb, but he doesn't care; not as long as his heart is numb with pain.
"What are you going to do?" Peter asks. He isn't certain if he wants to know, but in a twisted sort of way they are together in this.
"Disappear. Be my own man. You know, there's lots of empty, unpopulated land on the west side of Rocky Mountains." The serial killer smiles to himself.
"Contaminated and desolate is more like it. Nothing can live there," Peter argues.
He feels his skin healing, body catching up. The hollow sensation is still there, though, deep inside his skull where the metal spike was. It still feels like the first time… well, almost. The first time, he didn't think he would wake up again.
"Do you know your name?"
"Peter Petrelli." The answer comes fluently.
"Do you know why you're here?"
Peter hesitates. Then: "I am yet to be told why I'm here."
The man steps into his line of sight. He smiles. "Excellent. He is stable; we may proceed."
He walks into Nathan's study with a silly question in mind – but he forgets it the second he steps through the doors. He sees him standing there, his face – entire body – changing between that of his brother and the man Peter thought they buried.
It is Sylar's face when he first looks at Peter, half-way morphed from Nathan's. Then back again. It's a sickening sight.
"Ma didn't tell you, huh, Pete?"
Peter can't think of a reply before he turns into Sylar again, hissing in what sounds like pure agony. "Your damn mother…" His voice keeps changing, making it hard to comprehend the words. "All these months, in this body. Looked into the mirror and wasn't sure who was looking back… I kept looking at things, and didn't comprehend. I knew I should, but I didn't. But it's all going to end now."
He doesn't need to tell Peter it was Angela's idea, though; Peter instinctively figures that out for himself.
While he has zero sympathy for any pain Sylar might be experiencing, he can still relate because it suddenly hits him this has all been a lie. His brother is long dead, probably before they burned and buried Sylar's body at Coyote Sands. "I'm going to kill you," Peter promises. He has never wanted this man dead as badly as he does now, and that's pretty serious, thinking of how much hatred he felt for him before.
"Go right ahead, Pete," Sylar smirks, still trying to imitate Nathan's speech. "Do your worst." Electricity sparks between his fingers, but Peter doesn't care that he doesn't have a power to match the other's.
"You knew my grandfather, Peter Petrelli," the boy tells him.
Peter just nods.
A scientist steps closer to him. "Modify his memories. We can't have an accident like this happening again."
The boy nods, and his hand moves over Peter's eyes. Peter sighs and tries to relax. His head burns, and he can feel that something is missing. And then he isn't all that certain. A strange black boy is standing beside his bed, in a room that looks far too modern to be 20th century. A man circles the table he lies on, but Peter rather looks at the boy.
The boy leans in and whispers in his ear: "You can't dream if you're dead."
Peter frowns. "Yes, you can."
There was one more flash, far brighter than the ones before. The last actually hurt, and Peter groaned as white agony passed through his brain.
Finally, when he had regained his voice, he gasped: "You can't dream if you're dead."
"You're alive, Peter," a dry comment met his insightful statement. "Alive and kicking." Sylar was standing beside his bed, much like Nathan used to, all those months Peter kept having nightmares. Sylar in Nathan's body… A wolf in sheep's clothing. "That was quite a wild ride," the older man eventually observed.
Peter looked at him, wondering what that meant.
Sylar tapped his head with one finger. "Telepathy. It has been quite interesting to watch your dreams until now. Less naked skin in there than I would have expected from a man of your age, but I guess the gruesome mass-destruction makes up for it." He turned and went to get himself a cup of water, just like that.
Peter shuddered. Yes, he had sometimes felt like someone was filtering his dreams, but the ones that got through… There had been nothing even remotely sexually arousing in them. "You didn't have to watch if you found it so distasteful," he finally groused, feeling like someone had invaded his privacy. Well, Sylar had, and he wondered if he should just get used to it.
"I didn't want you to find out the truth about me too early. I believe I told you that," Sylar replied.
"Yeah, it would have been such a loss for your mindfuck to end," Peter muttered as he got himself a clean glass and some water. His head felt like he had sat in the sun all day; too many memories and flashes pushing in at once wasn't working, but every time he closed his eyes, they kept coming like a holy flood. The truth about his brother had triggered a lot of memories, and while Peter still felt disoriented, he was putting pieces together at a rapid pace. Sylar wasn't offering him any help, but he wasn't stopping him either.
All in all their arrangement was… strange. Peter didn't know why he had followed Sylar back from the Ravine, but now that his memories began to resolve the forgotten mysteries of his past, it made sense; there was nothing else for him out there, other than cold medical tables and a metal spike thrust into his brain to keep him dead until someone saw fit to wake him up for some patriotic mission. He doubted his own sanity for allowing them to use him like that.
Sylar chuckled where he sat in the corner of the room.
"Stop reading my thoughts," Peter snapped.
"Start using your own telepathy, and maybe you'll block me next time. Until then, I guess you'll just have to deal with it." A smug grin on his face, Sylar emptied his glass then let go of it, the dish floating through the air towards the sink.
With a sudden burst of anger, Peter swung his hand – and the glass followed the motion to the wall next to him. They both jerked at the sound of the breaking glass, but Sylar's smile, when he stood up, was as genuine as it could be.
"That's the sound of progress, Pete," he noted, then walked out the door, leaving Peter to seethe, alone with the shards of glass that seemed to mock him as much as the other man's words.
There were days when Peter was convinced his mind was going to fall apart like a badly constructed house of cards. The tension between him and Sylar remained palpable. The number of visions assaulting his brain was overwhelming. Sometimes Peter wished he could just shut it all out, but at the same time he wanted to regain all his lost memories as soon as possible.
As the days went by, he came to one conclusion, though; there was very little pleasantness to remember. So much death, pain, hurt, nightmares and agony… The truth was, Peter had been much happier not remembering any of it.
Sylar kept away from him. There were no dry, biting comments, and he maintained his own face instead of antagonizing Peter with Nathan's. Peter wasn't sure why, but as time went by and his past slowly pulled itself together, Peter had an inkling that maybe he knew why Sylar was doing all this.
For one, he had spent a significant amount of time as Nathan, before all this began, and after saving Peter from the US government. He had absorbed Nathan's memories, thought-process, and learned to instinctively care for things Nathan had cared about – like Peter.
Also, it was one thing to be lonely, a whole other thing to be completely alone. While Peter knew Sylar went to get food and other necessities from cities on the other side of the Ravine, he still spent a significant amount of time alone, away from any other living creature. The silence was deafening sometimes, and if it was ready to drive Peter nuts after a few months –even when he had the other for company – he couldn't imagine what it had been like when Sylar was alone.
But the biggest reason of all, Peter decided, was the fact that they were the last of their kin. It was the motivation behind Peter's decision to stay instead of flying away, or fighting Sylar until one of them was dead. That feeling of togetherness and a bond thicker than blood was what made him stay. There was no one else out there for either of them, and frankly… it seemed no one out there wanted them to even exist. So, an alliance with Sylar was the only reasonable option Peter could find. Maybe it should have been the right action from the very beginning instead of giving himself up…
After an animosity as deep and long drawn out as theirs, it was hard to find common ground. It was funny how the 'end of the world' changed that, though. Frankly, they had never had more in common in the past as they had now. Ironically, while Peter hated to admit it, they were both aware of the fact, and that kept them from attempting to kill each other – most days, anyway; some conflicts couldn't be avoided, and while trying to beat each other to death was a way to pass time, it seemed neither of them was as keen on it as before. The motivation behind the anger was gone, whatever it had been during the previous decades.
Alongside the return of his lost memories were the return of his powers. Peter felt more at home in his own skin than he had in years. He was free to use his powers as he wanted, and it was to his choosing whether he displayed them – or not. Frankly, he kept from displaying most of them because he still had nightmares of The Earthquake, and every time he woke up it took him a few minutes to convince himself that the ground wasn't shaking.
There was no real routine to their lives. When they got hungry, they either suffered or flew out in search of food; Sylar took Peter with him, showing him the ropes. They both got invisibility and the ability to phase through walls, so stealing food was ridiculously easy. No one knew they were even there. Especially after Peter began to teleport again, it was simple to travel with bigger loads of food, but he didn't do that unless he had to because he knew sometimes that power was far more unstable than most of his other ones, and while Sylar argued it didn't matter where they ended up since they were practically immortal and capable of protecting themselves, Peter wasn't willing to take unnecessary risks with it.
For some months Peter tried to make something grow in their backyard, but the ground was dead and each spot he tried yielded the same sad results. Sylar just kept giving him looks, those thick eyebrows drawn together. Peter knew that in their lives, his efforts were providing the other some amusement, which was why he didn't tell Peter outright to stop bothering.
After he gave up at their home on the coast, he flew closer to the Rocky Mountains to try there. He was finally successful, and Sylar couldn't really keep on complaining when they had their first batch of fresh peas and carrots; they tasted better than the ones they stole from East America, for some reason. Maybe it was the fresh taste, or just the fact that it was their food.
Encouraged by this, Peter made it part of his day to fly to his garden. Sylar followed him sometimes, and although his expression said that he found it all incredibly useless, he never said anything. It wasn't as if they had anything better to do.
It was on one such day, when Peter was kneeling between his straight lines of carrot and lettuce, and Sylar had himself propped up against a rock, that a strange roar filled the air. It began distant, barely there, but Sylar lifted his head, eyeing the sky. Peter looked up as well, instinctively switching into enhanced hearing and vision. He couldn't see anything, but the sound was getting stronger.
"What is it?" he finally asked, slowly getting up and wiping his dirty fingers on his pants.
Sylar sighed and climbed to his feet with an expression that may have been annoyance – had his eyes not been glittering. "That's our fellow Americans sending us a gift," he answered languidly.
"A gift?" Peter frowned, baffled. He almost reached out with his mind to read Sylar's, but he was still too preoccupied listening to the sound; sneaking through the other man's defenses wouldn't work unless he focused on it.
Sylar didn't seem too keen on answering him. He was still eyeing the sky, the sound still growing. Then, finally, Peter could see something. He narrowed his eyes to identify the object on the sky. It was too big to be a person, and hardly anyone could make such a sound.
It was a hard angle, and he had to stare at it for some time until it was close enough for him to recognize it for sure. Peter let out a gasp when he did, swallowed, and took a step back. He had seen a missile flying only a few times in his life, but the fact that one was steadily falling towards them didn't fill him with awe – quite the contrary. For a brief moment he looked around his beautiful garden and felt an overwhelming urge to save it.
Sylar glanced at him just then, a look of total disbelief on his face.
Peter stared at him sourly, which didn't stop Sylar from commenting, of course.
"Seriously, Peter. We have a nuclear warhead aimed at us, and you're thinking of your tomatoes," the older man derided him.
"We could have watermelons next week," Peter replied.
Sylar sighed – the long, agitated sound of a person who was grudgingly agreeing on something. "I can't believe we're saving your ridiculous greenhouse project…"
"It didn't seem so ridiculous this morning when you were poking at the cucumber to see if they're ready to be eaten," Peter defended himself.
"I was hungry," Sylar snapped, but clearly he had already decided to make his move because he raised his hand, a ball of radioactive fire burning just an inch above his palm.
"Keep that away from the plants," Peter pleaded. While he was certain their bodies could deal with food that had been exposed to radiation, he really preferred not to go through with it if he didn't have to. Besides, he wasn't sure how good it was for future crops either. He should probably snatch a book about horticulture when they went into a city next time.
Sylar didn't have anything to say to that. Instead he released the ball of fire which rose through the air, higher and higher while the missile was heading down. Peter bit his lower lip, then let out the air in his lungs when he was certain the fire wouldn't hit its target. Sylar frowned, then jerked his head sharply to the right – and the missile spun violently, following the movement, then blew up with an enormous bang as it hit Sylar's shot.
"You would have missed," Peter noted once he straightened up again. He had reflexively bowed down at the explosion although the invisible force field he had spread above them was more than enough to protect them from any pieces of shrapnel falling at them from the sky.
"Maybe," Sylar said.
"You moved the missile," Peter pointed out.
"Just to make sure the watermelons wouldn't be hit." With that, Sylar took off, and after Peter had pushed the falling rubble a safe distance away from his garden, he took off after the other. Instead of heading towards California, Sylar sped over the Rocky Mountains and stopped only when he reached the Ravine.
Since his memory returned, Peter had been there only few times. The place made him shudder still; the cold, utter destruction they had caused. He had enough reminders of his actions during their daily activities, and had no reason to come here and feel the thick wall of despair that tried to crush him each time…
"Perhaps we should go and say 'hello'," Sylar mused, regarding the horizon as if he was waiting for the weather to change.
Peter looked at him, driven out of his dark thoughts. He knew that it wouldn't be a handshake and a kind smile that waited for them there.
Sylar grew tired of waiting for his response and shrugged. "You'll have to do it at some point, Peter."
"Fight for your existence."
Peter had a lot of arguments against that statement, but Sylar had already pushed himself to the sky and was speeding towards East America. With a growl, Peter followed. He wasn't going to fight, but someone had to keep an eye on Sylar. In their monotonous, uneventful lives, a chance to fight someone looked attractive, but those people were simply afraid of them – for a reason. While Peter wasn't going to go back to them willingly, it didn't mean he would start killing anyone who thought different.
The flight across the Ravine took longer than he would have liked. He felt tempted to just teleport to the other side, but he wasn't certain what waited for them there. Besides, it was only fair that he looked at the legacy he had left this world…
"You're making me sick, Pete," Sylar commented. While the other was flying way ahead of him, it seemed he was still paying attention to Peter's thoughts.
"If you felt half as responsible for causing all this as I do, I'm sure your cold heart would crack in half," Peter shot back. He flew faster, anger spurring him forward.
"You're just making an excuse to feel sorry for yourself. This is something both Nathan and I agree on: grow up."
Peter sneered, the air whipping past him. Electricity crackled between his fingers, and once he was close enough, he would make Sylar pay for saying that. Sure, it might be true, but he didn't get to say things like that about Nathan after all the lies he had been feeding Peter in the past.
When he finally reached Sylar, the other was floating in the air. A mile further on stood a massive collection of war equipment; tanks, cars, helicopters, missile-launchers and hundreds of armed men. There was a roar in the air, and Peter snatched a transmission from the air just in time to know that there were gunships coming at them.
"Ten seconds," Sylar nodded, and although his eyes were on the ground, Peter knew he was waiting for the fighter planes to come close enough for him to hit them.
"Let's just disarm them and go back," Peter said. He didn't plead, but it wasn't an order either; he couldn't just make Sylar come back with him – not without a fight, and he was worried that if they really got into it, some of these soldiers might get caught in the middle.
Sylar just smiled, an expression on his face as if he was looking at a treat he was just about to seize.
The fighters roared past them, and Peter sent forth an electrical burst to destroy the rockets launched at them. Sylar had swung around, an electric bolt of his own reaching after the planes and hitting them easily. Peter could see several explosions as the planes' systems were fried, and a moment later they began to fall without control.
"Asshole," Peter swore, taking after the planes. He stopped them with telekinesis, then wrenched open the cockpits to get to the pilots and gunners. They were all alive, and he made sure he dropped them to the ground a safe distance from their wrecked planes.
While he was rescuing the men, Sylar had busied himself with the rest of the army. He was in the middle of flipping two of the tanks into the air when Peter arrived and forcibly took the control away from him, making them land a bit awkwardly, but at least the people around them weren't crushed.
"Stop it!" Peter shouted, although he knew it was in vain.
Sylar just laughed and launched another attack. Fire, this time, which Peter stopped by creating a vacuum around it. He had it nicely under control when suddenly a rain of huge bullets flew past him, one hitting him in the shoulder, splintering his concentration with a brief flash of pain. He felt like shouting in rage and brainwashing the men on the ground to just sit still and not shoot at him while he was trying to help them, but he didn't.
The bullet had left a hole the size of three of his fingers, and he grimaced while looking at it close as Claire's power kicked in. His collarbone seemed to have some trouble setting itself, and so he had to push his fingers in to shift the bone so that it could heal. His hand now covered in fresh blood and his shoulder throbbing, Peter looked for Sylar again.
Below him the ground shook lightly, and Peter felt his heart miss a beat. The way Sylar was grinning, especially when he looked at Peter to see his reaction, was the final straw; Peter mustered all his strength and hit Sylar with several powers at once. There was telekinesis, a force field, and something that converted even the smallest force of momentum into something a hundred times stronger. As it hit the other man, he was propelled back through the air, so far that Peter could barely see him once he managed to stop.
Sighing, Peter allowed himself to fall to the ground. The men backed off from him, and he spread his arms. "I don't want to fight. Just go back, and no one will be hurt."
He heard a rustle of metal and leather. Panting breaths. Frantic beating of several hearts.
Choosing the man right in front of him, Peter locked eyes with him. He could have used mind control, but he wanted them to make the decision for themselves. "I won't hurt you," he told the man, spreading his arms further, trying to find reason.
The gun pointed at him shifted, just slightly, and for a moment Peter was certain the man was going to lower it. Then there was a loud noise – and nothing.
By the time Sylar managed to stop his embarrassingly uncontrolled plunge, he was miles away from the action. He had to hand it to Peter; when the other got mad enough, he could still attack harder than anyone Sylar had ever met. He had the potential. It was such a pity he rarely if ever used it.
He took his time flying back, monitoring the sounds and transmission passing in the air. Let Peter have his fun. Sooner or later the younger man would have to admit his method wouldn't work unless he brainwashed the entire human race.
"The target is down. I repeat, the target it down."
Sylar groaned and sped up. Whatever Peter had done – or hadn't – had turned against him. While he was tempted to just leave him to deal with it on his own, there was a small fear screaming at the back of his head. The voice had a distinct echo of Nathan's tone in it, which he disliked greatly, but the message was stronger than all his loathing put together: he couldn't let anything happen to Peter, because after that it would be a harsh return to loneliness once again, while the world dragged its feet around him.
When he reached the battle zone, it took him a few second to determine what had happened. The soldiers were gathered together, still holding their guns, and the air was filled with messages – enough to make Sylar stop listening to them unless he wanted to give himself a headache.
He landed before anyone noticed him, then parted the entire army like Moses must have divided the Red Sea; cleanly in half, cast on both sides carelessly as if someone had swept aside a pile of toys. In the middle lay Peter, a bloody hole in his head. His brown eyes were glazed over, and Sylar could only sigh and shake his head. Peter had more than a dozen abilities to stop the bullet. He had used none of them, apparently.
Annoyed and tired of this, Sylar merely picked the other man up then took off. A few rockets were shot at him, and he returned the favor by messing up their signals and sending them back down at their shooters. The screams were somewhat enjoyable to listen to, considering all the trouble they had put him through today.
He landed once they were at home on the coast, and lay Peter down on his bed. He was tempted to let him be for a bit longer, but decided it wouldn't really make a difference, and so he fished out the pieces of the bullets from the younger man's head. It was tedious, difficult work, and eventually he just sawed Peter's skull open to have a better look, then held it back together when the final bullet had been removed and the healing kicked in.
Peter coughed and sputtered, blinking rapidly. His entire body shook, and Sylar wondered if he had forgotten a piece of metal in his head. It seemed the other man was fine in a few minutes, though, as he looked around in slight confusion.
"I can't believe you let them shoot you," Sylar finally snapped.
Peter just hung his head, clutching it with one hand. Sylar thought it better not to tell him that he had done some serious digging around in there. Peter looked pale enough as it was, and he didn't need him to get sick before he was at least able to scramble outside on his own feet.
Sylar told him there had been a change of power; a new man was in control, and it seemed that whoever the guy was, he had a serious problem with Peter and Sylar's existence. Since the first attack, they were harassed almost weekly. Peter wondered where they got the firepower since nothing they took home with them could be used another time – if they even bothered to drag it back. After all, Peter fought to keep the men alive, but had no problem destroying their guns and machines.
Over the next few months, though, it was harder and harder to keep the soldiers safe and Sylar in check. Peter's patience was ending, because no matter what he said or did, he was still being shot at. He didn't allow them to kill him another time – he had learned his lesson, not only because the sharp remarks Sylar had given him about it would drive him insane if repeated. Nonetheless, it was very hard to protect everyone, because that usually left Peter highly vulnerable.
So came the day when he decided that saying: "I don't want to hurt you," was enough. He wouldn't guarantee their safety, but at least he would let them keep their lives. In Peter's opinion, that was enough, especially after he had to re-grow his entire jaw after a lucky grenade got too close to him. Sylar kept joking that his teeth had never looked so pretty, but Peter found little humor in it.
Months went by, and Peter's tolerance for violence came to an end.
"I didn't ask you to come here," he muttered as he mentally pushed a helicopter to the side, thusly avoiding the bullets it would have otherwise spewed at him. "I didn't do anything to you," he went on, landing to touch a tank beneath him, turning its metal into dust. The men that had sat inside it fell to the ground, looking around with various expressions of horror and dismay. "Just leave us alone!" Peter snapped as someone shot him in the back, pain radiating through his entire body. He looked down to see the damage, then gnashed his teeth together.
He had seen a lot of horrible things in his life. He had been a nurse. His own body had been horribly mangled a lot of times. But looking down at his side, and seeing the gaping hole the size of a few baseballs, the flesh still emanating a burnt smell… Peter honestly felt a little sick, not to mention furious with pain.
Angrily he turned around, and yanked closer the man who had shot him. His fingers curled around his neck, and although the soldier was bigger than him, it didn't matter against inhuman strength. Only when Peter heard bones snap did he stop and let the body drop to the ground. He was breathing hard, the hole in his side still healing. He gingerly touched his chest just above it – then jerked as five bullets hit him from behind, one piercing his body and palm as it shot through him.
He briefly wondered if shooting your enemies in the back was what they taught in school these days, but didn't particularly care. This time he didn't even turn to look as he reached out with his mind, turning the soldiers behind him at each other, then made them fire. The bodies fell to the ground with a series of thuds, and finally Peter dared to breathe, although one of his lungs was still healing.
Sylar landed beside him. He hadn't been shot by the look of it, but he was bloody and his clothes were a little torn. He looked at Peter, and his already annoyed expression twisted a little. "Ouch," he stated, and Peter knew that was all the sympathy he would get.
"This has to end," Peter stated firmly.
Above them a helicopter spun in the air, smoking and on fire, before crashing down into the Ravine, an explosion following long seconds after.
Sylar nodded absently, then looked up. Peter followed his line of sight with dread, and saw two objects rushing through the sky. Missiles. Their enemies must have become truly desperate to kill them; they had never shot such weapons at them while their own soldiers were still in the area. Not that most of them were walking home on their own these days…
"How does your side feel?" Sylar asked conversationally.
"Just give me a few seconds," Peter sighed.
"Good, because I don't feel like going up to stop them," Sylar decided.
Since the first time, they had discovered that actually flying up to meet the missiles was much more effective than trying to shoot them from the ground.
"I didn't say I wanted to go either," Peter whined. "I was just shot!"
"Well, maybe you shouldn't be so easy to shoot at."
"At least I still care for human life."
"Fine," Sylar hissed. "A draw, then. Rock-paper-scissors okay with you?"
Peter blinked, then shrugged. They put forth their hands, counted "Rock, paper, scissors," out loud, then stopped.
Sylar muttered, looking down at his index and middle finger that stood out from the rest of his hand, then shot up to the sky. Peter looked down at his own clenched fist – stone – wondering why Sylar always chose scissors. Above him the missiles exploded, and even where he was standing he could feel the slight impact of pressure. With a sigh, he rose to the sky as well, following Sylar as the other already sped towards their territory on the western side of the Ravine.
A few days passed with two more attacks. The American government didn't send more men, but there were several missiles that kept them occupied. Some unmanned fighter planes were set out as well, but they were considerably nicer to deal with because their explosive power wasn't as great as in fully armed missiles.
All the fighting was making Peter incredibly wound up, and he spent his days and nights trying to find a way out of it. Inevitably though, he could think of only one possibility that would undo it all.
"I have to go back," he announced to Sylar one morning.
"Back to the government lab?" the other asked, trying to cover the apparent anger in his voice.
"No," Peter shook his head. "Past. Before all this happened."
Sylar was silent for a long moment, then shrugged. "If you think that will make a difference. But what if you make it worse?"
Peter had thought of that. From the very beginning, that had been what held him back. Sure, most days he couldn't think how things could be worse, but he was certain that one mistake in the past would cause it somehow. "That's why I'm taking no chances. I've planned it to the last detail."
"Really," Sylar said conversationally, although his face remained as one of mocking doubt.
"Yes," Peter said simply, stepping forward. "And you're going to help me."
Sylar froze, his eyes narrowed. He could probably sense something was off although Peter was shielding his intentions. When Peter moved again, the other stepped back, but the younger man was faster and grabbed his arm.
He tried to anticipate it, but when Sylar pushed him back with telekinesis, Peter couldn't hold onto him. With a groan he landed against the opposite wall, then sighed and stopped time. It was the one power Sylar could never have since he killed Hiro without taking it, and it remained Peter's ultimate weapon against him.
Peter walked back over to him, placed his hands on either side of his face, then focused to release the time-freeze and plunge into his head at once. He succeeded, sliding into Sylar's mind before the other could fend him off. A disarray of memories attacked him, most of them Sylar's own, and some of Nathan's and other people's he had pretended to be. Peter didn't stop to look at them, though, but sought that one particular memory he was interested in… the day Sylar killed Nathan.
Sylar fought him bitterly, but Peter pushed with all the determination he had, and finally he had it all, in clear detail. His mind burned with strain and fury at seeing his brother die, but when he was done and he pulled back, Peter smiled. "It's never going to happen. You won't kill Nathan, you won't become him, and so… we will never fight each other and destroy the world."
Sylar stared at him, dark and menacing, his nose bleeding. Peter felt a warm wetness on his own face, guessing he didn't look much better. He had made his decision, though. Sylar could either agree, or stay out of his way.
He concentrated, turned invisible, held his breath, then teleported.
Stanton Hotel, Washington D.C.
What Peter noticed first was the smell of pollution in the air. He had rarely paid attention to it before, but now… it was thick enough to make his nose burn for a moment.
It was not why he was here, though.
His eyes scanned the building before him, and soon he spotted a window above him, broken, pale curtains swaying as if they were trying to climb out. And instant later he could see two shapes flying through the sky.
Nathan crashed in first, aided by Sylar's telekinesis. Peter felt his heart jump and anger burn, seeing his brother, but he had to focus. Sylar followed him in, slow and majestic, taking his time; Sylar had always liked to taunt when he had the chance, to toy with his victim…
Peter shot up, phasing through the wall because he didn't have the patience to aim for the window, and just when Sylar raised his hand, Peter swung him to the side. He turned visible, knowing it would be pointless to try keep himself that way if he fought the other; his concentration would break sooner or later.
He looked briefly at Nathan, who stared right back at him. It was one of the rare moments when Nathan was utterly speechless. Peter just nodded at him, then stepped to the side to face Sylar who was climbing back to his feet. The serial killer's face was identical to the man's Peter had just left behind, almost seventy years into the future. Yet there was something different about this Sylar too. Perhaps it was the pure rage he attacked Peter with – and the weakness.
Peter flung him back, easier than he had ever thought possible. The groan he forced from the other almost made him laugh. "And you're calling me pathetic…" he mused out loud, stepping up to the other man. "I would kill you, but because you saved my life… I won't."
Sylar frowned in obvious confusion. For a moment Peter expected him to reach out to try to read his mind, but there was none of that. Then it dawned to him that Sylar hadn't yet acquired the power.
"Doesn't matter," Peter muttered, then touched Sylar's forehead, focusing, upsetting the chemical balances in his brain, and the other man fell unconscious to the floor. It wouldn't last forever, but it would give them room to breathe.
Peter turned back to look at his brother, alive and well. The real Nathan.
"Peter?" Nathan asked uncertainly.
"From the future," Peter explained.
Nathan just nodded, accepting the fact a lot easier than he would have a few years ago. His brown eyes fell down to look at Sylar. "What should we do with him?"
"I guess that's up to you. I won't kill him," Peter said simply.
"He saved your life?" Nathan asked, suspicion in his voice.
"In more ways than one," Peter confirmed, his voice softening. "Where I come from… The world turned out terrible, Nathan. You were going to die today, and they turned Sylar into you after I stopped him. Mom told no one, and when Sylar finally broke through, I was too angry to even think clearly –"
"Whoa, whoa, slow down," Nathan interrupted him. "I was going to die?"
"Just now," Peter smiled softly. "But none of that matters now."
The door on the side burst open and Matt Parkman rushed in, followed by Angela Petrelli. They both stopped as if they had hit a wall, looking at the ruined room and Sylar's still form – then Peter.
"Well," Matt said a bit tensely. "Was this in your dream, Mrs. Petrelli?"
Angela stared at Peter, and after all these years of hatred and regrets, Peter stepped forward to hug her. She was tense in his arms, and eventually pushed him away. "You don't belong here," she stated, voice shivering.
"No," Peter admitted. "But I… I've been wanting to say this for a long time, Mom: I'm sorry I let things end the way they did." He stopped for a moment, looking at her confused face. She looked tired and worried, but she had so much more life in her than the last time Peter saw her alive. "It doesn't matter anymore," he finally said, smoothing her hair from her face, then stepped back as her phone rang.
"Noah," she said after checking out the caller's ID. She answered, bringing him up to speed on what had happened. Every now and then she still gave Peter a look, as if trying to decide if she was pleased to see him or not.
Peter looked at Nathan who had now sat down in the chair behind him. The chair he died in… He shook away the memory he had taken from Sylar. It didn't matter anymore. Things were going to turn out the right way. "I love you, Nathan," he said suddenly, and realized he had longed to do so for a very long time.
The door opened again, and Peter looked up, feeling the immediate confusion flowing from his niece and his past self as the two followed Noah Bennet into the suite.
His body was still aching from the recent fight as he followed Claire down the stairs. He was worried about Nathan, and hoped that his brother was okay. If only he had been able to do more! Seeing him and Sylar take off through the window and knowing he was unable to follow now that he had absorbed one of Sylar's abilities made him feel incredibly weak.
They rounded a corner and Peter stopped short so that he wouldn't collide with Claire. While her healing power may have been a blessing right now, he needed to hold onto the ability he got from Sylar…
Reaching the main floor, Peter ran down ahead of her. "We should separate here," he told her. "You go that way. I'll look for Nathan over here." He turned – and almost ran into Noah and his gun. Claire had also stopped, stepping forward.
"Noah?" Peter asked, slightly confused about why he was pointing the gun at them.
"You tell me that's Claire, not Sylar."
"I just fought Sylar, okay? That's Claire," Peter explained impatiently. He was already beginning to hate this shape shifting power. "Put the gun down," he urged, then watched as Claire stepped forward. It seemed to work a lot better than Peter's reassurances.
"Did you take his power?" Noah finally asked after he had embraced his adopted daughter. His voice was low, barely a whisper.
"Yeah," Peter nodded. The blood drying on each side of his head pulled on his skin, but there was no time to get cleaned up now.
"So we can stop him," Claire looked at them both. Noah smiled; he had waited for this for a long time.
"Freeze!" someone suddenly shouted, making them all turn. The men of the Secret Service stood in the hallway, pointing guns at them. "On the ground!" the man, Liam Samuels, urged. Peter wondered if he could manage to convince him without Nathan being there.
"The president's life is in danger," Noah stated before Peter had time to think of anything. "You want him to live, you need to listen to us," he went on, slowly placing his gun to the floor.
"I said on the ground!" Samuels shouted.
Claire seemed to have had enough. She walked forward, her voice determined yet laced with none of the urgency that Peter felt in his body. "You can either listen to me now…" she told them, then stopped when Samuels' gun was pressed against her head, "or I'll tell you after you shoot me."
Peter stared at the scene, then closed his eyes briefly, and when he reopened them, Samuels had lowered his gun. Claire didn't smile or say thank you, and Peter wondered when she had begun to change. It hadn't been that long since she was a cheerleader in Odessa, warmth surrounding her instead of this coldness and resolve.
Noah pulled out his phone, and Peter waited to see whom he called. The expression of utter dismay that took over his features soon after made Peter frown. When he finished the call, Noah looked at Peter for a long time. "It seems… Sylar's down. He and Nathan returned to the suite."
"Nathan got him?" Claire asked in apparent disbelief.
Peter knew his expression mirrored hers, although he felt immensely relieved as well.
"Not really," Noah said slowly. "Peter did."
With that cryptic message he turned and began to climb the stairs, Claire and Peter following after an exchange of looks. "What did you do?" his niece asked.
"I don't know," Peter replied, honestly baffled. It didn't make sense. His head was pounding as he struggled to keep up with Noah, yet his relief was great when they finally stepped into the suite and he saw Nathan sitting in a chair, alive and breathing, and Sylar lying at the opposite side of the room.
Then his eyes found a man in the room that certainly didn't belong there.
"He's from the future?" Noah asked at once. He had his gun in his hand, yet it wasn't pointed at Peter's double.
The guy looked like him, as if they were the same age, only his eyes seemed older, and his hair and body were different. He was thinner than Peter, yet the way he stood he seemed a lot stronger at the same time.
"It would appear so," Angela stated, her voice shaking a little.
Noah nodded, then looked to the side at Sylar. "Well, I suppose we should say thank you."
The future Peter shifted a little, looking at Sylar before his eyes returned to Peter's own. He smiled, faintly, probably feeling the awkwardness of the situation.
"Why are you here?" Peter finally asked. Last time he had seen one of his future selves, it had been the day one of them shot Nathan, if he was correct – or when said Peter took him to the future where Claire almost killed him.
"To… change the future," the future Peter stated, his eyes briefly locking with Nathan's.
"He says I was going to die today," Nathan told them. It seemed there was something else, because Nathan looked thoughtful, but it wasn't as if today's events weren't weird enough as they were.
In his corner, Sylar shifted, and the other Peter turned, raising his hand. Sylar snarled, then rolled back as if he was being pinned down by an invisible force.
"Stay still," the man from the future said. "I don't want to hurt you, but I will if you push me."
Sylar laughed, the sound strained. "You can't kill me."
"I would love to disagree," the future Peter shot back, his voice cool. "You think you're powerful? Maybe twenty years from now, when you've collected almost every power there is. Right now… you're a pitiful shadow of your future self I just left behind."
Peter swallowed. It was hard to imagine such power, so he decided not to think about it. And it was a future that was going to change today for all he knew. That was why his other self was here, right? "Maybe we should finish him," he suggested. "If we imprison him, he's just going to escape again, and this whole thing will start all over. Let's finish what we came to do here."
Claire nodded. Noah lifted his gun, loading it.
Future Peter shifted his head, just slightly, and suddenly the gun in Noah's hand was jerked away from him, flying out of the window.
Sylar chuckled. "You think that weapon would have been any good anyway?" Then his entire body jerked, an electric flash passing through him, and he lay on the floor, gasping.
"Shut up," the future Peter told him.
Nathan stood up from his chair, a little unsteady on his feet. "They are right. He has to die." Both Peters looked at him.
It seemed for a moment that his future self was going to argue, but then he just hung his head and took a step to the side. "I trust you, Nathan. Killing him is what we were going to do today, right?"
"Right, Pete," Nathan smiled at him, although the expression seemed a little strained; perhaps Nathan felt just as uneasy around him as Peter did.
"You're doing the right thing," Peter told his double, reaching out to touch his shoulder, and his fingers accidentally brushed against the skin of his neck. At that very instant Peter felt a wave of heat pass through his body, and instead of the single power that he could usually feel when he touched someone with an ability… he felt dozens. All at once, some more powerful than the next, all trying to push into him.
He stepped back with a gasp and stumbled as his legs refused to carry him. Nathan grabbed him before he fell to the floor, and Peter tried to hold onto him in vain to stop the tremors that suddenly shook his body.
Voices were in his head. Screams…
Darkness, but the sky's on fire. The horizon lit with ugly shades of red.
"Pete!" Nathan shouted, shaking him. Peter heard him only briefly before the visions in his head got worse again.
Children crying. People screaming. Metal bending and glass breaking.
"Peter, come on…"
Cities falling, sinking to the ground.
Peter struggled to breathe. His lungs felt as if they were filled with smoke.
Ground tearing, rock crumbling, a gap spreading like a terrible, buck-toothed grimace, growing and growing…
"Pete." Nathan's voice filled his ears, and he tried to hold onto it.
"Nathan," he gasped.
He looked at Nathan, but Nathan's face kept changing. His, Sylar's, then his again. A constant transformation, like a battle. A battle that Sylar won.
"You're not my brother." Peter's voice. Horrified, betrayed. Angry.
So much anger.
"Nathan," Peter whispered, trying to reach out for him.
"Peter, you're hurting –"
Nathan was gone.
"No!" Peter screamed. In his head, and out loud.
The ground was still shaking, wouldn't stop. It would never stop. And Nathan was gone, always gone.
"Make him stop!" Claire screamed, but her words were muffled in his ears.
"What the hell's going on?" Matt, so scared…
"It won't stop," Peter chanted, holding his head with one hand, Nathan with the other, because maybe if he didn't let go, he wouldn't disappear. "The world's ending… it will never stop!"
"Pete, just calm down," Nathan said, his voice urgent and worried.
"I can't stop it," Peter finally realized, his eyes snapping open, looking at the identical brown ones of his brother. "We can't stop it, Sylar."
"Peter, what –"
Hot pain flashed through Peter's head before Nathan ever finished.
"What did you do?" Nathan roared as younger Peter's body collapsed in his arms, a metal rod piercing his brother's head.
"He couldn't control it," Peter told him. Although it pained him to see his past self die like that, it was only temporary; Peter would heal, like he had healed so many times before and after. But piercing his brain with the first object he could find in the room had been the swiftest action he could take.
As soon as Peter had touched him, he had felt the connection like the worst of Sylar's electric shocks. It took a few seconds for him to come out of it, and as soon as he had, it was clear something wasn't right. His past self was shaking on the floor, his eyes… he was looking around frantically, but Peter could tell he didn't see what the rest of them did. And then he began to speak: incoherent broken sentences which made Peter swiftly fight his way into his mind to see what was going on.
He stumbled back quicker than he went in, realizing that Peter's mind was being assaulted by each of his own memories, and slowly, steadily, the Stanton Hotel was beginning to shake around them.
Nathan tried to make his brother stop, but Peter knew he was beyond comprehension. His brain wasn't capable of coping with all the information. He didn't have the sufficient powers to handle it. And whichever powers he had taken…
Killing him was the fastest way to make it stop, and Peter had long since learned to accept that fact. Nathan's shout of outrage made him feel guilty, but while the shaking still went on, he didn't particularly care what his brother thought at the moment.
The chandelier fell from the ceiling, smashing between them. The walls were beginning to crack, and the windows were breaking in the buildings around the hotel. Peter felt his heart beat faster, and he tried to focus and calm the earthquake.
An electric shock with a patented telekinetic push broke his concentration. Peter fell to the side, then rolled over to meet Sylar's next attack, matching it with his own. Paint and rubble were falling on them like rain, and he could hear the telltale sounds of the building beginning to fall apart. People were screaming outside; crying for help, afraid, dying…
"Fuck," Peter swore. He didn't have time for this. He focused and pushed Sylar with all his might, plunging him through the wall and out of the building. He could track him later, but right now he had to make this stop.
"We have to get out of here!" Matt shouted over the noise. The floor was starting to crack and bend, like crumbling paper.
"Move!" Peter ordered.
Nathan held out his arm for Angela, who grabbed him. With Peter's limp form on his other side, Nathan took off through the window.
Peter looked at the remaining three people in the room, then extended his hands. "Touch me."
"Why should we trust you?" Claire asked hotly. "You just killed Peter!"
Peter bit his jaws together, not bothering to answer. While Matt was already touching his other hand, he jerked Claire closer with his free one, and Bennet grasped at him right after. Peter focused, and teleported them outside. Only, it was almost worse out there. Buildings were collapsing and there were tears spreading along the ground, some of them big enough to swallow a car. People were rushing past them, back and forth, and Peter had to take a deep breath to clam his mind enough to focus on the earthquake, and to make it stop.
It was just as hard as before. Peter knew the trick was to not let it get out of hand, because once it did, there was no way to just stop it at will. But he tried, hard, dimly aware of the falling concrete around him, and that someone pulled him to the side… When the shaking finally stopped, reduced to minor shivers that would eventually fade, he opened his eyes.
He was lying on the ground, Matt Parkman half on top of him, both of them covered in dust and broken glass. Only some feet away from them lay a crushed building that would have trampled them had Matt not moved them both out of the way. "Thanks," Peter said simply.
"Is it over?" Matt asked, coughing and rubbing his eyes.
"Yeah," Peter replied, then slowly got up to his feet. People were still running, and some nearby buildings were teetering on their foundations, ready to collapse. As far as he could see, the city was completely devastated. Sweat ran down his back, and Peter ran a hand through his hair, panic rising in his chest.
Matt got up to his feet beside him and they both looked towards Bennet who was on the other side of the street. They both ran over, halting at the gruesome sight: while he and Matt had escaped the falling building, Claire hadn't. Her crushed body lay lifeless beneath concrete and metal, her head twisted in an odd angle, the skull smashed in from one side, blond hair matted with blood and dust. Peter could tell that there was no coming back from that. Bennet seemed to know it as well since he was just sitting there instead of trying to dig her body free.
Angela and Nathan came running to them, dodging people going the opposite way. Nathan stopped first, standing numbly as soon as he saw Claire. Angela rushed closer, falling to her knees beside Bennet.
Peter took a slow step back, then looked around and spotted the body of his past self where Nathan must have laid him down on top of a smashed car. He walked over to him slowly, purposefully, taking a look at the empty eyes and pale skin. Was this how he looked before they woke him up? With a grimace, he turned Peter's head and grabbed the metal rod, then pulled it free. He tossed it to the side, then waited for the wound to start to close.
Peter felt considerably worse than before. He looked at his own face, still and lifeless, and still nothing happened. Somehow, Peter wasn't healing…
Only then it struck him that perhaps he didn't have the power. He had taken one of Sylar's earlier, and then touched him, after which he re-created The Earthquake he could see in his head through his future self's memories. Was it indeed possible that he couldn't…
He turned back to look at his family, and found Angela's teary eyes on him. She had moved to Nathan's arms, her expression one of tired fury.
"This wasn't supposed to happen," Peter said faintly, pushing his fingers through his hair. "Not this. It was all supposed to end well!"
In his head, he could hear the transmissions passing in the air.
Frantic calls from people to their relatives.
A reporter telling her station about a 8.7 magnitude earthquake shaking D.C.
The Secret Service calling the Pentagon with the information that the president was dead.
Peter blocked it all out before his ears started to bleed. He wanted to cry, and scream. He looked down at his own dead face, yet it felt like he had killed a stranger. And Claire… it was surely a work of irony that both times he lived to see her die, it was in an earthquake.
He looked around again, and knew he had to change it. This couldn't be the future he created! Anything was better than this. Even…
Peter looked at Nathan, took a step towards him, but he sensed that his presence wasn't welcome. As far as Nathan's thoughts went, he had just killed his brother and daughter. Nothing he did could possibly change the hatred he felt for him.
"I love you, Nathan," Peter said, needing to say it one more time.
Then he stepped back, concentrated, and teleported.
He reappeared beside the Stanton Hotel a heartbeat later than he originally had. He couldn't see himself since he had been invisible, but he could sense the thoughts and the heat from his body. When Nathan and Sylar rushed into the suite above them, Peter shot up, grabbing the air – and tugged himself to a halt. He saw himself turn visible, a shocked expression on his face, and he shook his head.
"What? Why? Where did you come from?" his other self asked, confused.
Peter hung his head, feeling his dead self's blood still on his fingers. "It won't work. It's only going to get worse. I – we – can't risk it."
There was clear indecision on the other Peter's face, and he looked up – they both did. They had both come this far, and it was unfair it had to come to this. Turning invisible, and signaling the other to do the same, he floated up to the broken window.
Sylar was just raising his hand, then drew a clean cut across Nathan's throat, making his body jerk. It was just like in Sylar's memory, although Peter couldn't feel all his feelings and thoughts this time; just his own despair and urge to stop it. But he couldn't. Even as Nathan fell back to the chair he had just sat in a few minutes ago, and struggled to breathe, Peter knew that he couldn't risk everyone dying. He couldn't risk another terrible way for the world to end.
Maybe there was no way to stop it. Maybe it was Peter's fate to watch his brother die, and witness Sylar's satisfied smirk as he turned into Nathan and walked out of the room. Peter swallowed, tears in his eyes, then looked at his other self who couldn't understand why they hadn't done anything. He was crying, clutching at Peter, his mind screaming Nathan's name over and over although his lips remained sealed.
It wasn't all that different from Peter's own expression, he guessed.
"It's over," he finally said, and his double nodded, stricken by shock. Together they teleported back, though only Peter reappeared in the future; he was glad, because he had feared the confusion he might have to deal with otherwise.
Sylar looked at him from his seat. He hadn't moved since Peter left, and perhaps no time had passed at all. To Peter, though, it felt like a lifetime. To look at Sylar, and still remember how he murdered Nathan…
Peter walked out through the door and to the shore. In the distance, he could see a peak of some ruined building sticking out of the water like a mocking finger pointed at him.
He fell to his knees in the sand and screamed until he had no voice left and his throat was raw. Raw and bloody like Nathan's, suffocating on his own blood while Sylar stood there, smiling, and Peter was too afraid to stop it.
When Peter came back, Sylar didn't ask how it went. Clearly nothing had changed because they both still existed – if that was how it worked. Either way, some of the light had gone out from Peter's eyes, and the hollow expression that haunted his face for weeks after was enough to make even him worry.
The attacks still went on. Peter ventured out alone more often and fought viciously. Normal men and their pitiful weapons didn't stand a chance against him, and it was a pathetic excuse for a battle, but that wasn't why Sylar eventually came to the decision that it really had to end; he made the decision based on the fact that inside, Peter was dying.
With only the two of them left, Sylar didn't want to take the chance of losing Peter. If the other got much worse, he would be more trouble than help, and Sylar didn't want to deal with that. So, he had to come up with a solution. Destroying the American government was a pleasant thought, but didn't seem like the perfect plan because it would just create more outrage against them.
In the end, the idea was almost too simple.
While Peter was preoccupied by his own sense of utter failure, Sylar had time to seek for a potential spot for his plans. After all, when he thought about it, one big motivator for the attackers was probably the fact that he and Peter alone held half the American soil under their rule. While people couldn't necessarily live there yet due to the utter destruction caused to the area, it still pained the American ego not to be able to stake claim for their own land.
So, Sylar decided it was a high time for them to have a place of their own.
Far away in the ocean, in international waters he finally found a sufficient spot. The climate was nice – not that it was a problem with their powers that could control it anyway – and it was far away from every country and inhabited island he could find. After that he prodded Mother Nature's natural process of creating a new island; he raised land by activating a volcano, but speeded the process that may have otherwise taken thousands of years into a few weeks.
Once he finally stood upon the bare piece of rock, he felt for the first time since discovering his abilities that he was truly closer to God himself.
Peter was sitting on the edge of the Ravine. Actually it was the very same spot he had sat the day he first realized Nathan was dead, and that Sylar had been lying to him.
It had been the longest year he could remember; the army still kept attacking them, but the distraction was much welcomed by him. It gave him something to do with the violent thoughts plaguing his mind. Sylar was gone a lot, and Peter didn't know where he went, but he honestly didn't care either. He hadn't told Sylar about how he had almost ruined the past, or that he had stayed to witness his brother's death, but things were tense between them nonetheless.
Peter sighed, looking down into the cold darkness. He wondered if allowing himself to fall all that way would kill him. Probably not; he had no such luck in his life.
He often felt tempted to go back to the army these days. To allow them to kill him, or put him into what he had called 'deep sleep'. Kill him, maybe wipe his memory clean, and not let him come back ever again. After all, how did he deserve to live when so many had died? When Nathan had died?
Peter took a small rock in his hand, shifted it around in his fingers, then tossed it down into the Ravine. It took a long while before he could hear it hit the bottom, or a rock wall.
A slight swoosh of air told him that Sylar had arrived. He didn't look up at him, nor did he say anything. He would leave soon enough.
"Peter, I want to show you something."
That's a new one, he thought. Peter glared up at him, frowning, then decided that Sylar didn't look like he was going to leave even if he told him he wasn't interested. "Is it important?"
Sylar didn't answer, but took off instead, leaving Peter to follow. They sped back towards California, after which Sylar headed to the sea. Peter wondered about this, but followed him nonetheless. He looked down, seeing the drowned, devastated cities beneath the masses of water. Such a beautiful sight on a summer day, but it didn't fill him with happiness to know he had caused all that. Thousands of corpses lay there, at the bottom of the ocean…
They flew further out, and after a few hours had passed, Peter moved to catch up with the other. "Where are we going? If this is a trip to Japan, I have to say I'm not interested."
"Just a little further," Sylar told him.
Peter groaned but kept following, and indeed, when Sylar finally began to land, it hadn't been that much further. They dropped down to an island which wasn't all that remarkable. Peter glanced around with disinterest, waiting for an explanation.
Sylar just spread his arms.
"This?" Peter raised an eyebrow, looking around again. "An island."
"Our island," the other corrected.
"You wanted a place to go to on vacation?" Peter mocked, kicking some stones at his feet, then looked around again. There were some trees growing here and there, but they looked young. All in all, the entire place seemed a little… off somehow.
Sylar snorted. "This island isn't on any map, and there's no one who can stake claim on it because I made it."
"You what?" Peter turned to look at him, then at his surroundings again.
"Well, I'm still in the middle of things. Bringing soil and dirt here to make something grow was quite bothersome, and I had to boost the growth of those trees… I didn't want to wait for a few decades."
"You made us an island," Peter repeated, blinking, not understanding why Sylar would go through such an ordeal. He didn't even want to ask how he made it. Had he dragged a huge piece of stone from somewhere and planted it here in the middle of nowhere?
"I was thinking maybe we needed our own place. Our neighbors were getting rather annoying, and I don't see them coming all the way over here on a whim."
Peter turned to look at Sylar again, suspicious. The other looked rather pleased with himself, standing there and looking at his project. Sure, this explained why he had been gone so much, but Peter still failed to see the reason. "I thought you liked staking your claim on half of the American soil?"
Sylar raised an eyebrow at him, then shrugged. "It gets a little old. In the beginning it was fun to have power like that, but… In a few days it was already getting a little stale. Add a few more decades, and there really was no point. We are being harassed all the time, and I thought you could use fewer reminders of your failures."
Peter wasn't certain how to respond to that. He knew the other was being honest, which was even more terrifying… Finally he just looked around again, trying to distract himself from the fact that this was probably the most unselfish thing Sylar had ever done for him – if saving him from the fall at Pinehearst didn't count.
"I thought you might want to make a garden over there," Sylar pointed after a moment. "Tomatoes and watermelons…" He sounded surprisingly sheepish, a side of him which Peter had witnessed only when he visited a potential future and met Gabriel and his son Noah.
"It's pretty amazing," Peter finally admitted, then began to walk around. The island was rather big for just the two of them, and there weren't any animals, but Sylar had said worrying about the plants had been giving him a headache as it was. Sylar seemed interested in creating his own ecosystem, though, and Peter wondered if that had something to do with his original power; he knew how it would work, so he only needed to know what he wanted.
When they had strolled around for a few hours and the sun was beginning to set, they went back to the shore and sat down there. Peter watched the sun, which seemed to be sinking into the ocean itself. It was beautiful, and it was hard to remember how depressed he had felt this morning.
He turned to look at Sylar, who was busy picking small stones and tossing them further from the water, as if he was afraid his island would disappear with the next wave. Peter smiled, then leaned closer to him and hugged him awkwardly. They both tensed a little, but Peter didn't let go. Instead he closed his eyes, trying to remember when someone had been this close to him before now. His mother, maybe, when she hugged him in the past.
"Thank you," he said quietly, then pulled back before Sylar got it into his head to push him back. "You… I don't know how to say this without sounding too pathetic, but I didn't think anyone would do something like this for me after all the horrible things I've done."
"You're right, that was rather pathetic," Sylar decided, but he was smiling.
Peter nodded, then leaned back on his arms, looking at the sea. "I failed, you know. I tried to change it, and I had it all under control when I… when the past me suddenly touched me, absorbing some of my powers and all my memories. He couldn't control any of it. He re-created The Earthquake he kept seeing in his head. I killed him. I didn't mean it to be final, but he didn't heal. Claire died too. D.C. was almost destroyed. So I went back and… just watched it all happen again. Watched you kill Nathan."
Sylar was silent beside him. Peter didn't want to ask him to say anything, but he really craved for a kind word – anything that would make the gnawing guilt and endless sorrow vanish, or at least lessen.
Finally Sylar leaned back as well, their shoulders touching slightly. "This might sound awfully selfish, but… I'm glad you couldn't change it."
Peter gave the other an openly shocked look.
Sylar just stared at him, his strong features shadowed as the sun finally disappeared from the sky, leaving them to deepening gloom. "Because if you did, we wouldn't have this. This world of ours. As much suffering as there has been… there has to be a reason for it. I made this place for you, Peter; to make you let go of the demons, because they would be long gone if you only let them… Just live." It almost sounded like an order, making Peter smile a little.
"Maybe… you're right. Maybe it's time. And we have this place," he decided, craning back his head to look at the small trees now hidden in shadows. "It could be paradise," he finally decided. With their abilities, they could make it into anything they wanted.
"Our Garden of Eden," Sylar agreed, then laid back, resting his head on his arms.
Peter joined him, looking up at the stars – the only thing that hadn't been changed by the discovery of their powers, the end of the world, or today.