So, this is it. The end of Part Two of my Patchwork Family Series. I hope this will clear things up for you and I also hope that it will make you want to read Part Three: The Road To Happiness, coming eventually.
But first enjoy this semi-happy-ending. Many thanks to all those anonymous reviewers, I'm sorry that I couldn't answer your comments. This is for you.
The knock was too hesitant to be coming from his mother and so Nathan figured it would be safe to open the bathroom door without running the risk to encounter the last person he wanted to see right now.
He threw one last look into the mirror and, just when the second knock came even more softly than before, Nathan turned the key. He opened the door to find Claire on the other side, no longer dressed in her pink nightshirt but surprisingly clad in well-fitting jeans and a lilac jumper. The small girl was nervously biting her lower lip and her blue eyes seemed huge and somewhat frightened.
"Claire," Nathan opened the door wider and tried to force a smile onto his face.
"Ugh, sorry but I need to… ugh," she shifted her small feet restlessly and looked to the ground.
"Oh," Nathan exclaimed when he understood. "Sure, sorry!"
He stepped outside and Claire dashed past him in a hurry. Nathan closed the door behind her, took a steadying breath and then made his way over to the sitting room. His mother was still sitting in the comfortable armchair, a cup of tea balanced elegantly on her slender legs. Nathan looked over to the couch and found Noah and his friend – Claude, Nathan remembered – seated closely side by side. Each of them had a cup placed in front of them on the coffee table. Peter had made himself comfortable on the floor, he too had a mug of tea or coffee or whatever balanced on his knee.
The conversation seemed to cease at once when Nathan entered and he felt every pair of eyes stare up at him. Without a word Nathan went over to the small kitchenette and fetched himself a cup of coffee.
The first hot sip nearly burned his constricted throat but nevertheless Nathan gulped down half of his cup in one go. He needed to focus on something other than the strange feeling of betrayal that had taken up residence inside of him and he figured the pain from too hot coffee was better than any other kind of pain he might be feeling right now.
Eventually Nathan turned back to the people still staring at him in united silence.
"Come sit down, Nathan," Angela patted the armrest of her chair but Nathan simply sent her a pointed glare and lowered his body onto the ground. He rested his back against the wall farthest away from her. He knew that he was probably behaving like a rebellious child right now but… he couldn't help it.
Nathan continued to sip his coffee and the uncomfortable silence lasted until Claire returned from the bathroom. She walked around Nathan, careful not to step onto his outstretched legs, and squeezed her small self between Noah and Claude on the couch.
"Come here, pumpkin," Claude smiled and pulled the girl onto his lap. Claire immediately complied and put her short legs on each side over Claude's knees. She leaned back into his broad chest and pulled the man's arms tightly around her body. Nathan watched the happy smile spread over her face and knew he'd never seen anything more beautiful in his life.
And this angel was his daughter!
Nathan's throat constricted even more. Would she ever hug him like that? Would she ever feel that content and at ease with him? Or had he already missed his chance? He closed his eyes for a brief moment and when he opened them again he found Peter looking at him from across the coffee table with big brown eyes full of warmth and understanding.
And suddenly Nathan felt something inside his chest jump and the tight knot that had formed in his guts melted away instantly. He sent Peter a tentative smile full of gratitude.
No matter what happened next, Nathan suddenly knew for sure that he'd always have Peter to count on.
Nathan's eyes traveled over to Noah on the couch and the stare that he'd thought to be offensive and cold earlier suddenly seemed a lot less so.
Instead he detected something that could only be described as nervous apprehension and Nathan realized at once that he wasn't the only one whose life had been turned upside-down in a matter of mere hours. Finally it dawned on him that from Noah's perspective the situation must look a lot more dire than whatever Nathan was going through right now.
The man had lost his home as well as his job (whatever it was he'd been employed to do for the Steiners) and from what Nathan understood it hadn't been the first time. Years ago Noah had already been forced to leave his old life behind after his wife had been murdered. He'd been forced into hiding from the people he'd worked for, people he must have trusted to some extend, and he'd had to raise a child all on his own…
A child that wasn't his flesh and blood but that he'd obviously come to love very much. Claire had become Noah's daughter in every sense of the word and he'd tried to protect her from the company with all his might. And it seemed that Noah had done a hell of a job until…
Until suddenly Nathan had come out of nowhere and with him not only the threat of losing his daughter but also his entire life by suddenly being discovered by the company. Those agents showing up there and then couldn't have been a coincidence now, could it?
No, Nathan was sure that he was at least partly responsible for shaking up Bennet's life, if only through his mother's visions of the future.
Although, Nathan realized all of a sudden, he still didn't know what exactly had been going on these past few days. He strongly suspected his mother's hand in all of it, that much was proven by her mere presence now, but… how had the agents found out about Bennet? And what exactly had it been that his mother had seen in her dream?
Nathan let his eyes travel to Angela and he broke the silence at last. "What precisely did you see in your vision, Ma?"
Angela looked up from her cup of tea and faced her eldest with a slight smile. "This is exactly what I saw, Nathan. All of us, sitting here together like this. Like family."
Before Nathan could so much as frown Claude suddenly exclaimed: "Oh, bollocks!"
Everyone stared at him questioningly and Claire, still seated on his lap, craned her neck to look at her Uncle Claude in shock.
"What?" Claude shrugged carelessly and looked from Noah to Nathan and back. "You don't actually believe that bullshit, do you? That's a bloody joke!"
"And why is that, Claude?" Angela inquired calmly and leaned forward to set the cup onto the table.
"Because you were the one that sent the agents after Noah in the first place!" Claude stated with a raised eyebrow, daring her to deny it. "I heard you order it! So don't tell me you staged all that to promote this cute little family reunion!"
"Well, believe it or not, but that's exactly what I did. I staged it. And a lot more than just this. For years and years this has been in the making and now the time has come to finally reunite this family," Angela's voice was calm and soft and everybody listened to her in rapt attention. "All of this started nearly seven years ago, shortly after the fire in Texas."
"A fire that you obviously caused yourself by ordering them to go after Meredith, didn't you, Ma?" Nathan's voice was as calm as Angela's and yet there was an underlying danger in it that everyone apart from Claire picked up on.
Angela wasn't fazed in the slightest but continued, her eyes never leaving Nathan's: "That woman was a threat herself, Nathan. Don't you see that? She's dangerous. You saw for yourself what she did to the apartment that night. It wouldn't have been safe for Claire to be raised by her, even with her ability to… never mind."
"What? What is it I can do?" Claire's excited question was overridden by Nathan's furious outburst: "So you had her killed just because you didn't see her fit to raise our daughter?"
"She's not dead, Nathan."
"What?" Nathan stared at his mother and everyone else also looked at her in shock.
"Meredith is still alive. She's a fire-starter, so… her ability makes her immune to fire as well. She survived and she ran away to Mexico, Nathan. She left Claire behind that night."
"Why should I believe you?" Nathan ground out when he'd found his voice again.
Angela simply shrugged. "Claude?"
All eyes traveled to the Englishman then. "She's right," he admitted at last. "Apparently the company kept tabs on Meredith all those years. I found out about a year or so ago."
"And you didn't tell me?" Noah stared at the man by his side in shocked hurt. "Why, Claude?"
"Because I bloody knew you'd feel guilty enough to do something about it!" Claude shook his head and tightened his grip on Claire. "You'd have gone and done something stupid, like contact her, and then she'd come and tried to take our princess away from us and I wouldn't have been able to do a sodding thing about it because I wasn't there with you!"
Noah's eyes softened a bit when he looked at Claire, comfortably snuggled in her favorite Uncle's arms. Then his gaze locked back on Claude's serious face. "Still, you should have told me, Claude."
"Daddy?" Claire's voice was feeble and hesitant, as if she didn't dare to speak up when the grown-ups were talking about things she didn't understand the half of. But, was it true? Her mommy wasn't dead? That much she'd understood just now.
"So my real mommy isn't dead?"
Angela was the first to answer. "No Claire," she smiled, "your mother is living in Mexico. But she ran away and left you…"
"That's enough, Ma!" Nathan exclaimed enraged.
Angela went on as if he hadn't said a word. "And I arranged for you to be adopted by the Bennets."
"Why?" Claire asked and turned to Nathan. "Why, didn't you… didn't you want me?"
"No!" Nathan saw the tears form in the small girl's eyes and quickly clarified: "No, Claire! I wanted you! I looked for you for months after the fire, I did!" His voice nearly broke when he remembered the desperate search he'd done for his daughter then and he gulped heavily. "Claire, you have to believe me, I did everything I could to find you but… you were simply gone! And I… damn it, I didn't know what to do, where else to look! I didn't know about any of this!"
Nathan leaned forward and reached out to place a hand onto the small girl's knee. He gave it a tentative squeeze and looked at her openly. "Please Claire, believe me."
"Okay," Claire nodded cautiously. "But I don't understand…"
"Neither do I," Nathan turned to his mother again and glared at her. "Why, Ma? Why go through that much trouble, why hide all of this from me… why?"
Angela let out a soft sigh and shook her head slightly. "Because of the dream I had back then." She threw a quick glance at her youngest son, the one most likely to understand what she was talking about. Peter knew what those dreams were like and so he was the only one who could understand… You simply couldn't change those dreams.
Angela knew that at some point in his life Peter had to have experienced the same devastation she'd gone through when she'd been younger, more naïve and desperate to save the world. That had been back when she'd still believed the future could be altered.
Peter, just like herself, had to have learned the hard way that you could only try to manipulate the way in which the future would come to pass, but not the future itself.
The dreams' outcome could not be altered, no matter how hard you'd try. People on the other hand could be manipulated, they could be shoved in the right direction for the dreams to come true.
That's what Angela had done. And she could only hope to somehow convince Nathan and everybody else in this room of it.
"Peter," Angela addressed her youngest eventually, "you know what those dreams are like. You know they can't be changed."
Peter nodded silently. He remembered the times when he'd been a child full of hope and determined to become a hero, and his attempts to alter what he'd seen in his dreams. They'd all been futile. The fire in Texas, the flayed corpse of a man… he hadn't been able to change anything, no matter how hard he'd tried.
By the time Peter had turned sixteen he'd finally understood. The dreams could not be changed, only the way in which they'd come to pass could be manipulated. He'd tried to accept that and had acted accordingly. In the past three years there'd only been two times when Peter had ignored what he knew and had tried to alter what he'd dreamed of.
Both events had involved Nathan, naturally. Nathan had always been the most important person to him and, no matter what, Peter would never let his beloved brother get hurt. Not if he could help it.
The problem was… he couldn't. Help it, that is.
Those two times… Peter had failed. And Nathan had gotten hurt because of it.
Shortly after his sixteenth birthday Peter had dreamed about Allison, Nathan's girlfriend at that time, screwing around behind Nathan's back. In the dream Nathan had walked in on her and some dark-haired guy. Peter hadn't told Nathan about it but, two days later, had taken all his guts and had gone over to Allison's place to talk to her. But instead of clearing things up and helping his brother Peter's interference had actually made it worse. Because suddenly Allison had come on to Peter. She'd tried to seduce him, force herself on him even… Peter hadn't known what hit him. He'd tried to fend her off, talk to her or whatever but he had been thrown completely off-guard and he hadn't had much experience with women at all. And Allison had proven to be quite persistent.
And then Nathan had walked in.
Peter had stared at his brother from where he'd been standing pressed into a wall by Allison. Nathan had stared back open-mouthed, had taken in Peter's opened shirt and Allison's hands all over his chest, Allison clad only in jeans and a very revealing bra… and Nathan had turned on his heels without a word and had stormed out of the apartment.
He hadn't talked to Peter for three weeks after that.
And the other incident, the only other time Peter had tried to change what he'd dreamed of, had been even worse.
Two years ago Peter had stopped Nathan from going on a sailing trip with some friends because he'd dreamed of Nathan in a hospital bed with half his face heavily bandaged. He'd been convinced that Nathan would get hurt on the boat if he'd go sailing and so he'd done something to make Nathan stay at home.
Peter had deliberately broken his leg, he'd jumped off the roof of his school's gym and the school's nurse had called Nathan because their parents had once again been unavailable. Peter had counted on that.
What he hadn't counted on was… Nathan not paying attention to the traffic in his hurry to get to his hurt little brother. He'd run straight into a car and had sliced his chin and neck open on the broken windshield. He'd nearly bled to death.
Peter, with his stupid leg in a stupid cast and finally released by the doctor, had wobbled his way over to Nathan's bedside in the hospital.
There he'd cried for hours at the sight of his brother's bandaged face.
That had been the day Peter had sworn to never ever interfere with his dreams again. Instead he'd tried to learn what he could from those dreams, had tried to talk the people involved into the right direction.
Like he'd done with Nathan a few days ago when he'd told him about his dream of Nathan sitting in a tree planning to kill someone. Peter had counted on Nathan calling him for help when the situation came. Because that way Peter would have a reason to rush to his brother's side. And Peter had known that he'd be needed in Prescott. He hadn't understood why at first, the dream had been hazy and confusing. He'd only known for sure that he was supposed to be there with Nathan. And of course Nathan would never have taken his little brother with him on a weekend trip to visit his future parents-in-law, not without a plausible reason, something Peter hadn't had…
So Peter had been forced to come up with something. If he'd simply planned on showing up out of the blue Nathan would have been furious and Peter hadn't wanted to find out what would happen then. He hadn't known why but he knew that he had to be by Nathan's side, and on Nathan's side as well.
Now Peter knew why.
He let a small smile grace his lips and looked up to where Claire was seated on Claude's lap. Peter had been needed in Prescott to save this little girl, his niece. Nathan would never have been able to save both her and her dad from those agents.
'Agents mom sent there to attack them in the first place,' Peter suddenly remembered with a frown. "Mom," he broke the silence at last, "I know that the dreams can't be altered but… I still don't understand why you'd send agents to Bennet's house."
"Where would you all be if I hadn't done that?" Angela asked and her eyes traveled over both her sons. "You two probably would have gone home again if Noah had succeeded in worming his way out of it. And if not, if you'd somehow found out about Claire, you," she fixed Nathan with a glare, "would have tried to kill him and you," now Peter received a look, "wouldn't have been able to stop your brother. Neither of you would have had any reason to regard Noah as anything but your enemy."
Angela watched her sons share a look of comprehension before she continued, her eyes now fixed on Noah. "And as for you, Noah Bennet, probably you'd have killed my sons and if not, well, I guess it's safe to say that either way you'd packed your bags and had taken Claire out of our reach for good."
Noah was stunned. How could this woman know so much about him? About what he would have done, how he would have reacted? Because… everything she'd said was true, he would have done exactly that.
"Well, Mrs. Know-It-All, what about me?" Claude asked into the silence. "Where am I in this cute little fantasy of yours?"
"Claude, do I really have to spell it out for you?" Angela smiled at him and took a quick sip of tea. She placed the cup back onto the table and crossed her arms. "If you hadn't heard me ordering a team to bag and tag Noah then you'd never have blown your cover. You'd still be with the company, trying, in vain may I add, to destroy it from the inside."
"Oh, and of course you couldn't let me do that now, could you? Not your company!" Claude raised an eyebrow and smirked. Of course the manipulative wrench had had an ulterior motive, one that had nothing to do with saving her precious family. But before Claude could voice his thoughts Angela continued.
"Of course I couldn't let you stay with the company, Claude. Not when both my sons' happiness depends on you being here with them."
"Huh?" Both Nathan and Peter frowned at her. "What's that supposed to mean, Ma?"
"That, Nathan, I'm afraid you have to discover for yourself. And you too, Peter." Angela smiled and in one swift movement stood up from her seat. Seeing the confused looks on her sons' faces she regretted for a moment that she couldn't tell them more. But… well, you couldn't just spring it on your sons that in the near future they would be falling in love with the other two men in the room now, could you? As much as Angela would enjoy to see the dumbfounded look on their faces if she were to tell them that… some things were better left unsaid.
Perhaps the time would come, some day, when they'd all be seated together again, like now. A time when they'd be talking and laughing and simply enjoying being together, like the family they truly were.
But the time wasn't there yet, Angela knew. She still had much to do, many loose ends to tie up, and her boys…
They still had a long way to go on the road to happiness.
'Well, better to set them on the right path now,' Angela thought with another smile. "Now, if you'll excuse me, the helicopter's waiting for me on the roof."
"What?" Nathan exclaimed and stood up from the ground. "You're leaving?"
"I have to get back to Primatech-Paper," she smirked. "There's a miraculously escaped traitor on the loose and some agents just happened to screw up a simple enough bag-and-tag in Prescott, Arizona. I don't think Mr. Wilcox will be able to deal with those things on his own. So I figured I'd give him a hand."
Peter got up from the ground as well. "But… but what about us? I mean, what are we supposed to do now, mom?"
"Claude, we need to figure out a plan," Noah suddenly said, not caring much for the Petrelli's family-problems. For all he cared Angela Petrelli could take both her sons with her, and good riddance.
Not that he wasn't grateful for their help, mind you. Noah knew that without Nathan's (and Peter's) help he'd never be here right now, out of the company's grasp for now. He even owed Angela, Noah had to admit, for finally uniting him with the person who was most important to him (apart from Claire of course). Now Noah had his two loved ones by his side, safe and sound, and they needed to start making plans for the future.
"We need to find a safe place, we need money, clothes…"
"Oh, Noah?" Angela took two steps closer to the couch and smiled down on him. "I suggest you take a close look around the apartment. You'll find everything you need in the bedroom closet, clothes and such. The contents of the safe should hold your interest as well, there's money as well as a list of people who can help you."
"Oh, and I took the liberty of procuring a car for you. It should have been brought down to the garage by now. Nathan knows where the keys are stored."
The five stunned looks she was receiving now were enough to compensate Angela for knowing she'd miss the moment they'd realize what she'd meant earlier about finding their happiness.
"Ugh, wait. What?" Peter was the first to work his way through his stupor. Surprisingly Claire followed suit right after him.
"You bought us a car?"
"Yes, dear." Angela smiled at her. "Consider it as my gift to make up for nine missed birthdays. Although technically the car belongs to your fathers. Both of them."
"Alright, Ma," Nathan had finally found his voice again and walked up to his mother. He took hold of her arm and steered her around to face him. "Let me get this straight: You knew we would all end up like this and so you bought clothes and whatnot and… stashed money here and… and not to forget a car… I mean, seriously?"
"I told you, Nathan. All of this has been for years in the making," Angela looked up with a warm smile and Nathan could see the apology shining from her brown eyes. He couldn't smile back yet.
"And now you expect us to what?"
"I expect you to do the right thing, Nathan. Get to know your daughter and the man that raised her. The two of you have much to talk about and… actually, I think you're very much alike. But I guess you already know that, right? So, Nathan. Talk to them, and take your time. You're safe, nobody will find them here."
Nathan scoffed: "What do you think this is, the fugitives' headquarters?"
"Exactly. Nathan, I bought this apartment for this one purpose only. Or why else did you think I've owned an apartment for seven years and never lived in it or rented it out?" Angela placed a hand onto Nathan's cheek and after a moment softly slapped him, a loving gesture usually reserved for Peter. Then she shook her head and leaned up to kiss the sting away.
Finally Nathan pulled her into a reluctant hug. "This is absolutely crazy, Ma."
"You're welcome," Angela replied and then turned to give her youngest the same goodbye.
Noah stood up from the couch just when she released Peter with a last "I love you!"
"Mrs. Petrelli, I don't…"
"First of all," Angela interrupted and came closer, "I think you should call me Angela. After all, we're family."
"Angela," Noah sighed with a headshake, "I still don't understand why you're doing this!"
Angela looked at him in silence for a moment before she took his arm and steered him away. "Come with me, Noah. I think we ought to talk in private for a minute."
The others watched them disappear in the hall and then the bedroom door fell closed after them.
"I'm hungry," Claire suddenly whispered into Claude's ear.
"Right you are, princess!" Claude smiled and gently shoved her off his lap to stand up. "Why don't we take a peek at the kitchen, hm? See if Mama Petrelli didn't forget to stock up the fridge in her fantastic preparations."
Claire let out a giggle and pulled Claude along with her. Peter's eyes followed them closely. He watched Claude pull open cupboard after cupboard, not bothering to close them again, while Claire's blond head nearly vanished inside the fridge.
Soon enough all sorts of eatable things appeared on the counter and still Claude continued to pull boxes of cereals and cookies from the shelves. The pile grew taller and taller.
"Bloody hell, that woman is a bloody boy scout!"
Peter simply grinned at his enthusiasm.
"So," Nathan had walked up to his brother. "What do you think?"
"He's great," Peter shook his head in amazement. Nathan took in Peter's expression, followed his gaze to the kitchenette and then looked back at his brother's face. He noticed Peter's eyes had never left Claude.
"Pete!" Nathan snapped his fingers in front of him.
"Huh?" Finally Peter faced his brother. "What?"
"Pete," Nathan repeated and gave him the patented big-brother-glare complete with the raised eyebrow.
"Look at them, Nathan!" Peter jerked his head with a fond smile. "They're so cute together!"
Nathan threw a quick glance over. Claude had lifted Claire up so that she was seated on the counter, surrounded by cereals, cookies and crackers, and the small girl was currently munching with glee. Claude was leaning against the counter, also heavily chewing. "Cute, sure." Nathan commented and turned back to Peter. "But I wasn't talking about them. What do you think is going on in the bedroom?"
Peter's eyes grew huge and he nearly choked on his laughter.
"Nathan! You don't seriously think mom and Noah are…?"
"Oh, for God's sakes, Pete!" Nathan flinched and smacked his grinning brother over the head. "Get real! What do you think they're talking about?"
"I don't know," Peter tried to stifle his laughter. "More secrets I guess."
"Hey, you two," Claude suddenly called their attention back to the kitchenette. "Aren't you hungry?"
"Sure," Peter shrugged and walked over. He eyed the countless things on the counter and found a box of his favorite cookies. With a smile and a silent thanks to his mother he picked up the box…
And found it empty.
"They're all gone," he voiced incredulously and threw a dark look at Claude and the two remaining cookies in his hand.
"Sorry, mate!" The smirk on Claude's face grew wider. "First come, first served and all that."
Peter was still staring at him when Nathan came over to whisper in his ear: "Still think he's cute, Pete?"
"Shut up," Peter elbowed his brother in the side and hoped Claude hadn't heard anything. But when he finally dared to look at the Englishman again he was met by an even wider smirk than before. Claude had crossed his arms over his chest and his eyes gleamed triumphantly.
"I didn't mean you, you know? I was talking about you and Claire, how you two looked together!" Peter quickly tried to defend himself.
"I didn't say a word, mate," Claude grinned.
"Good," Peter glared and then stole the two cookies from Claude's hand. He held one out to Nathan who, after eyeing it dubiously for a second, eventually took it.
"And I'm not your mate!" Peter added after a big bite.
"We'll see about that, won't we?"
Nathan nearly choked on his cookie.
Angela and Noah talked in private for nearly half an hour. When they eventually emerged from the bedroom Angela once again said goodbye to her sons, smiled at Claire and after a final nod to Claude and Noah she left the apartment to get back into the waiting helicopter.
Noah joined the others in the kitchenette. He fetched himself another cup of coffee and placed a handful of cereals in front of him.
"Don't think they're safe there, my friend!"
"Huh?" Noah came out of his thoughts and frowned.
"Your cereals," Claude clarified. "Seems like from now on you won't have only one but two food-stealing-monsters at the breakfast table. And I'm not talking about myself here."
"What are you talking about, Claude?" Noah looked around and noticed everyone was smiling.
"He's mad because I stole back the cookies that he stole from me first," Peter tried to fill Noah in.
"I'm not mad, I'm…"
Nathan tried to blend out when Claude and Peter once again started to argue. He'd had to listen to their sniping long enough for now. Instead he turned to Noah and asked:
"What did you and my mother talk about for so long?"
"That's none of your business," Noah stated rather harshly. He saw Nathan's face darken and quickly relented: "Sorry, that's not… not how I meant it," he rubbed a hand over his eyes and sighed.
Nathan noticed that he looked rather sad. "Alright."
"No, look. Nathan," Noah motioned for him to follow him to the couch and the two men sat down side by side. "I think we should be able to talk openly with each other. Otherwise this whole thing won't work."
"All of this. Us." Noah fixed Nathan with clear blue eyes. "Do you want to be a part of Claire's life? Do you want to get to know your daughter?"
"Of course," Nathan nodded and threw a quick glance over to where the girl in question was currently laughing at something one of her uncles had said. "If you'll let me…"
"I guess you deserve that much at last," Noah stated quietly. Nathan supposed that was the closest thing to an apology he'd ever get from this man. And he realized that it was enough. After a slight pause Noah went on: "And I guess so does Claire. She deserves to get to know her real father."
"Yeah, but…" Nathan hesitated.
Nathan looked back at the man by his side. Hadn't he just a few hours ago realized that this man was more like him than anyone he'd ever met before? Surely he would understand Nathan's fears, his insecurities… if he were to admit to them, that is. Nathan let out a low sigh and decided to give it a try.
"But, look… I don't know how, okay? I'm no good with kids, I just don't seem to… connect with them. I have no idea how to be a father. Let alone a good one."
"Neither had I when Claire was put into my arms for the first time," Noah smiled slightly. "You'll get the hang of it eventually."
"Yeah, well, but you got a head start of seven years on me! How am I to…" Nathan broke off again and looked at his hands in his lap.
"This isn't a competition, Petrelli! At least, it shouldn't be," Noah frowned and threw a look at his daughter. She was busy whispering something into Peter's ear and Claude was trying to pull her away. Claire clutched both hands around Peter's neck.
Noah smiled. "Look at them, Nathan. Look at your brother and Claude. Does it look like they're competing for Claire's attention?"
Nathan looked over at them just in time to see his brother grin broadly at Claude. Claude winked back and then threw a handful of cereals into Peter's stunned face.
"No," Nathan smirked, "that looks like foreplay!"
Noah looked stunned for a moment. Then he asked: "Is Peter even gay?"
"I'm not sure," Nathan shrugged. "And I guess neither is he."
"Are you jealous?" Noah asked further.
"No," Nathan shook his head determinedly, "are you?"
"Jealous of Claude?"
"No," Noah shook his head as well. "Why would I be? I'm not gay!"
"Neither am I!"
Nathan broke the following silence at last. "Are you sure you're not jealous? You look rather jealous to me."
"I'm not," Noah stated again.
"Envious then?" Nathan watched Noah's face and waited for an answer. It didn't come for a long time. Instead Noah looked once again at the two men in the kitchen, fooling around and laughing as if they didn't have a care in the world.
"Perhaps I am," he whispered at last and looked back into Nathan's knowing face. Nathan nodded once and then looked at his brother again.
"Perhaps I am, too," he admitted after a while.
"Good," Noah smiled and added as an afterthought: "See, we already found something we have in common."
"And I guess that's not the only thing," Nathan stated after a while. "It seems we also happen to be the only adults in this room!"
"Hey, I heard that!" Claude suddenly shouted from the kitchenette.
"Guess you're right!" Claude smirked and came over. Peter and Claire followed immediately and Noah suddenly had to think of two puppies following their master. Claude perched himself on the armrest on Noah's side and Peter took over the one beside Nathan. Claire hopped onto Noah's lap.
"Cause for today, my friend," Claude continued and threw an arm around Noah, "we've just decided to leave all responsibilities behind and simply be happy."
"Have you?" Noah raised an eyebrow and looked at his daughter for confirmation.
"Yes, daddy!" The small girl beamed at him. "We've decided to not think about what happened, not about our house and how to get the things back that we left behind."
"Claire, I'm sorry about…" Noah started but Claude put a hand over his mouth. "Oh no, my friend! None of that now!"
"Besides, we already have a plan on how to get your stuff back," Peter stated with a proud grin. Like he'd been the one to think of said plan, whatever it was.
"But we won't tell you until tomorrow. Today… we celebrate!" Claude smirked.
"And what do we celebrate?"
"Our escape from the bloody company, my freedom, us being finally together again…" Claude paused and grinned at Noah. "Not having to worry about money and all that rot for once…take a bloody pick, it's all fine by me!"
"About the money," Noah replied with a sidelong glance at the Petrelli brothers. "I'm not too comfortable with taking Angela's money. You see…"
"It's not hers," Peter threw in with a grin, "it's Nathan's!"
"What?" Noah frowned and Nathan immediately mimicked him. "What?"
"Mom told me right before she left. She had the trust fund you set up at Claire's birth changed so that she can have access to it right away. Or… her legal guardian actually." Peter threw Noah a quick smile before he faced Nathan again. "And she also transferred half of your inheritance to your account, after she bought all the stuff from it of course. But it's still pretty big she said."
"Huh," Nathan frowned. "What about your inheritance, Pete? Did she give it to you, too?"
"No, she said that I should save it, in case I'd need it after college. That is, if I ever finish it. She told me your half would be more than enough for us all for now."
"Of course she'd say that," Nathan tried to process this new information. Finally he looked up into his brother's grinning face and said: "Pete? Wherever we'll end up next, you're gonna have to start looking for a job, alright?"
"Shut up, Nathan!" Peter slapped him over the head and then he stood up to quickly fetch glasses and something to drink for them all. The others watched him curiously.
Finally, when everybody had a full glass in hand (Orange Juice, mind you), Peter lifted his up for a toast. "Remember, Nathan, the toast I spoke when we had that little housewarming thing a week ago?"
"It fits now, too. Don't you think?" Peter smiled and then he looked at Claude and Noah, Claire and finally at his brother again and said: "To the new periods of our lives, whether they begin with committing ourselves to new places or new people. May it result in happiness for all of us, together forever. To our new patchwork family!"
"Hear, hear," Nathan smiled and Claude and Noah chimed in. Then they clinked their glasses and took a sip.
No matter what tomorrow would bring, today they'd celebrate the first day of the rest of their life… as a family.
END OF PART TWO
It's done. This is all I have for now.
I'm sorry that I didn't find a way to put any slash inside, it will all come in Part Three. If I ever manage to write that.
To empath: I hope you liked the Peter/Claude scene as much as I liked writing it. That pairing is totally growing on me. Part Three will definitely have much of them as well.
Please, please, comment on this.