Author's Note: I'm going to stop apologizing for taking so long with these, but it doesn't mean that I don't feel bad. It's just that I don't want to rush myself and post clearly subpar material, because that would be worse in my eyes.
There was nothing, literally nothing for Sylar to do all day but wait impatiently for Mohinder and Elle to arrive, which he knew probably would not happen until late afternoon. Actually he did have that kid to take care of. Sylar was willing to do the bare minimum there, but only because he needed to keep this Parkman thing up long enough to find his body. Spooning out baby food was not enough to distract him from his thoughts. The priority, obviously, was finding his body. The only reason he invited Mohinder to L.A. was to find out where Molly was. The fact that Elle Bishop was alive and on her way was a sidebar to that.
Parkman was always there, off somewhere to the side, complaining. Sylar could see now how annoying that must have been when he was doing it, but that had been the whole point. Parkman knew how to make this stop, but he was not going to tell Sylar what he wanted to know. Sylar realized that he might have made a few tactical errors there. Parkman was well aware that as soon as Sylar had his body back, he would want that wonderful mind control ability. It would be different with Mohinder and Molly. In this lovable loser's body, they would trust him completely.
Parkman could tell that he was on edge. He kept making comments about it, questioning it. It was all very manageable until late afternoon rolled around and Sylar opened the door to his new guests. Parkman took one look at Elle's forehead and said, "Oh."
Sylar had not been expecting the scar. It had not even occurred to him that it was a possibility. People with wounds like that didn't get scars. They died or they healed, but they never had scars. Not like that, not angry red gashes cutting across three-fourths of the forehead. When he heard that she was alive, he had assumed that she had been healed. He did not know who would do it or why, but he just assumed that was the only answer. But if she had that scar, that meant that she never died, and that had never occurred to him.
Elle's hand moved self-consciously to that very scar. "You'd think I'd get used to the staring."
He knew he was staring, but what else was he supposed to do? He wanted to say, I already killed you. Only two people had ever come back. Peter was a surprise; Claire he had known would. But Elle... It was just amazing that she was standing there, alive, through sheer willpower to live apparently. He shook his head. "Sorry. It's just, wow. That's a—that's a scar."
Parkman looked from Sylar to Elle and back again. He was drawing conclusions, but he did not share them.
Sylar held out his hand to her. "I'm not sure if we've actually met before. I'm Matt." She shook his hand with a tight smile, and Sylar flashed back to the memory of lacing his fingers in hers right before he killed her. Tried to kill her. Usually the memory of a kill was fairly satisfying. This one was... something other than that.
Sylar turned to Mohinder. He was the important person here, not Elle. She was an oddity, a mystery, but she was not going to help him find his body. Sylar held out his hand to the scientist he had always hated. "And Mohinder. It's good to see you again."
Mohinder returned the sentiment. Off to the side, Parkman nodded at Elle. "So what went wrong there?"
Sylar ignored him. He was too busy trying to decide how to approach the subject of the sleeping arrangements. There was only one guest room with one bed. Should he assume that they would be sharing that one room? Since the only other option was the couch and they had been staying together in Arizona, it seemed like a pretty safe assumption. Sylar found that he did not like the implication of that, but he just reminded himself that these people were only a means to an end. "Let me show you the guest room."
Elle adjusted her bag on her shoulder and followed him. Mohinder stayed in the entry way with his own luggage. Sylar stopped to wait for him, but he did not move. "Elle can have the guest room, and I'll take the couch this time."
That meant that they were not sleeping together, which almost made Sylar smile. Not that it mattered, not that she mattered at all to him. He had wanted her out of his life, and the sooner that happened, the better. It just made his skin crawl to think about her and Mohinder sharing a bed under his roof.
He watched Elle's reaction to what Mohinder had said. She rolled her eyes and sighed. "Okay," she said with a nod, as though she could see that it would be futile to argue.
Parkman was watching this with some interest as well. He seemed to be really curious about Elle and how she fit into all this, but so far it did not seem like he had figured anything out. And as long as Sylar could keep himself out of the conversation, he never would.
That turned out to be more difficult than he expected because as soon as he and Elle were in the guest room, she said. "You know, we have met. I was at Sylar's funeral thing." She shrugged. "Whatever it was, when they burned the body."
That was the first actual piece of information Sylar had gotten. They burned his body. There was no time to think about what that might mean just then, but he would be able to work out the possibilities later. Through his peripheral vision, he could see that Parkman looked slightly worried, and that was a good thing. So now he just had to deal with his little mistake. "Right. I was thinking I'd seen you somewhere. I just couldn't place it."
She smiled. "Yeah, well, I don't think anyone actually talked to me that night, so..." She trailed off, and her smile faltered before falling off her face completely. "Do you think that... that Sylar..." She shook her head as though to get rid of her question. Then she put her bag on the bed. "We should go join Mohinder."
She made a slightly awkward exit. Sylar knew that she was worried about the mind reading ability, which he was still completely unable to use. He really wanted to know what she was going to ask about him, what she thought Parkman could possibly know. Instead, he went out to the living room and put on the best Parkman act he could. Not long after that, Janice got home from the office, and they all had dinner together. Sylar knew better to rush the conversation about Molly. They would talk about her in the morning when everyone was well rested, and then Sylar would finally be done with these people.
That night, Sylar got up from his bed. He had decided that it was best to limit the amount of time he spent unconscious. He did not want to give Parkman too many chances to take back control, especially not now that he was getting closer to finding out what he wanted to know. As he rose from bed, he noted that Parkman was not around. Probably his consciousness needed to rest. That was an added bonus of waking; Sylar could finally have a few moments to himself.
With Mohinder on the couch, there were only a few places Sylar could go. He headed for the kitchen and was surprised to find Elle in there. It ruled out the prospect of solitude, but it would give him a chance to talk to this anomaly away from Parkman's nosiness. "Couldn't sleep?"
She was sitting at the table drinking a glass of water. "No, I—I had a headache."
He was glad that she had given him an opening to ask more about what he had done to her. "Do you get those because of..." He pointed to her head. "...Sylar?"
"No, not really. Not often." She paused. "I never really thought about it like that. I mean everyone gets headaches sometimes, but maybe it is a little..." She chuckled at her long-windedness "Yeah, maybe."
He sat down across from her. "Do you mind if I ask about that? I mean, you're alive. That's pretty remarkable. How did you survive?" If he was crossing a line, he did not really care.
Elle sighed with annoyance. "There's really nothing remarkable about it. I just did. I was lucky because he didn't have to expose the brain, so he thought this would be enough. And then someone found me quickly enough and called an ambulance quickly enough that they were able to fix me. I still spent a month in a coma though." She narrowed her eyes at him. "Did Mohinder put you up to this? Because I'm going to tell you the same thing I told him, there is no doubt in my mind that Sylar was really trying to kill me that day."
That was a fascinating response to an innocent question. She was very defensive about the whole incident. He had gotten the information he wanted, that she lived because he did not do a good enough job killing her, but he wanted to know more now. "I wasn't questioning that. And Mohinder didn't tell me anything." The implication of what she was saying was that Mohinder had questioned it, and that might mean that Mohinder knew about them. Sylar decided not to explore that just then. "It's just that I started out in all of this investigating Sylar, so I've seen a lot of people that he's sliced up like that. But I've never seen someone live through it without having a special knack for healing."
Elle felt a little badly about getting so defensive with Matt. After all, he had opened his home to her, barely knowing her. They probably had never even spoken before that day. And of course he would be interested in how she survived. It was an interesting matter. "Right. Apparently, I do have a little bit of a knack for it though. I let Peter and Claire think that I stopped Sylar by shocking him, but really, it was just luck."
Matt nodded thoughtfully. "Okay, now you can tell me if I'm overstepping," he said with an affable smile. "But what was with all that hostility before? Do people routinely question whether Sylar was trying to kill you?"
Elle was wary of his mind reading. It seemed to her that it would be difficult to keep any secrets from this man. "Don't you actually make it like a daily habit to overstep? I should really just be happy that you're asking instead of... reading." She did not give him time to respond to that because she knew that she was reverting back to slight hostility. "Sylar and I had a complicated working relationship. In the sense that we actually had a working relationship. And my miraculous recovery has made some people question my version of events."
"Which is what?" He must have seen her hesitation because he added. "Hey, I'm pretty good at telling when people are lying. I might be able to clear this whole thing up for you."
The problem with that was Elle wanted to lie to him. What happened on the beach was actually kind of private, and she realized now that she had never really gone into the specifics with anyone. "We were in the middle of working a job, and... we were on a beach, and, in a surprise move, he killed me."
Elle was satisfied with that. It was all true, but not too revealing. The look on Parkman's face suggested that he was able to figure out that there was a lot more to it. He just kept nodding, like he was figuring it all out. There was nothing Elle could do about that; she did not know how to shut down her brain.
Matt seemed to be debating whether or not to say what was on his mind. Finally, he spoke. "Does it ever bother you that Mohinder can't seem to get a woman except by sifting through Sylar's cast-offs?"
That did not really sound as mean as it could have. It sounded more like he was concerned about his friend and not thinking about the effect it might have on Elle. It was still an incredibly awkward thing to say. "What?"
Matt seemed to realize what he had said. "Oh, I didn't mean that you-"
"No, you're right." She sounded a little shrill, but she did not care. "He did cast me off, leave me to rot on that beach. At the very least, quite a definitive, one-sided break-up. It's just... I don't really like to be compared to her. She did a number on Mohinder, made him think that he's a horrible person. Even after what she did, even after being with Sylar, she treated Mohinder like he was the monster. And yet, he still can't stop thinking about her. I'm never going to... I'm not even sure that's what this is. But—but with Sylar, you can't even compare Maya to me. They were never really... He was just using her. I was..." Elle had the presence of mind to know that it was not the right move to defend her relationship with Sylar. "I just think I knew him a lot better than she did."
Sylar had mostly said what he did just to see how she would react and to undermine whatever she had going on with Mohinder. He was pleased with her response. "So you're more offended about being compared to her on Sylar's end than Mohinder's?" He knew that was not exactly what she had said, but he wanted to know.
Elle rubbed the back of her neck. "Mohinder had a real relationship with Maya. There's nothing I can do about that. So fine, it invites comparison. But she never even knew who Sylar really was." She hesitated. "I don't know how much you know about my past, and I don't know what you're going to tell Mohinder, but I like to think that I meant quite a bit more to Sylar than that twit ever did. Of course, we both ended up the same way," she said with a bitter laugh. "Dead by his hand."
She had definitely, unequivocally meant more to him than Maya. Maya had just been a means to an end, barely worth remembering after it was over. Yeah, maybe he could have had some fun with her, but that did not have that much to do with her. Elle, on the other hand? Everything about her was specific to her. He hated her, but she was really one of the more important people in his life. He wanted to perpetuate this notion that she came out ahead of Maya for Sylar, but behind Maya for Mohinder. He wanted to cause problems for those two. The trouble with that was he was not supposed to be someone with very much insight into Sylar's feelings. "But unlike Maya, he didn't actually kill you. That has to mean something."
Elle got a far off look on her face. "It means... It means that he already had my power, and I got lucky."
"But why did he already have your power?" Sylar was pushing it with that question. He had no idea how many people knew about that, and in fact, he hoped it was relatively few. He really hoped at this point it was just Elle. But Matt had an ability that allowed him to know thing that he shouldn't, so Sylar figured it would be okay.
Elle looked down at her hands. "I wasn't aware that you knew about that. I guess that's a good point. I told Mohinder that it was just one day. That I made a mistake because he was different during the eclipse, but that is a complete lie. It started long before the eclipse. Or something did. It was a confusing time, and I don't know what it was. How can I explain it to Mohinder when I don't even know. So just please don't tell him any of this. It shouldn't matter anymore anyway; Sylar's dead."
Sylar was having so much fun with this, that he had forgotten all about the "funeral." Of course, that would mean that she thought he was dead. And he needed to consider the sobering possibility that his body might be gone. He had healed from a fire before, but surely they would have watched for that. He tried to think about how he could probe about his death without tipping her off that he was not who he said he was.
Elle was having deep thoughts of her own. "You were there, right?"
He had no idea what she was talking about. "Where?"
"In the room, when Sylar died. It was just you and Bennet and Angela, right?"
If she said so. "Yeah."
She was looking down at her hands again, as though she did not want to make eye contact. "Do you, um, do you think there's any possibility he might still be alive."
He thought it was definitely possible. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, not because I'm... I don't want..." Elle shook her head to gather her thoughts. "I got a phone call from someone in Baltimore. Or, no, he was in New York. A detective, and he said that the police in Baltimore..." She trailed off, almost like she was afraid to say it out loud.
Sylar waited impatiently for her to continue. If it had anything to do with him being alive, he wanted to know what it was. Finally, it became clear that she needed a little coaxing. "What did he say, Elle?"
She swallowed hard. "He said the police in Baltimore picked up Gabriel Gray a couple days ago, and I just want to know if it's possible."