Author's Note: With the anniversary of the day Sylar killed Elle approaching (Fun fact, it was my birthday.), I just wanted to write something to commemorate that event. And I also wanted to use that quote, because it's awesome just by itself. One translation I saw of it, and only one, was "I hate her and I love her." So that's kind of perfect for this specifically. (And to clarify, The Eclipse, Part Two was my birthday, not Our Father. It's also World AIDS Day. And the anniversary of when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on that bus in 1955. Lots of fun facts.)
Disclaimer: This story is based on situations and characters created entirely by other people. The quote at the beginning is Catullus 85. As far as I know, that translation (from the Latin) is not copyrighted. I specifically did not use an official translation. No money is being made off this story.
Death Conquers All
Summary: On the beach that night, Sylar tried to determine what, if anything, Elle Bishop and her death actually meant to him.
Spoilers through: 03x12—Our Father
I hate and I love. You may ask why I do this. I do not know, but I feel it happening, and I am tortured.
Sylar sat next to Elle's body for a long time. He just could not decide whether he had done the right thing or not.
A little voice in his head asked, Is killing someone ever the right thing?
Yeah, he said back to himself. He tended to operate under the assumption that sometimes murder was the best option. He had killed a lot of people, and in fact, that was partly her fault. His days of feeling remorse were long gone.
And he did not feel remorse. That definitely was not it. When he thought about it, he barely even knew her. She was just some woman, a random stranger who showed up, destroyed his life, and then left again. At the loft of that painter and at the Company, she was just like any other agent. They spent a few days together at Pinehearst. And now here they were. She was dead, like all the others. None of it meant anything.
Except that he did know her. He never looked on her as just some random woman or agent. He wanted to. He had especially tried when she was getting in his way at the loft. Despite it being the first time they saw each other since that night, he did not say anything about what she had done to him the year before, did not invoke their history in any way, but he also did not shoot to kill. That was his first mistake.
Then at the Company, he did bring up their history, and even as he toyed with her and taunted her with that gun, he knew he was making another mistake. He was letting her know that any of that had mattered to him. He thought that mistake would work itself out when she was dead and he had her ability. Instead, it ended up being the biggest mistake yet, because it set into motion everything that followed. It was that act, getting Elle to the point of that kind of resistance, that led him to find himself at Angela Petrelli's mercy, listening to her lies. Probable lies, he reminded himself. And that's how he ended up at Pinehearst. That's how he ended up in that room with the woman whose life he destroyed, the tables completely turned.
He rubbed his face with his hands. He did not want to think about that. Right now, with her cold, dead features staring back at him, the blood caked on the side of her face, he could not bear to think about how he had actually felt for her. The compassion, the fact that it hurt him to know that he had hurt her, the empathy that he had actually been able to access. With a flick of his wrist, he turned her head so that she was facing away from him, so that he no longer had to think about those wide, pleading eyes.
That was the point where it got difficult for him to remember. It was not so bad thinking about when he tried to kill her. But when he remembered that just a few hours ago, he had willingly died to protect her, taking all of Bennet's anger on himself, not knowing that he would heal, or when he went back another hour or two to the feeling of finally taking her in his arms and holding her and making love to her... Those memories were painful to him.
So he skipped ahead, skipped past the painful parts, to the immediate past. When he knew, just from looking at her face, that she was lying to him. When he tried to touch her, and she flinched. When he told her that he could never change, that they were both forever damaged, and she did not even protest. When he killed her. He shook his head. Why couldn't she have just made it that easy in the first place? They could have avoided all of this if she had just let him kill her at the Company. She would still be dead, and he would not feel so conflicted.
The point was that maybe he had not known her for very long when it was all put together, but she was not like the others. There was a quantity/quality distinction going on with Elle. He wanted to touch her again and tell her that he could fix everything. Because that's what he did; he fixed things. This was not his problem to fix though. She was the one who lied. She was the one who had always lied.
There was that voice again, reminding him she had only probably lied this time. What if it was Bennet who was lying? Of course he was. He's Bennet. So then Sylar had to think about whether it was at least a mistake to kill her before he even knew for sure.
He told himself, and he believed, that killing her was not a mistake. That was never the mistake. The mistakes he made were all the times he didn't kill her. Even at Pinhearst, he could have easily... Stop thinking about Pinehearst.
There were more reasons to kill her than just the lying anyway. When he thought about the source of his conflict, he knew this was part of the same conflict he had been feeling since he killed Brian Davis. This was the conflict between who he was and who he became. After killing Trevor Zeitlan, he went back to Chandra Suresh and embraced the Sylar persona. For the most part, he effectively suppressed Gabriel Gray. The first time he even thought about his old life after that night was when he found out about the bomb. Or actually, it might have been when he stopped to buy his mother that snowglobe in Texas.
His mother. That's where all his thoughts were converging now. He killed her too. His eyes went back to Elle's body. The first time he tried to go back, Elle betrayed him. The second time, he ended up killing his mother. The third time, this happened. He resolved in that moment that there would not be a fourth time. He had to make a choice between the two men, and he had done so when he cut into Elle's head. The redemption phase of his life was over.
Sylar knew that he could not sit here all night with her corpse, so he got to his feet. It was time to leave, move on, do something with his life, but he could not stop looking down at Elle. She was wearing his clothes, another reminder of how well things were going between them, right up until he had done this.
He found it impossible to walk away, which had never been a problem for him before. Of course, she was not just some mechanic or waitress or painter he never met before, but he had no trouble walking away from his own mother's body. In fact, he had no trouble using her blood to discover his future. A future that never happened because Nathan Petrelli couldn't follow the plan. But he had left her behind, left other people to deal with her remains. What made Elle different? He could not leave until he figured it out.
He almost sank back down onto the sand, but he forced himself to keep standing. His mother, who, after everything, was probably his real mother, had died in her home, with her only son, surrounded by her precious snowglobes. There was a certain closure to her death, despite how violent and untimely it had been. Elle, on the other hand, died outside, on a beach, not even wearing her own clothes, with a man who had never cared about her.
Whoa. The voice resurfaced. Don't start rewriting history now. That was the old him talking, Gabriel. And yes, maybe Gabriel had cared about Elle, but Sylar killed her, and that was final. There was no going back. Of course, he apparently still felt enough for her to care that she died alone when he had never cared before.
So, what should I do, he asked himself, fully expecting an answer from Gabriel, the part of himself he had just resolved to cut off forever. He felt a shrug rising in his shoulders. He had no answer because there was no answer. He had to walk away. He had to let it be over.
He took a couple backwards steps, and then, with a little effort, he turned so that he could not see her at all. With every step, he felt more and more strongly that leaving Elle there like that was not the right choice. It might not have been a mistake to kill her, but he was still allowed to feel her loss. Not in connection with regret or remorse, not because it was wrong to kill her, but simply because he did have feelings for her at times. He could allow himself to acknowledge that what he felt for her in Queens before he found out the truth was real. And what happened at Pinehearst was real. And what happened between them that afternoon on the floor of Stephen Canfield's house was real.
He stopped, but he did not look back. If he did not leave her there, what would he do with her? Where would he take her or who would he call? He did not even know exactly where they were. He told himself to keep walking; it would get easier. It always got easier.
He headed away from the coast, toward the city. He passed rows of houses, seeing license plates that told him he was still in California. Eventually, he found a corner gas station, and the newspaper stand outside confirmed what he already suspected. He was still in Costa Verde. He could go back to the Bennet house, try again. He went into the convenience store, knowing that he did not want to do anything to help Arthur Petrelli. Not anymore.
He did not know what he intended to accomplish here. As soon as he walked in, the man behind the counter, barely old enough to be out of school, looked up, alarmed. Sylar glanced down to realize that he was still wearing a shirt that was covered in his blood. He did not want any trouble right then, so he picked up a bottle of lighter fluid and put it down on the counter, pulling out his wallet. The fluid had been the first thing he saw that seemed useful, but he was not really thinking about why it would be useful.
The cashier stared at the bottle as though he was trying to figure out what kind of situation required an emergency run for lighter fluid in the middle of the night. Realization dawned on his face. "Did you kill someone?" he asked with wide eyes.
Sylar almost smiled at the boldness of this question. "Do you really want to know?"
The cashier shook his head and pushed the bottle at him. "It's free."
Sylar rolled his eyes and threw a five onto the counter. Once he was outside the store, Sylar thought about it, and he knew the man was right. The only possible reason he could have for buying lighter fluid was to help set Elle's body on fire. Was that really what he wanted to do with her? He started back in a general westerly direction, but he did not take the most direct route to the beach.
He asked himself what setting her on fire would accomplish. Would it give her closure? No, she was dead; it was plenty closed for her. She would not even know the difference anymore. This was about his closure. Isn't that what they always said about funerals and memorials? That they were for the living? And is there anyone living who cared about her as much as we did?
The sky in front of him was turning more purple than black, and he knew the sun was starting to rise behind him. He wondered how long he had sat on that beach with her, how many hours it must have been. He looked at the bottle in his hand, and he knew that he was going to do it. Are you happy, he asked Gabriel. She meant enough to me that I need closure. Gabriel did not say anything back. He did not have to.
He found her body easily. It was the only one on the beach. The dark shirt stood out plainly against the white sand. He went over to her, knowing it would be light soon. He needed to move her before people started to arrive. He had passed an area where lots of driftwood had floated to shore, and he brought her there, telekinetically.
He knelt down beside her. If not for the blood and the beveled edges of the cut, it would almost look like she was sleeping. He folded her arm up over her stomach to give her a more natural look. Her skin was so cold. He did not normally touch dead bodies after they went cold. He did not normally stick around this long after a kill. So, there it was, she was special.
He just needed it to be over. He could not stand to look at her anymore. He picked up the bottle of lighter fluid and began to douse her with it.
He heard a phone ring and realized that it was coming from his pants. He had forgotten all about Elle's phone. Setting the lighter fluid aside, he check the display. It was Arthur. Of course. As he told his would-be father the reasons he no longer felt inclined to help him, Sylar remembered something that was in Elle's phone, someone. He checked the contact list, and there she was, Sue Landers. And others too. A whole new list. Arthur told him to come back to Pinehearst, and he would, very soon. He hung up.
There was not much lighter fluid left. He shook out what would come easily and then threw the bottle aside. It was time.
"Goodbye, Elle," he said, touching her shoulder. For a second, he thought he might feel tears welling up. Ridiculous, emotional tears. He gave a small shake of his head. He was not going to cry. He pushed himself to his feet. And then, with her own power, he set the body on fire. He thought she might appreciate that; she had loved her power so much. Not that it mattered anymore.
He watched her burn. It was not quite as cathartic as he had hoped, but at least it was over. It took a long time, but eventually the flames died out. What was left was a black, hulking carcass. Ashes were scattering in a light breeze. The smell of burning flesh was overwhelming. When he looked down at the remains, he knew that was not Elle anymore. She had left that body a long time before. He had closure, and now he could finally walk away from her. Just as he should have done so many times before.