Save the cheerleader, save the world.
Well, at least they got the first part right. Half the battle, no? Peter Petrelli stares around at the bleak desert landscape. There's no sign of human habitation. There isn't much, in fact. They can find water, but food is a continuous problem.
Not that the four of them actually need to eat—but it helps keep tempers in check.
"Morning, Peter," calls a voice from below. Gabriel emerges from the makeshift door of their shelter, shielding his eyes with one hand. "Another day, huh?"
Peter shrugs, not bothering to answer. After all these years together—the two of them half of what's left of the human race—he can't bring himself to hate Gabriel. Can't even refer to him as 'that homicidal maniac Sylar' in his thoughts anymore.
"Looks like another scorcher," Gabriel says, just to make conversation. It does, of course. It's ironic, Peter thinks, that, for all his apocalyptic visions of the future, the formulas and poisons and disasters, it was global warming that really threw a spanner in the works. All Nathan's political campaigns and Mohinder's research weren't enough to save the planet.
It's years since the ozone layer finally burned off, killing almost everything. Just standing here beside Gabriel, basking in the harsh morning sun, is exercising Peter's healing abilities. The solar radiation alone would be enough to kill an ordinary person.
But then, he and the others had never been ordinary—not really.
Stretching, Adam comes staggering out to join them. "Morning, sleepyhead," Gabriel teases.
"Whuh?" Adam is never at his best before noon.
"Another day," Peter whispers. "Do you ever regret it?" he asks Adam.
Adam blinks. "What?" he says, a little more coherently.
Peter realizes he should have been more specific. "I mean, do you regret…this?" He gestures around at the barren landscape. "Being immortal."
"Never had a choice, really," Adam shrugs. "Not like you two."
Peter wants to bristle in hot defense, but the truth is, that got old long ago—even before the catastrophe. He's so used to Gabriel calling him 'brother,' he's even started to believe it.
"We didn't know it'd end like this," Gabriel says, sounding sincere for once.
"Could've guessed, though, couldn't you?" Adam suggests.
"Adam…" Gabriel starts, annoyed.
Peter sighs. Not again. All they ever do is fight. There just isn't anything else to fill the endless days. They blame each other for the disaster, Adam admits to liking the human race, Gabriel threats to eat all their brains, Peter steps in and points out he could do the same thing, Adam mourns that Hiro isn't with them, Gabriel points out he could hardly survive this Earth, and then abruptly starts in on how tragic it is that Mohinder isn't here to fix everything, Peter remembers his mother and Nathan, and the whole thing turns from a fight to the temporary death to a sob session.
She has to tell them to stop being such idiots. It turns out, for all her fears about being the victim, she's always been the strong one. Then she'll send two of them off to find food and water, and bring the third to help her set up a working sewer system. It's not an enjoyable process, but she insists they'll live like civilized beings. She refuses to import something from one of the ruined cities. They'll build everything themselves, she says. Unspoken, her 'for the future' lingers in the air.
Peter can't see the future anymore. He can't imagine it'll ever be different than this.
As though called by his thoughts, she appears.
She's up earlier than usual—normally she waits for the sounds of their latest altercation before emerging from the cave. She insists the cave is just a temporary measure, that someday they'll have a real home—they'll build a new city. Gabriel says they'll coat the streets in gold, and Adam that they'll build a museum, so as not to forget their past. Peter doesn't believe in the dream—how can they rebuild what was lost? And surely they don't deserve a future.
"Claire," Gabriel says welcomingly, interrupting Adam, who was going on about Hiro and some Japanese girl long ago.
Something about her is odd this morning. Peter scrutinizes her, trying to figure it out. It's the same Claire—same blonde hair, although she wears it short now. Same strong body—she finally learned to defend herself before the end of the world. It didn't help much.
Then he realizes what's different. She's smiling.
Peter blinks. Claire never smiles.
"Today is a beautiful day, isn't it?" She says, breathing in what's left of the air.
"Someone woke up on the right side of the rubble," Adam quips, looking curious and far more awake than he usually is at this hour.
Claire just grins. "I'm pregnant!" she announces to them all.
Peter watches in stunned silence as Gabriel actually grabs Claire around the waist and swings her around in a circle, toes just skimming the baked ground.
"That's great!" Adam says, and Claire laughs. It's a high, clear laugh that has no place in their reality. And she's smiling down into Gabriel's eyes, and all Peter can think is that this can't be happening—
And what will she do if the baby doesn't have her power? This isn't the first time she's hoped, after all. How can she be sure? A normal human—or even someone like Hiro, or Nathan, who has a power but not the right one, won't survive this place. Has she thought about that?
Concentrating, Peter scans her thoughts. And yes—there it is. How she did it. She's been poisoning herself every day for months, reasoning that a baby without her power would be protected from the sun's radiation by her body, but not if she was, even just for a moment, dead. Only the hardiest babe could survive that.
And she's suspected for awhile now, that this time it's for real. Another person who can do what they can do. Another healer. This morning, she's sure.
"When?" Gabriel's asking now.
"When do you think, silly?" she laughs. "About nine months!"
"We've got to get the city ready," says Gabriel, making plans already. "The baby'll need a proper home with beds and a kitchen and a working bathroom and—diapers! We'll have to make diapers!" He's clearly deep in scheming mode, so abstracted that Peter half expects him to push a pair of glasses up his nose, like Hiro used to do.
"Actual work?" Adam protests.
Claire gets down out of Gabriel's arms and swats Adam playfully on the shoulder. "Of course—Dad," she says pointedly.
Peter frowns. She can't know who the father is. No, this baby will have four parents—all rather unlikely. Claire will raise the child to have actual morals, Gabriel to be technically proficient, Adam to lie well—and what will he give the babe? Good moping skills? Peter feels the weight of it all crashing down on him again.
After all, if there's a baby, then there is a future. There is something to fight for. He's not sure he's ready for that.
"Peter," Claire says, and he can't not look at her. "Tell me you're happy about this."
"I…" Peter starts, and then stops. Finally, he admits the truth. "I'm not sure I'm ready to be a father."
"Well, speaking as the mother of untold generations," Claire says lightly, resting one hand on her stomach, "I say, get ready."
"This is beyond all our hopes, brother," Gabriel says, voice still shaking with hysterical joy.
"That's just it," Peter continues, unwilling to go on and yet unwilling to stop. "Do we deserve hope?"
"I can't believe you're still harping on that nonsense," Adam says impatiently. "It doesn't matter what we deserve. It's what we've got, and what we can get, that's important."
Claire looks angry now. "Everyone deserves hope, Peter."
"Don't give up now," Gabriel whispers, putting an arm around Claire's waist. "This is just the beginning."
Adam leans an elbow on Peter's shoulder and changes the subject with an ease that reminds Peter that he's been around about four hundred years longer than everyone else. "Got any names in mind yet? Can't call the kid, 'Hey you, youngster!' now can we?"
Claire beams, leaning unconsciously against Gabriel's sturdy shoulder. "I was thinking Sandra, for a girl. And for a boy…"
She doesn't have to finish. The three men say it for her: "Noah."
And Peter thinks maybe there is hope for the future after all.