Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with, Heroes.

AN: This is an AU for events in Villains (though I maintain that this is Heroes and the AU element of this is totally justifiable even given the canon events) and takes place during Fugitives.

Second Chance Miracle

His car breaking down was a wonderful lesson in the differences between working for the Company and working for the government. In the old days he would have had a ride within the hour, but now he was told to wait, enjoy the sights of the small tourist town.

Noah scoffed as he made his way from the auto shop to the diner the tow truck driver had recommended. "Tourist town" was a bit of a stretch. Plenty of tourists saw the place, he was sure, but it was on their way to somewhere else. If they stopped it was because of whiny kids in need of a bathroom break or, like him, car trouble. He had to admit, the place had a classical feel, but without a more bustling down town the place just looked depressed.

The bell above the diner's door jingled happily when he walked in. A perky brunette waitress paused between refilling coffee cups to smile at him.

"Sit anywhere you like," she said kindly. "I'll be with you in two ticks."

He nodded politely and took a quick glance at the space. The breakfast rush was winding down and only a few patrons remained: an elderly couple at one of the center tables and a couple local cops at the bar. Noah sat at the second-to-last booth, preferring to be out of the way. Rather than face the room he faced the back wall. It was covered in kitschy decorations, including a large clock with a mirrored face. In it he could see a fuzzy reflection of the restaurant, satisfying his need to keep aware of his surroundings.

"Hello," the brunette said, sliding a coffee cup onto his table. "Here's your menu," she said, pulling it from behind the napkin dispenser. "If what you want isn't on there, I can probably convince Win to make it for you. He's always up for a challenge."

He returned her smile and ordered pancakes with a side of sausage. As he waited he unfolded the newspaper he'd bought earlier in the morning. Any stories that could really interest him he'd heard before they were sanitized for public consumption.

While the waitress was in the back, the door jingled again and Noah glanced at the reflection in the clock. It was a woman -- blonde, petite -- and the younger of the two sheriffs immediately perked up when he saw her.

"Hey, Laurel," he said, shifting in his seat slightly. The other sheriff chuckled under his breath and hid it with a cough.

"Hi, Frank," the woman said, heading behind the counter.

Noah stiffened, his hands crinkling the thin pages of the newspaper. She had an accent she'd never had before, but it was definitely her voice. He didn't dare turn to confirm her identity, but forced himself to loosen his hold on the paper and feign reading while he watched her in the clock.

"How'd it go?" Frank asked.

"Fine," Elle said, her tone both laughing and longsuffering. "Everything's fine. Can I get you anything?"

The older sheriff shoved Frank before he could answer. Frank sighed heavily as his partner headed towards the door.

"Listen," Frank said, his voice low. He caught Elle's hands as she started clearing the sheriff's plate and Noah noted that the elderly couple seemed to have gone oddly still. "I just want you to know --"

"Frank," Elle said, leaning her head close to his over the counter. She lowered her voice but with the diner mostly empty it was easy to hear what she said. "You're sweet. And your heart's in the right place. But you don't want to get involved with a girl like me."

"Lau--"

"No. It's for the best. You have to trust me."

Frank stood and Noah was impressed with his dignity. "I do. But that doesn't mean I won't ask again."

When the door jingled shut behind him, Elle shot a glance at the elderly couple. "Don't you start," she warned.

The brunette brought his food a few moments later and Noah took his time eating. Soon enough the couple left and the brunette announced she was heading to the bank. Noah considered himself lucky when the chef said he was going out back for a smoke.

When he saw Elle start refilling the coffee makers he slid from his uncomfortable plastic seat and walked up to the counter. She dropped a filter as he came closer and saw him out of the corner of her eye as she bent down.

"I'll be with you in a second," she said, her voice muffled by her odd position. She came up right next to the counter, a perky smile on her face. "What can I--" The smile faded along with the color in her face.

"Hello, Elle," he said calmly.

She glanced quickly down at his hand beneath his jacket before she met his eyes again. "You here to take me in?" she asked, the accent gone. Her hands fisted on the counter. She'd brought them up before realizing who he was and wasn't stupid enough to try dropping them out of sight while he watched.

"That wasn't my reason for coming, no. But fate seems to have smiled on me today." He shrugged at the room. "Is this where Sylar dropped you when he got bored? I can't believe you'd settle here willingly," he added when she let out a small, unhappy laugh.

"Sylar," she said and he didn't miss the thunderous mix of emotions in the word, "killed me. He kissed me, laid me back gently, and cut my head open."

Noah narrowed his eyes. Something was wrong, something beyond what she'd said, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He decided to keep her talking while he tried to figure it out and asked, "How?" There was no need to elaborate.

"I don't know," she said angrily. "The next thing I knew the sun was rising and it was waking me up. I was where he left me, exactly how he left me, except the wound on my leg was healed and the top of my head was conspicuously attached. A nice woman found me while I was still searching for clothes and took me to a women's shelter. They helped me find a job, a place to live -- and they were very open to the whole needing-a-new-identity thing."

"You're doing pretty well for yourself," Noah said, mocking. "You've even got the local sheriff chasing after you. I'm impressed." He frowned, finally realizing the reason for his uneasy feeling. "Why haven't you shocked me across the room yet?"

A small shudder ran through her and her back straightened slightly. With what was clearly a great deal of personal effort, she stepped away from the counter. Noah took in the slight rounding of her belly. His hand loosened around the gun then tightened abruptly. This was Elle Bishop. Pregnant or not she was still a force to be reckoned with.

"You're afraid it'll hurt the baby," he said and she nodded. "Is it his?"

Her frown turned into a glare. "Unless I had sex with someone between Sylar killing me and me waking up, yeah, it's his."

"And you're keeping it?" he asked, not bothering to hide his revulsion at the idea.

She rested her hands on her stomach and a faint smile graced her face. "I know it sounds stupid, but this is my miracle. I'm not likely to get a more clear sign that I'm supposed to rebuild my life than this. His -- or her -- dad may be a psychopath, but mine used to do painful, morally reprehensible tests on me."

"And you turned out so well."

Elle shrugged. "No, but I can try not to make the same mistakes." She met his eyes, hers going cold. "But that doesn't mean I won't kill you to save him. This baby somehow managed to survive despite me dying somewhere between the sex and the actual conception, it can handle me using my powers once."

Noah sighed. He'd known Elle for a long time and was aware that while most of her psychological issues came from her father, at least a few of them were his doing. She was trying to change, become the person she could have been. As willing as he'd been to kill her only minutes ago, he wouldn't do it now.

"The government is looking for people like you," he said. "If your name comes up, I'll do my job."

She nodded tightly.

Against his better judgment he slowly took his hand away from his gun. "Are you sure it'll be safe? A lot of people know who you are."

"Probably not," she said sadly, "but can you imagine how it would feel? Being twelve or twenty-five or whatever and discovering that you can shoot lightning from you hands and knowing that your parents had given you up? Wouldn't you wonder if they'd known and they couldn't love a freak?" She said the final word with enough venom to make him feel the slightest bit sorry.

A door in the back opened loudly.

"I'm back!" the chef called in a rasping voice.

"Hey, Winston," Elle said happily, her accent and smile back in place.

Winston looked through the window between the kitchen and the restaurant. "This old guy isn't giving you any trouble, is he, Laurel?"

Noah's forehead creased in a mixture of amusement and annoyance. The man was at least ten years older than he was.

"None at all," Elle said, filling a coffee cup for him.

Winston nodded and headed into what Noah assumed was the walk-in freezer from the sound.

"Laurel?" Noah whispered.

"I couldn't exactly go around using my real name, could I?"

Noah shook his head and dropped a few bills on the counter, more than enough to cover his meal. "Just promise me you'll get the sheriff to back off soon. If Sylar ever shows up …" He let it hang as he walked away, noting Elle's uncomfortable look and the protective way she touched her belly. "Good luck, Laurel," he said and was gone.


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