HeroesVille: Beginnings

Part One: The Manipulators

"Luthor. Senator wants to see you," Jeanne says in a bored tone, waving Lionel onward, further into the building. "Something about an errand he wants you to run…"

Lionel smiles, though inwardly, he feels the beginnings of apprehension. What sort of errand? Is this something he can use? "Thank you, Jeanne—Ms. Giroux," he says, with just the right mix of flattering attention to an attractive woman and proper respect to the boss's secretary.

"You're welcome," she says, blushing. She doesn't sound so bored now.

Lionel smirks to himself. Women are so easy to manipulate.

Unfortunately, the senator has far too much power over Lionel's plans to be similarly dismissed. Funding, that's what he needs from the senator. Money will open most doors, Lionel Luthor has found in his twenty-three years on the planet Earth. He can't say for certain if it will open them all, because he hasn't tried. Yet.

"Sir?" he asks, pausing in front of the open door. "You wanted to see me?"

"Ah, Luthor. Come on in." The senator is at his ease, leaning back in his chair, fingers steepled and eyes thoughtful. "Sit down."

Lionel does, making sure not to compromise his personal space. If you don't take up as much room as you reasonably can, people will think you're weak. And then they'll hurt you. For Lionel, it's a simple philosophy—never, ever, show a weakness. He may be seven years away from Suicide Slums, but it's not a lesson he's likely to forget.

"So…I know you're hoping for some funding—a new agricultural project, I think you said. And I've got to get this—" the senator lifts a sealed manila envelope briefly—"to a…colleague of mine. Seems to me, your proposal could be off and running as soon as you come back."

"Where does this colleague live, sir?" Lionel doesn't ask why the senator can't send the envelope via post, like a normal person. Some things are better left unsaid—and anyway, he can read the envelope at his leisure if he takes the job.

"New York. Here's the address," the senator hands over a page of notepaper with a few lines of cramped black writing. "I'll expect you back on Monday."

"Yes, sir," Lionel says, bowing to the inevitable. Who knows? Maybe the trip will be interesting. Maybe the colleague will be interesting. Speaking of—"And the name, sir? Of your colleague."

"Oh, of course. Can't believe I forgot to mention that!" The senator laughs nervously. "Arthur Petrelli."

--

New York, Lionel decides, isn't nearly as nice as Metropolis. It's dirty, the streets are filled with worthless beggars—people who fail to use their natural gifts to escape the hell of poverty (always assuming they have any natural gifts)—and the sky is bleak and cold. New England, he thinks, with an inward mew of distaste.

Even the hotel is crowded, noisy, and gray. Everything here is gray. Lionel prefers a more colorful atmosphere. But he'll make do.

He makes sure he's quite, quite alone before examining the thick envelope. There has to be a reason the senator wanted it delivered by hand, after all.

Unfortunately, it's not very interesting. Or rather, taken another way, it's frightfully interesting, just not very comprehensible. There's a list of names, each followed by a long string of numbers and letters. He suspects there's some sort of code, and copies the list out very carefully. Then he reseals the envelope.

Petrelli's office is neat and boring. Lionel suppresses an inward sigh. At this rate, the list of names could be some meaningless statistic, utterly dull and useless. But in that case, why bother with a personal messenger? Lionel has seen plenty of things no sane person would entrust to the press, but a complex code of names isn't one of them.

"Who are you looking for?" a blonde secretary inquires. Lionel almost groans in frustration at the predictability of it all. He decides his secretary, once he's moved up enough to actually have one, will not be a blonde.

"Arthur Petrelli," he answers her, gesturing at the closed door. "It's urgent." Well—urgent is a stretch, but he really needs a cup of coffee. Anything to alleviate the boredom.

"Oh—he's away right now, but maybe I could give him your message…?" she suggests.

"I'm afraid—" Lionel starts, and then stops, mouth dropping open slightly (a mistake he quickly rectifies) at the sound of someone else's voice.

"I'll take it from here, Sharon, thank you," she says. "And you—come with me."

The woman is tall, though Lionel suspects, if it weren't for her heels and commanding presence, she would be no more than average height. Her eyes are dark. Her hair is very dark. And something like power sparkles in the air around her. Lionel suspects it's just confidence, but he doesn't care. He likes a confident woman—he likes a challenge.

He gives her a few seconds, just to make it clear he's following his own inclination, not her orders. Which he certainly is; she's magnificent.

"You have something to show me." It isn't a question. She turns to look at him for the first time, hands on her hips. She looks dangerous.

Lionel smiles. "That depends; are you Arthur Petrelli?"

She doesn't acknowledge his insolence. "I am one of his associates."

"I was told to give this directly to him, so if you don't mind—" Lionel makes a move to leave, and she grabs his wrist.

"I need to see it," she says coldly.

Lionel debates handing over the envelope; chances are she'll only pass it on, after she's had a look, and who is he to begrudge a little snooping? He'd rather not say farewell to the first intriguing woman he's met in months (or possibly longer) so quickly, though; instead, he takes a chance.

Grinning, practically oozing with charm, he says, "Let's discuss the matter further over dinner."

She tilts her head, watching him. For a moment, her regal mask slips, and he catches a glimpse of the struggling, brave woman beneath. He's fascinated.

"Very well," she says at last, letting go of his arm. She extends a hand. "I'm Angela."

He kisses the back of her hand instead of shaking it, making it clear he thinks she's attractive. Hell, she's more than attractive.

They make plans to meet, later that evening, and Lionel bows himself out, still carrying the top-secret incomprehensible code.

Dinner goes marvelously. Lionel discovers that Angela has a well-informed mind and excellent conversational skills, as well as her stunning looks and even more amazing confidence.

They don't reach any conclusion concerning the papers, and Angela seems to have dropped the topic, for the moment. She's all smiles and obscure literary references. Lionel, who used to store library books under a loose floorboard in his childhood home and read them on the sly, laps it up.

Somehow, they end up at the door to Angela's apartment (Lionel mentally notes the address) and then they're kissing.

Angela breaks away and gives Lionel a coy smile. "Call me," she says flirtatiously, and disappears into her apartment. The door is shut before Lionel can complain that he doesn't have her phone number (not that he can't find out).

He grins to himself. He loves how unpredictable Angela is. And here he thought New York was going to be boring.

Investigation reveals not only Angela's phone number, but also her last name: Petrelli. Coincidence that it's the same as that of the man he was sent here to find? Lionel doubts it, somehow. Petrelli's not a very common name.

Besides, what was she doing in his office? Is she his sister, daughter, wife? Lionel doesn't much care, except that it'll affect how he pursues her (and his task, can't forget that, the senator's waiting for him).

Arthur Petrelli, Lionel learns from one of the man's myriad blonde employees, isn't coming back for another two weeks. Looks like the senator chose the wrong time for this little visit.

"Sir?" Lionel speaks deferentially into the phone. "Yes, something's come up—this trip may take a bit longer than expected…No, nothing serious, just a few complications…Yes, I'll take every precaution…Absolutely, it would be marvelous if you'd take a look at my proposal…Thank you…Yes, sir, of course….As soon as possible."

Next, Lionel calls Angela. Yes, she'd love to accompany him to the theater. No, her schedule's rather fluid, she can't make plans too far in advance…Yes, tonight sounds perfect.

The play is a complete success. Next they go to the park, the museum, the river…A week goes by before Lionel realizes he's spent most of his waking hours with Angela. It's just, at last, here is a woman he can talk to, someone he can treat as an equal…maybe it helps that she's somewhat older than he is. She's got a whole life here, and he's just scratched the surface.

And there's the question of Arthur Petrelli, the man he came to see, to consider. He's found out that Arthur Petrelli and Angela Shaw were married in a quiet ceremony in 1964—about nine years ago. There's also a birth certificate for Nathan Ezekiel Petrelli in 1967.

He hasn't told Angela that he knows she has a son. He's not sure if he cares for such a living reminder that there's someone else in her life—a baby, he's already sure, is a much stronger connection than any other.

Or it should be, he thinks sourly, remembering his own highly inadequate parents.

That first week, Lionel and Angela haven't done more than talk, except for that kiss the first night. On their one-week anniversary of whatever they're doing, Angela elects to stay in.

There's no sign of little Nathan—Lionel assumes he's been sent to some babysitter, and catches himself hoping he or she is reliable—children require constant watching, he's aware. He's never even met Nathan, but he's sure Angela would suffer if anything happened to the boy. Lionel is surprised to realize that would hurt him, as well.

"To new friendships," Angela toasts him, a little half-smile playing around her mouth.

He raises his glass, and they drink together, never taking their eyes off one another. Lionel almost absently notes that it's a very good vintage.

They descend into their usual idle chatter with an ease Lionel's never experienced with anyone before—the closest he came to such spiritual connection was with his old friend Morgan Edge, and he suspects that was largely due to their similar goals.

At the same time, the atmosphere seems charged. Lionel watches Angela constantly, and learns that she eats in a dainty style reminiscent of the upper class, that her hair, although black, has slight brown highlights, that she likes to keep her nails on the long side, but only uses classy clear nail polish…

"Tell me about yourself," Angela says, giving him an ambiguous smile.

Lionel isn't fool enough to describe his future plans and schemes, but he finds himself telling her a little about growing up in Suicide Slum. She nods and sighs sympathetically in all the right places.

He longs to ask her about her life, her family, but senses they may be taboo. Instead, he finishes his tale of woe and just watches her. He's still trying to figure her out.

They finish dinner, and Lionel gets up to pull out Angela's chair for her. He leans down and she stretches up at the same moment, and their lips meet.

They stagger into the bedroom, still burning candles forgotten on the table.

The next morning, Lionel rolls over in bed, sits up, and stares around the room. There's no sign of Angela.

Lionel gets dressed, decides he quite likes the apartment, and that he really needs a cup of coffee, and reaches into the secret pocket in his jacket for the mysterious letter he's supposed to deliver.

It's gone.

Lionel searches everything he's wearing and the entire apartment (he finds photos of a child who must be Nathan, waxy candle-holders from last night still on the table, and Angela's little black dress soaking wet and hanging from the bathroom doorknob), but there's absolutely no sign of the list of names.

Angela took it.

It briefly occurs to Lionel that maybe the past week has only been about Angela trying to get her hands on that list, but he dismisses this notion, being much too confident in his own attractions to entertain it seriously. However, he can't deny that Angela wanted that list—nor that she's got it now.

At first he was mildly furious, but now he can't help an admiring smile for her superb tactics. She really is the most amazing woman he's ever met.

And she's taught him a valuable lesson: he won't be caught napping like this again.

Lionel lets himself out of Angela's apartment, notes with relief that Angela didn't so much as touch his wallet, and heads off to find some really expensive coffee.

He'll just chalk it up to the senator's expense. Lionel was looking discreetly over Jeanne's shoulder when she entered her boss's credit card number last month. He's always had a good head for figures.