Chapter 10

They'd hitched a ride with Stereotypical Trucker Dude A. Seventy miles an hour along deserted freeways got them to Santa Fe, New Mexico in less than twenty-four hours.

It was actually a genuine miracle, what with Parkman's bloody face, the sprinkling of bullet holes across Peter's bloody shirt and Luke's incredibly dirty orange jumpsuit, that anyone had pulled over at all.

Stereotypical Trucker Dude A – Luke didn't bother learning the name – was a cool enough guy. Way too into the Beach Boys – GodFuckingDamn Barbara Ann for fifteen hours! – but overall alright. He mostly seemed pleased for the company.

Of course he wasn't aware that Parkman had spent the first three hours waiting for a stray thought about murdering the four of them on a deserted strip of highway in the middle of some desert. As if they were in any danger from some overweight hillbilly.

Mohinder coughed from the front seat. Luke had noticed him doing this a lot. Not a sick cough, he was just doing it for the noise.

No one had spoken for an hour and a half.

Luke shifted in his seat, unable to properly stretch out, squashed into the middle seat between Parkman and Peter.

More like him and Peter were squashed between Parkman and the window.

Parkman glared at him.

That was the worst part of it all. Five hours silently listening to the Beach Boys and he couldn't even loose himself in morose thoughts, because Parkman would hear him. That left Luke physically and mentally uncomfortable.

"Look, I'm sorry okay, but I can't turn it off," said Parkman from embarrassingly far above Luke's own head.

The Trucker looked in his rear-view mirror, concerned.

Parkman grinned at him – totally harmless.

"I know, right," Parkman said in Peter's direction.

Luke shifted again. One-piece prison uniforms – seriously uncomfortable. Even before you cover it in a week's worth of grime. Luke had never been a particularly hygienic boy, but this just felt gross.

Parkman was digging around in the mess spread across the entire truck. There were fast food receipts, old empty cups, and what looked like ipod earphones over there on the floor.

Parkman uncrumpled an old receipt and dug a pencil out of one of the cup holders and started to scribble.

Luke and Peter watched him; Peter had to lean forwards to see across Luke.

Suresh spared a glance from the front seat, but couldn't look for long – Trucker Dude started up on his rambling life story again. With a resigned glare, Suresh turned his attention back towards their driver and made appropriately interested noises at the correct intervals.

Parkman flourished the paper in Luke's face.

He'd set up a game of Hang Man.

No way.

Parkman nodded, waving the paper around.

Peter was grinning.

Matt shook his head and wrote a little A below the base of the gallows.

Peter looked at the five little blank spaces thoughtfully.

Matt cheerfully added an E to the second space.

Luke leaned as far as he could into the back of the worn leather chair while Parkman added to the little drawing as Peter finished out the vowels without luck.

Wait, never mind, Parkman scratched something out and added an O to the second to last space.

_ E _ O _

In the front Suresh was listening attentively as Trucker Dude described his difficulty breaking into the wrestling industry.

Luke had been trying so hard to make himself go to sleep, but he just couldn't manage it in the back seat of a truck without squashed between two grown men. Especially now that they were silently playing Hangman.

Next time Luke looked the gallows were built and the guy had an arm. Peter had only added an N to the end of the word.

Lemon, Luke thought without being able to help himself.

Parkman filled the rest of it in, grinning at Luke. Peter clapped him on the shoulder. Luke rolled his eyes and tried to lean away from the both of them.

{ - }

7 hours of straight driving later – interrupted only by one roadside bathroom break – Peter, Parkman and Suresh were asleep. Luke had been, until Parkman shifted away from the window so his head and considerable weight now lay over Luke's shoulder.

Luke tried to shove the larger man off, but no luck. Maybe he'd move if Luke melted him a bit…

He'd probably wake up too.

Not worth it, Luke decided.

{ - }

Truck drivers can only drive for a certain number of hours per day, so they ended up at a rest stop along a highway, barley three feet across the California border.

Trucker Dude had a room all set up for himself already, "but Maggie – the manager of that Denny's over there – hardly has anyone working the clean up, because of how many migrant workers come through here."

Matt seriously impressed Maggie with his incredible knack for guessing what the customers want to order - a waiter called in sick - Luke busses tables and Peter and Mohinder clean dishes and end up unclogging that toilet in the men's room.

They don't get much money for it. Actually the experience convinces Luke that he really does want to get his diploma because No Way is he putting up with all that crap another night in his whole life. Mohinder complains of what he calls exploitation. Maggie says sorry, she can give them a proper wage, but first she'd need to officially employ them. Can she please see their driver's licenses?

They left pretty soon after that.

One barley worth it dinner shift over with, they check in to the motel on the other side of the deserted highway.

Luke's a born and raised city boy. Even at night the landscape in this bit of the country astounds him. He's never been this far west. He spent most of the drive over staring around Parkman's girth at the huge cacti, and wondering at how flat the whole thing was, with these random spurts of rock sticking out like big boxes on the horizon.

There's so many stars too.

Right now though, Luke's far too tired to give a damn about the effects of light pollution.

The motel lobby isn't air-conditioned and the desk clerk is half way through his dinner when they enter.

Parkman shuffles awkwardly. Luke notices the guy defiantly giving them A Look, as three grown men check in to one hotel room with a kid who may or may not actually be eighteen.

Even Peter and Suresh look a bit uncomfortable and Luke takes a moment to notice just how bad they look.

It's pretty bad.

Maggie had some spare Denny's shirts for them all, so Peter and Matt's dried and crusted bloody shirts are covered up. They all washed their faces for about a half hour in the bathroom – peeling off two days worth of grime, but their hair's all matted, Peter's still with some blood.

And Luke's still wearing his fucking jumpsuit of course.

They must look like they just survived a horror movie.

Luckily the guy doesn't question it.

Although a few hours later when Luke emerges to find some more towels – Parkman managed to soak two during his shower – he gets a concerned, "Are you doing okay, son?"

Luke tells the guy to mind his own damn business and returns to the room towel-less.

He wishes Sylar were here.

The whole night is a nightmare. Peter tells him off about the towels for a few minutes, then goes and gets a bunch himself. Parkman and Suresh get in a dumb argument because Parkman wants the TV on, and Luke gets saddled with the tiny couch because there are only two beds and he's the only one small enough "to sleep on the couch comfortably." Well it's not fucking comfortable and Peter's not that much bigger than him anyway.

Then they spend like an hour arguing about who sleeps on the floor, all three of them claiming that the other two should take the beds, when it's pretty clear that all of them want to.

In the end Peter 'wins' and makes himself a nest on the floor, perpendicular to the two beds and so his head ends up level with Luke's.

If Sylar were here he'd have killed them all twice already.

{ - }

It's quiet now. Quiet and dark and Luke can't really stop it all from catching up. This is the first real down time he's had, and it feels like everything that's happened is crashing down on him.

Luke really hopes Sylar catches up with them soon. Not just because he's so fucking sick of the boy scouts already.

Luke knows he has no real connection to Sylar. That there's no real reason for him to come back at all. He hates himself for being so pathetic about it.

Claire too. Luke knows it's dumb, but he got use to her really quickly. He hopes she got away okay.

"Hey Peter," Parkman whispers in the dark.

"Mmmh?" Peter replies groggily, from somewhere below Luke's head.

"The healing factor thing, it's pretty powerful, right?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah, it basically brought you back to life earlier."

"Yeah," said Peter again, unenthusiastically.

"So, no matter what happened, Claire's fine. No reason to worry, right?"

"Nah, she's even died before."

"Her Father told me that she survived a small nuclear explosion once," added Mohinder, from the further bed.

"Wow. So her and Sylar are fine right?"

"Sylar's a goddamn cockroach-homing pigeon," said Peter, sounding more awake now, "They probably beat us to California."

"I'm not a five year old," snapped Luke, "I'm not worried. So shut up."

"Okay, sorry," said Matt.

"Good night," said Mohinder.

Peter mumbled something.

Luke refused to even think about being reassured.

{ - }

Breakfast isn't included, so they have to spend the rest of their money at the Denny's across the road. Matt doesn't even become human again until his second cup of black, sugar filled coffee. Mohinder spends a full half hour hogging the bathroom in the morning, and for a New York City EMC Peter is really hard to wake up.

Luke doesn't do anything but cuss until they get back into the truck, when he promptly goes back to sleep, and stays that way until they get to Trucker Dude's final destination. By that point it's past 1pm, so Luke is just about ready to start his day.

From here it's just going to be a horrifically long walk across town to Claire's.

Peter gets Trucker Dude's home address with the sincere promise to send money. Trucker doesn't seem to believe him, but Luke's pretty sure that if Peter can ever access his bank accounts again, it's probably the first thing he's going to do.

Mohinder looks the most well kept of the four of them. His clothes are dirty, sure, but he's the only one not covered in blood or wearing a prison jumpsuit. So they send him in to get a room at a nice, cheap, Costa Verde motel. According to Peter it should only be a half hour from Claire's neighborhood.

They made it in time. There's just a few hours left until Suresh has to call that girl Daphne.

The other three are all very tense. No one can relax. This phone call is a crucial part of the plan, Mohinder explains. This call decides if their whole cross-country trip was in vain.

Luke is going to be so fucking pissed off if Claire's Dad isn't home.

{ - }

A/N - I'm not even going to bother commenting on how long it's been since I updated. Sorry.

This chapter was hard for me because I really wanted to show what happens between scenes. In the show the characters cross continents in the space of seconds. We're never shown how they get there, or the situations that arise. I understand why, but it's still something I wonder about. And I adore those scenes in Season 1 where HRG, Matt and Ted are traveling together.

So sorry if this one was boring, but I was just trying to show that while them getting to California wouldn't have been in the show, it still would have been a struggle for them.