Chapter Fourteen: The New Guy

Matt Parkman was surprised, to say the least, when Peter called and invited him to lunch. The call itself was not unusual, but last he'd heard Peter was still living in New York.

"L.A.'s kind of out of the way for you, isn't it?" he asked congenially as he and Peter shook hands. They sat at their table as a painfully thin teenage girl asked for their order. Matt asked for the Cobb salad without looking at the menu. He'd chosen the diner because he knew what they offered without having to read too many options. Dyslexia was a bitch.

"I need a favor," Peter said after the grungy waitress had left them, "and I thought it would be better if we could talk in person." His eyes moved about the room, as though he were looking for someone. "There's a lot I need to tell you, but I can't." He raised one eyebrow slightly, and Matt nodded, clearing his mind so he could focus on Peter's thoughts.

Someone could be listening in. I just want to be cautious. Matt nodded again, encouraging Peter to continue. The government has kidnapped my nephew. I need to find out where he is so we can get him back.

"You mean Claire's son," Matt said accusingly, though to his credit he kept his voice low, "Sylar's son."

Gabriel's a different person now, Matt. This is about Noah, and it shouldn't matter who his parents are. He's a four-year-old kid.

"And when you say 'the government'…?" Matt tried to clarify.

The Institute. But the Agency's got a stake in this now, too. Gabriel's gone back to work for them, and in return they don't hurt Noah.

Matt sat back, absorbing this information. His work with the police service had not blessed him with a blind faith in the integrity of the government—far from it. He was not bothered because despite his powerful ability, he clearly wanted nothing more than a quiet life with his wife and son, but he knew that the system was not above extreme measures if they were deemed to be necessary for the safety of the American public. And in the protection of the majority's peace of mind, sometimes individual rights were restricted or completely ignored.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked finally. "I'm just a cop in Los Angeles."

Exactly. You may not be in the middle of things, but you can find information that Claire and Gabriel can't. I guess the Department of Defense has them watched all the time: home, work, everywhere. If they start poking around, there will be retribution.

"What am I supposed to look for, if no one knows where he is or anything?"

Gabriel believes you won't have to think that big. If you can find Micah Sanders, I think it would solve a lot of problems. We can use him for the later stuff.

"Okay," Matt agreed reluctantly. "But if things start getting hot, I'm out. I've got my own family to think of."

Peter nodded. "I understand. And thank you. You do what you can, and it will be enough."

The waitress arrived with their food, popping her gum as she set their plates in front of them. Matt started in on his salad, grimacing. Sure, his cholesterol was high, but this just wasn't a hamburger.

There was another reason for Matt's frown, aside from his unsatisfying meal. He didn't say anything to Peter, but he was certain that finding Rebel wouldn't be as easy as Peter made it sound. Micah had never resurfaced after Claire's statement to the press—not that he'd been particularly prominent before then, but now it appeared that he was underground for good.

Actually, although neither man knew it, Micah Sanders was currently in Seattle, arranging new identities for a family in order to get them out of the country. Micah had a base of operations in the Midwest, but he was often traveling, assisting people where he could and minimizing published damage when he was too late. His childhood had given him a general distrust for the American government—as far as he was concerned, it was an organization that punished minor offenders and turned a blind eye to bigger problems. He enjoyed his ability to move freely, invisible as far as most people knew.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Gabriel was having another shit day. Not that any of his days had been good in a long time, he reflected, but sometimes the universe seemed more determined than usual to screw him over.

He had stayed late under the pretense of catching up on paperwork. It did need doing, but it was the kind of stuff that easily could have waited until morning. He really just wanted to prolong the time before he had to go back to his old house, where his son was missing and his ex-wife struggled every night to hold back her tears. His beautiful, fiery, incredible Claire.

Gabriel mentally chastised himself. It was thoughts like that that kept sneaking up on him and causing confusion. She wasn't really his anymore, and living with her again made it increasingly difficult to remember that. He redirected his attention to the report he was writing, trying to ignore the thought of Claire at home alone.

As if his evening wasn't bad enough, Ricky came through the door with his characteristic smile. Company. Perfect.

"Hey, man," he greeted, stopping by Gabriel's desk. "Thought you were headed home."

That was what he'd told Ricky, after the two of them had finished another field assignment that ran a little later than office hours. They made a good team on the job, Ricky being the defense and Gabriel providing the hopefully-unnecessary offense. Honestly, he just hadn't wanted Rick to suggest that they grab a drink or something equally sociable, as he seemed wont to do.

"Yeah, I just…changed my mind. Wanted to get the report done," he replied lamely.

Ricky took in his colleague's tired face, the tense posture, and his disheveled hair (a product of Gabriel's frustrated hands running through it over and over again). "Wanna take a few shots?" he offered cheerfully.

Gabriel stared uncomprehendingly. "Why?" he managed finally.

"You seem kinda stressed out. I could take it, if you felt like you needed to shoot some lightning bolts or whatever." He wiggled his fingers. "Chill out, you know?"

His face was open and innocent; Ricky was as easy to read as a children's book—and about as complicated. Not a bad guy, Gabriel thought, just a little simple.

"Thank you, Rick, but I think I'll pass. I'm almost done here anyway."

"Okay," he replied easily. "I'll just wait for you. I don't have anything else to do."

"No family?" Gabriel asked, and immediately regretted it. He didn't want Rick to think they were friends. They weren't.

"Nope, not yet," Ricky said. "I just haven't met Miss Right. You?"

Gabriel rubbed his face, trying to remember that the younger man meant well. "Um…it's complicated. I'm trying to work things out with my ex-wife right now. Our son is with my mother while we try to figure us out."

The blonde head nodded. "I know what that's like. My parents got divorced when I was eight. Your boy will appreciate you and your ex making the effort."

Gabriel didn't say anything; he somehow doubted that Noah would ever appreciate his forcible removal from his parents, but again, that wasn't really Ricky's fault.

"How old is he?"

Pulling out his wallet, Gabriel showed his coworker a picture of the smiling boy, the same picture he had shown Selina. "Noah's four."

Ricky smiled down at the picture as though Noah could see him from out of the wallet-size. "He looks like a great kid. You're lucky." That simple compliment stayed with him as they rode the elevator up to the ground floor.

"See you later, Gabe," Ricky called as Gabriel flew into the air, headed for home.

D.C. was beautiful at night. Slowly the sight of the lights below him and the stars above helped him relax, so that by the time he landed he was breathing easy.

Claire looked up as he came in, sweeping her hair back from her face. "Hey. There's leftovers in the fridge, or you can have a sandwich."

"Thanks," he said, tossing his suit jacket onto a kitchen chair. He watched Claire draw her legs up onto her seat, hugging her knees to her chest. She looked like the woman he'd fallen in love with, instead of the harpy that he'd spent hours fighting, leading to their divorce. With her hair loose, wearing baggy pajamas…she was unbearably pretty.

"Did you have a good day?" she asked him, half in sarcasm and half in the hope that the two of them could get through one day without feeling completely beaten.

He looked up from his cold dinner, watching her fiddle with her hair. "Yeah. It was okay."

It didn't matter that it wasn't one hundred percent true. It was worth it to see her smile just a little.