The milkshakes here are the best in the whole state, the chocolate just the right shade of brown, the strawberry the right mix of sweet and bitter and the banana just the right sort of tangy.
"So, with all the choice," Peter asked, "why do you always go for vanilla?"
Sylar shrugged as he tugged the tall glass closer to him. "What can I say, I like the simple things."
"That would explain the clothes," Peter sassed and Sylar grinned.
It was good, so good to have someone so comfortable with him that they could tease him; that they felt safe doing so.
It had taken a while, longer than the five years they had been trapped together in his mind but finally Peter was there and it felt wonderful. Of course he wasn't the only one. Emma had never seen him pre-Parkman so she didn't know that there was anything to be scared of and Angela had enough dreams of his heroism that she was...well, a little less antagonistic but it was a start.
There was also Eli and Edgar who stopped in from time to time and even Dr. Suresh emailed from India to offer hints on how to control himself.
He actually had a circle of- if not friends- then people who could stand to be around him.
So why was he feeling so low?
He stirred his milkshake and sighed.
"Wow, dude. That's a heavy load," Peter poked him in the shoulder. "C'mon, man. Lighten up. For once we're off duty."
"A hero is never off duty."
There was a beat before they both cracked up. Peter wiped the tears from his face.
"Oh god, I can't believe you could say that with a straight face! You've been hanging out with Hiro way too much."
Sylar shrugged. "He's an odd little man, keeps calling me 'Severus Sylar'."
Peter had taken a mouthful of milkshake but almost choked at that. "Severus Sylar?"
"Apparently I have much in common with an evil wizard who turns out to be basically good. Sort of."
Peter thought about that. "It's because you wear a hat."
Sylar snorted and pushed his milkshake away. A waitress hurried over and grabbed the glass.
"Is there anything else I can get for you, sir?"
Sylar shook his head and tossed her a smile as she walked away.
Peter laughed softly and Sylar frowned at him. "What?"
"Is there anything else I can get for you, sir," Peter mocked breathlessly.
"That woman was totally hitting on you and you didn't even notice."
Sylar flicked a gaze up at the waitress who was still looking. She smiled at him and fluttered her eyes.
She was tall, blonde and slim. She was movie-star gorgeous and into him and he was... so not interested.
His gaze went back to Peter and he shrugged again. "So what?"
Peter was more than a little concerned. In the past few years since they had stopped Samuel he had watched his friend go from strength to strength. Sylar had saved Emma and then joined forces with them to find people who were manifesting abilities and actually help them.
After Samuel's little display, Noah had convinced Claire that now was not a good time to show people what they could do and she had agreed. The reporters might have thought she was weird and wonderful for not dying when she jumped off the Ferris Wheel but pretty soon someone would point to the Earthquake and the sink holes and realize that not all specials were nice young co-eds.
So the specials hid in plain sight. In her mother's legacy, Amanda started to build that community on the plains and she had been joined by Tracey Strauss and the rest of the Carnies who carried on; the broken pieces of family more jagged and more precious than ever. It was a real thriving community now and Tracey was even applying for 'town' status. Of course locals thought it was a cult, but that was okay. It was a place for any special to go and plenty needed it.
It was Ian, the once homeless guy in central park, who had asked Emma and Peter if they could find others who had been lost, like himself, and tell them that there were others like them and offer them the opportunity to live at the community- affectionately named 'Josephville'.
They had agreed and forged a new sort of Company, not to bag and tag but to prove and soothe; to find those who were struggling with their power and show them that they were not alone.
With his unique cocktail of powers Sylar could prove to those reluctant to accept their powers that there were such things, he could also see how their power worked and, with the empathy taken from Lydia and Parkman and others he could sense what the special needed and give it to them.
Hundreds if not more people had been helped, saved, because of Sylar and each time Peter had seen Sylar grow. But lately his friend had seemed to slip slightly. His grin wasn't as ready and his sarcastic remarks were almost rote and delivered halfheartedly at best. Had Sylar become sick of being a good guy, a hero, already?
Anyone else would have been worried. Anyone else would have their eyes trained to every movement Sylar made, anyone else would become mistrusting. But not Peter.
He reached over and touched Sylar's hand.
"Hey buddy, what's wrong?"
Sylar scratched at his arm and sighed. "It's nothing."
Peter's face darkened. "Is it Noah, is he giving you a hard time again?"
Noah Bennett had helped them on their little venture by giving them the files he had collated in his time with the company. The files were comprehensive and they had spent the first two years seeking out those that the Company had tagged and offering them haven. It didn't mean that Noah was any easier to get on with, especially since the C.I.A had offered him a job along with Lauren.
He helped, but he could be real nasty about it.
"No, it isn't him. I don't wanna talk about it," Sylar shook himself. "So, when is your pretty lady friend getting here, huh?"
"Talking about me?"
Peter turned to see Emma creeping up behind, she had obviously read Sylar's lips and she grinned happily at being able to surprise Peter. Like always his face lit up at the pretty blonde and he tugged her into his lap.
"Hey. Beautiful." He signed and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
She beamed back and shifted so she could see both him and Sylar.
Sylar smiled. "You look more beautiful every day, Emma," he signed, "run away with me?"
Emma laughed and even Peter's lips lifted into a half-smile. "Get your own lady-friend, Sylar. This one's mine."
The smile faded from Sylar's eyes as Peter ordered another three drinks.
Emma leaned forward, touching his hand. "You okay?"
He nodded and they exchanged pleasantries while they waited for their drinks.
The waitress sashayed over and bent a little too much as she delivered them and Peter shook his head in wry amusement as Sylar pretended not to notice.
He waited until she was safely back behind the bar before asking. "So why did you two drag me all the way out here. It wasn't just for the milkshakes."
Peter exchanged glances with his beloved and then lifted her hand to show Sylar the rather large ring on her finger.
A real smile lit Sylar up from inside. "Wow, congratulations. That's amazing... and about time, you've only known the girl for eight years."
"Three years," Emma corrected.
"I'm counting the five in my head too."
"It's great, it really is." He sounded sincere but Peter had spent years alone with this man and knew different.
Peter watched him for a moment. "Then how come your eyes say different?"
"Eyes lie," Sylar sipped his drink, avoiding Peter's intent gaze. "I'm happy for you."
"Maybe one day I'll be happy for you too."
"Unlikely," Sylar said, his voice pitched just low enough that he didn't intent Peter to hear.
But he did and suddenly everything made sense to Peter. Sylar had become withdrawn ever since they went to Ando and Kimiko's wedding. Noah was dating Lauren and even Claire had dipped her foot into the dating pool when West showed back up briefly. Then there was Hiro who found his Charlie again and Edgar who finally confessed to Tracey that he had a thing for her. Mohinder was married, Matt was married and now Peter and Emma.
Everyone had someone except for Sylar.
"Shit, man. I'm sorry." Peter winced. "I didn't mean to rub your face in it or anything."
Emma patted Peter's hand, confusion etched on her face as the conversation flowed too fast for her to lipread.
"What?" She signed.
"Sylar has no lady-friend," Peter told her. "He's alone."
"Oh," Emma's face fell and Sylar felt like he'd kicked a puppy. It was one activity that he'd never tried, animals tended to dislike him and a kicked puppy was a savage puppy. But he'd always assumed he'd feel some sort of guilt if he tried. Dogs were nicer than people, after all.
He shook his head at Emma. "It's all right."
"You will find someone," she offered.
"What about the waitress?" Peter thumbed over his shoulder. "She's pretty."
Emma raised an eyebrow at him.
"In a totally non-pretty kind of way."
Sylar smirked. "Whipped. But no," his face fell again to that blank mask that Peter hated. It reminded him of the old Sylar who repressed so much only for it to spill out in other people's blood.
"Because she's not like us... like me." He raked a hand through his hair. "It's alright for Mohinder or even Matt with one ability. Suresh just has to keep his strength down and Parkman keeps his nose out of people's heads. Their wives can deal with that. Me?" He raised his hands and electricity crackled briefly before he fisted it again. "First I'd have to find a normal who could deal with the idea of powers without trying to turn us into the government. Then she'd have to fall for me knowing what we do and what I can do. One bad argument and she's toast. And what if she finds out about the other things that I've done? No. Normal is not for me."
"Then what about someone at Josephville?" Peter leaned forwards. "Sophie is nice and she likes you, plus her water ball power would-"
"Electrocute us both?" Sylar's smile was humorless. "No. Besides I don't feel anything for Sophie."
"How about Grace, or Kara? Oh, Sukie's sweet enough."
Emma stared at Sylar. She'd suspected something for a while. Being deaf meant that she was finely attuned to all sorts of body language and she had been watching Sylar carefully ever since Peter told her he was worried.
Now she leaned over and patted his arm. "It's someone else, isn't it?"
His eyes leaped to hers and panic showed in his face. "I-"
"Who?" Peter frowned. "You got your eye on someone, Syle, and you didn't tell me?"
"There is nobody." Sylar glared at Emma, trying to persuade her to drop it.
She wasn't scared of him. Had never been. He was her savior and she adored him for that and she wasn't about to be frightened off.
"Come on, you can tell me," Peter teased, "you know, unless it's Emma. Or Claire."
It was a flinch. A tiny insignificant flinch but Peter caught it and his brain ground to a halt.
Sylar sighed and pressed his fingers into his eyes. "Why did I stop killing people?"
"Because the dead don't invite you over for milkshakes," Peter responded automatically. "Seriously Claire?"
"Yes fine," Sylar exploded, "I have a thing for the cheerleader. It's sad, its pathetic. I know that. It's wrong. I'm old enough to be her father, I've killed people including both her parents and, oh, there's the small fact that I opened her skull and played with her brain."
A passing waitress gave him an odd look and he toned his voice down.
"You can see why she might be a touch reticent," he continued but Peter wasn't listening, instead he was staring at Sylar like he hadn't seen him before.
"Are we moving past this anytime soon?" His face was starting to pink and a flush of anger was overlaying the embarrassment. He was well aware of how ridiculous his crush on the cheerleader was, he had known for some time. Only it wasn't a crush anymore. Perhaps when he had first sliced open her skull he had admired the little dimples she had when she was pleading for her life. And when he had killed her mother he adored the fire in her eyes but somewhere between the Stanton Hotel and the janitor's closet his feelings had gotten a little- complicated.
Five years of being alone with nothing but his thoughts and a tattoo of her on his arm and three years of seeing her whenever she dropped by to see Uncle Peter was enough to convince him that Lydia had been right. What he needed, what he truly desired was etched into his skin and on his heart.
A young blonde with fire in her soul and hate in her eyes.
"You know," Peter said slowly, "that actually makes more sense than it doesn't."
Sylar lifted his head from his hands. "What?"
"You and Claire. You've always had some sort of connection and you're the only two people who can't die. Guess you're gonna be stuck with each other for all of eternity anyway."
Emma rolled her eyes. "Romantic."
"It would be except for one small fact...of yeah, she's hates me," Sylar rolled his eyes. "Even now. Everything I've done to prove to her, to everybody, that I've changed and she still won't look me in the eye and see me, she sees the serial killer not the savior."
"Well, aside from the weird Christ complex you just displayed," Peter shifted uncomfortably, "I can't see it as being completely hopeless. I mean, she forgave Doyle and he made her dance like a marionette and keeps calling her barbie."
Sylar's cocked his head in a mixture of confusion and sheer bemusement. "Wait, does this mean that you approve of my choice, Uncle Peter?"
"I approve of your taste," Peter hedged, "and yeah, I can see it." He straightened suddenly. "In fact, I think it's a great idea."
"You also think that shirt is a great idea," Sylar said witheringly, "your lifestyle choices don't exactly inspire me with confidence."
Peter smirked. "Now there's the Sylar we know and love. I've never known you to back down from anything."
"One again, forgetting the part where she hates me!"
"If Claire hates you then you have to change her mind. I don't want my niece to be alone for the rest of forever with someone she hates... or thinks she hates."
"Besides I don't think she hates you," Emma signed.
Sylar looked at her with interest. "Why do you say that?"
"Girls know these things. She's conflicted, yes. But hate is too strong a word. She needs to spend time with you. Get to know you. Try being extra nice to her, buying her things and helping her."
Sylar thought about that for a moment. "And you think that will work?"
Emma sat back. "It worked for Peter."
Sylar watched as Peter's expression softened and he leaned forwards to kiss his fiancee.
It had worked for Peter, but then Peter was a much nicer person to get on with in the first place. Peter was special. He was the one who had given Sylar a chance, he was the one who had extended his apartment, his family and his friendship to Sylar. Peter held the utmost belief in people in general, he was very much like Claire.
She also wanted to believe the best in people and wanted to trust, to please, to love.
Instead of stepping back and allowing her time to come to terms with the fact that he was a changed person, maybe he had to do what he did with Peter. Okay, maybe not get locked with her inside his head for five years but being around her, forcing her to acknowledge him and his differences.
See him for who he was now rather than what he had done.
He leaned back and scratched his forearm as he watched Emma and Peter grin and hug and kiss and just be with each other. That was what he needed, what he craved and what he was going to get..
It wouldn't be easy but then nothing he had ever wanted had been.
And he wanted Claire.
Sylar raised his milkshake glass. "Here's a toast, then, to making things work."
"To making things work!"
Whatever it takes.