Author's Note: Okay, see, I waited 9 months because that's the length of a pregnancy, and... uh... Okay, sorry.
Chapter 10: Reschedule
Strong-jawed, clean-cut, and six-foot, the agent brandished a fire extinguisher as he followed a scrawny, handcuffed teenage boy. Mohinder's amusement disappeared when he remembered the agent had a gun holstered under his jacket, as did the man and woman who led the boy by either arm to the center of the room. Irving White, 15, warily looked up at them like they were insurmountable walls.
Of course, White had to know that, for him, these people were hardly insurmountable, and his cooperation worked in his favor.
Irving sat in a lone folding chair and watched the agents leave. The one with the extinguisher backed out last, and the door locked behind him. Irving stared at the mirror at the front of the room, occasionally glancing at the bare beige walls.
Bennet watched alongside Mohinder on the other side of the mirror. "Found him in Atlanta. His parents were receptive. Say he has behavioral problems."
The door to their right opened as he spoke, and the female escorting agent entered. Bennet had rattled off all three agents' names earlier, and hers was Burris. "He didn't give us any trouble," she said, standing straight with her arms behind her back.
"It could be that his parents are just scared," Mohinder said.
Bennet took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. The lack of eyewear made the circles under his eyes more noticeable. "His school expelled him for lighting a workstation on fire in his chemistry class," he replied. "He was being hassled by classmates, and that was how he reacted. I'd say his parents have reason to be scared."
"Yet you haven't drugged him," Mohinder said, "and I don't see your Haitian friend around."
"While it is Agency policy to avoid physical impairment," Burris replied, "we are prepared to implement it if necessary, Dr. Suresh."
Mohinder imagined the two other agents in the hallway preparing darts with the old Company's power-dampening medication. "But White isn't hostile," he said.
Bennet snorted and replaced his glasses. "True, though he's convinced that we're hostile just for training fire extinguishers on him despite his history."
"I'm sure he knew we had firearms for backup, sir," Burris said.
Mohinder tracked back a bit. "History? Other than the chemistry class?"
"Mostly minor incidents," Burris said. "Accused of playing with lighters, that sort of thing, but the family used to reside in Indiana, where their house burned down."
"An accident?" Mohinder hoped.
"He's not saying much of anything about it," Bennet said. "Being a tough guy."
"So how are you going to get through to him?"
Bennet smirked. "Claire."
"Using the boy's hormones against him," Mohinder said with distaste.
"It's not a seduction," Bennet replied sharply. "Just a pretty, friendly, younger face to help him open up. It was her idea." His eyes returned to Irving. "Though I'm glad he's a little young for her. I don't know if she's out of that bad boy stage."
"I don't think you need to worry about that in any case," Mohinder said without thinking.
Bennet shot him a puzzled look. "Oh?"
Mohinder avoided visibly cringing at his big mouth. "All she's been through, I think she's grown up a lot, don't you?" The door in the interrogation room opened, and he relaxed. "Here she is."
It would have been a tame seduction; Claire wore a blue t-shirt with jeans. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, keeping her smile unobscured. "Hey there," she said, dragging in another folding chair. The door shut again with a loud snap of the lock.
"Hi..." Irving did not look more relaxed, but one eyebrow lifted.
She sat down with a comfortable amount of space between them, though not so far that she couldn't extend her arm for a handshake. "My name is Claire."
He folded his arms. "Guessing you know my name."
She nodded and withdrew her hand. "Irving. I read your school file, too. Starting a fire in chem isn't the greatest idea."
"They shouldn't have messed with me," he shot back.
"So it was on purpose."
He squared his shoulders. "Yeah, it was."
"It's just that you're a smart kid. Your grades suck, yeah, but all your progress reports have the typical spiels about how you have real potential. It just makes me think you would've done something more clever, like make the boys your friends by showing them your cool power or threatening them to do your bidding. You know, not potentially blowing yourself up."
Irving stared at her.
"Unless you lose control when you lose your temper."
He pulled his arms into his stomach and glared at the mirror.
"Is that what happened at your old house, too?" She leaned forward, arms on her thighs. "What did it? Parents on you about your grades? Maybe you played with your power sometimes and they didn't like it? Or another bad school day? All of the above?"
"Why do you give a shit?" Irving snapped.
"It's very important that you learn how to control your power," Claire said. "Not only for the people around you, but for yourself."
"Well, maybe I want people afraid," he shot back. "Maybe I want to threaten them. Who's gonna come at me when I can explode and toast 'em without even wanting to?"
He finished with a smirk, as if waiting for her to react in horror, but she fixed him with a glower that wiped the expression off his face. "Listen to me," she said steadily. "I watched someone with your power lose control. She was over twice your age and way more experienced with pyrokinesis. She ended up crushed under the rubble of a building."
"I'm way badder than some suburban soccer mom."
"Oh, yeah? Then why are you sitting here?"
Another blow to his bravado. He slumped. "You should be scared."
"Show me something."
Irving snorted. "I don't perform tricks like a damn dog." But after a few more moments under Claire's expectant stare, he sighed. He held out his hand, palm up and fingers cradling an invisible ball. Individual flames shot up from each finger, one by one, then quickly receded as a ball of flame swirled into his palm.
"Still pretty cool to see," Claire said, reaching out and holding her hand in the flame.
"What are you doing?!" Irving shouted, snapping his hand closed.
Claire held up her palm so he could watch her toasted skin heal. "What I do," she answered.
Irving gaped for a moment, then locked eyes with her again. He suddenly laughed. "That is cool to see."
Burris leaned on the wall at the edge of the mirror, watching. "She's good with people," she said.
"She's good with people who are confused and afraid," Bennet said.
"Is she going to be working with the Agency?"
Bennet smiled to himself. "Something like that used to be my worst nightmare." He watched Claire continue to talk with Irving, now all too eager to listen. "She'll have to decide for herself. I'll sit with Mr. White later. Claire will help you communicate the ground rules for an above-ground room. Assign someone to keep the nurses company for the next few days in case he becomes less amicable."
Mohinder followed Bennet into the hallway and fell into step beside him. "That went well."
"This time," Bennet said. "We're all waiting for the first disaster, aren't we?"
It didn't seem productive to agree, so Mohinder changed the subject to one less burdensome. "Have you heard news on Nathan?"
"I can't say it's going well."
"Not returning any time soon, then." It had already been three weeks since he'd been sent away, to stress management as told to the public, to alcohol rehab as told to Peter and Claire, to intensive psychological counseling in the reality Mohinder was privy to.
"To be honest," Bennet said measuredly, "I think we'd be better off if he didn't return at all."
"I'm surprised he has much of a career left with all his absences. Does the President know where he is?"
"His mother wanted to hide it, but I told Lauren Gilmore to tell the President about the counseling."
Mohinder let out a shocked laugh and scrutinized Bennet's face for a sign he was joking. "I can't imagine Mrs. Petrelli was very happy."
"She doesn't know." Bennet shot him a sidelong glance. "I know you and I both agree that Nathan's... disposition is not appropriate for this agency."
Mohinder returned the look. "We do?"
Bennet smiled wryly. "Over the past few months I've become less sympathetic to Angela's point of view."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying don't be surprised if Nathan finally sees real consequences for his behavior. It might be rough without him at first, but we've already shown ourselves capable in his absence. If the President wants to confer directly with specials, we have a variety of people for him to speak with."
"I don't think Angela will take this well."
"Fortunately, this is not the Company; its actors don't answer to her. I have more say than she does, for once. And it's best that this Petrelli control ends."
"No more Angela Petrelli. No more Nathan Petrelli," Mohinder mused.
"I'm not sure how Peter will react, but I hope he chooses to stick around," Bennet said.
Mohinder couldn't make a prediction either. Peter had been understandably upset when he was told Nathan needed institutional intervention. He blamed himself for not doing more to integrate himself into Nathan's life and see the warning signs. If the Agency dropped Nathan, Peter could either see it as more evidence of personal failure, or his optimism could kick in and he'd see it was for the best.
Mohinder certainly saw the positives. Keeping the tracking of specials as a Petrelli family business was just more of the same, despite differences in protocol. Real change felt good.
Mohinder had ended up bidding on three different homes, but in the end, he turned in a security deposit for the townhouse that originally caught his interest. That put another preparation out of the way- except now he remembered the storage locker in New York that held the bulk of his belongings. He'd have to have it all shipped, then pick through for necessities and leave the rest for after Pavitra was born. Or after his first birthday. Or second.
Then again, he could get volunteers to help him go through it all. Darla was eager to decorate the townhouse like a magazine spread. She cooed with approval as she scrolled through pictures on Peter's phone.
"Oh, it looks wonderful!" she exclaimed. Her desk phone lit up, and she swatted her assistant to answer it. "There's so much you can do with it. That's my favorite part about a new house. It's like a canvas."
"Sure," Mohinder said with a shrug. His style of "decorating" was more along the lines of "letting clutter collect."
"I can certainly work within a budget if the real estate agent couldn't get you a deal," Darla added quietly, as if Peter couldn't hear.
"Oh, he got a deal," Peter said, trying to suppress a grin.
Darla winked at Mohinder. "Oh, did you work your charm?"
As attractive as people evidently found him, Mohinder couldn't imagine that anyone would be charmed by a man with a strangely disproportionate pot belly. Plus, Darla's guess was hardly what happened. "Claire worked some sympathy," he said, feeling his face burn.
"The agent asked Claire how Mohinder could let himself go like that," Peter explained. "Claire got tired of it and told the lady that Mohinder had a malignant tumor, and he just wanted a nice place to live out the rest of his life."
Darla gaped. "Well... doesn't she have a rattler's snap to her."
"Yeah," Peter said, "but the agent suddenly had a mission to get the ideal place and price for a poor cancer patient."
"Claire did apologize," Mohinder added.
Peter grinned. "'I'm sorry I called your baby a tumor' isn't an apology I thought I'd ever hear."
Darla blinked away her mortification. "Well. It's a lovely home."
Outside, beyond the glass doors, Matt appeared from the direction of the parking lot. He walked with his hands in his pockets and his gaze on the ground.
"Now where's he been this morning?" Darla wondered aloud.
"Classified security stuff?" Peter guessed.
"I suppose." She greeted Matt cheerfully as he shuffled in. "Good afternoon, Mr. Parkman!"
"Hey," Matt said, seemingly re-orienting himself as he noticed the two other men.
"I've got some notes for you on Ms. Gilmore's walkthrough at two-thirty," she added, flipping through papers.
"Right, yeah, I remember," Matt said as he reached the desk.
"Would you like to see where you'll be visiting Molly?" Mohinder asked.
Darla passed the phone along with the notes to Matt, and as he took them his sleeve slid past his wrist, exposing a swelled, blotchy yellow blister.
"What happened there?" Mohinder asked, leaning forward. Only one edge of the blister had appeared, and he wondered how far it went up Matt's arm. "Is that from Irving White?"
"No." Matt pulled his arm close and pulled on his shirt cuff. "It's nothing. Don't worry about it."
"Looks pretty bad," Peter said, reaching to have a look.
"It's fine," Matt snapped.
Peter bristled. "I just thought I could help."
"A doctor's seen it. You don't need to mommy me."
"Give me my phone."
"Here." Matt tossed it, and Peter caught it reflexively. Matt stomped off toward his office.
"What was that about?" Peter said.
"The firestarter didn't give them much trouble; I don't know what's stuck in his craw," Darla said.
"Things are really getting going now," Mohinder said. "I guess he's worried they'll only get more difficult."
"That doesn't mean he has to be a dick," Peter muttered, slipping his phone in his pocket.
"Poor dear does seem exhausted lately," Darla mused. "So does the Director. Maybe I should have them change the coffee in the cafeteria."
"What we need is more people," Mohinder said. "Bennet and Matt are still handling too much."
"Nathan should just give up on the Congress thing and stick around here when he gets back," Peter said. "It'd be better for him if he stopped trying to make people like him in politics and learned to actually deal with them here."
That was a good idea, Darla thought. Mohinder hoped his silence wasn't conspicuous.
Peter glanced at the clock above the front desk. "Emma's got a test in a few minutes. Wanna see?"
Six empty soda cans fished from a recycling bin in the cafeteria were set up on a desk at the front of the room. Dr. Stevenson sat on a stool in the corner, resting his feet on the bottom rung and placing his hands on his thighs, but one leg jittered nervously. "There is only an empty field beyond this wall," he said, "so no need to worry. We'll be working with a small amount of sound as it is."
Emma nodded in the middle of the room. All the chairs had been pushed aside. From the doorway, Mohinder could see her grim expression. He glanced at Peter, who stood beside him with his arms folded and his gaze on Emma.
"I would like you to use this," Stevenson said. He whistled sharply. "Try to hit the red can." The third can in the row.
Emma lifted her hand as if readying to grab an invisible gun from her hip. Stevenson let out another piercing sound. With a flash of Emma's hand, the can furthest from the doctor hit the wall.
"That's still very good!" Stevenson exclaimed. "A clean strike."
Emma nodded, but she was already back in the gunfighter stance. "I want to try again."
Stevenson obliged and whistled again. Emma thrust her hand forward, and the red can pinged against the wall and clanged to the floor.
"Excellent, excellent, Ms. Coolidge!" Stevenson said. He set up the fallen cans again. "All your exercises have brought you a long way from that frightened waif, eh?" Emma's expression narrowed, like she must have misread the phrase, and he coughed. "Not that I'm saying that you- of course you were- Let's move on."
"I thnk Dr. Stevenson's awkwardness might chase some patients away," Mohinder murmured.
"Emma's pretty determined to stick around," Peter said.
"What do you mean?"
"She's considering joining the Agency."
"Next Bennet will be recruiting the White boy," Mohinder muttered.
"Emma was the one to bring it up to him," Peter said. "She doesn't think she can go back to her old job, knowing what she could do here."
Mohinder snorted. "Well, I guess I can sympathize. She doesn't have any misgivings?"
"I think she's not sure about the whole chasing-down-potentially-dangerous-crazies part."
"That is a downside."
"They offer a great medical plan, though." A pause. "You could talk to her about the maternity benefits."
"Aren't you clever?"
Mohinder was well aware that in the near future parenting would take up the majority of his time, but he imagined that if he had urgent matters at the Agency, he could at least put Pavitra in the care of a sitter. As it was, he couldn't do anything about the acrobatics going on inside him as he laid in bed working on his laptop. While Mohinder felt more resolved and even comfortable with his role at the Agency with each passing day, Pavitra seemed more restless. Perhaps Sokolowski was right about his progress, and there would be a newborn in his arms sooner than forecasted.
As anxious as the thought made him, it didn't negate the work to be done. Mohinder diligently worked late into the night, a resurfaced habit, albeit with a noticeable lack of caffeine. He streamed soothing music in the background to try to keep his twisting fetus sedate, and the punches and kicks did wind down after a while. Inevitably, the flow of Mohinder's thoughts trickled as well, and he finally took note of the time in the corner of the screen. It was almost midnight, and this probably wasn't what Sokolowski meant by "get plenty of rest." He supposed he'd take his updates on Tracy and call it a night.
Tracy had been stagnant for the past week. He and the technicians had exhausted their theories and were taking time to recalculate, not to mention work on other projects. For now, Mohinder just made sure there were no unusual readings in her tank, such as the pH levels and the quality of the nutrition mixture that they hoped kept her well. He opened an application created by the Agency's programmers that allowed him to see digitally logged information in lab equipment throughout the building.
He navigated to the basement facilities and then to the lab, and picked "TANK" from a drop-down menu. The window on the right displayed a long list of readings, but Mohinder stopped after the first three.
TEMP: 73.4 F
WGT: 0 g
VOL: 0 mL; 0% capacity
Mohinder groaned. It was a new application, and as such, it had not been without its problems. The first day, he'd gotten readings from a refrigerator upstairs instead of the tank. Last week, the report said there was a pH balance of 11.5 due to a broken sensor. Tonight it was telling him Tracy's tank was empty. Perhaps he could reasonably let it go until the techs arrived in the morning, but the pragmatic part of his mind only saw that there was data to be acquired and that he could acquire it with a brief trip downstairs.
He briefed Emilia on where he was going as he passed the nurse's station. She just nodded, barely looking up from her paperwork. In one quick elevator trip he was down in the restricted levels, and he yawned as he swiped his ID to get into the hall of cells. The cells didn't bother him so much now; they'd remained empty all this time, and he didn't even glance into them as he entered the lab.
The empty tank made Mohinder's heart skip.
He rushed into the room, looking around to see if Tracy had been transferred to a different container, but saw no such thing. He flipped through her chart and any other papers lying around and found no notes about her being moved. He couldn't find any notice on the computer either- but he did see that someone had made unauthorized changes to the settings for the nutritional drip. The electric wand had been left on as well, and Mohinder thankfully noticed it lying on the floor before he stepped on it.
He didn't know what to think, other than that he had to speak to Bennet immediately. If there had been secret changes to Tracy's care, that was unacceptable. But if she'd been stolen away by her former jailers or some employee looking for a ransom, that was worse.
Mohinder tapped his fingers on the metal railing the whole elevator ride to the top floor. It may have been late, but Bennet's door was unlocked. In the office, his desk lamp cast a sea of paperwork in light yellow, and music murmured from the computer speakers. Another all-nighter for Bennet, as Mohinder had assumed.
He heard the shower running behind the bathroom door and knocked loudly. "Bennet!" he called. "I need to speak with you!" He waited, but no answer. He huffed. Now was not the time for Bennet to ignore him. His eyes fell on the phone, attracted to the blinking message light, and then he spotted Matt on speed dial, under "Parkman- cell."
Matt answered after one ring. "Dammit, Bennet, what took you so long?!"
Mohinder faltered for a moment at his anger. "It's Mohinder," he finally said.
"I'm in Bennet's office. Listen, do you know if Tracy Strauss was moved from the basement lab?"
"I'm afraid so, and apparently that's as bad as I feared if you don't know where she is."
"Didn't you say Nathan was obsessed with her case?" Matt asked.
"Yes," Mohinder said, frowning. "I thought Nathan was away."
"I'm on my way there!" Matt shouted. "Tell Bennet!"
"Is Nathan missing?" Mohinder asked, but Matt had hung up. Mohinder did the same and returned to the bathroom door. "Bennet! Get out of there!" He waited for a response, but the water didn't even stop running. He called again, pounding the door. Bennet didn't answer him, but Mohinder could hear muffled, indecipherable noises. He tried the knob and flinched; the metal was ice cold.
"Bennet!" Mohinder shouted. The knob turned but the door didn't budge. He drew back and plowed through it with his shoulder, almost slipping on the water that rushed past his feet. Chunks of ice broke on the wet tile floor, and Mohinder realized the door had been frozen shut as he gaped at the shower.
A thick coating of ice sealed the stall, filled with water, and the blur of Bennet thrashed inside. Mohinder rushed forward and smashed his fist into the ice, shattering it. He ripped off the door, and Bennet spilled out in a torrent of water, his head hitting the floor with a resounding crack.
Mohinder knelt in the freezing water and turned Bennet onto his back. Thankfully he was breathing, but he'd lost consciousness. His skin was pale and his lips were almost blue, and Mohinder snatched a towel from the rack on the wall. He tried to cover Bennet with it, only realizing the uselessness as it absorbed the water from the floor. A stream of red drifted from Bennet's temple, toward the door and the tower of water looming in front of it. It took shape, solidifying into a curvy body the color of a ripe peach.
"Tracy," Mohinder said warily.
"Dr. Suresh!" she said with mock enthusiasm, and a whip of water lashed at his head.
Mohinder ducked, hitting the floor on his side and reflexively grabbing his stomach. Tracy lifted her hand, preparing for another attack, then finally noticed. "You have got to be kidding me," she said, staring at his rotund shape. She laughed. "You've got all kinds of experiments going here, don't you?"
"Not exactly," he said. "Tracy, you need to calm down."
"I woke up in a locked laboratory in some prison basement, in a building in the middle of nowhere, and found Bennet in the corner office with memos from the Petrellis," she sneered.
"Lots of things have changed since you... melted."
"I don't see much different between being tortured with a heat lamp and electrocuted with a cattle prod."
"So you know what went on in the lab!" Mohinder protested.
"I remember a lot of pain, and that's enough!" she snapped.
She hadn't been cognitive at all in her liquidated form, he realized. She had only been able to feel. "I know how this sounds, but everyone was only trying to help you," Mohinder explained quickly. "The government hunt ended, and everyone realized how out of control things were getting, and the Petrellis established this place to be a better Company, to really help people with abilities."
"I can't believe it," Tracy said with another dark grin. "When you're not hopped up on some wonder drug, you really are naive." Another whip of water shattered the mirror over the sink and Mohinder covered his head. "Nathan and his lackies," she growled, glaring at Bennet, "are dangerous. I'm not going to wait around to see what they had planned for me."
"You just pulled yourself together, you're angry, you're not thinking straight," Mohinder said slowly. "You don't want to kill anyone, Tracy."
"I didn't have much of a problem with those soldiers," she replied.
"They were after Micah. It was defensive."
"This is also defensive," she snapped.
"Yet Bennet and I are still alive," Mohinder pointed out. "You don't want to do this."
"Tell that to his head wound," she shot back, but her eyes rested on Mohinder's stomach again.
Mohinder hoped she remained ambivalent long enough for Matt to get here. "A side effect of the 'wonder drug.' They've helped me get through this for the past few months. They're helping me."
"And how are you repaying them?"
"I'm staying with them to help other people, including you. Especially you."
Another disbelieving laugh. "Especially? I just gave you a ride, doctor."
Mohinder hesitated, not sure how to explain. Tracy knew about Niki, as far as he was aware, but she'd never met her. Would she even believe him if he told her about the attempt to save her sister? That if he'd gotten to New Orleans, if Sylar hadn't redirected him, maybe he could have prevented her death? Then even though she and Tracy were different people, it mattered that Mohinder could help her?
"I have every reason not to trust you," Tracy said. "So you'll have to forgive me." Water whirled above them, the rushing sound growing to a roar amidst the tiles- and with a sudden clap, it all rushed downward, striking Tracy. She stumbled at first, but quickly regained her balance, absorbing the water, and turned.
Emma stood in the doorway, hands still clasped in front of her chest from her attack. She looked at Mohinder and Bennet lying beside him.
"Who the hell are you?" Tracy asked.
Emma missed the question, only staring cautiously as she looked at Tracy again.
"I guess it doesn't matter, anyway," Tracy said with a trace of weariness. She drew back her arm and lashed it out, unleashing a whip of water carrying chunks of ice.
Emma thrust both hands forward as one chunk crashed into her stomach, knocking her back into the office. Tracy cried out as a force invisible to her eyes pushed into her own stomach, stretching it back almost comically. "What the hell was that?"
Mohinder looked wildly around the bathroom. Emma needed more sound, but where from? It seemed she'd been able to use the sound of the water's movement and the steam fan above them, but it wasn't strong enough to be more than an irritant to Tracy.
Music exploded from the office, the syllables and bass bursting. Emma reappeared in the doorway, one arm around her midsection, backed by a decades-old rock song from Bennet's computer.
"Funeral music?" Tracy sneered and flung another chunk of ice.
Emma thrust both hands forward, and the ice bounced back. Tracy dodged it as it flew past her head, and Emma followed up with a sweep of her arm. Tracy cried out as she was cleaved in half, both halves becoming liquid as they hit the floor. She reshaped quickly enough, hunkered down by the wall, and sent a wave of water at the door, the crest crystallizing into a block of ice. Emma flung the music at the wave's base, and the ice shattered on the floor before it could reach her.
Tracy liquified again, and with surprising speed she reformed where the wave had collapsed, but the surprise worked against her. Emma reflexively lashed out her arms and knocked Tracy back to the middle of the bathroom. Emma quickly collected herself and pushed wave after wave of sound forward, the confidence on her face growing as Tracy stumbled back as if fighting the force of an airplane engine.
When Tracy fell onto the toilet lid, Emma stopped. "Surrender," she warned.
Tracy breathed heavily and got to her feet, staring at Emma calculatingly. Then she looked to Mohinder. "Tell Nathan 'thanks' for his hospitality!" she sneered as she turned translucent. She collapsed to the floor, splashing up and then swirling in an arc down into the shower drain.
Mohinder suddenly felt very weak even as his skin buzzed with adrenaline. He watched Emma get down in the water and gingerly inspect the back of Bennet's head. "Help me get him into the office," she said.
He had trouble hearing her, and it wasn't just from the music. He couldn't see straight, and he could barely hold himself up on one elbow. "I..."
Emma grabbed his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
He closed his eyes and shook his head. He wanted to get out of the cold water, but he couldn't pick himself up.
The music suddenly stopped, and a voice boomed, "Oh, my god!" Matt splashed into the bathroom and knelt down beside them. "Are you guys okay?"
"We need to get him dry," Emma said, gesturing to Bennet as she got to her feet.
"Bennet's bleeding," Mohinder managed.
Matt took a breath. "Okay, okay," he said, hooking his hands under Bennet's armpits. Emma grabbed Bennet's legs, and together they carried him into the office. Mohinder tried to breathe steadily through the pain seizing him inside. What was happening? Did using his strength hurt Pavitra? Or was it when he'd thrown himself down to dodge Tracy's attack?
Emma and Matt came back and helped him to his feet. After many grueling steps, he was in Bennet's desk chair. Bennet lay on the couch across the room, covered by a blanket. Emma pressed a hand towel to the bloody spot above his ear. Matt rattled commands to Emilia over the phone, then he knelt in front of Mohinder and asked shakily, "Was it Nathan?"
What? Had Matt missed the drenched bathroom? "Tracy. She took shape. She didn't understand- she attacked."
"I thought you suspended work on her."
"We did." The pain wasn't all-encompassing; Nathan's strange messages about Tracy easily came to mind. "He escaped, didn't he? Somehow he knew how to help her." Mohinder shook his head. "But how did he get in? You didn't let him keep his card?"
Matt's expression flattened. "Of course not. Look, just worry about the baby. I need to secure the building."
"Matt," Mohinder growled as Emma came over.
"This is a major security breach. We'll talk later."
"Go, go," Emma said, waving Matt off. She grabbed Mohinder's hand and turned his face toward hers. "Breathe with me."
Matt ran off. Mohinder could only follow her rhythm. "Why did you come up here?" he asked after one deep inhale.
"I couldn't sleep. I was thinking about if I should stay here." She smiled weakly. "Was that a good test run?"
"Breathe in and out. In and out." Sokolowski spoke robotically. Given the frizz of her hair and the fact that she was in a t-shirt and pajama pants, she must have jumped from her bed to her car at Emilia's call, but her demeanor was as collected as usual.
Mohinder, on the other hand, kept fighting off surges of panic. "There's something wrong, isn't there?" He lay on a hospital bed with his hands pressed to either side of his stomach. "I know it, I hit too hard. The reverberations-"
"Stress," Sokolowski interrupted. "Emotional stress. It is not unusual for high levels to trigger the hormones for labor."
"That doesn't make any sense. In women, hormones start uterine contractions-"
"And in you the hormones are contracting your womb," Sokolowski said. "We'll have to move up the C-section."
"To when?" Mohinder asked.
She checked her watch. "An hour."
She shot him a perplexed look. "The magnesium sulfate is not working. Contractions are meant to push out the fetus. Since your transformation stalled, there is nowhere for it to go. If he is in such a state for much longer, it could put him in distress."
"I know that! I just- I'm not... I'm not ready, I-"
"The baby is ready."
Another contraction pulled at his insides and he hissed. "He can't be ready. He's not supposed to be ready for another five weeks, after Christmas. It isn't even Thanksgiving."
"Hush." Dr. Sokolowski took his hand. "Keep breathing. We don't need you in distress, too. That's what started this."
Mohinder had to laugh, thinking back to the misery of his slow-burning transformation. "It is." He squeezed her hand. "Has anyone called Peter?"
"I don't know," Sokolowski replied. She let go of his hand and rolled her chair to the phone on the wall. "There was an email about the security breach. I would surmise that he is meeting with deployed agents to find Miss Strauss."
"Can we call him?" was what Mohinder almost said, but he hesitated. The agents would need all the help they could get.
"Are the preparations underway?" Sokolowski said a moment after dialing. "Good." She hung up and rolled back to Mohinder. "You have time to inform your family."
Ah, right. This was probably something his mother would want to know, but... "I'm not sure I have the energy to tell her I'm in labor because I was almost murdered."
"I find email is useful for delaying conversations," Sokolowski replied.
Mohinder laughed genuinely this time.
A knock directed their attention to the exam room doorway, where Matt stood, looking as stressed as expected.
"Shouldn't you be on a manhunt?" Mohinder asked.
"I stayed to make sure the building was clear. I wanted to check in before going out into the field. Where are they keeping Bennet?"
"Emma is staying with him in a room next to mine," Mohinder said. "Stevenson says he's in rough shape, but he should wake up soon. They're having trouble contacting Claire."
"Is Pavitra okay?"
"Pavitra is about to be welcomed into the world," Sokolowski said.
Matt shot Mohinder a disbelieving look, to which Mohinder could only respond with helpless shrug. "When are you going in?" Matt asked.
"Approximately two forty-five," Sokolowski broke in, noting her watch. "I need to supervise the preparations and make sure all staff is here. Emilia will bring you down when we are ready."
Mohinder nodded and she left. He looked to Matt. "You should be out looking for Tracy. She is not in the greatest of moods."
"I need to ask you some questions," Matt said.
"I gave a report to your security staff," Mohinder said, "and some agents."
"I know; they briefed me, but do you remember anything else? Anything strange?"
"You're going to have to be a little more specific with 'strange,'" Mohinder laughed, then cringed. He clutched his stomach. "I can't do this now, Matt."
"No sign of anyone who shouldn't be in the building?"
"You mean Nathan? I didn't see him. Are we even sure-"
"Security footage shows that Nathan was in the lower lab," Matt blurted out. "He messed with the machines and zapped the water. He brought her back, though he ran off before she was whole."
Mohinder tried to relax but said irritably, "If you know Nathan was here, then why are you asking me if I saw him?"
"I asked if- I was just checking... Nevermind. I sent another squad to find him." He hesitated. "Peter got the news about Tracy and met up with some of the agents to find her. I can stay with you until you go in."
"You need to find Tracy," Mohinder said. "And I don't know what Nathan is up to, but he's not in his right mind. I'll be fine."
"You're going in for surgery."
"You took this job, Matt. You need to do it."
"Maybe I can get Peter back here in time-"
Matt hesitated again, but his walkie-talkie, attached to his hip, beeped loudly. "Parkman," a voice said, "we got a lead on Strauss. Break-in at a boutique in Hollydale. Owner lives upstairs and caught a naked woman of her description stealing clothes. Seven miles east. What is our prerogative?"
With a curse, Matt brought the receiver to his mouth. "I want two units on Strauss! Have Vasquez and his team meet me in the lobby to track the senator!" As he reattached it to its mount, he gave Mohinder a stern look. "You'll be okay," he said before whipping away, running into the hall.
"I'll do my best," Mohinder muttered, alone again.
Peter had an Agency extension that forwarded to his cell phone, and Mohinder dialed it. It rang several times before going to voicemail. "Peter, I know you're occupied, but..." This was stupid. Mohinder was an adult. "I just wanted you to know Dr. Sokolowski is sending me in for surgery." He paused. "Be careful. I'll see you later." He lingered a moment more, but there was nothing else to say.
As he hung up, Emilia flashed him an encouraging smile. "Are you ready, Dr. Suresh?"
He thought he was. He'd certainly had plenty of time to accept the implausibility of it all and the boundaries he'd thrown aside to let it happen. This point had always seemed so far off- the apex of a nightmare, really, giving birth to Sylar's child. But he hadn't thought much about Sylar lately. And Pavitra was their child. Mohinder's child. He knew that deeply now, from the protective horror during Tracy's attack, from the quiet stretches of night when he counted kicks.
Still, he hadn't thought he'd be alone at this moment.
It seemed like no time at all before he laid in the operating room, staring up at the light ready to illuminate his swelled stomach. A pregnant woman would be numbed with a curtain blocking view of the surgery. But Mohinder was having his strange incomplete reproductive system removed after Pavitra, so he would be unconscious for everything.
"Anesthesia ready," someone said.
Dr. Sokolowski appeared over him on his right, now in a full set of blue scrubs so he could only see her eyes. She nodded at the statement and someone handed her a silicone mask. Emilia posted herself at his left and briefly touched his arm.
"Proceeding," Sokolowski said, moving the mask to Mohinder's face.
Mohinder heard the smooth thu-thunk of the operating room door. Sokolowski looked up and paused, and Emilia's eyes crinkled with a smile. Then Mohinder saw Peter's eyes, as Peter leaned over the table, another body enclosed in scrubs.
"Mohinder," he said, sounding breathless through his mask. "Matt told me."
The pragmatic part of Mohinder wanted to be angry. Finding Tracy was more important than a common procedure (when performed on women at least). Then Peter took hold of his hand, and at once Mohinder felt a wave of relief.
"We are proceeding," Dr. Sokolowski said, as she pressed the mask around Mohinder's mouth and strapped it around his head. "Count down from one-hundred."
"Peter," Mohinder said uneasily, breath fogging the mask as it pushed his voice back into his own throat.
"Everything is going to be fine," Peter said, squeezing his hand. "Count back with me. One hundred. Ninety-nine. Ninety-eight. Ninety-seven..."
The sun set behind the sliding glass doors, tinging the townhouse's crisp white walls with orange. The doors lead to a plush, grassy backyard, but Mohinder was inside, and so was Pavitra. It was far too early for the baby to sit up on his own, but nevertheless he did, gurgling happily as he beat a rattle against a colorful cardboard book. Pavitra ignored Sylar, who sat a few feet away. Sylar held out a toy, and when the baby had no reaction, he tried another. The last was a stuffed tiger, and Pavitra concentrated on swatting open the first sturdy page of the book. Sylar leaned forward, shaking the tiger playfully, and Pavitra gurgled happily as he looked at the pictures.
Sylar leaned back, knees up, arms wrapped around his legs. He still clutched the tiger. The walls faded to gray, then black.