Angela dreamed that Nathan smiled at her, that confident smile that meant 'Everything is fine, Ma. Things just keep getting better.' It made her proud, so proud. And then, Nathan's face changed right before her eyes and the smile was still there but it wasn't the same. It wasn't Nathan's face anymore…
Angela woke up and stared out into the darkness of her bedroom.
There was no one there, but it felt like someone was watching her. Her heart was beating fast and her skin was wet with sweat. The bed felt like a prison, a coffin, she couldn't move…
After a few more moments, she was calmer again, she could breathe and move. It was just a dream. That was what she tried to tell herself. Just a dream.
Angela closed her eyes and wanted to go back to sleep, a dreamless sleep, but she couldn't. Sometimes, when she woke up from a dream, she thought about That Day. Normally she wouldn't think about it, she pushed it out of her mind as if it hadn't happened, because it almost hadn't. Nathan was there, with her, that was what mattered. He smiled at her, so that day couldn't really have happened, could it?
She knew that it had happened, That Day; sometimes, there was no escape from knowing it. She remembered the blackness that had surrounded her and blurred all her thoughts and made her feel like she was trapped inside someone's evil illusion, designed to drive her crazy. Yes, she was going crazy. The only thing she could hold on to was that Parkman was the key, the answer to everything. Nathan wasn't gone from her yet. Parkman could make her son stay, Parkman could make the monster, the nightmare, go away…
Noah was there, but she couldn't remember what he had been saying. She only knew that he was on her side, when Matt Parkman wasn't. There he was, Parkman, with his moral scruples; didn't he know that family was all that mattered, that there was no 'right' or 'wrong' when it came to one's children? Noah knew. She could feel his support through the black confusion and pain, she could feel his support surrounding her like the balustrade makes a balcony safe even if it is hanging over a precipice. They pushed Parkman together, with the force of their shared determination.
What was it that Peter had said earlier? This is not a company, was that it? They had all been together then; Peter, Nathan, Claire, and Noah Bennet, too, was there and he did not object to being included. This is a family. Peter had said that.
And so Nathan had been saved That Day, but had he, really?
She reached out her hand and fumbled over the table beside her bed; her cell phone should be there somewhere. Wasn't there someone who would, who should, be there to tell her that she had done the right thing?
The dreams she had sometimes, the ones that forced her to remember everything, made her doubt everything she had believed in. So she tried to call them nightmares. Nightmares weren't real, that's what her mother had told her when she was a little girl…
I know it's hard for you, Angie. We all carry burdens. But don't talk about 'nightmares'. You know it's not that. You have a purpose; we are all working for something, and we all have to make sacrifices. I know you can be strong, Angie; you are strong!
The voice that came back to her memory through the decades was not her mother's, but Arthur's. He had seemed to be the perfect man when they were young. She had listened to him when he told her how strong she was, because she was the one who had told him first. She had shown him, she had shown all of them, which road they should choose.
But she believed, sometimes, that if he truly understood her, he wouldn't always tell her to be strong, tell her what she already knew. Angela knew that no one who didn't have to see the future like she did could understand her anyway, but he understood as much as he could. And she had loved him then. But it happened that she wished, just sometimes, that he had been a man with no personal experience of abilities and no claims of a superior understanding. If he hadn't been 'special' like her, what would he have said to her when she woke up covered in sweat, sobbing, trembling, breathing heavily? Hush, it's alright; it was just a nightmare but you're awake now, it's alright!
No, not since she was a small child had she heard those words from anyone.
And That Day, when she had felt a strong wave of support from Noah Bennet, that had been an illusion. It must have been, even if everything else had been real, because now he wouldn't even take her calls anymore. Or if he did talk to her for a minute or two, which was even worse, he told her that he wanted no part of it and she had to deal with it alone.
Alone. She was alone, like always. And what was she doing merging thoughts of Noah Bennet with her old fantasies from long ago about being able to rest in the false comfort of a 'normal' man's presence? Noah may be without abilities of his own, and different from Arthur in many ways, but the Company had long since robbed him of whatever innocence he once perhaps had. It was too late, she knew it, to be anything else but alone with her fears and her knowledge and her doubt.
"Claire!" Noah opened the door for his daughter with his shirt halfway unbuttoned. "You're early."
"Yes!" She smiled and turned her cheek to him for a kiss. "I thought we could hang out while I help you to cook."
"Cook?" Noah closed the door behind her and looked around as if he imagined a dinner to have magically appeared from somewhere while he had his back turned.
"Yeah, you did invite me to dinner, didn't you?" Claire frowned and tried not to sound annoyed. "And you told me to come to your place. Don't tell me you have forgotten?"
"No, no, not at all." Noah smiled reassuringly but she wasn't sure she was convinced. "I just didn't think… I was thinking something like a restaurant. Or we can order pizza or something if you prefer…"
"Seriously?" She shook her head and walked up to his fridge. "You don't have anything here?"
She opened the door and found exactly four things: one bottle of milk, two cans of beer, and an opened pack of sausages.
"Why don't you take cooking classes or something?" she asked, but didn't wait for a reply. "I guess we're going out, then."
Her dad's cell rang, but he didn't answer it. He just picked it up and looked at it with a small frown that was not much more than a quick shadow over his face. He disconnected the call, and put it down on the table as if it didn't matter.
"Like I said, you're early. Not that I mind, but I was going to take a shower."
"Yeah, sure, I'll wait." She flung herself down on the couch and tried to sound casual when she asked: "Whose calls is it that you won't take?"
"No one's", he shrugged and turned away from her. "It was nothing."
Yeah, right, she thought. The last time she had seen her dad, there had been two calls he didn't take, and that, too, had been 'nothing'. You think I don't know when you're lying to me? I'm not that innocent anymore…
When the phone rang a second time, Claire jumped up to get it. Her dad was still in the bathroom with the water running, so she answered. It could be important and not 'nothing'…
"Angela?" she said when she heard who was speaking. "Yes, my dad is alright, I'm just meeting him for dinner. He's in the shower now… Yes, I'm doing just fine. I'm really looking forward to college… yes, I know…"
Claire talked to Angela for a little while about college and which classes she was going to take and how it was going to be a new beginning, and things like that. She asked about Peter and Nathan, and then Angela said she had to go, but asked her to please tell Noah to call.
"You're the one who called earlier? What's going on?"
Angela, predictably, said that 'nothing' was going on.
"Come on! It can't be 'nothing' when he won't take your calls." Claire was determined to go to the bottom of this. They were family, sort of, and shouldn't fight. "Something must have happened… Hey, is there something I can do to help?"
Only one thing, she was told: Tell Noah to take his calls for once. Claire had to accept that Angela wasn't willing to share any details. The only thing Claire could get out of her was that Noah had helped her with 'a thing' a while ago, and now he refused to talk about it.
"That sounds very childish in my opinion", Claire said, and she repeated the same thing to Noah when he returned from the bathroom.
"Does that mean that you answered my phone?" Noah smiled at her. "You know, there's a word for people like you: Nosy. That means a person who sticks their little nose in other people's business where it doesn't belong."
"Haha", Claire retorted, "very funny. Look, Angela is my grandmother, and I've got a right to know why you're treating her badly."
"Wrong", Noah said, suddenly all serious. "You don't have that right. And besides, who says I'm treating her badly? What if she started it?"
"I don't care who started it. It looks just like the two of you are acting like little kids, and I hate that. You're not speaking to mom, you're barely speaking to Lyle, and now you're not speaking to Angela…"
"Your mom has nothing to do with this", Noah interrupted. "That's different. And haven't you learned anything? Things aren't always what they look like. I've told you; this is nothing for you to worry about."
So that's what 'nothing' means, Claire thought. He finally said it flat out: Nothing for me to worry about…
Claire dropped the subject, but she didn't forget.
Secrets, always secrets. Even know.
The thoughts were running through her head as she climbed, higher and higher.
This is the only way. The only way we can stop keeping secrets from each other, and from the world. The only way to show that we're all in this together, because we're all humans. We need to be open, we have to stand together – not in Samuel's way, not for the sake of one man's personal gain, but for all of us! This is the only way to make things right.
The only way to show that we're all in this together, because we're all humans. We need to be open, we have to stand together – not in Samuel's way, not for the sake of one man's personal gain, but for all of us!
This is the only way to make things right.
She climbed higher and higher. Everything was connected. The fact that she was young, but had already been too close to losing her father many times – the fact that one of her fathers was already gone – and the idea that some people were 'special' and some people needed to be protected, and the villains had to be dealt with in secrecy and no one was ever prepared.
He needs to stop thinking that he has to protect me. We all have to help each other. Everybody deserves a chance to know what the world is really like. This is the only way.
From the top of the Ferris wheel, Claire saw people looking up at her, TV-people and other people. Some of them thought that she was crazy and that she was going to kill herself. Other people just thought that she was crazy.
But she wasn't. She just wanted to make them all trust each other. She just wanted to put an end to all the secrecy once and for all.
"Angela." Noah greeted her with a small smile, but looked like he didn't know how to go on. But he was the one who had called her, the one who said that he wanted to talk. So she sat down, waited.
A waitress looked their way, and Noah asked if Angela wanted anything.
"No thank you", she said.
"So… How are you holding up?" Noah sounded genuinely interested. "Things are pretty crazy right now, huh?"
"Yes. But when have things not been crazy these last few years?"
It was strange, really, to think about all the things that had happened. Plans that had failed. Familes that had been shattered. New plans, new friendships. New family ties, deaths. Secrets and lies and terrible, terrible nightmares and losses…
"Claire really believed that she did the right thing", she said. "It can't be undone. All we can do is support her and see what the future brings."
"You don't have any… clues?" Noah asked, worried about his daughter, naturally, but when she shook her head silently, he smiled and said: "Maybe that's a good sign."
"Claire is not the one I'm worried about", she said.
"I know", Noah replied and looked her properly in the eyes for the first time since she got there. "I'm more worried about you. This must be hard for you."
She didn't have to ask him what this meant.
"Yes", she said, because there was no point in denying it. "But Peter says…"
Peter told her that things had changed, that it was time to start trusting that man. Where did he find the strength to do that? All she saw when she looked at him was the face of a murderer.
"I know", Noah said. "He has said the same things to me. He told me about what's supposed to have happened between them. I don't know…" Noah stroke his chin as if he was mulling something over, but she didn't believe that he hadn't thought this over. He knew what he wanted to say; he just didn't quite know how. "The thing is, we can't kill him… again. And if there's something I've learned, then it is to… give people a chance, to listen to them. I'm not saying I trust him, necessarily, but I do trust Peter."
Angela smiled a little. Yes, Peter deserved to have their trust, but she would never say that it was easy.
"Anyway", Noah said, "if that man ever does anything to hurt you, I will put so many bullets in his body that it doesn't matter where he has hidden his secret spot; I swear that if he ever does anything to you, I'll find it."
She knew that intensity in his voice, the determination. She liked that about him, and she knew that he meant what he said, but if she had learned something, it was that good intentions and plans weren't always enough.
"I think it's a little too late for that, Noah…"
She had been hurt in the worst possible way that a mother can be hurt, but she didn't have to tell Noah about what he had seen with his own eyes.
"About that", he said, and she knew that they were finally going to talk about That Day. Now that they were about to do it, she almost wanted to pretend that they didn't have to. Almost.
"I failed you", he said. "I wanted to protect you, protect Nathan and all of us, but I made the wrong choice."
Angela said nothing. This was his speech, something he needed to say.
"I was scared because I felt powerless", he said and she could see that it took a lot to admit it. "You can't be blamed for what we did. Seeing your child like that, it must be… You can't be blamed. But I should have had the sense to see that we shouldn't have done it; I should have known to talk you out of it because it only hurt you more in the long run."
"Hm…" Angela said. The extra time she had wanted to give her son – the time he deserved – had it been worth it? She had to stand by and watch them put him in a grave anyway. Peter said it had helped so many people in the long run, and maybe that was true, but there was no way of knowing what would have happened if they had acted differently. She only knew that yes, it had hurt her.
"What's done is done", she said. "We all tried to do the right thing."
"Yes", he nodded. "That's what I wanted to do. Until I didn't."
Angela looked at him. A long, long moment. What hadn't they been through the last few years? And yet…
"You let me go through it alone."
"I did", he said, "and I'm sorry. I pushed you into a difficult situation and then I let you go through it alone." Noah shook his head, slowly, as if he just now woke up and realized that he could have done something differently. "There is no excuse, but… I want to try to explain."
So there was an explanation? Of course there was.
"What happened in that room… I realized how weak I was, and it made me ashamed. It was an entirely emotional decision, making Parkman do that, and later, I couldn't stand being anywhere near… your son. That, too, made me shamed. I let you carry the burden alone because I couldn't trust myself not to reveal my repulsion to you or to him."
She just looked at him.
"Okay, so I made my opinion pretty clear to you…" He was visibly embarrassed now, trying hard not to fidget. "The thing is, I didn't know if I could trust myself anymore, my judgment. If I could agree to do something like that… what else could I do? I failed to protect you… but if I wanted to keep on believing that I could protect Claire…"
He was silent. Angela didn't know what to say. She pursed her lips, opened her mouth to speak… and stopped before she had begun. She noticed that her nails dug into the palm of her hands. She tried to relax."
"The point is", he tried when she didn't say anything, "I'm even more ashamed now for how I handled this thing."
Angela took a deep breath. "This 'thing', as you call it, you 'handled' it by not handling it at all. You refused to accept any responsibility for it. Because you were ashamed for how it all made you feel?"
He nodded, "You have every right to be angry."
"You talk about Claire", Angela said slowly. "You talk about failing to protect me. But isn't this really more about another failure?"
Noah looked away.
"I know what it's like to try to run away from something in your past", she said, and some of the anger began to fade away when she thought that she understood something. "I remember… Years ago, we knew about your background when you were hired, of course…"
Noah looked back at her.
"I can't let emotions get in the way", he said. "That's when I fail. You're right. It made things come back to me, things I haven't talked to anyone about, more than Claire, recently…"
"You're wrong", Angela said firmly. "Emotions make you human. And I know all about bottling things up inside… All I can tell you is that it's probably healthier not to do that. To learn how to talk to people around you. I have finally learned to talk about Alice…"
"I…" Noah was struggling. "Yes. I know. And you're probably right, but… it's hard…"
"Of course it is." Angela's voice was gentler now. Yes, she had expected him to be stronger, to be there for her, but what did she know about the pain he had inside of him, the secret shadows of his past that maybe guided his actions more than he even knew? "But the important thing is that we're in this life together. And we are… part of the same family, aren't we? What would our children think of us if I didn't forgive you, now that you ask for it?"
"Oh!" Noah chuckled, a relieved sound, and smiled. "I think I have a pretty good idea about what they would think of us."
"Me, too." Angela smiled. "So… Friends?"
Noah reached over the table to take the hand she offered him and he captured it in both of his. He nodded, and she finally dared to believe that they were going to be alright.
"Yes", he said. "Friends."