Characters/Relationships Sylar, Monroe/Rosalee Calvert, Nick Burkhardt
Word count: 3,493
Spoilers: Grimm S2, Heroes S4
Warnings: Some violence and blood, post-apocalyptic scenarios
Disclaimer: Heroes and Grimm belong to their respective creators
A/N: Written for perdiccas for xover_exchange. Thanks to etoiledunord for betaing!
Summary: In a mostly-empty world, Sylar comes across a functioning clock tower, inhabited by one irascible Eddie Monroe…
On Ao3 or below the cut!
“There aren’t that many people who can keep a clock tower running for three years without help. Even fewer who would bother.”
It was silent, with echoes of Sylar’s voice ringing off the stone walls as he looked up into the high galleries above him.
“Of course, you’d have to be a little crazy to basically ring a giant dinner bell every hour.”
“Unless you think you can take on whoever comes through here.”
It stank down here, a rank animal smell. Sylar wondered if the feral dogs were using the bottom level as a den.
“You’ve done a good job, but you’re two minutes slow.”
Some movement up above, and Sylar smiled to himself. It had been a long time since he’d practiced his first craft, but he did enjoy a fight. If this cuckoo didn’t fly true, Sylar was looking forward to ejecting him. His second craft had made him very good at getting rid of the inconvenient, the useless, and the dangerous, and he couldn’t bear to see a place like this in the hands of an idiot.
“You try to maintain perfect time in a gravity-driven clock with only the sun as a reference.” The voice that drifted down from above was professionally annoyed, and no more. No cocking guns, no yells that he was trespassing, no death threats. Sylar’s interest was piqued, and he squinted into the light filtering through the tower.
“You didn’t have your own timepiece?”
“Timemaster Alpha, but I lost it.”
“Criminal,” Sylar said, with feeling.
“Tell me about it! If I hadn’t been running for my life, I woulda cried. You?”
“Sylar Field Edition, still working.”
“Oooo!” A head popped over the railing, dark hair and full beard bushy and untrimmed, eyes bright with excitement.
Sylar looked up at him, his own face clean-shaved, his hair and clothing neat. The other gave him a wary look – anyone that could take the time to stay impeccably groomed and could afford to waste a sharp blade on something other than survival had to have a trick up his sleeve.
“You don’t look like you need food,” the guy said.
“I don’t. I can find what I need.” Thanks to Claire, he had a bit of leeway when it came to finding edibles. Thanks to his own survival instincts, he hadn’t gone hungry yet.
The other considered him for a second and continued their conversation.
“You know anything about repairing at this size?”
“I know how things work.” No false modesty, no overconfidence. Sylar had been drawn to the clock tower for a reason. It might be something he could fix.
(He could see Claire falling, falling, falling, hitting the ground with a thud and pulling herself together in front of the cameras. Wincing and self-deprecating and alive with the honest arrogance of youth as she spilled their secrets in front of the world. He’d wanted to grab those words out of the air and fix them before they reached the reporters’ ears. For once he and Noah Bennet had been in complete agreement.)
The guy thought that over. “Help me get her back into shape, and you can have the upper level for a couple weeks. Try to steal from me and I’ll kill you in your sleep.”
“I’m not completely uncivilized yet.”
Sylar smiled at the man’s cheerful tone. “You haven’t asked me the usual question.”
“Trust me, if you were sick, I could tell. But you’re not.” The man didn’t seem at all concerned, but he wasn’t lying just to make Sylar feel better. Doctor, maybe? Doctor with a clock hobby? Or someone who could see beyond the surface? “So, if I’m two minutes off, I think I have a little chain tension problem. A bit difficult for one guy to fix.”
“And who is that guy?” Sylar asked.
“Call me Monroe.” The head disappeared, and after a few minutes, a door opened at Sylar’s level, cleverly camouflaged in the stone wall. Monroe was big, tall and broad, wearing layers of clothing that must have been scavenged from a hunter’s shop, all plaids and leaf patterns. He looked well fed and strong, if a little unkempt.
“I’m Sylar. Try anything and I slit your throat and leave you for the dogs.”
“Very ecologically sound.”
“I do my part,” Sylar said genially.
Sylar squeezed past Monroe on the narrow staircase, noting with annoyance that Monroe must have four inches of height on him. Even so, Monroe must have trusted his instincts a hell of a lot to let Sylar get that close; a knife in his hand and Monroe would have been down and bleeding before he could defend himself. But Sylar trusted his own instincts too, or he wouldn’t have made it this far.
“Lucky you found this place,” Monroe said as they trudged up the stairs.
“You’re ringing a dinner bell, like I told you.”
“There’s not that many around to hear it.”
Sylar didn’t wince as Monroe’s cheerful tone went flat. It had been three years since he’d seen the piles of the newly dead, pale and wretched, leaking virus-laden mucus everywhere. (He hadn’t been able to fix that – no one had. The enemy had been everywhere, inside nearly every body, and even if he’d been able to find the person who’d let it out, it wouldn’t bring them all back.) You could have either given into despair or…
“I love what you’ve done with the place,” Sylar said as he emerged into the upper level.
“Eh, it’s not too bad. The carpet’s been outdated for ages and I have last year’s sofa. I don’t know if I’m going to make it on the Parade of Homes this year.”
In fact, the lower parts of the clock tower were snug and cozy, if cobbled together from whatever a resourceful survivor could manage. Sheets and comforters taken from homes and department stores, clothing frayed and being repaired with whatever came to hand.
(Sylar’s mother knew how to sew any tears or rips, let down hems and turn seams, saving them from having to buy new. Her thin colorless hair under the old lamp, head bent in the faded armchair, steam heat soaking into her cardigan, scissors flashing as she cut a patch-.)
Sylar stopped the memory cold and kept looking around. Food in one corner, cans and bags, bottles of water, makeshift fire pit, soot-scorched pots and skewers. A nest of a bed behind the velvet drape of a theatrical curtain. Jars and racks of dried herbs and mushrooms, a mortar and pestle, pouches and boxes and small mixing bowls on a ledge in a dark corner. A cello was incongruously leaned up against a battered old table covered with gears and chains and tools.
“Those stuck-up snobs wouldn’t let you on because they’re jealous,” Sylar said and looked up at the soaring gears and chains above his heads. They clacked together with a comforting sound, like a heartbeat, though he could hear a few discordant notes amongst the mechanical symphony.
“I knew they were going to snub me for having the prize-winning dahlias last year.” Monroe walked over to the staircase up and jerked his head at Sylar. “Chains?”
There was a crackle of energy below the banter and the bluffing, the necessary lies and evasions. Not quite nervousness, just awareness that at any moment one of them might decide to change their unwritten rules. A Mexican standoff without anyone pointing a gun. Sylar crooked his fingers into a gun shape, feeling Trevor Zeitlan’s power humming through his hand, and then loosened his grip. Not yet.
“You’ve been doing a lot of work up here,” Sylar said, prying one fitting up just enough so Monroe could shift the chain back into its rightful place. Definitely a two-person job, for which Sylar could forgive the two-minute discrepancy. However, there were signs of maintenance and repair in other places, reset gears, new nuts and bolts, things that required not just the right tools, but sometimes entire winch systems to handle. If there ever had been winch systems up here, they’d been damaged or stolen long ago. Curious then, how Monroe had fixed such heavy stuff.
“Keeps me busy,” Monroe said, with a final tug. Sylar let the fitting settle back into place and nodded in satisfaction as he heard the clock settle into its new, accurate rhythm. “Ah… that sounds better.”
“Do I earn my keep?” Sylar asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah.” Monroe’s voice softened, and he glanced upward with a sigh. “Come on.” Up another flight to another landing, this one with boarded-up windows gaped just enough to allow for a good vantage point. Or sniper’s post. Another nest of a bed, fire pit, and a locked gun safe. How the hell had Monroe gotten that up here?
“A friend lives here. He’ll be back in a couple weeks. Then you go, okay?” He shifted from foot to foot, flexing his knees slightly. The fall from a shove out the windows would probably be fatal for anyone else.
“How’d you survive, Monroe?” Sylar asked.
“How did you? You don’t look like you’ve been hurting for much.”
Maybe the intimidation factor from fashion had been a little over the top. But he hadn’t had much else to cling to.
“I was lucky. And smart.”
Monroe left his subtle predatory crouch. “Aren’t we all? I mean, if we lasted this long.”
The bells chimed the hour, insulated enough to not deafen them, though quite loud enough. Sleeping was going to be interesting.
“Where’s your friend?” Sylar asked.
“Two weeks,” Monroe said, looking away. “Don’t get too comfortable, all right?”
He turned and stomped back down the stairs.
Sylar didn’t see the man for a day, not bothering to emerge from his temporary digs until too much lost sleep had finally been wiped out. It had been… too long since he’d had any kind of safe place to rest. Amazing that he hadn’t woken at the chiming of the bells.
(The shop, however much it had sometimes felt like a prison, had always been home, the ticking a heartbeat, always been a refuge from himself and from Mother, from being too ordinary and never mind that he’d sullied it and broken it of his own free will once Chandra Suresh had entered his life.)
He came downstairs as Monroe was spooning out two bowls full of something hot and savory-smelling, and accepted it with bemusement as Monroe put the bowl and a spoon in his hands.
“I want to check some stuff in the upper levels today,” Monroe said. “Minor adjustments, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a new set of eyes.” He seemed cheerful again and watched Sylar closely as he sipped his stew.
It tasted as good as it looked, far better than anything Sylar had had in far too long (he had literally eaten crow at one point, and it tasted about as good as its literary counterpart). The expression of surprised pleasure seemed to satisfy Monroe, and he set to inhaling his food.
“What’s all this?” Sylar asked finally, as the last of the stew vanished into his stomach. He nodded in the direction of the dried herbs, and Monroe’s expression clouded a bit.
“Medical stuff. Can’t count on what’s been left behind anymore.”
“Watch repair, cook, doctor, cello-player, you’re a regular Renaissance man, Monroe.”
“Not mine. A… friend’s. She’s better at that kind of thing. Had to go gather some stuff that grows a little ways away,” Monroe said, and shrugged as if it were no big deal. Of course it was, though. Everything was a big deal nowadays. “So, gears?”
(Hiro, unsmiling, as he looked over the quiet grave of New York, unsure if he was going to be able to find his future counterpart and learn how to change the past. “Has that ever worked before?” Hiro looked up at Sylar, angry at first, then resigned. “Yes.” That had been almost three years ago. Sylar started working his way to the other coastline when Hiro hadn’t come back. Peter had yelled at him for losing hope, but hadn’t tried to stop him from leaving.)
They passed a quiet morning on the mid-levels, tightening bolts, checking timing, and lubricating parts. Sylar was used to the quiet, enjoying the music of the gears and chains, but it was clear Monroe hadn’t been on his own in a long time.
“I was immune,” Monroe blurted out suddenly, offering the fact like a gift. “I was immune and I lucked out in knowing how to take care of myself out here. I knew this place was solid from my job.”
Sylar dropped his hand from the last gear. Ah, actual conversations. His least-favorite kind of communication.
“I’m immune, too.”
“You’re not…” Monroe hesitated.
Monroe paused a long time, and changed the subject. “Why shave?”
Sylar huffed out a laugh. “It keeps me occupied.” He added, “Makes people think twice before they do something stupid.”
Another long pause. “Did anyone you know survive?”
(Claire’s angry stare, Peter’s eyes vacant with pain, Gretchen and Emma pale and dying in the next room.)
Actual conversations never went well. Never.
“No.” Sylar walked upstairs, out of sight, checked again to make sure Monroe wasn’t watching, and flew to the top of the tower.
Monroe offered him two words with dinner when Sylar returned.
Sylar downed the balance of his stew and put the bowl aside. “There’s enough parts on that bench to put together at least two grandfather clocks.”
“I thought you wanted to get into the Parade of Homes this year.”
Monroe put his own dinner back down and grinned. “Let’s see what we got.”
They had the inner workings done in a week, in between scavenging for food, water, and wood. They couldn’t find a clock casing, but then again the people with the walnut paneling in their living room from one of the nearby abandoned houses weren’t going to get any use from it now. They wrangled over that for almost two days before Monroe finally stopped fussing with the top and took a step back.
“Yeah, ok. That works.”
“I told you,” Sylar said, smirking.
“It’s good, really good. Man, I’d love to have had this in my living room.”
“Blue ribbon on the tour for sure.”
“Damn straight,” Monroe said, rubbing his hands together. “You outta be glad Nick isn’t here; he’d go comatose listening to all the gear talk.”
“His loss,” Sylar said, his voice going soft. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to build like this.”
“You know, I’ve been meaning to ask, where’ve you been getting your batteries for your watch? Even if I’d kept my Timemaster, I’m pretty sure batteries were one of the first things to get scavenged…”
“Bioelectricity,” Sylar said, and moved to brush invisible specks of dust off of the pristine clock casing.
Someone was yelling outside.
Sylar had barely jerked himself awake when Monroe came pounding up the stairs to look out the window, eyes darting frantically, seeking out the source of the noise.
“Oh hell, Nick, what’re you doing?” Monroe said, pressing himself to the gaping slats as the yells got louder.
“Sounds like a party out there,” Sylar said, peering down at the deepening twilight, adrenaline waking him up.
“If it is Nick, it’s definitely a party,” Monroe said tightly.
The bushes at the edge of the encroaching forest rustled, and suddenly two people burst out of the trees. A slight brunette with huge eyes, a large backpack on her back, panting and red-faced with exertion was first, followed shortly by a dark-haired man in a leather jacket, wielding a crossbow (a crossbow?) against whatever was following them. They ran straight for the tower, but before they’d covered half the distance, a half-dozen humans holding bats and blades came out of cover and began to circle to cut them off.
“Rosalee!” Monroe yelled. He looked from side to side frantically, his eyes alighting on the open window. With a howl, he flung himself out of it. Sylar looked down, sure he was going to see the man smashed before his eyes on the pavement below. Instead, Monroe twisted, shifting in mid-air, becoming hairy, feral, almost wolf-like as he loped towards the two beleaguered travelers. Nick fired his crossbow at the first man who charged him, as Monroe leapt and came down on another who tried to get him from behind.
The woman, Rosalee, had to stop as the other four closed in on her, ugly grins splitting their faces. Something in her face shifted as well, and she snarled and chittered at them like a cornered animal.
“Ooo, I like ‘em furry,” one of the thugs said, his teeth looking rotten even in the dim light. “Nice doggy…”
Nick and Monroe were still getting free of the second one who’d attacked them; in minutes the other four would have Rosalee and whatever she’d gathered and be gone. Monroe snarled and bodily hurled his attacker away; Sylar could hear bones snap when the man hit a wall. The other four didn’t even flinch, their confidence suddenly understandable when two of them raised shotguns.
Unfair. Sylar flew out of the window, soaring close enough to telekinetically slap aside the guns, making them discharge into abandoned buildings. The men turned to look at him, flabbergasted, and Sylar raised his hand, drawing his finger across the air, slitting one throat before the others had the wit to move.
Nick reloaded and fired the crossbow at one fleeing across his line of sight while Monroe leapt for another too close to Rosalee. The thug made an abortive grab for her, maybe thinking to use her as a shield, before Monroe pounced—literally--howling the entire time. Blood splashed dark in the dim light as the attacker’s head parted company from his body. Rosalee screamed as the third man lunged in close, her eyes wide as dinner plates when she saw a knife in his hand, and sank her teeth into him as he tried to stab her. He shrieked and danced away next to the last man standing, who was frantically trying to reload one of the shotguns.
That put both of them well within range. Sylar smiled in a way he hadn’t in over three years and lit up the night with a barrage of lightning. Twitching, charred, and dying, the last two flopped spasmodically on the ground for a few moments before stilling and stiffening up.
Nick fitted another bolt in his crossbow before turning to face Sylar, the weapon barely pointed away from him.
“Monroe, you okay? Rosalee?”
“Okay,” Rosalee said faintly, scrubbing at her mouth and spitting to get rid of the blood, her features fully human again.
“Okay, okay,” Monroe said, stepping away from the headless corpse. Sylar was extremely impressed; even he hadn’t gone in for dismemberment. No wonder at all why he’d been so fearless at letting Sylar into his home. “Nick, Nick, put the bow away, it’s all right.”
“Who the hell is he?”
“Sylar,” Sylar said. “Just passing through.”
“He helped me fix the clock tower. Nick!” Monroe said with more urgency, face relaxing back into human, an arm around Rosalee as she took steadying breaths from her long run. “Nick, he’s all right.”
“What the hell was that?” Nick demanded, nodding at the charred bodies.
“You survive your way,” Sylar looked at Nick’s crossbow, and then over at Monroe and Rosalee. “I survive mine.”
“But you’re not…” Nick trailed off, confusion coming through his tough mien. For a second he almost looked like Peter. But Peter never would have kept his aim tight. Sylar could respect that.
“I’m not someone you have to worry about,” Sylar said.
Above them, the clock tower struck ten.
Nick’s expression tightened at the sound, then relaxed again. “You did fix it.”
“Hey, I was only two minutes off!” Monroe said.
“And ten seconds,” Sylar added.
Nick actually cracked a smile. “Sounds like you’ve made yourself pretty useful.” His aim dropped more, and he nodded in gratitude. “Thanks.”
“Totally,” Monroe added. “And…” He looked down at Rosalee and they whispered together for a minute. “There’s some room on the upper levels. If, you know, you might wanna stay for a bit. Or pass through again.”
“I might do that.”
It might just be the right time. This was a place he could fix, keep going strong, try to improve. It was something he could understand. It wasn’t world-shaking, time-breaking, or special, but it was a place he could be. And people he could respect that hadn’t seen him as a monster. He smiled as he looked over at Monroe and Rosalee, then Nick with his crossbow in his hands and dagger at his hip. Maybe here he could be the right kind of monster.
Monroe & Gabriel Gray are rival clock and watch repair dudes who both have dangerous beasts hiding inside them