Art: Love and War Stories Movie Poster
Characters/Pairing: Luke/Elle, Matt/Mohinder, implied past Luke/Mohinder, implied past Luke/Sylar, implied past Sylar/Elle, also includes Molly, Micah, Hiro, Ando, Monica, Eric Doyle, West, Alex, Peter, Nathan, Noah Bennet, Angela, Claire
Word Count: 31,880
Spoilers: Specifically up through 3x15 “Trust and Blood” and brings in some chosen canon elements up through 3x23 “1961.”
Warnings: Violence, sexual situations (see pairings and implied pairings), implied abuse, character death, and bogarting of canon.
Disclaimer: Heroes is owned by Tim Kring, NBC, et al.
Notes: Written for heroes_bigboom 2009. This a sequel to Killing with Kindness, and much of it won’t make sense unless you’ve read that story! Thanks to redandglenda, brighteyed_jill, and ashedrake for betaing.
Summary: After being rescued by Mohinder, Luke joins up with a group of rebels led by Peter Petrelli. Luke finds himself intrigued by another damaged rebel, Elle, as all the rebels struggle to free other specials, hide from the hunters, and keep themselves sane. But when an unexpected turn of events have things going from bad to worse, Peter realizes the rebels will have to enlist the help of the strongest special any of them knows. By making a deal with the devil, can the rebels stop the war and manage to keep themselves from turning into monsters? Can the rebels hold onto what's good in their lives throughout this time of war?
Peter stumbled to an ungraceful landing, barely catching himself from tumbling to the cracked pavement of the parking lot. He clutched the nearby chain-link fence and clung until he had his breath back. Nathan’s flight might let him cross the country in less than ten minutes, but after doing it a dozen times, ferrying freed specials to safe houses, he was exhausted.
“Peter?” He jerked around at the sound of his name and immediately regretted it as his back spasmed up. Yes, twelve passenger flights was definitely his limit.
“Matt?” he whispered. Matt Parkman beckoned from the shadows, and Peter gratefully stumbled into the darkness beside him as Matt checked behind him for any sign of pursuit. “How did you know where I was?”
“Molly,” Matt said shortly, and nodded at Peter to get moving. Peter hid a grin behind his fatigue. Matt had been so certain Molly had been safe with Mohinder’s mother in India that he had been understandably surprised to have found her quietly running a country-wide rebellion with Micah Sanders a couple months back. For Micah, getting Molly a private plane ticket back to New York had been a cinch. It hadn’t been easy on Matt or Mohinder, having her this close to the action, but neither of them wanted to send their “daughter” away again.
“I thought she’d be asleep by now,” Peter said, blinking hard to get his eyes to focus.
“She wanted to make sure ‘uncle Peter’ was all right. Come on, you don’t look so good,” Matt urged.
“I don’t feel so good,” Peter grumbled, and let Matt lead him into a nearby battered apartment building. Up one flight of stairs and down at the end of the hall, Matt knocked on the door to number thirteen.
After a long minute, there was the snick of no less than three locks, and then the rattle of a chain, finally cracking to reveal a short, fit young black woman who looked at Peter warily. Behind her was the dark, curly-haired mop of Micah Sanders.
“Wow,” he said, staring at Peter with wide eyes.
“Hello to you too,” Peter said in greeting, and let Matt steer him inside. Peter knew full well he looked like he’d just been dragged through the seven circles of hell facedown, and didn’t really want to have to discuss it with a twelve-year-old. Even if that twelve-year-old was basically the founder of the organized rebellion.
Matt was abruptly tackled by Molly before they got five steps inside the door, and Peter took the opportunity to collapse on the couch. He thought he might have passed out for a second, because the next thing he knew, Molly was tugging on his sleeve, a glass of water in her hand. Peter raised himself up on an elbow to drink it, and realized Micah was right behind her, laptop in hand. Behind him was the young woman he didn’t know.
“Micah’s cousin,” Matt broke in abruptly, answering Peter’s question before he could ask it. “Monica Dawson, meet Peter Petrelli.”
“Hey,” Peter offered finally, and managed a smile. One more rebel, one more fugitive who was willing to fight back. If she would rather have hidden, she wouldn’t be here, that was for certain.
“Hey,” Monica said, and smiled brightly.
“Sorry, I’m kinda out of it. Long day,” Peter explained lamely. He wanted to stand up and greet her properly, make her feel like she’d made the right choice. He was the self-appointed leader of this rebellion, but he couldn’t manage anything more than a, “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, I’m doing all right. I’ve been helping Micah and Molly for the past few months.”
Ah, that suddenly made more sense. Peter had been wondering how the kids had been more-or-less single-handedly running a quiet rebellion before he, Matt, and some of the others had managed to get their act together. As Rebel, Micah and Molly had been able to find specials incredibly quickly, even those who were already off the grid, and had helped rescue them even without Peter or Mohinder’s help…
“Do you have an ability?” Peter asked cautiously.
“Yes. Dr. Suresh called it adaptive muscle memory-.”
“Once she sees something done, she can do it,” Micah piped up. Monica nodded, holding up an iPod that was currently running some kung-fu film.
“Huh,” Peter said, nodding in agreement. Incredibly useful, that. No wonder Micah had managed to keep him and Molly so safe. With his electronic forewarning, Molly’s knowledge of where everyone was, and Monica’s physicality to break them out of any bad situation, they were virtually self-sufficient. “Cool.”
Monica smiled, now with a tinge of sadness, and helped Peter pull himself upright. Peter wondered who she’d lost to put that expression on her face. They’d all lost someone; that was why they were all in this together.
“We have a list,” Micah said as Peter got up, and waved at his computer. “Everyone on the database so far: who’s free, who’s not, who we’ve contacted already, and who’s going to fight-.”
“Fantastic!” Peter exclaimed, fatigue momentarily forgotten.
“It’s not as many as we’d hoped for,” Matt warned. “Most of them are like those people you were transporting tonight. They just want to hide until this goes away.”
Peter gritted his teeth in frustration. “This isn’t going to go away,” he said tightly. “This won’t stop until someone makes it stop!”
Until he forced Nathan to make it stop. God, why did everyone have to be so stubborn? Nathan wouldn’t admit he was wrong, Peter wouldn’t forgive him, and Peter’s strongest and most steadfast allies right now consisted of two twelve-year-old kids, a college-age girl, and one thirty-odd ex-cop.
“Then we’ll have to convince them!” Micah said. Molly stood by his shoulder, and both of them looked determined enough to march out there right now and start knocking on doors. Peter’s eyes slid over to Matt briefly.
“No. Don’t even ask. Either people get into this with both eyes open, or they stay hidden,” Matt said flatly.
“Ok.” Peter breathed out in relief. “Ok, I hear you.”
“Hey, I don’t blame you. I think we all want people to wake up, but you know we can’t force it,” Monica said, putting her hand on Micah’s shoulder.
Peter took a few deep breaths and nodded. He’d been running himself ragged since the plane crash two months ago, and certain little things like morals, compassion, and common sense were starting to elude him. He needed sleep before he said something that would give the others an even lower opinion of him that they already had; but that would have to wait for at least five more minutes. Summoning his last wind, he nodded at Micah.
“Ok. Got it. Who’s on the list?” Peter asked.
Micah handed him a printout, and Peter studied it carefully. There was shockingly little to study really: less than a dozen names.
“That’s it?” Peter asked softly. Micah nodded sadly. “Damn. What about Tracy? I thought she’d want to fight for sure.”
“I asked. She said no,” Micah shrugged. “She just wants to get away from all of this. She hates running, or at least that’s what she said in her e-mail. I was gonna ask if you would help hide her tomorrow.”
Peter ran a shaking hand over his face. The list of potential rebels was short, and full of people who would have wildly conflicting personalities. On the one hand, they probably didn’t need to add Tracy’s volatile, selfish antics to the mix. On the other, she was a very determined person, and her ability could come in damn useful for any number of situations.
“I’ll talk to her before I get her to safety. Maybe if she hears it in person, she’ll change her mind,” Peter said wearily.
“Maybe. It can’t hurt,” Matt said with a hopeful shrug. “Peter, we’re going to move up to the safe house in a week. Hiro has it all set up. It should take the others just a few days to get there. Mohinder will meet us there once he’s sure he isn’t being followed. He thinks this Luke guy will be willing to join up.”
Peter nodded once, and leaned back down on the couch, his momentary burst of energy exhausted. Fatigue was pulling at him like a lead weight. “Wake me if we’re under attack or something,” he said, and didn’t go to sleep so much as pass out. And for once he was too tired to dream of his brother.
“Where are we going?” Luke asked. Mohinder had been driving them steadily westward for the better part of the day, constantly checking his mirrors and the sides of the road as if expecting trouble. Since that had been exactly what Sylar had done, Luke had fallen into the routine without a single question. It was only after lunch that he’d remembered Mohinder wouldn’t strike him or say something cutting if he asked a question. It always took Luke a few hours each morning to remember that he didn’t have to conform to Sylar’s rules anymore.
“To meet some of my friends,” Mohinder said. “I wanted to give you options.” Mohinder seemed hesitant to add anything after that.
Luke sighed, and asked the question. “What kind of options?”
“The government is capturing everyone with abilities and imprisoning them-,” Mohinder started.
“Duh,” Luke said, rolling his eyes. “I kinda got personal experience with that.”
“Some of those being captured are being executed,” Mohinder continued flatly. Luke had no snappy comeback for that. “Some people are just trying to stay hidden. Others who have been identified we’ve helped rescue from government custody and provided new identities for them. If the specials stay below the radar, they can sometimes stay safe. And some of us are fighting back. We’re rescuing other specials, incapacitating agents, and disrupting their operation as much as possible.”
“Ok, so what about me?” Luke asked, wanting to get to the point.
“What do you want to do Luke? I can get you a new identity here and help you find a place to hide. If you avoid drawing attention to yourself, you should be all right for a while. You could strike out on your own, if you want to. I could help you there. Or… you could join us and fight.”
Luke stared at Mohinder for a second. Hide like a little bitch or fry some of those bozo agents. Was that actually a choice?
“I’ll fight, man,” Luke said with a feral grin. He couldn’t wait to get back at those government jerks…
“It’s more about rescuing people than revenge,” Mohinder said quietly. “Every time an agent dies or gets hurt because of someone with an ability, things get worse for all of us.”
Luke stared at the dashboard for a long time.
You have to care what happens to you.
“I’ll fight,” Luke repeated, dropping the bloodthirsty edge in his voice. Yeah, he wanted the agents to pay. He bet the agents wanted the same from him, after what happened to Agent Simmons. He clenched one hand into a fist, fear curdling his stomach. Was getting revenge worth having a shoot-to-kill order out on him?
“It won’t be easy. We have some resources, but we rebels don’t exactly have an easy life-.” Mohinder abruptly cut himself off as Luke rolled his eyes. Luke’s life was sort of the definition of not easy. “Sorry.”
“’S ok,” Luke muttered. Mohinder, at least, wasn’t saying this kind of stuff deliberately to hurt him. In some ways, he reminded Luke of the science nerds at school, full of information and mostly lacking in social skills.
“If you want to fight, then I’m going to take you to meet Peter,” Mohinder said, quickly moving on. In an odd way, it was a relief that Luke’s life up until now had been so hard; at least he was not offended when Mohinder forgot to be perfectly tactful.
“Who’s he, the brains of the operation?” Luke asked.
Mohinder smiled. “Not really.”
“Oh duh, you are, right? Scientist and stuff?”
Mohinder felt his smile get brittle. “No. I’m a geneticist, like I said. My work either consists of long conversations with people and their families to find out their genetic history so I can track the pattern of genetic changes, which is frankly useless in tracking abilities, or it’s doing chromosomal mapping to look for mutations, which requires a great deal of time and some very delicate equipment. We have neither.”
Luke started to look bored, and Mohinder hastened to clarify his answer to the original question. “Micah, Molly, and Matt do virtually all of our intelligence. I’m actually the muscle of the operation.” The twist of fate that had led him from the path of brilliant geneticist to bruiser made that statement come out far more bitter than he had intended. “Peter… he’s the heart. He keeps our spirits up, keeps us going. He drives us on.”
“Huh,” was all Luke had to say to that.
Peter touched down a good ten blocks away from Tracy’s apartment, hiding himself amidst the debris in a vacant lot, checking around at all levels until he was pretty sure he wasn’t about to be ambushed. He sighed in relief; he was alone. Pulling a hat out to push low over his head, and shoving his hands in his pockets, Peter began to walk briskly.
Even if he were captured, at least Matt was on the way to a safe house with the real rebels. As long as Micah, Molly, and Monica were free, the resistance would continue. Those kids had managed to do more good in a few months than Peter felt he had done in years. That was part of the reason he was driving himself almost into exhaustion every day, in an attempt to match, in some small way, the fact that they had willingly, voluntarily, taken on more of a burden than anyone would have expected them to bear. And they bore it without complaint, indeed sometimes with cheer.
Next to that, a little exhaustion was nothing.
Checking behind him again and again, Peter managed to get to Tracy’s door without being followed. He knocked, and then quickly stepped to one side, just in case. Looking down, Peter saw the doorknob begin to smoke with the onset of bitter cold, and instinctively pulled his hands into his sleeves.
“It’s Peter,” he whispered harshly. The doorknob stopped smoking, and after several long minutes, the door opened.
Tracy peered out warily, her long blonde hair tied back in a messy bundle, her clothes shapeless and haphazard, her blue eyes angry and frightened. Seeing him, she opened the door just enough to admit him, locking it firmly behind him.
“Where’s my new identity?” she demanded, keeping her voice low. “There’ve been people sniffing around; I can’t stay here long.”
Peter fumbled for the packet of papers Micah had given him this morning, his heart starting to sink. Maybe this had been a mistake. Tracy sounded even more uncooperative in person than she had on the phone.
“You can still change your mind,” Peter said softly, handing Tracy her packet. She snatched it from his hands and quickly flipped through it with the expertise that had come from years in politics.
“I don’t think so. All I want is to get out of this freak-show, and putting myself on the government’s Most Wanted list isn’t going to help,” Tracy said sharply. “I appreciate you guys smuggling me away from the plane wreck, but my answer is final.”
“We could use your help, and you have to admit that it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have other eyes looking out for government agents right?” Peter tried again.
“I can take care of myself,” Tracy said, and rolled her eyes as she took a look at her new address. “Alaska? Nice choice. You could have least put me in Vail or Aspen.”
“The last place we want you is somewhere where people will recognize you. Sorry, Tracy, but it was Alaska or Canada,” Peter said apologetically. Mentally though, he was congratulating Micah on his choice. Alaska was a very safe choice, that wasn’t a lie, but it was so remote for a high-powered political player like Tracy that she might be willing to pick the rebels over exile.
Scowling, Tracy shuffled her papers together and shoved them into a duffle bag on the floor. Heaving it onto her shoulder, she started to push past Peter.
“Thanks,” she said bitterly. “Let’s get going.”
“Where?” Peter asked, hoping against hope.
“Alaska, where the fuck else?” she almost snarled.
“Tracy, you could be there for the rest of your life unless we get lucky. We’re trying to do the best we can, but we could really use your help. Please,” Peter begged, putting his hand on her shoulder.
Tracy hesitated, looking back over her shoulder at her empty apartment, devoid of anything like her former life, lacking everything she’d ever worked for in the past ten years. Then she looked at Peter, gray with exhaustion, desperately pleading for her help, having just told her he was exiling her to Alaska to keep her safe. Tracy Strauss had always been good at assessing the best option for herself.
“Take me to Alaska,” she said. Pausing, she added softly, “Good luck anyway, ok?”
“If we’re lucky, we shouldn’t have more than a week of traveling left,” Mohinder said wearily, setting his bag down on the motel bed. Luke followed suit, cracking his neck casually. He figured he should be nervous about meeting these rebels, but couldn’t get worked up about it. At least not when it wasn’t an immediate concern.
“Are you doing all right?” Mohinder asked, almost entirely out of the blue.
Luke glanced over at him, curious and wary. He still kept expecting to be hit, even though Mohinder had never laid a single finger on him without Luke’s express permission. In Luke’s experience, questions had to be answered, or something bad would happen. With his mom, non-answers got exasperated sighs or yelling. With Sylar, non-answers usually ended up with a telekinetic punch to the gut.
“Ok, I guess,” Luke said with a shrug. “Why?”
Luke’s wariness wasn’t just reflexive, not entirely. He just had no friggin’ idea of how to act around Mohinder half the time. How the hell did you act around someone who didn’t want anything from you? Every night since him and Mohinder had gone at it, he’d wanted to repeat the experience, but he wasn’t quite sure how to ask. One thing he didn’t want to do was parade around like a whore, like he had for Sylar. Not when Mohinder seemed to have a higher opinion of him than anyone else ever had. Not when Mohinder would wake Luke up from his nightmares, and sometimes hold him through the aftermath of his fears.
“I just wanted to make sure,” Mohinder said, and ran his hand through his hair nervously. He looked like he was working his way up to saying something. “Luke… I want to talk to you about something, but I’m honestly no good at this and I don’t want to say something wrong.”
“I’m guessing it’s not about chromosomal mapping,” Luke muttered, quipping to cover nervousness. Mohinder laughed heartily at that, and Luke found himself smiling. It was weirdly nice to be around someone who laughed at his jokes instead of just staring in stony silence.
“No, I’m afraid not. It’s about you and me,” Mohinder said quickly. “I do like you, please know that was never in doubt. It’s just that we’re less than a week out from the safe house, and Matt will be there.”
The way Mohinder said “Matt,” allowed Luke to fill in pieces of the puzzle immediately. An old boyfriend maybe, someone else he cared about, probably more than Luke. Luke’s reflex of thinking of himself as a victim kicked in along with came the usual wash of jealousy, of being second best, the convenient fuck in between steadies. Slower came a newer part of him, pointing out Mohinder had just fucking said he didn’t want to hurt Luke. Clamping down on the jealousy, Luke nodded tersely.
“So, who’s Matt?” he asked shortly.
“We were living together for about eight months, him and me and Molly, his ward. We became friends… and then more than that. It… was a first for both of us. Then things started getting out of hand. Matt had to confront his father and went on an unscheduled trip, I started my experiments, and things pretty much fell apart until after the plane crash. I didn’t even know if I was still… worthy of anything he’d given me. I didn’t know if I was still capable of being kind, not after what I’d done. I thought no one would ever trust me again.
“When I realized what Sylar had done to you, I thought I had at least one more chance of making amends. I wanted to help you, because you made me realize I could still be a good person. If I could be that… then perhaps I could look Matt and Molly in the eyes again, and not want to hide.”
Luke just stared at Mohinder, taken completely aback. That was like… a total Hallmark Channel moment right there, was his first thought. His second pointed out that it didn’t make it any less true. Luke hadn’t realized he was the only person to have ever felt like he’d fucked up beyond all sense and reason. Except Mohinder was trying to do something about it. And Luke was part of that becoming not fucked up.
Either Mohinder was on to something, or he was insane. One of the two.
“Please… say something?” Mohinder pleaded.
Luke wrapped his arms around himself and sat on the bed. It wasn’t the first time he’d had a Serious Conversation, but it was the first time someone actually meant for it to be a conversation, and not just him being talked at.
“So… you don’t want to have sex anymore?” Luke blurted out, just asking the first thing that came to his mind. He mentally kicked himself a second later.
Mohinder blushed, but sat down next to Luke and hugged him hard.
“I like you, I do,” Mohinder repeated. “And I want you to be able to choose who you want. Everyone deserves to be able to make that choice.”
Choices again. The first big decision Luke had ever made for himself was to go with Sylar. Mohinder had been slowly trying to cure him of his gun-shyness in choosing what Luke wanted, but it still gave him a faint flicker of panic.
“Do you-?” Luke started, and took a deep breath. Maybe he could delay making a choice for himself until he was knew what his choices were. “You want Matt?”
“I need to talk to him, and I don’t know if he’ll understand… well, anything I’ve been doing for the past half-year.”
Which was a yes, Luke thought, taking in a hard breath. He didn’t know what to do.
“Who else is gonna be there?” Luke asked.
“A few people closer to your age, some mine, some far older or younger,” Mohinder said vaguely. “I didn’t get the exact details, but all of us are in this together. Everyone there is at least going to be looking for a friend.”
That wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, and it sure didn’t sound like Luke was going to find someone like Mohinder, though no one there could possibly be as bad as his dad, or Sylar. Mohinder sure wasn’t going to go away either…
“Ok. I’ll… I’ll try,” Luke said finally, and felt rewarded when Mohinder smiled at him.
Peter touched down outside the safe house, the new headquarters for the rebellion, and tried to keep his feet. He’d deliberately delayed his return for a few days, not just because he’d had to fly Tracy to an obscure little town in Alaska, but because he didn’t dare be anything less than fully alert when he met the rest of the rebels. This was no time for his exhausted ramblings; he had to be The Leader.
Taking a deep breath, he walked up to the door, trying not to break pace when Matt opened it before he could knock.
“Hey, glad to see you. Everyone’s here,” Matt said, looking relieved. He turned to the crowd in the main room, waving Peter to the front of the room with a peculiar sense of ceremony.
For a moment, Peter tried to remember what Nathan would do in a situation like this, how he would present himself, make the most of his authority to cow or charm the crowd as needed… Then he stopped himself. He wasn’t Nathan, and here of all places, he couldn’t be anything like Nathan.
“Hey,” Peter said, feeling very vulnerable as everyone suddenly stared at him. In the back of the room, Matt smiled encouragingly, and in the corner, Micah, Molly, and Monica were looking attentive.
“Thank you for helping us. You guys are the only ones that wanted to fight alongside us,” Peter said finally. “We’re going to be working as hard as we can to free anyone that’s been captured. I don’t want to hurt anyone if we can help it. Sometimes we’re going to help people relocate so they don’t get captured. That’s about the long and the short of what we’re doing.”
Peter tried to lock eyes with everyone once, trying to gauge reactions. Hiro, still tragically powerless, was nevertheless the first person to say yes when Micah has asked. He’d come to help with his determination, a sword, and the full backing of the Nakamura fortune. Whatever else the American government and Peter’s own father had managed to do to Hiro, they hadn’t been able to freeze the assets of the Yamagato Corporation. It was Hiro (or more specifically, his sister Kimiko), who was helping fund the rebels, saving Micah’s technological wizardry for other things. But Peter would have been glad to have Hiro even if he’d come without financial resources. Hiro never, ever quit, and Peter couldn’t have hoped for a better person to help keep them all focused on doing the right thing.
His friend Ando, newly empowered, had gone where Hiro went, considering himself a practical constraint on Hiro’s enthusiasm. He’d try to keep Hiro from doing too much, and his supercharging power would let the limited number of rebels do more than the government could plan for, if necessary.
The next two guys were people who had come at Claire’s recommendation. Peter’s niece had a free pass, one Nathan had given her for some selfish reason, but Claire had been ruthlessly using her special status to help funnel fleeing specials into hiding or rebellion. One of the guys was West Rosen, who’d been at Costa Verde High School with her. Cynical about the government, and very dismissive of the system, he hadn’t taken any real persuasion to join up with the rebels. His power of flight was a godsend for Peter. Now he could afford to use someone else’s power if the need arose, and not permanently lose the ability to fly people out of danger.
The other guy was Alex Woolsey, who honestly just wanted his normal life back. Somehow Claire had managed to convince him to fight, and Peter was glad to have him. Alex managed to be the most normal person here, despite having an ability, and in a weird way, he represented every special in hiding, every person they were fighting for. Peter privately doubting his ability to breathe underwater would ever come in handy, but if Claire said Alex could handle the pressure of being a rebel, then he had to believe her.
Peter suppressed a shudder when he caught Eric Doyle’s amused gaze. He’d heard plenty from Claire about the puppet master, and some of the files Micah had pulled up on him made Peter sick; he’d forbidden Micah and Molly from reading them. Eric had been in Level Five containment for a very good reason, but now he was out, and inexplicably willing to help the rebels. He’d said he was tired of running, tired of being caged, and just wanted the freedom to start up his puppet theater again… Peter wouldn’t have believed him for a second, if Matt hadn’t vouched for him. Thank God for telepathy, Peter thought fervently. At least they wouldn’t have to deal with double agents.
The last person shouldn’t have even been here. By all rights, she should be dead. Elle Bishop shouldn’t have survived Sylar’s very violent way of saying good-bye; cutting into her skull and setting her on fire. By some miracle, a couple on the beach had seen her funeral pyre and managed to get her to the hospital. By another miracle, she’d managed to get the best possible medical care, under her Company medical insurance. By a third miracle, she’d not only managed to survive, but had a lot less damage to show for it than she’d had a right to hope. Elle knew she was out of miracles, out of options, and had no more resources to fall back on. If Peter hadn’t asked her to join the rebels, she would have clawed her way in. She might still be crazy, Peter thought, but at least her somewhat twisted upbringing hadn’t ever included the phrase, “I can’t handle it.”
“When do we start?” Hiro asked simply.
“That’s your plan to bring down the government?” West asked incredulously.
“What do you want me to do?” Elle demanded.
Peter closed his eyes for a second, tried to see things from everyone’s point of view, and opened them to fix everyone with a frank gaze.
“We’re going to work together, starting right now, because the one thing the government is expecting us to do is all go running around on our own. We’re going to bring down this program by doing exactly the opposite of what they expect us to do. Together,” Peter said.
Slowly, warily, people started to nod, and Peter leaned forward to share his first plan.
It was close to ten p.m. when Mohinder and Luke pulled up behind the rebel base. Which, Luke thought, looked sort of like the cheap motels they’d been staying in for the past two weeks. Mohinder got out of the car without a word, looking rather distracted. Luke followed him to the room on the end of the row. A swift knock on the door brought out a tall, heavyset man with dark hair out from around the corner.
“Mohinder, thank God, I didn’t know if you were going to make it tonight.” The man stepped up to briefly embrace Mohinder with familiar warmth, while Luke scowled reflexively.
“Molly knew where I was.”
“I know, I just…”
“Worry, I know. It’s ok. Matt, this is Luke.”
Luke had been looking back and forth between them, picking up on a definite “old married couple” vibe. Yeah, Mohinder probably wasn’t going to have any problems getting together with his ex.
“Luke,” Matt said evenly, nodding his head, and declining to shake hands. “Glad you’re joining us. Let’s get inside.” Looking around quickly, Matt unlocked the door and waved them inside the rebel base.
The base actually was a motel, a fairly crappy one by all respects. Inside, it had been half-gutted, some rooms combined and walls knocked out to make a meeting room and somewhere to cook food. The rest of the rooms seemed to be more or less intact. The place smelled like cheap coffee and nervous sweat. The main room was filled with cheap, little fold-down chairs haphazardly scattered on the crappy floral carpet.
If this was supposed to be the headquarters of the resistance, Luke wasn’t impressed. Even the people scattered around the room didn’t seem very impressive. There weren’t any guns, knives, or propaganda posters, nothing that looked remotely dangerous. Hell, there were kids over in the corner, fiddling around on computers.
“This is it?” Luke asked. Mohinder nodded, not without a sympathetic grimace. He seemed to get how pathetic this all looked.
“Mohinder!” The brown-haired girl in the corner hopped up and hurled herself at them, all but tackling Mohinder into a hug.
“Missed you!” she said, unburying her face from his stomach.
“You always knew where I was,” Mohinder said gently, hugging her back and stroking her hair.
“Yeah, and you were far away,” she said, pulling back to put her hands on her hips. Mohinder was struggling not to smile.
“Well, I’m here to stay for a while,” he promised, and the girl softened enough to hug him again. “Ah Molly, this is Luke Campbell,” Mohinder added quickly.
The girl looked up at Luke curiously, staring like she was trying to memorize his face.
“Luke Campbell, Luke Campbell, Luke Campbell,” she repeated softly, as if trying to remember something. “Ok, got it. Hi!”
Luke stared at her for a long moment. What the hell had that been about?
“Hi,” Molly repeated impatiently, holding out a hand. Belatedly Luke remembered how to shake hands.
“Uh… hi,” he said. He was at a loss for words; he hadn’t talked to a child in a long time, and just blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Is there anything to eat?”
“Sure! Come on, it’s over here.”
Luke followed her over to the “kitchen,” such as it was, and found himself plied with some kind of stew. Whatever. It was warm and didn’t taste like total crap, so it would do.
Molly ran a bowl over to the curly-haired boy at the computers, leaving Luke alone to eat in silence. Most of the people were shooting him sideways glances, but no one had come over yet. One guy, ugly, fat, and balding, looked older than Luke’s mom. One younger guy, brown-haired, dark-eyed, and arrogant-looking, was maybe a high school senior. Another guy with glasses and dark hair was probably in college. There was a short black girl and a pale blonde in the corner who were the same age. None of them had really looked at him yet. Maybe they didn’t want to meet him. Maybe they already knew what he’d done. Maybe they hated him-.
Luke suddenly heard Mohinder’s words in his head. You have to care about yourself.
Luke looked at the others again under the cover of his bowl. Maybe they had reasons for not wanting to talk to him right now. Maybe they were waiting for their fearless leader before they officially introduced themselves. These people were apparently going to be his new buddies. Fellow rebels. He wondered if they were all freaks like him. Like Sylar. Like Mohinder…
“What do you do?”
Luke nearly jumped out of his skin when Molly suddenly returned and flopped herself down on the chair next to his.
“Wha?” Luke managed.
“Your ability. Your power,” she clarified. “Micah knows, but he’s busy, so I thought I’d ask.”
“You have a power?”
“I find people. I just think of their name or face and I know where they are.”
Luke had a suddenly reckless desire to see if she could find Sylar. Quickly he shoved it aside, and foundered about for some kind of answer.
“I- uh…” Luke began.
“Molly!” the curly-haired kid called. “Can you help me?”
“Ok, ok. That’s Micah,” she added quickly. “Talk to you later!”
Under the cover of his bowl, Luke watched the two kids. Despite their youth, everyone that passed by seemed to treat them and the black girl (whose name was Monica, he discovered after eavesdropping a bit) with some respect. Like they were in charge or something. It was weird.
Across the room, Mohinder and Matt were in some involved conversation, and everyone else was either talking quietly with each other or sitting in silence. After several long minutes, Molly abruptly looked up.
“Clear on scanners,” Micah reported absently.
Matt looked up, getting a faraway look in his eye. “We’re clear.”
The door opened to reveal a dark-haired guy with a thin face, his black jacket zipped all the way up. He was maybe a couple years younger than Mohinder, and very pretty, but also looked exhausted.
“Well?” Matt asked.
“They wouldn’t go. I tried. I gave them your papers, Micah, but they just wouldn’t go. It- I just warned them,” he said, hanging his head.
“You did your best, I know,” Mohinder said sympathetically. “Are you all right?”
“Tired. Just- Who’s he?” Peter asked.
“I’m Luke.” Standing up, Luke answered for himself. He was tired of being the kid people had to drag along, even if was for a good reason this time. If he was going to fight, if he was going to prove he belonged here, then he didn’t need to be introduced like an inconvenient relative.
“Peter,” the man said by way of introduction, stumbling slightly as he leaned over to shake Luke’s hand, looking him square in the eye. “I’m glad you came.”
Luke shook Peter’s hand, feeling confused. Peter actually sounded one hundred percent sincere about it, which felt… odd. Good, but odd.
“I’m kinda dead right now, sorry. I’ve really got to sit down for a bit. Hey, everyone, this is Luke. Let him know who you are at some point.” Peter took a deep breath, and swayed on his feet. “Let’s pack it in people. Watches as normal.”
As if they’d been waiting for Peter to make any kind of move, the rebels began to slowly make their way to their rooms, the dark-haired guy and the black girl lingering by the computers.
“Hey, I’m Monica, and that’s Alex,” the girl said, after she’d caught Luke’s attention. She smiled sympathetically at him. “We’re on first watch. Don’t worry, you’ll end up on one eventually, but tonight you get to sleep in.”
Luke blinked at them in confusion.
“We take turns on watch so the hunters can’t sneak up on us,” Alex elaborated, tapping the computers. Luke could see the screens showed feeds from dozens of security cameras. Alex wearily took off his glasses and rubbed at the bridge of his nose as the other rebels drifted towards their rooms.
“That guy’s West,” Alex said, pointing at the guy Luke’s age. “The older guy is Eric. Don’t talk to him. Seriously, just don’t.”
West, Luke noted, clearly had “arrogant jerk” written all over him, and Eric seemed like the kind of guy you’d meet in a very seedy bar and immediately regret encountering. The blonde had managed to vanish before introducing herself, much to Luke’s regret.
“Who’s the-?” Luke started to ask about the blonde when Mohinder suddenly appeared at his elbow.
“Luke,” Mohinder said softly, nodding briefly at Monica and Alex. He pointed Luke in the direction of a room at the end of the hall beyond the common room. “That room is yours.” Luke was about to voice a question when Mohinder smiled at him tentatively, and entered a different room with Matt. Tightening his jaw, Luke walked down the hall and pushed open the door to his room. To his non-surprise, he had the room to himself.
Mohinder had been grateful beyond reason when Matt had calmly accepted that Mohinder would share his room. He’d been even more touched when he saw Matt hadn’t moved in a second bed, or a cot for Mohinder to sleep in. For the first time in months, Mohinder had slept the entire night, lulled by the warmth of Matt beside him, of his heavy arm slung over him.
But no amount of graceful, quiet understanding was going to put off the two of them having a serious conversation the next morning. Matt was owed some answers, and Mohinder had to give them. As soon as they were both properly awake with coffee, Matt had dragged Mohinder to the little office off the main room, so the rest of the rebels, now awake and struggling to find breakfast, couldn’t interrupt them.
“Mohinder, what did you do?” Matt asked with trepidation, and no preamble. Mohinder’s hesitation and brief glance over to Luke probably told Matt even more than anything he might have mentally overheard. There was no use trying to prevaricate on what deeds Matt was asking about; it was clear from his face.
“Jesus,” Matt swore. “Mohinder, you’re nearly twice his age. He’s seventeen; that’s below the age of consent in some states.”
“That didn’t stop Sylar,” Mohinder said sharply, not wanting to hurt, but needing Matt to understand. “Read my mind Matt. Tell me if I took advantage of an uncertain child or offered comfort to an abused young man.”
Matt looked positively green, and also ashamed. He pulled Mohinder further inside so they could barely be seen from the other room. “I’m not going to go digging through your brain, ok? Sorry, this just came as a shock. Just… tell me what happened,” Matt coaxed, looking troubled.
“He thought he had to pay,” Mohinder said flatly. In his mind he saw Luke parading himself in the hotel room, presenting everything he had to offer with the businesslike swagger of a prostitute. “He thought it was normal to pay for food and lodgings with whatever I demanded of him. He was actually nervous and upset when I told him he didn’t have to do that. He thought something was wrong with him, or me. Sylar taught him that. Sylar, and the rest of his life.”
Matt’s lips thinned in anger, but now it wasn’t directed at Mohinder. This was Officer Parkman, uncovering an injustice.
“He’d never been kissed, never had any kind of intimacy in any way other than payment, pain, and humiliation. I just wanted to help him, to show him it didn’t have to be that way after what Sylar had done with him. I’m sorry I… I never meant to hurt you Matt,” Mohinder said softly, uncertainty and a hint of fear in his voice. From the other side of it, it had to look so strange, and never mind that Matt could read Mohinder’s intentions.
“Mohinder… I… yeah, I see what you were doing and if… it had to be someone, I’m glad it was you. But how’s he… I mean, are we…?” Matt started to pull away, and Mohinder reached out to him.
Mohinder touched the side of Matt’s face, leading them into a familiar kiss, relaxing and reaffirming what they’d built up together so many months ago, and had let go in the face of reckless experimentation, unexpected travel, new loves, and forced loyalties.
No more steps backward, I swear, Mohinder thought fiercely, and he knew Matt heard him. A simple offer of comfort between them when they’d started living together had become so much more. Mohinder had found he didn’t want to let that go. Being with Luke had been for all the reasons Mohinder had said, and also for more. To prove to himself that he could still be kind, that he was still capable of affection after what he’d done to himself.
Neither Matt nor Mohinder let go until something had tentatively fallen back into place, reestablished by touch, glance, and thought. Matt let him go reluctantly, both of them knowing they had a new place to start from, as fragile as it was.
“So where does this leave Luke?” Matt whispered. “You’re the best thing that’s happened to him.”
“He knows about you and me; I explained it as best I could. I was hoping he’d be able to find someone else. He’s a brat, but I think he’s a decent enough person underneath. I don’t think he’ll ever be a Peter Petrelli, but he’s definitely going to be more than what everyone else assumed he would become.”
Matt halted Mohinder for a second and looked over his shoulder into the other room. “He’s uh… talking to Elle,” he reported.
Mohinder put one hand over his face. “Well, this is going to be a disaster.”