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Nor Dark-Hulled Ships

Title: Nor Dark-Hulled Ships
Fandom: Heroes
Pairing: Petrelli.
Summary: The first thing Nathan feels is relief. Spoilers through 1.19 "0.7%". (D)




"But the power of destiny is something awesome; neither wealth, nor Ares, nor a tower, nor dark-hulled ships might escape it." -Sophocles

###

The first thing you feel isn't the shock, or the overpowering grief, nor anger or guilt -- those things come later, after the first second or two of staring at your brother's body. ("Come home," Ma had said, when she called you, "it's-- it's Peter," and there was a sharply painful quality to her voice that you'd never heard before, that told you very clearly that something was badly, badly wrong.)

The first thing you feel is relief.

Peter's dead.

Peter's dead and it wasn't you.

And then it all comes crashing down. Peter's dead. The world narrows to just that, to you and to your brother's body (cold and still in your arms and ohgodohgod this is all wrong) and a gutting pain that takes your breath away.

You hold him, and you will life back into him, which works as well as you expect (you can fly, sure, but flying doesn't do a fucking lot of good, does it, Peter?), and you feel the last bits of yourself crumble.

You hold him, and you hold onto the pain of loss, as sharp as a shard of broken glass, and yu try to forget the relief that you felt just for that one first moment.

#

In Linderman's world, it doesn't do any good to fight the future. The future comes whether you want it to or not, whether you act for it or against it; the strong inexorable tide of what-is and what-will-be sweeps by and pays no attention to what-might-have-been.

In Linderman's world, everyone has a part to play. And you will play your role, whether you want to or not, whether you are even aware of it.

In Linderman's world, people need hope, but they trust fear. And so he gives them fear, and gives them hope, and gives them just enough enlightenment that they can play their roles as they should.

In Linderman's world, everything is as he says it is.

In your world, here, now, Linderman is wrong.

#

It's been in your mind for some time that Peter is your responsibility. Especially now; not just because you are brothers, but because you know what will happen to him. To your family. To New York.

But the city, she's your your responsibility too. 0.7% of the world's population may not mean much to the world, but it means a hell of a lot to New York, where all the damage will be done.

It occurs to you, late one night, that that there is a very simple way to make sure that Peter doesn't destroy the city: as far as you can tell, he's alive when he goes nuclear, which probably means he has to be alive in order to do it. It's a simple matter of logic: A if and only if B means that you can prevent B by preventing A.

It won't save Peter, but it'll save New York, and maybe you can't save Peter anyway.

You don't sleep at all, that night, and the open bottle of scotch is lower when dawn comes.

#

Letting go of Peter -- of Peter's body, you remind yourself, because, because (and you don't finish the thought, can't finish it) -- is the hardest thing you've done, somehow. You've felt broken from the moment you saw him lying there. It's like your whole self is made of glass; Peter's recent issues have been creating tiny flaws, and your own doubts have made it worse, and Ma's phone call sent a shiver of cracks spidering through you, so that when you saw it, when it was real, there was nothing else you could do but shatter. Holding Peter somehow kept you together, but Ma says, "Let the girl have her moment," in a voice that you can't disobey.

She leaves the room, and after a long moment, you do too, giving Claire the space she needs, the space you both need. When you approach her, Ma embraces you, holds you, strokes your hair as though you were a child again, and her touch is gentle, for all the rigid calmness in her voice and face. She isn't crying, isn't grieving, and a part of you wonders how she can be so goddamn cold about the whole thing; this is her son, this is Peter--

"He isn't supposed to die this way," you say again, a whisper, clinging to that statement as though it had the strength to counter reality.

"Don't be absurd." Ma's voice is quiet, so Claire won't hear it, but it's still razor-sharp with just a hint of annoyance behind it. You raise your head and blink at her, because that's not what you expected.

(Later, looking back on that moment, on the words she used and the edge in her voice, you wonder. You can fly, when you let yourself; Peter can fly, and regenerate, and other things, god only knows what; you wonder if Ma has something that she hasn't told you about. Like knowing how her sons are going to die -- which wouldn't be that great of an ability, but neither is flying, really.)

At the time, all she says is, "He-- died-- saving someone's life." Which is so very much something Peter would do, and it makes you give a choked noise, part laugh and part sob, that almost covers up the spate of coughing from the other room.

Almost.

Something flickers in Ma's face when she sees Peter; something human, something she would probably consider a weakness. You look too. Can't stop looking. Peter's sitting up, Peter is alive; it's impossible, defies every sense of reality you have, but you can't not believe what you're seeing--

Peter's alive.

You can't move, can't breathe, and everything shatters again.

#

"Most of what we are is what people expect us to be," you say; and you're talking about yourself, but you're also talking about him, willing him back into the Peter you knew. "I mean, you take them away, nothing means anything."

He stops staring at the damned piece of still-bloody glass; after a moment, he looks over at you, quirks a smile. "It's a good thing I can't die then," he says, far too casually.

A stunned "What?" escapes you, not quite intentionally. It's impossible. He can die -- you saw him -- but not permanently, which is impossible, but too many things in your life right now are impossible.

"Oh, I got that from Claire." He seems almost amused by the whole thing. "She can regenerate."

Dying changed Peter. He seems too different, now, too not-Peter. Sharper, more determined, more sure of himself, less of a dreamer, less of an idealist. It worries you, just a little, if you let yourself think about it.

The spike of relief you'd felt, earlier, seeing him dead, worries you more. If you let yourself think about it. Which you don't.

Nor do you let yourself think about the weight of sheer dread you feel now, hearing his words and the implications.

#

Heidi told you once, not that long ago, that you don't ever really know the significance of something until you lose it. "And the worst bit of losing something," she'd said, "isn't just that you've don't have it right now, it's that you used to have it."

She'd been talking of her legs, you assumed, of things lost in the accident; but that was the only thing you understood. It didn't make sense. But you nodded, and made vague agreeing noises, because it was easier than the alternative.

It didn't occur to you at the time that she was talking of deeper things: hope, optimism, control.

Now you know exactly what she meant.

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