Ne Plus Ultra (page 1/3)
Title: Ne Plus Ultra
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Era: Post season 4
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: Claire Bennet, Noah Bennet, Edgar, Hesam, Hiro Nakamura, Ando Masahashi, Matt Parkman, Peter Petrelli, Micah Sanders, Sylar (, Emma Coolidge, Mohinder Suresh)
Summary: “My name is Claire Bennet, and this is attempt number… I guess I’ve kinda lost count.” What exactly did Claire think would happen when she told the world about specials? A peaceful co-existence? Peter isn’t sure, but he can see it’s not working out as everyone might have hoped.
Written for: Heroes Big Boom’s (heroes_bigboom) Round Four at LiveJournal.
Warnings: Implied violence, torture and death. Language. Spoilers for season 4 ending (+ previous season).
Artist: Jenny (crossroad_x). Art&fanmix at the artist's journal here
Beta: Mythra mythras_fire (huge thanks to her, as always!)
Disclaimer: The show, its characters, places and everything else belong to Tim Kring and other respective creators and owners of ‘Heroes’. I have made no profit by writing this story, and make no claim over the show.
Feedback: If you read AND review, you’re awesome. I hope you enjoy the fic nonetheless.
About Ne Plus Ultra: I had a pretty good idea about how I wanted this story to begin. The premise set by the volume that never happened was too delicious to pass up.
The end of the story was a bit hazy at first, but in the end it finished in a very suitable way, I think. Overall I personally think I could have done a better job on this fic, but hopefully someone finds it entertaining and enjoyable.
Once again my focus is a bit more on Peter than anyone else, but Sylar also makes a solid stand here. Between those two, and a world in chaos after finding out about specials… it’s going to be a new world indeed, and one definitely needs to be brave to face it.
Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
Ne Plus Ultra
Written for Heroes Big Boom’s Round Four at LiveJournal.
A teenager ran into a dark alley from a dimly lit street, a puddle from a recent rain splashing beneath his foot, spraying water high up his legs. He didn’t stop, slow down, or even swear. He kept running, frantically avoiding collision with large garbage cans and boxes stored in the alley.
Behind him, a group of people entered the alley, hesitating for a bit but dashing forward again, the spitting image of an angry mob.
The boy kept running, trying to be faster, squeezing himself through a tear in an iron fence at the other end of the alley. His clothes were caught for a moment, a sharp edge drawn against his skin here and there, but he pulled free eventually. He could hear bodies hitting the fence in his wake, rattling it, angry shouts following him. He knew it wouldn’t hold them forever.
Dashing into the street, he dared to hope he had made it. For a brief moment, there were no more people running after him, no more words of hatred hurled at him for no reason. Maybe he had made it…
A shot rang in the air and he felt something hot run right through him, the impact bringing him down to the asphalt. Gasping at the pain that tore through him, his insides clenching, he still tried to crawl away, the hope of losing his foes slowly slipping away.
“Thought you could outrun us, you freak?” someone asked from above him. He had never heard anyone speak like that, other than in movies, until now. It felt so unreal, but it wasn’t, and it scared him.
“I’m not…” he tried to speak, tried to move away, but someone struck him on the head with something hard, making it impossible to move. Another hit, and another, and another, and slowly the pain turned to throbbing, fading fast, and then finally came… nothing.
“A teenage boy was brutally murdered last night in Western Ohio. Other students from his school had made accusations that he was one of the so-called ‘specials’, circulating rumors of bizarre attacks that have been proven false in the investigation following the killing. This was only one of the many incidents that have been occurring ever since a young woman called Claire Bennet –”
Peter looked up as the TV turned off without warning, then raised his eyes to meet the brown ones beneath heavy eyebrows. Part of him was relieved that he no longer had to listen to the report of just another innocent person dying. There were so many of them these days, persecuted and hurt, and he couldn’t help them all…
“Why do you watch the news when you know you won’t like what’s on there?” Sylar asked, stepping past to sit down beside him on the couch.
“Maybe I need to see it for myself.”
“As if you’re likely to forget what’s going on even if you weren’t constantly reminding yourself of it,” Sylar snorted.
Peter glared at him, trying to find something to accuse him of in return. “You didn’t ring the bell,” he finally said.
“It’s been broken for three months, Peter,” Sylar noted.
“You could have knocked.”
“You wouldn’t have answered.”
“Then it probably means I didn’t want to see you.”
Sylar sighed, leaning back. It was strange how… fragile he seemed, in a way. If Peter hadn’t seen the change happen himself, while trapped inside Sylar’s head in a nightmare Matt Parkman created, he would have thought Sylar had gone insane – or soft. The last few months hadn’t been easy on either of them, and Peter wasn’t always certain what Sylar had thought would happen when Claire burst the bubble that had protected them for so long. After all, Sylar had looked rather pleased that night at the carnival in Central Park, but now he merely looked tired.
“Are you still mad at me about that fight we had?” Sylar finally asked, looking at him again.
“Unless you have changed your mind, then yes,” Peter stated, looking down at his paramedic uniform which he had been in the process of patching up when the news came on. It was increasingly difficult to be in that job when everyone was being suspicious of their fellow workers, suspecting everyone to be ‘special’.
Peter was special, of course, and while it would have been easier to tell everyone, he knew it would just create friction and unnecessary fear between him and other people. After all, that was exactly what was happening everywhere else right now. At first, some hadn’t believed it, and scientists had demanded facts to back up the claims that there were people with abilities. That had turned into curiosity, and in some cases fear, which soon promoted mistrust and violence. After all, not everyone’s power was like Claire’s healing ability, which was relatively harmless to other people.
Wanting to change the subject for a bit, knowing it wasn’t good that he dwelled on these thoughts around the clock, Peter raised his eyes from his work to briefly look at Sylar. He still called him that, although some people preferred ‘Gabriel’ now that he wasn’t slicing open skulls anymore; it was hard to tell which name Sylar himself preferred, though. Guess it depended on the day and his mood.
The man looked a little disheveled although he didn’t smell dirty or anything. Maybe the weather outside was bad, tossing about his hair and clothes… Peter shook his head, wondering when he would stop observing him, looking for clues. In the months following the events of the carnival, he and Sylar had stayed together at Peter’s apartment. It had been a bit strange, having another person there, not to mention the man who killed his brother. But what stood foremost in Peter’s mind was the time they spent together in the dream world Matt forced them into. Ever since that time, when Claire was out there revealing their existence to the public, Peter tended to watch Sylar, as if dreading he would turn back into his old self.
He never did. Sylar stayed the same, calm and almost child-like, yet beneath that was still the hardness created by the years of killing, betrayals and trust issues. It seemed he trusted Peter, though, and they got some kind of system going.
Since Sylar was still wanted for several murders, getting him his own place was tricky. Noah Bennet was so busy trying to keep a leash on Claire that he couldn’t help, and for some reason Peter thought maybe he didn’t want to, either. Work was just another obstacle, and while they had tried to figure it out, Sylar stayed at home, hidden from the world, and Peter went to work just like always.
They had had a routine which allowed them a fairly normal life, but the world was going to hell around them. Or that’s what Peter believed. Sylar wasn’t so sure, and he wanted to see new hope in the change. Peter didn’t think his opinion mattered much, since he was a wanted criminal, at which point Sylar had lost his patience.
“You keep bringing that up whenever it suits you,” he had said.
“Well, if you don’t like it, why don’t you go to Claire and see if her opinion of you is a better one.” As soon as Peter has said it, Sylar had got up and left. Peter heard that he went to Claire as he had suggested, but his welcome there was far from warm. Clearly she still held a grudge towards Sylar and the way he had cut open her head…
After that Peter lost track of Sylar for several weeks – not that he cared, as long as there were no reports of bizarre murders occurring in some part of the country. They had enough problems as it was.
“Do you remember the last time we saw each other?” Sylar suddenly spoke up.
Peter glanced at him and accidentally pushed the needle right into his finger. With a wince he put the finger in his mouth glaring at Sylar a bit as he waited for him to go on.
“I came back, after visiting Claire, and you had just come back from your shift. That was the night they beat up that man and torched him because the word on the street was he was one of us…”
Peter would never forget that night. When the dispatch had come through, he had been the first to arrive at the scene. He could still remember the smell of gasoline and burning flesh; he saw the man lying on the ground, drenched and shivering. Then the brief spark of a lighter and the terrible scream following the fiery explosion. One of the bystanders also caught fire, the jeers changing into cries of pain, but Peter didn’t care about him. He would have loved to watch him burn like the man on the ground.
“He didn’t make it,” Peter said with a tone he wished to be indifferent, but which instead was sad and weak.
“When I came in, you were sitting on the couch, still in your uniform, and the entire apartment smelled of burnt meat,” Sylar offered, although Peter didn’t need his memory to be encouraged like that; he could still remember the sense of failure he had felt that night, crushing him. Had he been faster… If only he had had an ability that would have saved the man. Maybe there had been more he could have done for him on the way to the hospital where he died within the hour.
“That was the night we fought. About Claire. About the truth. About the future.”
“I remember. I was there,” Peter snarled at Sylar, standing up, almost jabbing himself with the needle again as he threw down his uniform, still unfinished. “And I know you still think she’s right, and that people have the right to know about us – that we have the right to be ourselves in their midst.”
He headed into the kitchen, and he heard Sylar get up and follow him. “Do you always have to get so mad when we talk about this?”
“I’m mad because I’m the one who cleans up after you!” Peter shouted as he turned, making Sylar stop short a few feet from him. “Claire’s out there, parading as the ‘face of the specials’, and I have to watch as people get killed because of that. People who are not like us! And it’s getting worse, all the time, everywhere.”
Sylar blinked and looked at him, then calmly reached over to one of the cupboards, retrieving a mug he always liked best when he still stayed here and filled it with fresh coffee Peter had been waiting to brew before he arrived. Sylar still acted like he lived here, and Peter wasn’t sure if he liked it or not.
“Where have you been?” he asked. “After the fight I didn’t see you for months.”
Sylar smiled, leaning against a counter. Peter wasn’t sure what was so funny. “I didn’t leave New York. I stayed here, and whenever you were at work… and you’re at work all the time, Pete… I would come back here, to shower, to shave, sometimes eat or just take a nap and watch TV. And I would be gone by the time you came home.”
Peter lifted his finger, opening his mouth to speak, but for a moment he wasn’t sure what exactly it was he wanted to say. He didn’t like it when Sylar called him ‘Pete’, because that was Nathan’s line – and a painful reminder that his brother was gone, thanks to this man. Secondly, he was outraged that Sylar had been here, all along, abusing Peter’s hospitality. Sort of.
“You’ve been here, all this time?” Peter finally asked to confirm he had understood.
Sylar shrugged, taking another sip of the coffee. “I couldn’t leave you alone. And I had nowhere else to go either.”
Part of Peter had hoped that Claire would have taken Sylar under her wing because then they could have shared the vision of their impossible utopia. He found himself glad that hadn’t happened, though, because this way Sylar came back here, and perhaps he would see reason in the end; see the world as Peter was experiencing it right now.
“So,” Sylar said conversationally, “can I stay here like before, or shall I just continue to sneak in while you’re away?”
Peter didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t stop Sylar from entering his home, and the whole situation was a bit ridiculous. “You’ll sleep on the couch,” he finally sighed, taking a cup from the shelf and pouring himself some coffee as well.
“Just like old times,” Sylar smiled and returned to the living room.
Peter watched him go, a light sensation of disbelief attempting to take over his mind, but he knew Sylar too well to be really surprised by this. He was a creature of habit, and since this had been his home since the carnival, not to mention a safe haven, that was probably why he had come back again.
Peter knew it would just make him angry, but he had to know what kind of disaster could spin from this. Also, as Sylar would point out to him so kindly, perhaps it was a sort of punishment he thought he deserved. Every time Claire was interviewed, it was like slow torture. Sometimes the end result wasn’t all that bad, but sometimes Peter could just see how she was led along to say something that would provoke a very opposite reaction out of the crowd.
Today she had some high-ranking, well-educated man sitting opposite her; his glasses, carefully combed hair and spotless, finely cut clothes made Claire look like some child dressed up and face painted with make-up. Perhaps she didn’t see it, but all this was a setup she was never going to win. She didn’t even have a fighting chance; a blond doll against an adult off whose tongue wisdom and big words would roll.
But still she sat there, young yet brave, fearless because she knew nothing these people did could hurt her.
If only that was the case with everyone else…
The discussion began, but Peter lost the first few lines because the door opened behind him and Sylar stepped in, looking over at him as he closed the door. “Should I even ask what you’re watching?” he asked and walked over, sitting down beside him. He had probably picked up on his mood, or he merely found it so easy to read his expression.
Peter turned back to the screen, and he could see his niece was already on the warpath. “If only people saw that we are not a threat,” she was saying.
“How can you say that these people are not a threat? Each and every one of them is a danger we are not aware of. I have spoken to parents who are afraid to let their children into school, especially after some widely broadcasted accidents.”
“Most of which could have been prevented if people weren’t threatening our lives. And many of those accidents had nothing to do with abilities,” Claire insisted.
“A child with an ability is a hazardous threat to others around them. Their tempers have highs and lows, their hormonal levels are not stable, and their behavior cannot be predicted. Previously we have been faced by a threat of guns and weapons in schools, but this is a new threat! A gun that cannot be seen, and one with unimaginable power.”
“There is no way you can compare us to disturbed people gunning down –” Claire began to shout, but the studio audience was already roaring, and Peter put a hand over his eyes. Beside him, Sylar shifted and turned off the TV.
“The papers are going to have a field day with this,” Peter muttered.
“If not this, then something else,” Sylar said, sitting back.
Peter sighed and got up. He should go and see Claire again, try and talk some sense into her. It would not be the first time, but she had to see what her actions were creating around her. As good as her intentions may have been in the beginning…
“The cat’s out of the bag,” Sylar noted. “Silencing her now won’t make a difference.”
“I don’t see how it could make things worse either,” Peter shot back at him, more irritated by the second. To recognize Sylar’s words as truth would mean failure. There had to be something he could do to redeem the situation…
“She’s not going to stop,” Noah Bennet told him. Behind his glasses his eyes kept moving past Peter’s shoulder, and while Peter was pretty sure Sylar wasn’t staring back at Noah, the tension was easy to grasp.
“Have you talked to her?” Peter asked.
“More than once. She’s adamant about this. And at this point…”
Peter tried not to grind his teeth together. It seemed everyone had the same idea about the situation, and the lack of possibilities to redeem it. “I’ll try,” Peter decided.
Noah just nodded. Peter stepped past him into another room in the apartment, and found Claire seated beside a desk, pen on her lips, brow furrowed, eyes glued to a piece of paper before her. On the laptop screen next to her a dozen windows were open, and most of them seemed to contain news reports of her latest activities.
Peter stood there for a while, waiting her to acknowledge his presence, but when she didn’t, he cleared his throat. The only thing that happened was that her brow seemed to furrow more.
“We need to talk,” Peter finally said.
“If your argument is the same as last time, then don’t bother. I have things to do.” Claire’s voice was clipped and angry. He wondered whether the real emotion was directed at him or the world in general. Of course it didn’t help that her life’s mission was currently standing between their friendship, which had always meant a lot to them both since they first met.
“You have to stop,” Peter implored. “People are dying. Normal people. We are being used as an excuse to commit hate crimes. At least the specials, whenever they are found, can defend themselves.”
“There should be no need to defend ourselves!” Claire burst out, turning in her seat to face him, her pen tossed aside. “We have the right –”
“But who gave you the right to out us all?” Peter demanded. “It’s a miracle none of us has tried to attack you to silence you. That’s what Noah’s most worried about.”
“I don’t want to hide anymore. I shouldn’t have to,” Claire said.
Peter tried not to let his temper get the better of him. “Claire, have you ever considered that hiding for you is so easy… It does not change how you can live. You have all the opportunities in the world. You heal. But there are people out there who could accidentally incinerate the whole city! Specials who have to hide and be on their guard around the clock so that no one gets hurt. And yet you, of all people, have such a problem fitting in.”
No, Peter hadn’t wanted to see the hurt on her face, but that fact had been bothering him, and many others whom he had met. Claire had every chance to lead a normal life. Why did she refuse to do that, and instead act like she had no such chance unless everyone knew what she was capable of?
“Get out,” Claire finally said, angry and disappointed.
“Come on, Peter,” Sylar said from the door, making them both jump; neither of them had noticed him come in. Claire seemed even angrier at that, but Peter gave her one more look and left. He nodded at Noah when they stepped out, but didn’t turn to watch the door close behind them.
“What now?” Sylar asked.
Peter looked down the street. The way people kept looking around whenever no one else was looking, staring at those who seemed different from the others… “Is this the only thing the human race is capable of?” he wondered out loud. “Discrimination. Intolerance. Fear.”
Sylar didn’t comment. Perhaps it was better he didn’t.
Being at work was both an escape and torture. Hesam was a good man, and Peter liked him, but the man had also been his partner when Peter was on a mission to save everyone he could, and he had gotten careless then. So naturally, now that the knowledge of specials was out there, his partner kept a particularly sharp eye on him.
Peter sometimes felt the temptation to use his powers, depending on which one he currently had. He tried to keep a low profile, but sometimes he would call Sylar over and use one of his to get them out of a troubling situation. It was hard to do it, though, because people were constantly looking for something that didn’t fit their idea of ‘normal’, and even if he saved a person’s life, there was no guarantee whether that person would be willing to overlook he was a special.
Sylar joked that they should wear ski masks and hit the streets, working as superheroes in comics did. With him as Peter’s power bank, they could do a lot of good. While Peter found the idea tempting, he didn’t want to put people more at risk than they already were; even good intentions were sometimes seen as evil deeds in the wrong light…
There came times, though, when Peter couldn’t turn away even at risk of his own exposure. He just kept hoping that when that moment came, it would be worth it.
It was late Thursday afternoon when the call came; a busload of children was stuck when their school bus had slipped off the road after heavy rains had mixed with the oil on the asphalt and made the ground too slippery. To make the situation harder, the bus was in danger of falling several hundred feet down an embankment, and the rain-softened surface made it hard to pull the bus back to the road.
When Peter and Hesam arrived at the scene, several other units were already there, and fire trucks were parked nearby. Lights flashed in the darkening night, and as Peter jumped out of the ambulance, he took a look around. It seemed the bus had already slipped down several feet from where it had originally stopped, and a slow, steady drizzle was still coming from the sky. It was a steep slope, and several firemen were working out the best way to get down to the frightened children.
“Can we get down there?” Peter asked the man in charge.
“Right now we have to find a way to secure the bus.”
Peter nodded, walking a bit closer. He flexed his fingers. Currently, he had the superhuman strength at his disposal, but that was no use on the slippery, muddy ground. He would fall as surely as the bus. Reflexively his feet shifted on the asphalt, as if to test it nonetheless.
The firemen carefully worked their way down, a rope tied to one of their trucks. One of them reached the bus, and at once the screams and shouts of the children inside drowned anything the adults might have been saying. Peter itched to do something – just like everyone else here.
Suddenly the bus shifted, sliding down a couple of feet, and Peter almost dashed after it, regardless of the fact that he couldn’t do anything. Hesam grabbed his arm, so he must have actually moved. Peter glanced at his partner, who seemed just as anxious to dash over if only there was something they could do.
The firemen kept trying to attach wire ropes on the bus without triggering it to move further. Frantic planning was taking place around a table that had been set up on the other side of the road, bright lights illuminating anxious faces of men and women, dripping wet and looking uncomfortable.
Peter glanced at the bus, then made up his mind. “I’ll be right back,” he said to Hesam, then hurried away from the ambulance, took his cell phone and dialed the number etched into his mind because he never dared to save it. “Listen,” he said before Sylar could even say ‘hello’. “I need your help. Have you watched the news?”
“Yeah. The bus?”
“I need you here, on location.” He took a look around, making sure he was alone. “I need another power,” he said then, in a lower tone.
“I’ll be there right away,” Sylar said, then disconnected. Had he been able to teleport like Hiro, that statement might have been accurate, but he had also acquired other powers that would make traveling faster – like flying. Peter never really liked to think of where he had got that one, but then, if that was his only connection to his brother…
He walked a bit further away where the road was dark and looked up to the sky. The seconds seemed endless, and he looked around nervously. Anytime now, someone would start to wonder where he had gone. The drizzle was turning into rain again, and he felt it soaking his clothes.
Peter jumped when Sylar appeared from the darkness. Peter said nothing about that, though; he merely stepped over to him and extended his hand. “Telekinesis,” he said.
Sylar’s eyes moved onto the scene further down the road. His hand reached out to clasp Peter’s, and he could feel it going through him like a wave with a small electric charge. Peter let go, testing the ability on a small rock beside him; it began to hover, then flew out into the darkness. Sylar’s eyes moved onto him. “You’re getting better at that.” It used to take Peter a few attempts in the past to grasp the right power.
Peter merely nodded, heading back. He trusted Sylar to get himself back home.
Hesam was where he had left him. Peter received a look from his partner, but no questions. They kept watching for a moment, but the situation wasn’t improving. “They are debating if they should just try to empty the bus,” Hesam said. “But as long as they’re not sure if they can get everyone out…”
Peter nodded grimly, then set forward, straight towards the bus. He looked at it, as if to measure the size and mass of it in his mind. He could feel Sylar’s power touching the bus, almost gently nudging it, taking hold.
“Hey, you have to stand back,” one of the firemen said, extending his hand to keep him back. Peter stopped, wordlessly, still staring at the bus. He could feel it moving, slowly, and while his eyes could not see the movement, he felt it slipping down the slope… He spread his legs, then raised his right hand. He knew it wasn’t necessary, but when he pried open the door in Primatech, it had definitely been easier to imitate the desired movement with his body.
“I asked you to step back,” the fireman said, now bushing his chest a bit, but Peter wasn’t focusing on him. Eyes and thoughts nailed on the bus, he slowly curled his fingers, body tense. Metal creaked, and the bus moved several inches at once. The children inside screamed and the firemen jumped back. But as soon as the bus had started moving down, it was jerked back as if by some invisible string. Peter could feel it, every inch thrumming inside his skull. Like he was pulling it with his own muscles…
But he wasn’t, and once he realized that, moving the weight was so much easier. He took a slow, deliberate step back, and the bus slowly inched up the slope as if following him. Another step, another foot, the children quieting down, holding their breaths. A few of the firemen kept tugging at the ropes, but they were now hanging loose between the bus and the fire trucks they had been attached to.
Everyone had quieted down, and Peter kept backing up the bus following him, further and further until it finally shifted and moved back onto the road where it rested heavily.
Peter exhaled, sagging a little. His lungs hurt, feet and shoulders aching. His head was just about to explode, and he could feel something warmer than water or sweat running down his face. When he looked around, everyone had backed away from him, staring at him and not even approaching the bus for several long seconds. Peter wiped his face on his sleeve and broke out of the trance; he headed back to their ambulance for a kit then moved to the bus. The front door was stuck, but a yank of his tired hands and a telekinetic push made it fall out to the mud beside him. “Everyone okay?” Peter asked.
The teachers and the bus driver stared at him. A few of them actually backed away from the door, trying to pull the kids with them. One little girl rushed out, though, and right into his arms. “You’re my hero,” she whispered in his ear, and for a moment, Peter remembered Claire saying those exact same words to him…
Lights flashed, and Peter looked to the side; news vehicles had parked on the far edge of the area they had isolated, and cameras were flashing now, taking pictures. Peter swallowed, but didn’t have time to think; about a half-dozen other kids were all trying to touch him at once, as if he was all they had been waiting for this entire time.