Blood pounding in his ears… Ragged, hard breaths, tearing at his lungs, making his chest heave painfully… His fingers, smeared and sticky…
Peter bumped his head against something hard and solid, which made him stop. He felt disoriented, unconnected, and his entire body ached. He opened his eyes, finding them so blurred he could barely see the shape of the wall before him. He felt around with his hands, and could map out the corner he was crouching in.
His fingers felt funny, and he looked down at them, then brought them closer to his face and sniffed. The smell of blood intensified instantly, making him sick. He swallowed, lowered his hands, and tried wiping them against the floor to get rid of the stickiness on them.
Slowly his breathing evened out and he blinked, lifting his head. Thin rays of light made their way into the cabin; he could hazily remember the place, and guessed he was still in there. He slowly moved from his corner, on all fours and naked as far as he could tell. He sat down after a moment, shivering a little. His sight was getting better, but long before he could actually see anything properly, he heard the birds singing outside the cabin, and even through the overwhelming stench of blood he could smell a faint odor of the forest surrounding the small building.
Peter rubbed his face with the heel of his hand, then blinked again. For a moment he just stared, uncertain if he was seeing what was really there. But no, the smell remained the same. It wasn’t the sterile kind that you met in the operating room of a hospital, but rather…
A little whine of disbelief escaped Peter’s throat. Only few feet away from him lay a corpse of the young man that he had first talked to. His chest was ripped open, bone snapped, bent, and broken. Blood and entrails littered the floor around him, barely hiding the scratch-marks on the wood.
Across the table lay another body, and Peter guessed it must the father. The wood was smeared with red trails that were almost the shade of black in places, and there was a pool of it beneath the table as well. On the floor closer to the door, two more bodies lay; the mother and the brother of the nice young man. The woman’s face was almost ripped off, and Peter could make out claw marks on the torn skin.
He wanted to throw up more than ever, but found himself unable to.
For a moment he just sat there, staring, eyes wildly dashing around the cabin. Glass from a shattered window, bloody footprints from something that wasn’t human, and splinters of wood were everywhere. Peter wondered if something had attacked them, plunging through the window, but a part of him laughed at the idea. It was a hysterical little voice he couldn’t stop. Frantically he rubbed his hands together, trying to get rid of the copper-stench and the color of dried blood. It was almost as if the blood had sunk beneath his skin, and no matter how hard he scrubbed, it wouldn’t go away.
Just like the scene before him.
With a shaky breath, he finally stood up. Behind the bed that had been turned upside down and clawed inside out he found his clothes, and while it made him cringe to put them on while he was still filthy, he knew he had to get out of here. There was no monster that had come through the window – or left through it for that matter. If he looked at the father’s prone form hard enough, he could see shards of glass stuck onto his back and neck. It had been his body smashed against the window…
After he was dressed, Peter made his way through the macabre scenery, heading to the door. It was still locked from the inside. Peter’s hands shook worse than ever before as he unlatched it and stumbled outside into the fresh morning. It was as if he had stepped into another world where the room full of bloodied, torn bodies didn’t exist.
Peter took a few steps, then stopped and turned to look at the cabin. From the outside, no one could tell what lay inside, waiting for some unsuspecting traveler. He wrung his hands and took a step back, then stopped. He couldn’t go back there. Not while he could feel that somewhere inside him, the beast still lurked, waiting… waiting…
He ran. Never before in his life had he ever wanted to escape from something so badly.
Nathan was sitting across from Claire at a diner table. It was a lot like the place he and Peter had been in before the whole incident with the werewolf. He couldn’t help but think of the similarities while his daughter tried to explain to her adoptive father over the phone why she wasn’t home. Nathan had offered to explain, but she was determined to do it, because ‘finding Peter was so much more important than school’, according to Claire.
Stirring his coffee, Nathan gazed at the local map in front of him. He had been trying to think of every logical possibility for Peter’s disappearance. When he ran out of those, he tried every illogical one, which felt like a never-ending list. Claire wasn’t helping, her irrational worry for Peter making it okay in her eyes to just rush out the door to go search for her lost uncle. Nathan knew that they could fly around Virginia until next year, and that still wouldn’t mean they’d find Peter.
On the small TV screen on the other side of the room, local news began. His mind tired of attempting to outrun his brother’s logic, Nathan looked up to listen. His eyes widened after a bit, and he even got up to ask for someone to turn up the volume, but one of the locals had already done that.
“… the family was found in a cabin. All of them were seasoned hunters, experienced and well prepared. The police have said that some kind of wild animal is responsible for the brutal murders that took place last night.”
A map was shown on screen, and Nathan felt the color drain from his face. No. No, Pete, please no…
“Nathan?” Claire asked, her tone hushed and urgent.
Nathan looked down at her, and then at the map. He had already circled the point where he thought the old bomb shelter was. Even if his calculations were a little off, it was only a few miles to the hunting cabin where the dead people had been found… “Last night was the actual full moon,” Nathan whispered.
Claire frowned, turned to look at the TV, but they had already switched onto another piece. Her eyes were narrowed suspiciously as Nathan took his pen to circle the cabin’s location on their map. “What was that?”
“They found a bunch of dead people, only few miles from… from where Peter disappeared.”
It was Claire’s turn to pale. “But… he already changed, right? How could he have done it again? Maybe it was someone else. Something else.”
“According to some information, it could be that it’s actually a few nights that they’re… active. Not just one.” Nathan couldn’t believe he was citing ‘legends’ as ‘information’, but that was all he had. Maybe the full moon began to take effect already the night before, because it was so close. And who was to say that it wouldn’t do the same the night after. “We have to find him,” Nathan finally decided. There was no other choice.
Despite Nathan’s solemn vow to find Peter, it turned out to be a lot harder than that. If Peter was still in Virginia, he eluded his brother perfectly. On a good note, no more dead people turned up, and that gave Nathan some hope. After searching for Peter for four days, Noah Bennet was getting increasingly anxious about his daughter being on a hunt for something that had already killed four people. How he found out, Nathan never knew. Maybe Claire told him.
Nathan took Claire home although she kept protesting the whole flight. To his surprise, once they got to the Bennet residence and Claire was safely in the arms of her adoptive parents, Noah showed genuine worry for Peter’s situation. Perhaps it was all his years hunting rogue specials, but he was very serious about finding him.
During the next week they gathered information, trying to figure out what had happened – and more importantly, how it had happened.
“I’ve never seen a power like that,” Noah confessed more than once, but he didn’t seem to completely rule out the possibility that it existed. Nathan didn’t particularly care what it was; every time he had to tell their mother that Peter was safe, it tore at him inside. How could he know Peter was indeed safe? And on top of that, how could it be he had actually lost him?! Angela Petrelli may have offered a few pointers, as well as stern reprimands; while Nathan was the successful son, Angela still doted on her youngest child.
Another week passed, and it was increasingly difficult to lie to his mother and continue the search. Eventually Nathan returned to New York, out of options, and had to explain to Angela how Peter had pulled a vanishing act after he had found a special as a potential risk of exposure. It seemed to calm her sufficiently, and Nathan was able to continue his search.
Then a ray of hope entered his mind. Nathan had a nightmare of the night in Wisconsin, and the creature attacking Peter. For some reason, as soon as he woke up sweaty and panting, he was convinced that that was where Peter would be; the source. He called Noah in the middle of the night, and the other agreed the idea was valid. They agreed to meet in the little town near the forest they had first encountered the beast in.
It was five nights to the full moon when Noah arrived with Claire in tow. Nathan couldn’t believe she had actually convinced him to take her along, but the hope still existed that her blood could help Peter, and there was no way anyone was going to tell Claire to stay home for this.
“I can’t get hurt,” she kept reminding both her fathers, who just tried to feel reassured by that.
They sat in the same diner as he and Peter had, two months ago. The table he and Peter had vacated was taken when the three of them entered, but Nathan couldn’t help staring at it, even though Noah kept telling him to keep his focus.
“If he’s out there somewhere, it’s the safest plan to find him before the full moon.”
“Or the night before the actual full moon,” Claire reminded Noah, who just adjusted his horn rimmed glasses and moved his attention back to Nathan.
“As I was saying… Nathan, are you listening?”
Nathan looked up. He wasn’t going to admit to his thoughts wandering – he never had done such a thing in his life – so he just nodded for Noah to continue.
Apparently he didn’t fool the other man, though. “Why don’t we get a car, and head out to the woods. We can just as well start looking.”
That was the best plan of action by far. As long as they were out there, searching, it kept Nathan’s mind occupied and gave him hope that at any moment he was going to find Peter, and this nightmare would be over.
They searched and scoured the forest for three days. On the fourth, Claire told them to hurry up or they would be too late. Nathan kept glaring at anyone who tried to talk to him – his daughter included – because he didn’t want to be reminded of his failure to find Peter. Noah just tried to appear practical, although he was bringing them no closer to finding the missing man.
It was getting late and they were in the middle of nowhere when Nathan finally had it. They were wasting time moving on foot, and although he couldn’t see anything in the twilight, he still hoped for a sign of some kind when he flew over the forest. Like a flare of electricity…
Nothing like that came, though, and he had to return to his friends empty handed. It pained him to feel so useless and weak. Powerless.
They had made a camp of sorts in an abandoned warehouse near the woods. It was a drafty place that still smelled of oil and metal, and had too many banging doors and windows to keep them all silent. Sleeping was the furthest thing from Nathan’s mind, though. Tomorrow, the full moon would be almost complete. Last time Peter had already changed then, and the night after. Would this time be different? Or was it only like that when it happened for the first time… Nathan didn’t know, and he had no way of finding out either. There was no werewolf hotline to call for information. He had played with the thought of letting Dr. Suresh in on this, but he guessed the geneticist would be just as out of this as they were. After all, there was no blood sample from Peter available.
The following morning was a quiet affair: Noah was checking his guns, Claire just drank her coffee and stared into the campfire they had made, and Nathan either paced, checking the woods on the horizon, or picking up one of Noah’s guns just to have the other take it away from him.
At one point, he noticed something odd. “What kind of bullets are those?” he nodded towards a set of light grey rounds.
“Call me paranoid, but they are silver. Not very easy to get, either,” Noah replied. Claire frowned at him. The man nodded, all the while going through the routine of cleaning his weapon. “They say a silver bullet in the heart kills a werewolf.”
“We’re not going to kill Peter!” Claire shouted out Nathan’s exact thoughts.
“No, but there’s the other one to consider,” Noah explained practically.
Nathan had to admit he had a point, although silver rounds sounded just as ridiculous as a wooden stake through a vampire’s heart.
The day dragged on as they once again searched the woods. The further the sun passed in the sky, the higher Claire’s voice rose, calling out for Peter. They had come to the conclusion that perhaps a silent search was all for nothing. If Peter heard them, maybe he would come to them.
Near to nightfall Nathan took off again, although Noah tried to advise him against it. Nathan knew that Claire would be safe with her adopted father, so there was no reason for him to worry. Noah was well trained and equipped to deal with this.
He flew towards the spot where he recalled Peter had been attacked. After an hour he actually found the ditch, and kicked small stones away angrily as he paced alongside it. Time was running out. He could almost hear it ticking inside his head, unstoppable and annoying. Teasing. Taunting.
“Peter!” he shouted, but nothing but the faint echo of his own voice answered. He kicked another stone.
A twig snapped somewhere behind him, and he turned to look. Blinking, Nathan didn’t know if he should believe his eyes or not, but just then, he was sure he had seen someone move in the lengthening shadows. “Peter!” he shouted again, his voice shivering now. Excitement coursed through him. Had he found him? It had to be him. Nothing else would move so fast…
For a moment he froze. It wasn’t dark yet. It wasn’t even close to midnight! But could it be… Another snap and a rustle of leaves, and as soon as Nathan tried turning around, something pressed him to the ground, hard. It emptied his lungs for a moment, a weight on top of him pressing him to the soil.
He struggled to turn around, and over his shoulder he saw a flash of yellowish eyes. But there were no claws ripping into his skin, or fangs snarling at him. Just harsh, ragged breaths and Peter’s face, tense and nervous.
“Pete?” Nathan tried, softly as possibly. “Pete, it’s me, Nathan. It’s okay, I’m here to help you. Pete…”
Peter moved just slightly to the side, and Nathan rolled over, trying to sit up. His brother crouched on the ground, almost like an animal, and his eyes regarded Nathan with distrust. Nathan was tempted to reach out for him, but if Peter had indeed killed all those people, and was already changing, perhaps it wasn’t smart.
“Pete, look, you’ve got to focus. Claire’s here, and she will help you. Her blood –”
Peter moved towards him again, and although Nathan tried to avoid the impact, the other man jumped on top of him with an animal’s strength and agility. The alien eyes scanned his face, and Peter sniffed the air as if it would tell him something. Then he lowered his head and sniffed closer to Nathan’s skin, and there was a soft growl, although perhaps it was a purr. Nathan wasn’t sure. When he looked down at Peter’s hands where they were curled against his chest and into his clothes, he could see his nails were changing.
“Peter, come on, you can do it. You can beat this,” Nathan said urgently. If Peter attacked him now, Nathan wasn’t all that certain he could fight him off and take flight in time. “Just focus onto… anything! Focus on Claire. You remember her, right? You went all the way to Texas to save her, although you knew you might die.”
Peter tilted his head, and it was almost adorable – if one didn’t take notice of the animal eyes staring out of his skull. Then, without warning, he lowered his head again, and Nathan could feel his mouth on his throat. Wolves aim for the throats of their prey, right? “Peter, come on, you don’t want to do this.”
But instead of a bite, Peter licked him. There was another of those purring sounds, and the fully transformed claws dug through the layers of Nathan’s clothing, touching skin. They weren’t tearing, though; when they tugged, they merely dragged against his skin, ripping the fabric instead. Peter licked him again, then nipped his jaw, then his lips. Nathan was frozen in place, uncertain if he was supposed to do something. And what was Peter doing?
Peter raised his head again, tilting it, and his hands tore Nathan’s jacket, shirt, and t-shirt in two as if he was merely parting curtains. Nathan’s chest heaved and he tried shifting away, but Peter was sitting atop him and there was nowhere to go.
“Jesus, Peter, just stop for a moment, okay?” Nathan begged, trying to sound reasonable.
Peter didn’t smile, reply, or otherwise indicate that he recognized his name or knew what he was doing. He dove in again, licking Nathan’s neck, then nuzzled it. The clawed fingers dug into the earth on either side of Nathan, and he hated to think what might happen next.
Claire’s shout made Peter raise his head, and then he slowly turned around to face her. She was panting, probably after a long run, and the shock on her face was probably similar to the one Nathan had worn when he saw Peter change for the first time. Even in the half-light…
“Claire, dodge!” came a shout, and she threw herself to the ground just as two muffled bangs echoed in the silence. Peter’s body jolted back and he fell down, panting hard, two darts stuck on his left shoulder. Noah stepped out of the shadows, his gun still pointed at the prone form on the forest floor. Nathan felt a moment of gratitude for the man, and that he hadn’t used bullets – not even the silver ones.
“Quick, let’s try the blood,” Nathan said, trying to compose himself as he got up and jogged over to where Peter lay, his body twitching, no doubt fighting the sedatives in his system.
Claire came over and opened her backpack, taking out two needles and a few tubes. Nathan didn’t know where Noah had learned about transfusion, but he got it set up pretty quickly. They all sat waiting then, hoping for the best, watching blood flow from Claire’s arm into Peter’s. After a while Noah removed the needles and needlessly bandaged his daughter’s arm while Nathan kept a close eye on Peter.
“What if it doesn’t work?” Noah asked matter-of-factly. Nathan knew he had more guns at his immediate disposal than the one he had seen.
“It has to work,” Nathan decided. Claire nodded, her eyes resting on Peter as well.
It seemed to take forever before Peter groaned, the small prick on his arm healing, and this time it was the sound of a man instead of an animal. When Nathan took his brother’s hand, he could see the claws withdrawing back into the skin. The transformation was incredible, much like watching Claire heal. One moment it was there, and the next…
Peter opened his eyes, and the brown depths were full of confusion. He looked at Nathan as if he was a stranger.
“I guess he’s a little out of it,” Noah noted, and suddenly Nathan guessed that he and Claire had seen Peter on him. He decided not to worry about that right now.
“Pete?” Nathan asked softly, and Peter jerked his head towards him.
His brother frowned at him, then seemed to catch some comprehension. “Nathan…?” he asked, very slowly and uncertainly.
Nathan just nodded, relief washing through him.
“It’s past midnight,” Claire noted suddenly. She sounded happier than she had been all of last month.
“Let’s get a move on,” Noah decided, standing up. “We have a long way to go.”
Nathan helped Peter up, and it reminded him strangely of the night he locked Peter away in that old bomb shelter in Virginia; Peter could barely stand on his feet and kept holding onto Nathan. The difference was that this time he was not in pain, but merely disoriented.
They had walked for about fifteen minutes when there was suddenly a growl from the darkness. Noah stopped and so did everyone else behind him. Peter let out a soft whimper, but Nathan wasn’t certain if he even knew something was going on.
“Get –” Noah started, but before he could finish, something plunged at them through the darkness. Nathan braced himself, ready to take off, but he hesitated, knowing that would mean leaving Claire defenseless…
A shot rang through the night, and Claire let out a little shout of surprise, the light from her flashlight jolting to the side. Nathan stared into the darkness, and soon enough another flashlight was lit, Noah holding it while still gripping his gun. On the ground lay a hideous creature, of which Nathan had dreamt for the last two months. Only this time, it wasn’t moving to rip his brother apart. When he looked a little closer, he could see a wound right about where its heart would be…
“Damn, it actually worked,” Noah mused, making the rest of them look at him as he went and kicked the beast, making sure it was dead. When he finally looked at them, putting his gun away, he just shrugged slightly. “Silver bullets.”
Nathan wondered if it was funny or just ironic. Peter squeezed his shoulder just then, though, and he decided it didn’t matter. “Let’s get you home, Pete,” he told his brother, kissing his forehead as they continued their walk through the dark forest. He couldn’t wait to leave it behind – for good.