The days after the bus accident were crazy. Peter was politely yet firmly told to take a few days off. The ride back to the station with Hesam had been… tense. There was no talking, which Peter didn’t mind, but he would have rather talked to him than have Hesam turn the latest events around in his head and perhaps come to the wrong conclusion. If there even was a ‘wrong’ conclusion, of course…
Sylar didn’t ask him how it had ended. Peter guessed he had stayed to watch from a distance, and chances were he had also helped Peter. They sat in Peter’s apartment together, talking less than usual. Peter admitted he was moody, but he felt like he should be out there, working, saving lives. Sylar probably knew how he was feeling, so he didn’t try to offer any weak consolations, or reassure him it was all going to be okay in the end.
Chances were Peter’s public stunt had cost him his job. Peter wasn’t going to beat around the bush on that one. He wasn’t sure how the justice system worked – it had been under public debate as long as Claire had been doing her campaign for their rights – but he knew that one way or another, working as an EMT wasn’t going to be as easy as it had been. Even if he was permitted to continue, it didn’t mean his co-workers’ attitudes wouldn’t become an issue. That was what he was truly afraid of, and Hesam’s silence hadn’t been encouraging.
When Monday arrived, Peter decided he was done waiting. He had a shift, and so he went. It wasn’t about making a stand, but about doing what was right. He was nervous, but he wasn’t afraid. He had been through so much worse than this…
Hesam was changing when Peter joined him in the locker room. The other man looked at him, almost shocked, and Peter tried to keep his own reactions to a minimum. “Hi,” he simply said and opened his locker. Part of him had been expecting they would have changed the locks or something, telling him he wasn’t welcome anymore. Of course Peter could have always smashed his hand through the door, but… His key fit, and no such displays of betrayal and anger were needed.
“I wasn’t expecting to see you,” Hesam finally said.
“Can’t just sit at home doing nothing forever,” Peter said honestly, pulling off his shirt and replacing it with another, then looked at his partner. Hesam was suddenly very still and quiet, and Peter sighed, sitting down on the bench. “Look,” he said, “I just want to go out there and help people. That’s it. You know that.”
Hesam was still quiet, as if expecting him to perform some kind of trick that defied his knowledge of reality. Then, eventually, he continued to button up his shirt. “This explains a lot of stuff the other year,” he finally murmured, then looked up. Peter could see indecision on his face, like he was tempted to say or do something but wasn’t entirely sure whether it was actually a good idea.
“Back then I was a bit lost,” Peter said. “My power had… changed. I felt like I had lost a part of myself. That I wasn’t as strong anymore, and so I drove myself to save as many people as possible. I couldn’t bear the thought of failing, of being weak. I guess I’ve calmed down a little since then, and even with the world in its current state, I still want to help, Hesam. You’ve got to believe me. If I was a murdering psychopath, I think you would have noticed by now.”
His partner seemed to think about that, hard. Peter knew it wasn’t easy to take all this information and simply accept it. For him, it had been different. He had been special, and overjoyed because of that. But all his abilities hadn’t stopped him from losing them, and even now with Sylar’s collection at his disposal, he often felt a fleeting moment of anger at how weak he was. How limited.
Eventually Hesam finished putting on his uniform, and Peter followed. They took their gear and went out, and whenever they passed someone, Peter was aware of how everyone stopped doing what they were in the middle of, waiting for him to pass. He bit his teeth firmly together and kept walking.
Hesam was tense beside him all the way to the ambulance. He didn’t tell him not to come, or that someone had been scheduled to join him instead. “Before we go….” Hesam finally broke the silence as they got into the ambulance. “What do you do, exactly?” he asked. The way he looked at Peter was full of curiosity, and a little bit of dread, but perhaps he knew, inside, that Peter wasn’t like the threat they painted in propaganda against the specials.
Peter sighed as the other man started the ambulance. “That’s a long story, actually, but…” he glanced at him, then smiled a bit. “It’s quite a story.”
Monday went by just like any other day – only Peter was telling Hesam about his past, his powers and some of his friends. Hesam listened, posed some questions, and at times he wanted to know more than Peter was comfortable telling him. The man didn’t push, so maybe hearing what Peter was willing to tell him was enough.
It wasn’t as if Hesam needed to know actual names, or learn about the hand Peter’s family had had in all this. Not everything was relevant for him to understand the past and Peter’s ability, or its current state.
“So, this guy who can move in time,” Hesam said one night when they had stopped to eat, sitting in the ambulance with some take-out, “does he ever feel tempted to go back and do something… major, you know?”
“Hiro is a… hero,” Peter mused, looking out into the night. “He has a very strict sense of right and wrong. Rigid, you might say. He idolizes superheroes in comics, and he would never do anything for personal gain. I guess he’s the best person to have that power, because he isn’t going to be motivated by greed like others might be.”
“Sounds like a strange guy,” Hesam commented.
“Naïve and idealistic. Perhaps a little childish. But he’s been through much, and come through it all stronger and tougher,” Peter said. “He’s something to get used to, but you can count on him to do the right thing even when you’re not…”
“As long as anyone doesn’t manipulate him,” Hesam added.
“Yeah,” Peter agreed. “Happens to the best of us.”
Hesam looked at him, probably guessing Peter meant himself.
“All available units…” their radio went off. Both of them turned to listen, then Hesam started the ambulance. Peter threw the cartons into a trash can on the sidewalk, got in, and they pulled out to the street. Peter responded to the dispatcher, saying they were five minutes away. They drove approximately ten blocks to get to the site of a car crash. A sedan was partially pinned under a truck, and as soon as they got out, it was clear the people in the sedan were stuck and hurt. Hesam went to help the truck driver out of the cab, checking his head wound, then returned to Peter who was trying to calm down the people in the other car. Two of them were unconscious, and a woman was crying hysterically. All were young people, probably two couples. The man on the driver’s seat was looking a bit out of it.
“We need to move the truck,” Peter said. “We can only get the driver out, the rest need to be cut out.”
“How do you propose we do that?” Hesam asked. “The fire department is coming, we have to wait until then.”
“The lady in the back is bleeding pretty badly,” Peter said, trying to see better. He could smell gasoline, but he didn’t think it likely that the truck would start burning.
The woman in front was still crying, no matter how much Hesam tried to make her calm down. She was hurt and in pain, not to mention terrified. Peter didn’t want to prolong the situation any longer. Cop cars and another ambulance had arrived, securing the area, pushing the people back who had gathered around to see what was going on.
Peter got up, looked at the truck, then went around the crushed sedan. He set his hands against the bottom of the truck, then pushed. It didn’t feel like a couple of tons. He had switched back to super-strength the other day when he and Sylar carried down an old couch for one of his older neighbors; it was so much less likely he was going to pull something if he didn’t have to struggle with the weight. Now, pushing the truck and lifting it, he could hear the metal creak, just a little, where if parted from that of the sedan, and then finally all of its weight rested on his hands and the road and he gave it one more shove and made it drop down beside the car it had previously rested on.
He could feel sweat on his skin, but that didn’t matter. He walked back to help Hesam, who looked at him, then shook his head and went back to work. “I honestly forgot about that,” he murmured. The firemen were approaching now, giving Peter apprehensive looks, but he didn’t care. He had a job to do, and he had just made theirs a lot easier.
When they started carrying the patients to the ambulances to take them to the hospital, Peter could feel people’s stares on his back. He kept moving. There was nothing he could do about it now. He had helped these people, perhaps saved them from worse injury, and the knowledge alone would have to be enough. If they had a better chance at life because of him, then it was worth it.
The woman who had been crying in the car had been relatively calmed after they got her out. The way she kept looking at Peter was somewhere between pure panic and indecisiveness. Like she couldn’t figure out whether he was a friend or foe although he had obviously saved her.
The human mind worked in odd ways indeed…
The drive to the hospital was a quiet one. Peter had volunteered to drive this time, to keep his mind busy from all the thoughts gnawing at him inside his head. He had just done exactly what Claire had, so where did that put him?
It was the second time Sylar called from behind the door, this time with a knock following his name.
Peter didn’t bother getting up or answering. He wasn’t asleep, obviously, but he didn’t want to talk to him either. Thoughts of the accident still whirled in his head. Why had he taken such a risk? He had seen himself in the news a few hours afterward, throwing aside the truck, and it definitely looked a lot more impressive than it had felt at the moment.
Some called him ‘Savior’ and ‘Supernatural rescuer’.
Others painted him with words like ‘Monster in uniform’.
That forced him to consider that those people might have been saved by the firemen. It hadn’t been that bad of a situation. Now he had pulled such a stunt in public that it could not be dismissed, whereas his use of powers with the school bus had been a bit more… circumspect. At least in that occasion he hadn’t been in the evening news.
Sylar tried to open his door, but Peter had both locked it and pushed a chair against it. He considered that a solid hint that he wanted to be alone.
“Peter, I’m coming in,” Sylar told him with a sigh, and then he could hear the lock turn and the chair scrape across the floor, thumping against the far wall.
Peter sat up angrily, glaring at Sylar when the man opened the door with his mind. Sylar merely raised an eyebrow then stepped inside. “What do you want?” Peter demanded.
“You’re upset,” Sylar observed needlessly. “Do you want to talk about it?”
That threw Peter a little. “No, I don’t,” he finally replied. “And I don’t need your sympathy either.”
“Well, good, because I wasn’t going to give you any,” Sylar shrugged, then quite calmly sat on the edge of his bed. “You did a good deed. You were a hero. If they somehow manage to make it seem otherwise, people won’t be idiotic or blind enough to see it.”
“Doesn’t mean they’ll still make me into a hero,” Peter said, lying down on his back. It seemed he wasn’t going to get out of this without talking to Sylar. Sure, he could try to throw him out, but he didn’t feel like trashing his apartment. Besides, his neighbors had already begun to avoid him in the corridor. Hero or not, they were afraid of him.
“Maybe this is a good thing,” Sylar was still trying to cheer him up. “It gives them concrete evidence of the fact that some of us can and will be helpful to keep around.”
Peter wished that was true. He was so tired of this whole mess, so any change to a more positive direction was welcome. Perhaps if he managed to get through to people, some of the unnecessary hatred and mistrust would disappear. He didn’t expect the violence to end, because that seemed to be etched into the very essence of humanity; he had experienced it himself a few times.
He was so deep in thought he didn’t even react at first when Sylar lay down next to him. At some point he simply grew aware of the fact that the man was there… He looked at him, and Sylar turned his head to return the stare. They didn’t speak, and when it was eventually time to go to bed, Sylar got up and left. It was the first time in a long while when Peter felt somewhat lonely.
They had been ready to head out and were checking their ambulance when a group of men walked down to the garage.
Hesam looked up, and Peter got out from the back of the ambulance, frowning a bit. “Yeah?”
Once he laid his eyes on the men, he could see the army clothing – and the guns. The weapons weren’t pointed at him, but the men seemed to hold their hands close to them nonetheless.
“We’re on orders to bring you in for questioning,” one of the men said, his stance tense.
“What for?” Hesam asked.
The man glanced at him, then seemed to decide he was of no importance. He returned his eyes to Peter, who suddenly had a very bad feeling about this. It hadn’t been 24 hours since the accident with the truck.
“We would prefer you to come peacefully,” the man said. One of his companions took their gun out of its holster.
“Wait a minute,” Hesam said. “What kind of authority do you have –?”
Peter shifted, and the man with the gun raised the weapon, making Hesam stop in the middle of the sentence. “It’s okay,” Peter said. His partner looked like it wasn’t, but perhaps he knew it would be foolish for him to jump in the middle of this. A man from Iran, who would miss him if he got shot for defending a special?
The soldiers began to approach him, and one of them revealed something that looked like a taser. Peter had had his share of those in the past, and seeing one made his mind go to a bad place; he would not be made into a lab rat, cut into pieces.
One of the men came at him suddenly, and almost instinctively Peter reached out and pushed him away. The man flew several feet in the air before landing. That seemed to be a signal for the others; a few of them tried to grab him and take him down, but Peter was stronger than all of them combined. He didn’t want to hurt them, because that would give the army only more motivation to come after him, but he made sure they would not get to him…
A bang echoed in the underground garage and Peter felt a bullet tear through his thigh. His balance shook enough for one of the men to stick a needle into him, and Peter’s world started to blur, his body getting heavier…
He heard Hesam, far away, but his sound faded away…
“Maybe this will help Peter to see that coming out to the world is the only way we can truly live in it!” Claire said, sounding excited. She had been trying to reach his uncle, but decided that perhaps talking to Sylar for a bit wasn’t so bad. Personally, Sylar didn’t care; he didn’t have much to do since he didn’t want to go out in bright daylight if he had the choice, and he had yet to find something to do with himself.
“I don’t think he’ll go as far as that anytime soon,” Sylar said, arranging the cups on the shelf with his mind as he spoke.
“Peter isn’t a fool. He’s bound to notice…”
Sylar just made a sound that might be taken as an agreement, although he wasn’t that sure; Peter was stubborn, but then, he also had to literally clean up the mess that Claire was unintentionally creating. In such a position it was hard to see how positive the change was.
“Tell Peter to call me, okay?” Claire finally said. “There are a few stations that would be interested in interviewing him.”
Sylar smiled, holding back a chuckle. Appearing in the evening news had been enough to make Peter sulk in his room for hours. To appear on national television would be so bad that he would probably ask Parkman to seal him into the wall of their basement…
“I will,” he promised absently, arranging the papers and random objects on the table next.
She ended the call without bigger compliments than ‘thanks’, and Sylar wondered how long it would take for her to get used to the idea that he was one of the good guys. Well, on the best of days it didn’t seem Peter quite believed it either, but at least he didn’t act on that particular doubt. He seemed determined to trust Sylar until he proved him wrong.
He looked around the apartment. He had already arranged the few items in the bookshelf – Peter really didn’t read much, and most of those were some boring medical books; heavy, with grim pictures and small text laced with Latin words.
Sylar wondered whether he could maybe start studying some foreign language at his leisure, or maybe a few; with a power that helped him to remember everything, it shouldn’t be that hard.
Then again, what would he do with being multilingual if he couldn’t leave the apartment without getting the cops on his tail?
While he was thinking about that, there was suddenly a knock from the door. It sounded like someone was in a hurry to get in. Perhaps Peter had forgotten his keys, but then, he probably would have been shouting too – unless he was still keeping it a secret Sylar lived with him. At least he didn’t ask Sylar to enter through the window…
It wasn’t Peter when he went to open the door. Sure, the man had an EMT’s uniform beneath his jacket, and Sylar was quite sure he had seen him somewhere….
The man looked at him, a spooked expression on his face. “Uh… I don’t know if you’re… Are you a friend of Peter’s?” he asked quickly.
“Yes,” Sylar said. No reason to dwell on their murky past…
“Can I come in?” the man asked.
“Peter’s not in.”
“I know,” the man said. “That’s why I’m here; I’m his partner, Hesam.”
No wonder he looked so familiar, Sylar decided. “Come on in,” he said, opening a door a bit further to let the man through.
Hesam cast a nervous look around the apartment, then looked at Sylar again, as if trying to see something in him that he wasn’t currently able. “Are you…”
Sylar raised his eyebrow. Was he… what? Then he thought about the way the other man was looking at him, the way he had specifically asked if he was Peter’s friend, and he guessed Peter had finally told someone the truth. “Yes,” Sylar said.
Hesam nodded vigorously, yet a frown appeared on his face. “You’re like Peter?” he finally asked, as if to clarify they were talking about the same thing, which was probably smart.
“Yes, I’m one of the people who are called ‘special’.”
Finally the other man seemed to relax a little, but not much. “They took him,” he finally blurted out, giving the apartment a suspicious look; as if he was afraid someone else might be listening.
“Who took whom?” Sylar asked. Sure, he was getting a bad feeling about all this – people didn’t just come over to Peter’s place, especially his colleagues.
“Peter. They took Peter.” Hesam was acting even more nervous now, and Sylar resisted the temptation to shake him a little.
“Who took him?” Sylar asked, taking a step closer. If someone had taken Peter, he didn’t have time to play games.
Hesam took a frightened step back, almost falling over a chair. “The army. They just showed up when we were about to leave for our shift and took him. He tried to resist, but I think he didn’t want to hurt them.” He looked at his feet once he finished, then up again, as if he didn’t dare to take his eyes off Sylar for too long.
“Did they say where they were taking him, or why?” Sylar asked him, trying not to appear too threatening.
“No,” Hesam said, looking at him as if it wasn’t such a bright question. “Well, they said they were ordered to bring him in for questioning, but I don’t think that was the only thing they had in mind, looking at the firepower they had with them – and they even shot him! I didn’t stick around to ask; frankly, I think I’m lucky they let me go. They could have easily blamed me for assisting a terrorist or…”
Sylar decided the man had issues with the whole terrorist thing, but then, he looked like he was originally from the Middle East, which probably kept him on his toes around here. “I don’t think we’re regarded as terrorists quite yet,” Sylar informed him, trying to think hard about how to find out where they had taken Peter. Knowing the other man, he would be doing very little to gain his freedom, so it was up to Sylar to see that he did.
“What they say in public is different than what’s discussed behind closed doors,” Hesam said, giving the windows and the door another look.
“I guess you should go,” Sylar offered. “They might think you’re an accomplice if they found out you were here.”
“Yes, I think you’re right,” Hesam nodded. He stepped towards the door, then stopped and turned back to look at Sylar. “Do you think it’s safe? What if I was followed?”
“I think they would have already come in if that was the case,” Sylar said, but took a moment to scan their surroundings. He couldn’t hear anything suspicious, and returned his attention on the other man, resisting the urge to rub his ears. “Go. Thank you for…”
“No problem,” Hesam said, quickly opening the door. “Peter’s a good guy,” said before stepping out. “I think of all the people out there, he actually does something good with his power.”
Sylar didn’t bother telling him of all the times when Peter’s powers had almost gotten everyone killed – whether it was New York City or the whole world.
Once the door closed behind Hesam’s back, Sylar closed his eyes. “Think,” he told himself. “Where shall I start?” Local army bases? And what if he wasn’t there? Also, he first needed to find out about facilities the army had nearby, and whether they would be suitable for holding a prisoner like one of the specials. But however he decided to go about it, he didn’t have resources for that as it was.
He needed help.
When Peter woke up, he felt like someone had shot him in the leg then stepped on it, and his head was causing violent waves of nausea to pass through him. He was tightly tied to an examination table, and as he carefully moved his head, he could tell it was some kind of medical facility they were holding him in. No one was in the room, though, and the lights were on low.
For a while he tested his restraints, but his muscles felt like they were on fire. He closed his eyes, trying to push through it; if only he managed to get free… He heard the metal bend, just a little, and forced himself to pull harder.
A door opened somewhere, and the dimness he had gotten used to exploded with bright lights from above. Even with his eyes closed it hurt, and he stopped struggling for a moment. He felt a pain in his arm, and opened his eyes despite knowing he would be seeing nothing but spots of light for a long while.
His movements began to slow down, and he saw a shape of a man against the lights. It was blurring, though…
“He’s going under,” a male voice said.
“Shall we send a surgical team in?”
Part of Peter’s brain felt relief; they were going to tend to the wound on his leg.
“Yes, but wait until we have him under control. We’re still waiting for a confirmation about his ability,” the first voice said.
“Those restraints should have been strong enough to hold a wild animal…”
“Well, this is an animal of a whole another level.”
Peter decided perhaps they weren’t going to operate on his leg after all, but his mind was already slipping in and out of consciousness by the time he realized that.
The next couple of times Peter became conscious of his surroundings, he always ended up hoping he hadn’t; the first time he realized they had literally cut him up then put him back together again. He wondered whether they had found what they were looking for. Probably not, because waking up looking like the Frankenstein’s monster was a sign for them to begin other kinds of experimentation on his body.
There were times when Peter hoped they would accidentally kill him while running electricity through his body to see how he responded to it. Even more often he hoped he would have possessed Claire’s ability the day they caught him, because this would have been so much more endurable…
But if he had had the power to heal, he didn’t particularly enjoy the idea of all the things they would have done to him then. After all, with Claire death was simply a momentary inconvenience.
If they weren’t torturing him to see how far he could be pushed, they put him into a room to be interrogated. Peter rarely had anything to say to them, nor was he really in a condition to form comprehensive thoughts. Once he attacked the woman interrogating him because the pain was simply too much, burning inside his stomach constantly. Maybe he had an infection there, because he had torn some of the stitches several times while writhing in agony.
After the poor decision to attack one of their staff, they put him into a small room where he could barely stand straight or turn around. Stone walls and a thick iron door made it fruitless to try and escape, no matter how inhumanly strong he was. They left him there for so long that he no longer had any fight left in him when they finally opened the door.
The questions they asked him – How he got his powers? Was it true he could copy another special’s ability? Were all in his family like this? – gave him the impression that they had the possession of some of the files Nathan had once gathered. They knew way too much. It simply made Peter wonder why they bothered with all this. What more was there to understand?