Notes: After watching the entire first season of Heroes over the course of three nights, and being around forest and JoAnn, who are natural fic-enablers (and given my natural predilection for the dirtybadwrong that is incest), it was only natural that a plotbunny would attack.
Disclaimer: The eyelashes belong to Adrian Pasdar, the forelock to Milo Ventomiglia, and any recognizable character within to Tim Kring.
High in the Sky
“Brothers shouldn’t do that, you know.”
Abashed, cheeks reddening even further, Peter dropped his eyes and looked away from his mother. He swiped at the annoying trail of blood still trickling from his split lip, aborting the way she dabbed at it, and winced as pain flared at his too-rough touch. “I started it,” he muttered into the face of her disapproval.
“Did you?” Mother Petrelli looked over at her older son. Nathan bore not a mark, except for the scrapes on his knuckles, clearly from Peter’s teeth. He was still sulking, however; his lower lip jutted out in a pout, and he was glaring at Peter. Mother Petrelli sighed. “Yes, well, I don’t believe it.”
“Oh, hush, Nathan.” She gave him a quelling look, and he subsided back into his sulk. “We both know it isn’t Peter who gets into fights after school.” She trailed on red-nailed finger along his jaw and the still-livid scar visible there. “Though he may be the reason for those fights.” Her hand lingered a moment longer before she let it fall.
It was Nathan’s turn to look away, long lashes lowering to hide his eyes.
Peter shifted uncomfortably. “I’m sorry, Ma,” he said softly. “I don’t mean…”
Her demeanor gentled slightly. “I know you don’t, dear,” she replied, taking his chin in her other hand, which still held her bloody handkerchief. “It’s not your fault.” She tilted his head this way and that, examining his mouth. “Well, I suppose the swelling might go down some before your father’s fundraiser tomorrow. I’ll get Mariana to give you an ice pack.” She stood and entered the house, leaving the boys alone on the terrace.
Peter sighed and touched his lip cautiously. “I’m sorry,” he said again, staring down at the bricks of the terrace. “I didn’t mean to get you into trouble…”
Nathan slumped further down into his seat on the bench, looking anywhere but at his brother. “I don’t think Ma’s mad at me for getting into a fight because some guys were bullying you,” he replied with every bit of 13-year-old bravado he could muster. Then he shrugged and flashed a bright grin that didn’t fool Peter for an instant. “Besides, what kind of a big brother would I be if I let anyone else pick on you?”
“I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about this.” He gestured at his swelling lip.
Nathan glanced away again, grin disappearing in an instant. “Yeah, well, the next time you have some grand plan to get us out of going to one of Dad’s fundraising things, just forget it and let me do the planning, all right?” This time, though his words were harsh, when he met Peter’s gaze, his eyes were warm. He scooted closer along the bench and slung his arm around Peter’s shoulders.
“Yeah, all right.” Peter leaned against Nathan’s shoulder and touched his lip again. “Ouch.”
“Stop doing that.” Nathan batted his hand away from his mouth. “You’re only gonna keep hurting yourself.”
“But I can’t help it!”
“Sure you can. Just don’t touch it for a couple minutes, genius.”
Neither of them saw their mother standing in the terrace doorway, and if they had, they would never have recognized the strangely indulgent smile she wore as she watched them.
“We shouldn’t be doing this.” Peter glanced around as if expecting someone to leap out of the shadows and accuse them of…
Well, exactly what they were doing.
Nathan eased open the door to the garage. “Look,” he said quietly, “I’m legal, you’ve got your permit, and this is the only way you’re going to get any practice. Right?” He lifted the keys to the convertible from where they rested on the hook just inside and tossed them to his brother.
Peter caught them, held them tightly, feeling the hard metal digging into his hand and warming against his fingers. “Yeah, I guess…”
He could clearly see the white flash of Nathan’s smile in the darkness. “So what are you waiting for?” Then Nathan swung himself into the passenger’s seat of their father’s car, making it jounce on its springs.
Biting his lip, Peter climbed into the driver’s seat and started the car. He kept the lights off all the way down the long driveway, turning them on only when they hit the deserted road. His fingers were clenched white around the steering wheel.
Gradually, though, as they came upon no other late night traffic, Peter relaxed, and gave Nathan a quick, pleased smile. “This was a great idea,” he said, just loud enough to be heard over the sound of their movement, turning his eyes back to the road. “Thanks.”
Nathan leaned over and laid his hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Anything for you, Pete, you know that.”
Another short glance and a bright grin, and the sight warmed Nathan to the core, as it always did, no matter how many times he saw it.
Peter returned his attention to the road, trying to toss his long fluttering forelock of hair out of his eyes as he did so. Still watching, Nathan snorted. “You really need to cut that,” he said.
“Teenage rebellion,” was all Peter said in reply, his mouth quirking in a lopsided grin.
Without warning, a blaze of headlights blinded them, right in their eyes, a truck barreling down their lane directly at them. With a cry, Peter yanked the wheel to one side, sending them off the road, up onto the curb with a jolt as they stopped, hung up. The truck blew past them, horn blowing and didn’t stop.
Peter was panting, grasping the steering wheel in both hands, sweat beading his brow despite the coolness of the night. “Oh, God,” he whispered. “Oh, God…”
Nathan flung off his seatbelt and grabbed him before he could say more, both arms around Peter’s shoulders, pressing his head against his brother’s and pulling him as close as he could with the console between them. “Oh, God, Pete, are you all right?”
He could feel Peter’s hands trembling as he returned the embrace. “Yeah, I guess. Just… kinda freaked out, is all.”
Nathan just clutched him tighter and pressed a kiss to his neck, just below his ear. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Pete,” he whispered, trying to hide the way his voice shook.
And just like that, Peter’s hands steadied on his back, and Nathan was the one being comforted. “You never will, Nathan,” Peter murmured. “I’ll always be with you.”
He buried his face against Peter’s neck and didn’t care that his grip was hard enough to leave bruises.
“We shouldn’t be doing this.”
Peter smiled faintly and reached up to ghost his fingers down the side of his brother’s face. “You’ve been saying that for years… but you’re still here.”
Frowning, Nathan jerked away from the warmth of his fingers and twisted to sit on the edge of the bed. “That doesn’t make it any less wrong, Peter,” he grated. “We’re brothers. We shouldn’t be doing this.”
Peter propped himself up on his elbow. “Loving someone isn’t wrong,” he said quietly. “So, is that the only reason why you’re like this? There’s nothing else?”
Nathan closed his eyes and scrubbed his hands over his face. “Don’t start with that,” he warned, his voice low. “You know I have my reasons.”
He flopped back down onto his back and flung his arm over his eyes. “Oh, right,” he said, his tone filled with bitterness and just a hint of tears. “The political agenda, because that’s just so much more important than anything else.”
“It’s important to me.”
He felt the bed move, felt the heat of Nathan’s body as he moved closer again. Sighing, Peter moved his arm.
Nathan was looking down at him, his face no longer set in anger. “Just like… ” he started, then cleared his throat and glanced away. “Look, I know that you want to help those dying people, Pete,” he said very softly. “But I just wish you… I don’t want you to do something that’s going to tear you up inside.” As if he couldn’t stop himself, Nathan ran his fingers through the lank tangle of Peter’s forelock, combing it out and back away from his face. “I can’t stand it when you’re hurt.”
“I just want to help people,” Peter began, but was cut off by his brother’s hand over his mouth.
“I know you do,” Nathan said, his voice rough. “And I’m glad you do, because God knows I never could. So help me, Pete. Heidi’s going to be my wife, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to love you any less.” Of its own accord, his hand moved from Peter’s mouth to stroke his cheek. “Just… accept it. Make it easier for her and for me. All right?”
Peter turned his face away a little, his mouth scrunching up, but after a moment, he nodded. “It’s not true, you know,” he said, his dark eyes meeting Nathan’s.
Fingers still brushing Peter’s cheek idly, he asked “What’s not?”
“You’ve always helped me.”
“I can’t do this!”
As he had dreamed, as he had known would happen, Peter could feel the nuclear power within him spiraling out of control. He was glowing with it, hands outlined in white heat. Claire, his brother’s surprise daughter, was standing in front of him sobbing, the gun trembling in her hand. Do it! he wanted to scream at her. Do it before I kill everyone!
The gun wavered in her hand, and she pleaded with him to do what he simply couldn’t.
He was going to blow up, and if she didn’t kill him right now he would destroy New York, every person he cared about…
“I don’t know who I am without you.”
For a moment, Peter closed his eyes. I’m sorry, Nathan…
Then Nathan was there, between him and Claire, and for some unreasonable reason, he had hope again, even though the glow around him was growing ever stronger.
“… so we could save the world.”
His brother looked for all the world like a hero, not the shark he’d proclaimed himself, not the man who had thought that there was no chance only hours earlier, and Peter could keep his feelings to himself no longer. “I love you, Nathan.”
For the first time in what felt like forever, Nathan smiled. “I love you, too.” He eyed the dark sky for a moment, and then looked back at Peter. In that moment, they were the only two people in the world. “You ready?”
Peter nodded. “Yeah.”
Nathan took one long stride and grabbed his brother, and in a heartbeat, they were airborne.
And then there was no more “shouldn’t” or “can’t”, only Peter’s expressive eyes meeting Nathan’s as the sound barrier dissolved around them.
Then, at last, Peter let go.
September 4, 2007
© randi (K. Shepard), 2007