the sandstorm of youth
fandom heroes. [written between S1 & S2]
characters mohinder suresh, matt parkman, molly walker & nathan petrelli, peter petrelli.
notes the first was for exuberance, the second for inupr0n.
Molly pushes her rice around, snaps a poppadom methodically into pieces, the crackle setting Mohinder's teeth on edge in the sharp silence.
"If you don't like the curry, I can prepare something else..." he says, making sure to keep the impatience he feels out of his tone.
"No, it's okay." Molly takes an unenthusiastic spoonful. "I'm just not hungry."
"Oh." Mohinder doesn't know what to do with this young girl who is taking her place firmly in his apartment, his life. He pushes his own food around his plate, the fragrant spices of his own childhood suddenly unappealing.
"Mohinder," Molly asks, her elocution precocious and hesitant. "Can we go and see Matt tomorrow?"
"But we were at the hospital just yesterday..." Mohinder starts, then watches as she worries her lower lip and checks himself. "Was there anything he asked us to bring?"
"Corn chips," Molly says, and she smiles like the sun coming out. "The nurses won't let him have any."
"Then we'll pick some up tomorrow morning," says Mohinder, and it's with relief that he watches her attack her dinner with voracity.
Mohinder is barefoot and angular, drifting on the tiny sofa with Molly's head in his lap. As Matt watches, she opens her eyes and stares at him with sleepy little-girl solemnity. Matt presses a finger to his lips then settles himself on the floor, leaning against the soft corduroy of Mohinder's leg; his clothes always smell like Lapsang Souchong. Gunpowder and spices.
Parkman can hear Molly's half-awake happiness that he's home, and she rolls a little so she can slide a hand onto his shoulder; though he tries not to, he can feel how reassuring that simple act is to her. Mohinder is dreaming of sandships and elephants, thoughts flaring like magnesium, too bright for Matt to dwell on for long.
It could be their tiredness or his own which slips him smoothly into sleep. Matt can sleep anywhere. In his dreams he's a great beast, with eyes glowing like dying embers and a growl which rocks the core of the earth. In his dreams, he guards them both from harm.
"Move over," murmurs Mohinder, and Matt opens his eyes in surprise. The room is different shades of grey in the dark, but Matt can see the other's eyes reflecting an unknown source of light, shining eerily like a cat's.
He shifts backwards in the big bed, pulling Molly with him; she kicks and whimpers and he wishes he could do more than overhear. Mohinder slides between the cotton sheets, lays a hand gently on Molly's shoulders, and her trembling quietens a little.
"The cot wasn't exactly comfortable," Mohinder explains dryly.
"'Syour bed, Suresh," Matt tells him, voice muzzy with sleep and too tired to care about how awkward this could be.
Mohinder lies awake, watching them sleep, and Matt can hear the low hum of his mind; thinking through equations and relationships; treading and retreading the muddy footprints of his ethics.
Matt's eyes are closed, but— "You did the right thing," he whispers, as much as to stop the agonizing circles as in reassurance.
"As though that means anything coming from you," says Mohinder huskily, but Matt can hear his thoughts settle. "Go to sleep."
Peter sprawls sideways on the bed, in the dark, careless of his chucks on the expensive quilt as he fidgets. Every so often he twists his neck at an awkward angle to glance at the door, and his hair falls into his eyes, where he brushes absently at it. He's still not quite used to his fringe. The door opens, and his brother puts down his bags and flicks the light switch.
“What the hell took you so long?” Peter is fifteen, and curses to taste it in his mouth.
“Language,” says Nathan, raising an eyebrow as he hangs up his jacket. “And shoes, Pete, jesus.”
Peter toes them off, not taking his eyes from his brother. “That's not what I asked. I heard your car half an hour ago.”
“Ma stopped me at the door. You know how she is. Why are you in my bedroom?” It's mostly rhetorical; whatever the excuse, Nathan knows Peter's there because he missed him, because he wanted to be the first person to welcome Nathan back. “It's late, don't you have school tomorrow?”
“Are you gonna be home tomorrow?” He's cut class for worse excuses.
“Where else? I'll try and get all my work done so we can do something on the weekend.”
Peter sighs. Normally, this is where he'd capitulate; Nathan wants him to go to school, so he'll go. His dark eyes follow the line of the carpet where once they would have shone adoringly. “Do I have to go?” He hates the childish whine in his voice immediately.
Nathan stops unpacking and Peter feels the bed sink as he sits on the end of it, hands clasped and arms on his thighs, leaning forward so he's on a level with his little brother. “Yeah, you have to go. You don't want our folks to worry about your grades, huh?”
“Why'd they worry? They know I'll never be as good as you.” Peter glowers sullenly at him twisting up and away.
Nathan takes a deep breath. “Peter.” But his tone is understanding, and he doesn't fumble for the words. “I'm sorry I had to go away for so long. I should have written a few more letters or something.”
“And you're gonna go away again,” says Peter in a flat tone that's meant to show he doesn't care at all.
“It's a war.” That word could never hold everything he had experienced; the too-bright heat of the desert, the power of a .44 calibre cocking in his hands, listening on the radio to the sound of men begging as they died. Hearing reports that 200 civilians had died in an air raid, and trying not to care. Having a submarine full of lives he was responsible for. That kind of brotherhood is different to what he and Peter share, yet just as strong, and he knows Peter senses it. “I've gotta do what's right.”
Peter makes a funny little snuffling sound that could be a snort or maybe a suppressed sob. Nathan leans over and rough-houses with him until they're curled together on the bed, the same way they'd used to when Peter was young and afraid of the lightning or their father's shouting. “I'll tell you about it,” Nathan offers, even though it's well past 2am.
The shine comes back to Peter's eyes as Nathan tells him stories of travelling; of the plane he'd taken over there, first a big commercial Boeing but later in a Hummer. Once a misplaced helicopter pilot had given him a lift in his Cobra, and Nathan describes how all the landscape blurs together; the clear blue of the sky from horizon to horizon. “We all want to fly. We want to conquer the sky.” He smiles, his eyes far-away. “No-one ever will.”
Nathan tells tales of diplomatic missions, too, and though he never paints himself as anything more than who he is, the stories still have a touch of dramatization to them; they're full of noble ideals and heroics, of the friendliness and the fighting. He talks about the people he'd spoken to, the darkness America is liberating them from, and repeats a few dialect words he's learned.
“I wanna be a soldier—”
“Sailor.” Nathan's had that distinction drilled into him, even when he'd spent more time on land. Fish out of water, they called the Navy Corps. Marines with extra time on their hands. “And no, you don't.”
Even at fifteen, Peter is a pacifist; he remembers the way they'd all fought when it had first been decided that Nathan would euphemistically 'serve his country'. His father had insisted grimly that it was Nathan's duty; Angela had tried first cajoling, then pleading, then tears. Peter had yelled. Normally he didn't raise his voice, especially not to Nathan, but he'd hated the idea of his brother downtrodden amid the guns and sweat. You don't change the world by shooting people, he'd tried to say, but they'd ridden roughshod over his objections and he'd been removed from the discussion.
“No, I don't,” he agrees, and Nathan looks wary, like he's ready for Peter to get angry and distance himself again. But Peter can never stay angry with his big brother for long. “I wanna be a hero.”