Summary: In a world where many of those with abilities have been forced underground, Molly Parkman plays with espionage as she defects to the other side. In an interwoven story running sixteen years earlier, Mohinder tries to figure out the mystery of a woman who claims to be Shanti, keep an assassin from killing Matt, and save Molly after she’s been kidnapped, all on what he doesn’t know is the last day of his life.
Pairings: Micah/Molly, Matt/Mohinder
Rating: R, for gore, sex (including consensual sexual play between minors), cursing, and character death.
Word count: Just over 23,000
Notes: Thank you so so so much to my incredibly awesome beta readers, cookie_simone and starlingthefool. They are both very thorough and helpful and wise, and y’all should know that some of the best bits in this story came from their suggestions and willingness to tell me when I was being lazy in my storytelling. I adore them very much for all their hard work. Thanks, you two!!
This was written for the heroes_bigboom challenge. Art available by the fantastic noelia_g here. Check it out!!!
The fic’s soundtrack is available here. It’s spoiler-y, but the spoilers come in order, so you can follow along if you want, I guess. Or just listen to it all later. Anyway, whatevs. Enjoy some free music.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
August 20, 2010 (11:13 PM)
Mohinder was dead even before he finished falling backwards, even before his body hit the ground. His death was much more messy, much less graceful, than any act Molly had ever seen him do while alive. Blood splattered everywhere from the ruined mess that was his head, for he had no power, no need for Sylar to preserve that whorled flesh that had once held DNA sequences next to lullabies.
Molly tried to scream, but she gagged on the dirty rag shoved into her mouth. Bile rose in her throat as she sputtered, filling her mouth and adding acid to the filthy, coppery taste covering her tongue. The screams she couldn’t make were echoed by several of the others: Elle, Hiro, Claire, Monica; pinned by Sylar’s powers but with mouths free. Matt’s outburst, though, was something less like a scream and more like a wail, an unearthly sound that echoed off of the walls of the warehouse.
“I’m sorry, Mohinder,” Sylar said as he knelt next to Mohinder’s body and lifted one limp hand. “I was really hoping that the cop would make the simple choice so that I could let you live.” He stepped away from Mohinder and crouched near Molly. He put his hands to her hair and stroked it. She struggled against the ropes, felt the skin on her wrists and ankles chafe. “Such a lovely power,” he cooed. “It’s no telepathy, but—“
“Don’t touch her!” Matt yelled as, with a burst of grief- and fear-induced adrenaline, he pushed off the weight that had been pressing against his left arm, holding him pinned in place. Sylar’s hands stopped suddenly, jerked away from her head as if she had burned him.
Matt surged forward and punched Sylar in the jaw, knocking the man backwards. Sylar grinned as he rubbed his jaw, licked the blood off of his teeth. “That’s your choice then?” he asked. “You instead of her?” And then he extended a hand towards Matt and a bright line started to appear on his forehead.
MATT! Molly screamed in her head.
“Stop it,” Matt said. His voice didn’t sound like his own; it was deeper, came from some place that Molly didn’t recognize. And Sylar stopped.
“You will never hurt my daughter again,” Matt said. He was breathing heavily. “Just DIE.”
Sylar’s entire body tensed. And then it was as if all of the air went out of his body. He collapsed, much like Mohinder had, only his fall was bloodless. The smack of his body against the pavement was an obscene noise. And when Sylar lay, finally still, his hold over the others was broken.
Matt spun around to face the group. The assorted collection their friends that he and Mohinder had gathered, Molly assumed, to rescue her. But she could tell by his expression that he was not going to thank them. The whites of his eyes were showing, veins stood out across his forehead, she would hear his breath from where she was lying. “That goes for all of you,” he roared: to Peter, to Hiro, to Claire, to Noah and Monica and Nathan and Elle. “None of you will do anything to hurt—even THINK about hurting—Molly or me, ever.” The full weight of his mental voice was behind his words, the full weight of his pain and adrenaline and caught-in-the-moment rage.
And then he fell to his knees beside Molly, untied her restraints with shaking fingers, took the gag out of her mouth, and she collapsed into his chest where he held her as she shook.
No one would look Matt in the eyes.
They tried to revive Mohinder, had pumped Claire’s blood straight into his heart. But his brain was too far gone; too many pieces of it had been ripped out and scattered across the concrete floor.
They had him cremated, and they met Venkamma Suresh at the Trivandrum International Airport forty-eight hours later. Matt and Molly’s eyes were so glazed over with grief and weariness that it was all they could do to manage even the slightest of smiles at a meeting that should have happened under completely different circumstances. Mohinder should have been leading the introductions, rather than taking up entirely too little space in the urn that Molly clutched to her chest as if it were a piece of driftwood keeping her afloat in the middle of an empty, bewildering sea.
She didn’t let go of it during the entire ride to Kanyakumari, either. While Mohinder’s uncle drove the car down warm, dusty roads, Molly lay in the back seat with Matt’s arms wrapped around her, one of his hands resting lightly on Mohinder’s urn and the other stroking her hair.
Even dressed in white, Matt and Molly stood out on the beach. Molly could tell that none of Mohinder’s relatives knew what to do with them, everyone staying at a little bit of distance save for Venkamma and a man who introduced himself as Nirand.
“Did he find what he was looking for in America?” Nirand asked. “The answers to his father’s questions?”
“He did,” Matt said, squeezing Molly’s hand. He didn’t let go until after one of Mohinder’s uncles scattered the ashes, after Molly felt herself stop breathing for several long moments as she saw Mohinder for the last time, the dusty bits of his body sinking below the surface of the water. The waves of three oceans crashed together on this beach, and Molly wondered which ocean would bear Mohinder away. And which two would never feel his presence again.
They went back to Chennai and stayed a few days while Matt and Venkamma sorted and traded some of Mohinder’s effects. Molly enjoyed the cool comfort she felt whenever she was around Mohinder’s mother, but on the whole it was hard not to mourn in Chennai, seeing all of the things that Mohinder must have seen as a boy, forgetting at times that he wasn’t someone she should be looking for and always turning at flashes of mild skin and dark hair, only to be reminded all over again that she had lost her third parent. So Molly was not sorry to leave India, not sad to be saying goodbye as they stood outside the airport terminal, Venkamma hugging Molly tightly for the last time.
“I know it’s hard, but try not to be sad for too long, Molly,” Venkamma said. “The longer you grieve, the longer your Appa’s soul will remain with you on earth, trapped, unable to move on to the next life. He wants you to be happy. Can do you that for him, sweetheart?”
She nodded, tears rolling down her cheeks. But there was a part of her that didn’t see what was the problem with Mohinder staying with her, forever.
They drifted for nearly a year.
Matt and Molly stayed in that apartment that now felt far too large for just two people, but they didn’t live, not really. They ate there, and slept, and prepared for work and did homework and occasionally (occasionally) shared a smile or quick, broken laugh, but they both knew that they were merely going through the motions of living. Waking up each day only to look for something that wasn’t there.
Until the day it all changed. Until the day that there was a knock at the door, and it was Nathan Petrelli. “We need you on this one, Parkman,” he said. “You know I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t the truth.”
“I told you,” Matt said, “I’m finished with this goddamn superhero life.” Molly winced to hear him curse in front of her.
“There’s a man out there who’s more powerful than all of us,” Nathan said. “More powerful than all of us except for you.”
“I’m not that powerful,” Matt said. “I read minds.”
“You killed Sylar with words,” Nathan responded. “If that’s not powerful, I don’t know what is. This man, he’s like Sylar, Parkman. He’s killing people. If we don’t stop him, he’ll kill a lot more.”
And it was like Nathan stuck his finger in a gaping wound, the way Matt jerked. “Like Sylar,” Matt repeated.
“He doesn’t eat brains, if that’s what you’re asking. But he uses his abilities to kill innocents. We can’t let bastards like that live,” Nathan said.
“We can’t allow any more Sylars,” Matt agreed, his voice strangely flat.
By the time Matt came home that night, Molly had already fallen asleep on the couch in Mrs. Nicholson’s apartment. She woke up to see Matt standing over her, and she put her arms around his neck and let him half carry, half sleepily walk her up the stairs to her home. He guided her into bed, tucked the comforter around her.
There was a tenseness in his shoulders. He kissed her forehead and sat back.
“If I...” he said, and trailed off. Shook his head, started again. “I can hurt people,” he said. “If I do it to prevent another Sylar, to prevent another family from hurting like we do, does that make it okay?”
And there was something seriously wrong with Matt asking his thirteen-year-old-daughter to be his conscience. On some level, they both knew it. But Molly just murmured, “I trust you, Daddy. I love you.”
“I love you, too, sweetheart,” he replied.
He turned out the light and left the room.
August 20, 2010 (8:32 AM)
“Gooooood morning, family,” Matt said as he walked into the kitchen. He ruffled Molly’s hair, and she grinned up at him. He approached the sink and put a hand on Mohinder’s lower back. Mohinder poured a cup of coffee and turned around to hand it to Matt.
“Good morning,” Mohinder said, and they shared a morning peck on the lips as the steaming mug was passed between their hands.
“Thanks,” Matt said, breaking apart to get the milk out of the fridge.
“Molly and I were just talking about tomorrow and Sunday,” Mohinder said as he washed out his own mug. “About what she wanted to do on her last two days of summer vacation.”
“Wow, what a big decision,” Matt said. “What are you going to do during your last two days as a sixth grader?”
Molly regarded Matt with a look that was clearly distain. “I have been a seventh grader since May, Matt,” she said, and Matt threw up his hands in surrender. “But I was thinking about it, and can we go back to the beach?” she asked. “Please?”
“That might be a bigger undertaking than just a weekend,” Matt said. “It took us almost all day to get out there last time.”
Molly raised her eyebrow in an expression that looked comically too old for a twelve-year-old girl. “Mohinder said what we could do anything I wanted.” Out of any other child, it might have sounded like whining or petulance, but Molly’s tone was perfectly calm, rational, merely pointing out the logical argument. She was becoming quite the little scientist, Mohinder noted with pride.
“I should have added within reason,” Mohinder added as he backed away from the sink and rolled down the sleeves of his jacket.
“All I’m saying is, we know people.”
“We’ll see,” Matt said.
Mohinder looked at his watch. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “I’m running late for class already.” He scooped up his bag with his papers and books. He leaned forward and kissed Molly on the forehead, squeezed Matt’s hand. “See you this evening,” he called as he ran out the door. “Love you both!”
“This is your fault, you know,” he said, and Molly looked up to see Micah staring at her, arms crossed.
“Oh?” she asked, and turned her attention back to her homework.
“Before Monica started going out with your dad and Mr. Petrelli and the rest, she used to let me go along. On missions.”
“That sounds like something that’s Monica’s fault,” she replied. “Or maybe Daddy’s, or Mr. Petrelli’s.”
“No,” he said, “it’s yours.” And he crossed the room and placed a hand on the table as he leaned over her and her calculator. “If you tried a little harder, begged your dad a little more to let you go, maybe they’d finally cave, and we wouldn’t be stuck here watching reruns while they’re out there saving the world.” Molly tried not to concentrate on the way that his bicep was just barely touching her shoulder, the smell of his hair. “Don’t you want to be a superhero, too?”
“I don’t have the time,” she said as she turned her face up towards his. “I’ve got to finish my math homework.”
“Great, I love math,” he said, and looked more closely at her worksheet. “The answer to the one you’re working on is twelve. And in the next, if you just factor the equation, you’ll find that the functions of zero are negative one and n—”
“Micah!” she said, and covered the piece of paper with her hands.
“What?” he asked. “Maybe if we hurry, we can catch up to them.”
“I don’t want to, Micah!” she shouted, with as much force as she could muster, and she must have betrayed herself somehow because his face instantly softened as he leaned back.
“This isn’t about the math, is it?” he asked.
“No more than this is about being a superhero,” she replied.
“Molly, what if they’re out there getting hurt?” He asked, and she didn’t answer, just dropped her gaze back down to the table. “Haven’t we lost enough parents?”
“And what if they are?” she shot back. “What are we going to do about it? Change a couple stoplights? Know where the nearest doctor is but have no way of contacting him? How can that help anything? We’re not the shock troops, Micah. When shit goes down, we’re not good for anything more than hostages and teary bystanders. How can you bear the thought of standing there, watching Monica die?”
“It’s not any better than sitting here, worrying because you don’t know if Matt’s going to make it back from this one.”
“And that’s why I save my math homework until he goes out,” she responded.
He put his hand on hers, and she rotated her hand so that their palms touched. He interlocked their fingers. And before she knew what was happening, their faces were so close. And something seemed right about tilting her head just so, opening her mouth slightly when their lips met. It was over practically before it started, but like all first kisses, for Molly it seemed to last so long that she felt out of breath, the room spinning for her deoxygenated brain.
“The functions of zero are—are negative one and n-nine,” Micah stammered a bit as they broke away. “And the next one involves the square of—”
“What are you doing?” she asked, but her heart was beating against her chest so hard she was surprised that he couldn’t hear it, and she knew. Hoped, anyway. “I told you math was my distraction.”
“I was hoping, maybe, that we could find you another one.” He cleared his throat and licked his lips quickly, his tongue darting out and back in like it wasn’t under his control. “One that could distract us both.”
She wasn’t unusually daring, that Molly Walker. But in this instance, everything she did felt right. She put her hand on the collar of his shirt and pulled him back in.
Molly stirred a little on the couch, enjoying the feeling of Micah’s bare shoulder against her cheek. She sleepily accessed her power, just to see where Daddy was—
“Oh, shit,” she said, sitting upright. “Micah, wake up,” she said as she shook him. “Daddy’s almost home.” She scooted across the couch as she rebuttoned the top three buttons on her shirt. He pulled his own shirt over his head and looked at the TV. It switched on.
“Where is he?” he asked
“Elevator,” she said. “Second floor—no, third now.”
“Then we’ve got a minute more at least,” he said as he leaned across the couch and kissed her again.
“What was that for?” she asked, blushing.
“We might not see each other again for another week,” he said. “I’ve got to get them in when I can.”
“You’re so cute,” she told him as she let go of his arm.
“Back atcha,” he replied, and they laughed. When the door opened, it looked like they were laughing over an old rerun of Friends. Matt didn’t have to know they weren’t.
“Welcome home!” she said.
“Thanks, sweetie,” he replied. “Micah, Nathan’s waiting downstairs to give you and Monica a ride home.”
“Sweet!” Micah said.
“...in his car.”
“Oh,” Micah replied. “Well, thanks. It was um...nice to see you, Mr. Parkman. Bye Molly. See you later.”
“See you,” she replied, and he left.
“Did you two have a good time tonight?” Matt asked.
“Yeah,” she said, she hoped as noncommittally as possible. She shrugged for good measure. But as normal as she appeared outside, she couldn’t stop herself from thinking about Micah’s lips on hers, her hand in those curls...
“You and Micah,” Matt said, and she knew he knew. He frowned. “I should ground you for life—”
“Get out of my mind!” she shrieked. “It’s not fair when you do that!”
“It’s not my fault you think about these things so loud,” he replied. “And once I hear that you’ve been disobeying my rules under my roof, I can’t just ignore that.”
“I’m not a little girl anymore,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “I’m old enough to kiss a guy, if I want.”
“Kiss?” Matt asked. “That’s it? You promise?”
“I promise,” she said before she had a chance to consider what she was saying. But no, that wasn’t the truth, was it? His hands had been on her breasts, then his mouth. And these memories rose to her mind and in under a moment, he would know that, too, and she’d be in trouble for lying on top of everything else.
So in her panic, without even realizing what she was doing, she reached inside herself and accessed her power.
She braced herself for a lecture that didn’t come. To her surprise, Matt just smiled slightly. “Okay,” he said and sat down on the couch next to her. As if he believed her. With a start, Molly realized that she must have somehow used her powers to slam shut the windows and doors into her mind. She had never been able to fight off the Nightmare Man, when he had tried to reach into her thoughts, but she was older now, and Matt less experienced than his father.
Unknowing that the power balance between them had changed, Matt pulled her into a sideways hug. “Sometimes I forget that you’re fifteen,” he said. “But you’re wrong. No matter how old you get, you’ll always be my little girl. I love you so much, honey.”
“I love you too, Daddy.”
“I had thought that it would be just you and me against the world for a little bit longer, though.”
And Molly realized that maybe he hadn’t initially been angry simply because it was his right as a father. Maybe it was because they were both supposed to still be lonely for Mohinder. And if Molly wasn’t, then that left just Matt, all by himself. “We’re still a team,” she told him. “But Micah understands me. He understands what it’s like to lose parents.”
“I hope that I’m enough of a father-figure to you to make that okay,” Matt said.
She scowled. “You are not my father-figure,” she said. “You’re my father. But no matter how much I love you, that doesn’t change what I’ve seen. Those hours I spent in the closet in California, what happened three years ago—” her voice wavered as she broke off.
There was silence for several long minutes as she pressed her face into his side, trying not to cry, and he held her close. Finally, she whispered, “And Micah understands. Can you respect that, Daddy?”
He nodded. “But two rules,” he said. “One, no—” he choked on what he was about to say next, “no sex. Ever. Do you promise?”
She wasn’t sure that she could really agree to that, but she said, “yes,” anyway. He didn’t recoil at her not-so-pure intention, so maybe this mind silence would hold.
“And two, you let me make sure that he never does anything to hurt you,” he said, but his tone was dark, and it reminded Molly of the way he sounded when he spoke to the others on the night Mohinder died. And of that time, over a year ago, when Elle had gone to punch Molly teasingly on her shoulder and had ended up on the ground, head in her hands, her mind screaming at the thought of violating that unforgettable command.
“No,” Molly said, pulling sharply away from Matt. “No! I will not let you use your power on him. I trust Micah, Daddy. Won’t you let me make this decision for myself?”
He sighed. “Okay,” he said. “But if he ever does do anything to hurt you, I will make him regret it until the day he dies. Will you agree at least to that?”
There was nothing Micah could do to hurt her. She knew that he would never even think of it. So there was no need to worry about retribution. “Fine,” she said.
“Be safe,” he said.
It wasn’t for a few days after that that Matt noticed the mental silence that lay between them. “Are you doing something?” he asked.
“I’m growing up,” she said. “I deserve my privacy.”
And there was nothing he could say to protest that, no way that he could ethically ask her to lay open the secrets of her mind. So he said nothing. And at first she had to think of her shield often, to keep it up, but as the weeks and months piled on, it came more and more naturally, until guarding her mind was as natural as breathing.
And so, with that private space established, she allowed more exploration between herself and Micah. At first he was concerned with asking what her father would think, when Matt pulled such secrets out of her mind. But she would shush Micah with more kisses. Before long, it all came to them without worry, when he would tongue the edge of her nipples and caress secret places with those long fingers, and she’d follow downward that dart of hair under his belly button. When in between shuddered breaths and, eventually, promises of love, there would be a light in each of their eyes and they’d be able to forget all of the parents they’d lost, between them.
She wasn’t ashamed, but she knew that Matt would never understand, so she kept up that mental wall. It kept her and Matt, growing daughter and protective father, from killing each other. The only trick became keeping Micah, who remained unshielded, away from Matt. It wasn’t hard.
This all seemed like such typical teenage daughter stuff at the time.
August 20, 2010 (11:06 am)
“That was a good first lecture, Dr. Suresh,” he heard a voice say as his students filed out of the classroom. He looked up to see a woman leaning against the door.
It was actually his fifth day at NYU, and, therefore, not his first lecture, but he was willing to let it slide. “Thank you,” he said, and searched for a name, but nothing came. “I’m sorry, have we met? Are you in one of my classes, perhaps?”
She was far too old to be a student, actually, but he hadn’t exactly memorized the NYU facebook yet so he wasn’t quite sure who he could offend without getting fired. She looked important, in a tailored suit that looked expensive from even across the room. And yet, she was wearing a pair of sneakers with it. Just regular sneakers. That had to speak to something about her personality, but Mohinder wasn’t sure what. Anyway, better to make her think he assumed she was younger, right?
She didn’t smile. Damn. “We knew each other once,” she said. “But...it was a long time ago.”
There was something about her that looked familiar, but he couldn’t pinpoint it. “I’m sorry. It’s been too long for me, obviously. Maybe if I had your name?”
Her shoes squeaked as she crossed the classroom. She put her hands on his podium and leaned over it. “You can call me Shanti,” she said.
“How do you know that name?” he asked, suddenly startled by her behavior. With her this close, he noticed how the line of her suit was ruined. Ruined exactly the same way that Matt’s sometimes was, when he was wearing his service weapon under his clothes. There was a little blood on her shirt. Mohinder backed up, straight into the chalkboard. “Who are you?”
“I represent an organization of people—” she began, but he cut her off.
“The Company?” he asked.
“Not as you know it. Let’s call it a special division.”
“I don’t work for them anymore,” he said. “I got out, and I don’t plan on going back. You tell your employers that.”
“I’m not here to recruit you,” she said. “I’m here to protect you.”
“I don’t need anyone’s protection,” he replied. “I think I proved that when I shot Noah Bennet.”
“There are far worse threats in this world than Noah Bennet,” she said. “I’ve seen them. And I can tell you this, Dr. Suresh, if you don’t listen to me, Molly Walker is going to be kidnapped.”
“Stay away from my daughter,” he spat. He looked towards his desk and debated if it was worth trying to grab his notes and computer. Decided it wasn’t. He bolted for the door.
As he ran, he pulled his phone out of his pocket, but before he could flip it open, it rang. He pressed it to his ear. “Hello?” he nearly shouted.
“Mohinder, it’s me.” Matt.
“I was just about to call you,” Mohinder said. “I’ve been approa—“
“Mohinder, I need you to listen to me,” Matt said. There was something terrible in his voice, some note that grabbed Mohinder somewhere deep inside his body.
“What is it?” Mohinder asked as he ran. He looked over his shoulder to see the woman right behind him.
“It’s Molly. She’s...gone. She’s been taken.”
Mohinder nearly dropped the phone. “I’ll be right there,” he gasped into it. He snapped his phone closed so hard it almost snapped in half.
He stopped, spun around to face her. She couldn’t react in time, skidded to a stop close enough to touch him. Mohinder reached out and grabbed her shoulders, shoved her roughly into the door of a classroom. She fell backwards into the doorway, landed in the classroom on her ass with her hands splayed out behind her.
“What have you done with her?” Mohinder asked, his voice savage. He took advantage of her disorientation, reached right under her jacket and took her gun out of his holster. “Where is she?” he asked as he cocked the gun.
“She’s safe,” the woman said as she sat up.
“Don’t give me any of that bullshit,” he replied. “You will tell me where she is right now, or I will blow your head off. And then I’ll find some blood to revive you with and shoot you again.”
“She’s at your apartment,” the woman said. “Safe. It’s Monday, your first day at NYU, isn’t it?”
She swore, heavily. “You could have told me that five minutes ago!”
“You’ll have to pardon me for not being completely honest with you,” Mohinder said. “You need to tell me where Molly is,” he said, pressing the gun to her forehead. “Right. Now.”
She crossed her eyes looking up at the barrel of the gun, swallowed. “I don’t know where she is,” she said. “But if you trust me, I can help you. I promise, I was sent here to protect you.”
“The Company should know by now that threatening my daughter and then kidnapping her is not the way to win my support!”
“I wasn’t sent here to threaten you, Dr. Suresh,” she said. “I was sent here to warn you that it was coming so that we could prevent it. But I got the day wrong. Apparently, I was supposed to be here four days ago.”
“How did you know that she was going to be kidnapped on my fifth day at NYU?”
Several emotions crossed her face all at once. She opened her mouth, closed it again. And then she just cleared her throat. “The people I work for are very powerful.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I can’t give you much more information than that right now. Mohinder,” she said, something plaintive in the way she said his name. “please. If you put the gun down, I’ll tell you everything I’m allowed to. And then I’ll help you get Molly back.”
He didn’t know what made him do it, but he lowered the gun.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Molly had never seen Hiro so angry before. In fact, she’d never seen Hiro angry before, period. But as he slammed the newspaper down on the kitchen table in Matt and Molly’s apartment, the noise was surprising enough that it made everyone in the kitchen jump. It was unmistakable that something inside Hiro had snapped.
“Read the article, Matt Parkman,” he said. “The man we killed—the man you killed—last night, he had a family. Two daughters and unborn son. A wife. Job. House. Friends. A life. He was innocent.”
“He was dangerous,” Matt said, his words slow and measured.
“To who?” Hiro replied. “To us? Because he certainly had never harmed another human being.”
“His power was such that he ran a serious risk of developing into a threat,” Nathan said.
Hiro shook his head. “We cannot keep doing this. We cannot keep killing people because they might become a danger. Do you not remember when our powers first started developing, what The Company did to us? We have become our parents.”
Matt visibly jerked at this, and Molly reached across the table and gave him a quick reassuring smile. There was nothing, nothing Matt could ever do to be like the Nightmare Man. The Nightmare Man was not a loving father. The Nightmare Man could never care as much as Matt did. Even still, Hiro’s words wounded Matt, and Nathan, too.
“Whoa,” Nathan said. “I think we all feel bad enough about what happened last night without having to bring our parents into this.”
“Do we?” Peter asked from where he was leaning against the kitchen counter. “I think that if you and Matt felt bad enough about this, you wouldn’t be quite so defensive about trying to prove that what you did was right. You’d be just as sad as the rest of us.”
“Pete, just listen,” Nathan said.
“No, you listen,” Peter said. “I think that Hiro is right.” Everyone sat, stunned, at Peter contradicting Nathan, for once. “What we’re doing, it’s been making me uncomfortable for a long time now. We started out being noble, I think,” he said, “but we’ve gotten so busy trying to track down potential bad guys that we’ve lost sight of what should be important. Killing people is not the answer. I don’t think that I can do this anymore, Nathan. I can’t be a part of our group anymore.”
Nathan’s jaw grew clenched. “If that’s your decision.”
“It is mine, too,” Hiro said. “I thought I wanted to be a superhero, but that is not what we are anymore.”
“Anyone else?” Nathan asked.
“Me,” Monica said, quietly. She looked to Micah, who nodded.
“I agree with them, too,” Claire said.
Nathan sighed. “First my brother, then my daughter.”
She shook her head. “You never were my father. I thought we settled that a long time ago.”
“Yeah, well, we all know which side Noah would have agreed with, were he still with us,” Matt said.
“It doesn’t matter how much I loved him,” Claire said. “I’m my own person. I’m not a slave to my dead father’s memory.” As she said it, she looked at Molly, but Molly couldn’t be sure if that was intentional or not.
“Then go,” Nathan said. “If you don’t agree with us, just go.”
Five minutes later, the kitchen seemed so much emptier, with just Matt and Molly and Nathan and Elle. But the kitchen was used to being emptier, wasn’t it? It was used to seeing people go, to awkward silences and lonely nights.
“It’s just us, now,” Nathan said. “But we can still work with this.”
“I’m sorry,” Micah said the next afternoon, in that space between her geography lecture and his computer science lab, in that space between his dorm bed’s twin sheets. He kissed her and put a hand on the curve of her waist. “I’m sorry that I didn’t stand with you and Matt. But Monica, she and I have talked about her leaving the group before...”
“I don’t care,” Molly replied. “It’s not like you and I help them one way or another, anyway. You did what you had to do. So did I. Can you forgive me?”
“Always,” he said. “I love you so much. Nothing can change that, Molly.” And then, for good measure, he kissed her deeply. He played briefly with her nipples with his fingers before working his way down her body. He slid a warm hand in between her legs and touched a place that sent the same message of love through her, physically, starting at her core and reverberating down to the ends of her toes and the tips of her fingers.
“Oh god,” she gasped. “I love you so much, t-too.” She reached out and slid down the waistband of his boxers, the last cloth barrier to bare skin on bare skin. And then there was no more talk between them of their guardians and parents. There were only tongues and gasps and him filling her and the giddy, overwhelming feeling that was passed and amplified between them both.
It wasn’t until later, when Micah was getting out of the shower before class, and Molly latched herself onto him very nearly as soon as he opened the door, that anything more about this was said.
She put her hands around his toweled waist, and he shook his head lightly so that water sprinkled off of his curls and landed on her dry skin. She laughed, one short beat, but then grew serious as she ran a hand through his hair. “I know I was planning to tell Daddy soon that I wanted to move in with you next semester, but I don’t think that this is a good time anymore.”
“What?” he asked. “We’ve been planning this for months!”
“Just because I can forgive you,” she said, “doesn’t mean that he can. Not yet. Just give him a little bit more time. He’s feeling betrayed right now.”
“Out of all of the people who walked out on him and Nathan last night, I’m the least of his concerns,” Micah said. “You said it yourself. We’re both nothing more than bystanders.”
“Still,” Molly said. “It hurt him. He won’t take to the news of you and me going to the next step very kindly. As far as he knows, you and I have never even had sex. And besides, I can’t very well leave him when he’s like this.”
Micah pulled away and started dressing. “When are you going to love me more than you love your father?”
“Micah!” she said. “I’m all he has!”
“Mohinder’s been dead for longer than he and Matt were together,” Micah said, and Molly took a step back, appalled.
“Don’t talk to me about Mohinder! You can’t measure grief in years like that, Micah. I thought that you, of all people, would understand that.”
He pulled his shirt over his head. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt you. But sometimes you need to realize what’s healthy and what isn’t. And maybe this co-dependency that is you and Matt, maybe it’s not healthy anymore.”
“We’re not co-dependent,” she protested. There was something so terribly vulnerable about fighting like this, naked, not entirely sure why she should win. She folded her arms across her chest in a last attempt at defense.
Micah looked at her and sighed. “Okay,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’ll call you later, all right?” He picked up his book bag and kissed her one more time, quickly and on her closed lips. “I love you.”
“Love you, too,” she mumbled. He left the dorm room.
After Micah left, she showered, alone, and dressed herself impeccably so that there was not a single outward indication that she had been out of her clothes since she left the apartment that morning for class. She headed for the subway and started to catch the line she usually took to get home, but instead of getting off when she needed to transfer, she kept going. She realized that she needed to do something other than going home. Talk to someone. And seeing as how Matt and Micah were both really the problems, there was exactly one other person she knew she could confide in.
“Hey, you!” Elle exclaimed as she opened the door to her apartment. “What’s up?”
“Girl talk?” Molly asked hopefully, and Elle beamed.
“Come in,” she said. “Do you want something to eat?”
And five minutes later, Molly found herself sitting at the one table in Elle’s little studio, with a plate that had a single slice of white bread on it. Elle poured Molly half a glass of orange juice, the pulpy dregs at the bottom of the carton, which smelled a little more suspicious than Molly was willing to chance. “What’s happening in your life that you needed to come all the way up here to get some pseudo-sisterly advice on?” Elle asked and put her chin on her fist.
Molly sighed as she traced one of the scorch marks on the table. “Micah and I fought,” she said simply.
“Not about the sex, I hope?” Elle asked.
“Oh, no, the sex is still good. Really good—”
“Oh, kitten, I’ve told you before that you can’t ever really know that if you stick with just Micah.”
“Elle,” Molly said, rolling her eyes. Elle smiled and crackled a bit of electricity between her fingers. Molly smiled back, despite herself.
“Fine, fine. Tell me what the fight was about.”
Molly shrugged. “It was about him and Monica leaving the group,” she said. “I don’t think I can move in with him anymore.”
“Because he abandoned you?” Elle supplied.
“No!” Molly said. “No, no! Oh my god, it’s so his personal choice.”
“I’m just saying,” Elle said. “You’ve had a lot of important men in your life leave you. Maybe you’re just distrustful of Micah because of that.”
“Elle. Mohinder and my biological father didn’t leave me, they died. I can appreciate the difference between that and Micah not wanting to fight crime. Besides, the problem isn’t really me and Micah, it’s Micah and Daddy.”
“Having to choose sides?” Elle asked, and finally Molly felt like Elle was catching on.
“Yeah,” Molly said. “I don’t think that I can leave Daddy when he’s feeling betrayed like this. Micah leaving didn’t hurt me, but...I don’t want Daddy to be alone right now.”
Elle shrugged. “You love your father,” she said. “You’d do anything he asked you to do. I think that’s normal. That’s how I felt about my Daddy, before he...” Elle trailed off. Molly reached across the table and squeezed her hand. They shared a sad smile. “Same story, huh?” she asked. “Before his unfortunate meeting with Sylar.”
They were quiet for several minutes before Molly spoke again. “So I’m normal, then?” she asked.
“Sorry to tell you, normal as punch,” Elle said. “Micah just has to accept that there’s one person in your life who has consistently protected and cared for you, and it just isn’t him. You’ve got a loyalty that goes deep.”
“So he’ll come around?”
“If he loves you,” Elle said.
For the first time since the fight, Molly felt confident in her and Micah again, because of course he did. He loved her so much. He said so. “Thanks,” Molly said. “What would I do without you?”
“Not have half as much fun, that’s for sure,” Elle replied, and pushed her chair away from the table. “I picked up a new romantic comedy this morning. D’you wanna watch with me?”
Molly quirked an eyebrow. She knew Elle too well for that question to be taken at face value. “Does this romantic comedy involve several people being brutally murdered?”
“Duh,” Elle replied. “Would I mean anything else?”
“If you can make up some burnt popcorn,” Molly replied. “I’m in.”
Elle was already sparking a bag between her hands. Several hours later, when Molly finally went home, she didn’t say anything to Matt about Micah. But then again, it would be awhile before she said anything to Micah about Matt, either.