With many thanks to Davechicken - once again - for the beta!
"If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendour of the mighty one. Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
[From the Bhagavad Gita, notably quoted by J. Robert Oppenheimer, so-called Father of the Atomic Bomb, at its first testing.]
Reality opens its arms once more.
As Peter Petrelli reappears on the cold streets of New York, it’s all he can do to stay on his feet – and even then, he has to catch himself on the nearest wall to do it. The images replay in his mind, over and over, bright and terrible and... and other things he doesn’t want to engage with. Can’t engage with. Can’t engage with because the mere knowledge of what he’s done, what he’s seen, what he’s felt, is like sudden ice running right to the core.
He murdered his own brother. His mind, grasping for straws like a drowning man, tells him over and over that it wasn’t really Nathan. Not his Nathan. Just... one possible future Nathan.
...But still Nathan.
Peter’s fingertips spread over cold stone, and he turns from the wall, leaning back on it and staring up at the sky, visible between the buildings stretching high above. A gust of wind cuts the air and he shivers, still topless from... what had been happening in the future. It... all of it... he can’t process it. Can’t... get it to make any kind of sense in his head.
The blood is still pounding in his ears as he remembers... remembers what it felt like. To kill. To... want to kill. To need it, as fundamental as air. The moment the urge had taken him had been... actually, drowning was a good metaphor. A drowning man will do anything to reach the air waiting above his head.
And Peter Petrelli had done anything. Done the unthinkable. But this... this is a part of him, now. It doesn’t feel like it ever has before. Absorbing any other power... is like flicking a switch inside, and suddenly finding another room, filled with infinite possibilities. This... is like flicking a switch and finding himself staring into cold, dark eyes, lurking where he never thought anyone could be. Lurking in a place he didn’t realise he needed to go to... until he knew he did.
The more he lets himself dwell on it, the more the urge washes over him again, a constant beating in his head, growing louder and louder until he thinks the very feeling itself might kill him. For a moment, alone and without anyone to... help him exorcise the need... all Peter can do is relive his kill, over and over and over... until the feeling passes, and he’s left with nothing but a wave of nausea and guilt, and a chill that will not fade.
He wishes he’d had more time to learn about it before...
...and then there are more memories. Memories of a man, and a boy, and a sudden burst of radiance, more terrible than anything he could have imagined before. Even having experienced it himself.
“Gabriel.” He whispers the name in sudden remembrance, sudden certainty.
Gabriel. Sylar. Peter still doesn’t know what to make of the news that he... is his brother. Their brother. At first it felt so wrong, but the more he thinks about it... the more it makes the kind of sense that cannot be denied.
Another wave of dreadful need washes over him, and he turns back to the wall, smacking his hand painfully into the brick, trying to let out the tension. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work and if he doesn’t find something soon... it will happen again. He’ll find someone. Anyone. And he’ll...
He needs to know. Needs to learn. He’s had to be taught how to use powers before... so this shouldn’t be any different. It just means... he’ll have to find the one person who can teach him.
Peter Petrelli brushes the blood from his chest, and goes to find Gabriel Gray.
“I can’t let you see him.”
Mere moments after being in that street in the city, Peter is standing in front of the one obstacle keeping him from his goal. The one obstacle he’s got to get around in order to find his answers.
The one obstacle he’s not sure he can get around.
Angela Petrelli stares back at him, near-black eyes fixed on her son. One of her sons. One of an ever-growing number, if recent events are anything to go by. Peter can’t help wondering, darkly, how many more there might be.
She doesn’t comment on Peter’s current condition – still topless and a little bloody, staring almost wild-eyed at his mother. So different from the boy he used to be.
But he’s got this far. He’s teleported here, knowing this is the place to look. Knowing his answers are down on Level Five. He can travel through time, turn invisible, and blow up cities. He is not going to be thwarted by his own mother.
“I can’t let you stop me,” he replies. His fingertips are itching with the need to be doing something – and in order to stop the worst options from manifesting, he lets one of his newer powers come to the fore, palms lighting up with bright blue fire.
“I don’t think you should do that,” Angela says, implacably calm in the face of obvious threat. “If nothing else, I am your mother.”
“Believe me, if I want to do it, I’ll do it.”
“How very childish.”
“Perhaps. But it’s better than the alternative. Now. You have to let me see Sylar.”
“Peter, dear, maybe this would be a good time to trust your mother, before someone gets hurt.”
How the woman can stare down a man with flaming hands and still make every word sound like a threat is a mystery. Peter keeps his head up, refusing to give in this time.
“Why?” he retorts, realising he sounds like a petulant child but too wound up to really care. “Think I can’t cope with my own brother?”
Ah. Now that gets a reaction. Angela looks... a little surprised.
“You know,” she says, rather coldly. It isn’t a question.
“He told me.”
“Gabriel has been here in Level Five since I told him. The only times he’s been let out, he has been with Noah Bennett – and trust me, if the two of you had been having little heart-to-hearts, Noah would have reported it.”
“It wasn’t like that. I went to the future.”
Angela raises her eyebrows. “I thought I had Hiro suitably occupied.”
“Apparently you do,” Peter replies, idly wondering where Hiro’s got to these days, and what his mother could possibly be ‘occupying’ him with. “I went to the future with myself. The future me.”
That gets a sigh of annoyance from his mother, and she sounds rather irritated when she speaks again. “That boy is a menace.”
“That boy is me.”
“That boy could be you. So he took you to the future.”
“Yes. I found Sylar. Gabriel. He was Gabriel in the future. He told me.”
“I see.” Angela appears to be thinking about this... and then all of a sudden her expression darkens notably. “What else did he tell you?”
Peter arches an eyebrow, letting the fire die from his palms, and pacing a little. “Plenty of things,” he answers, deliberately vague.
“Such as... how his power works. But before I could get a good, long lesson... we were interrupted. And... separated. And then one thing led to another and...”
So much talking. Angela Petrelli really is an expert manipulator, and she’s managed to distract him. But now Peter has what he needs to get around her.
“...I killed Nathan. In the future. So don’t think there’s anything I won’t do.”
He tries not to let his emotions show. Tries not to let the shock bleed through again. He doesn’t know what he’ll do, the next time he sees his brother. Doesn’t know what he’ll say. He murdered him – in some possible future, yes, but still him – for no other reason than convenience. Because he was there, and Peter... needed to kill.
“I need to see Sylar. Now.”
Angela appears to consider this, and then she nods, just once. “All right. But you’ll do it on Level Five.”
“Turn off the surveillance, and it’s a deal.” That’s essential. It’s why he didn’t just teleport straight there. He doesn’t want her watching.
And without waiting another second, he teleports out.
Coming back to Level Five is not easy. Not at all. Not when Peter still remembers being trapped in the body of another man, unable to escape, unable to make anyone believe him. Unable to find out if his own brother was even alive. Again.
That is becoming a habit he does not enjoy.
But now... he has to focus. Has to. He appears inside one of the cells, next to the wide, plate-glass window, through which little is visible but blank dimness, devoid of movement.
In front of him, seated on the far end of the bed, is the man he’s come to see.
Sylar. He has his back to the window – and therefore to Peter – head down slightly. Deep in thought, perhaps? But what would a man like Sylar be thinking about?
Peter wonders if he knows. And the realisation, the wash of memories, suddenly fills him with anger, blazing brighter than... almost anything else.
But he’s not the one who speaks first.
Sylar hasn’t even turned, but in his voice is nothing but absolute certainty. Perhaps... he can sense Peter’s presence. Perhaps... he just knows.
Peter’s blood is boiling now. Up until this moment, he hasn’t been sure how he might react on seeing Sylar – Sylar, not Gabriel, not the man who helped him, who he fought beside. Oh no. Just Sylar. Just... the killer.
Sylar rises to his feet, turning as he does, and he’s just in time to see Peter launch at him, rage claiming his mind as he practically vaults the bed, seizing hold of the other man and slamming him roughly into the nearest wall.
He didn’t plan this. But right now, it’s the only possible course of action. Even though it won’t get him what he wants.
“What are you doing?!” Sylar exclaims. He looks quite taken aback, and Peter isn’t sure if he ought to be pleased about this or not.
“I went to the future,” Peter tells him, tone flooded with the anger he can’t shake. “The world’s end. I took your ability so I could learn how to stop it.”
That definitely gets the other man’s attention, in a way so fundamental that even appearing behind him and slamming him into the wall did not.
“You took my ability?” A strange smile crosses Sylar’s face, and his eyes light up with realisation. “You have the hunger. You’re like me.”
The very implication... hits Peter in a way he’s not prepared for, and he slams Sylar against the wall again, as if trying to make him take it back.
“I will never let myself become you,” he growls.
And Sylar... just smiles at him, suddenly calmer. “You already are... brother.”
Peter holds him for a moment. A long moment. Then... some of the anger subsides, and he lets go, stepping back and away, still scowling all the while.
Sylar rubs a hand over his throat, head slightly on one side. “You know.” Statement, not question. Exactly the way his... their mother phrased it. That realisation alone is a little chilling.
“I told you: I went to the future. I met you there and you told me.” It’s a very difficult memory to engage with... though he seems to have a great many of those at the moment. Perhaps the hardest part about it was not discovering Sylar... Gabriel... was his brother, but... losing him again so fast.
“That isn’t all, though, is it?” Sylar asks, a worryingly knowing look on his face. “Oh no, no... something else has changed, hasn’t it, Peter? Oh yes. I can practically smell it on you, now. The lingering scent of... murder. Who did you kill?”
Damn the man for his instincts.
“That’s none of your concern.”
“Oh, I think it is every bit my concern. If the great Peter Petrelli has started killing people, I think it is every bit everyone’s concern.”
“It... was an accident. I didn’t mean to do it.”
“You did,” Sylar replies. So sure. He doesn’t even know what happened yet and already, he’s so certain. Peter tries not to be very, very worried by this.
“I didn’t. It just... it just happened.”
“Just like that? Who did you kill?”
Peter sighs. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because... Because I am.”
“There has to be a reason. There’s always a reason. You came here because you want something. From me, surely. So why don’t you just save us both a lot of aggravation and say it?”
Interesting. As much as Sylar is trying to sound aloof and detached... he’s worried. Peter can sense it. He doesn’t risk going inside the man’s head, but... he doesn’t have to. He can feel it anyway.
Must be the family connection.
He glares at Sylar some more. Part of him is ready to answer the question, and part... still can’t.
“You have my power,” Sylar says, breaking the silence after a moment. “But that isn’t enough. You need my help to understand it. To understand what you have become.”
This is difficult to respond to. It’s difficult because it’s true. He does. He didn’t get the time he needed in the future, with Gabriel, so he’s got to... find the time in the present. With Sylar.
“I can show you. Teach you,” Sylar goes on. “If that’s what you want.” He sounds... so delighted by the prospect.
Peter glowers a little, but he knows he can’t deny it. “Yes,” he answers, finally. It’s a bitter word indeed. He knows Sylar has no control over his own urges – not yet – but still... the other man understands this more than Peter himself does. And maybe... maybe he can shed enough light on it for Peter to be able to see what he’s looking for.
At that one word, Sylar smiles. It’s exactly the look he gets when he’s about to slice someone’s head open. Having seen it first-hand, Peter can’t help but be worried, though – at the same time – he knows it’s what he needs. What he needs to provoke. To understand.
“Good. Then you’ll have to start by being honest with me. Who did you kill?”
For a fleeting second... Peter can’t help but wonder if Sylar is checking that the person in question isn’t someone he’d rather keep alive. It’s an odd little feeling, but at the same time... undeniable. But then he’s got to answer, and the emotions that provokes make everything else fade.
“It was in the future. I... killed Nathan. The future Nathan.”
Sylar’s eyebrows arch in surprise. “Really? Why?”
“Because... I needed to kill someone. And he... was the only one there.” This is not the whole truth. But it’s close enough... and he’s not about to tell Sylar any more than he needs to know.
“And that overrode... everything else?” The other man sounds... amazed. Awed, almost. “Peter, I’m impressed.”
It’s very disturbing.
“I couldn’t control what was happening to me,” Peter says, trying to ignore the rest of it for the moment. Trying to fight back the overpowering wave of guilt. “I just... had to act.”
“I know,” Sylar answers, quietly, an... understanding little smile crossing his face. “Believe me, Peter, I know.”
How does he do that? How does he suddenly start sounding so... reasonable?
“I can help you understand it. Help you... control it, to some extent. But I can’t tell you how to make it stop, because... it doesn’t. It never will. It will always be a part of you... as it is a part of me. And you may find yourself realising that you want it far more than you don’t want it.”
Peter takes a deep breath. Nods. Tries not to shiver.
Not at all how he expected the explaining to begin. Peter doesn’t move. After a second, Sylar holds out a hand.
“You’re going to have to trust me on this,” he points out.
After a moment, Peter lifts his hand to grip Sylar’s, and finds himself pulled suddenly close – which takes all his resolve not to resist. The other man lays a hand on Peter’s chest, over his heart, thereby... well. Freaking him out all the more.
“What are you-?”
“Shhh,” Sylar interrupts. “I told you to trust me. Now. Listen.”
Silence descends for a moment. Peter doesn’t move, though it isn’t easy to stay still, so close to... him.
“Can you hear it?” Sylar asks, quietly.
“Hear wh-?” Peter begins, but then he stops. Stops because... suddenly he can. Hear it.
Again. A constant thrumming in his ears, behind everything else. Blood pounding. Need.
“That’s it,” Sylar says, without Peter having to say anything. “You hear it now?”
“What does it sound like?”
“...It sounds like... blood. Need. So... raw and... primal? Yes. I don’t think I can-”
Instinct seizes him, and he tries to pull away... but Sylar does not let him go. “Don’t move. You need to keep listening. It will make this easier. What you can hear now... that is it, and it will never leave you. It will snake through your blood every day you are alive, every time you look into the eyes of your friends, of your enemies. Of your brother. Your brothers. It... is hunger. Hunger for power. Hunger for blood. Hunger... to kill, just to feel it. It is... the most beautiful and most terrible thing you will ever know. And here’s the most crucial part of all this, Peter... you can’t stop it.”
Sylar laughs, and Peter pulls back angrily, the beating in his head suddenly so much stronger.
“You’re enjoying this,” he growls.
“Of course I am. Never forget... the deeper into the abyss you look, the deeper the abyss will look into you. And no matter how bad you know it is... you will always want more.”
“No. No. I can learn to control it. So can you. You did. In the future. The Gabriel I met... had learned to control it.”
“It couldn’t be enough. Not forever. Sooner or later... he would have given in again. It is inevitable. It is natural. The strong must endure. And this power, Peter... this power makes us strong. Stronger than I think you realise yet.”
“This power... makes us evil.” That’s how he feels, now. Evil. With every word Sylar says, Peter seems to be growing colder and colder.
“Evil? Why is it evil to be what you truly are?”
“Because we’re killing people!” We?!
“Who’s to say they don’t deserve it?”
“No one deserves it. It’s wrong.”
“And yet, still you need it, to the point where you will come to do anything in order to feel it... as I do. We are destroyers of worlds, you and I... Terrible and beautiful in equal measure.”
“And what if I don’t want that?” Peter protests. “What if I choose not to be a killer? What if I choose not to become you?”
“You have already chosen otherwise,” Sylar points out, his tone unnervingly level. “You took my power. My blessing and my curse. You chose to become me. And do you know why? Because you knew – and you were quite correct – that it would feel so very good.”
And that’s the problem. In part, at least, Sylar is right. Peter may have wanted to save the world... but he knows it is not the only reason he did what he did.
“Tell me how to make it stop,” Peter demands. “I wanted to understand it. To use it. Not to get lost in it.”
“I can’t,” Sylar answers, softly. “I don’t know how.”
“Then I’ll learn for myself. Somehow.”
“You do that. If you work it out... come back and tell me the secret.”
The request surprises Peter slightly, and it must show in his eyes, because Sylar repeats, sarcastic and honest in equal measure, “...My blessing and my curse.”
Not wanting to show how that statement affects him, Peter scowls and turns away. For a moment, all is silent again... and then he jumps, as he hears Sylar’s voice right behind him, speaking low and soft in his ear.
“You enjoyed it, didn’t you?”
Peter doesn’t answer. Seemingly unwilling to let the matter drop, Sylar steps in so close that he’s pressed against Peter’s back, a hand on his waist to stop him moving away.
He knows he ought to fight this. Knows he ought to lash out with body or mind and get the other man away from him, make him stop. But he doesn’t. Won’t.
“Yes,” Sylar echoes, more in ecstasy than repeat. “Yes. And now, Peter, you understand it.”
Peter suddenly has that feeling akin to drowning once more, and he gasps, shivering as it hits him and washes over. But this time... the cold is held at bay by the warmth of the man standing behind him.
“We are different from the rest of them, you and I,” Sylar whispers. “Different from all of them. There’s no one like us. No one else who knows what we feel. We... are more than brothers. We are two halves of one perfectly unique whole.”
He makes it sound so wonderful. Makes it sound like what Peter is suddenly looking for. He... is offering the one thing Peter needs now. Someone else who understands.
But him. Why him? Why did it have to be Sylar?
Why? Because it could be no one else. And that realisation is imprisonment and liberation in equal measure.
Sylar’s arm tightens around his waist, and he brings his other hand up, using it to turn Peter’s head so he’s looking to the side, almost over his shoulder... so that Sylar can lean in to rest his forehead just above his brother’s ear, as he whispers, “You’ll accept it eventually. Probably a lot sooner than you think. And when you do... you know where to find me.”
Peter steps away at that, but perhaps... not as fast as he could have done. He turns back to look at Sylar, unsure whether to be angry or worried or... grateful.
Too many feelings, wrapped up in too much need. He buries it as best he can.
“Yes,” he answers, tone a little clipped. “I do.”
And he makes towards the door, wanting to be anywhere but here.
He stops. Turns back. Isn’t sure why he does it.
And Sylar... smiles. “Give my regards to our brother.”
Somehow... that says so much more. Peter will be back. And Sylar knows it.
But the answer Peter gives is brief. “I will.”
The door is locked. Of course it is. He teleports out.
It’s becoming a habit.
Once he reappears outside of Level Five, Peter leans immediately against the wall, feeling as though he’s been running for hours.
He doesn’t know if what he just did... has made things worse, or made everything perfectly clear.
What he does know is this... his memory will forever be lit by orange light, echoing with a constant thrum that never ends.
And that thought... is terrible.
Terrible and beautiful.
Summary: Peter needs someone to talk to... but now there’s only one man in the world who can truly understand why. [Tag for 3x04 - I Am Become Death]