by Lopaka Tanu
Monday morning dawned bright and early, too early.
Laying in bed, Peter had been watching the numbers on the old panel clock flip for the past three hours. Even though his alarm was about to go off for the second time, he hadn't been able to bring himself to get out bed.
That's how long it had been since he last saw Buck. Seven full days, right down to the last minute. It shouldn't have felt this way. He barely knew the other man. All they had done was share a bed.
For two weeks.
Watching the numbers slide past the grace period, Peter forced himself to sit up. It was over. He just had to admit it to himself. Buck wasn't coming back, and he would just have to learn to accept it. He would do it.
Though the temptation to crawl back in to bed was great, he stood up. Despite the fact that one asshole alien was out of his life, he still had one. He still had a job that depended upon him. With one week left until he was ready to take the test, he was so close. Time to finish it.
Like every morning before it, his time in the clinic was uneventful but for the occasional drunken New Comer. If not for his returning ability to zone out, he would have long ago given up. Boredom was not something he did well. It had nearly cost him his grades in school.
Like that would have been a shame.
Then again, he wouldn't have a profession that made him feel useful, when he was able to perform it. Staring out the front windows, he wandered what would happen if he just threw caution to the wind and took off. Would people notice the man flying? They hadn't the past three times.
Would Nathan call him if they did?
Picking up his pen, he twirled it between his fingers. On the upward swing, it disappeared, only to reappear on the downward spin. This went on for five minutes before it lost any entertainment value.
Holding out his hand, he summoned the soda from across the counter. It slid across the top to his opened fingers. Closing them around the can, he felt that it gotten warm since he last took a drink. Blowing across the can, he felt ice start to build on the outside.
Satisfied it was cool enough, he took a swallow. The contents were almost slushy, but it still tasted fine. Making a sound of pleasure, he continued drinking until the entire can was empty. With that done, he held the can standing up in the center of his palm.
The can made a distressed metallic crunch as it was flattened.
No longer able to distract himself with the soda can, he put it on the counter. There was still a full thirty minutes before his regular shift would start. That meant he would be stuck watching the sunrise through the clinic doorways again. That's if he didn't fall asleep again.
It hadn't happened in several days, but once was bad enough. He knew the reason he had done it last time was because of mental exhaustion. Now, it was just plain old boredom.
And he was back to that again.
Bored. Bored. Bored. There had to be an end to it.
Groaning, he summoned the entire contents of the pen basket. Twenty pens, a dozen pencils, and some assorted swizzle sticks came floating above him. Rolling his eyes, made them start to spin. They began to swirl about his head.
With a few maneuvers with his fingers, he rearranged them until it to a simple pattern. Every third object was a pen. The swizzle sticks and Pencils numbered enough to fill in the gaps. On a lark, he shifted their rotation pattern, having the pens spin on their central axis as they switched from a circle to an infinity orbit.
Peter became aware of a presence on his periphery. He could tell just by her smell that it was Dr. Frankel. He curled his fingers to signal she could come close.
Enraptured by his spectacle, she had a delighted smile on her face. "This is wonderful. How are you able to do this?"
"It's something I've been working on." He summoned the can to join the rest. Soon all the objects were chasing each other through the pattern. "Since I have nothing else to do with my time off." It had been muttered, supposed to be under his breath.
He forgot about the New Comer sense of hearing.
Closing her eyes, Cathy turned away. "I'm sorry."
"It happens." He slowed the objects, lowering them to the desk. With that done, he checked the time. He had only ten minutes left in his shift. He figured now was as good a time as any to begin signing out his duty logs.
Sliding his chair down the counter, he picked up one of the pens and opened the registry log. He began copying down the information from his files to the patient names.
Seeing that he was willing to talk about it, Cathy nodded. He wasn't the first person to have a relationship to end badly, especially an interspecies one. "When you finish here, I will be in the supply office. Bring me your patient files."
"Yes, ma'am." He used his finger tip to guide his eyes as they seemed to have trouble focusing.
Entering the supply office, Peter was almost dragging his feet. He felt like he was ten again and walking in to Nathan's study. That had been his fault then, but now there was no one to blame. Still, it seemed like he was in trouble.
Eventually, he made it completely through the door. Carrying his ledger over to Dr. Frankel's desk, he set it down beside her. "Here are the forms you requested."
Sighing, she gave him a reproving look. "Peter."
"I don't really want to talk about it." And really, he didn't. Because she would know then. She would tell him where he went wrong and advise him on how to do better next time. He already knew that, but talking about it wouldn't help.
Well, may be a little. He could always use the pointers on how to deal with New Comer males.
Much to his surprise, she didn't start by laying it on him. "He was too young."
"What?" Surprised, Peter looked up at her in shock. That was something he hadn't been expecting.
"What is the one thing you've learned about Tenctonese maturity that is different from your own, aside from the obvious?" When he continued to stare at her, she spun her chair so she could fully face him. She reached out to place a hand upon his arm. "Despite his years, he is still a child, Peter. Well, a teenager," she finished with a smile and head tilt.
Peter felt like he had been kicked in the gut. "Did I?"
"No, you didn't do anything wrong." Tugging him closer, she squeezed his arm. "In fact, what you did is considered extremely normal. This is the age in a young male's life where he is truly discovering his sexuality. Because of this, back on Tencton, he would still be living with his parents for another ten Earth years. As I taught you weeks ago, you know Tenctonese men sexually mature at a slower rate."
"If you knew about it, then why did you encourage me to go out with him?" He sounded like a pathetic thirteen year-old girl even to his own ears.
"Because it was the right thing to do. Your own, Tenctonese, sexuality is just forming." When he got a mulish expression, she couldn't hold back the laugh. "Peter, you were physically mature for
a human, but you've changed. Human standards no longer apply. Give yourself time to explore who you have become. You still have a long, healthy life ahead of you."
Just as he thought, he knew all this. But, he had to hear it before it actually made sense to him. Feeling a little silly, but still hurt, he looked away. Life was never promised to be easy for anyone,
yet it seemed to be taking great pleasure in putting him through hell.
Standing up, Cathy held open her arms.
After a hesitant second, Peter wrapped his own around her. Hearing her double heart beat made him wistful. "Cathy, do you mind if I ask you something?"
"Anything, Peter." Tracing the spots along the back of his neck, she rubbed at them gently.
"How old are you?" He felt her stiffen under his arms, then she started to shake. "Cathy?"
"It's nothing." Laughter tinged her voice. "I am only fifty Earth years old. As a matter of fact, I've still got a few years before my people would expect me to start having children."
Fifty? Standing there as she stroked his neck to comfort him, Peter stared at the wall with wide eyes. He could hardly picture her being that old. The thought of someone his mother's age having children, even though it was happening, seemed strange to him.
The only thing that saved the rest of his day was the fact he could recall virtually everything he encountered. Another wonderful little gift he inherited from the amoral zombie. He could only imagine how many other hidden talents he possessed but never knew about until they would suddenly manifest. If they all went over as smoothly as the ice one, he'd be dead soon.
Tugging off his shirt, he let it fall to the floor of his motel room. There were similar cast off items laying about. His shoes from last week were on the floor by the door. A pair of old socks lay still
balled up in them. The only thing he really kept up was the food/trash situation.
The last thing he needed were flies.
It wasn't that he didn't think about it, he just couldn't bring himself to care. There had been a time about two years ago when he had gone through a similar situation. That had been over the disinheritance by his father. They had never really spoken again after that.
He would hardly call screaming at each other over the phone speaking.
Not that it really mattered. Peter had known very early in life he would be a disappointment and had set about making sure he would have a way to support himself. Nathan had given him every chance he could, but his older brother hadn't been there when he really needed him. And he knew why now.
Kinda hard to be there for your kid brother when you are tied up with illegitimate children, navy, and law school. But Nathan had tried, he had come whenever Peter had called. That was why Peter would always trust his brother. Well, upon a time, he would have trusted him.
Now, he only had an alien woman to call upon.
Dropping in his chair, Peter forced the issue from his mind. Nathan had made his choice, his mother had stuck with it. He was truly without his family in this, again.
Peter was just so damned tired of being alone. When was he going to find someone who would stick it out with him? Well, he was certainly not going to find it by jumping in to the sack with the first available hot guy to come along. There was actually searching for someone, and then there was being a slut.
Lately, Peter was the slut. Simone, Buck, Mohinder. The list went on. He knew he was pretty attractive. Back in New York, he had used that to his advantage. But now that he was whatever he was, that was playing against him.
Waving a hand, he turned on the television set. Turning it up, he made himself watch whatever mindless trash was on.
Cathy was the first to arrive at the office. This was not unusual in of itself. No, the strange part was that it was a first since Peter had joined her. He was usually there with a fresh brewed cup of coffee waiting for her. Dismissing it, she left her purse in the locked bottom drawer of her desk.
That done, she walked over to her locker. After opening it, she pulled out her lab coat and stethoscope. She put those on, then shut the locker. Checking the clock told her that she it was five minutes til her shift in the clinic.
She would have to get a cup of coffee from the machine in the lounge down there. Walking to the elevator banks, she scanned the halls and stations for Peter. He wasn't there either.
Frowning, she took the elevator down. From the elevators, she could see in to the free clinic. Nurse Castle was there, a stack of metal clipboards beside her. That meant she actually had patients today.
Peter would like that.
Checking her hand, she made sure she had taken off her ring. Matt would whine at her if he knew she wasn't wearing it, but you couldn't wear a diamond under surgical gloves. No matter how much she explained that to him, he seemed to forget it.
Like the fact he wore them in his own work did.
One of these days, she was going to have to really talk to him about that. He seemed to conveniently forget a lot of things. In fact, she was starting to doubt that he forgot any of it.
Pushing open the clinic door, she smiled at Nurse Castle when she looked up. Waving at the other woman, she nodded to the lounge. The human drink had been vile when she had first tried it, but over time, she had learned why so many people drank coffee. It still held very little benefits, but it seemed to calm her nerves and prepare her for the morning.
Entering the lounge, she found it empty. The coffee maker was off, the black sludge in it hours old. Pausing, she glanced about the small room. "Peter?"
She checked her watch. Their shift had started two minutes ago. Peter should have been there. Growing concerned, she walked back in to the clinic. Nurse Castle was the only one behind the desk.
Cathy walked to the desk. She picked up the phone and started dialing. "Shelly, has Peter shown up yet?"
"No, Dr. Frankel, he hasn't." Checking the clock above her, Nurse Castle frowned. "That's right. I didn't even think about it, I've been so busy."
Frowning, Cathy could hear the phone ringing. After ten rings, she stared at the receiver. She hung up, then dialed it again just in case she misdialed the first time. After eight rings, she put the receiver down in the cradle. "Where is he?"
Scooting her chair over to the phone, Nurse Castle picked up the receiver and pushed two numbers. When the line was picked up, she smiled. "Hi, Casey. Has Peter shown up there? He hasn't? Okay, thank you. See you in twenty. Bye." Hanging up, she stared up at Cathy with a false comforting smile. "I'm certain he's just running late."
"That must be it." Still, Cathy had a bad feeling about this. On a hunch, she picked up the phone. It was a number she hadn't dialed in the past several weeks out of respect for his privacy, no matter how much she wanted to. Now, however, she felt it time to break the respectful silence.
Much like before, this phone went on ringing with no answer.
Staring at the phone, Cathy gently hit the clear kill button to hang up. She dialed a second number, equally familiar. This one was answered before the end of the first ring.
"Lieutenant Francisco, how may I be of service?"
The familiar voice made her smile. It hadn't been a week since she last saw him, but it felt like an eternity. "George, it's Cathy. Have you heard from Buck this morning?"
"No, I have not. Is he in some kind of trouble?" His voice held every professional quality for a man of his position, but the tired stresses of long years were evident.
"Not that I know of." Seeing that Nurse Castle was closely paying attention, Cathy considered just letting it go for now. Yet, her feelings over this were growing only steadily worse. "Have you heard of a man named Peter Petrelli?"
"I have not, but if he is a friend of Buck's, I am not surprised. He rarely confides in me, he has not in years." Now he was just plain old George Francisco, father. "What has this man to do with my son? Did they get in a fight?"
"I don't want to reveal too much, as it's not my place, but they're friends. Or, well, they were until a week ago." Rolling her eyes to the ceiling, she cursed to hell all the promises she had made Peter and Buck both. "Peter is late to work this morning. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be something I'd ask about, but since they broke up...I mean. Damn it."
"Broke up? I am assuming this does not mean they were in some form of group together." When she didn't speak, George sighed over the line, loud and clear. "I am always the last to know. I am certain Susan knows, Emily most definitely." He sighed again. "I take it that this Peter Petrelli is rarely ever late?"
"Yes, that's right. Peter is never late, he's almost pathologically afraid to be so. Until now, I've found it a bit of an annoyance, but..." She took a calming breath. "George, I can't get a hold of
Buck at his home. Since his schedule means he isn't awake until an hour from now, I thought may be."
"All right." He was now on to reassuring. It was a tone she had heard him use many times with Matt when he was growing too emotional. "I will contact Susan and Emily, then I will put in a call to Buck's sargent. When he reports in, I will have him call you immediately. Is that satisfactory?"
"Yes. Thank you, George." Feelings of warmth flushed her, making her smile at Nurse Castle. Perhaps it she was just overreacting. He was only, she checked her watch, fifteen minutes late. "Are you and Susan still coming over this Friday? If the two of you wish to leave early, Matt and I can come over and pick up Vessna."
"That is a most generous offer, but unnecessary." George was smiling, she could tell. "We will be there to see the both of you before we leave. Susan wishes to see your new place, despite the fact it is not yet complete."
Susan curled the phone cord. "Well, she is welcome at any time, both of you are. Again, thank you."
"You are most welcome, Cathy. Good bye."
"Good bye, George." Hanging up, the feeling of comfort lasted until she saw her watch. Despite the fact it was only seconds later, she had a feeling it was wrong.
By the time her shift in the clinic was over, Cathy was pacing the halls. Taking the elevator up to her floor, she prayed Peter was there waiting for her. She knew he would have some fantastic story, very real, but incredible. If something bad happened, he would be able to explain it. The doors opened to reveal an empty hall.
Exiting, she saw Vedrene at her station, nose buried in her ledgers. Cathy stopped by the nurse's changing room, but found it empty. Passing by the lounge, she found the light off.
That left only one place.
Almost too afraid to reach her office, she slowed her pace. The door was closed. Biting her lip, she grasped the knob and turned it. Pushing the door open, she found the light on and someone in one of her visitor's chairs. For half a second she thought it was Buck, then the man turned around.
Cathy froze. Whatever George said, she couldn't hear it. After a double heartbeat, she was able to breathe again. The world returned to normal speed and she could hear again.
George didn't have to repeat it for her to know what he had said. Dropping her gaze, she shook her head. "How long has he been gone?"
"A week, possibly a few days before." George was paler than normal, his face creased with lines. "I don't understand how this could have happened without my knowing about it. They're not under orders to report him missing work to me, but an entire week, it makes no sense. Why would they fail to report him missing?"
It was then Cathy realized George looked and sounded so lost. Crossing to his side, she put a hand to his temple. "George, have you talked to Susan?"
"What?" He blinked twice before he could focus on her. "No. I came here hoping you..." George had to blink again to give his mind time to catch up. "Do you know what is happening?" Grabbing her arm, he stared her directly in the eyes. "Tell me this is not happening again."
Swallowing, she could only shake her head. She had heard, Matt had told her, but this was the first George had brought up his and Susan's first child, however indirectly. "I'm sorry."
Clenching his eyes shut, George pulled away from her. For several seconds he simply stood there. Then, he faced her once more. He remained tense despite his focused expression. "Tell me everything you know about this Peter Petrelli."
Cathy watched him for several moments, debating whether if it was worth breaking her word to Peter. Then again, both Peter and Buck were missing now. What she had gotten out of him had scared the hell out of her. It had an air of familiarity that made her sick. That settled it in her mind.
If there was even a chance the people Peter had told her about were involved, then she needed all the help she could get. "All right." Sighing, she closed her eyes. Peter may never forgive her for this. "Before I tell you, there are a few things you should see."
Walking over to her desk, she pulled a key from her pocket. After inserting it in the lock, she twisted. A snap signaled the desk was unlocked. The blotter on the top of her desk raised up to reveal a secret compartment.
"Cathy?" Surprised, George took a couple steps towards her desk. "What is this?"
Reluctantly, Cathy pulled a bundle of papers from the compartment. Flipping through them, she held them out for George to see them.
George accepted them over her desk. The sight of the first one almost made him drop the entire stack. Using his other hand to steady them, he studied the top image. "Where did you get these?"
"Peter drew them." At his look, she nodded. This was even more disturbing to her. "He has never been aboard the ship, yet he knows the details." She reached up to tug out a second image, putting it on top of the stack. "Despite what it looks like, this is not the ship. I've studied it thoroughly, there are too many inconsistent details."
"Who is this man?" He tapped the figure in the center of the image. "Is this Peter Petrelli?"
"Yes." Eyes stinging, she bit her lip to keep from saying more. He would find out soon enough by flipping through the rest. "Peter is a very special person, he can do things normal humans and Tenctonese cannot. Things that make me think this is very real."
"He has spots." The longer George stared at the image, the more his gut stirred. It some how seemed so very wrong. "You must take me to see this Peter."
She wanted to curse. Where was his head? "He didn't show up for work this morning. That's why I called you."
"Then you must take me to where he lives." Grabbing her hand, he guided around the desk. "You can explain more along the way."
The fire trucks had beat them to the motel by two and a half hours.
Standing in the parking lot across the street, Cathy had to clutch at George to keep her balance. There were so many gawkers, it had been hard to get even this close. Only his badge and her medical license had gotten them past the police tape.
Two trucks remained in the motel's parking lot. Their crews watched the last of the smoldering fires burn themselves out. It would be another day before it was cool enough for the fire inspectors to enter.
Holding on to George, Cathy lowered her face to his shoulder. Why was this happening? She could feel how upset this was making George, but it was taking all her strength to keep herself together. If he lost it, she wouldn't be far behind.
Running his hands up her shoulders, George remained stiff. He tried to see everything he could from their position. Eventually, he had to give up as nothing was left. Closing his eyes, he lowered his chin to rest upon her forehead.
"Who would do this?" There was no doubt in her mind it had been deliberate. First Buck, now Peter. Someone was after them and trying to cover their tracks. It had to be that way, the alternative was unthinkable.
"I don't know." Raising his head, he glared at the burnt remains. "But I intend to find out."
It was dark.
That was the first thing Peter became aware of. He was in some pain, but it was distant, almost completely healed. It took several attempts at blinking for him to realize that it wasn't dark, that he
was blindfolded. He could feel artificial light upon him.
The room he was in felt cold, the air stale as if recycled. The last time he had been in a clean room was in nursing school, but he remembered well the smells and sensation. It was a cell, he could
tell that much.
Trying to stretch out, he found his hands restrained down at his waist. His ankles were also bound to the bed he lay upon. Using his fingers to guide him, he tried to open the buckle he could feel above his stomach.
Panic clenched his chest, causing his heart to skip a beat. This couldn't be real. It was one of those nightmares. Any minute he would awake in the motel bed screaming.
Arching against the restraints, Peter opened his mouth to scream. A prick in his arm cut off the cry before it even left his throat.
He was cold. Shivering, Peter curled tighter in on himself. He tried to draw his knees further up against his chest, but found they were already there. Opening his eyes, he shivered, having to close them from the intense light. Despite the brilliance, he couldn't feel it.
To get warm, he tried to scoot back against something. All he encountered was more open space. After three more scoots, he decided to risk opening his eyes again. This time, despite the stinging pain, he raised his head from the floor to glance about.
The light illuminated a wide open chamber with light blue walls. He couldn't be sure if that was the effect of the light or the walls themselves. A change in the pattern along the walls highlighted an oval shape. His mind supplied that this might be a door.
Before he could decide what to do with this knowledge, something distracted him.
There it came again.
Over to his right, movement.
Peter blinked. Shifting so he could see the object better, he found it was a familiar shape. It was a person. He could remember that much. There was a person.
Shifting, the person tried pulling his clothes closer to his body.
'He was cold too', Peter thought. The man was different, strange in appearance, but Peter couldn't figure out.
Glancing down at his body, Peter figured it out. Peter was nude.
Stretching out his hand, Peter tried to reach the other. He knew that if he could do that, he would find warmth. So, in spite of the cold, he slid his body towards the other. All he wanted was to wrap himself in the person's warmth.
The moment his fingers made contact, he saw the other man jerk. He ran his fingers over the other's arm, pulling himself close.
Rolling over, the other man opened his eyes. His pupils were dilated, breathing deep. Upon seeing Peter, he reached out snatch Peter closer to him.
Burying his face in the other's neck, Peter slid his nose against the intense heat the other's body was producing. The touch on his body was almost painful it was so hot. Before he knew it, his teeth were chattering and he was clinging desperately to the other.
The other pressed his lips to a point on Peter's neck. He groaned. Mingling their legs, he rolled Peter until he was covering most of his body with his own.
Heat filled him where their bodies touched. Peter gasped from pleasure, his muscles no longer so taut he couldn't feel them. Laying there, his eyes started to feel so heavy. Moaning, he let go, allowing himself to drift off.
Still on top of Peter, the other pressed another kiss to his neck. The familiar scent comforted him until he too could drift off.