Title: 30 First Kisses - Kiss #13
Summary: Spoilers through 2x03 and for the entire musical "Pippin." Really, the Pippin spoilers are worse than the Heroes spoilers.
This is the 13th of 30 possible ways Matt and Mohinder could share their first kiss, written for 30_kisses. The prompt/theme was "too many chains" (officially "excessive chain" according to the community, but this is my translation of "yokei na kisari"). Previous kisses are here.
When Mohinder was sixteen, his father was on a lecture tour in Britain. This was back when there was some hope that he might find a modicum of acceptance in the scientific community for his unconventional theories, and it was right at the peak of Mohinder’s admiration for his father, so he insisted on tagging along. Chandra was proud of how well his son was emulating him, and he wanted to encourage this behavior, so he did not object. Only Mohinder’s mother was opposed to the idea, but she might as well have not been in the picture at all. It was Suresh Senior and Junior, the scientist and his eager apprentice, taking the world by storm.
One night on that tour, Chandra took his teenage son to the West End to see a show. The musical was “Pippin,” and Mohinder was enthralled by it. This was the 1970s, when anything sleek and avant-garde was all the rage, and the musical was done unlike any show he’d yet seen. It was all jazz hands and black leotards juxtaposed with knights and castles, and they actually sang and danced, even tap-danced, about war and violence and death and then sex-- not even love but gratuitous sex-- and stress and suicide, and about the inability of a young man to find himself.
Mohinder probably was not the only one there who thought he was just like the show’s title character, but he was convinced, sitting there in the dress circle, that this play had been written just for him. In Pippin he saw a young man, gangly, awkward, just discovering what it was to be more than a boy. A boy with a father who dreamed of his son following in his footsteps, but who could barely rein in the dreams that flew wildly through his head. And a boy whose loneliness, like his ambition, was profound.
Pippin’s Act One anthem, “Corner of the Sky,” became Mohinder’s theme music. He hummed it when he was angry and distraught, when he was trying to concentrate, when he needed to tune out the world. It brought him through high school and college and medical school and his first love and his first job. He believed in the promise of the song, that one day he’d find the place where he could not only be comfortable but achieve his fullest potential. He didn’t want to be chained down to anything. He wanted free rein to dance across the heavens in infinite knowledge and freedom.
* I've got to be where my spirit can run free, got to find my corner of the sky *
Chandra’s theories were growing stranger by the year, but that didn’t faze Mohinder, who had grown up always chasing that shadow. But after his tenure was revoked by the university, after he was forced to start using the family’s money to maintain the equipment for his research, the same skepticism that had made Mohinder such a brilliant student began to seep into his feelings about his father. It was a horrible time for him, and he went to bed at night besieged by doubts, tossing and turning and fearing for his own sanity and his father’s. But Chandra was a lion in the laboratory, charging to and fro with vials of blood and markers for his numerous whiteboards, on which were scrawled chemical compounds and mathematical formulae in an anxious hand. As time went on, he began to look less and less like a genius and more and more like a mad scientist.
There were some knock-down, drag-out arguments in those days, and the last straw came when Mohinder shouted, “I used to think you were brilliant. But you’re just mad. You’ve just been stupidly lucky all these years to have gotten away with it all. But I can see through it now. I won’t be a part of this any longer.”That same week, Chandra packed up and flew off to the United States.
And then the news came of his father’s death, and Mohinder’s grief knew no bounds, not of country, not of time or space. He had to see it for himself. Not knowing what he would find, he flew across the globe, the stinging regret of his last words to his father in his heart.
* Blood is red as sunset; blood is warmer than wine-- the taste of salty summer brine*
In the second act of "Pippin," after the erstwhile hero has gone to war and lived a life of selfish hedonism and finally supplanted his father as ruler and achieved what ordinary men would assume is greatness, he falls prey to what Mohinder, as a teenager, saw as the most insidious of evils: domesticity. And after running across the world, encountering people with extraordinary abilities, seeing what was very nearly the apocalypse, Mohinder sometimes wondered how he'd fallen into the same trap.
Not that it was Molly's fault. Molly was wonderful, sweet, patient, always giving her all, even when the virus was ravaging her immune system and sapping her strength. But after Kirby Plaza, struck by the outpouring of bravery and humanity in that moment of crisis, Mohinder had seen his little girl's eyes when her hero was injured, and he had done what he thought was the only decent thing: He extended his hand and his home to a man who had no place to go and nobody but the little girl who trusted him so-- even though, Mohinder thought selfishly, she was his little girl, not Matt's.
All at once, his life was no longer solely his own. There was always someone in his space, using his dishes without washing them afterwards, snoring loudly late at night when Mohinder was trying to read, pinking his laundry. The very sight of him got under his skin. Matt was so very normal-- even though Mohinder knew that wasn't entirely the case-- and so very good at all the things Mohinder wasn't: sitting patiently, maintaining a schedule, showing interest in things that nobody male or over the age of ten could possibly care about. And at the same time, he was no good at all the things Mohinder needed him to be good at. Filling out forms. Finding the right words to answer a child's innocent but delicate question. Cooking balanced meals. Helping with homework. He was almost as useless as he was irritating.
And all of a sudden, there were domestic concerns. The hot water had to be conserved in the morning. The grocery shopping needed doing. The garbage needed to go out. Mohinder felt a little like Gulliver, tied down in the land of Lilliput. A million tiny chains were about his body, none of them very strong. But the sheer number of them rendered him motionless as a corpse.
* Oh, give me my chance, and give me my wings, and don't make me think about everyday things! *
It was well into the new year when the phone call came. It was from Navid, a colleague and close friend of his father's. "It's taken me this long to track you down," he said. His voice was an old, familiar one, and Mohinder wished he could have lent the fellow his daughter, just to help him get in touch sooner. Through Navid's caramel-on-granite voice, Mohinder could see the green-lined campus, the blue sky, and it was like a breath of air. "To tell you the truth, son, I was always something of an aficionado of your father's research. Although he didn't have the evidence to back it up, I saw no reason why the people he spoke of in theory could not, in fact, exist. It would make me terribly sad to think of his passing without his work coming to fruition. Tell me, young one, did he ever find them?"
"Yes." And they killed him, he added to himself.
"How delightful!" Mohinder could practically hear the jowls bouncing with excitement. "What a shame, though, that he was unable to return and lecture on his findings. I'm sure there would have been interest from our sister universities as well."
All of a sudden, Mohinder was a castaway who had caught sight of an approaching helicopter. "I've e-- I've been expanding b-- on his research," he blurted out, his words falling over each other in a somersaulting rush. "I've been able to do e-extensive sampling, and testing, and t-there have been a number of..."
And that's how it began. A week later, sure enough, Mohinder was alone and flying across the globe again, seeking out his corner of the sky.
* Winds of change are set to blow and sweep this whole land through... Morning glow is long past due *
And the reception in India had been wonderful, and Navid had taken him to a five-star restaurant the night he arrived. And colleague after colleague of his fathers had lined up to press their hands into his and congratulate him on the successful completion of his father's research.
But it was too bad that Mohinder was sane and not a crackpot. Because they obviously figured that a crackpot would pay no heed to the whispered snickers and derisive glances. Navid entreated him not to mind them. "If your evidence is sound, it will speak for itself!" he insisted. But Mohinder had always been much more aware of the politics of science than his father (and, apparently, Navid) had ever been. His first lecture on the topic was attended by barely a dozen people, and at least half of them were only there for the absurdity factor. People who could fly? People who could explode? Based on the audience reaction, Mohinder wasn't sure he was not on stage at a comedy club.
It was almost frightening how quickly he managed to get from the door of his hotel room to the telephone that evening. He had to hear Molly's voice, needed that sweet ray of sunshine that believed in him and trusted him and (he hoped) loved him. When she was finished and had thoroughly cheered him up she handed the phone back to Matt, who told him, "Don't worry, everything's under control." Mohinder bit back a laugh, imagining Matt's version of under control. He would have to remember to wear a clothespin on his nose when he returned home.
It wasn't until later that night that he realized he was actually homesick.
And he moved from the university in India to its sister university in Greece, where his father had taken him some summers of his boyhood, and he received a similarly lukewarm set of audiences. Greece was just as magical as he'd remembered. The ruins whispered stories that had enticed generations; the people smiled big, big grins, as though they couldn't contain their joy at being alive; the breeze coming off the Mediterranean was heady, and Mohinder considered dallying here for a while, growing fat off baklava and doing conventional research. Not ruffling any feathers. Just watching Molly grow tall and tan on the beaches, teaching her to swim between semesters of teaching basic graduate-level genetics, no mention to anyone of what she could do and what he had seen.
But there was something missing from that fantasy. It was only a few lonely nights before Mohinder had to admit to himself that the missing piece was one that pinked his laundry on a regular basis and couldn't cook.
* but please don't get me wrong, he was the best to come along in a long, long while *
Then Bennet contacted him halfway through the tour. "God damn it, you're a hard man to track down," he barked into the phone.
"So I've been told," said Mohinder, amused.
"I'm calling to warn you. There's someone who's watching you. An middle-aged man in glasses," he said.
"What, you mean that's not you?"
"He wants to take you back to the Company," Bennet seemed incapable of humor. "Unless you want to see Molly back in the hands of people who don't give a damn about her, you will not play his game."
Mohinder's heart was pounding again. "So what game should I play?"
"Just stay away from him. You're not equipped to handle him." That same superior, smirking tone that the professors used when they asked their polite, packaged questions of him. You obviously aren't in your right mind, Doctor, so I am going to make this simple. You obviously can't handle playing with the grown-ups.
"Try me," he spat into the phone.
The plan that Bennet eventually outlined was barely possible; it seemed more like a game of slow suicide than an operation that had any chance of succeeding. But Mohinder was sick of turning slowly on the spit of loneliness and ridicule; if he was going to continue to run from normality he was going to do it at breakneck speed, even if it meant actually breaking his neck.
In Cairo, the man with glasses took the bait, and Mohinder began to feel the giddy pull of destiny. The tinder box had been lit; now it was just time for him to jump inside.
* Think about your life, Pippin... days are tame and nights the same.. now think about the beauty in one perfect flame! *
Bennet was the Leading Player, pulling Mohinder's Pippin toward his inevitable conclusion. What could be more noble, more extraordinary, than sacrificing himself for the greater good? Molly was in good hands, that he knew. And Mohinder's place on this earth was not at the bedside of a child. Just as it was not taking out the garbage, just as it was not cooking meals or giving lectures on how to do laundry. He was meant for something greater than that.
And when Mohinder returned to that New York apartment, that night, he was sure it was more or less to say goodbye. As he turned the key in the lock, he was sure he could hear the chorus in that final number, singing his own theme song back to him--
And then his eyes fell on Matt, sleeping in the chair beside Molly's bed. And the chorus faded into nothing, and Mohinder felt tears prickle in his eyes.
* I'm not a river or a giant bird that soars to the sea... and if I'm never tied to anything, I'll never be free *
He went to the kitchen to sort himself out, and that's when Matt found him, thought he was an intruder, nearly scared him to death. And when they talked, Mohinder heard himself say, "I'll be around to help with Molly." And then she was there, and hugging him, and he was promising her he'd never leave again, and Matt was staring at them both, quiet expectation in his eyes.
And when she'd gone back to bed, secure and happy and safe, Mohinder found the wherewithal, finally, to crumple into tears on the bathroom floor. Those chains weren't holding him down, after all... they were holding him together.
* Imagine my surprise when I raised my eyes and there he was *
Matt was awake. Matt was knocking on the door. Wanted to know if he was OK. And Mohinder looked around and realized that the bathroom had been cleaned, and the garbage had been taken out, and a new tube of toothpaste had been bought. And somehow all this made him happier than a million successful lectures ever could.
"You took care of everything," he said through the doorway.
"Of course," Matt answered. "What did you think I was going to do?"
"It wasn't you." Mohinder smiled through his tears. "It was the cockroaches. I was sure they were going to eat you both while I was gone."
"That's disgusting." Mohinder felt a pressure against the door, the sliding down of Matt's back as he sat heavily on the floor. Mohinder's back would have been pressed against his if there hadn't been the three inches of wood between them.
"We missed you," Matt said gruffly.
"I missed her too."
"I didn't say she," Matt corrected him. "I said we."
Mohinder paused. "I know you did," he said. "I'm sorry."
"It's OK." Matt's voice was quiet, casual. "Look, what I said earlier, about you being an amateur? I'm sorry. I'm sure you can hack it. You're a brilliant guy, after all. It's just that we worry. I worry. You and Molly are kinda my family, you know? So I just... don't want to lose you."
The words were too sincere, too open and caring. Mohinder lost himself, sobbing for a long minute. Matt was quiet, just listening behind the door. "I... I'm sorry," he gulped. "It's very hard on me..."
"I know, I know," Matt said soothingly. "But you don't have to face this alone. Look, the sun's almost up. Why don't you get some rest. You must be jet-lagged as hell."
Mohinder's breath caught in his throat. Another song was threading through his mind. One that began with a lyric about sitting on the floor and talking till dawn. The name of that piece was "Love Song."
He opened the door, his face still tear-streaked. He couldn't meet Matt's eyes.
He didn't have to. Strong arms came around him and held him tight. "I'm here," Matt said into his shoulder. "I'm here. I've always been here."
Mohinder clung to him. He was large and strong and full of everything he needed, all the normality he'd run from all his life. His tears stained Matt's cheek, his chin, the cotton of his shirt. "Thank you," he whispered. "It's good to be home."
Matt lifted his hands to wipe the tears from his cheeks. It was then that the wet eyes met his and knocked the breath right out of him. And Mohinder was the one who tugged at him then, bringing Matt's face toward his. Their eyes slitted closed in unison.
* And time weaves ribbons of memory to sweeten life when youth is through
But I would need no memories there if I could share my life with you *