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26 April 2008 @ 08:55 pm
[fic repost] Episodic Tangents: Four Months Later... (PG-13)  
Series Title: Episodic Tangents
Chapter Title: Four Months Later...(Season 2, Episode 1)
Author: tiptoe39
Rating: PG-13 for violence and maybe some language.
Summary: The real sequel to Six Months Ago.

Part of "Episodic Tangents," a series of one-shots in which we start with the titles of episodes and go in completely different directions.

I. Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, Aunt Sponge, and Aunt Spiker

So. Six months ago, a police officer named Matt Parkman met a librarian named Mohinder Suresh.

They fell in love. That part of the story is normal.

Four months ago they did something about it. That part is pretty normal, too.

Apparently, something else happened four months ago that wasn't so normal. But I can't tell you what it was. Because whenever I ask, they kind of blush. So, while I have a pretty good idea, no details here. Sorry. Let's leave it there.

The point is, it's now four months later... and a lot, and I mean a lot, has changed. But to tell you the story of how we all got here, I need to start four months back again.

There was someone else in the story, too, you remember. The girl, Molly. She had found a bone marrow donor and was about to have surgery. I won't keep you in the dark. The surgery was successful, and she recovered. Definitely worth being grateful for, but not surprising. (This was the kid who Matt always says could have scared his drill sergeant at police academy, after all.) Again, pretty normal.

Molly recovered at a decent clip. She got to meet her dreamy librarian in person shortly after the operation, and they hit it off immediately. Of course, she was a little disappointed to see them holding hands, of course, because what girl wants to discover her handsome prince is gay? But she got over it. Again, kids? Good at that sort of thing. So, normal. Totally normal.

The part where things stopped being normal -- real fast -- was about two weeks after her surgery. And this was still three whole months ago, you know. So it's a long story. I hope you have the patience to read. Especially since I'm no great storyteller and I have almost everything secondhand.

A nurse stopped Matt on the way in. "Excuse me," she said. "Are you that little girl's father?"

He stared at her a moment. "No, I'm a friend. Why would you think..." At her crestfallen look, he got concerned. Come to think of it, he'd never met her parents, either. If it were his kid, he'd be there constantly. "Don't they come by?"

"We haven't seen them since her mother checked her in three months ago."

He blinked. Wanted an industrial-strength earwax scrub, because there was no way he could possibly have heard that right. "I beg your pardon?"

The nurse was barely out of school herself. She looked so sad. "There's always money coming in to pay for her to stay with us and get her treatment, but... I'm afraid you and your partner have been her only visitors."

Matt could feel the tread marks from the giant boot that had just stepped on his heart. "Don't... don't you have contact information for them?" he roared, infuriated. To think anyone would dare abandon this sweet little diamond that had brightened his days! It was unforgivable. "Haven't you tried to get in touch with them?"

She leaned in and lowered her voice. "The truth is, we've tried. Tons of times, and we only ever got their answering machine. We kept leaving messages, and they never called back. After a while their message tape filled up. I think..." Her voice shook a little. "I think something may have happened to them. But the money keeps coming, so what can we do?"

"Give me their names. I'll track them down."

She clutched her clipboard. "I can't, a patient's information..."

"I'm sorry." Matt felt for his badge. "Look, if it helps, I'm a cop. I could..." He paused. "James and Marcia Walker. Got it."

He whirled and walked away before the nurse could protest.

No, honestly. I looked her up. She remembered. She swears she didn't say a thing. Told you things stopped being normal real fast.

When Matt came back into the room, he looked so distraught that Mohinder fluttered across the room like an anxious bird to him. "Matthew. What's wrong?" he asked, suddenly ashen himself. But Matt walked right past him and came to where Molly was sitting, reading as usual. (The Emerald City of Oz was the book du jour, apparently.)

"Sweetheart," he whispered, dropping to his knees to look into her face, "where are your parents?"

She jumped a little at first when he said that. Then she sat back and looked at him seriously, like she was formulating her answer. Her long silence worried them, and Matt looked up at Mohinder helplessly and then back at her. "Don't you know?" he asked, trying to keep his voice gentle and even.

"I don't know," she said a little obstinately. Another pause. "But I'm pretty sure they're dead."

Mohinder was the one who gasped first. Something about the matter-of-factness in her voice appalled him. "What on earth makes you think they're dead?"

"Because that's why they sent me away," she said soberly. "To protect me. So I wouldn't die, too."

Time for me to jump in here a second. You already know how much of a bookworm Molly was at this point. Books were her escape, her chance to go somewhere that wasn't a hospital room. And remember, too, that she didn't have much contact with people. Doctors, nurses, and later on Matt and then Mohinder. She had a mountain of books and that was it. Some of them she'd read a dozen times. After a while, that sort of thing takes its toll. And Molly started identifying maybe a little too much with the heroes of the books she'd read.

I don't know how much you remember of the books you read when you were a kid, but I sure remember mine. (Still have most of them, and don't you go telling me I'm still a kid, because... Well, I'm getting ahead of myself.) The point is, kids' books have certain things in common. And when you live so much through them, you're bound to start seeing similarities between fantasy and reality. Long story short, I don't know how much of what Molly says is embellishment and how much is the truth. So to help you along, here are some facts about kids' books.

Number One: Kids' books usually have a kid as the main character. File this one under D for "Duh," I know. But how can a kid be the protagonist of a book? Kids don't have that much power in real life. They have school and they have parents. Their every move is watched. So kids' books usually get rid of the parents somehow. They do this one of two ways. Either the parents were these noble saints that the child was torn away from in some act of supreme unselfishness, or the parents (or guardians, because this option is sometimes too awful for the actual parents) are evil sons-of-bitches that you wouldn't want taking care of a goldfish, and the kid's survival instinct kicks in and he or she escapes.

In Molly's case, she had a set of each.

James and Marcia Walker took her in and then they sent her away. The way Molly tells it, it's just like The Emerald City of Oz. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry can no longer afford the mortgage payments, and they tearfully told Dorothy that they couldn't keep the farm anymore; all three of them must go find work in order to survive.

"Wouldn't it be funny," she said, "for me to do housework in Kansas, when I'm a Princess in the Land of Oz?"

"A Princess!" they both exclaimed, astonished.

"Yes; Ozma made me a Princess some time ago, and she has often begged me to come and live always in the Emerald City," said the child.

Her uncle and aunt looked at her in amazement. Then the man said:

"Do you suppose you could manage to return to your fairyland, my dear?"

"Oh yes," replied Dorothy; "I could do that easily."

"How?" asked Aunt Em.

"Ozma sees me every day at four o'clock, in her Magic Picture. She can see me wherever I am, no matter what I am doing. And at that time, if I make a certain secret sign, she will send for me by means of the Magic Belt, which I once captured from the Nome King. Then, in the wink of an eye, I shall be with Ozma in her palace."

The elder people remained silent for some time after Dorothy had spoken. Finally, Aunt Em said, with another sigh of regret:

"If that is the case, Dorothy, perhaps you'd better go and live in the Emerald City. It will break our hearts to lose you from our lives, but you will be so much better off with your fairy friends that it seems wisest and best for you to go."

Mohinder leaned over the book, rereading the passage she was pointing to. "And they sent you away, just like that?" he asked tremulously, holding Matt's hand with a shaking fist.

"They had to," she said. "I didn't want to go, either, but I thought maybe I'd be able to go back someday. Or maybe they'd come find me when they were safe."

"Safe from what?" Matt asked.

She turned on him with frightened eyes. "The boogeyman."

The first time I heard her say this I almost laughed. How cliche is that, really? I mean, kids' stories don't even use that word anymore. Her parents must have been fossils. But then she told me it wasn't even her word. It was her mom's. Her biological mom's, that is. And that seems to make a whole lot more sense.

I told you Molly had a set of good parents and a set of bad ones. She described her biological mom to me as something like the aunts from James and the Giant Peach.

Neither Aunt Sponge nor Aunt Spiker could ever be bothered to take him out herself, not even for a small walk or a picnic, and he certainly wasn't permitted to go alone. "The nasty little beast will only get into mischief if he goes out of the garden," Aunt Spiker had said. And terrible punishments were promised him, such as being locked up in the cellar with the rats for a week, if he even so much dared to climb over the fence.

Of course, it's not quite that bad. Sure, she was a little overprotective, but if you'd been told to take your kid back because her adoptive parents were afraid for her life, how would you act? That was the story, after all. For one reason or another, the Walkers became certain their lives were in danger. And they cared about Molly too much to let her be caught in the midst of it. So enter Biological Mom, who's trying to keep her safe but at the same time wondering, hey, what the hell? I gave this kid up. Why's she all of a sudden my responsibility again?

If anything, I'd think for sure that Molly was way more like Matilda than James. After all, those parents were more than happy to get rid of their exceptionally gifted kid. Anything for a good stack of bills was their motto. And, well, not to sell Mom short, but the minute Molly came down with this disease of hers, she was on the phone to the one person who could possibly afford to get her treated.

That being her father.

II. Anne Shirley and Mary Lennox (and Christopher Marlowe?)

Two months ago, Molly asked, "Can I live with you?"

Mohinder and Matt looked at each other, then her, then both started talking at once, then both stopped to let the other go first.

Molly took advantage of the silence to chime in. "I can come live with you, right?" she said. "When I'm better. I don't have anywhere else to go, and you're both my best friends. So you have to let me live with you!"

Matt found his tongue first. "Molls, for one thing, we don't even live together."

Then a very curious thing happened. As Mohinder watched, Molly turned her eyes up to Matt's, and Matt blushed beet red. After a beat, he burst out, "What do you mean, practically? And how do you know that, anyway?"

She stared at him a moment, then frowned and turned on Mohinder. "Please? We should both come live with you." She slipped her hand into Matt's. "You guys could protect me. And I'll read you my favorite books."

Mohinder dropped to a squat, pulling Molly's free hand into his. "Darling, that's impossible. For one thing, we don't know yet what happened to your parents."

Matt cleared his throat and shuffled his feet uncomfortably. "Um. Actually, we do," he muttered. "My L.A. contact finally got back to me on the name. I haven't had a chance to tell you."

"What?" Mohinder shot to his feet again, ignoring the head rush that threatened to black him out. "What happened? Are they..."

"Can we not discuss it now?" Matt said, moving toward him to speak confidentially. "It's kind of really grisly. The detective in LA could barely talk about it."

The black eyes widened with horror. "Of course. But..."

They both looked down. Molly had grabbed them both by the waist and was hugging them together desperately, her face buried in their hips. "Please," she whispered. "Please, you're the only people who can protect me. Please."

Now from what you've heard of Molly so far you probably think she could never trust an adult ever again. And you'd be half right. When she went into the hospital, she was pretty much sick of adults. All they did was abandon her and ship her off to some other adult who was supposed to take better care of her. But all that changed when Molly began to read about a loquacious redhead who'd been tossed from family to family and finally found some "kindred spirits" of her very own.

The moment Anne Shirley stepped into her life, Molly was a different girl. All of a sudden she had hope again. Because if Anne could find the Cuthberts and Green Gables and make it home, surely there was a home out there waiting for Molly, too. And she was perfectly sure that Mohinder's "impossible" wouldn't be the end. Anne had undergone far worse.

"You don't want me!" she cried. "You don't want me because I'm not a boy! I might have expected it. Nobody ever did want me. I might have known it was all too beautiful to last. I might have known nobody really did want me. Oh, what shall I do? I'm going to burst into tears!"

Burst into tears she did. Sitting down on a chair by the table, flinging her arms out upon it, and burying her face in them, she proceeded to cry stormily. Marilla and Matthew looked at each other deprecatingly across the stove. Neither of them knew what to say or do. Finally Marilla stepped lamely into the breach.

"Well, well, there's no need to cry so about it."

"Yes, there IS need!" The child raised her head quickly, revealing a tear-stained face and trembling lips. "YOU would cry, too, if you were an orphan and had come to a place you thought was going to be home and found that they didn't want you because you weren't a boy. Oh, this is the most TRAGICAL thing that ever happened to me!"

Molly was determined to not let anything TRAGICAL happen to her. She'd found her home and her kindred spirits. Two men who loved books and each other and her. She was not about to let something as silly as custody or legalities get in her way. Not when there was a boogeyman out there who was looking for her. She made up her mind to make her dream happen.

Mohinder's place was riddled with strange shadows that night. He and Matt ate takeout Chinese in near-silence, a million emotions swimming beneath the surface. Matt kept looking over at Mohinder, wanting to say something, anything. Finally, as he was washing off the plates, he blurted out, "I mean, honestly. Like you could stand having a kid in the house. Never mind having me around full-time. You might go insane."

No response. Matt turned back to the sink and kept scrubbing with renewed vigor. Mohinder looked at him sadly, thinking about how a child's simple request for protection could possibly have opened so many cans of worms.

The worst part of it was, he thought, he would love it. Love to have Matt there with him. Love to know for certain that those dark eyes would be blinking at him, hazy with sleep, in the morning. Love to struggle with him over cleaning duties and spending money. Truth was, Matt was probably the first man he'd ever met who was marriage quality. And Molly made it all complete. If he was going to raise a family ever in his life, he'd want it to be a family like that.

And then there was a round gentle face in his and hands on his hands. Matt's cheeks were rosy, his eyes dancing. "Are you for real?" he said. "Do you really think I'm m-m-marriage quality? Because if I had any idea that that's how you felt I wouldn't have said those things. I thought you were the one that didn't want me here all the time. Oh, my God." He looked down, wiped sweat from his forehead, inadvertently splashed Mohinder with a spare bit of dishwater flying off his sleeve. "I should have memorized a poem for a moment like this, I'm good at other people's words, I'm not good at my own..."

Then he saw how frightened Mohinder looked. His voice trailed off, and his hands dropped from the shaking shoulders.

Mohinder struggled to find the words. "This is the third time you've done this," he finally said, "and it is scaring me a little bit, to be quite frank with you."

"Done what?"

He didn't know. He had no idea that Mohinder hadn't said all that out loud. The world was fast becoming a place Mohinder didn't recognize. He wanted things like this to stay in the fiction section where they belonged. And then one book, one supposedly non-fiction book, flashed through his mind and he was absolutely terrified.

No, he couldn't talk about it yet. "Never mind," he said. "It's nothing. I'm sorry."

And then the night abruptly got a lot worse: Matt completely misunderstood. "So I should have kept my big mouth shut," he moped, getting up and turning. He walked over to the counter and put his big fist on it with a solid thump. "Damn it. Shit. I'm sorry. Can you forget I said all that? Never mind. I didn't mean to pressure you. Goddamn it..."

As Matt continued to mutter, Mohinder watched in horror. He had to do something. This wasn't how he wanted things to go. Slowly and silently he rose to his feet.

Matt felt like a gigantic idiot. He'd been trying for the past few days to get up the courage to tell Mohinder he was in love with him, that he thought things were getting serious, and was Mohinder OK with that? What he'd been thinking was even greater than that. He'd been thinking there was no chance he could live without this man, he needed to make things permanent between them, just being his boyfriend and staying over at his place was great but it wasn't enough. He wanted commitment. He wanted something that couldn't be easily undone or cut off. And then Molly had gone and said let me live with you, let US live with you, and he'd gone off at the mouth like it was the greatest idea in the world, and...

"Move in with me," said a face pressed against the back of his shoulders.

He wasn't sure if it was the sound or the heat that first hit him. He was dizzy. The tile was spinning. "What?"

"Move in. Please. I don't want to live another day without you here. Matthew." The whispers against that warm back were so fervent. "I... I love you. You are marriage material. Without a doubt. This place is only really home when you're here."

Matt turned in place, slid eager arms around him, and captured him in a kiss. From somewhere, a poem floated into his mind, as if Mohinder were reading it to him in his lilting, British-tinted tenor.

"COME live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield."

It was beautiful, but it terrified him. Mohinder's lips had been on his the whole time, and yet he'd heard that voice, clear and perfect like a violin, in his head. He tightened his grip on Mohinder's spine and looked at him, turning pale. "I think I just..."

Then the phone rang. Frightened by the sudden panic in Matt's eyes, Mohinder broke away and answered it.

"Yes, hello. ...Yes, this is Dr. Suresh. Who's calling, please?"

Now it was his turn to pale and waver. Matt was at his side in an instant, holding him steady.

"No, my partner and I have been visiting her in the h... Did Molly contact you? ... This was her... Yes. Yes, no, we definitely should meet, but... perhaps next week? I will get back to you, thank you." He jotted down a phone number and set down the phone, unnerved.

"Who was that?" Matt said. Mohinder couldn't look up. Instead, he wrote down the name. Matt stared at it for a moment, sounding it out in his head. "...Oh, wow."

Mohinder leaned on his shoulder, suddenly exhausted. "He's Molly's father."

The Central Park South address was swank, to say the least. The brownstone was painted bone-white, and the door was a deep olive and looked heavy enough to be steel. It was the sort of place that Matt used to drive by and wonder, Who has a place like this in the middle of the city?

Well. Now he knew.

A tight-lipped woman with a shock of jet-black hair let them in. "He's upstairs," she said, her jaw tight as though not to permit a single superfluous movement. "He will see you in his study." She turned abruptly and left the room, and Matt's thank-you echoed off the vaulted ceiling of the lobby without ever hitting her.

"What is she?" Mohinder wondered aloud.

"Doesn't act like a receptionist, that's for sure." Matt reached out a hand to him, looking with trepidation at the white-carpeted stairs that snaked up to a landing before about-facing for a few steps to a second floor. "Shall we?"

They made their way up the stairs and past a few closed, bleached white doors before coming to the open doorway where a familiar man stood behind a broad oak desk. It was weird to see the face serious, not smiling, and not the size of a bus placard, too. Still, Matt was surprised by how three-dimensional he looked. He wasn't just a newspaper headline, but a real person, and that freaked him out a little. "Mr. Petrelli," he said.

"Nathan, please. And please, sit down." He waved them into two chairs and settled down behind the desk himself. "Now let me start you two with a bit of background. Molly's mother and I had a relationship before I met my wife. I ran into her again several years back while meeting with a business associate in Las Vegas. She was staying at the same hotel, and... we had a moment of weakness. I wasn't even aware of Molly's existence until she contacted me several months ago with the news that she was sick. I'm sure you gentlemen understand just what kind of a situation that places me in at this time. Illegitimate children are just above cocaine and call girls on the acceptability scale for a politician running for office, you know."

"Mr. Petrelli," Mohinder began.

"Please, let me finish." An expert wave of the hands, the kind that probably calmed cheering crowds and angry town halls. "I have no idea where you two are on the political spectrum, but I hope that you can put any partisan vendettas aside. Not for my sake, of course, but for Molly's."

"Mr. Petrelli, we have absolutely no intention of... of blackmailing you, if that's what you are implying," huffed Mohinder, suddenly fifty shades of righteous rage. "Need I remind you that you were the one who contacted us?"

Nathan sat back in his chair. "I'm sorry. A little paranoia can be good in politics, but it sometimes offends. Let's move on." He shifted, fixed his gaze on Matt. "I was under the impression that you might be interested in taking Molly home," he said. "Was I mistaken?"

Matt gulped hard, put his hand on Mohinder's, and, armed with the small smile and nod he received, shook his head. "We're both, uh, very interested in that," he croaked through a dry throat. "She's... very special to both of us."

"Well. I'm certainly pleased to hear it." He frowned in concentration. "I'll be more than happy, of course, to ensure that she is comfortable, if we can agree that this is kept discreet--"

"Not a cent," Mohinder said, and Matt was startled. Not only was Mohinder seething, but Matt himself had to admit being a little disappointed at how quickly he answered. He might have been the law-and-order type, but no one's impervious to a little temptation. After all, how could a librarian and a cop possibly afford to raise a young girl...

"Not a cent," Mohinder repeated. "You will find, Mr. Petrelli, that financial troubles are the least of my concerns. Have your lackeys investigate the Sureshes of Chennai if you insist. I'm sure you'll find that any talk of bribes is an insult at best." He leaned forward in his chair. "Your daughter's life may be a mere financial transaction to you, but I assure you, her existence means much more to Matthew and me."

Matt turned and stared. Once he could get his uselessly hanging jaw to move, he whispered, "There's something I don't know about your family, isn't there?"

There's a lot I haven't told you about my family.

This time Matt was sure Mohinder was only thinking it. There wasn't any doubt. He heard Mohinder's thought. He heard. Mohinder's. Thought.

He was about one step away from shouting and leaping to his feet like a madman when Nathan started laughing. His laugh was like a dog's bark, sharp and genuine. "I should introduce you to my brother," he said. "You and Pete would get along. All right, she's yours. I'll contact her mother and get papers drawn up."

And Matt was seized with a joy that threw any worries he had right out the window. He lowered his head, muttered "Thank you," and squeezed Mohinder's hand tightly. His face felt hot. His heart was dancing, no, skating figure eights in his chest. He was so pleased he was shaking. Molly would be his. No, theirs. What angel had engineered this piece of good luck?

By now I'm sure you've guessed that angel's name was Molly Walker.

Item number two to know about children's books: Just as there are the evil or missing adults, there's almost always a benevolent adult. Someone to make the story work, to enable the kid-heroes to do all the things they want to do that would just be implausible without them. Despite his distance from her, Molly was counting on her dad to be that adult. She saw him as the gentle but emotionally stunted Archibald Craven, whom Mary Lennox tentatively approached in The Secret Garden.

"Might I," quavered Mary, "might I have a bit of earth?"

In her eagerness she did not realize how queer the words would sound and that they were not the ones she had meant to say. Mr. Craven looked quite startled.

"Earth!" he repeated. "What do you mean?"

"To plant seeds in—to make things grow—to see them come alive," Mary faltered.

He gazed at her a moment and then passed his hand quickly over his eyes.

"Do you—care about gardens so much," he said slowly.

"I didn't know about them in India," said Mary. "I was always ill and tired and it was too hot. I sometimes made little beds in the sand and stuck flowers in them. But here it is different."

Mr. Craven got up and began to walk slowly across the room.

"A bit of earth," he said to himself, and Mary thought that somehow she must have reminded him of something. When he stopped and spoke to her his dark eyes looked almost soft and kind.

"You can have as much earth as you want," he said. "You remind me of some one else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want," with something like a smile, "take it, child, and make it come alive."

The benevolent father had given Molly her bit of earth, and she was looking forward to finally calling it home. But the story's not over yet, so stay tuned. I have to admit this last part is my favorite. This is the part where I show up.

III. Captain Hook, Alice, and the Rule of Three

One month ago, Matt moved in.

It would have been sooner, most likely, but Matt still had the lease on his Soho pad to wear out, and Mohinder had a lot of cleaning out to do to clear a room for Molly (Matt, of course, didn't require a bedroom, but he still had stuff, and stuff required space.) Not to mention it took practically a week to pry Molly off the ceiling once she heard she was going to go home to Mohinder's apartment. For good, if she wanted to. And oh, did she ever want to.

So it was quite the surprise when Matt wandered in on a sunny Wednesday afternoon to discover her hiding in her bed with the covers pulled over her head, trembling beneath the comforter.

"Hey," he said gently, wandering over to the bed and caressing the quivering mass. "You look like a lump in someone's oatmeal."

Not even a hint of a giggle. He sat down on the bed. "What's wrong, pumpkin? Just yesterday you were so happy."

A tuft of red hair flew up along with the blanket. Molly stayed cocooned shoulders-down but peeked out at him. "When do we get to go home?" she whispered.

"Soon," he said. "Just another week or so."

"And you'll be there too?"

"I'll be there most of all," he whispered, leaning down to touch his forehead to hers. "You're going to be my little girl, Molly. Mine and Mohinder's. What's bothering you so much, honey? Tell me. You're worrying me."

And then he caught the edge of a whisper. He tried not to jump this time.

"The boogeyman?" he said. "You mean the person who killed your mom and dad?"

At this, she leapt from her hiding place and threw herself into his arms. "You're a policeman, right? You have a gun, right? Carry it. Please, don't ever put it down. He'll get you, too!"

Matt felt his bones go cold at the feeling of her trembling, rapid as a hummingbird's wings. She felt so light against him, and there was such strength in the balls of her tiny white fists. She was all porcelain and gauze, and he felt a swell of affection and fear. "Sweetheart, nobody's going to get me. And I promise I'll protect you. But Molly, the boogeyman was in L.A. Why would he be here?"

Molly angled her face up. White, again, just like porcelain. "Because he was after me. Not them. The boogeyman wants to kill me."

Item number three to know about children's books: A kid is the hero, so an adult must be the villain. No, usually it is adulthood itself that is the villain, along with all that it brings-- responsibility, mortality, the whole package. Adulthood wants to kill youth because it envies it. Youth has the future, and adulthood has only the past. (I know this sounds awfully deep coming from me, but being in the weird position I'm in, I think about these things. But never mind that.)

So if the young fear growing up, and the grown-up fear growing old and dying, what besides time and death will save the young?

The answer is parents. Parents are the bridge from the past to the future. They are adults who have found their immortality in their children. Even Captain Hook knew this when he faced Peter Pan:

"Captain, is all well?" they asked timidly, but he answered with a hollow moan.

"He sighs," said Smee.

"He sighs again," said Starkey.

"And yet a third time he sighs," said Smee.

Then at last he spoke passionately.

"The game's up," he cried, "those boys have found a mother."

Molly had found herself some parents. And like any child would, she put her trust in them. Matt and Mohinder would save her from the evil boogeyman, who was desperately jealous of her power and wanted it for himself.

Mohinder was at work that afternoon. He'd been half-distracted for a long while, because Matt had read his thoughts again this morning and it was getting harder and harder to deny that it was happening. He thought about calling his father, but that would be impossible. First, he didn't know where he was-- he hadn't spoken to him since the big blowout fight five years ago. And second, it would be a blow to his pride. "Father, I know I basically called you every name in the book, but I think you may have been right after all because my boyfriend keeps reading my thoughts"? Brrrr. Mohinder didn't have enough warm sweaters or garish scarves to ease the chilliness of that reception.

And then a customer shoved something under his nose that got his attention.

"I'd like to renew this, please," said an even voice. Mohinder looked up and found himself staring into a pair of uncomfortably close brown, blinking eyes, hidden behind thick-shelled glasses. The man peered at his nametag. "Mohinder," he read, looking up at the face belonging to the name. "Chandra had a lizard with that name."

The copy of Activating Evolution, halfway to the scanner, fell with a clatter to the counter. "Who are you?" Mohinder whispered, paling.

"Wait a minute. You're his son?" The man seemed equally shocked. "He talked about you. He said you were brilliant but you couldn't open your mind. But he missed you. That's why he gave the lizard... Wow. This has to be destiny."

The man broke into a grin. Mohinder was still shaking. "Y...yes." He opened the book, looked at the sharp black-and-white snapshot of his father's face. "He is my father. And you..."

"I was his lab assistant," the man said. "Well, not an official lab assistant, but I helped him with his research."

Mohinder's legs buckled at a sudden realization. "You keep using the past tense."

The too-close brown eyes flashed with surprise. "You don't know? I... I'm sorry to be the one to tell you, but Chandra is dead."

This is about where I wandered in. (Yes, I know, but I think you'd be surprised. Even children of the Internet age like reading books once in a while.) Or, rather, it was a few minutes later, when Mohinder had shoved off his remaining desk duties to a co-worker and sat down with this stranger, who'd introduced himself as Paul.

Of course, I didn't know Mohinder back then. It was one of those coincidences, you know the type. Just happened to be wandering down one of the aisles, about to walk by when I heard an unfamiliar voice say something that got my attention. "He would talk endlessly about people who can talk to machines, people who can regenerate if they're hurt, people who can fly. And it all sounded so absurd to me."

"Yes, me too, at first." Now that voice I recognized. I quickly sat down and watched from behind my hastily picked up copy of Photoshop for Dummies. "But can you imagine, someone who can lift this book with his mind?" At this he slid his hand under the book and tilted it upward, and the other man's eyes popped out before "Paul" revealed his hand. "Kidding," he said.

Like hell he was. I sat there awhile, my stomach turning, wanting to wave my hands over my head or pass the guy a note. But what could I do? It wasn't the time or place to make a scene.

"I'm really rather curious," said the guy who sounded like he came out of a Merchant Ivory flick. "Where did you meet my father? Where was he these past five years?"

"I only knew him for a few months. But we worked upstate in a research facility. It was all very mysterious, but they used to give him files with names and addresses and sometimes medical files. He would cross-reference them with his database."

"To see if he could isolate the genetic anomaly, yes," the other man nodded.

I listened awhile longer, heard him tell some stories of files he'd seen. He mentioned me, mentioned a few others I'd met or heard of. I clutched my book and tried not to let my heart pound too hard. How I wished I could flash a neon sign at Merchant Ivory Man. Attention: You Do Not Want to Sit Too Close to Him!

Abruptly, the man looked at his watch. "Oh dear, I've got to get home," he said. He flashed a grin. "My partner and I are adopting a sweet little girl and I'm in the middle of preparing her bedroom. Look."

He rummaged in his pocket for his wallet and opened it up to a photograph. I couldn't see the face clearly from my spying position. He said proudly, "She's ten years old."

I could almost hear his eyes narrow. "She's... beautiful," he said. "What's her name?"

"Molly," the man said with pride. "Molly Walker."

I gasped a little. Fought it down, but I gasped.

"Where's she from? You know how people are so interested in adopting foreign babies these days," he added hastily. A pretext for asking.

"Well, some people refer to California as a foreign country, I suppose." They both chuckled, and I wanted to slap the stupid Merchant Ivory man. Stop giving him information!

"I hope you don't mind me asking, but why is she in a hospital gown? Is she sick?"

"Recovering, thank goodness. She comes home from Central next week."

"Central..." Oh, God. The sound of his voice, memorizing the location. I had to get over there before he got there. As unobtrusively as I could, I put the book down and walked out. The minute I was out of sight, I ran. Faster than I've ever run in my life.

Matt staggered, rather than walked, into the small room Mohinder was busy cleaning out. "We... we have to talk," he said.

Mohinder looked up and dropped his crate of books. The sound echoed in the nearly empty room, and they both jumped a little. "What is it?" he asked, shocked.

"It's about Molly," Matt said, falling into a squat on the floor, pulling Mohinder down and against him. "And it's about me."

He paused, fighting for the words. "Honey," he said "did you know... there are people in the world who can... can do things? Things like just think about someone and know where they are? Or things like..."

Like read my thoughts?

Matt gaped.

Mohinder pulled back, looked away, his cheeks burning. "My father studied them. All his life. Nobody believed him. I didn't believe him. But now I have met you, and now I know, and it's too late."

"Too late?" Matt touched his face with one hand, turning it back. "What do you mean?"

"I found out... I met a man today who knew him. He died. He died and I never knew."

"Oh, man..." It was the barest mutter of words in a low wail of shared grief. "I'm sorry."

Mohinder leaned on his shoulder. "I don't even feel inclined to shed a tear," he said. "This man that I met, this Mr. Sylar, he told me my father had found employment. Someone who believed him. And all I knew was, I was so angry with myself for not being that someone. His own son. I ended up telling him everything he asked about Molly, trying to prove to him, or myself, that I would be a better parent than I had been a child."

Matt went rigid. "Mohinder... was this guy asking a lot about Molly?"

He was met with a frown. "What? Well, now that I think about it, yes. He was rather curious."

"Did you tell him where she is?" A pause. "Mohinder. Did you tell him where she is?"

Mohinder didn't even have to nod. Matt didn't have to read his thoughts. The wild, lost look on his face was enough.

Matt was on his feet in a second, purpose in his eyes. He fingered the gun at his belt. "I've got to go save our kid."

My favorite children's book? Funny you should ask. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Yeah, that's right. The old Lewis Carroll drug trip. Think about it a sec. Alice drops into a world that's totally inside out and upside down. She changes. Her body changes. She's small and big. Nobody makes sense. Babies turn into pigs in her arms. But what does she do? She panics, and cries, and fights, and then she grows big enough to tell them all off.


`Let the jury consider their verdict,' the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

`No, no!' said the Queen. `Sentence first--verdict afterwards.'

`Stuff and nonsense!' said Alice loudly. `The idea of having the sentence first!'

`Hold your tongue!' said the Queen, turning purple.

`I won't!' said Alice.

`Off with her head!' the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

`Who cares for you?' said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) `You're nothing but a pack of cards!'

That's what I've discovered, too. They're all nothing but a pack of cards. Nothing but an illusion, a pleasant diversion to keep you distracted so you don't figure out the truth. Scatter them, and you become the dealer instead of just a player.

Dad taught me that, you know. He taught me everything. He's why I'm here.

He came bursting in the door and I knew from the look on his face that he was there for her. Maybe it was some psychic feedback. I don't know. I didn't know he was like us at this point.

I ran to him, grabbed his arm. He looked down at me. "What-- who are you? Listen, I'm in a hurry--"

"If you want to save Molly," I said urgently, "you have to listen to me."

Ten years old. Small for her age. Alone. Exposed. And facing down her worst nightmare. I can't even imagine what it must have been like for Molly at that moment.

Even so, the first words out of her mouth were, "I'm not scared of you."

"Oh, yes, you are," Sylar said in that rich, sardonic voice of his. Leering in that uniquely creepy way. "You were scared enough to run from me. Across a whole country, you ran. I chased after you in California--" At this, a pot of flowers crashed to the ground, and Molly bit down her scream. "I chased you east to the middle of nowhere, and that mother of yours, my goodness, she was a firecracker, wasn't she?" A heart monitor blared as it hit the tile, and this time Molly did scream. "And now I've chased you here, and you... can't.. run anymore!" One of the overhead lights exploded with a shower of sparks, and Molly hid her head in her hands and wailed.

He cocked his head like some perverse Mad Hatter. "You're on, what, your third set of parents now? You figure two men will give you twice the protection? Too bad neither of them are here now to protect you, don't you think?" He leaned forward. "And you know why they're not here? Because you don't deserve protecting, Molly." His voice was suddenly smooth and soft, like poison lacing chocolate. "You don't deserve that wonderful power you have. But I do. And so I'm going to take it."

At this point I was already in a full run, but I still managed to mutter "Like hell" as I slammed into him.

He stumbled, then righted himself. I got between the two of them just as fast as I could.

"You." His eyes blazed. "I thought I killed you."

I laughed. "Didn't take," He made a noise like an injured dog. "What do you think, Sylar? You think that finger of yours can do its job any faster this time?"

Molly was clinging to me already, and the surprise had robbed her of her tears. I looked down at her. "Don't worry, Molly. Unlike this guy, I learn from my mistakes. He's nothing but a pack of cards."

"Who are you?" she whispered.

"Someone who's been waiting for this moment ever since the first time." I smiled, then looked up at him again. "You know, I should thank you. You coming after me was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. That's when I learned the truth about everything. About the lie that was my life, about who I really am-- and now, I'm ready for you."

He had stopped pouting and now looked distinctly unimpressed. "Oh, really?" He was trying to creep me out with that evil grin, but once you know you survive one brush with Sylar, he gets decidedly less scary.

"Really," I smirked. "Come on. You want to fight? Or are you just going to try to kill me? I don't really want to hang around here all n--"

Blood in my face, searing pain at my forehead, cut me off. It was the old familiar pain. I hate pain. But know thyself, right? I'd planned to be in pain at this point. I'd told him to wait for me to freak out. So I let it freak me out, and I lost my words and lost my mind and just screamed. At the top of my lungs.

Screamed loud enough to distract him for a half-second. Screamed loud enough to muffle the sound of the gun firing. He heard it and turned, but not fast enough.

Three of the bullets buried themselves in his torso. The last one grazed his shoulder and ripped into mine. I slumped against the bed, dropping to my knees. Have I mentioned I hate pain?

Sylar crumpled, revealing Matt there. He lowered his gun, then dropped it, and the noise echoed in the hall. He saw Molly, saw her shaking but whole, and rushed across the room to her. They hugged fiercely. Nurses were starting to come running in the background, but it didn't matter. These two were together and safe. I had to sigh a little bit from happiness. I did what I came here to do. I saved her.

They finally turned to me. "Are you OK?" Molly said, crossing the room and staring in horror at the line of blood on my forehead, the gash in my shoulder.

"I'll be fine," I laughed. "I'm just so glad you're finally safe."

"Who are you?" she asked, and this time I answered-- but not before spitting out the bullet and handing it to Matt.

"My name's Claire," I said. Her eyes rounded with amazement as my wounds began to slowly close. "I'm your sister."

After the police had come, after Eden came by to tell them all that nothing had happened and Bob stopped in with the cleanup crew, Matt and Molly called Mohinder. He came over, and the four of us sat and talked all night. They told me about their love affair, how they'd come to adopt Molly, how they were hoping to live a life full of words and wonder together. I told them about Dad, how when Sylar first came for me he took me aside and told me the truth about everything, who he worked for, who my parents were, that I had a little sister that he was just as likely to be after. How I demanded that he teach me everything I had to know to find her and protect her.

Just before dawn, I finally noticed the packed shelf in the corner of Molly's room. And I laughed and cried with joy. She was absolutely my sister. We'd read all the same books.

So, it's four months later. Molly has come home to live with her brand-new parents. I'm headed home to Mom and Dad, where I belong. Sylar is probably pushing up daisies somewhere in upstate New York. Three well-deserved endings, don't you think?

Oh, yes. That's the last thing I wanted to mention about children's books. No story can be complete without completing a set of three. Goldilocks had her three bears. Aladdin had his three wishes. Even Harry Potter-- and augh, I swore up and down I was going to tell this whole story without a Harry Potter reference, I officially suck-- had his three deathly hallows. That's just the way these things work.

So Molly went home to her third set of parents. The house of the three Ms. or just M3, as I call the whole gang. (Seriously. Mohinder, Matt, and Molly? That's just too disgustingly adorable.) And while you can't say, in this day and age, that they lived happily ever after, I can at least report that they're doing their best.

You can't ask for more than that, after all.

The End

Previous comments:

From hanuueshe: *flail*

Claire as Molly's sister, the powers all coming out, the Copmany, Sylar, the book references, ahh!!!!!

*ded of teh cute*

From saavikam77: EEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ^_^ *runs around flailing*

I can't express how wonderfully *awesome* this one was! I adored that you decided to go with Nathan and Niki as Molly's parents. Molly couldn't have asked for a better sister in Claire! ^_^ I really do hope there's more in this series, if for the only purpose of having her meet Micah. :p

*SO* many wonderful details in this, I couldn't possibly list them all. But Matt reading Molly's thought about him and Mo being practically... *something*, I couldn't help but giggle like mad. They were *so* practically married at that point. :p

*hugs you for this one* ^_^ Bravo!!!!

From petite_reina: Love, love, love the whimsy of this story. Complete goodness!

From boudecia7: Wow, once again you've completely taken my breath away. I totally envy your ability to create plot. you worked in all the characters beautifully, and I just couldn't stop reading once I started. My in-laws are peeved at my lateness to dinner, btw. XD

From cinderlily: Ohhhh. Absolutely brilliant. Seriously. Brilliant. :)

*snuggles with the M3*


From carmexgirl: You had me at 'Christopher Marlowe'.

This was excellent - I loved the intertwining of (mostly) children's books with the plot. Everything fitted so beautifully. Poor Mohinder, getting hookwinked by Sylar (again), but yay! for Claire saving the day - I love how you've written her, protective over her little sister.

Fabtastic! - I invented a new word for you!

From kleenexcow: Tippy, tippy, tippy. I really loved this one soo much. Your Claire narrator voice? Awesome. How much allusion you had to other things going on behind the scenes? GREAT. This is such a nice little universe.

I also really enjoyed the analysis of children's books. Such a fun way to do it!


From saharafic: aaaaahhhhhhh!!! Oh I love you! Your Claire is amazing! I was torn as to who the narrator was at first...Elle or Claire, but oh it was perfection!

I think this may be my favorite one so far. The way you wove the powers in was brilliant. And I love Mohinder being there to help Matt discover his powers.

Awesome. Just awesome!

From arabella_w: yey!!!! Claire save the day!! And Nathan was Molly's daddy, and Matt not knowing about Mohinder's family, and all of this fic was a fantastic twist really.

Great great done

pennieblackpennieblack on June 8th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
A member of badfic_quotes uses an icon of yours, 'covalent bond.' Since I've been seeing it for weeks, I decided to check out your journal. Glancing through the rest of what you've made, and laughing myself silly at the mattmo icons, led me to your stories.

And now I remember why I used to love Heroes.

So, well, yes. You've written some awesome stories, and this arc in particular is just brilliant. =D Matt and Mohinder are adorably domestic! Book loving is had by all! Claire swoops in to save the day! And Molly is just the sweetest little girl in the world.

Thanks for bringing back my love of the fandom. (:
Tiptoe39: smiletiptoe39 on June 8th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
Ahahaha, thanks so much!! This comment tickles me absolutely pink!! And I'm glad you didn't find my fic on badfic_quotes... that would make me ph34r. I'm so glad you enjoyed this arc. I really liked writing it. I'm currently writing a novel where the main character is a librarian, so I'm in libary-loving mode.

(the covalent bond icon is from Kiss #26, fyi :D)

The fandom is, I'm sure, ecstatic to have your love again!

:is all happy 'n' stuff:
lea1-santomelea1santome on August 24th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
We note that you love to read.

Matt is clear his flamboyant father.

This is not what the poems in the comuniades, I can not reach those who are over 17 years.
Se nota que te gusta leer.

claro Matt es su flamante padre.

Este no es lo de los poemas, en las comuniades, no puedo acceder a las que son de más 17 años.
Tiptoe39: porntiptoe39 on August 24th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
oh, do you want me to e-mail you the story then?
lea1-santomelea1santome on August 24th, 2008 10:38 pm (UTC)
Do what I can send to a comment from my Lj of Neruda poem. ?.

And yes you have not read the commentary that you send in my LJ.
Could make a fic with the poem?

Already I said that my computer and my Internet connection is very slow, and I can not go directly to my email account, only indirectly.

Me lo puedes enviar a un comentario de mi Lj del poema de Neruda. ?.

Y sí no has leído el comentario que te envié en mi LJ.
¿Pódrias hacer un fic con el poema?

Ya te he comentado anteriormente que mi ordenador y mi conexión a Internet son muy lentos, y no puedo acceder directamente a mi cuenta de correo, sólo indirectamente.
speccygeekgrrl on October 29th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
Okay, seriously? This entire little arc is ridiculous. As in, ridiculously amazing. Ridiculously cute. Just, completely unbearably adorable.

The way you wove in so much more of the Heroes canon while keeping this a perfect fairytale in the same vein of Six Months Ago awed me. It's not fair that three times today I've been all breathless after something you wrote-- and that's three in a row, mind you!

You win as many internets tubes as you can handle. The trucks will be by at your convenience. xD
Tiptoe39: squeetiptoe39 on October 29th, 2008 12:58 am (UTC)
omg your comments on this and on four months ago = win. thank you so much!!! i'm so glad you enjoyed!! :is all pink:

I have a special fondness for this trilogy so i'm very glad you enjoyed it. In case you couldn't tell, I love a) broadway musicals, b) poetry and c) children's literature, so... this was just my own litfantasies come to life. Yay!! \o/