Characters: Arthur/Angela, Nathan/Peter
Rating: PG (PG-13?)
Warnings: Slight spoilers for "Six Months Ago"
Disclaimer: Heroes? Yeah, don't own anything to do with it.
Author's note: Written for the mission_insane prompt, "Rain." Also, many thanks to my friend bettareader from The Couch for editing this story. I will forever cherish your hot, sweet, wet pork. The end, end, end, end.
Summary: Peter remembers a day spent with his father.
Peter loved the rain. No matter what mood he was in when the first few drops began to fall to the earth, rain seemed to cater to his emotions. When he woke up to the rain, feeling optimistic about the new day, he’d step outside and breathe in deeply, filling his lungs with the temporarily fresh, clean air. Rain purified the world.
At the end of the day, when Peter’s idealism was strained by the troubles of life, he would hear the rain falling and trudge outside, looking up at the gray sky and letting the water sting his eyes and cheeks. Sometimes he would open his mouth and let whatever drops he could catch slip onto his tongue in order to taste them, remembering when Nathan used to chastise him for ingesting something that was almost certainly polluted. Of course, Nathan had never liked him being out in the rain in the first place, especially without a coat.
He would walk aimlessly about the city in the rain, whether it came in the form of a drizzle or a deluge, dodging other pedestrians on the sidewalks who rushed past him in order to escape the weather. But Peter would revel in the pins-and-needles sensation that tingled along his skin, and later the full-body shiver that would rush through him in waves as he curled up in his apartment with a cup of hot tea. The rain saturated his clothes and hair, and soaked through to his skin, making him feel alive. Rain rejuvenated Peter’s soul.
Until the day his father was buried. As eulogies were given, as remembrances were shared, rain poured down relentlessly on the mourners, its rhythm so constant and raucous that only Peter, standing close at his mother’s side, was able to hear how shaky her breathing was. He returned her bone-creaking hold as they clasped hands, letting her use him as shield from those who would try to find and exploit any cracks in her carefully constructed façade of stoicism. Her black umbrella didn’t quite cover them both, so chilly rivulets of water dripped irregularly onto Peter’s shoulder, dampening his suit. Rather than wash away his pain, the rain seemed to hollow Peter out, leaving him with nothing.
When Nathan and Peter were called forward to drop their respective handfuls of wet earth onto their father’s coffin, Peter’s eyes remained resolutely forward, refusing to look at anything but the edge of the hole. He didn’t look at Nathan; a gap had opened between them on the day of Peter’s would-be deposition, one that—for once in his life—Peter wasn’t willing to immediately bridge.
He opened his hand and heard, rather than saw, the dirt clunk wetly onto the polished wood below; the hollow sound seemed to emulate the way Peter felt. He turned away from his father, away from his brother, and walked back to his mother’s side, impervious to the torrential rain that had soaked him through to the bone. He automatically reached out and took his mother’s hand back into his own, heard a soft gasp of pain escape her lips as she observed the first shovelful of earth being thrown in after the handfuls that her sons had left behind.
The rain continued to pound against the car, against Peter’s dulled senses, as Peter and his mother were transported to the wake. Peter fixed his gaze on the street outside, but didn’t register anything he saw. Each rotation of the tires put more distance between Peter and a man he never knew completely, and would never be able to know.
Upon arrival at the Petrelli estate, Mrs. Petrelli’s iron will strengthened her calm, reinforcing any emotional weakness she might have shown as she stepped out of the car and linked her arm with her son’s. When inside, she commanded, “Find your brother. Things haven’t been right between you two; fix it.” She broke away from him and took off her gloves, adding, “Don’t drink too much tonight, dear. We have an image to uphold.” She patted Peter’s cheek, the touch settling somewhere between affection and admonition, and then eased into the crowd of relatives and friends, most of whom Peter either couldn’t remember the names of or had never met.
Finding Nathan wouldn’t have been too difficult, if Peter were actually looking. He reached out blindly for a drink, not caring what he was about to pour down his throat, and made his way upstairs to his old bedroom.
Peter’s room had become a guest room. He flopped down on the bed that had replaced his own, now covered with a soft black duvet, and downed the rest of his drink, grimacing at the sour taste. He set the glass on the simple nightstand, and then closed his eyes against the dim, gray light creeping through the open blinds. He couldn’t quite drift off to a complete sleep; the familiar sounds and smells of his room were gone, transformed into something that was hospitable but impersonal. What had once been home now made him conscious of whether he was wrinkling the neatly made bed or leaving a ring on the freshly dusted nightstand.
Minutes stretched by and Peter found he couldn’t ignore the sound of the rain pounding against the roof—rain that used to lull him to sleep. He stood up and went to the window to look out at the city, the weak light casting stripes across his features as it slanted through the blinds. His view was mottled by the water that streamed down the glass, but he could see more people arriving for the wake. They hurried into the house, shielding themselves from the weather.
Normally, Peter would have wanted to take a walk out in the elements in order to clear his head a bit. But where the rain had once seemed to empathize with his pain, today it appeared to mock him. Each drop fell sardonically from the clouds above, and Peter’s apathy began to shift to anger.
A knock on the door brought Peter back out of his thoughts. He didn’t bother turning around to face the intruder; he knew it was Nathan. “Hey,” he said, wishing he had another drink in his hand.
“Ma was asking about you.” Nathan closed the door behind him softly. “She was afraid you’d be making friends with the bar.” He remained standing just in front of the door, maintaining the distance between them.
“Well, I’ve only had one drink.” Peter laughed bitterly. “Amazing, huh?”
“Your family is concerned,” Nathan continued noncommittally. “They want to see you.”
“Why? I don’t even know half of those people. They’ll just ask what I’m doing with my life and try to make me feel like I’m useless. But since Dad’s not here to agree that nursing is a waste of my time, that attempt’s going to fall a little short.”
“Peter.” Nathan’s voice lowered in a warning.
“Nathan.” Peter’s tone was overly flippant, betraying how close he was to breaking down. He turned away from the window. “You know what? I think I will make friends with that bar. Just because Dad’s gone doesn’t mean I should stop being myself, right?”
“Peter,” Nathan repeated, his voice soft with concern, with loss.
“Don’t,” Peter snapped, slipping his hands into his pockets. “I won’t get drunk. I just don’t want to be with those people right now.” He sat down on the bed, holding his head in his hands. “I’d be a burden to Mom either way.” He chuckled again, his humorless grin contorting his face into something that was almost grotesque. “We live in a family that has to think about maintaining composure during a wake.” Nathan frowned and took a step toward his brother, but Peter gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. “Sorry, Nathan,” Peter said bitingly. “I love you, but I can’t be with you right now.”
Nathan paid no attention to him and joined Peter on the bed. “That day… I was wrong. I was angry.” Nathan reached out and wrapped his arm around Peter’s shoulders, rubbing the material of his dress shirt. “I was about to prosecute our father, Peter. I was afraid…” He cleared his throat and stilled his hand, clamped his fingers down on Peter’s arm. “I thought he might’ve known what we were going to do. That I—” His voice broke, but he closed his eyes and shook his head before looking at Peter. “I wasn’t fair to you, pushing you away like that. I’m sorry, Pete.”
“I already forgave you for that the day it happened.” Peter continued to look straight ahead of him at the wall. “I’m not angry with you.”
A few seconds stretched out between them, and then Nathan resumed massaging Peter’s shoulder. “It’s natural to feel angry at Dad. I did.” A grimace briefly twisted his features. “I guess part of me still is. But your anger isn’t wrong, Peter.”
“I’m not angry with Dad either.” Peter’s jaw tightened with repressed emotion. He could feel tears brimming over, and his throat had suddenly constricted painfully. He shook his head slowly and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. “I’m… angry with the rain.”
“You…” Nathan leaned forward, trying to read his brother’s expression. “The rain?” he asked. He looked at Peter disbelievingly, then coughed, trying to mask his incredulous laughter. “You’re angry with the rai—” He interrupted himself with another burst of laughter.
Peter finally turned to his brother to glare at him, but the desperate mirth on Nathan’s face, combined with the ridiculousness of the situation, brought a sudden, hysterical giggle to Peter’s lips. “Yeah.”
“What did the rain ever do to you?” Nathan asked, his grip on Peter tightening as he laughed harder. “Too wet?” Peter surrendered to the laughter bubbling up inside him, his body doubling over in a sensation that wasn’t quite pain, and wasn’t quite release. Nathan’s arm continued to encircle him, and Peter finally leaned into his embrace. Nathan’s other arm immediately closed around him, holding him close as they laughed into each other, trying to muffle the sound so they wouldn’t draw any attention from outside the room.
Nathan regained his composure first, but continued holding Peter. He stroked his brother’s hair while he laughed, and kissed his forehead when the giggles turned into sobs. “Ssh, it’s all right,” he whispered into Peter’s ear, one hand rubbing his back while the other toyed with the too-long hair that fell at the nape of his neck. “Everything’ll be fine, Pete.” He pulled Peter even closer until they were flush against each other. “You’ll be okay.” Peter stopped fighting the sadness that had been building up inside him and finally just let himself go, letting all of his weight rest against his brother. Nathan continued to hold him, rocking him back and forth.
When Peter was able to take a complete breath again, he wiped at his eyes and pulled away just enough to look at his brother. “Sorry,” he apologized. “I just…”
Nathan shook his head and held his finger to Peter’s lips. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Peter.” He dipped his head and kissed the sensitive spot between Peter’s ear and neck.
Peter shuddered. “Yeah, I’m good.” He leaned forward and kissed his brother, tasting scotch. “You were in Dad’s study,” he observed, licking his lips.
Nathan shrugged. “The caterers watered everything down.” He closed the space between them again and pressed his mouth against his brother’s. Peter parted his lips immediately, attempting to deepen the kiss.
Nathan sighed and broke away. “Please,” Peter pleaded.
Nathan shook his head. “Not here,” he explained. “Not now.”
“When?” Peter asked, needing his brother.
“Tonight. Your place,” Nathan replied, his eyes dark. Peter nodded, resisting the urge to bite his lip. Nathan smoothed Peter’s hair off of his face. “Ma’ll be wondering where we are.”
Peter groaned. “I can’t go back down there with them now. I’m a mess.” He sniffed wetly.
Nathan made a noise of protest and pressed his mouth against each of Peter’s reddened cheeks. “You’re beautiful,” he corrected. “But you don’t have to stay. I’ll tell Ma you left.”
A hint of a grin played at the corner of the younger Petrelli’s lips. “Thanks, Nate.”
Nathan merely ruffled Peter’s hair and stood up. He looked at himself in the full-length mirror situated at the other side of the room, straightening his tie. “Take care of yourself, Peter,” he said, giving Peter one last look before exiting the room. Peter remained on the bed, both excited and apprehensive about the promise his brother had made.
The sound of the rain drew Peter to the window again. It was falling more gently now, and it swept Peter up in a memory of a rainstorm from years past, one that had been with him since he opened his eyes that morning to what had started out as a light drizzle.
Peter had been a child, seven or eight years old, and Nathan had been away at college, something Peter had been angry about at the time; he hadn’t understood that Nathan would be coming back and had felt betrayed. His mother had been upstairs in her room, feeling ill and unable to keep Peter occupied on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
After hours of restless boredom, his father came out of his study. Peter expected another disappointed lecture, but instead Mr. Petrelli looked at him for a moment, then cleared his throat and motioned for Peter to follow him as he strode purposefully toward the foyer of the house. “Grab your coat, Peter,” he commanded, shrugging into his own. Peter quickly obeyed, enjoying this rare moment with his usually distant father. He wanted to ask where they were going, but he didn’t want his father to suddenly change his mind and decide to stay home.
Arthur held open the door for his son, and they stepped outside into the rain. Peter could feel excitement coiling up inside of him, happy that his father was allowing him to be outside during a rainstorm, let alone with him in the first place. He skipped ahead a bit, then hurried back to his father’s side in case he’d annoyed the older man. After a few minutes of silence, Peter felt compelled to say something, anything that would strengthen the brief connection between them—that would prove he wasn’t dreaming. “I like the rain,” he stated simply, holding out his hand to catch a few drops.
“Me too,” said Mr. Petrelli, slowing down his brisk pace to little more than a stroll. “Life seems to slow down just a bit when it does.” His eyes softened for an instant, then he looked down at his son and graced him with a smile.
Peter felt as if he would burst with pride. “Do you always come outside when it rains?” he asked.
His father smiled again, then shook his head. “No, not every time. It wouldn’t be special if I did.”
Peter chewed his lower lip in thought, then nodded his head in solemn agreement.
An amiable silence passed between them, and then Arthur cleared his throat and said, “Peter, I know you miss Nathan.”
Peter looked down at his shoes, feeling chagrined. He had been a bother to everyone for the past month, trying to persuade Nathan to come back home. “I’m sorry,” he said in a small voice.
His father nodded, then placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Your brother will be back.”
“When?” Peter asked, looking up at his father again.
“Well, he’ll be here for Christmas,” Mr. Petrelli replied, stopping at a newspaper stand.
Peter halted next to him, confused. “Are we going back home now?” he asked, unable to completely hide his disappointment.
Arthur chuckled softly, making Peter’s eyes widen—he’d made his father laugh. “No. I just thought I’d buy you a calendar. You can put it up on your wall and count down the days until your brother comes home.” He picked up a small calendar and handed the vendor a ten dollar bill. “How about this one?”
Peter nodded eagerly. “That one’s fine,” he said, reaching up for it.
Mr. Petrelli reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a pen. “You can mark each day with this,” he explained, putting it in Peter’s free hand. “Would you like to get some ice cream?” he asked uncertainly, putting his hands in his pockets.
“Yes!” Peter exclaimed, thinking that this was one of the best days of his life.
Arthur laughed again. “All right. Let’s get a cab and we’ll go buy some.”
Peter took a moment to wrap his arms tightly around his father’s legs. “I love you, Daddy.”
Mr. Petrelli reached down and patted his son’s head. “I love you too, Peter.”
“Can we do this again?” Peter asked when he released his hold on his father.
Mr. Petrelli nodded. “Next time we have a moment alone on a rainy day. I promise.”
There had been many rainstorms after that, but Peter’s father became increasingly busy with pressures from the outside world, and the rain hadn’t been enough to relieve them. Arthur and Peter had grown further and further apart until Peter stopped trying to re-establish that momentary connection they’d experienced. Instead, he spent time alone in the rain, remembering that his father was more than a lawyer, a provider, a representative of the Petrelli name. He’d reflect on the day that Mr. Petrelli had split a hot fudge sundae with him and taught him how to easily memorize his nine times’ table.
Peter took one more look outside, noticing that the rain had stopped falling altogether, then took a deep breath and left his old bedroom, slipping out of the house unnoticed in order to retreat to the familiar comfort of his apartment. On the way, he stopped off at a coffee shop and bought an ice cream cone. “I love you, Dad,” he said softly, looking out the window of the taxi as it drove him home.