Summary: With Peter, it was a whole language--gestures, tone of voice, the offering or withdrawal of a hand.
Original story: Glass House by thisissirius.
Glass House (The You Are My Eyes Remix)
Sylar is every bit as crazy as Nathan expected.
It isn't the unhinged laughter that tips him off, or the way Sylar grins slyly as he talks about killing them. That almost seems like an act; Nathan doesn't need Peter's compassion to see the scared, pathetic boy beneath the bravado; Nathan's seen evil that Sylar only wishes he could achieve, depths of moral depravity that this child only plays at.
Nathan knows all about brute force. He's carried himself through life wielding power like a fine scalpel, finessing support out of people who secretly (or not so secretly) hate him, prostrating himself at the altar of service and making every sacrifice he needed to along the way to ascend to the throne.
When Nathan sees Sylar grin and promise to enjoy torturing them, he's looking at an heavy-handed bastard who got lucky in the draw and will inevitably be his own worst enemy in the end. Self-destruction never looks so confident as just before it implodes.
But Sylar's craziness--his true insanity--is something Nathan knows all too well.
Peter was young, and he looked it; adults still assumed he was in middle school and kids always asked him if he'd skipped a grade.
"You'll never get anywhere in life if you don't start acting your age," Nathan told him one day as Peter was skateboarding circles around him. "And only hooligans ride those things."
"God, Nathan, could you be more of a clone of dad?" Peter rolled his eyes, stopping the board and kicking it up. He poked Nathan on the shoulder. "Stop acting like you're fifty and take off that stupid tie."
Nathan tilted his chin up and frowned. "Mom says I look good in it."
Peter's answering grin was crooked. "Mom says a lot of things to get you to do what she wants." Peter dropped the board back down and skated right up to Nathan, grabbing the tie to pull himself forward the rest of the way until they were standing face to face. "I think you'd look better without it," Peter said, wrapping the red fabric around his fingers. "That's all."
Nathan's jaw worked, but he couldn't speak. His stomach tightened, and he inhaled too deeply, some subtle, formless need in the back of his mind, hoping their chests will touch. When Peter looked at him, their faces perfectly level, his eyes were huge, unreadable.
"Whatever," Peter said, eyelashes fringing when he dropped his gaze again. "Just a thought." He unraveled the tie, pushed his palms on Nathan's chest and rolled backwards. Away.
Nathan stared long after Peter had skated around the other side of the house, long after he'd exhaled indefinable disappointment. He knew there was something wrong, knew he should be able to look away. He couldn't.
"Peter's off limits," Nathan says, stepping in front of his brother. He stands directly in Sylar's line of sight.
He can barely stand it when he looks at Peter that way; Nathan won't let this sad excuse for a man claim that right.
"Sometimes I think you hate me," Peter said into the back of Nathan's neck, nose pressing at the base of Nathan's hairline.
"Sometimes I do," Nathan said, pulling his arm forward and disentangling his sticky fingers from Peter's.
Nathan felt the pillow shift; Peter was doing one of his over-exaggerated shrugs, the one that made his hair fall in his eyes. "There's this girl in one of my classes," he said in his too-innocent voice, rolling his body away from Nathan, voice getting quieter. "She asked me out to coffee."
Nathan had Peter in his grip before conscious thought could enter the equation. "No," Nathan said, biting down on Peter's shoulder, curling his arm around Peter's chest too tightly. "No."
"Yeah," Peter said, jutting his hips back to fit into Nathan's. "Okay."
Sylar's laugh is short, like a bark. "Is he." It's not a question; neither is Nathan's stance. His stomach churns rage and sickness when Sylar's smile grows wider; he seems to be looking right through Nathan, a predator honed in on his prey. "Won't you let little Peter come out and play?"
Nathan reaches back and wraps his fingers around Peter's wrist, brief, enough to say stay put and let me.
"You'll have to go through me."
Peter's outraged no isn't unexpected, which is why Nathan's already flying forward when Peter utters it.
Nathan learned how to hide his thoughts from Peter early on; the stoic face which came to Nathan naturally was a good start, but it was so much more than that. With Peter, it was a whole language--gestures, tone of voice, the offering or withdrawal of a hand. Everything had shades of meaning, deeper implications that Peter watched with his eyes open and receiving, drinking it all in, his lips parting to plead with Nathan for more.
It was a dance that Nathan changed the steps to as they got older, refusing to let Peter lead once he figured out the tempo; a tilt of his head here, a flick of his wrist there, and Peter couldn't see anymore, could only take as much as Nathan gave him. All of Nathan's political talent for deflection was acquired during his formative years within the walls of the Petrelli household.
Behind a pair of dark sunglasses he could look at Peter in shielded darkness.
The blood roars in his ears, runs hot on his cheeks. He blinks against the red-tinged light, surprised that he's conscious. His memory of the last few moments is a haze of movement, pain and screaming.
"Nathan," says Peter's voice, followed by a sensation of pressure on the back of his neck. Peter's hand.
Still alive, Nathan thinks groggily, eyelids fluttering. Both still alive.
"Yeah, no thanks to you," Peter says wryly, and Nathan hacks a wet cough imagining the lopsided, angry smile Peter always reserves for him.
Don't sound so glad.
Peter's fingers curl more securely around his neck. "But I am."
Nathan chuckles mentally, opening his eyes to look at Peter. You always were the stupid one.
"You don't really believe that," Peter says, touching their noses, and Nathan realizes his mind is open as wide as his eyes.
Yeah, well, Nathan thinks quietly as he puts his hand on Peter's chest, don't let it go to your head.
But he doesn't bother to push down the contradictory thought that surfaces right after it, content to watch it chase away the shadows from Peter's eyes.