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[personal profile] indecision
the hibernation cycle of bears
peter/emma, mostly g, 2200 words, spoilers for up to "brave new world", for [ profile] anansie_s // prompt was: I think it would be great to see something with Peter and Emma, dealing with what just happened and maybe with the repercussions of Nathan's death.

notes: thanks to co-journaller, as usual, for judicious and awesome beta. ps. everyone else i owe meme requests to: i'm working on them, meep!


They're sitting on the couch in her living room, pretending to be having coffee. Mostly Peter is still and withdrawn, and Emma watches him. He's changed since the last time she saw him, when his grief was all he was. It's better now, maybe, his movements are a dull gray rather than the hollowed, muddied brown of despair. Underneath, there's still that bright, electric blue, and she wonders how long it'll take for him to be that again, if ever.

"When I lost Christopher," she says, signing automatically, because he wants her to. He says he's learning, taking a class, but he likes it when she teaches him. He watches her intently, following the movement of her hands, and everything about him is the muted gray of grief. "Everything stopped. I thought, there was no point to anything, anything at all." It's still true, on some days, even though she can always bring herself to get out of bed and pretend to go through the motions, unlike the first few months after it happened. Sometimes she wonders what her own colors are, but she can't see those, and maybe that's a good thing. "It gets better, Peter."

"No, I know." He's signing at her now, clumsily. Charmingly. It makes her want to reach out and kiss him. She scoots closer instead, and he says, "I let it go. Inside that wall, I let it go. I think. Sometimes I still hate him." He doesn't sign that, and he barely even looks at her, but she recognizes defeat and resignation from the way the colors shift, almost imperceptibly.

"I'm sorry," she says, and puts her hand in his. He lifts her bandaged fingers to his lips and kisses each one in turn, then kisses her palm. She pulls away from him, but only to brush her lips against his. Peter's kisses are always sweet, but always tinged with desperation, and grief, and loss. The undefinable shade of the sky nearing sunset, bruised and heavy. She shivers against him and somehow ends up in his lap, his hands strong on her waist, pulling her close. It's nice, slow, until he shifts, and then want curls in her belly, strong and an almost violent red. "Peter," she says, and he mouths something against her throat, stiffens his frame which makes her pull back and look at him, "What -"

"Sorry, sorry. I said - I don't know if this is such a good idea. I'm not the best guy to be in a relationship right now. I'm not -"

Emma puts her fingers on his lips, shushes him silently. "I know what I'm getting into," as clearly as she can, and he nods his head slowly, pulls her down for another kiss.


Everything goes on, as if nothing has changed at all. She goes back to the hospital and no-one asks her where she's been, it's only been a week, not the lifetime she imagines it to be in her head. The place is abuzz with excitement though, lightbulb-bright curiosity mixed in with the faint green tinge of fear. All about one thing, or one person: Claire Bennet, Indestructible Girl. Her mother tells her, Some people think it's a hoax, but they called that geneticist from India, his father wrote a book about people like her. He's giving a speech today, it should be live on TV tonight. Evolution, he says. Imagine that. And there's another person that came forward yesterday as well, a sixteen year old girl that can walk through walls. Who can walk through walls?

Peter might be able too, Emma thinks, distantly. If he met the girl, touched her. He's careful not to take her powers when they're in bed together, but he says it's hard, that when he's relaxed and offguard, a touch will automatically transfer the power. She'll kiss him on the shoulder then, or on the side of his neck, slide her hand down his back to the base of his spine. Testing him, and she can feel his laughter vibrate throughout his entire body. He's less gray nowadays, a shade, perhaps, lighter. Emma likes to think it's because of her.

Emma dear, you're not even looking at me.

Sorry, Mom. Sorry. Just distracted.

That boy again, right. The paramedic. You should bring him home for dinner sometime. I'd like to meet him.

Her mother looks hopeful, and Emma thinks, maybe, maybe. But later. She wants to keep him to herself for now.


Peter gives her a new cello, says, "I'll try not to destroy this one. I'm sorry."

"It's okay," she replies. She plucks at a string distractedly, her fingers twinge in memory of pain, but the color is as startling and beautiful as it always is. "Now I can draw you to me whenever you go away for too long."

"I don't think I'll stay away for too long."


"Why don't you have any furniture," she asks. He promised to cook for her, and she finds herself leaning against the kitchen counter watching him bustle around.

"I don't - uh." At least he looks sheepish. "I got tired of clutter? We could go furniture shopping, hey." He hands her a glass of wine and continues, "Or we could call my mother. She'd love to tear this place down and build it up properly the way she sees fit."

Emma grimaces. "Let's go shopping for furniture." Angela Petrelli, she had a dream, Peter said. I'm sorry for the way she treated you. She'll be better, now. But he never invites her over, never asks that Emma meet her again, and for that Emma's grateful. She can't tell Peter that the rudeness is the least of the reasons why she never wants to talk to Angela Petrelli again.

She thinks of Doyle though, and her bleeding fingers, and all the people that might have died. How that would look, from the outside. It makes her shudder, and clutch her wine glass too hard. Peter's reaching out automatically, sensing her change in mood. His colors slightly shift, she realizes, to suit the person he's with. She imagines him young then, like in the pictures of him and Nathan he still keeps scattered around the house, unmarked by grief and attuned to the emotions of those around him. It's a nice thought, but some things you don't get back.


A man she'd only met at the carnival and seen on the news drops by the apartment one night. Noah Bennet, Claire Bennet's father, he gives her a strained smile and when he pulls Peter aside to talk he turns his back to her so she can't read what he's saying. It stings, briefly.

"Something wrong?" is all she says, once Noah is gone.

Peter sits on the couch with his elbows on his knees and shakes his head. "No, everything is fine. I don't want you to worry." He always forgets to sign when he's upset.

Emma takes his hand and squeezes it, pictures the man that's become a fixture on the corner that she walks by every day to get to the subway, the huge sign that he holds up that declares, "GOD SAYS THE SPECIALS ARE AN ABOMINATION."

Peter disappears for days after that, and she thinks of sitting down at the cello and calling him to her, but in the end she only waits, and when he returns he's distant and withdrawn for a few days, but eventually things slide back into normalcy, although sometimes she feels as if she's holding her breath, just waiting for a bomb to fall on all of them.

Life goes on though, filled with a riot of color.


Emma worries about getting back into the residency program, wonders whether she can swallow her pride and accept her mother's offer of help. Peter worries, she knows, about his niece, and the world finding out about people like them. About the algorithm that can identify all of them, like heat seeking missiles, pulling them out of the population and marking them as indelibly different. He rants about consequences sometimes, a different world he was pulled into by a future version of himself.

It's vaguely fantastical and she can't wrap her head around it, even though she knows he's speaking the truth, and Hiro Nakamura teleports in once in a while all the way from Tokyo or Munich or wherever he's bouncing around nowadays, paler and skinnier each time she sees him but always the same intense hue of red. She still can't read a single word he says, but he catches on eventually and the next time he shows up he can sign. I spent three months learning ASL, he tells her, and the last time she saw him was three weeks ago, but she nods her head because this is normal now.

At least no-one's yet talking about experiments, or internment camps, and forceful revealing of those who chose to stay hidden, and it only gets really hurtful and bad when she watches particular talk shows or news channels, so she stays away from those now as well. Rivera, rambling on about a cure on her screen, and Emma thinks about what it would be like to wake up one morning without this ability, and surprises herself when the answer is: devastating. She'd always grown up knowing she was different from everyone else, but you can't really miss what you've never had. This she knows she'd miss.

Her mother says once though, over dinner, her face filled with concern, I read today in the newspaper, did you know Claire Bennet is Nathan Petrelli's illegitimate daughter? That's your boyfriend's brother isn't it? She pauses before continuing hesitantly, They said it's genetic, you know. Generational.

It's not a disease. She drops her fork loudly onto her plate, translucent blue and pink, and wants to storm off, but that would make her look guilty, so she just smiles thinly instead. Can we not have this conversation, please. I just want to enjoy our dinner.

I was merely curious, is all Mom tells her, and Emma feels suddenly guilty and ashamed, and maybe just a little afraid. Hey, if he gives me those grandchildren I want, he can fly for all I care.

Emma rolls her eyes, grateful for the switch in topic. Oh god, Mom. Not this again. We're not even married.


He never mentions Nathan, the older brother who died in a plane crash except for how he didn't, but it colors every single movement he makes, and so he doesn't need to. Nathan's presence lingers, even when Peter is asleep, curled up around the sheets like a child.

Once, the man that saved her shows up at Peter's doorstep. Sylar, or Gabriel, as he asks her to call him. His movements are a cold, brilliant white as solid as snow, shot through with red, and Emma calls for Peter, as loudly as she can, until he emerges from the bathroom and rushes to the door, pushes her protectively behind him. In the end they only talk, Peter projecting a tightly-controlled calm and friendliness, but every time he shifts there's a bright spark she recognizes as pure resentment, and despair.

What did he want she asks, once he's gone, and Peter shrugs.

Just to talk. He's having a minor crisis of faith over his new role as superhero. I'm his only friend. His face is shuttered, resigned, and she reaches for him, envelopes him in a hug.

You should tell him to get other friends, she informs him when they pull apart, he killed your brother, and he smiles at her, tiredly.


They're almost moved in together, she realizes at some point. Peter's place, because it's nearer to Mercy, and also because when he'd asked her to go furniture shopping what he meant was he'd trail after her agreeably and leave every decision to her, so now the apartment is filled with what she thought would be suited for him, and Emma likes it because he suits her. Her stuff shares space with his in the bathroom, the right bedside table is entirely hers, she brings extra clothes to change into the next morning and never brings them back again and they all end up neatly laundered and pressed and hanging in the closet that Peter never fully utilizes because he doesn't have that many clothes.

Once, sorting through, she finds nurses' scrubs buried in the back, and he tells her sheepishly, as if he'd forgotten, Yeah, I'm an RN. It was a lifetime ago. He stops when Emma raises her brow at him, and draws closer. I make you a deal. I'll see what I can do about getting back to that, you call your mother and see if she can get you back into that residency program they turned you down for.

That's not fair. She pushes him away, but she's smiling, laughing even.


Emma can't see her own movements in color, but if she could, she knows she'd be quietly glowing right now, a pale pink that sings of contentment. Peter takes her hand as they walk through the park, and when he smiles, for a moment there, he's the exact same color.
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