Keep Coming Around
Nathan self-justifies. Peter makes up memories. The combined result is somewhat uneven.
but thanks for loving me
cause you're doing it perfectly
Keep Coming Around
Nathan self-justifies. Peter makes up memories. The combined result is somewhat uneven.
but thanks for loving me
cause you're doing it perfectly
Peter was always a sensitive child. That's the most common word that Ma used to describe him, from as far back as he could remember, after he'd stopped being just The Baby, or as Nathan liked to call him, That Thing That Won't Stop Crying. Privately, Nathan thought that Peter was attention-seeking, demanding and never knew when to shut up. But Peter was also delightful, and bright, and most of all: he loved Nathan unreservedly, with no strings attached. That was a new sensation. So perhaps Nathan indulged his baby brother more than what was healthy.
Which was what Dad said, sometimes, when they were in his study and the topic invariably strayed to Peter. "You give him too much of your time," Dad told him, "As does your mother."
"He's a child, Dad," Nathan replied, because really, that was all the explanation that was needed. That was what kids did, they reduced you to the type of person that would willingly get one's clothes dirty because grubby, fruit-juice stained paws demanded to be picked up, or abandon one's homework to play aeroplane around the house for hours. Or consider not going far for college because it meant you'd be away for too long.
"You were never like this," Dad said sternly.
Nathan only shrugged. He liked Peter. Peter liked him. He didn't quite see what the problem was. Peter was his brother. He never once thought that this would be a pattern that would continue, even after they were both adults and had, ostensibly, their own lives, as separate from each other's as one could possibly get. Peter was never far from his mind though, and, from the amount of phone calls or texts or random drop-bys, neither was he from Peter's. Nathan replied in some manner at least half the time, mostly because Peter didn't deal well otherwise.
Sometimes Nathan thought that his relationship with Peter could be defined as a series of unending events where he screwed up, Peter was disappointed, and then he tried his best to make up for it somehow, and at some point he lost track of whether he was apologizing because he thought what he'd done was wrong or because Peter thought what he'd done was wrong.
The rub of course: Peter was his moral center, and Nathan couldn't live with his disapproval, and so Peter, ultimately, was never wrong, and it was just that Nathan took some time to get around to stepping into line.
The day he realized that he didn't see a means of escape from that pattern he proposed to Heidi, Dad-approved but not Peter-approved, and when he told Peter it was almost worth it to see the flash of betrayal, of hurt, on his face. "But what about us, Nathan," Peter asked, and his hand on Nathan's arm was gripped tight enough that it hurt.
"There is no us, Peter. For the last fucking time," but Peter kissed him desperately, and started pulling at his clothes, more anger and reclaiming of ownership than anything else, and Nathan, as usual, was unable to do anything but give in.
"She's not that bad I guess," he said afterwards, the two of them in bed with Peter's come drying on Nathan's skin and Peter looking like the debauched Catholic schoolboy that he mostly still was. "I think she likes me."
"They all like you, Peter," Nathan said with rising irritation, because Peter might hide it well, but in one aspect he was a Petrelli at least: he knew how to be sufficiently charming with the minimum of effort. He did better, honestly, than Nathan - everyone tensed in Nathan's presence because they sensed the edge of insincerity lurking beneath the surface. Peter had no such problems, he genuinely believed in what he was saying. Until of course, he didn't. He kissed Peter then, on the shoulder, more teeth than lips, and the mark faded away too soon so he did it again, hard enough so he knew it'd stay for a while. "Just, be nice to her okay? And then - nothing has to change."
The look Peter shot him was hopeful, but uncertain. "Are you lying to me, you know I hate it when you -" Nathan cut him off with another kiss, on the lips this time. Peter moaned and looped his arms sweetly around Nathan's neck. "You're such a dick," he said, but fondly, and Nathan laughed.
The truth was, the manner of importance in which Nathan ranked those he loved most went like this: Peter, Heidi, Monty and Simon, his parents. Most of the time, he was acutely aware of how fucked up that was. Even Heidi said once, in her offhand, careful manner, "Don't you think that you might want to put some distance between yourself and Peter," and Nathan had murmured in the assent, because he didn't disagree, he just didn't know how. Peter was in every pore of his being, down to the atomic level. He'd have to pick himself apart, piece by piece, and put it back together again minus all that was Peter, and even then he didn't know if what was left was enough to build a whole person. Nathan suspected it wasn't.
That, right there, was what broke Nathan, always. For the longest time, he'd thought that the performance that he put on was what everyone expected from him, from Heidi to his parents to the people he called his friends, and that Peter was the only one that wanted the real him, stripped down and bare, with all his myriad flaws accepted and forgiven. Only afterwards, when it was too late, when he was trapped in the web of what Peter called "being connected", did he realize that what Peter truly needed was much more complicated than that.
There were times, and by that he meant every moment when he wasn't actually having sex with Peter, when he regretted that they'd started this, so long ago. Peter had always been needy, but at some point that need turned into something more, something Nathan recognized in the glances Peter shot him, but denied as unlikely, because they were brothers, and it was unconscionable, unthinkable. Even more terrifying if he really sat back and thought about when exactly it had started, when everything had begun to go so horribly wrong, because in all honesty he hadn't noticed, hadn't paid attention to when a friendly hug or touch had turned into something more. They were always touching, that was a given, but in Nathan's mind it had always been just that.
Plus Nathan liked women, and women liked him, he brought them home sometimes, all the ones that his parents would approve of and not the blondes that Dad would forever call Meredith with a curl of his lips, no matter what their names were. Peter was sixteen, and they all adored him, these young women, and Peter universally loathed them. "What's wrong with this one," he asked once.
They were in the backyard, Nathan was mildly drunk and he'd allowed Peter to surreptitiously sip his wine, just a little, but not enough to get him tipsy because then he'd never hear the end of it. Peter's mood remained consistently sour though, the color was high on his face and his eyes were dark and almost mean looking, although that couldn't be right. His mother's voice: Your brother doesn't have a mean bone in his body, Nathan.
Which was totally and utterly true. So it was hurt then, rather than anything else, or confusion.
"Barbara seems nice, doesn't she," Nathan tried.
"Not right for you," Peter retorted, quick as a bullet, and Nathan sighed. None of them were ever right for Peter, sixteen and in possession of all the wisdom in the world. Not that he needed his brother's approval to continue to date someone. It was just that - it helped. "I don't - Nathan," he said, and he was suddenly, dangerously close. His breath faintly of grapes, of bubblegum and youth and sin, and Nathan, back then, like he always would be, was rooted to the spot when Peter kissed him.
It was tentative, Peter's first kiss, Nathan would always remember the rising sense of panic, for lines that shouldn't, couldn't be crossed, but then his own arms were around Peter's thin frame and he was pushing him up against the trunk of a tree, and it was too late for any of that. "Nathan," Peter breathed against his skin, as if he'd been waiting his entire life for exactly this moment. And perhaps he had.
Nathan jerked himself away, held one finger up to keep Peter at bay. "Don't," he said shakily. "Peter, don't." Peter just blinked at him in open-mouthed confusion, and Nathan sighed. "You're my brother - this. This isn't how it's supposed to be." Peter continued to project hurt, and Nathan wanted to hug him, the way he always did when Peter was upset, but instead he just jammed his hands into his pockets and stalked off, left him there.
"I wanted you for so long," Peter was fond of saying, tracing aimless patterns down Nathan's chest, and he always sounded so surprised when he said it, and it always struck Nathan as odd: didn't he know, Nathan would always come around eventually. But if Nathan was all guilt and remorse ("Misguided, holy shit Nathan," Peter told him), Peter was all shameless need and now now now. "I'll do anything you want, Nathan. Anything," he said, eyes bright and a small, knowing smile on his face, and Nathan thought: his brother was mad, but only sometimes.
Other times, it was all about pressing Peter face-down onto the mattress and their bodies moving together in perfect synchronicity. All this after he'd given up resisting, after Peter turned eighteen and whispered in his ear one night, "You know I'm legal now," which wasn't the point, had never been the point. Peter would take everything, and more, desperate and needy and twisting his head so Nathan could kiss him violently, mark him with his sin. "I love you," he always said, not the same way he said it when they were pretending they were just brothers, but honest and stark, and it drove Nathan crazy with guilt, with fear, made him whisper the filthiest things in response, harsh and demanding, and all Peter would do as a reply was nod his head and say, "Anything. Anything you want."
Which was utterly true, and utterly not, all at the same time. He wanted Peter even now, sitting here drinking shitty coffee in some shitty diner with grime on their clothes that stunk of actual dead people, and still he wanted Peter, even now. Peter often told him that the world would be a much friendlier place if Nathan only stopped hating himself so much, and Nathan always curled his lip up in response and made a flippant comment about self-help books and hippies, and once, and only once, Peter wrapped an arm around Nathan and whispered in his ear, "It's okay, Nathan. I love you enough for the both of us."
"Don't be afraid," he liked to say, and it was always on the tip of Nathan's tongue to reply, I'm not afraid, but he was never any good at lying to Peter, and even when he tried he failed, mostly miserably. Everyone else but him. Anyone else but him. Peter saw him ugly, unshaped by the smooth veneer of money and breeding, and loved him regardless. Or at least as someone with the potential to change. "You can be a better person, I have faith in you."
But then no one could judge him the way Peter could, and even worse, no one could make Nathan care about that judgment, and yeah, Nathan fell more than once, and often, and it was always just a matter of making it right afterwards, because he couldn't bear to lose Peter. I almost died for you. I was willing to die for you, he wanted to snap, but he'd used that once already, and mostly even Nathan believed it had always been his responsibility. His brother's keeper, always and forever. Peter who was so damaged and beautiful and loved him unconditionally, in his own stubborn way. Peter the one his mother called, more fondness in her voice than she'd ever shown towards Nathan, sensitive. Your brother's sensitive, Nathan. He's special. She never told him, not even once: take care of him. Nathan had volunteered that position, all by himself.
No one to blame, really. Peter said, his voice heavy with disappointment and muted rage, "What do you want, Nathan. You want forgiveness? That what you want?"
And Nathan could tell himself, all he wanted was a reprieve from the madness of the past few years. A cure that would bring their lives back to even the remotest of normalcy, for a world where madmen with impenetrable skin couldn't terrorize young girls, and young men didn't go nuclear, or brothers didn't come back from the future to kill, and fathers didn't return from the dead, and he couldn't fly, couldn't fail Heidi, couldn't fail anyone. Could just be Nathan Petrelli, Junior Senator from NYC.
And all of it would be the truth, just about. But this conversation Nathan had rehearsed a million and one times in his head, and all he could think to say was something that would drive his brother even further away: You suffocated me, Peter. I couldn't breathe.
Nathan was always the center of Peter's life, as far back as he could remember. He loved his mother, and could mostly take or leave his father, but Nathan, Nathan Peter adored unreservedly. He was tall and he had big hands and he smiled at Peter like he was the most important person in the world. "Hey champ," he'd say, and his fingers would brush Peter's damp hair out of his face. "What kind of trouble did you get into this time, huh?"
And Peter would babble, it wasn't his fault he'd just fallen down, or the dog had run away and Peter had to chase it, and then Nathan would nod his head, all seriousness, and pick him up in his strong arms, and he'd ask Peter what he wanted to do, and they'd do it. Mostly, until far later, what Peter wanted was simple, he wanted Nathan to aeroplane him around the house while he shrieked, or for them to sit in the kitchen sharing big bowls of ice cream, until Dad popped his head in and shook his head in disapproval, and then drew Nathan away from him. Took his Nathan away from him. But that was okay as well, Dad may have loved Nathan more than he loved Peter, anyone could see that, but Nathan loved Peter more in turn, and ultimately, that was all that mattered to him.
Peter never could remember when it was he started thinking of Nathan as his, but he must have been very young, and after that he hadn't really been able to think of him as anything else. His older brother, his. Peter called, and Nathan came running, for him and for no one else, and that was just the way it was. In a world that was constantly changing, filled with harsh voices and emotions that Peter felt but very often couldn't deal with, Nathan was the one person who was always there, a steady, constant buffer against it all.
In truth, Peter knew that his memories of Nathan were only half accurate at all, and the remainder were wishful thinking, because Nathan was gone very often, busy being a hero, Ma told him, but the times he was there made up for just about everything. Birthdays and baseball games and even putting up with Peter whenever Peter was lonely or bored, or just needed someone to talk to. "You can call me anytime, Pete. You know that," and Nathan was never impatient with him, never told him to go away or that he was bugging him. He just listened, and he always gave the correct advice whenever Peter asked for it.
If Peter were to look at their lives as him trying to save Nathan and Nathan taking steps forward and then backwards again, then the day that he decided to marry Heidi wasn't even the one that stood out. Because Heidi was always going to be the one. Peter knew this from the second Nathan introduced her to the family. She was dark haired and pretty and came from the perfect family, and standing next to Nathan they made a picture perfect couple. Peter made a show of disliking and resenting her, the way he did with all of Nathan's girlfriends, but Nathan never once looked at her the way he looked at Peter, and if it got Dad off of Nathan's back about getting married and settling down because that's what grown men did, with respectable young women, so the public could see just how normal they all were, Peter couldn't very well object.
"What do you want me to say," Peter snapped at Nathan, after he'd made the announcement. "I hope the two of you are happy together? Have perfect fucking children together?" His anger wasn't a lie, Nathan seemed to be under the impression that this meant that they were over, that he'd get married and they'd live their lives separately as if they'd never been joined.
"You could say you'll be my best man," Nathan said wryly, and Peter wanted to punch him then, had already made a fist with his hand, but instead he just forced himself to breathe, to calm down.
"Do you really expect me to be a part of this farce that you'll call marriage, Nathan," he said, calmly, and Nathan flinched.
"We all make sacrifices, Pete. I love her. We're getting married." But he was already crowding Peter's space, his eyes were wide open and pleading with him not just for understanding, but for something more.
"Okay," Peter said, and laced their hands together. "Okay."
Sometimes it terrified Peter to the core, the intensity of his feelings for Nathan. Sometimes it felt as if Nathan were the only one holding him together, that he'd crumble to dust if it wasn't for him, and no-one would be able to put him back together again. Nathan was always just very good at knowing exactly what to do, and exactly what to say, and he always reached out to Peter enough that even him getting married, and having Monty and Simon, didn't change that. Peter came and went from Nathan's house as he pleased, and whenever Nathan entered the room he looked at Peter as if there was utterly no one else there. "Your brother's here," Heidi said. "Again."
"I can see that," Nathan said, and he took Peter by the arm and led him outside. "We're going for a drive, maybe," and Peter waved cheerfully at Heidi as she watched them leave.
"I like her, you know."
"I'm sure you do," Nathan said, and sometimes Peter would look into Nathan's eyes and there'd be irritation or annoyance there, or even anger, but it would fade away fast enough. Peter smiled, and touched Nathan on the arm, or his face, and Nathan yielded into his touch, as he always did.
Nathan who was so tall and so handsome back when the word was meaningless, before Peter turned fourteen and Nathan showed up at the door one day in his uniform, and Peter had been slouching on the stairs with his walkman in his hands, idly blasting the music that his mother disapproved of. He'd stood up suddenly when the door slammed open, and Nathan was calling out for Ma, until he noticed Peter, open mouthed and gaping, on the stairs. Peter had literally flown down then, once he'd gotten over the shock, into Nathan's arms.
"Hey, hey champ," Nathan said, laughing, and he smelt like sunshine and grass, and Peter couldn't stop touching him, and Nathan curled his arms around Peter and told him fondly, "Wow you've gotten tall. Gonna be as tall as your big brother soon, huh. Still skinny though. Haven't they been feeding you?" Peter just murmured something stupid into Nathan's shirt, until Mom came in from the other room and Nathan let go to greet her. Peter watched them hug, and that was the first time he experienced want.
He'd gotten himself drunk because he knew it was what would give him the courage he mostly didn't have, and Nathan never stopped him so Peter took it as tacit approval of what he was planning on doing afterwards. He'd just turned sixteen, after all, and that was old enough.
It was Nathan's fault, all of it, Peter decided. Every decision he'd made was wrong. From law school to his political aspirations to the vapid future trophy wives that he paraded around as if he cared for them as anything more than very expensive accessories, Nathan himself was getting lost in what Dad expected him to be, a less tainted version of himself.
Clearing the family name, but fuck that, it shouldn't have to be Nathan's responsibility. Nathan should be able to live his own life. "Are you happy," he asked, that night in the backyard, and Peter still remembered how the air was so rich with the heady, almost perfumed scent of flowers blooming, and how devastating Nathan looked in his tuxedo, while Peter felt awkward and uncertain in his own, too slight, even if everyone else found his skinny frame charming. "Well, are you?"
"What kind of stupid question is that to ask," Nathan snapped back, and it was all the answer that Peter needed to hear.
Barbara, the new one, the one that was all wrong for Nathan, that would drive him even further away, and Peter didn't want to talk about her, or Dad, or Nathan turning into this stranger right in front of his eyes. Instead he just wanted to be drunk enough to be brave.
His brother tasted almost exactly like Peter had imagined he would, expensive and intoxicating, and all the times Peter had done this with girls, none of it had prepared him for the way it would feel with Nathan, the sharp shock, right to the base of his spine. Part of him wanted to pull away, he wasn't remotely prepared for this, but then Nathan's strong arms were around him, and he could feel the bark of the tree digging against the exposed skin on his neck, and it was exhilarating and terrifying because Nathan was pressed up against him, and as usual, he overwhelmed. Peter fell, that night.
Nathan was always the strong one, the pillar of strength that everyone relied on, or depended on, to get things done. He was the golden boy with ambition to change the world, and Peter was just the fuck-up little brother that was never quite important enough. Alone though, with Nathan, Peter saw all the parts of him that weren't for show, the parts that were capable of love, of selflessness, of being a better man than fate had decided he should be. Peter sometimes thought that if he just loved Nathan enough, if he pulled his body to his own until he couldn't tell where he ended and Nathan began, maybe one day Nathan would walk away and not only be that man in those secret places between the two of them.
"I love you, Nathan," Peter would say, when Nathan held him down and fucked him until he couldn't breathe, and couldn't think, couldn't move because it was so fucking good and so honest and above all so real, and all of Nathan's words were meaningless then, lost in sense and smell and touch, and the way Nathan was always on the verge of slipping entirely away, breaking into pieces that were just waiting for Peter to put back together again. Nathan marked him like he was owned, and he was. He wanted to be, no, needed to be, exactly that.
"Whatever you want, Nathan," he liked to tell him, which always made Nathan look intensely uncomfortable and try to turn away from him, but Peter would lace their hands together, because he wanted to reassure Nathan, to make certain he wasn't afraid. "I will never not love you." Peter wanted him to be free to be the man that Peter knew he was, deep down. Someone not driven by petty politics and greed, and the uselessness of trying to live up to Dad's expectations. Someone who would live up to his own.
"Life is not a fucking fairytale, Pete," Nathan would retort. "You don't always get what you want. Sometimes it's just about living up to your responsibilities as a person."
But then the dreams started, and everything, literally, changed, and Nathan, even though it shouldn't have surprised Peter by now, stayed entirely true to pattern. Superpowers and saving the world and all the good Peter had tried to do, and all the times he'd failed, and Nathan liked to say that Peter could lay judgment upon him like no one else could, but no one but Nathan could make him feel so utterly small, so incapable of doing a single thing right. Kirby Plaza and Adam Monroe and Nathan choosing Dad over him, I wish you wouldn't have chosen Dad over me. Not after Linderman, not after all they'd been through together.
And maybe, at one point, he might have felt he deserved it, even if Nathan didn't know what happened to them, what Peter did, in the future that wasn't to be. All the mistakes he had made. But this was an entirely new level of betrayal, and he couldn't wash it all away now, every self-righteous, self-serving thing that Nathan had ever done.
"I don't know, Pete. What do you want me to say?"
"How about the truth for once. How about you stop thinking about yourself, just once."
Nathan sighed heavily, and clenched his jaw the way he did when he was trying to suppress what he wanted to say. Finally though, he went, "I thought I was doing the right thing."
Which wasn't an answer, or an explanation, and Nathan just wanted forgiveness, and absolution, the way he always did, the way things worked between them. I fuck up, and you forgive me. I'm sorry, and please still have faith in me. Please still love me. And mostly Peter felt hollowed out, and he wanted nothing more but to tell Nathan: Some things, when you break them, you just can't get back.