|Heroes fic: How You Sleep (8/12?)
||[Dec. 10th, 2011 at 12:43 am]
exackitically two days slow
Title: How You Sleep - Chapter 8: Binds and Boundaries (8/12?)
Warnings: Mpreg! BS science! Fairly dark! Consent issues!
Summary: After being doused with the complete formula, Mohinder copes with a lingering side effect as he and everyone around him try to rebuild their lives and their trust.
Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
Closing his eyes, Mohinder lifted his face to the spray and let the water wash away his thoughts. The soothing warmth ran down his skin and hit the bottom of the tub in a rhythmic rush. He pulled the heat into his lungs and felt it stay as he exhaled, loosening the tension in his shoulders. If he could let go of his body, he could drift away with the steam, live as vapor, a cloud of mindless molecules.
The baby kicked. Mohinder opened his eyes and let his head fall. He could hardly see his toes past his stomach. He definitely couldn't hide it under a baggy shirt anymore. His son kicked again.
"You feel pent up, too?" Mohinder asked, putting his hand on the spot. Another strike. "Of course you do. But there's a while to go."
The same could not be said for his mother and Molly. Their visit was coming to an end, with their flight back to Chennai the next day. The two had spent each day at the Agency for the past two weeks, his mother ignoring his suggestions to take even an afternoon to see the capital. Her insistence on watching over him should have felt comforting, but she seemed to act out of obligation. She scolded him for spending too much time on his feet, for letting Peter indulge him with take-out, for focusing too much on his Agency laptop. Yet she seemed to avoid talking about the baby specifically, offering no suggestions when Mohinder scrolled through a list of names and saying little when Claire visited with her catalog. He thought witnessing an ultrasound would crack her aloofness, but she only listened to Dr. Sokolowski silently. She hadn't smiled once.
Molly was more chatty, though she tended to quiet down around her grandmother. Mohinder was happy she spoke to him at all. She seemed embarrassed about how she lost control; she didn't want to talk about her feelings when Mohinder tried to assure her things would be different now. He hoped her excitement over a "little brother" was genuine and not for his benefit.
The water started to cool. He quickly washed his hair and body.
As he pulled on his baggy hospital scrubs in his room, a knock sounded at the door. Peter, of course. Mohinder smiled as he came in. "You're early."
"Yeah, uh, are you busy right now?" Peter said, looking befuddled.
"Mother and Molly haven't come yet, so no."
"Okay, well, Claire says she has a surprise." Peter gestured out the door. "In the nurse's break room."
Mohinder sighed. He'd been expecting this. Lately when he looked at the baby catalog with Claire, she'd urged him to point out things he liked even if they didn't fit into his budget. Eventually, it hit him that she might be looking for a gift. Mohinder considered her a friend at this point, but he didn't want a college student to shell out money for a crib or a stroller.
"She's a sweet girl," he said to Peter as they walked down the hall.
"Runs in the family, right?" Peter said.
Mohinder let out a laugh-- then choked on it as he reached the break room. Drapes of twisted blue streamers lined the edges of the ceiling. A small cake sat in the middle of a round table in a scatter of shiny confetti, flanked by a vegetable platter and bowls of potato chips and pretzels. A folding chair set up behind the table had sky blue balloons tied to it. Gifts wrapped and bagged in a variety of blues were piled on the couch against the wall, with one large box on the floor. His mother, Molly, Claire, Emma, Emilia, Marion, Darla, and Dr. Sokolowski stood around the table.
"Surprise!" cheered Claire and most of the others. His mother just stared at him, and Sokolowski checked her watch.
"Did you know about this?" Mohinder hissed over his shoulder.
"Definitely not," Peter said, glancing around the room as if it crawled with scorpions. "Um, I think I'm gonna--"
Mohinder locked his hand around Peter's arm. "You're not going anywhere."
"Don't kill me!" Claire said, coming forward.
"Claire," he started, "you didn't--"
"It's a congratulations party, not a baby shower," she pushed on. "Way toned down, I promise. Short and sweet. No plate of bows and ribbons on your head or anything."
"Plate of what?" Mohinder said.
"Nevermind." She pulled out the folding chair. The balloons resisted, bumping into each other. "We have presents and cake!" she said enticingly.
On the one hand, he knew Claire was trying to be nice-- and after all, his traitorously unfazed appetite yearned for cake. On the other hand, he had an overwhelming urge to run from the room.
His mother spoke. "Please sit, Mohinder. Your friend has worked hard."
He locked eyes with her. Perhaps she was not as enthused as he wanted, but she still knew the importance of decorum. He forced a smile. "Alright."
"Do you want some cake now?" Molly asked.
"I think you do," Mohinder replied as he eased into the chair.
"That's a coincidence," she declared.
"Well, I would love some."
Claire most likely wanted some time for standard party chat and snacking before they started on the cake, but she seemed happy enough that he hadn't retreated in mortification. "I'll cut it; you start on your gifts!" she said.
Molly brought over one of the bags. As cake slices were passed around and consumed, Mohinder opened gift after gift, each something from the catalog. The women ooh-ed and ahh-ed and cooed in almost eerie unison, but soon enough he found himself enjoying their enthusiasm and generosity. He could have made due, but it was a great help to his bank account to have on hand packs of onesies, boxes of diapers, sets of bottles, and toys, among other things.
He opened a box from Claire and pulled out a set of pacifiers and a stuffed yellow duckling. Mohinder poked her in the arm with the beak. "I notice an awful lot of duck-related gifts here."
"And they're just the cutest!" she replied, taking the duck and snuggling it against his cheek.
"I hope mine's cute," Molly said, handing him a navy blue bag with white spots.
Inside he found another stuffed animal: a pastel green elephant. "It's very cute," he said, brushing the trunk against her forehead.
She laughed and playfully swatted it away. "Okay, the very last is from Grandma." She pushed over the large box, somewhat narrow and as high as her armpits. She held it steady as Mohinder tore the blue wrapping paper down the center. He pulled the sides apart and revealed an illustration of a spacious crib with an attached mobile.
"I trust your friend can help you put it together," his mother said.
"So long as it's not like that bike I got when I was nine," Peter said from his post in the corner.
"Thank you, Mother," Mohinder said, offering her a smile. He wanted to give her much more, considering the price he remembered from the catalog.
She nodded. "It was a good one you picked."
"It was just a wish list. If I'd known you would get it, I--"
"Expense is not a concern with family," she interrupted with a wave of her hand.
He didn't know what he'd expected. Of course his mother wouldn't deprive her grandson, even if she had trouble accepting his very conception. Maybe Mohinder wished she had a better attitude, but she was here, trying. His lingering shame crept forward. Perhaps she wouldn't bother with the effort if she knew the entire story of the serum: the aggression, the madness, the death. This entire cheerful little party didn't mesh with any of it.
Emma piled some pretzels on her empty cake plate. "You have everything you need," she said.
"Except a name," Marian said. "Have you picked one?"
"You could name him after your dad," Molly suggested, pushing the box back to lean against the couch.
He managed not to flinch at the obscenity of naming Sylar's child after the man he murdered. Mohinder felt the fuzzy ears of the elephant, hoping his mother wouldn't echo the idea. "There are a few names that have struck me. There's plenty of time to think it over."
"How much longer?" Molly asked.
"Dr. Suresh is progressing on schedule with a promising lack of problems," Sokolowski said. "I expect he will be ready for surgery by the end of December."
"Oh, I definitely want to spend winter break here," Claire said.
Peter snorted. "You don't live here already?"
She stuck out her tongue. "I've only been here a few times since the semester started."
"How are you doing in your classes?" Mohinder asked, too happy for a change in subject.
"Just fine, professor," Claire sighed.
"How's your roommate?" Peter asked.
Claire folded her arms. "Fine. We get along good. No drama." She grabbed a handful of pretzels and folded her arms again. "Weren't you telling me your nephew started grade school, Emilia? How's that?"
They all made small talk for another half hour or so, until Sokolowski looked at her watch a final time and excused herself. Everyone else took it as their own cue, and Darla suggested keeping the gifts in a nearby storage closet. Everything was moved quickly with everyone's help, and they brought the leftover food to Mohinder's room.
Peter left for another hospital shift, and Claire excused herself to see her father. Emilia bid Mohinder goodbye until her shift, and Marian took Emma to see Dr. Stevenson. Darla lingered, praising all the gifts, then confirmed the time for the next day's flight with Mohinder's mother before returning to the lobby.
As Mohinder settled in bed, his mother asked Molly to leave. "See if Mr. Parkman would like to join us for dinner tonight, or perhaps breakfast in the morning."
After Molly left, his mother closed the door and sat at his bedside. Her hands tightened in her skirt where it draped over her knees. "I'm sorry this visit hasn't been very pleasant," she said.
Mohinder shook his head. "It's been perfectly fine."
She scoffed. "I've been difficult. You haven't looked at all at ease since we arrived."
"Yes, well... It's not an easy situation."
"No, but it's one I must accept. You should have been happier at your party."
"I was happy with it."
"You should be joyous, preparing for a new life, not fretting about what I think." She shook her head. "I'd like you to forgive me. I'm hardly helping. But your friends..." She gestured to the half-eaten cake. "I'm glad you have friends with similar... challenges in their lives. I don't doubt it helped them accept this pregnancy and concentrate on the outcome. That is what matters."
She thought she was the problem. She thought she merely had a foolish son coping with improbable consequences. The scenario he'd told her was almost cartoonish, really. And it made her feel ridiculous, guilty, to blame for his moroseness. She didn't deserve to feel that way. To be lied to.
Guilt swelled up in his throat, and he choked, "I need to tell you the truth."
"What do you mean?"
"It's not the baby that you... that I don't..."
She waited silently, tension squaring her shoulders.
He told her about the serum, about its effects, about what he'd done desperately trying to mitigate them. He didn't bring up Sylar, couldn't confess that betrayal, but the experiments, the death of that man whose name he hadn't bothered to discover until it was too late, those were terrible enough. Actions lacking in conscience, in disregard for people's lives-- he didn't want her to know he'd ever been capable of that, under any duress.
By the time he finished, he'd closed his eyes. He couldn't bear to see the look on her face. Just her silence felt excruciating.
Her hand closed over his. After a shuddering breath, he turned to look at her. She stared at him with sadness, with pain, with the abject disappointment he'd feared. He felt a twist inside his chest, and he sputtered apologies, reaching with his other hand to touch her face. She caught it and pushed it away.
"I need to absorb these things," she said shakily.
She tore her gaze away as she stood and moved to the door.
"Amma!" he called again.
She didn't look back.
@ @ @ @ @
He laid alone on his side with the lights off, blinds closed, facing away from the closed door. Marian had tried to speak with him, but he'd chased her away with a few sharp words.
He heard the doorknob twist and a low creak. He pulled in a breath to snap, but he heard Molly's quiet voice. "Mohinder? Are you awake?"
"Go find your grandmother," he forced out. "I need to rest."
Quiet. Then: "Are you crying?"
"Find your grandmother!"
More silence, then the door closed. Molly's steps shuffled across the room, around the bed until she stood at his side.
"What's wrong?" she whispered, her concerned face gray in the dusty light. "Is the baby okay?"
"Molly," Mohinder started, turning his face into the pillow. "Just..." Sobs broke free.
"Oh, no," Molly said, rubbing his shoulder. "Don't cry!" The concern in her voice somehow made that impossible and he shook all over. She climbed into the bed, fitting around the swell of his stomach, and pressed kisses to his face. "Don't cry," she said again. "It's okay."
He shook his head. "Molly, please--"
She shushed him, running a hand through his hair. "You're alright." They laid like that for a while, with her petting him as he cried, and then she asked, "Do you want me to sing to you?" Mohinder just closed his eyes. She wrapped her arms around his neck and quietly sang something he didn't know, that perhaps her mother used to croon by the comfort of a nightlight.
@ @ @ @ @
The room was darker when Mohinder woke up, but he made out his mother's shape in the bedside chair. Fast asleep, Molly cuddled his side. Mohinder listened to the softness of their breath. The child inside him stirred.
"Mohinder," his mother said quietly, "have you made amends with this man's family?"
Mohinder didn't have a good answer. "He had none. He was a loner." He'd looked into it when he was still at Pinehearst, using the man's personnel file. He'd even gone to the man's empty house after escaping the burning facility. Not even a pet.
His mother said nothing for a long time. Then she said solemnly, "You will have to answer for this in the next life."
"I don't think that's good enough."
"Perhaps not, but nothing can be done for that man now. Your child will not do well in this world without you."
"That seems convenient for me."
"If you let it be. If you forget." He could feel her gaze on his face, and she had to know that he wouldn't. "Director Bennet tells me he offered you a position here."
"I told you, I'm coming home," he said to reassure her.
Her voice hardened. "What you have done, you said was because you lost control with the powers you developed."
"And others may become overwhelmed, and they will come here for help, so they will not commit the same acts you did."
"I can't stay here," Mohinder protested quietly, wondering if his thundering heart would wake Molly. "Don't let Bennet fool you. He's made mistakes, too, more than I have, not even being mad."
"So you'll run from what you've done? Ignore those you could save? Ignore the man who is dead? You could stay and fight, honor and repay him."
Mohinder wondered if he'd ever need to make his son face a truth like this. He'd intended to have no part in recreations of his own failures, but running away was not a solution. It was not repentance.
"Your father could not face his mistakes head-on," she said. "It did him no good in life. If you were to surpass him in anything, I'd most want it to be that." She reached over and brushed strands of hair from Molly's face. "Be a better teacher."
Mohinder gazed at Molly. Perhaps she should teach him; she'd helped Micah despite what any sense of self-preservation must have told her.
"I'll tell Bennet I changed my mind," he murmured.
@ @ @ @ @
It rained the following morning, when Mohinder saw his mother and Molly off in the lobby.
"When do I come back?" Molly asked, hitching her bag on her shoulder, more like she was ready to head back to Mohinder's room than leave.
"Once I'm settled here," Mohinder replied. "It will be a long while, perhaps by the summer."
Molly nodded, finding the time frame acceptable. "In time to register for school."
Her grandmother squeezed her shoulder. "I will miss having youth in my house."
Molly looked up at her. "Why don't you come stay with us?"
"Because just as your and Mohinder's place is here, my place is in Chennai," Mohinder's mother said simply. A town car pulled up outside, and Matt got out of the driver's seat, opening up an umbrella. "Say goodbye to your appa."
Molly hardly needed to be told. She hugged Mohinder from the side, wrapping one arm around his back and the other over the top of his stomach. "You'll definitely call more, right?" she said into his ribs.
Mohinder rubbed her back. "Absolutely."
She pulled her head back and smiled up at him. "Can I say goodbye to the baby too?"
"Yes?" Mohinder said.
And he blushed as Molly pressed her mouth to his stomach. "Goodbye!" she said.
Matt came in, wet shoes squeaking on the sleek floor and holding the open, dripping umbrella away from his body. "Ready to roll?" he asked, handing another umbrella off to Molly.
Mohinder's mother hugged her son tightly and kissed his cheek. "I know you will do the right things," she said.
He trapped her in an embrace of his own before she could pull away. "I will," he promised.
She touched his face and smiled, finally. Then Matt led her out and through the rain under the shield of the umbrella, Molly running ahead of them. As he watched them go, Mohinder found the gray world didn't make him morose. The rain looked rather cleansing.
@ @ @ @ @
Peter's eyes ran over all the books and notes piled around Mohinder's bed. "I see you've dived right in," he said. "What is all this for?"
Mohinder kept his eyes down, flipping through a folder of employee forms and documents from Bennet's office. The rest was all for his research on Tracy's condition. "A whole array of subjects for me to sort through," he lied. He closed the folder and set it on top of a stack of journals on his side table. "And that's for signing my life away."
Claire leaned against the window. She chuckled. "Not really. It's not like you can't kick their asses. At least once you've delivered."
"I'm sure Mohinder can kick plenty of ass now," Peter said.
"I suppose if I needed to," Mohinder said, and he thought of Nathan. He'd have to deal with him directly now, but he could worry about that when the senator showed his face again. "It's not the most efficient way of dealing with bureaucracy, though."
Peter rolled his eyes. "I get plenty of that at the hospital." He gestured to the door. "I'm gonna see if Emma wants to eat with us. Maybe you can finish a few more packets."
The younger man was gone before Mohinder even nodded. "Hn," Mohinder snorted. "I think someone just wants a few minutes alone."
Claire abruptly pushed from the window and sat on the bed. "Okay, before he comes back, I need to ask you something."
Mohinder frowned. "What's the matter?"
"It's really personal, but I need to talk to someone who might know what... what this is like."
"Okay, so you'd say you're a straight guy?"
"Well, I suppose, but obviously..."
"Right, and that's it. You've always liked women, but there was this one guy?"
"Claire, I'm not going to tell--"
"I don't want to know the father," she said. "That's totally your business. I want to know..." She stopped, then started again, probably not meaning to sound as urgent as she did. "Okay, so you, like, know someone, and you think you like them, like-like them, but you've never liked this... this kind of person before. I mean..." She gestured at his stomach. "I know this wasn't planned, but I was thinking you might... you might know what it's like to suddenly have feelings for someone who... has the same equipment?"
Mohinder almost laughed. His experience was so much more complicated than an abrupt attraction to another man, than sudden foreign thoughts about how it would feel to touch him and be touched by him, wondering what made him different than any other man. He pushed Zane Taylor out of his head. "Claire, it's perfectly fine if you have a crush on another girl."
"But I live with her," Claire blurted out.
"She told me she's gay, and I was, like, okay, whatever, but lately I've been... noticing her. Differently. And I don't know if it's because she told me, or if it's real, or if I'm subconsciously becoming a stereotypical four-year lesbian." Claire let out an abrupt frustrated groan. "I'm already not normal! I don't need this on top of that!"
"Being gay is not abnormal."
"That's not what... I know, I just..." she sighed. "It's just not something I'm ready to figure out."
"Is she pressuring you?"
"Not at all. I mean, I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm pretty, but she's not harassing me or anything."
"Then you can take your time to figure it out."
"But she's always there. Maybe she's not thinking about it, but I am."
"You could get another roommate."
Claire huffed. "Maybe, but I don't want to risk getting some psycho. Plus Gretchen is really cool, and it'd be such a hassle, and I definitely don't want her to think I'm a homophobe."
"I suppose you could just... relax and see what happens."
"Easier said than done."
"Claire, if her being gay doesn't bother you, then why do you feel so nervous around her?"
She stared at him blankly, and a smile crept onto her lips. She clapped her hands over her face to hide a sudden blush. "Oh, god, I really do like her," she groaned.
Peter came back in then, Emma behind him. He stopped when he spotted Claire. "What's the matter?"
Claire peeked out from between her fingers, then lowered her hands with a smile. "What? Nothing's the matter! Ready to eat?"
Peter shot Mohinder an inquiring look, but Claire wrangled them all out the door, spouting hopes for the day's menu.
@ @ @ @ @
Mohinder's haunting sexual dreams had tapered off, but Claire's revelation must have reinspired the memories lurking at the back of his mind. This time he found himself drowning in the one-night stand with "Zane" that never was, an encounter softer and slower than reality, but with the same intensity glinting in Sylar's black eyes. Mohinder wanted to forget reality and let himself be subsumed into every kiss, but the bloody truth wouldn't fade, soaking the bed like their sweat.
He woke up gasping. Relief at the calmness of his room settled quickly, then disintegrated as he realized Nathan sat in Peter's usual spot, watching him. Mohinder jerked back. "My god!".
"I'm sorry." Nathan raised his hands apologetically. "I didn't want to wake you."
"So you just sat there staring at me?" Mohinder replied. He hurriedly sat upright and draped his sheet over his knees to hide his half-stocked erection.
"I just..." Nathan stared at him strangely, then seemed to shake off a thought. "Bennet told me you agreed to stay-- to work here. I just wanted to thank you for changing your mind, despite what I..."
"It actually has little to do with you," Mohinder said curtly.
"Still. Your work is very valuable."
"And I hope you'll continue to stay out of it."
Nathan ducked his head. "Uh, yeah, sorry. I was just curious about the file, and I saw the mistake. I couldn't help it."
"Well, please refrain in the future." Mohinder raised an eyebrow. "If that's all, I'd like to get back to sleep."
Nathan moved onto the side of the bed. "I also wanted to apologize about before, about trying to make you stay." He was too close, too familiar, and Mohinder shifted away from him. "I was just trying to think of the baby's best interests."
"That's my concern," Mohinder replied. "I don't know what makes you think you have any say in this child's welfare, not after everything you're still making up for."
"I know. You're right," Nathan agreed. "But I can't help it. I look at you like this..." He looked down at Mohinder's round stomach, and then actually pressed his hand against it through the sheet. "And I just feel--"
"Nathan!" Mohinder snapped, and he grabbed Nathan's wrist to pull his hand away. Nathan retaliated, jerking free and grabbing both Mohinder's wrists. He pressed them to the mattress on either side of Mohinder's head.
And then Nathan kissed him. Mohinder froze, not sure what to do, confused, but when Nathan's hands moved to cup his face and Nathan's tongue swiped at his lips, he found himself opening his mouth tentatively. Nathan's left hand rested back on his stomach, careful and gentle, and Mohinder felt ambivalent about swatting him away again. He felt his face grow hot with his resurging arousal, his dream all too fresh.
The baby kicked sharply. Mohinder broke off with a quiet hiss. Nathan laughed, looking down at his hand. "I felt it," he said.
"Nathan," Mohinder breathed. "I..." Nathan's eyes snapped back up. Mohinder started to feel frightened.
"You're so beautiful like this," Nathan said quietly.
"Nathan... Where is this coming from? You... you're not--"
"I can't help it," Nathan interrupted. "You're incredible." He kissed Mohinder again.
Mohinder didn't know what to do, because this was so odd, but it was nice being treated like this. He'd felt like a twisted science experiment much of the time, and even if it was Nathan treating him like an object of attraction... Slowly Mohinder lifted his right hand and cupped the back of Nathan's neck. He curled his other hand into Nathan's sleeve.
Nathan broke the kiss, pulling back a little. Mohinder felt dazed, almost suffocated by Nathan's hot breath but unwilling to pull away, too much like his dream. The hand on Mohinder's cheek moved down to lightly stroke his throat. "It'd be safe, you know," Nathan murmured. He slid his other hand from Mohinder's stomach down to his hip. "Or I could just touch you, make you feel good."
It took Mohinder a moment, but it dawned on him. Nathan wanted to... "I don't know what's come over you, but... but I'd like you to leave." Mohinder cautiously pushed him away. "Now," he said firmly. His confusion was fading fast. This couldn't happen.
Nathan leaned back in to kiss his cheek. "Just let me--"
With only a fraction of his strength, Mohinder dug his fingers into Nathan's shoulder and held him back. "I won't tell you again."
Nathan stared at him evenly, then nodded. He said nothing as he got up and walked around the bed, but he paused at the doorway. "Good night," he said, closing the door.
Mohinder couldn't fall back asleep until dawn peeked through the blinds.